Surfacing, part V

By Seema

"Something wrong?" O'Brien asked.

"Just tired," I said. "Bored."

"Bored?" O'Brien looked at me with an odd expression. "With this?"

"It's just the same thing every day. Nothing changes."

"That can't be right. Gaia has a unique environment. I notice things every day. Just the other day, I noticed that the solar flares seemed unusually bright. I was going to ask you about that. Did you see it?"

"No," I replied flatly. I held up the PADD I had just downloaded the latest readings to. "This information is really useless, you know. It's not important."

"But it's good to have, just in case."

"If you insist. I don't understand the point."

O'Brien picked up the pump and fiddled with the handle for a moment.

*He doesn't believe you, Jadzia.*

*I don't know why you think you can fool people.*

*Once a scientist, always a scientist.*

*You'd be better off dead. Dead, dead, dead… don't be afraid.*

*Be quiet, Joran. She doesn't need that. *

*Ask him. Don't be afraid. Ask him what you have been dying to ask. Get it? Dying? Ask!*

*Ask, ask, ask…*

"Miles?" I ventured. "Do you ever think about it?"

He frowned, his face going through various gyrations.

"Think about it?"

"The last time we were all sitting here," I swept my arm around, indicating the Bridge.

"What do you mean?"

"Exactly that. Kira and Worf were there and I was at the helm. You were sitting over there," I pointed. "And Benjamin, he was in his chair. We all had to hold on, I remember that."

O'Brien's face clouded for just a second, "It was a rough ride."

"Yeah, it was," I paused for a moment. From the expression on O'Brien's face, I could tell he thought about that awful day as often as I did, if not more. From his curt answer, I could also tell that he did not want to talk about it.

"When are you going to see if that works?" I asked finally.

O'Brien glanced down at the water pump he held, "I plan to install it today. I don't want to wait too long or the ground will freeze."

"The water pump seems like a luxury. No more details to the river for fresh water."

"That's if it works," O'Brien warned. "I'm going to go check and see if the rest of the pipe has been laid. I know everyone was working hard to get it done for today."

"I'll come with you," I said. "I've been here long enough."

Outside, the sky was a hazy hue of orange due to the refractive properties of the barrier. Tall, brittle grass lined the path back to the settlement. I ran my fingers through the swaying tips, feeling their sharpness against my rough skin. Beside me, O'Brien cradled his latest masterpiece.

"I have no desire to trek through snow for water again this winter. That's one thing I don't miss about Ireland: snow," O'Brien commented.

I glanced sideways at O'Brien; to my recollection, he had not mentioned Ireland since we had arrived on Gaia.

"No," he continued. "I remember last winter. All we did was clear paths from the main barracks to the Defiant. And then, when we were done with the Defiant, it was time to clear a path back. Bloody awful. I don't remember a time when my teeth chattered more."

We crested the bluff. Below us, the settlement looked like children's building blocks scattered haphazardly. A year ago, there had been nothing here except for grassy plains with a few trees here and there. It had not taken long to select this spot for the settlement; it was flat, close to the Defiant, and near enough to the river for our purposes.

I kicked a rock out of place, scuffing the toe of my boot. I paused for a second, kneeling to pick it up.

"It's got an interesting sheen," I explained in response to O'Brien's questioning look. "I want to test it for conductive properties."

"I see."

We walked shoulder to shoulder down the slope. Already the late afternoon air held the faintest hint of winter; the air chilled me to the bone, sending shivers down my spine.

"I've got to get these readings to Julian," I said.

"For his study?"


"He's doing brilliant research on the radiation effects of the barrier. Shame he won't be able to share his findings with anyone outside of Gaia," O'Brien said without a trace of irony. "But at least the knowledge can be passed down to future generations."

O'Brien paused as we rounded the last curve down to the settlement. His eyes grazed briefly over the carefully tended grave, adorned with fading yellow and white flowers. O'Brien had etched the name Kira Nerys into the stone with his microlathe, painstakingly carving out each letter in a flowing script.

"Sometimes I come here just to talk to her," O'Brien said and I knew he was not really talking to me. "We have that bond because of Yoshi. I like to tell her what I think he might be up to, how big he might be. Came out here on Yoshi's birthday to thank her for carrying him for us. It makes no sense because he isn't here and neither are Molly or Keiko, but to me, they are real. I keep waiting for them not to exist in my memory anymore but that hasn't happened yet. I don't know when it will."

I put my hand on his forearm, unable to speak.

"When the snow fell, I tried to keep it from covering her up," he continued. "But it was too hard. I just don't like the idea of Kira out here alone. It doesn't feel right to me."

He bent his head, biting down on his lip. I could see his cheeks reddening, whether from cold or emotion, I could not tell.

After a moment, O'Brien raised his head and repositioned the water pump in his arms.

"It will be easier this year," he said, forcing false enthusiasm into his voice. He stroked the rough edges of the pump affectionately. "Think of it, Jadzia. No more trips to the river in the cold. We won't have to chip away at the ice or worry about getting soaked. Julian won't fret about hypothermia."

Our eyes met and I forced myself to say, "Of course, you're right. This year will be better."

*Go ahead, Jadzia. Lie to them, lie to yourself. *

*I'm not lying! *

*But do you really believe what you're saying? *

"Jadzia?" O'Brien was looking at me strangely. I realized then I had stopped suddenly and Miles was a couple steps ahead of me.

"Lost in thought?" he asked.

Lost anyway, Curzon's voice taunted. Some things never change.

"Yes," I said quickly. "Sorry."

"No need to apologize," O'Brien gestured towards the center of the settlement. "I guess we part ways here."
I hadn't even realized that we had reached the Infirmary. I smiled at O'Brien.

"Thanks for the walk and the conversation," I told him.

"Anytime. See you."

The Infirmary was the second largest building in the settlement. We had outfitted it with all of the equipment we could salvage from the Defiant, but even with the technology, Julian lacked the equipment to perform more complicated surgeries.

I entered the Infirmary, closing the door gently behind me. I leaned back against the wall, thinking of the moment when Julian had informed Benjamin and me that he did not have the equipment necessary to save Kira.

I closed my eyes, thinking of the solitary grave on the hillside, of the swaying grass growing up around Kira's grave, of the snows that would soon fall upon it.


I recovered quickly, holding out my data PADD to Julian.

"I brought you the latest readings on the barrier," I said brightly.

"Thanks. I needed these," Julian glanced at the PADD before placing it to the side. "I've been coming up with some interesting findings. I've been meaning to tell you about them…"

I leaned against the wall, pressing my palm to my forehead.

"Maybe another time, Julian," I answered.

"Are you all right? You look as if you might faint," Julian said.

"Tired. How is Angie?"

"Better. Her fever broke earlier today. She's resting."

"That's good to hear."

My eyes wandered over to the far corner, settling on a container tucked away in the shadows.

"How is Odo?" I asked.

Julian shrugged, "The same, I suppose. I talk to him, but he doesn't respond that much. But then, Odo was never talkative. Do you mind if I download this into the computer?"

"No, go right ahead. I'll wait."

I waited a moment and then ventured cautiously, "Odo?"

I didn't expect a response as I moved closed to the container. It had been months since I had last spoken to Odo. Often, I wanted to come and sit with him because I knew no one else did, but then I would remember Kira and something else - digging ditches, for instance - would conveniently come up.

Today I had no excuses.

"Odo, it's me, Jadzia."

The golden fluid trembled.

"How are you, Odo?"

Again, I noted just a slight reaction. Julian told me that on occasion he noticed Odo shapeshifting to form simple geometric objects, but every attempt ended within a few seconds.

"We're doing well, Odo. The chief, uh, he built a water pump. It's going to go in the center of town. I guess if we have a water pump, we must be a town. It's strange how fast we're growing. A year ago, it was just us and the wreck of the Defiant. Now we're up to twenty-three buildings and a water pump. It's really amazing. But don't expect great architecture when you finally get a chance to see it all, Odo. Unfortunately, they don't teach that at the Academy. All those classes in temporal mechanics, xenobiology, boolean algebra, and they don't offer one class in architecture. You would be proud, Odo, there hasn't been any serious crime. There have been a couple of infractions, some fighting when rations ran out and then the time the replicator broke down, but for the most part, it's been calm."

I gripped the edge of the counter, leaning towards Odo.

"You can't stay in there much longer, Odo," I whispered. "We need you."

Behind me, Julian cleared his throat.


I jerked back, turned quickly, keeping my hands behind my back. Julian held the PADD out to me.

"Thanks," he said. "I appreciate it."

"You're welcome," I said.

"I haven't noticed any changes in cellular structure," he said. "Of course, the next generation, um, that's where the differences will be. That will be interesting."

"You're right," I agreed. "About mutations, that is. If there are any."

Julian fixed me with a steely glance.

"Oh there will be," he assured me. "It's bound to happen. With the energy barrier such as it is, changes in genetic code are inevitable."

We stood there in awkward silence and I wondered if Odo could sense what was going on.

"I should go," I whispered.

I tried to brush past Julian, but he caught my elbow.

"We make our own happiness," he said quietly. I eyed him curiously.

"When did you get so philosophical?" I asked.

"I have a lot of time to think," Julian grinned crookedly at me. "I'm a doctor with only one patient after all."

I allowed myself to smile.

"If you have that much time, I hear there are still some potatoes left to be harvested."

Julian laughed too, releasing my elbow.

"I suppose you'll draft Odo too," he said.

"Any able bodied person," I said. "Everyone's fair game now. Seniority doesn't count anymore."

Julian's expression grew serious as he gazed past me. I twisted around to see what had caught his attention. Through the window, I saw a trio gathered, laughing and talking. Julian turned back to me.

"We've built a fine community," he said quietly. "In time we will all find our own happiness here. Even you."

"When?" I couldn't help asking. Even I could hear the whining tone in my voice. Julian eyed me for a moment and then he turned away.

"I've got to check on Angie," he said in a low voice.

I wanted to grab Julian by the shoulders and shake him, but instead I just stood there, watching him watch Angie.

"Um," I said after a couple minutes. "I'll be going."

Julian did not look at me when he said, "See you later."

I crossed the settlement in a straight line, my eyes blurring as I headed home.

* What's happening to you, Jadzia?*

Lela again. Sympathetic, kind, understanding. All those things I longed so desperately for.

*I don't know. I wish I knew.*

*Why won't you let us help?*

*I want to. I do.*

*Don't do something you'll regret later, Jadzia.*

Torias. Soft, sad, contemplative.

*It's too late for that, Torias. *

And in the background, Joran laughed.

Go to the conclusion

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