Formalities first: all the characters and places belong to Paramount. Dori
Solan, Rong, Delat Caron, Lieutenants Alvarez, Smith & Morrow are my own creations
as is the story.
~ * ~
"I have to hand it to you, Major," Delat Caron fell into step next to Kira.
"I am really impressed at how you handled the raiders."
Kira shrugged, "It never hurts to ask. In fact, I think they might be happy to be included in the reconstruction efforts."
She sauntered off , heading towards where O'Brien was talking to a group of people.
"Wait, Kira!" Delat hurried after the major.
"Yes?" she asked, pausing in her steps.
"You are leaving soon?"
"Tomorrow. I think the village will be fine. And Sisko needs us back on the station. You must have known we couldn't stay indefinitely."
"I know, but it seems like you just got here."
"Perhaps," Kira said. "But I do have responsibilities back at the station."
"Oh. You couldn't extend your stay?"
Kira looked at Delat in exasperation, "No."
Kira continued walking, her hands clasped behind her back.
"Do you have something to say, Delat? Because I really need to talk to O'Brien about our return to the station and make sure that everything will continue to go well after we leave. So if you have something to say, you should just say it."
"I guess, what I'm trying to say, Major," Delat began.
"What are you trying to say?" Kira asked in amusement.
"The village will miss you."
"We will be back. In a few months."
"That's a long time."
"Not really. There's much to be done, and you'll see, the time will fly. Any thing else you wanted to tell me?"
"Never mind. It's nothing, really. Nothing at all."
"Fine. Then, you can help me load the supplies onto the runabout."
"As you wish, Major."
The Jem'Hadar's steps grew louder, their metal boots crunching against the
leaves and sticks on the path. Dax clenched her rifle tightly, remembering all
of her encounters with the Jem'Hadar. The vision of the darkened cell came into
her mind and she tried to control her breathing in order to calm down.
"This is not the time to lose your nerve, Jadzia," she chided herself.
The footsteps stopped suddenly.
"This is it," Dax murmured. She hauled herself to her feet and faced the trio of Jem'Hadar soldiers in the path.
"Identify yourself," one of the soldiers barked.
"I'm Commander Jadzia Dax, from Deep Space Nine," she answered, barely aware of Alvarez, Bashir and Rong coming to standing behind her. "Who are you?"
"I am the First."
"Well," Dax said. "Now that the formalities are out of the way, what can I do for you? A raktijino maybe? Some hasperaat souffle?"
"We have no desire for refreshment."
"Then, you must want something," Dax said pleasantly. "Something on this planet, maybe?"
"We have come to reclaim this planet and take the Klingons to be tried as prisoners of war."
"The planet you're welcome to," Dax said. "As for the Klingons, I'm afraid we're going to have to have a little chat about them."
"There is to be no discussion."
"Well, I'm afraid there is going to have to be."
The First drew himself up, "They are prisoners of war."
"You are two years too late."
"We insist that you allow us to take the Klingons. They have killed many of our soldiers," the First said.
"The war is over," Dax said. "It's over. I cannot allow you to take these men. They have requested asylum with the Federation and we intend to return with them through the wormhole."
"That is unacceptable."
At that moment, there was a blast of phaser fire and Dax whirled around to face Alvarez in dismay.
"Dax!" Bashir yelled just as Rong tackled the Trill. With an unerring eye honed by years of war, Bashir aimed at the remaining two Jem'Hadar, taking them out without a second thought.
"Are you all right?" Rong asked in concern. If anything happened to Jadzia, Rong did not want to have to answer to an angry Worf.
"Fine. Just dirty," Dax looked up to glare at Alvarez. The wounded lieutenant was lying against a tree, a blood stain spreading against her yellow tunic. Dax stood up, brushing dirt off of her uniform.
"Maria! What did you do that for? Don't you know what you just did?" Dax screamed.
"They killed my family," Alvarez said dully. "My husband, my children."
Bashir knelt next to Alvarez, "Damn those anti-coagulents. Maria, do you think you can make it to the runabout? I need to put you in stasis."
The lieutenant shook her head, "No. I don't want to go. I want to stay here. Please?"
"The wound is very bad," Bashir said quietly. "You will die if we don't return to the runabout."
"It's not so bad," Alvarez said. "It hardly hurts at all. In fact, I've never felt better."
"This is insane," Dax could barely contain her fury. "Do you know what this means? She shot the Jem'Hadar!"
Bashir shot Dax a look, "Jadzia, we will discuss this later."
"I know what I did," Alvarez's voice came out in short breaths. "I know. I apologize now for the consequences, Commander. I'm afraid, I won't make it back for my court martial."
"Be quiet, Maria. Calm down," Bashir said. "We will not leave you here."
"I guess you must be pretty angry, Commander."
"Angry doesn't even begin to cover it, Lieutenant."
"You have every right. But I just couldn't help it. I just snapped."
"How come you never told us of any of this? About your family?"
"No one asked."
Rong paced nervously, "We do not have much time."
"I'm aware of that," Dax said quietly. "We have to get back to the camp and warn the others, tell them what has happened."
Bashir stood up and moved to stand next to Dax.
"It won't be long now," he said quietly. "She's fading fast."
Dax turned and suddenly she felt sympathy for the dying lieutenant. It would not be kind, she supposed, to berate the lieutenant for potentially starting another war.
"I am sorry for everything that has happened to you, Maria," Dax said quietly. "I'm sorry for everything you have suffered."
"It is nothing now," Alarez's face began to take on a strange glow of peacefulness. "I can see them all now. It's nothing now."
Her breath was coming shorter and shorter and then suddenly, she stopped breathing all together.
"I don't feel right about leaving her here," Bashir said. "Whatever we might feel about what she's done, she was still a member of our crew and I don't want to leave her alone out here."
"We don't have time to take her back," Dax said. "God, but you're right. I don't want to leave her here."
"I will carry her," Rong said.
Bashir and Dax quickly dragged the bodies of the three Jem'Hadar into the brush and covered them up with leaves and branches.
"That should be fine for now," Dax said.
Rong hefted Alvarez up over his shoulder.
"Thank you," Dax said gratefully. "Now, we better hurry before the Jem'Hadar decided to make another appearance."
Back on the station, O'Brien found Kira in Quark's, nursing a cup of raktijino.
"Hi," he said. "Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all."
"I was very impressed with you, the way you handled the situation. With the raiders and all."
"It was nothing," Kira shrugged.
"Major," O'Brien sighed. "Why do you make everything so difficult?"
"You're right," she said. "We have a lot to discuss."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"I have to apologize to you, Miles. I am sorry for all those horrible things I said to you. I guess, I never thought about how you would feel."
"And I am sorry too."
"I think the time on Bajor was good for both of us."
"Yes, perhaps," O'Brien said. "But Keiko and the kids still aren't coming home. Nothing's going to change that."
"But at least we can live with that knowledge easier," Kira said quietly. "Even if we don't ever get over it."
"I will never get over losing them."
"I didn't say that you would."
O'Brien held up a hand, "Let's not discuss this anymore, Major. I cannot."
A smile crept across O'Brien's face, "And you have something to look forward to, Nerys."
"I think Delat Caron likes you… just a little."
"You're starting to sound like a broken record."
O'Brien laughed and rose from the table, "Thank you for inviting me to come with you. I enjoyed my time on Bajor."
Kira stared back into her raktijino, "Delat? Me? Impossible."
But then she started to make plans for her next visit to Bajor.
Worf could tell immediately from Dax's expression that things had not gone
well. He immediately grabbed her arm, but she shrugged it off in a gesture of
"What happened?" he demanded.
"Maria is dead."
"Worf," she said. "We have to get out of here."
Rong and two other Klingons began digging a shallow grave and Dax was thankful that she would not have to deal with Alvarez's burial arrangements. As it was, her head was already beginning to pound; how the heck was she going to explain this to Sisko?
"You encountered Jem'Hadar," Worf said finally. "And?"
"They want the planet back."
"They can have the planet. We will not protest."
"They want all of you too."
"Prisoners of war. The Dominion still has issues with the Klingon Empire. They especially want you, thanks to your assault on the Jem'Hadar training camp that used to be here. I was hoping to negotiate with them, to find a way to get you off this planet without provoking an incident. We had a chance before Maria opened fired. Now? God, another war with the Dominion?"
"Jadzia," Worf took her arm. "That's not going to happen."
"Well, something's going to happen. We just have to figure it out. We're going to have to figure out a plan for when they get here."
"Jadzia," Julian said quietly. "We will not be able to hold our ground against the Jem'Hadar. You know that. We have no weapons and the runabout is no match for whatever ship is up there. And the Klingons are really in no shape to fight any battles now, no offense, Worf.
"None taken," Worf said genially. "But still, we should be prepared."
"For once, we're in agreement."
"I do not propose we fight," Worf replied.
"What do you mean?"
"If the Dominion knows there was a Federation presence on the planet, they
will automatically hold the Federation responsible for the deaths of those soldiers,"
"What do you suggest then?" Dax asked in frustration.
"We surrender," Worf suggested.
"What?" Dax whirled on her husband.
"You and Julian leave. If you go now, you may be able to avoid another encounter with the Jem'Hadar," Worf said urgently. "And we will surrender."
"I refuse to leave you here!"
"Jadzia," Worf took her arm and pulled her away from Bashir. "You cannot stay. I will not allow you to stay."
"You can't make me obey you."
"I want you to leave me."
"But there isn't any guarantee…"
"If you go now, you can inform Sisko of what has happened," Worf said. "You can return with the Defiant. With the Defiant, we will have a chance."
"What about you?"
"I will stay here, surrender."
"Surrender! You've never surrendered to anything in your entire life, Worf. I don't believe you would now."
"I do not want the Dominion to know you were here."
"And it's okay for me to just go? You would let me go, after everything we've been through? I refuse to be separated from you again, Worf."
"If I take the blame for the shootings, then the Dominion will never guess you were here. It's for the best, Jadzia, that you go. At least I will know you are okay."
"If I go, how will I know where you are?"
"I don't know."
Dax closed her eyes; all the energy in her limbs seemed to dissipate and she felt herself falling. Worf grabbed her just as she sunk to the ground.
"I can't go," she whispered faintly.
"You must," he said firmly. "You cannot make a scene at a time like this. This is no time for hysterics."
"Make a scene! Hysterics!"
"Do I carry on like this when you leave?" Worf asked, a faint smile playing on his lips. There was humor in his voice, but he could not conceal his intense worry from Dax. "But you must leave, Jadzia. I cannot allow you to stay. If anything should happen to you…"
"Nothing will happen to me," she touched his cheek gently, and then wrapped her cool hands around his warmer ones. "Stop shaking. Klingon warriors don't shake."
"You will go then?"
"I will return. As soon as possible. With Sisko and the Defiant."
"Then you and Dr. Bashir must hurry. I will accompany you to the runabout."
Worf helped her to her feet.
"Now, don't fight a million Jem'Hadar soldiers, okay? Don't try to prove your honor or anything. I intend to get you back in one piece," Dax said.
Bashir had already packed their things and Dax tried to hide her worry under a smile.
"Look at you," she said. "All prepared. It seems you did not enjoy your stay here, Julian."
"I've had better vacations," Bashir admitted.
"We must hurry," Worf said again.
The trio began to tramp through the woods, silently. Dax could not speak because of the tears caught in her throat while Worf tried to wear a brave facade. Julian was acutely aware of the tension, so he said nothing. Instead, he tried to forget the image of Maria Alvarez aiming her phaser rifle at the Jem'Hadar and he tried not to think of his own rifle firing accurately.
After they reached the runabout, Julian disappeared inside, to give Worf and Jadzia a few moments alone.
"I will be back soon," she promised.
"We will not surrender easily," Worf replied.
"Just don't do anything stupid."
"Kiss me and go," Worf answered firmly.
Dax placed her hands on his faces, gently feeling first his forehead ridges and then she planted a kiss on his lips.
"I wish you a good death," she told him, even as she turned away.
Dax entered the runabout and took her seat at the helm. She did not look at Alvarez's empty seat.
"Let's go," she said. "We don't have much time and we're dead if the Jem'Hadar ship even catches a whiff of us."
The runabout erupted out of the wormhole in a flurry of bright colors. Sisko eyed it with apprehension. It had been two weeks since he had last heard from Dax and Bashir and he wondered what the outcome of the mission had been.
"Major, hail the runabout," Sisko said.
In a moment, Dax and Bashir filled the viewscreen. Both appeared weary and strained, noticeably Dax. Sisko also noticed the absence of Lt. Maria Alvarez.
"Hello, Benjamin," Dax said. "Did you miss us?"
"Of course. Welcome home," the captain answered.
"We found Worf," Dax said. "He is on Vlata III. Unfortunately, we had to leave him behind."
"We will explain when we dock," Julian answered smoothly.
"You're cleared for landing pad three," Kira said from her station.
"Thank you, Nerys. We will see you in a few minutes," Dax answered.
The viewscreen went black and Sisko turned to Kira, a bewildered expression on his face.
"She left Worf behind," he said quietly. "That's not good."
"I'm sure there is an explanation," the Bajoran said.
"Perhaps. But I know I'm not going to like it. Join me, Major."
Kira nodded and followed Sisko into the turbolift.
"I was against her going from the beginning," Sisko said pensively. "I didn't want her to go. Of course, I understood why she had to go, but that doesn't mean I wanted her to go."
"What are you afraid of?"
"I don't know," Sisko answered. "But you know what they say about the Gamma Quadrant."
Sisko and Kira arrived at the docking bay just minutes before the runabout touched down. They waited for the doors to close and then a weary Bashir and Dax climbed down from the small vessel.
"I suppose you have an explanation, Old Man," Sisko said, as Dax fell into step next to him.
"Nothing I'm terribly thrilled about."
"I can see that. What happened?"
Dax pressed her hand against her forehead, "Alvarez is dead."
Kira drew her breath in sharply, "What happened?"
"It was all so stupid," Dax said.
"Jadzia," Bashir stepped forward warningly. "Jadzia, slowly."
"We found Worf. He and a group of about twenty Klingons have been trapped on Vlata III for the past two years. I guess the planet was the site of a major training camp for the Jem'Hadar and the Klingons destroyed it. Unfortunately, the Jem'Hadar decided to come back and reclaim the planet, and its inhabitants," Dax said.
"The Klingons?" Sisko guessed.
"Where does Alvarez fit into all this?" Kira queried.
"She shot the first Jem'Hadar."
"Provocation?" Sisko asked sharply.
"None," Dax answered. "She lost her entire family in the war and couldn't restrain herself."
Sisko shook his head.
"Any word from the Dominion?" Bashir asked. "They must know what has happened by now."
"They didn't give us any trouble as we were leaving," Dax said. "But I don't believe they could have been unaware of our presence."
"Unless it was only the Klingons they wanted," Bashir said grimly.
"We have to take the Defiant and go back there," Dax pleaded. "Before it's too late."
Kira and Sisko looked at each other.
"I'm ready to go now," Kira said, making the decision instantly to cancel her return to Bajor.
"Get Mr. O'Brien and we will go," Sisko said decisively.
"Thank you," Dax said, hoping that it wasn't too late.
Bashir and Kira walked ahead of Dax and Sisko, both of them instinctively realizing Dax's need to confide in Sisko.
"I didn't want to leave him there," Dax said. "But we had to get out of there before the Dominion realized the
"The Klingons took care of her."
"You know we can't intercede now if the Dominion chooses to take Worf and the others prisoner."
"I realize that," Dax answered grimly. "If we do intercede, then we have to admit our presence on the planet and our role in the shootings. As it is, Worf has agreed to take the blame for the shootings."
"I will contact the Klingon Empire," Sisko said. "They will want to know that the crew of the Rotarran has been found."
"I'm afraid that hostilities will break out again. If only I had been given the chance to negotiate!"
"You could not predict Alvarez's reaction to the Jem'Hadar."
"I know. Perhaps I should have listened to her more closely. She was almost too competent, you know? As if
she was trying to tell me something."
"I did not know Maria Alvarez well."
"Apparently none of us did," Dax sighed. "And now we have to pay for that."
Dax settled down at the helm of the Defiant, after Sisko barked at her
to sit down.
"I know you're worried, Jadzia," Sisko had said. "But pacing the bridge is not going to help the situation and frankly, you are driving us all crazy."
"That's a little harsh, isn't it?" Julian had queried from behind Sisko. Kira had fixed the doctor with a penetrating stare and Bashir had immediately wilted. Dax had obediently returned to her seat.
"It's only about ten hours left," she said. It had been exactly sixty-two hours since Bashir and Dax had left Vlata III and she desperately hoped that the Defiant was not too late.
"Very good," Sisko said in that tight, strained voice Dax knew so well.
"Captain," Kira said. "Do we have an idea of how we are going to deal with the Dominion once we get there?"
"No idea," Sisko touched the tips of his fingers together pensively.
"Sounds like a good plan," Kira said, cynicism creeping into her voice.
"We will evaluate our options when we get there. There is no use debating now."
"But we can't let them take Worf and the others prisoner!" Dax whirled around in her chair.
"Can't we, Commander?" Sisko queried.
"No! Worf is a Federation officer."
"But he was serving on a Klingon ship."
"This is all old, Benjamin. You can't tell me that you are willing to let the Dominion take Worf over details!"
"Details, Old Man? I hardly think this is about details."
Dax bit her lip, "I think you're wrong."
Sisko stood up and came to touch Dax's shoulder.
"I would never let you down, Old Man."
"Right now, I'm not so sure," she answered bitterly.
"This is a tense situation, Jadzia. And there are times when it is necessary to put personal feelings aside."
"If it were Jennifer, would you leave her there? At the mercy of the Dominion? I spent a year in the Dominion's prison camps…"
"This isn't about you, Jadzia."
Dax tilted her head away from Sisko, pressing her lips tightly together. The pressure behind her eyes was beginning to spread into her head. She placed her palm against her forehead.
"Perhaps not," Dax said. "But I cannot leave him there."
"I never said we would leave him behind."
"But you just said…"
"I know what I said. It's not the same as what I would do."
With an enigmatic smile, Sisko returned to his chair.
The Defiant fell into orbit around Vlata III and to her disappointment,
Dax could find no sign of the Dominion ship.
"Gone!" she slammed her fist into the console, provoking an eruption of beeps from the computer.
"I'm picking up a faint warp signature," Kira reported from her station. "Very faint."
"Captain," Dax turned to Sisko. "If we don't follow it now, we could lose it forever."
"Did you scan the planet for life signs?" Sisko asked.
"Nothing," Dax reported.
"Set a course then," Sisko ordered. "Is it the Jem'Hadar ship?"
"Yes, it must be. This isn't a well-traveled sector," Kira answered.
"Warp seven then."
"Laying in course now," Dax announced.
"Good," Sisko said, touching his fingertips together. "Where do you think we're going, Commander?"
"My guess? Narada Prime."
"Narada Prime. It makes sense."
"Why?" the doctor asked.
"It was the last stronghold on this side of the wormhole for the Federation," Dax answered. "Basically, once we lost Narada Prime, we lost the Gamma Quadrant."
"And the Dominion would love to rub it in our faces," Kira finished.
Sisko nodded. No one from Deep Space Nine had been involved in the defense of Narada Prime, but he had known many of those who had died there; in fact, his old friend from the Academy, Captain Callahan, had led the Ninth Fleet against the Dominion. Unfortunately, the combined might of the Dominion, the Cardassians and various allies had overpowered the Ninth Fleet, destroying all but four ships. Those remaining ships had limped back to the Alpha Quadrant for repairs at Deep Space Nine and Sisko could still remember Callahan's facial expression as the older man had stepped off the Valor.
"That's the end of everything," Paul Callahan had told Sisko in private. "Narada Prime is gone, I expect Bajor to fall next."
"Not if I have anything to do with it," Sisko had answered firmly. "We might have lost the Gamma Quadrant, but the Dominion still has to get past me and Deep Space Nine and that will not ne easy."
Of course, at the time Sisko had spoken with more courage than he had actually felt and he had tried to hide his own disappointment and despair from Callahan. Now, approaching Narada Prime, he was acutely aware of those same feelings returning.
"Nothing like knocking on the front door to the Dominion to announce our presence," Sisko said. "Commander, we'll stay cloaked until we reach the planet. I don't want any trouble."
Dax cupped her hands around the mug of raktijino, breathing in the aroma heavily. Most of the senior staff had retired to quarters for the night, but insomnia had Dax pacing the Defiant's mess hall. Even the panorama of stars passing by did not calm her down. Finally, she had settled for the Klingon coffee, knowing she would never get to sleep after drinking it.
"Oh, hello, O'Brien," Dax greeted the engineer. O'Brien walked over to the replicator and asked for a cup of Earl Grey tea.
"Earl Grey?" Dax asked.
"Captain Picard on the Enterprise drank it often. I guess lately, I've been thinking about the Enterprise. The new one, that is."
"There have been so many," Dax answered absent-mindedly.
O'Brien took a seat opposite Dax.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
Dax's shoulders shuddered as she let out a deep breath, "Fine, I think."
"Terrified actually. I'm not sure what I've started here. If the Dominion knows that Maria Alvarez shot those soldiers, it's all the reason to restart the war. You know the Cardassians would love a second shot at Bajor and the Alpha Quadrant."
"You're right; I am worried about Worf. But he always told me that in time of war we must put aside our personal feelings."
"That's easier said then done," O'Brien observed.
"I know. He does it quite well though," Dax answered with a smile.
"That's what you think. When we all thought you were dead, Worf nearly drove us crazy with his vendetta. He was determined to track down your murderers."
"Of course it came as a big surprise to us when the Dominion informed us that you were living comfortably as their guest."
"Guest?" Dax smirked. "I would not call a cell at all comfortable."
"But Worf even hugged Quark, he was so happy with the news you were coming home. Not once did he give up hope. Even when Sisko had finally given up that you were ever coming home, Worf never did."
"I never said anything about losing hope. It's just that we were so close, you know? It makes me mad and it makes me angry at Maria for what she did. And I know it's wrong to be angry at someone who is dead."
"Not necessarily. I get mad at Keiko all the time."
"All the time. I just can't help it."
Dax ran her finger around the circumference of her mug, feeling the smooth surface beneath her fingertip.
"And I'm angry at myself for being angry at her. But it's not even a real anger. It's more of a feeling to fill the space of what used to be there."
"You don't love Keiko anymore?"
"No!" O'Brien jumped up from his chair. "I will always love Keiko. I just can't right now. It hurts too much to love her."
"And the children?"
"I love my children, Commander," O'Brien answered honestly. "But it's Keiko who I miss most."
"I guess I can understand that. I was once a mother… and a father."
"I think Worf would appreciate your faith in him."
"He's a stubborn Klingon, always thinking about his honor," Dax offered O'Brien a tiny glimpse of a smile. "I wish sometimes wish he would be more selfish. That he would have come with me on that runabout so that we would not be on this foolhardy mission to Narada Prime. As it is, we've already provoked the Dominion enough. Now? With the Defiant coming up on the planet, I almost shudder to think what might happen."
"Sisko is a good negotiator."
"I know. He brought me home."
Dax buried her face into her palms. For a moment, she closed her eyes and pressed against them so hard, she could see bright lights in the darkness. She pushed her hair out of her eyes and looked across the table at O'Brien. For the first time, she could see the gray streaking his brown curls and the increasing lines around his eyes and forehead.
"Miles?" she reached across the table to take his hand.
"Do you still believe?" she asked earnestly.
"You haven't given up?"
"Until I get official notification from Starfleet, I'm not going to give up."
"Are you just saying that to make me happy?"
"Of course not. How could you think such a thing?"
For a long moment, they sat in silence, both musing over their respective losses, though Dax had to admit that she at least had an idea of where Worf might be. O'Brien had no idea if his family was even still alive.
"I noticed you and Nerys are getting along better," Dax said finally.
"There were a time when I was afraid you guys wouldn't ever talk to each other again."
"Well, we talked when we were on Bajor."
"And it was good?"
"Yes. It's just that we were both hurting too much. I guess, we had to strike out at someone."
"I'm glad the situation is resolved."
"Yes," O'Brien said. "I am too."
At that moment, Kira's voice beeped over the com system.
"Kira to senior staff. We're coming into orbit around Narada Prime. Please take your stations."
Dax lifted her eyebrows at O'Brien.
"Here we go," she said. "The fun is just beginning."
Go to Part V
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