Season 3, Episode 1: The two year conflict between Federation Alliance and the Dominion has now ended. But for the war's participant's, the difficult process of picking up the pieces and coping with personal losses is beginning. This story is an immediate continuation of "To the Bitter End", depicting the final forty days of the Dominion War. *********************************************** Part One: A Hero’s Welcome How does one respond to being seen as a hero? Limis Vircona stared at her desk monitor while sorting through padds cluttered on her desk. Commander Ronnie Kozar was seated on the other side of the desk helping her sort through those padds containing the latest personnel reports and repair schedules. Limis didn’t mind this kind of administrative work. It was sure preferable to battling Jem’Hadar patrols on an almost weekly basis. Ever since the Dominion War had ended, she was engaged in administrative tasks nearly every minute of every day. When Limis was placed in command of the USS Lambda Pazat the start of the war, she had expected such a battlefield commission to only last for the duration of the war. All that was on her mind then was avenging her colleagues in the Maquis. She never considered what she would do with her life after the war—assuming the Federation and its allies won the war, and such an outcome was seriously in doubt during the war’s early stages. Perhaps she could continue to have some kind of positive influence now that the Dominion had withdrawn from the Alpha Quadrant and the Cardassian Union was in Federation Alliance occupied territory. As far as she knew, Limis was still in Starfleet on the assumption that no news was good news. She wasn’t so sure about the all of the former Maquis serving on board the Lambda Paz. Some of them had already resigned while others, such as her closest friend and confidant Rebecca Sullivan, were undecided. A review board was in the process of evaluating those who were undecided on an individual basis. “Engineering will be running tests on the warp engines,” Kozar informed Limis while handing Limis one of the padds on the desk. “Phaser upgrades are a bit behind schedule, but it shouldn’t be much of a setback.” Limis nodded, taking a few last glances at each of the padds. “If that’s all,” she said, “I should continue packing.” “Where are you taking shore leave?” Kozar curiously inquired. Limis took a deep breath, already envisioning more agrarian surroundings. “Bajor,” she said contentedly, “my home village in the Lonar province.” “Enjoy your trip,” Kozar replied with what seemed like feigned interest to Limis. It seemed almost too polite to her, she mused as the first officer exited the ready room. While their professional relationship was in a state of détente, Kozar had been very vocal in questioning some of her recent decisions during the waning months of the war. These somewhat forced pleasantries seemed like a feeble attempt to remind each other those disagreements were not personal. She was lost in that thought when the computer chimed. “Captain Limis. Incoming bulletin from Starfleet Command.” Limis rolled her eyes in frustration over the timing of this communiqué and tapped the activation key on the desk monitor. An official memorandum appeared on the screen saying that a number of Luna-class ships were to be temporarily decommissioned and the Lambda Paz would probably be one such ship depending on the Starfleet Corps of Engineers’ appraisal of ships that survived the war. She would be permitted, though, to retain her Starfleet commission and to take any new assignment of her choosing. Limis just stared blankly at the screen, reading the message over and over again. She knew a decommissioning was a possibility since the Luna-class was originally constructed to be a new class of explorer ships, and ship production usually decreased during peacetime. It almost seemed like a cruel joke that she would possibly lose her ship while still being allowed to remain in Starfleet. She was not sure, however, whether to be insulted or flattered by that decision. Limis emphatically shut off the desk monitor, stowed away a few padds in a briefcase, and headed for the ready room’s main entrance. At the moment the doors parted, she took one last look around the office, wondering if this was the last time she should set foot in it. As if satisfied that everything there was properly arranged, she nodded and stepped out of the ready room. ### On her way to the transport vessel bound for Bajor, Limis ran into her longtime friend Rebecca Sullivan on the promenade of Starbase G-6. Rebecca was traveling to Betazed with Lieutenant Sara Carson. With looming uncertainty as to whether the two friends would remain shipmates for the foreseeable future, they exchanged rather mundane and awkward small talk, including Vircona jokingly asking Rebecca if she brought enough sunscreen. “I always bring enough sunscreen,” Rebecca retorted with an amused grin. “But I hear it’s more arid where you’re going.” “I can handle it. We could all use plenty of natural sunlight.” They soon passed by the airlock housing the transport ship ferrying passengers to Betazed, which caught Rebecca’s attention. Sara was already waiting for her. Rebecca flashed a wide smile at her lover and looked back at Vircona with a wistful sigh. “Have fun, Vira,” she said with a supportive grin. “You too, Becca,” Limis replied. “You’ll have plenty of opportunity not to think about what lies ahead on those warm beaches. I’ll tell Yanith you said hello.” “Great.” After a long and silent stare, the two women held each other in a long embrace. Rebecca then grinned awkwardly and headed straight for the airlock, greeting Sara with a pecking kiss on the lips. Limis just stood and watched Rebecca as she and Sara walked gingerly towards the airlock, holding hands. She wondered off and on if this would be the last time she and Rebecca were shipmates. Whatever Rebecca’s decision would be regarding her future in Starfleet, Vircona would certainly support it. The big question was where Rebecca would go now that her home colony on Volan Three had been annihilated and the whole planet rendered uninhabitable. *** In addition to making up for lost time with her son, Limis was mostly looking forward to not having to deal with two of her most senior officers, who had too often gone out of their way to question every command decision she made over the last two years. At least Kozar isn’t second-guessing where I take my shore leave. Her hopes of being away from ship’s business were suddenly dashed when she took her seat on the transport and saw that a certain persistent thorn in her side was seated across the aisle from her. “Morrison? What the hell are you doing here?” “Good to see you too, Captain,” Mandel Morrison replied with a teasing smile. “I’ve heard a lot about the many idyllic settings on Bajor. Never got much of a chance to see those places during our little adventure.” Limis rolled her eyes with displeasure at having been reminded of when Morrison was an uninvited guest on one of her undercover missions. They had gained mutual respect for one another after that mission nearly ended in disaster. Since then, Limis had tried to convince herself that such mutual respect was professional rather than personal. “You call almost being brainwashed by Teero Anaydis a ‘little adventure’? There’s something more going on here, Morrison.” Morrison quickly detected the investigative tone in her voice. “Are you asking me in an official capacity?” Limis scoffed. As if I cared about his personal life. “Of course not. But you strike me as a man who takes his shore leave on Risa, Casperia, or Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, not Bajor. “You’re right about that,” Morrison conceded. “I’ve heard, though, that you can get relationship advice through Orb experiences.” Limis’s eyes again widened in disbelief, while she was barely able to hold in a light chuckle. While she didn’t believe in the Prophets, she still thought it blasphemous of Morrison to presume to seek advice from them about his reputed bed-hopping. “The so-called ‘Prophets’ can’t explain why they let the Occupation happen,” she derided. “I seriously doubt they’re going to give Mandel Morrison ‘relationship advice’.” Morrison gave a sarcastic frown. “Can’t hurt to give it a try. While I enjoy Lieutenant Neeley’s… company, I start to wonder if that’s all there is for me. Am I capable of having more meaningful relationship?” “On second thought,” Limis chided, “I don’t want to know. Your love life, or whatever you call it, is your business. If we should cross paths on Bajor, I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Agreed?” “It’s a big planet,” Morrison offered. “I don’t think…” Limis sighed, wishing she could give him the proper dressing down that she could while they were on duty. “Agreed?!” “Yes. Agreed,” Morrison answered, properly chastised. Limis sighed, hopeful that she wouldn’t run into Morrison anywhere on Bajor, as she rested her head on the top of the seat. At moments like these, she was thankful she was Morrison’s commanding officer. Otherwise, she would have let herself succumb to his charming personality. He was an attractive man, Limis acknowledged, who closely resembled that handsome Vedek who died while negotiating the first Bajoran-Cardassian peace treaty. That’s as far as it goes, she silently insisted to herself. I hardly envy the women who have shared his bed. ### Limis stepped through the gate at one of Bajor’s spaceports. She took a few looks around the waiting area. The young man she was expecting would meet her at the gate soon rose from his seat. Her son, Hasin Yanith, was a tall and trim man just over twenty years of age, dressed in dark gray slacks and a matching colored vest over red long-sleeved shirt. His dark blond hair was short and well groomed, and he wore a Bajoran earring on his left ear. Limis took quick paces towards her son and tightly embraced. She held him for a very long moment and pecked kisses back and forth on both of his cheeks. She was fully aware of how overly clingy and affectionate she was being her adult son. Despite a familiar look of embarrassment in his eyes, she justified it by a combination of wanting to savor being around her son after having survived the Dominion War and his recent ordeal of being held captive by Cardassian scientist, Doctor Crell Moset. Vircona sighed and clasped her son’s shoulders while staring into his blue eyes. “So tell me what’s happening in your life, son?” she inquisitively wondered. She interlocked her left arm with his right arm, and they both started walking. “I enrolled in a few classes at Lonar University,” Yanith began, “but I haven’t chosen a major.” “Give it about a year,” Vircona glibly suggested, even it often seemed trite. “You’ll figure out what you want to do with your life.” A horde of people suddenly scrambled towards the pair. They were reporters, hoping to get a few words from one of Bajor’s latest heroes. Armed with recording devices, either audio or video, they asked a varying array questions addressed at Limis all in unison. “How does it feel to be back in your home village for the first time in almost twenty years?” one reporter asked. “How do you respond to being considered a hero, Captain?” asked another. “No comment at this time!” Limis shouted through the cacophony of voices. The reporters quickly backed off while Vircona and Yanith headed in the direction opposite of which they came. “We probably should’ve kept a low profile?” Yanith sympathetically remarked.