DISCLAIMER/NOTES: See Part One
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Minister of Lies
By Patricia L. Givens
Chapter 7-Rumor Control
"Oh, for Prophet's Sake!"
Julian Bashir turned towards the sound of the curse and jumped slightly when it was followed by a loud crash and a round of much more colorful swearing. He waited expectantly, a smile on his face, as Kira appeared from the back of the ship, a scowl marring her forehead. "What's wrong, Major?"
"Do you think you could have fit a little more equipment back there?" She snapped. "I almost killed myself trying to get up here."
His smile broadened. "Well, I didn't request that you take inventory. That was your own idea."
"Well, I'm glad I did. What exactly was the point of bringing a spectromatigraph? There isn't going to be a power source to hook it up to."
Julian turned back to the window and sighed. "Major, I wanted to get the most important equipment there fast. The power supplies will be brought by shuttle next week."
"Don't you think it would have better to go heavy on the initial treatment equipment and leave the heavy stuff to the later transports?"
Bashir puffed his chest out and tried hard to hold on to his patience. "We have plenty of first aid, Kira. I have 10 dermal regenerators alone. I have brought enough first level medical supplies to match the amount of work both you and I could do in 5 days." He released his anger. "Now, instead of standing there and arguing over inconsequential factors, why don't you sit down, get comfortable, and go to sleep."
Kira opened up her mouth to retort but Julian held his hand up. "That's an order, Major. On medical missions, I have authority. And you need sleep." He nodded when she huffed and sat heavily in her chair. "Maybe then you'll be a little more friendly."
"I doubt it." Kira tried to hang onto her own anger but found it rapidly dissipating with one huge yawn. She closed her eyes and mumbled. "I don't need any sleep. I used to go for weeks without sleep."
Julian looked at her, making sure she was asleep before answering, "You were younger then, Major." He smiled and tapped into his console. "Computer, open duty journal." Once it was open, he chose to type, rather than speak:
Medical Officers log-Supplemental-
Major Kira and I are 6 hours away from Missak. The initial time
estimates having been in error, I hope to actually set foot upon
the moon in 6 hours and 23 minutes.
He glanced over at Kira.
For the record, I treated Major Kira for several discoloration's on
her neck area this morning. Suspected Cause: Pressure and suction on the outer
epidermis. Other Symptoms: Excessive irritability, fatigue. Diagnosis:
Diagnosis: Love. Treatment: Unknown.
Tala walked slowly through the habitat ring, a smile across her face as she thought back to her most recent activities. The pond had been as she remembered, beautiful and fragrant with the large Talas trees that grew along it's banks. She could not, however, recall ever making love on those banks. At least, not until tonight.
She and Dax had started quite innocently, trading stories of their youth and laughing over embarrassing moments. Tala talked about her time with the resistance, but did not speak about Nan'Tekk or Shakaar. Her fondest memories were of Missak. She had known that for some time and had carried a small amount of guilt for loving a world that was not her own. But there was so much there to love. Peace, tranquillity, and a sense of family that she had not had for so long. Even in her loneliness, she had had that.
Dax had listened to her prattle with a sincerity that encouraged her to tell the Trill things she had never told another person. Things she had never even told Zenece. When she mentioned that to Jadzia, she had leaned over and kissed Tala, driving all thoughts of anything else from her mind.
What had followed had left her weak and spent, with a dull ache to be held burning deep in her stomach. Jadzia had held her for a little while, and then pulled away, saying that she had to see Sisko and Odo before it got much later. She had asked Tala to meet her in her quarters, which was where she was headed. She was looking forward to the short period of solitude. Her mind was racing, along with her heart, and she needed the time to find a way to tell Jadzia how she was feeling.
To find a way to tell Jadzia that she loved her.
Tala stopped short, frozen in the center of the corridor she had been traveling through. Her initial shock passed and was replaced by a smile so large that it hurt her cheeks.
She was in love. For the second time in her life, she was in love.
Jadzia strolled into Ops with a smile on her face. Lieutenant Morda, who had been manning her station while she was off duty, glanced at her briefly and then swiveled her head around to stare openly. She had never had the opportunity to see Dax with her hair down and found that her imagination had not done a very adequate job.
She was in the middle of pondering where the Trill might have been, when Jadzia walked up to her station.
"Good evening, Lieutenant. Anything unusual to report?"
"Nothing at the moment, Sir."
Jadzia glance up to Sisko's office. "Is he in?"
Morda followed her line of vision and nodded. "The Captain's still here. He's been a real bear all day." She stiffened a little as she realized her slip.
But Dax only smiled conspiratorially, "He can get that way sometimes." She patted the Terran on the arm. "Thanks Bat."
She didn't bother to announce herself when she reached Sisko's door, she just went in. Captain Sisko looked up with a fire in his eyes that faded to pleasure when he saw who had disturbed him.
"Good evening, Old Man." He sat back in his chair and smiled. "Been torturing Morda?"
"Why Benjamin," Dax said sweetly. "I have no idea what you are talking about." She dropped into a chair across from his desk and put her feet up.
"Comfortable?" Sisko asked, a slight edge to his voice.
"Very," She studied him, noticing the tiredness of his eyes and the other small signs she had come to know as warnings of a foul mood. "What's wrong?"
"It would be easier to ask what's right." He dropped the PADD he had been working with onto his desk, where a rather large pile of others still waited for his attention. "I have four different ambassadorial delegations all fighting over the same docking and conference space, I have Starfleet breathing down my neck about the timetables on Bajoran compliance for early admittance, which Lieutenant Morda has tried to work on, but it's not going very well. She's great with computers, and everybody loves her, but she can't do the math to save her life." He sighed again. "And on top of all of that, I am already having problems with the men from Tala's group."
Dax leaned forward in interest. "What kind of problems?"
"For starters, they did not seem to realize that Quark does not give free Dabo lessons. He is expecting them to pay off on their losing streak. But that I can handle, I'll just threaten him with his rent payments again." He smiled briefly. "The other problems are not so easily rectified. Put a group of farmers in a place with holosuites and synthahol, and you have a combination guaranteed to cause trouble."
Jadzia tried not to smile. "So I guess now would be a bad time to ask for a favor?"
"An exceedingly bad time. But I get the feeling that you are going to do it anyway."
The smile broke through. "Of course I am." She picked up his coffee mug and took a swallow. "Eww Benjamin, your Rak'tegino is cold."
"I didn't tell you to drink it."
Dax shook her head. "She was right, you are a bear today." She noticed the warning look reappear in his eyes and rushed to continue. "I need some help with Tala."
"Tala?" His eyebrows went up and a teasing smile played on his lips. "From what Jake says you can handle her all on your own."
She flushed slightly. "I'm serious, Benjamin."
"All right." He pushed the PADD away from him. "What can I do for you, Old Man?"
"I need you to help me find Tala a career."
"A what?" His eyes went wide.
"A career. A job. Something to do." Jadzia sighed. "She told me she doesn't know what she is going to do with herself. She feels unneeded."
"But she's a hero!" Sisko was at a loss. "She should just sit back and enjoy the benefits that come with that kind of status!"
"I know. But I don't think she's looking at it that way." She stood and began to pace around the office. "She's been fighting for something her entire life, Benjamin. I think she's worried that she won't know how to do anything else."
The Captain nodded. "I see. So you want me to find her a job." He raised one eyebrow. "Something, I assume, fairly close to Deep Space Nine?"
Dax grinned. "You read my mind. Thank you."
"No problem," He turned to his console and opened a subspace channel. "I believe I still have a friend in the First Minister's office-"
"No!" She slapped her palm on the console, killing the transmission that had just reached the Bajoran Hall of Ministers. "Not through Shakaar."
Sisko looked at her, a confused expression on his face. "Well, that would make things slightly more difficult. Mind telling me why not?"
Dax slumped into her chair. "That's the other thing I wanted to talk to you about." She took a deep breath. "Something happened between Tala and Shakaar."
"Something?" He looked at her pointedly. "Do you mean " He left the sentence hanging but waved his hand in the air to get his point across.
"No, well not like you mean." She took another sip of his Rak'tegino. "It happened 11 years ago, when Tala was a prisoner at Nan'Tekk "
Captain Sisko listened for the better part of an hour. When she was done, he leaned back in his chair, looking as though he had been hit by a meteor. "Is she certain? Is she sure it was him?"
"She says that she is, and I'm inclined to believe her reason."
Dax looked at him. "Would you forget his face?"
He hung his head back to contemplate the ceiling. "This is going to make quite a mess when it goes public. Starfleet is not going to be able to keep from getting dragged into it." He shook his head. "Does Odo know?"
"Not yet. I was going to see him after I talked to you."
"Good. It's important that he knows. This is a potentially explosive situation and I need him ready for any contingencies." He looked around his desk. "I have to deal with a few things, but I'll stop down there on my way home. I'll put out a few inquiries about Tala as well, then I'll meet the two of you in security. Brief him before I get there so we don't have to waste time. We are going to need to figure out a way to handle Kira, too."
Dax nodded. "I'll head down there right now."
Sisko sighed as she left. Looking down at his desk again, he fought the urge to chuck it all out of an airlock.
Dax shifted uncomfortably. Odo hadn't moved since she had finished speaking. She was just about to get up and shake him when his eyes cleared.
"I want to be the one to tell Kira." His pale blue eyes looked at her beseechingly.
"I think it should be me."
"You're probably right." She studied him. "Listen, Odo," She thought about how to phrase her next statement. "I know the position this puts you in-"
"Do you, Commander?" Odo's voice took on his normally formal tones again. "And what position would that be?"
"I know you love her, and we both know how I came to have that information. I think I can guess what happened last night." Odo's features hardened. "and I think it's great." She continued, smiling at him reassuringly. "But it makes the situation even more difficult."
Odo nodded. "She needed time to think. To decide " He sighed. "I need her answer before she finds out about Shakaar. Otherwise I think we'll both wonder how much that had to do with her choosing me if she chooses me."
Jadzia felt his memories within her and her heart went out to him. She knew just how much he truly loved Kira. She hoped to god that Kira knew it too. "I think that Tala and I should be there as well. It may help to control Kira's anger." She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to get it out of her eyes. There was something to be said for Starfleet Dress Standards. "We have another problem as well. The Federation will not be able to support Bajor's petition for early admittance if the First Minister is implicated in war crimes."
"Ahh." Odo nodded. "I suppose that would be a problem for the Federation." He sighed, one of his rough, weary sighs. "You'll forgive me if I find Major Kira's situation a bit more pressing, Commander." He looked up as the doors from the Promenade opened, prepared to order someone out, but relaxed when Captain Sisko walked into view. He inclined his head in greeting. "Captain."
"Good evening, Constable." He looked at both of their faces. "Or perhaps not a good evening. I take it Dax has informed you of the current situation." He leaned against the wall. "It would seem that the only thing in our favor is the fact that we have some head warning. As I see it, we have two things to deal with, primarily. Major Kira finding out and her reaction. I think that any fallout within the Bajoran government will be included in, or set in motion by, Major Kira's reaction." He smiled briefly. "She has never been known for her restraint." He noticed Odo stiffen slightly and studied him for a few moments before continuing. "As for the Federation, well...it would be an understatement to say that they would not look favorably on this situation. It could very well lead to a negative decision on any kind of admittance at all."
"Do you really think it will go that far, Benjamin?"
Sisko sighed. "I'd like to say no, Old Man. But the Federation's reputation has been under attack from a lot of different factions lately, and Bajor's admittance would be tacit approval of Shakaar's war crimes. At this point we're talking about damage control at best, and complete political suicide at the worst."
"Unless..." Jadzia looked at him thoughtfully.
"Unless what?" Odo leaned forward.
"Unless the First Minister can be persuaded to step down before the information goes public."
Odo and Sisko glanced at each other. "Any ideas on how we would manage to do that?" Sisko asked.
"Not yet." She stood. "But I think that the three of us could come up with something, we just need some time.. As it turns out, we have four days. That's more than enough. For right now, I need some sleep." She punctuated her statement with a yawn.
"So I see," He smiled. "Maybe if you didn't tire yourself out so much, you might even make it in to work." He laughed at her expression. " Well, then, I'll see both of you at 0900 hours in Ops. Preferably with a few ideas on how we can avert a disaster. Goodnight."
Dax smiled at him, waiting until he left before turning back to the Constable, who was looking at her expectantly. "I wanted to say thank you," She winked. "for the flowers."
Odo looked as though he was trying to decide whether or not to smile. "You're welcome, Commander." The smile finally won. "Although I must say, I never understood the custom of giving dead plants, even when they are attractive. That particular plant, well..."
Jadzia laughed. "I know it lacks a certain physical charm, but you would be amazed at what it can do on the inside."
Odo sighed. "Do you think you could show it to Major Kira, before she makes her decision?"
Jadzia walked over to him and placed a hand on his arm, squeezing it affectionately. "I don't think I have to, Constable." She gave him a gentle smile and left him to contemplate his desktop, which he did for more than hour before heading to his quarters.
Chapter 8-Song Of My Heart
"Major Kira." Julian bent down and studied her closed eyelids. Seeing the rapid eye movement that signaled deep sleep, he reach out and shook her. Big mistake.
She jumped up quickly, using the flatness of her palm to hit him in his solar plexus, hard. All of the air rushed out of his lungs and he hit the floor. She shook her head, as though to clear it and looked down at where he was laying. It took her a moment to realize what she had done. "Julian, I'm sorry!" She grabbed him by the arm and helped him into the Captains chair. "I was dreaming....I didn't mean that punch for you."
"Who did you mean it for?" Bashir wheezed.
"It was a Cardassian kidney punch. We learned how to build up stored energy." She looked at him apologetically. "Cardassians have pretty tough skin."
Picking up his medical bag, he pulled out a hypo and shot potassium into his side. It took a moment, but the cramp finally relaxed. "Remind me not to wake you ever again."
"Well," Kira smiled at him. "Twice in one day may be more than any woman should have to bear. Why did you?"
He pointed out the portal. "I wanted to show you your people's moon." He pointed to an object that appeared about the size of a Moba Fruit in the distance. As the ship covered more of the space between them, the moon grew larger.
"Oh," Major Kira caught her breath. "it's beautiful."
The moon was small, at least by Bajoran standards. It's oceans appeared coral in color and seemed to cover 1/2 of the moons surface. It's land masses seemed quite large by comparison. As the drew nearer, their sensors began to give them readouts on everything from air saturation to average yearly rainfall. Kira and Bashir studied the readouts carefully. When they were through, he turned to her, smiling. "They found paradise." He whispered. "This moon is the most ecologically sound I have ever seen. They could have lived here forever."
"How long before we touch down?" Kira tried to control the note of impatience in her voice, but knew that she had failed.
"If we follow the current flight coordinates, we should land in twenty-four minutes, making the time on Missak " He checked a reading. "Just after 1900 hours by our standards."
Kira glanced at the reading as well. "Completely different Solar and Lunar phases." She shrugged. "I guess we should have expected some differences. It's going to be dark down there in one hour and forty-three minutes. Looks like the days here are longer as well."
"Our landing coordinates will put us about one mile out from the main village. Did you want to try for a closer landing sight?"
"I don't think so." Kira took her seat beside him. "We don't want to scare them or cause any disturbances in their work areas. Tala said they had no monitoring devices, so we're going to have to be very careful where we set down." She stifled a yawn and ordered a strong cup of coffee from the replicator behind her. She glance at the console and raised her eyebrows in surprise. "We made pretty good time. Tala's estimates must have been off."
Bashir nodded. "Her instruments on the Nakota couldn't have been too exact. From what O'Brien says, the ship was lucky to have made it all the way to DS9." He checked his console. "We're in range to eject the warning pod. At least they'll be able to hear us coming." He punched a button, sending a small orange capsule hurtling towards the moon in front of them. "It's traveling at about twice our current speed. Give them some time to get out of the way."
Kira nodded and sat back with a sigh. "Nothing to do now, but wait."
"Twenty-three minutes and counting, Major." Bashir grinned at her.
She smiled but didn't look at him, her eyes were glued to the small sphere that was becoming larger in their viewscreen. As she watched it, she got the vague sense of coming home, and then told herself that she was being ridiculous. Still, she couldn't help but wonder if her world had been this beautiful before the Cardassians had come. She had seen it in pictures, but they had seemed so much like a dream that it was hard to imagine. Missak was here, right in front of her, and she wanted so much to believe that her world had been this way, somewhere in the past.
Her musings took up most of the twenty-three minutes. When she finally brought her attention back to Bashir, he was already setting the landing gear and doing a pre-set down check on their systems. "Any problems?" She felt a little guilty, he had handled most of the flying this trip.
"None." He said cheerfully. "Four minutes to touch down."
She grinned at his enthusiasm. These were her people, her race, but somehow, they were his now, too. She braced herself as the ground came up under them. Julian's landings were not known for their comfort.
This time, however, he outdid himself. The Rio Grande set down with only the slightest of thumps and she nodded approvingly. "Nice landing, Doctor."
"Why thank you, Major." He laughed to himself. "A compliment from you is hard won, indeed."
She shook her head and let the comment pass. "I say we do a foot survey of the area, try to make contact before we unload the ship. If Tala's flight estimates were off, there's a good chance her landing coordinates might have been as well. I really don't feel like reloading all of your junk if we have to move the Rio closer to the village." She put up a placating hand at his irritated look. "I'm sorry, Julian. I wouldn't want to reload your equipment."
"Agreed." He hefted a shoulder pack onto his back. "Grab one of these medkits and let's go!"
Julian didn't argue with Kira when she stood in front of the door, waiting for the ship to finish it's final shut down and unseal the airlocks. These were her people, her colony. She deserved to be the first to set foot on the moon. Instead, he waited a respectful distance back, doing a final check on the equipment he was carrying.
When the door finally slid open, Kira stepped out, taking a deep breath as she went. She was among those who believed that 'canned' air never smelled or tasted as good as the real thing. In this circumstance, she knew she was right. The sky outside was a clear, deep blue, several shades darker than the skies over Bajor. The leaves and the grass were the pale green of summer foliage and a warm, gentle wind blew her hair away from her forehead. It was the wind that confirmed her feelings about real, true air. It felt like the caress of a friend, or a lover, and carried so many different scents that she couldn't even begin to identify them. She thought briefly of Odo, and wished that he was there with her. She knew that he appreciated beauty in his own quiet way, taking it all in wordlessly, committing it to memory like it might all be gone the next instant. She shook her head and pushed the thoughts away. Now was not the time.
She took the last few steps down and moved to the side, allowing Julian room to get by her. He immediately pulled out his tricorder and began to take readings. "We can't be that far off. There are several lifeforms nearby. I think our best bet would be to stay put. Let them find us."
Kira nodded absently, her head cocked to one side as she tried to hear something in the distance. With a sigh, she gave up. Whatever it was, it was gone. "I think you're right." She pulled off her pack and took out some small storage containers. "We may as well get some samples from around here while we wait."
She had only wandered about twenty feet away when she saw them, a group of about 25 people, heading towards them. The man leading them raised his arm and waved.
"Tala!" His voice carried over the now still air. "Tala!!"
He had broken into a run when he thought he recognized her, and now skidded to a halt about ten feet in front of her. "You're not Tala." He took a step backwards. "Who are you?"
"It's all right!" Kira held both hands up in front of her, showing them they she meant them no harm. "My name is Kira Nerys. Talas sent me."
"Nerys?" The man's smile returned. "She told us about you. She made it." He turned to the people waiting a ways behind him. "She made it!"
Julian appeared from behind the ship to stand beside her, causing the man to once again step back. "You're not Bajoran." His tone was almost accusatory.
"No, he's not. But he is a friend. We've both come with food and medical supplies. More shipments are coming in a few days." She took his hand slowly. "Who are you?"
"I'm Clese." He smiled slowly. "Tala left me to look after the others, while she was away."
"So you're in charge here?" Bashir looked over the group behind him. One or two of them looked in need of medical attention.
"No, no, Regar's in charge. I'm just supposed to keep the peace." He looked slightly embarrassed.
"A Constable." Kira smiled. "Can you take us to Regar?"
Clese nodded. "He's not far. The village is only a short distance off. Follow me."
Kira shouldered her pack and followed, nodding to Julian to come as well. "Is it always this pleasant here?"
Clese looked up at the sky. "Usually. We get some rain, not very much, but it's hardly important. The oceans are fresh, pure enough to drink."
"Freshwater oceans?" Bashir's jaw dropped and he looked towards the coral water in the distance. "What type of sea life?"
He looked as though he would try to answer, and then just shrugged. "Regar can explain everything better than I can. I'm just a farmer."
"I doubt that." Kira smiled at him. "If Tala left you in charge of keeping the peace, she had to have a lot of faith in you."
"Maybe," He looked embarrassed again. "But I still don't know much about the science end of it. Regar was a scientist before he joined the resistance. A scientist and a Captain of his own ship." Clese sighed. "If he hadn't offered us the use of that ship, I doubt that any of us would still be alive."
"The Nakota was Regar's ship?" Kira's eyes widened. "He's a Terran?"
"Yes to both. He gave everything, including his freedom, to help us escape from Nan'Tekk. He helped Aleram plan most of it." He pointed towards three columns of smoke rising from a stand of trees. "That's the village. Regar should be in from the fields. He comes in every night since Tala left. He comes and listens and watches and waits. He is a good leader. He's not Tala, but he is a good leader."
The first thing that Kira noticed when they entered the village, was the quiet. There was almost no activity at all, with the exception of one or two people who were heading out. "Where is everyone?"
"Oh, it's harvest season on the cirraberry roots. They harvest at night this time of year, as well as during the day. The roots come into season for a very short period of time and must be harvested before they rot underground."
"Cirraberry?" Bashir cut in. "What exactly is a cirraberry root?"
"It's a plant that grows along the sea shores in the northern region. It's edible and makes a healing salve if prepared correctly. It is one of our main staples on Missak." Clese grinned. "It makes a great cup of tea, as well."
"Well, then," Bashir nodded at him. "I can't wait to try it!"
Clese led them through the village and up to a large building made out of roughly cut logs. "It's a little primitive, but it serves us well. This is where we have our village meetings, where Tala made her judgments. Regar should be here."
Kira and Bashir followed him up a long ramp, which led to an open doorway. In fact, Kira noticed, none of the buildings had actual doors or windows, just open spaces where they should have been.
Inside the hall there was a central fire pit, which was lit and well banked, creating a comforting warmth that emanated throughout the room. Situated around the pit were several rows of benches, all facing towards the front of the building, where a podium had been placed, looking out over the room. Kira looked from one end to the other and saw no one. "He isn't here."
"He wouldn't be in here," Clese led them towards another door in the back. "He doesn't stay indoors if he can help it. Says it makes him nervous."
Kira smiled. She knew that feeling very well. So well in fact that her friends in the resistance cell had been in shock when she had taken her position on DS9. They couldn't understand why she would want to spend so much time in a canned environment. To be honest, there were times when she didn't understand it either. At least , not at first.
The back door turned out to be exactly that, exiting into a lovely garden area, unfenced but well kept. At one end, there was a row of white stones heading into a small clearing. As they got closer, Kira recognized a roughly carved Bajoran emblem. It was an altar to the Prophets. Kneeling before the altar, was an older man of medium build with thick gray hair tied into a ponytail and a well trimmed beard. He heard them approaching and rose, turning to greet them. He wasn't smiling, exactly, but the expression on his face was one of welcome. His eyes traveled quickly over Kira and Bashir, before resting on Clese. "She made it." He smiled and clasped Bashir's hand, before turning to the Major. "You must be Nerys. Talas spoke of you everyday. I would know your face, even if I were half blind." He realized they were alone. "But where is Tala? Is she well?"
"She's fine, she stayed on DS9."
"DS9?' A confused look crossed his features.
"Yes," Kira nodded. "DS9 is the space station that used to be Terok Nor. It's a Starfleet base now."
"Starfleet " His lip curled slightly. "Have they taken sides with the Cardassians?"
"No, they took over the station to help us. We are, ourselves, in the middle of petitioning for admittance into the Federation. The Cardassians no longer rule our world. Bajor is free."
Regar looked at her, the shock registering on his face. "Bajor is free?" His grin grew wider as they approached the Hall again. "It would seem we have much news to share with one another. I invite you both to supper with me tonight." He looked around. "It would seem the village is ours!"
Dax slipped quietly out of Tala's embrace and, dressing quickly, headed for the Promenade. They had spent last night talking and making love, and while the latter was very enjoyable, the former had been disturbing. They hadn't spoken of Shakaar at all. Dax was convinced that Tala had said all she needed to in regards to him.
What they had spoken about was the raid on Nan'Tekk and the subsequent years on Missak. The raid had been a nightmare for her. She had been put in charge of gathering the children, a position given to her by one of the resistance group leaders. She was told that her orders came directly from Aleram Kass. When she asked why she was chosen, he said she had been listed among the few who were both mentally and physically able and had been chosen by Aleram Kass himself . So she had run from one end of the camp to the other, no small task considering it was large enough to hold fifteen hundred prisoners of war, dodging Cardassians, explosions and phaser fire from all sides. She had two scars to show from that night. One on her leg where she had kicked a Cardassian in the head and caught her calf on his collar piece in the process, and one on her arm, where a child's grip had been so strong that her nails cut into her flesh. It turned out that that child's grip was the only thing that had kept her alive. She would have been ripped out of Tala's arms otherwise.
The rest of the escape was a blur. She was so busy trying to take care of the children once they were on the ship, that the next thing she remembered was the Nakota being hit by phaser blasts. The third blast, the one that had knocked them out of orbit and into the Gamma Quadrant, had also sent her head into a support beam, knocking her unconscious. By the time she woke up, they were hopelessly lost.
Most of her stories about Missak were happy ones. Their first newborn child, their successful crop yields, and their ability to adapt and appreciate their new world. She didn't talk much about herself, and how she adapted, but Dax knew that it must have been hard.
Dax was awake long after Tala had dozed off, safe and happy in her arms. Her mind couldn't stop working over everything Tala had told her. The one thing she kept coming back to, was the name 'Aleram Kass'. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't remember where she had heard that name. So she was going to see the one person she knew would be able to help her.
The security office door was open and Odo was at his desk. He was looking over a series of recent criminal activities reports. He looked up and smiled as she entered, "Good afternoon, Commander."
"Hello, Odo." She slid into the chair opposite him with a deep sigh.
"It's a bit early for you, isn't it? I heard you were on vacation, I would think you would have plenty of reasons to...sleep late."
Dax grinned. "You're in a good mood, Constable. It suits you." She leaned over and tapped his console, closing the security door behind her. "I need some help."
He went into business mode immediately. "What kind of help?"
"Help with a name." She leaned on his desk. "Aleram Kass."
"What about him?"
"For some reason I feel as though I know that name."
"You should," Odo pulled up a series of older files. "He's usually ends up on a criminal activities report every couple of weeks." He checked the files. "Drunk in public, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, destruction of private property. Those are his usual offenses and they always take place in Quarks."
"Are you saying that Aleram Kass is here? On the station?" Dax's eyes widened.
"Yes, he is. As a matter of fact, I just released recently released him from custody. I was holding him on disturbing the peace, but Quark dropped the charges."
"Tala said he died in the raid on Nan'Tekk." Dax chewed her bottom lip. "Something's not right, Odo. How long has he been here?"
"He was here when I arrived."
"So he was living on the station when the Cardassians were still in power. Can you find out what he was doing here?"
Odo turned back to his console. "The Cardassian files were condensed and stored within our system. Let me see if I can access it." Dax moved around to his side of the desk as he worked, entering in the appropriate Starfleet security overrides as he went. "Here it is," Odo found his name and accessed the personal files. "Well, well, well, take a look at this." He pointed to a highlighted section.
Dax took a sharp breath. "He had officer's quarters." She scrolled down. "And he was drawing a salary from the main Cardassian accounts. It says he was an engineer." She looked at Odo.
"It certainly doesn't look like the life of a member of the Bajoran Underground, does it?"
"He was working for the Cardassians." She sat down on his desk and stared at Odo in confusion. "But if that's the case, then why was the raid successful? If he was in a position here when it actually occurred, why..." She voice trailed off as a look of shock came over her face. "That's how they knew." She whispered.
"What?" Odo looked at her in concern. "Are you all right?"
"That's how the Cardassians knew to have a warship at the exact spot where they were going to exit Bajoran space. Shakaar sent Aleram to tell them. It's the only thing that makes sense." She started to pace. "He couldn't risk meeting with them himself, so he sent Aleram and covered up his absence by telling everyone that he was lost in the raid." She studied the readout in front of Odo again. "The only thing I don't understand is why Bajoran records show him resurfacing after the raid. That doesn't make any sense."
"Of course it does." Odo's mind was racing. "After Nan'Tekk, Shakaar told the resistance that Aleram wasn't dead, but that he had been sent to infiltrate Terok Nor as a spy. Both of them came out looking like heroes. And as long as everyone was focused on not jeopardizing Aleram's cover, they wouldn't look to closely or ask too many questions about why he was here."
"How do you know that?"
"The first part, Aleram told me himself. He was bragging about his exploits as a resistance spy one evening. I had dragged him over here from Quark's after he had gotten about two bottles into Quark's private stock of Romulan Ale, and I assumed he was just blustering." He shook his head. "He was telling the truth, his version of it anyway."
"What do we do now?" Dax looked at him expectantly.
"Now?" Odo smiled coldly. "Now we drag him in for questioning. If he was involved in the massacre of the Nan'Tekk prisoners, then he needs to be held accountable."
Dax returned his smile. "And your just the man to make sure that he is, Constable. I need to go talk to Tala about all of this. I'll meet you back here in a couple of hours. I really want to hear what he has to say for himself."
"Me too, Commander. Me too." He transferred the data on his console into his PADD and followed her out. They split up at the turbolift, Dax heading to her quarters, and Odo heading to OPS. Captain Sisko wasn't going to like this.
Kira sat back and put her hand on her belly. "That was an incredible meal, Regar." She sighed. "All of that was made from Cirraberry root?"
"Well," Regar leaned forward and pointed from dish to dish. "Not everything. The tea and the stew were made from the root. Depending on how it's prepared, it can take on the texture and taste of vegetables or meat. The salad was sea moss that grows on the southern peninsula, about 2 days out, and the pie was TalaBerry, the fruit from an ever-bearing vine that grows underwater."
"Talaberry!!" Kira doubled over laughing. "She must have hated that!"
Regar looked a little sheepish. "We meant it as a compliment, but when she found out that the berry was both sweet and tart, well....she thought we were having a little joke on her." He chuckled. "I guess it is kind of funny."
Kira wiped her eyes and looked over at Bashir, who had finished eating quite some time ago and was eyeing a pile of supplies that was growing larger as work crews carted it from their landing site. She sighed again and looked back to Regar. "I think Doctor Bashir has some things he needs to discuss with you."
Regar turned to him expectantly. "Right," Bashir cleared his throat. "I would like to set up a small clinic. Something we can make do with until the larger equipment gets here in a week or so. What I would need is a clean, dry place, some help with the set up, and some patients."
"The first two are no problem," he frowned. "And we, unfortunately, have an abundance of the latter." He thought for a moment. With a smile, he stood beckoned for them to follow. "I think I have just the place for you."
He led them to the edge of the village, where a small, mud-thatch cottage with closed shutters sat alone, apart from the rest. "This was Tala's." Opened the door and led them inside. "It is the only building not in use. As you can imagine, everything is built to suit. The rest of our energy is spent on the cultivation of our crops, so there is very little of anything not in use."
Dr. Bashir looked around the outer room of the dwelling. It contained several small tables and had hand drawn charts and maps on the walls It was quite well cared for and very clean. That surprised him. "Tala has been gone quite a while. Who's been in here?"
"Tala is well loved, and deservedly so. She's led us through many bad times and did much to help us reach the point we're at. Everyone shows their respect by taking care of her place while she is gone. The carpenters even put doors and shutters on it, to keep the animals out and everything protected from the sun and winds."
"I've been meaning to ask," Kira cut in. "What kind of animal life is there here?"
Mostly small mammalian type creatures." He grinned. "Some of the local children have tried domesticating the ones that we call morants." He raised his hands, holding them about two feet apart. "Their soft pelted creatures about this long. Good natured in general, but not all that interested in being the center of attention. One of them was wounded when it was caught in a fishing net. It let us nurse it, pet it, feed it, but when it was healed, it went back into the woods without so much as a backwards glance." He laughed.
"I think this will be fine," Bashir nodded to himself. "If you don't mind, I will excuse myself and start setting up."
"Of course." Regar smiled. "Unfortunately, this will also have to double for your sleeping area. I'll have someone bring in a cot in for you, unless " He looked from Bashir to Kira expectantly.
"No! No." Kira rushed to correct him, annoyed by Bashir's cocky grin. "Please, have them bring the cot. Unless the good Doctor would rather sleep on the floor." She eyed him pointedly.
"The cot will be fine. Thank you, Regar."
Kira watched him go, trying to stop a scowl from reaching her forehead. "Is there more to see?"
He showed her the bedroom, which was really a ten by fifteen foot room with a bed that looked hardly more comfortable than a cot. The one amenity the room did have was a window overlooking a small inlet of a nearby coral river.
The next room he showed her was also the last. It had windows on every side to let the light in during the day and several oil lamps along the wall for the nighttime. Regar explained that the oil came from the fish they could occasionally net in the river. The fish were also the only meat they ate, and a very rare catch, so they were treated as a delicacy. He further explained that the only buildings with the lamps, which had been rigged with broken components of the Nakota, were Tala's home, and the main hall. "There are usually people gathered at either location at all hours." He grinned. "Your sister was a fine host."
Along the walls of this room were several makeshift sinks with hoses carrying the excess water to the ground outside, and a thick wooden box which was filled with the snow from the peaks of nearby mountains. It was well insulated with material also scavenged from the ship and served quite well as an icebox. In the center of the room was a table and benches, both cut from raw wood, but worn smooth from use and cleaning. Above the sinks were rows of shelves. Something sitting on one of them caught her eyes.
Reaching up, she pulled down a large water flask that had writing on the front. She could recognize her sisters writing anywhere and tried to read the slanting script that had almost been worn off by repeated polishing.
"Talaberry wine." Regar said from behind her. "We made up a dozen bottles or so for her. I believe that is the last. She said she was saving it for you."
"Well," Kira pulled two wooden mugs off of their pegs. "Here I am. Please, sit with me and have a drink."
They sat on opposite sides of the table and Kira filled each of their mugs to the top. After thumping her cup against his, she took an experimental sip. Her eyes widened as the liquid burned down her throat. "This is good." She looked up at him. "It ends a bit roughly, but the flavor is excellent."
Regar watched her as she drained her glass. When she was done, he drained his and set it down to be refilled. Kira suspected it was done out of respect.
"So tell me," She nursed her second cup. "How did you get caught up in all of this?"
Regar smiled. "I was always sympathetic to the Bajoran situation. Because of that, I was working with a small resistance cell, smuggling food and supplies to the front attack formations. One night, a man who called himself Aleram Kass approached me about aiding in the liberation of the Nan'Tekk mining facility. He didn't have to ask twice. He and I planned most of that raid. It's funny, somehow, I thought he would be the one to lead it. When I found out he had been killed "
"Killed?" Kira looked at him, puzzled. "He wasn't killed. He was sent to Terek Nor. Shakaar sent him as a member of the underground. Set him up as a spy before his name could become to known. He thought a lot of that man." She shrugged. "Shame how he turned out."
"Shakaar told us that he had been killed." Regar had a strange look in his eyes. "I don't like being lied to."
"He was probably just trying to protect Aleram's life."
"From us?" he shook his head. "We were on his side. That doesn't make any sense, Nerys. May I call you Nerys?" She nodded. "There had to be some other reason, although I can't imagine what it would be."
Kira nodded in agreement. It didn't make any sense. She'd have to ask Edon about it when she returned to DS9.
The question rapidly moved to the back of her mind as they spent the next couple of hours drinking wine and talking about the rescue. She didn't find out much more about the raid and subsequent attack, but she did learn that Tala had greatly understated her role in the leadership of Missak.
By the time the wine was gone, they were both yawning and a twin moon had been hanging in the sky for quite some time. Regar had long since told a workman to bring a cot and she could hear Bashir in the next room as he set it up and prepared for bed.
"Well," He stood up and stretched. "It's time for me to head home to my wife. I hope sleep finds you well, Kira Nerys."
"And the same to you, Regar." She stood to walk him out. "I do have one other question before you go. I need to recite the sending prayer for someone who died here on Missak. She was a friend " She thought about Zenece and what she had meant to Tala. "I was wondering where the burial ground was."
Something in her voice must have touched him, because he place his hand gently on her shoulder and didn't ask any questions. "It is the space up between the two tallest trees on the hill north of here. I can point you in the right direction in the morning. It's a beautiful place."
Without another word, he turned and left. Kira cleaned up their mess and made her way through the maze of equipment in the outer room. She passed by Bashir who mumbled 'goodnight' and headed into the bedroom. Once there, she fell face first onto the bed and passed out. The last two thoughts that ran through her mind was that the bed had been softer than she expected, and the Talaberry wine had been harder.
"Odo to Dax"
Dax cracked an eye and stared at her console. She had come back to her quarters for the purpose of bringing Tala up to date on the new information, and had ended up back in bed, happy and content in her arms. With a sigh, she woke Tala and reached for her commbadge. "Dax here."
"Commander, I think you should join us in Captain Sisko's office. We have an interesting development." Odo's voice held a hint off impatience. "Bring Tala with you."
"Give us ten minutes. We'll meet you there. Dax out." She threw the commbadge back on top of her clothes and pulled her lover out of bed. "Come on. We have to go."
"You're hurrying?" Tala snickered. "Must be serious."
Dax gave her a mock stern look and dragged her off to the shower.
True to her nature, they arrived twenty minutes later. Dax released Tala's hand as they entered and took their seats. "What's going on?"
Captain Sisko turned his chair to face them, smiling briefly at Tala before motioning to Odo."
"It would seem," Odo stated. "that Aleram has decided to return home."
"What?" Dax sat forward. "He's gone?"
"Apparently so." He picked up a PADD. "He was seen boarding this afternoon's shuttle to Bajor. Before which he released his quarters here on DS9 for reassignment, and had all of his belongings shipped home as well."
"The interesting thing," Sisko's continued for him. "Is that Aleram Kass has never left this station prior to today."
"Do we have any information as to where he went when he reached the planet?" Dax asked.
"Now, there is the final piece of this puzzle." Odo handed her the PADD. "Aleram was listed as being on the shuttle when it left DS9, but he never disembarked when it reached Bajor."
Dax looked over the information and handed it to Tala, who stared blankly at the picture of a man she had known in name only. "That means " Dax began.
"He's gone underground." Sisko looked at her. "Aleram Kass is somewhere on this station, and for some reason, doesn't want us to know it. Which makes me very interested in knowing why." He turned to Odo. "I want him found. Deploy Starfleet security as well. Do whatever you have to, but find him."
Odo nodded. "Commander, I could use your help. Tala's as well."
"Dax, you're dismissed. Tala, I need you to stay."
"Benjamin?" Jadzia tried to decipher the look on his face. "What's going on?"
"Nothing, Old Man. I just need to speak to Tala for a few minutes. That is all right with you, isn't it?" He smiled sarcastically.
"Of course." She squeezed Tala's arm. "I'll be with Odo in security. Meet me there when you're through."
Tala nodded and watched her go, then turned back to Captain Sisko. "What can I do for you, Emissary?"
Sisko smiled. "You don't have to call me that, Tala. I know you have doubts about your faith. Dax told me." He answered her questioning look.
"All right." She smiled at him. "What can I do for you, Captain?"
He came around the desk and sat on the edge, right in front of her. "I have a proposition for you, Kira Talas. I think it might be something you'd be interested in."
The door slid open to a darkened room and Aleram Kass stepped inside. He waited until the door shut behind him and he had placed a security grid over it, before calling for the lights. He looked around the dismal place and sighed. It was much smaller than his previous quarters. Barely the size of an Ensign's bunk room, with one window smaller than a console screen. The only thing that would make it tolerable, was the replicator that took up the far wall. He desperately wanted a drink, but had business to attend to first.
He reached into the pack he had been carrying and pulled out a box roughly the size of a briefcase. Opening it, he removed a minuscule antenna array and set it up on the table near the bed. The rest of the case opened to form a subspace receiver and decryption device. He flipped a switch and smiled as it's panels lit up. He was grateful that the old thing still worked. It had gone through a lot of trenches with him during the occupation.
That done, he glanced at the replicator again and thought briefly of Quarks. With a sigh, he ordered a straight shot of rum and cursed the synthehol as it slid down his throat. He really wanted a shot of real Romulan ale, but he had paid a lot of money for the shuttled records to be altered, and he couldn't risk blowing it by strolling down to the bar. With a soft curse he stretched out on the small bunk and closed his eyes.
Nothing to do now, but wait.
Dax tried to listen to Odo as he outlined their search details to Worf, but her attention was continually drawn to the clock on a nearby console, and door leading to the Promenade. It wasn't until Tala walked through it that she actually relaxed.
"Hi." Tala kissed her gently, much to the surprise of Worf, who seemed unaware of the recent developments between the two of them.
"So?" She looked at Tala expectantly.
"So what?" She smiled at Jadzia's frustrated look. "I'm sorry, 'Zia. I can't tell you yet. The Captain said maybe in a week or so."
Jadzia smiled. "I bet I could get it out of him or you."
"Oh, he also said not to try or he would put you back on duty." She glanced at Odo and Worf, who looked slightly amused. "So what's the situation?"
Odo smiled slightly and pointed to his console. "This is the formation of roaming security, and these are the stationary sentries "
Dax looked at Tala for a few minutes, before shaking her head and rejoining the conversation.
Kira woke up to many different noises, the most prevalent of which was the drone of a centrifuge whirring busily in the next room. Standing, she put her hands against her head and was gratified to find no pain and very little fuzziness. She'd have to remember to stick with synthehol the next time she felt like drinking. She pulled off her uniform and set up a portable sonic shower. She looked at it for few moments, then pulled on a short robe and headed outside.
"Off for a bath?" Bashir smiled at her as she made her way through his clinic. At her affirmative nod, he pointed towards a small bundle on the floor by the door. "Regar though you might, so he sent that for you. It's a towel, some soap, and some lotion for your skin." He ran his hand through his hair. "He left me one too, and I can tell you, it is the best I've felt in days."
"Thanks." She returned his smile and grabbed up the bundle on her way out the door. She made her way around back, thinking of Tala as she went and found exactly what she was looking for. The small inlet that ran behind the bedroom window had a ring of bushes around the side facing the village and a tree with a man-made hook by one side. She hung her towel and robe on the hook and stepped into the water.
It was pleasantly cool, and very clear. The reddish tint didn't obscure the bottom, which she saw was made up of smooth round stones, evenly set in the clay. So it was not a natural inlet. Tala must have created it for this very purpose.
At one side, the rocks came up higher and formed a type of bench which allowed her to sit with her body submerged. She stayed there for almost an hour, relaxing in the morning sun, before finishing her bath and returning to the house.
She dressed in soft pants and flat heeled boots, tucking a baggy shirt under her belt before grabbing a book of prayer and heading back through the village. She followed Regar's rather vague directions without any problem and after 15 minutes of walking, saw two tall trees and several rows of stones in the distance. Looking behind her, she figured that the village was about twice as far from the burial ground as it was from the Rio Grande. By the time she reached the top of the hill, the village was obscured by the trees surrounding it. All she could see were the thin tendrils of smoke from the morning cook fires as they reached up for the sky.
Without warning, the wind started up, and she heard the same sound she had heard when they first landed. Turning her head to one side, she was able to catch the sound as it grew stronger. It was a low keening wail. Not harsh or out of tune. It almost the sound of someone humming under their breath, and as the wind died down, she realized that it was the sound of the breeze moving through the nearby trees. A look of wonder came to her face as she thought about the name of this moon. Missak. Song of my heart. She felt a surge of love for her sister.
She opened her book to the prayer of sending. It was the tradition prayer when a loved one died. The Bajorans, believing that the body was just a vessel for the soul, chanted the prayer to speed the spirit on it's way to the Prophets. She found her page and marked her place before moving up and down the rows.
There were many stones with names and dates, all of them burned in with what appeared to be some kind of torch. Most of the people in the front had died during the escape. Their remains must have been kept until they landed, or the stones were just a memorial, there was no way for her to know. The rest of them were for those who had died on Missak. Kira's forehead furrowed when she realized Zenece's name wasn't among either.
"Who were you looking for?"
Kira spun around to see Regar standing a short way off.
"I didn't mean to intrude. I just thought you might need some help." He came closer. "Do you?"
Kira nodded. "I'm looking for my sister's mate. Her name was Renaya Zenece. Can you tell me where her stone is?"
"Tala's mate?" Regar looked confused. "She never took a mate, Nerys."
"I know. But this was the woman she had been with since before Nan'Tekk. Tala told me she died in a farming accident."
Regar looked thoughtful as he shook his head. "There was never a Renaya Zenece here, Nerys. I should know. I was the record bearer before I was chosen as acting leader. Tala was alone the whole time she was here. From the things she told me before she left, she had been alone for a while before that."
"But," Kira's mind went over what Regar had told her. She couldn't imagine why Tala would lie to her, but she remembered feeling as though Tala wasn't being honest when she met Edon as well. "Why would she tell me she was here?"
"I don't know." Regar looked down at the ground. "I'm sorry to bring you bad news."
Kira nodded absently. She was staring off into the distance, trying to make sense of Tala's lie, when the ground shook beneath them. They both turned in time to see the village blow itself apart.
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