Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

If It's Not One Thing...

A Novel by

Gabrielle Lawson

Chapter Fourteen

The Infirmary was ominously silent and still. Four people stood just outside the door waiting. Inside, the two Klingons slept, still unconscious but recovering from the poison they'd ingested. On another biobed, Dr. Bashir lay unconscious and nearly unrecognizable. His hand had been bandaged and the blood had been wiped from his face. But his eyes still bled, releasing grayish red liquid onto his ashen face.

A blue light lit the room, causing all the instruments to flutter off then on. When the light faded, three figures in red cloaks stood in the room. One was a woman, the priestess of the Gidari on the Gindarin. She stepped forward, studying the displays above Bashir's biobed. The two others stood stiffly guarding the door. Taking off one glove, the priestess extended her arm. Her hand hovered just inches from Bashir's face. It began to shake as she ran it down the length of his body. Then she pulled back her hood, revealing her aqua-blue skin. She opened Bashir's eyes and stared hard into them with the sheer whiteness of her own. The ends of her silver hair fell down across her shoulder and brushed against his face.

Releasing his eyelids, she pulled the equipment from his throat and body. She paused only at the tube that poured new blood into his veins. His lungs began to struggle for breath. She ignored it and took his good hand in hers. She opened his palm and placed something in it. For a moment it clenched tightly shut, and then it relaxed, dropping back onto the bed. The struggling stopped. His breathing came evenly and his pulse became stronger. She ran her hand along his body again, from the top of his head to his feet. This time it shook less violently.

She replaced her hood, touched something inside her sleeve, and her two companions disappeared in the blue light. She walked to the door and waited for it to open. The eager faces of the four outside were startled to see her. "He is damaged," she said.

"Will he live?" Grant asked.

"That depends on you." She stepped back and the door closed again. She touched her sleeve and the blue light came again, transporting her back to her ship.

The door opened just after she'd gone, and the four rushed in. Everyone was quiet when they entered. Grant checked the computer to see what the Gidari had done. The nurses began to clean up the equipment that had been removed. Dax was the first to notice that Bashir's eyes were open. With the amount of stenacine he'd been given, that should never have happened again.

She walked up to him and slowly leaned towards him. His eyelids fluttered, trying to close again, but he kept them open. He saw her, focused on her eyes. The whites of his eyes were a bright red, but so was the blood that leaked from their corners. Normal. Very quietly, so that Dax wasn't quite sure that he'd spoken at all, he said, "I'm not dead?" There was no voice, only the air slipping from his lips.

"No, you're not dead, Julian," she told him, holding his good hand and rubbing it gently.

He was losing the battle with his eyelids. They fell closer and closer together every time he blinked. "That's good," he said, just before his eyes rolled up under his eyelids, and he lay unconscious again.

Grant was watching. He waited for Bashir to lose consciousness again before he spoke. His voice was full of wonder. "It's gone. Or at least it's different. Look at this."

Dax followed his gaze to the computer screen. The poison, half stenacine and half a mixture of the two now-familiar Gidari drugs, had been slowly destabilizing Bashir's tissues and changing his blood, destroying the hemoglobin that carried oxygen to his cells. But now, all traces of the original poison were gone from his blood. What was left was a compound of stenacine and something entirely new. But more importantly, the new drug had neutralized the previous two and most of the stenacine as well. Bashir's hemoglobin count was still too low, his tissues still too weak. But they were gradually getting stronger, and the transfusions of blood were building up his blood supply.

Grant himself had supplied the blood, rather than having it simply replicated from the computer. Grant supplied the first pint, which was then replicated before it was given to Bashir. Either that or whatever the Gidari had done seemed to be working. Dax began to think that maybe Bashir would live after all.

Grant seemed to know what she was thinking. "Oh, he'll live. I won't lose him again." There was a spark in his eye, a determination that Dax didn't quite understand. But he continued, "He's still bleeding internally. We've got to get that stopped."

Maylon climbed the last few rungs and saw the light from the Ranger gleaming through the glass on the airlock door. The two guards were still standing by the door, as if someone could get in or out without a lot of fuss. No matter, he sighed. He'd made it. No one would know. But the one on the left saw Maylon first as he neared them and gave a strange nod of recognition. Then he touched his comm badge.

The second one spoke to cover his companion's transmission. Maylon grew suspicious and stood still, coming no closer to the door and inching, in fact, back toward the ladder he'd just climbed. "We were told to keep an eye out for you, Dr. Maylon. They said you were late reporting for your shift. Everyone's been worried, what with the lights out and all."

Maylon was only half listening. He wanted to know what the other security officer was saying over the comm line. "I got lost," Maylon said by way of excuse. "I assummed the communications system was down with the rest of the station."

"Oh, have you seen Dr. Bashir? He's gone missing as well. Was he in the turbolift with you?" The second man asked. He was finished with his transmission.

"No." Maylon started to get the impression that the security officers were stalling. They'd called for back-up. They knew. Somehow they knew. But how? Maylon rubbed his chest as he thought, and the answer was clear to him. The comm badge. He'd thrown it down in the turbolift, thinking it useless and hoping to fool Bashir into thinking that it was the palm beacon. But he'd forgotten it in the chase that ensued. He'd wanted to make sure that Bashir was dead, so that he couldn't tell anyone. But he'd left his signature behind instead.

Maylon felt his face grow hot. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't go back to the ship now, not if they knew. He had to stay on the station. Perhaps the Ferengi boy would hide him, for a price of course, the little scrounger. He could get him on another ship, away from here. That's it. He had to try.

Because of his silence, the security guards were beginning to suspect him as well. They stepped toward him. But Maylon jumped feet-first into the hole he'd just left. He caught the ladder and slid down to the next level, disappearing into the darkness. "He's just gone down," the Ranger's security man said.

"Acknowledged. He can't get out of the pylon. We'll get him. Kira out."

Inara put the tricorder into her bag and took hold of the ladder. She was too low. She estimated the time as she climbed. By now Maylon was one or two levels down the pylon. She had to get to him before Major Kira did. She wouldn't get her chance if they had him. But that wasn't going to happen. She wouldn't let it. She'd have her revenge. The two armed bombs rattled in the bag she'd slung across her shoulders. They were already set. They'd go off at her command.

If he's coming straight down, she thought, he'd probably be down six or seven levels. But what if he stopped off? Inara stopped, hooked an elbow around the ladder and checked the tricorder. She was glad she had stopped. The tricorder was showing life signs, just two levels above her. Multiple life signs. One set, presumably Maylon, was directly above, still on the ladder. The others had to be Security, closing in from the sides but one level below him. She couldn't see any light above her. They had him cornered in the service corridors. It was a trap. And it was working. Maylon's life signs were coming closer.

Inara let the tricorder fall back into the bag and climbed the ladder again, but more slowly, moving up two levels. She silently slipped out onto the floor and waited to see if they'd heard her. Still no light. She stepped back until she felt the wall behind her. No one said a word. But there was sound. Maylon was not being so careful. His boots rang on the rungs as he shuffled down. Inara took one of the bombs from the bag and covered it's blinking red light with her hand. "Stop where you are!" Kira's voice commanded and the lights came on from the two opposing directions. Maylon was startled.

"You stop where you are," Inara returned, stepping from the shadows. She held the phaser she'd stolen so that Kira could see. "Drop your weapons, or you'll be the first to meet the Prophets."

Kira didn't back down. "You're both under arrest. Put the phaser down or we'll shoot."

Inara thought it was just as well that she did hold her ground. The more the merrier, as the humans say. "I don't think so."

Kira tried to reason with her. "That man is a murderer, Miss Fareed."

"And I'm a terrorist, right?" Inara was anxious for this to end, though it didn't really matter much. The end would be the same. Her finger was on the button that would destroy her and Maylon and anyone else who got too close. "Just like you were. I know he's a murderer. That's why he's going with me. Fin Liian was the only family I had left." She raised her other hand, letting the little red light blink on and off openly. "And my name's Inara. Drop the weapons."

Kira thought for a minute and then slowly lowered her phaser toward the floor. She nodded for the others to do the same. Maylon was beside himself. "You can't do this!" he shouted to them. "She'll kill us all! I'll come with you. No resistance. I'm turning myself in." He took a tentative step toward the major.

"No," Inara said, coldly. "You're not."

Maylon froze, afraid to go any farther. Inara pressed the button. She thought for a moment that she saw a flash of the most beautiful blue she'd ever seen. But she only thought for a moment. The blast ripped her apart instantly, from her fingers to her toes.

Kira's eyes were closed against the bright light. She hadn't thought it bright before, but after so long in the dark, it was dazzling and blinding at the same time. She breathed heavily, leaning against the thick walls that had kept the explosion contained in the corridor.

She'd done it. Part of her couldn't believe that Fareed, or Inara, had actually set off the bomb, blowing herself to bits. But then Kira knew how Inara and others like her thought. She'd given up her life for what she believed in, for the chance to avenge the death of her family. Kira would have. She had nearly done so on several occasions during the fight for freedom from the Cardassians. But if you really believed that Bajor still wasn't free and was hungering for slavery again, begging for it from the Federation, then would life really be something worth hanging on to?

"All clear, Major," Mir spoke over the comm line. "The fire's out."

"That was quick thinking, Mr. Mir," Kira told him. "I'm glad you were listening in."

"Just doing my job, sir," Mir replied modestly. "Didn't it say in my job description that I was supposed to be a hero and save the whole station?"

Kira smiled. "Something like that. It also said to fix the computer. Open the door, Mr. Mir."

The door obediently opened. The corridor was black, though it hadn't been cheery before, and covered with soot. The air smelled of smoke, but there was no fire, just as Mir had said. There were also no bodies. Kira hadn't expected one from Inara. She'd been holding the bomb in her hand. But Maylon was nowhere to be found. She turned to the barrel-chested officer. True to his form, he had his tricorder out.

"I'm registering organic debris," he said, "but it's not enough to be two people."

Maylon opened his eyes to darkness. He wasn't sure he'd opened his eyes at all. This must be death, he thought with wonder. He felt no pain, no fear, nothing. He was lying down. He felt calm, peaceful. One light appeared in front of him, though he couldn't see its source. He'd often heard stories about near-death experiences. Everyone always saw a light. This is death, he thought. See, Julian, it's not so bad. He laughed, and that's when he first felt the pressure against his chest.

His tried to lift his head to see what it was but he couldn't lift it. Something held him across the forehead. His arms and legs were useless as well. He could now feel the straps that held him down.

"Struggling is of no use," said a female voice, deep and a bit husky. She stepped toward him and leaned over his face.

She was beautiful. Her skin was perfect, an aqua-blue in color, with a clear complexion and high cheekbones. Her eyes shone pure white. Her silvery hair fell over her shoulder and brushed like silk against his face.

If he didn't know any better, he might have thought that she was an angel. But he'd seen Gidari before. She took something from the inside of her cloak sleeve, a small box or device. Maylon followed it with his eyes. "No!" he screamed. But the scream was cut short as the device bit into his throat, cutting the vocal cords. The pain was unbearable, but he was surprised that he could breathe. I'll die soon, he thought. It will all be over soon.

But even as he thought it, they began to chant. He couldn't see where the other voices came from, but he could hear them as they echoed off the walls of the room. He realized then that they'd been chanting all along, though quietly, and he had let himself believe that it was the music of heaven.

The priestess took something else from her sleeve, and he heard a soft hiss close to his ear. He felt the substance enter his system in a cold stream that ran from his neck to his feet. He shuddered, straining the straps that held him. He began to feel dizzy, and he could no longer feel the straps or even the bed beneath him. All external feeling was gone. There was only the inside, the cold, the dizziness, and the light. And of course, the chanting.

Ops was buzzing, not so much with activity, but with voices. And the voices were generally happy ones. The terrorists were dead, with the exception of Theel who sat forlornly in a detention cell in Security. But there was one mystery still to wonder about. Rumors spread quickly over the station, but their speed always surprised Commander Sisko. The murderer was a Starfleet officer, and the Federation has hidden him. Or he had died with the woman terrorist, blown into so many parts that he was unrecognizable even to a tricorder. Or maybe the Klingons had gotten hold of him. There was no sympathy. He'd get what he deserved.

But Sisko knew, and he'd told Major Kira when she reported back that they had only found one set of remains. The Gidari ship was the first to request clearance to leave, just after the explosion in the pylon. Sisko had granted it. They were out of the sector before Kira ever reached Ops. The murderer had gone with them. Sisko was sure of it.

At first, Kira fumed when she learned that the Gidari got Maylon, that Sisko had agreed to it. After all, nearly half of his victims had been Bajoran, and she was the liaison officer. She should have been consulted. When she had calmed down a bit, she had acknowledged that there was no time to consult and that the Gidari had been right. They could take whatever they wanted at any time. It would have been useless to deny them. They would have simply stolen Maylon from the station.

The computer was now functioning perfectly, and it wasn't even nine in the morning. The crew was sleepy, but morale was high. Things were back to normal, whatever that really meant. O'Brien was in a state of scarcely concealed admiration. He set a small gray object on Sisko's desk. It was no bigger than the size of two tricorders placed side by side.

Sisko waited for an explanation.

"That's it," O'Brien declared. "She was brilliant."

Sisko knew what his Chief of Operations was getting at. "This is the computer?" It seemed awfully small to have taken complete control of the central computer on the station.

O'Brien nodded. "That's it." He opened the computer and powered it up. It was no longer in contact with the central computer, but all the programs Inara Taleyn had used were still available. "She had access to everything," he stated and pulled up a list of programs to prove his point. "She could have destroyed this station and any ships in the area with just a simple command. She could have sucked the air from the habitat ring and killed everyone or simply transported all of the Federation personnel off." He let that sit for a moment. "Why are these people always working against me instead of for me?"

Dax interrupted their conversation from Ops. "Benjamin, Gul Dukat has just requested clearance to dock."

Things were definitely back to normal. Sisko sighed and straightened his uniform. "Grant it." He could already feel his body stiffening in anticipation of the gul's visit.

Julian Bashir tried to sit up a little higher on the bed, but he just couldn't. He didn't have the strength. And every movement caused pain somewhere in his body. Even breathing hurt. As did the fact that he had Grant to thank for his life. Now he was indebted to him. Of course, he was grateful to be alive, but why did it have to be Grant?

Grant came over to check on him. Bashir couldn't help but notice that his hands shook a little. He was still a stenacine addict. He couldn't change that in one night. He wasn't actually fit to practice medicine, but there was no one else to do it. Bashir was in no condition. "How do you feel?" Grant asked him.

He wasn't prepared for the hoarseness of his voice when he answered. "How do I look?"

"That bad, hmm?" Grant studied the readings on the biobed and his tricorder for a few minutes. He was serious when he spoke again. "I can't give you anything for the pain. We just don't know how it would react with whatever the Gidari gave you."

"The Gidari?" Bashir thought he remembered everything. Maylon had poisoned him. He rubbed his burning eyes with his bandaged hand, and a little bit of dried blood came away on the bandage.

"Careful. You'll start them bleeding again. Apparently, they gave you an antidote," Grant replied. "We've had a few problems repairing the damage. You just didn't seem to want to heal."

"Like with Reyna." He had meant to make a full sentence and to speak more coherently, but it took a lot of effort to force the words out. "It's the Gidari-"

"Yes, that's what we assumed, but we managed. Just be careful and don't overexert yourself." He was silent for a few minutes, but he didn't go away. "I'll be leaving soon," he said finally. "The Ranger has been cleared to continue with her mission. We'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon. Dr. Pynar will be staying here for a day or two. She'll meet back up with us on the other side."

Bashir said nothing. He should have been happy at the news. Grant would be gone, into the Gamma Quadrant. He'd stay gone for years. But he didn't feel anything. Or at least, he didn't know what it was he was feeling.

Grant continued, "You know as well as I that I shouldn't be going with them. But Commander Lairton has agreed to let me stay on. With twenty-four-hour supervision, of course, until they're sure I'm off the stuff." He took a few deep breaths. "I want to thank you, and I want to apologize. You were right. I think on some subconscious level I was trying to die. No one knew, except Dr. Maylon."

"Maylon," Julian interrupted. "Did they catch him?" He hadn't been told.

"You don't have to worry. He's dead." Grant looked away. It was obviously difficult for him, what he was trying to say. "You saved my life, Julian. I want to thank you for that. I want to apologize for when you were young, for wishing you were dead."

Julian didn't speak. He was tired of talking about it. Grant had already apologized. Bashir had already said that that wasn't enough. Nothing could change the situation. Talking about it again would only cause more problems. He turned his head away.

Grant wasn't looking directly at him now anyway. "You were my son," he went on. "I should have given my life for you, like your mother did. But I would've traded you for her. That was wrong. I thought I knew that already, but I didn't. I didn't really know it until I saw you lying here about to die. I was so afraid that you would die. I didn't feel that before. I should have, but I didn't. I was so obsessed with your mother's death. And then I didn't see you again. I could pretend that it all wasn't real.

"I know that you still hate me," he stated when Bashir still didn't say anything, "and I'll have to accept that. You've got every right. I won't bother you anymore, and I won't come back. Elizabeth hates me, too. I took her brother away. She called. She didn't want to speak to me. She just wanted to say she'd be here in a week. She's coming in on a Tellarite freighter. The Uglaght, I believe."

Elizabeth. Julian had been listening. And now he felt both excited and sad. He'd missed her call. He didn't even know what she looked like. But she was coming. He'd have a sister again. But there was still a brother. "And George?" Julian asked. He knew that Grant had lied before. "What did he say? The truth."

"George is too much like his father," Grant apologized. "It's not his fault really. It's mine. I started the lie. He was traumatized by the whole thing. He didn't want to know the truth, Julian. I'm sorry."

No, it wasn't Grant's fault. Not this time. It was George. "He doesn't want to know about me," Julian said. Grant shook his head, and Julian was quiet for awhile. It hurt, physically. He could feel it in his stomach. He'd never known Elizabeth. But George was his brother. They'd played together when they were young. Julian had longed to see him for so many years. And now George didn't want to hear the truth. George didn't want to see him. "That isn't fair," Julian said. "I'm still the one being punished, aren't I?" He hadn't meant to raise his voice. The pain in his stomach grew stronger.

Grant turned away. "I tried, Julian. I promise you, I tried. It was just too hard for him."

Julian wasn't listening. He realized now that the pain in his stomach was real. It was overpowering. Grant wasn't watching. He sat up and reached for Grant's arm, but only managed to catch his sleeve. His other arm clutched tightly at his stomach. He tried to tell him that something was wrong, but the pain had moved up into his chest as well. It was hard to breath.

Grant was quick to react. Taking Julian's hand, he called for a nurse and lowered the bed down. Bashir had still been sitting. "He's hemorrhaging," he said to the nurse. "Get Dr. Pynar over here." To Julian, he spoke softly, "It's going to be alright. Just a few minutes." He had somnetic inducers in his hand. He placed these on Bashir's forehead and then sat on the edge of the bed behind him. Bashir was shaking from the pain, and his eyes had begun to bleed again. Grant crossed his arms around Bashir's and held him tightly. The inducers would take a minute or so to work.

Bashir only wanted the pain to stop. He couldn't see anymore, or at least he couldn't realize that he was seeing. And he didn't care now that it was Grant who was attending him. In fact, he was comforted by it. Grant, compared to himself at the moment, was strong, and the hands that held his own were warm. Another doctor would have strapped him down until the inducers put him to sleep, but Grant's presence behind him was comforting. And it was familiar. As the pain, and everything else, faded under the influence of the somnetic inducers, Julian felt secure, and he began to believe Grant. It was going to be alright.

Julian jumped and sat up quickly in his bed, expecting to see monsters in all the shadows and the figure from his dream standing in his room. But it wasn't a monster. It was his father. Julian reached up for him and wrapped his arms around his neck, pressing his tear-stained face into his father's big shoulder. "It's alright, Julian," his father said, holding him tight and patting his back. "It was just a nightmare. I wouldn't let anything happen to you. It's going to be alright."

George snickered from the other side of the room, but Julian didn't care. George would let something happen to him. Julian felt secure in his father's strong arms, and he didn't let go.

Julian Bashir opened his eyes and was confused to find himself in his own quarters. The lights were dimmed, but he could see the nurse sitting in a chair across the room. She was reading. "Nurse Ilona?" he asked, sitting up on his elbows.

"Oh, good! You're awake," Ilona answered, setting aside the PADD she'd been reading. "How do you feel?" she asked as she scanned him with a tricorder.

"Rather well, actually," Bashir said with some surprise. He lay back down again. "How did that happen?"

"Like with Reyna," Ilona stated as if it was that simple. "The Gidari drug wore off, and Dr. Pynar was then able to put you back together again."

"What time is it? What day is it?" Bashir suddenly remembered something that Grant had said. The Ranger was leaving in the afternoon. "Has the Ranger left yet?"

"It's 1440. I believe it leaves at 1500. Why?"

Good question, Bashir thought. He wanted to see Grant before he left. He didn't quite understand it himself, but it was important to him. He sat up slowly. He still felt a little weak and light-headed, but otherwise he had no problems.

"You should really stay in bed, Doctor," Ilona said, standing.

"Why? You said Dr. Pynar put me back together. I feel fine." He had to go. That ship left in twenty minutes, and he might lose his chance forever. He looked his nurse in the eye. She was a good nurse. "It's important, Ilona. I have to go."

Ilona hesitated, and Bashir didn't give her time to tell him no. "I'll come right back and stay in bed all day, I promise."

She looked at him sideways for a moment thinking. Then she spoke. "Dr. Pynar's due to check in on you in twenty minutes. You better be back here before then."

"I will," Bashir promised with a smile. "Get me my uniform?" Ilona did as he asked. He checked the time again before he left. Seventeen minutes. "The computer's working?"

Ilona knew what he was thinking. "Turbolifts too," she said. "Go."

The turbolift was working. The doors opened swiftly and Bashir stepped inside. "Upper Pylon 2." The turbolift started to move, and he felt a little dizzy and had to hold on to the bars. It stopped with a jerk. Bashir smiled. Back to normal. The doors opened, and Bashir expected to see the security guards standing beside the closed airlock door that lead to the Ranger. But they were gone. Of course, if the computer was running this well, the terrorists must have been found, too.

Bashir touched the red panel beside the airlock and the heavy door rolled away. In contrast the ship-side door wisped opened almost silently, allowing him to enter the bright pastel-colored corridors of the USS Ranger.

It took a few more minutes just to find Grant's quarters again. Bashir estimated that he had only eleven or twelve minutes left. He hesitated before he rang the door. He didn't know what he was going to say. He hadn't forgiven Grant. It wasn't that simple. But he wasn't sure anymore how he did feel about him. Something had been working away at Bashir's feelings ever since Grant came on board. The hatred had gone away and left something less definable in its place.

The door opened even before Bashir had signalled his presence. Grant froze in mid-sentence when he saw him there. Commander Sisko was with him. Bashir still resented their friendship. "I'm sorry to interrupt you," Bashir said, trying to be polite.

Sisko had also been surprised to see him as well. "Did Dr. Pynar release you, Doctor?' he asked, a little concerned.

"No, sir, not exactly." Bashir did not want to lie to the commander. He remembered Dax telling him that Sisko had found him on the crossover bridge. "But the Ranger is leaving and I had to come . . . ." He lost the words there. He had to come and . . . what?

Sisko didn't seem to care that he'd left without permission from Pynar. "Well," he said. "I was just leaving. Please." He stepped aside so that Bashir could enter Grant's quarters. Grant still hadn't spoken.

Julian waited for the door to close behind Sisko before he tried to speak again. "I just came to say-"

But at that point, Grant was ready to speak as well. "Come in, Julian. Sit down. Would you like-"

They both stopped again at the same time. Grant waited to let Bashir speak. "No, I don't want anything. I can't stay long."

"I know." Grant turned away and moved some of the pillows on the couch. "Please sit down."

"No, thank you." Bashir turned away as well and pretended to study the lamp. He remembered it now. It had stood in their house in Stratford. "I don't even know why I came. I don't know what I want to say."

Grant sat down himself. "But you came," he said. "You don't have to say anything. And don't worry. I don't think you've forgiven me just because you came. But things have changed, haven't they?"

Bashir nodded. "They've changed. But I don't know what they've become."

"Well, we'll both have at least five years to think about it." He paused for a moment and watched Julian uncertainly. "When Elizabeth comes, would you, I mean, if you want, could you try to talk to her?"

"And try to make her understand?" Julian sighed. "I can't do that. I don't understand. I don't ever want to understand what you did."

Grant nodded sadly. Bashir couldn't see it, with his back turned to him, but he knew it just the same. "I've got to go," he said, turning back around. "It's almost time."

Grant looked up and stood. He looked like he wanted to run to his son and hold him again, one last time. But he only held out his hand. "Good-bye, Julian."

Bashir took the hand that was offered and shook it slowly. "Good-bye." Grant's hand was warm, and he remembered how it comforted him when he was a child and more recently. Part of him, the child that was still there, wanted to wrap his arms around his father's neck again. But the other side said he wasn't his father anymore. He released his hand and walked toward the door. He didn't look back, but let it open for him and close again when he was through.

Sisko stood in the corridor waiting for him. "I thought I'd walk you back," he said. "We should just make it, I think."

Bashir nodded and they began to walk. Neither spoke until they were safely back on the station. "I didn't get to thank you, Commander," Bashir said when they were in the turbolift, "for finding me. I would have died."

Sisko didn't reply but said instead, "He's your father."

"He was," Bashir answered. "Not anymore." Sisko let it go at that. The turbolift stopped on the habitat ring and Bashir headed back to his quarters. From the viewport in his bedroom he saw the wormhole open up in a brilliant swirl of colors. Dr. Pynar came in just as the Ranger entered it and disappeared from view.

Commander Lairton stood up from his chair as the ship-his ship-neared the wormhole. His eyes were fixed on the main viewer, where the great mouth of it opened into swirling clouds of color and light. It was unlike any other wormhole he'd ever seen. This was more than a place of passage. This was a thing of beauty.

To behold it as the ship passed through it, running beside long bands of energy that twisted and surged around them, was not to defile it as the terrorists had thought. To Lairton, it was something completely opposite. If this place in their Bajoran sky was sacred before they saw its real beauty, then how much more so it would be from here. There was nothing but admiration and awe in his mind for the beings that had made this, the Bajorans' Celestial Temple.

And then it was over. They were through and stars, new stars that no one on this crew had ever seen before, were hanging in the blackness before them. This was it: the Gamma Quadrant. Lairton felt the pride well up inside him. New stars. That was what it was all about-at least for him and Starfleet. New life, new peoples, reaching out, expanding farther and farther into this galaxy, this universe, seeing what's out there, studying it, learning from it. Exploration.

Lairton sat back down in the captain's chair. "Helm," he said, "Set course. Heading 347, mark five. Warp factor four."

"Aye, sir," Lieutenant Jenkins answered from the helm. "Course laid in."

"Okay, folks. Let's see what's out there. Now!"

Jenkins hit the control, but the ship didn't move. It came to a complete stop. The bridge lights went out, and the computer's voice again began to scream at them. "DEFILERS! You have defiled the Celestial Temple!"

When it was silent, Commander Jeffrey's voice became audible over the comm system. "The whole system's gone." He spoke quickly, as if he were in a panic. "There's nothing to stop it."

Lairton didn't need to know what he was talking about. The warp engines, the hull integrity, the antimatter chambers. It didn't matter. There was no way to stop it. The Ranger had sinned. "How long, Jeffrey?"

"Ten seconds, ten minutes. I can't tell you. We've got to . . ."

"Alright," Lairton interrupted. A strange calm had come over him. This, too, was it, in a way. He'd gained his command by death, and he'd lose it the same way. "All hands, abandon ship. I repeat, abandon ship."

In the dark he could hear the bridge crew scrambling from their seats. He heard the covers to the Jefferies tubes clatter when they hit the floor. The turbolifts wouldn't work. Lairton didn't move. He knew it was hopeless. Either that or he was being nostalgic. Captain Gerin had died. That made him Captain. And the captain goes down with the ship.

Then there was silence. Silence like the stars around him that he could no longer see. A single tear fell from his eye. He felt it warm and wet against his cheek as he waited, counting. One, two, three, four. . . . Five never came.

The Ranger became a star in its own right. For a brief moment it was a sun. Its light poured forth through the surrounding space before it was snuffed out by the nothingness of the universe. Chunks of metal alloy and debris floated aimlessly, spinning outward from the center where the Ranger had been. There were no escape pods, no shuttles. There were no survivors.

Sisko shut off the communication he'd just received, and he sat silently behind his desk, clenching hard on the baseball he held in his hand. The Ranger, and all one hundred and thirty-eight of her crew, were lost. A Vulcan science vessel had found the debris. No survivors. Inara Taleyn had carried out the threat she'd implied with her virus. The Ranger had, in her eyes, defiled the Temple, and had paid the price for doing so. Sisko thought of the families of the Ranger's crew, how sad they'd be, the loss they'd feel at losing forever someone they loved. One of those family members was on his station now. Make that two.

Julian Bashir laid back in his bed and tried to sleep, but the door kept him from it. It was Sisko. His face looked hard and grim. "Julian," Sisko sighed, stepping into the room, "the Ranger's been destroyed. There were no survivors. I thought you would want to know."

Sisko didn't give him time to reply before he turned and left. Julian didn't want it anyway. What would he have said? He didn't even know what to feel. Grant would never be coming back. Never.


"Julian, the Tellarite freighter, Uglaght, will be docking in fifteen minutes."

Bashir was checking the mirror to see if his hair looked okay. "Thank you, Jadzia. Where will they dock?"

"Port Seven. Are you expecting someone, Julian?"

Bashir thought about his reply. He had never told her about Grant. Sisko had figured out that Grant was his father, but no one knew what had happened between them. And Bashir wasn't sure he wanted anyone to know. The mystery of it all had seemed to catch Dax's attention, though. And it would be hard to hide Elizabeth. "Yes," he decided. "I'm expecting my sister. Bashir out." He cut the communication before she could ask any more questions. More of a mystery that way.

Fifteen minutes. After twenty-five years. It still didn't seem real. It was another dream, and he would wake up anytime now, still wondering what she looked like. But it was real. She'd called just yesterday. Unfortunately, he'd missed her call again. He'd been called away for an emergency surgery on Bajor. Sisko had taken the message. And for someone who didn't know the details, Sisko seemed almost as excited as Bashir about her visit.

Julian was nervous. His hands shook slightly, and he was glad that there were no patients in the Infirmary today. He'd spent the whole morning getting ready for her, cleaning his already clean quarters, combing his hair again, checking his uniform for the seventeenth time. He hadn't even had breakfast.

He checked the mirror one last time, straightening his comm badge on his uniform and tugging at his sleeves. Then he left for the docking ring. The turbolift was quick, and he arrived at the port with still five minutes to spare. He had nothing to do but wait and worry. What if she didn't like him? A lot of people, it seemed, didn't like him. Kira, for one. She found him annoying. What if he annoyed his sister?

And what if they didn't recognize each other? She'd walk right by, and he wouldn't even know it. You're just nervous, he told himself. She was on a Tellarite freighter. She probably wouldn't look like a Tellarite, and freighters were not usually loaded down with passengers. Recognizing her would probably not be much of a problem. And she had wanted to come. She wanted to see him as much as he wanted to see her.

The ship docked and Bashir's stomach began to tie itself into a tight knot. He took a few deep breaths to try to calm himself. The door would open as soon as it was pressurized. He realized he still expected to see a little girl when he finally saw her. But she would be twenty-five by now, a young woman, a student at Cambridge.

The door opened, causing Bashir to jump just a bit. He hadn't been paying attention. But now he was. A few Tellarites left the ship, talking loudly and jangling their latinum. They were obviously headed for Quark's. And then a young woman with long, brown, curly hair stepped tentatively over the rim of the doorway. She was trying to see around the shoulders of the big Tellarite crewmen. But then her eyes met his. She froze for a moment, blocking the door so that another Tellarite had to nudge her out of the way.

Julian stepped forward, still uncertain that she was his sister. One of her bags had slipped off her shoulder when the Tellarite pushed her. Bashir lifted it off the floor. She smiled. "I'm looking for Dr. Julian Bashir," she said.

"I'm Dr. Bashir," Julian replied slowly. He was a little startled. It was her.

The woman's smile grew wider. She seemed to be searching for the right words. She started to reach for his face, to touch him, but she took his hand instead. Her hand was soft and warm. "You know, you were my imaginary friend." Her voice was a whisper. There was a tear in her eye.

"And I always dreamed you as blond," Julian responded, forgetting everything he'd been carefully rehearsing for the last week.

Elizabeth laughed, but didn't say anything. She dropped the rest of her bags and threw her arms around his neck. Julian let the bag he held fall to the floor as well. He wrapped his own arms around her, and they were both standing in the doorway. But he didn't care. She was family.


copyright 1996 Gabrielle Lawson