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After The Dawn

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1. 2356

The raid was long over but her fingers still shook – cold, always because of the cold, never from fear. Every so often they would twitch more decisively, as if recalling the sensation of the phaser rifle she was just barely big enough to hold jerking to life in her grip. But then they’d travel to her right ear of their own accord, tracing the lines of her new earring. A proper d’ja pagh all of her own, with the symbol of the Kira family emblazoned in the metal – echoing the beautiful engraving she’d always admired on her father’s. 

Lupaza had worked through the night to make it for her, by the feeble light of one of their few still-working heaters, with skill that seemed otherworldly to Kira (who, though by far the youngest among them, knew better than to ask about anyone’s life before joining a resistance cell). Lupaza, who had looked at the scrawny thirteen-year-old hanging around their camp, and who’d chosen to believe in her, and speak up for her. Who’d presented her handiwork to ‘their newest member’ at sunrise, during the change of guard at the mouth of their current cavern hideout, letting the winter light glimmer on its silvery surface for all to see. And Kira had beamed at her, not caring about who’d been around to witness it or how young it may have made her look. 

I’m in the Resistance, she wanted to shout over and over again until the reality truly set in, flooded and near-overwhelmed by the newfound sense of belonging and pride and brightly burning defiance mixing in her chest.

Again and again her fingers went – over the cuff hugging the shell of her ear snugly, down the single deceptively delicate chain, to the simple but beautiful main piece. She could almost believe it was still warm to the touch, heated by the orange-glow burn of Bajor’s atmosphere on Cardassian hull metal – made from stolen Bajoran ore, mined with stolen Bajoran labour. It was only right and just that it be returned this way. The rest of the beritium hull salvage they’d stripped from the ship would be used for lining the walls of their hideout, shielding them from sensor sweeps and the bite of the winter cold alike. But this small bit of it was a shield all Kira’s own.

It was a comforting presence, a slight but grounding weight with a depth of meaning that its size belied. Lupaza smiled at her fascination and distraction every time she happened to pass by, promising she’d get used to it. Furel agreed, for once without a trace of a joke in his voice, and slapped a hand on her bony shoulder with a gruff: “You’ve more than earned it, kid.” 

Shakaar himself, in between whatever it was his leaderly duties entailed, took a moment to consider her. “It suits you,” was all he said on the matter, though if he meant the earring or the phaser Kira had for the first time stuck in her own belt instead of giving it back after cleaning was anyone’s guess. Then, turning to leave, he added, “Good job out there.”

There was something like sadness behind all of their eyes. Kira chose not to see it, or dwell on it.

She was in the Resistance.

She didn’t even know if any of her (many) shots during the ambush had found their mark, but it didn’t seem to matter. She could, she would help protect her father and his little garden, scrounged up, cobbled together, but growing. Protect her remaining brother, for the one she had failed to. She would honour her mother, the bravest woman I’ve ever known, Nerys. She saved us all, at great cost to herself.

Whenever her fingers floated back down and twitched for want of a rifle trigger again, she told herself to be patient. There would be more work for her, more chances to be useful, more chances to prove herself. No more sitting idly by, and no more fear.

 

 

2. 2369

Even after weeks on the station Kira had yet to manage to sleep through an entire night, but she sincerely doubted it was the bed’s fault. Sure, the Cardassian-designed beds in the Cardassian-designed quarters on the Cardassian-designed station left much to be desired, but they certainly beat the ground of a half-frozen cave. And yet here she was, with endless damn bunking arrangements as one of the most frequently brought-up complaints among the crew body. Why and how those PADDs always seemed to end up on her desk was anyone’s guess. She’d been prepared for a more administrative role, yes, but…

“The time is oh-six-hundred hours,” the computer helpfully informed her.

Kira huffed, and tossed aside another PADD with a blinking Request denied, then shrugged on her uniform jacket and made to leave her quarters for a quick breakfast.

It was still an odd thought that took getting used to: her quarters – hers alone; a viewport in the bulkhead, allowing her to see the stars and, when the rotation was right, Bajor’s own familiar sun from a very new perspective. Regular meals thanks to Federation engineers patching up Cardassian replicators and whipping them into shape. Shops and eateries opening on the Promenade. The ruinous mess the Cardassians left behind them slowly coming together again into something functional. Kira permitted herself a wry twist of the mouth at the thought – hopefully the planet the station had formerly orbited could manage to do the same.

The discovery of the wormhole brought fascinating, colourful crowds to the station so quickly and in such volumes, she didn’t envy Odo at all. Even the small segment of the Promenade she saw on her way from her quarters to the replimat was enough to reinforce, every morning, that this was no longer Terok Nor: grey in every way imaginable, filled with throngs of terrified, beaten-down Bajoran workers and their Cardassian overseers, delighting in the former’s disposability.

The small but lively, chattering crowd in the replimat seemed to underscore all of her thoughts – no more waiting in line for gruel with the exhausted shift that had just left ore processing.

“Good morning!”

Instead, a friendly Federation face. The pattern of spots that ran down the sides of Lieutenant Dax’s face and down her neck was fascinating to Kira still – not Bajoran, and certainly not the grey, flared bony Cardassian necks that had made up most of Kira’s world up until not so very long ago. She had to stop herself from staring often, even though, judging by that smirk, the Lieutenant did not seem to mind. She appeared to relish attention in general, of all kinds. Kira ducked her head, and tried to focus on the replicator instead.

“Something wrong? Quark interfering with the menus again?” Dax was right behind her, peeking over her shoulder, eyebrow raised, and smiling. Somehow she always seemed to be doing that.

“Oh, no, nothing like that, thankfully. Still not quite used to this, is all.” She shuffled her feet and made no real move to complete an order.

“Hm. Well, if I may, Major, I’d recommend the raktajino for early morning starts like this.”

“Raktajino?” Kira repeated oafishly, biting back the Early!? her mind had immediately supplied.

“Klingon coffee. Try it – I think you’ll like it.”

Kira was sceptical, but Dax seemed to be very sincere – so after a few button presses she found herself holding a large mug of something hot, dark, and quite thick. She wrinkled her nose and took a sip.

“It’s, uh… strong.”

“Hits the spot, right?”

The crooked, almost sly smile on the Lieutenant’s face was contagious. Kira didn’t even feel like bringing up growing up under an occupation-enforced famine as an excuse for her own lack of a developed or sophisticated palate or culinary taste in general.

The drink did have a real kick to it, and Kira took another sip. “Yeah, it does.”

“Just don’t go overboard with them – let me tell you, I made some grave mistakes there right after I became a host. Curzon,” Dax smirked, shaking her head, then waved at the table they’d found themselves next to. “Mind if I join you?”

Kira thought about it, but only for a moment.

“Not at all, Lieutenant.”

And ah, there it was then, as soon as they sat down: the small, incessant, bitter sting of you knew what they were doing to us and you sat by and did nothing that insisted on making itself known at very inopportune times. It was, however, becoming more bearable by the day and with every individual met, every new reassurance that they were here now, despite everything, to make a good start. Together.

When the Cardassians came they were helpful and charming too, nagged the little voice at the back of her mind. But this couldn’t be like that, and just looking at Dax was enough to… well, perhaps Kira was being a naive fool, but there seemed to be ground to build here, and she found herself willing to try. And after all, she knew she herself was ready to do anything, to lay her life down for Bajor. She just needed to be pointed the right way – or, rather, she needed to be able to point herself the right way. Now that knowing who the enemy was and who the enemy could turn out to be had gotten more complicated. Still, if nothing else: she wouldn’t let it be a repeat of anything, and she was prepared to be a thorn in anyone’s side, Federation or provisional government or otherwise, for as long as was necessary. 

“You seem to be mulling over something grim already. Everything alright?”

The concern was genuine enough, but Kira had no idea how to even begin to explain all of it, even if she’d wanted to.

“Just thinking about some complaints about quarters I need to handle,” she lied smoothly – or what she hoped was smooth, anyway.

Dax caught on, and backed off. Lifetimes of experience to thank – or perhaps Kira was just that easy to read. A transcript of Trakor’s annotated ninth prophecy just waiting on a lectern, as Lupaza would say. 

“Sure. Let me know if I can help.”

“With station admin? Aren’t you a science officer?”

“Absolutely. But it’s in all our best interests to get this place running as smoothly as possible as fast as possible, right?”

Kira narrowed her eyes at her, entirely unconvinced. “Right.”

Fine,” Dax threw her hands up in the air in a very silly, exaggerated gesture, “I admit it, I’m after juicy gossip. There’s bound to be quarter reassignment requests in there! What could be juicier?”

Kira couldn’t help but bark out a laugh, then. “You are ridiculous.”

Dax grinned right back. “Glad to be of help. Let’s get to Ops, you can tell me all about it on the way.”

When Kira got to her feet, both she herself and the entire day – if it could truly be called that on a space station – felt somehow lighter already.

 

 

3. 2372

It was swelteringly hot under the sun of some new, as of yet unnamed planet, in the midst of a survey mission that had already gone on longer than scheduled. Hardly Kira’s idea of a good – or productive – time. 

The place was an unpleasant dustbowl broken up by stray glass-encrusted rock here and there, and Kira was surrounded by a bunch of bustling, tricorder-armed Starfleet explorer types she would have sneered at, not so long ago – but many of whom she’d now consider fast friends. She’d hardly consider herself an ideal choice for helming this particular mission, but Sisko had been insistent, and so here she was. It would appear that, if nothing else, it gave her time to indulge in reverie – a truly rare occurrence.

The unfamiliar stars of the Gamma Quadrant, unimaginably far from everything she’d ever known, could now be reached within seconds, thanks to the wormhole – more proof of how the Prophets kept looking out for Bajor in sometimes quite unexpected ways. And Kira, as Bajor’s official representative on the mission, was determined to do her best to facilitate and build upon their efforts.

“Take a look at this, Major!” It was Dax calling her over, her tricorder beeping over some bizarre green-magenta form of plant life she found beneath a rocky outcrop a little off the not-so-alien dirt path Kira was stomping down. 

“What’ve you got for me, Lieutenant?”

“Some kind of elaborate root system stretches on for more than a kilometer underground, running beneath the very acidic soil, with an impressive – and perfectly symmetrical – array of large tubers.”

Kira shot the sensor readings a look. “Huh, could’ve fed a whole resistance cell for an entire winter on nothing but a few of those.”

She frowned as soon as the words left her mouth – Jadzia Dax, decorated Starfleet science officer and dedicated, studious initiate who’d earned the approval of the strict Trill Symbiosis Commission, certainly hadn’t had such prosaic, practical implications of her findings in mind. For a very, very brief moment, Kira felt a sting of embarrassment – but then her mind snapped decisively back into its standard guarded, resolute position: she had nothing to be embarrassed about.

Dax, as had somehow become a somewhat frustrating habit of hers, seemed to be able to encompass Kira’s entire internal dialogue with a glance. But somehow she did it… gently, without making Kira feel small or inadequate in any way. No smug Starfleet superiority here, even with all the accumulated bragging rights of all the lifetimes under her belt. And – perhaps most importantly – no trace of pity to be found. Instead, a wellspring of enthusiasm.

“Their composition is interesting, I agree. Starchy, and rich in several key proteins – this has potential for significant contributions to agriculture. I bet Keiko will love to get her hands on this – see what she can set up in one of the hydroponics bays.”

Her smile was as bright as the orange-tinted light of the unfamiliar sun, but Kira took up the challenge of matching it.

Jadzia leaned in, almost conspiratorially, “Help me catalogue it?”

“I, uh, don’t really know what the procedure–”

“No worries, I’ll walk you right through it. It’s fun!” Kira’s scepticism must have been written all over her face. “I swear it is! I’m not just saying that, you’ll see.”

“Not to mention,” Jadzia winked, “it’ll get us under some nice shade and right next to a cooling unit.”

“You are incorrigible.”

“And you love it.”

Kira couldn’t disagree.

 

 

4. 2375

The weak, grey light of Cardassia Prime’s sun filtered through the slits in the cellar windows – if they could even be called that.

Another very literally bleak dawn. No contact with the Federation. No hope of reinforcements, or extraction, or help of any kind. Negligible chances of news from Deep Space 9, of the fleet, of Odo’s health, of anything at all. And here, far behind enemy lines, Kira and her unlikely comrades presumed dead, their network of allies and carefully-hidden carefully-built-up resources destroyed, all three (three) survivors hidden away in the capital of a people she’d once have termed her worst enemies, relying on the goodwill of an old woman.

Kira, a veteran of hopeless causes, had been in worse spots – but not many.

Whatever Damar’s less… pleasant compatriots had thought, she found no joy in any of it. Not even a flutter of satisfaction at all the irony the situation was positively dripping with. It was enough that it meant that twice now she’d been witness to oppression and destruction on an immense scale – civilisation-ending, one might term it. It was wearing, and wearying, no matter who it happened to.

Would she have cheered for the destruction of Cardassia as little as a handful of years ago? Perhaps, if it would have meant Bajor being left alone. The moral quandary aspect certainly wasn’t something she wanted to be thinking about at the moment.

While the others seemed to still be asleep, Kira lay on her back on one of the thin blankets Mila had provided them, and thumbed almost idly through a list of signals intercepted nearby, identifying potential sabotage targets. There were still things three people with extremely limited resources could do to make themselves useful - or disruptive, depending on your perspective. 

Two Jem’Hadar barracks complexes (a hatchery would be better, and far less dangerous). A comms central (they might not have the proper tools available to make it truly worth the risk). Long-term storage warehouses (they needed to maximise short-term effects on the Dominion occupiers, not minimise the chances of Cardassia’s eventual recovery). Weapons manufacturing plants (tempting security gaps during shift changes, but still far too well-guarded for the three of them to take on alone). A power distribution junction (…remote, potentially high-impact, and definitely worth looking into). Kira made a note to ask Garak for any further details he could muster about it.

She should have, perhaps, been saving her strength, getting what rest she could while she could. Restless, that was what she was, even with all her experience and her awareness that so, so much of a resistance fight was simply spent waiting, biding time. With another brief glance around the murky room, she gave up even the pretense of repose, and got up to stretch her legs and pace out her nerves.

Garak was asleep in his corner, or at least pretending to be. Whatever suited his purposes best.

“Commander,” came a low murmur from the other side of the room: Damar, sitting up on his own improvised bed, very much awake. The Starfleet rank still sounded strange to her, but Kira could appreciate the way Damar made sure to respect it from the start, and never allowed himself a slip. “There’s something I’ve wanted to talk to you about. If you have a moment.”

“Somehow I have both far too much and far too little time these days. What is it?” She asked quietly, stepping closer, though the chances of Garak actually sleeping through whatever their conversation was going to be were negligibly low – as were the chances of him ‘waking up’ before they were done.

“I know it might not make much difference. And I do not ask for your forgiveness, or understanding. But I wanted – no, needed to tell you this. I’m sorry – for what I did to Ziyal.”

Her mood miraculously sank even lower. “For murdering her, you mean,” Kira didn’t even try to hold back the bite, nor had she ever been one for softening any blows.

Damar’s lips twisted. “You are right to call it what it was. Hiding from the truth won’t accomplish anything anymore. I killed her, and I deeply regret it.”

Kira said nothing, and Damar continued. “I’m not asking you for anything, believe me. But I hope… she can become a herald, of sorts. Her presence can live on in our alliance, a spirit of cooperation, and a new dawn for both our peoples.”

It was hardly the first time Damar made her think there could be a future for Cardassia after everything, one of reinvention and coexistence. Even Kira, with her underdeveloped imagination (Jadzia’s efforts notwithstanding – ah, there was the stab of that hastily half-handled grief), could let herself imagine it.

Kira nodded, and pursed her mouth. Forgiveness wasn’t something she felt was hers to give, even if she wanted to. Maybe it wasn’t anyone’s.

“Nice speech, Damar,” she said, flatly. Ground out, almost. “It’ll be good for you, to’ve had the practice.” Then, after a moment of consideration of what she was prepared to give: “I hope I’ll get to hear you make more of those someday soon. And I hope Cardassia will get to hear them, too.”

It only took another tragically small circle paced before the weight in the room became unbearable. Kira decided to make for their somewhat improvised refresher and what little privacy could be scrounged up – and caught Garak watching her, lying motionless but as alert as ever.

She silently met his eyes, then turned away.

 

 

5. 2376

The first day of her long-awaited leave dawned beautiful and clear. It seemed a small thing, to be sure – but perhaps the Prophets, prompted by their Emissary, had had a hand in making it so. No matter the reason, the sun shone on a Bajor that was growing prosperous and whole in ways Kira had feared it wouldn’t ever be again. 

The document that had just brought peace to two quadrants of the galaxy was called the Treaty of Bajor. There was talk, increasingly common and growing louder, of reactivating Bajor’s suspended Federation membership application, and Kira had been made aware of the validity of her Starfleet field commission and the implications on her future career. The Vedek Assembly would be announcing their choice of the new Kai within the week. The soil beneath her feet was healthy, fertile, fully reclamated and ready for planting. There were now schoolchildren on Bajor who had never lived under the occupation. 

And there was Kira, who had helped liberate it, and hadn’t lived on it since.

This was the first time she’d returned to her home planet after the formal end of hostilities with the Dominion, and all that that had entailed. The light of B’hava’el was strong but not harsh – the same sun Kira had spent most of her life under, but that had never hit her more differently than it felt now. B’hava’el, that she had now seen from so much closer and so much further away – had, in a horrifying, memorable incident, helped prevent the destruction of, even. Her! Not just scrappy little Nerys from the Shakaar resistance cell anymore, small enough to slip through narrow passages in the labyrinthine caves of the Dahkur province and gaps in the Cardassian sensor nets alike.

She was Colonel Kira Nerys, commander of Deep Space 9, and, as a dear lost friend had made sure she was aware a while ago, a public figure in her own right. Ah– her own importance was something she would need to confront some other time, perhaps, right after she somehow went head to head with her grief. Ezri had been dropping some suggestions, in her capacity as a counselor, for all of the senior staff and beyond. It would be foolish not to consider her recommendations, both as the commanding officer and as a friend.  

Kira was well aware she had lost so much and so many. And she could sit down and catalogue the losses on a PADD, like freighter cargo inventory, but what for? She had gained, too, and lost again, and gained yet more. Like waves and eddies, pulling along a lightship on its way through the stars.

“Prophets help me if I try being a poet, too,” Kira mumbled to herself. Maybe she would take up writing tortured metaphors about the Prophets watching over and guiding ancient Bajoran star sailors on their journey all the way to Cardassia, for better or worse. 

A stray breeze toyed with the chain of her earring, carrying the scent of ripening moba fruit, and as she crested the hill, the outline of a house well under construction came into view.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Kasidy asked from just behind her, Jake right at her side, holding her arm.

“Just thinking aloud. Nothing important. Anyway… where did you want to start?”

Her two companions caught up to her quickly enough. The gasps of surprised joy at the sight of all the progress that had been made on the house were by themselves more than worth the trip planetside.

“Well,” Kasidy began, “we have all the plumbing specifications and details all worked out thanks to the local architect you recommended – thanks again, by the way. I think… the kitchen should be first.”

It was an obvious tribute. A longing and anticipation there, too. Kira’s heart ached just a bit stronger then, for a beat or two. She nodded, scrolling down a PADD loaded with floor plans and interior concepts. “I know some people who can help with that, too. Ceramics and pottery artisans, and a few others. I’ve got some favours to call in.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Kasidy started, but didn’t get too far.

“Yes I do, Kas. We’re going to see this through, and we’re going to see it done properly.”

“Only the best for the Emissary?” Jake asked, pointedly. There wasn’t bitterness there, though Kira would have understood it, and perhaps expected it, from a young man longing for the return of his father. 

“For a dear friend and his family,” Kira corrected. “But – yes, I’m sure they’ll be happy and honoured to contribute. Now, Julian and Ezri will be down with the next transport, just in time to meet us for dinner in the village. We have a few hours to handle things here, check on the progress so far, make notes – any complaints or requests you might have. Remember, I’m here to make sure they listen to you.”

They started down the path into the almost startlingly green valley, Kira catching herself marvelling along the way at the visibility of all the growth and healing made possible by the hard, dedicated work of so many. Who knew what could be in store for an old civilisation of artists, architects, and philosophers, forced to reinvent itself, and the sometimes tenuous connections to vast stretches of heritage that Kira herself had grasped at in various ways for most of her life, born into struggle and desperate, determined rebellion, like so many others. 

Well. Nothing to stop her from trying her hand at poetry, after all.

She felt her lips twist wryly at the private joke – she knew her place and her strengths. And she thought she could say she knew herself, too – precious knowledge, by any accounting. She knew there’d be no rest for her, not really, as long as there was something to be done for Bajor, and for her station, and for her unlikely family, wherever they might end up, scattered among and beyond the stars.

But Kira allowed herself a moment, gazing up in what she imagined might be the direction of the wormhole’s entrance.