DISCLAIMER/NOTES: See Part One
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Minister of Lies
By Patricia L. Givens
Chapter 9-Truth Has A Price
All she could do at first, was stand with her mouth open, and it appeared that Regar was rooted to his spot as well. It wasn't until a second round of explosions went off that her paralysis broke. She dropped her prayer book and took off running for the village, ignoring Regar's shouts for her to wait.
By the time she reached the first house, he was no longer behind her. The sight that greeted her was one of horror and bad dreams, causing her to stop dead in her tracks. More than three quarters of the buildings were on fire, some, not able to support their own weight, had toppled to the ground. The street was marred by deep grooves were wooden slats had torn into it, and the sky above was black with smoke.
She had just started to move again when a strong hand clamped onto her shoulder. She spun around, ready to kick out at her assailant, and stopped herself just in time. Regar stood behind her, dirty and winded, but strong enough to hold her in her place.
"Slowly, Nerys." He panted. "Keep your wits about you! We need to check on your man."
It took her a moment to realize who he was talking about, but when she did, her eyes flew open wide. "Bashir." She whispered, and turned in the direction of Tala's house.
She slipped quickly through the wreckage of a dozen burning buildings, until she could see the mud shack up ahead of her. The roof was on fire, and the shutters had fallen to the ground, but other than that, it appeared undamaged. As she reached the door, she looked inside and saw Bashir kneeling on the floor. He had one hand held against a cut on his forehead as he rummaged through a medkit, looking for a regenerator. Kira pulled one out of her own pack and handed it to him. "Are you all right?" She bent down to look at his head. "You'll be okay."
She surveyed the room. Almost everything was still intact, only a few broken jars and one shattered chair. She had just helped Bashir to his feet when they heard a scream from outside.
The three of them hurried out to find Clese running towards them. He was losing a lot of blood and by the time he reached them, he wasn't even able to stand. Bashir caught him as he slumped to the ground and pulled him into the shade of a nearby tree. He had a gaping hole in the center of his chest and they could see the blood flow quicken with each heartbeat. Bashir placed his hands over the wound with a sick feeling. He had never seen a wound this serious that could be successfully repaired. But damn it if he wasn't going to try! "Kira!" He snapped. "Take Regar inside and get me the dressing kits, a dermal regenerator, 20 cc's of aranol and anything you can find him for pain! GO!"
"No.." Clese reached up and pushed his closed fist against Kira's stomach. "I thought they were with you." A tear ran down his cheek. "They asked for you. I thought they were with you. I'm sorry. Here. I thought ." His voice trailed off as he went into convulsions. Before Bashir could do anything, he was gone.
Regar turned his head away and cried as Kira reached to the man's closed fist. Prying it open, she pulled out the object he had been trying to give her.
"Why would he think they were with us?" Bashir wiped his hand across his shirt after closing the man's eyes.
"Because," Kira's face had gone stone-like and her mouth was set in a rigid, grim line. She held out a small chain with a broken disk on one end. It was covered with blood and had hair and skin stuck to it. "They were Bajoran."
Before he could stop her, she turned and headed back towards the house. "Kira, wait."
"I want to get a specimen analyzer." She called back over her shoulder. "We need to get something off of this thing before the cells deteriorate."
Just as she reached the door, a charge went off inside, blowing her ten feet across hard gravel. The last thing she remembered was hitting the ground, hard, with the sensation that half of her body was gone.
Denias Lenar stumbled into his quarters and grabbed for a medkit. That damned half wit had nearly torn his ear off. As it was, it would be misshapen. He looked at himself in a mirror. The lobe of his ear was rimmed in raw flesh, the skin was gone, and half of his family marked disk was still stuck there. Reaching up, he ripped it out quickly and wrapped the side of his face in a towel. Once the bleeding had stopped, he gritted his teeth against the pain and rubbed an antibiotic ointment into the wound. The burning was so bad that he slammed a fist into the wall, nearly breaking his fingers in the process.
Once that was done, he activated the small regenerator he had and held it over his ear for a few seconds. It wouldn't do much more than close the edges of the wound, but it would be enough for now. When he got home he could have restorative surgery, he had other things to worry about at the moment.
The only good thing the idiot had done for him was inform him of a miscalculation on his part. He had assumed that Tala would follow Sisko's orders and return to the moon with her sister. Apparently the little troublemaker had a strong will and no respect for the Emissary. He looked into the mirror and grinned. That made it so much sweeter to kill her. Now he could base it on religious reasons as well.
He sat down on the couch and pulled a box from beneath it. Opening it up, he began to encrypt the message he would send to Aleram. It took him over an hour to finish it. The buzzing in his head was killing him.
Once it was done, he laid down and slept for nearly 17 hours. When he awoke, he smiled to see the wormhole in his window. He punched a button and sent his message on it's way.
He instructed his crew to take the ship to the far side of Bajor and land it in a deserted mining district. He hated to destroy a good ship, but he couldn't risk the ramifications if survivors were to recognize it. If there were any survivors. He grinned to himself and went back to sleep.
Dax left Odo's office to find Tala standing by a portal on the Promenade. They had spent the last day and a half looking for Aleram Kass and had still come up empty. She took the Bajoran's hand just as the wormhole opened to release a Bolian transport through to the system. She glance at Tala's face and was surprised to see a look of anger on her features. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know." She brushed away and angry tear. "I hate it when I get like this." She pulled Jadzia's hand up to clutch it over her heart. "Something's wrong. I know something's wrong, but I can't get through the static to figure out what it is." She put her hand to her head and cried out in pain.
"Stop it, Tala." Dax took her in her arms. "You're just going to hurt yourself. It will come to you. Let it." She kissed away a tear that had made it's way down Tala's cheek. "Come on, let's get some dinner." She led her away from the window right before the Bolian transport changed course, away from DS9.
Aleram Kass woke up to a loud beeping in his ear. Reaching over, he slammed his finger against the flashing button on his console and sat up to receive the message. The sight that greeted him was not what he expected. Denais' face had streams of blood across it, and most of his right lobe was missing. He looked glassy eyed and Aleram assumed he had taken something for pain.
"One down. I have it on good authority that Tala did not accompany her sister to Missak."
"No kidding." Aleram cursed under his breath. "I could have told you that if you contacted me before you headed out."
"This means that you will need to finish that half of the job. Twice the agree upon amount. You must find an opportunity and make it look like an accident if you can, but do it regardless. Send a subspace on the agreed upon frequency when it is done. Don't let us down." The screen went blank.
Aleram sat in the darkness for a while before working on his reply. With firm resolve, he spoke into the mike. "This is it, D. No more. My last job and I will tell you I am not happy about it. Three times the agreed upon amount and you let me go. Period. It's non-negotiable. Out." He sent the message and snapped the console shut. Going to his bunk, he took out a mirror and a box. Pulling out face putty and a gold shouldered uniform, he went to work.
Kira felt like her body was on fire. Opening her eyes, she stared up at the smooth, generic ceiling of the Rio Grande. Turning her head to the side, she saw three Julians piloting the ship. "Julian," She whispered. "Are you okay?"
He flipped on the auto pilot and came to her side. "I'm fine, Major. It's you that I'm worried about."
"Me?" She tried to sit up. "Why?"
"Lie still!" His voice got a little harsher than he intended. "I'm sorry. It's just that you have severe burns covering the left side of your body. You need to lie still."
This only caused her to struggle more. "But they need help "
"Major Kira!" His voice carried with the medical authority he had earned along with his post. "You have a right arm that is fractured in thirteen different places, you have burns that that are causing a caustic infection that is eating away at your left arm and you have a concussion that is threatening enough to send you into a coma. Now, if the partial stasis field I have been able to erect is going to work at all, you have got to LIE STILL!"
Kira stopped struggling and allowed her head to roll back onto the pillow. For the first time, she felt the pounding ache in her temples and gritted her teeth to stop from crying. "How are they, Julian? Tell me the truth."
"They're lucky." Julian checked a bandage on her arm, wincing unconsciously before he wrapped it back up. "And that is the truth. They were lucky it was harvest season and ninety eight percent of the population was out in the fields. There were only three seriously wounded and the one casualty, Clese. You are one of the seriously wounded. I couldn't do much for you there. The explosion destroyed most of the medical equipment. All that was left on the ship was first aid supplies. I took what I could use for you and left the rest with Regar. He can take care of the wounded until we can get another ship there. As for us, we're almost home. You've been out for almost 18 hours."
She glanced out the portal over his shoulder and then down to the console. She recognized the readings indicating close proximity to the wormhole. Another 10 minutes and they would be inside. She started to ask another question when she felt her head start to spin. Blackness grew out of the corners of her eyes as she watched Bashir talk to her. She couldn't hear what he was saying but she could see how frantic he was becoming. Just as he took her face in his hands and yelled her name, she passed out.
Bashir looked down at her and felt his heart begin to pound. He had to get her to his sickbay immediately or she might lose her arm or worse. He jumped back into the pilots seat and headed for the wormhole. When it finally spiraled into view, he sighed in relief and glanced back to make sure she was still breathing. Positive that she was, he made his way into the swirling clouds.
Once it had closed behind him, he settled down and concentrated on navigating safely through the passage. Just as the Rio Grande was about to exit, it came to a complete stop. He looked at the controls in panic as the world went white around him.
Kira felt a difference in the flight of the ship and struggled to wake up. When she finally broke through to consciousness, she was looking at the sweetest face she had ever seen. "Odo." She reached up and took his hand. "There was an explosion " She brought her eyes up to meet his and the words stopped in her throat. Odo's eyes were no longer blue they were black, swirled through by the ink blue color of the wormhole. "Odo?" She whispered. "You're not Odo. Who are you?" She tried to sit up and was surprised when her body obeyed her. Looking down at her left side, she saw flawless skin and flesh that still looked rather pink in it's newness. She flexed her fingers without pain and felt only the slightest shadow of an ache in her temples when she touched her head. "Prophets " Her mouth hung open in a perfect 'O'
"Kira Nerys." The creature said evenly. "We have repaired the damage to your body. Now you must go "
"Wait why?" Kira wanted so much to reach out and touch the smooth, expressionless face before her, but didn't dare risk the offense.
"You are important to The Sisko." He looked off to one side. "He needs you. There is much work to be done. And he needs you still."
She was ultimately unable to stop herself as she raised her palm and laid it against his cheek. "Why did you take this form?" She felt like weeping, she so much wanted him to be the real Odo. All her life she had dreamed of this moment, of meeting the Prophets. And all she could think of was Odo. It almost made her laugh.
"This was the form in your heart as you died, Kira Nerys." He looked down at his hands. "These were the thoughts in your mind when your heart ceased it's beating. And so, it was the one we used to bring you back."
She nodded absently. So there was her answer.
"Now you must go." He place his palm against her cheek as she had done to his. "Remember one thing, Kira Nerys." His hand dropped. "All Truth, has a price."
The words echoed in her ears as whiteness enveloped her. When she could see again, she was laying on the floor of the Rio Grande, which was just emerging from the wormhole, into the Alpha Quadrant. She saw Bashir working the controls furiously to bring the ship to top speed. "Bashir to DS9. Bashir to Sisko. Bashir to anyone! I need an emergency beam out the second we dock. Two to the infirmary."
She stood slowly and came up behind him, placing her hand on his shoulder and smiling down into his unbelieving face. "Cancel that." She said loudly. "Just find us a dock."
Kira sat quietly on an examination table as Julian took samples of her new blood and tissue. Sisko, Dax, Tala and Odo were all crowded around, waiting for the results.
"Well," Bashir Smiled at her. "It would appear that the Prophets did an excellent job. No sign of tissue degeneration, no sign of caustic infection, no fractures, no concussion. They should have been Doctors." He quipped.
Kira nodded and smiled at him in gratitude. "Thank you, Julian. If you hadn't gotten me there so fast "
"You're welcome. Now get out of my sickbay. I have an emergency relief task force to put together." He looked at Sisko. "I'll let you know as soon as we're ready."
"Thank you, Doctor."
The small group migrated to the Security Office, where Kira begged a few minutes alone with Odo. "I just need to talk with him for a little while." She looked at them expectantly.
"All right," Sisko pointed the others towards Quarks. "We have a lot to discuss when you're through here." He gave Odo a pointed look. "Call us when you're done."
Kira waited for them to exit before turning to Odo, who had moved to a far corner and was watching her warily. "So Major-"
"You're not going to ask me how my trip was are you?" She got a small smile from him. "Because I can tell you, I certainly wished you were there."
He glanced up sharply at her words and felt himself begin to tremble. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Constable, that when it was beautiful, I thought of you," She moved a little closer. "When it was hell, I thought of you," She moved to stand directly in front of him and looked into his sky blue eyes. "And when I was dying, I thought of you. I've made my choice, Odo. And it's you."
She emphasized her statement by moving into the circle of his arms.
In that one moment, as he brought his lips to hers, Odo felt as though he had a heart. He felt it swell, felt it ache. He felt as though his entire body was hooked into that one imaginary organ and his form pulsed with each heartbeat. When their lips finally parted, Kira sighed and sagged against his chest. "So will you have me?"
"I'll have you," He whispered. "I'll love you, I'll cherish you. I'll take care of you, and I will do or be whatever you want of me."
"All I want is you, Odo. I love who and what you are. I don't want you to be anything but what you are." She pulled back slightly and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Now I just have to tell Edon."
Odo stiffened. "Yes, well .Nerys," He pushed her gently into a chair. "We need to talk. All of us." He thumped his commbadge. "Odo to Sisko. Now Captain."
Kira looked up at him in confusion and then at each of their faces as Sisko, Dax and Tala filed into the room. What she saw there caused her heart to skip. "What?" She whispered.
Tala took her hand, and began to tell her story.
Captain Benjamin Sisko sat at his desk with the lights off, staring out into the space beyond his window. There were so many problems running through his head that he didn't even know how to separate them, let alone solve them.
Major Kira had taken the news remarkably well. That was not a good sign. It either meant that she wasn't feeling herself, or she was putting on an act. He was willing to put money on the latter. But there was nothing to be done for it at this point. She had asked for some time to herself and he had granted it. All of them had escorted her back to her room before heading in their own directions. He knew her time alone was the hardest on Odo. He wanted nothing so much as to comfort her, and she wouldn't let him.
He glanced at a holo-image on his desk. Him and Jake with the players at the last game of the '69 world series. We wondered briefly what he would do if anyone ever hurt his boy the way Shakaar had hurt Tala. The anger that welled up inside of his chest scared him.
Pushing the thoughts away, he sent out a reply to a letter from an old friend at Starfleet Academy, and headed home to see his son.
Dax woke at 0730 the next morning to find a message for her to call Sisko as soon as she awoke. Flipping over to a comm channel, she called him in Ops. "Benjamin," She yawned. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, I wanted to get you, Tala and Kira up here, but at the moment, I'm having trouble locating Major Kira. The computer says she's in her quarters, but she's not answering my calls."
"Hmm. Okay. I'll wake up Tala, and pick up Kira on the way to Ops. See you in 20 minutes."
Thirty minutes later, Sisko looked up from a console he was working on to see Dax and Tala enter Ops.
"Where is she?" He asked.
"I don't know, Benjamin." She held a Bajoran CommBadge out to him. "I found this on her bedside table, but Kira wasn't there."
"Kira?" O'Brien popped his head up from a floor level conduit. "Are you looking for Major Kira?"
"Yes, Chief, we are." Sisko took the badge from Dax and slipped it into his pocket.
"She's not here."
"Yes, we know that, Mister O'Brien. Thank you."
"No," He stood up to join them. "what I mean is, she's not on the station. I took Keiko to meet the 0500 shuttle to Bajor this morning, she has a botany expedition going out to the Cotunga Mountain Range," He rushed on when he saw Sisko's impatient look. "Well, anyway, Kira was on the shuttle too. Keiko tried to talk to her, but she just stared straight ahead and didn't say anything."
"Thank you, Chief." Sisko spoke through gritted teeth. "So much for a surprise attack on our friend the First Minister."
"Should we warn him that she's coming?" Dax's voice indicated that she wasn't in favor of the idea.
"No," he smiled. "He deserves whatever she is going to do to him. Let her go."
He silently wished her well, and dismissed Dax and Tala from Ops.
Kira stormed through the Hall Of Ministers like a she-cat after her prey. She didn't even speak to his assistant before throwing open the door to his office and stomping in. His first reaction upon seeing her was a grin. That quickly faded as he recognized the hate that filled her eyes. He had only ever seen her look that way about Cardassians and the fact that it was aimed at him this time, shriveled his heart in his chest.
Kira watched his expression change from welcome, to resignation, and, finally, to fear as he realized that she was not going to stop. Before he could even say one word, her fist connected with his jaw hard enough to snap his head around in the other direction. Her first kick landed square in his solar plexus and knocked the wind out of him. Her second broke his nose and started a throbbing ache behind his eyes. She was about to come at him again when she was grabbed from behind. She kicked out wildly and craned her head around to see who was holding her. The breath rushed out of her lungs as she saw the neatly bandaged ear of Denais Lenar.
"Let her go, Denais." Shakaar spoke through his pain.
"But, Sir! She'll-"
"Do what I say!" He watched as his Adjetant released her. "Now get the hell out of here!"
He walked out slowly, looking back over his shoulder until the door shut behind him. Once he had gone, Shakaar turned to Kira and slumped in his chair. He opened his mouth to speak and Kira threw something at him. Picking it up, he recognized it as a piece of Denais' earring.
"You bastard." Her voice was low and sounded like the dry rattle of a snake. "You fucking bastard. What you did what you've done " She clenched her hands into fists and closed her eyes, trying to will herself to calm down. "I want to know why, Edon. I want to know who you are, because you are certainly not the person I thought you were. Tell me why." When he didn't answer, she jumped in his face and screamed. "WHY!?!"
Shakaar sighed and released the pressure he had been putting on his nose. A thin trickle of blood rolled down his lip and off of his chin. "Because I had to."
He turned his head to look out the window. "When I got to Nan'Tekk, I knew I would die there. Somehow, I knew that something would happen and I would die. I had resigned myself to that fact, when the vision came."
"Vision?" Kira couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
"Yes, a vision." The placed his hands palm up, an ancient Bajoran stance used in negotiations to state 'in honesty' without words. She had to fight the urge to slap him again. "The Prophets came to me. They told me I had to live. That no matter what, I had to live. That Bajor would need me, and that only I could do what needed to be done." He winced as he spoke, feeling his broken teeth grind into his gums. "The very next day, I was pulled from the crowd."
"And raped my sister!" Kira's arm shot out and backhanded him, causing him to reel in pain. "How many, Edon?? How many did you rape to save your worthless life? How many did you kill when you had Aleram tell the Cardassians where the Nakota was leaving Bajoran space?"
"NO!" He shook his head. "It wasn't supposed to happen that way. The Cardassians agreed to subdue the prisoners. They were supposed to take them to Cardassia 3 and detain them there. That's all."
"Either you are completely stupid, naïve, or lying. And I know you're not naïve. That leaves me with the opinion that you were stupid enough to believe them because it was easier for you that way. And if they did break the agreement, all the better, right? You'd never have to worry about Bajor finding out about your dirty little secret." She tried to calm herself down. She knew that if she kept going the way she was, she would end up killing him. The fact that that thought pleased her, scared her even more. "You didn't tell me how many, Edon. How many women did you rape?"
"Four." He whispered.
"You are a liar." Her fury caused her to lash out, her fist catching him under the chin in a vicious uppercut. His head connected with the glass behind him with a satisfying thud, but she didn't like the way his eyes glazed over. Stepping close to him, she slapped him lightly on the cheeks until he regained his senses. "Don't pass out on me, Edon. That would make me even angrier." She stepped away and began to pace. "Tala told me how many you raped. She told me what you did to Zenece. Did you know she was Tala's mate? Did you?"
Shakaar nodded and spoke quietly. "I didn't rape them, Nerys. I didn't rape Zenece. The Cardassians did. That was the deal. I would let them pin it on me, tear down the moral of those strong enough to fight. They would rape the women, I would take the blame. I only raped four women, and I hated myself for each one of them."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"It's the truth, Nerys."
"DON"T CALL ME NERYS!!!" She shouted. "What about Missak, Edon? Are you going to tell me that you weren't involved in that either?"
"What about Missak?" The concern on his face looked so genuine that it threw her for a moment.
"What about it? It's destroyed!" She lowered her face until it was on level with his. "The village was destroyed, people were hurt. One person was killed. You're a murderer, Shakaar."
"And what about you?" He struggled to sit up. "You killed a Bajoran. You are just as guilty as I am."
"No, Edon. Don't even try that with me. I killed a collaborator who would have killed me. You caused the rape and slaughter of hundreds of innocent people." She felt sick. "All so that you could live." She grabbed him by the chin and squeezed, hard, giving him no choice but to stare directly into her eyes. "By the time Tala and I are through with you, you'll wish you had died that day."
She turned and walked out, slamming the door into Denais as he listened on the other side. She punched him in the side of the head, her fist connecting solidly with his bandaged ear. After he had hit the ground, she grabbed him by the front of the shirt and growled, "You too, Denais. You're just as dead as he is."
He watched her through tear filled eyes as she bulled her way out of the hall. He glance into the room where the First Minister sat, huddled in pain, and walked away. Shakaar would never trust him again, but he could do one last thing to help his First Minister. Reaching his room, he sent a message to Aleram, promising 5 times the offered amount and a free ride to anywhere, if he delivered their heads in the next two days.
Kira slept most of the way back to the station, but it didn't even put a dent in her exhaustion. She had forgotten just how much energy hate could take out of you. She was looking forward to a hot bath and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was an understatement to say that the sight of Captain Sisko waiting for her at the airlock when she disembarked was not a welcome one. She thought about ducking back inside, but only for a moment. In then end, she walked right up to him and looked at him expectantly.
"Did you have a nice trip, Major?" His voice was playful, but she could hear the steel underneath.
"As good as can be expected Captain."
"Well, you're back just in time. I have a little meeting set up in my office. Let's go."
"Captain," She wanted to explain to him just how tired she was, but something in his eyes stopped her.
"Major," He said softly. "Someone wise once said, 'There will be many opportunities in your life to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them." He handed her her commbadge and with a sarcastic grin, waved her towards his office.
When they arrived, Dax was already waiting for them. The Trill took in her bloody, bandaged hands and sighed. "Is there anything left of him?"
"Enough." She sat down heavily. "Death's too easy."
"To get to the business at hand," Sisko cut in. "There is someone I would like you to meet. A new senior officer that will be stationed here on Deep Space Nine."
Both Dax and Kira looked completely confused.
He grinned and motioned towards his bathroom door.
Tala was standing there. She wore the red shouldered uniform that indicated Starfleet Command. Her hair had been cut quite short and there was one black and gold pip on her collar.
"May I introduce, Ensign Kira Talas." A huge grin split his face.
Kira and Dax both smiled and congratulated her. "But," Dax glanced at Sisko quizzically. "You said Senior Officer."
"She will be, Dax. Once she completes the required Academy courses, she will be awarded the acting rank of Lieutenant. At that time she will become the Official StarFleet Liaison Officer to Missak. Stationed here, on DS9."
He looked quite proud of himself as Dax walked over to stand beside him. "How many favors did you have to call in for this one, Benjamin?"
He turned to grin at her. "All of them, Old Man. All of them. And I would very definitely say that you owe me."
"I would definitely say that I agree." She squeezed his arm in thanks.
"On to the next piece of business." Sisko sat at his desk and pulled out a PADD. "You're first official mission as a member of Starfleet, will be to return to Missak immediately and assess the damage caused by the recent attack. You will report directly to me." He smiled. "You get to pick your crew. You and two others will pilot the Rio Grande. It's the only ship they are familiar with and I don't want to scare them again. The Defiant will follow, carrying Doctor Bashir and his medical equipment." He started to tap information into his PADD and then stopped, looking over the top of it. "May I assume that I know who you will be choosing?"
"Good. Then report to docking bay twelve at 0700 hours tomorrow. I'll see you there. Dismissed."
Aleram Worked his way through a conduit, moving as close as he could when he caught the sound of O'Briens Irish brogue. Slipping his ear against the grate of an air duct, he listened to the Chief give instructions. Something about another trip to the Gamma Quadrant. The Rio Grande and the Defiant?? His eyes widened. So they meant business this time. He continued to listen until he heard the names he wanted to hear. Tala and Major Kira would be on the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, so would Commander Dax. But that couldn't be helped. Moving down to a further grate, he slipped into the docking bay and managed to sneak aboard the runabout that would soon be heading back to the Gamma Quadrant. Twenty minutes later, he left the docking bay the way he had come.
He didn't return to his Quarters. Instead, he entered a different bay and climbed aboard the small shuttle he had been given when he first came to DS9 He stowed his gear and pulled the putty off of his nose, scratching his ridges where the disguise had irritated it.
Leaning back in his pilot chair, he sent his request for exit clearance at 0645 the next morning, and waited.
Dax and Tala and Kira and Odo, all spent that night in the same manner. Making love to the person they loved most in their lives. Tala tried several times to tell Jadzia how she felt about her, only to be pleasantly interrupted with kisses and caresses. Finally, she decided it would be much more romantic to tell her when they reached Missak. They would lay in the pool behind her cottage, listen to the song of the wind through the trees, and she would tell her. And with a little luck she'd hear those same words from Jadzia's lips.
Odo and Kira had no such difficulties. By the time the day lights clicked on, they were thoroughly enmeshed in each other, having spoken their vows of love to each other in the darkness. The only hardship they faced was saying goodbye. Kira was going to Missak on the Rio Grande, and Odo, on the Defiant.
He watched her as she climbed aboard, and tolerated Dax's knowing smile, then turned and went through his own airlock and, hearing it click shut behind him, steeled himself for what he knew was coming.
Almost an entire day trapped with a group of men who knew he had just lost his virginity.
After the first ten minutes, he tuned them out and stood watching out of a portal as Kira's runabout left the docking ring. They had just left dock themselves when he saw the back end of the Rio Grande shake violently. They came to a dead stop and Odo could see smoke seeping out from a crack somewhere in their hull.
Something hit the Defiant and rocked it lightly to one side.
"What the hell was that, Mister Worf?" Sisko barked, pulling himself up off the floor.
"Shock wave, Sir. Something just exploded inside of the Runabout."
"Something?" Sisko began to scan their immediate area. "Could you be a little more specific? Are they all right over there?"
"I'm reading three life signs. Two strong .one failing." He looked up at Odo.
"The failing lifesign is Bajoran."
"Get me over there, Commander!" Odo stepped up onto a transporter pad. "Now!"
Worf looked to Sisko for approval. On his nod, he started the sequence and sent Odo to the cabin of the flailing runabout.
"Sir," Worf motioned for Sisko to join him at the console. "The charge was detonated by a transmitting device operating on a wide band frequency in a local range." His hands flew over the controls. "I think I can isolate the source."
"Do it, Commander."
Worf found the final coordinates and forced them into the ships computer. "Onscreen!" he barked.
A small Bajoran craft appeared in their viewscreen. "It is within phaser range, Captain."
Sisko didn't even hesitate. "Target to disable, Commander. FIRE!"
Their blast was meant to take out the ships port nacelle, but the Bajoran craft changed course unexpectedly, causing the full force of the phaser to go directly into it's engine compartment.
"His warp coil is overheating, Captain. His ship will blow itself apart in less than thirty seconds."
"One, very faint."
"Beam him out. I want him here, now!"
Sisko walked over to the Transporter pad and watched as a huddle mass appeared on the floor. Just as he finished materializing, the Defiant was rocked once again, this time by the exploding warp coil of the Bajoran vessel. Once the ship had steadied itself, he brought his full attention back to their prisoner.
Aleram was laying on his back, one of his lungs collapsed and the other failing rapidly. The burns that covered his body hurt tremendously and the only thing that kept him from curling up in pain, was the fact that he couldn't move. He reached one claw-like hand towards Sisko, who backed up to avoid his touch.
"Aleram Kass." He looked down at the dying man and fought the urge to drag him to his feet. He moved aside so that Bashir could do a medical scan of his vital signs. When his reading was done, Julian closed the tricorder slowly. He looked at Sisko and shook his head.
Captain Sisko knelt by Aleram's side and looked into his eyes. "You're dying. Nothing you do now can save Shakaar."
"My " He swallowed hard. "My orders did not come from the F-first Minister." His eyes began to glaze over.
"No, damn it!" Sisko grabbed him by his collar and shook him, but it was no use. He died without regaining consciousness.
Sisko lowered him back to the floor and contemplated his still form for a few seconds before turning his attention back to the Rio Grande. "Any word from the runabout?"
Worf shook his head.
"Hail them," Sisko stared out the portal towards the crippled ship. "Keep hailing them until someone answers us."
Odo braced himself for the worst as he materialized on the tiny Bridge of the Rio Grande. He didn't even want to think about what he would do if he lost Major Kira. But then, he didn't know what Kira would do if she lost her sister. With a sigh, he stepped through the smoke and surveyed the wreckage.
As far as damage went, it was minimal. There was a hairline fracture in the ships hull, but Dax had quickly neutralized that with pressurized force field. The rest of the damage was superficial. Seats were thrown about and there were a few cracked consoles, but all in all, it was better than he had expected. As he moved towards the back of the ship, he finally found the three of them. Dax and Kira were huddled around Talas, who was prone on the floor and didn't look to be conscious. Dax was holding a cloth to the back of her head as Kira ran a tricorder over her body.
"What can I do?" He quickly knelt beside them and offered his hands. Dax took one of them and led it to the cloth she was holding. "Keep the pressure on here. She's losing a lot of blood and I need to get a medkit." She relinquished her hold on Tala's head and ran to the front of the ship. When she was gone, Odo reached out and brushed his fingers along Kira's cheek. He felt her tears against his 'skin' and he wished that he could hold her. "What happened?"
"I don't know," She sobbed. "Tala came to the back to stow her gear, and when she opened a locker, it exploded. Something wasn't right though. I saw the device. It looks like it should have torn the back end of the ship off."
At that moment, Dax returned with the medkit and pulled his hand away to work on the wound. "Where is it? The device?"
Kira pointed to the storage area. "Back there. You can't miss it."
Odo pushed broken equipment out of his way as he entered the cargo hold. He immediately saw what she meant. The area around the locker was black and melted, forming a mess of resin, plastic and metal that surrounded the initial blast area in a circle with a five foot radius. He laid his hand gently against the surface and pulled it back when the heat seared into his substance. He picked up part of a meted fuse and studied it. From the way it was set up, it looked as though the charge was supposed to be activated when the warp engines came online. That would have tripled the effect of the bomb and destroyed the ship altogether. The only thing he could come up with was that Aleram jumped the gun. He saw the Defiant getting between him and his target and decided to detonate before they reached warp on the other side of the wormhole. Which was the only thing that saved their lives.
"Tala?" Kira's panicked voice carried from down the corridor. "Tala Open your eyes. Open your eyes, ti'san. Please, oh Prophets open your eyes." He heard her start sobbing again and went to comfort her, but Kira would have none of it. Her eyes held an unreasoning anger that caused her to push him away and into a bulkhead. She skidded through the walkway and dropped into the Pilot's chair. With a determined look on her face, she powered up the engines.
"What's she doing?" Odo started to go after her but Dax grabbed his arm.
"Tala's not going to make it, Odo." Her eyes were filled with tears as she tried everything she could to get Tala to respond.
He looked from Dax's anguished face to Kira's and then it suddenly hit him.
She was taking her to the Prophets.
Sisko watched the Rio Grande on the viewscreen. When it powered up it's engines and moved off at quarter impulse, he rubbed his head and yelled at no one in particular, "Where the hell do they think they're going?? Worf," He thought he actually saw the big Klingon cringe but he couldn't be sure. "What will happen if the force field around their breach disintegrates in the wormhole?"
"The ship will de-pressurize and be torn apart."
"Can we cover them with our shields?"
"Not in the wormhole, Sir. We would not be able to maintain that kind of contact. And if they were torn out of our shield range, that alone might weaken the field they've been able to construct."
"Tractor them away from the wormhole." Sisko was getting close to the bottom of the barrel.
"Captain, if we do that-"
"Let me guess," Sisko interrupted sarcastically. "We risk weakening their force field correct?"
Worf nodded. He watched his Captain as the Rio Grande got closer and closer to the opening. "What are your orders, Sir?"
Captain Sisko pulled at his beard and returned to his command chair with a sigh. "Let them go. We'll just have to trust them on this one."
Worf nodded and stopped to watch as the runabout disappeared into wormhole.
Kira piloted the runabout until they were halfway through the wormhole, then brought it to a stop and powered down. She came to sit by Tala again and held her hand as Dax worked over her.
Dax was frantic. Nothing they were doing was having any effect and Tala kept slipping deeper into her coma. Her brain activity was declining at an alarming rate, and her blood pressure was getting dangerously low. But Dax kept at it until, finally, there was nothing left to try. She closed her tricorder and swallowed hard. Slumping against the wall at her back, she lowered her head into her hands and cried.
Kira, on the other hand, got angry. Standing up, she raised her fist to the ceiling and yelled, "Where are you? You said Sisko needs me, and I know he needs Dax. Well, neither one of us can live without Tala. Can you hear me? Where are you!?!"
Odo grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her against his chest. He stroked her hair and tried to help calm her as her entire body shook in rage. He was so focused on what he was doing, that it took him a moment to realize that the lights were getting brighter. In a few moments, he couldn't see anything at all. When his vision cleared, the runabout was gone.
At first he thought he was alone, but one by one, Kira appeared, then Dax, and finally Tala, who was spread out on an examination table under a sheet. Her eyes were closed, and she was very pale.
Kira rushed to her side and checked her pulse. When she smiled, Dax's whole body physically relaxed. She stood on the other side of the table and helped Kira try to wake her. But no matter what they did, Tala's eyes didn't open. It reached a point where Kira thought she had been wrong, and checked her pulse again, only to find it strong and steady.
"She is alive."
They all jumped at the sound of Worf's voice. It was a Worf they had never seen before. Quiet, serene, so unlike the man who actually was Worf. Kira found herself in an awkward position. That of being humble in front of a man she was used to arguing with. She closed her eyes and told herself, 'He is a Prophet. He is a Prophet.' When she opened them again, she focused on his eyes. Those strange black eyes with the colors of the wormhole swirling through them. Then she was able to bow her head in respect. "Thank you. She means a lot to me."
"We did not save her for you." Even the timber of Worf's voice seemed quiet. "We saved her for Bajor."
"Bajor?" Kira glanced at Dax uneasily. "What do you mean?"
"Talas has a destiny not yet to be revealed. To us, it is known, as all things are known, and experienced . To you, it has yet to come."
Dax looked at her lover and felt her heart swell with pride. She had known that Tala was a hero, and would continue to be so. "Can she go with us now?"
"Go?" The Worf turned his head to one side and studied Odo intently. "You are a Founder, a Changeling. Among humanoids how unlikely." He returned his attention to Dax. "She may not go. She must stay."
"What?" Kira and Jadzia spoke in unison.
The Worf looked at them with a blank kind of patience. "Talas has no faith. No belief to sustain her. She must remain here, until she has found it. Only then may she return to her linear existence."
"Until?" Dax stepped closer to the being. "I thought you were none linear! Doesn't that mean that you could show her now, and send her home?"
"It is not we, but her, who must find her faith. Linear creatures have a need to remain linear, no matter how badly it may impair their ability to learn. As such, Tala will find her faith, when she begins her search. We cannot show her what she does not wish to see."
"What if she doesn't want to stay?" Dax moved closer still and Kira reached out, trying to restrain her from advancing on a god.
"She wishes it, as we require it."
"You'll forgive me if I don't believe you "
"Dax!" Kira snapped. "This isn't Worf you are talking to."
"I know that, Kira."
"Are you sure?" Talas whispered from where she was sitting up on the table. "These are the Bajoran Gods, 'Zia. You'd better watch out or Kira will try to teach you some manners, just like she did me." She smiled. "She never was any good at it." She tried to stand and fell back against the table.
Dax rushed to her side and helped support her until she found her legs. "Are you all right?"
"I think so. I certainly feel better than I did an hour ago." Her smile was overly bright as she looked up into Jadzia's eyes. "I have to stay, 'Zia."
"No you don't. You said yourself, that you were a heathen "
"And that I would remain so, until I was proven otherwise." She took Dax's face in her hands. "I think this is my last chance, Jadzia. My last chance to save this part of myself." Tears slid down her cheeks. "I love you, 'Zia. I'm sorry it took me so long to tell you. I wanted to say it on Missak, with the moons overhead and the song in the trees."
"You still can." Dax leaned forward and kissed her gently.
"You're right, I can. Just not right now. I'll be back, 'Zia. I swear it. I'll be back."
She raised her hands helplessly and looked over at the Prophet.
Worf spoke evenly. "A week, a year perhaps yesterday. It means nothing to us, and everything to you. We will keep that in our thoughts, when she finally finds her way."
Dax nodded slowly. It was Tala's choice, and she hadn't chosen her.
"Don't think of it that way, 'Zia." A sad smile crossed her face at Dax's surprise. "Here, I can hear everything. Please don't think of it as me not choosing you. I have chosen you. But I can't have any kind of life until I do this." She waited until Jadzia took a deep breath and composed herself before kissing her. The kiss was long and slow, and felt too much like goodbye.
When they broke apart, she went to her sister and embraced her, whispering in her ear. "She doesn't understand, 'Rys. Please help her."
"Who's going to help me?" Kira tried to smile and started to cry instead.
"Oh, 'Rys. You know why I am here. You would do the same if you were in my place."
Kira nodded once. She did know. But that didn't mean she had to like it.
Tala looked to the Prophet and then back to her sister. "There is one more thing, Nerys."
"What?" Her heart was heavy and she didn't know if she could take much more.
"Don't expose Shakaar."
Kira's jaw dropped. "But after what he did to you after what he did to Missak "
"Missak was Denais, Nerys. Maybe Shakaar knew what might happen, but he didn't give the order."
"How do you know that?" Her voice was incredulous.
"They showed me." She motioned over her shoulder to where the Prophet stood. "All truth has a price, 'Rys. And this is the price: Revenge is nothing, until justice takes place. There is no justice in destroying Bajor. If you expose Shakaar, you destroy Bajor. Unfair, but true. So revenge must wait." She smiled. "But then, someone did once say that revenge is a dish best served cold."
Kira looked away, trying to hide her anger.
"I know what this will do to you. It's not forever, Nerys. Just until he can no longer influence Bajor. When he is no longer so favored, then he will find justice, and vengeance will follow with it." She kissed her big sister tenderly on the cheek. "The Prophets trust your decisions. Make wise ones."
Kira nodded and Tala moved away, returning to the table and closing her eyes. Within a matter of seconds, she had faded from view.
"You must go now. You're ship is functional." Worf pulled back. "Tell the Sisko, we seek his counsel."
The light claimed them again, leaving them hollow and empty on the floor of the Rio Grande.
Sisko looked at his console for the tenth time in the last half an hour. "How long have they been in there?"
"Two hours and forty seven minutes, Sir." Worf tried to keep the impatience from his voice. He was about to suggest that they go in after them when the wormhole blossomed into view.
Captain Sisko stood and approached the viewscreen. A smile of relief spread across his features when the runabout came into view. "Hail them, Mister Worf."
In a matter of seconds, Worf replied "They're responding, Captain."
"On speaker. Dax? Kira?"
"We're here, Benjamin." Dax's voice sounded strained as she returned his greeting. "Odo, Kira, and I are fine." Her voice broke. " We lost Tala."
He felt his mouth go dry as she said those words. He swallowed. "Understood. We have docking clearance for you in Bay 5."
"Not just yet, Captain." Kira's voice this time. She sounded very close to breaking. "We need to make a trip to the surface first."
"Are you sure that's wise? Dax? Odo?"
"At this point, Captain," Odo's voice sounded steady. "I don't think it is a choice. I'll make sure there is no trouble."
"All right." He shrugged and sighed. "I'll be waiting for a full report as soon as you return."
"Yes, Sir. Rio Grande out."
Sisko watched the shuttle as it accelerated towards Bajor. He waited until it was out of sight before ordering the Defiant home.
First Minister Shakaar Edon sat patiently in his office, staring out at Bajor's rising moons. Denais had fled, and he was already getting reports about the fiasco at the mouth of the wormhole. With Aleram dead, he knew there was no way he could ever convince Kira of his ignorance about his Adjetant's recent activities. So he sat and waited for the other shoe to drop.
He didn't have to wait long.
He had been sitting there less than an hour when Odo shifted his way under the door and turned the lock from the inside. He should have known they would bring the 'shifter. He had always thought Kira was a bit too soft on him.
Odo slid into his normal form and opened the door to let Kira and Dax in. He didn't get up as they moved forward, surrounding his desk on all three sides. "Well," He straightened his shoulders. "I was wondering when you were going to get here."
"Were you so anxious to see us, Edon?" Kira's voice was steady, her eyes clear. He was surprised to see the anger gone. He didn't trust it.
"I don't suppose it would do any good to tell you I wasn't involved in what happened today?"
Dax felt her anger rise at the lightness in his voice, but Kira spoke before she could.
"No, Edon. It wouldn't matter." She sat down on the edge of his desk. "What
matters is what happens next."
"All right," He sat back in his chair and looked up at her. "What happens next?"
"What happens next," She reached out quickly and grabbed his chin, which was still in the process of healing. Pulling him forward, she ignored his grunt of pain and positioned his face directly in front of hers. "What happens next, is that we talk, and you listen." She loosened her grip but did not let go. "This is what is going to happen, Edon. You are going to serve the next season as First Minister. When your term is over, you will refuse the nomination to run for re-election. You will step down quietly, and leave Bajor. You will not return ever."
"Bajor is my home-"
"Not anymore." Kira let her hand drop. "In addition to this, you will issue an arrest warrant for Denais Lenar for his participation in the recent terrorist activities against the Bajoran settlers on Missak. I don't doubt that he will disappear long before the warrant is even inked, but I want it nonetheless." She stood. "Do you understand what I am offering you, Edon? I am offering you the opportunity to finish your term with dignity, and to get off of Bajor before I send the dogs after you. If you do not accept this offer, I will be in the head Magistrates office tomorrow morning, explaining to him that the First Minister of Bajor is a liar, a rapist, and a murderer." She looked at him expectantly. "What is your answer?"
"It doesn't sound like there is much of a choice." He sighed heavily. "I accept your offer. But I want you to know, I did not send Denais to destroy Missak, anymore than I sent Aleram to kill you and Tala. Denais made those decisions on his own." He took her hand only to have her rip it from his grasp. "I loved you, Nerys. Please remember that."
"I'll remember another lie, First Minister. You will have one week to vacate this system after you have stepped down. Goodbye, Edon."
Odo and Kira turned to leave, but Dax lingered behind. She studied Shakaar for a few moments before crouching down to whisper, "You have cost me something that I held very dear. For that, I'll give you some advice."
He cringed slightly. "What would that be?"
Dax smiled, a cold smile that sent tremors down his spine. "Run," She whispered. "As far and as fast as you can. Because I'll be coming for you," She moved in until her face was barely an inch from his. "And Trills can have a very long memory."
He remained there long after they had gone, his mind occupied with various images of death.
Every one of them had blue eyes.
They hardly spoke on the ride back to the station, each of them preoccupied with their own thoughts. Every once in a while, Kira or Odo would glance back at Dax and she would have to smile reassuringly, something that was getting increasingly difficult to do.
By the time the runabout docked, Dax just wanted to be alone. She mumbled excuses and headed off, leaving Odo and Kira, arm in arm, to watch her go. Kira knew this was harder for Dax. She at least had the small comfort of knowing that Tala was with the Prophets. Dax only knew that she was gone. Odo glanced at Kira and saw the beginnings of tears in her eyes. Placing an arm around her, he led her home.
Dax didn't know where to go, so she wondered the corridors aimlessly. When she passed the Science Lab, she backtracked and went inside. She searched through the supply cabinets until she found what she was looking for, a cylinder of plastic and metal about a foot long and four inches in diameter. Tucking it under her arm, she headed for her quarters.
The scent was there the moment she opened the doors, leaving her weak and wanting to cry. She straightened her back as she made her way to the bedroom. Once there, she opened the top of the cylinder and slid the Talas flower inside. Sealing it, she punched in the activation code and watched as a golden shimmer ran down the length of the plant, creating a stasis field from one end of it to the other.
She stared at it as though it would disappear too. "I love you, Kira Talas." She whispered to herself. "I never got to say it at all." Clutching the tube to her chest, she went into the living room and sat down heavily on the couch. Leaning back, she looked out of the window just as the wormhole opened, causing tears to run freely down her cheeks.
Placing her hand against the glass, she made her wish.
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