Kela: Glimpse Into The Past

A series of stories I intend to eventually continue on Kela's past. PG-13 for language and adult situations.
Spoiler: Part OneShow
The small girl reached out and grabbed hold of the edge of the Gul’s seat. The golden metal shone under her small fingers. It was hypnotically beautiful, and her gaze focused on the armrest as she pulled herself up. The small five year old grunted at her exertion.

“Kelani, don’t be so restless.” The woman’s voice was like a whip – a gentle one, but it still made the girl flinch. Kelani’s mother, seated in the chair, looked down at her with a very tired gaze. The child was never eager to upset her mother. The girl had noticed her mother looked more pretty today, with her styled up-do containing more ornate pins. She also had realized that her mother's lips and scales were painted with the more glossy paints she used the few times when father had come to see them. Despite this, mother also looked more tired than usual...there was a a certain shade of gray across her cheeks,a particular tightness to her lips.. Kelani knew that look in adults. She had learned to avoid it.

“I’m sorry, mother.” Kelani let go of the chair and dropped lightly to the deck, her soft shoes clicking faintly against the metal. She adjusted her black school outfit and looked over the bridge. Every officer was efficiently working at their station, but the young girl’s eyes were drawn to the viewscreen. In front of her was a small sphere, surrounded by intriguingly dark skies and soft, twinkling stars. The planet was Cardassia V, though it was hard to determine any more than vague colors at this distance.

“That’s home.” Her mother’s voice was low and when Kelani looked up at the woman, she could see her bright blue eyes upturned in a tight smile. The child’s dark black bobbed as she inclined her head.

“I remember, I know what all of our planets look like. The stars are lots prettier in person.” The statement was matter of fact.

“Do you know where we are going?” She continued after the child shook her head. “We’re going to Cardassia Prime. The Relentless is going to get some work done, so that means you…” the serious woman leans down to poke the girl’s nose, an action which elicited a smile, “…get to see the capitol buildings.” The Gul turned back toward the bridge and pursed her lips, attention back on her duties. As young Kelani opened her mouth to speak again, a noise sounded from one of the stations.

“Sir, we're being hailed."


“Hm? I'm sorry, Kir, what was that?”

The Ferengi standing at the comm station didn't bother to hide his look of frustration. The DaiMon, who was currently sprawled messily across her chair while perusing information on a small PADD, was obviously not paying attention. He repeated himself with a slower pacing.

“The Hot Tongo is hailing us, sir.”

“Put him onscreen.” Legs and arms twisted as the half-cardassian moved herself into a righted position in the seat, attempting to look dignified as her husband's face took up the oval screen. The ferengi on the viewscreen smiled widely, exposing his pointed teeth. She knew that look on his face … it was mischief.

“DaiMon Dolani - I'd like to request to meet you aboard the Hot Tongo.”

“What, DaiMon Zasj? Not even a hello?” The cheeky Ferengi was being as business-like as possible. Kela rose to her feet as she addressed him. Her heeled boots clicked loudly against the metal floor as she paced once across the raised dais upon which her Gul's chair sat, making him wait. After an appropriate amount of time - which she determined completely arbitrarily - the woman directed her look back toward the screen. “This is about business, I assume? What is the subject?”

“Confidential, I'm afraid.” There was that playful tone to his voice again, that certain devious look to his dark eyes. “I'll have to ask that you come over as soon as possible.”

There was a long moment of silence. She stopped and turns her head carefully to one side, appearing to consider. The reality was that she never needed to consider. Business, however, was a particular weak spot for her and she preferred to practice stalling tactics whenever given the chance.

“Of course, DaiMon. Tarik,” her finger gestured toward the lithe Cardassian man, thumb then jerking back to the chair behind her, “you're in command until I return. If you have any concerns, hail the Tongo.” Before he could respond she was gone, the turbolift doors closing quietly behind her.

Young Kelani stepped out of the lift, her arms behind her back as she advanced. The girl was short for her age, and with her soft pink skin looked like a sort of particularly ugly duckling, walking behind her mother with a funny attempt at military precision. The few adults she passed in the hallway took no notice of the child, and as they approached the transporter room Kelani's mother stopped and turned to face her.

“You need to wait at the Transporter pad until Dal Rikan comes to get you. Do you understand?” The stooped, touching the child's thick hair. “This is very important, Kelani. I have business to attend to first. A very, very important meeting.”

The trip to Cardassia Prime had been very boring until now. Once the visuals of space travel had lost their interest, Kelani had tired of watching the screen. She liked following and watching her mother on trips but mother had made it very clear she was too busy on this particular one. So Kelani had read from her PADD, trying to focus on her school work best she was able. Now, though? Now she had the prospect of exploring a new city. She had heard all about Prime and how pretty the restored areas of the capital city were. They were testament to Cardassia's irrepressible spirit...and lots of other words she didn't comprehend the meaning of yet.

Now she had to wait even longer! Kelani's shoulder drooped slightly, but she looked up at her mother with the happiest smile she could muster.

“Yes, mother.”

The woman turned around with a smile on her face and stepped into the transporter room. Kelani followed behind, stopping a few steps into the room as she saw the multiple officers waiting to transport to the surface. She did not receive kind looks from these men, like most of the people on the ship. They made Kelani uncomfortable. She knew she made them uncomfortable, too. The child pressed her hands against the transporter control console's underbelly. The soft humming was helped her forget those unpleasant feelings. As her mother transported down with the others, she caught her mother's eyes and offered a small wave.

She hated waiting.

Kela stepped into the transporter room. As with every time she entered this room, her heart jumped into her throat for a moment. She knew why Cardassian transporter consoles held memories for her, but the significance evaded her. Still, it meant something. The half-cardassian reached down and pressed her gloved hand to the underside of the console.

This was a particular ritual the Tellarite behind the console had seen many times, and had come to learn to ignore. His commanding officer would close her eyes, take a deep breath, and head to the transporter pad. Like clockwork.

She did just that. Stepping onto the platform Kela adjusted her jacket and breathed out in relief.

Spoiler: Part TwoShow
Kelani liked Dal Rikan.

She didn’t like many adults, but she liked him. Rikan was small for a male Cardassian – he was short and slight, and the standard Cardassian uniform always looked a little too large on him. He never said much…and that was one of the reasons Kelani liked him. They didn’t have to converse. He was as close to a friend as the girl had – they usually could communicate without having to speak. It made her feel comfortable.

The young girl clutched her school pack a little closer as she followed the man and they wove through the walking paths of the Tarlak sector. In school she had learned all about the Dominion War. She had heard about the slaughter of her people by the occupying Dominion – how the former Legate Damar has led her people to freedom from the occupying force, but that it had come at quite a cost. The numbers weren’t quite something she could comprehend yet but pictures were. She had been shown paintings and pictures of Cardassia Prime’s key locations before and after the Dominion’s slaughter. They were scary. The idea was even scarier now that she was walking through the city. Parts of the Tarlak sector were still under reconstruction, and the scale of the rebuilding was too much for her to really understand.

As the child silently worked through these internal problems she moved even closer to Dal Rikan and raised her hand to him. The Dal took her hand without a moment’s hesitation, his grip warm and firm. Kelani felt uncomfortable around other people. Prime was too big, she decided … too big, with too many unfamiliar people. Unfamiliar people, like the ones here, sometimes looked at her like the men on her mother's ship looked at her. She didn't like those looks. It was even worse that they never said anything, they just looked at her like she was a spoiled piece of meat. She tried to put those ideas out of her head and hustled to keep pace with the man as they continued on their tour.

Every now and again they would stop. Rikan would softly recount some aspect of the war to her, what the buildings here were before their destruction and what they were now, or what was going to be constructed in their place. Kelani listened intently to every story the man told. She may not have understood all of it, but she tried her best. She knew that Rikan had served with her mother during the Klingon and Dominion wars and that was why they were so close. Her mother wouldn't ever share war stories with her...but Rikan would. He even seemed to appreciate sharing them.

The cloudy, pale orange sky was as its brightest point of the day as the two arrived in front of a small monument. Kelani approached it curiously, reading the name aloud to herself.

"...Corat Damar. Is this where Legate Damar was buried?" She looked up to the man behind her. Rikan inclined his head in an affirmative gesture.

"Indeed, Kelani. You've learned about him in your schooling, I hope."

"Of course! He's a hero." The small half-breed put her hand against the warm stone of the monument. It wasn't very big. She had thought that the Legate who freed Cardassia from the Dominion would have statues!

"He was." Rikan sounded almost derisive as he spoke. The tone made the girl look back at him again, but she didn't ask why. His tone changed to a soft and pleasant one as he spoke,"Now, little Tasell, why don't we have lunch?"

Kelani liked that idea. She forgot the Legate's monument for the time being and followed Rikan to a bench nearby. The humid air smelled of strongly of Edosian orchids, the flowers sprouting from many areas alongside the path and clustered near the monument of Legate Damar. She pulled herself up onto the bench to sit beside Rikan. The Dal took her school pack from her as she seated herself and began to unpack the food stored within. He removed the cooled Zabu cuts and soft fruits, and handed Kelani her share placed upon a soft cloth.

"How long is mother gonna be in that meeting?" They had been eating for several minutes in pleasant silence before the small girl spoke. She looked up at Rikan curiously as she chewed on a strip of meat. Rikan's dark blue eyes looked uncertain for a moment.

"I am unsure. ", he said in his soft and even tone, "She will take as long as her superiors decide is necessary."

Kelani nodded again. She was used to vague answers when it came to her mother's job and what her bosses had her do. "Will she join us before we leave Prime? Can we spend more time here...?"

"Kelani," Rikan laughed a quiet laugh and reached out pet her thick black hair, "if your mother can, she will contact me and let us know." The girl looked crestfallen, and so he continued. "I know you don't like waiting. This is an exciting trip. BUT," he reached forward with his right hand and gently gripped her chin between his thumb and forefinger, a move which made the girl regard him without question, "you must be patient. She would appreciate it, and so would I."

She squirmed a little in her seat. Kelani was anything but patient. She HATED being patient. However, she knew the Dal wouldn't take anything for an answer other than the "Okay." she offered him. Rikan returned her smile and ran his thumb fondly across her cheek before returning to his meal, looking off into the crowd of people.

She didn't like meetings. She didn't like waiting. Still, sitting here, near Legate Damar's grave, surrounded by the scent of orchids and sitting with one of the only people who seemed to want to be her family? It was pretty nice. She could try to be patient, just this once.
Spoiler: Part ThreeShow
Kelani could hear her mother’s muffled laughter.

The Gul sounded carefree. She liked when her mother sounded happy – she usually was so serious. It made her comfortable to know things were okay. Sometimes, with the way everyone acted around her, it was hard to tell. Today, especially. After she came back up from her meeting, she had been really short with Kelani. The girl couldn’t figure out if she had done something wrong, or she was just mad at her bosses. She was mad at her bosses a lot. Then her father had called and Alin had ushered her daughter into her side room and told her to stay put.

The little girl’s hands were dirty with orange sculpting clay. Her parents’ voices were unintelligible from the comm console in the other room through closed doors. She had been told that they needed to have time to speak to each other alone, and so Kelani had returned to her room and found something to do. She was sick of school work … her instructor had assigned her studies to do on her trip to and from Prime. Even if she got in trouble she had decided she didn't want to do any more school work on this trip.

So she decided to do something that she liked. Her study, sitting atop her bed, was a plush toy of a Cardassian riding hound with a dopey look on its face. The girl was concentrating with an almost comical intensity as she manipulated the sculpting material. Sculpting was something the child took almost too seriously – she never did any other study with as much concentration as she did with her creations.

This was the reason she was irritated as the chirp of the comm unit clipped onto her dress sounded. Irritation faded to excitement as she heard her mother, muffled through the wall, speak to her through the small comm.

“Lani, you can come out now.”

Kelani ran to the door, wiping the clay off on her black dress without thought as she rushed into the main room. Her mother was sitting in the chair in front of the desk console, still wearing her uniform. She ran up to Alin and clambered into her lap with her assistance, though her mother made an irritated noise as she found her uniform suddenly smeared with clay.

On the monitor was the smiling, slightly chubby face of her father. The child reached a hand toward the screen, but was stopped by her mother – Alin grasped both of Kelani’s dirty hands, holding her firmly. This elicited a laugh from the Bajoran.

“Father! I miss you! Are you coming to see us? I made you a present!” the words flew out of the girl in a rush of excitement. She couldn't remember the last time she saw her dad! It seemed like forever.

"I missed you too, Lani!" The man clasped his hands together and gave the child a compassionate look. "I will be coming to visit soon. Your mother and I were just talking about that."

"You were?!" Kelani tried to wriggle away from her mother, but the Cardassian held the child's forearms in her grip easily. She felt the warm of a kiss on the back of her head.

"Kimar, didn't I warn you that if you kept sending her those books she'd be digging around in the mud just like you?" Alin waved the child's clay-covered hands. It make Kelani blush ... she hadn't thought about the clay.

"I'd say," Kimar returned, "that I'm doing a damn fine job if she learned that from me."

"Nuh-uh! I learned it from my instructor!" The girl said proudly, completely missing the course of the conversation. "He says I'm good at it!"

"It's clay." Explained her mother, "She's been neglecting her schoolwork to make figures." There wasn't judgement in her mother's voice, it made her feel happy - it sounded like praise. "Her instructor has suggested that we send her to an art academy when she comes of age."

Her father's expression was one of surprise. "Is that so...?" He was watching her, Kelani realized, and she nodded furiously.

"Yes!" Every word out of her mouth was rushed with excitement. She wanted nothing more than to please her father. "I made you one."

"Well...I'll be coming to visit next month. I can't wait to see it."

Alin's arms slipped around the young half-breed, pulling her close in a hug from behind. Kelani leaned her head back against her mother's breast and smiled brightly. Most of what her father explained - information on an archaeological site he was working on - she didn't quite get. It didn't matter. Her family was, for however small a period of time, together, and it felt more right than anything had in a long time.

The curved tool slipped through the wet clay, the indentation manipulated into the almond shape of an eye. Kela chewed on her lip as she worked. Hunched and snarling, the figure of the riding hound glistened under the soft yellow lighting. Its hide was smooth and untextured. She found that these days the time she had to dedicate to artistic pursuits was far too little. Her skills were slipping. Zasj had invited her to dinner, but she hadn't stayed around too much longer. Business called, she said!

Well, this was business.

She set her tool down and stepped back. Kela picked up a white cloth, carefully cleaned her hands and observed her work in progress. It was coming along nicely. She liked it, though there were some flaws. Something about the tail...

As she silently critiqued her work, that familiar hollow feeling filled her chest. She had put this off long enough. The news that one of her contacts had been able to determine that her father was currently somewhere on Japori II had interrupted her dinner with Zasj. She had excused herself then and headed back into her quarters. The information was at her disposal, but for some reason the idea of contacting her father scared her. It had been so long. What if he wasn't there? What if something happened to him...?

She put it off as long as she could, working on a sculpture she hadn't touched in a long time. The riding hound was something of a personal project of hers. It reminded her of her family. That was the reason she couldn't put this off any longer. Kela tossed the towel aside and picked up the optalythic data rod from the nearby console. She turned it over in her hands, eyes squinted as she considered what she was about to do.

Slowly she sat down, composed herself, and slipped the rod into the opening. A moment of hesitation, and she hit the button to record.

Spoiler: >>Inserted File<<Show
<holovid transferred from optolythic data rod>
<recorded on stardate 91852.65>

Kela's normal, grinning face appears. She seems both apprehensive and excited.

Hi, father. It's Kelani. ...obviously. Hopefully you get this.

You've been a hard man to track down! It's taken me the better part of eight months to find you, you know. I hope you're still on Japori II to have this delivered to you. ...I guess if you're gone by that point, this reprimand's meaningless. Oh, well.

I've enclosed my current coordinates. A lot has happened since the last time we spoke to each other, father. I no longer work on a freighter. Actually, I own my own ship! I'll, um...I'll start over.

She adjust the collar of her workshirt and attempts to look a little more casual.

So...not long after we last saw each other, I started working for a Ferengi merchant, a DaiMon. His name is Zasj. I started just as a normal crewman. He paid really well. Working on his crew was great! It turned out I had some leadership skills. I got promoted more than a few times, ended up his second in command.

Kela shifts in her seat, a blush creeping across her cheeks as she speaks.

Um...we also got involved. It's been so long since we spoke, father. I'm married now.

It's strange, isn't it? Thinking about how much time has passed? But...yeah. I'm married. I'm a DaiMon, too. I'm sure you've worked with Ferengi before - their rules around marriage contracts with the way their women are now liberated allow a lot of negotiation and interpretation, you know?

We didn't have a ceremony, father, so don't feel like you missed that. We signed a contract and it was done. He awarded me with a present in that contract, though.

The half-Bajoran's eyes seem to shine in the low, green light as a few stray tears well.

He got me a Galor - that's how I became a DaiMon. Since I married a Ferengi, I fall into an area that allowed me to serve under him as a DaiMon in the Ferengi Alliance. The um. He had my ship salvaged from the remains of mother's old ship, the Relentless.

...I named her the FMS Relentless, too. It's not all from her ship of course. It was too badly damaged. She's a good ship though, father.

She settles back in the chair, looking a little more relaxed now.

...we're working with Starfleet right now. Kind of like representatives of the Ferengi Alliance. On loan, you could say.

I hope you'll send someone with a communication back, father. I don't know if you're able to send it yourself, or will need to send a courier. I couldn't determine if you had a ship currently, that's why I'm sending this manually.

I'll keep our frequencies open. I hope you'll contact me, father. I miss you. you. Stay safe, please. Don't run off without sending me a hello...?

<end message>

Kela pulled the rod out and viewed it again, almost reverently, before placing it in its case. That finished, Kela leaned forward on the desk, her chest quaking, and began to cry. She hated him. She hated how much she missed him. She hated how long he would stay away. She hated how he was never there.

The fact that it could reduce her to tears was what she hated most of all.
Spoiler: Part FourShow
Kelani felt as if the world had fallen out from under her. The young girl’s stomach heaved, and she held onto the console tightly. The face of the Cardassian on the screen in front of her seemed to blur, and she closed her eyes tightly.

“…um, I’m sorry?” Her response was meek and confused. The eight year old couldn’t have expected such a call. She didn’t even know what he had meant, really. She must have misheard … that had to be it.

The man, looking stern in his military uniform, pursed his lips.

“Do you have an adult in the residence I could speak to?”

“…no, no, my um – tutor’s not here right now.”

“You have no other adults in your household?”

“Not … not here, right now.”

“I see.” The look on his face was unreadable, but it struck Kelani as unpleasant.

“… What did you mean ‘accident’?” Her voice came out as more of a squeak than a question. “Is she hurt…?”

“C.D.S. Relentless was involved in an accident while running training exercises. The ship was lost.” At the child’s puzzled, disbelieving look, he reluctantly continued. “I’m afraid there were no survivors.”

Well, that couldn’t be right. Mother had left for training exercises last week, but they weren’t dangerous – she had promised she’d be back. He had to be wrong. That was it, that was definitely it. He had obviously made a mistake.

“I…” the Cardassian trailed off, shifting in his seat, “…you are Kelani, correct?”

“Uh-huh.” She nodded, looking at him incredulously.

“Kelani, we will be contacting the Tasell family on Cardassia Prime.” His voice softened only slightly. “When your caretaker returns, have them contact the fleet base on this frequency. Okay?”


Before the man could get his next words out, Kelani switched off the monitor and stepped back. She felt … empty. It was a gross, weird feeling, one she was unfamiliar with and didn’t like. Mother couldn’t be gone. She was just on patrol; they must have the wrong ship.

She knew what death was. She grew up with stories about the Dominion war, about the atrocities committed by the Dominion to her people. But…death couldn’t happen to mother. Not at all. She fought in the Dominion and Klingon wars – she was strong, just like Dal Rikan. Rikan … was Rikan gone, too …? No, no. He had to be wrong.

Kelani’s bare feet padded across the hard floor as she crossed the room. Mechanically, she sat back down on the ground, fixed her dress, and picked up her PADD. They must have been wrong. She’d just start doing schoolwork again, and then when her tutor stopped by, she would contact the base. They’d let her know the mistake and everything would be okay!

The numbers on the PADD in front of her blurred. She felt warmth running down her cheeks, wet droplets on her hands. A loud noise sounded as her PADD hit the floor. She couldn’t see much, the warm yellows and oranges of the room overwhelming her teary vision. Shaking hands crossed to the opposite shoulder and gripped tightly against the light fabric of her dress. The child curled into a tight ball with her face buried against her arms.

She didn’t feel anything, really. Not yet.

She didn’t want to. She would wait.

…they had to be wrong.
Spoiler: Part FiveShow
The half-breed stared defiantly up at the tall Cardassian man, her chin jutted forward and arms crossed over her chest.

“I don’t want to move!”

“You can’t stay here, Kelani.” The man’s rough voice held impatience as he watched the small girl.

“Why not?”

“You just can’t. We don’t live here, we live on Prime, and that’s where you’re going. Why do you think you’re staying here?”

“… Because.” She stumbled over her words, looking confused as she grasped for a reason. “… Because … because I’m waiting for Father.”

Uncle Gilan was big. Kelani had never liked him. When he had come to visit in the past, she always avoided him. He gave her that look, the look she hated. She knew her Uncle didn’t like her, and whenever he visited before Kelani would avoid him at all costs. Seeing him here, now, trying to bring her away from her home was too much for the child to handle. Tears filled her eyes.

“Your father isn’t here. Until we can contact him, you have to come with me, Kelani.” The large man knelt, holding stiff in his military uniform. He pressed his fingers under the defiant child’s chin, forcing her to look at him. His eyes were intense and blue-green, and his stare made her squirm uncomfortably.

“…I don’t wann-“

“Tch!” He made a startling noise which cut off Kelani’s crying whine and once he had her attention, he continued. “We will travel to Prime. You’ve never met your cousins – I’m sure all eight of them will be interested in meeting you. You will have your own room and we’ll make sure you get the right education.” The look on his face was slightly sour as he let go of her chin and offered a diplomatic smile. “You are family. You’ll be treated as such. You have my word.”

Kelani took in a long, deep breath and lowered her eyes to the ground. Her hands twisted at the thick fabric of her long white dress as she worked through what this meant. She probably wouldn't be allowed to ever come back home! This home was her home, not father’s home. Father didn't have a home. Mother had almost always lived on the Relentless. This was her home.

When she muttered "O-okay, Uncle.", her voice was soft and shaking. Her tutor had told her she was lucky that her mother's family was taking her in, that it wasn't the way things used to be done, that her uncle must be a very kind man if he was willing to take her in. Kelani didn't feel like he was kind - she knew he didn't want her. She didn't want him, or her cousins, or her Aunt, or any of the things that were in her future. She only wanted to stay here. The problem was, she didn't have a way to managed on her own. Reluctantly, sadly, she nodded.

"Good." His smile became a little more genuine. "Now, go pack your things. We'll be leaving in a few hours."

The Cardassian capital city was just as big as she remembered.

The severe lines of the buildings in the Paldar sector stretched on as far as she could see. When they had entered this sector, her uncle had told her that it was one of the best parts of the city - a place where important people lived.

Whether or not that was the case, it was certainly much bigger than the Fleet city on Cardassia V she still thought of as home. This area of the city didn't show much outward damage, or construction, unlike other areas of the city. Maybe they fixed it all because it really was an important part of the city.

She had come to the city a few days before. Her protests were overridden, and now she was here. She had met her cousins, her aunt, the family's staff - everyone in the household. The house was big, too. Overwhelmingly big. Kelani had been given clearance to remain out of academic studies while she adjusted to her new surroundings, and despite her displeasure at being here she was happy about that.

Kelani stood down from her tip-toe view out the window and picked up her worn down riding hound plush. The eight-year-old climbed onto the bed and buried her face in the synthetic fur of the old canine. She didn't know how long she sat there for, eyes closed and breathing quietly, but the sudden 'woosh' of her door opening startled her when it did occur.

A Cardassian boy stepped in. She recognized him as one of her cousins, but she couldn't place the name. What was it? Kalmir! This was Kalmir. He was eight, just like Kelani, but was significantly larger. He hadn't really said anything to her in the few times they had seen one another. She hadn't really had a chance to get to know him.

"Hello." Kalmir greeted her firmly, his young voice mimicking the military precision his father spoke with. Kelani thought he sounded stupid trying to sound like an adult.


There was a long, awkward silence. The young girl set her plush toy down and slid off the bed, her bare feet hitting the stone floor. Kalmir was watching her, and she realized he had the same eyes his father did. Searching, bright, and unsettling. Kelani was glad she didn't have those eyes...they made her uncomfortable to look at. She squirmed.

"Can I, um, help you?" Her voice squeaked out more than she intended for it to. She smiled widely, though it wasn't genuine at all.

"Dad said to let you know we're having supper soon." His gaze lingered over the toys and PADD strewn across the bed, then turned back to Kelani. Her stomach knotted at the look. The Cardassian boy folded his hands behind his back, mimicking his father's gesture again. "So I'm letting you know."

"...okay, gimme a few minutes."

He continued to watch her. She couldn't figure out what he was thinking. Clapping her hands together in front of her, Kelani smiled a little wider.


At her apprehensive noise, the boy turned on his heel and walked out of the room, the door sliding shut behind him.

She stopped and stared after he departed. She had hoped that maybe soon, her father would send communication to the household. He hadn't sent anything since Mother died. Though the hope blossomed in her heart that maybe, just maybe, her father would come take her away from Cardassia Prime, the reality was different.

Kelani knew her father. He would have her stay here. She wasn't comfortable here - the house, the people, the city, it was all too strange. was her home now, though.

How dumb.
Spoiler: Part SixShow

As Kelani stepped off of the transport, she was struck by how familiar everything felt. The young woman was the first to step out of the airlock. The journey had been long enough on the Cardassian civilian transport that when the approach to Deep Space Nine was announced she was the first, eagerly waiting. Now, finally aboard the station, she gathered her skirt and stepped out of the way as others departed.

This was her first time away from Cardassian space – she was alone and had hours before her shuttle for Bajor was scheduled to depart. The thirteen-year-old turned to watch her fellow passengers depart. As the final few people trickled out of the airlock and down the hall, the girl took in a deep breath and followed behind them.

Kelani looked younger than she was. Unlike her Cardassian cousins, she had not lost the roundness to her face or began to take on the features of womanhood. The fact that the soft and bumpy scales lining neck and shoulders were not defining themselves only highlighted the differences between her and the others. She would soon be reaching the age of emergence , but didn't feel like she should be considered an adult in any respect. She wasn’t ready for that next stage of education and life on Cardassia Prime. Neither was her uncle - it had been the first thing they had agreed on in a long time, so when she asked to leave for an extended trip to Bajor his permission was immediate. Her trip was arranged and paid for within the day. Polite, perfunctory goodbyes were said and now Kelani found herself here.

The noise of the crowd hit her before she saw it. The Cardassians in front of her exited the large doors into the wide space and she followed. The promenade was bustling with activity. The wide arches and sleek layout was Cardassian, but the inhabitants were not. Kelani tried not to stare…she had never seen so many aliens in her life. Oh, certainly, she had seen them sometimes, but even Cardassia Prime as it was now was not the most alien-friendly world. Bajorans seemed to be the majority – there was a Bolian, a few humans…she didn’t even know what those green ones were!

Arms crossed over the deep red fabric of her dress, Kelani leaned against the duranium wall and simply watched. She tried to project an air of confidence but by the looks she was occasionally receiving she was sure she was staring. Used to a sea of chufas, neck-ridges, scales and black hair, this new infusion of skin and hair colors was shocking ... though very very pleasing. Her newly placed universal translator helped her catch pieces of conversation, so she stood, listened and watched eagerly. Kelani eventually pushed herself off of the wall and moved into the general flow of the crowd. She was hungry.

"Excuse me, could I sit here...?"

Kelani wasn't sure if it was always this busy, but she couldn't find a free seat at the replimat. The Bajoran she asked smiled politely at her. He was much older than her, maybe in his twenties, with sandy hair and brown eyes.

"Oh, sure, sure." He placed his PADD on the table as he motioned to the empty seat across from him. Kelani set down her bowl of stew, set her pack down beside the seat, and seated herself with some effort due to her long dress.

"Thank you very much." She bowed her head, hoping she sounded as grateful as she really was. "It's really busy here. Is it always this busy?" The replicated zabu meat tasted different on her tongue, but it wasn't bad. As she worked on a mouthful of the stew, he answered,

"Oh, not always. Some days are more busy than others." He smiled a little at the girl. "Passing through?"

"Yeah," she felt her cheeks flush as she answered, "I'm going to spend time with a relative on Bajor. I've never been to a place quite like this before."

"Where are you from?"

The answer was on his tongue, but he was being really polite. He wasn't being rude or mean - Kelani had gotten good enough at figuring out when someone hated her or not. There had been a lot of time to practice that. She gave a one word answer after finishing another spoonful.


He nodded and let out a little laugh. "Figured as much. Your hair and clothes, they scream 'Cardassia Prime'." At the confused look she gave him, he continued, "Plus, it's an easy guess. Name's Korial, I work over at the candy stand." She looked at the stand, tucked into the wall, that he pointed to. Confections that looked like resin were wrapped on sticks. They didn't look very appetizing to her. She turned back and deeply bowed her head.

"My name is Kelani."

"Well, Kelani. Pleasure to meet you." He picked up his PADD and stood. "Hope you don't think I'm rude, but I have to get back on shift. Hope you enjoy your trip."

She wiggled her fingers at the man as he walked off, staring after him. Eventually, she returned her eyes to the Zabu stew in front of her and prodded a replicated piece of zabu with her spoon. He had been so polite. Could she expect that kindness from her Aunt? They had never met before. She hadn't met this man before, either, and he was a stranger. She let the broth slowly spill into the spoon, then lifted it and took a polite sip.

For the time spent speaking to him, she had forgotten she had Cardassian in her at all. She only felt like a person. Perhaps if she encountered more Bajorans like Korial, she would like her time Bajor more than she expected.
Spoiler: Part SevenShow
The city of Jo’Kala was bustling around the fourteen-year-old girl. Kelani raised her head to meet the breeze. For Jo’Kala the air was warm and the wind carried the sweet scent of Bajoran lilacs. For the half-Cardassian, though, the the wind carried a chill. Her grip on the tuwaly tightened as she shivered. She dropped the now-bruised fruit into her basket to round out her purchase and handed over payment to the woman working the fruit stand.

She tried to ignore the all-too-familiar look on the elderly woman’s face, the awareness of rheumy eyes boring into her with distaste as she concluded her transaction and walked away. Kelani’s steps were hurried as she moved down the paved street.

Long, modest and colorful skirts rustled loudly as the young woman walked with the basket now clutched between her hands. The decision to not notice anyone else as she mechanically took the route back to the apartment was deliberate. It didn't happen all too often, but it still happened. It was the sidelong glances, the murmured slurs, the silent hatred that she couldn't stand. Some tough calling her a spoonhead to impress his friends never really upset Kelani. He looked like an idiot if he did that, at least to her. Almost never was it thought easy, though, and that was something she had to learn to live with.

A crowded temple to her left was letting out of services. The lithe half-breed dodged a man whose path she had stepped in, muttering her apology in clumsy Bajoran. He didn't seem to notice as the thin female in a colorful splash of clothing nudged past him. She preferred it that way. It was always easier when they didn't notice her. In the background - in the crowd - she could pass for a Bajoran if someone wasn't paying attention directly to her.

Wasn't that how it always was though? Wasn't that how she liked it? She rounded the corner and ran up the stairs at a rapid pace with her head held low. It was easier to hide in the crowds on Bajor than on Cardassia Prime. During her time here she had even glimpsed, now and again, a Cardassian in the crowd. Aunt Bosal had mentioned that the Cardassians left orphans behind during the war. Kelani had meant to seek them out, seemed so meaningless, in the end.

After all, she had decided she didn't much care for Cardassians either. Prime had taught her that. A smile drawing on her painted lips, the girl pulled open an ornate wooden door and stepped in to the apartment.

The knife in Kela's hands slipped through the skin of the tuwaly fruit like through butter. She narrowed her eyes in concentration, huddled over the cutting board.

"Yes, like that." The aging Bajoran woman said loudly from across the kitchen. "As thin as you can make them."

Kelani put the knife down and picked up one of the paper-thin slices of fruit, holding it in the air. The mid-day sun was shining brightly through the window and through the fruit itself.

"It's...I can see through it."

The chestnut-haired Bajoran let the pastry dough in her hands land on the counter in a cloud of flour, hands wiped on her apron as she walked up behind Kelani. Lines at the corner of her mouth and eyes showed her age as her mouth pulled downward in a friend. She reaches out to take the slice of fruit from Kelani and holds it higher, motioning with her other dough-encrusted finger.

"Here. You want it to be like this. When we make the pie they get layered. Thin layers merge together, which gives it density."

"I see."

The Bajoran arched an eyebrow at girl as if not sure she actually did see, but crossed the room and resumed working on the crust. Kelani's eyes were drawn to the window across from her after setting the slice of fruit back down. The reflection there was not the same girl who had come here less than two years ago. She had been slow to mature beside her Cardassian cousins, but since arriving on Bajor that was no longer the case. Her rounded, child-like face was now the angular and thin face of young woman, her body thin and stretched - almost as if she had grown too quickly to keep up.

It has only made her loneliness more pronounced. Her dark brown eyes lowered to the fruit as she diligently began to slice once more.

"Aunt Bosal, I've been thinking."

The woman sounded irritated. "You know I don't like when you prompt me."

Kelani could feel her cheeks flush. "I was thinking about going back to Cardassia."

There was a silence over the room before her aunt asked again, calmly, "...are you certain?"

"Well, no. I was just thinking about it. Uncle Gilan sent me some lek last time we spoke, and he said if I ever wanted to come back I could." She tilted her head to allow some hair to fall in front of her face, shielding her from her Aunt's probing looks. "It might be a good change."

The sound of a sneer could be found in the Bajoran's words as she said, "Cardassia is never a good anything."

"Well neither is Bajor." Her anger rose sharply. She kept her eyes on the tuwaly fruit, though, still slicing. "Not for me. Sometimes I think you forget I'm not like you."

"Don't think I could forget for a minute, dear."

Silence stretched between them, the methodical sound of slicing and chopping on a wooden block the only thing filling Kelani's senses for a long time. Tuwaly after tuwaly she remained quiet and considering. When at last the fruits had been properly peeled, cut and set into their bowl, she walked over to her Aunt and set the bowl in front of her.

"I think...I'm going to go back to Cardassia."

The Bajoran set the pie mold down and turned to her niece, brushing her floury hands off. The look on her face was hard and neutral.

"If you think it's best."

"I don't know what's best," Kelani conceded with a meek shrug, "all I know is that I'm not happy here either. I've tried, Aunt, I have."

"Have I treated you badly?"

"No! No, not at all. Really. We ... fight a lot, but you've treated me well."

A smile crossed the older woman's face. It surprised Kelani more than it probably should have. She stared in silent confusion, then offered a reluctant smile back.

"Kelani, I wish my idiot brother was here for you. We're doing our best. Please don't forget that."

Her head shook quickly. "I haven't. I won't." She pulled her apron off and hung it on a nearby hook, looking to her Aunt with apprehension. "I'm going to go clean up and look at the shuttle schedule. I was thinking of leaving tomorrow, if you'd allow it."

"Tomorrow?" The Bajoran's lips pursed. "If that's what you want, I suppose we can manage it."

Kelani left the room with a wide smile.

"Thank you, Auntie!"

She had been lying to Bosal.

Kelani looked over the promenade from the second floor of the station. She hadn't been telling the truth when she said Galin had given her enough lek to get home. She had none to her name, and no intention to ever return to Cardassia. The young woman's eyes were roving over the crowd with restrained desperation. For days now she had been trying to pick out the captains of docked merchant vessels.

Someone had told her that sometimes people left freighters. Sometimes freighters needed replacement crew. Would she fit in on a freighter? They might not even hire someone as young as she. Before leaving she had abandoned her skirts and blouses for a pair of tight trousers and a workshirt. If she looked older - if she looked the part - maybe they'd let her in with no questions asked.

Her breath hitched. She had her eye on several people, people she had learned to be captains - here came one now, stepping out of the docking ring with several of his crew. The Andorian was tall and lean, with clothes that were as plain as his crew's. It was worth a try.

Kelani took off like a shot into Quark's and down the spiral staircase, sidestepping most people and bumping into a few as she darted out onto the promenade. A Ferengi made a noise of annoyance as she passed the bar and stumbled out onto the main floor. She looked to the right, scanning the crowd. Was he still here?

In the distance she could see a pair of bobbing antennae. Perfect. Kelani stood and caught her breath, adjusting her shirt and her mussed hair. As the Andorian and his friends approached she walked in their direction. Previous indirect approaches to other Captains hadn't worked. For this one, she was going to be assertive. With a confidence she hadn't been able to muster most of her life, Kelani approached the three through the crowd.

The Andorian was laughing and slapped a human male on the chest. They looked like they were sharing in some story. To the right the third party, a female Bolian, was laughing along with them. After ensuring her universal translator was active, Kelani stepped in front of them and asked loudly, "Captain? Can I have a word with you?"

Their laughter halted immediately. The Andorian captain waves his friends off and stepped forward to look at the girl patronizingly. His antennae dipped. "Sorry?"

Kelani could feel the heat on her face. She cleared her throat and defiantly raised her chin to stare up at him. "I would like to speak with you." The fourteen-year-old spoke in her most authoritative voice. It's efficacy was obvious when her words elicited an even more patronizing, amused smile from him.

"This must be important!" He glanced back to his friends. "Go on, I'll meet you. Whatever this is shouldn't take long." The human and the Bolian looked at one another with mirrored shrugs and walked past. Suddenly, the Andorian's hand was on her arm and dragging her toward the wall. Kelani tried not to panic and followed him. When they were out of the crowd the man let her go and leaned against the wall.

The expression on his blue face had gone from amused to impatient. "What is it." It was a statement, not a question.

She swallowed. Her heart racing, Kelani took a deep breath before starting once more. "I need a job. I'll work hard, I promise, but-" she stopped when he began to laugh again. "What? Why-"

"Why?" His laughter rose to a belly laugh. "Kid, what do you know about shipping? What do you know about living on ships?"

She worked her mouth silently, trying to figure out why she was so offended by this. "I...not...much. I want to learn, though, I do!" Her voice warbled on the last few words and she could feel tears stinging at her eyes. Embarrassment wouldn't help her get a job, but she felt it welling up inside her.

"Hey, kid." The Andorian was off of the wall now and leaned forward to meet her on a level field, his hands pressed to his knees. "Okay. Hold on. You really need a place, don't you?"

Unwilling to let her shame and sadness be heard, she bobbed her head in a nod.

"Okay." His antennae dipped and whirled independently as he looked her over. "What's your name?"

She hesitated, cleared her throat, and managed, "...Kela. My name's Kela."

"Well, Kela." The Andorian reached a hand out to press his thumb and forefinger to her chin. He straightened her face toward him with a familiarity that sent her stomach into a drop and brought a nervous smile to her face. "Captain Thon th'Zarath. We're on our way back toward Betazed right now. You want a place? I'll find you something on Khirsha."

Her heart fluttered. " mean it Captain? Really?"

He stood back to full height with a surprising swiftness, grinning ear to ear. "I don't lie, kid. C'mon, we're going to the Klingon place. Why don't you join us? My treat."

"I-...I. Yes!" She adjusted her shirt and stood straight. The Captain grinned and nodded in the direction of the restaurant, crooking a finger. She followed obediently behind him. As she sat down to dinner with his senior crew, Kela realized that no matter what happened now, she was starting on a new path.

A new, exciting path.
Spoiler: Part EightShow
"What the shtel was that, Thon?"

The half-breed hissed up at the Andorian thaan with rage overwhelming her features. A loud clang reverberated as she shoved him back into the dingy metal wall. The larger man had been taken by surprise - he drew up and set his jaw, that advantage quickly vanishing as he processed the situation. His antennae twitched in what the young woman recognized as the precursors to anger.

"That was business, Kela." Thon's antennae went rigid. Now, he was angry. She saw the older man's fists bundle as he looked down at her, grey eyes going steely. "You know how this works."

Kela felt her resolve begin to waiver. In the two-and-a-half years she had been with Thon aboard the S.S. Khirsha, she had never regretted her decision to leave her family and planets behind. This was a grand adventure. The life she always envisioned. Lately, that had been changing. Thon took the girl under his wing, molded her, taught her.

"I am not a product."

"You have a service someone else might want."

The knuckles of her right hand flared with pain, vision going bright. Before she fully could even comprehend what happened, Thon reacted. A streak of dark-blue blood trailed from his lip. It was all Kela could focus on in the seconds before he retaliated. The girl's eyes went wide as the man's blue forearm drove into her windpipe. Her feet missed the ground for moment as he turned her into the wall. Kela heard something crack and let out a choked cry. She tried to, at least, but the larger and older man had a firm pressure blocking her airway. Unfortunately, here on Drozana, this was common enough that no one bothered to intervene, if they saw.

His antennae were raised away from her grasping hands. He leaned in, the look on his face not new to her. His eyes were bloodshot and his face lined with fatigue.

"You don't fuck with me, mutt. Deals gotta happen. Don't you think you get a free ride all the time, do you?"

She felt her fingers dig into the pliable flesh of his arm. Unfortunately for her Thon didn't seem to take any notice. Somewhere down the hallway was frantic, unrelated laughter.

"This idea of yours, that you get to just cozy up to me and live free? It ends now."

The man stepped back, Kela gasped loudly and slammed her palms back into the dirty wall behind her for support. Blood raged loudly in her ears as she gagged and coughed. He wasn't going to kill her. He wasn't going to get rid of her here. She muttered a silent prayer to the Prophets as he took another step away. His antennae drooped in a token gesture of regret, though the look on his face told a different story.

"You either pull your weight where it matters and get me latinum, or you're off my ship. Period."

A hand slid up to grasp at her tender neck. When the young woman next spoke, her voice was cracked and hoarse. There were no tears behind her words. This surprised even her - her tone was resolved and angry.

"Ship off then. I'm done."

Kela flinched and raised her left arm to cover her face. She expected the Andorian to rush at her and resume his beating. He had never been violent to her before but she had no idea what he was on. She couldn't be certain of anything. When Thon turned to continue the walk she had stopped, toward the docking bay, she was stunned.

"I was getting bored with you anyway." The Andorian snarled as he left.

She waited until he was well out of sight. When she was sure he must be gone, Kela stumbled away from the wall. Finally the tears found their way to her eyes. She fought off the desire to break down, to lose herself in her sorrow.

The young woman smoothed down her ruffled red dress as she headed for the bar. Along the hem were splatters of purple, the royal blue of Thon's blood having made themselves at home in the cheap garment. She smoothed out her thick mane of hair and pulled in a steadying breath as she sat down on one of the questionably clean stools.

As she paid for a shot of Dosi rotgut with some of the last of her latinum, Kela's eyes widened and she took a surveying look around the busy room. Drozana, the wretched hive it was, was teeming with activity. The noise was overwhelming. The dabo wheel clicked and whirred. The noise was ever-escalating as people shouted louder to carry on their conversations. Uncertainty took hold in the pit of the bescaled woman's stomach.

"What the frax am I gonna do...?"

The only thing she knew for sure as she downed her shot was that she felt nauseous.

Nothing was certain anymore other than that.

Spoiler: Part NineShow
“Hey! I said get over here!”

The Suliban called angrily across the hall, his sickly yellow fist impacting the table beneath him with a force that didn’t match the force behind his voice. Kela received his anger across the distance with a lengthy roll of her dark eyes.

“Swear by the prophets.” The young woman snarled in irritation at the loud Suliban. Her hands worked through a bundle held between herself and the Saurian man before her. Beneath the dull fabric her slim fingers peeled back shone a clumping of heather-hued crystals.

“A friend of yours?” A hiss of quiet approval emanated from the Saurian as he inquired with the half-Cardassian. One of his bony hands reached out for the package - Kela pulled it back with a disapproving frown. He made a move for his belt, but came to a stop when he spied movement over the woman’s shoulder. The Klingon behind the bar had pulled a disruptor and while the disruptor itself was not aimed at the pair, the look in the hulking alien’s eyes left no chance at misinterpretation.

“Cute. Another customer, wiseass. Now.” Kela jutted her hip toward the Saurian with a tantalizing flash of stocking-clad thigh as she removed a PADD from her thin, gaudily-bejeweled belt. The movement was deliberately provocative. “You transfer the latinum to my patron’s account, all of this is yours. Otherwise spongey over there’ll get next crack. He might be pissed that you’re making him wait. Ever see a Suliban on rhuludian crystal?” Her lips, painted with deep violet, parted in a wry smile. “They get pretty weird. ‘specially if they’re pissed.”

The scaled man squared his shoulders. He affected a sneer. Several seconds passed before he pressed this thumb to the display screen, but in the end, he did and the woman passed the package of illicit substances over with immediate disinterest. After a quick review of the PADD to ensure all was properly settled, Kela turned her attention away from her client. The loud Suliban had lost interest in gaining her attention, distracted by his drink and a conversation.


Her thin heels crossed the floor of the small and busy room with delicate steps. She was far from the girl who had left Bajor, seeking a new life those four scant years ago. The displaced girl was quite obviously a woman now, though arguably still just as displaced. The dresses her employer requested she wear were thin cloth, as the black one she found herself in now was - the slit thigh to her waistline left little to the imagination, though the sheer fabric itself did just as much to shatter any illusion of modesty she might have.

“Hey, K’intak, we got anything else pressing?” She draped her front half tiredly on the bar, elbows down, cheeks in her hands.

“No.” K’intak stowed his disruptor behind the bar as the saurian left his line of sight. The hazy room, tucked into one of Drozana’s little nooks, was at about half-capacity. Those occupants who weren’t drugged out of their minds or passed out drunk were soliciting other employees. “That saurian’s a slippery p’tagh. Seems like he’s learned his lesson after last time though..”

The Klingon’s meaty paw lifted to play with a curled strand of her thick, raven hair. Her disgust didn’t show as she glanced away, back over the tables.

“Yeah. That’ll happen if you beat the shtel out of someone.”

“You’re still going to have to move the rest of that shipment.”

“Tch.” she made a sound of disgust and looked back at the scarred man. He didn’t have the sharp-toothed grin she had been hoping for. “Come on, really? Kina can’t handle the rest?”

“Kina can’t move Crystal as well as you do.” His thick fingers, still wrapped around her curled lock, suddenly gripped it. Kela suppressed the sound of pain as he pulled her toward him, the burning lessened by her willfully prostrating herself further before him on the bar at the motion. There was his smile, but it hadn’t been the smile she wanted to see earlier. This one was predatory. “You’re running behind this month.”

“Think I’m dumb? I know that.” Her retort came with her own smile and a heaping dose of false bravado. It was always a close game with her employer. Exhilarating and terrifying heartbeats passed until he released her and Kela found her heels once more on the floor.

“Here’s a novel idea.” The Klingon pulled the PADD off her chinsy belt and cleared the transactions with a swipe. “Instead of sitting here and acting like a statue, you go find a client and start making up your deficit?” He pulled her closed hand open and slapped the PADD into it.

The young woman wrinkled her ridged nose and stepped away, the look she gave the Klingon one of mocking obedience. If he noticed her sassy, sarcastic behavior, he didn’t acknowledge it.

“Of course! What else could I possibly contribute?” Kela’s voice was saccharine sweet as she sashayed away from the bar. Uncaring if she were still being watched by him now, Kela wandered through the room, looking for work. Anyone who appeared to have been interested earlier was already in the back room or gone. “Bunch of useless f-…”

A Bajoran woman had entered the room. She was short but muscular, a shock of blonde hair combed off to the side in a hairstyle that helped to make her immediately recognizable. Her green eyes twinkled with amusement as she smiled in recognition of the half-breed. Before she had realized she was doing it, Kela rushed forward to embrace her with a frantic, youthful laugh. The sound betrayed her true age under the mask of maturity she wore.

“Jannila! Oh my – by the Prophets, how have you been? Where have you been?!”

The Bajoran’s soft voice returned the laughter, her strong grip clasping her friend fondly around the shoulders.

“You have some time? I’d love to talk.”

“I’m kinda on shift…”

She looked back to the Klingon, who had resumed carefully watching her. Jannila didn’t miss a beat.

“I’ll treat you to dinner. How much per hour?”
Spoiler: Part TenShow
The meal laid out in front of the two women was beautiful. Kela hadn’t seen anything this appetizing since her Aunt Bosal’s tuwaly pastries! Despite the station’s terrible reputation, one that was well deserved, there were a few small establishments that seemed like they didn’t belong. Rumor was that the people who frequented them were those who were friends with the Orion syndicate’s leadership.

She tucked into a bowl of rokeg pie with eagerness. Jannila had offered not only to pay her best fee for a simple social call, but had also decided that social call should happen over a meal. The Bajoran was showing off.

“How have things been?”

When Kela refused Thon her body for use with others as his means of profit – when she had told her lover and employer no, that he had best leave her behind on Drozana station – Prophets help her he had taken Kela up on it.

She had at first felt righteous. She was better than that. She deserved better than that. She could make this work. She was confident. She had experience moving freight, even though she was young. She could do this.

How hard could it be?

She had very little latinum left. When that latinum ran out, she came to the very real determination that she had no idea what she was doing. No one hired out of Drozana. Not for freight work, not unless they were desperate. Certainly, no one was interested in hiring a skinny half-breed who hadn’t the muscle or the canniness to be of use on the routes or products the people who came through Drozana worked.

The Ferengi who owned the dabo facilities aboard the station was hiring. He initially turned Kela down.

“That dress isn’t what appeals to people.” He had said in a snide and bored tone about her only possession, the thin and increasingly dirtied knee-length dress she had been wearing when she stayed behind. “Don’t you have anything else?”

She had responded with a forlorn “No.”

His response was, “Clean yourself up and show some skin, get some style. Do that and I might have room. If you can cut it.”

The day she had that short conversation with the Ferengi was ten days after Thon had left with the S.S. Khirsha. It was four days since she had completely run out of latinum. Four days since she had eaten.

It was also the first day she decided to sell her body.

It didn’t escape her exactly how hypocritical the situation was. The stand she had taken, the moral principles of her upbringing that seemed so important to her, cast aside because of the pangs of hunger she’d never had to deal with before. At the first sign of hardship those moral principles turned out to be a lot more flexible than her Cardassian upbringing had led her to believe they were. Maybe if she had just agreed to do what Thon had wanted her to do and learned to live with the shame, she’d be in a better place.

Was there even doubt of that? She didn’t think so.

And it was shameful. She had been in a relationship with Thon since an age that was far too young. The looks Thon’s crew gave her had been evidence enough of that. It had prepared her, though. She supposed she owed him that much. …save for the fact that this was his fault. Or was it hers?

She lamented to the Prophets what her life had become as she sold her body to survive. There were things she learned and precautions to be taken. Areas of the station other women worked, some of them organized. At least two pimps had domain in her area of the station.

So she worked under the radar, soliciting those that were less than attractive clients – the obviously poor, the dirty, the wretches. She scavenged and saved and if conflict arose, she fled. In a very short amount of time in the darker corners of this station she had seen too many people wounded or killed over gambling debts, illicit deals gone wrong or drinking disagreements. One thing Kela was determined to be was alive.

Her heart ached for the cool streets of Jo’Kala and the severe lines of Cardassia Prime on those lonely days. Places where she didn’t have to store a stolen disruptor under her dress. A time when she may have been viewed as a genetic anomaly among two disparate cultures but where she was, at the very least, not on her own.

"Oh," Kela said with a smile once she had wiped her lips clean, "it's been decent enough. Not doing work for Lim anymore."

The Bajoran woman leaned into the table, place her cheek in her hand as she regarded her friend. "Mind if I ask why not?"

"He found some newer ladies willing to work for a little less."

"Isn't that how it goes?"

"Fuh, right? It's not so bad working for K'intak, though. He protects his employees so long as they produce." She scooped up another spoonful of the pie, savoring it. "What're you up to these days?"

Jannila grinned across the table at Kela.

"Was waiting for you to ask."

It had taken Kela one and a half months to pull together the necessary funds for a good outfit for her 'interview'. The possibility of getting employment at Lim's dabo tables was the light at the end of a very grim tunnel. When she got the job, things looked brighter than in what felt like forever.

Kela discovered that she loved being a dabo girl. For the first time in her life she was being watched. The gazes may have been lascivious and the intent inappropriate at best, but the exhilaration of knowing that these people and their finances were in the palm of her hand if she worked hard enough

Lim told her she was a natural and she could only agree. In her time stranded without income, Kela had been studying the women working the tables. The way they held themselves, the way they touched the customers and where they touched them - shoulders, cheeks, chests - it was fascinating. The best of the dabo girls, a blonde Bajoran woman, could manipulate nearly any man she wanted into gambling the night away with her particular style of play.

That woman, Jannila, was the woman who saved her life.

It hadn't been in the traditional sense. Being a dabo girl was one of the safest jobs a person could get on the station; a good dabo girl could turn a huge profit for her employer and the latinum was ripe for the taking on Drozana. There was stiff competition between the dabo girls she was employed alongside but it also encouraged a strong bond. Kela was drawn to the dynamic Jannila and the Bajoran took to her.

The two became the best of friends.

Like everything else in Kela’s short life up to this point, happiness ended far sooner than she would have wanted. The stability of friendship showed its face and vanished before she had the chance to appreciate it. For a short burn - for an absolutely minute period of time - Kela wasn’t alone. She and Jannila shared quarters, clothing and clients. They were inseparable. The Bajoran woman loved life with a gusto that she had never seen before. Every encounter she was paid for by clients on the side was something she reveled in, every extra piece of work she was forced to do was without complaint. She loved everything.

It only lasted for just under three months. Then, like every other person important to the half-breed had, she also left.

" have a job for me? Are you serious?"

"Wouldn’t have bothered you and paid for your time if I wasn’t.”

She set her fork down and stared at the Bajoran. Jannila wasn’t lying.

Jannila was serious.

The weight of the realization that the miserable life she’d been leading since Lim fired her had the potential to be over, that she could get away from Drozana, bloomed into a burst of laughter.

“Details, please! Give me details…!”

She leaned forward over the table with her palms set flat on the surface. Jannila held a finger up and grinned from between ruby lips.

“Hold on now, relax. It’s just a freight job, but my employer’s looking for more people. I put in a solid word for you thinking I might just find you here.”

“Oh,” Kela stammered and covered her mouth. Tears leaped to her eyes, though she choked them back to keep from creating a scene “you’re actually serious. You mean it.”

When Jannila left, Kela’s foundation had crumbled.

The safe cocoon she had spun for herself in this scummy place was now exposed. She had left for a job, a client had taken extra time with her and that extra time led to a conversation about employment … and within the day, Jannila was gone.

Kela had been struggling with a newfound love for stims, a problem that became a full addiction when she found herself once more alone. It wasn’t long before it affected her ability to bring in latinum and the Ferengi kicked her ass to the curb in short order. In the order of a few weeks, much like how stability whirled its way in, destruction overtook everything she knew.

The one saving grace was the pimp she managed to land herself. A Klingon who had a shady ‘establishment’ saw the former dabo girl working a client and took her in. He gave her a proper cot and food, in addition to a small portion of the profits. Soon enough, she sobered to the point of being able to do her job well.

A day barely passed when Kela wasn’t on some substance, but she did her best. She tried to be like Jannila. She knew she failed, but dammit, it was worth trying., she was actually back.

The next morning K’intak, expecting a PADD bearing the latinum Kela owed him, he found only a note scrawled in a language he couldn’t understand. When he brought it to someone who understood Kardasi he roar furiously. It said, in a badly scrawled script,

All mine. See you never.
- K