DS9 WIP: The Honored 2b/? [PG13]

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Philippe de la Matraque

Jul 21, 2020, 3:54:05 AM7/21/20
Title: The Honored
Author: Gabrielle Lawson
Part: 2b/?
Series: DS9
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Yes to Trekiverse.org, otherwise, please ask.
Contact: inhe...@gmail.com
Web: http://gabrielle.sytes.net/Trek/stories/Honored1.html
Summary: The Dominion finally puts a stop to Dr. Julian Bashir. But the
Gidari have need of him. What's death to get in their way?
Author's note: Author's note: I deliberately use italics like this *in
text** just because it makes conversion to HTML so much easier.

The nurses and med-techs all gathered in the Infirmary. Jabara brought
the wine and Reyna the cups. They took turns, each telling what they
had thought of Dr. Bashir when he had first come to the station or when
they had first started working with him. And then what they felt about
him now, after half a dozen years with him as their doctor, their leader.

"He was young, and far too eager," Ilona said. "To him, this was
'frontier medicine,' while to us, this monstrosity of a station had been
our oppressor. And a more technologically advance oppressor. It was
the opposite of frontier to me. It was, is, a place to join the rest of
the galaxy and yet, still remain Bajoran. And in time, I grew to love
it here. It's still a monstrosity, but the Infirmary isn't. It's light
and airy and comforting. And Dr. Bashir brought that, not just the
equipment but the comforting. He had the best bedside manner of any
doctor I ever worked with in the camps, that's for sure. He could be
funny, or just so sincere. And he was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant."

"I remember the Gidari," Reyna said. "How scared I was when they took
me. I hadn't been on the station very long. But I also remember how
forceful he was in telling them to let me go. And they did. And he was
gentle and sweet as he took care of me and gave me back my voice. I
remember when they found him after the murderer had poisoned him. I was
determined to do my part to make sure he lived, because he had done it
for me."

"I've heard stories," Garrett, one of the med-techs said. "He has this
voice. He can make anyone obey him. He got Odo to hold a neck wound
and got his med-kit back from those warring tribes that had captured
them. He just turns on that voice, and even enemies obey."

Some of the others laughed at that. "But he only used that superpower
in a medical context. He never used it for evil."

Jabara laughed, too. She'd heard that voice once or twice. "I never
knew him to do anything evil. Not once. Some doctors become jaded, and
so much had happened that could have done that to him. But he never
lost his compassion, his need to help. He was good man, and an even
better doctor.

"No doubt they'll send us another one," she added. "And we'll resent
them because they're not him. But we have to give them the same chance
we gave that awkward, too eager, med school graduate that came here all
those year ago. He grew on us, we grew on him. The new doctor deserves
no less."

She held up her glass. "To Dr. Julian Bashir!" All the others raised
their glasses and joined her toast. Some drifted on after that, but a
few stayed and continued to share stories. Jabara cleaned up the
glasses and the wine and made sure the Infirmary was tidy and ready for
whatever need should arise. Bashir would have had it no other way.

Kira had waited for five minutes after Bashir left before she wandered
out into the hall. She was met with stares, moreso now that she was
unhooded. But they were respectful stares and anyone who came close
enough bowed to her. "I need to speak with Liytner Tarlingen Nardek,"
she told one man, another who wore black.

"I will find her, Honored," he replied, bowing again.

Kira bowed back and the man scurried away. Liytner was a high rank,
but Honored appeared to be higher. That might be useful in implementing
an escape. She imagined Odo back on the station, mourning for her. He
would be lost. He already felt so alone, cut off from his people. Now
he would have only his work. Would that be enough for him? She
remembered with a shudder his words to her when the female changeling
had been aboard the station. It was something she tried not to think
about, a mistake he said was past. But it troubled her now. Would he
turn again away from the Federation without her there to hold him?

A voice disturbed her thoughts. "You asked for me?"

She turned to see Tarlingen standing behind her. She didn't bow, but
Kira didn't mind. She was the liaison. She would have a lot of contact
with her and Bashir. It would be pointless to bow every time. "Yes,"
Kira answered. "I'm not a Healer, but I want to help. I'm Honored, so
I should have a purpose, too. Doctor Bashir wants me to gather plants,
herbs, anything that might be of medicinal value."

Tarlingen nodded. "A wise desire," she said, "and a worthy Purpose.
Gather what you need. I will take you out."

Tarlingen led her past a labyrinth of corridors and chambers before
they finally emerged outside. Kira covered her head again before
stepping out into the crimson sunlight. "Is it late?" she asked,
looking at the darkening sky.

"It will not be dark for several more hours," Tarlingen explained. "We
have time."

Kira had anticipated being taken out near the village, but instead they
were high on the mountain, yet still below the tree line. She could see
for miles where she stood, and she looked out over the valleys below.
There were other mountains behind her, but the land was open in front of
her. She could see a prairie of tall orange grass and large animals
roaming it. She couldn't make out any details but they had to be huge
to be seen from that distance. A low, rumbling growl came to her ears,
and she saw one of the animals attacking another. There were groves of
trees and some of the animals fed on the highest leaves. She saw a
flutter of movement, like a flame dancing along the grass.

"Darglin," Tarlingen's voice spoke softly from behind her. "They are
the most regal of our world. Mighty hunters and yet, when they fly,
they are full of grace and beauty."

"It's a bird?" Kira asked. Then she could see it, the points of fire
were wings. Their color blended so well with the grass beneath that the
bird was almost invisible. If she hadn't seen the movement, she would
not have seen it at all.

"I believe that would be your equivalent, yes," Tarlingen answered,
"though that does not sound very regal to my ears."

She sounded disappointed, which was not Kira's desired reaction. "It's
magnificent," she added, hoping to convey her appreciation of the
animal. It *was** magnificent. Perhaps Bashir had been right. Maybe
they hadn't come here by choice, but getting to see Gidar was a 'bright
side' she hadn't given much thought to until now. The planet was
gorgeous, though alien in every way.

"Come," Tarlingen said, drawing her away and into the woods. "Follow
me carefully. There are dangers. You may take samples from what you
see. I will warn you if something is harmful."

Kira noted Tarlingen was armed with a spear, which, given her own
Honored status, could only be assumed to be for protection. Considering
the size of the animals out on the prairie, she wouldn't be surprised if
protection were necessary.

It was still odd to her to see trees that weren't green. Leaves were
only orange on Bajor during the autumn, but here it was apparently a
more permanent sight. The weather was warm, and none of the leaves were
falling, so Kira decided it was probably summer in this region of Gidar.
There was a soft breeze blowing through the branches and she heard the
sounds of little creatures all around her. Tarlingen walked on
confidently, though, so Kira assumed they hadn't run into any dangers
yet. But she kept aware nonetheless. Dead or not, she didn't want her
body damaged any more than it already was. As she walked she snapped
off twigs and leaves and put them in the basket she carried. She took a
snapshot with a Gidari device Bashir had translated, so that he could
know where each sample had come from.

They went deeper into the woods, and Kira could just barely see the red
beyond the orange above her. She had to push branches out of her way
and watch her step in the undergrowth. Tarlingen stopped suddenly, and
since Kira was watching her feet and not her companion, she nearly
slammed into the Gidari. "Haftha," Tarlingen whispered, pointing to the
trunk of a tree off to the right. Kira could now see the large insect
there. "Might the Healer find it of use?"

"Possible," Kira whispered back. She had thought mostly about plants,
but the thought of animals had not slipped her mind. She had several
small bags with her, too. "Can you get it?"

"It would sting me," Tarlingen replied. "But you would not be harmed.
Walk slowly, silently, and snatch it quickly."

Kira took a deep breath. She hadn't planned on catching animals with
her bare hands. Okay, so she was wearing gloves, but that wasn't the
point. She handed Tarlingen the basket and removed one small bag. She
held it in her left hand and crept slowly toward the haftha. It was
actually somewhat exhilarating, reminiscent of her days in the
resistance. They would sometimes have to stalk and hunt animals for
food. Though she usually didn't have to catch the animal by hand.

The haftha saw her but made no move to run off. It flicked its long
tongue at her, and she forced herself to remember that she couldn't feel
pain. Nothing to fear. She stepped closer. Arm's distance. The
haftha lifted one of its legs and took a step up the tree. But it
wasn't fast enough. Kira's arm snapped out and she caught the insect
across the middle. It snaked its tongue out and grabbed at her with its
sharp feet. She marveled at how she could feel the sensation of it
holding on to her, but not the pain. She stuffed it into the bag and
then pulled it off of her with her other hand.

"Well done," Tarlingen complimented. "Shall we continue on?"

It was clear as soon as he opened the tricorder. "You're a Trill!" he
exclaimed, forgetting all about decorum and protocol.

She snapped her head around to him, but he didn't see anger in her
white eyes. "We haven't heard that name for centuries. But we had not
doubted that you would recognize the one within us."

Bashir wasn't quite sure where to go from there. His duty was to
continue the examination, but his curiosity wanted to know more.
Thankfully, he was equipped to do both. He continued his scan and tried
to bring the Leader out. "I have a friend," he said. "A joined Trill."

"I have been Leader of the Gidari for longer than your friend has been
in existence," she said, though without raising her voice. "You have
questions." It appeared she was willing to talk.

"Yes," he answered, stopping the scan. "But only if you don't mind."

"You are Honored," she replied, dipping her head in deference. "I
would not deny you."

Heartened, Bashir reopened the tricorder and picked up where he'd left
off. "How did you come to Gidar?"

She smiled, and her smile was beguiling, set into that beautiful face.
Not for the first time, Bashir felt it was a pity that the Gidari hid
themselves away from others. "That is the only question, is it not?"
she said. "You are wise."

Now Bashir smiled. "There are those who would argue," he replied, not
realizing that he was opening up to her, just as she was to him. Since
the discovery of her symbiont, she had ceased to engender the fearful
reverence she had in the throne room.

"And you would be one of them," she countered.

"You are wise yourself," he offered.

She was silent for a moment, and he worried that she had decided not to
answer. He looked up from the tricorder and waited.

"I was Trill," she began, "eight centuries before this. My host was
Nailati, and I have chosen her name for myself in return for her
sacrifice. She and three others were exploring this region of space.
They crashed on this world. Only Nailati survived, though she could not
breathe the air here. I could feel her dying.

"My people had never seen such a craft in the sky like that which had
fallen. They came to investigate. I saw them first, uncovered and
glorious, through Nailati's failing eyes. Even as she lay dying,
gasping for the poisonous air, she tried to tell them of me.

"The priestess was the first to understand. I used a scanning device
so that she could see me within the host. The priestess took out her
dagger and held it up," the Leader, Nailati, explained, holding her own
hands up as if they held the knife, "offering a prayer to the Creator,
though I could not then understand the words. Through Nailati's eyes, I
saw the dagger plunged through me--through my host. I saw the priestess
cut herself with the same blade. Even as Nailati still drew her futile
breaths, the priestess took me from her and placed me within herself. I
saw Nailati die from new eyes."

She had acted out the whole thing with her hands and Bashir could see
the pain and the wonder on her face much as it must have been on that
day eight hundred years before.

"But the Joining," the Leader continued, "was not easy. I did not know
of Gidari or Gidar. The chemicals that had killed Nailati were foreign
to me even as they coursed through my new host. The priestess suffered
greatly from her wound and the pain of the changing. And now, my people
knew of aliens. The Leader was fearful, and he came to our dwelling to
destroy the alien that was within the priestess, to kill me. Despite
her pain, she stood up to face him, rising from her bed for the first
time in three days. Only then were we aware of the change. The Leader
was so small. He grasped his chest at the sight of us and fell dead at
our feet.

"There were others who feared us and sought our death, but none could
stand against us. The enemies were vanquished and their supporters
destroyed. All who knew of the change were gone and we, with all our
knowledge and strength became Leader of the Gidari. We have been Leader
since that day."

Bashir had listened, enraptured by the tale, picturing it all. The
ancient dying Trill, the violent transfer of the symbiont, the battles
fought. The introduction of one Trill symbiont had changed the society
as much as it had the host's body. And yet, that society had remained
distinctly Gidari.

"It is I," Nailati told him, "who told my people of other worlds. I
taught them to fly among the stars. My people now trade with many
aliens, but we keep ourselves pure. We are Trill no longer. We are

Kira remembered teasing Dax once about a paluku (look up) on one of
Bajor's moons. She was beginning to regret even that light-hearted
taunting. She'd seen more different and frightening creatures in the
last three hours in this one forest on this one mountain on this one
continent on Gidar than she had her entire life up to that point--to the
point of her death, though she tried not to think about that. In just
those three hours, apart from the magnificent beasts in the valleys,
she'd seen sloths as big as two-storey houses, waterbugs which preyed on
the sloths, plants that slapped her hand when she tried to pick the
flower from its stem, birds as small as insects, and insects as large as
O'Brien's cat.

One creature had captivated her. It was an adorable-looking creature,
small and covered in long, soft fur with large brown eyes. Kira thought
it not too dissimilar from the stuffed bear Bashir kept in his quarters
back on the station. It sat on a tree branch, half-hidden by folliage,
and watched as Tarlingen warily walked past it. Tarlingen had waved
Kira by, never taking her eyes off the little bear. Kira watched it,
too, caught up in its luscious fur and sympathetic eyes. She didn't see
the fallen branch at her feet. It snapped when she stepped on it and
the bear snapped too. Its eyes closed to menacing slits and its lips
pulled back into a snarl that revealed rows of razor-fine teeth. It
leapt toward them, teeth-bared and claws unfurled. Only Tarlingen's
quick skill with the spear kept one of them from being bitten or
shredded by the thing.

The next creature of note was not so terrifying. It was annoying. It
was a *midulka**, which translated into Standard as "mimick", and that
was exactly what it did. It mimicked. Everything. Any words one might
say, the direction one took; it stopped when one stopped and started
when one started. And it had decided Kira was the most interesting
thing in the forest. It had been following them for about forty-five
minutes already and seemed not likely to give up.

The mimick was, if one were playing by Bajoran rules of appearance, a
dangerous animal. It was taller than the bear-creature had been, with
leathery skin and clawed toes. It walked hunched over but on its back
legs, holding its forearms in front of it much like Kira held the basket
she carried. Its toothy mouth seemed to grin at her as it cocked its
head from side to side.

But this wasn't Bajor, and things were deceptive on Gidar. This was a
docile creature, a plant-eater according to Tarlingen's quiet whispers.
The mimick either didn't hear or didn't consider her its source of
amusement. It only repeated the words that Kira said. It had found her
at the slapping plant and hadn't even been scared off by the
bear-creature. Kira had tried to shoo it away but that only drew its
interest more keenly. It had tried to shoo her away but followed when
she tried to leave it behind. Tarlingen only shook her head and kept

The forest was getting darker, though there was still enough light for
a few more hours, according to Tarlingen. Enough time to get back to
the palace before nightfall. Kira got the feeling that Tarlingen didn't
want to be outside after dark. From what she'd seen in the daylight,
Kira couldn't blame her.

The mimick followed them the entire way through the forest. Kira
stopped for a moment at the break of the trees, and the mimick did the
same. She wasn't paying him any mind though. She was marveling at the
color of the sunset. The sun itself had become the deepest blood-red.
The sky that touched its edges was a glowing crimson that darkened as it
reached up toward the mountains and over her head. It didn't seem right
that there would be light at all.

Tarlingen stepped past her. "We should go. It will be dark very soon."

"It will be dark very soon," the mimick repeated, apparently having
decided that a moving, talking Tarlingen was more interesting than a
standing, staring Kira.

Tarlingen sighed, unhappy with the mimick's change in taste. The
mimick sighed too.

They followed the treeline for another fifty yards before Tarlingen
abruptly stopped, which caused the mimick to run right into her. Kira
stopped too, and tried to see in the dimming light. She heard a snap to
her left, just into the trees. Tarlingen turned her back, but Kira was
curious and she peered harder into the folliage.

Then she saw it, close to the ground, perhaps half a meter up into the
lower branches of a leafy tree. It was long and slender, like a
tenticle, and it reached up and grasped something in the tree. The snap
sounded again and the tentacle lowered, its prize wrapped in its grip.

Kira followed the unusual arc of the tentacle as it folded itself
forward toward the ground. Kira crouched down to see it better.

"Stand now!" Tarlingen whispered.

"Stand now!" the mimick repeated.

Kira ignored them, having finally decided what it was the tentacle had
grasped. A nut. It wasn't even a tentacle at all. It was a tail. A
prehensile tail, to be exact, and it belonged to a snake which now was
delicately nibbling the morsel it had plucked. Its thick, reptilian
legs confused her for a moment, but its head and slender body gave it
more similarities to snakes, as she knew them, than to lizards.

Her curiosity satisfied, Kira stood. Tarlingen and the mimick were
both facing away from the trees still. "What?" she asked, keeping her
voice low, but not whispering as they had.

Tarlingen's head snapped around. Her eyes were wide. But she still
didn't face the trees.

Kira heard a chirp and turned back to see the snake step slowly toward
her on its two front legs--or rather, its only legs. She backed up a
bit, but Tarlingen stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. The mimick
tried that as well, but could only reach her rib cage.

The snake emerged from the underbrush not one meter from Kira's feet.
It still had the nut tucked carefully in its tail, which it now held
straight out over its head toward her. It placed the nut on the ground
and then lowered its tail.

"Take it," Tarlingen ordered.

"Take it," said the mimick.

"Take what?" Kira asked. She really didn't know if they were referring
to the nut or the snake itself, which might be a useful sample for Bashir

"Take the nut," Tarlingen told her. Her voice was quiet but also
urgent. The mimick dutifully repeated.

Kira really didn't know what they were so afraid of. The snake ate
nuts. It obviously was not a carnivore. Besides, she had several of
the nuts in her basket already. "I already have a sample of those,"
Kira replied.

The snake edged forward a step more, and nudged the nut toward her with
its nose. Then it backed up to where it was before.

"Take the nut and eat it!" Tarlingen demanded, obviously agitated.

"Take the nut and eat it!" the mimick insisted, hopping nervously from
one foot to the other.

"I'm not hungry," she told them, finding it annoying that she'd have to
remind Tarlingen of that. It was Tarlingen who had explained her
present state, after all.

The snake moved forward again, nudging the nut with its nose. But this
time it flicked its tongue out a few times.

"Take the nut!" Tarlingen urged, pushing her forward.

"Take the nut!" the mimick squealed.

Kira resisted. She'd had enough of orders and pushing. She was
Honored, and she decided now was a good time to call on the respect that
apparently warranted in the Gidari culture. "Will you please explain to
me what is so important about that nut?"

The snake didn't move back this time, but stayed right near the nut. It
flicked its tongue again, and its eyes flashed red.

Tarlingen pleaded. "Take it!" The mimick merely darted away.

Kira swallowed. The mimick had run away. The mimick hadn't left their
sides for over three hours. It had left the forest without fear. There
was obviously something to that snake.

Kira slowly knelt and crept toward the snake. *It can't hurt me,** she
told herself. *I'm Honored.** The snake's eyes returned to normal, and
it again nudged the nut to her. This time she took it.

"Eat it," Tarlingen whispered, much more calmly now.

Kira wondered if her sense of taste had been altered by the substance
within her in the same way her sense of feeling had. She lifted the nut
to her mouth and tried not to think about the spots where the snake had
already started to eat. She popped it into her mouth, deciding to chew
and swallow it quickly so she wouldn't have to think about it. But she
nearly spat it right back out. It was the most bitter thing she'd ever
tasted. It burned her tongue and made her eyes water.

"Show him you like it," Tarlingen coached.

She didn't like it. Not at all. But she nodded and mmm'd so the snake
would think she did. It turned abruptly and darted back into the trees.

"Don't spit it out," Tarlingen admonished. "Just swallow it down."

*Easy for her to say,** Kira thought. "Explain that," she mumbled,
still trying to swallow the foul thing.

"That snake could have destroyed you in less than a gleer, a minute,"
Tarlingen explained, leading the way back to the palace. "It's the most
venomous creature on Gidar. Its venom causes rapid necrosis. You would
have rotted, Honored or not."

Kira swallowed the last of it. "And the nut?"

Tarlingen didn't even bother turning around. "It likes to share."

Ezri Dax clutched hard the little bear to her chest as if, by holding
it, she could somehow hold on to Julian. It hurt so much more this
time, and she knew that was because it was 'this time'. Not the only
time. She and Jadzia had lost him three times now. Four, really, but
they hadn't known he was replaced by a changeling and held prisoner by
the Jem'Hadar. Each time before he'd been her friend. Each time
before, he came back.

But this time she knew he was more than a friend. This time she knew
she loved him. And this time she knew he wouldn't be coming back. Dr.
Gerani had run a DNA test on the blood they'd found just to be sure.
This time, he really was dead.

The part of her that was Ezri Tigan had never felt that kind of pain
before. She had lost her father when she was too young to really
understand what death meant. Her chest hurt now like someone had sliced
her in two. Everything she saw--the bear, her own uniform, even a bare
wall--reminded her of him and told her again that there would be no
happy ending this time.

The part of her that was Dax offered the comfort of experience to them
both. There had many loved ones lost in the lives of its many hosts.
Time would dull the pain. Life would go on. It always had before.

But with each new host, Dax felt feelings anew. And the knowledge that
it would pass eventually did not lessen the pain that Ezri Dax felt. And
combined with her present loss was the full weight of all her loved ones
lost through time.

Ezri clutched the toy harder to her chest, hoping that somehow it could
bring her the same comfort it had given Julian as a child.

Julian Bashir found it a lot easier to analyze the changes in Nailati's
physiology caused by the symbiosis than the symptoms caused by the
Blight the Dominion had introduced. The latter had frustrated him for
months after his return to DS9 following his discovery of the vaccine on
Boranis III. The former was new and fascinating. No other known
species that had acted as host to a Trill symbiont had ever had such
drastic changes. In fact, the symbiosis had caused an alteration in the
Leader's DNA itself within hours of being joined.

But it was that DNA change that made her even more susceptible to the
disease the Dominion had cooked up for the Gidari people. For the
Gidari, the disease would likely behave as it had on Teplan. The weak
and infirm--and the Leader--would fall quickly, leaving the others to
carry it for months, years, or even decades before they quickened.

One thing was reassuring, however. No matter what changes had taken
place in the Gidari hosts DNA, the symbiont remained static. Not even
the disease had affected it, just as it hadn't affected Dax back on
Teplan III, so it could be passed on to a new host if necessary. The
Dominion was most likely unaware of the dual nature of the Leader's
physiology, otherwise they would have taken the symbiont under account
when designing the Gidari's Blight. The loss of the Leader would have
destablized the entire cultural and political infrastructure on Gidar.

He was startled by the door. Kira stepped through backwards, saying
something to someone in the hall. She had a basket which she set on the
floor so she could shut the thick wooden door.

Finally, once it was closed, she turned and leaned back against it.
"You won't believe it," she told him simply.

Bashir smiled at that. "Neither will you."

"Did you find the cure?" she asked, standing up straight again.

Deflated, Bashir's smile vanished. "I'm a doctor, Colonel, not a
miracle worker. But I did find something very intriguing. In fact, if
I weren't already dead, I'd probably be killed for knowing too much."

Something in the basket moved and a small, wriggling bag fell out. Kira
snatched it up and held it out to him. "I found at least three things
that probably would have killed me if I weren't already . . . Honored.
There are creatures out there. . . ." She let that hang without
offering any descriptions.

"I was wondering how you'd done," Bashir told her, taking the bag.
"What is it?"

"Haftha," Kira replied, picking up the basket again. "And that's only
the most dangerous thing in the basket. Outside, on the mountain, in
the forest, is another story. Don't even get me started on the valley.
What about you? What did you find?"

Bashir set the haftha's bag back in the basket and leaned closer so she
would hear him. "A Trill," he whispered.

"What?!" Kira exclaimed, forgetting all about the basket. "Where? How?
Like us?"

Bashir put a finger to his mouth. It was a rather big secret in Gidari
society; they didn't need anyone listening at the door. "The Leader,"
he told her, speaking very quietly. "Gidari host, Trill symbiont, older
than Dax by about five hundred years."

Kira whispered, too. "How? The air here, the light."

"The Trill host died," Bashir explained. "A ship crashed here. The
Trill host was dying, but made a priestess who found her understand. The
priestess took the symbiont into her own body and changed. Right down
to the DNA."

Kira sat down on a chair and didn't say anything for a few minutes.
"What about descendants?" she finally asked. "Why aren't we seeing
giant Gidari running around?"

"Sterile," Bashir answered, turning to lean back on the counter.

Kira stood. "There were successors though," she said, though it
sounded more like a question. "This one Gidari isn't eight hundred
years old."

Bashir shook his head. "No, but no Leader has had a child since the
first became joined. They must have some other system for choosing a
Leader. Or she had her heir before becoming the Leader at all."

"She didn't tell you?"

"I didn't ask," Bashir replied, sitting down beside Kira. "If I don't
find an antidote, we'll likely witness the succession. I didn't want to
remind her of that."

At that moment, the haftha's bag wriggled out of the basket again.
Bashir jumped up to grab it before it got free of the bag. "So what
else did you bring me?"

As Kira told him about her day in the forest, Bashir sorted the spoils.
He didn't relish the idea of hurting the few small animals Kira had
brought, but he did take samples of blood and venom and run them through
some extensive scans.

The plants were interesting as well. No chloroform to produce oxygen,
they were mostly orange in color. Many contained chemicals and
components he couldn't even recognize. It would take weeks to analyze
them thoroughly. But he didn't have weeks. He didn't even have one week.

"The thing actually followed me around, repeating everything I said,"
Kira was saying. "Only the snake scared him off."

Bashir was only half listening. He had other things on his mind. He
was trying to remember everything he had learned about the Blight. And
he was calculating just how much time he had left before his "second"
life followed his first.
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