This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
“Checking cabin seventeen on level fourteen,” Miles O’Brien announced as he walked into the empty room. Moving to the center of the dimly lit living area, he extended his tricorder and made a slow circular sweep, studying the readings scrolling down the screen. “Looks good so far,” he said with satisfaction. “Everything seems to be in operational order—for a change. How’s it coming with the power conduit, Rulen?”
A young, handsome Bajoran face appeared in the doorway. “Believe it or not, everything checks out,” grinned Rulen Boj, O’Brien’s new assistant. “No sabotage, no voles—it’s all in perfect shape, Chief.” He walked into the room and looked around the barren walls. “How soon before this level’s open for habitation?”
“As soon as we give the go-ahead,” O’Brien replied, walking toward the bedrooms. “Commander Sisko’s been getting an earful from Major Kira about the overcrowding problem.” He repeated his scanning procedure as he talked. “I’d say that by the end of next week, this entire level will be just as crowded as the rest of the habitat ring.”
“Replicator works fine,” Rulen said as he followed his boss. He was sipping at a cup of steaming liquid. “This coffee is almost as bad as the stuff you make in your office.”
O’Brien shook his head and smiled. “Bite your tongue. That coffee is the exact blend that Commander Shelby gave me when she was on the Enterprise. It’s guaranteed to keep you awake for twelve hours...whether you want to be or not.” He studied the tricorder readings and nodded in satisfaction. “Let’s be off to the next cabin and hope that our luck continues.”
“Right.” Rulen followed the Starfleet officer out of the cabin. He looked around at the stark metallic decor and shivered. “This place is every bit as spooky as my mother said.”
O’Brien paused at the cabin entrance. “Your mother worked up here?” he asked, curious.
“During the Occupation. She worked in the kitchens.” Rulen opened the conduit panel and studied the readings. “It’s not something she likes to talk about.”
“I’d believe it.” The DS9 chief opened the cabin door and stepped inside. “You know, in a way I’m not surprised that we haven’t found much wrong yet. Apparently the Cardies set all this up a while back but never got around to using the extra space. Cabin eighteen living area checks out, all systems operational,” he added for the log’s benefit, then headed for the main bedroom. He started to perform a second scan, then paused, troubled by something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Rulen showed up a minute later. “Chief?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, but something isn’t right here.” O’Brien looked around the room carefully. “Something isn’t right...wait.” He checked his tricorder again and frowned. “Odd.”
“What?” Rulen asked, coming over and peering over O’Brien’s shoulder.
“The closet...” O’Brien walked over to the empty compartment and peered inside. “Take a look. It’s smaller in here than it should be. See?” He pointed to the inner left wall for Rulen’s benefit. “This should go back about three more feet.” He called up a schematic of the level they’d been checking. “Rulen, there should be a bedroom in the next cabin, opposite this,” he said, tapping the back wall of the closet. “Go over there and check, will you?”
“Will do.” A minute later he returned. “Same thing. Three feet too small.”
O’Brien rubbed his chin, his mind racing through possible explanations. He tapped the inner left wall with his knuckles, then tapped the wall beside it. There was a distinct difference in tone. “Hell,” he muttered to himself. “Knew it was going too good to be true. Bloody hell.”
“What’s wrong?” Rulen asked.
O’Brien tapped the inner wall again. “There’s a hollow space here. Probably a six by eight compartment, by my guess. And God only knows what’s inside it.” He bit his lip and thought for a moment, then turned toward Rulen. “Go to the tool bin and bring back my cutting gear—oh yeah, and a few flashlights. We’ll need ‘em.”
“We’re going to cut through the wall?” Rulen’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
“Because someone went to a lot of trouble to set this up. They did it in such a way that the average person would never notice anything was wrong. That means there might be something behind here, and I’d like to know what it is.” O’Brien gave his assistant a curt wave of dismissal and returned his attention to the wall.
While he waited for Rulen to return, he ran every scan he could think of on his tricorder, but nothing came up on any of them. He bit his lip and pondered the situation, wondering if he ought to contact Commander Sisko about it. If it turned out to be nothing more than another sterling example of Cardassian architecture, the commander would not be pleased at being interrupted from his duties. On the other hand, if it turned out to be a cleverly hidden booby-trap... O’Brien shook his head and sighed. “Damn Cardies,” he muttered. “Always got me second-guessing myself.” He leaned back against the side wall and ran a second series of scans, just to be on the safe side.
Ten minutes later Rulen returned with a set of laser cutters. O’Brien handed him the tricorder as he took the tools. “Monitor that wall every second while I’m cutting. If anything funny turns up, let me know immediately.” The Bajoran nodded solemnly and took a position directly over O’Brien’s shoulder, which somewhat annoyed the chief, but he decided it was better to be safe than sorry and put up with it as he worked.
It took only a matter of minutes to carve through the thick sheet of metal and create a two-foot square portal. O’Brien pushed the center square inside the hidden area and peered inside. An old, dusty odor assaulted his nostrils, and he could just barely make out a small pile of shapes in the darkness. “Hand me a light,” he ordered, reaching back behind him. Rulen slapped the instrument into the chief’s hand and leaned over closer as O’Brien switched the light on and aimed into the hollow compartment.
He played the beam on the pile on the floor. Rulen gasped and took an involuntary step backwards as the light shone upon a jumbled pile of bones. Blessed with the relative gift of experience, O’Brien was better able to contain his shock, but even so his voice had an odd catch as he tapped his commbadge and said, “O’Brien to Sisko. Commander, we’ve got a situation on level fourteen...you might want to have Dr. Bashir and Constable Odo join us...”
* * * * *
“Two bodies, Bajoran, female,” Dr. Bashir announced crisply as he played his tricorder above the pile of remains. He stood hunched inside the tiny compartment, crouched over the bones. His chief nurse stood just beyond O’Brien’s expanded entrance, holding a flashlight so that the physician could see what he was doing. Past her stood O’Brien, Rulen, Sisko, Kira and Odo, each of them listening intently to the physician’s report.
Bashir continued his oration. “Tricorder is picking up traces of hair follicles—thank you, Palig, I was just about to ask for those.” He accepted a pair of sterile gloves from his nurse, slipped the gloves on, and briskly scooped up a few piles of dirt from the ground. These were in turn poured into sample bags provided again by his assistant. “I note a subdural hematoma on the right upper quadrant of one skull...no visible injuries on the other.” Bashir studied his tricorder for a moment, then frowned. “Palig, could I have the light, please?” She handed it to him immediately, and the physician carefully moved the light over every square inch of the cramped confines. “Hmmm. Odd.”
“What?” Kira demanded.
“No fabric remnants,” Bashir replied. “Which would mean the women were nude when they were placed in here. Nor am I finding any metallic traces.”
“What’s the big deal with that?” O’Brien asked, scratching his head.
“Earrings,” Odo answered, glancing over at Kira’s right ear. A Bajoran always wore the earring of his or her clan whenever in public, both as an identifier and as a mark of status within the community. Not even the Cardassians could keep those earrings off the enslaved people. For these two bodies to be missing such a vital part of their lives, then, added an ominous note to the mystery.
Bashir emerged from the opening. “Bashir to Infirmary. I need a litter with a containment field generator on level fourteen.” He gave the sample bags to Palig and murmured some instructions to her; the Bajoran nurse nodded and hurried off.
“So who were they?” Sisko asked Bashir.
“I’m afraid that’s not going to be an easy question to answer,” he replied. “All we’ve got are the bones and some hair samples. I can run a DNA analysis on the remains, but that’s going to be precious little to go on. After all, DNA is only good if you’ve got an adequate database to compare it against, and these two women have been dead about ten years, given the state of the bodies.”
Kira paled. “Ten years? That would have been about the time of the Terok Nor Purge...” Odo nodded solemnly from nearby; noticing the blank, curious stares of Sisko and Bashir, the Bajoran hastened to explain. “About ten years ago, the Kohn-Ma were escalating their activities on the station. Finally, the Cardassians got fed up and went on a systematic execution of every Bajoran aboard. No one’s quite sure how many died; only a handful survived through luck or...design.” She made a face, and the implication was quite clear: collaborators.
Sisko took it in with his usual thoughtful calm. “So, Doctor, is there any way we can identify the bodies?”
Bashir frowned. “Well, I’ll certainly run the analysis at any rate. I’ve been working with the Bajoran medical community to implement DNA scanning at the planet side hospitals, so there’s an existing, albeit small sample to compare these against. It’s a long shot, but you can never tell when you might get lucky. I can also attempt to create visual simulations of the women, based on the remains. Perhaps we could try to locate people who worked up here during that time...”
O’Brien looked over at his assistant. “Rulen, didn’t you say your mother was up here during the Occupation?”
The young Bajoran nodded. “She left the station just before the Purge. My little sister was born a few weeks after it happened.” He glanced over at DS9’s commanding officer. “I could call her and see if she remembers anything about two women being killed back then...”
“It would be greatly appreciated,” said Sisko. He turned to his first officer. “Major, what about the various resistance groups? Could this be connected to any of them? Perhaps the Kohn-Ma?”
Kira shook her head. “I doubt it.”
“Why not?” Sisko asked.
She sighed. “Because the only Bajorans we killed were the collaborators...and we made damned sure people saw the bodies. I can make some inquiries and see if anything turns up, though. But,” she said with a final glance at the tiny prison nearby, “for what it’s worth, my money is still on the Cardassians.”
“So noted. Do what you can,” Sisko said; Kira nodded in farewell and hurried out of the room. Sisko turned Bashir. “Do everything you can, Doctor. Let me know if you need any assistance with the provisional government.”
“Certainly, sir.” At that moment two of Bashir’s staff appeared in the doorway with the litter; the doctor motioned for them to follow him, leaving Sisko with his chief of security. “Constable,” he said softly, “what do you make of this?”
“Murder,” the shapeshifter replied as they watched as the skeletons emerged from their tiny tomb.
“Cardassian or Bajoran?” Sisko asked.
Odo shook his head. “I don’t know, but I would tend to agree with the Major that it wasn’t necessarily a politically-motivated killing. Had either the Kohn-Ma or the Cardassians killed them, the bodies would have been found in a very public place, as both lesson and reminder.” He looked over at Sisko, his gaze narrow and intense. “If you wouldn’t mind, Commander, I’d like to pursue this case.”
“Certainly,” Sisko agreed. “Do you have any potential leads?”
“I have a few possibilities,” Odo replied.
* * * * * *
Odo watched impassively as Bashir carefully moved the jumbled skeletons one piece at a time onto the litter. From time to time he would pause momentarily in his task, turning a bone this way and that as if he could uncover its secrets. The constable found it mildly irritating, but he permitted Bashir his “amateur sleuth” role until at last the bodies had been completely removed and carried off to the Infirmary.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time, the shapeshifter thought irritably. He could already feel the compelling urge to let go of this form and simply spill into his natural liquid state. But now there were things to be done, inquiries to be made, and these things had to be done quickly. And where there was haste, there were inevitably mistakes. Odo privately cursed O’Brien’s timing—a few hours before now, or several hours after, and there wouldn’t have been any problems.
Odo’s attention returned to the scene of the crime. To his surprise, Bashir remained inside the crawl space, scanning the cramped confines one last time and running his fingers along the dusty floor. “Doctor?”
Bashir turned around. “Yes, Odo?”
“Might I ask what you’re doing?”
“Making a final scan. Couldn’t hurt, and I might have missed something previously.” He extricated himself from the tiny prison and dusted himself off. “Pity.”
“Hmmm?” Odo was preparing to make his own examination of the scene, and wasn’t quite listening to the young doctor.
“Oh, I was just wondering how the bodies were originally placed—sitting, lying on the floor, that sort of thing,” Bashir said. “Might have given us more information about how or why they were killed. But with the bouncing about this station’s taken over the years, I imagine that would have been too much to ask for.”
While Odo had the greatest respect for the doctor’s abilities, if not his personality, his comments were downright surprising. “I hadn’t realized you had any experience in forensics,” the shapeshifter said.
“Not experience so much as training,” Bashir replied. “I took a special credit course at the Academy, taught by Dr. Alberta Dunn. She’s the foremost authority on forensics in Starfleet. They offered the class on an invitation-only basis...”
“...and with your considerable talents, charm and tact, you were no doubt the first selected,” Odo said absently as he stepped inside the tiny compartment.
“Actually, no,” the doctor chuckled. “I wasn’t selected at all. So I begged, whined, pleaded, and generally offered my soul to get in. They finally relented. Fascinating lectures, though you didn’t want to eat anything before, during or after class...” He offered a hand to Odo as the constable emerged from the crawl space, but the shapeshifter ignored it. “Find anything?”
“Nothing,” Odo reluctantly admitted.
“Well, I’m heading to the Infirmary,” Bashir declared as they left the cabin. “I’ll begin the DNA analysis immediately—if nothing else, it’ll help me determine whose bones are whose. And the minute I find anything even remotely of interest, I’ll forward it to you.”
“I would appreciate that, Doctor,” Odo said.
At the nearest hallway juncture, Bashir called for a turbolift. He bounced on the balls of his feet for a moment or two, then turned toward Odo with a big smile. “Exciting in a way, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm?” Odo had been mentally planning the investigation—identification of the bodies, determination of the cause of death, location and arrest of the murder—and trying to determine how much time he had left before he had to return to his bucket. With a bit of luck, he might be able to squeeze in an hour before surrendering to the inevitable. “What was that, Doctor?” he said absently.
“This entire situation,” Bashir said. “It’s all a big mystery, just like the old books I read as a child. An old, unsolved murder uncovered and next to no clues. This is going to be quite a challenge, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it will be,” Odo replied, secretly wishing Bashir would shut up. The constant chatter made it difficult to think, and more importantly, to concentrate on keeping the shape. Given the Cardassian obsession with record-keeping, Gul Dukat had probably had the foresight to back up all the computer records of Terok Nor; perhaps he could persuade the Cardassian to permit a brief scan of the archives...
Bashir continued on, oblivious to Odo’s inattention. “I wonder who they were...”
* * * * *
Emra Sali stepped up to the food queue and offered her bowl to the very-pregnant woman standing behind the dull metal stew pot. “Here you go, Emra,” the woman said with a smile as she ladled a glop of something that was allegedly akin to food into the container.
“Hmmm, a few green bits here and there,” the slender, dark-haired woman commented as she studied the contents. “Adding a bit of variety, Rulen?”
“Think of it as a sort of condiment,” the cook advised.
“Better than knowing what it really is. When are you going to have that child, anyway?” Emra asked as she took a piece of stale, rock-hard bread from a metal tray.
“Soon. I’ll be heading back to Bajor in a few days,” Rulen Fai smiled.
Emra smiled. “We should all be so lucky.”
“You going to sing tonight?” the cook asked.
“Don’t know. Depends on how Maris feels. See you later, Rulen.” Emra walked away and sat down at an empty table. She glanced down at the gray lumps that would make up her afternoon meal and sighed. “Glop again.” She pushed a small pile onto the fork and opened her mouth in resignation.
“Ah, ah, ah,” came a familiar voice from behind. Emra turned to find Maris Toran standing there grinning. “Haven’t thanked the Prophets for your food. Prylar Dailyn will not be pleased.” She sat down opposite Emra and started shoving her own meal into her mouth.
“Spare me any mention of Prylar Dailyn,” Emra sighed, pushing a few strands of black hair away from her eyes. “She’s on level fourteen, you know.”
Maris shrugged. “She’s a welder. They’re converting that level to living quarters. They need welders to put up the walls. What’s the big deal?”
“They’re converting the entire level,” Emra replied hotly. “There’s work going on all over. She just happens to be working where I am.” She took another bite of her food and winced as she swallowed. “That woman always finds a way to work in the same section I do. And every time I look up, she’s staring at me with that strange look of hers. And if she makes eye contact, she manages to get in some snide remark about how the Prophets disapprove of what I’m doing with you. It’s like that every single day.” She popped a forkful of food into her mouth and winced as she chewed. “Toran, how can you eat this stuff like that?” she abruptly demanded.
Maris glanced up from her nearly empty plate and grinned, the ruddiness in her cheeks adding perfect complement to her short red hair. “Easy. I don’t study it and prolong the agony like you do. I open my mouth, eat as fast as I can, and fart so much during the rest of the day that everyone leaves me alone.” She scooped up the last remnants of the meal onto her fork and finished it off with a flourish. “I bet I know why Dailyn’s always staring at you.”
“You ought to,” Emra said.
Maris leaned in closer and grinned conspiratorially. “I think she wants you.”
Emra snorted and rolled her eyes. “Tell me another good one. Prylar Prude? “
“I’m telling you, Sali, she’s hot for you. She spanks herself every night in the temple, trying to purge herself of all that lust. And then she works right by you every day and gets all crazy again. She wants you.” Maris’ eyes glittered with mischief.
“Ugh.” Emra pushed her plate away. “Now I’ve really lost my appetite.”
“Well, if she makes a move on you, remember to tell her that I get extremely jealous. And speaking of things that make you lose your appetite...” Maris abruptly shut up as a small, skinny weasel of a man walked up to the table. Emra grimaced and tried to ignore him as politely as possible.
Not that it did any good. “Prophets’ greetings, ladies,” the newcomer said happily.
“Korin,” Emra said neutrally.
“Sali,” he said jovially, “how many times have I told you to call me Bost...” He suddenly squealed as Maris’ right hand shot out and wrapped her fingers around his wrist in an iron, vise-like grip.
“And how many times, Bost,” she said sweetly, squeezing even harder and making his eyes pop, “have I told you to call her Emra, and me Maris?”
“All right, all right!” he squeaked; Maris released her hold, and Korin rubbed his wrist gingerly before sitting down beside them. “Are you two singing tonight?” he said in a low, excited voice.
“We might,” Maris said noncommittally. “Depends.”
“You have to!” Korin’s face with lit with expectation. “I need to get a message to the resistance tonight—it’s straight from the Kohn-Ma command on Bajor! Here,” he said, producing a wrinkled, stained sheet of paper from under his grimy coveralls. “These are the details. Just work them into a song somehow, and make sure the first line has this code word in it, and it’s done!”
“’Just work them into a song’,” Maris mused as she stared at the message, then handed the paper to Emra. “Doesn’t ask for much, does he?”
“Not at all,” the dark-haired woman agreed.
Maris pretended to consider the request. “How about this: oh, we need you to blow up the secondary ore processor by tonight, but once you’re done you’d best take flight...”
“Shhhh!” Korin hissed; the women smiled at one another. “Come on, you two, you’ve done it before. This isn’t anything different.” His features twisted into a sly, crafty expression. “Or have you forgotten who arranged that private sleeping area for you...”
“Ah yes, the closet,” Maris nodded amiably.
Korin’s smile was tight. “A lot of people would have killed for that area. I got it for you. That wasn’t easy. You know what people think of you.”
“Most of them could care less,” Maris snorted.
“Prylar Dailyn cares,” he reminded her. “And she does not approve one bit. She told me so the other day after the morning meditation.”
“You’ll suck up to anyone, won’t you?” Maris said.
“That’s why I’m still alive,” Korin sneered. “And before you decide, just remember that it’s also common knowledge that you two are under the protection of the Kohn-Ma. Think about how long you’d live if that protection wasn’t there.”
“We’re well aware of that,” Emra said softly; Maris shot her an angry glance, but the dark-haired woman’s eyes calmed her almost instantly. “All right, Korin, we’ll come up with something,” she finished.
“I knew I could depend on you,” he beamed. “Well, must run. I’ll see you tonight. I’m looking forward to the music!” He scurried off to another table of workers and almost instantly vanished from view in the sudden flood of bodies surrounding him.
Maris watched him leave, then spat on the ground. “Little bastard.”
“Survivor,” Emra said soothingly. She rose to her feet and motioned for Maris to do the same. “It’s not like we have a choice, Toran. He’s right, you know.”
“I don’t care,” the redhead said angrily. “He doesn’t have to remind us of it constantly...”
“That’s Korin,” Emra soothed her. She smiled. “I’ll see what I can come up with this afternoon. I’ll be working on the new living quarters on level fourteen. See you at end of shift?”
“You know you will,” Maris declared. She leaned forward and risked a quick kiss before hurrying away. Emra shook her head and smiled, then threw the remains of her meal away before heading back to her own job.
* * * * *
There were many human facial expressions Odo had great difficulty in mimicking. Glowering was not one of them; in fact, it seemed to come naturally to the dour shapeshifter, especially when things were not proceeding to his liking. Such as now.
The constable strode rapidly through the largely deserted Promenade, lost in thought but still taking great care to make sure all was safe in the DS9 merchant district. He’d just come from Quark’s place, having finished an unsatisfactory interview with the dirty-fingered Ferengi.
“Let me get this straight. You want to know if I remember anything about two Bajoran women being murdered about the time of the Purge,” the slimy little merchant had replied to his inquiries. “You don’t know their names, you don’t know what they looked like—in fact, you don’t know anything about them whatsoever, except that they were Bajoran, they were women, and they’re dead. And you think I might recall some crucial detail that will solve your case.” His braying laugh echoed through the dark, deserted bar. “Oh Odo, you overestimate my abilities.”
“So you don’t remember anything?” Odo had pressed. He hated being obligated to the Ferengi, yet time and again it had been proven that there was very little Quark didn’t know about the goings-on at Deep Space Nine, Terok Nor—whatever the place was called—and it was that hope for a single lead that made him come as close as he could to pleading without going over.
Quark shook his head and leaned over the bar. “You’ve given me nowhere near enough information, Constable.” He said the last word like a taunt. “I’ve served hundreds, maybe thousands of Bajorans over the years. In that time there’s been only a handful worth remembering, such as our beloved Major Kira.” He licked his lips in lewd appreciation. “Give me something, anything, that would make it profitable for me to recall them, and I might do better.”
Odo growled and started to lunge forward, but caught himself. “If you’re asking for a bribe, Quark....”
The Ferengi danced backwards adroitly. “You misunderstand, Odo. What I’m saying is, if for any reason they had been connected to a profitable venture of mine, then I’d probably recall more. Give me a name, give me a face to go on, and I might be able to help you. But vague circumstances...I see a lot here. Very little of it’s of any profit. I watch, I weigh, and I forget what can’t profit me.” Quark shrugged. “Now, if you don’t mind, we’re closed and I’ve still got a great deal to do before going to bed....”
Odo had left without further comment and quickly completed his patrol of the Promenade. Now he sat in his office reviewing messages on his queue. Kira had let him know she’d made her discreet inquires to former allies in the Shakaar and Kohn-Ma, but so far nothing had come back. Bashir was working on the DNA scans and the reconstruction of the original bodies. And as for his final quest for answers....
Ignoring the growing call from his bucket, Odo got up and walked over to a side office, where his new Starfleet liaison officer was working. Lieutenant Mark Corey had been transferred to DS9 about six months ago, replacing Lieutenant Primmin after the brash, obnoxious officer had made a few lewd suggestions to Major Kira and followed them up with a few indiscreet caresses. Afterwards, Bashir hadn’t been sure if Primmin would ever be able to use his right hand properly again, but didn’t seem overly dedicated to making sure about it. No charges had been filed in the matter, and in a remarkable display of speed and efficiency, Starfleet recalled Primmin and transferred Corey and his wife to DS9.
Odo had expected to find himself saddled with another ambitious, power-hungry Starfleet officer. In addition, rumor had it that Corey and his wife had been on their way to a top security post aboard another starship, so it was doubtful the officers were going to be overly thrilled to be stationed on DS9 instead. But Odo had been pleasantly surprised. The Coreys had served under a Klingon aboard the Enterprise for six years, so they were used to working under unusual supervisors. Unlike Primmin, the lieutenant took great care to defer to the constable’s authority and showed a considerable amount of respect to both Odo and Major Kira. This, along with the brisk efficiency he’d brought to his job and affable personality, made him a very popular officer both in Security and the station in general. Even Kira liked him, which was saying something.
The lieutenant looked up from his terminal and met the constable’s gaze with a tired smile. “Nothing yet,” he said in response to the unanswered question.
Odo nodded. Gul Dukat had graciously agreed to let them run through the Terok Nor records, though he’d set severe restrictions on what could be scanned and for how long the data link could be open. Odo had instructed Corey to grab all data on work details, murders and anything remotely connected to Bajoran workers in a twelve-year span.
The constable walked over to Corey’s desk and peered over the Starfleet officer’s shoulder. “What parameters did you set?”
Corey yawned. “I’ve got a program looking at the work assignments, to begin with. The first time any Bajoran woman shows up in the database on a schedule, the computer tags it. When the name stops appearing, the program notes it and tries to cross reference the data with other files, starting,” he said with a sigh, “the ‘terminated’ database.”
“Have you uncovered any anomalies?”
Corey smiled tiredly. “Over four thousand so far. And that’s assuming the Cardassians were efficient enough to note that a Bajoran died and got the name and so forth. Those are few and far between. The majority of names just simply stopped appearing one day and never came back up again—especially,” he added with a sad expression, “around the day of the Purge.”
“I see.” Odo turned away from the screen, trying to determine a new course of action. So far, he was hitting nothing but walls in his quest. He shuddered abruptly, but clenched his fists and concentrated until the tremor subsided.
“You know, “ Corey said as he sipped at a cup of coffee, “I’ve been thinking about this.” Odo turned back toward the Starfleet officer. “When I was growing up in Boston, there was one person who knew everything about everyone.” He smiled at Odo. “The parish priest.”
Odo blinked in surprise. “A Vedek...or even a Prylar...”
“Assuming, of course, that anyone survived the Purge,” Corey cautioned. “From the way the Bajorans on staff shuddered when I brought it up, I don’t know if it’s worth pursuing.”
“At this point, any possible lead is worth looking into.” Odo shivered suddenly, then quickly suppressed the growing urge to let go. “Could you...?” he started to ask the Lieutenant.
Corey’s grin broadened. “As it so happens, Vedek Bareil is visiting the station—an opportunity to meet with his flock and grant the blessings of the Prophets.” Odo nodded, knowing—as did Corey—the Bajoran religious leader’s true reason for coming to DS9. “He could probably obtain the names of the priests on Terok Nor during that time frame—and whether or not they’re still alive. I’ll talk to Major Kira tomorrow morning and arrange a meeting.”
“Morning?” Odo frowned. That was not, in his view, an acceptable option. He tapped his commbadge impatiently. “Odo to Major Kira.” When no response was forthcoming, he tapped it again and repeated his call.
“Odo,” Corey warned, “that might not be a good idea right now...” The constable started to question why, but Kira’s highly irritated growl abruptly filled the air.
“What the hell is it, Odo? I’m busy right now!”
Odo suddenly got the feeling that he’d made a mistake. “I...was hoping to speak to Vedek Bareil. It concerns the bodies we found earlier,” he added hurriedly, wanting to make sure Kira understood that this wasn’t a frivolous request.
Silence fell for a moment or two; Odo glanced over at Corey, who had buried his face in his arms, his shoulders shuddering violently. Then: “Can it wait until morning, Constable?” asked Kira in a voice as poisonous as it was sweet.
“I...I suppose so,” he replied.
“Good. Kira out.” Odo suddenly realized the reason for the Major’s irritability, and once again wished he could understand this humanoid preoccupation with coupling, how they could place such a...silly act in such high regard. He turned to Corey, who apparently was still in the throes of his convulsions. “I...should have taken your advice, Lieutenant.”
“Mmmm-hmmm,” Corey managed to squeak before surrendering to another violent shudder.
Odo started to say something, but another shudder rippled through his form. Now, his body was saying to him. Cursing inwardly, he turned toward Corey. “I have to...rest,” he said.
“Understood,” Corey said, wiping a tear from his eye as he sat up. “Paula’s coming on duty in an hour. She can take over here while I make the rounds. I’ll relay any new developments to your terminal.”
“Very well. I’ll be back in a few hours.” Odo shuddered and hurried to his bucket.
* * * * * *
There were times when everything fell into place, when every note rang perfectly, when each verse was achingly in harmony, when both the musicians and the audience could forget their daily burdens and let the music carry them away for a brief time to a place where only peace and beauty existed. Tonight, as Emra and Maris played and sang in Quark’s bar before a tightly packed audience, Emra felt they’d achieved one of those times.
Emra let the last note from her instrument linger and mix with Maris’ voice, then broke it off cleanly at the precise moment her partner closed her mouth. The small crowd around them applauded enthusiastically; she nodded and smiled her thanks in reply. As her eyes wandered across the audience, she found Korin Bost staring intently at her. Their gazes locked for no more than an instant; he nodded once and melted back into the sea of bodies packed into Quark’s.
The Ferengi’s applause was louder than the crowd. “Wonderful, wonderful,” he exclaimed as they slid through the masses to his bar. As always, their drinks were waiting for them. Maris flipped the proprietor a coin in payment and ignored the little bastard’s leer as his eyes raked over their bodies. They turned their backs on Quark and stared out at the audience.
“Not bad,” Emra commented quietly.
Maris snorted. “Not bad? We were great, Sali. Even that song you wrote for Korin’s cronies wasn’t bad. Pity they’ll forget all about this tonight when they see us go to bed. Then they’ll go back to despising us.”
“I’ve told you before, Toran, we can’t change them any more than they can us,” Emra reminded her with a gentle smile. She rested her hand on Maris’ for just an instant, but the touch was enough to calm her lover. Then Emra made a face as she recognized an approaching face. “Oh, damn. Here comes Prylar Dailyn.”
“Play hard to get,” Maris teased, then immediately sobered up at the arrival of the priest. The somber Prylar strolled up to them and smiled severely at the women. “The Prophets will be pleased with your performance tonight, Maris Toran.” As an afterthought, she said, “Yours too, Emra Sali.”
“Thank you, Prylar,” Maris said with just enough respect to make it seem genuine.
It seemed enough for the priest. “I only wish that you would honor the Prophets in your daily lives as you do in your singing,” she continued sternly.
Emra sighed softly and looked away so that the holy woman couldn’t see her rolling her eyes; Maris, however, smiled sweetly. “With all due respect, Prylar,” she said, “I think the Prophets are busy enough these days. I doubt they care much about what Sali and I do in our private time.”
Prylar Dailyn frowned. “The Prophets watch over us always,” she reminded them, much as a teacher would speak to a wayward pupil. “All our words, all our thoughts, all our actions are seen and judged by Them. There is no ‘private time’ in Their eyes.”
Maris made a face. “Well, if the Prophets are so damn interested in our well-being, why are the Cardassians still here?” she declared a bit too loudly. A sudden hush fell over the bar, and Maris felt her face grow crimson under the scrutiny of everyone present. But she straightened her posture and continued to meet the Prylar’s disapproving glare with a calm, confident expression.
The religious leader looked positively discomfited. She struggled a moment or two to format a reply that normally would have rolled off her tongue—it was a question that had been asked thousands of times before. “We...perhaps the Prophets are teaching us a lesson in humility, in response to our arrogance and pride in flaunting our sins before them,” she finally spat. “While They would wish us no harm, we have been evil in Their sight and must be cleansed of our iniquities before we can return to the safety of Their grace.”
Maris rolled her eyes and prepared to reply, but Emra’s hand on her arm made her pause. “Prylar, I’m sorry if our relationship offends you,” she said quietly. “However, I would agree with Toran that there are far more important things for the Prophets...and yourself...to attend to.” The priestess started to say something, but Emra shook her head. “If you’ll excuse us, we both have to rise early tomorrow—to attend morning services before we start our work shift. Walk with the Prophets, Prylar Dailyn.” She hurried away before anything else could be said, all but dragging Maris with her.
“You let her make us look like trash,” Maris hissed when they’d reached the tiny, walled-off cubicle that served as their home. “She is so damned narrow-minded...”
“You can’t condemn Dailyn for what she believes,” Emra replied calmly as she undressed. “Nor can you make her accept something when her mind is shut tighter than a Cardassian’s...”
“All right, all right,” Maris sighed. She pulled her own clothing off and sat down beside the pile of blankets that served as their bed. “But I get so tired of the stares, the whispers...”
Emra smiled as she stood naked before her companion. “Am I worth it?”
Maris caught her breath as she drank in the sight of that slender, perfect body and felt the sweet, familiar ache in her heart that had been there since the day they’d met. “ Do you have to ask?” she whispered.
“That’s not an answer,” Emra teased.
Maris’ sigh drifted through the dark room. “Yes. Yes, Sali, you’re worth it. I love you.”
Emra laughed quietly and turned off the only light in the tiny space. “And I love you. Good night, Toran.”
* * * * * * *
When Odo emerged from his bucket some time later, he found a message from Bashir asking him to come to the Infirmary as soon as possible. The physician looked exhausted and scruffy, but triumphant. “Mind you, it’s far less than I’d like to give you,” he said as he guided Odo into the back room commonly used as the station morgue. “But it’s far more than we had at the beginning.” He nodded at the two skeletons lying side-by-side on a large table. “I used DNA matching to put the pieces together—sort of like cheating on a jigsaw puzzle.” He handed Odo a PADD. “There’s this as well.”
“What’s this?” the constable asked, activating the device. To his surprise, two faces appeared on the small screen. One had short red hair, the other black. As he watched, the length of the hair around each face grew in length and texture. A moment later, the faces themselves began to fill out, going from skinny to plump and back again.
Bashir watched the program with pride clearly etched on his tired features. “Palig and I were able to match hair follicles to each body—again, with DNA traces. The taller woman had dark hair, the other, the one with the head trauma, was a redhead. Now, that still isn’t much to go on, but Lieutenant Corey dropped by an hour ago and suggested another tactic—computerized facial reproduction. Starfleet Security uses this whenever they’re pursuing suspects. Quite useful, don’t you think?”
“Indeed.” This was promising; people tended to connect faces with names, even with the clouding of memory over time. “Thank you, Doctor.”
“Well, I was hoping it would be of assistance.” He looked over at the skeletons and yawned. “I’ll have these placed in storage; perhaps, when this is over, we can find a place to bury them properly. But for now, I’m going to bed.”
“Thank you,” Odo said distantly, his gaze still fixed on the ever-shifting faces on the PADD. Bashir watched him leave the Infirmary, then smiled and shook his head as he headed for his quarters and a long-overdue night’s sleep.
* * * * *
Quark was already awake and bustling around his bar, even though it wouldn’t be open for several hours yet. “The forty-third Rule of Acquisition clearly states, ‘Late to bed and early to rise makes a Ferengi’s profits rise’,” he informed Odo as he double-checked Rom’s restocking efforts. “Now, what can I do for you, Odo, provided it doesn’t get me arrested?”
Odo handed him the PADD. “Do these faces look familiar to you?”
The Ferengi studied the ever-morphing images for some time, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he watched the parade of faces. Then he reached down and froze one of the holographs, then the other a moment later. “I can’t be sure,” he said as he handed the PADD back to Odo. “But these two do remind me of an incident some time back.”
“How far back?” Odo pressed.
Quark poured himself a drink and sipped at it, smacking his lips in appreciation. “Let’s see. It was before you arrived...” He looked up and snapped his fingers. “About ten years ago—right around the Purge. They were Kohn-Ma.”
The constable frowned. “What?”
The barkeep leaned forward conspiratorially; suppressing his distaste, Odo followed suit. “They used to pass messages to the other terrorists working here,” the Ferengi said quietly. “They would sing in here one evening, and a day or so later...things...would happen.” He took another sip from his glass. “Anyway, someone informed on them—and before you ask, it wasn’t me—and the Cardassians took them in for questioning. Word was that they died while in custody.”
The shapeshifter said nothing as he struggled to place this piece of information in the puzzle. It was all very plausible, but...again...why hide the bodies? Cardassian policy was to display the bodies of traitors in a very public place for two days. It didn’t make sense.
“I guess they must have told the Cardassians quite a bit,” Quark said as he finished his drink, “because the Purge began a day or so later.” The Ferengi shook his head sadly. “One of the Bajorans killed was a man named Korin Bost. He was passing information to both sides. Messy business, but very profitable.” The Ferengi grinned, baring his jagged teeth.
Odo’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. “You managed to remember his name, I note.”
The Ferengi waved the unspoken accusation off. “We did business together. It was...profitable.”
Odo grunted and snatched the PADD back from Quark. “If I have any more questions, I’ll let you know.”
Quark laughed as he watched the constable leave. “Any time. Sterling citizen Quark, that’s me....”
* * * * *
That night, Terok Nor trembled as a carefully-set sequence of explosives roared across the outer ring. Cardassians and Bajorans unfortunate enough to be working in that area at the time were slaughtered, their bodies dancing lifelessly in the vacuum outside the station. While the survivors struggled to seal off the damaged sections, the Cardassian Elite Guard deployed throughout the battered station in search of those responsible...or those who could tell them who the responsible parties were.
Korin Bost was in the Temple that night, ostensibly to meditate, but in truth he desperately wanted to witness the event he had assisted in making come to pass. He smiled as everything had lurched wildly about, savoring every instant of the experience. His friends in the Kohn-Ma had done their work well, which would in turn reflect well on him.
He left the temple a few minutes later and scurried toward his living area when one of the guards spotted him. “Korin!” he bellowed. The Bajoran paused and looked around quickly for a place to hide, but before he could act on his intentions the guard was there, slamming him into the wall with a hard thump.
“Korin,” the guard repeated, hissing into the terrified man’s face. “Who did it?”
“What?” Korin squeaked.
“Who...did...it? Names, Korin. I want the names of those responsible. Either willingly...or we can take you in for interrogation.”
Korin trembled. Unless he thought fast, they were going to take him in and find out just how extensive his ties to the Kohn-Ma were. And then they’d realize that he’d been feeding information to both sides. It had been a way to survive this wretched existence, providing the terrorists with critical information for their schemes, while giving the Cardassians just enough information to maintain a delicate status quo and provide him with a few precious privileges. But now...all would be lost unless he thought quickly.
Names, he thought. Names of people who wouldn’t be missed, who didn’t know enough to matter, names that would satisfy the Cardassians and keep him alive. He had to think of names. The problem was, he didn’t really know any Kohn-Ma agents aboard the station; all of his contacts were planet side. It was a way to keep the cell safe, one that irritated Korin no end, because the information could have come in handy at times...like now, for example.
And suddenly, just like that, two names—two perfect names—popped into place.
“Maris Toran,” he whispered. “Emra Sali.”
The guard waited for more information; when none was forthcoming, he let Korin fall to the floor and left, followed by his comrades. Korin closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, thanking the Prophets that They’d heard his plea and saved his life. It was a shame that he was going to lose two excellent resources, but it was a hard, cruel world, and his life was far more valuable a commodity than theirs.
He rose to his feet and resumed his walk home, musing on what to do next. Undoubtedly Maris and Emra would be retrieved and questioned, and when the Cardassians came back wanting to know why that line of inquiry hit a dead end, Korin could honestly say that everything he’d heard implied that they were involved with the Kohn-Ma; it wasn’t his fault that the rumors were false, was it?
Korin smiled and nodded to himself happily as he reached the door to his living area. A good thing he was gifted with the ability to think on his feet; the Cardassians would be occupied questioning the women, giving the Kohn-Ma time to cover their tracks and Korin time to come up with a way to stall the inquiries further. He might not even have to do that, he mused as he found his bedroll and spread it out across the cold metal floor. After all, the only Kohn-Ma agent Maris and Toran knew was...
Korin Bost’s smile abruptly faded.
* * * * *
Vedek Bareil and Kira were waiting for Odo in his office. The Bajoran priest smiled warmly. “I understand you need to speak with me, Constable?”
“Yes. I’m investigating a murder committed about ten years ago that recently came to light. Do you know of any priests who might have survived the Terok Nor Purge? I thought perhaps that the Cardassians might have spared them, due to their special status within the Bajoran community...”
Bareil smiled and shook his head. “Long before my time, I’m afraid. But,” he added as he turned toward Kira, “if I might borrow a terminal...” A lovely Starfleet lieutenant—Corey’s wife, Paula—smiled brightly and stood up from her desk. The Vedek thanked her as he sat in her chair. “Nerys, I should be able to connect with the Temple Archives from here, shouldn’t I?”
Kira moved to just behind Bareil and, leaning over, typed in a few access codes. “I think so. Assuming the linkups are working, of course.” Apparently they were, because in minutes row upon row of data was scrolling down the main screen. “Ah, here we are,” he said happily. “I thought she was still alive, though in seclusion.” He looked up at the Constable. “Vedek Dailyn served here as a Prylar ten years ago. She’s currently living at the Sanjeho Monastery in the Southern Continent.”
Odo nodded. “My thanks for your time and your assistance, Vedek.”
As Bareil and Kira were leaving, the Major paused and sidled up to Odo. “I know you’re interested in finding out the truth about those bodies,” she said quietly. “I can understand that. It’s highly commendable.” Then her features hardened. “But don’t you ever...ever...interrupt my personal time with Bareil unless the damned station is falling apart under us...and maybe not even then! Got that, Odo?” The shapeshifter was at a loss to reply, so he simply nodded. Kira smiled tightly and hurried off to rejoin the Vedek.
Odo turned around and found Corey’s wife standing beside him, staring intently at the retreating form of the Vedek and sighing. “Mmm-mmm! Vedek Hunk! Yowza...” He gave her a curt glare and cleared his throat for emphasis; grinning, she walked gracefully back to her desk and sat down.
Paula Corey, Starfleet lieutenant (jg), was a striking young woman, blessed with considerable beauty and a perpetual grin on her face. Odo had heard many of the men aboard DS9, both single and married, cursing Corey’s luck in winning her. For his part, Odo found her work competent and her personality tolerable, though her sense of humor was constantly puzzling him. And there was the mild irritant of calling for ‘Lieutenant Corey’ and getting two replies...
At the moment her fingers were flying across her console. Seconds later, she handed Odo a PADD, and as he read it he was pleased to find it contained Vedek Dailyn’s biographical data. “I thought you’d like as much information as possible before you talked to her,” she explained as he read. “So when I noticed Vedek Bareil had forgotten to shut down the link, I made some quick inquiries. Oh, and Sir reserved the Orinoco for you, just in case you needed it.”
Odo absently slapped the PADD against his palm as he pondered his next move. “This will prove very useful, Lieutenant. Did...” Odo almost caught himself calling her husband ‘Sir’. “Is there anything new with the database search?”
“Sir left it on automatic,” she replied. “I check on it every fifteen minutes to make sure everything’s running.” She made a face. “You’re aware that a lot of names are coming up...?”
“I’m sorry to say I am.” Odo paused in his reading and glanced up at the pretty young woman. From the time she and her husband had arrived at DS9, he’d observed something strange in their relationship that had piqued his curiosity. But as they were rarely seen apart, he’d never been able to say anything—until now. “Lieutenant, if I might ask...”
“I’ve never heard you address your husband by his name. It’s always ‘Sir’. That’s.... highly unusual behavior in a married couple, in my experience. I was...curious...”
She grinned. “Well, he is my superior officer.” She tapped the pips which marked her as a junior lieutenant, as opposed to her husband’s senior status. “And besides,” she added with a saucy wink, “it drives him nuts.”
Odo frowned and studied the young woman for a long time before nodding slowly. “Very well,” he finally said. “I’ll probably be on Bajor for most of the day. You and your...” He almost did it again! “...Husband are in charge until I return.”
“We’ll manage,” she said brightly as the doors shut behind him.
* * * * *
The white glare of a flashlight blinded Emra before she could react to the heavy footsteps storming their tiny cubicle. Cold, muscular hands pressed hard against her arms and hauled her roughly to her feet as she struggled to rouse herself from her slumber. A cry of surprise slipped out of her mouth and was silenced with the slap of someone’s palm.
“You are Emra Sali?” said a voice from the other side of the light. Too shaken to reply, Emra simply nodded. She wondered if Toran was still here; a moment later, a Cardassian yelped with surprise and pain, and the scuffling from nearby told Emra her lover most certainly was there.
Emra could just barely glimpse the outlines of figures beyond the light—thick, solid shapes with rough-edged angles to them. Cardassians, of course. A hand shot out from behind the blinding beam of light and wrapped itself around her chin. “Where were you today and this evening?” the cold voice demanded.
“I...worked on level fourteen,” she said with a quavering voice. “The new living quarters. Was at...Quark’s...tonight...”
Now a pair of eyes, red and menacing, emerged from the blackness. “There was an explosion on level fourteen an hour ago. Our sources tell us you and your friend are connected to one of the terrorist groups—that you pass them messages.” Without warning Emra was slammed backwards into the wall, the hand still crushing her face. “You will tell me everything you know about the explosion and the Kohn-Ma, or I will kill your lover...slowly...before your eyes.”
Maris suddenly cried out, but the noise was quickly muffled. Emra’s head swam dizzily. She couldn’t think, couldn’t react—every inch of her brain was paralyzed with terror and shock. “No ... nothing,” she gasped, crying out as the hand squeezed even tighter. “I don’t know anything! I swear! Please! Don’t...”
Suddenly Emra was airborne, slamming into the cold metal surface of the far wall and sinking dizzily to the floor. She could barely hear Maris howl in fury as two guards picked the semiconscious woman up and dragged her out of the room.
When Emra came to, she found herself in a security cell. Two Cardassians were holding a bloody and bruised Maris between them. They abruptly let her go, and Emra winced as her lover hit the floor with a limp splat.
The security officer who’d questioned her earlier walked over and leaned into her face, his eyes and teeth glittering dangerously. “You,” he said slowly and distinctly, “are next.” Emra was too stunned to even fight as they dragged her away.
* * * * *
Odo gazed out the second-story window of the temple and studied the mid-afternoon scene. The Sanjeho Monastery had suffered greatly during the Cardassian occupation; everything bore the charcoal scars of fires and bombings, and here and there lay rubble where buildings had once stood. But the priests continued to work with the same easy patience that had gotten them through the hard times as they rebuilt their homes and nurtured the precious life that sprung hesitantly from the battered ground.
“May I help you?” The constable turned to regard the woman coming towards him. Middle-aged, her hair a mixture of brown and silver, a bit hardened from her own private ordeals, but still attractive—or so Odo supposed. He could never be quite sure of male standards of beauty. She leaned heavily on a cane as she walked.
Odo cleared his throat and bowed slightly in respect to the woman’s title. “Vedek Dailyn?”
She smiled and nodded. “And you must be Odo. I received your message.” The Vedek nodded toward a nearby bench. “Would you mind if I sat down?”
“Not at all.” He offered a hand to assist her, but she gently shook it off and made the short walk herself, sitting down with a soft sigh. “Vedek,” he said, still standing, “I was hoping you could assist me in an investigation concerning an incident that took place aboard the station ten years ago.”
Vedek Dailyn winced slightly. “The Purge.”
“Around that time, yes.”
“The few of us who survived would prefer to forget those days. I received this,” she patted her lame leg, “during my interrogation.”
“I’m sorry,” Odo said sincerely.
She shook her head. “It is not for us to question the Will of the Prophets. Blessings and trials are Theirs to give as They see fit. I live. It is far more than many others could say.” She looked up and smiled. “But you said you wished my assistance?”
“Yes,” Odo said. He handed her Bashir’s PADD. “Could you possibly identify these two women?”
The Vedek studied the faces for a long time, frowning as she concentrated. Then her features brightened, and she looked up at him with a smile. “It’s been a long time, but I believe I knew these women. Their names were Maris Toran and Emra Sali. Why do you ask?”
“I have reason to believe they were murdered,” Odo told her.
Vedek Dailyn nodded in apparent understanding. “During the Purge, you mean. The Cardassians were brutally thorough...”
“Actually,” the constable interrupted, “the possibility exists that they were murdered by Bajorans.”
“Really?” the Vedek said, surprised. Then she considered the idea, and nodded. “Though that is not inconceivable, upon reflection. Maris and Emra had many enemies.”
Odo sat down beside the Vedek. “Go on.”
She bit her lip and thought. “Well, it was generally known that they were connected to the Kohn-Ma. They were often seen with a little man who passed information back and forth through the terrorist groups...what was his name...” She bit her lip and concentrated. “I’m sorry,” she said a moment later. “It escapes me.”
“That’s quite all right,” Odo said. Privately, he could not believe his luck. He’d put little faith in Bashir’s toy, but the gambit had paid off. “Was there any other reason why someone might want to kill them, Vedek?”
“Well...” The Vedek suddenly looked uncomfortable. “This is not an easy thing to say, but...you see...these two women were...lovers.”
Politeness kept Odo from saying “So?” but it was clearly written on his face.
“Many of the people working at the station were devout followers of the Prophets. There were those who believe such...actions...were an abomination in Their eyes.” One didn’t have to be a Betazoid to see that Dailyn was still one of those believers. “They certainly weren’t blatant about it, but neither were they terribly discreet. In fact, they were given a small cubicle within their common quarters so that they could...carry on...without anyone really noticing. I’m sure you can understand.”
Odo couldn’t, frankly, but again politeness won out. “So a very conservative believer might...take action...against them, thinking they were doing the Will of the Prophets.”
“Possibly.” The Vedek gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. “Those were very dangerous times, you know. There were so many who believed they’d been given the true calling, and heeded the voices in their paghs.” She shook her head and shrugged slightly. “I remember the last night I saw them...they had performed at the bar where we gathered at the end of the day. Oh, Emra had such a voice...” She sighed, then brought her mind back to the present. “That night there was an explosion on one of the levels that we had been remodeling—the Cardassians needed additional living quarters for a new troop garrison. I think that they were taken into custody and interrogated that same night.” She smiled apologetically. “Beyond that...I cannot say. They were never seen again.”
Odo nodded. “Thank you very much for your time and help, Vedek Dailyn. I won’t keep you from your duties any longer. If you should remember anything else about these women...”
She nodded, smiling. “I shall contact you immediately.”
“Thank you again.” He started to leave, but paused and turned around at the doorway. “One thing, Vedek. If I might ask...”
She looked up. “Yes?”
“You referred to the Kohn-Ma as ‘terrorists’. Most Bajorans supported the actions of the resistance groups during the Occupation.”
Vedek Dailyn frowned slightly. “The actions of those ‘freedom fighters’ cost innocent people dearly in a number of ways. Violence always results in sorrow. It is not the way of the Prophets.”
“I see.” Odo pondered this for a moment, then nodded. “Again, my thanks.” He tapped his commbadge and ordered the computer to beam him up to the waiting runabout.
* * * * *
Korin Bost hurried down the dimly lit corridor, scurrying from shadow to shadow and constantly glancing over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being followed. Out of habit, he paused from time to time whenever groups of Cardassian guards passed by, listening intently to see if his name was being mentioned, and if so, under what circumstances.
“Damn, damn, damn...” Korin raced to Emra and Maris’ living area, only to find out that they’d been moved to a safe place the instant the Cardassians had brought them back. Thinking quickly, the little man determined four possible hideaways, and hurried toward the first of them. He had to find them. He had to learn how much they’d told the Cardassians.
He had to get away.
* * * * * *
As the airlock door slowly rumbled to one side, Odo found Lieutenant Corey (a/k/a “Sir”) waiting for him. The Starfleet officer smiled as he handed the shapeshifter a PADD. “I ran those names you gave me through the database and got two positive matches.” Sure enough, the identification images were fairly close to Bashir’s reconstructions. “I’ve still got the program going, though, just in case,” Corey added.
“Were you able to get any other information about them?” Odo asked as he scrolled through the information.
“Just work detail records and personal information. Interesting thing is that they turned up missing two days before the Purge began. That gives us a time frame as to when the murders occurred.”
“What about Quark?”
“I ran the names by him; he shrugged and said they meant nothing to him.” Corey noticed the lack of enthusiasm on Odo’s features and smiled slightly. “Hey, it’s more than what we started with. Every little piece of information helps.”
“True,” Odo agreed, “but it tells nothing about who might have killed them.”
“Interview didn’t go well?”
“Apparently Maris Toran and Emra Sali were lovers, and that offended a number of people, including the Vedek.” Odo shook his head. “Why you humanoids place so much emphasis on coupling—where, when, with whom—is beyond me.”
Corey smiled tiredly and shrugged. “So it’s entirely possible that their murderer—or murderers—might have gotten killed themselves during the Purge. Assuming, of course, the Cardassians didn’t kill them.” He laughed softly. “For every answer we get, four more questions take their place.”
Just as Odo was about to reply, Kira came running up, a bright smile on her face. “Odo...I just heard from an old friend who has contacts with the Kohn-Ma. They’ve found someone who survived the Purge—and they’re sending her up here to talk to you!”
“That’s excellent news, Major. My interview with the Vedek may have given us the names of the deceased.” He handed her Corey’s PADD.
Kira raced through the data. “Interesting. So now what?”
The trio had reached the security office. “I’ll talk to Quark again and see if I can jog his selective memory a bit more,” Odo said as the doors slid open to let them in. “And I’ll certainly want to talk to this Kohn-Ma agent. Her testimony might help. But still...” He paused abruptly as he noticed the crowd in his office.
Corey’s wife was returning from the replicator with a cup of tea, which she handed to a silver-haired woman seated by Odo’s desk. Beside her stood Rulen Boj; it was obvious with a glance that the two were closely related. The woman looked up and smiled at Odo.
“Odo,” Paula Corey said brightly, “I’d like you to meet Rulen Fai.”
* * * * *
Funny how pain could become a constant companion, almost a friend. The steady throbbing through her body was a reminder that she was still alive...barely. Maris Toran attempted to open her eyes and immediately regretted it as light from overhead pierced her vision. She croaked a meek protest and feebly moved an arm to shield her eyes from the glare.
“Easy.” A hand appeared from nowhere to eclipse the harsh white light, and seconds later the lights dimmed considerably. “Easy,” repeated the voice. “You’re all right now. You’re safe.”
“She’s here. She’s alive. It’s all right, Toran. Rest.”
Emra was here. Maris grasped onto the thought like a life preserver, letting it carry her through the pain that racked her body. Emra was here, and she was alive. Maris knew that she really ought to find out where they were, and who was talking to her, and what was going to happen, but somehow all that seemed so damned silly and insignificant at the moment. Her body hurt. Her head hurt. Thinking hurt.
Well, there was one way to get around that. Maris Toran sighed and let herself drift back into sweet oblivion.
* * * * *
Odo nodded to the silver-haired woman sitting in the chair. “I appreciate your coming.” He glanced over at Rulen Boj. “And thank you for contacting your mother.”
The boy looked confused. “But…”
“He didn’t call me,” Rulen Fai retorted, glaring at her son. “He never calls.” She was rewarded with a deep blush on the young man’s face, and nodded in satisfaction. “No, Constable,” she continued. “I’m here in response to Major Kira’s request.”
Kira tilted her head, confused. “I’m sorry?”
Rulen Fai smiled. “Mutual friends, shall we say?” Kira’s eyes widened, and even Odo was momentarily taken aback by the woman’s implication. From the look on the son’s face, his mother’s past was news to him as well.
“You’re the Kohn-Ma agent?” Kira finally said, more than a bit of skepticism in her voice.
“Typical Shakaar arrogance,” Rulen Fai laughed. “Not everyone in the resistance was a gun-toting, bomb-lobbing fanatic, you know. We all did our duty—I worked in the kitchens here.” She smiled thoughtfully. “You know, I’ll bet the Cardassians are still wondering how so many of the soldiers on Terok Nor developed neurological disorders, not to mention impotency...”
“Biochemical agents,” Kira said slowly. “We’d heard rumors about that sort of thing...”
“All true. Oh, before we go any further,” the older woman continued, “I just wanted to inform you that not all of us were displeased by what happened to Tahna Los. The little turd had it coming, you ask me.”
“Th-thank you,” Kira stammered.
“Now then,” Rulen Fai continued to Odo. “You had questions about Emra Sali and Maris Toran?”
* * * * *
Maris Toran awoke some time later to the sounds of a fierce argument going on nearby. “But I have to talk to them! It’s vital!” screeched Korin Bost frantically.
Rulen Fai remained where she was, blocking the doorway with her swollen body. “Not until they’re better. And if you tell anyone where they are, I will make sure the Cardassians find out who the real courier was.”
Korin paled. “You wouldn’t,” he gasped. “You couldn’t.”
“I make their lunch every day,” she replied evenly. “It’d be so easy to slip a little note onto someone’s plate. No one would ever know who sent it. Or,” she said after reflection, “I could tell the Kohn-Ma that you’re passing information on to the Cardassians. That wouldn’t go over well, either. Or I could do both, and let them fight over who gets to kill you.”
“But I didn’t...”
Rulen stared hard at him. “Then why were Emra and Maris taken in for interrogation? Who told the Cardassians about them, Korin? Who knew besides you? The Kohn-Ma doesn’t betray those under their protection.” She glared menacingly at the little man. “Get the hell out of here, Korin. Hide somewhere and keep your mouth shut, and we’ll see what we can do about you after this has all settled down.” Korin Bost gave her one last terrified look, then hurried down the corridor. Rulen watched at the door until she was sure he was gone, then shut and locked it behind her before returning to where Maris lay. “Ah, awake again,” she said quietly.
“You’re Kohn-Ma,” Maris said softly. The act of speaking made her throat burn unbearably.
Rulen nodded. “And we take care of our own.”
“But we aren’t...”
Rulen shushed her by giving a glass of water to sip. “You’ve risked your lives for us. Everyone thinks you’re with us. We’ll overlook why you’ve aided us and make you honorary members for the duration.”
The drink was icy cold, life to Maris’ parched throat. But it was so hard to stay awake... “Emra?”
“Sleeping. They were rougher on her than you, I’m afraid. I’ve given you both something to dull the pain, which is why your eyelids keep falling down over your eyes.” You could hear the amusement in her voice—so odd, that a brutal, heartless terrorist could laugh.
“I...” Maris began, then looked away. “I don’t remember if I told them anything,” she finally said.
“What could you tell them?” Rulen replied. “Your information came from Korin. The worst they’ll do is take Korin in for questioning.” The thought made her smile evilly. “I hope they grill him for a good, long time. We’ve had our suspicions about him for some time. That’s why he was never told the names of the Kohn-Ma aboard Terok Nor.”
“You’re in danger,” Maris sighed. She could feel herself losing the struggle to stay awake.
“For a little while,” Rulen said. “I was leaving for Bajor in a day or so anyway.” She patted her stomach. “I haven’t seen my son in ages—he’s about to find out he’s going to be a big brother.” She went over and checked on Emra, then came back. “Look at it this way. If you had said something, Korin would be in interrogation right now, squealing like a palukoo in heat. He’s not—not yet.
“Anyway,” she concluded, “you two are going back to Bajor with me. We’ll take you underground for a while, give you time to heal. If you want, we could help you settle somewhere quiet, where the Cardassians won’t bother you. Or you could join us for real.”
“I just want to be away from here,” the red-haired woman said softly as she lay back down. “I’m so tired....”
“Rest,” Rulen ordered. “You’re in one of the temple meditation rooms—even the Cardassian Elite Guard would think twice before storming in here. We’re making arrangements to get you off the station even now. Go back to sleep, and hopefully when you wake up again, we’ll be on our way to Bajor.” Maris nodded, suddenly unable to hold back the wave of exhaustion that kept pounding at her body. She closed her eyes and was asleep within instants.
* * * * *
Odo was still off-balance by the woman’s easy way of dropping bombshells, but he managed to maintain some sense of professionalism. “You’re correct,” he said to Rulen Fai. “We have reason to believe they were murdered ten years ago...”
“I’d wondered what had happened to them,” she said quietly. “I’d hoped that someone had managed to smuggle them down to Bajor, but no one seemed to know anything. As time passed without any word, I feared that someone—Cardassian or Bajoran—had found them and killed them.”
“Why would a Bajoran want to kill them?” Paula Corey questioned.
“They were lovers,” the woman replied. “Not very secretive about it, either. That didn’t sit too well with the more conservative people on the station, especially Prylar Dailyn. Drove her nuts to see them together. She often claimed that the Prophets would punish them for being so open about their sinning.” The older woman smiled slightly. “Maris used to get extremely blatant about it just to watch the Prylar’s reaction.”
“Yes,” Odo nodded thoughtfully. “I spoke with Vedek Dailyn a short time ago.”
Rulen Fai’s eyebrow rose sharply. “She made Vedek? Hmph.” She shrugged and continued her tale. “Anyway, most people didn’t care what they did together, so long as they weren’t doing it in front of everyone, but there were those who found it highly offensive and would have happy delivered ‘the judgment of the Prophets’, so to speak. So we gave them protection, and in return they occasionally helped us out.”
“So were they Kohn-Ma?” Kira asked.
“No. They had no interest in the resistance whatsoever. But they occasionally passed messages to those of us on the station. You see, every evening the workers would meet at the station bar and unwind. Those of us with some talent for entertainment would perform. Emra and Maris would sometimes sing...oh, they had harmonies that could make the Prophets weep.” She sighed wistfully at the memory. “Every so often they would pass coded messages to us through their songs to let us know what the next sabotage targets would be. In return, we let it get around that they were under our protection, and that smart people would leave them be.”
“Vedek Dailyn said that they were often seen with a man who received the messages from the Kohn-Ma on Bajor,” Odo said.
“Oh yes. His name was Korin Bost,” she spat disdainfully. “Little bastard. We suspected he was supplying information for both sides, but we never could prove it. He got hauled in right after Maris and Emra were questioned, and we’ve always suspected that he told the Cardassians everything he knew, because the Purge began a day or so later.”
“Perhaps they implicated him during their interrogations,” Odo suggested.
“Perhaps,” Rulen Fai replied, “but I doubt it. There was a gap of a day or so between their arrest and his. Had they said anything to the Cardassians about him, he would have been arrested immediately. Anyway, after Maris and Emra had been released, we grabbed them and hid them in the temple—it was one of the few places where the Cardassians were uneasy about going into. I stayed with them and tended their injuries as best we could. Eventually, we were going to smuggle them down to Bajor.
“Unfortunately, I was very pregnant at the time, and I went into what we thought was labor—ended up being a false alarm, but I couldn’t take chances. I had to return to my quarters and let someone else take care of them. When I returned, Maris and Emra were gone. I never really knew what had happened to them until now.”
“Wait,” Odo said suddenly. “You said you hid them in the temple...”
“Yes,” Rulen Fai nodded. “It was one of the few safe places we had. Dailyn didn’t like us using it, but she liked the Cardassians even less.”
“Did Vedek Dailyn know that you’d hidden Maris Toran and Emra Sali within the temple?” Odo pressed.
“Of course she did. When I had my false labor, she offered to stand watch until my scheduled relief arrived.” The former terrorist sighed. “And then all the craziness started, with the Cardassians killing Bajorans right and left. My friends smuggled a few others and me in an ore carrier that was heading to Bajor. I never found out what happened to Maris and Emra...until now...” her voice drifted off as she stared sadly at Odo.
But the shapeshifter’s mind was racing as it juggled various pieces of information together. “Major,” he said quietly, “could you obtain a runabout for us? I believe I need to return to Bajor.” Kira nodded and hurried out of the room. “Madam,” Odo said to Rulen Fai. “Would you by any chance be able to join me on a second visit with Vedek Dailyn...”
* * * * *
Rulen Fai winced as another round of contractions rumbled through her body. “No,” she gasped as her fists clenched into tiny balls. “Not yet...not yet...” When she felt a pair of strong hands on her shoulders offering support, she couldn’t decide whether she ought to be ashamed for not hearing the stranger come in, or thank the Prophets for bringing someone to her in this time of need.
“Easy,” the stranger said softly, and Rulen realized it was the Prylar. “Easy,” she repeated. “How far apart are the pains?”
“Not sure,” Rulen gasped. “They...come and go.”
“You need a midwife,” the priest said. “Let me bring someone to you.” She rose to her feet, but Rulen lunged forward and grabbed her robes. “No,” she said tightly. “Take me...to my quarters...get someone to watch here...”
Dailyn kneeled beside the pain-wracked woman. “You shouldn’t be moved unnecessarily, Rulen.”
“Korin Bost has been trying to sneak in here,” the pregnant woman said. “We need to keep them,” she nodded to where Maris and Emra lay, “safe and quiet. The more people who know they’re here, the less safe they...and you...are from the Cardassians.”
Dailyn considered this. “All right,” she said. “I’ll send someone to contact the midwife, and bring a few of my acolytes here to take you to her.”
“Oh damn!” Rulen swore as another wave of contractions started. “Who’ll...stand...watch...?”
“I will,” Prylar Dailyn said. “My work level was damaged in the blast. I’m off duty until further notice. I can stay with them until your relief arrives.”
Rulen Fai stared at the other woman for a long time. “This is unexpected, to say the least,” she finally said.
“Regardless of their sins, they are still children of the Prophets, and I am pledged to minister to them,” the priest said solemnly. “Now, let me make arrangements for you. I’ll be right back.” Under the circumstances, Rulen Fai had no choice but to nod her agreement, and so the Prylar hurried out; a few minutes later, two temple acolytes arrived with a litter. Rulen Fai was moved onto it, and to their credit the men managed to lift her up without grunting too loudly.
Prylar Dailyn was standing at the door. “I’ll take good care of them. Don’t worry.”
Rulen Fai nodded. “Thank you...”
“The Prophets bless and watch over you,” the priest said with a smile. The men carried the pregnant woman off; Prylar Dailyn watched them leave, then shut and locked the door to the chamber.
She stared at the sleeping women for some time, biting her lip as if locked in some feverish inner debate. Then she walked over to a chair, sat down, and began to read from a book of devotionals. But with every sigh, every soft moan that escaped Maris or Emra, Dailyn would look up and watch them for a seeming eternity. Her hands trembled and her breath quickened as she studied the slow rise and fall of their breasts.
Finally, she could stand it no longer. Dailyn rose and hurried over to a nearby table, where the remains of Rulen Fai’s lunch sat. She picked up a meat knife and absently wiped it clean with a slightly soiled napkin. Then she slowly walked over to where Emra Sali lay sleeping, and knelt down...
* * * * *
Vedek Dailyn smiled as she limped into the room where Odo and Kira waited. “I received your message,” she said as she sat down. “I take it you have more questions?”
“You might say that,” he nodded. “This is Major Kira. She’s assisting me in this investigation.”
“Vedek,” Kira noted quietly, bowing her head in respect.
“Greetings in the name of the Prophets,” the Vedek replied, accepting the gesture. “Now then, what might I do for you?”
“Vedek,” the constable said, “you had said the last time you’d seen Maris Toran and Emra Sali alive was the night they’d sung at the bar?”
“Yes, that’s correct. It was one of their finest performances, especially Sali’s. Her voice could touch the Celestial Temple...” She sighed at the memory.
“You’re quite sure it was that night?” He hated phrasing the question that way; it was a wide-open warning to the Vedek that he’d found an inconsistency in her statement, but there was no other way around it. But Dailyn simply nodded in agreement. Odo glanced over at Kira, who went back to the main entrance and whispered something through the doorway.
She returned a moment later with Rulen Fai. The Vedek and the former terrorist stared at each other for a long time.
“Do you know this woman?” Odo asked.
Vedek Dailyn was trembling slightly. “Yes. It’s been a long time, Rulen Fai,” she said quietly. “I feared the Cardassians had killed you as well.”
“Feared?” Odo asked. “Or hoped?” His gaze burned into the eyes of the Vedek for the longest time.
Vedek Dailyn looked away and began to weep.
* * * * *
For a time, the only sound in the room was that of Vedek Dailyn weeping. Her shoulders shook as sobs racked her thin body. Odo, Kira and Rulen Fai stood like statues in the atrium, each feeling distinctly self-conscious and unsure of what to do. So they simply chose to wait until the Vedek had regained some semblance of composure.
“So,” she said through her tears, “you know.”
“Yes,” Odo said. He didn’t add, I do now.
She sniffled and absently wiped her nose on a sleeve. “So many years I’ve lived with this,” she said tiredly. “Always wondering if anyone would ever find out...and now, it’s finally over. It’s all over at last.”
Rulen Fai’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “You killed them?” she said to the Vedek, as if unable to truly comprehend what she’d heard. “But why? Because they were lovers? Was that such a sin in your eyes that you had to kill them?”
Dailyn’s head flew up, tears streaming down her face. “No!” she cried out. “No! You don’t understand! It was an accident, I swear it was! I didn’t want to kill her...that was the last thing I wanted to do! Not Sali! I could never hurt her...but I had to do it. Maris left me no choice! Don’t you understand? I had to....” Her hands flew up to her face, and her body shook with the sobbing that erupted once more.
And the Vedek told them what had happened.
* * * * *
It was like trying to swim through molasses; Maris struggled to shake off the drugs that kept her in a stupor, but it was an uphill battle. Only the need to see Sali, to know that she was all right, kept her fighting toward consciousness. With a final burst of determination, Maris forced her eyelids to open and her body to roll over on its side. And she immediately wished that she hadn’t succeeded.
Prylar Dailyn was lying atop Emra, kissing the drugged woman passionately. One of the priest’s hands was hidden from view by a new hole in Sali’s tunic, but the outline around one breast made it perfectly clear what was going on. Sali struggled feebly against the other woman’s erotic advances—or was she responding in kind, thinking it was Maris who was touching her?
Did it matter?
Adrenalin and rage surged through Maris, enabling her to struggle to her knees and lunge forward. She slammed into Dailyn, shoving her off Emra and onto the floor. The women wrestled furiously with one another, but the priest was wide awake and not slowed by drugs in her body. With a loud grunt she managed to push Maris back into the small table, sending Rulen Fai’s lunch in all directions. But the redhead lunged forward again, and Dailyn screamed as Maris clawed and bit at her foe, refusing to give the woman an instant’s reprieve.
But luck quickly swung back in Dailyn’s direction as the priest managed to strike Maris square in the jaw. The redhead tumbled backwards; wild-eyed, Dailyn grabbed the fallen table by the legs and rose to her feet, towering over Maris. And then she brought the table down hard.
Maris’ scream ended at the precise moment of impact. It was accompanied by an odd noise that Dailyn couldn’t quite figure out the source of. But when she pulled the table up again, she saw the side of Maris’ head caved in, with a tiny trickle of blood seeping slowly out. Dailyn stood there for a few moments, staring at the body but unable to fully comprehend what had happened, then with a soft cry of agony she fell to the floor, weeping.
* * * * *
Kira gasped as realization set in. “You were in love with Emra Sali.”
“And she killed Maris Toran to have her all to herself.” Odo finished.
“No! It was an accident!” Vedek Dailyn cried. “I didn’t mean to kill her...I didn’t think she would wake up so soon. I knew it was wrong, a sin, but I wanted Sali...I wanted her so badly...I couldn’t help myself...and Maris woke up...and saw me...and attacked me...I didn’t mean to kill her, I didn’t...” Her voice vanished beneath a new avalanche of sobs and tears.
Odo moved over to where the Vedek sat crying and knelt down beside her. “So you killed Maris Toran—accidentally—in the mediation room. What happened next? How did the bodies get to level fourteen?”
It was a long time before the grief-stricken woman could reply. “I knew I had to get them out of the temple, quickly. If the Kohn-Ma discovered what had happened, I’d be killed.
“I looked up and saw Korin Bost standing there in the doorway...”
* * * * *
Korin Bost didn’t know what to think.
He’d seen Rulen Fai being carried away from the temple, and decided to risk a second attempt at talking to Maris and Emra. He had to know what the Cardassians had asked them, had to know if they’d told them about the Kohn-Ma’s sabotage. And most importantly, he needed to know if they’d given the Cardassians the name of their contact.
He’d slipped into the temple quiet as a mouse. It was a useful talent he’d acquired over the years, one that provided him a wealth of information on both Bajoran and Cardassian. And information, he knew, was power—enough power that each side protected him from the other. He had no love for either side, save for what they could do for him. Which, in the end, was the only thing that really mattered.
He hurried into the meditation hall and headed for the room where the two women were hidden. The lock was no problem to someone of his abilities; it clicked open after only ten minutes of prodding. Korin pushed the door open and peered inside.
Prylar Dailyn was lying on the floor, moaning softly to herself. There was a puddle of blood near the priest, surrounding... Korin gasped and quickly put his hand to his mouth, struggling to keep his lunch where it belonged.
And not too far away, Emra Sali lay sleeping, oblivious to what had happened.
He stood there for the longest time, unsure of what had happened, unsure of what to do--. There must have been a fight between Maris and the Prylar, and Dailyn had killed the other woman. Now only Emra Sali could tell him what he needed to know.
Suddenly he realized that Prylar Dailyn was calling to him. “Korin,” she called as she rose to her feet. “Korin...you must help me.”
It took a moment for him to find his voice and his wits. “Of course,” he said quickly, hurrying over to help the priest to her feet. “What can I do, Prylar?”
Prylar Dailyn concentrated. “We have to get them out of here...” She suddenly grasped his arm tightly. “Get one of the scrap carts—an empty one—and bring it here. Hurry!”
Korin scurried away to obey, his mind already racing with possible uses of this new information.
Minutes later, Prylar Dailyn and Korin rolled a large covered container out of the temple and down to level fourteen. But to the informant’s surprise, the priest went not to the site of the explosion, but instead to an area still under construction. No one was around; the Cardassians had ordered the area off-limits until their investigation was complete.
Dailyn motioned to one of the nearly complete cabins; she and Korin rolled the container through the door, but she abruptly turned and blocked his way. “Leave,” she ordered. “And say nothing to anyone about this.”
“But...but, Prylar...” he pleaded. “I’m already involved. I’m a witness! You need my help...”
With surprising speed and strength she grabbed the little man by the tunic and slammed him against the doorframe. “Not a word, Korin Bost, or I will bring the wrath of the Prophets...and the Cardassians...upon you!”
“You wouldn’t,” he squealed.
In reply, she slammed the door shut. Korin was just able to scramble out of the way before it would have hit him. He stared at the door for a few moments, then hurried back upstairs, wondering how long he should wait before telling the Kohn-Ma that the Prylar had killed the two singers. An hour, maybe two. Give the priest enough time to hide the bodies. Then he could bring them down here, show them the evidence, and that would take care of everyone who knew his dirty little secrets.
Prylar Dailyn was aware of Korin’s approaching treachery, but spared no thought on it—there wasn’t time. Working quickly, she stripped both women of their clothing and their jewelry, even their earrings. She bundled everything up into a ball and threw it into the container; it could be disposed of later. She looked down on Emra’s naked body and trembled as desire shot through her again. “Sali,” she said softly. “Sali, you are so beautiful...”
And to her horror, Emra Sali’s eyes flickered open. “What..” she murmured, struggling to bring her world into focus. She squinted at Dailyn in confusion for a moment or two, then gasped as she realized she was naked. “What...what’s going on?” she cried, scrambling into a sitting position and scooting backward...right into Maris’ body. She turned around, saw the ugly indentation in her lover’s head, and screamed. “TORAN!”
“No...Sali, you don’t understand,” Dailyn pleaded, but Emra could hear nothing but the sound of her screams. The priest panicked and, without thinking, grabbed a metal rod from the cluttered floor and slammed it into the terrified woman’s head. This time the blow did not kill, merely rended Emra Sali unconscious. Dailyn stood over her body, breathing heavily and struggling to regain control of her mind and body.
She turned her back on the bodies and hurried into the main bedroom. As she’d hoped, the main walls separating this room from the cabin next door were up; the shift that had worked just before the explosion had gotten that much finished. The closet area, however, had not yet been split in half, one for each bedroom. But the divider had been cut and was lying against the outside wall, waiting for installation. And there was plenty of additional sheet metal lying around, waiting for someone to load it and carry it off to the next set of rooms.
Prylar Dailyn laid one sheet on the floor, then positioned the divider so that it lay directly atop the larger sheet. She grabbed a nearby laser cutter—someone had been careless, leaving his or her tools around—and carefully created a second divider, using the first as an outline. Next she positioned and welded the first divider so that it was slightly off center by a meter or so, but not so obvious that it would be noticed. Then she set the second divider beside the closet opening and dragged Maris Toran’s body into the room, propping it up against the just-welded wall. And then she brought Emra into the room, placing her beside her dead lover.
Then she positioned the second divider so that it left just enough room for the bodies but didn’t look too out of place, and set to work...
Within minutes, it was done. All that remained was a bit of cleaning up of loose ends, and her terrible secret was safe forever.
* * * * *
Rulen Fai’s hand flew to her mouth. “Then Emra...was still alive...”
The priest nodded sadly. “I had no choice. She knew.”
“So what happened to Korin Bost?” Odo prodded as gently as he could.
The Vedek smiled—a twisted, haunted grimace; Kira shivered at the sight of that expression. “I turned him in to the Cardassians. I had to do it—he was the only person who could betray me to anyone. The Cardassians knew someone was the informer, and he was a leading suspect. I only told them the truth. They did the rest.”
“But surely he would have told them about you,” Odo argued.
Vedek Dailyn shrugged. “What would they care about two dead Bajorans?” She laughed harshly through her tears. “To be honest, when they came for me, I thought that Korin had told them what I’d done. It was why I accepted their torture without protest. I deserved it.” She buried her face in her hands and began to weep again.
Rulen Fai shook her head, sickened. “Korin must have told the Cardassians everything he knew. It’s probably why they began the Purge—to get rid of every Bajoran who might have any sort of connection to the terrorist attacks. We always wondered...”
Dailyn looked up at her. “I never meant for it to turn out like that...”
“That doesn’t do Maris, or Emra, or Korin, or all the innocents who died much good, does it?” Rulen Fai said quietly. She turned away and hurried out of the room before anyone could stop her.
Odo glanced over at Kira, who was clearly waiting for some indication of his next move. He cleared his throat and looked down at the Vedek, who was studying the intricate mosaics of the floor tiles. “Vedek Dailyn, you’ll need to come with me,” he said quietly.
She looked up at him. “It was an accident, you know. I loved her so much...”
Odo nodded. “I know.” There seemed nothing else to say.
* * * * *
Emra Sali and Maris Toran were buried together on a warm, sunny afternoon on the grounds of Vedek Bareil’s temple. The site was in the center of the garden closest to the main sanctuary, where the chants of the priests could clearly be heard. As the coffin containing their bones was lowered slowly into the ground, the legendary Varani played a sweet, poignant requiem on his old, battered instrument.
Kira stood beside Bareil, her eyes tightly focused on the horizon as she stood at attention. Bashir and Sisko were nearby, their faces solemn and respectful. Rulen Fai watched from the head of the grave, taking her place as honorary kin of the dead. And close enough to be a spectator but distant enough to be alone was Odo, his features impassive as he watched the ceremony.
Vedek Dailyn’s body had been found on the floor of her cell the previous day. Bashir had offered to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, but the Vedek Assembly had politely rejected his gesture. She had been buried on the grounds of the Sanjeho temple in a private ceremony—a ceremony much like the one going on now.
After the usual prayers and chants, Rulen Fai let a handful of dirt spill from her hand into the grave. “Walk with the Prophets, Maris Toran and Emra Sali,” she said softly.
Bareil took a second clod and squeezed it tightly, letting the soil trickle out of his hand and fall into the hole at his feet. “Walk with the Prophets,” he echoed. After the benediction, the small crowd drifted off to the main building...with one exception.
Odo stayed behind, watching the temple groundskeepers fill in the grave. When they’d finished, he stepped up to the mound and clasped his hands behind his back. Glancing around to make sure he was alone, he cleared his throat awkwardly and said, “It’s over. I found your killer and brought her to justice. You can rest now.”
He didn’t receive an answer; he hadn’t expected one.
Bowing slightly in one final gesture of respect, he turned and walked away, leaving only the sun, the breeze and the chanting of the priests to keep the dead company.