Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

A Clever Plan

By Gabrielle Lawson

This story was originally published in Salutatorian 3, a fanzine produced by the Siddig El Fadil/Alexander Siddig fan club.

Paramount and Viacom own all things Trek, including DS9, the main characters thereof, the Defiant, etc. I only borrow their characters and settings. The stories are mine. Do not copy without including this disclaimer and my name. Do not post without permission.

Historian's Note: This story is set after the end of the television series and the episode What You Leave Behind.

Sloan posed himself in his usual position, one leg crossed over the other, in the chair at the foot of Bashir's bed. Then he nodded his readiness for the transport. There was hardly a tingle as the transport took hold. It faded barely three seconds later. As far as Bashir would know, he was still in his quarters on the station.

"Good to see you again, Doctor," Sloan offered over his steepled fingers as Bashir stirred.

Bashir's eyes narrowed in obvious distaste. "Sloan," he replied, as if the name were a curse word. He stood, throwing off any grogginess he might have felt with the blanket from his bed. "What is this fascination you have with seeing me in my nightclothes?"

Sloan smiled and tried not to act flustered. He'd nearly forgotten Bashir had so sharp a wit. Bashir was using it to try and knock him off balance. To explain to Bashir Section 31's reasoning for approaching him at night would only be distracting and counter-productive. "We have a new assignment for you."

Bashir's eyebrows shot up. "First," he said, crossing his arms over his chest, "and for the umpteenth time, I do not work for you. And second, I didn't think you and I were on speaking terms, what with you being dead and all."

Sloan chuckled softly. It wouldn't be the first time, he thought. "In light of how things turned out, we've decided to forgive you."

"So you admit I was right," Bashir held.

Sloan shook his head but kept up the smile. It was easy with Bashir; there was so much he didn't know. "You were lucky. There's a world of difference between lucky and right."

"And what if I don't care for your forgiveness?"

The smile dropped. "You should accept it anyway." Threats were sometimes best left to the imagination.

Bashir nodded. He understood. He was an intelligent man after all. "And what about you? I saw you die, ran the scans myself."

The smile returned. "Well," Sloan replied, "what fun would it be if I just gave you all the answers? Where'd the mystery be in that?"

Bashir took a deep breath. He was getting angry. "What makes you think I'm having any fun?"

Well, now neither of them would. Bashir got tedious when he got angry. "Let's not start that again. It never leads anywhere. We should just agree to disagree and get on with the mission."

"I don't want your mission. I don't want to be a part of Section 31." Bashir sank down onto the bed. He sounded tired again.

Good, Sloan thought. He'll be easier to deal with now. "You haven't even heard the mission."

"I'm sure it's just the opposite of whatever you're going to describe," Bashir said. "Why not just kill me now and be done with it? Or am I a pet project of yours?"

Sloan shook his head sadly. "I don't want to kill you, Doctor. I like you. You're a good man. The Federation needs good men."

"That isn't what you called me last time we met."

Dangerous. That is what he'd called him last time. He was still that. He had to be used carefully. Sloan realized that now. He'd been too lax before. He'd let down his guard. Bashir had won that round, and it was only sheer luck that the changeling, once cured, had decided to end the war.

"You surprised me," Sloan admitted. "I don't believe you would jeopardize the Federation. Not knowingly. But there's so much you don't see. Or won't."

"I see it," Bashir argued. "Not everyone chooses to play nice. But that doesn't mean I have to 'do unto others before they do unto me'. I don't have to align myself with the lowest common denominator."

"Someone has to," Sloan held. "Cheaters prosper more often than you think."

"So it's alright for us to cheat?" Bashir asked. "I believe there's a proverb for that one, too."

"'Two wrongs don't make a right,'" Sloan recited, shaking his head. "What do one right and one wrong make?" He didn't bother making the doctor answer. "Not everything we do is lowest common denominator."

"Oh, you're branching out into humanitarian work?" Bashir asked snidely.

Sloan's smile widened. "You could say that." Good, now they could get down to the mission. "There was a small pocket of Federation citizens on Ecqire when it fell to the Dominion. They'd gone into hiding, but they also started up a resistance movement. They made quite a stir. They sabotaged two munitions convoys and bombed a Cardassian barracks."

Bashir shrugged. "The war's over."

Sloan could tell Bashir was interested, despite his remark. "True, but not all conquered resist their captors. The Ecqirans got a lot out of being in the Dominion. Their economy picked up and crime dropped. The political turmoil of the last six decades disappeared overnight. They're not all happy with the way things turned out."

Bashir looked appalled. Well, really it was just his eyebrows, which he drew down over his eyes. But Sloan could read him just the same. "But they weren't free," he said.

Now Sloan shrugged. "They weren't free before. The Ecqirans have had a succession of fascist dictators. Paranoia was the rule of the day. Children denounced parents. The Ecqiran National Party outlawed and persecuted any opposition. Ecqiran citizens lived in fear. The Dominion displaced the ENP and brought stability."

Sloan knew he was getting to Bashir. "Why were we even there?" Bashir asked.

"Trying to help, of course," Sloan answered, smiling. "Applying our principles in all fairness and benevolence. Negotiating, overseeing elections, that sort of thing"

Bashir was interested, though he was trying not to show it. "What about now?" All the sarcasm had left his voice.

No smile now. Sloan had to sell Bashir on the mission with his next words. They were only four hours from the Ecqire system, and Bashir would need to be briefed and prepped. "Now the native populace has decided to keep Dominion rule even without the Dominion. Offworlders are expected to conform or face arrest and execution."

Bashir didn't react, but Sloan knew he had him. Bashir couldn't resist this one. There was nothing he could object to. "Our citizens' situation has become untenable. Two days ago, the new government decreed that any Ecqiran aiding a Federation citizen was guilty of treason. Yesterday, the leaders were turned over to authorities by those who had been providing a safe house in an outlying village near the capital. The leaders were hanged. But not before their families were butchered one by one in front of them."

Bashir looked a little pale, and he stood again and started pacing. He was considering it. Sloan waited, knowing he'd speak eventually.

"Why you?" he finally asked.

It was counter-productive, but Sloan couldn't resist. "Don't you mean 'us'?"

"You," Bashir repeated. "Why you and not Starfleet Intelligence?"

"Starfleet Intelligence would never make it in," Sloan replied, leaning back in his chair. "The majority of the locals have sided with the government."

"That still doesn't answer my question." Bashir stopped pacing and faced him. "Why you? And, while we're at it, why me?"

"Because we have an operative there," Sloan admitted. That was enough for now. "And because there will likely be wounded."

"Section 31 doesn't have its own doctors?" Bashir asked, his mocking tone returning. He started pacing again as he reasoned it out. "At least you had reason on Romulus. I had access. I was invited to the conference. I knew Senator Cretak." He stopped and Sloan surmised he wouldn't like Bashir's conclusion. "Section 31 is either trying awfully hard to find a mission I won't object to, or it's not really the mission you're describing at all."

Too close, on both counts. Sloan stood to meet him. The first one was easier at least. "You're part of Section 31." He held up a hand to forestall the argument Bashir would surely make. "And rather than continue the adversarial relationship we've had in the past, we decided a less objectionable--to you--mission would be the best way to show you our worth to the Federation. Such a mission could build trust--for both sides. We can't trust you if you won't trust us."

Bashir turned away. "Oh, one little rescue mission and I'm supposed to forget that you abducted and tortured me?"

Sloan tried to interrupt. "I wouldn't call it--"

"Depriving me of sleep," Bashir threw back, "denying me food, manipulating my sense of reality to induce higher stress levels. Well, even you can't deny you had me tortured on Romulus."

"It had to be believable," Sloan admitted. "We knew they couldn't actually get anything out of you."

Bashir's eyebrows shot up in indignation. "So they just tried that much harder!"

Sloan held up his hands. "Hey, I was tortured, too, remember?"

Bashir threw his hands up. "You were killed, too, I remember."

He should have known better than to argue torture with an overly sensitive, genetically engineered doctor. Still, Sloan knew he didn't have to argue at all, nor did he have to admit anything. "So you're just going to turn your back on the innocent Federation citizens on Ecqire?"

"You would," Bashir replied, more calm now, "if it wasn't for the one that's your operative." He frowned and crossed his arms.

Just where he wanted him. "But you and I," Sloan said, "are nothing alike." And when Bashir didn't speak right away, Sloan knew he had him.

Bashir slumped down onto the bed again. Sloan knew he'd won. Again. "Why don't you get dressed, Doctor," he suggested. "We'll send a shuttle for you in half an hour. Don't worry, we've made all the arrangements." He left the bedroom with Bashir, defeated, still sitting on the bed.

To anyone else, it was an imperceptible sound. The sound of a hologram shifting. Bashir was on a holodeck, just like the first time Sloan had taken him. It made sense, considering the modifications he'd made to his real quarters, like the containment field he'd used to capture Sloan the last time he'd visited. Sloan wouldn't have risked the same thing happening. Whatever his ethical failings, Sloan learned from his mistakes. He'd want a more controllable environment.

So, half an hour. It might as well have been an eternity for Bashir. He had a choice to make. Save others and sell his soul in the process, or find a way back to DS Nine, leaving the innocent to their fate.

Sloan--if he was telling the truth--had a good argument. The thought of those families being murdered tore at Bashir's heart. They needed saving, and he wanted to save them.

But he also knew what it would cost, even if Sloan were telling the truth. If he went with them now, of his own free will, it would never end. They'd never stop coming. It would be another "humanitarian" mission, maybe just slightly more questionable than this one. Then another, just a little more objectionable than that one. On and on, in little steps until he could justify anything they wanted of him, just like Sloan. Either way Bashir would lose.

He thought again about what this mission might entail. He didn't suppose Sloan would allow him to stay behind and wait for the wounded. He'd have to go down to the planet's surface with everyone else, or maybe even alone.

He couldn't do it. It was so simple an answer. Because of who he was, what he was, he could not go on an away mission. He probably couldn't step out into the corridor. He felt remorse for the Federation citizens on Ecqire, but it was a relief to know he wasn't just turning his back on them. If this were really an important mission to Section 31, Sloan would go get them anyway.

His mind made up, Bashir set out to find the holodeck's controls. He'd heard Sloan leave his quarters through the main door, so he tried there. "Computer, door," he called quietly not really expecting it to work. But the door appeared dutifully, and Bashir reasoned that Section 31 probably assumed their victims would not suspect they were in a holodeck.

Bashir didn't bother getting dressed. That could be accomplished later. He reasoned he had roughly twenty minutes before Sloan returned. He'd have to work fast. He didn't know how much access he'd have from just a holodeck's computer console. He knew communications could be made from inside the holodeck to out, but he hoped he could get more than that. He wanted information, enough to expose Section 31 to the rest of the Federation, or at least Starfleet. He'd given up on Captain Sisko's orders since Sisko was gone, but this was an opportunity he likely wouldn't get again.

Sloan checked the time. Five more minutes. He checked the holoprogram. In the contrived scenario, Colonel Kira would have orders for Bashir to take a runabout to Bajor for some sort of medical emergency there. The runabout would divert, instead, to a shuttle bay on this ship, still in the holodeck. But when Bashir exited the bay, he'd exit the holodeck without ever knowing he'd been in one. He'd be ready for the mission without knowing he'd been deceived.

"Sir!" Motubo called. "I'm picking up a coded subspace transmission."

Sloan spun around. They were supposed to be running in radio silence. "From where?"

"From here," Motubo answered. "To Deep Space Nine."

Damn. He'd underestimated Bashir. "Shut it down."

"I can't, sir," Motubo reported. "It's already ended."

Sloan was already halfway to the turbolift. "I want two armed men to meet me at the holodeck entrance."

It was a quick trip on the turbolift, and the two men he'd requested were waiting for him when it stopped. "Phasers on stun," he ordered. He stepped forward and the holodeck's doors parted.

There was no one there. The console was plainly visible just to the right of the door. It was the only place where Bashir could have accessed communications. Sloan sent one man to look in the bedroom. He kept the other at the door. The first returned shaking his head. Sloan pressed a control on the console, and Bashir's quarters winked out of existence. No Bashir.

Sloan called the bridge. "Any record of transport?"

Motubo responded, "No, sir."

"Good," Sloan replied. "Lock down the transporter and find out what was in that transmission. He has to be on this ship somewhere. Use the internal sensors."

The new Security Chief looked a little preoccupied as she strode through the Infirmary door. "Can I help you?" Bashir asked her.

Lieutenant Ro looked up from the tricorder she was holding. "Doctor Bashir," she acknowledged, frowning. "Internal transportation is for emergency use only, as I'm sure you're well aware. It is not for getting yourself to work in the morning."

Ah, that, Bashir thought. Ro had only been on the station for a few months. Bashir hadn't wanted to bother her with all of his security concerns just yet. And he wasn't at all sure if Section 31 would be listening in if he were to explain the holo-emitters, subspace transmitter, or internal sensor array in his quarters just now.

For now he just smiled and argued lightly. "At this hour? I'm not on duty for another four hours."

She lowered her eyelids slightly. "Normally, neither am I." Now that she mentioned it, Bashir did notice the dark circles under her eyes. "If you're not on duty," she continued, "why are you in uniform?"

"I'm a Starfleet officer," Bashir replied. "We're almost always in uniform."

Ro lifted one eyebrow at him but checked the tricorder again. "There was a transport from your quarters to Quark's holosuites roughly forty-five minutes ago."

Forty-five minutes was a long time. Would Sloan leave him alone that long if he suspected? "If I were coming to work," Bashir asked Ro, hiding his inner anxiety and continuing the banter, "why would I beam to Quark's holosuites?"

Apparently Lieutenant Ro didn't care for such puzzles at 0300. "To try and mask the fact that you'd used the transporter in a non-emergency capacity."

To be truthful, Bashir didn't much care for such puzzles either. He cared less for Ro's accusatory tone. And the only thing he'd masked was the transmission. He hadn't had time to hide the transport.

He picked up a PADD and started writing as he spoke. "Just in case you haven't read it in my personnel file yet," he stated, keeping the same friendly tone but not the smile, "I'm genetically enhanced. If I were trying to mask a transport, you wouldn't know about it at all. I certainly wouldn't just beam into Quark's." He handed the PADD to Ro. "I might do something like this."

Ro began to read and then drew her brows down in confusion at the complicated plans Bashir had given him. "This isn't internal," she said after a few minutes.

"No," Bashir confirmed. "It's external and it might just be how someone keeps beaming in and out my quarters at two in the morning. Perhaps you could investigate that for awhile."

"Ops to Doctor Bashir." It was a female voice.

Bashir tapped his comm badge. "Bashir here."

"Sorry to wake you, sir," the Ops officer began, but then stopped. "You're in the infirmary."

Bashir sighed. Not for the first time he wished Sloan would stick to better hours. "I had some trouble sleeping," he told the woman.

That seemed to satisfy her, though Ro was still blocking the doorway. "Sorry to hear that, sir. You have a Priority One incoming transmission. It's encrypted."

Ro's eyebrows shot up at that. Bashir toyed with the idea of filling her in. She was bound to learn eventually. She was Chief of Security after all. No. Bashir wanted Kira on hand when that happened. With Ro's background, he wasn't sure she didn't already know about Section 31 anyway.

"I'll take it in my office," he replied to Ops. "If you'll excuse me," he told Ro, pointing again to the PADD.

Ro reluctantly turned and left. "We'll talk about this in the morning," she said, holding the PADD up just over her shoulder.

Bashir nodded and let the door to his office close behind him before he moved to his desk. He secured his computer console, isolating it from the rest of the station, and then put in the decryption codes. Information began pouring across the display screen: transmission frequencies, shield variances, transporter schematics--enough to begin to break down Section 31's sense of omnipotence. Finally, the transmission ended with one particularly long data stream.

It took a few moments for the computer to compile that last one. Bashir spoke as soon as it was finished. "Computer, activate LMH Bashir One."

An exact duplicate of himself coalesced in the office. He was still wearing nightclothes. "I'm very glad to see you," he said, sounding very relieved indeed. Then he remembered and abruptly changed his attire to match what Bashir was wearing.

"You're alright?" Bashir asked. "They didn't tamper with your program?"

The holographic Bashir smiled. "I don't think they even suspected a thing. They're probably still looking for me--you--on the ship."

Bashir nodded, though he still didn't feel like smiling. He knew he should have been happy. He'd out-thought Sloan. He had worked it all out, set it up months ago. Sloan simply set it off. Sloan's transport in was picked up by the sensors, which triggered Bashir's own transport out to Quarks and the activation of the LMH. When Sloan transported back out again, attempting to take Bashir with him, the LMH was surreptitiously transmitted along with the transport. It had worked. But Sloan would eventually catch on. "We got him," Bashir conceded. "This time."


copyright 2001 Gabrielle Lawson

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