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Cardassia Prime: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54508.4

"Captain's Log: Stardate 54508.4. The Pershing has arrived at Cardassia Prime for a special meeting of the Assistance Force Joint Military Council. A fleet wide yellow alert is in effect. Tensions have flared since the destruction of the Imperial Defense Ministry on Romulus. There are indications that the Star Empire and the Cardassian State may be preparing for a retaliatory strike. The USS Nelson has also been deployed to the Republic of Cardassia as it appears that conflict may be imminent…"

Tigranian and Annabeth walked into the meeting room buried deep in the Republic of Cardassia's Military Headquarters. The building had been completely renovated since its use by the Founders during the Dominion War, but it's drab, industrial Cardassian aesthetic remained. Every surface seemed to be burnt orange, bronzed, and curved in a way that caused most non-Cardassian species to experience a minor bout of vertigo. The room was packed with top, Cardassian, Klingon, and Federation brass. The mingling Cardassians in their boxy, scale-covered tunics clashed with the Federation officers in their black and greys.

"Why is it always so damned hot in Cardassian buildings?" Annabeth muttered while pulling on the red collar of her uniform.

"That's what happens when your species shares a good amount of DNA with an iguana," Tigranian replied quietly enough so that the other occupants of the room couldn't hear.

"Really, iguanas?" Annabeth said with a smile. "I always figured it was a salamander or something. "Maybe those horned lizards that shoot blood out of their eyes…"

"Daniel!" a familiar voice echoed from across the room. Captain Shu Yin Quan of the USS Nelson, one of the Pershing's sister starbattleships, grinned as she crossed the room with a less than enthusiastic Starfleet Commander at her side.

"Hello, Shu Yin," Tigranian said politely as he shook her hand. "You remember Captain Annabeth Geist, of course?" he continued with a nod toward his first officer.

"Of course," Quan said with her polished Cantonese accent. "This is my first officer, Commander Trenton Deshawn."

"Sir, Ma'am," Deshawn said with an air of formality. It annoyed Tigranian to no end how serious Quan kept the climate on her ship. The use of first names was a privilege reserved for the captain alone on the Nelson. For a subordinate, it was an offense that angered her so much she would keel-haul offenders if she still could. The number of marriages on the Pershing's bridge would probably cause her to have an aneurysm.

"Glad to see you made it safely from the Federation," Tigranian said. "Sorry you had to get pulled away from Earth spacedock early."

"It's alright," Quan said smiling. "I much prefer being out in space anyways. An idle crew is one that tends to lose efficiency."

Annabeth reflexively cleared her throat. She cast a sympathetic look towards Deshawn. He gazed back at her with as much gratitude as possible without his captain noticing.

"Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen," a Starfleet staff commander announced, "please, take your seats. The CRGC and the DCAM will be entering shortly to begin the briefing."

The "CRGC" was Legate Gosolo Dyoldas, Commander of the Republican Guard of Cardassia. The "DCAM" was Vice Admiral Almasi Mukwotho, The Deputy Commanding Admiral for Maneuver, Federation Forces Cardassia. She was sitting in for her boss, Admiral Murphy, who was still on Earth providing updates to the Federation Council. Their Klingon Counterpart would have been the Imperial jenSa', or Senior General,for Cardassia, however the post was currently vacant as General B'krall had returned to Ty'Gokor to join Lord Torlek's staff. In the meantime, Admiral Mukwotho had operational control of all Klingon forces in the Republic.

As Tigranian, Shu Yin, and their Number Ones found seats at the end of the polished conference table, the Federation Forces Cardassia staff officers and their Klingon Defense Force counterparts sat down across from the leaders of the Cardassian Republican Guard.

"Wow, we get to sit at the big table," Annabeth whispered to Tigranian next to her with a chuckle. "I feel so grown-up."

"Hopefully we'll still be able to get chicken nuggets, though," Tigranian replied. They both laughed.

Quan cleared her throat loudly to signify her displeasure at their banter. Tigranian ignored her, but Annabeth cast a glance out of the side of her eye. It was moments like this she was grateful to already hold the rank of captain. She couldn't imagine the level of hassle that poor Deshawn had to endure. Annabeth was about to recommend to Shu Yin that she remove the twist currently residing in her feminine undergarments, but the sound of an opening door prevented the exchange.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the Starfleet Commander announced loudly, "The CRGC and DCAM!" The entire room jumped to their feet and snapped to attention.

A grey-haired Cardassian wearing a legate's badge entered followed by Admiral Mukwotho. Their chairs were at the head of the table.

"Please be seated," Dyoldas said immediately turning to the PADDs laid out in front of him. He began whispering to Mukwotho as he made note of a few briefing items. Tigranian couldn't help but respect Dyoldas, even though the two of them had spent most of their careers calling each other enemies. The old Cardassian had a pronounced scar next to his forehead spoon that was the result of a Klingon mek'leth to the head six years before. He had distinguished himself as a fleet commander during the Dominion War, and was one of the legates who switched sides during the Battle of Cardassia to assist the allied landings. Now, he was the senior military officer in the entire Cardassian Republic and probably the most experienced combat leader in the room.

"Are you ready to begin, Sir?" Admiral Mukwotho asked Legate Dyoldas respectfully. The old officer nodded. "Commander Richey," Mukwotho then said to the staff officer. "It's your briefing."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Richey began while taking her place behind a podium, "Please refer to the briefing packets in front of you for the written notes."

Those seated at the table picked up the PADDs as Richey, the G3 operations officer for Federation Forces Cardassia, began speaking:

"Less than a week ago, a separatist group identified as the Soldiers of Akarath claimed responsibility for a bombing that destroyed the Romulan Defense Ministry…"

Tigranian took a deep breath. Only Annabeth noticed.

"The Romulan High Command blames Starfleet for the continued activities of this group and their attempt to gain independence from the Star Empire. As a result, the Romulans have mobilized their fleets for possible retaliation in both their home space as well as the Cardassian State. The Cardassian State has also mobilized honoring their joint-defense pact with Romulus…"

A three-dimensional holographic image of the border between the Republic of Cardassia and the Cardassian State appeared in mid-air above the conference table.

"Our joint-intelligence efforts as well as our deep sensor nets have detected Romulan naval movements in the Dopa and Quinor systems of the CS. There have been corresponding deployments from People's Fleet of the Cardassian State bases in the Unefra, Lazon, and Kelrabi systems…"

"Do we believe that these troop movements are just posturing or do any of them pose a direct threat to our territorial integrity?" Legate Dyoldas asked firmly.

"G2?" Mukwotho asked a Federation staff captain four seats down from Tigranian.

"Not at this time, Sir," a staff captain said respectfully. "Running through our simulations it would take at least 43 hours for these fleets to merge into a coherent attack force. We've identified several possible stellar assemble areas and other NAIs we have directed our intel assets to monitor in order to provide early warning."

This seemed to satisfy Dyoldas who nodded for Richey to continue.

"However, we have identified a developing issue on the border that may provide more localized threats to MDL stability…"

The holoimage zoomed in on two Cardassian State planets just inside the border.

"The Lissek and Warlan systems are located less than one billion kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line and both contain populated, Class M planets. For some time, the Cardassian State has had concerns that they are too close Republic Space and could provide possible staging areas for persons looking to flee. It appears that they are taking advantage of the current situation to conduct forcible relocation of the populations…"

"I'm sorry," Tigranian said speaking up. Everyone in the room turned to look at him. Quan turned white as a sheet. "Forcible Relocation? Is that some kind of euphemism I'm not aware of?"

Mukwotho looked annoyed, but Dyoldas' face remained like stone.

Richey cleared her throat.

"Well Sir," she explained to Tigranian, "the Cardassian State appears to be removing all civilians from their homes and moving them deeper into Cardassian State space. It also appears that a large portion of the populations are being sent to Romulan territory to act as supplementary labor."

"So, you're telling us that millions of people are being dragged from their homes at phaser point? On top of that crime against humanoidity, many of them will be used as slave labor on Romulus? Is that what you're trying to say?" Tigranian clarified.

"Yes Sir," Richey replied.

"Captain Tigranian," Mukwotho said forcefully. "You were asked here to observe this briefing. Not participate in it."

"Aye, Ma'am," Tigranian replied as Quan rubbed her eyes. "I'm sorry. The suffering of innocent people pisses me off. I like to call things how they are, not cover it up with flowery language."

"And please watch your language," Mukwotho added. "This is a professional environment."

"So this is Daniel Tigranian?" Dyoldas suddenly said.

"Yes Sir…" Mukwotho tried to explain. "I'm sorry for his outburst."

"Why, Admiral?" Dyoldas replied.

"Sir?" she said surprised.

"Why are you sorry that a Starfleet officer is showing genuine concern for the welfare of Cardassian families? Quite frankly, it's the most refreshing thing I've heard in the past month." Mukwotho was speechless. The legate turned to Tigranian.

"I especially didn't expect to hear it from a man with your reputation, Captain."

"Reputations are sometimes unwarranted, Legate," Tigranian replied.

"Is that so?" Dyoldas asked. "I suppose if a Starfleet officer, Klingon warrior, and husband of a Bajoran can express empathy for us," Dyoldas said turning to his staff, "there is hope for Cardassia after all." The other Cardassian officers laughed.

"I judge people by deeds, Sir," Tigranian clarified, "not by uniforms or nationality."

The other Starfleet officers nervously shifted as they realized that Tigranian had hijacked the entire meeting.

"And how do you judge me, Captain?" Dyoldas asked leaning on the table. "After all, I spent a few tours on Bajor in my forty years as a servant of Cardassia. Not to mention this little memento I received at the hands of the Klingons during the first war," he said pointing to his forehead.

"I judge you as a man who loves his country and would do anything to protect it. I also believe that seeing Cardassia split in two by foreign powers causes you more anger and pain that you are willing to admit to anyone."

The room fell dead silent.

"Jesus, Dan…" Annabeth whispered putting a hand over her face.

Dyoldas fell back into his seat.

"You are quite perceptive, Captain…" he said with a deep breath, "…and you are right. The reason I stay in this uniform is the hope that one day Cardassia will again be one. I don't know if I'll live to see it, I don't know if my children will live to see it, but perhaps my grandchildren will.

And those being 'forcibly relocated'," Dyoldas said glancing towards Richey, "are as much Cardassian as I am. Under the Republican Constitution, each one of them is a Republic citizen being held hostage by a foreign power. Unfortunately, I find myself in the disgraceful position that I cannot rescue them. I don't even have the ships to spare to look the Cardassian State collaborators in the eye as they sell their birthright in exchange for another day of life," he suddenly turned to Mukwotho, "but you might..."

He leaned over and whispered into the Admiral's ear. She briefly shut her eyes and then opened them again.

"Owing to the new found…confidence…that Legate Mukwotho has in the abilities of Captain Tigranian and Captain Quan," she began. The Pershing will proceed to the Lissek System. The Nelson will move to the Warlan system. Your jobs will be to show the Cardassian State that we are aware of what they are doing, and have the ability to respond if they violate Republic Territory. The bulk of the Triple Alliance fleets will move to defensive positions along the border to respond to any larger aggression. However, let me be clear, Captain Tigranian, Captain Quan, you are neither to violate Cardassian State Territory nor fire unless fired upon. Am I clear?"

"Yes Ma'am!" Tigranian and Quan said in unison. Mukwotho flashed another look in Tigranian's direction. "Before we continue this briefing," the Vice Admiral added, "I request that we hold all other questions and comments until the end. Commander Richey, please go on."

Quan looked like she wanted to reach over and punch Tigranian in the face.

"I think they're mad at you, Dan," Annabeth whispered into her captain's ear.

"Is it something I said?" he whispered back sarcastically. She literally put a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing.

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