Prologue

Habitat Ring, Deep Space 9

Denorios Belt, Bajor System

16:46 Hours, November 19th, 2375

Stardate 52884.03334

 

Colonel Kira Nerys rubbed her tired eyes. After years of war, the moment she and the entire quadrant had awaited nearly four years for was finally here. In front of her was a smooth black glass table, surrounded by dignitaries from the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire, and even representatives of the embattled Cardassian military. Crowded in at either end of the table, filling the station’s largest conference room were dozens more Captains, Generals, Admirals, Commanders, and other officers from those powers. And they were all just as tired.

She watched as the female leader of the Founders glided around the black table. She – at least she appeared as a female in her current form – and two Vorta, accompanied by just two Jem’Hadar guards, had been negotiating the terms of the Dominion surrender for fifteen seemingly endless hours with representatives from the Allied powers.

Kira looked over her shoulder at the mass of reporters lining the far bulkhead. Annoying as they were, they still had freedom of the press as allowed by both the Federation and Bajoran constitutions. She smiled for a moment, watching as young Jake Sisko furiously took notes as the event transpired, all recorded by the small camera perched on his right ear. The smile faded as her thoughts turned to Jake’s father, perished just days earlier on Bajor. She had admired the late Captain, and now found herself admiring Jake for so persistently carrying on with his career in spite of his father’s death.

The Colonel turned back to the table, finding the Founder now standing centered on it. Lying before her was a rarity in this age: an actual paper document. The fifteen hours of negotiations had resulted in a surrender agreement that could be fit onto just a few pages of paper for ceremonial purposes, though it was all on a PADD set to the side as well. The Founder shuffled through the papers as the two Vorta looked on over her shoulders. Aside from the quiet beeps, tapping, and clicks of the press corps, the briefing room fell silent as the Founder leader stared in what almost seemed like grief at the document.

The Founder straightened and looked to her left, Klingon Chancellor Martok stood just a few meters from Romulan Praetor Hiren, who had been aged considerably by the war. To her right, Federation President Ak’telKi – a young Andorian woman – and newly appointed Cardassian Legate Ekoor with Elim Garak stood. It had been the Federation President’s campaign to bring a swift and resounding end to the war, defeating incumbent Jaresh Inyo soundly in the election three years prior. This was the first time Kira had seen Ak’telKi in person, and despite the president’s relatively small size she projected an intimidating confidence.

“May I speak?” the Founder asked, breaking the silence.

Ak’telKi quickly surveyed the other delegates, and then nodded, “You may.”

The Founder paused, taking the time that everybody else in the room would have taken for a deep breath. “It was nearly seven years ago that your people discovered the wormhole that led across the galaxy, to the region we considered to be our home. The Gamma Quadrant. You brought your ships, your technology, your people… your cultures. Your intent was peaceful, but as has long been our way, the Dominion approached you with hostility. We viewed your colonies as a prelude to attack; we were blinded by our xenophobia.

“This conflict between our peoples was about more than territory or resources. It was about fear and power.” She stared again at the surrender document, “My people have lived in fear for centuries. We built the Dominion on that fear, conquered hundreds of worlds to ensure our security. We used fear as a weapon, a weapon far more powerful than any disruptor or torpedo.

“We thought that we could use fear to drive apart the tenuous alliances that we saw as a threat. You couldn’t have proven us more wrong. The strength of your people, the courage of your soldiers, and the audacity of your leaders; it was all far greater than we had anticipated. You harnessed that fear and it made your alliances stronger than ever.

“As part of our surrender, we will withdraw all of our remaining forces back to the Gamma Quadrant and I will surrender to face charges as leader of the Dominion. My people will take back with them a lesson; our ways are wrong. Long ago my people were feared for what they were. We came to fear everyone outside of ourselves. We built an empire for our own protection, and in the end our empire was our downfall. Too many gave their lives for us to learn a lesson in humility.

“I know that nothing I say here today can assuage the personal loss that everybody in this room has suffered. This war has cost us all dearly, and the Dominion will always regret the toll that we exacted on your people. There’s no way we could ever hope to repay or repair the damage our actions wrought. For everything that has transpired, I am truly and deeply sorry.”

The Founder paused for another moment, closing her dark glassy eyes. She looked down at the papers in front of her, picked up the antique ink pen resting near the PADD, and scrawled a six-pointed design in the space allotted for the Dominion signatory. The Founder lifted her chin, “I, as the sovereign representative of The Dominion, hereby present to the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire, and the United Federation of Planets the terms of our surrender.”

She set the pen on the table and stepped back. Hiren was the first to step in after her, putting his mark onto the paper, followed by Martok, who grunted as he signed. Ak’telKi signed next, leaving behind a typically elegant Andorian series of overlapping waves and loops.

Ekoor stepped in as Ak’telKi moved away. He leaned over, bracing himself on the table, and stared at the papers. He stood back up and turned to face the Founder, “My people gave so much. We gave you our allegiance, our resources, our world.” His voice wavered, “And you destroyed it in a fit of rage. I can’t pretend to speak for everybody here, but I know that I will never be able to forgive you for what you did.” Ekoor locked eyes with the Founder, staring into their blackness. She cordially closed her eyes and lowered her head, prompting Ekoor to shake his head. He quickly signed and then stepped back.

The conference room broke into polite applause, though there was a notable lack of enthusiasm. Kira stood with her arms behind her back, unable to relish in the victory. Nearly a billion Cardassians had died in the war, along with hundreds of millions more Klingons, Romulans, and Federation troops and civilians. It was odd, she thought, to be mourning the tremendous losses the Cardassians had suffered when less than a decade earlier she’d been fighting as part of the resistance against their occupation of her home planet of Bajor.

The applause continued for well over a minute until a brilliant flash of light outside the large porthole windows stopped it cold. An alarm began to blast in the conference room as a thin, green wave of energy radiated from the flash point. The room fell silent as the wave rushed towards the station, effortlessly passed through Deep Space 9’s shields, and pushed through the station.

Time seemed to slow as the wave washed over the briefing room, washing out Kira’s vision of almost everything inside with bright light. Kira found the Founder, her form collapsing onto the table, reverting to a thick gold liquid. Kira rushed forward, but the seemingly thick air slowed her movement. She turned her head, seeing a seemingly ancient Starfleet admiral falling and disappearing into the whiteness.

As quickly as it had hit, the wave passed.

Kira’s momentum carried her headfirst into the table. She hit with a loud thud, and bounced back onto the deck. Kira shook off the impact and slowly stood, holding a hand to her aching forehead.

The two Vorta looked down as the Founder slowly regained her cohesion and humanoid form. The delegates around the table looked on with a mixture of unabashed horror, revulsion, and curiosity. Kira’s relationship with Odo – another Founder – had desensitized her and the station’s crew to the appearance of shapeshifting, but most of those around the table had never seen such a display. Their shameless displays of shock and disgust reminded Kira that the Founders’ concerns, their fear of ‘solids’, were not unfounded.

A Romulan and a Klingon were helping the ancient admiral up. He was clearly shaken, but didn’t appear to be injured. In fact, he looked slightly rejuvenated, if a bit dazed. Kira shook her head and tapped the Bajoran emblem combadge on her chest, “Kira to Ops.”

Nog answered, “Ops here.” The sound of a panicked command center filled the background.

Kira looked around the conference room, surveying to see if medical teams would be needed. It appeared that her hitting the table was the worst injury in the lot, most just seemed to be dazed or confused by the event. Jake held his headset in front of him, its status lights dark, apparently disabled by the wave. Kira looked back out the porthole, seeing nothing but blackness and stars. “What… was that?”

There was a short pause, “We’re not sure. It looks like it was some sort of polaron wave emitted from the wormhole. Whatever it was, it knocked out all of our sensors.”

“Even internal?”

“That’s what I meant by all, Colonel.”

Kira nearly laughed, “Lieutenant, you better be hiding when I get back up there. Kira, out.”