THREE HUNDRED FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS.
Mother, father, engineer, ambassador, scientist, statesman, serial killer, Starfleet officer: At one time or another, Dax has been all of these things and more. The near-immortal part of a composite species known as the Trill, Dax is a sentient, wormlike symbiont joined body and mind to a succession of humanoid hosts, carrying the memories of each lifetime Into the next. Each incarnation is different. Each has its own personality, its own triumphs, its own tragedies, its own dreams. And each one...is Dax.
Here for the first time are tales from the lives of one of the most unique and compelling Star Trek characters ever created, told by voices as diverse as the hosts themselves:
Steven Barnes, Michael Jan Friedman, L. A. Graf, Jeffrey Long, S. D. Perry, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert Simpson, and Susan Wright.
Much more than an anthology, this unique collection of stories weaves the tapestry of one being's life...through three and a half centuries of history in the Star Trek universe.
Imagine who she's known. Imagine what he's seen.
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Pocket Books/Star Trek
December 30, 2002
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Excerpt from The Lives Of Dax by Marco Palmieri
Text Excerpt 1
by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
"Second star to the right..."
She was lost. Surrounded by the precariously stacked, cast-off debris of an antique alien city. Beneath unfamiliar stars and a single bloated moon. Her feet swelling from the stored daytime heat of the sand and gravel she had crossed, from the endless walking, from the ridiculously contorted shoes Julian had insisted she wear. It was enough to make a person say End program and go back to her quarters and --
"No," Ezri Dax said aloud.
She was many things. Many to the power of nine, she thought. But she wasn't a quitter. Well, Tobin was a bit of a quitter when it came to dealing with Raifi. And Audrid always believed she could have done more to save Jayvin. And Torias...well, okay, Ezri reluctantly admitted to herself, Torias wouldn't have gotten lost in the first place. But there was that time when...
"Aggh," she said to break the relentlessly unpredictable connective thread of interaction and reflection that stitched together all the lives she had lived, that at least a part of her had lived. "I'm doing it again."
She sighed, breathing in the night's cool desert air, shivering as she hugged her sleeveless arms to her chest. The tiny disks of reflective plastic sewn to the fabric of the long, midnight-blue gown she wore -- almost wore -- scratched the flesh of her arms. Across her exposed back, there was only a chill breeze on far too much bare skin. One more time she wondered why she kept letting Julian talk her into these bizarre historical costumes and adventures from Earth's past.
She shook her head determinedly, as if that's all it would take to clear more than three centuries' worth of cobwebs, then put her hands on her hips and, with renewed resolve, looked about the graveyard of oddly angled broken glass and twisted metal. She deliberately ignored the dainty, indigo-sequined evening bag dangling from her wrist. Somehow, its triviality seemed especially inappropriate, considering the seriousness of her situation.
"Okay...," she addressed herself firmly. She looked up at a towering construction of colored glass tubes and wire and metal to her side. In the soft light of the full moon, she could see it formed a caricature of a humanoid male with a vacant grin and narrow mustache, wearing a circular black hat with a disklike brim, one hand held up in an eternal wave of greeting -- or a warning to go no farther. "...I saw you from the front gate," she said to the impassive giant, "and you were on my...left." Ezri peered into the dark labyrinth of other twisted tangles of glass and metal, thin rods and shafts jumbled and interlocked in what Jadzia might recognize as enormous metallic crystals grown at random. "So the gate should be somewhere in that direction...on my right." She gazed above the ragged black silhouettes that formed a fractal horizon of debris in that direction, but the desert air was so clear she could detect no distant glow of the blazing lights of the city she sought. The stars were as stark and bright in every direction. The space between them as impenetrably black. Wherever she was, wherever she had to go, her surroundings were offering no clue as to what her direction should be.
"I just have to..." Ezri faltered, having utterly failed to convince herself of her logic. "...go straight down there and...ugh, why do I even pretend I know what I'm doing?"
She kicked viciously at the gravel beneath her, sending up a pale cloud of dust in the moonlight, at the same time thoroughly wedging a small, sharp stone under her cramped and crushed-together toes.
"Aggh," she said again as she hopped awkwardly on one foot, trying to twist off the open-toed shoe to free the stone.
But hopping on gravel in a high-heeled shoe was next to impossible. And when confounded by the long tight gown she wore, not even all of Emony's gymnastic skills could come to Ezri's rescue.
With a strangled cry of frustrated rage, Ezri toppled backward, braced herself for the impact of sharp gravel along her bare back --
-- then gasped in surprise as a pair of strong hands caught her and gallantly restored her to her feet.
"Julian?!" she said as she spun around to face her rescuer, arms already reaching out to embrace him.
But the blinding smile that greeted her didn't belong to the chief medical officer of Deep Space 9. "Sorry to disappoint ya, doll." It was Vic Fontaine. A holographic simulation of a quintessential Las Vegas nightclub singer from Earth, circa 1962 A.C.E. He gave her a wink.
Ezri dropped her arms. Vic smiled as if he could sense the change in her mood.
"I was going to ask what a broad like you's doing in a dump like this," Vic said, "but I think I get the picture. The boyfriend's a big no-show, am I right, or am I right?"
Ezri shifted uncomfortably on the gravel, one foot still in bondage to its shoe, the other resting uncomfortably on the rough stones. "Actually, Julian doesn't know I came up here."
Vic shot her a sideways look. "What? You two lovebirds have a spat?"
Ezri shook her head, almost lost her balance again. "No. We had a date, down on the Strip...." She waved her hand around, vaguely trying to indicate the direction of Las Vegas, three simulated kilometers in...some direction or another from here, but gave up. She had no idea where the city was anymore. "But he got called into emergency surgery."
"Son of a gun," Vic said. "Hasn't been a lot of that since the Big One."
Ezri nodded. The station had been quiet in the past few weeks since the Dominion War had finally ended. Life had been almost normal, or at least it appeared to be when filtered through Jadzia's memories. Ezri herself had been on the station for just less than a year, and only knew it in its wartime state of operations. And in the aftermath of war.
But even Ezri knew the end of the war hadn't brought total peace to the station. Colonel Kira was still brooding over Odo's departure, and was stubbornly refusing most of Ezri's offers to provide counselling. Instead, as the new commander of the station, she seemed to be sublimating all her frustrated emotions into convoluted plans to catch Quark red-handed at something -- anything illegal, or even questionable. But at least all that attention had given Quark a new purpose in life. Except for those two weeks when the Ferengi barkeep had fled into hiding on Bajor after some bio-acceleration concoction he had peddled had succeeded in growing hair on every part of Morn's body except the prune-faced alien's head, Quark had been the station's sole source of excitement.
There'd be more excitement to come soon, though, Ezri knew. What with Kasidy Yates expecting Captain Sisko's baby and half the religious leaders on Bajor debating the significance of that birth in light of the mysterious rash of new visions being experienced by those who used the Orbs. On top of that, the Cardassian reconstruction effort was finally hitting its stride and even Bajor was contributing supplies and personnel to restore that battered world, making DS9's loading docks work at full capacity, twenty-six hours a day. And --
"You're shivering," Vic said.
Ezri came out of her reverie as the hologram wrapped his black sports jacket around her bare shoulders. "I did it again," she said crossly.
"Ya gotta give me more than that to go on, doll."
"Rambling," Ezri said. "It's...I think one thought, and that makes me think of another, and it's not as if I only have one lifetime of memories to remember, I've got eight, so...so everything I think reminds me of something else, and the next thing I know..." Ezri paused, distracted by a sudden recollection of how Curzon had once had a similar conversation with Ben Sisko at Utopia Planitia. It was late at night, after Sisko's shift was over. Curzon had added healthy dollops of Saurian brandy to the raktajino. "I hate raktajino," Ezri said to Vic's bafflement. But Jadzia had enjoyed the beverage. Which made Ezri remember one night when Jadzia and Sisko had been talking late at Quark's, after Sisko's shift was over...."Aghh!"
"Don't tell me," Vic said kindly. "Rambling."
"Especially when I'm upset."
"Such as, when a certain young doctor gets called off for emergency surgery on a Saturday night."
Ezri studied the hologram, suddenly confused. "It's not Saturday...is it?"
Vic shrugged with a patient grin. "Hey, doll. It's not Saturday, this isn't Las Vegas, and it's sure not 1962. There's a holosuite wall not ten feet in front of you. But why spoil a beeyootiful evening with cold hard facts?" He offered her his arm. "C'mon, you look like you need to take a load off."
Ezri had no idea what the hologram meant by that, but she took his arm, using her free hand to keep his jacket tightly closed around her throat. "I don't think I can walk much farther on this gravel," she warned him.
"Then why don't you walk over there," Vic said. Ezri looked where he was pointing and saw an expanse of grass edging the gravel right beside her. She set her shoeless foot upon it. It was soft, springy, and impossible to miss. But somehow, she had. Impossible, she thought. Unless...
"Did you do that?" Ezri asked.
Vic guided her toward what appeared to be a large shoe, maybe two meters tall at the heel. In the moonlight, it had a metallic, silvery shimmer. "Do what?"
"The grass. Aren't all the simulation parameters set at the factory, or something?"
"Hey, doll, do I look like a parameter?"
Ezri didn't believe it, but she felt embarrassed because she might just have insulted a hologram. Somewhere, deep within her, Tobin had memories of the earliest versions of what would become holosuite technology -- the bulky encounter suits, the crude sensory helmets, the exceedingly clumsy feedback gloves. Four lifetimes later, Joran had found a disturbing new application for the emerging technology. But for all the memories of holographic environments shared by Ezri's predecessors, each recollection carried with it the clear-cut knowledge that such artificially constructed environments were unreal.
But not to Ezri.
She had grown up with holoenvironments. As a child back home on Sappora VII, she had had a personal holoplayroom that had served as a welcome escape from her mother, for both her and her younger brother, Norvo. In fact, one of her first encounters with Earth had been in her favorite program, an extremely realistic simulation of an African veldt, complete with wildlife. Apparently, it was a classic.
That early experience with holotechnology had made it easy for Ezri to adapt to Starfleet Academy's extensive use of even more sophisticated simulations for training its young cadets. And now, since she had been joined with the Dax symbiont and her mind was constantly flooded with the memories of all of Dax's previous hosts, objective reality had become an even more fleeting notion to her. There was no reason for her not to think of holograms as any more or less real than the thousands of individuals who populated her shared memories. In fact, since Vic Fontaine was by some quirk of programming a hologram who knew he was a hologram, Ezri felt she had even less reason to think of him as anything other than a real individual.
"I'm sorry," Ezri said. "I didn't mean to...you know."
"No offense taken, doll." Vic stopped, then looked around the clearing in the midst of the graveyard as if he had arrived at a long-sought destination. "This looks like the place."
"The place to rest those barkin' dogs of yours." Again Vic pointed ahead, and as if he had given a cue to some unseen stage manager back at his nightclub, a moment later the giant shoe blazed with lights, studded as it was by dozens of incandescent glass globes.
Ezri blinked at the sudden brightness that flooded the clearing, wondering how Vic had known the shoe would light up just then, or if he had somehow been responsible for what it had done. Either way, now she could see she was surrounded not by bulky machinery and sculptures, but by signs.
She saw individual letters that were a full two meters high, giant bottles poised over equally mammoth glasses, what looked to be a chorus line of dancing dabo girls frozen in midkick. Some signs were outlined by glass globes, others by glass tubes. For a moment, Ezri wondered if the map she had consulted was in error. This might not be a junkyard after all. It could be some type of art museum.
"What is this place?" she asked.
"YESCO," Vic said with a dramatic flourish of his hand. "The Young Electric Sign Company. They've been making all the signs on the Strip since the whole big ball o' wax got started."
Ezri still didn't understand. "But these look broken. Is it a repair facility?"
"Some things can't be fixed, sweetheart." Ezri watched as Vic regarded the derelict signs with holographic sadness. "The Silver Slipper. The Golden Nugget. Caesar's...All kaput. All finito. That's Las Vegas for ya. A real Neverland. Home to lost boys, lost dreams, here today, gone tomorrow..."
"Wait a minute. What's a sign from Caesar's doing here?"
Vic turned to her, his eyes wide with delighted surprise. "What kind of question is that?"
"Well, this is Las Vegas, 1962, right?"
"Don't stop now, you're on a roll."
Ezri paused, decided Vic's colloquialism was some sort of food allusion, and ignored it. "But the gaming establishment known as Caesar's Palace was still in operation as of 2053. For two months following the outbreak of Earth's World War III, Caesar's was the operational command center for Colonel Amber's Regimental Volunteers. It was the site of the final battle of -- "
Vic said it with her, " -- the Siege of Las Vegas." He cocked his head at her, curious. "How's a little girl like you know so much about things like that?"
Ezri shrugged. "Well, that's why I decided to come up here tonight. I was checking out this location for Julian...in case he wanted to try out a new historical last stand. He's got this thing for lost causes...."
"Then you've come to the right place."
"No, no. If this is 1962 -- "
" -- or a reasonable facsimile thereof -- " Vic added.
" -- then how can you know what's going to happen after World War III, almost..." She hesitated as she did the math. After lifetimes of thinking in terms of clear and straightforward stardates, Earth years were hopelessly perplexing in comparison.
"Ninety-one years later?" Vic said helpfully.
"Exactly," Ezri said. "Isn't that like breaking the rules?"
Vic looked up at the stars, all but the brightest ones now hidden by the glare from the blazing silver shoe. He tugged on his shirt collar, loosening his thin black tie. "Depends on who makes those rules, wouldn't you say?"
"Well..." Ezri began uncertainly, "then that would be whoever programmed you in the first place. Right?"
"My pal Felix. Great guy, but sometimes he's been known to borrow a bit of code from this place and that. So out here, at the edge of the program, sometimes things get a bit muddled. Sort of like me, ya know." Vic looked up at the stars, as if wishing he could reach for them. "Sure I'm strictly 1962, but I gotta tell ya, I know everything there is to know about that station you all say you come from, and that century." Vic looked back at Ezri and tapped a finger against her nose. "Just between you and me and the Man in the Moon, I don't think Felix has a good grasp of the importance of purging memory buffers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. You'd be surprised what happens when programming mixes it up in here. Ya get all sorts of...unexpected iterations. Not that a mutt like me has any idea of what I'm talking about."
Ezri gazed thoughtfully at Vic's smoothly handsome face, framed in silver hair. He was an enigma among holograms, that much everyone on DS9 could agree on. He knew he was a hologram, he had the capability of entering other holosuite simulations, and he seemed to have some kind of ongoing existence even when the holosuites in Quark's bar were offline. Jake Sisko had sometimes wondered if Vic might be a captive alien personality, somehow downloaded into the holosuites' memory circuits. Chief O'Brien, when overly fortified by bloodwine, had once forwarded the theory that Vic represented the next step in the evolution of machine intelligence, like the eerily lifelike Emergency Medical Holograms that were becoming more common throughout Starfleet.
"Vic, may I ask you a question?"
Vic gave her a playful smile as if he could read her mind as easily as a Betazoid and knew what was coming. "Shoot, dollface."
"What's it like being a hologram?"
Vic laughed. "Answer me this first," he said. "What's it like bein' a Trill?"
"I think you mean, a joined Trill."
" 'You say tomato....'"
Again with the food, Ezri thought. But she gave Vic's question serious consideration, not because of anything in Jadzia's or Audrid's or even Joran's past, but because of her own -- Ezri's -- Starfleet training as a counsellor.
"What's it like being joined...?" she repeated. "In a word, confused."
Vic gestured with open hands held to the heavens. "What's it like being a hologram? I couldn't have said it better myself. Confused, with a capital con."
Ezri frowned, not willing to accept that answer for a Ferengi second. "What does a hologram have to be confused about?"
Vic stared at her, open-mouthed, and shook his head once, exactly as Ezri had seen some Las Vegas comedian do, on an earlier date she'd had with Julian. Jimmy the Ranti...or something like that.
"You think being confused is something that can only happen to your kinda people?" Vic asked. He tapped both hands to his chest beneath his loosened tie and open collar. "I'm a twentieth-century hologram in a twenty-fourth-century world. Sometimes I have to ask myself if I'm the only real McCoy on the face of the Earth and all you people are mathematical constructs being generated by some big number-crunching hunk of transistors and vacuum tubes out in the great beyond. Don't get me wrong, sweetheart. I love my life. But still, sometimes I wonder where it is I'm going, and worse yet, where I was before I was here."
Ezri caught herself replying with more than a touch of Jadzia the scientist. "Those questions are merely a common function of any self-aware intelligence attempting to build patterns from the past in order to anticipate the future." She paused, grimacing at how cold she had sounded. "What I meant to say was, how confusing can life be for you if you've been programmed to mesh perfectly with your environment? I mean, you know where all the grassy parts are. You know when the lights will go on. It's...a perfect match."
"Perfect?" Vic raised his eyebrows skeptically. "It doesn't work that way, dollface. But from my side of the street, I'm looking at you, saying, How confusing can it be for her? She can go anywhere in the whole wide universe, see anything, be anyone, for real."
Sudden fatigue swept over Ezri. She looked around for someplace to sit. "It doesn't work that way for me, either."
Maybe he really can read my mind, Ezri thought as she watched Vic drag a large metal box out from beside the glowing silver slipper. The grimy container looked as if it had once held electrical connections, back in the days before transtators.
Vic brushed off the top surface of the box, sending puffs of holographic dust into the air. "Park it here, doll," he said.
Ezri took that as an invitation to sit, and did, wincing as the sudden chill of the metal made itself known through the thin fabric of her gown.
Vic swung a foot up on the corner of the box, rested an elbow against his knee. "So, you're not convincing me."
"About you not having it better than me."
Ezri tried to find a blunter way to put it. "I didn't choose my life."
"Join the club, sweetcakes."
"But...but..." Ezri sputtered.
"Take it easy, doll. Sounds like you're having trouble getting started."
"I've heard you sing, Vic. You're good."
Vic nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe not as good as Frank, but I won't give you an argument on that one."
"Which makes me think you enjoy what you do."
This time, Vic's smile transformed his face. "Oh, yeah. To be up at that mike, belting out pure gold, holding that audience in the palm of my hand...." To Ezri, Vic seemed to be staring away at someplace, sometime, other than the Young Electric Sign Company junkyard. "What can I tell you? Like the man said, 'baby, it's witchcraft.'"
"Exactly. So at the end of the day, no matter how you got here, is there anything else you can imagine that would be more fulfilling than being a nightclub singer in 1962 Las Vegas?"
Vic smiled at her, clutched his chest just above his holographic heart, and said, "Ya got me." Then he took on a more serious expression. "Which makes me think, there's something else, somewhere else, you'd rather be."
Ezri looked off at the surrounding signs, none of them fulfilling their functions anymore, no longer pointing the way to anywhere. She couldn't believe she was having this conversation with anyone, let alone a hologram. But then, maybe the fact that Vic was a hologram was exactly why she could have this conversation with him.
"That's the problem," Ezri said softly. "I can't answer that. I...I never got a chance to find out what I wanted. Not on my own. Not before I was joined."
Ezri could see that Vic, whatever algorithms fueled his awareness and his personality, appeared to sense the sudden serious mood that had enveloped her, drawing her into her own personal wormhole of despair.
The hologram sat down beside her. The metal box creaked a bit under his illusory weight. When he spoke, his voice was softer, more deliberate. "I gotta tell you, I'm not up on all your fancy twenty-fourth-century Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers atomic-ray rocketship you-name-its."
Ezri stared at him blankly, having no idea what he was saying, but trusting he'd mention something familiar eventually.
"But the one thing I do know," Vic said kindly, "is that this being 'joined' megillah, it's not something that sneaks up on you, is it? I remember Jadzia talking about it once. Training for years. Selection committees. Only one out of a thousand qualifies, and even then that don't guarantee you a place at the table. Isn't that how it really goes, dollface?"
Ezri rubbed at her eyes, wondering why she didn't just call it a night. She could go back to her quarters -- or to Julian's -- have some tea, fall asleep, and when she woke up, Julian would be there beside her, to take all these questions from her.
But that would be quitting, too, she thought.
"You're half right, Vic," she said quietly. She was dimly aware of tears building up in her eyes, though she had no idea why. "That's how it goes for every Trill...except me."