Day 2, 1600 hours
Three hours after the Defiant had gone through the wormhole, it was now cloaked and heading towards the location of the Founders homeworld. Ezri had called for a senior staff meeting inside the mess hall. Megan, Max and Odo were there waiting for Ezri and the shapeshifter leader to turn up.
Megan was uncomfortable with having a Founder on board the ship. She had once studied the history of the Dominion war in Starfleet Academy, and the more she found about the Dominion the more she despised the Founders. They were little more than racist tyrants, who had no regard for humanoid’s lives.
But Megan had to act courteously towards the shapeshifter leader, he was a guest on board the Defiant. When Ezri and the shapeshifter leader, who as always was accompanied by his two Jem’Hadar guards, entered the staff room, Megan put on her best neutral expression. Though by the looks of it, it seemed Ezri and the shapeshifter had been arguing, as Megan detected a strained silence between the two. While the shapeshifter stood rigidly next to Ezri, and he looked rather impassive.
Ezri began the meeting. “To those of you who don't know, may I introduce the leader of the Founders.” Ezri briefly held her right arm to emphasise her point. “He has some issues to discuss.”
While Ezri sat down, the shapeshifter leader continued to stand, he then folded his arms. “As you all know there are many disgruntled Jem'Hadar in the Dominion. However the relationship between the Jem'Hadar and the Founders has deteriorated further. Tren ships and Jem'Hadar ships, who are working with the Tren, are providing on an increasing scale, vaccines to remove the remaining Jem'Hadar's addiction to the white. Current estimates suggest that up to forty percent of the Jem'Hadar are now independent of the white. The Dominion is facing a full scale Jem'Hadar revolt, their could be up to 25000 Jem'Hadar ships that are not controlled by the Dominion. Some of those ships could possibly head to the wormhole.”
Ezri elaborated upon some of the shapeshifter’s points. “And this is what we must find out; how many rogue Jem'Hadar ships will come to the wormhole. If there is an organised command structure between these ships, then this could pose a serious threat to the entire Alpha Quadrant.”
For all the talk about the Jem’Hadar, Megan wondered why Ezri had omitted to mention the threat from the Tren ships. “What about the Tren?” she asked Ezri. “If they're helping these rogue Jem'Hadar do we consider the Tren to be enemies, should the renegade Jem'Hadar ships attack the Federation?”
“We will only engage the Tren if they directly attack this ship or any other Federation property.”
Briefly Megan wondered how wise it would be to ask her next question, but she had to ask it to ease her concerns. “How can we be sure that this shapeshifter is telling the truth?”
The shapeshifter bristled at Megan’s question. “If I were lying, why would I be telling you about the Jem’Hadar revolt? As hard as you find it to believe, I am telling you the truth, you have my word.”
“Your word,” said Megan nastily, her face was contorted somewhat in anger. “Which means very little-”
Anger flashed in Ezri’s eyes. “Commander!” said Ezri warningly. “You will watch your tone of voice!”
The shapeshifter glanced at Ezri. “Don’t take offence captain, I was expecting hostility from your crew.” The shapeshifter turned his head to look at Megan, his gaze was very icy and the tone of his voice was even colder. “Changelings have a low opinion of humanoids because you don’t trust us and you have always tried to persecute us! You are just another small minded humanoid who thinks that she is right!”
Despite the insult Megan remained silent, she had crossed the line once and she wasn’t stupid enough to do so again. There was an awkward and tense silence inside the room, though the Jem’Hadar guards seemed totally oblivious to the mood.
“Are there any further questions?” asked Ezri, the tone in her voice seemed to dare anybody to do so. There was another silence. “Dismissed then,” said Ezri.
Megan stood up and briefly looked at the shapeshifter, he merely stared at her in an arrogant manner. The moment passed and Megan was outside of the mess hall, she wished she hadn’t made that stupid retort to the shapeshifter. It had probably reinforced his xenophobic and very racist views about humanoids.
Day 2, 2300 hours
Odo rested on the bunk bed inside his crew cabin, it was nearly 2300 and soon he would have to revert back to his gelatinous state. He glanced at the bucket, whenever he was on the Defiant he preferred to reside in the bucket when he regenerated. Although Odo was all alone in the cabin, he was not comfortable with oozing all over the room. If someone came in and saw him oozing around... it didn’t bare thinking about.
Only Kira saw him in his gelatinous state, and that's the way he intended to keep it. Odo was thinking about regenerating early, when the door chimed. “Come in!”
The shapeshifter leader entered the room, Odo stood up and gave a cold stare to the shapeshifter.
Despite Odo’s coldness, the shapeshifter eyes were full of warmth. “Odo it has been to long! We have missed you greatly in the Great Link!” The shapeshifter glanced at the bucket. “I see you are still using that bucket.”
Odo ignored the shapeshifter’s attempt at making conversation. “What do you want?” he said coldly.
The shapeshifter came a step closer to Odo. “To know you better… Link with me Odo!”
Odo noticed the shapeshifter’s outstretched hands, and the urge to link became almost unbearable for Odo, despite his people killing all of those Jem'Hadar, that urge remained. “I can't...” said Odo after a while.
“Can't or won't?” said the shapeshifter shrewdly. “It's Kira isn't it? Why do you stay with her Odo? Why do you place her above your own people?”
“I love her, and it seems that is something you still cannot understand!”
“Then link with me!” said the shapeshifter in earnest. “Show me everything about your relationship with Kira, then maybe I will understand!”
Despite the temptation to link, Odo shook his head. “I can't share something so intimate with you, that is between only Kira and me. I would be betraying Kira's trust in me if I shared that information with you.”
The warmth vanished from the shapeshifter’s eyes. “She is a solid!” said the shapeshifter bitterly. “And she would not know if you shared your thoughts and feelings of her with me!”
Odo could not believe the insensitivity of this shapeshifter, he did not seem to grasp the bond between himself and Kira. “But I would know!” replied Odo. “And that is your problem! You take linking for granted, you fail to comprehend that linking is not the only way to share your feelings with another person!”
“The other ways are inferior,” said the shapeshifter in an arrogant manner. “This conversation is going nowhere. I see that you have lost sight of your true identity because of your love for that solid Kira!”
The shapeshifter put as much contempt and malice as he could into saying Kira’s name. Immediately the shapeshifter turned around, apparently disgusted by Odo and he walked out the room.
Odo sat down on the bunk bed, he was deeply shaken by the conversation. He thought he had made his people understand why solids and changelings had equal rights, and why the solids form of communication was just as powerful as linking. Or was it a concept that his people could not grasp? Did they hate the solids so much, that nothing Odo could say would change his people’s minds?
Day 4, 1100 hours
After nearly two days of travel, the Defiant and the Jem’Hadar battleship had reached the outskirts of Dominion territory. The mood inside the Defiant’s bridge was very tense, no one knew what to expect, aside from the shapeshifter leader. The shapeshifter was standing at the back of the bridge, just behind him were his two Jem'Hadar guards and they were standing in the least obstructive place on the bridge.
Ezri was sitting in the captain’s chair, her hands were resting on the chair’s armrests, her eyes looked expectantly at the view screen.
“Entering Dominion territory captain!” Max said from the helm.
“Any Jem'Hadar or Tren ships?”
“What about long range sensors, Ms Felpes?”
Megan was gazing intently on the readings coming from her console. “There are no ships and no tachyon signatures...” Megan turned around in the chair to look at Ezri. “Tren ships can cloak you know.”
The shapeshifter didn’t look to pleased with the lack of a welcoming party, he moved closer to Ezri until he was at her side. “This isn't right, there should be border patrols, it's standard Dominion defence protocol.”
Ezri looked briefly thoughtful, before addressing the shapeshifter. “Let's maintain our heading to your homeworld.”
“Agreed,” the shapeshifter said with a nod. “If you don't mind, captain, I'd like my flagship to break position.”
“For what purpose?” asked Ezri suspiciously.
“I will be taking command of the vessel, I shall be looking for renegade Jem'Hadar ships.”
Odo watched the conversation from his station at communications. “With all due respect, Founder, you are safer onboard the Defiant! The Defiant is cloaked whereas the flagship cannot, the renegade Jem’Hadar could intercept the flagship and destroy it!”
The shapeshifter turned around. “You are right Odo, very well.” He tapped on a communicator placed on his left wrist, and raised his wrist close to his mouth. “Weyoun!”
” said Weyoun from the flagship.
“Break position from the Defiant, and head to the omicron sector of Dominion territory. Muster what ships you can, and get all loyal Jem'Hadar to carry out my orders! Any rogue Jem'Hadar ships you encounter on the way, then destroy them. Tell the ships of the loyal Jem'Hadar to rendezvous at the Great Link.”
“As you wish Founder.
Ezri shot a suspicious glance at the shapeshifter, before turning to face the view screen. “Maintain course Mr Weatherby, Ms Felpes activate the cloak.”
Day 4, 1600 hours
Weyoun stood on the centre of the bridge in the Dominion flagship, he was wearing the headset and monitoring the situation from outside of the ship. The Dominion flagship had fifty Jem’Hadar ships travelling with it, and so far this fleet had not encountered any renegade Jem’Hadar ships.
The revolting Jem'Hadar deeply worried Weyoun, he was not worried for his safety but for the safety of the Founders. They were his gods, if they died then he would have no reason to live. Weyoun was determined to track down every last disloyal Jem'Hadar and have them eliminated; for it was a heinous crime indeed to revolt against one's gods.
“Commander,” said the Jem’Hadar second at the helm. “There are a hundred Jem'Hadar ships approaching us!”
Weyoun raised a finger to his head set, and the eye piece focused on the Jem’Hadar ships steadily approaching at impulse. “I see them, raise shields and weapons.”
“The lead ship is hailing us commander!” said a Jem’Hadar at the communications station.
“Patch the transmission through!” ordered Weyoun.
Through the eyepiece, Weyoun saw the bridge of a Jem’Hadar vessel. There was a Jem’Hadar directly in his sight, Weyoun felt a sense of foreboding as the Vorta commander was not present. “This is Weyoun, to who am I speaking to?”
“I am First Koi'tiza, I am the commander of this ship and of the 28th fleet.”
“What has happened to the Vorta commander?”
An ugly look came across Koi'tiza’s face. “We executed him for his disloyalty to the Founders.”
“Am I to take it you have sided with the Founders?” inquired Weyoun.
“We are Jem'Hadar,” said Koi’tiza passionately. “We serve only the Founders!”
“What happened to your fleet?”
“It was ambushed by renegade Jem'Hadar ships, but the 28th fleet stood its ground and eliminated every enemy ship!”
Weyoun carefully looked at Koi’tiza, and noticed something rather alarming; the vial of white was missing from Koi’tiza. Like every Vorta, Weyoun’s sight was abysmal, otherwise he would had have spotted this feature sooner. “You've received the vaccine haven't you?” said Weyoun suspiciously. “Now that you are no longer dependent on the white, how can I trust you?”
Koi'tiza bristled with anger. “The Founders are our gods! You are wrong if you believe that all the Jem'Hadar free of the white are the rebels! The Jem'Hadar's only purpose is to serve the Founders, that is the order of things!” Koi’tiza paused, and looked intensely at Weyoun. “Obedience brings victory!”
“And victory brings life!” said Weyoun automatically, now he was convinced of Koi’tiza’s loyalty to the Founders. “First I order you to bring the 28th fleet to the Founder's homeworld, for the protection of the Founders!”
Koi'tiza looked suspiciously at Weyoun. “How can I trust you?” he said heatedly. “I've killed one disloyal Vorta, you will be next if you are sending the fleet into a trap!”
Anger visibly manifested itself from Weyoun’s face. “You dare to question my loyalty to the Founders?” he said loudly. “Need I remind you that I was at a Founder's side during the end of the war in the Alpha Quadrant. I live to serve the Founders, and right now the Founders have ordered me to gather together all loyal Jem'Hadar ships for the defence of the Great Link!”
Koi'tiza nodded once in apparent satisfaction that Weyoun could be trusted. “Understood, my unit will fight to the last man to eliminate all of the disloyal Jem'Hadar!”
Weyoun was pleased to hear this. “Excellent, Weyoun out.”
The life feed on Weyoun’s eyepiece changed back to show the Jem’Hadar fleet. A moment later the Jem’Hadar fleet moved as one, and travelled in the direction of the Founder’s homeworld. Suddenly the entire fleet went to warp, and disappeared from Weyoun’s view. Weyoun wished all Jem’Hadar were like Koi’tiza, fiercely loyal to the Founders and obeying orders without question...
Day 5, 0700 hours
As the Defiant approached the Founders homeworld, inside the bridge there was absolute silence from everyone present. The Defiant was cloaked, and only a hundred million kilometres away from the Founders homeworld.
On the bridge, Megan was constantly analysing the sensor readings. “I'm detecting Jem'Hadar ships captain! There's hundreds, no... thousands of ships!”
Ezri leaned forward in her chair, her elbows were braced against the hand rests. “Activate the view screen, show me the Founder's homeworld!”
On the view screen there was the Founder’s homeworld, it dominated most of the screen. There was tiny pinpricks of light that appeared and then suddenly vanished. Ezri squinted at the image. “Magnify, a hundred times!”
With the increased magnification, the orange coloured planet filled the entire screen. Jem’Hadar ships could just be seen, there were hundreds of ships all of which were engaged in a ferocious battle. Phaser fire and torpedoes were being constantly exchanged, and every few seconds a Jem’Hadar ship was destroyed. It was impossible to distinguish between the Jem’Hadar ships and the renegade Jem’Hadar ships. As such it was unclear who was winning the battle.
On the bridge both the shapeshifter's and Odo's gaze were fixed upon the screen, before their very eyes the fate of their people was being decided and there was nothing they could to determine the outcome.
Ezri tore her gaze from the view screen. “Ms Felpes are there any signs of Tren ships?”
Megan frowned at the odd readings she was getting from the sensors. “It's unclear, I'm picking up faint tachyon signatures. I must say that these Tren cloaks are good... they are very hard to spot.”
In any case Ezri was convinced that the Tren ships would be observing the battle just like the Defiant was doing. “Mr Weatherby, bring the Defiant to a stop and maintain position… And now we wait...”
“Wait for what captain?” asked Max.
“To see how the fate of the Dominion plays out...”