Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Honored
by Gabrelle Lawson

Chapter Five

In frustration, Kira took out the PADD and updated her notes. They'd have three days if they could leave tonight. She didn't see that happening, though. They couldn't go anywhere unnoticed in their purple cloaks. Only the Honored wore them. She had an orange one from her time with the trackers, but Bashir didn't. So step one was getting brown or gray cloaks, something that would help them blend in. Of course, they were also the only ones who had to keep their hoods on outside, so maybe the color still wouldn't be enough. They'd need a diversion, something that would keep anyone from looking their way or noticing they were covered.

If that materialized, they could either risk the train or steal one of the skimmers and make their way back to Nardinosti. They couldn't risk lingering in the gates, either. Those gates changed Gidari physiology so they could breathe the same air as the majority of their visitors. So they'd need another distraction there. Then they'd need to find a friendly captain to let them aboard their ship before the Gidari figured out where they'd gone. Kira didn't relish getting her memories removed or being hauled back to that sacred spot on the mountain. In other words, it was going to take a hell of a lot of luck.

"Nerys!" Julian exclaimed. He turned, holding up one of the feathers she'd collected after the darglin charge. "What animal had these feathers?"

"Darglin," she replied, "very large, very beautiful, predatory birds. Why?"

"Because they have antibodies that fight the virus." He smiled, then turned back to the computer. "Ah ha! The blood has even more. It works. It's immune."

"How? That virus hadn't been on this planet before," she countered, joining him at the computer.

"Sheer luck, I guess," was his answer. "But how do we use it in a Gidari humanoid body?" He began to think out loud. "If I can separate out the antibodies and mix it with the right compound, and find a good adjuvant, we might have a good solution to test. Computer trial first."

He went silent. Kira watched the screen. The virus was indicated in red. The darglin antibodies were green. The first compound he tested came in as white. When it mixed with mostly blue Gidari blood, something changed. The virus stopped replicating and the green antibodies disintegrated. Bashir sighed beside her but then there was another change. Some of the cells in the blue blood turned into purple specks which engulfed the red virus. "What just happened?" she asked.

"It would appear that the darglin antibodies stimulated immune cells in the humanoid blood. They mutated and attacked the virus. Kira, this could be a cure, or at least a vaccine."

A red line flashed on the screen. "What's that?"

Bashir clicked it and waited for the translation. He sighed again. "There's not a large enough sample. Maybe for one patient."

"How much more do you need?" Kira asked.

He looked at her. "How big are those birds?"

"Maybe your height," she told him. "There has to be a lot of blood in one of those."

Bashir tapped his fingers on the counter. "It may not come to that. Vaccine first. If I give it to one of the healers, perhaps their new antibodies could benefit others."

"It's say that's worth waking them up," Kira suggested.

Bashir punched the shortcut. An older Gidari man answered. "How may we assist you, Healer?"

"I need you to isolate the patient with the least concentration of the virus. I'll have a compound sent over. They are to receive the whole dose. A blood sample should be taken before and at intervals after." He turned to Kira. "Go find us a guard or someone who can act as courier."

Kira nodded and left the room. She had only been out once without Tarlingen at this point. But this time she didn't' see anyone to ask. Still, she knew one place that always had someone on guard. The throne room. She remembered the way.

Two men in red and black robes stood before like statues, just outside the oversized doors. Until she approached. Then they crossed their spears in front of her. "What business, Honored?" the one on the right asked.

"I need someone to get a possible vaccine to the healers in isolation," she said.

The spears fell to the ground and both the guards bowed to her. She didn't have time for that, but she knew they'd stay that way until she returned the bow. So she did and quickly stood back up again.

The guard on the left pulled what she assumed was a communications device from his cloak and spoke into it. "Return to the Healer," the on the right said. "We have called for a courier."

Kira nodded and went back to Julian. "Someone's coming," she told him. They didn't have to wait long. There was a knock on the door.

Kira opened it and was surprised to see Tarlingen. She wasn't wearing her cloak, but a long gown, probably for sleeping. "We didn't mean it had to be you," Kira said.

Tarlingen shook her head. Her hair was loose and shimmered in the light. "It must be," she said breathlessly.

Bashir gasped when he saw her then composed himself. He handed her a vial. "It's a test," he told her. "I hope it works. We don't have enough for a second try at this time."

"Understood," Tarlingen took the vial. "You have spoken to the healers? They have chosen the recipient?"

"Yes," Bashir replied, "and moved him or her to a secondary isolation room."

"May the Creator grant us favor," Tarlingen said. Then she turned and left. Bashir went back to the computer and the drumming on the counter. Kira sat down on the crates and waited. The chosen healer, a woman numbered Six, called in regularly. At first there was no change. Then she reported that she had developed a fever. Her samples showed still a large concentration of virus but a little less each time. And more antibodies each time.

Another hour passed, then she called again, sounding worn and weak. "The fever is dropping," she reported. "My latest sample shows a dramatic decrease in viral concentrations with a corresponding increase in antibodies. Please, Healer, what is the formula?"

"It may not matter," Bashir told her, "as I can't replicate it again without more samples of the required ingredient. My hope is that you will soon be free of the virus, and then your antibodies will create a new compound."

She smiled. "Thus far, a promising result," she replied. "I will contact you again."

Two hours after that, she called to say there was no evidence of the virus in her blood, nor in her lungs. "Yes!" Bashir exclaimed.

"I've sent you several vials of my blood," Six said, sounding far more chipper. "Now may I know?"

"It was the darglin," Bashir told her. "Its antibodies mutated yours into a force to destroy the virus."

"Creator be praised," she said. "Now we see if my antibodies can teach the others' antibodies to fight it."

"Yes," Bashir agreed.

There was a knock at the door. Kira opened it to find a fully-cloaked Tarlingen. She entered and handed three vials to Bashir. "Excellent progress, Healer."

Bashir nodded and moved back to the computer. Tarlingen stepped back toward the door. She reached her hand inside her cloak in front of Kira. "Here," she said, so Kira started fishing in her own cloak the same way. Tarlingen removed a small, flat, rectangular object. Kira felt in various pockets until she found it. "Say my title and name," Tarlingen said, "and you will contact me directly. No need to hunt a guard."

"Thank you," Kira told her. Tarlingen left and Kira sat down. She put the communicator back in its pocket and went through several other pockets, trying to determine what each item was. She found the telescoping spear, which decided would come in handy when they escaped. She also found the finrittor, though she knew it wouldn't work against a Gidari. Might work on an animal, though. Several items she couldn't identify and thought it unwise to test them in a room full of medical equipment.

"I've isolated the antibodies," Bashir said. "Now to find the right mixture and dosage to kick start an immune response in one of the other healers."

"Maybe the darglin could still be useful," Kira suggested. "You didn't get to test it on one of those with the full disease, or the leader."

Bashir looked up for a moment. "If you think you could get more blood samples, it wouldn't' hurt," he finally said. "But do please hurry. I feel the vaccine is within reach. The cure, though, that is harder."

Kira felt a buzz against her chest. She felt through the pockets to find the communicator again. "Bashir is needed," Tarlingen said.

Kira heard the urgency in Tarlingen's voice. "The leader."

Tarlingen confirmed her guess. "He should go to her at once." Then the line went dead.

Julian sighed. "If only I could be in two places at once." He opened a crate and pulled out some booties and a pair of gloves. Then he grabbed his medical tricorder and left. Kira went back to inventorying her pockets. She had planning to do.

Julian understood why she'd called for him as soon as he saw her. Nailati's lesions were red and inflamed. "You've quickened." He quickly pulled the power supply from his tricorder. "Are there any devices in this room that emit EM radiation?"

"A communications device in this table," she replied, and he could hear the tightness of her voice though she remained outwardly stoic.

"Can you power it down?" he asked. "It will make things worse."

"In your cloak," she added, "many things."

Damn. He didn't know which things to remove, where to find them, or how to turn them off. "I'll only hurt you then," he told her, stepping back.

Nailati nodded. "Will you stand before us uncloaked?"

"I'm not wearing much underneath," he told her, "but yes."

She pointed to another door. "Leave it in there. I will have a robe delivered for you. Your cloak will wait for you in your laboratory."

Bashir went quickly through the door and was surprised to find himself in the throne room. No one else was present so he began the process of taking off the cloak. To say he wasn't wearing much else was an exaggeration, as he was left only with his boots and his gloves. Still, she was his patient and he, her doctor. He opened the door again and entered her living quarters. He found a brown robe just on the other side of the door. It was hooded but otherwise much simpler than the elaborate, purple cloak he'd been given. He slipped it on with ease.

"We have powered off all other devices," she told him. "The pain is less."

"When did you notice the change?" he asked her.

"Not us," she replied. "Liytner Nardek noticed when she told me of your progress. The pain came later. This is the stage before death."

She's been so direct, so he answered her directly. "Yes, I'm sorry."

She took a deep breath but nodded. "Tell us, please, what led you to this potential vaccine?"

"A feather," he told her. "One from a darglin. The blood was even better."

She smiled. "Have you seen one fly?"

He had really only been outside for the ride from Nardinosti. He hadn't seen one at all. "No, but Kira has," he told her. "She brought the samples. Blood, tissue, and feathers."

"There is much of our world you have not seen." There was a wistfulness to her voice now. "Sometimes we step out. There is one door that is large enough. It leads to a plateau on the north side of the mountain. We can see for a great distance, but we ca only make out the darglin in flight. Like fire floating through the air. They are graceful and fierce. I would like to step out and see my world again. But this will not be for me. We fear it would leave some trace of this foul poison. That will be for the next Nailati."

"I haven't given up yet," Bashir told her, wanting to give her hope. "If we can get more darglin blood, perhaps it still could be a cure. I didn't have enough to try against the disease. Or perhaps the antibodies from the test patient-"

She held up a hand to cut him off. "Verify the vaccine. That is all that matters now. We need only know our people will be safe. Go now, back to your laboratory. Save them."

Bashir sighed, then bowed for her, humble as he was in the plain, brown robe.

"You are Honored indeed, Julian Bashir," she added. "And it has been our honor to know you."

Julian left her quarters. He threw away the booties and gloves in the receptacle outside the door and hurried back to the lab. He wasn't surprised to see Tarlingen there. It looked as if she'd just arrived.

"Kira," she said in greeting, "Bashir, I must go now, but I've asked Mindglin to bring you four more vials of darglin blood. One of the palace workers will take you to meet him. I am needed elsewhere. Doctor, please let me know when your vaccine is successful."

"Or a cure," he added. "I will. We'll need a courier."

"I will send one to you." With that, she turned and hurried away. Bashir stepped fully inside and closed the door.

Kira took in his simple brown robe. "What happened?"

"She's quickened," he told her. He found his purple cloak neatly folded on the counter. "Who's Mindglin?"

"Biologist," Kira replied. "He taught me how to use the gun that collected the blood and tissue samples."

Bashir stared to strip off the robe, and Kira turned her back to him to give him some privacy. "You going to remember how to put that on?" she teased.

"I have a very good memory," he answered. While he dressed, he thought out loud. "I can still use the darglin blood again, but I don't need to wait. I've got three vials of blood with Gidari antibodies to work with. I want to work up a compound to try with the other infected, and one of the diseased."

"Can't hurt," Kira replied. "Do you think that robe could work outside the mountain?"

He nearly had the cloak on. "What do you mean?" The sight of his chest was disturbing, and he was anxious to cover it.

"The purple cloak will stand out. I've still got the orange one. Tarlingen didn't ask for it and I haven't reminded her."

"Done," he announced. So he turned back to the computer. "I don't suppose it would. It's very simple. No pockets, no devices. I changed so the ones in my cloak wouldn't hurt her." The computer analyzed the blood sample from Patient Six and isolated the antibodies. Bashir ran simulations to determine the minimum dosage to kick start an immune reaction in another infected Gidari. And how much for a Gidari who hadn't been exposed. By the time the knock came on their door, he had a compound to try for the former. He worked up a dose. If it was successful, the three scientists who had not yet developed the disease would be cured. But the dosage had to be higher to and fight the disease itself. Or maybe the darglin antibodies would be better.

Kira answered the door. "I'm your escort, Honored," a lean man in a brown cloak told her. He didn't bother to bow. Tarlingen must have told him not to bother.

"Let's go then." She looked back once then closed the door behind them.

Kira noted this worker was nearly as tall as Bashir. But she couldn't thick of a way to get his cloak that wouldn't cause too much trouble. He led her with a cord out of the cave and into the village. She could see Mindglin waiting in his bright orange cloak by the fountain. She hurried to him.

He did bow, which Kira found unproductive at this late stage. She quickly returned the bow. He handed her the vials. She thanked him and turned back. The worker followed her dutifully.

She could knock him out in the total darkness of the cavern labyrinth, but he'd report her when he woke up. She could kill him but that seemed rather aggressive, and, besides, she knew what happened to Gidari bodies after they died. The whole palace would be able to smell it. No, there was no way. He brought her all the way back to the lab. She thanked him, then went inside.

Bashir was at the counter. "Patient Four," he said, and she knew it meant his compound had been delivered.

"How long until we know?" Kira asked. She set the darglin vials on the counter.

"Patient Six took several hours, but she had the darglin compound. It had to mutate her antibodies. These were antibodies which had already been changed to fight the virus. It could be faster." He lifted one of the vials. "Two have the disease, besides the leader," he said. "So do I try the darglin or the Gidari antibodies?"

Kira had no idea. She was a fighter, and administrator. Not a doctor or scientist. "Which one do you think will work better?"

Julian ran simultaneous simulations. The darglin antibodies had some initial success but were, in the end, beaten back by the mutated virus. The Gidari compound fared worse, if she understood what she was seeing. The host's immune system overwhelmed the new antibodies. "Neither." He slammed his hand down on the counter.

Kira put a hand on his shoulder. She leaned into it. "Then which will make the best vaccine?"

He sighed and shook his head. "We know the darglin works on someone who's been infected. But without the virus to attack, what effect would it have in a healthy Gidari body? But Gidari antibodies which are already trained to attack *this** virus, that will be the vaccine. But the first step is seeing if that immunity is transferable."

"So we wait," Kira said. "Let's work on something else."

"What else is there?"

She turned him away from the computer. "Well, for starters, there's how we get you a different cloak." She sat him down on one of the crates then sat facing him. "I actually thought about attacking that worker in the tunnels."

Bashir chuckled. "I don't think that would have gone over well."

Kira laughed, too. "Which is why I didn't. So, I got the orange one. How do we find you a different color?"

"Say we managed it," he offered, "then what?" We'll still be the only ones hooded out there."

"Okay, so there's that, too," she admitted. "I know the other exit, higher on the mountain. We could stick to the wilds, at least part of the way. It will be slow and there are some dangerous beasts out there, but fewer people would see us."

"And maybe we wouldn't be so conspicuous further out?"

Kira liked that idea. "Just two covered people going about their business."

"Or at least manage to get on the train?" But then he shook his head. "We'd have to stay covered there. Without the cloaks, we'd just be aliens. And that would cause a stir."

The computer beeped so he stood and returned to it. "Honored," a man's voice said. "All indications are that I will be free of the virus in two hours. You should proceed with the next stage of testing. I've sent a volunteer to you."

"Not until we know it's killed all your virus," Bashir protested.

"There's not time for that," the man replied, though he didn't sound rushed. "We must confirm that an uninfected person can fight off the infection when exposed."

There was a knock at the door. Kira went to open it. This time, it was a woman in brown. "Honored," she said. "I've been told not to bow as time is pressing."

"That's fine," Kira told her. "Come in."

Bashir protested, "It's too early."

"He's right, Doctor," Kira countered, "we don't have time. Give her the compound."

Bashir's jaw was set hard. "It may not work and you'll be infected."

"I have faith in your Purpose, Honored," she said. She pulled back her sleeve to bare the blue skin of her arm.

He reluctantly pressed a few controls and worked on the computer for maybe fifteen more minutes. Kira suggested the woman sit while she waited. Finally he took a vial from the replicator. He popped it into a hypospray. "You're sure?" he asked. She stood and nodded, so he pressed it to her arm.

"Thank you, Honored," she said as she lowered her sleeve again. She turned and left. Bashir went to the computer and called the sick room, with its last two scientists, Patients One and Five.

"Can I be of service," Patient One asked.

"I've given a volunteer a potential vaccine," Bashir said. "I expected her to visit you."

"No, Honored," the other man replied. "She has gone to the Leader."

Why the urgency? he wondered. To rush this test and then expose her to a mutated version of the virus seemed foolhardy. Then he wondered why he was only asking himself. He was Honored, damn it, and he was going to use it. "Why the rush? Why not let each step take the time it needs to be proven? The leader's virus is different."

"The Leader is different and she has 'quickened,'" the patient answered. "The succession is in motion. We must confirm a vaccine as quickly as possible."

"She may have needed time for her body to work up enough of a response," he argued. "The formula could be off."

"She is to prepare the Leader," Patient One replied. "She will not leave her side until the ceremony. She will take regular blood samples for testing. As soon as Patient Four is free of the virus, we would appreciate that compound as well."

He nodded, but cut off the channel. This was all wrong. If the compound didn't work, that woman was going to be infected. And Nailati was going to die to save her people. He sat down. There was nothing to be done now except wait. Wait and hope. Wait for Patient Four to call again and hope he says he's virus-free. Wait and hope that the few antibodies he gave that woman were enough to counter whatever they were exposing her to.

Kira sat beside him. "So we go out the high door and take our chances with the beasts out there, make our way over to the next village and catch the train to Nardinosti. How do we get through the gates? We can't linger."

Bashir leaned back against the wall. "So besides the first two insurmountable barriers of finding a new cloak and not being able to remove our hoods, we now have a third with the gates."

"Who said 'insurmountable?" she argued. "We just haven't figured that out yet."

"Do we even have enough time?" he asked her. "It's the fifth day. Every hour we wait brings us closer to dying for good."

Kira stood. "I'll be back in a minute." She left.

Bashir had no idea where she'd gone or why. He hoped it wasn't to assault a worker for his cloak. Whatever she was after, it took her longer than a minute. Patient Four did call and was free of the virus. Bashir sent two more doses of that compound to Patients One and Five. He will have saved four of the six at least. And he didn't know exactly how they planned to expose the woman, but her blood samples showed both the virus and antibodies to fight it. But would it be enough? He wanted to send her another dose.

Finally, the door opened and Kira entered carrying a bottle and two glasses. "I thought you might like a taste," she said.

He sighed at having to remind her. "I have a hole in my esophagus."

"So spit it back in the glass," she suggested. "You can still taste it." She handed him a glass with a very small amount of a purple liquid. It smelled sweat and flowery. He took a sip and held it in his mouth. Finally, he did as she had suggested and spat it back out. "My tongue is tingling."

She smiled. "It's good though, isn't it?"

"Yes," he admitted, nodding. "Too bad we can't smuggle the bottle back to DS Nine."

Her smile faded. "I barely made it back," she admitted. "They're locking down the palace." She took another sip of her wine. "But I surmounted one of our insurmountable barriers."

"You didn't assault anyone?" he asked.

She sounded hurt, a little angry, or both. "No, I did not. Everyone is hooded out there. Must be a mourning ritual. How is the vaccine doing?"

"Patient Four is fine. I sent that compound to One and Five. The woman is infected, but she also has antibodies to fight it. For now."

There was another knock at the door. Kira rose to answer it. Tarlingen was there. She stepped inside. She passed Kira and came to where Bashir was sitting. "You appear unhappy," she said.

"I suppose I do," he told her. "Five people are going to die, including us. And maybe that woman will be number six."

"Four will live who would have died," she countered. "And maybe your vaccine will save a fifth. Have you seen her latest sample?" She saw the glasses and bottle on the counter. "Ah, you have tasted the wine."

"Only tasted," Bashir confessed. "Not sure where it would've come out if I had swallowed." He stood and went to the computer. There was a new sample. He opened the file. The concentration of virus had decreased while the antibodies had increased.

Tarlingen looked past his shoulder. "You have achieved your Purpose," she said. "Our people will be safe."

He looked at her. "Your Leader will die."

"There will be another," she replied. "Thanks to you. Without the vaccine, the succession would be in question."

He turned to face her fully. "Then you know why she's different."

"A Liytner is a close advisor and attendant to our Leader," she answered. "And I am the closest Liytner. The ceremony will be in four hours. I would be honored if both of you were there."

Bashir realized what she was saying. She was the chosen heir.

"I'm sorry now," she went on, "that you saw so little of our world." She turned to Kira and smiled, "But you were able to see much of it."

"She has shared all of it with me," he told her.

Finally she sighed and turned to the door. She opened it but turned back and bowed. He and Kira bowed back. Then she was gone.

Three hours later, the woman was virus free. The vaccine had worked. It was replicated and Kira could only assume that everyone in the palace was being given a dose. At the fourth hour, a woman in red came to the door and told them to cover and follow. Then she escorted them to a large room they had never been to before. There was a crowd. Red-cloaked men and women filled most of the standing room, though they parted for Kira and Bashir. There was a film of some sort covering the floor. But on the far wall was a gate. A gate very much like the ones around Nardinosti, except that this one was much larger. And the Leader, wearing only simple clothes was standing in it.

Kira looked and found Tarlingen, who now wore a blue dress that matched the color of her uncovered face. She was standing to one side of the gate. The leader stepped forward out of the gate and collapsed, choking as she fell to the floor. Bashir started to rush forward, but a man in red blocked him.

Bashir realized what they were doing. They were recreating the circumstances from the crash eight hundred years earlier. Nailati the Trill choked on Gidar's air and now Nailati, the leader, was dong the same. Tarlingen knelt by the leader, and Nailati exposed her stomach to her. Tarlingen pulled a knife out of somewhere in that dress and placed it to the Leader's exposed skin. The leader put her hand on top of Tarlingen's and helped her to slice into that skin. She had no air with which to scream. But the pain was evident in her face and she coughed up blood. Still she pulled back her own skin to expose the symbiont.

Tarlingen turned the knife on herself. She cut away a section of the dress then sliced into her own abdomen. She reached in and took hold of the symbiont with one hand and cut away the connecting tissue with the other. Nailati's hand dropped beside her body as she convulsed. Tarlingen screamed as she pushed the symbiont into the incision she'd made. She put one hand on the floor then slowly stood. Her other hand tried to hold her skin together.

Two women in brown rushed to her and wrapped her with bandages that she was bleeding through. On the floor, the convulsions stopped. The leader was dead.

"It is done!" Tarlingen cried out.

Every one of the red-cloaked watchers bowed as they would to the leader. Bashir did the same, and Kira beside him. When everyone rose again, Tarlingen was gone. The dead, former leader remained.

Bashir couldn't just watch her there. He turned to leave. The red cloaks let him go. Kira followed him. He didn't speak until they were back in the large hall. "They reenacted it," he told her, angry at the violence he had witnessed. "To some extent."

"It's their tradition," she argued. "We had guessed it was going to be bloody."

"I might still have found a cure," he countered. If he'd just had more time.

Kira put a hand on his arm. "It doesn't matter now. Look." She pointed up to the second level where no one was looking down at them. "How long did it take first priestess to change?"