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The Withdrawal

Posted on Tue Sep 10th, 2019 @ 2:09pm by Rusan
Edited on on Tue Sep 10th, 2019 @ 4:36pm

Mission: Reaching Out in Hope
Location: Stakoron II
Timeline: Two months ago

Menteri Rusan's office
Stakoron II
Two months ago

Menteri Rusan entered his office carrying a heavy workload. His datapad was stocked to capacity with paperwork to fill out for the Dominion overseers, production deadlines for the mining facilities in the outer asteroid belt, plans to open new mining facilities on some of the tenth planet's outer moons, requested (or ordered) personnel changes… Enough paperwork to keep him buried for a month.

The door opened again without warning, and Ferali walked in, her ever-present smile grating on Rusan's scales at this late hour. The Vorta also carried another handful of padds.

"Menteri." She greeted him by his title, and gave a half-bow. "I trust we're not keeping you too busy with these requests. I'm sorry to let myself in like this, but it seems your assistants have all gone home."

She extended her hand and placed the stack of data padds on top of the others on his desk. "I hope these won't take you too long. I'm sorry to impose upon you like this," she repeated again, "but we really need your feedback on these projects. I've scheduled a meeting first thing tomorrow morning to follow up on them. The mining project on Stakoron VI needs to go forward as soon as possible."

Without waiting for his reply, the Vorta smiled her vacuous smile as she always did, turned, and exited his office. As she walked out, Rusan saw the Jem'Hadar guard, who had waited patiently just out of view on the other side of the door, falling into step behind her. Rusan's scales bristled as the soldier turned and gave him a look he wasn't sure how to interpret - but it did send a chill down his spine.

He looked at the stack of data padds and sighed, before reaching to turn on a light on the desk. He glanced out the window at the fading sunlight, and knew he would be home very late. He picked the data padd from the top of the pile, and cringed at the requested report - a detailed personnel deployment plan for a second-tier mining facility on one of the asteroids in the inner planetary system. Surely, he thought, the Menteri of Stakoron II, the planet's top elected official, had better things to do than fill out junior-level reports?

He sighed, and started typing on the data padd.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Based on one's perspective, it was either very late at night, or very early in the morning, when he finally entered his home. It was dark, prompting him to lash out with his tongue to taste the air, making sure he didn't bump into anything. He made his way to his daughter's bedside, and gently stroked her crest. Her grey leathery skin was smooth under his hand, and she shifted position under his touch. He stepped back quietly so as not to wake her, and walked to his own bedroom.

The two eggs his wife had laid were carefully placed in the warmer, next to their bed. If all went well, they would hatch in about twenty days. He looked at the temperature on the warmer, just as he had always done, to make sure it was stable, and optimal for the development of the eggs, and the babies inside them, and turned to the bed.

His wife was soundly asleep, the deep sounds of her breathing echoing in the room. Her tongue lashed out regularly, instinctively tasting the air out of an ancient reflex of self-protection that stemmed back hundreds of millenia, when they had still been sea-faring creatures.

Rusan, duly appointed Menteri of Stakoron II, quietly removed his clothing, and lay down in bed next to his wife, intent on having at least five hours of much-needed sleep.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Menteri Rusan!"

Rusan's eyes snapped open at the sound of someone's voice over the communications channel. But it took his mind a second to catch up. He'd heard a voice calling out his name, but had it been real, or had he been dreaming?

"Menteri Rusan!" came the voice again. He recognized it as the Second Menteri's at the same time that his wife jabbed him in the ribs to wake him.

Rusan glanced at the chronometer on the bedside table, and saw that it had only been two hours since he'd gone to sleep. Every bone in his body protested as he tried to sit up in his bed.

"What is it?" he asked in a hushed voice. The call had stirred his wife halfway out of her sleep, and if possible, he wanted to avoid waking her completely. With the eggs due to hatch soon, she needed all the rest she could get.

"They're leaving," said Second Menteri Kiassa.

"Who?"

"The Dominion."

Rusan ran his hands over his face, trying to rub the exhaustion out of his mind. "What are you talking about?"

"The Vorta. The Jem'Hadar," said Kiassa. "The Dominion. They're leaving Stakoron."

Rusan paused and glanced one more time at his wife. "I'm on my way," he said finally.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The office was in complete disarray. Chairs were overturned, computer monitors had either been smashed or shot with the Jem'Hadar's energy weapons, desks shattered to pieces. Data padds were strewn about the floors, some if not most had been trampled, their screens fractured in complex spiderweb patterns. Windows had been shot through, letting in the cold rain of an early spring night.

Even in the middle of the night, Ruslan found a horde of workers trying to return a sense of order to the place, some administration assistants shaking their heads in disbelief while staring at their desks, picking up the pieces and sweeping up debris.

He made his way to his office, where the second Menteri was waiting.

"What happened?" asked Rusan.

"I don't know," replied Kiassa. "I got a call from the security office an hour ago. A Jem'Hadar legion had shown up, and just started trashing the entire building. They didn't attack anyone, they were focused on destroying the material. The whole capital building, and every government office was attacked. Then they just beamed away."

"And the Vorta?" asked Rusan.

"She's gone too. They left orbit without another word. They're gone."

Rusan looked at the Second Menteri in the eyes. "What do you mean, they're gone?"

"I mean, they're not coming back. Remember those reports we got a few months back, of the Dominion pulling out of the Aturan sector? Now it looks like they're doing the same thing here. The Dominion is retreating."

Rusan felt his scales bristle. Two hundred years of Dominion occupation of Stakoron had just ended, apparently.

He let his eyes wander over the mess in his office before turning to Kiassa. "What now?" he asked. There was one fact they simply could not ignore - the Dominion had been Stakoron's crutch for the last two hundred and fifty years, controlling every facet of the Sakoron government. Rusan was not blind, and he was no fool - he knew the Stakoron people had lost all operational knowledge of how to govern themselves. The Dominion had made them entirely dependent on external resources for their survival. And now they were in total isolation.

"There is a rumor," whispered Kiassa, stepping closer to Rusal to avoid being overheard. "The Dominion fought a war, against another major power on the other side of the galaxy, and they lost. And now this other power is reaching out to other worlds in this quadrant."

Rusan remained silent for a few seconds, mulling this information. He'd heard the rumors, too. A force powerful enough to defeat the Dominion.

"Is there a way to get in touch with them?" asked Rusan.

 

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