The promenade was dark and devoid of life. Even the familiar sounds – the mechanical chirps of com stations, the slight hiss of the air circulation system – had been silenced.
The most likely explanation for the stillness was the gaping hole in the station’s reinforced wall, where the atmosphere had been sucked into the void of space.
The cause of this disaster was unknown, but its effects were everywhere. With no power flowing to them, the graviton mats embedded in the station’s floors had failed. Things floated weirdly through the corridors. A glass from Quark’s bar tumbled end over end.
Oddly, Sisko had no trouble walking as usual. He stopped on the promenade just outside Quark’s abandoned bar. In the middle of the corridor, he saw a box. It sat on a stand, covered with a cloth.
A small, sparkling object caught his eye. He reached up, but it was out of his grasp. The small object was a Bajoran earring, which had lost its owner.
“Why am I here?” he shouted. Against all expectation, his voice traveled in the airless void.
“The Sisko must help us,” came a voice.
Sisko turned. It was his recently-deceased friend, Jadzia. His shock only lasted a moment, until he realized the apparition’s true identity. He also understood why he could still walk, talk and breathe.
“I don’t understand. How can I help you?” Sisko asked.
Two more forms emerged, from the darkness of Quark’s bar – Kira and Kai Winn.
“We have been exiled,” said the apparition in the form of Winn.
“We are weakened,” the Kira-apparition added.
“I know, I know!” Sisko shouted. “I should have listened to you, but I didn’t. Tell me how to make it right.”
A new voice spoke, from behind Sisko. “Bajor must become one with the locusts.”
Sisko turned and saw that the fourth apparition had assumed the form of the Vorta, Weyoun.
“What are you saying?” Sisko asked. “Who are the locusts?”
“The Sisko knows,” said Jadzia.
The Sisko did, indeed, know. “You can’t mean that you want Bajor to join the Dominion!” he cried in disbelief.
“All will be as it has been,” Kira said.
Kira walked over to the box on the stand and uncovered it. It was an Orb; she opened it. Unlike the other Orbs that Sisko had seen, it did not glow with a green light. Its light was blue and filled the darkened promenade.
“The Orb of the Prophets,” Winn said.
“Bajor must become one with the locusts,” Jadzia said.
“But you don’t understand,” Sisko said. “That would have disastrous consequences for the Bajorans!”
Kira reached up, grasped the earring and attached it to her ear. Sisko recognized the earring now. It was Kira’s.
“Consequences are temporal,” she said. “Bajor must become one with the
The room was large and airy, with shafts of light slanting through tall windows to the stone floor. Bajor being a dry planet, the windows were simple archways with nothing to block the soft, warm breeze. Like all of the buildings in Bajor’s main governmental complex, the room was designed to impart a sense of peace and tranquility.
But the architect’s intent was lost on the two people who occupied the room. They were angry, confused, anxious – and anything but tranquil.
“So, Major. How bad is the situation?” Sisko asked.
Kira shook her head. “Pretty bad. I have to give Winn a lot of credit. I knew she was a crafty politician. But I never thought she could turn things around so quickly and so completely.”
They lapsed into silence again, ruminating over the strange collision of events that had led to the unthinkable. In a few minutes, the Chamber of Ministers would vote on Kai Winn’s proposal that Bajor should join the Dominion. Incredible as it seemed, there was a good chance the vote would be yes.
This was particularly chilling to Sisko. He had told no one of his strange encounter with the Prophets the previous night. Yet, now, their words seemed to be coming true.
“Winn is not only crafty,” Sisko said finally. “She’s also desperate. The Chamber of Ministers’ investigation into the battle between the Prophet and paghwraith on DS9 was almost complete. It was obvious that she was about to be charged with heresy for defying the will of the Prophets.”
“She would have been deposed as Kai,” Kira said. “But she had a way out. Discredit the only witnesses to the event. You, me – and by extension, the Federation and its friends.”
“Ordinarily, that would have been difficult,” Sisko said, bitterly. “After all, I’m the Emissary of the Prophets. So what did I do? Give Winn all the ammunition she needed to convince the Bajorans that I wasn’t the ‘true’ Emissary after all….”
“Captain, you didn’t close the wormhole! Or create the spiritual crisis on Bajor. Being cut off from the Prophets did that. When people are scared, sometimes they do stupid things.”
“Then what was my excuse for doing stupid things?” Sisko roared.
Kira shook her head, not understanding what he meant.
“I mean, the investigation of Vreenak’s murder,” Sisko said. “I should have trusted my people more – you and Odo. I should have let you know what was happening. But I felt so damn guilty about what happened to Vreenak. I just didn’t want to tell you, or anyone. And then I compounded my mistake by running away. The Bajorans are right. I don’t deserve to be any kind of Emissary.”
“Well, even if you should have told us – it’s not fair that Winn is using that incident against you as well,” Kira said. “It has nothing to do with Bajor’s crisis.”
Sisko shook his head. “It’s too good for her to pass up. The Emissary conspires in murder. With a Cardassian, of all people. The Prophets are offended and shut the wormhole to punish the false Emissary. Now the Bajorans must cast the false Emissary out – and cast out the Federation as well.”
“Cast out the Federation,” Kira echoed. “That’s Weyoun’s contribution to Bajoran theology.”
“Weyoun’s just following Dominion policy,” Sisko said. “Find a politician who’s in a vulnerable position and is willing to sell out their homeworld in return for a secure power base.”
“He did it with Dukat, and now he’s doing the same thing with Winn,” Kira said.
“Weyoun even tried it with me,” Sisko said.
Kira grinned. “Weyoun offered to make you supreme dictator of the Federation?” she said in disbelief.
“Yes. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, too,” Sisko said. “Maybe I should have taken him up on the offer. I could hardly be a bigger danger to the Federation than I’ve already been.”
“You can’t think that way,” Kira said vehemently. “You’re still the Emissary. The Prophets are just putting you through a trial. There are many great religious figures in Bajoran history who went through similar crises.”
“We have a legend like that on Earth,” Sisko said. “His name was Job.”
In the distance, a bell sounded. “The Ministers are convening,” Kira said. “We should go in.”
Sisko and Kira took their places on the benches of the great central chamber. Over a hundred ministers filled the room, one each from Bajor’s provinces and major cities.
As the religious leader of Bajor, Kai Winn did not attend the councils unless she had something specific to discuss. Today, she did.
But Winn was too clever to broach the topic herself. Instead, one of her longtime supporters --a religious conservative named Hoster – did it for her.
“I’m sure we’ve all heard of Ambassador Weyoun’s generous offer to Bajor,” Hoster began. “He wishes to extend the non-aggression treaty that exists between our peoples to its next logical step. He has offered to admit Bajor into the Dominion, with all the protections and privileges that member planets enjoy. All he asks in return is that Kai Winn be elected First Minister. And, as the current First Minister, Shakaar, has decided to retire to Dahkur province, there is no reason why the Kai should not be able to assume this role.”
Kira gasped. “Winn is trying to stage a coup. Religious leaders haven’t held political power like that since before the occupation!”
“Winn is playing for high stakes,” Sisko said. “This gamble will either finish her, or realize her ambitions. But will the closing of the wormhole and my disgrace really be enough for her to pull it off?”
“I don’t think so,” Kira replied. “The religious conservatives who will support her have always been in the minority. Winn must have something else up her sleeve.”
She did. The religious faction may have been small in number, but there was another group among the ministers whose ranks had swelled in recent weeks. A group that had always been a boon to ambitious and unscrupulous politicians.
This group was made up of the frightened. Ministers who were frightened that the Prophets had turned their back on Bajor. Frightened that Bajor’s alliance with the Federation had been a disastrous mistake. Frightened that, with the Romulans joining the Dominion, the Federation could fall – and drag Bajor down with it. No one among the ministers had forgotten the brutal Cardassian occupation. No one wanted to return to those days.
Hoster’s speech had created a commotion in the chamber. Winn knew she had to be very persuasive to convince a majority of ministers to take the radical step of electing her First Minister.
“Ministers, please,” Winn said, trying to make herself heard above the ruckus. “I realize that this may seem very strange and frightening to many of you. Just consider what the Prophets would want us to do. They are very angry with us now, and who can blame them? After all, Bajor is responsible for whatever happens within our territory.”
Her voice became slightly angrier. “That territory includes Deep Space Nine – where a certain murderous Cardassian has been living, with full protection of the Federation, despite all our protests!”
“Winn objected to Garak being on the station?” Kira said. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’ll bet until now she didn’t even know he was on the station.”
A minister strongly in favor of Federation membership for Bajor rose from her seat. “The Federation may have shown poor judgement regarding the Cardassian. But is this incident really important enough to break our ties? Bajor should join the Federation as we’ve always planned – because now, more than ever, we need the protection of a large, powerful alliance that will treat us with respect.”
Winn smiled. “Of course, Minister, I completely agree with you. And that is precisely what the Dominion is offering Bajor. The peaceful security of their member planets is always uppermost in their minds.”
The minister from Siprantha province, an old resistance fighter, jumped up. “Yes, member planets like Cardassia! Do we want to be aligned with them?”
“I am surprised at you!” Winn chided. “The Cardassians are no longer our enemies. We do have a treaty. I myself negotiated it. Remember, the Prophets teach us forgiveness, above all.”
Another minister, from Jalanda province, shouted, “The Federation or the Dominion – what difference does it make to us? They offer the same thing!”
“There is a very important difference,” Hoster retorted. “Now that the Romulans have changed sides, the Dominion is certain to win. And we all know too well how losers get treated.”
“But the war isn’t the real issue,” Winn said. “It’s the wormhole. The Dominion shares our goal of finding a way to open it.”
“To bring more warships through!” the minister from Siprantha yelled.
“Ambassador Weyoun has assured me that the Dominion can open the wormhole, and restore our access to the Prophets,” Winn said. “But he can’t very well proceed, as long as the Federation is occupying DS9.”
That comment brought Kira to her feet. “Occupying? Have you forgotten how the Federation has protected Bajor from the Dominion in the past?”
Winn smiled patronizingly. “Bajor does not really have anything in common with the Federation, and its agnostic philosophies, child. To them, the Prophets will never be more than aliens who live in a wormhole. But the Dominion is made up of religious people, just like us.”
Kira was incredulous. “You mean the Vorta? The Jem’Hadar? They’re brutal fanatics! I wouldn’t call that religious.”
“You are wrong, child,” Winn said gravely. “They are very religious. I am convinced that they believe in their gods, utterly. If their gods have told them that the Dominion must extend across the Alpha Quadrant, then they will make sure it does.”
“You want to ally Bajor with people who are worse than Cardassians!” Kira said.
“They are different from Cardassians in a very important way.” Winn said. “We could fight the Cardassians, despite their superior power, because we had our faith to keep us fighting. The Cardassians lacked faith, and so they ultimately gave up and left.”
Winn paused for dramatic effect and looked around the Chamber of Ministers. “But will the Dominion do this? No! Just as we Bajorans would never quit – neither will they! Imagine, my child. Imagine, all of you! People with the power of Cardassians. And the faith of Bajorans. They cannot be defeated! We would be fools to try.”
The chamber was silent. Sisko felt cold as he realized that Winn was
not simply trying to grab power. She believed what she was saying, and
she could very well be right. He realized now what he had to do.
Kira wasn’t thinking about whether Winn was right or wrong, but whether she would convince the others. Kira looked around the chamber at the people assembled there from provinces all over Bajor -- Dahkur, Timouna, Jalanda, Losos, Kendra, and on and on. Her eyes fell on Zezo Jostan, the elderly minister from Rakantha province. Many of the worst atrocities of the occupation were committed there. The Cardassians had razed whole cities in Zezo’s province.
The Rakanthans were among the bravest of Bajor’s heroes, but will they be willing to go through all of it again? Kira had to admit to herself – she didn’t think so.
Winn had finished her speech, and the time had come for the ministers to vote. Kira realized that a majority would probably side with Winn. Not really thinking it would do any good – but unable to remain silent -- Kira made one last plea.
“Maybe we are fools,” she said. “This may be a lost cause. But I’ve spent my whole life fighting lost causes.”
There were murmurs of assent from the crowd. All knew of Kira’s role in the resistance.
“Remember how Bajor suffered under Cardassian occupation?” Kira said.
“Yes,” Hoster said. “And we don’t want that to happen again.”
“Have we become cowards?” Kira continued. “Don’t you remember how the Cardassians promised to make the occupation less harsh if we would only stop fighting? And did we stop fighting? No! Because freedom is more important than anything. More important than comfort, security, even life! Has that changed now? Are we different people? Or are we still Bajorans – the people who drove the occupiers off our homeworld, despite overwhelming odds?”
Kira paused, unsure of whether her point was getting through. “Your votes here today will answer that question. That’s all I have to say.”
The ministers started clapping, a few at first, then more, until they were all on their feet. Winn looked around, aghast, and knew she had lost.
Minister Zezo stood up. “Let the Dominion destroy all of Rakantha. Our people never surrendered to the Cardassians, and they won’t surrender now. Let us instead join the Federation, and fight with them side by side against our foes. They have protected Bajor long enough. It is time for Bajorans to fight!”
Thunderous applause. Finally Sisko stood up to speak, which quelled the pandemonium. The entire chamber waited for what seemed obvious – the Emissary’s official endorsement of Bajor’s entrance into the Federation.
But Sisko surprised them all. “Winn is right. With the Romulans allied to the Dominion, the Federation is not the place to be right now.”
Cries of “No, no!” came from around the chamber.
“I’m not saying the Federation will lose this war!” Sisko said. “But, at least for the time being, we will lose territory. Bajor is on the front line. It’s certain to fall. Join the Dominion now, and at least you will be protected.”
A minister yelled, “We don’t need anyone’s protection! Bajorans are fighters!”
“Would the Federation ever surrender its freedom to the Dominion?” the minister from Siprantha said. “Do you think less of us than you do of yourselves?”
Sisko looked down. He had to tell the Bajorans the whole truth, regardless of the consequences.
“No,” Sisko said. “Over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that Bajorans have a spirit unlike any I’ve ever encountered. And ordinarily, I would advise you to remain neutral – don’t side with the Federation, but don’t accept the false ‘security’ of the Dominion either.”
“I’ve been to Dominion space,” Sisko continued. “I’ve seen how they treat their ‘friends.’ Everything is fine, as long as you surrender all your freedom to them. But should you ever rebel or try to get out of the arrangement, you can expect no mercy.”
“But as the Emissary, I must say this. I received a message from the Prophets last night. I don’t understand why, but the Prophets’ instructions are clear: ‘Bajor must become one with the locusts.’ I think you all know the ancient texts well enough to interpret that statement.”
In the shocked silence that followed, Sisko descended from the benches and strode out of the chamber. As he left the room, he heard the voices of the ministers, even louder than before.
Above the noise came Kai Winn’s piercing voice. “Ministers, please! The Emissary has spoken!” Determined not to hear any more, Sisko walked faster.
Kira caught up to him in the corridor.
“Don’t ask, Major,” he said, without breaking stride.
“But, I believe you.” Kira said, barely controlling the trembling in her voice. “I believe the Prophets told you – what they did. I just don’t understand….”
Sisko stopped short. “And you think I do? That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! But I ignored the Prophets once before. And look at the results! Jadzia, the wormhole, the Romulans joining the Dominion…I’m not making the same mistake again.”
Kira nodded. “So what do we do now?”
“Back to the station,” Sisko said. “I need to speak with Admiral Ross.
Then, if he doesn’t court-martial me over subspace, I’ll oversee the evacuation.
The Federation is leaving DS9.”
“What are these cases filled with, Julian? Solid deuterium?” O’Brien growled.
“No – solid dermal regeneration plasma,” Bashir said. “Believe me, you’ll be glad we brought it if we run into the Jem’Hadar on the way out of here.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m bloody sick of moving all this stuff. I wish the Bajorans would make up their minds whose side they’re on.”
“Don’t worry, Chief. Once the Federation gets the upper hand, Bajor will withdraw from the Dominion. When that happens, I’m sure we’ll be allowed to return to the station.”
“Great. Then we get to move it all BACK again.”
O’Brien and Bashir maneuvered the anti-grav sled through the airlock and into the cargo hold of the Defiant. Most of the medical supplies had been beamed into the hold already. But unfortunately for the chief and his aching shoulder, dermal plasma had a tendency to explode if put through a transporter.
“That’s the last of it,” Bashir said.
O’Brien slumped down in the hold and rubbed his shoulder. “Next time, we’re risking the transporter.”
“All right, Chief. And you can be the one to explain to Captain Sisko why we redecorated the cargo hold with sticky pink goo.”
Bashir and O’Brien took the turbolift to the ship’s bridge, two levels above the cargo hold, to test the Defiant’s systems before departure.
“Are Keiko and the kids on board already?” Bashir asked.
“Yes,” O’Brien said, from under the conn station. “Hand me a polarization spanner. It’s too bad the Bajorans didn’t give us more time to prepare. We could have sent them on a Federation transport. It’s going to be cramped.”
“We’ll survive,” Bashir said. “Don’t be too hard on the Bajorans, Miles. It’s really not their fault.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. We should be happy that Earth is so far away from the fighting. The Bajorans have had to make some pretty tough choices.”
“Well, here’s another Bajoran making a tough choice,” an unexpected voice said.
O’Brien crawled out from under the conn station as Kira and Odo entered the Defiant’s bridge. Odo was carrying a small jar in his hands, which Bashir instantly recognized.
“Kirdo,” the doctor said.
Odo nodded. “Yes…Nerys and I, we….”
“We need Kirdo off the station and as far away from the Dominion as possible!” Kira said.
“The Dominion wouldn’t try to take him away from you, would they?” O’Brien said. “You’re his parents!”
“Well, they tried once,” Odo said. “I suppose that could have just been Weyoun showing, hmmrph, initiative. I’m not sure the Founder would have approved.”
“But we’re not taking any chances,” Kira said. “Chief, can you send Kirdo to Earth with Keiko? When he comes out of the Link, it will be better if there were familiar faces around.”
“No problem,” O’Brien said, taking the jar from Odo. “Kirdo and Molly always have a lot of fun together. I’m sure she’d love to see him again.”
“Of course it’s just temporary…” Kira begin. But her expression as O’Brien
took Kirdo’s jar revealed her doubt.
“Three bolts of Rigellian organza, four cases of Niddaen armor-cloth, and eight sonic hemmers,” Garak said, reading off the padd in his hands. “That’s everything.”
Garak handed the padd to the Bajoran deputy who stood nearby. “All the cases are electronically sealed,” Garak said, pointing to the stacked boxes that filled his shop. “And the contents are listed on the padd. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I fear that I’ve kept Captain Sisko waiting far too long….”
Picking up a small case, Garak headed toward the door. His exit was suddenly blocked by the bulky form of Winn, accompanied by several Bajoran security officers.
“Why Kai…or is it First Minister now?” Garak said glibly. “Here to order a new wardrobe to befit your new station in life?”
“No, I’m here to see that justice is done,” Winn snarled. “Captain Irbin, arrest this… Cardassian…and have him transferred to the main prison complex on Bajor.”
“Oh dear,” Garak said, as he was handcuffed. “I really did hope you wanted to order new wardrobe. One that would enhance your natural beauty. I do so love a challenge!”
Docked at an airlock several levels below the promenade, Garak’s would-be transportation was ready to leave. Sisko walked onto the bridge of the Defiant and sat in the command chair.
“Ensign Nog, are all the civilians on board?” Sisko said.
The young Ferengi checked his manifest. “Garak hasn’t been accounted for, Sir.”
Sisko drummed his fingers on the armrest in annoyance. “Probably still packing. Establish a comlink to his shop.”
To Sisko’s surprise, found himself staring at Winn’s scowling face.
“First Minister…I wasn’t aware you were on the station. I’d like to speak with Garak, please.”
“I’m afraid that will be impossible, ‘Emissary,’” Winn said. “The Cardassian has been arrested for murder. He’s going to prison on Bajor, where he should have been years ago.” Winn ended the transmission abruptly.
Sisko fumed. “Ensign, where is Winn’s ship?”
“Docking port four,” Nog replied.
“This won’t take long,” Sisko said, and left the bridge.
Sisko was waiting at docking port four as Winn and her security officers arrived with Garak in tow.
“First Minister,” Sisko said. “I have to insist that Garak be released.”
“On what authority?” Winn replied.
“I’ve already spoken with Starfleet on this matter, and they agree with me that charges should not be brought.”
“Starfleet?” Winn snapped. “This does not concern them. Two members of the Bajoran militia – Major Kira and Constable Odo – uncovered evidence that Garak committed murder on a Bajoran station. This is entirely an internal Bajoran matter.”
Sisko struggled to keep his temper in check. “I respect Bajor’s authority, but in all the years that Starfleet has had a presence here….”
“You’ve acted as if you owned this station,” Winn replied. “Well, that’s over now. The Federation may believe it’s above the law, but I’ll prove that you’re not. We’re taking Garak to Bajor, until the Romulans can take him into custody.”
Sisko realized that arguing with Winn was pointless. He turned to Garak. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of this. You won’t be in that Bajoran prison long.”
“Oh, yes,” Garak replied, “I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m transferred to a nice, comfortable, Romulan prison.”
Sisko watched helplessly as Garak was led through the airlock and onto Winn’s ship. Then he headed for the promenade and into the security office. Kira and Odo were both there.
“Captain!” Kira said. “You’re not on the Defiant. Is something wrong?”
“It certainly is,” Sisko replied. “Winn’s had Garak arrested. She plans to extradite him to Romulus. I know neither of you like Garak. But he was working for me, and I’m responsible for what he did.”
“But Captain,” Kira said. “You didn’t order Garak to murder Vreenak.”
“That’s right,” Odo said. “Garak brought this on himself. You’re not responsible for rescuing him now.”
“I think I am,” Sisko replied. “Maybe it was a terrible error of judgement – but I’ve been treating Garak as if he were under my command. Well, when one of my people gets in trouble, I don’t abandon him! But I can’t help him, as long as he’s on Bajor. So I’m counting on you two to do it for me. I don’t care what you have to do, but get Garak out of prison before the Romulans get their hands on him!”
Kira sighed. “I was afraid you’d ask me to do that. Well, I can only think of one or two people whose bony Cardassian neck I’d like saving less. But this time, I’ll put my personal feelings aside. If anyone but you had asked…”
Sisko was relieved. “Thanks.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” Kira said. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re still the true Emissary of the Prophets.”
“Then the Prophets protect us all,” Sisko said. “We’ve all got some rough times ahead.”
After Sisko left, Odo and Kira went to upper level the promenade, to watch through one of the large, oval windows as the Defiant left.
Odo folded his arms. “I never thought I’d say it, but even with all their bureaucracy and annoying regulations, I wish I were in Starfleet.”
“Really? Why?” Kira asked.
“Because then I’d be leaving on that ship!” Odo said. Then he put an arm around Kira. “Oh, I’m just kidding – I don’t want to leave you, of course. But I’m just dreading it.”
“Hrmmph,” Odo said. “Dreading who is more like it. How long do you think it will be until we are graced by a visit by the ‘Dominion ambassador’?”
“Weyoun. You’re right,” Kira said. “At least he’ll be easier to stomach this time. He won’t be able to bring any of his Cardassian ‘pets’ with him.”
“That’s a relief anyway,” Odo said. “Why not?”
“Winn insisted on it. No Cardassians are to set foot on this station.”
Two days later, Odo’s fears were realized, when he was called to a meeting in the station’s wardroom with the newly-arrived Dominion ambassador.
Odo had barely set foot in the room when Weyoun jumped up and went through the usual pointless rigmarole that Odo had learned to expect in any encounter with a Vorta.
Kira entered the room just behind Odo. Unexpectedly, Weyoun made a little bow to her, too. Reflexive politeness caused Kira to halfway bow back, before she caught herself.
Odo and Kira sat at one end of the conference table. Winn was at the other.
“The First Minister and I were just discussing the administration of DS9, in light of Bajor’s new alliance with the Dominion,” Weyoun said, cheerfully. “Of course, she agreed that Odo should take part in any important decisions.”
Winn was anything but cheerful. “I agreed that Odo could attend. What is she doing here?”
“Captain Sisko left Kira in charge of the station,” Odo said firmly.
Weyoun quickly added, “If Odo wishes it, of course!”
Winn looked annoyed, but decided to drop the subject for the time being. She had something more important on her mind.
“Ambassador Weyoun,” Winn begin, in her characteristically honeyed voice. “I think I speak for all of Bajor when I say that we are most anxious to re-open the Celestial Temple as soon as possible.”
Weyoun frowned. “Celestial Temple?”
“She means the wormhole,” Odo said.
“Of course!” Weyoun said. “It shouldn’t take very long at all. The necessary equipment will arrive on a transport within a few days, along with Cardassia’s best scientists. And our new Romulan allies should be a great help. They’ve made significant advances in wormhole mechanics theory.”
At the mention of Cardassians, Kira stood up and put her hands on the table. “I thought no Cardassians would be allowed on DS9!”
“Calm yourself, child,” Winn said. “These are scientists. If they can restore our access to the Celestial Temple, we will welcome them, gratefully.”
“Our agreement with the Dominion is clear,” Winn continued. “We have no objection to scientists, engineers, doctors, or other needed specialists. Of course, no Cardassian connected with the military will be permitted anywhere near DS9. Isn’t that correct, Ambassador?”
“Of course we understand Bajoran sensitivity on this issue,” Weyoun said, placatingly. “But, there may be times when Cardassians other than scientists might be needed on the station, to discuss, um, matters of a strategic nature. You wouldn’t object to talking with your allies, would you?”
“Major Kira can make that determination on a case by case basis,” Odo said.
“Major Kira will not be running DS9,” Winn retorted. “As First Minister, I am reassigning her to a farming community in Dahkur Province, which needs her…expertise.”
“I forbid it!” Odo said. “Kira stays here.”
Weyoun looked around the table, beaming happily, as though the nasty argument were a discussion of the beauty of Rakanthan wildflowers in the spring. “Well, that’s settled. Major Kira will remain to administer the station. With Odo as her advisor, how could she fail to handle her duties well? You have nothing to be concerned with, First Minister.”
Winn was angry. “Kira is a traitor to Bajor and certainly no friend of the Dominion! I am not going to sit here and….”
Winn stopped short when she met Weyoun’s arresting glare. “The Founder has spoken,” he said, “And the matter is closed. This meeting is at an end. If you have any further questions about the administration of DS9, you may direct them to Major Kira.”
With that, Weyoun left. “Wait a minute!” Winn sputtered. “I’m First Minister of Bajor. Don’t I have any say in this?”
Kira and Odo got up to leave. As Kira passed, she leaned over and whispered to Winn. “Welcome to the Dominion.”
Rather than taking the turbolift back to the promenade, Kira and Odo walked down the corridor towards Ops. “I just want to check the local-space energy scans, to make sure Weyoun didn’t bring any Cardassian or Jem’Hadar ships with him,” Kira said.
“That’s a wise precaution,” Odo said.
In Ops, Kira leaned over the science station, feeling a twinge of sadness. Ordinarily, this would have been Jadzia’s job.
“Nothing on the scans,” Kira said. “I guess he did just arrive with that one ship….”
“You still don’t trust me? And we are allies now, after all.”
Kira nearly jumped out of her skin. But Odo was unsurprised to turn around and find that Weyoun had followed them into Ops.
“What do you want now, Weyoun?” Odo asked in his weariest voice.
“Only to be of service, of course. I’m really very happy that we’re all together again.”
Kira mustered her patience. Remember, he can re-open the wormhole, she told herself. At least, he thinks he can…
“I’m so glad to see that you’re both in such good health,” Weyoun said obsequiously. “I trust that Kirdo is also well?”
“He’s fine,” Odo said quickly. “Kira, if you’re finished with the scans – we need to go to the security office now.”
“What…?” Kira said.
“Remember? That important matter that we needed to discuss immediately,” Odo said.
Kira got the point, and they both left Ops.
Once they were in the turbolift, Odo could speak freely. “This is not good. Weyoun wouldn’t have mentioned Kirdo, and risk annoying me, unless the Founder wants him returned to the Link.”
Kira nodded. “She wants to protect Kirdo from ‘contamination’ by removing him from contact with the ‘solids.’”
“Hmmph, exactly right. I just hope we haven’t inadvertently endangered the O’Briens by giving them Kirdo.”
“As long as Weyoun thinks Kirdo is still here, they’re safe. But how can we….”
“Don’t worry, Nerys. I have an idea.”
“So, you’re telling me that you consider the attack on the Chin’taka system to have been a failure? Ben, that’s likely to be the last clear-cut victory we’ll have for a long time.”
Sisko never liked debating with Admiral Ross. Like most Starfleet higher-ups, he had a rigidly literal way of looking at things. Of course, Sisko thought, most people have a literal way of looking at things, compared with someone like myself, who walks with the Prophets.
“Ben,” the admiral continued. “I really do want to understand why you advised the Bajorans to join the Dominion. But all this stuff about Chin’taka – that you should have listened to the Prophets and stayed on DS9 – you’re not making any sense!”
Sisko drew in a breath, and tried again. “I’m simply saying this. The Prophets have a plan for Bajor. They have a plan for all of us! Every time I’ve ignored them, I’ve regretted it. So, I might as well start listening to them. It couldn’t make things worse.”
“I’m sorry, Ben, but I just don’t see how turning Bajor and DS9 over to the Dominion will improve our situation,” Ross said.
Both men were silent for a bit. Then the admiral continued. “But I also can’t deny that the Prophets exist, and they have unimaginable power. They destroyed the Dominion fleet in the wormhole. But Ben – are you sure we can trust these Prophets to remain on our side?”
“Admiral, they’re not on our side at all,” Sisko said. “They’re on the Bajorans’ side. That’s how I know that joining the Dominion can’t be bad for the Bajorans – no matter how it looks to us.”
“Hmm,” Ross said. “Well, it still seems like a hell of a risk to take. It’s not exactly the ‘Starfleet way of doing things’ – betting everything on the continued good will of some incomprehensible aliens.”
“I guess I no longer do things the ‘Starfleet way,’” Sisko said. “And if that means I need to resign my commission, well…”
“Absolutely not!” Ross said. “Ben, when Starfleet learned what you’d done, I had one hell of a time saving you from a court-martial! And you want to know why I did that? Because, regardless of whether we can trust these Prophets of yours, it’s obvious they have great power. They may very well determine the outcome of this war. And there’s only one person they communicate with. You.”
“Besides, we can’t afford to lose the captain of the Defiant,” Ross continued. “We need you in the Duralis system immediately. The Dominion is moving an entire fleet from the Romulan border to that system. The Klingons are there, and they’ll need all the help they can get.”
“We were on our way to Earth,” Sisko said. “We have civilian passengers…”
“You don’t have time to take them all the way to Earth,” Ross said. “But Epsilon Canaris II is nearby. They can catch a transport from there.”
The goodbyes at the transporter pad were short and sorrowful.***
“Don’t worry,” Miles said. “I’ll get some leave soon, and see you on Earth.”
“Miles, you know you won’t be able to take that much leave for a long time,” Keiko said. “The kids and I will stay on Epsilon Canaris II. That way, we might be able to see you once in a while.”
Miles sighed. He knew better than to argue with his wife.
“All right. I suppose Epsilon Canaris is as safe as Earth. Probably a lot safer, in fact. It’s too far out of the way. The Dominion won’t bother with it. But if things start to go sour, and the Federation has to evacuate this system…”
“Don’t worry about us, Miles!” Keiko said. “Take care of yourself.”
Miles kissed his wife goodbye, and then kissed Molly and Yoshi in turn.
“Be good, kids,” Miles said. “Obey your mother,” He handed Molly a small beaker, and winked. “Kirdo is your responsibility, Molly. See to it he doesn’t get spilled.”
When his family had transported to the planet below, O’Brien returned to the bridge as the ship left orbit.
After a few uneventful hours, the Defiant reached the Duralis system. From the way the Klingon fleet was arrayed, Sisko could tell they were expecting an attack at any moment.
“Ensign, open a channel to the Rotarran,” Sisko said.
Nog complied, and soon the bridge of Martok’s flagship filled the viewscreen.
Sisko expected the Klingons to be tense, on alert. To his surprise, Martok was jubilant, enthusiastically singing a war song with his bridge officers.
“Sisko!” Martok bellowed. “Just in time to join the celebration!”
Sisko couldn’t help smiling. “All right. What are we celebrating? Don’t tell me you’ve already defeated the Dominion fleet?”
“And leave you out of the fun?” Martok said. “That would have been impolite!”
Martok turned to the rowdy Klingons on his bridge. “No, we have an ever better reason to celebrate! Those treacherous Romulans have left the alliance!” Martok’s officers roared their approval.
Sisko put his head in his hand. “So you’ve heard…”
Martok noticed Sisko’s dejection. “Don’t tell me you blame yourself? It was bound to happen! After all, Romulans are…”
Before Martok could finish, Sisko said, “Yes, I know, without honor. Still, even you have to admit that this puts us in a precarious position.”
Martok waved his arm to dismiss the silly humans and their defeatist talk. “I am just as confident as ever of our impending victory! And best of all, we don’t have to share it with a bunch of Romulan pahtk.”
Worf spoke up from the tactical station on the Defiant’s bridge. “I agree with the General. This is truly a fortunate turn of events. Romulans make poor allies.”
“And worse enemies,” O’Brien added.
Sitting in her office overlooking Ops, Kira gazed at the padd in her hands. Cardassians had been on her mind lately. Of course, there was Garak. She knew she had to honor Sisko’s request to save him, but she was in no hurry.***
She still had plenty of friends from the resistance days, and one of them had ended up working in the administration of Bajor’s main prison complex, where Garak was being held. Kira’s friend assured her that Garak would remain safely cooped up for a while, ostensibly because he was “suffering from a viral infection extremely dangerous to Romulans.”
The phony quarantine would last precisely as long as it took the Romulans to realize that there were no Cardassian diseases that could possibly affect them. By that time, Garak would be gone.
But where to send him? Kira had begun to formulate a plan, and it had to do with the names listed in the padd. They were the names of Cardassian dissidents given to her by Tkenny Ghemor years before. Until now, Kira hadn’t been able to think of a good use for them.
She knew that the Cardassian dissident movement was alive – but just barely. Some dissidents had escaped in the confusion following Cardassia’s alliance with the Dominion. They had set up operations in an archaic Federation starbase in the Organia sector. Their ranks were filled with well-meaning people who lacked any training in covert operations. The Federation gave them moral support, but Starfleet ignored them. They were widely regarded as useless.
The people on Ghemor’s list were potentially far more useful: high-ranking Cardassians who hated the Dominion and, if effectively organized, could destabilize the Dominion’s foothold in the Alpha Quadrant. Kira knew better than to turn the list over to the dissidents in Organia, though. If they failed to use proper discretion in making contacts on Cardassia, everyone on the list could end up dead. Kira doubted that the dissidents were any match for the Dominion’s intelligence network.
What the dissidents needed was someone like Garak.
The more Kira thought about it, the more she liked the idea. Garak would relish the opportunity to help rid Cardassia of the Dominion. As an ex-Obsidian Order agent, he could hardly be more perfect as a tutor to the dissidents. Her only concern that he might be too perfect. She didn’t want him re-creating the Obsidian Order! Still, she knew that the dissidents were fairly ethical people, for Cardassians. And, a certain degree of ruthlessness would be necessary if they were going to succeed.
Of course, it would mean Garak would be off DS9 – hopefully for good. Maybe I’m being unfair, she thought, but I just can’t stand the idea of seeing Garak’s smug face, or having to listen to any more of his ‘witty comments.’
Kira figured she would meet some initial resistance from the dissidents. They’d probably balk at the thought of admitting an ex-Order agent into their ranks. But Kira had no doubt that Cardassian practicality would prevail. And it wasn’t like the dissidents had a lot of options.
Putting the padd down on the desk, Kira looked out at the stars. She thought about Ghemor – one of the few Cardassians she ever learned to respect. It made her happy to think that his parting gift would help save his homeworld. Kira wondered what he would make of the strange situation she was in now.
Kira turned her chair from the starscape and looked out of her office onto the now-unfamiliar landscape of Ops. Over the past several days, a vast array of Cardassian, Romulan and Dominion equipment had been brought in, hooked up, and somehow made to work together.
A dozen scientists had joined in the effort to re-open the wormhole. Most of them were Romulan; a few were Cardassian (all female, owing to Cardassian prejudices against male scientists); and there was even a lone Tholian, a strange-looking creature whose glittering shell hurt Kira’s eyes.
Kira had to admit that the scientists didn’t seem to be doing anything suspicious. They were genuinely intent on finding a way to restore the wormhole. But so far, all their good intentions had resulted in failure.
Curious to see the operation up close, Kira left her office and wandered around Ops. No one paid much attention to her.
She noticed Weyoun staring at a scanning station, as though he could will it to give him the answer he sought. A Romulan scientist was explaining something to Weyoun that apparently did not make him very happy. Annoyed, the Vorta started muttering in an unfamiliar language.
Kira smiled. He’s probably expressing concepts that were not exactly programmed into the Universal Translator, she thought. As much as she enjoyed seeing Weyoun stymied, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the wormhole would not be opened soon – if ever.
It was late, so she returned to her quarters. Odo was already there, going over the security reports.
Kira flopped down on a couch. “They’ve been at it all day, and they haven’t made any progress.”
Odo was surprised by Kira’s disappointed tone of voice. “I’d thought you’d be happy,” Odo said. “If they re-open the wormhole, the Dominion might be able to send through reinforcements.”
“No doubt that’s what they’re planning to do,” Kira said. “But when the wormhole was open before, the Prophets stopped them. I have faith in the Prophets. The important thing is that Bajorans will be able to communicate with the Celestial Temple again. If Weyoun really knows how to open the wormhole, well, good for him.”
The door chime chirped. Odo sat up.
“Nerys, are you expecting anyone?” Odo said.
Kira shook her head.
Odo got out of his chair and stood next to a small table in the center of the room. “I have a feeling I know who that is,” he said. Then, in a louder voice, he said, “Enter.”
Just as Odo expected, it was Weyoun.
“Dispense with the groveling, Weyoun,” Odo said gruffly. “What is it?”
“I am just concerned for your safety, Founder…I mean Odo. I noticed that for some strange reason, the security scans don’t work in your quarters.”
Kira glowered. “We’d appreciate it if you confined your ‘scanning’ to the wormhole, Weyoun,” she snapped.
“But routine scans are part of the normal operation of DS9,” Weyoun said. “They’re necessary precautions against fire, plasma and radiation leaks, atmospheric systems failure…. There’s any number of things that could constitute a threat to your health.”
“Well, as you can see, we’re all healthy,” Odo said.
“Including Kirdo!” Weyoun said, with an ingratiating smile. “Is that the young Foun…I mean, changeling?”
Sitting on the table next to Odo was a small jar. “Yes, of course it’s Kirdo,” Odo said. “Who else would it be?”
“This is certainly a relief,” Weyoun said. “I’d heard a silly rumor that Kirdo had left the station with the civilians on the Defiant. And that he was now in the Epsilon Canaris system. Sorry to trouble you.”
Bowing, Weyoun left. As soon as the door closed, Odo reabsorbed the false “Link jar” into his body.
“Do you think he was fooled?” Kira said.
“I doubt it. He discovered the scanning block I put around our quarters. That alone would raise his suspicions.”
“When he couldn’t detect Kirdo’s life signs, he decided to see for himself,” Kira said.
“We need to warn the O’Brien’s,” Odo said. “Epsilon Canaris is well within Federation space, but still – Weyoun is resourceful.”
Kira frowned. “How can we send a message to Epsilon Canaris from this station? Weyoun’s bound to find out about it, and it will just confirm where Kirdo is located.”
“Hmmph,” Odo said. “Although it pains me to say it, there’s only one option left to us.”
Quark didn’t try to hide his smugness very well.***
“When you’re finished gloating,” Odo said, “Perhaps you’d tell us how much latinum it will take to get you to help us.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this right, “Quark said, rubbing his ears thoughtfully. “You want to send one message to Epsilon Canaris II…interesting that you would have friends in that podunk system…and another one to the Cardassian dissidents on that starbase near Organia.”
“We didn’t say anything about dissidents!” Kira said.
“Remember who you’re talking to,” Quark said, conspiratorially. “I know Natima’s friends in the dissident movement very well. And I’ve followed their activities through the years. You said you wanted this message sent to the Organia sector? It’s easy to figure out who you’re interested in contacting there. It sure isn’t the Organians! That bunch of recluses…”
“Why would you bother following the activities of the Cardassian dissident movement?” Odo said.
“Quark, don’t tell me you’re still in love with Natima Lang?” Kira said, amused.
“All right, maybe I am,” Quark said. “But she’s married now, and out of the movement as far as I can tell.”
“But her friends still are active?” Odo inquired.
“Rekelen and Hogue?” Quark said. “Hard as it is to believe, those two kids are running the dissident movement now.”
“I remember them,” Kira said. “They’d hardly be kids any more. I can see them being in charge. There were plenty of people about their age in the Bajoran resistance, in positions of authority.”
“But can we contact them without taking the risk of revealing their location to the Dominion?” Odo asked.
“Why not?” Quark said. He leaned closer. “After all, I’ve been sending latinum to them for years. Even during the last time the Dominion ‘visited’ DS9. Without Dukat breathing down my neck, it should be a snap.”
“Quark, don’t tell me you’ve been supporting the dissidents?” Kira said.
“In my small way. Just a few slips, now and then. All right, so I’m sentimental! Just don’t let it get around.”
“Hmmph,” Odo said. “Your secret is safe with us. How much latinum do you want?”
“You know, Odo, for once I don’t want latinum. If you can help the dissidents, that’s enough for me. And, maybe one other small thing…”
Odo rolled his eyes. “What?”
“You never apologized for falsely accusing me of conspiring in Senator Vreenak’s murder!” Quark said, with as much hurt outrage as he could muster
“All right then,” Odo said. “I apologize. I should have known that – as bad as you are – murder is a little out of the scope of your usual criminal activities.”
Quark was on a roll. “And not only that, but if you’d listened to me and stopped your investigation, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
“We apologize, Quark!” Kira said. “Now, will you help us?”
Quark got up and gestured to Kira and Odo to follow him. He also took the opportunity to once again mention how unfairly persecuted – and how right -- he had been about the Vreenak case. As he opened the door to a secure back room that he used for business negotiations, chattering all the way, Kira reflected that she would have preferred to simply pay him latinum.
“Don’t worry about anyone listening in or tracing the transmission,” Quark said. “Rom’s added a few modifications to this com system, to ensure total privacy.”
“Hmmm,” Odo said. “I think I’ll have a few words with Rom when this is done.”
Quark threw up his hands in disgust. “Now, that’s gratitude!”
Reaching Keiko on Epsilon Canaris II was easy. She said she’d take precautions, but that Kirdo was about as safe with her as he would be anywhere else in the quadrant. Reluctantly, Kira and Odo had to agree.
The second communication was much more delicate. Kira convinced Odo that she should handle it alone. The Cardassian dissidents might be understandably touchy about the presence of a changeling, in light of what had happened to their homeworld.
The dissidents’ starbase had an outdated communications system, and Kira had to try several frequencies before finding the right one. On the viewscreen, Rekelen seemed thinner and more intense than Kira remembered her, but that was only to be expected. In a few short years, the dissidents had gone from being hounded refugees, to successfully establishing a democratic government on Cardassia, only to see all their work collapse when Dukat sold out their homeworld to the Dominion.
Rekelen had only a hazy recollection of Kira, from the dissidents’ visit to DS9 several years before. Kira explained who she was, and then got straight to the point.
“I know you don’t want to tell me about your operations,” Kira begin. “And it’s probably better that I don’t know. But I have something that should make your job much easier -- a list of powerful Cardassians who will support your cause. Some of them are in Central Command. All you need to do is contact them discreetly.”
Rekelen’s manner instantly changed to suspicion. “How did you obtain this list?”
“Legate Ghemor gave me these names on his deathbed,” Kira said. “I was with him when he died. I would have turned the list over to Starfleet, but I’m sure you’d be in a better position to use it.”
Kira could tell by Rekelen’s expression that the Cardassian was debating whether or not to trust her. Kira felt a sympathetic bond with the young woman, remembering many times in her own past when she had to decide whether to take a similar risk, and trust someone she did not know.
Finally, Rekelen made up her mind. “Send me the list.”
Kira put the data rod containing the list into the com station and transmitted the coded information to Rekelen. But something – maybe the fear that Rekelen would bungle the contacts -- maybe the remnant of old, suspicious ways learned during the occupation – made Kira send only a third of the names. I can always send the rest later, she thought to herself. Better to play it safe for now.
To Kira’s chagrin, Rekelen noticed how short the list was.
“Is this it?” Rekelen said. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. But we need as many allies on Cardassia as possible.”
Kira lied. “That’s all Tkenny knew about. I’m sure there are many others.”
Then Kira had a brainstorm. “I’ll ask Garak. He was in the Obsidian Order, and must know plenty of people on Cardassia who hate Dominion.” Kira felt better about the idea of turning over Garak’s list of names – probably ex-Order agents and other unsavory characters – than Tkenny’s.
Rekelen was surprised. “I’d heard that Garak in prison on Bajor. And that he was as good as dead.”
“Well, you certainly have a good intelligence network to have found that out so quickly,” Kira said. “But I’m going to get him out of prison. As a personal favor to Captain Sisko, not because I think he deserves rescuing.”
“Won’t that be…difficult?” Rekelen asked, warily.
Kira shrugged. “I doubt it. There are people on Bajor who will help me. Besides, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I think you could use someone like Garak in your organization. He has the right experience, if you know what I mean. He may be an untrustworthy snake, but he wants to kick the Dominion out of Cardassia as much as anyone does. If I were you, I’d send Garak to contact the people on that list. It’s not something you want to trust to an amateur.”
Rekelen seemed flustered. “Yes, fine – that will be a big help – I have to go now.” With that, she abruptly cut off the transmission.
“You’re welcome,” Kira said, nonplussed. Probably irritated by an impertinent Bajoran presuming to give her advice.
Kira walked through the bar, and onto the promenade. Her combadge chirped; it was Odo.
“Nerys, did you authorize a Cardassian warship to dock at bay eleven?” he said.
Kira stopped in her tracks. “What? No! Who authorized it to dock?” But as the words left her lips, she knew the answer.
“Never mind, Odo,” Kira said. “I’ll handle it.”
Kira stormed into Ops and collared the first Bajoran militia officer she happened to see.
“You! I’m looking for Weyoun!” she said. “Is that little toad here?”
The hapless lieutenant was momentarily speechless. Then he said, “Umm, no. He just left.”
“Did he say where he was going?” Kira said. The lieutenant started to say something, but Kira interrupted him. “Docking bay eleven, maybe?”
The lieutenant nodded, perplexed.
Kira fumed. She could easily imagine Weyoun disregarding her instructions that no Cardassians except for the scientists were to be allowed on the station. But she couldn’t imagine how he could ignore Odo’s wishes that she be consulted. The most infuriating thing was that she knew Damar was on that warship.
I don’t care if Bajor is part of the Dominion now. If Damar shows his ugly face on this station, I’ll blast him a new spoon. She patted the phaser pistol at her side. Even he can’t be stupid enough to think he’d be safe here…
Then Kira understood what was going on. True to form, Weyoun had found a way to do just what he wanted, without defying his god.
Weyoun was holding his war council on the docked Cardassian ship – not “on the station” at all.
As Kira turned to leave Ops, another Bajoran yelled to her from the docking control station. “Major! A Romulan warbird just de-cloaked. They’re requesting docking instructions. Should I…”
Kira didn’t wait to respond. She took the turbolift and stormed down the corridor to docking bay eleven.
She was stopped at the airlock by two Jem’Hadar guards.
“I need to see Weyoun now!” she yelled.
The Jem’Hadar of higher rank replied. “It is not possible for you to see the Vorta at present.”
Kira scowled. She realized that even if by some miracle she got past the guards, the airlock would have a new security code. But Weyoun had to come out of there, eventually.
The ready room on the Cardassian warship was spacious and comfortable. But Weyoun was unhappy. He would have preferred to have held this conference on DS9, which he regarded as his turf. It was not good policy to confer with one’s allies on their own stations or ships. It put one at an immediate psychological disadvantage. Still, as a Vorta, he was expert at adapting to less-than-ideal situations and turning them to his ends.***
Weyoun acknowledged Damar with a nod. The Cardassian sat with his arms folded, and looked uncomfortable. In contrast, Senator Letant, the Romulan representative seated across from Damar, was the picture of serene calm.
Weyoun scrutinized Letant closely. He had not had much opportunity to observe Romulans at first hand. But from all he had heard, he had no doubt that they were the Alpha Quadrant’s most formidable race, and the only one that could ever effectively challenge the Dominion.
In particular, Weyoun remembered one telling point. In the aftermath of the disastrous Cardassian-Romulan attack on the Founders’ homeworld, the Obsidian Order had been entirely wiped out. The Tal Shiar lost countless members that day as well. Yet, that organization had rebounded almost immediately. Unlike the Order, the Tal Shiar had kept enough operatives at home to recover, as a hedge against catastrophe.
Romulans never bet anything on a single plan, Weyoun thought. They’re apparently more intelligent than Cardassians. Certainly more intelligent than Klingons or humans. I wonder why they haven’t taken over the Alpha Quadrant before now?
“Well, Weyoun?” Damar said impatiently. “Can we get started now? You know I don’t enjoy being dragged back to this cursed Bajoran station.”
Weyoun smiled. If Damar had any brains, he’d realize that was exactly why Weyoun insisted that the council take place at DS9.
“Let’s start with a recap of our strategic position,” Weyoun said. “The war is going very well, thanks to our new Romulan friends.”
Letant smiled slightly.
Weyoun hit some buttons and called up a large display of the Duralis system, with icons indicating the location of the Klingon fleet in the center of the map.
“As you both know, the Klingon fleet in the Duralis system has been annihilated,” Weyoun said. “They were expecting the attack from this direction,” he said, as the right side of the map lit up with icons representing dozens of Dominion ships.
“But they weren’t expecting the Romulan forces to be re-deployed so quickly from the Benzar system,” Weyoun continued, as the lower left side of the map displayed a new set of icons.
“They certainly were caught off-guard,” Letant said laconically. “But I think ‘annihilated’ may be overstating the case. You should remember that Klingons have cloaking devices, and we can’t tell how many escaped. The wreckage doesn’t account for all their ships. In particular, we believe the flagship may have escaped.”
“Wasn’t there a Federation ship in the Duralis system, as well?” Damar said. “Starfleet doesn’t have cloaking devices. Was that ship destroyed?”
A hint of annoyance flickered across Letant’s face, which Damar failed to notice.
But Weyoun noticed, and pounced. “You are quite right,” Weyoun said. “Unfortunately, it was the Defiant – Sisko’s ship. It does have a cloaking device. A Romulan, one I believe?”
To Weyoun’s disappointment, Letant failed to take the bait. “Hmm, yes,” the Senator said. “We have requested that the cloak be returned to us. So far, Starfleet has yet to respond…”
“Respond?” Damar bellowed. “This isn’t a diplomatic tea party! You’re at war with the Federation – they aren’t going to give the cloak back now! Why haven’t you tracked down that ship and destroyed it?”
Letant said nothing.
This made Damar angrier. “I think you’re deliberately allowing a common foe to keep a strategic piece of Romulan technology, and use it against us in battle!”
Weyoun was impressed. Yes, Romulans never bet anything on a single plan. They’re leaving a door open to returning to the Federation alliance. And since it was ‘Starfleet treachery’ that ‘forced’ them to join us, they might be able to play on the Federation’s well-known propensity for guilt, and be ‘forgiven.’ Letant can use that threat against the Dominion whenever he wants. Fascinating strategy…
“The Defiant is just one ship,” Weyoun said, to get the meeting back on track. “It’s hardly worth discussing.” Weyoun cleared the map of the Duralis system, and replaced it with a large-scale view of the Alpha Quadrant. “We need to formulate a new overall plan. Senator, I believe you have some ideas on how best to proceed?”
“Of course,” Letant said. “Based on the reports from our observers who were aboard Starfleet vessels, the most vulnerable systems are Cygnia Minor, Andoria, Tau Ceti, Canopus and Proxima.”
The map changed to indicate the systems. Letant continued. “As you can see, three of those systems are roughly in line with one another, through the heart of Federation space. We could split the Federation in two. First, we would need to break through the heavily-defended Sigma Iota system. But that should be possible, if we concentrate our forces there.”
Weyoun made a mental note not to permit any Romulan observers on Dominion ships.
Damar pounded the table enthusiastically. “This is amazing! Let’s go on the offensive immediately!”
Letant was less enthusiastic. “That would be premature. It will take us several days re-position our forces.”
“The Senator is correct,” Weyoun said. “We need to be discreet in moving ships to Sigma Iota. We don’t want to tip our hand. Above all, we must concentrate on defending territory around DS9. We need more time to determine how to open the wormhole.”
“Who cares about the wormhole?” Damar said. “We have Ketracel-white processing facilities in this quadrant. We don’t need more supplies. And we don’t need reinforcements, either! With the Romulans, we have a large enough combined fleet to win. I’ll send the Fourth Order on a course through the heart of Federation space – all the way to Earth.”
“Our forces are much closer to the Earth sector,” Letant said. “You wouldn’t be trying to snatch territory from under our noses, would you?”
“Cardassia should occupy Earth,” Damar said. “They are the Dominion’s most intractable foes! They should get what they deserve. Our occupation of Earth will make the Bajoran occupation look like a picnic!”
“Well, I hope your occupation of Earth goes a bit more smoothly,” Weyoun said patronizingly. “Besides, Letant has a good point. It makes more sense for the Romulans to be deployed in that part of Federation space.”
Damar was livid. “What? We’ve been your loyal allies all this time! The Romulans are mere opportunists. They will have to content themselves with annexing Vulcan.”
Letant smiled icily. “Cardassia has shown itself to be inept at administering occupied territory. You’d only create problems on our own doorstep. And do you really think we’d allow you to expand your influence so near our own space?”
Weyoun put up his hands, to quell the argument. “Gentlemen, gentlemen! The Dominion already has plans in place. Earth, Qo’noS, and any other particularly dangerous territories will be occupied directly by Jem’Hadar troops. We’re not taking any chances.”
“You can’t just make a unilateral decision!” Damar yelled.
“We can decide this later,” Letant said, beginning to lose his patience. “Discussions of who occupies what territory are obviously premature.”
But Damar had had enough. He stormed out and returned to his quarters on the ship. Nodding to the guards at the door, he went inside and headed straight for the kanar.
A voice spoke from a corner of the room. “You really should lay off that stuff, Damar. I think it’s starting to affect your health.”
The glass of kanar dropped out of Damar’s hands and shattered on the floor.
Dukat walked over and looked at the mess on the floor.
“Well, that’s one way to cut down on your drinking, I suppose,” Dukat said. “I beamed over from my ship. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” Damar croaked. How did he get through the shields? I had all the security codes changed. Dukat must have left something hidden deeper in the system.
Damar thought about calling the guards, and then cursed himself for the cowardly thought. The remnants of his loyalty towards his old mentor fought with his fear of Dukat’s unbalanced mind. And with the dim suspicion that Dukat’s forgiveness for Ziyal’s death might not be entirely genuine.
Putting on a show of nonchalance, Damar poured some kanar and offered Dukat a glass. “You’d better not let Weyoun know you’re here,” Damar said. “Or he’ll have your head on a platter for closing the wormhole.”
Dukat scoffed. “Weyoun is too small-minded to understand my grand plan.”
Damar briefly wondered if Dukat still possessed his old cunning. Or was he simply mad? “Well, what is your ‘grand plan’?” he asked.
Dukat looked out the window and pointed. “That star is Cardassia, isn’t it?” he said.
“It’s in that general direction,” Damar answered.
“Hmm,” Dukat said, and took a sip of kanar. “You’ll just have to trust me. I am in communication with the paghwraiths, and they will make everything clear when it suits them.”
“I wish your paghwraiths would help me dispense with a few annoying people,” Damar muttered.
Dukat jumped to conclusions. “I’ve heard that Major Kira is in charge of DS9. Has she been giving you trouble?”
“I don’t care about the Bajorans!” Damar said. “It’s Weyoun. He’s getting on my nerves. It’s his attitude – he assumes Cardassia is just a Dominion puppet. The problem is, it’s true. I’m not sure joining the Dominion was such a smart idea. We may be privileged slaves, but we still are slaves.”
Dukat gazed out the window at the far-off star. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. By the time I’m done, you will be in command of the Dominion, and Weyoun will be your puppet.”
Damar was incredulous. “Did your paghwraith explain how this miracle is going to occur?”
“You’ll just have to trust me,” Dukat said. “But first, I need you to arrange passage for me to Bajor. I have some business to attend to.”
Weyoun was rather pleased with himself. Despite Damar’s tantrum, the council had gone well. The Romulans were certainly untrustworthy, but Weyoun had expected that. The important thing was, they were untrustworthy in a way the Vorta could predict. And the strategy that Letant outlined looked very promising.***
Weyoun only wished the work on opening the wormhole were progressing half so well.
As Weyoun stepped off the turbolift, he spotted one of the Cardassian scientists, an expert on gravimetric wells. Weyoun had been meaning to ask her whether the wormhole had collapsed into one of these wells. If so, it could be possible to re-open the wormhole by bombarding it with anti-gravitons.
Weyoun never got the chance to ask. Kira spotted him first.
“Weyoun!” she raged. “Are there Cardassians military officers on the station? You were supposed to ask my permission first!”
A little annoyed but diplomatic as ever, the Vorta replied. “I assure you, Major, there are no Cardassians….”
“Oh, that’s right, because Damar never left his ship!”
“It’s really nothing to concern yourself with,” Weyoun said, smoothly.
Arguing with Weyoun is like talking to a terpot tree, Kira thought. “Tell me, Weyoun. Do you treat your Cardassian and Romulan allies just as arrogantly?” she asked, exasperated.
“I’m afraid I am obligated to show them more deference, simply for strategic reasons,” Weyoun said. “The Cardassian and Romulan fleets are large. And, well, Bajor doesn’t really have a fleet, does it?”
Weyoun continued in an ominous tone. “But the Dominion hasn’t forgotten who destroyed the Founder’s homeworld. And despite Bajor’s flirtation with the Federation, your people have never directly challenged the Dominion. We have noticed that.”
Kira said, only half jokingly, “Now you’re scaring me, Weyoun. Why are you acting so polite towards me?”
“You are the consort of a god,” Weyoun said. “Frankly, I am not certain how to act towards you. However, where the Founders are concerned, you can never show them enough…”
Kira finished it for him. “Fawning?”
“That’s not exactly the word I would have used. But the idea is basically correct.”
“So what are you going to do about Damar?” Kira said.
“Are you referring to the Cardassian ship docked at bay eleven?” Weyoun asked. “If it hasn’t left, I’m sure it soon will.”
“Fine,” Kira said. “I’ve wasted enough time chasing you and your spoonheads around.”
Kira got onto the turbolift. I can’t put this off any longer, she thought. Although arguing with Weyoun would probably be more pleasant.
Minutes later, Kira and a Bajoran pilot were aboard the Rubicon, en route to Bajor. The trip would take three hours, giving Kira plenty of time to contact an old friend.
“Hello, Tandor – it’s me again. I have just one more favor to ask…”
The air in the cell was too dry. The temperature was too cold. The lights were too bright. And the food was, for the most part, inedible.***
I might as well be in a Romulan prison, Garak thought. It
couldn’t possibly be less comfortable than this.
In fact, Bajor’s prisons were well-known throughout the quadrant for being humane. Although the environment was optimized for Bajoran comfort, it was well within tolerance levels for a wide variety of species, including Cardassians. The Bajoran guards were therefore less than impressed by Garak’s complaints. Which did not prevent him from complaining loudly whenever one of them was careless enough to wander within earshot.
Over the past few days, the guards had learned to avoid the annoying Cardassian’s cell. So Garak was surprised to see one of them suddenly appear and prepare to lower the cell’s force field.
“You have a visitor,” the guard said.
Garak felt a surge of hope. I knew it! I was sure Sisko would convince Kira to let me out of here, he thought.
He had a nice speech all prepared, thanking the Major for her forgiving nature, when he got a nasty shock.
It was Dukat.
“You can have five minutes. NO more,” the guard said. He briefly lowered the force field to allow Dukat to enter the cell and left.
Possibly for the first time in his life, Garak was speechless.
“These people are not very accommodating, are they?” Dukat said cheerfully. “But you seem to have been treated well.” Then he stopped smiling. “Too bad.”
Garak found his voice. “Well, I hope we can let bygones be bygones…I know I’ve always made that my motto…”
“Yes, that was a fine motto to have as long as you were protected by the Federation on DS9,” Dukat said. “But it looks like you’ve finally been thrown out of your haven.”
Garak was ruffled. “Haven? It was more like a prison!”
“I never believed all that nonsense about Tain exiling you to DS9!” Dukat said. “It was obvious he put you there because it was the only place you would be safe!”
“Safe? From who?”
Dukat laughed bitterly. “Safe from me, for one! And from all the other enemies you made, while serving Tain.”
It’s truly amazing how some people insist on holding grudges, Garak thought. “You’re not still upset about…all that? It happened 20 years ago! And Tain and I were perfectly justified. You were entangled with the Bajoran resistance, and we saved you! If we had wanted to harm you, we would simply have reported what we found to Central Command rather than giving you a second chance…”
Dukat became enraged. “Reported WHAT? That my father was running guns to the Bajorans? That Meru was a spy for the resistance? Those were LIES and you know it! You just wanted to curry favor with Tain by finding ‘evidence’ against me. You caused the deaths of people I held dear!”
“Did it ever occur to you, in your egomania, that you did the same to me?” Garak said.
Dukat was genuinely surprised. “What? When? Who could a soulless creature like you ever love?”
“Ziyal! She died because of you! Don’t think I’ve forgiven you for that…”
Garak stopped. If Dukat’s expression was anything to go by, mentioning Ziyal might have been a mistake.
Dukat pulled small hypospray out of his pocket. “For some strange reason, the Bajorans refused to let me come here armed,” he said in an unnaturally calm voice. “But this tricyanate is more than capable of killing you. Unfortunately, your death will take only three or four days. Rather swifter than I would have preferred.”
Garak played for time “Or the Romulans would prefer. Why don’t you just leave me to their tender mercies?”
“I swore on Meru’s grave I would kill you myself, and that’s just what I’m going to do!”
“Well, if it isn’t my two favorite people of all time,” a voice said, from the corridor.
It was Kira. She had lowered the force field. Garak was overjoyed to see that her phaser was trained on Dukat.
If the phaser disturbed Dukat, he didn’t show it. “Hello, Major. Always a pleasure to see you.”
“I can certainly agree with that sentiment!” Garak added, emphatically. “Dukat seems intent on depriving the Romulans of the privilege of executing me, by doing the job himself. I’m sure you can convince him otherwise?”
“If I had my way, I’d let you two kill each other,” Kira said. “Unfortunately, Garak is needed elsewhere. So stand aside, Dukat. You don’t have many friends on Cardassia anymore, and no one would miss you if you died.”
“Don’t interfere,” Dukat said. “Garak is only getting what he deserves! You don’t understand what kind of….monster…he is. He was responsible for the death of your…”
Kira spoke calmly. “Mother. Yes, I know.”
Dukat was shocked. “What? If you know -- then how can you side with him?
“I don’t need to explain myself to you!” Kira said. “And you’re a fine one to judge other people, after everything you’ve….” She started to choke up. “Jadzia, for instance. And blaming Garak for Meru’s death! Who was holding the disrupter, Dukat?”
Dukat was stung by this comment. He hadn’t realized how much Kira knew about the incident.
Kira raised the phaser, level with Dukat’s heart. “I know I’d be doing everyone a favor if I stopped you right now.”
“If you really think I’m evil, then kill me,” Dukat said.
Dukat smiled slightly, but not with his usual arrogance. “You can’t do it, can you? Because in your heart you know that all I’ve ever tried to do is protect the people I love -- my father, my family, Meru, Ziyal -- yes, and even Cardassia. I admit, my personal ambitions may have played some small part…”
“More than a small part!” Kira said. “You never cared who you hurt in your obsessive quest for power.”
“I do have my failings, I’ll admit that,” Dukat said. “No matter how hard I’ve tried to save my loved ones from a cruel and uncaring universe, I’ve always failed! Because of people like Garak! It’s people like him who…”
Trembling with rage, Kira could hardly keep the phaser level. “You’re just deluding yourself! But it’s lucky for you that I can’t bring myself to kill you in cold blood.”
“So you do understand,” Dukat said.
Kira ignored him. She nodded her head toward the cell door. “Garak, if you want to get out of here, now is the time to do it.”
Garak wasted no time complying. As he passed Kira, he said, “If you want my opinion, I think it’s perfectly all right to kill him.” As Kira turned, the expression on her face told Garak to shut up and stop pushing his luck.
Kira snatched the communicator off Dukat’s wrist, backed out of the cell, and raised the force field. Without speaking, she tossed the communicator to Garak. Then she raced down the corridor.
Garak ran after her as quickly as he could. “Where are we going?” he panted, out of breath.
“We have to get out of the prison complex before we’re discovered,” Kira said. “The whole area is surrounded by an energy grid that prevents beam-out. The transporter won’t work until we’re 20 meters away from the building.”
Kira and Garak quickly found the exit. With the help of security codes Kira had obtained, they were soon in the open air. An empty field stretched before them. In the distance were rolling hills.
An alarm sounded. “Damn! Tandor didn’t tell me that would happen! Garak, run!”
They dashed into the field. Kira wondered exactly where the 20-meter perimeter was. The answer became clear when she slammed into an unseen force field.
Picking herself up from the ground, she saw Garak, looking confused, on the other side of the force field. “They must have just activated it,” Garak said, pressing his hand against the field. “I was only a few steps ahead of you.”
Kira slapped her combadge. “Rubicon, one to beam up. Lock onto the Cardassian communicator signal.”
Garak vanished in a swirl of dissolving molecules. Kira turned and was not at all surprised to see Bajoran guards emerging from the prison.
There is nothing in the galaxy more despairing than a Vorta who thinks he’s failed his god.***
Weyoun paced around Ops. He sat down, looked at a few screens distractedly, got up and paced some more.
Odo found this incredibly annoying. But he didn’t have the heart to yell at Weyoun to sit still. The Dominion doesn’t take kindly to failure, Odo thought. He almost felt sorry for the Vorta.
The object of Weyoun’s terror arrived in Ops via the turbolift. The Founder, serene as ever, joined Odo and Weyoun at the main science station, where the wormhole was being monitored.
The Founder waved away the usual obsequies. “I’ve read your report, Weyoun. It is quite obvious that re-opening the wormhole is beyond the abilities of our science. It’s closed for good, isn’t it?”
Weyoun could not lie. “It…it seems that way, revered Founder.”
Unexpectedly, the axe did not fall. “Oh, well. I’m sure you tried your best,” the Founder said calmly.
Weyoun was momentarily astonished. Then he said the only thing a good Vorta could, under the circumstances.
“I have failed you, Founder!” he said. “I will activate my termination implant immediately.”
The Founder laughed. “Of course, you will do nothing of the sort! You’re needed on Romulus. The Senate is deciding whether to agree to Letant’s strategy of massing our fleets at Sigma Iota. You should assist them in making the correct choice. I believe your ship is scheduled to depart immediately.”
Weyoun outdid himself in thanking the Founder for her limitless benevolence.
“And don’t worry, Weyoun,” the Founder said, as the Vorta left. “You haven’t failed me.”
“Hmm,” Odo said. “That was very generous of you.”
“Generous?” the Founder said, as though the concept were unfamiliar. “I was simply telling Weyoun the truth.”
Odo wondered what she meant. But his curiosity was constrained by wariness. He had allowed the Founder to subvert his will once before, and he was determined that it would not happen again.
“Have you heard any news of Major Kira’s situation?” the Founder asked.
“I’m surprised by your concern,” Odo said skeptically. “But the ‘situation’ will soon be resolved. Kira helped Garak escape on direct orders from Captain Sisko – that is, the Emissary. First Minister Winn is raising a huge stink about it, but I have no doubt that the Council of Ministers will find Kira innocent of all wrongdoing. She’ll be back on DS9 before long.”
“I am happy for you,” the Founder said. “I understand now how much the Major means to you. And I have accepted the fact that you wish to remain here, among the solids, forever. It is sad, but it is your decision to make.”
“I’m glad you agree,” Odo said.
“But you do not have the right to make that decision for Kirdo,” the Founder said sternly.
“I wondered how long it would be until you brought that up!” Odo said. “Among ‘solids,’ it is traditional for a child’s parents to direct his…”
“This has nothing to do with solids!” the Founder said. “Oh, this is pointless. How can I make you understand? The Link has lost you, Odo. It is a great tragedy. I cannot allow it to happen a second time.”
“Well, you don’t have any choice in the matter. I’m not giving Kirdo up to you.”
“Not even if it means ending the war?”
Odo was startled, but immediately raised his guard. “And what do you mean by that?”
“There’s no reason for the Dominion to remain in the Alpha Quadrant now. I asked Weyoun to find a way to re-open the wormhole simply to determine whether it could be done. You saw for yourself that he staked his life on success. If he could not accomplish it, with the help of the Alpha Quadrant’s best scientific minds, then no one can do it.”
“I see,” Odo said. “If the wormhole is closed for good, then the Founder homeworld…”
“Is now safe from Alpha Quadrant interlopers. It is time for us to return home.”
“Hmmm,” Odo said. “Without the wormhole, won’t that take a rather long time?”
“Seventy or eighty years,” the Founder said. “But what does it matter to us? We live for millennia. The only thing keeping us here is Kirdo. When we have him, we will leave. And this devastating war will end. I know you consider Kirdo your ‘son.’ But isn’t he a small price to pay for peace?”