“Put down the phaser.”
Worf removed the phaser from his holster. Across the catwalk on the upper level of the Enterprise-D’s engineering section, a Klingon Defense Force officer held a phaser to the engine core. He was one of two Klingon officers rescued from a derelict freighter. Korris and Konmel had then revealed to Worf that they had clung to the old ways and even destroyed a Klingon vessel dispatched to apprehend them. They had been taken aboard, and ship’s security later had placed them in custody for them to be turned over to Klingon authorities. They had soon escaped. Konmel was killed in an ensuring firefight, but Korris reached the engineering section and threatened to destroy the ship if he was not given the vessel’s star-drive module. He had then demanded to speak to Worf.
The Enterprise-D was in its first year of regular service, and Worf was serving his first year on board. For most of his life, he had been a Klingon living amongst humans. As a child not yet having reached the Age of Ascension, he had been orphaned following the Romulans’ massacre of the Khitomer outpost. He was adopted by Starfleet petty officer Sergey Rozhenko and his wife Helena. Upon reaching his eighteenth year, the age of consent for humans, he had enrolled in Starfleet Academy. He had rarely interacted with fellow Klingons in the intervening two decades. These two Klingons aboard Enterprise had stirred up desires in Worf that had been long suppressed. Worf had even failed to reveal these Klingons’ political views. He would come to regret his silence, yet he had thought then that he could keep quiet as long as these renegades did not harm any of the crew. With Korris now threatening to destroy the ship, his decision was obvious.
”Wait,” Korris gasped. “I do not believe this.”
"Believe it," Worf confidently stated, feeling in no way conflicted at the thought of having to shoot a fellow Klingon.
“I have tasted your heart,” Korris insisted, his arm trembling as he kept his aim at the warp core. “You have been with them, but you are still of us. Do not deny the challenge of your destiny. Get off your knees and soar. Open your eyes and let the dream take flight.”
”My brother, it is you who does not see. You look for battles in the wrong place. The test of the warrior is not without; it is within.” Indicating his heart, he continued, "Here, here we meet the challenge. It is the weaknesses in here a warrior must overcome."
"You have talked of glory and of conquest and legends we will write."
"Yes, the birthright of every Klingon."
"Yet in all you say, where are the words duty, honor, loyalty. Without which a warrior is nothing."
"What are you saying?" Korris asked, tiptoeing closer to Worf. “Living among these humans has sucked the Klingon heart out of you.”
"Put down the phaser," Worf once again demanded.
"You are a sham! My words were dust upon the ground. Your blood has no fire. You are weak like them. I don't care what you look like. You are no Klingon!"
"Perhaps not," Worf sneered, firing his phaser. Korris’s hulking figure then tore through the glass floor and he fell down on the main level.
It would not be the last time he had been forced to choose between the Federation and the Empire. “I am a Klingon,” he insisted to the Klingon officer who had temporarily served as 1701-D’s first officer as part of the Officer Exchange Program. “If you doubt it, a demonstration can be arranged.”
Kurn had then revealed himself as Worf’s younger brother. He wanted to be sure that Worf had the Klingon warrior instinct before enlisting his help in defending the family’s honor. Worf had later withdrawn the challenge to allegations that Mogh was the traitor at Khitomer to protect the corrupt and powerful House of Duras. More than a year later when Gowron was named chancellor, Worf had backed Gowron in exchange for the restoration of his family honor. He had even resigned from Starfleet to fight alongside Kurn in the ensuing civil war.
Worf would once again be ostracized when Chancellor Gowron had planned to invade Cardassia under false pretenses. Gowron had already withdrawn the Klingon Empire from the Khitomer Accords when he had asked Worf to join him. Worf summarily refused. Kurn had been dismissed from the High Council as a result of Worf’s defiance. And all of the House of Mogh was outcast once again.
“You regret,” Kurn hissed when he visited Deep Space Nine. “What’s next, Worf? Do you want to apologize to me? How many human weaknesses will you display?”
Rather than carry out the ritual killing of a family member, Worf had Doctor Bashir erase Kurn’s memory and provide him with a new identity. Kurn was now Rodek, son of Noggra and weapons officer of the Gorkon.
“Are you part of my family?” Rodek had asked Worf prior to his departure from DS9.
“I have no family,” Worf solemnly replied.
While the alliance between the Federation and the Empire was eventually restored and Worf was taken into the House of Martok, he was still no longer in Gowron’s good graces. That was most apparent when Gowron had taken over control of Klingon Defense Forces fighting in the Dominion War in a cowardly vendetta against Martok, a growing hero in the Empire. Gowron had sent Martok off into one unwinnable battle after another to humiliate his perceived rival.
“If you were a true Klingon,” Gowron said when Worf had finally spoken out against his dishonorable motives, “I would kill you where you stand. Fortunately, that child’s uniform shields you from your rightful fate.”
Worf ended up killing Gowron in honorable combat. Under tradition, that act made Worf the chancellor. He chose instead to instill that honor on Martok. Martok’s advancement to the chancellorship did spark another civil war after the Dominion War, which resulted in the destruction of the Great Hall and the deaths of many members of the High Council. While Martok and his supporters were victorious, this latest assassination attempt was an indication that the chancellor still had major enemies in the High Council.
Worf was on a quest to avenge his brother and see the cowards who had perpetrated this dishonor brought to justice. Still, he could not ignore that he was also a Federation ambassador seeking to influence Klingon politics. He then recalled what Ezri had said while still uncertain about whether to act against Gowron.
“How many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was for the good of the Empire? I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt.”
The sound of the doorbell to his VIP quarters interrupted Worf’s meditation. He stood up from his kneeling position and walked over to the entrance. “Enter,” he said.
The double doors parted and General Grelik stepped inside. He sauntered over to the desk, setting down a padd that contained crew duty rosters. Worf leaned forward to grab it, but Grelik yanked it back as he sat down. “The crew is willing to cooperate with your investigation,” the portly general said. “My question to you is whether you consider the investigation to be a conflict of interest. You have used your position as a Starfleet officer, and now as a Federation ambassador, to manipulate Klingon politics. I’m not too sure Starfleet and the Federation would be pleased if the situation was reversed.”
“Let me tell you, first of all, General,” Worf defensively replied, “that I am acting as a brother of the House of Martok, not as a representative of the Federation or Starfleet.”
“Of course,” Grelik answered, raising a hand. “Given your role in the installation of the last two chancellors, some of the crew who know your history and my contacts on the homeworld may believe you are again looking to advance a Federation agenda.”
“You can tell the crew and your contacts on Qo’Nos that I will not be using any Federation resources outside of the Embassy. And this is not about political manipulation. This is about seeing the cowards who ordered the assassination attempt brought to justice. They are as much to blame as the terrorists who carried out this disgrace. Someone on the Council had to have informed the Ku-Vok-leth of Martok’s trip to Deep Space Nine. And someone on this ship must have bypassed the security systems protecting the chancellor’s chambers.”
“That is why I will be questioning security and engineering personnel on duty at the time of the explosion. I would suggest you remain discreet.”
Worf rolled his eyes and snorted while he leaned back in his chair. He had initiated this investigation and he had explained his intentions to the captain of the Sword of Kahless. Grelik was still insisting that Worf maintain a low profile. Many in the Empire had suspected Worf of acting on Federation interests when he killed Duras, supported Gowron for the chancellorship, and then slew Gowron once he deemed him an unsuitable leader. Worf’s assassination of a sitting chancellor served as a rallying cry for various factions seeking to upstage Martok. The ends he had sought to achieve here and now was more of a matter of family honor than politics. Grelik surely had his own motives.
“You will keep me apprised of your findings though?” Worf asked.
“Of course,” Grelik obligingly replied, ascending from his chair. He slowly walked towards the door with a sinister grin on his face.
Sulvek handed off a work order padd to one of his engineers after he approved it with his thumb scan. Shortly after the chief engineer of the Sword of Kahless dismissed his subordinate, he noticed the lights had dimmed. The ship had just cloaked.
Sulvek walked over to the master situation console a few paces from the compartment’s main entrance. Entering commands on the console, he accessed information on the current power consumption. The readout on the screen indicated that all power outputs were nominal. He grinned as if he could carry out something he was planning without arousing anyone’s suspicions. With a few more commands, the readout screen highlighted power conduits hooked into the cloaking device on the three-dimensional display of the ship.
He headed for one of those power transfer conduits that was rerouting power from other systems to the cloaking device. He removed an access panel to reveal one of the power transfer conduits. He disconnected of the wires positioned horizontally across housing and plugged it into the socket on the top. He did the same with two other wires in the hope that would create a minor glitch in the cloak’s masking effect.
A rippling appeared across the cloaked Sword of Kahless from stern to bow. The rippling momentarily revealed the hull of the ship, which would have attracted the attention of any ship that might have been in sensor range.
The Valdore entered orbit of Nimbus Three. A few cargo shuttles and work bees were moving about the upper atmosphere of the planet. Nothing unusual. The Valdore assumed a low orbit near the planet’s southern magnetic pole as far away from the regular traffic as possible while continuing to run continuous active sensor sweeps of the planet’s surface.
Commander Donatra sat in the command chair nervously fiddling with a piece of metal with a gemstone in its center and staring at the viewscreen with the stoicism of a Vulcan. She took occasional glances at Subcommander Murot, while he patrolled the bridge. He hovered over the tactical officer, looking for any signs of apprehension from his commander.
“Hold this position,” Donatra told the youthful male pilot.
“Sensor status?” Murot asked, sauntering towards a port auxiliary station.
“Anything in orbit is a jumble on the sensors,” replied a senior uhlaan at a secondary sensor station. “I’m in the process of calibrating the lateral arrays for full sensor sweeps of the surface.”
Donatra turned to face the senior operations officer on her left. “Set the cloak’s power output at twenty percent of normal,” she told a young woman whose hair was arranged in a non-traditional, but still military-regulation compliant, coiffure.
The officer nodded in acknowledgement, while the order caught Murot off guard. He heard her mumbling, “If he’s following us, that should throw him off a little.”
“If who is following us?” Murot curiously inquired even though he knew she was referring to Suran.
“You needn’t concern yourself with that,” Donatra calmly replied. To the operations officer, she added, “Maintain full sensor sweeps and report any unusual subspace activities no matter how insignificant.”
Donatra then took a long look at the gemstone housed in the circular piece of metal in her right hand. It was part of a bracelet bearing the family crest of the House of t’Rllaillieu. To Donatra, it symbolized the efforts of her foremother Ael t’Rllaillieu to restore mnhei’sahe to the Star Empire. For nearly three centuries, the Romulan leadership had abandoned any semblance of its long-standing code of honor through proxy warfare and secret experiments with highly destructive weapons declared illegal in every interstellar treaty. It was a philosophy that resembled the Earth philosophies of hedonism and psychological egoism. A Romulan acted for the good of his or own honor. But such a concept was utterly meaningless if one was willing to act dishonorably for one’s own mnhei’sahe or for the Empire’s.
Her actions in the near future and those of her former mentor would determine the future of the Empire’s mnhei’sahe.
The Tiralihaan held station in the Nimbus system’s Oort cloud. On the bridge, Suran entered from a port egress. Subcommander Bralek was supervising the work of sensor technicians at two port auxiliary stations. He joined the commander, who seated himself in the command chair, to provide a status update.
“Sir, incoming standby message,” Bralek reported. “The Valdore has assumed orbit over the planet’s southern magnetic pole. The cloak is at partial effectiveness.”
“Interesting maneuver,” Suran mused aloud. Orbiting over a planet’s magnetic pole was a common maneuver to hide from sensors. So use of a cloaking device in that scenario was redundant. But with the Valdore’s cloak apparently only partially effective, Donatra must have known Suran was following her.
“That’s something I would try,” Bralek added. “What are your orders, Commander?”
“We’ll hold position here and monitor what she does.”