Set in April 2374, at the end of the DS9 episode Statistical Probabilities Prologue “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” - Confucius April 2374 Cargo Bay Four Deep Space Nine It starts like this. A man wakes up in a cargo bay. He is tied to a chair, his head lolling down against his chest. He is handsome, his dark hair cropped close on the top of his head, his cheeks clean shaven and still a little boyish. The green sweater he wears beneath the black and grey uniform jacket shows he is a doctor. He comes to and looks around. It takes him a moment to get his bearings, to remember what happened - the argument, the blow to the head. And now he is here. Tied up. Helpless. This is how it starts. XXX Doctor Julian Bashir groaned. Unable to reach his comm badge, he tried to activate the internal communication’s system. “Computer!” Nothing happened. Shaking his head to clear the last traces of his headache, he tried again. “Computer, respond!” He waited another beat, but there was still no answer. He lifted his head fully, glancing around the room again. For a moment, he imagined he saw Sarina sat in a chair opposite him, staring at him silently. An echo of a whisper of a dream. Then it was gone and he was alone. Bashir groaned again. Pulling on his bonds, he tried to detach himself. Normally, his genetically enhanced strength should have allowed him to find some way of breaking them, but he had forgotten who he was dealing with. Jack knew exactly what to do to keep him in place. Allowing his head to fall back, he spoke to the Gods, to the Prophets, to the Fates. “Jack, what have you done?” No one answered. Storage Bay Deck 7 Damar fidgeted. Standing next to Weyoun in the storage bay, hiding amongst the crates and containers, he wondered how his life had led him here. Two years before, he had been Glinn Damar, serving as Gul Dukat’s right hand man aboard a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. Now he was the leader of the Cardassian Union, the man who had to play a game with the devil and try not to get burned. He shook his head. He never wanted this. Not any of it. The sound of footsteps approaching along the corridor outside caused both of them to freeze, almost holding their breath as they waited to see if it was their contact. Or Starfleet Security. Slowly, the noise faded, and Damar began to fidget again. After a few more moments, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Where are they?” Weyoun glanced at him with those disconcerting violet eyes. “Calm down, Damar. They’ll be here.” Damar glowered at him, but he stopped talking, stewing silently. For about a minute. “This is ridiculous!” he burst out finally. “Sneaking into a storage bay for a secret meeting - - I’m not some agent of the Obsidian Order, I’m the leader of the Cardassian Empire!” The damned Vorta sneered. He actually sneered. “Don’t let it got to your head.” He looked away, that self-satisfied smile back on his face. “You serve at the Dominion’s pleasure.” I certainly don’t serve at mine, he thought, bristling, but not daring to say it aloud. At the end of the day, Weyoun was right. The Vorta and his shape-shifting mistress had cast Dukat aside faster than a Cardassian vole cast aside her young. He had no illusions that they would do the same to him if he gave them reason. At least while he remained in the position, he could do some good for the Cardassian people. He turned back to see Weyoun was smiling. “Besides, I think it’s exciting.” Damar rolled his eyes safely behind the Vorta’s back. The man was a fool. If it hadn’t been for Weyoun, Dukat would have kept his grip on Terok Nor, Damar was sure of it. Instead, the Dominion was on the back foot for the first time since the war began, and they were tightening their grip around Cardassia. If things didn’t change soon… His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door opening nearby. Footsteps approached their position. Damar couldn’t help tensing slightly, though whether in fear or anticipation, even he didn’t know. “They’re here.” Both men stepped out from their hiding place. Damar saw who was there and he almost laughed. Four humans stood in the walkway between piles of containers. A male stood out in front, grinning wildly, his moustache the only distinguishing feature on his face. He waved a PADD around, brandishing it like a martial stick. Behind him stood another man, rotund but nervous, wringing his hands and glancing every which way as if he expected an attack to come at any moment. Two women stood on either side of him - one a frail blond with a vacant expression, the other a dark-haired, voluptuous siren who gazed at Damar with barely disguised interest. “Interesting,” Weyoun said. The moustached man stopped smiling. He glanced downwards, biting his nail. “Interesting? Interesting he said. Why does he think it’s interesting? Its not interesting, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity!” Damar held back a sigh. Wonderful. They had been contacted by a group of insane humans. “Who are they?” Weyoun’s eyes remained fixed on the group. “I have no idea.” The dark-haired female pushed past the two men, approaching Damar with a slinky, sensuous swivel of her hips. One finger tapped her lower lip, her breasts thrust out. “I’ll be whoever you want me to be, handsome.” Damar snorted and turned to Weyoun. “This is a waste of…” “No!” The moustached man shouted. He pushed the woman back, putting himself back in the prominent position. “Not a waste. A waste would be all of those lives lost. That’s what we have to stop. Yes, yes, that’s it.” “You are the one who contacted us?” Again, he looked down to the side. “Call themselves genetically engineered? Not smart enough, no no, not smart enough.” He looked back at Weyoun as if the Vorta hadn’t heard him. “Of course I am! Who were you expecting? Constable Odo, hm, hm?” He laughed, a shrill sound that set Damar’s teeth on edge. He’d had enough of this. “I’m leaving.” Weyoun held up a hand, striking Damar lightly on the chest. As much as he hated doing it, he stopped. “You said you had information that could be very beneficial to us.” The moustached man waved the PADD at the Vorta. “Yes, yes. Information, hm, hm? Information to help you stop the war.” Damar felt an uneasy feeling settle in the pit of his stomach. “It’s a trap,” he hissed, turning to Weyoun. “It has to be. Sisko, setting us up.” “Perhaps,” the Vorta drawled. “Still. It can’t hurt to take a look.” He took a step forward, putting his hand out. The moustached man hesitated for a moment, then he lay the PADD in the Vorta’s hand. Weyoun lifted it, glancing at the scrolling text. Damar saw his eyes thin, then he looked at the moustached man. Back at the PADD. Back at the human. Finally, he looked back at the PADD, his eyes widening. “Weyoun…” The Vorta ignored him, his pupils darting rapidly across the screen. He began to push buttons on the PADD, scrolling from a set of schematics to a series of numbers to what appeared to be a memorandum. Damar saw a rare smile appear on Weyoun’s face. “Damar, I think this man has just handed us the Alpha Quadrant.” Damar frowned. The Vorta’s smile widened and he handed the PADD over. Damar began to read, his heart beating faster as he realised what he held in his hand. Minutes later, he looked up at the Vorta. “Is this…” “Battle plans. Ships schematics. Fleet deployments. Shield frequency codes and classified weapon schematics. Everything we need to see the Dominion victorious.” Damar stared at the Vorta for a long moment. With this… With this information, the Alpha Quadrant would be in their hands in a matter of years. Months even. He looked at the moustached man to see him nodding along manically. And, slowly, Damar began to laugh. Ops Captain Benjamin Sisko strode out of his office and out into the Cardassian monstrosity that was Ops. “What is it old man?” he asked, replying to the hail that had pulled him from behind his desk. Jadzia Dax looked up at him, a frown on her face. “Captain, Weyoun and Damar have just beamed aboard their vessel. It is pulling away from the station.” Sisko surveyed Ops with an experienced eye. Commander Worf stood behind the tactical station, Kira at his elbow probably studying the readouts from the departing Dominion ship. All the other stations were manned, everyone calmly carrying out their tasks. Odo stood down in the lower portion of the command centre. Sisko walked over to Jadzia’s science station. “What is going on?” “I don’t know but…” She turned to look up at him, confusion and a little fear wavering in her eyes. “I’m picking up four human lifesigns aboard.” She looked back at her console, hesitating for a moment. “I think… I think it’s Jack and his friends.” Sisko didn’t hesitate, reaching up to tap his combadge. “Sisko to Bashir.” He waited a moment, but there was no response. He tapped the badge again. “Sisko to Cargo Bay Four.” There was still no response. Sisko turned and nodded to Odo. The constable inclined his head slightly and headed for the turbolift. “On my way,” he called over his shoulder. As Odo vanished down the turbolift tube, Sisko glanced at his old friend. “What the hell is going on?” Cargo Bay Four Julian stopped struggling against his bonds as the doors to the cargo bay opened. When he saw Odo rush in, he felt a surge of relief. They must have found Jack. He must have told them where… His hopes vanished as four Bajoran militia officers rushed in behind the constable, fanning out around the room. Their phasers were at the ready, covering every angle of the cargo bay. They were obviously looking for Jack and the others. “Tell me you caught Jack,” Bashir asked, hoping against hope, as Odo moved over behind him and began to untie the ropes that held him in place. Odo finished untying his bonds and stepped round in front of him, shaking his head. “Sorry Doctor. But don’t worry, I’m sure the Dominion won’t hurt them.” Bashir surged to his feet, rubbing at his wrists. “No, you don’t understand. Jack… He stole the PADD with the classified information Starfleet Intelligence provided us. He has battle plans, fleet deployments, planetary defence codes… He has everything the Dominion need to win the war.” Even Odo’s normally expressionless face took on a fearful cast. “If that ship reaches Dominion space…” Bashir nodded. “We’re done for.” XXX This is how it ends. Two men stood in an empty cargo bay, picturing the years that are yet to come. The blood and the death. The pain and the screams. The fire and the fall. This is how it ends. This is how it starts. This is how we fell.