TITLE: Assasin
EMAIL: liztai@hotmail.com
RATING: PG-13 (Some scenes of violence)
ARCHIVE: ASC – yes please. Other archives: it’ll be lovely to tell me where you put this. :)
CODE: P (A Paris story. No romance unfortunately. ;)

SUMMARY: What if Tom Paris never joined the Maquis? DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money has exchanged or will exchange hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The story however, is the property and copyright of the author.

NOTES: This story may shock some of you. If you want Tom Paris to remain the way he is now without tarnish to your memory of him, I advise you to turn away now. This is a dark story, and may contain some disturbing imagery. But as I wrote this story, I felt for Tom…and was glad that he joined the Maquis after all. I would really love feedback on this story! This is the first story I’ve written outside the Mytis Saga, and I plan to add a few more stand-alone stories after Assasin. Please, please send your emails to liztai@hotmail.com

By Lanna

What if I had taken that man’s offer three years ago?
Join the Maquis, he had said. Fight for a cause!
Frankly, I didn’t give a damn then.
I’ve got more important things to do.
Like grovelling in my despair for one thing. Son of an admiral.
One of the best pilots in Starfleet Academy. And I was drummed out of Starfleet. I fell fast. I fell low. Far more interesting to do that than joining up with a group of macho-idealistic hero-wannabes who plan on fighting a losing battle against the Federation and the Cardassians.

But I toyed with the idea for a while. I remember standing at the broken down spaceport on that godforsaken planet called Shant, wondering whether I should take the man’s offer.

Stockade watched me from his ship, not making a move. We stared at each other for a long time, me a few yards away, he at the doorway to his old Federation issue ship. Thoughts were running in my liquor-dazed brain then; mainly flying again. The Federation had taken that away from me, the one thing I enjoyed the most when I agreed to be a Federation officer.

To fly.

But something in me made it difficult to raise a foot to walk to Stockade.

In the end, Stockade stepped back, and with a loud roar, the twenty year-old Federation cargo ship sped away.
What if indeed?
I lit a chuntpah and inhaled. A cloud of smoke billowed before
me. I sighed in contentment. Smoking wasn’t the only bad habit I picked up when I left that backwater planet for Chunah, a worse hell-hole than Shant.

Two weeks on arrival, I had begun taking lintz – an exotic drug that this roughneck introduced to me when I was down in my cups. I thought back then, what the heck. I had absolutely nothing to lose. Never thought I’d lose myself. Or maybe I thought losing myself wasn’t that much of a big deal.

So I got hooked on lintz. Made me forget Dad, the Federation, Caldik Prime, my wreck of a life. I spent most of my days in an alley behind the bar. People got to know me real well. Some even spat on me to see if I would react. Most of the time I didn’t. If I did, I think I just winked at them.

Well, I guess I was miserable back then.
A sound distracted me from my thoughts.
I put out my chuntpah and took out Kelly.

Now Kelly, she’s a beauty. A Romulan Class-A Disrupter, modified
by yours truly to include a laser mark for more accurate hits and a longer, sleeker barrel for a silent kill. Wouldn’t trade it for a few thousand pieces of latinum. Now Jorik, he’s a mercenary; wanted to buy Kelly from me once, but I said, hell no. Wouldn’t listen. Thought he could spike me with some lethal poison one night. But I taught him a lesson with a good ‘ol knife in the throat. Didn’t look pretty when I left him, but he forced my hand.
The door opened, and my target walked in.
I muttered an oath. The target brought a guest. Looks like a young Cardassian girl. I squinted. Wonderful. His daughter. Hate complications, but heck, a job is a job.

I pointed Kelly at the Cardassian’s neck. Gul Lamere. Responsible for the deaths of a thousand Bajoran freedom fighters on Luksan-Nor. Said he ordered them hacked alive. Cardassians make me sick.

Kelly was pliant and obedient when I activated her. She let me know that she was ready for the kill and I smiled. Gul Lamere’s neck came into focus and I hummed a little tune to steady myself.
Gul Lamere didn’t know what hit him.

He stood there for a while, with that round neat hole in his
neck, flipping through his reports for goodness sakes. Then he just keeled over, his head neatly decapitated.

I removed my eyepiece, took out another chuntpah and lifted it to my mouth.

The Cardassian girl shrieked and ran to her father, trying her best to turn him over. Her eyes searched around her surroundings, screaming at the top of her lungs in Cardassian. Guards would be coming soon.
Then a strange thing happened.

She looked at me.

Oh, I was well concealed in the air-duct. But it was uncanny
wasn’t it?

I wore my eyepiece again. Brought Kelly into line, and soon enough, a red dot appeared on the Cardassian girl’s forehead. She gazed at me with frightened, terrified eyes.
Did I kill her?

What do you think?

I see you’re not interested in my pay-packet. Not that I’d tell you anyway. My life is good, but not without its risks. I have made more enemies than I need. I’ve got a man in the same job that wants to kill me so he would be number one.
You don’t believe I’m number one?

I don’t think I want that spot. Makes you too famous. In my line
of job, fame isn’t an asset.

I got into this job by a fluke. I was ‘discovered’ by a kind gentleman. He happened to be Romulan; but for some reason he decided not to put a disrupter to my head. Instead he carried me from my ditch behind the bar to his home.

His name was Terrak, and he claimed to be an ex-Romulan spy. He didn’t give me a reason for saving my life, nor did I really care back then. I was told that I nearly died from lintz overdose when he found me. My eyes were at the back of my head, and my limbs were stiff, as if I was dead days. Terrak said he saved my life, so my life was his.

When he said that I didn’t even blink. I merely stared vacantly into space and wondered why anyone would want to rescue me from a pleasant sleep. Even if it meant an endless one.

What he did next wasn’t so nice though. He tied me up, and he used more force than necessary. My wrists still bare the scars of his Romulan strength.

When the cravings hit me, I thought I’d go mad. My insides were burning, my brain had spiders crawling in them. I dreamt that Dad was there eating from my gut. I dreamt that my feet were being consumed by Hortas.
Death was better than this.

But Terrak wouldn’t let up. I thought he was deaf, because I
would yell my head off and he’d sit to one side, quietly reading. It drove me insane just watching him.

I don’t know how long I had withdrawal symptoms. Terrak told me four days, but I knew it was far longer than that. By the time I was over it, I was so weak I couldn’t even lift my head to drink the water he offered me.
I fell asleep. And woke up three days later, free from lintz.

"Do you know why I saved you?" he asked me the first day I was
I didn’t answer him. I was pretty mad at him for saving my ass.

"I want to give you my legacy." His face was all-serious at first, then he broke into a grin that became a cackle. Soon enough the cackle became full-blown laughter.

Great, I had thought. I was not only with a Romulan, but a crazy one.

Terrak wasn’t so bad once I was over being mad at him. The first few days after I was clean from lintz, he helped me eat (I was really in a bad way. Food disgusted me) and other necessary things you need to do. Now, don’t get me wrong. Terrak wasn’t exactly Florence Nightingale. He ‘helped’ me in a brusque, harsh manner that sometimes made me wince in pain. Like how a hired servant would treat a customer. Like I was some kind of investment to him. Most of the time he sat at an old desk, muttering to himself in Romulan while fiddling with some electronic gadgets.

A week after coming around, I was ready to go. I sat up on my makeshift bed and stared at Terrak’s back for a long time before I muttered, "I’m going."
"You’re not." He didn’t even turn.

I swung my legs over the bed. "Well, you can watch me go."

"You won’t get far." Sparks flew from his soldering equipment.

I shrugged and stood up.

The floor tilted immediately, and I found myself on my knees gasping.
Terrak spoke the moment my knees hit the floor.

"Lintz, if anyone is suicidal enough to take it, wastes away the muscles in the body. You will not be able to stand for a few weeks."
I slammed my fist on the floor, crying out in frustration.

"Damn it, Romulan! Let me go, now!"

Terrak finally turned to fix a glare on me. In a sudden move, he got up, walked up to me and hoisted me up so high that my feet were a few inches from the ground.

The suddenness of the motion made me nauseous. Terrak’s image wavered in front of me, and the only thing I could do was struggle frantically to free myself from his grip.

"You want to go? Walk. But if I drop you, you crumble like the pathetic piece of life you are." I spat at him.

Terrak flung me to my bed with such force it took the wind out of me. I couldn’t even move when he tied me to my bed.
"We’re moving tomorrow. This city will kill you if you stay."

"What do you care?!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, my rage making my voice shake. I was by then, too tired to struggle against the bonds.

Terrak returned to his seat and continued his little electronic project.

* * *

Terrak forced me to go with him the next day. He got for us a decrepit hover vehicle, packed me at the back (still tied) and drove off to no where.

He untied me after a few days, and I returned his favour by punching him.
Or trying to.

He caught my fist easily enough and threw me my meal, face first, on the dirt.
"As long as you behave like an animal, you’ll eat like one."

Until my pride bowed, I didn’t eat for some time.
I was filled with rage for days. Maybe it was the lintz, I don’t know. But I was angry at Terrak for rescuing me from what I termed a ‘peaceful existence’.

Back in the city, in my spot behind the pub, I worried about nothing – I thought about nothing. No ghosts from the shattered shuttle craft at Caldik Prime haunted me. No lost future mocked me, no missed chances tortured me. My nights were dreamless and empty. I was happy. Lintz took care of that. Terrak took that ‘peace’ away from me, and I wanted him to pay.

But no matter what I did, I never ruffled him. He just continued carting me to his vehicle day after day; driving me off to another destination.

Eventually, I regained use of my legs, but by then, my irrational rage had disappeared and a sense of apathy had settled in. I ate my meals without complaint and I followed Terrak on his journey like an obedient sheep.

"I was one of the best operatives in the Empire," he loved to boast on those long journeys. One time, we were somewhere in the outskirts of the city district, free from the stifling stench of the spice mines that littered around and in the cities. Terrak had traded his decrepit vehicle for two yamak horses – huge camel-like beasts that smell as bad as they looked.

"What happened?" I asked carefully. I was interested enough to talk by then. Terrak looked at me with his flinty eyes. He wasn’t smiling, but I wasn’t afraid. Terrak always had that look when he pondered something – and he pondered a lot.

"I fell in love," he grinned. Then cackled, slapping me on the shoulder.

He left it at that – but he later told me that he fell in love with a Romulan high official’s daughter. But a fellow rival beat him to it by framing him for treachery. It was all very romantic. I believed about a quarter of the story – the part about treachery.
Terrak never clarified his story.

It didn’t bother me.

From that campsite, we rode a few hundred miles to a county called Y’shara. It was pure wilderness there. But the beauty was incredible. Here, no pollution touched the crystal clear waters or the green, dewy leaves of the Ropa vine-trees. We pitched a camp there, somewhere near a waterfall. I idly called it San Francisco – Terrak thought it was a stupid name. After a week, we moved to a more permanent home – a cave at the mouth of the waterfall.

I found myself staring at the night skies one night. I lay outside the cave on my back, staring at the star that was the Sun. It was a month after we arrived in Y’shara; five months after Terrak found me. I thought about a lot of things then. Dad…what is he doing? Does he even think about his prodigal son? Or is he glad to be rid of the thorn of his immaculate Starfleet career? I closed my eyes and sighed.
"You’re good at that," Terrak commented.

I opened my eyes. Terrak was standing above me, hands on his hips.
"At what?" I didn’t bother to sit up.

"Condemning yourself. No wonder humans are so easily defeated."

"Last time I checked, we drove the Romulans away."

Terrak grinned. "So you think."

I didn’t return his grin. I frowned at him, and for a while, I tried to read his face. I thought then that there must be something beyond the kindness he was showing me.

Suddenly, the cloud of indifference that had followed me for so long lifted and I found rage again. What treachery did he plan for me? A hundred scenarios ran through my mind, and as I progressed through them, I grew more and more furious.

"Why did you save me?" I asked, my voice hard and accusing. To say that I was suspicious was an understatement. I was expecting a declaration of his betrayal to flow from his lips, but Terrak surprised me.
"I told you. To give you my legacy."

I was not amused.

I remained silent as he lit his chuntpah. I bit my lip to keep them from moving and saying something stupid.The effort nearly bloodied my lips. Casually, Terrak blew smoke at my face and I coughed, scowling at him.
"That’s a disgusting habit," I snapped.

"This?" he took his chuntpah and regarded it like a precious gem.
"This, human, is the answer to your questions. Take a whiff of this, and you will feel as if you’re swimming in a sea of melted latinum." He gave a broad grin.

I sighed and got up to my feet. After trying lintz, I could try anything. I grabbed the chuntpah from his hand and took a drag. It tasted like yamak dung.
I swore and threw the chuntpah as far away from me as possible.

"I don’t appreciate that. That was expensive."

"I’m doing you a favour. Your lungs are probably thanking me now."

I crossed my arms and sat on a rock by the stream, intent to continue brooding.
"I had a son once," Terrak said suddenly.

I looked up, and feigned disinterest. "So?"

I was quite a jerk back then.

Terrak took on the role of a patient mentor. He sat beside me, puffing on a new chuntpah.
"He was the best operative there was on Romulus."

I snorted. The story sounded familiar.

"I will not let you debase my son’s name!" Terrak snapped suddenly, his dark eyes livid.

His rage caught me by surprise, and I looked at him for a while, at loss for words. "I’m sorry." I said after a while. "Being cynical is another bad habit I got when I came to this blasted planet."

Terrak nodded. "Cynicism is good once in a while, but with you, human, it’s every breath of word from your mouth."
My lips thinned into a sardonic smile.

"Well, at least I know I’m good at something."

Now it Terrak’s turn to snort. He puffed on the chuntpah again.
"My son was so good; he was an excellent pilot, he was the best fighter in his squadron, he knew over twenty languages; he was so good that I was so afraid he would fall. Do you know how far people like that would fall?"
I froze, staring at my reflection on the lake.

"Yes," I barely whispered.

"One day Dinar killed his superior in an angry brawl." Terrak’s lips thinned.

I looked at him. "And he was…?" The word ‘killed’ was at the tip of my tongue.

"He was promoted!" Terrak said happily. Then he chuckled to himself.
I threw a stick into my reflection. The water rippled violently.

"I don’t see the point of this little story," I muttered. I got up from my seat to walk to the cave.
"I grew proud of him, human," he called out.

I stopped and looked at him, wondering what else he had to say.
He still looked at the river.
"I grew proud of him, and one day I discovered what he had done.
So…" he turned to look at me. "I had him executed."
I stiffened.

"You see, human. I loved my son. But I had him executed because my honour was more important."

I found myself looking at him with resentment. "Do you ever regret what you have done?"
Terrak did not answer immediately.

But when he did, his voice shook with grief. "What do you think, human? Do we Romulans not have hearts too?"

I watched him grieve; but soon the silence was too much to bear and I was forced to say something just to break the unbearable tension between us.

"You got me curious," I said softly, careful not to intrude too abruptly into the painful silence. "What’s the legacy you have for me?"

Terrak looked up, his black eyes slit into a frown. Resolutely, he got up and walked to his yamak and got something out of his pouch bag. When he returned, he clutched something long and shiny in his hand.

Terrak merely opened my hand and placed what I assume was ‘my legacy’ in my hand.

I felt a cool, long cylinder and when I looked down, I frowned – it looked like a metal tube.

Noting my puzzlement, he took the tube from me. "There, let me demonstrate." He depressed a small knob at the bottom of the tube.

I jumped when a three inch needle shot out. I took a few steps back, watching the gleaming needle.
"I don’t understand," I said finally.

"Of course you don’t," Terrak said, depressing the knob again to
withdraw the needle, turning the thing into a harmless cylinder once more. His face was serious when his eyes met mine.

"It’s a neuro-syringe, designed to implant a probe in a subject’s brain."
I winced. I didn’t like my legacy at all.

Terrak saw my expression.

"It’s not the neuro-syringe that is my legacy. It is what is inside that matters!" he said, his face beginning to grow livid with excitement.

"Inside," he continued, "is a nano-probe; Not just any nano-probe. It’s a nano-probe containing all my memories, skills and talents…all handed to you."
I could only stare at him in shock.

"And you want to give me all this because…?"

"Because, I want to give you a new chance in life!"

He said it with such conviction that I found it difficult to laugh in his face.

"Terrak – Thanks, but no thanks. I have enough memories of my own. I don’t buy this altruistic act." My voice came out harsher than I intended. But I found myself confused at what he wanted me to do. That confusion easily translated into anger, all directed at Terrak.

"After all this while, you’re still suspicious of me." Terrak said it quietly, tapping the cylinder on his forehead.

"Shouldn’t I be?" I muttered, lowering myself to the sandy ground again.

"Tell me. If I was human instead of Romulan, would you have acted differently?"
"It doesn’t matter."

"Oh does it?" he gave me a pointed stare. "Will you ever trust this old Romulan?"
"Maybe never," I muttered.

A strange expression crossed his face. I read it as hurt and disappointment. It baffled me at that time because I didn’t understand why Terrak would feel both. Or why I should feel guilty that he felt this way. I understood that he wanted to win me over, as a klingon who would tame a wild targ. I was the ‘prize’, his strange ‘grail’ to reach.
I wanted to know why, why, why!

He left the conversation at that and proceeded to cook dinner.
While I sat in the shadows, chewing my lips till they turned raw.

* * *

News of Gul Lamere’s death travelled fast. Soon, this little backwater town became a hotbed of Cardassian activity. But since they had no say in Sharial, they had no power to drag everyone in sight to question them.
I was paid well.

In the darkness, I studied my next assignment, my eyes the only visible feature of my face.
"Do you understand your assignment?" said the one who hired me.

"Well enough," I answered through the voice altering implant on my neck. I fixed my eyes on the Cardassian across of me.
Cardassians disgust me.

I smiled.

"I see you have an interesting target," I said, studying the photograph of my target.
"Nothing you can’t handle, I’m sure."

The shawl I wore to conceal most of my face hid my sneer. The cool answer of this Cardassian more than annoyed me. It made me want to bash his head in to show him how I despised his hypocrisy.

This man, my ‘boss’, as I termed him, had hired me to kill Gul Lamere.
Slick as serpents, these creatures.

Not that I don’t understand his motives.

My good friend Gul Barek was the next Cardassian up the ladder.
Problem was, Lamere was in his way.

I merely gave him one look to tell him I’ve had enough of his company for that hour. My Cardassian boss understood very well and left. When he left, I was alone in the abandoned former mansion of the governor of this province. Rebels had dragged the hapless man from his comfortable bedroom in the middle of the night and hanged him on the yeelar tree outside, it seems. Barbarians populate non-Federation planets at best. And me, being one of the more refined creatures in it.

I removed my shawl, freeing my lips. I studied my target once more, taking in his features: blue eyes, greying hair, receding hairline, Starfleet uniform, admiral’s pips.

I took out a chuntpah and lit it, watching the smoke curl from its tip with satisfaction. Once lit, I took a drag, relishing the burning it brought to my lungs, but enjoying the calm it gave me more.

There’s no right or wrong, Terrak told me once. But the victor is always right.

A distant memory of a young boy’s delighted laughter came to me. A smile from a young girl’s face as she pushed her brother on the swing. The stern gaze of a domineering father which turned into a gaze of pride.
Yes, I believed Terrak. The victor is always right.

I threw away the chuntpah and wrapped the dark shawl around my face. The air was cold. My conscience, if I still had one, was clear.
You see, there was no right or wrong.

Even if the target was my father.
* * *

Silence. I remembered that quiet, peaceful time by the lake. Ages ago. Ages ago…
"Compassion, human, is a lie."

I snorted, looking up from my skinned leemek (a cross between a
rabbit and snake). "Spoken like a true Romulan," I said.
Terrak laughed. And laughed some more.

I chuckled; Damn it, his laughter was infectious.

Soon we were both roaring with laughter.

"Ah, human! I’m sure you know what it is like to be on the receiving end of ‘Federation Compassion’! Drummed out of Starfleet like a gnat on a screen!"

"Shut up, Terrak!" I snapped. But there wasn’t much force in my words. Instead I grinned as I worked on my meal.

"Ah, but the Romulans, we do not waste time on ‘compassion’. Compassion gets you nowhere. Only the strong need to survive – the weak are better off dead. That is ‘compassionate’ don’t you think?"

I fixed a baleful glare on him, but the effect was spoiled by my grin. "I can’t banter logic with you, Romulan. So, if we don’t have compassion, what do we live for?"

Terrak held up a finger. "I see light in you yet, human. Good question. Good question!

"Don’t you see the answer yet, human? There is no right or wrong. ‘Wrong’ is relative. So is ‘right’. Once you understand this – your life will be simple!"
"Or utter chaos," I muttered.

"The victor is always right," Terrak went on. His flinty eyes began to take on a hard edge. "Remember that, eh?"
I returned his look with a non-committal frown and then looked away.

We did not talk about my ‘legacy’ for some time now. As I got better, I began to question my being with Terrak. With every shanty town we visited, an urge grew in me to ‘move on’. Leave.
But I couldn’t.

Was it because of the laughter we shared around the campfire as we roasted our recent kill?
Was it because of the warming of my heart to his pointed sarcasm?

Against my will, I found myself liking him.

Trusting him, even.

But Terrak struck the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’.

He called me his son.

It was over the fire, after too much drink. But when the word was out of his mouth, he looked as if he was struck, and I felt as if I was stabbed.
We stared at each other, and at that moment he knew.

I was going to leave. I had no choice. No choice at all.

Staring at me with those dark eyes, he had said, "You look tired."
I gazed at him levelly. "I feel that way," I answered slowly.

Terrak nodded and stirred the fire. "Good. Get some sleep."

"See you."

Terrak didn’t answer. He didn’t need to play games like that.
I studied him from the hill overlooking the campsite. I had my bags with me – what little I had. Which was not much. Terrak was still stirring the embers. Occasionally, he paused to take a sip from his pitched mug.

When I turned to go my way, I was surprised to find tears in my eyes.
I see you don’t understand.

I think no one could. Only Terrak and I understood.

But I’ll explain it as simply as I could.

We were getting too close.

Must I pervert the memory of his son?

Should he allow himself to be the image of the father I could
never have?
It was ridiculous.

I see you still don’t understand.

Don’t try to.
My life from then on was not very interesting. The nearest town to the campsite was called Shalak-Nor and I headed there as quickly as I could. Dilapidated mud brick houses lined the sandy, dessert road. Gaunt humans stared from dusty windows as I walked into the town for the first time.

The town was a throwback to medieval times. In my pampered years on Eden Earth, I never imagined a place where humans have regressed so much. Chunah was too far out of the Federation to be of any interest to it so the citizens of a human colony that was established in 2198 had retained its independence over the years. Unfortunately, the freedom was abused more than cherished. Over the centuries, its countless wars had torn the planet apart, reducing the more fortunate parts to sleazy cities like the one where Terrak found me and some became backward villages like Shalak-Nor.

But Shalak-Nor was charming in its own way. Women gave me shy nods as they carried laundry to a nearby stream. Evenings were filled with the scents of cooked food wafting from kitchens with the most complicating technology being blenders. Little children wrestled in the mud, while scrawny dogs barked playfully at each other.
I found myself…charmed.

People asked a lot of questions about me in Shalak-Nor. I could see that in the glances and whispers directed at me. But soon that stopped, and tentatively, I changed from the object of conversation to the centre of conversation.

I took up a job with the local engineer. He constructs useful things like communicator devices and blenders. But despite his ‘genius’ (for he did invent charming devices like a self-rotating-clothes-rack), his shop was strangely avoided by the townsfolk.

"People here do not like technology. Sheb said it was evil," he muttered as he worked on a toaster one day.

Toran, for that was his name, looked up in surprise. "You’ve not heard of Her Holiness?"

From the snide way Toran said Sheb’s title, I assumed that he didn’t much like this character.
"No, I’m a stranger, remember?"

Toran grunted. "Well, best avoid her. She fancies herself a goddess."

"Yeah? Haven’t heard of her in the city. They don’t seem to speak of her at all."

"Well yeah, the city folks have more to worry about, and Sheb ignores them most of the time. Chunah regards Sheb as a saviour – she’s been around since 2206 it seems." Toran returned to his scrubbing.
"What, that will make her…two hundred?"

"Something like that."

"She’s not human, is she?"

"Seems damned obvious to me."

"What is she? A Vulcan? A Tellarite? A Bolian?"

Toran shrugged. "She looks like a normal girl – you saw the
pictures of her around. Not many have seen her up close, but Shalak-Nor is one of her ‘favoured towns’. They truly worship her, you know, putting candles by her picture and all that."
I shook my head in disbelief. "That’s crazy."

"You and I – we’re different," Toran explained. "Enlightened, you might say. We were part of the ‘great’ Federation before. We sat in Starships, dined with Vulcans and flew in fancy shuttlecrafts. People here – it’s a stuff of fantasies to them-" he waved a hand around the room as if the whole village was here. "They see something slightly extraordinary – let’s say a girl that lives a few hundred years - and they think she’s celestial. In a way it’s charming. Hey, washing your own laundry could be fun and educational, too."
"Not for me."

"Hey, but I’m serious here. Sheb – she isn’t one to be played around with. She’s poison that one. She destroyed a whole village two years ago by just declaring a couple of people there heretics. Turned out a ‘couple of people’ were half the village. Like dutiful little worshipers they slaughtered each other. See what I’m talking about?"

"I don’t think I’ll ever cross her path. I’m just a gheko under her feet."

"She likes ghekos best. Likes to grind them with the heel of her boot."

Just then the door to the store opened. Toran got up, rubbing his grubby hands on his overalls as he readied to greet the visitor.

The woman arrested my attention at once. Like most humans on Chunah, she had dark hair and slightly slanted eyes which gave away her Asian heritage. Her green eyes stayed with mine for a brief moment before returning her attention to Toran.
"Good choice."

I blinked.

The lady was gone – instead, Toran stood in her place, his hands on his hips and a wry grin on his face. Had I been staring at empty space all this while?

"What?" I pretended not to know. But my body betrayed me – I blushed.

"Mereen Thomas. Beautiful girl. She’s the only one in the village that bothered to be nice to me when I first arrived. But just a word of warning – you’ve got some mighty competition. Anyone in the village with a Y chromosome is crazy about her."

I grunted, trying to feign ignorance. "Really, you’re wrong. I’m not up to a relationship now. Or ever."

"Let’s see," Toran chuckled. "Let’s see."
Fate played a trick on me.

Mereen Thomas dropped her basket of flowers on my feet on Thursday, the day where the whole village gathered for the usual communal dinner. And me, dressed in my worn and ragged ‘best’ coat, displayed my Paris charm and gave her flowers back.

Her jewel-green eyes met mine and she smiled, and I was lost from that moment on.

There are not many memories that I treasure. Even the day that I was accepted into the Academy wasn’t special to me. But Mereen - she was extraordinary. She was the woman that loved me. And the woman that I loved. Mereen’s smile, after all these years was still fresh in my mind, and I could still taste her lips on my mine – the very first we shared by the Tokra river, and the memorable one we shared at our wedding on that hot summer afternoon.

I cannot talk about her without my heart constricting with agony.

Such was love, as poets would say.
The doves flew away.
"Jared, come back here. Listen to mama-"

Two years from our fateful meeting, I watched Mereen chase our two-year-old son with alittle satisfied smile on my face. Mereen called it my ‘special’ smile, the smile she would love to kiss; she often said.

But Jared had the Paris genes. He gave a high giggle and ran faster, flapping his arms, imitating the doves.

Toran grunted suddenly, throwing aside his much-abused Federation issue PADD.
"What is it?" I saw that he looked frustrated.

"Sheb vetoed the Council today. Chunah WILL NOT be part of the Federation. Not now, nor ever."

I took a sip of lemonade. Mereen had managed to catch our son by then. He was on the damp grass, giggling helplessly as my wife tickled him. I smiled, momentarily distracted from politics.
"Are you listening?"

Frowning, I turned my attention back to Toran.

"What?" a little annoyed.

"There’s going to be blood spilled – I can smell it. Sheb is planning something!"
I sighed. "Toran, one day your talk will get you in trouble.
Sheb’s spies are everywhere," I emphasised.

"Huh. I’m sick and tired of that talk. You know as well as I- that the village, this village is especially devoted to our little goddess. They do whatever she says. As far as I’m concerned – everyone is a spy!"
"That’s right," said a voice behind us.

Both of us froze. For a moment, we thought of Sheb’s eyes and ears then a memory, and I remembered.
I rose and faced him.

"Terrak," I whispered, watching him as he walked towards me casually.

In silence I watched Terrak approach us. Toran looked half afraid and half amazed. I was just ashamed.

I couldn’t meet his eyes, but Terrak fixed his ebony eyes on me and I was forced to return the glare.

"I see you have a life for yourself now," he looked at Mereen who was now walking towards us very slowly. It was clear that she was afraid of Terrak. I turned and gave her a reassuring smile.
"It’s been a long time," I said haltingly.

Terrak didn’t say anything for a while. Then, without warning, he enveloped me in his arms. I was so surprised that I returned his hug, and realised, that against my will – I had truly missed him.

"My dog’s bones," I heard Toran say after a pregnant pause. "Who would’ve thought? A Romulan in Shalak-Nor!"
"More wine?" Mereen asked Terrak.

Terrak nodded and gave Mereen a welcoming smile. She didn’t return it. Instead, she looked at me questioningly. I could only give her an uncomfortable smile in return. It didn’t please her much, because she took Jared by the hand, threw a look of disgust in Terrak’s direction and locked our bedroom door behind her.

I sighed, watching my cold soup. It was difficult to tell Mereen to put aside her fear – the people of Shalak-Nor, being so close to Sheb, had learnt to adopt their chosen goddess’ xenophobic tendencies. I had ignored that trait in Mereen, thinking she’d learn to appreciate the beauty of other beings eventually if she stuck around me long enough. But many times in our conversations, I realised that it was so deeply ingrained in her being, in her way of life – that to be anything other than xenophobic would’ve been disgusting to her.
"She’s a lovely woman," Terrak said.

I frowned. There was an odd tone to his voice. Terrak usually reserved that tone of his when he was wary of someone.

"What are you talking about, Terrak?" I wasn’t quite as easily fooled.

Terrak met my gaze levelly. "I’m telling you that she’s not to be trusted."

I was too stunned to reply straightaway.

"Are you mad? She’s my wife!" My voice was high with disbelief. "Any blind man can see that," Terrak said in his cold, level voice. "What we cannot see is where her loyalties lie." "I’ve had enough of your Romulan paranoia," I hissed. Terrak sighed and got up slowly. "You’ve forgotten- compassion does not exist-" "In your world, Romulan. But in mine- it does." Terrak leaned forward. "Sheb is getting nervous. She sees Federation spies everywhere. And likewise, she will move her spies to actively seek and destroy. Do you know that one of her spies was a twelve year old child? When she died, she clutched the knife she stabbed herself with and declared, ‘I die with a cause’. This is what you’re dealing with’."

I stared at him with amazement.

"Isn’t it like a Romulan to see daggers in the hands of friends?"

I finally said.

"And isn’t it like a human to see that dagger and think it a rose?"

I rose from the table and walked to the fireplace, briskly throwing firewood into it.

"I like you, Terrak – so I’m not going to ask you to leave. But we will not talk about this matter anymore." But the thought stayed in me like poison.

There is a time in your life when you know that you are at a crossroad – and one road you take will lead you to damnation, and another not to eternal happiness, but something close to it.
Do you know what is it like to love someone?

I knew.

It is like gazing into something you want to hold on forever; it is like a knife you’re willing to thrust into your heart.

I have a dream of her. And always she’s staring at me with a small smile on her face, her long hair blowing behind her. The sun was always setting, and her long, patterned skirt was always wet with dew from the still-damp grass by the riverside. I don’t hear anything when she opens her mouth to speak to me. Her lost words will haunt me forever.
Why, Menee? Why?

Sheb, the ever present goddess of Chunah was upset. The Federation had dared disobey her edict. An away team was found in disguise in one of the outlying towns.
The town happened to be Shalak-Nor.

"Don’t you understand, she’s not a goddess!" one of them shouted.

My upper lip trembled with barely concealed horror as I clutched Jared close to me. Jared stared at the three Federation citizens – one female, two men – all human – were tied to a stake. The one tying them to the stake was Gibrel. He liked to hold barbeques for us on Thursdays.

"Kill the heathens! Kill them!" someone roared. The chant was caught up very quickly, and soon the town began to roar in approval.

What were they going to do? I think somewhere in my brain I knew what they wanted to do, but my mind, so pampered by the comforts of a land where thievery did not even exist, could not comprehend that that could be possible.

Gibrel smiled as he got down from the stake. Old mother Kitan began throwing logs at the stake.
"What are they doing?" the Federation woman asked.

"Daddy, what are they-" Jared echoed, but I interrupted him.
"Stay still."
I should have taken him away, but I was mesmerised with fear.
With…shock even.

I saw horror settling upon the woman’s features when Gibrel approached them with a torch. Soon, the men too understood.
"YOU CAN’T DO THIS!" the woman screamed.

Old mother Kitan, who knitted Jared a sweater last winter, poured oil on the logs.
"NO! PLEASE! I DON’T WANT TO DIE LIKE THIS!" a wail of anguish.

I paled. I knew that voice…I knew!

The Federation officers had begun struggling. The woman was crying, one man was still and white with shock. And this man with dark brown hair was screaming and screaming…
Immediately I whispered, "James!"

James…he was the class clown in Astrophysics. He didn’t do very well in that class and vented his frustration by cracking jokes at our all too stiff Vulcan professor. He was my roommate for a semester. He was assigned to Deep Space Five. He was a good officer. He was my friend. He was going to die.

"Don’t watch Jared. Don’t watch." My voice was barely a whisper, and it trembled violently. Jared recognised the terror in my voice and burrowed deep into my robe.
Gibrel dropped the torch.

The logs ate the fire, and the bonfire was there in a five seconds. I counted. I did. Because that was all I could do to block out the screams.

I waited for the shimmer of a transporter beam, but none came. And as James’ hair disappeared in a halo of fire, and his throat stopped screaming because it wasn’t there anymore, I found the courage to weep.
They took a long time to die.

Jared had his little hands covering his ears and I prayed he did not hear a thing.

The townsfolk cheered, and I looked to my left and saw Menee cheering with them.

"We have to leave." Toran whispered to me the next day as I sat at my patio for tea.
I shook my head. "Menee won’t leave."

"You’re right. She won’t. But for Jared!" the way he said my son’s name, it seemed like an oath. I looked up.

"We are Federation citizens, Tom! What do you think they’ll do to us? Our children?!" His voice trembled. He had a girl and a boy. His wife had died years ago.
"Do you have a ship?"

Toran nodded his head vigorously. "She’s a rusted tin can, but she’s class 8 at least."

"Class 8?" I mumbled. Nothing better than a medieval carriage pulled by a overweight bull. "It will do. When can you get it ready?" I whispered harshly.

"Tommorow night! Come to my house at eight. We’ll be gone from this accursed planet and be at Deep Space Five in two weeks. Picture it Tom – you can raise your son on Earth! Hey, maybe he can be a Starfleet officer?" Toran was rambling, but what he said brought a smile to my lips.

"No, not a Starfleet officer." I looked at Toran and patted his shoulder. "He’ll be a dreamer…like his dad."

* * *
I threw away my chuntpah.

"Who are you working for?" my target asked harshly.

Kelly was activated, ready to work. All I had to do was pull the trigger.

My target had not aged, it seemed. He still had the same hard, blue eyes, the same cold line to his lips.
I wore my full attire, so he could only see my eyes.

"It is the Romulans, isn’t it? Or is it the Alerimaris?" he goaded me.

I didn’t answer him. I just watched him. Not a trickle of sweat on him. Not a hint of nervousness. In a way, I admired him.

I walked towards him and with my gloved hand, I lifted his chin. He turned away from my grasp brusquely, but I turned him back just as hard. I looked into his blue eyes and forced him to see mine.
What should I say to him?

<Hello, Dad. Long time no see. If you don’t mind, I’m going to kill you now.
<Tell me, Dad, have you ever felt sorry that you walked away from your son the day he was cashiered out of Starfleet? Have you ever wondered what happened to him over the past three years? Did you know that he nearly died? Not once, but more times than he can count? Tell me, Dad, do you believe in compassion? I don’t. Tell me if that’s wrong, for, really, I don’t know anymore.
<Dad. Father. Daddy…
"Daddy! Daddy! I’m scared!"

I shushed Jared the best I could. I threw his clothes into a small bag, my hands trembling violently. It had become worse. Susan Moran and her husband were dragged out to the streets today and publicly executed. I didn’t see it happen. I just heard Susan scream.

What about the children? What about-
"Daddy! Daddy!"

"Damn it, Jared, shut up!" I screamed.

Jared paled and his eyes, so wide and full of fear – they should’ve been filled with laughter, not fear. Not this! HE should be growing in Chicago by the old house, my house – with Christine teaching him to play doctor, his grandfather…my dad-

I found tears coming to my eyes as I knelt down and hugged him close.
"Jared, I’m sorry."

I forced my tears to retreat and smiled as bravely as I could. I was never more afraid in my life. Federation training be damned when it came to the safety of your wife and son. Menee was missing. Did they have her as well? My mind worked frantically on a way to find Menee and save all of us.

On my way to the house, my hands full of supplies, I passed a cart filled with bodies. Bodies that were once fond neighbours. Friends stared at me like enemies…the world had gone insane.
"You know I love you, don’t you, coach?"

Jared nodded.

"Good. We’re leaving tonight, Jared. Do you understand?"

"But I don’t want to go." Jared said in a small voice, his eyes pooling with tears.

"I know, neither do I. But Earth is a beautiful place, you’ll love it. There are lots of trees, lakes…dogs."

"Dogs?" he became bugged eyed. "Can I have one? Like you promised?"
"Sure, coach. Anything."

With our pack supplies on my back and Jared clutching my hand, we ran to Toran’s house in the still darkness. His house was darkened, and I couldn’t fault him with the caution. It was best to do as much as you can not to bring attention to yourself.
"Toran? Toran?! I’m here!"

I opened the door. It was all dark.

Cursing, I took out my fist light and shone at-His corpse.

Jared screamed before I could stop him. When I finally had my hand on his mouth to stop him, his scream had pierced the still night.

Toran, former Starfleet engineer, wanted nothing but a simple and happy life for his children. He left a promising career behind for an eccentric wish to live on a land free of the politics of the Federation. It was here, the ‘Eden’ that he had chosen, that he died, pinned to the wall with knives driven into his shoulders.
His eyes stared at me.

"This is what happens to heathens."

I jumped and instinctively brought Jared close to me.

A young girl stared at me. But her eyes had the look of years in
them. Centuries. Her black hair was pleated neatly at her sides, and her red lips and blue eyes made her appear like a fragile doll. But I knew what she was capable of.
"Sheb." I whispered.

I have seen Sheb in pictures drawn by the townsfolk. Her portraits grace every room in the town. Candles were lit beneath these pictures. The first time I saw her, I couldn’t believe how young this ‘goddess’ was. But I ignored their foolishness.

"You recognise me?" even her voice was childlike. "Look at my loyal subjects. They too recognise me," she motioned behind her.
Shuffled footsteps and I saw…Menee approaching us.

Jared smiled. He was frightened about everything, but he believed that when mommy was there everything would be alright.
"Mama! We’re going to Earth!"

"Are we?" Sheb smiled at me.

I averted my eyes from Sheb to look at Menee, but she refused to meet my eyes. Her eyes- they were hard, distant, unhappy and pained all at once.
"Menee…" I began.

<She’s not to be trusted… Terrak taunted me.

I finally understood.

"You betrayed us." I whispered. "You betrayed Toran…you had him killed!"

Menee finally looked up. "Tom, the goddess is kind and benevolent. She will forgive you for this insult. Just listen to her." She said it so gently, like a mother to a naughty child.
"Menee. Don’t you understand? She is not a goddess!" I cried out.

The crowd behind her gasped and whispered furiously among themselves.

Menee threw her head back, but her lower lip trembled. "I have married a heretic." Slowly she sank to her knees and gripped Sheb’s white garments. "Forgive me goddess for making such a mistake!" she pleaded, looking at Sheb. "I shall kill myself to prove my loyalty to you. Anything, anything for you!" her sobs shook her body.
Sheb gave me an angelic smile.

"See how devoted they are to me? How can you, a stranger in our land understand this? For centuries I’ve watched over them, cared for them. They were dying from their wars, and I appeared, healed them…" she caressed Menee’s dark hair. Menee sighed.

Sheb fixed her blue eyes on mine and smiled – oh, she wore the beguiling face of a child, but inside, lay an evil as old as time itself.

<My race lives for thousands of years, Tom. For years I’ve searched for the perfect race to survive on. I found them and now the Federation wants to take them away from me. she said to me in French.

And Menee and the rest couldn’t understand of course, because their only language was a bastardised form of English.

My surprise that she spoke to me that way lasted only for a while.

< Are you arrogant enough to think that the Federation will allow you to continue with this?! I snapped back in turn.

Her blue eyes began to glow a bright yellow, and I began to see why they worshipped her, these fools.

<I see you are not convinced? Think you that your mighty Federation could free them from me? Can you free a people that do not want to be freed? I shall demonstrate now how much they need me! Her voice had changed from the sweet tone of a child to a deep, guttural growl.
Her eyes became white with light.

"Menee, I will forgive you, child."

Menee looked hopefully at her goddess.

"On one condition."

Sheb gave me a smile.

"Kill your son."

I shrank back, and pulled Jared to me. I stared at Menee with my eyes, imploring some sense into those eyes, eyes that have stared at me with such love before…
"Menee…don’t do this."

Menee stared dumbly at Jared. I don’t know what thoughts ran in her head then, but they must have asked this question: What price for love?
But whom does she love?

Her son…or her goddess?

"MENEE!" I shouted.

She jerked awake, coming out from a dream. She smiled at Jared and held out her hand.
"Jared…mama’s here. Come to mama."

Jared looked uncertainly at me.

I carried him in my arms, hugging him close.

"Stay away from us…" I backed into the wall. No, to Toran’s body.

Menee walked towards us, her hands outstretched. "I will sing you a lullaby, Jared. And you will sleep in my arms tonight, peaceful and content."
Jared was quiet. He didn’t know this woman. This wasn’t his mom.
She wasn’t scary like this.

Menee took Jared’s hands and tried to remove him from my arms. Fear seized me then. I roared and kicked at her, and she fell and everything happened all at once. Bodies rushed at me, I heard Jared crying. Fists rained on me, and I felt blood run down my face. Ribs cracked, but all I could think of was Jared.

There was a brief darkness, and I came to …Menee was carrying a struggling Jared out into the night.

A hard fist cracked my jaw.

Her glowing eyes the only thing I could see.
<See how much they love me, Tom. Now, do you understand? "Kill him."

And Sheb was gone.

I was numb. I think I died before they even began their task. I could only stare as Gibrel brought his club down to my face.

"Be careful," a voice said later. "You had a nasty concussion." <That’s all? I thought with a wry grin. Then a distant memory pierced the darkness and I sat up.

"JARED!" I cried out, but Terrak stilled me, staring at me with dark, sad eyes.

All around were bodies. Terrak must have killed them all. The sky was beginning to lighten with the first stages of dawn. "I told you not to trust her, Tom…why didn’t you listen to me?" he said sadly.

"Jared!" I cried desperately. "Menee-?"
Terrak stared at me for a while, then shook his head.

I paled; strength leeched from me and I collapsed, numb. One day…just a day had passed!

"You have lost everything, but you have my legacy," he reminded me.

I turned away. The legacy again. I didn’t have the strength to tell him to throw his bloody legacy away.
Terrak turned me around, studying my pale face.

"I know you don’t want it, Tom," he smiled – it was a tender and sympathetic smile, the first I’d seen on him. "But without it, you’re going to die. I don’t want you to die, Tom. You were always my son in heart."

"Why do you tell me this, Terrak? Do you think your words can ease my pain?!" I said hoarsely.

Terrak laughed weakly and patted my shoulder. "Very simple, Tom. I don’t have much time left." It was then that he showed me a wound on his chest. It was bleeding still, and for the first time I saw a massive pool of green blood beneath him.

"Terrak…" I gripped his shoulders. He relaxed and I felt him loosing control of his limbs. "Are you going to leave me too?" My voice quivered as I held on to him. Terrak gave me a sad smile.
I felt something cool in my right hand. It was the neuro-syringe.

"This was the reason why I left Romulus. Sharbokh must continue to live." He looked at me and grinned. "Avenge your family, Tom.

Sharbokh will help you."

But Terrak’s eyes had closed.

"Terrak…" I whispered long after his body had become cold in my arms. "You’re the father I’ve always wanted."

I took his limp body in my arms and stared at his face. He seemed to be asleep, my son. He seemed so at peace. Then his head lolled away and settled at an impossible angle and everything in me broke inside.

I clutched his little body to mine and stared dumbly into the mist and at Menee’s swaying body. Menee had hung herself at the tree. I don’t know whether she killed herself because she had murdered our son…or had disappointed her goddess.

I sat there for a long time, until the rain began to fall and I was soaked with water.
I had lost everything.

It didn’t seem possible, that after losing my future, I could
lose the reason I lived.
But I lost it.

Lost them both.

Even my soul was gone, fled from this vacant existence.

"Compassion does not exist," I whispered. "The Victor is always right. Compassion does not exist…" my words disappeared into sobs and I wept, and soon the sobs became a cry of anguish.

I cried for a long time, and when I finally stopped, my heart, bled dry was now an empty shell and I felt nothing. A coldness had begun to seep in, replacing all the happy memories and dreams. That coldness remained in me today.

I untied Menee from the tree and lay her on the ground reverently beside Jared. I touched her cold face and found that I loved her still. It was Sheb – Sheb who had done this to her. I stared at Terrak’s legacy and activated the device. The needle slithered out. I pushed the knob again, and the needle retreated. I placed the tip of the neuro-syringe to my temple and pushed the knob again.

There was blinding pain, but that was all I remembered.

* * *

I let go of my father and took out Kelly. I pointed it at him, the mark ready.

He stared at me defiantly, this Admiral Owen Paris. And I gave him a blank stare in return.

"Go ahead," the admiral taunted. "Shoot me. And the Federation will hound you forever! They will never let you live!"

I stared at him in puzzlement for a long while. "You don’t understand," I finally explained to him in Romulan, "I died a long time ago."

Since I had ripped his communicator from him, he could not have understood what I said to him, so there was no reason why he suddenly paled. The arrogant face disappeared, and it was replaced by one of disbelief and confusion.
He tried to speak, but no words came out.

I tilted my head sideways, observing him. But I didn’t have time to ponder this – because my sensors suddenly alerted me to an incoming transport.

Without a word, I activated my transporter device, and I was beamed back to my ship. The last thing I saw of my father was his look of disbelief.

As I flew my ship away from the Galaxy class starship – the Enterprise, I believe – I took off my shawl and wondered as I had these many years.

What if I had joined the Maquis?

I laughed and laughed.

* * *
Gibrel was having lunch when I met him.

He stared at me in surprise, the same look he gave me when Mereen
and I threw a surprise birthday party for him last year.
"Hello, Gibrel, may I join you for lunch?" I asked casually.

He looked me over, at the blood that was pouring down my temple
and at the machete in my hand.

"I am Sharbokh," I explained – and took his head off.

Old mother Kitan was pushed down the stairs.

Young David I hung on the wall like he did Toran.

I repaid kind with kind.

I shall not bore you with the details of how many I killed – but let’s just say that many lost their heads on the day I became Sharbokh.

That’s what I am now – the memories from the implant, now buried deep into my brain – gave me the skills, talent, memories and knowledge of an ancient order in Romulus; back when Romulus had an emperor, there was the Emperor’s Right Hand. They were Sharbokhs. An ancient order so feared that they were exterminated by the Empire when it came to power. At the cost of many lives.

And Sheb, an alien claiming to be a goddess - was not powerful enough to survive Sharbokh.

She stared in disbelief as one by one, her guards were killed by the disruptor I took from Terrak. Her abhorrence for technology was her undoing, and she had no time to defend herself when I shot her from behind.

When the away team of the Enterprise finally beamed down to Shalak-Nor’s town square, many turned away in horror. Some unfortunate few retched in a corner. The center of town was filled with poles, and atop these poles were the heads of Sharbokh’s justice. These poles circled around a young girl’s head, which lay unceremoniously on the ground, her blue eyes staring up in surprise. I watched one bearded man – I believed he was the first in command, tell his captain in a quivering voice, "No survivors" That was not true. I cannot claim such ‘honour’. The rest of the village had fled at the news of Sheb’s death. And the remaining had ran when they heard of the dark one, the spirit of revenge that came to take the lives of those that had blood on their hands. Chunah, freed of the goddess, embraced the Federation. The incident at Shalak-Nor was blamed on mob violence. But tales still circulate about the spirit of revenge, and the tale is still being told to scare children. The outlying towns began to fade as many flocked to the cities. Technology returned to Chunah, and a semblance of civilisation began to form on the backwater planet. I have not returned since.

"Sharbokh lives again, Terrak," I had said to his grave as I prepared to leave. I was faintly pleased that I said that in Romulan – for it was the language he would’ve loved to hear again. The song of Romulus, the pride and fierce honour of a warrior race ran through my veins. I saw everything through Romulan eyes and for the first time I understood everything Terrak said. I turned to the grave next to Terrak’s, and knelt down in the fresh dirt. I dug both hands into the dirt, dreaming that I hugged my still son in the dirt below me. A tear slid down my cheek. The last tear I will ever shed.

"I did it all for you, Jared," I whispered. "Sharbokh’s justice is done in the square," I smiled as I cupped the damp soil and held it to my lips. "Sleep well, my son-" I whispered in Romulan. "Your father has died and will join you soon. For now, there is only Sharbokh and he serves new masters now."

* * *
I took her hand in mine.

"Are we there yet?"

I smiled at her.

"Yeah. You’re going to be happy here."

"Why can’t I stay with you, Tom? I’m scared…" her breath hitched.
"I’m scared the black evil man will come and kill me, like he killed my father," she whispered.

I sighed, knelt and put her hands on my beard. She giggled. Beards were such a strange thing to her. Cardassians do not grow beards.

"Hey, you trust me don’t you? Me, the hotshot pilot-" The Bajoran woman approached me and I rose with a smile. "Meera Detal," I gave her a gallant bow.
Detal sighed and waved me away. "Your charm won’t work on me, Paris. Remember, you owe me one."
"Hey," my voice serious. "Remember your promise-"

Detal didn’t let me finish. She pulled me aside and whispered into my ear. "What’s her name?"
"Torel," I whispered playfully in return.

"Are you sure…are you sure she’s Gul Lamere’s daughter?"

"I found her on Sharial. She was wandering the streets. You know how Cardassians treat orphans," I snorted.

Detal looked at me seriously. "You have a heart of gold, do you know that? Did you know how many Bajorans Gul Lamere butchered during the Occupation?"

"I’m sure you’ll teach her the error of his ways?" I winked at her and scooped Torel in my arms.

"Hey pumpkin. I’m going to miss you. But Mr. Paris has some charming to do."

"Don’t let him pollute your mind, Torel," Detal said, a smile on her face. "He’s a rogue. Rogues can never be trusted."

Hope lighted in Torel’s eyes. Perhaps, perhaps this woman will show her love after all. She gave the Bajoran a tentative smile. Detal returned it in kind.

As I watched them play from afar, I let Tom Paris retreat. He died on Chunah with his family, and I buried him a long time ago. But when the time arose, he came back to play a part.
Did I kill her?

What do you think?

I let out a short laugh.

FURTHER NOTES: I felt incredibly sad for this version of Tom. Tom always wondered what would have happened to him if he had not joined Voyager. And I could see how a man, who lost both his future and his purpose to live could become a bitter, hard shell. But for this Tom, his price was higher. He lost his soul, and the quality that made him special – his compassion.

Again, I would love to hear from you – please send your emails to liztai@hotmail.com