“Nerys, wake up.”
Someone was shaking her shoulder, trying to talk to her. Their voice sounded just like her Aunt Dassi's, which meant this must be a dream. Kira ignored it and went back to sleep.
“Nerys. Wake up.”
Firmer this time, more demanding. That voice had to be Aunt Dassi's. Only Aunt Dassi could spread a layer of 'do it right now' on her words like that. Then again, Kira heard her Aunt Dassi come out of her own mouth more times that she cared to admit. Father had always said she was just like his sister... Father...He was gone, just like Aunt Dassi...
Go back to sleep...
“Nerys! Get up, right now!”
Kira startled awake. Her eyes snapped open, and she sat up quickly, scrambling back on the bed. “What the—”
“Easy, Nerys. Don't be frightened.”
Kira blinked dumbly at the woman before her, shaking off the last of sleep. Disbelief rendered her silent. The bedside lamp had been turned on, and Kira could clearly see the woman's face. It was like looking in a mirror, though maybe a mirror from a few years ahead. The woman's eyes were the same deep brown as Kira's, but their edges had lines Kira's didn't, their expression careworn, weary. The woman's hair was longer, the body slimmer and sleeker, but the woman could still be Kira's twin. What woman could look so much like her, except her long-dead Aunt Dassi?
Yet why would Aunt Dassi be wearing a Starfleet uniform?
“Who are you?” Kira demanded.
“I'm you," the woman answered.
“What kind of answer is that?”
“A true one.”
“Bull,” Kira said, rubbing her eyes. Maybe she was still dreaming. “How could you be me? I'm me.”
“And so am I. I'm you, from the future.”
“Time travel, Nerys. I'm you, six years from now.”
Kira paused, looking hard at the woman, trying to find the lie. She didn't see it. It was possible that what the woman said was true, but dear Prophets, she hoped not. Kira hated temporal mechanics. Thinking about all of those potential paradoxes made her brain hurt, and if her future self from six years from now was in her quarters, waking her in the dead of night, it could only mean trouble.
“Okay,” Kira said. “Let's say that's true, and you are me. Why are you here?”
“That's a long story.”
“Well, you woke me up. I've got nothing better to do now than to hear a long story.”
“Will you believe me if I tell it?” the woman asked. “I haven't got time for games.”
“Depends on the story,” Kira replied. “You'd better make it good, too, because if I don't believe it, you might find yourself floating on the wrong side of that bulkhead.”
Fake Aunt Dassi gave Kira a full smile. “There's my girl. Now you're awake. I'll tell you my story, and when I'm done, if you still want to toss me out an airlock, you can. Deal?”
The woman sat down on the edge of Kira's bed, a long and weary sigh escaping her. It was then that Kira noticed how ragged the woman's uniform was, how dirty, as if she'd been in battle recently. Kira could smell battle on her, too. Phaser smoke, sweat, blood. What had fake Aunt Dassi been up to?
“Here goes...” The woman picked up Kira's hand and held it in her own. For some reason, Kira allowed it. She noticed a scar on the back of the woman's left hand, identical to the one on her own left hand, a sliver of a mark that was a souvenir from a slipped knife she'd cut herself with when she was thirteen. She'd never bothered to have it fixed. If this was a trick, someone had done their homework.
“Nerys, I've come because six years from now, the Alpha Quadrant will be destroyed. And you are the one who can stop it.”
“Great,” Kira returned, "as if I didn't have enough to do.”
The woman's brow went up, and she shot Kira a look, one that said she'd better straighten up right now, and listen. Kira felt foolish under that warning eye. Childish, even. Prophets, was her face really that intimidating when she was mad?
“I-I'm sorry,” Kira stammered, blushing. “That was inappropriate. Please, go on.”
“It's nothing to joke about, Nerys,” the woman admonished. “It will happen, just like I said. Everything you know and love will be destroyed, but you can stop it. We can stop it. I've brought the solution with me from the future. It was too late for it to do any good in my time, so I was sent back to this one. We have the chance, Nerys, to undo a great wrong, and save them all.”
“The solution to what? What happens to the Alpha Quadrant?”
“The Jem'Hadar happen.”
A chill ran up Kira's spine. “What did they do?”
The woman took a deep breath, looking away for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Her gaze was shadowed as she swung back to Kira. “I have things to tell you, Nerys, but I was warned not to reveal too many details about what will come. Some of the things that happen in the next few years are going to be hard, very hard, but they must happen. If I tell you too much, we might disrupt the timeline more than I already have, but still, I have to guide you through some of it. I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have, but you have to trust me that some things you just can't know...Deal?”
Kira swallowed around the lump in her throat. “Deal.”
“Alright, then. I'll tell you how Kira Nerys became desperate enough to travel through time.”