Keiko moved heavily through the quarters, picking up Molly's clothes, almost absent-mindedly. It didn't occur her to ask why Molly had left her clothes in the living room; to be honest, Keiko was glad of the mundane activity, an activity which forced her to take her mind off of Yoshi.
The doors slid open and Keiko whirled at the sound of Miles' footsteps.
"Kira is back," Miles said quietly.
"What has happened? Did she learn something?" Keiko asked anxiously, clutching the clothes to her chest.
Miles shook his head, "Nothing that will help us. She has some names, but no ideas where the children could be."
"Does she know why this happened?"
"Yes," Miles said. "The White Rose did not like that the peace treaty signs Derenda over to the Cardassians. The group basically sees it as giving into the Cardassians."
"For God's sakes, that planet is a barren wasteland!" Keiko exclaimed. "They would take the children over such a place?"
"I'm afraid so."
"That's crazy!" Keiko exclaimed. She pressed her hand to her forehead. Suddenly, the whole room seemed to
spin around as the strength left her muscles.
"Keiko!" Miles rushed to her side. He held her as her body trembled in his arms. He kissed her forehead gently and stroked her back until she was able to stand on her own.
"I'm okay," she whispered. "I'm okay."
She pulled away from him.
"This is all my fault," she said. "God, this is all my fault. I wanted to go on that picnic. If we hadn't gone, this would have never happened. God, how could this have happened? This is all my fault…"
But she had stopped listening to him. She dropped the clothes she had been collecting and fumbled her way to the couch, sinking into the cushions. O'Brien watched her, wondering what he could say to offer comfort. But he knew that until Yoshi was back, no words would help ease the pain they felt.
There were loud voices again, voices which jolted Daria out of her troubled sleep. She sat up, clutching the thin scrap of blanket to her chest. Next to her, Yoshi slept, his fingers pressed between his lips. Daria got out of the bed and tip-toed quietly across the room to the door; a sliver of light showed in the crack between the heavy wooden door and the door frame.
"Don't be stupid, Arel!" a new, unfamiliar voice shouted. Daria pressed up against the crack, trying to see. She saw the man called Arel standing against the wall, his arms crossed across his chest. His face was lit by the glow of a fire; Daria could hear the crackling of wood.
A second man entered Daria's view. She squinted harder to see him clearly. This man was tall and thin, dressed entirely in black. She noticed that that his hair was all gray, and when he turned around and faced the door, Daria was sure he could see right through at her.
"Calen is a suicide mission," the new man said.
"It's our only hope," Arel insisted.
"You will never make it."
"I'm not asking for your blessing, I just want the damn ship."
"You can have the ship," the other man shot back. "But I want nothing to do with this."
There was a silence and then from somewhere beyond, Alysia's soothing, gentle voice broke into the tension.
"Jacko, we appreciate your assistance," Alysia said quietly.
"What you're doing is not sanctioned, Alysia," the man called Jacko answered shortly. "I cannot agree to this."
"We were not asking that," Arel said.
"Arel, please," Alysia sighed. She came into view, still dressed in the outfit she had been wearing when she had tricked Daria and Yoshi into coming with her. Daria frowned; she did not like Alysia.
"What will you tell the others? Xenia? Ro?" Arel asked. Jacko fixed Arel with a gaze that made Daria shiver. She did not like this Jacko person at all. She wondered if he would come and see her. Well, she would not tell him anything, she decided. She got back on her feet and went back into the bed. She tried to wake up Yoshi, but he moaned at her and turned away.
She got back under the blanket and pulled it over her head. One little hand rested on Yoshi.
It was just past midnight, but Benjamin Sisko was still awake. Somehow, he had a feeling that he was not the only member of the senior crew to pace the decks this night. He thought about taking a walk on the Promenade, but he did not feel like taking his agitation public. Rather, he settled himself on the couch in his quarters, putting his feet up on the table. He thought about his last conversation with Milly Fleming, remembering the disappointment which had run through him when Fleming refused to help retrieve the children. He thought about making another appeal to Fleming, hoping now that Kira had brought back some useful information, he could sway the Admiral.
He also considered going through the Kai once again, but knew that if that approach had any merit, it would have yielded results by now. Kira had noted that Kai Arin had not yet gathered the following Kai Winn had had and Arin's influence, as a result, was not as much.
The door chimed then and Sisko lifted his head, almost glad of the interruption.
"Come!" he called.
The doors slid open, revealing the young doctor.
"Doctor," Sisko said. "I wasn't expecting a house call."
"Actually, I require your assistance," Bashir answered as he walked in. "Well, it's more of a request, actually, sir. One that I'm not prepared to take a negative answer for."
"I just talked to Kira. She says that Yoshi is suffering from transporter sickness and that Daria refuses to eat or
Sisko nodded. Kira had told him all this and the two had agreed not to mention it to either set of parents. However, it was apparent that Kira had felt the need to share this with Bashir.
"I'm concerned about this ionic phase transport on Yoshi," Bashir went on. "Not to mention Daria. If they continue to transport like this, it will kill them."
"How many transports?" Sisko demanded.
"Two or three," Bashir said. "I'm not sure. It seems that one transport has made Yoshi extremely ill. I would not
trust those terrorists to take the children's health into consideration."
"I'm asking that we do something," Bashir said firmly. "I know what Starfleet says, but as a friend to the O'Briens and also to Worf and Dax, I can't ignore what is happening here. Captain, I'm asking that we do something. I don't know what, but I can't just sit back while those children need me. Need us. I'm asking that you make a decision. Don't wait any longer or it will be too late."
Sisko nodded, finding himself agreeing with the doctor's impassioned plea. Sisko did not especially want to contradict Milly Fleming, but at the same time, he did not want to ignore Daria and Yoshi. As a father himself, he knew that the loss of the children was insufferable.
In that second, he made his decision.
"You're absolutely right, Doctor," Sisko said. "I'm going to Bajor."
"Captain," Milly Fleming's voice came across the line crisp and clear. There was no warmth in that tone but Sisko knew it would be asking too much to ask for some grace from Fleming. Even from Earth, Fleming managed to strike a bit of fear in Sisko's heart, but then Sisko braced himself; he knew what he had to do.
"I cannot approve your actions," Fleming continued.
"I'm not asking permission, Admiral," Sisko retorted.
Milly's piercing eyes met Sisko's unwavering gaze and for a moment, Sisko was sure that the Admiral flinched. The moment of weakness passed and that steel glance returned to Fleming's eyes.
"I cannot allow you to jeopardize this peace treaty. By moving against the White Rose, you will be ruining everything we worked for," Fleming said.
"I have no intention of ruining the treaty," Sisko said. "Don't forget, Admiral, that I helped formulate that peace treaty."
"Then what are your intentions, Captain?"
"Simply to rescue the children. Nothing more, nothing less. I owe my people that much."
"And how do you intend to do that? These rebels have said that without the surrender of the Derenda cluster, they will not release the children."
"That is something I'm still working on," Sisko said brightly. "But I cannot sit here and do nothing. You must understand that."
"I only understand that you are going against the Federation and that's not something I can allow."
"I know," Sisko replied shortly. "And I'm not asking for anything from you. Only some time. A day or two, that's all I need."
Sisko tapped a button and Milly Fleming's face disappeared from the view screen. Sisko tapped his communicator.
"Sisko to Worf."
"Prepare the Defiant. We're going after the White Rose."
Kira Nerys stretched out across the sofa, trying to relax her aching muscles. She felt good, no doubt about it; she had just finished five games of springball in the holosuite against a holographic image of Bajor's current champion. Of course Dae Win had won four of the five games, but it had been a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable workout. And I needed it, Kira thought.
She had felt a moment of guilt when Odo had pressed the program into her hand.
"I can't," she had protested. "There's too much to do."
"Just one hour," he had replied. "You need it."
And because she was too weary to battle with Odo, she had taken the program and entered the holosuite.
When she had been combating Dae Win, she had not thought at all about the White Rose or about the children or any one of the other five hundred problems which plagued her daily life. Instead, she had focused her energies and concentration on the game.
After returning to her quarters, she had ordered a nice, refreshing ice-tea - a beverage highly recommended by Bashir - and now she could feel the tension leaving her body.
"Odo to Kira."
"How was your workout?"
"It was wonderful. Remind me to thank the Chief for creating such a great program for me. Dae Win is a wonderful opponent. I only got one game off of him."
Kira smiled to herself, imagining the look on Odo's face. Odo didn't really go much for games though he had come to watch her play springball on occasion and a couple times, Sisko had asked him to referee a baseball game.
"And more importantly, thank you for making me go. I really did need that game. You were completely correct."
"You're very welcome."
"What are you doing?" Kira asked.
"A couple things. I just picked up another trace of an illegal transport."
Kira frowned, "From where?"
"The Habitat Ring. Right outside of the O'Briens quarters."
"Hmmm. That's odd."
"Isn't it? The Chief is working with Dax to create a tracking device that will help us pinpoint the transports, but the problem is that the trails don't last that long. Dax theorizes that it might be possible to amplify the ionic particle trace so that is echoes back its final destination."
"That is an interesting theory," Kira said. She tried to work the problem out in her head but gave up; she would leave the engineering and science to those who knew it well. Her expertise in all things technical was quite considerable, but she was more of a master at building off of other people's work, rather than coming up with her own theories and creations.
"And Sisko is going to Bajor."
"What?" Kira was shocked. "But what about Admiral Fleming?"
"Sisko says he doesn't care. Bashir made a case last night and Sisko listened. Worf is in the process of preparing the Defiant now."
"Does the Kai know?"
"I assume so."
Kira sighed, pressing her palm against her forehead. She really wasn't sure if she liked the idea of Sisko going to Bajor in pursuit of the White Rose. She had the feeling that the White Rose might retaliate in some way if Starfleet made a move and she shuddered to think what that might mean for the children.
"Did he give you a departure time?" Kira asked.
"In two hours," Odo answered. "I will not be accompanying you, Nerys. He has asked that Dax and I remain behind to monitor the transport activity. There is an answer, he thinks, in all that transporting. We just have to figure out the pattern."
"That's fine," Kira said. "Then I'll see you when I return?"
"Of course. Odo out."
Kira closed her eyes. She knew how a terrorist organization operated; after all, she had once been a terrorist.
No, she corrected, a resistance fighter. There is a difference.
But was there?
Kira Nerys didn't know anymore. She supposed that it all depended on point of view. The White Rose could very well believe that it was doing what was best for Bajor. That is, if kidnapping two small children to demand the return of a rather barren moon, was what was best for Bajor.
The computer voice chirped on then, "Incoming transmission for Colonel Kira Nerys."
"To the view screen please," Kira got up, suddenly feeling drained of all energy. She walked over to her console and keyed in her user id and password. The message was plain text, short and to the point.
"Kira, I have information for you about the children. Please come see me as soon as possible. They know about the Defiant. Lora Riata."
Kira had no illusions as to who Lora Riata was referring to. The White Rose knew that the Defiant was coming
and there was only one way they could have known.
"Kira to Odo."
"The White Rose knows about the Defiant. They must have gotten the information during one of the last transports."
There was a stunned silence from the other end and then Odo said smoothly, "Understood. I will relay your message to the captain."
"Don't bother," Kira said as she hurried into the bedroom to don her orange uniform. "I'm going to the Defiant. I'll tell Sisko myself."
"I assume you have a plan," Kira said to Sisko as she followed the Captain onto the Defiant.
"Actually," Sisko turned to his first officer. "I was hoping you would have a plan."
Kira let out a short chuckle, "Ha!"
Sisko shrugged, "I was hoping to elicit a reaction from someone, anyone for that matter."
"Yes, in a way, but more importantly, from the White Rose."
"You think the appearance of the Defiant is going to scare off a group of terrorists? Especially if they know that
the Defiant is coming? Really, Captain," Kira shook her head. She watched as the captain settled himself comfortable into his chair. "You really do not know the mind of a terrorist."
"Which is why I depend on you so much," Sisko replied with an affable grin.
Odo came on aboard, holding a PADD in his hand. He held it out to the captain.
"A transmission from Admiral Fleming, sir," Odo said. "I told her you were unavailable. She is displeased with you, to put it mildly, and is ordering you to cease your actions. If not, she'll be forced to take, um, actions that will not help you in your career."
"You told her I was unavailable?"
"Then I suggest you leave my ship, Constable, and continue to give the impression that I am unavailable. Please let the Admiral know that I was gone before her message was delivered."
"Aye, sir," Odo threw a look at Kira. She shrugged her shoulders and Odo exited the bridge.
Sisko had left the station in Dax's care, knowing that the Trill could use the time with her daughter, Madison, and also to work on tracking those transports. Jadzia had wanted to come and she had begged Sisko desperately not to leave her behind, but the Captain had remained firm; he wanted Dax and Odo to remain on DS9.
And he had other reasons for his decision too.
He knew that for the first time, this was a mission that was very personal to his staff and he did not want emotions to cloud judgements. It wasn't that he didn't trust his officers to do what was right, he just did not want to put any of them in a situation where their personal feelings would overwhelm their duty.
Sisko could not deny either Worf or O'Brien a place on the ship without good reason, and so he had reluctantly informed them of his plans. As a safeguard, he had asked that Bashir accompany them. The captain knew that Bashir would be a source of support for the Chief and as for Worf, well, the captain knew of no one more stoic than the Klingon.
Kira shifted her weight impatiently, "I may have an idea, Captain."
Sisko turned his gaze on the Bajoran woman.
"Yes?" he asked.
"My friend, Lora Riata. She knows more than she says. I wonder if I could get the information we need from her. I can locate her quickly and I should probably go alone."
"Agreed. We'll enter orbit around Bajor and you may beam down to the planet then."
After Worf and O'Brien had come aboard, Sisko requested clearance to leave from Ops.
"Granted, Captain," Dax replied, her voice clear and strong over the line, betraying none of the inner turmoil she was feeling. "And Benjamin?"
"Yes, Old Man?"
Kira uncovered her head as she moved into the darkened shadows of the bar. She moved through the smoky air, her eyes gradually adjusting to the blackness. She could not understand why Riata would stay in places like this, but Kira also knew that there were places in Riata's heart where Kira could never go.
"I heard about the Defiant," Riata's voice seemed to come out of nowhere. Kira whirled around in surprise. She saw Lora Riata leaning against a pillar. There was something very casual in the other woman's stance.
Nowhere in the softness of Riata's smile did there appear a trace of the former resistance fighter. Kira took a step towards her friend, hoping against hope that Riata had the information she so desperately needed.
"Yes, I got your message," Kira replied softly. "Sisko is serious about retrieving the children."
"He should be," Riata answered. "They are moving again."
"Who are they?"
"Arel and Alysia. They are the members of the White Rose. Arel wants to move, so they are going to move."
Kira's eyes opened very wide, "Calen? Why, that's a frozen wasteland."
"You must hurry," Lora looked around in fear. "The children are ill. Especially the little boy. I don't think they will survive a trip to Calen. You must intercept them and quickly."
"Good luck to you."
"Why are you telling me this now?"
Lora sighed. It was a little sigh, but one filled with emotion.
"I was with them, all of them. Arel, Alysia, Yaroc and they were talking. No, yelling really. And suddenly I thought of my husband. And I thought about Golun Coms and what he had done to us and somehow, it didn't seem right for Bajorans to be against Bajorans. There are those who believe in the White Rose, but in the end, I believe in the Kai. I have to. When the Cardassians executed my husband, the Kai saved me from complete despair. Kai Opaka is gone, but Kai Arin embodies all those same qualities. If he decrees that we stand against the White Rose, then that's how I must be."
Kira nodded, but she was not entirely convinced of Lora's motives. She knew she could trust Riata enough not to set a trap for the Defiant, but she knew Lora Riata well enough to know that Riata was not telling the whole truth.
Riata sensed Kira's unease and she offered her friend a shy smile.
"I had a child once," Riata said softly. "And I would never want your friends to know the pain of losing a child."
This was a truth Kira could understand. She touched her friend gently on the shoulder.
"Thank you," Kira said. She did not want to push Riata for more information though curiosity did tempt Kira. But there was a job to be done and Kira could no longer delay. She knew that she had been lucky to locate Lora Riata so quickly; now she hoped that the Defiant's luck would hold.
Ops, without the other senior members of the staff was unusually quiet. Dax enjoyed the quiet most of the time because it allowed her to concentrate on her work and get things done. However, right now, she was eaten up with worry about Daria and she could barely focus on the bleeps emitting from her console.
She had brought Madison with her to Ops, even though she knew that this was no place for a nine month old child, but right now, Dax could not stand to be parted from her child.
Still lost in her thoughts, Dax did not even notice her computer screeching at her loudly. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand rested gently on her shoulder.
"There was another one. Just now," Odo said quietly.
"I'm sorry," Dax said, embarrassed that she had not noticed the warning. "I didn't notice."
"Where did it happen?" he asked. Dax bent over her console, biting her lip as she placed a finger on the location.
"Again, the Habitat Ring."
"I wonder why there," Odo mused. He relayed an order to the security team in that section of the station to double up its patrol in search of the mysterious transporters.
"That's the fifth transport into the Habitat Ring in the last three hours," Dax turned around to face the Constable. "It's good you have increased security in that area. You must have anticipated that."
"Yes, I did. Hopefully someone will see something."
"Hopefully," Dax sighed. She got up from her chair. Odo watched her, sensing the restlessness which was brewing within the Trill. She paced the length of Ops and then turned back to look at Odo.
"I wish I had some answers, Odo," she said. "It frustrates me that I don't know what's going on."
"They will make a mistake," Odo answered smoothly. "Someone will see something. Surely."
"I hope you're right," Dax answered fervently. She sat down on the blanket which she had spread out for Madison on the floor and held out a couple of fingers for the baby to grab on to.
"Any word from the Defiant?" Dax asked.
"They are on their way to Calen," Odo replied.
"That's where Kira's sources says the children are."
"But Calen… it's so far and it's so cold. Daria isn't dressed for Calen," Dax said. She picked up the baby and stood up. The baby made a noise and pulled at Dax's hair. Jadzia did not seem to notice.
"Sisko hopes to intercept them before Calen," Odo said.
"I hope so."
At that moment, an alarm went off. Odo rushed to Dax's terminal. She was at his side in seconds.
"Another transport. Again, in the Habitat Ring."
"The same place," Odo said grimly. "Two doors down from your quarters."
"Why?" Dax asked. "Why there? Those quarters are empty."
"I don't know," Odo answered. "But I intend to find out."
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