by Travis Anderson
Anara got permission to insert the Ark into standard orbit over Bryma. Permission to do so had been denied during their first visit since it would have granted the crew unlimited usage of the ship’s transporter and the Cardassians wanted to control strangers’ movements. Apparently, they were a known quantity now that Rakan had vouched for them.
Neela transported down alone near the square where the infamous eatery lay. Neela flagged down a passing constable. She asked him to pass word on to Rakan that she was on Bryma. The constable played dumb, but Neela could see the recognition in his eyes.
Neela proceeded to wait in the eatery. She grumpily cursed the fact it didn’t offer espresso. She made do with gray leaf tea again.
Rakan appeared to arrive alone but Neela knew that was an illusion. She could practically smell Rasal and Garan salivating nearby. Rakan, as always, just sat down.
“Do you have visual and sensor logs for me?” he asked.
“No,” Neela bluntly replied.
“Then why did you bother to return?” Rakan was growing angry.
“I brought something better,” Neela informed him.
“And what could be better?” Rakan’s interest was piqued despite himself.
“I brought Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan here,” Neela boasted. “This way you get to mete out any form of justice you deem fit.”
“Oh really?” Rakan was still skeptical.
“Have your minions move outside the shop’s main window,” Neela ordered.
Rakan activated his comm cuff and issued his own orders. Rasal and Garan appeared into the window. Garan looked as disgruntled as Rasal appeared clueless.
Neela gave Garan a jaunty wave. The Cardassian turned livid. Rasal waved back.
“Your turn,” Rakan said with a tinge of menace in his voice.
Neela tapped her comm badge. “Anara, transport the prisoners one hundred meters to the east of my current position.”
A transporter effect emblazoned in the middle of the street. Anara appeared holding a phaser pistol on Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan. Rakan’s jaw dropped.
“But their security…?” he stammered.
“Anara and my primary specialty would be considered combat engineering,” Neela shared, “which you really should have taken into account after reading our personnel jackets. You counted on Keplek’s mercenary forces on disposing of us after we publically executed these people. Pity you were disappointed.”
“I’m far from disappointed,” Rakan assured her, “and I promise never to underestimate the pair of you again.”
“We’ll see,” Neela said dismissively. “Did we pass the test?”
“Of course!” Rakan looked close to kissing her, which totally revolted Neela.
They went outside and joined the others.
Rakan disappeared down the street while the passing crowds took notice of Rasal, Garan, Anara, and Neela holding Lang and her research assistants prisoner. The sight of Bajorans being involved in such a sight angered many. But as long as the Bajoran pair were accompanied by Rasal and Garan, no threats were issued or actions taken.
Rakan reappeared in a six-wheeled vehicle identical to that Anara had used to pick Neela up from prison. Everyone loaded into the vehicle, willingly or not. The prisoners were held in the middle row of seating while Rasal held them at phaserpoint from behind. Anara and Neela sat in back with Rasal while Garan sat down like a queen on a throne beside Rakan.
Neela took a moment to observe that Anara’s cosmetic touches to the three prisoners were perfect. Anara was cross-trained as a medic, so she could skillfully recreate bruises and cuts with a laser scalpel and a dermal regenerator. As a member of the Militia Special Forces, she’d “doctored” Trojans before.
Unbeknownst to their captors, Lang and her students had two items strapped to their bodies. One was a miniature chemical explosive Neela had devised. The second was an electronic lock pick Anara had whipped up. Both were to be used to liberate the activists at a designated time.
They rolled into an abandoned industrial sector and headed for a manufacturing plant that had been vacated for quite some time. Rakan boasted that from this “headquarters” he could monitor True Way activity across the DMZ and the Bajoran Sector. Anara gave Neela a wry look.
Neela had predicted that Rakan was directly responsible for the attacks on DS9’s personnel, as well as the Bajoran ministers and Shakaar himself. But she also contended that he wasn’t the ultimate authority behind the shadowy True Way. However, that didn’t limit his usefulness as their most vital field commander. A surgical strike against Rakan’s faction would likely cripple True Way activities in the affected regions for quite some time — or at least that was the assumption they were working from.
Inside the former manufacturing center, the True Way had set up a block of makeshift cells. They consisted of old fashioned metal cages. Each cell boasted mechanical and electronic locks, but fortunately they lacked force fields. Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan were well stocked for both contingencies.
After the dissidents were locked away, Neela and Anara were taken to the True Way’s “war room.” The terrorists conducted their operational planning and control from this center. Most of the equipment had obviously been purloined from military suppliers. The few pieces that weren’t military surplus were obtained from various neutral traders operating within the DMZ and Cardassian space.
What could easily be acknowledged was that the Cardassian Guard largely overlooked the True Way’s activities…at least for now. But things were shifting within the Central Command. Supposedly “progressive” elements were rising through the ranks. The True Way’s ultimate master had approached the Legates and offered to purge these new up and comers from the Cardassian Guard’s ranks.
He had subsequently been rebuffed and material support was cut off. This also placed the True Way under scrutiny as a “radical fringe.” Their industrialist benefactors had also cut them off. The True Way was now at a crossroads trying to determine how to continue their crusade with no outward support.
Rakan explained these facts to the Bajorans. “I know the Resistance faced similar supply problems. Do you have any suggestions on how we can continue?”
Garan bristled as Rakan asked the question. Neela looked over towards Anara. Anara simply shrugged.
Neela laid out the fundamentals of fundraising. Rakan wondered how one compelled penniless slaves to contribute. Neela simply informed him the Resistance didn’t force anyone to contribute. Every act of Cardassian aggression was motivation enough. People contributed because they believed in the cause.
“So simply put, you need to make people believe in what you do and funds will begin to flow in,” Neela explained.
“But Bajoran industry had been mothballed during the Occupation,” Rakan countered.
“I’m not talking about industrialists,” Neela said dryly. “I’m talking about the common citizenry.”
Rakan blinked in surprise and Neela elaborated. “The Resistance went directly to the masses. We also stole a lot from the Bajoran Occupational Government as well as from the Cardassian Guard itself.”
“So we should steal our supplies from our enemies themselves,” Rakan mused.
“In all their various forms,” Neela added.
“What do you mean?” Rakan inquired as Garan sucked in her breath.
“We targeted collaborators alongside Cardassian military depots,” Neela divulged, “and we had a saying: ‘Either you’re with is or against us.’ It’s a great operating strategy.”
Neela could practically feel the anger radiating off of Garan. It would make her upcoming revelation that much sweeter. And fortunately, Rakan took the bait.
“Who are you implicating here?” Rakan cautiously inquired.
“If the Cardassian Guard won’t back you, then they’ve turned against you,” Neela said simply. “The same holds true for your former industrial contributors.”
“This is madness!” Garan shouted. “She wants to turn us against our fellow Cardassians.”
Neela slid the knife in. “But you already have. Lang and her associates are Cardassians. The Obsidian Order plays every Cardassian off of each other. The Detapa Council only plays to their respective voting blocs and the Central Command is an authority unto itself. Isn’t that right, Dalin Rejet?”
Neela’s eyes were fixed on Garan. Rakan gaped in mute horror at Garan. Garan attempted to protest her innocence.
“Rakan, use your access to the Cardassian Guard’s Bureau of Personnel. Look up the file jacket of one Dalin Itrya Rejet,” Neela insisted.
Rakan moved off to a computer while Rasal put a restraining hand on “Garan’s” shoulder. Rakan angrily returned and thrust a PADD under “Garan’s” nose. “Is this you?”
“Yes.” The haughtiness that permeated Rejet’s voice was a slap in Rakan’s ace. “The Central Command ordered me to infiltrate your pathetic rabble. No one even knows how many Obsidian Order agents play along as well.”
Neela knew that a Cardassian dalin was synonymous with a Starfleet lt. commander or a Militia major. Rakan had had enough. “Take her away!”
Rasal manhandled Rejet out of the room. Neela asked the obvious question. “What will you do with her now?”
“What do you mean?” Rakan asked suspiciously.
Neela presented the facts. “If the Central Command learns that you’ve detained one of their officers, there will be a reckoning. They’ll send more after her, and next time they’ll be armed and hunting.”
“I have to talk to others about all you’ve revealed. We’ll decide Rejet’s fate. Not you,” Rakan warned.
“So be it,” Neela acquiesced.
While all eyes had been turned on the drama unfolding around Rejet, Anara had slipped away. Natima Lang’s contacts within the Cardassia underground had revealed Rejet’s true identity and mission. Neela had been the one to decide to capitalize upon the truth. Neela had subsequently explained her strategy while they all flew to their fateful meeting on Bryma.
So far, Neela’s plan seemed to be a runaway success. The True Way had eaten up her words and the scariest part was Neela was telling them the truth and not just what they wanted to hear. But she presented it in such a way that Rakan and his followers hung on her every word. Once again, Anara wondered just how Neela had occupied her time in prison.
Anara recalled everything she’d every known about Neela. Her faith had been her hallmark throughout her still rather young life. Neela was also utterly bold and confident when presented with a challenge. Those aspects had only been enhanced by her time in prison. So what were Neela’s limitations these days, if she even still claimed any?
Anara heard Rejet’s cursing and she ducked into an alcove. Rasal dragged Rejet by and neither of them noticed the Bajoran. Rasal swiftly passed by again. Anara thought it over and realized that while Rasal might be utterly obedient he definitely wasn’t observant.
Anara checked her chrono. She decided to move closer to the cells ahead of time. As was the case when she’d last been this way, it was guarded by a solitary figure.
Lang checked her chrono. “It’s time.”
Rejet perked up despite being held in a cell across the way. The dissidents all removed the lock picks from their abdomens. The locks all cycled. Rejet began yelling for the guard’s attention.
Lang’s group affixed their bombs to the mechanical locks. The guard finally arrived to threaten Rejet into silence. Rejet finally convinced him to inspect Lang’s cell.
Lang innocently sat on the cot in her call. As the guard withdrew, the explosives detonated. The dissidents all swung their cage doors open and stepped out.
“Back in your cells!” the guard ordered, looking down the barrel of a disruptor rifle. “Now!”
Anara shot him from behind. “Let’s go.”
They all ducked into the alcove Anara had hidden in before and waited as she contacted the Ark and waited to cycle the transporter.
Neela checked her chrono. Everyone should have been in motion by then, which meant it was time to move herself. And that was a good thing because she was getting impatient.
Neela confidently strode across the war room and entered Rakan’s office. He sat behind his computer staring off into the middle distance. It took Neela closing the door behind her before he acknowledged her presence.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said flatly. “My superiors are very excited by the prospects you’ve presented to us. They’ve become so emboldened as to order Rejet’s death.”
“She would probably thank you for a clean death,” Neela commented.
“What are you carrying on about now?” Rakan impatiently wanted to know.
Neela drew her phaser and promptly killed Rakan without a moment’s hesitation. Neela locked the door and then unceremoniously dumped Rakan’s corpse out of his chair. Fortunately, he was still logged into the system. Navigating the network, Neela quickly found the security measures.
Neela deactivated the transport inhibitors first. Tapping her comm badge, she raised Anara. “You’re good to go. Release the package and send it to my location.”
Neela knew Anara and her Cardassian charges were safely aboard the Ark when a five hundred kiloton bomb appeared before her. Neela activated the timer, set it for ten seconds, and the requested a transport to the Ark.
The explosion that destroyed the True Way’s headquarters was easily detected by the Ark’s sensors in orbit. During the resultant chaos on the ground, the Bajoran ship broke orbit and headed deeper into the DMZ. Neela asked if the genetic samples taken from Lang and her students had been left in the cell block before the bomb went off.
“Of course they had,” Anara confirmed. “I sent them down before I sent you the bomb.”
“And that precaution will prevent the True Way from sending anyone else after us until we have our own security back in place,” Lang admitted. “By the time they figure out we’re still alive, we’ll have moved on from Keplek.”
“It was the least we could do for your cooperation,” Anara assured them.
Lang scrutinized Neela, “And why did you play this out?”
“It was the will of the Prophets,” Neela stated, “so I did my part.”
“You really believe that, don’t you?” Lang was astonished.
“And I find your disbelief as incredulous as you find my faith,” Neela promised her. “We’ll be turning ourselves in at the Federation checkpoint and then returning to Bajor. The Militia will arrange for your return to Keplek.”
“All wheels within wheels,” Lang sighed. “Will it ever end?”
“Someday,” Neela said with utter certainty.
Lang decided not to take her word for it.
The debriefing on Bajor took three days. Afterwards, Anara found out when Neela was being let out of her investigative committee session and waited for her at the steps to Militia Command headquarters. Neela seemed jovial enough.
“Headed back to your unit now?” she asked Anara.
“They were very relieved to learn I was under orders and hadn’t turned renegade,” Anara confessed.
Neela nodded and started down the street. Anara lightly held her from going. “I tried to get you reinstated. Or at least have an offer made.”
“I already have an offer,” Neela brightly admitted.
“Working for the Militia?” Anara was stunned. Command had seemed adamant about keeping Neela out in the cold.
“I’ll be working directly for the Kai,” Neela explained.
“Sounds like a dream come true for you,” Anara realized.
“It already has been,” Neela said happily. And then she strolled down the street until she could flag down a transport. Meanwhile, Anara drank in the full implications of Neela’s usage of the past tense.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.