Disclaimer: I do not own Deep Space 9 or Star Trek.

His head was bursting with pain; when his fingers reached up to touch that thick, wet spot on his forehead, pain like fire shot through his skull, and he hissed. He examined his fingers and sighed in exasperation when they glittered with deep reddish-purple blood.

Sensors had shown a shuttle-craft near this position before they crashed, and he prayed that they had picked up their signal. Although dying in this manner did not bother him in the slightest, he would rather live.

His mind drifted to the others, and when he tried to sit up and look around, his body convulsed as an explosion of pain tore through him. He laid back down and was still.

He closed in eyes in gratitude when he heard distant voices. There were sounds of knocking and banging, and a voice called out.

"Hello? Are you ok?"

He mustered all his strength and called back. "Here!" Footsteps ran toward him, and he could dimly see the shadow of a humanoid standing above him. They knelt down, then called back over their shoulder. He closed his eyes; his vision was failing fast.

"Jen-Lia, he's hurt!"

He heard someone else come forward. "We need to get him to a hospital."

"Jen-Lia, the sickness-"

"He's not a Hydrothi, Karu-Ben. I'm not infected, and neither are the Ardred. Why should he be infected also?"

He heard a sigh, and then strong arms worked their way under his body.


"You said yourself he needs to get to a hospital!"

"We don't know the extent of his injuries! Here, let me."

Something peculiar, like a warm, fluid gel, worked its way under him, and the man who had tried to lift him drew back his arms. The gel grew harder, but it cushioned him. He felt with his hands, and sure enough, he felt fabric. He gasped as he was slowly lifted upward, and soon he was moving over bumpy terrain. He opened his bleary eyes and saw the same shadow as before, pushing him in some sort of stretcher toward a shuttle-craft. He smiled to himself as he realized he was being rescued.

"Could you..." he whispered before a racking cough stopped him. The shadow turned toward him, and the person's face became a bit clearer.

"Shh...don't try to speak. We're not sure how badly you were hurt, but you're being transported to a hospital as we speak. Jen-Lia will stay behind with a communicator and look for other survivors. All right?"

He nodded slowly before he drifted back to unconsciousness.

She hurried back to the crash site the minute the strange, pale creature had been transferred to a bed in the shuttle. It was unfortunate that the crash was in the middle of the jungle; she and Karu-Ben had been forced to land several thousand meters away, and she needed to get back as fast as possible. She feared others were as badly injured as the pale man, so she bounded through the trees, her ears turned forward to listen for any cries for help. It was getting dark, but her yansabi eyes adjusted quickly.

She finally came back to the site and padded quietly over smoldering logs and ashen mosses. The ship was in front of her, its purple stripes grimy with mud and debris. She found the entrance and slipped inside.

It was much easier to work her way through the debris as a yansabi than as a Hydrothi, but even so, the ship had landed so that it was tilted 45 degrees on its side, and it was getting hard to negotiate with the haphazard angle. She transformed into a gulata ape and swung her way down into a room.

There were bodies everywhere, and from the looks of them, they were all dead. They seemed strange and a little frightening to her, with lizard-like features and gray skin. They looked like half-rotted corpses already, even though they couldn't have been dead but for half an hour.

She took one last glance around the room and saw something glitter. Upon closer investigation, she discovered a case. She pried it open and saw shattered glass and a powdery white substance. Another one of the pale creatures was clutching the case tightly. She felt for his pulse and was relieved to see he was breathing.

Gently, she lifted him into her arms and carried him outside, and still as a gulata, she hurried back to the clearing and contacted Karu-Ben. He assured her that another shuttle was on the way with a medical team aboard.

She transformed back into a Hydrothi and gazed down at the survivor's features. His clear, pale skin almost glowed in the light of the rising moon, and his nose didn't have a vertical ridge running down its length. His ears winged out from his pale face, and their shape and the ridges that ran down them reminded her of the wings of a bird. They were actually quite pleasing, despite their strangeness. Black, curly hair was swept into a large poof on the top of his head. And a thick, bleeding cut ran the length of his dark eyebrow.

She wiped away what blood she could, then formed her fingers into a strip of gauze, pressing it to his wound. His eyes fluttered open, and her dark eyes met his light purple ones.

"A medical team is on the way. You're going to be all right."

His eyes found her half-transformed fingers and they widened in shock.

"Don't be scared. I'm...different."

"You're a Changeling?" he whispered.

"You mean a shiftling? Yes, I am." Her heart pounded in anticipation as she realized this stranger might have seen more of her kind. "Why do you ask?"

"You're...a Founder...I live to..." He didn't finish his sentence as he succumbed to unconsciousness again, but she furrowed her brow in confusion. What was a Founder? What did this stranger live to do?

She gazed up at the stars in desperation, eager for the shuttle to get here. After a few more minutes, she spotted its light, and soon the stranger was lying in a hospital next to the other survivor.