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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."


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