redemption

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redemption Powered By Docstoc
					Authors' notes: We are and are not ignoring the DS9 relaunch novels for this one. Some
items, aspects, and a couple characters are being borrowed from them, but most is being
paid no attention to.

Disclaimer: Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Voyager, its canon characters and worlds,
and all familiar elements belong to Paramount/CBS. We're just borrowing to explore the
unexplored paths.

Rating: R


Redemption
by Cheile and Katesfire (with help from Chrysa)


Prologue


Under the crystal-blue skies of Bajor, her people lived peacefully, prospered and
followed the Prophets. Then the invaders came, people of a forsaken world, reaching out
for the help offered to them with one hand while the other held the blade that was used to
stab their new allies in the back. Blind to this deception, the once-peaceful people
became enslaved, their land torn apart, desecrated and burned. There were several
individuals who even turned their backs on the Prophets and their own--giving aid and
information to the invaders, who took delight in the suffering they'd unleashed.

But it was not long before the people began to fight back. Strength was found in numbers
and, despite working separately, the Resistance cells all had one common goal--drive the
invaders from the land--or die trying....


Ilvian Province, Bajor, 2355


Pelkan Arhosa smiled smugly at the scene laid out before him. To his left was Second
Glinn Cuhmact. Lined up in front of them and surrounded by the members of Cuhmact's
squadron were the nineteen members of the Thomar--a Resistance cell that had been
operating in Ilvian for two years. Pelkan himself had been a member for the last four
months--long enough to get enough of the sort of information that the Cardassians
wanted on Resistance cells. And from the look on the glinn's face, he was very happy
about the results.

Pelkan was largely ignoring the looks he was getting from the Thomar members--
disbelief and anger for the most part, and murderous fury from Tynar Lin'saye, the
cousin of the cell's leader. She'd always hated him, had once even accused her of making
improper advances on her. Unfortunately for her, her claim had not gotten him in the
kind of trouble she'd hoped for. It was almost a pity he couldn't be the one holding the
phaser when she was executed. But he would leave that to Cuhmact's men.

For the most part, the Thomar were silent, their eyes showing their fear, anger or both.
Only one, after taking her turn to glare at the collaborator in their midst, tried to whisper
a prayer under her breath. She was silenced by the sharp jab of a phaser rifle to the back
of her neck, a jab that nearly knocked her flat on the ground.

"Lined up for death and you still believe your almighty Prophets will come to your
rescue?"

The other soldiers snickered at the galt's taunting words. Tynar and Thomar Dahaun,
the cell's leader, had helped the fallen woman back up and she offered them a trembling
smile of thanks.

"Yes, what of those Prophets of yours?" This time, Cuhmact was the one to speak.
"What does it say about the gods of a people who would allow their martyrs to be
brought to this? Foolish superstitions." His eyes moved from one Bajoran face to the next
as he spoke. Some still had fear in their eyes; most now wore looks of defiance. "And so
here you all are, brought to your knees, just like the rest of the weak fools of this
miserable planet will be because crimes against the Cardassian Union do not go
unpunished." His eyes landed on Thomar last.

"The only crime committed here is what Cardassia has done to Bajor." Thomar had
neither fear nor defiance in his eyes, but simply a look of determination. "We have the
right to fight for what is ours."

"Ah, but it is no longer yours--your world, your people, belong to us."

"And the only Bajoran criminal stands by your side, Glinn," Thomar continued, ignoring
the glinn's words. His eyes met Pelkan's in a steely stare.

"I know which way the wind is blowing, Dahaun. It's not my problem if you don't."

Thomar's look was one of disdain. "And you think once this is over that you will get to
live?"

"I get to live in exchange for the valuable information I seek out." Pelkan's grin was
almost as satisfied as that of the Cardassians surrounding them.

"That's what you think, collaborator," Tynar spit. "Once you're no longer useful, they'll
dispose of you just the same."

"Enough talk." Cuhmact gestured to the soldier behind Tynar.
"We'll be rid of you in the e--" Tynar died with the defiant look still on her face and a
phaser burn in the center of her back.

One by one, the small group was executed. Most, like Lin'saye, held their heads up
proudly in silence, no longer allowing themselves to show any fear. A few attempted to
whisper prayers to the Prophets, most being cut off mid-word.

As was Cuhmact's practice when he performed these kinds of executions, he'd left the
leader for last. Now he smiled nastily down at Thomar, who still knelt surrounded by the
bodies of his cell members. "Such a pity you will die a failure, Bajoran. We still own you
and your planet."

Thomar met Cuhmact's eyes with the same look of disdain he'd used on Pelkan.
"Lin'saye spoke the truth. You may kill us, but we are not alone. Others will step up to
take our place. In the end, you Cardassians will be driven off our land."

Cuhmact's lips curled back into a sneer. "Yes, we will be driven from this land, only after
we have bled it dry of every possible resource and rid it of the serious infestation that call
themselves Bajoran."

He made another quick gesture to the galt standing behind Thomar. Only an instant
later, Thomar's body fell to land beside his cousin's, his life's blood pooling around both
their corpses.

Pelkan smiled to himself, taking in a final look at the scene. Of all his assignments, this
had so far been the worst--between Tynar's troublemaking and Thomar's inability to see
the little bitch for the liar she was. Then again, that same gullibility had been the key to
his downfall. And now that the Thomar had been disposed of, he could move on to the
next terrorist cell--and begin again.

But unknown to Pelkan, unknown to the glinn and his squad, two members of the Thomar
had escaped such a fate. In the end, only one would go on to live through the dark years,
struggling through the horrors of starvation and oppression and surviving to see a new
dawn for Bajor....one of freedom from the iron grip of Cardassian occupation....



Chapter 1
[Bajor, present day]


"I will be making the arrangements to resign from the position of First Minister, effective
immediately." Shakaar Edon's blue eyes were troubled as he spoke, but his voice was
steady and calm. "I am not at liberty to discuss the reason as of right now, except to say
that it is a personal one. Rest assured, this decision was not made lightly and I will
remain in office until the Council of Ministers can vote in a suitable replacement."
All across Bajor, its people were watching with varying degrees of shock and surprise at
the events unfolding on the live newsfeed.

Shakaar had been much beloved by the majority of the people--a former Resistance
leader and simple man, without the cloak of arrogance that so many politicians tended to
wear. Coming on the heels of the sudden death of Kai D'elaya Ristai, regarded by many
as suspicious, it was almost too much for many to comprehend.

As the news spread across the sector and then out to the rest of the quadrant, the rampant
speculation began. Several theories were brought up and immediately discarded by
most. There was little to no chance of Shakaar being involved in anything such as
smuggling, drug running and the like. He was far too honest. That also ruled out the idea
that he had somehow bought his way into office. The late Kai Winn's long ago attempt to
control the government in addition to the religious community and Shakaar's landslide
defeat of her had long been public knowledge. And every election after that had been the
same.

When theories on his career fell short, speculation on his personal life was the next
target--especially his wife. There had always been rumors and talk about her background
and true identity. To most outside the Bajoran sector, Shakaar Catei was an enigma--a
young human woman who had reportedly been disowned by her family for capturing the
heart of the First Minister. She had done everything short of cosmetic surgery to become
as Bajoran as her husband, including changing her name.

The general mood of the people was that of initial disbelief, then cool acceptance, not
truly believing that Shakaar was stepping down, that he could have done anything that
could warrant his leaving the office. He was a hero, a legend and only a scarce few would
even entertain any speculation long enough for it to manifest into anything beyond idle
gossip, mostly women and men in the markets exchanging theories that had grown of idle
minds grasping at straws.

It was when the news ran with the sudden discovery of the true scandal that left the
people of Bajor sickened with realization and numb in disbelief. The video feed of
Minister Jasam Borilan demanding Shakaar's immediate resignation caused everyone to
take pause and wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was some truth.

The Shakaar cell was legendary and he had been lauded for their efforts in forcing the
Cardassians from Bajor, but was it possible he could have skeletons in his closet? Could
he truly have his hands stained red with the blood of their fallen brethren?

The news clips were vicious, telling a horrendous tale that dated to near the end of the
Occupation. The Shakaar, with the company of the Devrat resistance cell, had targeted
(name village). It was common knowledge that twenty Bajoran lives, including seven
children, were lost during the raid. Shakaar's telling of the tale had been mournful and
distressed, when he would speak of it at all.

But a new story had come to light from (insert name), the only remaining survivor of the
Devrat. While the Devrat members set fire to the Cardassian barracks in the village,
Shakaar and his people were to liberate the slaves, but that had not happened. Instead,
Shakaar ordered those with him to set fire to the entire town, slaughtering his own
people. (Insert name) painted an image of a vicious man, set on punishing as many
Cardassians as he possibly could, even if it meant killing his own people in the process.

“This man who has been leading our people, cloaking his sins under the veil of his title,
has his hands covered in Bajoran blood! I could not keep my silence any longer and
allow this man to continue leading us when he is guilty of sending several of our brethren
to the Celestial Temple!” (Insert Name)‟s words stabbed doubt into the hearts of the
Bajoran populace, who began to wonder if the decision to put a former resistance fighter
into the highest office was misguided by fear of a nation who were seeking a protector
and a hero. Had they misjudged him? Was his decision nothing more than an admission
of guilt? Burning questions arose, yet their First Minister was not offering any answers.

Without those answers, the people found themselves turning towards the comforting
words offered by Minister Jasam, promising that Shakaar would not go unpunished for
the crimes which he had concealed for so long. Even so, many still remained skeptical,
disbelieving. If this were all true, would it not have come to light long before this?
Would not Winn or one of her supporters have exposed it in order to stain Shakaar's
reputation during that first momentous election? But Jasam dismissed even this with
complete ease.

"For those of you who still doubt the evidence brought to light--remember this. Whom
else can we demand answers from?" Jasam's sharp, dark gaze seemed to pierce through
the video feed. "Devrat Maza and two others bravely sacrificed their own lives so that
their fellow Bajorans could escape. Dan'tik Furel and Mobara Arubos were murdered by
a Cardassian terrorist twelve years prior. The other remaining members of that raid,
both Shakaar and Devrat alike, have since been called to join the Prophets. The only two
survivors of that raid are Shakaar himself and the witness who has come forth with this
terrible confession--to expose himself to the public's ridicule by unburdening his pagh.
And what do we hear from our esteemed leader? Nothing except denial! Are you going
to accept that from the one who is supposed to lead us to our better future?"

The rally cry of the people came with force and fierceness. The fire had been fueled and
the people as a whole, except for the skeptics and those completely devoted to Shakaar,
were crying for retribution. Jasam had ascended the ladder and, to their scared, angry
hearts, he was their new hero, their beacon of hope in a world that had otherwise just
crumbled out from beneath their feet. Everything they knew, that they had trusted and
believed in suddenly slipped away, leaving many to question exactly what was real and
what was a lie.
**


B'hava'el's light cast a glow over the Bajoran capital as she rose to crown the sky and
bring the new day. But the beauty of the morning was lost on at least one whose mind
was too consumed by recent events.

From his fourth floor office in the Hall of Ministers, Shakaar squinted into the sunlight
that poured in through the balcony doors. Normally, he would have gone outside to
watch the sunrise, but doing so the day before had nearly provoked a riot when a small
group of protestors spotted him. In fact, the past five weeks had been that way. There
were the protestors, of course--and then Jasam's most ardent supporters, who were even
more vocal than the average protestor. Add on to that every news organization,
legitimate or otherwise, within the Federation and beyond trying to corner him--and it all
equaled one long headache.

Turning away from the balcony doors with a sigh, he slumped into his desk chair. The
blinking light on his console promised an addition to the headache, even though he knew
that his aide would have deleted all media requests and any other unnecessary messages.
That would leave the necessary ones and he wasn't even in the mood to face those. But
there was no avoiding it. Sighing again and rubbing his nose ridges, he turned the
console on and keyed in his access code.

Number of unread messages: 47.

"Only forty-seven?" he muttered sarcastically under his breath. Then his eye was caught
by a familiar name halfway down the list. Bypassing all the other messages, he scrolled
down and clicked it open. The face of the redheaded woman that appeared onscreen was
as familiar as his own.

"Shakaar, I've gotten some answers to your questions. And dare I say, you're not going
to like them. But if it's possible, I'd prefer to meet you to discuss them. With everything
that's going on, I'm not comfortable with leaving them on here." A faint smirk of
amusement played on her lips and lit up her dark brown eyes. "Much like the old days,
huh? I'll be here for another couple days after I have to meet the people at Iponu. Comm
me back and let me know when you're available."

The screen went dark before returning to the logo of office. Immediately, Shakaar
punched in the return comm code. But the quick response he was hoping for did not
manifest itself. He ignored the computer's polite offer to record a message for later
viewing and tried to direct comm a second time, then a third.

"Recipient is unavailable. Would you like to encode a message for later delivery?"
Shakaar sighed in frustration. "No." He knew it was possible she was unavailable for
any number of reasons--gone to market, visiting with a neighbor, still asleep, even. But,
as he replayed the message, a sinking feeling in his gut told him that was not the case.

"Damn it, Kaelinn--where are you?"


**


"First Minister?"

"Yes, Arien?"

"Your wife is here to see you. She's on her way in." The door chimed as if acting on the
secretary's words.

"Come in!" The doors parted at his command to admit his visitor, slender but for her
pregnant belly. Her wheat-blond waves were clipped back behind her ears, the rest
falling to just past her shoulder blades. The mid-morning sunlight caught the crystal
dangle on her earring, bringing out its sparkle. But her smile of greeting was far brighter.

"Cady." He drew her into his arms for a kiss. "How are you feeling?"




Cady had the fleeting thought that it was strange that Arien didn't announce the visitor, as
she normally did. "After this, maybe we should tell Arien you're not receiving anyone for
the rest of the day," she suggested.

"Then I suppose I should be grateful I made it in time."

The familiar sardonic drawl made Cady's heart lurch with shock. "Drake?!"

Drake Traylor stepped further into the room, wearing what could only be classified as a
mocking smile. The bright afternoon sunlight pouring through the windows made his
hair seem even blonder than it was. He was dressed to look the part of a successful,
wealthy businessman, in Earth-typical white shirt, and black slacks and jacket. His eyes,
a stormy gray-blue, looked over Cady from head to toe and his smile widened.

"Well, little cousin, I see you've done nicely for yourself." He cast a cursory glance
around Shakaar's office. "Very nicely indeed. Wife of the First Minister of Bajor--
though rumor has it that title may soon disappear?"

"What do you want, Drake?" Cady snapped before Shakaar could say a word.
"Really, Cay, why else would I be here? To see you." Drake raised an eyebrow as if he
failed to understand Cady's attitude. "Though I do have business to tend to in another
part of the city, but that is not until later."

"You never cared about me the whole time we were growing up, Drake. Don't pretend
you do now. Now get out."

Drake turned to Shakaar. "Are you going to let her talk to me like that?"

"Well, since you say you're here to see my wife and not me, I was under the assumption
that I was not a part of the conversation." Shakaar smiled faintly at the flare of irritation
in the other man's eyes. But it was there for only a moment before Drake turned his
attention back to Cady.

"So are you going to let bygones be bygones, Cay, or keep up this childish grudge?"
Drake's smile returned despite Cady's glare. "After all, think of the all the little things I
did for you over the years, like distracting Grandpere from his countless idiotic rants
when you accidentally said the wrong thing--"

"And how about all the times you stabbed me in the back?" Cady retorted. "Like when
you--"

"--took those holopics of you and your darling husband here?" Drake finished. "Now I
finally get the chance to tell you--I did it for you. My intent was that once the old man
saw them, he'd have the kind of fit that would kill him. Then you and I and my parents
would be free of his narrow-minded bullshit, once and for all. Gaining sole ownership of
TrayCorp would have been an added bonus, of course." Drake shrugged.
"Unfortunately, the desired result was not achieved."

"You can make up all the excuses in the galaxy, Drake, but I learned a long time ago that
the only person you've ever cared about is yourself." Cady's voice was icy quiet. "Go
back to Earth and don't show your face here again. And feel free to tell Grandpere he did
me a favor." She turned her back on Drake, heading for the balcony doors. She was
suddenly in desperate need for fresh air.

"Grandpere's dead, Cady."

The words stopped her short. Up until now, she had assumed that her grandfather had
sent Drake here upon hearing the resignation news, either to harass her or force her to
return to Earth. The fact that Drake had come on his own volition--she shook her head
slightly in disbelief.

"If you don't believe me, feel free to have someone get the information for you." Drake
had taken advantage of Cady's stunned silence. "He had a massive coronary two months
ago and died before they could arrange a replacement. TrayCorp is now mine, obviously,
and I've done away with a lot of his ridiculous business practices. Big surprise, it's now
more successful under my hands than his--"

"You're despicable, Drake." Cady had turned around again and was heading straight for
him. Drake idly wondered if she might be coming to slap him, but she stopped by the
desk and slapped at the companel instead. "Arien, is Major Darrah still in the building?"

"He's standing right here."

"Send him in, please."

"Yes, V'ala."

The doorchime rang an instant later and at Cady's barked "come in!", the doors parted to
admit the head of Shakaar's personal guard. "You needed me, V'ala Catei?"

"Escort Mr. Traylor out, please, and make sure he's not permitted to return." Cady didn't
even spare Drake a glance as she spoke. "And if he resists or causes you any trouble,
arrest him."

This time, real anger appeared in Drake's eyes. "You surprise me, Cady. Holding
grudges is all well and good, but to threaten a member of your family--"

"Family??" Cady turned a final glare back upon her cousin. "That's where you're
mistaken. The only family I have stands right there." She aimed a finger in Shakaar's
direction as Darrah hauled Drake towards the door.

"This doesn't end here, Cady. And you're mistaken if you think that it does--" Whatever
else Drake might have said was cut off by the door gliding closed. In the welcome
silence that returned, Cady closed her eyes and drew in a shaky breath, trying to calm her
nerves.

"I'm proud of you." Shakaar's quiet words broke the silence. Cady opened her eyes and
managed a smile for him before a wave of dizziness swept through her. Alarmed at the
way all the color suddenly drained from her face, Shakaar lunged across the space
between them, catching Cady in his arms an instant before her legs gave out. He quickly
carried her to the nearby window seat, sitting them both down with her in his lap.
"Breathe, ale'al. Slow, deep breaths." She did as he ordered for several long minutes and
he was relieved to see the color finally return to her cheeks.

"Better?"

She nodded. "A little."
He placed a hand on the swell of her belly. "I'm going to have Arien send for Branit--"
When Cady shook her head emphatically, he relented. "All right, if you're sure. But if
this happens again, there'll be no protesting, understand?"

"As long as I don't see Drake again, there won't be a next time." Cady shivered and gave
in to the impulse to lean her head on his shoulder. She tried to fight the exhaustion that
was suddenly weighing her down.

Shakaar closed his eyes, pressing a kiss into her hair. He could still feel her trembling
and he ran a hand up and down her back to soothe her. They sat there in silence for
several minutes more before he heard her sigh and murmur that she was okay.

I could always sign an executive order banning him from the planet before I leave office.
The sarcastic thought flitted through his mind, but he restrained himself from speaking it
aloud.

[Cady goes home]


Another two hours passed before Darrah returned.

"Apologies for the delay, sir."

"Quite all right. I sent Cady home," Shakaar added in answer to his unspoken question.
"So, I take it from your delay that things didn't go too well?"

"Not entirely," Darrah replied sardonically. "He took a swing at Ensign Tihac. She's
unharmed; she ducked quite easily. He's probably pacing his cell and cursing us all. I
wouldn't have arrested him if he hadn't taken a shot at Tihac, but the official charge on
record is the threat he made against V'ala Catei. The attempted assault on Ensign Tihac
will be considered secondary if it is brought up at all; she already stated to me that she
would not press charges. But I think we will all have less to worry about if he is kept out
of the way for the next few days."

"What else have you found out?"

"So far, most of what he says is the truth." Darrah handed over the padd he'd been
holding. "Nelson Traylor did indeed suffer a severe heart attack nine weeks ago.
Ordinarily, a heart replacement and eventual recovery would be possible, but a second
incident only two days later triggered a partial pulmonary collapse and it was apparently
too much for his body to handle. He left no will, but as V'ala Catei's cousin and his
parents are the only surviving relatives, no one contested his takeover of the corporation.
In fact, the longtime partners seem to be embracing his new ideas, as it seems that many
stayed in business with Traylor only out of intimidation."
"And no mention of Cady?" Privately, Shakaar was glad Nelson Traylor was dead. That
meant he was no longer a threat to Cady.

"None. It's as if she never existed. However, one of TrayCorp's associates, a man by the
name of Anton Caporale, remembers V'ala Catei when she was working as the old man's
secretary. When she left Terra, Traylor pretended not to know what had happened to her.
Caporale said he began telling people he had no granddaughter."

"Curious that he never once attempted to find her after she left," Shakaar remarked.

"I believe he knew better," Darrah replied with a faint smile. "The fatal heart attack was
not his first. Caporale informed me that he had had one five years prior about this time of
year. Which would be about the time--"

"Cady and I were married," Shakaar finished. "I wonder just how much my unwelcome
cousin-by-marriage knows, after all."

"There's more, sir. One of his new offworld business contacts may surprise you." He
nodded to the padd Shakaar held.

"Surprise" was putting it mildly. Shakaar raised both eyebrows. "Are you serious?
Jasam was the one always leading the dissenting vote whenever Federation membership
was brought up--and he was furious when it was finalized last year."

"Apparently, he's impressed with young Traylor's 'ingenuity' and 'willingness to take
business risks.'" Darrah arched a brow in return. "But I wouldn't be surprised if he also
knew of the familial connections. Even more reason to keep young Traylor locked up for
the time being."


[Darrah returns w info on Drake, confirms Nelson's death, Drake's recent business
connections with Jasam]



**

[*three weeks prior*]



"Come in," Shakaar said automatically when he heard the doorchime. He didn't look up
right away to see who it was, too busy scowling at his main console. These glitches were
definitely going to have to be looked at before the entire system crashed. [lil more on
glitches]
[Kae's reply, intro Kae]

"Kaelinn!" Bajor's First Minister nearly leaped from behind his desk to embrace his
visitor. After a hug that lasted nearly a full minute, they separated and Shakaar stepped
back to hold her at arm's length and look at her with a critical eye. "Is that Klingon of
yours still treating you well?"

Reanla's dark eyes glimmered with amusement. "You know he is, Shakaar--much to the
irritation of the Klingon forced to call me sister." He acknowledged the familiar mocking
statement with a quiet laugh before she added, "So what is this reason of great
importance that you had to see me about?"

Shakaar's smile faded. "Ah, yes." He took a deep breath before continuing. "What do
you know of Jasam Borilan?"

Reanla raised an eyebrow at the mention of the Minister of Hedrikspool. "Only by
reputation--that he likes to have opinions that don't fit with the status quo."

"Well, now he's trying to bring up some of those at our meetings. And when the others
voice their disagreement, he's not above picking fights. Our last meeting almost ended in
disaster." Shakaar returned to the chair behind his desk, sinking into it with a sigh.

"When does his term end?"

"Not for another year." Their eyes met. "Normally, I would never do this--but I feel it is
necessary, Kaelinn. I'd like you to do some investigating on Jasam. Quietly, of course.
I'd rather he not find out what you're up to, if at all possible. And it would be easier if I'm
not the one asking for the information."

"Of course," Reanla said without hesitation. "Where do you want me to begin?"

[list of possible contacts, including Vedek Arawel at Iponu]


**


He wasn't too disturbed when the lights went out, used to the patterns of Bajor's spring
storms. The only mild annoyance was that it would take him longer to get home. [more
here]


"I wouldn't suggest turning around."

Shakaar tried to ignore the chill that went down his back. "What do you want?"
"We will be coming to that shortly. And you'd best listen carefully if you want to go
home tonight, First Minister."

"All right, I'm listening. So tell me who you are and what you want." He kept his tone
nonchalant, even while mentally trying to think of some way he could turn around and
expose whoever he was talking to.

A low laugh could barely be heard over a crack of thunder from outside. "You do not
need to know who we are. As for what we want--" Shakaar felt something being pushed
into his hand. A padd, he realized, and he lifted it up to attempt to read its contents
between flashes of lightning.

"You expect me to--"

"You will do exactly what is outlined on the padd. All of it. If you refuse, we will make
sure it happens anyway--and then you will die." Another laugh, eerily followed by
another echoing boom of thunder as the storm picked up in intensity. "And if you need
any further persuasion, we will arrange to make sure that you leave no family behind."

"You dare to threaten my wife--" He nearly turned to face his adversary and only the
phaser point against his throat reminded him to remain still.

"Your little Terran p'eska is the best sort of insurance, Shakaar. Follow our demands to
the letter--and she can be your comfort as you return to the fields where you belong.
Defy us--and she will pay the price for it."

Shakaar's fury was fast rising and he struggled to remain still. "If you have a problem
with me, you deal with me alone. You leave Cady out of this. And if I find out you or
anyone else has laid a hand on her, all bets are off and I don't care what the fallout is."

Shakaar couldn't prevent the gasp that escaped his throat as a hand thrust over his
shoulder. Dangling from the hand was the necklace he had given Cady for her last
birthday. The lightning caught the shiny chain and illuminated the opalescent heart that
shimmered the same blue-green of her eyes. True fear wrapped icy fingers around his
heart until he realized she could have misplaced the necklace and not told him. "That
doesn't convince me--she might have lost it and you just happened to find it."

"You are a hard sell, First Minister, but perhaps if a necklace taken from your own home
doesn't convince you, these will."

The fingers of fear clenched a little tighter around his heart as a second padd was shoved
before his face, displaying images of Cady obviously taken over several weeks--
everything from mundane errands to standing out on the balcony of their own home.
Alone, with friends, the two of them together....walking in the gardens directly below,
embracing and sharing long moments of closeness as they always did. They had
obviously been taken that very morning when Cady had come to see him before his
meeting with Reanla. He could have been standing out under the icy downpour outside
for the chill that they gave him. That someone had gotten close enough--

"Now what say you?" the voice demanded, frigid in his ear.

Shakaar knew he was left with little option than to agree to their demands. Someone had
gotten close enough to steal her necklace and witness intimate moments between them,
which meant that that same someone could get ahold of Cady. His decision could mean
the difference between her life and death. "I will do what you have demanded--as long as
you don't harm my wife."

The satisfied smile was evident in the next words spoken. "I thought you would see
things our way. Oh, and Shakaar, I would advise you to adhere to that old Earth saying
about keeping your friends close--and your enemies closer."

The storm chose that moment to reiterate its presence with a deafening clap of thunder
and a bolt of lightning. It took Shakaar another moment to realize the phaser at his throat
was now gone. He spun around, wanting to catch even a glimpse of those who had
accosted him, but they were gone. Making his way through the dark by instinct alone, he
crossed quickly to the doorway in hopes of catching one of them, but not even retreating
footsteps could be heard as the thunder died away. Returning to his place by the window
proved to be futile as well, the next lightning flash revealing nothing but rain-soaked
pathways in the gardens below. He slammed his fists down on the window frame in
frustration, even though he knew the possibility of seeing anyone leave the building was
slim.

Turning away from the spectacle of nature's fury, he was moving towards his desk when
lightning flared once more, briefly illuminating an object on the floor. Shakaar knelt
down, reaching blindly in the returned darkness, and his fingers caught the chain of
Cady's necklace. He found himself staring at it for several minutes, the next successive
bursts of lightning bringing out the pendant's hidden colors, seeing Cady's face in his
mind's eye. The chilling terror returned for the briefest instant at the thought of any harm
coming to her and his fingers closed tighter around the necklace. He would endure what
was to come to keep her safe.


**

Qo'noS


“It is a shame she didn‟t gain more from her Klingon heritage,” B‟Tap, daughter of
K'mtec, muttered just loud enough for her brother to hear as she watched her five-year-
old niece play with her cousins. “At least she is not unfortunate looking and weak. She
can match strength with Kabuk and he is already six years and has begun his warrior
training.” She was very fond of her young cousin and took great pride in spoiling him.
“Kaelinn is a strong woman,” Ko'Tak growled in annoyance. He knew his sister had a
distaste for his wife; the fact that he had mated with a Bajoran was like a thorn in the
bottom of his sister's foot and time had not softened her attitude on the matter.

B‟Tap snorted in disgust at the mention of her niece's maternal genes. “So you say,
brother.” She was not shy about making her dislike known, but had reluctantly promised
to be civil in front of her young niece. Ko‟Tak would have none of her speaking ill about
the "Bajoran disgrace brought upon the House" in front of their daughter.

"Is the Prax ready for tomorrow's journey?" It was an unnecessary question, but Ko'Tak
was determined to change the subject should his daughter wander over.

"You know it is, brother. She has been ready for the past week--"

"Ko'Tak!!" The bellow came from the doorway of the house behind them, where his
uncle Lazev stood with fists on hips. "Your pretty Bajoran is on the comm for you, boy!"

"Keep an eye on the children," Ko'Tak ordered his sister. B'Tap scowled but nodded as
her brother moved towards the house at a swift walk.


**


       “Oh, and there is just one last thing. As your last act of First Minister of Bajor,
you will send a subspace message to the Federation informing them that you have
decided to withdraw our membership…”

       “But they‟ll never allow it…” Shakaar interrupted.

       “Then it will be your job to convince them!”

        “Do you honestly think the Federation will just pull out on us without warning or
reason? The alliance is strong. They helped us recover from the Occupation, they helped
us fight a war, for Prophets sake! You have to be mad to think that they will just walk
away!” Shakaar exploded. He already knew they were mad, but that wasn‟t the point. The
Federation was a powerful entity and an even more powerful ally to Bajor. What could
they have possibly been thinking to want to extricate Bajor from such a friend?

        “And, the Federation has served us well all these years, but I have a future
planned for Bajor that does not include their rules and regulations. I have a vision for a
new Bajor that will no longer be weak and rely on the super powers of the Quadrant!” He
swept his arms wide in exaggerated gestures of grandeur. “Do this, Shakaar, there are
lives depending on it. Lives that are particularly close to your heart.”
         Cady. They had already used her as a threat. They seemed to know that he would
do anything to keep her safe from harm. They were right. He sighed, defeated. The wear
of the last several worried days and sleepless nights had begun to take their toll on him.
He felt like an old man, older than his actual years. They had him pinned in a corner and
it didn‟t appear he had any allies who were going to come rescue him. He wasn‟t object
to fighting his way out, but not when they held a phaser to Cady‟s head. He would bow
his head in shame, in defeat, and search for another way to resurrect himself, to live with
the man they had forced him to become. And that man was a traitor to all he had fought
for in the resistance. He had fought against oppression and evil and here he was bowing
to it like a coward. But, Cady‟s life was worth lying down like a whipped dog.

“Computer, open a channel to the Federation President‟s office,” he ordered, wearily,
trying to summon strength he had once had proudly carrying the mantel of First Minister
of Bajor. Now would be his finest moment, he would have to be convincing and suave,
and he would do it all for Cady.


**


The news of Bajor withdrawing from Federation membership wasn‟t something that
could be kept quiet. By the next day, the way it zipped through subspace it seemed to
surpass the speed of light. Every planet, ship, station, outpost and person had heard the
news and the populace of the quadrant experienced symptoms from mild surprise, to full-
blown shock.

The most tumultuous response came from the Bajoran people. Those on the homeworld
and surrounding colonies were dazed, shocked, but certainly not speechless. A large
group of citizens seemed to gather in throngs outside of government buildings, protesting
and screaming while others, certain they were doomed by either a Federation backlash or
a new occupation by anyone from the Cardassians to the Jem‟Hadar took refuge in their
homes, hiding from what they were certain would be their final demise. The militia
attempted to keep order while the Federation officers that were planet side were recalled
immediately to DS9 for reassignment.

And things were no less chaotic there. Colonel Kira‟s temper was stretched as thin as
possibly attempting to keep control of the protestors as well as the rumor mill. In less
than twelve hours since the announcement that Bajor was pulling out of their membership
with the Federation, she had heard everything from tales of her forced resignation to the
Federation striking a backdoor deal with the Cardassians to give them the entire Bajoran
sector on a silver platter. The truth was, she had no idea what was happening and none of
her calls to Shakaar‟s office had been returned. The only orders she had received were
from Starfleet, informing her she was to man her post until further notice, and she wasn‟t
certain she was even supposed to obey those orders. For now, all she knew to do was to
maintain her station and keep order until she heard something further, or was able to
make contact with Shakaar.
**


"The time is 0700 hours. The time is 07--"

Reanla groaned as the alarm voice rudely jerked her awake. "Shut up. I get the point
already." Flinging the covers aside, she climbed out of bed. Her usual morning routine
took what seemed like minutes and then she sat down at her console, intending to do
some sorting through the information she'd collected thus far.

It was a tangle of contradictions. Jasam was vehement about keeping Bajor for the
Bajorans, yet his business connections said otherwise--including this most recent
association with a Terran company called TrayCorp.

The information on TrayCorp was rather surprising. The original founder had been a
notorious xenophobe, and yet had managed to build a successful business by assisting
smaller companies and individuals who were often rejected by virtue of being dubbed
"business risks" by the larger competitors. After his death, his grandson had inherited the
reins.

Drake Traylor had made it clear that, under his leadership, he was abandoning his
grandfather's xenophobic policies. A recent public statement cited his opinion on the
subject in detail, and that he had no intention of hiding his distaste for his elder's outdated
beliefs. He had two contracts thus far to prove it--one with Pelios Station and the other
with the Minister of Hedrikspool. She made a mental note to contact Traylor at the first
opportunity. If Jasam had any intentions to use this young Terran, knowingly or
unknowingly, he'd no doubt consider it, likely thinking that no one would suspect a
Terran businessman of caring about Bajoran politics.

That last thought was running through her head as she dictated her latest message to
Shakaar. "....answers to your questions. And dare I say, you're not going to like them.
But if it's possible, I'd prefer to meet you to discuss them. With everything that's going
on, I'm not comfortable with leaving them on here...."

A flashing alert in the corner of her console alerted her to a new message just as soon as
she finished the one she had been dictating. It was from Kira, but unlike her lengthy
comms of late, it contained only one line: Have you seen the newsfeeds??

"Do I want to?" she muttered, keying in the command to bring them up. What greeted
her eyes and ears was a shock, to say the least. This was not possible. But even
repeating the newsfeed play didn't change what it showed. She tapped in the comm code
she'd just used, even though she knew she'd get no answer at this time of day.
"Shakaar Edon, what in the hell is going on?! This is....this can't be...." At a loss for
words, she huffed a sigh of frustration. "Get back to me. Sooner rather than later would
be appreciated." Slapping the key to close the comm, she closed her eyes and rubbed at
her temples. Prophets, are we all going insane??

A glance at the chrono showed it was time to leave for the Temple of Iponu. After
shutting down the console, Reanla made sure that the padd with her note for Ko'Tak was
in place. Next to it, she'd laid her d'k tahg. Part of her loathed the idea of leaving it
behind--she'd worn it since her wedding day and felt almost naked without it. But Vedek
Arawel had been adamant about the Temple's strict no-weapons rule. She supposed it
couldn't hurt to leave it behind for a day or two.

Casting a final glance at d'k tahg and padd, she hurried out into the clear spring morning.


Two hours later, Reanla exited the Lonar Transport Center, shielding her eyes with one
hand against the brilliant sunlight. From here, it would be an easy ten-minute walk to the
Temple. She could see it up on the small rise directly in front of her.

As she walked, she was greeted with respectful nods and a few smiles, which she easily
returned, but she didn't stop until she reached the Temple's gates. Stepping inside, she
closed her eyes and breathed deep of the blossoms covering the hanui trees that lined the
path that led into the Temple grounds. The slender, graceful trees with their almost black
bark and turquoise heart-shaped leaves grew to a height of five meters on average and
their upper branches tended to bow as if leaning forward. Planted to line to a path as
these were, they created a natural archway and shaded the path from the brightest direct
sunlight.

"Colonel?"

Reanla opened her eyes to find a fair-haired young man in ranjen's robes standing before
her. She gave him a smile of greeting, even as she studied his face, having the feeling
that she knew him from somewhere. "I know I'm early, but if Vedek Arawel and Prylar
Joktan are ready for our meeting...."

"Ah--yes of course, of course. Reanla Kaelinn, is it? Well they are not quite ready for
you. Come with me and I will show you to where you can wait." He gestured down the
path to the nearest entrance and fell in step at her side. "I apologize for making you wait,
but I am certain they won't be long."

"Waiting is no problem at all, Ranjen. As I said, I'm early." Where had she seen him
before? The face was familiar, especially the eyes, but she couldn't put her finger on his
identity. She racked her brain even as she took the sharp left turn that the path made,
leading up to the side entrance. Her distracted mind made her walk slightly faster, so she
was ahead of the ranjen as she approached the door.
He gripped the cold cylinder in his hand, a ghost of a smile touched his lips for a moment
as she passed through the door before him. Things couldn't have happened more
perfectly. As the door closed behind them, she didn't have a moment to scream or utter a
word as his right arm slipped around in front of her in a sinister embrace, his left hand
pressing the hypospray to her throat. The contents were fast acting and her body grew
limp, shifting the burden of her weight to him. He carelessly half laid her, half dropped
her to the floor at his feet and watched as her eyes fluttered up at him, dazed and
disoriented as the sedative worked its way through her bloodstream.

Reanla had no chance to attempt to struggle before she felt the sting of the hypo. As she
crumpled to the floor, part of her mind fought to orient itself, to try calling out and
perhaps draw attention to this ranjen with evil intentions. He was kneeling over her now,
no expression on his face as he watched her fight to draw in a deep breath. Her final
fleeting thought was that she finally recognized him before blackness overcame her.


**


A mild rainstorm had blown through the Kendra Valley overnight, not violent enough to
cause any damage but just enough to keep light sleepers and insomniacs awake. It also
left everything sparkling until B'hava'el reached its zenith in the sky and the remaining
rainwater not in puddles quickly evaporated.

The grounds of the Storm Haven estate covered eight hundred tessipates, most of it
holding extensive and beautiful gardens. Flora of all kinds bloomed, both native and
alien varieties that were agreeable with the Bajoran soil and atmosphere. The occasional
tree was present as well, giving the grounds a look very much like an old-style "English
garden" on Earth. The house itself was two-story and set upon a small rise, making
anyone trying to reach it very visible to anyone inside. It looked both modern and rustic
at first glance, and was an imposing sight in itself. Lining the long walk that led up to the
front of the house was a mix of Bajoran lilies and bushes of Terran sunset roses. This
was the home of Tana Dori and Krysa Rei'ani, both militia officers and once members of
the Lin'klai Resistance cell. The latter still rang true in a manner, since the Lin'klai who
had survived the Occupation had formed one extended family.

Inside, the house was decorated in the manner of most Bajoran homes, simple yet
beautiful designs that were comfortable, but with the latest technology present in
unobtrusive ways, including the most up-to-date security system. Unknown to anyone
looking at the house from the outside, the center of the Storm Haven mansion housed an
extensive computer lab, where the two women did most of their non-militia work for
their friend and former cell leader Viktor Fiore, founder of the intelligence-based
corporation that bore their cell's name.

The late-morning light spilled into Krysa's office through windows that looked out over
the southeast section of the grounds. The beauty of the gardens was lost on the office's
occupant, as her violet eyes were fixed on the schematics on the viewscreen in front of
her. Occasionally, she tapped a key, which scrolled through to the next image each time
she did.

Krysa leaned back in her chair and stretched. It's official. I work with idiots. She'd been
up half the night going through the schematics for the security upgrade on the Hall of
Ministers. As far as she could tell they were, in fact, downgrades and she'd only gotten to
the Grand Ballroom on the first floor. If the ballroom was this bad, she shuddered to think
what the offices looked like.

She brought up the security designer's personnel file and flipped through it. She then
flipped through the rest of the schematics and shook her head. Schematics unsatisfactory.
Do me a favor, she typed in her message to the head of Intelligence, Irulani Jania, another
Lin'klai member. Tell the kid to find three people who survived the Occupation. Have him
give a tour of the building and then ask how they would go about attacking it, THEN redo
the schematics to fix those problems. Prophets, I feel OLD, Jania!

A light knock sounded at the door. "Rei'ani? It's Padmei. You have a comm call in the
front room."

"Thank you, dear. I'll be there in a moment," Krysa clicked off her terminal and headed
for the door.

"Better hurry up. Narena's being entertaining."

"She still has her clothes on, right?" Krysa opened the door and smiled down at her
"cousin", Aleriel Padmei. Although not related by blood, Lin'klai members tended to
refer to each other as cousin. Padmei and her brother Eladon had been adopted by Krysa
and Dori several years ago when their parents were killed in an accident. The two blond,
blue-eyed adolescents had adjusted well, thankfully, and treated Dori and Krysa's child,
Narena, as if she were their own sister.

"Yeah, she's showing Ko'Tak her Los'kall doll," Padmei grinned. She quickly led Krysa
down the hallway and into the front room, where the main comm console was housed.
Perching on the couch in front of the console was Krysa and Dori's five-year-old
daughter, Tana Narena, chattering a mile a minute to her Klingon "uncle" and dancing
her doll on her knees. He was smiling and answering her thousand questions, but it was
obvious to both Padmei and Krysa that his heart did not seem to be in it as it usually was.

Krysa came up behind her daughter and looked down at her. "Hi, sweetie."

"Hi, mommy!" Narena said, happily looking up at her mother with wide violet eyes. "I
was showing Uncle Ko-Ko my baby!"
Krysa kneeled next to Narena and pushed a lock of brown hair out of her eyes. "And it's a
very nice baby, but Ko'Tak and I need to talk now. Can you go find Mama and show her
your baby?"

"Okay!" Narena waved a small chubby hand at Ko'Tak and, after climbing down from
her perch, scampered out, Padmei following behind her.

Once the children were out of the room, Ko'Tak attempted a smile for Krysa, but it faded
at the knowing violet eyes fixed on him through the commlink. They stared at one
another in silence for a long minute before Ko'Tak broke it. "There is no fooling you, is
there, Major?"

"Not really. It's obvious that something's bothering you and I know you well enough to
know that that kind of frown means that not even Kae can fix what's ailing you."

"That is why I am calling, Krysa. Have you seen Kaelinn in the last four days?"

Krysa blinked and mentally checked her appointment calendar for the next week. Then
for good measure, she brought it up on the console by using the bottom half of the screen
to scroll through the calendar. Nothing.

"No. Was I supposed to?"

At the first word, a scowl crossed the Klingon's face. "She did not mention it, but I
wished to be certain. While K'Lari and I were on Qo'noS, she told me during our last
weekly call that she was doing some research for the First Minister. When we arrived
home, she had left me a note saying that she had to visit the Temple of Iponu, and would
be back by the next day. That was yesterday."

"You've contacted all of her friends and associates? Security?"

"I have spoken with planetary security and they are looking into it. As for friends and
associates, you are the first I have contacted because, aside from Colonel Kira, you are
the person closest to Kaelinn."

"I've been up to my eyeballs in security upgrades for the Hall of Ministers. I've barely
had time to see my family, let alone friends." Krysa crossed her legs and leaned over to
the computer terminal again. "Most of the people we have in common are off planet or
on DS9. She wouldn't have left without a word. Are you sure you didn't miss a note by
accident?"

"I am sure. Kaelinn told me she could not say what the research for the First Minister
entailed, but she did mention the Temple of Iponu as one of the places she planned to
visit. But when I contacted them, they said she missed her appointment there. That is
when I contacted planetary security."
"Have you contacted the First Minister?"

"He was unavailable when I called; his aide said he was in a council meeting. I have no
doubt he will get back to me the moment he receives the message." Ko'Tak glanced
offscreen and managed a smile. A moment later, Krysa could hear K'Lari demanding to
know who was on the other end of the comm. "Colonel Kira is the next to be contacted--
Daughter, it is not proper to interrupt my comm calls."

"Aunt Rei!" K'Lari had managed to catch a glimpse of the screen in her impatient
jumping up and down before her father, after an apologetic look to Krysa, turned to his
daughter and gently but sternly informed her to return to her room to play. K'Lari did so,
reluctantly.

Krysa opened her mouth to ask another question when a loud explosion from directly
outside had her diving for the floor. "What the he--"

"WE'RE OKAY!! IT'S ALL GOOD!!" Aleriel Eladon screamed from outside as Dori
burst through the patio doors and ran for the kitchen. Dori skidded around the kitchen
island, grabbed a portable fire suppressor and hurried back outside.

After a moment, Krysa could hear the suppressor go off. She climbed back onto the
couch as Dori came back to the doors.

"Sorry. Science experiment gone wrong." Dori gave her spouse an overly bright smile.
"Don't go outside, dear. He blew up your show roses." She nodded to the screen. "Hello,
Ko'Tak."

Krysa slumped. "I was going to take those to competition next month!" She sighed.
"Well, after he gets an impromptu lesson in gardening, we'll have to take him to
whichever cousin is really good with chemistry. Prophets know we apparently aren't."
She shook her head and returned her attention to the screen. "Do you want Dori to talk to
Shakaar?"

Ko'Tak nodded. "If you feel it necessary, Krysa." Normally, he would have laughed to
hear of Eladon's latest scientific mishap. The fact that he had not even acknowledged the
incident proved how worried he was.

Dori raised an eyebrow at her wife, knowing she would get the full explanation later. "I'm
going to make sure nothing else is burning. Ko'Tak," she said with a nod.

"Don't worry, Ko'Tak. I'll tap my web and see what comes up. Go harass Kira. While
she's making a ruckus and drawing all sorts of attention, I'll sneak in the back way and
find out more than she expects."

[lil more here?]
**

[keep this scene or toss? * still deciding]
"I haven't seen the Colonel in three months, Ambassador. You say she's missing?"
Kitanal Kestrae's golden eyes narrowed slightly as Ko'Tak repeated everything he'd just
told Krysa. "Do you want me to do some digging of my own?"

"Ordinarily, I would say yes, but since she was doing this work for the First Minister,
perhaps we should wait. I would not wish to interfere in the First Minister's work with all
the trouble he is currently facing."

Kitanal agreed, but added that if Ko'Tak needed her help, to inform her immediately, and
signed off.

Comms to both Kira and a return call from Shakaar himself were not any more
forthcoming. Both reacted with worry and, in Shakaar's case, growing alarm.



**


Retirement had done little to ease her status as a celebrity, especially when she and her
husband were out with their children. Even now, as they picnicked on the grass of the
Golden Gate park, curious onlookers paused to snap a photograph or shoot a brief video,
most of which would make their way to newspapers and reporters to be aired on the
evening news feeds.

They had grown used to the attention though she knew Chakotay was still uncomfortable
with it, especially when they were out with the children. They had sternly lectured the
children on not responding to queries of strangers or the extra attention in an attempt to
discourage it. The only attention they regularly acknowledged was that of the cadets they
taught who would amble past and nod respectfully or pause to strike up brief
conversation.

They had both found a distinct satisfaction from teaching, enjoying their lives retired
from active duty. Typically, other than field trips, they were grounded, therefore much
safer. Acutely aware of the pain of losing a parent to the dangers of space, Kathryn knew
she could not allow herself nor Chakotay to be put at such a risk.

She found herself smiling as she took a long sip of her iced-tea, enjoying the scene
playing out between her children and husband as he explained the different types of rocks
and pebbles they discovered and brought to him. Their son, much to Chakotay‟s delight,
discovered a small geode. He promptly cracked it open into equal halves to show them
the sparkling, multi-faceted secret interior. And Kolopak, though very delighted with his
find, immediately determined that the two halves looked like pieces of jewelry and,
therefore, gave the halves to his sisters. Proud of their son‟s generosity, Chakotay
promised to make necklaces for both Kaelinn and Airabella from the halves.
Kathryn found that family life agreed with her, immensely and it was, quite possibly, the
best thing that had ever happened to her. Despite the gold mine of happiness she had
discovered in family life, she still found herself occasionally gazing at the night sky
longingly, wistfully as it called out to her explorer‟s heart. She was able to dismiss the
callings fairly easily because there was enough right where they were, on Earth, to
explore. She found that her little trio had the power to make even the oldest of artifacts,
the most ancient of monuments appear brand-new and enthralling.

Even something as simple as a beehive brought about hours of tales of Borg battles and
how their mother defeated one of the Federation‟s greatest threats. Kole, Linn and Bella
lived for bedtime stories about days past when Voyager was fighting her way across
uncharted space and both Kathryn and Chakotay loved telling them tales about their
extended family.

Airabella was particularly fascinated with stories about the little spotted man with an
orange Mohawk. She always wanted to hear a Neelix story and often giggled at his
colorful appearance when they used Pathfinder to contact him for their monthly calls. In
the interim, Aunt Naomi was all too happy to tell her stories of her adventures with
Neelix. Kathryn had to admit that it was nice to see his face during those long distance
calls. She had convinced Starfleet to continue development on the Pathfinder project and,
thanks to Lt. Commander Reginald Barclay, the technology had been fine-tuned and
progressed to include a visual feed.

“I think that‟s enough discovery for now, how about some dessert?” Kathryn asked,
pulling herself from her casual enjoyment of one of her favorite activities-- watching her
husband and children interact.

“What‟s for dessert?” Airabella squealed as she pounced onto her mother, wrapping her
arms around her neck.

“You really have to ask?” Linn giggled as she flopped down on their little red and white-
checkered blanket, knowing full well what was in the container before her mother popped
the lid.

“You know it‟s our favorite,” Kole said matter-of-factly, as he joined his sisters on the
blanket in a calmer, more composed fashion.

Chakotay was last to return to the blanket, smiling down on the scene before him, his
beautiful wife surrounded by their children. Sometimes, even after nearly six years, he
still couldn‟t believe his life was reality. He found himself wondering when he was going
to wake up from the dream, when Q would pull the plug on a fantasy, leaving him to
learn that it had all been a sick game, but those feelings were fading into the far corners
of his memory, accepting that he was just a very lucky man.
He watched as his children peered into the treat container then as three small hands
reached in and came back out with a thick, chocolaty square, with caramel dribbling over
the top. Gretchen Janeway‟s infamous caramel brownies were, according to her eldest
daughter, the substance of life. On several occasions, his mother-in-law made comment
to the fact that those brownies were the true force that had brought her daughter home
from her wayward trip to the other side of the galaxy.

That wayward trip had been what had turned his life around and brought them together.
He had fallen in love with her at first sight and, because he couldn‟t comprehend or
understand her refusal to indulge in a romantic relationship with him while they were
stranded on the far side of the galaxy, he had nearly lost her. But, the twins had brought
them back together. Not just the twins, but finding out she was pregnant with his children
was the wake up call he had needed and he had known, in that instant, he had to have her
back. And now, here they were, on a beautiful afternoon, picnicking with their three,
perfect children, watching as they and their mother indulged in the sweet sticky treat,
giggling at the smacking noises their lips made as they ate.

Kathryn was his angel, his savior, his woman warrior who had brought him out of the
darkness and into the light. She was the driving force that had turned his life around.
Brave and beautiful, she had been his beacon in the darkest of nights. And even now, as
the silver began to touch the auburn locks she had grown long again, for him, and laugh
lines etched their marks at the corners of her eyes, she was just as beautiful as she had
been on that day in 2371 when fate brought them together.

Tearing his eyes away from his beautiful wife as she wiped a smudge of caramel from
Airabella‟s cheek, he considered his children, each in turn. Kolopak, their only son and
eldest, by minutes only, was a very serious child. His smiles were rare, though not from
being unhappy. His dark eyes were intense and his composure was amazing for such a
young child. He was very devoted to his studies and was a full grade level above their
daughters. He preferred to spend his time reading anything he could get his hands on,
devouring books well above his grade level and working arithmetic problems that
frustrated his sisters. Despite being so studious, he also understood the spiritual side of
his heritage, meditating regularly and easily able to contact his spirit guide. He seemed to
embody Kathryn‟s intelligence and his more mystical side all at once.

Kaelinn was their eldest daughter. With her long auburn hair and fair skin, she looked
like a miniature of her mother, though her eyes had darkened to more of a midnight blue
as she had aged. She seemed to understand how much she looked like her mother and
tried to mimic her behavior and inflections, but her playful nature seemed to sabotage her
at times. She was far more carefree than her twin, preferring to play and run circles
around her brother, often gently teasing him in her own way. She was very intelligent, but
preferred to devote more time to artistic pursuits. Much to Kathryn‟s delight, she seemed
to have a natural musical talent. She would sing to herself and was taking holo lessons,
learning to play the violin. She had already obtained an advanced student level, quickly
defeating the out of tune, scratching, often painful stage the family of a violin student
seemed to endure.

Airabella was their youngest at five years old and seemed to be the perfect blend of
himself and Kathryn. She was very striking to look at with her long, black hair, ice blue
eyes and fair skin. The auburn highlights in her hair seemed like they were on fire when
the sunlight hit it. She was art and science, studious and spirituality, funny and serious all
at once. She loved making clay pots and other sculptures, but then would bury her nose in
a padd on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics. She would loose
herself for hours in the intricacies of learning the ancient language of Latin then practice
the Vulcan meditation and self-control techniques she had been learning from Tuvok. She
would crack a joke or play a prank on one of her siblings then gaze at them with serious
eyes, as though she were trying to dissect them, understand them in a way that went
beyond the typical limits of human understanding.

As the children and Kathryn bit into their second helping of the caramel, chocolate treat,
he helped himself to one. He certainly was a very lucky man to have such a wonderful
family. Even if it meant being followed by reporters and other curious on-lookers, he was
a very lucky man.

Kathryn smiled at her husband as he licked the stickiness from her fingers, sharing a
secret look, a private joke. She was about to say something to him, make a promise for
later that was above the ears of their children when they were interrupted by a
particularly young Ensign as he skidded to an uncomfortable halt in front of them. She
nearly broke into a laugh as he fidgeted and began to stutter, reminding her very much of
a particular young Ensign in her Ready Room several years ago. That young Ensign was
now a Lieutenant Commander working his way up the ranks. She couldn‟t help
wondering, where this kid, with his baby face and uncontrollable shock of red curls
would be in fifteen years.

“Admiral, ma‟am, sir, um. They tried to comm you, but I guess you‟re unavailable. Um.
Sorry to interrupt ma‟am, sir, but I, uh, they sent me to find you.” Ensign Abacus McGee
wanted to slap himself upside the forehead. He was in the presence of greatness, thee
Admiral Janeway and Commander Chakotay! And he was so awkward!

“At ease, Ensign!” she insisted, almost ready to order him to sit down and take a load off
before he actually broke a bone. She waited as he tried to force himself into a more casual
posture, but failed. “Now, what is going on?”

“At HQ, Admiral, ma‟am, sir, um, you have an important comm waiting. Very,
important. I was, uh, sent to escort you…” Sweat was beginning to roll down his back
and he was worried he was going to start to smell. Here he was, the opportunity of a
lifetime, and he was making a complete idiot out of himself.

Kathryn remained calm. Under the circumstances, assuming that the important comm
was less important than this excitable young Ensign was making it out to be. She turned
to her family. “Why don‟t you finish up here and I‟ll meet you at home in a little while?”
she suggested, smiling calmly at her children.

“Mommy, can I go with you?” Airabella asked with big, pleading eyes.

Kathryn smiled down at her youngest. She had already stated that she intended to become
a Starfleet legend like her mother and she wanted to be the first person to explore and
chart the galaxy Andromeda. Between all three of her children, she believed her little
Bella was the most likely to find happiness in a distinguished Starfleet career.
“Not this time, baby, but I promise that we will visit your favorite Admiral very soon,”
she replied, brushing a kiss across her forehead.

“Uncle Admiral Jean-Luc?” she asked excitedly.

Kathryn laughed. “Yes, of course, darling.” She couldn‟t help but smile at the reference
to her friend and the man who had been adopted by her children as their "uncle". Jean-
Luc and Beverly Picard had finally given up life on the Enterprise and had settled down
on Earth. They adored her and Chakotay‟s children and had often taken them to their
French chateau on holiday. In the beginning, Kathryn figured it was good practice for
them, especially since they had often made mention of expanding their lives to include
children. Their visits with the children had become a little less frequent two years prior
with the arrival of their son, Rene Robert, then the recent adoption of their four-month-
old daughter, Elita Darice. Kathryn hadn‟t told their children yet, but there had been talk
of spending a week with them at the chateau--though that was something she would keep
in reserve for when solid plans were actually laid. “Now, be a good girl and help Daddy
and your brother and sister pack this stuff up. I‟ll be home soon.”

“This… this way, Admiral, ma‟am, sir,” Abacus stuttered, then felt like a heel. As if she
didn‟t know which way HQ was. He really was a fool.

Kathryn smiled politely, gesturing to the path. “Lead the way, Ensign. Oh, and Admiral is
just fine,” she told him, trying to ease his tension a little.

“Yes, um, Admiral.” Abacus took off at a quick pace. He had dreamed of this day for so
long, but here he was, mortified and wishing he could disappear into the stone walkway
beneath his feet. Anytime he had imagined meeting her, he always had so many pleasant
and witty things to say, but now he found himself tongue tied and stumbling all over his
words.

They were silent for the rest of the trip to HQ, Kathryn pondering who the message
waiting on the comm could be from and Abacus, struggling with himself, wondering
what he should say to his companion. He was proud to be escorting the Admiral across
the grounds in the public eye, but inside he was dying of embarrassment. He wanted to
impress her, but instead he was a bumbling fool. Even as he parted company from her at
her office, he wanted to say something brilliant in parting, but found himself mute, as
though his brain were working through sludge.
“Thank you, Ensign, you are dismissed,” Kathryn said, relieving him of his burden and
the tension that was about to cause his body to sprain every muscle at once.

Even as she sat down at her desk, she felt a nervousness flair up in her that she hadn‟t felt
since her untimely mission to Cardassia when she was pregnant with the twins. Even
before she saw his face appear on her monitor, her mind had quickly jumped to her
distant friend, the woman who had saved her life and that of her twins. Reanla Kaelinn.

"Admiral." Ko'Tak managed a smile that did not have any heart in it. He looked weary
and older than he usually did to Kathryn's eyes. "I wish I could say it is an honor, as I
normally do. But this time I cannot." He took a deep breath. "Is Kaelinn with you, by
chance?"

Kathryn couldn‟t help the perplexed look that passed across her features. She hadn‟t seen
Kaelinn in person since Kole and Linn‟s fifth birthday. She said as much to Ko'Tak,
knowing something was terribly wrong, just from his tired, strained look and merely the
fact that he didn‟t seem to have a clue as to his wife‟s current whereabouts. “I spoke to
her about two weeks ago and since I didn‟t hear from her this week, I assumed she had
just gotten busy with something or another. When did you last speak to her?”

"Then it is as I feared." His eyes darkened. "She has gone missing, and I do not think it
is by accident. She was away when K'Lari and I returned from Qo'noS, but she was
supposed to have returned herself the next day. That was four days ago. I was also told
that she never made it to the appointment she had on the day of our return. I have
contacted everyone I know on Bajor, as well as Colonel Kira on DS9. None have seen
her."

“Could her disappearance have anything to do with Shakaar's sudden and unexpected
announcement of his decision to step down as First Minister? Kaelinn and I spoke
extensively about the situation at hand during our last comm.” Worry and concern about
her safety was beginning to edge its way into her stomach. Kathryn knew Kaelinn was
fiercely opposed to believing the rumors and supposed scandal that had surfaced about
her beloved friend.

"I would not like to think so." Ko'Tak shook his head. "But I admit it has crossed my
mind. The local authorities do not seem as concerned as you and I--and do not think
there could be any relation. Colonel Kira stated, however, that she feels they have their
hands full dealing with incidents stemming from the controversy in the government, and I
would have to agree."

Kathryn knew her husband wasn‟t going to be thrilled about the decision she had just
made, but Kaelinn was her best friend. The woman had risked her own life to save her
and had even delivered their twins and if she was in trouble, Kathryn knew she had to try
to help find her. “I‟m coming to Bajor,” she told him, the decision already having been
made in her head. “If the government is too busy to help look for Kaelinn, then I will.”
**


“I‟m going to Bajor, Chakotay. I can‟t believe you would resist this!” Kathryn snapped,
exasperated as she closed the travel case. She had told him about her call from Ko‟Tak
and his concerns about Kaelinn having gone missing. He had already figured out her
plans even before she had told him and he had been opposed to it from the start.

“Kathryn, this is the exact reason why you retired from active duty, remember? You‟re
just going to take off, leave your children and walk into a potentially dangerous situation
of political unrest? What am I supposed to tell them if something happens to you?”

Chakotay couldn‟t help the fear edging its way into his belly. He had been relieved when
she had told him she was retiring from active duty and couldn‟t shake the fact that, at the
end of her career, he had nearly lost her and their twins. Then it hit him and even before
she opened her mouth, he felt like a heel.

“This is Kaelinn we‟re talking about! She risked her life to save mine; she delivered then
saved our twins, Chakotay! I owe her my life and theirs! And besides that, she is my best
friend. I don‟t want to have to leave on bad terms with you, but…” she broke off,
watching as his dark eyes began to soften from anger to strained acceptance and
understanding. He remembered.

Chakotay sighed. If there was anything he had learned over all their years together, it was
that once she had set her mind to something, it didn‟t matter how much he argued with
her, she would be doing things her way. It was one of the many qualities he loved about
her. He loved her grace, her devotion, her independence and strength. And she was right.
He pulled a data chip out of his pocket, having prepared it, knowing all along that
fighting with her was futile.

“This contains information on how to contact Sveta should you get into serious trouble. If
something should happen and you are captured, destroy it.” He relaxed, watching as the
hardness about her beautiful eyes softened and the tension in her jaw relaxed.

Kathryn accepted the chip, tucking it into her pocket and gazing up at him, she offered
him a soft smile. “I think you‟re going soft with age, love,” she teased gently.

Chakotay couldn‟t help the dimpled smile that spread across his face as he brushed a
hand through her coppery hair that had been touched with strands of silver. “No, just
smart enough to know when I‟ve been beaten by the best.”

“And, don‟t you forget it, either, Mister,” she snickered, feeling his arms wrap around her
waist. “My transport doesn‟t leave for another few hours.” Her voice dropped, husky and
thick and full of hints at what was on her mind.
He didn‟t need her to spell it out for him. Chakotay pulled her tighter against him,
bending to capture her mouth with his own. The passion with which she returned the kiss
surprised him, but nonetheless, pleased him. Without parting lips, they walked
backwards, their hands working at hooks and closures on their clothing. She managed to
get his pants unclasped while he had managed to unbutton her shirt, leaving it hanging
open as they tumbled onto the bed. He broke from her mouth, tracing a trail of damp
kisses down her jaw and over the hollow of her throat, extracting a moan from her lips as
she squirmed against him, her hands drifting over his back beneath his shirt.

“I love you, Kathryn,” he whispered, his lips following a trail down over her collarbone,
heading lower.

“I love you, too,” she sighed, raking her fingers through his now gray hair. She loved
sharing her life with him, loved that they were able to fulfill the dream they had started
on New Earth. She pressed a kiss to his forehead as his hands found the hem of her pants,
prepared to slide them down her legs.

Just as he hooked his fingers in the hem, their bedroom door was flung open, allowing
admittance for their three children while he and Kathryn scrambled to make certain they
were appropriately covered. He wanted to laugh as, very naïve to what they had just
interrupted, their children bounded onto the bed, each pleading their cases.

“Bella took my favorite doll!” Linn cried out, launching herself into her mother‟s arms.

“She said I could borrow it!” Bella replied, crossing her arms over her chest with a look
that imitated her mother‟s best death glare.

“But that was yesterday! I wanted to use it today!” Linn protested, glaring back at her
younger sister before turning her angry face towards her brother. “Then Kole had to take
it away and hid it!”

“I took it so the fighting would stop. If no one has the doll, then there won‟t be fighting
over it,” he reasoned, the only one who had not raised his voice to complaining shrills.
Kathryn smiled over their heads at Chakotay, amused by their son the peacekeeper. At
least, he usually intended it to be that way, even though his attempts at diplomacy usually
failed, at least he was trying.

“Thank you, Kole, for trying to solve the problem, but you really should have come and
gotten one of us,” Chakotay praised. His son usually managed to find a way to make him
beam with pride, and his efforts at keeping his sisters in line had not gone unnoticed.

“Girls, you were both wrong, in this instance. Linn, you should have let your sister know
she was only borrowing your doll for today and Bella, you should have made sure it was
okay for you to still play with your sisters doll. Now, I have to leave on an important
mission in a few hours. How about you two make up and we‟ll have some ice cream
before I have to go,” Kathryn suggested. She did not want to leave with her children
arguing.

Katesfire: “Where are you going, Mommy?” Bella asked, her bright blue eyes seeming
quite large and concerned in her petite face surrounded by her jet-black hair.

“Get a move on, kids. We‟ll discuss it over the ice cream. Kole, give your sister her doll
back,” Kathryn ordered, wanting to steal a few more minutes alone with their Daddy
before their treat.

“Yes, Mom,” Kole replied, hurrying to press a kiss to her cheek before leaping off the
bed, following the girls out and closing the door behind him.

Kathryn smiled, flopping back into the bed next to her husband. “You‟re going to have
your hands full for the next couple of weeks,” she laughed, gently teasing. “Maybe I
should alert my mother to your plight.”

“No because you‟ll never make it off planet. She'll be over here with manacles to keep
you firmly grounded. I‟ll call her once you are well on your way to DS9,” Chakotay
promised, knowing he wasn‟t completely joking about Gretchen. He adored his mother-
in-law, but he also knew how she felt about Kathryn venturing off-planet for anything
that seemed remotely dangerous, especially since the incident on Cardassia that had
nearly cost her not only her daughter, but two of her grandchildren. She was fiercely
adamant that now that Kathryn was a mother she keep her feet firmly planet in the soils
of home.

“Probably a smart idea. Phoebe mentioned something about getting together and taking
the kids to Cozumel for a weekend. White beaches and ocean, sounds like a trip you
might enjoy,” she baited. She felt guilty about trying to plan things for them to do, but her
goal was keeping the children occupied so they didn‟t miss her too terribly. “I‟ll call as
often as I can. I‟m not sure what the situation is going to be like on Bajor once I am
there.”

“Just so long as you don‟t disappear on me, we‟ll be just fine,” Chakotay replied,
pressing his lips to hers for a moment.

“Come on Mom and Dad! We want ice cream!” Linn‟s voice carried up the stairs and
through the door.

“Looks like that‟s our cue,” he laughed, rolling off of the bed and pulling her to her feet.
“We‟ll continue this once you get back.”

 “It‟s a date! Maybe we‟ll talk Tom and B'Elanna into taking the kids for the night,” she
smiled.
They carefully made sure all buttons and clasps were done back up before leaving the
bedroom and their intentions behind, waiting for a later time, a later day to continue.


**


Plop, plop....

Plop, plop....

The odd yet familiar sound was the first thing she became aware of. She listened to it for
a long minute, attempting to place it in her mind. When she did, she blinked her eyes
open in surprise, finding herself staring down at the rough stone she lay upon--the same
stone that was no doubt the source of her body's aches and pains. Between the slow plop,
plop she was hearing and the ground beneath her, she knew she was in a cave. Her hair
had fallen over her face, obscuring her vision otherwise, so she was able to take stock of
her surroundings without letting it be known that she was conscious.

She remembered she'd made it to the Temple of Iponu. She'd been early for her
appointment. There'd been a young ranjen waiting for her, who had been waiting to
escort her....and then nothing.

Think, damnit. Reanla forced herself to recall step by step where she'd been before
waking up where she now was. The young ranjen--he'd greeted her by name, was
waiting to escort her to her meeting and, as she'd stepped inside, he had followed her.

And he had drugged her. Now she recalled the sting of the hypo against her neck,
recognized the faint bitterness at the back of her throat, remembered her legs giving out
on her and catching a glimpse of him looking down at her with complete indifference.
And she'd recognized him in that moment before losing consciousness. But from where?
She exhaled a slow breath, forcing herself to think harder. But the faint memory of his
identity had once more slipped her grasp.

"--telling you that's the better option. Get rid of him--or maybe I should say them--
permanently." The unfamiliar female voice was definitely aggravated, each word
sounding like it was being bitten off and spit out.

"Don't be ridiculous, Nicina." The male voice that answered was calm, but Reanla could
hear the dangerous undertone in it. "Killing Shakaar will simply make him a martyr and
his Terran p'eska an object of pity. Besides, politics or not, he has not gone complacent
and soft like many of his contemporaries on the Council. That is why we must take every
step carefully."

“So, what are we going to do with her?” Nicina snorted, jerking her chin to their
unconscious guest. She didn‟t like the redhead. She didn‟t know her personally, but knew
that she disliked her, regardless. It didn‟t take much for Nicina to form an opinion of
someone.

"What we were told to do," her companion replied. The harsh voice was now tugging at
Reanla's memory. She'd heard it before--where? The glimpse she got of his face past the
curtain of her hair also seemed familiar. "Keep her out of the way until Jasam is in
office. Once he is established, nothing that she says or knows in Shakaar's defense will
matter. Not that it will be believed anyway....she'll be seen as biased, just like Kira."

“Hard to be seen as anything but when you don‟t discriminate against who you spread
your legs to.” Nicina looked down at Reanla in disgust. Fucking a Klingon was just about
as bad as crawling into bed with a spoonhead in her mind.

Reanla wondered if the woman knew she was conscious and prayed that her indrawn
breath at the insult would go unnoticed. A savage kick in the hip made her realize it had
not and she couldn't prevent the yelp of pain that escaped her. The kick rolled her over
but she did her best to roll with it, twisting out of the way of her adversary's attempt to
stomp on her bound wrists. She was surprised when the man stepped between them,
turning a furious look on his companion. Neither said a word, simply glaring daggers at
one another. Reanla had a moment to study the woman. Definitely a complete stranger.
Petite and slight of build, like Rei, with strawberry blond hair bound back in a tight braid.

"Was that necessary, Nicina?" Reanla was startled when a third person emerged from
seemingly out of nowhere behind the other two. It was the young ranjen from Iponu!
Oddly enough, she thought she saw a flicker of compassion in his eyes, but dismissed it
as a trick of the shadows. He was no innocent and she doubted he was truly a ranjen
either.

Nicina turned a sweet look towards the younger man. “I‟m sorry, my foot...slipped,” she
replied before turning disgusted eyes down towards Reanla. How she hated this woman.
Not only for her involvement with Shakaar, but for the fact that she would dare pollute a
body given to her by the Prophets with the seed of a filthy Klingon.

"You know what orders were given to us to follow--that she was not to be harmed."

"What do you care, Bezai?"

"I care only that we do what we are told to ensure that all goes as it should," Bezai
snapped back. "And to ensure that Pelkan, you and I collect our share of the rewards to
come."

"Bezai, be calm," the older man--Pelkan--interrupted. "Nicina knows what will happen if
she defies the wrong party." The daggered look he shot his female cohort was clear.

“We are charged with keeping her out of the way until everything is put into place and I
will use whatever force necessary to keep her under lock and key. Besides, we were told
she was not to be killed. No one said we couldn‟t rough her up a bit if she gets out of
line,” Nicina replied, her eyes narrowing.

"Then reserve it for when she does." This time, Pelkan's tone left no room for argument.
Nicina grumbled something under her breath about her very existence making her out of
line, but stowed any further argument, knowing that despite her dislike for the present
company in the room, she had to work with them and didn‟t have a choice in the matter.

For her part, Reanla remained silent, her eyes darting back and forth between her three
captors. She was suppressing the fear and panic out of necessity, forcing herself to
breathe slowly and calmly, assess her surroundings and the situation without making it
obvious that she was doing so--and above all, to memorize their faces so that when the
opportunity for escape arose, she would have what would be needed for the militia to
apprehend them.

She had no intention of letting them keep any sort of hold on her, physically or otherwise.
She knew what they were likely expecting of her--an officially retired militia officer who
had grown soft and had a family to threaten. But they would be in for an unpleasant
surprise if they thought any such tactics would work on her.


**


The first thing she noticed was the warmth of the day and the brightness of B'hava'el's
light as it poured down through the unique, greenish atmosphere. Kathryn stepped down
from the transport ship and gazed around, enjoying the beauty of the planet that had such
a ravaged history. She paused to gaze around, watching the crowd, mostly made up of
Bajorans, hurry about their business with their colorful robes floating about them. It
brought back memories of the time she had donned such an outfit and cosmetic nose
ridges to elude Kaelinn for a visit to Quark's before they were friends.

Refocusing herself, Kathryn gazed about, looking for the contact she would be meeting.
She had found out right before leaving Earth that Ko'Tak had made a call to Major Krysa
Rei'ani, his wife's best friend. Kira had confirmed upon her arrival at DS9 that either
Krysa or Krysa's wife, Colonel Tana Dori, would be waiting for her transport's arrival.
She scanned the crowd, looking for them, watching as others were reunited with loved
ones or met contacts of their own. She was beginning to wonder if her contacts had
mistaken the time of her transport and she considered calling DS9 to ask Kira if
something had changed without her knowledge.

As the last of the crowd dispersed, Kathryn found herself tapping her foot in impatience
and concern. She ignored the few stares she received from passersby, and mentally
debated on how much longer she should wait before finding a comm console and
contacting DS9.
"Admiral Janeway, good to see you've arrived."

Startled out of her reverie, she turned in the direction of her name to face a complete
stranger. He was tall, though relative to herself, the majority of men were tall with the
exception of Ferengi and Talaxian men. The cool breeze that had suddenly picked up was
ruffling his buff-colored tunic and dark slacks, as well as his unruly dark brown hair. His
blue eyes sparkled with friendliness and what seemed to be a hint of mischief.

"My hovercar is not far away and I can carry your bag if you wish." He smiled and
extended a hand for it. "The Viktors are waiting to meet with you."

A woman in her position, though she knew she was well able to take care of herself
should the need arise, could never be too careful. She was, regardless of retirement, a
Starfleet Admiral and privy to very sensitive information and top-secret projects,
therefore a valuable hostage for terrorists and other such types. The warmth and look of
friendship in his eyes was easy enough to fake for a professional. She kept her guard up
and shouldered her bag. “Who might you be?” she asked, not making any movement to
follow him without confirming his identity.

"My name is Los'kall. I work for the Lin'klai Corporation." He paused and shrugged
thoughtfully. "Well, more specifically for the Viktors themselves. I keep an eye on the
children during the family gatherings, I make deliveries when and where they're needed, I
play chauffeur...to be honest, I do a little bit of everything. He gave another shrug. "And
right now, I'm here to pick up one Admiral Janeway and bring her to her meeting with
V'alar Viktor." He gestured towards the waiting hovercar in the near distance and smiled
again.

Kathryn felt a little better, especially with the mention of the Lin‟klai Corporation, which
she knew Krysa and Tana were involved with. She knew she could go so far as demand
to see his credentials, but paused. She remembered the last time she was difficult with her
Bajoran escort and couldn‟t help a rueful smile, thinking again of Kaelinn. “All right,
Mister Los‟kall, I‟ll take your word for it. Someone who is charged with the care of
children can‟t be too dangerous," she commented, finally passing her bag to him.

"Very good, then. If you will come with me." Los'kall slung the bag over his shoulder
and led the way towards the sleek silver-blue hovercraft. He seemed to take it in stride
when Kathryn politely refused the arm he offered her, turning her attention instead to
such mundane talk as the weather, how the Viktors were impatiently awaiting her arrival
and how if there was time for a family gathering after she had conducted her business
with them, there was one tentatively planned.

Kathryn couldn‟t fathom what he was going on about and just shook her head as she
climbed into the hovercar. When he joined her, she smiled pleasantly. “Do you have
children, Mister Los'kall?” she asked, trying to make pleasant conversation, at least
conversation she understood what the topic was, pausing before firing her barrage of
questions. She didn‟t want to make him feel like riding in a car with her was less
desirable than a Cardassian interrogation.

Los'kall shook his head as he started up the craft, bringing it easily about and heading
north. "Nah, I'd rather just be uncle to all the kids in the family. And there are plenty of
them, believe me. You'll see if there's time for a family gathering. The Viktors have six
of their own--and then there's Shai'tal, who's adopted...."

“I have three. My twins, Kole and Linn, are six and my youngest, Bella, is five.” It
pleased her to no end to be able to tell people she was a mother. It was something she
never thought she would have in her lifetime and, though she would never admit it to
anyone, she had considered Q's long ago offer to mate and procreate. Now, she found
herself glad that she didn‟t take him up on his offer, especially knowing the mischief
three human children could get into, she couldn‟t imagine that a Q toddler could find!
She had already seen what a Q teenager could do, so she knew experiencing her own
children‟s teenage years would be mild in comparison. Kathryn pulled herself out of her
musings. “What is this family gathering you keep mentioning?”

"During the Occupation, V'alar Viktor was a Resistance cell leader. Unlike most cells
that split up after Occupation's end, the Lin'klai members decided to stay in close contact
and call each other family. So there are yearly gatherings for the important holidays and
certain special occasions, such as weddings, blessings for new children and the like. And
also when important people show up," Los'kall added, turning his head long enough to
wink at her before facing forward again. Tapping in a quick command on the console, he
sent the craft into a slow descent towards a well-laid out and somewhat large home, set
on a slight rise. There was what appeared to be a large garden at the right and rear of the
house itself and three other hovercrafts parked behind the house to the left. Once they
had landed, Los'kall hopped out, snagging her bag and then offered her a hand out.

Kathryn, more comfortable with him, accepted his hand. Once she had her feet on solid
ground, she turned to him. “You mean they are planning a family reunion just because I
am here? Well, that most certainly isn‟t necessary. I don‟t want them to go to any
trouble!” She couldn‟t believe they were planning to have a reunion simply because she
was here to find Kaelinn. It was way too extravagant.

Los'kall smiled enigmatically. "V'alar Viktor will answer any other questions you have,
Admiral." He keyed open the side door they had approached and gestured her inside.

She took note of her surroundings, picking up on the fact that though the home was
modestly decorated, it was spacious. She assumed it had to be if it were housing six
children and at least two adults. She quietly followed Los‟kall, getting the hint that he
would not be answering any of her questions and that her answers would only come from
the Viktors. When they entered the office, she noticed that her escort did not announce
her and leave her at the door, but made himself comfortable in the room, taking a seat off
to the side. She counted four people in the room, besides herself and Los‟kall, two of
whom she recognized as Major Krysa and Colonel Tana from her previous visits to Bajor
when she had come to see Reanla.

“It‟s good to see you again, Kathryn,” Rei said as she crossed the room and kissed
Kathryn‟s cheek. “May I introduce you to Viktor Fiore.” A light skinned man with
graying hair came forward to shake Kathryn‟s hand. “And Viktor Delani.” A younger,
darker skinned woman not much older than Dori came forward. “They are the Lin'klai‟s
matriarch and patriarch.”

“It‟s a pleasure, though I wish the circumstances of our meeting were under that of a
different nature,” Kathryn replied, returning the shake of the hand.

“We would have informed them of our involvement in helping you find Kaelinn
anyway,” Dori said, briefly hugging Kathryn before taking a seat on the arm of a sofa.
“However, while you were in transit, Rei and I came up with an idea and it involves more
than just giving them a courtesy notice.”

Kathryn cocked an eyebrow in a very Tuvokian manner, as Neelix would have said.
“Please, do enlighten me.”

“You need a way in. I think with a little creative....hacking,” Dori wiggled her fingers.
“We can give that to you.”

“You have a background in science,” Krysa continued. “We‟re hoping to parlay that into
a background as a resistance fighter. To that end--"

“HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY!” The outer doors opened to a slim dark haired
man smiling widely as he threw his arms out with a flourish. “Rejoice--for Gadget is
here!”

“Oh Prophets, save us,” Los'kall muttered as he slumped in his chair.

“Tell me about it,” a feminine voice came from the hallway as he stumbled forward with
an „oof!‟ A blond woman sauntered in after him and closed the door. ”I‟m surprised your
ego fit through that door.”

“You just don‟t appreciate my genius, Anda."

The woman called Anda paused. Slowly, she turned and looked her companion up and
down. “I appreciate your genius just fine, honey,” she purred. “Ready to get to work?”

Gadget's face turned a becoming shade of red. “Yes, dear.” The man that approached
Janeway was the complete opposite of the ostentatious man that had entered the room.
“It‟s nice to meet you, Admiral,” he said, shaking her hand. Then he immediately turned
and bopped Rei on the head. “Stop laughing at me, Brat!”
Rei, who was trying to muffle her laughter in her wife's back, said something in Bajoran
that caused Gadget‟s face to go up in flames and the others snicker.

Kathryn's eyes narrowed, her face automatically adapting a very unamused expression.
She just couldn't believe they were laughing and poking fun at one another while her
nerves were in a twist over her missing friend. How could they be so calm and jovial
when one of their very own was potentially in harm's way?

Fiore shook his head even as he attempted not to smile. “I‟m disowning all of you,” he
said pleasantly before turning back to Kathryn. “Please don't misunderstand, Admiral, we
are just as worried about Kaelinn as you are. Delving back into Occupation-related things
tends to make us overcompensate in strange ways.”

“That‟s not the half of it. Last time we ever did anything like this, half of us went on a
three-day bender and the other half launched a hostile takeover of another company. A
good time was had by all. Lieutenant Son‟frey Andalore,” Anda shook Janeway‟s hand.
“The blushing bride over there is Lieutenant Itsukar Peltani. But everyone calls him
„Gadget‟.”

Rei cleared her throat and wiped her eyes. “He‟s the reason for the plan. You need an in
with the dissidents. You have a science background. Gadget here has a sort of--"

“I like to make little things explode massively,” Gadget smiled. “I hide fun surveillance
electronics into jewelry. I‟m an asset in military intelligence and I was considered one of
the best gadget makers of the Occupation. With your attention to detail and intelligence,
Admiral, I can easily teach you to do what I did and you can bluff your way in with the
dissidents.”

“We‟ll hack you into the Occupation records.” Dori waved her hands a little. “What little
there are of them and make you a former member of the Anshar, Gadget's former cell.
The cover story is that you, too, were a gadget maker. You‟re good but not on his level--
and it made you jealous. You‟ll go to the dissidents and take credit for several of
Gadget‟s inventions and....possibly try damage his reputation in the process,” she finished
with a smile at Gadget.

“Oh, the things I go through for friends,” Gadget put in melodramatically and put the
back of his hand to his forehead. “My glorious reputation in tatters.”

"Your plan sounds very clever, but why go to all the trouble of my infiltrating the group
you suspect of having taken Kaelinn? Aside from the fact that they are trying to oust
Shakaar from office, just who the hell are these dissidents anyway?" She was failing to
understand why they couldn't just report their suspicions to the authorities and have them
investigate Kaelinn's kidnapping.

"Don‟t think like a Fleeter,” Delani said from her perch on the desk. “Think like a
faction. People don‟t leave their politics at home when they go to work. It‟s going to get
in the way here. Occupation scars run marrow deep. Nothing will divide the populace
faster than the idea that innocent Bajorans died because they were an „inconvenience.‟
Too many of us died trying to save our brethren for something like that to ever sit right.”

“It‟s worse because Shakaar was a hero. Right now, he‟s at about the same level as a
collaborator. Collaborators are an endangered species on this planet,” Fiore added.

“In any case, there are those of us who believe and know Shakaar is innocent. Then there
are those who believe he‟s guilty. They‟re in as many high government and security
positions as we are. Kae is a huge supporter of Shakaar,” Rei said. “So, you report that
Kae is missing and one of them hears about it--”

“And they‟ll try and hamper the investigation into her disappearance,” Dori finished. “It
may have already happened. Ko‟Tak reported it and Kira made a fuss to distract people
from the feelers Rei put out.”

“There are likely already orders that if she‟s found, she be kept out of the ruckus „for her
own good‟,” Rei explained. “I‟m afraid that someone will decide to take that order to
extremes. I don‟t know if any of those people are connected to the dissidents that took
Kae, but I don‟t want to take any chances. You making inquiries as Admiral Janeway
may put Kae at greater risk than she already is.”

Kathryn could most certainly see their point of going undercover. She had studied the
Occupation, had digested as much information Starfleet's limited reports had allowed and
she had to imagine that the incident on Bajor paralleled an incident in Earth's own
history, the Holocaust and near extermination of an entire race of people. Suddenly,
Kathryn understood more poignantly two things near and dear to her. The first was her
husband and his reasons for joining the Maquis. His people were facing relocation and
eradication by the Cardassians, just as Kaelinn's entire world had been raped and
savagely scarred by the same invaders. The sudden understanding knocked her slightly
off kilter. She had always been the good girl, the golden girl. She had always played on
the right side of the rules and, on the few occasions she hadn't, she had been able to
justify her own actions so she could sleep at night.

What she wouldn't give to have her husband at her side at this moment. He had far more
experience in the realm she found herself jumping into feet first and his expertise would
have been invaluable, but she didn't have him by her side this time and Kaelinn was
depending on her.

She nodded her acceptance of their plan and explanation and, with half a smile she said,
"I am assuming you have made arrangements with a specialist in cosmetic surgery?"

Rei smiled back. “Do you want four ridges or five?”
[This way it appears that she is meeting with Fiore on business with the Lin'klai Corp.
Rei and Dori are also present and bring out the idea of having KJ go undercover to help
search for Kae. Ko'Tak is aware of this plan, Shakaar is not. KJ's undercover name will
be Tarka Melanni.]


**


"I've never seen three moons out before...."

"The last time I did, I was barely old enough to remember. Dahaun told me--" Kiplin
stopped midsentence, blinked rapidly and then muttered a curse. Shaking his head, he
continued, "He told me when I was old enough--" He reached out to tilt her chin up. "--
to not lose the moment if it came." His voice softened on the last words.

Surely, he couldn't mean... But he thought fled Kaelinn's mind as he leaned down, his
lips capturing hers in a deep, possessive kiss. Her head spun as he lowered her to lie
back amid the tall grasses, his hands making quick work of her clothes. His own
followed and she gasped at the feel of his naked skin pressed to hers, his fingers cupping
and caressing her breasts.

"By Tisa, I name you lover....by Respelar, I name you friend...."

His lips followed the path his hands created, leaving trails of fire in their wake. She tried
to bite her tongue to suppress her moans, not wanting them to be caught in such a
vulnerable position.

"By D'rannah, I name you companion of my heart...." The words were whispered in her
ear as she felt Kiplin's weight settle atop her. Kaelinn cried out at the burning sting that
told her she was now completely one with him and her fingers dug hard into his back as
he began to move.

"Oh sweet Prophets...." She had witnessed the act several times as a small child, had
imagined it a thousand times since the day when her burgeoning feelings for Kiplin had
begun to stir. But her imaginings were nothing compared to the experience--the feel of
his heart pounding against hers, the tingling shivers that made her toes curl, the tremor
in his voice that showed the strength of his passion.

"Reanla Kaelinn, by the light of this third moon rising...my heart is joined with yours."

"Yes..." she gasped an instant before his mouth came down on hers, swallowing her cries
as they reached the edge.
**


The night was bitter cold. It made moving quickly a necessity, but it also had the
advantage of keeping the Cardassians locked up tight in their barracks and quarters,
seeking the warmth that their physiology required.

Shakaar ignored the icy breeze that seemed to be wrapping an iron first around him from
head to toe. He told himself to ignore it and focus on the positives: that it was cold
enough to keep the Cardassians locked inside, that the cloud cover blocked out any light
from Tisa and Jeraddo, and that, so far, things were going according to plan.

A nearby rustling and a low whistled call drew his attention. That was the signal from
Furel that the night guards had been eliminated and the trap was set. Exchanging a
glance with Mobara, they both slipped silently from their hiding place up on a small rise
and down into the village. It was truly more of a settlement than a village, most of the
residents having been forcibly relocated years before, with only about a hundred
Bajorans permitted to 'stay' in order to serve the Cardassians that had moved in. The
Cardassians themselves numbered around forty, so certain were they that they could
easily control the slaves that outnumbered them. This made the Shakaar's joint mission
with the Devrat resistance cell that much easier. Their group numbered a mere dozen--
seven counting Shakaar himself and four accompanying Devrat Maza.

*fill in the damn middle!!*

Predatory, acrid smoke assaulted his senses, burning his eyes and strangling his nose
and throat from life supplying oxygen necessary for his lungs. He inhaled reflexively, the
noxious plume sucked in, torturing the gentle tissue that heaved, trying to expel the
poisons that burned and choked. He bit back the coughing fit, ordering his body to exhale
gently, through pursed lips, despite the tightening protest from his chest. To cough would
be to call attention to himself, though it didn’t matter. The buildings aflame was enough
to alert the Cardassians of the Resistance presence.

From behind an outbuilding, Shakaar poked his head out; his blonde hair, usually a
beacon even in the darkest night, was covered in a fine dusting of rancid ash. As he
surveyed the destruction, he smashed the window of the supply shed and shoved his torch
through it, watching the flames licked their way across the floor in an almost seductive
way, romancing the wood as it swept along until it was too late and devoured everything
in it’s path with a red-hot destructive hunger.

Prepared to quit his hiding place, he looked around the lot, punctuated by burning
buildings before making his dash to the cover of the nearby woods. The last thing he
wanted was to find himself face first in the dirt after taking an unexpected phaser blast to
the back as he made his escape.
A panicked cry from the far end of the lot stole his attention from his escape into the
forest. The tenor of the cry made his gut clench. He didn't need to be Betazoid to
distinguish the horror in the sound as it echoed between the burning buildings.
Something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Then he saw Kerith [name] running towards
one of the smaller buildings, the type where their enslaved brethren had been housed,
now engulfed in flame.

Shakaar ran to Kerith’s assistance, forgetting that the Cardassian reinforcements would
be arriving, knowing that a few had escaped being burned alive had scrambled for cover
and to regain their bearings, firing at anything that moved. The feeling deep in his gut
squeezed tighter, a chill menacingly tickled its way down his back, despite the heat
radiating from the nearby fire.

“Someone fired this building before it was checked!” Kerith screamed.
“Children...inside....” He was cut off as he was enveloped in a coughing fit, unable to
keep from inhaling the smoke that surrounded them.

That’s when Shakaar heard it. The frightful sound that would torment and torture his
nightmares for every night that was yet to come. The labored coughing and the terrified
crying of the children trapped within the building. They begged and pleaded for help,
crying to the Prophets, to anyone, to deliver them safely from the fiery hell they'd awoken
into. Painful shrieks punctuated the roar of the fire and the mewing of their crying, as the
flames licked too close to their delicate skin and singed the hair from their heads.

Frantic, Shakaar smashed his fist through the burning glass of the nearest window only
to be met by a belch of smoke and the lashing of angry flames that craved the new source
of oxygen. They mocked him as though they were the Pah-wraiths themselves. He stole
around the other side of the building, seeking to make an escape for the little ones
mercilessly trapped within. The forward-facing wall where the door would have been was
nothing but a wall of flames-- the door, which would have saved them from the hell where
they were slowly losing their lives, had disappeared completely.

Hot tears were streaming down his cheeks, but Shakaar took no notice of this, crashing
yet another window whose glass seemed to melt around his hand and drip away like a
slow-moving molten waterfall.

“We have to leave!” Mobara bellowed, grabbing Shakaar from behind.

Shakaar’s mind raged, blind desperation his guide as the horrific cries rose in a
crescendo of pain. “There are children in there!” he retaliated, trying to fight Mobara
off. “Prophets, what have we done?! Our children....” Another pair of hands locked onto
him, forcing him away from the scene of injustice.

Then, the deafening screams fell silent, a deafening silence that marked the eerie
transition from life to death and Shakaar, prostate with grief and devouring regret,
watched, horror-stricken, as the roof of the building caved in on itself followed by the
cascading inward fall of the outer walls.

A scar ate its way deep into his heart and mind as he watched the paghs of those
innocents rise on the plumes of smoke--little silver, wispy glows in the black maw of
death, floating into the heavens to the Celestial Temple where they would be received by
the same Prophets that would condemn the actions taken by his comrades and himself on
this night. when they, themselves thought they were on an errand of the Prophets by
freeing their sons and daughters from the torture and oppression of the invaders of their
once pleasant and gentle world.

For the first time in his life, Shakaar Edon felt his faith waiver, his devotion to the
Resistance falter. As he was pulled from the scene, eyes blind and ears deaf, except for
the tormenting scene he had just witnessed as it replayed over and over, his sentence of
damnation for having participated in the vicious riot.


**


He stared broodingly out over the fields, watching the sunlight turn into dusk as
B'hava'el's light faded from the horizon. Where was Kaelinn right now? Was she being
starved, beaten? Was she even still alive? Perhaps whoever had gotten their hands on
her had already killed her to keep her quiet. Prophets, why did I even send her to do this?
I should have done the work myself. Jasam would have found out, of course, but at least
Kaelinn would be safe right now.

"Edon?"

His wife's quiet footsteps preceded her out onto the balcony. A moment later, her arms
slipped around his chest. "You need to stop blaming yourself, Edon."

"How do you know--"

"Because I know you."

Shakaar turned to look at her. Her eyes reflected no censure, only concern and love. He
silently marveled at her ability to soothe him even when he was at his worst. She was so
different from the hesitant girl he'd briefly come to know on his tour of Earth six years
ago. Then, she'd been under the control of her family--a family run by a hateful,
xenophobic old man who had sought to crush the spirit of the woman holding him.

Cady studied her husband's face, lifting a hand to brush her fingertips over the worry
lines crossing his brow. So much was weighing on him right now--the threat of losing
his position, the gossip surrounding the scandal, and now Reanla's disappearance. She
knew he wouldn't stop worrying about Reanla until she was found--and didn't expect him
to, but she refused to allow him to blame himself.

She'd grown up being told that aliens were not to be trusted, that they all had ulterior
motives and humans who made friends with them would soon be duped or dead. She had
rejected that belief, but had never dared voicing it or acting on it--until the day she met
Edon. Her shock upon realizing who he was had become fascination and then a hesitant
friendship.

When her grandfather had found out about Edon, he'd threatened her in every possible
way, finally swearing to disown her if she ever mentioned his name again. She had
walked out that night and taken the first available transport to DS9. She'd never expected
that coming to Bajor would bring her anything except perhaps a fresh start, but the
Prophets had gone above and beyond her expectations. And she awoke every day
thanking Them for it.


[Bezai gets msg to KJ/death of Bezai/Pelkan revealed to Kae as betrayer of the
Thomar/rescue etc]

				
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