- Epilog -
Ezri Dax stood at the viewport of her quarters, quietly watching another ship vanish inside the glittering depths of the wormhole as it departed on its journey toward the unknown regions of the Gamma Quadrant. Her hands clasped behind her back, she stood there unmoving, completely absorbed in her own world.
It was almost time.
A quick look at the chronometer reminded her that she needed to leave if she didn't want to be late. With a deep breath, she squared her shoulders; and her eyes caught her own reflection in the viewport.
Counselor Ezri Dax.
She knew that she hadn't been much of a counselor lately. Even though she had always been proud of herself for knowing what she was doing in her profession – at least in the short time before she had been joined - the last days had made her painfully realize how much she still needed to learn; and how miserably she had failed in her job for the first time since she decided to stay on DS9 and take over the legacy she'd been given.
Not only had she disappointed everyone who had trusted in her and her abilities; almost had she been responsible for the death of one of her closest friends. She wasn't sure if she could ever forgive herself. Even though she knew that she was too hard on herself. Even though she knew that it had been an extraordinary situation, with a lot of things she hadn't been able to influence. But still, the events of the last days were hard ones to forget.
It had been hard work to tidy up the mess the alien weapon had left on the station. Even though a few days had passed since DS9 had been rescued from the brink of disaster, and the station had gradually gone back to everyday life by now, she was still working double shifts to help people through the mental aftermath of their nightmares. And knowing that there was one person who needed her help above all but whom she couldn't bring herself to see, was a painful burden she'd been carrying with her for all those last days.
With a strange feeling in her heart, she only now noticed how much she had come to care for Julian. In a strange way, she knew that it was probably more than Jadzia had. And it perhaps was the reason why she felt so guilty for what had happened to the young man and what he had gone through. Why she hadn't been able to look him into the eye after everything that had happened.
She rubbed her eyes and took another deep breath.
She knew, though, that she couldn't carry those feelings of guilt around with her forever. And that it was about time to finally bring order into the last bits of chaos that were still left to tidy up. She knew that she'd been avoiding it, pushing it from her mind for as long as possible, but if she wanted to find peace, there was no way around it. No matter her own miserable feelings.
When she finally willed herself to turn, her eye caught another reflection in the viewport. Something behind her. She whirled around, half expecting to see Joran again in her quarters. But against her fear, the room was empty. Nothing was out of place. She shook her head and idly wondered why of all nightmares the strange alien weapon had chosen to incorporate, for her it had been Joran. In the end, he had been more of a help than a threat. At least he had helped her in finding Julian; and he had helped her in finding enough strength to do what was necessary to stop the alien weapon. She'd probably never learn. One of the view riddles that remained unsolved.
At least he was gone now. Everything was back to normal – at least almost.
With a wistful look back at the viewport, she pressed her lips into a thin line. And also she would be fine. Eventually. Then she squared her shoulders and finally headed for the corridor.
Julian Bashir turned the water tap close before he slowly lifted his head to his reflection in the mirror.
A wet face was staring back at him. Still a little too pale, still a little too exhausted for his liking, with evident, dark shadows under his eyes, testimony to the ordeal he had gone through. But for the first time in days, he was seeing himself again. Julian Bashir, chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine, a competent and dedicated doctor. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. Slowly he counted till ten. When he opened his eyes again the reflection was still there, unchanged.
He released a breath of relief.
For the first time in days, he was finally alone. There was no dark shadow waiting at the edge of his vision, ready to come haunting him in a moment of inattentiveness. No face appearing in the mirror or the viewport to scare him to death. No scratching sound when he dosed off to sleep. Nothing to attack him from behind, no feeling of being watched, no bristling up of the fine hairs in his neck whenever he thought it was happening again. For the first time in days, he was finally able to breathe easy again. Because he knew that the shadow was gone. He had known it the moment he'd woken to find himself in the infirmary; even before Captain Sisko had told him the whole story of what had happened.
For the first time in what felt like forever he was no longer afraid of the dark.
It was a relief he couldn't put into words. He knew how close he'd been to losing not only his mind but also his life. When he now thought back on what had happened in the last days, he still couldn't believe that he had made it out of this mess alive. Almost absently he rubbed his left forearm. Every inch of his body was still aching with a slight pain, though he couldn't tell if it was real, physical pain or if his mind was just playing tricks on him, trying to process the events of the last days. At least Dr. Kowalski had been satisfied with the progress he'd made so far. According to the other doctor, Julian's wounds had healed far enough to release him from sickbay to which he'd been confined until yesterday. His blood volume, which had been on the edge of the impossible, had increased to a normal level again. His voice had healed far enough not to make him wince any longer whenever he tried to utter a full sentence. Dr. Kowalski was even thoroughly positive that whatever horrible things had happened to him in OPS wouldn't happen again. His broken ribs and arm were mended, the inner bleeding stopped and contained. The drugs had been purged from his system and he finally felt as if his body was slowly but surely his again.
With a sigh, he leaned his head against the mirror. But still, he pretty much felt like a broken puppet that had been brought back to life. Because even though his body was slowly healing from the strain it had been put under, and there was nothing visible from the horrible hours he had gone through apart from the pallor of his tired face, on the inside he was anything but well. He didn't even know where to start.
Sometimes, in a moment of inattentiveness, Senator Remak's face would suddenly pop up in his mind's eye. It wasn't as terrifying as seeing his father, but it was painful nevertheless. Even after all this time, a cold chill coursed through him when he thought back on Senator Remak and the Romulan's face that had been contorted with pure hatred when he had accused Julian of having murdered his family. There had been so much evil in those blue eyes; so much hurt and menace; and every bit of it had been meant for him. Remak had wanted his death in the cruelest way he could think of to take vengeance for his family. There had been a couple of times when Julian had seen into the eyes of someone wanting his death. And every time the eyes of that person had haunted him in his sleep for a very long time. How long would Remak's face accompany him before it finally faded into oblivion? The face of a man who had wanted to hurt him, him and no one else, so badly.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
He would deal with the pain. Eventually. He knew that it needed time to get over everything that had happened and that he couldn't expect to feel up and about again so soon. But even though he no longer felt afraid of the dark, he couldn't deny that the events had left him shaken in a very special way. Because the events had shown him yet again how suddenly your life could be taken into a completely unforeseen direction. A direction you've never seen coming… a direction you'd never have reckoned with… With no person, nor technical equipment, able to help him. Or prevent it from happening… He'd need to deal with the fear as well. Eventually. But not today…
He took another deep and calming breath when the door chime suddenly arrested his attention. He looked up, dry-toweled his face and slowly went over to the living room to answer the call. It all happened in a slowness that usually would have upset him – but considering the fact that his body had almost broken when it had been pushed to the verge of the possible, Dr. Kowalski had done a good job. Julian still felt too tired and exhausted to go back to work – which of course the other doctor wouldn't have approved of anyway – so spending the next few days resting in his quarters didn't come as quite the unwelcome order. It had been more than one day since he'd been released from sickbay and he was glad for the time alone – even though most of his friends had dropped by to see how he was holding up as soon as he had set foot into his own quarters again.
When he had made it into the living room and said "Come in" and the door opened, he wasn't even surprised about the sudden guest that stood in front of his door. Even though his heart did a small leap when he saw the small figure in the doorway.
He hadn't seen the young woman since the incident with Senator Remak in the corridor when the older Romulan had almost managed to kill him even before the dark shadow had. The young Trill hadn't come to the infirmary or his quarters to see him after the events and when he'd asked for her, everyone had told him that she was busy with clearing up the mental mess the alien weapon had left on the station. Not that he could really blame her. After everything that had happened between them during the last days he could very well see why she was trying to avoid meeting him. He still vividly remembered the last moment he'd seen her in the corridor with Chief O'Brien and Admiral Ross. And the pain when her phaser bolt had slammed into him… He had no recollection of what happened afterwards until he'd woken to find himself in Dr. Kowalski's care.
"Hi…" the young Trill said awkwardly with hands clasped behind her back. She appeared a little too composed and didn't make any move to come in, just stood at the threshold as if she wasn't sure what to do – or if it had been a good idea to come to see him in the first place. Again, the thought sprang to his mind how little he really knew her. Not Dax, the symbiont, but the real her.
"Hi," he replied, suddenly equally tongue-tied.
"I just wanted to see how you're doing," the young woman began but hesitated then, as if she didn't know how to go on. "There's been a lot to do on the station and I'm sorry that I couldn't come earlier…" Then she suddenly grimaced, her composed expression changing into one of honest distress. "The truth is," she began. "I just wanted to say that I'm…"
"I'm sorry," Julian suddenly interrupted at the same time even before she could finish. He didn't know why but the words were out before he could hold them back. But perhaps it was what he had wanted to tell her all along. Why he had asked for her several times after the alien weapon had been dismantled.
Dax glanced up in surprise. And their eyes met.
"I'm… sorry for what I've said to you. Back in my quarters. I said some ugly things I wish I hadn't." He said awkwardly, still standing unmoving in the middle of his quarters. "I'm sorry about the things I said about you and Jadzia… The things you said about Evans and that I'm not over what happened last year. I didn't want to hear it, especially not from you. "
"I know, it was none of my business and I'm sorry for having brought up the topic of your mother…"
"No," Julian shook his head in resignation. "You were right. Because I wasn't over what had happened last year with Evans." He rubbed his eyes, not sure how to go on. But he knew that he needed to tell her. It was one of the things that had been constantly on his mind ever since he'd woken to find himself in Dr. Kowalski's sickbay. Somehow, it was like everything had finally clicked into place. A lot of things he hadn't noticed before. Or hadn't wanted to notice before. But talking about it was actually a relief. It was as if after everything that had happened during the last few days, he had finally found the answer to a lot of unsolved questions.
"Ever since Evans was transferred to earth, I've been running away from it. I never thought about it again and pushed what had happened as far from my mind as possible. It wasn't actually that hard. I didn't want to see a counselor after the incident because it would have reminded me of the ugly things I had gone through. I would have had to face things I just wanted to forget. I wasn't ready to accept the truth. And I thought that it was so long ago, and that it didn't matter anyway."
He stared at the floor, the words coming as he spoke. He couldn't quite believe that he was telling her. Ezri of all people! But it felt good. A relief somehow. "When we brought the weapon over to DS9 and everything started, it was like living through the nightmare again. Everything was suddenly back. Everything my father had said or done to me. Scenes from my childhood I had long since pushed from my mind. I suddenly remembered things I had long since forgotten. And I was suddenly so afraid of Evans." He shook his head. "So ludicrously afraid of him."
Ezri nodded thoughtfully. "Whatever that weapon was seems to have fed upon everyone's darkest fear. It found what you're afraid of the most – and used it against you."
Julian tried to offer a crooked smile – but failed miserably at it. "It certainly picked the right one with me. In the end, I was so scared that nothing else but Evans mattered. He was dominating my thoughts. He was everywhere. I thought I was going crazy."
Reluctantly the young Trill stepped over the threshold and came over to him, and after some small hesitation gently squeezed his arm in comfort. "And now?" she gently asked.
He looked at her. He knew that she was back in her role as counselor. But oddly enough, he didn't mind. "I think I'm finally ready to face the truth. To accept what happened in my childhood. I…" he hesitated, "…won't be able to forgive my father for what he's done. But I will no longer carry it with me either. I think that I finally understand that not everything that happened during the first seven years of my life was bad. And that, no matter what my father once did, he is only a man. That I'm neither responsible for what happened in my past, nor that I need to be afraid that it changes my present. Or who I am. I think I know now that I don't need to be ashamed of what happened all those years ago. And that it wasn't my fault."
"I'm glad to hear that," Ezri smiled. It was a smile of genuine warmth. In some way, it reminded him of Jadzia. But then he shook his head. Ezri was not Jadzia. And never would be. He could see it now. He'd seen it in her face when she had shot him in the corridor. Only now he realized, that what had happened with Evans had not been the only thing he'd been running away from and that there was another wound he'd never allowed to really heal. Not until now.
As if she had read his thoughts, the young Trill's face suddenly clouded over. "It's nice of you to say… but I still owe you an apology." She quickly turned away from him before their eyes met.
"I want to apologize for not having listened to you because I was so obsessed with proving that I was worth the legacy I've been given. I'm sorry for the things I've said, the things I've actually done…" She suddenly stopped, unable to go on. "I wanted to prove that I'm a capable counselor. But in the end, I should have listened to you right from the beginning. It would have spared us a lot of problems. And… you wouldn't have almost lost your life."
This time the crooked smile on his face was real. "Well, it certainly came as quite a shock when you shot me," Julian arched one brow. "But I would have been dead anyway. Either Remak or the dark shadow would have seen to it. You were able to stop the alien weapon, and that's all that counts."
Ezri looked up to him. She seemed barely convinced. Only now he realized the dark shadows under her eyes, and the exhaustion on her young face she was trying to conceal. And he thought he could understand why she hadn't come to see him until now. He seemed not the only one busy battling his own demons.
"So, how do you feel?" she probed carefully.
"Like I've shattered into a hundred pieces and have been put back together," Julian said truthfully. "The last few days are nothing I ever want to repeat…"
She slowly nodded, gently squeezing his arm again in comfort. Then her gaze strayed over to the chronometer. "It's almost time," she said, and he knew what she was talking about. "Can you walk on your own?" she asked with a concerned look at him.
He gauged the distance toward the shuttle bay in his mind. It was longer than he'd have liked. But then he nodded. He'd manage.
"I think I'll be fine," he said. "Let's finally put an end to this story."
When they entered the shuttle bay, a group of people had already gathered in its middle, talking animatedly among each other. He could see Rom and Leeta, obviously immersed in a heated discussion with Quark who stood with a sour face as if someone had just robbed him of his last strip of latinum. Colonel Kira stood in some distance, hands clasped behind her back, her gaze directed absently in front of her. Next to her Constable Odo, who had a watchful eye on the two Ferengi brothers even while he was talking quietly to the Colonel.
No sooner had the doors closed behind Julian and Ezri's back, did one of the figures in the distance detach himself from the group, quickly hurrying over to them.
"Julian!" The chief exclaimed. "It's good to see you. How do you feel?"
"Like I've been run over by a herd of Klingons?" Julian attempted a joke.
Genuine relief was painted all over O'Brien's face. Then a worried frown. "Isn't it a bit early to be up again? Did Dr. Kowalski give you the okay to leave your quarters already?" Or have you just sneaked out from under his watchful eyes again? Julian noticed the doubt in O'Brien's words even though the chief didn't say it aloud.
"Don't worry. I'm officially pronounced fit enough to wander around the station again. I'll have to stay in my quarters for the next few days and I'm off duty for the time being but I'm fine," Julian said with raised hands. "And he said nothing about having to stay in bed all day…"
O'Brien eyed him suspiciously like it was reminding him of the last time Julian had said that he was fine and the disaster it had all ended in. Finally the Irishman nodded. "I'm glad to hear that. But I'll have an eye on you, you know!" He thrust one finger in Julian's direction, as if to warn him not to overdo it. As always he'd been the first to come to see him after his release from sickbay. And in the chief's eyes he was still far from being fit enough to walk around on his own.
"My dear doctor, what wonderful news! I'm glad you're able to attend this little meeting," another voice joined them. Garak.
"Garak, what are you doing here?" Julian asked in confusion.
"Well, after all my involvement in the case, Captain Sisko thought it would be a good idea to let me join," Garak raised one eye ridge. "It's nothing I would have wanted to miss. It just seemed to me as the right end to this story."
O'Brien at his side chuckled.
"Garak was a great help with deciphering the ancient script on the paper scroll," Ezri added thoughtfully, as if she had only now realized that while every one of them was busy with trying to solve the riddle of the alien weapon, Julian had been busy with fighting for his life somewhere in the deserted guts of the station. "Thanks to their translation, I got the cue how to stop the weapon…"
"Well, I guess you've been right from the beginning, Garak," Julian reluctantly said.
When the Cardassian looked surprised, he added: "It was you who told me first to watch my back. I should have listened to you. In the end, Senator Remak nearly managed to kill me."
For once, Garak looked troubled. "Actually, I wasn't sure that Remak was really after you. It was just a bad feeling, some sort of misgiving. But that man really knew how to surprise us all."
Julian shook his head. "You know, there is still one thing I don't understand…"
He was aware of all eyes being set on him, but he didn't really mind. They all knew what hatred Remak had felt against him and that he had nearly managed to kill him during the crisis on the station. It was no secret that Remak would have done anything to see Julian dead. Even though not only Julian seemed to be at a loss as to what he had done to warrant such hostility.
"Why was Remak so convinced that I had killed his family? He was so intent on taking revenge, he wouldn't tell me. He only told me that I was responsible and that he'd waited the last two years to avenge his family." Julian stared into the middle distance, deliberately ignoring the startled look on Ezri's face – or the stunned expression on O'Brien's. It was one of things he'd played through again and again in his mind but hadn't come up with a satisfying explanation yet.
Someone clearing his throat.
Then Garak's surprisingly gentle voice. "Senator Remak was a man with very strong ties to the Tal'Shiar. A man of information and manipulation. I can only guess the real background of his story but if you ask me, he might have known more about you than what is written in your record."
Julian looked at the Cardassian tailor. "He accused me of having given information to the Dominion during my imprisonment in the Cardassian internment camp two years ago which led to the destruction of the Romulan military outpost on Delus IV. It was were his family lived. The Jem'Hadar attacked the system not two months later, wiping out everything that stood in their way. They killed everyone, including the senator's family…"
He paused. When he thought of the cold hatred that had shone from Remak's eyes when he had told him of the horrible deed he was accusing him of, Julian somehow still couldn't shake the feeling that it really was his fault. Even if he might not know.
"He said that I knew perfectly well what I had done because I was one of them," Julian said quietly.
"One of them?" Ezri arched one questioning brow. "Whom?"
It was Garak who spoke up first. "Well, isn't it obvious?" The playful tone had gone from his voice. Instead he looked even grim.
Julian shot him a puzzled look.
"Section 31," the Cardassian simply said. "Remak knew of your involvement with Section 31. And if you ask me, the onslaught on a defenseless outpost like Delus IV sounds just like them. I don't know if Remak was right or not – but he was certainly convinced that you're a part of Section 31. He must have learned of your encounter with Sloan last year and drawn his own conclusion."
Julian shook his head. He knew that his dismay must be written all over his face. "But I have nothing to do with them." Somehow it sounded like nothing more than a weak excuse. But two years ago, he hadn't known Sloan yet. He hadn't even known that Section 31 existed! Everything had started when he'd been targeted by Section 31 as a possible spy of the Dominion. But Remak must have gotten wind of the encounter and created his own little version of reality.
"For Remak you did. And it was probably the only thing that had kept him alive in his grief."
Julian couldn't suppress a shudder. It was the second time someone had blamed him for his misfortune and tried to correct what had gone wrong in his life by wiping out his existence. It was the second time, Julian had survived. And he couldn't say that it felt good.
"I'm glad that everything is finally over," O'Brien said as he threw a quick look back at the rest of the assembled crewmen. They had gathered in a circle around a black, shiny object.
"As am I, Chief," said another voice.
"Captain, Admiral," Ezri nodded toward the newcomers who had just stepped through the door of the small shuttle bay.
"Doctor, I'm glad you could join us," Sisko said with a look of honest relief to see the young man up to his old self again. No wonder. Julian must have been a terrifying sight when Sisko had seen him in sickbay after he'd been brought over to Dr. Kowalski's healing hands.
"Captain," O'Brien suddenly spoke up. "What… did the Romulans say?"
Sisko exchanged quick glances with Ross at his side. Then he cleared his throat. "We told them of the recent events on the station and also that Senator Remak unfortunately lost his life while defending the station. We… haven't told them the whole story of what Remak has done here and I doubt that any of his crew will ever spread word of what exactly happened on the station. Their ship has already left to bring the remains of the senator back to Romulus. It seems as if the Senate decided for Senator Cretak to resume her post on DS9…"
"I never thought that I would say this but I'm glad to hear that," Julian grimaced.
"As am I, Doctor," Admiral Ross at his side said solemnly. "I'm truly sorry for what happened during Remak's stay on the station. And I'm glad how things finally turned out. I want to thank both of you." He nodded toward Ezri, who awkwardly returned a smile. "That alien weapon, it incorporated a special nightmare for every one of us. I was of no exception. And I'm glad that it's finally disarmed."
A long silence followed, until Sisko finally said: "That only leaves one thing…"
All eyes followed his gaze toward the middle of the shuttle bay where a black, shiny torpedo was laid out. Slowly, the group of officers went over to join the group of crewmen already waiting.
It had been Sisko's idea to do honor to the alien from far beyond the wormhole. After all the trouble the ship had caused when it had first arrived on DS9, the story that lay behind its journey had touched them. The story of a man, battered and beaten by destiny, ready to stand up and hold his ground even against the dark future that had been waiting for him. The story of a man with a loving family, with hopes and dreams, with fears and courage. A man, ready to fight for the freedom of his people. A man that had crossed time and space just to find his way to Deep Space Nine.
In a special way, Julian still felt connected to that man. While everyone else had read the diary entries, Julian had no doubt that he was the only one who had really seen what it had been like. He'd probably never forget what those visions had shown him. He couldn't be sure that everything had actually happened in that way, but it didn't really matter. He'd keep the memory of the person Arean had been, and the things he had done for his home. Somehow, it seemed the only right thing to him to do.
When everyone had gathered in a circle, Sisko cleared his throat and addressed his present crewmen. He'd carefully chosen his words long time before coming down to the shuttle bay. It was a small ceremony, with a small group of people. But it was the least they could do for their alien guest.
When Sisko was finished, they all took a step back. The launch of the torpedo was quick and unspectacular. Within minutes, another two waiting officers had loaded it onto the shuttle, taking off to bring it on its journey toward eternity.
"May he finally find rest," Admiral Ross said as he watched the shuttle leave DS9 and disappear into space.
"At least he will be with his wife, and her father," Leeta at his side wiped at her eyes as she took the handkerchief Rom had rummaged for in his pocket.
"I for once am glad that he's finally gone," Quark grumbled as he walked toward the exit. "And I mean really gone. As far away from the station as possible!"
Constable Odo snorted in slight amusement while he followed the Ferengi out into the corridor.
But even though the shuttle was gone and everyone had started filing out of the shuttle bay, Julian couldn't help staring at the vast sky into which the shuttle had vanished. In the distance, he could see the wormhole open and close, a clear sign that the shuttle was on its way to the Gamma Quadrant. Only when he felt a soft touch on his arm, did he blink and turn around.
"Is everything alright?"
Sisko was standing next to him, watching him intently.
Julian quickly shook his head, well aware that Ezri and O'Brien had stopped as well and turned in their direction. "It's just…" Julian admitted reluctantly, "Well, there's one thing that's still bothering me…"
He looked from Sisko to O'Brien and Ezri. Then back at the dark, velvet sky. "They once fought an overwhelming power that had destroyed their world and endangered many other worlds in their part of the universe. They succeeded in fending off that power – and became themselves the Dominion."
Julian looked down. He could see from the faces of his friends that they were thinking along the same line. "The Federation fights against the Dominion. We're ready to do everything to defend our freedom. I just wondered… if it was a glimpse of the future that is lying ahead of us? Of what the Federation will become when the war with the Dominion is finally over…"
A short silence followed. Then Sisko clapped him on the arm, a stern expression on his face. He followed Julian's gaze up toward the sky. "No…" the captain said thoughtfully, staring toward where the wormhole had again closed and vanished into the sky, "not a glimpse of our own future."
"A warning," Sisko finally said. "…not to do the same mistakes all over again."
"They call themselves the "Saviors" and they appeared out of nowhere shortly after our first travel beyond our own star system. But despite their snowing words and friendly gestures, their number of ships and military uniforms betray them for what they really are. They claim to be from beyond the stars. From an empire so vast and powerful that they want us to join them to achieve one common goal: peace in the galaxy. They tell us stories from places a million light years away from here. From other worlds, other peoples, other species. From how we should all work together as one collective. It would be for our best. It would save us from the dangers in those yet unknown regions of space out there. They offered us their protection, and help. But even though the Ministry and the Order of Ylek believe them, something holds me back. I don't trust them. And I pray that I am not the only one to feel this way. Their false smile unnerves me. And the sight of their armored ships that have ever since been orbiting our planet, make a cold shiver run down my spine. And even while I lie awake, looking up at the vast sky above me, I can't help wondering: How will this story end?"
=/\= The End =/\=
2015 by Mijra
Final note from the author:
Wow, another story complete! Another two years gone by so quickly *lol* I can't really believe that I actually started working on Shadowrunner before I wrote The Secrets we Keep but perhaps this might explain why this story was more influenced by everything that happened to me while I wrote it than any other story before.
I think this story wouldn't have become the story it is now if it hadn't been for two special persons. First of all I'd like to thank Barry Jenner (Admiral William Ross) for the wonderful time at FedCon last year! It was there that someone from the audience wanted to know how Barry prepared for his role as Admiral Ross in DS9. He said that it had been a great honor for him to be part of the Star Trek universe and that he wanted to give the character of Ross more depth by creating his own little version of the admiral's background story (even if a lot of it isn't mentioned in the official script). He said that he imagined Admiral Ross as someone who had lost his daughter in the Dominion War which made him all the more adamant to end the war as quickly as possible to save other young people the same fate. It's why he's ready to do everything in his power to end the war - even if it means breaking the rules every now and then like when he cooperates with Section 31 in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. The moment I heard the story (even if it's not canon), I knew I had to bring it into one of my own stories! XD I had the rare chance to meet Barry several times during the four convention days and we talked a lot and it was when I asked him to sign my hardcopy version of The Darkness Within (which I had taken along for Sid to sign;) that he asked me if his character appears in the story. Unfortunately, Ross is only mentioned in TDW so I promised I'll give him a personal appearance in one of my next stories – which I did in Shadowrunner. So, if you've asked yourself if it was ever mentioned during the show that Admiral Ross had a son and a daughter… well he had, at least according to the admiral himself.^^
Another person that really influenced this story was Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax) whom I met on the same occasion. I liked Ezri before and when I met her in person at the con she was like that best-friend kind of person, and really short and really cute.^^ At first I never meant to give Ezri that much part of the story but as you might have noticed, she turns out to be one of the main characters during the later chapters. I'm so happy I got her sign on the cover of Shadowrunner (which I printed out and took with me for the autograph session). I would have loved to get her sign on the complete book but last year in June I was just at chapter 5 and far away from getting the story printed... but her sign on the cover is better than nothing!:)
While we're about it, there was also Sid (Julian Bashir). I still can't believe that I really met and spoke to him in person. It was like one of those once-in-a-lifetime things and it was really amazing. Seeing/meeting Sid was one of the main reasons for me to go to FedCon in the first place. Yeah, it is a lot of money you need for accomodation and flight and the tickets if you don't live near where the convention is held and I literally had to bribe my boss to give me the days off so that I could go but it was absolutely worth it! So of course I had to go the whole nine yards with photograph and autograph sessions while I was there XD. If you've ever been to a convention (or let's better say FedCon), you might know that you don't have much time during photograph sessions to actually speak with the actors because the staff works so efficiently that you have about 30 seconds to greet the actor, smile, get your picture taken, and make place for the next fan behind you *lol* But I had the chance to talk to Sid during one of his panels (where you go up to the mic and ask the actor your question while 2000 other pairs of eyes in the audience follow your every move on the big screen on stage – you're damn nervous but you do it all the same because you know that it might probably be the only chance you'll ever get). And I finally got him to sign my hardcopy of The Darkness Within which I had gotten printed for just this occasion. All in all, it was a unique experience. I'll probably never forget those four wonderful days and I think they influenced Shadowrunner in a very special way.
Finally, thank you all for sticking with this story for such a long time! It's great to have you as readers and I think I wouldn't have put so much effort into the story without you!