She couldn’t help think about it that morning, as she paced about the currently empty Infirmary, Dr. Bashir busy in the back, waiting for the girl to arrive with her sister. It wasn’t in disinterest that she’d set this up, to get the two of them alone away from their mother. They ought to be willing to answer any questions she asked and tell her anything about their late father that they knew, things their mother wasn’t willing to talk about because they might be too painful for her to talk about. Or would think it dangerous to admit to anyone.
She wandered over to the door and gazed out. It was a busy morning. There was a thick knot of Bajoran women in front of the herbs booth. There was an extremely tall human man in a Starfleet uniform strolling alongside a very short Arbi, looking like he was giving him a tour of the place. A little more in the distance, she could see that Elim Garak was greeting a customer. Him she always kept at least half an eye on, though she knew it was only a matter of time before he noticed. In fact, she wasn’t sure he hadn’t noticed already and just chosen not to let her know that.
She did feel a little annoyed when she spotted the girls in the distance, and saw Liset was making things difficult. In fact, she heard them scarcely a second later, even though they weren’t exactly outside the door and there was a loud argument going on between a pair of stall owners, Liset yelling and yelling through tears as her sister had to drag her by both arms, still trying to talk some sense into her, then giving that up in favor of glancing around apologetically. She wondered if it would really be a violation of medical ethics to sedate a Bajoran juvenile her age.
Kolana didn’t, of course; she was always very rigid about ethics on those occasions she was actually allowed to be. Instead when they finally got through the crowd she came out of the Infirmary, tried not to see Terisne looking at her like she was the supreme leader of the Prophets or something, and bent her knees until she wasn’t that much taller than Liset, and said gently, “Hello. Are we unhappy today?”
She’d been worried Liset’s knowing she was a nurse would cause the girl to get worse, but she was lucky; Liset knew and trusted her enough to at least stop wailing. “Don’t want to get shot,” she was sure to tell her, though.
“And why is that?” Kolana asked her gently. “It doesn’t hurt.”
“Last time it burnt,” Liset insisted.
That did happen sometimes with Bajoran children with sensitive skin. Liset had needed to be inoculated against a certain Bajoran skin virus, and the vaccine was known to cause an occasional mild burning sensation. Kolana hadn’t known it had for Liset; she believed Dr. Bashir had been the one to administer that vaccine. Still, she was nothing if not able to adapt on the fly: “If it burns this time, you can bite your sister’s thumb, right Terisne?”
“Sure,” said Terisne, who was happy to do anything to get her sister to cooperate. “But I’m sure it won’t burn twice. You won’t be that unlucky.”
This was not very reassuring to Liset; they got her to walk into the Infirmary and sit down on one of the beds, but she looked like she might still get up and run away. It was almost enough to make Kolana wish she’d prepared the drugs beforehand like she usually did, so as to give her no more time to fret. But she needed that precious handful of minutes to get her information.
And there she could even use the kid’s behavior to her advantage: “Come now, Liset,” she said. “You shouldn’t be scared of this. Your mother says you were in her womb when the Cardassians killed your father and you, she, and your older sisters all had to hide in the mountains. This shouldn’t frighten you so much after that, right?”
“I don’t really remember all that,” said Liset. That made sense, of course, since she’d barely been born when the Occupation had ended. Kolana had heard Lelti speak with awed gratitude about two of her children growing up free of fear and misery.
But Terisne did, and Kolana said next, “I’m sure your sister can tell you all about it, though, right, Terisne?” The other girl gave a very short nod; she didn’t want to, though. That was unfortunate, but nothing Kolana couldn’t work around. “You all went through hell, didn’t you?” she said, as gently as she could.
“That doesn’t even begin to describe it.” She was barely speaking at all; from the confused way Liset bent her head, it seemed she couldn’t even hear her, though of course Kolana could.
But she had to push on. “Where did you go, exactly? The Dakhur Hills?”
“No,” said Terisne. “We weren’t in that province. We were in the Olto Ridges, near Tamulna. Our father was actually murdered in the town, I think.”
“You think?” said Kolana cautiously; she should’ve expected the girls might not have the information she needed.
“Yeah,” said Terisne. “Mom said the Cardassians caught him with some Orion criminal or something.”
“The Cardies had to be making that up,” said Liset. “There weren’t any Orions on Bajor.”
“I don’t know,” said Terisne. “She didn’t sound like she believed they were lying. I never saw any Orions, but I didn’t see most of what dad did. Maybe she saw one. Remember that argument they had when that guy with the huge scar showed up for five days in a row? Where she said to him it was no good to sell the planet out to another race, even if they then got rid of the Cardassians, and he insisted it was only a small gift and worth it. In fact, come to think of it, I remember too she later said something about a ‘repulsive race’ to him only a couple of weeks before he was killed.”
Kolana spared a glance at her tricorder as it tracked the drugs’ progress; it was close to three-quarters complete. If there was any more information to get out of the girls, she needed to guide it out of them with her next words. She measured the worth of “the guy with the huge scar” against that of probable Orion contact, and decided there former was more likely to be dead and there might always be time to probe that module later. “Is that all she ever said about his meeting with aliens?” she asked. “Did you ever see any? Or do you think they all met with somebody else? Maybe the Orions all did, who knows?” She managed a playful tone in those last two questions which made Liset giggle.
But Terisne was looking a little disturbed, as she said, “Actually, he wasn’t the only guy around who might have been meeting with Orions. There was that boy Schul Rotto too. He was always going around, showing up with all the news that was happening not only elsewhere on Bajor, but on all the other planets too. I remember it was him who brought us the news about how the Federation was nearly destroyed by the Borg; we’d never heard of such a thing. I wonder what happened to him.”
“He’s up here,” said Liset. “I’ve seen him. I saw him fixing chairs in the Replimat last week.”
That was definitely enough information to go on, which was good, because Kolana had been needing to stall on the drugs. “Your shot is ready,” she said. “Ready to let her bite your thumb, Terisne?”
Liset had momentarily forgotten about the shot, it seemed; she’d been grinning but that vanished in an instant, and Terisne put an arm around her to keep her from jumping up and running away. “It won’t hurt, Liset,” she said. “I promise it won’t hurt.”
A brief, dark thought flitted across Kolana’s heart; she was too aware that Terisne couldn’t really make that promise, that she had no real power here. But she hated thinking like that when she played this role in her life, and she forced the thought away, cheerful smile still on her face, and said, “It’ll be over in a moment.” Even as she spoke, she slipped the hypospray up to Liset’s neck and pressed in.
It didn’t hurt, thankfully; a couple of seconds and no real reaction for Liset made Kolana pretty sure of that.
There were currently three males and two females at the Dabo table: a human couple, a Bajoran, a Brikar, and the second female was a species Storm couldn’t recall offhand. The Brikar, whose name she thought was Tedi, had been winning most the day, until the other four were all looking suspicious. She was trying to ignore it; it wasn’t like she cared if customers thought the tables were rigged, or even if they actually were. All she knew was she had nothing to do with that, at least. Except when she did, but she hadn't had to do anything today so far.
Though it was maybe a little bit of a reason to be concerned with the human female, whose name might have been Lorette, hissed to the Brikar, “You better be careful you don’t get the two of us too frustrated. I think we might know a friend of yours.” It wasn’t exactly a threat, but if the Brikar construed it as one, there was always a chance he might try to hold the bar liable later. She put about as much legitimacy in that prospective argument as her boss would, but the law might see the matter differently, so she said immediately, “That’s no way to talk during a friendly game of Dabo. If you want a new partner, we can arrange a swap.”
“You should not,” hissed Tedi. “I should not be deprived of an opportunity to win fair and square against these fools.”
“Not playing this game,” the Bajoran promptly announced, and took his tiny pile of winnings and left. The second female, whose name Storm thought was Tsill, looked after him as if she might like to follow, but made no move to leave.
Not wanting the players to all flee, Storm hastily said, “If no one else wants a swap I’ll set the table going?”
When the second female said nothing, the Brikar glared after the man then turned his head back in a huff, and Lorette just shrugged, Storm started the table. But even as the familiar beeping and faint whir dispelled her free-floating anxiety, something far, far worse for her mood happened. One of her relatives walked in.
Not even the one she’d seen already. That would have been unpleasant, but at least would not have meant she had another one of them on the station to deal with. And not even only just another one either. This was her Aunt.
Surely, she thought as she tried to concentrate on the spinning table, she should be dead already. At her age, with her twin dead nearly a decade. The two of them had both lived far too long and made everyone they knew far too miserable, Storm and her own twin especially.
Tarsiti. She actually mouthed the syllables, which here in public ought to be absolutely unforgivable, especially in a crowded place like this where anyone might be able to read it off her lips. But that was the one relief she had against her Aunt, that at least she knew her true name, and though it was extreme indeed to say that someone didn’t deserve to have her true name protected, though only the worst creatures in the universe shouldn’t get that privilege, that lady qualified.
She regretted it a moment later, though, when she felt the touch of her Aunt to her mind-and that ought to have been exciting, that she had developed enough to sense when others were reading it, but now wasn’t-and she was furious. Storm did her best to project her own fury back, switching her hands to autopilot as she continued to work the table, not even paying much attention to the results when it stopped spinning, let her hate swarm out and barrage her Aunt, who of course was probably immune from its lash.
“Of course,” Lorette no doubt thought she sounded like the very epitome of scorn, but Storm was not impressed, that naïve creature had no idea what true anger was; she’d never experience anything in her life worthy of it; of that Storm was sure. “One more game, and that’s it. I won’t lose any more latinum in this place than that.”
It really was very foolish for her to say that out loud, thought Storm. Now she had to make sure the woman more or less lost.
Rigging the Dabo table took concentration, though idly Storm thought it might be a lot easier if she was a telepath. She had to get her hand into the right places without betraying any sign of doing anything differently than she usually did, though it helped that all of the human female’s suspicions were directed at a fellow player, and she seemed the type that when she wasn’t yelling at her didn’t pay too much attention to the Dabo girl. Some of the other girls would subtly recruit one of the other players to help, but Storm wasn’t that daring. Instead she forced herself to forget about her Aunt right there and do the needed work, and she had run into too many beings like Lorette to even feel guilty, really. She thought she sensed her Aunt moving away, deciding apparently to eat somewhere else, but she couldn’t track her. She probably couldn’t have anyway.
Lorette’s face as she stared at the results of that final spin was nothing but funny. It didn’t even feel like much of a threat as she waved her finger in the face of Tedi and said, “I’ll have you arrested for fraud one of these days, I promise you! You’ll regret the day you ever heard my name!” It was especially amusing when Tsill had done better that turn than Tedi had.
But the diversion could only keep her mind off her Aunt for so long. Tsill left shortly after with a small amount of winnings, and as other players came in Tedi too walked off with his heap of latinum, and the next group were pretty dull, though at least they meant no more drama until her shift was finally over. She supposed her Aunt might be waiting for her back in her quarters, so on impulse she decided to eat in the Replimat. She even considered paging Lelti or Kolana to invite them to join her, but then she decided they weren’t quite the company she was looking for that night.
Instead she entered the Replimat carefully releasing a small amount of pheromones, the kind that among her own species would’ve let the males know she was interested, and she knew could draw males of some other species as well. Unfortunately it didn’t work on humans, but it did work on Bajorans, and she only had to let them out for half a minute before a young Bajoran with weird scars on his cheeks and even weirder dark hair but good muscles walked up and offered to get her her food. “I just got off shift,” he told her, “and I would recommend the temeeris; a Ruji delicacy newly programmed into our replicators.”
Storm considered it, then decided it might be a good distraction; she needed distraction that night above all things, so she agreed, and he said, “I’ll get two. I’ve been interested in trying it myself.”
He brought it to the table she had sat at after making sure there weren’t any Orions or Nausicaans anywhere in the immediate area. He held the two dishes above the head, giving her a chance to appreciate the sight of his strong biceps, though one of the shoulders had another vicious-looking scar on it; a memento of the Occupation, or of something else? She didn’t think it would be a good idea to ask, though maybe he would volunteer the information.
He didn’t, though, just saying as he sat down, “So, what’s a pretty green girl like you doing on this particular hunk of duranium?”
“Working as a Dabo girl,” replied Storm, which was always her answer when people asked her that kind of question; she’d said it to both Lelti and Kolana enough that they’d finally stopped asking further.
She thought the boy might have caught the warning in her voice, too, because he readily said, “And I’m working as a mechanic here in the Replimat. Call me Rotto.”
“Call me Storm,” she replied, and thankfully he asked no questions about her having such a name, even though a lot of Bajorans did. Instead they got into a pretty interest conversation about Cardassian and Federation technology, as his job often caused him to run into very unorthodox uses of both, though Quark’s, though it used a lot of Cardassian hardware, didn’t use much Federation design. She also learned that he had been up on Deep Space 9 on and off since about the time it had become Deep Space 9, and that he wasn’t a mechanical expert by training, and during his first year on the station had mostly been employed instead repairing broken pieces of furniture, of which there had been a number at the time, but that he had since become one.
Still, she wasn’t entirely happy with all the questions he asked her about her own life. She ought not to resent it, she knew, since fair was fair. Except it wasn’t fair; because Rotto probably had nothing to conceal; it seemed had it seemed lived a life without any shadiness in it at all. Hadn’t had time for it, really; she didn’t ask for his exact age but she thought it was probably around twenty-five years standard. If he had even been involved in the Resistance he gave no indication of it.
They both knew where it was all leading, of course, though he did look surprised when Storm was so quick to invite him back to her own quarters. But she didn’t want to go to strange quarters tonight, even if it shouldn’t make any difference, and might even be a better idea with her Aunt lurking about. Thankfully he was quick to agree.
They ended up kissing in the turbolift, pinning each other against the walls, her pulling those arms in and nearly moaning when they curled around her back. He was a much better kisser than she had anticipated, skillfully teasing her mouth and even figuring out really quickly that she liked pressure on her cheeks-most non-Nissians took ages on that. It made her think she’d gotten really lucky that night indeed.
Storm's quarters were empty when they arrived, but suddenly she felt something creep up her spine, a weird feeling about her bedroom, as if it might not be a good idea to go in there. But it was too vague a feeling to care about when Rotto managed to find that place on her stomach that always made her squirm, and then he put his mouth there, which even through her clothes was almost too much, and then he dipped lower and bit at her thighs, and she was completely gone. Her knees gave way and they nearly collided into her plants as he pushed her up against the bulkhead, moving up to kiss her again which just made her hotter and more wanting down below.
“Couch?” he whispered, and she was quick to agree. The couch was one of the few pieces of furniture that had traveled around with her through the years; she’d originally gotten it on Risa when she and her twin had been there for a week for some family business they’d never entirely understood. A pale violet in color now, it was made of some sort of bone, and had a flexible structure that allowed it to be folded up, spread far out, or molded into something in between, as it was now with its back set upwards to full height.
For a moment she thought of the secret compartment attached to the bottom of the seat, the one even her family didn’t know about. But the couch was currently unfolded enough she didn’t need to adjust its position, Rotto just laid her out on it and went to town. His mouth stayed on her stomach as he found the clasp that sent her gauzy outfit tumbling outward and left most of her lower body bare, and then his hands went further down and oh, he did know how to touch a Nissian female. Storm felt her toes shake; she was soaked through even before his fingers really got in, and she opened right up, even though she wasn’t in her heat. Without which there was no danger of pregnancy, of course, and she managed to tell Rotto that, though it took her longer than it usually would have; it seemed she could barely gasp out one word at a time. He grinned and said, “Convenient.” How was he still sounding so together when she was breaking up into atoms?
He even managed to get her fully open even before taking his pants off, and when non-Nissians almost never managed that; she was so used to hurting a least a little that when it didn’t, she almost felt shocked. He grinned at her as if he knew, and give her a kiss so gentle and sweet for one crazy, paranoid moment she wondered if just maybe he was mocking her. Then he thrust, and the angle was just perfect, and she didn’t think of anything at all.
Bajoran men, in Storm’s admittedly limited experience, were somewhere above humans but somewhere below Orions in stamina. She doubted he would last long enough for her to come from it; no non-Nissian yet had. But this was its own kind of paradise, especially with one of his hands back on her stomach and his fingers stroking just right again, and then when he leaned down he even breathed lightly over her breasts, and her head knocked against the couch and she tried to keeping breathing even as she shook, and as her body squeezed that was the end of him; he groaned deep and rough and the heat of his come inside her sent her rising, her body too hot and wanting and for a moment she thought she might go crazy.
But he was quick, pulling out and diving down to put his hands back to work, and soon she was starting to tingle, and he didn’t even get impatient, just worked her up and up, faster as she started to whimper, and then he got hard again just as she was getting close, and there was a moment of discomfort as he climbed back on her, but that just made her last a little longer even as he thrust back in and fucked her hard, not stopping even as she came, everything tightening and letting go and she all but shrieked with the force of it, stronger even than most of the orgasms she had while in heat.
By the time he came again, Storm was finally coming down, ecstasy giving way to more limp euphoria. It was also starting to creep into the back of her head that there was something odd going on, that some instinct of hers seemed sure of that, but figuring it out required much more energy than her brain had at the moment. She was pretty sure she’d come hard enough to drain her system, and she thought she might fall asleep right there.
Her eyes closed as she felt Rotto’s hands on her again, maneuvering her, and she was so tired she just let him do so, aware she was being pushed into a sitting up position before sleep took her.
She woke up in that position, now alone, but when she asked the computer for the time and was told it was nearly 0800 that couldn’t surprise her; boys like him always worked long hours. She herself had to be at the bar by 1000, so she hurried to shower.
It was only when she had dressed for the day and was tending to her plants that she thought maybe she should look under the couch just to make sure the compartment had been undisturbed. It was a ridiculous worry; no one knew about that thing, and Rotto had seemed to be just an ordinary Bajoran boy. Well, except that when she thought about it, it had been kind of incredible just how much he’d known about how to please a Nissian female, when he may very well have never even seen one before in his life.
At first glance, when she pulled the container out from the back and opened it, it didn’t look like anything was amiss. The jewels were certainly all still there; he hadn’t been a thief. Nor had any of the data chips been taken; a quick count confirmed they were all there. The little holo of her twin hadn’t been taken either, but she doubted anyone would’ve been interested in that anyway.
Except...maybe it was her memories playing tricks on her but she could’ve sworn she’d left the holo on the other side of the jewels. And had she really straightened the chips out that much?
So he hadn’t been a thief, but it was not impossible he had been a spy. Told what to do to take her out of commission for a few hours, which she supposed any Nissian, or at least any Nissian female, could have told him. But who in the universe could have told him about the compartment? Unless he’d spent a while looking for it, which maybe he’d done.
Or maybe she was just being paranoid about the whole thing.
And even if she wasn’t, she decided stubbornly, she wasn’t sorry. Her family would bully and trouble her anyway; she might as well get some fun out of it.
Still, she concluded, it was a pity her telepathic ability was only beginning to develop. If he had indeed done what she suspected, he never would’ve gotten away with it had she even been able to skim the top of his mind. She wondered if there was a genuine way to speed it up; she knew most of the tales she’d heard about doing that were false. Maybe Kolana would know. Storm decided to ask her.
Not in front of Lelti, though. Not that she didn’t trust either of her two friends, but if this story came out in the process, and it might because she knew she had a tendency to babble, it would be embarrassing enough to tell it to only one person. Make it a matter of medical confidence, she decided, and went to comm Kolana.
Storm had managed to wake her up by contacting her, and on hearing the name of the boy whom Storm still didn’t seem to entirely believe was someone important, Kolana had spent too much time exhaustively researching him as well as Nissian telepathy before running off to her morning shift. It had been a busy one, with a large accident on Level Five keep her and Dr. Bashir busy for much of it, delaying a number of appointments people had made which had mostly been crammed into the afternoon, and then probably taken longer because the patients were all grumpy and wanting to make complaints and be less cooperative. Then when she’d gotten off-shift, coming out of the Infirmary she’d noticed two Nissians she didn’t recognize on the Promenade, and wasted over an hour following them before she’d managed to identify them, and discovered they were passengers on a transport that wasn’t supposed to have even stopped on Deep Space 9, but had docked there six hours to emergency repairs, and even then it had been hell to tag them just to make sure they left with their transport. She’d barely had time after that to grab a bite to eat from an overcrowded Replimat before hurrying back for this meeting.
She ended up spending most of the ten minutes she had to refresh herself mentally working away from her mindset. She had the general feeling that she didn’t have to and therefore shouldn’t worry about the implications of Storm’s run-in with Rotto during this conversation, but act purely as a medical woman and entirely in her patient’s best interests. Though if she failed to learn something important because of that, Sloan might kill her.
So when Storm came in, and thanked Kolana for coming to see her, she could be very genuine in her smile, and accept her offer for a drink without any guilt, though she did restrict herself to ice freeze from the replicator even after Storm pulled her homeworld’s very strong ale out from under her bed and took a tiny sip. “I’ve heard arguments about whether this stuff enhances telepathic ability or dims it,” she said, “though then I’ve heard it doesn’t really do either and it’s just all in people’s heads.”
“I’ve done some research today, and for starters, it doesn’t do either,” Kolana told her. “All the same, watch how much of that stuff you drink. Not only is there no version that does not damage to the brain, but I’ve heard of people losing their mental faculties completely, especially if they’re younger or older.”
“At my age it takes pints and pints of it,” shrugged Storm. “What else did you learn?”
“Well,” she said, “I talked to Dr. Bashir about it, and he said he might know an expert. We really didn’t have time to do much today, I’m afraid, but he’s going to try to get in touch with him. But one thing I did read is it’s not as uncommon for the first signs of telepathy to manifest at your age as most people think, though it is much more likely for those living in close proximity with their twin-though hardly unknown for those who aren’t or even those whose twin is dead, like you. Though I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask when and how she died.”
“Sun died in 2353,” said Storm softly, then, even more softly, “I...don’t know exactly how she died. It appeared to be heart failure, and certainly that was what was put on all the records, and technically that was what it was. But...”
“You’re not sure the heart failure was natural.”
Storm looked down as she spoke. “It might just be me being paranoid,” she said. “Especially since I have no particular reason to believe she was murdered, just the knowledge that...”
“There are reasons for it to be a possibility?” Kolana asked carefully. Of course she knew just what it was, that Storm belonged to the kind of family where her clanmates needed relatively little provocation to kill anyone, including their own. But there was no way she was allowed to know that.
Even now Storm just said, “Yes there are. So it’s a possibility. Does it matter? I haven’t heard about any reasons why it should.”
“It’s just a theory,” said Kolana, “and it’s one Nissian experts by and large reject, but given how popular it is among experts of other species, well, honestly, Storm, I wonder if there’s some cultural reason for that.” She saw a little bit of indignance on Storm’s face at this, and hastily went on, “anyway, the idea is that if a Nissian above a certain age-roughly a century and a half, as the theory goes-dies a violent death, they send out a physic signal which their twin can detect as least unconsciously, and that will sometimes lead to early telepathy.”
“So she was murdered, then.” Storm said it with an irrational certainty, and a good deal of satisfaction, as if she had been longing for a chance to condemn her relations for the loss of her twin. “They probably were afraid of us escaping their power had her research succeeded; we would’ve become so rich we would never have needed anything from them ever again. We might have even wielded power of our own, had either of us ever been interested in such a thing.”
With an opening like that, Kolana couldn’t not take it. They’d get back to the telepathy in a minute, she told herself, and asked, “What was her research about?”
“Stasis, mostly. How to keep things longer and bring them out, that sort of thing. You know, I’ve got most of it on the chips Rotto might have looked at, but I can’t do a thing with it.”
Kolana made a mental note to try to get her hands on that data herself later, but tonight was not the night. So she just said, “Pity it wasn’t telepathy,” and allowed them both a chuckle. “So,” she said, leading the conversation into the subject that would dominate it for the rest of their meeting, “I also read...”