Cyrbok IV: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border
Camp Hayes was a ten acre forward operating base on the barren face of a rocky, uninhabited Class M planetoid. Cyrbok IV had been completely unremarkable until a line drawn on a map by politicians a hundred lightyears away placed it on the frontline of a cold war. The UFPMC complex consisted of pre-fabricated metal shelters and bunkers dug deep into a mountainside and hardened against orbital bombardment.
In the center of the camp was a large, gravel landing pad surrounded by five meter tall permacrete blast barriers. Looming right where visitors first disembarked was a rectangular sign painted in red and gold with a UFP Marine Corps "Eagle, Galaxy, and Anchor." Block stenciled letters proudly proclaimed:
WELCOME TO CAMP HAYES
STANDING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER ON THE FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM
Two flagpoles flanking either side of the greeting contained the flags of the United Federation of Planets and the yellow and green banner of the Republic of Cardassia. They represented the only two occupants of the planetoid: the UFP's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and their partners, the 6th Regiment of the Republic of Cardassia's 1st Guard's Order.
Two marine officers in black fatigues stood with a Cardassian Glinn and stared up at the clear, cloudless sky.
"You said they were on their way, XO?" the marine lieutenant colonel asked his assistant.
"They reported skids up ten minutes ago, Sir," the two meter tall major said. His species, the Acceroids, were known for their size and strength. They had become particularly welcome members of the UFPMC.
"The Federation is not exactly known for its punctuality," the Cardassian officer replied with a grin.
"Come now, Teras," the marine lieutenant colonel said. "I like to think we've earned at least a little respect form you in the past ten months."
"Perhaps a little," the Glinn said as the whine of a dropship's impulse engines started echoing through the air.
"There they are," the marine commander said with a hint of excitement. His troopers had deployed over thirty transport scramblers across the base to prevent infiltration by the Cardassian State. As a result, beaming in wasn't an option for the Pershing's away team.
The fleet drop ship appeared and quickly descended towards the pad. As it dropped below 100 meters, the landing thrusters kicked up huge clouds of brown dust. The three men covered their faces with their arms before the craft touched down and killed its engines. They quickly walked over as the hopper's rear ramp came down to reveal Tigranian, Alex, Hawkins, and Annabeth.
The away team descended the ramp to be greeted by the welcoming delegation.
"Sergeant!" the major shouted to a group of enlisted marines waiting on the edge of the landing zone. "Link in with the crew chief and start getting the cargo unloaded!"
"Aye Sir!" the NCO shouted putting his people into action. The lieutenant colonel and the Glinn looked at each other when they realized that one of the women in Captain Tigranian's party was very pregnant. However, they silently decided it would be better not to ask questions when they saw the captain's pips on her undershirt.
"Sir!" the marine lieutenant colonel screamed with a sharp salute to Tigranian. "Welcome to Camp Hayes."
Tigranian stared back at him through a pair of dark tinted sunglasses while returning the marine's salute.
"I never thought I would see the day," he said shaking his head. Suddenly, the captain let a huge grin cross his face. He rushed forward and wrapped his arms around the lieutenant colonel. The marine officer started laughing as well. Both the fleet and ground officers were taken aback with the sudden affection between the two men. "God, it's good to see you again, Tyler."
"Alright," Tigranian said pulling back. "Guys," he said to the Pershing's entourage, "This is Tyler Hancock. He was my XO in 1-2 Marines." Alex looked over to Annabeth. Tigranian's current Number One stared at her predecessor with an emotionless face from behind her shades. "Tyler this is Captain Annabeth Geist, my first officer, Doctor Alex Hunter, my CMO, and then there's this one who I'm sorry to say you already know."
"Jesus Hawkins" Hancock said rolling his eyes. "They put a second gold pip on your collar? Goes to show you that my influence don't mean shit in the Corps anymore."
"It's good to see you again too, Sir," Hawkins replied.
"Damn, it is good to see you too, Kid," Hancock said pulling Hawkins into an embrace as well. "And it's also good to see that you still got Frontrunner 6 watching your back. If there was any AS3 on my staff that deserved a fleet detachment command, it was you."
"That's because you taught me well, Sir," Hawkins said gratefully.
"I like to think I also might have rubbed off on him a little," Tigranian added.
"It was a sad day when I heard that Commander T was headed back to the fleet. I thought the Corps had managed to convince him to stay," Hancock said to Tigranian's companions.
The two men suddenly realized how uncomfortable the others were becoming at the warm reunion they were not a part of.
"Of course," Hancock continued, "This is Major Kenset Nasho, my XO." The tall Acceroid nodded and looked down on the rest of the group.
"Major," Tigranian said shaking his hand.
"And may I introduce Glinn Teras Seroma of the 6th Regiment, 1st Guard's Order, our host nation commander here."
"Captain Tigranian," Seroma said extending a hand.
"Kiba'avzayn, Glinn Seroma," Tigranian said shaking back. "Lorhoc šadav-ra edek."
Seroma's eyes grew wide with pleasant surprise.
"You speak Cardassian, Captain?" he said.
"I've been in your country long enough that I've picked up a little," Tigranian said.
"You honor us," Seroma said with a nod. "It is especially shocking all other things considered."
"What do you mean by that?" Annabeth said incredulously.
"It is no secret that Captain Tigranian is married to a Bajoran. I would think he would be repulsed by all things Cardassian. After all, aren't most Federation officers?" Seroma said staring back at her. The entire group paused in a moment of extreme awkwardness.
"Glinn Seroma," Tigranian said finally breaking the silence. "If this alliance has any hope of working, both sides are going to have to try very hard to move beyond the prejudices of the past."
"Well put Captain," Seroma said with a nod.
"Well," Hancock said trying to get things back on track. "If your first officer and CMO want to link in with Major Nasho, he'll take your Doc over to the aide station and then arrange for the transfer of supplies. If you and Lieutenant Hawkins come with me and Glinn Seroma, we've arranged a little tour to show you what we've accomplished."
"Looking forward to it," Tigranian said. "Annabeth, Alex, take your time. Give me a call when you're complete."
"Yes Sir," Annabeth replied still keeping one eye on the Glinn.
After Hancock, Tigranian, Seroma, and Hawkins departed for the base perimeter, Alex and Annabeth were alone with Nasho.
"I hope he's not that abrasive all the time," Alex said.
"I've learned two things working with the Cardassian Guards for the past year, Doctor," Nasho said. "The first is that they are tenacious fighters who love this country more than their own lives."
"And the second thing?" Annabeth said.
"They tend to get very angry at anything that reminds of them of how far that country's fallen. That includes us."