Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
From this far perspective, the planet Bajor was a misty, radiant opal, beautiful as a star, peaceful as the long-lost memories of the womb. Alone in her shuttle pod, Major Kira soared high above the surface of her home world, aching with the irony of that apparent quietude. Once, Bajor might have known only harmony -- but not in Kira's time, nor her parents, nor her grandparents. War had torn the planet apart for far too many bloody years. But the planet of her birth, a gentle haze of oceans even now receeding to a glittering demistar, was still the most beautiful place that Kira could ever dream of.
The shuttle's engines hummed beneath her. Escape from Bajor's gravity was the only tricky part of the entire journey: she could begin to relax and slip into one of the vexing contemplations that often plagued her at this point. This time, her mind took a particularly
troublesome turn: What small shifts in circumstance might have given Bajor a greater chance at peace?
Bajor was too close to the Cardassian border, a tempting prize, too wealthy by far, whether wealth was measured in material or spiritual values. That last, perhaps, was what had proved her undoing. To have nothing and be unprepared for the predators in the world, was one thing. But to be rich and still unable to defend oneself seemed to motivate not merely greed, but anger.
Her reflection gleamed faintly in the shuttle's windows. She watched her hands play across the controls. Major Kira was still attractive, and she would be for many years to come. She had dedicated her life to service, a decision it was too late to change, or turn back from. Like too many, she had both the gift and the curse of knowing her place in the world. A gift because it removes uncertainty. A curse because it sometimes eliminates wonder.
She was not the only one possessing this barbed gift. Another, she knew, understood his place in the world. And although they had experienced difficulties and differences, of all of the people who worked and lived in the place called Deep Space Nine, Benjamin Sisko was perhaps closest to a brother. He knew what it was to find his place in the world. He grasped both the positive and negative aspects of that understanding, the way in which it was both gift and curse. Benjamin Sisko. The man to whom she would have to relay her data, information too precious to be trusted to any transmitted message, no matter how secure. Information which would add to his already passive load of stress.
The shuttle trip between Bajor and DS9 lasts approximately three hours. Originally, DS9 was a Cardassian mining station built in orbit above the planet Bajor during the Cardassian occupation. Constructed in 2351, initially called Terok Nor, DS9 was intended to exploit Bajor's rich uridium deposits. The Cardassians retained control of the station until 2369, when they relinquished their claim on Bajor and retreated from the region. Now administered by the Federation, the station fell under the jurisdiction of the Bajoran government and was subject to its laws.
During much of the travel time between Bajor and the station, Major Kira allowed herself to fall into a state very close to a trance. If she could just quiet her mind, this portion of the trip could be quite soothing. There were so many incredible sights, so much for the eyes to feast on -- even more so since the discovery of the wormhole. The Bajoran wormhole was an invisible bridge between worlds, inhabited by creatures which her people referred to as the Prophets. The Prophets, who had supplied spiritual governance to the Bajorans over the years, now linked the Bajor system to the distant Gamma Quadrant.
This remarkable place, in which ordinary rules of consciousness were sometimes nullified, was the spot to which Deep Space Nine had been towed. As Kira drew nearer the station, she felt herself shifting from one way of being to another, one mode of operation to another. From contemplative wanderer to first officer.
Home to about three hundred permanent staff DS9's immense docking ring was the most remarkable aspect of the structure. When approached from the side its docking pylons resembled nothing so much as a glittering pair of parentheses linked by central docking ring. With the ease of long practice, she glided her shuttle into the docking port. There was no need for her to rely on one of the upper or lower docking pylons, the large, skeletal-looking arms which extended vertically from the horizontal docking ring.
The actions that followed she performed on pure autopilot. There was no sense of challenge in this, only an overwhelming concern for the man that she called friend, and the knowledge that she bore not one, but two pieces of evil news. It was more than any man should be forced to bear. It might be...what was the Earth expression? "The straw that broke the camel's back?"
Copyright© 1998 by Steve Barnes