This story is the origin of the Mirror Universe in the Sigils/SigCat continuity, as I started to tell in The Lightless Ends of the World, a crossover between the SigCat universe and Gul Re'jal's Shaping a Cardassian universe. I highly recommend our co-authored story as a "gateway" to Gul Re'jal's works! I set the scene here first with an excerpt from part of the story where I first hinted at what I thought about the Mirror Universe in Sigils/SigCat. The second part is the prompt response. The characters you see here are the Sigils and Unions-universe Sisko (that universe being my continuation of the canon universe), and the Catacombs of Oralius version of Dukat...a far kinder, gentler man than Gul Dukat even hallucinated that he was. Though AU Dukat by necessity a resistance fighter in his universe--the truth is he is a rather quiet, sensitive person when not on the battlefield. Catacombs of Oralius is my take on the universe seen in TNG's "Parallels" where Cardassian and Bajoran roles are reversed. Because I put the Mirror Universe's point of divergence before where I have the SigCat universe split off, this tale is true of all of my universes. ----------------------- Excerpt from The Lightless Ends of the World: After a moment of scrutinizing the Cardassian—the human smiled as if amazed by the words he was about to speak. “Welcome, Dukat. I must say, this is an unexpected potentiality. And a pleasure.” Dukat tilted his head as he tried to place this man and quickly gave up. “Who are you?” “I am Sisko. And I am of…” The human paused, his smile dimming slightly. “I am of another potentiality,” he decided. “One where you and I were not fortunate enough to meet in this way.” Dukat remembered what Jarol had said about visions…and a certain human man…and he thought he understood. “You’re a Prophet.” He wasn’t sure how that thought made him feel: awed? Repulsed? Shaken? Sisko shrugged. “In a manner of speaking. Listen…Dukat, you were right that this kind of power is beyond what can be safely handled. The Orb that brought you here has…a history—one that on one occasion did a world catastrophic damage from which it may never recover. The Bajorans in your universe suspected this in some way, and they hoped to harness what was left of this Orb. But there has been an intervention, and because of it, they failed. Even so—Dukat, the Prophets want your memory to be erased.” To Dukat, it seemed as if the temperature in the room had dropped to match the chill of the void. “No…” he whispered, with a vehement shake of the head as if to dislodge the remembered hiss of a hypo. “Don’t do that to me!” Sisko reached towards Dukat, though he kept his hand just beyond range. “I told them you would want a choice. That you deserved a choice. It is still too dangerous to let anyone carry the knowledge into your universe that the weapon created a fissure…even you. But there is a compromise I can offer. You can keep the core of the memories—things you felt, what it meant to you—but with…a loss of detail, like something experienced while your disciplines are not in operation.” “A dream. Or a vision.” “Close enough,” Sisko replied. “The essence would remain true. But the lost Bajorans cannot be allowed to know what they have wrought.” Dukat’s eye ridges lowered in dread. “How much will I lose?” “Your mind is…quite resilient. Some will surely remain. But names—details…the understanding of where you have truly been…those will fade.” The last thing Dukat wanted was to accept even the slightest tampering with his memories. With his awareness. But this was different—this Sisko, whoever, or whatever he was, had offered him something else. Consent. Dukat contemplated in silence. He relived moment after moment in full clarity for one last time, and Sisko waited without the slightest trace of impatience, as if time held no meaning to him. He debated the merits and the consequences to himself…to his world. To his family. ----------------------- Writing Prompt Response: "A Dark Creation Tale" The being known as Sisko regarded the softspoken, desert-robed version of Dukat who stood before him, contemplating the possibility of having his memories of this crossing between universes excised by the Prophets. Sisko knew from his time in life that he wouldn't have cared one bit for that if he had been in this Dukat's place, and he felt for the gentle being. Those are some adjectives I never thought I'd apply to a man with that DNA, Sisko thought to himself. But this Dukat had somehow escaped the fate of so many of his counterparts. Had never sold his soul piece by piece by piece until he became nothing more than a vessel of evil spirits, just like Fra Alberigo in Dante's Inferno, who betrayed his guests and his soul descended into hell while his body still walked the earth. True, Gul Dukat had betrayed his people to his guests, rather than betraying his guests like Alberigo had, but the essential nature of the crime--the abuse of a relationship entered into voluntarily--was the same, and Dukat had suffered the same fate Dante had imagined. Sisko would never have believed it if he hadn't had the Prophets' eyes to read the long-haired Cardassian's timeline, and to catch a fleeting glimpse here and there of his more eternal lines. Sisko gave thanks for those lines...for this Skrain Dukat's time to live was far, far too short. Too short for a human. Especially too short for a Cardassian. Sisko kept his lips sealed, though; Dukat had far too many burdens to bear in his own universe to bear one more like that. Sisko well knew what it was like to live, as one of the timebound, under the dread of such a prophecy. He knew better. This Dukat's universe, from a purely Bajoran standpoint, might have looked as though it could have gone as badly as the one twisted so many years ago by the Orb of Potentialities, the first Orb ever sent to Bajor, tens of thousands of years before the Orbs whose prophecies were traditionally recited on Bajor. But evil would not triumph there even with the Pah-Wraiths ascendant on Bajor, for where evil might have been found in one place in greater proportions than in his own universe--good could be found in other places. Like the Cardassia from which this alter-Dukat came. That other universe, though--to which the entire sheaf of universes Sisko, this Dukat, and Gul Jarol all inhabited, was inextricably linked--had no chance, save for the souls of a small remnant scattered from world to world. All of that suffering...that unimaginable suffering, that bloodbath, that bitterness...all of it had come thanks to an aggressively ambitious Bajoran kai who thought he could create paradise in his time. Just another lie like "peace in our time," Sisko thought to himself. One more self-righteous idiot who forgot we, those who are less than infinite, live in a corrupt world and a corrupt nature. Except this one destroyed an entire universe. Even the acts of genocide Gul Dukat had hoped to carry out, and many others throughout the galaxy had succeeded in carrying out--paled to what that kai had done. He had hoped, through the Orb of Potentialities, to influence another universe into resisting the first fall from grace while forgetting that he himself was fallen. Instead of creating the paradise of which he dreamed--the corruption in his soul, that even touched his world-bound idea of what a paradise really was, spread like a virus throughout the other universe, magnifying its corruption to extremes found in no other universe. And that universe, like every other where sentient life had taken root, spawned its own entire sheaf of universes. All suffering. All decaying at a rate unprecedented in any other universal group. When Vedek B'hala found out what his kai had done, a horrific war broke out on Bajor that destroyed its first civilization--a blow from which Bajor never truly recovered until the First Republic. A city had been named in honor of B'hala, when his forces finally wrested control away from the kai and destroyed the Orb the kai had sought to preserve...and this even after his apocalyptic atrocity. No honors remained for the kai--his name stricken from history so thoroughly that no record even mentioned him, or the Orb. Only the whispered tales of a few. And the Prophets had not injected Orbs into the timeline again until a point where the other Orb--the very memory of it--had been almost completely obliterated and deemed heretical by the establishment. One fragment had found its way to the Sirah of a village Sisko had visited once as a human. Even the tiny fragment of the Orb of Potentialities that had survived to become the Sirah's talisman remained capable of creating awful realities out of the terrors that lurked in the corners of sentient hearts. It galled Sisko, to understand exactly what that first Sirah had done, what the tool he used ostensibly to 'unite his village' had once wrought. Another fragment made it to an Obsidian Order lab. God only knew the horrors they would have inflicted on the universes, if they had figured out how to release its power. A third fragment...on the Bajor of alter-Dukat's universe...the Pah-Wraith-dominated Bajorans had tried to weaponize the fragment. And they had done the very thing the Orb had been destroyed to prevent: breached the boundaries between universes once more. That could not stand. The Bajorans of his world could never know that they had succeeded, for if they continued down this path, they could by Orb and technology create another horror just like the worlds the ancient kai had twisted. How fortunate--how blessed they were--that timeline could be averted...if Dukat would just make the right choice! In the worlds the kai had warped, acts of mercy seemed not to last in the grand scheme of things--to peter out far earlier than they ought to. A few individuals here and there might survive...a few souls might rise above the mire...but the twin viceroys of those universes, death and chaos, held sway there with a force they had managed in no other worlds. Saul of Tarsus, for instance, had seen the vision but only briefly turned from his ways. The descendants of Petrite, Barnabite, and Jamite refugees had fled Europe for America hoping for freedom from the constant waves of fighting and persecutions that had wracked Europe since the fall of Rome and Byzantium in the 3rd century. But when one of the Founding Fathers, George Washington, chose elevation to President for life, he had established the beginnings of the Terran Empire. So many worlds had gone like that in the corrupted universe: Vulcan, Andor, Cardassia, and Qo'NoS...all twisted. All with histories just as warped as that of Earth. The Ferengi were trying...but there was no telling how long they would hold out. How long they would last before they, just like so many who had struggled for faith, hope, and love, had perished, leaving only a pitiful and trembling remnant behind. Sisko regarded the Cardassian before him once more. Please, Dukat. I know how much it hurts you...especially after what Vedek Tora did to you...to think of having any tampering to your memory. But your Bajorans can't know what they've done. They can't start to dream of possibilities like this again. This is for the sake of your world, that they not twist it into a dark mirror of itself. And mine, and all of our worlds. But Sisko knew there was hope. For this kindhearted Dukat came from a universe where mercy's legacy lived on even after life was cut short.