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In Harm's Way - Part II by Epsilon Station

Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

 

Chapter Six

Stardate: 55016.3 - Deep Space Nine (approximately eight hours later)

"Colonel Kira, we have picked up the incoming Cardassian squadron on our lateral sensors, they are coming out of warp approximately 900,000 kilometers from the station." Commander Trist Jast, Kira's new Starfleet first officer relayed the message. The station had been monitoring the progress of the Cardassian flotilla since its departure from Cardassian Prime space. The entire Operations Center staff had been enthralled watching as the Cardassians conducted their war game when they had rendezvoused with the Cardassian battleship.

"Alright, hail them for me." Kira rubbed her burning eyes; she really needed to work harder at getting the recommended levels of sleep. Neither she nor Admiral Selkirk had heard another word from the Klingons since they had departed the station.

She activated the computer screen on her quarter's desk. Travelling in a classic line formation the Cardassian flotilla continued at sub-warp speed toward the station. The chirp of her communicator indicated an incoming call from someone on her staff. "Colonel they responded with a junior officer announcing the arrival of Legate Jak'Karr, he prefers to arrive by shuttlecraft and is already in route."

"Thank you, route his shuttle to docking bay nearest my quarters, request Admiral Selkirk to meet me there. "

"Yes sir." Came the standard Starfleet answer from a subordinate.

Admiral Selkirk was already waiting at the entrance to the docking bay when Colonel Kira arrived. They both stood and watched as the circular hatch rolled back. Legate Jak'Karr was very tall for a Cardassian, standing nearly seven feet tall. He wore the simple utilitarian combat uniform worn by all members of the Cardassian military. Attached to his uniform were the insignias indicating his rank and status as a member of the Second Order. No other medals or honors adorned his uniform. At his side was carried a simple dagger as his only armament. He carried himself with an air of dignity and a manner that demanded respect. He was known to be curt and to the point without offending. He was known not to speak directly to Klingons and will only speak Cardassian in the presence of one.

He was accompanied by Gul Sakkatha, Gul Grovna, Dal Turok and Dalin Krav N'Gor. Gul Sakkatha was a veteran of the Klingon Wars and while he doesn't particularly like Klingons, he respects them as an honorable warrior race. He doesn't really care for Humans and views them indifferently. He wears a patch over his left eye as well as the common military uniform over his bulky muscular form. Gul Grovna was a matronly looking older Cardassian woman with graying hair and deep-set eyes that indicate a fierce intelligence within. She walked with a heavy limp and carries an ornate cane that points to her allegiance to the Second Order. She was wearing the same uniform as any officer as well as a short blue half cape with gold fringe. Dal Turok was a young and handsome looking officer. Strong and alert he seemed ready for anything. His rank and insignia point him out as a commander of ground troops. He also was wearing a disruptor pistol and a wicked looking knife on his combat style belt. Dalin Krav N'Gor was dressed in a dark cloak and his face was nearly invisible within. He was reluctant to remove the hood and did so only at the order of Legate Jak'Karr. He was extremely alert and kept his eye on everyone in the room for any signs of betrayal or attack. Under his cloak he carried a wide variety of simple and exotic weaponry ranging from knives, to garrotes to poisoned darts and needles. He moved with a silent grace like a predator stalking its prey.

Legate Jak'Karr initiated the conversation with Admiral Selkirk, "I was not told that the Klingons were invited to our meeting Admiral."

"Legate Jak'Karr, on behalf of the Federation and the other members of the Alliance welcome to Deep Space Nine," evaded Admiral Selkirk. "Brigadier Wotan is visiting Deep Space Nine as part of his official duties as the local commander of Klingon expeditionary forces in the region. His ships routinely visit Deep Space Nine."

"Yes, well that may be. I know however that this is the first time those two particular Vor'cha battleships have visited Deep Space Nine Admiral." Jak'Karr stated mater of factly.

"There are approximately twenty-seven warships under the Brigadier's command, Legate, I was not aware you were familiar with each one." Admiral stated as she ushered the Legate and his entourage forward into the station.

From behind the two leaders a ancient but sturdy female voice interrupted, "Admiral your people have done a fine job maintaining our station for us." Gul Grovna pointed out.

Admiral Selkirk glanced over her shoulder at the elder woman, then she smiled up at Legate Jak'Karr and motioned then forward at a quicker pace.

Legate Jak'Karr sat where hours earlier Brigadier Wotan had sat. Admiral Selkirk said nothing but silently enjoyed the irony just the same. The Cardassians dominated the room filling nearly every seat at the conference table. She listened attentively as Legate Jak'Karr continued his speech.

"And in closing, the composition of the Cardassian Fleet is non-negotiable. These are the ships and personnel who will represent the Union's interests in the Gamma Quadrant. Cardassian forces are under the command of Cardassian officers and will be accountable solely to them for their actions and conduct. Any issues, concerns or grievances involving Cardassian forces will be relayed to the Cardassian chain of command for resolution." Jak'Karr paused for a sign of conformation from Selkirk before continuing. "Dominion and Breen strength in the Gamma Quadrant is an issue for the Central Command. These forces pose a large threat to our operations in that sector. What guarantees are there that the other alliance members will honor the alliance and not abandon the expedition due to losses or enemy contact?"

"I will guarantee the conduct of all participants or will forfeit my leadership of the project. The level of cooperation will be directly related to the desire each party has for this operation to be a success. Legate Jak'Karr, Cardassia more than anyone else involved in this enterprise knows the destructive potential of the Dominion," Selkirk continued, I personally have a common bond with the Cardassian people, I too suffered at the hands of the Dominion suffering great loss."

Legate Jak'Karr looked deep into the old veteran eyes of Admiral Selkirk and recognized the truth in what she said. Then he asked, "Who decides how any planets encountered are to be divided? Who determines what restrictions should be placed on colonizing units? How much free reign will each faction have without the other factions interfering?" Legate Jak'Karr leaned forward onto the table, then continued with a lower voice directed to Selkirk, "What does each faction stand to gain from this venture into the Gamma Quadrant? Why are you here? The Cardassian Union enters this alliance to seek out new planets for our people to colonize due to severe damage inflicted on the Cardassian Homeworld and other planets within the Union."

"As your people have found out the hard way, our civilizations are not the most technologically advanced nor the most militarily sophisticated. Someday the Dominion or the Borg will return to our space. We need to be prepared. If we do not monitor their movements when and where we can will be doomed to failure when we seek to resist them." Selkirk answered with an even voice. Then she then smiled and stated, "Legate your concerns are legitimate. We will come to an equitable understanding as we develop this project. I would suggest that we immediately form a joint headquarters command to resolve the issues you have raised and any further ones that form as the project matures." Legate Jak'Karr sat back to consider the Admiral's suggestion.

Stardate: 55018.9 - Deep Space Nine (sixteen hours later)

Deep Space Nine was again the center of diplomacy and intrigue. Thirteen Cardassian, two Klingon, and two Federation starships quietly orbited the station moving as dancers in a slow ballet. All the Cardassian and the two Klingon ships went to immediate alert readiness when the incoming warp signature of Romulan warship were detected. Federation long-range sensors had a range of between fifteen to twenty light years. Their technology was based on the transmission of subspace energy waves and their measurable return moving at warp 9.999. The Dominion had even longer sensor ranges during the Dominion War. At one point it was believed by Starfleet Intelligence that the Dominion was capable of monitoring real time ship movement along the entire Cardassian Demilitarized Zone from one centralized station.

The warp signatures detected were those of an ancient Winged Defender-class battle cruiser from the hay-days of the Constitution and Excelsior classes, and two D'deridex-class warbirds. The Romulans decloaked while still at warp speed allowing Deep Space Nine and the orbiting warships ample time to ready themselves. The three impressive warships slowed to sub-warp speeds and then proceeded into the station's area under impulse power and at full battle readiness.

The Romulans came to a full stop at 50,000 kilometers from the station. At the station Operations Center Colonel Kira received an incoming hail from the Winged Defender. The image of a beautiful Romulan female of undeterminable age appeared on the main viewing screen, "This is the Imperial Warship Shadow Walker now carrying the special representative of the Romulan Imperial Senate, Legate Tal. He will board your station to confer with Federation and Bajoran authorities now, prepare to receive him in one hour. Our special security representative is coming over now to arrange for his arrival."

"Operations, this is Transporter Room One, we have an incoming transport, should I block it?" came a sudden call over the station's intercom system.

"Yes you should...but don't. I'll be there in a minute," replied a worried Colonel Kira. Then over her shoulder as she sprinted for the Operations Center's lift, "Contact Lieutenant Ro Lauren and Admiral Selkirk, have them meet me in the transporter room. Oh and contact Captain Paul too. He may want to be in on this." She smiled at Commander Jast as the lift she was standing on lowered her below the deck.

Stardate: 55019.1 - Deep Space Nine (one hour later)

The transporter pad began to emit an electronic warble indicating that it was being activated. The transporter cycled through its function revealing the images of several Romulan officers materializing. T'Cal Whix, Field Primus, walked from the transporter pad with Illyana, De'Vanus, his squadron commander. His cold gaze enveloped the Starfleet and Bajoran security honor guard that stood by in the small chamber. He almost smiled as He sensed some of their fears and their hate. Then He found his true target...Admiral Selkirk.

"Ah! It is so good to see you again...Admiral. It has been along time. " He gestured with his hand, " May I introduce Commander Illyana, De'Vanus, my Squadron Commander, and the skilled captain of the Imperial Winged Defender Shadow Walker. " Illyana merely bowed slightly...Her beautiful green eyes flowing over the Earther assessing her as a snake espies a small crippled bird.

"I am impressed. It is not often that I get the honor of the presence of Starfleet Marines." He said as his hand shifted gracefully to the black holstered side arm at his side. He saw many of the Security personnel tense as he brought the heavy gauss pistol out of its place in its holster in an inoffensive manner. "I prefer the power of armor piercing needles nowadays. I had found that the Borg are less resistant to high velocity shards of tarandium. Energy weapons are to easily adapted to, I never leave home with out it." He smiled a deadly smile as He handed the weapon to the senior Security officer as he moved toward the door. "I feel I have no need for such things with such austere friends...as these...do I Admiral?" He said, his dark smile never leaving his face.

"Commander," he said turning towards his beautiful companion. Illyana paused and then quickly began removing her boot knife, disruptor side arm, and a small black box that the Security personnel recognize as a Tal Shiar quantum detonator. She placed them all on the table, and then after a hard look from the Field Primus pulled out a cluster of long needles from her hair. The Security commander had no doubt they had bio-neuro poison coated all over them. Illyana Bows to T'Cal and looked at the Security commander and shrugged, "We will await our noble Legate Jak'Karr in the Briefing room. Please feel free to keep me company Admiral. We always were able to pass the time together in such...interesting ways." He smiles evilly as he moves through the sliding doors and headed towards the Starfleet briefing room like he owned the corridor and the station.

"I see he has studied our blue prints," quipped Colonel Kira. She slightly bowed to a nervously smiling Admiral Selkirk to usher her out behind the Romulans into the hallway. Then she turned quickly and gave a quick "thank you" smile to Lieutenant Ro Lauren, the commander of the Bajoran Militia and Starfleet Security detachment.

On board the Klingon flagship orbiting Deep Space Nine, alarm sensors activated indicating that the covertly placed coherent tachyon and polaron beam projectors were being detecting something. The Klingon tactical officer monitoring near-by space looked up to see that the event horizon of the Bajoran Wormhole had activated. The maelstrom of energy that swirled about the event horizon of the wormhole was clearly visible. Immediately he, like nearly every ship now in proximity to Deep Space Nine, activated the ship's general alarm system. "What is it?" He barked at the warrior manning the weapons station.

"Something cloaked is moving through the Wormhole!" the warrior shouted back.

"Captain to the bridge." Instantly Captain Isaac Paul sprang from his bed and began stripping from his nightwear and donning his standard Starfleet Uniform.

"What is it?" He shouted back at his Science Officer, now in charge on the bridge.

"Sir the Wormhole has activated, I believe something is coming through from the Gamma Quadrant side," came the always calm Vulcan voice of Lieutenant Commander Nevik.

"Very well, go to Yellow Alert." He huffed as he pulled his last boot on and began his sprint for the door, "I'll be there in a second."

Setting with his back toward the large panel windows looking outboard from the station, T'Cal Whix smiled as the image of the activated wormhole exploded behind him in all its glory. He did not turn to look as did his entourage but kept his eyes on Admiral Selkirk and Colonel Kira to see their reaction.

Colonel Kira exploded herself from her chair standing to get a better view of the now familiar maelstrom whirlpool of the activated wormhole. She stood waiting to see what would emerge from the swirling energy. After a few seconds Admiral Selkirk looked from the spinning wormhole to the face of the smug T'Cal Whix.

"You've sent something through." She almost whispered to herself.

"Of course I have, I have sent my forces to claim what is mine. I do not need permission or assistance in representing the best interests of the Romulan Empire. Your Starfleet has argued the need for this type of mission, my people have agreed that a base should be established on the other side of the wormhole to collect intelligence on the Dominion. I am here to see that is done in the best possible way that serves the interests of the Romulan Star Empire, not this so-called Federation Alliance."

 

Chapter Seven

"The doors of heaven and hell are adjacent and identical."
- Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

Stardate: 55020.4 - Deep Space Nine

"Red Alert!" Colonel Kira Nerys leaped from her bed in her quarters and sprang toward her computer console. She ordered the screen on and was immediately met with the image of her Bolian first officer, Commander Trist Jast.

"What is it?" Kira asked as she quickly pulled her Bajoran Militia uniform on.

"It's the Breen Colonel, they have finally crossed into Cardassian space, in the Hebitian Sector near the Bajoran colony of Volnar." The calm voice of Commander Jast seemed odd under the circumstances. That was one of the reasons why Kira appreciated the Bolian's addition to her Ops crew.

"What is their strength?" Kira asked.

"Three fleets." Jast stated matter of factly.

"What is Starfleet doing?" next came Kira's obvious question.

"I am not sure Colonel, the Hebitian Sector is approximately twenty light years from here. We have about an hour delay in receiving word from Volnar and a Starfleet surveillance station named Gamma Seven, that is in the area."

"What about the Starfleet's 27th Fleet, isn't it responsible to patrol that area?" Kira moved out of her quarters and headed down the passageway toward the station lift.

"Yes it is Colonel, they may not be aware of the situation, like I said we're only twenty light years from the incident site."

Kira stopped and stood for a second before continuing her discussion with Commander Jast, "Jast your saying we are getting any follow-up communications from any of the 27th's starships?"

"Yes sir," was the ominous reply from Commander Jast.

"Damn." Kira stood with her hands on her hips while she thought this through. "Have you contacted Admiral Selkirk or Captain Paul?"

"Doing it now Colonel." Replied Commander Jast.

"Good have them meet me in my office." Kira resumed her run toward the station lift at double the pace.

Admiral Selkirk tapped her combadge on her pajamas as she sat up quickly in bed. "Operations, what is going on Commander, is it the Romulans?"

"Admiral Colonel Kira requests you meet her in the station commander's office. The Breen have crossed the line and have invaded Cardassian space."

"I'll be right there," returned the Starfleet Admiral.

Standing she tapped her combadge once again, "Captain Paul." She waited for the younger man's voice to respond. "Captain we have a new situation, the Breen have invaded Cardassian space. Come over to the station and meet with Colonel Kira and myself in her office."

Stardate: 55020.6 - Septimus System, Hebitian Sector

Four Breen warships shimmered out from under their cloaks as they followed through their attack run on a Cardassian Galor-class cruiser of the Ninth Order. The two leading warships opened fire with their forward disruptors immediately. The blue-white disruptor beams sliced across the middle of the Cardassian warship splashing against its bubble shaped shields. The combined attack instantly dropped the Galor's shields. The first two Breen warships pass over the dorsal of the targeted Cardassian that to its credit returned fire immediately. Multiple golden spiral-wave disruptor beams leaped from the Galor as it slid to the right in an attempt to evade the attacking pack of Breen raiders. The first two shots passed wildly behind the leading attacker. The second Breen was hit in the belly as he passed overhead by two of the three beams fired. The amber lance of disruptor energy splashed against the Breen's lower deflector shield.

Suddenly the following Breen warships fired a single disruptor beam each into the fleeing Galor. With its shields down the Cardassian took the full power of the two attackers in the mid-ships. Hull debris exploded from the back of the Cardassian as the beams racked it destroying its main dorsal communications array and the starboard side spiral-wave disruptor emitter. Again, the wounded Galor fired on the two Breen as the passed this time to the Cardassian's port side as it swerved to escape. Multiple spiral-wave disruptor beams slice at the nearer of the two Breen. Four of the golden beams strike the Breen shields, degrading its strength by forty percent. Just as suddenly as they attacked the Breen shimmer into invisibility under cloak.

As the last two Breen begin cloaking a Cardassian Hideki-class fighter strafes in over the escaping Galor firing its bow mounted wave cannon catching the starboard Breen unshielded rupturing its aft hull and causing internal explosions. Then in a ball of ignited atmosphere the Breen vanishes under its cloak. On board the Cardassian flagship of the Ninth Order, Tulgryn Balok slammed his fist into his command chair's armrest. The detested Breen despite Starfleet claims that there was no threat had ambushed his fleet.

"Alert the fleet! Order all ship commanders to bring their ships together in standard order. Tell the cruiser Narmok to take lead position. Bring us in behind it." Tulgryn Balok was a seasoned veteran of many campaigns against the Breen before the war, and had served in a combined fleet with them during the conflict. He watched as his fleet of twenty-three warships began to maneuver away from near orbit over the Cardassian planet of Septimus. His Keldon-class command cruiser was the lowest in orbit over the colony's capital city. His twelve Galor-class ships of the line were slowly beginning to show life as the Breen swarmed over them. With them decloaking to attack then recloaking as they ran it was hard to get accurate reports as to the enemy's numbers.

His flagship rocked as passing Breen raiders attacked it. "What class are those raiders?"

His first officer responded, "Cruisers, sir, as best as we can tell, I believe there are no more than a dozen of them, medium and light cruisers from what I can tell."

"Engineer, what is our ship's status?" Balok turned to look over his shoulder at the bridge engineer setting behind him.

"Shields are at seventy-six percent sir!" the young officer screamed back in the growing confusion.

Suddenly on the main viewer a Breen battle cruiser swept into view as it shimmered out from under its cloak, Tulgryn Balok grabbed both armrests of his chair in frustration, his knuckles turning white. "Fire!" he screamed. The opportunity was missed and his ship reacted to slowly. The Breen battle cruiser fired a full spread of plasma torpedoes as it swept over the flagship's bow. Luck was with the Cardassians, the close proximity of the passing ships resulted in the torpedoes not locking target and passing the flagship streaking off into the silky black void. The last plasma torpedo splashed against the shield in a brilliant flash of released energy dropping the flagship's shield to twenty-six percent effectiveness.

"Fire, FIRE THE WAVE CANNON!" Balok stood and shouted at his weapons officer to his right front. Immediately the raw energy of the wave particle cannon erupted amber-gold energy hitting the Breen heavy battle cruiser in the bow. The protective Breen deflector shield shunted the energy over the entire shield evaporating it harmlessly away. The Breen egg shaped shield glowed amber for an instant before fading away. "Damage?" yelled Balok.

"We dropped his shield thirty percent sir!" called back the weapons officer over his shoulder. Balok's stare returned to the main viewer, from out of view four amber beams came in to impact on the Breen battle cruiser's shield flaring it gold again. "He is down to thirty-two percent shielding sir!"

"Fire disruptors, full power!" Balok nearly fell from his chair in his haste to shout the order. The single amber beam from the port spiral wave disruptor emitter fired hitting the Breen point blank, for an instant the enemy ship's shield flared then dropped. The golden lance sliced into the forward area of the battle cruiser exploding the area where the bridge is located. Ignited atmosphere and debris trailed behind the cruiser as it careened through space. "Direct our escorts to finish him off before they can reestablish control," ordered Balok.

Spinning his chair toward his first officer's position at the science console he questioned, "Fleet status!"

"Tulgryn we are holding our own. Indications are that there are only a dozen or so of the Breen. However this is a main battle line unit, we are encountering heavy and medium class cruisers." The first officer paused to recheck his data, "Our Hideki-class fighters are performing very well, they are being ignored by the Breen despite their effectiveness."

"Our cruisers?" queried Balok.

"Sir we have lost two, and a third has lost its shielding. It is requesting permission to break and run," returned the first officer.

He is interrupted by the communications officer, "Tulgryn Balok, we are receiving a report that our Order's Second Fleet is encountering a Breen fleet, near the system of Delavi. The initial report is that they are engaging what appears to be Breen heavy cruiser fleet also."

"Tulgryn, the Breen battle cruiser just exploded!" the weapons officer's shout brought Balok back to the battle at hand. Suddenly the main viewer colors over with blue white energy. The flagship is under attack again.

"Weapons!" Yelled Balok as he swivels his chair back to face forward again.

"Firing sir!" Multiple disruptor beams leaped from the flagship at the offending Breen light cruiser passing to its port side. The first beam passed well behind the Breen but the second impacted on the shield near the aft end dropping the Breen's shield effectiveness by forty-five percent. Almost instantly three Hideki fighters almost out of no where rake the Breen cruiser passing laterally between the flagship and the enemy ship. Two of the fighters waste their shots as they pass quickly, but the trailing Hideki strikes home with a passing wave cannon blast flaring its shield. The Breen now swerves to its starboard side away from the forming Cardassian battle line.

"Tulgryn we have lost the cruiser Darlymon," came the report from the first officer to Balok's rear.

"Order the battle line to attack speed," declared Balok as he focused on the images of the onslaught raking the cruiser Narmok leading the fleet.

"All cruisers accelerating to seventy-five percent light speed sir!" returned the first officer.

"Elevate the line," ordered Balok. Slowly each cruiser in the line rose slightly to see over the top of the ship in front of it creating a stair-step effect allowing the ships to fire forward. "Order the fleet to take heading, " he paused to check his own navigation data, "Zero-six-zero mark one-eight-five." Slowly the Cardassian fleet accelerated to its ordered sub-light speed. The onslaught by the Breen was relentless. Now fully engaged they were no longer cloaking and taking advantage of their superior sublight speed to maneuver to the flanks and rear of the Cardassian column. Only the superior numbers of the Cardassian fleet was taking the day. The Breen were successful in securing positions at the rear of the Cardassian battle line denying them of the use of their bow mounted wave cannons.

"Break the line, NOW!" Balok stood and moved near the weapons officer. The Cardassian battleline separated about mid point. The leading half of the column veered to the portside coming back one hundred eighty degrees. The trailing half of the column veered to the starboard side coming back around two hundred seventy degrees. The maneuver worked as planned, catching the heavy elements of the Breen fleet in their following positions in the sights of the first Cardassian element.

The fighting then became frantic both sides sensing that the tide of the battle was to be determined within the next few minutes. The young engineer at the rear of the bridge screamed, "Tulgryn Balok, our shields have dropped."

"Reinforcement man! NOW!" Suddenly the flagship was racked with a terrible shudder. Everyone on the bridge caught their breath and waited.

The shaken voice of the bridge engineer shouted suddenly, "Warp nacelle damaged, we have lost warp speed capability. The Senior Engineer is taking personal charge of the repair party."

A second shudder vibrates the deck. The weapons officer then shouted, "Tulgryn we have just lost all sensors, we are flying blind." To verify what the young man reported all eyes quickly focused on the now blank main viewer.

Balok quickly moved to the communications console, "Quick, connect us to another ship." Immediately the external view of the flagship itself appeared on the main view screen. Everyone is taken back by the numerous minor explosions taking place on the outer hull as Breen and Cardassian warships swarm around the Keldon-class cruiser.

"Engineer, hull integrity?" Balok turned while leaning over the communications officer to face the young engineer.

"Sir we are still at forty-eight percent." Returned the young galt.

The first officer stepped up beside the Tulgryn, "Sir with out sensors we can not defend ourselves," as if to punctuate his point the ship shuddered again. Balok looked back at the main viewer, his pride continuing to be battered by the Breen raiders.

"Chief Engineer," Balok straightened his back as he contacted the ship's chief engineer.

"Here sir." Came the female senior officer's voice.

"Engineer I need you to put priority on repairing the ship's sensor array." He ordered.

"Yes sir, moving there now. Tulgryn the warp engines will have to remain off line. I can return the shields to partial power but to do so I will have to drop our speed to below fifty percent light speed."

"Do it."

Balok then turned to his first officer, "Order the fleet to disperse engage the heavier Breen units as long as they can. Commanders are released to withdraw when they feel their ship's in danger of being lost."

Stardate: 55020.65 - Deep Space Nine, Bajor System

Admiral Selkirk, Colonel Kira, and Captain Paul of the Starship Unification stood silently around the primary sensor display in the center of the station's Operations Center. All of the senior officers were looking down at the table-like display screen. "This information is a few hours old Admiral Selkirk, we are receiving it from the Gamma Seven relay station."

"Any word from Admiral Hiroshi and the 27th Fleet?" asked Selkirk in a subdued voice.

"Yes sir, the Admiral is near the Volnar system, he is recalling his battle elements to that location from patrol duties," answered Colonel Kira.

"His first priority is to defend the Bajoran colony on Volnar," Selkirk mused almost to herself.

An obviously irritated Colonel Kira interjected, "His first duty is to aid the Cardassian ships now under attack."

Captain Paul intervened, "Admiral Hiroshi has approximately twenty-five combatants and about seventy-five support ships. His combat units are probably deployed patrolling the Breen border. He may be able to field a force of about a dozen combat worthy starships if he is lucky."

"The Ninth Order is only about two dozen ships total, combat and support ships Captain." Clearly irritated now Kira continued, "The best ships in the Cardassian fleet are being pulled back here into the Cardassian Sector to defend Cardassian Prime and the other core planets and to help in the reconstruction. Starfleet is obligated to defend Septimus."

"What does Legate Jak'Karr think about this?" questioned Admiral Selkirk.

"He is refusing our communications," returned Colonel Kira. "Obviously his focus is not going to be Operation Gateway now Admiral."

"We have our analysis of the Breen attack now Colonel." Commander Jast spoke over their conversation from her science workstation above and behind the command station worktable. She continued when everyone had turned to face her, "The Breen have attacked with three fleet elements, we have named them Alpha, Beta, and Delta Fleets. They appear to be a reconnaissance in force rather than an invasion, however since they are willing to commit forces to battle we anticipate that this is precursor to an actual invasion."

"How do you know it's not an invasion now?" asked Admiral Selkirk.

Colonel Kira answered for Commander Jast, "Because there are only a few heavy cruisers and no troop ships." She drew their attention back to the horizontal display on the command table; she pointed toward the yellow icon indicating the Septimus system. "Septimus is an old Cardassian colony, it has tens of millions of Cardassians living on the surface. It's the strategic key to the spinward regions of the Cardassian Union and has traditionally been heavily garrisoned. The Ninth Order has historically been the major command in that garrison."

"This is going to divert Legate Jak'Karr's attention from our mission in the Gamma Quadrant." Admiral Selkirk then addressed Captain Paul, "Has he provided you with the liaison staff for you ship?"

"No sir," returned Captain Paul.

"We may have to rethink our strategy. Our priority is to continue with Operation Gateway. Legate Jak'Karr has a unique relationship with Field Primus T'Cal Whix, he may be the only one that can bring T'Cal into line." She paused for moment deep in her own thoughts. "T'Cal is dangerous. I do not know why I feel that this mission is truly jeopardized not by the Breen attack, but by Jak'Karr being diverted away from T'Cal Whix. The Romulan is dangerous. There is a reason the Romulan Senate keeps him at arms length out in the frontier."

"And that reason is?" The cold serpentine voice of Field Primus T'Cal Whix cut through the air like a phaser bolt.

"Field Primus I was not aware that you were awake." Countered Admiral Selkirk.

The Romulan admiral stepped down to the command level of the operations center, his entourage fanning out throughout the control room multi-level decks. "Admiral if I wanted to sabotage your Operation Gateway I would have destroyed the station outright." He smiled curtly to Colonel Kira, "No offense intended Colonel."

"None taken Field Primus," retorted Colonel Kira.

T'Cal Whix rested both his hands on the edge of the command display table and surveyed the tactical map. "I will confer with my dear friend and ally Legate Jak'Karr. There is no need for the Federation to concern itself with military matters. Your Starfleet is much better at hauling colonists and building space stations anyway. What the Ninth Order needs now is the power of the Romulan Star Fleet." The Romulan admiral then smiled at Admiral Selkirk and continued in a lowered voice, "I'll inform you Alexandria of our decision." With that T'Cal Whix sprang lightly back to the outer deck of the Operations Center and departed with his aids in tow.

 

Chapter Eight

Stardate: 55020.45 - USS Dreamquest of Iranon, NCC-26175 patrolling Cardassian space

Captain Randolph Horatio Carter sat in his command chair sipping his tea. He looked up briefly recognizing his first officer, Commander Hadrian Connor Macleod as he entered the bridge leading the evening watch relief. "Ah, Number One, excellent. The ship is on course patrolling the Inkarian Sector. We cruising at warp factor five, we will enter the Ultima Thule sector in approximately," the captain looked at the chronometer on the flight control operator's console, "five hours."

"Very well sir, Computer I have the conn." Commander "Mack" Macleod returned. Both men smiled at one another as the two senior officers ritualistically switched position, the Captain moving to allow the First Officer to assume his command chair seat.

Captain Carter adjusted his uniform, then nodded toward Macleod who had already began reviewing the duty logs of the previous watch on the small screen of the captain's chair. With his hands clasped behind his back, Captain Carter stepped up onto the outer bridge ring to make his customary inspection of the Excelsior-class starship's routine systems before retiring to his quarters for the evening.

The Iranon had been one of the first ships transferred to the 27th Fleet (Mobile) when it had reorganized after hostilities with the Dominion had broken out. He had joined the ship during that transfer replacing the ship's former commander. The Iranon was an old ship. It had been commissioned many decades ago, during the so-called Golden Era following the Praxis Peace Accords with the Klingons and the Tomed Incident involving the Romulans. The Iranon had spent most of its long career simply hauling personnel and material between starbases like so many of the Excelsiors. But the Iranon was also a proven ship, having taken part in many campaigns against the Cardassians, and other smaller groups that had threatened Federation peace and security. Yes this ship had a long and glorious career and Captain Carter was just the latest in a long line of distinguished commanders.

"Sir I am picking up something on our long range sensors." Carter paused to hear what the watch operations manager was saying to Commander Macleod.

"Aye lad, what have yea got for me mister." Macleod looked up from his captain's chair computer screen.

"Sir I am picking up coded Breen and Cardassian subspace communications, they are frantic and in close proximity, deep in Cardassian space," returned the young lieutenant setting at the right-hand position of the command console in front of the captain's chair. "Sir now I am receiving Cardassian transmissions in the clear, I believe they are being transmitted from a location near the Delavi system." The lieutenant paused to adjust his controls on the console. "Sir I believe there is a battle ensuing." The young officer turned to look back at the first officer for instructions.

Commander Macleod stood and faced the Captain who was still standing on the upper bridge. "Sir if the Breen are engaging the Cardassians we should render assistance."

"Sure you're right sir." Captain Carter returned to the lower bridge and announced, "This is the Captain, I have the conn." He exchanged positions with Commander Macleod reseating himself in his captain's chair. "Number One, bring the ship to battle stations."

Aye-aye sir! Mr. Bower, bring the ship to battle station. Red Alert!" shouted Macleod to the current bridge crew. Instantly the general quarters claxon sounded alerting the ship to ready for battle. Within minutes the Alpha Section returned to the bridge despite being relieved only minutes before.

Captain Carter looked over his shoulder as the senior bridge crew emerged from the two-turbolift alcoves to the sides of the main engineering console at the rear of the bridge. His eyes immediately focused on perhaps his closest friend in the crew, Commander T'sharna, his Vulcan Chief Engineer as she moved to stand by his command chair.

"Captain," her melodic voice never changed no matter how mundane or exotic the situation was that they found themselves in, "We are full readiness in Engineering."

"Very well Commander, we may be needing your teams services here very shortly. We are heading into a fight with the Breen."

The slender Vulcan female raised one of her eyebrows as she turned to face the main viewer. "Then I shall return to main engineering to supervise my personnel."

"Very good Commander T'sharna." Captain Carter's focus shifted from watching his Chief Engineer depart to watching his Chief Tactical Officer, the Andorian Lieutenant Commander Kasar Thulsar taking his station.

"Commander Thulsar we are going to be engaging Breen warships very soon, please ready your weapons systems." Carter welcomed his tactical officer with some advice. Captain Carter slaved his captain's chair computer monitor to the tactical officer's display. He watched as statistics on the Iranon scrolled across his screen. His ship was one of Starfleet's largest, with a length of over 500 meters. The Iranon had 30 decks and a crew of over 700. The armament of the heavy cruiser included Type IX heavy phasers and Type II photon torpedoes. Like many of the older classes, the Iranon had been outfitted with ablative armor when the threat of war with the Dominion had seemed inevitable.

"Captain the ship is at battle stations." Commander Macleod's deep voice returned Captain Carter's attention to the main viewer.

"Very well Number One. Please take the ship to warp nine if you please Mr. Macleod," smiled Captain Carter as he resettled himself in his chair.

From the Tactical Console at the forward left section of the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Thulsar announced, "Captain I have forward sensors online and detect nothing to our front."

"Very well Mr. Thulsar." Captain Carter focused on the main viewing screen. The Iranon streaked through space at the incredible speed of warp nine, which could be maintained indefinitely but took approximately a full day to cover five light years. After three hours of transiting toward the battle the duty operations officer indicated that transmissions from the believed battle site had ceased. Captain Carter sat in deep concentration from a few minutes then ordered the ship to Condition Yellow. At which point one-third of the crew were released to return to their normal routine. Two-thirds of the crew remained at their duty stations, generally this was the current watch section and the off going watch, in this case Alpha and Beta watch sections remained.

Eventually Captain Carter ordered the ship to Condition Green, when no further contacts with either Breen or Cardassian ships were made. Two days later the Iranon slowed to warp three as it closed on the Septimus System, in the Hebitian Sector of the Cardassian Union. When no active warp fields were detected the Federation starship entered the system and then slowed to sublight speed after returning to Condition Red and battle stations. At three-quarters light speed the Iranon closed on the battle debris field orbiting inhabited world.

As the Iranon approached it detected numerous Cardassian hulls floating in high orbit, the Breen derelicts were detected tumbling at high velocity in vectors away from the battle site. Their momentum at the time of their destruction was carrying them away from the battlefield as they tumble through the void.

"Stay alert lads and lassies, the Breen can still be here," reminded Commander Macleod as he paced the upper bridge behind the Captain. "Captain, request permission to search for survivors."

"Permission granted, Number One." Captain Carter acknowledged with a lowered voice.

Turning to his Chief Science Officer the Captain requested, "Lieutenant DePaulo please search the surface for battle damage."

The blond Spanish Science Officer began her sensor scans of the surface as ordered from the console immediately to the Captain's right. "Captain," her voice carried a slight Latin accent, "there is collateral damage on the surface. I am monitoring emergency vehicles and a concentration of life forms at numerous crash sites. However, there appears to be no crashes located within the confines of built-up residential or urban areas."

Lieutenant Commander Thulsar turned and notified the Captain, "Sir, I have detected the Cardassian fleet, it is hovering just inside the atmosphere of the system's nearest gas giant. There appears to be nearly a dozen ships, all of the Galor-class battle cruiser type."

"Operations, I want to speak to the admiral of that fleet." Carter stood and watched over the shoulder of the young officer manning the Operations Manager's workstation on the right side of the command console.

"Yes sir, hailing the Cardassian fleet now." Came the young man's response.

"This is Captain Randolph Horatio Carter, of the starship Dream Quest of Iranon. Can we be of some assistance?" they all waited for a response.

A bruised Cardassian face appeared on the main view screen. "Yes you can captain by returning to your space. This is a Cardassian affair."

"Sir the Federation has claimed right of passage through Cardassian space." Then thinking better of his statement, Carter amended his approach, "Sir my ship responded to the Breen attack as fast as we could. We were on patrol near Volnar when we monitored battle communications between your force and the Breen ships."

"Then you monitored the battle communications?" queried the obviously injured Cardassian commander.

"You know we were ambushed and probably outnumbered?" continued the Cardassian.

"Yes sir," answered Carter.

The Cardassian flag officer studied Carter for a few very long minutes before stating, "Remain in orbit of Septimus-Three, I will move to your location."

"Very well," returned Captain Carter.

"He looked like Hell." Commander Macleod stated matter of factly once the Cardassian's image faded from the screen.

"The Breen are no push over," added Lieutenant Commander Thulsar. "They are potentially more a threat technology wise than the Dominion was."

"Is," corrected Commander Macleod. "The Dominion are long from defeated. We just ended their combat operations in the Alpha Quadrant."

"Captain I am detecting a small group of Hideki-class fighters coming out of the gas giant's atmosphere. They are closing at three-quarters light speed." Lieutenant Bowers stated from the flight operations workstation.

"I wonder why he is not moving his Galors out to meet us?" Macleod pondered aloud.

Quickly Captain Carter resumed his seat in his command chair, "Commander Thulsar scan space near those fighters." He then shifted his attention to the conn, "Mr. Bowers move us in their direction full impulse."

"Aye-aye sir."

"Damn!" Macleod was watching the sensor report over Thulsar's shoulder. "How did you know?"

"Captain," interjected Thulsar, "I'm detecting a gravimetric disturbance just a stern of the Cardassian fighters, and it's closing in range."

"Mack there had to be a reason they were staying in the gaseous atmosphere of that gas giant." Captain Carter answered.

"To deny the Breen the benefit of their cloak," stated Macleod.

"Mr. Bowers, take us down the Breen throat if you please."

"Aye-aye sir!" Came the enthusiastic response of the young lieutenant.

Three Breen warships decloaked just behind the racing Cardassian fighters. The lead ship fired its bow disruptor canon at the trailing Cardassian. A single beam struck the fighter square on the dorsal sending lethal radiation splashing off its shield. The two escorting Breen attack ships then fired in unison. Both energy lances from the escorts hit the same ship dropping the fighter's aft shield and ripping into the hull. The energy carried through the small fighter and exploded out via the main deflector array in the ship's bow.

"Damn that wasn't fair!" an agitated Commander Macleod called from where he stood near the tactical console.

Captain Carter smiled at his friend and first officer for a second before ordering the Andorian Tactical Officer to target the lead Breen warship. The forward phaser array of the USS Dream Quest of Iranon fired a single concentrated yellow-orange phaser burst at the offending Breen starship missing by a large distance.

"Fire a spread of photon torpedoes man! Are-yeah daft?" Shouted Macleod.

"Targeting," stated the Andorian, "I have target lock."

"Fire!" shouted Commander Macleod once again, "Full spread!" Alternating from the starboard and portside torpedo tubes just under the saucer on the ship's bow came a stream of reddish-white balls of pure energy. Five of the torpedoes streaked toward the rampaging Breen warship. Three passed harmlessly to either side and continued on into the void. Two however hit home, flaring intensely against the Breen's forward shield.

Lieutenant Senior Grade Silvia DePaulo shouted from her position at the science station, "We dropped the big one's forward shields by 80%!"

"Ah lassie, the 'Big One' is a Breen battle cruiser and its got more fire power than we do." Commander Macleod corrected from the other side of the bridge.

"Mr. Bowers maintain course and speed, we're going to play chicken with that beast," ordered Captain Carter, unaffected by his staff's comments behind him.

The Breen battle cruiser shifted its fire from the Cardassian fighters to the oncoming Federation starship. The blue-white disruptor beam slicing across the upper shield of the Iranon.

"Captain that dropped our forward shield 50%," stated the duty operations officer.

"Shift power to reinforce the forward shield," returned the captain.

The two escorting Breen ships continued harassing fire on the three remaining Cardassian fighters, flaring their shields as they continued to streak toward the Iranon. "Sir they are firing plasma torpedoes!" Pure white dots of raw energy spewed from the bow of the Breen battle cruiser.

"This is not going to be good. Every one hold on to something!" Shouted Commander Macleod as he grabbed the outer bridge railing! Miraculously only three of the Breen torpedoes actually hit the Iranon, the rest streaked by ineffectually. The first torpedo impacted on the forward shield dropping it by 50%, the second torpedo brought the shield down exposing the ship to actual explosive damage and damaging the forward sensor array. The third torpedo impacted on the bow of the main hull saucer dropping hull integrity nine percent.

"We have thirty-two casualties from the forward decks." Shouted Lieutenant DePaulo, "No deaths!"

"The ablative armor plating is working!" added Commander Macleod. "The injuries are all concussion related from kinetic energy from the impact, no radiation related."

"FIRE TORPEDOES!" Shouted Captain Carter not reacting to the casualty count. Of the five torpedoes fired again three missed and two hit the Breen battle cruiser squarely. The first torpedo sliced through the shield dropping it instantly and impacting on the bow of the cruiser. The second torpedo hit the Breen belly as the larger ship began to climb away from the attacker."

"His hull integrity is now at 74%." Lieutenant Commander Thulsar informed everyone.

"Phasers lad." Macleod added quickly. Instantly a single concentrated beam of phased particle energy sliced through space toward the wounded Breen missing him by meters.

The two escorting Breen ships shifted their fire from the fleeing Cardassians to the Iranon each firing a single full energy disruptor beam. One of the cruisers missed the Federation starship, but the second hit the exposed hull dead-on. The disruptor energy sliced across the ablate hull plates, reducing the heavy cruisers hull integrity to 83% and creating 56 more casualties from the affected area of the ship, this time killing one crewmember. The Breen battle cruiser fired its disruptor next, hitting the Iranon on the top of the saucer near the bridge module. The damaged power conduits causing a feed back that blew out the main deflector dish of the Excelsior-class cruiser further reducing hull integrity to 74%. This time wounding 64 crewmembers, killing five more of the crew.

"Captain we have over one hundred wounded and six dead," called out Lieutenant DePaulo.

"Belay that Lieutenant!" Shouted Commander Macleod. "Commander Thulsar fire a full spread followed up by a full power phaser strike at that lead ship!" Immediately the wounded Iranon gave full effort against the offending Breen battle cruiser. This time three of the photon torpedoes hit their mark rippling down the belly of the now raising Breen cruiser, raking the warship reducing the ship's hull to only 24% hull integrity. Then the phaser attack struck home, reducing the hull to a tumbling derelict.

A shout of triumph exploded from the Iranon's bridge crew as the watch the image of the massive Breen battle cruiser begins to tumble. "Captain the Breen has lost life support." DePaulo's voice could barely be made out from the surrounding din.

"Commander T'sharna we need our forward deflector shields repaired immediately!" Commander Macleod contacted the engine room quickly with a tap of his combadge.

"Mr. Bowers bring the ship around, give the two lighter Breen ships our flank."

"Aye-aye sir." A determined young lieutenant responded to his captain.

"Captain look!" Lieutenant Commander Thulsar pointed toward the main viewer. On the screen moving quickly in behind the approaching Breen light cruisers were four Galor-class Cardassian cruisers. Each of the Cardassians fired full power spiral wave disruptor beams on the two remaining Breen. After absorbing the energy of that attack the Breen chose the better part of valor and shimmered into invisibility under their cloaks.

"Captain," the calm voice of Commander T'sharna broke the moment of surprise and triumph, "I have restored partial screens to the forward area."

Laughing Captain Carter accepts her report then asks for a full damage report. "Mr. Bowers, head for orbit over Septimus III." Then the captain collapsed back into his command chair with relief and pride in his crew. His ancient Excelsior-class cruiser had defeated a Breen capital ship in battle without support. He was very proud of his crew.

 

Chapter Nine

Stardate: 55020.45 - Orbiting Deep Space Nine, Bajoran System

Gul Hanaka Soth waited patiently as the form of Legate Jak'Karr materialized on the transporter pad. She had been anticipating this moment ever since she received orders from Central Command that her ship be reassigned from the Fourth Order to the Second Order under Jak'Karr. She smiled to herself knowing that it was her father, Legate Lasko Soth, who had used his position on the newly reformed Detapa Council to ensure that he had a set of eyes and ears that he could trust watching his old rival, Legate Jak'Karr. At first she had been furious with her father. She had argued that the Hutet belonging to the Fourth was one of only four remaining in the Union. It should be used to place the Fourth Order in a position of power instead of groveling at the heels of the so-called "Old Guard Orders" of the First through Third. Their time had passed. Their losses during the Dominion War were proof enough of that. Her father reasoned with her and patiently explained his intentions to his fiery spirited daughter and was able to persuade her to play along with his plan.

She was brought back to the present by the thundering bass boom of her deck Chief sounding the transporter room to attention as Legate Jak'Karr stepped off the platform. Gul Hanaka stepped forward and saluted with her fist over her heart and said, "On behalf of the crew of the Il'Yishanya I welcome you aboard Legate."

Jak'Karr looked around the room at the assembled party standing at rigid attention and then brought his steady gaze back to Gul Hanaka. He returned her salute in the customary fashion and then spoke. "The Il'Yishanya has been re-designated as the Makarov. I trust you received the order from Gul Sakkatha?"

Gul Hanaka looked up at the Legate and said, "Sir, I assumed that since we were withdrawing from the Gateway Project that you would approve of keeping the original name. It is a Cardassian warship after all."

"You assume too much, Gul. The name Makarov will remain. In the future, before you choose to make assumptions I would suggest that you consult with your superiors before taking further action. Do I make myself clear, Gul Hanaka?"

Hanaka clenched her jaw and said through her teeth, "Perfectly, Legate."

"Excellent. Let us now tour this behemoth of yours and catch up on old news. How is your father these days?"

Later in Jak'Karr's Quarters aboard the Makarov.

The large room was dimly lit and the soft sounds of Jazzic's 45th Symphony echoed throughout. Legate Jak'Karr sat with his back to the door looking out the wide view portal at the Cardassian warships under his command, knowing that onboard each of them were his brothers and sisters in arms all preparing to carry out their orders and defend Cardassia from their enemies once again. Most of his crews were veteran warriors, having seen much fighting during the Dominion War He had no doubts whatsoever that they would distinguish themselves yet again in the coming battles against the Breen. Sighing heavily he turned in his high-backed chair and pressed a button on a console set into the armrest. In front of him a holographic image flared into life detailing the personnel file of one Hanaka Soth. He looked over the file with detailed interest:

Name: Hanaka Soth

Service Identification Code: Szi770*gHL

Grade: Gul promoted 1 Ober 2376

DOB: 3 Meras 2350

Place of Birth: Talask, Cardassia Prime

Education: Graduated from Primary Education (2357) with high marks in Mathematics and Theory. Graduated from Basic Education (2362) with high marks in Scientific Application and a master mark in Mathematics. Graduated from Advanced Education (2368) with honor marks in Mathematics and Scientific Application.

Military Service: Graduated from Kora Military Academy (2370). Distinguished Honor Graduate. Awarded the Scholar's Medal for academic achievement.

Currently assigned as commander of the Hutet class Battleship Il'Yishanya.

Jak'Karr looked at the file and noted that while she had done very well as an academic, there was little in her record to justify her rapid ascension to the rank of Gul. While most every Cardassian officer had seen combat during the Dominion War, there was nothing in her file to confirm that she had taken part in any of the fighting. Interesting.

He leaned back in his chair and rested his chin on his fingertips. He had inspected all of the main centers of operation aboard the Makarov from the Main Command Bridge to the Supply storage facilities and each of them had passed his rigorous inspection admirably. The crew looked sharp in their uniforms and moved with a precision that indicated their expertise at their jobs. The military exercise he had conducted against the Makarov had proven that the crew was capable of handling the vessel. He turned his thoughts to the young Gul. "It is indeed a strange coincidence that my old "friend" Lasko has seen fit to entrust me with the well being of his own beloved daughter. I wonder what game that old bastard is up to. I will have to keep my eye on our young friend."

From out of the shadows in the corner nearest the desk, Krav stepped silently into the light, his arms crossed over his chest. "I do not trust her, sir," he said in his low, even voice. "I suspect she and this Dominion built beast were sent here to keep tabs on your movements and operations. I suspect Legate Lasko is plotting against you."

Jak'Karr tilted his head back and let out a short bark of laughter. "Of course he is plotting against me. It is the way of things. I just hope that our ambitious Lasko remembers to put the Union ahead of his personal agenda. Time will tell I presume." He sat in his chair a moment longer looking around the finely decorated room. "I am going to the bridge. While I am out, conduct a sweep of my quarters for any surveillance equipment and let me know what you find."

"As you command, sir."

"I'll be gone for some time. I have a war to plan."

Stardate: 55020.45 - The Gamma Quadrant

The Klingon Bird of Prey Rotarran continued to ease away from the wormhole event horizon cautiously. The K'Vort-class cruiser had seen extensive action during the Dominion War and was accustomed to operating in Dominion controlled space. Brigadier Wotan had been very clear in his instructions, "Be detected and die." Captain Klemm had ordered his ship forward at one-quarter impulse using only passive sensors. He knew there were Romulans about, or Breen. Either way his ship and crew would remain cloaked despite his desire to engage them and run to draw them into a series of ambushes.

The weapons officer slowly looked up from his tactical console, "Nothing," he hissed in the short one word response unique to Klingon battle language.

"Continue to search, look for plasma emissions or anything else that would indicate movement of a cloaked ship." Klemm hissed back, whispering even though noise itself could not travel through the void giving their position away. The Rotarran and its brother ships would rendezvous at the designated time. But for now they had to be satisfied with escaping the den of vipers that surely would nest here at the mouth of the wormhole.

Captain Klemm looked up from over the shoulder of his weapons officer to see his executive officer or "First Lieutenant" entering the cruiser's bridge. "Status,'" is all he said to the approaching officer.

Lieutenant Karnas scowled at each of the junior officers and veteran warriors as he made his way around the maze of consoles and workstations to stand beside his captain. "All is finished according to the Brigadier's plan." He looked away from the eyes of his captain, "I am not a fisherman, this ties us to this area of space."

Captain Klemm agreed but discipline must be maintained he quickly stood and delivered a slashing backhand to his first lieutenant's cheek, "Do not question the orders of the Brigadier again."

"Yes my lord." Karnas wiped the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth, "Request permission to return to my duties?" Captain Klemm grunted indicating the younger warrior could dismiss himself from the bridge.

Stardate: 55020.45 - The Imperial Klingon Starship Okkam, orbiting Deep Space Nine

"You want me to what?" Starfleet Commander Erica Strong stood with her hands on her hips, ready for the large Klingon warrior to come over the desk to attack her.

Brigadier Wotan stood his hands also on his hips, his gray-brown mane cascading over his shoulders as if fine wire. "You are to go to the Bajorans and convince them to join the Klingon Empire." He then grunted, "What is there to not understand, your orders are clear, Commander."

"I am a Starfleet officer!" She returned.

"Now you are my Strategic Operations Officer, and Captain Freya's first officer. I expect you to act as such." Retorted the burly Klingon.

"I gave an oath to the Federation and Starfleet Command Brigadier."

"You gave an oath upon joining this crew to serve this ship! If you betray one oath you betray all you have ever made," countered Wotan, almost smiling as he rounded his desk.

Commander Strong braced herself, he had struck her on more than one occasion during this assignment. He continued, her silence indicating his logic was unassailable. "I see the recruitment as of critical strategic importance for our continued operations within this region of space, not to mention in the Gamma Quadrant. Admiral Selkirk has made it abundantly clear that Starfleet intends to begin its exploitation of the Gamma Quadrant immediately. Our forces will need a source of supply close to the wormhole. Bajor is the only choice."

"Yes Brigadier," was all that Commander Strong could say, his reasoning was correct. The Klingons did need a strategic base in this region if they were to effectively enter the Gamma Quadrant. "May I suggest..."

"You may suggest nothing, Commander!" Wotan stepped forward threateningly, spittle firing from his mouth. "Obey or leave this Command."

"Aye-aye sir." She straightened to a position of attention, then did an Academy style about-face and exited the Brigadier's stateroom. Her shoulders slumped as she shook her head in confusion. She headed back down the bare metal walled passageway, her boots clanging on the steel grating as she walled. The air had the smell of foul breath, metal, and lubricating oil. It would take her years if not decades to get the stench of this assignment off her body, if she ever could.

She rounded a corner and walked into two younger Klingon crewmembers. Their eyes met and she detected just a hint of a condescending glare from the taller of the two. She immediately barked a strength-mustering yell and drove the butt of her palm into the belly of the young warrior staggering him back. She then pivoted on her left foot and brought an ax-kick with her right foot crashing down on the other man's head sending him immediately to the deck. The taller man roared and rushed at her to grapple. She crouched and reached into the man, grasping his heavy uniform belt and his outstretched left arm with her hands and rolled through flipping him quickly over her and on to the deck behind them. Coming down on her own knees over him she smashed her fist into his unprotected neck causing him to begin choking. Then she shouted to the other man stumbling to his feet, "Do you want to share in this one's punishment?"

Quickly the other shook his head indicating a negative and he lowered his eyes. Commander Strong stood up, panting at the exertion. "Good take this one to his duty position before he dies on us. Inform his section commander that he failed to show the proper respect to a superior officer." She paused to catch her breath, "Now get out of my sight."

She felt better. She was in much better shape now than when she had first reported aboard the Okkam months ago. She still had three months to go on this assignment, maybe an assignment on Bajor was just what she needed. She smiled to herself and resumed her trek to her quarters and makeshift office.

Stardate: 55020.52 - Deep Space Nine

Starfleet Admiral Alexandra Selkirk sat at her desk looking out the porthole at the hovering Romulan Warbirds. Her old friend and nemesis T'Cal Whix had purposely placed his two warbirds in a position where she would be able to be reminded of his presence. She rubbed her chin as she watched the two frozen copper-green warships hang there like they were frozen in time. "Frozen in time," she whispered to herself, that was the way her exploration of the Gamma Quadrant seemed to be. Her first attempt had ended badly with the loss of her command. A dozen ships, some of Starfleet's finest had followed her into the Gamma Quadrant to be...to be what? She always had a hard time remembering exactly what had happened during that mission.

The chime at her office door indicated someone was waiting outside. "Come," she commanded.

The bald blue-skinned Bolian first officer of Deep Space Nine entered. "Admiral I have a message from the USS Iranon, it's a Excelsior-class cruiser assigned to the 27th Fleet. It is a routine message from the ship's captain to his fleet headquarters giving details of an engagement it had in the Septimus system near outpost Gamma-7."

"Why do am I interested in the message traffic from a 27th Fleet ship Commander?" she responded.

"Well sir, the ship sustained unique damage that we may be able to provide support for."

"Go on." Admiral Selkirk sat up in her desk chair and leaned forward placing her elbows on the top of her desk.

"The Iranon is outfitted with ablative hull plating, like the Defiant. Starfleet began retrofitting some of our older starship classes with the laminate armor when hostilities with the Dominion looked evident. We have the capability to repair damage to that type of armor; other local starbases do not."

Selkirk smiled, "Once we have the Iranon here at Deep Space Nine I will be able to requisition the ship and have it assigned to the 43rd Fleet. By the time Admiral Hiroshi protests we could have the Iranon deep into the Gamma Quadrant." Admiral Selkirk stood and walked around her desk to stand beside the Bolian, "How long to effect repairs to the Iranon Commander?"

"She could be here within a few days at maximum warp, then a couple of weeks to replicated and replace the damaged areas of the ship's hull."

"Hmmm, that would be cutting it close." Selkirk pondered the situation as she paced.

"I could cut the time if I beginning replicating the laminate materials now," Offered Commander Jast.

"Alright then, I will send the call to Admiral Hiroshi and formally request the temporary transfer of the damaged USS Iranon to my command and reassignment to Deep Space Nine for repairs. If he is in a good mood I will ask him for a permanent reassignment. If he is being pressed by the Breen incursion then we will just have to wait our time."

"Yes sir," replied the Bolian Commander.

"In the mean time get a damage assessment from the Iranon please," requested Admiral Selkirk.

"Already done sir," Commander Jast handed Admiral Selkirk a padd with the damage report information listed.

"Very well Commander," Admiral Selkirk gave Commander Jast a sideways smile as she seated herself on the office couch to read the print material on the small display screen. The data indicated the old Excelsior-class starship had lost six crewmembers in the engagement and had an additional 152 wounded. The ship had lost the main deflector dish from power feed back and had extensive hull damage to the forward saucer section. The ship had lost 26% of its total hull integrity, all of the damage located in the forward and top sections of the saucer. "Deep Space Nine has the capability to fix all of this?"

"No sir, just the hull laminate, but the Iranon, like all starships has the ability to affect self-repairs in deep space if the materials are available. We have the materials available here at Deep Space Nine."

"Good Commander, call the Iranon and tell them we are willing and ready to give them our total support."

 

Chapter Ten

Stardate: 55020.52

A maelstrom exploded in a swirling ball of energy. The maw of the Bajoran wormhole formed itself into the spinning gateway between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants. Immediately weapons officers on the Klingon ships sent by Brigadier Wotan to observe the wormhole began quietly signaling their ship commanders that something was about to occur. The swirling whirlpool of energy continued for many minutes for no apparent reason, almost a full hour and then collapsed as suddenly as it had appeared.

The operations manager at Deep Space Nine was the first to notice the activation of the wormhole and alerted the rest of the senior Starfleet and Bajoran staff. The maw opened in its usual swirling mass and remained open. Nothing emerged from the maw as it continued to remain open. Commander Trist Jast, the station's first officer ordered the station to red alert status. Immediately the orbiting Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan warships followed suit preparing for whatever unexpected visitor might emerge from the wormhole.

The Klingon Vor'cha-class assault cruisers quickly cloaked and moved off from the station to assume more defensible positions away from the station itself. The USS Unification and the Starfleet courier USS Daniel Kaiser also moved off to given themselves maneuvering room should the situation turn hostile. Surprisingly only the three Romulan starships remained stationary, although obviously in a heightened defensive posture. Minutes passed and no intruder appeared from the maw of the wormhole. Then the wormhole collapsed and space returned to normal, except for the flotilla of Federation, Klingon, and Romulan warships all ready for battle.

Admiral Alexandra Selkirk stepped from the turbolift delivering her to the operations center of Deep Space Nine. The station's Bolian Starfleet first officer, Commander Trist Jast, immediately briefed her alongside Colonel Kira Nerys on the tactical situation. Part way through the briefing the station was hailed by the Romulan command ship, the Shadow Walker.

The smiling visage of the Field Primus of the Romulan Imperial Starfleet appeared on the main viewing screen in the operations center of the station. "Admiral Selkirk it is my pleasure to inform you that the Romulan people will not be able to participate in your adventure in the Gamma Quadrant. It is my duty and honor to go to the aid of the Romulan Star Empire's protectorate the Cardassian Province of the Imperium."

A slightly annoyed Admiral Selkirk quickly interrupted, "Field Primus, the civilian authority for the Cardassian people rejected the politically expedient annexation of their Union by the Star Empire immediately following the Battle of Cardassia Prime. You in your capacity as the representative of the Romulan Senate secretly negotiating with Legate Jak'Karr upon the collapse of the Central Command was seen as being done under duress and therefore not binding."

A clearly irritated T'Cal Whix interjected, "Admiral, Legate Jak'Karr is the senior surviving member of the Cardassian Central Command following the defeat of the Dominion. The Cardassian people rallied to the Alliance's cause and enabled to the Battle of Cardassia Prime to be an Alliance victory. Therefore the Central Command government was intact before the collapse and surrender of the Dominion and thus the legal and rightful government of the post-Dominion Cardassian Union. Your Federation-style legalistic intrigues are the cause of the current chaos engulfing Cardassia at its most vulnerable time." Clearly a now angered T'Cal Whix struggled to regain his self-composure before continuing. "Unlike the Federation who has instigated the political situation on the surface of Cardassia, we Romulans are prepared to place our own bodies, our own lives in harm's way for our Cardassian brothers. I am ordering my small ambassadorial squadron to render immediate aid to the embattled Cardassian fleet now defending their frontiers from the Breen horde now invading Cardassian space. I challenge you Admiral to do something, anything as substantial in guaranteeing the survival of the Union."

Instantly the main viewing screen went blank and automatically shifted to a view of the three Romulan warships in parked orbit off the station. Before any of the senior Bajoran or Starfleet officers could respond the three warships began a slow turn as one, then began to move off in the direction of Cardassia Prime, once clear of the station's magnetic or gravitational field, they accelerated to warp speed. Surprisingly there were nearly a dozen warp transition flashes of energy witnessed rather than the three expected from the command ship and its two warbird escorts.

"Damn I hate that man," growled Admiral Selkirk under her breath, "He is going to screw everything up." Admiral Selkirk then turned to face the others also standing around the command table in the station operations center. They all looked as surprised as she did at what had just occurred.

Kira Nerys was the first to comment, "Ambassadorial squadron? He obviously had more warships here than just the two escorts."

"I concur, Colonel. Obviously the Field Primus had sent the other warships through the wormhole in advance of our forces. It may be fortuitous that the Breen attacked to draw his force back into the Alpha Quadrant before our own forces could establish a presence," added Commander Jast.

"I think you need to get the Unification into the Gamma Quadrant as fast as you can Admiral," suggested Colonel Kira.

"I agree, Colonel. I need to know what is going on with the Romulans though. I think I should query the 27th Fleet and ask that they forward any intelligence they are able to collect on the Breen situation here to Deep Space Nine with the highest priority. Who is their strategic operations officer?"

Colonel Kira interrupted, "I have a contact in Starfleet Intelligence that will be more useful than the 27th Fleet's tactical reports Admiral."

"More useful that a mobile fleet's tactical intelligence reports, Colonel?" responded a once again surprised Admiral Selkirk.

"I know a Starfleet field operative that is as familiar with this region of space as any Cardassian or Breen. He is a very shadowy character, he has been loyal to the Bajoran people for over a decade even though his loyalty to Starfleet has been questioned from time to time." Colonel Kira smiled her most charming smile. "He is deep cover although he has worn a Starfleet uniform from time to time."

"Who is this man of mystery, Colonel?" asked an also smiling Admiral Selkirk.

"He is a man that began his career as a smuggler and rogue primarily in the early days of the last Klingon-Talarian border war. He honed his skill as a smuggler against Klingon pickets during that conflict back in the middle to late 2360s. He then joined the Bajoran resistance doing for us what he had done for the Talarians earlier, only this time instead of avoiding Klingon patrols he was dodging Cardassians. He developed a quick reputation for engaging Cardassian customs patrols instead of hiding from them. Eventually he became trusted by the Bajoran Resistance to become a tactical commander. It was during this period that I believe he was recruited by a very covert branch of Starfleet Intelligence to collect tactical and strategic information on the Cardassians. If you must remember this is all before the 2369 Cardassian-Federation Treaty that created the demilitarized zone."

Selkirk added aloud, "The Central Command was at its zenith at that time, each Order deploying nearly a thousand warships and tens of thousands of soldiers."

"Your right Admiral, it was a very critical time between the Federation and the Cardassian Union. My contact served the Federation and the Bajoran Resistance valiantly and brilliantly during that period of time. If was following the Cardassian occupation that he fell into trouble with Starfleet Intelligence."

"The Maquis." Selkirk interjected.

"The Maquis," Kira echoed. "He was also involved in the commercial development and colonization of the region during the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict. He himself was a colonist from the Caldos Colony. He helped found the Maquis movement although I am not sure exactly what role he played in the earliest stages, but knowing him he was at the center."

"I thought all the Maquis were eliminated by Jem'Hadar just prior to the Dominion War?" queried a confused Admiral Selkirk.

"No, apparently following Commander Calvin Hudson's capture there was a division in the Maquis. One group remained under the control of former Starfleet officers that had defected to their cause; local members of the colonial civilian leadership led the other. My contact was a member of the more successful colonial branch of the Maquis. It was the branch led by the Starfleet defectors that was hunted down and eliminated by the Jem'Hadar."

A surprised Starfleet admiral asked how the civilian amateurs were able to survive while the Starfleet professionals were eliminated. Colonel Kira smiled before explaining, "The Starfleet defectors operated independently of the populations they were trying to protect. They were almost mercenary-like in their approach to the civilian populations. Where as the civilian cells fully integrated into the populations they were trying to protect. The Starfleeters tended to isolate their supply bases in remote regions of space; the civilians dispersed their supplies and personnel within the populated areas of the colonies. Also the Starfleeters tended to prefer more dramatic direct action military operations involving a concentration of personnel and starships. The civilian cells preferred to use guerrilla-style tactics and fight the enemy where he was weakest rather than where his strength was. Don't misunderstand me, the efforts made on behave of the Maquis and the colonies by the Starfleet defectors were impressive and necessary. But in the end it was their success and organization that led to their massacre at the hands of the Jem'Hadar."

"Why do you think your contact will help us now?" Selkirk redirected the conversation.

"During the Dominion War my contact was commissioned in Starfleet as a special operations commander. He has a reserve commission in Starfleet as a full captain."

"We need to speak then," was all that Admiral Selkirk said.

Stardate: 55021.4 - The bridge of the starship Unification

"Very well Lieutenant Cato, take us through." Captain Isaac Paul ordered from his captain's chair on the Galaxy-class starship's command bridge. Slowly the graceful capital ship swung away from Deep Space Nine and proceeded toward the entrance of the wormhole. The maw of the gateway flared and engulfed the slowly moving starship sucking the ship into the conduit and on toward the Gamma Quadrant. Captain Paul watched with detached interest the spirals blue-white patterns of energy as the Unification made its way along the wormhole slicing across vast unexplored regions of both the Alpha and Gamma quadrants. For a moment he considered the mysterious destruction of over one thousand Jem'Hadar warships in this very conduit during the Dominion War by the aliens residing here, the so-called Bajoran Prophets. The utter feeling of helplessness grated at his psyche causing him to nervously tap his thumb on the armrest of his command chair.

"Closing on the wormhole terminus." The welcomed voice of his female Andorian flight operations officer setting before him at his right operating the ship's flight operations console.

"Very well Mister Cato, upon exit move us away from the terminus at full impulse." Captain Paul then turned his attention to his operations manager seated beside Lieutenant Cato, "Lieutenant Jola I want a full sensor sweep of the area as soon as we emerge from the wormhole."

"Aye-aye sir," responded the petite female Bajoran Starfleet officer setting at the operations manager console at his left hand.

On the main view screen an explosion of light and energy the blue-white tunnel of the wormhole dissipated and was replaced by the velvet blackness of deep space. From an exterior view, out of the swirling energy emerged the USS Unification NCC-71959 in its entire splendor. Instantly as the Unification moved off under impulse power the wormhole event horizon collapse behind it leaving the empty blackness of deep space. The Andorian female's melodic voice informed the Captain that the Unification was free of the wormhole and maneuvering in open space. They had arrived in the Gamma Quadrant.

Captain Paul stood and moved behind the operations manager's console to the left of the holographic main viewing screen. He lightly placed his hand on the young Bajoran female's shoulder, "Lieutenant Jola begin your survey of surrounding space."

Without saying anything the young lieutenant chimed Science Station One located at the rear of the main bridge. This was a signal for Lieutenant Commander Nevik to begin his astronomy survey; the Bajoran operations manager had just allocated sensor priority to the Vulcan scientist manning Science Station One.

"Captain I am detecting no hostile ships in our general vicinity," called the Italian-American tactical officer standing behind the Captain at the Main Security Station.

Captain Paul looked back at Lieutenant Kentaro Romero standing beside the Klingon liaison officer Lieutenant Goran at the tactical console. "Very good Mister Romero, however I suspect that there were Romulans recently in this very space. They may have left some friends behind, look for indications of cloaked ships in the area."

"Aye-aye sir," instantly came Lieutenant Romero's reply.

"Captain," came the monotone voice of Lieutenant Commander Nevik, "I have located the wreckage of the Gamma One communications relay station. As was assumed it was destroyed by the Dominion."

Captain Paul turned his direction toward his flight control officer, "Lieutenant Cato move the Unification in the direction of Gamma One. I want a closer look." Then Captain Paul returned to his command chair, he activated his communicator, "Commander Murphy report to the bridge, I may have a salvage mission for you shortly." The Chief Engineer's answer came quickly indicating he was on his way.

Commander Andreas Darmstadt entered the bridge through the command turbolift that linked the Main Bridge to the Battle Bridge. The Unification's First Officer moved quietly to his seat beside the Captain. Captain Paul acknowledge his executive officer, "Number One it appears the Jem'Hadar were not expecting us after all."

"So it would seem my Captain." The German accent was thick when Commander Darmstadt was at ease. "Nor does it appear the Romulan left any surprises for us."

From the back of the bridge Lieutenant Commander Nevik announced he had just launched his first salvo of long range probes into surrounding space. The probes would race toward predetermined stars to conduct detailed surveys then shoot the data back toward the Unification using subspace communications.

Stardate: 55021.5 - Deep Space Nine

Commander Erica Strong walked down the corridor of Deep Space Nine like a person suddenly given back her sight. She ran her hand along the padded passageway walls like it was made of pure satin. She had requested time on the station to review Federation databanks on the Bajorans following Brigadier Wotan's order to lead the Klingon's negotiations with their provisional government. Eventually she found her self on one of the access routes to the promenade deck. Lazily her eyes came to rest on a small establishment that seemed to be filled with both Starfleeters and Klingons. As she walked by she noticed that the people working the bar appeared to be Ferengi. That caught her interest, her curiosity about non-human species was what had prompted her to volunteer for the Officer Exchange Program with the Klingons just before the beginning of the war.

She moved along the back of the lounge watching the clientele, primarily the Klingons. She had learned quickly to not turn her back on a Klingon at anytime, but especially when in public places where they tended to be more aggressive. She noticed an attractive dark-haired Bajoran militia officer setting sipping on what appeared to be a hot beverage; she too was watching the crowd.

"Is this seat taken?" Commander Strong inquired. The young Bajoran lieutenant looked annoyed at the uniform, but said that the seat was unoccupied none the less. "My name is Commander Strong, I'm the Starfleet Liaison Officer on the Imperial Klingon Vessel Okkam."

"That is their flagship isn't it?" The Bajoran woman asked.

"Yes it is, it is the flagship of Brigadier Wotan and the 10th Expeditionary Fleet."

"Wotan, son of Moark. I've heard of him." Then the young Bajoran woman finally smiled, "I am Lieutenant Ro Lauren, I was in Starfleet myself for a few years."

"Really? What starship did you serve on?" Strong was relieved that the Bajoran had warmed to her. It would be less likely that any of the Klingons would approach her with her talking to one of the station's security officers.

"Enterprise, the old one. I was a flight operations officer on the Enterprise-D before the war." Lieutenant Ro answered.

"Enterprise, you have actually worked with Captain Jean-Luc Picard then," immediately Commander Strong recognized she was going down the wrong path with this line of conversation and changed the subject abruptly. "I see by your uniform that you're in the Bajoran militia now."

"Actually I not in the militia, I am a constable now. I am the Chief of Security for this station now. You can tell the militia members by their orange-red uniforms. Personnel wearing tan like myself are part of the station's constabulary."

"And the blue-gray uniforms?" Commander Strong asked.

"Technical support personnel, like Starfleet's engineers," returned Lieutenant Ro.

"Lieutenant Ro." The Bajoran security officer's communicator interrupted with a summons. "Lieutenant Ro this is Commander Jast, I need your assistance in locating a visiting officer please."

"Yes Commander, who are you looking for?" both women sat silently at their table listening.

"There is a Starfleet liaison officer from the Klingon flagship that has come aboard the station. Her combadge is apparently set to the Klingon command frequencies and not ours. She is supposed to be here at Ops using our command computer. Can you find her please?"

"Yes Commander, I'll get some of my constables right on it," smiled the Bajoran lieutenant.

"Why didn't tell her that I was here?" asked a stunned Commander Strong.

"And why didn't you synchronize your personal communicator with the Starfleet command frequencies? You could have easily done that on the Okkam before transporting over. Unless of course you wanted some privacy," stated the straight-faced Bajoran, before breaking out in a crooked smile. "I can appreciate the need for some privacy from time to time. Your secret is safe with me commander, enjoy your stay on the station." Commander Strong thanked the Bajoran constable as she stood to resume her rounds. Lieutenant Ro then made her way from Quark's Place and out onto the Promenade Deck.

Commander Jast stood on the upper ring of Deep Space Nine's operations center deck. The Bolian was responsible for the routine operations of the station as well as assisting Admiral Selkirk and her staff in their preparations for their move into the Gamma Quadrant. She moved to hover over the station's operations console and watch the readouts on the displays being manipulated by the new Andorian member of the crew. Ensign Shar had just arrived at her duty station from doing routine repairs below on the station's outer ring. The Andorians had increased their participation in Starfleet during the build up to the war with the Dominion. Many were very glad to see these hereditary warriors; even their historic rivals the Vulcans.

"Commander Jast we have an incoming transmission, its coming from relatively close range and it's from a Klingon ship." Ensign Shar turned to look up at her supervisor.

"Let me hear it Ensign," ordered Commander Jast.

Over the communications speaker came the clear crisp voice of the caller, "This is Starfleet Commander Gerhron, I request permission to come aboard the station."

"Commander, I am Commander Trist Jast, the station executive officer. Permission has been granted unilaterally to all starships now orbiting the station, you do not require additional clearance to board."

The strong clear voice again came across the speaker, "My apologies Commander, but I am the first officer off my ship and remember that requesting permission to board is a traditional Starfleet protocol."

Commander Jast and Ensign Shar exchange a bemused and confused look, then Commander Jast inquired, "And which starship is that exactly Commander?"

An excited Ensign Shar nearly knocked Commander Jast back off her feet when she detected a decloaking starship. "Commander I have a decloaking ship near one of our lower docking pylons!"

In a calm voice Commander Jast orders the activation of the station's tractor beam emitters. From the main deck of the operations center one of the Bajoran militia technicians called Commander Jast's attention to the main viewing screen with its normal remote exterior view of the station to monitor suited personnel and ship movement in close proximity. There on the screen could clearly be seen the materialization of a B'Rel-class Klingon Bird of Prey near one of the top pylons. "Neat trick," Commander Jast muttered under her breath. "Commander Gerhron, would you please meet me at the station's operations center, I have a view minor protocol points to discuss with you sir."

Before the station first officer could utter another word the transporter energy surge and containment field associated with transporter use began to form in an open area of the upper deck of the station's operations center. The transporter signal did not have the telltale electronic hum of the standard carrier wave it was completely silent. An Andorian male in full Klingon military regalia appeared on the deck as the transport field faded and dissolved away. On the main screen the delivering Klingon Bird of Prey quickly turned away from the station pylon and accelerated away at full impulse as it faded back into the protective invisibility of its cloak.

"Commander Gerhron I presume?" stated an irritated Commander Jast.

"At your service Commander." Smiled the five foot tall Andorian.

"And may I ask sir why your required such a grandiose entrance to my station?" Smiled Commander Jast.

"Why to impress you Commander, what other reason could there possibly be?" with that Commander Gerhron made a deep bow at the waist in a most cavalier way bringing good natured laughs and smirks from the attentive Ops Center staff. "I am an active duty Starfleet officer in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. I have been on extended assignment with the Klingon Defense Force for many years, many years. I have been affiliated with Brigadier Wotan and Chancellor Martok for most of that time. Now I am at your service, yours and Commander Strong's."

"Commander Strong?" queried Commander Jast.

"Yes Commander, Brigadier Wotan's Starfleet liaison officer to the Tenth Expeditionary Fleet."

"And why does that require your dramatic entrance to the station Commander?" countered Jast.

"Well let's just say that our good Commander Strong has not been returning her calls."

"Ah, you're her minder then?" questioned Commander Jast.

"I prefer the term, 'Associate' Commander," parried Gerhron.

"That we shall see," stated Commander Jast in her matter-of-fact voice.

 


Proceed to Part III

 

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