Star Trek: Defiant

"The Season of Shadowlight" - Part Eight

Written by Catrin Kadiya


Without a word of warning, or a transporter signal, Lebin appeared on the bridge. Jen rose from the center chair, eyeing him warily.

"Commander?" she asked.

Lebin turned, just as surprised as she was to find himself on the Defiant. "I was--" He shook his head, turning to K'larn at Ops. "Scan for our people," he ordered.

"He's been doing that for the past two hours," Jen said, coming to Lebin's side. "Your signal, along with the captain's and Kadiya's vanished two hours ago."

"Two hours?" Lebin blinked. "What? Where have I been all that time?"

Jen shook her head. "I don't have a clue." She looked at Barak ir-Chaziz tr'Saar. "Is the cloak still active?" she asked. She had activated the cloak to take the ship out of whatever this phenomena was. If the ship was invisible, how could someone make it vanish, was her thinking.

"Operating perfectly," Barak reported.

"And yet I sailed right through it," Lebin said. He pressed a hand to his head. He was feeling a little woozy. "You still have the bridge, Commander," he said to Jen. "I'll be down in Sickbay."

"Aye, sir." Jen watched him go, shaking her head. She had rather hoped that the crew was solving the problems planetside, but it seemed like whatever it was still in full swing.

* * *

His legs were dead.

Jeffrey Bridges was under water and his chair was pulling him down. He tried to gasp for breath, but the silvery-water flooded his mouth, clinging to every part of him like a second skin. He stared down at his legs and the chair and knew that this was it. He was going to die.

What little breath remained in his body exploded out of him, bubbles rushing upward. Bridges felt himself go slack, felt the blackness starting to creep in on him. The water ran over his face, caressing and--

*Rain on Bajor.*

Bridges jerked suddenly, and the chair fell away. With his arms, he cut through the water with powerful strokes. The water almost felt like gelatin, thick and cold. His lungs straining, he opened his eyes, seeing the shafts of light that beckoned him upward. As he burst through the surface, he sucked in a breath and pain took the place of the blackness.

He paddled his way to the rim of the pool, and eventually pulled himself out. He lay there panting, staring at the stone ceiling above him. Blinking the water from his eyes, he looked around in wonder, watching the stone fade.

He was on Bajor. Deep forest surrounded him, falling in a hundred shades of green. Birds sang to each other in the trees and the air was fresh with the smell of rain. Bridges sat up slowly, and then stood, walking in a slow circle. He reached out and touched the nearest tree; water pearled on the broad leaf and ran into his hand. He grinned and chuckled, looking up when he heard footsteps.

"Rael?" he asked.

"Here!" she called, her voice mingling with that of the birds.

Bridges began walking, toward the sound of her voice. She continued to call and he laughed, enjoying the game of hide and seek. He followed the natural trail through the trees, frowning in slight irritation when the path began to narrow and eventually disappeared amid the foliage.

"Rael?" he called again.

There was no answer. Bridges pushed past a thick fern, stepping into a slight clearing. He crossed it, heading in the direction that he had last heard Rael's voice. They were supposed to meet at the waterfall and--

A sharp tugging at his foot made him look down. A vine was wrapped around his ankle. He bent to break it free, but as he watched, the vine tightened. It grabbed him and pulled him down, pinning him to the ground. Another vine reached out and grabbed his other leg, yanking him down. Bridges cried out as he felt the bones in his legs snap.

"You're not whole! She doesn't want you."

Bridges's head jerked up at the voice. He stared in wonder at the figure before him. He had never seen anything like it; it was humanoid, but beyond that--

"You're not whole, she doesn't want you."

The words ran circles inside his head and Bridges watched his legs wither and shrink. He closed his eyes, but he could still see it. And in the background, Rael laughed. It was a cold sound, one he had never heard from her. Especially not on this day, when they were supposed to meet at the waterfall and--

*She doesn't want you. Doesn't want you. Doesn't...want...you.*

Bridges groaned, curling himself into a ball. He covered his ears with his hands, but the voice slid inside. Like mud sliding down a hill, it filled him.

*Rael.*

*Rae...*

*Ra...*

*R...*

* * *

"Sir!"

Jen looked up, started by the cry. She crossed to K'larn at Ops, looking down at his console. "What is it?"

K'larn shook his head. "For a moment--I was picking up a life sign. It was faint... Let me check the computer record and try to determine who it was."

Jen nodded, waiting. The silence seemed to stretch out for hours. Lebin was still down in sickbay; all of his vitals were elevated and Serrin wasn't inclined to let the man return to duty just yet.

"It's the captain," K'larn said.

"Are you certain?" Jen asked.

"Or it was him," K'larn said with a scowl. "The signal is gone now; it registered for two point one seconds--very faint."

Jen nodded slowly. "Keep scanning. Try to pinpoint the region if you can. The moment you find them--bring them back."

Half an hour later, K'larn still hadn't found the signal.

* * *

"Rael!"

Bridges opened his eyes, sputtering. He was alive--and upright, back in his chair. More than that, he was dry--back in the cavern, no longer on Bajor--if he had ever been there. Bridges stared down at his hands, surprised that they weren't covered in mud. What had brought him back, he wondered. What--

Bridges spotted the creature that sat across the pool. It was the creature from Teca's book--Goyum. Bridges scowled. "Rael," he said, his throat dry, his voice sounding like he had gravel in his mouth.

"She is here."

Relief flooded through him at the three simple words. When he'd been on Bajor, his mind had turned to her. She did want him--he was whole. With *her* he was, no matter what the condition of his legs. With that certainty, he had come back.

"Where is Rael? And Lebin? Shuriik? Kadiya? What have you done with my people?"

"You will leave this place now."

Bridges tried to guide his chair closer to the creature, but the being turned, shouting "go!" A wind whipped up and Bridges was sent skittering down a long tunnel of rock. When he stopped moving, he looked around, seeing the dark cavern at one end, a brilliant light at the other. He was damn tired of this--but at least he hadn't been swept back to Bajor.

"Rael?" he asked.

There was no answer and he couldn't hear her footsteps behind him. Resigned, he turned toward the light, forcing his chair to move forward. Doubt clouded over him; had this entire relief mission been a mistake? Serrin had made good progress with the minister before the disappearances, but now--

He groaned, his head pounding with a dull ache. He brought his chair to a stop, looking around him. The tunnel hadn't looked this long when he'd been in the cavern. The creature--Goyum?-- had said that Rael was here, but he couldn't see her. He was alone in the tunnel.

Bridges hung his head, remembering how it had felt to be trapped under the water and then lost in the Bajor forest. Thinking of Rael had eased the pain.

"Rael," he said, "I have to trust that you're with me--if I can see you or not."

Drawing in a slow breath, Bridges activated his chair once more, heading toward the light. He chuckled a little. The light at the end of the tunnel. So cliché.

"No bonus points for originality, Mr. Goyum," Bridges muttered.


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