The children were in bed as Keiko finished clearing away the supper dishes.
She made her way to the sofa and took a seat, sighing in relief as she sank
into the soft cushions. Her husband smiled from across the room at her.
"Did they give you any trouble?" she asked.
"No. I think Molly is still exhausted from the pony program in the holosuite," O'Brien answered. He came to sit next his wife. He picked up one swollen foot and began to massage it gently. "And I read Yoshi that samurai story your sister sent us and he loved it."
"That's good to hear," Keiko closed her eyes. "By the way, congratulations on the treaty."
"The credit should go to the captain. You should have seen the way he thundered away at those spoonheads.
Really, it was remarkable."
"Were you nervous?"
"Only for the captain," Miles admitted. "I know this treaty means a lot to him and he feels a special relationship for the Bajoran people, so it was very important to him that the Cardassians signed."
"Speaking of Bajor," Keiko said. "Shall we plan for this picnic this weekend?"
"Sure, sounds good."
"I was thinking we could bring Daria along with us. She and Yoshi get along so well."
"That should be fine," Miles answered.
"Good," Keiko said. "I'll let Commander Dax know."
"You are a good woman, Keiko."
Keiko smiled, "Don't you know it, Miles Edward O'Brien."
"How did it go?" Sisko asked as Kira entered his office.
"They took the news well," Kira replied. "I think in general, Bajor is tired of this endless conflict with the Cardassians. It's going to hurt to give up Derenda, of course, but I believe in the long run, it will be good for Bajor. Especially with the Cardassians agreeing to the prison colony on the planet."
"So a positive reaction in general?"
"Yes. And Kai Arin said he would make an announcement today. We should be better able to gauge reactions after that announcement is made. But even I agree, Captain, this treaty was a good idea."
"Good. And Colonel?"
"Any word on our transporting friends?"
Kira shook her head, "Odo is still looking for them. There has been no activity for the last few days."
"Good," Sisko said. "Make sure it stays that way."
"I will do my best, sir."
"And how are the preparations coming for the Kai's visit?"
"Odo says they are almost done," Kira said.
"Good," Sisko said. "I'd hate for anything to go wrong."
"No really, I would love to babysit," Kira insisted. She had found Dax at Quark's, sipping a raktijino. "Odo is going to be away at a security conference this weekend, and I would love to have the baby with me."
"You do know that Madison cries all night," Dax said suspiciously. "You won't get a wink of sleep."
"What about that new medicine Bashir prescribed for the colic?"
"It works, but still, I don't know, Kira. Maddy has never been away from me for a night and I hate to do this to her. She's still so little…"
"You don't trust me with your baby?"
"No! It's not that at all. It's just that I'm starting to feel guilty with everyone taking my children away."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, the O'Briens are going down to Bajor for a picnic and they are taking Daria and now you want Madison?" Dax shook her head. "I don't think you know what you're getting into."
"Look, it'll be fun. And I'm just down the hall from you. If I have any problems, I'll call it. Think of it as an opportunity to spend more time with Worf without the distraction of children."
Dax looked down into her raktijino; it was a tempting offer.
"Okay," she said finally. "But you have been warned."
Kira grinned, "I accept full responsibility."
Dax shook her head, "Crazy. That's what this is, crazy."
Worf entered his quarters. He paused briefly in the door and then walked into the room. The silence was deafening. He noted that the living room and kitchen area looked clean and that the toys which were usually scattered around the floor were neatly put away. The door to the children's room was slightly ajar and he pushed it open; it was tidy also.
"Looking for someone?"
Worf turned around. Jadzia stood there in the entrance to their bedroom, her hair loose around her shoulders and dressed in a slip of a nightgown.
"Jadzia," Worf said. He looked around uncomfortably. She smiled at him as she pressed her finger to his lips.
"Shh," she said. "The children are gone and it's just you and me."
"The children are gone?"
"Yes and they will not be back until tomorrow evening," Jadzia said. "Until then, it's just you and me."
Worf smiled now; the first smile she had seen in a long time. She held out her hand and he took it. He pulled her close, his lips muzzling her ear.
"I have missed you," he whispered.
"And I you," she answered. "We have a lot to talk about, you and me. But for right now..."
Golanda Heights was a serene meadow, nestled between the Callista Mountains and the Marata River. The Doralei Woods edged the clearing.
The O'Briens had chosen a spot by the river. A thin strip of sand lined the river bank, making it a perfect place for swimming.
Keiko and Miles watched as Molly, Yoshi and Daria splashed in the water. Molly was eleven years old now, a gawky long-haired prepubescent girl filled with a love of plants and animals. Yoshi was six, inquisitive and highly intelligent. Daria, at four, had inherited her father's looks and her mother's curious mind. She was highly energetic and Keiko could see how the child could wear out both Dax and Worf.
Later, the children fell onto the blanket, exhausted but giggling.
"Hungry?" Miles asked as he tickled Yoshi.
"Yes!" Molly and Yoshi shouted at the same time. Daria hung back a little bit with uncharacteristic shyness.
Keiko smiled gently at the little girl.
"Are you hungry, Daria?" Keiko asked.
"Yes," the child replied.
Keiko had ordered cream cheese and strawberry sandwiches along with some cookies and lemonade for lunch.
After the meal, the children got up and played tag. Keiko and Miles marveled at their energy.
"I'm exhausted," Keiko admitted.
"You're also five months pregnant," Miles reminded her.
"Still," Keiko sighed. "Miles, I'm glad we did this. When we're here together like this, it makes everything seem so far away and it feels like when we were on the Enterprise."
"Those were good times, weren't they?"
"It isn't that times aren't good now, it's just that this damned war keeps interfering."
"It will be over soon, Keiko. This treaty is a good start."
Molly came back to flop down on the blanket with them.
"Tired?" Keiko asked, reaching over to ruffle her daughter's hair.
"A bit," Molly answered.
"Where are Yoshi and Daria?" Miles asked.
"I think they ran off a bit," Molly said. "I wasn't paying attention."
"Where?" Miles stood up. "I don't see them."
"That way," Molly pointed in the direction of the Doralei Woods.
Miles looked in concern at Keiko, "I'm just going to check that out, okay?"
"Please," Keiko answered.
O'Brien headed off in the direction of the woods.
"Yoshi? Daria?" he called. No answer. He grew increasingly concerned as he neared the dark clump of trees. He saw no sign of the children. He looked back at Keiko and Molly. Molly waved at him. He waved back.
"Yoshi? Yoshi, this isn't funny."
He entered the woods, looking around, almost frantic in his worry. He knew that Yoshi had an adventurous spirit and would love to explore and Daria, with her high energy, would follow him unquestioningly.
O'Brien turned back and returned to where Keiko was sitting. His wife rose unsteadily to her feet. He held out his arm and she grabbed it.
"Where are they?" she demanded.
"I don't know. Give me the tricorder. I'm going to scan for them."
O'Brien returned to the edge of the woods. He glanced down at the tricorder, hoping to pick up a sign of a human child or a Klingon-Trill hybrid child. The tricorder registered only his own life signs along with those of his wife and daughter.
"Yoshi! Daria! Come out now!"
O'Brien gazed at the tricorder in frustration. He turned on his heel and was about to return to the picnic spot when his eyes caught a scrap of pink ribbon. He grabbed the bit of cloth and headed back to Keiko.
"This is Daria's," Keiko said softly. "It was in her hair. Where did you find it?"
"In the woods."
"Any sign of them?"
"No," O'Brien shook his head. "Maybe we should try the long-range scanners on the runabout."
Keiko pressed her palms against her forehead.
"I can't believe this is happening to us," she said. "If he's only hiding..."
Miles grabbed his wife by the shoulders, "You stay here. I'm going to check the long-range scanners. O'Brien to Rio Grande. One to beam up."
Once on the runabout, Miles immediately checked the long-range sensors. He inputed enough information for the computer to locate Yoshi and Daria anywhere in a twenty kilometer radius of the picnic spot. Nothing.
It was as if the two children had simply disappeared.
In frustration, Miles set the scanners to search all of Bajor. Nothing.
With a heavy heart, Miles beamed back down to the planet's surface, trying to think of what he would say to Keiko.
Daria loved to run. She had fast little legs and she was proud of the fact that she could keep up with someone like Yoshi.
"Run faster!" Yoshi urged.
Molly had dropped out long-ago, complaining that she was tired of this game. The younger children had reached the edge of the woods and turned back to look at Molly, who was trudging back to her parents.
"I can beat you," Yoshi told Daria proudly.
"No, you can't," Daria answered. In response, Yoshi took off into the woods. Daria pouted for a moment and then ran after her friend. Yoshi was Daria's best friend and she adored him. But of course, there was a streak of Klingon competitive streak that ran through her and Daria was determined not to let Yoshi O'Brien get the better of her. After all, what would her father say?
Daria's hair, so neatly bound up in pink ribbons by her mother, fell loose as she flew after Yoshi. The little girl barely noticed the loss.
"You can't catch me!" Yoshi taunted.
"Yes, I can!" Daria shouted back. Her hair, thick and dark, flopped in her eyes and she could not see where she was going. She brushed the hair away with a tiny hand and continued to follow Yoshi. A second later, she landed flat on her face.
"Daria!" Yoshi came back to see what had happened. "Are you okay?"
Daria tried not to cry, but her knee was badly scraped and there was a deep gash on her elbow where she cut it on a pointed rock. The blood dripped down on to the rock as Daria shivered, trying hard to contain herself.
"I'm okay," she answered with all the bravado the four year-old could muster.
"Maybe we should go back," Yoshi said. Daria stood up.
"My knee hurts," she told him petulantly.
"I'm sorry," Yoshi said. They started to walk back, hand in hand. Daria felt very safe. After all, Yoshi was six years old and he would take care of her.
That's when they ran into the woman. She was a pretty woman, Bajoran, with long dark hair. She smiled at them kindly.
"Look at you, little one," she said to Daria. "You are hurt."
"It's not very bad," Daria answered. "I'm not crying."
"Well, then, you're very brave," the woman replied.
"My daddy says I'm very brave," Daria responded. "Even when I go to the doctor, I don't cry."
"What's your name? My name is Alysia."
"And I'm Yoshi."
"What nice names. Are you lost?"
"No, my parents are over there. We're here on a picnic," Yoshi pointed.
"Ah, from Deep Space Nine, right?" Alysia asked.
"Yes, my father is the Chief of Operations there," Yoshi said proudly. He didn't know what his father actually did aboard the station, but the title sounded good to his little ears. Daria pouted.
"My parents are there too," Daria said, determined not to be out done by Yoshi. "My mommy gets to fly the Defiant and my daddy gets to go on lots of missions. My mommy says he's busy saving the universe from all the bad people."
Alysia laughed, "Well, that sounds very ambitious. How about you come with me and I'll fix you right up? It will only take a minute."
"I don't know," Yoshi said doubtfully. "I think we should ask my parents first."
"There's no time!" Alysia snapped and a second later, Daria felt the unfamiliar tingle of a transporter beam grip her.
"What do you mean the children are gone?" Keiko demanded, her face growing pale.
"No trace of them anywhere," Miles confirmed.
Keiko leaned against the tree, her legs feeling as if they could no longer support her. She scanned the fringe of trees in the distance, searching for the two small children.
"Where could they have gone?" she asked, her voice teary. "You say they are not on Bajor itself?"
Molly was listening, her eyes wide with fear. If only she had stayed with Yoshi and Daria and not turned back!
"We need to tell the Captain," Miles said. "We need to form a search party and check every place. We should start in the woods. We know they were there and we will keep looking. It's possible that the scanners malfunctioned."
"We have to tell Dax and Worf too," Keiko said.
The husband and wife looked at each other. Miles placed his hand on Keiko's shoulder.
"We'll find them, Keiko. I promise."
The trip back to DS9 was the longest of Miles O'Brien's life. Keiko and Molly had agreed to stay behind at the picnic spot in case Daria and Yoshi should reappear.
O'Brien tried to fight off the uneasiness brewing in his stomach. The uncertainty of Yoshi's whereabouts was killing him.
For the most part, Miles Edward O'Brien was an optimist, a believer. He wanted to be hopeful about what had happened to his son, but all sorts of dreadful scenarios plagued his mind. He could only hope that Daria and Yoshi had gotten lost and that they would be found soon.
He docked the runabout and made his way to Ops. Around him, everything seemed to be in slow motion, as if it seemed unnecessarily cruel that everything could be normal when his son had disappeared.
Kira and Odo both turned to greet O'Brien as he stepped off the turbolift.
"You're back early, Chief," Kira said.
"Something came up," O'Brien answered shortly. "Is the Captain available?"
"Yes, of course. He just came out of a meeting with Kai Arin," Kira replied.
"Good," O'Brien mounted the stairs to Sisko's office. He entered at the captain's command.
"Chief!" Sisko said. "I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"Sir," O'Brien said. "I need some help."
"What is the matter?"
"Kirayoshi and Daria have disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Sisko asked, his brow furrowing in anxiety. "What do you mean?"
"They were playing and then they just disappeared."
"Are they lost?"
"No, I don't think so," O'Brien shook his head. "I checked for them on long-range scanners. I found no trace of them anywhere on the planet."
Sisko closed his eyes for a moment and then fixed his limpid stare on his Chief of Operations.
"Do you think they were taken?" he asked softly.
O'Brien shrugged, "I don't know. I mean, it's what I'm thinking, but I didn't find any sign of transporter activity. I just can't say that to Keiko. I don't know how she would bear it. I don't even know what I'm going to say to Worf and Dax."
"You're saying that the children have disappeared from the planet," Sisko said. "They can only have been taken."
For a moment, Sisko seemed lost in thought and then he recovered his equilibrium, tapping his com badge
Kira's voice crackled over the comlink, "Yes, Captain?"
"Come in here, please."
A few seconds later, Kira entered the office.
"Colonel, have you noticed any unauthorized spacecraft in orbit?" Sisko asked. Kira shook her head.
"No, just the usual really," Kira replied. "Nothing suspicious. Why?"
"The children are missing."
"What?" Kira turned to face O'Brien. "What's happened to them?"
O'Brien retold the story, his heart feeling heavier with every word. It still seemed unreal to him and he felt that if he returned to Bajor, he would find Yoshi and Daria there were Keiko.
"Captain, I didn't see anything," Kira said earnestly.
"It's possible that the children were transported off the planet," Sisko said softly. O'Brien shook his head, knowing that what Sisko said had to be true.
"Still, I would like to assemble a search party," O'Brien said.
"Of course," Sisko said.
At that moment, Odo entered.
"There is a message for you, Captain," Odo said. "A woman named Alysia. She says she's calling about the
Sisko exchanged a look with O'Brien.
"Put her through," Sisko said. "Maybe we will get some answers now."
Jadzia had not felt this content in months. She loved these quiet moments with Worf, lying in bed, her head resting on his chest. She could hear his heart beating and she felt comforted by the sound.
They still had much to discuss, but they had both agreed that this time alone was good for them. Worf had confessed that he felt that he was neglecting his responsibilities as a father since he was constantly away while Jadzia had told him how stressed she was raising the children alone. Of course, all those feelings of inadequacy had been pushed away for the moment.
"I could stay like this forever," she whispered.
"Eventually you would have to move."
"Worf," she raised her head to look at him. "Please."
He smiled at her, a rare smile. She kissed him. His embrace tightened and she snuggled against him, thinking that it was so wonderful to be like this together.
"Sisko to Commander Worf."
Worf sighed, "Worf here."
"Commander, I need to see you and Jadzia immediately."
"On our way, sir."
Jadzia moaned, "Benjamin has terrible timing."
"He always did," Worf reminded her. He got out of bed and went into the shower. Jadzia stretched out, letting the tension in her muscles ease. Then she too got out of bed and joined Worf in the shower. It was a quick shower, more out of convenience than any romantic or physical need.
"I wonder what Sisko wants to tell us," Worf commented as he tied his hair back into its customary ponytail.
"Probably a surprise party for Julian. His birthday is coming up soon. That and the refurbished Saratoga will be in next week. He probably wants help planning the party and you know, no one throws a better party than me."
"We're not having two hundred -"
"Worf!" Dax exclaimed in exasperation. "You know once we do have the party, you have a great -"
"Sisko to Commander Dax."
Dax sighed, "Yes, Benjamin?"
"I mean now, Commander."
Dax looked at Worf.
"Sounds serious," Dax commented. She clipped her hair back. "Let's go."
The Chief stood in the Captain's office. Doctor Bashir had found himself a chair. Kira and Odo were there also. All were looking at Dax and Worf when the couple entered.
"I'm not going to waste any time," Sisko pushed a PADD towards Worf. "I received this a few minutes ago."
Worf picked up the PADD and read the message. His eyes widened.
"What does this mean?" Worf asked. "What do they mean, they have the children?"
O'Brien stepped forward, clearing his throat.
"Maybe I can explain," he said softly. Dax whirled on her comrade.
"Yes, what does it mean?" she demanded.
"Yoshi and Daria were playing," he began uncomfortably. "And they went running into the woods and then just disappeared."
"They disappeared?" Dax asked. "Disappeared?"
"Yes," O'Brien lowered his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"And these people have my daughter?" Worf demanded.
"I'm afraid so," Odo said, stepping forward. "I've never heard of this woman, Alysia, nor have I ever heard of The White Rose."
"The White Rose?" Dax asked.
"It's the name of the organization which is holding the children," Kira said neutrally. "The white rose has traditionally been the symbol of freedom for Bajor."
"Why did they take the children?" Dax demanded.
"They were not happy with the cease-fire we just signed with the Cardassians," Sisko answered gently.
"So they took my baby?" Dax asked, her cheeks flaming red. Worf moved over to his wife, putting his hand gently on her forearm. She shrugged off his touch. "Benjamin, what are we going to do?"
"We are doing everything we can," Sisko told her gently. "If you'd like, you may accompany the chief and the doctor down to the surface and begin conducting a ground search. Maybe we can find some clues, something to point us in the right direction."
"I have to do something," Dax said. "I can't just stay here. Kira, could you keep Madison a bit longer?"
"Of course, Jadzia, as long as you need me to keep her."
Dax scanned the faces in the room. She felt as if she had been punched in the stomach and she noted that everyone was looking back at her, an expression of sorrow on their face. And that's when she realized that the message had said nothing about the children's condition.
"Are they alive?" Dax asked in a small voice.
The expressions on Odo, Kira and Sisko's faces told her everything she needed to know. Dax closed her eyes, feeling as if everything was falling in on her. She grabbed the edge of the desk to steady herself.
"I'm fine," she told no one in particular. "Let's go. Let's go."
Keiko O'Brien almost cried when she saw her husband. Her tears had been swelling in her throat for the last six hours and now that he was back, she felt as if she could finally let her emotions go. Of course she refused to cry in front of her husband's comrades, so she bit down on her lip as she approached the group of people.
"Nothing," she reported grimly. O'Brien put his arm around her and steered her away from the others.
"Keiko," he said. "We have to talk."
She listened, almost in shock, as he told her that the children had been kidnapped by an organization called The White Rose.
"What do they want? For God's sake, give them what they want!" Keiko shrieked. O'Brien tightened his grip on her arm.
"Keiko, shh!" he said urgently. "Please, don't upset yourself."
"How can you say that? They have our son! These terrorists have taken our son!"
"The Captain is working on it. You know he will do everything he can."
"This is crazy," Keiko said. "All I wanted was some time together as a family. How could something like this happen?"
"Keiko, I can't promise it's going to be okay," Miles said gently. "But the Captain is trying. Everyone is trying. So we just have to be strong and get through this and hopefully, when this is all over, Yoshi will be back with us."
Keiko could only nod dumbly, as she watched her friends spread out, looking for the children.
Always the scientist, Dax had approached her search methodically and analytically. She had paired up with Julian.
"I am sorry, Jadzia," Bashir said uncomfortably as they headed into the woods. Already the shadows were lengthening; night was not far away and Dax dreaded the thought of Daria alone in the dark.
"She's never been without us," Dax said absent-mindedly as she side-stepped some rocks.
"Daria is a strong girl, a brave girl. You know she will be fine."
"She doesn't like milk. Do you think they'll know that? And she can't sleep without her bear. I mean, they don't know that."
"Jadzia," Julian said. "We will find her. Don't worry."
"I know that," Dax looked up from her tricorder and suddenly she looked very tired and old. It was a shocking realization, Bashir thought, that Jadzia Dax was growing older. Which meant he too was also aging.
"Worf will blame me," Dax said.
"No, he won't."
"I was being selfish. The children come first. I should have realized that."
"Instead I could only think of myself and now look what has happened."
"You're being ridiculous," Bashir said. Suddenly, his tricorder beeped loudly and insistently.
"What is it?" Dax asked.
"I'm picking up traces of Daria's DNA," Bashir answered. He knelt down and scanned the ground. "Here, on this rock. It's blood."
"A lot of blood?" Dax asked faintly.
"Not a lot," Bashir said. "Maybe just a small injury."
"You think she was hurt badly?"
"I can't tell from this. Jadzia, it's probably not serious."
"Not serious?" she whirled on him. "This is my child, Julian! It's always serious to me. Always. Especially if I don't know where she is!"
Bashir put his arm on her shoulder and Dax slumped against him.
"I'm so sorry," she whimpered. "I just don't know how I'm going to get through. I just don't know."
Go to Part III
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