Lissek System: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border
The Pershing dropped out of warp just inside the Military Demarcation Line, or MDL in Starfleet memos. It was the invisible line in space dividing the two Cardassias. Less than ten AU away, the Cardassian State fleet was already hard at work. Five Galor Class cruisers ringed the fourth planet of the system. Two D'Deridex Romulan warbirds hung in space a few thousand kilometers behind and observed the chaos. Tigranian rubbed his chin as he realized they were probably dispatched in case one Starfleet showed up.
"I'm here now, you green-blooded bastards," he thought to himself. "Get a good look."
The Cardassians were marshalling civilian craft of all types and sizes into long convoys. Most were pointed on a heading that led deeper into Cardassian State Space. Two unfortunate groups were pointed in a direction that would lead them on a path towards the Romulan Star Empire.
Tigranian looked over from his chair towards Annabeth.
"Phil," Annabeth said from the first officer's chair after a deep breath. "Keep us at least 10,000 kilometers from the border. We don't want to get sucked into that shitshow by accident."
"Aye, Ma'am," he replied from the helm.
"By the Prophets," Laria muttered from the science station. "It's just like Bajor 30 years ago. We fought a war, but nothing has changed."
"Quite a bit has changed, L," Annabeth said. "Now, at least half of Cardassia is free and the other half is merely murdering itself."
Tigranian ignored the exchange as he rose to his feet.
"Katie," he said staring at the scene unfolding on the viewscreen, "Put civilian subspace frequency 327.90 on audio."
"Aye Sir," Katie replied pressing her controls.
"Attention, Residents of Lissek," a Cardassian voice echoed across the bridge. "This is a mandatory evacuation order issued by the People's Central Command of the Cardassian State. You are in danger of attack by Imperialist Forces of the United Federation of Planets and their collaborators in the Republic of Cardassia. You will be resettled on safer worlds deeper inside Cardassian State Space. Report to your evacuation stations with the prescribed packing list and your identification data rods.
Citizens selected for the Romulan-Cardassian Labor Exchange Program, will report to designated muster points immediately. Families are not authorized to accompany those selected for the Labor Exchange. Failure to report by your designated muster time will result in criminal penalties for both the offender and the offender's family members.
Our Romulan allies are here to assist you. Treat them with respect."
The message repeated.
"Turn it off," Tigranian said collapsing back into his chair. He felt absolutely powerless. His orders only authorized him to sit back and watch the horror unfolding in front of him.
"What can we do?" Annabeth asked softly looking towards him.
"There's nothing we can do," Tigranian replied steepling his fingers.
Suddenly, a Cardassian civilian transport broke ranks from one of the Romulus bound convoys. They blasted their impulse engines at full power in a desperate bid to get across the border to the Republic.
Tigranian and Annabeth jumped from their seats.
"Red Alert!" Tigranian shouted. "Weapons may start flying from that direction. I wanna be ready."
"Aye, Sir," Katie shouted as alarms echoed across the entire ship. The captain's instincts proved correct. One of the Galor class cruisers about faced and raced towards the offending ship.
"C'mon! C'mon!" Tigranian shouted at the viewscreen. If the ship made it across the border, they would be safe. If they were caught, he didn't want to watch the results.
The tiny, overloaded Cardassian freighter nearly ripped itself apart, but it managed to reach the MDL and cross into Republic space just in time. The bridge crew was about to let out a cheer, but to their horror, the Galor cruiser shot a yellow tractor beam from its bow. It grabbed the tiny vessel and held it fast. The Pershing was now witness to a terrifying tug-of-war where the freighter was fighting with all it's might to stay in freedom, but the Cardassian State cruiser was trying to pull it back across.
"Laria," Tigranian said desperately. "I need an EXACT position of those ships."
"Confirmed," she said quickly. "The freighter is twenty kilometers on our side, but the Cardassian ship is still thirty kilometers inside State space.
"Qu'vatlh!" Tigranian shouted in total frustration. "Katie, open a channel to the Cardassian Ship."
"Open Sir," she replied.
"Cardassian State Vessel, you are projecting an unauthorized tractor beam over the Military Demarcation Line in violation of the Non-Aggression Pact. Deactivate it immediately!"
"No response, Sir," Katie said.
"Sir," Laria jumped in. "The Galor has increased power to its tractor beam. The freighter's structural integrity field is going critical. They'll be ripped to pieces in less than thirty seconds."
Tigranian turned to the screen. External bulkheads and hull ruptures started forming across the tiny freighter's hull as they struggled to break free of their pursuers. The Galor began to reel them back towards their side of the border.
"Sir," Katie said. "Receiving a transmission from the freighter." She put it on speakers before the captain asked.
"Federation starship! Please help us!" its captain pleaded in total desperation. "They're sending us to Romulus to die! They're sending us…"
The transmission abruptly disconnected.
Tigranian looked around the bridge at the faces of his officers. Finally, he spoke.
"Computer, make note in the ship's log. The actions of which I am about to undertake are my responsibility and mine alone. Begin recording holographic visual record file with all concurrent sensor data on flight data recorder from this mark. Authorization, Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango. Mark."
"Acknowledged," the computer replied. The color drained from Annabeth's face. She knew the captain would only give that command if he was about to do something that could get him arrested.
"Katie," Tigranian said. "Lock phasers onto the source of the Cardassian's tractor beam and fire.
"Aye Sir," she replied with a deep breath. An orange beam shot out from the Pershing's saucer and slammed into the tractor emitter on the Galor. The Cardassian shipped lurched and drifted away as the freighter broke free and zoomed safely out of reach.
"Good shooting, Katie!" Tigranian shouted, but his elation was short lived. Explosions began bursting through the Galor's hull.
"Sir!" Laria shouted. "The Cardassian's structural field has completely destabilized. They were pouring so much power into their tractor emitters, that the phaser hit created a feedback loop."
In an instant, the Galor exploded into massive fireball.
"Survivors?" Tigranian asked. Laria only shook her head.
Immediately, panic rushed through the other Cardassian ships which thought the weapons fire was the start of a larger Starfleet attack. They broke and ran deeper into State space. The long lines of civilian craft saw their opportunity to flee. Most ran away from the border, but a few took the chance to join the other freighter in the safety of the Republic. They gunned their engines and attempted their own runs towards freedom.
Immediately, the two D'Deridex warbirds jumped into action. They flew towards the helpless, fleeing ships. In a matter of seconds, a hail of green disruptor blasts turned their poor occupants into nothing but ionized vapor.
"No!" Tigranian shouted as his heart filled with rage. The two warbirds armed their plasma torpedoes which caused their fearsome, beaked noses to glow bright green. "Katie, lock all weapons on the Romulans. If they move to engage, fire everything we have!"
Then, as quickly as it began, the two Romulan vessels disappeared behind their cloaking shields. The Pershing was alone in space staring out a huge field of glowing debris. Until one minute, it was a small fleet of ships and their innocent passengers. Now, it was a monument to an atrocity.
Tigranian clenched his fists until blood ran from his palms. He tried to steady himself as he realized that shots had been fired, tens of thousands were dead, and the galaxy was now even closer to war. More horrifically, he realized that it was all his fault.