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Guada System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53243.0

Laria felt something strange covering her whole body. It felt cool and slimy, but also wonderful. She slowly opened her eyes and saw a giant, hairless woman, taller and skinnier than any humanoid she had ever laid eyes on, leaning next to her. In a bowl was a large, orange sea slug. The woman scrapped some slime off the creatures back with a piece of shell and moved closer to rub some on Laria’ face.

The Bajoran bolted awake and crawled backwards. Laria saw that she was in a palm frond hut. Sunlight beamed in from the open door and the cracks in the walls. Her uniform was gone, replaced with the same type of simple kelp and leaf wrap that the tall woman was wearing. She did not seem alarmed at all and gazed at Laria calmly with her huge, slanted eyes.

Laria then realized that she was covered head to toe with the sea-slug’s excretions.

“What is this!” she shouted involuntarily.

“It is alright,” the woman said with a smile. “The sun had burned your skin. This will make it feel better,” she said gesturing to the slug.

“Thank the Prophets,” Laria said extremely relieved. “The universal translator is still working…”

The tall woman put down the shell and kept looking at Laria.

“What are you called?” she asked still smiling.

“My name is Laria…” she replied nervously.

“I am Ytana. Welcome to my home,” she said touching one of her hands to her heart.

“Where are my clothes?”

“Your coverings were shredded by the coral. Besides, what you had is not good for the heat. You will like that much better.”

Suddenly, Laria started worrying.

“There was a badge…a pin…made out of metal on that uniform. I need it if you still have it.”

“You mean your device for talking to others. I saved it for you.” The large woman stood up and crossed across the hut. She opened a box made of woven palm fronds, picked out Laria’s comm badge, and then handed it to her. Her limbs were so long, she only had to fully extend her arm to reach.

“You know what this is?” Laria asked amazed.

“You are not the first person from the stars to visit Guada.”

“Guada? Is that what this planet is called?”

“Yes, it is our home. First the Cardassians came in the time of mother’s mother’s mother. Then, the Jem’Hadar came. Finally, your Federation came and made great battles here.”

“Is there anyone from the Federation still here? Someone, I can contact?”

“We have not seen any of them for many seasons.” Ytana pointed to the comm badge. “Can you use that to call your people?” she asked hopefully.

“No,” Laria replied dejectedly. “The range isn’t far enough.”

Suddenly, Laria realized what kind of guest she was being to the people who had probably saved her life.

“Ytana?”

“Yes, child.”

“Thank you.”

Ytana just gently shook her head.

“It is our way,” she said kindly. “My mate, Teewa found you while he was fishing down the shore. He could not just leave you there. The jungle would have taken you eventually.”

Ytana stood up and walked over to a small fire burning in the center of the hut. She opened a clay pot resting in the coals and pulled out several small bundles wrapped in dark green leaves.

“Laria, you must be hungry. Eat and rest.”

She handed the bundles to Laria on a wide green palm frond. She took in the deep aroma and unwrapped one of the bundles. It was a small pieces of meat mixed with fish. It smelled amazing. It was only then she realized the last time she ate was on the runabout…whenever that was.

She began devouring the bundles while Ytana poured some white liquid into a ceramic cup.

“Here…” she said handing it to Laria. She took a sip, barely pausing between bites from the bundles. Whatever it was, it was cool and sweet.

“This is delicious,” Laria said.

“The Great Creator provides, we only share his bounty with one another…”

Laria looked around with disbelief that a place like this could still exist in the modern galaxy.

“You said the Cardassians were here?”

“Yes…for many generations.”

“How did they not destroy this place?”

“Your people are called Bajoran?” Ytana asked. Laria nodded.

“Then you know of Cardassians. They took much, but luckily, we had much to give.”

“Did they have any cities, towns, any settlements? Anywhere where others from the stars might be?”

“They tried to build, but did not wish to stay.”

“Why?” Laria asked amazed that anyone would leave this planet undisturbed.”

“My grandmother told me stories that the Cardassians kept asking for things. They searched the caves, mountains, and seas but said that they could not find anything useful for them. The Guada people could not understand. We have everything we could ever need.

Besides, they must be weak. When their machines did not work well, they said that they could not live here.”

This last statement perked Laria’s scientific interest.

“You said their machines didn’t work well? Do you know why?”

“The Great Creator made our ground from something the machines do not like.”

“There something in this planet’s crust that creates a natural dampening field…”

Suddenly, a man walked into the hut. When he saw Laria, he smiled.

“She still lives,” he said relieved. “Welcome to my home,” he said with a bow of his long, graceful neck. He then repeated the gesture of his hand over his heart. “I am Teewa.”

“I’m Laria. Thank you very much for bringing me here.”

“The Great Creator brought you here. My mate and I merely care for you as he wishes…”

Laria smiled meekly and looked at the ground.

“Have you eaten and drank your fill?” he said pointing to her cup and the empty leaf bundles.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Then come, I will show you where you may call ‘home’ as long as you require.” He extended a massive arm out the door. Laria climbed to her feet and walked out into the sun. The bright light momentarily blinded her, but as her eyes adjusted, paradise came into view.

Twenty huts lay clustered on white sand on the edge of a bright blue lagoon. Coral reefs dotted the surface of the crystal clear water heading out into the calm deep blue of the sea. Behind her, lush green jungle grew wild and unchecked just a few meters away. The Guadans went about their daily business seemingly oblivious to the presence of an alien in their midst. An older man sat in the shade of the next hut weaving a fishing net out of dried seaweed. He looked to her with a happy, toothless grin. Laria was instantly relaxed and smiled back at him. Two other women sorted through fruits gathered from the trees of the jungle, laughing and joking in a way that seemed completely natural and undisturbed from the beginning of the universe. Several children ran around them playing some form of tag. Several men worked unloading fish from dugout canoes lay in the surf’s edge. The young Bajoran stepped onto the sand, her bare feet taking in the soft, almost life-like warmth of Guada.

The effect of the village seemed intoxicating. The breeze softly rushing through her hair, the kiss of the life-giving sun, and the sound of happy laughter from the villagers…Even the very air seemed to wrap around her like a reassuring blanket. She walked forward into the surf, feeling the warm waves rushing against her legs.

Teewa entered the water next to her, looking down with his grin.

“This is your home?” Laria asked in utter disbelief.

“Yes, since the beginning and until the end of time. It is a part of us, and we a part of it.”

Since she was a little girl, Laria had been taught about the Bajoran idea of the afterlife. What it would be like to wake up in the Celestial Temple, to live among the Prophets, and serve them in bliss for eternity. When she had regained her faith as a young woman, she believed that one day, she too would walk with the Prophets in their home watching over Bajor. For a brief moment, standing there in the warm water, the idea crossed her mind that maybe she had indeed died in the runabout explosion, and this place was the peaceful and timeless existence that she was promised…

* * * *

Three days passed and Laria had regained her strength. She had learned the names of everyone in the village, began helping the women with their daily chores and collecting the fruits of the forest, played with the children and learned their games. She swam in the lagoon, taking in the warm water and the nourishing sun, and even accompanied Teewa out on a fishing expedition to the reefs. However, this world, with all its beauty and tranquility was not her own. She knew that she would always be an outsider looking in.

After examining a rock outcropping on the far side of the village, she discovered the source of the natural interference. This planet had one of the highest natural concentrations of dolemite she had ever seen. It was no wonder that the Guadans still lived in the stone age. Anything that relied on the transmission of electro-magnetic waves would be degraded. Phasers would have to be continually retuned, subspace radios constantly recalibrated, and sensors almost useless.

As Laria saw it, she had two choices: wait for a ship to land near the village, which could take months…maybe even years…or find a way to generate a subspace wave powerful enough to get somebody’s attention.

On the evening of the fourth day, the sun set and the bright moons of Guada filled the sky. Laria gathered with the other villagers around a bonfire in the sand. Otano, one of the fisherman of the village, was telling a story about a large sea-serpent that helped lost mariners find their way home. Hearing that story made Laria ache to be find a way back to the Pershing. She had to come to realize in her time here they had all of them: Katie, Alex, Annabeth, Phil, and even Scharr were where she belonged.

Then, there was Daniel. She was surprised when she first thought of him by that name, but yes, in her mind he was no longer Captain Tigranian…he was Daniel.

Teewa and Ytana sat next to her, their long legs crossed in front of them. Suddenly, a thought crossed Laria’ mind.

“Teewa, you said you saw the Jem’Hadar and the Federation when they were here. Where did you see them?”

“The Jem’Hadar would appear from the jungle. They never spoke except to ask if anyone not loyal to them were here. We would say that we were loyal to all, and they would leave.”

“What about the Federation?”

“They came from the stars in flying canoes and landed on the beach one day…”

“Flying canoes?” Laria asked confused. “You mean drop ships?”

“We do not have words for such things in our tongue.”

“I’m sorry,” Laria said apologetically. “Please continue.”

“They stayed near the shore and set up large camps. They asked where the Jem’Hadar were. We would say the jungle and they would get frustrated. Eventually they moved further down the shore. We did not see them again until the dragon breathed fire from the sky.”

Laria’s curiosity perked again.

“Could you tell me about the dragon from the sky?”

“We would often hear the Federation’s thunder and see the Jem’Hadar’s lightning at night. That was when they liked to fight their battles. One night, the thunder and lightning was very bad. The children were scared and cried into their mother’s arms. The men stepped outside to watch the storm. Suddenly, a bright beam of light came from the sky and scorched the ground. We could see the fires burning from far away. Then all was quiet again.

We decided that we must see what this dragon was. If a new threat had come to Guada, we must know so we could act. I volunteered to go with three others. We paddled for a full day down the shore until we found the Federation’s new camp. Many of your people were there. There was also something that we had never seen tucked into the jungle; something that many of your warriors guarded.”

“What was it?” Laria asked enthralled.

“It was taller than twenty great trees, made of black metal, and the top glowed with a color of blue brighter than the sky at mid-day.”

“Was it a building, or a structure?”

Teewa furrowed his brow. It was difficult for him to describe with the words that he knew.

“The bottom of it was like a hut made of metal, but the top was not. It was like the trunk of a great tree.” Laria immediately gained hope.

“Did anyone from the Federation say what it was for?”

“One of them, a very young man dressed black and gold, tried to say it was for the Jem’Hadar to call on others.”

“A subspace array!” Laria shouted climbing to her feet. The other villagers around the fire looked to her. She bowed apologetically and sat back down. Otano returned to telling his stories. “Why would the Dominion put a subspace array on a planet with natural dampening field?”

“It was then the Federation said it was not safe for us to be there and we should go back to our village. We asked about the dragon, and they said it would not bother us, so we left.”

“Teewa, this is very important. Is that array still there?”

“If the Great Creator has not taken it back into the sea,” he replied calmly.

“Can you take me there?”

“It is a difficult journey. Would you not rather stay here?”

“Teewa, your home is an amazing place, but it’s not mine. I would always be your guest, and I have to get back to my family.”

“And this ‘subspace array’ will help you do that?”

“It very well could.”

“Then, kind Laria, we will leave at first light.”


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