Garak never could say no to Enabran Tain, much to his chagrin. So when Tain complained to him that the Maquis situation was completely out of hand, and pointed out how much more easily one of those little Starfleet runabouts could sneak up on a Maquis ship than a Galor class warship could, Garak was once again not so merrily off to do Tain’s bidding. Without Starfleet’s permission, of course.
After hours of fruitless searching, his scanners finally picked up a worthy target. Garak was also able to discern a Cardassian warship at extreme range, and he hailed it at once to report the Maquis raider that he’d detected, which was in the opposite direction from his people’s ship, and therefore out of its sensor range. He was a bit nonplussed that the Cardassian ship was Dukat’s ship, but they always did seem to manage to work together against common enemies whenever necessary.
True to form, the warship warped in promptly, picked up Garak’s runabout, and flew off in pursuit of the raider, which it took aboard as well. Guards streamed in at Dukat’s order to arrest the terrorists.
Garak and Dukat were on the bridge, gloating together at the easy success, when Damar entered, and said, “We have a complication.” He was dragging a prisoner by the arm, and now pulled him fully into the room.
“Jake!” Garak exclaimed.
Dukat’s eyes flashed. “Well, young Sisko.”
The boy was clearly horribly embarrassed and very, very scared. “Please! It’s not…! I didn’t…! It’s not what it looks like!”
Meanwhile, Dukat was so surprised by his presence that he automatically stalked aggressively at him.
Jake backed away frantically. “I’m not Maquis! I’m not Maquis!!”
The gul’s eyes glittered dangerously. “Then what were you doing on a Maquis ship?” His tone was low and ominous.
“Just…being a reporter.”
Garak rolled his eyes and muttered at the child’s foolishness.
“Just taking notes and asking questions. For a news article, but I’m also thinking of writing a fictional piece…a short story or even a novel.” The human was warming to his topic. “You know, some of these people have fascinating stories!”
“No doubt,” Dukat said dryly.
Hastily, Jake pulled out his padd full of notes, and handed it to Dukat. “Here, see?”
The latter said solemnly, “This doesn’t prove that you didn’t help them.”
“Can you prove it?”
Jake gestured below, indicating the other prisoners. “Just ask any of them!”
Damar stared at him. “We are to accept the reliability of the other prisoners as character witnesses?”
Jake’s alarm was growing. “I’m innocent until proven guilty!”
Dukat was losing patience. “That’s Federation law, not Cardassian.”
The young man tried again. “I’m too young! I’m a minor!”
The gul was becoming exasperated. “Again, that’s Federation law. We do not discriminate on the basis of age. The young do not get preferential treatment. We judge the crime, not the circumstances of the criminal.”
In growing panic, Jake pleaded, “Mr. Garak, please take me back to DS9 with you!”
Garak eyed him gravely. “Jake, this situation is more complicated than you realize.”
Dukat said tightly, “There’re twenty-three people on that Maquis ship. If even only one of them reports that we let you go and put the rest on trial, it will cause major political repercussions. Cardassian policy clearly states that all Maquis personnel, when caught, will be tried. No exceptions.”
Jake was desperate. “I’m not Maquis! You can’t prove that I am!”
Garak said firmly, “Jake, you were on a Maquis ship; that’s all the proof that we need.”
Dukat said, “I don’t think that you realize how much trouble you’re in with the Cardassian government. The inevitable result of a Maquis trial is execution.”
The young would-be reporter was trembling noticeably now. “My dad was always afraid that you’d hurt me, and you always promised him that you wouldn’t!”
Dukat’s volume grew. “I never expected to have to arrest you on a Maquis ship!” He demanded, “Did Benjamin know that you were on that raider?”
“No,” he said in a small voice.
Garak looked disgusted. “A smarter answer would have been ‘yes’.”
Jake protested, “That would have been a lie, and you would’ve seen right through it! My dad would never have let me go! You know that he always overprotects me!”
“Just like you are trying to get us to do, by petitioning us to give you preferential treatment just because you’re young,” Dukat observed astutely.
Garak pointed out, “If you knew that your father would not have allowed you to go, perhaps you should have followed his judgment.”
“Yes, sir. I should have,” he agreed humbly.
Damar put in, “You boarded that ship of your own free will. You had to know that this could happen.”
“Well, I…admit I…never thought about getting captured. It…crossed my mind that we could…get blown up, but I figured, what’re the odds?” He shrugged sheepishly, fearfully.
Damar said bluntly, “So you played the odds and lost.”
By now, Jake was struggling not to cry. “What’re you going to do?”
Dukat eyed him frankly. “We already told you what the law requires of us.”
“No!” he whispered faintly. “Mr. Garak, please take me home to Dad!”
“I can’t do that, Jake. I’m sorry.”
The youngster then looked at Dukat, and let his eyes beg for him, expressively. It only seemed to make the gul more annoyed.
Jake whined, “I didn’t do anything!”
Irritably, Dukat said, “I actually wish that you had; that would make this simpler.”
Jake thought frantically, and blurted, “Can’t you just…remand me back into the custody of my father?”
Dukat stared in disbelief at the repeated naïveté. “Yet another Federation absurdity. You were in his custody in the first place. Did that prevent this? No.”
Jake was panting with fright, suddenly remembering remarks that he’d heard Chief O’Brien make. “Mr. Garak, sir? Are you going to…torture me?”
Garak had to make an effort not to laugh. “No. Some planetary official may question you a bit, but I suspect that he’ll be more interested in interrogating the more experienced Maquis members.” He failed to keep the irony out of his voice, and then added, “Especially since you’ve already willingly surrendered all of your notes.” He indicated the padd that the boy had given Dukat.
Jake looked at least marginally relieved.
Garak eyed him quizzically. “I do have one question for you right now, though.”
“Anything! Please!! I’ll tell you anything!!!”
Garak struggled not to smile at Jake’s over-eagerness to please. “How did you meet up with these people?”
“One of them…was in Quark’s. He wasn’t too much older than I. He was friendly, and we got to talking. I told him I…couldn’t get involved with their cause, but that I just wanted to interview them.”
Damar’s brow ridges rose. “But you did get involved.”
Jake protested, “I had to be on their ship to interview them; that’s where they were!”
Garak asked, “The one that you met in Quark’s; what was his name?”
Dukat demanded, “Is he aboard now?”
“Yes, sir.” Jake shuddered. “Please let me go! Please don’t hurt me!!”
Dukat regarded him with contempt. “Frankly, I’d like to throttle you myself, for putting us into this awkward diplomatic situation.” He looked so eager, in fact, that Jake backed away from him for the second time. The gul went on, “But for now, at least, we’ll put you in a cell.”
Jake sagged, but then said, with tears in his eyes, “Gul Dukat, sir, Mr. Garak, sir, you two know me pretty well. Whatever happens, I…hope that you believe me! I’m not prejudiced against your people! I’m not helping the Maquis against you! Please don’t hate me! Please say that you believe me!”
Garak was touched that in the midst of all of his terror, Jake still cared about their opinion of him. “I believe you. I have from the beginning.”
Dukat nodded concurrence. “But our belief is irrelevant in enforcing policy.”
“I know,” Jake whispered. “But…thanks.” He appeared to be in a daze.
At Dukat’s nod, Damar moved to take him to a cell, but before he could do so, another Cardassian came onto the bridge.
“Yes, Rusot?” prompted Dukat.
“An uppity Bajoran Maquis woman demands to see you.” His tone revealed his opinion of her audacity.
Dukat smirked, unsavory thoughts clearly written in his expression. Jake shivered, glad that he wasn’t female.
“Bring her in at once,” Dukat instructed.
“What a surprise,” Garak muttered sarcastically, earning a mild look of reproach.
Rusot yanked her in from the corridor, much more roughly than Jake had been treated by Damar. So, Jake looked at Rusot in consternation when Dukat instructed him to put the boy in a cell.
Jake raised shaky hands. “Please don’t get rough. It isn’t necessary; I’m not resisting.”
Garak supported him. “Only minimum force, Rusot.”
Rusot looked disappointed.
Once Jake had been removed, Dukat smiled benevolently at the woman. “Ah, what a lovely lady.”
She brazenly sashayed right up to him. “Save it for a slave, Dukat. I’m one of your own, surgically altered. If you don’t believe me, scan me.”
Garak was already doing so. Cardassian tricorders were specifically programmed to look for subtle markers that their Federation counterparts weren’t geared to detect. The markers were deliberately incorporated into the surgical alteration for just such a purpose. Garak nodded at Dukat.
The woman was smug. “See? I’m not some scared little weak-kneed Bajoran whose pants you can charm off with that phony smile. I’m Seska. I infiltrated this Maquis cell, and I’ve been accomplishing a lot, up until now. Let’s hope that you haven’t screwed up my mission too badly.”
To say that Dukat was irked would have been putting it mildly. Tightly, he asked, “You’ve earned their trust?”
Seska became even more smug. “Well, let’s put it this way: I’ve become the best friend of the engineer, a half-Klingon half-human woman named Torres, and I’ve seduced the human captain, Chakotay.”
Dukat’s brow ridges rose and his eyes widened.
She went on, “Oh and by the way, ironically, there’s a Federation spy on board, too, a Vulcan, Tuvok.”
Damar frowned. “He might blow your cover.”
“He can’t, without blowing his own at the same time,” she retorted sassily, clearly unworried. But then she turned sullen. “So now that I’ve explained the facts of life to you gents, I need to get back to doing my job.” She eyed them, her unspoken message clear.
“What do you suggest?” asked Dukat testily.
“We leave,” she said flatly.
“Your entire Maquis group? Just like that? We can’t just let you go.”
“We’ll have to escape.”
Damar commented, “Oh, that’ll look good on our record.”
She brushed it away as unimportant. “Oh, you can straighten it out with Central Command; just tell them that you caught my group by mistake. Now, I’ll have to sabotage something. I’ll tell my Maquis buddies that I overpowered that guard who brought me up here, and went after your engine room.”
Dukat blinked at her presumption. But try as he might, he couldn’t think of a better solution. He nodded reluctantly, not eager to see his prize snatched from him.
She turned to leave, but then stopped and looked back at them. “Oh, and one more thing, that…reporter? That kid you just took out of here? Lose him. Don’t let him back with us; he’s a snoopy little nuisance, asks way too many questions.”
Damar said, “Wait. About that kid: has he worked for the Maquis at all, helped in any way?”
Dukat and Garak looked at Damar sharply, but listened carefully to Seska, all the same.
“Nah. Just asks too many nosey questions. In fact, he got into a debate….” She snorted with laughter. “I mean, he’d tried to be professional press and stay impartial. But that half-Klingon woman often gets to making speeches. So, the kid started asking her questions, like, ‘Have you tried any peaceful solutions?’ and ‘Have you even tried to negotiate with the Cardassians?’ and so forth. I thought that she was going to knock his brains right out of his skull!”
Damar noticed that Garak and Dukat looked undeniably pleased.
“Got to go. Give me a little time, and then your power will black out, and we’ll scoot out of here.” She left.
Dukat rolled his eyes exaggeratedly, and oozed with sarcasm. “What a delightful creature!”
Garak teased, “You know, Dukat, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that you like Bajoran women better than you like our own women.”
“I do,” Dukat said matter-of-factly. “Our own women aren’t afraid of us.”
“Ah, yes, you have to have that feeling of power.”
“So do you, Garak; don’t pretend that you don’t.”
Garak tried for an innocent look, and utterly failed.
Damar said, “I’ll get that boy back up here.”
Jake had clearly been crying; his eyes were badly reddened and he sniffled.
Dukat told him, “For reasons that we can’t and won’t share with you, that Maquis ship and crew are going to escape. You won’t be on it, however.”
During the first sentence, Jake had looked wildly, desperately hopeful. But with the second, the young human sank back into despair.
Garak told him, feigning gruffness, “You, young man, are going back to the station with me.”
Jake was instantly overwhelmed with relief. With a little cry, he launched himself gratefully into Garak’s arms. The Cardassian was startled, of course, but he didn’t really seem to mind. Dukat wasn’t terribly surprised; he’d witnessed quite a few similar displays of affection between the boy and his father, and wisely understood that this was simply how the child had been raised. Damar looked relieved that Jake had not chosen him.
As Garak politely disengaged, he could see that Jake was positively giddy.
The young man’s voice shook. “After this, I’m not even scared of you telling my dad!”
The three adults smiled mildly, compassionately.
“Even though I know that he’s going to just kill me!”
Then it hit Jake, what he had just said. Horror mixed with embarrassment as he saw the not-so-mild amusement in the expressions of all three men.
“Oh…god!” He made a strangled noise, and hid his face briefly; it was comically trying to turn pale with fear and red with humiliation all at the same time.
When the humor died down, Dukat casually tossed Jake’s padd back to him. “Here. Write your story.”
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