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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.

***

Shiu Sah, 3rd Moon of Ketara V
Stardate 41115.46
Approximate Time: 1546 hours


I'm going to die here. That much is obvious.

I'm fading, bleeding out, running out of oxygen. She did this deliberately, that bitch.

Oh, I remember now. I remember Miranda Willoughby, friggin' Ensign Perfection herself, busting a cap in my side and then sealing me in a cave. This is meant to be slow, torturous death. A traitor's death.

I can't lie any longer. I can't pretend to forget. I can't act as though the years following my father's death never happened. There is no getting back in the bubble. Those things happened. Time moved on, whether I was ready or not.


Gaya Irian

I miss my mother.

Not once since leaving had she admitted this to herself, not in thought and certainly not allowed. But now was the time for truth, and this was most certainly the truth.

I'm going to die, and she's never going to know what happened to me.

Above all, this crushed Morana. She knew Gaya Irian had never stopped loving her daughter, never stopped looking for her.

It is the cruelest thing a child can do to their mother, to run away, disappear for years, and then die.

A single burning tear rolled from her left eye.  She'd been shot and sealed in a cave, but it was the thought of her mother which finally made her cry.

***

USS Defiant, Sickbay
Stardate 41116.23
Approximate Time: 1623 hours


"Ensign Gaya, can you hear me?"

Morana blinked slowly a few times. First, all she could see was dark, then blurred shades and soft lights, and finally the face of the Borg Queen.

She should've been horrified to see Lt. Sohini Ghoshal leaning over her as the first thing when she woke, but she wasn't.

"You are so beautiful," Morana murmured in a haze. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner."

Sohini visibly stiffened and backed away, speaking to someone else. "Well, she's lucid...ish."

"Ensign Gaya," came the deep, gentle voice of Damian Silent River. "Do you remember what happened? We scanned the entire cave system but we couldn't find Ensign Willoughby."

"You wouldn't," Morana mumbled. "She's Maquis. I heard her contact Sito Apraxa."

Damian looked confused. "Sito...Apraxa?"

"Jaxa's fifth cousin," Sohini stiffly explained. "Infamous Bajoran terrorist who allied with the Maquis."

Morana tried to nod and failed. "I think she beamed Miranda off the planet."

There was a cold silence. Everything in sickbay seemed to stop. Even the Borg Queen winced as though Morana had just uttered the most heinous form of sacrilege.

And even in her pain, Morana relished it.

"That explains the phaser wound," Damian murmured finally. "You should rest now. Dr. Bashir healed you. You should be up and about in a day or so." He and Sohini turned to leave.

"My mother was a whore."

Both Damian and Sohini's heads snapped her way. They exchanged looks but didn't dare speak. And they couldn't walk away, not even Sohini, who already had her fill of ensigns with mother issues.

Morana kept talking to no one in particular. Her voice came out dull and leaden as her deepest, darkest secret came tumbling out of her.

"After my father died, my mother was chosen amongst several women to serve as a comfort woman aboard Terok Nor. It's where she met Gul Melok. Like all the spoonheads on that station, he was an obnoxious asshole, but he was also one of the wealthiest men in the entire Cardassian Union."


Both Damian and Sohini drew in closer, unable to breathe or blink, much less turn away.

"I don't know how he did it, but a year before the Occupation ended, he convinced my mother to marry him. It was forbidden, but his family had so much influence no one could stop it. She didn't want to go back to Cardassia, so he moved us to Lissepia, where she lives in the capital to this day."

There was a sigh in the room, the silent kind where the whole room seemed to sigh, as though a huge weight had finally been lifted.

Hot tears ran down the side of Morana's face.

"I'm a terrible daughter," she rasped. "I ran away. I ran from away Lissepia years ago and joined Starfleet. I never spoke to her or told her where I was. I could've died today and she never would've know what happened to me."

Even the Borg Queen appeared moved. Morana could practically hear Her Heinous Royal Majesty's frozen heart pounding away.

"Well, then," Damian spoke finally, his voice low and almost breathless. "It seems a reunion is in order."

A/N ~ In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Wrongs Darker than Death or Night", actress Caprice Crawford portrayed an unnamed, stunningly beautiful Bajoran comfort woman (pictured above). Her brief appearance has stayed with me always.

It was Crawford's portrayal which, in the end, was the penultimate inspiration for Gaya's Astronomy.

~ END GAYA'S ASTRONOMY VOLUME 1 ~

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