Chapter 11: Rumors of War

"Invasion?" Ross asked, his eyes widening, "Are you sure about that?"

"Once in the Link," Odo said, sitting at the long table, turned to the screen where Ross and Picard could be seen, "There can be no lying to one another. It is impossible."

"How long has this been planned?" Picard asked, looking worried.

"There has been talk for roughly two years," he replied, "But, they haven't been able to attain the needed allies until recently."

"Whom may they be?"

"They kept me shut out from those discussions," Odo responded, shaking his head, "Although I don't know exact details, I know what I have spoken is true."

The room fell silent. For ten years there had been general peace. Excepting Shinzon's incursions, there had been no major conflicts. Why would the Dominion want to go to war, so soon after the defeat of 2375?

"That is no good," Ross shook his head, "The Federation Council has decided that the main of the Fleet should go to Vulcan and Earth for reasons that neither Picard or myself know of. The only ships not being assigned there are the Invincible and Titan."

"What about the new Defiant model?" Kira spoke up.

"Mr. O'Brian assures me it shall be space worthy within a fortnight," Picard answered, leaning forward, "But, if they plan to strike anytime soon, we won't be able to help."

"In other words," Ben spoke from a corner edge of the table, "We are on our own."

Ross laced his fingers together and sighed. "I'm afraid so. Up top has decided to circumvent our authority."

"Understood," Kira nodded.

"One last thing before we leave," Picard turned to Ben, "Sisko. You might be pleased to know that your rank is still in effect. As such, we shall be giving you the Defiant Mark II. Perhaps some poetic justice."

Benjamin nodded with a small smile. "Thank you sir."

"Starfleet out," Ross said, and the screen replaced their faces with the emblem of the Federation.

"Good grief," Bashir groaned, "We're on our own. With an imminent invasion on our hands."

"Like old times," Ben said with black humor, "We all know too well what will happen."

"Well," Kira said, swinging her chair around, "I guess we need to get prepared. You all know what to do. Dismissed."

There was some commotion as they all rose from their chairs to move.

"Odo," she called out, "Remain."

Odo looked down at his feet before bringing his eyes to meet hers. "Alright General."

Bashir and Ben exchanged glances as they headed off. Through the doors they went, and the door slid shut behind them. Kira sat, turned to Odo.

"You've been avoiding me since you got back two days ago," she remarked, "I've tried to get in touch with you."

"Sorry about that," he muttered, "Is there a problem with that?"

Kira frowned slightly, "Not really. I just…."

"Just what?" Odo asked as her voice trailed off.

"I wanted to know where we still stood with things," she said, trying not to get frustrated.

"I don't know what you mean," Odo said, raising his head up like an aristocrat of old Earth around someone of lesser stature.

"I've loved you every day since you left," Kira said, standing up and moving slowly with each word, "I've counted the distance, and watched the wormhole open; hoping that each time would bear you back home. Now, you're a person I don't know."

"A lot can change with a decade," Odo remarked.

"Not everything," she replied, now standing by him.

She raised a hand to his cheek, to hold it in her palm. But, he closed his eyes and took a step sideways. Her eyes slowly welled up in tears that would go unshed, and turned from him, saying, "I guess all things do change."

With that, Odo left the room, leaving her alone. Alone, to the thoughts of sorrow that threaten to engulf the heart of all spurned lovers.