This is a story in the Blood Ties universe.

Disclaimer: LaCroix, Methos, and the Star Trek:Deep Space Nine locals and characters belong to their respective creators. Other characters portrayed in this story belong in the Blood Ties universe and to their creators, of which, I  am one.

Thanks to Denise for beta-reading this story and for coming up with the title.


Ace in the Hole
by Ninjababe

"Are we going to be on the station long enough for us to need quarters?" Stephanie asked her two companions as they stepped through the airlock and into Deep Space Nine proper.

"No," Methos replied. "If we're  staying more than a few hours, we'll sleep on the ship."

"I knew you'd say that," Lauren grumbled before pasting a smile on her face for their welcoming committee.

"It is my great pleasure to welcome you to Deep Space Nine," the Bajoran woman at the head of the party stated with a smile. "I'm Major Kira, the Bajoran liaison for the station."

"This is Stephanie and Lauren, and my name is Adam," Methos replied. The two women gave a nod of their head as they were introduced.

"I and the staff of Deep Space Nine are at your disposal if there is anything you need," Major Kira stated as she passed a data pad over to Methos. "Listed on this pad is the schematics and regulations of the station. Quarters can be assigned to you, if you desire."

"Thank you, Major, but we will only be on the station for a few hours," Stephanie replied with a smile.

"We should have come in a non-Imladrian shuttle," Lauren grumbled as the three walked away from the committee. "Especially here. It's bad enough having people staring at us because we're mysterious and secretive. But the attention Bajorians give us is still embarassing after all this time."

"They're grateful to us because we supplied weapons and food to them during the occupation and," Methos replied.

Lauren frowned, "Yeah, but it wasn't us doing the dying." Shaking her head, she looked down at the data pad and lead the others to the Promenade and Quark's Bar.

"Do either of you have energy weapons on you?" Lauren asked after scrolling through the station regulations.

The other two shook their heads in the negative. "Why?" Methos asked.

"They're not allowed on the Promenade. One of the security regulations," Lauren replied.

"Actually, I can see why that's a good rule," Stephanie said, after thinking for a few moments. "It's much easier to subdue assailants with edged weapons."

After ten more minutes of walking, the three arrived at Quark's bar. Lauren and Methos both felt the presence of another immortal and stiffened slightly.

"Calm down," Stephanie said. "It's just Joe and Duncan."

"How do you know?" Lauren asked.

"I see them in the corner over there," Stephanie replied, pointing to a dark corner in the back of the bar. She cocked her head to the side as if listening to some far off sound.

"What?" Methos asked.

"There's a changeling in the bar," Stephanie replied as she scanned the establishment with narrowed eyes.

"It could be the head of security, Odo. According to our intelligence, he's a changeling," Methos replied. "Can you tell *where* in the bar the changeling is?"

"I don't know..." Stephanie said, her head still cocked.

"Maybe Joe will know. Between the two of you, you can at least triangulate it," Lauren replied as a Ferrengi came toward the three.

"Greetings, and welcome to Quark's!" the Ferrengi said, bowing his head to the three. "I am the owner of this establishment. If you need any special service, please, just ask. I'm *sure* I can meet you're needs." The last sentence seemed addressed to Lauren and Stephanie, who both resisted rolling their eyes.

"Thanks," Methos replied dryly.

"Can I find you a table?" Quark asked, gesturing to a table in the middle of the room.

"We're meeting someone," Lauren replied sweetly.

"In fact, I see them now," Stephanie added. "Thank you anyway."

The three left the Ferrengi and walked to the back of the bar to Duncan and Joe's table.

"Joe! Duncan!" Lauren exclaimed, hugging the two men as they rose from their chairs.

"Hey," Stephanie said in greeting, nodding to both before dropping into the chair that gave her a view of the majority of the bar and leaning back so that only two legs were on the floor.

"It's good to see you," Methos said with a grin as he sat down. After the five were seated, he added, "Figure out where the changeling is?"

"You know? Oh, of course... Stephanie," Duncan replied.

"It's the head of this station's security, Odo. He's over there," Joe said, nodding his head toward to the section of the bar behind him. "Even though, I don't know if he's the only one."

"He is," Stephanie said automatically.

"How do you know?" Duncan asked.

Stephanie shrugged. "No idea, but I'm suddenly positive. He's the only changeling in the bar. Hell, he's the only one on the *station*."

"Another one of your insights?" Methos asked.

"Yeah," Stephanie said with a look of irritation. "It just happened suddenly. I really hate when they happen."

"Well, I wish I could tell how many changelings are in an area. The fact that you know the number not only in the bar, but on the station is phenomenal," Joe replied.

"Well, I wish it wouldn't keep turning off and on when it wants to. A few minutes ago, I just knew there was one, or more, in this bar," Stephanie said with a sigh, running fingers through her hair.

"So, what's the big news?" Methos asked after everyone had ordered drinks from the waitress that had stopped at their table.

"We don't know," Joe said. "We were contacted by a Bajoran, Dagin, who said he had information that he could only pass on to a member of the Imladrin government. He said it has to do with the Dominion, so we called you."

"Dagin... Dagin... the name sounds familiar," Lauren said, her forehead wrinkled in thought.

"He was a member of the Bajoran resistance. He agreed to keep an ear out for information that Imladris could find useful after the Cardassians were thrown off the planet," Duncan replied.

"I think I met him," Stephanie said after some thought. "He helped distribute some of the weapon shipments we smuggled onto the planet during the occupation."

"Oh yeah!" Lauren replied with a snap of her fingers. "Wait... He's met you? Won't he be curious about your looks?"

Stephanie shrugged. "I'll just tell him I have a fondness for my looks and preserve them any way I can. He'll believe it. He thought I was a look-conscious airhead until I helped take down a Cardassian patrol that stumbled upon us."

"How's business?" Methos asked Joe and Duncan to change the subject.

Joe grinned. "We deal in the hard and impossible to find. We'll be successful for a long time. Besides, we're one of the few businesses in the Federation that the Imladrins will do business with."

"Wonder how much you'd pay to keep it a secret that the two of you are actually Imladrin citizens?" Stephanie asked with an evil grin.

"Stephanie," Lauren said warningly.

"She won't say anything," Duncan replied.

"Won't I?" Stephanie asked. A few moments passed as everyone at the table stared at her. Sighing, she added, "Oh, all right. I won't. Jeez, I can't even tease people anymore!"

"Here he comes," Duncan said, having seen Dagin enter the bar. The five watched an elderly Bajoran walk slowly into the bar and look around. On seeing the Imladrins waiting for him, he walked to their table.

"I am Dagin," he said with a nod of his head before smiling at Stephanie. "It's good to see you again, Stephanie. I see you're still too caught up in physical beauty to age gracefully."

Stephanie shrugged and grinned. "Why give in to nature when you can fight it off with just a few injections?"

Dagin nodded and sat down after Joe motioned him into a seat. Introductions were quickly made and Dagin was asked to tell his story.

"I was in my shop here on the station when I look up to see a Cardassian entering," Dagin said to begin his tale. "My first reaction was to pick up a phaser, but I have not carried a weapon for years, and we are at peace. I waited for the Cardassian to speak. When he did, he asked if my name was Dagin, and that he had news that must get out. I asked who he was, but the only answer I got was a shake of his head."

"Go on," Methos prompted after Dagin stopped for a moment.

"The story he told me, I thought it was ludicrous at first. But, after some thought, I felt that it is quite likely to happen. The Cardassian told me that the members of the Dominion were tired of being discovered in the Federation by Imladrins. So, they were going to kidnap a few and see what the Imladrins use to discover them, so they can devise a way to counteract it. The Cardassian then told me who was to be kidnapped."

"Who? Where?" Duncan asked, leaning forward. "And, why would a Cardassian give this information out?"

"He said that he feared what the Imladrans would do to Cardassia if the kidnapping would be allowed to happen," Dagin replied. "As to who..."

"We got company coming," Stephanie interrupted. "Starfleet. From the pictures of the crew I've studied, I'd say it's Captain Sisko."

"We *really* should have used a non-Imladrin ship," Lauren grumbled.

"Good day," the Captain stated as he came up to the table. "I am Captain Sisko, the commanding officer of this station. I just wanted to introduce myself and ask if there is anything my crew or I can do to make your stay more pleasant."

"Thank you, Captain," Methos replied. "But, we will only be on your station for a few more hours. We are just here to conduct some private business with these gentlemen."

"We're thinking of investing in their clubs!" Stephanie said brightly, a vapid grin on her face.

"Please excuse my associate," Methos said with a glare toward Stephanie. "She sometimes lets excitement overcome her tongue."

"There is no need for apologies. I wish to say again, my crew is at your disposal," Sisko said, nodding to the table before leaving.

"Quick thinking, Stephanie," Lauren said with a nod.

Stephanie shrugged. "Well, if he thinks we're just here to throw money around, he probably won't put us down in any of his reports. Or, at least us specifically, just some Imladrin private citizens. He might put that a ship with Imladrin registry docked, but he might not dig into our backgrounds and find out we're members of the government."

"Back to Dagin. Who and where is the kidnapping to take place," Methos asked.

"I do not know where, but I do know that they plan to kidnap the Imladrin governor and minister of planetary defense," Dagin replied.

Stephanie swore as Lauren's eyes widened.

"I bet I know where it will take place," Methos said. "And, if I'm right, we have to warn them *now*."

"The conference on Risa," Duncan stated.

"Exactly," Methos said with a nod.

"Then let's go!" Lauren said as she rose from her chair.

"Dagin, you'll be rewarded for this information," Methos said as he also got up from the table.

Dagin shook his head. "My people and I already owe your homeworld much. Think of this as a partial re-payment."

"It was good to see you two again," Methos said to his friends as he and Stephanie started across the room.

Lauren, who was already half way across the bar, was suddenly grabbed by a drunken Klingon. The Klingon started to push Lauren back into the bar, yelling in his native language that she hadn't looked at him respectfully as she had passed.

"Oh hell," Joe muttered as he got up to help.

"No," Stephanie said, holding Joe back with a hand on his arm. "I'll take care of it."

Lauren, who knew pulling her sword out here was a mistake, was trying to calm the Klingon down. She was unsuccessful, however, and was being forcefully pushed farther into the shadows in the back of the bar. The other  patrons just watched the show. And, Odo was not there to help as he had left the bar with Sisko a few minutes ago.

"Excuse me," Stephanie said, tapping the warrior on the shoulder. When the Klingon turned to the petite woman, she smiled broadly and continued. "I do believe she is sorry for any disrespect you think she may have given you, so why don't you let her go?"

"You humans need to learn manners," the Klingon growled in English.

"And you need to learn how to hold your liquor," Stephanie replied in Klingonese.

The Klingon roared as he let Lauren go to grab Stephanie. Stephanie, however, easily evaded the drunken warrior and kicked him in the butt as he passed. If she had been human, it would have maybe propelled him a few more  feet. But, since she had used her vampiric strength, the Klingon slid across the room and ended up landing on a table against the opposite wall, sending the table and glasses tumbling to the floor to crash.

"Who's going to pay for this mess?!" Quark exclaimed, turning to Stephanie.

"Ask the Klingon, he's the one who insisted my friend was disrespectful, and then slipped on a drink spill on the floor," Stephanie replied coldly before stalking off.

"I could have handled it," Lauren grumbled as she and Stephanie went to where Methos was waiting at the entrance to the bar.

"I know that. But, that quickly?" Stephanie asked in return.

The three quickly traversed the hallways of the station to their ship. After securing the hatch, Lauren contacted the station command center to get approval for departure while Methos tried to contact LaCroix and Triona. Stephanie sat at the ship's controls, waiting for Lauren's Okay to take them out of the station.

Ten minutes later, they were traveling at top speed to Risa and in communication with Triona.

"I see why you called," Triona said with a nod. "I'll tell LaCroix immediately. We'll be on our guard."

"We'll be on Rysa as soon as possible," Methos replied. "Be careful."

"Of course," Triona replied before signing off.

=====

"Do you think it's a good idea for us to be in the open, LaCroix? After all, there is an attempt to kidnap us over our heads," Triona asked as the two walked, surrounded by their security detail, through the gardens between the conference hall and their quarters.

"We cannot always live in fear of the unknown," LaCroix replied. "If our defenders are not enough to stop the kidnappers, then perhaps we'll have a surprise in store for them."

Triona's reply was interrupted by the sight of five Cardassians appearing in a shimmer of transporter light around the Imladrins and their bodyguards. Before anyone could move, the Cardassians had sent a stun burst into the group, knocking Triona and the bodyguards unconscious while making LaCroix extremely disorientated.

The Cardassians quickly grabbed the two Imladrins and transported to their ship, which quickly left orbit for Cardassia.

The effects of the stun burst quickly wore off for LaCroix. Triona, however, did not wake up for ten more minutes. During that time, LaCroix looked around the cell they were placed in. Three of the walls were solid metal, and the fourth was an energy field. The lone guard glared at him from across the room, a phaser rifle across his lap and ready to fire.

Triona groaned as she awakened. "What hit me?"

LaCroix helped her sit up as he replied. "Stun blast, I believe. It seems we're the guests of the Cardassian Empire."

"Lovely. Do we get room service on this trip?"

"I don't know. Our hosts have not arrived to explain the limits of their hospitality. Shall we complain?"

"Yes, lets," Triona replied with a nod before glaring at their guard. "Why have you kidnapped us?"

The guard scowled back silently.

Trying to catch the guard's eyes, Triona continued. "We are members of the Imladrin government. Do you *really* think you'd be able to get away with this? When our government finds out that you have kidnapped us, you will have much more to deal with than you can handle."

The guard twitched slightly, but that was his only reaction.

"You don't even know *who* you are dealing with, do you? Well, do you?" Triona continued, locking gazes with the guard.

The guard grunted and tried to look away.

"You'll come over here and turn off the energy field. If you do, I'll make sure to tell the other members of my government of your treatment. It might get you leniency."

The guard shook his head in a negative, but his eyes were locked with Triona's.

"Think about it," she purred. "We all know my government is going to catch up with you. Wouldn't it be better if you help us now? You're more likely to survive. Turn off the energy field."

Nodding, the guard slowly got up, his gun hanging from limp fingers as he walked across to the energy field controls. He then stood waiting, his eyes glazed and half-focused.

LaCroix calmly walked out of his former prison and snapped the guard's neck.

"I promised him leniency!" Triona protested.

"And I gave it to him. He died instantly instead of in great pain," LaCroix replied as he handed Triona the guard's phaser rifle.

Triona took the weapon with a glare. After she had changed the settings on the phaser rifle to it's stun setting, she nodded to LaCroix and followed him out into the hall, where they proceeded to hunt down the crew of the ship.

Working in tandem, the two took the ship's crewmembers by surprise, knocking them unconscious before the alarm could be raised. Soon, they only had the bridge of the ship to worry about.

"How are we going to do this?" Triona asked.

"Walk onto the bridge and stun whoever is there. We need at least one of them alive to question later," LaCroix replied.

"And if there are more than two or three?"

"There shouldn't be. This is only a scout ship. If there is more than we can handle, we retreat and regroup."

Triona nodded to show she was ready.

Finding only the captain of the ship on the bridge, it took only moments to stun him. Soon, his hands were bound behind his back, and the ship was in LaCroix and Triona's control.

"Now," Triona said as she looked the navigation control panel over. "Let's see if I can fly this thing."

After a few moments of study, Triona reversed their course.

"Interesting," LaCroix said a half-hour later.

"What?" Triona asked in reply, still concentrating on the helm.

"It seems the cavalry are on an intercept course with us, and communications seem to be down."

"Damn!" Triona exclaimed. Several moments passed before she made a suggestion. "What if we just stop the ship, lower shields, and let them board?"

"Yes, that could work."

The two quickly shut down the engines of the ship and spent a few tense minutes getting the shields to turn off.

"They're within transport range, why aren't they over here?" Triona asked, glaring at the sensors.

"They're probably having a three-way argument over what type of trap this is," LaCroix replied dryly just as the shimmer of three transporter energy patterns appeared on the deck to reveal Methos and Lauren carrying high-powered phaser rifles, and Stephanie looking ready to tear Cardassians apart with her bare hands.

"You're all right!" Methos exclaimed in shock on seeing her and LaCroix not only free, but in control of the vessel. He then gathered Triona in for a hug and a deep kiss.

"Of course!" Triona replied when she could breathe again. "It would take more than a few Cardassians to subdue us."

Lauren and Stephanie grabbed Triona for a three-way hug, overjoyed that their sister was all right. Stephanie then turned to LaCroix, and, with an impish grin, gave him a big hug.

"Can we leave now?" Lauren asked.

"Of course. Don't forget our friend here," LaCroix replied, nodding to the unconscious Cardassian.

"Oh good, we get to interrogate someone," Lauren said with an evil smile before the transporter powered up and transported them all over to the Imladran ship.

After securing their prisoners and putting a tractor beam the Cardassian vessel, they set course for Imladris.



The End

Authors notes:

The vampires sensing the changelings idea is a creation of Denise's. Actually, Denise is probably the whole reason this story was written. She and I spent a morning just throwing ideas back and forth. Thank you Denise!!

There are other stories in this period of the Blood Ties timeline, They're still in the writing stages though. And guess what? I'm working on two of them! <g> One is set on the USS Enterprise and the other is set in the Imladris system. They'll be posted as soon as humanly (or in-humanly if a certain someone finds that whip I've hidden) possible.


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