Alpha Zone One Spacedock (formerly Earth Spacedock)
Galor-class Cardassian Warship Trager
Stardate 57415.84 (January 8, 2381)
Weyoun, Vorta diplomat and occupation coordinator extraordinaire
, had absolutely no idea what he had done to deserve such awful treatment from those who possessed his eternal allegiance. Had Weyoun not served the Founders well in helping to prosecute the overwhelmingly successful war against the Federation? Had he failed in some way while negotiating the surrender of Earth? Where had he gone wrong?
Perhaps, Weyoun thought gravely, his conflicts with Dukat over how best to deal with the conquered population of Earth had displeased his masters. He regretted all of the times he had convinced himself not to have Dukat killed in a transporter ‘accident.’ The Cardassians lacked finesse, really. It was quite a shame that they were such important players in the Alpha Quadrant. Still, Weyoun knew he was inextricably linked to Dukat; now more than ever, the two’s fortunes were linked--for better or for worse.
All the more reason to succeed in this mission, Weyoun reasoned. After the inexplicable ‘melting’ of the captured U.S.S. Voyager
and its crew several months before, Dominion scientists from all over the quadrant had convened to discuss how something so extraordinary had occurred. After weeks of debate, a consensus had been reached. The Voyager
and its crew were biomimetic copies of a real Federation starship, one that had presumably been lost before the war. Somehow, this very real copy had made it through an unstable wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant—only to find the Federation crumbled into dust.
But surprisingly, after its capture and initial study, the ship had simply…dissolved. The problem for the Dominion lay in the fact that until its dissolution, Voyager
was quite real. Everything--its hull, its decks, and its weapons—all of it was very much real, until it wasn’t.
So one night, soon after this consensus had been reached, the Founder present on Earth had laid out an absolutely logical scenario for Weyoun and Dukat. It had been hard to argue with—not that Weyoun would have even dared.
“We know the Federation had been testing quantum slipstream drives before the war ended,” the Founder had stated. “Our intelligence indicates that a few ships may have escaped into other quadrants of the galaxy after Andoria.”
“So they may very well have,” Dukat had said dismissively. “A few vessels scattered throughout the galaxy do not pose a threat to us.”
“Perhaps not,” the Founder had replied. “But imagine those scattered vessels had conceived of a way to create biomimetic copies of Federation starships, and had pioneered the use of artificial wormholes to transport them to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Dukat had sneered. “I mean, you’re talking about ships that undoubtedly took heavy damage during the war.”
Weyoun had winced at Dukat’s tone. How the Founder hadn’t had him disintegrated into a particle mist was beyond his comprehension.
“Yes,” the Founder had said, her voice heavily laden with sarcasm and contempt. “But as I recall, these same heavily damaged ships were coming up with innovative ways to destroy Cardassian warships right up until the final surrender. Even with the Federation defeated, we must not underestimate the cleverness of whatever remains of Starfleet.”
Weyoun had cut off the inevitable retort from Dukat. “Founder, your logic is, as always, irrefutable. What is it you intend to do, and how can we assist you in carrying out your plan?”
“Legate Dukat, you will lead a fleet to the Delta Quadrant,” the Founder had answered. “You will retrace the steps of the biomimetic vessel to its origin point, based on the sensor readings we had the good fortune to record before the vessel’s dissolution.”
Dukat had railed against the decision. “This is preposterous! I have duties on this planet that cannot be simply…postponed…to spend years—decades!—searching for an ephemeral threat from a defeated enemy.”
“The choice is not yours to make, Legate Dukat,” the Founder had replied coldly. “The Dominion feels your duties on Sol III can now be transferred to another officer.”
“I disagree!” Dukat had cried out. “When the war began, I was promised Earth. And for over four years—“
“That is quite enough, Dukat,” the Founder had hissed. But the effect had been chilling; it was as if the room temperature itself had dropped ten degrees. Dukat, miraculously, had stopped talking.
“Make no mistake,” the Founder had continued. “Sol III will be waiting for you upon your return. In the meantime, you will carry out your orders.” The changeling appeared to deeply sigh. “The last thing we need is biomimetic Federation starships suddenly appearing in our territory with warp core breaches or self-destruct devices engaged. Perhaps this threat is ephemeral. Perhaps the Voyager
was just an anomaly. We cannot be sure until we see for ourselves.”
“Yes, Founder,” Weyoun had agreed. “When will Legate Dukat be leaving with his fleet to address this potential threat?”
The Founder had smiled grimly. “We will be outfitting a combined Cardassian and Jem’Hadar fleet with captured Starfleet quantum slipstream devices, along with cloaking devices. Speed is essential, but there is no point in provoking the Borg, should they appear.” The Founder had turned to Weyoun. “I need you to go with Legate Dukat, my loyal Weyoun. He will need a liaison between his crew and the Jem’Hadar, and I can think of no one better to lead the Jem’Hadar contingent to the Delta Quadrant.”
For once, Weyoun had been rendered speechless. And now, months later, the Vorta stood on the bridge of the Cardassian vessel that would lead the Dominion fleet into the largely unexplored Delta Quadrant.
Weyoun expected no reward for his service, but did he really have to be punished?
“So, Weyoun,” Dukat had called from his command post on the bridge. “Are you ready to begin the next step of our glorious service to the Dominion?”
Weyoun forced a smile. “Yes. I can only hope that you are fully committed to the success of this mission.”
Dukat laughed. “Why, of course I am, Weyoun!” The Cardassian joined him at the aft section of the bridge and said quietly, “Make no mistake--I will return to Earth to continue the occupation, and I will do it my way.”
Weyoun did not respond, and Dukat said, loudly for everyone to hear: “But in all honesty, I embrace the opportunity to return to space.” He gestured at the viewscreen. “The stars beckon, my dear Weyoun. Shall we meet them?”
Weyoun stared at Dukat incredulously. “I’m afraid I will never understand your taste for the…delusionally grandiose, Dukat.”
Dukat ignored this, and took his place at the command post once again. “Open a channel to Spacedock Control,” he ordered.
“Channel open,” a Cardassian officer replied.
“This is Legate Dukat, requesting permission to depart.”
On the viewscreen, a bored-looking Vorta, sitting at a control panel, nodded and said in a voice without inflection, “Permission granted. May the Founders be with you. Spacedock out.”
Dukat frowned. “Not quite the parting words I expected.”
“This is a classified mission,” Weyoun said. “As far as he knows, we are just going out for wargaming exercises.”
“I see,” Dukat said, licking his lips. “Helm! Set a course for heading 750, mark 5, warp factor four. Have the fleet confirm heading and velocity.”
“Aye, sir.” The helm officer tapped at his console. “The fleet confirms, Legate.”
“Engage,” Dukat ordered. The ships leapt into warp.
In the Engineering section of the Trager
, Ezri Tigan monitored the status of the fleet’s slipstream drives, which were now powering up in a synchronized fashion across the fleet. Two Jem’Hadar soldiers flanked her. Not taking any chances
, she thought.
“Dukat to Engineering,” the comm system chirped.
“Engineering,” a bulky Cardassian answered. “All systems at peak efficiency, Legate.”
“Good. I wish to speak to the Trill.”
The Cardassian engineer rolled his eyes and walked away. Tigan tapped her communicator. “Tigan here.”
“Hello, Ezri,” the voice over the comm system purred. “I require a report on the status of the slipstream drive.”
“The system is powering up according to established parameters, Legate,” Tigan replied. How easy would it be to overload the system, and send this entire fleet to Hell?
The thought quickly disappeared from her mind. The fleet would simply be replaced, and her death would be in vain.
“How long until we can engage the drive?”
Tigan checked her calculations. “Two minutes, thirteen seconds…” She gritted her teeth. “Sir.”
And as the fleet departed Sol System, one by one the Dominion vessels entered the slipstream. Within seconds, they were all on their way to the distant Delta Quadrant—and whatever lay there in wait.