Updated: Mar 18
It was all too much. Joran’s presence in her mind was urging her to pull the trigger. To glory in taking a life. The Vulcan’s rifle was swinging up towards his shoulder. What she could see through the yellow-tinged display told the Trill she had moments to act. Moments to take her shot.
Ezri Dax froze, just for an instant.
Then the door behind her hissed open, the sudden sound jolting her body into motion, almost without thought. Her rifle wasn’t quite aligned perfectly, but her left index finger closed around the trigger, discharging the rifle. The bullet vanished, reappearing just inches in front of the Vulcan, Chu'lak, if she remembered his name from the file she’d just been looking at. He twisted, dropping his weapon on the floor.
And then she heard a very familiar growl from behind her.
“Lieutenant Dax, drop your weapon, now.” Odo said. Without thinking she released the rifle, dropping it to the floor, where the advanced 24th century technology didn’t go off on impact. Through the goggle, she’d seen the Vulcan staggering towards his weapon.
Then Odo grabbed her, and before she could react, he’d knocked her legs out from under her and was pushing her to the floor. A puddle of Odo broke her fall, right before he twisted her hands behind her back. With tears rolling down her face, Ezri waited for the shot that she was sure would come. Instead, Odo handcuffed her, placing her arms parallel across her body, before fastening the cuffs around her wrists, leaving her arms almost completely useless. She could change which arm was above and below and move them slightly side to side. That was it.
Then he dragged her to her feet, in a motion that would have even left Emony off-balance, before marching her down the corridor. Her head dropped, as she realised that she was being arrested.
“I didn’t do it, Odo.” She pleaded, as they approached the promenade. “It wasn’t me.
“We’ll settle that soon enough, Lieutenant.” Odo grated, activating his combadge. “Odo to Sisko. I’ve apprehended the sniper. And I think you’re going to want to talk to them yourself.”
“Sisko here. What were they doing?”
“Taking another shot. I interrupted them.”
Ezri didn’t know what to say. Benjamin… Ben… Captain Sisko… he was going to find out.
“Odo…” Sisko asked. “Who is the sniper?”
“Sir… I’m afraid that the person I caught in the act was Lieutenant Dax.”
“What?” Even though it wasn’t coming through her combadge, Ezri could hear the utter shock and dismay in the voice of her oldest friend.
“She was in the Operations centre meeting room. She fired just as I entered.”
“Ben…” Ezri almost whispered. “I didn’t do it.”
“Dax…” Sisko said. “What’s going on?” His voice was low, and she could tell he was dealing with emotions too.
Jadzia would have had a flippant response. Curzon would have been ironic.
Ezri suddenly found that the words wouldn’t come any more.
Closing the connection, Odo continued marching her to the cells, before scanning her with a tricorder. He removed everything from her pockets, including the lighter she’d used as part of the rite of emergence, along with her combadge. There was a pause, before Odo spoke.
“I’m going to need your uniform, I’m afraid.” He said, releasing the handcuff from her right arm, while keeping hold of the left.
Ezri stared at him, feeling as if her skin had suddenly caught fire. It seemed like every single part of her entire body was suddenly flushing with embarrassment. Then, remembering her time in the academy, she steeled herself, before stripping out of her uniform jacket and trousers. Odo (looking away, as if that mattered for him at all) took them, gravely, and dropped them into an evidence bag. Before anything else, one of them ran a tricorder over her hands, before taking samples using a cotton bud.
A female Bajoran deputy handed her a bright blue one-piece, once that was complete. She was given time to pull it on, before Odo twisted her arms back behind her back, fastened the handcuffs and marched her, without any of his usual warmth, into the corridor featuring the cells. He led her down it, and placed her in a cell, before stepping away, then activating the security forcefield. He just left her there, staring through the security field, very aware that she was now the prime suspect in a serial killing investigation.
Slumping awkwardly onto the bench, Ezri looked over at Joran. The other Trill just smirked.
“You know, I never let them catch me.” He said, in his oh-so-charming voice. “I was never that careless.”
“No.” Ezri said, as cuttingly as she could. “One of your victims fought back and killed you instead.”
“That Vulcan is still alive, you know.” Joran said. “He’s probably watching you through his targeting sensor. He’s probably going to shoot at any moment.”
“Shut up!” Ezri shouted.
Joran just smiled, and she lashed out with a boot, trying to kick him.
Her boot went straight through, of course. Trying to kick figments of your imagination was never going to work, her rational mind said. The bit that was Curzon and Jadzia, on the other hand, seemed to approve of the effort.
Then she spotted a small mirror. It was one of the standard fittings of her cell. Although it wasn’t large, she could see a reflection in it. Of Joran.
Staring into it, she tried to clear her mind. “I'nora, ja'kala vok.” She began, focusing on the words that would leave her alone in her mind. “Zheem Dax... nah sass-eye-ahn… D'za-oo bah-zheest...”
Then Sisko marched into the room, wearing a red robe with a purple undershirt. The expression on his face was thunderous, even compared to the time Curzon had detached an Orion dancer from his lap. The old man had thought it funny to lure her away from the human. Sisko had loudly disagreed the next day at the briefing.
“He blames you.” Joran hissed. “See how easily he wants to throw away all your years of friendship.”
“Shut up.” Ezri hissed, before remembering that talking to an invisible person wasn’t normally considered acceptable off Trill. On Trill, it went entirely unremarked unless objects were thrown.
Sisko gave her a look. “Ok, Old Man. What’s going on?”
“I was investigating, Benjamin.” Ezri responded. “I was trying to get inside the head of the killer. The Vulcan… he had a TR-116 and exographic targeting array too.”
“We didn’t find anything like that when the medical team got to his quarters. You came within three inches of killing him.”
“I swear he had them.” Ezri insisted.
“He won’t believe you.” Joran commented snidely. “He can only see what’s in front of his face.”
Then Sisko turned and looked over his shoulder. “Odo, why didn’t you take the cuffs off when you put her in the cell?”
“Because I took a knife off of her yesterday, Captain.” Odo replied. “And because I’m not sure that is our Dax sitting in that cell.”
“Odo, what do you mean by that?” Sisko asked, a warning growl in his voice. “Do you think she’s a Changeling?”
“No, Captain.” Odo said, his voice level, almost mournful. “When I sent a team to check her quarters, they found a lot of strange paraphernalia in them. Like the paraphernalia the Guardian bought for the Zhian'tara.”
“You think Ezri tried to perform a Zhian'tara or something on herself… and Joran got control?” Sisko asked, cradling his head in his hands. “You think…?”
“Not all the time, Captain.” Odo continued. “Several people have reported her arguing with no-one over the last two days. As if she was having a conversation with someone they couldn’t see.”
“Dax?” Sisko asked. “What did you do?”
Ezri couldn’t bring herself to admit it to her closest friend. She just looked away, closing her eyes silently. “Joran Tanas Rhem. Vok Ezri…” She mouthed, silently. “I was trying to catch the killer.” She repeated, awkwardly wriggling into the corner of the bunk in the cell and pulling her legs up to her chest. That bit was all Ezri Tigan, she thought, ironically.
“If you tell him about me, he might forgive you.” Joran said. “He might even let you out of this cell.”
“Yes.” She said, out loud. “I… used a Trill ritual called the Rite of Emergence. He’s been walking around with me. Giving me insights…”
“Affecting your personality.” Sisko completed. “I’d never seen any Dax lose it like you did in Quark’s. Even Jadzia wouldn’t have gone for a knife, never mind nearly stabbed someone.”
“He compares you to her.” Joran gloated. “He’d rather he had her back.”
“SHUT UP!” Ezri yelled into the corner of her cell that Joran was occupying. “Stop trying to make me angry! Stop trying to make me into YOU!” Then she dropped her head so that her face was resting on her knees and tried to hold back the tears.
Sisko flinched backwards, before tapping his combadge. “Sisko to Bashir. Please report to the security office.”
A couple of minutes later, Bashir arrived, carrying a medical tricorder. He looked extremely startled at the sight of a securely handcuffed and out of uniform Ezri sitting in a cell sobbing, while his commander stood outside in his pyjamas.
“Doctor, what do you know about personality conflicts and takeovers in joined Trill?” Sisko rumbled, without preamble. “Odo just found her in the Ops meeting room, holding a TR-116 and wearing an exographic targeting array. He was unable to stop her shooting a Vulcan officer in the habitat ring just after he entered the room.”
“I… don’t believe there is any available literature on the subject, sir.” Bashir replied, barely holding in his utter shock, and entirely unable to keep it off of his face. “I could contact the Trill Symbiosis Commission for details, but I’m not sure how much they would tell me.”
Sisko’s eyes narrowed as Bashir mentioned the Symbiosis Commission. Ezri remembered Jadzia’s memories of the first time Joran had gotten past the memory block and shuddered at the thought. Her memories of Audrid told her that this would be an incredibly bad idea.
“Ben…, Julian…” She said, lifting her head. “Don’t tell them. Please.” From his expression, she could tell that Sisko could see the fear in her eyes. “They’ll send Gard.” Then she slumped back into her corner, ignoring the smirk on Joran’s face as he watched her.
“Can you convince me I’m talking to Ezri, Old Man?”
“No, Benjamin. I can’t.” Ezri said, twisting slightly as she tried to get more comfortable. “I… am in control. Joran is not.”
Sighing, Sisko gestured to Odo. “Constable, let her out of those things for now. At least let her get comfortable.”
“You’re sure, Captain?”
Sighing, Odo deactivated the forcefield securing the cell, before crossing over to Ezri. She felt her cheeks colour slightly when she realised that her position actually prevented Odo letting her out. She shuffled awkwardly around, before standing up.
“He’s never going to believe you didn’t do it, you know.” Joran said. “Wait till he lets you go and kill him with them.”
“Shut. Up.” Ezri hissed, turning to allow Odo to unfasten the handcuffs. She wriggled her shoulders, releasing the knots in her shoulders that had already started to build up. And then she spun around, grabbed the handcuffs from Odo, and threw them through Joran. “Go Away. I don’t want to hear you say anything!” She shouted.
Then she slumped onto the cell’s bunk, tucking herself into a corner again, and tucking her legs against her chest.
Bashir had watched the entire exchange. “If she was a species that I had significant psychiatric data for, I’d say she was having a mental breakdown, sir.”
Sisko sighed, loudly. “Doctor, in your opinion, is she a threat to herself or others in her current state?”
“If she was a…” Bashir paused. “I don’t know, sir. If I knew more about joined Trill psychology…”
“Knowing that she nearly stabbed another Starfleet officer yesterday after intervening to stop him fleeing station security?”
Bashir shook his head slightly. “Sir… I do not believe that Ezri… Lieutenant Dax should be confined to the brig. However…” he sighed, deeply. “We do not have any other secure place where she can straightforwardly be monitored and prevented from…” he stopped talking, but everyone heard the unspoken “trying to hurt people or herself.”
“Understood, Doctor.” Sisko responded. “I’m sorry, Old Man.”
Ezri didn’t respond.
Shaking his head, Sisko led the way out of the brig, leaving Ezri alone in the Cardassian cell. She didn’t even notice for several minutes.
Perhaps ten minutes later, Bashir returned, pushing what looked like one of Quark’s serving trollies. It bore a duvet, two pillows and a small viewer.
“Julian…” she chided, without really thinking. “You shouldn’t…”
“Ezri, I know you’re not Jadzia. You’re your own person. At least let me make you more comfortable in there.”
“He’s sweet on you.” Joran commented, standing between them. “I suppose he isn’t entirely unattractive, by human standards, but he isn’t special. I don’t know what you see in him either.”
In response, Ezri pulled a shoe off her feet, and threw it through the smirking projection, where it crackled off the security field on an almost direct trajectory towards Bashir’s head. “I DON’T WANT YOU HERE! JUST STOP
BOTHERING ME!” She shouted.
Bashir took several steps back from the cell.
“If that’s how you feel, Lieutenant Dax, that’s up to you.” He said, stiffly and formally. “I won’t push any comforts on you that you obviously don’t care about.” He turned, leaving the trolley loaded with comforts, which she now saw also included a small stand for the viewer.
“JULIAN!” She shouted. “I WASN’T AIMING AT YOU!”
And then she curled up, and finally let all of the tears flow out. It was surprisingly cathartic, even for a trained counsellor. She’d liked Hector Ilario, even if he had been… she blushed slightly at the thoughts. She’d been tempted. The parts of her that were Jadzia and Curzon had positively encouraged her to enjoy herself. And then her mind dragged out the picture of him lying on the floor, cold and dead, with a hole in his chest. It beat her with the thoughts of what might have happened if she’d stayed with him that night. She might have saved him. They might have gone to her quarters instead. She also saw another image, of her own body… half-clothed, with him lying across her, having tried to shield her in their last moments.
She just wished she had access to that freshly replicated, soft, warm duvet to curl up in, and block out the world with.
“I hate you.” She shot at Joran. “I hate what you make me do!”
“Make you do, dear Ezri?” Joran commented. “I didn’t make you throw a boot at me. I’m just a part of you. A memory. You’ve made every single decision on your own.”
Glaring at the mirror, she began trying to put Joran back in his ‘box’ again. “I'nora, ja'kala vok…” She recited, before the doors slid open, and she looked through them to see Sisko, this time in uniform, looking through them at her.
“I thought you had things under control, Old Man.” He said, using his special ‘I am disappointed’ voice that he seemed to have developed for use on Jadzia. The memory actually made her smile.
“Julian… tell him I’m sorry. Joran…”
To her surprise, Sisko actually opened the forcefield keeping her in the cell, and pushed the trolley in, before helping her unload. It didn’t take long. He also handed her another small device that she recognised as an old-style communicator. The case appeared to be slightly reinforced and padded, as if it was designed for a psychiatric hospital.
“If you need anything, this will get you Odo or me.” He explained. “We’re not going to act as your butlers, but we want to make this as easy as possible for everyone.” He paused and lowered his voice. “We know you took Ilario back to his quarters. Did anything… happen?” He asked, slowly. “Did he… try to make something happen?”
Ezri shook her head. “I… thought about staying the night, Ben. I really did. But I didn’t. And nothing happened.” She was surprised by how much her voice was shaking as she spoke. “I didn’t kill anyone, Ben. You don’t need to make excuses for me.”
He just squeezed her shoulder for a second. Then he stepped out of the cell, and reactivated the forcefield, leaving Ezri alone again. She just nestled under the new, warm and soft duvet, curling up in it and wrapping it around herself. She curled up into a ball, needing the security and comfort of a ‘nest’, and tried to fall asleep.
From the monitor, Kira breathed a sigh of relief, and put down her phaser. “That was a risk, Captain.” She scolded Sisko.
“I know, Colonel.” Sisko replied evenly. “I still don’t know for sure.”
“You think that Joran… might be in control?” Kira asked. “Even though Dax didn’t try to escape?”
“I had him in my head for a while, Kira.” Sisko explained. “Joran is patient. He’s cunning. He killed three people, and, until the third killing, they had almost no evidence. He fooled Jadzia into thinking I’d taken control and she could lower the forcefield, then tried to kill her. I don’t know if he’s playing us, by pretending to be her, and acting tearful and emotional to get us to lower our guard. If he could fool Jadzia… she’d known me a lot longer than we’ve known Ezri.”
Kira shook her head, letting out a slow breath. “How will we know?”
Sisko paused a moment. “When Dax tries to kill someone.” He stated, grimly. “Until then, we have no way of knowing unless we catch someone else with a TR-116 and an exographic targeting array.”
“Wasn’t that the rifle and array Chief O’Brien replicated?” Kira queried, looking confused. “It can’t be him. We know where he was at oh-three seventeen the night of the first murder.”
“Why would Dax use a different weapon?” Sisko asked.
“Time? Opportunity? To throw an investigation off the scent?” Then Kira sighed. “Do you think she’s the killer?” she asked, softly.
“I don’t think Ezri is. But if she’s been being influenced by Joran…” Sisko paused, shaking his head. “Maybe if Ilario offended Joran in some way… after a night of drinking… would his judgement even be impaired? I don’t know, Colonel. I knew Curzon for years. I served with Jadzia for six years. And I still have no idea how any of this works. We need an expert.”
“You saw how Ezri reacted when we mentioned the Symbiosis Commission.”
“Colonel, we just agreed that we have no idea which Dax we’re dealing with right now. I hope we’re dealing with the confused assistant counsellor, but we might have been speaking to the insane serial killer. He’d have entirely different reasons to want to avoid the Symbiosis commission investigating this than Ezri would ever have. This ‘Gard’ Dax mentioned… they might know.” He glanced at Kira. “Computer, search federation records for a Trill with the surname Gard working for the Trill Symbiosis Commission.”
“Hiziki Gard, born 2320, on Trill. Currently working for the Trill Symbiosis Commission as a Special Agent and located on Tesnia, on secondment as a cultural attaché.”
Kira rolled her eyes. “Cultural Attaché?”
“Yes, Colonel. I know exactly what that actually means.” Sisko deadpanned. “Computer, send the following message to Hiziki Gard: This is Captain Benjamin Sisko, Commanding Officer of Deep Space Nine. We have a situation involving one of our officers on our hands where we think your expertise would be invaluable. Sisko out.”
“Will he respond?” Kira asked.
“If he’s what I think he is, he will.” Sisko replied. “Given how secretive the Trill still are about their symbionts, they’ve got to have a team who deal with hosts gone bad. This can’t be the first time a host has been accused of murder in these sorts of circumstances. Although it is strange that one of their agents, who is personally known to Dax, is just fifteen light-years away when everything goes wrong.” He rolled his eyes. “I wonder if they thought something like this might happen and wanted a trouble-shooter in place.”
On Tesnia, Gard blinked slightly when he found the communication in his inbox. Even though he had personal experience of the Dax symbiont’s last… troublesome… host, he hadn’t expected to be called upon. Even though this Sisko, whoever he was, hadn’t specified what had happened, he’d already seen the reports. Two federation officers, killed with a gun, both shot at close range.
Calling up the file, he read through it again:
FILE: Dax, Ezri
Rank: Lieutenant junior grade, Federation Starfleet
Current assignment: Station Counsellor, Deep Space Nine
Full Name at Birth: Ezri Tigan
Year of birth: 2354
Place of birth: Trill, grew up in Sappora system
Parents: Yanas Tigan, mother, Verem Tigan, father.
Education: Starfleet Academy, Medical Program, 2372-2374 (final year of training waived)
Marital status: Single
No Application to Initiate Program on file. Enrolled in Starfleet Academy medical program, with emphasis on psychology. Assigned to U.S.S. Destiny for field training, with title of assistant ship's counsellor. Joined to Dax symbiont during medical emergency, as only available Trill, despite lack of training. Took leave of absence on Trill to receive training. Accepted position as station counsellor on Deep Space Nine, with promotion to lieutenant junior grade.
It was accompanied by a picture of a small, smiling female Trill, with boyishly short black hair. Even Gard, used to assessing people entirely objectively, found her appearance slightly disarming.
Then he shook himself. That disarmingness would make it easier for her to approach victims. Her height would make her seem entirely unthreatening. Her memories from Emony and Joran, not to mention Curzon and Jadzia, would make her extremely dangerous with a knife or sword. With a ranged weapon… at close range, she’d be unlikely to miss and have the benefit of surprise.
Calling up another file, sent to him from his contact in Starfleet, he read a tersely concise incident report.
“Security personnel dispatched to quarters of Lt. JG Hector Ilario, after failure to report for shift or answer communications attempts. Door lock overridden, and entry gained. Lt. Ilario found deceased on floor. Cause of death: Gunshot from apparent close range, directly to heart. Last person to see deceased alive: Lt. JG Ezri Dax. Time of Death: Approximately 0317hrs Station time. No suspects. Murder Weapon not recovered.”
Dax’s involvement had been the only reason he was sent the file.
Calling up his terminal’s communications program, he sent an immediate response.
“Captain Sisko, this is Hiziki Gard. I am on my way. Please send a full briefing. I am cleared up to Level Ten. My ETA is approximately 33 hours.” It was useful having access to a government diplomatic courier vessel at times like this, which is why he had such a craft available. His work for the TSC was often time-sensitive, particularly if he was transporting a symbiont whose host had died suddenly.
He was off the pad within twenty minutes, having left behind a note indicating that he’d been called away on urgent consular business on Deep Space Nine.
The additional files Sisko sent through an hour later contained a significant amount of additional information. The station’s chief engineer, with the brilliance typical of such personnel, in his experience, had deduced the murder weapon’s function.
He’d replicated and demonstrated a version of it. There had been two additional murders with the same weapon as the first murder.
There was no evidence as to how the victims were chosen, or if they were selected at random. Each time a pattern seemed to emerge, it disappeared with the next killing.
The first two victims had been human, the third bolian. The first victim had been male, the next female, and the third male. The first victim had been single, the others married. Two victims had been childless, the third had multiple children.
The final, interrupted shooting had been of a male Vulcan, who’d been wounded.
Shaking his head, he settled on his bunk, leaving the shuttle’s computer to fly itself to Bajor, and closed his eyes, running over all of the data he had slowly.
On the face of it, the data pointed to a loss of control and the desire to regain it. But he’d know more when he arrived. Starfleet (or Bajoran) security were unlikely to have his level of experience. Not when it came to serial killers. On Trill… he was always involved. That was part of the job of Gard.
He just hoped that it wasn’t too late for either Dax or Ezri Tigan to be saved.