LORPA

By Lorraine J. Anderson

Sisko took the bomb from the trembling Cardassian's hands. He handed the device swiftly off to Odo, then drew the child into his embrace. The little Cardassian burst into tears, then burrowed her head into Sisko's chest. Sisko made a few soothing noises, then said, "Constable?"

"Odo left in a hurry," Jadzia Dax said, kneeling down. "I believe he was headed towards a transporter." A sudden flash of light shone through the promenade window. Jadzia raised her eyebrows. "I was right." Sisko raised his own in return.

The child's sobs lessened. Now that the crisis was over, Sisko could see that the small Cardassian was a girl. "What's your name, honey?" he said gently.

"Lorpa," she said, then burped. "Why did you take my toy away?"

"Lorpa," Sisko said. "That's a pretty name." He pushed the child back. "Lorpa, that was not a toy. Where…?"

She teared up again. "Benjamin," Dax said, touching Sisko's shoulder. She took Lorpa's hand. We're sorry we had to take your toy. We'll get you a new one, Ok? That toy wasn't good for you."

"I liked it."

"I know."

She considered Jadzia. "Can I pick my new toy?"

"Sure. Lorpa," she said, taking the child's shoulders, "where's your Mommy and Daddy?"

"I dunno. They've been gone a long time." She stuck her finger in her mouth and looked around. Her eyes widened, and she flew through the crowd that had gathered. Sisko and Dax rose swiftly to follow her.

Lorpa threw herself towards a man.

"Daddy?" Sisko said.

"Commander," Garak replied. "I would move forward to greet you, but my leg seems to grown an extension."

"Anybody you know?" Sisko said.

"Not at this angle," he said. He reached down and gently turned the girl's face upwards. "No. Sorry, Commander." He smiled down at the girl.

"Well, does she remind you of anybody you know?" Jadzia said.

"I wouldn't want to know anyone who would put a bo…. incendiary device in a small child's hands."

Sisko kneeled down. "Lorpa, who brought you here?"

"I dunno."

"Where did you come from?"

"Dakhur."

Sisko frowned. "Bajor." He smiled at the little girl. "Where in Dakhur?"

"An or… orf…"

"An orphanage."

"Uh-huh."

"Who took you from the orphanage? Were they Bajoran or Cardassian?"

"Commander," Garak said. "I believe she's too young to know those words."

Sisko inclined his head. "Did they look like him…" he said, pointing at Garak, "Or her," he said, pointing at a Bajoran.

She pointed at the woman.

"And did they give you this toy?"

"Uh-huh."

He stood up and looked at Jadzia. He could see Odo threading his way back through the crowd. "Odo, a Bajoran gave little Lorpa here that toy." He touched the girl's head. "Did you observe anything about it while you were running?"

Odo barked a laugh. "Very little. If the station sensors hadn't picked it up as a bomb, I would have thought that it was an ordinary doll."

"Did you find anything in the scan?"

"Just that it was about ready to go off."

Sisko shook his head. "Did you scan…"

"The debris? Yes. Standard Bajoran materials. I saw enough of those during the resistance."

"Honey, I'm sorry I have to ask you all of these questions. How did you get here?"

"They put me in a trans… sparkly things."

"Transporter. Odo. Is there any way to track…?"

"Unlikely. If she had come through the transporter room, possibly; but I suspect she was transported directly onto the promenade."

Sisko tapped his communicator. "Sisko to Kira."

"Yes, Commander."

"We believe that the… incident on the promenade was caused by a Bajoran or a group of Bajorans. Have you any information of any threat to Deep Space Nine?"

"Just the usual, Commander."

"Check them out. Sisko out."

"In the meantime-" He looked at the girl. "Honey, we're going to need to take you to a Doctor so he can look at you."

"Will it hurt?" She looked up distrustfully.

"Of course not."

"Ok." She looked up at Garak.

"Captain, if I might get back to my shop…?"

"Garak! I believe I see a panicked look on your face." Dax said.

"Alas, I'm not that friendly with- moppets."

"This time you are," Sisko said.

"I'm a tailor, not a…"

"Babysitter?"

"Exactly."

Sisko sighed. "Much as I would like to relieve you of this job, she knows that she is like you."

Garak laughed. "Commander! You amuse me."

"All right, from the same planet." Sisko grinned. "I'm commandeering you. Pick Lorpa up."

"But… my shop!"

"I'll assign a guard." Garak opened his mouth. "Do I need to persuade you like I do Quark?"

Garak smiled broadly. "I get the point, Commander." He picked the girl up tenderly.

Sisko received the distinct impression that the protests were token and raised his eyebrows again. "I'm glad we understand each other."

#

Bashir smiled at the girl. "Now, did I really hurt you?"

"No-o." She still looked doubtfully at him, then at Garak, who smiled at the girl.

"How do you feel?"

"My legs hurt. My legs always hurt."

Sisko, who was standing across the room, looked at the Doctor, then at Jadzia.

"Do you know why your legs hurt?"

"I saw a Doctor before. He said I was sick." She looked wide at Garak. "But I don't feel sick now. My legs just hurt."

"That's good, honey." He looked over Lorpa at Garak, then at Sisko. "Have you decided where the girl is going to stay? I would recommend that she stay on the station for the moment."

"I had thought," said Sisko, "About asking the O'Briens to take her temporarily. Molly is about the same age."

"I want to stay with him!"

Garak looked startled. "Lorpa, I can't take care of a little girl."

She pouted.

"But I will see you all I can."

"Softy," Jadzia whispered. Sisko grinned.

"Would you like to see your old Uncle Garak again?"

"Uncle Garak." She considered him.

"That's my name."

"Yeah. I like you."

"Child, you don't know me." A look of wistfulness crossed his face.

"I like you," she said stubbornly.

"Jadzia," Bashir said. "Could you take Lorpa with you now? I'd like to talk to 'Uncle' Garak and Commander Sisko." His voice implied, and not in front of the girl.

"I'll tell you later, Dax," Sisko said.

"How 'bout we find that toy we promised you?" Dax said.

"Yeah!" Lorpa let herself be picked up by Jadzia and they exited the room. Jadzia gave Bashir a worried glance.

"Doctor?"
"She has Sokat's disease," he said toward Garak.

Garak inhaled sharply.

"Commander, Sokat's disease is characterized by a degeneration of the nerve and nerve endings. It's almost one hundred percent fatal to Carassians."

Garak shook his head. "I did wonder that the Bajoran terrorists would use a small child to deliver a bomb. It's usually not their mode of operations." He sighed. "Much as I hate to say it, they seemed to have a bit of a heart after all."

Sisko cocked his head and looked at Garak.

"Sokat's disease victims die either medicated to the point of coma or in incredible pain."

"I'll research the topic," Bashir quickly said. "I have a couple of theories…"

"Do it."

"Yes, Commander," Bashir said.

"Garak," Sisko said. "I'd like you to see if you can find the girl's relatives, if any are left. Bashir will give you all you need."

"Commander," Garak protested. "I am but a simple tailor!"

"And I am but a Creole cook." Sisko did not smile.

"I may have some contacts," Garak smiled. His smile faded. "Commander, I must warn you. Cardassian society has no place for orphans."

"Well, we have to try."

"Agreed. I'll see what I can do, Commander."

#

"Uncle Garak!"

Garak looked up from the dress he was stitching. "And how's my favorite moppet?"

"Good." She looked down at the floor.

"We were playing in the gymnasium. I saw Callan and Connar McLeod! But we had to leave."

"Why?"

"My legs and my arms started hurting."

Garak looked up at Keiko O'Brien, who was busily trying to keep Molly from pulling a dress of off one of Garak's racks. "But we were there an hour." She looked ruefully at Molly and at Lorpa. "My legs hurt."

"How's she getting along with Molly?"

"They fight. I think Molly's jealous."

"I am not!" Molly protested.

Keiko smiled at her daughter. "Then why do you keep pulling Lorpa away from me?"

Molly considered this. "Because."

"Not an answer."

Garak smiled. "How's the indomitable Miles O'Brien dealing with the situation?"

"Badly. I think if Lorpa hadn't been so young and so sick, he really would have blew his top. Now, he's reacting to Bashir's news about-" She jerked her head toward Lorpa

"I see."

Keiko frowned. "You know his feelings toward you, plural."

"Indeed, I do. Still, it's heartening he's trying."

"Slowly. Slowly." She sighed. "His hatred runs deep."

"Whatcha talking about?" Lorpa demanded.

"Nothing you need to worry about, stinky."

"I am not stinky," Lorpa protested, grinning.

"All children are stinky."

"Am not."

"Am so."

Molly glared up at Garak. "Don't talk to my sister like that!"

Garak's eyes flew up at Keiko's. "We're playing, Molly."

"Oh. Ok."

Keiko smiled. "Oh, Miles is going to love this one."

"I would dearly love to see his face."

"Any word from…" Keiko let her voice drop off and she looked at Lorpa.

Garak sighed. "It's not looking good. I may be her closest relative after all."

"I'm sorry." Keiko looked confused. "Wait, I didn't mean to insult you."

"I know your meaning. I was sorry, too." He looked at Keiko. "Have you heard anything from the good doctor? I know you're taking her once a day."

"He's made a breakthrough on the pain meds."

"But not a cure."

She shook her head.

Garak looked grim. Lorpa smiled at him. "Don't be sad, Uncle Garak. I'm here."

Garak smiled at her. "That, you are. Would you like to get some dessert with your old Uncle Garak?"

"Yeah!"

"I'll bring her by later." Keiko and Garak looked at each other. Keiko nodded and smiled sadly.

#

"Bashir to Garak."

Garak closed his eyes. "Yes, Doctor."

"It's time." Garak didn't say anything for a long moment. "Garak?"

"I heard you, Doctor. I'll be right down."

Garak walked slowly through the corridor. As he entered sickbay, he heard a cheery, soft, "Uncle Garak!"

Sisko and Dax were already there. Keiko was crying softly in a back corner, Miles O'Brien holding her. Sisko laid a hand on Garak's back, and Garak looked gratefully at him.

"Hi, stinky." Years of training forced a cheery smile on his face.

"I am… not stinky." Her voice was breathy.

"You are, too."

"No." There was no conviction in her voice. "Uncle Garak, I'm going to go to my Mommy and Daddy."

Garak smiled. "I know."

"Don't be sad."

"I'm a great warrior." Sisko's and Dax's and Bashir's head snapped up at that comment. "Great warriors are never sad." He looked at Bashir. "Bed-time stories."

"Uh, huh," Bashir said.

Lorpa looked at him and smiled. "I'll see you again, Uncle Garak."

Garak looked rueful. "Maybe."

She closed her eyes, then opened them again. "Mommy? Mommy!" Her breath stilled. She had a smile on her face.

Bashir closed her eyes.

Garak let a single tear roll down his face, then quietly left sickbay.