Prin tensed slightly as the transporter effect faded, dropping both herself and Ba'el into a tiny chamber in the middle of Onyx Station. She had never liked transporters, and doubted she ever would.
The same Laurentii who had greeted them over the comm - Asiph? Aseph?
- stepped forward from his place at the controls. He turned to Ba'el, crossing both his arms across his chest and cupping his face in the palms of his hands.
"May the Blessed Seefu give you peace."
To her surprise - and the Laurentii's, from the way he started slightly - Bay stepped forward and repeated the gesture, adding a slight bow. "And may they guide you across the Great Divide."
The Laurentii didn't seem to know what to say to that, and he remained silent for a few moments. "You have met my kind before," he said finally.
Bay nodded. "I served with varec Kizara at Lorgan."
"I was not aware that was you."
"It was a long time ago."
Prin glanced at her old friend. She knew he had met Laurentii before, but had not realised that he had known them well enough to learn their customs. Though to be fair, he had tried to explain some of what he had picked up to her during the trip. However, beyond recognising certain similarities between the Laurentii's devotion to these Seefu and the Jem'hadar's mindless belief in the Founders, she hadn't really understood much else. That they were a theocracy had seemed clear. The Laurentii male's greeting confirmed that.
The Laurentii - what was his name again? Asaph? Asuph?
- and Bay had been taking one another's measure for the past few seconds. Something seemed to pass between them, though, and the Laurentii dropped his head slightly, then reached into his robes. He took out a small hypospray, with an empty vial underneath.
"All visitors to Ispaoreai Hyps’rat must go through a blood screening to confirm they are not one of the accursed false gods."
Founders. That made sense. Most Alliance facilities had similar precautions. Bay seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because he stepped forward and lifted his shirt slightly. The hypospray hissed as it drew green blood. The Laurentii turned the vial, popping it out, and then swirled the blood a few times to make sure that it didn't revert to changeling-matter. When it didn't, he seemed satisified. Though it was hard to tell without any visual clues from his eyes to base her assumptions on.
Pulling another vial from his robes - and apparently pocketing the first one - he connected it to the hypo and turned to Prin. She lifted her arm as well, allowing the man to press the hypo to her skin. She felt a slight prick of pain, then saw the blood dribble into the clear glass container. Again, the Laurentii popped it out, and again, the blood remained blood.
"You are both who you claim to be," the Laurentii said, stepping back.
"Good," Bay said. "Now, if we could meet with the kruin--"
To her surprise, the Laurentii shook his head. "That will not be possible today. We have prepared quarters for you."
Bay tensed. "Listen, varec Asuph, we were informed that this would be a short visit. Our ship is waiting to take us back to Alliance space and--"
"It shall be a short visit," Asuph - so that was his name
- said. "But for us to be able to explain and prepare the weapon, you must stay with us for a few days, at least."
Bay did not look happy. Damn
, Prin thought. This was the last thing they needed. He had been on edge ever since they left Earth-space, worry for Elera and Torvol clouding his judgement. Ever since he had gotten married, he had been stepping back from the war effort. Kovat had begged him to come back to active service, and the Prophets' knew that the Alliance needed experienced captains right now. Bay wasn't having any of it.
He opened his mouth to say something. Prin knew that he often spoke first, and thought later, so she stepped forward, placing a hand on his arm.
"That will be fine," she said. "Could you lead us to our quarters?"
Bay glared at her, but it was too late.
"That will not be necessary,” Asuph said. “Ispaoreai will guide you."
Prin frowned. Ispaoreai was the name the Laurentii gave to Onyx Station. How could the station..?
Asuph waved a hand. Part of the wall suddenly opened out like a sphincter, revealing a pink corridor that dripped with what seemed like fleshy juices. Prin gasped. She had heard about the Laurentii's living technology, but this was the first time she had witnessed it up close.
"Are these... our quarters?" she asked tentatively.
Asuph shook his head. "No. Ispaoreai will direct you. Step through and the corridor will open before you. I will see you tomorrow and we will begin to speak of the weapon you require."
Bay didn't look convinced. Prin worried he might try to push things with the Laurentii, and they couldn't afford to lose this opportunity. The Laurentii might be an unofficial partner in the Alliance, but as soon as Laurentii space had been cleared of the Dominion, they had fallen back. Now they claimed to have this miracle weapon that could end the war. They had to remain on their good side. They had to.
She nodded to Asuph, then stepped through, turning to Bay expectantly. He frowned at the Laurentii, then sighed. Following her through, the opening closed behind him. They both glanced at one another, then followed the corridor to their quarters.
Once he was sure that the two kruvats were safely in their respective quarters, Asuph made his way to the core brainchamber. When the door opened, he entered and immediately fell to his knees. Keeping his head bowed, he waited for the kruin to speak.
When he did, the voice of kruin Lissa seemed to boom through the vast chamber. Asuph lowered his face even further, though all he wanted was to glimpse the glory of the conjoining.
<< You have it? >>
With trembling hands, Asuph pulled the vial of green blood from his robes and held it out and up before his kruin. After a few moments, the floor before him opened up, like a gaping toothless mouth.
<< Give it to us. >>
Asuph unscrewed the top of the vial, then poured the blood down into the small space. The sound of liquid splashing on the hyps'rat's flesh sent thrills through his belly. Then the maw closed up. Asuph remained where he was, head bowed, the vial still in hand.
After what seemed like an eternity, the kruin spoke.
<< He is the one. >>
Asuph raised his head on instinct, then caught himself before actually looking at the kruin. He felt his belly flush, his ventral air vents closing in mortification, leaving him with a tiny amount of monoxide coming in through his nasal holes.
<< You have a question, varec? >>
Bowing his head further, Asuph tried not to writhe in dismay. Had he angered the kruin? All his dreams could be shattered.
<< He is the one, >> the kruin repeated. << There is no doubt. Our brethren at Lorgan were correct in their surmise. >>
”This kruvat is the promised one?" Asuph dared to ask.
The kruin did not seem to mind. << He is. But he must not be made aware of that fact until the proper time. >>
Feeling emboldened by the kruin's reply, Asuph spoke again. "When... When will you know the proper time, kruin?"
To his surprise, a wheezing sound filled the air. Was the kruin... Laughing? << I? No, varec. Not I. The one who will follow me will see the Darkness come to this place. He will call the promised one to come to us and save us from the Darkness. This Sarine will be that one. >>
"You- You have seen it?"
<< I have seen it. >>
Asuph waited for a moment, wondering whether he dared ask the question he yearned to ask. His dreams recently had been complicated, shadowy, but one thing had remained clear. He had seen himself in this chamber, except in his dream, he was conjoined to the hyps'rat. He had been kruin. Could the dream be a true dream? Did he dare ask the kruin?
Kruin Lissa spoke before he could ask the question, though. << You must keep the kruvat here for a few more days, varec Asuph. >>
From what he had seen, that would be difficult. This Sarine did not seem to want to be here. "What of the weapon? Are we truly going to give it to them?"
The kruin spoke in a low voice. << Provide him with everything he needs, varec. The shapeshifters must be defeated before the Darkness can be faced. >>
"You have seen it?"
<< I have seen it. >>
Asuph desperately wanted to ask him what else he had seen. The Seefu communicated with their chosen people through dreams. The dreams had led the Laurentii safely through the Divide. The dreams had helped the Laurentii rebuild their Hegemony here, in this safehaven. The dreams told the Laurentii that soon, very soon, the Darkness would return. The dreams told Asuph that…
Will it be me?
he wondered. Will I be the one to see the Darkness return? Will I call upon this kruvat Sarine to save us?
Kruin Lissa seemed to read his thoughts. << Do you dream, varec Asuph? >>
He had been asked a direct question. He could do nothing but reply, truthfully. "I dream, kruin."
<< Then mind your dreams, varec. There is truth in dreams, but beware. Dreams are not truth. >>
What did that mean? Before he could ask any further, the kruin spoke again.
<< Now leave me, varec. Go to the kruvat. Tell them that they may come before in two days time and I will deliver to them our secrets. >>
"And until then?"
<< Until then... Keep them amused. Show them what it is safe to show them. I must have time to study this Sarine. When he returns, when we need him, he must be prepared. >>
Was the kruin saying what Asuph thought he was saying? Could he actually be prepared to carry out the kolar dah'han on a kruvat? Asuph could not believe it. And yet... And yet.
He bowed his head further. "It shall be as you command, kruin Lissa."
<< Not as I command, varec. As the Seefu requires. >>
"Of course, kruin."
Taking his leave, Asuph stepped out of the core brain-chamber and back into the corridor. He stood there for a moment, thinking back on what the kruin had told him. Could it really be true? Could his dreams be real?
Remembering his responsibility, Asuph began to make his way to the quarters that had been given to the kruvat. In his mind, though, he was already conjoined with the hyps'rat, the master of this vast living organism. A master of the Hegemony herself.
, he told himself. One day.