In the Searing Light of Dawn II

Darwyn Carson as
"The Romulan Tal'Shiar Operative"
T'Sanne finally fell asleep some time around 0630 hours, station time.  She dreamt of standing in the halls of Central Command of Cardassian Prime.  Most of the lights had burned out while the others flickered, half the building was destroyed, and an entire contingent of Cardassians lay dead at her feel, soaking up her shoes with their blood.  She could smell or taste anything; she moved with uncertain sluggishness of the dream state, wondering why she was even seeing this.

Not that she was particularly bothered by the sight of all the bodies.  During her short tenure with the Tal'Shiar, she'd seen much worse.  She paused, mulling over the bizarre vision, when a cold metallic voice called her from her deep slumber.

"The time is now 0730.  Please acknowledge."

For the first time in a long time, T'Sanne realized just how wearied and jet-lagged she was.  It took her a few minutes to get her voice working, while the computer repeated itself every thirty seconds until she did.  It took her another several minutes to actually get out of bed, and she yawned her way through her sonic shower, barely remembering to soap and condition her hair.

Naked, still dripping water and smelling faintly of Romulan jasmine, she plodded out of her bathroom and across her bedroom to the replicator.

"Computer, double raktajino."

Though many Romulans loathed to admit it aloud, it was simply impossible to be a high-ranking individual and function on a regular basis without the aid of Klingon coffee.  The potent, richly aromatic drink was powerful enough to keep one awake for two days straight if necessary, and it was always necessary, especially for the Tal'Shiar.

T'Sanne never ate breakfast; food never seemed to agree with her in the morning.  She instead lotioned herself with kamia butter from Betazed and combed clear, scentless camellia oil from Risa.  T'Sanne chuckled at the thought of her toiletry selection; it was the best-kept secret amongst all Romulan women who traveled that xenophobia and beauty did not go hand in hand.  The moment T'Sanne had discovered various oils and herbs from other worlds, there was no turning back.

She arrived at Sisko's office fifteen minutes earlier, allowing herself a leisurely stroll through Ops without talking to anyone.  Sisko's Bajoran First Officer - a woman whose name T'Sanne could never remember, gave her a stiff nod in greeting which T'Sanne didn't returned.  She knew it was rude and somewhat harsh, but that was the point.  As a member of the Tal'Shiar it was her duty to incite fear and discomfort in others, though something told her it would be wasted on Sisko.

He was lounging back in the chair behind his desk, toying with a strange little white ball.  To his left sat a dark red coffee mug half-filled with raktajino.  He sweetened his, she could tell; the scent of honey wafted across the room to her.

"Captain," she greeted coldly, determined to stay on topic.

"Subcommander," he nodded, his voice soft and airy.  His face remained as impassive as she remembered, and he didn't offer her a seat.  It appeared he too was determined to get down to business.

"You are no doubt aware of why I am here."

"I suppose it has to do with the recent involvement of Romulus in the war against the Dominion," he replied calmly, his eyebrow raised as if to call attention to the obvious logic of the statement.  "You are welcome, of course."

"I am here because the Tal'Shiar is still verifying the death of Senator Vreenak," T'Sanne said, eyes drilled into his, seeking a reaction, any reaction.  "After running an analysis on the computer core of his shuttle, we found that his ship passed through Bajoran space on his way back to Romulus."

"I see," came the empty reply.

"We find it odd that he would choose such a route when there were more direct flight plans to Romulus from Soukara."

"I find that odd as well," Sisko replied simply.  "He never stopped by here, if that's what you're wondering."

"Why would we be wondering that?"

Sisko gave only the slightest shrug.  "Why else would you be here?"

The corners of T'Sanne's mouth tugged at a smirk which she smoothly resisted.  She'd already known this was pointless.  There was no evidence, nothing concrete anyway.  Nevertheless, she had a mission to complete.

"We always wondered how he came across the Cardassian data rod which showed the Dominion intent to invade Romulus," she mused.  "We find it odd that the Dominion could be so careless with such sensitive information, and then simply let him walk off the planet with it...only to destroy his ship days later outside Bajoran space."

I have Vulcan cousins, human.  I too can be logical.

The silence which ensued was most gratifying, even though Sisko's face never changed and his voice didn't falter.  T'Sanne inwardly smiled.  Elim Garak had coached this man very well.

"If the Tal'Shiar is seeking answers, Subcommander, I'm afraid I don't have any," came the coolly diplomatic reply, no doubt having been rehearsed for hours.  "I unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting Senator Vreenak."

T'Sanne was amused and she let herself show it.  "Vreenak was known for his infamously low opinion of Starfleet, and he especially detested the Federation alliance with the Klingon Empire.  Why on earth would you consider meeting him a pleasure?"

"Because the man single-handedly accomplished what hundreds of Klingon and Federation operatives could not," Sisko replied immediately.  "He exposed the Dominion."

"Vreenak was no operative."

"No, but he was a Romulan Senator, and they never travel alone," Sisko countered deftly, as though he were bantering about the weather or the wormhole.  There was even a bit of a chuckle in his statement.  "Though the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire hardly see eye to eye, we've always admired your people's efficiency when it comes to matters of intel."

"Vreenak traveled to Dominion space on a diplomatic mission.  He supported a Romulan-Dominion alliance - why would they assassinate him?  Why bother invading willing allies?"

"Because as the Cardassians have had to learn the hard way, the Dominion isn't interested in allies," Sisko pressed.  "It's interested in loyal citizens.  You yourself just referred to Cardassian territory as 'Dominion space' when last I checked, this is the Alpha Quadrant and the Founders aren't from around here."

There was that silence again, only this time it worked to Sisko's advantage, which he wasted no time in taking.

"Vreenak went to offer alliance, but instead found out the Dominion was interested in servitude."  The human Captain paused, staring out his office window into the vast darkness of space.  "He tried to warn his people," he murmured in that soft yet imposing voice of his, "and his reward was to lose his life."

"That is speculation," T'Sanne remarked coldly.  "The Tal'Shiar is interested in proof."

"You have a dead senator and a data rod," Sisko replied bluntly, bitterly.  "What more do you need?"

She had no response, of course.  Though he was mostly speculating, he still made a lot of sense.  Except, there was this one...tiny...thing....

"The Dominion has consistently honored its non-aggression pacts all across this sector and beyond," T'Sanne quietly noted.  "They could've easily conquered the Bajorans but they didn't.  Or the Tholians, or the Miradorn - the list goes on.  Why Romulus?  Why leave those other worlds and invade Romulus?"

"The other worlds pose no threat," Sisko sighed, his weariness showing.  T'Sanne wondered if he too was sleep-deprived and merely living off raktajino these days.  "If the Federation, the Klingon and Romulan Empires were to fall, no one else would put up a fight.  I'm surprised the Romulans weren't more suspicious about a people who made a big show of signing non-aggression pacts, yet kept flooding our quadrant with Jem-Hadar soldiers.  So if you're trying insinuate that the Dominion is without treachery, you can save your breath.  Gul Dukat is living proof of their treachery."

T'Sanne had forgotten about the Cardassian Gul.  He hadn't even been mentioned in her mission briefing.  Though she kept her face neutral, she was deeply intrigued to hear what Sisko would say next.

"Dukat was responsible for letting vampires in," Sisko said grimly, still staring out his window.  "They promised him mastery of not only Cardassia, but the entire Quadrant."

T'Sanne was lost on something.  "Vampires?" she inquired tentatively.

"Creatures from human folklore," Sisko explained.  "They are traditionally people who die and come back from the grave.  They survive off the blood of the living, and they can only enter your home if you invite them in."

"Ah," T'Sanne nodded slightly.

"Gul Dukat went mad when we reclaimed this Station," Sisko went on.  "We took him into custody as a war criminal.  Not once has the Dominion attempted a rescue."

It was T'Sanne's turn to raise an eyebrow.  She imagined it made her look more Vulcan than Romulan.  "What need would they have for him?  If it is the Alpha Quadrant they want, they're well on their way to gaining that.  For now," she added hastily.

"Nevertheless, they owe the man their gratitude," Sisko said, looking grim again.  "He took them in, and they abandoned him."

"You're a peculiar man, Captain Sisko," T'Sanne said finally.  "You know of Vreenak's attitude towards your people, yet you laud him as a hero.  You are aware of Gul Dukat's betrayal, and the atrocities which resulted, but you sympathize with him."

When the Captain spoke next, his voice was leaden.  "People are people, Subcommander."

"Indeed," she nodded politely.  She paused, before breaking the news.  "We were supposed tour the station and dine together tonight."  She'd heard of his culinary skills.  "But my superiors have assigned me to the Jen'ai System.  I am expected there by 1500 hours tomorrow, station time."

Sisko looked faintly alarmed.  "Jen'ai?  That's currently under Dominion occupation."

T'Sanne nodded again.  "I've been ordered to continue my investigation.  The assassination of Romulan Senator is a serious matter, Captain; already it has triggered a declaration of war.  It will not go quietly," she added, staring meaningfully into his eyes.

"I understand."

"I will be meeting with a Vorta named Larine.  She was part of the delegation on Soukara. I expect her answers to be...insightful."

"I see."

"If there is anything else you wish to tell me, Captain, you may say it now."

Sisko seemed to mull that over for a moment before advising, "Watch your back, Subcommander."

T'Sanne's eyebrow rose again, but she said nothing.

And whom will I be watching for?  Federation spy or Dominion assassin?