I am told my father is a shapeshifter, though sometimes I think that cannot be true. I have never seen a shapeshifter, not in all these years. My father's people, the Changelings, have passed into something akin to legend. They are talked about in secret and nervous whispers, behind shaded mouths in dark corners, as if the mere mention of a shapeshifter could summon one from the ether like a demon from an old tale. How could I be the child of such a thing? After all, I myself am nothing close to legendary, and I am certainly no demon. Yet everyone that knew my father says it is so.
Even my mother, who would know better than anyone, says it is true. She was once married to such a being, and for a time, he was made flesh, like her. His transformation was an incarceration, she explained, meant as a judgment from the Link for a grave crime he committed against his own people. Eventually he was restored to his true form, but was humanoid long enough to help make me. In this roundabout fashion, I could claim, if I wanted, to be the child of a shapeshifter. However, this also makes me the child of a convicted criminal. That idea is even less appealing than being the child of a myth.
My father's people, and consequently my father, have not been seen or heard from since the Dominion War ended. My father left my mother at the conclusion of the conflict, choosing to return to his people in a sacrificial effort to ensure peace. He is remembered as a hero of the war, and his choice is mentioned in history texts, speculated about and analyzed in the various biographies of his life among the solids, that sometimes do or do not mention me and my mother. It depends on who penned them, but almost always included with these biographies is an old holoimage, taken long ago for his militia file.
He was an odd-looking man, my father.
The war is something no one can seem to forget, even though it ended over thirty years ago. There have been other conflicts since the Dominion War- the Tzenkethi War, a brief but bloody Cardassian civil war, the return of the Borg. Even the insidiousness that was Species 8472, who attached themselves to the starship Voyager, like strange and terrifying ticks on a trans-dimensional hound. So much war, so much fighting, but no one remembers anything so well as they do the conflict with my father's people.
The Dominion War is well remembered because there is a surety, no matter what Alpha Quadrant world a person calls home, they lost at least one friend or family member in that war. The loss of life was catastrophic. It was also cathartic. The aftermath left so many bereft, left whole worlds destroyed and whole races homeless. The federated worlds were left mainly intact, well-fed and well-supplied, and many of those on the outskirts, including Bajor, became members of the Federation following the war out of need more than anything else. Old hatreds were put aside as peace carved its way steadily through the quadrant. We have known more unity of purpose since the Dominion War ended than has ever been known in recorded history.
In the middle of it all was Deep Space 9, and of course, my mother. She was given command of what soon became one the most important places in the known universe. Colonel Kira Nerys, legend and war hero in her own right, a captain of the fleet and eventually an admiral, too. She was a leader among the stars, a bridge between worlds, and a ruthless and total terror to anyone who crossed her. A formidable woman was my mother. Even nearing seventy, and retired now from public life, she still is.
I remember none of the war. I was too small, born right at the start of the conflict, and almost three when it ended. This means I also remember nothing of my father. He left before I had the chance to know him. It was always me and my mother, against the universe, and we did well enough together. For the most part.
It took over two years after my father left for my mother to file for divorce. I think my mother might still be married today if it wasn't for Aunt Ezri. I'm quite certain my mother filed those papers just to make Dax stop pestering her. After she filed, another six months passed before the divorce was final. The legal side was quick enough, but my mother is very religious. She insisted that her marriage wasn’t done until the temple said it was, and it took a long time to get anything done through the vedeks.
The Scroll of Separation did eventually come, though, out of the blue one day, at a point where my mother had nearly forgotten about it. She had been home with me all day, a rare occurrence, and we were both making the best of it. I was on the floor, playing with my Commander Epsilon doll. My mother was sitting beside me, listening to me prattle on about my game. The Commander was under siege, beset by his many enemies, and had entrenched himself deep within the stronghold I had built him out of building blocks and throw pillows. He was preparing the necessary countermeasures. Whatever those were. My mother laughed when I told her this, and said she wasn't letting me read Klingon stories before bed anymore. We were discussing whether the Commander had enough food to wait out this siege, as his replicators were broken, poor man, when the door chime sounded.
My mother rose and answered the door. An acolyte in light blue robes was on the other side, holding a scroll. The barely-man handed the document to my mother. “Sign it, please, and return it to the temple for the burning. Then it will be done.” With a low bow, he took his leave.
My mother unrolled the scroll as the door slid shut. Her eyes scanned it, and her face fell. “Oh, Prophets,” she said. “Oh, Adassa, he signed this. This is your father's mark, right here.” She pointed out the Bajoran mark on the bottom of the page, only one name instead of two. It didn’t mean much to me, but it was important to my mother. Her skin was pale and her hand was shaking. It went over her mouth as her face crumpled. “He had to have done this before he left. Why didn't he tell me?...”
The scroll slipped from my mother's grasp, and landed by my feet. My mother fell to her knees, and howled.
I had, up to that point, never seen my mother lose control of herself, not like this. Her grief, the sound of it, the power of it, was a cyclone that tore from her, and through me. I didn't understand what was happening, I was only five. I knew only that my mother was in great pain, and I reacted like any five-year-old would. I burst into tears, and cried with her.
I wrapped her in my too-short arms, hugging her with as much of my child's strength as I had. She swept me up and into her lap, and for a time, we both sobbed loudly on the floor. However, in true Kira Nerys fashion, my mother’s tears ended as abruptly as they started.
“Stop, Adassa,” she said, standing me straight, wiping my face. She gripped my shoulders, a little too hard, and looked straight into my eyes. “We won't cry for him. We've done enough crying for him. There will be no more crying.”
Her fierceness scared me more than her tears, and I was quickly cowed into silence. “Okay, Mama,” I whispered, sniffling. “No more.”
And so it was. I did as she wished, and we never cried about my father again.
Over the years, however, his shadow remained, an ever-there yet never-there presence, hovering over my life and hers. Often, someone would mention his name, or tell some tale of how they knew him. He was, as I said, considered a war hero, and people like to associate themselves with that kind of history. I couldn't make it a week without at least one “I knew your father when” story, though none of those stories ever really told me much about the man himself. They were from acquaintances of his, told by people who didn’t really know him. The people who had truly known my father, those closest to me and my mother, were unanimously silent, choosing to avoid the topic as much as possible, and I wasn't so naive I didn't understand why. No one wanted to bring up his name and hurt my mother. Including me. So it was that as I grew, I heard constantly about my father, but never learned anything about him at all.
For my fourteenth birthday, the Age of Choice for a Bajoran female, my mother planned a huge party. I was less than thrilled. I wasn't into crowds or parties, and I'm still not. I would have preferred to spend my birthday with just her and me, and maybe Aunt Ezri, and I tried for weeks to get her to cancel it, but she insisted. She said there were many people who loved me, and they wanted to share my day with me. I should be grateful to have so much, and she was determined I would enjoy myself. After all, my mother had celebrated her own coming of age all by herself, freezing her butt off on a rocky hillside, hugging a phaser rifle as she kept watch for the Shakaar.
In the end, my mother was right to insist on that party, but not for the reasons she thought. Everyone- and I mean everyone- we knew came, and I was endlessly grateful to them all for being there. The O'Briens came all the way from Earth. Julian and Garak came from Cardassia. Quark was there, as guest and caterer. Jake Sisko came up from Bajor, and Cassidy and her son, and Shakaar, and many more friends my mother hadn't seen in an age. Even Vic was there, free to wander like any other sentient being, thanks to his remote emitter. He sang a whole set for us.
To see my mother so happy, to see her surrounded by such love and friendship, was a blessing beyond words, and the best birthday gift I could ever ask for. That night is a memory to this day that I treasure. The next time our friends would gather in one place like that would be at my wedding, but by then, some of them would have moved beyond attending parties.
My party went on very late, as was tradition with an Age of Choice celebration. Eventually, though, the party did end, and my mother and I went back to our quarters. We walked arm-in-arm onto the Promenade, laughing and chatting over the highlights of the night as we made our way home. At our door, with a kiss on my forehead, she sent me to get ready for bed, but told me not to fall asleep just yet. She had one last surprise for me.
I hastily put on my nightclothes and crawled into bed, pulling my knees up to my chest and throwing the covers over them, waiting as patiently as I could. I don't love surprises any more than crowds, but the twinkle in my mother's eye at the mention of this last surprise had my curiosity piqued. My mother had already given me her gift at the party- the traditional earring and clan charm- but she must have gotten me something else, something big, and my impatience was showing in the nervous bounce of my foot on the mattress.
My mother didn’t make me wait long. She walked into my room, smiling, carrying a black jewelry box. My curiosity grew. Surely she didn't get me jewelry. She knew I didn’t really care for it. My Bajoran earring was all I ever wanted. I returned her smile uncertainly as she sat on the edge of my bed, and held out the box.
"I've waited over ten years to give you this. It's from your father."
I went still, my smile fading. My father, who'd left me and my mother, who'd chosen his people over his family, who hadn't spoken to us since, and obviously wanted nothing to do with us, had the foresight to get me an Age of Choice gift before he disappeared? Looking down at the box in my mother's hands, my temper started to rise. Did he actually have the nerve to think some trinket would make up for what he’d done to me, and more importantly, to my mother?
My mother sensed my change of mood. "Your father gave me this box before he left. He never said what was in it, only to hold it until you came of age. I had to promise not to open it. It was meant just for you.” She took my hand, and squeezed it. “I know we don’t talk about him much, Dassi, but no matter how you feel about him, no matter where he is now, I promise that your father loves you. What’s in this box is a testament to that.” She set the box gently on my knees, and smiled. “Now, are you going to end ten years of suspense for your poor old mother? Or are you going to make me keep guessing at what’s in here?"
With a resolved sigh, I took the box in my hands. I figured the least I could do was open it for her, and admittedly, I had to wonder what the man who knew me at three would have thought would suit me at fourteen.
I cracked the box open carefully. Inside, nestled on black velvet, was a tear-shaped amber stone, smooth, transparent and flawless, shaded a warm, rich cognac, a true example of the color that took its name from the gem. It was about half the length of my thumb, suspended as a pendant by a silver bellcap of graceful design. The design was wistful, but simple, calling to mind flowing water and blowing wind at the same time, and those swooping, free-flowing lines of silver stirred an emotion in me. A happy one.
I pulled the pendant out, taking care to not snag the long silver chain, and held it up to the light. The pendant spun around slowly, catching the glow from my bedside lamp, transmuting it to sunlight. My mother admired the stone with me. She noted how perfectly the color matched my eyes. Smiling, I handed the necklace to her and turned my back, holding up my wheat-blonde hair so she could put it on for me. Its weight settled on my neck, and I pulled the pendant down to rest on my chest. The chain was a little long yet, but I knew I would grow into it.
Beaming, I turned back to my mother. She picked up the pendant, letting it rest on her palm, and rubbed her thumb lovingly over the stone. “It's so you, Dassi. Clean-lined, to the point, no fuss. Naturally beautiful, but not typically so… How did he know?” With a sad sigh, she let the pendant rest back on my chest, and kissed me good night.
I have not taken the pendant off since.
There was yet another gift that came with the pendant. I found it the next morning. It was a message, written on a folded square of paper of all things, and pressed into the lid of the box. I had missed it the night before, too fascinated with the necklace itself. Dropping on the edge of my bed, I plucked the note out with shaking fingers. There was no doubt who it was from, and it took me a long time to unfold it. It reminded me too much of what I'd come to remember as the Scroll Day, and dread filled me. Would I have the same reaction as my mother? Would I be filled with grief? With anger? Would I cry? Would I be given some earth-shattering secret of the Changeling race that would change my life forever?
Eventually, curiosity beat out nerves. With still-shaking fingers and a roiling stomach, I carefully unfolded the note. Taking a steadying breath, I turned it lengthwise, and read it.
“I'll want this back.”
My anticipation and nervousness dissipated, replaced by puzzlement. Why give a gift you'd want to take back? I turned and tilted the paper, squinting at it, examining it from different angles. It was only four simple words, and my Bajoran script was rusty, but the characters were well made, clear and elegantly drawn. I was fairly sure I'd read them right. Still, I didn't understand what it meant. I considered showing the note to my mother, but something about the way it was hidden, something about the covert brevity of this message, and the remembrance that she was asked not to open the box all those years ago, decided me against it. I felt that, like the necklace, the words were meant just for me, and just for me they should remain.
That didn’t stop me from trying to decipher that message. Fourteen-year-old me became obsessed in the way particular to girls of that age, secretly and totally. I came to the conclusion that there was something important about the stone itself, that there was more to it than there appeared to be. There was both a promise and a caution in my father’s words, and I took them seriously. I kept the necklace under my tunic, telling no one about it, and set out to discover for myself just what this mystery was about.
Logic said the answers would be more forthcoming if I tried to learn more about my father. I poured over old computer records and reread biographies. I cross-referenced and cataloged. I scrabbled notes and made charts and drew comparisons, but there was nothing new to be found. Since my sensor access was restricted, I couldn't run the stone through the Computer without asking someone, so I decided to show it to Quark. Quark was the only person I knew who knew anything about gemstones, and that could be trusted to know my secret.
I chose a mid-week day after school, wandering into the bar at a time I knew was the least busy. The only patron there was, of course, Morn. I chose the stool next to him, and Morn held it steady for me as I climbed up. We both waited patiently for Quark to notice me. He was busy giving orders to one of his waiters. Quark looked annoyed, and tired, as the waiter went off to his task, and he turned wearily back to his own work. I started thinking maybe this was a bad time to visit when finally he turned my way.
Quark’s scowl turned to a toothy grin, and he dashed over to me, leaning across the bar to get his customary kiss on the cheek. He chastised me for not visiting more often. I told him why I was there, what I had been given, and who’d given it to me, and pulled the necklace out from under my tunic to show him.
Quark pinched the chain just above the pendant and leaned an elbow on the bar, examining the stone. It appeared, he said, to be Earth amber, set in Bajoran silver, not a typical combination. Neither part was especially rare, though the gem did have excellent transparency. Inclusions would have increased its worth, but the color was enough to compensate. The pendant design he couldn’t place, unsure what culture it was from, but he liked it anyway. It had a certain style. There was something about the stone, though, that was bothering him.
Quark paused, chin in hand, watching the colored lights of the bar pass through it, admiring the effect much like I had. Suddenly, his expression changed. His eyes went wide, and he stilled, staring for a long time at the stone, a nostalgic and almost fond smile on his face.
"Tricky, old friend, very tricky," Quark mumbled, more to himself than to me or Morn. "This shouldn't stay solid. How did you do this? A stasis field, maybe? Some kind of nanotech?"
I was about to ask Quark who he was talking to when he remembered himself. He gave me a level look, and took my hand, placing the pendant in my palm. "This," he said, closing my fingers around it, "is valuable. If I were you, I wouldn't go flashing it around, getting too curious or having it analyzed. You should accept it as it was intended, a gift, and move on."
He was also sure to remind me of the two-hundred-eighth Rule of Acquisition. Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer.
Quark’s odd behavior, and his warning, only fueled my curiosity. It is a blessing and a failing of mine to be ever inquisitive. I do love a good mystery, and this one was getting better and better. This technique of flat-out footwork and interrogation was already yielding richer information than my computer research, so I spent the next couple of months asking questions around DS9.
I asked my mother what questions I dared, and asked Aunt Ezri those I didn't. I called Grandpa Pol on subspace, though talking to him was difficult. His health was failing and I couldn’t keep him on the comm for long. I talked to Vedek Tonsol, and to Deputies Ridia and Sona, who had worked with my father for years. All of them gave me some new insights, but still not what I was looking for. I pestered Quark again, and yet again, until he practically tossed me out of the bar.
“I swear to the Blessed Exchequer, Dassi, your mother ought to change your name to Odo," Quark fussed, shooing me off. "You’re just as bad as your father was.”
Station options exhausted, I contrived to get myself invited to Cardassia, claiming I wanted to spend my school holiday with Julian and Garak. It wasn’t hard to talk anyone into it, and really, I was happy to go, even though I considered the visit more of a business trip. From the two of them, I got more information than I ever bargained for, both of them answering my questions with a frankness no one else had matched. It was, Garak said, time my questions were answered. I was an adult in eyes of my people now, if not legally, and either way, old enough to hear the truth. Besides, it was owed to me. The shapeshifter was, after all, my father.
We talked about the true nature of what my father was, how he struggled for years with his need to be with his people versus his need to protect his friends. They told me what he was like before he was with my mother, how he changed after, and what he was really like to work with. The inevitable old war stories crept in, some of them quite darker than I’d heard before. I also learned that my parents had almost broken up sooner, over some ugliness between them during the station’s second occupation. It happened again right before my father left for good, over almost the same reason, but involving a different Changeling that time. It seemed like these events were the beginning of the end for my parents.
There were some rather sweet stories, too. They were stories I’d never heard before, things I should’ve heard from my mother, about my father actually acting as my father. Garak smiled, and said that he'd never seen a being so…enchanted as my father had been by me. Uncle Julian agreed completely. He said he never understood how if my father loved my mother and I so much, as he quite clearly had, he could have left us the way he did.
“My dear,” Uncle Garak had countered, “if Kira Nerys can understand, Julian Bashir can certainly try.”
They had put me at such ease, and had shared so much, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask them about the message and the stone, but still I held back. Now, all these years later, I wish I hadn't. I also wish I had spent more time just sharing their company, and their love. Uncle Julian was one of those not at my wedding.
By my next birthday, number fifteen, I was no closer to solving the mystery, and I started to lose focus. I stopped digging up family secrets, and moved on to new obsessions, things like Bolian sonnets, passing Advanced Physics, and whether I should cut my hair. And there was Mi’kal, my first serious boyfriend. I was simply too busy with all of the other things in my life to spend as much time on the necklace, and it slipped into the background of my thoughts.
Then came the day I met my first Vorta. I was nearing seventeen by then. I had managed to make it that long without ever laying eyes on one, and at first, they seemed to be like any other humanoid race I’d met- two arms, two legs, one head, and a penchant for thinking they were better than the rest of the universe. I knew who the Vorta were, of course. Everyone knew. However, that didn’t prepare me for what happened when I actually met one.
The Changelings had not been heard from in years, as I said, but that didn’t stop the Dominion from keeping relations open with the Federation. The Vorta facilitators spoke for the Founders as they had always done, and conducted trade negotiations and political activity for the Link. The Jem’Hadar were still around, too, silent, scaled enforces and bodyguards, just as terrifying as they’d ever been, but not so trigger-happy anymore.
The Vorta delegate I met was known as Weyoun. My mother hated him. Many people did. Uncle Julian used to call him the Mouth of Sauron, whatever that meant. My mother said she didn’t care what they’d done to reengineer him, and had no idea why they chose to resurrect him, but figured my father had something to do with it. Apparently he and this Weyoun shared a story, another one no one would tell me. No matter what, though, my mother would always remember Weyoun as the destructor of worlds. Unfortunately for her, his was the face she saw most often when dealing with the Dominion.
I was eating alone in the replimat. Mi’kal had just left me to go run an errand for his parents. I felt more than heard a presence at my back, and turned, only to find myself staring at the legs of a seven-foot Jem’Hadar. I am tall by Bajoran standards, but I don’t think I have ever felt so puny in all my life. I looked up, and up, and met with a not-too-happy horn-ridged face. We sat there, this giant killing machine and I, staring at each other, until my fear gave way to indignance. What was this guy staring at? My temper rose, and I was about to do something very foolish, when a grey-violet hand landed on the soldier’s shoulder.
“Move, you lummox,” a voice said. The solider slid aside to reveal none other than the infamous Weyoun. The Vorta smiled down at me, and gave a low, sweeping bow. “Founder. We are most honored to make your acquaintance.”
Whatever did he mean by that? “I am not a Founder.”
“Well, no, not technically. But there is no other like you, and we have not yet created a title that is appropriate for what you are. Founder will have to do, for now.”
“And what would I need a title for?" I replied. "I’m just a girl. In a replimat. Trying to eat.”
“Forgive me, but you are not a ‘just’ to us.” Weyoun paused, staring down at me, his head tilting as he gave me an assessing look. “You really don’t know, do you? You don’t understand who you are. What a pity. But then how could you, raised all the way out here, in this savage place.” He gestured at the seat across from me. “May I join you?”
I should have said no, but again, mystery. I had to know what he meant by calling me Founder, and what it was this Vorta thought I didn’t know. I also decided to live up to having a title. I tossed my hair over my shoulder, and tried to look regal. “You may.”
Weyoun took his seat, and folded his hands in front of him. Smiling he said, “My dear, you must understand, to the Link you are very precious. You are also unprecedented. In all the long and glorious history of the Great Link, they have never produced a child.”
I bristled at that. “I am my mother’s child, not the Link’s.”
“Oh, but you are theirs. Your father is of the Link, his humanity was gifted by the Link, and your mother was the fortunate vessel to receive it.”
I had an image of what my mother might do to someone calling her a ‘fortunate vessel,’ and I almost laughed out loud. I bit my cheek and said, “If that’s the case, why can’t I change shape?”
Weyoun obviously couldn’t explain that, so he bowed his head, and said, “That is not for us to know. The Founders are wise in all things.”
Yet another throwback to the past who couldn’t answer my questions. Typical. “My mother wouldn’t be too happy with you for approaching me.”
“No,” he replied. “As a matter of fact, the Admiral expressly forbid it when I asked to meet you, but, well…Here we both happened to be, and I just couldn’t help myself.”
His expression was contrite, but his smile was oily. He had deliberately sought me out, I was certain. I was starting to see what my mother didn’t like about the Vorta, and I got serious. “What is it you want from me?”
“Only to bring you a message. From the Link.”
“The Link?” I repeated, doing my best to hide my disappointment. “Not from my father?”
“Child, your father is the Link. It is one and the same. They would like you to come home.”
I didn’t really understand that, but it didn’t matter. “The station is my home. I couldn't possibly leave.”
“I was told to expect that answer. In that event, I was asked to show you this.” Keeping his eyes locked on me, he held out his hand, and the Jem’Hadaar placed a PADD on it. Smiling his not-really-a-smile, he set the PADD on the table in front of me. I looked down at it, puzzled.
“Turn it on,” he said. I did.
A star chart floated up on the screen. I was terrible at stellar cartography. I could barely map the Bajoran system, and this was definitely not Bajor, so it didn’t mean much to me. Yet there was something about it. The images drew me, as if I knew them, as if I'd been there before. I touched a place on the PADD, pulling a particular system into closer view. Labels popped up, telling me the name of planets and star clusters, nebulas and gas giants. Still all meaningless to me, except…except…
“What’s this one?” I asked, to no one in particular, and touched a planet to bring it closer. “Aria...”
According to the PADD, it was regular class-M planet. There was nothing notable about it, but it was important, I was sure. A funny sort of itchiness began tingling my limbs, and I rubbed my arms as I looked up at Weyoun. “What is Aria?”
“The home of the Founders.”
My hand went to my chest, finding the pendant underneath my tunic. I clutched it through the fabric. “Why are you showing me this?”
“Because it is your right to know. It is your home, too, and you are most welcome to return with us to the Gamma Quadrant. It is time you met your people.”
I looked back down on the PADD, staring at the planet. My people, he’d said. The longer I stared at that little ball on the screen, the worse that itchy feeling got, and it started to blend with a new sensation. I felt…compelled, in a way I’d never experienced, pulled from my very insides toward that planet. It seemed like if I listened, if I went with Weyoun and went to Aria, every answer I ever looked for would be there, everything I ever wanted to know, and every bad feeling I ever wanted to be rid of would be gone, if I only went to Aria. The need grew stronger, and stronger still, visceral, guttural, that itch running under my skin like crawling ants. The blood pounded in my ears as my vision narrowed to a black tunnel. The station faded, Weyoun faded, none of it mattered. I had to go, I had leave, I had get out, had to find Aria, right now, right now, RIGHT NOW!
Don’t listen! Fight it!
My mother’s voice. I tore my gaze away from the PADD. Chest heaving, still gripping my pendant, I stared daggers at Weyoun. “Turn it off! Now!”
Still smiling, Weyoun did as I asked. The PADD was quickly gone, handed back to the waiting Jem’Hadar. “I’m sorry about that, but it was necessary. Though I must admit, this is a fascinating development. We didn't realize you would retain so much genetic memory...Perhaps now you have a better understanding of your heritage.”
I didn’t say anything, only continued to look darkly at him. It was everything I had not to leap from the table, snatch the PADD from the Jem’Hadar, and run straight for the nearest ship, and I think Weyoun knew it.
The Vorta rose from the table. “I will leave you to think over our offer. When you decide, I am sure you know how to contact us.”
Since that evening in the repliamt, I, too, have grown to dislike Weyoun. Whatever he turned on in me by showing me that star chart has, to this day, never turned off.
When my mother came home from her shift that night, I was still rattled. She took one look at me, and knew immediately something was wrong.
“He got to you, didn’t he?”
For some reason, I lied. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh, yes you do. Weyoun. He found you. He talked to you, after I expressly asked him not to. That snake, that slimy, slinking…UGH! Just wait and see how high I hike the springwine tariff on him tomorrow!”
Springwine tariff? Not what did he do, what did he say to my daughter, but trade taxes were the first thing on her mind? I flew off the sofa to face her, outraged. “It’s always like that with you, isn’t it? Duty first, Bajor first, station first, but your daughter? Oh, no. She’ll wait.”
“What are you talking about? Of course you’re first, you’ve always been first. It’s just-”
“Just what, mother? That it’s easier to work than to deal with your problems? Or mine? Well, I’ve got news for you. I don’t need your help. I’ve made it this far without it. Weyoun, as if you care, offered to take me to meet my father, and I’m taking him up on it.”
“Adassa, don't be rediculous. You are not going anywhere with Weyoun.”
“It’s my decision to make! The Link are my people, and I want to meet them.”
My mother’s lips pinched together, and she took a sharp inhale through her nose, spots of color rising on her cheeks. I knew it was a bad sign, that it was the sign of her gathering the full strength of her wrath, but somehow I didn’t care. Let her rage. I was going.
She leaned forward, fists planted on the back of the sofa, her voice low, her words pushed out from between gritted teeth. “Have you learned nothing in all these years? Except for a necklace, what has your father ever given you? Where has he been? All of this time, no contact, and when it comes, he sends a Vorta to speak for him. He can’t be bothered to come himself. Doesn’t that tell you anything?”
She was right. That was true. But I wasn’t giving up. “Give me one good reason, Mother- a concrete reason- why I shouldn’t go.”
“I don't need a reason! You're my daughter, and you will do as I say!"
My own wrath simmered to the surface. Before I could stop it, years of resentment came flying out of my mouth. "Not good enough, Mother! Not this time! You are never, ever here! You are never home. You have left me to my own devices for years, and it doesn’t seem to bother you one bit that I am constantly ALONE here! What do you care if I go to the Gamma Quadrant? What difference would it make to you? You won’t even notice I'm gone!” Tears started running down my cheeks. "Mama, I want to go home.”
My mother’s face went pure white. “Adassa,” she said carefully, “you are not yourself. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Of course I do! Weyoun showed me where the Founders live, where my people live. I can't explain why, but I need to go there. Please, Mama, it’s important to me!”
“NO! And don’t ask me again. You are not to leave our quarters without my permission. If I find out that you talked to the Vorta, if I find out you had any contact with the Dominion, I swear I’ll have Renna put you in holding for rest of the talks. Do you understand me?”
“No, Adassa! I mean it!…Computer, set parental restrictive monitoring for Kira Adassa. Notify me if she leaves these rooms.”
That took the fight right out of me. I dropped on the sofa, numb. Never, ever, had my mother used the Computer’s parental controls to restrict me. “You are so selfish. I hate you.”
She winced at that, and took a deep, shaking breath, letting it out slowly. “I think I’ll go out for a while. We need to be apart, until you're calmer...Don’t wait up.”
As soon as she was gone, I threw myself across the sofa and sobbed, defeated, and yet again alone.
The next morning, I met my mother at the breakfast table. Neither one of us was speaking to the other, so breakfast was brief. I wanted to ask her where she’d gone all night, but decided that would be acting like I cared. And I didn’t. Did I? I opened my mouth to speak, but changed my mind. My behavior the night before had been so odd, so horrible. After what I’d said to her, maybe I didn’t deserve to know.
My mother caught my hesitation, eyeing me over the rim of her raktajino mug. My glance dropped back to my plate, and I pretended to be busy with my hasperat. With a heavy sigh, my mother set down her mug, and set off for Ops. Defiantly leaving the dishes on the table, I hauled my sorry carcass back to my room, to study for my university entrance exams.
I couldn’t study at all. I kept thinking about, well...everything. Who I was. Who my parents were. Where I was going. Where I could be going. And in the back of mind, calmer than it was the day before, but still there, that deep-rooted, compelling feeling that I needed to be somewhere called Aria.
By the time my mother got home, I decided I needed to at least be civil so she would let me out of our quarters. Maybe then I could figure out another way to the Gamma Quadrant.
“Mother," I asked, "would you give me permission to call Weyoun, and tell him myself I can’t go with him?”
She did, grudgingly, but only if she could listen. I hailed the flagship and gave Weyoun my reply. He had been told to expect that answer, too, so he wasn’t surprised, but still it was a disappointment. He told me I had no idea what an incredible opportunity I was refusing. I thought maybe I did. He asked if he could carry a message back to the Gamma Quadrant for me, but I couldn’t think of one, so he gave me a deep bow and a promise that if I ever changed my mind, I need only contact him. The next morning, the ship was gone, and with it my chance to see my father.
I was maudlin for a while after the Dominion left. I tend to be this way from time to time, and like to be left alone when it happens, to brood through my own thoughts. My mother knew this about me, and gave me as much space as she could, especially since we weren’t really talking yet. After a couple of days of this, my mood got worse instead of better, and my mother made the first gesture of peace to end our cold war.
I was laying on my bed, curled into a ball, being miserable. My mother came in and laid down next to me. Despite my anger with her, I rolled over and curled against her side, laying my head on her shoulder. For a while we just stayed that way. Eventually, though, my mother broke the silence. I heard her draw breath, ready to speak, and could tell she was fighting tears.
“When your father left,” she began, her voice thick, “he took a piece of me with him I never got back. It left a hole in my heart that should have healed shut, years ago, but it never does. It only gets bigger. I can’t blame him for it, and you can’t, either. It’s my fault, all of it. I knew your father would leave me someday, I was told he would, but I let myself fall in love with him anyway. I had a child with him anyway. Maybe that was selfish of me, since I denied you a chance to have a father, but I can’t-and won’t- be sorry for any of it. If I had tried to change what was to be, we would never have had you. And you,” she said, squeezing me tighter, “my stubborn, moody, wilful child, my warm-hearted, wonderful girl, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I would've ever let myself love again. But you’re right. You're old enough to make your own choices, and you have a right to know the other half of who you are. Denying you that will only put you through the same misery that tortured your father for all those years, and I can’t do that to you. If you want to be with him, if you really need to go, then go. I won’t stop you this time.”
Abruptly, she released me and rolled off the bed. She turned back to me, and leaned down to kiss my forehead. “I love you so much, my little bean.” And with that, she hasted out of my room.
Little bean. She hadn’t called me that in years. I always hated that silly nickname, but thinking over my mother’s words, her heartache became my own, and I decided there were worse things to be called. I also decided there was no possible way I could ever leave her.
So it was. I shoved down the compulsion to go to the Gamma Quadrant as deeply as I could, and stayed with my mother. I went to university on Bajor so I could be close to her. After I graduated, I married Mi’kal. He has always been my constant friend, and loves me as deeply as I love him, so it was inevitable we would marry. I think we knew that the moment we met. It seems to be a theme in my family, to love once and love well, and in this I cannot be sorry I followed my parents’ example. Without Mi’kal, I would be nothing.
Our daughter was born seven years after we were married. We had tried everything to have a child, and were disappointed again and again when the Prophets failed to bless us. The doctors said there was something off, something they couldn’t fix in my genetic make-up that was causing the problem. They attributed it to my heritage. So did I. Just when we had given up, and had decided to move on with our lives, there was Odessa. When they put her in my arms for the first time, everything I never understood about my mother’s choices became crystal clear.
Yet still, there was Aria. I thought having Odessa would help me repress that compulsion. It did not. I still wanted to go. Mi’kal knew all about it, he knows everything about me, and unlike my mother, talking to him about it has never made me feel guilty. As Odessa grew, so grew my need, and I did my best to hide it, but it was getting worse and worse.
A week ago, I was staring out of the window of our house, watching the Cri’alla river flow past me, and thinking about Aria. Mi’kal came behind me and wrapped me in his arms, tight and safe. For a time, he watched the river with me. With a kiss on my cheek, he said, “Go, Adassa. Just go. Then you can come back to me.”
I called Weyoun.
Now, sitting at the station, I wait for the transport that will take me to DS9. The ship my father sent will come for me there, and take me on to the Gamma Quadrant. My mother and my daughter are further down the way, chatting in a non-stop run that I marvel at. I don’t remember my mother ever talking with me that much, and watching them makes me smile. It is a comfort that they will have each other while I’m gone.
I have to wonder, though, as I sit here scribbling in my journal. Am I doing the right thing? Doesn’t it seem like I'm repeating the mistakes of my father, leaving my family behind, pursuing my need to see the Link at the expense of my daughter’s happiness, and my husband’s? What if I don’t come back? And if I don’t go to the Gamma Quadrant, if I choose to ignore this pulling and ever-present need of mine that I don’t really understand, would I be repeating the mistakes of my mother, who spent so many lonely years denying her own heart, burying her feelings in every kind of duty instead of facing them, since that fated day my father left her? Either way I choose, it seems like I am doomed to repeat the past.
Yet there is another way to see it, a lens I prefer to filter it all through. Maybe I am, in fact, not repeating their mistakes, but rectifying them. Maybe in learning where they didn’t, in forgiving where they couldn’t, and going where they dare not, I can right their wrongs, and use our history to change the tone of the future for all of us. Even as I write this, I grasp the stone, mainly for reassurance, and smile as its familiar warmth suffuses my palm. I look up and see my mother swoop my daughter into her arms, spinning in a circle before hugging her close, just as she used to do with me. The unfettered laughter of a child floats on the air, bright and pure. I am filled with the sound of it, and it gives me hope.
Maybe this time it will be me who can bridge worlds.