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Empires' End: Book 1

By Derek Conkle-Gutierrez

Action / Scifi

Scattered, But Not Hopeless

“Disengage cloak and fire,” commanded Sisko from his seat on the Defiant.

“Ay ay, sir,” said Dalanna, the young woman at tactical. Maquis, not starfleet. There was starfleet anymore, not after what he’d done.  Sisko had managed to save his ship from the fall of the Federation, but he’d lost most of his crew, one way or another. Those he could find to help him fight were rebels, civilians dragged by fate into fighting for their homes, not idealistic explorers. So they called themselves the new Maquis. It seemed fitting; after all Eddington had been right, all those years ago. Sisko had been dogmatic, and it had cost the universe dearly. If he had just gotten the Romulans into the war, if hadn’t stuck to his principles at the last minute, maybe there’d still be a Federation. But he couldn’t lie, he couldn’t cheat, not a loyal officer of Starfleet.  Well, he would never make that mistake again. No more principles, no more rules. There was just his home, and the enemy he fought to get them out of his home. Just like Eddington. Just like the Maquis.

Not everyone was dead. Jake had settled down with friends on Ferenginar- under Dominion occupation, but he was no stranger to that. Kasidy was still hauling cargo last he’d heard. Jadzia Dax had gone with her husband Worf to help organize the Klingon resistance. Kira and Odo started a terrorist cell on Bajor, just like old times. Bashir had disappeared off the face of the galaxy, but he’t turn up eventually. And O’Brien was laying low somewhere with Keiko and their two children; war was one thing, but he couldn’t join a suicide mission with a baby to look after.

But Dad… he’d been on Earth.

“Direct hit,” said tacticle.

They were firing on a Dominion shipyard in the former demilitarized zone. Normally these facilities were untouchable without a whole fleet backing you, but this one was still under construction. And the Dominion forces, still depleted from the war, were busy defending their border with the Romulans, blockading planets to prevent civilian ships from becoming part of the resistance effort, and defending the cloning facilities that were now turning out millions of occupation troops.

It could be argued that this was a pointless gesture, since Dominion ships no longer needed to be in such high supply now that there was no war to fight. But Sisko still held out hope that, now that the war was decided, Romulus might strike before the Dominion had consolidated their new territory, to prevent becoming surrounded on all sides by a powerful and unified enemy. And Sisko wanted to make that potential strike as easy for the Romulans as possible.

Councilor Troy stepped out of the stone stairway into the dim room. Picard was sitting in his desk, reading padds by candlelight.

“Captain,” she started, but Picard cut her off.

“I’m no captain,” he said. “It’s been months since we lost the war. Maybe it’s time we come to terms with it.”

Troy nodded, “I think that would be healthy.”

“Except how am I supposed to come to terms, hmm?” he asked, agitated. “How am I supposed to just accept that everything I’ve stood for, everything I’ve devoted my life to is over? How am I supposed to forget Earth? 50 billion people, my own brother, and, and… Do I just, let go? I’ve tried, but it’s burned into my grip. This, impotent rage, I can’t…”

Troy knelt down beside him and took his hand. Her voice was firm. “Then don’t let go. Anger doesn’t have to hurt you, it can drive you, feed you. We have an occupation to destroy. Let your anger burn them.”

Picard gathered himself, and nodded. “So,” he said. “How goes the hunt?”

“Riker has found a captain willing to go along with our plan,” said Troy. “He has a science vessel that’s authorized to leave Vulcan. His engineer should be able to beam us aboard undetected, and once we’re past the orbital blockade and far enough into interstellar space, we’ll cut the power and hopefully overwhelm the Jem’Hadar monitoring force onboard.”

“And once we’ve freed the ship,” he asked, “how do we plan to sneak into Romulus?”

This was a foolish plan, but they could get to Romulus, he hoped to eventually find Spock, whose underground Reunification movement may be their greatest hope, now that Romulus was the last free power in the Alpha Quadrant.

Troy smiled, “Geordi has some ideas.”

“Excellent,” said Picard. He was tired of hiding in this sullen monastery. “It will be good to have a ship under us again. Make it so.”

Picard thought back to the last time he had held command of a ship, the last time he’d seen the Enterprise, and Data.

“Captain, I am afraid our new mission has no plausible chance of success,” said Data.

“Yes I’m aware of that Mr. Data.” snapped Picard testily. “But all remaining ships have been ordered to rendezvous with Admiral Nechayev’s fleet to make our last stand. It is our duty as Starfleet officers to see this war through to the end.” The Enterprise was currently orbiting Vulcan, alone. Its presence alone deterred any minor Jem’Hadar incursion, freeing up forces to hold the line at DS9- the line which had just fallen 4 hours ago, marking the end of the Federation.

Data shook his head, “I do not believe that is wise sir.”

“Data, I’ve always known you to be a man of duty,” said Picard. “What is this about?”

“Ethics, sir” explained Data. “I am willing to sacrifice lives for the Federation. But I dislike the prospect of doing so for a-” Data’s eyes darted away momentarily as he searched for the right word, then snapped back looking Picard straight in the eye- “a gesture.”

Picard sighed. “I suppose I agree. But we all have our duties, commander.”

Data nodded. “Yes, Jean-Luc.” He turned his chair back to the console and began rapidly dancing his fingers across the display. A shiver of blue surrounded Picard.

“Data!” he shouted, but before he could react, he was on the streets of Vulcan, surrounded by the rest of his bewildered crew.

Later, Picard learned that Data had in fact piloted the Enterprise into battle, as they had been ordered. Operated by a single android, the ship still lasted longer than any other in their final firefight. Having saved his crewmates and defended the line, Date had done both his duty to his uniform and to his friends, to the very end.

Odo was sick. Dr. Mora couldn’t diagnose him, let alone cure him, but he extrapolate a prognosis. Calculating from Odo’s current rate of deterioration, he would be dead within 3 weeks. His only hope was to find Dr. Bashir, who had disappeared shortly after the fall of DS9.

“We’ll track him down, I promise,” said Kira. They were in a large cave, surrounded by resistance fighters.

“No, Nerys. Your job is here. I can’t,” He coughed, then put his hand up to his forehead, pushing a piece of peeling skin back into place. “I can’t be responsible for you… for you abandoning your cause, Major, just because of my weakness. I’ll do this… on my own.”

Kira held his hands in hers. “Odo.”

“I’ll go with him,” spoke up Garak.

Odo guffawed. “You?”

He smiled, “You’ll find I’m very good at finding people.” Garak then looked around the room worriedly, “Besides I don’t think the people here like me very much.”

Kira curtly nodded. “Okay you look after Odo. I’m gonna go punch some Cardassians in the nose.”

Odo tried to smile, “give them another sock in the jaw for me too.”

“Well since we’re all in agreement,” said Garak, “I suggest we waste as little time as possible. Major I take it you have some form of off-world transportation lined up?” She nodded. “Good, I already have some ideas where to start looking.”

Sloan paced back in forth while Bashir studied his files. “I still think this is a waste of time doctor. Just because we’ve already lost doesn’t mean you can just finish every minor project that once popped into your head.”

“You’re the one who said we needed more operatives, Sloan.”

“She’s basically a catatonic.”

“Which is why,” said Julian, annoyed, “I’m fixing her.”

“Yes but she’s always been catatonic. What could she possibly know that could be helpful?”

“She figured out the Dominion’s plan to acquire the components for their white. Imagine what she could do once her senses speed up enough so the world actually looks interesting to her.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that little episode. And then your special club recommended total surrender to the Dominion.”

“We were right, after all. Defeat was inevitable.”

“Yes but you didn’t guess they would destroy Earth did you? You planned for Earth to be the seed of our eventual revolution. But the Dominion had the same idea. Must we recruit from the folks who made such a big mistake?”

Bashir winced at the destruction of his homeworld. Sloan could be extremely cruel, but unfortunately he had been right all along. They did need someone like him.  He finished his work and turned around. “Well the procedure’s ready, at any rate. I’ll go set up our equipment, you go get Sarina.” He thought for a moment, “and tell the others they can follow her up to the door. They’ll cause a scene if you don’t let them come that far, but they’ll wreck havoc if they’re actually in surgery with her.”

Sloan shrugged and left for the other room where they were storing the Mutants. Tracking them down hadn’t been difficult, they were just lucky to have not been on Earth during the-

The massacre.

Julian tried not to think about that and walked into his surgical room. He tried not to think about his father’s last message, saying he was going to make it big with his new gig designing exotic fisheries back on Earth. He tried not to imagine their fiery screams.

“You said you had something, interesting, for me,” said Weyoun.

The vorta scientist nodded. “We’ve been working on it for months now, but we’ve finally got it to… talk.”

Weyoun followed the other vorta up to the observation window and looked at the thing hanging partially disassembled from a mess of cables. “Very interesting.”

“The Federation’s prototype robot,” explained the scientist. “Years ahead of anything else they had, and, pardon me for saying, ahead of anything we have too. It was found in the wreckage of their flagship. From the lack of bodies inside the wreckage, we suspect it ran the entire ship itself.”

“Hence your interest” said Weyoun. “Yes that could be very… useful.” Weyoun had brief visions of a Dominion without the violent and often insolent Jem’Hadar. A fleet run by robots would certainly be more secure than one run by soldiers whose loyalty must be bought with drugs, and even then had managed to betray and kill his predecessor, Weyoun 4.  

“Unfortunately,” said the scientist, “we’ve still barely scratched the surface of its design. It will be some time before we can replicate it. For now we’ve been more focused on extracting intelligence from the machine. Maybe it knows the location of its creator. The robot’s been like a statue though since we captured it. At first I thought it was damaged, but in reality it’s just very patient. We’ve been slowly worming into its cognitive matrix, and I can get it to answer questions now. Though its responses are… limited. It’s still fighting.”

“Can it hear me?” asked Weyoun.

The scientist tapped a consol. “It can now.”

Weyoun looked soulfully up at the future of the Dominion. “Do… do you have a name?”

The robot twitched, “Data.”

“Hmm…” pondered Weyoun, “what is it trying to say?” If he had to guess, Data not found, seemed a likely possibility.

“We’re not sure,” said the scientist. “We’ve asked it that before, and that’s all it says. It never finishes the sentence.”

Weyoun tried another tract. “Are there any others like you?”

The robot spasmed again, then said, “Yes.” Weyoun smiled, this was promising.

“Do you know where they are?” he asked

“No,” said the robot. Weyoun frowned in frustration.

“Do you know who they are?” asked Weyoun.

“Yes,” said the robot.

“Who are they?” continued Weyoun.

“There is, Lore,” said the robot,  “And there was, Lal.” Weyoun caught something in the robot’s voice.

“What happened to Lal?” he asked.

“She was… flawed.” said the robot. “She did not last.”

“And what was, she?” asked Weyoun, humoring the robot with a gendered pronoun.

“My… daughter,” said the robot. Weyoun’s eyes perked up. This was indeed very interesting.

“As in, you made her?” asked Weyoun. “You can self-replicate?” If so, they may not have to reverse engineer it.

“I can… not,” said the robot. “The experiment failed.”

This was starting to look like a very promising dead end. Weyoun tried yet another tract. “Who made you?”

“Dr. Soong,” replied the robot.

“And where is he?” he asked.

“Gone,” said the robot.

Weyoun sighed, “As in dead?”

“Yes,” said the robot.

“Does… does anyone else know how to construct you?” Weyoun tried.

“No,” said the robot.

Weyoun turned to the scientist. “This looks like a very long-term project. I’ll give you some additional resources, and you’ll keep me updated on your progress.” He turned and walked back up the hall.

Unfortunately, they may not have a long-term. The wormhole was still killing anything that went through it, and the only Founder left in the Alpha Quadrant seemed to be dying, though she tried to hide it. Without a Founder, how could there be a Dominion? And how would he go on without a God?

Perhaps Odo… but no, Weyoun had stopped thinking of Odo as a Founder years ago, as had Odo. He sided with Bajor over his own people, had killed another and been cast out, for a while at least. The Founder had tried to bring him back into the fold back on that Bajoran station, but he ultimately hadn’t returned. And even the Founder seemed disinterested now. Still… a God was a God.

Senator Cretak entered the office of Senator Vreenak.

Vreenak took a sip of Kali-fal before dining to acknowledge her presence. “I thought you would come,” he said.

“It’s time to consider Romulus’ place in history, Senator,” she said.

“I’m never not, Cretak,” he replied. “But tell me Senator, what place in history do you have in mind?”

She took a seat at his desk. “A footnote in the Dominion’s long empire, or the leaders of the Alpha Quadrant.”

Vreenak smiled. “I thought it was something like that. I take it you're advocating a preemptive strike against our allies?”

“Now would be the best time,” she said. “While their forces are still busy controlling their new territory. A better time perhaps would have been when those territories still had forces of their own to ally with, but I lost the argument on that decision.”

“By quite a large margin, if I remember,” said Vreenak smugly.

“But it can still be to our advantage,” said Cretak, ignoring his comment. “If we could succeed, there will be no power left in the quadrant that isn’t crippled beyond recognition. I’m hoping against hope that this was your plan all along, rather than simply a naive trust in the Dominion’s word.”

“Well I wouldn’t want to disappoint you, Senator,” he said with even more affable smugness. “No, I wasn’t planning on taking them at their word. However, nor was I planning on a costly engagement that would pointlessly end the lives of millions of loyal citizens.”

Cretak sighed. “Don’t tell me all this has been to postpone war in the hope it never comes. Because I assure you, it will.”

“You sound just like that Federation captain I met a year back,” he said.

“The Federation were a peace-obsessed weeklings lead by an undisciplined population of abject cowards,” she said, offended. “And even they could not avoid war with the Dominion.”

“You forget they started it,” he said.  “With that minefield of theirs.”

Cretak waved her hand dismissively. “Because the Dominion were building up forces with ships from the Gamma Quadrant. Even they could spot a trap Vreenak. If they could, surely a Romulan must do better.”

“Yet you think I’d fall for such a simple trap as pride?” he asked.

Cretak looked down in embarrassment, but then smiled, “It did seem to be your greatest weakness.”

“Calculated pride, Senator. There’s a difference,” he sighed. “But unfortunately you’re right; the Dominion’s peace offer was a trap. They are conquerors, and there can be no coexistence with conquerors, unless you match them in strength.”

“But you’ve allowed them to become stronger by threefold before taking action,” she said, confused.

“We are Romulans, Senator,” Vreenak explained. “Surely you know territory does not equal strength. Technology equals strength. Our ancestors built this empire from scratch just because they had warp drives before some others. We kept our empire because of our development of the self-defending mine. We spread across the quadrant because of the cloak- and were later diminished when we lost the monopoly on that technology by sharing it with the Klingons.”

Cretak winced at the reminder of their history’s greatest folly. “So then what is your plan? Did you spend the resources we would’ve used in the war effort on a last ditch research project? Because I don’t remember such a desperate bill passing before the Senate.”

“Sarcasm really doesn’t suit you Senator,” he chided. “But no, what I saved by delaying the war wasn’t resources, it was lives. Lives that hopefully-” he picked up a padd, brought up a file, and handed it to her- “won’t have to be paid in the future.”

On the pad was a diagram of a humanoid shaped machine. Realization dawned on her as she skimmed over its specifications.

“Its name is B4,” he explained. “We acquired it 4 years ago and it’s been my pet project ever since. Kept in total secrecy, of course.”

“Of course,” said Cretak. She knew very well the importance of controlling information. And this data could reshape the entire Alpha Quadrant. She looked up, “but the Federation has had one of these for over a decade and still hasn’t successfully replicated the technology.”

“Yes well, like I said: technology is our might,” he said. “We’ve already constructed a prototype of its positronic brain. And secretly refitted a warbird to run without a crew.  We’ve even perfected a set of repair drones that will act as engineers, all controlled by that magnificent mechanical brain,” Vreenak caught himself overstating things. “Even if it’s a bit of an idiot savant.” He took another sip of Kali-fal, “But within another few months, I’ll take command of our shipyards- with the Senate’s approval of course- and begin mass production. You’d be amazed how much of the ships we can leave out when you don’t need life-support or crew quarters. We’ll also retrofit most of the current fleet, to save lives and increase combat performance- you should see how this thing performs in simulations, it’s miraculous- and then you can have your war, Senator. A completely costless war.”

Cretak’s head was still spinning. She looked back down on the padd, “This might, just work.”

Vreenak smiled smugly again, “Glad I didn’t disappoint after all. So then, I can count on your support when I unveil the future of Romulus.”

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