Star Trek: Sigils and Unions AU “The Nature of the Beast” Author’s Note: This story is written in an AU based on my main Sigils and Unions universe, and looks at a possibility of what could’ve happened if the Dominion had won—however, I envision the turning point in the war as being something else in “Sacrifice of Angels”: a life spared (Ziyal), and a life ended (Odo). Whether the Sisko lives, I do not know…but if he has died, it could explain a lot as well. I was inspired in this challenge by Captain Sarine’s descriptions in his entry from last month of the conflict in her hybrid Vorta Peekar’s mind…I wondered what would happen if a conflict like that spread over an entire race. With his gracious permission, I submit this stream-of-consciousness remembrance to you as my entry for January. Without the author’s note, I have a word count of 4936. We won. We finally won. The question now is how we live, in our victory. Unlike the Klingons and Romulans, who were hunted down across the galaxy and devastated to the point that their species are without hope of survival, we actually lived with most of our population intact, once they broke Starfleet. Some worlds weren’t so lucky, even in what used to be the Federation. The Andorians, too, were destroyed, as well as other species deemed ‘too militant’ to be allowed the privilege of existing. The Bajorans…they lived in conditions worse than the Cardassian Occupation, in revenge for one of their number killing the “renegade Founder,” Odo, for treason against the resistance back on Terok Nor—I mean Deep Space Nine. As for us…as for humanity, or whatever we are now, they wanted us alive. We found out in recent years why it was…the Dominion had been suffering incursions along its furthest borders for years, and besides them, we had the best record of defeating the Borg of any other known race. Of course, all of Starfleet had a part in it, but they saw Picard and Data, designed by a human, and decided that we, specifically, were what they needed. Lucky us. We were supposed to be their innovators, our minds given over to the effort against the Borg. So they had to control us somehow—but it was thought that too much would destroy the very trait for which we had been cultivated. That ruled out the outright Founder-worship genes installed in the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar; it was thought that degree of control would destroy whatever it was they sought in us. Some people call it the Graft, or the Change. Some people with a particularly ironic sense of humor call it the Cataclysm, after the climate shift on Cardassia Prime. Unlike the worship-gene, the Graft was supposed to have been an investment in time, its efficacy the combined effect of the new genetic inheritance and indoctrination techniques developed for it by the Cardassians. It wasn’t our generation, the one that fought the war all those years ago and remembered the way we used to be, that they were counting on…it was our children, and the generations after that in perpetuity. The vector for the Graft was a virus, tailor-made for the human race. Its genetic payload was carried in a shell much like the common cold, except it had an extremely long dormancy period…over a year, in some cases. The Dominion may have successfully contained our military, but there were so many worlds where we lived that they had to be sure the virus would spread before we realized what was happening to us…because, the fear was, without the Graft, humanity was quixotic, unpredictable, and there was no telling just how hard we’d fight. And if we did that…well, the Dominion would be forced to destroy their precious anti-Borg resources. Oh, so sorry! By the time the symptoms and the genetic alterations started showing up, it was too late—we’d already had a year of “free” travel between our worlds: heavily monitored by the Vorta, of course, and likely engineered to ensure the spread of the Graft. What we’d thought was a token show of “benevolence” for the end of hostilities was instead the tool by which they thought they’d hold us hostage forever. In some ways, I was fortunate. Being on the front lines at the end of the war, I had no way to know what was about to happen to me, no idea—as some later knew—of what I was spreading everywhere once I got back to Earth. I also can’t remember the night they say I went into seizures as the new neurological structures that had been weaving themselves in my brain decided they were ready to come online. It seems sudden now, talking about it, but the brain has no pain receptors; only excess pressure or cognitive and sensory abnormalities could tip you off. Or, of course, seizures. When I woke up, I didn’t really know at first what had changed. I didn’t feel that different—it was only when I started to really interact with people as I was about to be released from the hospital that I realized what had happened. I thought I was insane at first…it felt logical, but not human as we defined it then. I felt this force…something like a compulsion but not quite that, this nagging sensation of when to submit, to obey, when to command, how to show these in barely-conscious ways and how to read it in others. You should’ve seen the clamor when I reported all of this. The human doctor in charge of my care was horrified…he knew what this represented, or at least he strongly suspected. He was raising Cain around the hospital—he wanted a quarantine, he wanted to treat me, to do something, but the Vorta wouldn’t let him. No…this was what they wanted. I, and the others like me, who were starting to emerge all around our worlds—some in obvious fashion with seizures like mine, and others, who were just waking up changed…the Vorta were clear: we were humanity’s future. I was to return to my life, knowing that if those around me weren’t infected already, they would be. Because of me. I thought about killing myself as soon as I got home, rather than serve as their willing carrier. But the Vorta—who now devoted his personal attention to me, as one of his experiments—seemed to know what was running through my mind, and warned me against it. Your children were admitted this morning; you can see them as soon as they wake up. Have you ever seen a Cardassian family, human? If you have, then you’ll understand: they will need you, look up to you, as they never have before. It nearly brought me to my knees. My daughters, aged four and six—sick because of me? Changed, cursed with this strange guiding knowledge because of me? I raged inside, though I dared not show it to the Dominion servant: for now I knew, too, what they had done to us. What, as more people flooded into the hospital that day, I realized they had done to all of us. The Cardassians call it the hierarchical instinct. If you’ve ever seen dogs, or wolves, interact with each other, then you’ll get the idea. And if you’re one of us…you understand this for yourself. But if you’re not, then imagine that you have a need to be part of the ‘pack,’ for its social structures around you and as part of you. Your family is the most central part of it; your neighborhood, your co-workers…all of this figures into it, too. That acceptance and that harmony…they were important before the Graft, yes, but now the effects have been magnified. Disrupt that structure, that companionship, and the psychological stress is immense, and can affect your body as well as just your mind. And to rebel…some individuals will inevitably still do so, but it’s that much harder for a widespread rebellion to crystallize. It requires…well, I’ll get to that later. So for a moment, the Vorta actually wore an expression that resembled compassion, as I came to the understanding that what had woven itself into my brain, been grafted into my very DNA and that of so many others around me, was not human, and it was not going to be coming out. Don’t blame yourself, he said. You have just ensured their survival. It will go easiest on the young; their minds are so incredibly resilient at that age, and they can adjust to almost anything. Believe me when I said it didn’t make me feel any better. I just wanted to see my children. I needed to see them wake up, hold them in my arms, try…try to tell them it was going to be okay. Or at least, if not that everything was okay, that I had walked this path before them and that I was all right and I would be there for them. I needed this on every level I’d ever known and was coming to know. And thank God for my children. If not for them, I probably would have been among the many who died that year by their own hands as the Graft swept across Earth and its colonies, seized hold of the human race and made us into something else.