Empires' End: Book 1


Legate Vissad sat in the bridge of her flagship, pondering the chain of command. The vorta Kilana stood by her side, Weyoun’s appointed representative for this invasion fleet. In theory, Vissad answered to her. However, the men under Vissad’s command would not hesitate to follow her if she betrayed Kilana’s orders. Vissad held the real power here, and the only thing that kept her in check was her loyalty to the Cardassian government- but who was the “Cardassian government” right now?

A day ago, Vissad would have said it was Rejel. But now Rejel was rotting in a cell, scheduled for execution in the morning. Executed for attempting to secede from the Dominion. Vissad had assumed that was Rejel’s right, had even counted on it once Weyoun started working with the Crystals. Vissad had hoped that Rejel would end Cardassia’s alliance with the Dominion, so she wouldn’t have to fight for them anymore. But after Rejel had done exactly that, Vissad still found herself answering to a vorta on her bridge, escorting planet eaters to Vulcan. What had happened?

Perhaps Rejel had never been the head of the Cardassian government. There was no Cardassian government, only puppets of the Dominion. And when Rejel had overstepped her part, she’d been dealt with. Vissad wondered if that had been what happened to Dumar. If he’d gone off script too, and had been quietly “lost” to a skirmish with rebels and replaced. And then his replacement had done the same thing, except this time, she’d managed to get the word out before she could be silenced. This time, the strings broke on stage for the audience to see.

“Legate,” said her comms officer, “We just lost all contact with Cardassia.”

“Every channel?” asked Vissad.

“Yes mam.”

“Contact the other ships in our fleet,” she ordered. “See if they have the same problem.”

The comms officer worked for a few moments, then nodded.

“Keep trying to reach them,” said Vissad. She rubbed the bridge of her nose methodically as she thought. What was happening back there?

Praetor Vreenak sat with his generals in a command room on Vulcan. The Dominion fleet was a day away, with another 24 of those Crystals. The Empire had done its best to be ready for them. Vreenak had the bulk of the Romulan fleets with him, and the Vulcan shipyards would produce several more ships before the Dominion’s arrival. His generals had spent the better part of a week devising tactics to attack the buffer ships without entering compromising positions, and his ships were already getting into formation, waiting cloaked to attack the Dominion from behind.

But still Vreenak felt, unprepared. The best romulan and vulcan scientists had worked tirelessly on a way to counter the buffering field of the ship’s deflector dishes, an effective alternative to sonic weapons, or a defence against their extropy absorption, to no avail. And even after gathering together so many of his ships, after their losses at Romulus, they added up to only marginally better numbers than they’d had in the last battle with the Crystals.

Vreenak looked out a window. The streets were empty, it’s people evacuated on a thousand departing vessels. But in the distance, he could see the burnt orange of a setting sun, the crumbling walls of ancient temple built into the cliff face of an eroding mountain, and the endless desert. This was the planet that had birthed two races. He would not be the man to let it die.

Once again, two fleets met at the outskirts of a solar system, positronic protectors versus the armies of death. But this time, events played differently. Just as the two fleets entered range of each other, the cardassians turned on the Dominion. Nine of of the twenty four Crystals had been defended by cardassian buffer ships, and were destroyed immediately as their would be defenders deactivated their deflector pulses and began sonic bombardment. The jem’hadar quickly tried to regroup around the remaining thirteen, but the cardassian ships were distributed throughout their fleet, and romulan warbirds were decloaking behind their lines. Within minutes, the last of the crystals were destroyed. Not long after that, the last jem’hadar were mopped up.

As the cardassians prepared to leave Vulcan space, Vissad contacted the Romulan leader, Praetor Vreenak. He appeared on her viewscreen, sitting behind a table.

“I take it you are the one in charge of the Cardassian fleet?” he asked.

Vissad nodded, “Legate Vissad, leader of the Cardassian rebellion. The invasion of your planet seemed like a good opportunity to eliminate some Jem’Hadar.”

Vreenak smiled wearily, “Glad my ships could be of service. I wish you’d given us some warning of your intentions, so we could have coordinated our attack, but I can see how that may have been impossible without tipping off the Dominion.”

Vissad smiled, “Quite impossible.”

Vreenak nodded. “Well I must admit Legate, I’m not fond of being in someone’s debt. However I do recognize when I am. If your fleet would like… asylum from Dominion reprisal, we’d be happy to bring you into the fold.”

Vissad shook her head. “We can take care of ourselves. And right now we have a capitol to retake.”

Vreenak frowned. “Cardassia has been seemingly under a communications blackout for almost a week now. Would your rebellion have something to do with it?”

“Not my rebellion,” said Vissad. “But likely someone’s. Cardassia has recently lost a head of state under… troubling circumstances. I don’t think anyone on my home planet is fond of the Dominion right now.”

“Well, if you’d like a contingent of romulan ships to help retake your capital,” Vreenak offered.

Vissad shook her head again. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said. “But I’ve no intention of inviting even more aliens to my homeland.”

Vreenak smiled, “Well it was worth a try. Give the Dominion a bloody nose for me.”

Kilana paced in her cell as Vissad entered the brig.

“I thought Vorta committed suicide once they were captured,” said Vissad.

“Only when necessary to prevent revealing state secrets under torture,” replied Kilana. She turned towards Vissad with an icy stare. “But you already know everything I know. Because you were a trusted servant of the Dominion.” Kilana smiled, “Besides, I want to live to see you die under the bootheels of Jem’Hadar.”

Vissad shook her head, “No I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s because most of the Vorta cloning facilities were eliminated by rebels along with the Jem’Hadar hatcheries. The only one left is the Genesis Gate back on Cardassia, and we have no idea what’s going on there.” Vissad smiled, toothily. “I think you’re worried that for the first time, you could be the last Kilana. I’ve read your profile. You’ve self terminated several times, even outside of capture scenarios. When the Genesis Gate finally started making new vorta lines, your active copies willingly committed suicide just so you could go back to having one clone at a time. I think you’ve actually bought into the idea that clones make you immortal. And now, for the first time, you’re facing the prospect of your own death.”

Kilana snarled in an almost primal rage.

Vissad nodded. “That’s what I thought. Well Kilana, I’d like to help stay alive, but unfortunately you were right about those state secrets. You don’t have anything for me so,” she casually deactivated the cell’s force field and raised her disrupter.

“No! Wait!” screamed Kilana. “I do have information. I know how Weyoun revives his Crystals. I know the location of two factories he’s using to replace our lost troops with robots. I know the passcodes for the automated defences around Chintaka. I know the Founders are dead. I’ve overheard potentially treasonous talk from several new vorta lines. I know things! Please don’t-”

Vissad reactivated the forcefield and lowered her weapon. “There,” she said. “And we didn’t even have to start the torture.”

Kira stared out the window of the promenade, watching the space where the celestial temple would open its aperture, if ships still traveled through it. When DS9 was a port of call, and the rest of the galaxy finally seemed like a place worth exploring, perhaps even joining. Not an endless source of oppression and war.

Her people had managed to kick out the Dominion, the last ships had been drawn away to battle with the Romulans, and the Bajorans surrounded and killed the last jem’hadar and cardassians once their support was cut off. They really should have left at least one warship behind. But then, empires had always been underestimating her people. Celebrations were sprouting across the entire planet-

But Kira wasn’t joining them. She knew this war with the Romulans would settle down eventually. The two empires would draw their new boarders, and inevitably Bajor would find itself on one side or the other. And then the ships would come.

“Vedic Kira,” said an approaching soldier, “your shuttle is ready.”

“Thank you,” Kira replied, and followed him to an old Bajoran craft docked at the station.

Kira entered the craft alone, and piloted it towards the wormhole. For the first time in over a year, it opened. She flew inside, her faith in the Prophets enough to remove any fear of vaporization. Once inside the aperture, she piloted the shuttle to a full stop, left the controls, and opened the Orb.

“You have a favor to ask us,” said Odo on the promenade, a Prophet in a vision.

“Yes,” said Kira.

The Prophet looked through the window. “You want the stars to go away.”

Kira nodded, “They’ve brought Bajor nothing but trouble.”

“That’s not entirely true,” said a Prophet, Sisko behind his old desk. “Trade and foreign aid has at times brought prosperity. And exchanges with other peoples has enriched your culture.”

Kira shook her head, “It hasn’t been worth the price.”

“No,” agreed the Sisko Prophet, standing over the mines of Gallitep. “Perhaps not.”

“But such a decision cannot be made by Gods alone,” said Dax Prophet, dressed as a Vedek.

“This is Bajor’s decision. And so it must come from Bajor.

“Then let it be made by me,” said Kira. “I’ve walked across this planet, I’ve heard the cries of my people. If anyone can speak for them, let it be me.”

“Such confidence,” said a Prophet as Kai Winn, smiling. “You have learned well.”

“The decision came from Bajor,” said Sisko Prophet, surrounded by glowing white. “Bajor is of us now.”

The aperture of the wormhole opened once more, and began to grow. The station was quickly swallowed inside. Then the wormhole moved, traveling into the inner solar system. By the time it reached Bajor, the aperture was over 500,000 km wide, large enough to swallow the planet and each of its moons all at once. And it did so, gently, keeping the orbits intact. And Bajor came to rest within the wormhole, kept lit by the soft blue glow of folded spacetime. Then the aperture closed, and the wormhole collapsed in both Quadrants into the dormant singularity the Emissary had found, and Bajor was finally alone with its Prophets, safe inside the Celestial Temple.

In his office, Weyoun frowned as he read another projection. Without more soldiers, he would lose this planet within a week. The Cardassians had entered full scale rebellion once Rejel escaped. He’d had to order a jamming field set up just to prevent it from spreading. In the first minutes of battle, he’d lost eight of his Jem’Hadar ships to the treacherous cardassian warships that were supposed to be protecting this world. The last of the rebel ships were destroyed in the assault, but now there were only three Dominion ships in solar system, and Weyoun just couldn’t afford to bring in more without losing territory on the front to the romulans. Of course, three ships were more than enough keep a planet in line- if only he had the troops to occupy the ground.

Weyoun typed into his terminal and contacted his android factory. When he’d returned to Cardassia, he had been pleased that the project had continued successfully during his absence, using the data obtained from Soong’s lab. Two factories had been constructed in secret, one of which was in Cardassia’s star system, built into the lifeless rock of its fourth planet.

“Weyoun,” said the head administrator for the facility.

“I’m afraid the latest projections are worse than I’d hoped” said Weyoun. “I know I promised you a few more days to finalize the designs before you started production, but that just isn’t an option now. Spend a few hours to get everything in working order, and then activate the machinery. I need the first wave of troops to be online within two days.”

The vorta nodded. “We’ll have the factory running by the end of the day, sir."

Inside an underground bunker, Silani cackled maniacally from behind her terminal.

“What are you reading?” asked Rejel.

“Projections we stole from Dominion Intelligence,” she replied. “Apparently they think even less of their chances then I do. Any day now Weyoun will get desperate enough to bring in soldiers from the front, and once ships are coming to and from Cardassia, there’s no way he’ll be able to prevent us from communicating with the rest of the Dominion. And then this revolution will go Quadrant wide.”

Suddenly Rejel realized something she should have thought of days ago.

“Actually,” she told Silani, “Weyoun may have another source of troops.” Rejel told Silani what she knew of the Dominion’s positronic research. “Before I left, they were months away from production, but the equipment was in place, and they had functional designs. If Weyoun gets desperate enough, he may have them mass produce the prototypes.”

Silani closed her terminal and stared off into space for a few minutes. Rejel waited while she thought. Finally, Silani asked Rejel, “When you were in charge of the Dominion while Weyoun was trapped with the Crystals, did you spend a lot of time overseeing the android project?”

Rejel nodded, “I spent a lot of time with it actually. It was fascinating. I, umm, am sort of regretting how much attention and resources I gave it, now.”

“If you got into the factory, do you think you could co opt it for our rebellion?” asked Silani.

Rejel thought for a moment. She did know most of the systems, and if she could get to the source code, she might be able to rewrite their command keys. “I think I’d have a chance,” she said.

“Alright then,” said Silani. “I guess what we need now is a ship.”

From his Dominion warship in orbit, Weyoun beamed down to the android factory. The first wave of soldiers had been produced, and he wanted to give them a personal inspection before activating them. I vorta administrator lead him into a large room filled with hundreds of robots, standing frozen in rows. A rushed job, these machines lacked the finer features of the original. Their faces looked more like helmets, their hands more like claws, and a long angular visor was embedded where their eyes should be. The overall effect was… intimidating.

“We’re ready to activate them,” said the administrator. “At your command.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” said Weyoun. He pointed to a random robot in the first row.

“Start by activating that one,” he said. He then waved over his two accompanying jem’hadar, and they raised their weapons and aimed at the robot.

“I assure you these units are perfectly safe,” said the administrator, nervously. “They were built along the same lines as our last prototype, and we had no problems with it.”

“That prototype wasn’t built in a factory set up for mass production,” said Weyoun. “Nor was it built during a rebellion. I rebellion that included a number of vorta. So unless you can vouch for every vorta under your command, I’d suggest we tread cautiously. I’m sure you understand.”

With a sight, the vorta tapped into a nearby console, and after a few moments their selected robot booted up, red lights pulsing across its visor like a mark three scanner.

“Raise your left hand,” he told the soldier. It did so. Weyoun turned to the administrator, “So far so good.” Next he turned to a random technician, and told him to give the robot an order. It obeyed that too.

The administrator shook his head, “That, that shouldn’t have happened.”

“No,” said Weyoun. “It should only obey orders from authorized personnel. Here,” he said, walking over to the vorta’s console. “The default setting may just be too lenient. Let’s see if it I can narrow it with a overide order.” He sent it an electronic order with his passcodes. Voice and facial recognition was enough to recognize authorized users, but root access was only granted with electronic command keys. And only Weyoun had those codes. But the codes weren’t working.

“It’s not accepting my access code,” said Weyoun.

“Can you shut it down?” asked the administrator.

Weyoun tried, then shook his head. None of his codes were working. He turned to the robot and vocally ordered it, “Shut Down.” It did.

Two engineers rushed over to the malfunctioning machine and opened its access port, linking a padd into its positronic brain. After a few moments one of them spoke up, “Its access keys have been switched so our passcodes won’t work. It’s memory also contains an electronic command to follow unauthorized orders- probably to avoid tipping us off.”

Weyoun contacted the captain of his escort ship, “Beam down a contingent of Jem’Hadar, have them sweep the perimeter for intruders. And have them check the identity of each staff member on the facility.” Weyoun turned back to the administrator, “Once they’re on board, raise the shields to avoid beam outs. I know it’s a long shot that whoever hacked our robots are still here, but one worth taking. Once the Jem’Hadar are done we’ll also search for any clues our saboteurs may have left behind. Now, on fixing the damage they’ve caused,” he turned to the engineers. “Can you reinstall the old access keys?” he asked.

One of the engineers shook her head.

“I’m afraid even with a direct link to the hardware,” chimed in the administrator, “the software cannot be changed without a passcode. To prevent enemies from hacking captured units.”

“Though apparently it can still be read just fine,” noticed Weyoun.

“Well yes, pretty hard to prevent that with a computer…” replied the administrator.

“I wonder if you would have mentioned that detail before or after a unit witnessing state secrets was captured,” said Weyoun.

“I wasn’t… It was in the design specs,” stuttered the administrator.

“But not noted in any of your reports,” said Weyoun. “Did you expect me to read through this thing’s blueprints for potential flaws? Any other tasks you would like to delegate to your boss?”

“I…” started the administrator.

Weyoun held up his hand, “Don’t worry, we can talk about this later. For now let’s focus on the matters at hand, like raising the shield.” The administrator rushed over to a nearby console and typed in the command.

Weyoun turned to the two engineers, “any chance we can determine the new passcodes from the new access keys?”

The shook their heads. “The passcodes are run through an irreversible calculation and compared to the access key, then deleted with each use. Even with the keys and the formula for the calculation, we have no way of determining what pattern of data will match the keys once run through the calculation, other than brute force trial and error. It’s a pretty standard security setup.”

Weyoun frowned, “So we’ll need to track down the hackers and force the passcodes from them.”

Garak and Bashir hid within a mesh of machines designed to manufacture high density batteries, trying to come up with a plan. They’d gotten here by assuming the identities of too vorta who’d been returning from a trip to Cardassia, but a simple blood test would show who they were, and Weyoun was no doubt planning on screening all staff now. The plan had been to trade out the access keys, sabotage the sensors, then have Sloan beam them out via his stealth ship in currently orbit. Sloan’s cloak was effective, but Dominion sensor technology would have detected even Section 31’s transporter beams, and they didn’t want to be traced. They’d successfully replaced the access keys, but Weyoun had come slightly earlier than they’d anticipated, and now a Dominion warship was orbiting the planet. A ship with sensors just as effective as the facility’s, so there went their escape plan.

“I don’t suppose,” said Bashir, quietly, “that we could just turn of this factory’s shields, have Sloan beam us aboard, and then fly like hell after they trace the signal?”

“Well that depends doctor,” replied Garak, “did Sloan mention something to you about having upgraded his engines when you last spoke? Because if I remember correctly, his Stealth ship cannot outrun the jem’hadar.”

“Does it have to though?” said Bashir. “I mean, sure they’ll trace to transporter beam to Sloan’s location, but they still can’t penetrate his cloak. A few unpredictable maneuvers later and they’ll have no idea where we are.”

“Except,” countered Garak, “once they have active sensors probing the ship’s exact location, I suspect they’ll find some trace of our engines’ propulsion when we move.”

“Right,” said Bashir, “His ship uses standard federation impulse engines which do emit virtual barrions at about 3 times the background level. They dissipate within 12 micrometers of the exhaust, but an active scan could detect them, and the cloak doesn’t cover them. But the Dominion would basically have to be looking for that to notice… which is probably exactly what they’ll be doing after the scans for Romulan cloaks turn up nothing.”

“So then we’re agreed,” said Garak. “Beaming over right now won’t work.” He thought for a moment. “Doctor, any chance you’ve thought of an alternative?”

Bashir shook his head.

“That’s unfortunate,” said Garak. “Neither have I.” He sighed. “Maybe we’ll get lucky. Well, what’s the best way to sabotage the shields?”

A Jem’Hadar captain stood on the bridge as his ship continued its patrol, one of two warships in orbit over Cardassia.

“Sir,” said a soldier under his command, “a civilian transport ship has left the ground and is heading through the atmosphere,”

“Move to intercept,” he ordered, placing the ship on screen within his optical viewer.

Within a few moments, the cargo ship was clearing the atmosphere, and the Jem’Hadar were nearly within firing range. Even with only two warships, there was no chance for a mere civilian craft to breach their blockade. The captain gave the order to fire, and watched as Dominion disruptor pulses shot towards their enemies… only for the cargo ship to jump to warp before the weapons reached them.

“Follow their warp trail on long range sensors,” he ordered. “I want to find their debris.” There was no way a civilian ship could survive the distortions from using a warp field inside a solar system.

Over the fourth planet of Cardassia, a civilian ship jumped out of warp a mere 3 kilometers from the rocky surface. It’s sublight momentum carried it along a path not quite parallel to that surface, traveling at a rate of 8 kilometers per second. Within the 2.3 seconds it took to crash violently into the ground, it spent 0.003 seconds grazing the android facility’s shields. Within that 0.003 seconds, 86 cardassians and 37 vorta were beamed aboard the facility.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Silani shouted, patted her sides to check for injuries. She turned to Rejel. “That was some serious calculations,” she congratulated her.

Rejel nodded, smiling. “I really am waisted in politics,” she said. Then Rejel put her hand on Drenald, the former captain of the cargo ship they’d just lost. “I’m grateful for your sacrifice. You should be proud. Your ship held up under the distortions long enough for to get us here safely, just like you promised.”

“Yeah,” said Drenald, wistfully. “My girl’s engine always ran colder than most, so the distortions were less violent. Plus those old tritanium hulls hold great under stress. Though they’re not so great under impacts.” He looked to his left, as if he could see his ship’s wreckage through the walls and kilometers of crags.

“So where are we,” asked Silani, as she began rounding up their troops into squads.

“It’s one of the warehouses where they’d store the units before pickup,” said Rejel. “I picked it because it’d be empty. They’ve only been running the factory long enough to fill up their first storage site. Now I suggest we get moving, it won’t be long before the jem’hadar get here and I’d rather us be on the offensive.”

At that moment a console on one of the walls lit up and began speaking, “Hello, members of the resistance. We’d like to offer our assistance.”

Rejel looked towards the console and saw a video feed of two vorta in a dark room. She approached it, and asked “what kind of assistance?”

“Well, we have access to the internal sensors from here,” said one. “I can tell you that the jem’hadar are currently spread throughout this facility, though they’ll be regrouping quickly on your position.” The vorta smiled pridefully. “They were looking for us. Oh, and we’ve locked Weyoun and the others out of control of the shields, so at least they can’t turn them off and beam down more reinforcements…”

“Actually, I have an even better idea,” said the second vorta. “If you’re forces can get to the first warehouse where the current batch of robots are stored, you could activate them. We have in our possession the only passcodes for their access keys, and once the robots are activated would gladly command them to assist in your battle for control of this facility.”

Rejel looked to Silani, “do you recognize these vorta?” she asked her.

“Yes,” said Silani, “but they’re Gamma Quadrant vorta. They were never approached by our resistance, and would have little reason to join it.”

Rejel looked to the two vorta. “Why should I trust you?” she asked.

“Because,” said the second vorta, suddenly bowing to her, “despite popular opinion, I have always been a loyal citizen of Cardassia.”

The rebel forces split into squads. Rejel went with the first to capture and activate the robots, and Silani went with the second to secure the two saboteurs. Rejel didn’t know whether to believe what they had told her, but converting these robots was what she had come here to do, and if they could help her, it was worth protecting them. Besides, they were in the control room for the shield generator, and with a Dominion Warship in orbit, that was definitely worth holding.

Her soldiers were outnumbered (they really hadn’t planned for Weyoun and his jem’hadar to be here today, the facility must have finished its first wave early), but luckily the jem’hadar really had been spread out looking for the “vorta.” Neither squad encountered more than a dozen enemy soldiers on the way to their targets.

The door into the first warehouse was sealed. Rejel had her soldiers place explosives on the wall 2 meters to the left of the door, and stand beside their soon-to-be-hole with their backs to the wall. Once it detonated, two of her soldiers bravely leapt before of the entrance, disruptors firing, while the rest of her squad stayed out of the line of fire until their comrades entered the room. No reason to line up single file for their enemies. Once the majority of her forces were within the room, Rejel joined them with the remainder, firing her weapon as best she could. Fortunately there were only a handful of jem’hadar within the warehouse guarding the robots.

Even more fortunate, the robots weren’t all they were guarding. Amongst the cowering vorta in this room was someone Rejel recognized.

“Rejel,” said the man as they’re eyes made contact.

“Weyoun,” she replied, sneering. She looked around. “You really should have kept more bodyguards,” she told him.

Weyoun smiled in agreement, “I failed to anticipate your, bold, arrival. Tell me, were you behind the sabotage as well, or was all this one big coincidence?”

“Coincidence,” she said, pointing her disruptor at him. “Today just isn’t your lucky day.”

Weyoun eyed the weapon, “You’re really just going to shoot me,” he asked.

“The 30 billion lives on your hands make a compelling case for it,” she said.

“You really are mad about that aren’t you,” said Weyoun, fascinated. “I assumed your tantrum over the destruction of Romulus was just an excuse to grab power. After all you Cardassians are all so obsessed with ruling each other that you’ve been through more coup’s recently than I can count. But you're actually upset over the lives of aliens. Of sworn enemies even. I can’t believe I so misjudged your character. You really don’t have the heart for all this death and destruction. You're better than that. Which is why you won’t kill me. You’re no executioner Rejel.”

“So because I won’t allow the murder of innocents, you think I won’t end the one who killed them?” she shook her head. “You called the leader of Cardassia a naive child, and now you’re calling the leader of the rebellion a pacifist. Don’t you get tired of being wrong about me?”

“Alright, I’ll admit it, I can’t understand your motives,” said Weyoun. “But you still shouldn’t shoot me. Because I only see 58 soldiers in this room, and I have over 200 hundred in this facility. They may have been spread out during the beginning of this battle, but as we speak they are converging on our position. And when they get here,” his eyes turned hard, “your only hope of survival will be keeping me as a hostage, and using your pathetic excuse for diplomacy skills to negotiate for a means of escape.”

Rejel waved over one of her soldiers to guard Weyoun, while she walked over to a console. “Oh, I don’t think your soldiers will be much of a problem Weyoun,” she said, activating the robots. “But you are right about being a good hostage, and I still don’t know what to do about that ship in orbit.”

Sloan sat patiently at the helm of his ship, watching passive sensor readings, waiting to learn what was going on on the planet below. The Dominion warship still hung above the planet with him, oblivious to his presence.

Finally, Bashir broke the radio silence. It was an encrypted broadcast, one the Dominion would no doubt detect, but they wouldn’t break this code for a while. Sloan couldn’t reply to the message without giving away his position, and Bashir just making the broadcast would probably make them suspicious of a cloaked ship, since someone had to be receiving the broadcast. But at this point, the update was necessary.

Some of the news was encouraging. The rebel faction currently held the facility, which was better than the Dominion at least. They even captured Weyoun, which at this point was probably the only reason the jem’hadar ship in orbit wasn’t blasting the factory into rubble. But that standoff wouldn’t last long. The simple fact was this mission had failed. The enemy had discovered their sabotage before mass employment, and there was no way to hold this moon by force. And worse, Garak gave the rebel leader their passcodes, eliminating any hope of Section 31 using them to free the Federation. Sloan should have known not to trust the cardassian. For all their common enemies, he was still a patriate.

Sloan leaned back into his chair, closed his eyes, and tried to think of a way to salvage the situation.

His ship alerted him to hundreds of ships detected on the long range sensors. The front was a fleet of cardassian warships, followed close by a fleet of jem’hadar. Considering that the Dominion normally kept their cardassian and jem’hadar ships integrated, and that a Dominion fleet on its own would currently have no plausible reason for returning to the capitol like this, Sloan concluded the obvious. The cardassians were coming to join the rebel faction, the jem’hadar were chasing them in an attempt to stop them. This entire system was about to erupt into a battlefield.

This could be exactly the distraction Sloan needed.

“How many ships are in system?” Vissad asked ops. She didn’t expect many, but if she was wrong that would mean a battle on two fronts.

“Just three mam,” said the officer.

Vissad smiled. She was going to win.

“Their positions?” she asked.

“Two are orbiting Cardassia Prime,” replied ops. “The other is orbiting the fourth planet.”

So, one was guarding the robot factory Kilana had told her about. That wouldn’t be standard procedure. Something must be happening there, and the last thing Vissad wanted was Weyoun refilling his depleted army. Besides, it was probably best to avoid a massive battle over Cardassia Prime itself. It’s orbit would be cluttered with debris for decades.

“Order the fleet,” she commanded, “We’re heading to the fourth moon.”

After the fleets reached the system, it took them several hours by impulse to reach the fourth planet. Once they extrapolated their course, the two warships orbiting Cardassia left to join its comrade, knowing that every ship would be needed in this battle. The cardassians would reach the planet several minutes before the jem’hadar chasing them, so the two warships slowed their engines to ensure they arrived with the others, so as not to be shot down immediately by vastly superior numbers. The warship already orbiting the fourth planet did not have this luxury, and was destroyed without taking down a single enemy with them.

As for the main battle, the jem’hadar felt confident. They were outnumbered by approximately 50%, but they were finally battling conventional opponents again, instead of those eerily swift and coordinated positronic warships. This time they were the supersoldiers, and the treacherous cardassians would learn to fear them.

Except, remarkable as the jem’hadar’s genetic enhancements were, the most remarkable thing about them was their growth rate. Their rapid learning and enhanced dexterity helped make up for their lack of experience, but even a five year old jem’hadar wasn’t much better than any other humanoid combat veteran. And meanwhile, what cardassians may have lacked in genetic supremacy, they more than made up for in training. As children, cardassians were taught exercises to develope eidetic memory, multitasking, and gut based vector analysis. Combined with the strict discipline of a military focused society, and years of experience in multiple recent wars, it was clear these soldiers were just as qualified to be called “super.” And they felt no fear this day.

Several minutes into the battle, the Dominion realized they would need to retreat if they were going to salvage any of their forces. The vorta commanders reluctantly ordered their jem’hadar to do so, but not before destroying the factory below. Weyoun or no Weyoun, they couldn’t allow the rebels access to more soldiers. The Dominion was at enough of a numbers disadvantage as it was. The cardassian ships defended the structure once the jem’hadar began firing on it, but they couldn’t drive them off before the facility’s shields had collapsed, and the factory had taken several unprotected hits.

Still, what remained of the Dominion fleet retreated, and the Cardassian system was once again under cardassian control.

Surrounded by smoke and darkness, Bashir pulled out his scanner and shifted its active sensors into the visible spectrum for a makeshift flashlight, and began looking through the wreckage, grateful that his section hadn’t had a hull breach. This planet didn’t have much of an atmosphere. He found Silani and two cardassians under a fallen beam, and shouted over several robots to help lift it off them. Once it was off them, he checked for wounds. Two of them were fine, but one of the cardassians needed immediate attention. He tore off some of his shirt for a quick tourniquet and had Silani apply pressure to the wound, then ordered one of the robots to find him a medkit.

Once the patient was stable enough that he could abandon him without dooming him, he began to look for others. He found some, and quickly his rescue efforts merged with others, and a sort of triage formed. Eventually rescue arrived from the conquering fleet, and they were organized enough to make a list of the dead and missing.

Weyoun was gone.

At first they assumed he was under some rubble, but even with sensors they couldn’t find his body. Silani worried that the Dominion had beamed him away after collapsing the shields, but Bashir had a different theory. After all, Weyoun wasn’t the only one missing.

Bashir shook his head and muttered under his breath, “Sloan.”

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