Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is the property of Paramount.


Habit


The hum of this Starfleet ship was a ghastly, pulsating whine that bored into Weyoun's ears with every oscillation of its warp drive. It was as though the sound was bouncing off every hard surface in his cramped quarters, from the close bulkheads to the small table that he was currently seated at. Jem'Hadar fighters hadn't been built with Vorta hearing in mind but there was something much less…piercing about them. This ship – the Defiant, captained by the famous (or was it infamous?) Benjamin Sisko – was small, obviously overpowered for its size, and unfortunately, Weyoun's best hope for completing his current mission.

He didn't know if he cared for Starfleet yet. Sisko himself was a force to be reckoned with. He didn't manipulate well and that was a shame, because Weyoun prided himself on his ability to manipulate just about anyone. Everyone wanted something, after all. It was a matter of finding out what that something was. Some people wore it on the surface, the superficiality of their desires almost amusing. Others, and Captain Sisko clearly fell into this category, buried it too deeply for it to be uncovered in a single conversation, or even several conversations.

And then there were the Jem'Hadar. Everyone wanted something, except them.

Weyoun had always considered himself to be in the latter camp of the hardly manipulatable, though at the minute, he had two very transparent desires. The first was for that horrible noise to stop. The second was to carry out his orders. Unwillingly, he turned his attention back to the pad laying on the table in front of him, the report that he'd received two days ago that had resulted in his ship being destroyed. The Jem'Hadar who had fired upon his fighter should have finished them off, but renegade soldiers in a hurry couldn't take the time to be tidy, and he'd make them pay for their oversight.

Without meaning to, his eyes found the list of names on the pad. Rayik. Gira. Tholun. Vekyon. Eris.

He drew in a jerky breath, a flare of fury burning through him. The names belonged to a carefully selected group of Vorta scientists, chosen for their expertise on quantum physics, transporter technology, and astroarchaeology; a group that had, up until several days – possibly a week – ago, been studying a non-functioning Iconian gateway on Vandros IV, a planet on the outskirts of Dominion territory. Their study, according to the report, had been cut brutally short by the rebellion of the Jem'Hadar guards assigned to them while they were on the planet. The Dominion's first inkling that such a thing had occurred was from a garbled distress message that another Jem'Hadar fighter had picked up. The Vorta field supervisor had promptly forwarded the message to Dominion command, and by the time the order came back – Eliminate rogue Jem'Hadar unit – Weyoun's was the closest ship.

It was no great leap of logic to imagine what the Jem'Hadar could do with an Iconian gateway, but Weyoun appreciated the inclusion of the projections in the report he'd been sent. Dominion casualties, invasion timetables; destruction of Ketracel-white factories, Jem'Hadar hatcheries, cloning facilities. The Vorta would be wiped out within a few years. The Dominion would fall within one. The Founders' home-world would be invaded and they – gods – would be massacred. It could not be allowed to happen.

When Weyoun and his crew had begun pursuit, the renegades had taken them by surprise and attacked, incapacitating the ship and leaving them stranded with a warp core that would shortly go critical.

And then the Federation had arrived. Weyoun had learned from Captain Sisko what he'd already suspected – the renegade Jem'Hadar had gone through the wormhole in the Idran system into the Alpha Quadrant, where they had attacked the Federation space station Deep Space 9 in order to steal supplies. He'd been able to convince Sisko to help destroy the gateway without too much trouble. The report had included projections of Federation casualties, as well.

Frankly, he needed the help now, with most of his crew dead. The minute he'd materialized on the Defiant's transporter pad, he'd known that it was imperative to convince Starfleet to work with him to destroy the Iconian gateway and the renegades. He wouldn't have hesitated to send his depleted Jem'Hadar crew to do the job, even knowing it would be suicide for them, but he preferred to do things right the first time. The prospect of the havoc that the renegades could wreak was motivation enough for Weyoun to destroy them, too. He was a loyal servant of the Founders and the Dominion and he would do as he was bidden. But even if he hadn't been, even if he was defective – disloyal – he would still have thrown himself into the hunt for these Jem'Hadar.

The last name on the list of murdered Vorta scientists stared up at him. That name was the reason his heart had been pounding in tightly suppressed fury since he'd received the report. Obviously Eris had died, and been killed before: when her cover as a spy was blown, naturally (something Weyoun had never achieved), and in battle, respectively of her first three clones. But this, this was something else entirely. To be gunned down by the very people who were supposed to be protecting her and her companions from the Dominion's enemies; by Jem'Hadar, whose sole purpose was to fight and die for the Dominion, was intolerable. It made his stomach roil in tight knots to imagine the woman he'd loved for lifetimes executed at the hands of traitors. The Vorta scientists hadn't all been killed at once, because one of them had managed to get the distress signal out. He hadn't asked who it had been.

The door chimed, startling him, and he put the pad down, splaying his fingers over it for a second. Captain Sisko had seemed happy to see the back of him when he'd shown him his quarters. Who could it be?

There was a second chime, and Weyoun stood, faintly hopeful that Odo – the only god he'd ever known to take a name – was on the other side of the door. "Come in," he said, keeping his voice pleasant.

The Jem'Hadar First under his command, Omet'iklan, stepped into the room. "You," Weyoun said flatly, as the door hissed shut behind the soldier. "You'll get your white in another hour." Weyoun promptly sat again, his eyes already leaving his First and sliding back to the pad, satisfied that he'd dealt with what Omet'iklan wanted.

"That is not why I'm here," Omet'iklan said.

There was nothing in particular about it that should have rankled him. The First's tone was respectful enough – certainly in contrast to the way he'd spoken earlier in the turbolift when he'd revealed he knew everything about the mission. But Weyoun found the very presence of the Jem'Hadar offensive at the moment. They had destroyed his ship, killed his lover, and his own First had come dangerously close to insubordination several times since they'd transported to the Defiant. And now there was a Jem'Hadar in his quarters. On his ship, under his command, none of them, not even the First, would have dared enter the Vorta's quarters. He'd been a field supervisor for almost six decades in this lifetime and he'd never seen anything so incongruous as a Jem'Hadar standing next to a bed.

"Isn't it?" Weyoun said scathingly. "Well then, by all means, Omet'iklan, enlighten me as to the nature of your visit."

If Jem'Hadar squirmed, Omet'iklan would have done so in that moment. "I've come to speak with you about the task."

Weyoun held out a hand, his eyebrows raised in long-suffering exasperation, in an invitation to continue. He had no idea how his crew had discovered the full nature of the mission, but now, knowing that they had, he had little choice but to hear his First out. For a moment, Omet'iklan seemed to gather himself, and then he said, "The intensity of your anger is obvious."

This wasn't exactly what Weyoun had been expecting. He didn't think he'd ever had his emotional state addressed by a Jem'Hadar under his command. "I'm pleased that you feel we're on such intimate terms that you can make an observation like that," Weyoun snapped. "However I'll thank you to keep it to yourself."

Omet'iklan stared at him impassively. "You make it difficult to control my men. They do not like to see the Vorta so agitated."

Weyoun's nostrils flared in irritation as he set his mouth in a line. Looking back down to the pad, he said in a tight voice, "If you can't control your men, I'll reduce your rank. I'm sure one of your subordinates would be happy for the promotion."

There was silence for a moment, and then the heavy tread of Jem'Hadar footfalls as the First stepped closer. He put his hand down on the small table and leaned forward, and Weyoun was finally forced to look up to meet his eyes. "You are taking the deaths of the Vorta personally. Soldiers cannot take such things personally."

"I am not a soldier," Weyoun said in a low, dangerous tone. "And I'm afraid I take it very personally when a company of Jem'Hadar butchers a group of unarmed Vorta scientists."

"You are a soldier," Omet'iklan said, still impassive. "We are all soldiers in service of the Founders."

"Your philosophical musings are fascinating," Weyoun said, his tone dripping with sneering sarcasm as he leaned an arm on the table and glared up at Omet'iklan.

The Jem'Hadar didn't respond to the taunt. "You are angered by the death of the Vorta," Omet'iklan repeated, though Weyoun missed the transition to the singular until the First's next words. "Your woman."

"My woman?" Weyoun was too surprised for a moment to be irritated. "How would you have any idea about that?" He nearly added a waspish, I wasn't aware Jem'Hadar could tell the difference, before stopping himself.

Omet'iklan's face remained like stone. "I have served under you for six years. I am familiar with many of your…habits."

"My habits," Weyoun repeated. Oh, how Eris would love to know that his Jem'Hadar considered her a habit – a weakness, in other words. A crutch to fill his idle time. Under the table, he clenched one fist, digging his violet-rimmed fingernails into his palm. No doubt Eris's fifth clone would appreciate the joke. Her progenitor's biting sense of humor had so far remained intact. "Again, Omet'iklan, the detailed level to which you're familiar with my personal business is astounding." Weyoun drew in a slow, controlled breath before speaking again. "It's not her death that bothers me, it's the manner of it."

Staring down at him, Omet'iklan said, "We will kill the renegade company and her next clone will be activated. I ask you again, Vorta – control yourself for the sake of my men."

For a moment, Weyoun paused, taken off guard, and studied the First. Was the man trying to reassure him? The idea of a Vorta needing or wanting reassurance from a Jem'Hadar was...repulsive. Just like the image that his mind kept constructing of the scientists' last moments on Vandros IV. Of course Omet'iklan wouldn't understand. Understanding was an emotion that Jem'Hadar weren't in possession of. They lived to fight and die, and for the white, and they had no affection for each other or for anything else. A sliver of Weyoun's mind knew that Omet'iklan was looking for what tiny amount of common ground they could stake out between them. He just didn't care.

"You know, Omet'iklan," he said, his tone growing patronizing, "the benefit to the rigidity of Dominion hierarchy is the precisely defined roles for all of us in situations like this. As I see it, things are quite simple – I give the orders, and you control your men. My personal feelings are of no concern to you or them, so I fail to see their relevance to this conversation." Weyoun paused to eye Omet'iklan. "That is the order of things, yes?"

"There is more to the order of things than the Jem'Hadar obeying the Vorta. You have responsibilities to us, also."

Weyoun finally stood, drawing himself to his full height, which was, admittedly, unimpressive next to the Jem'Hadar First. "I'm perfectly aware of my responsibilities to you."

There was a flash of emotion in Omet'iklan's eyes that Weyoun almost recoiled from – a violence that he imagined was the last thing Eris had seen before she'd died. "Are you?" the Jem'Hadar asked. "You question my men's loyalty, and in front of the Starfleet captain, too. You undermine the Dominion with such behavior."

"Your compatriots down on Vandros IV have done more to undermine the Dominion in a single week than I could ever aspire to," Weyoun replied, his eyes narrowed to slits.

"They are not my compatriots," Omet'iklan said flatly. "And I will kill them because the Founders wish it; because they are a disgrace to all Jem-Hadar, and not because I have allowed my personal feelings to blind me to everything else."

Weyoun placed his palms flat on the table and leaned forward. "See that you do, because if you develop any 'personal feelings' on that planet that lead you to join the renegades, I'll be sure to have Starfleet exterminate you and all your men."

Omet'iklan's mouth twisted into a grimace and his hand shot out like a striking snake to grab a fistful of the front of Weyoun's jacket. His hips cracked against the edge of the table painfully as Omet'iklan yanked him forward.

It was moments like this that a Vorta realized the truly precarious line he walked. Weyoun rejected the realization. "Give me a reason to reduce your rank, Omet'iklan," he said with a hard smile. "Nothing would make me happier."

Fifteen or twenty seconds dragged by while the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta stared each other down, but then, finally and with an air of internal struggle, Omet'iklan released him. The First took a step back from the table and stared at a point somewhere beyond Weyoun's head. "My men and I will receive the white in the mess hall," he intoned.

"Will you?" Weyoun asked sardonically. Omet'iklan's eyes flicked towards Weyoun's for a moment, but he didn't rise to the bait. Without another word, he turned and exited. "There aren't enough of you left to make it worth reducing you, anyway," Weyoun muttered, but the door was already hissing shut. In the reclaimed silence of the room, the ship's humming seemed even louder. He covered his ears for a moment before straightening his arms, ramrod, at his sides.

It was a blessing, he supposed, that the art of manipulation was out of reach for the Jem'Hadar. If it wasn't, he would have just handed a powerful weapon to his First. Of course, as the report on the table showed, Jem'Hadar didn't need such a subtle weapon. A tendril of vague uneasiness coiled through him. Vandros IV had already proven to be a deadly planet for Vorta to set foot on. Perhaps...

He shook his head quickly. Premonitions, now? That sound was driving him mad. Sighing through his nose, he knit his brow and glanced towards the case of Ketracel-white. He supposed he'd better be in the mess hall in an hour. After all, he knew his responsibilities, and his place, in the Dominion. He would make sure that the Jem'Hadar, both on the Defiant and on Vandros IV, did as well.