By Gabrielle Lawson
Author's Note: This story began in the airport on the way home from a meeting with Alexander Siddig and his fanclub back in 1997. I wrote the first two chapters back then and let this story go to the back burner while a LOT of other stories got the front. Well, after reading out If It's Not One Thing.... for my podcast, I found myself reacquainted with Dr. Julian Bashir. So I dusted this story off and wrote, thus far, another 2 chapters. I do plan to finish it. It's one of 4 WIPs I and my alter-ego, Philippe de la Matraque, are working on, so it may not come as quickly as you might like. Multitasking has been proven to be a myth. Only one story can sit in the brain at any one time. I do try to switch them up now and then though, so I plan to finish all 4 works in progress. I read just a bit of this out on a Zoom chat with Sid and 100 of his fans and people were interested so I decided to post. I hope you enjoy it. (It does draw on the events of If It's Not One Thing.... and Oświęcim so you might want to read those first. (PS. It doesn't have anything to do with the part of One Thing that deals with Julian's family. But the terrorists, the serial killer, the aliens, they MAY have a mention here.
"He's not here" Sisko told the captain firmly. It was hard to judge the other captain's reaction. His hood covered any expression he might otherwise have been showing. "And if he was here, I still wouldn't hand him over to you without a good reason."
"Tell us where we can find him."
"Tell me why you want him." Sisko was intent on standing firm. Still, he hadn't lied. Bashir wasn't on the station. He had left less than an hour before. He had been called away by a medical emergency on one of the Bajoran outposts near the Badlands. Kira and two security officers had gone with him.
"We are Gidari," the captain stated, raising his head. "Our wants are no concern of yours."
Sisko kept his voice calm. "They are when they include my Chief Medical Officer."
"We are Gidari!"
"That much is obvious." Sisko sighed. It wasn't the first time he'd had to deal with the ethnocentric species. "There is no point to this coversation. He's not aboard the station."
"We will find him."
Sisko thought about that. They probably would find him. They were secretive people, but they were also quite technologically advanced. They hadn't really needed to ask Sisko for the doctor. If he'd been on the station, they could have simply transported him away. The shields wouldn't have stopped them.
"You do and I'll consider it a hostile act. Dr. Bashir is needed for a medical emergency. People will die if he is deterred from his mission. If you deter him, you will be the cause of their deaths."
"They are of no concern to us. Gidari will die. That is our concern."
The screen went blank and Sisko slammed his fist down on his desk. He wanted to call the Rio Grande and warn the colonel that the Gidari were coming after Bashir. But the comm signal would only help the Gidari to find them. With any luck, the Rio Grande would reach the Badlands before the Gidari could locate them. Sisko wasn't sure why they wanted the doctor so intently. But he had an idea or two. Bashir had seen them unhooded. No non-Gidari known had managed to do that and live to tell about it. As far as Sisko knew, the Gidari didn't know he'd seen them. But the Gidari often knew more than they were expected to know. Whatever they wanted Bashir for, it most likely wasn't any good for Bashir. Gidari only looked for the good of Gidari.
"Tarkalian tea," Kira said, speaking to the replicator, "extra sweet." She was already holding a mug of raktajino. A second mug materialized and she walked over to where Bashir was inventorying his medical supplies—again. She held out the tea to him, but he didn't seem to notice.
"I didn't want to come on this mission with you," she told him flatly.
He stopped his work and looked up at her. "Thank you," he replied sardonically. "It's always a pleasure to have your bright and cheery face along." He finally saw the mug she held out. "Thank you," he repeated, sincere this time.
Kira handed him the mug and sat down beside him. "It's just that every time you and I leave the station together bad things happen."
Bashir looked away. "Like we need to be together for that."
Kira knew what he was referring to. It was why she had started this conversation in the first place. Bashir was too tense. "I wasn't talking about your abduction," she said, tossing a hand as if to dismiss it. "I meant the alternate universe, Vantika. Come to think of it, Chief got into trouble when he was with you, too. The Jem'Hadar, the Kellerun, the Sirah. And Riker!"
Bashir stared at her with an incredulous look on his face. And then he laughed. "And I suppose all that was my fault!"
Kira nodded, forcing her face to stay stern. "Had to be. And what about Sisko? He was with you and then ended up in that Sanctuary District."
"Sisko, O'Brien—and even you—have all managed to get into plenty of trouble when I was not around."
"But we always get in trouble when you are."
"Hmm," Bashir grunted, sounding an awful lot like Odo. "Well, it seems to me that I'm the one who gets into trouble."
"Exactly!" Now she smiled, letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that she was not taking the conversation seriously.
"Colonel, three ships coming into range." That was the helm. Ensign Payven was one of two security officers they'd brought along. "They'll intercept in ninety seconds."
Kira was in the back with Bashir. She tapped her badge. "Who are they?"
"Unable to identify," Ensign Savolar replied. "They're closing fast, sir."
"Raise shields," Kira ordered. "We're on our way." Bashir was already on his feet and he helped her up.
It took them only a few seconds to reach the cockpit. And it only took a few seconds more for Kira to ascertain that something was very wrong. Ensign Payven was collapsed over his console. Ensign Savolar didn't seem to notice. He still pored over his instruments. The shields had not been raised, and the runabout was slowing down.
Kira reached for her phaser. But Savolar was out of his seat before she'd managed to get it out of her holster.
"I wouldn't, Colonel," he told her. "You'd never get the shields up in time anyway."
Bashir had stiffened beside her. Kira couldn't look at him. She had to stay focused on Savolar. Behind the security officer—though she suspected he was, of course, not a security officer—she could see two ships through the forward viewscreen. Jem'Hadar. They didn't fire. They took up position. Within seconds, half a dozen Jem'Hadar had transported aboard the little vessel. One of them took her phaser. Another took Bashir's. They both handed them to Savolar. Savolar smiled and dropped all his pretense, letting his face transform into Odo's, or one with similar features. A changeling.
"Julian," Kira whispered. "I was only joking."
"I know," he whispered back.
"Oh, I think," the changeling said, "that you were right, Colonel. The Doctor has been the cause of quite a bit of trouble. And one might conclude that he is the cause of your death."
"Never," Kira said.
The changeling said nothing. He placed the phasers on the helm console behind him and then moved toward Kira and Bashir. He nodded to the Jem'Hadar closest to Kira. She felt a strong grip on her arm and was jerked away from Bashir. The Jem'Hadar pulled her over toward Payven. She could see now that the ensign was dead. His eyes were open; blood from his mouth spilled onto the console. She turned back to Bashir who had been left standing by the door.
He was pale. His face had lost all color. But that was the only indication of his fear. He stood still, at attention, staring right at the changeling. He didn't shake. He didn't move.
"You are definitely more trouble," the changeling was saying, "than we had anticipated. We will no longer permit your interference in our affairs." He held out his hand to Bashir, palm forward and stepped closer still.
Bashir's eyes moved from the changeling's eyes to his hand. Why me? he wondered. I'm not the only one fighting you. But he didn't ask. This changeling was not in a talking mood. The last one he'd had any significant involvement with had kept him alive, perferring to torment him. This one had no such desires. And why like this?
"Why not just shoot me?" he asked, his voice just above a whisper.
"Poetic justice, as you humans would say."
Bashir found it harder to breathe, and the changeling hadn't even touched him yet. "How did you know?" he asked. Kira would know what he was asking. He'd told her what the other changeling had done with only her hand.
"We know you better than you know yourself," the changeling answered, using the same words the other one had used.
The hand reached him, pressing flat against his chest. The Jem'Hadar held his arms behind his back. He couldn't brush the hand away even if he had thought it would do any good. There was no way out of this one. None that he could see. He turned his eyes to Kira, the last friendly face he would see. And then the burning began.
Kira met his gaze and held it with her own as the changeling pressed his hand to Bashir's chest. His eyes were saying something to her. They said goodbye. Then they closed abruptly, though the rest of his face revealed no pain. Kira knew what was happening and it made her sick. The phasers lay not one meter from her left hand. She could grab one, shoot him before the pain became unbearable. The Jem'Hadar would try to stop her, but she knew she was going to die anyway.
Bashir gave out a gasp of air, and she turned back to him. The changeling stood still, revealing no emotion. The Jem'Hadar released Bashir's arms and, instinctively, he reached for the arm that pressed the hand to his chest. It would do no good.
As it had before, it began with nothing more than a pinprick, the width of a needle pushing through his chest. This time, the strand that followed that pinprick moved quicker, rushing its way inside him, increasing in thickness as it went. Bashir felt nauseous. He wanted to reach up and pull it out of him. But the hand that held itself against his chest wasn't real. It was as soft and fluid as the stream inside him. The pain followed quickly behind the nausea, burning past his ribs, constricting his breath so that he had to gasp for air.
I won't scream, he told himself. And then a terrible thought struck him. While he was dying here, an epidemic was raging on the outpost. They were expecting him. They needed him.
The Jem'Hadar released his arms. He knew it was futile, but his hands came up anyway and tried to grab the changeling's hand. The changeling indulged him, left his hand solid so that he could get a good grip. But he could not move it. The hand remained, the strand remained, and the pain grew louder in his ears. His knees felt weak and began to tremble. He had to clench his teeth to keep from crying out. Each breath was a struggle. The strand reached his heart, wrapped around it, closed itself like another hand. But the changeling didn't end it.
"You are solid," the changeling spoke. "You cannot understand the Great Link. You cannot know the loss you have caused. We know now that we underestimated you. We should never have left you alive. Your escape—three times—taught us this. You have cost us several of our own."
Kira listened to the changeling and wanted to ask him about the loss he and his kind had caused. But that was pointless. Bashir's knees buckled but he didn't fall. The changeling's hand held him off the floor. The changeling did not appear strained. Bashir, on the other hand, was fighting just to breathe.
She could end it. She looked again to the phasers, but they were gone. One of the Jem'Hadar saw her gaze and shook his head. She turned back to Bashir. Her throat hurt like someone had stabbed her. She felt the tears well up in her eyes. He shouldn't die like that. No one should.
Still he hadn't made a sound. He would lose his life, but he would keep his dignity. Kira only hoped she could do as well when the changeling turned to her. Blood began to trickle past his fingers where he tried to pry the changeling away from himself. Kira knew he didn't believe in the Prophets the way that she did, but she closed her eyes and silently prayed for him anyway.
He made one last gasp and Kira's eyes flew open just when his did. And then he screamed. It was a short, staccato sound. Just once. And then the changeling lifted him off the floor and threw him against the bulkhead. He hit hard and then fell like a ragdoll to the deck. The bulkhead was stained with blood where he had hit.
The changeling, his hand still red with Bashir's blood, waved the Jem'Hadar forward. But it was Kira that moved. The Jem'Hadar to her right grabbed her arm and pushed her roughly past the changeling until she tripped and fell beside Bashir. She knew she was going to die, so she ignored the Jem'Hadar and even the changeling. Bashir was lying face-down. Blood was pooling beneath him. But his body rose and fell in uneven jerks as he tried to breathe. It was hopeless. He would die. Kira knew it. She touched his face. His eyes were open but they didn't see her.
"How touching," the changeling said. "Give me her weapon."
Kira didn't look up. She turned her back to the changeling and took Bashir's hand in hers. She folded herself across his shoulder and braced for the impact of the shot. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the doctor. He ceased his struggle and his lungs released the last of the air he had. One tear fell down her cheek before the blast hit. She was surprised by the pain, but only for a moment. Everything went black. Bashir was gone, and so was she.
©copyright 1997 Gabrielle Lawson
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org