[STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE] THE SHATTERED CIRCLE

Stardate 51968.5

The battle in the Chin'toka system strained the joint military forces of the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire. Captain Sisko, commanding the unusual but effective fleet of ships, led the battle against the Cardassians and the Dominion from the bridge of the U.S.S. Defiant, until an unexpected and shocking vision sent by the Prophets of the Bajoran Celestial Temple had literally stunned him. Major Kira had been able to take control of the situation and, with the help of Commander Dax, Ensign Nog and Chief O'Brien, had managed to score an important victory; for the first time, Starfleet and its allies had played on the offensive, putting the enemy in serious trouble.

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 crowd continued to murmur in concern as the Captain, Kira and O'Brien resumed walking, faster and faster towards the Infirmary.
Waiting for them in the hall were Odo and Quark, both with their arms folded and strangely silent, nervously pacing back and forth and had not at all inclined to argue as they used to.
As soon as they were inside, the door to one of the operating rooms opened and a nurse came out followed by Doctor Bashir, still wrapped in the red robe he wore for the most delicate operations. His expression offered nothing encouraging. He was holding a medical PADD, and before speaking he took a last look at it, then handed it to the nurse. He took a deep breath and, looking up, found Captain Sisko in front of him; then he spoke the words all too clearly.
«I managed to save the Kahn symbiont.»
Kira and O'Brien exchanged an astonished look. Quark, who was about to ask what the doctor meant by those few words, was stopped by a dry gesture from Odo.
Bashir continued: «We have to get it to Trill as soon as possible,» his voice choked in his throat, «but there was nothing I could do for Lenara.»

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.

Stardate 51971.8

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.


Turning to Lenara's brother, Sisko found himself reviewing the doctor’s last moments. «She had obtained special permission to do tests on the Crystal of Contemplation,» he reported to Bejal, «the temple was closed and she would have had a few hours to conduct them in peace.»
Jadzia, who had heard this report too many times in the last three days, turned away from the two men, taking herself close to the coffin of her beloved. The Federation flag looked wrinkled and she nervously tried to stretch it out.
«She was always a very determined woman, especially in her line of work,» Bejal confirmed.
The Captain resumed the conversation: «While she was doing some scans she found herself in front of the attacker. She tried to protect the Orb. She tried to close the case».
Bejal chased away the thoughts of one of the previous hosts of the symbiont he was carrying in his body, an uncompromising solon from the Trill Ministry of Science who did not approve of what he was about to say: «Despite the exile and ostracization to which Lenara was condemned...»
Jadzia raised her eyes from the flag and laid them, sternly, on her beloved’s brother. Her gaze did not go unnoticed by Bejal who, trying to escape it, stammered a few words: «...to which Lenara and Jadzia were forced...»
«Bejal...» the Trill interrupted him, approaching the two men; she was determined to clear up once and for all a matter that had been pending for years, «Lenara did not suffer from exile. I did not suffer from exile. We had made a conscious choice. We loved each other. And at least in front of her coffin, have the courage to accept that your sister was living the life she had chosen to live.»
Bejal looked down, he didn't want to argue. «Let me speak Jadzia, please.»
Sisko sidled up to Jadzia, holding her up.
«Despite...» Bejal searched for an appropriate word, «...the distance, Lenara and I have stayed in touch. In recent months more than in past years. She had asked me to conduct some inspections on certain planets, where she believed that the Prophets had left traces of their passage, but she did not want this information to leak out.»
Jadzia, having regained a certain firmness and recognizing Bejal’s  intent to be helpful, intervened: «She had been persistent in writing notes on paper, because she did not want to leave data that could be stolen. She knew of the Cardassians' interest in this sort of thing.»
Sisko watched the two Trill, aware that this kind of study of Bajoran culture had now become the obsession of one Cardassian in particular: «Dukat.»

Stardate 51972.4

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.


«It doesn't even have to go back to Trill,» Shelby said dryly, staring now annoyed at the two of them, «the Symbiosis Commission refuses to take it in...»
Jadzia turned her words to Julian, resting a hand on his shoulder, «Don’t allow it, please».
«I’m counting on them, once on Trill, to understand and not let the symbiont die. I can't keep it alive for long. We need the Mak'ala caves, we need a Guardian.» Bashir, supported by the ethics of his profession, was convinced that a life could not be abandoned like that.
«I will not let my crew give up the shore leave. Not to contravene a provision of a Federation member world.» Shelby's words sounded like condemnation.
«Excuse me,» Major Kira pushed her way between Jadzia and Bashir, «what's going on?»
«And you are...?» Shelby was not intimidated by the Major's firm stance.
«Major Kira Nerys, I'm in command of the station.»
Sensors placed in front of the Captain's office recognized the Major and, responding to her authority, opened the doors: «Come in.»
Before someone sat down on the couch placed in front of the desk packed with PADD, Kira moved in front of it, as if to obstruct anyone who wanted to approach. Shelby was already a step ahead of Jadzia and Bashir, but that didn't stop Kira from asking her colleagues first: «Explain.»
Bashir intervened before Jadzia let herself be carried away by emotions and silenced her with a wave of his hand.
«The Khan symbiont can't survive long without a host and...»
Keeping Jadzia at bay had never been easy, and now that the life of her beloved's symbiont was at stake it was even less so. The Trill couldn't help herself: «This Captain,» and pointed to Shelby without much deference to the rank, «refuses to take Lenara,» she corrected herself, «Kahn on Trill.»
Bashir continued the speech he had begun before Jadzia interrupted him: «...it needs medical attention we cannot provide here. I can keep it in stasis for a few more days, but it is an implanted symbiont. Either goes back to the vats in the caves on Trill, if that's possible, or goes back to a host body.»
Captain Shelby decided he had waited too long. «Major Kira,» she turned to the commanding officer ignoring the other two behind her, «your Doctor has privately contacted my Chief Medical Officer to arrange a transport to Trill.»
Kira froze Bashir with a simple glare. The doctor looked away, implicitly admitting his actions.
«And I guess Commander Dax was aware of that,» the Captain concluded.
«And are you here, in person, to...?» Kira asked, puzzled.
«Report it to your Captain.» Shelby ruled.
«You will have to make do with me. Captain Sisko is not available, except for war-related emergencies. And this is not a war emergency.»
Kira hated being in the midst of these Starfleet officer skirmishes. She kept thinking that the Bajoran Militia was much more resolute and practical in these situations. «In any case,» she continued, moving towards the desk, from which she could take a specific PADD, «I believe you can - and she stressed can - comply with the request of my colleagues.»
Jadzia glanced at Bashir, while a pleased smile spread across her face.
Kira wasn’t done yet, and after a quick glance at the data on the device she had just picked up, she allowed herself one more dig at Captain Shelby: «Especially considering that your course, once you leave the station, should really take you close to the Trill sector. And the shore leaves that Deep Space 9 granted to your crew could - and she stressed could - be suddenly shortened by two days,» and she typed a few commands on the PADD.
Shelby gritted his teeth before speaking: «I demand to confer with your Captain.»
Kira shrugged, while Bashir and Jadzia looked at her in satisfaction. Nobody would abandon Lenara Kahn.

Stardate 51974.7

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.

Stardate 51975.8

«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.

When the docking hatch opened, Ezri took his first steps on the station. Even during her duty free period, she hadn’t gone down to the base, she had preferred to focus on filing backlog in the office of her superior, the ship's Counselor. Behind her was Dr. Bashir, loaded with Ezri's luggage. Few things, actually, packed in a large tubular shoulder bag.


Bashir showed the young Ensign the way to the quarters and it didn't take long for the two to reach the door to Captain Sisko's quarters.
Ezri looked at Julian for approval and courage. The Doctor smiled at her and pointed to the button next to the door. The Trill took a deep breath, and in a moment she remembered what had happened to her only twenty-four hours before, when, opening her eyes as if waking from a dream, she was not in her quarters on Destiny nor in the ship's Infirmary. All around her was a gray, cold, milky and strangely welcoming halo. An intimate embrace made up of many hugs. From a dark shadow behind the halo in front of her, a trill figure emerged, a young man, then an old woman. The two were joined by three other Trills and lastly a woman, smiling, calm, with bright eyes between blue and green and a braid of hair gathered on her head. She was Lenara, and even though he had never met her in person, she already felt he was beginning to know her. Ezri had offered her her hands and they were immediately accepted.


Lenara nodded softly: «Kahn has accepted you. Welcome to the circle». And it was only at the moment that Ezri had really opened his eyes and filled his lungs with air as if that had been her first breath. She tried to get up from the bed she was lying on, but had found Doctor Bashir's gentle hands to stop her. She was in the Destiny Infirmary.
«It's okay,» the Doctor had told her, «you just need some time to get used to it.»
Ezri instinctively put her hands on her belly, then looked at Bashir worriedly.
«You'll be fine. And the symbiont will be fine too.» The Doctor wanted to reassure her.
Ezri returned to the present and pressed the button on the door of Captain Sisko's quarters.
Sisko's voice accompanied the opening of the door. «Come in.»
Ezri took a step forward, finding herself facing Benjamin and his son, partly hidden by the mountain of material on the large table.
Sisko shook his head slightly, not realizing who the young Ensign with short dark hair and a disarming smile was in front of him. He caught sight of Bashir behind her, which puzzled him even more.
Ezri immediately spoke up, gesticulating awkwardly. «I'm Kahn. I mean, not Lenara Kahn, I'm Ezri Kahn.»
Benjamin walked around the table, coming in front of the girl. «It is not possible.»
«And yet it's her.» Bashir commented.
«I'm Kahn. I can't believe it either, but I have all the memories in my head, of Lenara, of Nilani and of all the others.»
«Dad, she has Lenara’s memories.» Jake recognized the enormous potential of this. The one person who could interpret all that data and make sense of his father's search, had somehow returned.
«You must be wondering who this person is,» Ezri was unstoppable, «how she had the symbiont, why she wanted Lenara in her life, if she always talks a lot, and they are all fair questions, and I would like to be able to answer.»
«There will be time for those,» Sisko said, smiling at her, «now I'm just happy to see you again.»
The door to Jake's room opened without anyone paying attention.
Ezri looked at Bashir with almost guilty intent, though a good-natured look actually came out. «It was an accident. Kahn was on Destiny, escorted by Julian, and while we were traveling the symbiont got worse. Someone had to take it in or he would die and...»
«And you were the only Trill aboard.» Sisko concluded the sentence.
Ezri nodded. «I went in the operating room as a person and I went out as many other people. And what was supposed to be a temporary solution became a permanent solution.»
«What do you mean?» Jake had flanked his father.
«Years of preparation would have to be done to be joined. I, on the other hand, had a fifteen-minute speech from Julian, «she looked at Bashir again, «I'm sorry Julian! »
Bashir merely confirmed, almost amused. «It's true!»
«But I was only meant to be a temporary host,» Ezri continued, «it takes more than ninety hours for a symbiont to permanently implant and accept you as its host.»
«Instead, it seems Kahn was in a hurry to have a new host, and it integrated right away.» Bashir flanked Ezri.
Ezri smiled at everyone present, scanning the faces of Jake, Benjamin and Julian. «As if it's in a hurry...»
Dax took a step beyond the threshold of Jake's room. «...to come back to me.»
Ezri turned slowly, seeing for the first time the face of the woman Lenara loved. «Jadzia...» she whispered.

***

You can read the prequel to this fanfiction, entitled Reasociation, written by Chiara Saroglia, by clicking here.

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