Interlude: Flashback One
Stardate 49039 (Earth year 2372): Two weeks after the First Battle of Deep Space 9
Six years earlier, Suran was the military liaison to the Senate. Shortly after the Klingon invasion of the Cardassian Union, Vreenak hired a new chief of staff, of whom Suran was suspicious. Tirak had been suggesting using the renewed hostilities between the Federation and the Klingon Empire as an opportunity to annex territory along the border between the Klingon and Romulan Empires. Suran and his Tal Shiar cohorts, on the other hand, believed that the time was not right after the failed Romulan-Cardassian attack on the Founders’ home planet.
As chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, Vreenak was a staunch supporter of Tal Shiar policy. However, the Tal Shiar had very limited information on Tirak. He had apparently just appeared on Romulus one day as an advisor to one of the most influential voices in the Senate.
The senator took a sip of his beverage when his comm-link chimed. “What is it, now?” he irately asked his receptionist.
“Senator, Tirak and Suran are waiting to see you,” a young woman replied.
“Send them in.”
Tirak and Suran tried to enter at the same time. Both of them bumped into the sides of the door. Tirak then slipped by. Suran rolled his eyes at the idea of having to work alongside this man. Suran had served Vreenak and other Senate veterans for nearly two decades. Tirak seemingly came from nowhere, although he was of advanced middle age like Suran.
“What do you have gentlemen?” the Senator asked.
Tirak placed a small briefcase on the desk and removed a padd. He used it to activate a holographic star map. It showed fleet deployments of both Romulan and Klingon forces symbolized by multiple logos of the two empires. Tirak pointed to a smaller Klingon Empire symbol at a sector on the border.
“The Tranome Sar sector remains highly vulnerable,” Tirak explained. “For years, the Klingons have kept it heavily fortified since our last engagement with them. Now it’s reduced to a few small squadrons with a large force now in Cardassian territory.”
“As I have reminded the Senate,” Suran countered, “any effort to annex even the outer star systems would still take a rather large fleet. Our supply lines would be spread rather thinly in the core systems.”
“I understand your skepticism, Commander,” Vreenak replied. “I agree that now is not the time for a major strike. I would suggest a few offensives: hit-and-run strikes to rattle the Klingons.”
The two officers exchanged silent gazes at one another. Tirak and Suran then looked to Vreenak nodding in agreement. Suran did not expect Tirak to relent so quickly after Tirak’s suggestion of being overly aggressive.
“I’ve had a long day,” said the senator begrudgingly. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take my leave of you now.”
“Of course, Senator,” Tirak replied.
Tirak quickly stepped out. Suran took small steps out of the office until Tirak was out of sight. “Senator, one other thing,” he then requested of Vreenak.
“What is it?” Vreenak impatiently demanded.
“With all due respect, sir, the Tal Shiar has little on this new chief-of-staff of yours. As you are on the Intelligence Committee, your detractors may see hiring this man to be… should I say, questionable judgment on your part.”
“I’m keeping a close eye on him.”
“That may not be enough. According to recent bulletins, the Federation starship equipped with one of our cloaking devices was seen uncloaking deep in Tzenkethi space before returning to its own territory.”
“What relevance does this incident have?”
“Our operatives in Tzenkethi space believe a Dominion spy was on that ship.”
Vreenak’s eyebrows twitched upward. The presence of Changeling infiltrators in the Romulan Star Empire was a definite possibility. After all, a Changeling derailed the attack on their homeworld by a combined Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order fleet.
“Watch his every move then,” Vreenak commanded. “Any hint of treachery on his part, eliminate him.”
“Yes, sir,” Suran eagerly replied.
Chancellor Gowron lay back in a chair in his private chamber, passed out from all the blood-wine he drank earlier that night. Despite having halted the invasion of the Cardassian Union, the Klingon Empire had achieved a major victory. Upon his return to Qo’Nos, Gowron had declared victory to protect his precarious position.
His snoring drowned out the sound of the doorbell. After the third ring, the chancellor blinked his eyes open. “Enter,” he called out sitting up straight.
Martok entered the chamber, once the large metallic doors parted. Unknown at the time, Gowron’s top military advisor had been replaced by a Changeling. The general’s doppelganger had pushed for an invasion of Cardassia based on false intelligence that the Dominion had clandestinely seized power there. The real Martok had not yet lost his right eye, so his replacement had accurately simulated both eyes.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you, Chancellor,” the general apologetically stated.
“Of course not,” Gowron replied, straightening his ceremonial robe. “Come in.”
“Our reconnaissance probes picked up growing Romulan activity along the border,” Martok reported, setting a padd down on the desk. “Tranome Sar is the most vulnerable.”
Gowron took a quick glance at the padd and scoffed. “They wish us to think they will attack Tranome Sar,” he mused. “Let the Romulans do what they wish for the time being.”
“Is that wise?” Martok inquired, gritting his teeth as best he could in order to emulate a Klingon.
“We expended a great deal of our forces to our last major victory. We cannot be too hasty with rumors of a Romulan threat.”
“Chancellor, with due deference, we cannot show our enemies weakness, especially the Romulans. Your declaration of victory against the Cardassians was political maneuvering, meaning you are still vulnerable. Your allies and enemies are waiting to see if you can handle the Federation and the Romulans.”
Gowron gave a wry grin. “How very true,” he replied. “Dispatch a squadron to launch a pre-emptive strike on their side of the border. Let the Romulans know we can threaten them like they can threaten us.”
Both men laughed. Of course, the Martok Changeling had achieved a completely separate objective. In retaliation for the aborted attack on his homeworld, he had hoped for the slaughter of as many Romulans as possible.
A Romulan trading post was nearly devoid of activity. A few freighters entered the station’s outer docking ports. The station and the ships were civilian owned, so their passengers and crews were not expecting any military activity. With no warning, two Klingon Birds-of-Prey decloaked. The two ships began firing disruptors at the station. The trading post had minimal defenses, so the Birds-of-Prey made quick work of it. The station quickly erupted in a large fireball.