Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — Bajor: Fragments and Omens

Worlds of Deep Space Nine Volume Two
Bajor: Fragments and Omens
J. Noah Kym
Publication Date: February 2005
Timeline: Three weeks after Unity; also October 2376

Progress: The core Sisko family—Kasidy, Sisko, Jake, and newborn “avatar” Rebecca—begin to find their groove on Bajor, but Jake feels like this isn’t the place he belongs. “Where would I go?” he asks. “Back to Earth to see Grandpa? He was just here and, frankly, I don’t feel like cleaning oysters. Back to the station? I’m not sure I have a life there, either.” So he sets off on an exploration of Bajor, and his travels bring him together with Azeni Korena, who goes by “Rena,” a young Bajoran artist on her way home to fulfill family obligations.

Wanting to avoid the baggage that comes with being the Emissary’s son, Jake introduces himself as Jacob and initially doesn’t disclose much personal information. Nevertheless, he and Rena hit it off and soon become intimate. Their journey is interrupted by floods; they are swept into a river and saved by local authorities. After reaching Rena’s village, Mylea, she breaks things off with Jake, feeling like she must honor an old quasi-betrothal commitment to a young man named Kail. Eventually Jake resurfaces, though, and ends up stopping a drunken Kail from assaulting Rena. Rena, Jake, and some friends travel to the archeological remains at Yyn, and during the trip Rena and Jake reconnect once more. He inspires her to pursue her passion as an artist, and in turn he finds his hunger for writing returning. Their kinship deepens and, in short order, they end up marrying, after which Jake travels back home with Rena and introduces her to his family. This leads to Sisko wondering whether certain events are pre-ordained, as he also muses on his own role in the coming to Bajor of a new danger in the form of the Ascendants. Sisko gathers family and friends. Hoping to learn more about the Ascendants, and solidify ties between cultures, Opaka decides to explore an unofficial ambassadorship role with the Eav-oq.

There’s more trouble on Bajor than just bad weather. The isolated community of Sidau, comprised of roughly 300 citizens, has been destroyed, all of the village’s inhabitants killed. Ro and General Lenaris begin an investigation, and determine that a Besinian freighter was likely involved in what looks like a well-planned strike mission. Tensions erupt between Major Cenn Desca and Ro, who for Desca symbolizes Bajoran desertion, a situation manifesting through the transfer requests put in by thousands of Bajoran Militia members to join Starfleet and/or enroll in the Academy. Ro and Lenaris agree that the role of a militia liaison officer on DS9, originally held by Major Kira, should be reinstated to protect Bajoran interests. Ro nominates Cenn; Lenaris and Kira agree; and Cenn, though grumpy about it, eventually accepts.

Other appointments are in the offing. In the wake of Fava Mehwyn’s death, First Minister Asarem finds herself having to make a quick decision regarding the naming of the new Bajoran ambassador to the Federation Council, which must be done before the next Council session kicks off. General Krim Aldos, Asarem’s ex-husband—though it takes considerable sweet-talking—finally accepts. Vedek olis Tendren asks Opaka if she’ll reconsider becoming kai, but she won’t: her path lies with the Eav-oq. The alliance between Vaughn and Opaka solidifies.

Kira and the crew of the Defiant manage to track down the suspect Besinian ship, which turns out to be a death trap. The crew is dead, and the engines have been rigged to explode, no doubt facilitating a last-minute escape by the orchestrator of the Sidau massacre, who kidnapped the Bajoran Ke Hovath and his wife Ke Iniri. Iniri has been tortured and dies, but we learn through a scene told from Hovath’s perspective that while not performing his duties as sirah, he has been analyzing all known information about the Celestial Temple, i.e. the wormhole, and has formulated some fascinating hypotheses. As far as his female captor is considered, Hovath’s paghvaram, a bracelet containing what could be an orb fragment, might be the key to testing some of those theories. Ro figures most of this out, and reaches an alarming conclusion: since only Starfleet knew the details of Hovath’s paghvaram, there’s likely a mole on DS9 who leaked the information out to whoever kidnapped Hovath.

Behind the lines: This is an interesting novel, a curious mix of almost young-adult romance, realpolitik, and a kidnapping/murder mystery sprinkled with some fascinating high concepts like ancient alien empires and new wormhole dynamics. More so than the previous three novels in this series, this also feels very much like a transitional work, a continuation of certain story arcs and a planting of several new seeds that don’t bear fruit within this particular narrative. I enjoyed the mystery more than the romance, but I was admittedly a little frustrated by the obviously planned cliff-hanger ending and the lack of answers to some of the key questions raised.

On the plus side, the emphasis on character development is front and center, with each chapter being titled after that particular character’s point of view. Sisko is the backbone, with the opening chapter, the middle chapter (11), and the Epilogue all from his perspective, providing dramatic structure and shape to the overall piece. These sections were a joy to read, well-written and rich with grounding details. It could have been easy to fumble the return of Sisko now that he’s settling back into our realm, but I feel like Kym’s tone was just right. I loved the explicit reminders of Sisko feeling himself re-tethered to linear time—for instance: “Each graduated environmental change bespoke time passing and he savored the sense of being reconnected to its flow.” Or this one: “…he thought he remembered how it was done, how to take a second, parse it, and keep it hanging in the air, vibrating.” His connection to Bajor is also captured beautifully with this turn of phrase: “The land infiltrated the marrow of his bones, binding him. Just as the sky still did.”

Rena gets seven chapters, a couple too many for my tastes. Her storyline felt drawn out and more adolescent than perhaps was warranted by her age or Jake’s. Withholding from us readers her real name, and therefore her continuity with “The Visitor,” which I did think neat, also felt gimmicky, unlike Jake’s more understandable in-story decision to go by Jacob. Their marriage felt sudden to me, though I did appreciate how it got Sisko thinking. Girani and Hovath, with only one and two chapters respectively, felt more like plot cogs than true characters, though the back-and-forth between the doctor and Vaughn was engaging. I didn’t particularly warm to the Asarem sections, though I thought they were executed well enough. Asarem’s lenient position towards Trill after the events of Trill: Unjoined was a nice touch, and made me like Asarem more: “It was becoming increasingly clear to her that the Trill were already paying dearly for their subterfuge, the very fabric of their society needing to be rewoven.”

Ro—I wish we’d gotten more from her vantage point! Her evolution through this relaunch has been a marvel, and she has unreservedly become one of my favorite characters. Though she’s come a long way since the start of the series, the past is still a part of her: “Ro kept her expression neutral as the ghosts of Garon II paraded across her vision.” (Incidentally, does Vaughn’s comment “I know what really happened on Garon II” imply that there’s more to the story than we’re aware of?) At any rate, this was a great moment of self-reflexive character development for her: “After she’d returned to the planet of her birth, she realized with a profound sense of sadness that she no longer knew this world, had never known it at all.” I also want to highlight the interplay between Cenn and Ro. This part of their exchange, in particular (Cenn: “I assure you, Lieutenant, I intended no insult,” Ro: “I’m not sure I give a damn what you intended, Major”) was a kind of lovely inversion, in which Cenn was speaking bluntly and making a faux pas like a younger Ro might have done, and Ro was expressing authority and staying on point in the manner of a seasoned officer, like Picard or Riker might have done with her.

Vaughn gets several good moments. One includes a cool reference to the events of Gateways #4: Demons of Air and Darkness: “Isn’t that the point your people were trying to make by taking a lead in relief efforts to Cardassia? In harboring the Europani refugees when their world was threatened?” A more personal admission occurs with Dr. Girani, when Vaughn confesses, “I’m simply not ready to give up this life yet.” Speaking of continuity, I did enjoy how the kidnapping plot thread built on the mythology established in “The Storyteller.” Also, it was cool to see continuity details involving Opaka in “Emissary,” one involving the Shikina Monastery (“Solis had heard a rumor that the water was merely a hologram disguising a long stair that spiraled deep into the hill on which the monastery was built”) and another regarding Opaka’s famous words to Sisko: “Look for solutions from within.”

I found the chapter transitions abrupt at times, as for example when we jump to Chapter 17 (“Kira”) and are rather breathlessly brought up to speed with the following lines: “Five hours after departing DS9, moving at warp eight and against all odds, the Defiant had located her quarry, the Besinian ship, just a few light-years shy of the Badlands.” The styles of the various plot lines were also different enough that their juxtaposition sometimes seemed choppy.

I mentioned unresolved questions. A key example pertains to the Ascendants. Opaka’s stated belief that “the Ascendants would eventually return to the region of space near the Temple” and Sisko’s admonition to Kira—“You need to be ready for what’s coming, Nerys”—set the stage for something, but it’s all pretty vague. Also lacking closure is the now-stolen orb fragment and Hovath’s speculation about the wormhole. His notion that “The Alpha and Gamma openings are unlocked. […] the Temple may have an infinite number of doors, most of those are locked from the inside” is one of my favorite theories in the relaunch, but remains untested as of this point. Was there yet another unknown orb from which this fragment was obtained? Is it not orb-derived after all? Why did his entire community and village need to be destroyed, rather than just targeting him individually—did I miss something? Finally, the novel closes on another ‘let’s-see-how-this-develops’ moment, the notion that there’s a mole on the station. For me this elicited a note of paranoia reminiscent of “The Adversary” (though I’m not suggesting it’s a Founder in this case). Not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, but also not particularly fresh, in that DS9 dealt with a fair amount of paranoia throughout its seven-year run and I’m a bit wary of retreading this thematically.

Memorable beats: Sisko, being honest: “What I want,” he said soberly, “is to be here with you and the baby. But you know the truth: It’s never going to be about only what I want. I still have a duty.”

Jake to Rena: “Everything old can be new again, including your art.” And: “I feel like I’ve been seeing life through a broken lens that’s suddenly sharply focused.”

Ro gives my favorite speech in the relaunch series thus far, describing none other than Deep Space Nine itself:

“This place,” Ro interrupted, “is just that, Major—a place. It’s defined, at any point in time, by the people in it. You’re right: Once this was a place of fear, and oppression, and death. But now it’s one of hope, and optimism, and life. It’s what we make of it. And it can still be dangerous, no question. Its past is important, and it should never be forgotten. But its present and its future matter more. You can help to define those things.” 

Orb factor: Some fascinating concepts, but uneven execution, amount to 7 orbs for this one.

In our next installment: We’ll be taking on Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the first novel in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume Three, in this space on March Wednesday 25th!

Alvaro is a Hugo- and Locus-award finalist who has published some forty stories in professional magazines and anthologies, as well as over a hundred essays, reviews, and interviews. Nag him @AZinosAmaro.

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