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Negotiations of Atonement

Chapter 1: The Prophets

He stepped off the transport and shuffled onto the promenade with his bag. He set the bag down with a thud and glanced around the area for a moment. "It's good to be back," he said almost maliciously.

Dragging the bag over to Quark's bar, he sat on a stool. "What'll it be?" Quark asked without looking up.

"A bottle of Kanar," the man replied, setting a few strips of latinum on the counter.

When Quark returned with the bottle, he was surprised by his customer. He leaned on the counter and stared at the man, looking him in the eye. "Have we met before?" Quark questioned. The man shook his head. Quark took the money and handed the man a bottle, but stopped him before he left. "Not that it's any of my business but, what is a Bajoran doing with a bottle of Kanar?"

The stranger glared at Quark. "It isn't any of your business. Is this a bar or an inquisition? I happened to like Kanar," he left before Quark could respond.

He sat down at the table with a flute-like glass and the bottle of Kanar once he had reached his quarters. He glanced over at his fake identification. Anjohl, a Bajoran farmer, was his new identity. "To a new Bajor," he proclaimed, raising his glass.

As the liquid trickled down his throat with its usual bite, he thought about the people, about his peculiar fondness for them, and about their religious views. He sighed, regretting how he and his government had mistreated them in the past. The more he thought of them, the more he realized his curiosity regarding their temple. He resolved in that instant to visit the temple on the station.

Gul Dukat passed through the promenade to the temple, feeling apprehensive at first. If he were recognized, someone would most likely execute him, he reasoned. He passed through the curtain and realized that he was alone. He approached the orb and suddenly found himself in an eerie blue light, standing on the promenade.

Captain Benjamin Sisko and Colonel Kira Nerys faced him. It was then that Dukat noticed his skin: it was Cardassian skin. "Drop to your knees, Dukat! You are in the presence of the Prophets. Here we see you for what you really are," Sisko demanded.

Dukat complied. Kira walked over to him. "You have two choices: you can repent of your transgressions and turn to the Prophets or burn in the fire caves with the Pah wraiths whom we banished."

As he faced his fate, a realization occurred to him for the first time since his daughter's death: he had been wrong. He remembered all that he regretted and for the first time truly acknowledged his guilt. He could almost here the voices of those he had hurt demanding retribution. The guilt had finally begun to gnaw at him. "I, I wish to repent," he said to Kira.

Sisko approached him. "Do you remember what you have done?" Dukat slowly nodded.

"I have done some horrible things, so horrible that I do not deserve your forgiveness. I have misused my authority over the Bajoran people during the Occupation. I killed Jadzia Dax. I did not turn to the Prophets as I should have. I lost my daughter because of my own greed. I had evil intentions of manipulating Kai Winn. I implore your forgiveness and now that I understand the errors of my ways I wish to correct them," he explained.

Kira and Sisko nodded toward each other before he faced Dukat. "We forgive you. Live your simple life not seeking power and be wise in the ways of the Prophets. However, though we have forgiven you, in order to maintain your safety, you must seek her forgiveness also. And as you ask her for mercy, she will see error of her ways," Sisko finished.

Dukat stood as Sisko walked away. "Whom do you speak of?"

"She who has become corrupt enough to stop listening to us," Kira answered.

Dukat abruptly found himself back in the temple, still in Bajoran disguise. He sighed, knowing what he had to do.

Kai Winn sat in her gold robes, knees crossed, sipping tea. "I'm here on this station for the Emissary's wedding and all I seem to be good for these days is talking to naïve pilgrims," she thought bitterly.

"Eminence? There is a man here to see you," her assistant Solbor interrupted her musings.

She sighed, mildly irritated. "Send him in," she stated with a wave of her hand.

When Winn caught sight of her guest, she nearly spilled her tea. She hastily set the cup down on the table and stood. Something about him caught her eye. He spoke first. "Forgive this slight intrusion, Eminence, but I have come here on a matter of personal importance," he attempted to explain.

Though Dukat looked Bajoran, Winn stared at him, at his eyes, for a long minute. "Have... we... met before?" she asked hesitantly.

He hid his apprehension well, wondering if she saw through his disguise. He shook his head and answered honestly. "No we have not. But it is an honor to make your acquaintance," he said, giving a slight nod of his head.

His display of politeness seemed to alleviate her reluctance. "Please, have a seat," she offered as she gestured to the sofa. She faced him after they were both seated. "What is it you seek?" she inquired.

Dukat looked down before facing her, not sure how he could really explain himself. Then an idea occurred. "Eminence, I have come on behalf of a friend who is too uncertain of himself to meet with you in person. It is required of him that he asks you forgiveness for his crimes," Dukat conveyed.

Winn raised an eyebrow. "But why did he not come himself?" she questioned.

Dukat sighed and almost seemed nervous for a moment. "Because he is Cardassian. He wanted me to ask your permission that he may seek your consultation," he admitted.

Sitting back for a moment, Winn spoke again. "Very well, I would prefer that he visit me himself anyway. But tell me, why and for what does a Cardassian want to seek a Bajoran leader's forgiveness?"

"A higher power instructed him to. It is better if explains the rest himself. When would be a good time to schedule an appointment?" Dukat requested.

"Probably twenty-two hundred hours," she consented.

Dukat nodded and stood. "That will be fine, I'm certain. Thank you, Eminence, for your time this evening." As he walked to the door, she felt compelled to follow him.

"Wait, will we meet again?" she asked.

He looked past her, then met her eyes. "We may in a different form," he replied as he left the room.

The following morning Dukat acquired a dermal regenerator and returned his skin to its natural Cardassian markings and shade of green. Walking with a hooded cape, he found his way to the station's agricultural department. He stepped up to the stiff Starfleet officer in charge of proceedings.

"Excuse me. Do you have any job openings?" Dukat asked hopefully.

The officer turned toward him and raised an eyebrow. "Yes we do, but why would you want to work here instead of somewhere more technical?"

"I have had enough adventures in my life. I just want simplicity now," Dukat replied.

Shrugging, the officer looked out at the other workers and then back at Dukat. "You would plant things and take care of them. The job is yours if you want it, but it might require manual labor at times," he finally said.

"That is fine with me. I accept," Dukat replied.

The officer nodded. "Now all I need is a name from you," he stated, handing a PADD to him. Dukat hesitated for a moment, but finally entered his name as Anjohl. He would begin work the following day.

Dukat wore a gray hooded robe that almost covered his entire face. The hood's material was such that he could see through it as he walked through the corridor to visit Winn that evening. He was surprised when Solbor passed him by. Dukat breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that Winn's assistant had not even noticed him. He rang the door and took a step back.

The door slid open and Winn glanced from left to right before pulling Dukat into her quarters. "Did Solbor see you?" she questioned.

He shook his head. "Was that whom I passed? I don't think he noticed me."

"Good. He tends to be too protective of whom I choose to see. I didn't think he would approve of a Cardassian visitor so I invited you here when I knew Solbor would be out," she conveyed. Winn invited him to sit down on the sofa.

"Thank you for agreeing to see me," Dukat mentioned.

She put up her hands. "It is no trouble really. Your friend made an interesting case for you. I'm replicating myself a cup of coffee, would you like one?" she asked.

"Please," he responded. She sat after handing him a steaming mug. "Thank you," Dukat added.

He looked away for a moment. When he turned back, he did not miss the intense curiosity in her eyes. "Before I explain my reasons for seeking you, I must seek your forgiveness in another sense," he began. Though she could not see his face, she gathered from his voice that something greatly disturbed him.

His voice: she liked the weaving resonance of it, but the voice sounded familiar. "What troubles you?" she inquired.

"I must apologize for my deception yesterday. I had to enter this station disguised as a Bajoran for my own personal safety. I thought you would not see me if you knew I was a Cardassian so I asked you for a visit in the form of a Bajoran. It was wrong of me to present myself falsely," he admitted.

She knit her brows before answering. She gauged that he had a natural charisma but was suppressing it for some reason. "Alright, I forgive you for pretending to be Bajoran. Now are you going to tell me what this is all about or are we going to discuss the properties of dermal regeneration all night?" she asked with a smirk that surprised him.

He looked at his greenish Cardassian hands, folded on one knee. Who was he trying to fool? The woman next to him was the Kai of Bajor and probably would not believe him. He then turned back to her. "I have done some terrible things in my life, things I have regretted so deeply that I have sought religion. However, I dabbled in the wrong religious sect for a while, until the Prophets found me. I had evil intentions when I came aboard, but the Prophets found me and helped me understand what I had done wrong and what my options were. I asked them to forgive me and they did. But they also wanted me to ask your forgiveness," he answered.

"But what do you want forgiveness for?" she questioned, growing frustrated.

He cleared his throat. "I worked aboard this station during the Occupation. I gave orders and those under me followed them without question. While trying to convert a race into what I assumed was a more productive society, I helped supplant their culture. I lost a daughter because of my own selfishness. There is blood on my hands from what I did during those years, which I deeply regret. And I killed a woman by accident because at the time I was possessed by the Pah wraiths. I helped my people work against the Federation," he took a deep breath, afraid to look her in the eye.

Dukat was caught off guard when she stood abruptly and slapped him across the face. "Get out! I don't know whom you spoke to, but it could not have been the Prophets. How dare you ask me to forgive you for destroying the lives of so many people? Aren't there some basic principles in your society that you know are wrong?" she demanded with vehemence. He froze where he sat, pondering whether or not she really wanted him to leave when she had just asked another question.

His answer came when she replicated a cup of coffee for herself and sat again. He sat up straight and she began to see some of the charisma she knew was there. "Madame, before you slap me again, I understand that I cannot ask you to forgive me in the name of those whom I have killed. But I must beg your forgiveness for not questioning orders, and for taking too much liberty regarding my own authority, for abusing it, to forgive me for being selfish and greedy, and for choosing the wrong religious sect for a while. I did indeed speak to the Prophets. As for my people, they ingrained in us ideas that I know now were wrong," he firmly stated.