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Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and all related characters belong to Paramount Pictures, UPN, and all other associate affiliation etc. In other words, they are not mine, not a cent is made off this. You know the drill. I am only borrowing them for the story. Galica is mine.
Note: Takes places some time after the 3rd season episode "Explorers.
EMAIL: karrenia_rune@yahoo.com


"Perennials"
by Karen

Quark downed his last glass of 'Pirate's Bliss'. He would have given his right lobe to find out who had come up with the mixed drink because this unusual drink, not only transported one to a heavenly bliss,

"It's probably not a good idea to ask my worthless brother where he 'acquired' this stuff, " Quark murmured to himself.

He half turned and addressed the large mound that habitually occupied the far end of the deserted bar, Morn.

"Speaking of Rom." Quark was going to complain to his long-term patron, but Morn just grunted in response and went back to drinking his own glass of synthale. Quark decided to nurse his gripes and his drink in silence. A few moments later, he brought a gaudily clad arm to his forehead as a sudden flush swept over him.

"Whoa, shouldn't have had that last shot or maybe it's just a bad vintage." His thoughts suddenly hit a snag as everything went blank, but he eventually found his way back, because the next thing he knew he was lying flat on his back, as Quark blearily contemplated the shot glass he gripped in his sweaty palm.

His gaze shifted from the glass to the mobile given to him by Rom.

"It's watching me. Watching my every move. Probably Odo's way of keeping track of me when he can't be here himself."

"Brother."

Rom emerged from a vent which he was attempting to fix, his tool belt sagging from his waist, which caught on the ladder he was using, then he scrambled down and tripped himself up.

This startled Quark, thinking his brother was about to land on him, he somersaulted backwards and crashed into a pile of crates. "Get out of here!"

"Can't," Rom replied as he picked himself off the floor where he landed and sat on the bar's countertop.

"And why not?" Quark growled as he stumbled trying to stand and failing miserably.

"Don't you remember? Uh, I guess I didn't mention this earlier. There's a meeting we set up with a prospective client for 0800 hours. She should be here any moment."

"Why in the name of all the Rules of Acquisition, would you do that?" Quark demanded.

"Hello," a Bajoran woman's contralto voice said from the direction of the bar's entrance. "Am I interrupting anything?"

"No. Yes." Both Quark and Rom said simultaneously.

"No," Rom finally said and jumped down from the bar so he could help Quark, who leaned drunkenly on his brother's shoulder, then steadied him on his feet and helped him over to a chair he pulled down from one of the tables.

"I don't have a lot of time to work with here, mister Ferengi. But we can reschedule."

"It's Quark and I do believe you have the advantage of me, Madam," Quark, switching over into the shrewd businessman mode. "I have to apologize for my brother, we normally don't like to keep prospective clients waiting. Please, have a seat."

"Galicia Meiga," she answered, allowing Quark to reach for her hand and kiss the palm. "No trouble at all." She replied disengaging from Quark's grip and all but gliding to a seated position at the table. Her long skirts rustled around her in a monochrome purple cloud. Her eyes were outlined in green kohl and wore her long black hair in a tight braid. Quark and Rom took the remaining chairs around the table.

"Let me get right to the point. I've done some checking and I understand that you could handle the transport of cargo back and forth from this station?" Galica asked.

"You could say that," Quark replied. "What did you have in mind? Gold pressed latinum, jewels...?"

"Actually, a rock. It's more of an artifact really. However, it is rather unwieldy to ship via the station's transporters and I thought..." she trailed off.

"That's where we come in?" Rom suggested.

"What are the specs on this artifact?" Quark asked.

"It's not large and it doesn't take up that much space. It's just a little heavy...right now, I've got it stashed in my ship's cargo bay. You're welcome to come and take a look at it for yourselves."

"Well, I don't want to rush into a decision," Quark said. "Why don't you leave the information with me and I''ll see what I can do."

"How long are you planning on being on the station?" Rom asked.

"I'll be here. Give my proposal some thought and then I'll be in touch." Galicia removed a computer generated picture of the artifact in question and handed it to Quark who ignored the fact that Rom was standing behind him, trying to see the image on the screen.

"Of course," Quark replied standing up at the same time as she did and briskly shook hands again. Then he watched her retreating form exit the Promenade, her skirts swirling around her, while the metallic doors slid shut with their customary soft whoosh.

"You're going to arrange transport for her rock?" Rom asked.

"Oh, my head," Quark groaned.

"Do you need medical attention?" Rom anxiously asked.

Just then, Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax and Doctor Julian Bashir loomed up into Quark's admittedly blurry vision. The worst thing, as far as humans and other alien species were concerned, in Quark's opinion, was that they suffered from excessive tallness.

"I need you to go Cargo Bay Four," Dax announced, tapping Quark on his good shoulder.

"Why not?" Quark sighed. "This day can't possibly get any worse."

"Given that sentiment," Doctor Bashir said, "You might want to stop by the Infirmary, you may need an anti-depressant prescription."

"With all due respect, Doctor. What may look like depression to a 'hew-man" is just..." Quark trailed off.

"Paranoia," Jadzia interrupted.

"Well, I won't need treatment for it," Quark replied in a huff.


Arriving at Cargo Bay Four, Captain Benjamin Sisko was already there. As soon as Quark set foot inside, Sisko immediately shifted his exasperated glare towards the small Ferengi whose mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. The tall, black human took a few intimidating steps forward and used his height to loom over him. At this, Quark backpedaled, colliding into Ax, Bashir and Kira who quickly regained their balance and stepped around him.

Sisko acknowledged their presence with a stiff nod, then glared at the Ferengi. "Is this thing yours?" He asked, gesturing with his left hand at a tarp-covered object which stood around four feet in height and about equal to that in length, giving the object an odd flat, squat shape.

"No," Quark replied, hoping it would be enough of an answer so he could go and lay down because his head was spinning.

"Who authorized transfer?"

"I did," Kira replied. "It was part of a shipment from a Bajoran village in one of the northern farming provinces."

"Who was the message from?" Sisko asked.

"Their village spokesperson. The message indicated that it was a 'gift' for the Emissary. A sort of peace offering to ease the strained relations between Bajor and the Federation." Kira frowned, making her distinctive nose ridge furrow as she glared at everyone within visual range. She didn't see the point of all this, because a gift should be treated with dignity, not suspicion.

Sisko crossed the few feet separating him from the tarp covered object. "Why do I get the feeling I'm being asked to identify a corpse in the morgue?"

"If that's the case, that explains why he asked us to be here," Jadzia whispered to Julian when she overheard Sisko's muttered comment. Julian stifled his laughter and rocked back on his heels to give the laughter a different outlet. Jadzia glanced and shared his silent laughter when she saw the good humor sparkle in his brown eyes.

Sisko grabbed a fistful of the tarp and swept it off, not caring whether it tore or not, unveiling the 'gift' without any unnecessary fanfare. It was a stone slab and not a perfect equilateral square, for it appeared to be a smaller piece that had broken off of a much larger rock. The stone slab was carved on all four sides with bas-relief animals and figures whose patterns repeated themselves. Some of the animals crouched on all fours, others were on their hind legs and some of the figures were a cross between animal and human.

He made a circuit of the slab. It had been a long day, so it could have been his imagination or a product of his fatigue, but he could have sworn that one of the stone faces; a man's head with leaves and vines sprouting from his mouth, winked at him. There were also other carvings. A man falling from his horse, a smiling mouth that was feeding a dragon whose claws turned into luxuriant oak leaves and acorns and a man sprouting arum leaves from his blood. The final image was of an armored man facing off against another in armor, composed entirely of leaves.

"Lovely," Sisko said dryly. "But, I fail to see what they hoped to accomplish with this."

Quark cleared his throat, "May I go now?" By now, they had to know he had nothing to do with this fiasco and he now he *really* needed to lay down, for he could have sworn he saw one of the stone faces start to wiggle and wink. Then it sleepily opened one eye, closed it, then opened the other eye.

"Go," Sisko absently replied and watched Quark make a quick retreat.

"As if that was her cue, a Bajorn woman with a self-important air, swept into the cargo bay.

"Who are you?" Kira demanded.

"Galicia Meiga," the woman automatically answered, then ignored the other Bajoran woman.

"I do so hope it meets with your approval, Captain or should I say Emissary?" She allowed her head to droop at just the right angle so that her hair covered her eyes. From behind the veil of hair, she coyly, yet unobtrusively, glanced at the two males present. Especially the Captain. Then returned to her full height. She glared sidelong at Kira.

Kira returned the glare without flinching. //I got you dead to rights, sister. No doubt you were one of Gul Dukat's 'comfort' women during the Occupation,// Kira thought smugly. Kira took her attention off the obviously flirting woman and exchanged glances with Jadzia.

"Pretty damn obvious, don't you think?" the look said.

"I brought it from my ship," Galicia added.

"Why wasn't I informed of this earlier? We have specific protocols that need to be followed. Doctor, scan for any bio-hazards," Sisko stated.

"Of course, although the transporter's bio-filters should have picked them up already," Julian said, moving forward while he removed his medical tricorder from his medical kit and flipped it open. "Shouldn't Odo be here if you suspect some sort of security risk?" he asked, running the tricorder over the slab.

"Odo would have been here, since he wanted to check it out, but Galicia insisted it was for the 'Emissary's eyes only'," Kira interrupted. "She insisted it be brought specifically to the cargo bay, out of harm's way."

"If it's for my eyes only, then why did you ask for both my Chief Science Officer and Chief Medical Officer to also be present at the unveiling?" Sisko asked with some suspicion.

"Captain, gift or not, which it is, there is one thing that is painfully obvious to our village council. As spokesperson to the Bajoran government; we lack the resources that the Federation has a surplus of," Galicia replied.

"Which means?" Kira demanded.

"You have noticed that the stele is covered with carvings? Yes? Well, we've studied them and discovered that the glyphs are actually an ancient form of Bajoran script."

"You're asking us to decode an ancient form of Bajoran script?" Jadzia asked, her interest rising in spite of herself.

"Anything?" Sisko asked Doctor Bashir.

"I'm not picking up any residual radiation traces, although it's puzzling why there would be minute organic compounds in something that's essentially stone," Bashir replied.

"Did you say organic compounds?" Jadzia asked. "Is it possible that the stone contains some microscopic fossilized remains, Julian? That might explain why you're picking up organic readings from the rock itself."

"It's obvious that I'm not needed here anymore," Kira said, her irritation clear on her face. "Some of us have better things to do."

"All right. Dax, you and Bashir figure this thing out," Sisko said, turning on his heel and watched Kira depart the cargo bay. "Galicia, if you would come with me, I have a few more questions about this stele and I'd like to discuss them in my office. I think we'd both be more comfortable that way."

"My thoughts exactly, Emissary," Galicia nodded agreeably.


Later

Since the stele was too heavy to actually pick up and carry, they decided to get around the problem by transporting it. They decided to move it onto on anti-gravity pallet and then transport it to the Science Lab.

Jadzia immediately set to work, her tricorder in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other. As Galicia had mentioned, the script was an ancient one, however, with the assistance of the universal translator, she was able to muddle her way through.

"Julian, don't hover over my shoulder," Jadzia said, when she noticed that he was behind her, medical tricorder in hand, then watched as he knelt down next to the slab. "I couldn't believe it when Sisko had me scan this thing and I still don't believe it," Julian commented, gliding over and running several computations. He then flung the tricorder onto a nearby table carelessly, since he was too fascinated by the object in front of him. He tapped the top of the slab with a fingernail, summoning forth a hollow ringing. "So I ran them again." He paused and shook his head. "Believe it or not, this thing is alive."

"How can a stone be alive?" Jadzia asked, just for the sake of argument.

"I don't know," Julian shrugged. "But it is."

"If Galicia knew the stone was 'alive' that explains why she wanted us both," Jadzia mused. "Take a look at this...my Bajoran isn't that good, but that glyph, Salubba, translates as 'the way of the moth, to fly into fire'."

"And like a moth, we wouldn't know any better than to fly straight into the candle flame, because it's a bright, enticing lure," Julian murmured in response to a strange feeling he got from tapping the stele again.

"Do you honestly think this is some sort of elaborate trap?" Jadzia asked.

"I'm still undecided on that one," Julian replied.

"Take a look at this," Jadzia said, ordering the computer to superimpose a glyph block from the facing side of the slab and ordered it to be magnified on the screen. "It's arranged in a horizontal row and reads from left to right in vertical columns. From the layout, I'd have to say it's some kind of marking pillar, possibly a calendar."

"What makes you say that?" Julian asked as he stood up to take a look.

"Do you see how the glyph blocks are arranged?" Jadzia pointed at the stele. "See how all those squarish rectangular elements make up the units of each inscription?"

"Let's say we go with your interpretation and I'm not saying I disagree with you. It's from a Bajoran farming province, maybe they used it for marking cycles for harvesting and plowing seasons."

"Have you ever been a farmer, Julian? Scratch that. Knowing you, you did a summer on a food plantation. If I recall correctly, one of my previous hosts did a little gardening and I know how important marking cycles for favorable times to plant and harvest would be."

"So, are you thinking that this stele is Galicia's metaphorical way of saying that time is of the essence in resolving the strained relations between the Federation and Bajor? Wouldn't that be more Kira's area of clout?"

"That's a large leap in deducing Galicia's motive, Julian. Plus, I really don't want to get into a political debate right now. Mostly because I just had dinner with Kira last night about that and I have no desire to reiterate arguments that only fell on deaf ears. Don't get me wrong. I love Kira, but she can be incredibly stubborn about anything that concerns her people," Jadzia replied.

"And where have I been all these years not to know that?" Julian smiled. "Where were we?"

Turning her attention back to the computer screen, Jadzia continued with her demonstration. "You see how each glyph contains a dominant main sign that occupies most of the block. It seems they're fixed to smaller elements. The main sign has two forms; one abstract and one geometric.

"The human head disgorging vegetation, probably represents a plentiful harvest or good rainfall if there should be a drought," Julian added.

"I understand what you're getting at. Maybe they were trying to make linear time into something that represents it more as a wheel," Jadzia absently remarked.

In the back of her mind she wondered if she had drawn that conclusion via the scientific deduction method she'd been trained in or via the link she shared with the Dax symbiont. As a Trill, Dax was a composite life form; the symbiont was sentient, joined to a succession of hosts, sharing the memories and experience of each host. Even though she had spent most of her adult life preparing for the joining, she had always had a love for science in both its empirical and practical usage. With that in mind, she suspected that she had inherited that background from another previous host, Tobin.

"If they were obsessed with time, why did they combine the head forms with the figures to show a single date? Even the numbers shown here are in combinations. Bars for the fives, dots for the ones and shells for zeros," Julian asked.

"If you analyze these pictographs as phonetic elements, this has to be more than a calendar. See, if Kabban stands for year, Kimi is death, and Yax is green. Then, loosely translated it means 'death of the green year," Jadzia said.

"Let's save this and take a look at the stele from another perspective," Julian suggested.

"The year is showing up as 260 days and it appears that they were unable to account for fractions, which leaves about a quarter left over, causing the calendar to drift in regard to the actual solar year. If I'm not mistaken, I think those ancient Bajorans weren't just tracking the year. I'd say it's an astronomical record marker," Jadiza explained.

"Like an astrolabe?" Julian asked, picking up his medical tricorder and setting it for a molecular scan, then ran it over the stele. "I didn't believe this thing was alive when I did that preliminary scan and I still don't believe it."

Instead of just taking the readings and comparing with data already gathered, he focused his attention on the stele itself, to see the results of organic molecular data he was getting. As he did so, there was a subtle shift in the stone crevasses as the pictograph blocks moved in their slots like folded paper. He took a few involuntary steps backward, ignoring Jadzia's puzzled expression creasing her forehead. He bent down and watched the blocks shift and squirm like liquid to reveal a carved man's head surrounded by vine leaves and his face was about to break into a smile.

In the next instant one of the eyes briefly fluttered; opened and closed. Julian took his attention off the face, to briefly turn around and consider asking Jadzia if she saw it too, when a vine snaked out and wrapped itself around his left ankle. He turned around and could have sworn that the stone face's expression crumbled and would have broken into tears, if it had been capable of doing so, oddly ambivalent, both angry and sad.

"Jadzia, I think I may have something here," Julian said, carefully stepping out of the vine that had ensnared his ankle.

"Julian, what did you do?" Jadzia asked.

Just then, her combadge chirped which she tapped in response and Captian Sisko's voice, muffled by static, but unmistakable came over the comm system. "Dax, what in hell is going on there? Ops is beginning to look like an Arboretum."

"Ben," Jadzia interrupted. "What are you talking about?"

"Whatever you're doing to that rock you've been working on, you'd better undo it. Ever since I assigned the both you to decipher the Bajoran script, there have been reports from all over the station about spontaneous profusion of greenery. It's growing right out of the deckplates, conduits and walls."

"Are you saying that this rock is responsible for that? How widespread is this explosion of greenery?" Jadzia asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"I don't know. We're still trying to determine that. We do know that the plants haven taken over Ops and are slowly working their way towards the Promenade. I've sent Worf and Odo to work on clearing out the habitat ring, but I don't want to take any chances. We'll need a botanist," Sisko explained.

"There aren't that many on the station...," Jadzia trailed off when an Irish burr broke into the conversation, "Out of the question, sir, " Miles O'Brien said.

"Chief, I understand your concern and that's she's your wife...but...," Sisko said.

"Okay, I don't have to like it...," Miles relented.

"Odo's security team is creating a secure area where the plants haven't infiltrated themselves yet. I want you and Dr. Bashir to move over to the Promenade and see what you can do to curb things there. I'll contact Keiko and outline the situation to her," Sisko explained.

"We'll be expecting her. I'll let Julian know," Jadzia replied.

"We're using the transporters.

"Why is that?"

"Becauase the turbolifts are clogged with vines," Sisko replied. "Meet in the Promenade."

"Okay, we'll be expecting her," Jadzia replied.

"Do what you can, Sisko out."


A flicker of light signaled Kieko O'Brien's entrance. She was dressed in an earth color jumpsuit and had her black hair tied up in a loosely arranged bun. She also nearly feel forward if Bashir hadn't caught her in time. She had lost her balance because of the two cases that she had brought with her. When she had regained her breath, she began explaining what was in the cases.

"Miles filled me in about what's going on. In case you're wondering what's in the cases, they 're specially designed cutters," Keiko explained.


Half an hour ago the vegetation had been shin deep on Dax and Bashir and knee-deep on Keiko. At last measure, it stood about three-feet high and almost carpeted the entire length of the Promenade deck. She glanced towards Quark's bar and shopping district. If one didn't know they were there, you wouldn't be able to determine where one left off and the other began. The ferns pushed themselves up through the metal deck plates, through the seams in conduits lining the walls. The plants they had encountered varied so widely in size; from the tiny moss like species collecting in nooks and crannies; to the giant ferns towering overhead.

"Why ferns?" Jadzia complained.

"It might have something to do with 'Doctrine of Signatures'," Keiko remarked, leaning up against a clear spot on the wall. "It dates back to 19th century Earth. Ferns were the only types of plants which did not show evidence of flowering seeds. Because their 'fern seeds' were thought to be invisible and because the people couldn't see them, they were believed to endow their own with certain magical powers."

"What kinds of powers?" Jadzia asked, her scientific interest rising at the prospect of slightly less rational origin for the lack of fern seeds.

"Opening locks, finding treasure," Keiko replied, as she consulted her own tricorder, wondering how one would go about classifying these plants and if so, how she would go about collecting a DNA sample, since she couldn't figure out what would cause them to sprout forth so quickly.

"I can see where certain unscrupulous people, who shall remain nameless, might find that profitable," Jadzia said as she waded through the sudden jungle-like environment that had been the shopping area.

"The roots are supposed to grow from the bases and the lower surfaces of the rhizone, which are the horizontal above the ground," Keiko stated, irritation beginning to show in her voice. " The leaves of fronds of most ferns are arranged in a spiral shape called megaphylls. When they are in bud, they roll up like a shepherd's crook or crozier. They should be covered with scales or hairs." //I've spent enough time on Bajor studying and analysing the native flora and fauna and I've never encountered anything like this,// Keiko absently thought as a thick vine snaked out and knocked her aside.

"Never thought that part of my duties as Science Officer would include pruning," Jadzia remarked, helping Keiko up. Then together, they clipped through yet another branching tendril that reached for them.

"Do you think there's some sort of intelligence guiding these things?"

"I don't know," Julian replied.

"So, why are they trying to take over the station?" Keiko demanded as she held up the specially designed heavy-duty clippers. "How about weed killer?"

"Wish we about that several hours ago," Julian complained. "At this stage in the game, we'd have to use the replicators as weed killer dispensers."

"If we knew that, we wouldn't have to run around cutting back our burgeoning supply of foliage," Jadiza replied.

"Did you know that Worf suggested we issue everyone a Klingon bat'leth?"

"We could give everyone a machete." Julian smiled, but it wasn't reflected in his eyes.

"This isn't a holodeck scenario. We can't just order the computer to hold and freeze the program," Jadzia replied.

"Wouldn't it be funny? Not funny haha, but funny ironic, if that's all this was?" Keiko remarked.

"The problem is, they're not behaving like they're supposed to," Jadzia complained, but anything else she may have added was cut off as the artificial lighting flickered, came on, then went completely black.

"This wasn't such a winning proposition when we could see what we were up against," Julian complained. "Now what?"


Elsewhere

"Then I'd say it's time we went directly to the source," Kira said. "This problem started when Galicia came aboard.

"I need to know how to stop our explosion of greenery," Sisko said.

"Whatever intelligence guides these plants, they knew enough to attack the most vunerable areas of the station," Odo remarked.

"I'm tired. I'm fed up with this nonsense and I want a straight answer!" Sisko shouted, rubbing sleep grit out of his eyes, for a moment considering hitting the infuriating woman with a good upper cut punch. In a back corner of his mind, he wondered if she was in any way related to the quixotic imp known as Q who had paid a brief visit to the station, along with the dangerous and wily archaeologist, Vash, which caused all sorts of mischief.

"Well?" he demanded.

In response, Galicia gracefully lowered herself to a seated position on the ground, her legs tucked underneath her. Fumbling around in the folds of her dress, she pulled out a silver flute. Raising it to her mouth, she began playing it by blowing into the mouthpiece and pressing the keys along its shimmering length. She produced notes that were oddly discordant, but at the same time tender and plaintive; like the wind through dead branches during winter. The notes and melody bounced of the metal walls, echoing back again and again.

"Now," Galicia smiled, lowering the flute to her lap.

"Now what?" Sisko demanded, his fists clenched at his sides. He was torn between throwing something at her or just grinding the stupid flute into dust.

Suddenly, an apparition rose up before them., summoned by the music. The creature vaguely resembled a man in face and form, except that its body was covered in ivy leaves clinging to its armor and cloak. All were the same verdant hue. Its amour was made of plated scales, which made it difficult to tell where one left off and the other began. The creature raised it's visor.

"Perhaps if I laid down the ground rules?" Galicia suggested.

"Do I have a choice?" Sisko asked, folding his arms across his chest, looking into the creature's eyes; within, there was an empty hollow in which fire danced.

"There is always a choice, in all things, Emissary. You chose to accept this assignment; you chose the circumstances of your life and of those you have responsibility for," Galicia replied.

"I was being rhetorical," Sisko complained.

"I am the seasons turning. I am the home of the past years," the creature replied, levering off one gauntlet and then flung the metal glove to the floor, where it landed with a jarring 'plink' sound right at Sisko's feet. "Challenge issued. A vow sworn, is a vow answered."

"Sounds like fighting words to me," O'Brien muttered.

"Don't encourage it," Odo whispered back.

Swiftly as a striking snake, a blade whistled past Sisko's head, as the armored creature moved forward and landed a glancing blow to his side. He darted out of the way, wondering if those so-called ground rules stated anything about an unequal contest between two opponents: one armed and the other left to his own devices and bare hands. The next blow sent him reeling. Sisko shook his head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs and brushed aside the clinging dead leaves that trailed along the blunt edge of the creature's sword. The next thing he knew, Galicia had glided up beside him, thrusting a sword into his hand. Without the faintest clue how to use such a weapon, he let instinct take over, figuring he might as well go with the flow and chock up this encounter into the category of yet another bizarre thing that had occurred today. "Your essence will be flung into the ether and search as you will, never for a thousand years will it be found," the creature stated menacingly. Thrusting home another blow to his left flank, drawing forth a spurt of red blood. On the return cut, he cut his forehead, then tore ragged strips of red cloth from his uniform and nearly succeeded in taking off his insignia badge.

"That sounds rather dire," Sisko managed to choke out, but then something snapped inside of him. He was sick and tired of reacting and not acting; of being on the defensive end. He'd had enough. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Worf standing at the fringes of ring of his command staff: his friends and colleagues and now Worf, a Klingon warrior, who would disapprove of a contest he would no doubt consider 'dishonourable'.

//It's about time I took this fight under my terms,// he thought, gritting his teeth, his hands gripped around the cold hilt of the sword blade. He blocked other distractions from his mind and rushed forward, trying to level the sword blade level with the creature's armor plated chest. His first blow was parried by the creature with a discordant musical clash of metal on metal. His next blow struck through its armor with sufficent force to pierce through its heart, the point of his sword sticking out through its back. However, his momentum knocked him off his feet, losing his grip on the sword, and fell backwards, as a ringing sound was the last thing he heard, before he blacked out. Then it was all over, except for the shouting.


When he came to, Galicia had moved forward with Bashir fuming in the background, at not being allowed next to a patient. She gently raised Sisko to a sitting position, one hand cradling his head and softly cooing over him like a mother hen. "There, there. Everything will be all right. Well done, Emissary." She tilted her head backwards, allowing her black hair to cover her face like a veil. Then splayed her hands flat over his body, with the palms spread out and began singing in Bajoran, with words he couldn't make out. It could have been only a few seconds, but the next thing he knew, his entire body felt like it was tingling; like a tree struck by lighting. Sparks erupted and when it subsided, the wounds he had sustained in the fight, disappeared like they had never been there.

"How did you do that?" Doctor Bashir demanded.

"I realigned his inner harmonies," Galicia replied.

"That defies medical logic," Bashir complained, consulting his tricorder for a second, then flung it to the ground in disgust. "No explanation. I honestly don't understand how she could have healed him just like that."

"Of course, it does," Galicia smiled, standing up and brushing off her skirts.

"Let's discuss this in my office," Sisko decided. "And you'd better have one damn good explanation for this mess," Sisko warned Galica.


Aftermath

"By confronting the Green Man, you have restored the balance," Galicia smiled as she held up a silver plaque which depicted a seated figure with his legs crossed beneath him. In his left hand he held a serpent biting its own tail; in his right, a golden neckband. Antlers grew from his head and from one of these sprouted forth leaves.

"What in the hell are you talking about?" Sisko shouted, as doctor Bashir helped him to his feet.

"Captain, I could have sworn I've seen that image before," Julian muttered.

"Very pretty, but that doesn't answer the question," Odo added.

"What balance?" Jadzia asked.

"You know, it makes a certain kind of sense," Keiko O'Brien murmured.

"For once, female, would you answer our questions!" Worf shouted, balling his fists.

"You have endured your trial by Vertummnus. As the Emissary of the Prophets, you will face many other trials. However, you are due an explanation," Galicia said.

"About bloody time," O'Brien muttered.

"Why does she have to be so smug?" Kira complained.

"Maybe she's the black sheep of her family and they kicked her out for being hard to live with," Odo remarked, the lines of his changeling/human mouth creasing into a smile, sharing it with her. Then the planes of his face rippled, switching back to its customary severe expression.

"How do you speak to an archetype?" Galicia asked. "A better question, how do you get an archetype to speak to you?"

"I don't know and at this point, I really don't care," Sisko replied.

"The Green Man is an archetypal image," Galicia continued, ignoring Kira's scoff. "It will recur in different times and places, always reappearing in a new form to redress the balance, wherever it is needed."

"There had to be better ways of going about it, then flooding my station with plant life," Sisko shouted.

"Captain, forgive me if I play devil's advocate on this one," Jadzia began. "But, I think she may have something here. The word matter, which is the subject of scientific investigation, comes from the same root as mother."

"Exactly," Galicia nodded and beamed at Jadzia, like a teacher pleased with a child's progress. "The Green Man rises into our awareness in order to counterbalance a lack of attitude for harmony between nature and all things technical, like this station," Galicia added; a slight stiffness in the tone of her voice.

"Sounds like you're starting a cult. You don't honestly expect anyone to fall for this?" Kira snorted. "Granted, I may not be the most devout of Bajorans, but even I know that this could never be something that was part of Bajoran beliefs."

"Part of the challenge presented to you, Captain, was a metaphorical one. How to live in harmonic relationship with your environment," Galicia said, ignoring Kira.

"Sure didn't feel metaphorical," Sisko muttered under his breath, rubbing his throbbing jaw. " I have had it. I want you off my station, you and your blasted stone!"

"As you wish, Emissary," Galicia said, bowing submissively and snapped her fingers. "Done."

"I'll take care of calming everyone down, so that they can get back to business as usual," Odo added.

"I'll go with him," Kira added.

"Worf, escort our 'guest' to the Science Lab, collect her blasted block of masonry, bring it to her ship and make sure that she leaves and doesn't come back," Sisko ordered.

"Yes, sir," Worf replied, moving purposefully towards Galicia, showing his teeth. His fists were clenched at his sides in satisfaction as he saw her flinch and tremble at his approach.

"All right, I'll go quietly," Galicia whispered.


Conclusion

"It's a good thing we sent her packing, along with her bloody stone," O'Brien said. "I don't care if it was alive. It was damn callous of her to allow it to run loose like that. Which means more work for me."

"If anyone can do it, Chief, I know you can," Sisko replied, as he watched O'Brien pick up a sonic wrench and proceed to hammer out the vines which choked the turbolifts that connected Ops with the rest of the station. "How long before they're operational?"

"We've really overtaxed the transporter systems during this emergency. Should have it done in about three hours at the least. We'll need to complete a retrofit on them and maybe replace the pattern buffers," O'Brien replied.

"All right, keep me posted," Sisko said.

"Where will you be, sir?" O'Brien asked.

"I'm going back to my quarters," Sisko said.

"To get some rest?"

"Yeah, Doctor's orders. I'd order everyone to do the same. "

"I'd bet Julian would be happy to see that. He's probably asleep by now," O'Brien remarked.

"Darn shame, I would have liked to see the look on his face, when he knew I'd actually followed doctor's orders, but at this point I'm feeling very much like a human punching bag, so a little rest sounds like the best medicine."

"Top of the evenng, Captian, "O'Brien offered, then turned his attention back to his repairs.


Note: Information on the Gree Man was gleaned from a very informative source book: The Green Man: An Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth.


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