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Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,352

Break me in
Teach us to cheat
And to lie
Cover up
What shouldn't be shared

And the truth's
Unwinding
Scraping away
At my mind
Please stop asking
Me to describe

For one moment
I wish you'd hold your stage
With no feelings at all
Open minded
I'm sure I used to be
So free

Self-expressed
Exhausting for all
To see
And to be
What you want and what you need

And the truth's
Unwinding
Scraping away
At my mind
Please stop asking
Me to describe

For one moment
I wish you'd hold your stage
With no feelings at all
Open minded
I'm sure I used to be
So free...

Wash me away
Clean your body of me
Erase all the memories
They will only bring us pain
And I've seen
All I'll ever need


Matthew Bellamy of Muse - "Citizen Erased"


ERASED


XXX_EYES-ONLY_ACCESS_-_CLASSIFIED_MATERIAL:_DELTA_TOP_SECRET_-_SECURITY_CLEARANCE_LEVEL_TEN_REQUIRED_XXX

REPORT FILED STARDATE 87623.8

FROM:
Vice Admiral Jesus LaRoca, Office of Diplomatic Liaison to Starfleet Security

TO:
Upper Rear Admiral Gregorr Vladimir, Office of the Inspector General, Starfleet Command


CC:
Councilor Redmond Boyle, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Councilor Kucan, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Councilor Kle' Packi, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Professor Udo Kier, Project I.S.I.S., Daystrom Institute;
Fleet Admiral Carvil, Inspector General, Starfleet Command;
Vice Admiral Tanya Adams, Deputy Chief of Operations, Starfleet Intelligence;
Vice Admiral Biehn, Chief of Starfleet Department of Corrections;
Captain James Kurland, Commander of Deep Space Nine;
Commander Mesi Achebe, Starfleet Liaison to Bajoran Government;
Commander Eva, Project I.S.I.S., Starfleet Advanced Technologies

BCC:
Franklin Drake, secure channel Sierra-Three-One;
Lieutenant General Ssharki, Klingon Defense Force Central Command, diplomatic channel Whiskey-Zero-Seven

All -

This report pertains to the breakdown of security at detention center known as Facility 4028 during the removal of Inmate 00001 (the Female Changeling) from that facility. The events relating to the seizure of Deep Space Nine by temporally displaced Dominion fleet and Dominion's subsequent eviction are matters of public record and not covered in this report. This report is in response to the inquiries made to my office dated SD-87618.9 and SD-87621.2 (see attached) by U. R. Adm. Vladimir in his capacity as the Adjunct Inspector General.

Vlad -

Let me say right off the bat that I resent your implication that the forces of the KDF were in any way involved with the security breach at Facility 4028 or the shutdown of the I.S.I.S. core. First of all, General Ssharki happens to be a personal friend of mine; an individual who I have known for nearly my entire life and I can vouch for his character as being honorable and trustworthy. Second, Ssharki and his security officer were with me for nearly the entire time up until the security breach occurred. The exception was while we were interviewing separate subjects in separate isolation wards (both in zone A, refer to attached facility map) and the facility's holocam recordings and the Warden's testimony both corroborate that Ssharki and his security chief did not and could not have interfered with I.S.I.S. at this time. I know we've had our past differences but for you to suggest such grievous deficiency in my character judgment and my powers of observation without any supporting evidence is completely improper and an egregious violation of protocol.

The following account was constructed using ships' sensors and recordings, Facility 4028 holocam recordings and my first officer's and my own personal logs. This should establish conclusively the whereabouts and actions of all parties involved in the incident. The account begins on Stardate 87571, after General Ssharki and I had made contact with Vorta Field Supervisor Eraun 6 with the "assistance" of the Ferengi trader Farek...



Idran System, SD-87571.8

The motley crew aboard the Federation runabout Zambezi watched the Ferengi cruiser warp to safety. The cabin was entirely silent for a moment apart from a disappointed grunt emitted by one of the Gorn.

The silence was broken by warbling chirp from the comm panel. "Eraun is hailing us, Admiral," Commander Winters reported.

Jesu LaRoca withdrew his right hand from the tactical console. Had he lowered his index finger another millimeter, the modified Yellowstone-class runabout would have slammed a spread of photon torpedoes into the hull of the Nerrak, easily destroying the damaged freighter. It would have been so easy to rid the galaxy of that... "worm" as Farek called herself. Too easy. And Eraun wanted him to kill her. In the end, that's why he decided to let her go. Besides, he thought, you never know when a Ferengi who owes you a favor may come in handy. He stared at the blinking light on the comm panel and waited just long enough to ensure that Eraun was thoroughly annoyed, before he commanded "Onscreen."

The forward view of the unfamiliar stars of the Gamma Quadrant beyond the waiting trio of Jem'Hadar warships was replaced by the visage of one furious Vorta.

"You- you come seeking my aid and then refuse a simple request? This is not an auspicious start to our-"

"Come off it, Eraun," LaRoca interupted. "That insignificant creature was no threat to me, you, or Dominion interests. I don't get my hands dirty for you or anyone else unless it suits my purpose."

"But pleasing me does suit your purpose, Admiral." Eraun heaved an exasperated sigh. "Nevertheless, you have something I want, and I have something you need. The only logical conclusion is cooperation. I will return to the Alpha Quadrant with you and render whatever assistance I can."

A surprised Admiral LaRoca turned in his seat and locked eyes with his friend General Ssharki. Too easy, he mouthed.

The Gorn General nodded.

"Hmm, there is a price, though," Eraun announced.

LaRoca turned back to face the screen. "I could have guessed. What is this thing we have that you want?"

"Not a thing. Not even a person, in the limited sense you see life." Eraun leaned toward the viewer and increased the overtone of condescension in his voice to an almost unbearable level. "For more than thirty years, Starfleet has held one of the Founders as a prisoner of war..."

LaRoca's eyes narrowed. "The Female Changeling who oversaw the Dominion forces during the war is being held at a secure facility for crimes against sentient life."

Eraun ignored him and went on. "Imagine..." he paused for emphasis, "the hubris it takes to contain a god! The arrogance!"

"Actually," Ssharki remarked "all you need to contain a Founder is a hermetically sealed jar, about one-point-two liters in volume."

"Ssharki..." LaRoca made a show of disapproval, but he was trying very hard not to laugh out loud.

Eraun glared at the Gorn for a moment before facing the Starfleet Admiral again. "When the Founder is returned to me, you will have the Dominion's complete cooperation, and my guarantee that Kar'ukan and his fleet will not trouble Deep Space Nine again."

LaRoca had been afraid it would come to this. He wanted the Female Changling to remain right where she was. Death was too good for her. LaRoca wished she would spend eternity locked away in a tiny prison cell, separated from the Great Link, allowed to go slowly mad from sheer boredom. "Do you really expect the Federation will capitulate to your demands?"

"Do you really expect we'll ever reach a peaceful solution if they don't? I know the last thing the Federation wants is to go through another war with us. Especially now that you have your hands full in a war with the Klingons, interfering in the affairs of the Romulans and Cardassians, and preparing for the Borg to invade your space. Even if you get the KDF to cease hostilities and join you - doubtless those lizard-people with you are here to imply exactly that - you will still be over-extended and ill-prepared to deal with our sheer numbers. The fleet Kar'ukan and Lorris brought through the wormhole is less than a tenth of a percent of our total might, and look at how easily they overwhelmed your defenses. Using ships and weapons technology thirty-five years out of date, no less."

Ssharki crossed his arms and addressed the Admiral. "I know you don't want to hear it, but he's right. We have nothing else to offer the Dominion. We either give them their Founder, or we give them war."

LaRoca nodded. As much as it turned his stomach to think of the Female Changeling going free after all of the atrocities she had committed, the thought of going through it all again was even more appalling. "Very well, Eraun. I will transmit your appeal to the Federation Council with my recommendation that they approve the release of the Female Changeling to your custody."

The Vorta made an odd sort of half-nod, half-bow and his image disappeared from the viewscreen. The heavy escort cruiser he was aboard moved off toward the wormhole at full impulse.

LaRoca yawned and stretched. "Okay, Yoann, configure the tractor emitters for towing through the wormhole. Winters, take us back to the Ho'norgh's last known position."

The Starfleet officers responded with an instant chorus of "Aye, sir."

LaRoca turned to Ssharki. "DS9's sensors should still be down, and the Denorios Belt will mask our impulse signature from any Jem'Hadar ships nearby. But if we are discovered, we'll have to cut your shuttle loose and warp to Bajor."

"Thanks for trying anyway."

"This assumes those swarmers left anything to recover," Commander Vishka remarked. The Orion pilot assigned to the mission by Klingon Intelligence was decidedly pessimistic.

"Not to worry," Ssharki insisted. "Her hull is three and a half centimeters of neutronium alloy. I doubt even the phaser array on this thing could get through it. We'll just have to repair the engines, maybe touch up the paint, and she'll be good as new."

"By the way, Admiral, how did you stop the swarmers from going after your engines?" The query came from Ssharki's security chief, a young Gorn called Sway.

"Our engines run off a tetryon-infused plasma mixture," LCdr. Yoann Teena answered. "We vented that from the drive manifolds. The swarmers didn't like the taste."

"Ah."

"There it is!" Ssharki pointed. The Ho'norgh was tumbling slowly about all three axes as it drifted lazily through space, but it was at least in one piece. It had a sleek and angular appearance, looking very much like the giant shark tooth it was named for.

The Zambezi's tractor beam gripped the shuttlecraft. A sudden jolt rocked the Federation vessel as the coupled inertial mass applied a tensile stress to the runabout. But the dampeners quickly compensated, and the Zambezi set off after the Jem'Hadar cruiser, and the odd little convoy passed through the wormhole without incident.


Aboard USS Tiburon, Bajor System, two hours later

Vice Admiral LaRoca entered his flag conference room to find his Gorn guests enjoying a late-night snack. Ssharki had a large bowl of seafood gumbo, while Sway was eating... "Is that... mint chip ice cream?"

The young security chief nodded with his mouth full.

"The kid likes ice cream," Ssharki semi-explained. "Don't ask me why." He pointed to his gumbo with his spoon. "This tastes like Sisko's recipe."

"It is," LaRoca told him. "Or close to it, anyway. Didja get that from a replicator or Deck Six?"

"Replicator," Ssharki answered. "What's on deck six?"

"Crew lounge. Just forward of the port-side turbolift. I've got a coupla chefs down there who've taken a vow to only use natural ingredients wherever possible. You should try that next time you're hungry."

"I'll do that." Ssharki finished his gumbo and pushed the bowl away. "What's happening with that Changeling?"

"I sent Eraun's proposal to Headquarters, and they said they'd take it straight to the Council. I'm sure they'll come to the same conclusion we did, but they're politicians so it will take a while." LaRoca walked to the replicator subtly mounted in the wall near the doorway. "Triple-shot mocha, light whip," he ordered. He retrieved the coffee beverage as soon as it materialized and took a seat at the conference table. "Anyway, Ming is working on repairs to your shuttle. He says it needs a new phase inverter coil and he's bartering with other Klingon ships in orbit to find a spare. Any class of shuttle should have what he needs, though."

Ssharki nodded. "Give Commander Domingo my thanks and best regards."

Sway looked up from his ice cream. "Isn't Domingo another old shipmate of yours, General?"

"Yes. Ming, Jesu's father and I all served on this ship under Captain Sander during the Dominion War." Ssharki made a short, hissing laugh. "It was just supposed to be a short-term assignment as part of a cultural exchange program. But I was here for the first shots and stayed on right up until the Female Changeling signed the Treaty of Bajor." The General looked to LaRoca. "If it's all the same to you, Jesu, I'd like to see this through to the end. I assume you'll be the one they send with Eraun to pick up the Founder. I'd like to go with you, my friend."

LaRoca took a sip of his coffee. "I'll have to pull a few strings but it shouldn't be a problem since you're already on a diplomatic clearance. And I'd be honored to have you along. And hopefuly this won't be the last time we'll get to work together."

"I'm sure it won't. I was encouraged by the talks at the Borg Conference. Before the Dominion showed up, that is."


Kassae Sector, en route to Ayala System, SD-87576.4

Vice Admiral LaRoca had just ordered a plate of cold, raw Doryteuthis opalescens from his ready-room's replicator. He was about to feed the squid to Rudyard, his pet leopard shark, when the door chimed. "Enter!" The door hissed open behind him, and then closed a moment later. The visitor entered silently. This gave away his identity. Still facing the aquarium, Jesu LaRoca greeted his chief of security. "What's up, Rusty?"

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Cmdr. LaRoca Rusty requested. "I need to speak to my brother."

"Of course." Jesu slid the last piece of cephalopod off the plate and watched his meter-long shark gobble it up. He returned the plate to the replicator and activated the recycle function. Then he sat down at his desk, across from Rusty, who had already taken a seat. "What's on your mind?"

"The Founder, Jesu. I want to meet her."

"I'm not sure if she will grant an audience, but I'll see if I can arrange something."

Rusty shook his long head. "I want to see her today. I want to accompany you to Facility 4028."

The Admiral leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "Request denied."

"But- but-" Rusty stood and paced the room. "I have to see her! She made me! Or at least, she commanded the scientists who created me. There is so much I want to ask her..."

"I know. That's why I can't let you speak to her before the crisis at Deep Space Nine is resolved." Jesu adjusted in his seat and leaned forward with his forearms on the desk. "Rusty, I love you, but you tend to let your emotions get the best of you. Negotiating with the Changeling is going to require tact and a cool head. I'm afraid that you could be a disruptive influence. I'm sorry, but that's my final answer."

Rusty looked up at the ceiling and scratched the underside of his jaw as he thought up another argument. "What about your personal protection?"

"You know I can take care of myself. Besides, I'm beaming down to a maximum-security detention center patrolled by state-of-the-art holographic guards and I'll have two Gorn and half a Klingon with me. I'll be fine." Jesu gazed at his adopted brother. Even though he had been genetically altered with Cardassian and Vorta DNA, he was still predominantly Deinon, and at 2.3m from nose to tail he was a particularly intimidating example of the species. "Rust, you were the sole survivor of a botched attempt to improve upon nature's ultimate soldier. If you're seeking some sort of catharsis, the Changeling isn't going to give it to you. At best she'll only offer some persuasive justification for her actions. As your commanding officer and your brother, I simply can't allow you to confront her. Not yet."

"Alright then." Rusty stood and walked to the door.

Jesu stopped him. "Commander..."

Rusty turned his head. "Yessir?"

"I want you to stand by in transporter room two with a level four security team. Just in case."

Rusty's lipless mouth twisted into his version of a smile. "Yessir." The security chief stepped out onto the bridge.

Admiral LaRoca turned his chair around and stared at his aquarium, idly watching Rudyard swim in lazy circles amongst the stalks of artificial kelp. And just how will I react when I meet the Changeling? He'd told the Council, Starfleet Command, and he'd even told himself that he would handle her just as he'd handled the many other prisoner exchanges he'd overseen, with a dispassionate professionalism. But he knew this one would be different. The Female Changeling wasn't merely the commander of the Dominion forces during the war, she was the Dominion. She had destroyed the Odyssey with all hands in 2370. She had wiped out the Seventh Fleet. She had invaded Betazed. She had ordered the Breen to attack Earth and destroy Starfleet Headquarters. And she had killed the mother of a four-year-old boy named Jesu LaRoca...

"Admiral, we are approaching the Ayala System," Cmdr. Marq Sander announced over the intercom.

"Acknowledged." LaRoca rose and opened his locker. He pulled on his gold-trimmed dress uniform jacket and cinched it with a belt that had the UFP emblem for a buckle. He checked his reflection in the mirror, combed back a few stray hairs, ran a gloved hand through his neatly-trimmed beard. He looked over his array of personal weapons and selected his Tegolar sword. He had found the Nausicaan weapon, with its wicked 90cm curved blade and serrated back edge, while searching the personal effects of a Klingon captain who's ship he'd captured. In its scabbard, it completed the ceremonial look he wanted to establish for his diplomatic functions. But in his hand, it suited his swashbuckling nature. It was his favorite weapon for dispatching Borg drones. After all, if there was one thing they couldn't adapt to it was a cold, razor-edged monotanium blade.

Fully attired, LaRoca walked onto the bridge as the Tiburon dropped out of warp.

"The asteroid containing Facility 4028 is dead ahead, sir," Marq announced. The half-Klingon first officer was in full dress uniform, in preparation to beam down with the Admiral. "And Eraun's ship is standing by."

Jesu stood in front of his command chair. "Hail the facility."

Within seconds a gray-haired humanoid figure appeared on-screen. "Hello, Admiral LaRoca," he said.

"Hello. You must be the Warden."

The Warden nodded. "Your authorization to visit has just come through from Starfleet Command. We don't get many visitors here, so this is quite an occasion!" The hologram's eyes suddenly narrowed with suspicion. "However, we are detecting two ships in orbit. Why is there a Jem'Hadar vessel with you?"

"Didn't Starfleet tell you?" A puzzled Admiral LaRoca asked. "We have a Vorta guest. Eraun is here to see the Founder."

The Warden frowned. "That is most irregular, Admiral. I have only received authorization orders permitting you and General Ssharki to visit us."

"Surely admitting a Vorta is no more irregular than permitting a Lieutenant General of the Klingon Defense Force to access your facility," LaRoca argued.

The Warden seemed to think it over for a moment. "Very well. I will permit you and the General to beam down. Each of you may be accompanied by one of your officers. The Vorta, however, will have to remain on his ship. Come speak to me, and if everything is in order I will allow him to enter the facility."

"Alright, stand by." LaRoca turned to Cmdr. Traa'cee, at TacOps. "Close channel, and hail Eraun's ship."

"Aye, sir."

The grim face of the Warden hologram was replaced on screen by the beaming Vorta. "Well, Admiral?"

"I've made contact with Facility 4028-"

"Excellent!" Eraun interrupted. "I'm ready to beam down immediately! The Founder has been trapped among solids for far too long, and the Great Link is diminished without her august presence." Eraun keyed his controls, frowned and said "Excuse me a moment."

"Eraun, there's a slight problem with your access authorization..." LaRoca tried to explain.

"He can't hear you, sir," the Vulcan tactical officer reported. "He's muted the audio channel."

The Tiburon's bridge crew watched while Eraun and his Jem'Hadar aides poked buttons and argued for a minute before the confused Vorta reopened the channel. "Um, Admiral, there appears to be a slight problem. My officers tell me that our transporter signal is being blocked." The Vorta's facial expression and tone shifted from confusion to indignation in an instant. "Do you intend to keep me waiting here on my ship like some sort of unwelcome guest?"

"It's not that you're unwelcome, but there are... security concerns."

Eraun laughed. "Security concerns? Admiral, if the Dominion wanted to conquer this facility, we could do so. I'm sure you Starfleet people think you're very clever and have all sorts of electronic defenses, but as we've proven in the past, even the Federation's most well-defended locations are vulnerable to a squad of Jem'Hadar warriors."

LaRoca sighed. The Vorta was extremely wearisome. "Eraun-"

"But fortunately for you, I'm not here to conquer. I'm only here to reach a mutually beneficial solution."

"So am I. So if you'll just let me clear up this misunderstanding-"

"Misunderstanding? I see this as a deliberate affront! If I'd had you fly to the Gamma Quadrant on the invitation of the Founders in order to retrieve a Federation Council Member we had in custody, and then you were told to wait while some bureaucrat cleared up some 'security concerns' I imagine you'd be nearly homicidal with outrage!"

LaRoca was starting to get a headache on one side. "Look, Eraun, just wait here until I talk to the Warden. I promise this matter will be resolved as quickly as possible."

"Hmmph. Very well, Admiral. I'll wait. But I find this lack of trust very insulting! I thought friends trusted one another. Perhaps offering to help you was the wrong decisi-"

Traa'cee closed the channel without being asked.

"Thank you." LaRoca massaged his right eye socket. "Marq, you're with me. Traa', you have the ship."

"Very well, sir." The Vulcan left her TacOps console and moved to the command chair. "General Ssharki, please report with your party to transporter room one."

Jesu and Marq rode the turbolift to the transporter room and found the Gorn officers straightening their ceremonial shoulder pads and linked-metal sashes. "Are we allowed to beam down with weapons?" Sway asked.

"I haven't been told you can't," LaRoca answered.

"Good." Sway opened a weapons crate he'd brought with him and tucked a pair of disruptor pistols into his belt. Ssharki pulled out a pulsewave assault rifle and slung it over his shoulder.

LaRoca rested his left hand on the hilt of his sword and looked at Marq. His first officer opened his coat to reveal his own trusty old Klingon disruptor pistol - a 23rd-Century design which he'd retrofitted with modern components.

"Okay, let's go." LaRoca waved the others forward onto the transporter pad, stepped into one of the yellow circles, looked at the transporter officer and said "Energize."

They rematerialized on another transporter pad. There was nobody there to meet them.

"Okay, what now?" Ssharki wondered.

"I guess we look for the Warden," Marq suggested. He pulled out his tricorder. "I've downloaded a map of the facility. It looks like there's a series of rooms on this level through that door there."

LaRoca led the way. The door opened to a large room with a glass-walled control center on one side.

"Antechamber A" a feminine, mechanical voice announced from an overhead speaker.

The group looked around. There were guards standing at doorways ahead and to the right side of the room and several more behind the glass wall on the left, but none of them seemed interested in the visitors. LaRoca cleared his throat. "Hello?"

A holographic XO drone appeared and scanned each of the officers in turn. Then the voice spoke again. "Authorized visitors must report to the Warden. Follow the blue line to Isolation Zone A."

LaRoca looked at the floor. There were four lines - one white, one red, one blue, one yellow. The yellow line led to the door on the right. The others went forward to a door marked Processing A. "Come on."

The door led to a short hallway and another room. "Processing A" the voice greeted them. There were more guards here, overseeing several prisoners in orange jumpsuits and restraints. The blue line on the floor broke off from the others and led to a door off to the right. The door opened, but their path was blocked by a force field and beyond that, a yawning chasm stood between them and elevated platform with some sort of control room.

"The hell?"

"Try that interface panel next to the door, sir," Marq suggested.

LaRoca looked at the panel. It wasn't the standard LCARS interface. It mostly displayed numbers and acronyms that were total nonsense to him, but one button marked ACCESS seemed clear enough. He pushed it.

"ISIS Access Granted. How may I assist you?" the same computerized female voice came from a speaker built in to the panel.

"What's ISIS?"

"I am ISIS - the Inmate Security and Information System. How may I assist you?"

"We... need to get to Isolation Zone A."

"Visitor Jesus Lorenzo San Gregorio LaRoca - recognized. Visitor Marq Son of Breq Sander - recognized. Visitor Sfwyrnamokaarn-" Sway grimaced at the mispronunciation of his full name. "...Recognized. Visitor Ssharki HoHwI' BatlhHa' - recognized. Visitor authorization - verified. Access level two - authorized. Welcome to Facility 4028. Please report to the Warden before proceeding into the facility."

"That's the idea," LaRoca muttered, as the force field blocking the doorway vanished and a new one formed a bridge to the control room.

"You may proceed," ISIS announced.

"HoHwI' BatlhHa'" Marq repeated. "'The one who kills without honor'?"

"That's what the Klingons call me," Ssharki replied with a shrug. "And that's the name on my official KDF records."

LaRoca led the way across the force field walkway and found the Warden. He was dressed identically to all of his guards, in black and yellow body armor that must have just been meant to intimidate the inmates, but unlike the guards he had no helmet.

The Warden greeted each of them in turn. "Hello, Admiral. General. Commanders. Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

"What should we call you?" Ssharki asked. "Is it just 'The Warden'?"

"Heh, a bit disconcerting isn't it? I understand that the EMH Mark One had the same problem. But in this instance, instead of the programmers forgetting to give me a name, it was intentional. The thought was that I would be less approachable and therefore our guests wouldn't consider me a target for manipulation. Or perhaps it was their little joke. You've met ISIS? I find it quite intriguing that our computer received a name, but I and the rest of the photonic staff did not."

"I see." Ssharki glanced around the control room and the isolation wards beyond. "What can you tell me about Facility 4028?"

"Not many people know about this place, General, and that is intentional. We are a Federation penal institution designed to house the most high-profile and most dangerous prisoners. Most are quite violent or disruptive, but a few are targets for attack that we need to keep here for their own safety. Because of the danger, this facility is almost completely staffed by photonic personnel. There are only a handful of humanoids authorized to work here-"

"Excuse me," LaRoca interrupted. "Ssharki, we're not here for you to learn about the Federation penal system. We're here to see the Founder. And you..." the Admiral turned to the Warden "sure talk an awful lot for an unapproachable hologram."

"I'm sorry," the Warden said, although the hologram did a poor job of expressing it. "You said you were here to..."

"See the Founder," Jesu LaRoca repeated.

"Oh, really? That is quite unusual. You see, I thought General Ssharki here was the KDF representative I requested to speak to Inmate 53160! He's been waiting for quite some time."

Jesu and Ssharki looked at each and shared a look of bemusement. Jesu turned back to the Warden. "And what would I be doing here, if that were the case?"

"Why, escorting the General, naturally. Listen, I will need to contact Starfleet Department of Corrections to verify your authorization to see the Founder. I'm sure everything is in order, but I need to make certain and I'm afraid this could take a while. Until then, General, would you willing to speak to Inmate 53160?"

Ssharki shrugged. "Sure. Why not."

"Great. He's in Isolation Ward A One. You can get there from this area. Just use that panel there to extend the walkways. And Admiral, while you're here, I wonder if you wouldn't mind sparing a few minutes to talk to another inmate? He just recently asked to speak to a member of the Federation diplomatic corps. I hadn't gotten around to processing his request yet, but since you're a diplomatic consul, your arrival seems serendipitous."

"I suppose it can't hurt."

* * *

Ssharki and Sway approached the first cell door in Isolation Ward A1 and an ISIS interface panel popped out. Ssharki tapped the display and stepped back in revulsion. The face of one of the foul shapeshifters that called themselves the Undine stared back at him. He was about to move on to the next door but his curiosity got the better of him and he read the information on Starfleet's captive shapeshifter.

Quote:
Inmate 98639
- Name: Unknown
- Species: Undine
- Type: Class I
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Isolation Ward protocols. Full access for Starfleet Intelligence. Other visitors must be approved by Warden. Access to technology restricted. Must be accompanied by Rapid Response Team at all times when out of cell.
- Notes: Infiltrator impersonating Captain T'Vix of the U.S.S. Cochrane. Removed from ship along with three other Undine on Stardate 73967.3. Testing of isomorphic capabilities remains inconclusive. Remanded to Facility 4028 for detention and debriefing. Refer to Order 54937-Drake-6 fro details.
"Fascinating." Ssharki closed the file and moved on. There was only one other occupied cell.

Quote:
Inmate 53160
- Name: Karak
- Species: Klingon
- Type: Class II
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Isolation Ward protocols. Visitors must be approved by Warden. Food and water intake must be monitored by medical personnel.
- Notes: Captain of the I.K.S. Hakra. Allied with the House of Torg. Captured by Starfleet forces on Stardate 86640.4. Held at Starbase 157 for processing. Uncooperative and violent with staff. When assigned to isolation, went on a 32-day hunger strike that ended only when he was reassigned to general population. Transferred to Penal Colony 47. While there, led three prisoner uprisings that resulted in six deaths. Remanded to Facility 4028 to await prisoner exchange or trial.
Sway leaned around his elder to the read the Klingon's bio. "House of Torg, eh? This will be fun."

Ssharki said nothing. He opened the cell door. A force field sprang into place on the other side. Karak was sitting on his bed. He didn't look up at first. "Captain Karak? You wanted to talk to someone. Let's talk."

Karak raised his head and looked toward the door. A gleam of recognition appeared in his eyes, replaced quickly by a flash of fear. "The Empire sent you?"

"I'm here, aren't I?"

"Very well then. I have heard the stories of your victories, General. I know you are a valiant warrior. Look then, upon my miserable state. Here I sit, caged like an animal waiting for slaughter. And not even the sweet release of death will wash the stains of dishonor off of my soul. The barge to Gre'thor waits for me, as it waits for us all."

Sway laughed out loud. "That is what you called someone here to hear? The sad, self-pitying song of a warrior without teeth?"

Ssharki silenced his adopted son with a sharp look, and turned his glare back to Karak. "So what do you want?"

"Can the dead want anything?" Karak heaved a miserable sigh. "I felt like I had been forgotten by the Empire - by everyone. It has been so long since I have seen another warrior... and these holograms are nothing but pale shades of life. I made my request for a representative simply to see if anyone still cared that I was still alive. Now that you're here? At least I know that the Empire continues. That life continues outside these walls. It is enough."

Ssharki looked at the utterly defeated Klingon Captain with a mixture of pity and contempt. "I'll mention you in my report to KDF Central Command, but that's all I can do for you. If death is all you want, I hope it finds you soon."

* * *

"What is this? Some sort of sick joke?"

"Funny, I was about to track down that Warden and ask him the same thing." LaRoca glared at the Human on the other side of the force field. Amar Singh was probably the only person in this prison who rated the same level of loathing as the Changeling.

Singh paced angrily in his cell. "I ask for Starfleet to send a representative so I can explain why I must continue my research..." he spun to face LaRoca, his face expressing pure outrage. "And they send you? The one who put me here?"

Jesu smirked at him through the force field. "Would it help to know that I consider your arrest on H'atoria to be one of the proudest moments of my career?"

"Hmmph. I'm sure you were very pleased with yourself." Singh's voice veritably dripped with sarcasm. "You probably earned all sorts of medals and promotions for stopping my mad plans to conquer the galaxy with a race of perfect monsters."

Admiral LaRoca kept smirking. "My first Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, induction to the Legion of Merit, and a promotion to four-pip Captain. My greatest reward, though, was the gratitude of all those Gorn prisoners of yours whose genes and brains you hadn't scrambled yet. A bunch of them actually joined Starfleet. One of them's my helmsman. I'm told he still has nightmares about you."

Singh shook his head and glared at the Admiral. "I see now that this was an exercise in futility. Your mind is too small to understand anything I have to say."

"You're a psychopath," LaRoca stated matter-of-factly. "Nobody wants to hear anything you have to say."

Marq spoke up, figuring one of them should act like a Starfleet diplomat and not like a bully. "Why should Starfleet let you continue your research? Genetic manipulation is illegal."

"The genetic code holds no secrets from me! I can cure diseases, extend lifespans, make the perfect warriors..." Singh turned back to LaRoca with a pleading look. "Admiral please hear me out. The Federation is at war. Many lives are lost every day. But what if I could make the people on your crew stronger and more resilient? What if your reaction time was increased tenfold or your body could heal from almost any wound?"

LaRoca sighed and rolled up the sleeve of his jacket to reveal the polyalloy weave body armor he wore under his uniform. Then he produced an enhanced optical eyepiece and a regenerative hypo from his combat kit. "With our technology, we have that already."

"Genetics is a technology like any other! The difference is these enhancements would be built into your bodies, without the need for clumsy devices or armored suits. I can create perfection. All I need is time and resources."

"And by 'resources' you mean 'test subjects,' right?" LaRoca sneered. "I saw what you did to your last batch. They were in so much pain it drove them mad. I wouldn't wish that kind of misery on any sentient being. Except you. Adios." Jesu closed the door and started walking back to the control room.

Marq followed him. "You know, he has a point. Some genetic engineering has produced beneficial results. Like Dr. Julian Bashir, for example. Singh's research might be dangerous, but I'm not so sure that it needs to be illegal, so long as it's properly controlled and regulated."

LaRoca shook his head. "For every Bashir, there have been a dozen men who would be Khan. Trying to direct our own evolution without any understanding of our nature is simply asking for trouble." He saw Ssharki and Sway approaching from another isolation ward. "How'd it go?"

"There wasn't really anything we could do for him," Ssharki replied. "You?"

"Same." They approached the Warden in the control room. "We did as you asked. May we see the Founder now?"

"Of course," the Warden answered. "I've verified your authorization and granted permission for your Vorta friend to transport as well. However, he must remain outside the isolation zones. I realize this is an unusual situation, but security protocols must be maintained."

"Understood." LaRoca was secretly pleased that Eraun would not be allowed to approach the Changeling in her cell. He and Ssharki would have some time with her alone.

"We're losing our first and most famous inmate," the Warden went on. I suppose I should be a little sad, but... it's not like she was very easy to get to know. She's very different from our other inmates. I Don't suppose that she has much use for us. Inmate 00001 is being held in Isolation Ward B Two. If you follow the red line into the facility, you'll pass through main holding and another processing area. Beyond that is Isolation Zone B."

"Thanks. We'll call ISIS if we get lost." They returned to the processing center and found Eraun standing in the middle of the room. "Sorry to keep you waiting," LaRoca lied.

"The Founders have tried to teach patience to my species," Eraun said impassively. "The Founders are wise in all things."

Ssharki made an exaggerated roll of his eyes. "Follow us. We'll take you to the Founder."

"Finally!" Eraun stepped closer to Admiral LaRoca and spoke with all the force he could muster. "The safety of the Founder is now your responsibility. Don't forget that. If she is harmed, the Dominion will be forced to respond. And then Kar'ukan will be the least of your problems."

LaRoca started to say something rude in response, but decided against it, limiting himself to a curt "Let's go."

The red line on the floor led them down a long stairway that descended forty meters deeper inside the asteroid.

Apparently allergic to silence, Eraun attempted to strike up a conversation with Ssharki. "You know, General, your psychographic profile is required reading for all Vorta field supervisors."

"Is that so."

"It is! Would you like to know what it has to say about you?"

"No."

"Main Holding," ISIS announced as they passed through another door.

They looked around the sterile cell block. Most of the prisoners were behind locked doors, but a few were eating meals or exercising, screened off by force fields and being watched by the holographic guards. There were also a few automated phaser turrets, squat and menacing. They were aimed at Ssharki.

"Congratulations on being the greatest perceived threat," Jesu joked to his friend.

Sway made a hissing laugh at that.

Ssharki walked up to the nearest cell door and tapped the ISIS panel.

"What are you doing?" Marq asked him.

"Just curious to see the sort of people the Federation keeps locked up in this place."

"I don't think we have time for this," LaRoca said.

"I'm actually intrigued myself," Eraun announced. "The Founder has waited for thirty-six years - another fifteen minutes won't hurt her." He looked around the group in a semi-panic. "Don't tell her I said that!"

"Wouldn't dream of it." LaRoca stood next to Ssharki and skimmed the prisoner bio he was reading.

Quote:
Inmate 51099
- Name: K'staa
- Species: Gorn
- Type: Class II
- Sentence: 40 years with the possibility of parole.
- Requirements: Diet plan 85-Beta (non-replicated food.) Meals served in cell. Bite restraints must be in place at all times when out of cell.
- Notes: Tactical officer and battle leader of Gorn vessel S'Yahazah. Captured by Starfleet personnel in Argelius System on Stardate 86450.4. Convicted of murder of 17 non-combatant civilians in attack on S.S. Celestia. Remanded to New Zealand Penal Colony, where he attacked and critically injured two guards. Transferred to Facility 4028 for remainder of sentence. Not eligible for prisoner exchange.
Ssharki shook his head with sadness and disgust and went on the next cell.

Quote:
Inmate 72604
- Name: Alevant
- Species: Lethean
- Type: Class IV
- Sentence: 28 years with the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Holographic interface only. Hostile telepath - Protocol Zeta-8 in effect.
- Notes: Apprehended on Lissepia on Stardate 86302.4. Convicted of hostile telepathy, mind control and attempted murder of Central Bank of Lisepia official. Suspected of eight attacks on financial officials in Bolian sector. Previous conviction for mind control and robbery on Capella IV, where he used telepathy to read the mind of a Janus Mining manager and gained access codes to the company's topaline vaults.
"And that is precisely why I do not allow Letheans in my presence," Ssharki told Sway as he closed the interface. "Telepaths are not to be trusted."

The next one was of particular interest to Jesu and Marq.

Quote:
Inmate 91407
- Name: Makkan
- Species: Cardassian
- Type: Class V
- Sentence: 35 years with the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Guard required at all medical treatments and counseling sessions. Outside communications must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Commander of True Way strike team that attacked colony on Klaestron II. Convicted in fatal bombing of amusement center in Lakarian City. Suspected in string of attacks on Bajoran freighters and attempted infiltration of U.S.S. Eperai. Incarcerated at Facility 4028 at request of Cardassian government. All communications about Inmate 91407 must be reviewed by Emara Larnian at the Cardassian Ministry of Justice.
"A True Way petaQ," the Tiburon's first officer remarked.

"One less of them out there for us to worry about," Jesu said, and he followed Ssharki over to the next door.

Quote:
Inmate 79478
- Name: James Fadi Mehra, aka Princep Khan
- Species: Human (Augment)
- Type: Class VI
- Sentence: 20 years without the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Guard required at all medical treatments and counseling sessions. Communications with inmate must be approved by Warden. Access to technology must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Leader of the radical augment group known as the Children of Khan. Born 2374 on Mars; underwent accelerated neural pathway engineering on Adigeon Prime at age eight. Further enhancements to physical attributes, reflexes, vision and stamina followed two years later. Subject exhibits extreme anti-social and psychopathic tendencies. Bipolar symptoms may be due to difficulty processing neural input. Manipulative to an extreme degree - caution is recommended in all interactions. Remanded to Loews Institute on Stardate 70773.7 for long-term therapy. While there, led a patient uprising that resulted in the deaths of all staff on-site. The patients, now calling themselves the Children of Khan, then attempted to enter Romulan space. Apprehended on Stardate 84310.7, Mehra is too dangerous to be housed in a psychiatric facility. Remanded to Facility 4028 until suitable arrangements make a transfer possible.
"Well, Marq? You still think genetic engineering is a viable pursuit?"

The half-Klingon former research scientist had no answer.

"Qajay'!" Ssharki cursed at the next ISIS panel. "What fresh hell is this?"

LaRoca approached and read the bio.

Quote:
Inmate 79962
- Name: Taris
- Species: Romulan
- Type: Class IX
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Protocol Zeta-9 in effect. Jammers must be active wherever inmate is present. Communications with inmate must be approved by Warden. Access to technology must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Commander of I.R.W. Haakona and present at the discovery of the planet Iconia. Appointed as second-in-command to Fleet Commader Tomalak in 2382; defected to Imperial Romulan State a year later. Commander of remaining Romulan military forces after destruction of homeworld. Named Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire in 2394. Deposed by Sela on Stardate 80957.96. Known agent of Iconians responsible for destruction of Romulan and Reman homeworlds. Apprehended by Rear Admiral Jesus LaRoca on Iconia, Strardate 87068.2. Incarcerated at Facility 4028 pending trial.
Jesu LaRoca was wrong earlier, when he thought only Amar Singh was as despicable as the Female Changeling. Taris deserved at least the same degree of contempt. He looked up at Ssharki and said "Um, yeah."

The General was staring down at his friend. "Do you care to explain any of this?"

"The evidence linking Taris to the Hobus Supernova and the details of her arrest are Delta-level classified," LaRoca stated in a quiet monotone. "I cannot discuss them with anyone without the explicit permission of the Federation Council Security Committee."

Ssharki shook his large head and walked away. Taris occupied the last cell in the row. Ssharki led the group down the stairs to floor of Main Holding. A red line pointed to a door marked Processing B. The group followed the Gorn General through the door and down another 40-meter staircase to a second processing center. This area was completely deserted.

Marq checked his map. "Isolation Zone B should be... just through there." He pointed to a door with a sign above that indicated as much.

LaRoca nodded and turned the Vorta. "Okay, Eraun. You'll have to wait out here."

"What? Why?"

"Because the computer who runs this place doesn't like you, and hasn't granted you access to the isolation zones."

Ssharki started walking. "Don't worry," he called over his shoulder. "We'll get the Founder and be right out."

Eraun fumed. "I don't suppose it would do me any good to point out just how unbelievably offensive this all is."

"Nope, it sure won't," LaRoca answered, and he and Marq set off after the Gorn.

Like the isolation wards in Zone A upstairs, Isolation Ward B2 contained only two cells. The first cell was occupied by a Tholian, according to its ISIS panel. LaRoca checked the next one. "Inmate 00001. Name: Unknown. Species: Changeling. Here she is." He opened the door, lowered the forcefield and stepped inside. Ssharki followed, ducking under the door frame. The room was occupied by what appeared to be the sort of abstract sculpture that was popular on Earth during the 1900s. There was also a bucket full of an amber liquid. The liquid poured itself out and took on a female humanoid shape with a disturbingly familiar not-quite-humanoid face.

The Female Changeling glared at her visitors. "What do you solids want?"

Jesu LaRoca had to exert a great deal of self-control not to react violently. This... shapeshifter had once stated that it was her life's goal to rid the Galaxy of all "solids." Starting with my mother... But he was not here for revenge. You're a diplomat, Jesu. Time to act like one. He made a polite, respectful bow and said "Founder, I am Admiral Jesu LaRoca, of the Federation. This is General Ssharki, representing the Klingon Empire. We have a situation at Deep Space Nine. We humbly request your assistance to-"

"Your situation is not my concern," the Changeling interrupted. "Even if I agree to help with whatever problem you have, what guarantee do I have? Will you send me back here when you are through with me?"

"No, Founder, I can offer you a..." say it... "a full pardon from the Federation Council."

"Your offers are meaningless. What is that Human saying? 'To learn about a people, learn how they treat their prisoners.' I have been here for many years, Admiral, and I have seen much. Solids are irrational, fearful creatures. You cannot be trusted."

Ssharki was crouching in the corner of the cell behind LaRoca, trying hard not to look intimidating and failing. He spoke up. "Founder, if I may ask: if you are so distrustful of us solids, why did you choose to surrender to the Federation?"

The Changeling stared at Ssharki for nearly half a minute before answering, as though reevaluating him. She looked him up and down as one might appraise a piece of furniture, then she nodded slowly and spoke. "My captivity was the price of life for my people. We were dying - infected by a virus created by Starfleet Intelligence. Odo cured me, but when I linked with him, I knew that he needed his "justice." Otherwise he would have stayed with the solids... stayed with that woman." If she could have spit in disgust at the memory, she would have. "I surrendered myself so he would take the cure to the Great Link. Once he joined it, I knew he would never leave. I am immortal, General. A few years here is a minor inconvenience - a 'drop in the bucket' if I may ironically borrow another Human idiom. Time is meaningless. I will endure. And the prizes I gained were well worth the cost."

LaRoca tried again. "Founder, I understand why you don't trust us. But a Vorta came here with us to prove our intentions. If you help us resolve the crisis on Deep Space Nine, he will return you to the Gamma Quadrant. We will take you to him now."

The Changeling stared down LaRoca even longer than she appraised Ssharki. The Admiral matched her gaze. "Very well. I have waited here long enough. It is time to rejoin the Great Link. I'm sure all that I have seen and heard over these long years will be of great interest."

LaRoca made another small bow and stepped out, with Ssharki on his heels. Marq and Sway were waiting outside, and they fell in behind the Changeling as she exited her cell. They met up with Eraun in Processing B.

The Vorta was practically overcome with joy at the sight of his god. He prostrated himself on the floor as she approached. "Founder! Your ordeal is finally at an end!"

The Founder looked at him as though he were a street beggar. "Save your sycophancy for a more appropriate time, Eraun! I want to leave this place."

Marq checked his tricorder and pointed to a door marked Antechamber B "There should be a transporter room just through-"

Four combadges chirped. "Tiburon to away team," Cmdr. Traa'cee's voice called out from the tiny transducers.

LaRoca tapped the badge on his chest. "Go 'head."

"Admiral, were you expecting company? A large flotilla of Jem'Hadar warships just appeared in the system."

LaRoca looked at Eraun. The Vorta shook his head. "Negative, Tib. I don't know anything about them, and neither does our friend. Assume they are hostile. Do not engage them, and stand by to go to warp. If you can't beam us out, the ship comes first."

"Acknowledged. Sir, they're approaching the facility. They appear to be setting up some sort of dampen-" Her transmission was cut off.

At that instant, Kar'ukan beamed in to the room, with four of his soldiers. Ignoring the Starfleet officers and the Gorn, he strode into the middle of the group and knelt before the Changeling. "Founder! We have taken Deep Space Nine in your name, and are prepared to spread our campaign throughout the quadrant! Give your blessing to our victory! We are yours to command!"

The Founder's facial features twitched with faint recognition. "I know you... Kar'ukan! Your fleet failed us in the battle for Deep Space Nine! We lost because you did not arrive in time."

Kar'ukan jumped to his feet and tried to explain. "The fleet was diverted passing through the anomaly! We did not-"

The Founder cut him off. "I need soldiers, Kar'ukan, not excuses. You failed the Dominion once. I will not give you the opportunity to do so again. You are... released."

Kar'ukan backpeddled in horror. "No it can't be!" He unleashed a primal scream and turned to his troops. "Attack! Kill everyone but the Founder!" More Jem'Hadar beamed in. "We are dead! We go into battle to reclaim our lives!"

LaRoca unsheathed his sword and heard his friends draw their weapons, but then Eraun stepped between him and Kar'ukan before he could give the order to fire. "Not so fast," the Vorta said smugly. "Did you really think I'd come all this way without a little... protection?" He looked around the room and called out "Soldiers of the Gamma Quadrant! Show yourselves! Defend your god!"

Several Jem'Hadar warriors - who must have been invisibly following Eraun the entire time - unshrouded themselves and stepped forward, brandishing kar'takin pole-arms. Suddenly outnumbered, Kar'ukan keyed a command into his wristband and transported himself out and beamed half a dozen Jem'Hadar soldiers in his place. The room was suddenly full of Jem'Hadar hacking and shooting each other, and the Starfleet and Gorn officers were unable to tell which side was which, so they let Dominion soldiers fight amongst themselves and only used their weapons in self-defense.

After a minute of unimaginable violence, the fight was over. Kar'ukan's forces were defeated and Eraun's two surviving Jem'Hadar took up defensive positions on either side of the founder. The Tiburon away team holstered their weapons and looked around the room in a daze. It looked like abattoir. They became aware of the voice of ISIS repetitively saying "ISIS is offline. Emergency protocols engaged."

Marq was the first to recover. "Admiral, I've lost contact with the Tiburon," he reported. He tapped away at his tricorder. "I'm detecting power failures all over the station and there are signs of weapons fire, but there's some sort of dampening field blocking my scans. I'm detecting multiple Jem'Hadar lifesigns but I can't get a complete reading." He switched the display to show the map. "We're near the secondary ISIS core. That might be the best place to determine what's happening and what we can do to get back to the ship."

LaRoca nodded. "Lead the way."

They jogged down a short corridor to Antechamber B. The secondary ISIS core was housed in a small room off to one side. LaRoca activated the interface.

"Please input command."

"ISIS, Security override!"

"I'm sorry, Admiral. It is not possible to override the emergency protocols at this time. Primary ISIS core is offline. This secondary core has limited functionality. Intruders have been detected in all levels. Power failures in the security grid have allowed inmates to escape, and all holomatrices are offline. Until order is restored, Facility 4028 is on lockdown. Communications are blocked, a transporter inhibition field has been activated, and the shuttlebay is protected by a Class Ten force field."

"Okay, what do I need to do to bring the primary core online and get out of here?"

"The primary ISIS core must be reinitalized from the primary core control room near Antechamber A. Additionally you will need to remove hostile inmates and intruders from both processing zones and the main holding area. Peripheral cell blocks and isolation zones are contained with force fields, however ISIS control cannot be restored while prisoners or intruders may have access to either the primary or secondary ISIS cores. Two protocols are accepted to restore order in the case of a catastrophic event in the facility. If prisoners in main holding and processing areas are subdued using either lethal or non-lethal protocols, you will then be able to reboot the primary ISIS core."

"Describe these protocols."

"Emergency site-to-site transport is available. If you subdue the prisoners using non-lethal measures and then tag them for transport, I will be able to move them to a safe holding zone. When order is restored, you will be able to bring me completely back online. The holographic staff can take over from there. However, in the instance of a complete loss of control in the facility as now, Starfleet Command has authorized use of a lethal protocol. While the loss of life will be regrettable, it has been deemed preferable to allowing the residents of Facility 4028 to escape. Be advised that I have insufficient resources to devote to support multiple protocols. Please decide which protocol you wish to follow and input your selection at this time."

"Non-lethal," LaRoca responded.

"Lethal," said Ssharki, simultaneously.

"Command not recognized," ISIS stated. "Please repeat."

Jesu LaRoca glared at his Gorn friend. "There are a lot of prisoners up there with a lot of valuable information in their heads, and Starfleet Intelligence would prefer that they remain intact."

"There's also a lot of Jem'Hadar up there," Sway pointed out, "and they'll cheerfully kill anyone. Prisoners, Eraun's people, us... The only way to stop them is to kill them first."

"I know how to fight the Jem'Hadar," LaRoca grumbled.

"My point is," Sway went on, "a stun setting for a normal humanoid will barely slow a Jem'Hadar down, while something that would stun one of them would be lethal for many other species, including Humans. And it would be impractical to reset our weapons for every enemy we encounter. Besides, your sword doesn't have any stun setting."

LaRoca fingered the hilt of his Nausicaan saber.

Ssharki voiced his opinion. "I say we set our weapons to maximum and kill everything that moves."

LaRoca rolled his eyes. "Oh, that's your solution to everything."

"That's because it always works!"

"Ugh! Why are we even arguing about this?" Eraun whined.

"Shut up," everyone else said together.

"What about K'staa, that Gorn up there?" Jesu argued. "Do you want to kill him too?"

Ssharki crossed his arms. "Actually, I do. You read his bio. K'staa murdered seventeen civilians for no good reason. If he was on my crew and he pulled something like that, I would have personally blown him out of an airlock."

LaRoca sighed and looked to his first officer.

Marq raised his arms helplessly. "I'm sorry sir, but I have to concur with Ssharki and Sway. Though the non-lethal option would be preferable, it's not at all practical in this situation."

"Alright, fine." Jesu LaRoca keyed the ISIS interface. "Lethal."

"Lethal option accepted. ISIS will monitor inmate lifesigns in main holding and processing areas and lift primary core lockout once lifesigns in these areas are terminated."

LaRoca turned to the Changeling. "Founder, we need to fight our way through three levels of this facility in order to escape. I'm afraid I don't have a weapon to offer you but-"

The Founder's forearms shimmered and liquefied. "I am a weapon."

Admiral LaRoca nodded. "Of course." He drew his sword and stomped to the door. "Let's get bloody."

They returned to Processing B just as the opposite door opened for the Lethean convict Alevant and several other inmates. Alevant's red eyes bored into LaRoca and rooted him to the floor. The Human knew he was being telepathically attacked but there was nothing he could do about it. He could only see red light shooting from the Lethean's eyes and drilling into his skull.

Fortunately the rest of the group was unaffected by Alevant's rapture attack. The two Gorn sprinted along the far wall to flank the prisoners, firing as they ran. Marq crouched in front of the Admiral, set his disruptor pistol to emit a beam of hyperonic radiation and started shooting at Alevant. The Founder and her Jem'Hadar bodyguards charged the group of prisoners. The Changeling spread her arms and tackled a mass of prisoners. She moved in a blur of amber fluid and started flinging inmates into the walls.

Alevant's telepathic hold on LaRoca finally weakened. He shook his head clear, shouted incoherently and ran toward the battle, but by the time he crossed the room it was all over. Marq had just fired a final disruptor bolt through the Lethean's head. The other prisoners had all either been blasted by the Gorn or battered to a pulp by the Changeling.

Marq caught up with LaRoca. "Hold still, sir."

"Ah! What is that?"

Marq removed the hypospray from the Admiral's neck. "Melorazine. Neural restorative. You needed it."

"Uh. Thanks. That does feel better." LaRoca looked up. There was a stampede of feet pounding the deck plating above. "Sounds like more of them are coming down the stairs. Let's be ready!"

"On it." Ssharki led the way through the door and knelt at the bottom of the stairs. He opened his fabrication kit and quickly deployed a pair of rapid-fire disruptor burst turrets, a shield generator, and a frisbee-shaped support drone.

LaRoca looked on incredulously. "You're carrying all of that with you?"

"You never know when you might need an arsenal," Ssharki answered as he pulled out the finishing touch: a hexagon-shaped piece of translucent polycrystalline composite that unfolded itself eighteen times to form a nigh-impenetrable cover shield in front of the shield generator. "Just duck back here when your personal shield gets worn down," Ssharki instructed his comrades. "The generator will charge you back up."

"Here they come," Sway announced. The prisoners came around the corner on the landing above and froze. Then one of them shouted something and the horde poured down the stairs. It was a massacre. The few inmates who made it past the withering disruptor fire had to choose between LaRoca's sword, the Jem'Hadars' kar'takins or the Founder's clutches. It was over in seconds.

"Weapons fire detected. Possesion of weapons is a violation of facility regulations."

"Shut up, ISIS," LaRoca muttered, wiping the green blood of some logic-deprived Vulcan off his Tegolar saber.

They went up the stairs to Main Holding and found it a scene of absolute bloody chaos. Kar'ukan's Jem'Hadar forces were fighting off dozens of enraged inmates, armed with table legs, utensils, stolen Jem'Hadar weapons and their bare fists. Adding the surreal quality of the setting was ISIS repeating through the speakers "Violence is against facility regulations. All inmates are ordered to return to their cells." In the middle of the action there was a three-meter tall, 400kg Gorn named K'staa who was destroying everything he could reach. Jem'Hadar, fellow inmates, furniture, whatever. As the eight unlikely allies watched, K'staa picked up a Tellarite, bit his head off, and threw his body at a pair of Jem'Hadar.

Ssharki had seen enough. He stepped forward and shouted at K'staa in their native language. The universal translator interpreted the challenge as "I'll turn your yellow hide inside-out, you murdering snake!"

K'staa faced his smaller adversary and sneered. He picked up a long table, held it over his shoulder like a bat and charged. Ssharki ducked an rolled away from K'staa's clumsy swing. The General got under his opponent and launched shoulder-first into his stomach. The gold-plated blade of Ssharki's shoulder pad gouged deep into K'staa's thick skin and muscle. He grunted and doubled over, but recovered quickly. He swung back at Ssharki as he tried draw his weapon. The assault rifle blocked the blow but the force of the impact still sent Ssharki reeling. K'staa laughed and stepped up for another swing. This time Ssharki used a mok'bara technique to step under and then move with the swinging table. He gripped it from the other end and transferred his momentum to it, accelerating its rotational motion and wrenching it of K'staa's grasp. Ssharki released the table and sent it helicoptering off into a crowd of inmates and Jem'Hadar.

K'staa raised his claws and opened his mouth and lunged at the General. Ssharki caught him in the throat with butt of his gun, then kicked his clawed boot into K'staa's stomach wound. He doubled over again, and Ssharki sent him sprawling with a spinning kick to the chin. As K'staa staggered back to his feet, Ssharki raised his assault weapon. He checked that it was set to fire in arcwave mode at the maximum power setting, said "Goodbye, K'staa," and pulled the trigger. The massive blast of disruptor energy vaporized the hulking Gorn and two nearby inmates.

Meanwhile, LaRoca and the others fought their way to a nearby control room, where with Marq's help Jesu was able to bring the phaser turrets online. He manually reestablished the identify-friend-or-foe parameters to ensure that his Gorn friends and Dominion allies would not be targeted, and released them to free-fire. The results were devastating. Within seconds, dozens of prisoners and Jem'Hadar were cut down, leaving only two small groups outside the firing arcs - a small cluster of Jem'Hadar soldiers without a First, and a slightly larger band of prisoners including Makkan, the True Way terrorist.

The Founder swooped in on her wayward soldiers like an eagle preying on frightened mice. But Makkan had gotten his fellow inmates well-armed and organized. They pinned down LaRoca and the others inside their control booth. LaRoca had brought plenty of tricks with him though. He rolled a smoke grenade across the floor, blinding Makkan's group. Then he strapped on his enhanced eyepiece, allowing him to see the infrared spectrum and pick out his targets through the blinding smoke. While Sway provided suppressing fire from his pistols, LaRoca sprinted to Makkan's position. With a photon grenade and a few slashes of his sword he drove the inmates out of their protected gap and into the sights of the phaser turrets. Only Makkan remained to face him, but he did not remain standing long.

They regrouped at the bottom of the other stairway and found a handful of Jem'Hadar engaged in a firefight with a group of prisoners on the landing above. "Lower your weapons!" the Changeling ordered.

The soldiers turned and gasped. "Founder!" A few well-placed shots from Ssharki, Marq and Sway dispatched them before they could do anything else. The prisoners on the stairs tried to run, but Marq used his tricorder to induce an electro-gravitic field and dropped them to the floor. LaRoca then tossed a photon grenade into their midst and that was the end of them.

They ascended the stairs and reached Processing A to find a small number of Jem'Hadar and inmates fighting together against the Undine prisoner who had formerly impersonated Captain T'Vix. The bodies of two dead Undine and many other Jem'Hadar and assorted inmates were scattered around the room. Working together and focusing their efforts on one target at a time, LaRoca, Ssharki, Marq, Sway, the Founder and Eraun's Jem'Hadar quickly overwhelmed "T'Vix" and the other prisoners and Kar'ukan's intruders.

"That's it!" Marq announced. "We should be able to reboot ISIS now."

"Confirmed," ISIS said, "critical areas are clear of inmates and intruders. However, intruder forces have brought down the containment field in Cell Block A Three. Processing A is vulnerable to counterattack."

"We'll hold this room," Ssharki declared, already unpacking his fabrication kit. "Jesu, you reboot ISIS."

"The primary core is off of Antechamber A," Marq informed.

"Right." LaRoca left the others and sprinted down the short corridor that led to the antechamber.

"Ah... Admiral... we meet again." Amar Singh was standing there, alone, aiming a Jem'Hadar pistol. "What a surprise!"

LaRoca had had quite enough of life's little surprises at this point. "You know, wearing that bright marigold jumpsuit, you don't look nearly as evil as you sound."

Singh grinned wickedly as he appraised the bloodstained Admiral. "Well this is an interesting situation, don't you think?"

"I think you should return to your cell."

"And why would I want to do that? No one is attacking me, the facility is in chaos, and given a little luck, I might be able to stroll right out the front door."

"You'll never get outside the facility."

"Oh, really? I know this place has a spacedock - we used it when I arrived. All I need to do is get a shuttle and escape. By this time next week, I could be back in Klingon space, continuing my research!"

"The Klingons would kill you on sight. B'vat's dead, and when word of what he had you doing to the Gorn reached the Hegemony, it almost sparked a full revolt. The High Council has officially discommendated B'vat and condemned your research."

"A pity. But I'm sure I could find some other men of vision who will support my work. The True Way, perhaps. Didn't I read of some gene-splicing experiment the Cardassians conducted during the Dominion War?"

LaRoca seethed. "Forget it, Singh! There's a force field blocking the shuttle bay and it's not coming down until your either dead or in your cell. Now, what's it going to be?"

Singh lowered his pistol and scratched his beard. "ISIS. I knew I forgot something..."

"There's no way out, and I can't guarantee your safety unless you return to your cell."

"Stop your incessant yammering and let me think!" Singh shouted. "Hmmm... you have a ship in orbit, but so do the Jem'Hadar, and there is a ninety-percent chance that one or both of those vessels will fire on a ship leaving the facility. I could use the transporters, but there's an eighty-six-percent chance that ISIS has cut off access to those. However, I could circumvent ISIS in approximately three-point-two minutes... No, the probability of success is well outside the acceptable limits. Very well, I'll return to captivity. But only if you promise to report that I did so willingly! I need every advantage I can get if I am to continue my work."

"Agreed."

Singh tossed the pistol over his shoulder and raised his hands. "You may return me to my cell."

LaRoca walked up to the mad scientist, his sword held at the ready. I've killed so many evil people today, he thought. Surely one more won't make a difference. He glanced around at the lifeless holocams and raised his weapon.

"Admiral," Singh asked fearfully, "what are you doing?"

Jesu answered with a cruel smile and [RECORDING DELETED - Authorization: Laroca-Two-Three-Three-Whiskey-Alpha-Charlie]

There were several control panels surrounding the ISIS core. LaRoca found one that was flashing the word INITIALIZE and tapped it. The core glowed with vibrant shades of blue that raced up the helix in pulses. Then the Warden slowly began to materialize, facing a wall. "Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

"Warden? Over here, Warden! Speak to me!"

"I see you, Admiral, it's just... Ah, there it is. Diagnostic cycle complete." The hologram turned around to face Admiral LaRoca. "It took a few seconds for ISIS to bring me completely back online. I apologize for the delay."

"Can you take it from here?"

"Certainly. Now that ISIS is online, disposing of the intruders and getting the remaining prisoners back in their cells and settled down should be trivial. I've also contacted the nearest Starbase and requested fleet support and an engineering team. We'll be back at peak operating capacity in no time."

"Excellent. I'll be leaving with the Founder now."

"I will unlock Transporter Pad A for you to use. Thank you, Admiral, for your assistance. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been here."

LaRoca returned the antechamber and met Marq leading the others with his tricorder. "Transporter room," the first officer said. "This way."

The Admiral fell in step. "Did anyone see Taris?" he asked.

They hadn't. "She was probably cowering in her cell the entire time," Sway suggested.

LaRoca found that doubtful. Given the opportunity to escape, Taris would not have sat still. He shrugged off the thought and slapped his combadge. "LaRoca to Tib."

"Tiburon here, sir. What's your status?"

"The facility is secure. We're preparing to beam out. What's up with you?"

"We've masked our energy signature and are hiding out amongst the asteroid field. We're moving into transporter range now. There's no sign of Eraun's ship. It must have warped out, unless it was destroyed."

"How typical," Eraun muttered. "Leave the Jem'Hadar alone for an hour and look what happens."

LaRoca's group assembled on the transporter pad. "Ready here," the Admiral called. "Eight to beam directly to the bridge."

"Stand by sir," said Barrister, the Tiburon's deputy ops officer. "Interlinking the transporter systems... plexing the Heisenberg compensators..." The android had an annoying habit of describing in exacting detail every step of whatever process he was engaged in. "Boosting the gain... refocusing the confinement beam..."

"Any day now, Barrister."

"Stand by... Energizing..."

LaRoca blinked uncomfortably as he rematerialized on his bridge. "Report!"

Traa'cee jumped out of the command chair. "Sir, there are multiple Jem'Hadar ships approaching on an intercept course. They must have detected our transporter signature. And long range sensors are picking up additional Dominion vessels inbound at high warp. I've contacted Starfleet command, but I don't know if-" The comm panel lit up on her TacOps station. "Incoming hail, sir. It's the lead Jem'Hadar ship. Kar'ukan wants to speak to you."

"Put him on-screen."

The Jem'Hadar elder glowered through the viewscreen. "Surrender the Founder and your pet, Admiral, and I may allow you to live. Refuse, and I will destroy your ship!"

"My pet? What are you going to do with my leopard shark?"

"He's bluffing!" Eraun insisted. "He can't harm a Founder!"

Jesu looked over at the Vorta. "Oh, he meant you."

"I can and I will, Vorta! Victory is life!"

Traa'cee spoke up. "Sir, Federation ships are inbound! It looks like the Opaka, the Fletcher, and the Belfast. The Belfast is hailing, audio only."

"Let's hear it."

Captain Va'kel Shon's voice reverberated through the Tiburon's bridge. "Looks like we got here just in time! What do you say we knock of some of these Jem'Hadar punks and race back at the rally point on Bajor?"

"I'll be waiting with a case of Andorian ale!" LaRoca faced the viewscreen and smirked. "Now where were we Kar? Discussing the terms of your surrender, I believe?"

Kar'ukan was understandably furious. "No! I will have the Founder! All ships, attack!"

"Get that thing off my viewscreen." LaRoca snapped. Traa'cee complied, closing the channel. LaRoca glared at the massive shape of the Jem'Hadar dreadnought carrier dead ahead. "Now get that thing off my viewscreen. Open fire, all phasers! Launch all fighters!"

The dreadnought returned fire with its polaron beams and turned away, but even firing a full broadside it couldn't match the punishing firepower being put out by the Akira-class heavy escort carrier, and she was just getting started.

"Miss Zain," LaRoca called to his Cardassian projectile weapons officer, "Quantum torpedoes. High-yield warhead setting. Fire on my mark."

"Yes sir!" Zain replied giddily.

LaRoca turned to Ssharki and explained "Lieutenant Zain and I have a shared passion for kinetic disassembly."

The Belfast joined the fight, making a head-on pass and raking the dreadnought with its quad phaser cannons and dual beam banks.

"Target's shields are failing!" Traa'cee reported.

"Miss Zain? If you please."

Four bluish orbs streaked toward the dreadnought, but before they could deliver payloads of massive zero-point energy, the dreadnought warped away to safety.

"Unbelievable," Ssharki muttered. "The cowardly petaQ bailed out again."

LaRoca was not nearly so subdued with his reaction. "Dammit, I wanted to see him explode!!"

"Oh, me too!" cried Lt.jg. Zain. "I'm sorry, sir!"

"More ships closing within weapons range," Traa'cee reported, ignoring the emotional outbursts around her. "Jem'Hadar reinforcements are two minutes out."

LaRoca pulled up a holographic heads-up display in front of his chair. "Target these three ships," he ordered, selecting a pair of attack ships and a heavy escort cruiser. He turned to his Gorn helmsman, Lt. Stikvaa. "Sticks, Attack pattern alpha-three, full throttle." He looked over at his weapons officers. "Numbers, cannon scatter volley. Zain, full spread of quantums as soon as Numbers gets their shields down. And this time I'd better see some explosive results!"

"It won't take long, sir," promised Lt. Erick "Numbers" Marsolek.

LaRoca called targets for the rest of the attack group and his fighter squadron and looked up when the torpedoes launched. The attack ships tried to run away but the torpedoes were too close and too fast. Both targets were quickly destroyed. The heavy escort was a bit tougher, though, and it was returning fire.

"Forward shields are down to sixty perecent!" reported Ens. Boris Erebia from the shield distribution station. "Compensating."

"Yoann, get a tractor beam on that ship and hold it in place. Zain, when we close within one kilometer, lay a spread of quantum mines, dispersal pattern beta."

"Yes sir!"

Knowing the heavy escort wouldn't be bothering him much longer, LaRoca looked for his next target. The Opaka and the Fletcher were slugging it out with a Jem'Hadar battleship but were also now being swarmed with enemy fighters and attack ships. The Fletcher's shields were down to critical levels and the Opaka's phasers were offline. "Helm, put us right in the middle of that furball. Engineering, extend our shields to the Fletcher. Numbers, another scatter volley, target the fighters and attack ships."

The Tiburon left the Dominion heavy escort blowing up in its wake and arrived in the middle of the pitched fight with all the subtlety of a hurricane, blasting everything in range with its forward cannons and phaser array and aft turrets. The Jem'Hadar ships quickly focused their attention on the greatest threat.

"We're losing shields, sir!" Erebia warned. "Twenty-five percent across the board."

"Engineering, transfer all power to shields," LaRoca ordered. "Even battery power." He watched the heads-up-display, being constantly updated by information from Traa'cee's sensors, and tracked the shield strengths of all his attackers. "Miss Zain," he said after a few seconds had passed and Dominion's shields were all in the red, "you may now press the button that makes everybody die."

Ssharki was sure he'd heard that wrong. "The what?"

Lt.jg. Zain clapped her hands and squealed "Yay!" and tapped the button on her console marked TPDS. The torpedo point defense system deployed from the top and bottom of the Tiburon's aft weapons pod and fired a omnidirectional spread of photon torpedoes at every target within range. Like a swarm of angry red bees, over forty torpedoes chased after their marks and when they found them, the results were simply cataclysmic.

Ssharki hit the ceiling and his jaw hit the floor. "I want that button!" he exclaimed.

Inevitably, Traa'cee interrupted the celebration with bad news. "Twenty-six Jem'Hadar warships just entered the system," she announced, "including three dreadnoughts. They're engaging the Belfast."

"Bring us in range, Sticks," LaRoca ordered. "Let's help our friend out."

"Captain Shon is hailing us, sir."

"Onscreen."

"Hey, Admiral, a little help over here would be great," Shon said with a smile, right before an explosion knocked him off his feet.

"Sir!" Shon's Caitian tactical officer called out. "Shields are at forty-seven-percent and falling!"

Captain Shon picked himself off the floor and looked up at the view screen. "We can't hold them off forever, Tiburon."

"We're almost there, Va'kel. Just don't blow up for another minute. Tib out." LaRoca frowned as he assessed the situation on his HUD. The Belfast was surrounded by hostiles. If it wasn't for the fact that the Defiant-class presented such a difficult target profile, it probably would have been destroyed already. The Tiburon was forty-five seconds away from maximum weapons range, but the slower cruisers Opaka and Fletcher were another minute behind. Even with all the firepower the Tiburon and its fighters could bring to bear, it wouldn't be enough to defeat the Dominion fleet. "This will not end well," he announced.

"Can't you just push your magic button again?" Ssharki wondered.

"Unfortunately, that only works once." LaRoca looked at the HUD and identified the weakest targets. "What we can do... is blast a hole in the ring around the Belfast so we can all jump to warp." He nodded and looked towards his weapons officers. "Make it happen. Fire at will on these targets and give Shon a gap."

"Right."

"Recall the fighters and get me the other two ships on audio."

"You're on," Traa'cee told him.

"Fletcher, Opaka, this is Admiral LaRoca. We don't stand a chance against this fleet. I'm ordering you to return to Bajor at maximum warp. We'll get the Belfast clear and be right behind you."

"In weapons range," Traa'cee announced.

"Firing..." Streaks and bolts of phaser energy pierced the black sky, trailed by a hail of quantum torpedoes. They found their targets with lethal accuracy, ripping a hole in the Dominion's net.

"Hail 'im," LaRoca ordered. "There's your hole, Shon! Get out of there!"

"Sir! A Jem'Hadar Attack Ship is breaking formation," Traa'cee announced. "It's on a collision course with the Belfast!"

"All power to weapons!" LaRoca shouted. "Overload the beam array! Stop that ship!"

Lt. Marsolek hit the attack ship with a rapid-fire volley from the phaser cannons while the array charged up, then he unloaded a massive energy discharge on his target. The Jem'Hadar vessel was simply vaporized.

However, it had been firing at the Belfast all the while, causing terminal damage. "They have a warp core breach in progress!" Traa'cee observed.

"Barrister, I don't care how, just lock transporters on all life signs aboard the Belfast and energize the instant you have them!"

"Sir, the Dominion fleet is coming after us- Belfast hailing!"

Va'kel Shon appeared onscreen again amidst the wreckage of his bridge. "Admiral, forget about us! Get the Founder and Eraun to safety! They're all that matters!"

"Oh, don't be so melodramatic, Va'kel. I can easily rescue you too."

Shon disappeared from the viewscreen in a transporter beam a few seconds before the Belfast herself disappeared in a warp core breach.

LaRoca watched the armada bearing down as he addressed his conn officer. "Sticks, tell me you already have a course laid in to Bajor, or anywhere but here."

"Of course," Stikvaa replied. "Maximum warp at your command."

The Jem'Hadar started shooting.

"Go-go-go!!"

The galaxy stretched beyond the bounds of relativity and the Tiburon left Facility 4028 very far behind.

* * *



Conclusions -

It should be obvious to any rational or non-biased individual that the security breach and I.S.I.S. failure was a result of Kar'ukan's interference, likely caused directly by the dampening field detected by the Tiburon and by my first officer's tricorder. Although the Iconian energy signature detected may provide an alternate explanation; however because it was limited to the immediate proximity of Taris' cell in main holding it is doubtful it could have impacted either I.S.I.S. core. It is my opinion that Facility 4028 as constructed was simply ill-equipped to deal with a large-scale assault and was too dependent on technological systems. Finally, based on my observations and experience at this facility, I suggest that the Federation council consider instituting the death penalty for subjects shown to be resistant to rehabilitation, particularly augments and war criminals.

Signed,

- V. Adm. Jesu Laroca


"I won't try to hide behind the Law if what I stand for is what's Right."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 07-29-2014 at 03:36 PM. Reason: Audio track