OŚWIĘCIM

By Gabrielle Lawson

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Chapter Eleven

 

Max wrapped his coat tighter around him against the biting wind. He also didn't want the SS to know about the bread he had hidden beneath it. A full loaf. He had found it on the train, wrapped in a shawl beside a dead woman. She wouldn't need it anymore. A few weeks ago, the sight of her might have bothered him, but he'd seen many such bodies now. Death was easy in Auschwitz. It was survival that was hard.

The kapo took them by the quarantine camp before heading back. The flood lights from the outer fence lit it in an eerie glow. Max glanced in as he passed, hoping to see that Vláďa was still well. Well enough, anyway. He counted the barracks as he passed until he found Vláďa's. There were several men still milling about in front of the barracks, but Max didn't recognize any of them. He could see the Blockälteste though. He stomped around, yelling incoherent commands and smacking those prisoners he could reach.

A whisper passed down the rows of the kommando like a breeze passing over a field of wheat. A few seconds and it was gone, hardly drawing the attention of anyone who wasn't poised to notice it. The SS marched on. But Max had heard it. There was something in the fence. He strained his neck to see what it was the whisper was referring to. He could make out a dark figure there, silhouetted against the orange haze of the flood lights near the corner where the road led deeper into the camp.

The kommando moved quickly and the form grew closer. Max could now see that it was a man. His arms raised high; his hands clenched the electrified wire. He wore nothing, and his head faced up to heaven--if it was still there. As they neared the corner, Max could see the pile of striped clothes, neatly folded, just beside him. A pair of real, leather shoes graced the top of the pile. Max pushed the man beside him just a little to get a better look. The man had hair, short and stubbly, but no shorter than Max's. He wasn't new to quarantine. And he wasn't emaciated. His bones didn't protrude against his skin like so many of the other prisoners, especially those in quarantine. Max rounded the corner and the face came into view. Vláďa's face, young and troubled, released of its pain. His blinded eyes looked up through the murky smoke to where the stars were supposed to be shining. The line ran on and Max with it.

Roll call was longer that evening. Someone was late. It was quite dark by the time they found him. Max wasn't sure why he was late. He didn't really care. He only wanted to move his legs, to get out of the wind and to eat his bread. And he wanted to stop thinking about Vláďa. At least Vláďa had chosen his own way, he consoled himself. But, still he felt a loss. He would have died anyway. He could have had a life though, had not the Nazis started this war. He was young, full of life, innocence, and dreams. The Nazis took away his dreams, the Blockälteste took his innocence, and Vláďa, left with nothing, gave up his life.

The late man was beaten and lain by the corpses and the count went on. This time the numbers matched up. The roll call was over. Max hurried to get his evening ration, wondering if he should tell Bashir about the boy. The doctor had enough problems. He had been quite saddened by Henri's demise, and Max thought that he blamed himself for it. For the last few days he had looked very much like when he was released from the Death Block. He spoke very little and never looked directly at anyone.

Max found the barracks at the same time everyone else did and had to push his way inside through the crowd. Still guarding the bread beneath his coat, he shoved his way through to his bunk and climbed up to the top. Szymon was already there.

"I have bread," Max told him, speaking German since that was a language Szymon understood. Then Max noticed that Piotr was not with him. They were always together. He thought for a moment about asking Szymon where he was, but the blank stare on Szymon's face, and the blood spattered on his right shoulder, told the answer already. Piotr was dead. Best not to talk about how or why.

"Heiler killed him," Szymon said suddenly, as if he had known what Max was thinking. "He was my brother." He said nothing else after that. Max held out some bread to him, and he took it. Max had also noticed that Bashir wasn't with him. He was afraid to ask about the doctor. But then, Bashir didn't normally come straight inside. He always sat a while outside, looking up through the smoke to the stars. Max wasn't sure why he did that. It wasn't much warmer inside the barracks, but at least one could get out of the wind. And the sheer multitude of bodies raised the temperature a few degrees.

When the call came from the Blockälteste, warning that the door would be locked in ten minutes, Max began to worry. Bashir still had not returned.

Szymon sat up. "You should go and get him."

Well, at least he was alive. Max wondered though why he wouldn't come in on his own. Had Piotr's death meant so much to him? Perhaps he felt responsible for that too, as he had for Henri's.

He only had a few minutes more, so Max climbed down and walked as quickly as possible to the outside door. He nearly tripped and he couldn't help but step on a few of the men sleeping on the floor. They yelled at him, but were already too weak to do much else.

The Stubenälteste was just about to lock the door when he reached it. Max was sure it was still a little early. "Please," Max said, "two minutes. There's someone still outside." He pulled the loaf of bread from his coat and handed it to the Stubenälteste. He had already broken off a little for Bashir and himself. "I thought perhaps you were hungry."

The other man snatched the bread from him quickly. "Two minutes. Then I shut the door, and you and your friend freeze to death."

Max thanked him and the Stubenäl;teste opened the door a crack. Max hurried outside, praying that the man would keep his word and not lock the door right away.

Bashir was just around the corner in his usual spot. Only this time, he leaned back against the wall, and he wasn't watching the sky. His head hung down, staring at his own hands as they lay across his thighs. He didn't move and Max thought maybe he had already frozen. But he moved when Max touched his shoulder.

He looked up to see who had disturbed him, and Max was stunned by his eyes. Like with Szymon, there was an emptiness there, a sight that looked through a person as if there was only air. But there was also a sadness there, and it burned right through to Max's soul. Something bad had happened at work. Something involving Piotr and, Max was sure, Bashir as well.

"We must go in," he told him, knowing that he wouldn't understand the words. Still the message should be clear enough. Bashir didn't say anything, and his expression didn't change. But he did move. Max took his good arm and helped him to stand. He wouldn't walk on his own, but he went where Max led him.

The Stubenälteste kept his word, and the door was still unlocked. Max pushed Bashir through ahead of himself and led him back toward the bunk. The lights were already out, so it was harder to step around the sleeping men. Despite his daze, Bashir moved carefully avoiding them with each step and not taking another until he was sure the way was clear. It was too slow, and it annoyed Max, but he knew there was no point arguing. Neither understood the other, and, at the moment, Bashir didn't seem to be able to speak in any language. He moved automatically, not like a man, and climbed the bunks on his own. He undressed and laid down quietly, not even bothering to take the bread that Max offered. Max wrapped it up again and stuffed it away. He would try again tomorrow.

Sisko paced the transporter room. The away team had been gone for over seven hours already without a word. He was beginning to worry about them as well as the doctor.

"They've gone as SS, sir," O'Brien reminded him. "Nobody would dare touch them."

"There were revolts in the ghettos," Sisko countered. Still he saw no point in furthering the argument.

"Sir!" It was O'Brien again, but this time, he was concentrating on the transporter controls. "I've got them. They're ready for transport."

"By all means, Chief," Sisko sighed. He felt better. He didn't want to lose any more people. Sending them down as Germans in with Germans was one thing. But sending them down among the Jews was different. He knew they needed the information, but he felt guilty for doing it, as if he was siding with the Nazis.

They materialized slowly, each one standing stoically, stiffly on the pad. But as the transporter released them, everything about them changed. Most notable was Lieutenant Novak's reaction. He threw off his coat and began to unbutton his jacket. "The bastards!" he spat. "I want to burn this."

"And I'd like to watch," Thomas added dourly, "but we'll probably be needing it later."

Dax was quiet, her normally serene face now showed signs of her true age. She let herself collapse until she was sitting on the pad. "I have never seen anything . . . ," she began. "I counted fifteen dead children just lying on the street before we even made it to the Judenrat. And those that weren't dead. . . . They looked at me with such hatred. And I had to look at them with disgust!" She looked up at him, pleading. "That is the hardest thing that I have ever done."

Sisko's heart wrenched. He had already imagined what the ghetto must have been like. But they still had a missing doctor and a job to do. "Did you get the transport number?" By now, all three away team members were sitting down. The debriefing was going to happen right there in the transporter room, appropriate or not.

"No, sir," Thomas answered. "They're supposed to have it for us tomorrow."

"The Judenrat," Novak explained, "was not altogether cooperative, as you can imagine. They hated me. I hated me. They kept trying to get around it. They had a million things to do. We put too many demands on them already. I had to order them to look it up. I had to yell at them. I even had to threaten them. And I still don't think they'll do it. I wouldn't do it."

"They'll have it," Thomas said quietly. "He promised me."

"Who promised?" Sisko prodded.

She looked up at him, and a tear fell down her cheek as she spoke. "One of the council members. He was only too eager to help. He made me promise to save his family. He has a little girl. She's ten. He showed me a picture."

"Ensign," Sisko reminded her gently, "we can't save him."

She nodded. "I know. But I'm SS." She touched one of the lightning bolt pins on her collar. "I don't have to keep my promises to a Jew."

"I'm really beginning to hate Starfleet's Temporal Displacement Policy, Benjamin," Dax said as she stood up.

"Me, too." Sisko looked at them. The other two were still sitting there. They looked awful. The ensign especially. Novak looked like he might explode; but Thomas looked broken. He could tell how much that one man had taken out of her. If he did die, she would feel responsible. And she knew better than anyone that he and his family probably would die. "Can you go back tomorrow?" He asked the question of all of them, but he directed it to Thomas.

"We have to find him," she answered. Sisko wasn't sure, at first, who she was referring to. "He can't survive much longer down there. And we're the only hope he has."

Thomas didn't sleep that night. She tried but when she closed her eyes the man's image came to her, begging her to have mercy. And she would see her own image, too, pretending to play along, laughing on the inside at this weak man crying to a woman to save him. She would wake up with a start only to do it all over again when she dozed off. So finally, she had given up, leaving her quarters to offer her help to engineering. She had spent the night replicating and replacing burnt out transtators. It wasn't exciting work, but it kept her busy and moving around.

When morning came, she was dressed and waiting in the transporter room for the others to arrive. She really didn't want to go back down there, but she knew she had to. The doctor was counting on them. She wasn't quite sure how, but she had decided yesterday that he was still alive. It gave her the strength to lie to that man, even if it didn't assuage her conscience for doing so.

The captain and Major Kira were there to see them off as usual. "Get the information and then get back," Sisko ordered. "Try not to look at them."

The away team was quiet. None of them wanted to talk. They were trying to prepare themselves for another walk through the ghetto.

"Ready for transport," Dax finally said. The transporter took them immediately, depositing them in the same alley from which they had departed the day before. "I'm supposed to meet him alone by the pharmacy," Thomas whispered, not looking at either of them.

"We'll work on the Judenrat," Dax said. "Meet us there when you have it. And be careful, Ensign."

Thomas nodded and took a deep breath before heading out. A few Jews were walking by, and they stepped out into the street, keeping a distance of at least two meters away from her. Others saw her and hurried away back into the dilapidated buildings that served as their dwellings. Others stayed right where they were, begging on the street or looking back at her with unrestrained fear and loathing. It took a lot of energy and conscious effort not to show her sympathy for them and abhorrence of their plight. Some showed no emotion at all. They were the dead.

The stench from them, from rotten food, and from sewage made her nauseous, but she continued on. Her stomach ached with anxiety. Lying to the man was harder than even feigning hatred for the ghetto's inhabitants. As she walked past them, even those dying of hunger, moaning on the sidewalks, she felt a distance from them. They were faceless people. The man though, the one that had been brave enough to ask her for help, was real. He spoke to her. He had even touched her sleeve. She didn't know what to tell him. She only hoped he had the information with him, so that she could leave as quickly as possible.

He was waiting for her. He stood by the door to the pharmacy, tugging absently on his beard. He saw her and stepped inside before she had even crossed the street. Thomas looked to see if anyone had noticed. She didn't want the man to get into trouble for meeting with her. She felt guilty enough for lying to him.

The large, heavy, glass door squeaked when she opened it. The room was dark inside. There was no electricity and the windows were covered to keep out the drafts. The only light in the main room was that which streamed in through the door. There was a woman behind the counter. She looked up suspiciously, but then nodded, tilting her head to one side. Thomas followed the movement with her eyes. A small hallway led off behind the counter. The glass door opened behind her and another man entered. He saw the uniform Thomas was wearing and turned right around to leave. She let him go and stepped behind the counter into the hallway.

She did have a thought that this might be a trap. She was alone now. The man had lured her off the street into a darkened building. They could kill her easily, hide her body. The Germans wouldn't even know, and they'd have a least a little revenge. Still she had to take the chance.

The man was waiting there and he motioned her into one of the rooms that lined the corridor. "I think I have the information you need," he told her. He took a piece of paper from his pocket. His hands shook as he held it out to her.

She reached out to take a hold of it, but the man didn't let go. "How will you save my family?"

"How can we find this information, Herr Oberscharführer?" one of the members asked. "You do not know the date of the transport or where it was going. We need more information if we're to find the information that you require."

Novak sighed, convinced the old man before him was merely stalling for time. Passive resistance. He admired it, but it was annoying when he was on the receiving end. "We can't give you any more information without knowing the transport number." Thomas had been gone now for well over an hour, and Novak was beginning to worry about her. She was a trained Starfleet officer and could probably take care of herself against these half-starved, emaciated ghetto residents. But the delay could simply mean that she hadn't gotten the information they needed. And if that were true, he had to get it from the Judenrat.

"There have been many transports, Herr Oberscharfürher."

"This one probably left here between February 6th and February 8th," Novak repeated. "Surely you can tell me the numbers of all the transports on those days?"

"We will try to find this information, of course, Herr Oberscharführer." And try they did, or at least they made a good show of it. Novak wondered if they were trying to protect someone, someone who was on one of the transports.

Suddenly the door burst open behind them. "Herr Oberscharführer!"

It was Thomas. Novak glared once more at the man he'd been dealing with and met her at the door.

"Wir müssen gehen," she said plainly.

We have to go. It meant she had the information. They didn't need the Judenrat anymore. But then, they couldn't just turn around and leave either. Novak turned back to look at the man. He and several others were just staring at them. Then again, as Thomas had said, they were SS. They could do what they wanted. Novak caught Dax's eyes and tilted his head toward the door. "I'll be back in five minutes," he threatened the man, "and I'll want that information."

He turned back to the door and stepped outside taking Thomas by the arm as he did so. Dax followed quickly. He had no intention of returning in five minutes or even five hours. They had the information. It was time to get back to the ship and see what it could tell them.

As they walked back to the alley, Novak noticed a man following them. He stayed a good distance back and tucked himself into doorways in order to appear inconspicuous, but he was still too close for transport. He was still behind them as they neared the alley. They'd have to go right out the gate.

Thomas was watching him. She turned her head back to see what he was looking at. She stiffened a bit and then nodded to the man. Then she pointed to the alley. Novak took one more look behind him. The man was gone.

Once safely out of sight, Dax called for transport. Nothing happened. She removed the badge from inside her coat and tried again. "Dax to Defiant." When there was still no answer, she put the badge away. She felt her chest tighten. She hated this place and this time. But she knew she couldn't panic. Nor should she. The worst of the Defiant's problems were over. There was no more sabotage, just repairs and glitches. And that's probably what this was. Just a glitch.

She looked at her away team, and for the first time she felt like she belonged on this mission. Both of them covered it well, but she could see the panic just beneath the surface of their expressions. They may have known more about the history or the language, but she was their superior officer, and they looked to her for guidance. "They probably just lost communications while they were working on the warp core. Power surge. They'll have it fixed soon. I don't know about the two of you, but I don't want to wait around here for them to fix it. I would assume our next step is back in Berlin?"

There was a moment's hesitation and then both Novak and Thomas regained their composure. Thomas especially. "Yes, sir," Thomas answered. "We'll need Eichmann's office." She handed Dax a folded piece of worn paper. "The Reichssicherheithauptamt or something along those lines. They coordinated all the transports." It was good to see her think again. Dax could tell that, until recently, she had felt just as useless as the Trill. This had all been Novak's game.

Dax looked at the paper Thomas had given her. It contained only numbers. Some of them Dax could guess were dates, since the last digits in the set were "43." But it seemed to her the months were wrong. At first glance, Dax would have put them in August or September, but then she noticed the middle number was the same for all of them. The day and the month were transposed. It was not June 2, but February 6. The rest of the figures on the paper must have represented transports and possibly the number of people on each train. The stardate Bashir had marked on his comm badge fell neatly within the range of dates on the page. This was exactly what they had come for.

"Good work, Ensign." She noticed, though, the downward cast of Thomas's eyes. She probably felt guilty for her method of acquiring it. Dax decided it was best that neither of them dwelt on it. They had a job to do. "Well, I guess we'll just have to take the old-fashioned route. How can we get to Berlin from here?"

"Leaving the ghetto won't be hard," Novak supplied. "Not for us."

"We should be able to catch a train from outside," Thomas added.

"Let's go then," Dax ordered. "Lead the way, Lieutenant."

O'Brien cursed and held his hand to the top of his head. Then he regretted it and hoped the captain hadn't heard.

"I'll take that as a 'no'," a deep voice said from behind him.

He had heard. O'Brien sighed and slid backwards out of the conduit. "We completely blew out the sensors."

Sisko didn't look pleased. "How long, Chief?"

"Well, it's not as bad as it sounds. We could have it up in a day and a half."

Sisko fell back into an empty chair behind him. "A day and a half?"

"It's fixable," O'Brien offered as consolation. "Might be better than before, but we'll need to replicate the parts."

Sisko looked up at him. He didn't say anything, but the raised eyebrows told him that the captain was waiting for the punchline.

"We also lost the replicators."

Sisko rubbed his forehead with one hand and sighed. "Can we contact the away team?"

O'Brien took a deep breath. "Well, there's that, too."

"Is there anything we didn't lose?"

O'Brien didn't like the captain's tone, but he chalked it up to stress and fatigue. He also understood. He rather felt that way himself. "We still have the transporter."

"But we can't lock onto anything without the sensors." Sisko stood. "Chief," he said as if he were about to confide a secret, "we're supposed to be fixing the Defiant, not breaking her."

It's not exactly my fault, sir, O'Brien thought. But he knew better than to say it. "Yes, sir." The captain left and O'Brien stretched, muttering to himself. The day had started off well enough, but it was ending in near disaster. His shift ended in three hours. But he knew he wouldn't leave until he could get at least one of the systems back online. This ship had lost enough crewmen already.

If he knew Dax though, she'd be continuing with the mission. He had seen her at dinner the day before. She had confided to him that she didn't know why Sisko had chosen her for the away team. While Thomas was only an ensign, Novak had proven quite capable of leading the mission. Most often Dax merely stood behind him, oblivious to what was being said by the others. But O'Brien knew that the captain counted on her. That was why he had sent her. She could think fast to find a way out of a problem. And she had more than enough experience in dealing with foreign cultures and environments. Cut off from the ship, the lieutenant might decide to hole up until contact was reestablished. Dax would look for Julian.

Novak had been right. Leaving the ghetto had not been a problem. At the sight of their uniforms, the gate had been opened. The guards even saluted, their arms held out straight, as the three walked past. Transportation was just as easy. They had enough money left over from their lunch that day in Berlin to buy three train fares back to the German capital by way of Prague. It was not the most direct route, but it was the best they could do under the circumstances. Fewer trains were running now that there was a war on, the cashier had explained.

Dax was surprised by the comfort of the train. They had been given a private compartment and were treated with the utmost respect by the Polish conductor. The car was heated also. But the train was slow. It was expected to arrive in Berlin on Friday afternoon. It was only Wednesday.

Novak tried to make light of it. "I hear Prague is lovely this time of year."

Thomas didn't feel his enthusiasm. "Not this year."

The locomotive was loud and shook as it moved. Dax found it disturbing and didn't know how the people of this time had managed. It had been two hours since they had lost contact with the ship, and since they were in a compartment to themselves, she thought it safe to try again. The result was the same though. The signal seemed to open. The badge chirped its usual welcome, but met only silence on the other end. As disheartening as it was, Dax was relieved. The fact that a signal was established was a good sign that the damage to the Defiant's comm system was only superficial.

To pass the time, Dax asked Novak about his grandmother and watched the land roll by the window. She thought it ironic how peaceful the countryside looked considering the war and genocide raging so close by. Still, trees knew nothing of war.

Novak welcomed the chance to tell how he learned German. It was obvious that his grandmother and his times with her were very special to him. Dax could empathize. She remembered Audrid's grandchildren and how happy they had made her. She had spoiled them, much to the mock chagrin of their parents. She remembered with regret Torias's long talks out under the stars with Nalani of the plans they had for growing old together. Jadzia remembered also her own grandparents and how proud they had been at her graduation from Starfleet Academy and even more so on the day of her joining.

Toward evening her stomach growled, so she and Novak had set out to find the dining car. Thomas hadn't joined them. She said she'd eat in the morning. She wasn't hungry. The meal had been simple, due in part to the war and in part to finances. Dax had thought it best to conserve their remaining money. While she was sure that O'Brien would have communications back up soon, she didn't know if that would be before breakfast in the morning. They might have to buy several meals. Still the meal was quite good and was served on elegant dishes.

Dax saved some bread and marmalade for Thomas. None of them had eaten since they had left the Defiant. She had to be hungry despite her admission to the contrary. Dax was a little worried. Thomas had seemed alright going into the mission, but the ghetto had been hard on her. It had been hard on all of them. But she had hardly spoken since her meeting with the man to get the transport information. She only spoke when it pertained to the mission, to duty. All other times she sat in the corner, staring silently out the window. She hadn't even taken off her coat.

The compartment door was locked as ordered when they reached it, but Thomas didn't answer when they knocked. Dax didn't want to have to arouse the conductor's attention. The less contact they had with the people of this time the better. Luckily she still had a few tools in her pocket. It was only a few seconds before she heard the lock give way. She froze though when the door slid open.

Novak reacted faster, pushing past her into the little compartment where Thomas was swinging from the ceiling.

Dax moved quickly, shutting the door behind her so no one would notice the commotion. Novak grabbed the young woman's legs and lifted her, releasing the strain on the scarf around her neck. Dax had her phaser already, though she didn't quite remember removing it from her inside pocket. She fired at the scarf just where it met the ceiling, and Thomas dropped into Novak's arms.

There wasn't room to lay her on the seats, so he set her gently on the floor and frantically loosened the scarf. He touched her neck, holding his own breath. "I've got a pulse!"

But the ensign wasn't breathing. "Get the conductor," Dax ordered, sliding up to sit beside her. "I'll stay."

Novak hesitated.

"I can't speak to him, Lieutenant. We'll need to get her to a hospital."

That was enough. Novak moved, pushing himself up and out the door.

Dax started CPR, hoping she remembered how to do it with humans. She needed Julian. And she needed Thomas to find Julian. Thomas was turning blue, or at least it looked that way in the dim light of the compartment's lamp. Dax blew another breath into her mouth and counted to four. She hoped it was four. She blew again and Thomas coughed.

Dax sat back and held her hand in front of Thomas's mouth. She felt air. She was breathing. Dax loosened her clothing and waited for the conductor to return. They would need a hospital.

Josef Rosen stood just inside the darkened pharmacy, staring out into the night beyond his window. She had said she would come. He checked his watch again, only five minutes had passed since he'd last removed it from his pocket. She was late. She had said to be ready at eight o'clock. She would meet them here and take them out of the ghetto. His wife had agreed only reluctantly. "You can't trust the SS," she had told him. But there had been something different about this one. Something in her eyes. He had taken a chance.

His wife, from her position on the floor beside the window, stared blindly at the pharmacy counter. Their Ana was asleep beside her, with her head in her mother's lap. His wife stroked the girl's hair absently. Josef could see her hand shaking. She was afraid that he had been wrong.

But he had been so sure he was right. Still, forty minutes? She wouldn't be late by forty minutes. The woman had made it clear they were to be ready precisely at eight. They were to take nothing with them, no baggage, only the clothes they wore. They had been ready for her by half past seven. Now it was nearly nine, and she hadn't come.

Dax listened, trying to hear Thomas's breath through the rumblings of the train. It was there, but it was weak and raspy. Dax couldn't understand. She'd worked with Thomas before. She hadn't seemed the type to attempt suicide. Dax admitted the ensign had been depressed, especially since they left the ghetto, but still, killing herself was drastic. As upset as she was, she had still been fervent in her desire to help find the doctor. That was why she had risked meeting the man in the first place.

Thomas's head lay tilted to one side. Dax thought a pillow would be more comfortable for the ensign than the floor, but she knew she needed to keep the airway open. A pillow would only serve to constrict it, however slightly. Still her neck bent sideways toward her shoulder wasn't helping her breath either.

Very gently, realizing that Thomas might have a neck injury as well, Dax placed her hand beneath the ensign's neck and slowly tilted her head back up straight. When she pulled her hand away though, she noticed the blood. There wasn't much of it, just a small red stain on the tips of her first two fingers. The scarf was soft. It wouldn't have cut her. Dax lifted Thomas's head a few centimeters above the floor and felt on the carpet for a tack or loose nail. Nothing. So why was she bleeding?

Dax rolled Thomas over toward her, making sure that she supported her head. She listened carefully for footsteps outside the compartment. When she heard none, she took out her tricorder and scanned the back of the ensign's head. There was a short cut which broke the skin just where Jadzia had held her. The area surrounding the cut was bruised. A hairline fracture was evident at the base of her skull.

The door had been locked. Thomas had been alone in the room. Dax was certain there was no way that Thomas could have injured herself in that manner. Someone had hit her. But the door had been locked. How could someone have hit her, hung her from the ceiling and left, locking the door behind him? The door locked from the inside, and only the conductor could open it from the corridor.

And Novak was going to get the conductor.

Footsteps. They were coming. Dax stood, putting away the tricorder. She had left her phaser sitting on the seat. She picked it up now and held it behind her back, using her thumb to set it to stun.

The conductor entered first, with Novak just behind. Novak looked hurried but otherwise well. The conductor glanced down at Thomas's prone form. He showed no surprise. Dax looked past them into the corridor. She waited until Novak was past the doorway so that he could close the door. "Catch him," she said.

The conductor looked up in confusion. His bushy eyebrows nearly met in the middle. They spread apart again in surprise as Dax shot him. The flash of light was short and Novak caught the man before he could fall on Thomas. Dax took his arms and steered the portly man to one of the seats. He fell over sideways when they set him down.

Novak turned and shut the door. "What was that for?" he asked quickly. "Is she--"

"She's breathing," Dax assured him. "She didn't hang herself. Someone hit her. Someone who could lock the door on his way out."

Novak looked to the conductor whose arm had fallen off the edge of the seat and was waving with the movement of the train. "Him? But he couldn't have hanged her. How could he hold her and tie her up there?"

"Maybe he had help." Dax was already going through the man's pockets.

"Why?"

"Look at what we're wearing." Dax held up the tool he used to punch the tickets. "We're the bad guys, remember?"

Novak nodded. "The worst. So now what?"

Dax used her tricorder again. A tiny spot of blood marred the tool. The conductor had attacked her. But Novak was right. He would have needed help to tie her to the ceiling. "Is the next compartment free?"

Novak shrugged but opened the door. He was out of her sight for only a few seconds before he returned. "Yes."

"Put him inside and shut the door. I'm going to try the ship again."

Novak was tall and strong, a security officer. He handled the man easily, lifting him off the seat. There wasn't enough room in either the doorway or the compartment to carry him, so Novak held him with a bear hug around the torso, letting his feet drag on the ground. He stuck his head out behind him first, checking to see the corridor was clear.

"Dax to Defiant."

"It's about time you called, Old Man."

Dax sighed and felt the tension fall away from her shoulders. "Benjamin, we have the transport number, well, several numbers, but it's bound to be one of them. But I need you to transport Ensign Thomas back to the Defiant."

She had been checking on Thomas again. Her pulse was steady but weak, and she was still breathing on her own. Dax heard a sound behind her and swung around, phaser ready before Novak could even get the door shut.

"Just me, Commander," he said, hands raised.

Dax lowered her phaser.

"Is something wrong, Dax?" Sisko asked.

"She's hurt, Benjamin," she explained. "Skull fracture, possible concussion or contusion. I don't know. They tried to hang her."

"Hang? Who?"

"The Poles, I guess." The tension was returning to her shoulders. Sisko should have already ordered the transport. "Benjamin?"

"We lost the sensors, Old Man. We can't even locate you, right now. We're working on it. Where are you?"

Dax couldn't answer. No transporter. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be too much of a problem. They would just continue on their way with surface travel. But this was different. Thomas needed medical attention. This was 1943! What would they do to her here?

"On a train, I think we're still in Poland," Novak answered for her. "We're on our way to Berlin. We'll pass through Prague."

"Check in with us every thirty minutes." The captain sounded tired. "We'll let you know as soon as we can transport. I'll get a nurse to talk to you."

"Benjamin, wait!" Dax exclaimed. "No sensors, but the transporter is fine, right?"

"Yes, what do you have in mind, Old Man?"

"You should be able to use the comm signal to locate us. We have three comm badges here, and I can configure my tricorder to give off a radio signal as well. If we set them around her--"

"We should be able to get a lock. We'll probably get the floor under her as well."

"So we'll step around the hole," Dax countered. "We'll risk it." Dax nodded to Novak who activated his comm badge. Dax set hers to the right of Ensign Thomas's head, while Novak set his at her feet. He took Thomas's next, from inside her jacket, and placed it just opposite his own.

"It still won't work, Old Man," Sisko pointed out. "The signals are moving. We can't get a stable fix."

"So we'll stop the train." She looked up at Novak. "Shouldn't be too hard, should it?"

"For the bad guys? Nah." He gave her a smile and then started for the door.

"Three minutes, Lieutenant," Dax called after him. "Then start it up again. We still have to get to Berlin."

He nodded. "Be careful, Commander. There's still one out there."

"At least."

Then he was gone. Dax guessed it would take him at least five minutes to get to the front of the train. She already had the back off the tricorder. She would have it set up before he reached the engineer.

"We could try to beam you all up," Sisko suggested.

"No, you couldn't get us back down again. At least this way we're making progress. Got it!" She set the tricorder down near Thomas's left temple.

Suddenly the train screeched and Dax lurched forward. She brought her hand up just in time to shield her face from hitting the seat across from her. She reached for Thomas, trying to keep her head still while the train whined to a stop. There was turmoil out in the corridors. Dax eased Thomas's head back to the floor and stood up. She locked the door and made sure she was out of the line between the two comm badges on her side of the ensign.

"We've got her, Dax," Sisko said. "We'll only be able to leave one of the badges. Good luck. Keep in touch. Sisko out."

Dax nodded even though she knew he couldn't see. She watched as the familiar sparkle of the transporter beam filled the space marked out by the four signals. It glowed brighter, taking Thomas with it until it faded, leaving the floor intact, if uncarpeted. One shiny triangle of metal gleamed up from the floor. Dax picked it up and tucked it inside her coat. She unlocked the door, keeping her hand on her phaser, and waited for Novak to return.

The changeling watched him standing there. He looked so much like the others now despite the physical differences like height and hair. It had even taken her a few minutes to pick him out. His face was ashen--a difficult thing with his dark complexion. But she had accomplished it. His eyes never lifted from the ground except when he looked at the fence or the stars. He rarely even blinked. His body was frail, emaciated from hunger. His shoulders were hunched, from fatigue and pain, no doubt. He no longer spoke to anyone. He didn't even look at them. In fact, he looked like the worst of them, the ones they called Muselmen or Muslims, the ones who died soon. He was beginning to pay for the sins of his kind. He still had a long way to go.

She thought for a moment that she'd been too hard on him. He'd be dead soon. Then she would be stuck on this miserable planet populated only by solids. He was, at the very least, a link to her time, someone who knew what she was. She could be herself with him. And she could punish him for his enmity to her people. Without him she would have nothing to do. Besides, these few weeks had hardly accounted for the slaughter of her people. No amount of time ever would. He would stay and live until she decided it was enough.

She could almost assure that, too. Almost. She could get him out of selections and prevent his being sent to the gas. She bribed the other guards that dealt with him. She didn't need the money that Heiler was given as pay, nor the food. The others were glad to have both. They would leave der Engländer to her. The rest was up to Bashir. Would he starve to death? Or would he throw himself on the fence like that child he was with in quarantine? He could cheat her, either way.

She didn't think he'd go for the fence. He hadn't yet. It had been two days since she had broken him. She was sure he'd never been so close to killing himself before in his short, insignificant life. She had been surprised how easy it had been once the idea came to her. She had reveled in it that day, the emptiness that had come to his eyes, the bowing of his head. She could have thought of it sooner. All that she had needed to break him had been in his psychographic profile. All of her people knew Bashir, knew what he was capable of and what his weaknesses were. But forty-six deaths demanded more than a quick death or loss of self. The punished should know what he is losing, should feel it ripped from his grasp.

An hour already. He was still on his feet. She was always astonished that he didn't fall. He swayed uncertainly and his body quivered from the cold, but he remained standing. No matter his condition, he never fell during roll call. He only fell when someone hit him. And that was more often now. He walked slower. He worked slower. His injuries made him clumsy. Everything about him seemed to invite abuse.

Heiler stomped one of his feet against the mushy ground and brown mud splashed up on his boot. Someone was missing. They would count again. It bored her. There was nothing to do during roll call except count the pitiful solids. And it annoyed her. Work like that was done by the Jem'Hadar or the Vorta, not by the Founders. She kept hoping Bashir would fall, or stumble forward, or cough, anything. But it was always one of the others, solids who meant nothing to her, that merited punishment at roll call. Bashir never so much as twitched.

Early Friday morning, the train crossed the Czech border and entered Germany. A soldier, checking for contraband or unauthorized persons or something, entered the train, waking up each of the passengers. The conductor brought him to Dax and Novak's compartment. Dax smiled at him as Novak said hello. He had woken up quite confused the day before. He was still confused, wondering where the third passenger had gone and why there was no longer any carpet in the compartment.

The soldier with him paid no attention. He saluted stiffly, refusing to lower his arm until Novak responded in kind. He checked their papers, forged carefully by O'Brien and the mess hall's replicator. Satisfied, he saluted again, clicking his heels together. Then he turned sharply back toward the corridor to bother the rest of the sleeping passengers.

"How much farther is Berlin?" Dax asked after she was sure their former visitors couldn't hear.

"It shouldn't be too far," Novak answered, "but then, this trip shouldn't have taken two days already. It would have been a lot shorter if we'd just headed due west instead of circling around to the south."

"Well, there's not much we can do about it now," Dax admitted. "The question is, what do we do once we get to Berlin? What do we know about this Eichmann?"

"Now that Thomas has more time on her hands, she was kind enough to send us a summary while you were sleeping." He held out a PADD to her.

Dax took it. "How is she doing anyway?" she asked as she activated the display.

"She said she doesn't remember any of it," Novak relayed. "They must have hit her pretty good. Nurses say it's a concussion. She still can't talk very well. She wrote everything out and the nurse passed it along."

"At least she'll be alright." Dax was relieved. They still needed her on this mission. She started reading the notes Thomas had sent.

Eichmann was a lieutenant-colonel in the Gestapo and head of the Jewish Division of that organization. He was also a member of the SS. He was in charge of organizing the transports of all the Jews of Europe to the gas chambers of the death camps. Apparently, he fulfilled his duty efficiently. In the next year, he would manage to transport almost all of Hungary's Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz. Over 400,000 in only a few weeks. He almost got away with it, too. After the war, he escaped to Argentina where he hid for several years. A bit of poetic justice, though, Thomas wrote, he was later kidnapped by the Israeli secret service, and put on trial. He was sentenced to death.

"Sounds like a lovely man," Dax noted wryly. "We probably won't have to see him though for the information. Hopefully a clerk can help us."

"I suppose we'll be staying in SS uniform for this," Novak said. "We can't exactly change back to Gestapo, can we?"

"Not without the sensors working properly," Dax hinted. Novak had been the last to speak with the ship.

"Chief thinks we'll have it by nightfall," he offered.

"Nightfall?" she asked. "We have to stay in Berlin all day?"

"Looks that way. Or," he suggested, "we could start out for whatever camp it came from. They could always transport us later."

Dax shook her head. "I think we'll need to confer with Thomas and the captain before we go to the camp. It may take more than two of us to find him in one of those. Thomas said some of them had thousands of prisoners."

Novak yawned and Dax looked out the window. It was still quite dark out. The train was moving faster now. It would still be early when they reached Berlin.

Julian Bashir stared forward. Max sat beside him, forcing the bread into his hands. Julian nibbled it absently. He was intent on watching the man across the courtyard. The man was slowly pacing from one end of his barracks to the other. He had no shoes, no pants. But he didn't seem cold. He didn't seem to care. He simply shuffled his feet before him, moving methodically, almost like a robot. Muselman. That's what men like him were called. Men like Bashir.

He'd heard the others say it as they pointed to him or used his new nickname, "Herr Engländer." And they were right. To a point. Muselmen had given up. They were no longer living, just moving around, waiting to die. The man across the way wasn't even eating as Max was forcing him to do.

But there was one major difference between them, that man across the courtyard and Bashir. That man was no longer thinking. Bashir was. Constantly. His thoughts weren't always clear and unclouded. Mostly he just remembered. He remembered every detail of this place. Every pain, every torment, every face of a dying friend or stranger and those who did the killing. And he remembered other things, things from before.

At first he had put them out of his mind. They were little things. He had had bigger things to worry about. But now, those little things seemed precious to him, more so than the bread Max prodded him with every morning and night. He remembered washing his hands with soap and warm water, sleeping on a mattress, sitting on a chair, changing his clothes in the morning, drinking a glass of cold water. He remembered these things and missed them. They filled up the last few spaces that had been free of sadness and despair.

He remembered the Defiant and her crew. They visited him sometimes as they had his first night in the dark cell. But they offered him no help. They only reminded him of what he couldn't have. He didn't want them to come. He didn't want any of the memories anymore. He wanted to be like that man across the courtyard. He wanted to stop thinking.

It was time for Appell. Bashir rose, ignoring the pain. All life was pain now. More here or less there hardly mattered. Nothing mattered if it didn't offer him a way out of this place or an end to his thoughts, the constant reminders of what he didn't have, what he couldn't have.

Appell proved to be mercifully short that morning. All prisoners were accounted for. The kommandos lined up and headed for their various work sites within an hour. Heiler was waiting for him as usual, marching alongside the column so that she could torment him as they went. "There will be a selection today," the man's voice taunted. The other prisoners around Bashir glanced over without turning their heads. Seeing who it was, and not understanding the language, they soon lost interest. "In the hospital," Heiler continued. She smiled one of her cold, black smiles and then stopped, letting Bashir's row of the kommando get ahead of her.

Things seemed to be running much smoother this time. The personnel of the Reich Security Main Office were much more accommodating than those of the Economic Administration. However, bureaucracy was still bureaucracy, and Dax found herself fighting back yawns as she sat waiting for Novak to finish talking with the Germans. She missed Thomas's input even more. It was much easier when she had Thomas's little notebook to read, telling her at least some of what was happening. As it was she had to wait until Novak had a chance to speak to her alone.

It still took a few hours to find the appropriate department in the huge building, even though it seemed to Novak and herself to be a simple request. They had transport numbers from Bialystok, Poland. They simply needed to know the destinations for those transports. Dax hoped they all went to the same place. It would make it much easier to find Bashir. The Defiant simply didn't have enough crew left to search more than one camp. If the camps were as big as Thomas said they were, Dax wasn't even sure they would have enough people to search any of them.

Dax's stomach growled, reminding her of the time. She'd had a roll for breakfast on the train with some juice to wash it down. What she needed now was a more substantial lunch. Novak was speaking to a clerk. He was nodding his head, and his voice didn't sound agitated. It seemed like a good sign. He nodded once more and turned away. He took Dax by the arm and gently led her back into the hallway.

He released her arm, and after checking that they were alone, he smiled. "The clerk's going to take care of it. He's going to look up the information. We can go to lunch and come back for it in two hours."

"Two hours? Why so long?" Dax was disappointed that there was yet another delay.

"No computers," Novak shrugged. "He's got to actually look through the records. It could take a while."

Dax sighed, but nodded. "To lunch then. Do you think we can find that little restaurant we were in before?"

"It's possible," Novak replied. "They did send us a map." He tapped his pocket where the PADD was stashed. "You know, Commander," he said as they headed for the stairs, "I should teach you a little German while we're here."

Bashir could see that she was telling the truth. Each day, it seemed, the large can became heavier and its swill less appetizing. He rarely made it into line in time to receive it anymore, even though the kapo regularly sent him to fetch it. He didn't try. He had forgotten how to hear the protests of his stomach. Starvation was dulling his hearing anyway. As he set the can down again, much to the annoyance of his partner in this endeavor, he looked over at the hospital. The scene was much as it had been the day Henri was selected.

It was snowing, or sleeting really. The rain came down in frozen sheets, adding to the misery of the muddy road. Bashir's partner cursed at him in some language, Dutch perhaps, probably for being too slow or for stopping so often. Bashir didn't care. There was little he could do about it. He hadn't the strength to carry the can for more than a few steps before he had to set it down again. It was the other voice that caught his attention.

"You'll get to the middle of the line today," she ordered. "And you will eat the soup. I'll dish it out myself. You'll eat all of it or I'll kill someone else."

Bashir turned his head, but saw only the other prisoner on the other side of the can. The changeling was still at the work site.

"Did you think I couldn't do a prisoner?" Whaley's voice emitted from the prisoner's mouth. "Really you should pay better attention. This one died during roll call. It was rather a trick to get his uniform. I couldn't just replace it. We changelings don't give off odors, you know. I'd need to smell like one of you, which, I understand, is pretty bad."

Bashir froze, lowering his eyes to the can and watched the steam slipping out from underneath the lid.

"You're not much for conversation anymore, are you?" she asked. "I've been watching you. You don't eat anymore, not much anyway. Only what they make you eat. You don't speak to anyone. You walk around like you're in a daze. You work, but that's all you do." She gestured that he should pick up the can again. This time she managed to lift most of the weight herself, freeing Bashir from his part of the burden. How she did it from the one handle, he didn't know. He was more curious about why she did it. "I've seen you staring at the fence," she continued. "Thinking of ending it all, are we?"

Bashir stared straight ahead as they walked. He wouldn't answer her. He had given up speaking. It only made things worse.

"Well," the changeling went on, ignoring his silence, "I won't have it. Have you seen what they do when someone escapes? They kill ten others at random, slowly in Block 11. If you kill yourself, I'll see that as escape. And I'll kill twenty. Do you understand me?" She waited for a reply that Bashir wouldn't give. He did understand what she was saying. But he didn't understand her. "Answer!"

Bashir nodded. The can stopped moving again. Some of the soup sloshed over the side when she set it down. It sank down a few centimeters into the mud.

"Let me see your hand," she said. Her voice had a different quality to it. Where she had been cold before, she almost sounded sympathetic. Still, he knew which hand she was referring to, and he didn't want to let her see it.

But she was a changeling, and she was not limited by the length of the dead prisoner's arms. Her left arm stretched outward, taking hold of his right and spinning him around until he faced her. Her other hand took hold of his wrist. He stiffened as she touched him and closed his eyes, expecting the pain. But her grasp was gentle and she lifted the hand carefully.

She unwrapped the worn and filthy bandage that covered it, the same one that had come from Vláďa's extra shirt so many weeks before. She looked at it for a few moments. "It's becoming infected," she pointed out. Bashir already knew that. "Go to the hospital after roll call tonight."

Bashir thought about what he had just seen at the hospital and what it had been like the night they'd taken Henri there. He would likely never get through the lines, and even if he did, there was nothing the doctors could do for him. The bones in his hand were crushed. They couldn't be set any more than they already were. The best they could do, given their equipment and the century, was amputate it. And, of course, a one-armed man couldn't work.

"I'll take you there myself," the changeling said, releasing his hand. She wadded up the bandage and placed it in his other hand. "You wrap it. I'll carry the soup."

Bashir obeyed, carefully wrapping his hand as they walked, at the same time, he tried not to slip and fall in the mud. He was watching his hand now, rather than the road. Nothing was clear to him as they walked. One minute, she was threatening, tormenting, another she was almost kind. But she wasn't the only one he didn't understand. He also didn't understand himself, despite the hours of thinking he'd done on the subject in the three days since the incident. He had thought of the fence. It would be a quick end, so quick that he wouldn't even feel the pain of the thousands of volts of electricity coursing through his body. He'd even stood not ten feet from it when the guards weren't looking. But he hadn't stepped closer. His legs had refused the movement. He felt life was no longer possible, but he couldn't bring himself to end it.

It was nearly 1600 hours before the sensors came back online. O'Brien had been working non-stop to get them fixed, stopping only to sleep when he was too exhausted to see. The damage had been worse than he had thought. A whole power relay had been blown out and had to be replaced. It was a slow process. He would have rerouted power from other areas, but all non-essential systems were already shut down. The remaining crewmembers had been consolidated in the middle of the ship so they could shut down life support in the unused quarters.

But now the relay was replaced, the sensors were online, and O'Brien could finally go to sleep. He called the captain to give him the news, and then signed himself out for the next eight hours. It almost seemed unfair that his work hadn't earned him at least a day off, but no one was getting a day off on this trip. Besides, they were closer now to finding Julian, and he wanted to know how the search was progressing.

The call came in almost instantly. Sisko sighed when he heard it. He had been worried that the signal he'd sent might have been heard by some of the Germans. But Dax answered without even whispering, though she did keep her voice quiet. "It's good to hear from you, Benjamin. At least I hope it's good."

"It is, Old Man," Sisko reported happily. "We can beam you back up whenever you're ready. Have you made any progress."

"Progress is a relative term, Benjamin." He could hear the smile in her voice. "We're having lunch. We're supposed to return to the Security Headquarters in half an hour to retrieve the information. This should tell us what we need to know though."

"Good, glad to hear it."

"Benjamin, how is Ensign Thomas doing?"

"She'll be fine, Dax," Sisko assured his friend. "Her voice is a little raspy, but she's anxious to get back down there."

"Novak said she doesn't remember."

"No, she doesn't. And I didn't see it as necessary to remind her." Thomas didn't remember the attack. But she also didn't remember the events directly leading up to it. She didn't seem to remember the promise she had made to the councilman. She had been deeply depressed when she had last left the ship. Sisko had worried at first, once she was beamed back up, that Dax had been wrong, that Thomas had hung herself.

She was too important to the team. Now, more than ever, they'd need her knowledge of the time period. Once they got the information from the Security Headquarters, each destination would have to be searched. The destinations were concentration camps. Sisko couldn't just send his people into them blindly. They'd need to be briefed on what they would experience and how to find Bashir without drawing attention to themselves. Sisko needed her to do that. He didn't know enough about the camps, and he wagered that Bashir didn't have the time for him to research it through the computer.

Dax interrupted his thoughts. "Well, I'm really glad you called, Benjamin. Lunch was not in our budget."

Sisko smiled. "You owe me one, Old Man." He called over to the nearest crewmember with orders to replicate fifty marks to transport to Dax's location. "Send another comm badge, too. I want to keep a lock on both of them."

Novak was relieved about the sensors. The transporters could find them now. He was also relieved about the money. The waitress had already served their food before they realized they didn't have enough marks to pay for the meal. Thomas had had the rest of the money with her. The money and a new comm badge appeared on the chair beside them where no one else would see. Novak pocketed the badge and paid the waitress. He and Dax headed back to the RSHA building to get the information the clerk would have ready for them.

Novak decided he preferred the RSHA to the Economics Administration, if only for the level of cooperation they received. No one had feared them when they walked in the door. No one had tried to hide or run away. It had still taken the better part of the day to find the correct clerk to help them, but no one had intentionally obstructed them along the way. But in a way, all that also made him sick. They weren't scared of him or his uniform. He was wearing the uniform of a monster, and they found it commonplace.

They knew just where to go this time, and he and Dax arrived at the clerk's desk exactly two hours after they had left. The man looked busy, he didn't even notice that two SS officers were standing over his desk. Novak had to clear his throat to get his attention. The man jumped out his chair, tossing his right arm out in the Nazi salute, just as he had before lunch. "Heil Hitler!" he said by way of greeting.

He hated to repeated it, but Novak knew he had to keep up appearances. "Heil Hitler!" he returned, executing the salute with a click of his jack-booted heels. "We've returned for the information on the Bialystok transports."

The man stared at him, his mouth hanging open. He didn't say anything at first, but looked back and forth between Novak and Dax. He stopped on Dax and closed his mouth abruptly. "You're back?"

"Yes," Novak confirmed, trying to remain patient. "Were you able to find the information?"

"Yes, yes, oh yes," the man assured him. "That was no problem, really, it was only a few weeks ago, maybe a month. But I thought you wanted it sent to you."

"Sent?" Novak realized now that he had been hasty in his judgment. This had every potential to be just as frustrating as the Economic Administration or the Judenrat back in the ghetto. "We didn't even leave an address."

"I know," the clerk said, "I wondered why you had me send it without telling me where."

"I didn't tell you where," Novak recounted slowly, "because I didn't tell you to send it at all. You told me to return for it in two hours. So I've returned."

"But--"

Novak gave up trying to keep the condescension from his voice. "But you sent it."

"Yes."

"Just where did you send it?"

"To your office," the clerk answered timidly.

"I don't have an office," Novak countered.

The clerk looked at him quizzically. "The SS office."

The headquarters. The man had sent the information to the SS headquarters. Novak imagined the runaround he and Dax would get there, just trying to get the package from the mailroom. They didn't even know where the SS headquarters was. "I assume you still have a copy here."

"Of course," replied the clerk.

Deciding he'd had enough of the game altogether, Novak ordered, "Then find it again."

"That could take time," the man protested. "I get off work in two hours."

"Don't whine," Novak told him. "It's really rather pathetic. Find the information now."

"Okay, okay," the man resigned, "if you'll come back around four, I--"

Novak was shaking his head. "We'll wait, thank you. Go now. We'll be right here." He even helped the man out of his seat. The man graciously offered the chair to Dax, and then rushed off with as much charm as he could muster.

"What just happened?" Dax whispered when the clerk had rounded the corner.

"He sent the information to our office at the SS headquarters," he explained.

"Oh, that helps," she remarked, rolling her eyes.

"I thought so."

The clerk returned an hour later with several file folders under his arm. "Here is the information you requested."

Dax rose to return his seat, but the man waved for her to stay and put the folders down in front of her. "I have an errand to run anyway. Just leave the files on my desk when you are finished. I'll put them away when I get back." He bowed to Dax and then saluted both of them before leaving the room again.

"You'd think their arms would get tired," Dax commented wryly. Then she pointed to the files. "We can replicate these."

Novak nodded. They could just look at them now and copy the relevant information now, but there might be a chance that they'd overlook something that might be important later. If they replicated them, they would have the whole file for later use. "I'll stay."

Dax smiled. "See you in a few minutes, Lieutenant." She tapped her comm badge and disappeared in a curtain of shimmering light.

"We've got the information," she announced as she stepped off the transporter pad. "We've got time to replicate it." She looked well enough if a bit haggard. Probably from sleeping on the train, Sisko told himself. Her spots, though very dim, were beginning to show.

Sisko turned to the transporter officer. "Take these to the mess hall and replicate them." The woman nodded and Sisko added, "These files have priority over anyone's dinner."

"Aye, sir." She took the files and headed for the door, stopping only long enough for it to open halfway.

"It's good to see you again, Old Man," Sisko said, turning his attention back to Dax. "I was beginning to worry."

"We ran into a glitch," she explained. "An inept clerk. He sent the information to our office."

"What office?"

"Exactly."

Sisko smirked. He was glad to see her sense of humor returning.

But then she became serious again and sat on the edge of the pad. "You know," she began, "they all seem like normal people. To look at most of them, you wouldn't think they were capable of what they're doing down there. But we saw signs, Benjamin, out the window of the train. Little towns with signs that said 'Judenrein'. Novak told me what it meant. Free of Jews. They'd killed or transported all their Jews."

There was no time for a reply. The door opened and the transporter officer returned carrying to short stacks of file folders. "These are the originals," she said, handing the top stack to Dax. "And these are the copies." She gave the copies to Sisko.

Dax was already back on the transporter pad. "This shouldn't take but a couple of minutes," she said. She tapped her comm badge twice, opening and closing the signal.

Novak's reply was quick. "All clear, Commander."

Sisko gave the order and she disappeared again. She reappeared with Novak almost as quickly. "Welcome back," Sisko offered. "If you're up to it, we'll take a look at those files now."

Dax spoke for both of them. "After all it took to get it, I don't think we can wait even another hour. But I would like to change clothes." Novak nodded his agreement.

"Of course," Sisko said. "But you'll probably have to put those uniforms right back on."

"That's fine, Captain," Novak replied, "but we'd rather not wear them any longer than necessary."

"Good." Sisko meant that. He hated the uniforms, too, with their death's head emblems and swastikas. "We'll meet in sickbay in twenty minutes. We'll want Ensign Thomas's input as well. I would think," he added, "that all of this just got more difficult, not less."

The changeling kept her word. As soon as roll call had ended, well into the night, Heiler had come for him. She walked quickly and Bashir was unable to keep up with her pace. She took his arm, pulling him forward through the mush and past the other prisoners. She bypassed the lines leading up to the hospital buildings, pushing anyone who got in the way. For Bashir, it was too much. Every time she moved, his back was jostled or jolted. When she brushed past someone, they invariably brushed into him. His left arm, which he had nearly learned to ignore in the last few weeks, began to flare with a bright, white pain that got in the way of his eyes. As a result, he stumbled more, she pulled him harder and everything became worse. He would have fallen on the steps leading into the building if she hadn't had such a strong grip on his arm.

He was vaguely aware of the other doctors. The fatigue and hunger combined with the reintensified pain blocked out the interior of the building. His knees buckled. This time he fell. The changeling had released his right arm. A dull shadow of pain lingered there where her hand had been.

He heard Heiler speaking, as if from a distance. "Säubere die Wunde. Ich werde in zwei Tagen wieder nach ihm sehen." He didn't hear the doctor try and protest.

©copyright 1998 Gabrielle Lawson

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