Commander Sisko met with the parents with the parents of Talas Aron the following morning. Crag and Katalia were both very adamant in their beliefs in accepting how their gods gave them life and that a blood transfusion for their son would mean contaminating him with an outside life force. Sisko was careful to reserve passing judgment on their somewhat antiquated belief system. While he didn’t entirely agree with those beliefs, he understood that believing in such mysticism sometimes did have some basis science—a fact he learned firsthand while in communion with the entities in the Celestial Temple.
“Thank you for presenting your case in this matter,” Sisko told them once the Bajoran couple had made their arguments. “As a parent myself, I can understand how difficult this dilemma must be for both of you.”
“We would expect that you would have some sympathy with us,” Crag deadpanned. “But you’ll forgive us if that’s not enough reason for optimism. For a long time, our sect of The Faith has been mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted. Despite recent legal remedies, prejudices against us is still commonplace.”
“A common theme among many worlds,” Sisko said, being reminded of Earth history. “I can promise, though, I will try to be as impartial as I can in settling this issue.”
“Such promises are often hollow, Commander,” Katalia brusquely replied. “While your Federation may value tolerance of diverse cultures, some of your people have often been skeptical about certain practices.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Sisko offered. “But I hope you understand that someone in my position has to consider both sides of this issue. I will make my decision in ten hours.”
“If only we could be certain you will rule in our favor,” Crag replied.
Sisko gave a sympathetic nod as they both slowly left the office. He had given the Talases assurances that his decision would be a fair one, but he still wasn’t certain what that decision would be.
Benjamin Sisko was later sitting at a table in the Replimat for a late morning meal. He was in the process of cutting a tightly rolled up sandwich into smaller pieces when Dax slowly approached the other side of the table. He put one hand out to invite his friend to sit down while taking a small bite. His lack of smile in reaction to the presence of someone who was once his longtime mentor was enough of a clue to Jadzia the kind of day he was having so far. “Rough day?” she guessed.
“You could say that,” Sisko aversely confessed.
“The sick Bajoran boy, I take it.”
Sisko sighed and carefully set down his eating utensils, having lost his appetite. “Doctor Bashir wants me to intervene. The parents are demanding the Bajoran government do something, but they’re too wrapped in their own agendas. All they’ve said is that their people are free to practice any interpretation of their religion not deemed heretical by the Vedek Assembly. Even the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps has passed this matter back to me.”
“You spoke to Admiral Nechayev?” Jadzia surmised.
Benjamin grinned, thankful his friend understood how much a chore reasoning with Nechayev was. “Just looking for some
legal precedents in this matter,” he explained. “She’s not willing to even advise
. She said I accepted this level of responsibility in order to foster amiable relations with Bajor when I started this assignment.”
“It may be your responsibility, but hardly your fault, Ben. This is a very difficult situation for everyone. I may not agree with their beliefs, but I can certainly relate considering how many times I’ve been a parent.”
Sisko had hoped being a parent himself would help him to easily relate to this predicament, but he had found it more of a source of frustration after having met with the Talases. “Is that supposed to make me feel better, Old Man?” he grumbled.
“Nothing should when a child’s life is at stake. It’s still not worth being endlessly obsessed with this issue.”
“If only I could be absolutely sure.”
Dax stood up and smiled, something Benjamin remembered Curzon would do when he was about to dispense some important life wisdom. “Just remember some advice Curzon once gave you. That sure is people who have absolutely nothing to lose. You and I just make a decision and get on with life.”
“I think I understand.”
Dax nodded and walked away, leaving Benjamin alone with his thoughts. He still hadn’t come to a decision, but he wasn’t feeling as much guilt about what how he would rule.
Sisko later decided to pay Aron a visit in the Infirmary. Hearing his old mentor’s advice once again inspired him to try to get to know the boy before having to make a decision that would determine whether he lived or died. Maybe that would make his decision harder, especially if it favored the parents, but it was least he could not to treat him as just another patient or case number before making one of the toughest decisions in his short time as Starfleet’s ranking diplomat assigned to Bajor.
“Hello, Aron. I’m Commander Sisko. How do you like my station?”
“I haven’t seen much of it outside of the Infirmary,” Aron lamented.
“That’s too bad,” Sisko empathetically replied as he took a seat next to Aron’s bedside. “Maybe before you leave, you could get a good view of the Wormhole opening from upper pylon two.”
“You mean the Celestial Temple that you found earlier this year?”
Sisko quickly recalled his recent contact with the entities known to the Bajorans as the Prophets, as well as Kai Opaka’s claim that he was their Emissary. It suddenly occurred to him that neither Crag nor Katalia used that appellation when he met with them. “Yes, you could say that,” he affirmed. “Speaking of which, I understand your parents are refusing a life-saving blood transfusion. Do you really think that someone else’s blood would contaminate you with an outside life force and that you would no longer be the person I’m speaking to now?”
“That’s what Mother and Father say,” Aron blithely replied. “I’m not exactly sure myself. What do you think?”
Sisko considered the answer even if it was a simple one. “It’s not my place for me to suggest that what you’re mother and father teach you is right or wrong.” He then noticed an egg in the boy’s right hand in the corner of his eye. “Where’d did you get that egg?”
“Doctor Bashir is letting me hold it for a few minutes each day,” Aron explained. “He says it’s an unhatched egg from an abandoned nest. But please don’t tell him I know it’s a dinosaur egg. Bajor once had similar creatures, but they all died out long ago.”
“You’re secret’s safe with me,” Sisko said with a conspiratorial wink. He slowly stood up with a beaming smile. “I really hope you do get better so you can see more of the station,” he added before he left the patient ward.
“I hope so, too.”
Sisko gave the boy a gentle nudge on the shoulder and slowly paced out of the room. He didn’t enjoy making hollow promises, but he knew from his own experiences that children often needed assurances that the grown-ups had the ability to make problems go away easily. Aron reminded Benjamin of Jake at that age, and how he seemed smarter than most eight year olds. Would I be willing to sacrifice Jake’s just as easily as I might be sacrificing this boy’s life?
“Smart kid,” Sisko commented to himself as he entered his office. He caught a glimpse of Bashir, whom he had summoned, while circling around the desk. “Which only makes this decision harder,” he grudgingly told the doctor.
“So what have you decided?” Bashir eagerly inquired.
Sisko tightly clutched the baseball perched on the desk and held it close to his right cheekbone. “You believe you’re doing the right thing. But so do the parents. Who should I believe? You, because of our Starfleet training? We have our own set of beliefs, but so do they. Is this the only way to save the boy?”
“Yes,” Bashir said with complete conviction.
Sisko put the baseball back on its perch. “Then that makes the decision a lot harder. I’m afraid I must refuse your request.”
Bashir stood speechless for several long moments. “Sir, how can you expect to deny my medical oath,” he asked with astounded shock, “to preserve life?”
“If it was Jake or me, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign the order. If we overrule one set of beliefs in conflict with our own, though, it sets a dangerous precedent.”
“So you’re just going to let him die.
Sisko ascended from his chair and looked straight at Bashir. “You think I want
to be doing this? It’s hardly that simple in my position. I still have to honor the beliefs of the parents. Otherwise setting aside Bajoran beliefs when they become inconvenient would severely compromise our ability to establish a trusting relationship with them.”
“So you have your priorities, and I have mine. Is that it?”
“I’m sorry, Doctor. I have to advocate for the parents because no one else will.”
Before Bashir could continue to try to implore Sisko to change his mind, a communications chime sounded.
“Infirmary to Doctor Bashir,”
called Girani. “Aron’s lifesigns are in decline.”
Almost immediately, Bashir bolted out of the office and headed back for the Infirmary.
“He’s on his way, Doctor Girani,” Sisko said with a frustrated sigh.