The Admiral

Prologue

 

The Alpha Quadrant

 

Station Log, Commander Benjamin Sisko, Stardate 46393.8: I am settling into command of Deep Space 9, the former Cardassian mining station, now a Federation outpost located in the Denorios Belt of the Bajoran system.

 

I have decided to take another visit through the nearby wormhole that provides a shortcut from the Alpha Quadrant of the galaxy DS9 and Bajor is in, into the Gamma Quadrant 70,000 light years away.

 

Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax, the station science officer, will accompany me through the wormhole on an exploratory mission. My expectations are to go through the wormhole, conduct our findings, and return to DS9 and the Alpha Quadrant without incident.

 

USS Rio Grande

Starfleet Danube-class runabout

 

“Wonder what we’ll find on the other side, Benjamin?” Dax asked. “Now that we’ll be able to go through unimpeded.”

 

“The unknown,” Sisko replied. “Slowing to one-fourth-quarter impulse. The wormhole should open up–”

 

The commander was interrupted by a beep from the console at his flight controller station.

 

“Commander, I’m reading some very unusual neutrino readings,” Dax said.

 

“From the wormhole?”

 

“Negative. The disturbance isn’t coming from the wormhole. It’s about 200,000 kilometers off our stern.”

 

“I’m bringing the runabout to a full stop. Sisko to Ops: our sensors are reading a major neutrino disturbance.”

 

On board Deep Space Nine, within the Operations Center, Bajoran Major Kira Nerys oversaw a busy crew of Starfleet and Bajoran officers. “We’re reading the same thing,” Kira said. “This disturbance is in the Denorios Belt, same distance from the sun as the wormhole, in a different place.”

 

“The location is fixed, Major, but in the opposite direction,” said Starfleet Lieutenant Kaine.

 

“How so?” she asked.

 

“Major, on the Lagrangian point scale, if Bajor’s sun is the center; Bajor at L1; and the wormhole at L3; then the disturbance is at L5.”

 

“Did you get that, Commander?”

 

“Loud and clear,” Sisko replied. “The Gamma Quadrant can wait. Dax, turn the Rio Grande around. We’re going to see what’s going on here.”

 

“Commander, I recommend keeping your distance,” Kira said, her voice coming through the com. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with.”

 

“Understood, Major. I have every intention of taking care. And, every intention of seeing what this is myself. We’ll keep this channel open.”

 

“Affirmative, Commander,” Sisko and Dax heard Kira say.

 

The Rio Grande turned from the wormhole and proceeded to the place where the neutrino disturbance was detected.

 

“Ten thousand kilometers from the disturbance and closing,” Dax reported. “Slowing to one-eighth impulse. This is as good a time as any to begin scans.”

 

“I agree, Lieutenant,” Sisko said. “Bring the Rio Grande within 50 kilometers.”

 

“Fifty?”

 

“While I understand Major Kira’s concern, preliminary scans didn’t indicate any danger from this phenomenon.”

 

“No, Commander, they didn’t. However, any further scans can be done at this distance, or from the station itself if necessary.”

 

“We could,” Sisko replied, “or we can get our hands a little dirty. What do you say…Old Man?”

 

Dax smiled, and guided the Rio Grande to within fifty kilometers of the disturbance.

 

“Captain, I’m noticing some similarities between this, and the wormhole–”

 

“Wormhole? A second wormhole?” Sisko replied. “Did you hear that, Major?”

 

“Yes, Captain, and I recommend–”

 

Without any warning, the star-specked blackness of space that the Rio Grande was looking out on exploded in light. Before either Sisko or Dax could react, another wormhole had opened, and the runabout was inside.

 

The Rio Grande traveled safely through the second wormhole. Instead of emerging somewhere else in the galaxy, though, the Rio Grande found itself halfway between a planet and its moon. The system’s sun could be seen in the distance, as the runabout was over the planet’s night side.

 

“Scans, Lieutenant.”

 

“Oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere like a Class M planet, 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen,” Dax replied. “Readings indicate an industrial civilization, spacecraft in orbit. Life forms on the planet’s moon.”

 

Sisko, listening to Dax, also was looking closely at the city lights on the surface of the planet.

 

“…possible Type I civilization,” Dax continued. “I’m picking up signals on multiple frequen–”

 

She stopped talking briefly when she noticed something on the sensors.

 

“Warp signature?” Dax scanned the source of the signature. “A ship, twice as large as the Rio Grande and equipped with a primitive warp drive.”

 

“Primitive?” Sisko asked.

 

“Not much more advanced than Zefram Cochrane’s test vehicle, but definitely a warp-capable ship…as I said, I’m also picking up signals consistent with 21st-century Earth, military and civilian…Benjamin, I’ve just noticed a spike in signals from the lunar surface.”

 

“I hope we haven’t been spotted,” Sisko deadpanned, realizing the opposite was likely the truth.

 

“Military. I’ll put it on the com.”

 

She picked up the transmission in mid-stream. “–unidentified object appeared out of the, ah, cosmic cloud or whatever that thing was. It’s stationary for the moment–”

 

“We’ve been spotted, Old Man,” Sisko said, his eyes locked on the light pattern of the northern continent. “Perform an astrometic scan and tell me exactly what it indicates.”

 

Dax performed the scan. “Captain, according to these scans, we’re orbiting–”

 

“Earth,” Sisko replied. “But not the one we know.”

 

“Area scans indicate the largest object in orbit are a Stanford torus above the northern continent,” Dax said. “The moon has a series of small bases holding about 5,000 people. However the astrometic scans don’t indicate we travelled back in time; they’re what you’d expect to see if we were orbiting the Earth we’re familiar with right now.”

 

“So the question isn’t WHEN we are, but WHERE,” Sisko mused.

 

“Alternate universe!” they both said simultaneously, moments later.

 

Leaving unnoticed was no longer an option. The wormhole and the Rio Grande had already been seen, and not just by military surveillance from the lunar surface and satellites orbiting the planet. The opening of the wormhole was visible to anyone on the planet’s surface.

 

On both sides of the second wormhole, the destinies of several civilizations had changed forever.

 

One Terran year later

 

The Federation’s universe

Deep Space Nine

Promenade

Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade

 

To say that the young woman in military dress was gawking at the sights around her would be an understatement.

 

Never had she stepped on an alien ship, nor had she seen aliens in the flesh. The Star Wars movies she saw in her youth barely prepared her for this assignment.

 

The woman was so transfixed by the aliens around her, at the bar and gaming tables, that her determination not to embarrass herself or her country fell by the wayside.

 

She wasn’t so transfixed, however, as to not notice the short, big-eared alien walking towards her from the side.

 

“Welcome, welcome!” the alien said as he spread his arms out. “I’m very glad you’ve decided to visit my establishment! The first drink’s on the house, and by your uniform, you qualify for the ten percent military discount.”

 

“Excuse me–oh, my goodness, I’m sorry.”

 

“Sorry for what, Miss? The name’s Quark, by the way.” Quark reached out his hand for her to shake, which she did.

 

“Petty Officer Miranda Collins, United States Navy,” she answered. “I mean, I’m sorry for standing here embarrassing you like an out of place tourist–”

 

“Nonsense!” Quark said, gesturing around him. “You’re not the first ‘tourist’ I’ve had here and everyone who visits Quark’s ALWAYS comes away having had a good time. Now…may I interest you in a good meal, or perhaps a hot cup of rakatjino? Or would you like to try your hand at one of the Dabo tables?”

 

Petty Officer Collins suddenly remembered the long, five-hour meeting where hundreds of items were discussed regarding the visit, the station, and the locals. She had forgotten most of them, especially due to the presenter’s sleep-inducing monotone delivery.

 

The warning about the bar wasn’t one of them. It snapped back to her, especially about its host being a shady character willing to do anything to make a buck.

 

She tightened her grip on her purse without noticing it.

 

“I, I’m not sure–”

 

Collins didn’t get to finish her sentence, shutting up as a tall humanoid man suddenly appeared by her and Quark’s side.

 

“Quark was about to tell you that, ‘whatever you choose, you’ll get a fair deal’. Right, Quark?” said the alien in the brown one-piece suit. “I’m Odo, Chief of Security, by the way.”

 

“I’m Petty Officer–”

 

“Petty Officer Miranda Collins, from Terra, on the other side of the Multiversal Wormhole,” interjected Quark. “She’s from, uh, from–where did you say you were from? Russia?”

 

“America,” she said, smiling politely but annoyed by the incorrect reference.

 

“You’re part of the delegation from the United States,” Odo said.

 

“Yes. I’m with Admiral Kelley. As I’m sure you both know, we’re part of Ambassador Stewart’s party.”

 

“Here on behalf of the Federation and the provisional Bajoran government,” Odo replied. “The United States of America is one of several nation-states from Terra which the Federation has established formal relations with.”

 

“I heard that the ambassador’s here to look at his new embassy on Bajor,” Quark interjected, “and the admiral is here to look at the station. If you see him, Miss Collins, please tell him Quark’s is here to tend to his EVERY need.”

 

Collins frowned at the Ferengi’s cagey-looking smile.

 

“Thank you both, but I, um, must be on my way,” she said with a nod, heading down the corridor past the bar.

 

Quark called to her a couple of times, then Odo grabbed the Ferengi by the arm. “YOU are to keep your nose clean at all times ESPECIALLY while the Terrans are on board,” the Changeling said with a growl. “Have I made myself clear?”

 

“Are you going to keep harassing me, Odo?” Quark protested. “I’m as interested in the welfare of our visitors as you are.”

 

“Your only interest is in whatever profit you can gain from these people…HOWEVER you can get it.”

 

“If you’re accusing me of running a business that gives the customer what they want AND happens to make a good profit, I’m guilty. In fact, Constable, I’m rather offended by your insinuation.”

 

“You mean my justifiable suspicions of business practices you’ve engaged in since the day you stepped foot on this station. If Sisko–”

 

Both Odo and Quark, along with most others in the Promenade, turned at the sound of a shriek coming from above. They noticed a Dabo girl, hand over her mouth, screaming her head off.

 

Odo called for backup and ran up the stairs, two levels to the upper deck. The Dabo girl stood in the doorway of one of the holosuites operated by Quark, frightened by whatever she was seeing, her hands over her mouth. The few bystanders nearby were ignoring her and gaping at what was inside.

 

“Miss. Miss. MISS!” Odo shouted after he gently and firmly grabbed the girl’s biceps, stepping in front of her in an attempt to calm her. “I need you to calm down immediately!”

 

She only saw Odo, who blocked whatever was inside the holosuite from her view. That was enough for her to stop her shrieking. Odo gestured to a security officer. “This woman is going to stay with you,” he said to the panicked girl as the officer ran up to them. “I need you to remain calm. I’ll likely need to speak with you, and,” he said to the others in the vicinity, “with the rest of you as well.”

 

Two security officers remained outside as Odo went into the holosuite which, since it was not in use, had reverted to its default sparse state. He had walked through the doorway just a few meters inside when he saw the sight that caused the girl to scream in horror.

 

Admiral Kelley lay dead on the floor, blood pooling underneath his head. His uniform jacket lay several meters away from his body, his cap further back near the rear wall.

 

Odo decided to begin his investigation by looking over the body. He squatted, noting the small hole in the admiral’s forehead. Odo began reviewing the various types of Bajoran and Cardassian weapons which fired physical projectiles as he looked closely at the wound.

 

“Constable! Don’t touch the body!” Odo turned and saw Dr. Julian Bashir, a Starfleet lieutenant and the station’s chief medical officer, walking through the doorway. “Not without these.”

 

Bashir handed him a pair of clear gloves. “You’ll need these, Constable. I do hope you haven’t touched the body.”

 

“Doctor, I defer to your expertise in medical matters. It’s only fair you defer to mine in criminal ones.”

 

Odo handed the gloves back to Bashir. “This is both a medical AND a criminal matter,” he replied, handing the gloves back to Odo. “And a legal one.”

 

“Legal?” Odo asked skeptically.

 

“Not that I’m a attorney,” Bashir said as he ran his tricorder over the body, “but if, and when, a Terran citizen is killed on a Starfleet installation, matters are handled a little differently–don’t touch!”

 

Odo gave Bashir a stern look when the doctor suddenly grabbed his wrist. “Doctor, even I am aware of basic investigative procedures. I AM chief of security, after all,” he said with a hint of sarcasm.

 

“Forgive me, Constable…it’s just, because of who this man is and where he’s from, I have to make certain to follow regulations.”

 

“I don’t believe that will be a problem for either of us, Doctor. The Terrans won’t have to worry about us being lax in our duties.”

 

Bashir ran his tricorder over the admiral’s chest. “Readings indicate nothing out of the ordinary…besides the fact that he’s dead and obviously died of a head wound. You said the Terrans.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“As you know, unlike Bajor and every other planet in this dimension, Terra is not under a single government. There’s the United States — where our dead admiral is from — the Soviet Union, the British Commonwealth, France, Spain, Brazil, the Ottomans–”

 

“Your point, doctor?”

 

“Each nation-state has its own procedures one has to be aware of. In the case of an American officer, one of them involves the wearing of gloves at a crime scene.”

 

“As not to contaminate the body IF you must touch it,” Odo replied. “As a changeling, I don’t have fingerprints to contaminate the body.”

 

“Perhaps not, but the principle still applies,” Bashir said. “When you’re finished with the body, I’ll take it–”

 

“You won’t take it anywhere, Doctor…not yet,” said an older, balding man wearing a Terran business suit.

 

“Ambassador Stewart,” Odo said to the man who stood just outside the doorway. “We are sorry for your loss.”

 

“Thank you, and yes, I realize you both are more than capable of handing any investigation,” Stewart said in his distinct New English accent. “But I insist you pause it for the time being.”

 

“Excuse us?” Bashir said. “We’ve just begun.”

 

Stewart turned to look at the person he sensed had just walked up to him in the corridor.

 

Sisko paused and acknowledged Stewart with a glance, then walked past the ambassador into the holosuite and began looking at the body. Odo explained to Sisko how the admiral had been found and repeated the apparent cause of death.

 

“My security chief and chief doctor are VERY competent at their jobs,” Sisko said after he turned towards the ambassador, who had just walked inside the room. “And, I assure you–”

 

“They’re both capable of finding out how Admiral Kelley died, as would be any of your other personnel,” Stewart interjected. “As the ranking member of my country’s delegation, and its representative to Bajor and your Federation, I’m invoking Article 234.”

 

Odo and Bashir looked at Stewart in confusion. Sisko recognized the reference immediately.

 

“Article 234 is a small and pertinent portion of the Federation’s agreement with the United States of America,” the commander said. “Ambassador, I want to remind you that any murder committed on this station is under the jurisdiction of Bajor and the Federation.”

 

“Commander, I’m sure your people are more than capable of conducting this investigation,” Stewart said. “But because this man is — was — a United States Naval officer, I insist that American investigators be allowed to participate.”

 

“Participate,” Sisko said. “So you’re not requesting that your people take over the investigation. Because that isn’t happening on MY station.”

 

“Of course not, Commander. Article 234 allows for joint investigations, and I already have those investigators in mind. It won’t take more than eight Terran hours for them to arrive, if I get transportation through the wormhole immediately to speak to their superiors.”

 

Sisko looked at Odo and Bashir. “Looks like you two are going to have some company,” Sisko said. “Constable, in accordance with Article 234, do NOT move the body until these investigators arrive.”

 

“But Commander, the body will begin to decompose,” Bashir said, “and the smell will spread into the corridor.”

 

“Then I suggest you put it in stasis — here — and make sure the door’s shut,” Sisko said. “Ambassador, come with me. We’ll take the Rio Grande through the wormhole.”

 

Terra

Washington, D.C., United States of America

Navy Yard

Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters

 

Jenny Shepard, the director of NCIS, told herself that she could handle one more thing.

 

She’d been telling herself that for months. Between Persia; Ottoman Egypt; Dubai; Singapore; Germany; Soviet Venezuela; and aboard the orbiting USS Ronald Reagan, every day offered some new crisis for her and the agency.

 

Very few days brought closure. Shepard was getting pressure from her superiors to close these various cases and to drop ‘less essential’ cases, like La Grenouille.

 

Shepard had repeatedly told her superiors that she would be the one to determine what was most essential. Her immediate boss, the Secretary of the Navy, reminded her that everyone was replaceable.

 

She kept her opinion on that to herself.

 

Forty minutes ago, Shepard was informed of a particular case that, she was told, “is to be solved yesterday.” She instructed her secretary to call in the agent she had in mind.

 

A little over a minute later, Leroy Jethro Gibbs — Special Agent-in-Charge of the Washington-based Major Case Response Team — barged into her office.

 

“Admiral Kelley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, was killed just over an hour ago on the other side of the wormhole,” Shepard said. “Pack your go bags. You leave in less than an hour.”

 

“We just finished paperwork on the Seabrook case,” Gibbs grumbled. “My people need a LITTLE rest. And you want to send us off-planet now?”

 

“I have no choice, and they can rest on the Marine shuttle that’s taking you through the wormhole,” Shepard replied. “I hope Dr. Mallard and Ms. Sciuto have their go bags with them–”

 

“Duck and Abby? And why can’t the off-world desk handle the case?”

 

“Ambassador Stewart wants our best people involved, Jethro. That’s YOU and your team.”

 

“Why does he need Abby and Ducky? We can send the body, and evidence, back here.”

 

“No they can’t, not as easily as a van driving from Rock Creek Park to the Navy Yard,” Shepard said. “Travel through the wormhole isn’t cheap.”

 

“We’ve done it for the past nine months.”

 

“Because it’s necessary. AND expensive. Here.”

 

Gibbs took a folder from Shepard detailing his team’s newest case and skimmed through it.

 

“You know anything about these Federation people?”

 

“Very little, other than they’re top-notch and the Federation commander has wanted to visit Terra since discovering this wormhole,” she said, looking at her watch. “You’ve got less than an hour to get your things together, including personal items.”

 

Gibbs shot Shepard an annoyed look. He hadn’t been as enthused as others were about the discovery of the wormhole and the alternate universe on its other side. “Might not be enough time.”

 

“The ambassador knew you wouldn’t want them to move the body or disturb the scene before you got there…the clock’s ticking, Gibbs. You and your people need to be on the roof at 1640 hours.”

 

Gibbs shot her another glare, and she heard a loud groan as he threw the door open on his way out.

 

Two hours later

 

Deep Space Nine

 

The moment he stepped foot onto an alien spacecraft went unnoticed for special agent Tim McGee. He was distracted by the headslap that Gibbs gave his senior agent Tony DiNozzo.

 

Right alongside McGee was Ziva David, an Israeli and the liaison of her country’s Mossad intelligence agency to NCIS. Behind them were Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, NCIS’s chief medical examiner, and Abby Sciuto, NCIS’s chief forensic scientist, both stepping out of the U.S. Marine shuttlecraft that took them to DS9.

 

The four Terrans behind Gibbs wondered if the Federation people on the other side of the airlock had seen the headslap. They all realized Gibbs wouldn’t care what the Federation people thought.

 

“Sorry boss,” DiNozzo said, as Mallard and Sciuto caught up to the others in the airlock’s forward security gate. When McGee saw Odo, it hit him where he was. “I’m on an alien spaceship,” he whispered, before getting hit on the back of his head by DiNozzo’s palm.

 

“OUCH…what was THAT for, Tony?”

 

“Stay awake, Probie,” DiNozzo said just as he got headslapped again by Gibbs, who shot him a glare that caused him to apologize a second time.

 

“It’s okay, McGee,” Sciuto said. “We saw the wormhole out in the country the very first time. And now we’re on the other side!”

 

“This,” Mallard added, “reminds me of the time I first saw the Taj Mahal, from the air, in an airplane. During my sojourn in Afghanistan, I was contacted by a colleague doing mission work with Mother Teresa in Kolkata. I never got to visit the Taj Mahal that first time, although the yearning never left me. It wasn’t until my first year at NCIS that I was finally able to see this most remarkable–”

 

“Duck,” Gibbs said, causing the medical examiner to end his monologue.

 

Seconds later, the door opened into the hallway. Awaiting the NCIS contingent were, from left to right, Bashir; Kira; Sisko; Odo; Dax; and Ambassador Stewart.

 

“Thank you for coming,” Sisko said, shaking hands with Gibbs. After introductions were made and the team shown to its temporary headquarters on the Promenade, both parties went to the crime scene.

 

Odo went in first, with Gibbs, Sisko and Kira following right behind him. The octagon-shaped room was large enough to hold a dozen people, and the ambassador’s entrance along with the doctors meant less space for Gibbs to work. Gibbs held his palm up, a signal for DiNozzo, David, McGee and Sciuto to stay just outside the door for the time being. Dax stayed with them and the two security officers guarding the door.

 

Gibbs shook his head when Bashir offered him a lightweight, paper-like breathing mask. The scent of the decomposing body came with the territory in his line of work; he and Mallard began looking over the body as Sisko, Stewart, Kira and Bashir put their masks on.

 

“Why are you inserting that…thing into the corpse?” Bashir asked Mallard. “My tricorder should have all of the information you would need.”

 

“That ‘thing’, Doctor, is a liver probe,” Mallard replied. “I understand my methods might seem a little archaic to you. Consider what I’m doing another, less technological, but no less effective method of examination. Although, perhaps Agent Gibbs already has determined the cause of death.”

 

“That so, Duck?” Gibbs chuckled.

 

“It appears to be from a projectile that entered his forehead and exited the back,” Odo offered.

 

“That so, Constable?” Gibbs replied, as Odo and Sisko noted a hint of skepticism in his response. Gibbs looked at the position of the body as he gestured for his agents to come in.

 

“The admiral’s feet are pointing right at the door, Boss,” DiNozzo said as he began to sketch the scene on a paper pad. “Looks like he was looking right at the door when he bought it.”

 

“McGee?” Gibbs said to his junior agent.

 

“He probably was looking at the shooter — or in the direction of the shooter — when he died,” McGee replied.

 

David leaned down to take some close-up shots with her camera of the admiral’s head wound. “Something looks off, Gibbs.”

 

“Ziva?”

 

“The entry wound appears to be smaller than it should be from that close of range,” she replied, looking towards the door. “And there’s no shell casing in this room.”

 

“Maybe it’s one of those laser guns,” DiNozzo said.

 

“Phasers,” Kira clarified, as she leaned down to look at the wound. “Just looking at the wound doesn’t narrow it down. Could be Cardassian, Bajoran, Ferengi, Federation…even Terran.”

 

“Since when have we invented a ‘phaser’ gun?” DiNozzo asked.

 

Gibbs shot him a look before turning to Odo. “Constable, this scene hasn’t been disturbed?”

 

“Not at all, per the ambassador’s request,” he said, glancing at Stewart. “If the weapon was particle- as opposed to projectile-based, there wouldn’t be a shell casing–”

 

“Where’s the brain splatter?”

 

Odo and Bashir looked at one another in confusion. Stewart was about to ask Gibbs to explain when Sisko spoke. The commander asked Mallard to raise the admiral’s head, so he and Gibbs could take another look at the exit wound.

 

“Agent Gibbs has a point; there’s hardly any brain matter on the ground,” Sisko said. “In high school I had the opportunity to engage in some target practice with an old-fashioned rifle. My target was a bullseye, but some classmates decided to practice on what you would call a dummy.

 

“One of the dummies had vegetables crammed inside its cranium; you could see the explosion from the back of the skull when his shot hit the mark. There were pieces of carrot chips, tomatoes, squash, turnips all over the ground behind the dummy and the exit wound was larger than the entry wound.”

 

“Whereas,” Mallard added, “the exit wound on the admiral is perhaps a tad larger than the entry wound. And, instead of blood splatter, there’s a large pool of blood beneath him, as if it all drained from the exit wound. Doctor, can you still say for certain the cause of death was from a particle weapon?”

 

“When you put it that way…” Bashir replied.

 

“If he wasn’t shot, how did he die? By rod?” Stewart asked. “The weapon could have been holographic in nature — have you agents experienced how realistic these holosuites can be?”

 

David and McGee shook their heads. DiNozzo began talking about a ZNN report he had seen on the topic, then shut up upon catching Gibbs’ glare.

 

“So, the weapon is either a projectile, or a ‘rod’, or some other physical device — or it is holographic,” Sisko said. “And the killer, or killers, are either real OR holographic.”

 

“Doesn’t do much to narrow down the killer, Commander,” Gibbs said.

 

“We should start with the program the admiral was using at the time of his death,” Odo replied. “There are four holosuite programs approved for Terran use–”

 

“They’re like your movies,” Bashir interjected, at which DiNozzo’s eyes lit up. “Movies where you are the participant, not merely the viewer. The Jason Bourne program was particularly exhilarating.”

 

“‘Exhilarating’?” DiNozzo said. “Huh…the ZNN report referenced a Titanic program AND some interesting local ones of a, ah, titilating nature.”

 

David rolled her eyes at DiNozzo’s chuckle. “Is that something you could not handle, Tony?” she said with a smile.

 

“I can handle ANYthing, Mossad Ninja.”

 

“Really?” she said coyly. His non-flirtatious response solidified her suspicion that he was seeing someone. While she had come to annoy Gibbs with her constant questions regarding DiNozzo’s unusual absences from work, the Israeli was genuinely concerned for her teammate.

 

And, perhaps a little jealous of the other woman.

 

“You two done playing grab-ass?” Gibbs said suddenly as he leaned into them, to the point he was almost face-to-face-to-face with both.

 

“That’s just his style,” McGee whispered to Sisko and Odo.

 

Ignoring Stewart’s chuckle and the Federation officers’ wide-eyed looks, Gibbs looked down at the admiral’s body, then back at his team and at Sisko. “I want to know more about whatever Admiral Kelley was doing in here when he died. You say there were people nearby when he was killed?”

 

“There are five of them, and all are in my security office waiting for you, Agent Gibbs. You and your people are free to use the adjacent holding cells to conduct your interrogations.”

 

“You kept them separated?”

 

“No, but two of my people are with them.”

 

Gibbs groaned, then turned to his agents. “McGee, you get with the Federation people on this holographic thing, DiNozzo with the Constable’s people on the security feed, Ziva with me on the interrogations–”

 

“Perhaps if Agent Gibbs’s people and Constable Odo’s people work on the interrogations,” Stewart opined, “while–”

 

“I see no reason not to begin immediately,” Sisko interjected as he noticed Gibbs’s growing irritation at the ambassador. “Doctor Bashir, would you escort Doctor Mallard with the body to your infirmary? Have Lieutenant Dax join Ms. Sciuto; their expertise should be of use in this investigation as well.”

 

With that, the combined group split up.

 

DS9 Infirmary

 

“If I were back on Terra,” Mallard said as he picked up his scalpel and began cutting open the admiral’s chest as part of the autopsy, “I would assume the admiral had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. But, I have come to learn that the obvious cause of death isn’t always the ACTUAL cause.”

 

“My tricorder indicated nothing abnormal with the body. He was in excellent health for a man his age,” Bashir said as he reached for his tricorder. “I understand you have a procedure you must follow, but are you certain you need to cut him open? The technology here is more than sufficient to compensate for–”

 

Bashir caught himself.

 

“For what, Doctor?” Mallard said. “Barbarism?”

 

“No! No, no, Doctor Mallard. You’re no caveman–no, you are…NOT!” Bashir said, his eagerness and nervousness evidence in his slowly panicking expression.

 

Dax finally broke down into a short fit of giggling and Sciuto went over to give Bashir a sympathetic hug, a completely surprise to the Federation doctor.

 

“Ducky’s just kidding with you,” she said, letting go of the hug. “We like you. All of you. When we found out you and your people were on the other side I decided that somehow I would get here to see this for myself. And I’m soooooo happy I did! And even happier my friends came with me, and we didn’t have to wait for the lottery or get rich or grow old–”

 

“What Abigail is saying is that we jest, because we like,” Mallard interjected. “Your hospitality and kindness are most appreciated.”

 

Security Office

 

“Something’s weird, Constable,” DiNozzo said to Odo in the constable’s office as they looked at security video of the entrance into the holosuite. “Go back about nine seconds, and slow it down.”

 

Odo reversed the video from the camera directly in front of the entrance and synchronized it with the other feeds. It showed a Dabo girl walking by as Admiral Kelley entered the shot.

 

“They have a brief conversation, she stops as he enters, she waits a minute then leaves,” Odo said. “I’d like to ask her what she said to him.”

 

“Gibbs will find out,” DiNozzo said.

 

“I’m sure he and Commander Sisko and Major Kira will. Now, Agent DiNozzo, what seems ‘off’ to you?”

 

DiNozzo looked at the four feeds, all taken from various angles. He noticed something in the angle looking down the hallway with the entrance on the right. “Damn, I wish McGeek were in here,” he muttered to himself.

 

Odo heard him and decided to answer. “Another pair of eyes might be beneficial. What IS it that we’re missing?”

 

A few minutes later, DiNozzo figured it out. “There! The guy.”

 

“What ‘guy’?”

 

DiNozzo referred to a male Bajoran walking down the hallway. In all four shots, he walks past the girl and stops a few feet ahead of her, pulling a communicator out of his pocket. He talks on it as the girl stands near the entrance looking away from the holosuite, then turns around a few minutes later. He walks past the Dabo girl, who was in conversation on her own communicator and, a minute later, headed the opposite direction.

 

“Go back, after he picks up his phone,” DiNozzo said.

 

“‘Phone’?”

 

“Sorry, communicator. Anyway, when he pulls it out of his coat pocket, slow the feeds down, almost frame-by-frame.”

 

“I’m not certain what a ‘frame’ is in relation to video footage but I can slow it even more, Agent DiNozzo.”

 

Odo did so, and about three real minutes into the extremely slowed-down feed, DiNozzo told him to stop. “There. Reverse, same speed…stop!”

 

“I believe I see what was ‘off’, Agent DiNozzo.”

 

Infirmary

 

Sciuto and Dax began examining the samples swabbed from both wounds on the admiral’s skull while Bashir finished his second tricorder scan of the skull.

 

“A clean shot, through and through, including the brain itself,” Bashir said. “One would expect a head wound to be more, ah, messy.”

 

“They usually are,” Mallard replied, with a hint of regret in his voice that Bashir decided was best not followed up upon.

 

Holosuite

 

McGee was speechless when the program began. He swore he had, somehow, left the space station and stepped into a time machine that took him right to the future.

 

“Whoa,” McGee whispered as he looked around the main courtyard on the campus of Starfleet Academy, as of the year 2369 on this dimension’s Earth. The only landmarks recognizable to the Terran were the Golden Gate Bridge and Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper.

 

He tried not to stare at the numerous non-human aliens walking across the courtyard, and found himself excusing himself when someone (or thing) crossed into his path. McGee gawked at the city skyline and at the ships flying hundreds of feet above the ground.

 

“How far can I go?” he said to DS9’s chief of operations, Federation Senior Chief Petty Officer Miles O’Brien.

 

“When I was at the Academy, I’d often go outside San Francisco, around the Bay Area,” O’Brien said. “Went hiking in Oregon — but, no, you can’t go that far. With this particular program I believe you’re limited to the public areas of the campus and a one-block area surrounding it.”

 

“Pity. I’d LOVE to see what New York or Washington look like, on your planet.”

 

“They’re both there, mostly 24th century but not unrecognizable to you. Many of the original landmarks have been updated over the centuries…I’m from Ireland. I could tell you much more about Dublin than Manhattan.”

 

Still awestruck by the futuristic surroundings, McGee made himself focus on the reason he was in the holosuite. “Since this was the program the Admiral was, ah, interacting with, would there be any record of him in here? What he was doing?”

 

“Should be. Computer,” O’Brien said, addressing the ship’s main computer, “recreate Admiral Kelley’s actions within this program, from the time he entered going forward. And put us behind him.”

 

McGee heard a two-tone chirp, and his and O’Brien’s point of view changed. They found themselves near the front door of The 602 Club, watching the admiral looking at his surroundings.

 

A glint in the distance caught McGee’s eye; instinctively he reached for the handgun that, like his teammates’ weapons, were locked in Odo’s office. Realizing he was unarmed, McGee then yelled at the admiral’s avatar to duck. McGee ran, then stopped himself as the projectile shot through the admiral’s head.

 

“Computer!” O’Brien said, as McGee watched everything stop around him. “Are safety protocols standard with this particular holoprogram?”

 

Affirmative.” The computer’s female monotone voice seemed to McGee to be coming from the thin air a few feet from he and O’Brien.

 

“And are safety protocols standard in each holodeck on the station?”

 

Affirmative.”

 

“Were safety protocols disabled by the Admiral, or someone else, before the Admiral entered and began this program?” asked O’Brien.

 

That information is unavailable.”

 

“Unavailable?” McGee said. “Computer, do you not have a record of who entered this holosuite, when they entered and how long?”

 

That information for this specific holosuite is unavailable.”

 

McGee looked at O’Brien, wondering if this was par for the course for Federation personnel.

 

“Computer, Agent McGee is right,” O’Brien said. “You should have a record of Admiral Kelley’s entrance, and whether he was alone or not when he died. Access those records.”

 

I am unable to comply.”

 

“Why?”

 

That information is restricted.”

 

“Restricted? On whose authority?”

 

I am unable to answer.”

 

“‘UNABLE TO ANSWER’???” O’Brien said, very loudly, looking like he may tear some of his blonde hair out in frustration. “Why can you NOT tell me who restricted the records?!?”

 

The records are restricted by an external party.”

 

“Is that party Federation, Bajoran, Ferengi or Terran?” McGee asked.

 

That record is unavailable.”

 

“Well, is the bloody bastard on board the station?” O’Brien said.

 

“Affirmative.”

 

O’Brien and McGee knew that to be true, as Sisko locked down the station and ordered all docked ships to remain for the time being.

 

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” O’Brien said. “Computer, from where did the fatal — scratch that, take us to where the shooter was.”

 

The men found themselves behind a bush, but all they literally saw of the shooter was a featureless humanoid, holding a featureless weapon.

 

En route to the Infirmary

 

Sisko and Gibbs led the large contingent heading towards Bashir’s infirmary. Kira, O’Brien and McGee were behind them and trailed by Odo and David.

 

“I think Lieutenant Dax will be able to access that information,” Sisko said as he and Gibbs walked through the infirmary’s entrance.

 

“What’cha got for me, Duck?” Gibbs said to Mallard, who looked over to Sciuto and Dax. “What’cha got for me, Abbs?”

 

“This,” she replied, holding up q-tip swabs of the entry and exit wounds. “And this. These tell us about the weapon.”

 

Dax handed Gibbs and Sisko each a PADD, containing the same information everyone in the room saw on a small viewscreen hanging along a wall.

 

“English, Abbs. Or Lieutenant Dax,” Gibbs said.

 

“You have to translate for him,” Sciuto told Dax.

 

“I figured that would be the case,” Dax replied. “What you’re looking at are the sample results, followed by a short list of weapons which these compounds are known to be found in.”

 

Sisko handed his PADD to Kira as Odo looked over her shoulder. “Short list alright, Jadzia. As in one.”

 

“I assume you both have come across this weapon at some point,” Sisko said to them.

 

“Yes. It’s a vintage Glyrhond phase pistol native to Bajor,” Odo said. “I haven’t seen one in a few years.”

 

“I’ve seen it too,” Kira added. “When I was in the resistance on Bajor fighting the Cardassians, we had to use whatever weapons we could get our hands on. I’ve seen these used — on both sides — and shot one a few times myself.”

 

“What is ‘it’, Major?” Gibbs asked, pointing to the image of the suspected weapon.

 

“A Glyrhond phase distruptor, nearly a Bajoran century old. The closest thing we had to one of your handguns, only firing phaser projectiles instead of bullets.”

 

Gibbs, Sisko and Kira walked over to the body, and she looked at the entry wound closely. “Glyrhond make sense to you, Odo?” Kira asked.

 

“It does, Major. I considered the ‘rod through the forehead’ theory to be a bit farfetched. I also considered all known projectile- and phaser-based weapons known to be in use amongst the law enforcement and criminal communities here and on Bajor. I should have considered the Glyrhonds.”

 

“One would expect for the exit wound from a headshot to create quite a mess,” Sisko said. “This wound is very clean, Major.”

 

“Glyrhond pistols were developed when some deranged Paqu soldiers began making raids into Navotian territory,” Kira replied. “Long story short, the Bajoran government got involved and someone important wanted to examine the Paqu soldiers’ brains. The fighters were heavily armored but for some reason left their heads exposed; the Glyrhond pistol was a handheld sniper rifle, meant to provide a fatal shot from long distance that wouldn’t destroy too much of the brain.”

 

“What about the bullet?” David asked.

 

“The bullet was designed especially for the weapon and its intended purpose: kill the target without blowing out the brain,” Kira said. “Snipers were required to know how Bajoran brains were structured—“

 

“To know where to shoot in order to kill the subject and end the threat but preserve as much of the brain as possible,” Gibbs surmised. “This weapon was meant to be used from long distance?”

 

“Yes, because the soldiers tended to tear apart anyone they faced in close battle. A Glyrhond was one of the only ways to stop them.”

 

“What would a Glyrhond do at close distance?” Sisko said.

 

“The wound would be messier, Commander,” Kira replied. “The preservation of the brain matter is proportional to the distance the shooter is from the target. preserve the brain, you need to shoot from long distance, but not too far. Early tests showed that from extreme distances, the effect would be the same as me throwing a pebble hard at your head.”

 

“Hurt like hell but not fatal,” Gibbs said. “Major, how far is too far?”

 

“One kilometer. Whereas if I were to walk to the back of the room and fire a Glyrhond at someone standing by the door, the exit wound would not be clean. For a clean result, your target needs to be within one-half to one kilometer.”

 

“That distance could be replicated in a setting like the Starfleet Academy program he was using at the time,” McGee said. “That explains the apparent distance between the shooter and the admiral in the program.”

 

Sisko turned to Dax. “Lieutenant, speaking of programs, I am optimistically hoping you’ll be able to give some insight into the mystery of these access codes.”

 

“Way ahead of you, Commander,” she said. “Whoever programmed the access codes can’t erase every trace of their existence and activity. Benjamin, Odo, Kira, I’ll need your authorizations.”

 

As the Federation and Bajoran officers gave verbal authorization for Dax to do her work, McGee asked O’Brien what was going on. “Whatever the suspect did has a record in our database. There are settings that allow for authorization only from a head officer. Sometimes, several authorizations are necessary.”

 

Dax did her work and soon came up with a partial answer.

 

“I only can tell you someone else was in the room with the admiral when he died, and that a weapon matching the Glyrhond was fired,” she said. “I can also tell you where to find the external codes that can unlock the identity of the second person.”

 

“Am I going to like this?” Sisko said.

 

“Quark’s Bar,” Dax answered. “Whatever changes to the database were made, someone did it from that location.”

 

“I already don’t like it,” Odo added.

 

Quark’s Bar

 

Gibbs and the rest of the NCIS team took in the establishment which appeared to them to be a futuristic restaurant, bar, casino and strip club rolled into one.

 

DiNozzo was the one who made the strip club connection when he saw some of the Dabo girls’ outfits. McGee referenced the bar scene from Star Wars. David looked for the Dabo girl from the security video, like Gibbs expected her — and the others — to do.

 

“Pay attention!” Gibbs said as he headslapped DiNozzo and McGee out of their gawking.

 

As the NCIS team looked for the woman, Kira and Odo looked for the establishment’s proprietor. Quark was easy to find, being in the middle of a group of Bajorans and Terrans playing Dabo.

 

“You never know until you try,” Quark said to an uncertain young man, who was one of Ambassador Stewart’s aides. “Spin the wheel, my good man! This might just be your lucky day!”

 

Odo and Kira put their hands firmly on Quark’s shoulders. As he noticed their severe expressions, the Ferengi businessman realized he was in hot water. Odo looked as if he was about to boil over while Kira’s steely eyes suggested she might shoot him on the spot.

 

“Ah, Constable, Major! What can I do for the two of you?” Quark said haltingly. “Would you like a free round of Dabo? Or some Terran vanilla creme caramel coffee–”

 

“To the back. NOW,” Odo barked. After glancing back at Kira, Odo, and Sisko who had just arrived, Quark nodded. He found himself running to keep up with Odo, who had a tight hold on Quark’s arm.

 

Quark thought the constable might throw him onto one of the tables in the periphery of the bar’s lower level. Instead, Odo stopped and let go of Quark’s arm and glared at him while standing at his left.

 

Sisko and Kira sent away a group from the Gamma Quadrant sitting at a nearby table. Gibbs and DiNozzo joined the four and Sisko was first to speak. “Admiral Kelley.”

 

“Uh, yes, what a tragedy. I’m sure you ALL will find his killer,” Quark said.

 

Kira, standing on Quark’s right, leaned into his face until they were nose-to-cheek. “It wasn’t just a tragedy. It was murder.”

 

“Someone tampered with the holosuite,” Odo added. “The access codes were changed in an attempt to cover up the killer’s identity. We know it was done from here by someone.”

 

“Here? Hold on, hold on! You don’t think I’M the killer?” Quark said. “You don’t…right?”

 

“I think you somehow have a higher clearance level than Constable Odo: level seven,” Sisko said. “It would take at least a level seven to make the changes to the database that would hide the killer’s identity.”

 

“I…I would NEVER do something like that,” Quark protested.

 

Gibbs walked up to the Ferengi and stopped within an inch of his nose. “There is a dead man in the infirmary,” Gibbs growled. “A four-star admiral in the United States Navy. A war hero, highly respected officer, husband and father of three. Shot dead while he was ON YOUR STATION, intending to continue to build ties between his country and world and the people here.”

 

“I know that, sir,” Quark said. “I’m telling you I didn’t do it–”

 

“AND I’M TELLING YOU WE KNOW THE DATABASE WAS CHANGED FROM HERE!” Gibbs yelled. Quark thought he might have wet himself, and the others were thrown off guard by the intensity in Gibbs’s approach. “If you didn’t pull the trigger, you’re potentially at the LEAST an accessory to murder.”

 

“He’s correct,” Odo said. “IF you refuse to help, you are a suspect in the investigation. Bajoran law states–”

 

“I know what it states!” Quark blurted. “BELIEVE me, I know the law–”

 

“And how you can skirt it,” Kira said. “We know you’re hiding something that relates to this murder. We want to know what it is.”

 

“And you can begin by explaining how you got such a high level of clearance, higher than seven,” Sisko said.

 

Quark explained how he kept several isolinear security rods — the 24th century equivalent of a flash drive — behind the bar. He normally used them to access information that, as a civilian, he shouldn’t have access to.

 

After Sisko contacted Dax to get the times of the database and security video alterations, Quark stammered — under Odo and Kira’s glares — that he didn’t kill the admiral.

 

“Boss, he’s putting on an act trying to cover himself, or he didn’t do it,” DiNozzo whispered to Gibbs. “I’m leaning towards the latter.”

 

“He’s seen the killer even if he doesn’t know it,” Gibbs whispered back before stepping forward.

 

“Where were you at the time of the alterations?” Gibbs asked. Quark, slightly scared of Gibbs but knowing he was innocent, explained where he was at those specific times: at the Dabo table, arguing away from the bar with his waiter Rom, and kissing up to the Terran visitors. He also, briefly, was behind the bar preparing a cherry Coke for Morn, a regular patron.

 

“At the time the records were faked,” Sisko said. “You’re implicating yourself.”

 

“No, no, no,” Quark insisted. “Morn saw me and asked me if I had any Terran sodas. Of course, I do. I went behind the bar, to the replicator. I fixed Morn’s soda and gave it to him, then walked past the guy to talk to a couple of my Dabo girls.”

 

“What ‘guy’?” Kira said.

 

“The guy working on one of the replicators,” Quark said. “It started messing up. I never saw him before yesterday. His name was Serk, and he said he was a civilian repairman and offered to fix the replicator free of charge. So, I let him.”

 

“I bet you couldn’t turn down an offer to work for free,” Sisko said.

 

“Well, at worst, it still doesn’t work and I get O’Brien to fix it. Best case, it works and I don’t have to listen to him complain.”

 

“You allowed a stranger behind your bar, working on your replicator, potentially giving him access to your database,” Gibbs said. “We’re going back to the bar, and you’re going to show us where he was when you saw him.”

 

“Before we do so,” Sisko said, nodding his approval to Odo and Kira, “I have something I want to show you.”

 

Sisko handed a PADD to Quark. The screen had two pictures: one of the featureless humanoid from the Starfleet Academy holosimulation where the admiral was killed. The second was of the girl from the security video.

 

“I don’t know who that is in the first picture,” Quark said. “The second girl is Deena. She started work here a month ago, left last week.”

 

“Where might she be now?” Odo said.

 

“I don’t know. Bajor? No. She told me she was staying on the station while she looked for a permanent place on Bajor.”

 

Odo contacted one of his security officers and told her to go to Deena’s quarters, agreeing to Gibbs’s request to have David accompany her. “While we’re at the bar, you can show us where you keep these security rods,” Odo told Quark, grabbing him by the arm as the group headed out to the bar.

 

There, Quark showed the others the two locations he saw Serk: at the broken replicator, and the access terminal to the main database.

 

“He said he needed the terminal to finish his changes. I said that’s fine, gave him my access clearance, then saw the girls…oh…OH.”

 

“‘Oh’ meaning he accessed the database?” Gibbs asked. Quark nodded, and Gibbs took the PADD from Sisko, showing Quark the first picture. “Would this be him?”

 

Quark looked intently at the picture. “Same height, similar build, jaw line’s exactly the same. It could be him.”

 

“I want a description of Serk,” Gibbs said. “My people can produce a sketch.”

 

“You’re welcome to do so, Agent Gibbs,” Sisko said. “But we can produce a virtual composite from Quark’s description, as well as others at the bar when this Serk worked.”

 

“When you’re done with Quark, Commander Sisko and Agent Gibbs, he and I have other business to discuss,” Odo said. “I’ll rejoin you after I investigate these security rods while he’s giving you the suspect’s description.”

 

Security Office

 

Between Quark’s description and that of three others who were at the bar when Serk was there, both Dax and Sciuto had plenty to work with in creating the suspect’s virtual portrait.

 

After looking closely at both the virtual portrait and the paper sketch done by McGee, Quark was certain he was looking at the man whom he unwittingly gave access to the station database.

 

“Have you put a BOLO out on him yet?” Gibbs asked Sisko, Odo and Kira. Noting the confusion on their faces, McGee explained what BOLO meant: ‘be on the lookout’.

 

Within minutes, the suspect’s description had been sent to the Bajoran Militia’s planetside headquarters. Odo’s security people were looking for Serk and Deena.

 

Habitat Ring

Deena’s quarters

 

David and security officer Lina’s search hadn’t found anything relating to the case. Gibbs told her via communicator to “search again”. The Terran and Bajoran resumed their search, both checking where the other had looked the first time.

 

Ziva found a PADD hidden underneath a Bajoran potted plant. While Lina cursed herself for overlooking it, Ziva (with the computer’s help) found Deena’s itinerary for the past week.

 

“I’ve hit payday!” Ziva exclaimed when she saw a note referencing a “Circ”, on the Federation English translation from the original Bajoran.

 

“I’m sorry, Officer David, I’m not certain what you mean,” Lina said as she stood next to Ziva, looking at the PADD. “I’m not very familiar with Terran nor Earth phrases.”

 

“It means to discover something of value, although payDAY may not be the precise term. But what it represents is important here. This shows she met with the suspect before noon of the day of Admiral Kelley’s death.”

 

Lina scrunched her eyebrows and bit her lower lip, as she did when something didn’t make sense to her. “This, in Federation English is C-I-R-C. The information we were given indicated the suspect’s name was spelled S-I-R-K. Pronounced like ‘Kirk’, after the famous Federation captain.”

 

“Or Kirk Douglas, a famous actor on my homeworld whom I learned of from a colleague,” David replied. “C-I-R-C could be pronounced ‘sers’, or, ‘serk’.”

 

“S-E-R-K. Officer David, I think we made a breakthrough.”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

Security Holding Cell #1

 

With Sisko dealing with upset ship captains and Odo with testy visitors eager to get off the station, the manhunt for Serk/Circ and Deena took top priority.

 

Deena was discovered first, hiding in plain sight. She was in the beauty salon for the fourth time when she was found. Instead of the woman with shoulder-length blonde hair in the video, DiNozzo and two security officers found Deena with long, purple hair and in an all leather-like pantsuit, allegedly deciding on whether to shave her head and “reinvent myself Vulcan style”.

 

Inside the holding cell, she sat at one side of a table with her legs crossed, picking at her fingernails and stifling a yawn.

 

“Wonder if she knows what kind of trouble she’s in?” McGee said, as he and others watched her on a video screen in the main office. The cells were acting as interrogation rooms, with observers watching from the adjacent office via surveillance video.

 

Gibbs and David entered the cell and sat across from Deena, while Kira entered and opted to stand at the side of the table.

 

Her whining in general and her non-answers to questions quickly grated on the three investigators.

 

“What’s so wrong with changing my look?” she complained. “My MOTHER wore the same damn thing every DAY during the occupation. She and others fought so that their children — like ME — could live their lives any way they want! In private!”

 

Kira, watching with her arms folded, stopped herself three times before she figured out how to say what she wanted to. “That is not…not the main reason we fought–”

 

“Oh my prophets!” Deena griped. “This is SO ridiculous–”

 

“YOUNG LADY. I was IN the resistance,” she said with barely restrained anger. “You don’t seem to know a thing about what we fought for and why we fought. I can tell you stories that would give you nightmares and MAYBE help you see what people like your mother and I went through. Not so you can act like an entitled brat, but that you can live without being made into a comfort woman or shot to death because of WHO YOU ARE.”

 

“Why are you harshing on me, lady? You don’t–”

 

David shot up out of her seat and leaned over the table, taking Deena aback.

 

“SHE is a warrior who knows what it is like to fight for her freedom against an oppressor,” David said. “YOU can learn many things from her and it appears you would definitely benefit by doing so. But, that’s not why we’re here–”

 

“Yes. You’re from that backwards parallel Earth, aren’t you? Why ARE you here, anyway?” Deena asked, forgetting Gibbs and David had explained who they were and why they were on DS9.

 

Gibbs reminded her why. “Here,” he spat, slamming a PADD with the surveillance video of the holosuite onto the table, and a paper photograph of the admiral next to the PADD. “Look familiar?”

 

“Noooooo,” she lied, badly. Deena became more nervous and began rapidly tapping her forefinger on the table.

 

“Nervous?” David asked.

 

“NO,” Deena blurted. “What’s it to you?”

 

“That,” David said, “is a ‘tell’. What that is telling me is you are nervous. And you’re nervous because you are lying.”

 

“Balikam! How much longer am I going to be here anyway? I’ve got places–”

 

Kira’s abrupt slamming of her palms onto the table startled Deena and brought a smile to Gibbs, while David was impassive.

 

“You told her to ‘get lost’?!?” said Kira, as she leaned into Deena, who seemed to have had the fear of the prophets put into her. “Right now, you are an accessory to murder–”

 

“MURDER?”

 

“DO NOT interrupt me. Speak when you are spoken to. And look at the damn picture!” Kira took the PADD and slammed it in front of Deena. “Look closely. Anything familiar NOW?”

 

“Uh…yes. That’s, uh, me near one of the holodecks,” Deena said sheepishly.

 

“Now watch the video,” David added, “all the way through. Computer, please show both versions of the video on the PADD.”

 

The first version of the video showed Deena walking down the hallway near the holosuite entrance; stopping to speak briefly with Admiral Kelley; and stopping to talk on her hand-held communicator device before walking in the direction she came from.

 

“What did you two talk about?” Gibbs said, and something in his tone suggested to Deena she had better be completely honest.

 

“He asked me if that was Holosuite Seven. I said it was, and he asked me what he needed to do to walk in and start the program. I told him, ‘walk in, the program begins on its own’. He thanked me, walked in and that’s the last I saw of him.”

 

“Not the last anyone ELSE saw of him,” Gibbs said as he glanced at Ziva. “Look at that first video again.”

 

“Yes. Computer,” Ziva said, “replay the first version of the video at quarter-speed.”

 

The video played but Deena didn’t see where it was cut, so David had the computer run the unedited second video. In it, after Deena spoke with the admiral, she began talking on her communicator — this time, however, a man entered the picture from behind her.

 

The man, wearing a Bajoran cap and civilian garb, talks briefly with Deena before he entered the holodeck. Ninety-four seconds later, he exited the holosuite, running back the way he arrived. The video showed her resuming talking on her communicator before she turned to leave.

 

“Tell us what you both talked about,” Kira said.

 

Deena gasped, glanced at all three of the impatient investigators, and exhaled in resignation. “Okay…that’s Circ–”

 

“Spell it,” Gibbs said. The translation from Bajoran into Federation Standard and Terran English read Circ.

 

“Pronounced ‘serk’,” David said. “Getting back on topic. What did you and Circ talk about?”

 

“He told me he had something to do and to look out in case anyone other than Fahnor–”

 

“Fahnor? The other man in the video?” David asked.

 

“Yes. Fahnor’s a trainer at Vince’s Gym, on the Promenade. Lives planetside. I met him when I started working for that creep Quark.”

 

“How do you know Circ?” asked Gibbs.

 

“He comes here regularly for work. He brings product from planetside to the greengrocer…OH! You mean…I met him when I was working out at the gym, after my second day working for that creep. We hit it off and, ah, got close.”

 

“How ‘close’?” Gibbs said.

 

“Slept together a few times, hung out on the Promenade, went planetside to a springball match and a concert,” Deena answered.

 

“And why would he ask you to keep a lookout?” Kira asked. “Is this something you two had previously discussed?”

 

“No. I had seen him earlier around the promenade, wearing that cap and jacket. You wouldn’t necessarily recognize him with that outfit. Circ usually wore short sleeves and no headwear; he liked to show off his physique.”

 

“Can we find him in the database, maybe under another name?” asked Gibbs.

 

“I don’t know…although, I do know he said a few times that he liked his privacy. Another time, I tried to find him with the computer, but couldn’t. He ran into ME near the salon; he told me he preferred to stay out of the databases, that part of being Bajoran is the freedom to be ones self, without being surveilled by anyone, including the government.”

 

“Is there anything else you can tell us — known associates, what he liked to do in his spare time?” David said.

 

Deena thought for a few moments. “He hung out with Bajorans. I don’t think he associated with anyone else. When I told him about Quark, he said it was too bad I couldn’t take a formal complaint to a Bajoran — and he acted cool towards Federation personnel when I saw him in the gym or at the grocer.”

 

“Did he try to get you to join any organizations, or ask you to do something illegal?” Kira asked. Deena shook her head.

 

“Give us a description of Circ and Fahnor,” Gibbs said.

 

Security Holding Cell #2

 

As Circ’s description circulated around the station, several people — including Vincent, the Earth-born operator of the gym — recognized both suspects.

 

Circ’s likeness had not showed up on security video so far; Fahnor, on the other hand, showed up hundreds of times. Fahnor was found hiding on a Dosi ship with a restless crew and a particularly agitated captain who was eager to hand over his stowaway.

 

Inside the cell, DiNozzo, Gibbs and Kira began their interrogation, with Dax observing from a corner of the room. Fahnor had knowledge helpful to solving the case and was more than eager to share it.

 

“I knew Circ was trouble from the first day he stepped on the station,” said the tall, muscular Bajoran. “He — how would you Federation people say — put the moves on Deena. Once after she left, he came up to me in the gym and told me she belonged to him.”

 

“Meaning?” DiNozzo said.

 

“He considered her to be his woman and he was marking his territory like he marked his possessions with that symbol of his.”

 

“What symbol?” asked Kira. “Describe it for us.”

 

DiNozzo drew on his PADD a circle with what appeared to be an English-language lowercase ‘d’, with the tall verticle stroke bent to the left just above the loop. Circ reproduced the symbol with a pen-like device using a coloring liquid equivalent to the Earth/Terran color yellow.

 

“That isn’t good,” Kira said. “This is the symbol of the Alliance for Global Unity, a group advocating Bajoran isolationism.”

 

“I heard something about that,” Fahnor said. “‘Bajor for Bajorans’.”

 

“Sounds like the kind of group a xenophobe like Circ would join,” DiNozzo said. “Did he ever try to recruit you or anyone else you know into this thing?”

 

“He didn’t say much to me especially after he began seeing Deena. I think he saw me as kind of a rival. I never knew him to be particularly sociable, and when he did so he only did so with Bajorans. He at least would be cordial to me; there were a couple of times when he looked as if he could barely stand the sight of a Federation officer or a non-humanoid.”

 

“When’s the last time you saw him?” asked Gibbs. “Think carefully.”

 

Several moments passed as Fahnor racked his brain. “Early on the day the Terran was killed. Circ asked me to be his lookout, told me Deena would be there, too and said he’d owe me a favor. I asked him if they were going into one of the holosuites; he hesitated and said ‘sure’.”

 

Fahnor then said Circ told him where to wait and for how long, and when to walk down the corridor. Fahnor walked past Deena and stopped to take a call from his communicator, speaking to his aunt calling from planetside.

 

When shown the unedited surveillance video, Fahnor was looking away from the holosuite entrance, and swore he didn’t notice someone rushing out of the holosuite. As he turned around to leave, the runner was gone. Fahnor walked past Deena as she was using her communicator then, a minute later, turned and walked briskly in the same direction as the runner.

 

“I intended to get a slice of kuwaly pie for dessert, and I wanted to get a little extra cardio in before going to Quark’s,” he explained. “I did NOT see Circ after that morning and I definitely did not see a male in that outfit.”

 

They were then interrupted by Odo, Sisko, David and McGee. “Boss, we have a lead on the suspect,” McGee said.

 

“What kind of lead?” Kira asked.

 

“Red-hot,” Sisko replied. “Constable. I believe our Terran friends should have their weapons handy for this part of the investigation.”

 

“Follow me, lady and gentlemen, into the next room,” Odo replied. “Mr. Fahnor, you on the other hand get to stay here for a short while longer.”

 

DS9 Level Sixteen/Docking Ring

 

“Two merchants and one of your Marines said a man fitting the description of Circ was seen on this level within the past ten minutes,” Odo said to Gibbs.

 

Odo, Gibbs and three security officers went counterclockwise off the turbolift, while Kira, DiNozzo, McGee and Officer Lira went clockwise.

 

Gibbs and Odo’s team arrived at the port where the NCIS team’s craft was docked and found another security officer lying unconscious on the floor.

 

“Knocked out by a blow to the head,” Odo surmised as he hit his com badge. “Doctor Bashir. One to beam directly to sick bay, my coordinates.”

 

“Understood,” came Bashir’s voice from the com badge, and a moment later Gibbs saw someone transported away for the first time in his life. The agent pushed the tiny bit of curiosity about the transportation event from his mind and refocused on Circ.

 

“One of your Marines should be here, according to Bajor’s agreement with your United Nations,” Odo said. “Where is he?”

 

“How many hiding places does this level have?” Gibbs said.

 

“Too many for my comfort,” Odo said. “Especially since this man is for whatever reason damned impossible to trace by our sensors.”

 

“Did you understand Lieutenant Dax’s explanation?”

 

“I know every centimeter of this station and how things work. On occasion, though, her and Chief O’Brien’s technobabble, as you might say, goes over my head. Somehow I think you can relate.”

 

Gibbs chuckled. “Yeah, I can. You think he’s still on this level?”

 

“Undoubtedly. We have all the access points covered. Circ would have to shoot himself out an airlock to evade us.”

 

“Or steal a ship,” Gibbs said as Kira’s team caught up with them. “We found one of your Marines 50 meters or so from here,” she said. “I had him beamed directly to sick bay. He’s alive, but unconscious.”

 

“Same for my officer who we found here, in the same condition,” Odo said as he tapped his com badge.

 

“Do you think we found this Circ guy?” DiNozzo asked, nodding towards the docking port connecting their ship to the station.

 

Odo looked at Kira, and both looked back at Gibbs.

 

“He’s a glorified package deliverer and a musclehead who I’m guessing couldn’t fly one of these ships any better than I could,” Gibbs said. “He’s also a murderer and desperate to get off the station.”

 

“Just about every ship docked on DS9 has crews more than capable of taking care of themselves, including your own,” Kira said to Gibbs. “What I were do if I were in his situation would be to find what I thought to be the weakest ship and hijack it.”

 

“That ship being the early 21st century Earth equivalent of a Warp Three-capable shuttle,” Odo surmised. “He might think that crew would be easy to overpower.”

 

“And if he realized the security was stronger than anticipated, he’d put up a fight if he thought a Marine and Bajoran were blocking his ride off this station,” DiNozzo said. “According to that agreement with the U.N., a national officer who can pilot the ship is required to be on board at all times.”

 

“But only one,” David said. “He either is threatening the pilot with a weapon or the pilot is incapacitated.”

 

“He couldn’t kill the pilot, right?” McGee asked. “Unless he can fly the ship, or get the computer to fly it for him.”

 

“He’d still have to contact Operations for permission to disembark, which he wouldn’t get with the station on lockdown and everyone looking for him,” Kira said. “If he managed to get away without destroying himself and the ship, our tractor beam would bring him back.”

 

“And if he used the pilot as a hostage, that pilot would be prepared to take a bullet rather than give up the ship,” Gibbs said.

 

Kira had O’Brien open the docking rings remotely from Ops, and the first thing everyone noticed was the inside of the craft.

 

“Cockpit’s to the immediate right of the entrance, cabin to the left,” Gibbs said. “He’s got five hiding places: cockpit, cabin, the head, the galley and a small cargo bay in the rear.”

 

“My people and I are familiar with the schematic of the vessel,” Odo said. “If possible, we take him alive.”

 

“If possible,” Gibbs replied. They moved into the airlock, weapons drawn.

 

“Circ! Come out peacefully, give up your weapon and you’ll get out of this alive,” Odo yelled. He dodged a phaser blast, hiding behind the frame on one side of the circular doors.

 

At a nod from Gibbs, his agents and Odo’s people covered him, Kira and Odo while they ran into the middle section of the airlock. DiNozzo, David and Lina followed behind them as they moved into the front section.

 

“Circ, it’s over!” Gibbs yelled. “You try to shoot your way out of this one you won’t make it.” Circ’s response was a phaser blast from the cabin into the cockpit.

 

Before Odo or Kira could stop him, Gibbs ran into the Marine craft. He looked briefly into the cockpit and saw the pilot dead in his seat. When Gibbs turned to his left and looked in the cabin, he saw Circ in the back, wearing a shirt with the Alliance for Global Unity circle imprinted on the chest, and brandishing a Glyrhond in his right hand and a phaser in his left hand.

 

“Put the guns down now,” Gibbs said as Odo, Kira and DiNozzo entered the ship, aiming their own weapons at the killer. David and McGee went to check on the pilot. “He’s dead, Gibbs,” David yelled from the cabin.

 

“Two murders, two Terran officers,” Odo said. “It wouldn’t be very smart of you to–”

 

“Do what, alien?” Circ spat. “Stand up for what I believe? Getting aliens like you and these Terrans AND Federation off Bajoran territory?”

 

“Since when did the Alliance condone murder?” Kira said.

 

“Are you asking me if I killed that admiral, like I killed that pilot when he wouldn’t disembark from this station?” Circ sneered. “I’ll answer that: YES.”

 

As he spoke, it seemed to the others that Circ had gone insane, or been possessed by some malevolent force. As the Bajoran rambled on, Odo understood he would not go voluntarily, especially after he threatened to blow a hole in one of the windows.

 

Gibbs saw Odo’s warning glance to let him take the first shot at the now-crazed confessed killer. Gibbs acknowledged Odo with a look while thinking of where to fire without hitting the warp drive.

 

“This is your final warning, Circ,” Odo said. “Otherwise–”

 

“Silence, you fool,” Circ said, darkly. “I will NOT allow myself to be imprisoned by the likes of you–”

 

“Then let yourself be imprisoned by the likes of ME,” Kira interjected. “Bajoran to Bajoran.”

 

“Ah, Major Kira Nerys. The Federation lapdog, second fiddle apparently to this…this THING masquerading as your security officer,” Circ said as he turned his weapons to himself. “I would imagine you have questions for me.”

 

“In fact, yes I do. Starting with why murder those men? What did they do to you?”

 

“Because their being here is against the natural order of things, Major. The wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant’s bad enough but at least it takes you to another place within our own galaxy. Our sacred texts say NOTHING about a temporal wormhole and parallel universe. These officers you appear distressed over? WRAITHS! Just like the Terrans alongside you!”

 

“Sisko to Odo.” Circ and everyone else heard the Starfleet commander’s voice coming from Odo’s com badge. “What is your situation?”

 

“Commander, we–”

 

“STARFLEET ALIEN, YOUR SITUATION IS YOU’RE GOING TO NEED BODY BAGS FOR FIVE TRAITORS, ONE ALIEN AND FOUR WRAITHS!” Circ screamed, seemingly crossing the line into complete insanity. He then took the phaser in his left hand and pointed it backwards towards the craft’s warp drive.

 

“Constable Odo, Major Kira, Agent Gibbs,” Sisko said. “Do whatever is necessary to end this.”

 

When he heard that, Circ froze. His eyes darted around the room, then on the Glyrhond pistol in his right hand and the phaser on the left. He suddenly seemed uncertain as to what he should do next.

 

Circ rolled a small capsule with this tongue to his front teeth then bit down on it. Two seconds later he collapsed, and by the time Kira got to him, the killer was dead. His reason or reasons he took his own life died with him.

 

Promenade

 

“…Minister Jaro Essa spoke earlier to the media.

 

‘Klon Ast does not represent the Bajoran government nor does he represent the Bajoran people. What our differences may be with the Federation and the Terrans, the answers will not come from terrorism. However, I do call upon a stronger response from the provisional government. Its actions here, as in other areas of late, do not inspire confidence in me nor in many others I have spoken with.’

 

Minister Jaro did not answer questions about Klon’s alleged involvement with the First Order, nor did he address allegations of abandonment of his wife and children around the time he surfaced aboard the former Terok Nor station as ‘Circ’. More on this story throughout the day and tonight on News at 2400. You’re watching Bajor Information 26.”

 

McGee couldn’t get over how the Federation and Bajorans were more his own people than not, as evidenced by the cable news-like station he and his teammates had just seen, and by the goings-on inside Quark’s.

 

The NCIS agent also found it harder than he thought to understand why someone would hate his people for who and what they were, even though that mindset had and still did plague his own planet. Hearing how Sisko and O’Brien’s homeworld of Earth conquered its own demons gave him hope that Terra might do the same, perhaps in his own lifetime.

 

McGee looked around at the promenade and took in as much as possible; he had no idea if, and when, he could ever get back here. He saw DiNozzo and Sciuto having the time of their lives at the Dabo table; saw David and Kira talking over a drink; Ducky talking with Bashir and Dax; and Gibbs tossing a baseball with Sisko and the commander’s son, Jake.

 

“Door’s always unlocked, Commander,” Gibbs said. “Get a schedule first to make sure the Nationals are at home. And a phone to call me and let me know you’re in town.”

 

“Agent Gibbs. A moment of your time, please.” Gibbs turned around and saw a tall, plump Bajoran standing between he and McGee. “You too, young man,” she said over her shoulder to McGee.

 

Gibbs nodded at his agent, as the Siskos and O’Brien joined them. “Alright,” Gibbs said. “You are?”

 

“Vedek Winn, one of the spiritual leaders of the people of my homeworld Bajor, and someone who has sought to act as a symbol of strength and unity to them while Bajor rebuilds its society,” she said somewhat piously.

 

“She is the equivalent to a cardinal within the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity on Earth and Terra, without some of the stricter obligations required of Catholic leadership,” Commander Sisko added. “Vedek Winn, I assume you’re here to meet our visitors?”

 

“You would be correct, Commander. I’m here to see them off, and to offer an apology,” Kai Winn said.

 

“An apology?” Gibbs replied.

 

“Klon Ast, the man you knew to be Circ, as Minister Jaro said does not represent the views of the provisional government. Nor does he represent the majority of my people. I am sorry for the murders of the two Terran officers. Please pass along my sympathies to their loved ones.”

 

“Alright,” Gibbs said, “but shouldn’t you be telling this to the ambassador?”

 

“It is my understanding that he and his staff are planetside in Ashalla meeting with First Minister Kalem and the Council of Ministers. Since the ambassador knows you, I thought it was most appropriate to pass a message through you.”

 

“What kind of message?” Commander Sisko asked, his thin smile contrasting sharply with the terse look in his eyes. “I’m sure this is a message the Federation should hear as well.”

 

“I trust you are already aware of the message that the Bajoran people have for the Federation, Commander Sisko,” she said sanctimoniously. “This message is for Agent Gibbs and the rest of his people.”

 

“I’m waiting,” Gibbs said after several long moments of silence from Vedek Winn.

 

Annoyed at the remark, she put on a look of concern that came across as less sincere than she undoubtedly intended. “Klon Ast was correct about one thing: some of the Bajoran people see you as akin to the Pan-Wraiths. I believe your equivalent would be called demons.”

 

“We aren’t off to a promising start,” Commander Sisko said.

 

“Please, Commander,” Vedek Winn replied. “Agent Gibbs, there are many on Bajor — myself among them — concerned about the ideas coming from your world. Cultural concepts conflicting with the morals your people claim to hold dear; some of your people continually attempting to bring their own religious views to a world those ideas don’t belong in; and the very idea of your world. Our sacred writings say nothing about parallel universes–”

 

“You don’t believe in the concept of parallel universes, ma’am?” McGee interjected.

 

“Young man, I do not know what a ‘ma’am’ is, but you may refer to me as Vedek Winn,” she said, turning back to Gibbs. “As Commander Sisko knows, I am not opposed to the teaching of science, when it doesn’t conflict with our sacred texts. I have, and continue to, advocate for the teaching of truth to our people, especially our children.”

 

She looked straight at O’Brien, who bristled at her gaze. Commander Sisko looked to Gibbs like he’d had his fill of the woman’s rhetoric; though he personally would have liked to tell her to take a hike, Gibbs recognized he had been put in the position of de facto Ambassador from Terra.

 

The ex-Marine couldn’t help but allow himself a smile when he saw McGee’s expression of relief. “Well, I’ve come across a lot of bastards and met a few angels, Vedek Winn, but I won’t go so far as claiming Terra’s run by the devil.”

 

“Is that supposed to be humor, Agent Gibbs?” she said politely, with a flash of anger in her eyes. “Excuse me for not comprehending the humor of a slightly more primitive people who undoubtedly live on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant.”

 

“Way I understand it, my planet’s in the same space as Earth in another dimension…ma’am,” Gibbs said with a smirk. “So that’s the message you want me to take back to Terra?”

 

Winn walked up to Gibbs and, although a couple of inches shorter, seemed to be looking down her nose at the Terran. “I’ll overlook the error in etiquette, as you clearly are not a diplomat. My message, Agent Gibbs, is Terrans are not welcome on Bajor.”

 

“And my undoubtedly unasked for response,” Sisko said, “is your view is not shared by the Federation nor by the provisional government nor by any other than a TINY minority of the Bajoran people.”

 

Winn walked up to Sisko, matching his tight smile and severe look. “Commander, you would be wise to be mindful that circumstances can drastically change at any time,” she said. “Today, many of the Bajoran people may be curious, even enamored with your way of life. Tomorrow? They may see things very rather differently. You may even find yourself returning to your territory much sooner than you anticipated — and woe to those who find themselves on the wrong side of the wormholes.”

 

“Is that a threat, Vedek Winn?”

 

“Far be it for me to reduce myself to such thuggery, Commander. As a spiritual leader, I merely thought it critical — even urgent — to pass my concerns along. To you both.”

 

“I’ll let them know,” Gibbs said in a sarcastic manner. Vedek Winn abruptly turned and, without saying another word, walked briskly away from the group.

 

“Wow. And I thought I had met some snooty people before,” McGee said. “Commander, your obviously have some of the same problems we have back at home.”

 

“Agent McGee, I’ve found people are the same no matter what species they are and what part of the galaxy they’re from,” Sisko said. “I guess you both imagined a more enlightened, advanced society when you saw the wormhole for the first time.”

 

“The first time I saw it was in the country, stargazing with Abby,” McGee said. “We thought it might have been some sort of bomb. When the President told us what it meant — and what you told him at the White House — that gave a lot of our people hope.”

 

“Hope?” Sisko said.

 

“Hope that we wouldn’t blow ourselves up. Three superpowers and a bunch of nations trying to achieve that status. We built ships that took us all the way to the farthest planet and have tens of thousands of rockets that could drop 50 megaton bombs and destroy us tens of thousands of times over.

 

“Things have changed since we met your people, Commander. Countries are talking to one another instead of fighting. Governments are talking cooperation on going out of our own solar system to explore our own galaxy. I consider myself lucky to have come here, and would like to explore your own reality someday. We have people on Terra who would like nothing more than to roll back the clock, but we all know that’s impossible. You don’t live in the past, you move forward, and make the best of it.”

 

Gibbs clasped McGee’s shoulder. “Well said, Tim.”

 

“If I weren’t on the clock, and were at that bar, I’d drink to what Tim here just said,” O’Brien added.

 

“As would I,” Sisko said. “Your people seem like they’re trying to get past their differences. Maybe my people can help speed that up some.”

 

FINI

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