Day 1, 2350 hours
After the meeting it was nearly midnight, and so Ezri returned to her quarters. In there she went over to her work desk, activated the console and sent a transmission to admiral Ross. Ezri explained to Ross about the Jem’Hadar battleship, and the meeting with Weyoun and the Founder. “-and so if the shapeshifter leader is telling the truth, then there is a serious danger to the wormhole, DS9 and beyond...”
When Ezri had finished, Ross looked deeply troubled by what he had heard. “Firstly, do you doubt the truth of what the shapeshifter is telling you about the Dominion?”
“Frankly this is the first Federation/Dominion contact in eighteen years, as such it is nearly impossible to substantiate the Dominion's claims. However, why would the shapeshifter lie to us, and reveal to us a potential weakness inside the Dominion?”
“I see your point,” acknowledged Ross. “Let us proceed on the assumption that the shapeshifter is telling the truth... You said he wants Federation support to protect the Great Link? What kind of support did he ask for?”
Ezri felt slightly embarrassed, as she was certain Ross wouldn’t like her answer. “He didn't exactly specify, but I would assume he wanted the Federation to send in Starfleet ships to protect the Great Link.”
“Ships which I cannot give to him!” said Ross indignantly. “After all this is the Dominion's problem not ours!”
Ezri was about to point out that a Jem’Hadar revolt would be a Federation problem, should the Jem’Hadar come through the wormhole. Ross though continued as if he sensed Ezri was going to object. “However, I will send Starfleet ships to DS9 to cover every scenario, just in case the worst happens.”
“So am I to tell the shapeshifter leader that the Federation will not help the Dominion?”
“Tell him that the Federation will 'consider' his request, though it wouldn't do any harm to find out for ourselves what is going on inside the Dominion. Tell him that the Defiant will be sent out to access the Dominion situation, this should buy us some time.”
“So this will just be a scouting mission?” Ezri had to clarify this point, for the Defiant would attract a lot of attention in Dominion territory.
“Affirmative,” said Ross. “Do not engage any Dominion or Tren ship unless they attack you. You have your orders, Ross out.”
Day 2, 0900 hours
The entire senior staff were gathered inside the wardroom. Never in so many years had there been a senior staff meeting as tense as this one. It was bad enough that there were rumours circulating all around DS9 concerning the Jem’Hadar battleship. It was even worse that there was a possibility that DS9 would become a major battleground between the renegade Jem’Hadar and the Federation.
Everyone’s gaze was upon Ezri, she was standing behind her chair. “Admiral Ross has decided not to send support to the Dominion, but as a precaution he has sent 1200 ships to defend the wormhole from a possible Jem'Hadar attack. However, the admiral and I have agreed to send the Defiant into Dominion space to access the situation. The mission is straightforward; the Defiant will enter Dominion territory cloaked, and monitor any Jem'Hadar or Tren ships. I've already cleared this with the shapeshifter leader.” Ezri rested her gaze upon Kira. “Colonel, you will be commanding DS9, should anything happen to the Defiant, do not send ships to rescue us, understood?”
Kira nodded once, she gazed seriously towards Ezri.
Ezri had absolute confidence in Kira following her orders. “For this mission the Defiant will have a skeleton crew. Nog, Holo and Bashir, you will also be staying on board DS9. Mr Weatherby you'll be piloting the Defiant, Ms Felpes and Odo you will be on the Defiant. Are there any questions?”
The senior staff remained silent, it was very clear what everyone had to do. Ezri decided to wrap up the staff meeting. “Right, the Defiant leaves at 1300 hours today; dismissed.”
While the senior staff rose and left the room, Ezri remained stationary, she watched the retreating backs of the senior staff. She was far more worried than she let on, she had a feeling that she would be commanding the Defiant for the last time…
Day 2, 1230 hours
Kira paced around her quarter’s living room, she had forsaken her lunch break just to have one last conversation with Odo. She waited for Odo to finish saying his goodbyes to Mia and Deru. Kira did not want Odo to go on this mission, she thought that the Federation should give a wide berth to the apparent infighting inside the Dominion. The whole mission was pointless, and if Odo died because of it she wasn’t sure how she would feel.
When Odo entered the room, Kira ceased pacing around and came to a stop in front of Odo. This was her last to chance to convince Odo not to go on the mission. “I know your mind is made up, and I won’t stop you, but I still think this is a pointless mission.”
Odo looked downcast, it seemed like he had wanted to avoid an disagreement with Kira. “I’m going on this mission irrespective of what you think about it, the shapeshifter needs my help!”
“I don't trust that shapeshifter, why do you feel so obliged to help him?”
“I have to do whatever I can to protect my people, I have an obligation to do so!”
Kira feared that Odo would say something like that, she gave Odo an angry glare. “You don't owe anything to your people!” she said heatedly. “You saved them, you stopped the virus that was destroying the Great Link, and you changed the Dominion!”
Odo didn’t seem convinced. “Did I?” he said heavily.
“So is that what you want? asked Kira angrily. “To go back and finish off the work you started eighteen years ago?”
Now cold anger appeared on Odo's face. “I've been away from my people for to long, I need to go back...”
“Go back?” said Kira, the anger and exasperation raised the pitch of her voice. “The Founders haven't changed one bit! The fact that they are exterminating the Jem'Hadar shows their contempt for humanoid life!”
“And that is something which I can change!” said Odo rather forcibly.
“And do you really believe that?” said Kira shrilly. “What stops them from trapping you in the Great Link and changing you into them?”
A pained expression crept into Odo’s face. “You do not understand, what it is like to be away from your home, and your birthplace, for so long!” Odo gestured forcibly with his hands, they were clenched and raised against his chest. “Maybe humanoids don't mind being away from their homeworlds, but shapeshifters do! It is something that humanoids will never understand!”
Never did Kira realise how badly Odo missed the Great Link, she felt guilty about berating Odo for his need to return home. She looked tenderly at Odo. “I don't want to lose you Odo!” she said gently. “I can admire what you are trying to do, but it seems to me a hopeless cause!”
Odo looked despondent. “Let's drop the matter... Anyway I must be on the Defiant.”
Kira didn’t want this conversation to end on such a low note, she walked towards Odo and gave him a brief passionate kiss. The two then hugged each other, Kira kept a stiff upper lip as she wondered if this was the last time she would hold Odo in her arms. “Just stay safe and promise me you will return back to me and the children.”
Odo stopped hugging Kira and held her by her shoulders, he looked directly into Kira’s eyes. “I promise.”
He smiled briefly at Kira, before turning around and walking out of the quarters. Kira watched Odo with a worried look on her face, she wasn’t so much worried for Odo’s safety but more his desire for returning to the Great Link. If Odo wanted to return to the Great Link she wouldn't stop him, but how long would Odo stay there, and what if he never left the Great Link? This issue was going to really strain her relationship with Odo and it was not going to go away.
Kira took some comfort from the fact that Odo had once left the Great Link to return to her, she knew that Odo had only come back to DS9 because he loved her. At that moment, Kira was convinced that should Odo rejoin the Great Link, he would eventually come back to her. The memories of the day when Odo came back to DS9 came flooding back to her, it was the happiest day of her life...