Day 9 2200 hours
Inside his quarters, the shapeshifter leader was busy reviewing Dominion intelligence files from a padd. The padd had an in-built subspace receiver, and every hour it was updated, giving the shapeshifter the latest in Dominion intelligence. He doubted that the Defiant would detect these sub-space signals, even if the Defiant could do so, it wouldn’t be able to break the encryption to the data stream. The latest intelligence suggested that the renegade Jem’Hadar were being pushed out of Dominion territory, so in the short term the Great Link was safe.
He had also made some subtle changes to the communications panel, next to the bunk bed. Now it could receive subspace transmissions; a small red light flashed on the panel, and he realised Weyoun was trying to contact him. He felt annoyed, he had explicitly told Weyoun not to contact him unless in an absolute emergency. Standing up, he stretched his hand to activate the comm link. “What is it Weyoun? This had better be important.”
Weyoun seemed to flinch slightly at the commanding and disapproving tone in the shapeshifter’s voice. Weyoun bowed his head slightly. “Founder forgive my intrusion, but I wondered when you would be leaving the Defiant.”
“That Weyoun is none of your concern, I am staying on the Defiant for my own personal reasons.”
Weyoun looked pained and somewhat disappointed to hear this. “If you don't mind me asking, what are those reasons?”
Despite the humble way Weyoun asked the shapeshifter, the shapeshifter was deeply annoyed at Weyoun’s intrusion into his own privacy. “That is none of your concern,” he said coldly.
Weyoun bowed his slightly in shame. “Forgive me Founder, I am merely concerned for your safety, if the Defiant were-”
The shapeshifter was getting tired of Weyoun’s presence. “Enough,” he said commandingly. “Your concern for my safety is touching. However, you should focus on other things aside from my safety. I need you to send the thousand Jem'Hadar ships back to Dominion territory, while you and the Dominion flagship will stay on DS9.”
Weyoun bowed his head, in reverence. “Yes Founder.”
“That will be all.”
The transmission ended and the shapeshifter sat down, and returned to his study of the Dominion intelligence reports. In the back of his mind, he felt strange sitting down. As a changeling he had little use of the furniture that solids so loved to use. He also felt somewhat lonely, holding this solid form was something of an inconvenience, he wished he was back in the Great Link. However he was the leader of his people, there were certain duties he must perform and sacrifices he had to make...
Just when he was beginning to relax, the door chimed. He slammed the padd he was holding onto the table, he had specifically ordered his Jem’Hadar guards to turn away anybody, except for Ezri or Odo. “Enter!” said the shapeshifter in an annoyed voice.
Odo walked into the room, and the shapeshifter’s mood brightened. “Odo, come in!”
However Odo maintained some distance away from him. “I wanted to talk to you about you staying on board the Defiant.”
, thought the shapeshifter, he is always so formal
. “That's funny because I had a similar conversation with Weyoun just now.”
Odo dropped some of the formality, and it was replaced with a more urgent look. “Listen I urge you to leave the Defiant, this ship could be pursuing the renegade Jem'Hadar fleet for a very long time, at any moment the Jem'Hadar ships could turn around and attack! As long as you stay on this vessel, your life is in grave danger!”
“That is touching Odo, I'm glad you still care for our people.”
“Of course I've cared!” said Odo indignantly. “I have always cared, even when we were on opposite sides!”
The shapeshifter wasn't to go tell anybody why he wanted to stay on the Defiant, except for Ezri of course. However Odo was a changeling, and he couldn’t keep Odo in the dark about his intentions. “But you should know that I'm staying here firstly to find out where the renegade Jem'Hadar ships are heading, and more importantly I'm staying here to give you company. You haven't linked with a shapeshifter in over seventeen years!”
Now Odo looked cautiously at the shapeshifter. “You want me to return to the Great Link don't you?”
“Yes I do, by returning you can further enlighten us about the solids!”
“The answer is no, I have obligations to my family.”
Since Odo arrived, the shapeshifter felt the slight pangs of annoyance creep in, why couldn’t Odo willingly return to his people? “What about obligations to your own people?”
Odo briefly glanced to the left, he looked exasperated. “I have told you everything that you need to know about humanoids! You need to ask yourself why you still consider humanoids inferior life forms, if you can't answer that question then I cannot help you!”
Turning around, Odo then left the room, and the shapeshifter was going to call Odo back but something stopped him. He didn’t want to argue with Odo, for it would boil down to Odo’s love for the solid Kira.
There was a time when things were so easy for him, a time where it was easy to follow the precepts which Odo had laid down. But he was getting weary of those precepts, in a time when the Great Link was threatened, the old ways worked so much better. The shapeshifter thought that the galaxy had if anything became more chaotic since the Dominion became a peaceful state. If Odo did not return to the Great Link, his people would eventually abandon Odo’s precepts, and follow a much simpler precept: impose order to a chaotic galaxy, and control the solids by any means necessary.
Day 10, 0900 hours
Entering the Defiant’s bridge, Ezri was simultaneously walking and reading from a padd. The padd contained an important message from Starfleet, and Ezri was studying it carefully and considering the implications for the Defiant. As Ezri approached, Megan, who was in charge of the bridge crew, vacated the commander's chair. “What are you reading captain?”
Ezri looked up from the padd. “Starfleet has issued orders to recall most of the Federation fleet to the border, if the Jem'Hadar fleet leaves Federation territory. However the Defiant and fifty other Starfleet ships will continue to pursue the Jem'Hadar.”
She sat down on the captain's chair. “What is our current status Ms Felpes?”
Megan had now returned to her station, and was checking the sensor readings. “The Jem'Hadar fleet is maintaining its speed of warp 9.5, the Defiant and the Federation fleet have gained slightly on the Jem'Hadar fleet, but the gain is negligible, it's about less than a kilometre.”
Max suddenly spoke up. “Where, oh where are these Jem'Hadar going? I'm starting to quite sick of looking at their tail-end.”
Ezri decided to remind Max why they were pursuing the Jem’Hadar. “It's a sight you better get used to, we're following the Jem'Hadar ships until they arrive at their destination.”
For a moment Ezri thought about the Starfleet message, she then realised there was one thing she had forgotten to do. She got up from the chair and moved over to Odo’s station. Ezri braced herself against the bulkhead with her hand, she wanted to have a private discussion. Odo glanced up as he noticed Ezri’s shadow.
Ezri kept her voice quiet as she issued to Odo some orders. “Odo I want you to send a message to DS9, tell colonel Kira that the Defiant will continue to pursue the Jem'Hadar fleet, even if it leaves Federation territory. Send to Kira the Defiant's current course and the predicted course that the Jem'Hadar fleet will travel. Also tell her that the threat to DS9 is gone, and that the civilians can return back to the station.”
“Captain, what should I tell Kira concerning when the Defiant will return home?”
“Tell her that the Defiant will be gone for at least two weeks, and that it will only return when it has tracked down the destination of the Jem'Hadar fleet. That will be all.”
Leaving Odo’s station, Ezri returned to her chair, she suspected that this chase could last for a few days and become very boring. But she wouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security, at any point the Jem’Hadar fleet could turn around and attack the Defiant. If the Jem’Hadar fleet reached its destination, there may be dozens if not hundreds of Tren ships awaiting the Defiant and the fifty Starfleet ships. If that happened, Ezri was going to high tail it all the way back to DS9.
Day 11, 1600 hours
It had been over two days since the battle with the renegade Jem’Hadar fleet. While Kira was relieved that the station and Bajor was safe, she was worried for the Defiant. There had been no word from the Defiant ever since the battle. Since Ezri was gone, Kira was in command of the station, she made sure that Quark was on his toes and didn’t try to steal everything that wasn’t nailed down.
The evacuation order was still in place, and Kira missed her children, as they were on Bajor. She trusted that Mia would take care of Deru. For the past two days Kira had been trying to contact admiral Ross, she hoped that Ross would have some more information about the Defiant. Today she managed to procure some time to contact Ross, with the renegade Jem’Hadar fleet still in Federation territory, Ross was a busy man.
In the commander's office, Kira was at the desk, gazing into the laptop displaying the comm link. “Admiral, has there been any word from the Defiant?”
Ross looked very tired, it seemed he hadn’t slept for over two days. “No, but deep space sensors indicate that the Defiant and the Federation fleet are just on the outskirts of Federation territory.”
“Will the Defiant be returning home if the renegade Jem'Hadar fleet leaves Federation territory?”
“Sadly it won't be. If the Jem'Hadar fleet leaves Federation territory, then most of the ships in the Federation fleet will maintain position along the border. However, the Defiant along with fifty other Starfleet ships will be pursuing the Jem'Hadar fleet.”
“Are you sure that's wise admiral?” There was a tremendous amount of caution in Kira’s voice. “No one knows where the Jem'Hadar are heading, they could be going into Tren territory! Not only that, the Defiant will come very close to Breen territory!”
Ross looked somewhat annoyed by Kira’s mild objection. “I don't believe the Jem'Hadar fleet will enter Breen territory. Besides this is an opportunity to find out where the Tren originate from in this galaxy! The Tren ships have to be taking the Jem'Hadar fleet to a base of theirs, if they do so then the Federation will have some idea of how close Tren territory is to the Federation! Remember colonel you should be thankful that the Jem'Hadar didn't attack DS9 or Bajor! Ross out.”
Kira jabbed a keyboard command on the laptop to turn it off, the moment her conversation ended, did Nog enter the room. He seemed to have been waiting for Kira’s conversation with admiral Ross to finish.
Nog was holding a padd. “Colonel, I received a message from the Defiant, it's addressed directly to you.”
He gave the padd to Kira. She took it and read the message, after reading it she could not believe the foolishness of what Ezri was doing. With slightly shaking hands she lowered the padd and placed it upon her desk.
“Is something wrong?” asked Nog.
Some of her true feelings must have showed on her face, if Nog could glean her emotional state. “The Defiant is going to be away for at least two weeks, it will be accompanied by fifty other Starfleet ships as they pursue the Jem'Hadar fleet.”
“You don't approve of what Ezri is doing?” said Nog shrewdly.
Disapprove was mildly putting it for Kira. “I think it's incredibly dangerous, the Defiant will be entering unknown space, for we all know there could be a vast chunk of Tren territory, an empire or something! It will be a perfect opportunity for the Jem'Hadar or the Tren to ambush the Defiant!”
“Your concerned about Ezri and Odo aren't you?”
Nog had touched upon Kira’s real concern. “Yes I am, Ezri is my friend, and if she dies she would have thrown away her life and Odo’s for nothing.”
“Ezri is not stupid, I don't think she will indefinitely follow the Jem'Hadar fleet. She won't deliberately put her crew's lives at risk for a doubtful reason.”
Nog left the room, while Kira admired his faith in the captain. She thought that the captain was taking a risk in pursuing an opportunity to find out where the Tren were based. She hoped Ezri had the sense to back down when the stakes became to high and to dangerous.
Day 18, 1230 hours
It was lunch break, and nearly all of the Defiant’s crew were in the mess hall. Usually the atmosphere was a lively and content one in the mess hall, but not so today. Megan was eating with Max and Odo, though Odo of course wasn’t having anything, he simply joined for the company.
Megan looked up from her lunch. “Look at this crew,” she said quietly. “They're so nervous and tense, you can see it in their eyes.”
Max looked around before resting his eyes on one particular crew member. “They don't look nervous to me.”
“Just listen for a moment...”
With a sight, Max moved his eyes upwards slightly, before listening to the room. “It's quieter...” he said, after a moment.
“Precisely,” said Megan, she had to get this point over to Max. “People are whispering because everyone is on red alert mode and waiting for trouble to happen!”
Max’s eyebrows rose in apparent doubt of Megan’s observation. “What do you think Odo?”
“Megan's right, I've never seen the mood like this before, it seems the crew's faith in Ezri is faltering.”
There was a somewhat nervous expression on Max's face. “Are you saying there's going to a crew mutiny?” He added a small nervous laugh, as if trying to pretend that a crew mutiny was just wishful thinking on Odo's part.
Megan held unto her fork, and as she spoke she used it to emphasise her points. “Look at this way, the Defiant is far from Federation territory and it's been chasing the Jem'Hadar fleet for over a week, there seems to be no end in sight to this pursuit! The deeper we go into unknown territory the greater the danger to the Defiant! No wonder nerves are getting frayed, it doesn't help with the shapeshifter on board. What do you think he's doing Odo?”
At the very mention of the shapeshifter, Odo seemed to suddenly tense up. “He's staying here because he is curious about where the renegade Jem'Hadar are travelling to.” Odo paused, before continuing in a rather stiff and uptight voice. “Also he seems to think that I need some company with my own people.”
Megan thought the shapeshifter’s observation was an accurate one. “You have been away from the Great Link for about seventeen years, I mean it is your home and you must miss it surely?”
Odo seemed positively tense, he was not liking where the conversation was going. “I'd rather not talk about my people at the moment, excuse me, I must return to duty.”
With that Odo got up and left the Mess Hall.
While Max stared at Odo in apparent surprise, Megan was brooding, she held her hands against her chin. She could not understand Odo’s hostility towards a member of his own race.
“What was that all about?” said Max, after a moment’s silence.
Megan looked wearily at Max. “I think it's not only the crew that are tense, look at Odo, I've never seen him so... I don't know... brooding and almost hostile.”
Max looked understanding, and Megan gave him a small smile and Max returned it. She always liked to talk to Max, he was a very level guy, and sometimes humorous at times. If anyone could make Megan laugh it was Max, she was deeply glad that she had Max for a friend.
Without Max, she would have been incredibly lonely, though now she was starting to feel more comfortable talking to other people besides Max. Always though in the back of her mind, were the memories of Bordak and the Tau Primia prison, she was slowly coming to accept the pain of those memories, and they now didn’t feel so raw and terrible.