Odo did indeed find contraband on the freighter. Twenty kilos of tritanium explosive compound were in the ship’s hold, with no explosives permit on file, of course. Twenty kilos was enough to blow the entire station out of the stars if it was handled wrong, and it was more than three times the amount needed to charge the ship’s captain with arms smuggling. They went with Federation law this time for the charges, so he didn’t have to bother with a full warrant. Sensor scans and Captain Sisko’s go-head were enough.
Odo called in a security team to help him detain the crew, question the passengers, and start a search and seizure. This was going to take hours, Odo realized, and he was going to be stuck on this pylon for the rest of the day. His holding cells would be fit to bursting by the end of it. And he was fresh out of unoccupied deputies. For once in his career, he was grateful for the Starfleet back-up team that had been assigned to him. He tapped his comm badge, and had ten Starfleet security agents deployed to help monitor the station while he dealt with DS9's latest headache.
Odo was monitoring the safe removal of the explosives from the freighter, as well as a few other items that were also conveniently missing from the ship’s manifest, when his comm badge sounded.
Odo rolled his eyes. Oh, for Prophet’s sake, now what? "Odo, here,” he answered.
“Boss,” Ridia gasped. “Boss, you gotta get down here!”
“Ridia? What’s going on? Are you injured?”
“I got stunned, I’m fine, but…Corixian and his crew…They’ve escaped!”
Odo closed his eyes for a few brief seconds, and muttered a few curses under his breath. Here we go, Odo…
He heaved a breath, and said, “I’m on my way.”
The constable barked some quick orders to the team at the pylons. Then, he turned away, and started running. He long legs rapidly flew him through the corridor to the turbo-lift junction. He tapped his comm badge as he went. “Odo to Kira.”
"Kira, here. Odo, what's going on? We've got reports of phaser fire on the Promenade."
“Set the station to code blue. We have a jailbreak. Stop all docking, no one leaves, and shut down transporters. Leave the lifts on for now. Dispatch any available crew to protect the civilians.”
“I’m on it, Odo. Do you need me to come-“
“No! You and Sisko stay in Ops, and lock that down, too. I need you up there more than I do out here, and I don’t want any command hostage situations. We’ve got twelve possibly armed suspects on the loose.”
“Understood, Odo…And be careful.”
“Acknowledged, Colonel. Odo out.”
Odo jumped on the turbo-lift, tersely requesting the Promenade. He gripped the rail tightly as the lift sped him through the station, the trip seeming to take three times as long as it should have. He tapped his foot impatiently, and gritted his teeth. How could this have happened? How could they have escaped? And on his watch? He punched the wall of the turbo-lift, and snarled, spitting out a few more choice words. However this had happened, someone’s head was going to roll for it.
The Constable collected himself as the lift doors opened, and he bounded off, taking a quick survey of the Promenade. It was packed, and panicked, Starfleet and Bajoran security forces trying to keep order. People grabbed and pulled at him, trying to get his attention, but Odo ignored them, plowing through to his office. He noted a few injuries as he went, a few phaser hits to some of the walls. Their escaped convicts were definitely armed.
Ridia was at Odo’s desk, sprawled in the seat, his normally tanned skin a sickly shade of grey. There was a scorch mark in the middle of his chest. Thank goodness for the new protective plating they were wearing under their uniforms now, or Ridia might not have been sitting in that chair at all. The bodies of a few more of his deputies and some Starfleet were on the floor. Odo had no idea if they were dead or alive, and judging by the state of the Promenade, no time to find out. He tore his eyes away from the fallen men and focused on Ridia.
“Ridia,” he began, “what happened?”
“Jan’nel got conned somehow,” Ridia replied. “I don’t know why, but he opened Corixian’s cell, and then the rookie got himself killed. Corixian choked him, took his phaser, shot the rest of the guards, and set his crew loose. That’s when I got shot. I blacked out. Thompson found me and filled me in.”
“He paged medical, and went after them.”
“How many of them are armed?”
“I don’t know, boss.”
Odo tapped his comm badge. “Odo to Lieutenant Thompson.”
“Yes, sir. Thompson here.”
“Where are you?”
“In pursuit of three suspects. We tried to contain them on the Promenade, but they all scattered like locusts. I have no idea where the rest are.”
“Is Corixian with the ones you’re after?”
“No. I can’t talk right now, we’re in a fire fight. No, I- GAH! DAMMIT!”
“Computer,” Odo called, “locate-”
“Childcare center three to security!”
“Security chief Odo, here.”
“Oh-thank-God-it’s-you-Odo. This is Krista. Odo, we’ve been attacked, there was a man, he had a scar on his face, he had a phaser, I think Grenda is dead, he shot her, she’s not breathing, he...She tried to stop him and…” Krista’s voiced broke off in sobs. “Oh my God, Odo, he shot her, she’s DEAD!”
“Krista! Take a breath, and talk to me. Are the children alright?”
“I-I don’t know, we need help, they’re not hurt. But Odo...the man that shot Grenda...He took your foster child.”
The chaos around Odo faded to background noise, blanked out and washed white. His mind went empty. Corixian had the girl. He had taken her…
Well, Odo, a part of him spoke up. Are you going to sit here and panic like an idiot? Or are you going to get her back?
The white cloud around Odo’s senses hazed red. Oh, he was going to get her back, alright. There was no question of that. And he would get Lehpon Corixian back, too. In a cell, where he belonged.
“Krista, stay where you are. Help is on the way. Odo, out.”
Odo sent medical to the childcare center, and dispatched the closest security forces. He ordered a general pursuit of the rest of the crew, for any free agent not already doing so. Then, Constable Odo took a moment to think.
He had to get this situatuon under control, which meant he needed to use his head, not start running blindly around the station chasing shadows. Corixian had the girl, and if he got backed into a corner, he might do something rash. Odo had to handle this carefully. The crew would be rounded up, he trusted the others to do that, but he knew Corixian was a different animal.
Why had the crew disbursed instead of staying together? Corixian had to have ordered them to as a diversion, knowing they’d get shot or picked up. But diversion from what? The childcare center? Why would Corixian go to the trouble of going for the girl? There were at least three hundred other people on the Promenade he could have taken as hostages, and the childcare center was out of the way. Why did he go there at all? Why this one girl, and not one of the others?
And then, every little clue that had been laid out for Odo all along clicked into place. All the parts of the web, the delicate threads, the faint connections that seemed like coincidences but almost never were. All the in-betweens Odo usually caught when no one else did. The clues in this case that were written as clearly as words on a page that Odo had been too busy to see.
The girl hadn’t been housed with the others. She hadn’t been left to the mercies of the crew, either. Her better physical condition had nothing to do with time, as Dax had thought. The child had never seen that cargo hold until she crept into the ventilation. ‘I’m not allowed to be seen,’ she had said. All of it, the child’s reaction when Odo had pressed her for a name, Corixian’s behavior when Odo had asked about her, his attempts to distract Odo from the question, had pointed him to the truth. If he hadn’t been so damned close to this case, he might have put this together by now. Still, there was absolutely no excuse for having missed it.
This child wasn’t parentless. Her father was still alive. Her father was Lephon Corixian.
And Odo knew exactly where Corixian was taking her.
“Odo to Kira.”
“Go ahead, Odo.”
“Set Corixian’s freighter to drift. I know where he’s heading. And be advised, he has a hostage…He has our girl.”
There was a beat of silence. “Acknowledged, Odo. I’m releasing the docking clamps now.”
“Have station sensors track Jan’nel’s phaser, and give me a location.”
“Give me a sec…He’s in the turbo-lift…I can’t override the controls, he’s locked them out. The lift destination is…level seven, section ten.”
Two medics arrived in security, one going straight to Ridia. Odo cut off his transmission as she flipped her tricorder open and ran a scan.
“Ridia,” Odo said, “are you fit for duty?”
“Yeah, boss. I’m good.”
“No, you’re not,” the medic said.
“I’m good enough!” Ridia retorted. “What do you need, boss?”
“Stay here, and coordinate the rest of the round-up. I’m going after Corixian myself.”
“Go get him, boss,” Ridia said, his face grim. “Let him have it. For Jan'nel. No staying chilly this time.”
Odo gave Ridia a terse nod, and exited security.
On the Promenade, things were still a madhouse. Odo again cut his way through the confused, grasping crowd, less courteous this time as he shouted for people to move. He managed to get to the lift doors, and as he boarded, he got another transmission from Kira.
“Odo, we have reports of a break-in. Weapons locker two, located on-“
“-Level seven,” Odo finished. “Acknowledged. If there are any security on that level, have them meet me.”
The weapons locker. That would explain the scenic route Corixian had chosen to get to docking. Odo wondered how the scum knew the station so well that he could accomplish all of this so fast. There were certainly no reading materials allowed him in his holding cell, so he must have studied DS9 and its layout at some point in his miserable life, perhaps before being forced to dock here. It was advanced thinking, a very clever move. Something Odo would have done himself.
A different animal, indeed.
The lift stopped, the doors opened, and Odo immediately broke into a run, hurrying his way to the weapons locker. Maybe he could catch Corixian there, although with an entire weapons locker now at his disposal, Odo would have to be awfully damned careful. He ran through the corridor junction, swung left, and arrived just in time to see Corixian and his hostage ten meters ahead of him, boarding another turbo-lift.
Odo streaked passed the open door of the weapons locker, skirting around a fallen security guard, and ran for all he was worth to stop the lift. He didn’t make it. The doors were closed and the lift was running before he even got close.
Odo kicked at the lift doors, and cursed. He briefly considered having Kira shut the lift down, but if he did that, he trapped his foster child on the lift with a heavily-armed sociopath. It would be better for her safety if Odo could get them out in the open, so he called Kira and had her tell him the lift’s destination, and then placed a call for back-up to meet him at their next stop.
Odo took the next lift to section two, level one. Outer docking.
The doors opened, and Odo geared himself up for another run, but stopped short. Corixian and his was daughter were three meters in front of him.
They didn’t notice Odo at first. Corixian had a phaser rifle in one arm, and the girl was hanging off the other. She dug her heels in the carpet, leaning her weight back and away from Corixian, yelling and sobbing as she tried to break free. Corixian’s face pulled into a snarl. He yanked the girl a few centimeters off her feet, and flung her into a wall, as if she had no weight at all. Odo watched in horror as her head bounced off the metal of the bulkhead. Her cries stopped.
Corixian held the girl's dazed body up by the front of her dress, and raised the rifle, pressing the muzzle into her cheek. “Shut-up, you little rat, or I’ll blow your goddamned head off!”
Corixian froze, and turned slowly towards Odo.
“Security man,” he smiled. “There you are. Come to see us off?”
“You’re not going anywhere, Corixian. Release the girl, and drop your weapons.”
Corixian looked Odo up and down, and smirked. “And just how are you gonna make me do that? You’re by yourself, and you didn’t even bring a phaser. From where I’m standing, it looks like I’ve got the upper hand. Try again, security man.”
Odo glared at him, and took a step forward. Corixian yanked the girl back against his legs, keeping the phaser rifle pointed at her.
“Ah-ah-ah. Don’t do that, security man. Someone might get hurt.”
“You’re not going to hurt her,” Odo replied. “I know who she is. I know she’s yours.”
“Figured that out, did ya?” Corixian said. “Took ya long enough. But you’re still not so smart, security man, if you think I wouldn’t blow this little rat to bits if it got me off this heap. Why do you think I took her in the first place? I remembered how much she caught your eye. There’s still time for us to settle this like gentlemen, you know. We can still make that trade. You let me get to my ship, and let me go, and you can keep this sweet little piece all to yourself.” His hand slid up the girl’s shoulder, and to her face, squeezing painfully. He shoved the nose of the phaser rifle into her side. “What do you say, security man? Do we have a deal?"
For a brief moment, Odo actually considered it. He would do just about anything at this point to get the girl back, but there was no way to be certain Corixian would keep his word, and once Corixian made open space, apprehending him would be exponentially more difficult. Odo needed to stall, and buy security some time to catch up with him. For someone who claimed to be so discrete, Corixian was talker, so Odo just needed to keep him talking.
“Why was this child with you in the first place, Corixian?” Odo asked. “Why would you accept her mother’s offer, if you weren’t going to sell her?”
“Who says I wasn’t going to sell her? Look at her,” he said, squeezing the girl's face again. “Looks just like her dumb-whore mother. I was a client of hers for a while, back in her better days, but I stopped doing business with her when she let her face go rotten. No one wants to pay for spoiled goods, right? But this one, she’s still pure. Still fresh. Figured I’d let her grow a little longer, let some things…develop. In certain sectors, she might be really worth something then. This one was what you would call a long-term investment.”
“And did her mother know all of this when she gave her to you?”
“Dumb whore, security man, like I said. Told her I was in the finance industry and she bought it, the idiot. Besides, loose lips sink ships. I never talk about my work, especially not with a whore so stupid and doped out that she would’ve forgotten her shots, and let herself get knocked up. If she’d had any brains at all, she would’ve had this little rat taken care of before it was born. Ain’t that right, little rat?”
Corixian shook the girl's shoulder, but she didn’t answer. He wound the girl’s long, dark hair around his hand, and pulled her head back, forcing her to look up at him. The girl cried out, and he yanked even harder, silencing her.
“No, security man,” he said, staring down into his daughter’s eyes. “Her Spice-for-brains mother had no idea just what I was going to do with her little girl…”
“No!” Corixian snarled. “That’s enough talk. Are you gonna let me get to my ship, and keep this whore’s get for yourself, or are you gonna make me splatter her guts all over this corridor?”
Odo risked a glance down at his foster child, at her tear-stained, bruised face. She looked steadily back at him, her faith, her trust in Odo shining through her fear. It was time, Odo decided, he gave Corixian exactly what he was asking for.
“Fine, Corixian,” Odo said. “You have a deal. Head to the airlock. I’ll follow.”
Corixian took his rifle off the girl and raised it at Odo. “Not too close now,” he warned.
Odo nodded. Corixian kept his fist bunched in the girl’s hair, using it to drag her backwards down the corridor, her feet tripping and stumbling to keep up. He kept the rifle tagged on Odo as they went, taking quick glances over his shoulder. The Constable was careful to keep his distance, to keep his pace deliberately moderated, but he kept his eyes locked on Corixian and the rifle. In this fashion, the three slowly crept their way to the airlock where Corixian’s ship had been docked.
Corixian hit the panel on the wall. The inner airlock doors rolled open. He carefully backed over the lip. He grabbed the girl by the back of her dress, and lifted her up and over, and then dragged her backwards through the short hall of the airlock, still keeping the rifle raised at Odo. Odo followed, hanging close to the inner door, still keeping his distance, hoping yet again at least one of his deputies would catch up with him.
At the outer door, Corixian raised his hand to the panel to unseal the outer airlock, but looked through the window first. He saw only empty space.
“What? Where is my ship?” He swung around to Odo, his arrogant sneer gone. “Where is my SHIP?”
“Adrift,” Odo replied, leaning against the door frame. “I set it loose some time ago. If you look hard enough, you might see it sitting off the station’s hull, being tractored. I told you before, Corixian, you weren’t going anywhere I didn’t send you myself. Right now, that’s back to holding, with a few new charges added to your already-impressive list. In fact, this might be the right time to tell you that Arbiter Els Renora has been assigned to your case. Arbiter Els is old, and traditional. She is also merciless. She likes to do things the old fashioned way, and the old fashioned way of dealing with scum like you is to hand you over to the Klingons, where you’ll be their guest on the penal planet Rura Penthe. If you want me to put a word in with the Arbiter so you don’t end up freezing to death as you do some very hard labor for the rest of your days, you’ll give me the girl, and give this up.”
Corixian threw his head back and roared, his face twisted with rage. His skin flushed purple-red and he raised the rifle even higher, his arm shaking and the rifle shaking dangerously with it. Odo kept his cool gaze on Corizian’s contorted, angry visage, readying himself to dodge phaser fire. The men stayed still, eyes locked, tensely waiting for the other to make a move.
To Odo's amazement, Corixian gave ground first. Slowly, he lowered the gun, and dropped it. He took a calming breath, the rage dissipating from his features, and moved the girl squarely in front him.
“Poppet,” he said, resting a hand on her head. “Why don’t you show the security man what you have in your pocket?”
The girl’s wet, violet gaze was trained steadily on Odo. She reached into the pocket of her dress, and pulled out a small, round metal ball. She held it out in the flat of her hand.
Corixian snatched it from her, and said, “Not good business etiquette, security man, falling through on a deal like that. It doesn’t foster trust. But, it’s not the first time that’s happened to me. You always need to have a back-up plan. This,” he said, holding up the ball between his thumb and finger, “I’m sure you’re familiar with.”
Odo substance roiled nervously. He was most definitely familiar. It was a standard Federation-issue tricobalt hand grenade. That one small grenade in Corixian’s hand had enough payload to destroy half this level, and take several thousand lives with it.
“This,” Corixian said, “I will arm, if you do not have me, and my darling daughter, transported to my ship. Right now.”
Odo’s body was still, his expression blank, but his mind was running at full tilt, scrambling to find a way to safely get the girl from Corixian, and get that grenade. He wished for the umpteenth time his back-up would arrive, but then quickly let go of that hope. If they weren't here by now, they weren't going to be. Odo was on his own, and he had put an end to this himself.
Corixian rolled the ball between his fingers, and then flipped it in the air, catching it in his hand. Odo’s eyes followed as he rolled it across his palm with his thumb until the detonator was face-up. Corixian pressed down, and the device beeped twice. It lit up, and armed.
“Time’s up, security man,” Corixian smiled. He tucked the grenade in his pocket. “You have thirty seconds to meet my demands, or then we’re all dead.”
No, Odo thought, readying his matrix for a shift. Not all of us. Just you…
What happened next went so fast, even Odo himself had trouble explaining it later. At a speed no human eye could follow, an amber blur streaked across the airlock and snatched the girl from Corixian, knocking him back against the outer door. Odo pulled the girl across the airlock, and shoved her behind him. He let the rest of his form go in a rapid burst, quickly reforming into a duranium bubble and encapsulating the girl against the bulkhead within it. Odo sealed the edges of his metal bubble airtight, sinking into the wall, becoming part of it. A tendril of living mercury crept across the wall, found the airlock interface, and hit the panel, closing the inner door. Odo felt Corixian pounding against him, screaming and kicking uselessly at his durable shell, the girl sobbing in fear and confusion from inside of her metal cocoon. When the inner door hissed closed, Odo hit the panel again, and released the outer airlock.
There was a horrible pull, a sucking, grasping, cold force trying to peel Odo off the bulkhead as the airlock depressurized. His grip started to slip, and he dug deeper into DS9’s bones, every cell he had clinging to every cell he touched as space tried to vacuum him and the girl into its freezing, empty depths. A massive BOOM sounded, a deep, painful thundering that threatened to dislodge him again, rocking him and the girl and the station all together. He dug even deeper into the wall around the girl, and slid that stray tendril of his substance carefully, so carefully across the panel, still fighting against the pulling force of space as he felt for the close icon.
After what felt like small eternity, Odo found it. The airlock door shut, and after a few heavily weighted seconds, the area re-pressurized.
It was done. It was over. His girl was safe. Corixian was dead.
The metal shell around the girl melted, pooling on the floor. Her sobs stopped and her eyes widened. She looked down in confusion and shock at the amber puddle gathered around her feet. Slowly, the puddle slid away from her, huddling against the bulkhead, and started to glow. As she watched, the puddle pulled itself together, and formed into a shape vaguely resembling DS9’s chief of security.
The girl ran to Odo, and threw her arms around his neck. Odo moaned with pain. She let go and scrabbled back.
“Odo, did you get hurt?”
“Yes,” he wheezed, pointing at his comm badge. “Call Nerys…”
The child tapped it delicately. “Nerys-lady?” she sniffled. “Odo’s hurt. We need help.”
“I’m here, sweetheart. Stay where you are, I’m on my way.”