Chapter Nine

Previously: Chapter Eight

Shiu Sah, 3rd Moon of Ketara V
Stardate 41115.0
Approximate Time: 1500 hours

The Ketara System made Gaya Morana think of abundance. It had abundant planets, and each planet had abundant moons, and each moon was blessed with abundant natural resources. In fact, the initial geothermal scans reminded her of the geographical surveys taken of Bajor before the Occupation.

The only reason a developing system like Ketara hadn't already been taken over by a force like the Cardassians or the Klingons was that it bordered Federation space. Morana supposed it was just another blessing of the Ketarans.

As for Morana herself, blessings were in short supply. She was on a team comprising herself, Drelle Marlowe, Ensign Perfection, and headed by the Borg Queen.

Not the best combination of people, not today.

Lt. Sohini Ghoshal was extra stiff today, firing pop quiz-like questions at random intervals as her team began their scans and sample collections.

"Ensign Marlowe," she snapped. "What did you learn during the first round of talks with the Ketarans?"

"They're ruled by a tetrarch," Drelle hurried to reply, even as she tried to scrape rock samples into her pristine set of tubes. "Each member is an elected official, as the Ketarans abolished royal families 124 years and 7 months ago. Captain Picard of the Enterprise actually met with Tetrarch Alayash Mor."

"Ensign Gaya--" and here there was a particularly harsh note to her voice, "what's the most notable aspect about the water on this moon?"

"High levels of sodium, Lieutenant," Morana replied, trying not to yawn. She hated survey work. "Comparable to Earth's own Dead Sea."

"Ensign Willoughby, what's the most prominent ore in these caves?"

"Depends on the layer, Lieutenant," came the annoyingly polished reply. "The first five meters are solid rock, approximately one million years old. Though rich in minerals beneficial to most humanoids, there are no definitive traces of valuable ore. But once you get about five to six meters deep, there are heavy trace of atarium, odotrium, and rynium, all extremely valuable to warp-capable ships. The jewel of ores, however, lies about twelve meters deep, where we'll find heavy deposits of dilithium."

"Excellent, Ensign Willoughby."

Well, of course she gets praise, Morana scowled. To hell with the rest of us.

"Ensign Marlowe," the Borg Queen suddenly intoned, "accompany me down the west cave. Gaya and Willoughby, you take the east cave. We'll rendezvous at 1530 hours."

Drelle followed Her Heinous Royal Majesty, looking like a woman condemned while Morana trudged off with Willoughby, hoping the Human would speak as little as possible.

"So, Morana," Miranda began casually, "I understand Gabriel is kinda fond of you."

"Gabriel?" Mylanti blinked. She recalled his looks, his destructive gift of Cardassian sugar candy and shrugged. "I guess so."

"We've become a bit of an item," Miranda went on. "You don't mind, do you?"

Morana was briefly confused. "No. He's all yours."

"Excellent," Miranda beamed.

"Ensign Sito to Ensign Willoughby."

"Willoughby, here."

Morana's ears pricked up immediately. Sito? Ensign Sito is dead!!!

"How's your cave?" the disembodied, digital voice inquired. "We've barely arrived at ours."

"I'm moving eastward toward the Shon-Ra Sea, but I'm still above ground."

Morana's eyes widened in alarm. Um, can we talk about how Ensign Sito is supposed to be dead?

She would've known. She would've known if there was another Bajoran Ensign named Sito in Starfleet. She would've sought them out, the way almost all Bajoran students and officers sought one another out.

She would've welcomed them, comforted them for the lost of their kin.

"We'll be reaching our cave in 27 minutes."

"Let me know how you like yours," Miranda chuckled. "Willoughby out."

"Ensign Sito?" Mylanti blinked, her heart thudding in her chest. "There's...another Ensign Sito?"

"Yes," Miranda nodded. "Her cousin, Sito Apraxa."

"Sito Apraxa?" Morana shook her head, as if to clear it. That didn't sound right. "Sito Apraxa is no Starfleet Ensign. Sito Apraxa is a terrorist, wanted across nine star systems."

Miranda merely shrugged. "You're Bajoran. You understand."

"Ensign Willoughby," Morana said sharply, "Starfleet code prohibits private contact with terrorists!"

Miranda stopped walking and turned to face Morana.

"But you're Bajoran," she blinked. "You do understand, don't you?"

"Miranda," Morana bit out, her face alarmed, "why is one of the most infamous Bajoran terrorists talking to you and masquerading as a Starfleet officer?"

Miranda looked shocked. "Please tell me you're not one of those housebroken refugees who drink the Federation Kool-Aid, Morana," she blinked. She spoke rapidly, her voice rising to a deadly pitch. "Don't think because they put you through a fancy school and assigned you some cushy quarters on a station built by Bajoran slave labor that the struggle is somehow over. The war with the spoonheads rages on, and you of all people should know that!"

"I, of all people?" Morana snapped. "Simply because I'm Bajoran?"

"Because I know who you really are," Miranda replied with a sudden, deadly calm. "I know about your mother. I know where she really is and I know the life you escaped. I'll admit you did a great job hiding your records from the Bajoran and Federation databases--excellent, really--but you can't hide those things from us, not from our operatives. There are thousands of us and we are everywhere."

At last, it dawned on Morana. "You," she whispered. Her voice suddenly came out much more forcefully. "You are Maquis."

There was a strange, silent pause. What happened next was dreamlike, with things moving both blindingly fast and numbingly slow.  All sounds seemed to come from a distance. Quick as lightning, Miranda pulled her phaser. The next thing Morana knew, she was on the ground, on her back, with a sharp burning sensation in her side. Then the very ground seem to shake, the cave walls began to move...and then there was dark.

Chapter Eight

Previously: Chapter Seven

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

Ohhhh, what a tangled web we weave.

Youth is a fickle thing. We're also so convinced we know what we want and we're doing, when the fact is, we don't know anything at all. Take Sillia, for example. She doesn't actually want a romance with Pranay. She wants to be Pranay.

It's crazy, all the things we want. Even me. As time goes on, I realize there's so much I want. I want to stay in Starfleet, though I still don't know what for. In the quiet moments, when I lay on my bed and stare at the gray ceilings of this Cardassian monument to slave labor, I admit that I am really angry. I'm angry at everyone. I'm angry all the time.

And I want revenge. I just don't know whom against.

Chapter Seven

Previously: Chapter Six

Of all the dates Gabriel Ohn had ever gone on, this was by far the best.

The fact Miranda Willoughby had her own quarters was the crux of the date's best-ness.  It was great to not have worry about a roommate showing up without warning.

And then...there was the food.

For dinner, Miranda served pan-seared Andorian kala fish lightly crusted with breadcrumbs and topped with Asiago cheese.  She also served with blue Tellurite angel-haired pasta cooked in Romulan viinerine and Vulcan plomeek soup boiled down in a Bajoran springwine reduction.

Gabriel's contribution was merely two bottles of some simple Risian cordials he'd heard about from Drelle, but Miranda graciously accepted it anyway.  The sweetness of the beverage offset the tangy spice of the dish.

"Let me guess," he chuckled, as they sat down to eat, "you got the recipe from Chopped."

"I refined it, of course," she assured him, eyes twinkling.  "The contestant who originally came up with the combination used a Klingon bloodwine reduction, which is much too strong, and he didn't think to dull the sourness of the viinerine with the plomeek soup."

Gabriel smiled broadly. "Can this possibly get any better?"

Miranda beamed.  "Actually, I put some of your programming skills to test and manipulated the computer to replicating Black Orchid cupcakes.  They're basically Delavian dark chocolate cupcakes infused with the Cardassian mayal flower."

Gabriel's head rose and fell.  "Like they use in sugar candy."

"Mm-hm," Miranda nodded.  "It really darkened the batter, and added a rich flavor.  I'm going to recommend them to Lt. Silent River."

"I'm sure he'll be impressed," Gabriel assured her, and they began to eat.  Everything tasted absolutely perfect and he made sure to tell her so.

"Cooking's actually a big deal in the DMZ," Miranda explained.  "Most of the people are farmers who grow and cook their own food.  To be honest, grown food does taste better than replicated food, but you've taught me that with a little tweaking, computers can rival nature."

They ate for a time, talking about the Engineering lecture from earlier that day and making predictions about the Ketara Mission.

"What's the planet like?" Gabriel asked.  "I haven't searched the database yet."

"The moon we've been assigned is quite beautiful.  I haven't visited it, but I browsed the database." Her voice grew wistful as a faraway look overtook her eyes.

"It has this beach, you know? It just stretches on for kilometers, and at sunset, you can see Ketara V and its first moon.  The Miluna Sea is this beautiful shade of blue green and the sunset...the sunset, luminous, with soft pinks and tender golds.  If you want, we can go see it on the holodeck tomorrow night."

A second date???  This was too easy.  If there was a catch, Gabriel didn't want to know.  Not yet.  He just wanted to savor this, their effortless synchronicity...and their growing electricity.

When he realized how she was looking at him, Gabriel cleared his throat and immediately broke the silence, grasping for something, anything.

"I'll help you clear the dishes."

Miranda beamed her angelic smile, and nodded.  "All right."

They moved in silence, packing up glasses and dishes and putting them back in the replicator. They wiped the table together, washed their hands, and were about to bid each other good night when Gabriel suddenly noticed Miranda was in his arms, and he was kissing her as though his life depended upon it.

Right away, Gabriel knew better than to bother going back to his quarters that night.  There was no point.

Miranda smelled of some strange jasmine and tasted of the cordial.  He wanted to slow down, knew he should slow down but instead, things kept speeding and heating up.  It seemed to take only seconds for them to shed their clothes.

Though they initially headed for her bedroom, they never made it past the dining table.