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Old August 21 2015, 07:35 PM   #1
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Tactical withdrawl along the Klingon border
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

8.01 – Darkest Before Dawn
Brydon J. Sinclair


Chapter One


“Is that it?” Jason squealed, pressing up against the viewport.

Austin Harris crouched down next to the ten year old and looked out at Deep Space 9, his new assignment and the new home for his family. “That’s it, Jase. What do you think?”

“It’s really odd looking, not like any of the other stations we’ve been on.”

“It is, but I kinda like it,” he whispered to his youngest, who nodded in return.

“There aren’t any Cardassians still there, are there?” asked Summer, her bare arms folded across her chest.

He looked up at the teenager, whose long limbs and delicate features mirrored her mothers’, whilst her mousy hair came from him. “No Summer, the only permanent Cardassian resident returned to Cardassia Prime when the ceasefire was called. There are a few Ferengi, Chandir and other non-allied species there, but for the most part its Bajorans and Federation races. From what I’ve heard, with the war over the Militia has quadrupled the number of personnel they have on the station.”

Summer seemed placated by that as she looked at the station again, visibly shuddering. “It looks angry.”

“Cardassian architecture is designed to impose,” he admitted. “But the ‘Bike Wheel’ does have a haunting elegance to it.”

His fourteen year old daughter looked at him with a raised eyebrow—something she had mastered from an old Vulcan classmate—which made him smile. “It’s a nickname DS9 picked up a few years ago and hasn’t managed to shake off—even with how important she’s been during the war.”

“You best not say it in front of your new crewmates, dear,” Adele warned, resting her hands on Summer’s shoulders, “they may not appreciate the newbie poking fun.”

He chuckled and stood up again. “I’ll be on my best behaviour.”

“All passengers disembarking at Deep Space Nine, please report to docking bay one. All DS9 passengers to docking bay one,” the intercom announced.

“That’s us. We’d best get moving,” he told them, the jovial lilt to his voice evaporating as he focused on reporting aboard. He picked up one of their holdalls and held out his hand, which Jason obediently took and held tightly too. Adele and Summer likewise carried a piece of luggage, whilst the rest of their possessions would be beamed over once they were docked.

Leading his family through the corridors of the Orion, he tried to remember who onboard would be coming with them to the station, who was the old ship’s actual crew and who would be heading into Cardassian space to carry out relief assignments. There were too many faces to register and he hadn’t had the opportunity to meet many of his new crew—less than a dozen of the thirty-eight who would be reporting aboard the station.

Reaching the docking bay, he did a quick head count to see that they were all there, a mixture of red, gold and blue undershirts, not to mention species—at least sixteen that could be easily determined. Harris was the only one among them to be bringing family with him, most of those that had spouses would either be on temporary assignment or they’d decided to remain away from the station—many still seeing it as being too dangerous. He had questioned asking Adele and the kids to come with him, but in the last two years he had only been able to spend nineteen days and eleven hours with them, so he didn’t want to spend any more time apart if he could help it. Fortunately Adele, being as much the hopeful optimist and gambler he was, had agreed that they shouldn’t be apart if it could be helped, so here they were. Seeing his kids’ reactions, he knew he’d made the right choice; Jason was brimming with excitement, almost ready to explode, whilst Summer hadn’t rolled her eyes—which, for her, was a ringing endorsement.

A few of the crew addressed him by his rank or with a polite nod when they noticed him; until he spotted one of the few new crew he had had much interaction with, Lieutenant Commander Hjon Taelor—the strapping Bolian tended to stand out in just about any crowd. When Taelor saw him, he flashed a bright smile and weaved through the gathering.

“Morning Commander.”

“Afternoon, Lieutenant Commander, going by the local time that is.”

“Great, I’ve lost half a day already,” Taelor said with a grin. “Mrs Harris, it’s nice to see you again.”

“And you too, Commander—and its Adele.”

“Only if you call me Hjon, Adele, and how are you two?” he asked turning to Summer and Jason.

“Fine,” was Summer’s reply. Though he hadn’t seen much of her, he knew his daughter well enough to notice the flush of her cheeks as she looked at the handsome Bolian.

“I can’t wait! I’ve read everything I can find on Deep Space Nine—did you know the Cardassian’s used Bajoran slave labour to process ore that they strip mined from Bajor?”

“Well it looks like I’ll have to stick with you, or else I might get lost,” he said, tussling Jason’s honey-blonde thick mop of hair.

Under his boots the Constellation-Class ship’s deck plates rattled, followed by a metallic clank and louder-than-typical hiss as the docking clamps connected and umbilical pressurised. The light above the exterior door turned green and the hatch opened. In an orderly and patient manner, the assembly began to disembark. Since he had his family with him, Harris had always intended to be the last off, so as to not cause too much jostling or shoving—trying to get an over-excited ten year old and apathetic teenager organised was more work that it looked.

Taelor stepped ahead of them, before he led his family through. The arrivals lounge had been emptied in an organised and efficient manner, all the crew being logged in with security, issued with their quarter assignments and induction PADD before being grouped together and escorted towards where they would be living for however long they were on DS9 for. As such, by the time he set foot on the station there were only two women left waiting, one in the uniform of the Bajoran Militia, command-red and a style that denoted that of a senior line officer, the other was a demure Trill, with a short haircut and blue undershirt, her hands clasped behind her back. He knew who they were before either of them spoke.

He stood a little stiffer, a posture that was immediately mimicked by Jason. “Commander Austin Harris, requesting permission to come aboard, sir.”

A slow smile spread across Kira Nerys’ face, more from the boy imitating his father than anything Harris had said. “Commander’s Harris, Taelor, welcome to Deep Space Nine. At ease.”

He let out a held in breath and relaxed his stance slightly, Taelor falling into a perfect parade rest next to him. From the corner of his eye, he could see Jason looking from one adult to the next, whilst Adele and Summer kept to the side.

“I’d like to introduce Lieutenant Ezri Dax, station counsellor,” said Kira with a gesture to her companion, before looking at Harris’ family.

“My wife, Adele, and this is Summer and Jason.”

“I hope the journey here wasn’t too taxing.”

“Not at all, thank you, Colonel,” Adele replied, a smile in her voice.

Kira gave Adele a friendly smile then looked back at her new First and Second Officers. “You’ve timed your arrival nicely, gentlemen. Other than the Orion we aren’t due any other ships in for twenty-six hours, which will give you a day free to get settled, though unfortunately that’s all the downtime you’ll have right now. This time tomorrow we’ll be receiving eighteen freighters bound for various reconstruction projects, as well as three transports filled with refugees that we’ll need to process.”

“I’m ready to get to work now, Colonel,” stated Taelor.

“I appreciate the enthusiasm, Commander, you’ll need it for tomorrow evening—the Defiant will be providing escort to the freighters heading for the Dorvan System.”

“Yes sir, I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do.”

“You’ll be in for a treat. In the meantime, Ezri will show you to your quarters and help you get settled in.”

Taelor gave her a respectful nod then turned to the Trill. “Lead the way, Counsellor.”

Dax’s gaze locked onto his and she gave him a small smile, before heading down the corridor. He cast a quick look at Adele and saw the knowing glint in her eyes, he was going to have to explain his connection to the Trill, not something he was exactly looking forward too, but it could wait.

“I’ll show you the way to your quarters, Commander.”

“I’m sure we can find it, Colonel, I wouldn’t want to take up too much of your time.”

“Believe me, Commander, after the chaos we’ve had here this last week, a stroll through the station is a welcome rest.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Adele moved to take Jason’s hand, letting Harris and Kira walk ahead of the three civilians, so she could outline their current status in broad strokes. In the forty-seven days since she had officially assumed command of the station, their workload had tripled (and that was on a good day), as they were the closest starbase to what had been the frontlines, where most of the devastation had occurred. Almost every engineer or medic assigned to aid the outlying worlds, every hypospray and self-sealing stembolt destined to help those in need was coming through Deep Space Nine. There was no way to overemphasis just how important they were to what was needed across dozens of worlds—and that was just those on the Federation side of the border, in Cardassian space things were far worse.

He was so engrossed in what Kira was telling him, that he was having a hard time following just where they were in the station or how they got there. Well he had a day to get to know the main routes before being thrown in at the deep end. It wasn’t long before they arrived at a set of double doors, where she entered a security code into the door panel.

As the doors opened on his new home, he found himself pleasantly surprised by the space it offered. When his transfer orders had come through, he had made sure to ask for separate rooms for Summer and Jason as well as a small kitchen, all of which had been covered. He led his family in, Kira standing by the entrance, watching as they looked around. Jase darted into the two single rooms, to figure out which one was his, whilst Summer went over to the oval viewport which looked out onto empty space, Adele looked around the living/kitchen/dining area and nodded in approval.

“You’re lucky, there aren’t many quarters this size with kitchens,” Kira told them. “So are you the chef, Commander?”

“No, that’s Adele. She studied at the best culinary school in North America. Until the war started I hadn’t had replicated food since I was an ensign, it’ll be nice to get back to normal again.”

“I’ll say, get some more meat on those bones,” commented his wife as she moved to join them. “Colonel, did you receive my enquiry about the Promenade?”

“I did and you’re in luck, one unit will be vacant next week. It was a Bolian restaurant, so its set up for an eatery—if that’s what you planned on using it for.”

“It is—I like to have a little place on Starfleet bases, give people a taste of real food. Once we get settled in here I’d like to have a look at it.”

“You’ll need to contact security, they’ll give you access. So you’ve run a few restaurants then?”

“A couple,” Adele said coyly.

“She still does, and it’s more like five—not including the one in New York.”

“Well, I look forward to trying it out.”

“There’s no need to wait, you should come over tomorrow evening.”

Harris shot Adele a surprised look. He hadn’t expected her to be inviting anyone, let alone his new CO, over quite so soon—especially when they would be unpacking for days, getting the kids settled in and starting to build a whole new life for themselves once again.

“I wouldn’t want to impose; besides tomorrow might not be the best time for me—”

“So I’ll make it to go, you can eat at your desk—though you know that isn’t healthy for you.”

He laughed. Adele Harris was not someone to take ‘no’ for an answer, something he had learned on only their second date—he had never stood a chance after that, knowing that she would be the woman he would marry.

Kira chuckled. “I’ll make some time for a quick meal then, unless anything crops up before then.”

“Excellent.”

“Well I’ll let you get settled in and see you at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow, Commander. Mrs Harris.”

“Colonel,” he replied with a nod as she left them alone.

He put his arm around Adele’s shoulder and pulled her close. It had been so long since they had spent any time together that he had found himself missing the simple things; the feel of her body against his, her delicate sense, the quiet strength that resonated from her. There were several times over the last two years that it was the thought of her that had gotten him through, in particular the skirmish on Setlik III—a month-long battle he had tried hard to forget. The memory of the thick, cold, blood-soaked mud made him shiver.

“You okay?” she asked softly.

He nodded, plastered on a smile and looked down on her face. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine.”

* * * * *

Quark’s was heaving.

Julian Bashir couldn’t remember the last time he had seen so many bodies packed across all three floors of the bar, but since the war had ended there was a lot of celebrating to do and not just due to the end of the fighting, people could get one with their lives once again—in the last three weeks there had been eighteen engagements and he’d been notified by over two dozen couples who were coming off their monthly injections, so they could start trying for children. This was definitely a time for people to reaffirm that they were not just alive but they were living.

He finally spotted for the table he wanted, on the first level overlooking the dabo tables. Seeing Ezri sitting there waving at him made him grin like the Cheshire Cat with a giddy feeling stirring throughout his body, it had been a long time since he had last felt this way about anyone. It was his own personal reminder that he too was living.

He slipped through the crowd as quickly as he could, climbing the spiral stairs with care, as there were revellers on every step. When he finally reached his companions, he bent down and kissed Ezri on the cheek as he sat down.

“So when will this cutesy honeymoon period going to be over?” asked Jill Myers.

“Does it bother you to see two people expressing their feelings?” he asked, taking Ezri’s cool hand and resting them on top of the table, next to the whiskey that had been waiting for him.

“Only when it’s overly, like you two are right now.”

The couple looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “Well it’ll go on for twice as long now.”

Nog, who completed the quartet, laughed as Myers groaned and the couple chuckled, snuggling closer together. His arm around her slim shoulders just felt right. Myers scowled at the Ferengi.

“Don’t encourage them, Nog, they’ll think they can get away with it!”

“I worked here for so long, such public displaces no longer faze me. You need to lighten up a little, Jill.”

“Maybe I should just jump you here, see how they like it!”

Nog spat out the root beer he’d been drinking, coughing and spluttering as the others laughed. It was unsurprising, Jill Myers was stunning by anyone’s standards; long, raven-black hair, light blue eyes, smooth, pale skin over well-defined features, small but full lips. Though they were good friends since she’d reported aboard the station after Operation Return, Bashir had noticed that the Ferengi liked her a little more than she did him.

As he was wiping his chin clean with the sleeve of his uniform, something caught Nog’s attention out on the Promenade. He scowled then his face lit up with a toothy smile. He jumped to his feet and headed out without saying a word to the others. They watched him duck and weave through the throng of bodies with practiced ease until he got out onto the upper level of the Promenade and dash over to a uniformed human woman, with blonde hair tied up neatly at the base of her skull.

Bashir looked from Ezri to Myers but both of them shook their heads, not recognising her.

“She must be a new arrival he knew from the Academy,” suggested Myers.

When Nog caught up with her, she stopped and turned, giving them the chance to see her face, at which point Bashir registered the face as one he’d seen before. It took a few moments to sort through the thousands of faces he’d seen in the last couple of years, but quickly remembered who she was.

“She’s Dorian Collins, the sole survivor of Red Squad.”

“From the Valiant?” He nodded at Myers. “I wonder if she’s passing through or if she’s one of the new assignees.”

Outside, Nog pointed into the bar and she looked at their table. They smiled at the ensign, but she looked away and shook her head. Even from where they sat, Bashir could see a gauntness to her cheeks that there hadn’t been the last time he had seen her, and that her uniform looked a little too big on her, whilst the dark circles under her eyes aged her. He frowned as he carried out his visual assessment of her, not liking what he was seeing.

“What’s wrong?” Ezri asked softly.

“She’s a few kilos underweight and it doesn’t look like she’s been sleeping too well.”

“Given what she went through and being the only one of her squad to survive, it’ll be a lot for anyone her age to deal with—not without some support.”

Outside, Collins left Nog standing, looking after her. He watched her go then slipped back into the bar and returned to their table.

“That was Dorian Collins, from the Valiant,” he told them, looking back out at where she’d been, “I invited her to join us but she said she was busy.”

“Is she new to the station or just passing through?” asked Ezri.

“She arrived on the Orion today and said she’s on a temporary assignment, though didn’t say for how long. She seemed a little...distracted.”

“Well at least she’ll know someone here,” suggested Ezri, trying to bolster his spirits again. “You’ll have plenty of time to catch up—maybe somewhere a little quieter.”

Bashir shared Nog’s obvious concern, luckily if she was a new arrival she’d need to report in for a physical, so he could get a chance to see how she was doing first hand—he’d just have to make sure his staff knew to call him in when she arrived.

“So have any of you met the new commanders?” Myers asked, after finishing her Samarian Sunset.

“I met them at the airlocks. Jadzia actually knew Commander Harris, back when they were at the Academy, though he was Austin Coen back then. I gave Commander Taelor a brief tour before showing him to his quarters. He seems quite friendly, if a little intense; though I’m sure he’ll relax after a few weeks here.”

“Won’t this mean an end to your acting up?” Bashir asked, putting a pin in his concern over Collins—seeing as how there wasn’t much he could do until she came in to see him.

Myers nodded. “It will, but I’m happy with that. That command lark isn’t easy, especially with the chaos we’ve had to deal with recently. We’ll have to have a bon voyage party for Major Agahn.” The Major had been their acting first officer, on loan from the Militia until permanent replacements were assigned, so with the arrival of Harris and Taelor he was being moved yet again—though this time to the new Bajoran flagship, the Li Nalas.

“I’ll speak with Uncle Quark, see if we can have the party here—everyone else is.”

Myers patted him on the shoulder. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” They all chuckled as Bashir tried to flag down a waiter to get in their next round.

* * * * *

The rough stone floor of the cave cut at his already raw feet. Solan Tobar had settled in for an evening of meditation, so he had stripped down to his undergarments to help him better relax in the stifling heat of the caves. He had never thought that he would be running for his life!

Whoever had fired at him originally was obviously unaccustomed to using energy weapons, as they had missed him by a sizeable margin. He hadn’t stuck around for them to get lucky with their second shot, rolling out of the way, springing to his feet and running for the exit. There were no more shots, but the sound of several heavy footfalls behind him kept him moving as quickly as he could.

Whatever myths there were about the Fire Caves, he knew that he was cursed whenever he entered them—ever since the first time twenty years ago, when he had been forced to hide inside to keep from being murdered by a Cardassian patrol. On that first time, he’d gotten lost inside but managed to finally escape after over a week, suffering from dehydration, malnutrition and lack of sleep—thanks to the horrors he’d been forced to endure whenever his eyes drifted shut. Since then, the Fire Caves had been both a place of terror and curiosity for him—whilst most gave them a wide berth, he had tried to learn as much about them as he could, searching for answers.

He rounded a corner and saw the entrance, though slowed down and stayed to the shadows, watching to see if there was anyone waiting for him. After several long moments he decided it was clear and, hearing his attackers getting closer, sped up again. At just thirty, he was young for a member of the clergy and had made sure to keep himself in great shape—under ideal circumstances he wouldn’t have had a problem outrunning those that pursued, but with his wounded feet it was proving difficult.

Reaching the entrance, he readied himself for an ambush. But it never came. The narrow ledge was empty and the air around the cave was still, not even a bird called. He had only moments to make his next move. There were only two ways he could go: follow the solitary path or climb the jagged cliff face. He opted for the latter; it was a tough climb that few would ever even attempt so it was the more unpredictable route, which would allow him more chance to escape.

Breathing heavy as his feet ached, he faced the rock and reached for his first handhold, feeling the sharp, cold stone against his bare chest as he started to pull himself up. He kept looking up, searching for where he could grip and step, and keeping his destination in sight, trying not to think about his attackers or sheer drop below him.

He heard the group step out of the cave, speak in hushed voices so he couldn’t pick out anything they said or even what language they were using, before at least two headed down the path, whilst the others headed back into the cave. His gamble had paid off; they hadn’t even thought to check the mountain above their heads.

Solan climbed slowly and steadily, not wanting to give away where he was by causing any rocks to fall. Though he was skilled at climbing, this one was proving to be a little too much even for him. Blood from his feet and numerous cuts across his torso now painted the trail he had climbed up the mountain, the sun burned against his back, and his lungs were raw with the effort it took to keep going.

A good hour after he’d left the cave he reached the top of the mountain, his body taxed well beyond its limits. He lay in the dust, gasping, feeling sore all over, as his mind raced with questions: who was that in the caves? What were they doing there? Were they after him? Who could’ve told them where to find him? Where did he go now? Who could he trust?

* * * * *
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Old August 22 2015, 02:29 PM   #2
Dingo
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Re: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Greetings. I was most gratified to see that you'd gone through with and finished your first installment of your version of the Deep Space Nine: Relaunch. It was well worth the wait.

Right, now onto the review.

First off I enjoyed how you showed as opposed to told us about the Harris' arrival. You really made the family just 'come alive' in showing the interactions between Austin, Adele, Jason and Summer and their first impressions on the station. I'll be first to say that I was definitely reminded of aspects of Emissary in that first scene, when the Siskos arrived at Deep Space Nine. Good job with that touch.

Adele opening her own restaurant here on the station (and being so forward as to invite Colonel Kira over for dinner on a relatively early meeting) shows her character off well as a warm and sociable sort of woman. With her own dining establishment on the Promenade I wonder how she'll take to the Promenade Merchant's Association headed by none other than our own Quark.

There were several times over the last two years that it was the thought of her that had gotten him through, in particular the skirmish on Setlik III—a month-long battle he had tried hard to forget. The memory of the thick, cold, blood-soaked mud made him shiver
Very nice touch here of the realism of war and how it doesn't ever leave its veterans even long after the conflict's end.

Your original cast blends nicely and believably with the canon cast in this story, so very nicely done.

As stated previously I'm already looking forward to seeing what Adele and Quark's interactions are likely to be. I presume Garak's old tailor shop is the unit Adele's restaurant is operating in?

And great action scene with Solan at the end. I wonder what this guy is all about, who he is and all. It certainly provides an incentive to read the next installment (as if I required one).

Great job overall.

Dingo
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Old August 24 2015, 11:40 AM   #3
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Tactical withdrawl along the Klingon border
Re: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Chapter Two


Kira was in the stations Operations Centre by 0700, her mind too active with what was coming that day to really get a restful night’s sleep. At least that was what she told herself, in reality it was because she missed Odo.

“Colonel? Is everything alright?” asked Lieutenant Bilecki from the ops table.

She smiled at the watch officer. “Yes Lieutenant, just wanted to get an early start to the day. Anything to report?”

“Negative, it’s been very quiet—which is just a little unsettling.”

Chuckling, Kira couldn’t help but agree. After two years of war and weeks of manic activity in and around the station, having things be so quiet for longer than a couple of hours was proving to be unusual. Part of her couldn’t help but wonder just what was going to go wrong next. “Well humans do have the saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Seems fitting for right now.”

“Very true, Colonel.”

Before Kira could even sit down at the table she heard the proximity alert, then looked over at the science station expectantly.

“Sir, I’ve got a small ship approaching, bearing one-seven-seven-mark-zero-twelve.”

“The Rio Grande isn’t due back until tomorrow,” Kira mused.

“It’s a Cardassian Kilon-Class shuttle,” added Second Lieutenant Yariz, with a surprised look as he glanced up from his sensor display.

The Kilon-Class was essentially a scaled down Hideki-Class, of a comparable size to one of their runabouts and used for the same type of missions, so was capable of travel between Cardassia and Bajor with ease—the question was; what were they doing here? Since the signing of the peace agreement there hadn’t been a single Cardassian ship anywhere near DS9.

“They’re hailing us,” Bilecki stated.

Kira stood at the head of the table and nodded at the watch officer. “On screen.”

The oval screen above the pit flared to life, showing the interior of the small ship, with a single Cardassian male present. He was dressed in full military uniform, black hair slicked back, and a composed expression on his face.

“This is Colonel Kira of Deep Space Nine. Identify yourself and your business.”

A smirk curled the corners of his lips. “I am Glinn Eron Dakal and I believe you are expecting me.”

Kira looked at Bilecki. The lieutenant checked the recent communications logs and shook her head. She turned her attention back to the Cardassian. “I’m afraid you are mistaken, Glinn. We aren’t expecting you or any other Cardassian, now or in the near future.”

“I was afraid this might happen, since the end of the war our communications protocols haven’t been anywhere near as efficient as they once were.” He looked at his controls and tapped out a sequence. “I am transmitting my orders to you, along with the verification code. I will wait for you to assess their credibility.”

“Standby,” she told him and signalled for the audio to be cut, before moving around to one of the panels. She brought up the transmission details he had sent through, checked that it was an official document from the ‘Cardassian Defence Service’, before opening up the attached document. As she read her brow furrowed and she felt a gnawing in the pit of her stomach.

Be careful what you wish for, she reminded herself, wishing she’d taken greater advantage of the period of calm—as it wasn’t going to be peaceful again for a very long time.

“Lieutenant, have runabout pad D cleared to receive his shuttle,” she instructed before reopening the channel. “Glinn Dakal, you are clear for docking, pad D.”

“Thank you, Colonel. Dakal out.”

“I’d like to have someone from security meet me at the airlock, also see what quarters are available—the Glinn may be with us for a while.”

“Aye sir,” Bilecki replied then paused. “Who is he, Colonel?”

“He’s been assigned as our new liaison officer and relief co-ordinator.”

“I see. I wasn’t aware we were getting one.”

“Neither was I, Lieutenant,” Kira admitted before heading for the turbolift.

She knew that DS9 was as much a political installation as it was a military one, given that it was administrated by Starfleet and the Militia so that the Federation could assess Bajor’s suitability for becoming a member world, then during the war it had hosted representatives from the Klingon and Romulan Empires. This would be the first time the Cardassian Union would have an official onboard. It was the kind of decision she would’ve liked to have had some input on. Though not an unreasonable request on the part of the Union, she would’ve thought it a role better suited to a civilian rather than a military officer.

Rounding a corner she spotted a Bajoran security officer at the entrance. For a brief second she thought it was Odo, with his beige uniform and immaculate dark-blonde hair, until he turned towards her. Captain Navar Reo gave her a curt nod as she felt a pang of loss stab at her heart again. Her new security chief always seemed to be on duty, to the point that she had no idea when he slept—no matter what time of day it was, if there was any kind of situation he was always there.

“Bilecki said that we were receiving a new liaison officer. This is a mistake, Colonel. I can see him causing quite a few problems, just by his mere presence.”

“This is something that has been discussed at the highest levels of Starfleet and the CDS.”

“Though not with the Militia, that still technically owns the station. We could hold him here until our government reach a decision on the matter.”

Navar was one of many Bajorans whose only contact with the Cardassians since the end of the Occupation had been negative. Seven years ago, she would’ve agreed with him—in fact she would’ve locked the shuttle in a tractor beam and not let the ‘Spoon Head’ set foot on the station—but that was then and she had changed due to Marritza, Ghemor, Ziyal, Damar and even Garak. It saddened her that of all those who had helped change and reshape her impression on Cardassians, there was only one still alive.

“I suspect that they would side with Starfleet on this, Captain. Given the reversal of circumstances, we need to show that we can move beyond our past and be a driving force for progress in this region of the quadrant—especially if we want to be considered for Federation membership.”

“As if we all want that,” Navar muttered.

Before she could reply, the heavy airlock door rolled opened. Turning to face the new arrival, she clasped her hands in front of her and assumed what she hoped was a diplomatic smile—the kind that never quite reached the eyes. Dakal stepped through, with a bag slung over one of his broad shoulders and a briefcase in the opposite hand. She was surprised to see that his sidearm wasn’t on his narrow waist, as his purposeful gait carried him over the threshold and onto the stations deck.

“Glinn Dakal, welcome aboard.”

He smiled at her, an expression which could actually be described as pleasant. “Thank you, Colonel. It’s good to be here; I’ve heard a lot about this place but have never been before.”

“I hope you enjoy your time onboard. May I introduce Captain Navar, head of station security. I’ll have him assign an escort for you, so as to avoid any incidents—there will undoubtedly be some who have…misgivings about a Cardassian officer onboard. It might be an idea for you to keep a low profile for the time being.”

“Thank you for the offer, Colonel, but a bodyguard won’t be necessary. I didn’t come here to hide away in my quarters, I have a job to do and I will make sure that it is done, regardless of who might be upset by my presence.”

“If you’re sure about that, Glinn,” she enquired, an eyebrow raised.

“I’m quite sure, Colonel.”

“Very well. Quarters are being allocated, though given the short notice it may take some time.”

He gave her a deep nod. “In that case, I can get to work then. As I understand there is a convoy arriving later today, with a contingent heading for Cardassia Prime this evening.”

“That’s correct.”

“Good, I’ll need to inspect the medical supplies that are to be included in the shipment—one delivery we received a few weeks ago were unsuitable for Cardassian physiology. I’d hate for such an oversight to happen again—some, more suspicious minds, may think that it was being done on purpose.”

“I can assure you, Glinn, there is no sabotage of any relief supplies that leave from DS9.”

He flashed his smile again. “I didn’t think there would be, Colonel. Now, as I understand it all supplies destined for Cardassian space are in cargo bays ten though sixteen. I can get started there.”

Kira looked at Navar, whose face was almost impassive—except for the tightly clenched muscles in his jaw. He may have had problems with the Cardassians, but if he was to be chief of security on this station he needed to put them to one side and do the job that she expected of him.

“Captain, please show Glinn Dakal to the cargo bays.” She turned back to the newest arrival. “I’ll inform you once your quarters have become available.”

“I appreciate that. Lead the way, Captain.”

Navar didn’t say a word, just gestured down the corridor and stayed a step behind Dakal. Once they were out of sight, she let out a breath and pinched the bridge of her wrinkled nose feeling a headache already starting to form. The last thing she needed right now to deal with Cardassian smugness, Navar’s personal dislike of the species, and all the other problems having Dakal onboard would bring.

“Prophets give me strength,” she muttered to herself, before straightening up and heading back for Ops.

* * * * *

The door chime raised Kasidy Yates from her snooze on the couch. Her mind foggy, from a combination of sleep and pregnancy hormones, it took her a few moments to realise just what had woken her.

“Come in,” she called as she sat up.

As the doors opened, Jake stepped inside a rare smile on his youthful face. Ever since Ben had disappeared, seeing Jake with anything other than a scowl or look of loss was a relief. She worried about the young man, about if he could come to term with what had happened to his father, the bond they shared was stronger than any she had seen—even greater than the one she and Ben had had. He was her family, which meant that she was responsible for looking out for him and keeping him safe, just as she was for the life growing inside her.

“Hey Kas, I didn’t wake you did I?”

“I was just dozing, your sibling decided to spend most of last night kicking my bladder.”

“I can go, if you’d like?”

She gave him a warm smile and patted the couch. “No need, Jake, I’ll sleep the day away otherwise. Besides I have too much to be doing today anyway, I need to check in with Oltex, see how the refit on the Xhosa’s impulse drive is going, before my appointment with Julian.”

Jake sat down and turned to face her. “Well you’ll need to get a move on, Kas, you’re due at the infirmary in twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes? Damn, I was asleep for longer than I thought.”

“I thought you said you were ‘dozing’?” he mocked with a grin.

She gave him a light tap on his arm, chuckling. “I wish medical science had advanced enough to allow human men to know the joys of pregnancy, then you can make comments.”

He chuckled—an even rarer expression for him. “Ok, ok! I surrender. I now know to never mock you when pregnant.”

“An important lesson to learn, Mr Sisko,” she told him with a playful scowl. “I guess Oltex can wait until this afternoon.”

“So would you like some company at the infirmary?”

“That would be lovely, thank you Jake.”

Jake stood up and offered a supportive hand to help her off the couch, which she gratefully took. Though still months away from her due date, she had still to get used to the extra weight and how it messed up her centre of gravity—she could only imagine how bad she would be waddling in her last few weeks. Once on her feet again, she hooked her arm with his and they headed out of her quarters—which had been his for years on the station.

Since Ben had vanished, she had kept wondering just where she would live; their quarters, getting her own place on the station, her cabin on the Xhosa, or even seeing to the building of Ben’s dream house on Bajor. She had visited the plot of land and been moved to tears by how idyllic it had been, but it hadn’t taken long for some of the locals to find her and start asking for advice and guidance—it was the one aspect of being the Emissary’s wife that she still couldn’t get used too, and it had been getting worse. After Ben had disappeared, there were many who seemed to think that she spoke for him, there wasn’t a day that went past when someone asked her for a blessing or enquired when the Emissary would return. But that paled in comparison to the number of Vedeks who contacted her, asking for her to support their nomination to become the next Kai or for her interpretation on prophecy.

Fortunately, for all the hassle she was facing, Jake seemed to have missed it all—for which she was grateful. She wasn’t sure how the young man would hold out if faced with it daily. She looked up at him and couldn’t help but pick out the features he had inherited from his father, most noticeably his kind eyes. He had really stepped up when it came to her pregnancy, giving her all the support she could have asked for.

They entered the Promenade and headed for the infirmary, doing a little window shopping on the way, chatting about the inconsequential things. Arriving at the medical facility they found the doors open and the examination room quiet. Doctor Bashir was busy, as usual, buzzing from one console to the other, deep in thought.

“Good morning, Doctor,” she interrupted.

He looked up, momentarily surprised, though quickly gave them a friendly smile. “Kasidy, Jake. Morning,” he said gesturing to the biobed, picking up a tricorder as he followed them through. “Now how are you both today?”

“A little tired,” she admitted, “it always seems to be when I want to sleep, Junior here wants to be awake.”

“Well I’d advise to get as much rest as you can, even the odd catnap here and there.”

“Oh she’s managing to do that,” quipped Jake, from a safe distance.

“Julian, please tell him it’s not safe to annoy a pregnant woman,” she said, lying back on the bed.

Bashir smiled and looked between the two of them. “He’s a braver man than I.”

The doctor opened his tricorder, removed the sensor wand, then slowly ran it over her, starting at her head and going right down to her feet. He tapped in the device, studied the readings for a moment then nodded. He stepped closer to her stomach again, and began scanning again. He always gave her a ‘once over’ for her general health, before checking more thoroughly on the baby.

As he scanned, Nurse Tagana came over with an instrument tray and set it down, giving Kasidy a warm smile before returning to her duties. He closed up his tricorder and picked up one of the devices on the tray, running it over her belly next.

“Is everything alright?” Jake asked.

“Everything is perfect. Baby and mother are both doing excellently. The one problem you have now is to decide if you’d like to know the sex?”

Kasidy shook her head. “No thank you, Julian. I’ll find out see enough.”

“Not a problem. My lips are sealed. Do you have any questions for me?”

Kasidy shook her head, having already pestered him with all the questions first time mothers no doubt asked.

“I have one.” They both looked at Jake. “What colour would be best for the baby’s room?”

* * * * *
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Old August 24 2015, 02:41 PM   #4
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Re: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Nicely written second chapter. I think the scene introducing Glinn Eron Dakal was a good touch for starters. The paperwork foul-up does seem to trigger a bit of an 'on guard' reaction from Kira and most certainly the new security chief Captain Navar Reo.


Kira's views regarding Reo, in many ways, to me of looking at herself in the mirror seven years ago. Very nice call back to Amin Maritza's impersonation of Gul Darheel, her near surrogate father Tekehny Ghemor, and even her various adventures/misadventures involving Elim Garak over the years. Very well done in that sense.


Speaking of Garak, I don't know why, but Eron Dakhal in my mind's eye seems to sound like Garak in a few different ways.


Great second chapter and I look forward to seeing more of this tale in the future.
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Old August 25 2015, 09:44 PM   #5
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Tactical withdrawl along the Klingon border
Re: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Chapter Three


Hjon Taelor had spent most of the day onboard the U.S.S. Defiant, getting to know the ship better. With all the work that needed to be done along the border, the starship would be acting more autonomously than it had previously, which would be his main concern—even though he was technically DS9’s second officer, he would spend at least two-thirds of his time as officer-in-charge of the Defiant.

When his new orders had come through he had read up on everything he could on the class, as well as the ship itself. Coming from the tactical track he had appreciated the ship as a weapon of war and knew just how effective it was, having seen it on numerous battlefields during the war, but this was his first time actually onboard—so it would take a little time to get to know the ship and just what she could do.

With the ship being on detached duty she now had a semi-permanent crew that would spend most of their time onboard the Defiant, but also have a position waiting for them back on the station. That meant that the crew were his, which was far greater a responsibility than commanding a single shift—as he had on the Christopher. The forty men and women onboard were his responsibility, it was up to him to make sure they got back home safe and sound—a daunting thought, but one he was going to give his all to achieve.

“Quinn to Taelor,” his combadge chirped.

He tapped it. “Go ahead, Chief.”

“All final diagnostics are complete, we are good to go whenever you give the word,” Chief Petty Officer Tabitha Quinn informed him from the engine room.

He glanced at the chronometer. “You’re early! I hadn’t expected you to be done until fifteen hundred.”

“I always enjoy a good diagnostic, Commander,” she replied, he could hear the smile in her voice.

“I’ll remember that. Make sure that you inventory is up to date, we’re still on schedule to depart at sixteen hundred hours.”

“I’ll get right on it. Quinn out.”

Though he had read up on as much of the ship as he could, he hadn’t had the chance to do the same with her crew. So other than the names of a few key positions there wasn’t much he knew about them—although he did know that Chief Quinn had requested assignment to the Defiant. Luckily, his first mission was a milk run, so he would have plenty of time to get to know the people he was now responsible for.

He finished up signing off on the last status report and stood up from behind the desk. The ready room was a compact space, slightly smaller than his cabin, as such it didn’t lend itself to being filled with personal mementos—that and the fact that there would be times either Colonel Kira or Commander Harris would call the office theirs. It didn’t bother him though, he wasn’t really one for collecting trinkets from planets he’d visited or ships he’d served on. What was most important, in his mind, was the here and now, which is what he preferred to focus on—though sometimes he would occasionally consider the future and what it might hold (a fourth pip on his collar perhaps?).

He shook it from his mind and headed out the ready room, taking the short corridor to the bridge. The doors opened and he stepped over the ridge.

“Captain on the bridge,” called out Lieutenant Seung Kee Reese from tactical.

He glanced over at his new second-in-command. “Thank you, Lieutenant, but I know when I’m on the bridge. Beside I’m not a captain.”

Reese gave him a grin. “Old Earth naval tradition, sir.”

“Well since I am neither an Earther nor a seafarer, kindly desist; ‘Commander’ is more than sufficient.”

“Noted for future reference, Commander.”

Taelor moved down to tactical, leaning against the bulkhead beside Reese’s station. “How’re things looking on your end, Lieutenant?”

“Our torpedo magazines have been fully restocked with quantums, diagnostics on phasers, shields and targeting systems show them all to be a peak operating capacity. If this mission goes tactical, we’ll be more than ready for it, sir.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I want you to peruse the most recent intelligence reports for the Dorvan System, see if there might be any surprises in store for us on out projected heading.”

“Aye sir.”

He turned to the conn, where an attractive young woman sat, ramrod straight. Her jet-black hair was in an immaculate braid, not a single strand was out of place, whilst the style exposed her pointed ears.

“I trust out course is already locked into the navcomp.”

Ensign Syrell looked up at him, a slight incline to her left eyebrow. “Of course, Commander. The convoy have also been issued our heading, as well as alternative routes should any unforeseen situations force us from the most direct course. We will be limited to warp factor five, as none of the freighters can travel faster once fully loaded. Out travel time to the Dorvan System will be one hundred and twenty-one point six hours.”

“Thank you, Ms Syrell, for that complete summing up.” She gave a slight incline of her head as he turned to ops and found it unoccupied. “Where is Collins?”

“She’s on the station, undergoing her medical,” Reese explained. “Doctor Bashir wouldn’t let her ship out with carrying it out personally.”

“I see,” was all he said on the matter. Though full medicals were required for all personnel when they arrived at a new posting, he was surprised Bashir had decided to take it on personally and not leave it to the Defiant’s own CMO, Lieutenant Greskrendtregk. He had only met Bashir briefly a few hours ago at the morning staff meeting, by no means long enough to say more than ‘hello’ and swap names, so he wasn’t sure just what kind of person the human was.

With no one free to carry out the checks at operations, he slipped into the vacant seat and began reviewing their computer, communications and sensor systems, making sure that none of them would cause any issues once they left the station. As he worked, in the back of his mind he hoped that there weren’t any issues with his officer—the last thing he wanted was to have to replace her before even having a chance to properly meet her.

* * * * *

“How are you feeling?” Doctor Bashir asked.

Dorian Collins sat on the biobed in the silent infirmary, hands knotted tightly together on her lap, as the physician began his examination of her. He had the same polite-friendly expression on his face and hint of sympathy in his eyes that she remember from the first time she’d met him.

“I’m fine, Doctor.”

He peered over the top of his tricorder, scrutinising her more intently with his eyes than he ever could with the scanner.

“Have you undertaken a new diet and exercise regime recently, Ensign?”

“I’ve been doing more running than I did previously, sir.”

“Hmm,” was all he said, though it spoke volumes. “It’s just you’re a little underweight, given your age, height and metabolism. You may need to increase the amount of protein you’re taking in.”

She gave him a hollow smile. “I’ll keep that in mind, sir.”

“How about your sleeping pattern, any problems there?”

“I find it hard to sleep for a few nights when I get into a strange bed, it’ll pass soon, sir.”

Bashir closed the tricorder and set it on the bed beside her, giving her his undivided attention. “You know whatever you tell me is kept in the strictest of confidences, no one else onboard will hear anything from me.”

Collins nodded. “I know, Doctor.” She made herself smile. “I’m fine, really.”

“Your medical file shows that you’ve refused counselling following the loss of the Valiant, are you sure that’s wise, given all you went through?”

It was a good thing he had closed his tricorder or he might’ve seen in detail the effect the mere mention of the Valiant had on her; her heart pounded, muscles tensed throughout her body, her breathing grew shallower, her stomach cramped tightly, and her mouth dried up. Almost every night since getting back to Earth, she had woken up feeling the same symptoms, as tears poured down her cheeks and she fought down the urge to vomit.

“Ensign?” Bashir asked, placing a firm hand on her shoulder.

As she looked into his dark concerned eyes, she felt her own well up with tears. She had tried so hard to bury her feelings, to lock them away and show that she was the good Starfleet officer she had trained to become, but seeing the Defiant so close, knowing that she would be serving onboard it for days and weeks at a time, her chance meeting with Nog on the Promenade, seeing him so together and adjusted, even Bashir seeing to her personally (she’d managed to slip through the cracks of the Academy medical centre, able to put on a good act for the physicians she met, enough to convince them she didn’t need closer observation or care), all of it just brought back just what had happened and what she had lost.

“Dorian,” he said softly, in an almost fatherly way, “if you want to start to get better, to truly heal, after all you’ve been through then you need to be honest with me. Alright?”

She nodded solemnly.

“You’ve been having headaches, stomach pains, trembling or shaking.” She nodded again. “Feeling tired but suffer from insomnia.” Another nod. “When you do sleep its fitful and you have recurring bad dreams, and when you’re awake you feel on edge.”

“Yes,” she said softly.

“You’re facing post-traumatic stress and an anxiety disorder. These won’t go away just by themselves. There is a course of treatment, though it won’t be a quick fix. I can prescribe you medication to help ease some of the physical symptoms and will refer you to Counsellor Dax, for a regular therapy appointment. I’ll also speak to Colonel Kira about getting you a different assignment—”

“No.” Her head snapped up from looking at her clenched hands. “I’ll accept your help, but please don’t have me transferred.”

He frowned. “Being onboard another Defiant-Class ship could be a huge trigger for you. This is a stress you don’t need right now and one that can be avoided.”

“I know I can do it, sir. If I was stuck here I don’t know what I would do with myself, it’s too…big. On the Defiant everything is more contained and structured, on the station I don’t know what I’d do with myself. Please, Doctor, I have my assignment and I need to carry it out.”

His frown deepened. “The Defiant departs in just over an hour, Ensign. I’m not altogether comfortable letting you ship out without beginning to address some of these matters.”

“We’ll be back in nine days, sir. I can meet with Counsellor Dax then, in the meantime I could meet with Doctor Greskrendtregk.”

Bashir thought about it for a moment then gave the smallest of nods. “I will make a note in your medical file for Gres to follow up, as well as orders that if he notices any decline in your mental or physical well-being he is to relieve you immediately. Understood?”

“Yes Doctor.” She gave him a weak smile, feeling somewhat relieved that someone had seen through her veil. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it, Ensign, that’s why I’m here.”

* * * * *

First Lieutenant Lin Kelsi sat at the spaceport and watched the crowd. It was one of her favourite ways to pass the time, people watching. Everyone was always at their most honest and true to themselves when they didn’t realise they were being watched, from the longing glances of unrequited lovers, to the exasperation of tired parents, to the bad habits some would never grow out of.

Being one of the few in a Militia uniform she both stood out and blended in. Passers-by took note of it, but at the departure lounge for Deep Space Nine she was a common enough sight to be of little interest. Her grey uniform, gave noting away about who she was or what she did—the colour being used for numerous service and logistic branches, she suspected there wouldn’t be many to guess that she was the lead science officer. But then again, there were times she could barely believe it.

The one thing about her that did attract a rare second glance was her lack of earring. She picked up on a couple of questioning looks from those adorned with the piece of jewellery, but of course no one cared enough to stop and ask why. If they knew the answer they would most likely give her a wide berth.

Unlike the vast majority of the population, she hadn’t grown up on Bajor or a refugee camp along the Cardassian border. Her parents had managed to escape the Occupation and settle in neutral space, where they had prospered and flourished away from the nightmare almost every other Bajoran lived in. For that, they were shunned by their people, with many looking at them with more contempt than they did collaborators. She and her siblings hadn’t known any other Bajorans growing up, so their first encounter with members of her parents’ homeworld had been upsetting and unpleasant—because she hadn’t endured what they had, because she had managed to get a full education (including masters in astrophysics, planetary geology, xenobiology, and anthropology). It was for this that she didn’t wear the earring, a symbol of what it meant to be Bajoran.

It was also why her decision to join the Militia had dumbfounded her family. She could’ve sailed through Starfleet Academy or a research post at the Daystrom Institute, maybe even gotten into the Vulcan Science Academy, but instead she had headed for Bajor. Though just why even baffled her at times; she wasn’t going to be a crusader for those who were like her, wasn’t going to explore her pagh, or out of some sense of rebellion against her upbringing. The best she could come up with was for the curiosity of it.

Lin chuckled to herself as she sat on the bench. Besides, going by the way the wind is blowing I might be in a Starfleet uniform soon enough, she mused to herself, watching a man in an expensive business suit unconsciously pick his nose.

She scanned around the faces again, watching the snapshot of a moment unfold in its mundane splendour, before something out the corner of her eye drew her attention. In a corner, trying to remain as unnoticeable as possible she spotted a handsome young man, perhaps only two or three years older than herself, with a scruffy beard and dark hair, his grey eyes watching the crowd more intensely than she was. He was dressed in plain, well-worn clothes and as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other she saw him wince, though couldn’t tell why—he looked to be in great shape, despite his dishevelled appearance. He was the kind of figure that most others didn’t even seem to register, the only reason he stood out to her was because she was watching those who didn’t know they were being watched.

He was in a corner, nowhere near any windows, so no one could sneak up behind him, so immediately she jumped to the thought that he was running or hiding—especially with the way he zeroed in on every sudden movement.

“Transport shuttle Pibar destined for Deep Space Nine is ready for departure. Would all passengers travelling please make their way to the departure gate as the shuttle is now ready for boarding. Thank you.”

Distracted by the calling of her ship, she glanced away for a moment but looked back in the corner only to see he was no longer there. As the people all around her got up to leave, she lost her chance to spot him again. So, as with all her other observation subjects, she would have to forget about the handsome stranger and what his story might have been, instead she had plenty to focus on the three hour flight to the station—having picked up several interesting papers at the scientific conference she had been attending.

Lin picked up her travel bag and took her place into the queue to board the shuttle.

The orderly line filtered into the ship smoothly, so soon she was onboard and looking for her seat. She had booked for the back row, as it was always the quietest, so she would have some peace and time to herself. As she neared her row, her seat was on the port side, she noticed the top of a head on the starboard side of the aisle; a dark and scruffy head.

She stopped long enough to pack her bag into the overhead locker, before sitting down with a couple of PADDs in hand, at which point she glanced over at the man again. He gave her a wary sideways glance, focusing on her uniform mostly though did venture a quick look at her face, before he focused forward again.

Once seated and with her belt securely fastened she looked at him and gave him a polite smile. “Hello.”

“Hi,” was his brief reply.

“Are you alright? You seem a little nervous. Afraid of flying?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Oh okay.” With monosyllable replies, she doubted that there wouldn’t be much more she would get from him. “Well it’ll be gone before you know it. Hope you enjoy the flight,” she told her travelling companion and was just about to activate her first PADD.

“Do you live on the station?”

“I’m the senior science officer. Lieutenant Lin Kelsi.” He didn’t offer anything more. “And what about you?”

“You can call me Sol.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you, Sol. If you have any questions about the station, don’t hesitate to ask.”

He looked as though he were going to ask something, but then seemed to think better of it, look at the other passengers again before turning to the window. She eyed him for a moment longer before shrugging to herself and settling in to read the most recent archaeological report from B’hala, though couldn’t help but be further intrigued by the man sitting just a couple of meters away.

* * * * *
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Old August 26 2015, 08:53 PM   #6
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Tactical withdrawl along the Klingon border
Re: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Darkest Before Dawn

Chapter Four


“Secure the airlock. Bring thrusters online—”

“Commander, there is someone in the airlock,” announced Collins.

Taelor was on his feet and standing by her chair in seconds, leaning forward he tapped the airlock visual sensor controls. The monitor changed to the camera view, showing a most unexpected individual standing there, hands clasped behind her back, looking up at the camera.

He tapped the comlink. “Counsellor, I wasn’t expecting a send off.”

“Colonel Kira thought that you might appreciate a dedicated officer to liaise with the aid stations.”

“The more the merrier, Counsellor.” He looked down at Collins. “Open the airlock.”

He saw an odd look on the ensigns’ face though couldn’t quite place it, but as quickly a she noticed it then it was gone again. All she said was, “Aye sir.”

Taelor switched from the camera back to the telemetry readout and returned to his seat.

“The counsellor is aboard. Airlock secured and all connectors released.”

“Thank you, Ensign. Conn, forward thrusters to one quarter, port and starboard at station keeping. Once we’re clear, take us to the rendezvous point.”

“Acknowledged Commander,” Syrell stated evenly.

On the viewscreen, the docking ring started to withdraw as the Defiant moved away, before the station swung off to port and the ship headed away from the stations immediate traffic zone. Before they reached the location at which they would wait for the freighters, the doors opened and Dax stepped onto the bridge.

“Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. I hope that we won’t be keeping you from anything important on the station.”

“I’ve managed to arrange cover for a couple of patients, though given how crucial these supplies are needed then I’m happy to help. In the meantime, put me to work.”

He smiled at the petite Trill. “I’ve always wanted a yeoman.”

Dax laughed. “Surprisingly, it’s one of the few careers I haven’t had.”

“Joined Trills are always looking for new experiences, after all.”

“That is very true. Can I get you a raktajino then, Commander?”

He chuckled. Since meeting the Counsellor he had liked her, with her disarming manner, the sense of wisdom she projected, and the mischievous twinkle to her eye. Unfortunately, he had quickly learned through the grapevine that she and Doctor Bashir were a couple; a pity as she was just the kind of woman he liked—unless of course they were interested in another member.

“Maybe later. For now, you can take science.”

Dax slipped into the vacant science console—as he understood it a new addition to the bridge, as was the lab on deck two (both added to allow the ship to be more versatile). On standard operations which, for the most part, would consist of escort and patrol duties, then there was no need for science personnel. It would only be on special assignments that they would take on researchers and labtechs as needed.

It didn’t take long for the six freighters they were guarding to muster and assume a wedge-shaped formation. The Defiant would be at the rear, her greater speed and manoeuvrability would mean that she could easily intercept any potential threats from whatever direction.

Syrell turned away from the conn to face him. “Convoy is in position, all navigational arrays have been synchronised, and all ships report ready for warp speed, sir.”

“Thank you, Ensign. Collins, signal we are moving out.”

“Aye sir.”

Moments later the first freighter leapt to warp, quickly followed by the rest, with the Defiant following on behind them. His first mission was underway, all his hopes on it going smoothly. Though he didn’t doubt the people onboard being ready for a fight, he’d prefer them to be a little more experienced as a single crew before leading them into battle.

* * * * *

“Incoming comlink,” the computer announced.

Kasidy moved over to the desk and tapped in her access code, preparing herself for another unwanted communiqué from a vedek she had never heard of. When the screen came alive it showed the heavily shadowed face of a Bajoran woman a few years older than herself, a hood obscuring much of her head. The one thing that did stand out was her startling turquoise eyes; they seemed to bore across subspace and into her core.

“Captain Yates? The wife of the Emissary?” the woman asked in a raspy voice.

“I am Captain Yates,” she confirmed, keeping her tone polite.

The woman breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the Prophets. Captain, I am Prylar Ven and need your help—”

“Prylar, I mean no disrespect but I will not be providing any support to prospective candidates for the next Kai.”

“You misunderstand, Captain. I do not seek your help as the wife of the Emissary, but as the Captain of a ship.”

“Oh? That I can help you with,” she said relaxing a little. “What is your cargo, where will you need it collected from and delivered too?”

“The cargo is myself and a small crate. I must get to Bajor as quickly as possible.”

“Where are you now?”

“Seneya.”

“Seneya?” she asked, startled. Of all the places she could’ve been, she wouldn’t have been more surprised unless Ven was on Cardassia Prime. Seneya was a small planet on the wrong side of the Cardassian border, in the region that was under the new jurisdiction of the Klingon Empire. “What are you doing there?”

“I can’t say over the comm, Captain. Please, how soon can you get here?”

“I could be there in seven days. I assume you can’t say what your cargo is.”

“No, but I assure you it is nothing harmful to you, your crew or your ship. But I am in desperate need to get to Bajor as soon as possible. Can you help me?”

Even if she wasn’t pregnant, the thought of crossing the border and having to deal with Klingon bureaucracy was something that she would’ve avoided if at all possible. She was about to let Ven down when the older woman’s intense eyes fixed on her. The prylar had all the signs of a desperate woman, one stuck on a Cardassian world that was hit hard during the war.

She found herself nodding. “I will get the Xhosa added to the cargo rotation for Cardassian border worlds—fortunately I have some good connections, so should be able to organise a run to Seneya. We could leave here as early as tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, Captain Yates. I will contact you once you reach orbit. Ven out.”

What have you gotten yourself into, Kasidy? she asked herself. But she didn’t allow herself time to dwell on it, putting in a call to one of her contacts with the body set up to co-ordinate relief supplies from the various Federation organisations. As she waited for it to go through, she contacted the Xhosa and had her first mate recall the crew and get ready to receive cargo and depart as soon as they were loaded.

After her call went through, it didn’t take long for her to pull in a couple of the favours she was owed to get a special run to Seneya—which was actually overdue the delivery of replicator parts and foodstuffs. After a good ten minutes of negotiations, the Xhosa had been officially handed the cargo run, with all the proper clearances she would need to proceed unhindered. That just left one meeting for her to have, which would be the hardest of them all.

Kasidy headed for the nearest turbolift and ordered it to ops. As the carriage slowed, she took a steadying breath. It stopped and she stepped out, unsurprised at how busy it was. The one thing she did find alarming was the presence of a Cardassian at the ops table, standing with Kira, Major Agahn and a human Starfleet officer who she didn’t recognise.

“Captain Yates, can I help you?” Lieutenant Myers asked from the weapons console.

“I was hoping to speak with the Colonel, I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

Myers shrugged. “No worse than usual,” she admitted. “Colonel.”

Kira looked up at her and smiled, before coming around the table and up the steps to meet her. “Kasidy, how are you?”

“I’m very well thanks. Do you have a minute?”

“Of course,” she told her, gesturing to the office. “Commander Harris, ops is yours.”

“Aye sir,” was the prompt reply.

In the commander’s office, they settled onto the couch. Kasidy couldn’t help but notice that the private workspace, which was now Kira’s, was devoid of any of her personal items. The only decoration it had was Ben’s old baseball sitting on the desk. After Kira had assumed command, all of Ben’s things had been moved down to their quarters. She’d even included the ball, but Kasidy had insisted she keep a hold of it, he would’ve wanted that.

“Can I get you anything?”

“No, I’m fine thank you. I thought it would be best if I came with this to you personally. In a few hours, you will receive confirmation that the Xhosa is going on a relief run, please don’t try to block it.”

Kira’s brow furrowed. “You’re worrying me, Kasidy. Just where are you going?”

“Seneya.”

“What?”

“They are in desperate need so I offered the Xhosa to make the run, seeing as how there aren’t any other ships free right now. It’s just a two week round trip, so I’ll be back here before you know I’m gone.”

“I’m not entirely comfortable letting you go into Cardassian space, not without an escort, but I know better than to try and talk you out of it. Once the orders come through, I won’t hold you up,” Kira told her, still looking uncomfortable. “You’ll be making Glinn Dakal happy.”

Kasidy looked back out at ops where she could just see the striking Cardassian, then back to Kira. “What’s that all about?”

“He’s our liaison to Cardassia, to help co-ordinate relief shipments. Arrived early this morning, although his orders hadn’t come through, so no one knew he was coming—just the way I like to start a busy day.”

“How long is he here for?”

“It didn’t give a date, only that he’d be present until the relief and reconstruction work was completed.”

“I’m surprised they found an officer willing to undertake an assignment like this. It’s not exactly going to make them a popular person.”

“I don’t think that’s really going to bother Dakal, to be honest.”

Kasidy chuckled softly. “I’ll keep that in mind.” With that she stood up, Kira followed her example. “Well I’d best get to my ship and get things ready on that end. Thank you again, Colonel.”

“Be careful out there.”

“I will,” she replied, resting a hand on her belly.

* * * * *

Peace really was good for business.

Quark couldn’t remember the last time his bar was so busy, or his profit margins were so high. But despite how good it was right now, he did find himself feeling a little reflective. He was loathed to admit it, but he truly missed that idiot brother of his. Rom was now on Ferenginar tearing down everything that had made their homeworld great, replacing it with something akin to a Federation planet. But that wasn’t even the worst part. Ever since Rom had taken over a Grand Nagus, the markets on Ferenginar had actually gone up! Whatever it was he was doing was making more profit than anytime over the last eight years.

“Dabo!” cried Fenna, a buxom Bajoran with white-blonde hair he’d just hired to replace Leeta, as she jumped excitedly, enticing the mostly male players who were at her wheel. She was definitely smarter than she looked, knowing how to persuade patrons to part with more latinum than they ever intended.

Broik came over to the bar with a new drinks order. As Quark took the PADD and started to price up the rounds, he caught a glimpse of Captain Navar on the Promenade, strolling by the entrance slowly, looking in. Though the Bajoran was every bit as solid as Quark, he was almost as big a pain in the neck as his predecessor had been. Over the last five weeks, there had been two attempts to run black market goods for Cardassian space through the station, but both times the chain had been broken within hours of being forged onboard. Thankfully, Quark hadn’t made any advances to them, or else he would’ve wound up in a holding cell.

Navar disappeared from view, but Quark knew he’d reappear, somewhere either in the bar or outside watching what was going on. Unlike Odo, who was so predictable that you could’ve set a chronometer by him, the captain liked to be random. Sometimes two hours could go by without seeing him, other times you were lucky to get twelve seconds of peace. At least Quark didn’t have to worry about him turning into a glass or chair or rodent.

He finished the last order of drinks and had the trays sitting ready for his waiters. There was a steady queue of people at the bar, all flashing their latinum or credit chips and talking over one another trying to be heard. Fortunately, M’Pella was on top of things, keeping them moving so as to optimise his income. He handed out the last tray to Frool before joining her dispensing drinks and snacks to those waiting.

“What can I get you?” he asked a new face, a young Bajoran male with untidy hair and beard. His clothing didn’t signal wealth, but so long as he could pay his tab then their financial state wasn’t really his problem.

“I’ll have a synthale, please.”

“One synthale coming up,” he told the customer, pulling a mug from under the bar and filling it from the pitcher. He set it down. “There you are, anything else?”

“Are you Quark?” the man asked.

“I see my reputation as host has preceded me.”

The man leaned in closer over the bar and dropped his voice. “I’ve heard you’re very good at acquiring things that can be difficult to get a hold of.”

Quark flashed him a smile and leaned on the bar, speaking through his freshly sharpened teeth. “Who told you that?”

“I’ve made enquiries. Is that you or not?”

“That depends on what it is you are looking for?”

The Bajoran looked around him. Though the crowd was fairly dense, with the noise they were making, they could barely hear themselves, let alone anyone else. “I need a security data rod, one that will help scramble my computer access.”

“You want to keep people from tracing you by your computer access. You need a good quality scrambler to ensure that you are afforded the privacy you want, but they are not cheap.”

“How much?” he eagerly asked.

“Ten strips.”

“Ten?!”

“You pay for the quality of data rod. Cheaper ones can be all too easily intercepted and decoded.”

“Five,” he countered.

Quark had to laugh, which drew a few looks, though they were short-lived. “Excuse me, but I have other customers to see too.”

“Seven.”

“Ten.”

“Eight.”

“Deal,” Quark snapped.

The Bajoran slipped his hand into the bag he had hanging across his chest and pulled out eight strips of latinum and placed it in Quark’s waiting hand. He slipped it into his jacket then stepped over to his drawer of isolinear rods, filled with holosuite programmes as well as his own personal security spikes and found the one he was looking for.

He handed it to the man, who clutched it tightly. Without saying another word he ducked into the crowd and disappeared from view. Yet another satisfied customer.

From his usual seat, Morn raised his hand and Quark picked up the bottle of Saurian brandy to replenish his empty glass. As he poured, he saw Navar come down one of the spiral staircases, watching a pair of Klingons at the end of the bar as they roared with laughter, before his eyes fixed on Quark.

He smiled at the security chief, jamming the cork back into the bottle and setting it to the side, before moving onto the next patron in need of refreshment.

* * * * *

Jake Sisko looked at his stepmother in disbelief. She had just told him that she would be going on a run—nothing new there as she was still over five months away from her due date—but into Cardassian space was just a moment of absolute madness. The fact she was being so vague about it as well also had him very concerned—after her indiscretion of aiding the Maquis, it wasn’t like her to keep things from the people she loved.

“Come on, Kas, you have to give me something here. You don’t typically volunteer for runs into Cardassian space, so what’s so different about this one?”

“They need this cargo, Jake, and the Xhosa is just sitting there cooling its heels. My crew needs to get paid and runs like this are always good earners.”

“But Seneya? Couldn’t you have gone to Dorvan or Prophet’s Landing? Hell, even Setlik would be safer!”

She let out an exasperated sigh. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“That’s the thing about kids, we’re highly perceptive—you’d best get used to that.”

She held up her hands. “Alright. Do you really want the truth?” He nodded. “I was contacted by a woman on Seneya. She was looking for quick transport to Bajor.”

“Why would a Cardassian on Seneya want to get to Bajor?”

“She wasn’t Cardassian. It was a prylar called Ven.”

“A Bajoran? What is she doing in Cardassian space?”

Kasidy shook her head. “I don’t know, she wouldn’t tell me. All I can say is that she was desperate to get home and I couldn’t say no to her.”

“You’ve not told anyone else this, have you?”

“No. You’re the only person who knows, I’ve not even told my crew anything.”

“I want to come with you,” he announced suddenly, before realising what he was really saying.

She was taken aback. “Jake,” she began,

“Kas, I don’t like this, but at least if I’m with you then I won’t be sitting here twiddling my thumbs and worrying about you. Please, Kasidy, I want to help out.”

“You’ll be bored; there isn’t much excitement on a freighter when it’s in empty space.”

“I can help out; I’ll swab the poop deck if I have too.”

“We don’t have a ‘poop deck’,” she told him with a smile.

“Then I can write an article for the FNS, a first-hand account of a relief mission into Cardassian space. My editor would love it!” He could just hear the enthusiastic clicks and chirps from F2 Brown at the regional office of the Federation News Service, the Nasat was never able to hide how he felt. “If nothing else, I’ll be a little extra company for the trip. I mean it is ‘only’ two weeks.”

“I knew that would come back and bite me in the butt.” She sighed again. “Alright, you can come. But you do what I tell you, when I tell you to do it—we may be a civilian ship, but I’m still the Captain.”

He gave her a salute. “Aye-aye.”

* * * * *

Though there were still plenty of boxes than need to be unpacked, Adele Harris was too curious about the vacant premises on the Promenade. She’d contacted the security office and gained access to the old restaurant, the walls of which were adorned with Bolian art, whilst old menus, plates, cutlery, glasses and other odds and ends were left on tables, counters and shelves. “Zey’s” had obviously been a labour of love, but had gone out of business when the owner had packed up just after the war had ended—returning to Bolarus IX to spend time with his wife and co-husband, both of whom had served in Starfleet during the conflict.

It was an ‘open air’ venue, with the seating area open on two sides to the Promenade (except for now as there were shutters down to keep the unit secure), whilst the kitchen and store room were in the back, both good sizes and very suitable for what she needed. She’d also asked around about stock and found the local greengrocer to be well appointed, whilst she could also reserve a space in the hydroponics bay, and there were multiple shuttles a day from Bajor so she could get fresh ingredients within just a few hours.

Adele had tried Bajoran food on numerous occasions and even made it in a few of her other restaurants, but here she wanted to put a new twist on some classics, as well as bring dishes from all over the quadrant to her diners. She didn’t believe in just serving one type of menu, she wanted it to be as diverse as possible—always one hundred percent handmade.

“Knock-knock,” came Austin’s voice from the shopfront.

She emerged from the kitchen with a smile on her face, which grew even wider when she saw him. He looked more tired than she had seen in a long time, but he also looked happy.

“So how was the first day?”

“Exhausting, draining, hectic, and constantly surprising. I loved it.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Is it true what I heard, that there’s now a Cardassian officer onboard?”

He nodded, moving to the counter and leaning on it opposite her. “Yup. Eron Dakal. He arrived early this morning—completely out of the blue. Ops has been pretty tense with him there.”

“Are you ok?”

He nodded, though she saw a hint of angry pain behind his once soft blue eyes. “It’ll take a bit of getting used to, but as the ranking Starfleet officer I need to put on a brave face, despite my true feelings. He’s here and I suspect he won’t be leaving anytime soon. Just, please, don’t invite him to dinner anytime soon, honey.”

“Alright I won’t. I’ll let you do that when you’re ready to break bread with him.”

“That’s appreciated,” he said leaning closer and kissing her on the lips.

She had missed the feeling of his stubble when he kissed her at the end of a long day. It was all the little things that she had yearned for the most during their months apart. They had a lot of lost time and little things to make up for, which just meant grossing out their children as they kissed, held hands, snuggled up on the couch together, even some lovey-dovey talk (though that was just done to see Summer’s reaction, which made them chuckle in private).

“Come on. You need to shower and change before the Colonel arrives for dinner.”

“You’re still going ahead with that?”

“Of course,” she told him, picking up her bags of groceries and heading for the exit. He followed on behind and she tapped in the security code once they were both clear. Austin took one of the bags and they headed for the habitat ring and their quarters.

As they walked, she’d told him that about all the unpacking she had managed to get done, finding the Algol Keepsake he had given to her on their first wedding anniversary that she had thought lost during the move, as well as enquiring about education facilities on the station and learned that a new Andorian resident would be restarting the old school—though including Summer and Jason the school roll would only be five. The hope was that as more families returned to the station, then the number of students would increase. She had met their new neighbours, baking a batch of her brownies to help make a good first impression.

“How’re the kids getting on?”

“They’ve not murdered each other yet, so that’s always a good thing. They’ve helped me unpack, explored the Promenade, and were doing some studying on the computer before I headed in to check the unit—so there could well be carnage by the time we get back. So what’s the crew like?”

“They’re good. An eclectic mix, but so far they seem like a dependable bunch. It’s strange seeing so many people not in Starfleet uniforms though, but even the Militia crew are just as dedicated as the Fleeters—some even more so. Of course, one day doesn’t really give me much of a chance to get to know them. That’ll take time, though I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to move.”

“Glad to hear it.”

They continued to talk about the inconsequential things until they reached the door to their quarters. Adele half expected to find the kids in uproar—though they loved each other, too much time together in close quarters was enough to test anyone’s limits. Surprisingly, they were both in the kitchen. Jason was washing vegetables in the sink, whilst Summer was getting plates and cutlery sorted for the table—no surprise there. Jase definitely had her talent when it came to the culinary arts, whereas Summer was her father’s daughter through and through (Adele wouldn’t be surprised to see her in uniform in three of four years’ time).

“What’s this?” Austin asked, eyeing them suspiciously.

“What?” challenged Summer, with all the bravado of her father.

“You’re being helpful!”

“Ha ha, funny dad,” she deadpanned. “We’re not helpless you know.”

“Best not say anything more, darling, you might jinx it forever more,” she told him.

“That is very true.”

“Good, now shower. Go,” she told him, giving him a swat on the buttocks (Summer let out a soft groan of disgust), before taking the bag of groceries he’d been carrying.

As he showered, she finished off the Ktarian soufflé she’d been making, with a goats cheese salad and azna dumplings. She’d also gotten a loaf of bread from the small bakery, normally she would’ve made her own, but she hadn’t had the time—though going by the smell of the bread she would have to consider using their products on her menu, something she had proposed to the owner who was quite open to the idea.

She had just finished when he stepped back into the living space, dressed in loose fitting trousers and an open collared shirt—they had a strict ‘no uniform’ policy when it came to having meals. As important as Austin’s duty was to him, that was separate from his family life and it was something they had always strived to balance.

The door chimed. Jason ran to the panel and tapped it. He beamed up at Kira, who stood in the corridor. She smiled down at the boy.

“Hello again, Jason,” she said.

“Hi.”

“Jase, come out the way and let our guest in,” Adele told him. He did as he was told and Kira entered.

“I hope I’m not late.”

“Not at all, your timing is perfect,” she assured their guest.

“You know, you can smell that halfway down the corridor. I’m surprised you don’t have everyone in this section knocking at your door.”

“We’ll most likely be having an open house next week,” commented Austin.

Kira handed a bottle to him. “It’s a spring wine from the Northern Kendra Province, some of the best bottles come from there—I’m hoping this is one of them.”

“Thank you, Colonel. Honey, how would spring wine go with dinner?”

“It’d go splendidly,” she told him, knowing that the delicately flavoured wine would make a superb accompaniment to the light and fluffy texture of the soufflé, which she set on the table.

As she got the side dishes, he fetched some glasses, as well as two bottles of Trixian bubble juice he produced from nowhere. When she looked at them he shrugged.

“You’re not the only one who goes shopping you know.”

When they returned to the table, they found the kids sitting down, whilst Kira was setting her uniform jacket on the back of the couch.

“I realised I may have been a little overdressed for dinner.”

“We have a fairly relaxed household,” she told their guest.

“Would you like some wine, Colonel?” Austin asked.

“Yes please.”

He handed her a glass then poured one for Adele and passed it to her, before fixing himself the last one and sitting down. Adele started to serve the soufflé as the salad and dumplings were passed around for the others to help themselves. She had been looking forward to the meal with Colonel Kira all day, wanting to get to know the other woman—since Kira would ultimately be the one responsible for the safety of her children should anything happen to the station, it would be Kira who lead them through it.

Kira put the first forkful into her mouth, paused and let out a soft moan. She looked across the table at her. “Mrs Harris, this is incredible, it just dissolved!”

“Thank you, it took me two weeks of making nothing but soufflés to get it right. And please, call me Adele.”

“That was time well spent. If this is any indication, Adele, I’d say your restaurant is going to definitely give Quark a run for his latinum.”

“I hope that’s a good thing, Colonel.”

“It is,” she assured her with a smile, “and it’s Nerys.” She quickly tucked in, savouring each evaporating mouthful.

* * * * *
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Avatar: Captain Naya, U.S.S. Renown NCC-1415 [Star Trek: Four Years War]
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