After hours spent preying on the emotions of father and fiance over their shared love for a senselessly murdered girl, Dr. Lisa Hall returned to the safehouse. The scene there was not all that different from the one she’d just left. All around their suite in the Trachyte Tavern, she saw broken soldiers and sailors, fighting with a mix of grief and guilt.
“We couldn’t even bring his body back,” cried Lieutenant Kora Tal in despair. “We left him there to rot on the pavement.” As a doctor who’d fought in the Bajoran resistance, she’d seen plenty of death, but typically, one still had a chance to pay respects to the departed. This time, they couldn’t even retrieve his body without giving away that the Starfleet officer meant something to them, and giving that away would be impossibly foolish. It would confirm what was at play.
“The tactical situation did not allow for a safe exfil,” pointed out T’Aer logically. She’d been further away from the scene than the others, situated atop one of the towering buildings on overwatch. Her Vulcan upbringing also gave her an emotional control the others lacked, and she did not know Petty Officer Atwood like the others. They’d only met a week ago when he came aboard the Lucre. The Hazard Team members, on the other hand, had spent the last two years training with him aboard the Polaris.
“Doesn’t make it any lessed fucked up,” Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan said as he took another large gulp Rigelian ale he’d brought back to the room from downstairs. He glanced over at Commander Lewis. “Jake, you’ve said it so many times before. Never leave a man behind.”
“I know Brock, I know.” Commander Lewis looked down at the ground resentfully. He didn’t feel the same grief that some of the others felt. He’d seen too much death for that. But he did feel the guilt. You didn’t just leave a man behind. “And we’re going to live with that disgrace forever.”
“At least give us an opportunity to kill that piece of shit before this is all over,” Lieutenant Kora insisted with a burning fire in her veins. “And stick its body on a pike for all to see.”
“Even I will have a drink when that day comes,” T’Aer offered, drawing a few surprised looks.
Only then did Commander Lewis catch sight of Dr. Hall standing just inside the doorway. “Hall, where the hell have you been?”
The psychologist looked strangely out of place. Everyone else appeared to have aged years in a single night, frazzled and frayed by the trauma they’d endured, yet somehow she looked younger and more lively. Maybe it was the fact she’d let her hair down and changed her outfit. Lewis found that curious. Dr. Hall never wore her hair down unless there was a very specific purpose. Clearly she’d been out working while they sat here soaking in their misery.
“Let’s talk in the other room,” Dr. Hall said flatly, gesturing towards the suite’s bedroom. She had enough sensitivity to know that not everyone needed to hear what she had to say. Not right now at least. Straddled with despair, the children would probably get stuck on the heartlessness of her actions rather than recognize the opportunity she’d just created for them.
Commander Lewis nodded and followed her out of the living room, leaving the others to continue to try and process what had happened.
The bedroom was empty besides Ryssehl, who sat monitoring the cameras from the makeshift surveillance suite. Someone had to do it, even in moments like this. His presence didn’t bother either Hall either. He’d been through far more than the others, and he would pull beyond the emotion and stay constructive.
“The city square presented an interesting opportunity this evening.”
Lewis quirked his eyebrow, and Ryssehl looked over surprised. As much as both seasoned operators were fairly desensitized to death, that is not how either of them would have described the public execution of Petty Officer Atwood and five innocent Naserian colonists.
“Each of those killed in the square had friends and family that loved them. Love and grief are so easy to exploit, and I did exactly that,” Dr. Hall explained proudly, not caring whatsoever how despicable it sounded. “One of the dead was named Angelica, and they killed her today right in front of her fiance John. Blah blah blah, skipping some sappy sad details that don’t matter, eventually we found our way to the father’s place. John, and the dad Mike, they’re both beyond angry, and they now want to strike back at those who took their girl away from them.”
“I’m sure you didn’t help get them there whatsoever, huh?”
“Maybe a little,” Dr. Hall smiled maniacally. “They just needed a push to get to that point where they feel they have nothing left to lose and are ready to go for it.” Commander Lewis had to admit he felt pretty similar to Hall’s description of father and fiance, and he didn’t even have a twisted psychological warrior pushing him there. It was only logic and experience that had kept him from launching the team into a melee in the town square.
“Where are you going with this Hall?”
“A distraction Commander. We have three days before the Polaris arrives, and objectively, we have jack shit besides that friend Ryssehl made at the docks. We’re going to need some help.”
“How are these two going to help us?” asked Ryssehl. He could appreciate her sociopathy, the fact she’d just convinced two grieving men to go get themselves killed, but he still didn’t see how it helped them. “Any civil disobedience, the Jem’Hadar would just gun them both down. They wouldn’t even make a footnote in the story of this occupation.”
“Yes, if it was just the two of them, and it wasn’t in a strategically tactical location,” Hall agreed. “But you see, the kid works as a groundskeeper at the governor’s mansion, which, it turns out, is where the Vorta has taken up residence.”
Lewis rubbed his chin in thought, contemplating the new information.
“With just a little push, they came to the decision they’re going to round up their friends, many of whom are almost as angry as they are, and strike back. They’re going to storm the governor’s mansion with whatever sort of equipment they can get their hands on, and get revenge for Angelica,” Dr. Hall said with a smile. “In three days’ time, right around dusk.”
Putting to the side for a moment how unethical it was to use civilians this way, Lewis was impressed. Hall had lined it up perfect with when the Polaris was due to arrive.
“We look around, and we see a population submitted under the yoke of the Dominion,” Dr. Hall explained. “But it turns out the Dominion has got a powder keg beneath their feet. These are hardworking industrialists. They know hardship, and they have access to heavy equipment, and even a few weapons. I just had to be the spark to get them going.” There was a twinkle in her eye. The ethics never even crossed her mind.
“Where’d you find this one Jake?” interjected Ryssehl. “She makes T’Aer look like a dove.”
T’Aer, their Vulcan sharpshooter, had more kills under her belt than the rest of them combined, but Lisa Hall had just manipulated a group of grieving men into charging willingly towards their deaths. For Starfleet officers that had chosen the path, it was one thing, but these were civilians. That was a different sort of evil. A few day laborers had not a chance in the world of capturing the Vorta, not against its well-trained and hypervigilant Jem’Hadar bodyguards, but it might draw some attention away from other strategic targets.
“I’ll take that as a complement,” Hall replied. She cared not that the father, the fiance, and their friends would likely all end up dead. Let them fight for their freedom. Freedom was a cause worth dying for. In her mind, they probably should have done it a good bit earlier too, like when the Dominion first arrived, rather than just surrendering as they had at the first sign of danger.
“I assume you didn’t tell them who we are?”
“Hell no,” Dr. Hall assured him. “Not after that brilliant psyop the Dominion just staged.” The Dominion had done an excellent job with their act of psychological terror. If she had disclosed to the grieving men that there was a Starfleet team on the ground, or that she was part of it, they might have turned on her. Grief and fear were irrational that way. “I just molded their grief, desperation and desire for revenge together, and made it fit our timeline.”
“I like it,” Commander Lewis nodded, deep in thought. It was dirty, certainly not by the book, but he was never a by-the-book guy. He had no problem enlisting willing, albeit manipulated, citizens into helping them free their world. They lived here. They might as well be part of the solution, even if they didn’t fully understand what was going to happen to them. “Well, I like it except for one bit. These civilians are not going in alone. We’re going with them.”
Dr. Hall sighed. “We don’t need to be heroes. We have a mission to complete.”
“And we’re going to accomplish that mission,” Commander Lewis assured her with conviction. “But we’re also going to capture that Vorta.” Dr. Hall didn’t see why. As much as getting a crack at the Vorta would be a unique opportunity, she didn’t see how it fit within their objectives. Lewis elaborated with a question: “Have you stopped to ask yourself what happens after we sabotage the planetary defenses and the Polaris defeats the Jem’Hadar ships above Nasera?”
Dr. Hall had to admit she had not.
“A bloody ground battle,” Commander Lewis pointed out. As difficult as their covert mission and the battle in the skies would be, it would be nothing compared to what would come next. “There are legions of Jem’Hadar down here, more than intel had suggested, and they are highly trained, genetically engineered fighting machines unlike anything most of our security officers have ever faced before. Our guys are going to have to go building by building, block by block, to clear them out, and the Jem’Hadar will fight ’til their last breath.”
“Unless we compel something out of the Vorta?”
“You know, surrender isn’t a concept in their consciousness. I can only amplify what is there.”
“I have no doubt you’ll come up with something Lieutenant,” Commander Lewis chuckled. He’d seen the psychoactives she’d brought along. “Just be ready, because in three days’ time, we’re going to stick a Vorta in front of you, and we’re going to need you to work your magic.” Otherwise, thought Commander Lewis, a good many Starfleet officers would die.