Star Trek: Defiant

"The Season of Shadowlight" - Part Seven

Written by Catrin Kadiya


Kadiya emerged from the trees, stumbling into a cavern. She slapped the wet branches that tried to hold her inside, staggering across the stone flooring. The cavern was massive, the walls glistening and dripping with moisture. She turned in a slow circle, somehow not surprised when she didn't see the trees behind her. There was a deep pool there now, the water looking like latinum, silver and roiling as though someone had just--

"Climbed out," Kadiya said, ducking into a crouch. On the opposite rim of the pool, a creature emerged from the water, a creature much like the one Kadiya had seen earlier in Teca's book. Kadiya frowned. This was supposed to be myth--not reality.

Instinct told Kadiya to draw her phaser, but she pushed instinct back and reached for something else. This being did not mean to harm her. If that were the case, he could have done so many times over. Kadiya didn't know how long she'd been wandering through the wet trees, but she suspected this creature had caused her to do so. Half of her expected to find the captain, Lebin, Shuriik, and Laine beside the pool, as if waiting. But none of the others were to be seen.

The black eyes appraised Kadiya slowly, one long-fingered hand rubbing absently at a scaly temple. Webbed feet splashed in the pool of water, small silvery droplets rising into the air and falling back down. Kadiya wanted to withdraw her tricorder and record the creature, but she didn't think the instrument would work. Instead, she memorized the creature with her eyes. When Kadiya drew in a breath, she was caught off-guard by the scent of sweetness and spice in the air. It was much like the flowers Tyrell had gotten from the taverna. Kadiya looked down and opened her right hand. A wilted flower lay within.

"I thought I dropped it," she whispered. She looked back up at the creature. "Takila Shuriik," he said. "Is he here?"

"He is here," was the answer.

Kadiya nodded. Progress, she liked that. "May I see him?"

"No."

Kadiya ground her teeth together and closed her fist around the flower. Were she and this alien already at an impasse? "Is he injured?"

The alien shook his head. "No." He withdrew his feet from the water and stood, rising a good meter above Kadiya.

Kadiya drew herself to her full height. The alien rounded the pool and bypassed her, walking deeper into the cavern. Cautiously, Kadiya followed. She looked back once and found that the pool had vanished. Was nothing permanent in this world? Kadiya looked forward again, stepping quickly to keep up with the alien.

"Where is Shuriik?" she asked. "What of Laine? Did you bring them-- us, here?"

No answer.

"Are you one of the Lenci?" Kadiya asked. "What is the purpose of this?"

The alien turned suddenly and faced Kadiya. Kadiya stared into the endless eyes, seeing her own face, reflected back a hundred times. In the eyes, she saw her homeworld--watched as it was blown apart. Her eyes narrowed. What the hell?

*Catrin!*

She heard the cry in her mind--it was her mother's voice. "Mitera," she whispered, the Novachron word coming easily.

*Catrin!*

Kadiya watched as her world vanished, devoured by the vacuum of space. Dust spread between the stars. Everyone she knew--gone. Kadiya lifted a hand to her throat, feeling as though she were choking.

"You will leave this place now," the alien told her.

Kadiya shook her head. "Not without--"

"He will follow you." The being pointed down the long rock tunnel before them. "Go."

Kadiya took a step back, her breath loosening. She let her hand fall, shaking her head again. "Not without Shuriik," she said. *I need him--for Novachron, for our world. If he doesn't come back it will all be lost. By the Ancients--*

"Go!"

Kadiya fell to her knees. The ground was suddenly cracked and dry beneath her hands. She lifted her head and found herself no longer in the cavern. A hot wind whipped dirt across her vision, lifting it into a cloud that obscured the pale pink sky.

Pink--

Kadiya picked herself. By the Ancients, she was home. She turned to the east, spying the capital city in the distance. She drew in a breath, shaking her head. This was not possible. It was not the home she remembered, and yet--

Where the ground was not cracked and dry, it was stony and hard. Scrub brush poked through here and there, gray and dry. Dead. Stunted trees, thorns their only covering, rose occasionally, moving like old, thin men in the wind that whipped.

Kadiya squinted, dust blowing across her vision. Looking at the city that crouched in the distance, she began to run. Crossing the plain was easy enough for her; she had always enjoyed running, and now that the strides were taking her home-- she wondered why she had waited so long. Why had she not come here before?

*Where was I?* she wondered, memories falling behind her and away as she reached the city. *Where am I?*

The city was one of ghosts. The streets were abandoned, the buildings likewise. Everything was damaged, as if by rioting. The beautiful crystal-like buildings were broken, empty. Kadiya made her way slowly to the center of the city. A fog had settled here, the fountain silent. Water rested in the bottom, but it was covered with a film of slime as though it hadn't been touched in months.

"Did you bring him?"

The sharp question made Kadiya whirl. Standing behind her was an old woman, her hair turned to find strands of silver. Her blue eyes were faded, her mouth a smudge of the rosebud it had once been. She was dressed in a faded ivory gown, the locket around her neck tarnished to black.

"Him?" Kadiya asked.

"Shuriik!" the woman cried. "You were charged with the duty! You were the one to bring him! Now--all is ruined! You failed!"

Kadiya took a step backward, but the old woman advanced on her. "He isn't with me," Kadiya said.

"And look what has become of our world!" The woman suddenly charged Kadiya.

Kadiya slid to the side, but the woman followed her, much like a shadow. Kadiya whirled, raising an arm to deflect the leg that shot out toward her. As the leg touched Kadiya's arm, the woman exploded apart in dust, sifting to the ground.

Kadiya drew in a sharp breath, looking around the courtyard. The fog was thicker. She looked back at the dust, reaching a hand out to touch it. She suddenly found herself writing in the dust, ancient Novachron words. When she realized what she'd written, she dashed a hand through it, destroying it. With a snarl, Kadiya got to her feet and began to run. Away--she had to get away.

*You were charged with the duty! You were the one to bring him!*

The words echoed through the otherwise empty streets, pounding in Kadiya's head like the warp core on the Defiant had when Bedard had--

Defiant? Bedard? What were those things? Kadiya stopped running, squeezing her eyes shut. What in the world was happening to her?

When she opened her eyes, she found herself standing outside a black building. Flat planes of crystal and marble came together to make the structure, the crystal slabs reflecting herself a thousand times.

*You were charged with the duty! You were the one to bring him!*

Kadiya took a step back when the man stepped out of the building. He was clad from head to toe in black, looking as though he were a part of the building. When Kadiya realized who he was, a sob escaped her. She tried to run, but couldn't move. She tried to advance on him and take him down, but couldn't move.

"You were charged with the duty. You were the one to bring him. I thank you for failing."

Kadiya fell to her knees, the voice echoing in her mind. "I didn't fail," she muttered. "I'm not even really here..." She looked up at the man. "You don't exist. *This* doesn't exist."

He chuckled. "I exist," he assured her. "I took your parents and now I've taken your world. Shuriik could have stopped me, but you lost your map." He laughed again and it was like quicksilver sliding down Kadiya's spine.

She closed her eyes, the sound sliding over her like a second skin. She balled her hands into fists, and her world vanished.


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