"STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine"

Reaching for the Stars

by Brandiwine

June 27, 2012

I do not own Deep Space Nine or the characters therein. All other characters and situations come from the writer's imagination.

1

Bright stars loomed in the ebony sky through the port view of the Defiant. Dr. Julian Bashir and Chief Miles O'Brien sat in chairs with LIEUTENANT Judziah Dax seated at the helm. Dr. Bashir held a teacup filled with Tarkalian Tea and Chief O'Brien held a mug with hot coffee as the Defiant strolled through space on impulse.

"Wasn't the Celtia Minor conference interesting, Chief?" Julian conversed as Chief O'Brien sipped some coffee absently staring out the port view to his left.

"What? Oh yeah. The conference. I think I had a nice nap." Chief O'Brien mused as Julian rolled his eyes, sipping some tea.

"I found the lecture on Exobiology to be incredibly stimulating." Julian said as Judziah listened intently.

"I found the seminar on genetics interesting myself." Judziah said sipping her ever cooling ractogeno.

"I did find the seminar on Quantum Mechanics stimulating as you might say. I even took notes." O'Brien said as Dr. Bashir's eyes widened in surprise.

"Really? What did you find interesting about it?" Julian asked imbibing more tea.

"Well, they talked about warp core technology and engineering stuff. I don't think you would have found it as interesting as some medical seminar." O'Brien said rising from his chair to put his mug in the replicater.

"I could find Quantum Mechanics interesting." Julian quipped putting his teacup in the replicater next.

"Well. Anyone can find anything interesting. It just depends on the person and their attention span." O'Brien finished as a sensor beeped on the conn panel.

"What's that, LIEUTENANT?" O'Brien asked as Julian turned his attention to Judziah's fingers skating across the con.

"A ship has appeared off the starboard bow. I'm not sure what type of ship it is." Dax said absently pushing buttons on the conn.

"Is it Federation class or something else?" O'Brien asked coming to stand near Dax with Julian hovering nearby.

"I don't think so. It appears to be an old earth class vessel. I think I heard Benjamine tell stories about ships like that if I'm remembering right."

"Why would an earth class vessel be attacking us?" Julian asked as they sat down and strapped their harnesses on.

"I'm not sure, Julian." Dax said powering up phasers when the vessel suddenly disappeared as Bashir and O'Brien stared confused at each other.

"That's weird. Where did it go?" Dax pondered studying sensors as nothing appeared to be there.

"So, Dr. Bashir? Are we suffering from sleep deprivation?" Chief O'Brien asked as Julian shrugged his shoulders.

"It could be, but I don't believe so. Maybe Dax because she looks tired, but all three of us?" Julian queried as Chief O'Brien pondered recent events.

"It's bizarre, that's for sure. There was a vessel and than there wasn't. Things like that just don't happen." O'Brien mused as Dax studied the sensors trying to figure out the mystery.

"Maybe it was a space phenomenon. We should get back to the station soon." Dax said plotting in new coordinates before taking a drink of her cold ractogeno and making a face that made the other two laugh.

"My ractogeno's cold. I'll have to replicate another later."

"I'll be glad to see Keiko again. I've missed her."

"You're lucky, Chief. Maybe someone will miss me someday." Julian mused as O'Brien smirked.

"Don't give up hope, Julian. Someone will want you someday." O'Brien said as Julian scowled.

"I won't hold my breath. Do you think we hallucinated that ship, Chief?" Julian asked as O'Brien shrugged.

"Maybe. I'm just not sure." as Dax's voice interrupted their revery.

"The vessel has returned." Dax said as Julian and Chief O'Brien unstrapped their harnesses and got up from their seats and came to look closer with awe.

"I didn't think Utopia Planetia made ships like that anymore." Julian said as O'Brien frowned.

"Those ships aren't made anymore as far as I know. What is it doing?" They asked watching the ship in the shape of a rocket ship from old-century earth smash into the Defiant as though it were trying to knock them out of the sky.

"Damage report?" O'Brien shouted as Dax punched more buttons.

"I can't believe this! We have a hull breach." Dax said calmly in disbelief as Chief O'Brien sprung into action.

"We've got to eject the core or we're dead." O'Brien said as Dax traded seats with him so O'Brien could eject the core. Two massive doors opened as O'Brien pulled a lever that catapulted a round object out of the ship and into space.

"What now?" Julian shouted as the computer began speaking.

"You have ejected the warp core. Ten minutes to impact." The computer warned as all three officers strapped themselves into their seats with harnesses and braced for impact.

2

Alyssa ran through the dark wood watching out for stray branches that could whip her on her way. The sky was black as pitch as she dared not look behind her for fear of seeing the white folks. White folks which she called ghosts that she feared chased her in the night when she was out in the open. Too bad Her husband Danni and her brother Alex were working on the starship again with no progress. It escaped Alyssa how they could not fix the broken starship no matter how much they tried.

Alyssa stopped staring at the sky. She thought she'd seen a hurling object from the corner of her eye. She ducked in a nearby cornfield overflowing with unpicked, rotten cornstalks and waited. She covered her ears as a mighty crashing sound came emitting from the sky to the ground. She covered her head next as dirt and debris rained down over everything. She finally got up minutes later and dusted herself off as all was finally silent. Danni and Alex rushed to find Alyssa cowering in the cornfield.

"What did you do, Alyssa?" Alex asked jokingly as Danni helped her up and hugged her.

"You wandered off again didn't you? Are you all right?" He asked in a rather condescending tone as Alex studied the crashed vessel nearby.

"Sorry, Danni. I got scared." She explained as he smoothed hair out of her eyes.

"And what was it that scared you this time?" He asked examining her for injuries.

"I'm fine, Danni. I was looking out the window to see if you and Alex were coming back yet. I saw the white folks in the window. I thought"

"You thought they were trying to get in the house didn't you? Alyssa, the white folks do not exist. It's all in your imagination. I've told you that." Danni admonished as Alex wrenched open a door to the starship and peered inside.

"Alex, be careful. You don't know who's inside. What if they're hostile?" Danni admonished rushing over to help him as Alyssa followed close behind keeping her eyes on Danni for safety.

"I doubt it. I think they're unconscious. Besides, I recognize the uniforms. They're Starfleet." Alex said as Danni frowned.

"What do you think made them crash here?" Alex mused as Danni looked awe-struck.

"Probably the same weird phenomenon that made us crash. There was a phantom vessel that damaged their starship just like ours. We've not been successful at repairing our starship. Maybe they can help us. Come, Alex. Let's get them out. Alyssa, stand clear." Danni warned as he and Alex carefully entered the Defiant and cut the officer's harnesses to free them. Danni and Alex worked together for about an hour carrying all three officers from the starship. They carried the bodies out and laid them on the ground panting from the effort.

"Now what? Are they dead?" Alyssa asked with half-closed eyes.

"No. I checked for a pulse. They'll be fine when they come round. The question is how do we get them from here to our home?" Danni wondered as Alex beamed.

"I think we have a crash cart at home. We could go and get it and you could take Alyssa home to prepare lodgings. What do you think?" Alex asked as Danni slapped him on the back.

"As I always say"

"I know. You're glad to have me." Alex said giving Danni a broad, proud smile as Alyssa laughed.

"Come on then. Let's get home so we can get back with the crash cart." Danni said taking Alyssa's hand as they rushed home to a two-story home with picture windows and oak doors. The stairs were oak as both men and Alyssa entered the home standing on a dirt floor.

"I'll get the crash cart." Alex said rushing from the room as Danni took Alyssa by the hand and settled her on an oak couch with home-made cushions. He sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.

"I understand your frustration with my wandering off, Danni. You don't have to be kind to me." She said as he rubbed her shoulders with one hand.

"I just worry about you. I don't see the white folks so I don't believe in them." He said as she eyed him warily.

"I see them, Danni. I wouldn't make something like that up. You think I'm touched in the head don't you?" She asked with downcast eyes.

"I love you, Alyssa Mayhu. If you see white folks, you see them. It's not impossible." He said kissing her cheek as Alex rushed into the room pushing a rather large crash cart before him.

"We should go if you're done necking." Alex mocked as Danni got up and punched him in the shoulder.

"Alyssa, stay inside. Don't look out the window if it scares you. We'll be back as soon as we can. Understand me?" He asked heading towards the door behind Alex.

"Yes, Dear." She droned as he shrugged his shoulders before firmly shutting the door behind him.

Julian Bashir slowly opened his eyes and coughed from the dust covering his hair and clothes. He moved slowly checking for injuries before looking at his new surroundings wondering where they could be. He saw a cornfield and a wooded forest before spotting Chief O'Brien's form near a tree just a few inches away from him.

"Chief, are you all right?" Julian asked gently shaking Chief O'Brien to see if he was ok.

"Stop it, Julian. The dust is making me choke." Chief O'Brien said coughing as Julian stopped shaking him. Both men got up and dusted themselves off as Dax joined them minutes later dusting herself off and adjusting her ponytail that had gone askew.

"Where do you think we are?" Dax wondered as Danni and Alex rushed up with the crash cart between them.

"I guess we don't need this." Alex said pointing to the crash cart.

"No, you won't need a crash cart fortunately. Who are you and where are we?" Chief O'Brien asked as Danni and Alex caught their breath after rushing back with the crash cart.

"This planet is called Old Salem. It was modeled after Salem, Massachusetts. As you can see, there are cornfields and a dark forest. There is also a village, but it has been deserted." Danni explained as the three men waited and Alex looked bored.

"I'm Chief Miles O'Brien. This is Dr. Julian Bashir and LIEUTENANT Judziah Dax" O'Brien explained as they all shook hands.

"I'm Commander Daniel Mayhu of the Uddsdds. Capaciture and this is my Brother-in-law Chief Engineer Alexer Bashani." Danni finished as Dax smiled kindly at them.

"How did you get here? How long have you been here?" He finished as Danni frowned and Alex sighed.

"We were coming back from a conference on Havius Corpus when a phantom vessel crashed into our starship. Alex and I have been trying to fix our starship for a month now. It just seems impossible with the two of us." Danni finished as he noticed Alex had taken the crash cart back home so Alyssa wouldn't be alone for too long.

"So, do you live here?" Julian asked as Danni nodded.

"Our home that Alex and I built is just off to the west past those hills. We should go quickly so we can rest before dawn comes. We wake up, eat breakfast, and then we go and work on the starship. We try to finish before dark, but it doesn't always happen. My wife Alyssa was the first to witness your crash." Danni said turning to walk home with Julian, O'Brien, and Dax following close behind him.

3

Alyssa flitted from room to room making beds and pouring pitchers of water. She arranged glasses with the pitchers on oak dressers. She made sure there were fresh towels in the bathroom and rushed to the kitchen to see about preparing dinner. Danni trudged up the steps with Julian, Dax, and O'Brien following behind him. He opened the oak door and moved inside so they could all enter the house.

"Alyssa, did Alex make it back?" Danni called as she rushed into the living room holding a wooden spoon.

"He did make it back. He was putting the crash cart away when I saw him last. I think he's cleaning up a bit before dinner. You all should do the same." She said eyeing the two men and one woman behind Danni shyly.

"This is my wife Alyssa, Alex's sister. Alyssa, this is Dr. Julian Bashir, Chief Miles O'Brien, and Lieutenant Judziah Dax." Danni introduced as Alyssa smiled and curtsied before turning to return to the kitchen.

"Something smells good. Can I help?" Judziah asked as Alyssa smiled.

"A second pair of hands might help. Thank you." Alyssa said returning to the kitchen with Judziah behind them as Danni thought he heard them talking about hairstyles.

"I think she's preparing dinner. We have a rather crude bathroom upstairs. You could clean up and join us for dinner." Danni said as Alex entered the living room wearing fresh trousers and tunic of royal blue.

"Hello again. By crude, Danni means everything here is either made of wood, linen, or knitted. Please, do clean up. Alyssa won't let you eat with dirty hands."

"I heard that, and I most certainly will not have dirty hands at my table!" Alyssa called as Danni showed Bashir and O'Brien to the bathroom and waited for them to clean up before he took his turn last.

"You'll want to clean up too I expect." Alyssa said moving to show Judziah where the bathroom was.

"Do you have something I could wear?" Judziah inquired not caring if it was a dress or not.

"I have dresses unless you'd like trousers." Alyssa said not knowing which Judziah would prefer.

"I think I wouldn't mind wearing a dress for a couple days as opposed to a uniform." Judziah admitted as Alyssa rushed to her room to pick out a skirt and tunic for her about to be new friend.

"I hope you like the color. I thought it would suit you." Alyssa said handing Judziah a skirt and tunic of forest green.

"Oh, Alyssa. It's lovely. Thank you." Judziah said going to the bathroom to clean up and change after Danni was through.

"You weren't kidding about the crude bathroom since the sink, tub, and toilet are made of wood." O'Brien mentioned as Danni smirked.

"There's plenty of wood around here to build with. I thought you'd want to change into trousers and tunics. Alex and I match you almost." Danni said holding clothes for Julian and Miles to change into before they'd had a chance to dress in their dirty, dust-ridden uniforms.

"Thank you. That's a good idea." Julian said as they all accepted the clothes graciously.

"Come into the kitchen when you're ready." Danni said disappearing.

"My how handsome the men are. Judziah, you are quite the picture tonight" Alyssa gushed as Alex set the table and Judziah twirled around in her dress as Julian blushed and O'Brien chuckled.

"That's something we don't see often wouldn't you

say, Julian?" O'Brien teased as Julian shrugged trying not to appear embarrassed

. "Who makes your clothes, Danni? They are just as good as our tailor." Julian marvelled as O'brien smirked.

"Our tailor is a Cardassian. Spy is more like it." O'Brien murmured earning a "don't say that" look from Julian.

"I'm the homemaker you might say. I make my dresses and sew the men's trousers and tunics. The colors look nice on you. Orange for Miles is it?"

"Yes." O'Brien said not minding if she called him by his first name.

"Blue for Julian and green for Judziah. You are all handsome as Judziah is lovely." She said noticing Alex had finished setting the table as he stood near her saying nothing.

"And you, looking so handsome in yellow, Brother. You are most handsome." She said fawning over him as he relaxed his face and grinned.

"Now don't forget yourself, Alyssa. We are both lovely." Judziah said as Alyssa blushed with a slight smile.

"Thank you, Judziah. Maybe Danni would agree with you." Alyssa said as Danni gave her a leering look as she laughed.

"So, who made the furniture and built the house?" O'Brien asked curiously as they all sat around a long, rectangular oak table in oak chairs with homemade cushions.

"Alex and I made the furniture." Danni said filling wooden goblets with water.

"I made the cushions and bedding. I also make the clothes and cook the meals." Alyssa said filling wooden plates with chicken, rice, and corn as everyone picked up wooden flatware to eat with.

"You must have been here more than a month to do all this." Julian said eyeing Alyssa with his doctor's scrutiny.

"Oh, maybe more like six months." Danni said as Alyssa buttered bread with a wooden knife.

"Where do you get your food?" O'Brien wondered not noticing any animals roaming around the planet.

"We do have some modern conveniences, but we like to conserve power." Danni said with a slight smile.

"We have a replicater or two around here somewhere." Alex said before biting some bread.

"Of course." Miles said not surprised as he drank some water.

"How about your health? How is it?" Julian asked as Alex and Alyssa said nothing.

"They are fit enough to do their part." Danni said as Julian didn't believe him, but smiled and chewed some chicken.

When dinner was over, Alex stacked the dishes in a wooden tub and took them to a sink. Alyssa threw leftover food away before moving to the sink to fill it with water and soap. She took up a rag to wash with as Julian moved to stand beside her.

"Can I help?" He asked politely as she smiled.

"Of course. No offense, but do you know how?" She asked rolling up the sleeves of her lime-green dress.

"Yes, I do. Where do the dishes go after I dry them?" He asked as she pointed to some well-built cabinets stacked together as he nodded.

"Alex and Danni are very good with their hands." She said making sure the dishes were spotlessly clean before handing them to Julian to dry.

"You seem very skilled with your hands also. These clothes are very well made." He said watching her glance out a nearby window before averting her eyes as he stowed the dishes in their cabinets.

"Is there something you don't want to see out there?" Julian asked as Alyssa flitted to the table and wiped it down. She placed a tablecloth on the table and placed a vase with a mucktok plant within the center not answering.

"Maybe Alex will play his flute for us or Danni could fix us a fire. We could have Smores." Alyssa chattered nervously as Julian waited.

"Won't you rest soon?" Julian asked stifling a yawn.

"Yes. Soon. After the entertainment." She said leaving the kitchen with Julian on her heels as they all settled in the living room to listen to Alex play his flute for them. About an hour later, they all excused themselves and Alyssa showed them to their rooms before joining Danni in their own room to dress for bed.

"Dr. Bashir helped you with the dishes didn't he?" Danni asked dressing in linen blue pajamas as Alyssa dawned a linen, light-yellow nightdress.

"Yes. Why?" She asked brushing her hair as he took the brush from her and began to braid it.

"What did he say?" Danni asked tying the end of her hair with a bit of rope.

"Thank you. He asked what I saw outside. I glanced out the window and turned away quick. Sorry." She said with downcast eyes as he hugged her close.

"We all have our failings. Doctor's are nothing to be afraid of." He said as she shuddered.

"I remember how kind Dr. Bashani was." Alyssa said uncovering their wooden bed with straw mattress so they could climb in under the linen covers.

"Alyssa, Love. You and Alex will be all right." He said as they laid down together in their comfy bed joining hands.

"Will we ever leave this planet, or should it be our home? We have been here for six months."

"It's not like we don't have a roof over our heads or food in our gullets. We've done well for just being the three of us. I'm positive that we can fix the starship with all five of us working now. Maybe even one of us could stay with you at night." Danni said rubbing his fingers gently over her knuckles.

"And if I don't wish to go back?" She asked as Danni narrowed his eyes with concern.

"We are Federation citizens. We should go back." Danni said softly as alyssa hugged him before turning on her side as if to say goodnight.

"Goodnight moon." Danni said as Alyssa laughed.

"Really?" She asked as he laughed before closing his eyes to sleep.

"Goodnight, Wife." He said squeezing her hand.

"Goodnight, Husband." She said smiling because with Danni beside her, nothing could harm or scare her ever.

4

The wind howled and rain splattered on the roof and ran down the sides of the house soaking the ground. Everyone sat in the living room before a smoldering fire. Alyssa sewed, Danni read a book on wood-carving, and Alex slept in a nearby chair. Everyone was grateful Alex didn't snore.

"We should collect more wood from the shed." Danni said setting aside his book and getting up to fetch his rain slicker and boots.

"I'll come with you." O'Brien said getting up from his chair next as Danni handed him a rain slicker and boots.

"Thanks." He said thrusting them on before following Danni out to the deluge, hurrying to the shed as Danni produced a key to unlock it.

"Wow. I haven't seen an actual key before." He marvelled as Danni threw wide the oak doors so they could venture inside. Miles followed Danni's suit by picking up as much wood as he could carry before rushing back into the house and dropping it near the fire. Danni rushed away again to lock the shed as O'Brien assumed as he rushed back inside. They shrugged off their rain slickers and boots and placed them back inside the closet near the door. Julian, Miles, and Dax were surprised to see Danni lock the front door. He flitted into the kitchen next and lit the stove. He next ventured upstairs and lit the fires in the rooms, but not so much that the fires were smoldering. The fires were just smallish ones to heat the house.

"Danni, did you need help fetching wood?" Alex asked guiltily rubbing sleep from his eyes.

"Don't worry about it. Miles helped me." Danni explained as O'Brien smirked because he was proud of his part in the wood collecting duty.

"Well, ok. Sorry." Alex said feeling guilty for not helping Danni.

"Don't worry. There will be plenty of work when the rain stops." Danni said picking up his book to read again.

"Let's hope it will go easier this time." Alex said taking some peanuts to munch from his pocket.

"Alex, where did you get the peanuts?" Danni asked worrying about using up the replicater power.

"I found some in a nearby garden. Want some?" He asked as Danni laughed.

"No thanks. Just make sure you don't eat rotten food. Ok?"

"Ok." Alex said curling up on his chair again with closed eyes.

5

Alyssa sat sewing on the couch in the living room as she watched out a window. The sky turned from purple to black and all the stars came out. She wondered if Danni and the others would be coming home soon since they'd taken a break for dinner but gone back to work afterwards. She marvelled at the stars because they were so luminescent in the sky. She thought of standing before a port view and looking out at the stars in her quarters on Space Station Alpha and thought they'd look just like that. She wondered, Space Station Alpha? Why am I thinking of that, she pondered as she leaned her head against the wall behind the couch. She found herself closing her eyes as her hands laxed on her sewing needle. She was dozing near sleep when the front doorknob jiggled as though someone were trying to come in. Alyssa bolted up and rushed to the door. Maybe it was Danni she thought as she froze in her tracks. A flat surface of white slid under the door as Alyssa fought hard not to scream. She watched in horror and fascination as the flat white square rose up into a white figure with a skeletal like face. The skeletal being opened the maw in it's skull and screamed as Alyssa ran for the kitchen. The white form ran after her screaming with its arms out before it to catch her. She rushed through a kitchen door and outside as a hand stopped her earning a piercing scream.

"It's all right. It's Julian. Where are you going? Are you ok?" He asked as she looked around her with bewildered eyes.

"I'm not sure. I was sewing when I dozed off. Was I dreaming?" She asked confused as Julian led her back inside closing the kitchen door behind them.

"Maybe you were dreaming. Danni asked me to come back and stay with you. He said you get scared at night. Why is that?" Julian asked following her into the living room to sit down.

"I don't know. I thought" She stopped thinking of Dr. Bashani and what he'd have said of her explanation.

"You thought what?" Julian asked as Alyssa yawned.

"Sorry. I think I'll go to bed. Did Danni say if he was coming back soon?" She asked as Danni stood in the archway of the front door looking tired.

"Here I am. Miss me?" He asked as she thrust herself into his awaiting arms.

"Where are the others? How did it go?" She asked as Danni smiled hugging her close.

"We did make some progress after all this time thanks to Julian, Miles, and Dax." Danni finished as Alex stood behind him clearing his throat.

"I know you put in an extra hard effort, Alex." Alyssa said moving to hug him next.

"You could say that. You ok?" He asked smoothing hair out of her eyes.

"I'm fine. I was just heading to bed." She said taking Danni's hand to lead him away as O'Brien and Alex entered the house last.

"Could we talk in the morning?" Bashir asked Danni as he nodded knowing full well what the federation doctor wanted to talk about.

"Yes, in the morning. Goodnight everyone." Danni said as they all said goodnight before adjourning to their assigned rooms for a much needed rest.

6

The sun rose on a new day with pink and purple in its color. Alyssa bustled around the kitchen making breakfast as Julian observed she bustled a little slowly.

"Are you feeling all right, Alyssa?" Julian asked as she gazed at him while stirring a pot of cocoa.

"Yes. Why do you ask?" She questioned wiping her forehead with a cloth from the stove.

"You seem a little preoccupied." Julian said as Alyssa sat down hard in a chair after abandoning the pot for a minute.

"Let me help. You sit a minute." Judziah said wearing a rose-colored dress this morning as Julian wore blue.

"Let me see. You feel a little warm." Julian said placing a hand to Alyssa's forehead.

"It gets hot sometimes." She said watching Judziah flip pancakes in a pan.

"Your hands are a little clammy too. Let me help." Julian offered as Alex entered the room handing Julian a medkit before kissing his sister's cheek.

"Thank you. I need this." Julian said as Alex helped Alyssa up when Danni entered the kitchen next wearing yellow.

"Alyssa, are you all right?" He asked moving to take alex's place beside her.

"I'd just like to examine her." Julian said as Alyssa gave Danni a bright smile.

"Danni"

"Why not just let me examine you before you and Danni speak." Julian suggested ushering Alyssa up to her room as Danni stayed behind with Alex.

"Alex"

"Danni. Let Dr. Bashir examine her and we'll see." Alex offered as Judziah and O'Brien stared at Alex wondering what he knew and how he knew it.

"Well? Am I right?" Alyssa asked perspiring as Julian ran a medical tricorder over her before studying the results.

"That depends on what you think you're right about." Julian said trying not to show any emotion.

"Danni and I are having a baby. I can feel it." Alyssa beamed looking happy as Julian frowned.

"Alyssa you're not having a baby." Julian said softly as Alyssa stared at him in confusion.

"But I've been pregnant before. I know how it feels and what it feels like." She said as Julian waited for her to finish.

"It's a parasite, not a baby. I have to extract it from you before you get worse." Julian said stroking her arm as she looked sad.

"You're mistaken. I know myself. I know what it feels like" She trailed off somehow knowing what he was saying was the truth.

"You know I'm right. It won't hurt." Julian soothed as Alyssa looked afraid.

"No! Danni! Help!" Alyssa screamed as Danni rushed into the room after knocking in the half-closed door.

"What is it? What are you doing?" Danni growled as Julian waited for the situation to calm itself.

"There's a parasite in Alyssa's stomach. I have to get it out." Julian said as Alyssa squirmed with a scrunched-up face.

"Danni! Don't let him take our baby! Stop him!" She cried as he looked sad before his face smoothed into knowledge.

"It will be all right, Alyssa. Calm yourself. I'm here now. I'll be right back." Danni said moving back to the kitchen where he took a pitcher from the ice-box and poured a goblet of juice. He took out a phial of pills from a cupboard and shook two into the goblet as no one said anything. Danni returned to the bedroom and sat near his wife with the goblet in hand as Julian waited watching to see what would happen next.

"I'm back, Alyssa. It's ok. I thought you might want some juice." Danni said helping her to drink the juice as Julian watched. Alyssa's eyes clouded over in sleep as Danni stroked her hair.

"You'll be able to help her now without any fuss." Danni said moving to leave with the goblet in hand.

"What did you give her?" Julian asked as Danni looked guilty.

"Dr. Bashani who was our ship's counselor prescribed some sedatives for her. I only give them to her when she's upset like that." Danni said as Julian nodded as Danni left the room.

"All right then. I'll set to work." Julian said taking out a laser scalpel from his medkit after dawning rubber gloves. He made an incision in Alyssa's stomach revealing clusters of blue, scale-like creatures that looked like mites. Julian took out a torch and heated up the places where the parasites were as they let go of the stomach lining and died. Julian extracted the mites with a suctioner and threw them in a nearby fire that popped as it consumed dead flesh. Julian sealed Alyssa's stomach with a dermal regenerator and bandaged her. He pulled down her nightdress and covered her with a blanket as Danni returned.

"Alex told me I might want to come up." Danni said moving to sit beside his unconscious wife.

"I got all the parasites out. Is there anything your wife eats or drinks that the rest of you don't?" Julian asked disposing of his blood-covered gloves in a trash can.

"Well. We all eat the same things except for utaberries. She replicates those." Danni said as Julian checked Alyssa's pulse.

"She's doing well. We just have to discover the source of her illness so it doesn't come on again." Julian said settling in a chair across from Danni and Alyssa's bed.

"Let me think. Mushrooms. She picks mushrooms from the woods, but I thought she had a book on which ones were bad." Danni said as Julian had an idea.

"Can you show me where the mushrooms are?" Julian asked as Danni nodded hesitant to leave Alyssa's side as Alex entered the room wearing orange.

"I'll sit with her. Thank you, Doctor." Alex said as Danni rose from his perch as Alex took his seat and took up Alyssa's hand.

"Thanks. We won't be long." Danni said moving to leave as Julian followed glancing at Alex.

"It's Julian." The doctor said as Alex smiled watching them go.

"It's just over this way." Danni said taking Julian to the wood where the Defiant had crashed near just a few days ago. Danni crouched down and yanked a globule sized mushroom from the ground of the wood. He rose and handed it to Julian who scanned it with the tricorder as the tricorder emitted a fizzle sound.

"It's the mushrooms. They contain the parasite I found in Alyssa. She can't eat these anymore. You'll have to replicate them if she likes them so much." Julian said looking at the far off cornfield curiously.

"We'll replicate them so she doesn't become ill again. What are you looking at?" Danni queried as Julian gazed at him philosophically.

"I just wonder how the cornfield can be rotten and the mushrooms full of parasites. It's odd." Julian said as they walked back to Danni's home.

"You didn't eat breakfast, so I packed a lunch. I'll stay here with Alyssa while you men work." Judziah said as Julian and the others smirked.

"Since when did you become so domestic, Lieutenant?" O'Brien asked as Judziah smiled sweetly.

"I'm a woman and a Starfleet officer. You'd be surprised at what I can do when I put my mind to it." She said ushering the men off to their work as they laughed.

"Hi-ho then." O'Brien said as Julian and the others shrugged following each other off to fix the ships or try to.

7

"Danni." Alyssa gasped as Danni clasped her weak hand in his strong ones.

"I'm right here. Just relax." He said as she looked pained.

"I did it again." She said with sad eyes.

"You did nothing. What is it you think you did?" He asked taking her in his arms.

"I failed you again. The baby's gone." She said as a tear slid down one cheek.

"There was no baby. It was a parasite from those blasted mushrooms you eat. This planet is a plague on us. Do not eat anything from it." He ordered as she gazed at him in confusion.

"Planet? Don't you mean holo" She finished as he was the one to look confused next.

"We're on a planet. What made you think of a holosuite?" He asked smoothing hair from her white face.

"I'm not sure. Maybe I'm confused because of my condition. I can be irrational sometimes. What about the water." She finished as Danni thought for a second before answering.

"I'll have to talk to Dr. Bashir about it." Danni said hugging Alyssa close as she clung to him for strength.

"How can I be a wife to you? I can't sew or cook or clean in this condition." She said feeling inadequate as he chuckled.

"You're my wife not my maid. We'll manage." He said as she sighed tiredly and surrendered to sleep.

"She'll be fine in a few days." Julian said standing beside Danni looking down at a peacefully sleeping Alyssa.

"Thank heaven for that. What about the water? She gets it from a well near here." Danni said as Julian took up his tricorder smiling confidently.

"Lead the way and we'll check it out." Julian said as Danni nodded doing per request.

"This is the well. As you can see it's just a few steps from the house." Danni said as Julian put a goblet in the well and drew out some water. He tested it with his tricorder, but nothing happened.

"The water's fine. That's odd." Julian said puzzling over the whole planet.

"What's odd?" Danni asked taking a drink from the well because he was thirsty.

"The cornfield is rotten and the mushrooms have parasites in them, but the water in the well is fine? How can that be?" Julian pondered as Dax joined them.

"How is what possible?" She asked drawing some water for washing.

"The cornfield is rotten and there are parasites in the mushrooms in the woods. The water's fine." Julian said as Judziah took the tricorder and ran it over the water she drew.

"You're right, Julian. The water is fine. It's curious." Judziah said thinking on it as she went back into the house.

"Dax is our Science Officer. She'll find a reason if no one else can." Julian said as Danni rushed into the house and upstairs finding Alyssa standing in the window after waving at him smiling.

"Alyssa. You're supposed to be resting in bed." He chided as she embraced him.

"Oh, I'm tired of bed. Besides, I'm feeling better." She said as Danni helped her back to bed.

"Julian said it would take a few days." He said handing her a goblet of water that she drank down gratefully.

"Thank you. I was thirsty." She said resting against him as he cradled her in his arms.

"You are so precious to me. What would happen to me if anything happened to you?" He asked as she kissed his chin.

"Who knows? You could find another wife to nag you. Ouch!" She said as Danni spanked her on the backside.

"That's what you get for being silly." Danni said as they both let out a bark of laughter as Julian knocked on the door before entering the room.

"It sounds like someone is feeling better." He said standing just inside their room.

"Please, come in, Julian. You are a very good doctor." Alyssa said drawing in a breath and yawning.

"You should be spanked again for being out of bed without permission." Danni said as Alyssa made a face.

"You told on me! No fair." She pouted laughing as Julian moved over to her. Danni moved aside as Julian ran his medical tricorder over her.

"Well. You're doing better, but you seem tired. You should rest for a few days. Maybe walk a little when you can." Julian suggested as Alyssa hugged him making him blush.

"Thank you." She said as he patted her hand.

"You're welcome. I feel I should make myself useful since you do so much." He said leaving Alyssa alone with Danni to join Judziah in the kitchen where she was making bread.

"How's the patient?" She asked as Julian marvelled that she could make bread.

"She's getting better. How do you know how to do that?" Julian asked incredulously as Dax smiled.

"Eight lifetimes of experience. My grandmother and mother taught me things also. You look surprised." She said as they sat together at the table like the friends they were.

"I'm amazed really. You're a joined Trill. You're a Starfleet officer, and now you're making bread. You don't look bad in a dress either." He said as she put the bread in the old-fashioned stove to bake.

"Thank you I think. Would you make the bread?" She asked as he gave her an "I don't think so" look that made her laugh.

"I'm a doctor not a baker." He said leaving the room before she could tackle him and beat him like a klingon in one of her holosuite programs.

8

Alyssa awoke sometime after dark and felt something in her hand. She thought it was Danni's hand, but it seemed as cold as ice when she opened her eyes. There in Danni's place lay a skeletal looking being that usually chased her. Alyssa stared not knowing what to do as she saw the white thing cradled a tiny white form in its arms.

"Too bad. Can't have the baby. Do you want the baby?" The white thing whispered as Alyssa stared frozen in place. The white thing moved to hand Alyssa the tiny, white form as she took it in her arms and screamed.

"No! Get out of here!" Alyssa screamed bolting awake as Judziah sat by her bedside preparing to wake her up.

"Are you ok? I think you were having a nightmare." Judziah said knitting a pair of blue booties as Alyssa gaped at her in shock.

"Why are you doing that?" Alyssa asked wondering if she was indeed awake.

"Oh this. I like to knit in my spare time. It's for the baby." Judziah said showing Alyssa the same white, tiny form as Alyssa bolted up in bed again waking Danni as she did so.

"Bad dream?" He asked wrapping his arms around her as she didn't cry because he made her feel safe.

"Two bad dreams. How can that happen? You think you're awake, but you aren't." She said clinging to him in fear as he hugged her close.

"It happens. You've been through a lot. Just rest." He said handing her a goblet of water as she gulped it down and felt calmer afterwards.

"Thank you, Danni. I'm sorry I woke you. You work so hard." She said as her words began to slur.

"I love you and I will take care of you. Just rest." He crooned as she kissed his cheek before letting go of consciousness.

"I'm sorry, Love. You need it sometimes." He said replacing the goblet on the dresser before returning to sleep himself.

9

It was a brisk day with soft breezes and minimal sunlight as Danni and O'Brien worked on the fusion-powered thrusters. Danni wore yellow and O'Brien wore light-green. Alex and Bashir worked on an e-p coupling. Alex wore light-blue and Julian wore lavender. They began to talk as they worked.

"I noticed the Mucktoc plant on your sister's table." Julian said as Alex wiped sweat from his brow with a cloth.

"Yeah. She's had that thing forever. She totes it everywhere she goes." Alex said moving to drink some water from a flask.

"I thought Mucktoc plants were only species of Betazed." Julian said conversationally as Alex smiled.

"You got us, Doc. Julian. My sister and I are one-quarter Betazoid. The Mucktoc plant gave us away."

"You don't have to hide the fact that you have Betazoid heritage. Maybe the white folks" Julian stopped as Alex put up a hand.

"Maybe the white folks are imaginary. Surely a federation doctor would not encourage such a thing." Alex said as Danni and O'Brien worked on warp coils just a few feet away.

"No, I would not encourage a delusion. What if they do exist? How do you know they don't?" Julian asked wiping sweat from his brow.

"I've never seen them. I don't think I'd want to even if I could going from Alyssa's description. We should clean up and go home. It's getting dark." Alex said as Julian nodded and began to help him clean up.

"It's good to see you up and about." Judziah commented as Alyssa laid the table for dinner that night.

"It's good to be up. I don't like being in bed when there's work to do." She said folding the napkins just so.

"Your work was taken care of. I can't believe how much work you do." Judziah said filling goblets with fresh lemonade.

"Oh, I don't do that much. The men work so hard on that starship. It escapes me why it can't be fixed so easily." Alyssa said moving to the stove to stir a pot of rice.

"It shouldn't be that hard. Alyssa, what do you think of this planet?" Judziah asked as they sat together at the table for a moment as food cooked, simmered, and boiled on the nearby stove.

"well, it gives us wood to build with. I can't eat the mushrooms anymore, but we have plenty of other things to eat. Why?" She asked gazing at Judziah with wonder.

"What?" She asked feeling subconscious all of the sudden.

"You are very pretty, but your spots are so unique." Alyssa said as Judziah laughed.

"My spots are the mark of the Trill and part of me. I usually don't think about them." Judziah finished as Alyssa returned to the stove.

"I hope we're having a feast. I'm starving." Danni announced in the doorway to the kitchen as Alyssa raced to embrace him making him chuckle.

"You always seem to miss me. Why?" He asked as she lightly smacked his face.

"You're my husband. I worry about you. Yes, I miss you." She said as he hugged and kissed her.

"We're going to clean up and be right back." He said turning her back to the stove as she wiped a bit of dirt from her face.

"Good thing. I'm not feeding dirty hands." She said hearing Danni and the others chuckling off in the distance.

"Where did you get the corn from, Alyssa?" Danni asked as they all ate corn on the cob for dinner a few hours later.

"From the cornfield. Judziah ran a tricorder over it." Alyssa said spooning some rice into her mouth.

"Yes, I did. The corn was fine." Judziah said as Danni and the others looked confused.

"I thought the cornfield was rotten." Danni said noticing how moist and fresh the corn tasted.

"I guess some of it wasn't." Alyssa said absently chewing on some bread.

"We'll have to check it out after dinner." Danni said beginning to feel uneasy as O'Brien and Bashir began to feel the same.

"There's the cornfield. I can't believe it. How is that possible?" Danni asked as the rotten cornfield had somehow been restored. The stalks were upright and no blackness existed as it had some days before.

"Let's test the mushrooms." Julian suggested as he and Danni jogged over to the woods where the mushrooms grew. Julian picked a mushroom and ran a tricorder over it.

"It didn't make the sound it did the other day. What can this mean? How can damaged things be restored in just a matter of days?" Danni puzzled as Julian thought of a holosuite wondering if that were possible.

"It would appear you have a mystery on your hands. Our hands." Julian said as they laughed and returned to the house.

"Well? What did you find?" Judziah asked wearing a light-yellow dress with her hair braided.

"Have you and Alyssa been doing each other's hair?" Julian asked with a slight smile.

"That's what girls do, Julian. What did you find?" She asked sitting in a rocker on the porch.

"We found some curious things. The rotten cornfield is restored just as the parasitic mushrooms are. What do you make of it, Dax?" Julian asked showing her his scans on the tricorder as her brow furrowed in thought.

"Well, it's definitely not usual. Maybe this planet has it's own restorative properties, or"

"Or what?" Julian asked impatiently.

"Or we could be the victims of a holosuite program."

"I think we'd know if we were in a holosuite program oor not. The white folks." Danni mused as Dax and Bashir shrugged.

"It's possible. If Alyssa and Alex are empathic. Yes, Alex told me about her heritage. Maybe she's sensing another life form."

"She's being terrorized by another life form is more like it." Danni said wanting his wife and going inside leaving Julian and Dax alone.

"Do you think the white folks could be shape shifters?" Julian asked sitting down in a rocker opposite her.

"It's possible. We don't know how far the founders can stretch. I guess Danni's right about us knowing if we were in a holosuite or not"

"Yes, that's true. It could also be just a hallucination. What do you think of Alyssa?" He asked resting his head against the rocker with his eyes closed.

"She's sweet and very helpful. She works hard to take care of her husband and brother. Why?" Judziah asked as Julian opened his eyes and sat up.

"I don't know. There are times she seems delusional."

"Is that your diagnosis, Doctor?" Judziah asked with a laugh and a toss of her braid.

"No, not unless there are medical records to look at." Julian said as they rose to go inside from the chill night air.

10

The day was balmy and breezy with the sun high above. Alyssa wore a dress of turquoise with her hair in a braid and sandals on her feet. She walked to the wood and picked mushrooms running a tricorder over them to make sure they were edible. She next made her way to the cornfield and picked corn using the tricorder for safety's sake.

"How curious. I remember the cornfield being rotten and the mushrooms making me ill. What could have happened?" Alyssa mused as she thought she saw a figure dart into a building a few yards away.

Alyssa ventured towards a house of one story with a porch that had rocking chairs on it like their house. She toddled towards the porch hesitantly, but didn't venture inside. She remembered Danni telling her not to go inside because the houses could be rotted and old. She could get hurt she recalled as she moved to turn away. As Alyssa turned from the house, she saw a little hill with baskets lined up in a row. She moved to check it out as she smiled in delight. The baskets held fruit, vegetables, bread, Cheese, and a flask of some drink she was sure was apple cider. She ate some bread and cheese and drank some of the cider before rising to go home.

"Where did you go, Alyssa?" Judziah asked as Alyssa entered the house maybe an hour later.

"Judziah, it's the strangest thing. I picked mushrooms and corn. I thought I saw something"

"You thought you saw something in the daylight?" Judziah asked as Alyssa flitted around the kitchen storing things away.

"Yes. I ventured towards one of the houses, but I didn't enter. Danni said it might be rotted out or something. I could get hurt." Alyssa said pouring some cider in a goblet, handing it to Judziah who scanned it with a tricorder before taking a sip.

"This is really good. I can't believe you found this. Where did you find this?" Judziah asked with concern.

"I turned to come back when I saw a hill where these baskets were lined up in a row. I brought them back. How could that be? How could such a miracle arise?" Alyssa asked as Judziah shrugged.

"It just gets curiouser and curiouser. What will you do now?" Judziah asked following Alyssa around the house as she collected laundry in a much bigger basket.

"There is laundry to be done if you don't mind helping." Alyssa said hefting the basket in both hands as Judziah took one of the handles to help.

"Two pairs of hands are more capable than one." She said as Alyssa smiled and nodded.

"You are so right. Thank you." Alyssa said as they ventured to the well, drew water, and began to wash the clothes with brushes and soap. Soap that was made from ashes and grease.

Alyssa folded and hung laundry with Judziah's help for most of the day. They finished at lunchtime and sat down to the table over sandwiches and lemonade. Alyssa and Judziah had packed lunch for the men, so they wouldn't return until dusk.

"Alyssa, I forgot to ask. Where do you get the lemons?" Judziah asked sipping her drink as Alyssa wiped her mouth with a napkin.

"I pick them from a tree near the village. I know how to use a tricorder now. I didn't dare pick them before, but now it's ok." Alyssa said finishing her sandwich before getting up to wash their dirty dishes.

"Alyssa, are you sure about the baskets? I can't find them anywhere." Danni said upon coming home that evening for dinner.

"Yes. There were six of them. That's where I got the fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese, and cider. Maybe there were five of them." Alyssa said as Alex stood nearby saying nothing.

"Alex, you look like you want to say something." Danni said feeling confused because he could find no baskets in the kitchen anywhere.

"No. If Alyssa says there were baskets, there were." Alex said moving to fetch a drink of water.

"Ok. What's for dinner? We decided to repair one ship and it's coming along beautifully." Danni said fetching a drink after Alex.

"I'm so glad to hear that. When do you think you'll be finished?" Alyssa asked with a bright smile.

"Maybe before winter hits we hope. What's for dinner?" Danni asked again as Alyssa blinked and realized he was talking to her.

"Oh yes. Dinner. We're having sandwiches with imaginary bread, cheese, and meat. We're also having imaginary cider. Are you ready to eat? Did you clean up?" She asked with a rather sarcastic tone Danni didn't care for.

"Of course we cleaned up. Is the sarcasm necessary?" He asked settling down to the table with Alex, Dax, Bashir, and O'Brien to eat.

"Sorry. No. You saw the baskets, didn't you Judziah?" Alyssa asked hoping for an ally.

"Yes, I did. I didn't happen to see where you put them though. Sorry." Dax said as Alyssa looked relieved that Dax had said there were baskets.

"I'm sure there's a rational explanation for the baskets. Let's put it aside until later." Danni suggested as Alyssa nodded and smiled a real smile melting his heart.

"Sorry. I don't like looking stupid." She said biting into her sandwich.

"No one does. It's ok. We'll figure it out." Danni said spooning some crab salad into his mouth.

"Danni, what do you know about this planet and the people that should have been here?" Julian asked sipping some lemonade.

"Just facts we've read in books we found in a local library." Danni answered wiping his mouth with a napkin.

"What facts?" Judziah asked biting her sandwich.

"The people who were supposed to be here were puritans like Salem and some were accused of witchcraft like Salem." Danni replied gazing at Alyssa to gage her reaction.

"So where are they now?" O'Brien asked wiping his hands.

"We're not sure. We landed here and we searched the planet, but there were no signs of life really." Alex said eating some grapes.

"That's odd. Did you look for graves?" Judziah asked with interest.

"No. Why would we need to?" Danni asked feeling creeped out from the subject.

"Maybe to know what happened to the people. Aren't you curious?" Dax asked eyeing Danni with new suspicion.

"I guess we should have looked, but we wanted to get our ship running so we could go back home." Danni explained as Alyssa began to clear the table.

"Such an odd subject for dinner. Really. Who talks about such things." Alyssa mused taking the dishes to the sink to wash.

"Maybe we'll do a little exploring." Dax said glancing at Julian who nodded.

"Sounds like a good idea." Julian agreed as O'Brien nodded.

"I'm game." He said as Danni and Alex eyed each other.

"It will be dark soon. One or both of us should stay with Alyssa." Danni said as Alex thought hard.

"You can stay with Alyssa. I'll go with the others." Alex said as Danni nodded next.

"She only needs one of us. Thank you, Alex." Danni said moving to help Alyssa with the dishes.

"Then we leave in ten minutes. We should wear jackets. It might be cold since it's September." Alex said as everyone went their separate ways to ready to go exploring this strange land.

11

Alex, O'Brien, Dax, and Bashir met in the hallway dressed in jackets, gloves, and hats with scarves. Alex took up the head of the posse with Bashir at the rear. They left the house to go exploring as Danni locked the door behind them with Alyssa beside him. He turned to go to the kitchen with Alyssa following behind him. He sat at the table and Alyssa poured them hot chocolate.

"Thank you, Dear." Danni said scooping some mini marshmallows into his steaming cup.

"You're welcome. What do you think they'll find?" Alyssa mused stirring her cocoa with a spoon.

"Who knows? All that matters is the outcome." Danni said sipping his cocoa as Alyssa prepared a plate of cookies for them to share.

"What do you mean by that?" Alyssa asked chewing a soft, chocolate chip cookie.

"I mean I'm not sure. Something is niggling at my brain, but I just can't put my finger on it. You said something about a holsuite or you were going to. Why?" Danni puzzled as Alyssa shrugged.

"I'm not sure I did mention a holosuite. Maybe there's one on the ship." She said as Danni shook his head and sipped his drink lost in thought.

Alex led Dax and the other's down a road to the nearby village. Bashir stopped at a hill and stared. Seven baskets were lined up in a row, but they were empty as the other three gaped in disbelief.

"Those are the baskets Alyssa brought back. How can they be back here?" Dax queried as Alex shrugged.

"Do you think she brought them back here herself?" Alex asked not wanting to believe such a thing.

"No, I don't believe that. We should keep going." Dax said as O'Brien and Bashir agreed. So the party trudged on to the homes of the village to see just what they'd find.

Alex led the other three into the first house that was set at the center of the village. All four held tricorders as they entered the porch with wooden rockers through a wooden door.

"Doesn't this seem a little too familiar?" Dax asked Julian as they stayed behind for a second.

"What do you mean?" He asked glancing around a living room with wooden furniture and homemade cushions.

"Do you think the kitchen is similar?" Judziah asked as they ventured into the kitchen to see. To their amazement, the kitchen matched Alyssa's to a t.

"How can this be? They couldn't have made these houses too could they?" Dax pondered as Julian furrowed his brow.

"Maybe they made these houses too, but why? Why make houses exactly the same in a triangle formation it seems when their house is off to the west?" Julian puzzled as Dax opened a pantry. She stumbled back shocked as a man stood there taller and wider than any of the other men. He had shaggy-brown hair and watery-blue eyes. His tunic and trousers were torn as Dax stared at him in surprise.

"Please. Close the cupboard. I'm cold." The man rasped as Dax turned to Julian alarmed.

"Julian, there's a man in the pantry. He's hurt." Dax said turning back to see no one was there as Julian readied himself to help.

"Are you sure you saw him, Dax?" Julian asked as she stared at the empty pantry in confusion.

"How can that be? I swear there was a man in there, but he's not there now. Was he a ghost?" She queried as Julian shook his head.

"Someone's playing with us. I'm not sure if it's one of our friends on this planet or someone else, but there were the baskets. I believe there was also a man." Julian said as they raced to find the others who were searching bedrooms.

"Oh good. I thought you'd gotten lost." Alex said with a smile of relief.

"How could we get lost in such a small dwelling?" Dax asked a little annoyed.

"Did something happen?" Alex asked as O'Brien rushed into find them from another room looking white-faced.

"Hey. You ok, Chief?" Julian asked as O'Brien stopped and hung his head to calm himself.

"I was in the other room by myself looking and I turned to find a woman in the bed. She asked for water with a croak of a voice. I said I'd get you Julian." O'Brien stopped to take a breath as Julian finished for him.

"You turned back around and she was no longer there."

"How'd you know?" O'Brien asked as color returned to his face.

"I had a similar exchange in the kitchen. Rather odd wouldn't you say, Alex?" Dax asked as Alex shrugged.

"To tell you the truth, we were so busy trying to fix our ship, we've never explored here before." Alex said as Judziah said nothing.

"How about we explore the other houses." Julian suggested as they all ventured towards the porch and made their way to the left to the next house which was also similar in design.

"Danni, what will they find?" Alyssa asked as they lay in bed holding hands sometime later.

"They should be coming back soon. I'm not sure. We never ventured that far because we wanted to fix the ship." Danni said in a sleepy voice.

"Shouldn't we be up to greet them?"

"Alex has a key. Don't worry about it. Go to sleep." Danni said shushing her as she kissed him and let her eyes flit closed.

Alex and the others had searched the other three houses and found the same. The furniture, cushions, and kitchen matched Danni and Alyssa's house just like the bedrooms. There had been no more incidents, but Dax, Bashir, and O'Brien had their suspicions.

"How about we search the grounds outside." Julian suggested as alex and O'Brien agreed.

"I'll pair up with Dax. You pair up with Alex, Chief. Agreed?" Julian asked as Alex and O'Brien nodded. Alex and O'Brien headed to the front grounds and Dax and Bashir found themselves heading for the back. They stopped at a peculiar looking set of stones. Dax ran her tricorder over the stones and frowned as she read.

"Here lies Commander Daniel Mayhu of the Uddsdds. Capaciture. You will be sorely missed. Alyssa Bashani Mayhu. Beloved wife of our missed Commander. Julian, look at this." She said pointing to the headstones as Bashir frowned.

"I don't believe it." He said pointing his tricorder at a third headstone to read.

"Chief Engineer Alex Bashani. May you finally rest in peace." Bashir read furrowing his brow in thought.

"What do you mean you don't believe it?" Dax asked as she looked back seeing the stones had vanished as if they'd never existed.

"That proves my point. We need to find Miles and talk without Alex around." Julian said as they turned and bumped right into Alex and Chief O'Brien who were just coming to find them.

"We didn't find anything out front. How about you two?" Alex asked as Dax and Bashir shook their heads.

"Nothing here. I'm kind-of cold. How about you, Dax?" Bashir asked as Judziah knew just what he meant.

"Yeah. A little. Alex, could you go back and bring us some hot chocolate? I don't think we'll be finished searching for hours." Dax cajoled in a silky voice catching his male attentions.

"Just wait here. I'll be right back. You never know when you might find an unexpected trap or something." Alex said setting off for home.

"Oh, we'll be right here." Dax said watching him go before turning back to Bashir.

"Ok, Julian. What was that about?" O'Brien asked kind-of clueless about what was really going on.

"The woman in the bed was an illusion." Julian said as Miles breathed a sigh of relief.

"I thought so even though I do believe in ghosts." He said with a small chuckle.

"Well, I don't believe in them. I thought a man was hurt in the pantry and then he was gone. It has to be some sort of a trick." Dax finished seeing something that looked like a door to a ship off in the distance.

"Dax, where are you going?" Julian asked confused as she wandered away.

"Well, come on, Julian. Let's follow her." Miles said as both men did so finding her standing before a holosuite door.

"The rotten corn that recovered." Julian said becoming wise.

"The infected mushrooms that became uninfected." Dax said gazing at the door with new knowledge.

"Do you think Alex and the others know about this?" Miles asked as they all stood gazing at the supposedly hidden door.

"I'm not sure. Alyssa did seem strange. I'm not sure about Danni or Alex." Bashir said as Judziah gave a wicked smile.

"Let's find out. Computer, end program." Judziah commanded as the planet around them became a white, blank hologrid.

12

"Captain's Log supplemental. Major Kira and I have taken the Oranoco out to look for our missing officers. Dr. Bashir, Chief O'Brien, and Lieutenant Dax were on their way back from a conference on Celtia Minor. They were scheduled to be back a week ago, but there has been no sign of them. So I've decided to go and look for them."

Cisco stood beside Kira on the bridge of the Oranoco as she sat at the helm. He watched her fingers skitter over the console hoping there would be some sign of their friends. Cisco stood patiently with his arms folded gazing out the port view at many stars that passed their way when Kira interrupted.

"I've got a tackion pulse emission from the Defiant." Kira said as Cisco jerked to attention.

"Where is it coming from, Major?" Cisco asked gazing at the sensors to see for himself.

"It's strange, but I'm sensing a space station not too far from us. We'll be within range in an hour." Kira said waiting for orders.

"Take us there, Major." Cisco ordered as Kira punched in a new heading as Cisco sat in a chair wondering what they'd find on this strange space station.

"What's happening now, Julian?" Dax asked as all three ran through a deep, dark forest as they were chased by apparitions, vampires, and cackling figures in disbelief.

"I'm afraid Halloween has come early this year for some." Julian gasped running as Dax suddenly stopped and shook her head in irritation.

"Why are we stopping?" Miles asked as Judziah answered his question with a command.

"Computer, end program." Judziah commanded as the hologrid appeared again making all three frown angrily.

"Who is doing this? Why?" Julian asked irritably as Dax and O'Brien shrugged.

"I know just how you feel. Halloween is not really my idea of fun either."

"Really? I thought you'd revel in it after playing Tongo and wrestling Klingons." Julian said extracting a laugh from Dax and O'Brien.

"I know those things. I'm not so keen on Halloween when it's a"

"A human holiday. I know." Julian said as O'Brien smirked.

"I used to think it was great fun when I was a kid."

"I never liked it unfortunately. How do we get out of here?" Julian asked knowing they had to keep going until they found the way out.

"We could go back to the door and try exiting or we can find Alex and the others and see what they know." Dax suggested as Julian thought for a second before answering.

"I think Alex and the others owe us some answers. Don't you?" Julian offered as they all nodded and trudged towards the direction the house might still reside in.

"This is Captain Symun Halo of the Federation Space Station Alpha. Ben Cisco, is that you?" Symun asked as Cisco stood facing Symun and smiled.

"It's good to see you, Sy. Permission to come aboard?" Cisco asked as the young man on the other side of the screen beamed a bright smile back at them.

"Permission granted. Major Teela, please direct our friends to upper docking pylon c." Symun ordered as Teela beamed herself.

"Aye, Sir. Good to see you again, Kira." Teela said as Kira smiled bright herself.

"Good to see you also, Teela. We'll have to catch up." Kira said maneuvering the ship into the space station with deft skill.

"Welcome, Ben. Major." Symun offered as he and Teela met them on the deck of the docking bay some minutes later.

"Good to see you, Sy or is it Symun?" Cisco asked as they shook hands.

"Whichever. My friends call me Sy of course. Nice to meet you, Major." Symun said shaking Kira's hand.

"Nice to meet you too. Teela, it's been ages." Kira said as the two women walked away talking about old times.

"I guess that leaves you in my capable hands. So, who are you missing and is that what brought you here?" Symun asked leading Cisco to the turbolift so they could enter his office.

"Come in, Ben. Have a seat. So as I said, whom are you missing?" Symun asked sitting behind a desk similar to Cisco's after replicating coffee for them.

"Three of my officer's were coming back from a conference on Celtia Minor. We received a communique quite some time ago saying that they would soon be arriving back." Cisco paused as Symun finished for him.

"It's been longer then you expected, but why come here?" Sy asked playing with a pip on his uniform.

"A tackion pulse from one of our ship's led us here. The ship was the Defiant. The ship"

"The ship your officers were on. Alex." Symun whispered under his breath as Cisco looked at him curiously.

"Who's Alex? Does he have something to do with my missing officers?" Cisco asked as Symun punched his communicator.

"Halo to Dr. Bashani."

"Bashani here. Go ahead, Captain."

"Dr. Bashani, do you know the whereabouts of Alex, Danni and Alyssa Mayhu?" Symun asked as Dr. Bashani didn't answer right away.

"Can I get back to you, Captain? I have to check something." Bashani said as Symun's face showed no emotion.

"Acknowledged. Let me know what you find out. Halo out."

"Bashani out. Computer, where can I find Alex, Danni and Alyssa Mayhu?" The tall, buff doctor asked with dark curls and almond-shaped black eyes wearing a Starfleet Medical uniform complete with smart jacket and shined shoes.

"Alex and Danni and Alyssa Mayhu are in Holosuite Two." The computer answered as Jadan Bashani emerged from his office and headed to the holosuite.

"Bashani to Captain Halo." Bashani announced cresting a corridor that would take him to Holosuite Two.

"Go ahead, Doctor." Halo said as Bashani stopped at a familiar white, computerized door.

"Alex and Danni and Alyssa are on Holosuite Two. Should I enter?" Bashani queried taking a stance before entering awaiting orders.

"Is there anyone else in Holosuite Two with them?" Halo asked as Bashani scratched his ear.

"Hold on a sec., Captain. Computer, are there any other life signs in Holosuite Two besides Alex, Danni and Alyssa?" Bashani asked as Captain Halo listened on the other end of the conn.

"There are six life signs in Holosuite Two."

"Computer, can you identify the life signs?" Bashani asked already knowing something was up.

"Danni and Alyssa Mayhu. Alex Bashani, Dr. Julian Bashir, Chief Miles O'Brien, and Lieutenant Judziah Dax." The computer finished as Symun spoke trying to keep the anger from his face.

"Wait for me, Doctor. I'm on my way with a friend. Halo out."

"Understood, Captain. I'll wait for you. Bashani out." Jadan said closing the conn signal before speaking to the computer without malice.

"Computer, arch." Bashani commanded as the holosuite door opened and the tall, willowy Betazoid stepped inside hypo spray at the ready.

"We've been through this whole house and Danni and Alyssa aren't here." Judziah said in frustration.

"Where do you think they could have gone?" Miles queried as Jadan located them.

"Julian, is that you?" Jadan asked in surprise.

"Jadan, what are you doing here? I hope you've come to help us solve this mystery." Julian said as Jadan put a finger to his lips and let his mind go for a minute.

"We need to leave now. Follow me." Jadan whispered as no one asked any more questions. They just followed Jadan to the holosuite door and exited finding themselves face to face with Cisco and Halo.

"It's good to see you, Benjamine." Dax said feeling foolish in the dress she wore with her hair in a braid.

"Good to see you, Old Man. Are you ok?" Benjamine asked as she gave him her brightest smile and nodded.

"It appears we were in some game or something. I'm not really sure." Miles said kind-of embarrassed to be out of uniform.

"Don't worry, Chief. We'll have you back in uniform in no time."

"Good to hear, Captain." Miles finished as Julian interrupted.

"I'd still like to know what happened to us. Was this all a hoax?" He asked as Halo excused himself before marching into the holosuite in search of Dr. Bashani.

"Ok. Where are you, Bashani?" Halo demanded as Bashani put a finger to his lips standing beside a bed in a strange house.

"I need a minute here, Captain. Then I'll be happy to explain." Bashani whispered as Halo nodded and left the holosuite. He next led Cisco, Bashir, Dax, and O'Brien to his office.

"Let me extend my sincere apology to you all. I don't think you know this is a medical space station. Once-and-awhile, some of our people get out of control." Halo said as all four officers looked confused.

"So how do you explain what happened to us? Were we kidnapped from Celtia Minor or on our way back?" Dax asked as they waited for Halo to explain.

"The best I can guess is your ship came in contact with our station a week ago. However, you somehow got beyond our radar. Alex Bashani is one of our people. He will be punished I assure you." Halo said as Bashani coaxed Alex out from under a bed. He took his hand and helped him up as Alex breathed harshly.

"Go away! Leave me alone!" Alex shouted as Bashani sat on the bed with Alex beside him.

"Can you tell me where it hurts? You're in big trouble, Alex. I'm afraid I don't know what's going to happen to you." Bashani explained quietly as Alex began to breathe more normally.

"It was just a game. Danni and Alyssa betrayed me. Where are they?" Alex asked sounding rather tired to Bashani's ears.

"Did you talk them into the game telepathically?" Bashani asked hoping Alex would deny his accusation.

"They didn't want to play otherwise. It hurts everywhere. I can hear everything. Help me, please." Alex begged as Bashani's heart broke for the boy with the full Betazoid mind.

"I want to help you, Alex, but you brought outside people into your game. I'm not sure what Captain Halo will do. What do you think he should do?" Bashani asked as Alex wiped his eyes with his sleeve and stood to his full height.

"I will go to Captain Halo and face the consequences. Will you come with me?" Alex asked looking brave as Bashani smiled.

"Yes, I will go with you." Bashani said taking Alex's hand as he tried to look unafraid.

13

"Excuse me, Captain Halo. If this is a medical space station. How are some people able to get things past you?" Dr. Bashir asked as Captain Halo showed no annoyance on his face.

"Have you never had such things happen on your station, Doctor? Has no one ever made a mistake or gone off the rails?" Halo asked as Bashir said nothing.

"Sy, my officers were abducted and lied to. Surely you see that as wrong." Cisco explained as Captain Halo's chime rang.

"Enter." He said as Bashani and Alex entered.

"Sorry to interrupt, but Alex has something he'd like to say." Bashani said moving to stand near the door.

"Go ahead, Alex. I'm sure you know Alex Bashani by now." Halo said as Alex tried to appear unafraid.

"I'm sorry. I used my telepathic abilities to make Danni and Alyssa play. I think he got wise to me and they went back to their quarters. It was very wrong and I'm sorry. The game was getting boring. I only wanted to spice it up." Alex finished as Captain Halo now looked annoyed and almost angry.

"Well then, Mr. Bashani. Your holosuite privileges are rescinded until further notice."

"Yes, Captain."

"As for your sister and Danni, they will lose their holosuite privileges also."

"But it wasn't their fault!" Alex erupted as Bashani gave him a look that silenced him.

"They played a part in it too I'm sure. Dr. Bashani, what is your diagnosis?" Halo asked as Bashani spoke.

"Alex was born with full telepathy, but that doesn't excuse his actions. I'm prescribing loss of all privileges for him and his sister and Danni and a bit of isolation." Bashani finished as Captain Halo saw misery in Alex's eyes.

"Where is their ship, Alex?" Halo asked as Alex tried not to shudder with fear.

"It's where it ought to be. In upper docking pylon c.

"Is it damaged?"

"No, Sir. It's in mint condition." Alex finished as Halo looked at Bashani who took Alex's hand and led him from the office as a sob broke out.

"What's his diagnosis if you don't mind?" Bashir asked feeling sympathy for the boy who was present just minutes ago.

"Alex was born with full telepathy and is a victim of the Dominion war. He was one of the victims tortured by the cardassian doctor in the name of science like countless other Betazoids from Centock Nor." Halo explained with new compassion in his voice.

"I see. What will happen to him?" Bashir queried further as Halo sighed.

"His privileges will be taken away. He will be medicated, and Dr. Bashani thinks isolation is needed, but not for too long. This station houses many victims of Terrock and Centock Nor." Halo said as all the officer's hearts went out to them.

"Please, Captain. We weren't harmed and it was all in fun. Please don't punish them. They're just confused victims of a senseless war." Judziah advocated as Bashir, Cisco, and O'Brien all agreed.

"That's all well and good, but what he did What they did was wrong." Halo said seeming rigid about his position.

"Nonetheless, we were not harmed. Could we have a tour of your station? Maybe I could help." Bashir offered as Symun's face broke into a grin.

"You want a tour of a ship of suffering and confused people. Ok. Follow me." Symun said rising from his desk as he led his party to a turbolift to go on what they hoped to be an interesting tour.

"Come in." Danni said as Bashani rang the chime on their quarters an hour later.

"Well, you two have had quite an adventure haven't you." Bashani accused standing near the door with folded arms.

"Did Alex tell you what he did?" Danni asked in outrage.

"Yes, he did. Sorry, Danni. Your holosuite privileges are revoked." Bashani said seeing Alyssa was not present.

"And where might your wife be?" The tall Betazoid asked as Danni's frown deepened.

"She's still sleeping from the medication I put in the cocoa." Danni said flopping down in a nearby chair.

"When did you realize what was going on?" Bashani asked seating himself in a chair opposite Danni's.

"He took the officers exploring and his control wavered. I put the medicine in the cocoa while he was gone with the others. I then beamed us here before we could get in trouble. I guess Alex confessed anyway." Danni said not wanting to look Bashani in the face.

"He's sorry, but you're not obligated to forgive him."

"I don't understand. All he wanted to do was fix a ship that didn't need fixing. What is his problem?" Danni asked as Bashani waited to answer.

"Alex has a condition from the Dominion occupation of Betazed. I'm not excusing what he did, but he like you also need allowances. Do you understand?"

"What is the captain going to do to us?" Danni asked with folded arms looking Bashani in the face.

"Your privileges are revoked. Alex is in isolation for a few days. You and Alyssa are not joining him because he orchestrated the whole thing. Ok?" Bashani asked with compassionate eyes.

"Yes. Ok. When can we see Alex? Is he ok?" Danni asked as Dr. Bashani rose to leave.

"You can see him when he's out of isolation. He's fine. I'll be talking to him. Don't worry, Daniel. I'm on your side and his." Bashani said as Danni nodded watching him go.

"Well, on our tour, this is our infirmary. You can see it's quite large and full of doctors and nurses." Symun explained as somewhere off in the distance someone shouted before silencing right away.

"No! What's my crime?"

"There are often outbursts coming from certain areas. Please, ignore it." Symun said leaving the infirmary with Cisco and his officers following close behind Him.

"Why are there handprints on the doors above the openings?" Bashir asked glancing at doorways as they passed by.

"If our people aren't allowed out, which is usually at night, the handprints keep them in their rooms where they're safe. They get a light shock if they try to leave. It's for their own protection." Symun said moving to another large room with benches and tables cropped close together.

"This is our Common Area. Everyone eats here together." Halo said as a group of people and nurses entered with trays of food.

"Hello, Captain." a nurse greeted as Symun smiled.

"Hello, Koshi. This is Captain Cisco, Dr. Bashir, Chief Miles O'Brien, and Lieutenant Dax. We're just taking a tour." Symun explained as Koshi shook hands and smiled.

"Nice to meet you all. I heard about Alex. I'm sure he'll be his old self in no time. Excuse me, Captain. Sylon is refusing to eat again." The nurse with red cropped curls and sparkling green eyes said moving quickly away as Symun led his tour group from the room.

"Does everyone have their own personal nurse?" Bashir asked taking mental notes as they walked.

"Yes. We have schedules and activities for them to do so they don't have time just to sit and dwell on their problems. We do give them personal time when they require it." Symun said leading them past but not inside the holosuite.

"How are you feeling, Alex?" Bashani asked seated in a chair near a biobed Alex was restrained to by force field.

"I'm feeling a bit better. I can feel the medication working and Hayzon gave me something to eat." Alex said in a groggy voice.

"That's good. Have you let go of your ship fetish. You know there's no point to fix a ship that no longer exists don't you?" Bashani questioned as Alex's face changed from groggy to irrational.

"We have to fix the ship. We have to get away from Betazed. It's not safe." Alex pleaded as Bashani put a hand to his shoulder and shushed him.

"You're doing fine. Just rest." Bashani said as Alex closed his eyes and gave up to slumber.

"Well, this is where our tour ends. Again, I'm sorry for what happened to you." Symun said as Cisco jumped in.

"Thank you for the tour, Symun. It was good to see you again, but I think we should get back to DS9." Cisco said as Kira joined them just then.

"Good to see you all again. Are you all right? Sorry, Captain. I lost track of time." Kira said in a rush.

"That's ok, Major. We just had a tour of the station and now we're going home."

"I'm for that. I'll meet you on the Oranoco." Kira said bouncing off before anyone could answer back.

"We brought the Oranoco to find you." Cisco said as O'Brien nodded.

"That's the next best ship besides the Defiant. We'll follow you, Captain." O'Brien said as Dax and Bashir followed O'Brien off to the docking pylon.

"Come back again, Ben. We'll catch up. I'll buy you dinner." Symun said as Cisco shook his hand and gave him a hug.

"I'll hold you to that. Goodbye." Cisco said leaving to join his crew as Symun Halo waved and returned to his work.

14

"Hi there, Kiddo. How ya doin'?" Dr. Bashani asked as Alex sat up in his biobed and smiled up at his father with sleep-ridden eyes.

"I'm ok. How are you? Are you my Papa?" Alex asked as Jadan stalked over and hugged him close.

"Now what do you think? Ready to go?" Jadan asked as Alex looked confused.

"Where we going, Papa?" Alex asked wrapping his blanket tighter around him.

"Well, you can stay here or you can come home with me to the Habitat Ring." Jadan said as Alex rubbed sleep from his eyes and smiled.

"Can I walk there?" Alex asked as Jadan produced a hoverchair.

"Infirmary rules. You might fall down. And oh no, your blanket will get dirty." Jadan said chuckling as Alex got up off the biobed and let Jadan settle him in the hoverchair.

"Is Petrukio ok?" Alex asked as Jadan whisked them through corridors and into the turbolift.

"Habitat Ring. Petrukio's waiting. Don't you worry about him." Jadan said as the turbolift began to move and Alex classed his hand with anxiety.

"Don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you. No one will harm you. Least of all the turbolift." Jadan reassured as the door opened and he whisked Alex down the hall to their quarters. Alex laughed as the door whooshed open and Petrukio meowed jumping into Alex's lap.

"Petrukio! Hello, Friend. It's nice to see you too." Alex said petting his purring cat with gentle fingers.

"Down Petrukio. Come on, Alex. You need to come to the table. I have a surprise." Jadan said helping Alex from the hoverchair into a chair at the table. The hoverchair was sent back to the infirmary as Jadan placed a plate and bowl of food before his son.

"I made your favorite." Jadan said as Alex inhaled smells of tuna fish and macaroni.

"Do I deserve this after what I did?" He asked trying not to let his mouth water from the smells before him.

"You've been punished enough. Go on. Eat. Petrukio's happy you like tuna." Jadan said as Alex listened to the feline lap up tuna juice.

"It smells so good." Alex said not lifting a finger to eat it.

"I thought you'd be hungry. Was I wrong?" Jadan queried not sure what he'd forgot.

"Papa, I can't eat without sound." Alex said smiling as Jadan shook his head feeling foolish.

"Of course. Betazoids don't eat without their Betazoid Gong. Sorry." Jadan said taking a chime from a drawer and setting it on the table where it gently chimed every minute they ate.

"Thank you, Papa. This is wonderful." Alex said as Jadan smiled watching his son eat as he ate here and there himself.

"I try. What would you like to do now?" Jadan asked with his back to Alex as he put the gong away.

"Oh I don't know. Maybe a puzzle." Alex said as Jadan turned back to see Alex had cleared the table.

"Looks like I have a helper. Good job, Son." Jadan praised as Alex blushed.

"That's no problem. I want to be useful." Alex said going to inspect his room with Petrukio following close behind him.

"Did you wash your paws?" Alex asked the cat earning a sly look that made him laugh. The cat jumped up on Alex's bed as he folded up his blanket and laid it on the foot. Alex next went to the nearby bathroom and washed his hands and face. He glanced in the mirror startled by the paler of his own reflection.

"Why so pale, Alex? You need more sun." Alex told himself turning to go back to his room.

"How can you get more sun on a space station? What a dope." ALEX heard coming from the mirror as he quickly escaped to his room.

"Everything ok?" Jadan asked with a hand to Alex's shoulder because he had jumped at the sound of his father's voice.

"It's ok. You're ok. What scared you?" Jadan asked hugging a shaking Alex close to him.

"I was looking in the mirror talking to myself. I didn't expect an answer back." Alex said with a shaky laugh.

"It's not real. It's just your condition. Wait here." Jadan said as Alex picked up Petrukio and hugged him close.

"You're real." He said scratching behind the Siamese's ears.

"Drink this. It will help." Jadan said handing Alex a small cup as he accepted it and gulped the contents down.

"Thank you, Papa. I'll rest now." Alex said climbing into bed as Jadan spread his blanket over him.

"I'm just in my office across the way there. Holler if you need me." Jadan said hugging Alex as Petrukio settled down next to him on top of the covers.

"Meow."

"Good Boy, Petrukio. Come get me if you need me." Jadan said patting the cat and then patting Alex before tiptoeing from the room.

"I expect you'll be happy to be back on the station." Cisco said as Dax replicated a Ractogeno because Cisco had decided they could all fit more comfortably on the Defiant.

"Well I will be. I miss my quarters." Dax said sipping her drink as Cisco sipped black coffee.

"I expect Keiko's been worried. It will be good to see her again." Miles said as Julian sat thinking.

"How about you, Doctor?" Cisco asked startling Julian from his thoughts.

"What was that? Oh yes. It will be good to sleep in my own bed." Julian said as Cisco gazed at him with concern.

"Do you have something on your mind, Doctor?" Cisco asked as Julian gazed at him with apprehension.

"I was wondering if I could stay on this station for a little longer." Julian said as Dax and O'Brien groaned.

"The station too boring for you, Doctor?" Kira asked with a snicker.

"I just think I can help some of those people. They could live full lives if they just had a chance."

"And what do you think you could do to change it?" Cisco challenged as Bashir rose to it.

"I've studied Betazoid anatomy. I think I know just enough to make a difference in some lives if not all. Don't they deserve a chance?" Julian asked as Cisco nodded.

"If you can give them a chance, do so, Doctor. If you find you can't, I want you back on the station immediately. Is that understood?" Cisco asked as Julian rose to his feet smiling with medkit in hand.

"Yes, Sir. I'll get a ride back on a freighter or something." Julian said heading for the nearest airlock.

"I'm sure we can leave the Oranoco for you, Doctor. Hurry back because I still need my doctor." Cisco said as Julian nodded skipping off to do his best to help.

"Do you think he can help them?" Kira asked as the Defiant cleared the docking pylon.

"He has some time to try, Major. We'll see Let's go home." Cisco said as the others nodded with hopeful smiles.

15

"Mama. Papa. No! Stop!" Alex called out in his sleep as Petrukio jumped down from the bed and rushed to Jadan's office meeting him halfway.

"Yes, I know, Petrukio. I'm coming." Jadan said gliding into Alex's room as he tossed and turned amongst the covers gripping his blanket in clenched fists.

"Alex. Shook. It's ok. You're dreaming. Come on. Wake up." Jadan soothed as Alex opened his eyes and clung to his father in fear.

"The Jemhadar."

"I know. It's over now. You're awake. I'm here." Jadan said rubbing Alex's sweat-soaked back.

"Why? Why did they do it? Why did they kill her?" He asked with tears spilling down his cheeks.

"The Founders control the Jemhadar. I don't know why. We have to let it go. Can you do that?" Jadan asked wiping Alex's face with a tissue from the box near his bed.

"I don't know." Alex said as Jadan took a small packet of Chopnut Buttons from his pocket as Alex finally smiled.

"Can I have that candy? Is it for me?" Alex asked as Jadan gave a sigh of relief upon seeing his son smile.

"I'm not sure. Do you like them?" Jadan asked handing them to Alex as he nodded popping some into his mouth.

"Thank you. I think I'm ok now." Alex said accepting a cup of water from his father.

"I have more of those disgusting candies if you want more." Jadan said as Alex smiled.

"Too much peanut butter or not enough chocolate for you?" Alex asked forgetting his father's allergy.

"I'd probably like them if I wasn't allergic to peanuts."

"I'm sorry. I forgot." Alex apologized as Jadan smiled and took out some chocolate drops to pop in his mouth.

"Us Betazoids always find an alternative. Now, do you want to sleep some more, or do you want to come and fiddle around in my office? I'm in the middle of finishing up some work." Jadan finished as Dr. Bashir rang their chime.

"Just a minute." Jadan said gliding to open the door with a surprised look on his somewhat dark face.

"Julian, what brings you back? Did you miss the boat?" Jadan asked moving aside so his friend could enter his quarters.

"I asked to stay a bit longer, Jadan. Is this a bad time?" Julian asked as Jadan drank some water from the cup he held in his hand.

"No, not at all. Would you like something to eat or drink?" Jadan asked trying to be a proper host.

"I think you have more company." Julian said as the chime rang a second time.

"Come in, Hayzon. Alex is in his room." Jadan said as the door opened to permit Hayzon entry.

"Hi, Dr. Bashani."

"Jadan. Alex is in his room with Petrukio." Jadan said as Hayzon bent to the floor and picked up some toy mouse stuffings.

"I think Petrukio has been practicing his mouser skills." Hayzon said putting the pieces in the replimat.

"Thanks, Hayzon. I missed that one." Jadan said as Hayzon smirked and headed into Alex's room.

"Could we talk privately somewhere? I'd like to talk to you about Alex." Julian said as Jadan nodded and led him to his office as the door shut quietly behind them.

"Please, have a seat. What about Alex?" Jadan asked seated in a swivel chair with folded arms as Bashir perched on a sofa.

"Alex's work?" Bashir asked noticing some puzzles in a few corners of the room.

"Yes. He's quite good at them. What can you do that Dr. Graven hasn't done?" Jadan asked since he knew his friend was a doctor also.

"I've studied Betazoid anatomy, and I think I can help Alex. What is his condition if you don't mind." Julian asked cautiously as Jadan put his hands in his trouser pockets.

"No, we're friends. I don't mind. Alex suffers from Intermittent Explosive Disorder. He has small tantrums about the stupidest things sometimes. He also has nightmares because of his experience on Centock Nor." Jadan said as Julian's eyes filled with sympathy for the young boy.

"How old is he?" Julian asked as Jadan sighed.

"Maylen Graven has also studied Betazoid anatomy. Alex is sixteen. Hayzon is a good friend to help us." Jadan explained not realizing it.

"I can imagine when you have to work. Isn't Hayzon a nurse also?"

"Yes. What do you want to do? Alex has a scar from Centock Nor."

"Yes, I noticed it when you escorted him to the captain's office. I think that can be erased if Alex wants it gone." Julian said seriously as Jadan thought on the subject for a minute.

"It's up to Alex. Be careful though. The littlest thing can set him off." Jadan said as Captain Halo chose that moment to come to his quarters.

"Excuse me. Captain? How can I help you?" Jadan asked after a quick salute.

"As you were, Doctor. I thought Dr. Bashir would like some quarters while he's staying here. Captain Cisco has informed me of your staying on for a while, Dr. Bashir." Captain Halo explained as Julian nodded.

"Thank you, Captain. I am a little tired and it is late. Can I call tomorrow, Jadan?" Julian asked preparing to follow Captain Halo.

"You're welcome anytime. Goodnight, Gentlemen." Bashani said closing the door behind them.

"So it's all right with you if I stay for a while, Captain?" Julian asked as Symun led him down a corridor where some empty quarters awaited his arrival.

"It's fine with me as long as you don't step on any toes. I assume you know the lay of your quarters, or I can show you." Halo said waiting in case Julian needed help.

"No thank you, Captain. I think I can get it. Thank you." Julian said as Symun moved to leave.

"Goodnight, Dr. Bashir."

"Goodnight, Captain." Julian returned watching the captain leave him to himself before he changed into his pajamas and tiredly climbed into a comfy bed.

16

Julian walked to Jadan and Alex's quarters the next morning. He held a medical scanner in one hand and his medkit in the other. He reached up to ring the chime when he heard a full-on scream emit from inside. So he put down his hand and just walked inside because Jadan had given him permission to.

"What's going on here? I would have rang the chime, but I heard a scream." Julian explained as Alex sat on the floor screaming.

"We're fine. Thank you, Doctor. Alex is just having a small tantrum. It's part of his condition." Hayzon said not moving to stop it as Julian intervened.

"Alex, what's wrong?" Julian asked as Alex stopped screaming and looked up at Julian with recognition.

"I don't want to wear green." Alex said feeling foolish as Julian laughed.

"Then don't wear green. What do you want to wear?" Julian asked helping Alex up from the floor.

"I want to wear yellow." Alex said dressed in jeans with no shirt.

"Does he have a yellow shirt?" Julian asked as Hayzon stepped to the open closet and hung up a forest-green shirt. He took down a lemon-yellow shirt and helped Alex to put it on. Julian stood out of the way as Hayzon watched Alex button his shirt in case he needed help.

"Thank you, Dr. Bashir you were a big help." Hayzon said looking relieved.

"Julian. I'm happy I could help. Alex, could I take some scans of your brain. I just want to see if I can help." Julian asked seeing fear in Alex's young eyes.

"Will it hurt?" He asked as Julian saw vulnerability in his eyes.

"No. It won't hurt. I think I saw Petrukio nearby." Julian said as Alex relaxed and smiled. Alex clicked his tongue and Petrukio jumped into his lap on cue.

"Very impressive. Did you train him?" Julian asked positioning his scanner over Alex's head.

"Yes, with help from Papa. I think we used tuna." Alex said conversationally as Julian took away the scanner and studied it as Alex cuddled Petrukio close.

"I need to study these, and I'll come back. Is that ok?" Julian asked looking at Hayzon for confirmation.

"Actually, we're going to have breakfast. Alyssa wanted you to come to the schoolroom, Alex. Are you up to it?" Hayzon asked as Julian saw excitement erupt in Alex's face.

"Yes, I would like that." Alex said opening his arms so Petrukio could jump down.

"Maybe I'll go and see your father first and come back later. Will that be ok?" Julian asked looking friendly as Alex nodded.

"I'm sorry about the holosuite. I want us to be friends." Alex said offering a hesitant hand that Julian shook.

"I've already forgiven you for that. I think we can be friends because I'm already your father's friend. Ok?" Julian said as alex nodded.

"Thank you. Would you like to stay for breakfast?" Alex offered as Julian smiled.

"Thank you, but I have to be going. I'll see you soon." Julian said leaving Alex and Hayzon to eat.

"Yes, soon. Hayzon, can I have pancakes, boiled eggs, sausage, and hash-brown casserole?" Alex asked looking contrite as Hayzon laughed.

"Alex, don't look so apprehensive. I'm used to your tantrums. I'm not offended that Dr. Bashir helped us out. Sometimes we need an alternative hand." Hayzon said as Alex relaxed his face and laughed.

"Ok. Good. What about breakfast?" Alex queried as Hayzon put his plate in front of him with what he'd asked for complete with juice and chocolate milk.

"Eat up because Alyssa's waiting." Hayzon said as Alex smiled and began to eat.

"Come in." Jadan said hearing the sound of his office chime as he poured over crew evaluations.

"Hi. Are you busy?" Julian asked taking a seat across from Jadan's desk.

"I'd welcome a distraction. What's up?" Jadan asked letting his computer screen saver come up as he turned his chair to face his friend.

"It's about Alex. I took some scans of his brain this morning. I think I can help." Julian explained as Jadan folded his arms in anticipation.

"And? What did you find?"

"There's intercranial damage I think I can repair, b" Julian paused as Jadan seemed nervous.

"But what? Give it to me straight. I can handle whatever you want to say about Alex." Jadan said as Julian finished.

"I can repair the damage, but I'd be more comfortable repairing it on Deep Space Nine." Julian said as Jadan pursed his lips in thought.

"Why not here? We have just as much technology as you do on your ship." Jadan said rather protectively.

"I'm sorry. I'm not used to your facility. It would be much easier to take Alex to Deep Space Nine. However, if that seems impossible, I'll just need some time and Dr. Graven's help to do so."

"Let me talk to Alex and I'll get back to you. Ok?" Jadan suggested as Julian nodded.

"I'll be in my quarters." Julian said as Jadan nodded sitting in deep thought.

"What would you do, Aleria?" Jadan queried gazing at a picture of his late wife wearing a lemon-yellow dress with her black hair in a braid.

"Am I late?" Alex asked Alyssa surveying several bodies in the schoolroom around him.

"No, of course not. I'm glad you could join us. Everyone, this is Alex. Alex, this is everyone." Alyssa said as many eyes gazed up at Alex as he tried not to appear nervous.

"Hello, Alex." Many voices chorused as Alex smiled and waved before looking around for a seat.

"Where would you like to sit? We were just getting ready to talk about each others cultures." Alyssa said as Alex saw his friend Kato Alemo.

"Can I sit next to you, Kato?" Alex asked ready to move on if Kato were to say no.

"Are you going to stand there all day and gawk, or are you going to sit down?" Kato asked with a broad grin as Alex grinned back and sat down.

"Well then. That's settled. Turn your attention towards me and let's talk about culture. Kato, can we start with you?" Alyssa asked as Kato stood at the head of the room and began.

"My name is Kato Alemo. My parents are from earth and we come from a country called Japan. Japan is notorious for such things as origami, karate, and sitting around the house barefoot. We have many traditions like the Tea Ceremony and Flower Ceremony. Most japanese people have black hair and almond-shaped, brown eyes. Some women wear kimonos and the men wear trousers." Kato finished as everyone laughed at certain elements of Kato's speech before he smiled and sat down.

"That was really good." Alex said as Kato half-listened to a Bajoran speak about her culture while he answered Alex.

"Thanks. It will be your turn soon." Kato said as Alex felt his stomach churn.

"Alex, did you have a question?" Alyssa asked after Tevna had finished her speech.

"May I be excused?" He asked as Alyssa saw he was scared.

"Of course. Thank you for joining us, Alex. I hope you come again." Alyssa said smiling as Alex nodded before rushing from the room. He tore off for the turbolift as Hayzon met him there.

"What happened? Habitat Ring." Hayzon ordered as Alex put his head between his knees.

"Nothing. I just got scared. They were talking about culture and Kato said it would be my turn soon." Alex said breathing more normally as Hayzon took Alex's hand and helped him into his quarters.

"You got scared because of your mother?" Hayzon hedged as Alex nodded with tears forming in his eyes.

"She was so beautiful." Alex said finding a chair to fall into.

"Yes, she was. I've seen holopics. You showed me." Hayzon said standing beside Alex's chair with a hand to his shoulder.

"Why? I can never understand why." Alex said sniffling as Hayzon allowed him time to reflect.

"No one really understands what happened on Centock Nor. I'm sure you're not the only one." Hayzon said hugging Alex as Jadan chose that moment to enter his home.

"Alyssa told me you sat in on the schoolroom. I'm proud of you." Jadan said as Hayzon quietly left so they could talk.

"I like to learn new things." Alex said letting his father stand behind his chair with his arms around him.

"I know you do. Did you leave because you'd have to talk about your mother?" Jadan asked moving to stand before his son.

"Yes. Sit beside me." Alex said moving to a sofa as Jadan obliged his request.

"Let me explain. Will you listen?" Jadan asked as Alex knew it would be about Centock Nor.

"Yes. Go ahead." Alex said resting against Jadan as he held his son close.

"The Jemhadar were following a Cardassian doctor's orders. They wanted to make Betazoids genetically engineered, and they wanted to make the Jemhadar telepathic. Can you understand that?" Jadan asked keeping sorrow from his voice as Alex pondered over his father's words before answering.

"They said victory is life like robots."

"Jemhadar basically are robots. All they seek is Ketricel White because they're addicted to it thanks to the Founders who created them."

"Someone always needs some kind of slave. Papa, you have news. Sorry, I can't" Alex stopped as Jadan finished for him.

"I know you can't help it. That's the price of being born with full telepathy for a Betazoid. Dr. Shenda said you'd have to be isolated or hospitalized because of your abilities, but your mother would not have it. She said we would teach you."

"You both have taught me well. Mama was very good at meditating. So are you." Alex hurriedly said as Jadan laughed.

"It's ok to give compliments to one person and not another. Dr. Bashir says he can help you. He says you have intercranial damage he can repair." Jadan explained as Alex did his best to focus his attention on what his father was saying.

"That's great. When can he do it? What will it mean for us?" Alex asked as Jadan waited to answer.

"It may mean a normal life for you. Who knows what you could do with your keen mind. There's a catch though." Jadan said as Alex waited holding his breath.

"You'll turn blue that way. Stop it. Dr. Bashir isn't familiar with our ship. He'd prefer doing the procedure on his ship Deep Space Nine. It's a space station almost like our own. How would you feel about leaving here for a time?" Jadan asked as Alex wasn't sure how he felt.

"Could Petrukio come? Who would take care of him?" Alex asked as Petrukio wound his body around Alex's legs before jumping into his lap.

"It wouldn't be forever. Hayzon will take care of Petrukio. I know it's a big step for you, a big journey. You don't have to decide right away. Dr. Bashir has some time to wait." Jadan said cuddling Alex as he pet Petrukio deep in thought.

"What about you, Papa? I can't go on my own. I'd be too afraid." Alex said as Jadan smiled down at his son proudly.

"Do you think my sixteen year-old son is going anywhere without me?" Jadan asked with hands on hips.

"No, I hope not. I can go anywhere if you come with me. Should Petrukio go to Hayzon's quarters?" Alex asked looking sadly down at his feline friend.

"No. I think Hayzon could stay here and house-sit. Do you have an answer?" Jadan asked sensing Alex had made up his mind.

"Yes, I have an answer. I want to go. I want a chance." Alex said as Jadan reached to hug him again.

"I'll contact Julian and let him know. Don't worry. I'll make sure we have a day to pack." Jadan said as Alex smiled and yawned.

"Sorry. I need a nap." He said rising with Petrukio in his arms to make his way to his room as Jadan watched him go.

"Bashani to Bashir." Jadan called pushing his communicator before speaking.

"Bashir here. Go ahead."

"It's a go." Jadan said as Julian smiled to himself in his quarters just down the way.

"Great. Just let me know when you're ready. The Oranoco is ready to go when we are." Julian said as Bashani smiled knowing Julian was keen about how the trip would affect them.

"I'll contact you the day after tomorrow unless you'd have dinner with us or breakfast." Jadan offered as Julian thought for a second.

"How about lunch tomorrow? Maybe I could get to know Alex a little better and we could catch up." Bashir suggested as Bashani nodded before realizing he needed to answer because Bashir couldn't see him.

"Lunch it is. I owe you, Bashir." Bashani said hearing Julian laugh before they closed the conn.

17

Alex stood on the Oranoco watching stars pass them out the port view. Jadan sensed the excitement his son felt as he smiled. Julian drank Tarkalian tea and Jadan sipped hot chocolate. Alex's hot chocolate had been abandoned once he had noticed the first star cluster.

"Did you and Alex ever live on Betazed, Jadan?" Julian asked as Jadan focused his attention on his friend.

"I met my wife Aleria Bahd at the University of Betazed. We were students there. We fell in love and dated awhile. Then we married and Alyssa came along."

"I didn't know Alyssa was your daughter." Julian said as Alex returned to his drink.

"Yes, she is. That's how her brother was able to trick her into playing that game you were involved in." Jadan said as Alex said nothing but looked guilty.

"How much older than Alex is Alyssa?" Julian asked saying nothing about the holosuite and the game he'd not enjoyed.

"Alyssa is twenty-one and Alex is sixteen. So she's" Jadan thought as Alex answered quickly.

"She's five years older than me. She used to change my diapers." Alex admitted blushing as Jadan and Julian laughed.

"She used to dress you in doll clothes and push you around in her stroller." Jadan explained as they all laughed and Alex blushed.

"What hope does a boy have to hold out against an older sister?" Alex queried as Jadan shrugged.

"I recall you not liking it, but you didn't complain." Jadan said reppicating sandwiches for them.

"I don't like tuna." Julian said as Jadan nodded.

"We're having tuna and you're having turkey. Ok?" Jadan asked replicating fruit and juice.

"Thank you. Do you two eat a lot of tuna?" Julian asked peeling a banana.

"Yes, but we also eat veggie wraps." Alex said biting into a peach.

"We're vegetarians, but I like chicken now and then." Jadan admitted as Alex stifled a gag.

"I like oschoid. Have you ever had it, Julian?" Alex asked after swallowing some juice.

"Yes, I think I have had it. I have to confess I liked it." Julian said as Alex beamed.

"It is good. It used to be Mama's specialty." Alex said growing quiet.

"I know you miss your mother, but you have Petrukio and your father. Let's not forget Hayzon." Julian listed as Alex smiled again and nodded.

"There's also Kato who taught me Origami and karate." Alex said as Julian looked impressed.

"Could you show us some moves?" Julian asked as Jadan laughed not meaning to.

"Sorry, Alex. You didn't seem to stay with karate like you did Origami." Jadan said hoping he hadn't hurt his son's feelings.

"That's ok. I admit I'm rather clumsy. I can show you Origami though." Alex said reppicating some shiny paper as he quickly folded it into a rather impressive unicorn.

"That's very good. Have you been practicing a long time?" Julian asked knowing he couldn't produce such a thing.

"I practice every day depending on the hour. I also like puzzles and games." He said returning to his meal.

"Games are ok when they don't hurt anyone, Alex." Jadan said as Alex nodded.

"I know that now. I'm tired." Alex said yawning as Julian showed him where he could lie down and rest while Jadan finished his meal.

"Thank you for your kindness, Julian. Alex is"

"Shy and impressionable. I know. You've done a good job raising him. How old was he when he was taken to Centock Nor?" Julian asked cleaning up lunch.

"He was ten. Aleria had taken him to the Betazoid Museum that afternoon. A Jemhadar soldier happened to see them thought-casting to each other and grabbed them right in front of everyone. I was called after the fact. It was Commander Riker from the U.S.S. Enterprise who brought Alex back to me. I thanked him and was very grateful. However, Alex was damaged from the affair. So I found a position on Space Station Alpha which was a medical ship and we've been there ever since." Jadan said looking pale and wizened from his story.

"Jadan, why not rest. It will take us a few hours to get to Deep Space Nine." Julian said with a kind hand to Jadan's shoulder.

"That sounds good. I rarely sleep well. Thank you." Jadan said moving to go and rest as Julian managed the helm.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?" Danni asked after entering Halo's office.

"Yes. Have a seat, Danni. I have a few questions for you." Symun said as Danni sat down feeling odd.

"About the officers and the Defiant. They were beamed from their ship onto this station and their ship was towed into Upper Docking Pylon c." Halo said as Danni fought hard not to figit.

"What are you asking, Captain?" Danni asked facing Halo bravely.

"Did you beam those people off their ship when they were sleeping possibly? Don't lie to me."

"Yes, I beamed the officers off their ship when they were sleeping and I towed their ship into the station. In my defense, Alex was controlling me with his telepathy. Am I guilty for something I couldn't control?" Danni asked as Halo frowned.

"Your classification is revoked, Chief Mayhu."

"Yes, Captain." Danni said rising to leave.

"Wait a minute. I didn't dismiss you." Halo said as Danni obediently sat back down.

"You should be punished. You're on Common Area duty for a month." Halo said smiling wickedly as Danni frowned.

"I guess we shouldn't get on your bad side, Sir." Danni said as Halo motioned him to leave.

"Dismissed. Chief Mayhu, there are worse things than Common Area duty. You got me?" Halo asked with a sneer.

"Yes, Captain. I hear you loud and clear." Danni said hurrying from the room as Symun waited for him to leave before breaking into a full-on laugh.

18

"Captain, the Oranoco is back." Kira informed Cisco as he'd come to Ops from his office.

"Bring the Oranoco home, Major." Cisco said as Kira opened a channel.

"Good to see you, Julian." Kira said as Bashir and Bashani appeared on the view screen.

"Good to see you, Major. How about it? Can we come home?" He asked as Kira smirked pushing some buttons.

"You can dock in Upper Docking Pylon c, Doctor. Welcome back." She said as Julian returned her smile with one of his own.

"Thank you, Major. Captain." Julian saluted as Cisco saluted back before the screen returned to its blank view.

"Welcome back, Doctor." Cisco greeted as he met Julian, Jadan, and Alex on the deck of the docking bay.

"Thank you, Captain. You remember Dr. Jadan Bashani and his son Alex." Julian said as Cisco shook hands.

"Welcome to Deep Space Nine. I think you'll find it's almost like Deep Space Alpha." Cisco said as Jadan nodded and Alex stood a little shyly behind him.

"Perhaps we could find them some quarters, Captain." Julian suggested as Odo appeared.

"I can take care of that if you'd like, Captain." Odo offered as Alex stared at Odo in fear.

"Thank you, Constable. I'll be in my office." Cisco said leaving them in Odo's hands as Alex stood rooted to the spot he stood in.

"Well, are you coming?" Odo asked Alex as he stared still saying nothing.

"You'll have to excuse Alex. He's a little frightened." Jadan offered as Odo nodded.

"You're a Founder!" Alex erupted as Odo remained calm.

"Good observation. I'm also Chief of Security of this station. I will not harm you." Odo said calmly as Alex calmed a little.

"Don't you want to harm us?" Alex asked quietly as Odo laughed.

"No, I will not harm you. I just want to show you to some quarters so you can be comfortable on the station. Do you want to come with me?" Odo asked putting himself on Alex's level as Alex smiled and took Odo's hand as Jadan let out a sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Constable." Jadan said hesitantly as Odo smiled.

"I'm Chief of Security Odo, but most people call me Constable. You can too." Odo told Alex as he laughed next.

"Thank you, Constable. Can we be friends?" Alex asked as all four of them began to walk to the turbolift.

"Of course we can. Habitat Ring." Odo ordered as the turbolift took them to the Habitat Ring where a set of empty quarters awaited them.

"Thank you, Odo. Alex's terrified of the Founders." Julian said later on as they were heading to their separate stations.

"I noticed that, Doctor. I think we understand each other now." Odo said leaving to go to his office as Julian headed to the Infirmary.

19

Alex woke in a strange bed in strange quarters. He got up from bed and went to look for Petrukio as he found he couldn't find his friend anywhere. Alex next found Jadan sleeping in the next room where he lowered himself to the floor and sat waiting for his father to waken and help him find his lost pet.

"Can't you sleep?" Jadan asked opening his eyes to find Alex leaning against his bed.

"I can't find Petrukio. Can you help me?" Alex asked looking small as Jadan rose from bed and helped Alex up to sit beside him on his bed.

"I forgot you wake up disoriented. This is Deep Space Nine not Deep Space Alpha. Hayzon is taking care of Petrukio." Jadan explained as Alex let Him hold him close.

"Why are we here?" Alex asked as Jadan knew he'd forgotten.

"Alex, we came here with Julian so he can repair the damage in your brain. Remember?" Jadan explained rocking Alex gently in his arms.

"Oh yeah. I miss Petrukio." Alex said in a sleepy voice.

"I'm sure he misses you too. You spoil him." Jadan said with a small chuckle as Alex settled against Jadan sleeping. Jadan lowered himself and Alex onto his bed and covered them up before settling down to go back to sleep himself.

"No one will harm you. I promise." Jadan told Alex as he kissed his head and closed his own tired eyes to sleep.

"Are you ready for the surgery?" Julian asked entering Jadan and Alex's quarters the next morning.

"I'm not sure, Julian. Alex woke up last night and was confused." Jadan said sipping hot chocolate after offering Julian Tarkalian Tea.

"You must have had a hard night too. What was wrong with Alex?" Julian asked blowing across his cup to cool his tea.

"He was upset because he couldn't find Petrukio. I explained to him where we were and he calmed down and we shared my bed." Jadan said as Alex chose that moment to wander in.

"Hi, Julian. Sorry about last night, Papa." Alex said sitting down as Jadan placed a mug of hot chocolate before him with mini marshmallows.

"Does that tell you something?" Jadan asked with a smile.

"Yes. It tells me you love me. You want to do the surgery today don't you?" Alex asked spooning melting marshmallows into his mouth.

"Yes I do, but it can wait if you're not ready." Julian said with a kind smile.

"No, it shouldn't wait. I want to go home to Petrukio." Alex said as Jadan intervened.

"I'm sorry, Alex. I don't think you're ready yet. Maybe tomorrow." Jadan said as Alex nodded sipping more of his cocoa saying nothing in the way of argument.

"We have activities here you can do or you can tour the ship. There's lots of activity on the Promenade." Julian said as Jadan was glad he hadn't mentioned the holosuite.

"Maybe we could have breakfast and call Hayzon." Alex suggested as Jadan nodded. Julian put his cup in the replimat and left before breakfast.

"So, what do you want?" Jadan asked stopping before the replicater as Alex frowned in thought.

"You're right. This ship is different." Alex said as Jadan refilled his cup with more cocoa.

"I know it's a hobby of mine to cook, but replicated food is just as good. Now, what do you want?" Jadan asked again as Alex smiled.

"Well, I'll make due. How about the hamburger with egg in the middle and Ketchup on top?" Alex answered as Jadan smiled.

"Hash-browns with cheese and toast?" He asked as Alex nodded.

"Do I ever say thank you or I love you?" He asked as Jadan brought two plates of hot food to the table with silverware.

"Yes. You're welcome and I love you too." Jadan said reaching to hug Alex who hugged him back even a little tighter.

"I'm lucky. If I don't have Petrukio, I have you." Alex said as they sat down to eat.

"Hello, Alex. How are you feeling?" Alyssa asked answering the screen in their quarters on Deep Space Alpha.

"I'm doing ok. Where's Hayzon?" Alex asked as he smiled seeing Petrukio pass by letting out a somewhat boisterous meow.

"Hayzon said he had an emergency on Betazed and he'll be back. Don't worry. Petrukio's fine. I fed him his tuna juice. Gross." Alyssa said as Alex and Jadan laughed.

"I thought you liked tuna." Alex said as Alyssa pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

"I like tuna from the replicater. I don't like opening the can and mixing it. Gross. I put it in that concoction you call a fridge." She said with a small smile.

"Thanks. We'll have it when we get back." Alex said ready to hang up.

"When do you think you'll be back?" She asked cuddling Petrukio as Alex had a slight jealous feeling for not being in her place.

"We're not sure, but thanks for taking care of Petrukio in Hayzon's place." Jadan said as Alyssa let Petrukio jump down and saunter away.

"You're welcome. I love you, Daddy, Alex." She said blowing them kisses before hanging up.

"Us too." Jadan said gazing at Alex to gage his feelings.

"I hope Hayzon's all right. Petrukio looked and sounded fine." Alex said still seated at the now empty table twiddling his thumbs.

"I have an idea. How about this." Jadan said placing a puzzle on the table for them to work on as Alex beamed.

"That's perfect. You always know what to do. Lucky for us." Alex said as Jadan nodded before beginning to help his son with his new puzzle.

20

Alex lay sleeping in his room when his door silently hissed open. A shadow silently tiptoed into the room and gave Alex a hypo. Alex didn't open his eyes because he thought it was Jadan. He smiled as the shadow quietly left.

"Hayzon, what are you doing here? I thought you had an emergency to take care of." Jadan said as Hayzon faced him smiling.

"I took care of the emergency. Everything's fine. I just gave Alex his medication. I see he didn't have the surgery." Hayzon said as Jadan nodded.

"I didn't think he was ready yet. Do you want to sit down?" Jadan asked sipping some hot chocolate.

"Yes, I would. Thank you. I brought you a sandwich that I made myself. I know how much you like tuna." Hayzon said setting a plate before Jadan as he set his cup aside.

"You didn't have to do that. I must confess I am hungry. Thank you." Jadan said taking a bite making a face.

"What's wrong? Don't you like it?" Hayzon asked seeing Jadan's face crumble after a second bite.

"This tastes strange. How did you cook it?" Jadan asked feeling his throat begin to close as he dropped the sandwich and fell from his chair to the floor.

"Oh yeah. I forgot. I fried it in peanut oil. Whoops." Hayzon admitted as Jadan frowned at him in horror.

"I thought you were our friend." Jadan rasped trying hard to take in air.

"Oh, I guess you thought wrong. I'll kill you and Alex. Then I'll go back to Space Station Alpha and kill the others. I thought Bashir would do it for me, but all he wanted to do was solve the mystery. How lame." Hayzon said as Jadan's eyes closed and Alex stumbled out of his room in search of his father.

"Hayzon? What's going on? What have you done?" Alex gasped as he felt his body shutting down.

"Isn't it obvious? I'm murdering you and your father. Then I'm murdering your sister and Danni and that stupid cat of yours. I'll be the grieving friend. How sad." Hayzon mocked as the computer alerted Odo in his office without Hayzon's knowledge.

"Intruder alert." The computer alerted Odo as his attention was averted from his crime novel to the computer.

"Computer, where is the intruder?" Odo asked rising to his feet, ready for combat.

"The intruder is on the Habitat Ring in the Bashani's quarters."

"Odo to Bashir."

"Bashir here. Go ahead, Constable." Julian said setting a steaming cup of tea aside.

"Meet me in the Habitat Ring. I think the Bashani's might require a doctor." Odo said moving as quickly as he could to stop Hayzon from escaping.

"On my way." Bashir said beaming to the Habitat Ring, bumping into Odo.

"Can you be any louder, Doctor?" Odo asked as Julian smiled.

"Sorry. What's going on?" Julian asked holding his medkit in one hand.

"I'm not sure. Wait here." Odo said forming himself into a wall behind the door as someone tried to exit the room.

"What's this? Where did this wall come from?" Hayzon asked trying to push Odo aside as he laughed.

"I'm shocked you don't recognize your own kind." Odo said shooting Hayzon with his phaser before he had a chance to react.

"Jadan, Alex, are you all right?" Julian asked rushing into the room to help.

"Hayzon poisoned me and gave my father peanut oil. Can you help?" Alex asked as Julian gave Jadan and then Alex an injection before preparing to beam them all to the infirmary.

"Constable." Alex gasped as Odo faced him with concern.

"Yes. What is it?" He asked knowing Dr. Bashir needed to get them to the infirmary before it was too late.

"Thank you." He said surrendering to unconsciousness as Odo watched them beam away.

"You're welcome." Odo said returning to his office after cleaning up the mess that had been Hayzon.

"How are you feeling?" Jadan asked sitting beside Alex's biobed after he'd finally opened his eyes.

"Tired. How are you feeling?" He asked taking his father's hand.

"I'm good as new thanks to Julian. He performed the surgery. How do you feel?" Jadan asked hugging Alex carefully.

"I feel fine. Odo and Julian saved us."

"I know. I've already thanked them." Jadan said looking tired to Alex.

"Can we go home soon?" Alex asked as Jadan laughed.

"Maybe in a couple days. You just had surgery." Jadan said offering his son some water.

"Yes, but I have big plans." Alex said after drinking the water down.

"Such as?" Jadan asked leaning against the back of his chair.

"I read that Captain Archer had a dog named Porthose. I also read that Lieutenant Commander Data had a cat named Spot."

"And what does that have to do with a Starfleet counselor's son?" Jadan asked with folded arms.

"Maybe Captain Bashani can have a cat named Petrukio." Alex finished as Jadan looked concerned.

"That may take a long time, Son."

"That's ok. I'm reaching for the stars." Alex said looking serious as Jadan said.

"Well. Why not?"

The End.

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