"BITHOOL GAGH HAS FEET"
By Lorraine Anderson
Ezri Dax saw the tail end of the Bithool gagh disappear though the access plate on the storage room floor and into the service tube.
She groaned, and wished she could get her hands on Jadzia Dax, preferably to choke her for ordering this particular birthday present for Martok. She could almost see Jadzia grinning at her. It wasn't a kind grin, it was one of those kind of grins that one gets when one is being foolish and very Trill and very… young. She sternly suppressed Jadzia; Jadzia hadn't been that much older than she was (is? She really needed to figure out her pronouns) when she died.
She looked at the access plate. Should she pull it up and start after it? As soon as she thought that, she shivered. Ugh. She didn't even want to touch them. And after all, it was only one gagh. Surely it would die there. After all, gagh weren't tribbles - were they? Suddenly, she couldn't remember how they procreated.
She looked over at Miles O'Brien, who was working on a plate on the opposite wall. "Um, Chief?"
"A gagh escaped."
O'Brien turned and raised his eyebrows. "The gagh escaped?"
Ezri raised one finger. "One gagh, chief. Just one." She pointed at the access hatch. "Down there. I think it made itself flat."
"Some worms can."
"It's not a worm. It's a…" she shook her head. "It's kind of a cross between a snake, an eel, and a worm. With teeth. Which makes eating it an adventure." She cocked her head at the rest of the… swarm? gaggle? in the box. "It does look kinda like a worm, doesn't it?"
O'Brien screwed up his face. "Well, it's nothing I want to put in my mouth."
"I have." She gulped. "And I liked it."
"Not you," O'Brien said. "Jadzia."
"And Curzon. That's where Jadzia got the taste for it. Although she was fascinated with Klingons before she joined with Dax."
She peered over the side of the packing crate at the squirming mass of Bithool gagh, trying not to gag. Gag. Gagh. How appropriate. She shivered again. She was wishing that she hadn't gotten O'Brien to open the top.
"You know, you probably should put the lid on that before something…"
Something bumped the box at the other side. The box teetered for a bare second, and Ezri recoiled, then grabbed at it, too late. The box went over sideways on the floor, taking a box of Meshta Gagh with it. The lid popped off, and the Meshta gagh started jumping over the floor. Ezri gasped and froze, then started grabbing Gagh, trying to stuff them back into the box.
"Morn!" O'Brien groaned, then he was on the floor, grabbing at Gagh, too. Ezri glanced up to see the mournful looking alien staring down at them, carrying his own box. "You get down here and help, Morn." Morn opened his mouth. "I don't want to hear about it!"
They grabbed gagh and tossed them into the boxes. Ezri gasped as she watched at least a dozen disappear down the access hatches. And who knew how many more went down? She wasn't watching, she was grabbing. "Ew." She started thinking of the feel of them on her hands and frowned in a desperate attempt not to bring her supper up.
Suddenly they were all gone. Her palms itched.
"Did we get them all?" O'Brien looked into the crate, which was overflowing with two different types of gagh. He slammed the lid on it.
"Don't harm them…" Ezri looked
O'Brien snorted. "Don't harm them? You're the one that wanted to space them!"
"That's because I'm giving them to Martok. Or, rather, Jadzia gave them to Martok, and since she was married to Worf at the time, I got Worf to do the honors of giving them to Martok, letting me off the hook." She gulped. "Worf loves gagh."
"I'm babbling again. I know." She chewed her bottom lip. "Chief, I saw a bunch more go down into the access tube."
"Well," he said, scratching his head. "It's not like they're tribbles, are they?"
Ezri didn't answer.
"I… don't know, Chief." She looked at the boxes. "I mean, Klingons love gagh and there always seems to be a lot of it around, and…"
"What do they eat?" O'Brien was starting to look alarmed.
"Um…. I think almost anything organic."
They looked down at the access hatch. O'Brien dropped to his knees and pulled the plate up, sticking his head in the tube. He looked one way, then the other, while Ezri's stomach spasmed.
"I… think we had better tell the Captain."
"Do we have to tell Benjamin?" Ezri whined. She closed her eyes. She was a full-grown Trill. She would not whine.
But nobody said anything about pouting.
Ezri clasped her hands behind her, trying to look as dignified as Jadzia. "Benjamin, whatever you say, I want you to know that it was not my fault," she said in a rush. Nope. That was pure Ezri.
Captain Sisko looked up, his eyebrows raising. "Ok, it wasn't your fault."
Ezri chewed her lips. The silence dragged on.
"What wasn't your fault?"
"Bithool Gagh are loose on the station."
"The Klingon delicacy?" He frowned. "Isn't gagh a fancy word for worms?"
"The Klingons call them serpents. I would say they're related to Terran Eels."
"Still, they couldn't have gone far. It's not like they're tribbles, are they?"
"But they do run fast and they have both female and male organs, and they can fertilize each other, just like earthworms. And they have the reproduction rate of a day."
"But what do they eat?"
"Anything they can get. They do prefer Klingon soil, but they'll eat almost anything organic. Plants, animals… um, people." She looked that up on the way up.
Sisko looked sideways at her. "People?"
"They prefer dead flesh. But they will take nips out of live people." Sisko's eyes widened. "They're not big, and they're not like your piranhas. It's kinda like a paper cut."
"Still, old man, if you get enough paper cuts…" Sisko dropped his head on his chin. "I have this vision of gagh biting sleeping people. Not to mention some of the agricultural shipments we get through here." He looked out at ops, even busier than usual. "Not that we get many of those lately."
Ezri suddenly felt foolish. "I'm sorry, Benjamin. With all you have to worry about, it seems like I've been burdening you with my troubles." She felt sudden tears come to her eyes. She had just gotten back from Sappora VII, where her brother, Norvo, had been sentenced to prison for murder. She had just burdened him with that yesterday, and now today…
"Are you all right?" Sisko looked up at her, startled.
Ezri closed her eyes, pulling herself together. She was just so close to a breakdown. Not in front of Sisko, please…
She cleared her throat. "Yes, Benjamin."
He looked at her, suspicion in his eyes. But he leaned back and said, mildly, "Do you have any recommendations to rid ourselves of this problem?"
Thank you, Benjamin. Something solid she could grasp. "Not at the moment. We can't transport them to a common holding area, as we did the tribbles. They barely show up on the sensors as it is, and with all of the people on the station -" Her voice trailed off. "We could assign - um - Gagh hunting parties."
"Although, old man, what is the Gagh's largest natural enemy?"
"Um, birds, large rodents…"
Sisko snapped his fingers. "Klingons."
Ezri pulled back. "Oh, Benjamin, you're not suggesting…" She looked alarmed. "The station would be crawling with Klingons…" She hesitated, then looked puzzled. "Not that that would be a bad thing…"
Benjamin gave her a look.
"I - Ezri - hasn't had much experience with Klingons. And I'm not sure how to interact with them any more."
Sisko cocked his head. "You'll figure it out."
"Isn't it overkill to ask Klingons to help us?"
"Maybe, but it would be good public relations."
"Klingons. Klingons with forks - they'd probably enjoy hunting down their dinner." His face lighted up. "And I want you to suggest it to Martok."
"Me?" Ezri's voice squeaked. "Oh, Benjamin, you must…" Ezri suddenly realized that no matter what Dax's relationship was with Benjamin, he was still Ezri's commanding officer. "Yes, sir," she said stiffly.
"Don't look so panic-stricken. Martok doesn't bite…" He looked a little apprehensive. "Does he…?"
Ezri shrugged nervously. "At least, not me. Yet." She giggled. "That would be a Klingon ritual, and Martok and I haven't…"
Sisko gulped visibly. "Too much info, old man. Contact Martok." He turned away before Ezri could go on.
"So. You're Dax." Martok looked Ezri in the face, and Ezri wondered whether he could see her twitch.
"I am Ezri Dax," she said, as firmly as she could. She remembered that Klingons admired toughness, as she remembered fighting with and fighting along with Klingons, although, she, personally, had never done any such things. She wondered whether the moves would come back to her if she tried a Bat'leth.
"Yes," Martok growled.
"I'm…" She was about to say that she was sorry. Not a good tack. "I have a problem that I'm hoping you can help me with."
"So?" Martok said.
"Jadzia bought you a birthday present. She had hoped to present it to you the next time you were on the station."
Martok smiled. "Jadzia bought me…"
"Five different types of Gagh."
"And the problem is that you won't join me in eating…"
Ezri knew that Martok was sharp. She tried to keep from wincing. "No." She shut her eyes. "I, personally, have never partaken of Gagh before, but…"
Martok smiled, a little sadly. "You are not Jadzia. I will not insist that you join me, if that's what you're worried about…"
"No!" Ezri backed down. "The Gagh has escaped."
Martok sat up. "Escaped."
"I was down in the storage room, looking… after the Gagh. The boxes were stacked, and I was looking in the top box when Morn bumped into the stack and the top two boxes tipped over and a bunch of Bithool gagh escaped down into a utility corridor." She stopped, then put her hand to her head. "And some Meshta Gagh. Although I think we got most of those."
Martok stared at her, and she blushed. "Weren't they in stasis?"
"I - um –- I broke the stasis."
"And now you can't find them!"
"Yeah," she admitted in a small voice.
He laughed, long and heartily. "In these days of Dominion threats and Cardassian treachery, you want me to help you hunt down some gagh."
She looked him straight in the eye. "Wouldn't it be fun?"
"It would, at that. I'll be over shortly, with a couple of my soldiers." He laughed again. "And you will join me in this. As will that idiot, Morn."
She chewed her bottom lip. "Must I?"
"The best way to conquer a fear is to face it, and I have a feeling this joining was not easy on you. You have many fears, don't you?"
"Yes. I wasn't trained to be joined."
"Good. You will hunt with me. In fact," he looked at her speculatively, "This may be a good opportunity to connect with some of your younger crewmembers. You in the Federation are not generally trained for war. And some of our younger warriors are not experienced with Starfleet. I'll talk to Sisko and see if he has any recommendations."
Ensign Callan McLeod looked nervously at Ezri as the group of Starfleet personnel waited for the Klingons to debark, holding various pry bars and bags. A little overkill for a few Gagh, but she supposed Martok and Benjamin knew what they were doing. "Lieutenant? I haven't had very much interaction with Klingons. I'm just a computer tech."
Ezri refrained from saying that she hadn't seen any, either, until she had met Worf. After all, she was Dax, and Dax had lifetimes of experiences with Klingons. Still, she was Ezri Dax, and Ezri Dax was a little afraid of Klingons.
… she was babbling to herself and wasn't helping the Ensign. The Ensign was young, dark haired, brown eyed, with medium colored skin. Ezri looked a lot like the Ensign. She felt a sudden sympathy. "Klingons, Ensign, are really not so much different than us. You're Terran?"
"I've studied Terran history. Many Terran cultures have similarities to the Klingon culture." Ezri sighed. "I do have to admit I think they take it to extremes."
"I've had the standard Starfleet defense course," Ensign McLeod said, almost in a whisper, "but they won't expect me to do any fighting, will they?"
Ezri could see the rest of the crew crane in to listen. Half of them had no experience with Klingon warriors, either. "They see most non-Klingons as weak, anyway," Ezri said. "But, I think Martok has briefed - " Probably quite forcefully, she thought to herself " - the personnel he's sending over." Ensign McLeod looked doubtful. "No, you're hunting Gagh, you shouldn't be fighting. But stand up to them. They admire that."
The access door opened, and Ezri almost bolted as she saw Martok leading a crowd of Klingons through the corridors, holding their versions of tricorders, scoops, and bags. She hoped her nervousness didn't show.
Martok stopped before her. "Dax. I bring warriors for the great Gagh hunt." His remaining eye shivered in a wink.
Ezri relaxed slightly. "Martok. You do us honor for this minor matter."
"Ah, but good Gagh is never a minor matter. As Jadzia honored me, I wish to do honor to her descendent in helping her out of this difficulty."
And Jadzia is giggling down in Sto-Vo-Kor, Ezri thought.
A sudden loud voice down the corridor interrupted the pair. "Morn, you are going to help if you want to or not. Would you prefer your docking privileges revoked?"
Morn opened his mouth.
"If you argue, I'm going straight to Captain Sisko."
Morn closed his mouth.
"O'Brien." Martok said.
"I've assigned this one to K'nmac." Martok gestured over to a burly Klingon, who bared his teeth at Morn and growled. Morn visibly deflated, after a glare at O'Brien.
O'Brien grinned slightly.
Ezri spoke to her group, loudly. "Commander Martok has reviewed your files and has your assignments. I don't believe I need to remind you of your responsibilities."
Martok turned to his warriors and barked a command in Klingon. Ezri tried not to giggle and coughed. She composed herself.
As Martok handed out the assignments, O'Brien pulled her aside. "Ok, I saw you. What did he say?"
"Basically, 'behave yourselves.'"
"Ah." He shrugged, then looked at the pairings. "The layout to this station is no secret. I believe you all have maps of the access tubes and various other spots. I understand that Bithool Gagh can hide extremely well, but you Klingons have far better noses, and far better equipment to find these creatures than us of the Federation."
"Do whatever you can to help," Ezri added. She glanced involuntarily at Ensign McLeod, trembling slightly beside a small-built Klingon woman. She sighed slightly, then looked at Martok, herself.
Ezri walked silently beside Martok. Martok glanced at her. "So, Dax, nine lifetimes and nothing to say to an old friend?"
Ezri smiled sadly. "Martok, meeting back up with Benjamin was therapeutic for me in a lot of ways. But I'm finding I don't know how to relate with you. I remember fighting with you, side-by-side. I remember eating with you and celebrating with you. I remember the good times that you and Dax had." She sighed. "But Ezri is wondering what she's doing here with a Klingon warrior. If it's not too… weak of me, I'd like sincerely to apologize to you. I just don't know how to renew our friendship. I'm not the same person."
"You're afraid of me," Martok said.
Ezri winced. "That obvious?"
"You'll be fine. We are all the sum of our memories. The person who has the memories of Curzon and of Jadzia can never be weak and fearful. You will find your strength."
"Thank you. I truly hope so."
"I know so." His tricorder beeped, and Martok sniffed. "There is a Gagh nest behind this panel."
"Let me." Ezri wrenched at the panel and looked over the edge. "There they are."
"Quick!" Ezri dropped the panel open, exposing the nest. Martok held the bag, and Ezri plunged her hands into the Gagh. Emotionlessly, she grabbed handful after handful, ignoring the bites she got. "Why didn't they bite last time?" she said, a little breathlessly.
"They were escaping last time. This time, you're attacking them while they nest. They're defending their territory." Martok smiled. "They are very Klingon in that respect."
Ezri plunged after one last Bithool Gagh, then stood, panting. She smiled. "We got this nest."
Martok pointed the tricorder down the access port. "There are none in this vicinity." He turned to Ezri. "You have comported yourself…" He stopped.
Ezri grabbed great gulps of air. Her palms itched. The bites itched, then started to sting. "I can't…"
The corridor around Martok went dark, then Martok disappeared.
Dr. Julian Bashir looked down at her on the examination table. "Ezri Dax, you are allergic to Gagh."
Ezri gave a pained expression on her face. "You have got to be kidding me. I've never heard of anyone with an allergy to Gagh."
"How many Trills actually eat Gagh?" Bashir said.
"I've only heard of two." Martok said, coming in from the corridor.
"Martok. I am so sorry I let you down."
Martok smiled. "You did not let me down. You plunged into a nest of Bithool Gagh like a true warrior. You did not hesitate." He put his hand on her shoulder. "If you can conquer this small fear, you can conquer the greater battles."
Ezri smiled. "Thank you." She hesitated. "How goes the battle?"
"We are victorious. We can find no more Gagh on the station." He laughed. "The crew will eat well tonight."
"Have a good supper." Ezri found that the thought of eating Gagh no longer repulsed her. "I wish could join you."
"If you will join us," Martok glanced at Dr. Bashir, "We will have a meal suitable for a warrior allergic to Gagh."
Bashir backed off and nodded. "I'll give you a shot to help you with any lingering affects."
"Then I would like that."
"Some of your crew has expressed a desire to try some of the less exciting versions of Gagh. Including your young Ensign McLeod."
"Good for her!" Ezri sat up. "Shall we go?"
"The feast waits."
"And I look forward to the feast." Ezri walked side-by-side with the old Klingon warrior. She did not shiver.