Subik System: Klingon Frontier
Laria rested on a metal bench under the dim, red lights of the Dri'goth's troop bay. It felt strange to be back aboard the ship she once commanded, but it gave her more hope that their mission would be successful. Torg, now a full captain in the KDF, walked over with a half-cocked smile on his face. She grinned back at him as she ran a laser sharpener over her mek'leths.
"It is good to see you again, Laria HoD," he said as he crossed his arms.
"I'm not the HoD, anymore, Torg," she replied as the laser sharpener sung over the baakonite edges of her blades. "You are."
"Once an honorable leader, always an honorable leader," he said before turning towards Torlek who was sharpening his own bat'leth. "We have entered the target system, Lord," he said with a bow. "We are making stealth approach: cloaked at one-half impulse."
"Good," Torlek replied. "Inform me once we achieved orbit of Subik IV. We will prepare for the approach maneuver then."
The Dri'goth was a B'rel class scout vessel capable of making atmospheric approaches while cloaked. This was essential as the Duras had shielded their compound with transport inhibitors. Laria looked around the rest of the compartment as ten commandos prepped their weapons for the mission. They were bigger than any Klingons she had ever seen. One had biceps larger than her head. Several inserted rifle stocks into the backs of their disruptor pistols with an audible click. Some sharpened bat'leths while others packed plasma grenades and explosive charges onto the combat load carriers. Quickly, Laria realized there wasn't a single square centimeter of their black, combat armor that wasn't covered with some kind of destructive device. Each wore a bright red badge on their left arm.
"Who are they?" Laria asked Torlek. I've never seen that house crest before.
"They are not of a single house," Torlek replied, "but they might as well be. They are tlhIngan Qas le'chIch, 'Klingon Special Purpose Forces.' Their training regimen is so brutal, nearly ten percent do not survive. They are given funeral honors as if they died in battle.
Laria raised an eyebrow as Torlek continued.
"I once saw a QLC break a stone in half with his bare fist. (The way he pronounced QLC reminded Laria of the Federation Standard word 'click.') A century ago, the QLC would have been the ones to space jump to Earth from cloaked ships for a decapitation strike on the Federation government. Then, they would destroy as many UFP facilities as possible before falling in combat. Now, they go into battle with their Starfleet allies. Somewhat poetic," he mused.
"A decapitation strike?" Laria asked skeptically. "The Klingon Empire really thought that a few dozen commandos would be able to take down the most heavily fortified planet in the Alpha Quadrant? I don't care how much weight they can lift. They can't be that good." Torlek merely laughed.
"Their unit motto is 'qaStaHvISwa' ram loSSaD Hugh SIjlaHqetboghloD," he said. Laria looked at him confused. Her eyes asked for a translation. He answered, "four thousand throats may be cut in one night by a running man." Laria looked back to the QLC personnel. One strapped a bat'leth to his back and then picked up a twenty-five kilo heavy pulse disruptor like it was a hand phaser. She sucked in a deep breath as she realized that if anyone could make that violent aphorism a reality, it was the group in front of her.
She knew that she and Torlek would need their help. The plan was dangerously simple. Land on Subik IV, enter the Duras compound, and then don't stop fighting till you get to Toral. The Romulan chip pulled off Drusilla indicated there were at least a hundred fighters inside the manor house. No matter what, a lot of people were going to die. Laria could only pray that they would be on the other side. It made her feel dirty.
The doors parted and the QaS DevwI' of the QLC, Trall, Son of Daxos, entered carrying a large tray. It immediately caught Laria's attention as it held twelve pewter shot glasses and a stone bowl. He walked over to a dark corner of the troop bay where a small statue of Kahless the Unforgettable stood on a shelf between two burning candles. The grizzled sergeant unfolded a piece of red silk and placed it on the shelf at Kahless' feet. Trall then arranged the glasses on the silk with the bowl in the middle.
He muttered something to Kahless in tlhIngan Hol under his breath as he lit two sticks of pungent incense. Then, he bowed and picked up one of the glasses. Trall downed its contents and placed the shooter upside down on the fabric. Finally, Trall dipped two of his fingers in the bowl. They came out covered in red paint. He drew two lines down his cheeks from his eyes to his chin. Then he went back to work preparing his weapons.
One at a time, the other QLC commandos followed suit, each placing their empty glasses at the foot of the Unforgettable. Laria watched in amazement. Finally, she turned to Torlek.
"What are they doing?" she asked confused.
"They are preparing for death," Torlek said placing his sword on the bench next to him. "They pray for an honourable end in service to their nation." He stood up, walked over to the statue, and picked up a shot. He drank it, prayed, bowed, and then dipped his hands into the blood red bowl. When he returned, his face was covered with the marks.
"And what are those?" Laria asked. "I've never seen Klingons do that before."
"They are called 'oy'naQ QIDpu'ghachmey noH," Torlek explained. "War Stripes. They are usually not necessary any more. It goes back to the ancient times when Klingons houses fought one another in melee battles. The stripes strike fear into enemies and help allies recognize each other in the fray." He paused. "They also will follow your soul into the afterlife to make it easier to find your companions in Sto'Vo'Kor. Many warriors will arrive at once."
Laria looked back towards the shrine and realized there was only one shot left. The QaS DevwI' had brought it for her. She walked over and stared at the statue.
"I won't pray for a good death," she whispered into the face of Kahless, "but I will pray for a good victory." She grabbed the drink and downed it in one gulp. It was blood wine and it burned all the way into her stomach. She slammed the empty shooter upside down on the red silk, dipped her fingers in the bowl, and painted her face. She wanted the Duras to know what side she was on. She also wanted them to be afraid.