by Mosca

Time passes differently in the Great Link than it does in the humanoid realm, so I could not say how long I'd spent there. I only knew that it was time I left. The others in the Link didn't take to my decision with great enthusiasm; it was not so much a departure as a jailbreak. I'd learned to hide my thoughts from the Link when I wished to, and I let them believed that I had buckled under their protests. When I broke free, they weren't prepared to resist.

I transformed myself into a small but spaceworthy craft and set course for the wormhole. By the time I reached it, I knew where I wanted to go: back to Bajor. It was the only home I knew.

I snuck aboard Deep Space Nine in my liquid form and set about choosing a new face for myself. If I'd returned as the Odo everyone knew, I would have received a hero's welcome. That was precisely what I didn't want. In the Link, I'd come to accept that I would far outlive any humanoids I cared about. The other Changelings had tried to use this fact to discourage me from leaving them.

I wished to test another solution, one inspired by my memories of Dax. Every so often-- after the span of a humanoid lifetime, or less if, as now, it seemed appropriate-- I would assume a new identity. Over the course of my long lifespan, I would live many humanoid lives.

For my new appearance, I combined features from popular holosuite characters. I would look vaguely familiar to most people, which I supposed was more an asset than a hindrance. I chose my name at random from the Bajoran census records. In Quark's Bar, I found a Yridian who furnished me with an identity: birth and residency documents, an education and employment history, and a credit account. I had plenty to pay him-- I'd left some latinum in my account before I returned to the link-- and he asked no questions.

My resume, though falsified, noted experience working with the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and I had no trouble finding a job with the Bajoran Department of Tourism. I settled in Dilaren Province, helping visitors who got lost on the way to the Sakti Ruins. It was satisfying work: because humanoids cannot connect with each other so automatically, they are pleased when a stranger shows kindness.

My only discomfort came when some of the men flirted with me or talked down to me. It was something I hadn't considered when I'd chosen the appearance of a young woman. I learned, after a few small distasters, when to smile flirtatiously at the compliment, and when to lock my eyes sharply with theirs and speak coldly.

I cultivated a miniature garden in the balcony of my apartment. I frequented the neighborhood cafe and made a few friends. At night, I would close thick curtains over my windows and practice changing my shape. Sometimes, I'd go down to the Sakti Provincial Park, turn myself into a bird, and go for a flight over the ruins. As time passed, I began to forget who I'd been; my new identity became who I was.

About two years after I left the Link, Kira Nerys took a short vacation in Dilaren Province. I learned this when she came to my help desk, asking about nearby campsites. There were a few strands of gray in her hair, but otherwise, she looked just as I'd remembered her: trim and indomitable, beautiful. "Nerys," I said, under what in a true humanoid would have been my breath, praying that she wouldn't hear me.

"What was that?" she said.

"Oh, it's-- I have-- had-- a sister named Nerys," I said, building the lie in my mind as I committed it. "I saw your name on the form, and I--"

"I haven't filled out the form yet," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I must have been thinking of someone else."

"But that's my name," she said. "How did you know my name?"

I had nothing left but the truth. I held up my hand, palm forward, and reverted it to shimmering brown liquid. She stepped back with a gasp. Fearing that she'd mistaken me for a more hostile Changeling, I uttered a modest "Hmmph."

"Odo?" she exclaimed.

I nodded.

"But how did you-- Why didn't you tell anyone you came back?"

"I-- I couldn't be that person anymore," I said.

"That's all?" she said. "You didn't think about-- Didn't you realize that I spent all those years waiting for you?"

"I hoped you wouldn't," I said.

"I did," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "I waited. I waited and you-- you just-- moved on."

"Nerys," I said. "I've loved you for so long, and I will... I will love you long after you're gone. All the time in the Great Link, I thought of the prospect of watching you grow old, watching you die. And I-- it seemed safer to lose you this way."

"So I guess it would be useless to try to convince you to come back to DS9 and marry me?" she said, wiping her eye.

"I'm a completely different person now," I said.

She gave me a once-over. "Completely," she said.

"Can I-- can I kiss you goodbye?" I said, assuming she would say no.

She leaned over the help desk and pressed her lips to mine. Her strong tongue and slick lips felt different than I remembered, and I wondered if it was the distortions of memory or my new physical form. Or if, perhaps, she had changed a bit, too.

"Goodbye, Odo," she said, releasing the kiss.

I gave her a pamphlet on local camping facilities. "It's Yelani now," I said. "Durei Yelani."

"I think I'll say goodbye to Odo," she said, "and thank Ms. Durei for the helpful information."

"Enjoy the rest of your trip," I said as she left the tourism office.

My supervisor emerged from her office in the back. "I heard shouting," he said. "Is everything all right?"

"Mostly," I said. "She was someone I knew... in another lifetime." I tossed my long hair over my shoulder and buried my regret under the mask of my humanoid features.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix