Outskirts of New Bajor colony
Kotha Tremali system
The settlement was less than a year old, but had made much progress in its development. Surrounding the main square, the Bajorans had constructed buildings reminiscent of the earliest days of their civilization. The only exception was the Town Hall, a domed structure that was a miniaturized version of the Shikina Monastery. Adjoining the center of town were prefabricated housing units, originally sent by the Federation to counter the staggering number of displaced citizens on Bajor.
Possibly the greatest feature of the settlement were the vast fields. The katterpods and kava roots had experienced an abundant harvest, enough to trade for much needed medical and farm equipment. The irrigation system, first completed within three weeks, was extended to cover every field over three hecapates. Any ships coming to deliver supplies were encouraged to see it.
Unlike a colony on a ringed world on the other side of the galaxy, the Bajoran settlers did acknowledge the usage of technology. They used padds to document transactions, listened to music on entertainment pods, and had a rudimentary wind power system consisting of four vertical turbines (with additional ones to be constructed the following year). It had the sense of community with the amenities of modern life. To Eris, the settlement reminded her of the volunteer work she performed on Demetria, the Dominion’s main agricultural world.
Observing from the edge of a cliff nearly ten kilometers away, the Rona’atorn was laid down on her belly with two Doko’torans. The far-viewers were able to zoom all the way to count the number of ridges on the aliens’ noses. These were unlike other creatures that had been coming from through the anomaly. They had effectively staked a claim on this world, whereas others seemed to scout neighboring systems.
“We’re going to have to have a word with the Dosi Cartography Office,” said Doko’toran Ronso, a recently promoted Vorta.
“Now, now, Doko’toran. This is an observation mission. Leave the Dosi to the Supreme Council to deal with,” replied Eris.
With a slight buzz, another Vorta suddenly appeared. It was decided that transporters would be better suited to allow the Dominion to relay information, rather than communicators which could potentially be intercepted. “Any progress on the population, Rona’atorn?” asked the newcomer, Vara'toran Nakrik.
“We’ve counted at least 10,000 people in the settlement. We have not made a full count of the surrounding fields yet, but I would estimate another five thousand.”
“Very well. The Chelek’toran would like to speak to you.”
Nodding, Eris stood up and tapped her wrist strap. The observation team faded away as she materialized at the main Dominion encampment. The Jem’Hadar troops saluted her as she walked to the office tent of the ranking Vorta, located under the hull of the battlecruiser Basilisk.
The ranking Vorta was taking a sip from a glass of tulaberry wine as Eris entered and saluted. “Chelek’toran Cerrein.”
“Any further updates on this...Bajura...colony?”
“The Dosi said it’s pronounced ‘Ba-jor-an,’ and no, sir. They remain unaware of our presence.”
“I see,” he replied silently.
“Sir, we’ve been stationed here watching them for nearly two weeks. When are we going to do something?”
“When the Supreme Council arrives at a decision. These people have settled on one of our planets. The only options would be to move them or...” Eris swallowed, fully aware of what he was about to say. It was then that the Chelek’toran noticed her face and flashed his smile. “Hopefully, it won’t come down to that.”
“However, I do believe it is time we introduced ourselves to at least one of these people.”
An extraction. That was something Eris enjoyed, and wished to perform more at Intelligence. “Yes, sir!”
The sun rose over the Dominion camp as the Vorta and Jem’Hadar waited. It would be setting over the colony, an ideal time to find a sleeping settler. Chelek’toran Cerrein inspected the troops, who were all waiting to go into the colony. These people were intruders, and they had to be dealt with.
Finally, a transporter beam flashed. Eris, with her three Jem’Hadar bodyguards, held a tall figure. Whoever it was, their face was covered by a black bag. They guided the figure to a nearby chair. Once the Jem’Hadar forcibly sat the person and had him restrained, Eris removed the bag. The figure was an old male, who showed utter terror in his eyes.
The female Vorta carefully looked over the man. He was the first Bajoran any of them had physically seen. He wore an earring on his right side; it was so long that it touched his shoulder. His hair was white and trimmed. The cut on his left forehead, a result of the struggle to capture him, started to let blood drip down his face.
“What is your name?” Eris asked politely.
The old man did not respond.
“My name is Eris. What is yours?” she asked again. Cerrein huffed.
“Where are you from?”
The old man said nothing.
“I’ll just need some information. We’re gathering intelligence on this settlement, and if you answer my questions, we will avoid unpleasantries.”
“I came from the fifth moon of Bajor. My home was destroyed, and I wished to start anew!” he said, hoping this would be completed soon. Eris began to pace, contemplating this information. “Please let me go. Baltrim and Keena need me at the farmer’s market tonight.”
“Bajor? Never heard of this planet. Where is it?”
Mullibok squinted his eyes. “Where are you from?”
“Kurill Prime, the capital world of the Dominion. Your colony is an unauthorized settlement within Dominion territory. The more you tell me now, the better chance your people would be able to stay.” She motioned for a chair to be brought to her. “Tell me about Bajor. Is it a nice planet? Where is it?”
“It was a nice planet, on the other side of the galaxy. Our world was enslaved for sixty years by the Cardassians.”
Eris raised her eyebrow. “The Cardassians?”
“Murders, rapists, plunderers. They practically destroyed our world, stripped everything of value before leaving us once we had no more to offer.”
“Yet you survived.”
The Bajoran shook his head. “Barely.”
“You know, if things are so bad that you have to violate our territory to form a colony, I’m sure that we could help. Our agricultural sciences can help you harvest your crops four times a year.”
“Bastards as they may be, the Federation doesn’t abduct people in the middle of the night!”
The ears of the Vorta perked up. “Federation?”
“They’ve been helping us rebuild ever since the Cardassians left. It was the will of the Prophets.”
“Prophets? You’re a religious people as well?”
Hearing this, Eris smiled. She could be able to bridge the gap between these people with faith. “Our gods founded and civilized this corner of the galaxy. We can learn much from each other.”
“The Prophets are the true gods,” snapped Mullibok.
Eris looked to Cerrein. “Doko’toran, contact the Supreme Council immediately,” he said. The young Vorta saluted and headed into the ship. “Thank you for this information,” stated Cerrein as he grabbed his pistol from its holster and shot Mullibok in the chest. His body then fell out of the chair, finally stopping at Eris’ feet.
“Gods, why did you do that?!” she exclaimed in shock.
“We can’t let him go back to the colony! He’d tell everyone that we’re here.”
“For all he knew, we could be on another planet!”
“He was old anyway! I’m sure he’ll be at peace with those memories of these ‘Cardassians.’ We just have to find out what to do with the rest of these people.”
Barely able to withhold her anger, Eris saluted the Chelek’toran and left, followed by Ronso. “Sir. Bajor, isn’t that the planet which the Hunters visited last year?”
“Yes, Doko’toran. Right on the other side of the wormhole.” She contemplated the man’s words further. “Federation. That sounds familiar...”
The next day, Ronso found Eris sitting on the edge of the cliff. She observed through the far-viewers a bit of commotion in the settlement. Two people were frantically motioning to people. They never opened their mouths, instead relying on body language. She could only wonder what they trying to say. Were these the two that Mullibok was talking about?
“Other than people who seem to be mute trying to get help, nothing. It seems like a normal day down there.”
“What do you think the Council will do?”
Eris shrugged. “With any luck, a stern warning, maybe even resettlement. Who knows, maybe we’ll get these Bajorans membership in the Dominion.”
“Isn’t that a bit wishful?”
Eris noticed that her wrist band was beeping, the signal to beam back to camp. She took a look at the colony before being transported to the battlecruiser. They found that all the Vorta and Jem’Hadar were standing at attention.
“Beam him in,” ordered Cerrein.
Within seconds, a white-haired Vorta materialized at the encampment. Immediately, all the assembled Vorta officers saluted the Prime Jeddak. Even with her dull eyes, Eris noticed that he was carrying a small jar.
“Prime Jeddak Channik, welcome,” said Cerrein as he shook the leader’s hand.
“The Supreme Council has been following your reports with much interest. What have you learned so far about these Bajoran people?”
“Well, we have found that they worship false gods, that they have been subjugated, and have a benefactor group. In addition, they confirmed that their own world is on the other side of the galaxy.”
“Yes, sir. The descriptions from the Hunters appear to be accurate.”
“It would appear then that our situation is worsening,” announced the Prime Jeddak to the assembled troops. “Since last year, we have done our best to observe these outsiders and not involve ourselves. Sending ships to survey our territory is intrusion enough, but little harm. Now, these people have staked claims to one of our worlds, and I’ve been told the Karemma are doing business on their own merits. We must make a stand against imperialization of our territory!”
“YES, SIR!” shouted the Vorta and Jem’Hadar in response.
“Sir,” asked Eris, “if I may, what do you think we will be doing to them?”
Recognizing the partner of Liska, Channik stepped over to her, placing a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. “I’m afraid, Eris, that this is not a decision we are allowed to make.”
He stepped away and opened the jar. Before their eyes, the liquid contents extended themselves and started taking a humanoid shape. The Jem’Hadar immediately kneeled while the Vorta lowered their heads in deep respect.
Once fully formed, and with the appearance of a humanoid female, the Changeling walked to Cerrein. He did not dare look her in the eyes. “Founder, you honor us with your presence. How may my brigade best serve you?”
“I understand that this world has been colonized by intruders from across the galaxy,” said the Female Changeling rather bluntly.
“That is completely correct.”
“What have you done so far?”
“Nothing without the approval of the Founders.”
“Good. I want you to exterminate these people. Cleanse the world of the impurities they brought with them. Use them as an example of what happens to those who violate the Dominion.”
“A brilliant move, Founder. We’ll get started right away.”
Hearing this, Eris was shocked. Having been programmed by the Founders to obey them, she could not voice any dissent. Who was she to refuse the will of a god? That did not stop another portion of her brain from questioning this. Based on the old man’s answers, it was likely the Bajorans had no knowledge of the Dominion’s existence.
“Two columns should be enough, right, Eris?” he asked.
As the sun was setting on the New Bajor colony, the settlers were stunned to find reptilian creatures appear out of thin air. They immediately began firing indiscriminately, downing multiple Bajoran civilians. The survivors were rounded up into the main square, then executed.
Eris watched, with some remorse, as the Bajorans were killed. She doubted they had any expectations that this would happen. It seemed like such a waste, murdering these people for no reason. Those who raised their hands, pleading to stay alive, were gunned down as well. Five people were removed from the town hall, placed on their knees, and shot.
Amidst the chaos, Eris saw in the corner of her eye figures running into a housing unit. Holding a plasma rifle, she ran into the home after them. It was a family, the father holding his wife and two children. She could see the fear in their eyes, each of them wonder what she would do.
She wondered if she could let them go, find a safe way out of the settlement, away from the rampaging Jem’Hadar. The Jem’Hadar. Their eyesight was three times as good as the Vorta. They would notice them fleeing, even amidst this. She would also be going against direct orders from a god herself. Disobeying an order from a superior officer might get her only some time in the ship’s detention center, but disobeying a Founder?
“I am so sorry,” she uttered as she raised her rifle and fired.
By the time the sun had set, the town was on fire. The Jem’Hadar had gone to every structure, and with grenades or rifles, torched the entire township, leaving no structure untouched. With flame mode on their weapons activated, some had started to destroy the entire fields, killing the livestock that had been brought here.
Looking over the corpses, Eris was barely able to hold back tears. Some were burnt beyond recognition; others were wounded, but dying slowly. She saw Cerrein smiling over the carnage, seeming rather pleased with himself. He even drew his pistol and shot a few of the corpses, just to be sure.
“Any survivors, Chelek’toran?”
“Some seem to have escaped into the fields. We’ll saturate this planet with bioweapons to take care of them.” She could not believe that he was still smiling while saying this. “Eris, this will serve as a warning to others from their side of the galaxy.” He left to continue touring the destruction he had brought upon the planet.
As it burnt, she returned to the home of the family she killed. The structure was destroyed and the bodies burnt. Nevertheless, she kneeled before them and in a tone above a whisper, spoke on behalf of them. “Oh gods of the Dominion, oh founders of right and justice, forgive us for the death of this family, for they knew not their intrusion. So be it.”
“Truly,” replied a voice from behind.
“How many did you kill, Ronso?”
“My platoon killed the colony leaders.”
“Gods, what have we done here? Slaughtering them without even establishing formal contact?”
“We followed the will of the gods.”
“I know, Doko’toran. But...is this all that they will us to do?”
The younger Vorta walked over to his superior. “Rona’atorn...are you questioning the divinity of the Founders?”
With no other answer, Eris replied simply. “Absolutely not.”
From orbit, the world looked remarkably peaceful. The destruction of the settlement could not be seen; only Cerrein and the First’s visual display devices could see it. Even though the Vorta and Jem’Hadar were immune to all biological and chemical agents carried aboard, the Chelek’toran felt it best to launch from orbit. That way they could easily move to their next patrol zone.
Eris stood behind the Prime Jeddak. Cerrein stood at his console in the center of the room, with the First to his right and the ship’s Rona’toran to his right. The crew in the datapits could not see out of the viewport, which allowed them better concentration to their own duties.
“Doko’toran Esrik, what have you loaded into the firing tubes?”
“Thirty M33 canisters of accelerated pocksen blight. That will handle anyone still on the surface.”
He considered for a moment. “You know, I don’t like all that vegetation. Throw in a few E120s of Compound 5-H.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Esrik as she entered the new order.
“Prime Jeddak, you are about to witness something remarkable.”
“To me, Chelek’toran, ‘remarkable’ is when Parliament is able to approve a tax increase on time.”
“Then maybe you should put a few Hentek and Sadok’torans in charge.”
“The political system we have is fine enough,” the Jeddak said in a stern voice.
“Sir, the canisters are ready.”
Cerrein allowed himself one final look at the world below. In a few minutes, it would change forever. “Computer, this is Chelek’toran Cerrein, ranking Vorta. Initiate bio/chemical weapon launch, authorization Cerrein 13-Lambda-22.”
He turned to his First. “Computer, this is First Taimak’Toral, ranking Jem’Hadar. Weapon launch authorization approved, Code 7-119-Black.”
They turned to the Rona’toran, the final piece in the launch sequence. Unlike the other two, “Computer, this is Rona’toran Ghorral, commanding officer of battlecruiser Basilisk. Launch approved, authorization Ghorral 81-Sigma-11. Strike.”
He turned to First Taimak’Toral. “Strike,” he said loudly.
The two then turned to the Chelek’toran. He kept his eyes on the planet before uttering the single word: “Strike.”
Outside, the canisters began their descent into the atmosphere. Nothing could be done for any survivors remaining. As the three commanders continued looking at the world they were rendering lifeless, Cerrein said just loud enough for the bridge to hear, “It is a truly wondrous and beautiful thing, the destruction of worlds.”
The Jeddak turned away, followed by Eris. They walked down the corridor until they were far from the ears of the bridge crew. “Gods, sir...”
“Never forget, Eris. The gods themselves ordered this.”
She held back tears and saluted him. “Yes, sir.”
“Now then, the Hentek’toran of the Fleet believes the time will soon arrive when we need to formally introduce ourselves to the farside of the galaxy. I want you to be assigned to observe those people. Gather whatever information you can about them.”
Stunned, it took Eris a moment to formulate a response. “Sir...I don’t think I’ll be able to go through with that.” She looked back to the bridge. “All those innocent...”
“I have been assured by the Command Staff that there will be no genocides committed. Go to their side, find out anything which might be useful, and bring it back. Though, I’m sure Fleet Intelligence will be able to provide better instructions than I can. It has been some time since I served.”
“But still, sir, once they find out what happened, they’ll come screaming through that wormhole for revenge.”
“Which is why we must see what they are capable of.” He leaned close to her ear. “Rona’atorn, I am just as appalled by what has happened here today, but we must ensure the survival of the gods.” She said nothing still. “If it means anything, I shall say a prayer for those villagers tonight. My wife will do the same.”
Suddenly, she developed a faint smile. That was enough to comfort her. “Thank you, sir,” she replied. She then walked to the turbolift door as she made one last turn to the Prime Jeddak. “Do you really mean that, Jeddak?”
“These were innocents, so they do deserve our words on their behalf. I doubt their homeworld or this ‘Federation’ will be as forgiving.” The turbolift finally arrived. As Eris boarded it, Channik called out, “Eris, remember. You have no idea what’s begun here.”