Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the property of Paramount Pictures. Title from William Blake's 'And did those feet in ancient time'.

Author's note: This is something of a prologue to a multi-chapter mirror universe fic that I intend to write at some point.

Bring Me My Bow of Burning Gold

Weyoun kept his back to the wall, shifted his grip on his disruptor rifle, and tried to ignore the fact that his palms were clammy with sweat as he listened hard for the approach of any more Jem'Hadar. He knew there was another one at the end of the next corridor, most likely shrouded now that his comrade had been brought down. The corpse of that Jem'Hadar wasn't even a meter away; Weyoun had had to step over it to reach the wall, and the proximity of the huge, gray-skinned soldier, even dead, only heightened his sense of danger. Vorta had never been meant to carry weapons and to involve themselves in firefights – but things had changed.

At his side, Gelnon adjusted the viewscreen headset, modified so that it showed the interior space of the ship, rather than the exterior. Walls were no barrier to it, and Gelnon had tweaked it recently to amplify the slight spatial distortion that a shrouded Jem'Hadar produced, so that they weren't totally invisible. No one besides Gelnon had ever developed the knack for wearing the thing, mostly because it had an unfortunate tendency to overload its circuitry and start on fire. But Gelnon insisted that one day it would be invaluable, and so they were field testing the shrouding modification today, on a Jem'Hadar fighter that they'd followed into deep space and surprised by boarding in five separate parties.

Cautiously, Weyoun edged towards the intersection between the two corridors, starting to stick a foot out from behind the cover of the wall to test the Jem'Hadar's reaction. Disrupter fire made him jump back, and he sucked in a deep breath of air, trying to steady his nerves. Then he clamped his mouth shut and forced himself to breathe slowly through his nose. The corridor was silent once more; the remaining Jem'Hadar was staying still, waiting for the two of them to get impatient and show themselves. Licking his lips, Weyoun slowly shifted his hold on his rifle again and lowered himself into a crouch, then reached into his vest. His fingers brushed against the smooth disc of metal that he kept in the inner pocket and he pulled it out, catching Gelnon's eye.

Gelnon gave him a curt nod and lowered the viewscreen over his eye, and Weyoun, with a deft flick of his wrist, tossed the metal disc out into the center of the corridor. A blast of disruptor energy hit it and Gelnon rattled off in a practiced, dispassionate tone, "Seven meters; left side; stood to unshroud—"

Without waiting to hear any more, Weyoun threw himself onto his stomach and far enough into the corridor for a clean shot, firing at the upper chest of the somewhat blurry Jem'Hadar; aiming for that sensitive spot just below the stoma for the Ketracel-white tube. The Jem'Hadar jerked with the impact of the disruptor blast and fell to the floor, unmoving.

"—good shot," Gelnon finished, a dry, approving note in his tone.

Weyoun scrambled to his feet, rifle trained on the Jem'Hadar's still form, and scooped up the metal disc without looking at it. His thumb ran over it unconsciously and he noted it was undamaged from the disruptor hit. "The modifications to the virtual display seem to be working," he remarked, still watching the Jem'Hadar and slipping the disc back into his pocket.

At that moment, the viewscreen sparked and Gelnon yanked the entire headset off, holding it gingerly out in front of him as the screen crackled and went dark. At Weyoun's arched eyebrow, the other man said, "Well, it worked when it counted. I'll keep tinkering with it."

With a nod, Weyoun approached the Jem'Hadar, rifle still held ready. He toed the body cautiously and then circled around to the head. The Ketracel-white tube was melted from the heat of the disruptor shot and fused to the Jem'Hadar's clothing, and few drops of white dripped from a split in the tube. Otherwise the drug was no longer flowing. "He's dead," Weyoun finally announced.

"Only to be inevitably replaced by ten more," Gelnon said, not bothering to hide the bitterness in his voice.

Weyoun shouldered his rifle and turned away from the body. "Cheer up," he said, though the very same thought had gone through his mind, "at least we got a few of them." With that, he tapped at the communicator on his wrist, hidden under his sleeve, and said, "This is Weyoun. Report."

The communicator hissed, and then a voice came over it. "Ornithar here. Lower decks are secured."

"This is Kilana. Engineering secured."

"Haneek reporting in. Upper decks are secure."

Glancing at Gelnon, Weyoun asked Haneek, "What happened to Zyree?" The Dosi woman was her team's leader, and it should have been her on the communicator.

"She's been hit. Keevan's checking her out now," Haneek's voice came back.

Gelnon swore under his breath and turned away in frustration, but Weyoun kept his own emotions in check. "Have Keevan get her back to the ship. The rest of you, go with him in case he needs any help."

"But, Weyoun, the bridge—you might still need us—"

"Do it, Haneek." The last thing he needed, or wanted, was to lose another of his crew. After Yelgrun had been killed last week—well, it wasn't good for morale. His Vorta crewmates, in particular, hadn't been dealing with death well lately. They didn't need to confront their own mortality again so soon.

There was a silence, and then, "Understood."

"The rest of you, hold your positions."

During the course of the exchange, Gelnon had turned back to Weyoun, and he said now, "She has a good point – the bridge isn't secure. Eris never reported in."

"I know," Weyoun replied, and this time he couldn't keep his emotions in check, and his worry bled into his tone. "Give her a minute."

The two of them stood in the empty corridor, the dead Jem'Hadar at their feet, for another few minutes. The communicator remained silent and Weyoun felt his chest clenching more and more tightly with worry. Eris and her team were completely capable of taking out the bridge crew of a Jem'Hadar fighter, especially one that was as mysteriously undermanned as this one. But battle was never safe. Yelgrun, dead only a week, proved that. Zyree proved that.

When nothing issued from the communicator, Weyoun said decisively, "We're going up there."

Gelnon didn't look surprised, and he reached down and picked up the slain Jem'Hadar's rifle, holstering his own phaser. "I suppose the best defense is a good offense," he said fatalistically.

Weyoun grinned, a combination of nerves and actual battle lust that still felt jarringly alien. "Well put."

Their weapons out, the two of them made their way quickly and quietly towards the bridge, avoiding the turbolift in favor of the ship's access tubes. They chose one that brought them close to the bridge, but not in sight of it, listening at the access panel for any activity in the corridor. There was nothing but silence, and after a minute, Weyoun cautiously opened the panel and peered out.

Still nothing but an empty corridor.

Jerking his head to Gelnon, Weyoun climbed out of the tube and got to his feet, holding his rifle ready. The other man followed and they approached the bridge's doors, which were sealed shut. Glancing at Gelnon, Weyoun whispered, "Do you hear anything?" But he didn't need to see Gelnon's mute head-shake to know that there was definitely no fighting on the bridge – Vorta hearing was sensitive enough to judge that. Everything was quiet, and that fact didn't make him feel any more at ease.

"Are you planning on just bursting through the door?" Gelnon hissed.

"Do you have a better idea?"

With a shrug, Gelnon leveled his rifle at the door. Weyoun did the same, and he was about to take a step forward when it suddenly slid open. The figure in the door yelped in surprise and Weyoun's finger squeezed the trigger on his rifle halfway before he realized he wasn't looking at a Jem'Hadar at all, but a slender Vorta who'd had the presence of mind to duck Gelnon's disruptor blast.

All three Vorta looked at the wall, which Gelnon had been able to swing his rifle towards as he'd fired. "I hope you have better aim than that when you're shooting at Jem'Hadar," Eris said shakily.

Relief flooded through Weyoun at seeing her alive and well, and he dropped his rifle to his side, resisting the urge to grab her in his arms and trying to forget the fact that he and Gelnon had both almost just fired on her at point blank range. That was just what they needed – to start killing each other with friendly fire. "You never reported in," he said, keeping his tone detached.

"I know, and I'm sorry. Something must have fried our communicators – none of them worked."

He nodded, wavering between dismay that their equipment could fail them so badly and that still-effervescent relief at seeing her. He couldn't stop staring at her, and he hadn't realized until now how afraid he'd been that she'd been killed. There was a messily-wrapped bandage around her upper arm and her hair was slightly disheveled, but other than that she looked none the worse for wear. Not that the bandage wasn't cause for concern. "What's the status of the bridge?" he asked, taking a breath and trying to rein in his thoughts, which were rapidly spiraling into a familiar panic that he struggled to keep at bay most of his waking hours.

"Secure." She took a step back into the bridge and gestured towards the other three members of her team. "We were just about to start moving bodies."

Weyoun could see what she meant – Jem'Hadar corpses were still laying around the bridge where they'd fallen. Wordlessly, he went to help his crewmates ferry the bodies out the door. For the time being, they piled them just outside the bridge, and after dropping the first corpse in the corridor, Weyoun remembered to clear the rest of his crew to join them.

When he went back inside, he heard Eris ask good-naturedly, "Gelnon, does everything that you touch malfunction?" as she held the communicator out to him.

"I resent that," Gelnon snapped, snatching it from her.

She smiled thinly and said, "Sorry," her hand worrying at the bandage on her arm. When Gelnon mumbled something in reply, his tricorder already out and scanning the malfunctioning communicator, she raised her eyebrows, shrugged, and crossed the bridge to join Weyoun. As she did so, she unwound the bandage from her arm, and he saw that there was a sluggishly bleeding gash across her bicep.

"Where did you get that?" he asked her, crossing his arms over his chest.

She glanced at him, then bit down on the bandage to hold it in place as she began re-wrapping it more neatly. He knew better than to offer his assistance. "Not concerned, are you?" she asked when she pulled the end of the bandage out of her mouth.

He sniffed in dry amusement. "I've spent the last year and a half in a state of heightened anxiety," he replied. "So—yes. And the question still stands."

Dropping her eyes away from his to concentrate on what she was doing, she shrugged and said, "You know those knives the Jem'Hadar carry."

The scar across his own chest twinged in sympathy. "I suppose your threshold of tolerance for me asking you to be careful is as low as ever."

"Lower," she replied briskly.

He snorted but let it go, contenting himself with the fact that the wound didn't look serious and that Keevan would look at it when they got back to their own ship. The thought of Keevan made him remember Zyree – he could only hope that her injury was as non-lethal as Eris's.

It was hard to believe that it had been a year and a half since the Jem'Hadar rebellion that had torn apart the Dominion, scattering its member races to the stars – the Vorta most dramatically of all, because one of the first things the rebels had done was to induce a supernova in the star that the Vorta homeworld orbited, which consumed the entire system in a superheated, incinerating fireball that left nothing in its path. It had been a devastating blow, even to a cloned people, many of whom had never set foot on Kurill Prime. But it hadn't been the worst blow by far.

Because that honor went to the Great Link, which was gone, obliterated entirely by the rebels in one fell swoop, turning it to desiccated ash, and leaving the Founders' homeworld in the Omarion Nebula a barren wasteland. If there were any Founders remaining alive, somewhere out there, Weyoun hoped they stayed well away. The death of every single one of his gods was still a yawning emptiness in him; an ache that threatened to overwhelm him daily.

No one had known exactly how the Jem'Hadar were doing it; entire armies of them would appear on planets, whose defenses would be overrun almost immediately. Every Vorta cloning facility had been destroyed; every shred of genetic material; every memory database – and with the cloning facilities went the scientists. For the first few months the rebels – and calling them rebels was a bit of a misnomer, as they'd managed to effect a complete takeover of the Dominion in that time – had crushed every defense they'd come in contact with. No one could understand how they landed so many soldiers on a planet's surface without an accompanying fleet.

And then Weyoun had realized how they were doing it.

His previous clone had been posted to a world that, while it was technologically quite backwards, had had an advanced piece of transporter tech – a curiosity, really, which the world's scientists couldn't reverse engineer to be of any wide use, but which high-ranking members of the cabinet used to move quickly between their two capital cities. At the time, Weyoun had documented it and eventually received word from Dominion scientists that it was something called an Iconian Gateway. They were found every so often; remnants of an ancient, extremely advanced civilization that had used this transporter technology to move instantaneously across vast interstellar distances, though no operational gateways had ever been discovered until then.

So when Weyoun had begun noting a certain pattern to the Jem'Hadar attacks – the way they came out of nowhere, with no apparent transportation to and from the conquered planet, he suspected it was one, or more likely multiple, of these Iconian Gateways at work. By that point he'd banded together with several Vorta – Eris, Gelnon, Kilana, and Yelgrun – on a freighter that was barely spaceworthy, and their first mission, if one could call it that, had been to confirm the Gateways' use. Their second mission had been to decrypt what remained of the Dominion's database to access the locations of the known Iconian Gateways – and then to destroy the database entirely. They had eradicated the Dominion's entire accumulated store of knowledge, but it had seemed worth it to keep the locations of the Gateways out of the Jem'Hadar's hands. It still did.

That had been a start at a defense. A number of Dominion worlds, still unconquered by the Jem'Hadar, had formed a loose coalition. They called themselves the Allied Systems and they had managed to develop and erect a transporter inhibiter that couldn't entirely stop the Jem'Hadar from using the Gateways, but severely limited their ability to send through the same huge numbers of troops that they'd been capable of before. Each world of the Allied Systems raised an army from whatever small security forces they'd been allowed under Dominion rule, running out of weapons normally before they ran out of civilian volunteers. The mission to destroy the Dominion's database, as well as his discovery of the Gateways' use, had earned Weyoun a certain amount of respect, and despite his objections, he was viewed as a leader in the movement to stand against the Jem'Hadar. Ships like his, crewed by Vorta, Dosi, Karemma, Skrreeans, and all the other worlds of the Allied Systems, did their best to fight back against the rebels; to take out their ships and their hatcheries and eventually, maybe, the Gateways.

So far, it was an uphill battle.

The rest of the crew arrived on the bridge while Eris dealt with her injury and Gelnon studied the communicator. One of Ornithar's sleeves was singed and Kilana's hair had fallen out of the clip that she normally wore it in. The teams looked to have had a few assorted mishaps, but everyone was present and accounted for. All looked relieved to see Eris, who briefly explained that her team's communicators had broken. Then, before Ornithar or Kilana had time to say a word to Weyoun, Gelnon announced, "This communicator didn't malfunction."

Everyone looked at him. "Of course it did," Kilana said. "Eris couldn't transmit anything from the bridge."

"There's nothing wrong with the communicator," Gelnon repeated. "There's something interfering with it. Some sort of signal…or…hm."

Eris glanced at Weyoun, and he shrugged. When Gelnon got into this state of mind, there wasn't much one could do until he decided to produce a full explanation, and, as he turned to one of the consoles, it became clear that he wasn't about to.

In the silence, Ornithar crossed his lanky arms over his chest. "Have any of us stopped to ask why the Jem'Hadar were in this sector in the first place?"

"Hunting down Vorta," Kilana spat. "What else have the Jem'Hadar done recently?"

"But the Allied Systems don't operate in this region. We never have," Ornithar pointed out. "We followed the Jem'Hadar out here."

Weyoun had stopped to ask himself why the Jem'Hadar would be bothering with this sector, where the only thing of note seemed to be an uninhabited system called, so the starcharts said, Idran – and the Jem'Hadar hadn't even been in Idran. Their ship, currently drifting in space while Weyoun's crew took command of it, was some four light years away. As far as he could tell, there was absolutely no reason to be patrolling here.

"They were looking for something," Gelnon said suddenly. He was still bent over the console, his fingers skittering across the keys. "But they didn't record what…it's as though they were trying to keep it a secret…"

Laughing darkly, Eris remarked, "Jem'Hadar with secrets. It sounds like a joke."

"The Jem'Hadar were making some sort of adjustment to the warp containment field when we took Engineering," Kilana offered. "Maybe that has something to do with whatever they were looking for."

Gelnon focused a piercing gaze on her. "Did you see what they were doing?"

"We were more concerned with killing them," she said wryly. "But it's all still there. We didn't touch anything."

Abruptly, Gelnon stowed his tricorder away and straightened up, tossing Eris's communicator back to her. "Show me," he said. As an afterthought, he added, "I shut down that signal. Your communicators should all work now."

With a curt nod, Kilana joined him in the turbolift, which descended out of sight. Once they'd gone, Weyoun said, "We need to decrypt the command codes so we can get this ship back inside our own territory."

Uncrossing his arms, Ornithar replied, "I'll get started." He motioned to one of the other Karemma and the two of them bent over a console, their long fingers tapping at the controls. "And could someone jettison the bodies out the nearest airlock before they start decomposing?" Ornithar asked over his shoulder.

"Jem'Hadar fighters don't have airlocks," Eris informed him. "But we can transport them out later."

"Ever the pedant, Eris."

She smiled slightly and watched Weyoun as he donned one of the bridge's virtual headsets, which he'd removed from the Jem'Hadar First's body. There were no proximity sensors going off on the bridge, but that didn't mean there weren't any other ships in the area. Luckily, the viewscreen showed only the emptiness of space within sensor range, but he kept it over his eye so that he could devote at least a portion of his attention to the readings displayed there. He didn't want to linger here longer than necessary. Most likely, this ship was due to report in by a certain time, and once that hour passed, trouble might come their way. He'd have to see if Kilana could do something about disguising this ship's warp signature, or Gelnon, though it seemed too practical of a thing for him to do quickly. It would be a problem if they were followed.

His communicator hissed suddenly, and Kilana's voice came through. "Kilana to Weyoun."

"Go ahead," he said.

"You might want to come down and see this."

Eris raised her eyebrows, and Weyoun gestured to Ornithar to keep working before he stepped over to the turbolift. Eris followed him, and though he thought they might be better served by her remaining on the bridge with the others, he didn't say anything.

"It's always odd being on one of these ships again, isn't it?" Weyoun said musingly as the turbolift sped towards Engineering. He hadn't bothered to remove the headset, and it was odd, also, how quickly he'd gotten re-accustomed to wearing it, looking through the viewscreen but still taking in all the information on it, as though the visual feed was hooked directly into his brain.

"Computer," Eris said suddenly, "full stop to turbolift A." The lift jerked to a halt and Weyoun looked at her, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "Weyoun," she said flatly, "I don't mean to question your command, but what are we doing?"

His eyebrow still raised, he replied, "We're going to Engineering so Kilana and Gelnon can show us the modifications to the warp containment field that the Jem'Hadar were working on."

"You're well aware that that isn't what I meant."

For a moment, Weyoun stood there silently, watching her. He was well aware, and he knew better than to be glib with her. "We're fighting for our lives," he finally replied. "We're fighting to prevent our entire race from being exterminated."

She closed her eyes briefly, some combination of pain and exhaustion flickering over her face. "All of this is useless. You realize that, don't you?" Dropping her shoulders resignedly, she sighed, then went on in a quiet, but no less intense voice, "Haneek, Ornithar, Zyree – all of them – they've got something to fight for. They have homes and families to protect. They have a future." She paused and bit her lip. "We don't."

"We have our own lives," Weyoun said, despite the fact that he'd had this debate with himself already, many times. He wondered what tack Eris would take. "I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that getting captured and killed by the Jem'Hadar isn't the most pleasant way to die." His eyes hooded, he added, "And you've heard the same stories I have."

"Yes," she replied softly. "They've developed a taste for…playing with their prisoners."

With a nod, he said, "Something tells me that at this point, for people like us, it wouldn't be a quick and painless death."

She didn't speak for a minute, staring around the small, bare turbolift instead, as though it could provide some answer to her question. Then, she turned her gaze to him, and her expression became despairing. The next words out of her mouth weren't the ones he'd expected to hear. "We need children, Weyoun. We need to be able to have children."

He looked at her, his brow furrowed in surprise. His own attention had always been more on the rebuilding of their cloning facilities; restocking the genetic imprints and memory banks; relearning, somehow, the delicately complicated science. But—children? Sexual reproduction…it was an intriguing idea, and not a bad one, except for one inescapable fact. "Believe me," he finally said, "I'd be thrilled to procreate with you, but in case you haven't noticed, we lack the genetic coding."

"And the hormones," she added impatiently. "But not—well, everything else. It's all genetic engineering. It all should be reversible."

"We'll send Keevan down to the lab," he said dryly.

"We might as well commit mass suicide now if we're not going to try something," Eris snapped. "That's all this is – a long, drawn out suicide. There won't be any more Vorta. How many of us are left, do you think? Fifty thousand?"

Looking away from her, he murmured, "That's a generous estimate."

"And if the Jem'Hadar don't kill us, we can look forward to dying of old age." She shook her head. "Weyoun, in a hundred years there won't be a single Vorta left in the universe. We have to do something."

"What do you expect me to do, Eris? If there's a cloning specialist left out there we haven't found him yet. Keevan's a decent field medic but I don't think genetic manipulation's his strong suit."

"So we're just going to wait around to die out."

"No," Weyoun said forcefully, and when she raised her eyebrows in an unvoiced prompt for him to regale her with his plan, he pressed his lips together for a moment before going on, "I can only deal with so many crises at one time, and the decimation of the Dominion has been rather at the forefront of my mind of late." Eris looked slightly chagrined, and Weyoun added, hearing and disliking the note of peevishness in his own voice, "I certainly wouldn't mind hearing someone else come up with a way to swoop in and save our entire species from annihilation."

"You're our leader," Eris said.

"I'm not a leader," Weyoun replied with a bitter laugh. "I'm a diplomat, and for some reason, all of you think I know what I'm doing. It should be obvious to you by now that I don't."

All of Eris's standoffishness abruptly melted away, and she stepped forward, putting her arms around him. Reflexively, he pulled her close and rested his head against hers, pulling the headset off and letting it dangle from his fingers so he could be closer to her. This was the only thing in the past year and a half that had been unwavering.

"The reason," she said quietly, "is that you're more of a leader than any of the rest of us. You have the ability to make people listen to you and to do what you say. And you have this crew's loyalty." She turned her face towards his head and he felt her nose on his ear. "Don't say it's misplaced," she murmured warningly.

"All right, I won't say it," he said, allowing a smile to cross his face.

She leaned her body against his. "I don't think I ever knew what real terror was before all of this. But you make it better. Don't ask me how. You just do."

"You're sleeping with me," he pointed out. "There's a certain amount of stress relief to that."

That made her laugh a little, and she kissed his ear. "Yes, well, I'm sure that helps, but I know for a fact that the others feel the same way, and unless you're extremely discreet, I'm the only one who engages in that particular activity with you."


She pulled her head back to look him in the eye, putting her hand on his chest, and then raising her eyebrows as her palm covered the metal disc in his pocket. Pulling it out, she murmured, "You still carry this around."

"Of course," he said darkly. "It's the only piece of Kurill Prime I have left."

A hard look flashed over her face and she drew her eyebrows together in determination, clutching her hand around the disc for a moment. "Weyoun, I don't know how we're going to do it, but someday, we'll bring the Jem'Hadar down. Those bastards can't destroy our homeworld and…and everything else, and expect to get away with it forever."

He covered her hand with his and stared into her eyes for a moment, seeing deep within them the same…rage, and disbelieving horror, that he lived with every day. The Dominion, Kurill Prime, the Founders – all had been taken from the Vorta, and now their lives were being snuffed out day by day. She was right, they had to do something to save themselves. Without being able to replenish their dwindling population, the Jem'Hadar had already won. They wanted the extinction of the Vorta and it was coming.

He just wished he knew what to do.

"Computer," Eris said, "resume motion in turbolift A." She slipped the metal disc back into his pocket as the lift continued towards Engineering, then kissed him swiftly. He caught her shoulders in his hands and held her there for a moment while he deepened the kiss, but they stepped apart as the turbolift began to slow.

Engineering came into view, along with several Jem'Hadar corpses laying around the room. Kilana and Gelnon had clearly moved some of them away from the equipment they needed, but they hadn't bothered to move any of them far, and Weyoun and Eris had to step over one to join their Vorta compatriots. As they did so, he slipped the headset back on, checking again to make sure no other vessels were within sensor range.

"Do you know what they were doing out here yet?" he asked.

Gelnon nodded. "I think we do." He glanced at Kilana, who nodded as well, encouraging him to go on, and then he said, "The bridge was flooded with neutrinos – that's what was interfering with the communicators – and at first I couldn't understand why. But I think it was an unintended side effect – there just happened to be an unanticipated build-up of them in the bridge as a result of the test they were performing. According to their logs they were aiming a highly concentrated beam of neutrinos here—" He paused to show Weyoun a set of coordinates, which was dead ahead of the ship, only a few hundred thousand kilometers away. "—and that's where the warp containment field comes in."

Taking over, Kilana said, "They were making a very specific set of modifications that would have allowed the field to remain stable and to operate under an equally specific set of circumstances. Nothing they'd encounter in normal space."

"So we put the two together, and based on the intersection of a number of observational peculiarities in their logs—" Gelnon started.

Impatiently, Kilana interrupted, "Gelnon thinks they found a stable wormhole."

Both Weyoun and Eris snapped their gazes to the other man, though neither of them said anything for a moment, allowing Gelnon to remark, "It seems the likeliest explanation."

Eris found her voice first. "A stable wormhole to where?"

Kilana glanced at Gelnon. "Well, we don't know. It doesn't seem like the Jem'Hadar had actually tried going through it – that's why they were modifying the warp field; they must have been concerned about its collapse."

"Should they have been?" Weyoun asked.

"It's hard to say." Gelnon punched a few keys on the nearest console. "Empirically speaking, there's no reason to believe it would happen…"

The way the other man trailed off wasn't lost on Weyoun. "But?" he prompted.

"But it isn't normal space inside a wormhole," Gelnon added reluctantly, "so speaking empirically may not mean all that much."

For a long moment, Weyoun remained silent, thinking hard. A stable wormhole to—somewhere. Somewhere with no Jem'Hadar, most likely. After all, it was a big galaxy, and while the Dominion had been large, it still only took up a small portion of the total galactic real estate. Something was telling him that this could be what they'd been waiting for to help their cause. As he had no gods left, he had to assume it was just gut instinct telling him that. And his gut instinct had rarely failed him.

"I'm going through," Weyoun said decisively. The others looked at him with varying degrees of shock and disbelief. "What?" he asked. "There could be someone on the other side willing to help us. And I'd rather we get to them before the Jem'Hadar do."

Finally, someone else spoke. "But we have no idea where it goes," Kilana said. "Who knows how friendly anyone on the other side might be. You might end up in the middle of a warzone."

Weyoun raised an eyebrow. "Then it will look very familiar, won't it? It's a risk I'm willing to take."

Crossing her arms over her chest, Eris asked, "And if you don't make it back, who's going to command the ship?"

"You," he replied calmly.


As Eris shook her head, Weyoun asked Gelnon and Kilana, "Any objections?"

Without giving them a chance to reply, Eris said, "I'm not any kind of commander—"

"Neither am I," he interrupted, giving her a meaningful look. "But sometimes circumstances force these things upon us. Anyway, you're the closest thing to a first officer that I have."

She furrowed her brow and stared at him for a long moment, but then inclined her head in acquiescence. "Don't get any ideas about this being permanent," she said, looking back up and meeting his eyes. "I'm expecting you back with a full report of what's over there."

This was exactly why she was the closest thing to a first officer that he had. Despite her justifiable fears for his personal safety, both as the commander of their ship and as her lover, she knew that he was the best person to make contact with whomever was on the other side of that wormhole, and she didn't argue. "I'll take the shuttle. Gelnon, how do I enter this wormhole?"

He ignored Kilana's mutterings about the shuttle barely holding together and that he'd be lucky to make it out of their ship's launch bay in favor of listening closely to Gelnon. "You should be able to just…fly towards it, as far as I can tell. The Jem'Hadar were trying to open it from a distance with the neutrino beam but according to these readings, any object that approaches the mouth closely enough will trigger its opening."

"And these are the coordinates?" Weyoun asked, taking the padd that Gelnon was holding. After studying it for a moment, he took the headset off and handed it to Eris. "The bridge is yours," he said with the tiniest bit of obsequiousness. "I think I'd like to leave right away."

Eris took the headset gingerly and looked at him, her eyes dark with something. Kilana glanced between them and said meaningfully, "Gelnon, come take a look at this…" and managed to draw him away towards the far side of the warp core.

With a small smile, Eris asked, "How long should I wait before I start worrying?"

"Don't worry," he said. "I'm not planning on getting killed just yet."

"Good." She clasped the headset in front of her with both of her hands. "Because I'm holding you to what you said in the turbolift."

"What did I say?"

"That if it became possible for Vorta to have children, you and I…"

When she trailed off, he impulsively took her hand, trusting Kilana and Gelnon to respect their privacy. "If it ever becomes possible," he agreed. "I meant it."

They held each other's gazes for a long moment, and then Eris stepped forward, letting the headset slide to her elbow, put her hands on the sides of his face, and kissed him hard. "Be careful," she said vehemently. "And come back."

He brushed a hand down her ear and stepped away, engaging the transporter beacon on his wrist before he had time to think too hard about any of this. Within the hour, he was piloting an ancient shuttle towards the coordinates Gelnon had given him, his eyes flicking between the controls and the viewscreen that showed nothing ahead of him but the blackness of space. He'd assumed that it would be obvious when he'd entered the wormhole, but what if it wasn't? What if something more was required than just flying towards the right spot?

As he approached the coordinates more and more closely, he began to feel his ever-present pessimism creeping in. This had been a foolish idea. The Jem'Hadar probably hadn't found anything out here; the readings must have meant something else—

And then it happened. Space opened up in front of him in a whirling maelstrom of blue light, unfolding like the little shore roses that had once bloomed along Kurill Prime's rocky shorelines. Streams of energy arced off of it, dissipating into the blackness, and light spilled out of a passageway right in the center of the swirl.

Weyoun brought the shuttle to a dead stop without thinking, his fingers reflexively punching the buttons on the control panel. For one interminable moment, he stared at the wormhole, knowing that he had been insane to volunteer to traverse it. Then he thought of his crew, of all of the people across the Dominion's former territory who were fighting the Jem'Hadar. Of the Founders, the deicide perpetuated on them – but mostly of the Vorta, dying off. Everything that he'd done for the past year and a half had been to save his people, and he was no closer to doing that now than he'd been at the beginning. He had to hope that there was something or someone on the other side of this wormhole that could help.

So, taking a deep breath, Weyoun engaged the impulse engines, aiming the shuttle towards that whirl of blue. The roses that it reminded him of had been harbingers of daylight on his world. As his shuttle crossed the event horizon, he prayed to his dead gods that this wormhole was the same.