I step through the door leading from the airlock onto the lower level of the Promenade and sweep my eyes over the various beings milling about. People are smiling and happy. It’s bright and full of life.
Far different from the way it was when I left a few years ago at the end of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. It's Deep Space Nine now. Not Terok Nor.
I’d vowed never to set foot on this space station ever again.
Starfleet had other ideas and I was sent in to be the Communications Officer. Officially anyway.
With a sigh I pull my bag further up over my shoulder and start making my way to Ops where I’d find Commander Sisko.
On the outside people would probably believe that I’m indifferent to my surroundings, indifferent to the things that happened here. The time I spent on Terok Nor taught me how to hide my true feelings and a little over two years later I still hold my emotions close.
My superiors have described me as eerily Vulcan-like and unreadable, lacking in emotion. Starfleet Medical determined me fit for duty after a week of debriefing and counseling when I returned to my commission after I left Terok Nor.
The truth is, I am far from indifferent to my surroundings. Every step I take threatens to pull me under a wave of emotions and memories I don’t want. I’m not normally an anxious person, but I still haven’t come to terms with everything that happened, the choices I had to make, or the consequences of those choices.
The familiar voice brings a smile to my face and I turn to face an old friend. “Hello Odo.”
He looks both shocked and happy to see me as his blue eyes take in the Starfleet uniform and gold material covering my shoulders. “You returned to Starfleet?”
“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go now did I?” I absently touch my finger to the ridges on my nose, ridges I have agonized endlessly over possibly removing.
“No, I suppose not.” His hands shift behind his back and he drops his eyes. “Does Major Kira know you’re here?”
I shrug. “I have no idea. I’m to report to Commander Sisko tomorrow morning.”
The gruff humming sound Odo makes as he bobs his head is so familiar and comforting that it instantly calms my racing heart. “You’re early.”
“Of course I am.”
He smiles with a shake of his head. “Of course you are. Come to my office, I’ll check on your quarters assignment.”
My face goes blank as I push certain memories away and stare straight ahead as we walk. “Can it be on the other side of the habitat ring?”
Even though he will swear he doesn’t have a heart, out of my periphery I catch the look of compassion that crosses his face as he nods. “Of course, Tahna.”
Letting out the breath I don’t realize I'm holding I swallow back the trepidation that has been present since receiving my orders. I smile grimly as I look his way. “I dropped Tahna.”
“It’s Bajoran, Odo.”
He rolls his eyes as he makes his way into his office and I follow behind him. Fortunately, it was one of the few places I felt safe during the Occupation.
I drop my bag in one of the chairs in front of his console and sit in the other as he drops down in his own. My head cranes around behind him looking for his pail.
I’d spend hours in here talking to him while he was regenerating and I couldn’t sleep. Looking back it probably annoyed him to no end but he never complained. He also never said anything about the things I told him during those sleepless nights.
The sound of his voice brings me out of the memory and I return my focus to him. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I asked what you’re calling yourself now.”
“Hmmmmm...Oie? Wasn’t that your father’s name?”
“Yes.” I study my nails while he works at his console, searching for my quarters assignment. “It made sense. I don’t know that his people had family names so I just chose to use the only name I ever knew him by as my surname.”
“So, Lieutenant Oie then?”
My fingers lift to the pips on my collar; I’d almost forgotten one was missing. A necessity for this particular assignment. Smiling I look up at Odo whose eyes are focused on my fingers. “Yes, but only when I’m on duty.”
“Alright, Saren.” He hums and nods before his eyes returned to his console. “Well, it looks like you’re assigned to quarters next to mine. Which is on the other side of the habitat ring.”
“You have your own quarters now?” No wonder I couldn’t find his pail.
“A lot of things have changed since you’ve been gone.”
“It’s very different now, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” He hums again while his head bobs and he laces his fingers in front of him. “They are. I think you are as well.”
We stare at each other over the console for longer than I care to acknowledge. Finally, I close my eyes and roll my shoulders before looking back at him. “Of course I am, Odo.”
And suddenly, all I want to do is sleep. To crawl into my bed and forget everything that happened in the last few years. The only problem with that is if I do I’d forget the man in front of me as well and I definitely don’t want to forget him.
I just have to keep reminding myself this isn’t Terok Nor.
“I was starting to wonder if Starfleet was ignoring my request for a Communications Officer.”
My eyes follow Commander Sisko’s movements as he sits behind his desk, tossing a baseball of all things back and forth between his hands. I find him to be amiable with a warm smile and I wonder if when all is said and done that he’ll be as friendly as he is right now.
I shake my head. “No. But your request was fairly specific and xenolinguistics specialists aren’t as common as they once were. Universal translators have almost made us obsolete. I had to finish my last assignment before I could transfer here.”
Not a lie. But also not the entire truth. I hate this, I think to myself.
His eyes focus on his baseball for a few seconds before turning back to me and he smiles. “If that’s the case what prompted you to focus on xenolinguistics?”
I know my face lights up automatically as it always does when I get the chance to talk about what made me want to study alien languages. “My father was from a remote planet of the Delta Quadrant. When he came to Alpha even the UTs couldn’t work out his language. His people were xenophobic but he was a traveler. He loved new people, new languages, new customs. And he passed that on to me.”
Sisko points at my nasal ridges. “You’re not Bajoran?”
“Ah, my mother was,” I rub the lowest ridge and for probably the millionth time since Starfleet notified me of my orders to Deep Space 9 I think about removing them. I’m also torn as to what to tell Sisko, if anything, about my history here.
“Well then, I think it’s time Ops meets you.” Sisko starts to stand but I hold out a hand to stop him.
“There’s something you need to know first.”
One eyebrow arches as he pushes to his feet and I stand along with him. “What? That you were here when this place belonged to the Cardassians?”
So Kira has already been talking.
“It seems that my First Officer is not very fond of you.” He turns his head to glance at me before he reaches the door of his office. “Is that going to be a problem?”
I shake my head. “Not for me.”
His smile is wide and he seems especially pleased. Like he expects me to keep a promise. “Good.”
When Kira looks up and sees me standing next to Sisko I can almost hear her back stiffen. There’s a female Trill and a male human in Starfleet uniforms along with Odo and several Bajoran militia officers at various stations. All of them look at me when they realize Kira isn’t happy.
“Everyone.” Sisko has a calm even tone and my heart almost seizes. I can already feel the pain of losing any potential friendships I might have made here. “I want you to meet our new Communications Officer, Lieutenant Saren Oie.”
Kira’s eyes narrow on me as I’m introduced to the rest of the staff. Some of the Bajorans are cold, others don’t seem particularly bothered by my presence.
Most of my first official shift on DS9 is spent with Jadzia Dax who seems amused by the others reactions toward me. That makes me think she probably knows more than I realize and might not believe everything she’s heard. When the day is over she winks at me and takes Kira’s elbow to pull her away to the turbolift before the Major can confront me. It’s coming, I know it is, but I appreciate Dax’s efforts nonetheless.
I start out intending to head straight to my quarters. Somehow I wind up on the Promenade and before I realize it I’m stepping through the door of Quark’s bar. It looks different. For one it’s more colorful than it used to be. People are laughing, loud and boisterous, drinking, and gambling. Better yet, there are no Cardassians in sight.
“Tahna?” Quark’s voice is unmistakable and I turn toward the sound. He sets the tray he’s carrying down and greets me in the traditional Ferengi way by putting his wrists together with his fingers curled inward.
I do the same with a fond smile then sit in an empty seat at the bar. “It’s not Tahna any more, Quark.”
He looks stricken by that. “You didn’t?”
The sound I make is somewhere between an amused snort and a disgusted growl. “Hardly. I took my father’s name. It’s Saren Oie now.”
Quark rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “You weren’t a collaborator.”
“I know that, Quark.” I watch as he pours a few drinks and passes them off to one of the waiters, then starts mixing a drink on the bar in front of me. “It was just better this way.”
When the drink is done he pushes it to sit in front of me and taps the rim. Swirls of luminescent orange and gold appear in the clear liquid before it settles to a dark gold. He gives me a pointed look. “For them? Or for you?”
My finger touches the rim of the glass and circles it. During the occupation the colors of the samarian sunsets Quark made for me were one of the few things that brought a smile to my face. I’m touched that he remembers how much I like them. I don’t let my emotions show though Quark’s eyes tell me he understands more than he lets on.
“For me, Quark. For me.” I’m not really sure if it’s him I’m trying to convince or myself as I pick up the drink.