Before she began her historic sojourn in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Kathryn Janeway led the U.S.S. Voyager into the Badlands in pursuit of a renegade Maquis vessel. There she encountered the same threatening and inexplicable phenomena that had previously endangered both Kirk and Picard. Now, detoured from her mission by an urgent Cardassian distress call, Janeway finally uncovers the origin of the hidden menace!
Armed with Janeway's hard-won knowledge, Captain Benjamin Sisko must deal with the exposed threat once and for all. But first the U.S.S. Defiant must battle both the Dominion and the Romulan Empire for control of an unleashed power source that could devastate the entire Alpha Quadrant!
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Chakotay stood at the railing overlooking the hangar bay. The Selva, the old raider that he commanded for the Maquis, was directly below him. Its scarred and battered hull was as familiar as an old friend. The large patch on the right warp nacelle came from one of his first battles with the Cardassians. By now he knew a lot more about evading their patrols. Plasma discharges received while traveling through the Badlands had caused the scoring along the leading edges of the bow.
Chakotay glanced up through the large oval of the hangar door above him. The forcefield tinted the view blue, much darker than the thin atmosphere of the planetoid. Beyond it, he could see the twinkling of spinning asteroids in the surrounding Terikof Belt. A dark oblong asteroid was tumbling end-over-end, skimming close to the planetoid where the Maquis base was buried.
The base was deep inside an ancient volcanic caldron, on a planetoid that would not have been able to sustain life on its surface. The Maquis had appropriated several of the abandoned mining complexes left behind by the Cardassians after the quality ore had been extracted. Since the Terikof Belt was just beyond the Moriya system, on the edge of the Badlands, plasma storms sometimes swept over the entire area. After battling the storms for generations, the Cardassians had finally abandoned their mining claims here when they also abandoned their claim to the Bajor sector.
Chakotay's hands clenched tightly around the railing as a low rumbling and shuddering shook the complex. Everyone in the bay paused for a moment and looked up, but the impact had occurred on the other side of the planetoid. They went back to work, ignoring the new layer of dust motes shaken loose into the air.
In order to live in the Terikof Belt, the Maquis had stolen a computer core capable of plotting the orbit of every piece of asteroid big enough to damage the forcefield protecting the base. Right now, technicians would be calculating the effect of the impact on the trajectory of their planetoid and inputting the new data to discover if they were in danger from other asteroids.
Chakotay had participated in two evacuations since he had arrived at the base. But the Maquis had little choice in where they hid. The Terikof Belt offered safety because it was nearly impossible for the Cardassians to search all of the planetoids after their data on the asteroid movements had lapsed. The sensor shadow and plasma storms that occasionally swept over the area also managed to thoroughly confuse enemy sensors.
"Hey," Seska said, joining him at the railing. "There's a lot of activity going on. Are we pulling out again?"
Chakotay smiled at her. In the past eight months, Seska had become one of his most valued crewmembers.
"Yes, in the morning. I want you to round up the crew and make sure the Selva is ready to go by 0900."
"Sure." There was a leap of interest in her eyes. "How many days of supplies do we need?"
"Four days," Chakotay told her. "We'll be returning here after the mission is completed."
"Four days...," she murmured speculatively. "Are we going into Cardassian territory?"
Chakotay hesitated; orders were given only to the commanders of each vessel, to be relayed to the crew on a "need-to-know" basis. But Seska was not just his right hand. They had become much closer in the past few months -- and it was more than just a physical relationship. Chakotay felt that he had someone to talk to for the first time since he had suffered his crisis of faith in Starfleet and had left to join the Maquis to fight for his homeworld.
Yet Seska still maintained a distinct distance between them, making it clear that she didn't depend on him. Chakotay had hesitated to enter a relationship with anyone, after he realized how much he had repeatedly hurt his father and family. First he had joined Starfleet over their objections, then the Federation had seized their homeworld and handed it over to the Cardassians as a bargaining chip for "peace." After his father had died and Chakotay had committed himself to helping his people, he didn't want to risk the possibility of letting anyone down again.
But Seska didn't ask for anything except for some light-hearted fun at the end of a long mission. She had fought the Cardassians all her life as a Bajoran terrorist, and she had joined the Maquis after peace was declared between Bajor and Cardassia.
He slipped his arm around her waist, liking the way her Bajoran nose crinkled between her eyes. "This is a big one," he told her, his voice lowering. "Eight of our ships will attack the Montee Fass shipyards in the Oliv system."
Seska's eyes widened. "That's a suicide run!"
"Not at all," Chakotay assured her. "We have intelligence indicating that their defense patrol has been shifted to the control of the Obsidian Order. There's a lot of activity in the Orias system, and we think they're priming for a strike against the Federation colonies along the border. They've left the shipyards and dozens of vessels vulnerable."
Seska slowly shook her head, as if trying to absorb the information. "Destroying Montee Fass would be a huge victory for the Maquis."
Chakotay nodded seriously. "I don't have to tell you not to say a word. I'm off to a strategic meeting to plan our attack patterns. You have a lot of work to do readying the Selva."
"Do we get some of the photon torpedoes?" she asked eagerly.
Chakotay knew that all of the Maquis had been wanting to get hold of the dozens of photon torpedoes smuggled to them by the new security chief of DS9. Very few Maquis knew that Michael Eddington was their benefactor. "You can requisition six torpedoes."
Seska whistled though her teeth. "This is big."
Chakotay laughed at her enthusiasm. "I'll be back at my quarters at 1100."
Seska rubbed her nose lightly against his. "Our last chance for a few days. That's my only complaint about the Selva -- no privacy."
Chakotay gave her waist a squeeze and let go. He was smiling as he made his way down to the tactical room. He was lucky to have Seska in his life, or he would still be as dour as many of the colonists huddled in the rough, tiny rooms carved off the mining tunnels.
As he went through the tunnels to the strategic meeting, the lights were low. They flickered occasionally, because the colonists needed to conserve power consumption to elude enemy sensors. Children were playing on the dirty floors, since they had no place else to go, no sunshine on their faces, no wind to freshen the air.
Chakotay hurried faster, knowing their future depended on him and the other Maquis fighters.
Seska went straight down to the hangar bay to gather the twenty-member crew. They had to begin preparing the raider for departure. She assigned duties to everyone, firmly clutching her Bajoran persona around herself. She was constantly aware of the time, knowing there was something critical she needed to do. But she tried not to think about it, because she couldn't risk letting her mask slip now.
When everything seemed to be under control, with B'Elanna giving the engines one last diagnostic and Ricci superintending the loading of the photon torpedoes, Seska finally slipped away. Even as she walked through the corridors, she refused to allow herself to think of the implications of this raid on Montee Fass.
She took the precaution of locking the door to her quarters, which she shared with B'Elanna whenever they were at the base. Crawling under her bunk, she reached for the panel she could pop open with her stylus. Concealed underneath was the headset transmitter unit she used to communicate with her Cardassian contact, Gul Evek.
Seska had undergone surgery to transform her Cardassian features into those of a Bajoran two years ago. First she had been sent to Earth to stake out Starfleet Academy and gather intelligence. When she made contact with a Starfleet defector who was joining the Maquis, she had been ordered to join the Maquis as well. It had been a long and grueling assignment. But now it looked like all of her work was about to pay off.
She placed the silver bands over her head, with the visor projecting a handsbreadth away from her face. The transmitter sent out a quantum carrier wave, which could transport a limited amount of information for a short distance. There was only a narrow window of time in which she could send a message Gul Evek could pick up on the Vetar. The Galor-class warship cruised through the nearby Moriya system on a regular schedule.
The low bandwidth resulted in a tiny image of Gul Evek's face, flattened and gray-toned. Seska knew her own face appeared on his viewscreen similarly distorted.
"I have something," Seska reported.
"It better be the location of a Maquis base," Gul Evek demanded.
"Negative," Seska reported. Only the Maquis commanders knew the coordinates of their home base. If the commander was killed on a mission, their ship was forced to rendezvous with another Maquis vessel in order for the new commander to obtain the coordinates. After nearly a year of observing the Maquis, Seska had concluded that the Maquis who had defected from Starfleet and brought with them Starfleet knowledge and protocols, had produced a truly formidable terrorist group.
Gul Evek's mature face twisted in disgust. "You have accomplished nothing -- "
"Do you want my report or not?" Seska shot back. "I could always explain to Central Command that you ignored my data."
She didn't want to anger Gul Evek too much, but she needed him to treat this seriously. It had taken a long time, but now she had the information they'd been waiting for. Now they could strike a decisive blow against the Maquis. Those attack ships would have full crew compliments and eight Maquis commanders. Surely someone would break under interrogation and reveal the location of the bases in the Badlands sector.
"Proceed," Evek ordered, as if she were trying his patience.
"At least eight Maquis ships will depart the Terikof Belt tomorrow morning at 0900," she reported. "The target is the Montee Fass shipyards in the Oliv system."
Gul Evek's surprise was almost worth every day she had spent in this mining hole.
"Are you certain?" he demanded. "Who is your source?"
"Chakotay, the commander of the Selva himself. We are preparing to depart now." Seska wasn't going to explain the degree to which she had been forced to become intimate with Chakotay before he would share any sensitive information with her.
"Excellent," Gul Evek said. Seska got the feeling he was talking to himself, not her. "We will lay a trap for the Maquis...."
"And you can pull me out," Seska reminded him.
He considered her for a long moment. "Yes, it is time for a complete debriefing. You can always reinfiltrate, if need be."
"Yes," she agreed evenly, suppressing a shudder. She had hoped to get a nice promotion out of this assignment. She was ready to supervise or train new agents, instead of risking her life every day in the field. Nearly ten years of successful undercover assignments was plenty for any agent.
"In fact," Gul Evek continued. "There's something else you can do before you leave. There is a Starfleet spy among the Maquis."
"A spy?" she asked, startled. "You were withholding information from me?"
"It was not necessary to reveal the identity of the individual to you." Gul Evek's voice hardened. "Now it is. You will plant evidence that will implicate this spy in betraying the planned raid on Montee Fass. It will appear that Starfleet alerted Central Command and allowed us to ambush the Maquis."
Seska had to smile. "Nice. Who is it?"
"A Vulcan called Tuvok."
"Tuvok..." Seska didn't doubt for an instant that Gul Evek was right.
When Tuvok had arrived a month ago, the Vulcan had claimed that his wife and children had been killed by Cardassians during a raid on a nearby Federation colony. But he was a typical Vulcan, too dispassionate and too decorous to fit in easily with the rebels and mercenaries who fought for the Maquis.
For some reason, Chakotay had trusted Tuvok from the first moment they found him in an escape pod that was almost out of air. Then again that didn't say much, because Chakotay trusted her, too.
"I'll leave something here that will implicate him," Seska assured Gul Evek. "When we don't return, our personal items will be searched."
"Tuvok reports to a Captain Janeway," Gul Evek added. "The Maquis should be able to confirm that he is her chief of security, still on active duty in Starfleet."
Seska made some notes. "The registry of my raider is 078-Gamma-A-905, the Selva. Please don't blow us up while you're taking care of the others."
Gul Evek smiled as if that thought had never occurred to him. His middle-aged face suddenly looked young again, like the warrior of legend. "This mission will bring great glory to Cardassia."
"For the honor of Cardassia," Seska agreed, before signing off.
She sighed and leaned back against the bulkhead. It was good to know Evek was on her side. Sometimes during the long months when she had had little to give him, she knew he had considered writing her off as a source. But even Gul Evek received his orders from higher up, and would have had to answer to the Obsidian Order for anything that happened to her.
And finally, this information was better than anything she had hoped for. All those nights spent with that human male were paying off at last.
Quickly, she created a text message that appeared to have been sent from Captain Janeway, briefly confirming the receipt of Tuvok's information that a Maquis attack fleet was planning to strike the Montee Fass shipyards. She ran it through her transmitter to imprint the code with the stardate. This would make it appear that Tuvok betrayed the Maquis to Janeway shortly after the information had been given to the commanders.
Pulling on her gloves, she transferred the text message to a disc that came from a sealed container. It was untraceable to either her or Cardassia, having been purchased from a Ferengi over a year ago. As long as she didn't touch it, none of her DNA would contaminate the magnetic surfaces.
Then she quickly dismantled the transmitter headset and stowed the pieces in the bottom of her bag. She couldn't leave anything behind that would implicate her as a spy. She might be able to make use of these contacts in the future. After all, many a brilliant career had been built in a war.
Seska slung her bag over one shoulder and gave the room one last look.
The tunnels were bustling. Even if Chakotay hadn't told her that a big raid was in the works, she would have known something was going on from the atmosphere on the base. Everyone was tense, excited, hopeful. She wondered what it would be like when the eight ships didn't return. What would happen when their finest base was discovered? It could rip the guts out of the Maquis. Thanks to her.
Tuvok was staying in a small room two levels down in the old mining quarters. She ran down the darkened spiral staircase that curved though the borehole, hoping Tuvok wasn't there.
She knocked again and again, but there was no answer. The door was locked, which was unusual on the Maquis base. Everyone had lost so much that there was nothing left worth stealing. The crew tended to keep most of their belongings on the ship so they could leave at an instant's notice.
Seska didn't have time for subtlety. She glanced around to be sure no one could see her in the alcove of the door, then she jammed the Cardassian stylus into the groove of the door. With a twist, it released a burst of ferroplasmic energy. The action depleted the last of the reserves in the stylus, but the door popped open.
She kissed the stylus and tucked it into her brown leather jacket. It had been a most useful tool.
Inside, the room was dark, but her eyes retained the Cardassian ability to see in dim light. She quickly slipped the disc into the space behind the desk. Tuvok wouldn't notice it, but a routine scan would pick up the magnetic traces. It would appear to have fallen unnoticed.
The door slid open, letting in more light. "What are you doing in my quarters?" Tuvok asked behind her.
"Tuvok! I was looking for you. You didn't report to the ship," she said accusingly.
"I did. I have just returned for my belongings," Tuvok told her.
"Good," she said briskly, folding her arms. "Get them and let's go. I need help with that lateral sensor grid. The energy conduits still seem to be congested."
Tuvok pulled clothing from his drawers and packed his bag. "I have attempted to reroute the conduits, Seska, but the ship is quite old."
"I know, but I've got another idea." Seska bounced on her toes, the perfect image of a rebel wanting to get to their ship.
Tuvok gathered up the photographs of his wife and children. He looked at them a moment, and Seska could almost believe they were his wife and children. Not dead, though. She was almost positive that was just his cover story.
The thought emboldened her. Tuvok was the spy -- he was the one who should be worried.
"Come on," she insisted, starting to sound suspicious. "If I didn't know you better, I would think you're stalling."
"Not at all." Tuvok glanced at the door on the way out, but the ferroplasma had left no visible traces. He undoubtedly didn't want to ask how she had gotten into his locked room, since locked rooms were so unusual in the Maquis base.
Seska smiled as his back turned. She didn't need to glance at the desk to know the disc was still there, waiting to be discovered after the ambush. Quite neatly done, she congratulated herself.
Now she had to finish the preparations for the Selva's departure tomorrow. And unfortunately she would have to continue her ruse with Chakotay. Just the thought of it made her ache for this assignment to end.
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