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The Courageous

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The Courageous

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Author: Dafydd ab Hugh
Publisher: Pocket Books, 1999
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Book 25
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

Kai Winn, the supreme spiritual leader of the Bajoran people, has never divulged what she personally did during the harsh and perilous days of the Occupation. But now, as alien warships fight to reclaim Deep Space Nine, she cannot help recalling those bygone days -- and her own private war against the alien oppressors.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wormhole, Captain Sisko and the crew of the Defiant are stranded on an alien world overrun by ruthless invaders....


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

THIRTY YEARS AGO

The Bulletin-Tea in Legate Migar's headquarters droned on and on, stretching into its fourth tedious hour. Sister Winn and the other Bajoran servants -- Shimpur Anan, who served Gul Feesat; Lisea Nerys and Alahata-something, who were brought down to the planet by Gul Dukat; and the six servants of Legate Migar who cooked and served the food (one was a true collaborator, Winn was certain) -- were at last allowed to eat their own lunch in the kitchen...after they had waited upon the high-ranking Cardassians, served, fetched, and cleared away.

Alone with themselves now, the Bajorans let their bitterness erupt; like a baby spitting up, thought Sister Winn, surprising herself with her own cynicism. Alahata spoke of his anger at servitude. He was nearly as young as Gul Ragat, but he had grown up in a village not far from Winn's, Riesentaka on the Heavenly Blue River. Winn tried to calm him with homilies from the Prophets, but the boy would not be placated. He'll learn, she thought in sadness, noting the interest of two of Legate Migai's valets, one of whom was probably the snitch.

The others spoke of domestic issues. Nerys was worried about the rains, which had come too soon for her father's farm. But even in the simplest conversation, Sister Winn could practically out the tension with a knife -- if Bajorans in service to a gul had been allowed knives. They each knew who and what they were, and how precarious was the thread by which their world dangled.

The Bajorans fell silent as Winn blessed the food, and they ate; the food was too rich for the priestess, not the simple, country fare she had grown up with, but the elaborate, spicy meats the Cardassians preferred among Bajoran foods -- food from the Northern Islands, Winn said to herself. Her mother had come from there, but her father had forbidden spice in the family meals, as he had a weak stomach.

The kitchen was gigantic but cozy. Legate Migar had not built his own house, but taken over the house of the original governor of the subcontinent, Riasha Lyas. Riasha had disappeared thirteen years ago and was rumored to have been sent up to Terok Nor; but no one who returned from the station orbiting Bajor had ever reported seeing him. A stained-glass window facing northwest allowed in much natural light in the afternoon, but Winn could not see outside. A smaller, plain window set above the stained glass afforded an abbreviated view...assuming the priestess were to stand on a chair. The men used the plain window to look out for arriving VIPs.

Red and blue shadows crossed the kitchen table as Winn pushed her food from one side of the plate to the other, hoping to fool the cook into thinking she had enjoyed the meal. She answered automatically whenever one of the other Bajorans would ask her religious advice, or beg for a prayer or benediction for the weather, the crops, a sick cousin, the soul of Bajor. But she smiled and turned her face full on whoever was speaking, seeming to give undivided attention; inside, Sister Winn was thinking dark thoughts and wondering how she could pull off her mission without ending up the Headless Sister of Shakarri.

At last, the table was cleared by the probable collaborator, whose name she learned at last: Revosa Anan. She filed away the information for future use. Sister Winn rose, gave a final blessing and thanks to the Prophets, and bowed her way out of the kitchen, saying she had to return and see if her master needed anything.

She stepped lightly toward the conference room but paused in the courtyard; no one appeared to be watching; the house felt heavy, sleepy after the midday meal. Bowing her head and walking with a firm step, Sister Winn turned to the right and cut across the short angle of the courtyard toward a small, forbidden door she had observed from its other side when she first arrived at Legate Migar's palace. The door opened to her firm touch; she entered, smiling and readying an obsequious apology if she ran into an overly dutiful Cardassian guard. Not that an apology would matter. If the door turned out to lead where she prayed it did, and she were caught inside, then the next stop would surely be Terok Nor... and Gul Dukat's tender ministry.

Sister Winn entered the small antechamber that led to the formal reception room, and in the other direction, to the entrance hall. The walls were done in bloodwood paneling, very dark, and the only light came from two "electric candle" light fixtures at opposite sides of the outer wall. Between the fixtures was another door, this one soundproofed and sealed with a push-button combination lock popular among the erstwhile Bajoran military missions...like the house of Governor Riasha.

Swallowing hard, the priestess approached the lock. Her steps faltered. If she were caught in the next few seconds, no amount of bowing and scraping could save her from interrogation, followed by execution -- and disgrace and exile for Gul Ragat; but quite frankly, Sister Winn could not have cared less what happened to her Cardassian "master." His own conscience was in the hands of the Prophets; either he would see and save himself, or he would remain in ignorance and be forever barred from their embrace.

The strangest thing about Cardassians, Winn pondered, is how thoroughly they believe their rules of conquered and conquerer! They had won the battle; they had won the war. Simple honor among soldiers required that the Bajorans accept their status and work to achieve full recognition as eventual citizens of the Cardassian Empire.

It certainly never occurred to Legate Migar to run around replacing all the locks in his house. It never penetrated his bony Cardassian skull that although poor Governor Riasha was probably in the arms of the Prophets a decade since, and the officers of the Bajoran Army were all executed or imprisoned in penal colonies or mines around the planet and even on Terok Nor, that many of the governor's former civilian engineers had also worked in the palace...and some had frequent occasion to work in the communications room. And the legate, who had never been any kind of an engineer, civilian or military, was evidently unaware of the disdain with which such people treat security precautions.

In particular, Legate Migar had never heard of a lock having a "back door," used by the engineers if the military men changed the lock and neglected to tell the civilian contractors. He had ordered the combination altered, of course; but he never realized that there was more than one combination.

Licking her dry lips, Sister Winn took a deep breath, stepped up to the lock, and punched in the back-door code she had received from her cell leader. The lock clicked twice, and the red lights on the side turned green. Sister Winn pressed firmly on the door, and it pushed noiselessly open, exposing a dark room whose walls were lined with communications equipment. In front of the six chairs were lists of common frequencies, map displays, and miracle of the Prophets, a current codebook!

Please protect me, she begged; then she stepped into the room, pushing the door nearly shut, and felt in the heel of her knee boot for the tiny, digital holocam she had carried for four months, waiting for just such an opportunity. The bright displays beckoned, but Sister Winn knew her first goal; she activated the codebook and began to click through it, snapping pictures of every screen.

When Sister Winn finally finished holocamming the book, a wave of relief flooded her brain. She wasn't "off the mountain," as her villagers used to say; she still had to exit without losing the holocam and get the images to her cell -- or some cell, at least. But at least, even if she got nothing else, her mission was successful.

Copyright © 1999 by Dafydd ab Hugh


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