Jake eventually got tired of waiting in his quarters. The silence and calmness just allowed his imagination to run wild with speculation as to what exactly he found himself involved in. He needed to escape, to go somewhere he could be distracted.
Jake walked up to the door and his hand wavered over the door control, unsure about whether Weyoun had been truthful with him and apprehension about what could be on the other side of the door rippled through him. Steeling himself Jake opened the door and cautiously stepped forward.
Outside he found no guards waiting to hustle him back inside and wondered if there had ever been any. He had just assumed the Jem’Hadar who escorted him to these quarters had remained outside. Despite that Jake was sure he was not unwatched. He was convinced that Weyoun would have the station’s security system monitoring him in case he tried to sneak off the station. Weyoun was not foolish enough to believe a polite request would be enough of an incentive to stay. Jake was sure if he tried to leave the station he would be quickly intercepted by security personnel who would probably inform him he had an immediate appointment with Weyoun. Not that Jake had any wish to test this theory.
Jake headed to the promenade. Despite years away from the station he found it easy to navigate his way to where he was going. Once on the promenade he found it was much as he remembered it; while the stores had almost all changed the familiar layout was comforting. He made his way to Quark’s...Morn’s he corrected himself.
Quark had left the station a long time ago. Quark had narrowly avoided been executed for the gaol break that freed Jake and others who were suspected, rightfully, of planning to interfere with the taking down of the minefield that blocked the wormhole. Quark’s survival was in part thanks to Tora Ziyal’s sacrifice. The illegitimate daughter of the station’s former Cardassian commander had testified that she had threatened Quark into aiding her in freeing them. This was also coupled with a personal plea from Grand Nagus Zek to spare Quark and his brother Rom. Rom had been a lost cause, but Quark’s life had been saved. However, the Dominion’s execution of his brother and the woman who saved his life, coupled with the death of his nephew and Jake’s best friend, Nog, had a profound impact on Quark and he had not been the same man after that. He did not remain on the station for long after these tragic events.
After his father’s death Jake had spent long hours sitting in Quark’s drinking, though more accurately he just ordered a drink and sat there with it rather than doing much drinking. He had hoped the ebb and flow of the busy spot would keep his mind off the deaths of friend and family, it of course did not. It simply allowed him to wallow where others could see him.
He could still remember his final conversation with Quark all those years ago –
Jake nursed his root beer. His drink had long since reached room temperature and not even the condensation remained coating the glass. All that was left was that on his damp fingers as he turned the glass slowly.
“Can I get you a new one?”
“No thanks, Quark,” replied Jake, not even bothering to look up from the next to full glass.
There was the sound of a chair being pulled out and Jake looked up to see Quark sitting down opposite him.
“Jake, I’m leaving,” said Quark plainly.
“Why?” responded Jake without thinking.
“Business is down. This place is barely breaking even. I’ve also lost the joy I felt with running this place. The thrill of battling through to enhance my wealth...and I can’t look around this place without seeing the faces of ghosts.”
Jake knew exactly how he felt. Everywhere Jake looked he saw reminders of his father, or Nog and the other Starfleet officers that served on the station who were now dead. The only reason he came to Quark’s was that he hoped that flow of people in and out would distract him, but instead he spent his time staring into a glass of liquid trying not to think about what he had lost.
“Where are you going?”
“Back to the Ferenginar. Moogie will need me to help her –” Quark paused; a humourless smile creased his mouth. “Who am I kidding? I need her,” he admitted. “I used to have a problem with why my mother favoured Rom. He was an idiot and didn’t have the lobes for business I did. But seeing him stand proud, unafraid before his executioners…I finally saw why he was Moogie’s favourite. I may have been what a Ferengi should be but he was...he was Rom.” A real smile appeared as Quark mentioned his brother, but it quickly faded from his face and all that was left was a crushing sadness, one that Jake could easily recognise. “I just wish that idiot had gone with Major Kira and fled the station instead of coming back for Leeta.”
“He loved her,” said Jake.
Quark half-heartedly smirked. “Like I said, he was an idiot.”
They sat in silence both thinking of their individual losses.
“What are you going to do with the bar?” asked Jake, breaking the silence.
“Morn said he’ll take it over and I agreed to let him manage it while I’m gone. I fully expect him to run it into the ground within a week due to serving himself rather than the customers. If this place is still standing when I get back I’ll be amazed.”
“So, you’ll be coming back?”
Quark paused before he answered, “No. Not if I can help it.”
“When do you leave?”
“I’m going to miss you Quark,” said Jake sincerely.
“I never thought I’d say this to a hew-mon, but I’ll miss you too, Jake.” Quark stood to leave. “Don’t stay, Jake.”
“Don’t stay on the station. Just get off. You’ll never be able to move on if you stay here. This past will haunt you, it will bring you low and smoother you in grief and torment.”
Jake noticed for the first time that Quark had with him a small case, which he placed on the table.
“What’s this?” he asked.
Quark gestured for him to open it. Jake did and found it contained a not inconsiderable number of bars of latinum.
“To help you move on,” explained Quark.
“You’re just giving it to me?” asked Jake surprised at Quark’s significant generosity.
Quark scoffed. “Jake, I’m still a Ferengi. This is a tax deductable charitable donation.”
“To what fund?”
“War orphans,” said Quark, no hint of humour in his voice. He picked up Jake warm, unfinished drink. “I’ll bring you a new drink – on the house.”
With that Quark wandered off to the bar. He smiled at the customers as he went but Jake saw the burden of grief on Quark’s shoulders because they mirrored the weight he felt on his own. Even as he lost sight of Quark two simple words reverberated within his mind.
Jake’s mind returned to the present as he entered Morn’s.
Quark was true to his word and he never returned to the station. He eventually sold the bar to Morn, who had simply replaced ‘Quark’ with ‘Morn’ in the establishment’s name. Jake looked around and found it quite similar to when he had left twenty years ago. Apart from the bar, the Dabo wheel dominated the lower floor and it was still surrounded by customers and the alluring Dabo girls, but he did not recognise any of them. There was only one face he did, the long face of Morn who was behind the bar.
“Long time no see, Morn,” said Jake as he reached the bar.
Morn had not changed much over the last twenty years and greeted him fondly. Morn quickly set about filling Jake in about every single thing that happened to him and anyone he knew in the last two decades. If there was one thing that Morn could do, it was talk.
Jake patiently sat and listened. Many of the people Morn talked about Jake did not recognise, but he politely nodded and emoted where it seemed appropriate. Morn kept Jake’s glass full but it seemed he did not keep much root beer and soon ran out. Morn then insisted that Jake go into the back to pick out something else from his private special reserve. Jake had initially turned down the offer but Morn persisted, eventually breaking him down.
Morn led him to the back room and let him in, but did not follow him in due to having to look after the front of house. Jake made his way to an impressive display of expensive looking alcoholic beverages. He looked through them. It was a truly galactic collection with drinks ranging from not only the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, but some that he recognised as from the Gamma Quadrant. There were also a couple he did not recognise. He picked up one of these and stared at the strange script to see if he could discern anything about what the bottle might contain.
“I suggest the Tulaberry wine. I understand it is of an outstanding vintage.”
Jake jumped, nearly dropping the bottle he was holding. He had not heard anyone else enter the room and the voice had given him a fright. He turned and saw a figure shrouded in the shadows in the corner of the dimly lit back room. Despite that his brain matched the voice to one from his memory.
The person exited from the shadows and pulled off the hood that obscured their face and said, “In the flesh. And it’s just Nerys these days.”
Jake’s jaw still nearly hit the floor when it was Kira Nerys’ smiling face unveiled from the shadows.
“You’ve...changed,” he managed to stammer.
“Ah, the universal code for ‘you look old’. You’re no spring chicken yourself anymore, Jake,” replied Kira, her smile more playful than before.
Jake opened his mouth to say that was not what he meant, but he quickly closed it because that was what he had been thinking. He always thought of her as “Major Kira, first officer of Deep Space 9” when she popped into his mind; youthful, strong, fiery and loyal. It seemed strange to see her now, her face was more lined with age and her red hair had gone completely grey. She approached him and he noticed that she walked with a noticeable limp. Seeing her now it was hard to connect her with the fearsome reputation she had built over the years.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said as she reached out and gave him a warm hug.
“You too, Nerys,” he replied, returning the hug. As they broke their hug he said, “Last I heard you’d been spotted in the Tong Beak Nebula.”
A wily smile came to Kira’s face. “You don’t get to keep being at the top of the Dominion’s Most Wanted list by being at the location people hear you’re at.”
Jake supposed she was right. Kira was listed as a wanted terrorist and criminal by the Dominion and she would not have been able to remain free for so long if she had let people know exactly where she was.
Jake had last seen Kira twenty years ago when they were sprung from jail by Quark and Ziyal. After the Dominion reinforcements flooded through the wormhole she had escaped the station. No one knew how she had escaped, but Jake always suspected that Odo had aided her. Odo had never admitted to doing so but Jake could not help but wonder what role he had played in not only Kira’s escape, but the sparing of himself, Leeta and Quark from execution given his connection to the Founder leader. He never got to ask Odo as not long after the Dominion reinforcements arrived Odo left the station and returned to the Great Link. In typical Odo fashion he had not notified anyone and Jake had to hear the news from Quark. Quark said he had caught Odo just before he left and that Odo had said far more without words than he did with them, which seemed typically Odo.
After Kira’s escape she had returned to her life before Deep Space 9 as a resistance fighter. Jake had heard about dozens of actions Kira was meant to have undertaken against the Dominion, but was sure not all of them were actually committed by her. Her most active time was in the months after Starfleet’s Operation Return, and she had quickly become notorious. Her reputation was also aided by the fact that the Dominion had twice claimed to have killed her, only for her to return at the helm of some audacious strike against them not long after her “death”. However, as more and more of the region fell to the Dominion her campaign against them lessened, most likely due to losing allies and ways to fund and supply her actions. While currently her attacks were few and far between, the last Jake could remember was over a year previous, she still enjoyed an almost cult status as the final warrior of a war long resolved.
“What are you doing here?” Jake asked.
“I came here after I found out that you’d been brought here.”
“How did you find that out?”
“Through a mutual friend,” she responded coyly.
Jake furrowed his brow. He was about to ask who when it came to him. “Vari?”
Kira nodded. “Prylar Letac was once part of my resistance movement. She might have left the fight but she’s still passing on things that she feels we should know.”
Vari, Prylar Letac, had told him already of her past involvement with the resistance, but had failed to mention she kept in touch with them. Though Jake had to admit he was not terribly surprised by the revelation.
“What did she tell you?”
“She told us of your journey under B’hala, of the tablet you found, the experience you had with it and that it was confiscated by the Dominion along with you.”
“So you’re here for the tablet?” he said dismissively.
Kira looked taken back by Jake’s tone. “Where did that come from?”
Jake eyed her suspiciously. “Why are you really here, Nerys? Tell me the truth! I haven’t seen or talked to you for twenty years and you choose this moment to make an appearance! Is this meant to be some sort of strange reunion?”
“You might not have ever seen me but I’ve kept tabs on you, Jake. I always have. After your father died I promised that I’d watch over you, for him. But to do so meant I could never risk coming to you no matter how much I wanted to. Those first few years after your father’s death...it was hard for me to not contact you to lend some support. In the end you got your life together and moved on. You might not have seen it but I was there for your wedding, I’ve watched your son grow and your happiness in life has filled me with joy.”
Jake felt silly for his outburst at Kira after her heartfelt reply. However, events seemed to be centring on him and he knew that he had to keep his mind clear and open if he wanted to figure out exactly what was going on.
“If you couldn’t risk it before what’s changed?” he asked.
“That tablet has changed things,” answered Kira. “Prylar Letac managed to find some more things out. They might have taken the tablet off her but they didn’t take the recordings she took of it,” said Kira pre-empting Jake’s question. “She was able to translate more of the text and made a critical connection.”
“This Reckoning the tablet talks of concerns the rebirth of Bajor. Shabren’s Fifth Prophecy specifically deals with it. It talks of a battle between the Prophets and the Pah-wraiths. Its outcome will give birth to a new Bajor. If the Prophet’s win it will be a thousand years of peace – a golden age. If they lose our world will be set aflame and so will the temple. Where’s the tablet now?”
“Simple answer? Weyoun has it.”
“He’s still here? I thought he would have returned to Earth days ago.” Kira let out a sigh and looked down to the floor. “Well, it doesn’t make things any easier...what’s he doing with it?”
“He’s preparing to offer it to Bajor as a fake artefact.”
A look of panic appeared on Kira’s face. “When?” she asked hurriedly.
“From what he told me, in a few days.”
Kira looked slightly more relaxed. “Good, we have some time but we still have to act quickly.”
“We? Look I just want to live my life in peace with my family,” stated Jake. He took a couple of paces away from Kira, literally distancing himself from her and whatever plans she had before he replied, “I don’t want to be involved in your continuing fight or anything that involves the wormhole aliens.”
Kira limped after him, keeping the space between them close. “Jake, I know you never embraced my culture as much as your father did –”
“As he was forced to,” interrupted Jake.
“It was his destiny, Jake. Now, you finding this tablet can’t be a coincidence, especially after having an orb experience during the Festival of Tears.” The mention of the orb experience caused Jake to reflexively frown. Kira noticed this slight change. “You saw something in your vision didn’t you. That’s how you found the tablet. It wasn’t just a coincidence!” she said excitedly grabbing his shoulders, squeezing tightly.
“Of course it wasn’t! Nothing is a coincidence on Bajor!” he said venomously, shaking Kira’s hands off him and again putting some distance between them. He needed space to think, to assess what was going on.
Kira looked confused by his increasingly hostile demeanour. “I don’t understand what you mean, Jake?”
Jake was pacing back and forth now, trying to organise the facts he knew and the suspicions he had. It was not any clearer now than before, if anything the waters had gotten murkier. With no ideas on where to go from here, Jake decided to be direct.
“Are you trying to set me up to be a figurehead for your resistance movement, Nerys?”
“Why would you think that?”
Jake gave Kira a dubious look. “Well, I just happen to get a guide who was member of your resistance and we just happen to find a tablet that could help foster rebellion against the Dominion on Bajor. Then guess what? You turn up! The number one fugitive on the Dominion’s most wanted list for the last twenty years!”
“Do you think I’m trying to manipulate you for my own gains, Jake? I’m hurt.”
Jake looked into Kira’s eyes as she spoke and they seemed to mirror her words. Not that he expected anything else. Kira was a smart and talented woman. A little bit of lying and acting would not be difficult for her.
“I never asked to be involved, Kira,” he stated, still confused as to what he should do. “My life was fine.”
“Your life was fine?” said Kira incredulously. “You’re living under the heel of the Dominion’s boots! Sure Bajor doesn’t have to put up with occupation troops or garrisons but it’s no freer now than when it was under Cardassian occupation. A gilded cage is still a cage, Jake. It sickens me that Bajor is the poster child for surrendering to the Dominion. You can enjoy your life now but it’s at the expense of the freedom of the rest of the galaxy because you’re helping the Dominion chip away at the rest of this quadrant. You just remember how your grandfather died.”
“He had a heart attack,” said Jake knowing that he accepted his word as much as a disbelieving Kira did.
“Brought on by getting beaten by the Jem’Hadar! His crime? Taking part in a peaceful protest march!” Kira was again right in his face. She jabbed a finger into his chest. “Your father died to try and defend your freedom and you grandfather died trying to get it back. Yet you’re willing to let your freedoms be taken from you! Jake, I don’t want to think what they would say if they saw you now.” The years might have stolen some of Kira’s youth but her passion remained as strong as ever as a mix of sympathy and thinly concealed disgust lined her voice.
“Don’t try and guilt me into this, Nerys,” said Jake forcefully as anger bubbled inside of him over her trying to manipulate him through the use of his dead family. He turned his back on her and stepped away as he struggled to reign in his emotions.
“Then what will it take for you to stand up for yourself...for others?” protested Kira loudly behind him. She paused and Jake heard her take in several deep breaths to calm herself down. “Nog, your best friend, is dead. So are your father and grandfather. What about your wife and child? When the Dominion razes your home for some minor transgression they perceive you committed, will you do something then? Because if that is what it’ll take, I’m sorry Jake, but it’ll be too late, there’ll be no one left to save,” pleaded Kira softly.
The room descended into silence. All Jake could hear was his own breathing and the beating of his heart. He was paralysed with indecision as to what he should do, who he should back. It was more than just a question about who was right or wrong because he was not just making this decision for himself. His decision would shape an entire world and more importantly he could damn his family. To him there was only one way where he could have any hope to protect them.
“All I have done these last few days is make things worse,” he said, more to himself than Kira. He looked over his shoulder to his old friend. “I found the tablet and that’s going to have to be enough, because I’m out Kira.”
“Jake, please. Think about it. You could be the difference between freedom and eternal servitude. You have to follow the path the Prophets have laid out for you.”
Jake shook his head. “No, no I don’t. The Prophets are your gods, not mine. My journey on this path ends here,” said Jake. Without waiting for Kira he headed for the exit.
“This isn’t the end of your path, Jake Sisko,” Kira ominously called after him. “The Prophets have a plan for you. You can’t walk away, Jake. You can’t avoid your destiny.”
Jake stopped at the door, his hand hovering over the controls as he paused for the shortest of moments. He could almost feel Kira’s hope increase, but his hand continued on its descent and as he pressed the open controls.
“Watch me,” replied Jake softly as he stepped through the doorway.
Jake made his way back to his quarters. He had said a quick farewell to Morn as he left and he could see that Morn wanted nothing more but to hear about everything that went on in the back room. However, he saw a look of almost regret come to Morn’s face as he took in Jake’s demeanour as he left, no doubt reading that the discussion had not gone well.
Kira did not follow him but her final words stalked him the entire way back to his quarters. Jake entered his quarters and nearly let out a scream as he found a hooded figure inside his quarters looking out of the window. Jake was unable to tell anything of the individual due to the person facing away from him, but he knew due to the size of the person that it was not Kira.
“Who are you?” he asked, keeping himself close to the door and escape.
“Why, Jake I’m offended you don’t remember me.”
Jake instantly recognised the voice but refused to believe who it was until the figure turned and pulled down his hood unveiling his identity.
“Dukat,” said Jake, his voice almost a growl. “I thought you’d be dead by now.”
Time had not been kind to the aged former leader of the Cardassian Union. His black hair had greyed and his face was haggard and weathered. Dukat’s thin lips stretched out as he smiled insincerely. “It’s nice to see you too, Jake.”
Jake straightened his back so not to appear to be cowed by Dukat’s appearance. “What are you doing here?”
“I was passing through the station and thought I’d drop in and say hello.”
“I didn’t think you’d ever return to this station.”
“Funny, I thought the same of you.” Dukat’s gaze went from Jake as he looked up at the walls and ceiling. “I have many pleasant memories here and some...not so pleasant.”
Jake realised he was still by the door and cautiously made his way forward, closing the distance between him and Dukat. “I expected to hear you’d drank yourself to death.”
Dukat chuckled, a throaty and thoroughly unpleasant sound. “Yes, that would be quite a headline – ‘Former leader of the Cardassian Union found dead in the gutter’.” The smile on the Cardassian’s face twisted, Jake thought it was probably due to the fact that Dukat’s joke might have been closer to reality than he would like to admit. “I admit I had a problem. Ziyal’s death hit me hard and in my own failings I turned to alcohol and women with low morals. However, I got my life together, much like I hear you have.”
Jake felt his venom towards Dukat rise. Any comparison between him and a monster like Dukat made him feel sick.
“If you’re here to intimidate me, it won’t work,” warned Jake. He struggled to keep his hands from balling into fists as his body readied him for possible action. “I’m not a boy anymore, Skrain. I’m not scared of you,” he said defiantly staring into Dukat’s eyes.
Dukat held his hands before him, palms outspread as if to show Jake he was not a threat, not that Jake would ever believe that.
“I truly regret that time, Jake. I unfairly focused my anger on you. How you could avoid execution yet my daughter could not.” Jake’s mind flashed back twenty years to the hatred in Dukat’s eyes as they regarded him and then the eventually confrontation where a drunk Dukat had assaulted him. Dukat’s cries of Jake’s guilt in condemning his daughter to death as he throttled him echoed in his mind as fresh as the day it happened. “I know that it was not your fault she died. She was led astray, but not by you. By Nerys,” Dukat hissed.
Jake shook his head. “Skrain, it’s been twenty years...let it go.”
“Have you let go of your father’s death?” shouted Dukat, despite himself Jake jumped a little at the Cardassian’s harsh tone. “Do you not look at me and see the man who set forward the events that led to his death? I can see the hatred you feel towards me!”
Jake could not deny that he blamed Dukat for his father’s death, however right now that was not the main emotion he felt towards the Cardassian. Dukat had once been a strong and proud man but Jake struggled to see that man. Instead all he saw was a frail, elderly man who desperately clung onto his old hatreds because it was all he had and to let go of them would mean his life was empty.
“No, I feel pity for you, Skrain. For everything that was wonderful and beautiful about Ziyal that you would choose hatred as a way to honour her memory.”
Dukat regarded him with thinly veiled disgust. “I see living amongst Bajorans all this time hasn’t dampened your human ability to take the high road.”
“I think you should leave, Skrain.”
“Very well. Take care, Jake. For you never know what will wait around the next corner in life.”
With that Dukat walked past Jake and out of his quarters. Once he was gone Jake made sure the door to his quarters was locked tight. It seemed as if Jake’s life was getting more complicated by the minute. There was strange a convergence of people on the station from twenty years ago. Jake wanted to just strike it down as an amazing coincidence, but there was one fact nagging him. They were all drawn by one thing: him.
Kira’s words once again echoed within Jake’s mind.
The Prophets have a plan for you. You can’t walk away, Jake. You can’t avoid your destiny.