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Lights for Claiming

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Hurrying past the observation window on her way to the harbormaster’s office in Jalanda City Spaceport, Kasidy spotted a familiar face.

‘Major Kira?’ she asked. ‘What are you still doing here? I dropped you off an hour ago!’

The major shrugged. ‘Shakaar stood me up,’ she said, then changed her mind. ‘No, he didn’t stand me up, that’s not fair. An urgent matter of state came up. But anyway, we were meant to have dinner, and... well, now we’re not. And there’s nothing going back to DS9 for at least six hours.’

She glared like she was daring Kasidy to feel sorry for her.

‘Well, I’m going right back up there,’ said Kasidy. ‘I just have to get the harbormaster’s thumbprint on this and take delivery of my next shipment, and then I’m out of here - shouldn’t be more than half an hour. Want a lift?’

‘I feel silly - you brought me all the way down here and now you’re just going to take me straight back up again.’

Kasidy smiled. ‘These things happen. Come on, walk with me.’

The harbormaster didn’t take long - there was a queue but Kasidy was a regular and the harbormaster’s assistant waved her through to the front. 

‘They should be loading my cargo by the time we get back,’ said Kasidy to Kira, as they returned via the observation window.

Kira just nodded, distracted.

‘Terrific weather today,’ said Kasidy, for something to say - she didn’t know the major well and she wasn’t sure if she should try to cheer her up or just let her be.

Kira looked out of the window, and smiled in spite of herself at the midday sunlight on the pale clay rooftops. ‘Jalanda is a beautiful city,’ she said.

‘It looks it,’ said Kasidy. ‘I’ve never really had the chance to explore.’

‘Don’t you come here all the time?’ asked Kira.

‘Sure, but I’m always so busy that I don’t manage to leave the spaceport.’

Kira shook her head. ‘Captain Yates, I’m sorry but that’s absurd. You should make the time to explore! I promise you won’t regret it.’

‘Maybe next time,’ Kasidy smiled. ‘This shipment of farming supplies is badly needed on the Silara Colony.’

‘Mmm,’ Kira agreed. ‘You’re doing good work, helping to supply our colonies - but see if you can take a break sometime, I’m sure you’d enjoy it.’

They reached the hangar where the Xhosa was waiting. Kasidy’s small crew were sitting on the ground beside the ship, playing cards.

‘Hey, where’s my cargo? What’s going on here?’ Kasidy said.

Her second-in-command, Greab, stood up. ‘Delayed, I’m afraid, captain,’ she said. ‘The supplier had some trouble with it, it’s going to be at least three hours, maybe four.’

‘What sort of trouble?’

Greab shrugged. ‘I tried to get them to be more specific, but you know what it’s like. They promised faithfully that it wouldn’t be any longer than that. So... it looks like there’s nothing we can do here, for the time being.’

The crew all looked at Kasidy, as one. She could assign them to do some routine maintenance, extra safety drills... but it seemed a shame.

‘All right, be back here in two and a half hours,’ she said. ‘Not a minute later. When this cargo gets here I want us to be ready for it.’

Kira whistled as the crew hurried away. ‘Working them hard?’ she asked.

‘It’s been a busy couple of months,’ said Kasidy. ‘I’m sorry, major, it looks like you’re going to be waiting around after all.’

‘Well, that’s not so bad,’ said Kira. ‘Why don’t I take this opportunity to show you a bit of Jalanda?’

‘Oh, I should really...’ Kasidy began.

‘Come on, you’ll love it,’ said Kira. ‘We’ll just take a little walk around the city, we can be back in no time if you’re needed.’

* * *

Twenty minutes and a brief hovercab ride later (‘They’re rebuilding the public transport systems but Jalanda’s not quite there yet,’ Kira had explained), Kasidy found herself in downtown Jalanda, walking along a wide road paved with different coloured stones arranged in loops and crosses.

‘This is beautiful,’ she said, gesturing downward. ‘Very striking.’

‘This road was restored after the Occupation,’ said Kira, with a note of pride in her voice. ‘The Cardassians had covered it over with artificial surfacing. It took months of careful work to remove it all.’

‘It was worth it,’ said Kasidy, watching the patterns as they walked across them.

‘Want a snack?’ asked Kira, as they passed a group of elderly women selling food from trays around their necks. Kasidy recognised jumja sticks and one or two other things, but everything else was a mystery.

‘Sure,’ she said, and she waited while Kira went and chose them something, a flattish pie that turned out to be called ipala. They ate them as they walked, and Kira pointed out interesting things along the way - a mural depicting a fleet of lightships, a shop that sold delicate lacework in the distinctive Bajoran style, a musical group trying to raise money for the restoration of the Jalanda Forum - Kira donated a generous sum and Kasidy followed suit - a group of children playing a complicated-looking game involving singing, clapping, jumping and winking, a statue depicting a famous musician, a circle of fruit trees surrounding a small pond, a building which during the Occupation had served as local headquarters for the Cardassians but which had now been reclaimed and put to use as an upmarket hotel.

There Kasidy saw something that Kira didn’t comment on.

‘What was that?’ asked Kasidy, pointing and beginning to walk towards it.

It was a small purple light on the ground, surrounded by even smaller white lights. It was in a corner of the street out of the way of anything, just where the hotel ended and the next building began, but Kasidy noticed that as they approached several people went past it and touched their ears briefly, some not even breaking their stride, others stopping for a moment and looking at it.

‘Oh,’ said Kira. ‘That’s a kelanja - a light for claiming. You’ll see them all over Bajor, in places that the Cardassians used to use but that we’ve taken back. They used to be for religious ceremonies, to banish bad energy from somewhere that had seen pain and sadness - houses where people had died of disease, murder sites, that sort of thing. Technically they should be blessed by at least a ranjen, and they should be made of candles, but these days anyone makes them, out of anything. Lights from old resistance starfighters are quite popular.’

‘Why aren’t there any on DS9?’ Kasidy spoke before she thought, and then wondered if that was an insensitive question, but Kira didn’t seem to mind.

‘There are,’ she said. ‘Six - one at the tip of each pylon. You wouldn’t notice them unless you knew they were there. We wondered at first about placing them, since the station was built by the Cardassians - but we figured they made most of it from Bajoran materials, and so many Bajorans lived and died there that it’s a part of us now too.’

A chill ran down Kasidy’s spine - she liked DS9 so much that it was easy for her to forget about Terok Nor.

‘It’s a good way to remember,’ she said.

‘Yeah,’ said Kira. 

She touched her ear, briefly, and then they carried on down the many-coloured road.