Eeris tore through Federation HQ and pushed through the outer doors. She raced across the courtyard to where she knew the Challenger would be. She refused to accept any other alternative—their ship simply had to be there. Naral couldn't have taken it. They couldn't be trapped here, not now, not when the galaxy was in danger…
She reached the spot where the Challenger had been, and her heart plummeted. There was no sign.
Eeris suddenly wished fervently for Miro to be at her side. He'd have something to say to reassure her, to make light of the situation. But then again, maybe he wouldn't. He had seemed so distant back in the holding cell, so distracted. It was as if Naral's appearance had flipped some sort of switch inside him, transforming the passionate and enthusiastic person she was getting to know into this distant stranger. Maybe she'd been right, and he didn't really care for her all that much. She was on her own.
She stared at the empty spot on the ground where the Challenger had once been. It couldn't be true, could it? Could she have forgotten where they'd landed? She scanned the area around her, but there was no sign of the Challenger's sleek black hull and arching wings. The ship was gone.
Eeris's heart pounded. Was it possible Odo had still been on board? Dare she hope?
"Odo!" she called at the top of her lungs.
Still silence. That was a good thing, right? Naral wasn't alone on the Challenger, and Odo could come back for them. Although, if he had been on board in the first place, he hadn't been able to stop Naral from leaving to begin with…
Eeris tried to curb the relief that unfurled within her at the thought of being free of Odo's mysterious alien presence for however long she had.
There was only one thing for it, she realized. She had to return to Miro. She had no one else on this planet. He was her only friend, her only hope, even if he didn't care for her anymore—even if he never had.
Dejectedly, she headed back toward Federation HQ. She had only walked a few paces when the sky opened up and rain began to drizzle down on her.
Eeris shivered more violently, wishing she had arms to hug herself as she hunched forward into the downpour. By the time she reached the doors, she was thoroughly soaked and trembling. The guards let her in without so much as a fuss, probably taking pity on her. She probably looked downright miserable, soaked to the bone the way she was. She headed down the hall to the security area, tracking in water and mud from outside as she went.
The guards must have recognized her, because they passed her through quickly—she only had to stay still for the scan for a second or two before she was motioned onward, into the holding area.
"She's gone," Ereis said when Miro looked up at her. "The Challenger's gone."
There was something different about him this time. He seemed more attentive, more alert. He stood and met her at the front of his cell.
"I'm sorry," he said.
A traitorous tear fell down Eeris's cheek. "What are we going to do?"
"Stay on Earth, I suppose," Miro said. "And I suppose I have no way to escape standing trial…"
"Can I be there?" Eeris asked. "I mean…I just…"
She trailed off, not sure whether it was safe to admit to her fear of being alone.
But Miro seemed to understand. "Yeah, of course. Last I heard, the Federation holds open trials—should be open to the public. Though I'm not too happy about you being there while they list off my charges."
"Again with the secrets," Eeris grumbled.
His brow furrowed. "Kid?"
"You never tell me anything," she said. "I had to ask Naral what happened between you two! She told me, and she doesn't even know me! And from the sound of it, you're the one who broke her heart, not the other way around, so I don't know why you clutched the airlock frame like you did when you saw her—what right did you have to look like you'd seen a ghost? And don't even get me started about Ezri—you won't say a damn word! To say nothing of Kira Nerys! You and Odo are my only chances of learning about her, and now he's gone, so I've just got you! Everything that matters, Miro, you've kept secret! You don't tell me anything!"
A flash of hurt crossed his face. "I thought—"
"What?" she demanded. "You thought what?"
"I thought…" He shook his head. "Never mind."
"No, you are not doing that to me," Eeris said. "You thought what?"
He sighed. "I didn't realize that would hurt you, Eeris. I thought…I thought you didn't press because you respected my privacy."
"Your privacy?" Eeris raised an incredulous brow. "Are you serious? We're talking about you making secrets of every damn important thing there is, and you're talking about privacy?"
Miro flinched. "Obviously I was wrong."
"Obviously," Eeris said scathingly.
"Well, kid," he said, gaze suddenly hard, "lesson in tactfulness. Everyone has a past, alright? You got that? You do—don't give me that look, I know you do—Odo does, I do, Naral does, everyone does! We've all got stuff we hide from, and for me, that goes back over nine hundred years! So pardon me if I'm a bit less than forthcoming on some things. I told you we could explore the galaxy, kid, and we will, as soon as I get out of this holding cell. I'll show you everything I know, if you want. But there are some things, kid, I just won't say."
She glared at him. "Did you even hear a word I just said?"
"Course I did," Miro said. "But I think I've been around the galaxy a couple times more than you, don't you? If I tell you something about how people work, probably best that you listen."
Eeris huffed. "I knew it. I knew you didn't care about me. Your secrets are worth more."
His jaw dropped—maybe in surprise that she'd guessed the truth at last? —but before he could admit just how right she was, the security doors banged open and a tall woman in a dark gray uniform marched in. She reminded Eeris a little bit of the Cardassian commander who'd apprehended her and Odo back on Nebez, but she had none of the commander's gray skin and scales. And her uniform looked a lot more soft and comfortable than the Cardassians' rigid chest plates. She was human, with a sharp, weathered face and curly light brown hair that perched atop her head.
"Miro Dax?" the woman asked, reading the name off a padd and looking up at him with beady eyes.
Miro braced himself. "That's me."
"My name is Nora Simler," she said. "I'll be conducting your hearing in twenty-four hours. You have the right to hear your charges beforehand, however, and at your request, I can assign you a lawyer."
Miro sighed. "Yeah, that'd be great."
Simler frowned. "Optionally, you can appoint your own lawyer—"
"Yeah, let's skip that whole lecture," Miro interrupted. "I don't even make a hundred bars of platinum a month and certainly don't have that much saved up. And even if I did, it would be on my ship, which isn't on this planet at the moment. Go ahead and assign me one."
As Simler nodded and tapped something into her padd, Eeris looked at Miro in realization. He had lost everything he had along with the Challenger, hadn't he? And yet, when she'd brought him the bad news, his first thought had been for her…
Eeris shook the thought away. After everything she'd learned about him today, that was next to impossible. She focused back in on the conversation just as Simler spoke up again.
"Your representative will meet with you within the hour. You can discuss your plan of attack then. In the meantime, I'm here to familiarize you with the rules of our court. As you are being represented, it is inadvisable to speak for yourself unless you are at the stand—"
"Yeah, I know," Miro said irritably.
"And while we're at it," she said, eyeing him carefully, "any unnecessary outburst or disrespectful commentary will be treated as in contempt of the court—"
"If you're telling me to behave myself," Miro said, "I'm Dax. Twelve hundred years old. I think I can handle myself in a courtroom."
Simler nodded, more slowly this time. "Very well. You are permitted to object at any time, though it's not recommended. Any questions?"
"Don't think so," Miro said.
"Good. I believe that's all for now. You'll be escorted to the courtroom at 1200 hours. And one more thing, Dax—"
"Miro," he snapped.
"Miro," Simler said, sounding irritated now. "Your case is a bit special. It's taken two years to track you down—for minor offenses, I might add. Federation security is eager to get this over with. If you don't find the result favorable, I'm afraid I wouldn't bank on your chances of making an appeal."
"Right," Miro nodded. "Thanks for reminding me why I avoided this place in the first place." He shot Eeris a glance. "And I didn't even get to sell that book!"
Simler shook her head and walked away, leaving Eeris alone with Miro. Well, alone except for the numerous other prisoners locked behind forcefields.
"What was all that about?" Eeris asked. She hadn't understood half of Simler's technical wording. The legal system on Bajor was nothing like this.
"Long story short, my lawyer's coming in an hour and my trial's tomorrow," Miro said. "And if they decided to lock me up a while longer, there's not much chance of changing their minds. Plus, I get a standard-issue lawyer, so their efforts will probably be mediocre at best. I've evaded capture for too long, these guys are all too eager to hold me while they can."
Eeris sighed. "So we're stuck, then. You couldn't get off Earth even if we had the Challenger."
Miro's mouth twisted. "That's about the size of it."
Eeris slumped against the wall next to the forcefield. She ached for Miro to reach past that fizzling barrier and wrap her in his arms and never let go, but at the same time she chastised herself for her weakness. She couldn't afford to crave attention from someone who didn't even care for her.
"Please tell me you have a plan," she said.
"Not yet, kid," Miro said. "But I promise you, I won't rest until I've gotten us outta here. No matter what it takes, kid."
Eeris nodded, knowing what he wasn't saying. He wanted to get off Earth so he could save the galaxy. Eeris was just along for the ride—he wasn't really doing any of this for her. Why should he? She was just a Bajoran, just another reminder of the traumatic memories he didn't want to face.
She sighed, for the first time realizing just how far she was from home, and just how lost she was without a hand to guide her.