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Prologue

Previously: Dramatis Personae

Ensign Gaya Morana's personal log; stardate...whenever.

Now that I've graduated, all I can think about is time.

Like, when I was a freshman at the Academy, I met this really brilliant upperclassman named Wesley Crusher. During one of his infamous experiments, he created a bubble in which time actually stood still. But as was the case with all his experiments, it got loose...so to speak.

The bubble expanded beyond the originally intended perimeters, filling Science Lab 2 encompassing students and me. When the bubble was finally dissolved, a whole week had passed, but for us, the whole debacle felt as though it had only occurred a moment before.

At least, that's what the other students said. I remember every moment. I let that warm bubble wrap itself around me and hold me hostage. There's nothing in the world so comforting as knowing the next minute is never going to come.

I think I've spent every day since then trying recreate the peaceful timelessness I felt inside the bubble. My mind drifts there all the time. A couple of years after the accident, we learned that Ensign Sito Jaxa's shuttle had been blown to smithereens while trying to escape the Cardassians. She was one of the few Bajorans to ever attend and successfully graduate from Starfleet Academy, and she sort of redeemed our reputation after Ensign Ro Laren, another Bajoran, stepped all over it. We lit a 
duranja in her honor, and then Cadet Kiran Issia broke out the Romulan ale. It was the first time I'd ever tasted any. I had two drinks that night and woke up three days later. It was the closest I'd gotten to getting back in the bubble.

But now I've graduated. I have top grades and an unblemished record. I naively accomplished all this thinking people would leave me alone but this is Starfleet. Since no good deed goes unpunished, my efforts have landed me
back in Bajoran fucking space, aboard Deep Space fucking Nine.

Had I known this would happen, I would've just flunked the fuck out.


Ensign Gaya Morana didn't like empaths and telepaths. So naturally, the Prophets had deemed it appropriate that her pre-orientation counseling session be conducted by a Betazoid.

And a strikingly beautiful one at that. Lieutenant Calandra Tria had the sort of beauty epic poems and operas were written about. The tall lieutenant had flawless dark brown skin, thick curly black hairy, and those large black Betazoid eyes that missed nothing.

"Ensign Gaya, do you know why we're having this meeting?" she asked, voice lie a siren.

"Because I'm a Bajoran and Starfleet insists on treating us like emotionally fragile children," Morana replied bluntly.  Unlike humans, Morana knew better than to lie to Betazoids.  There was literally no point.

"Your people did just suffer a fifty-year holocaust," Calandra raised an eyebrow.  "Have you heard from your parents lately?"

"I don't have 'parents', Lieutenant," came the stiff reply.  "My father died ten years ago while fighting in his resistance cell.  And my mother is living in the capital, just as she always has."

"I understand you have no siblings."

"Correct." Morana also knew better than to argue or draw things out in a counseling session.  The quicker she got this over with, the better.

"Your records show you grew up in the Angtah Refugee camp - at least until the age of about ten - but you refuse to talk about it. In fact, none of your prior counseling sessions have proven fruitful."

"I don't need counseling, Lieutenant; no offense." She didn't want to get irritated with this woman but she'd already had this conversation a million times and it always ended the same.  "I'm not suicidal.  I don't have post-traumatic stress disorder. My records also show that I've been an excellent student. I'm fine, okay?"

The Betazoid's eyebrow went up, which meant she knew Gaya was lying about something, but she thankfully didn't press the issue. Instead, Calandra assumed a more professional tone, knowing by now it was pointless to pursue a personal conversation.

"Tonight, there will be a mixer at Quark's. There you'll meet the other new ensigns."

Morana visibly twitched.  "A mixer?"

"Oh, yes," Calandra noted. She glanced down at her padd, tapped her finger on the screen a couple of times, and read aloud, "Sillia Rix of Trill and Shondrelle Marlowe of Earth are your fellow Ensigns."

Mylanti's jaw was now on the floor. "Drelle Marlowe got assigned DS9?"  She didn't recognize the other name, but Drelle's definitely rang a warning bell.  "They actually graduated that party girl?"

Again that eyebrow went up, and this time, Calandra added a stern note to her voice.

"Contrary to the rumors floating around the Academy, Ensign Marlowe is not a 'party girl'," she began coolly, glancing back down at her padd. "She scored higher than you did on the final exams, and unlike you, she's chosen a discipline. She intends to go into Interstellar Diplomacy and Mediation. Rix on the command track, with intent to make Admiral by the age of forty."  The Betazoid cocked her head to the side. "What about you, Ensign?  I show you majored in General Studies as the Academy."

Now they were on dangerous ground, and Morana suddenly realized why a Betazoid had been sent to deal with her. She'd been avoiding declaring a discipline for years now because she didn't really see her future in Starfleet.  The Academy had simply been the quickest and smartest way to get away from Bajor.  She'd stuck it out naively believing she could use Starfleet to reach the furthest planet from home and stay there.

But this was Starfleet. They were going to make her earn that free education, that free room and board, the holodecks, replicators, and free healthcare.

Eventually, she was going to have to pick a discipline and stick to it, otherwise Starfleet was going to get a lot stricter about accepting Bajorans. Ro Laren had already made them think twice. Sito Jaxa had almost made them stop altogether.

Morana sure as hell wasn't going to be the coffin nail that screwed things up permanently for all the other Bajoran kids fleeing home.

"I still need time," she mumbled finally.  "I have multiple interests and I'm good at a lot of different things.  I just need...time."

***

Ensign Gaya's personal log, supplemental.

Humans have a saying about time; they claim there's always either too much or too little.

Me?  I just want it to stop.

***

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