Here I am again with yet another threatened/promised story :) Now I'll go into
the usual warnings etc. :)
This story assumes the station is older than current Cannon tells us. I must
have slept through that bit, originally ;)
The metrics might swap around a bit - bear with me :)
There's a lot of Odo/Dax stuff that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the
preceding "Love Sickness" story >:) [boy am I making you lot wait for that
sequel >:) ]
There is a fair amount of violence or references to violence throughout this
one, so those with tender stomachs - get the sick bags ;)
No sex references [Sorry folks; I have to draw the line somewhere ;) ] beyond
WARNING- The literary style of this story contains chopping and changing styles
For character effect. It also changes time frames for effect as well (ie.
jumping backwards for explanations, etc.)
If you can't make sense out of it - don't flame me, go elsewhere or something

And now - this...


by Catherine Weller

It had been quiet for a very long time. Wart was reassured by that
fact. Bad things happened when it was noisy.

He had got quite used to the quiet, ever since Mother had not come
home, it had been very quiet. Mother had promised Wart that she'd come back,
and Wart knew that Mothers always kept their promises. All he had to do was
keep Home clean and look after himself.

Wart was very patient; he would play with the computer like Mother had
told him to for an hour or so, then listen at the door or pad barefoot through
the empty coridoors to see if Mother was playing hide-and-be-quiet, too. He was
very good at that game, sometimes he could hide for days on end, especially
when father was Home.

Wart didn't like Father, because he always tried to hurt Mother. One
day Father had hurt Mother very bad, making red stuff come out of her, and
Father took Mother away.

Ever since that day, Wart had waited.

Now, on this day, the noises had come back. Wart retreated to Home,
already getting the vent plate off so he could crawl inside his hidey-place.
Wart had to be a good boy until Mother found him.

There was a clunk and a hiss from the place that used to be a
wide-door, and voices beyond it.

Man-voices. Father! Wart had to hide quickly. If Father ever found
Wart, even worse things would happen.

Odo watched intently as O'Brien fooled with the environmental controls
for the now-unsealed coridoor. Whenever Odo was with someone who knew more
about something than he did, Odo alwayswatched intently.

The lights faded up to Earth/Bajor normal, and Odo filed away the
process forever in his near-idactic memory.

The lights raised all on their own, and Wart got frightened. The lights
had neverdone this before, and Wart was under strict orders to Leave
Everything As He Had Found It. Wart froze in fear for the first time since
Father had gone away, and listened to the Man-voices.

"There's no sign of radiation," said a low and faintly musical voice.

"According to the records, this area was sealed after a cannister of
radioactive isotope exploded." Another man-voice, gravelly and harsh. Wart
didn't like it one bit.

"So much for clean-up eh?" asked Music-voice.

Gruff-voice kind of grunted. "Might as well see what's here," he
growled, "I despise mistaken reports."

"Look here," Music announced, "Blood."

There was a pause, "Years old," Gruff stated, "Probably residue from
this 'accident'." Footsteps came closer to Wart's hidey-place; and stopped.

"Oof," said Music.

"Yes." grumbled Gruff, "These stains are too erratically placed for an
accident... Furthermore, these are someones' living quarters. Who the hell
ever heard of a dangerous cannister being placed in someones'home?!"

"Somethin' stinks," agreed Music, "An' it ain't the air."

At last they came into view - sort of. Wart could only see their legs,
but he was used to that sort of view of Father, so he'd know him if he was
amongst this group of strangers.

- - - - - -

Odo crouched by the largest collection of bloodstains, examining them
from a better vantage point. "The victim probably fell here," he stated,
examining the pattern and tracing it with his fingers. There was an outline of
an arm, the impression in blood of a shoulder, and clothing-wrinkles, there
was a blood-mark of a thigh... "Thin, underfed - probably Bajoran. About five
feet tall - ah. The victim wasfemale."

O'Brien crouched down by Odo, not seeing the same thing that the
Shapeshifter did. When the engineer saw a bloodstain, it was just an ugly, red
mark on a surface. But when Odo saw the same thing, he saw a drama played out
again in his mind. "How did you get all that?" he asked the Constable.

Odo produced a piece of chalk from a pocket that hadn't been there
minutes before and began to trace the outlines caused by the gap between the
two largest bloodstains, "The arm hit the floor first, blocking off the rest of
the blood." Odo started, "Here is where the back of her hand stopped the blood
from flowing further, which means she was facing this way when she fell. The
shoulder fell here, and the fold-patterns here imply that the clothes she
was wearing were too big for her."

O'Brien was catching on, "And that meant she'd been bigger at some
time, and had thinned down."

Odo nodded with a faint smile, thinking that perhaps he should take up
teaching - but life was dangerous enough as it was. "Her leg landed here, hence
the uniform stain. The diameter of the blood-mark means that she was either
bleeding profusely, or had been lying for a time befre the killer turned her on
her back."

"Her killer?"

"Only one set of footprints," Odo quickly outlined them without
thinking, "At this point, some blood spilled over from either side of her body,
leaving the waist and hips here."

"Oh, yeah," chimed O'Brien, seeing the distinctly female outline for
the first time, then his face dropped as he realised he was beaming about a
fifteen-year-old murder, "What about her killer?"

Odo stared at the boot-prints in the blood. "He was a Cardassian in the
Military," he recognised that print of footwear. They had been on the raised
feet of Gul Dukat when Odo had first arrived on Terach Nor, now DS9. These feet
were approximately the same size, "About six feet or taller, somewhat muscular

O'Brien frowned until Odo indicated a bloodstain near the ceiling.

- - - - - -

The orange man was a magician, Wart decided, after he had so accurately
described how Father had hurt Mother, even though he had to draw on Mother's
prints to do it. The curly-haired Music did not have the same ability as Gruff,
and had to be explained through it all.

He was probably a high-ranking Cardassian," Gruff said as he easily
stood, "since he was able to wrangle a cover-up of this magnitude."

Music whistled, "For fifteen years, too. Now that's big."

"No. That's standard procedure," Gruff clarified, "Any area designated
'hot' was sealed off for a minimum of twenty years, or until cleanup processes
advanced enough to take care of it - whichever came first."

"They must've used prisoners for cleanup, then."

"Of course." Gruff stated it so bitterly that he must have seen it
first hand.

"C'mon," Music said as he awkwardly stood, "Let's try and find that
power drain."

Wart made sure they left, then decided it was time to play run-and-hide.

He was good at that game, too.

* * * O * * *

"You sure?" O'Brien asked for the umpteenth time.

"Three times," Odo replied, implying that he'd made sure three times.

O'Brien muttered a Bajoran curseword - Kira had been using it overmuch,
lately. "That's the trouble with intermittant power drains - they're so bloody
hard to track. Gonna have to check each circuit by [Cardassian expletive]

"Which means we'll need your kits." Odo sighed, heading out of the last
room, "Come on, we're wasting- eh?" he suddenly stopped in a crouch. "These
prints weren't here before..."

"Looks like some sorta three-fingered simianoid," observed O'Brien.

Odo pulled an imager from his here-again, gone-again pocket and
recorded the prints. "Could answer a few questions." He explained.

* * * O * * *

Wart broke into a run as soon as he was free of the dust on the floor.
Just because he was missing a digit from each limb didn't mean he was a stupid
freak. If Gruff or Music found his prints, they'd think they belonged to some
form of ape or something. As quickly as he could, Wart found a ventspace or
something he could crawl into, and hid.

This hidey-place was muchdeeper, and far more comfortable than the
one Mother used to hide him in. Wart decided it was safe to explore this one,
just a little bit.

* * * O * * *

Once apon a time, a Cardassian Gul fell in love with a Bajoran woman.
Naturally, he hid this from anyone who knew him. His love for her withered in
time, but their child already grew inside her like a wart.

He was not there when the baby was born, since he was attending to his
wife, who was also pregnant. When he came back to his Bajoran mistress, there
were no signs of a baby. She told him his son had died two days before his

The Gul did not take this very well, especially since his wife bore him
a daughter.

What he didn't know was that a half-Cardassian infant hid in a floor
vent, learning how to count to eight on his hands, and to sixteen using his

The Gul's subsequent visits were strictly attempts to father a healthy
son on her. Until the day, fifteen years ago, when the Gul's wife bore yet
another girl.

* * * O * * *

Jadzia Dax quandried over her casual-wear. Although her wardrobe was
the pinnacle of good taste, she still debated over What to Wear to the latest
DS9 Spacelings production.

Wart gaped at the vision beyond the grille. She was the single most
perfect creature he'd ever seen. She gracefully plucked at her dress, then her
upswept hair, and tweaked at the simple belt that hung on her waist. She smiled
at her mirror-image, and decided that she needed something to decorate her
dappled neck.

Pretty-one eventually decided on a delicate locket, after rejecting a
brightly-coloured scarf. She then almost danced out of the rooms.

After she was gone, Wart took her scarf, since it smelled of her.
Anyway, she didn't want it anymore, he'd seen her toss it aside. War dove back
into the vents and crawlways, feeling more than a little peculiar.

* * * O * * *

Keiko O'Brien had just finished putting Molly to bed, and began trying
to put some of her life in order. A scrabbling from the vents distracted her
briefly, Damn rats, she cursed mentally, they can fight anywhere they like,
please let them die in a cargo bay or something.

The rats and Keiko had come to an agreement of sorts; they didn't show
themselves, and she wouldn't phaser them. After a while, they learned to
recognise her approach and hide - another example of evolution in progress.

* * * O * * *

Wart was thoroughly lost by now, he thought that as long as he kept
going, Mother would find him. Mother could always find him, no matter where he
hid. He kept crawling until his knees and legs finally rebelled, but by that
time, he'd come across the biggest open area he'd ever seen. Wart was
unfamiliar with the concept of 'schoolroom', but he knew about computers.
Mother had told him to work on their computer, and Wart always did what Mother
told him to.

He was half surprised when one of them lit up for him. Hishadn't
done so for years. Fascinated by this difference, Wart played with it until
there were Noises outside.

Keiko O'Brien chattered busily to her daughter, Molly, who was in an
exited mood. "I bet you know what todayis," she said.

"Show an' Tell!" Molly replied, beginning to jump up and down.

Her excited shout momentarily distracted Security Chief Odo in the
distance of the Promenade. He scowled at them to convey the fact that he was in
a bad mood and didn't see why anyone else should have a good time. Odo seemed
to spend most of his time that way.

She finally made her way inside and it immediately struck her that
Someone Else Had Been In The Room. Recently.

"Constable?!" Keiko dared not move, except to pick up and protect Molly
from Whatever it Was. An eternity seemed to stretch as she held her child
'safe'; in fact she was about to shout 'constable' again when he silently
appeared at her right. Forming the other half of a guard on Molly.

"What seems to be the trouble, Mrs. O'Brien?"

In answer, she indicated the flicker in the far corner and whispered,
"Someone's here."

Odo took a step into the gloom, then announced, "Whoever was in here,
isn't, anymore. Lights."

As they faded up, Keiko put Molly down again. "Is it safe, now, Mommy?"
she asked.

"Yes, honey, it's all safe now."

Odo had been leaning towards the active terminal, and had now pulled
back to take some images of it. "According to the active time, you couldn't
have left it on, yesterday." He fiddled with something and took some more
images of the seat, printing a hardcopy on the spot. He showed it to Keiko.
"The infra-red print is relatively fresh, so whoever - or whatever was in here
hasn't been gone long. Unfortunately, by the time I get the equipment necessary
to track your visitor's movements, the trace will be gone."

Molly was jumping up and down again, "Lemme see!" she demanded.

To Keiko's surprise, Odo lowered the image to show the toddler.

"It's pretty," she announced, "Can I show-an'-tell it?"

Odo shook his head, "I'm sorry, Molly, it's evidence. However..." he
took, and printed an IR shot of Molly. "I can let you keep this."

"Ohh... I'm all colours..."

He looked up to discover Keiko was smiling at him. "You're verygood
with children," she smiled, "you should be a teacher,"

"No, thank you," Odo replied with a wry sort of smile before getting
back to the Promenade, "Life is dangerous enough as it is."

* * * O * * *

Wart was very hungry, now. His belly snarled at him, and pinched at him
to make sure he'd remember. What made it all worse were the mouth-watering
aromas coming from Pretty-one's replicator. He watched her eat in sheer envy,
and the slight disapointment that she was wearing her hair in a simple
ponytail, today.

He liked it better when she wore it up.

At last, she left and Wart was safe to enter her quarters again. As
soon as he reached the replicator, he hit the 'repeat' button. Wart ate it
where he stood, licking the plate clean after he was done. It had been so
on emergency rations, Wart had almost forgotten what real food was.

His belly remembered, and sat in him like a warm, contented weight.
Wart put the plate back and hit the reclaim button. There. Housecleaning was

He wriggled back into the crawlways, Wart was going to try and see
where Pretty-one worked.

* * * O * * *

She worked in a very strange room, Wart decided. All lights and buttons
and things that beeped and made her sad, and other things that beeped and made
her smile. He stayed very still in the vent, watching her pressing buttons.

Sometimes she would get up and replicate something called a
"rakta-gee-no", then sit back down with her feet resting on part of the table
and watch a screen while she sipped it. Pretty-one was interrupted by a
door-whirr and someone Wart couldn't quite see.

"Kira!" Pretty-one beamed, "Come on in. Pull up anything stationary and

"Well, I guess I musn't have been that bad, last night." The one
Pretty-one had called 'Kira' came into view, and Wart almost cried out to her.
Mother! Except her voice had changed. Wart watched the remainder of their
conversation with his mouth wide open.

"Actually," Dax stated, still lounging, "You were quite good. It was
the rest of the play that suffered."

"I managed to sneak a peek out of the wings during act 3," Kira told
her, "The entire audience was turning into a bunch of zombies."

"Odo said almost the same thing..."

"He did?"

Dax nodded, "I quote -" she adopted a more Odo-esque posture, "I don't
know about you; but I think this act needs - life support systems." she
returned to her former slouch, "I can tell you - it surprised me no end."

"It surprised me that you even talked to each other."

"You arranged that, didn't you?"

Kira tried to look the wounded innocent and failed completely, "Me? Do
you think I'm the sort of person who goes around setting people up?"


Kira grinned like a bastard, "Alright, I confess. I fooled with the
seating arrangements so you two would end up next to each other."

Dax took another sip from her drink, "You can't expect me to believe
that was the extent of your plan,"

"Well," Kira admitted, "You'd been complaining that you hardly knew
Odo; and I managed to get it out of him that he'd rather like to know you a
little bit better, too. I just happened to arrange a starting point."

"What did Odo have to say about that?"

"'Next time, I'll ask'."

Dax laughed, stopping to look at a terminal's response, "Damn..."

Kira craned her neck to see, "What's the matter?"

"Odo's got me trying to find some kind of four-toed lifeform. All I
have to go on is that it goes on all fours, and can play with a computer."

"Doesn't believe in giving you any easy ones, does he?"

"He can solve the easy ones," Dax replied, "I've tried all the
non-sentients from apes to rocks. Now it's time for the sentients; which
means 'capable' searches..."

"Oof..." Kira winced, "Sounds like you've been at this a while."

"Try 'all day'."

"Tell you what, I'll have a little chat with the task master. See if I
can get you out on bail..."

Dax grinned.

* * * O * * *

Wart had fallen asleep in the vent, and when he woke up, Pretty-one had
gone. He was momentarily scared until he saw the chrono. Wart had been asleep a
very long time, lulled by the quiet and safety of the tunnel he was in. He
looked at the chrono again.

Evening. That meant Pretty-one was probably in the Habitat ring.

Wart went off to find her.

* * * O * * *

In a coridoor where people live, a device waits. A green light its'
only sign of life, a motion scanner, it's only eye. Ask not what the box
contains, its purpose will be revealed shortly.

* * * O * * *

When Wart found her, she was caughing in the middle of a green cloud.
Pretty-one fell, unconscious and barely breathing. Alarmed, Wart left the
safety of his vents to take her with him. The green cloud was bad, so Wart held
his breath as he dragged Pretty-one into the safety of his hidey-place.

He had to hold his breath as he closed the ventplate, and as he dragged
Pretty-one further in, because some of the bad air had come in with them. When
he judged it was safe, he gasped and huffed for clean air; noting with pleasure
that the pokey-spots in his vision cleared away. Then, Wart looked down at the
immobile face of Pretty-one.

She was still breathing, but she was awfully pale. Fortunately, Wart
knew where to take her.

* * * O * * *

Jadzia Dax had been on her way home. Her mind still worked on the
puzzle Odo had set her - until something at about foot-level exploded.

Next thing she knew, she was sealed into the hall, the terrifying
hull-breach klaxon blaring into her ears. Then she noticed the plumes of
noxious green gas billowing from a corner.

That was the last thing she remembered.

* * * O * * *

Wart had to be very careful, here. He knew Bad Things would happen if
he was ever found, but he had to get Pretty-one to a place where she could be

Feet braced against a wall, back on the vent's lip, he carefully
juggled Pretty-one's form out of the vent. When he had her out, he dropped to
the floor. Putting her on the biobed was relatively easy, getting back up to
the vent was hard.

Wart left her scarf so she could feel better. He grasped the ventplate
in the toes of one foot and hopped back up to his hidey-place, wriggling and
struggling in while one leg dangled. As soon as his hands got a good grip on
the plate, his foot let go and he crouched in the tunnel. Then carefully,
surely -


the plate back into place. Mother had told him never to slam doors or
plates, because they would get attention.

In this case, attention is exactly what Wart wanted.

* * * O * * *

Bashir stared at the empty coridoor, "She isn't here," he mourned.

"She must have escaped the gas somehow," Odo tried.

"No." Julian corrected, "Trill biochemistry wouldn't be able to resist
that stuff for longer than a few seconds."

"So," Odo slowly inquired, "where is she?"

>Bee-deep "Medical to Bashir,"

Bashir tapped his badge, "Go ahead,"

"Dax is here on the biobed. Someone moved her there..."

"On my way."

* * * O * * *

The four-digit handmarks were all over the Lieutenant's uniform. When
she recovered enough to speak, Dax was gently, but quietly interrogated by the

Wart watched as Gruff asked Pretty-one a lot of careful, quiet
questions. He half expected the magician to leap up and uncover Wart's
hidey-place, but instead, Gruff showed her a box-thing. Wart listened very
carefully, learning what the box-thing did, and how to turn it off.

* * * O * * *

There were five of them in the sack, now. All of them were inactive;
they made too much noise for Wart's comfort, so he had to leave them in the
central tunnel before taking one of the turns that lead to one of the hallways
so he could check for box-things.

Sometimes they were there, sometimes they weren't. If one was there, he
would sneak up on it and turn it off, then jump back to his hidey-place. If
there weren't any there, he'd retrace his steps to the central tunnel, then go
on until he came to the next branchway.

Wart had decorated his starting place with his baby-boy ribbon, the one
Mother had put on him when he was very small. He came across it again and
reclaimed it, knowing he'd come full circle. Anyway, his hair was getting in
the way; it was past time to tie it back.

By that time, the sack was as big as he was with the box-things. Wart
dragged his clanking burdon back to the place he'd taken Pretty-one, then out a
little further.

Wart had watched Gruff go to a place that he couldn't get into, and
guessed that the orange man lived there. He went to a vent plate that was close
to Gruff's door, he had to be very careful, now.

He took off his earring, because he needed to use the little piece of
mirror that hung on it, and used it to check that nobody was 'home'. Gruff
lived in a place like the place where Pretty-one worked.

Nobody was in the outside part, the bit that Wart could see, and nobody
was anywhere near where Wart could see, either. He out his earring down beside
him and made the sack ready after he put the plate back up. It was a gift, and
gifts had to be made pretty. The only pretty thing Wart had was his baby-boy
ribbon. He tied the ribbon around the neck of the sack and, letting the plate
dangle by one catch as it had before; Wart lowered the sack out of the vent.

Now was the dangerous bit, getting Gruff's attention. He swung the sack
until it made a BONG-NG against the door, then he dropped it, slammed the plate
back home, collected his earring and fled.

When he was sure he was safe, he put his earring back on and tied his
hair back with a strip off his shirt.

* * * O * * *

Odo stared in puzzlement at the sack in front of his door. He had been
gone a moment to harass a prisoner, and was interrupted by a tremendous noise
outside his door. He came out to discover this. The sack was full of
deactivated gas-boxes, his tricorder confirmed that; but what hecouldn't
figure out was the grubby blue ribbon that tied the sack's mouth closed.

It was tied in a bow, symbolic of a gift. A humanoid custom. Dax, who
had just been released from medical, sauntered over to investigate, too.

"Somebody leave you a present?" she jovially asked.

"The same somebody who managed to rescue you, I suspect," Odo replied,
showing her his tricorder display, "it's full of those gas-devices."

Dax raised her eyebrows, "Looks like our four-toed friend is sentient."

Odo nodded, "Can you remember anything about your rescue?"

"Consciously, it's all a blur," she answered, "But I know a technique
that can revive those memories." she waved Odo into his office. The
shapeshifter carted his 'evidence' in with him, before unceremonially dumping
it in a corner.

* * * O * * *

"How could you do something like that?" Kira demanded.

"We must rid ourselves of our oppressors, surely you see that, Kira."
the Bajoran at the other end of the link calmly argued.

"Well, in case you haven't noticed, StarFleet's on our side!
They're not Cardassians, you know!"

"They are in the way of Bajoran freedom."

"Freedom?" Kira was ranting, "Freedom to be taken over by the
Cardassians again? Or freedom to die? And what's more - what if it had been a
Bajoran that fell to your trap?" she leaned closer to the terminal, "What if
it was a child?"

"We must be prepared to make sacrifices so we can be free."

Kira slammed the link off. That was it. She was telling Odo.

* * * O * * *

Dax's eyelids fluttered half-open, half shut; as they had when the gas
had knocked her out. "Green smoke pours up," she - or at least her unconscious
mind - told Odo, "I fall down and I see the box. Low wall near me opens, it
comes out and grabs me. Drags me. I stay still - slack. It drags me into tunnel
place. Stops, drags again. Long time. It stops and coughs, breathing hard.
Looks at me."

"Can you see it?" Odo asked.

Dax nodded.

"Can you tell me what it looked like?"


Odo had forgotten that the subconscious tended to be litteral, "Tell me
what it looked like."

"Boy. Dark eyes. Wet. Hair has a red stripe. Cardassian. Bajoran. Rag
shirt." she paused a little and said, "I wondered where that scarf went..."

The scarf was the very same one she had been found holding when she was
discovered on the biobed... "Siras," Odo spoke the keyword that brought her
back to the present.

Jadzia Dax blinked, "Anything useful?"

Odo shook his head, "Just more puzzles." he sighed and leaned back in
his chair, "Fifteen years ago, a Bajoran woman is murdered by a Cardassian Gul-
motive unknown. The whole thing is covered up as a radiation-related
accident. Time passes, during which an intermittant power drain is detected in
the area. Specifically, a computer and a replicator. The computer malfunctions
and cuts off its' connection with the station; the replicator drain continues,
since they're designed to at leastlast...

"During this time, there were thousands of attempts to use the
inactive computer, despite the fact that it was inactive."

"How do you know that?" Dax asked.

"I looked up the stations' histories from the daemons."

"You look through those files?" Dax was aghast, "That's millions of
pages of packed data."

"Seven million and counting," Odo supplied, "And, no, I don't search
them page by page, either. I have a macro that does a majority of the searching
for me."

Dax leaped from her seat and raced to Odo's side, "This I have to
see!" she gleefully exclaimed, "Search programs are a hobby of mine."

Odo only shrugged, and began to show her the program.

"PahDi?" Dax inquired.

"A Bajoran archeologist," He explained, "he was the first to use
forgotten records as a basis for his digs."

Dax nodded, "This would indicate a Bajoran programmer," a pause, "or
one with a Bajoran upbringing..."

The shapeshifter's features held an expression of - mischief. "Gul
Dukat always considered it a waste of time," he addmitted, "so I spent a week
going through the most -revealing security sweeps. After that, Dukat decided
I needed to unwind and all but threw me towards PahDi, here."

"Well, that does explain why I haven't seen it before,"

"I haven't released it, yet," Odo explained, "As you can see, it takes
a while to get going. Ah."

Dax whistled.

"This is the initialisation stage. You set the search perameters, based
on time, area and whatever else you may need,"

"Doesn't it take forever to unpack the data?"

"That's the beauty of it." Odo started to grin, "PahDi packs the
perameters, and searches for a match in the archives. When it finds a match,
only then does it unpack the relevant data."

"You have to let me play with this."

"I'll give you a copy," he breezed. "Here we are." He pointed at the
display. "This is the sight of the attack - at the time of the attack."

"There's three lifeforms..."

Odo nodded, "A Cardassian male," he indicated each in turn, "a Bajoran
female, and an unidentified lifeform."

"Our mutual friend?"

Again, he nodded, peripherally aware that Dax was edging slowly closer.
He moved the program on a time-increment. "After they left, he came out of
hiding, presumably to see why all the noise stopped."

"This is five hours on?"

The Constable nodded again, "Rather patient for a three-year-old."

Dax didn't ask about this one, presuming that Odo had done this before.
"What about the computer?"

"You can refine the search parameters to a specific object, as well
as extending the time limit," he showed her how, "This secondary window, here,
lists the attempted entries in order of main pattern, and then most popular
to least popular deviations."

"Those patterns don't make any sense," Dax observed, "they're just
random keypresses."

"Yes," Odo agreed, "But thanks to his attempt to use the schools'
computer, we have his name." He keyed up the image of the computer on a
secondary window.

"Wart?" Dax asked, "That's not a name, it's an insult."

"My best guess is it's some form of corruption - or a nickname."

"Or a corruption of a nickname," Dax continued "or a nickname of a

"I get the idea, Lieutenant." Odo interrupted, turning PahDi off.
"Either way, we won't know until we can catch him."

Dax tilted her head to face him, almost breathing in his ear, "You're
just going to wait?"

"I am tracking his movements," Odo replied, "Once a reasonable
pattern is established, I can wait to catch him in a suitable area." He brought
up a small map of Wart's movements.

"He's been in my quarters!" Dax was outraged at the thought of it.

Odo stared in horror at the map, "No..." he whispered, then aloud, "I'm
sorry... I should have checked sooner - regularly. If I had - I would have
told you the instant I saw."

"It's all right, Odo," Dax soothed.

"It's not all right." He growled. "He invaded your private quarters.
That's it," he decided, "I'm going to catch him."

* * * O * * *

Wart leaned his chin on his folded arms as he lay flat in the vent above
the schoolroom. The one who called herself Mrs O'Brien was a teacher. He could
tell. She was nice and she smiled a lot and had a singsong voice that made Wart
feel warm.

He didn't mind that she didn't have any ridges on her face like he did,
there were others like her around, like Pretty-one. Wart listened to every
single word she had to say, watching how she moved, how she made the display
change and shift.

He was interrupted by the fact that his belly was mad at him, again.
Wart had to move somewhere where he could feed himself before the growling got
him some unwanted attention.

* * * O * * *

Odo waited politely for Dax to key open her door. He was careful to ask
permission to use her quarters as a trap, and to get Sisko's permission as
well. He didn't like invading peoples' privacy for any reason other than
emergencies or other forms of important situations. He also believed in letting
the owner of the place inside first, "Has anything been disturbed?"

"No," Dax told him, "nothing,"

Odo entered, examining the layout, not daring to venture near the
bedroom. Especially after what Kira had told him about Quark. Odo always felt
nervous in other peoples' homes - out of his element. Once they became a crime
scene, he could handle it; but this was a crime scene that was still being
lived in.

"Try to relax a little, chief," Dax instructed, "You look about ready
to jump out of your own skin."

"I hope I don't," Odo joked, a rare occaision in itself, "it's the only
thing that keeps me in," he peeked around a corner, and found the replicator
and the dining room. He noted a small hotplate, scattered collection of
utensils, and a stasis box that probably held supplies. There was the
ventplate, across from the replicator itself.

Careful not to touch anything, Odo investigated the replicator. No-one
had used it recently. Good. "He'll probably return here," he told Dax, "Your
quarters are the only ones that he's actually been into."

Dax was leaning on a doorframe, arms crossed, a deep frown on her face
"What I don't understand is why he'd chose me." She entered the room, and
fell into a chair, "When I came back after the play, I thought I'd just
mislaid my scarf - then when I came to in Medical -" she took it out of her
pocket, examining it, "it was tied on my hand..."

"In a bow?" Odo asked, remembering the 'present' at his door. As Dax
nodded, he headed straight to the vent, and whispered, "He's coming. Act
normally - replicate lunch, then get out of sight." He then became one with the
wall, blending in perfectly.

Much to her credit, Dax only blinked, then went back to 'normal'

Wart crept up to the vent, watching Pretty-one replicate something
mouthwatering. He had to put his arms around himself to stop his belly snarling
at him. She ate daintily as she walked out of the room, Wart watched her go,
glad he could eat without being seen. As soon as she was gone from sight, he
came out of the vent to go to the replicator.

Wart did not eat as daintily as Pretty-one, because he was far

Dax stopped eating as soon as the boy started; what remained of his
manners were obviously forgotten in humger. He was ablivious to everything as
he ate, even Odo, who quietly reformed himself and silently placed the
ventplate back on the tunnel, then leaned on it.

Dax gained a new appreciation for the shapeshifter, since he would let
a starving child finish a meal, regardless of what crimes that child may have
committed before. She had to clamp down a cry of disgust when the boy began
licking the plate - Jadzia Dax put down her half-finished meal, thinking
insanely that Wart might want 'seconds'.

On the Promenade, Kira Nerys finally made it to Odo's office. That's
what I get for deciding to walk,
she reminded herself. Odo wasn't in his
office. An old sack tied up with a grubby blue ribbon rested in a corner. Kira
stared at it a moment, "Naahh..." she decided, guessing that Odo was 'out'.
He'd come back. In the meantime, she could rest her aching feet.

Wart stopped mid-lick, opening his eyes to look over the edge of the
plate. Gruff stood between him and his hidey-place. Gruff hadn't been there
before, Wart had checked.


Terrible things would happen if he was ever found.

"Shh..." whispered someone off to one side, he trurned to see
Pretty-one. "It's all right. We won't hurt you."

Ward spoke his first word to another since Mother left, "Promise?"

Pretty-one smiled and pushed her plate towards him as she nodded, "Yes,
Wart," she soothed, "Come on, you need this more than I do."

Odo watched as Dax lured the starving boy slowly closer. He would let
the child eat, he decided, it was the least he could do, since the boy was thin
at best. All the same, Odo moved between the boy and the door, to try and
prevent him from changing his mind.

At the moment, Wart's mind was set on the contents of Dax's plate,
busily engulfing them in the incredibly messy way that all children did such

The records told Odo that the child's mother was a Tolerationist; she'd
have to be. She had concealed Wart's existance in order to conceal the
deformity he was born with, not the fact that he was half-Cardassian.

Noticing that Wart was slowing down, Odo began, "I can't let you stay
here for good, Wart," he tried, "You're going to have to come with me."

This time, a complete sentence, "I'll be safe?"

"As safe as you can be." Odo answered, "You'll be in protective
custody until I can find some relatives of yours."

"Mother will come back for me," Wart stated confidantly, "She

Such faith, Odo wondered, How could he wait so long and not begin
to question?
"Of course she did." Odo soothed, gently guiding him towards the
door; Dax following, "But sometimes; things can happen - and even the best
promises - can't be kept..."

"Mother will come for me." Wart smiled.

Odo shot a pleading glance at Dax, How do I tell him?

"We still have to find her," Dax lied, forming the other half of
the guard on Wart, "it has been fifteen years."

* * * O * * *

Kira watched as Odo and Dax entered the Promenade together and smiled,
Get them started and things can move fast, she reflected, and who the hell
was walking with them?
The Major shuffled into a more upright position, but
didn't bother about standing; her feet still hurt.

Wart stared at the crowd. A lot of it stared back. He knew roughly what
he must have looked like, but his good clothes simply didn't fit anymore;
anyway, he doubted that the gruff Odo would let him go back to try and get
them. There were so many colours in this gigantic place, it hurt his eyes,
almost. There were doors here, too, but they didn't open to homes, they opened
into strange places that held a lot of coloured things and some of the crowd,

Then there were the offworlders. Wart tried very hard not to stare at
them all. So many differences in all of them, and they all worked together
without fighting or anything. Mother was right about that, too.

Kira turned to the door as it swooshed open, "I got the name of-" she

"Mother!" yelped a scrawny boy that Odo had in tow, and the boy was
suddenly on her lap, hugging her and crying.

"What the -?" Odo managed.

"Dax, if this is revenge..."

"Missed you," the boy murmured.

"I don't know what's going on!" Dax protested.

Odo stepped into the melee and lifted the boy off Kira, "Wart," he
warned, "You'd better have a good explanation for this."

Kira ducked out of his way. Quickly. "He can't be my kid." she told
everyone, "I'd have been less than ten when he was born."

Wart was planted back on his feet, frowning. He reached up to a red
stripe of hair at his forelock and peered at it, "Same hair," he reasoned, "But
you're not my Mother?"

"No," Kira confirmed, "I'm not."

Wart went bright crimson, "...ooohh..." he warbled, trying to hide in
the tatters of clothing he had on.

Kira at last took in his malformed hands, as well as his face. "What
exactly is he?" she asked Odo, who was trying to shove Wart into one of the
side passages.

"It isn't going to hurt you - he's a Cardassian, Bajoran halfbreed.
Hidden since birth. Come on, now." Both constable and halfbreed dissappeared
into a corridoor.

"I'll catch you up on everything." Dax told Kira.

Wart stared at the cell. So big. "Mine?" he asked.

"For the moment." Odo replied, "I'm sealing you in here, for your own
safety. No-one can get you."


"Yes, I'm sure." He turned the shield on between them.

* * * O * * *

The reactionary Kira had told him about could not be found. As there
were no transports apart from the regular Bajoran shuttles, Odo could guess
that this reactionary was either on Bajor or inbetween the planet and the

If he was on the station, Odo would have found him by now. He had
informed the Bajoran officials of the reactionary's appearance, all the
shapeshifter had to do now was wait. Everything was more or less in order,
now. Wart was respectably dressed, clean, fed and asleep in one of the cells;
the gas-devices were now undergoing Component Tracing, and even the ribbon had
been returned to the boy after it was cleaned. Odo leaned back in his chair,
happily sorting reports. It was moments like these that his settings felt -

"I have to talk to you." Quark said, entering his office.

Unfortunately, those feelings never lasted long. "What is itthis
time, Quark?" Odo asked tiredly. A perfect moment ruined.

"I understand you're looking for a Bajoran reactionary? The one who
planted those devices..." the Ferengi oiled.

"I know his name, Quark. Unless you have any useful information, you
can leave."

"But you don't know the name he's using." his nemesis argued. "I
could tell you, for a price of course."

"Of course." Now the real debate of who was baiting who would come into
effect, "And of course, if you had anything to do with those devices'
manufacture, I'd have to arrest you."

"If I told you who bought the components," Quark bargained, "why not do
me a favour and not arrest me for selling them?"

Odo resisted the impulse to grin, "Give me the name, and I promise you
won't be arrested for the selling of illegal components."

Quark's tongue squeezed itself between his jagged teeth - a sure sign
that the Ferengi thought a deal was worthwhile. "The name - is Yotan Ricera."
Quark turned to saunter out of the door

"You're under arest," Odo announced, grinning now.

"What!?" the Ferengi demanded, "On what charge?"

"Posession of illegal components." Odo dragged him off into the
cells. "I told you I wouldn't arrest you for selling them."

"You sneaky, underhanded, shapeshifting son of an AUDITOR! I demand a
fair trial! Police Brutality! Don't you dare shut me in here! WE HAD A DEAL!"

"It's a perfectly well-accepted Ferengi trade practice." Odo soothed,
exiting the cell block.

Quark grumbled to himself, any respectable Ferengi epithet would
accurately describe the Constable. Except he wouldn't be offended by them.

* * * O * * *

Wart held the datapadd close to his chest as if it were some kind of
shield, regarding the classroom with frightened eyes.

Mrs. O'Brien lead him to a terminal and told him to work on it quietly.
She didn't use his name. She was the only one who didn't stare at him.

Wart could feel it, but he couldn't understand why the rest of the
class stared. He's made every effort to be neat, pulling his dark hair back
into a sort of ponytail, tying it with the ribbon; he had left the red part of
his hair loose, letting it fall over his Cardassian brow, obscuring it. He
scrunched lower in his seat, making himself smaller in an effort to avoid their

"Can I have everyone's attention on the BOARD?" Mrs. O'Brien took the
stares away.

Wart relaxed a little now, and made a small Bajoran Signal of Thanks to
her. He tried to listen to the lessons as well as paying attention to the
computer, but soon found he couldn't manage both. Mr's O'Brien's voice became
a faintly musical accompanyment to the problems that he was solving.

It was almost fun - exept for when the class all stared at him again,
despite Mrs. O'Brien's attempts to get the class to look at her. Eventually
she dismissed them for lunch. Wart hoped his 'novelty' would have worn off by

"You'd better get some lunch, too," Mrs. O'Brien told him as she
collected her little daughter, "You can come with me if you liked."

Wart smiled and stood, realised that he was too tall, and possibly too
old for 'joining hands'. He offered an elbow, like he'd seen Odo do for other
females; and visibly relaxed when Mrs. O'Brien took it with a smile.

Keiko thought it was sweet that the boy thought to 'escort' her along
the Promenade (She refused to use his only name, Wart). That way the message
would be clear that he was walking with her, and not being intimidating or

"You must have gained a foot since the last time I saw you," she
chattered as she guided him to the Replimat.

His head dropped and he smiled in an embarressed way, "I think I
frightened Mr. Odo," he murmured, "Dr. Bashir said my body's catching up on
lost time. That's why I'm always hungry."

"You must be glad of replicators," Keiko smiled.

"When they work right," he brightened, "I got so used to survival
rations, I'd forgotten how good real food is."

Keiko left him to watch Molly at a table, selecting things for herself,
her daughter and her naive halfbreed charge. He had a tendancy to stoop,
enforced by his new height and respect for door frames, and a tendancy to hide
from staring eyes.

The Bajoran/Cardassian mix was unexpected, and in many circles,
abhorrent. Keiko saw the stares that the boy was receiving as she returned to
the table with a fully loaded tray. Many Bajorans looked on the halfbreed with
pity and sorrow, not hate. All the same, he cringed from the stares.

Wart quickly disposed of everything on his plate, not to mention the
funny drink Mrs. O'Brien had given him. "What is this?" he asked, after
swallowing almost half of it.

"Rombolian Buttermilk," she grinned conspiritorially, "It's full of
calcium, vitamins, nutrients - almost a meal in itself."

"It is good." he answered, trying not to drink the rest of it in one
go, and failing. It was almost too good, "Would - it be - ok if I had -

"Wait until the first lot hitsbottom," she joked, "You'll make
yourself sick eating so much so fast."

He nodded, "I guess it clogs on the way to my legs?" he asked, "Mr.
Odo said that my legs were hollow."

Molly giggled.

"That's just an expression. Go on." Mrs. O'Brien shooed him towards
the replicators.

Wart had watched carefully when Mrs. O'Brien had ordered; he watched
almost everything, nowadays.. A lot of people in this 'Replimat' followed him
with their eyes, making him feel itchy and hot all over. He replicated
'seconds' and swiftly moved to his seat, to discover that Mr. O'Brien had
joined the table.

Wart tentatively said "Hello?" as Mrs. O'Brien introduced him, and
tried to avoid his stares as he tried to eat.

"You sure know how to put that away," Mr. O'Brien laughed.

"Heh." managed Wart with a weak smile, and cringed lower in his place.

"Miles," whispered Mrs. O'Brien.

"What? What'd I do??" he whispered back.

"You're staring at him." she managed through gritted teeth. "I had
enough trouble at school this morning, so don't you start."

"Well what the bloody hell am I supposed to do?" his whispering was
furious, now. "He's half Cardie an' half Bajoran. It's unnatural..."

Wart's eyes began to sting.

"Miles!" Now Mrs. O'Brien was too angry to keep her voice down. "You
shouldn't even dare say things like that."

Little Molly was watching the two with wide eyes.

This is where it starts, thought Wart, where the Bad Things happen.
It's all my fault because I got found.
He stopped eating and hung his head as
low as he could, trying very hard not to cry. He knew how it would go; one of
them would start shouting and they'd both shout and then he'd hurt Mrs.

Keiko noticed first, but only because of a Mother's instincts for
Ominous Silences. First she checked Molly, who hadn't moved, then to Wart, who
obviously must have heard them arguing. Now she'd have to use his name.
"Wart? What's the matter?" Silence. "Did you hurt yourself?" Doctor Bashir had
warned her that his bones were still frail due to calcium deficiency. Wart
shook his head. Keiko gently touched his shoulder, trying to see his face.
"Come on, what's wrong? You can tell me."

"i promise i'll be good..." he murmured in a voice so soft she could
barely hear him, "i'm sorry i got found; i am...i promise i'll be good if you
stop fighting, please..."

"Oh Gawd..." murmured Miles.

"It's all right, now. It isn't your fault at all."

Wart snuffled, but seemed appeased enough to go back to his food.

"I'm sorry, too," Miles said after Keiko shot him a Look, "I shouldn't
have acted like that."

Wart nodded and smiled a little, wiping the tears from his face.

Wart payed little attention to most of what Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien were
saying now. A lot of what Mr. O'Brien had to say was full of words he couldn't
understand. He turned his attention towards Molly, "Do they fight like that a

"Only sometimes," she shrugged.

Wart shivered, Bad Things.

* * * O * * *

"I know my sister had a son," Senator Tayin told Odo, "because we'd
worked out a system." he smiled at a memory, "She bought two ribbons, one blue,
one pink, and told me that she'd send me the one she didn't use." he opened a
locket about his neck and a little pink ribbon fell out, tied in a bow; he
showed it to Odo, "Eighteen years ago, I recieved this in the mail, and I knew
she'd just had a boy. That's the last I heard of her."

Odo nodded, knowing he was treading on thin ice with Senator Tayin.
Tayin only spoke to Odo because the shapeshifter had saved his life in the
mines. Tayin Esan never forgot a debt, even if it was to an offworlder. "Your -
nephew is still alive," Odo informed, "but you may not want to take him into
your home," or your heart, "especially considering your image..."

"What are you dancing around, shapeshifter?" Tayin asked.

"You'd - better see." Odo escorted the isolationist Senator into one
of the back cell areas.

Wart put down his drink as soon as he heard the voices; his hunger had
at last slowed by now, so he could sip at the Rombolian Buttermilk instead of
inhaling it. His body still craved it, though, and rewarded him with a feeling
of strengthening muscles and bone. Two people were coming, talking about
someone - a relative; one of them was Odo, and the other, Wart didn't know.

"What's my nephew doing in here for Prophet's sake? What did he do

"He's in here for his own protection," Odo answered, "until we can
locate a relative willing to take him in

Wart watched as Odo bought the stranger to a halt in front of his space.
The stranger stared and Wart hung his head, ashamed to be Wart.

"Senator Tayin Esan, this is your nephew, Wart." Odo told the stranger.

"That is my sister's son?!"

Esan boggled at the half Cardassian abomination in the cell. He knew
his sister, Leratt, had been a tolerationist but this was taking things too
far. "How - did you survive, boy?" he asked.

Wart looked up at him, then back down, "Mother taught me to hide. I got
locked away for a long ime. The replicator kept working, but."

Esan nodded. A simpleton. If anything, he could use the boy as an
argument as to why Bajorans shouldn't breed with offworlders.

"Don't judge him by his vocabulary, Senator," the shapeshifter
informed, "Wart, here, has an above average IQ, at least; he's still undergoing

Esan stared at Odo. "You enjoy doing that, don't you?"

"I just don't believe in unfair judgements." the shapeshifter supplied.

"Of course you don't." Esan looked skyards, muttering, "My sister was
a tolerationist, the sentient who saved my life is a tolerationist, my
daughter is a tolerationist, and now this..."

"Maybe the Prophets are trying to tell you something," Wart forwarded,
picking up a drink and gulping some of it down.

Esan moaned soflty. "You're a tolerationist, too; aren't you, boy?"

He flicked a mirror piece on his earring. "Says here," Wart told him.
"Besides, I think I have to be one." he touched his own face.

He softened, "Gods, you look like your mother, Wart. Prophets guide her

"Father killed her, didn't he?"

The shapeshifter hung his head, "Yes. He did."

Wart nodded understandingly, and sadly, "I saw him do it," he
confessed, "I didn't understand; I didn't want to believe. Mother promised
she'd come for me."

"The faith of a true tolerationist," Esan awed. "All the same, I
can't admit you're my nephew - not publicly."

"Because of Father."

He nodded. "I can fund your needs. Accomodation, food, clothing, and
a little extra - I advise you to get soe form of job, anyway."

"But I'm still going to school." objected Wart.

In the background, the shapeshifter received a commcall and left them
alone. "I know you're still going to school at the moment, Wart," Esan
explained, "But when you leave, you're going to have to do something -
otherwise people are going to wonder about you."

* * * O * * *

Odo stretched comfortably across the floor of this particular room. It
was plausible that Odo could stretch comfortably anywhere, as well as adhere
to any surface by suction alone. He had experimented when he was trapped in the
Bajoran Centre for Science, when Mora wasn't there to watch, of course. His
only amusement in those days was concealing himself as a ceiling pannel and
watching as Mora went through the entire lab, searching. The scientist would
leave the lab to retrieve a piece of equipment, and Odo would drop off, reform
and sit calmly, waiting for Mora's return.

"What the hell were you?" Mora would demand, "I thought you'd gone."

And Odo would only smile.

It was justice in a way. If he felt particularly wronged, he would
'dissappear' for hours on end, until Mora was at his wit's end. Then, once back
to Bajoranform, he'd bring up the subject of whatever had slighted him in the
first place. It was only fair, Mora tortured Odo, in a myriad of ways, and Odo
would torture Mora with the man's own anxieties.

It was adequate training for now. In the rooms of Yotan Ricera, aka,
Riva Neco, Odo was a thin layer of 'floor'. He knew humanoids barely paid
attention to the dimensions of a room after they first entered it, when they
were 'new' to the senses, but Odo played it safe. People like Riva Neco paid
attention to a little extra wieght in a package, or a new slope to their
favourite chair. They might pay attention to floors.

{One time in Odo's youth, he was annoyed by some new test of Mora's,
and became a microthin layer along an entire wall. Mora refused to even try to
look for him. Anger turned to amusement when he slowly thickened himself until
he began to shift the furniture. Mora didn't notice until some of the furniture
began gathering against Odo; and even then, it took him several hours to figure

Odo could never forget the look of stunned surprise Mora had when he
shifted back into his humanoid configuration, laughing, "You are SO
! I could have squeezed you out!"}

Footsteps. Riva was coming. Odo moved his sense-membranes inside his
skin, on the off chance that Riva might damage the delicate, microscopic
organs. The only sense he had left was touch, by the time Riva Neco stepped
into his room.

Neco grinned to himself, by using another name and an altered face, he
was completely overlooked by that shapeshifter and his security. He had his
doubts about the Ferengi, as he was recently arrested for something or rather.
Neco knew the Ferengi wouldn't talk, he'd paid the little bartender enough for

The floor was a trifle sticky; probably something he'd spilled earlier.
He'd clean it up, later. Neco moved towards some of his equipment - and
promptly fell over, discovering that the floor wasn't merely stcky - it was

"Damn you Quark!" He screamed, immobilised by the mass that was
coalescing into Odo, "Damn you to all the Five Hells!!"

"You can go there with him," Odo informed, "And have your choice of
prisons in transit."

Odo dragged Riva Neco to his feet, the familiar sensation of Justice
rewarding him. There was a crate on the table that he could investigate later -
in the meantime, he had his hands full coping with the struggling Riva.

The Constable manhandled the terrorist past the door; calling out as
he did so, "Computer, seal this room. Level five access only."

"Seal Confirmed..."

"You'll pay for this, shapeshifter." muttered Riva darkly.

"Not in this space-time continuum," Odo responded.

* * * O * * *

The first time Garak saw the halfbreed was when he walked into his
shop. The Promenade was closing down, and he passed on that information to his
customer in the dark.

"It's OK," the shadowy figure said softly, "I only want to buy one

Garak sighed. These things - he was sure - were sent to plague him.
"Step into the light," he said wearily, "I'm a tailor, not an off-the-rack

Wart announced what he wanted as soon as he stepped into the light,
head hanging, "I want to buy a coat with a hood."

Garak looked back towards the now revealed Cardassian stripling,
"Whatever for?" he almost sang, "You look like a fine, healthy Cardassian

The boy in question raised his head, revealing what he'd hidden under
a tuft of red hair, "I'm Bajoran, too," he almost whispered.

Garak stared at it, fighting the instinct to be sick. The boy's face
was an unnatural blend of Bajoran and Cardassian - hideous as it was to think
that such a union could be made naturally, Garak couldn't help himself.
"," he whispered in Cardassian.

"No," answered the boy, "Just Wart."


"Wart. It's my name." Wart explained.

Garak's eyes widened, "Wart? Of - course..." he moved to his computer
record chips, "Some time under - nineteen years ago, I set up business here...
My first customer was this Tolerationist girl. Wanted this Awful dress thing
that made her look so thin. She said she had a wart she wanted to hide." he
took a data clip from a draw, slotting it into his computer, "Of cours, when I
measured her, there wasn't a blemish, not a wart to be seen; and I told her so.
All she did was to give me this Look and say 'Not yet'." he gestured the boy
over to the console.

Wart peered at it, "That's Mother!" he grinned, trying to touch the
image, but his hands only touched glass.

"It's only a picture," Garak explained, pulling Wart away from it.
"Now, about that coat."

* * * O * * *

He'd never sold a garment for less, Garak reflected, but he suspected
the pitiful sum Wart had offered was all that the boy had. Garak gave him a
'discount' for solving an old mystery. The hood was a little distinctive on the
Promenade, but it did its' job. No-one stared at that face anymore.

Which was, to Garaks' Cardassian mind, just as well. He saw the boy
obtain a meal and try to hide in a corner of the Replimat; and felt - pity for
the child. Deciding that Wart could do with a friend, Garak invited himself to
Warts' table. "Well here you are," he purred softly, "How's the fit?"

"'S all right - I guess." Wart murmured, "it doesn't keep the stares
off as much as I thought."

"You shouldn't shrink from them," Garak informed, "Use your
Cardassian heretage and fight them..."

"I won't," Wart said strongly, "I won't be like Father - he hurt

"Only to maintain order, I'm sure."

"He killed Mother."

Garak shrugged, "Probably an accident," he breezed, "Bajorans are so
fragile - so weak."

Wart stood. "Thank you fo the coat, Cardassian," his anger
surprised him, "but I am not like you and never will be. And if there are
any weaknesses in my flesh or bones - it probably comes from Father!" Wart
stormed out of the Replimat, and made a beeline for the temple.

Bajoran blood, Garak summarised, you can tell.

Wart knelt by the reflective waters, murmuring the same prayer in
Bajoran, over and over again. He broke the litany with "Please, Prophets -
I'm so lost..." before tears choked off any further words.

"Show your face to them, child," soothed someone in red robes, "They
can't hear you if they can't see who to bless."

"I don't think you want me to," Wart told him in his habitual quiet
voice, "I'm ugly..."

"Your form doesn't matter here," the red-robe told him, "All are
welcome in the house of the Prophets."



Wart kept his head down as he pulled back his hood, "I pray you mean
that, he whispered, turning his face to the Vedeck.

The Vedeck gasped involuntarily at the sight in front of him. The
Cardassian/Bajoran mix boy simply sighed, stood and murmured, "Thank you."

Vedeck Kadja stopped him, "Wait, child." he said, "Forgive my ill
manners, please, and tell me what brought you here. Why do you seek guidance?"

"My name is Tayin Wart," he started simply, "You already saw what
brought me here." a three-fingered hand getured at his own face, "I think I
strayed from the path that the Prophets meant for me - that's why the bad
things are happening all the time."

Kadja took him aside and listened patiently to the boy's troubles,
sensing an intelligence beyond the simple words he used. Those simple words
told a story of a life in fear, hiding from a brutal father, abused in various,
subtle ways when he was found. The only being who had never been cruel to him -
his mother - had died before he was shut away like a piece of refuse. He told
of his thin bones - a product of calcium deficiency caused by thirteen years
of survival rations meant for an adult. He told of the fire that had raged in
him when Garak had so offhandedly insulted all Bajorans, of his subsequent fear
that he would turn into his father and never stop hurting people. "Mother
always said I was her beautiful boy," he finnished, "I think that part of me
died when she did."

Vedeck Kadja sighed, mourning Wart's loss of his childhood innocence -
if Wart made anything of himself, the Vedeck would have to ask permission to
use his story as examples to others. "I think, Wart," Kadja started slowly,
"that your mother was speaking of the beauty of your Pagh - your inner self.
It's a mothers' gift to see that in her child, to see beyond this flesh we all
carry with us. It didn't end with her life, Wart, it's just that no-one else
can see you in the same way."

Wart nodded solemnly, "What should I do?" he asked, "What path should
I take?"

If Kadja told him to step out of the nearest airlock, he probably
would. "You need to search," answered the Vedeck, "to find a way to bring out
that beauty for all to see." Wart reached up to his own face." No, no; not
physically - at least; you shouldn't change the face you were given. It won't
change what you are at all... There are - other ways to change the way people
see you..."

Wart listened intently to every word, thought about every possibility
that was brought forward, and, of course, received the traditional Centering at
the end of it all. When he finally came out of meditation, it was evening -
time to go home.

Wart pulled on his hood - out of habit and the knowledge of what would
happen if he didn't, thanked the Vedeck and left for his quarters, avoiding the
Replimat and the threat of Garak.

Mother had bee so right about Cardassians - their way was to worship
the strong and rule the weak. There were other strengths beyond those that
Fathers' people admired; all Wart had to do was find them.

* * * O * * *

He limped onwards towards the right door, body aching and stabbed with
pain all the way. It was his fault for not paying attention, for thinking it
was safe to let his mind wander. For being a freak. For being Gul Tarbs' son.

He used his good hand to press the call button, waiting for the door to
slide open for him. Doctor Bashir answered it rather quickly, and in spite of
the pain, Wart smiled weakly.

"Oh, my God..." Bashir summarised once he saw his ruined face.

"Make it stop," Wart slurred, "Make the pain stop - please..."

* * * O * * *

Wart had rounded a corner into four Bajorans who didn't look very
friendly. "Can I help you?" he tried.

One got behind him and forced the hood of his coat down until his arms
were pinned, "You can die, Cardassian filth," the holder growled.

"I'm Bajoran," Wart enforced quietly.

"We know about you," said another, holding Warts' face in a vice-like
grip, "About Gul Tarb. About Tayin Leratt."

"Mother?" whispered Wart.

Another struck Wart below the ribs, almost breaking them, "You won't
make a whore out of another woman - ever."

The fourth struck Warts' legs out from under him with a vicious kick
that broke the leg it came into contact with. Wart tried to struggle - a
mistake tht cost him the use of an arm and broke two of his ribs.

"Hey!" remarked one, "He breaks real easy," a backhanded blow across
Warts' face brought up instant bruising. They took turns at Warts' face, as if
they were trying to wipe out his Cardassian features. Still, he tried to speak,
but no longer to his attackers.

"Holy Prophets," he muzzily implored in Bajoran, "Give these souls
guidance so they may see their error..."

They stopped working on him as soon as they heard the Bajoran prayer -
the words had power over them. Spoken in perfect Bajoran. Without a trace of a
Cardassian accent. They dropped him and fled.

Wart could only breathe raggedly and bleed on the floor.

That was two hours ago.

* * * O * * *

The bones had healed easily under Dr. Bashirs' ministrations, but he
still needed recovery time in medical - where it was safe.

Wart didn't sleep, he was testing the arm that had been broken by using
it to write - and sketch. Faces. Bajorans. The men who had attacked him, the
place where he was attacked. The written part coincerned what the men had said,
what made them stop, and so forth. Mr. Odo would need them for his reports.

Eventually, Wart finished that work, and just started sketching
something else.

The Work had begun.

* * * O * * *

"You're home early," Keiko smiled warmly, "What's the occaision?"

"That Wart lad's been helping me," O'Brien supplied "It's like he can
just see what's wrong with somethin' y'know?"

"I know," Keiko answered, "he's been flying through his lessons so fast
it's hard to keep up with him. He's almost teaching me, now."

"DADDY!" shrieked Molly apon discovering him, shattering any hopes of

"Hello, darlin'," Miles scooped up his daughter, "What've you been up

"I done a painting,"

"You did?"


"You wanna show me?"

"YEAH!" Molly all but jumped half the way from Miles' arms. Life was
good at the moment.

* * * O * * *

In his quarters, Wart sat in the middle of a collection of
constructions, fixing this, testing that, attatching something else to another
piece. Every now and then, he would consult sheets of paper and cryptic

He'd found a way to show people what he could do.

* * * O * * *

Odo deliberately marched the four that had attacked Wart past Riva Neco.
True to type, Riva only folded his arms and tightened his teeth together. It
was all Odo needed to prove that Riva was connected with the attack. He could
use other ploys to get them to talk, later.

Much later. When the silence began to wear on them, when they were
desperate to speak. Then he could ask them how they had managed to find a way
his secured reports, and the valuable information that linked Wart to Neco's
arrest. Odo had learned from the Cardassians, just as the Bajorans had, of
getting what he needed.

It was a pity Sisko had demanded Quark's release. With enough time, Odo
could have learned a great deal from Quark... Especially regarding several
unsolved cases.

* * * O * * *

Quark's place was packed. It seemed as if most of the station had
crowded into the bar. The centre of their attention sat serenely on a stool,
gracefully plucking a tune out of a Bajoran lute.

When she finished, the crowds burst into life, applauding and cheering
their approval. The lute player smiled and nodded until the crowd began to
hush, then she bowed her head and started another tune.

Quark didn't mind this player's presence, first off because the crowd
did not stop buying just to hear her play, and secondly because he didn't have
to pay for her meals. Off to one side, Wart sat; not exactly listening, but
watching and smiling to himself.

A listener in the crowd asked for a particular tune, and the player
appologised and said she didn't know it. Wart stood, told the crowd to hold
a moment, then knelt by the player.

He reached up to her neck and delicately turned her off. He then took
off her back, revealing an exotic array of wires, gears and servos. "Ah," he
murmured, "A connection is off." he fixed it, then put his masterpiece back
together before reactivating her. "You'll have to request your song again,"
he informed the stunned audience before moving back to the bar.

Bashir blinked at the lute player, thinking it was such a pity that
she wasn't alive. At least the surprising interlude had saved him the
embarrassment if he tried to ask her on a date.

Wart was hardly paying attention anymore, since he was working on
some toys to sell to the public. Mother would be proud of him now, proud
of the work he was doing, the art he was making. His lute player was a
show piece, one of the tunes she played was a theme from a music box that
Mother used to have. Wart smiled and activated his latest creation.

A wren-sized metal bird fluttered and blinked on the table. Wart
flicked a finger down and the bird burst into song. One song only, but
enough to put a smile on a weary face.

Enough to bring a little more beauty out.

================================================================== =============

There! [Wipes sweat off brow, breathes sigh of relief]
I know I took my sweet time on this, but it's at least twice as long as the
others I wrote :)

Next: It's getting awful close to the end of semester [As have Uni based
account, and no modem, can't be online full-time] so there may not
be any more stuff. We'll have to see :)

Email for additional information [As of '95, I may change address without
warning. Appologies in advance :) ] Q of SFNPS member and instigator: RAAS
no bart, no buaf, no stupidquote(tm), no spellchecker, no life... ;)

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