by Kevin Wohler
“Rule of Acquisition, number 44: ‘Never confuse wisdom with luck,’” said Quark.
The Ferengi leaned on the bar, scanning the room as if counting latinum. Like everything else on Deep Space 9, his business had been changed by the war with the Dominion. The influx of Klingon — and now Romulan — warriors helped even out the civilian losses, but not enough. Quark’s bar needed a way to increase its profits, and the proprietor felt he had a good plan.
“I don’t understand, brother. It still doesn’t make any sense to me.” Rom wiped clean a new isolinear chip and placed it into the replicator. Shutting the panel, he activated the machine and ordered a glass of raktajino as a test. From the direction of the gaming tables, one of the girls yelled “Dabo!” announcing another winner. “It’s all luck. If you cheat — ”
“Not so loud, Rom. The way you’re spouting, half the Federation could hear you.”
Quark began stacking glasses on the counter behind the bar so he faced away from the crowd. He didn’t want his voice to carry. His brother slurped loudly at the Klingon coffee, eyes darting back and forth. Quark shook his head, thinking, Probably best that he’s an engineer, he doesn’t have the cunning to skate the razor’s edge of the law.
“I’m sorry, brother,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “But if you cheat, Odo and the rest of security will close you down.”
“Cheating is too obvious. Whenever people begin to lose at the gaming tables, the first thing they think is that they’re being cheated. No. This is better.”
“But if all the customers start losing, won’t they go away?”
“Not all of them will lose. That’s the whole point. The odds are always with the house anyway. I only need to increase those odds by the slightest margin to increase my profits.”
“But it’s all luck! I don’t see how you can change it.”
“Luck is a very fickle lady. And if there’s one thing I know as well as latinum, it’s ladies.”
Benjamin Sisko rubbed his eyes. Stacks of PADDs littered his desktop, evidence of the work still unfinished. He was a week behind on reports to Starfleet and had hoped to spend the afternoon catching up. As he looked at the latest status report, he wondered — not for the first time — if anyone really read them.
Over the comm system, the deep resonant tones of Commander Worf broke the silence of his ready room. “Captain, there is an intruder in Ops.”
Sisko leaped from his chair, his heart quickening from the emergency. He stepped toward the door and felt a twinge of guilt for welcoming any distraction from his reports. The doors to his ready room opened as he stepped into Operations. Looking around the station control room, he could see no evidence of trouble. The captain arched an eyebrow and asked, “Where is our intruder, Mr. Worf?”
“Over here, Captain,” said the Klingon, his voice tentative and low. He held a phaser, but for once Worf seemed reluctant to use it. “It is a dog.”
Sisko marched over to Worf’s station and peered over the side. On the deck below sat an unkempt animal with short ears, a long tail, and matted fur. As it shifted its attention from the Klingon to the Human, it let out a small whine. The tail began flapping against the floor.
“Why is there a dog on my station?” Sisko announced to the room. Those not already watching the scene play out, turned their heads. Several people began to laugh, and the dog — finding itself the center of attention — looked around the room.
Realizing he wasn’t about to get any help from his crew, Sisko advanced with his arms at his side. As he neared the dog, he bent at the knees and began speaking to it in the same quiet tone Worf had used, “Hello there, pup. Where did you come from?”
From behind, he heard O’Brien caution him, “Be careful, sir. She might bite.”
“You’re not going to bite me, are you pup?” asked Sisko. He stretched out his arm, slightly lower than the animal’s nose, and offered it the back of his hand. The dog sniffed once and bounced away.
Sisko stood up, clearly agitated by the disruption. Wanting to put an end to it, he said to his lingering command staff, “Don’t just stand there. I want this animal out of Ops now!”
The red alert klaxon erupted before anyone could get close enough to touch the animal. Bright red lights flashed on every console. Everyone in the room rushed to their respective stations trying to pinpoint the cause of the disturbance.
“Red alert! Battle stations everyone!” Sisko noted with satisfaction that his well-trained crew had carried out the order before he had given it. “Major Kira, report.”
The Bajoran officer’s fingers passed over her station, trying to understand the origin of the disturbance. She shook her head and looked up at Sisko. “Nothing specific yet, Captain. It appears that several major failures have occurred simultaneously throughout the station. No indication why.”
“Dax, give me visual.”
The science officer examined the data on her console and slapped her open hand against the surface. “All internal and external sensors are offline. We’re blind, Benjamin.”
“The station’s core is reading offline, but that’s impossible. We still have full power,” offered O’Brien. “I’m trying to contact engineering, but main communications appear to be down.”
“That’s odd, Chief,” said Dax. “According to my readings, engineering is fine. The comm system is available as well.”
“Captain, the defense grid is down,” announced Worf. “If this is a precursor to a Dominion attack, we are vulnerable.”
Sisko wasted no time speculating on what may or may not be happening. His only concern was the safety of the men and women onboard his station. Stepping to the upper deck so his voice could be heard above the din, he barked orders to his senior staff.
“Chief, I want every available engineer up here on the double. We have to find out if this is a system error or a coordinated attack. Major, contact Starfleet and find out if there is any Dominion activity headed in our direction. Mr. Worf, alert General Martok and inform all Klingon battle cruisers in this sector that we may have company.”
Before Sisko could get a response from any of his crew, the red alert suddenly ceased. The klaxon fell silent, the warnings stopped flashing, and for one brief moment no one moved. A second later, the room broke into activity once more as everyone checked and rechecked their panels to find out what had happened.
Presently, Major Kira turned away from her console and reported, “All systems clear, Captain. Everything has returned to normal. I can’t explain it.”
Sisko clenched his fists at his side, feeling his fingernails dig into his palms. Turning to O’Brien, he said, “Chief, I want every diagnostic run as many times as it takes to find out what happened. If something like this were to happen in the middle of a Dominion attack, the station would be a sitting duck. We can’t allow our guard to fall, even for a second.”
“Aye, sir,” replied O’Brien. The chief walked out of Ops and headed for engineering.
Sisko turned toward his ready room. Remembering the initial disturbance that had pulled him away from his reports, he paused and looked around. The dog had vanished. He was too busy to look for it, so he tapped his communicator and said, “Sisko to Security.”
“Odo here, Captain. What can I do for you?”
“Constable, we have a stray dog running loose on the station. I need security to track it down before it causes any trouble.”
“Excuse me, Captain. Did you say a ‘dog’?”
“Yes, a dog: short, furry, long tail, four legs. You’ve seen a dog before, right?”
“I’ve been a dog before. But I’ve never run into one on the station.”
“There’s a first time for everything, Constable. Keep me informed.”
With that, Sisko exited Ops for the relative peace of his ready room.
Later in the afternoon, after completing all of the overdue Starfleet reports, Sisko returned to his quarters in the habitat ring. Stretching out on his sofa, he ordered the lights to dim. He gazed out the window at the scattered field of stars, letting his mind clear of the bureaucracy of war. The steady glow of a thousand stars had lulled him into a light slumber when his comm badge woke him. A disembodied voice announced, “Kira to Sisko!”
“Sisko here. What is it, Major?”
“Captain, we’ve got another red alert. It doesn’t seem to be a malfunction this time. Long-range sensors detect a Jem’Hadar fleet approaching the station.”
Still groggy from his interrupted nap, Sisko stumbled to his feet and out the door. As he ran to the turbolift, he requested an analysis of the approaching invasion. The entire station went to full alert before he reached Ops. Sisko leaped off the lift and stumbled over a large, furry obstacle.
“What’s this dog doing back here?” he asked O’Brien, who was working on an access panel beside the slumbering animal.
“She walked in when the trouble started, Captain. We were going to get rid of her, but the long-range sensors picked up the approaching Jem’Hadar and…”
“Get this dog out of here!”
“Aye, sir. I’m sorry, sir.” O’Brien stood up and activated a security signal on the control panel. Sisko, his focus consumed by the red alert, almost didn’t notice the movement at his feet. The dog’s tail brushed the leg of his pants as it went past. He looked as the animal shuffled out of Ops through an open access panel in the aft wall.
“Chief, I think our visitor is getting away,” Sisko said. A moment later, another surprise had his full attention.
“Captain, the Jem’Hadar fleet is gone,” said Dax.
“Gone?” For a brief instant, an overwhelming sinking feeling settled in the pit of Sisko’s stomach as he speculated on the Founders technology. Could they have created a cloaking device, or stolen the technology from the Romulans?
“We are getting reports from a Klingon intercept force,” said Commander Worf, eyeing his console carefully. “Captain Bra’ka reports no evidence of the fleet at the coordinates shown on our long-range scans.”
“Another computer glitch?” asked Sisko, eyeing O’Brien.
“No, sir!” the chief insisted. “All the systems checked out. Besides, what kind of a computer glitch could make long-range sensors malfunction like that?”
“That’s the question you’ll need to answer, Chief.”
The dog reappeared the next morning.
Chief O’Brien had been rerunning diagnostics on the computer systems all night. He wanted nothing more than to return to his quarters and sleep. Pushing aside his idle fantasy, he ordered a mug of coffee from the replicator. The caffeine stimulated his haggard brain, but when he saw the furry animal scramble out of an access conduit, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him.
O’Brien set down his mug and quickly moved to the open access port. After he had sealed it, he walked over to Worf and nudged him.
“Looks like ‘Red Alert’ is back,” he said quietly, motioning to the dog lying still on the deck.
After double-checking the computer systems and replaying the events of the day, the command staff had come to the inevitable conclusion that their four-legged visitor had something to do with the phantom emergencies. Each red alert had been preceded by the dog’s appearance, and each ended when the dog removed itself from the control room. O’Brien and his team had been chasing other glitches throughout the station for the past 24 hours. Several people had reported seeing the dog in the vicinity at the time of the disruptions. Internal sensors had been unable to find her, and now O’Brien understood why.
The Klingon visibly tensed and scowled at the dog. Tapping a communications link, he said, “I’ll inform the captain.”
“Don’t bother, Mr. Worf. I’m here.”
Sisko stepped off the turbolift and joined his command staff on deck. For all the interest the dog generated, it seemed content to lie on the cool, metal deck plates and ignore everything around it. No one made a move toward the animal.
“Where did she come from, Chief?” asked Sisko, crossing his arms.
“Through the access conduit, sir. I took the precaution of closing it and cutting off her escape route.”
“So that’s why internal sensors have been unable to find her. She’s been hiding in the one part of the station the scanners can’t reach.”
“My thought, exactly, sir. The duranium composite that shields the access tunnels has been hiding her from our sensors. That’s how she’s been moving so freely around the station.”
“Well, let’s see if we can get her out of here before she causes another emergency.”
“Shall I use my phaser?” asked Worf.
O’Brien glared at the Klingon. “Don’t you dare!”
“Don’t worry, Chief. No one’s going to shoot her,” said the captain. “We need to convince her we aren’t a threat. Any ideas?”
“Maybe she’s hungry,” said Dax. The science officer moved from the wall replicator toward the dog. In her hand, she held a strip of cooked meat. As she closed in, Dax lowered herself to the floor and started petting the animal. The dog seemed agreeable to the attention and quickly took the food from her hand.
“One problem solved,” said Dax. “Now what?”
“We need some sort of a harness,” said Worf.
“A leash,” offered Sisko.
“Call security,” said Dax, still petting the dog. At the mention of security, the dog’s ears perked up.
“Not for you,” said Dax, to the dog. “We’re your friends. Nothing’s going to happen.”
O’Brien was already two steps ahead of everyone. He had silently contacted security and summoned Odo to Operations. Before he could inform the Captain, the doors opened and Odo walked in.
Odo paused in the doorway, unwittingly giving the dog the chance it needed. It bounded to its feet and bolted for the door before anyone could move. The Changeling made an effort to block the animal’s progress, but it slipped between his legs and raced into the hall.
“After her!” said O’Brien, jumping to the lower deck. The dog had caused him numerous headaches and cost him a night of sleep. He didn’t want to spend another day chasing down erratic dog-related disorder. Odo turned away and morphed into a larger, and hopefully faster, dog. O’Brien followed close behind.
O’Brien shambled into Quark’s bar.
After giving up his chase for the errant dog, he had returned to Ops only to be ordered by the captain to get some sleep. Although he had welcomed the chance to shower and rest, his mind would not let him relax. Every time he had begun to doze off, a fit of panic seized him. He had felt the station’s systems winking out all around him. After several hours of restlessness, he had given in to his insomnia, donned his uniform, and went to the Promenade.
He found Julian Bashir enjoying an early dinner at Quark’s. Without a word, O’Brien collapsed into a chair beside the doctor.
“Please, do join me,” said Bashir.
“Thanks,” said O’Brien. He didn’t notice the sarcasm.
“You look like hell, Miles. What’s wrong?”
“I haven’t slept in nearly 36 hours. I’ve been chasing computer glitches all over this station. And to top it off, I lost track of the stupid dog.”
“It’s a long story,” said O’Brien. The chief glanced to the far end of the bar where an open panel led to an access conduit. Seeing such openings on the station was no cause for alarm. Things on Deep Space 9 were in a constant state of repair, no more so than in Quark’s where the owner used his brother as slave labor to keep the systems running.
When he saw the dark, wet nose peek out of the access port, O’Brien nearly leaped to his feet. His eyes must have grown wide, because he heard Bashir ask, “Are you all right?”
“The dog,” said O’Brien. “It’s in that access conduit.”
“Be calm,” said Bashir, turning slowly to look in that direction without being too obvious. As he looked over his shoulder, Quark walked over to the port, reached down, and slipped a collar over the dog’s head. Tugging on the leash, the Ferengi pulled the animal from its hiding place and walked through a nearby door to his private office.
“That rotten little smuggler! I should have known he’d have something to do with this!” said O’Brien. He was on his feet and moving in the direction of Quark’s office.
Before he could take two steps, he felt Bashir’s hand on his arm, holding him very firmly.
“What are you doing?” asked O’Brien. “That’s the dog that’s been causing all the trouble on the station. Quark must be involved somehow.”
“Sit down,” said Bashir, giving him a conspiratorial look. “I’ll tell you everything.”
Quark pulled on the leash, dragging the motley dog through the door of his office. Wrapping the free end of the leash around the arm of a heavy chair, he wiped his hands against his pants. The dog whined, lowered its body to the ground, and rested its head upon the floor. It looked at Quark with deep, black eyes, but he was unaffected.
“Don’t give me that look,” said Quark, waving his hand as if dismissing the attempt. “You’ve been a bad dog. If you don’t stay near my Dabo tables, you’re not going to be much help, are you?”
The dog raised its ears and cocked its head, as if suddenly interested in the conversation.
“That’s right, you heard me. You were a big investment. So where’s my return? I’m not one to throw good latinum into a wormhole without knowing what’s on the other side. I’m losing too much profit as it is.”
Wagging its tail, the dog sat up. It barked once.
“Quiet!” said Quark. “You’ve caused enough trouble. Security is turning the station upside down looking for you. Now I’ve got to hide you. A lot of good that’s going to do me. You can’t make profit locked in an office!”
Quark sat down behind his desk, ignoring the dog. He closed his eyes, trying to think of some way to salvage his investment. When he started to relax, he heard an unmistakable noise — like swamp mud squeezed through a fist. His eyes opened as the dog transformed into a gelatinous substance.
A moment later another figure began to take shape. The Ferengi stared at the head of security and shook his head in denial.
“Hello, Quark,” said Odo, regaining his humanoid form. “I figured you were involved in all of this.”
“What? What? I’ve done nothing wrong here.” Quark realized he was speaking with the nervous patter of the justly accused. He forced himself to take a deep breath and slow down. “Is there something I can help you with, Odo?”
“I’ve been trying to find the owner of a certain unlicensed dog that has been causing problems on the station. I believe you’re familiar with it.”
“You do own her don’t you?”
“Ownership is a very complicated issue.”
The Changeling leaned on Quark’s desk, looming over the Ferengi. Quark tried to steel himself, but the sight of Odo’s penetrating stare made him want to sink into the folds of his chair. When the Constable had said nothing for more than thirty seconds, Quark found himself talking just to break the silence.
“The last time I checked it wasn’t against the rules to have a pet onboard the station.”
“You’re right,” said Odo. “It’s not. But all animals entering the station must be quarantined for two weeks. Pets must be registered with the station’s medical authority. That’s two offenses right there, Quark. Want to go for three?”
“Three?” asked Quark, wondering what else Odo could possibly know.
“Security captured your dog earlier today. She bit Lt. Carpenter on the hand during the struggle, so I took your dog to Dr. Bashir to see if she had any infectious diseases. Imagine my surprise when the doctor’s examination showed that she wasn’t a normal dog.”
“It’s not?” asked Quark, feigning outrage. He leaped to his feet and shook his fist in the air. “That thief! I’ll demand my money back, plus interest!”
“Sit down, Quark.” Odo gently pushed the Ferengi’s shoulder, lowering him back into his chair.
Afraid of what was coming next, Quark sat motionless.
“According to Dr. Bashir, your dog is genetically manufactured. As odd as it sounds, it appears to be capable of altering probability within a defined space. Of course, it makes one wonder why anyone would want such a creature. Having a pet like that is an invitation for disaster. I assumed it was a trick, or even sabotage.”
“Exactly!” said Quark, leaping through this potential loophole. “I’m sure it’s a Dominion trick to disrupt the station!”
“Then I heard what you said about the Dabo tables and losing profit. Hmmm… a dog that can alter probability in a bar that has games of chance. What do you think, Quark? Could there be a connection?”
“You can’t use that! It was a conversation with my dog… or what I thought was my dog.” Despite his shaky moral ground, Quark was incensed at the invasion of his privacy. Standing up again, he peered into Odo’s eyes and said, “I’m pretty sure you can’t use my own words against me.”
Odo backed away, apparently frustrated. “You’re right,” he said with a snort. “Federation and Bajoran laws will protect you from the courts, but you still have to deal with me.”
“I’ll pay for the license. I’ll have the dog quarantined. What more do you want?”
“I want the dog off the station, and the name of the person who sold her to you.”
“That would be bad for business,” said Quark. His tone left no room for negotiation.
“So would closing down your bar because of health code violations.”
Odo shook his head and grinned. “You have a dog running loose in an establishment that serves food. That’s not exactly sanitary.”
Early the next morning, Odo appeared in Operations, a PADD in hand. Sisko took the proffered report and tapped through its contents. Security had removed the dog from the station and contacted Starfleet regarding Quark’s underground contact. Everything on the station was back to normal.
Satisfied with the report, he nodded and handed it back to the head of security.
“Good work, Constable. I am curious about one thing, however.”
“The name of Quark’s contact. It says — ”
“Cyrano Jones. Yes, sir. Same name, different generation.”
“An entrepreneur like his grandfather?”
“Great-grandfather, actually,” said Odo. “And apparently just as careless in choosing his commercial ventures. One probability-altering dog is only slightly less disruptive than a shipload of tribbles.”
“You’re right. We’re lucky we caught her before anyone got hurt.”
“Captain, luck had nothing to do with it.”