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Filler02

TO SEEK AND TO BE FOUND

 

  The late afternoon chill wrapped around her bare feet and face in a manner Jasis found refreshing. She strode over to the balcony’s balustrade and looked out across the capital city of Iorath. As the sun descended towards the horizon the towering skyscrapers were cast in a soft orange glow. They in turn cast lengthening dark shadows over the heart of the city. It would have been an impressive view for most beings, but she was not like most beings. She was a Vorta; an immortal representative of the Dominion. All she saw before her was her mission. A world that was to serve the Dominion.

  This was the only reason that Jasis was on this backwater planet well beyond the borders of the Dominion. It was the driving goal of the Vorta. A goal handed to them by their gods, the Founders. Their entire reason for being was to bring order to a chaotic universe. Order that only the Dominion could provide. Order that would be maintained by the guiding hand of the Vorta backed by the eternally balled fist of the legions of genetically engineered Jem’Hadar soldiers under their command.

  The Iorath system was located in a sparsely populated region of space that was far enough from Dominion space that it made it an unlikely target for the Dominion. While capable of interstellar travel the Iorathites had barely expanded beyond their homeworld of Iorath. Nor did they possess any significant technology or biology that was of interest. Instead it was their strategic location in relation to both the Dominion and the even more distant empire ruled by the T-Rogorans. They were the true goal.

  The T-Rogorans were an aggressive species. They had been spacefaring for centuries and had conquered several of their less advanced neighbours. However, their society had long since slipped into stagnation. Dominion projections suggested that within a century the oppressed would take advantage of their conqueror’s decay and tear the empire down from within. Given Dominion expansion in this region was not a priority it seemed strange to her that they would be moving against the T-Rogorans at this point in time. Though fully understanding the manoeuvres of the Dominion was not a necessity. It was the will of the Founders that order be brought to the T-Rogorans more immediately.

  “Jasis.”

  The calling of her name broke her out of her inner thoughts. She turned around and smiled at the man standing at the balcony door. He had fully dressed since she had stepped out onto the balcony, which was unexpected.

  “Leaving already, Kodah? I had hoped we could spend more time together.”

  Jasis sauntered towards him. She ran a hand down the front of her robe opening it slightly and offering a teasing glimpse of her bare skin beneath.

  “I’ve been called in for a sitting of the national assembly.”

  She gave him a convincing pout of disappointment. “Duty never rests.”

  “No, it doesn’t.”

  She reached out and adjusted his collar. Not that it was necessary, but she knew what the gesture would signify to him.

  “So, anything I should be concerned about?”

  He shook his head. “New visitors to Iorath have arrived and the assembly needs to basically rubber stamp allowing them to visit the planet as well as approve the welcoming reception.”

  “Like the one for my arrival?” she asked.

  “Not quite. It will be less…sycophantic than your event since we literally know nothing about them.”

  Jasis grinned with a feigned sheepishness. While she was the first representative of the Dominion to visit Iorath, word of the Dominion had reached the world long before. The Iorathites knew of the Dominion’s power and naturally wanted to be in its good graces.

  “I very much enjoyed my reception,” she said suggestively hoping Kodah would pick up the hint.

  “I can have an invitation arranged. Though it would not be on my behest. You understand?”

  “Discretion is one of my fortes.”

  “Yes. Good. I believe that I can best serve the Dominion’s interest in the assembly if it doesn’t think I am…too close to you. For the betterment of the future of Iorath.”

  “Of course. Thank you, Kodah,” she gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek to show her appreciation.

  Kodah gathered his belongings and had left. One the door was securely closed Jasis let her smile turn into a smirk. There was always at least one overly ambitious, self-serving politician in a government and for the National Assembly of Iorath that person was Kodah. He was less concerned about the fate of Iorath as he was about positioning himself to further his own political aspirations. Though given he was doing that meant he was probably one of the few that seemed to have a better grasp on what official contact with the Dominion meant for the Iorathites.

  Jasis had not yet revealed her true intentions for being here. She was to secure the system to be used as a staging ground for the Jem’Hadar push into T-Rogoran space. She was given a timeframe in which to get them to agree to allow the Dominion to set up a base in the system. It would serve as a crucial supply link from Dominion space to the war front. Full integration into the Dominion was currently not necessary. However, if she could not gain what the Dominion wanted through diplomacy then the Jem’Hadar would solve the issue through force.

  Given her welcome she guessed that the Iorathites knew enough of the Dominion to know the threat of its military might. As with many others they thought they could placate the Dominion. They were always wrong. All they could do was submit. It was just the matter of how much they were willing to lose before they did.

  Jasis brought her left hand up towards her face. On her wrist she wore a plain silver bracelet. She stroked two fingers across its surface.

  “Yes, Rona’toran Jasis,” answered the Jem’Hadar First from her ship in orbit.

  The First used her rank: rona’toran. It was the standard rank given to every Vorta in command of a Dominion warship, from the small attack ships like she commanded to the massive battle cruisers and carriers. Though given she was the only Vorta on her vessel having a rank designating her position was not all that necessary.

  “The Iorathites are expecting visitors. Have you detected any new vessels approaching the planet?”

  “A vessel has recently exited warp in the system and is making its way towards the planet.”

  “Is it anyone familiar?”

  “It is not, Rona’toran. The design nor its identification matches anything in the ship’s database.”

  Jasis was somewhat surprised by this news. “Collect what data you can on these newcomers. That is all, First.” With a tap of her finger on her bracelet Jasis ended the transmission.

  This was an interesting turn of events. She had expected the new arrivals to be a race that the Dominion were aware of. One of the several that inhabited the wider region near Iorath that the Iorathites were unaware of. For her ship’s database not to recognise the vessel suggested they were from a location quite far removed. Not that it mattered. They were now known to the Dominion and at some point in the future they would have order brought to them.

  Jasis looked across the city’s skyline and smiled as she returned to more immediate thoughts. Iorath had its fate decided long ago as well. All that was left was the manner of how they would reach it. They would either do the right thing and bow to the Dominion’s will or they would be broken by the Dominion’s will.

  There was one true measure of power in the universe: the strong ruled the weak. There was no doubting that the Dominion was strong. That alone was enough to warrant its domination over others. It was simply the way things were meant to be.

 

  Jasis bowed her head graciously to the Iorathite man who had escorted her into the venue, excusing him from her company. Alone she took in the National Assembly Building’s Great Hall. It was the most lavish of the function areas in the Iorathites’ government building. Here the Iorathites were holding a special function to greet the recently arrived visitors to their world.

  Jasis had attended a similar event here when she had first arrived and had enjoyed it. She enjoyed the opulence and pageantry of such events. She knew that many Vorta would find such frivolity to be wasteful and pointless. She understood that these types of events had their place. It was perfect for meeting the most important people in a society. Also there was much food and drink to relax the tongues of these people and granted a fantastic opportunity to gather intelligence. It was why she was sent on this type of mission.

  She could also use such an event to develop relations with officials and use them to further her and therefore the Dominion’s goals. It was during her reception that she had singled out Kodah. Using her sexuality as a tool was just one of the many auxiliary skills she had learnt over the 360 plus years of her existence.

  A server with a tray came to her and she selected a tall stemmed glass of liquid. She tasted it and recognised it as tulaberry wine. No doubt traded to the Iorathites by the Dosi, a species of aggressive traders that were an associate of the Dominion.

  Located beyond Dominion space in the same wider region as the Iorathites, the Dosi enjoyed a profitable arrangement with the Dominion. Through their trading network they essentially spied on everyone they interacted with for the Dominion. It meant that the Dominion was able to covertly keep abreast of this vast area of space near its borders without committing extensive resources. It was one of the subtler ways the Dominion reached out beyond its borders.

  Jasis moved about the crowd and mingled. She received many positive comments on her attire. It was a formfitting purple halterneck dress that had a plunging neckline that she was told was the style at the moment. Her outfit showed off a lot more skin than she typically did and she had to admit she enjoy that aspect given the attention it often elicited.  Likewise her long hair was styled into a large high bun that was considered fashionable.

  Iorathites had a ridge that started above their eyes where others would have eyebrows that ran towards their ears and then up along their hair line. The ridge than ran around the back of their head encircling it. Both men and women seemed to prefer to keep their hair at a length that covered the parts of their hairless ridge that went around the top of their heads. Those not familiar with the Iorathites would therefore often not be aware of the extent of their cranial ridge. Jasis of course was intimately aware of it.

  For formal occasions the style for women was to wear their hair in such a way to expose their ridges. They then decorated them with either colouring or jewellery. While Jasis didn’t have said ridges she instead wore decorations on the long ear ridges that ran vertically on the side of her head. Her imitation of Iorathite style was again being well received by her hosts.

  Few Vorta would go to these effort for interactions with other species. Just turning up in their standard clothing would be considered more than sufficient. To style themselves after other races was considered uncouth. It was a triviality that they considered should be beneath the Vorta.

  Jasis had developed a taste for fancy things over the centuries of her life. The Vorta were created without a sense of aesthetics, but those who existed for long enough could develop one. Unsurprisingly it was far more common in Vorta that frequently interacted diplomatically with other species. What often started as parroting others could develop into an actual personal taste. As long as it did not interfere with their mission to bring order eccentricities in individual Vorta were ignored.

  There was a loud toll that rang out in the hall that caught everyone’s attention. Jasis turned towards it and saw the High Minister of Iorath, the elected leader of the world, at the entrance to the room with several other individuals.

  “We welcome High Minister Rasala and his honoured guests; Captain Juan Acero with a delegation from the United Federation of Planets,” called out the speaker.

  Jasis got her first look at the newcomers to Iorath as they came down the steps from the entrance. They were all dressed in similar styled clothing. They were all dressed in long jackets with black pants and shoes. Their jackets had black with a thin golden trim that ran around their collar and then across their right shoulder. The only difference between their outfits were the colours of the jackets below the shoulders. Two were in red, including the one identified as Captain Juan Acero, one in blue and the fourth in yellow. They also each wore an identical brooch on their left breast of their jackets. Despite the colour difference the styling was so similar across the group, which included at least two distinct genders, that she guessed it was likely a uniform.

  What Jasis found most surprising about the small group of four following the High Minister was that they appeared to represent at least three different species. One of them had a light blue skin colouring and a vertical ridge that tracked through the middle of its hairless head almost as if to separate it in half. Its body shape and characteristics suggested it was female. Another was also bluish but had a very different facial structure with deep set eyes and a pronounced brow and nasal area. It had little tendrils next to its mouth that along with its skin tone and smooth appearance made it almost aquatic in appearance. Both were species she had never seen before

  The other two were of light skin tone, more similar to the Iorathites than her paler Vorta skin. What made them stand out was the lack of anything particularly distinctive in their appearance. They appeared similar to species Jasis was familiar with: the Teplans and Yaderans. Both species where from systems that were regionally close to Iorath.

  The Teplans and the Dominion had clashed two centuries prior. As punishment for their resistance the Dominion had infected the surviving population with the Blight, an incurable genetically engineered disease that continued to ravage the population. She did not notice any of the telltale signs of the Blight, so rejected the notion that they were Teplans.

  Yaderan was a distinct possibility. They were a species that was conquered only a few decades ago. Yadera Prime was the closest Dominion controlled inhabited world to Iorath. It was possible that scattered Yaderans that fled the Dominion could have formed an alliance with the two blue species. If so she would need to approach them carefully as they could hinder her mission.

  Once the delegation started to mingle Jasis made sure to keep some distance from them as she gathered information. Thanks to her exceptional hearing she was able to follow them subtly and listen in on their conversations without directly interacting with them. The ability to eavesdrop so effectively was just another string in the quite considerable bow.

  She had quickly learned that the two she thought could be Yaderan were not. They referred to themselves as Humans, a species not familiar to her. She had also learned that the blue being with the lined face was a Bolian and the other blue being was a Benzite.  They were all part of a body called, “Starfleet”, which they claimed was the exploratory arm of the United Federation of Planets.

 This Federation was apparently a government of several planets and species. They talked about their homeworlds, but the names they used meant nothing to her. Like the fact that their vessel, the Proxima, was named after a star close to the Human’s star system. Nothing she heard gave her a solid idea where the Federation was located. The best she could do was to surmise it was indeed some distance from Iorath as she had initially thought.

  Jasis had made her way to the long table that had an array of appetisers and drinks. A server behind the table poured her another glass of tulaberry wine. As she waited a very familiar face approached her.

  “I trust you are enjoying the festivities, Representative Jasis,” said Kodoh as he ordered two drinks from the server.

  She nodded politely to him as she replied, “I am indeed, Minister Kodah.”

  “Have you had a chance to talk to the guests of honour?” he asked with a subtle gesture towards the Federation representatives.

  Jasis accepted her fresh drink from the server before she replied, “No. I thought it would be impolite to impose given I am just a guest on Iorath.”

  “They are an interesting group. Four different species all working together. Though I guess multi-species cooperation isn’t as unique for you.”

  Jasis smiled. “The Dominion has many different species within it.”

  “And their vessel! They call it a Nebula-class starship. An apt name as it is an impressive sight. Though I guess if you are going to undertake long term exploration you would want a large ship.”

  “Size isn’t everything,” she stated flatly as she took a sip of her drink.

  “Of course. I’m sure your vessel is impressive in its own way.” The server attracted Kodoh’s attention and the minister picked up two glasses. “Back into the fray. Try the fish. It’s has a very delicate flavour.”

  Kodah returned to a group of Iorathite officials and their partners. He passed the second glass he had to his wife. She an additional reason Kodah wanted to keep their private interactions quiet. Jasis had no wish to disrupt their relationship, though if it benefited the Dominion’s mission here she’d happily do it.

  As she turned back to the appetiser table she caught the Federation Captain looking at her. It was a subtle look that she recognised. It was the look that she had wanted her outfit to attract. While he wasn’t the intended target it didn’t mean she wouldn’t use any advantage her clothing would give. Information was power and to increase that was always welcome.

  She picked up one of the fish appetisers Kodah had suggested and popped it into her mouth. While, like all Vorta, her palate was rather poor she still liked to try new things. The appetiser tasted much like all the others to her, but it had a texture that she found interesting. She let out a soft, appreciative hum.

  “This is a very fine spread the Iorathites have laid out.”

  She looked to her side and saw that Captain Juan Acero was standing by her.

  “The Iorathites are a very generous people,” she replied with a smile.

  “That they are. Let me introduce myself, I’m Juan Acero,” he said. He stretched out his hand towards her and smiled warmly.

  Jasis accepted his hand. “I am Jasis. It is a pleasure to meet you Juan Acero.”

  She held his hand for some time before pretending to realise this and letting it go. She glanced away with feigned embarrassment. As she did she brought up a hand and touched her hair.

  “Ummm. Have you tried the fish? It is quite delicate,” she asked playing up her embarrassment.

  “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do a proper analysis of Iorathite cuisine. I would hate to cause a diplomatic incident due to my stomach being upset by an ill-chosen snack.”

  “Ah, yes. Of course. A wise precaution,” she praised him.

  Jasis often forgot that not everyone had the intestinal fortitude of the Vorta. Her digestive system was able to handle just about anything. She had never heard of a Vorta becoming unwell from consuming foreign foods. They were also immune to most forms of poison. Both aspects were useful in the work the Vorta conducted.

  “Though if you are unable to eat or drink, why did you come over here?” she asked innocently.

  “I can still experience it vicariously through others. That is if it is okay to join you?”

  She continued to smile at him.  “You are most welcome to, Juan Acero.”

  Jasis continued to smile sweetly at Acero. She had lured enough men in her lives to know when one was interested in her and Acero was definitely very interested in her. She started to describe some of the dishes she tried while also trying to be accidentally sensual. Many beings found slight awkwardness to be endearing and given Acero’s reaction he was one of them. Another pleasant side effect was that it meant they often underestimated her.

  Her gentle manipulations were interrupted by an Iorathite official collecting drinks. The minister engaged Acero in conversation and Jasis willingly took a backseat. It took several minutes before the official moved on.

  “Sorry about that. The curse of being an honoured guest.”

  “There’s a balcony that has a pleasant view of the city. There would be less people there if you wish a reprieve from the Iorathites.”

  “That sounds great,” he replied and Jasis led him towards the balcony. “Do you live here on Iorath or are you a guest like I am?”

  “I’m also a visitor to this world. I’m originally from a planet called Kurill Prime.”

  Kurill Prime was the location of the Dominion’s largest cloning centre and many Vorta started at least one of their lives there. The very first Jasis was created on Kurill Prime, though only a few of her subsequent clones were from the planet so she hadn’t technically lied to Acero. She however was the twelfth iteration of Jasis and was created on a planet almost at the other end of the Dominion from Iorath. She had only been activated a year ago after her predecessor was killed in battle.

  This was the greatest reward blessed upon the Vorta by their gods. Just for serving the Founders they were graced with a form of immortality. She knew that while she may die that Jasis would continue. It was a minor detail that Acero didn’t need to know.

  “So does that make you Kurilli?  Kurillian?  Kurillite?”

  She shook her head.  “My species is called the Vorta.”

  There was no sign of recognition to her being a Vorta from Acero. Nor did he mention the Dominion. It was possible that he had not asked any of the Iorathites about her.

  “I’m Human, if you didn’t already gather that from my science officer.”

  Acero was referring to the Bolian in the group. Jasis had heard the Bolian say she was a science officer on their ship. She had been the most interesting to listen to as she was more than willing to share details about herself. Jasis had listed her as the most likely for her to approach to see what else she could gleam about their group.

  She nodded and gave him a slight smile. “She is quite the talker.”

  “She is particularly excited by this function. Our other first contacts have been rather low key affairs compared to this. This is a dream assignment for many officers on my ship. Being on one of the first ships to undertake an extended exploration mission to this region of the galaxy has been exciting.”

  They had reached the balcony and before them was the glittering city. The lights that illuminated it pushed back the darkness of the night.

  “It is a beautiful city,” she commented.

  “It is, if you like that kind of thing.”

  She gave Acero an inquiring look.

  “I’m from a small colony world. The entire population of that world would be easily less than this city. Our largest settlement had few buildings that were more than two storeys nor was it as anywhere near as dense as this. No matter how many fantastic cities I see they can’t quite compare to that small, humble city.”

  “Your home will always hold a special place in your heart,” she said. “What about your species homeworld? Was it like this?”

  “Earth? Yes. As with any world that is the beacon of your civilisation it strives for a grandeur to mark its place in the galaxy.”

  “So your United Federation of Planets is an alliance between Earth and its colonies and the worlds of the Bolians and Benzites, and their colonies?”

  “It is much more than that. There are over one hundred and fifty Federation member planets and several times that in colonies. All spread over 8,000 light years.”

  Jasis was shocked by this revelation. She had expected Acero to describe an empire much like the T-Rogorans possessed. Maybe a dozen systems or so across tens of light years. What he was suggesting was a foreign empire that was vastly larger than any she knew the Dominion currently had within their vision.

  “It must be a great and powerful empire to control such a vast territory,” she commented as she dug for additional information.

  “The Federation doesn’t so much control as it guides. Member world maintain their own governments and have representation on a council that governs the entire Federation.”

  From Acero’s answer it was a cooperative regime. If true spoke of great skill by its members to be able to maintain relations despite the number of voices and different views. Given its nature it would be threatened by the Dominion’s existence and in turn it was a threat to the Dominion’s order. It would have ideals that could spread to Dominion worlds and make controlling them all that more difficult.

  “Are you okay?” asked Acero.

  Jasis realised he had asked her something but she had not responded. The worry and concern she felt had slipped out from the carefully control veneer she was trained to show.

  “I’m fine,” she said, smiling to enhance her answer.

  She glanced around and saw they were practically alone. The only other people on the balcony did not appear to be paying them any attention. She realised that her decision to attend this function was more crucial then she could have expected. There was a new threat out there, one that the Dominion possibly knew next to nothing about. She had to get more information and she knew of only one way.

  Jasis grabbed Acero’s arm. Before the surprised Human could speak her other hand tapped her silver bracelet. She felt the familiar touch of a transporter beam wash over her as the open balcony on Iorath was replaced by the tight confines of the transporter room on her ship.

  She heard the sound of doors opening behind her. She quickly stepped back and away from the still confused Acero.

  “Subdue him,” she ordered.

  “Wait!” was all Acero could manage before a blast of energy struck him in the chest. The Human crumpled to the floor.

  “Are you injured, Rona’toran?” asked the First as he moved around her and towards the unconscious Acero.

  She waved off his concerns. “Put him in a cell and prepare for interrogation. And get us to warp. Maximum speed.”

  “Course?”

  “Yadera Prime.”

  The First immediately went about her orders without any further questions. Two other Jem’Hadar went to pick up Acero as Jasis exited the transporter room. She headed to her quarters to change. The time for frivolousness was over. It was now time for serious matters.

 

  “Lower the force field,” order the Vorta.

  First Hal’tarha immediately acknowledged the order from Rona’toran Jasis and lowered the force field to the holding cell.  The occupant remained seated on the bench seat at the rear of the cell. He was unrestrained, but his body language showed he was of little threat to the Vorta. Rona’toran Jasis entered the cell while he remained standing where he was and would until ordered otherwise.

  Jasis had changed back into standard Vorta garb since returning. Hal’tarha was still unsettled by Jasis’ ease with wearing the clothing of those ignorant of the Founders’ blessings despite serving under her for all thirteen months of his life. The first time she had done it he had only been serving her for a few weeks. He had the arrogance of inexperience and had confronted Jasis regarding what he thought was behaviour that insulted the Founders. She had promptly demoted him to Second. He was fortunate that this only lasted two months with the new First giving his life for the glory of the Founders.

  While their first mission under Jasis had been diplomatic in nature this was only their fifth mission with it as its focus. They had been involved in twice as many combat operations. From these he knew that Jasis was a capable military commander. It was also through various military operations that he had interactions with other Jem’Hadar units and witnessed a further difference between her and other Vorta. Jasis was less condescending towards the Jem’Hadar than other Vorta. He learnt that she had a favourable reputation amongst the Jem’Hadar. While the order of things meant he would always serve the Vorta regardless, he was relatively pleased that it was Jasis he reported to.

  “Captain Acero, I would like you to show me which star your world orbits,” Jasis gently asked.

  The Human’s head rolled lethargically, his mouth slightly agape and his eyes were glossy. They had pumped a drug into the cell prior to lowering the force field. It made him placid and prone to suggestion. Jasis was as safe in there with him as she was with the force field between them. Acero was incapable of being a physical threat to her.

  The Vorta placed a padd in the Human’s hands and directed his attention to it. The Human stared at the padd for several moments before he shook his head and mumbled.    

  “What did you say?” asked Jasis.

  “Not there,” he replied.

  “What do you mean it’s not there?” asked the Vorta sounding annoyed.

  “Not there,” he repeated.

  “Why?”

  “This is the Gamma Quadrant.”

  “Yes, so?”

  “Alpha Quadrant,” he replied.

  Jasis looked over to Hal’tarha questioningly.

  “I am not familiar with his terminology,” was all Hal’tarha could offer her.

  Jasis looked back at the Human. “I heard them mention it, but it didn’t mean anything to me either. Watch,” she ordered as she reached for the padd and showed the Human how to adjust the display parameters. “Can you locate your world now?”

  The Human nodded and his hands slowly fell over the padd.

  Hal’tarha stared dispassionately at the Human as he followed the Vorta’s commands with no sense of his own actions. This was why the Jem’Hadar would rather die than be captured. While the Jem’Hadar were strong and resilient he had seen a number of interrogation techniques that made him question if he could resist them. Pain nor fear mattered, but confusion, trickery, manipulations of the mind were another matter. Best to just die than betray the Founders even unwillingly.

  There was also the matter of the white. All Jem’Hadar required ketracel-white, which was provided by the Vorta, to live. Without it the Jem’Hadar would lose themselves to madness and then death. Capture was tantamount to a slow death via madness. It was not the way for a soldier to die. If Hal’tarha had anything to say about it he would die in battle.

  Jasis took the padd off Acero and analysed the result. She initially looked confused; obviously it was not the answer she had expected.

  “The drug has failed,” she stated angrily.

  “I do not believe so, Rona’toran. The subject is exhibiting the expected signs of the drug taking effect.”

  Using any type of drug on an unfamiliar species was not without risk. They didn’t know how Acero would react to it nor what amount would be required to put him in the state they required. While he obviously hadn’t died from exposure to it they had no other measure to go by than him acting in a manner that others had. He could be confident of his physical state, but the Human’s mental state was not something he could guarantee.

  “Then how do you explain this?” said the Vorta forcefully handing him the padd.

  Hal’tarha looked at the results. The location for the Human’s planet was tens of thousands of light years away on the other side of the galaxy. He could not explain it.

  “You said that their ship only had a standard warp drive,” stated Jasis.

  Hal’tarha nodded. “Our scans of their vessel only showed a technology roughly on par with our own. There were no signs of an exotic drive system.”

  “Did you scan the correct ship?”

  That accusation raised Hal’tarha ire. The Vorta was questioning the competency of the Jem’Hadar under his command and therefore his.

  “Of course. The ship was broadcasting a clear identification signal. It identified itself as the USS Proxima of the United Federation of Planets Starfleet. It was from that vessel he and his party transported down to the planet from. There was no mistake.”

  “Then how do you explain his answer to the question of the location of his world?”

  “I cannot,” he admitted, though it pained him to admit any failure. “Why do you not ask him?”

  He saw fire in Jasis’ eyes at his response. His response was of someone that was annoyed and letting it show. Jasis had gotten under his skin and he was returning the favour. However, the Vorta did not press the issue and turned back to the Human.

  “If your world is so far away how did you reach Iorath?” she asked.

  “The wormhole. The Bajoran wormhole.”

  “What is a wormhole?”

  “It’s a conduit outside of normal spacetime that connects two points. Travel through a wormhole is much shorter than the distance between the two points. It’s a shortcut.”

  “So your Federation is not native to this region?”

  Acero shook his head slowly. “No, we are from the Alpha Quadrant.”

  Hal’tarha could see the Vorta’s mind spin with the possibilities. He had little interest in spatial phenomena, though could see the potential advantages a wormhole could provide as well as the risks.

  “So your vast Federation is connected to our region of space through this wormhole? How long have you been here extending your influence into this quadrant?”

  “The wormhole was discovered over half a year ago. We came through four…five months ago to explore. We…we are explorers.”

  “And you have no designs for this quadrant?”

  “We are surveying systems and worlds for possible future colonisation or mining. We want to seek out new life and new civilisations. The Federation is always open to new members. One day we hope to unite everyone under the Federation.”

  There is was. Hal’tarha did not need to be a political man to understand the implication of the last statement. The Federation wanted to unite all under its banner, much as the Dominion sought to. That created an impasse. Hal’tarha knew that as soon as the words left the Human’s mouth that there would be war between the Dominion and the Federation. War was what he was bred for, his reason for existing and the chance to take part in it made his soul sing.

  “Show me the location of this wormhole,” Jasis ordered.

  At that moment the internal communication system sounded, “Rona’toran Jasis, we have a vessel pursing us. It is demanding that we drop out of warp and surrender the Human.”

 

  As soon as Jasis stepped onto the attack ship’s bridge the Second surrendered his virtual display device to her. First Hal’tarha was close behind her and took the second display device off the Third.

  “Identification of the pursing vessel?” she ordered as she took her place at the command console located at the centre of the bridge.

  “It is the USS Proxima. It is still openly broadcasting its identity,” reported the Second.

  “Tactical assessment?” she asked.

  Hal’tarha had moved to one of the two consoles located to the side of the bridge. As he tapped the control before him scanned data of the Federation vessel started to appear on Jasis’s virtual display.

  “Their vessel is far larger and armed with more weaponry than our ship. It appears to have multiple energy weapon arrays and torpedo launchers. Its current speed is above our maximum and outrunning it does not seem like a possibility,” explained the First.

  Jasis looked at the data displayed and it confirmed what the First had said. She thought back to what Kodah had said about the Federation ship at the reception. It had some impressive features. Based on this initial assessment of the Federation vessel her options looked very bleak.

  “So we wouldn’t be able to defeat the vessel.”

  “I did not say that,” clarified the First. “If the ship proves to be susceptible to our phased polaron beams we would have a significant advantage despite the size and armament differences.”

  Dominion phased polaron beam technology was a particularly advanced energy weapon. It was not only powerful, but most shielding technology proved to be ineffective against it. It was one way that her small vessel was impressive in its own way.

  “They would also be wary of doing too much damage to us given we have their commanding officer. That would also be advantageous for us,” she thought out loud. “What is its crew complement?”

  “We detected seven hundred and thirty-one beings aboard.”

 That was roughly fifty times the crew that Jasis’s attack ship carried. She had just taken the standard attack ship crew of fifteen Jem’Hadar for the mission. She had been on what was after all primarily a diplomatic and information gathering mission. It required a far more subtle and softer touch than the Jem’Hadar were capable of.

  While the Jem’Hadar attack ship was the primary small combat starship of the Dominion fleet it also served as a dropship. During planetary invasions as it was able to land on a planet and deploy Jem’Hadar forces directly on the surface. The typical complement would be a company of twenty-seven Jem’Hadar. Along with their Vorta company commander, a Vara’atorn, and possibly up to three additional Vorta in the form of Rona’atorn platoon supervisors. It basically would triple the Dominion personnel aboard the vessel, which at this point in time she wished she had access to.

  Her predecessor, Jasis 11, on her final mission had been in command of an attack ship that was carrying a company of Jem’Hadar. She had died while descending through the atmosphere of a planet to deploy the Jem’Hadar on the surface as part of a planetary invasion. Her vessel was crippled by enemy fire in the process and it resulted in her ship plummeting several kilometres to the surface. Needless to say she and all aboard were killed. Not that it was an event she had any memory of.

  “Are you thinking of capturing the vessel, Rona’toran?” asked the First.

  “It would be an intelligence windfall far greater than just one officer.”

  “Numbers alone do not dictate a battle,” stated the First as if reading her thoughts. “Tactics, combatant’s skill and tenacity are more important indicators. In that the Jem’Hadar are superior.”

  Jasis knew this was no idle boast. The Jem’Hadar were bred to be the most fearsome army in the galaxy. However, even they had their limits.

  “The Jem’Hadar are the best soldiers I have ever seen. But fifty, sixty, seventy to one are odds even the Jem’Hadar can’t defeat.”

  “In the tight confines of a starship being vastly outnumbered isn’t as big an advantage as the numbers would suggest.”

  “That’s true. And if deployed to the right location –”

  “Then our odds improved immeasurably.”

  As an idea coalesced in Jasis’s mind. She wasn’t sure if the First had always meant to lead her along to this destination, but it didn’t matter. They were on the cusp of doing something very significant.

  Jasis smirked as she looked over to the First, “Oh, Hal’tarha. We are about to make the Founders very happy.” 

 

  “Enemy vessel is exiting warp,” reported the Third.

  Jasis turned her head to bring the arriving vessel into view on her virtual display. Once she and the First had crafted their plan they had dropped out of warp and waited for the Federation ship to catch them. The outcome of this engagement would be decided in the next few moments.

  “They are broadcasting a message to us.”

  She tapped the controls before her to hear the transmission.

  “Dominion vessel this is the USS Proxima. You have kidnapped a member of our crew. We demand their return; unharmed. Any other action will be considered hostile and we will respond with force.”

  The demand repeated, but Jasis made no move to open communications with them. There was no point in talking to them. Delay wouldn’t offer her any significant advantage in this situation.

  “Bring the ship around. Close on them.”

  As they closed on the enemy vessel there was another communication from the Proxima warning them. Their silence and clearly hostile intent finally got a reaction from the other vessel. Golden beams of light cut through space from the forward section of the ship’s large saucer shaped hull. They struck against her ship’s shields.

  Her ship’s status was highlighted on her display. The shields were easily absorbing the incoming attacks from the other ship’s phaser-based weaponry. Since it wasn’t pummelling her ship she suspected that her prediction that they were being cautious in their attacks was correct.

  “Take us over the top of the hull,” she ordered. “Target the bridge. Destroy it.”

  The attack ship pulled up as it moved to pass over the approaching larger ship. As they got into close range they opened fire. Jasis watched as the phased polaron beams struck the Federation ship, ignoring the shields. The area that had been identified as the bridge was torn apart as the bluish beams of destructive energy vaporised everything they touched.

  The Proxima continued on the same course as they passed over it. As the attack ship turned back towards it, there was no reaction from the Federation vessel.

  “Our weapons penetrated their shields as predicted,” reported the Third. “The bridge is destroyed.”

  “Excellent. Commence with the next phase.”

 

  First Hal’tarha and two other accompanying Jem’Hadar materialised in what their sensors had identified as the ship’s primary engineering bay. The crew were unsurprisingly in a state of panic with the destruction of the ship’s bridge. With their shields still up they were likely not expecting to be boarded. Despite that they were quick to notice intruders beaming into their presence. He raised his rifle and aimed at the closest member of the crew.

  “Surrender,” he ordered.

  Despite that he spotted someone reaching for a nearby long handled tool. He quickly reoriented his aim and fired, stunning the individual. The crew member closest to him thought to use the distraction to charge in at him, but was downed by one of the other Jem’Hadar.

  “Surrender or die.”

  As if to punctuate his reiteration there was the sound of another squad of three Jem’Hadar beaming in. With two of their members downed so efficiently and from what Hal’tarha could tell none of them being armed the crew had no choice. They looked to one person in particular, who from the descriptions they gained from the Captain before they beamed aboard matched that of the senior engineer of the ship. She nodded and the crew complied with his order.

  The Jem’Hadar rounded up the crew in engineering and gathered them together on their knees. He sent the Second and his squad to guard the entrances to engineering while his squad guarded the prisoners. While their action had been quick he wasn’t sure if anyone outside of engineering was aware the ship had been boarded. While the Second’s squad would delay any counterattack it would still be prudent to do what he needed to do quickly.

  He had made sure to have the person he was sure was the ranking officer to be placed at the front of the group. He stepped up to her, towering over her kneeling figure.

  “You are in command,” Hal’tarha stated to the Human.

  “I’m the chief engineer. I’m in charge here, yes.”

  “No. You are in command,” he corrected her. “The lives of the ship’s crew are in your hands.”

  “I’m not sure if I’m the most senior officer left,” she hesitantly replied.

  “You will lock down all decks and order all crew to stand down and await further orders,” he explained.

  “I’m not sure I can –”

  Hal’tarha was not interested in any excuses or delays. “If you do not comply with my instructions I will execute a random person and will continue until you do.”

  He looked over the gathered captured crew. He picked out the one that looked the most meek and fearful and gestured to one of the Jem’Hadar. The Jem’Hadar grabbed the crew member Hal’tarha indicated. The crew member immediately started to beg as they were dragged forward and dumped at his feet next to the chief engineer. The crew member cowered before him. Their panicked and fearful eyes darted between him and the chief engineer. It was exactly what he wanted. He took a small step towards the selected crew member.

  “Wait! Wait!” cried the chief engineer. “Okay. I’ll do it. Just don’t harm anyone, please.”

  “Choose your words carefully.” He placed the end of his rifle barrel against the head of the crew member who was pathetically sobbing and muttering. “My weapon is no longer set to stun. Do not think that I lack the compulsion to fulfil my threats.”

  The chief engineer nodded. She tapped a delta shaped badge on her chest. Hal’tarha recognised it as a communication device. They had confiscated one off the captain when he was captured.

  “This is Chief Engineer Gao Wei. The bridge is gone. I have assumed command. All crew are to stand down and remain where they are. The ship has been captured. Any resistance will result in the immediate execution of crew. I’m…sorry.”

  Gao glanced up at Hal’tarha looking to see if her message met his approval.

  “Lock down the decks of this ship,” he ordered. “Power down your weapons and shields and bring the ship to a complete stop. Any deviation of this will not be favourable for those gathered here.”

  Gao nodded as she got to her feet. Hal’tarha signalled for one of the Jem’Hadar to follow the engineer. That Jem’Hadar pulled out a tricorder and used it to monitor Gao’s actions. Once she had finished the Jem’Hadar nodded to Hal’tarha. He removed his rifle from the head of the crew member he had been threatening. Gao immediately went to comfort her sobbing comrade.

  Hal’tarha couldn’t help but feel distain for them. They had put up next to no fight and valued their own lives over that which they served. They were weak, much like their Captain. No Jem’Hadar would give up without a fight. Victory was life for the Jem’Hadar. While defeat wasn’t necessarily death he would rather die than be humbled and on his knees like those before him.

  He tapped his communicator and opened a channel back to his ship.

  “Given the current status of the ship I trust you have been successful in your mission, First?”

  “We have, Rona’toran. This ship is and its contents are now the property of the Dominion.”

 

  Jasis stepped into the ship’s small brig. The only prisoner contained within stood up and approached their cell’s force field when he saw her.

  “You’ve been asking for me?” she said.

  “Jasis, I want to know what is going on,” Acero demanded forcefully. “I don’t know why you’ve kidnapped me, but my ship will come looking for me. We can sort out whatever the issue is before things get out of hand.”

  Jasis was not surprised that Acero has behind the times with recent events. The drug they had used on him had still been affecting him when the battle had occurred. It would have passed by without his notice.

 “Ah, yes. It has been a very busy last few hours. Your ship did come looking for you and it has been dealt with.”

  A look of shock came to Acero’s face as he started to form his own conclusions. “Has it been…” he trailed off, unable to ask the rest of his question.

  “We have captured your vessel.”

  Acero shoulder’s visibly dropped as he processed the news. While it was not the news he wanted to hear it was also clearly not as bad as he had been expecting.

  “What were the casualties to my crew?”

  Jasis wasn’t actually sure what the answer to that question was. She had left the Jem’Hadar to handle rounding up the crew and making sure they were all secured. She had been only interested in the ship’s computer’s database and the intelligence within.

  “I am unsure of the exact numbers. However, we were forced to destroy your vessel’s bridge.”

  “Forced to! You weren’t forced to do anything!” Acero said with incredulity. “Everything that has happened is due to your actions!”

  Jasis ignored Acero’s little rant. “Maybe a dozen casualties, which given I sent six Jem’Hadar is fairly light.”

  There was a look of disbelief on Acero’s face as she said that. The idea that his ship and all its crew could be overcome by a mere six individuals would have been unthinkable. Though of course he knew nothing of the capabilities of the Jem’Hadar.

  Acero stepped back from the force field and paced as he gathered himself. Finally he asked, “Why? Why have you done this??”

  “You –” she was about to say forced, but opted to be more diplomatic with her answer. “I had to learn more about your Federation.”

  “You could have just continued to ask me questions about it at the reception!”

  “In hindsight I may have been premature in my actions. I made an assumption about where your Federation was located and judged that it would hinder Dominion operations in this region.”

  “We’re not even from this area of the galaxy! The Federation is no threat to your…Dominion.”

  Jasis gave Acero a quizzical look. “I’ve read some of the history of your Federation. It has engaged in numerous conflicts with other empires that are more ideologically aligned with the Dominion.”

  “We still try to peacefully coexist with them. We’ve formed treaties and partnered with people who were once enemies. We’ve given them aid in times of need. We do not seek to conquer them,” Acero explained.

  “And you doom your region to chaos. To sporadic periods of peace and war when you have the power to permanently remove the threats. No, what you see as admirable is folly. To allow either you or your Alpha Quadrant brethren to expand into the Gamma Quadrant would be a mistake.”

  “Jasis, we can still sort this out. Return me to my crew and we will return to the Alpha Quadrant and communicate your concerns with my superiors. The deaths so far are regrettable, but they are not insurmountable.”

  “Unfortunately that is not possible. I have already contacted my superiors and additional vessels are on their way here to transport your crew and vessel to a more appropriate site.”

  “Jasis, please. This is a mistake,” pleaded Acero desperately.

  “Which is exactly what I thought when I was given my orders.” She saw a glimpse of hope in Acero’s eyes, but she was about to shatter it. “When I confirmed what you had told me and expanded on that knowledge I was sure of what needed to be done. That the immediate action would be to blockade or destroy this wormhole you are using. Instead I was told that all Dominion vessel would be kept well away from it and that I was to return to my mission on Iorath. I thought that my superiors weren’t recognising the threat that wormhole presents.”

  “Or maybe it is you who has misunderstood the threat,” suggested Acero.

  Jasis ignored Acero as she continued, “I spent some time pondering what this all meant. Then I realised maybe they understood it better than I realised because they were already aware of your Federation. Just because I was not aware didn’t mean much. I’m sure you’ve experienced being left out of the loop by superiors. Plus the chances of encountering a vessel from your quadrant at Iorath is unlikely. It would also explain why the Dominion is reaching so far out here. The Dominion is not well positioned to deal with the wormhole, but gaining Iorath and particularly T-Rogoran space would see us much better placed to meet the threat.”

  “You think the Iorathites will welcome you back after you kidnapped a guest to their world?” questioned Acero.

  “They will have no choice. The timetable for my mission has been drastically shortened. Now they will immediately give me what I am after or the Jem’Hadar will descend on their world. There is only one result: Iorath will serve the Dominion. All because of you.”

  Acero stared daggers at her. “Do not try to shift the blame for the subjugation of a world to me. Those people were doomed the moment you stepped on their world.”

  “You misunderstand me,” she replied apologetically. “I wasn’t trying to redirect any blame. I just thought you’d be interested in the consequences of your seeking new life and new civilisations.”

  Acero stepped back and slumped onto the bench in his cell. “None of this had to happen.”

  Jasis almost felt pity for Acero. While his words spoke to a denial of what had to happen his manner showed he was starting to give in to his fate. It was a fate for all those beyond the Dominion’s borders.

  In the end there was only one thing left for Jasis to say, “It is simply the way things are meant to be.”

 

 

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