[STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE] THE SHATTERED CIRCLE
The relief on the way back was interrupted by a Priority One communication from Deep Space 9 by Commander Worf, left in command of the station. He reported that the Cardassian Dukat had penetrated the defense network of the starbase, managing to break into the temple where the Crystal of Contemplation was kept and to violate it. His actions caused the collapse of the Bajoran wormhole and the loss of at least one life.
When the airlock opened, Jadzia anticipated all her colleagues, rushing onto the Promenade. She avoided all the Bajorans who stood in front of her, some ordering them away and literally pushing others aside, as she frantically made her way to the Infirmary.
Captain Sisko stepped on the Promenade right after her, followed by Major Kira and Chief O'Brien. The crowd of Bajorans gathered around the Captain, slowing his pace. He too was in urgent need of reaching the Infirmary, but he could not ignore his role as a spiritual guide for the Bajoran people, now alarmed by the sudden disappearance of the wormhole, for them the Celestial Temple of the Prophets.
A little girl, no more than ten years old, grabbed Sisko's hand, preventing him from advancing any further. «Emissary! My mother says all the Orbs are dark, that the Prophets have abandoned us.»
Sisko crouched down so he could see the child’s eyes and shrugged her shoulders affectionately, but before she could say a single word, the child continued almost tearfully: «You have to find them, Emissary. You have to ask them to come back.»
Sisko put aside for a moment the thought of what awaited him in the Infirmary and tried to concentrate on what the little Bajoran had just asked him. He looked around, realizing that the girl was not the only Bajoran of her age to have approached him; a few steps back even the children's parents looked hopefully at him. Some members of the Bajoran crew of Deep Space 9 had stopped fulfilling their duties in order to meet the Emissary.
«I will try ...» was the only thing Sisko could say.
The operating room was shrouded in a spectral darkness; in the center of the room there was a single biobed, dimly lit by the reflections of the lights of the medical machinery placed all around. Sisko stopped a few steps away, leaning despondently against a wall. On the bed, covered by a white sheet, Lenara was barely breathing. Next to her was Jadzia, her partner, the woman she had shared her life with for the past three years, holding her hands and kissing them repeatedly while she tried to hold back her tears.
Lenara found the strength to speak, but her voice was feeble and her energy was sapped with every breath. «I'm sorry,» she whispered.
Jadzia squeezed Lenara's hands tighter. «Don’t say anything. I love you.»
Lenara closed her eyes, she couldn't stay alert,/sharp and/or/vigilant. Echoes of past life memories ran through her mind. Kahn, the symbiont that had accompanied her for the last years, was no longer with her, explanted by Doctor Bashir to allow it to live again, but something of that union was still present and ready to emerge in those last moments was the memory of Nilani, a previous host. Nilani Khan's love for Torias, one of the hosts of the Dax symbiont, had been the spark that made Jadzia and Lenara fall in love. During those years spent together on the station they had promised each other love every day, discovering themselves closer and closer, as if it was not only Nilani and Torias who loved each other, but also Lenara and Jadzia and even their symbionts, Kahn and Dax. Never had so many lives come together in just two hearts.
Lenara narrowed her eyes slightly, finding Jadzia waiting for her, and could barely whisper: «I love you.»
Jadzia couldn't hold back her tears. She kissed the hands of his beloved one last time and then sought her lips. She didn't want to let her go.
«It's not your fault,» Lenara managed to say, «I knew the risks I was taking by coming to live with you.»
Jadzia couldn't bear to lose her. «When you're not with me it's like a part of me is missing...» she whispered through tears.
Lenara closed her eyes one last time and a tear ran down her cheek, getting lost in the stains of her trill complexion. «It's the thing I want most ...» she hesitated, her thoughts struggling to formulate, «... to be with you,» Jadzia hugged her, she wanted to keep Lenara with her, «... but I don't think I'll be able to.»
Sisko walked over to Jadzia and held her as, sobbing, she collapsed over Lenara's lifeless body.
Lenara's funeral service had just ended. The coffin that had received the doctor's body, wrapped in the flag of the United Federation of Planets, was in the center of a service room that Jadzia Dax had wanted to decorate with some typical vestments of the Trill culture. Even though the two women had been exiled from their home planet following the decision to strengthen a romantic relationship experienced by the previous hosts of their symbionts, they had maintained a very close bond with their origins. Even Lenara's younger brother, Bejal, who had been united with the Yor symbiont for only two years, had decided to defy the veto imposed by his government and reach Deep Space 9 to pay homage to his sister one last time, getting a ride aboard the U.S.S. Destiny, the massive Sovereign-class starship now docked at the base station.
When the attendees had left the room, Jadzia, Bejal, and Captain Sisko paused a few moments longer.
Benjamin Sisko had found in Doctor Lenara Khan, in those last years that the woman had spent on Deep Space 9 at Jadzia’s side, an unexpected friend and a valuable consultant for everything related to the Bajoran Tunnel. Lenara, as a scientist, had a skeptical and rational approach and had undertaken an in-depth study on the tunnel in order to be able to replicate its functionality if it collapsed. During these studies, and in many meetings with the captain, she had also learned to appreciate the mystical aspects that characterized the Bajoran culture and the religious cult of the Prophets.
Never before had Sisko, still confused by the vision that had overwhelmed him while he was on the Defiant, wished he had Lenara Khan’s support.
Major Kira decided to take up early duty the following morning. Captain Sisko had given himself a few days of leave to be able to analyze the documents provided by Doctor Bejal Yor and their Science Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax, without any kind of distractions, and it was up to her to carry out a whole series of administrative procedures required by Starfleet that the Captain usually took care of.
As she left her quarters and walked along the promenade to Quark's, she bitterly noticed that the table where Cmdr. Dax and Dr. Kahn used to have breakfast together was empty. Their nod of greeting, which she received almost every morning, had become a pleasant habit.
Dr. Kahn hadn't only made her way into Dax's heart; she had bonded with everyone and was loved by many Bajorans for the respect she had shown on multiple occasions for their faith. The Major found himself noticing how much that simple gesture, that greeting, was missing. She accidentally met Quark's gaze, intent on polishing a glass behind the bar counter. The Ferengi tilted his head slightly and raised his glass, and Kira interpreted that nod as a wistful gesture. Perhaps he too missed the two customers, and not for a simple economic reason.
Still deep in thought, she stepped into the turbolift.
With both hands tightly clasped on the balustrade, the Major was about to arrive in the Operations Centre. Before the platform doors even opened he sensed a heated discussion: Dax's voice, marked by a veil of despair, was reaching heights of volume worthy of a Klingon in battle. «It's a death sentence!»
As soon as she got out of the turbo lift, Kira noticed the little group assembling in front of the Captain's office doors, while the operations staff on duty looked at her with the clear hope that she could resolve the situation and restore order to the bridge.
Jadzia and Doctor Bashir were facing the stiff Captain of the U.S.S. Destiny, a haughty woman in her forties, with badly gathered blonde hair and icy eyes.
Dr. Bashir was trying to calm Jadzia, but all his concentration was on trying to explain the urgency of the situation to Captain Shelby: «This is a trip of less than three days. The Kahn symbiont must be brought back to its planet».
«They won't let him die on Trill, Julian.» Jadzia was aware of the fate that the symbiont was facing. One of the consequences of having strengthened a love affair born with previous hosts was also to of have to let the symbiont die at the death of the last host; but the Trill had not yet decided to surrender to this sentence and hoped that, by bringing him back to his homeworld, her people would forgive it and allow it to join a host again.
Dr. Moritz Benayoun, the Chief Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Destiny, was a man in his fifties with little white-flecked hair and a nose that seemed to want to get into the eye of the beholder. He was a very resourceful person and wouldn’t refuse help to anyone.
When Doctor Bashir had contacted him, three days earlier, he had immediately become interested in the Kahn symbiont and even more about the forbidden love story between two trill hosts. Bashir had spared no romantic details, hoping to involve his colleague, but in reality he had already convinced him as soon as he had told him that there was to be saved the life of a living being “dully condemned to death by the absurd laws of his home planet”.
Convincing Captain Shelby proved to be a more difficult task. Benayoun was still unfamiliar with her and would rather have dealt with the former Captain, Samantha Reymar, with whom he had shared many years of service. Actually Benayoun feared that his intent had failed the moment Shelby had taken the road to the station commander's office. So he was particularly surprised when, on the terminal on his office desk, an update of the service orders appeared, requesting to set up a stasis chamber for a symbiont and to call all medical personnel in advance, for the sudden departure to the planet Trill.
Now, twenty-four hours after leaving Deep Space 9, the Destiny was traveling at warp 7 toward the Trill system.
Dr. Benayoun, in the anteroom of his office, was serving hot Indian Masala Chai tea to Dr. Bashir, who had not given up on accompanying the symbiote Khan on this journey, to the ship Counselor, Ephrosian Lieutenant Commander Melkirk, and his assistant, the very young Ensign Ezri Tigan, a decidedly embarrassed Trill to share that moment with senior officers.
Trill's presence was not accidental. Dr. Benayoun had invited her precisely because the main topic of the meeting would be: trill customs. And no one better than the only Trill aboard the ship could provide a first-hand account of this..
The talk had not yet taken a real interesting turn: the discussion was mostly about the right temperature of the tea, and Dr. Benayoun couldn't even pour the milk into his mixture when the symbiont's stasis chamber lights started flashing. Immediately afterwards the computer voice called the attention of the medical staff: Kahn's electro-proteic balance was compromised. The symbiont would not have survived the trip.
«Dad, did you have to put all that stuff right in my room?» Jake had stopped at the door of his bedroom, before entering the large central hall of the quarters he shared with his father.
Plants, sofa, all kinds of furniture had been moved under the large windows to make room for a single large table, on which were piled, in no apparent order, dozens and dozens of PADDs and Bajoran data storage devices, some copies of Vedek sacred texts and pages and pages of notes written on notebooks of different shapes and colors.
Benjamin Sisko was sitting behind all this, visibly tired, tried by days of insomnia and endless hours spent trying to interpret the material that Bejal had left him before embarking on a Grazerite transport en route to one of those planets indicated by his sister, trying to correlate it with centuries of Bajoran history and Lenara's studies, the most salient part of which was handwritten in all those notebooks.
Benjamin slightly raised his eyes to his son. «You can go to sleep at Nog's.»
Jake took a look inside his room. «Even Jadzia can't figure it out.» Something crashed to the floor inside the room: a pile of Bajoran storage devices, not at all suitable for stacking.
Benjamin shifted one of the PADDs in front of him and stood up from his chair, his eyes down on all the work that still awaited him to figure out what to do to reopen the Bajoran Tunnel, to make sense of Lenara's death, but his words were for Jake and himself.
«I should have listened to the Prophets, and not left for the attack on Chin'toka, so maybe Lenara would still be alive.»
Jake walked over to the table, wanting to talk, but first looked around his room once more, worried that something irreparable might happen. Moving away from the door, it closed and as he approached his father he raised his hands, trying to calm him down.
«Dad, it's not your fault, you had orders. You're not just the Emissary, you're a Starfleet officer, and there's a war going on.»
Sisko looked down at his clothes, they were civilian and he was wearing a Bajoran-made knit vest, open; he took the edges of it in his hands, realizing it wasn't his uniform. «Something must have happened to the Prophets, I don't understand why they turned their backs on Bajor and I feel responsible. I don't know where to start, how to put things right. »
Jake approached again moving around the table, careful not to drop anything. He wanted to hug his father, but feared he was too heartbroken to indulge in a warm gesture.
The father continued: «I have failed as Emissary and, for the first time in my life, I failed as a Starfleet officer.»
Jake ached to see his father in the grip of that guilt and wanted to share his pain, to relieve him of the burden he was carrying. He hugged him tightly, holding him close, but Benjamin didn't return him right away. Ben took a moment longer to see how inconclusive he had been up to that moment: «The answer is here, in front of my eyes. But I can't see it. I can't interpret the data.» Then he hugged his son, surrendering to find comfort in his arms.
The U.S.S. Destiny was once again docked at Deep Space 9. Captain Shelby had to deal with an unexpected situation: Doctor Benayoun and Doctor Bashir had broken orders and protocols, involving part of the ship's medical staff in their actions, and she too had to bow to the far from negative consequences of their actions. They had saved a life, and their action could even be decisive in the continuation of the war against the Dominion. Her decision was therefore dictated by superior interests: the symbiont Khan had to return to Deep Space 9, and not to meet certain death.