“Oh Baiku, you look good
.” She studied his face as he took her hands, this powerful soldier in monk's robes. A face etched with war and serenity, truth, and loss. And, as Trelliq looked upon him now as a woman, she felt her earlier trepidations dissolving away like a molecular transporter pattern. His was a spirit at peace with itself, that quelled her own discomfiture by its very presence. And anchored above this still, bottomless depth like a floating vessel, she sensed the worldwise charm that had beguiled her as a child. Perhaps hidden to any who did not share this particular trait. “In robes?”
“The last time you saw me, I wore the ruined clothes of a soldier of the Resistance. As the Prophets teach: The body is clothed in suffering; the soul, in faith and deed.
She withdrew her hood and let him study her face; the face of a Starfleet Commander, Judge Advocate General, Executive Officer of the Sovereign Starship Resolute
, a free Bolian-Bajoran – and a child become woman.
She broke the moment's reflections: “My human colleagues in the JAG Corps have a saying: Worth makes the man
. Baiku Ca'al, hero of Nėhrun, victor at Abreneth, Defender of Reuna colony; the man who sheltered my family when we had none. The man who inspired a frightened child and gave her hope. A man – without whom, I, like so many others, would not be alive, let alone free.”
“As your family gave me shelter when I had none, and you
, Trella, hope, where I had none. And what about you? By your collar I can see you are a defender of the just – as your parents were. I must admit it suits you, Commander
Trella. Would that your parents could see you now. I will look upon you on their behalf. You are their greatest hope realized.”
“You would have me accompany you on your starship to seek answers,” said Baiku as they walked among the exotic flora of the manicured hillside. “To help you cut out a poison before it takes root.”
She regarded his robe; “- Yes
“This untamed wilderness; this haven for the untamed spirit.” He looked at her, and his eyes had her answer. “And if I told you the will of the Prophets would have me remain here? On Bajor?”
“I would ask how you know what the will of the Prophets really is.”
He smiled. “A sound question. However my answer is simpler than that.” He paused on the path and Trelliq turned. “They told me.”
“The Prophets. Told you. With words.”
“In communion with the Orb of Prophecy and Change.”
“The Orb – is here
“Yes.” He resumed walking. “In fact, the entire galaxy is here, in this garden. Every question has an answer, and every answer can be found here, in nature. All is connected to this moment, to she who can see.”
“How can I...I mean...I'm afraid botany hasn't been an interest of mine since I was a child.”
“By creating the moment
, Commander.” He invited her down a stone staircase embedded in the slope. “Use your own experience. You're a Starfleet officer. Trained to observe and report. So? Observe, and report now.”
“I see...a garden manicured by time and almost invisible hands.”
“A promising beginning. What else?”
“I see...” She scanned the rolling grounds as they descended the stone steps. Vedek Baiku stayed her arm and stopped.
“Please watch your step, Commander Pel. The stone is loose.”
She looked down at the crack in the stair. A tall flower grew beside it. “I see a single flower with yellow-infused petals arranged around a ciliated crown. It has spotted petioles armored with barbed chomates.”
“The Carrion Orchid,” Baiku said. “What you may not know is that the flower always grows in the presence of Carrion Root, an acid-secreting climbing root that grows through stone. If an animal falls on the loosened stone, the root's cell wall action potentials activate and allow the root to entangle its victim, while thorns fill it with paralyzing acidic secretions. The Carrion Orchid has adapted to flourish on the root's secretions and stands as a warning sign to the presence of the root.”
“I don't understand, Baiku. Why would you allow the root to remain in the garden?”
“Carrion roots too, sometimes serve a greater purpose. Here, as a reminder to our novitiates and masters alike – to be ever mindful of the path. Even as the fullness of the entire garden emerges into view – we must know our own step.”
Trelliq had hoped today to speak of Bajor's future; but found that to do so, Baiku insisted on speaking of the past. She allowed him his recollections, knowing that such memories likely rarely found expression in such tranquil environs as this monastery.
“ – Nėhrun Revolutionaries like Grifahni and myself led our paramilitary units on a campaign through the DMZ – and beyond – and didn't stop until we'd come full circle to Bajor. Unfortunately, we couldn't muster enough support from those weary and starved farmers. With the allure of pacifistic leadership under Kai Opaka, peace won out; the governmental transitions, smooth so far as the public was concerned.
“But – one man's peace is another man's silence. I did not surrender so willingly. I was, however, eventually compelled to surrender.” He paused, and then smiled. “But not by the heavily-armed Bajoran Militia special forces unit assigned to neutralize me. One which, ironically, had once been commanded and trained by one Colonel Grifahni Gage. That had been before he deserted and became branded a criminal by the Occupational government. No – they
never got me.”
Trelliq soaked up the history lesson she never learned at the academy. “How did you lose? What happened?”
“I didn't lose. I won.” Baiku reflected for a moment, she thought, full of untold stories. “I had fought from Lakat to the doorstep of the Temple of the Prophets, and finally – Ashalla
. I stood face to face with my quest – the Kai of Bajor, Opaka Sulan.
“There she was – my enemy, all of Bajor's enemy, I was convinced. Through the worst inhumanities capable of intelligent species, those three words drove me like a hammer: Kai Opaka Sulan
. A confrontation for which I had fought – and killed – since my first rebellious act. My chance to lead Bajor to a greater future; one finally freed from its bondage of history, and antiquated, brutalized culture.
“And in one moment Opaka defeated my raging soul from the inside out. She was the superior warrior, and I became her student and disciple.”
“How did she defeat you so quickly?” Trelliq asked.
“She called for a harvesting sickle, and put it in my hand. She said, 'If Bajor truly requires the death of its past, then I, as Kai, and as a Bajoran, will receive that transformation on behalf of all of Bajor. Make the cut clean and swift.' And then she removed her vestment, lowered herself to the ground, and presented her neck to me without hesitation.”
Vedek Baiku helped Trelliq up a knoll to the path. “She had overcome the discord that had still bound my soul. She set me free. She set all of Bajor free.”
Baiku spoke of her parents; Trelliq learned some things about them she had never known. Her mother's lost pregnancy. Her father's favorite dish – cold Hasperat for breakfast. He had given her a name to a file containing personal data her mother had kept, with other refugees, secured in Bajor's central computer. Trelliq could not help herself but hope – for some small insight she could treasure about her lost parents. Losing herself in the conversation, Trelliq could have talked with Baiku for hours; but time would not permit. Commander Pel, unfortunately, had a mission to complete. She interrupted him. “Baiku....”
He knew what she wanted to say. In some ways, she found, the Vedek-Warrior knew her better than she knew herself. “Did you come through the monastery gate seeking chesspieces for war?” he asked.
She looked at the gate, and sighed in capitulation. “I came here for a way to preserve the peace and security of the sector. I don't know, maybe there was something else that brought me here. For another purpose. I don't know.”
Vedek Baiku smiled. “I don't know either. Not knowing may be entirely the point, Commander.”
“Baiku, I came here to ask for your help.”
“And help you shall have, though it take a lifetime.” He took a breath and looked skyward. “The Path of Prophecy is turning, Commander – and that which is prophesied will turn the galaxy.”
Trelliq wasn't sure what to believe. But at that moment, watching him, she did believe Baiku was not telling all he knew. The Path of Prophecy – she thought better than to question him, sensing he would not say more than he already had.
Baiku reached into a thicket of grass and pulled out a small weed, and studied it in his rough hand. “The usurper attacks to survive, blind to its oneness with its victim. The weak suffer but the powerful enslave themselves to isolation and fear. Pirates attack freighters – not warships. They are driven by the insatiable delusion that their next meal will end their hunger forever. Who is the pirate's enemy? Who is capable of amassing the power required to defeat the lean and intelligent predatory force? Who is it, for whom clear shipping lanes are a motive? Not official powers, for there is little to gain in covering up a victory against common criminals. Not other pirates. Another pirate force would simply use the first force as cover, or interference to drive their prey elsewhere for an attack. Our predator – has other motives than law or greed. A hidden agenda intending first to confuse, and second, to destroy.
“As you may have already seen in the city: confusion fosters cynicism, and cynicism divides and conquers.”
He let the wind carry the blade away. “And then there is the agent of catalysis.”
“The – what?”
. Commander Trelliq Pel. As any good soldier, you are concerned with knowing the knowable, such as the origination of hull fragments. Now you must concern yourself with the unknowable.”
He invited her to kneel with him. The two began to tend a bank of emerging shoots. “Now, First Officer Pel, if Voyager – under either
Federation or Maquis control – were amassing a force in the Badlands – would her Captain risk revealing their position – on Nausicaan pirates? Would her Captain be taking her anywhere near sensor range from the edge of the region? Would her Captain attack a fleet of pirates, when they actually provide an excellent cover for her own ship movements? And if she attacked the pirates to protect herself from exposure – would she leave any
evidence to be found?
"If the predator is from an independent colony world – Maquis, or – mercenary – the same questions apply. Yet hidden this predator remains. Hidden – biding its time – and waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. A moment well-planned, down to its smallest detail.
“Now, First Officer Pel, who is strengthened by the illusion of either
Maquis traps in the Badlands? Who gains from questions raised by the evidence of the hull fragments? Who benefits from the doubts that spread like fire with the rumors of that evidence? Perhaps a power that is interested in reinforcing a tenuous position? A power seeking to publicly justify its own movements? A public performance intended also to strengthen their value to established sector powers?
“You can seek answers out there, with haste and sensor arrays. Those same answers are present here and now, in this garden – to she who can see.”
Vedek Baiku turned to the top of the hill, where two men emerged from the monastery.
Trelliq strained to make them out.
“That dressing. That isn't -”
“Kai Lhiran Shayel.”
Baiku returned to his tending. “Yes, it is he. Having one of his many informal meetings, no doubt with a visiting dignitary or diplomat. He sometimes holds council with lesser public scrutiny in various monasteries depending on the time of season. I'm afraid I don't recognize the other gentleman. I believe he is a negotiator, probably strengthening diplomatic ties.”
“One man's peace – is another man's silence,” she repeated. “If the Cardassian's a diplomat,” Trelliq drew up her hood, “then I'm a Q.”
They watched the two men descend the stairs. Gul Trask stumbled on the loose stone, but caught himself on Kai Lhiran's arm.
“Believe only the unknowable, Commander,” Baiku said. “In the Badlands, your sensors will only tell you lies.”
“Baiku, have you ever thought about it?” she asked him, watching the emergency-installed leader of free Bajor confer with the Cardassian delegate in the tranquil monastic garden, far from his peoples' unrest.
“The Kai,” he observed, “is Bajor's Carrion Orchid.” Baiku turned from the Kai to lean in. “I admit, not once in my life had I even considered it.” He dropped his trowel and stood. “But this night, I contemplate which is the more troubling: to lead unaware of the path; or bearing false intention.”
Trelliq stood, leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered, “Create the moment, Vedek Baiku. Bajor needs the great leader – in you
.” Their faces lingered together for a moment. “Prophets be with you, Ca'al.” Then she unclasped his hands and tapped her communicator. “Cervantes -”
“Please wait, Commander.” He held out his hand. “There is one thing more.”
She followed with him, watched him watching her; a soul clothed in faith and deed.
He led her to a small candlelit room in the back of the temple. He knelt, and she with him. When she looked at him in question, he only nodded softly, and opened the lid to a box that sat before them.
The Orb of Prophecy and Change shimmered into her soul....