Star Trek: New Horizons Season 6, Episode 3 (Till Sto'Vo'Kor) by captaintigranian
Summary: The Republic of Cardassia plans a secret rescue mission, but they can't do it alone. Starfleet refuses to help, but the new Klingon general on Cardassia Prime orders his fleet into action.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 11853 Read: 137 Published: 27 May 2018 Updated: 27 May 2018

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Author's Note: For details of the Klingon conquest of Planet San-Tarah, see Keith R.A. DeCandido's IKS Gorkon series: A Good Day to Die and Honor Bound.

Lakarian City: Cardassia Prime, Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54511.2

Lakarian City lay on the sunny shores of the Kriil Ocean. It was once one the most prosperous and peaceful cities in the entire Cardassian Empire. Before the war, Lakarian was home to many examples of ancient Hebitian architecture, museums, and a cartoon-themed amusement park that every Cardassian child dreamed of visiting. Then on Stardate 52902.1, a date which has since been memorialized by the Cardassian Republic as a day of national remembrance and mourning, the Jem'Hadar razed the entire city to the ground, burned every structure to ashes, and slaughtered every single one of the city's two million residents. This act of brutality and carnage was based solely on one order from the Founders:

"I want the Cardassians exterminated…All of them. The entire population."

Little of Lakarian City had been rebuilt since the peace. Many Cardassians simply wanted the site preserved as a memorial to the fallen. Reconstruction was focused on the capital city where foreign powers invested huge sums of currency to construct their consulates and embassies as symbols of the new, cosmopolitan Cardassia Prime. The Klingons were different.

Instead of placing their offices next to the Federation and Romulan delegations, they received a grant from the Cardassian government for 50 acres outside of Lakarian. There, overlooking the sea, they built a small of piece of Qo'noS complete with gardens, temples, and imported plants and animals from the empire. The site of Klingon style architecture rising out of the ruins of Lakarian served two purposes. The first was as a symbol of utter triumph over the Dominion. The second was as a reminder that no amount of ghosts from the past would scare the Klingons from their ultimate purpose on Cardassia Prime: to prevent the enemies of the empire from ever using this world again.

The Imperial jenSa's palace overlooked the central gardens and out towards the ocean. As the sun peaked out from over the distant horizon, its rays brilliantly reflected off the waves breaking on the sandy shoreline. The only sounds were the gentle pounding of the surf and the cries of sea birds searching for their morning meal.

Inside the Klingon embassy's walls, several guardsmen practiced a morning Mok'Bara kata beneath a large wooden arch that towered over the central courtyard. Two civilian gardeners pulled wooden rakes through a pit of sand and boulders imported from Qo'noS' sacred Balduq plains. Each day, the gardeners would sculpt intricate patterns into the pit to serve as places of quiet reflection and mediation for Klingon residents wishing to forget they were on Cardassia. The night breezes would erase their laborious work without fail, but at sunrise they would always start anew. It was the perfect example of taHjajSun or "Eternal Discipline:" the first step on the path to QI'tu', the "Place of Enlightenment."

As morning light finally filled the gardens, a gong rang through the compound to signal the start of the new day. On his stone balcony, Tigranian was deep in his practice. He was dressed only in a pair of black, pleated may'yopwaH that hung loosely around his legs. His bare torso was already drenched in sweat as this equatorial region of Cardassia never seemed to drop below thirty degrees centigrade. He swung his bat'leth around his head in a fast, fluid, and deadly practice kata.

The baakonite sang as it cut through the air, hacking through six enemies that only existed in Tigranian's mind. The crescent of razor sharp metal flew in an arc around his wrists before recoiling above his left shoulder into an upper guard. Tigranian raised his right leg off the ground in ramjep form before striking downward in vIghro' with enough force to cleave a fully grown LIngta' in half. He threw his arms apart before slowly raising the sword over his head. Then, he slowly lowered it in front of his eyes.

Just as he began to feel somewhat at peace, the rays of dawn caught the brilliant pattern of metal to illuminate the dedication inscription on the inner blade. It was a phrase his brother had always encouraged him to remember and repeat in times of trouble:

"tlhIngan maH"

"We are Klingons"

With a reminder of what had been a source of joy, all the events of the past weeks came flooding back: the destruction of the Lokrana, the tribunal, his dismissal, and his choice to forever side with the Klingon Empire over the Federation. Tigranian gritted his teeth and placed his forehead against the krencha skin grips on the spine of his sword. However, he suddenly felt like he was being watched. He spun around to see Laria dressed in a black t-shirt and shorts leaning against the stone archway leading to the interior of their new mansion.

"I didn't mean to disturb you," she said quietly.

"You didn't," Tigranian replied as he dropped his bat'leth into the crook of his right arm. "I was just finishing up anyways."

"You know," Laria said looking at the sunrise over the calm ocean, "growing up as a Bajoran girl on Gault, I dreamed of living in so many different and exotic places: strange, new worlds with unlimited wonders…I didn't think Cardassia would be one of them."

Tigranian's gaze dropped as he slowly walked to grab a towel hanging from the side of the balcony.

"Laria, I'm so sorry for all of this."

Her response surprised him.

"Don't be," she said with calm resoluteness. "The only people who should feel sorry are in the Fed. Torlek did right by you, and it was a wonderful reminder of why I joined your family." She grinned as she walked up to her husband. "There is no place in the galaxy I would rather be than right here, right now, with you."

She reached up and rubbed the dark stubble on the side of his face. Tigranian hadn't shaved since he had accepted a position as a general in the KDF. "And I really like this…" she added with a wink.

Tigranian smirked.

"A male Klingon officer without a beard is unthinkable," he replied. "The fact my wife enjoys it is only a bonus." She rolled her at him as he looked her up and down. "And I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the captain of my flagship making sexual advances towards her commander."

"Well, get used to it," she said throwing her shoulders back confidently, "because Laria HoD is very territorial when it comes to both her husband and her ship."

"I'll remember that," Tigranian said walking towards the interior of the palace.

"You better!" Laria called after him.

"I'll be home late tonight. There's a meeting of the Assistance Force Joint Military Council and it's the first time they'll be meeting the new Imperial jenSa'," he said betraying a hint of nerves in his voice. Laria took a deep breath.

"Warrior!" she called out after him. He paused and turned back around. "Make sure they never forget the new Imperial jenSa' either. They need to understand that Torlek placed you on that council for good reason, not just to be petty."

Tigranian nodded.

"jIyaj, My Lady," he said with a respectful nod and just the hint of a smile.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Tramasilik Belt: Republic of Cardassia

Phil stammered as he looked down at his plate.

"It's…um…it's very…green," he said trying to maintain a semblance of British politeness. The Pershing's senior staff sat around the dining table in Annabeth's quarters. In front of them were plates of undercooked noodles topped with an overcooked, lumpy green sauce.

Annabeth cleared her throat from the head of the table.

"It's a Solonian recipe I found in the computer database," she said trying to explain. "The example picture looked a lot more appetizing…It's just the tradition of the captain cooking dinner for everyone once a week was so nice I didn't want to lose it." She blushed with more than a hint of embarrassment. "I'm sorry. I'm not as good a cook as Dan was."

"Nonsense," Katie said shaking her head. "I'm sure it tastes amazing." She picked up a forkful and then shoved it in her mouth. Instantly, she pursed her lips and tightened ever muscle in her body to swallow the mouthful down. "See," she said gasping for air. "It's great…Excuse me." Katie grabbed her glass of wine and downed half of it to get the taste out of her mouth.

"Kinzo," Annabeth said turning to the Betazoid doctor a few seats down. "I suppose I shouldn't ask what everyone really thinks of it?"

"Well, Ma'am," he said nervously. "I think we should let people speak for themselves."

"I'll speak for myself," Scharr said straightening his antennae. "We have a phrase for things like this on Andoria: Cu'thervossh Trhesh Na Than Trsserasch Meklan Schress Chan."

T'les took a deep breath as she cocked her head to one side.

"I am by no means fluent in Andorian," the young Vulcan said, "however, I believe Mr. Scharr said something to the effect of, 'the quality of this food is so poor that people would question the legitimacy of your parentage.'"

Annabeth laughed.

"Ok, Everyone, Plan B," she said pushing the plate away from her. "My replicator is your replicator. Get what you want," she said pointing to the glowing slot on the far wall.

With massive amounts of relief, the staff quickly materialized a selection of replacement entrees and returned to the table.

After a few minutes of a much improved culinary experience, the conversation picked up again.

"Any word on when we'll get our new first officer?" Katie asked while taking a bite of Mexican style fajitas.

"Not yet," Annabeth said swallowing a mouthful of caesar salad. "Starfleet is still trying to figure out the reshuffling of the command slate. I'm afraid you're going to have to suffer through the job for at least a few weeks more."

"At least they're keeping you in the big chair permanently," Scharr spoke up. "It's not so bad having you in charge and I would hate to have to break in a new 'frozen behind the antenna' four pipper."

"Tren," Annabeth said sarcastically putting a hand over her heart. "I'm touched."

"Take what you can get," Phil added. "I think that's high praise from an Andorian."

"I'll tell you how much he actually loves you later," the telepathic Katan whispered with a wink. Scharr furrowed his brow and glared at the doctor before silently mouthing the words:

"I will kill you, Pinkskin."

"I do not believe that Katie has anything to complain about," T'les grumbled. "I think the arrival of Laria's replacement is a far more pressing matter. I am an engineer and unqualified to be acting science officer."

"Again, I'm sorry, T," Annabeth said. "We don't have anyone else who can do the job. Besides, you went to high school on Vulcan. That probably makes you more qualified to be a science officer than most people in Starfleet Science."

Most laughed, but T'les merely raised an eyebrow.

"I am not sure if that better speaks to the quality of the Vulcan educational system or the flaws of Science Division…"

"In any case…" Annabeth continued after the laughter died down, "we won't meet either of them out here. They'll be waiting when we rotate back to the Federation next week."

There was a sudden silence across the room. Annabeth knew what they were thinking without the help of her chief medical officer.

"It's funny," Phil said wiping his face with a napkin. "It hadn't really set in we're leaving Cardassia without two of our own on board."

"Phil, we talked about this," Katie said shaking her head. "Starfleet made the call. L and Captain T aren't part of this crew anymore."

"Well, it was a t'schvalshrass of a call," Scharr muttered while downing the rest of his drink.

"Translation, T'les?" Katie said looking over.

"It is a word that I do not feel comfortable speaking aloud," T'les answered.

"It's not our job to say whether what happened was right or wrong," Katie continued. She had been taking her role as acting first officer much more seriously of late. "It's our job to accept it and understand its Captain Geist's show now."

"If you've accepted it," Phil said turning to her. "Then why are you still calling him Captain T?"

Katie answered her husband by taking another sip of wine.

Annabeth sighed.

"I'd like to raise a toast," the Pershing's new CO said holding her glass into the air. "To Dan and Laria Tigranian: always a part of this crew, and always a part of this family."

The rest of the table all raised their glasses.

"To the Tigranians…"
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Cardassia Prime: Republic of Cardassia

Admiral Murphy and Vice Admiral Mukwotho sat at the large table in the Assistance Forces joint conference room buried deep in the Republic's Ministry of Defense. Commander Richey walked in and handed them both a series of PADDs before taking a seat at their side. Legate Dyoldas was to their right with two of his staff officers. He studied the evening's agenda. Then, he looked at the chronometer on the wall.

"Is the new jenSa' actually going to grace us with his presence?" he asked condescendingly. "I mean, I don't expect a Klingon to have a Cardassian's sense of punctuality, but we are almost starting late."

"He still has five minutes, Legate," Murphy said rubbing his temple. "In any case, we will begin on time even if the general is late."

"Oh…my…God," Mukwotho said suddenly looking down the corridor.

Lord Daniel, Son of Tigranian strode in through the doors dressed in full Klingon armor. His general's stole hung from his shoulders and swept along the ground as he walked. At his heels, two Klingon adjutants followed. The trio all carried grimaces on their faces. It was obvious they were not intimidated by their junior status on this committee.

"Lord Daniel," Murphy said with a dispassionate but respectful bow of his head.

"Admiral, Legate," Tigranian replied with a slow look around the table. He approached his chair and removed his stole. Murphy held back a frown as the chain mail baldric across Tigranian's chest was revealed. The polished silver armor held four badges: the Imperial tIq ghob, the seal of the Joint Assistance Force, the crest of the House of Torlek, and finally, the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. Murphy definitely felt it was a less than subtle reminder of who this man once was.

"Since this is your first meeting," Murphy continued as Tigranian took his seat, "We thought we might review some the items we've recently covered for context…"

"I appreciate the thought," Tigranian said holding up a gauntleted hand. "However, my staff has already briefed me on the details of the past four meetings. I believe there is no reason to waste your time or mine."

Mukwotho cleared her throat and whispered something to Richey. Tigranian scowled before Murphy tapped his Deputy Commander on the shoulder.

"Very well," Murphy said. "Legate Dyoldas, if you have no objections, we'll proceed straight into the new items for consideration."

"No objections," Dyoldas said with a chuckle in Tigranian's direction.

"Do you find something funny, Legate?" Tigranian said resting one of his fists on the table.

"Not at all, General…" the old Cardassian said with a grin. "It's just I usually don't find humans that imposing," he said glancing towards Murphy and Mukwotho. "It's amazing what a little leather armor and facial hair can accomplish."

"I believe that I should take that as a compliment then?" Tigranian said sneering a bit.

"Take it however you like, Lord…" Dyoldas said turning to the PADDs in front of him.

Murphy coughed uncomfortably.

"The first order of business," Murphy said trying to get things back on track. "Deployment of convoy escorts to the Intergalactic Red Cross Facility on Celdis Prime. Our intelligence sections have reported increased Cardassian State activity directly across the border. We feel that they may be trying to intimidate non-governmental agencies into reducing their presence. However, we cannot allow the refugee camps to have any decrease in the number of caregivers…"

"The Republican Guard can provide escorts for the convoys on Stardates 54511.8 and 54512.5, but we will not be able to escort the convoy on 54513.1 due to scheduled fleet maintenance rotations," Dyoldas said.

"The Federation will be unable escort that convoy due to our starship commitments at border posts 6347 and 6286," Mukwotho added. "The only other ship is the USS Exeter which has been on constant patrol for the past six months. That crew needs to rotate back to Deep Space Nine for maintenance and R & R."

"Normally, we would detail a Klingon squadron to provide the additional coverage," Murphy said with a pause, "however, we understand that the empire may not be as forthcoming with ships now," he said glancing towards Tigranian.

The jenSa' looked down at his PADD and then muttered something to one of his adjutants.

The Ch'Dak and Mk'kros Strike Fleets are committed to operations in the vicinity of the Tsakari Nebula during those weeks," Tigranian said. "However, the Skrass Reconnaissance Squadron is scheduled to patrol the border not far from Celdis. Would four birds of prey be adequate for the escort?"

Murphy and Dyoldas seemed genuinely surprised that Tigranian was being so cooperative.

"Yes, General," Murphy replied. "That would be more than adequate."

"Very well," Tigranian said making note. "I will have my headquarters cut the orders."

"Now, to the next order of business…" Murphy said with some relief as Richey handed him another PADD.

"Are you going to completely ignore the report my staff submitted to you on Leminora, Admiral?" Dyoldas said throwing his PADD on the table.

"Legate," Murphy replied steepling his fingers. "We discussed this yesterday. The Leminora system is outside Republic of Cardassia space. It is not in the purview of this council."

"Now that we know our Klingon friends are not completely averse to helping when needed," Dyoldas said turning to Tigranian, "I would like to know what they think."

Murphy furrowed his brow and sat back in his chair.

"This is your planet, Legate," he said with more than a hint of exasperation. "You can discuss what you like."

"I'm listening," Tigranian said genuinely intrigued.

"Forty eight hours ago," Dyoldas began, "Republic Intelligence received reports that the Cardassian State Fleet had occupied an uninhabited Class M planet in the Leminora System."

"That's in neutral space beyond your frontier," Tigranian replied.

"Exactly," Dyoldas continued. "We believe they are using it as a transit center for the Cardassians they are deporting to the Romulan Empire under the Labor Exchange Program. Those men and women have the same protections as Republic Citizens under our constitution. I couldn't go into Cardassian State space to get them, but in neutral territory, I can."

"Legate," Mukwotho said as if she'd explained it a hundred times, "The Republic of Cardassia is more than free to conduct military operations outside of its territory as it sees fit. However, the terms of the Mutual Defense Pact are extremely clear. The Federation will not conduct any offensive operation outside of Republic territory. We are here solely to ensure the integrity of your borders and help repel a Romulus Pact invasion. That is all."

"So, our citizens mean nothing to you?" Dyoldas said angrily.

"That is certainly not the case," Murphy entered the fray trying to calm things down. "We are more than happy to get the Federation Diplomatic Corps involved to try to broker a settlement. However, the use of force is absolutely off the table without express permission of the Federation Council and the President." He looked over to Tigranian nervously. "As a result of…current events, I am afraid that is unlikely."

"I do not have the ships or the personal to do this alone," he said gritting his teeth. "What about the Klingons?" Dyoldas said turning to Tigranian. "Does your aid only go as far as a line in the stars?"

The general looked back at the legate and then leaned forward in his chair.

"What do you propose?" Tigranian asked.

"Don't worry. The Federation will just guard the Republic by ourselves," Mukwotho muttered. Richey chuckled but an angry glance from Murphy silenced them. Tigranian's adjutant's growled but a hand from Tigranian stayed his assistant.

"I have enough ships to get us through their defenses," Dyoldas said. "I need a ground force that can land on the planet and free the captives so they can be extracted."

Tigranian sat back in his chair.

"I'm assuming that anyone we liberate would be given asylum in the Republic of Cardassia?" he asked.

"Along with the resources to start again," Dyoldas assured him. "They've already been taken from their homes. They might as well live in freedom instead of under a Romulan yoke."

Tigranian grinned.

"When do you want to leave?" he asked with a smirk.

"The Fourth Republic Fleet is ready to sail. When would your ground forces be prepared?"

"I can have three regiments ready to fight in 34 hours," Tigranian said.

"Excellent," Dyoldas said. "I'll have our staffs collaborate on the details."

"Lord Daniel," Murphy said exasperated. "I thought the Klingon Empire would no longer participate in joint operations?"

"According to refined guidance from Chancellor Martok and Lord Torlek, they can with a Klingon general present. My flagship will accompany the strike force."

"Even better…" Dyoldas grinned.

"So, you're saying that the Klingon Empire and the Republic of Cardassia are going to undertake a major joint offensive operation without the Federation present?" Murphy exclaimed.

"The Chancellor and the High Council have made it clear that they are in favor of bringing about a quick end to the stalemate between the two Cardassias while also weakening the Romulan Empire," Tigranian said. "We believe the best way to accomplish that is to strike where we can rather than hide behind defensive lines. That is one of the main reasons I am here, Admiral," Tigranian said firmly. "I understand that you cannot win if you do not fight."

The three Starfleet officers sighed simultaneously.

"Again," Murphy reiterated. "We cannot actively participate in this operation. However, I insist that Starfleet at least have observers to ensure we stay abreast of things."

"Though I object to you simply standing by the wayside and watching, I have no objections to your observers," Dyoldas retorted.

Murphy grumbled something under his breath.

"The Klingon Empire does not object either."

"Very well," Murphy said. "Vice Admiral Mukwotho and Commander Richey will accompany you. They both have my implicit trust."

The two women looked less than enthusiastic, but both acknowledged their orders with a nod.

"You will have a place of honor on my flagship, the nentay," Tigranian said to Mukwotho and Richey. "I suggest you bring your own sleeping bags. Bedding is not provided on board," he added with a chuckle.

"Sir," Mukwotho said turning to Murphy. "I would also like to bring a starship captain along. One who is familiar with large combat operations. I think it will help add perspective to my reports."

"Very well," Murphy acquiesced. Tigranian saw an opportunity.

"I would like to request Captain Geist of the Pershing," he said respectfully. "She understands Klingon operations and customs better than most and I believe it would simplify things."

Murphy blinked at him for a few seconds.

"Denied," the admiral replied curtly. "The Klingons do not dictate internal Starfleet personnel management. Captain Geist and the Pershing are preparing to return to the Federation." The Admiral turned to Mukwotho. "Inform Captain Quan of the Nelson that she will be accompanying you."

Tigranian cringed. Murphy knew how much that particular officer annoyed him and Tigranian felt like his old friend was trying to send a message. The meeting then concluded after addressing several more trivial items. Dyoldas excused himself with his staff.

"I need to go make preparations with Quan and Richey, Sir," Mukwotho said. "And pack my sleeping back apparently," she added with a hint of sarcasm. Murphy dismissed them both. Soon, it was just the Klingons and Murphy in the conference room.

"Leave us," Tigranian said to his aides. They saluted and departed. Tigranian then turned to his old friend who realized that a moment of reckoning had arrived.

"Pete," Tigranian said putting a bit of human back in his tone. "I want you to know that I understand why you had to make that decision, and that I have no hard feelings. I hope we can still be…"

Murphy held up a hand.

"Stop!" he said angrily. "Lord Daniel," he said with a tone as cold as an Andorian winter's night. "I understand that you are now an officer of the KDF and I am required by terms of treaty to treat with the utmost respect. You can be assured I will do that. But, I am not 'Pete' and you are not 'Dan' anymore. We will never be again.

I understand how crushing it must have been to be eviscerated like that on national holovision. It made me sick to read out that decision, but I did it because it was my job. You crossed a line as far as the Federation was concerned, and my loyalty is to Starfleet first."

"You got me back into the fleet," Tigranian stammered. "You got me my ship. You found the woman who would become my wife! Just like that, we're done?"

Murphy shook his head and continued.

"Six years ago, a young lieutenant commander walked into Starfleet Headquarters in a lot of pain. He was smart and he had so much potential, but it also looked like he was struggling to remember how to be human. I took him under my wing, I took care of him, and we became friends. I was so proud to see him grow into real captain material even though he had a habit of pissing off nearly everyone around him.

Dammit, last week was a nightmare to some other people than just you! I tried…I really tried to save you. I wanted to at least get you reassigned to my staff, but I couldn't. It was time for you to hang up the uniform, and if you had just walked away for once in your life, we could still be 'Pete and Dan,' but you didn't.

In front of 50 billion people you turned your back on your country and your people: the same people I have sworn my life to serve and protect. As far as I'm concerned, the man who was my friend, Dan Tigranian, is dead, and 'Lord Daniel, Son of Whoever' is all that's left. Let me mourn my friend. Please, if I still mean anything to you at all, let me mourn him."

The hint of a tear appeared in the corner of Murphy's eye, but he quickly wiped it away.

"You are a Klingon now. Completely and utterly Klingon, and that's how I see you...General."

Tigranian looked back at him in stunned silence.

"Now, if you don't mind," Murphy said angrily grabbing up a handful of PADDs, "I have some paperwork to do before I call it a night."

"Of course, Admiral," Tigranian said with a nod of his head. Qapla'."

"Qapla'," Murphy replied before storming out of the room. For a minute, Tigranian stood completely still and looked down at his Klingon armor. Then, he suddenly roared, grabbed a chair, and heaved it across the room with all his might. It crashed against the wall and shattered into pieces. His two adjutants ran in with drawn d'k tahgs.

"My Lord, what is it?" they asked in tlhIngan Hol.

"Nothing," Tigranian replied adjusting his tunic and putting his stole back on. "Nothing at all. Come, we have an operation to plan with the Cardassians."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Two Days Later

Gorvallon Gap: Cardassian Republic Frontier

The Vor'cha class attack cruiser IKS nentay exited Republic space at the head of a fleet of five Klingon vessels. Dyoldas had ordered his own ships to spread apart and travel separately to avoid arousing any suspicion from Cardassian State forces. At the appointed hour, five Galor cruisers would converge on Leminora and punch of a hole in the defensive perimeter large enough for the Klingons to reach the planet. The Klingon soldiers would then land at the transit camp, dispatch the Cardassian State guards, and secure the civilians until they were evacuated by the Republic forces. However, worrying about that was for tomorrow. Tonight, was for warriors to feast.

In the nentay's cavernous troop mess, a party raged that seemed to the three Federation officers in attendance like a combination of Oktoberfest, Halloween, and an outlaw hovercycle rally. The entire crew sat at long metal tables downing tankard after tankard of warnog and bloodwine. Pheben and Mempan stewards carrying huge trays of gagh, krada legs, blood pie, and other Klingon delicacies ensured that no one went hungry.

At the head table, Tigranian smiled as he looked out on his soldiers' bacchanalia. Laria, in her captain's armor, sat at his right side and enjoyed a tankard of warnog. To the general's left sat an officer from a species that no Federation officer had ever seen before.

He was a huge humanoid, but completely covered in white and grey fur. Ritual tattoos were etched in intricate patterns all over the man's furry body that matched symbols on bronzed armor plates hanging down from the giant's shoulders and haunches. His face came down into a pointed snout and three golden rings were punched through one of his pointed ears. Mukwotho, Quan, and Richey also noticed that a Klingon tri-foil had been welded onto the man's shoulder armor. They also noticed this man wasn't alone. In fact, about fifty of his countrymen were interspersed among the Klingon soldiers throughout the hall. Mukwotho took notice of his canine-like table manners as the creature lapped up piece of rokeg blood pie with his long tongue. The admiral whispered something to Quan and they both chuckled. Despite the cacophony around them, the fur-covered man noticed and one of his pointed ears turned towards the humans. Tigranian sensed the miff on behalf of his quiet companion.

"Something bothering you, Admiral?" Tigranian said before taking a sip of bloodwine.

"No," Mukwotho said shaking her head. "Just saying that it was a little loud in here with five hundred of your closest friends shouting at the top of their lungs."

"Do Klingon ships not have officer's messes?" Quan said with a level of condescension that caused Laria to roll her eyes as she shoveled a finger-full of gagh into her mouth.

"What's the matter, Quan?" Laria asked. "Is the company of Klingons a bit too much for you?" She grinned so that the Nelson's captain could see the specks of writhing worm trying to fight their way back through her Bajoran teeth.

Quan put a hand over her mouth to prevent from vomiting.

"We do," Tigranian answered Quan curtly. "But tonight, all onboard dine together as one family. We're celebrating."

"What are you celebrating, General?" Richey asked with curiosity. "The operation hasn't started yet."

"Tomorrow, we go into battle," Tigranian said. "Many warriors you see tonight may be dead by this time tomorrow. This is their chance to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh for perhaps the last time before they cross the River of Blood."

"That's fascinating," Richey said. "If not a little morbid…"

"Klingons don't view impending death with the same apprehension most humans tend to," he replied before cracking open a krada leg and sucking out the meat inside.

"Wait a second," Mukwotho said furrowing her brow. "What do you mean 'we' go into battle, General?"

Tigranian looked at her surprised.

"You don't think I would send my soldiers down to the planet without being with them, do you? A Klingon leader's sword must always be in front of all others. That is our way."

The three Federation officers nervously glanced at each other. Tigranian answered the question they were too nervous to ask.

"Admiral Murphy made it very clear you would not be involved in the fighting," Tigranian continued. "You will watch from the nentay's bridge. Laria HoD will command the fleet's operations from orbit."

"It'll be the fun," Laria said raising her eyebrows as she bit off a chunk of stewed bakrat liver. Quan gagged again.

"Captain Laria," Mukwotho said. "I request that we maintain an open comm line with Starfleet on Cardassia Prime during the operation. That way, Commander Richey can keep feeding Admiral Murphy battle updates in real time during the action."

"Of course, Ma'am," Laria smirked with a grandiose and very sarcastic bow from her seat. "On the nentay, we aim to please where Starfleet is concerned."

"I'm not sure I like your tone, Captain," Mukwotho said looking over to Tigranian. "You are speaking to an Admiral."

Lord Daniel banged his hand on the metal table causing several plates to jump into the air.

"This is a Klingon vessel and you are speaking to a Klingon captain…Admiral," he answered. "If you don't like Laria HoD's tone…" he suddenly pulled his d'k tahg from its sheath and offered it Mukwotho. "Challenge her. If you don't want to fight, I suggest you learn to deal with it. By the way…" Tigranian said indicating the Order of the Bat'leth badge on his wife's chest. "She got that for cutting the head off a Romulan."

Mukwotho cleared her throat and declined the dagger.

"That won't be necessary," she said looking over at a very confident Laria taking another sip of warnog.

Suddenly, a commotion broke out in front. A female Klingon warrior grabbed a male off his chair and threw him down to the deck. She roared and then bit a hole in his cheek before rearing back and spitting his blood towards his companions. They beat their hands on the table in approval. The male jumped up slammed his fist into her jaw. The blow was so hard she fell backward onto another table.

"Oh Dear Lord!" Quan said jumping to her feet. "Call security!"

"Relax, Shu Yin," Tigranian said. "Trust me, they'll be just fine."

The female leapt back up and the pair wrapped their arms around each other. By the time they exited towards the crew berths, they were already pulling pieces of armor off each other.

"What was that?" Quan asked quite disturbed. "Are they about to?"

"Sex doesn't look the same on every world," Laria said shrugging her shoulders. Richey decided to try to smooth things over by abruptly changing the subject.

"Excuse me?" she said leaning over towards the fur-covered stranger sitting on the other side of Tigranian. "We're from the United Federation of Planets. What world are you from?" she said. The hairy man seemed to ignore her as he licked another metal bowl of gagh clean. "Um, is my universal translator not set for his language?" she asked nervously.

"He can understand you just fine," Tigranian chuckled. "It's alright. You will not offend me if you speak to them, Colonel Te-Raw."

"As you wish, General," Te-Raw said with a deep, growling bass.

"I am Colonel Te-Raw of the 4th veS'ay', San-Tarahan Janissary Corps."

"Klingon Janissaries?" Mukwotho said surprised.

"Yes," Te-Raw replied curtly. "We now serve the empire where it commands."

"The planet San-Tarah was incorporated into the empire two years ago," Tigranian explained. "Part of the treaty of union and friendship was that Te-Raw's people would provide an expeditionary corps of warriors to serve the interests of the empire across the stars. The children of San-Tarah were some of the fiercest warriors we ever encountered. They honored us with their submission."

"Before the Klingons arrived," Te-Raw added, "we had no idea that a world existed in the sky except the realm of the divine el-mar, our gods. The Klingons offered us new power and opportunities. It was you, that honored us," he said bowing his head low. Tigranian saluted back respectfully.

"Wait?" Quan said shocked. "You didn't know you could travel to the sky? You mean you didn't even have powered flight before the Klingons arrived?" she said turning to Tigranian.

"The Klingons came from the stars and challenged us to combat," Te-Raw growled. "They proved they were the stronger pack and became our Alphas. It is the way of things."

"The San-Tarahans have a warrior culture that goes back thousands of years," Tigranian said. "It is as deep and as rich as ours."

"We are anxious to test our skills against other sky people with the weapons the Klingons have provided us. My battle pack is quite excited," Te-Raw said with the closest thing to a smile his snout could muster." The Federation officers were mortified that such a flagrant corruption of pre-warp culture was playing out as part of this mission.

"Colonel," Laria said leaning over. "I have read that the Children of San-Tarah have a very intimidating way of preparing for battle. Is that true?"

"Yes," Te-Raw said. "The pack assembles and asks as one for the ancestors that now run with the dead to give us power and strength."

"I cannot wait to see it," Laria replied.

Te-Raw yipped in a way that resembled a laugh.

"As you wish, My Lady," he replied. "After all, we are celebrating the coming fight."

Without warning, Te-Raw leapt over the table and sent plates and bowls full of food flying. He landed on all fours before rearing his head back and howling so loud it silenced the entire hall. Other howls replied to their leader's cry from all over the room as the San-Tarahans began pushing back from the tables. Grunts, yips, and barking began echoing off the walls as the wolf-like warriors began pacing up and down the aisles on their paws. The Klingons were mesmerized as they found themselves surrounded. By twos, and then by fours, the San-Tarahans came together and began stalking down the aisles to form a massive, fifty wolf pack. Te-Raw howled again as his janissaries assembled in tight rows to his front.

Whipping himself into a frenzy, the colonel began pacing back. He barked and howled as he thrust his tongue in and out of his snout. Te-Raw growled at the pack:

"Yehoooowaaaaaaahhh! Chassarawoooo Nehayyawahhh!" before howling again. He leapt onto his back paws and slapped the armor plates on his haunches. A female San-Tarahan in the pack stood up onto her paws and answered:

"Keeehhhaagreee! Kamassss Kammasss Meoarrrraawwww!" She then howled towards the sky and beat her armor as well. The other San-Tarahans seemed to be growing wilder and wilder as theu growled, grunted, and reared their fangs at the lead table.

"Keeemmaahhhhh Grakkkaaaaa Ooommeeahhh Ooommmeeahhh!" Te-Raw said flexing his muscular arms and then drawing his paws across his chest in slashing motions. Instantly, the entire pack rose stood and began pounding their legs into a steady, slow rhythm. They alternated between beating on their haunches and their broad chests. Then, they all began chanting in unison. Tigranian adjusted his translator so he could understand their deafening prayers:

"Is it not the truth? Is it not the truth?

Is it not the truth that all of life is a battle?

Below our fur beat hearts only for war!

We look up to those who ran before us! We look up to those who ran before us!

We are not afraid! We are not afraid!

We are now running as one!

Give us the strength to win or die!"

Then, the pack dropped back down onto their paws and gave one final, fearsome howl together.

As the echoes faded away, the Klingons all looked on silently for a brief moment. Then the entire room exploded with excited roars and cheering. Many beat their tankards and plates against the metal tables answering the San-Tarahan battle ritual with a symphony of aggressive approval. Tigranian and Laria rose to their feet and placed their firsts over their hearts in a salute. Te-Raw turned around to look at them from the head of his pack.

"You honor us," Tigranian replied. "Qapla', Colonel Te-Raw and your mighty pack."

Te-Raw placed his paw on his chest.

"Our pack and the Klingon pack run together forever!" the San-Tarahan shouted. "Qapla'!" His warriors barked and howled their ascent as well. Tigranian then sat back down and picked up his bloodwine.

"This is our Empire," he said fighting back his emotions, "Proud and Strong."

"With all due respect, General," Quan replied. "All I saw was a race of indigenous people plucked from their homes and forced to perform for a conquering race with more powerful weapons. They are centuries away from being ready to join the galactic community. However, you didn't give them the choice."

"You think the Federation doesn't conquer people?" Tigranian asked.

"Of course not!" Mukwotho replied with surprise, "We never force planets to join."

"And when they do join us," Quan added," they are our equals, not our janissaries."

"For two hundred years, the Federation spread through the stars," Tigranian said glaring into his drink. "It swallowed whole systems that had no choice but to enter the union or become completely isolated. To gain UFP membership requires decades of planetary restructuring, altering ancient legal codes, secularizing all religions, wiping out all but the most cursory traces of a species' individuality.

To enter the Klingon family, one does not have to give up who they are. All we ask in exchange is courage and loyalty. The ancient ritual that Te-Raw just performed was to prepare one's spirit for death in battle: to ask for strength to crush one's enemies. Under the Federation, it would simply become a cultural oddity performed for tourists, devoid of all real meaning. Do you think those cheers from their Klingon brothers and sisters were fake? No, every warrior in this room has nothing but the deepest respect for the San-Tarahans, not because of what we will make them, but because of what they already are.

The Klingon Empire may seize physical worlds, but the Federation's methods are far more sinister: it conquer souls. Starfleet, the Diplomatic Corps, even Federation civilians spit nothing but arrogance and condescension to the point where once proud peoples give up their very identities to beg acceptance. Whenever someone disagrees, the Federation doesn't even give them the courtesy of an honorable death. It merely shouts and screams to shame them into obedience. It's disgusting."

"What happened to you, Daniel?" Quan asked appalled. "You once swore an oath to this uniform."

"I did," he said taking another drink of bloodwine, "but I chose to remain unconquered."

Quan and Mukwotho simply shook their heads while Richey looked away. Laria rose to her feet and banged her tankard on the table. The room slowly turned to look at her.

"As captain of the Imperial Klingon Ship nentay, I raise a toast to our general, Lord Daniel, Son of Tigranian: the unconquered. tlhIngan maH taHjaj!"

"To the unconquered! tlhIngan maH taHjaj!" the room cheered as one. The San-Tarahans howled again.

****

The hour grew late and most returned to their berths to either sleep off their drinks or spend a few more hours in the carnal company of a companion before the fleet arrived at Leminora. Laria had returned to their quarters, but Tigranian found himself wandering the corridors lost in thought. As he approached the far end of the officer berths, he rounded a corner to find Commander Richey furiously trying to access a computer terminal in the hallway.

Tigranian stopped and reared his shoulders back.

"May I help you, Commander?" he asked unsure of why a Starfleet officer would be trying to so hard to access the systems of a Klingon ship by herself.

"General!" she said surprised. "I had no idea anyone would still be awake."

"Neither did I…" he said furrowing his brow. Richey realized the implication of his subtle accusation.

"Oh, no, no," she said holding up her hands. "I was just trying to access a subspace line. You see, it's my daughter's birthday tomorrow. She's with my husband back on Mars, and I wanted to talk with her before things got too busy. I'm sorry, Sir. I shouldn't have touched your systems without permission," she said regretfully before turning to head back to the guest quarters.

Tigranian immediately dropped his shoulders. He felt truly ashamed that his first thought went straight to espionage.

"Wait, please," he called after her. She turned back around. "How old is your daughter?"

"She'll be turning six," Richey said. "I always told her that I would get to spend more time with her after the war, but here I am on the other side of the galaxy," she said with deep regret.

"We can't have a little girl lose faith in her mother on our account," he said abruptly. He pressed a button on a nearby bulkhead. The sound of a door opening echoed across the metal walls. A few moments later, a three-eyed Pheban steward slithered towards him.

"HiJa', joHwI'?" the steward asked in the typical lisp of his species. Tigranian said a few words to him in tlhIngan Hol. The Pheban bowed respectfully and slithered towards Commander Richey.

"Please follow Tulolas, here," Tigranian said gesturing towards the steward. "He'll take you to a private room and set up a direct subspace link to Mars. Feel free to use it for as long as you'd like," the general added with a smile.

"Thank you, Sir," Richey said smiling right back. However, before she left, she suddenly looked at Tigranian nervously. "May I ask you a question about dinner tonight, Sir?"

"Of course," he replied.

"Did you really mean all those things you said about the Federation? Being in Starfleet is hard enough, but I can't believe you really feel that way and managed to stay in for so long."

He closed his eyes and looked down silently It was the only answer she needed.

"Please don't tell Admiral Mukwotho I told you this," Richey continued, "but when you were in command of the Pershing, every Starfleet officer in that headquarters on Cardassia understood how much you cared about your job and deeply respected you for it. I just thought you should know."

She turned away again.

"Commander," Tigranian called out. "What is your name?" She looked back at him confused. "I mean your real name: the one that people call you when you're not in a staff meeting."

She nodded with understanding.

"Stephanie, Sir."

"Well, Stephanie," he replied. "I appreciate that. Please wish your daughter a happy birthday for me."

"Good night, Sir. I'll see you in the morning," she said back before disappearing down the corridor with Tulolas.

Tigranian walked over to the bulkhead and leaned against it. He briefly buried his head in his hands before reaching down to a leather pouch on his belt. He pulled out a Starfleet comm badge and rolled it over several times in his hand.

"Even when you no longer believe in yourself, continue to go boldly, Daniel," he whispered. After a few more moments of silent contemplation, he slipped the comm badge back into its pouch and headed back towards his quarters.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Leminora System: Non-Aligned Space

Stardate: 54511.5

The troop bay of the nentay was packed with four hundred Klingon marines readying their equipment. Colonel Te-Raw and his pack were in the middle of things. They sharpened their blades and painted fierce patterns into their fur that complemented their tattoos and armor. Klingon pilots in flight gear were readying twelve assault ships for final loading for the trip towards the planet's surface. Tigranian's fleet was already in position under cloak just out of weapons range of the planet. As soon as Dyoldas and his fleet arrived, they would be ready to strike.

General Tigranian walked in with Laria and the three Federation observers. He carried his bat'leth in the crook of his arm.

"Is everything ready on your end, HoD?" he said turning to Laria.

"Yes Sir," Laria replied. "All ships report combat ready. Troops are Defense Condition Two and ready to load on your order."

"What about our Federation guests?" Tigranian said turning to Mukwotho and her small entourage. "Is there anything else you need before we depart?"

"No General," Mukwotho said confidently. "We've already made contact with Admiral Murphy and headquarters. They're standing by to receive our reports."

"Good," Tigranian said. "I guess it's time for one last thing…"

He turned and walked over to an assault ship. Without a word, he climbed up the side of its outrigger wing and jumped onto the roof.

"What is he doing?" Quan asked confused.

"You'll see," Laria muttered.

Tigranian looked down at Laria. She walked over to a control panel mounted on the far wall and pressed a series of controls. Suddenly, three huge holographic screens appeared in the air hovering beneath the vaulted ceiling of the bay. One was a direct link to Dyoldas' bridge on his flagship. The next two showed the troop bays in the other Klingon transports. The first was packed with Phebans busying themselves on two long rows of heavily armored ground tanks. The squid-like humanoids were dressed in grey jumpsuits smeared with grease. Their third eye-stalks poked out through holes in the top of their black, padded helmets. The final screen showed another other transport packed with a regiment of felinoid Ferasans in armored tunics with a pair of goggles strapped across their fur-covered foreheads. They were performing final checks on several dimounted pulse disruptor cannons.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Richey said.

"Only noble houses are allowed warships," Laria explained. "Most jeghpu'wI' serve in the ground component."

"Funny, I always thought the Klingon Defense Forces were composed only of Klingons…" Quan muttered.

"Look around, Captain," Laria said. "Not everyone who calls themself Klingon has forehead ridges…"

When the three Starfleet officers finally examined the jeghpu'wI' more closely, they realized that their uniforms and equipment all proudly bore the sign of the tIqghob.

Tigranian banged his bat'leth against the metal hull of the assault ship. The bay immediately quieted down. Everyone turned their attention towards their general.

"Warriors," Tigranian began while speaking in tlhIngan Hol. Mukwotho and the others tuned their universal translators so they could understand. "The time has come."

Tigranian looked to each of the screens and then to those assembled in person at his front.

"The 6th Regiment, Imperial Klingon Marines, The 5th Pheban Armored Hussars, The 21stFerasan Hoverdragoons, now joined by the 4th veS'ay' of San-Tarahan Janissaries…"

Te-Raw and his men yipped loudly.

"Do you see the might of the Klingon Empire now? Do you see our strength when we join together?" Tigranian shouted. A massive cheer erupted across the three ships. Dyoldas and his Cardassian crew looked on with silent admiration. "Our Cardassian allies have called for aid, and we have answered with all the strength of our worlds!"

Another cheer erupted from the assembled Klingon forces. Mukwotho and her Starfleet companions exchanged glances.

"We cannot be defeated!" Tigranian yelled. "For we are many races!"

"WITH ONE BLOOD!" the KDF troops responded back in one unified scream.

"We are many spirits!" Tigranian continued.

"ALL UNITED UNDER KAHLESS!" the KDF troops replied.

"When you land on the planet below, sell your lives dearly," Tigranian said dropping his gaze to meet the crowd's eyes. "But if you must die today, know that you die striking terror into the hearts of those oppose us. You die to free those in oppression. You are the hunters! The Cardassian State is the prey!"

More shouts and cheers erupted from the crowd. Laria crossed her arms in front of her chest and grinned.

"TILL STO'VO'KOR!" Tigranian roared holding his bat'leth in the air.

"HURRRAAAHHHHH!" the KDF troops yelled back holding their weapons high.

"TILL STO'VO'KOR!" Tigranian repeated.

"HURRRAAAHHHHH!"

"TILL STO'VO'KOR!" the general said for the third and final time.

"HUUUUURRRAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

Tigranian turned around, looked up at a large Klingon flag hanging from the roof of the troop bay, and placed a fist over his heart. Instantly, all the other Klingon troops snapped to attention and saluted in kind.

Nearly a thousand soldiers of the empire: Klingons, Phebans, Ferasans, and San-Tarahans began to sing as one. Laria belted out the words in perfect tlhIngan Hol as Mukwotho, Quan, and Richey were awestruck:

Unbreakable union bound by Mother Qo'noS,

Strong and invincible, reign forever in glory!

Kahless, guide our empire!

Reign to make our foes tremble,

Reign to make our families strong!

Kahless, guide our empire!

Out of many, we have become one,

United by faith in you, our honor is eternal!

Kahless, guide our empire!

Slowly, Tigranian turned back around.

"Board your assault ships! The time for glory is here!" he screamed as his troops sprang into action.

"What do we do now, Captain?" Mukwotho said turning to Laria.

"They get ready to land, Admiral," she said plainly. "We're heading to the bridge."

****

The metallic doors at the aft of the nentay's bridge parted. Laria walked straight towards the vacant captain's chair mounted on a central raised platform.

"Captain on the bridge!" a gruff warrior wearing commander's stripes called.

"As you were, Volorg" Laria said examining a PADD of tactical information. Mukwotho and Quan took places to the rear of Laria's perch while Richey walked over to a console next to the nentay's operations station. She pulled out a headset and fastened it around her head.

"Do you have Starfleet of Cardassia Prime?" Mukwotho asked.

"Yes, Ma'am," Richey replied. "They acknowledge our position and await further reports.

"What do you think, Shu Yin?" the admiral asked.

"Standard stealth orbital approach. We're in a assembly position awaiting the arrival of Legate Dyoldas. The Cardassians are probably holding just out of sensor range until they are ready to begin the coordinated attack."

"While I love the sense of ambiance you both bring to the bridge," Laria said turning towards them, "if you're simply going to repeat everything that's happening, could you do it in a place where you're not getting in my way?"

"My apologies, Captain. It's your ship," Mukwotho said with a glare as she signaled for Quan to step closer to Richey.

"Tactical Analysis, Lieutenant Berga" Laria commanded.

"Eight Cardassian State cruisers in a picket formation surrounding Leminora. It seems the secret of our attack might be out, HoD," the operations officer replied.

"Baktag," Laria muttered. "Open a channel to Legate Dyoldas."

"Open, HoD."

"Legate, this is Captain Laria on the nentay. Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"

"Captain Laria," Dyoldas replied through the bridge speakers. "Affirmative. We are in our attack position, but I only have five combat ready cruisers in my fleet. It may not be enough to break through their lines unassisted."

"What do you want to do, Sir?"

"We didn't come this far to turn and run now."

"Understood," Laria replied. "Open a fleetwide channel."

"Open, Ma'am," Berga replied.

"Attention all Klingon vessels: this is Laria HoD on the nentay. I am taking command of the fleet. Battlecruisers voQ and ja'chuq will now assist the Republic of Cardassia vessels when the attack begins. The nentay will escort the troop transports till we are landing range of the planet."

Quan walked up to whisper in Laria's ear.

"Do you think that's wise? That means the Cardassians will still outnumber you. The nentay can…"

"You are here only to observe…" Laria said raising a finger in Quan's direction. "Question me again, and it will not be pleasant for you. Do you understand?"

"Of course," Quan said retreating back towards Mukwotho.

"The fleet has acknowledged, HoD," Commander Volorg replied. "They are standing by."

"Legate Dyoldas, you have operational control of my battle cruisers. We are ready."

Richey updated Starfleet with her headset of the updated battle plan.

"Acknowledged!" Dyoldas said. "We are jumping to warp in five, four, three, two…"

Five flashes emerged from warp as the Republic cruisers flew towards the State ships in battle formation. The CS ships broke into four attack pairs and attempted to surround Dyoldas' fleet. Then, just as it seemed that the enemy would take the upper hand, two Klingon K'Tinga battlecruisers decloaked and fired a volley of torpedoes directly into a pair of flanking CS Galors. Both CS ships lurched at the unexpected assault. One exploded immediately while the other drifted away totally disabled.

"Remind me to speak with Grask HoD about his weapons officer's proficiency," Laria said to Volarg. "Both ships should have been destroyed."

"Yes, HoD," he replied. Mukwotho chuckled as the Bajoran who was barely hold enough to replicate a beer in the Federation was now commanding an entire Klingon battle group.

The Republic ships began pounding away at the remaining CS vessels with powerful support from the battlecruisers' disruptors.

"Inform the transports to hold five kellicams off our nacelles and prepare to decloak. We're punching through," Laria said.

"Now?" Quan said shocked. "We don't even have a breach yet!"

Without a word, Laria drew her d'k tahg and clicked the blades open. Quan immediately fell silent.

The nentay appeared from behind its cloaking shields with two heavy troop transports directly alongside. It accelerated to full impulse and flew directly at Leminora.

"Two Cardassian State cruisers are altering course. They are attempting to intercept the troop ships," Lieutenant Berga reported.

"Range?" Laria asked calmly.

"Six thousand kellicams."

"Lock photon torpedoes. Priority of fire: weapons arrays then warp cores. Fire when ready."

"Acknowledged, HoD," the weapons officer shouted from her console. Six red spheres flew out from the nentay's torpedo bays. All found their marks on the Cardassian State ships. Their hulls began to buckle and crack as burning plasma poured out of their deflector arrays.

"If you hit one of their modified Galors in the power grid, they have a tendency to blow up…I learned that a few weeks ago with the Lorkrana at Lissek," Laria said to Mukwotho. The Admiral stared back at her uncomfortably. "Status of the battle?" Laria asked turning back towards the operations console.

"Three CS cruisers destroyed, two disabled," Berga said. "It appears they were not expecting Klingon forces in addition to the Republic ships."

Laria grinned as she pressed a button on her chair.

"Laria to Lord Daniel," she said. "The Cardassian State fleet is no longer a problem. We're pushing through. Orbital interface in three minutes. Watch yourself down there. Weather report says its hovering around zero degrees with a fresh pack of snow"

"jIyaj, My Lady," Tigranian replied. "Well done. We'll unpack our long johns."

Laria turned her chair to face Mukwotho and Quan. Richey was still speaking into the headset with Starfleet.

"Now the real fun begins," Laria beamed.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
"Please remain calm," a loudspeaker announced to holding pens filled to capacity with Cardassian State civilians. "You are being relocated to the Romulan Star Empire to support the alliance and ensure the continued prosperity of Cardassia. Your service to your people is noted with the highest gratitude."

Several thousand Cardassian men and women huddled on the frozen dirt and mud floors of the enclosures, but they were far from calm. This icy hell was far from suited for the reptilian nature of the Cardassians. None had brought winter clothes. Many had already succumbed to frostbite. The survivors prayed for this to end, even if it meant transport to Romulus. They had no idea that their salvation was currently entering the upper atmosphere of this desolate planet.

A Cardassian State Gul wrapped in a heavy coat and fur hat walked with purpose out of the central command center on the far side of the holding pens. A Glinn was following with a portable comm unit.

"I thought the fleet was supposed to hold them in orbit!" the Gul shouted angrily.

"Several Klingon vessels decloaked and assisted the Republic ships," the Glinn replied with desperation.

"We'll have to fight them off here," The Gul said climbing a set of metal steps leading to the top of the compound's permacrete walls ringed with razor wire. "What is our troop status?"

"I've brought the order to full alert. With our prepared emplacements, I believe we can hold off an infantry attack, however Sir, this compound was built to keep people in, not out."

Several sonic booms echoed out of the sky. All the Cardassians looked up into the icy haze of Leminora's atmosphere. An eerie silence fell over the entire compound.

"They're coming…" the Gul said. "Get into position! "

Cardassian State soldiers shimmied up ladders to the four armored guard towers that towered over the compound. Hundreds more ringed the walls and began emplacing phaser cannons. Just as they finished their work, six heavy Klingon landing craft dropped from above. The Cardassians fired their particle weapons wildly skyward in a futile attempt to shoot them down.

The six landing craft leisurely circled for about a minute before landing two kilometers away on the flat, snow-covered moor.

"Those idiots!" the Gul said overcome with glee as he examined the ships with a pair of binoculars. "This plain is about to become a killing ground. Our phasers will cut them to pieces before they get within five hundred meters of the wall!"

The silence returned over the compound. All that could be heard was the muffled cries of the civilians, confused and terrified by what was happening. Then, the front ramps of the landing craft dropped and the 25 tanks of the Pheban Hussars roared out onto the ground. Their metal tracks grinded, screeched, and threw up huge clods of mud, snow, and ice as they charged forward with tremendous speed. Within moments, they formed a vast wedge that pointed straight at the compound.

The Gul aimed his binoculars on the center tank and zoomed in to full power. The Pheban regimental commander was hanging out of the hatch on top of his turret. One of his tentacles held a lit Klingon cigar as his other tentacles expertly manipulated his subspace radios and target scopes.

"By Ailam…" the Gul muttered as terror gripped him. "Fire everything we have! Shoot them, dammit! Shoot them before they get in range!"

The Cardassian State soldiers opened fire with heavy phasers, sending hundreds of bright, yellow beams directly toward the Klingon tanks, but their energy weapons were meant for dismounted forces at much closer distances and bounced off the ionized hulls of the charging panzers as harmlessly as drops of rain.

As the tanks reached their primary firing range, the Pheben commander triumphantly raised one of his tentacles and shouted into his radio: "BaH!"

The main disruptor cannons of the tanks unleashed hell on the compound. Giant green blasts ripped holes in the outer wall, blew the perimeter towers to flaming rubble, and sent hordes of Cardassian State soldiers flying through the air as chunks of singed flesh.

"Sir!" the Glinn shouted to the Gul. "We have to retreat to our escape vessels!"

"No!" the Gul replied, "If we run, they'll shoot us down like voles. They can't take this compound with tanks, only level it. With the civilians here, we at least have a bargaining chip."

The tanks suddenly fanned out as they closed to within five hundred meters of the smoking walls. The Ferasans appeared from behind them. The felinoids sped forward at nearly a hundred kilometers hour mounted on armored hovercycles. The drivers kept the vehicles less than a meter above the ground as heavy disruptor gunners in attached side cars opened fire. Thousands of green disruptor bolts peppered the upper walls of the compound, killing every remaining Cardassian soldier stupid enough not to retreat. The civilians in the pens dropped to the ground, cowering in fear as they felt that the Klingons had finally come to kill them all.

The Ferasan hoverdragoons began circling the compound, picking off targets of opportunity. The surviving Cardassian State soldiers fled from the walls towards the outer gates of the pens. If they couldn't fight toe to toe with the KDF, they felt they could at least use their captive countrymen as humanoid shields.

The Gul and his Glinn ran towards the center of the compound.

"Get me a subspace link to orbit. I want to tell the Klingons that if they don't immediately break off their attack, I will start executing the civilians…"

He had barely finished his sentence when more sonic booms echoed from the sky. They looked up to see Klingon assault ships drop straight on top of them. They dropped to a hover less than a hundred meters of the base and their door gunners made quick work of the remaining Cardassians with any fight left. Then, the side panels opened and ropes dropped to ground. The San-Tarahans didn't need them…

The Gul watched in horror as a pack of giant wolves fell from the sky and began carving up his men with swords, knives, claws, and fangs. It was like something out of a nightmare. As the San-Tarahans distracted the remaining guards, Klingon marines slid down the ropes with bat'leths and disruptors at the ready. They ran up to the pens and cut the locks to the ground with their baakonite blades. Interpreters informed the bewildered Cardassian civilians they were now under the empire's protection until their Republic brothers arrived.

The Gul heard a terrifying shriek from behind him. He turned just in time to see the Glinn cleaved in half by one of the wolves wielding a giant sword. The Gul screamed in horror and attempted to draw his disruptor pistol. Colonel Te-Raw was faster. The San-Tarahan leapt forward, drove his razor sharp claws straight through Gul's belly armor, and then ripped out the Cardassian's throat with a bite from his fangs. The last thing the Cardassian ever heard as he choked to death was Te-Raw's fearsome victory howl into the frozen air.

As the last resistance was being decimated by the combined forces of the San-Tarahans and Klingon marines, one of the assault ships landed softly in the middle of the compound a few meters from corpse of its former commander. Colonel Te-Raw watched as Tigranian dismounted and calmly walked forward with his bat'leth lazily draped across a thick, klongat fur coat.

"You couldn't save any for me?" Tigranian asked Te-Raw in tlhIngan Hol as the colonel panted in front of him covered in a mix of war-paint and Cardassian blood.

"I never pass up the opportunity to earn a kill, General, nor do any of my pack. The Klingons should have come to San-Tarah sooner,"Te-Raw said yipping happily. "It is far more enjoyable killing things not of my world."

"Noted…" Tigranian said with a grin.

A Klingon officer emerged from the gap between two captive pens, walked up to Tigranian, and saluted.

"General, our forces have secured the civilians. No casualties among the Cardassian captives."

"Excellent work, Colonel," Tigranian said with a salute of his own.

A Pheban wearing a black tanker helmet and smoking his cigar walked side by side with a Ferasan through one of the holes blown through the outer wall. When they reached Tigranian, they both saluted.

"My men are securing the perimeter," the Ferasan said with a slight bow. "I have dismounts moving to the hill crests there and there," he said pointing towards a ridgeline a kilometer away.

"And my armor has the high ground to the west and north. We could hold off three orders by ourselves," the Pheban lisped confidently before blowing a cloud of smoke out of his narrow mouth.

"Hopefully the Republic will have the civilians evacuated before we have to test that Colonel Barukas," Tigranian said. "Besides, it's too cold on this chunk of ice. I don't want to stay here that long. You all performed flawlessly today. Glory to you and your houses."

"Long live the Empire!" Tigranian's subordinate commanders said in unison.

"Long live the Empire!" the general replied twisting his bat'leth around his wrists and into his shoulder. "Perfect Victory…"
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Republic of Cardassia Frontier

"The mission was a total success," Mukwotho said to the encrypted subspace terminal in her guest quarters as she finished her final report to Admiral Murphy on Cardassia Prime. Quan and Richey were behind her laying out their sleeping bags on their berth's metal shelves. "Even I have to hand it to both Tigranians. They seem to know what they're doing."

"Competence was never the Tigranians' problem," Murphy said rubbing his eyes.

"Do you think we should have participated? When news of this breaks in the RoC, it's going to do a lot to cement their faith in the Klingons. Plus, it won't reflect very well on us."

"That wasn't our call, Almasi. We didn't have the authority to join in. However, all that matters are those civilians are on their way to a better life in the Republic. Once they're inside those borders, then we can do our job to protect them."

"Roger that, Sir," Mukwotho said with a nod.

"May I ask an unrelated question?" Murphy said.

"Of course, Sir," she replied. Those words caught Quan and Richey's attention.

"If you give any hint to them that I said this, I'll have you shining a seat in San Francisco with your ass, but…" he paused for a brief moment to look down at his desk. "How are Dan and Laria doing? I mean personally."

Mukwotho chuckled.

"Don't worry about them, Sir. I think they're happier than they ever were with us. They get to play with knives, drone on about imperial glory, and eat all the worms they want."

"I just had to know," Murphy said nodding. Suddenly, he got a strange look on his face. Mukwotho turned around to see Richey standing at attention behind her.

"Permission to speak freely?" Richey asked.

Both admirals looked at each other nervously. Finally, Murphy answered:

"Granted, Commander."

"Is there anything we can do to bring the Tigranians back into Starfleet? I'm not so sure they're as happy with the Klingons as they lead on. I think they're better off with us."

Quan paused setting up her sleeping area and raised an eye to look across the room. Both Mukwotho and Murphy looked at Richey with total surprise.

"I don't think so, Commander," Murphysighed with a hint of regret. "But why exactly do you ask?" he added with a furrowed brow.

"A feeling, Sir…an instinct."

"An instinct?" Mukwotho said skeptically. "Three days on a Klingon ship and you're talking like them now, Stephanie?"

"Could you be a little more specific?" Murphy said as Richey's comment piqued his curiosity.

"Well, Sir," Richey said selecting her words carefully. "Have you ever met a Klingon warrior who cared about a six year old having a happy birthday?"

Murphy and Mukwotho didn't know how to respond.
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