A Matter of Perspective


A Matter of Perspective




            Lieutenant Commander Data sat quietly in his quarters considering the events that had befallen him.  In reviewing his databanks, Data purposely left his emotion chip on, so that he could feel the emotions that accompanied the appalling images that his positronic brain had recorded from Thantos III. 

            Strange, Data thought as he analyzed the disturbing pictures once more.   He wanted to identify the precise emotion he felt as he examined the first images of his away mission that he had originally viewed with horror.

            Or shock.  Yes, that was it, Data reminded himself.  His databank dictionary provided several definitions of shock, and the one that best identified what he was feeling stated that it was “A sudden and severe agitation of the mind or emotions, as in horror or great sorrow.”   Indeed, Data concluded, if shock accompanied horror, then what he felt on Thantos III was definitely shock.

            Yet Data was not at all satisfied with the results of his analysis thus far.  Since reinstalling his emotion chip a few years ago, he had mastered dozens of human emotions like happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety.  He had handled fear, for instance, when the saucer section of the Enterprise-D burned through the atmosphere of Veridian III and crash landed on the rocky terrain that could have split the entire ship in two.  He even dealt with terror on board the Enterprise-E when he and his colleagues desperately tried to fend off the Borg Queen’s invasion of the ship during her attempt to change Earth’s history.  But what he felt right now, Data wasn’t certain. 

            Data transferred his attention from one disturbing image to another.  As he reexamined the chronology of events before and after the discovery at Thantos III, he couldn’t quite pinpoint this new emotion he was feeling.  The events that had transpired immediately after the Thantos discovery were in themselves shocking enough, but shock was no longer the right word.  One thing was certain, the Federation’s war with the Dominion provided Data with plenty of new sensations to experience.  By far the most complex of these “war emotions” (as Counselor Troi labeled them) was the one he was feeling right now – it seemed to be a combination of terror, anger, and disgust.

            Just then, Data’s positronic brain postulated a phrase for the emotion he was currently feeling.


            Curious, Data thought as he pondered the possibility that an artificial life form could hate anything.  With that concept in mind, he recalled the Thantos III file from his databanks and once again reviewed its distressing contents from the beginning.




            The Enterprise-E glistened from the purple starlight of the Velcos Nebula, ten light years away from the liberated Betazed system.  The newly formed Federation, Klingon, and Romulan Alliance pounded back Dominion and Cardassian warships from their brief internment of the planet Betazed, and the Alliance, led by the revenge hungry Romulans, pressed further into Dominion-controlled territory.  Both the Klingons and Romulans agreed to allow the Federation’s Flagship to temporarily monitor the area in the event of a rejuvenated Dominion strike.

            A beeping noise from the communications relay broke the productive silence on the bridge.  The quickness of the beeps caught everyone’s attention – this was an encrypted message from Starfleet Command. 

            “The message is marked urgent.” Data informed his Captain.

            “Thank-you, Mr. Data.  Place it on screen.”  Picard chose to take the message on the bridge in the presence of his senior officers, rather than waste time briefing them later.  In wartime, every precious second counted.

            The holoscreen presented the larger than life image of Admiral Lucius Nebiev, a robust gentleman in his early 60s.   Picard saluted him but could tell from the serious expression on the admiral’s face that he was all business.

            “Thank-you Captain.” Nibiev wasted no time getting to the point. “As you already know, with the Romulans now assisting us in the war effort, we are beginning to make some very real gains in this conflict, particularly in reclaiming those regions within the Alpha Quadrant that the Dominion ripped away from us early in the war.”  Picard nodded in agreement – the Enterprise herself had participated in some of these altercations.

            “As a result of the decisive success of our recent campaigns,” Nebiev continued, “the Dominion is finding itself being shoved out of our space abruptly and unexpectedly.”  Nibiev’s face then assumed a sour look.   “A Federation scoutship, the Andromeda, has stumbled upon a secret Dominion installation on Thantos III – a relatively obscure and uninhabited Class-L planet just on the outer fringes of the Regalia System.”

            “What sort of installation would the Dominion have constructed so deep into Federation Space?”  Picard wondered aloud. 

            “We may have stumbled upon a significant intelligence find,” Nibiev continued, ignoring Picard’s question.  “Preliminary reports from the Andromeda have informed us that there is technical equipment within the installation itself, and a difficult…mess.”   

            Nibiev sparked Picard’s curiosity. “What exactly happened on Thantos III, Admiral?”

            “That’s what I need you to tell me, Captain.  The crew of the Andromeda is unqualified and undermanned to handle the situation.  Starfleet Command would like your people to take over the investigation and provide the Alliance with a full-scale analysis of the material.”    

            “And just what is at the site, Admiral?”  It was Commander Riker who queried this time.

            “That information is classified, Commander.” Nibiev chose his words carefully. “Officers from the Andromeda are standing by at the site awaiting your arrival.  They are currently recording the…environment in which you will conduct your investigation.  Their orders are to assist your away team any way they can.  Good luck, Jean-Luc.  Nibiev out.”

            With the abrupt termination of the message, Picard shrugged his shoulders.  Given the stress the Dominion War had brought upon his crew in recent months, he preferred to keep the atmosphere on his bridge as positive as possible.

            “Very well, then.  Commander Riker, prepare your away team.  Mr. Data set a course for the Regalia System.  Maximum Warp.”  He returned to the Captain’s chair, curious of just what sort of ‘mess’ they were going to find on Thantos III.             




            The away team of Riker, Dr. Crusher, Nurse Ogawa, and Data beamed down onto the flat, clay surface underneath the rusty sky of Thantos III as soon as the Enterprise made contact with the Andromeda inside the planet’s orbit.  The second her feet materialized onto the red clay, Dr. Crusher scanned the planet’s oxygen content with her medical tricorder.  

            “The air is dry.”  Riker immediately acknowledged the burning sensation that went up his nostrils.

            “The oxygen level is low.” Dr. Crusher confirmed what the Enterprise sensors had already told them about the planet’s atmosphere. “This planet is infested with a lot of volcanic activity, which eats up a good portion of the oxygen.  There is certainly not enough to support a large population of humans or animals.  We’ll be fine so long as we don’t stay here any longer than a week.”

            “Considering what Admiral Nibiev has told us,” Riker replied, “I don’t want to stay here any longer than a day, Doctor.”

            Riker’s comment caused Data to feel a wave of anxiety.  

            “The Dominion camp is the rectangular installation to the East,” Data pointed.  He found that taking initiative in situations worked to reduce his nervousness.  Counselor Troi confirmed this observation.    

            The away team made their way to the Dominion Installation – a dull-gray, makeshift structure with metal siding.  The building appeared to be evacuated. 

            “I cannot detect any power emissions from the building.”   Data replied, looking for any abnormal readings from his tricorder.  “It appears to be abandoned.” 

            “There are tracks all over the place.”  Riker observed, walking around the building to examine what looked to be dozens of separate imprints.  The indentations extended all the way around the structure, as though a large group of people did nothing but walk back and forth around the belt, day in, day out.         

            Dr. Crusher confirmed the obvious.  “These are Jem’ Hadar footprints.”

            “Standard Jem’ Hadar occupation procedure calls for at least nine soldiers to protect the perimiter of a Dominion occupied installation.”  Data surmised.  “Commander, I believe this installation was a Jem’ Hadar base camp.” 

            “Why build this camp here, in the middle of nowhere?” Riker pondered. “And what the hell could they possibly be protecting?”

            “Hello Commander,” a voice called out from an inconspicuous opening in the front of the structure.  Riker turned to see two Starfleet Officers, dressed in the standard grey-shouldered uniforms, emerge from the entranceway  – one was a tall, trim lieutenant with reddish, thinning hair and the other a medical officer, whose boyish looks and nervous face gave him the appearance of an inexperienced cadet.    

            “Lieutenant Galloway, Nurse Mcknight,” Riker nodded to the two Andromeda officers sent to investigate the building.  “Do you mind telling us what’s going on here?”

            Lieutenant Galloway shook hands with Riker.  “The place is abandoned, Commander.  All of the lighting and energy cells have been stripped.  Most of the technical equipment has been taken, and the few pieces that remain have been blasted beyond repair.”

            “What else is inside?”

            Galloway paused for a moment.  “May I ask what your orders are here, Commander?”

            The question caught Riker off guard.  “Our orders are to find out what exactly is in this installation, and to report that information directly to Starfleet Command.”

            “I can assure you that the crew of the Andromeda is more than capable of analyzing our discovery…”

            “This is not the time to be worried about promotions, Lieutenant,” Riker barked.  “You have a five man crew onboard the Andromeda and limited equipment and expertise…”

            “Well, Commander, I disagree with your assessment of…”   

            “We are at war, Lieutenant.” Riker’s voice was laced with impatience.  “We are acting on direct orders from Admiral Nibiev.  If you have a grievance, share it with him.  Now if you’d kindly follow your orders and escort us into the facility.”

            “Alright,” Galloway held up his hands, knowing not to push the higher-ranking Riker any further.  “Come this way.”

            The exchange struck Data as peculiar.  After all, it was Captain Pannaris, the commanding officer of the Andromeda, who contacted Starfleet about the discovery.   And Commander Riker was right – what could the scoutship possibly hope to accomplish with only five crew members?   The only two members of the crew that could beam down to the surface were Galloway and Mcknight – the other three were needed to keep the ship in orbit.  Data attributed Galloway’s apprehension to the yearning of humans to be recognized for their discoveries.  An interesting ambition.                            

            Galloway led the way to the entrance.  “Two Romulan Warbirds ambushed a Jem’ Hadar warship that was hovering around the Thantos planets during the Alliance’s liberation of Regalia.  Starfleet found it unusual that the Dominion would be active in this region of the system, especially since most of the planets here are Class-L.  So after Regalia was liberated, Intelligence sent us in to conduct surface scans of the moons and planets in the region.  This is what we found.”  Galloway held his hand up to the installation.  He stepped between a wedged-open automatic door, which had the same grayish color as the rest of the structure. When closed, the door was a camouflaged entrance.  

             “Let me caution you, Commander,” McKnight warned. “You may find it unsettling in there.”

            “I appreciate your concern, Nurse.”  Riker replied as he stepped through the entrance.  He and the six officers entered a wide, poorly-lit area, with the only light coming from the entrance, hardly enough to see what lay ahead of them.

            Riker thought he could make out several rows of glass cylinders strewn along the far wall opposite the entranceway.  He ordered the officers to take out their lights.  

            “There appears to be some sort of equipment along the room’s side,” Dr. Crusher spoke, shining her light at several badly smashed pieces of technical equipment.  It all had a definite Dominion look to it, but most of it was blasted beyond repair, most certainly beyond use. 

            “This piece looks familiar…Well, what’s left of it anyways.”  The doctor shone her light on a metallic, cylindrical structure that had been tipped over.  A computer console had been ripped from the base of the tube, leaving only a dangling mass of wire jettisoning onto the floor.  The tube had been tipped over, and lay with it’s underside facing the six Starfleet Officers.  The powdery, white liquid and the thin, transparent tubing that lay around the mess gave Crusher the clue she needed to identify the contraption.

            “What is it?” Riker asked.

            “It’s an enzymatic conditioning tank.” Crusher knelt down to analyze the powder with her tricorder.  “And this chalk-like liquid is ketracel-white, which was being stored in the tank.”

            “Ketracel-White?”  Lieutenant Galloway asked.

            “Ketrecel-White is the isogenic enzyme used by the Dominion to keep the Jem’ Hadar chemically dependent.”  Data cut in.  “The Founders genetically manipulated Jem’ Hadar physiology so that they would require a steady supply of the enzyme.  If the Jem’ Hadar do not receive the enzyme within a specified period of time, they suffer physical and mental anguish which, if left untreated, ultimately leads to death.”

            “Your knowledge of Jem’ Hadar physiology seems to be quite detailed, Commander Data,” Nurse Mcknight replied.  “I would be honored to discuss the specifics of that particular topic with you in the future.”

            “I would enjoy that discussion as well, Nurse,” Data answered.  

            “This container contains insulation.” Crusher interrupted, inspecting the cylinder further. “Ketrecel-white needs to be kept at a stable temperature in order to synthesize properly.”  She turned to look at Riker.  “Will, I don’t believe the Dominion were just storing ketrecel-white here, I believe they were manufacturing it.”

            “Why the hell would the Dominion manufacture ketrecel-white out here?” Riker asked.

            “The climatic conditions on the planet would be ideal.” Crusher surmised.  “What I don’t understand is why the Dominion would go to the trouble to establish a manufacturing plant here, in the middle of nowhere, on the most obscure planet in the Alpha Quadrant.  Surely they would be able to mimic the environmental conditions necessary to produce the enzyme on their own ships.”

            “It is likely that the Dominion was using this camp for another purpose as well.” Data said.  “It is quite possible that whatever this purpose was, they wanted to keep it a secret from certain factions within the Dominion itself.”

            “Synthesizing Ketracel-White hardly seems like a top-secret operation.” Riker replied.  “My suggestion is that we find out what this ‘other’ purpose was and find it immediately.”    

            “The answers you’re looking for are behind you, Commander,” Galloway said, pointing in the direction of the glass cylinders Riker thought he saw at the back of the room.  When the officers turned they faced a wall of pitch-black darkness, yet they could make out vague bumps that ran along the ground.  Everything became clear when Data and Nurse Ogawa shined their flashlights onto the floor

            “What do you me-” Riker stopped in mid-sentence.  A look of dread conquered his face once he fathomed what he saw.  To his left, Dr. Crusher stood motionless.  She hadn’t expected this, nor had Nurse Ogawa, who dropped her flashlight, uttering a gasp that pierced the silence that had overtaken the room.


            Dozens of Jem ‘Hadar bodies laying side by side, spread out systematically over the installation floor.  The air of Thantos III had masked the scent, but now that his light shone directly at the bodies, Riker could smell the decay that permeated the building.

            “What the hell happened here?”  He spoke, the shock apparent in his tone. 

            “We’re not sure.” McKnight said.  “This was how we found them.  The Andromeda sensors detected faint life signs on the surface during our initial scan.  Right now our thoughts are that the Romulans or Klingons landed a garrison on the planet, rounded up the Jem’ Hadar patrol, destroyed their ketrecel-white supply, and then – ”

            “The Romulans or Klingons wouldn’t have done this without the Federation’s knowledge.”  Riker interrupted. 

            “How can you be sure, Commander?”  Galloway said.

            “Because we’re not killers, Lieutenant.  Ours is a defensive alliance.  We do not terminate with extreme prejudice.  You, as a Starfleet Officer, should know that.”

            “Perhaps the Federation doesn’t act with extreme prejudice,” Galloway said, “But just how much do we know about our allies, Commander?  The Romulans are a cunning, ruthless people and the Klingons are a vengeful, barbaric race.  It is not beyond either of them to carry out such a monstrosity.”

            “Look Lieutenant, we are not in a position to start accusing our allies…”

            As the argument between Riker and Galloway pressed on, Crusher’s medical inclinations took over and she began scanning the bodies with her tricorder.  “Nurse Mcknight, you mentioned that you detected life signs?”

            “The Andromeda’s sensors detected faint life signs,” McKnight said, “but my own preliminary ground scan didn’t detect anything.” 

            “Alyssa, look for larger algorithms when scanning the bodies,” Crusher instructed Nurse Ogawa.  “Jem’ Hadar have a different physical structure than humans.  Some of them may be in isogenic shock, their metabolisms trying to compensate for a lack of White.    There may be a chance we can revive some of them.  Data, I need you to…Data, are you listening to me?” 

            Data stood paralyzed, processing the carnage and experiencing the wave of sensations that his chip emitted – fear and surprise, anguish and horror crashed into him, drowning him in a flood of emotion.   The most appropriate response, he thought, was to gasp the way Nurse Ogawa did, but he couldn’t even do that.  Why was he feeling this way?  He had seen death before, with and without his emotion chip, but never had he seen such a large number of dead, and for no apparent reason.     

            “Do we have any idea what killed them?”  Riker asked, trying to refocus on the matter at hand.                            

“My initial prognosis was that they all died from ketrecel-white deprivation.” McKnight said. “However, after a closer inspection of several of the bodies, I discovered – ”

            “Phaser marks.  Set to kill.” Crusher finished Mcknight’s sentence.  She was scanning what was presumably a Jem’ Hadar male and pointed to a baseball-sized burn that completely scorched the creature’s face, making his facial features indistinguishable. 

            “It appears that only some of them died from a lack of White.” Mcknight said. “Their feeding tubules were literally torn from their necks.  But several more appear to have been executed military style at point blank range.”

            “Now doesn’t that suggest that our ‘honorable’ allies may have done this.”  Galloway directed his comment towards Riker.  “Granted this method of systematic killing is much too efficient and civilized for the Klingons, but the Romulans love to execute war criminals in this manner.”  

            Riker grimaced as he stepped over a body to walk towards Dr. Crusher.

            “Mr. Data, can you identify the caliber of these phaser marks?”  Riker asked as he crouched down to examine the burn.  He looked back at the android, who appeared to be in a trance. “Mr. Data!”  Riker repeated loudly to get his attention.

            “Yes, sir.”  Data replied.  Riker startled him, but the android pushed his emotions aside and started scanning the wound.  Focus on your duty, Data, Counsellor Troi’s voice burst through his positronic matrix.

            “It appears as though the phaser marks are of a Dominion caliber, Commander.”  Data said.  “Jem’ Hadar rifles, to be precise.”

            “Perhaps the Romulans used the Jem’ Hadar rifles to mask their involvement.” Galloway said. 

            “There is no way the Romulans or the Klingons could have landed on this planet without the Federation knowing.”  Riker said.  “And if the Romulans wanted to mask their involvement, why didn’t they destroy the camp altogether?”

            “Look at the bigger picture, Commander.” Galloway said, the frustration evident in his voice.  “Are you trying to tell me you know everything that the Tal Shiar is doing in this war?  After their disastrous failure to attack the Founder’s homeworld in the Omarion Nebula, how can you possibly claim that they would have nothing to do with this massacre.  Mr. Data, can you please talk some sense into your commander…”      

            “Your reasoning of a possible motive for Tal Shiar participation is rational,” Data said, “but I’m afraid I have to concur with Commander Riker.   I see no clear evidence supporting Romulan involvement at the present time.”

            “And I don’t need any “sense” talked into me, Lieutenant.” Riker responded sternly. “You crossing a very thin line -”

            “Dr. Crusher!”  Nurse Ogawa shouted, interrupting Riker’s threat.  She hovered over a Jem’ Hadar body, scanning the creature’s chest. 

            “He’s alive.”  She announced as all five officers were at her side within seconds.   Data recognized the delirium and fear that was pasted on the soldier’s face.

            “Stabilize him,” Dr. Crusher took over.  When she opened his mouth, the creature gagged a foamy substance onto the doctor’s sleeve.   

            “We need to give him some room!”  Crusher said.  Riker beckoned for Data and Galloway to follow him to the back of the room, where Nurse Ogawa’s light reflected off of the glass cylinders that Riker had spotted earlier.

            The officers shone their light onto the cylinders.  They were tall, round, transparent tubules, wide enough to cram two individuals into.  Each tube was filled to the top with a dark gray paste. 

            “I believe these are Jem’ Hadar birthing chambers.”  Data observed.

            “Birthing chambers?”  Riker repeated.  “Then this is a Dominion breeding camp.”

            Data scanned the chambers, then processed the results of the scan. “Commander, before we entered the installation, I estimated that the actual structure measured 250 by 380 square feet.  According to my calculations, the total width from the birthing chambers to the entranceway is only 175 feet.”    

            “Meaning there’s more to this camp than this one room,” Riker said.

            He and Data examined the wall behind the chambers.  Data’s tricorder confirmed their suspicions.

            “Commander, there is a room behind this wall.”

            “Are you sure?” Galloway cut in, surprised at the discovery. 

            Riker shined his light to outline a perforation that revealed a sealed doorway.

            “How can we get through?”  Galloway asked.  “It looks to be an automatic mechanism.   With no power source to the installation, I can’t see how we can get the entrance to open.”

            “Then we’ll have to make our own entrance.”  Riker said, drawing out his phaser. “Commander Data.”

            The two officers carved the outline of the doorway with their phasers, allowing Riker to kick in the frame.

            The three officers entered what appeared to be a laboratory.  A large wall of glass greeted them with the reflection of their flashlamps, blinding them to whatever lay behind it.  Opposite to the wall lay several consoles, each one intact and undamaged, but inaccessible without power to the installation.         

            “This glass wall is composed of a duranium-silicon compound,” Data said, aiming his tricorder at it.  “I cannot scan through it; however, it appears to be transparent.”  He tried to shine his lamp through it.

            “It is.” Galloway said, shining his own light through.  He paused, then added “but I don’t think you’ll like what you’re going to see.”

            Data peered through the wall and turned away as despair and revolt raced through his circuits.  More Jem’ Hadar bodies.  Dozens piled on top of each other as though they were scrap pieces of metal in a shipyard.

            A look of disgust returned to Riker’s face.  “This is a massacre.  How or why this was done I can’t even imagine right now.  One thing is for certain – these soldiers were executed and left here to rot.”   

            “Commander, I do not understand who would do this.  These deaths seem ruthless, and without any clear purpose.”  Data’s voice was shaky.  Hearing raw emotion in the android’s voice still struck Riker as odd, even though Data had been using the chip for three years.

            “We’re going to get to the bottom of this, Mr. Data.” Riker said.  “If we have to examine every single soldier to do it.”

            “Actually, you continue to refer to these Jem’ Hadar as soldiers.” Galloway pointed out. “I’m not sure that’s entirely…accurate.”

            “What do you mean?” Riker asked.

             “Lieutenant Galloway is referring to the physical…abnormalities that these Jem’ Hadar bodies possess,”  Nurse McKnight entered through the makeshift doorway.  “Excuse me for interrupting.  Dr. Crusher has the situation under control with our new…patient.  She has something to show you, Commander Riker.”

            The officers made their way back to Beverly.  “What’s his status, Doctor?” Riker asked. “Can he speak?”

            “No…” Dr. Crusher answered, “Will, this Jem’ Hadar has no vocal cords, or the Jem’ Hadar equivalent of them anyways.”

            “What?”  Riker asked, confused.  Then he looked down at the creature’s feet, and realized it had none of those either.  Two dark grey bulbs were all that existed where his feet should have been.

            “I’ve never seen anything like this, Will.”  Crusher said. “This…person can’t be more than two days old according to my tricorder readings.”

            “That’s impossible,” Riker insisted, “he’s a full grown Jem’ Hadar male.  Normal Jem’ Hadar don’t reach that level of development until they’re at least three days old.”

            “Take a closer look around you, Sir,” Nurse McKnight spoke up from behind Riker, “the corpses lying around here are hardly what you’d call ‘normal’ Jem’ Hadar.”

            Riker, Data, and Ogawa shined their lamps at the bodies around them.  McKnight was correct.  Having adjusted to the initial shock of looking at so many dead Jem’ Hadar, it was as though the Enterprise crew members were actually seeing bodies for the first time.  Some of the Jem’Hadar bodies were exceptionally tiny – almost dwarf size, while others had grotesquely misshapen hands, arms, and legs.  One bare-chested corpse had a second head, long since decayed, protruding from the middle of his chest.

            The disturbing sights struck Data hard.  He wanted to shut off his emotion chip right then.  But looking at Nurse Ogawa, he saw that she too was upset.  No, Data thought, I must experience these emotions – his databanks pulled up the file from a recent session with Counsellor Troi, in which she told him not to turn off his emotion chip every instant that he felt grief, fear, or anger.  Part of being human was to deal with these feelings, and to know that you can’t simply switch them off.

            Riker stood stone-faced as he contemplated what these creatures went through.  They weren’t exactly the enemy, though they were intended to be.  Regardless, Riker knew these Jem’ Hadar deserved a far better fate than the one they received.

           “They’re the “residuum” of the Dominion.”  McKnight finished.  “They would never have been able to serve the Founders.” 

            “That doesn’t excuse genocide, Nurse.”  Riker replied.  “Mr. Data, your thoughts.”

            “Intelligence reports have speculated that the Dominion has been experimenting in the creation of a new, stronger breed of Jem’ Hadar.”  Data offered, trying to continue with his duty.  “A breed that more suited to combat Alpha Quadrant opponents, and one that is capable of fully maturing in a day’s time.  Perhaps this camp was a place to conduct such experiments.”

            “It makes sense.”  Crusher added.  “The Founders would prefer to conduct the research in a secret, isolated area, far away from regular Jem’ Hadar soldiers who, if they were to find out, would be suspicious and resentful.” 

            “It is likely that the unfortunate creatures lying around us were the victims of unregulated genetic experiments.”  Data explained.  “Within the Federation, genetic engineering has been known to produce serious deformities in test subjects.”

            “Obviously the Founders are no better at it than we are,” Crusher said with disgust.

            “Typical Dominion scheming,” Riker said.  “Always trying to gain the upper hand through manipulation.  Build your breeding facility in occupied enemy territory, carry out secret experiments to improve an already deadly killing machine, and obliterate all of the results that don’t meet your objective.”

            Riker’s words silenced the room, but the quiet was short-lived when a communications signal startled everyone.  Picard’s voice followed, requesting a report from Commander Riker.

            Riker sighed, not sure how to even begin to explain this to his captain.




            Riker stood in the corner of the installation; his hand stroking his beard.  The situation had escalated into something far more serious than he anticipated, and now even threatened the Federation’s war effort.  It had been two hours since he summarized his findings to Captain Picard, who in turn relayed them to Starfleet Command.  Against Picard’s wishes, Starfleet relayed the story to their Romulan and Klingon allies, and mentioned Lieutenant Galloway’s theory of Romulan responsibility.    Picard explained that the Romulan Star Council admitted that the Tal Shiar knew about the Dominion activity on Thantos III and that the Council diverted two Warbirds to investigate the claims during the liberation of Regalia; however, the Council insisted that Romulan forces did not land on the surface.  Instead, they pursued the Jem’ Hadar warship away from the planet, believing there to be at least three Founders in the contingent that operated the station.  The Council denounced the accusation that they carried out the massacre, stating that in the spirit of Alliance cooperation, the Romulan military contacted Starfleet to investigate the installation because the planet was in Federation space.  To Riker’s dismay, the Council then announced they were sending a Warbird to the planet to conduct their own investigation.

            “The Romulans are coming here?”  Lieutenant Galloway asked nervously. 

            Riker informed the five officers of the developments, and was looking for any suggestions.  Admiral Nibiev ordered both the Enterprise and the Andromeda to send no more officers to the planet’s surface until the Romulan investigators had time to explore the installation in its current state.  Despite adamant protests from Dr. Crusher, Nibiev would not even allow the doctor to beam her patient to the Enterprise for observation.  Everything was to be left as it was found. 

            “This is ridiculous,” Galloway said. “We have to sit here with all of these bodies just because the Romulans have to play detective.”

            “I should point out, Lieutenant,” Data said, “that Romulan participation in the war effort has worked to significantly shift the course of the war into the Federation’s favour.  To jeopardize the Alliance by being unaccommodating to the Romulans would be unwise.”         “We need to gather more evidence,” Riker said, “something that will indicate to us just who is responsible for these killings.” 

            “Will,” Dr. Crusher spoke up, signaling for Ogawa to take over the monitoring of the lone Jem’ Hadar survivor.  “We haven’t examined the bodies in that glass prison.”

            “We’ve looked through the glass, Doctor.” Nurse McKnight interrupted. “My guess is that the Jem’ Hadar in there died the same way that the ones out here did – phaser fire, point blank range.”

            “But why is there no opening to the prison?” Crusher asked.  “And how could the Romulans, the Dominion, or anyone else for that matter, have simply executed the Jem’ Hadar in such an enclosed space with phasers?” 

            “I have analyzed the structure of the glass.” Data said. “It is composed of transparent duranium-silicon compounds.  The average human or Jem’ Hadar would not be able to garner the necessary velocity to break the glass.”

            “But your average android could.”  Riker smiled.

            “I believe that I could indeed accumulate the sufficient velocity necessary to-”

            “Thank-you, Mr. Data.”  Riker interrupted before Data got too carried away.  “Dr. Crusher’s right.  We need to get through that glass and analyze those bodies-”

            “Commander Riker, I adamantly object!” Lieutenant Galloway said, showing no hesitation in cutting off his superior officer. “We have our orders to leave this sight as is until the Romulans get here.”

            “I’m well aware of our orders, Lieutenant,” Riker shot back, “but I’m not about to jeopardize our relations with the Romulans any more than we have already.  I’m not convinced that the Romulans are responsible for this attack, and I intend to prove that before they get here!”

            “I’m seconding that motion.” Dr. Crusher added. “The sooner I can get off this planet and give my patient proper medical care the better.” 

            “Mr. Data.”  Riker said with a nod, signaling Data to walk towards the glass.  Data followed.  Over the past couple of hours, he had grown attached to the Jem’ Hadar survivor and felt a great deal of compassion for its plight.  To get that poor creature off of this planet as soon as possible, the better, even if it meant breaking orders.  Data was quite pleased with the decision he was making – it was the human thing to do.

            Taking several steps away from the glass prison, Data prepared to ram the glass wall at a speed adequate enough to break through it – his positronic brain took a few moments to make the necessary calculations. 

            “Commander Riker,” Galloway persisted, “I would like to go on record stating my objection.”

            “Objection noted.” Riker said, in effect ignoring Galloway altogether.  “Proceed.  Mr. Data”   

            At Riker’s prompting, Data lunged forward like a panther, ramming himself through the duranium-silicon glass, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

            Crusher followed Data into the prison cell after all of the glass landed on the ground, and immediately began scanning the pile of bodies with her medical tricorder.  Riker and McKnight followed behind her.  Lieutenant Galloway stayed behind with Nurse Ogawa, who was monitoring their only surviving patient.

            Crusher stared at her readings for a moment.  “Judging from my preliminary scans these Jem’ Hadar show no signs of phaser burns…they were poisoned.”

            “Poisoned?” Riker asked.  He took a look at the bodies at his feet.  This group of Jem ‘Hadar had a pinkish tinge to their faces.  Riker immediately shined his light to the roof of the cage, and saw several small tubes hanging from the ceiling.

            “‘Gassed’ would be more accurate, Commander.”  McKnight added, shining his own light onto the roof where several ventilation ducts could be seen.  “The tubes must spray the gas, while the ducts fumigate the cage and release the vapors into the atmosphere.”

            Next to each duct on the roof was a long, rectangular grid screen.  Data quickly identified the screens as Dominion transporters.  Looking at the floor of the cage, Riker and Data realized that the whole room was one, big transporter deck.

            “That was how they got these Jem’ Hadar invalids in here,” McKnight said. “I’m certain that several of them, including our patient, couldn’t walk.”

            “This room is an extermination center,” Riker put it all together, “and this building is a top secret genetic laboratory.  The Dominion chose Thantos III for this site because it was isolated, and far away from Dominion space.  It would prevent the Gamma Quadrant Jem’ Hadar – the Jem’ Hadar that we are familiar with – from getting suspicious about experiments that would replace their kind with this newer breed of Jem’ Hadar.” 

            “The evidence certainly supports your theory, Commander,” Data continued. “The Dominion likely did not foresee the Romulans entering the war so quickly against them.  This room served as an extermination center for the experimental breeds of Jem’ Hadar that did not…gestate properly.”

            “A convenient way to dispose of the bodies would be in one of the volcanoes on the planet.”  Riker hesitated, his grim realization making him more angry.  “But when the Romulans joined the war effort and attacked the orbiting warship, the Dominion had no choice but to abandon this camp and to ‘terminate’ its…experiments as quickly, brutally, and thoroughly as possible.” 

            “But they couldn’t even do that fast enough, and wound up having to leave most of the bodies here because the Romulans were hot on their tails.”  Crusher added.

            “Thereby making it quite convenient to accuse the Romulans of carrying out these atrocities,” Data finished, then paused as a connecting thought struck him, “but assuming that is so, then we would have to conclude that the Dominion would not yet be finished here-”

            “Now that’s an interesting theory, Mr. Data,” Galloway said, “but how do you explain the Jem’Hadar soldiers that were guarding this installation.  Surely they would have caught on to what was going on inside this camp, and challenged the authorities that ran it.”

            “Their chemical dependence on White is the main mechanism for keeping the Jem’ Hadar in line.”  Data answered.  “However, the Jem ’Hadar are also taught to serve the Dominion unconditionally, and are taught at birth to revere–”

            “Oh my God, Will,” Beverly interrupted, as she stared dumbfounded at her tricorder, “there are human bodies underneath this pile.”

            “What!?”  Riker spun around to look at the recordings.  “That’s impossible.  Mr. Data, give me a hand.”

            Together, Riker and Data began clearing off dead Jem’ Hadar bodies from the pile.  Upon reaching the bottom, they saw the backs of two Starfleet officers dressed in grey shouldered Starfleet uniforms.  One had a yellow commander’s collar and the other had a blue medical collar.  Upon rolling the bodies over, Riker and Data saw the dead faces of Lieutenant Galloway and Nurse McKnight staring up at them.

            “Oh no,” was all Riker could muster before a gold, metallic coil slithered around his neck and catapulted him viciously against the wall, rendering him unconscious.    

            Data spun around and was greeted by another elongated, gold metallic coil, this one extending from Nurse McKnight’s other arm, which wrapped itself around the android’s neck.  Data, however, instantly planted his feet on the ground and wrenched the gold extension, twisting it around.  The android was going to be a lot harder to throw than Commander Riker was.

            “Changelings!”  Dr. Crusher shouted, as she dropped her medical tricorder on the floor and drew her phaser.  She aimed it at Nurse McKnight’s head, as she did so she made it perfectly obvious to the changeling that she had switched the phaser setting from stun to kill.  A very peculiar stalemate now existed.

            “That’ll be all, Dr. Crusher.  Put the weapon down.”  The voice was Lieutenant Galloway’s, the second changeling.  Two of the Founders managed to stay behind in the camp, and ambushed the away team of the Andromeda, killing the Lieutenant and the Nurse and stealing their bodies.  Galloway’s gold right arm was extended ten feet up in the air, holding Nurse Ogawa by the throat – her feet dangling and kicking in mid air.  “Or I’ll snap her neck,”  Galloway finished coldly. 

            Crusher hesitated, but realized it was a hopeless situation.  She was not about to jeopardize the life of her nurse.  Data and the McKnight Changeling were still staring each other down, holding one another in compromising positions.  Crusher looked at the expression on Data’s face – it was one filled with half fright and half resiliency.  Crusher wished she had a remote control so she could deactivate the android’s emotion chip right there.

            “Let him go, Data,” Beverly ordered, her voice filled with the painful awareness that this battle was lost.  She looked over at Riker slumped against the east wall.  More than likely he had a concussion, and would need medical treatment immediately. 

            Data and the Changeling reluctantly let each other go, as Crusher dropped her phaser and kicked it towards McKnight’s feet.  Data did the same with his phaser.  McKnight promptly scooped them up as Galloway tossed Ogawa on the floor at Crusher’s feet.

            “Your communicators also, and Riker’s as well,” McKnight barked, now aiming the phaser at the four officers.

            “‘Very well played, Enterprise.”  Galloway responded.  “You refused to be swayed by our ruse, and your persistent quest for the truth has forced our hand.  But unfortunately your interference with our salvage operation has also sealed the fate of our ‘purification’ center.  ‘Nurse McKnight’ will be activating the self destruct sequence on this camp shortly.”

            “You have no means of escape,” Crusher shot back.

            “In actual fact, we do.” Galloway shape-shifted into the expressionless, tan-coloured Founder that he was. “The Andromeda is quite comfortably in our hands.  The scoutship’s crew of five was rather sloppy in their investigation of our construction.  They were no match for the Founders.  Three of our brothers are on-board the ship right now, taking the form of Captain Pannaris and his crew.   As far as our leaving the orbit of this planet, the Andromeda’s orders were to offer any assistance we can, and then…resume our other duties.  Your Enterprise will assume that we are simply carrying out those orders.” 

Crusher scowled, trying to hide her dismay.

            “Just be thankful we don’t kill you, Doctor,” McKnight cautioned. “We’d prefer your Enterprise to continue to register your four life signs…at least until we make it safely to Dominion space.”

            “I do not understand the rationale behind your purification camp,” Data queried before the changelings disappeared.  He wanted to understand the motivations behind such horrible experiments.

            “We are creating a new breed of life, Mr. Data.” Galloway explained. “The Dominion is trying to better the lifestyles of its Jem’ Hadar servants.  The results of our experiments at this center have contributed to the development of a stronger, healthier Jem’Hadar individual.  We have that obligation to the Jem’ Hadar as the true Founders of their race.  We create their life, and we improve upon it.  These insignificant beings you see before you are merely the necessary by-products of creating better lives for our subjects.  Surely, as a product of human creation, you can appreciate what we are trying to accomplish.”

            “You’re trying to create more efficient killing machines,” Crusher said with obvious spite, “and these unfortunate creatures are ‘merely’ your guinea pigs for doing so.”

            “This discussion is pointless,” McKnight signaled for Galloway to discontinue the argument. “We can never expect humans to comprehend the true will of the Founders.”  He then ordered the Andromeda to beam them aboard, through mental contact with the Great Link so that the Enterprise wouldn’t intercept the transmission.  In his thoughts, McKnight also ordered his comrades to activate the self-destruct sequence of the camp. 

            “You have one minute to get out of this camp,” Galloway informed the officers.  “Our Scoutship is currently informing your Captain that we are leaving.  By the time the camp explodes, our ship will be in warp and well into Dominion territory.  But don’t fret, you will be leaving here with a wealth of intelligence information to tell your Captain…and your Romulan allies.  Far more than we would have liked.  Again, a well-played hand, Enterprise.

            “You butchers,” Crusher hissed at the two changelings.

            “You wouldn’t understand.” McKnight repeated. “You could never understand.” The two Founders instantly faded away in the transporter beam of the Andromeda.  Outside the glass room, the lone Jem’ Hadar survivor’s hand reached up into the air as the beam plucked up his particles as well.

            “No!” Data and Beverly shouted simultaneously, knowing full well the fate that would befall the poor, wretched soul, but it was too late.  The creature faded away forever.  Beverly hoped that the Dominion would at least finish him off painlessly.

            “We’ve got to get the hell out of here,” Beverly ordered Data and Ogawa.  She quickly scooped up her medical equipment and ordered Data to grab Commander Riker.  Within half a minute, the four officers scurried out of the purification camp to their original beam-in point on the planet’s surface.   Thirty seconds later, the entire installation exploded in a huge orange and red fireball.




            Lieutenant Commander Data sat on his couch on board the Enterprise-E, gently scratching the back of his cat Spot.  He had just finished his final session with Counsellor Troi concerning the Thantos III incident and the strange emotion that the incident conjured up within him. 

            Indeed, Counselor Troi had confirmed Data’s suspicions that the odd sensation

he felt about the incident was a form of hatred – a hatred of war, and more particularly, a hatred of the things that war causes combatants on both sides to do, and to become.

            Data had explained to Counselor Troi how the initial terror and shock he felt at the site of the Jem’ Hadar casualties caused him to overlook obvious evidence that clearly implied that the Andromeda officers were Changelings in cognito.  The open hostility that Galloway voiced when Commander Riker wanted to enter the glass prison should have been an obvious indicator that the two Andromeda officers were hiding something.  Were it not for his emotion chip Data knew full well that he would have picked up such clues, and perhaps have saved the life of the lone Jem ‘Hadar survivor.  The utter dismay Data felt at himself for overlooking such glaring facts caused him to ask Counselor Troi if he should deactivate his emotion chip for the remainder of the war.

            “Data,” Troi chose her words carefully, “to understand your feelings, you need to accept them.  Having emotions help define who you are.  You saw horrible things on Thantos III, and your responses to the carnage were normal.  This is a brutal conflict, and you have seen how ruthless certain individuals can be, even to their own people, so what you’re feeling now is defining how you perceive war.”  As an exercise, Troi had Data review from his databanks several of the infamous slaughters in human history – the Holocaust, World War III, and Kodos the Executioner’s massacre of 4000 colonists on Tarsus IV – and to analyze the different emotions each event brought forth inside him.  As he did so, Data experienced a swell of emotion, particularly when he analyzed the expressions of the unfortunate victims of each event: the terrified faces of Jewish mothers standing behind barbed wire cages pleading to be reunited with their children; the anguish of the starving colonists on Tarsus IV, not understanding Kodos’ bizarre theories for selecting them for death.  In viewing these images, Data wondered what it would have been like to have been an allied soldier at the end of WWII who had discovered the Nazi death camps, or to have been the young James T. Kirk, who was forced to witness the executions on Tarsus IV.  It was then that Data came to the sudden conclusion that Counselor Troi hoped he would.

            “Could it be possible, Counselor,” Data queried, “that my ‘hatred’ may be attributed to the senseless suffering of innocent lives, who often have little stake in the conflict, but whose lives and livelihoods are destroyed because of it.”

            “That’s how most humans would see it,” Troi nodded with a smile.  That’s wasn’t quite how she would have worded it, but she could see from the android’s expression that he was beginning to feel better already.     

            Data stood up from his couch and looked out at the stars.  Gently scratching Spot’s neck, Data realized that he did feel powerless in this time of conflict, and there really was very little that he could do to ease the suffering of the thousands of the victims – Federation, Klingon, and Jem’ Hadar alike – that this battle affected.  The Jem’ Hadar victims he had seen on Thantos III were the epitome of the torment that this conflict had brought about on so many individuals.  As he looked down at Spot, Data now understood the real tragedy of war – the effect of the hostilities on the innocent.   And now that he understood it, he also understood that he absolutely hated that aspect of it.       

            Looking out at the stars, Data hoped that the Dominion war would end, and soon.          




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