Chapter Three: Erewhon
Stardate 57138.6 (September 25, 2380)
Dr. Julian Bashir quickly jogged along the rock-strewn path that led to the top of the mountain. Well, perhaps the term ‘mountain’ was generous. On Earth, it would have been nothing more than a large hill.
But here, on Erewhon, geology had not played such an active role in shaping the terrain. At this point, Bashir didn’t mind; he’d been running for almost an hour and was growing more and more weary by the second.
He reached the top and rested, kneeling down onto the grass. Mt. Khitomer, as it had been named, overlooked a bustling settlement simply known as ‘Starfleet Command.’ No one had proposed naming the settlement anything. It seemed…too soon. Too permanent.
A voice called up from down the trail a ways. “Doctor? Doctor Bashir?”
Bashir sighed. He spent his days (and many nights) constantly dealing with people’s needs; it was nice to get away from it all for a while, even if only for a couple hours a week. But it seemed as if there was no such thing as true solitude anymore, even on this relatively empty world. “Up here, Garak.”
A Cardassian (of all things!) male appeared out of the brush and walked onto the ‘summit,’ as it were. “Why, good morning, Doctor,” he said cheerily. “I was hoping we could have breakfast together.”
Bashir looked over and saw that the Cardassian was carrying two ration packs. “Did you follow me up here? I certainly didn’t hear you behind me.”
Garak sat down next to the doctor and handed him a ration pack. “Doctor, I’m afraid my steadily advancing age precludes me from making such long ascents these days. No. I beamed in.”
Bashir tore open the ration pack. “I’m beginning to feel as if there’s no such thing as privacy anymore.”
Garak nodded sagely. “These are…interesting times.” He took a bite of the ration. “And these are horrifyingly disgusting meals, I must say.”
Bashir shrugged. “Once we get agriculture up and running, we won’t have to rely so much on ration packs. They’ve even begun cloning animals for consumption.” He grimaced. “It will be difficult to get used to that.”
“Why, I don’t know, Doctor,” Garak said, “It might actually be refreshing. We’ve all lived on replicated food for so long. I’ve always found that something is simply…missing from replicated foods.”
“What? Things such as germs? Bacteria?”
Garak smiled. “One must make compromises in the face of adversity, my dear Doctor. Starfleet Command is not the only settlement on the face of this fair planet.”
And that was the simple truth. After the final collapse of the Federation at Andoria and the Battle of Tellar, all Starfleet vessels not destroyed in the retreat or engaged on other missions had escorted the many refugee ships out of the Alpha Quadrant. All of the vessels had been equipped with cloaking devices; the crisis of the war with the Dominion had rendered some treaty obligations moot. The ships had also been fitted with experimental propulsion engines, and fortunately they had only lost three ships during the escape due to engine failures or warp core breaches.
And they, this disparate batch of Federation remnants, had come to this world, far from what was now Dominion space. There were many tiny settlements on Erewhon; some named, some not. It was now necessary to go back to the old ways in order to feed everyone, for replicators required an energy expenditure far beyond what Starfleet could now offer. The post-scarcity era was over; now not having enough was simply a fact of life.
“You’re right,” Bashir said as he ate the last of his ration. “But no one said we have to like it.”
Garak offered the rest of his ration pack to Bashir and the doctor waved him away. “I’m not very hungry.”
“Understandable,” Garak replied. “It has been a very stressful week.”
Bashir allowed himself to relax a bit. That was the point of trekking up here, after all. “Indeed. There’s been at least two breakouts of Herellian fever in the Vulcan camps alone.”
“Have there been any deaths?”
“Not yet,” Bashir closed his eyes. “But unless we find a better way of obtaining medical supplies, that won’t be the case for long.”
“Have faith, Doctor,” Garak replied. “I have found that Starfleet is much more adaptable than I had previously thought. After all, we’ve made it this far. It seems premature to give up hope so soon.”
“Perhaps.” Bashir gazed out at the settlement below. “Sometimes when I wake up, I can’t believe this is all really happening. I close my eyes and hope that when I open them again, I’ll be back on Deep Space Nine, and I will discover that all of this was just a bad dream.”
“I used to feel the same way on Deep Space Nine,” Garak mused. “I imagined that I would wake up back on Cardassia, and all would be well again. Alas, it was not to be.” Garak looked pointedly at the doctor. “As is now the case for you.”
Bashir met Garak’s stare and then returned his gaze to the settlement. “Tell me, Garak, do you think Deep Space Nine is still there?”
“If it is, it has certainly returned to its old designation of Terok Nor
,” Garak said. “Perhaps Dukat has towed it to Earth’s orbit, just to satisfy his megalomaniacal urges.”
“I miss Quark’s,” Bashir said, ignoring Garak’s attempt at dark humor. “I never thought I would say that, but I do.”
“Please don’t ever repeat this, Doctor, but sometimes I miss my tailor shop,” Garak said with a hint of wistfulness. “It always felt like a prison to me, back in those days, but now…now I would almost give anything to be back there.”
The two sat quietly for a moment, reflecting on a past now lost to history.
Bashir’s communicator chirped. “Pulaski to Bashir.”
Bashir sighed again. Back to work. “Go ahead, Doctor.”
“We have what appears to be a case of Jauntaride influenza in one of the human refugee camps, located about seventeen kilometers from Starfleet Command.”
Bashir slowly stood as Garak remained seated on the ground, staring out at the horizon. “Acknowledged,” Bashir said. “Could you please have the transporter chief beam me back to Main Sickbay?” He looked over at Garak. “Are you coming?”
“No thank you, Doctor,” Garak replied. “I think descending down the mountain might be an easier and quite necessary exercise for me.”
Bashir nodded. “That will be one to beam over, Doctor Pulaski.”
“If I’m back in time,” Bashir said, “Would you care to have dinner, Garak?”
“That would be most enjoyable, Doctor,” Garak responded cheerfully.
“All right, then. Goodbye, Garak.” And just as he finished speaking, the transporter beam caught him up and took him away to the next crisis.
And Garak, the exiled Cardassian who was now among a multitude of exiles, spent a long time sitting at the summit of Mt. Khitomer looking out at his new home. Yes. These were