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[2010: JUL-AUG] The Bajoran Goat-Girls


Alleran Tan

Verdict?  

5 members have voted

  1. 1. Should Ensign Tiel be bought back to Bajor to face trial?

    • Yes.
      1
    • No.
      3
    • Other (please leave a comment!).
      1


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(( IMPORTANT NOTE: Read the story before voting in the poll! Thanks. ))

((USS Charles Darwin, Corridor Six (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

Ensign Tiel uttered a quiet Cardassian curse, twisting his phase coil resonator slightly to achieve the desired result. With a quiet chirp, the replicator came back online. The older Cardassian, well into his fifties, was merely an Ensign aboard the Charles Darwin... he had joined very late in life, enlisting as an engineer.

"Looks like it's going again," he said to his workmate, giving a subtle smile. The Cardassian's voice was soft and gentle; not a social person, he tended to focus on his duties, performing them adequately but without particular flair. Accordingly, he had remained an Ensign for some years, but he was quite content with that position.

"Nice work," replied James, the terran engineer who was working with Tiel. "Captain Rillari will be happy now we've finally got the entire replication system back online. That woman loves her coffee."

Captain Rillari was a Bajorian. Obviously, Tiel tended to stay out of her way. Rillari was polite to him, overly so; perhaps that betrayed how she really felt. But such things were natural, between the two races. Nothing Tiel could say or do would change that.

Tiel nodded. "Let's head back. We still have fifteen more minutes on our duty shift, so let's go over some of the paperwork and-"

His combadge chirped. Tiel tapped it. "Ensign Tiel here, go ahead."

Captain Rillari's voice filtered through the comm system. "Ensign Tiel, report to my ready room immediately." Her tone was stressed, agitated.

James gave Tiel a playful clap on the back. "Maybe you're finally getting that promotion!" he exclaimed, smiling widely.

Tiel was not so sure.

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Larthan village (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

Gul Marev strode down the village street, dressed in all his finery and accompanied by two of his security guards. People scurried out of his way, throwing fearful glances at the powerful Cardassian. Young and strong, he had reached the rank of Gul in record time; his drive and ambition were well known in the Cardassian Union.

"They're like voles running away from a Myvar cat," growled the guard to his right, a satisfied smirk on his face. The man was Sergeant Zumarl and what he said was true; the Bajorians had reason to be afraid.

"Now now," scolded Gul Marev condescendingly, "It is not the fault of the Bajorian people. They are simply innately cowardly... and, obviously, well suited to menial labour. It's just their nature."

Zumarl scoffed. "They're filthy peasants, nothing more. Even this village sickens me. The women here are hardly bountiful. All the beautiful women- and men, if you prefer- appear to live on the other side of the mountain, in Perjell village. There's only old men and young children here."

Gul Marev gave a tired sigh, shooting a disapproving frown to the guard. "The yamok sauce is always tastiest on other diner's plates. You're imaging it."

Cardassian Intelligence had given Gul Marev a tip that the Bajoran underground had a cell located in one of the houses in a nearby village. When they arrived, the Cardassian troops had already locked down the building and secured everyone inside. A huddle of terrified Bajorians, middle aged and elderly mostly, crowded together. A young male, effeminate Bajorian teenager had been separated from the group. He looked about fifteen and stood locked in manacles, a terrified expression stamped on his face.

At his arrival, the Bajorians and Cardassians alike fell silent.

"I am Gul Marev," he announced, his voice barely above a whisper... but in the dead silence of the ransacked house, it carried louder than a bomb. "Is it true that Bajorian terrorists operate from this building?"

There was no answer, which was all the answer Marev needed. "Take them away for sentencing, followed by trial."

A single voice spoke up; an old man, his tone quivering, pleading. "Please, please. Gul Marev...! Please. I was in the cell, I'm an explosive expert- a former miner. My daughter Lilali had nothing to do with it! Please, just let her go!"

Daughter? Marev raised an eyeridge, looking over at the scared 'boy'. 'Ahh... an interesting disguise. The shaved head was a nice trick.' After a moment's pause, he spoke again. "The census information was clear... that there were no female children in this building."

'And it's no wonder', he thought to himself.

"Falsifying census information is a punishable offense." A malicious, lecherous sneer slowly spread over the Cardassian Gul's face. "Guard... I think I'll 'interrogate' her... personally. Bring her with us."

Lilali, the disguised woman, began to sob. Gul Marev simply turned, striding away from the house and heading back to his compound, his men dragging the woman behind them... he ignored the woman's anguished wails and the begging cries of her parents, the latter quickly fading into the distance.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

"Come."

Ensign Tiel stepped into the room. Captain Rillari sat at her desk. She cut an imposing figure silhouetted against the starfield covered window behind her, the starlight glinting off the four full pips on her collar. Three other Bajorians, dressed as civilians, stood beside her.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

Captain Rillari didn't answer right away. She merely pursed her lips, as though giving serious preponderance to her next words. "Sit, please. We have a serious matter to discuss."

Tiel sat. "Captain, is there something wrong?"

"You're right … something IS wrong," spat one of the Bajoran civilians, an elderly woman. "How long it's taken to bring you to justice, you filthy spoonhead."

Tiel felt a sinking feeling in his second stomach, but he was far too collected to give even the slightest reaction. "I am not sure what you mean..."

Captain Rillari's Bajorian earring jingled as she leaned forward, pushing forward a PADD. "These... Bajorians have made a very serious allegation against you, Ensign Tiel," she said, speaking calmly and slowly. "Do you recognize the man in this holoimage?"

Tiel did not have to look at the picture to answer, but he did so anyway. The picture was of Gul Marev in his prime; the powerfully muscled Cardassian man was striding down the main street of a village Tiel knew very well. Larthan village.

"I do," Tiel answered, with sincerity.

"Who is that man?" asked Captain Rillari, her tone careful and deliberate.

Tiel slowly looked up. "I am."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

Lilali snarled, tugging on her chains. "No! I said NO!"

"You WILL wear it," snarled Marev, again thrusting forward the "dress"... if it even could be called that. It was essentially five carefully arranged lengths of crimson, sparkling string with three tiny triangles of fabric dangling between them. It was Gul Marev's favourite.

"I've seen more conservative outfits on Ferenginar!" she spat. "I'll never be your whore, you understand that! NEVER! I'll fight you with my last bit of strength!"

"Brave words," Marev whispered, his tone ominous, "but ignorant. Do you understand what will happen if you fail to comply? I will NOT be denied the spoils of our conquest."

Marev paused, letting the meaning of his words settle in. "I have a Galak class destroyer in orbit, simply awaiting my order to strike; you will serve me, girl, or you will watch from the battlements of this compound as all your friends and family burn to ashes." He gave a slow shrug. "Then, I will drug you."

After waiting what appeared to be an eternity, Lilali tearfully reached out for the garment.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

"You are certain?" asked Captain Rillari, interlocking her fingers in front of her.

"Ikashian Marev is my birth name," Tiel admitted, his face a stony, expressionless mask.

"You see? He admits it!" One of the elderly man leaned over, spitting in Tiel's face. Neither Captain Rillari nor Tiel reacted, except for an involuntary flutter of Tiel's left eyelid where moisture struck it.

The elderly man put his hands on Rillari's desk, leaning forward, scowling menacingly. "The Bajorian provisional government has found you guilty in absentia of, willingly and on multiple occasions, violating the Federation Declaration of Universal Rights during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor. Specifically, Articles One, Three, Four, Nine, Twelve, Sixteen, Twenty, Twenty one, Twenty-"

"I remember the Occupation and all its brutality very well, thank you," Tiel replied, dipping his head just a little in politeness.

"Do you have anything else to add?" asked Captain Rillari.

Tiel gave a slow shrug. "How could I possibly excuse the genocide of the Bajorian people?"

Captain Rillari paused. "I must warn you... that as a member of the Federation of Planets, if Bajor wishes to extradite you to face justice amongst our people... I will be compelled to turn you over to them. Their warrant is authentic."

"Where I will doubtless receive a fair trial," Tiel responded, giving a slightly hollow grin. "I quite like this new justice system they have come up with. It's very... Cardassian."

Captain Rillari reacted at least. A dark scowl crossed her face. "I will take that as a no."

Tiel held up his hand. "You quoted to me the Universal Declaration of Rights," he said, "But whatever else I am, I am also a Starfleet Officer and familiar with Federation law. You have, in your zeal, neglected Articles Ten and Fourteen. My right to a fair and impartial trial and my right to apply for other civilizations for asylum, respectfully. As evidenced by the uniform I am wearing, I have obviously exercised article Fourteen. Article Ten, however, has been denied me."

"You didn't give a fair trial to any of the 'comfort women' you abducted, nor the young boys you took for the same, nor-" began the old woman again. Captain Rillari held up her hand to silence her.

"As a Bajorian, it is my opinion that you would not receive a fair trial on Bajor," Rillari admitted. "The hate the Cardassian Union stirred within my people runs deep."

Tiel nodded. "What do you propose?"

"As you know, First Officer Takul is a former legal adviser to the Vulcan embassy on Bajor. His impeccable logic, legal skill and familiarity with the Bajorian people would serve as an excellent arbitrator."

Tiel permitted himself a gentle smile. "Agreed."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Woo hoo, the Gul's caught himself a hot one!" hollared one of the Cardassians, leering at the practically naked Bajorian woman being lead through the camp by Gul Marev, a thick chain around her neck. Lilali hissed at him in reply.

"This one's all mine," Gul Marev cautioned the young soldier.

The soldier scowled angrily. "They're *always* all yours," he snarled, stepping forward. "You've taken practically every half-decent woman on this accursed rock for your harem- when are we going get OUR fun?"

Gul Marev froze completely. Slowly, deliberately, he turned to face the junior soldier who dared to challenge his authority. "I beg your pardon?"

"N-nothing, sir."

Gul Marev took a step towards the soldier, scowling harder than a Tal Shiar agent. "Remarkably loud and insubordinate, this... 'nothing'... of yours," he whispered, eyes narrowing.

The soldier took a step back. "I simply mean, sir, that perhaps... the harem is beginning to get a little full. There have been plagues and diseases sweeping through there for months now, so many have died... if we housed them in appropriate conditions, then even the enlisted men would have plenty of-"

The soldier's words were cut off by the high pitched whine of a phaser. He crumpled to the ground. Marev sheathed his sidearm.

"And here I thought the Cardassians were a strong race, not afraid of a little suffering!" he shouted, tone dripping with malice. "If I hear ANY more question of my orders, or my particular..." his face became a lecherous smirk, "... tastes... then the gossipers will meet the same fate as this coward."

He spat on the corpse.

"Sergeant Zumarl, clean up this mess."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"Sergeant Zumarl, what happened next?" asked First Officer Takul, prompting the middle aged Cardassian man. The Bajorians had, apparently, also bought their star witness to the Charles Darwin.

"Gul Marev lead the prisoner into Cell Block Three," answered the Cardassian, "Exactly as he did all the Bajorian women he took possession of."

"Did you ever see that prisoner again?"

Takul shook his head. "No. She got sick right after Marev locked her in- there was a plague going around that cell block and the death toll was quite horrific. Most newcomers only survived a few days or less. I don't know why Marev deliberately kept all his... 'comfort women'... in there, but..."

The retired soldier glanced to Tiel, then back at Takul. "... I suspect it was so that once he was done with them they would die, concealing the evidence of his misdeeds. The cells were automatically decontaminated by a powerful burst of targeted Zeta radiation every night; contraband, equipment and corpses were automatically vaporized. Marev, of course, was inoculated against the disease."

First Officer Takul inclined his head in a typically Vulcan way. "So Gul Marev kept many female prisoners?"

Zumarl nodded in agreement. "But not only women," he admitted. "Sometimes men, too. Men who hadn't committed serious crimes, but he obviously had an interest in. I'm guessing they got much the same treatment as the women. I wish I could help them, but I was only following orders."

Takul nodded. "Thank you for your testimony. Mister Marev, would you please step forward?"

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Leave us," Marev said to the guards in this cell. "I can't... perform... when others are watching."

Lilali faced the man, a hateful snarl escaping her lips. "You're filth," she growled. "You're slime- you're an evil man and, one day, the Bajorians are going to over-throw the Cardassians! And you believe me, right after Gul Dukat you'll be the second Cardassian lined up against the wall and shot for what you've done!"

Marev reached into a pocket, pulling out what appeared to be some kind of highly advanced military holoimager. He pointed it at Lilali. "Remove your top," Marev ordered.

"Go to hell," Lilali spat, folding her arms across her chest.

"I suppose it'll be fine without it." Marev pressed the shutter. He placed the holoimager on the ground, then kicked it over to Lilali's feet. Instantly, it became a rock; indistinguishable from the other debris laying around on the floor. With a quiet hum, a holographic form appeared near to Lilali's feet; a woman, her face broken and bloody, her arms and shoulders blighted by some kind of plague.

Her face was a perfect copy of Lilali's, aside from the bruises and bloodied lip.

"What is this?" she asked, looking confused.

Marev pulled another device from his pocket, a tiny handheld tricorder. He tapped a button and the wall behind Lilali shimmered and disappeared, revealing a vast hole leading deep into the earth.

"This tunnel leads to the limestone caves beneath Mount Valusha," he said, indicating down the passage. "The caverns are cold and treacherous, you will find your journey to be most uncomfortable... but you should survive. Further down this tunnel you will find a small bundle," he explained. "Within in is a heavy woolen coat and hat, along with eight magnesium flares to light your way. This is all the equipment I can provide to you; the Cardassian sensor grid in these tunnels is extremely sensitive, but it is..." he gave a wry grin, "... stupid. The coat is made of goat fleece and with that coat on, and nothing else, the sensor grid will think you to be one of the blind tunnel goats that infest this area. They occasionally chew on the magnesium deposits found on the walls, so the flares will also be unnoticed- I cannot give you more than precisely eight, however, since that exceeds the sensor's threshold."

Lilali stood in muted silence, unable to process what had just happened.

Marev continued. "Even if your light runs out, keep going- follow the fresh breeze. Eventually you will come to the surface, right outside Perjell village." He gave a wry smile. "The inhabitants of Perjell are very accustomed to having barely clad goat-girls climb out of their caves; they will care for you... and due to the high altitude and bitterly cold temperature... along with a little influence from me... the Cardassians never go there. You will be safe, I promise you."

Lilali was in shock. Her parents had tried desperately to hide her from the infamously lecherous Gul Marev... yet he, apparently, was setting her free unharmed.

"Why are you doing this?"

Marev shrugged. "I've been asked that question many times, usually by a pretty man or woman standing right there in that very spot. I can only say that my control of my men... is limited. I can only save who I can, prevent as many atrocities as possible. I apologize sincerely for the deception I had to play upon you, your family- but I ask of you only one thing. Once you're on the other side, you CANNOT contact them. The chance that the communication would be intercepted would be too high."

Lilali's head spun. "You do this to everyone who comes here?"

Marev smiled, genuinely. "As many as I can- but still, far too few. Now, please- you must go. The guards will be returning soon."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"No wonder Perjell village had all the beautiful women," Zumarl remarked coyly.

"And you swear that this story is true?" asked Takul, the Vulcan man regarding Tiel curiously.

"It is- on my word as a Starfleet Officer."

The three Bajorian civilians looked positively incensed at Tiel's answer; Captain Rillari thrice had to silence their loud outbursts during the Cardassian's testimony, until finally she'd told them that if they continued to speak out of turn she would immediately have them taken from the impromptu courtroom and not allowed to return. Desperate for justice, they had reluctantly fallen silent.

Takul nodded. "Do you have any evidence that supports this claim?"

Tiel shook his head. "I went to great pains to hide every aspect of what I was doing. There was no plague in Cell Block Two; there weren't even any occupants, only holograms. It gave me a reasonable excuse to spirit people away then have them quietly disappear. My men had no idea."

Takul nodded. "What about a physical inspection of the camp to find the tunnel?"

Tiel chuckled bitterly. "About a week before the occupation ended, right when things were at a head, the camp was hit by plasma mortars from insurgents in the nearby village. The entire cell block... which was underground... took a direct hit and caved in. It'd take you two months to dig down to where the tunnel was, and even if you could find it- and I doubt the Bajorans will look too hard- it'd be impossible to determine if it went to the cells, or if any Bajorians ever travelled down it."

Takul processed this information. "What about anyone from Larthan village?"

Tiel shook his head. "They thought I was a monster who was abducting, raping and presumably killing their children. I doubt any of them have anything but pure, utter contempt for me. I am certain nobody even suspected I was freeing the Bajorans and I am very confident you'll not find a sympathetic voice there."

Takul tried one last thing. "And what of the, allegedly, hundreds of people you helped escape? Have any of those been located?"

Tiel sighed. "When they arrived at Perjell, the women and men were strongly encouraged to create new identities to avoid detection by the Cardassian occupiers. I'm guessing many of them stuck with them after the occupation ended- most of their families were dead anyway, or couldn't be located, so there was no reason to go back to their old selves. And, well... let's just say that, post occupation, any Bajorians who spoke fondly of the Cardassians were frequently branded as traitors... especially in rural areas like Musilla Provence. Even today, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone I set free who'll tell the truth."

Takul spent a moment considering.

(( Let's stop here; I want to involve the forum community in this story. I have setting up a poll (see above). The poll is to determine if Takul will find that there is suitable evidence to extradite Tiel/Gul Marev to Bajor or not. I will wait until midnight on Tuesday the 10th of August (Central Australian Time), which is one week, before tallying the votes, then continuing and ending the story based on what the community feels is a good ending. ))

(( I will make one cautionary observation: The story is currently about 3,500 words long, EXCLUDING these bracketed comments, but including the section titles. It is already way too long and will have to be edited for length. This editing will be done over the next week, but I am currently having a hard time figuring out exactly what to cut; I feel everything is important and paints a picture of what went on here. So, accordingly, while I will have to somehow butcher it down to 3,000 words INCLUDING the new ending, I won't save ANY change to the story until the end of next week. ))

(( I'd also like to encourage feedback, discussion and feedback on the story. Please post anything you feel might improve the story, I'd really appreciate it! Vote early, vote often! And thanks for reading, I hope everyone enjoyed it (so far!). ))

Edited by Alleran Tan
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First: Great to already see a story submitted!

On that note - I love the idea of a poll: reminds me of a choose your own adventure type story - you should post it in the Character Cafe http://www.starbase118.net/forums/index.php?/forum/6-character-cafe/

If you want people to vote on a poll that's the best place for it to go.

It's still fully acceptable - once edited for word total - in the writing challenge though!

We just don't really do polls on this section.

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Thanks for that! :)

I can move the poll but people have started voting. Sorry. Next time I'll get it right. :P

Cheers,

Tan.

First: Great to already see a story submitted!

On that note - I love the idea of a poll: reminds me of a choose your own adventure type story - you should post it in the Character Cafe http://www.starbase118.net/forums/index.php?/forum/6-character-cafe/

If you want people to vote on a poll that's the best place for it to go.

It's still fully acceptable - once edited for word total - in the writing challenge though!

We just don't really do polls on this section.

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Doh.

Well, only one person aside from me has voted but time is up... so voting is now closed. I'll have a stab at rewriting some parts in the next day or so, including adhering to the word limit and adding an ending as promised.

Cheers,

Tan.

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(( I lost the ability to edit my original post, so I'm reposting it. This should be the final draft... assuming I can stop myself from tweaking it further. It's a teeny bit over the word limit, but not by too much. If requested I'll cut some more. ))

((USS Charles Darwin, Corridor Six (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

Ensign Tiel uttered a quiet Cardassian curse, twisting his phase coil resonator slightly to achieve the desired result. With a quiet chirp, the replicator came back online. The older Cardassian, well into his fifties, was merely an Ensign aboard the Charles Darwin... he had joined very late in life, enlisting as an engineer.

"Looks like it's going again," he said to his workmate, giving a soft smile. The Cardassian's voice was quiet and gentle; not a social person he tended to focus on his duties, performing them adequately but without flair. Accordingly he had remained an Ensign for some years but he was quite content with that position.

"Nice work," replied James, the terran engineer who was working with Tiel. "Captain Rillari will be happy now we've finally got the entire replication system back online. That woman loves her coffee."

Captain Rillari was a Bajoran. Obviously, Tiel tended to stay out of her way. Rillari was polite to him, probably overly so; perhaps this betrayed how she really felt. Still, some hostility was expected between the two races.

Tiel nodded. "Let's head back. We still have fifteen more minutes on our duty shift, so let's go over some of the paperwork and-"

His combadge chirped. Tiel tapped it. "Ensign Tiel here, go ahead."

Captain Rillari's voice filtered through the comm system. "Ensign Tiel, report to my ready room immediately." Her tone was stressed, agitated.

James gave Tiel a playful clap on the back. "Maybe you're finally getting that promotion!" he exclaimed, smiling widely.

Tiel was not so sure.

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Larthan village (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

Gul Marev strode down the village street, dressed in all his finery and accompanied by two of his security guards. Bajorans scurried out of his way, throwing fearful glances at the powerful Cardassian. Young and strong, he had reached the rank of Gul in record time; his drive and ambition were well known in the Cardassian Union.

"They're like voles running away from a Myvar cat," growled the guard to his right, a satisfied smirk on his face. The man was Sergeant Zumarl and what he said was true; the Bajorans had reason to be afraid.

"Now now," scolded Gul Marev condescendingly, "It is not the fault of the Bajoran people. They are simply innately cowardly and, obviously, well suited to menial labour. It's just their nature."

Zumarl scoffed. "They're filthy peasants, nothing more. Even this village sickens me. The women here are hardly bountiful. All the beautiful women live on the other side of the mountain, in Perjell village. There's only old men and young children here."

Gul Marev gave a tired sigh, shooting a disapproving frown to the guard. "The yamok sauce is always tastiest on other diner's plates. You're imaging it."

Cardassian Intelligence had given Gul Marev a tip that the Bajoran underground had a cell located in one of the houses in a nearby village. When they arrived, Cardassian troops had already locked down the building and secured everyone inside. A huddle of terrified Bajorans, middle aged and elderly mostly, crowded together. A young male, effeminate Bajoran teenager had been separated from the group. He looked about fifteen and stood locked in manacles, a terrified expression stamped on his face.

At his arrival, the Bajorans and Cardassians alike fell silent.

"I am Gul Marev," he announced, his voice barely above a whisper... but in the dead silence of the ransacked house, it carried louder than a bomb. "Is it true that Bajoran terrorists operate from this building?"

There was no answer, which was all the answer Marev needed. "Take them away for sentencing, followed by trial."

"What of the girl?" one of the Cardassians growled, yanking on the boy's arm.

"Girl...?" asked the Gul, eyes narrowing.

"A pitiful disguise," the soldier remarked, grinning lecherously. "Let us have her, sir?"

A single voice spoke up; an old man, his tone quivering, pleading. "Please, please. Gul Marev...! Please. I was in the cell, I'm an explosive expert- a former miner. My daughter Lilali had nothing to do with it! Just let her go!"

"The census information was clear... that there were no female children in this building. Falsifying census information is a punishable offense." A malicious, lecherous sneer slowly spread over the Cardassian Gul's face. "Guard... I think I'll 'interrogate' her... personally. Bring her with us."

Lilali, the disguised woman, began to sob. Gul Marev simply turned, striding away from the house and heading back to his compound, his men dragging the woman behind them... he ignored the woman's anguished wails and the begging cries of her parents, the latter quickly fading into the distance.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

"Come."

Ensign Tiel stepped into the room. Captain Rillari sat at her desk. She cut an imposing figure silhouetted against the starfield covered window behind her, the starlight glinting off the four full pips on her collar. Three other Bajorans, dressed as civilians, stood beside her.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

Captain Rillari didn't answer right away. She merely pursed her lips, as though giving serious preponderance to her next words. "Sit, please. We have a serious matter to discuss."

Tiel sat. "Captain, is there something wrong?"

One of the Bajorans, an elderly woman, hissed angrily. "It's wrong how long it's taken to bring you to justice, you filthy spoonhead!"

Tiel felt a sinking feeling in his second stomach, but he was far too collected to give even the slightest reaction. "I am not sure what you mean..."

Captain Rillari's Bajoran earring jingled as she leaned forward, pushing forward a PADD. "These... Bajorans have made a very serious allegation against you, Ensign Tiel," she said, speaking calmly and slowly. "Do you recognize the man in this holoimage?"

Tiel did not have to look at the picture to answer, but he did so anyway. The picture was of Gul Marev in his prime; the powerfully muscled Cardassian man was striding down the main street of a village Tiel knew very well. Larthan village.

"I do," Tiel answered, with sincerity.

"Who is that man?" asked Captain Rillari, her tone careful and deliberate.

Tiel slowly looked up. "I am."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

Lilali snarled. "No! I said NO!"

"You WILL wear it," snarled Marev, again thrusting forward the "garmet"... if it even could be called that. It was essentially five carefully arranged lengths of crimson, sparkling string with three tiny triangles of fabric dangling between them.

"I've seen more conservative outfits on Ferenginar!" she spat. "I'll never be your whore, you understand that! NEVER! I'll fight you with my last bit of strength!"

"Brave words," Marev whispered, his tone ominous, "... but ignorant. Do you understand what will happen if you fail to comply? I have a Galak class destroyer in orbit, simply awaiting my order to strike; you will serve me, girl, or you will watch from the battlements of this compound as your friends and family burn to ashes." He gave a slow shrug. "Then, I will drug you."

After waiting what appeared to be an eternity, Lilali tearfully reached out for the garment.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

"You are certain?" asked Captain Rillari, interlocking her fingers in front of her.

"Ikashian Marev is my birth name," Tiel admitted, his face a stony, expressionless mask.

"You see? He admits it!" One of the elderly man leaned over, spitting in Tiel's face. Neither Captain Rillari nor Tiel reacted, except for an involuntary flutter of Tiel's left eyelid where moisture struck it.

The elderly man put his hands on Rillari's desk, leaning forward. "The Bajoran provisional government has found you guilty in absentia of, willingly and on multiple occasions, violating the Federation Declaration of Universal Rights during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor. Specifically, Articles One, Three, Four, Nine, Twelve, Sixteen, Twenty, Twenty one, Twenty-"

"I remember the Occupation and all its brutality very well, thank you," Tiel replied, "I was there."

"Do you have anything else to add?" asked Captain Rillari.

Tiel gave a slow shrug. "How could I possibly excuse the genocide of the Bajoran people?"

Captain Rillari paused. "I must warn you... that as a member of the Federation of Planets, if Bajor wishes to extradite you to face justice amongst our people... I will be compelled to turn you over to them. Their warrant is authentic."

"Where I will doubtless receive a fair trial," Tiel responded, giving a slightly hollow grin. "I quite like this new justice system they have come up with. It's very... Cardassian."

Captain Rillari reacted at last, a dark scowl crossed her face. "I will take that as a no."

Tiel held up his hand. "You quoted to me the Universal Declaration of Rights," he said, "But whatever else I am, I am also a Starfleet Officer and familiar with Federation law. You have, in your zeal, neglected Articles Ten and Fourteen. My right to a fair and impartial trial and my right to apply for other civilizations for asylum, respectfully. As evidenced by the uniform I am wearing, I have obviously exercised article Fourteen. Article Ten, however, has been denied me."

"You didn't give a fair trial to any of the 'comfort women' you abducted, nor-" began the old woman again. Captain Rillari held up her hand to silence her.

"As a Bajoran, it is my opinion that you would not receive a fair trial on Bajor," Rillari admitted. "The hate the Cardassian Union stirred within my people runs deep."

Tiel nodded. "Then what do you propose?"

"As you know, First Officer Takul is a former legal adviser to the Vulcan embassy on Bajor. His impeccable logic, legal skill and familiarity with the Bajoran people would serve as an excellent arbitrator."

Tiel permitted himself a gentle smile. "Agreed."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Woo, the Gul's caught himself a hot one!" hollared one of the Cardassians, leering at the practically naked Bajoran woman being lead through the camp by Gul Marev, a thick chain around her neck. Lilali hissed at him in reply.

"This one's all mine," Gul Marev cautioned the young soldier.

The soldier scowled angrily. "They're *always* all yours," he snarled, stepping forward. "You've taken practically every half-decent woman on this accursed rock for your harem- when are we going get OUR fun?"

Gul Marev froze completely. Slowly, deliberately, he turned to face the junior soldier who dared to challenge his authority. "I beg your pardon?"

"N-nothing, sir."

Gul Marev took a step towards the soldier, snarling. "Remarkably loud and insubordinate, this... 'nothing'... of yours," he whispered, eyes narrowing.

The soldier took a step back. "I simply mean, sir, that perhaps... the harem is beginning to get full. There have been plagues and diseases sweeping through there for months now, so many have died... if we housed them in appropriate conditions, then even the enlisted men would have plenty of-"

The soldier's words were cut off by the high pitched whine of a phaser. He crumpled to the ground. Marev sheathed his sidearm.

"And here I thought the Cardassians were a strong race, not afraid of a little suffering!" he shouted, tone dripping with malice. "If I hear ANY more question of my orders, or my particular..." his face became a lecherous smirk, "... tastes... then the gossipers will meet the same fate as this coward."

He spat on the corpse.

"Sergeant Zumarl, clean up this mess."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"Sergeant Zumarl, what happened next?" asked First Officer Takul. The Bajorans had, apparently, also bought their star witness to the Charles Darwin.

"Gul Marev lead the prisoner into Cell Block Three," answered the Cardassian, "Exactly as he did all the other Bajoran women."

"Did you ever see that prisoner again?"

Takul shook his head. "No. She got sick right after Marev locked her in- there was a plague going around that cell block. The death toll was quite horrific. Most newcomers only survived a few days or less. I don't know why Marev deliberately kept all his... 'pets'... in there, but..."

The retired soldier glanced to Tiel, then back at Takul. "... I suspect it was so that once he was done with them they would die, concealing the evidence. The cells were automatically decontaminated by a powerful burst of targeted radiation every night; contraband, equipment and corpses were automatically vaporized. Marev, of course, was inoculated against the diseases."

First Officer Takul inclined his head in a typically Vulcan way. "So Gul Marev kept many prisoners?"

Zumarl nodded in agreement.

Takul nodded. "Thank you for your testimony. Mister Marev, would you please step forward?"

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Leave us," Marev said to the guards in this cell. "I can't... perform... when others are watching."

Lilali faced the man, a hateful snarl escaping her lips. "You're filth," she growled. "You're slime- you're an evil man and, one day, the Bajorans are going to over-throw the Cardassians! And believe me, right after Gul Dukat you'll be the second Cardassian lined up against the wall and shot for what you've done!"

Marev reached into a pocket, pulling out what appeared to be some kind of highly advanced military holoimager. He pointed it at Lilali. "Remove your top," Marev ordered.

"Go to hell," Lilali spat, folding her arms across her chest.

"I suppose it'll be fine without it." Marev pressed the shutter. He placed the holoimager on the ground, then kicked it over to Lilali's feet. Instantly, it became a rock; indistinguishable from the other debris laying around on the floor. With a quiet hum, a holographic form appeared near to Lilali's feet; a woman, her face broken and bloody, her arms and shoulders blighted by some kind of plague.

Her face was a perfect copy of Lilali's, aside from the bruises and bloodied lip.

"What is this?" she asked, looking confused.

Marev pulled another device from his pocket, a tiny handheld tricorder. He tapped a button and the wall behind Lilali shimmered and disappeared, revealing a vast hole leading deep into the earth.

"This tunnel leads to the limestone caves beneath Mount Valusha," he said, indicating down the passage. "The caverns are cold and treacherous... it's a long walk, but you should survive."

Lilali stared.

Marev pointed. "Further down this tunnel you will find a small bundle," he explained. "Within in is a heavy woolen coat, along with eight magnesium flares to light your way. This is all the equipment I can provide to you; the Cardassian sensor grid in these tunnels is sensitive, but..." he gave a wry grin, "... stupid. The coat is made of goat fleece and with it on... and nothing else... the sensor grid will think you to be one of the blind tunnel goats that infest this area. They occasionally chew on the magnesium deposits found on the walls, so the flares will also be unnoticed- I cannot give you more than precisely eight, however, since that would exceed the sensor's threshold."

Lilali stood in muted silence, unable to process what had just happened.

Marev continued. "Eventually you will come to the surface, right outside Perjell village." He gave a wry smile. "The inhabitants of Perjell are very accustomed to having barely clad goat-girls climb out of their caves; they will care for you. Due to the high altitude and bitterly cold temperature... along with a little influence from me... the Cardassians never go there. You will be safe."

Lilali was in shock. Her parents had tried desperately to hide her from the infamously lecherous Gul Marev... yet he, apparently, was setting her free unharmed.

"Why are you doing this?"

Marev shrugged. "I've been asked that question many times, usually by a pretty girl standing right in that very spot. I can only save who I can, prevent as many atrocities as possible."

Lilali's head spun. "You do this to everyone who comes here?"

Marev smiled, genuinely. "As many as I can- but not everyone. Now, please- you must go. The guards will be returning soon."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"No wonder Perjell village had all the beautiful women," Zumarl remarked.

"And you swear that this story is true?" asked Takul, the Vulcan regarding Tiel curiously.

"It is- on my word as a Starfleet Officer."

Takul nodded. "Do you have any evidence that supports this claim?"

Tiel shook his head. "I went to great pains to hide every aspect of what I was doing. There was no plague in Cell Block Two. I invented it to gave me a reasonable excuse to spirit people away. My men had no idea."

Takul nodded. "What about a physical inspection of the camp to find the tunnel?"

Tiel chuckled bitterly. "About a week before the occupation ended, right when things were at a head, the camp was hit by plasma mortars from insurgents in the nearby village. The entire cell block... which was underground... took a direct hit and caved in. It'd take you two months to dig down to where the tunnel was, and even if you could find it, it'd be impossible to determine if it went to the cells... or if any Bajorans ever travelled down it."

Takul processed this information. "What about anyone from Larthan village?"

Tiel shook his head. "They thought I was a monster who was abducting, raping and presumably killing their children. I am certain nobody even suspected I was freeing the Bajorans and I am very confident you'll not find a sympathetic voice there."

Takul tried one last thing. "And what of the, allegedly, hundreds of people you helped escape?"

Tiel sighed. "When they arrived at Perjell, the women and men were strongly encouraged to create new identities to avoid detection by the Cardassian occupiers. I'm guessing many of them stuck with them after the occupation ended- most of their families were dead anyway, or couldn't be located, so there was no reason to go back to their old selves. And, well... post occupation, any Bajorans who spoke fondly of the Cardassians were frequently branded as traitors, especially in rural areas like Musilla Provence. Even today, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone I set free who'll tell the truth."

Takul spent a moment considering.

Captain Rillari was crying. She stood, brushing her cheek with her hand. "Excuse me," she offered, turning and leaving the room.

Eventually Takul spoke.

"After deliberation, I find that there is sufficient evidence to extradite Ensign Tiel to Bajor to stand trial at the end of his tour of duty."

Tiel did not react aside from a brief nod. "Then that is your ruling. I will accept it."

For a moment, the impromptu courtroom was silent. Then the door wooshed open; Rillari returned, holding a small wooden chest.

"I honestly didn't think much of your story," she admitted, moving towards the table where Tiel sat. "It's reasonably far-fetched, wouldn't you admit?"

Tiel didn't really have a reply to that.

"But then..." Rellari paused, laying the chest on the table, "I remembered something my sister gave me. An old wooden chest which she said contained her most precious possessions. She gave it to me when I enlisted."

The Bajoran woman opened the chest, reaching inside. With trembling hands she produced a tattered, rotten s[...] of parchment. After a moment's hesitation she unfolded it, revealing exactly eight long, charred sticks.

Magnesium flares... standard Cardassian issue circa the occupation.

Rellari smiled, tears rolling down her cheeks. "We sold the coat to buy a ticket off-world so I could enlist in Starfleet. It was the only thing of value we had and she... desperately... didn't want to part with it. I fought with her for so long... I couldn't imagine why she'd want to keep that old, dusty thing, but she never told me why. Now I know."

Tiel managed a shaky smile. "Was she-"

Rellari shook her head. "My sister's name is Milakani," she stressed, "But... now I know you helped her, too."

The Bajoran woman smiled through her tears. "You're staying here with me, Ensign."

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  • 3 weeks later...

((USS Charles Darwin, Corridor Six (seven months ago)))

Ensign Tiel uttered a quiet Cardassian curse, twisting his phase coil resonator slightly to achieve the desired result. With a quiet chirp, the replicator came back online. The older Cardassian, well into his fifties, was merely an Ensign aboard the Charles Darwin... he had joined very late in life, enlisting as an engineer.

His combadge chirped. Tiel tapped it. "Ensign Tiel here, go ahead."

Captain Rillari's voice filtered through the comm system. Her tone was stressed, agitated. "Ensign, report to my ready room immediately."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Larthan village (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

Gul Marev strode down the village street, dressed in all his finery and accompanied by two of his security guards. Bajorans scurried out of his way, throwing fearful glances at the powerful Cardassian. Young and strong, he had reached the rank of Gul in record time; his drive and ambition were well known in the Cardassian Union.

"They're like voles running away from a Myvar cat," growled the guard to his right, a satisfied smirk on his face. The man was Sergeant Zumarl and what he said was true; the Bajorans had reason to be afraid.

"They're filthy peasants. Even this village sickens me. The women here are hardly bountiful. All the beautiful women live on the other side of the mountain, in Perjell village. There's only old men and young children here."

Gul Marev gave a tired sigh, shooting a disapproving frown to the guard. "The yamok sauce is always tastiest on other diner's plates. You're imaging it."

Cardassian Intelligence had given Gul Marev a tip that the Bajoran underground had a cell located in one of the houses in a nearby village. When they arrived, Cardassian troops had already locked down the building and secured everyone inside. A huddle of terrified Bajorans, middle aged and elderly mostly, crowded together. A young, male, effeminate Bajoran teenager had been separated from the group. He looked about fifteen and stood locked in manacles, a terrified expression stamped on his face.

At his arrival, the Bajorans and Cardassians alike fell silent.

"I am Gul Marev," he announced, his voice barely above a whisper... but in the dead silence of the ransacked house, it carried louder than a bomb. "Is it true that Bajoran terrorists operate from this building?"

There was no answer, which was all the answer Marev needed. "Take them away for sentencing, followed by trial."

"What of the girl?" one of the Cardassians growled, yanking on the boy's arm.

"Girl...?" asked the Gul, eyes narrowing.

"Tried to fool us," the soldier remarked, grinning lecherously. "Let us have her, sir?"

A single voice spoke up; an old man, his tone quivering, pleading. "Please, please. Gul Marev...! Please. I made the bomb, I'm a- a former miner. My daughter Lilali had nothing to do with it! Just let her go!"

"The census information was clear... that there were no female children in this building. Falsifying census information is a punishable offense." A malicious, lecherous sneer slowly spread over the Cardassian Gul's face. "Guard... I think I'll 'interrogate' her... personally. Bring her with us."

Lilali, the disguised woman, began to sob. Gul Marev left with his prize, the begging cries of her parents quickly fading into the distance.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (January 19th 2387, seven months ago)))

"Come."

Captain Rillari sat at her desk. She cut an imposing figure silhouetted against the starfield covered window behind her, the starlight glinting off the four full pips on her collar. Three other Bajorans, dressed as civilians, stood beside her. Ensign Tiel stepped into the room.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

Captain Rillari didn't answer right away. She merely pursed her lips, as though giving serious preponderance to her next words. "Sit, please. We have a serious matter to discuss."

Tiel sat. "Captain, is there something wrong?"

One of the Bajorans, an elderly woman, hissed angrily. "It's wrong how long it's taken to bring you to justice, filthy spoonhead!"

Tiel was far too collected to give even the slightest reaction. “Pardon?"

Captain Rillari's Bajoran earring jingled as she leaned forward, pushing forward a PADD. "These... Bajorans have made a very serious allegation against you, Ensign Tiel," she said, speaking calmly and slowly. "Do you recognize the man in this holoimage?"

Tiel did not have to look at the picture to answer but did so anyway. The picture was of Gul Marev in his prime; the powerfully muscled Cardassian man was striding down the main street of a village Tiel knew very well. Larthan village.

"I do," Tiel answered, with sincerity.

"Who is that man?" asked Captain Rillari, her tone careful and deliberate.

Tiel slowly looked up. "I am."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (twenty four years ago)))

Lilali snarled. "No! I said NO!"

"You WILL wear it," snarled Marev, again thrusting forward the "garmet"... if it even could be called that. It was essentially five carefully arranged lengths of red string with three tiny triangles of fabric dangling between them.

"I've seen more conservative outfits on Ferenginar!" she spat. "I'll never be your whore!"

"Brave words," Marev whispered, his tone ominous, "... but ignorant. Do you understand what will happen if you fail to comply? I have a Galak class destroyer in orbit, simply awaiting my order to strike; you will serve me, girl, or you will watch from the battlements of this compound as your friends and family burn to ashes." He gave a slow shrug. "Then, I will drug you."

After waiting what appeared to be an eternity, Lilali tearfully reached out for the garment.

((USS Charles Darwin, Captain's Ready Room (seven months ago)))

"You are certain?" asked Captain Rillari, interlocking her fingers in front of her.

"Ikashian Marev is my birth name," Tiel admitted, his face a stony, expressionless mask.

"You see? He admits it!" One of the elderly man leaned over, spitting in Tiel's face. Neither Captain Rillari nor Tiel reacted, except for an involuntary flutter of Tiel's left eyelid where moisture struck it.

The elderly man put his hands on Rillari's desk, leaning forward. "The Bajoran provisional government has found you guilty in absentia of, willingly and on multiple occasions, violating the Federation Declaration of Universal Rights during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor. Specifically, Articles One, Three, Four, Nine, Twelve, Sixteen, Twenty, Twenty one, Twenty-"

"I remember the Occupation and all its brutality very well, thank you," Tiel replied, "I was there."

"Do you have anything else to add?" asked Captain Rillari.

Tiel gave a slow shrug. "How could I possibly excuse the genocide of the Bajoran people?"

Captain Rillari paused. "I must warn you... that as a member of the Federation of Planets, if Bajor wishes to extradite you to face justice amongst our people... I will be compelled to turn you over to them. Their warrant is authentic."

"Where I will doubtless receive a fair trial," Tiel responded, giving a slightly hollow grin. "I quite like this new justice system they have come up with. It's very... Cardassian."

Captain Rillari reacted at last, a dark scowl crossed her face. "I will take that as a no."

Tiel held up his hand. "You quoted to me the Universal Declaration of Rights," he said, "But whatever else I am, I am also a Starfleet Officer and familiar with Federation law. You have, in your zeal, neglected Articles Ten and Fourteen. My right to a fair and impartial trial and my right to apply for other civilizations for asylum, respectfully. As evidenced by the uniform I am wearing, I have obviously exercised article Fourteen. Article Ten, however, has been denied me."

"You didn't give a fair trial to any of the 'comfort women' you abducted, nor-" began the old woman again. Captain Rillari held up her hand to silence her.

"As a Bajoran, it is my opinion that you would not receive a fair trial on Bajor," Rillari admitted. "The hate the Cardassian Union stirred within my people runs deep."

Tiel nodded. "Then what do you propose?"

"As you know, First Officer Takul is a former legal adviser to the Vulcan embassy on Bajor. His impeccable logic, legal skill and familiarity with the Bajoran people would serve as an excellent arbitrator."

Tiel permitted himself a gentle smile. "Agreed."

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Woo, the Gul's caught himself a hot one!" hollared one of the Cardassians, leering at the practically naked Bajoran woman being lead through the camp by Gul Marev, a thick chain around her neck. Lilali hissed at him in reply.

"This one's all mine," Gul Marev cautioned the young soldier.

The soldier scowled angrily. "They're *always* all yours," he snarled, stepping forward. "You've taken practically every half-decent woman on this accursed rock for your harem- when are we going get OUR fun?"

Gul Marev froze completely. "I beg your pardon?"

"N-nothing, sir."

Gul Marev turned and took a step towards the soldier, snarling. "Loud and insubordinate, this... 'nothing'... of yours," he whispered, eyes narrowing.

The soldier took a step back. "I simply mean, sir, that perhaps... your harem is beginning to get full. There have been plagues and diseases sweeping through there for months now, so many have died... if we housed them in appropriate conditions, then even the enlisted men would have plenty of-"

The soldier's words were cut off by the high pitched whine of a phaser. He crumpled to the ground as Marev sheathed his sidearm.

"And here I thought the Cardassians were a strong race, not afraid of a little suffering!" he shouted, tone dripping with malice. "If I hear ANY more question of my orders, or my particular..." his face became a lecherous smirk, "... tastes... then the gossipers will meet the same fate as this coward."

He spat on the corpse.

"Sergeant Zumarl, clean up this mess."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"Sergeant Zumarl, what happened next?" asked First Officer Takul. The Bajorans had, apparently, also bought their star witness to the Charles Darwin.

"Gul Marev lead the prisoner into Cell Block Three," answered the Cardassian, "Exactly as he did all the other Bajoran women."

"Did you ever see that prisoner again?"

Takul shook his head. "No. She got sick right after Marev locked her in- there was a plague going around that cell block. The death toll was quite horrific. Most newcomers only survived a few days or less."

The retired soldier glanced to Tiel, then back at Takul. "... I suspect it was so that once he was done with them they would die, concealing the evidence. The cells were automatically decontaminated by a powerful burst of targeted radiation every night; contraband, equipment and corpses were automatically vaporized."

First Officer Takul inclined his head in a typically Vulcan way. "So Gul Marev kept many prisoners?"

Zumarl nodded in agreement.

Takul nodded. "Thank you for your testimony. Mister Tiel, would you please step forward?"

((Bajor, Musilla Provence, Gul Marev's Compound (July 7th 2353, twenty four years ago)))

"Leave us," Marev said to the guards in this cell. "I can't... perform... when others are watching."

Lilali faced the man, a hateful snarl escaping her lips. "You're filth," she growled. "You're slime- you're an evil man and, one day, the Bajorans are going to over-throw the Cardassians! And believe me, right after Gul Dukat you'll be the second Cardassian lined up against the wall and shot for what you've done!"

Marev reached into a pocket, pulling out what appeared to be some kind of highly advanced military holoimager. He pointed it at Lilali. "Remove your top," Marev ordered.

"Go to hell," Lilali spat, folding her arms across her chest.

"I suppose it'll be fine without it." Marev pressed the shutter. He placed the holoimager on the ground, then kicked it over to Lilali's feet. Instantly, it became a rock; indistinguishable from the other debris laying around on the floor. With a quiet hum, a holographic form appeared near to Lilali's feet; a woman, her face broken and bloody, her arms and shoulders blighted by some kind of plague.

Her face was a perfect copy of Lilali's, aside from the injuries and disease.

"What is this?" she asked, looking confused.

Marev pulled another device from his pocket, a tiny handheld tricorder. He tapped a button and the wall behind Lilali shimmered and disappeared, revealing a vast hole leading deep into the earth.

"This tunnel leads to the limestone caves beneath Mount Valusha," he said, indicating down the passage. "The caverns are cold and treacherous... it's a long walk, but you should survive."

Lilali stared.

Marev pointed. "Further down this tunnel you will find a small bundle," he explained. "Within in is a heavy woolen coat, along with eight magnesium flares to light your way. This is all the equipment I can provide to you; the Cardassian sensor grid in these tunnels is sensitive, but..." he gave a wry grin, "... stupid. The coat is made of goat fleece and with it on... and nothing else... the sensor grid will think you to be one of the blind tunnel goats that infest this area. They occasionally chew on the magnesium deposits found on the walls, so the flares will also be unnoticed- I cannot give you more than precisely eight, however, since that would exceed the sensor's threshold."

Lilali stood in muted silence, unable to process what had just happened.

Marev continued. "Eventually you will come to the surface, right outside Perjell village." He gave a wry smile. "The inhabitants of Perjell are very accustomed to having barely clad goat-girls climb out of their caves; they will care for you. Due to the high altitude and bitterly cold temperature... along with a little influence from me... the Cardassians never go there. You will be safe."

Lilali was in shock. Her parents had tried desperately to hide her from the infamously lecherous Gul Marev... yet he, apparently, was setting her free unharmed.

"Why are you doing this?"

Marev shrugged. "I've been asked that question many times, usually by a pretty girl standing right in that very spot. I can only save who I can, prevent as many atrocities as possible."

Lilali's head spun. "You do this to everyone who comes here?"

Marev smiled, genuinely. "As many as I can- but not everyone. Now, please- you must go. The guards will be returning soon."

((USS Charles Darwin, Briefing Room (January 21st 2387, two days after Tiel's accusation)))

"No wonder Perjell village had all the beautiful women," Zumarl remarked.

"And you swear that this story is true?" asked Takul, the Vulcan regarding Tiel curiously.

"It is- on my word as a Starfleet Officer."

Takul nodded. "Do you have any evidence that supports this claim?"

Tiel shook his head. "I went to great pains to hide every aspect of what I was doing."

Takul nodded. "What about a physical inspection of the camp?"

Tiel chuckled bitterly. "About a week before the occupation ended, right when things were at a head, the camp was hit by plasma mortars from insurgents in the nearby village. The entire cell block... which was underground... took a direct hit and caved in. It'd take you two months to dig down to where the tunnel was, and even if you could find it, it'd be impossible to determine if it went to the cells... or if any Bajorans ever travelled down it."

Takul processed this information. "What about anyone from Larthan village?"

Tiel shook his head. "They thought I was a monster who was abducting, raping and presumably killing their children. I am certain nobody even suspected I was freeing the Bajorans and I am very confident you'll not find a sympathetic voice there."

Takul tried one last thing. "And what of the, allegedly, hundreds of people you helped escape?"

Tiel sighed. "When they arrived at Perjell, the women and men were strongly encouraged to create new identities to avoid detection by the Cardassian occupiers. I'm guessing many of them stuck with them after the occupation ended- most of their families were dead anyway, or couldn't be located, so there was no reason to go back to their old selves. And, well... post occupation, any Bajorans who spoke fondly of the Cardassians were frequently branded as traitors, especially in rural areas like Musilla Provence. Even today, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone I set free who'll tell the truth."

Takul spent a moment considering.

Captain Rillari was crying. She stood, brushing her cheek with her hand. "Excuse me," she offered, turning and leaving the room.

Eventually Takul spoke.

"After deliberation, I find that there is sufficient evidence to extradite Ensign Tiel to Bajor to stand trial at the end of his tour of duty."

Tiel did not react aside from a brief nod. "Then that is your ruling. I will accept it."

For a moment, the impromptu courtroom was silent. Then the door wooshed open; Rillari returned, holding a small wooden chest.

"I honestly didn't think much of your story," she admitted, moving towards the table where Tiel sat. "It's reasonably far-fetched, wouldn't you admit?"

Tiel didn't really have a reply to that.

"But then..." Rellari paused, laying the chest on the table, "I remembered something my sister gave me. An old wooden chest which she said contained her most precious possessions. She gave it to me when I enlisted."

The Bajoran woman opened the chest, reaching inside. With trembling hands she produced a tattered, rotten length of parchment. After a moment's hesitation she unfolded it, revealing exactly eight long, charred sticks.

Magnesium flares.

Edited by Alleran Tan
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