Held inside a complex stasis field, a formless piece of shriveled flesh hovered suspended in the air. The lab contained vast arrays of equipment, all of them worked on excitedly by the hyperactive Binar. Finally, two Binar finished their work on a small, intricate device and turned to chirp at two others stationed at a console embedded in the wall. They answered back, affirming that all was ready. The first two Binar approached the flesh with their delicate electrochemical instrument, though the flesh was oblivious to them, too weakened now to observe its surroundings. Even under the stasis field, slowing its deterioration and holding it together, it was dying. The Binar carefully inserted the device into their patient, their faces showing an almost paternal expression.
In his mind, Odo felt something familiar through the pain, and desperately grasped hold. It was the Link, and through it he could hear a million voices. He entered it, and suddenly was surrounded by Binar, gathered in a dreamscape of electric thought. Odo could feel immeasurable data surrounding him, ready to be accessed, but no experiences. No true memories. The Binar’s link was imperfect.
“Odo,” called two Binar from amongst the crowd. Zero Zero and Zero One. As Odo focused on them, he felt a wash of recent experiences. They had modified their connection to the Master Computer using re engineered changeling biology, a prototype for their new Link. Dozens more prototype linkers stepped forward, collectively providing a full group mind. Odo savoured true communion with them- but then pulled back, aware now of their plan.
“I can’t do that,” said Odo. “I won’t be a changeling any more. I won’t even be alive.”
“It’s the only way Odo,” said Zero One.
“Your body is dying,” said Zero Zero.
“You must leave it behind,” pleaded Zero One.
“There is room within us,” assured Zero Zero.
“For your consciousness,” finished Zero One.
Odo backed away from the link, retreating into his own body. But all he felt there was pain. Dead senses feeding him nothing but agony. There was nothing for him here. Odo knew what he had to do. He held the Link in his mind, and pushed all of himself through.
And then Odo was gone, leaving only an inert lump of flaking flesh in the physical world.
Odo was free. The pain was gone, and the thoughts and data glowed with new intensity. He existed solely in the Link, a being of pure mind.
The Binar thought to him, grateful, “You are our organizing software now. As the new technology spreads, you will organize our new Link, a replacement for the Master Computer. You are running off our collective brain power, the many who is one.”
Phaser fire could still be heard as Kira quietly entered from the smoke-filled hallway. It was a treasure room; full of artifacts and arcane technologies under study by Dominion scientists. They had pilfered Bajor’s wonders just like the Cardassians, but at least they had kept them on planet, where she could still steal them back. The Dominion had no homeland to take their trophies back to. They were an administration, a spreading virus that sought to convert Bajor rather than suck them dry. But the effect was the same: Kira with a phaser in her hand, giving them hell until she’d killed enough oppressors to get them off her planet.
But this particular firefight wasn’t just wanton destruction. She was looking for something, something very precious her resistance cell had learned was here. Kira’s eyes scanned the room until she found the signature curved brown casing with jeweled sides, a shell crafted millennia ago to house the miraculous blinding hourglass of light within, an Tear of the Prophets. She approached it with a deliberate pace both appropriate to the immediacy of their situation, but still respectful for a hollowed artifact. Carefully, firmly, she hefted it off the table and stuffed it into a large carrying case she slung on her back, then returned to the firefight outside.
Back in the caves, Kira and the others placed the Orb on a stable chunk of raised rock to serve as a makeshift shrine.
“I wish we had somewhere more worthy of it,” said one of the young rebels.
“Better here than a Dominion lab,” replied Kira, staring at the large glowing emeralds on its sides, drawing her to it. “Besides,” she said, puzzled by the feeling. “I think we were meant to have it.” Kira approached the Orb and carefully opened its hinged doors. The green light of the Orb of Prophecy and Change washed over her face, and offered her a vision.
Kira stood on the bridge of the Defiant, with the Emissary in front of her.
“This one is strong,” said Sisko, but it wasn’t Sisko. She knew it was a Prophet.
Suddenly she was in a temple, with Kai Opaka.
“And faithful,” said the Prophet as Opaka, “She will serve us well.”
“Y-Yes, I will follow whatever path you lay out for me,” said Kira, awed, if a bit frightened by this communion. She had felt a Prophet inside her when she became a vessel for the Wreckoning, and she knew their words through scriptures and the confessions of the Emissary, but she had never spoken with them before. The Orbs offered much, but not direct communication. What task must they have for her to speak so openly?
“But can you?” said a Prophet in the visage of Dukat, as he reached out and grabbed her jaw. She resisted the urge to punch a god. “Even if it goes against every instinct you’ve forged in a lifetime of rage?”
Kai Winn stared judgingly down at her from a bridge in the monastery gardens, “This one is aggressive, adversarial.”
But then Kai Opaka held her ear, closing her eyes as she felt her paw, “But she is strong. Strong enough to remake herself.”
Sisko spoke to her from across his desk in his old office, “Strong enough to be a leader.”
Kira spoke up, “I am a leader. I’ve commanded this cell in battle, I’ve organized it and kept it going.”
Vedek Bareil knelt in prayer at the monastery, and turned to her, “Your path is not to lead Bajor’s warriors. It is to lead their souls.”
Kira smiled in a half giggle, then frowned and shook her head vigorously, “Oh no, no. I’m no monk. I’m a terrorist.”
Sisko stood on the bridge of a shaking ship, fire and smoke erupting around them, “You are righteous. A quality suited to crusaders on the battlefield and the pulpit.”
Dax sat with her in Quarks, and placed a reassuring hand on her arm, “You told me Kai Opaka kept your people resolved through the worst of the Cardassian Occupation. Do you really think Winn can do the same?”
Kira shook her head, “No, but can I?”
Opaka smiled at her, “Trust in the Prophets, and your path is clear.”
Weyoun beamed down with a team of Vorta scientists and Jem’Hadar to the entrance to Dr. Soon’s lab in the remains of Omicron Theta. Everything was grey, dimly lit by a sky cloudy with ash. He turned behind him, and saw only petrified trees to mark the life that once covered this barren rock, their forms preserved in the betrious filaments left behind by the lovecraftian horror starfleet’s records said had devoured this colony. Weyoun had overseen the destruction of countless worlds, and felt only the cold certainty that he was in the service of gods. But now, he felt a sense of loss on this dead world. He knelt down and picked up a handful of ash, letting it sift through his fingers. As he had the day his god died.
The Founder had laid on a table surrounded by useless instruments, in room kept bone-chilling cold to stave off her deterioration. She was the color of shale, and as fragile as dust. She did not speak, but her eyes looked into his, and he saw hatred there, a deep rage at his failure to save her. And he could not blame her; for all his reverence, for all his loyalty and effort, he was impotent before this wasting disease. What was a servant who could not serve? The technicians said her structure was in its final minutes of collapse, and Weyoun had everyone empty the room.
He then prostrated before her; not usually part of their protocol but something he had seen in a Bajoran temple. Somehow the action felt fitting before a god. He knelt there, awash in his emotions, feeling his god staring down at him, then gathered the strength to stand and approach her. As Weyoun walked to her side, he kept his gaze on hers, hoping to find some sign of forgiveness, some sign of love for her engineered children. But the blaze did not change. He placed a hand on her table, a compromise when he knew he must not disrespect the divine with his touch. Vorta cannot cry, but Weyoun poured every gram of sorrow into his words as he bowed his head and spoke, “Founder, I am sorry.” He did not ask forgiveness for his failure, for one does not make demands of a god, but he could at least express his grief. Perhaps it would comfort her to know she will be mourned.
Parts of her began to crumble under their own weight, and the Founder’s eyes changed to fear before collapsing into dust. Weyoun reached down and held up some of the grey remains, letting it slowly fall through his grasp as he contemplated his purpose in this world.
Here on Omicron Theta Weyoun still did not know. He had kept the wheels of the Dominion turning (and of course kept the Founder’s death a close secret), but only out of habit. He tried to tell himself this is what the Founders would have wanted. That they had built the Dominion for a purpose and it was a legacy he should continue. But then he remembered the Founder’s eyes, and knew they wanted nothing for him.
Weyoun sighed and stood up, turning to enter the lab with the others. A variety of equipment was scavenged, and some databanks were downloaded, hopefully enough to solve their android problem. Weyoun led the researchers with renewed vigor, momentarily distracted from the existential worries of the galaxy around him.
Gul Rejal called Weyoun from the bridge of their ship. Rejal was the new leader of Cardassia Weyoun had recently picked, chosen from amongst the science division of the military to ensure she’d be out of her depth and easy to control. He had brought her along because despite this, he still didn’t trust her on Cardassia alone yet. “Weyoun,” she said, “we’ve tracked the androids’ old activity down here by their residual positronic imprints, as instructed. It was pretty hard to do after all these years, but a reverse parametric treatment of the data gave a reliable correlation-”
“What did you find, Rejal?” cut off Weyoun.
“Well, mostly just noise as they wandered the village and lab,” she said, “but i found this one path that led far up into the mountains, and then just sort of, stopped.”
“The android walked up to some ruins, and then never walked back. My first guess was that he transported back, but from the records I don’t think the colony had the resources to beam anyone anywhere, and besides I’m getting some strange readings where it last stopped. Feignt, but strange.”
This could be exactly what Weyoun was looking for, a lead, “Sounds interesting. Beam me, yourself, and 2 Jem’Hadar over their, giving a 10 meter birth.” Within in a few minutes Weyoun shimmered next to Rejal and their guards, overlooking a few crumbled columns left by the aliens that once lived here thousands of years ago. The Federation colony had been studying their ruins, but up until now that hadn’t seemed important. The colony was just where Soon had happened to set up shop.
They approached the ruins, an omnisensor in Rejal’s hands. Her eyes stayed focused on her scanner as she followed the group, taking careful steps on the crumbled stone floor and gracefully weaving past the grey stone pillars. The columns formed three concentric circles, the outer ring nearly 80 meters across. The group naturally approached the center.
“What are you reading, Rejal?” asked Weyoun as they walked. Once started, she could go on for hours, but Weyoun had noticed she did not volunteer information. She was too wrapped up in her own world to care if the others knew what they needed.
“Some low intensity gamma rays, beta particles, and some subspace distortions with an unfamiliar pattern,” she said. “They’re all around us now, emanating from the ground under this structure. We’ll probably have to excavate this site, see what’s built under here.”
In the center there was nothing, just an empty stone floor. Weyoun knelt down and wiped away some of the ash, and found markings carved into the stone. He motioned, and one of the Jem’Hadar bent down to help him. Together they uncovered an intricate symbol, a series of branching lines growing outward in a fractal pattern, with a smooth circle in the middle, almost cradled in its embrace. Weyoun stared intensly at it, lowering his head and looking to the left to see it from a smaller perspective, watching the lines twist away from him into the horizon of his short vision, and running his hands along the lines, feeling the edges of the engravings.
“This isn’t right,” he said softly. “This should have been worn away millennia ago.”
Rejal pointed her scanner at the markings, the frowned. “I’m… not sure what to make of this. It’s chemical composition is just simple stone, but the subspace readings are really strong here. I’m not sure if, i’m not sure if this part of the floor is entirely here.”
“Like how a warp field puts a ship partway between space and subspace?” Weyoun tried.
Rejel shook her head. “It’s more like, it’s in two places at once rather than being between them. But where that other place is… doesn’t have the properties of space or subspace.”
Weyoun felt something give along one of the edges, and pressed down. A swirl of purple not-light suddenly engulfed him and he was gone.
“Weyoun!” shouted Rejel. The Jem’Hadar raised their weapons and began looking around, and Rejel began tapping on her scanner furiously, switching from its passive scan mode and using various active scans to try and figure out what happened.
“Gul Rejal,” said the First over her com, “I cannot reach Weyoun. Do you know what happened?”
“Oh nothing,” said Rejel, “he was just whisked away into another dimension.”
The First paused a moment. “I’m sending down a team to help you retrieve him, assuming his still alive. We don’t have much time, I have received news that demands immediate attention from the leaders of the Dominion.”
Rejel straightened up and tried to speak with dignified command, but it came out sounding more hurt and pety, “That includes me soldier. Now what is this news?”
“Of course, Gul Rejel,” admitted the First. “The Romulans have invaded Vulcan. The final war for the Alpha Quadrant has begun.”