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

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Philippe de la Matraque

Jul 20, 2020, 3:55:30 AM7/20/20
Title: The Honored
Author: Gabrielle Lawson
Part: 2a/?
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.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Honored
by Gabrielle Lawson

Chapter Two

Odo sat alone in his quarters, feeling himself dripping down his face.
He needed to rest, but he felt no reason to do so. He had no will to
change, to move, to live. Nerys was gone. Over and over, he played the
recording, a copy he'd made from the logs Sisko had found. Bashir went
down and then she was thrown over to him. The shot came from behind and
she crumpled over the dead doctor. Dead. Gone. Taken by a Founder,
one of his own people. What was life now without her? There was
nothing left. Not among the Solids, not in the Link. Nothing. He was

"Odo?" It was a familiar voice, one which Odo didn't want to hear just
now. "Odo? I know you're there, Pally," it said. "I heard what
happened. Figured you could use a shoulder to cry on. Why don't you
come over? I can't come there."

"Go away, Vic," Odo finally answered, forcing himself to form the vocal
cords that gave him voice. "I don't feel like talking."

"I figured as much," the singer said, still a disembodied voice over
the comm system. "I figured you're sittin' on the floor contemplating
your emptiness and melting all over the carpet. You need to talk to
someone, Pally. It doesn't have to be me."

"Who is there left?" Odo asked. "Nerys is gone."

"So is Julian," Vic said, his voice sad. "I rather liked the kid. He
was having a rather tough time of things. I hope he's getting some rest

"Who needs to talk?" Odo shot at him, angry now. "Me or you?"

"Whoa there, Pal," Vic said. "No need to yell at me. Why don't you do
yourself a favor and turn in for the night? I'll still be here when you
need to come by." The comm channel closed with a click and Vic was
gone. Silence filled the room again, and Odo wished Vic's voice would
come back. A tear fell from his eye and reverted into the golden color
of his natural form. He couldn't hold it anymore. Following the tear,
he sunk to the floor, spreading out over the carpet. He didn't know if
he'd ever get up again.

Nodgarin was a sparkling mountain, inlaid with lights or jewels,
standing tall against the red and furious sky. "We must stop here and
continue on foot," Tarlingen stated, breaking the silence that had
filled the car.

Kira had to force her eyes from the mountain and back to the
comparative plainness of the transport. Tarlingen stepped into the next
car, presumably to give orders to the others who were carrying the supplies.

"How can something be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time?"
Bashir asked her.

"You mean our liaison?" Kira asked.

He shook his head. "Her, the planet, that mountain out there." He
pointed out the window where a village was taking shape at the foot of
the mountain. "I don't know whether to be fascinated or horrified."

"I know what you mean," Kira said. "You think you find something
understandable and then something different comes out to blow it all away."

The transport slowed and Tarlingen returned. "You'll need to cover
again. The sun still shines." She led them outside again into the
village. A crowd had gathered, but their attention was not on the
newcomers, but on a scaffolding not far from the transport.

"What's going on?" Bashir asked, as Tarlingen led them in that direction.

"I do not know." She stepped up to the crowd, but it didn't part.
"*Chishot!**" she barked. Heads turned, and taking in her black cloak,
they bowed and moved away, allowing passage.

Kira could see now the commotion and it froze her steps. The face was
purplish, the eyes the same reflective white. He was Gidari, but the
features of the face were very human. "Maylon," Bashir breathed beside her.

"Julian!" the Gidari called. "So they got you, too? I don't get it. I
left you for dead."

"Silence!" another figure in black ordered, pulling back on Maylon's
silver hair. "You may not speak to the Honored." Maylon, whose hands
were tied behind him, snarled in pain, but the man seemed not to care.
"Forgive Honored," he pleaded to Bashir. "He will trouble you no more."

Bashir seemed at a loss. Tarlingen, impatient that they had stopped,
walked back to them and whispered, "Forgive. We haven't time for this."

"I knew him," Bashir said. "What are they doing to him?"

"You do not know him," Tarlingen retorted. "He is not the one you
remember. He is Harglin Nastrof the Younger. He has taken Life." She
spat at the ground at the foot of Nastrof's platform. "His Life will be

Bashir continued to stare. "How?" he found himself asking.

"Forgive and let us go," Tarlingen ordered quietly. "It is not your

Still staring at the Gidari on the platform, Bashir nodded. Kira
turned back to the platform. The Gidari there--the executioner, she
guessed--bowed and then raised Nastrof's hands behind him and secured
them to a post there. He stepped back and off the platform, which was
removed by two others on the ground. Nastrof screamed as his body
weight pulled him down, but his hands, secured to the post, stopped his
fall. He continued to writhe and groan after the initial fall. His
shoulders snapped and he fell again, but only as far as his arms would
allow. Bashir, beside her, turned away. "It is done," Tarlingen said,
impatient. "Let us go."

But it wasn't done. Kira could still hear the man as they passed the
crowd and moved farther into the village. If she turned her head, she
could see him wriggling there, shaking from pain, as he hung above the
people who watched and shook their fists at him. He started screaming
again, and it was a long time before Kira couldn't hear or imagine his
suffering. Bashir didn't say another word.

Finally, the sound was left behind and little buildings lined busy
streets around her. Little Purple-faced children ran around, chasing
each other and a small reptilian animal, which squawked in excitement.
All parted in front of Tarlingen though, obviously aware of her station.
Some of the older children bowed in respect. All the adults did. A
plaza was up ahead, with an ornate fountain, depicting a battle, with an
oversized Gidari woman in the center. "We enter Nodgarin," Tarlingen
said. "We must drink of the water."

She stepped up to the edge of the fountain, and Kira and Bashir
followed just behind her. Tarlingen slipped off one glove, and dipped
her hand into the water, which dripped like blood past her fingers. Red,
like the sky. She jumped back, extending her hands out to either side
of her to guard her charges. "*Farsinglot!**" she yelled. Runners came
from all around the plaza toward the fountain. They carried spears with
them. Kira strained against the arm at her waist to see what had caused
the alarm.

The wall of the fountain was just below waist-high and she could see
over the edge into the dark red water. Strange fish were serenely
swimming there, with heads made mostly of huge, ghostly, translucent
teeth. But there was one thrashing about, forcing the surface of the
water into turbulent waves. There was something covering its head,
something black, but Kira could not make it out through the fish's
convulsions. The runners were apparently familiar with it, however, and
they jumped up onto the wall, their spears held ready. They were mostly
men, but Kira noted a few women among them. Gender was not always a
determiner of station or status, Kira decided. One of the men yelled
something unintelligible and thrust his spear into the water.

The water fought back. Or the fish did. Or the thing which had the
fish. Kira couldn't tell, but the man struggled to keep his footing as
the spear twitched and spun. Finally he fell right over into the water.
There was a collective gasp of alarm among the others, who kept their
spears at the ready. It was a deep pool, judging from the fact that he
fell all the way in, pulled down by the constant grip he held on the
spear. Finally, he faded from view altogether, and Kira was amazed that
the thing--whatever it was that had a hold of that fish--had been able
to kill a man. It couldn't have been more than a dozen centimeters across.

A dark shadow moved somewhere near the bottom of the pool. It rose and
formed slowly into the figure of a man, silver hair catching the light
that filtered in through the water. He reached a hand up and was caught
by one of the others, one of the women. She pulled, jumping down from
the wall, and the man came up, dripping water from his face, but
smiling. He got his footing and sat on the wall with his feet still
dangling among the startled fish. He lifted his other arm. The spear
came up with it. It was broken in the middle, but it held the black
thing on the end of it. He held it up for the others to see.
"*Farsinglot!**" he cried in triumph.

"It's a waterbug," Bashir said, as surprised as she was. And it was.
It had six gangly, clawed legs radiating from a thick black torso. At
one end was a head with no feature so promenent as its angled fangs. It
was a waterbug, but apparently a vicious one.

"One thing you learn on Gidar," Tarlingen said, with a hint of smile.
She and the other Gidari around the fountain bent down to kneel on one
knee, with the left leg placed on the ground perpendicular to the right
foot. She stood. "Never drink with a 'waterbug.'" She waited for the
man to exit the pool, before standing up to dip her hand in again.
"Drink," she told them.

Bashir shrugged. "I guess it can't hurt us," he said. But he didn't
remove his glove. He dipped his hand in, lifting the edge of his hood
with the other hand so that he could drink the water.

Kira took a deep breath. There were fish in the water. She could deal
with that, she told herself. She had drunk from rivers and streams
during the Occupation. But a man had just been in the pool. He had
just killed one of those bugs in the pool. And she hadn't had to drink
from a river or stream in six years. It wasn't her idea of refreshment
now. Still, she didn't think it worth a scene. She followed Bashir's

The water was cool and surprisingly sweet. Tarlingen was already
moving off, toward the tall mountain. Bashir followed, and Kira
followed him.

Every building they passed poured forth people who stared at the
"Honored." They just stood, staring, whispering to each other, until
Tarlingen and the entourage came up even with them. They bowed then,
like a long, moving line, a caterpillar moving. The bows flowed up the
road, past the buildings, toward the mountain. But Kira was struck more
by which bow. It was not the one that beige-cloaked Gidari gave in
deference to Tarlingen. It was the one that Tarlingen gave in deference
to the her and Bashir: the Honored.

The village was a small one and was behind them in minutes. Still,
Gidari lined their way, though in admittedly lessening numbers. The
mountain loomed ahead, growing larger at every pace. Kira scanned it,
looking for a grand palace, shining spires, tall towers perhaps. But
all she saw were trees and rocks and snow. At least she thought it was
snow. It was red like the water in the pool. Oh, and there was the
sparkle that seemed to have no source.

At the base of the mountain, she saw a cave. Tarlingen stopped before
the entrance and told the others to leave the supplies. From the inner
darkness of the cave, twenty new Gidari arrived, each in the black cloak
that Tarlingen wore. They picked up the supplies and carried them
inside, disappearing into the darkness where the sunlight didn't reach.

"The way is sacred," Tarlingen warned, "and there is no light." She
pulled a cord from her sleeve and passed one end to Bashir. "Take hold,
lest you become lost within." The cord was too short to pass on to
Kira, so Bashir held out his hand to her.

Tarlingen nodded, apparently feeling this adequate. Kira had not been
inside a cave for several years, but the memories came back to her
easily. A cave was safety at the same time it was risk. It offered
shelter, but threatened confusion. One could easily get lost, just as
Tarlingen said. There were jagged rocks hiding in the darkness. But
those same risks kept the enemy or an intruder at bay.

As the last of the daylight left her behind, Kira felt the darkness
close around her. Literally. She could feel it. She remembered that,
too. At times, it had been a comfort, a refuge from the ugliness of
life made visible by the light. At other times, it had been a curse.
Now, she wasn't sure how it felt, only that she felt it. Bashir felt
it, too, it seemed. His fingers tightened around hers.

Ezri Dax sat at the bar at Quark's and waited for Quark to settle down.
He was busily bobbing from one customer to another. Leeta saw her
though, from the Promenade, and entered just as Quark put his tray down
and met her at the bar. "What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" he asked,
tactfully dropping his usual smarminess.

"You can toast with me, Quark," she told him. "To Julian and Nerys."

"Me, too," Leeta said, sitting down beside her. "If you don't mind."

Ezri looked over at her and smiled. Leeta had no reason to be nervous
about asking. She had been a friend of Jadzia's before Ezri knew her.
And she and Julian had been involved before she'd married Rom. "Of
course," Ezri told her. "They were your friends, too."

Quark set three glasses on the bar and filled them. "I've said it
before about Bashir," he said. "He was a good customer."

Ezri raised her glass to that, knowing it was high praise from a
Ferengi. "And Nerys."

"A woman, all the way," he added. "She would stand up to anything. I
admired her."

It was rare to hear Quark speak so sincerely; one could almost forget
he was a Ferengi. "I did, too," Ezri added.

"She was strong," Leeta agreed. "But also kind and sensitive. She had
a heart."

Ezri raised her glass again. "Julian had the biggest heart of anyone
I'd ever met."

"And he didn't even know it," Leeta added. "He was special."

Quark raised his own glass. "They both were."

Ezri sat with them for perhaps another hour and then left Leeta to Rom
and Quark to his customers. She wanted to be alone. She wandered the
Promenade past the Infirmary and the temple. She paused for a moment
there in the door. She remembered Julian's face looking down at her--at
Jadzia. He was worried and busy, but she could see the hurt in his
eyes. He knew from the moment he saw the readings on the tricorder that
he would lose her. And it hurt him. She remembered. And now she felt
it herself. Seeing him in her mind's eye, she was looking over him as
he died, as he had looked over her. She had lost so many people, now
that she was Dax and not just Ezri. But the pain was always so hard,
each time. It never got easier.

Darkness. He'd had darkness before. It both unsettled him and calmed
him. He'd been in cave before. Several, in fact. And then there was
the cell--the dark cell in the bunker of Block 11. He'd called the cell
his refuge. And it was. But it was also a place of pain and death. If
the door hadn't opened every few hours, he would have suffocated. The
air stifled him. He felt that again now.

He couldn't see Tarlingen anymore. He couldn't see anything.

Remembering his agreement with Kira, he forced his mind to concentrate
on the path he couldn't see. It was easier than focusing on the
memories. They had gone straight in from the entrance which had been
wide and open. It was there that he heard a faint roaring, the echo of
water falling in another area of the cave. He wished now he'd removed
the hood, but he knew it would do little good. Absolute darkness was
absolute. Only light could let him see, and they left the light behind
at the entrance of the cave. Tarlingen, linked to him by the cord, had
moved farther to the left without turning, perhaps indicating a
narrowing of the path. That was about twenty meters ago, and the
rushing sound diminished with every step. Now the cord pulled him to
right. His head hit something. Hard. But it didn't hurt. He did,
however, drop the cord. He couldn't help it. Tarlingen was shorter
than he was and probably went right under whatever it was, but he had
hit it. When she kept going, the cord was pulled from his hand. He
didn't move. It was safer to stay put.

"Are you alright?" Kira asked, having apparently heard the impact that
Bashir had barely felt.

"Didn't even feel it," Bashir told her. "However, we've lost our guide."

"Forgive," Tarlingen's voice came out of the darkness. "I forgot your
height." A short rod of blue light appeared, casting a soft glow on the
completely flat walls of the cave. He couldn't see her, but he could
see her hand. She held the cord again. "Please, we must hurry."

The light winked out as he took hold of the cord. The cord immediately
became taught. Bashir ducked, hoping to clear the low ceiling, and was
pulled along. In turn, he pulled Kira along with him. They turned left
after another ten meters. The floor began to slope upward in a steady
fifteen-degree angle. Sixty-five meters and then left again. Then
right, almost immediately. They continued on like that for perhaps an
hour--or a Glif--turning this way and that and this way again. Every
once in awhile, he'd feel a breeze from a connecting pathway, but no
light ever permeated the darkness allowing him to see it. It must be a
maze, he thought. But Tarlingen's pace never wavered. She knew the way
by heart. He would, too, by the time they arrived at their destination.
There were times that being genetically enhanced became a distinct

When the light finally opened up on them, it was the white artificial
light that he was used to back home on the station. It strained his
eyes, making him glad for the hood. Tarlingen stopped, perhaps to allow
their eyes time to adjust. They were in a hallway. But it was more
than that. The ceiling was four stories above his head, and ornate
railings at every level looked down on the new arrivals. The hallway
was perhaps a hundred meters long, with no visible connecting corridors
to break it up. He could see doors at the end of the hall. Two doors,
as tall as the ceiling and carved with gold inlays, though he couldn't
make out any images or symbols from that distance.

Tarlingen had taken the cord already, as it was no longer needed. But
Bashir didn't feel like letting go of Kira's hand just yet. Still, it
might be taken for weakness, and this did not look like a place for
weakness. He dropped the colonel's hand.

"May we," Kira asked, and she paused for just a second, "'uncover' now?"

"No," Tarlingen answered, replacing her own hood. "We go before the
Leader. All must remain covered." She took a breath, and Bashir
thought perhaps she was nervous. "When we are in the Chamber, you must
remain silent. Answer if you are spoken to, but be brief and
respectful. Follow me and repeat my movements. This is very important.
Life and Death reside together in the Chamber."

She dropped her head and dusted off her cloak. Then she looked from
her own feet to those of her guests. Bashir looked down, too.
Dust--strangely, not mud--covered his boots. "From here," Tarlingen
indicated, slipping her right hand beneath the left lapel of her cloak.
Bashir reached inside his own cloak and found several pockets there.
Tarlingen drew out a silvery cloth, so he felt in each pocket for
something similar.

Kira found the cloth as well, and so they all three knelt down to dust
off their boots.

"Your head," Tarlingen reminded, and Bashir remembered that he'd run
into the ceiling earlier. But, of course, he couldn't see if there was
dust there or not.

"I'll get it," Kira offered. With one hand she held the front edge of
his hood down as she dusted with the other.

Tarlingen stood and replaced the cloth with ease. It took Bashir
slightly longer to find the correct pocket again. The Gidari looked
over her charges carefully, and Bashir began to believe her about Life
and Death--though the threat was weak as he was already dead. Finally
satisfied, Tarlingen gestured that they should follow her down the long
hallway. He glanced upward as they walked and noted that now the
railings weren't the only things looking down on them. Blue faces and
white eyes peered at them from above. Most were Liytners, he surmised,
as they wore the black as Tarlingen. Some wore a combination of red and
black. All looked on with interest, but did not appear very surprised.

The doors were huge, and the engravings were of the mountain and the
world beyond it. The gold accented the sparkle of the mountain, the
rays of sunlight, the streams of water. It was beautiful. But there
were also figures in black etched into the doors that Bashir hadn't seen
from farther back. These were predators and dangers: storm clouds and
shadows hiding among the trees. Life and Death together. Two black and
red cloaked Gidari stood at the door handles, with long, bladed staffs
held at the ready.

Tarlingen stopped about twenty feet back and turned around to face her
guests. "When we march," she said, sounding like a teacher, "we either
make sound," she demonstrated by stamping a foot, "or we do not." She
picked up one foot and took one step forward, her toe touching down
before the heel. It looked very much like a horse prancing, but it made
no sound-at all. "In the Chamber," she continued, "we want silence.

"Our hands," she held up her hands allowing her sleeves to fall down
around her elbows, "must also be placed with care." She turned her
palms inward and crossed her hands until the thumbs caught on each
other. Then she lowered her hands, so that they lined up evenly with
her forearms, which remained straight across her torso. Bashir looked
to Kira and then repeated the movements. Tarlingen nodded her approval.
"Now, beneath the cloak." She dropped her hands, and her sleeves fell
down again. She raised them quickly, following the same movements to
cross her hands beneath the sleeves. She waited for Bashir and Kira to
get it right and then nodded again. "We do this only as the door is
fully open. Once in the Chamber, we will stand. You will see from me
how to stand."

She turned sharply, a correct about face. *More teaching**, Bashir
thought, but he already knew that one from the Academy. He hoped Kira
had been paying attention. Tarlingen stepped forward, now stopping only
five feet before the doors. She stood at attention, arms to her sides,
as the two attendants turned to open the massive doors. Bashir watched
her arms. They didn't move until the doors were directly perpendicular
to the walls that held them. He snapped his hands up just when she did,
folding them perfectly beneath the sleeves of his cloak.

She pranced, he pranced. Kira kept in step just to his left, and the
three of them entered the room. It was more impressive even than the
hallway or the four storey doors. The room gleamed with gold and
silver. Weapons hung from the walls, alternating with religious or
cultural symbols. A long carpet lay across the floor connecting the
doors to the throne at the far end. There was no other furniture on the
main floor. The throne itself was oversized and raised on another
level, perhaps a full meter above the floor. There was no sound, and no
one sat upon the throne, as Bashir had expected. In fact, it appeared
that the three of them were alone in the great chamber.

Tarlingen stopped five meters in front of the throne. Bashir stopped
behind her, and waited. Tarlingen didn't move, so neither did he.

And then she came. The Leader stepped through the back wall, though
Bashir didn't see it happen. "Lower your head," Tarlingen whispered
urgently. Bashir did as he was told. He could just see the Leader's
booted feet from under his eyelids. They came to the front of the
throne and then stood still. There was still no sound.

Tarlingen bowed, slowly so that Bashir and Kira could see her
movements. Her arms crossed so that the backs of her fingertips touched
each other, then her arms swept backward as with all the other bows.
This time, she put her right leg back, taking her bow lower as she
dipped her head. She waited for Kira and Bashir to execute the bow and
then stood again. This time she widened her stance and placed her hands
behind her back, though she held them a little ways out from her body.
The tips of her thumbs and pinkies met each other.

"What is this?!" a voice thundered. But it wasn't one voice. It was
three, in harmony, though somewhat discordant with anger. "Where is the

Tarlingen moved one of her hands in an unmistakable signal for he and
Kira to remain standing. But she bowed again, this time sitting back on
her back leg and folding herself even closer to the floor. "Forgive,"
she begged, and her voice shook. "He is here, Leader. He has been

The Leader didn't tell Tarlingen to rise, so she stayed put. But the
Leader moved. She stepped down from her platform, and Bashir could
still only see her waist without looking up. She stood in front of him.

"Our enemy took his Life, Leader," Tarlingen explained, "as he has
tried to take yours."

The Leader's three voices were quiet, the anger forgotten, when she
spoke again. "And the female?"

"She was with the Healer," Tarlingen replied, a little more confident.
"She was mistaken for his Other."

The Leader turned sharply, and Bashir felt the brush of wind from her
robes as they whipped around with her. "Why?"

"Leader?" Tarlingen's voice shook. So did her hands. Her arms were

"We ask the Healer," the Leader said. "Rise. Answer, Healer. Why was
your Life taken from you?"

Tarlingen sighed and rose. Bashir wasn't quite sure how to respond. He
preferred not concentrating too hard on the fact that he was dead. But
Tarlingen had said to answer if he was spoken to. "The Dom--the Enemy
is angry with me." Bashir offered, preferring not to risk elaborating
unless it was necessary.

She came back around to face him, though that still did not put them
eye to eye. "Why you? The Enemy is at war with all your people and
more. Why you?"

"I was their prisoner," Bashir answered, trying to see the Dominion's
side, and not enjoying it, "but I escaped. Twice. They tried to kill
me before, but I survived. They tried to take my mind, but I kept it. I
tried their patience."

"And you?" the Leader asked with a swish of her robes as she turned to
Kira. "Was the Enemy angry with you?"

"It is possible," Kira replied. "I have killed a Founder and fought
against them. But my life was taken only because I was there when they
took his."

"Are you angry with him? His death caused yours."

"No." Kira's voice was soft, but sure. "I am not angry with him."

The Leader was silent and she walked away. She stepped back up on the
platform and stopped just in front of her throne. "Look at us," she

Bashir lifted his head, expecting to see her face, but he only saw her
torso. He raised his head more and was shocked at her height. She was
perhaps twice as tall as the other Gidari he'd seen. She was unhooded
and uncloaked. She wore instead gold and jewels and shining robes of
red and purple silk. But her face drew his attention. Lesions. Ugly,
black, starfish-shaped lesions marred the natural beauty of her Gidari
face. It was the Blight. And he'd been unable to save Ekoria from it.
How was he to save this woman?

"Take them to their chambers," the Leader sang. "Bring the Healer to
me in half a Glif. There is much to be done." She turned and her robes
flipped around her long legs. Tarlingen bowed again, and Bashir
repeated her movements. They waited until the Leader was gone, fading
back through the wall behind her throne. Then they turned and marched
silently out again. Only when the massive doors closed again did
Tarlingen relax her shoulders. "You did well," she breathed, obviously
relieved. She pulled something from inside her cloak and handed it to
him. "I will show you to your chambers. You can work there."

"I'm sorry for your loss, Benjamin," Admiral Necheyev (check name
against later seasons) stated. "I know you counted Bashir a friend. He
was a damn fine doctor. And Kira. She meant a lot to you, too. Started
out rocky, but you two made a good team."

Captain Sisko nodded. "Thank you. I've notified Julian's family and
the Bajoran government. They're sending a new liaison officer. We'll
need a new doctor."

"Of course," the Admiral replied. "I'm also sorry they didn't reach
that Outpost. Bashir was needed there."

"The Dominion apparently didn't care," Sisko said, a little angry.

"I wasn't blaming Bashir. Without that aid, however, dozens of the
colonists were lost. Still, the war doesn't stop for them or for your
people. Keep up the good fight, Captain. We need you there."

"Of course, Admiral," Sisko replied, letting the anger go. It was a
tragedy all the way around. But the war wouldn't stop and he was damn
sure he'd make the Dominion pay the next time they met.

Once the door to their chambers closed, Bashir started to relax, but
only a little. He and Kira were alone, but they were alone on an alien
world in an alien palace. And the aliens expected so much of him. He
stopped just inside the door and watched Kira as she moved about the
room. She moved like a cat, exploring every wall and space. She pulled
off the hood as she checked one of the cargo containers.

"It's definitely the Blight," he told her, removing his own hood and
examining the device Tarlingen had given him. "It took me months to
find a vaccine on Teplan Three. This is a completely different species
and a completely different environment. It's impossible." The device
was similar to a tricorder except bigger. There were two display
screens. One contained symbols that he could only assume were Gidari
writing. The other carried words in Standard. It was a translation device.

Kira stopped exploring and turned to face him. "That's not our main task."

Julian knew what she was getting at. "That looks impossible, too.
We're in the middle of a mountain." He chose one of the crates and sat
down on it. There was no furniture in the room beyond counter tops and

Kira sat beside him. "I think you give up too easily. We still have a
week. You'll be treating the Leader, maybe you can influence her."

"She's going to die," he reminded her.

"Not for awhile," Kira argued. "Besides, you just may find a cure.
Don't sell yourself short. If we can help these people, we should try.
They call the Dominion their enemy. Being their friend can't be a bad
thing. So do your best while you're here. The question is what will I
do while you're working with her. Maybe if I can get back out of the
palace, I can find a way back to the port."


She looked over at him, a question in her eyes. "Of a sort," she said.

Bashir shook his head. "No, medically. If I'm going to have any
chance at all, I'll need samples from outside. Plants, herbs, whatever
might help." It was a long shot, but it could also be a jackpot. A
completely different environment, just like he'd said. On Earth,
countless medicines had been discovered in the rain forests. Things
could be the same here. "It will get you out, let you spend time with
our liaison. Maybe you can influence her. She's a Liytner. Apparently
that means something."

Kira nodded and they sat quietly for a few minutes. Finally, Kira
stood up. "We're wasting our glif or our half-glif or whatever. Where
do you want to start?"

Bashir stood, too, and patted the crate he'd been sitting on.
"Unpacking, I suppose. If you'll do that, I'll see what I can find in
the Gidari medical database." He walked over to the largest of the
computers and found that his translation device fit nicely into the
console. Behind him, Kira set to work unloading things onto the counter.

When Tarlingen Nardek came for him, Bashir had barely had time to
compare Gidari medications with familiar ones. A few were similar, and
thanks to the translating device, he was beginning to get an idea of how
they affected Gidari physiology. It was a start.

This time he was not taken to the throne room. It didn't seem
appropriate for a medical examination anyway, so he wasn't surprised.
The room he was led to turned out to be even more ornate, draped in
silks and trimmed in gold. A guard had opened the door for him, and
Tarlingen had remained in the hall. He went in alone.

The door closed behind him, and he couldn't see anyone else in the
room. There were weapons here, too: swords and daggers and axes. But
there were also symbols. Religious, Bashir supposed. There was a bed
in the far corner and chairs nearer to him. They were oversized, like
the throne. The bed alone was perhaps four meters long. He was in the
Leader's living chambers.

He thought of calling out, but he didn't open his mouth. He didn't
move from his spot by the door either. He was nervous, perhaps because
of Tarlingen's fear of this woman. Life and Death, she had said.
*You're already dead**, he reminded himself. It was a sobering thought,
though it didn't remove all of his anxiety. The Leader still
intimidated him.

Again, he thought of calling out but wondered if that would be a breach
of protocol. Should he step farther inside? Surely, if she was here,
she would have heard the door close.

"Come, Healer," he heard. Three voices in harmony.

He took a step and then another. He forgot protocol and merely walked.
But when she stepped out from around a corner, he remembered himself
and bowed as he had learned from Tarlingen in the throne room.

"Rise," she told him. "You learn quickly, Healer. That is good. But
in this case, it is not practical."

That threw him off guard, though he did rise. She didn't sound nearly
as imperious as she had in their earlier meeting. He didn't know what
to say.

"We do not have many Glif, you and us," she continued. "I am sure that
you did not wish to die. Neither do we. When we are not alone, you
should bow and behave accordingly. But when we are alone, who is to see
that you do not?"

He looked up at her. She was not dressed in splendid robes, but in a
simple one. Her face was bare, and dark green, oozing lesions marred
the beauty of her blue Gidari face. "No one," he answered.

She nodded. "You will need to look at us, to touch us. We sent for
you even when you were an alien, knowing this. Now you are Honored. It
matters less." With that, she sat down on the bed, which brought her to
eye level with Bashir. "Please," she said, "help us."

Bashir felt his anxiety melt away. She was no longer intimidating. She
was vulnerable, and she needed his help. She was his patient. He took
out his tricorder and moved toward her.

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