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Tharia didn't cry when his three mates died.
It had been nine months, and not a single tear had run down his blue cheek.
He sat with two of his fellow Maquis rebels in a cave on some planet or other. Tharia wasn't even sure where they were, to be honest. He'd been too busy trying to repair one of the consoles to pay attention to wherever it was that they had crash-landed their shuttle. There had been four of them, but their pilot -- a Bolian who had replaced Tom Paris after the imbecile Earther had gotten himself caught by the Federation -- died in the crash. That left Tharia ch'Ren, Gerron Ral, and B'Elanna Torres.
"When's Chakotay supposed to get here?" Gerron asked in a whiny voice that made Tharia want to strangle him.
"He'll get here soon," B'Elanna snapped in a voice intended to intimidate. She didn't bother to look at Gerron. She was too busy keeping her eyes glued to her ancient tricorder, hoping it would tell her of Chakotay's imminent arrival with their ship, hoping it wouldn't tell her that Gul Evek or some other Cardassian had found them and was going to blast them into atoms.
At least their mission had been more or less successful. The shipment of grenades that Cardassian Central Command had earmarked for occupying forces on Dorvan V had been annihilated, first stolen from the freighter that was taking them to Dorvan, then destroyed an hour later in the shuttle crash. (Mercifully, the grenades hadn't been primed yet; had they been, more than the Bolian pilot would have been lost, and Chakotay would only have been able to find their remains with a tricorder -- or tweezers.)
It would have been better if they had managed to keep the grenades intact and thus be able to add them to the Maquis's arsenal, but the important thing was that the Cardassians wouldn't be able to use them. Sometimes it didn't matter if you won, so long as the other side lost.
"It's going to be dark soon." Gerron, Tharia noted, sounded wholly unintimidated -- which meant he was a fool, as B'Elanna's actions generally spoke louder than her words, and her words were fairly high in volume. "And with all our supplies trashed, we'll have to forage. I don't know if there's anything here we can even eat, much less -- "
Tharia stood up, running a hand through his feathery white hair. "Oh, for Thori's sake, I'll go look for food." He looked down at Gerron. "If you want to make yourself useful, gather up some rocks that we can heat."
"Basic survival." Tharia sighed. "Did they teach you nothing on Bajor? You can use a phaser on rocks to heat them."
Gerron at least had the decency to look abashed. "Sorry. Forgot," he muttered.
Looking over at the half-Klingon, half-Earther engineer, Tharia said, "I'll be back soon."
B'Elanna only grunted, focused as she was on the tricorder. Knowing that was all the acknowledgment he'd get, Tharia headed outward toward the cave entrance in the hopes of finding something edible. Given that three -- four, really, given B'Elanna's half-breed nature -- species were represented in the cave, it would be a challenge. Andorians, Bajorans, Earthers, and Klingons didn't have similar eating habits, after all. But Tharia didn't care that much -- he mainly needed to get away from Gerron before the young Bajoran drove him to anger.
Tharia preferred to keep his emotions in check.
His zhavey had cried, of course, back then. It took very little for her to cry, truth be told, and the deaths of her chei's three mates was certainly more than a little. And several of his friends cried.
But Tharia didn't. Not when he found their broken, bloody bodies in the wreckage of their home on Beaulieu's World after the Cardassian bomb had destroyed it, not at the death rites held at the community center on Beaulieu's, not at the ceremony back home on Andor.
Ignoring the advice of his zhavey to stay on Andor, Tharia had returned to Beaulieu's after the ceremony. Once a Federation colony, Beaulieu's World had been one of many planets ceded to the Cardassians in a treaty intended to settle a border dispute. Unfortunately, the Federation colonists saw no reason to leave their homes, even if those homes were now in Cardassian territory. The Cardassians, in turn, saw no reason to let them live in peace. Tensions in the Demilitarized Zone that was created between Federation and Cardassian space became increasingly heated, incidents of harassment on both sides were reported, and the treaty intended to settle a dispute wound up setting off a powder keg.
A group of (now former) Federation citizens of the colonies, as well as a number of Starfleet personnel sympathetic to the cause, formed a group called the Maquis. Tharia had never been too clear on the etymology of the term, only that it was the same name as a similar group in Earth's pre-spaceflight days. It was also derived from one of Earth's secondary languages, so it was pronounced "mah-kee" rather than "may-kwiss," as Tharia had initially assumed.
Before the bomb struck his home, Tharia had been one of the more outspoken opponents of the Maquis. He didn't think their formation would gain the colonists anything but trouble. True, the Cardassians weren't exactly living up to their side of the bargain -- hounding non-Cardassians, occasionally sending military ships into the Demilitarized Zone -- but Tharia didn't see that as a reason to become terrorists.
The governing body of Beaulieu's had held an open forum in the community center on the subject of the Maquis, and Tharia had spoken against them there. "Sentient beings should be able to reason out their problems without having to resort to mindless violence," he had said. "Effecting change from behind a phaser bank is no true change, simply an imposition of will."
When someone in the audience had pointed out that negotiation was how they got into this mess in the first place, Tharia had said, "One poor example does not invalidate the method. And one does not compound an error by making a bigger one."
Tharia had been so passionate at that open forum that tears came to his eyes, and all three of his mates congratulated him on his rhetorical skills.
Two months later, all three were dead, their home destroyed by a bomb of Cardassian make.
Three months later, Tharia sold the land on which the remains of their house stood to an Yridian developer who had been making overtures to them for over a year.
Four months later, he was part of a Maquis cell led by an Earther named Chakotay.
Five months later, he killed his first Cardassian, during a raid on a supply depot.
Tharia hugged himself in the bitter cold that greeted him at the cave mouth. In the two hours since the crash, the temperature had dropped by at least twenty degrees.
He hadn't cared what the name of the planet was, but now he found himself desiring to know it so he could avoid it in the future. He hadn't paid much attention when they crashed -- he was more concerned with getting under cover -- but now that he had a chance to look around, he realized that this place was what Tom Paris would have termed a dump.
When Thori in Her Greatness created this particular world, Tharia observed, She obviously was having a bad day. It was as if She couldn't be bothered to put together a proper ecosystem, so She tossed a few rocks and bushes around a flat, gray surface and hoped no one would notice. The sky was equally gray, and a limp wind blew, barely disturbing the minimal vegetation. Tharia's antennae quivered at -- something, he couldn't tell what, exactly. All he knew for sure was that this world was dull and gray and he didn't want to be here any longer than he had to.
As Tharia walked across that hard, flat ground, he found no animal life, and the plant life was poisonous to all of them. Ironically, the plants were edible for Bolians. Obviously, he thought with irritation, the wrong person died in the shuttle crash.
After ten minutes, he gave up. His tricorder -- a thirty-year-old Starfleet model that worked only sporadically at the best of times -- was starting to lose power, and the temperature continued to drop. Tharia had never liked the cold. One of the reasons Beaulieu's had appealed to him when he and his family chose to move off Andor was because it was warm. And his antennae were quivering so fast he was sure they were vibrating on top of his head. It was time he went back to B'Elanna and Gerron.
You can do better.
Tharia whirled around. "What?"
You can do better. You don't need to settle for this. You can destroy them once and for all.
The tricorder had now completely lost power, but Tharia's antennae were now quivering with a purpose. The voice was coming from under one of the gray rocks.
He knew this mainly because the voice didn't sound in his ears or in his antennae, but in his mind.
Deducing that telepathy was at work, Tharia stopped walking. Only when he stopped did he realize that he'd been moving in the first place. He had been going toward the rock from which the telepathic voice had emanated, almost against his will. Tharia hated telepaths.
"What do you want with me?"
I want to help you achieve your goal.
"Really? Show yourself -- and speak! I will not converse with a telepath who hides."
I am no telepath, and I'm not hiding. I'm but a tool that can give you what you desire.
Tharia made a derisive noise. "Can you bring my three mates back to me?"
"Then you lie."
You misunderstand my purpose and my words, Tharia ch'Ren.
"Do I?" He didn't bother to question how the voice knew his name. Telepaths loved to show off how much they knew that was unspoken.
Yes. Getting your family back is a wish, not a goal. Items that can grant wishes are the purview of stories and myths. As I said, I'm a tool -- and I can help you get --
"What I desire, yes, I see." Tharia felt foolish standing in the middle of the gray rocks talking to nothing, so he sat down. "So you can help me get rid of the Cardassians? Aid me in destroying them? Assist me in driving them from my home forever?"
"And what do you get in return?"
I have lain unused on this miserable rock for thousands of lifetimes, Tharia ch'Ren. What good is a tool that gets no use?
Tharia leaned back, supporting himself on the rock with his arms. He could feel the emissions from this whatever-it-was more precisely now in his antennae. It was wedged in between two rocks amid the underbrush of a bush that stuck out between them.
"I will not be coerced. I can feel you trying to convince me with your mind games."
You are a wise man, Tharia ch'Ren. You are also a man with a mission. I can be a valuable aid on that mission. All you must do is hold me in your grasp.
Tharia stood up. "No. I refuse."
Images appeared in Tharia's head then.
He saw a humanoid of some kind, holding a small black box that glowed with an odd green hue.
He saw other humanoid figures kneeling before the figure holding the box.
He saw the figure walk outside into a day that was filled with sunlight, a sky with no clouds.
He saw the figure hold up the box.
He saw clouds appear seemingly out of nowhere, saw winds start to gust where the air had been still.
He saw the people cheer as rain came pouring down from the sky.
Then the vista changed: he saw the figure again -- older this time -- using the black box to start a blizzard. Then using it to melt a snow-filled region with intense, desertlike heat. Then causing a hurricane to tear through a residential area.
"Get out of my head!" Tharia was now screaming as he unholstered his phaser, his dead tricorder long since dropped to the rocky ground. He didn't even check to see what setting the phaser was on, he just activated it and fired.
The images continued to pour into his mind as he fired. As the amber phaser beam tore into the leaves of the bush, he saw the figure use the black box to wipe out a village with a tornado. As the phaser pulverized the branches, rain was brought to the desert. As the rocks blew apart, a fog rolled into a sky filled with air traffic, causing massive slow-ups and collisions.
"Enough!" Tharia cried as he finally stopped firing. He wrinkled his nose at the smell that emanated from the ground. Nothing remained of the two rocks and the bush but smoke and ash --
-- and a black box with a greenish hue.
His mind was free of the images, but the voice remained. You see what you can do if you wield me. All that is required is --
"No!" Tharia raised his phaser to its highest setting and fired again, this time directly at the box.
The box seemed to simply absorb the phaser beam. The weapon had no effect on it.
Think what you can do with my capabilities. Think of the glory you can bring to the Maquis.
"I care nothing for glory! If you've seen into my mind you know that. I simply want -- I want -- to see the Cardassians -- to get them -- "
You want revenge.
Tears started to flow down Tharia's cheek. "Yes, damn you! I want revenge! I want them all destroyed! I want their heads ripped from their bodies!"
You want them to feel what you felt when you saw your mates' bodies in the wreckage of your home.
More images entered Tharia's mind, but they were not from the box. They were his own memories, suppressed for all these months when he refused to think about what had happened.
Athmin, impaled on a structural beam. Ushra, her head caved in by the ceiling. Shers, ripped to pieces by fragments from the Cardassians' explosive device.
Tharia fell to his knees. Pain shot through his legs as his knees collided with the hard ground, but he barely noticed. "I should have died with them," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
But you didn't. As I said, I don't grant wishes. What I can do is make sure that those responsible pay for what they did to you.
He looked at the black box that sat on the ground, blurred by the months of repressed tears that now poured from his eyes. "Yes," he said in a whisper so quiet that Tharia himself could barely hear his own voice over the wind. "Yes, they must pay. All of them."
And they will. All you have to do is pick me up.
Tharia could not make his legs move properly, but somehow, he managed to crawl over to where the box sat, ignoring the pain of the superheated ground around it.
It was cool to the touch, which was impossible. He had been firing on it with a phaser at full, and the box had been absorbing the blast. He should have gotten third-degree burns just touching it. Yet he was able to cradle the box in his arms.
Everything you desire will be yours.
The moment he touched the box, Tharia noticed that the air around him got warmer. The chill that permeated the atmosphere was gone in an instant. It was now as warm on this despicable gray planet as it was on the most pleasant day back home on Beaulieu's.
"What did you do?" he asked quietly, wiping a tear from his cheek with his right hand as he cradled the box under his left.
Fulfilled a simple desire in order to show my ability to do so: I raised the temperature to one comfortable for you.
Tharia stood up. "Thank you."
It is the first of many desires I will fulfill for you.
It was another hour before Tharia finally made it back to the cave. B'Elanna and Gerron sat in the same spot, but this time they were on either side of a pile of rocks that had been heated by phaser fire. Still, even with that, it was cooler in the cave than it had become outside thanks to Tharia's new possession.
B'Elanna stood up quickly and barked, "Where the hell have you been?"
"I told you," Tharia said in a quiet, almost subdued voice. He had wiped his face dry, and carried the box -- the tool -- the weapon -- under his left arm. "I went out to search for food."
"And you put it in that box?" B'Elanna asked snidely.
"No. This place doesn't seem to have any native animal life, and the plants are all poisonous."
"Figures," Gerron muttered.
B'Elanna sighed. "Well, it doesn't matter -- Chakotay's in orbit, and he'll be landing inside of fifteen minutes."
Nodding, Tharia said, "Good."
There was a momentary pause. "So what is in the box?" B'Elanna finally asked.
"I'll tell you all about it when Chakotay arrives," he said.
B'Elanna stood in front of the Andorian. Tharia could tell she was agitated by the way his antennae retracted in her presence. "I'm not letting you bring that thing on the ship until you tell me what it is, Tharia."
"It's a weapon. The only weapon we'll ever need. Trust me, B'Elanna. Have I ever lied to you?"
Knowing full well that he hadn't, B'Elanna could only let out a growl. "Fine. So what does the stupid thing do?"
For the first time in many months, Tharia smiled.
"I'll tell you when Chakotay arrives."
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