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After Ro left, Kira sat down, staring at the book and its translation, feeling strangely numb. It was almost as though Reyla's murder had triggered a chain of miseries, as though the man who had killed her had introduced chaos and disaster to them all.
Within the last three days, Reyla's murder, then the Jem'Hadar attack. Now the Federation is coming, weapons ready, we've got a Jem'Hadar locked up who says that Odo sent him here on a mission of peace...and now this.
As unhappy and tired as she was, the thought almost made her smile, a giddy reaction to the unlikely summary of events. It sounded ludicrous, the details and circumstances only adding to the implausibility of it all.
Yes, and people have died.
The thought sobered her instantly. She picked up the translation, scrolling through a few pages. She opened the book's front cover again, looking at the strangely flowing symbols. No author's mark.
Ro's voice, the open worry on her face. Colonel, I'm not prone to leaps of faith, you probably know that, but everything in that book has come true. Everything.
Kira concentrated on the translation, moving back to the text that Ro had shown her, considering her security chief's credibility as the words skipped by. Whatever the difficulties between them, Ro had presented her findings clearly, her deductions sound: Istani Reyla had brought a book of Bajoran prophecy to the station and hidden it, perhaps because she knew that someone wanted to take it from her. The as yet unidentified killer had stabbed her for the bag she carried, and had almost certainly fallen to his death believing that he had the book. All of this suggested that the artifact was extremely important.
Kira wasn't sure about a lot of things when it came to her new security officer, but Ro's intelligence had never been in question. Nor had her reading skills.
Kira read the marked passage again; according to the padd, it was the last complete prophecy. Pages from before and after the text were gone, ripped from the book.
...with the Herald attendant. A New Age for Bajor will begin with the birth of the alien Avatar, an age of Awareness and Understanding beyond what the land's children have ever known. The child Avatar will be the second of the Emissary, he to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, and will be born to a gracious and loving world, a world ready to Unite. Before the birth, ten thousand of the land's children will die. It is destined, but should not be looked upon with despair; most choose to die, and are welcomed into the Temple of the Teacher Prophets.
Without the sacrifice of the willing, the Avatar will not be born into a land of peace. Perhaps the Avatar will not be born at all; it is unclear. That ten thousand is the number, it is certain. Ten thousand must die.
Kira read it again, then closed her eyes. There were over a thousand documented prophetic writings accepted by the Vedek Assembly and the Chamber of Ministers as having been influenced by the Prophets, easily several thousand more that had been rejected; Istani Reyla would surely have taken it before the Assembly, if she'd actually believed that it was real. Or to a vedek, at the very least. Ro could have read exaggerated importance into a few vague predictions...and even as complicated as a twenty-plus-millennia-old book would be to create, it surely wasn't impossible.
Kira felt new ache. The idea that the sweet and compassionate Reyla might have been murdered over some kind of a fraud scheme, something so useless, so trivial, was a dismal one. It made her wish that the clumsy killer were still alive, so that she could kill him herself.
If it was true...but no, with the seeds of doubt planted, she couldn't swallow it. Not without reading it herself, first.
I should get back to bed. The station repairs were unfinished, their defenses unreliable, and the Allied task force would be coming within the next twenty to thirty hours, give or take, planning to charge into the Gamma Quadrant to see what the Dominion was really up to. It was a decision that no one on the station agreed with, whether or not they could get DS9 operational in time to defend against the probable outcome; the task force was a bad idea.
The Allies feared that the isolated strike on the station was a Dominion ploy; Kitana'klan, their Jem'Hadar mystery guest, claimed that the Founders hadn't sanctioned the attack. She wanted to believe it...but Kitana'klan could be lying. It didn't help that the station's internal sensors were still uncertain, and the manual sweeps were inconclusive; for all they knew, there could be a dozen more of the damned soldiers lurking around, and one was already over Kira's limit.
Kira had more than enough insanity to deal with without crediting a probable forgery...but she couldn't dismiss it, not yet. If Ro was as right as she thought she was, they were headed for a very dark place.
Sighing, Kira touched the command that sent the translation back to its beginning and started to read.
Jake piloted the shuttle Venture back toward the station, carefully watching the radiation levels that hid his approach. He was probably being overly cautious; Nog had said that the destruction of the Aldebaran had irradiated the station's immediate vicinity, making it nearly impossible to detect a ship -- certainly a personal shuttle the size of the Venture -- but Jake wanted to be sure that he couldn't be tracked. The departure log would show that he'd left DS9 headed for the most common route to Earth, assuming anyone wanted to look, and if what Nog had said was true, the sensors shouldn't be able to pick up his return.
Or me going into the wormhole, if I'm careful. And lucky. He'd been incredibly lucky already; the circumstances couldn't be better, with so much of the station still being repaired or upgraded, and the wormhole still being triggered by remnants of the Aldebaran. Once the Federation showed up, they'd start investigating the wreckage, then transporting the remains away. That would close his window of opportunity; once they arrived, there'd be no way for him to get into the wormhole undetected.
He was still out of sensor range, but could see the tiny dot of DS9 on the viewscreen, and even imagined that he could see the cloud of destruction that billowed near the station, an invisible aura of hazardous energy studded with great, ragged pieces of the Aldebaran.
Although there were at least seven ship remnants large enough for what he had planned, there were only two that seemed to be on a trajectory that would trigger the wormhole. Jake meant to ease in behind one of them, carefully keeping it between him and the station as he fired a couple of low-power thruster bursts to help it along, low enough that the radiation should cloak him completely. The Klingon patrol ship, the Tcha'voth, might spot some of the energy bleed, but they were guarding against attack from the Gamma Quadrant; they'd go with the station's assessment in the end, because the bleed would dissipate too fast to be coming from a cloaked ship. A frag trigger explained things nicely.
And then I'll find him. I'll find him and bring him home.
The thought gave him flutters of anxious hope. He knew the prophecy almost by heart, of course, but it was a comfort to see it, to hold it in his hands; keeping an eye on the Venture's careful progress, Jake reached down into his bag and pulled out the small bundle that Istani Reyla had given to him. It seemed like a million years ago, but it had been less than a week -- and the prylar had been killed only days after their meeting, a fact that Jake still hadn't fully digested. He focused instead on the ancient page of writing that he unwrapped, that told him what he had to do.
Jake traced the symbols of the dead language, the words of the translation clear in his mind, the parchment waxy and soft beneath his trembling fingers.
A Herald, unforgotten but lost to time and removed from sight, a Seer of Visions to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, will return from the Temple at the end of this time to attend the birth of New Hope, the Infant Avatar. The welcomed Herald shares a new understanding of the Temple with all the land's children. Conceived by lights of war, the alien Avatar opens its eyes upon a waxing tide of Awareness.
The journey to the land hides, but is difficult; prophecies are revealed and hidden. The first child, a son, enters the Temple alone. With the Herald, he returns, and soon after, the Avatar is born. A new breath is drawn and the land rejoices in change and clarity.
Herald. Or Emissary. And who else could the first son be, if the Avatar was Kas and Dad's baby? Istani Reyla had given the prophecy to him because she knew that it was true, and he knew it, too. He could feel it, and that everything had gone so smoothly -- buying the Venture from Quark, the readiness with which everyone had bought his story about going to Earth to visit his grandfather, even the fact that the Aldebaran had been destroyed and would effectively shield his movements -- all of it had fit together in a way that was almost frightening, that suggested there were greater powers at work. Powers that wanted him to succeed.
Except for Istani Reyla, his mind whispered. Where did she fit in?
He didn't know, and didn't want to think about it. At the moment, there was nothing he could do about it anyway, not without abandoning his mission. When he got back, he'd tell Kira everything, he'd tell her about the prophecy and what he suspected -- that somehow, Istani had been killed because of it.
Or I'll tell Dad. He'll know what to do.
It was hope talking, but that was okay; he thought he deserved a little hope. And if he was wrong about everything, no one would ever have to know what he had attempted. He could make up a story about the shuttle being faulty, that it had been nudged into the wormhole by some of the debris as he was returning to the station; he could make up anything he liked, if the prophecy turned out to be false.
It won't be.
On the screen, the space station slowly grew, its tiny lights glittering and bright against the fathomless dark. Jake tucked the aged paper back into its wrapping, excited and nervous. He was going to bring his father home.
Copyright © 2001 by Paramount Pictures
The freighter was Cardassian, of an older class, and everyone on board was about to die.
I'm dreaming, Kira thought. She had to be, but the awareness brought no relief. The details were too real, the sensations too vivid. She stood at the entrance of a large cargo bay, the curved and heavy lines of the ship obviously Cardassian, the kind once used to transport laborers and plunder during the Occupation. And in front of her, sprawled amidst the broken crates and overturned bins, were a few dozen raggedly dressed Bajorans and a handful of Cardassian soldiers, gasping for air, many of them already unconscious, bathed in the dull glow of the ship's emergency lights. Life-support failure.
She clamped down on a flutter of panic, inhaling deeply — and though she could breathe easily, she had to clamp down even harder, her senses telling her that she couldn't possibly be asleep. The air was cold and sharp, and she could smell the fading scents of sweat and fear and watery katterpod bean gruel, the smell of the Bajoran camps where she'd spent her short childhood. It was dark, the only light coming from emergency backup, casting everything in deep red shadow, and the only sound — besides the pounding of her heart — was the hopeless, laboring beat of slow asphyxiation, a chorus of strained and pitiful hisses.
She stepped into the storage bay, afraid, struggling to stay calm, to try to make sense of what was happening.
The clothes, the Cardassian's weapons, the very status of the Bajorans — Occupation. And from the bulkiness of the guard's uniforms, probably from before she was born.
Kira stepped further inside, feeling old defenses rise to the surface, grateful for them. Though bloodless, it was as terrible a death scene as any she'd witnessed. Except for the struggle to breathe, nobody moved. Most of the Bajorans had huddled into couples and small groups to die, clinging to one another for whatever pitiful comfort they could find. There were several children, their small, unmoving bodies cradled in the thin arms of their elders. Kira saw a dead woman clutching a pale infant to her breast and looked away, fighting to maintain control. The Cardassian soldiers were in no better shape; they still gripped their weapons but were obviously helpless to use them, their gray, reptilian faces more ashen than they should have been, their mouths opening and closing uselessly. The image of fish out of water came to her, and wouldn't go away.
Kira turned in a circle, dizzy from the helpless terror she saw reflected in so many eyes, so many more glazing as they greeted death — and saw something so unlikely that the disaster's full impact finally gripped her, sank its dark teeth into her and held on tightly.
Two young men, slumped together against the wall to her right, their stiffening arms around each other in a last desperate need for solace, for the consolation of another soul with whom to meet the lonely shadows of death. One was Bajoran. The other, a Cardassian.
What's happening, why is this happening? Her composure was slipping, the things she saw all wrong — foreign to her mind and spirit, a nightmare from without her consciousness. She was lost in some place she had never known, witnessing the final, wrenching moments of people she'd never met. Stop, this has to stop, wake up, Nerys, wake up.
A new light filtered through her haze of near-panic. It filled the room, coming from somewhere above and toward the back of the cavernous space. It was the pale blue light she'd always thought of as miraculous and beautiful, the light of the Prophets. Now it threw strange shadows over the dying faces of the doomed men, women, and children, combining with the emergency lights to paint everything a harsh purple.
She felt herself drawn toward the source of the light, breathing the air of her youth. For some reason, she couldn't pinpoint the light's origin. It was bright enough, and well defined — but there was a sort of haze at the back of the bay, obscuring the exact location. It was like looking at a sun from under deep water, the light source shifting and unsteady, far away. Kira walked on — and then she was in the haze, like a mist of darkness, and the light was as bright as a star's, only a few meters in front of her.
A voice, spoken or thought, she wasn't sure, but there was no doubting its owner — and there he was, emerging from the dark like a spirit, like a borhya. He stepped in front of the light and was enveloped by it, his face serene and aware, his deep gaze searching for hers. The Emissary, Captain Sisko. Benjamin.
He's been waiting for me....
Kira, this is
"...is Security. Colonel?"
"Go ahead," Kira croaked, and opened her eyes as she bolted up, instantly awake. Her room. Her bed. A man's voice on the com...Devro?
Dream, just a dream but it was so —
"I'm sorry to wake you, Colonel, but there's been an attack on board the station." It was definitely Devro, newly assigned to security, and he sounded excited.
Kira sat up, blinking, forcing herself to leave the dream behind. "What happened?"
"Ah, I don't have the details, Colonel, but it appears that at least one person was killed, possibly two. The lieutenant said that she'd meet you at Medical D."
Autopsy facilities. Kira felt a rush of anger. Quark's, it had to be, and he was going to be sorry this time. There had been several drunken riots in his place in the past few months; no fatalities, but it had only been a matter of time. Just two weeks before, a female Argosian had stabbed one of Quark's servers for mixing up a drink order. He'd been lucky to survive.
I told him to start cutting them off earlier...and where the hell was security? After I specifically ordered higher visibility on the Promenade?
"On my way," she said, and Devro signed off. The computer informed her that it was 0530, only a half hour before she had to get up, anyway. She swung her feet to the floor but sat for a moment, eyes closed. Bad news after a bad dream, after a whole series of bad days. Frustrating ones, anyway, with the station's overhaul running past schedule; she had enough to do without having to worry about the continuing stream of die-hard revelers on the station, still looking for a party to celebrate the end of the war. Or having to babysit her new security chief, a woman to whom inconstancy was no stranger.
She dressed quickly, her anxiety growing as her mind began to work, as she woke up and considered the possibility that Quark's had nothing to do with the incident. Maybe she should talk to Jast about trying again to request a few additional security details from Starfleet, just until things settled a little....
...wishful thinking. Might as well have her ask for a few dozen Starfleet engineers while she's at it, and the backup tactical and science cadets to fill out the duty rosters, not to mention medical. They'd have as much luck requesting a new station made out of gold-pressed latinum. The Federation's postwar reconstruction efforts meant that Starfleet's resources were spread thin, almost to the point of being ineffectual in some places. Not to mention their humanitarian work, the aid being extended to independent worlds and cultures that had been damaged by the war. Politically, it made sense — the new allies and friends they were making meant potential new Federation members, and if that meant that facilities like DS9 had to run overextended and understaffed for a while longer — well, those facilities would just have to make do with what they had.
Some of us more than others. As if they didn't have enough to do, DS9 had also been designated the official coordinator for the multi-societal relief efforts to Cardassia, which meant extra work for everyone on staff. With supply and aid ships from over a dozen worlds arriving and departing daily — supplemented by an ever-changing number of freelance "ships for hire" — there seemed to be a near-constant stream of problems great and small. Add to that a strange new emotional climate on the station, like nothing the colonel had ever experienced. Although Kira had faith in the good intentions of her people, with the overwhelming majority of the station's nearly 7500 inhabitants being Bajoran, she wasn't so certain that DS9 was the best choice for the restoration effort, regardless of their position and capacity.
First Minister Shakaar had disagreed, arguing that Bajor's willingness to take point in the relief efforts would be an important step toward rapprochement with the Cardassians...as well as in Bajor's renewed petition to join the Federation. "Besides, Nerys," Shakaar had said, "you were there. You saw what it was like. How can we not help them?"
The question, so gently asked, had left Kira unable to argue as she recalled the carnage and destruction the Dominion had wrought. There was a time, she knew, when she might have looked on Cardassia's fate as a kind of poetic justice. But thinking back on the blackened, smoking ruins, the corpses that lay everywhere, the shocked and vacant faces of the survivors...It was no longer possible to view them as the enemy that had raped Bajor for half a century.
But while convincing Kira of the role that Bajor, and DS9 especially, was to play in the healing of Cardassia had been relatively easy...the Bajoran populace was another matter. A Bajoran installation providing aid to the Cardassian homeworld? Irony was seldom so obvious, and the atmosphere of reluctant, often grudging charity from some of the Bajorans aboard the station was less than ideal.
At least Starfleet had given her Tiris Jast. The commander had already proven herself able to work miracles when it came to administrative matters, among other things; after a somewhat rocky start, Kira's new first officer had turned out to be a definite asset.
It wasn't until Kira checked herself in the mirror on the way out the door that she thought about the dream again, and was surprised by the sudden loneliness she felt, the loneliness she saw in her tired reflection. Was it just a dream? And if it wasn't, what meaning was she supposed to take from it?
It would have been nice to talk to Benjamin again, under any circumstances....
"Get moving, Colonel," she said softly, straightening her shoulders, her gaze hardening. She was the commanding officer of Starbase Deep Space 9, arguably the single most important outpost in the Alpha Quadrant, and there was a matter on board requiring her immediate attention. How she felt about it — or anything, lately — was of secondary consideration.
Will of the Prophets, she told herself, and taking a deep breath, she stepped out of her quarters and started for Mid-Core.
The colonel marched in looking alert and fully rested, like always, making Ro Laren wonder — and not for the first time — if the woman ever slept. Ro herself had been dragged out of bed on four hours of sleep, and was feeling it; her days of catching a few moments here and there and calling it even were long gone.
Brisk and efficient, undoubtedly Kira's finest qualities; Ro could respect her, at least. Too bad it didn't seem to be mutual.
"At this point, it appears to be a botched robbery attempt," Ro said. "Two dead, the victim and the perpetrator, both Bajoran civilians. Dr. Bashir is conducting the autopsies — "
"Where did it happen?" Kira interrupted. "The attack?"
"Promenade, in front of Quark's. I've got people talking to the witnesses now..."
The colonel's eyes had narrowed slightly, and Ro hurried on, remembering their last terse encounter. "There was a strong security presence in and around Quark's, as you, ah, suggested, but it didn't seem to matter. He stabbed the woman in front of a crowd, took her bag, and ran. Two of my deputies chased him to the second level, where he attempted to jump one of the railings. He fell badly, he died."
Kira nodded. "Who was he?"
"We don't have an ID yet. He came to the station yesterday, but apparently he was using a false name. He wasn't much of a thief, whoever he was; there was nothing in her bag but a few personal items. The woman was a monk, a Prylar Istani Reyla; she'd only been here two days, which makes me wonder if he somehow came after her specifically — "
Ro broke off, surprised at the change in Kira's demeanor. The color had drained from her face, and her eyes were wide and shocked.
"Reyla? Istani Reyla?" Kira whispered.
Ro nodded, uncomfortably aware that Kira knew the victim. "Yes. Colonel...are you all right?"
Kira didn't answer. She turned and walked away, headed for the door that led into the autopsy room. Ro hesitated, then followed her, wondering if she should say something else. Something comforting. She and Kira didn't get along, but they weren't exactly enemies, either. Shar had been pushing the idea that they were too much alike — both strong, stubborn Bajoran women with histories of following their own rules....
...and if I was also judgmental and blindly pious, we'd definitely have something in common.
Ro sighed inwardly as she stepped into the autopsy room, reminding herself that she'd rarely been accused of open-mindedness. Besides, she'd only been on the station for six weeks, and although she didn't feel the need to prove herself to the many doubters on board — and doubted herself that it was possible — she was aware that even a grudging acceptance would take time.
Dr. Bashir was speaking softly, standing over Istani's body as Kira stared down numbly at the woman's still face. Ragged circles of blood radiated from several wounds in the old woman's chest, staining her monk's robes a dark, shining crimson.
"...several times, and with an erose blade. The atrioventricular node was destroyed, effectively severing neuromuscular communication between the chambers of the heart. Even if I'd been standing by with a surgical team, it's unlikely that she could have been saved."
Ro saw the pain in Kira's wet gaze and immediately regretted her unkind thoughts. It was the first time she'd seen the colonel display any emotion beyond impatient irritation, at least in front of her, and it had the instant effect of making her want to leave, to allow Kira some privacy with her pain. If Ro had just lost a friend, she'd hope for the same consideration.
Kira reached out and gently touched Istani's face with the back of her hand. Bashir's demeanor changed abruptly, from subdued respect to open concern.
"Nerys, did you know her?"
Kira's hand trembled against Istani's slack cheek. "At the camps, when I was a child. At Singha. She was a good friend to my parents, and after my mother left...she was a good friend. She watched out for us."
The doctor's voice became even softer. "I'm so sorry. If it's any help to you, I don't believe she suffered."
The three of them stood for a moment, Bashir's words lingering in the cool, sterile air, Ro feeling out of place as a witness to Kira's grief. She was about to excuse herself when the colonel began to speak again, almost to herself.
"I've been meaning to contact her, it's been...five years? The last time we spoke, she was on her way to Beta Kupsic, for an archeological dig."
Ro couldn't stop herself. "Do you know when she got back?"
Kira looked up and seemed to collect herself, straightening away from the body. "Just before the Peldor Festival, I think, for the Meditation for Peace; the Vedek Assembly called everyone home. That was five months ago."
Ro nodded, biting her tongue. She knew when the Peldor Festival was. "Did you know she was coming here? To the station?"
Kira shook her head. There was another awkward silence, for Ro, at least, and then the colonel turned to her, seeming entirely in control once more. "I expect a full investigation, Lieutenant, and I want to know what you find as soon as you find it. I'll expect your initial report before the end of the day."
"Yes, sir," Ro said. Her first real case; a flutter of anxiety touched her and was gone. She was ready.
"If there's anything I can do..." Bashir started.
The colonel managed a faint smile. "Thank you, Julian. I'll be fine."
She nodded briskly at Ro and walked out of the room without a backward glance, as composed as when she'd entered.
She had to admire the woman's self-control. Ro had lived through resettlement camps, and knew something about the kinds of bonds that could be forged under dire conditions. When she was with the Maquis, too...the friends she had made and lost...
"Was there something else you needed, Lieutenant?"
Not impolite by any means, but the doctor's voice had lost its former warmth. She supposed she should be grateful it wasn't open hostility; her history with Starfleet wasn't going to win her any friends among its personnel.
"No, thank you, Doctor. I'm sure your report will answer any questions I might have."
Bashir smiled civilly and picked up a padd, turning away. Her cue. Ro started to leave, but couldn't help a final look at Istani Reyla. Such gentle character in the lines around her eyes and mouth; to have survived the camps and the war, to have lived a life devoted to humble faith, only to die in a robbery...
What would a prylar have worth stealing? Worth being murdered for?
That was the question, wasn't it? Istani's bag was locked up in the security office, and Ro decided that she needed to take a closer look at its contents. She wasn't going to give anyone a reason to doubt her appointment to DS9; they didn't have to like her, any of them, but she would do her job, and do it well.
"Doctor," she said, as way of good-bye, and left him to his work.
Kira was on the lift to ops when it hit her. She acted without thinking, slamming her fist into the wall once, twice, the skin breaking across two of her knuckles. No pain, or at least nothing close to the boiling darkness inside of her, the acid of sorrow and loneliness grasping at her heart. She was sick with it. Reyla, dead. Murdered.
She let out a low moan and sagged against the wall, cradling her wounded hand. For a second, it threatened to overwhelm her, all of it — Reyla; the dream, like some dark omen; the fading memory of Odo's arms around her when she felt alone, so alone...
...deal with it. You don't have time for this, and you will deal with it, and everything will be as it should be, have faith, have faith...
Kira took a few deep breaths, talking herself through it, letting go...and by the time she reached ops she was through the very worst of it, and prepared to bear the weight of another day.
Copyright © 2001 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Posted January 19, 2013
The writer persists in making the reader think the characters are dying with "and I knew I was dead" thoughts. Frustrating. Also has this person watched Picard or Kira?! Is this a trekie that I am reading from or some wanna be?
Finally the writer has an exagerated value on the enemy. Kira and others have fought both old and new Jem Harder (sp) soilders throughout the series and now suddenly they get beefed up? Absurd. This was painful to read. This writer and the person who hired the writer should never be involved in future endevours.
Also the books where written in a two parter when it clearly was a waste of money. Unless you are a die hard fan do not I repeat do not buy these horrible works.
Posted March 10, 2003
this book is a true follow-up and the author manages to capture the true essence of deep space nine and the next gen characters. Deep space nine has justice it deserves.
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