Thicker Than Water

From gatorgme@execpc.com Sun Apr 27 17:31:00 1997
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 18:52:01 -0500
From: “Gail M. Eppers”
To: djtst18+@pitt.edu
Subject: Thicker than Water

I would like to submit the attached story for inclusion in your WWW
archive. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

Gatorgme@execpc.com

Thicker Than Water

Note: This story takes place shortly after “By Inferno’s Light”

by Gail M. Eppers

Quark stormed into Sisko’s office, with Major Kira right behind him trying fruitlessly to stop
him. “I’m sorry, Sir,” she said as Sisko stood up when they entered, “he insisted.”
“I understand, Major. You’re excused.” Kira left gladly, thankful that he hadn’t seemed
angry. Sisko was more curious than angry. Quark looked quite agitated, and was muttering
Ferengi curses under his breath. “What can I do for you, Quark?” he asked as he reseated
himself.
“You have to do something about Odo!” Quark didn’t even look at a chair. He was
obviously too angry to think about sitting down. He paced in front of Sisko’s desk, looked like
he was going to pound on it for effect, but thought better of it. “He’s gotten completely out of
control!”
Sisko remained calm. He knew what was coming. “How so?”
Quark waved an arm as if Odo were right behind Sisko, “Ever since he got his
shapeshifting ability back he’s been shifting all over my bar! I haven’t had an accurate inventory
count in weeks! He’s making a mess of my business, and he’s got to be stopped!” He finally
stood still, breathing hard, waiting for Sisko’s reply.
“Surveillance of your establishment is part of his job,” he started, “how Odo decides to
carry out that surveillance is up to him.” He was feeling unusually patient today. “It’s for your
own good as well, Quark. Would you want me to remove security from the bar entirely? Feel
like taking on your clientele single-handed?” Sisko knew the seedy clientele could be rough.
There were constant fights and injuries despite Odo’s watchfulness. Without him, there would
probably be a dead body every week. And all the property damage that would go along with it.
And Quark knew that, too.
Seeing that his personal safety was at stake, Quark calmed down. “I see your point.
However, it is still impossible to run a business when I have extra glasses one day, and extra
chairs the next. One day he was an entire case of Denebian Gin, which caused me to
underestimate my order and resulted in several irate customers. Couldn’t he at least come in as
himself once in awhile?”
Sisko was having a hard time not laughing aloud. “I can talk with him, Quark, but I can’t
make him alter his practices. He hasn’t broken any rules, and I haven’t heard complaints from
anyone else. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a station to run.” He waved his hand in the air to
shoo Quark away.
Quark sputtered, “All right! All right! Well, when you talk to him, you just tell him that if he
can play dirty, then so can I!”
“Quark,” Sisko said, “whatever you’re planning, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Quark didn’t answer, but just harumphed over his shoulder and walked out smugly. Sisko
sighed. There was never a dull day with Quark around.
“Bashir to Sisko,” Sisko heard and turned on his comm link.
“Sisko here. Go ahead.”
“There’s been an outbreak of S’Dellian Fever aboard the station.”
“S’Dellian Fever?” Sisko asked, “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of it. Are we looking at an
epidemic?”
Bashir didn’t look particularly worried, “You could call it that, but it’s not that serious. For the
most part. I’ll give you more details later, but first I need to isolate Garak and Ziyal. It *is* fatal
to Cardassians.”
“I’ll have Kira bring Ziyal to the infirmary immediately,” Sisko offered.
“I’ll get Garak myself,” Bashir added. Then, not really to Sisko, though his comm link
did pick it up, “I hope he doesn’t hit me.” Bashir signed off. He grabbed his medical tricorder
and headed for the promenade.
Fortunately, the tailor shop was empty. “Garak!” Bashir called as he entered. He turned only
long enough to lock the door behind him. The last thing he needed was customers
interrupting. “Garak!”
In a moment, the Cardassian came from the back room, a bolt of cloth in his arms. “Ah,
Doctor, what brings you here?” He smoothed the cloth as he spread a few yards of it on a table.
“Time for a new suit?”
“No, Garak.” He scanned his friend, and was glad to see that he had not been exposed,
“I’ve had several cases of S’Dellian Fever.”
“Oh, dear,” Garak said.
“You’re familiar with it?”
“Doctor, aren’t you familiar with the diseases that could kill you?” He searched blindly for a
chair and finally managed to sit down. “Of course you are. You’re a doctor. What I meant
was—”
“Never mind, Garak. You’ll be fine. You’re just going to spend a few days in isolation
while the Fever passes through the station.” He put a hand on Garak’s shoulder, “There’s nothing
to worry about.” He showed Garak the tricorder, “you haven’t been exposed. We’ll go directly
from here to the infirmary. If you need anything from your quarters, I’ll get it for you later.”
Garak’s throat was dry, but he nodded, and let Bashir help him to his feet. As they
headed for the door, he stopped, “Ziyal,” he said.
“Relax,” Bashir insisted, “Kira’s bringing her to the infirmary, too.” He unlocked the
door, “Do whatever you need to do to close up the shop.”

Chapter One

Less than ten minutes later, Bashir watched as Garak walked into the isolation room. Air
locks cycled behind him. There were four full bio-beds, two extending from each side wall.
Between the beds on the right was a replicator, and between the beds on the left was a fold-down
table. Toward the back, a door led into a washroom, and a computer terminal stood in the center.
The wall with the airlock was made of transparent aluminum for observation purposes. “How
long will I be here?”
An open comm unit carried the question out to Bashir. “At least three days. Make a list of
what you’ll need from your quarters, and make yourself at home.”
Garak seemed to breathe easier now that he was in the enclosed environment. S’Dellian
Fever was nothing to fool with if you were a Cardassian. He didn’t know about other species,
and he’d never seen a Cardassian case himself, but he’d heard of a few. It was known as the
Sudden Silence. There were actually very few visible symptoms, but usually within a day of
exposure the victim simply collapsed and died. Every bodily system would shut down
simultaneously. He tried not to think about it, however. If Bashir said he hadn’t been exposed,
then he hadn’t been exposed. That he was sure of. He went to the terminal and began to work
on the list.
While Garak was working on the terminal in the isolation room, Bashir prepared his
report for Sisko. S’Dellian Fever was one of the most prolific illnesses. It seemed to affect
every species to some degree. As he’d said, it was fatal to Cardassians. Humans experienced
flu-like symptoms. Bajorans developed high-grade fevers and muscle cramps. Klingons got a
little tired. Vulcans lost their concentration, though would never admit it, of course. Ferengi
endured joint pain and low-grade fevers. Many species had serums available, and Bashir
reported that the various inoculations would be distributed as soon as possible. Some species
had no other course than to ride out their symptoms. But except for Cardassians, no one’s life
was in any danger.
By the time Garak had finished the list and sent it out to Bashir’s computer, he expected to
see Ziyal. But she still hadn’t arrived. “Doctor, where is Ziyal?”
“Right here,” Ziyal answered Garak’s question from the infirmary doorway. Dax stood
next to her, a small travel bag in her hand.
“Dax?” Bashir questioned, “I thought Kira was going to bring her.” He dutifully pulled
out a medical tricorder and verified that Ziyal hadn’t been exposed either before nodding to Dax
to show her into the isolation room.
As the airlock cycled open, Dax explained, “Kira called me. She’s not feeling well, and
didn’t want to run the risk of infecting Ziyal. As soon as I report that she’s safely in isolation,
Kira will come in.”
Bashir immediately began gathering a hypo spray and some vials. “I should have known
she’d be one of the first. Her recent pregnancy and birth must have compromised her system.”
Dax handed Ziyal her bag and the girl stepped timidly through the strange doorway. She
turned nervously when the airlock began to cycle closed. “It’s all right, my dear,” Garak took her
arm and led her further into the room. She set her bag on one of the beds, and hugged Garak.
“I’m sure Dax explained to you that this is just a temporary measure.” He held the frightened girl
gently.
She looked up at him and nodded. “Yes. She told me everything.” She finally pulled
away from Garak. “Well, if I have to do this, at least you’re here with me.”
“That’s the spirit.” He reexamined her sentence in his head, “I think.”
Meanwhile, Dax had notified Kira that Ziyal was safe. In another minute, Kira stepped
into the infirmary and Bashir immediately helped her to a bed. She was already weak, with
sweat beginning to drip from her temples. “I almost wish I was Cardassian,” she muttered as
she fought for breath, noticing the symptom free twosome in the isolation room.
“If you were, you’d be dead now,” Bashir warned her. He was quickly applying a
hypospray. “This should prevent at least some of the cramps. There’s nothing I can do about the
fever.” He stopped to run a scan, “Try to relax, Major. You’ll be here for at least two days.” But
Kira was already asleep. He used a nearby cloth to wipe the perspiration from her forehead.
Dax saw that Bashir had everything under control. “I’ll let Benjamin know about Kira,”
she said and started to leave.
“Dax,” Bashir asked, “do you know what symptoms to watch for?” He was referring to
her being a Trill. He had put out a listing to the station priority mail detailing the various
symptoms for the different races, but a Trill was very unusual.
“Yes, Julian.” She smiled at his concern, “If I detect any disruptions in my symbiont
interface, you’ll be the first to know.” Jadzia’s health wasn’t a problem. But the Fever tended to
make havoc out of the symbiont/host connection. Left untreated, it would leave permanent
damage to the symbiont, possibly even requiring that it be moved to a new host.
Bashir watched her leave, and wondered how pervasive this Fever would get. Sisko had
taken care of quarantining the station itself. No docking or undocking until further notice.
Naturally, it created a lot of friction for Sisko to deal with, and Bashir wished it didn’t have to be
done. Mentally, he went over his preparations, and felt satisfied that everything that could be
done was being done. He’d isolated those in the most danger. All humans had received their
inoculations, as well as those few oddball species, like Morn, for which preventive vaccines had
been developed. But he knew a lot of people were going to get sick, despite the inoculations. He
had the serums replicated and ready. He’d probably run out of beds, but it wouldn’t be the first
time.
He swabbed Kira’s forehead again and pulled a metallic sheet over her sleeping form. He
had his datapad in his hand and grabbed some vials and a hypo. “Garak, I’ll go to your quarters
while I’m doing rounds. You two behave yourselves in there.”
But before he could leave, the door opened and Chief O’Brien walked in with Molly in
tow. The little girl clutched a well-worn rag doll. “Chief, you’ve all had your inoculations.”
O’Brien looked amused, “Yes, we have. But Molly was worried because Beth didn’t get
one.”
“Beth?” Bashir asked. O’Brien gestured at the doll. “Ah, Beth! How could I forget?”
He found an empty vial and put it in the hypo. “May I?” he asked Beth’s caretaker. Molly
moved the doll so that she held it as if it were an infant, allowing access to the doctor. Bashir
pressed the hypo, which hissed appropriately, against the doll’s neck.
“Yeah!” Molly rejoiced. “Now that didn’t hurt a bit, did it?” she asked the doll. Then she
looked up at her father, who was smiling ear to ear.
“Thanks, Julian,” O’Brien said, “sorry for the interruption.”
Bashir pretended to turn very serious, “Interruption is right. I have patients to treat. I’m a
very busy man, you know.” He again gathered the datapad and full vials. “Tell me, Molly. Is
there anyone else you know of who didn’t get their inoculation?” The little girl shook her head,
causing her smooth black hair to sway. He mussed her hair a bit, “Thank you for alerting me.”
“You’re welcome, Doctor,” Molly replied. She again looked up, “Now Beth gets ice
cream, right, Daddy?”
O’Brien winked, “Right you are.”
“How’s the baby?” Bashir inquired. “I’m afraid his body won’t metabolize the serum very
well.”
“Keiko’s with him every minute,” O’Brien replied, “he seems to be doing just fine.”
“That’s good.”
“Let’s go.” Offering his hand to his daughter, who placed her incredibly small hand in
his, O’Brien led her out the door. Bashir followed them out, but turned in the opposite direction.

Odo sat at his desk in the security office, sipping Raktajino and reading crime reports
from a datapad. His door chimed and he said, “Come.” He looked up to see Sisko enter his
office. Odo rose to his full height, which was considerable, “Captain.”
“Constable, I just had a visit from Quark.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Sir.” He again sat down. Quark was unimportant.
“He was very upset about your shapeshifting. Said it was disrupting his inventory.”
Odo put down the datapad and cup and gave Sisko his full attention, “Sir, do you trust
me?”
“Of course.” Sisko found that an odd response to his statement. Then his mind jumped
ahead, “You have something up your sleeve, don’t you?”
“I have no sleeves,” Odo stated. “But you’re correct. I suspect Quark of dealing in a
certain type of contraband and I’m hoping to get him to hang himself, as it were.”
“I see. By all means, carry on. But try to be a little less . . . intrusive,” Sisko suggested.
“Quark has already made a threat against you.”
“Ah!” Odo almost smiled, “Progress!”
Sisko was confused, but knew that if Odo wanted to give him more details he would have
been more forthright. He was about to leave when another thought came to him. “By the way,
Constable, have you heard about the S’Dellian Fever outbreak?” Odo nodded. “Have you
checked in with Dr. Bashir about it? How would it affect a changeling?”
“It’s a virus, isn’t it?” Odo asked, already knowing the answer. “I don’t have a
bloodstream. At least, not anymore. I don’t get viruses.”
“All the same, Odo, have Bashir check you out. Today.”
Odo sighed, “Aye, Sir.”

Chapter Two

Some hours later, Odo left the infirmary with a clean bill of health, but a stern warning to
watch for any unusual symptoms. Bashir already had every bed full, as well as a large number of
patients confined to their quarters with less minor symptoms. He was happy to see Kira begin to
stir. Her fever had broken over an hour ago. She was recovering swiftly. He approached her
bed, “How are you feeling?”
She stretched, arms above her head before letting them flop back down. “Very good,
actually.” She pushed herself up to a sitting position. “I’m hungry, is that a good sign?”
Bashir smiled, “A very good sign. What would you like?”
Kira thought about it. “Haspurat,” she decided finally, and Bashir went to get it. Kira turned
her head and looked in the isolation room. Ziyal and Garak were talking animatedly. With the
comm link off now, it was impossible to hear them. She took a deep breath, glad the girl at least
had company while she was confined.
Inside the isolation room, Ziyal was saying sadly, “It must have been awful for you at the
Dominion prison.”
“Well, I’d be lying if I said I had a good time,” Garak replied, “but I was more fortunate than
some others. I spent most of my time hiding inside a wall.”
“Hiding?” Ziyal could not believe Garak had been that cowardly.
“All right. Being hidden, then,” he admitted. “I was breaking into their communications
array in order to contact our runabout. It was very demanding work, in very, uh, tight quarters.”
He didn’t mention his severe attack of claustrophobia that nearly cost them their lives.
“I was sorry to hear about Tain. I know he meant a lot to you.” Ziyal almost reached out to
stroke his face, but held back. He was such an enigma. She wanted desperately to know what
was going on inside his head. She never felt quite sure about anything he said, though she also
never distrusted him. It seemed a contradiction, but her head did not rule when it came to
Garak.
“Yes, he did,” confirmed Garak, uncomfortable with the topic. He decided to change the
subject. “You know, I’m getting hungry. Would you like to eat something?” He went over to the
replicator.
Bashir handed Kira her haspurat on a plate. “Here you go. Eat that, and if you rest like a
good girl all night I’ll release you in the morning AND I’ll okay you for half a shift.”
Kira looked at him questioningly, “I thought I was going to be here a couple of days.”
“Well,” He explained, “first, your recovery is remarkable. Second, I know what kind of a
patient you are. And third, I need the bed.” Kira smiled at him and began eating slowly, pleased
with his prognosis. “No springball or . . . uh . . . other physical activity for the rest of the week.
And you can resume full duty in 72 hours.”
Kira pushed a straggle of meat inside her mouth with her lips, and chewed. “Got it. Tell
Sisko I’ll be in Ops in the morning,” she smiled, knowing she was pushing her luck at that.

The lights were lowered and the window opaqued to allow the two temporary captives to
sleep. Ziyal thought about what they’d told her about the S’Dellian Fever, and it frightened her.
Garak and Bashir had assured her repeatedly that she was safe, but it was hard for Ziyal to relax
and fall asleep.
Garak came out of the washroom dressed in pale violet pajamas, and settled into the bed
next to Ziyal’s, “Good night, Ziyal.”
“Good night, Garak.”
She rolled to face the opaqued window, but didn’t even bother closing her eyes. It was
quiet, and the unfamiliar surroundings only reminded her why she was here. She thought of
what might happen if she so much as cycled the airlock, now that the infirmary was filled with
patients. One little microbe . . . she sighed heavily. “Garak?”
“Yes,” came his voice.
Good, he didn’t sound upset that she disturbed his attempt to sleep. “Are you scared?”
“Of what, my dear?”
“Of the Fever, of dying, I guess.”
Garak sighed, but it didn’t have any irritation in it. “Ziyal, I was nearly dead more times than
I can count. I’ve been tortured both mentally and physically in my life. I’ve been severely
injured, and deathly ill. I’ve escaped bombs and warfare. There are times I wonder why I am still
alive.” He rolled onto his side, “But yes. Death scares me.”
She turned only her head to look at him, “you seem so calm.”
“I trust Julian implicitly,” he admitted.
“I try to, but I’m just not sure,” she tried to explain. “My head tells me I’m safe here, but my
stomach doesn’t agree. I feel nervous.”
Garak blinked, trying to see her better in the dim light, “It’s probably just that you were
brought here so suddenly. It’s a situation you’ve never been in before. That’s to be expected.”
“I won’t be able to sleep.” She resumed looking up in the darkness.
Garak hesitated a moment, then got up off of his bed and went over to Ziyal. He sat on
the floor next to the bed and leaned against the wall. “I’m right here,” he said. She rolled onto
her stomach so she could drop one hand to him. He held it.
Several minutes later, they were both asleep.

Quark knelt behind the closed bar, with Rom beside him. “Brother, are you sure about
this?” Rom asked while Quark fiddled with a piece of machinery.
“Yes, Rom,” he said as if talking to a young child. He grunted, trying to reach behind the
eerie looking hemispheric machine. “And behind the bar is the best place to hide it, too. But the
range isn’t good enough. We’ll need another one on the other side of the room, and two more
upstairs.”
“That really cuts into your inventory of those. Wouldn’t you rather sell them?”
“If I don’t use these, I might never sell *any*.” He shifted on his aching haunches, “I
have to know where Odo is and isn’t if I’m going to find a buyer. This isn’t your average
contraband.”
“But as soon as he comes in and he can’t shift, he’ll know!” Rom pointed out.
“That’s why this S’Dellian Fever outbreak is so convenient. I’ll convince him it’s the
Fever. Leave it to me.” He activated the unit and the semi-globe began to glow. A low hum
began, but Quark knew the ambient noise of the bar doing normal business would drown that out
with no problem. “And that’s how it’s done. You do the other three. I’ll check them in the
morning.”
“Yes, Brother.”

Dax looked up when Kira walked into Ops. “Nerys, it’s good to see you up and about so
soon!”
Kira stepped down to her station, “Well, I did my part for this epidemic,” she quipped.
“I mean it’s good, because Gul Dukat is on the comm link.” She nodded toward Kira’s
computer station, “He wants to come and talk to Ziyal.”
“What?!” Of all the nerve, she thought. “Did you tell him about the S’Dellian Fever?”
“He thinks it’s a ruse to keep Cardassians off the station,” she explained, making it clear how
stubborn Dukat must have been when they talked.
“I’ll handle this.” She put him up on the main viewscreen, and stepped around to stand
directly in front of it. “Hello, Dukat.”
“Major! My what a quick recovery you’ve had.” He said sarcastically, “I’d like to speak with
my daughter.”
“That’s funny. Last I heard, you didn’t have one,” Kira said, referring to Dukat’s
proclamation disowning Ziyal as he led the Dominion fleet home to Cardassia.
Dukat was already impatient, “Don’t play games with me, Major. This is very
important.”
“I’ll be glad to give her a message,” Kira offered, “but you will not be allowed to dock. We
really do have S’Dellian Fever aboard. And Ziyal has been isolated for her own safety.”
Dukat’s eyes got big, and then grew dark, “You’re not joking?” Kira was surprised to see
extreme worry come over his features, “Is Ziyal all right?”
“She’s fine. What would you like me to tell her?”
The Cardassian Gul didn’t reply right away. An awful thought was occurring to him,
“Wait a minute. The station only has one isolation room. You have two Cardassians. Don’t tell
me –”
“Yes, Garak is with her,” Kira verified. There was no use trying to hide it.
Dukat practically had smoke coming out of his ears. He gritted his teeth and growled to
himself, “I’ll kill him.” Then, “I must speak with her. In private. Can you put me through to the
isolation room? On a secure channel?”
Kira smiled. She enjoyed being in the catbird seat. “I’ll see if she wants to talk to you.” She
touched her comm badge, “Kira to Infirmary.”
“Bashir here. Something wrong, Major?”
“Not with me,” she clarified quickly, “I have Dukat on the line. He wants to speak with
Ziyal. Could you ask her if she accepts the call?” She waited, while Bashir inquired.
“Sorry. She’s not interested.”
Kira’s smile got bigger. “You heard it, Dukat. She doesn’t want to talk to you. Why
don’t you try again next week?” She closed her comm channel triumphantly.

Chapter Three

“Perhaps you should change your mind,” Garak suggested.
“Why? He let me stay on this station even though he expected to see the entire solar
system destroyed. He obviously doesn’t care.” She was now thoroughly depressed, trying
desperately to convince herself that she didn’t care either. She lay back on one of the beds and
stared at the ceiling.
Garak leaned on the nearest bed, “He’s still your father,” he stressed. “And he said it was
important. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
“Maybe,” she admitted, still staring. “But I’ll get over it.”
Garak stood up and went closer to the bed, then crouched down so his head was level
with hers. “Ziyal,” he started softly, and she turned her head toward him, “Only one other person
knows this,” he started, then had to pause. Dare he even say it aloud?
“Go on.”
He could see in her eyes that she would respect the confidence. “Tain was *my* father.”
As the full meaning of those words sunk in, Ziyal turned to lie on her side. He continued, “and
we didn’t get along any more than you and Dukat are getting along right now, for most of my
life. Even as he died, he . . . ” Garak let himself sit on the floor, “he said he was proudest of me
when I was five.” He stared at the floor, “Everything I’ve done, my entire life, was meaningless
to him. He only contacted me when he needed my help. He only thought about himself.”
Ziyal reached down and touched his shoulder, “But the kinds of things that would have
made him proud, would you have wanted to do them?”
What would have made Tain proud of him? Some of the things he’d done while in the
Order might qualify. Or his inquisition of Odo while his shape-shifting abilities were
electronically inhibited. These were the types of things Tain was looking for. “No,” Garak
finally answered with a croak. “But that’s not the point,” he lifted himself back to his crouch, “I
didn’t have a real relationship with my father. I want you to have one with yours.”
“But he hates you,” Ziyal said, “he wants you dead.”
“I know.” He pressed his lips together, “don’t let that influence you. Do you want to live the
rest of your life without any parents at all?” Family was very important to Cardassians, but could
having been raised by her half-Bajoran mother, and spending several years with the Breen have
caused Ziyal to forget?
“If I can live it with you.” She did stroke the side of his face now. “Garak, he’d never allow
us to be together. You know that.”
He used one hand to hold hers against his cheek, “And I want us to be together very
much.” He closed his eyes, engraving the feel of her touch in his mind, then opened them again,
“I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Just talk to him. Find out what he wants.
Don’t allow him to shut you out of his life.”
Ziyal’s eyes searched his face and saw utter sincerity. She took a deep breath, then rolled
herself off the bed and turned on the comm panel. “Doctor?”
“Yes, Ziyal?” Bashir appeared almost immediately, looking all the worse for wear.
Behind him, Ziyal saw about a dozen people in the infirmary, some writhing on their beds,
others sleeping peacefully.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve reconsidered. If he’s still out there, I will accept a call from
my father.”
Bashir’s face showed his surprise, “I’ll inform Kira.”

As soon as Odo stepped into the bar he felt it. It reminded him of the day Garak had
questioned him in that tiny room, and if he’d had real skin he would have shivered. “Quark!”
Quark approached him nervously from behind the bar. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You should get that tattooed on your forehead,” Odo grumbled.
“Can I get you a drink?” Quark peered at the constable uncertainly, “are you feeling all right?
You look . . . ,” he searched for the right word, “. . . too yellow.”
“Yellow?”
“Yes, yellow.” He snapped his fingers, as if something had just occurred to him, “The
S’Dellian Fever! Odo, you better get to the infirmary and let Bashir look at you.”
Odo stepped closer to Quark, “Where is it?”
“Where is what?” Quark was doing an excellent job of feigning ignorance.
“There’s an inhibitor field in here.” He looked around at the large crowded room,
“probably more than one.” Swiftly, he grabbed Quark’s arm and held on tight, “If you don’t shut
them off immediately, I’ll clear this place out faster than you can count latinum.”
Quark tried unsuccessfully to shake himself loose. “I don’t know what you’re talking
about.” He shook more violently, “your hand feels really hot, Odo. You’ve got a fever.”
He pulled Quark forward until they were face to face, “I don’t get fevers. I do not have
S’Dellian Fever. Now turn . . . it . . . off.”
Quark was only slightly flustered, “Can we talk?” He nodded toward the room behind the
bar. Reluctantly, Odo, never loosening his grip, dragged the Ferengi after him into the little
store room.
He stopped short when he saw stacks and stacks of boxes, all marked “Inhibitor Field
Generator.” He snorted triumphantly, “I hope you enjoy the brig, Quark. You’ll be there for a
very long time.”
“No, wait. Let me explain.”
Odo locked the door, then let go of Quark, “Explain.”
“The quadrant NEEDS these. Everyone is worried about an invasion by the Founders,
but with these we can detect the changelings. They’ll sell like . . . like tribbles reproduce.”
“They are still illegal. It’s Cardassian technology and must have, by it’s very nature, been
obtained illegally.” Before Quark could come up with another argument, he added, “And they
don’t detect. They just prevent us from shifting. What’s to stop them from just walking out?
Quark, do you ever think things through?”
“Odo, if these are everywhere, they’ll have no place to go where they can shift. They’ll leave
us alone. I’m doing this for the security of the Alpha Quadrant.”
“And for the latinum.”
“And for the latinum,” Quark repeated, knowing it was senseless to deny it. “I’ll sell
them at cost, if that’ll satisfy you.” It was an idle threat. If need be, he could easily fake an
invoice with an inflated charge.
Odo was intrigued, “No profit? Isn’t that against your Rules of Acquisition?”
Quark shrugged, “I’m not bound by those Rules. There’s little more the Ferengi
Commerce Commission can do to me.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Odo said. “You tell me where you got them, and I won’t arrest
you.”
Oh. That deal again. “Reveal my source? I can’t do that. They’d have me killed!”
Odo raised what should have been an eyebrow. “Did I mention the entire inventory would
have to be destroyed?” He asked, ignoring Quark’s normal death threat routine, “and the
recording I’m making of everything happening in this room?”
Quark knew he had lost again. How was he to know changelings didn’t get S’Dellian
Fever? Everyone else got it. He’d read the symptom listing; even Horta were affected. They got
chilled to the point of hypothermia. But not changelings. Stupid virus. “I got the whole
shipment from the Yridian trader. He’s still docked at pylon eight,” he said.
“Thank you,” Odo said exaggeratedly. “And you’ll remove the ones you installed in the
bar?”
“As soon as physically possible,” Quark grumbled.
“Quark, if these people are who I think they are, you are not in any danger.” Then he left
Quark to puzzle it out.

Chapter Four

Kira’s voice came through the comm panel, “Ziyal, I have Dukat on a secured channel.”
Ziyal took a deep breath from where she sat at the computer terminal. “I’m ready.”
On the screen, Dukat’s familiar face appeared. Ziyal glanced up at Garak, who stood
behind the computer, watching. His very presence would make Dukat boil. It would be best to
stay out of the visual pickup. “Hello, Father,” she said.
“Ziyal, it’s so good to see you. I’ve been worried.”
“I’m sure you have.” She simply could not prevent the contempt from showing on her
face. “Say what you have to say.”
Dukat blinked, “you don’t believe me? I’m hurt. I really have been worried about you.
S’Dellian Fever is quite serious.”
“That’s completely under control, Father. Would you get to the point, please?” Ziyal
wanted to get this over with.
“Are you alone?”
“Yes,” Ziyal lied.
“Liar!” Dukat’s neck cords tightened, “I know that tailor is in there with you.”
Ziyal was prepared for this, “Yes, he is. And we’ve had nothing but sex since we got in
here. And by the way, I’m pregnant.”
Dukat was not amused, “Don’t toy with me, Ziyal. And please tell me you *are* toying
with me.”
Ziyal reached with one hand to pull Garak to stand next to her, ignoring Dukat’s plea.
Garak was reluctant. This wasn’t going the way they had hoped. “He is here, and if there’s
something you need to tell me, he’ll hear it, too. There’s no avoiding it. It’s not like I can ask
him to step outside.”
“Well, you could . . . ” Dukat mused, imagining Garak dropping dead in his tracks.
Garak said nothing.
“I wish I could see you in person for this,” Dukat continued, “but I had trouble enough
convincing the crew to approach this close to the station. As it is, I had to throw two officers in
the brig for insubordination.” He acted put upon and inconvenienced by this whole thing.
“First, you must swear to me that what I’m about to say will not leave that room. You
must tell no one.” He was quite firm in saying this. “No one,” he repeated.
Ziyal and Garak exchanged glances. Against both their better judgements, Ziyal took the
initiative, “Agreed.”
Dukat leaned forward conspiratorially, “I’m sure you’ve heard by now about our treaty
with the Dominion, and my personal vow to retrieve everything Cardassia has lost.”
“Yes, Father. I’ve heard.”
He seemed hesitant to go further, worried about the security of the communication.
Shifting his eyes from side to side, he continued, “it is not entirely true.” Garak cocked his head.
“I want you to know that I personally have signed the treaty, which I have no intention of
honoring.”
Garak had to speak, “If I may be so bold, Dukat, the only thing more foolish than joining the
Dominion, is betraying them.”
Dukat tilted his head to acknowledge Garak, “Then I am a fool.” He again centered his
gaze on his daughter, “I cannot give you all the details, but I did not abandon you willingly,
Ziyal. Please believe me.” His eyes glistened as he waited for a glimmer of acceptance.
“You expected this station, and this entire solar system, to be destroyed in a supernova,” Ziyal
stated the facts, “and you allowed me to stay.”
“I tried to convince you to come with me, but you wouldn’t let go of that . . . ” he realized who
else was listening and reconsidered his words, “. . . tailor!”
The girl was not convinced, “You’re Cardassian, Father. If I really meant so much to you, you
would have forced me to come with you. I would have hated you for it, but you would have
taken me by force. Even if you respected my right to choose, knowing my life was at stake
should have made a difference.”
Dukat saw her argument, “I know what it looked like, but it’s not true. I can tell you this
much, the changeling who impersonated Bashir was supposed to escape. On his way out of the
system, he was to beam you aboard,” he held up a hand to stop Ziyal from arguing, “And Garak.
In the split second timing he would only have had time to grab Cardassians, not look for one in
particular. As much as I argued for that. You both would have escaped harm and been brought
home to Cardassia.” He paused while all of this information came together for Ziyal, “Does
*that* explain my actions?”
Ziyal still did not want to admit it, “I suppose so. So you still would have allowed the station
to be destroyed, along with all personnel on board?” She didn’t want to think of her Father as
that ruthless.
“It was the only other alternative. The Founders were going to carry this out with or
without our help. My agreeing to sign the treaty won me your life.”
“Then you knew I wouldn’t come with you.” He must have agreed to this before trying to
make her leave.
“I suspected it.” He lowered his eyes for a moment, “especially with Garak missing at the
time.”
Garak suddenly found himself sitting on the foot of the bed. This was all a bit much to
take in.
“And before you think otherwise,” Dukat continued, “No, I do not approve of you and
Garak. That hasn’t changed.” He glared at Garak, “I simply acknowledge that it exists, and it
influences your judgement.”
There was a long silence as the three of them individually came to an understanding of
the situation. “And if Sisko found out about this . . . ” Garak began.
“He would relax his battle stations.” Dukat said, “You have to understand, I’m not in
control here. The Dominion is. But I have a high enough profile that even this communication
is an extreme risk.” He again looked from side to side, “I will have to continue the way Sisko
believes. The station is safer if he thinks as he does, that there is a constant threat from me as
well as the Founders. I will do what I can, but he mustn’t think of me as an ally. Are you both
clear about this?” They both nodded wordlessly, and Dukat finally seemed to relax a bit. “I love
you, Ziyal. Dukat out.”
His image disappeared from the screen.

Odo watched the activity around pylon eight from a distance. Four Yridians were taking
on boxes of medical supplies, moving in and out of the ship repeatedly, as the captain verified
each one on his datapad. Certainly looked as it should. Some station personnel were helping as
well. Then a fifth Yridian stumbled into the area. He went to the captain. For a moment, Odo
thought his eyes had gone out of focus for the Yridian blurred then solidified again. Odo peered
and squinted, noticing a few more subtle details that he hadn’t before. The captain grew angry
and shoved the fifth Yridian toward the docked ship. “You’re drunk!” he yelled, loud enough for
everyone within sight to hear. “Go sleep it off, Lieutenant!”
Odo knew he needed to be sure. Almost without thinking, Odo became a Yridian
merchant and walked forward, “Sorry I’m late,” he mumbled as he walked past everyone and into
the ship.

Chapter Five

It was a small ship, a few times the size of a runabout with the majority ostensibly being
cargo space. Odo the Yridian walked to the rear of the ship to the crew quarters, observing his
surroundings as he went. He ducked into the first quarters he came to. He stopped and stared at
the confirmation he’d been looking for. There in the middle of the room, secured to the floor by
metal mounting plates, were three metallic buckets, one of which contained, apparently, the
Lieutenant. He heard voices behind him, and did the only thing he could.
“Are you sure?” One of Yridians was saying.
“Yes. I saw him come this way.”
There was a brief pause, and sounds of footsteps. “I don’t see anyone.” This sounded
further away.
“It was a Yridian. A *real* Yridian.” Odo smiled smugly, or rather, his consciousness
did. “Why would he think this was his ship?”
“I don’t know. Maybe that Fever got him confused.” The voices got closer again.
“You’re seeing things. There’s no one here. Now get back to work!” the Yridian Captain
ordered.

Doctor Julian Bashir rubbed his hands over his face. It had been quite a day. One
hundred sixteen patients treated for high fever, cramps and other severe symptoms. Almost
another hundred treated in their quarters for mild fevers. It was tiring work, but at least the
worry factor was minimal. His assistants probably could handle it for a few hours. He decided
to get some rest. As he was about to leave for his own quarters, he looked in the isolation room.
It appeared that Ziyal and Garak were having a heated argument. He almost wished the
comm panel were on so he could hear them, but he’d allowed them to control it for their own
sense of privacy. His eyes opened wide when Ziyal attempted to strike Garak, who blocked the
blow easily and held her fist in the air. Then, feeling the voyeur, he forced himself to walk
away.
“We both promised we wouldn’t tell!” Ziyal was yelling. “Don’t you dare!” She yanked
her fist back.
“But if we explain it to Sisko, I’m sure he’ll understand. He’s a good commander.” Garak was
going to step forward, then changed his mind, “he wouldn’t let this influence his command or
how he runs this station. Dukat might not realize that.”
Ziyal crossed her arms in front of her and turned her back to Garak, “Garak, don’t you
see? If we let Sisko know, and the Founders ever find out about this whole thing because of it,
they would KILL Father.”
“Your father can take care of himself. He’s a soldier.”
She whirled on him, “But *I’m* not!” She stepped closer to him now, “I can’t live if I’m
always going to be worrying that they’ll find out. Didn’t you hear him? He’s not in control over
there. They are. The fewer people who know about it, the easier it will be for him. And me.”
Garak softened, but didn’t relent, “Sisko thinks your father is the enemy. That can be
equally dangerous.”
Ziyal’s eyes were misting up. It was too much. Too much responsibility. Too much
worry. “Maybe so, but from what I’ve learned about Starfleet, Sisko wouldn’t kill him in cold
blood. At a moment’s notice. For no real reason. The Founders might.” She was beginning to
choke up, “The Founders WILL.” She was almost in Garak’s arms now, and he brought his arms
around to hold her. “I don’t want to lose him. Please keep our promise.”
Garak swallowed, and held the crying girl tighter, “My lips are sealed.”

Odo waited, concentrating on being a bucket. When he was sure the two had left the
area, he resumed his Yridian shape, and walked calmly out behind them, diverting around a
corner where he again became Odo. He paused and looked back to see that normal activity had
begun again. Founders. Selling Inhibitor Fields. It just didn’t make sense.
Odo went back to Quark’s bar and arrived in time to hear Quark swearing profusely. The
Ferengi was bending down behind the bar. Odo peered over the top of the bar at him, “What is
it, Quark?”
Quark jumped up, obviously startled. “Odo! Uh . . . hi. I was just, um, trying to take out this
Inhibitor Field –”
Odo let his hand melt, then brought it solid again. “There’s no Field in here, now.”
“– I know! It just stopped working!” Quark steamed, “Defective merchandise! You
can’t trust Yridians!”
“They weren’t Yridians.” Odo said quietly.
“Of course they were Yridians. I saw them.” Quark stopped himself. If Odo says they
weren’t Yridians, who else could they be? Someone who could look like a Yridian, of course! A
look of horror swept across Quark’s face, “Founders? That’s ridiculous, Odo. Why would
Founders sell Inhibitor Fields?”
“I haven’t quite figured that out yet. May I have one for analysis?”
Quark got the gist, “I see . . . you think there’s something wrong with them? Well, you’re right.
They’re a piece of junk.” He brought one foot backwards and prepared to kick it.
“No!” Odo stopped him. “Don’t do that!”
Quark stopped in mid-kick and almost fell over. “Why?”
Odo’s shoulders sunk. Quark could be maddening, “Give it to me. I’ll have Dax and
O’Brien examine it, and let you know.” He waited patiently while Quark lifted the bulky
machine to the top of the bar.
“Take it,” he said. “It’s not even a halfway decent footrest.”
Odo lifted it into his arms, “In the meantime, Quark, don’t touch any of the others you’ve
planted in here until we know what we’re dealing with.”
“Others?” Quark asked, but after a stern glare from Odo he relented. “Understood.”

Chapter Six

Garak and Ziyal were stunned to see Captain Sisko walk into the infirmary and approach
the window. Garak turned on the comm panel obediently. “How are you two doing in there?”
He asked congenially.
“Just fine,” Garak spoke for both of them, as they stood hand-in-hand in front of the
window.
“I’ll get right to the point,” he began. “Ziyal, I know you’ve received a communique from
Dukat. Despite what’s happened recently, I want you to know I won’t block communication
between the two of you.”
“Thank you, Captain.” Ziyal was nervous, even with the encouraging hand squeeze from
Garak.
Sisko sighed and began to pace the width of the window. “And I can’t force you to reveal the
contents of any such communication. It was a secured channel, which I authorized, and
completely private in all respects.” He stopped pacing, “But I would hope that if you thought
any information would be useful to me in my command of this station, or to Starfleet, you would
see your way clear to sharing it.”
Ziyal was afraid of this. She had hoped the subject wouldn’t even come up, “I’m sorry,
Captain, but I can’t help you at this time. This was family business, nothing more.”
Sisko turned to Garak, “Garak, I’m sure you witnessed the call. Is this true?”
“Absolutely, Captain,” he replied without hesitation.
“No offense intended, Ziyal,” Sisko added, since asking for verification was like saying
he didn’t trust her. If only her father were not Gul Dukat . . .
“None taken, Captain.”
Sisko thanked them both, and left the infirmary. Garak and Ziyal each let out a long
breath of relief. Ziyal tried to calm her racing heartbeat as she hopped up on a bed and sat with
her knees up, her back against the wall. Garak turned off the comm panel and went back to the
replicator for another bowl of soup. “You sure like soup,” she said.
“Yes,” he said as if he had just realized this himself. “It’s . . . hot.”
She smiled, for the first time in hours. She crossed her arms over her knees and cradled her
head in them, “I’m surprised how hard that was. Lying to Captain Sisko.”
“But you didn’t lie, Ziyal,” Garak said as he came to the wall near Ziyal and pulled down the
table so he could sit and eat the soup. “It was family business.”
She laughed at his reasoning, “If my family is all of Cardassia.”
“Isn’t it?”
She got thoughtful, “I don’t know.” She was half-Bajoran, after all. And it’s not like she
would be accepted on Cardassia. But she wasn’t very certain if she felt any loyalty to them at all.
Or to Bajor, either, for that matter. All that mattered to her were the individuals she knew.
Garak, Kira, her father, it didn’t really make a difference what planet they came from. “What
about you, Garak? Do you really feel a connection to Cardassia, as a planet?”
“It *was* my home,” he told her.
“I was born on Bajor. I’ve never seen Cardassia. I’m not sure how to feel about it.”
“I see,” he put his spoon down for a moment. “So you’re acting purely on loyalty to your
father.” It was not a question. “Admirable.”
Ziyal rested her chin on her arms, “Or selfish?” She moved to dangle her feet over the
edge and faced Garak over the table, “I will keep my promise to him, but what if he is lying?
Am I trusting him only because he’s my father?”
“You know I can’t answer that question.”
“Am I being selfish by protecting his life?” She got off the bed entirely now and began to
pace, “I’ve heard the stories. I know what Cardassians are supposed to be capable of, what they
definitely have done in the past. If Father really is like that, he doesn’t deserve my support . . .
or maybe he said all those things under duress. Maybe it was a signal that he WANTED me to
tell Captain Sisko. Warn him about something . . . ”
“Ziyal, you’re thinking too much,” Garak said. “For once, I really believe Dukat can be
taken at face value here. The channel was secure. He’s still in command of his own ship. And
not telling Sisko only keeps him alert of every danger, just as Dukat said.”
“You’re right,” she agreed. “I guess I’ve just been in here too long. I’m getting a little crazy.”
“Well, it can’t be much longer. I’ll ask the doctor.” He went over to the comm panel,
“Garak to Bashir.” This time, there wasn’t an immediate reply. Garak looked out into the
infirmary. Some of the beds were actually empty now. The occupied beds held soundly
sleeping patients. “Garak to Bashir,” he repeated.
Finally, Bashir approached from his medical office, this time looking rested. “Something
wrong, Garak?”
“Ziyal and I were just wondering, how much longer we will be in here?”
Bashir considered the question, “I know you’re probably anxious to get out. But I
wouldn’t want to release you too early. I’m sure you can understand that. Sometime tomorrow, I
would think, though.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” He turned off the panel and turned back to Ziyal, “You see? You’ll
be back in your own quarters tomorrow.”
She smiled gratefully at him, “I’m sorry I’m such a bother.”
“No bother at all.”

Dax studied her tricorder readings, “How many of these did you say Quark has?”
“Dozens,” Odo replied. “Did you find something?”
Her forehead wrinkled, “I’m not sure.” She adjusted some settings on the tricorder, “I
don’t understand what this part does.” O’Brien looked at the readings as he stood beside her, but
obviously didn’t have an answer. “It doesn’t seem to be connected to anything, and I can’t get
very good readings on it with all the interference from the power supply.” She let the tricorder
fall to her side, “We’re going to have to disassemble it.”
“Are you sure it’s safe to do that?”
Dax grinned at Odo’s worried look, “reasonably sure. I’ll be right back. I need to get
some tools.”
While she was gone, O’Brien picked up the unit and gave it a close visual examination to
see how to begin taking it apart. Apparently clueless, he set it back down. This was the oddest
piece of machinery he’d ever seen. “But it did work, right?”
“For several hours, apparently. Then it just turned itself off, spontaneously. According to
Quark, anyway. As did the three others he installed.” Odo observed the whole operation with
trepidation. He clasped his hands behind his back, still working on the details of the situation.
The Founders distributing Inhibitor Fields just didn’t make sense. It was like the Bajorans selling
disruptors to the Cardassians. It was crazy.
Dax returned in a few minutes with a handful of various small instruments and she and
O’Brien set to work dismantling the Inhibitor Field Generator. In less than fifteen minutes, it
was reduced to a pile of apparent scrap metal and wiring. She held the questionable part in one
hand and the tricorder in the other. “Hmmmm. Still inconclusive. What is this thing, Odo?”
She held it out to the changeling.
He took it from her, but held it only for a second before dropping it to the table.
“Odo?”
“I…I don’t know,” he said, disturbed by what he had felt, “but whatever it is, it’s in the Great
Link.” He stared at it as he sorted through the sensations in his mind. But didn’t dare pick it up
again. If it was in the Link, it could communicate his thoughts to the whole Founder community.
Odo raised his eyes to meet Dax’s slowly as the only possible answer came to him, “It’s
not exactly in the Great Link. But it, or rather ‘they’ since there’s one in each generator, is under
control of the Link.”
“But what is it supposed to do?”
“In my opinion? Explode.”
Dax again examined her tricorder readings. “There aren’t any explosive devices in
there.”
“There will be.” At Dax’s questioning look, he explained, “sealed inside is a pocket of,
well, changeling, basically. A quantity of mass physically separated from its Founder. When the
time is right, the Great Link will tell it what to do. My guess is, after these generators have been
distributed all over the quadrant, sold through sheer panic caused by the Dominion threat, they
would all explode.”
Dax understood and slapped her comm badge, “Computer, locate Benjamin Sisko.”
“Captain Benjamin Sisko is in his office,” came the automated reply.
“Let’s go.”

Chapter Seven

The three now stood in front of Sisko’s desk. “Do you have a recommendation for what to
do about them?” he asked after hearing the report of their findings. He held one of the suspect
blocks in his hand.
Dax and O’Brien turned to Odo, who looked uncomfortable. He was always
uncomfortable when the Founders were involved. After all, they were his people. But species
was the only thing he had in common with them. He’d learned and agreed with many humanoid
values and spent most of his time upholding them. The Founders, on the other hand, were
nothing but conquerors. Conquerors who used their unique powers to coerce other races to
enforce their own brand of justice. In their quest to gain a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant, they
were even willing to distribute a device harmful to themselves simply because they knew it
would sell. The problem was, now that it was figured out, what could be done with the existing
generators? The Founders certainly wouldn’t take them back, and the longer they were here the
more chance the Founders would set them off anyway. “First,” Odo decided, “do not permit that
‘Yridian’ ship to depart. As long as they are here, the Founders can’t act without harming one of
their own.”
Sisko scowled, “That could be difficult. The quarantine is due to be lifted early
tomorrow afternoon. Can they be destroyed before then?”
O’Brien replied, “I suggest we beam them into space, using wide dispersal.”
Sisko turned the block over in his hand. “Odo, these pieces of Founders, they’re not
sentient, are they?” If they were, it could complicate things considerably.
“No, Sir,” Odo said. “A humanoid equivalent would be a severed finger or toe.”
“Good,” he felt relieved about that, “Chief, have them all moved to one of the cargo bays,
discreetly, of course. Start your teams on dismantling them. Put reusable material in storage
and set these aside. But don’t beam them anywhere just yet.”
“What are you up to, Benjamin?” Dax asked.
“Odo,” Sisko continued as if without interruption, “am I right in assuming that these
would be of value to the Founders?”
Odo tilted his head, “Of value? I suppose, if they realize the original intent is no longer
applicable, the Founders who donated the mass would want it back,” he speculated.
“How badly?”
“I’m not sure,” Odo replied.
Sisko stroked his beard, “I have a feeling I’ll find out.”

It was surprising to Ziyal how quickly one could get used to a strange bed. It was the
third, and last night, if what Bashir had said was true, and she almost felt as if she belonged here
already. This time, her sleeplessness was not due to anxiety, but to anticipation. She could
sense Garak’s nearness, even in the next bed. And she knew without looking that he wasn’t
sleeping either. She sat up and glanced at the window, checking that it was opaqued, and that
the comm link was still closed. “Garak, this is our last night together.”
“In isolation, yes. That doesn’t mean there won’t be others.”
Ziyal found herself holding her breath. Others? She jumped off the bed, but remained
standing by it, her breaths coming deeply now.
“Are you all right, Ziyal?” Garak asked, rising also. Through the dim light, they stared at
each other. Garak swallowed as Ziyal’s wordless stare made its meaning apparent. “I’m not sure
that would be wise, Ziyal,” he whispered.
“Who knows if we’ll get another chance,” she countered, and took a step toward him.
Then another. Garak didn’t move. Then she was right in front of him, but he was still not
receptive. “Haven’t you felt it the whole time we’ve been in here?” She grinned, “Are you sure it
was the soup that was hot?”
Garak blinked repeatedly and swallowed again, “Your father –”
“– isn’t here, is he?”
“That wasn’t what I meant to say,” he corrected her. He put a hand on her shoulder,
trying to exude nothing more than a paternal feeling, and failing, “You said you would keep your
promise to him. If you honor him so much, how can you go against his wishes now?”
“Oh, Garak. This has nothing to do with that.” She leaned her head against his chest,
listened to his heartbeat, “I want to be with you.”
He held her at arms’ length so she would look him in the eyes, “It has everything to do
with that. You either abide his wishes or you don’t. You can’t throw them aside simply because
it’s convenient.”
She kept herself away from him now, “So if I want to be with you, I have to break my
promise to my father and tell Captain Sisko the truth?”
“No,” Garak sighed, struggling for the words to explain what he was feeling. “I mean, we
can’t be together, like that, until we have your father’s blessing.”
“I don’t understand,” Ziyal admitted. Garak was thankful that she wasn’t teary-eyed.
“We’ll never get his blessing. He doesn’t have to know.”
“You really think he wouldn’t know?” Garak asked. “He’s your father. Maybe he didn’t
watch you grow up, but a father always knows.”
She laughed a little, “he thinks we’re already doing it. What difference would it make?”
“Ziyal, as much as I disagreed with my father,” Garak began, “I honored him. I know I
said it wasn’t a good relationship, and I was right. But when he needed me, I was there,
regardless of what he’d done in the past, regardless of the risk to my own life.” Garak could tell
she still wasn’t understanding, “Look at it this way: if we do this, your father will resent it, and
you’re right, we’d never get his blessing. If we don’t, he will learn to respect us, because we’d be
respecting him.”
“If you don’t want to –”
“Of course, I want to, Ziyal!” He held her arms tightly at her sides and kissed her hard on the
lips. Then he forced himself to pull away. “But remember I told you I wanted you to have a
good relationship with your father? Before Tain died, I felt differently. But losing him made me
realize how important a father is. No matter what you think of him, you can’t deny who he is.
You have to — I want you to stay in his life. And this is the only way to accomplish that!” He
turned his face away from her. “You think these last few days have been easy for me? You can’t
imagine how much I wanted to –” he wouldn’t even let the words out. “Excuse me,” he said as he
darted around her and into the washroom.
Ziyal stood there, stunned first by the kiss, then by the realization that he was absolutely right.
By the time Garak came timidly out of the washroom, she was curled up in her bed, with her
back to him, hoping that sleep would eventually come.

Sisko walked into Quark’s to see uniformed security officers carrying out boxes covered
with various colored cloths. Quark stood behind them, shouting, “You can’t do this! I paid for
those!” He saw Sisko come in and almost jumped on him, “Captain Sisko, I demand you
reimburse me for these! I paid five strips of latinum a piece!”
“You paid two strips, Quark,” Sisko answered calmly, “and it’s illegal contraband. I can
confiscate it free of charge.” He was half tempted to tell Quark about the danger they posed,
invite him to keep them in his store room knowing they could explode as soon as the Yridian
ship went to warp. “Besides, you yourself told Odo they were no good.”
“That *one* was defective. I could sell the other ones for a profit easily.” He looked
nervously at the boxes as if they were walking out under their own power. “I have a loss to
recoup.”
“Swallow it, Quark.” Sisko turned to the security team, “Is that the last of them?”
“Yes, Sir,” replied a partially hidden officer from behind a stack of boxes.
“Quark, is that all of them?” Sisko asked the Ferengi, knowing his tendency to squirrel
away things.
Quark grumbled, “Yes, that’s all of them.” He walked away, muttering under his breath,
“If I water down the drinks much more I’ll have to call it water.”
Sisko followed the security team to the cargo bay, where O’Brien’s engineers were
already beginning to take them apart. They were using the now empty boxes to sort parts into.
“How’s it going, Chief?”
O’Brien approached Sisko, one hand dangling at his side with a spanner in it, “Well, there are
almost 150 units. If we can speed up a bit as we go along, we might finish them by noon.” He
massaged his neck. He was already in his tenth duty hour.
Sisko noticed. “After you get them going smoothly, take a break, Chief. Get some
sleep,” he said.
O’Brien used the spanner to scratch the middle of his back, “You first,” he winked. At
Sisko’s uncompromising glare, he relented, “Aye, Sir.”
“Be sure I’m informed as soon as they finish,” Sisko said over his shoulder as he walked
out of the cargo bay, not waiting for or needing the acknowledgement.

Chapter Eight

Ziyal opened her eyes but didn’t move. For some reason, she still felt tired. Then she
remembered. She pushed herself to a sitting position, letting her legs dangle over the edge, her
back still toward Garak. She didn’t know what to say to him now. She didn’t know what to do or
how to act. She got to her feet and walked to the washroom, noticing as she passed that Garak
was still sleeping. By the time she came out, however, he was up, dressed and getting his
breakfast. “Good morning, Ziyal,” he said pleasantly.
“Good morning,” she said, and went to the replicator for her breakfast. Those were the
only words exchanged as they ate. When they had both finished, Garak voluntarily took the
dishes. Ziyal got out her bag and began to pack her things back into it. She heaved a sigh, and
went to the window, changing it from opaque to clear. There was one patient still occupying a
bed on the far side of the room.
As Bashir crossed from his office to the bed, he noticed the clear window, and Ziyal
looking out. “Just a few more hours, Ziyal. I promise,” he said, and went to tend his patient.
But she didn’t want to turn around. She watched the doctor at work for awhile, but wasn’t
startled when she sensed Garak come up behind her. She stiffened, however. After a glance to
make sure the comm unit was off, she said over her shoulder, “I know you’re right.”
Garak touched her shoulder gently, causing her to turn, “Am I?” he paused, then went on,
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have imposed my opinions on you last night. Yes, I want you and your
father to stay in touch, but is that what you want?”
She ducked away and went back to her packing, “Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters,” he said before she even finished speaking. “I’m confused. We’re both
confused here, by what each perceives the other one wants. Including Dukat. But what it all
comes down to, is what *you* want. And I shouldn’t have refused you based on my
perceptions of Dukat’s intentions.”
Ziyal stepped up to him as he spoke and put a finger to his lips. She had already made
her peace, “but you were absolutely right about one thing. If I do what I want, which is being
with you, I lose my father. Figuratively, if not literally. Before his call, I would have taken that
deal. But if he really is risking his life to save mine . . . ” her voice cracked and she had to stop
and swallow, “I can’t ignore that.” She took a deep breath and tried to make light of it, “It’s not
like I won’t see you at all. You’ll still be here on the station. We’re good friends, Garak.”
“Very good friends, Ziyal.”
“Someday we can be more. I’ll make sure of it.” She stood straight, “I’ll show Father
what a good man you are, and he’ll be proud to call you his son.”

“O’Brien to Sisko.”
“Sisko here. Go ahead.”
“The Founder blocks are ready for transport,” O’Brien reported.
“Good work, Chief. Stand by,” Sisko said. He turned to Kira, “Open a channel to that
‘Yridian’ ship, Major. I’ll take it in my office.”
“Aye, Sir,” she replied, and a moment later, “channel open.”
The Yridian Captain appeared on the screen on Sisko’s desk. “Captain Sisko,” he
acknowledged.
Sisko fingered the Founder block on his desk, still keeping it off screen, “I thought you’d like
to know that the quarantine will be lifted in a few more hours.” Absent-mindedly, he brought
the block into view, “I’m sure you’ll want to make launch preparations.”
“Thank you, Captain.” The Yridian was about to sign off when he noticed Sisko’s new
paperweight. He looked like he was debating whether or not to mention it. Finally, when it was
too awkward not to say something else, “Excuse me, but what is that object? We are traders. I
may be interested in purchasing it.”
“This?” He held it up for a full view, “A gift from Quark.” The falsehood of a gift from a
Ferengi slid by without question.
“Are there . . . more?”
“Yes, I believe there are quite a few more.”
Suddenly, the Yridian shifted into the more familiar Founder humanoid, “I see. And I’m
sure you see, as well. What do you intend to do with them?”
“Well, our first plan was to beam them into space, using wide dispersal to eliminate any
danger they might cause,” Sisko admitted, and was then pleased when the Founder looked
horrified. “We really have no use for them.”
“There’s no need to do that,” he said hurriedly. “We can take them off your hands.”
“I don’t know if they’re for sale,” Sisko said, making sure the Founder knew that they
would not be freely handed over.
He’d never seen a Founder quite so worried before, “We will pay you a strip of latinum
for each one. You did say they were worthless to you.”
“Five strips,” Sisko countered coolly. “Apparently, they are not worthless to you.”
“Two –” the Founder began, but seeing Sisko’s disapproval in his face he corrected
himself, “three. Three strips of latinum for each block. That’s my final offer.”
Sisko doubted that, but he’d gotten what he wanted. In fact, he got the impression he
could get quite a bit more if he tried. It made sense, he supposed. Even though they were
willing to give up the mass to orchestrate their plan, when it fell through they couldn’t afford to
let the mass go to waste. Or perhaps the Founders who donated them were unusually important
or powerful in some way. But with three strips he could reimburse Quark and the station funds
got a little something for the trouble. “You have a deal. I’ll have them brought to your ship. You
can give the money to my security chief.”
“It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Captain,” the Founder dripped sarcasm, but
sighed in relief.
“Sisko out,” Sisko then flipped a switch to contact O’Brien and told him the deal. Then
he leaned back in his chair, peeled back the gray paper from the block, and took a satisfying bite
of chocolate.

Bashir watched his last patient leave and then approached the isolation room. “Well, let’s
make this official,” he said, opening the comm link from his side, “The quarantine is lifted.
You’re both free to come out whenever you wish.”
The airlock cycled and Garak stepped into the infirmary. He took a deep breath, then
stepped over to the comm link, “It’s all right, Ziyal. Come on out.”
Slightly unsure, Ziyal came out, her travel bag in one hand, and looked around the room
as if she’d never seen it before. She took tentative breaths, shallow first, then deeper, and finally
smiled. “Thank you, Doctor.”
“My pleasure,” Bashir grinned back at her.
Ziyal put her free hand in Garak’s, and Garak said, “On the contrary, Doctor. The
pleasure was all ours.” Hand-in-hand, the two Cardassians left the infirmary and returned to the
hustle and bustle of station life, leaving Dr. Bashir to his imagination.

THE END

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.