Day 5, 0730 hours
After half an hour of observing the battle, it still wasn’t clear which side was winning. Ezri was almost lulled into a false sense of security, but she realised that if the Defiant were to be detected, it would be intercepted by the Jem’Hadar ships. At that point Ezri would have no other choice but to abort the mission and take the Defiant back to the wormhole.
“Captain!” exclaimed Megan, her eyes were wide, with what was probably fear. “Twenty Tren ships are decloaking!”
“Confirmed,” said Odo. “They're heading straight for the Defiant!”
Could the Tren ships have detected the Defiant’s cloak? Ezri wasn’t sure, but right now she had to take the Defiant out of harm’s way. “Mr Weatherby, plot the shortest course back to the wormhole, maximum warp!”
“Course set, warp drive engaged.”
“This is odd...” said Megan, while she glanced intensely upon the sensor readings.
“What is it?” asked Ezri, fearing the worst.
“It looks like the renegade Jem'Hadar ships are following the Tren ships. They are all heading to the wormhole with a warp speed of... 9.5. We’re travelling at the same speed, if we arrive at the wormhole then the Tren ships will be right behind us!”
The shapeshifter leader looked triumphant. “Ha! The renegade Jem'Hadar ships are fleeing from the Dominion reinforcements arriving at my people's homeworld!”
“Ms Felpes is that true?”
“Confirmed, I detect the Dominion flagship along with two thousand other Jem'Hadar ships.”
Though it seemed that the Founders homeworld was safe for the time being, Ezri had been dealt with a new problem. The renegade Jem’Hadar ships were following the Tren ships back to the wormhole, and would be entering Federation territory. Ezri used the console next to her chair, to send an encoded subspace communication to DS9.
The shapeshifter noticed this. “What are you doing captain?”
“Sending a message to warn DS9,” said Ezri as she imputed the message. “It looks like the worst case scenario has happened...” She turned around on the chair to look at the shapeshifter angrily. “No thanks to you...”
The shapeshifter leader looked deeply insulted. “Captain what are you-”
Ezri rose from her chair, she was incredibly angry and some of that anger showed on her face. “We need to talk, let’s go to the mess hall.” The shapeshifter looked like he was going to refuse to do so.
“Now!” said Ezri loudly, everyone on the bridge briefly looked at her.
Reluctantly the shapeshifter followed Ezri, as she walked out of the bridge. The journey to the mess hall was very uneventful, there was silence between the two. Once inside the mess hall, Ezri walked slightly ahead of the shapeshifter. While the shapeshifter stood rigidly next to a table. “Captain what is the problem?”
Ezri turned around to confront the shapeshifter. “I'll tell you what's the problem!” she said loudly. “The Tren ships decloaked the instant they detected this ship! Lo and behold they come straight for the Defiant, and then the rest of the renegade Jem'Hadar ships followed us! So what is going on here?”
The shapeshifter looked smug, as if he was pleased that he had deceived Ezri. “The Founders have known for some time now that the Tren are seeking to use the Jem'Hadar. The Tren started this Jem'Hadar uprising, and the first place they'd strike would be my people's world! I could not allow this to happen. So I had to lure the Tren and the renegade Jem'Hadar ships away from my homeworld. The Tren couldn't risk being spotted by a Starfleet ship, and I knew they would have to leave the Dominion, along with the Jem'Hadar who had sided with them, to ensure their plan would work.”
“And what plan is that?” said Ezri angrily.
“That must surely be obvious to you!” said the shapeshifter in a patronising voice, complemented by the arrogant and superior look on his face. “I suppose it isn't?”
He paused, and Ezri was on a knife edge, the shapeshifter seemed to sense that Ezri was listening to his every word. “The Tren are planning some sort of invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, though they want the Jem'Hadar to do their dirty work for them, and it's something many Jem'Hadar would not pass up lightly. The Tren are giving the Jem'Hadar something they were born to do: to wage war and fight!”
“You deceived me!” shouted Ezri. “You have used this ship as a bait to protect your people!”
The shapeshifter simply stared at Ezri in a neutral way, he didn’t seem bothered at using Ezri. “If I have hurt one solid's sensibilities just to protect my homeworld then so be it...”
“So all of this, contacting the Federation, asking for her help, was simply a ruse to dump your problem onto the Federation?”
“I am still sincere in my request for Federation help, even though the Dominion has won one battle with the renegade Jem’Hadar, the outcome of this civil war has yet to be decided. The Great Link maybe threatened again, not only from the Jem’Hadar but from races eager to attack a weakened Dominion! Surely the Federation values life; would it really let the Great Link be destroyed?”
The shapeshifter was being manipulative towards Ezri, and Ezri really resented the hypocrisy of this shapeshifter. “Don’t presume to lecture me on morality and humanitarian rights, your people ordered the extermination of 800 million Cardassians! Besides the Federation does not get involved in another culture’s affairs!”
Far from admitting that he was in the wrong, the shapeshifter gave Ezri an intensely furious stare. “Spare me your holier-than-though sermon, the Federation tried to exterminate my people, but you just got someone else to do your dirty work and that was Section 31!”
Of all the things the shapeshifter could say, Ezri wasn’t expecting this. She knew about Section 31, but she never knew that Section 31 had tried to exterminate the Founders.
“What?” said Ezri, sounding surprised.
The shapeshifter looked triumphant, for he had really shocked Ezri. “You look surprised, I hope I haven’t shattered to many of your illusions about the Federation?”
“I don’t believe you,” said Ezri automatically. “The Federation would never commit genocide.”
“We found out from Odo about Section 31’s attempt to destroy the Great Link! When my people heard about this we very nearly decided to wage war on the Federation again. But Odo showed us the wisdom of not retaliating, frankly captain the Federation owes it to my people to protect them!”
Ezri wasn’t sure how to respond to this, she didn’t know the full facts, though she did feel a tiny bit of sympathy for the shapeshifter. He walked out of the room, leaving Ezri to think about the shocking information she had just heard. If it was true then why had nobody told her?
Odo, Benjamin Sisko and Bashir must have known about this. She had heard about Section 31 from Bashir, during their relationship. What the shapeshifter had told her had been so shocking, that Ezri realised she had to keep this a secret. For who could she talk to? Admiral Ross, or any other Starfleet admiral for that matter, would deny everything about Section 31, and Bashir was still as cold and as distant as ever...
Day 8, 1330 hours
Kira walked on the lower level of the Promenade, it was completely deserted, and all the shops were closed down. Since Ezri had left, Kira was in command of DS9, she hadn’t been in command of DS9 for nearly fifteen years. Though fifteen years ago she had decided to settle for second in command to find the time to raise her first child Mia.
It had been three days since Kira issued an evacuation order of DS9, now there were only the station’s officers left. She had sent her children to the Koma temple, after vedek Talrik offered to shelter them. Aside from Shakaar, Talrik was the of the few Bajorans Kira could really trust.
The thought of the incoming renegade Jem’Hadar did worry her somewhat, but DS9 had two previous battles before and the odds were similar. At least Starfleet had recognised the danger, and for once provided a decent sized fleet. One thing she was deeply grateful for about Bajor’s membership into the Federation, was the top notch protection and security provided by Starfleet.
Even so with this incoming battle, even the might of Starfleet could not be enough to protect Bajor. She wasn’t foolish enough to admit she was never afraid, but fear became almost redundant if you had been a member of the Bajoran resistance for over thirteen years.
As she walked further down the Promenade, she noticed Quark’s bar was still open. The only two constants on the Promenade were Quark’s bar and the Bajoran temple. When she entered Quark’s bar she noticed Quark talking to Morn, she had never understood what attracted Morn to Quark’s bar.
Quark who was standing by his bar, broke off his conversation with Morn when he saw Kira enter, Morn though looked rather forlorn and hurt.
“Colonel what can I get for you?” asked Quark.
Kira sat down on a chair, directly facing Quark. “Tarkalean tea please.” She nodded to Morn. “Hi there Morn.”
Morn though looked away, and returned to sipping his drink.
“Here's the tea,” said Quark. “I wouldn't talk to Morn right now.”
Kira took a brief of the tea before answering, she really liked the slightly bitter taste and it rejuvenated her low blood sugar level. “Why not?” she asked, after a while.
Quark leaned in close to Kira and whispered to her. “He's very nervous about this fleet of renegade Jem'Hadar ships coming our way.”
Personally, Kira was starting to get quite weary of all this talk about the renegade Jem’Hadar fleet. It was perfectly understandable why everyone wanted to talk about it, but she didn’t like the rumours going around amongst the crew. Some crew members seemed convinced that the Founders were starting a second war with the Federation. Perhaps Quark started some of those rumours. “Shouldn't you be on one of the evacuation ships?” said Kira, lowering her voice to make sure Morn wasn’t listening in to the conversation.
“This bar is my livelihood colonel!” said Quark passionately. “It's all I have, a Ferengi without a business is a like a dog without fleas! Though sometimes in days like this I wonder why I bother.”
Kira knew that this was typical of Quark, his fear about leaving the bar overrode even his fear of the Jem’Hadar destroying the station. “Even Jake left his restaurant, your staying here to protect your latinum!”
Quark though deflected the accusation. “And giving Morn a shoulder to cry upon!” He paused, and his tone of voice became more serious. “Are things really that bad, I mean this Jem'Hadar fleet... is there any hope of stopping them?”
“The Federation fleet is outnumbered six to one, but the Jem'Hadar will have to come out of the wormhole, and when they do so they will be tightly packed and make easy pickings for the Starfleet ships!”
“And what if the Federation fleet is destroyed?”
“Then DS9 will be destroyed, and afterwards Bajor...” said Kira calmly, though she was becoming weary of this conversation, and she sped up her sipping of the tea. “Can we talk about something other than the Jem'Hadar?”
Quark didn’t seem to be listening to Kira, he sighed. “To think I've devoted thirty years of my life to this bar.” He shook his head as if to dispel his doubts and regrets. “And what do I have to show for it? A few bricks of gold-pressed latinum and some friends, I mean why did I bother?”
Kira thought that was a bit rich of Quark, he had made a decent living here and had made a name for himself. However, she wasn’t going to tell Quark this; they both maintained an outward appearance of pretending not to be friends. “Friends are more important than gold-pressed latinum.”
She thought Quark looked slightly wounded by that comment, in a way the two were friends. Quark remained silent, while Kira had finished her tea. “Thanks for the tea...”
She rose from the chair and left Quark’s bar, from the corner of her eye she saw Quark walking over to Morn. Clearly Quark was going to have another depressing conversation with Morn. Kira had occasionally talked to Morn, though every time she regretted it; he was a pleasant guy with a big heart but he moaned to much, way to much...
Day 8, 1330 hours
With less than a day to go until the Defiant approached the wormhole, Ezri had finally received an encoded message from admiral Ross telling her what to expect when the Defiant exited the wormhole. One thing was for certain, the Jem’Hadar ships would be walking into a very deadly trap. Ezri had called for a brief senior staff meeting, to explain to them what awaited on the other side of the wormhole. As she entered the mess hall, she saw Megan, Max and Odo gathered around a table.
Ezri came to a halt close to Megan, Max and Odo. She sat down on a top of a table. “Admiral Ross has told me that 1200 Starfleet ships have surrounded the other side of the wormhole, the moment the Tren and Jem'Hadar ships reach the other side of the wormhole a barrage of photon torpedoes and phaser fire will destroy those ships.”
“It will be a massacre,” commented Odo
Ezri wasn’t sure if Odo was simply stating the obvious or if he inwardly disapproved of this battle plan. “The threat to the Federation is to great to simply let these rogue Jem'Hadar ships pass through the wormhole unchallenged. From the latest sensor readings, there are about 7000 rogue Jem'Hadar ships following us. If all goes to plan, most of them will be destroyed.”
“What about the Defiant?” asked Max. “The Tren and the rogue Jem'Hadar ships are incredibly close to us! We'll be hit by friendly fire!”
“Then Mr Weatherby it will be up to you to guide the Defiant to safety.”
Max nodded in agreement, he suddenly looked more serious, as everyone would depend upon him for their safety at the exit of the wormhole.
Megan spoke up. “Wouldn't all those torpedoes collapse the entrance to the wormhole?”
“That is a distinct possibility, if that happens the Jem'Hadar threat would be no more. If the wormhole entrance does not collapse and the Defiant exits on the other side in one piece, then it will join the Starfleet fleet. Once the Defiant has joined with the Federation fleet, we will be helping them to destroy the rogue Jem'Hadar ships...”
Ezri looked at the three officers before her, and she was glad to see that they had no objections to this plan. The mood was grim, but Ezri could sense that her officers trusted her judgement. “Dismissed,” she said.
Megan, Max and Odo left the room, while Ezri remained where she was. The truth was she was nervous about the Defiant exiting the wormhole, there was a good chance the Defiant would be blown to bits. What worried Ezri was not dying, but sending her crew to their deaths.
The Defiant was either going to be destroyed by Federation torpedoes or destroyed by the Jem’Hadar ships. The third option of surviving seemed like a remote possibility for Ezri; it all came down to Max and whether he had the skill to manoeuvre the Defiant away from hundreds of incoming torpedoes…