Odo and the young Jem'Hadar haven't gone very far past the wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant when a Dominion patrol ship neared.
"Well, you've been waiting all your life, short as it may be, to meet your people,” Odo said to his traveling companion. “Now, you'll get your chance. I hope," Odo paused, looking for the right words, "I hope you'll be happy."
"Are you sure you want to go back to the station,” the young warrior asked. “Don't you belong here? Your people are here – you are a Founder!"
Before Odo could convince himself, again, that he made the right decision, the other ship hailed them. He sighed, "On screen."
A female Vorta appeared, "Greetings, Founder. Did you change your mind? Are you coming home to us at long last?"
"I see word of my existence has made it throughout the Dominion. Hmph."
"It’s best said that such information is at a ‘need to know’ status, Founder. Officers on vessels patrolling in sectors near the wormhole have been granted that privilege. We stand ready to assist you if possible, and to escort you home… if that is your wish."
Odo took a moment to study her - she didn't seem to mean any harm. Could he trust the life of the young Jem'Hadar to her, though? What would they even do to welcome him home? Will they interrogate him? Reprogram him? Is it possible he will be judged and found guilty of being culturally polluted by his time amongst the “solids” of Alpha Quadrant?
"I'm afraid I'm not ready yet. However, we did find this young Jem'Hadar on a Dominion ship. I'm afraid he's the only survivor," Odo looked at the kid, barely three days old and already a fearsome warrior. "I’ve seen to his upbringing to this point, but he would like to rejoin his people now."
She looked over at the passenger in the runabout. "You are very fortunate,” she said, a note of jealousy in her cordial tone. “Many Jem'Hadar never get to be in the presence of a God, much less be raised by one. What is your name, soldier?"
Odo looked guilty - he was trying to teach the Jem'Hadar independent thinking, and never even helped him with establishing an identity.
The Jem'Hadar stated simply, "I do not have one yet."
"Excellent, you can earn your name after you're done with training then. I will warn you, that being a little bit older than your classmates might make you feel a little..."
"Like an outsider?" Odo injected.
The Vorta smiled in response. Apologetically, perhaps?
"Being an outsider isn't so bad. It gives one a unique perspective." Odo seemed to remember having just said those words. Was he going to be repeating himself every time he encountered the Dominion?
"I am ready." The young soldier turned to Odo, "Thank you. I don't think I would have survived for long if they took me away."
The rest of the trip was a bit hazy for Odo. It'd only been three days - was this the closest he'd get to having a child? There was so much more he wanted to teach the Jem'Hadar. Should he have insisted that the child stay? Did he actually abandon him?
Dukan'Rex stood with his squad and another. He itched to fight again. He always felt wound up, his senses heightened, and his confidence in his strength at its utmost after the Vorta handed out the White.
They were waiting. Some were tense - a Founder was going to join them on this mission. The incentive to succeed was high. No one wanted to fail in front of a god.
Of the Jem’Hadar assembled, he was the only one to have ever seen a Founder – at least, in person. Once, during his first year, he overheard two Jem'Hadar arguing; neither were certain if the Founders were real. He stepped in, and told them about Odo; how he had jumped through the changeling mid-tackle, and realized that he stood in the presence of a god.
The other two Jem'Hadar didn't believe him. "You're making it up,” said the larger of the two. “You’ve never met a Founder. You speak lies to impress us."
The other was just as dismissive, "If you're so special, why aren't you by his side still? Perhaps you were frightened after you jumped through the body of a god, and ran here to hide behind a Vorta?"
Their First had to break up the fight that followed. All three were punished, their White withheld for a day. It was unpleasant for them all, but the lesson was one well learned.
His reverie was interrupted as two people beamed in. Training and reflexes kicked in as he stood at attention, combat-ready. The time had come, at last.
The Vorta Loriss and a Founder walked over to the Jem’Hadar staging area. The Founder… could it be?
"The Founder will be joining us on our mission to help the colony at Stakoron. When addressed, you may call him Odo."
Dukan'Rex almost broke formation in his excitement. It was him! Odo! He hadn't seen Odo in years! Would the Founder recognize him, after so much time had passed?
Loriss didn't notice his reaction, and continued to speak. "These two are your Firsts,” she said as she stopped at the head of the Jem’Hadar formation. “Dukan'Rex and Itan'Ektal."
"Please don't bow, if you can. I'm not really used to it." Odo said, looking slightly embarrassed. His gruff voice hasn't changed. "The colony at Stakoron is a new settlement, and I'm told they're facing a lot of hardships. Don't treat them like rebels. I want a chance to really talk to them."
Loriss waved everyone to the ship, "All right, let's move out. You heard the Founder - Don't start any fights."
Dukan'Rex felt a twitch at the corner of his mouth. He once practiced his smile, but realized there was no point to it. However, when Odo walked towards him, he felt that it was the right thing to do. Odo walked right past him.
The colonists at Stakoron were definitely not interested in talking, but Odo was not about to give up. He tried hailing their main building, he tried hailing them across all frequencies, and now he was about to beam down with a group of soldiers to make someone talk to him.
Dukan'Rex ordered his team to put their rifles on the lowest setting - something they hadn't done since training. They all looked askance at each other before changing the setting. Their team was in charge of leading the way. Itan'Ektal's team was in charge of forming a protective circle around the Founder. From above, they looked like a slow moving turtle swimming across a harsh landscape.
Red dust attacked their eyes with the wind, and the higher gravity made their movement sluggish. Dukan'Rex remembered a training simulation like this when the White was wearing off. He gritted his teeth against the painful memory.
"Main building ahead. All stop." He spoke firmly. Dukan'Rex turned to his second, "You, take the Third, shroud, and scout ahead." The two Jem'Hadar vanished. The only evidence of their movement was a change in the pattern of the red dust clouds swirling the in the air. He turned to check on the Founder, only to find Loriss holding an umbrella, somewhat awkwardly, trying to fend off some of the dust.
They made eye contact, and she looked away quickly. Dukan'Rex saw that look before when the team caught a thief red-handed. He decided to say nothing, and looked forward again,
towards the colony's main building.
"What? Wh- “Whoever said that from the rear was quickly cut off.
"Protect the Founder!" Itan'Ektal shouted.
Figures in tight red wraps, the same color as the swirling dust, cut down the two Jem'Hadar soldiers next to him. But Itan'Ektal was fast, and fired on the two attackers quickly.
"Wait, we just came to talk! We want to help!" Odo cried out, still half transforming back into his humanoid form.
"Death to the Dominion demons!" The shout came from a group of rebels emerging from the main building. When Dukan'Rex's Second and Third unshrouded to stun them, more camouflaged figures appeared and cut them down.
"Open fire!" Dukan'Rex shouted. He unleased the beast within, shooting at anything hostile moving in the red dust. He knew his rifle would just stun the enemies, so he held nothing back.
Within minutes, the sounds of battle surrounded his senses. He knew there was a team of enemies behind him, but the group in front of him was a bigger threat to the Founder. He hoped Itan'Ektal was able to hold out. He felt a shift in the air, and paused to consider it after he shot another rebel in the heart.
It's Odo. He's not asking to talk any more. Inwardly, Dukan'Rex was resigned at this realization. Rebels weren’t often inclined to talk to those they saw as oppressors. He turned to ask if the Jem’Hadar remaining should switch their rifles to a higher setting.
Itan'Ektal had resorted to hand-to-hand combat. His dagger was stuck in his latest kill, which was trying to drag him down to the ground with what little energy remained in his body. As the Jem'Hadar bent down, Dukan'Rex saw a rebel leap up, a blood-stained cutlass aiming to decapitate the other First.
He fired three shots to the swordsman’s chest when a pair of hands grabbed at his rifle from the side. He reared back his head, and slammed it into his attacker. The spikes on his forehead caught, and ripped out a chunk of his attacker's brow. The head wound bled intensely, and partially blinded his foe.
He stopped resisting his attacker's pull, and practically threw his rifle at him. The swordsman bellowed with pain and rage, then charged him, swinging the large cutlass in wild arcs. Careless, the Jem’Hadar thought. You’re about to pay for that lack of discipline.
As the swordsman moved within reach, Dukan'Rex caught his wrist. He brought the fragile joint down on his armored knee, forcing the rebel to drop the sharp weapon. He then rolled backwards, kicking up at the attacker's chin while grabbing the dropped cutlass from the ground. In a moment, his foe was unconscious and he was well-armed. He looked through the scarlet haze for his compatriots, straining to tell friend from foe in the chaos.
"Odo, watch out!" Loriss shouted.
A large man, dressed only in a blood-red robe, was rushing the changeling. Itan'Ektal's team had all fallen. Only a Vorta stood between Odo and danger…
Protect the Founder!
Dukan'Rex shrouded and ran to intercept the attacker. Odo deflected a swing from the large attacker just as Dukan'Rex appeared. With a deft movement, he buried the cutlass he’d taken from his previous foe into the giant rebel’s chest, only to discover it lodged in armor plating beneath the torn scarlet robes.
The rebel didn’t hesitate to counter-attack. Surprisingly fast for his size, he slashed at Dukan'Rex's face with a combat dagger. The blood spray seemed to melt into the red dust swirling all about. Before he could bring his blade to bear, Odo swung a hammer-shaped arm at the attacker's temple. The sound of the impact was loud enough to be heard over the din of battle, and made Dukan'Rex grit his teeth and clench his eyes shut briefly. The last rebel fell on the ground, kicking up more red dust. Then, he felt hands on his arms.
"Are you well?" Odo sounded concerned. “We need to get out of here before they summon reinforcements.”
Dukan'Rex realized the Founder was talking to him. He opened his eyes. Unconsciously, he felt the corners of his mouth tug again.
"You look familiar..." Odo squinted at him.
Dukan'Rex was pretty sure he was smiling now.
Tiffany "Wubblez" Chu
Star Trek Online