After Ro left, Kira sat down, staring at the book and its translation, feeling strangely numb. It was almost as though Reyla's murder had triggered a chain of miseries, as though the man who had killed her had introduced chaos and disaster to them all.
Within the last three days, Reyla's murder, then the Jem'Hadar attack. Now the Federation is coming, weapons ready, we've got a Jem'Hadar locked up who says that Odo sent him here on a mission of peace...and now this.
As unhappy and tired as she was, the thought almost made her smile, a giddy reaction to the unlikely summary of events. It sounded ludicrous, the details and circumstances only adding to the implausibility of it all.
Yes, and people have died.
The thought sobered her instantly. She picked up the translation, scrolling through a few pages. She opened the book's front cover again, looking at the strangely flowing symbols. No author's mark.
Ro's voice, the open worry on her face. Colonel, I'm not prone to leaps of faith, you probably know that, but everything in that book has come true. Everything.
Kira concentrated on the translation, moving back to the text that Ro had shown her, considering her security chief's credibility as the words skipped by. Whatever the difficulties between them, Ro had presented her findings clearly, her deductions sound: Istani Reyla had brought a book of Bajoran prophecy to the station and hidden it, perhaps because she knew that someone wanted to take it from her. The as yet unidentified killer had stabbed her for the bag she carried, and had almost certainly fallen to his death believing that he had the book. All of this suggested that the artifact was extremely important.
Kira wasn't sure about a lot of things when it came to her new security officer, but Ro's intelligence had never been in question. Nor had her reading skills.
Kira read the marked passage again; according to the padd, it was the last complete prophecy. Pages from before and after the text were gone, ripped from the book.
...with the Herald attendant. A New Age for Bajor will begin with the birth of the alien Avatar, an age of Awareness and Understanding beyond what the land's children have ever known. The child Avatar will be the second of the Emissary, he to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, and will be born to a gracious and loving world, a world ready to Unite. Before the birth, ten thousand of the land's children will die. It is destined, but should not be looked upon with despair; most choose to die, and are welcomed into the Temple of the Teacher Prophets.
Without the sacrifice of the willing, the Avatar will not be born into a land of peace. Perhaps the Avatar will not be born at all; it is unclear. That ten thousand is the number, it is certain. Ten thousand must die.
Kira read it again, then closed her eyes. There were over a thousand documented prophetic writings accepted by the Vedek Assembly and the Chamber of Ministers as having been influenced by the Prophets, easily several thousand more that had been rejected; Istani Reyla would surely have taken it before the Assembly, if she'd actually believed that it was real. Or to a vedek, at the very least. Ro could have read exaggerated importance into a few vague predictions...and even as complicated as a twenty-plus-millennia-old book would be to create, it surely wasn't impossible.
Kira felt new ache. The idea that the sweet and compassionate Reyla might have been murdered over some kind of a fraud scheme, something so useless, so trivial, was a dismal one. It made her wish that the clumsy killer were still alive, so that she could kill him herself.
If it was true...but no, with the seeds of doubt planted, she couldn't swallow it. Not without reading it herself, first.
I should get back to bed. The station repairs were unfinished, their defenses unreliable, and the Allied task force would be coming within the next twenty to thirty hours, give or take, planning to charge into the Gamma Quadrant to see what the Dominion was really up to. It was a decision that no one on the station agreed with, whether or not they could get DS9 operational in time to defend against the probable outcome; the task force was a bad idea.
The Allies feared that the isolated strike on the station was a Dominion ploy; Kitana'klan, their Jem'Hadar mystery guest, claimed that the Founders hadn't sanctioned the attack. She wanted to believe it...but Kitana'klan could be lying. It didn't help that the station's internal sensors were still uncertain, and the manual sweeps were inconclusive; for all they knew, there could be a dozen more of the damned soldiers lurking around, and one was already over Kira's limit.
Kira had more than enough insanity to deal with without crediting a probable forgery...but she couldn't dismiss it, not yet. If Ro was as right as she thought she was, they were headed for a very dark place.
Sighing, Kira touched the command that sent the translation back to its beginning and started to read.
Jake piloted the shuttle Venture back toward the station, carefully watching the radiation levels that hid his approach. He was probably being overly cautious; Nog had said that the destruction of the Aldebaran had irradiated the station's immediate vicinity, making it nearly impossible to detect a ship -- certainly a personal shuttle the size of the Venture -- but Jake wanted to be sure that he couldn't be tracked. The departure log would show that he'd left DS9 headed for the most common route to Earth, assuming anyone wanted to look, and if what Nog had said was true, the sensors shouldn't be able to pick up his return.
Or me going into the wormhole, if I'm careful. And lucky. He'd been incredibly lucky already; the circumstances couldn't be better, with so much of the station still being repaired or upgraded, and the wormhole still being triggered by remnants of the Aldebaran. Once the Federation showed up, they'd start investigating the wreckage, then transporting the remains away. That would close his window of opportunity; once they arrived, there'd be no way for him to get into the wormhole undetected.
He was still out of sensor range, but could see the tiny dot of DS9 on the viewscreen, and even imagined that he could see the cloud of destruction that billowed near the station, an invisible aura of hazardous energy studded with great, ragged pieces of the Aldebaran.
Although there were at least seven ship remnants large enough for what he had planned, there were only two that seemed to be on a trajectory that would trigger the wormhole. Jake meant to ease in behind one of them, carefully keeping it between him and the station as he fired a couple of low-power thruster bursts to help it along, low enough that the radiation should cloak him completely. The Klingon patrol ship, the Tcha'voth, might spot some of the energy bleed, but they were guarding against attack from the Gamma Quadrant; they'd go with the station's assessment in the end, because the bleed would dissipate too fast to be coming from a cloaked ship. A frag trigger explained things nicely.
And then I'll find him. I'll find him and bring him home.
The thought gave him flutters of anxious hope. He knew the prophecy almost by heart, of course, but it was a comfort to see it, to hold it in his hands; keeping an eye on the Venture's careful progress, Jake reached down into his bag and pulled out the small bundle that Istani Reyla had given to him. It seemed like a million years ago, but it had been less than a week -- and the prylar had been killed only days after their meeting, a fact that Jake still hadn't fully digested. He focused instead on the ancient page of writing that he unwrapped, that told him what he had to do.
Jake traced the symbols of the dead language, the words of the translation clear in his mind, the parchment waxy and soft beneath his trembling fingers.
A Herald, unforgotten but lost to time and removed from sight, a Seer of Visions to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, will return from the Temple at the end of this time to attend the birth of New Hope, the Infant Avatar. The welcomed Herald shares a new understanding of the Temple with all the land's children. Conceived by lights of war, the alien Avatar opens its eyes upon a waxing tide of Awareness.
The journey to the land hides, but is difficult; prophecies are revealed and hidden. The first child, a son, enters the Temple alone. With the Herald, he returns, and soon after, the Avatar is born. A new breath is drawn and the land rejoices in change and clarity.
Herald. Or Emissary. And who else could the first son be, if the Avatar was Kas and Dad's baby? Istani Reyla had given the prophecy to him because she knew that it was true, and he knew it, too. He could feel it, and that everything had gone so smoothly -- buying the Venture from Quark, the readiness with which everyone had bought his story about going to Earth to visit his grandfather, even the fact that the Aldebaran had been destroyed and would effectively shield his movements -- all of it had fit together in a way that was almost frightening, that suggested there were greater powers at work. Powers that wanted him to succeed.
Except for Istani Reyla, his mind whispered. Where did she fit in?
He didn't know, and didn't want to think about it. At the moment, there was nothing he could do about it anyway, not without abandoning his mission. When he got back, he'd tell Kira everything, he'd tell her about the prophecy and what he suspected -- that somehow, Istani had been killed because of it.
Or I'll tell Dad. He'll know what to do.
It was hope talking, but that was okay; he thought he deserved a little hope. And if he was wrong about everything, no one would ever have to know what he had attempted. He could make up a story about the shuttle being faulty, that it had been nudged into the wormhole by some of the debris as he was returning to the station; he could make up anything he liked, if the prophecy turned out to be false.
It won't be.
On the screen, the space station slowly grew, its tiny lights glittering and bright against the fathomless dark. Jake tucked the aged paper back into its wrapping, excited and nervous. He was going to bring his father home.
Copyright © 2001 by Paramount Pictures