~ Children of Faith ~

By Mijra

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, its characters or any of its concepts. I just love telling stories. And if you're enjoying yourself while reading this piece of fiction, that's all I could have hoped for.^^

Summary:

Captain Sisko has brought the Defiant into the Gamma Quadrant following a hint that the Maquis were seeking out a new hiding at Dolos V. Unfortunately, the intelligence turned out to be a dead end. On their way home, Sisko follows the invitation of one of the spiritual leaders on Dolos V to drop by at their nearby colony for some shore leave the crew of the Defiant desperately needs. At first, everyone is thrilled about the idyllic atmosphere. When a medical emergency prompts Dr. Bashir to offer his help to the colonists, he doesn't yet know what he maneuvers himself into. Can Sisko find out the truth before it's too late?

Note on the timeline:

This story is set in season 4 between the episodes "The Quickening" and "Body Parts".

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Sisko: "Something's not right about this planet. I just hit one of my senior staff. I just hit Julian."

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Chapter 1

"Thank you very much for being with us today, Captain! I understand that you are under a tight schedule and I didn't want to keep you away from your duties. I can imagine that there is a lot of work waiting for your attention back home on your station. So it's an honor for us to welcome you here as our guests today."

Captain Benjamin Sisko arched one brow, taking a short sip of the wine-like beverage one was serving on this special occasion. He kept the red liquid in his mouth, savoring the taste, trying to decide if it was indeed something similar to synthehol in the Federation, or alcohol back on Earth. It had a dry and slightly sour taste, slightly burning when it made its way down his throat. Something that reminded him of the wine his father would serve together with his family Gumbo whose recipe he would ultimately take to his grave. It tasted good, and as he had no way of knowing how much of an inebriating effect it had on human physiology, he decided to better be careful with how much he allowed himself to indulge in. Sisko put the glass back on the table before he offered a broad smile.

"It's all my pleasure. To be honest, I wasn't sure about our visit here at first. We really are under a tight schedule. But I daresay that a bit of shore leave might be exactly what this crew needs."

Sisko bit back a smile when he watched his senior staff gathered around the laden table. The people here might be simple and down to earth, but they had prepared nothing short of a miracle. The food was amazing, ranging from fresh fruit to salads, freshly baked bread and some steaming stews which made his mouth water. They were sharing dinner with the leader of the biggest colony on this planet, a middle aged man with slightly grey hair who had introduced himself as simply Heral to them. Upon their arrival, it was the first thing he had done, insisting they share the rare chance of a meal together. As it had turned out, the people on Coldron didn't often have contact with the outside world as they preferred to stay mainly among themselves. Only every now and then, some strangers would find their way to the small settlement where they were treated as precious guests who brought tales of faraway lands with them and life that was so completely different from what the people here were used to. When Sisko looked at Heral, he saw a confident leader, fully content with the life he had chosen. But even though Heral would never have traded places with them, he did seem interested in what his guests had to say about their home back on DS9, beyond the wormhole, and the life they were leading there. According to what Heral had told them, the colonists of Coldron had once moved over from the neighboring planet Dolos V in pursuit of fulfilling their dream of an independent, self-sustaining life. Even though they remained in regular contact with their home world, they were fairly autonomous. They had their own little decision making authority which consisted of Heral and a small council of elders of the few other cities that existed strewn over Coldron every here and there. It wasn't as large as to call it a government though it did function as such – only in small scale.

Heral had also told them that most of the planet was uninhabited apart from some indigenous animals. Their colony wasn't very large though Heral was confident that they would continually grow when more and more of his people still living on Dolos V would awaken to the pleasure of a simple and rural life. Sisko had to concede that he understood the reason for the colonists to start over a new life here. It really was appealing a thought. Just leave your old life behind and start all over again. Like back when he had first come to DS9 four years ago. So much had happened since that day. So much he wished he could make undone.

He took a deep breath and tried not to let his dark thoughts ruin the evening. At least his senior staff was obviously enjoying themselves, apparently grateful for the opportunity to wind down and spend an evening off the ship. He didn't want to spoil everyone's good mood, even though he very well would have liked to decline Heral's invitation and return back to the station as soon as possible. They had been in the Gamma Quadrant for already one week when the Ministers of Dolos V had invited them to drop by at their colony here. It had been a stressful week which had finally led them to a dead end. He wasn't in the best of moods to spend time exchanging pleasantries on a diplomatic mission and would have liked to move on and bury himself in the work that would be waiting for him on DS9 hadn't it been for Dax and her advice he better not let his personal life interfere with the responsibility for his crew. He knew that she was right, and that he was probably the one most in need of some time off. So he had accepted Heral's offer for their all sake.

"And you really didn't bring any kind of technology with you?"

Chief O'Brien at his side seemed honestly impressed when he broke a slice of bread in two and started to dip it into the stew, watching one of Heral's men who had suddenly appeared next to them to light the candles on the table. They were having dinner in the common room of the only official building in town and were now sitting around a long, wooden table, the room growing darker as the sun finally set after a long day. As there wasn't any electrical lighting, their host stuck to the old-fashioned way and now a dozen of thick, white candles were illuminating the cozy room.

Heral laughed. "Sometimes a life away from technology can offer you possibilities no technology can." Then he shook his head. "No, we didn't bring much technology with us when we came here. And it's not as if anyone really misses it. But to tell the truth, we do have some computers to interact with our government on Dolos V. It was one of their conditions when we started the colony. They granted us the power to run the colony as we see fit, but they were worried to leave us without any means to contact them if need be. So we agreed to have at least some computer terminals in order to stay in contact with the outside world. Though I have to admit that we barely use them. Not unless we need to order supplies every once in a while. " Heral spread his arms wide as if in explanation. "As you can see, we have everything we need. We have our farms to sustain our little settlement. We grow our own food, we build our own houses. It's a plain and simple life, but everything we achieve we do so by ourselves."

"But what about medical equipment? What if anyone gets sick?" Dr. Bashir frowned. The doctor had frozen with the fork still in hand and was watching Heral with an expression hovering between honest surprise and slight dismay.

An amused smile played around the edges of Heral's mouth, and he chuckled. "I see your concern, Doctor. But you might be amazed at how hard work on the fields makes your body strong. I'm proud to say that we rarely have any medical issues here. Nothing we cannot handle the old-fashioned way without technological means. And even if we need medical assistance, we can still call for help and our government will provide us with everything we need."

"But you do have a doctor here, do you?" the young man held, obviously stunned by the idea that there wasn't really any experienced physician present.

"Yes, we do have some healers if that is what you mean. As I said, we rarely have to deal with medical issues but our healers are trained enough to handle everything that might come up on the road."

Bashir still didn't seem very convinced.

"So you're completely on your own here," Sisko stated before Bashir could seize the opportunity to drill the other man with more questions. He leaned back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap. The candles on the table emanated an amber glow, giving the gathering with Heral the feeling of a family reunion over dinner. It was a calming atmosphere, peaceful and refreshing. It reminded Sisko of the evenings at his father's restaurant. When he had sat down at one of the tables with his father after the last guests had left and the restaurant had fallen silent. They had sat together, talking until Sisko's eyes were falling close and his father would call it a night. It's been years, or rather decades since then, but the memory was still fresh and vivid in Sisko's mind.

Heral nodded. "Yes, and it allows us to concentrate on the important things in our lives. You might have heard that we are a very religious people. We might not interact much with people from other worlds but we are in constant conversation with our gods. It was also the main reason to come here and leave our old lives behind."

Across from Sisko, Major Kira seemed intrigued. "That sounds very… enviable. Being able to concentrate on the basic things in life…"

"It is very satisfactory. I understand that your people – the Bajorans it was? – are quite similar to us. I hope we will have time to talk about this in more detail later," Heral said with genuine interest as he offered her a basket of bread.

Kira nodded while she took it. "As far as I'm concerned I could spend some more time here." She threw a quick glance at Sisko, as if to gauge if he would take Heral up on his offer to stay for a couple more days, not just over night.

Sisko sighed. Looking into the faces of his friends, he knew that he didn't really have much reason to decline them their shore leave. And then, he knew that it was probably a unique chance. What bad would it do to take a break once in a while? It wasn't that something on the station was urgently waiting for their return. At least not as far as his crew was concerned. For Sisko, it was another matter. After all that had happened during the last weeks, he'd rather bury himself in work than spend some time off where his mind had every chance to explore what his future life without Kasidy Yates would look like.

Even the thought of her name made him wince.

It hadn't even been two weeks since he'd had to arrest her for smuggling weapons to the Maquis but he already felt as if some part of his soul had been ripped away. He'd never thought that he'd already care so much for her after the few months they'd spent together. And now she was gone, leaving a hole in his heart and life that nothing was able to fill. And he was the one responsible for it.

"You have to show us around tomorrow!" the cheerful voice of Jadzia Dax brought him back from his dark thoughts.

A genuine smile spread across Heral's face. "It would be a pleasure. I will show you our little settlement, the gardens and fields. I'm sure you'll like it. We're very proud of what we have achieved here."

Even as Sisko wanted to help himself to another glass of wine, a loud noise in the distance suddenly drew his attention. It sounded like hasty footsteps, then the bang of a door and another moment later a tall, broad-shouldered man came bursting through the door of the common room. Heral looked up at the sudden uproar, swallowing whatever comment had been on his lips.

The man who had burst into their dinner was clad in a white tunic, a long robe that went down all to the ground and covered even his shoes. He seemed agitated, his shoulders shaking as if he had just run miles to get to them. His breaths came heavy as he went over to Heral, urgently bending forward.

"Sir," he started in a low voice with a quick look at Heral's assembled guests as if he had rather preferred to talk to the man in private. "We have an emergency. I'm sorry to interrupt but I need you to come with me. It's urgent. It's about Den." He didn't offer much more information, his eyes trained on Heral, waiting for his reaction.

For a short moment, Heral froze, as if his mind still needed time to process the other man's words. Then he slowly rose from his chair, a shadow crossing his features that had been joyful and gentle only seconds before. For an instant, he seemed to hesitate, unsure what to do. But then he turned toward the other man. "I'll be with you in a moment." And addressing Sisko and his staff he added: "I'm sorry but there is something I need to see into. I'll be back as soon as I can. Please make yourself at home. I'll be right back. It shouldn't take long."

Before he could turn his back on them and follow the white-clad man out the door, Bashir had already drawn himself up. "Is there anything I can help? I'm a doctor," the young man blurted, obviously fully back to his profession as a physician. And as if in an afterthought, he shot a short look at Sisko as if to ask for his permission. Not sure what the emergency was about, Sisko gave a subtle nod. Julian might be too eager to help at times but he was good at what he was doing. And if what Heral had said about the medical equipment a few moments earlier was true, the colonists would need every help they could get.

Heral hesitated as if he gauged if he could trust the strangers. His mouth twitched. But within an instant, he seemed to have made up his mind. He simply nodded but it was sign enough for Bashir to grab his med kit and hurry off after them. A second later, the three men had vanished through the door, leaving Sisko wonder what the sudden emergency could be about.


Julian Bashir hurried after Heral and the other man, feeling the familiar rush of adrenaline.

When he had felt pleasantly tired and relaxed during dinner, grateful for this rare occasion to wind down and get some time off the ship, his nerves were now set on edge.

He wasn't sure what to expect. That Heral had so easily accepted his help didn't bode well. He didn't strike him as the type of person to easily rely on others, so whatever had happened could very well be beyond the colonists' ability to deal with. And the thought sent a queasy feeling through his stomach; it was a feeling he'd grown accustomed to during the years since he started his medical career. It was the rush of adrenaline, accompanied by the subtle worry and nagging fear if he was up to the task to decide upon the right measures to save a patient's life. Often it was only minutes that made the difference between life and death. Bearing such a great burden was not always easy, but it was what Julian had wanted ever since he was small. He had wanted to become a doctor. He had wanted to help people. His passion for his profession not seldom brought him into trouble but in the end it was always worth it. It was only a short while ago that Dax and he had been back from a world in the Gamma Quadrant that had been struck by the Dominion with a deadly sickness. It had only been his enthusiasm and compassion that had let them to finding – if not a cure then at least – a vaccine for the "blight" and it had been worth every awkward moment and every fight with Trevean and his men over his work. If there was a tiny chance that he might be able to help, he had to act. It was what had always driven him throughout his career, and it was what drove him now.

His grip around the med kit tightened. He was glad that out of some old habit, he'd brought it along. Somehow he just didn't feel complete without it. And now it might be just the right thing in the right place at the right time.

As they ran through the corridor, Julian couldn't help noticing that the atmosphere had changed. Back in the common room where they had shared dinner with the others, everything was comfy and warm, like they had been invited to someone's living room. He'd almost immediately felt at ease, as must have his comrades as well, judging from their pleasant expressions. When he had left in Heral's wake, though, they had first made it through a dimly lit corridor, only illuminated by candles positioned too far apart as to really lighten the corridor. Some intersections later, the lighting had changed. Where candles had chased away the darkness only sporadically before, the hallways were now brighter, with light from something that very much seemed like electrical lighting. Julian didn't have time to marvel at the fact, though. Heral and the other man suddenly come to a halt, making Julian almost bump into the two men. They stood in front of an old, wooden door, the two men exchanging quick glances before Heral pushed it open and entered without another word.

Julian squeezed in behind him.

The first thing he saw was a boy lying motionless on the bed in the middle of the small chamber the door had let to. The room wasn't very big. Racks with various pots in different sizes were perched on shelves lining one side of it, a large window occupying another wall. Outside it was already dark. The other walls were bare, the only furniture in the room apart from the bed in its middle two wooden chairs, drawn back behind the door.

Some kind of infirmary? Julian took a quick, assessing look around. There wasn't much inventory to support his assumption, though. Bare walls were staring back at him and the few items that decorated the room didn't really betray much of what they were intended to be used for.

A woman, also clad in the same long white robe as the other man who had guided them here, was bent over the boy, her face drawn into an anxious grimace. When she heard them enter, her head snapped up. The expression on her face was thunderstruck. She seemed at a complete loss what to do.

"What happened?" Heral bellowed with more agitation as he probably had intended to as he hurried over to where the boy lay. The boy, too, was wearing white – and he was soaking wet. His tousled brown hair was sticking to his forehead, the mattress of the bed already wet beneath him. The white robe stuck heavily to his slender frame like he had decided to take a bath while being fully dressed. He didn't move.

"I'm a doctor," Julian blurted, as his mind shocked him back to his senses. He quickly moved next to Heral. "I might be able to help. May I?"

The woman at the boy's side shot a puzzled look at Heral who stared at the unmoving boy with a mixture of shock and dismay. For a short second, the two colonists' gazes met and there was something between them Julian couldn't define. Was it understanding? Or defeat? Julian didn't miss the silent but meaningful exchange but didn't have time to dwell on it. He didn't wait for their response – which he doubted would have come any way – and felt for the kid's pulse. There was none.

He's still warm. But he isn't breathing. Most probably drowned. How long had he been unconscious?

Without a second thought, Julian started to push down on the boy's chest. Once. Twice. The incongruous thought crossed his mind why none of the present persons had thought of performing CPR on the boy. Julian pushed again. And again.

Come on. Come on.

He bent the boy's slack head back, pressing his lips against the boy's, blowing. Again, he pushed at his chest. Time stretched into an agonizing slowness. And finally, after what seemed like an eternity, something gurgled in the boy's throat. It was a sickening sound, like if his lungs were full of water. He didn't respond further, though, as if his body had already given up. Julian grabbed for his med kit. Within an instant, he had flung open his tricorder. His eyes skimmed the readouts even while he retrieved a vial from the case and loaded it into a hypo.

"His trachea is still blocked. He can't breathe," Julian stated more to himself than to the persons around him.

Only barely did he register the worried faces of the three colonists, his mind all set upon the task at hand. He administered the hypo – and a second later, the boy convulsed. Present-mindedly Julian turned him over before the boy coughed up the fluid his lungs had been filled with only moments before. "Easy now. You're okay. Everything's going to be fine," Julian gently commanded, at the same time steadying the boy, waiting for the spasm to subside. Now, that he had a closer look, the boy was older than he had thought, though he couldn't be more than fifteen or sixteen. He coughed up more liquid until his lungs seemed to have freed themselves of the water. Or whatever it was. The color was oddly pinkish, and the liquid was too thick for what Julian would describe as water. For a moment, he stared at the strange liquid, his mind trying to make sense of it, until he suddenly felt a strong hand on his shoulder. His head snapped up – and at the same time the other woman who had watched everything with a look of helplessness until now, was at the boy's side, a mixture of relief and worry on her face.

"Den, can you hear me? Den!" She padded the young boy's pallid cheek.

"He'll need some time until he'll be able to speak," Julian exhaled a long sigh of relief, allowing himself to relax just a little. "But he's over the worst. Give him some time and he'll be up and about." He helped laying the boy back on the bed and shot another quick glance at his tricorder. But the boy's vitals were steady.

For a long moment, none of the present persons spoke and a leaden silence descended on the small room.

"Thank you, Dr. Bashir." Heral finally said at length as he looked down at the half-conscious boy. There was worry in his eyes, but also something else. He had his lips pressed into a thin line, as if he was thinking hard about something. His features had clouded over, and the easygoing demeanor had somehow vanished. He suddenly looked older, the fine lines that were etched into his face a little deeper than before. He ran his hand over his face and inhaled audibly. He looked tired. And strangely agitated, even though he was obviously trying hard to hide his anger.

"What happened?" Julian asked with a look at the boy on the bed. He was breathing heavily now, the woman at his side murmuring gentle words to calm him. He should be okay, though. The liquid was out of his lungs, and he was able to breathe freely again. As he had told them, it would take a little longer for the boy to come back to consciousness, but no permanent damage should have been caused as far as he could assess.

"He was playing outside with the other kids and fell into the water," the third person, the broad-shouldered man who had brought them here in the first place, simply said matter-of-factly. He stood as still as a statue and had observed everything from next to the window, hands clasped in front of him. He hadn't moved since their arrival – and seemed rather detached from what had just happened. He didn't offer any further remark, his eyes fixed on something on the far end of the room.

"How unfortunate," Heral said absent-mindedly, stroking over his chin. He turned toward the man next to the window and shortly inclined his head. "Thank you."

The man who hadn't introduced himself just nodded and left without another word. Julian stared at his back. He couldn't shake the feeling that the whole conversation he had witnessed was oddly out of place – or that he was out of place, bearing witness to something he had no understanding of.

"My sincerest apologies, Doctor," Heral said finally with a sad frown, his eyes still on the boy. He did seem to have regained some of his former composure, though. "I didn't want you to get involved in all this. I'm so sorry."

"Oh… you shouldn't be. I'm glad I was able to help," Julian shook his head, pocketing his tricorder. His heartbeat was slowly coming back to normal.

"You're a healer by heart," Heral suddenly observed thoughtfully, catching Julian slightly off guard. His eyes searched Julian's face, as if he was reading something there, only he could see. Then he nodded. "You've got passion for what you're doing. That's a rare gift. I see you put it to good use."

"I just want to help," Julian said truthfully.

"When did it occur to you to become a doctor?" Heral asked casually, even though the question stroke Julian as rather odd.

Julian offered a crooked smile. "Ever since I was little." He didn't elaborate but Heral nodded again. "I see." He seemed to think Julian's words over, his eyes almost scrutinizing him: "Your captain must be proud of you."

Julian closed his med kit, slightly embarrassed about the strange direction their conversation was suddenly headed into. It was not exactly what he had expected. But he didn't want to be rude toward their host either. "I guess so," he stalled.

Another moment of awkward silence. Then Heral went over to the other woman, quietly talking to her. Most likely telling her to stay with the boy until he was back to normal. Then he went over to a nearby cabinet, rummaging through the contents until he produced a long vial which he gave to the other woman. "Here, two units every two hours."

"What is it?" Julian couldn't help asking though Heral just said: "Something to help him relax." He didn't elaborate and his tone signaled that he wasn't willing to answer any more questions. Julian shot another look back at his patient, who slowly seemed to regain consciousness. As if Heral had followed his gaze, he was suddenly at his side, gently taking hold of Julian's upper arm to usher him back out into the corridor. "I think Myra has everything under control now. We should go back to the others. We have kept them waiting long enough. They surely must be worried by now."

His voice sounded casual, though for an instant, Julian was surprised at how firm his grip was. He flinched in spite of himself but followed Heral obediently out of the door. When he stepped out of the small chamber and back into the brightly-lit corridor, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Was it just his imagination or had the room temperature suddenly dropped? Perhaps it was just the effect of the adrenaline slowly subsiding from his system, leaving him slightly lightheaded. He took a deep breath, nodding for Heral to take the lead to bring them back to Sisko and the others. For now, he was only glad to get back to dinner. He wondered who the boy was or what had really happened, though he doubted that he would get any answers from Heral. He couldn't really blame him. To them, he was a stranger after all. Of course they wouldn't trust him. So he just sighed and followed Heral back to the common room, his med kit firmly slung over his shoulder.