“That was the easy part,” declared Dukat, upon return to Cardassia Prime. “Getting the personnel of DS9 under our control.”
“And the entertaining part,” agreed Damar.
Garak was rueful. “And now the headaches begin. Somehow, the three of us have to resurrect from the ashes a thriving, proud civilization, even while in the full knowledge that Cardassia will probably never again be what it was, a power with which to be reckoned, in the quadrant.”
“Well, now I’ve been pondering that.” Dukat began to pace as he thought aloud. “I recall a bit of information that came to me a few years ago. I remember thinking at the time that it was an interesting little tidbit that could prove useful someday. And I believe that that time is now.” With his last sentence, he turned to regard his two companions intently.
“Don’t keep us in suspense,” urged Damar, with a lopsided smirk.
“We need manpower. But not just anyone will do. We, the three of us, need to be able to be in multiple places at once, performing a multitude of tasks simultaneously. We need a veritable army of us.”
Garak favored Dukat with a decidedly dubious expression. “And how, pray tell, do we manage to do that?”
“Each of us is already infinite in number, but scattered throughout an infinite number of parallel universes. We simply need to gather a large number of our counterparts to our cause. In record time, we shall restore the Cardassian Union to its former power and glory, and the Alpha Quadrant will again tremble at our feet.”
Damar blinked at him. “Even assuming the technological ability to somehow summon and transport our duplicates here: why should they come? Won’t they be embroiled in their own affairs in their own realities?”
Dukat shrugged as if it were no issue. “Some of them will be more concerned with their own circumstances, yes. And many will be very happy where they are. But I can easily imagine that a fair number of them will be decidedly unhappy with their lot, for a great variety of reasons, and will thus be pleased to assist in taking on such a worthy cause.”
“All right,” Garak readily acknowledged. “So? How? How do we manage this extraordinary sleight of hand?”
“What about him?” prompted Garak.
“Is he still alive?” wondered Damar.
“I neither know nor care. However, a few years ago, he informed me of an intriguing incident that he observed, that took place in Federation space. He had readjusted the Federation’s Argos Array, a telescope of theirs that he had believed to have been used to spy on us, so that it would enable us to spy on them instead.”
“Appropriate,” approved Garak.
Dukat continued, “It allowed his ship to monitor a peculiar event of theirs. This scope was, after all, only three light-years away from Cardassian space, in Federation territory.”
“The gall of the Federation, the arrogance, to construct it so close to our border,” mused Damar ruefully.
Dukat nodded readily and went on, “It seems that a quantum fissure opened in the space-time continuum, allowing millions of different quantum realities to suddenly pop into the same relatively small volume of space here in our universe. Gul Nador witnessed the amazing sight of hundreds of thousands of starship Enterprises all abruptly coexisting, and chaotically hailing each other all at once.”
Garak’s and Damar’s expressions vied for the more astonished of the two.
“The Enterprise of our universe had emitted a subspace differential pulse, which had then widened the quantum flux.”
“It sounds as if they had opened the threshold deliberately,” remarked Damar.
“They had,” confirmed Dukat. “They were trying to return a displaced Lieutenant Worf who had evidently been bouncing from universe to universe at each exposure to a subspace field pulse emitted by a blind crewman’s visor.”
Damar let out a sudden burst of laughter, and the other two regarded him askance. “And I can just envision the Klingon’s lack of patience with that.” He subsided a bit contritely. “Sorry. Not the first time that that particular big oaf has managed to thoroughly amuse me.”
Garak, predictably, had an altogether different viewpoint. “So much damage they caused, and risked causing, merely to relocate one misplaced crewman. And how did they then repair the damage?”
“By initiating an inverse warp field to reseal the fissure.”
“So now, you’re proposing that we proceed to the location of this quantum fissure, and by copying their means, reopen it?”
Dukat was nodding. “And put out a hail to any and all of our counterparts who would care to join us in our cause.”
And so the three cohorts put out the call to any of their doppelgangers who felt inclined to abandon their own universes in favor of one in such dire need. Dukat regarded Garak only slightly ruefully when the latter insisted on adding requests that all should bring with them as much literature, artwork, relics, and other such cultural icons as possible, to hopefully replace those decimated by the Dominion’s wanton destruction.
Damar commented almost fondly, “You’re a hopeless sentimentalist, my friend.”
“Perhaps,” Garak admitted.
In relatively little time, an army of Garaks easily resurrected the Obsidian Order; a battalion of Dukats recreated a fleet of well-manned Galor-class warships; and a plethora of Damars inspired legions of followers ready to patriotically give all in response to his (or actually their) rousing, impassioned speeches.
And an Alpha Quadrant, still struggling to recover in the aftermath of a devastating war, trembled in genuine alarm at the rapid and wildly improbable advances of such a dangerous enemy. Where the rest of the quadrant expected to see misery and ruin, it saw instead triumph and prosperity. Bafflement was exceeded only by panic.
Not long after, Deep Space Nine received a visit from a Federation admiral who presided over a meeting of the station’s senior staff.
Kira Nerys presented the admiral, “Admiral Kathryn Janeway, we’re honored to have you with us.”
Following a brief nod of acknowledgement, Janeway announced, “All right, people, I’ll skip the formalities and get right to the point. We’re facing a grave situation here. The Federation and its allies are in no condition to fight another war. And yet suddenly this just-vanquished enemy is again already a renewed threat. It is imperative that we determine its intentions toward the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. Therefore, by order of Starfleet Command, I’m leading a delegation to Cardassia Prime. To that end, may I present my invaluable mission assistant, Counselor Deanna Troi.”
Troi offered a polite smile, and then explained, “We know for a fact that Vulcans cannot telepathically read Cardassians. We hope that Betazoids can, or that we can at least empathically gauge their emotional state, as well as their level of veracity.”
“Wait a minute,” Kira protested. “No offense, Admiral, but have you considered the obvious risks in sending women to meet with the Cardassians?”
Unperturbed, Janeway replied, “In fact, we have, and that is exactly why women are the ones who are going.” She raised a hand to forestall the inevitable renewed protest. “Colonel, I fully sympathize with your point of view. As a Bajoran, your history with the Cardassians has admittedly been devastatingly different from that of the Federation. In our experience however, it is our men who are far more likely to be abused, in the form of torture. Historically, our women have fared far better with the Cardassians. Unlike Bajoran women, we have suffered little instance of sexual abuse. Further, even if that were a significant risk for us, we consider it preferable to the torture that our men would face. And….” At this point she hesitated. “One of our reasons for meeting with you here before we continue our journey is to ask for volunteers from among you to round out our negotiating team.”
Kira blinked at her, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, Admiral, but I must decline to volunteer. I think that others would be more effective.”
Quickly, Bashir put in, “Kira can’t go, not after what Dukat, Damar, and Garak subjected her to on their recent visit here.”
Janeway could easily surmise the gist of what had transpired just from their expressions. “That’s quite all right. I really wouldn’t recommend that a Bajoran accompany us.”
“I’ll go,” Jadzia Dax stated firmly.
“Now wait a minute,” Bashir began to protest.
“Julian, I’m a very logical choice. Dukat had such guilt over having killed me that he traveled back in time to return me to life. He won’t kill me twice.”
“I’m afraid that my faith in him doesn’t match yours.”
She softened. “Julian, I’ve appreciated our time together that Ezri graciously permitted us.” The latter blushed. Jadzia went on, “But I think that we both know that you belong with her.”
Now, Ezri and Bashir both blushed. But Bashir offered, “Admiral, despite your plan to include only women, I think that I should also go with you. My friendship with Garak in all likelihood gives me an immunity to danger as strong as that of Dukat’s guilt over Jadzia.”
“Now hold on, Julian,” O’Brien interjected. “That ‘immunity’ weakened considerably during our altercation with Garak, Dukat, and Damar on their recent visit here. I don’t think Garak would hesitate to clobber you if you annoyed the three of them any further.”
“Denied,” Janeway said flatly. “I’m sorry, Doctor, but the all-female-team decision isn’t open for debate.”
He reluctantly subsided.
O’Brien, however, requested, “Permission to speak freely, Admiral?”
Her brows rose. “Granted.”
“I think that this is a fool’s errand.”
Her eyes bored into his, but her lips crooked a humorless half-smile. “You’re talking to the woman who beamed over to a Borg ship in the Delta Quadrant to negotiate a deal with them, and who once even allowed herself to be temporarily assimilated by the Borg for tactical reasons.”
O’Brien swallowed hard as his eyes widened.
Following a few more relatively insignificant clarifications and details, the meeting was adjourned.
The three Cardassian leaders were only too delighted to greet such a charming delegation.
Admiral Janeway stated, “We have been authorized to speak to you, not only as representatives of the United Federation of Planets, but also to speak on behalf of the Romulan and Klingon Empires.”
Dukat offered a knowing smile. “Ah yes, our enemies during most of the war.”
Damar countered, “And our allies near the end of it. Don’t be hasty, Dukat; let’s hear them out.”
Janeway confidently continued, “Recent conflicts not only with the Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant, but also with the Borg, as well as Voyager’s many run-ins with various species of the Delta Quadrant including the aforementioned Borg, have convinced us that a united Alpha Quadrant is essential. As such, the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans have formed what we are calling the Alpha Quadrant Coalition. We are inviting you to join.” Dukat was still smiling. “Of course you are. Now that we’re powerful again, you can’t afford to leave us out of it. You expected us to be your little charity case, and instead we’re once again very dangerous. Now, as before, the mere mention of our race makes your people tremble in fear. You know that if we’re not with you, we’ll be against you. And you can’t afford not to have us on your side. Delightful.”
Stalwartly, Janeway retorted, “And you can’t afford to again ally yourselves with the Dominion. Surely, you would not make such a disastrous mistake twice.”
Dukat’s smile faded. Her expression clearly revealed her knowledge that he, Dukat, had been responsible for making that “disastrous” alliance in the first place.
Shrewdly, Garak diverted her attention. “Perhaps not, but then again, the Dominion is in nearly as dreadful a condition as you are. On the other hand, the Obsidian Order has studied your Voyager exploits in the Delta Quadrant. While I certainly agree that the Borg is a distasteful bunch, perhaps we should consider an alliance with the Kazon, or the Hirogen.”
“Or the Vidiians,” she remarked. “I’m sure that they’d appreciate the donation of your internal organs.”
Garak forced his smile to remain in place on his lips, but it had faded from his eyes. “Can you blame us for doubting you, Admiral? Your people have been our traditional enemies for a very long time.”
“Speaking of trust,” she countered smoothly. “How can we be sure of you? How can we even be certain that you are the Mr. Garak, the Gul Dukat, and the Legate Damar whom we would consider the “real” ones, those who actually belong in our universe, rather than some of the nearly infinite number of ‘alternates’?”
“Scan us,” Dukat invited pleasantly. “You’ll find that we bear the same quantum signature as you.”
Dax promptly utilized her tricorder to do precisely that, and then gave a quick confirming nod to Janeway.
“Perhaps we should try for less adversarial posturing, and more honest communication,” suggested Janeway. “To that end, I would suggest more one-on-one conversation. In particular, Mr. Garak, I would be very interested in your undoubtedly shrewd impressions of Voyager’s various experiences in the Delta Quadrant.”
Nodding agreeably, Garak invited her to sit with him on the nearest sofa to discuss that topic that both of them found quite interesting.
Wandering a bit away from the others, Dukat asked Jadzia, “As I recall, you were about to become involved with Dr. Bashir. How is that working out?”
With a gentle smile, she responded, “It was pleasant enough, but he and I both came to realize that he and Ezri are the better match after all.”
“I see. My sympathy, my dear.”
“That’s quite all right. After so many lifetimes, I bounce back well, and am always seeking new and unique experiences.”
“How fortunate. And intriguing. Let’s discuss it further during a walk through our newly-resurrected flower gardens, shall we?”
Meanwhile, Janeway was saying to Garak, “You are indeed a very complicated man. Exceedingly brilliant. But so cynical.”
“Can you blame me, after all that I have seen and endured? I suspect that you in turn know a great deal about my personal history.”
“Some,” she admitted. “But I’d like to learn more.”
He studied her. “Aren’t you afraid that I’ll….” He eyed the departing Dukat with Jadzia Dax on his arm. “…Take you for a garden stroll?” His eyes said far more than his words.
“Not at all, Mr. Garak,” Janeway answered warmly. “I think that we need to explore every possible avenue, to understand each other better.”
Damar and Troi watched the others leave in pairs by two different doors. She favored him with a shy but pleasant smile.
“Well this is awkward,” Damar confessed. “I suppose that by now, you’re either waiting for me to make a move, or jumping out of your skin at the possibility that I might.”
“No.” She shook her head calmly. “Your intentions are not the same as Garak’s and Dukat’s.”
Damar was momentarily startled, and then he realized, “Ah, you’re Betazoid! I should’ve realized, from your space-black eyes. And you’re clearly reading me. I suppose that I should find that disconcerting.”
“But you don’t.”
“No.” He chuckled slightly. “I don’t.” He cleared his throat. “Not that…. I mean, you are lovely. Is there a man in your life?”
Her expression turned melancholy. “On again, off again. I suppose that someday Will Riker and I will marry. But meanwhile, we’ve both been free for years to explore other options.”
“Indeed.” Damar took her arm. “Tell me about them.”
What Janeway and her entourage didn’t realize was that the three Cardassian leaders’ doppelgangers had already taken off on orders previously received, to commit their first new aggressions. While Janeway, Jadzia, and Deanna schmoozed, and our universe’s Garak, Dukat, and Damar romanced, the combined Cardassian military-Obsidian Order attack-fleet dashed through the Bajoran wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant, and wiped out the Founders of the Dominion. The war-depleted Jem’Hadar fleet stood not a chance, and was destroyed as well.
“We’re being hailed,” Dukat announced to Garak, Damar, Janeway, Jadzia, and Troi. “It’s the Defiant.”
“What?” demanded Janeway, in shock and the beginnings of pique.
“Gul Dukat here,” he responded evenly.
A furious Kira appeared on the viewscreen.
“Well, Nerys. How nice to see you.” His eyes twinkled lecherously and perhaps a bit dangerously, in remembrance of what he and his two cohorts had done to her on their last visit to the station.
“I thought you weren’t coming.” Jadzia was amazed.
“Circumstances have radically changed,” she retorted.
“You were told to remain behind, Colonel,” protested Janeway.
“Sorry, Admiral. I’m here on the orders of the Bajoran government.” She proceeded to inform the others of the Cardassians’ unprovoked attack on the Dominion.
The Starfleet personnel were shocked, but the Cardassian leaders, of course, were not.
“Odo was there,” Kira fumed. Her eyes met Garak’s through the screen. “He was your friend.” Her gaze shifted to Damar. “He was your ally.” Then she turned her glare onto Dukat. “He was your trusted chief of security.”
“His loss was regrettable, that’s true,” Dukat told her coolly. “And the three of us discussed alternatives. But there simply was no way to warn him, without tipping off the rest of his people.”
“Genocide? Why would you do this?” Janeway demanded. “They were no longer a threat.”
“They didn’t have to be. Did you see what they did to our world?”
“But you’ve already built it back up again.”
“That doesn’t bring back the dead,” remarked Damar. “Or erase the suffering.”
“So this was all about revenge.” Janeway spoke the word as if it were a curse.
“Not entirely,” interjected Garak. “Just because the Dominion was not a threat at present, didn’t mean that it never would be again. Like us, it would have built back up, in time.”
“So this…extermination…was seen as a preventive measure.” Janeway’s tone softened slightly, either out of respect for what she saw as an improved motive, or out of her growing fondness for the intellectual and sophisticated Garak.
He favored her with a half-smile. “Let’s just say that my two compatriots and I agreed on the procedure, if not on the motivation.”
“Now let me understand this: you believe that you have totally eliminated all members of the Dominion?”
Dukat shrugged carelessly. “A few sniveling little Vortas may still be running around loose somewhere. But our efforts should have rendered extinct all of the Jem’Hadar, who would certainly have fought to the last man, and all of the Changelings, with the possible exception of a few floating around in space as Odo originally did, before he was discovered. And as we come across the few stragglers, we’ll eliminate them, too.”
Janeway’s eyes speared Dukat. “Who’s your next target?”
His only response was a mild, uninformative smile.
“Are we your next target?” she insisted.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Dukat replied smugly, with a glance at Garak and Damar.
Janeway moved closer to him, and said intently, “Of course you are! The three of you rule your empire!”
Jadzia gently touched Janeway’s shoulder, and then she turned and slipped her arm into Dukat’s, saying, “Let’s go have an informal chat, shall we?”
Understanding, struggling to curb her impatience, the admiral let her lead him away from the group.
A few months later, after the Defiant had long since returned to DS9, and during which relationships, both personal and diplomatic, had grown among the three Cardassian leaders and the three female representatives from the Alpha Quadrant Coalition, the next decimation of species was discovered.
“Do you mean to say that your people swapped the entire populations of two planets?? And that the ones that they switched were the Breen and the Tholians???” Janeway was again horrified.
“The Tholians, who need an environment nearly as hot as Venus, and the Breen, whose world is far colder than Andor,” Jadzia murmured in horror.
Troi exclaimed, “The Breen would have melted instantly, and the Tholians would have frozen solid!”
Janeway demanded, “Why the Breen is obvious: they were your rivals within the Dominion, but why the Tholians?”
“They’re a prickly bunch, and worthless,” explained Dukat blandly.
“You mean that they and their world are nothing that you could ever exploit! Their homeworld is a place too hot even for Cardassians!”
Dukat’s expression did not deny her supposition.
“All right, then how did you do this??” The scientist in Janeway needed to know.
Garak told her, “Our various doppelgangers from a variety of universes came with a similar variety of abilities and knowledge. One of them had allied with a powerful species known as the Doud, which had the ability to move or remove entire populations with little more than a thought. We decided that it would be a particularly appropriate punishment for such quarrelsome species as the Breen and the Tholians.”
“The Doud? I’ve heard of that species. The Enterprise D encountered one of them.” She glanced and saw Troi cringing in memory of that particular event on her former ship.
“Yes,” agreed Garak. “I am acquainted with that Enterprise mission.”
“Given the intelligence capabilities of your new Obsidian Order, you’re probably well familiar with the past and present missions of most of our ships,” speculated Jadzia.
“Quite so.” Garak could not quite banish the smugness from his tone. “In any case, it seems that several versions of that same individual member of the Doud eliminated the Husnok in more than a few universes. He simply removed them from their planet, and into space.”
Janeway sat down heavily, only shaking her head.
Within a few more months, wars had broken out throughout the quadrant and beyond.
“We destroyed ships of each side to make it look like the other did,” Dukat boasted to the three women. “We pitted the Nausicaans against the Orions; both groups are too unstable; now they can out-crime each other.”
“We set the Gorn against the Xindi; they’re the only other reptilians besides us in this quadrant, and we know how aggressive our kind can be.” Damar sounded only slightly less arrogant. “We’ll all be safer without them as a threat.”
“We put the Vidiians and the Hirogen at each other’s throats; they can hunt each other to death for organs and trophies.” Garak’s voice was laced with proud sarcasm.
“How did you even reach those Delta Quadrant species??” demanded a tired and frustrated Janeway.
“Using Nacene array-technology, with which you’re well familiar, in the example of the Caretaker’s array.”
“That one of your alternate-universe versions had acquired in his own universe.”
She stood stiffly and faced Garak squarely. “And when are you going to eliminate us?”
Jadzia physically confronted Dukat in the same manner, as did Troi to Damar.
Dukat was the first to reply. He caressed the side of Jadzia’s face. “You? Never.”
“But our people??” she insisted.
Damar cupped Troi’s face in his hands. “We have absolutely no plans to ever do so.”
Garak took Janeway’s hand in his. “It would be a terrible waste to do away with you humans, or Trill, or Betazoid. Or the Bajorans. Or even the Vulcans, with their impressive intellect,” he admitted grudgingly.
Dukat continued, “And we do not consider the Andorians or the Tellarites to be any real threat. But now, these Klingons and Romulans.” He was shaking his head. “Your alliance with them may be ill-advised.”
Janeway turned on him. “You wish to eliminate them, probably set them at each other’s throats as you did so many others. But you intend to conquer and dominate us.”
“Conquer is such a harsh word,” disparaged Dukat. “We wish to care for you.”
“We’re not your children,” stated Troi.
“But you are every bit as precious to us. Besides, you said when you first came here that your goal was a united Alpha Quadrant.”
“But united under your empire is your goal,” Janeway protested.
“Perhaps,” Garak suggested tentatively, “you would be more comfortable with a nonaggression pact between us. And possibly a trade agreement.”
“Trade,” Janeway nearly scoffed. “I can’t imagine what you might need from us. You appear to have everything you could ever need, thanks to your multi-universe resources.”
“But you need a great deal from us,” commented Damar. “An alliance with us would be tremendously beneficial to you. You’re a war-torn, exhausted society, and we are now in a position to help you.”
“In exchange for what?” Janeway demanded in foreboding.
“You’re far too suspicious,” Garak scolded gently.
“Or not suspicious enough,” she retorted.
“We have something absolutely vital to offer you,” Dukat stressed. “Tell me, who is your worst enemy?”
The admiral lowered her head in an “are-you-really-going-to-give-me-an-opening-that-good” gesture.
But the gul smiled easily and shook his head. “I assure you that it is not us. I am referring to the Borg.”
“What about them?”
“We’ll destroy them for you.”
Janeway blinked. “How?”
“Using an invasive programming sequence input into the implant devices of a captured drone; this will then act like a virus to infect the entire collective, effecting a total systems failure and ultimate extinction.”
Deanna Troi looked affronted. “That is a concept that you stole from us.”
Janeway stared at her.
Troi clarified, “From the Enterprise D. We originated it, and almost used it, on a rescued Borg that we named Hugh.”
Now Janeway waved it away, saying, “Let me guess: one of your duplicates from another universe obtained the details from his universe’s Enterprise D.”
“Probably forcibly,” she accused.
“I honestly don’t know,” assured Dukat. “We didn’t ask him how he came by the information.”
Gazing pointedly at Garak, Janeway murmured desolately, “Maybe I really don’t want to know anyway.”
His eyes narrowed shrewdly at her obvious jab at his unsavory Obsidian Order techniques.
She sighed. “Well, I’ll admit that if ever any group deserved elimination, it’s the Borg. But in order to do so, you’ll need a Borg drone to implant with the virus. Do you have one?”
“Indeed we do.” Garak summoned a guard to bring in the captured drone.
Janeway gasped as she beheld Seven of Nine.
The war between the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire had been going on for months, neatly triggered as it had been by the techniques of the colossally diabolical Cardassian Union triumvirate. Each side’s betrayal was clear to the other, and no amount of negotiating by the United Federation of Planets made the slightest dent. The fledgling Alpha Quadrant Coalition lay in a shambles.
Simultaneously, Admiral Janeway was desperately pursuing her own private negotiations in an effort to prevent Seven of Nine being used as the conduit of the Cardassians’ deadly virus against the Borg. She pleaded for them to use someone else, anyone else: another drone that would not have come so far in regaining his or her humanity. In the end, it was more Dukat’s fascination for the former Borg’s shapely form than Janeway’s eloquent pleas that spared Seven. While the blonde remained a captive of the Cardassians, she was not used in their nefarious plans. Another drone, after all, could certainly be obtained, and rather promptly was, given the vast resources of a multitude of universes.
As more months progressed, empire after dangerous empire faltered and fell under the clever behind-the-scenes manipulations of the Cardassian Union. The Borg, as predicted, suffered the equivalent of a massive systems crash, until inert cubes and spheres littered the spaceways, and made for convenient target-practice for the formidable Cardassian fleet. The disease-enfeebled Vidiians and the hologram-battle-weakened Hirogen finished wiping out each other. The aggressive Gorn and Xindi-Reptilians exterminated each other, leaving only the three milder-mannered Xindi species, since the Xindi-Insectoids were also eliminated – due to having fought on the side of their Reptilian brethren – by a highly advanced form of bug-spray invented by the Gorn. The noxious Nausicaans and the utterly-unprincipled Orions outmaneuvered each other in plots that resulted in increasingly spectacular explosions, killing more and more of their people, until only a few of the most helpless and harmless members of either species remained. And the Klingons and Romulans, warlike in the extreme, fought each other unto the last man.
Only the Federation, and the not-yet-a-member Bajor, continued unscathed. Thanks largely to the careful and gradual negotiations, both diplomatic and personal, of Admiral Kathryn Janeway, assisted by Jadzia Dax and Deanna Troi, only those worlds remained untouched.
“Perhaps a protectorate,” Gul Dukat was suggesting to the three women, “in which we’ll bring our vast resources to bear against any aggressor from anywhere that threatens you.”
“And in return?” prompted Janeway.
“In return, we ask only your lovely presence in our lives. I know what you are thinking and fearing: that we might rape your worlds, as in the Bajoran Occupation, but I assure you, we’ve grown far beyond that. With our extraordinary multiverse of wealth, we have no need of such mundane and frankly tiresome efforts. No, our people and yours will entertain each other, delight in each other, until the end of time. And those of your people who treat us with friendship and respect will receive the same in turn from us.”
“You make it sound so perfect.”
“And it will be; I promise you.”
“I want to accept, on behalf of the Federation, and I likely will, but I still shudder at the deaths of so many….”
Damar put in, “Maybe we can cheer you up on that point, just a bit. Come with us; we have something to show you.”
The three ladies followed their three “protectors” into a heretofore unknown part of the…mansion? Janeway had long since given up even trying to label the astonishingly huge and intricate structure in which the Cardassian Triumvirate lived and worked. But even given her awareness of its enormity, she was hardly prepared for “homes” within the colossal structure. For comfortable, even luxurious homes they were. Prisons, also, maybe; their occupants could not leave; but certainly those inhabitants wanted for nothing. And inside of the first, she found Seven of Nine.
“How are you, Seven?” Janeway asked anxiously.
“I am well. I am a prisoner, as you see. But all of my needs, and more, are attended.”
Garak, Dukat, and Damar allowed the two to visit for as long as they liked, while Jadzia and Deanna stepped back to allow the friends at least a semblance of privacy.
Next, the three Cardassian leaders escorted the three ladies to a cell replete with Klingon austerity. Inside stood Chancellor Martok, calm and resigned to the reality of his situation. The three Federation women stared, stunned.
“Our people managed to rescue him, barely in time, from the Klingon chancellery on Qu’onos,” Garak remarked. “Alas, we could not do the same for any Romulans; that species is now extinct. But at least we have maintained a single Klingon. It would have seemed a shame not to do so.”
“I’m pleased that you made the effort,” Janeway stated evenly, and then she and Troi stepped aside to allow some private time for Jadzia and Martok to talk.
Following that, the group progressed to the next cell, wherein they were startled to see the Vorta Weyoun.
“I thought that all of the Weyoun clones were dead,” exclaimed Jadzia.
“So did we,” Damar replied ruefully. “And when we found this one, all three of us nearly gave in to the urge to send him the way of his predecessors. But it seems that the female Founder was mistaken about the exact number of them that had existed, understandable given her dire illness at the time. And we spared this one as a curiosity, as well as at the request of the being in the next compartment.”
“Though I will admit that it took quite some convincing for us to retain a Weyoun in a living state,” assured Garak.
“Since he, in his various incarnations, had been such a thorn-in-the-side to all three of us,” agreed Dukat.
“We admire your restraint,” Troi complimented.
“The being in the next…?” asked Janeway, as they began to move on down the passage.
Jadzia gasped. “Odo!”
The only known living Changeling nodded shortly to the entourage.
Dukat explained, “It seems that we were mistaken about Odo being on the Founders’ planet when it was destroyed.”
Odo continued the explanation, “I had just left it, with Weyoun, to return to DS9 for a while. The Cardassian fleet caught me in between the two, but was too busy to return me here for quite some time.” He glared at the three Cardassians. “It seems that they had quite a bit of further mayhem to commit in various locales before returning to Cardassian space. I was taken on quite a tour.” He harrumphed.
Jadzia was smiling broadly. “I’m so glad to see you! And Kira certainly will be, too!”
“I’m not allowed to leave. I can’t go to her.”
As one, the three women turned to the leaders.
Garak told them, “We cannot permit a shapeshifter to wreak havoc around here; your people surely know as well as we how troublesome they can be.”
Odo continued bitterly, “And they’re keeping me under control by using a device that has been used on me before, that prevents me from shapeshifting.” He glared needles into Garak.
“Now, Odo, we’re not using it to torture you this time, and you know it. We allow you to regenerate at regular intervals, on your appropriate schedule. We simply use it to prevent your escape. A shapeshifter is simply too unpredictable, too able to cause serious mischief, to be permitted to run loose.”
Odo growled unintelligibly, but subsided, clearly aware that Garak was correct in his caution.
“But will Kira be permitted to visit him here?” Jadzia requested.
Dukat offered an unsavory smile. “I would like nothing better.”
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