"The time is 0600 hours," said the computer.
Kira Nerys reluctantly opened her eyes. She knew exactly was what the day was going to bring her. Paperwork. A whole day with nothing on the agenda but checking reports and looking through files.
The prospect was… actually, right at the moment, it was kind of soothing.
Nerys turned over, and groaned quietly into the pillow, wondering when she had turned into the kind of person who could find satisfaction in reports.
Of course, there was no shame at all in admitting that she’d much rather do Starfleet’s paperwork than the Dominion’s. But still. What self-respecting officer looked forward to doing paperwork? (Odo did. But she didn’t want to think about that.)
Shrugging the thought away, she got out of bed, and headed for the sonic shower.
By the middle of the morning, and two more raktajinos than usual later (she’d pay for that later, but she was losing the will to live), she had changed her mind. Paperwork was an invention of the Pah-wraiths. There was a back-log of files to deal with from the last confused days of Dominion occupation, and the further she got into it, the more she realized that some of the data just didn’t make sense.
In fact… had someone been deliberately entering false data? It looked that way. She opened another file. Just as bad; the statistics didn’t even begin to add up. Someone’s act of resistance, but a very clumsy one. She was pondering the irony of her day being ruined by legitimate acts of resistance to the Dominion (but really, what kind of amateur was so careless about it? They – whoever it was – were lucky the occupation of the station had ended when it did, or they’d have been put up against a bulkhead and shot in short order).
At that moment, the door chime sounded. "I came down to see if you had lost the will to live yet," Jadzia said. “And when do you want to go to lunch?”
"It was going fine," said Nerys, ruefully. "And then it wasn't. Some idiot – well, some well-intentioned idiot – has entered a bunch of completely false data in the reports, I guess as an act of resistance. But it doesn't even begin to make sense. There's no way it wouldn't have been spotted. No-one ever said that Damar or Dukat or Weyoun were stupid. As it is, I've just got a lot of junk to deal with. Look at this one - and this file..." She opened the previous file, and her voice trailed off.
"What's wrong?" said Jadzia, sharply.
"It's... it wasn't this bad the first time I opened the file. This isn't even formatted correctly. Damn! I think it must have some kind of virus."
"Computer! Freeze these files, cut Major Kira's terminal off from the network, and freeze any other files which were created by - who entered this data?"
"Pohl Sulan, Technician First Class."
"Computer, locate -"
"No good," Nerys interrupted. "Pohl was killed when the shockwave from the minefield hit the station. I went to her funeral. I had no idea that she'd been involved with any kind of resistance. I mean, she didn't like the Dominion, none of us did, but she never struck me as political."
"Huh," said Jadzia. "Well, I think you're just going to accept that we're not going to recover the data, but I may have a poke at it with the Chief. I'd be interested to know what she used. Probably just something she found on the datanets, but... How much of a computer expert was she?"
"It was her speciality, but – well, you know the state of Bajoran education. She hadn't had much much chance to use computer systems before she joined up. Not like the Starfleet geeks who grow up chewing on opti-cables... Is my terminal alright?"
"Well, it's cut off from the network, although it's just a precaution, the station's security won't let viruses spread. But we'll have to run a diagnostic manually. I'll have a technician take a look at it – we might as well got to lunch while they check it out, and-"
At that moment, the lights flickered, and went out.
Jadzia swore – at least, Nerys presumed that was what she was doing – in Klingon. Unusually, she didn't even lower her voice.
Ten minutes later, they were round the briefing table.
"Gentlemen?" said Sisko.
O'Brian shrugged. "I've got the lighting up again, obviously, and for now I've got the virus contained in tertiary systems, but it replicates every time you try to interact with it, and infects new systems. It's bypassing all the firewalls."
"It looks like an adaption of a malicious virus developed by the Cardassians," said Jadzia, "but it's a bit...kludgy."
"Kludgy?" Odo growled.
"Technical term. Ugly code, not elegant, there's a lot of redundancies in it, I think, but I'm not clear what all the additional bits of code do. Which could mean that she was a bad programmer, or it might not. It could be deliberate, it makes it harder to work out what's going on. The Cardassians usually built a kill switch into this kind of virus – some kind of code word – but obviously we don't know if this one has one."
"What if we try it with random words?" asked Nerys.
Jadzia shook her head. "Bad idea. Entering incorrect terms usually causes them to replicate further."
"Then we do some old fashioned detective work," said Odo. "What do we know about Pohl?"
"Surprisingly little, really," said Nerys. "She'd been on the station for five years or so, but she kept herself to herself. She transferred up here because of the higher pay for off-world duty – she had a sick mother who was financially dependent on her. Her effects – and presumably that would include any PADDS with information about what she was up to – were sent to her mother soon after she died. Is it safe to use the transporters? Because I think I should talk to her mother as soon as possible."
O'Brian pulled a face. "Yes, I think so, although I've locked them down for now anyway, the last thing we need's a transporter accident. But I can beam you through. You can beam back from one of the Bajoran public stations, just to be on the safe side."
"I'd better come too," said Jadzia, "I've got a better idea of what I'm looking for."
Nerys looked at Sisko, who nodded. "Fine with me," she said, "But let me do the talking."
Pohl Lenara was very old, very frail, and in a hoverchair. Somewhat to Nerys' surprise, she lived in a very modern and efficient nursing home in the capital, though her voice still had the rasp of up-country Musilla Province.
"It's marvelous, isn't it?" Ma Pohl enthused. "Such a relief. I felt so guilty about how Sulan was working herself to death to pay for my care, and now this wonderful new government bill takes care of everything! I didn't vote for First Minister Shakaar, but I have to admit he's done a great job." A shadow passed across her face. "I just wish Sulan'd had more of a life, without being weighed down by paying for my care. It's... it's hard to understand the will of the Prophets sometimes. I mean, she worked so hard for me, she hardly ever bought new clothes, never mind taking a vacation, and then when she was finally free of the burden and could get on with her life, the Prophets called her to them."
"I'm sure she was honored to work for you," said Nerys awkwardly. "I wish I'd had the chance to do the same for my parents..."
"Are you an orphan, dearie?"
"They both died during the Occupation. I never knew my mother."
Ma Pohl pursed her lips sympathetically.
"I had my father, at least. I was luckier than many," Kira added.
"My father suffered a long illness, and I was the only one able to look after him" said Jadzia. Memories of a previous Dax host, Nerys thought, not Jadzia herself. She was normally more precise than that, but Trills weren't widely known on Bajor, and there was nothing to be gained by confusing Ma Pohl.
"It's hard for a daughter," said Ma Pohl, and sighed. "But I'm sure you didn't just come by to reminisce. What can I do for you."
"We'd like to have a look through your daughter's PADDs," said Nerys gently. "We've got some technical problems up at the station, and there might be something in there that can help us."
"Sure," said Ma Pohl. "They're in the box in the corner, I haven't looked through them yet."
"May we stay to look through them?" asked Nerys. "That way we won't need to take anything away."
"I'll make some tea," said Ma Pohl, "No, girl, you're a guest, and I'm quite capable – now I have this marvelous new chair."
"I think the worst part of my father's illness," said Jadzia, picking up a PADD, "was that everything we did together became about managing his condition. I felt more like a nurse than his s- daughter. I hope you were able to spend some time with your daughter that you both could enjoy."
"Oh yes," said Ma Pohl. If she had noticed Jadzia's stumble, she took no notice. "Sulan was very good, she often visited with me. In fact I used to say she didn't take enough time for herself."
"Did she talk to you about her work on the station?" said Nerys. "Or about what she thought of working with Starfleet? Or what happened when the Dominion were on the station?"
"She didn't like Starfleet at first – no offense meant, dearie – but she got to like them. Her supervisor was a very nice girl. Always willing to give Sulan time off if I had a bad turn, and always asked after me, she did. Why, she even sent me a gift for the Spring Festival. It was nothing much, but - well, I didn't expect anything at all."
"What about the Dominion?"
"Oh, she hated them," said Ma Pohl, then added, rather sourly, "not that she ever planned to do anything about that. She kept saying how rude and officious they were, how they treated the Bajoran staff like robots. They wouldn't let her take time off when I was ill. 'They don't even ask the first thing about us,' she'd say, 'they don't even want to admit I have a mother, they wouldn't even know your name. They're so arrogant they don't want to know anything about us. Well, one of these days that'll come back and bite them.' Only she never did anything."
"Then she never said anything about – I don't know – attempting any acts of resistance to the Dominion?" said Nerys. Beside her, Jadzia was frowning at a PADD.
Ma Pohl frowned, "What, is this what your technical problems are about? Well I never! I... I completely misjudged the girl."
Nerys raised an eyebrow. This was a complete change of tone. "Really?"
Ma Pohl straightened a little in her chair. Suddenly, she looked a lot less vague; Nerys could sense that she must have been a tough woman in her time, and perhaps still was. "I got sick first when I was injured fighting for the Resistance, way back when Sulan was a little girl. And ever since then, she cared for me. She made me her first priority. To tell you the truth it used to worry me, she had so little fight in her. I couldn't believe it when she joined the militia - but then, she went as a technician, I thought she'd never get near the hard end. And then the Dominion took over the station, and any fool could guess that sooner or later, they'd try to take over Bajor, too."
She broke off, wheezing a little, and then resumed. "And Sulan hated it, you mustn't think she didn't care about Bajor, she was a patriot. But I begged her to do what she thought was right, to stand up for what she believed in, and all she would ever say was, if she didn't care for her mother, what kind of Bajoran would she be? I know she sometimes felt tied down by me, but she was a good daughter and she walked the path the Prophets laid out for her."
Nerys thought of her mother as her father had described her, the sweet, loving woman who had been torn away from them so soon, so soon. She sometimes wondered if anyone would ever talk about her like that. "It's hard," she began, "no. It's wonderful to have a mother you look up to, but it's hard too. You feel that whatever you do, you can never be good enough."
Ma Pohl nodded grudgingly. "Sometimes I wondered where her spirit was. And sometimes – sometimes I wondered if it was looking after me that broke it."
It was clear that she'd never voiced this thought before.
"Well, you know now that she did stand up for what she believed in," said Nerys bracingly. "I wish in a way she'd done it sooner, and then I wouldn't have had to deal with the clear-up, but it was brave. Much more than most people did."
"I wonder why she waited so long," said Jadzia, and added "I think I've found the PADD we needed."
"That's easy, said Ma Pohl. "I understand now. The last time I saw her was two weeks ago, it was the first time she'd been able to see me since the bill went through and I got to move in here. She was so happy to see I was being looked after and didn't have to depend on her any more, and as she was going away, she said, 'Cheer up, Ma, one of these days everyone will know I'm your daughter.'"
"Don't you see?" said Ma Pohl. "The Prophets gave her a chance to stand up for what she thought was right, without having a useless old woman like me hold her back."
Nerys said, "No, I see exactly, ma'am, and don't call yourself useless. You raised a fine, brave woman who did her duty."
Ma Pohl said shrewdly, "She still hasn't made your day easy, though, has she?"
Nerys said, "It doesn't matter. I know how to fix it."
"I just wish she knew how proud I was of her," said Ma Pohl.
"She knew, ma'am," said Nerys. "I'm sure she knew."
"That's all very well," said Jadzia, as they walked out to the local transporter station, "but I didn't get much useful from the files. I can see what she cooked up, and there is a kill switch, but there's nothing to indicate what it is."
"Bad security to write that sort of thing down. But it doesn't matter," said Nerys again, and smiled. "I know what it is."
"Isn't it obvious?"
Back on the station, Sisko and the Chief were looking grim. "This had better be right," said O'Brian.
"It will be," said Nerys, trying to feel as confident as she sounded. She was sure she was right, but if she wasn't... "How do I enter it?"
"Just input it here," said O'Brian, pointing to the terminal.
Nerys cleared her throat, and said, "Computer! Execute kill code 'Lenara'."
Beside her, Jadzia exhaled. "Of course..."
"The virus is deleting itself," said O'Brian, squinting at the terminal's screen. "Well done, Major."
"Who's Lenara?" asked Sisko.
"Someone the Dominion wouldn't have thought was important," said Nerys. "That was the whole point."
"Well," said Jadzia, "Now that's cleared up, and given that our shift finished an hour ago and we still haven't had lunch, you and me, Major, are going to go to Quarks, have something to eat, and then have some proper drinks. We deserve them."
"Great," Nerys replied. "But I have to make a call first..."
Quark, polishing a glass, reflected that the Major and Dax were going to have sore heads tomorrow.
"What are you doing tomorrow?" he heard Dax say.
"No idea!" Kira replied cheerfully. "The main thing is, the virus ate all those reports so no damn paperwork!"
"Come on, ladies," he said, "Even Morn's called it a night."
Dax pouted. "Oh Quark, you're no fun," but the Major had already got up to go.
A few months later, First Minister Shakaar presented a posthumous citation for gallantry to Technician First Class Pohl Suhlan. As Bajor had not, at the time of her actions, been at war with the Dominion, it was a secret award, but a medal was still issued, and presented, at an unpublicised ceremony in the capital. The medal was received, in person, by her mother, Pohl Lenara.
Major Kira Nerys of the Bajoran Militia was also in attendance.
The records of what had occurred were sealed, because of their potential security implications, under Bajor’s Thirty Year Rule. Nevertheless, they are still there – in the files.