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Star Trek: Copernicus - Through the Mind of the Eye

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Through the Mind of the Eye

Star Trek: Copernicus

There was only ever going to be trouble. Franzoni had left that crew behind, with all its own troubles, the pain they had already inflicted, the torment, and still, the part of that ship he couldn?t leave behind gnawed at him. He couldn?t escape it, and trouble was going to lead to more trouble, whether he liked it or not.

Whether he could blame that ship or not, had he never been a part of that crew, Franzoni would never have known about this world. He didn?t know if he should curse and thank them, because he was about to rescue it, as he could never have done, as it was so clear, while among them. It ?wasn?t what they did.? But it was exactly what he needed to do. In the years since the Dominion War, the planet Mund had become a new extension of the Vorta tyranny. Franzoni had lost a friend he didn?t know he had when the occupation began, the expansion, the last great failure of that crew, its captain, the woman he could never love. He was going to make that right. He was finally going to salvage what was left of his life, and he was going to make that crew redeem itself in the only way he knew how. He would recruit Douglas Velar.

***

The circumstances that had led Pentek to the same Intifada would hardly have been believed the last time he and Franzoni had crossed paths, and yet there he was, aboard a salvaged Breen cruiser, a reminder of the events that had made them possible. There had been a war, and things had changed. The Cardassians had become just another species in space, struggling to make their way just as any other pathetic, directionless race. In the void, he had joined the Gnomon, and had found how once again his interests not only contradicted those of the Federation?s, but curiously aligned with the fate of one its most troubled and now former Starfleet officers. There were others like Franzoni, some who had resigned their commissions before the war, and some after, just as there had been a Maquis before and a Maquis after. The Gnomon were the Maquis, but their fight was no longer one of resistance, certainly not against Cardassians. The Pentek from before the war would no doubt be comforted by such a distinction, but the truth was he was as much in need of reassurance as that curious opposite, Franzoni. These were still troubled times.

Pentek was not the commander of this ship, and even though the Gnomon tended against concepts such as authority, there were others aboard who would claim such power. It was not a large ship. For the Breen, it had been a means of transporting artillery from battlefield to battlefield; now the cruiser delivered a detachment across the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, some of whom would remain behind permanently. Not even Starfleet had standing officers there, only more of their explorers, cataloguing things someone else already knew. They didn?t care what the Dominion had discovered, or what they were still up to, because even with the war over, even with the Founders still in their retreat, the Dominion was alive, and they were no allies of the Federation. Pentek could appreciate that.

The cruiser was headed toward Vorta space. The Vorta, long the subordinates of the Founders and day-to-day administrators of their will, had not taken kindly to the new circumstances brought on by the war and its aftermath. The cloning operations, with the withdrawal of the Founders, had come to an end. A sterile race, this would have meant gradual extinction to an ancient bureaucratic people, and they could not have stood by, waiting for their gods to make things right. They adapted, and their chosen solution was to absorb and recreate other species, just as the Founders had done. They were not empire-building; they were ensuring their survival, so naturally, no one, least of all the Federation, cared. They perfected the flaw in the Founders? original design; they made their creations in their own image. On the planet Mund, where once a three-legged, agile people had prospered, now stood an entire population of new Vorta, the last remnants of resistance put away as the process concluded within a matter of years. Vorta space now occupied much of the former Dominion, would had once enjoyed a remarkable amount of diversity, far more than anyone ever realized. Now it was being consolidated. Even the Jem?Hadar would be joined.

The Gnomon somehow had a problem with this, as certainly did Pentek himself.

***

Franzoni piloted a two-man Starfleet bombardier, the first Federation starship designed exclusively for combat. With room for such a limited amount of passengers, its purpose could hardly be mistaken or modified, as the last such vessel developed might still be. Still, Franzoni was merely traveling in it, making the bombardier a glorified shuttlecraft or runabout, sleek, lethal, but just another small transport at the moment. He was on his way to pick up Velar, whose current assignment aboard the U.S.S. Ptolemy, where he still served as able crewman, found him conveniently enough inside the Gamma Quadrant already. The bombardier made its way past the last Federation checkpoint at Deep Space Nine in a convoy arranged by the Gnomon, surrounded by a Tellarite survey party. Once the rendezvous with the Ptolemy was reached, Franzoni would board one of the Tellarite ships, the bombardier safely stowed in the cargo bay, ready to greet Velar.

In the meantime, surrounded as he was by other ships, Franzoni was free to explore the isolation of space, confined to the tiny bombardier and the tranquility around him. This is what he had missed, all those years in the fleet, constantly badgered by requests, assignments, and the chaos inherent in the system, plugged in with every crisis the Federation allowed to happen, every war, every dispute, every unexpected new enemy. Once, long ago, he had been offered a position in a secret intelligence agency that might have allowed him the freedom he now enjoyed within the system, but he somehow didn?t see how effective it really was. And he would not have truly lived. If he could be happy living on a single world with a consistent order governing his decisions and a job to occupy him, Franzoni might have bucked all these concerns entirely. But he had seen too much, done too much, had committed too much, and that?s why he had to go to Mund. Once more unto the breach.

There was so very little out here for him to grab onto, as the bombardier continued on its way, hardly anything but his own sense of reality to let him know he was moving forward. The controls told him coordinates, but they might as well have been an illusion. For all practical purposes, Franzoni was frozen in place. Except he saw the stars, and knew enough of them to know how they changed places constantly, from his perspective, like rolling mountains on a winding road. He thought if he went far enough he could make his way around them in minutes. But they were far away and it was only his perspective. His bombardier slipped along, but it did not move that fast. Space was too vast.

On Mund, everyone was a Vorta, but of course that had not always been the case. The Gnomon were not headed there to change this, but to prevent it from happening to other worlds. In their hubris, the Vorta had staged the entire process there, built the hideous engine in the heart of the planet, to be swept across the system and eventually quadrant, until perhaps the day came when they questioned expanding further and risk drawing the ire of the galaxy, when they finally noticed, like the Borg. This was far more insidious; Franzoni had watched the first Mund to become a Vorta, an individual once known as Mcquarrie, lose his mind, become an entirely blank slate to be educated in the ways of the Vorta, their culture, their ambitions, and most importantly, their reasoning. This Vorta had turned on his own brother. It was upon discovering this that Franzoni finally decided to join the Gnomon cause, the realization that peace was not the only road to utopia.

***

The Ptolemy?s captain was a Klingon, Guerin, who had once been the ambassador to Earth, a loyal officer of the Empire and veteran of a dozen campaigns. His father had been a farmer, and mother a socialite, if such a thing could be understood in its context. Growing up, he had learned the value of land and pride in his people, which had, to his parents? discovery and against their intentions, led him on the warrior?s path. He did not know it, but among his crew was a crewman about to embark on a matter of grave importance to the Klingons, which would in turn draw Guerin himself into the plot to redeem Mund.

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When Franzoni and Velar entered into orbit around Mund, they were greeted by a Jem’Hadar named Toran’Tiklan, and were almost immediately subdued.

***

Had they reached Mund, they would have found, contrary to every speculation and the information provided by the Gnomon, a single Vorta, answering the name of Ordwey, governor of this new member planet in the Dominion. The new population, obviously, was anything but Mund, or Vorta, for that matter, but a colony of Gwe, the merchants of the Dominion, established by the Founders long before the Vorta or Jem’Hadar, secretly to scout the quadrant for likely home planets. They had found two. By the time of contact with the Federation, they were down to the last. The Gwe had been meant to be the first members of the Dominion through the wormhole, once it had been discovered, but when a ship of Ferengi came through, the Vorta were quickly substituted, and the Gwe became an almost moot branch. War was declared long before the enemy knew it was being waged. It was a dangerous universe.

As governor of the colony, Ordwey had to oversee whatever economic endeavors the Gwe conceived as they attempted to reassert themselves in the new Vorta order. Ironically, of all the member species, the Founders had always trusted the Gwe most, because they possessed the most independent thought, were most given to the notion that through chaos order may be obtained, for there is nothing to be found elsewhere like that description than business. Secretly, a Founder had lived among them for millennia, and was with this colony even now. Ordwey, when he had come about, seemed to instinctively sense it, though he couldn’t voice it. He knew there was a greater importance to his position than the others generally understood. In the grand scheme of the new Dominion, Mund was just another member world.

Receiving Toran’Tiklan’s transmission, Ordwey sat back in his seat, at ease with himself. Rarely had a member of the Dominion sat at all, not before the war, anyway, but many of the things it had seen and experienced during that time had begun incorporating themselves into daily life. Ordwey sat often. There had certainly never been chairs on Mund before, at least not any a biped might recognize. In fifty or a hundred years, that might change still, assuming Ordwey lived that long. Just as a Klingon genetic experiment, another thing borrowed since the war and incorporated into Vorta thinking, had once altered an Empire for a century beyond recognition, Ordwey had the understanding that what had created him, created his blank slate of new life from old, would in time completely reverse itself. He would actually regrow that third leg, among other regenerations. Then again, Vorta rarely lived long, for one reason or another. He didn’t give it that much thought, that and many other things.

A governor’s life, much as any Vorta life, was actually pretty boring, so he relished the intelligence that had forewarned him of the Gnomon approach, each of the ships. The other was still coming, and perhaps that one would still be a problem. There was also the Starfleet vessel, which was still about, somewhere, for whatever reason. He enjoyed giving them some thought. In the meantime, he had more mundane matters to consider, as well as what to do with the two humans he now found in his possession.

***

For their part, Franzoni and Velar could hardly have been more surprised by what had happened to them, the ease in their capture, as if they had been expected, or in the new circumstances in which they now found themselves. At the very least, they had expected to find themselves in some sort of prison. That couldn’t have been farther from where they ended up, and with who.

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The girl was called Bescik, or so she told them. The truth was, as a member of the Great Link, she had no name. Only a handful of Changelings, of Founders, had ever assumed names, either among the early days they preferred to remember only in allegory, or of the handful of them, of the infants, they had set out into the galaxy to see if their memory, if their stories, truly held up to scrutiny. The name Bescik had come to her in her earliest days among the Gwe, when she had first come among them perhaps two hundred years earlier. Time was relative for a species who did not follow the rules of the Solids, not anymore. In the Great Link, everything was relative.

Her time with the Gwe, however, should never have lasted so long. There was nothing relative about that, no way to avoid the awful truth of it. The Great Link was everything. It called to a missing member like a siren song, no matter if they knew it or not. In relative terms, in the only ones that meant anything, Bescik had been gone for an eternity. Now that word had gotten back to her, of what had become of her people, of the Dominion it had sired, that time seemed longer still.

And yet, here she still was.

And yet, in strictly relative terms, she was a prisoner among her adopted people. Of course, prisoner was a relative term, too. She was still held in the highest of regards among the Gwe, not because they knew what she truly was (and even then, the Gwe were no Vorta; they had never needed to be), but because of her importance in their society. Bescik was a kind of royalty, and here she was, in her new palace on this world of Mund.

Presently, before her stood two persons who even in relative terms could not be called her subjects, two persons who weren?t even native to the quadrant, let alone subject to the Dominion itself. There had been a war and the Dominion had not expanded after all, not in the way it had expected, anyway, not under the Founders, not from the influence of the Great Link. Mund had never been a member world, not with its population as it had once been, and yet now it was, another in a long series of recent acquisitions. As usual, the Gwe were brought in to secure its membership, a shiny new planet like a bauble, devoid of a new population but new staging ground. For the Gwe, that was pretty much everything anyway. For Bescik, yet another headache.

?You don?t wish to be here,? she said.

?We didn?t have much of a choice,? Franzoni replied.

?It wasn?t a question,? Bescik said.

?So we gathered,? Velar said, gesturing to the restraints the Jem?Hadar had left on them.

?Don?t be alarmed,? Bescik said. ?That?s the Jem?Hadar way. They won?t be necessary, and I?ll soon have them removed. There are a number of technicalities to be gone over before that, however. Such as the nature of your interests on this world.?

?I think we?re beginning to wonder about that ourselves,? Franzoni said. ?We didn?t expect to find you here.?

?You expected Mund,? Bescik said. ?And you have no idea who we are. Clearly we are not Vorta. Your Federation intelligence doesn?t go very far.?

?I think that would be a fair way of putting it,? Franzoni said. ?Though we don?t represent the Federation.?

?Naturally,? Bescik said. ?Though you represent it enough, which you must understand. Don?t be alarmed; I?m not intimating that you may have rekindled thoughts of war. But you must be aware that the handful of years experience your Federation and its neighbors have had have not exactly done the Dominion justice.?

?Still, whatever we lack, we?re still not exactly happy with what we have managed to find out,? Franzoni said. ?Vorta or no Vorta, this planet is still not populated with Mund.?

?And then again, it is,? Bescik said. ?In the viewpoint of the Dominion, it is as good as that. There is no cause for alarm here, not for the history of this planet, and not for people from very far away who don?t understand what they?re getting into.?

?People have been wronged,? Franzoni said. ?That?s all we needed to know.?

?And the solution is not easy,? Bescik said. ?You should be satisfied with that, because you will only bring about more hardship.?

?We figured it was worth it,? Velar said.

?You are in all probability wrong,? Bescik said. ?You should understand that.?

?Good causes are worth fighting for,? Franzoni said. ?We?re are going to fight. You should realize that.?

?Oh, I have,? Bescik said. ?I merely thought you should know what you?re getting yourselves into, everything you had not thought about, all the complications. The Mund people are retrievable, but not by your own hand. By their own.?

?We figured that,? Velar said. ?We also figured that if the best we could do was giving them a fighting chance, then that?s what we would do.?

?You speak in simple terms,? Bescik said, ?as if these are simple matters. You speak as if it is going to be easy.?

?That?s not really our concern,? Franzoni said. ?As we said, we want to see wrong be brought to justice. For us, it really is that simple.?

?You meddle in the affairs of a foreign government as if the galaxy belongs to you,? Bescik said.

?No offense, but that?s what you did first,? Franzoni said.

?You are na?ve, childish,? Bescik said.

?We are aware, and hope to capitalize on our awareness,? Franzoni said, ?for the greater good.?

?To your own detriment,? Bescik said.

?In the short-term, maybe,? Franzoni said.

Bescik couldn?t help but smile. These men were clever, brave, foolish; all the most dangerous elements of their nature. They were not to be underestimated, and they could not be ignored. And they were patently going against the wishes of a great many, both in unspoken wishes and desires written out in treaties which if followed, would spare a great deal of hardship all parties involved had already experienced and did not relish seeing again. Might she respect them? She couldn?t decide. But what to do with them? She left them standing where they had spoken with each other, in the cold center of this elaborate, gaudy chamber of hers, given her by the Gwe in token appreciation of her stature. She walked the extremes of it, nearer the walls, where the most important trinkets of its status were located. So much room, so little meaning, just representation, a relative gesture she could never feel anything but uncomfortable within. All it could ever be was impressive. It was meant for visitors, just maybe not these humans who now stood within it. No chairs here, not here.

She called silently for a guard to escort them away, while she further deliberated. A Jem?Hadar appeared, the loyal Toran?Tiklan, and once more did his duty. Bescik didn?t trust him. She didn?t trust any of this. He didn?t know she was one of his Founders, and she didn?t know what would happen the day he did find out. She spent the rest of the day troubled at the thought of it.

***

The Breen cruiser remained in orbit above Mund. For the last thirty-two hours, Pentek had attempted to meditate in the classic Bajoran style. During the Occupation, he had kept a concubine, as had many Cardassians, and she had, at the time as he?d allowed himself to believe, readily taught him many of the religious arts common in her culture. It was never the culture Pentek?s people had objected to, tried so hard to subjugate, merely the primitive people who practiced it. He himself had seen the Bajorans as almost unworthy. He couldn?t imagine how this peasant race had conjured such majesty out of lands that ever before his people had bombarded it into near-decimation could sustain such living art. On Cardassia, among the most barren of worlds in the entire Alpha Quadrant, culture itself had become a religion. Apart from proximity, it was the potential yet complete lack of understanding, such blind devotion to being called Prophets, of another culture that had made Bajor such an enticing prospect. Nowhere else, before or since, had the Empire found such a rich harvest, not even among the humans who would become such important meddlers and who valued their own culture, blindly, against all others. Pentek could not imagine Cardassia ever joining the Federation for this seemingly inconsequential reason. Cardassians weren?t proud; they really were superior, in the most significant way possible. After all, without culture, what was life best used for?

And thus, the reason for the Empire?s extreme desire for order, for military strength.

But those days, every one of them, were behind his people. Pentek would never admit it to any other member of the Gnomon, certainly anyone onboard the cruiser, but he was ashamed even of himself. He no longer knew who he was. The Gnomon provided a purpose, but that was all. He was here, and that was all he felt was truly necessary. He lacked the resolve for anything else.

Long ago, a lifetime ago, he had constructed a completely artificial holographic persona for himself, to fool the world, and himself, into safe passage. He had assumed a dead man?s identity, yes, and had enveloped himself in a completely tactile, fully articulated form, which he left behind, discarded for those still interested, but it had been a hollow vessel in every way. As hollow as he still felt now. Thanks to surveillance devices he had positioned, include on the person of Franzoni himself, he knew every detail of the Mund situation, and that added to his morass. Whatever he once felt motivating him, that, too, was dead. He was catatonic. He thought of departing the cruiser, blowing it up behind him. It may have been something his former self would have done, or at least, what people would have assumed him capable of doing. That had always been part of the problem. He, as with all of his people, had been grossly misunderstood for the natural impulses that happened to make them better than their detractors. Then again, even the best of intentions and individuals knew self-destruction all too well. That was an unfortunate course of such behavior.

The truth, beyond all the assumptions and expectations, was that this mission was hardly going as planned, either. Pentek anticipated that he would not be sitting in his quarters long, blundering along his efforts at meditating, losing the battle for peace of mind yet again.

As luck would have it, he was about to win that bet, from another unexpected direction, Doug Velar.

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Remembering how they were told they weren?t prisoners, Doug asked to be let outside for a while. The landscape he found was almost like nothing he?d seen before, and it was also familiar. Every world he had ever seen in his Starfleet career reminded him of that, how similar the basic trappings of life were. Theorists for centuries had debated how different life itself must look on other worlds, only to be proven wrong the day the Vulcans came. Those theorists had always assumed life must look different because every planet they had any practical experience with had a completely different chemical composition than Earth. But then, Earth itself had an untold variety of life on it. The ones who talked just happened to stand on two legs. Here on Mund, there had been three legs, but the same number of arms. Doug had no practical experience with the population as it had once been, and had never bothered to do the research he imagined was a given for officers. He had always been concerned with the grunt work. After all, what else was a crewman good for? All the same, he assumed that the third leg was more like a tail, or would eventually become, or perhaps had once, long ago, been. He wished he could find out now, but that wasn?t the reason he?d joined the Gnomon crusade. There had been far better ones.

As he continued his survey of the strangely familiar landscape, Doug saw a figure on the horizon, pushing what looked like a barrow of rocks. The figure was rapidly approaching, and was blasting ahead of itself, randomly about the ground, with the psionic pulse he knew was indigenous to Vorta. As it grew closer, he became embarrassed to discover that it was female, wearing very little, what appeared to be a bathing suit. Mund?s climate probably agreed with the attire, but in Doug?s Starfleet experience, it was an aberration, save for a very select group of planets, including the only planet he knew of completely devoted to pleasure, Risa, where he hoped to retire. He turned away from the girl, but not before noticing she seemed awfully young. As little as he knew of the Mund, he knew enough of the Vorta that this was an unusual experience on top of being vaguely wrong. Still, she seemed to have seen him, too, and waved enthusiastically.

She was mere feet in front of him, the barrow abandoned a few yards earlier, before he knew it. ?Hey,? she said. ?Call me Sino.?

Doug didn?t for an instant loosen up. ?What are, like sixteen??

?Something like that,? Sino said.?

?I-I?m just a little confused,? Doug said.

?That?s okay,? Sino said. ?Everyone gets confused about something or other. It?s like a cold, I guess, but I don?t know if it?s infectious, per say.?

?What? You?re completely losing me,? Doug said.

?I have that affect on people,? Sino said.

?And you don?t see why?!? Doug said.

?Oh, I get it,? Sino said. ?You?ve never seen a Vorta youth before. That?s okay. I?m told I?m like a first or something. Okay, maybe not the first, but first for just about everyone who can remember, or have ever known somewhere who can remember, which is to say parents and whatnot, including the Gwe, who can live for hundreds of years, like the Klingons or Vulcans you?re probably more familiar with. Sorry, I?m rambling, aren?t I??

?You can also do the pulse thing,? Doug said, at a certain loss for something else to say.

?Oh, yeah, but that?s because I?m female,? Sino said. ?We?re just lucky like that!?

?You?re also doing?manual labor,? Doug said.

?Oh, the barrow?? Sino said. ?Nah, that?s just a bit of fun. It?d take too long to explain. How old are you, because I think in your culture, the way you?re looking at me is probably inappropriate.

Doug had been trying really had to keep his focus, but this Sino was pretty sharp. Again he struggled for something to say. ?Uh, you see, Starfleet, which I?ve been a part of for about as long as you seem to have been around yourself, they?re a bunch of Puritans. Prudes. I don?t get to see someone wearing so little very often. Actually, I?m kind of glad you?re female.?

?I believe in your culture you still have these?distinctions. I?m a lesbian,? Sino said. ?No! Just kidding. Actually, Vorta aren?t very sexual. We haven?t really needed to be.?

?Look,? Doug said, frantically hoping to change the subject, ?I know you weren?t just playing around, and because you are, well, whatever you are, a Vorta youth in a culture that believes in the test tube as much as its gods, you?ve got to have a better explanation.?

?Wow! You really do know how to talk,? Sino said. ?I was beginning to wonder. Anyway, you?re probably right. But I?m probably a state secret, or something like that. I wonder if they?ll have to kill you now. Kidding! Just kidding again. Actually, I?m not that unique. The problem with Vorta is that they actually have sort of?lost the will to?mate, to do it, have sex, however you want to say it. We?re on Mund. Even I know why you?re here. Obviously you know what the story is. As for why I?m here, I?m not sure even I know why, exactly. So yeah, I really was just sort of having fun, pushing a barrow around for reasons you really wouldn?t understand. No state secrets, just some cultural details you?re not familiar with.?

?You?re in a unique position to help me,? Doug said.

?I?m not sure it would be appropriate,? Sino said. ?You know, for a number of reasons. Plus they?re probably wondering what you?re up to. Planting bombs, that?s probably what they expect. You have a friend inside the compound who wouldn?t exactly benefit from such a misunderstanding.?

?I have a better idea,? Doug said.

?Oh??

?You?re coming with me.?

?Oh.?

***

Another Vorta, Ordwey, was finding it hard to concentrate, as were a number of others on this world. Something about it was off, perhaps something was in the air. There must be a storm coming. He aimed to be ready. He called for Toran?Tiklan.

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As much as anyone else, Toran?Tiklan had experienced much in his life. Far from a simple foot soldier in the Jem?Hadar army, as much as any Jem?Hadar had proven themselves to be individuals, Toran had as well. Quietly. The lifespan of his kind was short enough as it was, but for those who broke from tradition, allowed themselves to be seen as distinct personalities? In the early days, even before the days of the White, in the lore of the Jem?Hadar, such would have been punishable by suicide.

His people were a vital part of the Dominion, as they were rightly honored to be, but they were as distinct from the Vorta, the Gwe, and countless other races as were the Founders themselves. The Vorta had been bred to serve the Founders, to see them as gods. Such was the general opinion with the Dominion, but such was not the motivation of the Jem?Hadar, even before the days of the White. They, too, had been bred, to become the fiercest, most unwavering warriors the universe had ever seen, not to be bothered with tactics but with the single ambition of victory, for the Dominion, but for the Founders first. Their devotion came from a predatory need for supremacy. They followed the Founders because they had never known greater rivals, and that is what they were truly bred to perceive.

Toran had seen a Founder bleed. No, not in the sense any solid would understand, but he knew there was a limit even to the Founders? might, to their superiority, and that had been the day he understood what he was, what he was destined to one day accomplish. He suspected that a similar thing had happened, on a wider scale, long before his time, had necessitated the White. And when the White began to lose its appeal, after the Jem?Hadar had realized their addiction, others had begun to see things his way, too. Not exactly the same way, no. But close enough.

Things were different with him. Toran still knew that service before the Founders would remain the destiny of his people for many millennia to come, just as it would remain his station. If the White had never truly been their motivation, then the Jem?Hadar, as no other member of the Dominion, had truly become a servant, maybe not by devotion and perhaps by inclination, but most clearly because it was a perfect opportunity. They had seen Klingons and laughed at them. That was all most of them needed to know. In more recent years, many Jem?Hadar had heard the tales from the Delta Quadrant, had learned of other potential rivals, such as the Hirogen, and they had long since become familiar with the Borg. Every Jem?Hadar had the same reaction towards the Collective: to use a human expression, bring them on. For Toran, he had never valued what the Founders had made him more than when the war had allowed him to discover all these things. War had a way of spreading knowledge, which was something he admired about it, almost more than the carnal satisfaction of it. <p>

He had served the Founders in ways few Jem?Hadar had, however. Most were pleased enough in the fighting itself, but Toran had accompanied them on more subtle missions, when they were posing among the solids to gain needed information. In this way, he had come to appreciate the art of subterfuge as few warriors did, and still greater appreciation for his masters. Of all the things missing from Jem?Hadar life so common among other species, Toran thought he missed literature most of all, simply for the fact that he could himself record all that he had experienced, either in his own life or as a bystander in Founder intrigue. That he doubted a Federation bleeding heart would ever have suspected.

It was experiences such as he had had on Deep Space Nine on just such a Founder mission that allowed Toran to guess that Bescik was not what she claimed to be, and that her interests with these humans extended beyond newly-awakened Founder curiosity. He was actually becoming annoyed, pushing them around from one place to the next, whether on the orders of Bescik or Ordwey. He longed to become a part of the plot, even though it did not serve his own interests, could actually spoil them, if he wasn?t careful. Toran was always careful, but it could very well become the case that in his carefulness he would finally slip up, which he knew full well was the dangerous in his game.

So he decided to alter it.

***

Franzoni had been waiting what seemed an eternity for Velar to return when the Starfleet crewman finally did, with a Vorta girl, a literal girl, a fact that only confused him. Beyond the fact that this was hardly in the character of his friend, above whom he had once been commander aboard the Copernicus, when Velar?s friend had been played by a treacherous Cardassian war criminal, it was also about as far from plan as he could have gotten. Franzoni, to put it mildly, was not happy about it.

?Before you say anything,? Velar began, ?just let me explain. She?s here to help.?

?That would, in case you were wondering, be news to me,? the girl, Sino said.

?Doug, you?re taking an awful risk.? Franzoni had little interest in talking at the moment. He waved Velar and his friend to another corner of what appeared to be a lobby in this grand embassy of the Vorta?s. Things would need to be recalculated, there was no mistaking that. When Velar put his mind to something, there was no dissuading him. It had been what perturbed Franzoni back on the Starfleet ship, but what intrigued him about the crewman being in league with the Gnomon. The Gwe woman, Bescik, had already thought she?d ruined whatever plans they?d had for Mund, but all she knew was what she thought she did, given everything they hadn?t known before arriving.

?I?ve got a new idea,? he said. ?Since our buddy Ordwey doesn?t seem to know who he is, we?re going to remind him. That should do the trick.?

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In front of him sat the Vorta governor Ordwey. Many things had been assumed over the course of the last few days, but when Harmon Franzoni came to Guerin, revealing what he was, what he represented, and who this Vorta had once been, the Klingon?s role in these affairs, even after he?d discovered what Crewman Velar had manipulated him into doing, was altered in an instant. This Vorta had not been a Mund, which everyone involved may very well have been excused to believe. He had not even originated in the Gamma Quadrant. He was a Klingon, too, one for whose fate the Empire in the early days of the Dominion project on Mund had spent a great deal of energy reconciling. Everyone thought he was dead. Everyone thought this blood traitor, this pathetic crewman in Starfleet, had not survived the initial transformations he had somehow allowed himself to fall into. Everyone believed Gird, the son of Guerin of the High Klingon Fleet, was lost.

For decades, Guerin proudly served in the Klingon military machine, forsaking a personal life, a wife, a family, so that he could fulfill what he had always believed was his destiny, to follow the calling of the highest honor the noble Kahless had so long ago decreed for his people. One day, he was wounded in battle and sent back to the homeworld despite his every protest to mend. He gave himself days, but in the weeks he truly required to recover, he saw outside his window a dancer, a performer in the Royal Klingon Opera, rehearsing, surrounded as if in waiting by the prettiest birds on Chronos. It was like a vision. More weeks passed still, he was fully healed, and despite his earlier ambitions to return to service as swiftly as possible, he lingered, listened to the tales old veterans in the hospice regularly entertained themselves with, and stared out the window, at the dancer, of such magnificent beauty he forgot everything he had ever promised himself. One day she came to the hospice herself, to give a performance for the veterans, near death and as ready for everlasting glory as only she herself in this life could imitate. That must have been what captivated him. When she was done, he proposed for her hand in marriage. She accepted.

The years advanced and she bore him many children, but the greatest of them was the first, whose fiery temperament reminded Guerin of his idealistic youth, when he thought he could take on the enemies of the Empire himself, armed only with a bat?telh and a targ to guide him. The firstborn, however, had heard of glory and honor from outside Klingon society, of the tales coming from the first of them to enter Starfleet, who had in this outrageous capacity affected greater influence on the fate of the Empire than had any warrior since Kahless himself. Guerin was dismayed, but to Gird?s judgment he eventually acceded, and when the day came, his son enlisted during the very height of the Civil War, wishing to fight on Romulus itself. Instead, he had fought on its sister world, Remus, and there been taken captive by its shadowy natives.

Guerin hid his shame, just as he buried all knowledge of his son, preferring to take pride in the rest of his clan, none others of whom left the protective circle of traditional Klingon life. Gird escaped nine months later, and quit the soldier?s life entirely. His failure was complete. Life in Starfleet, to compound the dishonor, allowed him many opportunities to inform his father of his activities, and as the years ensued, he never failed, not once, until the fateful trip to Mund, on simple reconnaissance. Just as centuries before the Klingons had conducted experiences that had grotesquely altered their great appearance, now, too, was Gird experiencing such dishonor. The last word Guerin received about his son was from a Mund, among the last of them as they had originally been, the brother of the man who led him into doomsday.

And yet, here he was again. Franzoni had somehow convinced the Jem?Hadar Toran?Tiklan to deliver the Vorta governor into Guerin?s hands. For long moments, they stared at each other, his son still oblivious as to what was happening, Guerin full of all the horror he had long suppressed for himself, a dancer clouding his judgment. In the completeness of the silence, he was glad to not to have to hear the grand manner of speech his son had adopted, the more he studied humans, their culture, and their ability to express themselves in more than mere physical, deadly ways. Humans were like Cardassians, not to be trusted with their words. His son had fought Cardassians, to make Guerin and all the Empire, when that war, too, had been fought. Such disasters upon his family!

There was only one thing left to do. Franzoni, given a new commission within the Federation, a new role among the Gnomon, a sister entity along Starfleet, which in the days since the Dominion War more and more Klingons had joined, and it was all Guerin could do to join the movement, this Franzoni had shared with him everything, all the secrets the Gwe ambassador Bescik had revealed to him. He had had his own medical staff study the effects of the long-term, but ultimately temporary assimilation of Mund into Vorta, and had been satisfied. He had also had them study such a procedure on other species. For many, for most in fact, the result was the same. For Klingons, deadly.

This Franzoni would quickly become a pariah when the truth of these matters was exposed to the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, this much Guerin knew. It would destabilize all of Federation space, the surrounding regions, the allies and all the races who had, as it turned out, wisely decided to remain entirely neutral. In this quadrant, across the span of the wormhole, where even today it was taboo for Federation ships to dally, stood a great Dominion, and among its allies, among its worlds, now stood Mund. His son had become governor of it. However it had happened, his son had won glory, even if he would never know it. Guerin had not studied the possibility of retrieving memories, of the base personality lost along with the physical appearance of the host body. Gird was his son, a Klingon of the Empire, but he was also Ordwey, a pitiful Vorta, and that was all he would ever be. There was only one thing left to do.

Against every order he could think of, any word, any appearance of negotiation with this man, Guerin knew what he had to do. He looked one last moment in the dead eyes of the man before him, took free the phaser from his waist, and fired. It had already been set to vaporize.

***

Douglas Velar suddenly understood the significance of Sino. In time, she would become the new governor of this world. The Gnomon would ensure the regeneration process of the natives would be sped up, as much as it could be, probably amidst a great deal of fighting, but this girl, this newborn Vorta, would become the legacy, the unknowable enchantment he had stumbled upon. The Gwe had already departed by the time news spread of the previous governor?s disappearance, including the woman Bescik, with whom the Jem?Hadar Toran?Tiklan departed. In the first few days of the revolution, Doug had come across a Cardassian, who claimed he was there as a member of the Gnomon, and he had suddenly realized something, that a friend of his had not died as he?d thought, and that this Cardassian was responsible in so many ways, Doug would be struggling with this matter for a lot longer than whatever his participation in the Mund crisis would ever amount to. All his life he had struggled to define what had been missing, the void he was constantly aware of, and he bucked against every authority figure because he knew they lacked the answers he needed so desperately. And yet this Cardassian, in him he had sensed all the answers he had ever wanted, and realized he no longer wanted to know them.

***

His part had finally played out. Franzoni let go a sigh of relief.

FIN

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