Boats Against the Current
Pale lunar light filtered gently in through the open apartment window, and a gentle breeze stroked the lace patterned curtains, flickering shadows across the floor. Kira Nerys floated in and out of awareness several times, before lifting her head off the pillow, and yawning. Beside her, Odo rested in the naturally-made depression of her favorite pillow. He was very transparent, an indication he was deep 'asleep', so she decided not to wake him up right away.
"Computer, time?" She asked. How long had they been asleep? Evidently long enough for the pale, full face of Luna to have chased them from half a world away. The meeting was scheduled for 1200, but the time conversions on Terra always confused her. Not to mention the fact that she missed her extra two hours. She rubbed at her eyes, clearing them of sleeping sand.
"It is currently 1030." The computer's voice chirruped. She slid over to the edge of the bed and paused, yawning almost painfully before standing up. Then she shuffled off to the sonic shower.
When she came out, she found he had 'taken' over her subspace connection. She continued fastening the pantsuit she was wearing, while walking over to see what he was looking at. Leaning over his shoulder, she asked, "Having fun?"
"Eh." He grunted, noncommittally. He nodded to the table space to his left. "I replicated you some breakfast." Several sliced pieces of Bajoran fruit and vegetables and a loaf of Relon bread sat on a plate, and she walked over. Taking a piece of fruit, she chewed on it thoughtfully before walking back. He had moved on from the brief public news reports on one site to another site of news reports.
He skimmed the front page before saying, "Pol died a few years ago." The statement surprised her, and she realized she had forgotten to mention that.
"Yeah. They sent me a notice, because they had me listed as your contact address." She looked at the half-eaten piece of fruit in her hand. "I didn't know you told him about us. I didn't think you talked to him that often."
He didn't look at her, and continued browsing news services. "I told him ... a few weeks after it all happened. After... after the baby died, we got along better. For a while I thought, maybe, he'd ask me to go with him to a temple and finally claim me as his son. When I lived in the lab, I had this--idea, that if he would take me into his family, I would get along better with others. That I wouldn't be just 'the changeling' anymore. But I was never anything more than a science experiment to him until I left." His voice crackled with remembered bitterness.
"I'm sorry, Odo." Kira said softly. "I went to his funeral. A lot of people did, actually-he made himself very famous in the Federation after the war." She didn't need to mention how. "They all said he was very proud of you." She turned the piece of fruit in her hand once more, and then popped the rest of it in her mouth.
Odo hmphed, and then turned off her subspace net. "He had a funny way of showing it at sometimes."
The female changeling sat calmly at the table while her Vorta went over what they would be discussing today. Every once and a while, she would say something, although, more often, she would nod. Although she was the Eldest, and therefore best member of the Link to be sent to supervise the youngster, it didn't mean she wasn't incapable of errors. The previous Eldest had shown that point several times.
Odo walked through the door--late for his own meeting. She paused, her dark eyes scanning him with the same patience she always showed with the youngling, although she was clearly worried. He wasn't old enough to be able to mask his mood as others were, and she could sense unhappiness from him even at this distance. A gentle wave, and her Vorta paused mid-sentence.
"Leave us." She asked him, and he nodded. Uriel the 6th had been her Vorta for many cycles now, and was well-accustomed to following her orders precisely and without a complaint. He took his schedule and walked out to stand outside the door.
They sat in the silence for a few minutes, before she became seriously bothered by the emotional turbulence. The youngling made no move to Link with her and end the conflicting problems. He was always like this, and she wondered how the previous Eldest stood dealing with it. "Odo, you're upset. Link with me." She requested.
"No." He said, looking out the window at the variety of beautiful plant life the people here cultivated. She sighed, and pushed her notes away. He would force her to use roundabout humanoid words to discuss this. Such a rebellious member, this youngling. She wished the Link had sent another of the younglings that had returned-- there were a few who related as much respect for the solids as he, and ones that were less unruly by half. Yet the Link had decided that only Odo knew enough about the 'Federation' to make this effort at a peace work.
"What has upset you? Has your Nerys changed her mind about you now?" She asked. Nerys was the one solid she had at least some grudging respect for. A worthy adversary, and one who seemed to actually care for a changeling. However, the short-life solids in particular were notorious for changing their minds after just a few short years.
"No, it's not Nerys." He said defensively. He folded his arms, and then leaned back into a chair. A loosening tension told her that talking, however slow and rudimentary, was working,
She cocked her head, and allowed her simulated hair to brush the reflective surface of the table. "Then who? One of the other solids you know, who now inhabit this planet?"
"No." He paused, and then said, "The man who... raised me. He died while I was away. I thought ... very highly of him, at times, even though I was loath to admit it."
Her qu'lan threatened to loosen her entire mass, and her mind flashed to the idea of being a violent animal. "Away?" She said, upset. Oh, this was a horrible idea to send him here, she thought. He's only been on the surface a cycle and he is already reestablishing ties to the solids. I should not have let him go last eve. She had to calm down, and then remind the youngling that he wasn't like a humanoid.
He seemed to recognize his error, but didn't bother to correct it. Instead, he looked at the reflective surface of the table. She searched for some words that would make him feel better about the situation. "Odo, it is not unusual for solids to die. Many of them only live very short lives at best. 80 years, more or less, and then they are gone. One day, there will come a time when you and I are alive, but every solid currently living here has long been relegated to fables."
He looked up sharply, and said quickly, "Yes. I know that." But she could tell the clumsy words had some resonance for the youngling she had not imagined. But whatever it was, it stopped the outflow of grief and pain coming from him and replaced it with concern. That was something she could live with.
She nodded deeply. "Shall we discuss the upcoming meeting, then?"
The door slid open with a slight hiss as Kira entered the doorway of the Chairwoman's office. Briefly, her eyes glanced over to where she had been alone for the first time with Odo, last night. It seemed like so long ago, and yet so brief, all at the same time. With a sigh, she nodded to Ssrasth, and said, "You wanted to see me, Chairwoman?"
The squat reptilian turned with a rustle and one of her clawed hands came forward and slid over a PADD with on of the Subspace Gossip Columns on it. Usually they carried news of scandals in the Royal Houses of Betazed, or of strange love trysts between famous holoactors. Today, however, it was reporting about her and Odo. They even had a picture-it looked like it was taken from a storefront video camera, and it was innocent enough. At least they don't have that kiss ... or any of the other things we did last night, for that matter, she thought.
I can explain-" She started, expecting a harsh rebuking from the Tthilikian.
"There's no need. I am not going to yell at you for 'speaking with the enemy', when we are clearly trying to make peace instead. I suspect, if you had checked your subspace mail, you would find you have about forty million well-wishers cheering you on. Including one from me." Her golden eyes twinkled with laughter. "And undoubtedly, about one million people who are upset that you are courting with a changeling."
Kira didn't know if she should thank the old saurian or not. "Well, they can go spend a long time in the Fire Caves, for all I care." She said, with spark.
Ssraths' s-shaped neck tucked her head tucked close to her body and she blinked. Then she clicked her teeth gently together, and the UT responded by translating a laugh. "I thought so." She looked at Kira up and down then said, "Just make sure you know where the peace agreements start, and the relationship ends." She paused. "And now, to talk actual business. So, how willing do you think the Founders will be to make a peace with us?"
Ambassador T'pari of Vulcan gently pressed a yellow button on the starchart, and the map changed to a more magnified view. "As the Deina live ... uncomfortably close to the border between our two peoples, and have expressed a desire to join the Federation, we feel this border here should suffice to give both the Dominion and the Deina manageable territorial space."
A female Vorta briefly glanced through her own notes, while the male that Kira had came to learn was called Uriel looked to the female Founder. Odo sat, comfortably next to her while considering his own data.
The Founder spoke, "It would be an acceptable border, were it not so close to the Daelin system."
Uriel said, "We have a counterproposal to offer that we think provides a greater benefit to both our peoples." Kira mentally screamed. The Founder and Uriel had quibbled over ever little detail that had been brought to the table already, as if it were an empire defining matter if the Federation should have one parsec here instead of a parsec over there. Several of the people in the room sifted in their seats, trying to get comfortable. The entire room seemed restless.
Although eventually, with some prodding from Odo to accept whatever compromise they hammered out, it was a slow and tedious meeting that had stretched on from early afternoon to a late night, with very few breaks. It was also a meeting in which Kira had nothing particular to say, as the Bajoran representative, although her temper had broken a few times and she had, as calmly as possible, tried to push the Founder to accept whatever was currently being offered.
Ssrasth clapped her hands together, and said, "Perhaps we should table this discussion for now, and reopen it tomorrow, after we've all had a rest." Several of the people in the room clearly thought this was a good idea, although refrained from saying it.
The Founder nodded, and Uriel spoke for her, saying, "I think that will be acceptable."
Ssrasth nodded and then cast a glance that included the entire room. "Good. Tomorrow we'll meet again at the same time, and discuss the Deina system, among other things." She nodded her head to the various officials, and with creaks, and grateful nods, they stood up and walked out of the room. As she left, Ssrasth cast a glance at her with her large, golden eyes, but then blinked, looked away and left the room.
Kira stayed in her seat, glancing at Odo to tell him she'd wait to speak with him. The female Founder stood with a grace benefiting someone who was internally made of liquid. "Odo, will you come back to the ship with me?" She inquired.
"Perhaps later. I have some things ... I need to discuss." He answered, smoothly, without looking at Nerys. The female Founder shifted her stance, and then looked at Kira, questioningly. But she relented.
"Very well. I will see you tomorrow." She said firmly. Kira had to admire the changeling's lack of pretense, and found that she couldn't bring herself to dislike this one as much as she disliked the other female Founder she had met. There was still a lack of trust, and perhaps even hostility there, but she wasn't overt with it, and she didn't seem to be actively perusing that hostility. So Kira found she could tolerate the changeling.
The changeling turned her dark eyes to Kira and observed her deeply for just a second. To Kira's wild imagining, they were a starscape, and innumerable specks of light glistened within. Then she looked away, and flowed out the door, her dress rustling behind her, and the Vorta on her heels.
Onto Chapter Five