This is a short story of mine inspired by one of Ad Astra's weekly free writes. The basic premise is this; Kira Nerys recalls one of her most bitterest experiences of being a member of the Shakaar resistance cell. I hope you like it! +++++++++ In the dead of night Kira silently made her way through the near pitch black streets of Tommel village. Behind her was Mo'vra, the Shakaar resistance cell's pyrotechnics specialist, and Denere, a new recruit to the cell. Kira herself had handpicked Denere for the nineteen year old had a fearsome spirit and was far stronger than she looked, plus she nearly always hit the mark with a phaser rifle. As such Kira did not have to worry or look out for Denere and that's how Kira liked it with new recruits, without wits new recruits amounted to little more than cannon fodder in her opinion. This mission was very dangerous and very delicate- like all improvised bombs put together with haste. The explosives in Mo'vra's backpack were of high quality and Kira's resistance cell had paid an arm and a leg and then some. This mission had to succeed, they had to reach the Cardassian weapon's depot or die trying. For months her cell had planned this, it had taken so long just to dig a tunnel underneath the weapon's depot. Months of steady careful progress in the night and constantly checking the probes placed inside the tunnel were still masking the tunnel's presence from the weapon depot's sensors. The plan appeared fool proof but Kira knew how things could fall apart when out on the field. The sooner her group had left the village of Tommel and entered the safety of nearby woodland, only then could Kira breathe a bit more easily. This slow pace was like torture to her and even though she had infrared goggles, her mind's eye imposed Cardassian soldiers hiding behind the edges of the grey houses. "Oh no!" Mo'vra's harried whisper caused Kira's senses to go into overdrive, she raised her disruptor pistol and looked around for the reds and yellows of another humanoid. However she merely saw the infrared imagery of her two companions. "Problems?" Kira asked. "The triggering mechanism has activated!" Mo'vra whispered back. Despite the bright yellow colours, Kira could clearly see panic in Mo'vra's face, the sort of panic you never want to see from a bomb-maker. "It can't be..." "I felt the brief vibration," said Mo'vra. "What's going on?" Denere added in a louder whisper. "Where are you two?" Kira silently cursed the fact that they had to ration the infrared goggles, though she quickly turned to more pressing matters. "Can you disarm it?" she asked. "Not without ripping out the whole triggering mechanism," Mo'vra replied. "We can hardly see each other!" Denere exclaimed, forgetting entirely about whispering. "How on Bajor could Mo'vra see the bomb?" "Sssh!" warned Kira, she placed a finger to her lips but it was a rather futile gesture given the circumstances. "Here are my goggles," she told Mo'vra and gave them to the man. "You have five minutes maximum then we abort." With each second Kira felt ridiculously vulnerable, she was forced to peer into her phaser rifle's infrared sights to see what was around her. When she swept her line of sight upon her two companions, she noticed Denere doing the same. Thank the Prophets that girl has some initiative! Her left hand resting upon the rifle barrel's underside grew slick with sweat as Kira believed someone -- Bajoran or Cardassian -- would come out and compromise the whole mission. "Mo'vra, it is now or never," Kira warned. "It's hopeless!" snarled Mo'vra. "The triggering circuits are fused! This thing could go off at any second, just get yourselves out of there!" Kira gave it a few seconds of consideration, finally she sprung to action and firmly grabbed Denere's shoulder. "Move!" she ordered. "We're not going to warn anyone!?!" Denere said in disgust. "We do that then the Cardassians will arrive, once they hear about a bomb they'll just shoot first and ask questions later!" With Denere still not budging, Kira gave the woman a hard punch in the shoulder. "Move it!" At last Denere got the message and together they walked as quickly as possible through the inky blackness. It was no small miracle they did not trip up, Kira though instinctively knew the way back as she had taken this route many times before in the night. Kira was not one to place much faith in the Prophets, but right now she was silently praying to them to ensure Mo'vra disarmed the bomb and save countless lives. More than ever she needed the Prophets to hear her prayers; her pleas. She was halfway through reciting the common prayer -- the one every Bajoran knew -- to the Prophets when the wood illuminated. At once she turned around and the glowing orb of light utterly sank Kira's heart, the colossal bang was the final death knell and Kira almost dropped to her knees such was her dejection. The fireball which rapidly vanished viciously consumed Kira's newfound faith in the Prophets. She was utterly sick of it. Time and time again she had prayed to these supposedly celestial beings, yet time and time again they never listened to her or protected her when she really needed it. Where were the Prophets when her mother was taken away? Where were the Prophets when hunger and Cardassian brutality took away members of her family? Finally, where were the Prophets when that bomb ripped through Tommel? Whether the Prophets were fabled or not, the distant screams and cries for help were all too real. Kira wanted to scream in frustration but she couldn't, she was too experienced to vent out her feelings, too experienced to even shed a tear. She sensed Denere though had succumbed to tears and despite the darkness, Kira could have sworn Denere's gaze was fixed upon her. "There is nothing we can do," Kira murmured. She half-expected Denere to protest, the footfalls of the other woman told Kira otherwise... Going back was one of the toughest journeys she had ever made. That temptation to just run out into the night and escape resurfaced, however her powerful hatred of the Cardassians soon kicked in. They were to blame for this, somehow they were and this made everything more bearable. When at last Kira returned to the safe house in Xalra village, she instantly caught sight of Furel's and Lupaza's concerned stares. They had been waiting in the entrance hall for all of this time. "Nerys!" said Furel. "Thank the Prophets you made it back in one piece! We heard there was an explosion in Tommel-" "I'm fine," Kira muttered, "so is Denere-" Kira could not say anymore when Lupaza gave her a brief hug. "What happened to Mo'vra?" the older woman asked. "He's dead I would imagine," Kira quietly said, she could not speak any louder as her chest seemed constricted. Lupaza was probably the closest thing Kira had to a mother, at that moment Kira was going to tell Lupaza everything but then she caught sight of a very grim-faced Shakaar. "We need to talk," he cooly stated and the lack of warmth told Kira she was in serious trouble. "What's going on?" Lupaza asked staring from Shakaar to Kira and back again. "I will tell you later..." Shakaar murmured, a bit more sharply he called, "Nerys..." With great trepidation Nerys followed Shakaar into a private room. There was a double bed, a fireplace and great deal of cozy and soft furniture. "Leave us Nira!" Nira -- a rather pretty young woman with striking black hair and crystal blue eyes, who lived in Xalra -- quietly left. Kira knew Nira to be one of Shakaar's 'associates', though Shakaar was discrete, there were always rumours circulating around in the resistance cell about the various women Shakaar had courted and gone to bed with. The moment Nira had left, Shakaar's gaze hardened and Kira braced herself for the explosion. "I just received a Cardassian report file from our usual source concerning the explosion in Tommel, it says dozens are killed with many more injured." "Dozens?" Kira said in hollow tones. There had been Bajorans killed in the crossfire before during various skirmishes and missions, but this was the first time Kira had the blood of so many of her people upon her hands due to an accident. "Fuck!" she screamed out. She began pacing around in an attempt to work off her immense self-loathing. "You were the group leader so what happened?" Shakaar coldly demanded. Kira stopped her frantic pacing and she could barely speak from the nerves. "The bomb's triggering mechanism was faulty, I... The timer prematurely activated and Mo'vra tried to disarm the bomb but he said the... the triggering circuits were fused." "Damn!" she moaned and she could not stop herself. "Damn!!!" "What?" "It was the caban circuits," Kira said in near anguish. "Second hand ones are never reliable!" "Why didn't you assemble the triggering mechanism close to the target?" shouted Shakaar. "I was rushed!" Kira shrilly shouted back. "The scouting mission with Lupaza and Furel took far longer than expected trying to shake off the Cardassians, the whole depot mission was rushed! You wanted it carried out tonight and I knew we would be cutting it fine, I only had ten minutes to check on Mo'vra's handiwork! Ten minutes Edon!" Shakaar's chest continued to puff in and out and for one wild moment Kira became convinced the man was going to kill her. The only person who could scare her senseless was Shakaar, the resistance was all Kira had and her worst fear was messing up, thus forcing Shakaar to boot her out of his cell. "I want you and Lupaza to return the medical supplies the Tommel clinic gave us." This was the last thing Kira expected her leader, and close comrade, to say, it took some moments for her brain to get back into order. "Without them..." "I know," said Shakaar heavily, "but they were originally the property of the clinic and this tragedy doesn't need to be compounded by a lack of medical provisions!" "Fine, if there is any way to repay the survivors for what I did..." The silence built up again and Shakaar's cold eyes began boring into Kira. "And one more thing Nerys, if you think a mission feels rushed then abort it. Say it straight to my face if you have to! I trusted your judgement and because of your negligence a village has been devastated." "My negligence!?! It was Mo'vra who-" "You were supervising him!" Shakaar harshly told Kira cutting through her wounded protest. "It was your call whether your group were ready to carry out the mission or not! I cannot be there to check on what every member of this cell does, otherwise nothing would get done!" Kira wanted to argue some more but she gave up, the responsibility resided squarely with her and it was a terrible one to bear. "Now," Shakaar continued, "I want you to walk out of that door and explain to everyone else what happened, and if you are half as courageous as you usually are, you will tell them the truth." "I will..." Kira mumbled. Unable to stand Shakaar's cold disappointment, Kira forced herself to look at Shakaar; silently begging him for forgiveness. "And, I'm sorry..." "Saying sorry won't bring back thirty or so people from the dead." Those words stayed with Kira all through the night. She did not sleep that night, she could not sleep when she thought about those dead villagers and how many more who were injured and maimed. Returning to Tommel had to be the worst punishment for Kira, one part of her wondered if that had been Shakaar's intention all along. To possibly reprimand her on the pitfalls of being hasty? The following morning Kira felt like hell from the lack of sleep. Wordlessly she and Lupaza gathered up the medical supplies and made a covert approach to Tommel. Lupaza's coldness only served to heighten Kira's guilt, if her best friend was not talking to her then Kira knew the entire Shakaar resistance cell must have hated her guts. It was a glorious morning, the sky was vibrant and the sun crisp and bright. Spring-time was upon Dahkur province, everything was rejuvenating from winter's long icy grasp. Everything but the people Kira kept reminding herself. When she and Lupaza reached the perimeter of the woodland, the first thing which caught Kira's eye were the faint puffs of pale smoke rising up from the centre of Tommel. Already Kira could not stand to be here but orders were orders and she had to do something, however insignificant, to help mend the damage she wrought. To get to the clinic they had to first pass the area of the bombing. Kira's guts twisted in horror when she recognised one of the heavily damaged buildings as the village's monastery. How many monks, acolytes and families -- taking shelter from the ravages of the occupation -- had been killed? No wonder the Prophets refused to answer Kira's prayers the night before, it was their punishment for her negligence. The rubble of the collapsed and partially collapsed buildings appeared undisturbed, most of the bodies were cleared away although the blood remained, that and a smattering of body parts: bones, flesh, skin and other bits still resided as a grisly testament to the deadliness of the bomb. "What a waste!" Kira spat out. "They didn't die in vain Nerys." Glancing around, Kira saw a sombre Lupaza but there was forgiveness in her friend's demeanour to. "If we give up now then the sacrifice these people have made would have been for nothing." "You're right," said Kira numbly, Lupaza's encouragement emboldened her and the guilt began to ebb. "Forget the weapons depot I have a better target in mind!" "Which is?" "Glinn Urat." ____ ____ What followed had to be one of the lowest points of Kira's life. She felt so obliged to rectify her terrible oversight that she carried out one of the most impromptu missions ever authorised by Shakaar. They all wanted to extract their revenge on Glinn Urat as he had terrorised the local area for years, but he was virtually untouchable. Kira did have one trump card, that being a contact who could give her access to Urat's home. It was a suicidal mission and Kira half wondered if Shakaar had permitted it solely because of the botched weapons depot mission. She, Lupaza and Furel infiltrated Urat's residence, there they overpowered the Glinn's guards and rounded up Urat, his wife and five children. There was very little time but Kira had made the most of it, she and her resistance cell members killed the children, one by one, the wife was next and finally Urat himself. Kira barely recalled what happened afterwards because she had been so full of rage at the time, but what transpired must have been terrible because she, Lupaza and Furel never spoke of it again. It was a Pyrrhic victory and what Kira really hated herself for was knowing this the moment she looked down at Urat's phaser-riddled body. She only realised her own wickedness after she had told Shakaar about Urat, and of course that look... Whether it was anger or pity from Shakaar, Kira still could not tell. Beforehand she had firmly believed that Shakaar didn't care which Cardassians died: soldiers, civilians, wives, children... She had offended Shakaar's sensibilities, she had crossed a line yet Urat's death justified it and Kira reckoned it was the only reason why Shakaar never kicked her out of the cell. With hindsight it utterly repulsed Kira, although one part of her still felt that Urat deserved to die, what stood out the most to her was the screaming and pleading of Urat's wife. Kira had barely understood a word of her enemies language, but she got the gist of the Cardassian mother's plea. An eye for an eye, that was all Kira knew of in those days. She was no better than the Cardassians and the names on the Tommel monument were testament to that. For many years she had put off visiting the village, not because the inhabitants knew the individuals responsible for this tragedy, instead she dreaded having to dredge up memories of a young woman who was the polar opposite of herself today, in the present. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the list of names engraved in stone. A part of this apology also went to Glinn Urat's murdered family, whatever Urat's crimes and despite them being the enemy at the time, that mother and her five children need not have died. Kira's eyes grew a little damp as it had taken her thirty years to truly understand this. Finally she could take no more and she walked away from the monument. A monument she would never ever visit again.