But her experience with humans and other Federation races did make her a perfect fit to help sponsor. Cultural exchanges like these were the first step towards dozens of other exchanges and conferences that would hopefully one day end with Trill joining the Federation as a member world. Emony liked the Federation and what it stood for, and generally thought joining was a good idea. So she mostly kept her complaints to herself and smiled at all the excited young people around her.
Still, in her heart, she wished the committees had come up with a less dull event.
This particular exchange was on starbase Exan-10, the closest of the major Federation starbases to Trill. Although calling it 'major' might be stretching it. It wasn't a very big or particularly bustling station. Most of the inhabitants were human, originally or very recently from Earth. And while Earth was a very different place from Trill, it wasn't that different. Not enough to cause any really sparks between the two cultures. Earth culture definitely leaned a bit more heavily towards what Emony would consider hedonism, which Emony for one had always appreciated about it, but not to the extent that it was offensive to Trill sensibilities. The only big difference was the symbionts, and for the time being the Symbiosis Commission was committed to keeping that aspect of Trill culture a secret.
At the end of the day Trills and humans both had a tendency to be fairly laid back, and that meant it was pretty easy to avoid any huge cultural upsets. Emony hadn't seen a single fight all day. And, again, she wanted Trill to join the Federation, so that was probably for the best even if it wasn't very exciting.
Now, a Klingon cultural exchange, that might be interesting. Maybe if the political situation improved Trill could work on establishing relations with them after they'd joined the Federation. Granted, the relationship between the Klingons and the Federation seemed likely to get worse before it got better, but it was still entertaining to think about it.
She was still thinking about it when she first heard the explosions.
Smoke bombs. Nothing was on fire, and as far as she could tell there was no shrapnel. People were yelling, but they sounded like they were scared, not in pain. So they'd just been smoke bombs.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement - a group of five people, in masks and heavy black clothing, and Emony took a wild guess that they'd probably had something to do with the bombs. But why would anybody bother disrupting a low-level cultural exchange in the middle of nowhere in the first place?
She was still trying to figure out if she should try to do something about it herself or just wait for the starbase security to step in when she heard a woman call out to her.
"Hey, are you okay?"
Emony looked back at the woman who'd called out to her. Emony couldn't place what species she was, but her Starfleet uniform shone bright red even through the haze of smoke. With everything going on around her she'd forgotten that there had been a Starfleet ship stationed at the base drydock.
What nice timing.
"I'm fine, I think. Are you with the security team? Because I'm pretty sure the bad guys went that way," said Emony, pointing towards where she'd seen the masked team.
"Technically I'm with engineering," said the Starfleet alien. "But I'm pretty sure I can handle this anyway."
She smiled before she took off, and Emony felt a little pity for the bad guys. She had a feeling they were in for it.
"Come on, the ship's doctor can help you out," she said, helping her through the corridors of the starbase.
"I think I'm fine, really," said Emony. "It's just a little hard to walk on it."
"Yes, yes, everyone always says they're fine," said Jaylah. "We're going to have the doctor look at you anyway."
And then Emony got her second shock of the day, because it turned out she knew the doctor already.
"The universe just gets smaller every day, doesn't it?" said Leonard, helping her onto the table so he could take a better look at her knee. "What the hell did you manage to do to yourself this time?"
It was swollen and already bruising some, but Emony already knew it wasn't anything serious. She'd done gymnastics long enough that she knew full well what a broken bone or a tear felt like, and the pain wasn't nearly bad enough for there to be any real damage. Even if there was it didn't matter much. She was well past her competition days anyway.
"I was minding my own business, as usual, and somebody decided to make trouble," said Emony. "I have no idea why."
"You said it was a cultural exchange, right?" said Jaylah. There was an accent to her English but Emony wasn't anywhere near good enough at Earth languages to pin it down. It could have been one of any number of Earth dialects, or it could have been something entirely alien, judging by the look of her. "Why would anyone even care?"
"Isolationists? Third parties trying to stir up strife? Your guess is as good as mine. I don't know of anybody dedicated to making trouble on our side." Emony shrugged. It didn't make any sense to her. Trill was a large planet, with a lot to offer the Federation in terms of its people, but it wasn't really the sort of planet people started fights over. No Dilithium, no other rare minerals or resources, just a fairly average populated planet. "Maybe it didn't have anything to do with the cultural exchange at all."
"Well, luckily nobody was seriously injured," said Leonard. "And you were right, the knee's just sprained."
He gave her a hypo that immediately dulled the pain. "Thank you. That feels better already."
"You're welcome," he said. "I'd tell you to go home and get some rest, but I think the security team still has the starbase visitor's quarters blocked off due to the investigation. Just stick with Jaylah, she'll find you a place to stay for the time being."
Emony flexed her knee. The hypo Leonard had given her made quick work of the swelling, and all she could feel was a slight twinge. Relieved, she hopped of the table and followed Jaylah through the corridors of the starship. It was her first time on a Starfleet vessel as advanced as the Enterprise, and she was impressed.
"How long were you planning to stay in drydock?" she asked.
"Another two weeks," said Jaylah. "Although I guess now we'll be here as long as it takes to figure out what happened."
"How exciting," said Emony. The Trill authorities would likely be just as satisfied with the outcome as the Federation. She was grateful it hadn't been politically motivated, because the last thing she wanted was to end up in the middle of a diplomatic mess between her people and the Federation. And while Trills were by no means a skittish people, there would still certainly be unrest back home if there were already attacks occurring so early in the process. "I mean, I'm sure it was stressful for the poor girl, but it was an exciting week for me."
Jaylah shrugged. "I didn't have that much to do with it, except for all that punching I got to do the first day." She sighed, a little wistful. "That part was fun."
"Exan-10 does seem a little dull for somebody used to deep space exploration," said Emony.
"I don't know. Staying in deep space for months at a time can get pretty dull, too," said Jaylah. "And then sometimes it's so much all at once that you want it to go back to being boring again."
"You aren't the first person I've heard say that. Still, I always thought I might like working on an exploration ship one day," said Emony. It was a bit late in this life for it, but for Dax there was always the next one. "Do the boring parts get to you? I was always worried I would go stir-crazy."
Jaylah seemed like the type who didn't handle being bored very well.
"A little," said Jaylah. "I'm actually very good at keeping myself entertained, even with nobody else around. I can always get lost in my engineering projects if there's nothing else going on."
Tobin had been like that - able to lose himself in phase coil inverters to the exclusion of all else, day in and day out. Emony could still pull one apart and put it back together with her eyes closed, and she still appreciated the art of engineering something useful, but she hadn't had the same innate talent for it like Tobin had. Or maybe she'd just gotten tired of it when she'd changed hosts. She had the same capability for intensive, all-consuming focus as Tobin - competitive gymnastic required it - but this time around she needed her focus to be physical in nature, not just mental.
"Makes sense," said Emony. "I used to mess around in engineering when I was younger, I know what it's like to get lost in it."
Jaylah's eyes lit up. "Really? What kind?"
"Phase coil converters. Trill doesn't have a lot of natural fuel sources, so there's always pressure to get everything as power efficient as possible."
"Interesting," said Jaylah. "I'm surprised you had time for that and the gymnastics."
Ah, right. Emony needed to be more careful talking about the past. Sometimes she had a tendency to flatten out the timeline in a way that didn't make sense to anyone who didn't know about the symbionts. Emony had never been averse to trouble, and she wasn't really convinced it was a good idea to keep the symbionts secret in the first place, but she really didn't want the whole Commission coming down on her like a bag of bricks for letting the secret out.
"It was a long time ago, and I never kept up with it like I should have," she said. "What about you?"
"Well, I'm on a starship, so most of the time I'm working on the engines or the transporter," said Jaylah. "But in my free time I work on holographic projectors."
"Oh," said Emony, and this time it was her eyes lighting up. "I want to see a hologram."
"That's impressive," she said. Somehow the camouflage was even more impressive that the body double holograms, and she'd already been pretty impressed with how lifelike the light construct Jaylah had looked.
"They're just prototypes right now," said Jaylah as she switched the device off. "It's tricky trying to scale them up, but one day I think they'll be commonplace."
"Amazing," said Emony. "You know, this is why I want Trill to join the Federation."
"Holograms?" asked Jaylah, looking at her quizzically.
Emony dropped herself on Jaylah's bed without asking first. It was the easiest place to sit in the room, and with any luck Jaylah would come sit down next to her.
"Well, not holograms specifically, but all the technology, all the different people. I love Trill, but there's so much more to the universe," said Emony. The Federation had taken in an unknown alien, and look what they'd gotten in return. "So many Federation members have advanced so fast in the past few generations, just because so many different people are sharing everything. I think Trill should have all that too."
Jaylah smiled at her. "That's good to hear," she said, gently placing the projector back on her desk. "The Federation means a lot to me. It's nice when it means the same thing to other people."
Emony nodded, and took a better look around Jaylah's quarters. Her room was bigger than Emony had expected, but then again, she did seem to be a genius. Maybe she was higher ranked than Emony had assumed. The underlying design of the room was very Starfleet, very simple and clean-edged, and Jaylah had made it her own by putting up a bunch of brightly colored pictures along the walls. Emony had vague memories of some of them from her time on Earth - album covers, mostly, along with some concert posters. The same sort of thing college students on Earth had on the walls of their dorm rooms. For all Emony knew Jaylah had gotten some of them straight from Leonard.
Jaylah sat down next to her, and Emony was pleased to note that she sat closer than was strictly required by the size of the bed. Emony let her hand shift, just a little bit, so that the edge of it was lightly pressed up against Jaylah's thigh.
Emony needed something to say, something that would get her interest across without being so blatant as to be offensive. Earth tended to be more laid back about these sorts of things than Trill, but there was still the expectation that you be at least a little coy about it.
"Are you from Earth, or did you just go to the Academy there?" she asked.
"I just went to the Academy," said Jaylah. She hesitated a moment before continuing. "I grew up someplace else. I haven't really spent much time on Earth."
"I've been a lot of times, but only for short visits. I like it a lot though. How about you, did you like it?"
"It's a strange place," said Jaylah. She looked contemplative. "It took me a while to get used to all the people, and I still think I like being on the ship better. But every time I go back I like it a little more."
Emony nodded. "Sometimes it takes a while to get used to places." She pulled her legs up onto the bed, and now their thighs were touching, pressed together firmly enough that the touch couldn't be overlooked.
"Emony?" asked Jaylah, reaching up and pulling at the tie that was holding her hair back.
"Do you want to have sex with me?"
Well, that was much simpler than Emony had expected. Not that she was complaining. "Absolutely," she said, leaning forward.
Jaylah's hair fell around her shoulders as she finished freeing it. "Good," she said, smiling before she kissed Emony. "I was hoping you might."
"And here I thought I was being subtle," said Emony. She had been trying for subtlety, really, because she didn't know much about Jaylah's culture or how her advances would be received. She'd just never been very good at keeping her desires to herself.
"I have never been very good at being subtle," said Jaylah. "Besides, I find being direct is more likely to get me what I want."
Her fingers reached under the hem of Emony's shirt to pull it up. Very direct, thought Emony. She followed Jaylah's lead and let her own hands start to roam.
"That's a good philosophy," said Emony. It took her a moment to find the closure on Jaylah's uniform dress, but it came off easily after she found the zipper. "On Trill, we're supposed to be above all that," she said, winking at her, "so you get used to playing games. Sex tends to be a lot easier on Earth. I always liked that about Earth."
"Ah, yes. I have seen plenty of humanoid peoples who say they're above sex, or any other physical indulgence, but I have not met many who actually follow through," said Jaylah.
"That's certainly true of Trill," said Emony.
"Well, I for one am glad you aren't like the other Trills," said Jaylah. She'd already removed any clothing in her way, and she slipped her sure, strong fingers up inside Emony. The electric shock of it was so thrilling that Emony's comeback died in her mouth, turning into a low moan instead.
Emony was glad, too.
Emony shrugged. "I mean, I don't have any plans," she said. She'd stayed longer than she meant to, and everyone else who'd come for the Federation's cultural exchange had already left. But then again, they didn't have Jaylah to hang around for. "The Enterprise is going to be here for another week, right?"
"Well, I don't have anywhere I need to be in the next week," she said, keeping her voice casual. "I was thinking I might just hang out here for a while longer."
Jaylah smiled at her, bright and open. "Good," she said. "I haven't even made you listen to any of my music collection yet."
Earth music was a great background for sex. Emony couldn't believe she'd forgotten that.
"I had a good time here," said Jaylah, smiling. "I'll miss you."
"Yeah, me too," said Emony. She reminded herself that part of being a Trill symbiont was letting go gracefully. "Who knows, though? Maybe we'll see each other around some time."
It wasn't very likely, of course. It was a big universe. Then again, she hadn't really expected to ever see Leonard again either.
Who knew what could happen?
And Audrid was not the sort of Trill who spent her time seeking out past relationships. She knew better than that - as the head of the Trill Symbiosis Commission, she was certainly expected to know better than that. If she sometimes thought about the people she once knew, quiet reflections in her private time to satisfy the nostalgic streak in Dax, that was the extent of it.
But sometimes past relationships ended up finding her, whether she sought them out or not.
The Trill-Federation Joining Ceremony took place, appropriately, on Trill. The membership process had proceeded slowly but steadily over the years, and Audrid was happy to see it finally completed. She was also an important enough member of Trill society that she was expected to attend the final event to make it official, although Audrid's situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that the Trills had not made the existence of their relationship with the symbionts public yet. As a result, the existence of the Commission was also a closely held secret.
Some members of the Trill High Council thought that revealing the symbionts would come later, others thought it would simply be a Trill secret indefinitely. Audrid tended to believe the symbionts weren't something that could remain hidden forever, but she had helped keep it a private Trill matter for quite some time and she was content to let it be a secret for a while longer.
So, instead of being present as a representative of the Trill Symbiosis Commission, she was present as the head of the Trill Cultural Preservation Commission. If anyone in the Federation party thought to wonder why a cultural preservation group was important enough to have all its members present for this historic moment, they didn't ask. And why would they wonder at it? Every world had its own values, its own idea of what institutions were important.
Audrid knew all the plans for the ceremony, she'd even helped some with the organization, and so she knew the Enterprise would be present to provide security. So it probably shouldn't have surprised her so much to see Jaylah, arms held stiffly behind her back as she looked over the crowd. Between the stark black and white of her face and the bright red dress uniform it was hard to miss her even in a sea of people.
And there were thousands of people in the High Council's ceremonial hall. The Federation treated the admission of any world as a momentous occasion, and Trill was a large planet, one that had been in negotiations with the Federation for years. There were a vast number of officials present, all of them important in their own way.
There was absolutely no reason she should be expected to speak with any particular Federation officer, not with so many people present.
So she really had no excuse for the way she found herself pulled in Jaylah's direction. Too much Emony in her. Too much Dax - her symbiont had never been much for propriety, or even common sense.
"Hello," she said, coming up on Jaylah's side. Introducing yourself to a hundred people, that's what you did at things like this, wasn't it? She wouldn't seem strange. "I'm Audrid." She left off the symbiont name. She couldn't remember if she'd ever given it to Jaylah when she was Emony.
Jaylah turned, a bit stiff. She looked slightly uncomfortable in the formal environment of the hall, and that certainly fit with the Jaylah she remembered. "Ah, hello," she said, inclining her head respectfully. "I'm Jaylah, with the Enterprise."
"And how are you enjoying the ceremony, Jaylah?" asked Audrid.
"It's been lovely," she said, a bit unconvincingly. "The speeches were interesting," she added, clearly trying and failing to sound more excited about the proceedings. Audrid imagined she'd been bored stiff.
"Just between the two of us, you can admit you were a little bored," said Audrid. "It's a big occasion, so everyone feels like they have to make a proper amount of fuss about it, but the end result is that everyone ends up talking too long," she said. She'd certainly been guilty of some unfortunately rambling speeches earlier in her career, before she'd realized that most people appreciated a concise politician.
Jaylah looked a bit chagrined at first, but her face eased at Audrid's light tone.
"I may have been lying about the speeches being interesting," she admitted. "I've never exactly been comfortable with big elaborate ceremonies like this. But I am very glad that Trill is finally joining the Federation," she said, smiling, and this time Audrid believed her.
"These things do always take such a long time, yes?" In truth, the Trill membership process hadn't lasted that long in the greater scheme of things. Federation politics moved like molasses even under the best of circumstances, and it was not uncommon for joining to take decades. A decade or two wasn't even really that long measured against the lifespan of a symbiont, but it had still felt like ages to Dax, possibly because she'd changed lives in that time.
"Yes," said Jaylah. "I was there for some of the initial conferences when I was younger. It's nice to see something that started so long ago all the way through to the end."
Audrid almost said, Yes, I remember those early conferences too. All that Emony in her trying to edge its way out. Audrid was not Emony, though, and she had always had a tight reign on herself.
While Dax had changed lives over the intervening years, Jaylah looked almost totally unchanged. The uniform was different, and her accent wasn't as sharp around the edges as Audrid remembered, but those were minor things. A lot could have happened to her in the years since they'd known each other. Had she ever found her way back to the planet she was born on? Had she started a family? Was she still listening to the same ancient music tracks again and again and again until she drove everyone else crazy?
Those were all personal questions, though, and Audrid reminded herself that as far as Jaylah was concerned, she was a stranger. And it wasn't a relationship Audrid could just pick up again, not without explaining about the symbionts, and Audrid was determined that she wasn't going to be the one to spill long-held Trill secrets. Even more than that, though, she was resolved to let her past relationships stay in the past. Anything else was inappropriate.
It did occur to her, not for the first time, that just because you weren't meant to take the same lover again didn't mean you couldn't at least be friends.
This was not the time or the place for it, though, and so instead of saying or asking something meaningful, something that might elevate her from a stranger to something more in Jaylah's eyes, Audrid simply gave her a diplomatic smile. Diplomacy was the whole reason she was there, after all.
"It is nice, isn't it? After all these years. Hopefully the relationship will benefit everyone."
And then she made her excuses and left, and did her best not to think of the chance encounter again.
"Huh," she said.
"Sorry, sir, what was that?" asked one of the ensigns, looking up at her remark.
"Oh, nothing," said Jadzia. "It just looks like I'm going to get to see an old friend.
All in all she looked pretty good for a woman who'd spent over a century in the same body.
"Welcome to DS-9," said Jadzia as Jaylah walked off the shuttle ramp. The visitation roster had listed her as a Federation researcher, and she still had her access clearances up to date even though she wasn't in a Starfleet uniform.
"I'm Jaylah," she said. "It's nice to meet you." The pleasantries rolled of her tongue easier than they had when she was younger. Time seemed to have smoothed some of her blunt edges.
"Technically, we've already met," said Jadzia. "I'm Jadzia Dax. Previously Emony Dax, and then after that Audrid Dax."
Jaylah looked her askance, but the confusion cleared from her face seconds later.
"Ah, a symbiont," said Jaylah. The symbionts hadn't been public knowledge outside of Trill for long, but news had travelled fast. "I hadn't realized all the Trills I've met were the same Trill."
Jadzia laughed. "Yes and no. It's all been the same symbiont, at least. Although I know for a fact you've met Trills who weren't me."
"Still, fewer than I thought. And I thought I was so well-travelled. Well, when you've lived as long as I have among short-lived people it's always nice to see a familiar face," said Jaylah. A shadow of sorrow passed over her face, but it was brief, and a second later she was smiling again. "That's not exactly right though, is it? I guess it might be better to say a familiar mind in a new face."
"Yes," said Jazia, leaning in to hug her. "Either way, it's nice to see you again."
"Are you here to study it?" asked Jadzia, gesturing out at the wormhole.
"Officially, yes," said Jaylah. "In my old age I've shifted from practical engineering into more theoretical physics research. People don't expect you to go around fixing or building things, so it's easier on the knees. Really, though, I don't know how long I'll stay for. I just wanted a chance to see it up close. I've been sucked through so many wormholes and space-time anomalies over the years that it's interesting to see one just sitting there, stable."
"It is a sight to behold, isn't it?" said Jadzia.
Jaylah shifted her attention from the wormhole to Jadzia. "Why didn't you tell me it was you, back at the Joining Ceremony?" She looked more curious than offended. That was the nice thing about talking to people who'd spent a lot of time around aliens. They'd learned not to take things personally.
"We weren't particularly open about the symbionts at the time," said Jadzia. "In retrospect, we were already joining the Federation at that point, so we probably should've been beyond secrecy. But, while I like to think Trill is a fairly open society in most respects, the symbionts were a very private issue. People were afraid that outsiders wouldn't understand, or maybe even that they'd be taken from us. Regardless, it used to be normal for people to be very secretive about it."
"That's understandable," said Jaylah. "Societies are like people, aren't they? They're allowed to keep some things private."
Jadzia shrugged. "Sure. It's been public knowledge for years now, though, and it hasn't mattered much at all."
Jadzia was simply glad that the secrecy around symbionts was already a non-issue by the time she'd been joined with Dax. It was one thing to keep something like that from passing acquaintances or distant co-workers. But she couldn't imagine trying to interact with someone like Sisko and having to pretend the whole time that no version of her had ever met him before. It would have been crushing.
She still wasn't sure how Audrid had managed to pull it off so calmly with Jaylah. The memory of that meeting still bothered her, ripe as it was with missed opportunity.
"On top of that, Audrid was always fairly strict about the rules," continued Jadzia. "She was probably the most committed to the straight and narrow of any of us. She wouldn't have ended up the head of the Symbiosis Commission otherwise. And the strict Trills, the traditional Trills, they pretty firmly believe that when a symbiont changes host you leave behind the people and experiences you knew before. You get a new job, new family, new friends. And you don't spend time pining over the old ones."
Jadzia looked out at the wormhole. Sometimes, in the day to day hustle of her job, Jadzia forgot how beautiful it was. It was always there, in the background of her life, and it was nice having a visitor to remind her how captivating it could be.
"I can see how it would be easier to make a clean break," said Jaylah. "Simpler, at least. I don't think I could do it though. Not if my friends and family were still there."
"It's not for everyone," said Jadzia. "It's not even for me, really."
There was an awful lot of Curzon in her friendships, even in her career. Maybe next time she'd make a cleaner break.
"Well, I'm glad you told me this time," said Jaylah. "I'd missed you."
"Me too," said Jadzia.
Jadzia didn't mind that there was a lot of Curzon in her. Or Emony, now that she came to think about it. She'd enjoyed being Emony, and she liked the opportunity to think back on it, even if it wasn't really proper by Trill standards.
"You know, you could stay here for a while, if you wanted too," said Jadzia. "We're always short on good scientists."
"Thank you, but I can't stay for too long. Earth is my home, and I'll start missing it soon."
"The first time we met you said it was strange."
Jaylah smiled at her. "I did, didn't I? It was strange at first. I wasn't used to all the people, all the strange and uncontrollable noise. That was a very long time ago, though. Now it's home. I can't stay away from it too long or I get homesick."
"Yes, I know what that feels like," said Jadzia.
Some versions of her - many versions, now that she thought about it - had been wanderers, but these days she liked her station. She might think differently in the future, she'd certainly lived long enough to know that nothing was ever set in stone, but for now the thought of leaving it behind made her heart ache.
"You can stay as long as you want to, then," said Jadzia, taking Jaylah's hand in hers. "I'm just glad you're here now."