Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
If It's Not One Thing...
A Novel by
Winner: Best Deep Space Nine Story, .Creative Awards 1996
Audio copy: You can listen to this story on my podcast: There Are Three of Me. It is read in Eps7-20 S1E7-20. You can find There Are Three of Me on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and .
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and all the characters and settings thereof, are the property of Paramount Pictures. However, the situation and all new characters in this novel are completely of my own creation, as are the majority of the details of Dr. Bashir's background. Therefore this story is copyrighted by the author. You are welcome to download the story and share it with others but it must include this disclaimer. Please drop me a line at to tell me what you think.
I'd like to thank Karl Smith and Doug Williams for their help in knowledge and resources for the writing of this book. I'd also like to thank the newsgroup .creative on the Internet. This was my first effort at writing Star Trek or even science fiction (and it was written before TPTB gave Bashir a backstory). The feedback I received after posting as encouraged me to keep it up. And the Award for Best DS9 Story 1996 was the best Pick-Me-Up I ever received. Thanks.
I also thank God for giving me the ability to write, the Czech Republic for giving me the time, and Paramount for putting Deep Space Nine on the air. I'd also like to thank Siddig El Fadil. Without his portrayal to bring Dr. Julian Bashir to life, there wouldn't have been a story to write at all.
This story takes place before the episode "Life Support" in the second season. The Dominion has not yet become a major threat.
Orange and red light reflected itself in Dr. Grant's tear-stained eyes long after the fire was put out and the children had been taken away.
It had been her idea, he remembered angrily, and then felt guilty for the anger. He had agreed with her. He would have lived on Romulus if that's the way she wanted it. He loved her that much. And she loved history. So they lived in the ancient, half-timbered house in Stratford, Shakespeare's hometown. Her eyes had lit up when she first walked through the door, and he thought they must have sparkled ever since.
He'd watch her as she longingly gazed out the window. Sometimes, she had told him once, she dreamed she was really there, in Elizabethan England. She could almost see the gentlemen and their ladies in their horse buggies driving to church on a Sunday morning.
She'd lay her hand gently on the window sill and try to feel it. He never quite understood it, but the past was a tangible thing to her, something she could touch, if only she could get close enough. It made her sad that it was always just out of reach. He would ask her why she bothered with something that depressed her, and she'd say that love doesn't always make you happy. Sometimes you have to hurt to know it's real. Besides, she'd say, she had no choice. History had taken hold of her whether she could touch it or not.
They had lived there for eight years. But old houses, like that one, can burn. And now, the house was gone, her dreams were gone, and, worst of all, she was gone.
Doctor Bashir leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on the counter in front of him, and sighed. Everyone was entirely too healthy these days. Maybe, he was too good of a doctor. Or maybe people just weren't getting sick. As a doctor, he should be happy. Healthy people is a good thing. But as a young doctor, not long out of Starfleet Medical, he was bored.
Just to keep himself occupied, he decided to see if he could find a cure for the Telurian Plague, one of the worst terminal diseases in the Federation. But, after five hours of getting nowhere, he'd gotten nowhere. Not that he could have gotten far in so short of time. Scientists and doctors had been trying to solve that one for decades.
"Dax to Bashir."
Jadzia. Julian quickly dropped his feet to the floor and sat upright. "Bashir here," he answered.
"Julian, the Ranger is docking at Upper Pylon Two. I thought you might want to know."
They're early, he thought. They weren't due for another six hours. But he was not complaining. It wasn't like he was busy. The USS Ranger was a brand new science vessel, commissioned at Starfleet's 40 Eridani Yards, with all the latest equipment. One of the medical officers on board had promised to show him the new biobeds and diagnostic sensors. Besides, some of that new equipment was for the station, and more importantly, for the Infirmary.
"Thanks," he said. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to join me? I hear they've got a sensor array that's better than the Galaxy Class."
Dax hesitated before answering. "Well, my shift is ending." She seemed uncertain. "You know, I've heard about those sensors." Her voice sounded much more confident. "I'll meet you there."
Bashir smiled. "Good. Bashir out." He quickly called for a nurse to watch the Infirmary, and he was halfway down the corridor before the door slid shut behind him.
Maylon strolled casually down the bright, wide corridors of the Ranger. It was a beautiful ship, sleek in its design. The quarters were spacious, the equipment ample to answer almost any request. Hushed pastel colors helped to give the effect of comfort, a mobile home away from home wandering through the stars. And a great contrast to the ugly, dark, menacing look of the space station he'd seen from the observation lounge as the Ranger approached.
The colors and gentle curves of the corridors didn't help Maylon much. He had been stressed and restless, making sleep difficult the night before. But the opportunity to see an old friend lifted his spirits, and he forgot his worries as he strode with long strides toward the airlock.
Bashir saw Dax waiting for him when he arrived at the docking port. She stood calmly, with her hands clasped behind her back. She smiled softly as she always did. "A Gidari ship just docked," she mentioned as Bashir came toward her. She watched the airlock as the Ranger approached.
"The Gidari?" Julian was surprised. "Why are they here?" The Gidari liked to be secretive. They did not often come to such crowded areas as Deep Space Nine, which had become a crossroads for tourists and merchants as well as those seeking to explore the unmapped regions past the frontiers of Federation space.
Dax shrugged. "I've heard a lot about these new Intrepid class ships," Dax said, changing the subject. They waited for the Ranger to finish docking. "They're quite impressive. The long range sensors are supposed to reach five percent farther than those of the Galaxy class ships. It's perfect for unexplored territory like the Gamma Quadrant."
"I've been waiting for the medical equipment they've got for quite some time. The Cardassians just aren't up to Starfleet's medical standards."
"Hey, Julian!" A young human in a blue-trimmed Starfleet uniform was leaning against the frame of the airlock doors, his arms crossed over his chest. "You ever figure out that preganglionic thing?"
Bashir's shoulders dropped, and he shook his head sadly. "It was a trick question," he replied imploringly.
The young man smiled then and walked over to shake hands with the doctor. "Well, it's still better than I did. And who might this be?" he asked, his eyebrows raising in interest as he nodded to Dax.
"Jadzia Dax, this is Doctor Maylon," Bashir answered by way of introduction. "Jadzia is our Chief Science Officer."
"So what'd you do to get stuck in this tin can on the edge of the known universe?" Maylon asked, rather obnoxiously.
Bashir rolled his eyes slightly. The man annoyed him, but he could get him a look at the new equipment on the Ranger.
Dax shot a quick glance to Bashir. The corners of her mouth turned up ever-so-slightly to show her amusement. She didn't answer the question. "What do you think of the Ranger?" she asked Maylon in return. "Is she all they've said she would be?"
"Even better." He waved for them to follow him as he started toward the airlock. "The sensors are great. And they're very sensitive, too. We could pick out the individuals of an ant colony down on Bajor if we wanted."
Bashir and Dax walked behind him. Dax slowed just a bit and inclined her head slightly to signal that Bashir should slow down as well. "How do you know him?" she whispered to the doctor.
"He was my roommate," he answered resignedly.
"I'm sorry." Then she smiled and nodded as Maylon continued his lecture on the accuracy of the sensor arrays and diagnostic equipment aboard the science vessel.
Bashir was trying to be polite by asking questions about the ship and his ex-roommate's career. But that only set him up for more obnoxious remarks about his posting to the frontier station and the fact that he was the only doctor to request this post. Dax pitied him. She'd only known Maylon for five minutes. Bashir had had to live with him.
A tall, distinguished-looking man with dark hair, lightly ticked with grey, passed them and Dax stopped. Maylon noticed and stopped his oration. "Was that-" she asked.
"Doctor Alexander Grant," Maylon answered before she finished the question. "You know him?" he asked, smirking arrogantly.
"I've heard of him," Dax replied, as she stared after the man. He had on a old-fashioned, long, white scientist's coat. "He practically wrote the book on exo-biology. All his works are required reading."
The man continued until he was out of sight. "He's a good doctor, too. Maybe I can introduce you to him." Maylon was quite serious now. "He's a great guy. Real personable. Sickbay's just around the corner here." He turned back toward the corridor, and Dax turned to follow.
But Bashir lingered for a moment. He had been staring down the corridor where the man had disappeared. He looked a little pale. He stood very still.
"Julian?" Dax asked in concern.
Bashir said nothing. He hesitated for a moment then turned to follow as if nothing had happened.
"Are you alright?" she asked quietly as they walked.
"Fine," he answered.
And he didn't say another word for the rest of the tour until Maylon asked, before they left the Ranger, if they'd like to meet Dr. Grant. Dax agreed enthusiastically, but Bashir shook his head. "I really need to get back to the Infirmary and see to the new equipment," he said absent-mindedly. "Thank you for the tour, Maylon." Then he walked back to the airlock.
"We'll have to have dinner or something!" Maylon called after him. "Did he seem a little distracted to you?" he asked Dax. But he didn't give her time to answer before he took her arm and led her to the Biolab.
Bashir walked quickly down the crowded station corridors to his quarters. He locked the door behind him and leaned against its cool metal surface. He placed his hands over his face and let his back slide slowly down the wall. He didn't even bother to turn on the lights.
Inara Taleyn worked quickly. Her delicate fingers seemed made more for manicures than tinkering with computers, but she'd always been told that she had a talent for mechanical things. And she burned with conviction. So she had put her talent to use for the cause of freedom for her people. That was why she now crouched in the crawlway next to an open panel full of couplings and power conduits. She still strove for that freedom which she felt her people were denied.
The Federation wore a different face, she conceded. They sincerely thought they were helping Bajor. Bajorans had been humiliated, exploited, demoralized, and worked to death by the Cardassians for sixty years. And Bajorans had fought those sixty years, and died by the thousands, to rid themselves of their foreign oppressors, to once again be allowed to follow their Path as their pagh led them. The Federation didn't follow the same path.
The Federation's path lay in exploration. Their path was to lay bare every mystery, every wonder that the galaxy held, to wipe out "superstitious belief" and replace it with science. Science was their god. To them, nothing was truly sacred or divine. How then could they possibly "help" Bajor? They had even explored the most sacred: the celestial temple.
The "wormhole," she thought with contempt. They used the celestial temple, the dwelling place of the Prophets, as if it were merely a corridor to another piece of space. They defiled it, corrupted it, and opened it up to space-going traffic. They were leading the Bajorans on a path away from the Truth. This could only lead to unhappiness and torment.
Inara Taleyn was devoted to a cause: The Federation must go and leave Bajor to its pagh. Bajor must once again be the home of Bajorans, the chosen people of the Prophets. She'd fought once to get rid of the Cardassians, and she fought now to get rid of the Federation, who did not want so much to destroy her people as to lead them to destruction.
Inara's immediate assignment seemed unimportant to her, but she would follow orders. Many people had fought for the freedom of her planet and had given their lives in "unimportant" ways. Her own brother, she remembered, had died to save another, an "unimportant" boy caught stealing a loaf of bread. That boy grew up to join the resistance and sacrifice his own life for the sake of two hundred people. Even the unimportant jobs were a step along the Path. Besides, she knew things would pick up.
In fact, Inara was engaged in a diversion. Her toiling in the access crawlway would lead to nothing of immediate importance. But little by little, her work and the work of others would send a message to the Federation. And if they didn't listen, Inara and her "colleagues" would quite willingly speak louder.
The Biolab was beautiful, if a lab could be called that. It was white. Bright, clean, sterile white. The equipment stood out starkly with its black surfaces and colorful readouts. Dax thought that it made her lab look like a cave. The Cardassians obviously didn't care much for bright colors and good lighting.
And the Ranger's lab was open, not cramped in any way. The counters stood at least five feet from each other, so that one could work easily at any of them without bumping into someone else and possibly interfering with a test or analysis that one of the other scientists was working on. This one laboratory made all of DS-Nine seem tight and confining.
There were three people in the room besides Dax and her guide. Two women, a Vulcan and an Andorian, wore Starfleet blue. They were running DNA scans on the computer. The other was a human man. His white coat almost seemed to blend into the walls and tables. He had his back to the door. He was running a systems analysis on some of the analytical devices. Apparently, he hadn't heard them come in.
Maylon cleared his throat. "Doctor Grant." The man in white turned and smiled when he saw that he had guests. "May I present Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, Chief Science Officer of Deep Space Nine."
"Ah," Dr. Grant replied, taking Dax's hand. "A fellow scientist. I trust Doctor Maylon has given you the grand tour of our little home." He shook her hand firmly and then released it. His accent was English. But then Dax knew enough about him to know that he was from England. London, to be exact.
"I'd hardly call it little, Doctor," she replied. "I hope we did not disturb your work."
"Nonsense." He walked past her into the corridor and waved for her and Maylon to follow. "There's no work to do. . .yet. We're just running some last minute checks before we head off to the Gamma Quadrant. I'm starving. Perhaps you both would join me for dinner? It is about that time."
Dax nodded, though Maylon declined. He had work to do, but would perhaps stop by a little later. Maylon turned back toward sickbay, and Dax followed Grant to the airlock.
"Lieutenant, I believe I saw you earlier. You had another companion. A handsome young lieutenant. Did he tire of the tour?"
"You're quite observant," Dax replied. "That was Doctor Bashir, our Chief Medical Officer. He had to get back to the Infirmary to check on the new equipment. He's quite excited about it. He was getting rather frustrated with some of this Cardassian equipment."
"He seems dedicated. That's good. Bashir, did you say?" he asked as he stepped through the interior hatch of the airlock. "I know some Bashirs. Perhaps I know his family. Where is he from?"
"You just might," Dax affirmed. "He's from England like yourself."
"I shall have to meet him. Well, Lieutenant, you're the resident here. Where might we take our repast?"
"Quark's is as good a place as any," Dax answered. "Follow me." She led them toward the turbolift. As the doors hissed closed, she calmly said, "Promenade," and the lift began to move.
"Perhaps the good doctor would join us for dinner," Grant suggested. "It must be quite fascinating being a doctor on this station. It's a bit like the crossroads of the galaxy. You probably see many different species."
The turbolift stopped, and they stepped out onto the crowded, noisy Promenade. "Well," Dax smiled, "you'll probably see them, too. And most of them will be at Quark's."
Dr. Bashir declined the invitation for dinner when Dax called to ask him to join them. He had said that he was not hungry and that he had work to do. The first part might have been a lie, but the second part couldn't have been more true. Technicians from the Ranger were in the Infirmary refitting the biobeds, upgrading and updating the Cardassian computers and scanners there, and bringing in supplies.
Bashir was overseeing all of it. No matter what others might have thought of him personally, he was very serious about his work. He took no chances. He checked everything for himself. People's lives relied on the equipment in the Infirmary, and he felt it was his responsibility to make sure that equipment was up to standards . . . or better. He didn't want anyone to die due to faulty equipment. He wanted all his patients to have the best chances possible. And so, he did not rely on the assurances of technicians, or even of engineers. He had to be sure. He had to see for himself.
And the work kept him preoccupied. The busier he kept, the less he remembered that he hadn't had dinner and the less he worried. But as soon as he was finished and the last technician left, it all came naggingly back to him. His stomach growled, and the worrying zapped his energy. He decided that it was probably a good time to get something to eat. Surely Dax and the others would be done by now.
Quark's was as busy as ever. The Ranger's crew was having a grand time, it seemed. And Quark was greedily fidgeting from table to table, making sure that everyone was satisfied . . . and paying. Shouts of "Dabo!" rang out occasionally over the hum of voices talking and laughing.
Bashir looked around as he entered, scanning the tables for familiar faces. A large group of people, mostly Starfleet and Bajoran officers, had gathered around one of the tables near the back. Sisko, Kira, and the O'Brien's were there, standing, not sitting, around the table. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, and every so often the whole group would erupt in laughter. He was just about to walk over and join them, when Mrs. O'Brien kissed the Chief on the cheek and walked away. Through the gap in the crowd, he could now see who was sitting there, and he stopped. It was him. Dr. Grant.
Bashir had hoped that they'd be gone by now. It had been two hours. It didn't take two hours to eat dinner, especially when the replicators were acting up again. What was there to linger over when the food you ate had little or no flavor? Or worse?
Another round of laughter shook the gathering at the table. Bashir didn't feel much like laughing, but he had to admit that he was curious. He wanted to know what they were talking about with that man that could possibly be so funny. He crossed the room, climbed the stairs to the second floor, found a table that overlooked the crowd, and listened.
But of course, Quark's was entirely too noisy, and Bashir couldn't make out a word that was being said. But he could watch. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but he felt that at least he was doing something. And as he waited for the waiter to bring him his food, his mind wandered back to his childhood and the dreams he'd had of his family. His first family.
They weren't good dreams. This particular one was reminiscent of A Christmas Carol. He was nine years old peeking in through a window he couldn't open at what was left of his family. His father, dark hair and eyes, sat in an overstuffed chair near the fireplace. George, eleven years old, was laughing and trimming a brightly lit Christmas tree, while a six-year-old Elizabeth-he always imagined her with long blond hair, even though their parents both had dark features-sat on her father's lap holding the age-worn book from which she read. Julian himself, in his dream, could hear their laughter and see their happy, smiling faces. But no matter how hard he knocked on the window, they never seemed to hear. It was as if he didn't exist.
And, in fact, he didn't. He remembered sitting in his room at the boarding school where he was first sent, listening to the other children on Parent's Day. They eagerly told of all they had learned, showed them every piece of art they had made. And their parents had proudly cooed over every one, laughing and hugging their children. And Julian had sat alone, silently, trying to understand why his family didn't come.
He hadn't seen his brother since before he'd been sent away, and his sister had been a baby then. He had to guess at what they looked like. But their father, he knew. He'd seen his face in the pictures at school, the Academy, and Starfleet Medical. And that was the man who sat below him now at Quark's, telling stories that made everyone laugh. Everyone but Julian. He didn't exist.
A Ferengi waiter, grinning widely in hopes of a tip, set a plate of salad in front of him. Bashir tossed him a coin without a thought, and the Ferengi walked away waving cheerfully to his comrades. Bashir looked at the plate of perfectly green lettuce and ripe cherry tomatoes topped with cheese and Thousand Island dressing. It looked like perhaps the replicators were doing their job. Another round of laughter from the table below filled his ears and echoed inside his head. Julian pushed his plate away from him slowly. The salad seemed to him to have lost its color. Besides, he wasn't hungry anymore.
Maylon sat sipping his raktajino and observing the crowds around the Dabo tables. One Dabo girl in particular had caught his attention. She was attractive, and he watched her long arms and graceful fingers as they took money from the unlucky gamblers. But she only half held his attention, despite her scantily-clad beauty.
He also watched the Ferengi as they flitted from table to table like flies around a garbage dump. Scavengers, he thought contemptuously. They scampered around looking for an opportunity to cheat someone, or to steal something. Even the pretty Dabo girl was a part of their scheme. They exploited her, as they exploited others, in their selfish quest for profit.
One of the Ferengi, a young waiter, kept returning to a back room every five minutes or so. He always walked back carrying a tray of drinks or food. He usually returned to the more crowded areas of the bar with an empty tray and a vaguely worried expression. But when he reemerged for the sixth time, he seemed slightly triumphant. Frankly, Maylon was curious. The waiter had to be up to something.
From his table near the bar, Maylon could see past the archway of the next room to the doors of the room which the Ferengi entered, but he could not see inside. So when the waiter came out again, carrying a tray piled high with empty glasses and dirty plates, Maylon rose from his chair and crossed under the archway to the next room.
The bar was crowded here, too, and there were no empty tables. Maylon stood in the archway as he looked for the best vantage spot to see inside the room. There were no tables beside the doorway, the first on the right, opposite the stairs that led to the busy holosuites. In fact there were few lights there either. But several meters away he noticed a fellow crewman sitting with her back to the door which so held the attention of the Ferengi waiter.
T'Para didn't hear him walk up to her. But he was not surprised as the din in the bar effectively blocked out all but the closest sounds from serious contemplation. And serious contemplation is what T'Para preferred. She looked up when he stood beside her.
"May I join you?" he asked, smiling.
"That would be acceptable," she answered evenly. Her face showed no emotion. Vulcans were an interesting people in Maylon's book. To live without emotions. It was curious.
Maylon sat, and from his seat he had a nearly direct view of the doorway where the waiter would, if he held to the pattern, enter in a few minutes. T'Para was scanning the crowd silently. He noted that she didn't have any food or drink in front of her. "You aren't eating," he said, trying to make conversation.
"I have no need of food at this time," she answered, watching his face. Her head tilted slightly, signifying interest. Maylon saw this only out of the corner of his eye. He had been again staring at the doors to the back room. The Ferengi was about to enter. The doors opened, and the waiter entered, carrying a tray of fresh drinks. But the doors closed quickly behind him. Maylon only caught a glimpse of a gray, hooded figure before the doors again blocked his view.
"Are you looking for someone?" Maylon asked his Vulcan companion, as if he'd been paying attention to her previous reply.
"No," she answered. "However, I do find the number of different species at this establishment quite fascinating." She went on, naming and describing several species, while Maylon nodded and tried to appear interested. Actually, her tone reminded him of a textbook he once read.
The doors behind her were opening again. The Ferengi emerged with the same tray he had entered with, still full of Gamzain wine. He was not smiling. But still, Maylon saw little more than the hooded figure before the doors closed again. "Klingons and humans have had turbulent conflicts in the past," T'Para continued, "yet they drink here together. And the Gidari, usually a secretive and often distrustful people. . ."
"The Gidari?" Maylon asked, cutting her off. She had his interest now. "The Gidari are here? There are so many people. Why would they come here?"
"They have been in the room behind me for an hour now. The Gidari are not isolationists. They are, in fact, ardent capitalists, much like the Ferengi. This is a Ferengi establishment. Perhaps they are discussing business."
That's it, Maylon thought about the gray, hooded cloaks he glimpsed through the door. Of course. More scavengers. "I wonder what business they're discussing," he said aloud.
"An object of art," she answered, much to Maylon's surprise. "I do not know any details, but the Gidari do seem to be getting impatient with the Ferengi." T'Para was not the textbook he thought she was. She was attractive, in a down-played sort of way, very unlike the Dabo girl in the front room. But she was also quite observant and full of useful information.
"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked, and he was pleased when she didn't decline the offer. She did have need of liquid refreshment.
"How old is your son now, Commander?"
"Jake'll be fourteen his next birthday," Commander Sisko's voice was deep and firm, but also friendly. But his tone was quiet and just a bit sad. Sisko was alone now with Dr. Grant. He could see Quark impatiently washing glasses at his bar. It must be closing time, he thought. But neither he nor his companion seemed quite ready to leave. "He still misses his mother. And so do I."
"I don't think that part ever goes away." Dr. Grant had a faraway look on his face. He stared at the glass of blue liquid he held in his hand, but Sisko could tell he wasn't seeing the drink. "My oldest, my son, was six years old when we lost his mother. It's been twenty-five years. Just last month, he told me how he still expected to see her face when he called home. And I . . . I think about her every day."
Sisko nodded. "Sometimes I still have problems with Jake, usually things Jennifer handled. Like getting him to do his homework. I worry about what he's doing when I'm not around to watch him. But he is almost grown. It must have been harder to raise such young children on your own."
"It was difficult at times. But the children's grandparents helped me immensely. They were very supportive. Helen's mother watched the children after school and was there whenever Elizabeth needed advice of a more feminine nature. My parents, too, were happy to take the children when I was away at this conference or that."
"How did it happen, Doctor?" Sisko asked, and then added, "If I may ask."
Grant looked up and smiled. "Please, call me Alex." Then his smile faded, and he returned his gaze to his glass. "Our house burned. I know that sounds ridiculous now, but Helen was an historian. We lived in Stratford, near Shakespeare's home, in a half-timbered house with wooden floors and a thatched roof. I'm not sure what started the fire, but when it was over, she was gone. That memory will never leave me, as long as I live."
As Grant gazed into his glass, he forgot the drink, his company, the dimly lit bar, and its impatient owner. He forgot the station, and for what seemed to him the millionth time, he was back in Stratford staring at their burning home. His wife, Helen, was there, still with him.
"JULIAN!" her voice was pained and panicked. She turned to him. "Where's Julian?" she asked frantically, clutching their daughter tightly. "Have you seen him?"
Grant couldn't answer. His mind raced. His heart ached. His son. He looked around him. George was there, staring at the house. His eyes were wide with fear. But where was Julian? George's mouth opened, but he said nothing. He raised his arm, pointing. Pointing back at the house.
And then Helen was pushing the baby into his arms. He could hear it then, the screaming. And she was running back into the house, into the flames. He cried after her, but she did not stop. Her child was in the house, their child. His child. Julian.
"Doctor Grant? Alex?" It was the commander. Grant looked up at him. "Are you alright?"
Dr. Grant followed Sisko's gaze to his own hand. The blue liquid in his glass flickered with the reflection of the dimmed lights. His hands were shaking. "I . . .," he began, "I was just remembering." His face felt hot, flushed.
"I'm sorry. I brought up bad memories."
"No, don't be," Grant smiled and rose to his feet. "I'm fine, really. I'm just tired. It has been a rather long day, and I'm sure you need some sleep as well."
"Yes," Sisko smiled in return. "And by now, Jake is probably worrying about me."
"Turnabout is fair play." Grant could hear the Ferengi sighing at the bar as they stepped into the corridor.
Quark sighed with relief. He waved to Rom impatiently, and his brother quickly locked the door. His waiters scampered around the bar cleaning tables and searching for fallen coins and other objects of value. Quark reached under the counter and pulled a bottle of Maraltian Seev-ale from a shelf under the bar. From behind him he grabbed a tray of six glasses. He straightened his suit and walked quickly to the back room, where a group of Gidari had been waiting since dinner.
Gray-hooded heads turned to look up when he entered, but Quark could not tell if they were angry or not. He had sent Lek in periodically to offer drinks and refreshments to the group as he waited for Sisko and that doctor to leave. "I'm very sorry," he apologized. "I had a few guests who refused to leave. But perhaps now we can talk. Ale anyone?"
"Ambassador Bashir is sleeping. It is the middle of the night here, Lieutenant." The assistant who had answered the communication seemed very annoyed.
Bashir thought a moment before answering. He'd made the call on impulse, seeking comfort from his parents. But something inside him had known even then that he would not find it there. There were some things he and his parents never talked about. He argued with himself. Just seeing their faces would be comforting. He hadn't seen them for several months. But he couldn't wake them to talk about what they wouldn't talk about. There would be no comfort in that. "Just," he finally began, "just tell him I called."
"And who shall I say has called?" the assistant sighed, rolling his eyes.
"His son." Bashir replied. The screen abruptly changed, falling to blackness as the assistant cut off the communication without even saying he would relay the message. Julian let it sit that way for a few more moments and then turned off the viewscreen. He felt the silence in his quarters now and listened to it, trying to hide in it once again as he did when he was a child. His counselors had worried, and the other children had laughed, when he wouldn't speak for them. He had made the silence within himself and didn't want to disturb it. And as he faded off to sleep, Julian tried hard to hear the silence and not let certain thoughts disturb it. Morning would come soon enough and carry the silence away.
Soundlessly, across the station, things started to go wrong. Nothing exploded, no one died. No one really even noticed. No one except Inara Taleyn and a few of her "colleagues." Lights flickered in empty corridors. Temperatures rose or fell as people slept. Chronometers stopped or ran too fast, and security sensors went off-line.
When these things finally did start to register in Ops, technicians were sent out to fix them. And while the technicians chased down the "bugs" in the system, other people were taking advantage of the sensors that weren't operational. In the nearly deserted Promenade, a young Bajoran male emerged from the shadows near the Klingon restaurant and painted in large red letters, "Aliens! Go home!" In the darkened corridors of the habitat ring, a Bajoran man with graying hair quickly scribbled the word "Heretic" in Bajoran on the doors of Federation officers' quarters with red paint.
And in a dimmed airlock, Inara Taleyn worked quickly to override the door's sensors, so that she might slip aboard the USS Ranger unnoticed. After she had the sensors down, she released one of the mooring clamps, then opened the doors and stepped aboard. She knew that the Ranger's officers would quickly find the problem, but she didn't plan to be there when they did. She took a small map from the bag that hung from her waist, checked it quickly, and walked swiftly down the sleek corridor of the Federation vessel.
Within minutes she had located the crawlways that would give her access to the ships computer systems. From her bag, she extracted a small computer which she connected to the control panel on the wall. The virus she downloaded worked rapidly. The lights in the tube where she worked instantly went down. The computer's glowing display confirmed that other systems were faltering or failing as well.
Her own mini-computer worked perfectly though, and she tapped into the ship's own transporter. The crewman who was stationed in Transporter Room Two saw no sign of the transport, and Inara Taleyn reappeared in the room she shared with her cousin Liian, smiling triumphantly. She hoped the Federation would now get the message. Back on the Ranger, bridge officers would be staring in bewilderment as their systems fluctuated and failed.
"Where's your mother?" he screamed at the boy, shaking him by the shoulders. The boy stared back at him without comprehending. His eyes, filled with terror, stood out a stark white in his almost blackened face. "Where is she?"
"Let him go!" Someone was yelling behind him. "Doctor Grant!"
And then he was aware of the commotion. People were coming from every direction. A shuttle from overhead was trying to put out the fire. But where was Helen? She hadn't come out with the boy. She had thrown him out the window.
"Put him down." The voice was near him now.
Grant looked at the boy again. He could feel his hot skin, his burnt clothes. The boy was coughing, gasping for air. But Grant couldn't let go. His hands wouldn't work. They remained gripped on the boy's shoulders. The boy struggled weakly to release himself, his scorched hands clutched at Grant's arms. And then his eyes fluttered and rolled up under his eyelids. The boy sagged limply in Dr. Grant's grasp. He felt something cold against his neck, vaguely heard the hiss of a hypospray, and then everything went black.
Grant sat up suddenly, drenched in sweat. "Lights!" He was surprised at how loud his own voice was. Instantly, the computer obeyed, and his quarters lit up. Too brightly. "Dim!" he shouted angrily, covering his eyes from the glaring light. Again the computer obeyed, and the light reduced, but to a level barely above pitch black. The Ranger seemed to still have a few minor bugs in her systems.
Grant ran his fingers through his graying hair. They were shaking. "Computer," his voice was softer now. The computer chirped musically to signify that it waited for his command. "What is the time, please?"
A feminine, but lifeless, voice answered politely, "The time is 0213."
Two o'clock, he thought to himself, dropping back onto his small cylindrical pillow. He quickly thought of the soft feather bed he and Helen had shared in Stratford. It was much more comfortable. But he pushed the thought away. He was no longer in Stratford, and he no longer had Helen. These thoughts brought the fire back into his mind, still fresh from dreaming. And he could almost feel the weight of his four-year-old son hanging limp in his arms.
Tears stung softly at his eyes. He took his pillow from under his head and threw it in frustration against the far wall. But he could not make the memories go away. He reached for the cabinet beside his bed. His fingers shook, almost spasming, as they searched for the button that released the drawer. It slid open with a soft hiss, and he fumbled around inside until his fingers wrapped securely around a hypospray.
Harglin Nastrof walked alone through the dimly lit corridor that took him around the docking ring toward his ship, the Gindarin. Twenty bars of gold-pressed latinum slammed against his leg at each step, but it was a good feeling. That Ferengi is a fool, he thought. Quark had, in an attempt at apology, offered the Gidari an hour at the gaming tables. Harglin and his partners did not forgive the Ferengi, but they'd hardly turn down such an opportunity to cheat him. Dabo was, after all, a simple game.
The others had left the bar five minutes before Harglin. It was the custom of the Gidari to give the youngest partner such an opportunity without competition. They sacrificed those five minutes of winnings that Harglin might gain the experience that could benefit them all later. And while it was true that the others had carried away much more of the Ferengi's latinum, Harglin had done well. He was proud of his twenty bars, and the others would be as well.
Harglin turned the corner, and the lights went out. He clutched his bag closer to his chest as he waited for the emergency lights to come on. But a minute went by with no emergency lights. His eyes would adjust, he thought. So he waited. He could hear his heart beat in his ears. His instincts told him to be alert.
Another thirty seconds. He could see nothing. He couldn't even tell if his eyes were open. He remembered childhood games in Nodgaren Cave, where the darkness was thick like a blanket and the rush of water covered all other sound. But here there was no sound, except his own breathing and his quickening heart.
He had to move. He was vulnerable here in the darkness. He told himself that it was just a malfunction. This was an old station with many problems. There was no need to fear. Any assailant would be as blind as he. He took a tentative step forward. His soft-soled boot brushed the floor quietly, but to Harglin's heightened senses, it echoed in the silence of the dark.
And then there was light behind him, illuminating his feet. But it was not the orange glow of emergency systems or the even light that usually lit the corridor. "Don't turn around," a voice behind him said. "Put the latinum on the floor." Was it the Ferengi?
Inside, Harglin's heart sped up again. The adrenaline began to flow through him, filling him with energy. He thought of turning to face his assailant, and he thought of running with his winnings and disappearing again into the darkness. The Ferengi were short-legged and weak in comparison to his own kind. But was the Ferengi armed, and was it the Ferengi? "Why should I?" he asked, trying to sound fierce and unthreatened.
Two footsteps sounded softly but surely behind him, and Harglin felt the point of a weapon against his back. He wasn't sure which weapon, but the odds favored a phaser or other energy weapon. He himself was unarmed as such weapons had not been allowed on the Promenade. Where are the lights? his mind thundered. But his calmer side reminded him that his life was worth more than twenty bars of gold-pressed latinum. Gain is impossible from beyond the grave. Harglin knelt, feeling the pressure of the weapon on his back lessen until he could no longer feel it at all. His assailant appeared reasonable. He placed the bag on the floor.
As he stood up again he felt a light weight hit his chest and shoulders. The light behind him disappeared at nearly the same moment, so he could not see what had occurred. Before he could react, the thing on his chest tightened around his neck so quickly that his breath was cut off. Instinctively, his hands flew to his neck, but the cord was too tight. He could not get his fingers under it. Harglin struggled in hopes of loosening his assailant's grip on the cord, but already he was falling to his knees.
The cord tightened again, and Harglin heard the sound, muffled in his ears, of his assailant grunting as he strained. Harglin's arms felt light and airy, and yet he found he couldn't lift them. His lungs cried out for breath in his chest for what, to him, seemed like hours, and his eyes struggled in vain to see. But the darkness was again a blanket, and he could once more hear the rushing of the waters in Nodgaren Cave. They roared in his ears and in his head. The cord tightened again, and the waters became as silent as the darkness in the corridor. There was a muted thud as dead weight fell against the corridor floor.
©copyright 1996 Gabrielle Lawson