Jake nervously wrung his hands as he and his family waited in the beautifully adorned waiting room. They had been left there to await the Kai for a private audience prior to the start of the official ceremony that would mark the beginning of the Festival of Tears.
“Now, you be on your best behaviour or I’ll send you to be a prylar and prylars don’t get any toys,” threatened Korena, not that there was any need. Benny was a well behaved boy and was smart enough to understand the nature of the situation.
“Alright, mum,” said Benny. “Is dad okay?”
He was also smart enough to tell how his parents were feeling about what was about to happen.
“Yes, he’s just nervous. It’s normal when you’re about to meet someone very important.”
“I’m not nervous,” said Benny.
“That’s because you’re braver than me, slugger,” said Jake with a smile. Benny smiled back proudly.
A chime rang through the room. Jake glanced at his wife and she gave him a supportive nod as they got to their feet. The door opened and a ranjen stepped into the room and moved to the side. In behind him came the Kai of Bajor. As the Kai approached they bowed their heads.
“Your Eminence,” said Jake. “We’re honoured that you have granted us this audience.”
A hand stretched out into Jake’s downcast view. He reached forward and took hold of the hand, another one quickly wrapped softly around his. He looked up at the smiling visage of Kai Winn Adami.
“My child, it is so good to see you after so long. I cannot begin to express how much my spirit soars having you being here for this,” said Winn with genuine joy.
It had been nine years since Jake had last seen Winn in person. Of course he had seen many images of her over the years, she was the Kai, the spiritual leader of Bajor after all. It had been difficult to replace the images of her in his mind from back when he lived on Deep Space 9. She had changed from the ambitious and self-serving woman of his youth into a much wiser and fairer leader. Despite that the image of her back then did come to his mind.
Up close he could see that she was much older than that image. Her face was well lined with the signs of age and her once golden hair had long since turned white. Despite the sign of the passage of time Winn did not look old and frail. She still appeared vibrant and alive in her position.
“Thank you, your Eminence.”
“Now there is no need for such formalities between us when we’re in private, Jake.”
Jake guessed she was right. Despite Jake’s reluctance to be involved in the religious side of Bajoran life Winn had kept in touch with him and even assisted him along the way. She had helped him with employment when he moved to Bajor and with getting his home built several years later. She had even respected his wishes for a simple marriage ceremony with his wife, though she insisted on performing the ceremony. She also blessed Benny after he was born, which had been of great importance to Korena. As while he had little interest in religion, Korena was a devote follower of the Prophets. She even did little things like sending gifts and messages on special occasions. The most important thing she ended up doing was that she granted Jake and his family the privacy he wanted from other religious and political figures.
At first Jake had thought it was all purely for ulterior motives and had been wary of accepting help from Winn at first. After the death of his father he suspected that she might be looking for a way to exploit him as the son of the Emissary, especially after she started the Festival of Tears. Winn had personally requested he take part in the festival for a number of years, but he always declined. Eventually she let her staff take over the annual invitation to the event. However, as the years went by and Winn’s position was never in threat she still continued to offer him her help. Jake came to realise that he might have judged Winn too harshly and that she had changed. Whether from simply aging or by the situation he couldn’t deny that fact. A lot had happened since the days on Deep Space 9 when Jake accused her of been involved in kidnapping a man from the station.
“Of course...Adami. It’s just I haven’t been to a formal ceremony of any kind for years. It’s easy to get caught up in the formality and structure of these events.”
“I can easily understand that.” Winn turned to his wife. “It is good to see you too, Korena.” Korena bowed her head and thanked Winn, though she maintain the formalities. “And this must be little Benjamin, though not so little anymore.”
“Are you really the Kai?” asked Benny.
“Benny!” said Korena mortified.
Winn just smiled at the young boy. “Yes, I am. We’ve met before, but you were but a baby.”
“Can you read my pagh?” Benny asked excitedly.
“I’m sorry, Kai. You don’t have to –”
Winn waved Korena’s concerns away. “Of course.” Winn bent down and grasped Benny’s ear and closed her eyes. A few seconds later she released Benny’s ear and said, “Your pagh is very strong, just like your father’s and your grandfather’s.”
“He was the Emissary, my grandpa,” stated Benny proudly.
“I know. I had the privilege of knowing him personally. He was a great man and all of Bajor still mourns his loss.”
“That’s why we have this festival,” explained Benny. “To celebrate my grandpa’s dying and joining the Prophets.”
“And more importantly to celebrate his life and all that he did for Bajor in his service to the Prophets,” added Winn. She stood back up straight and addressed them all, “Now, I’d like to have a quick word with Jake over how the ceremony will go and his role in it. If you want anything, like a drink, Solbor will look after you.”
Winn’s long-time assistant nodded his head towards Korena and Benny. He stepped forward and offered them refreshments as Winn and Jake walked away. Winn explained to him what they had planned for the ceremony as they wandered through the corridors without an apparent destination. Jake was not surprised by what Winn told him, he had been expecting this kind of involvement in the ceremony.
Once Winn had finished explaining the ceremony she said, “I must say Jake that I was surprised when you accepted my offer. I always hope you do each year, but I must admit my...faith in you was dropping in that regard. What changed your mind after all this time?”
“It’s hard to explain,” he replied. Winn continued to look expectantly at him and he realised that he was not going to deflect her that easily. “I guess I just had this...feeling that I had to attend tonight. That probably sounds kind of silly.”
Winn smiled wryly. “Jake, I’m the Kai. Feelings and omens are my bread and butter.”
Jake chuckled. “I guess they are.”
“Well, whether you being here is providence or not I am truly glad you are.”
Another ranjen appeared and came up to Winn and whispered in her ear.
“I’m sorry, Jake. I have to go and deal with something. Do you know your way back to the waiting room?”
Jake indicated he did and Winn and the ranjen disappeared off in the opposite direction. Jake wandered back towards the waiting room. His mind was buzzing. Despite his suspicions and expectations of what tonight would be, knowing for sure did not put him any more at ease than he had been before. If anything he was more nervous now.
“My, my, if it isn’t Mr Sisko.”
The voice was unmistakable, but Jake did not believe it until he turned around and saw the speaker.
The widely smiling Vorta came up to him and clasped his shoulders. Even after all the years Weyoun did not look much different from when Jake last saw him. Jake was not sure whether that meant Weyoun had received a new clone or if Vorta did not age as humans or Bajorans did.
“After all this time...I’m touched you remember me Jake. We haven’t seen each other since your last visited Earth seventeen years ago – for your grandfather’s funeral.”
The mention of his grandfather made Jake tense up. “No, we haven’t.”
“Such sad times back then,” said Weyoun sounding ever so remorseful. “The emotions of the end of the Unification War were still high. I do regret that I did not do more to prevent what happened to your grandfather, but the past is the past. This is a much more happy event.” Weyoun quickly and effortlessly switched tracks from sorrow to upbeat.
“The anniversary of my father’s death?” said Jake tersely.
“Oh, Jake,” said Weyoun apologetically. “I never meant to suggest that the death of your father brought me any type of joy. We may have been on opposite sides of a war, but I had nothing but the utmost respect for him. Captain Sisko was a formidable tactician and strategist in all aspects of his duty and he was a great man to his friends, family and to the Bajorans. To this day I wish we could have done something to prevent what happened. If only we could have disabled his ship or grabbed it in a tractor beam, maybe things might have been different. But the past –”
“Is the past,” finished Jake.
“Exactly. I’m so glad we got to catch up Jake. Maybe in the next few days while I’m at the station you could visit me on Gateway. We could catch up. Reminisce about old times and friends.”
“Weyoun, you...” Jake bit his tongue quickly. Instead of telling Weyoun what he thought of him Jake mustered up the best smile he could and said, “I’ll see if I can fit it into my schedule.”
“Of course. It is presumptuous of me to think that you would have the time to waste away in such a fashion. You have a family and career; chatting with old acquaintances is a luxury. Anyway, I’ll see you during the ceremony, Jake.”
Weyoun wandered away. Once he was out of sight Jake shivered. He could not help but feel dirty in not only talking to Weyoun but being in his presence. Jake headed back to the waiting room with another reason why he would never again visit Gateway Station or as it was formerly known: Deep Space 9.
“My fellow Bajorans, I am honoured to again stand before you on this –”
Jake watched as Kai Winn spoke from the main lectern. She had a confidence and ease about her of someone who was well versed and comfortable in her place in things. Jake had never believed that Winn would be kai for so long given the woman she was when she first took the position. However, she had served Bajor well in the end and had guided it through some of the darkest times in its history and through a crisis that was almost completely spiritual.
Bajor had faced a major crisis following the death of his father. The fact that the Emissary to the Prophets had been killed sent shockwaves through the entire population. Not that he was their first spiritual leader to pass, just a few years earlier Kai Opaka, a much loved and respected kai who had helped shepherd her people through the Cardassian occupation, moved on, which led to Winn being elected to the position of kai. However, his father was different. He was an emissary, chosen by the Prophets themselves not by other Bajorans, be they vedeks or not. At first many refused to believe the reports of the Emissary’s death, other believed he would simple exit the Celestial Temple and rejoin them to continue to guide them. But he did not and the inevitable questions came about what this meant and if it was a sign from the Prophets.
At the same time an equally devastating incident occurred as every single orb went dark. Reports stated that their lights dimmed to nothing at the same time as his father died inside the wormhole in a futile attempt to prevent the Dominion reinforcements from flooding into the Alpha Quadrant. It was impossible for the Bajorans not to tie these two events together.
However, at first the general population did not know that along with the death of their Emissary that the orbs had been snuffed out with him. Winn had quickly moved in to conceal this fact, but something of this magnitude was never going to remain a secret for long. Once news spread there was widespread panic and unrest across all of Bajor.
It was during this time that Winn truly surprised Jake. She managed to calm the planet and its populous. Her words, will and most of all her faith brought sanity back to Bajor. In the dark and uneasy years that followed she had held Bajor together. While Jake did not agree with everything she had done during that time he found it hard to imagine Bajor making it through those years without Kai Winn.
They were in the Grand Temple of Ashalla, the largest of the many temples located in Bajor’s capital city of Ashalla. Jake made an effort to avoid visiting Ashalla, not because it was not a nice city, it was in many regards spectacular. It was simply the number of people. He preferred to stay in the small rural region he lived in where he could have privacy from the galaxy.
He and his family were seated to the sides of the main lectern that Winn was speaking from, with other distinguished guests; high ranking vedeks, political leaders and even Weyoun, who was thankfully seated on the opposite side to Jake. Before them the temple was packed with tens of thousands of people. Jake knew even more were outside watching the ceremony on giant screens. In fact the entire planet was watching what happened here, such was the significance of the ceremony.
Jake realised Winn had stopped speaking and that she was gesturing him to step forward. Jake took a deep breath and stood up. It was time for him to do his part.
“It is our great privilege to have the son of the Emissary be with us tonight. Tonight we commemorate twenty years since the day the Emissary joined the Prophets and we mourn the loss of a great man who was touched by the Prophet. However, we should never forget that our grief cannot compare to that of a child who has lost their parents prematurely. So to honour him and his father, our Emissary, I welcome Jake Sisko to open the first ark.”
Jake stepped forward and a prylar led him to the arks that held the orbs. This was the greatest honour of the ceremony. The orbs were always dark, but for a short period starting from around the anniversary of when they first went dark. It was three years after his father’s death that the monks looking after the orbs first noticed it and two more years until they felt sure that it was repeating. The Bajorans had then organised it into a ceremony and festival that took an anniversary that was a sad reminder of the past and turned it into one of hope and optimism for the future. So was born the Festival of Tears.
No one truly knew why the orbs behaved this way. Scientists had detected slightly different reading from within the wormhole that coincided with the festival, but as to how the orbs actually worked in relation to this was a mystery. All they knew that was with each year the period of these new readings was longer, which translated into a longer active time for the orbs.
All nine arks were arrayed in a semi-circle on a lower landing in front of Winn. Not long after the end of the war the Dominion returned the remaining orbs in Cardassian hands to the Bajorans. It was a gift to celebrate Bajor’s admittance into the Dominion.
Jake could still remember when he heard that Winn was negotiating with the Dominion concerning Bajor joining them. It was not long after the Dominion declared victory in the Unification War over the Federation and Klingons. To say he was disgusted and angry would have been an understatement. He thought Winn was betraying the memory of his father by handing Bajor to the Dominion when his father had died to prevent the Dominion from taking the entire quadrant. With time he had grown to see that Winn and the Bajoran government had made a smart move. They had gone to the Dominion instead of waiting for the inevitable day when the Dominion came with their ultimatum. Winn not only won back the orbs that the Cardassians stole, but had seen to it that the Dominion agreed to not station any of its military forces on the planet. This move would also see the eventual return of Deep Space 9, or Terok Nor as it was called at the time, to Bajoran control.
The prylar gestured for Jake to step in front of the orb that was at the top of the semi-circle and then stepped back out of the arrangement leaving Jake alone amongst the arks. This next part was pure theatre. Jake reached out and opened the ark’s doors. Inside he saw the dark crystal like orb. He simply stared at it and waited. He was no sure how long it usually took but each second seemed like a lifetime. He could feel the entire crowd get more nervous and hushed whispers circulated the temple as he stood there waiting.
From deep within the orb Jake spotted a kernel of light. It slowly grew and spread throughout the orb. The orb started to get brighter and brighter. Jake felt the light wrap around him and flow through him. He had never felt anything like it before. It was incredible.
He stared at the mysteriously beautiful light, transfixed by its glow. The light continued to brighten and he was vaguely aware of the prylars opening the other eight arks around him. The other orbs added their glow to the first as the light of all nine orbs was trained on a single spot, him. The orbs’ light truly encapsulated him and consumed him in there majestic warmth. The light was getting to the point of almost blinding, but Jake did not look away.
From nowhere two words materialised, “Jake. See.”