Star Trek Oblivion: Dark Hand of the Federation

 

Star Trek Oblivion:

 

Dark Hand of the Federation

 

Ernest Maestas

 

Contents:

 

  • Book One: Dark Hand of the Federation

 

  1. The Conquer of Cardassia Prime

  2. The Fall of The Romulan Empire

  3. Into Oblivion (The Destruction of the Breen)

  4. Bond of Blood (The Third Borg Invasion)

  5. The Taming of the Alpha Quadrant

 

  • Book Two: The Trail of Blood

 

  1. Resurrection of Fire (Second Dominion War)

  2. The Coming of Species 8472

  3. Cry of the So’na

  4. Dominion (Third Dominion War)

 

  • Book Three: Revelations

 

  1. Genesis

  2. Children of Eden

  3. War of Eternity

 

  • Book Four: Alpha and Omega

 

  1. Tears of the Beta Quadrant

  2. A Force of Nature (Conquer of the Delta Quadrant)

  3. Albatross (The Destruction of Species 8472)

  4. A Prayer for the Borg

  5. Continuum

 

 

This is the story of great things, which befell the Federation
beginning Three years after the encounter with the murderer of
Romulus: Shinzon. “Great things”…such phrases conjure in the
imagination magnificent triumphs amidst the tragic falling of heroes,
only to raise heroes anew to ultimate victory in the splendor of
righteousness. Oh yes, we had our victories, our heroes, tragedies,
and righteous splendor abound. But what have we? Six hundred years
after our final victory over “evil,” humanity stands on the abyss
of yet more chaos and carnage…unparalleled. After our splendor we
stand as master of Sol and his children, master of quadrant Alpha…a
memory; now only a vast black sea of putridity standing witness to
the foul decisions made by men. Yes, we are finally the masters of
the conglomerate of stars, insignificant, known as the Milky Way.

 

 

The Milky Way: a deceiving title given by men in days of innocence to
the rightful majesty of stars, space, and the yet unknown life of
centuries to come. With our chosen path now confronted, uttering or
even thinking such a name as pure as the Milky Way fills one with the
urge to vomit. We have disgraced her…my God, we have betrayed
her…and we cannot go back.

 

 

 

These were the days of secrets and the power of these secrets that
befell men. In theses days the ignorant fell to death. But there are
fates worse than death. Let it be known that humans were not the only
men who had their hand in this, there were others.

 

 

The foul deeds of foul men have birthed a horror greater than any
human has faced…ever. It is we. It is the days of torn flesh and
scorched eyes. I tear at my flesh, but I do not wake. I look through
the mirror darkly. Despite my hatred of these men and their choices,
it is too late for me to set the path right…I am among them.

 

 

There is always a beginning, and it started many, many years ago.
Rather than start at the beginning of history, I will tell it as it
was told to me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conquer of Cardassia
Prime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took ten years for the Cardassians of Cardassia Prime to
bury their dead. The carnage and destruction left by the Dominion at
the conclusion of their war against the Federation was on a level
never before experienced on Cardassia. The more than eight hundred
million Cardassian citizens that were murdered by the Fluid Ones left
the entire planet with the smell of death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Holocaust Cardassia

 

 

T

1

he Cardassian home world is unique among the desert planets.
Unlike the arid climates of Vulcan or Qo’Nos, or the deserts found
on Earth or Romulus, the Cardassian desert is mild.

 

 

The gentle sands of Cardassia Prime are by far the most pleasant in
the known galaxy. The irony is that “off-worlders” can only
handle several days of the Cardassian climate before falling ill. The
illness is moderate, but it presents a problem for the intelligence
services of the major Alpha Quadrant powers. For the Obsidian Order,
the climate was a blessing as all Cardassians get the illness at two
years of age, and therefore an adult contracting the illness is a
sure sign of infiltration. Rather than spend the time it will take to
send someone to five deserts on Earth, two on Qo’Nos, and one year
on Vulcan, the Federation decided that bribery was easier and a
lesser security risk than sending operatives all over the quadrant
for training.

 

Cardassians are a congenial species by nature despite their innate
affinity for deceit. There are only a few topics that Cardassians
take seriously and chief among them are spy craft, politics, and
death. One would think that war would be at least in the top five,
however Cardassians traditionally view war with contempt; for it is
better to ruse an enemy into seeing your point of view than it is to
force him to do your will. Trickery takes more skill. And when you
have species like the ultra-simplistic Gorn preferring power to skill
it only goes to support this idea.

 

But recent attitudes changed all that. With a change in government
came a new perspective. With this new perspective came the Dominion
and disaster. The Dominion War (The Crusade of Redemption) was taxing
on many levels: first, Cardassians are an exceptionally proud
species. They do not do well to believe that they need allies, much
less a savior during combat, however they were in a spiritual crisis
as of late. In the century preceding the Dominion War they had
suffered several serious defeats. The most humiliating was “The
Crusade of Purity” (the first war between the Humans and Cardassia)
in which the Cardassians set to drive the humans back to Earth. Many
species view Humans with contempt; they gallivant through the
universe as if by divine right taking little care to the presence of
others.

 

Humans are especially disliked on Cardassia Prime not only for their
politics, but also for their repugnant biology. Cardassians take
tremendous pride in their direct lineage to the seas of their planet,
for their ancestors came out of the sea not too dissimilar from the
modern day Cardassian. It is believed that the first land-dwelling
Cardassians were highly intelligent amphibians that took advantage of
the vast emptiness of the continents and thrived. What would one
expect? Over the millions of years the magnificent form of the
Cardassian was refined; transforming from a diverse amphibian to a
durable land-dwelling reptile and finally into the biped now in
existence. They do not view their evolution as broken, but a smooth
and continuous transformation from one phenotype to another with the
genetics remaining almost exactly as it was millions of years ago.
Humans however, are viewed as an accident; a rodent with rogue
genetics. Their broken and disjointed ancestry only states the
obvious: humans should not exist and the universe will eventually
correct this aberration, and until that event occurs the Cardassians
wanted no more of the Humans.

 

But it seemed as if divine right was with the Humans after all. These
genetic “accidents” soundly defeated the Cardassian war machine.
No matter how the Cardassians plotted and maneuvered, the Humans
always turned the tide. Eventually the Cardassians sued for peace,
with less territory than they started with. Suffering defeat at the
hands of such disgusting creatures left many with unsavory questions,
and even worse answers.

 

Then there are the Klingons. One conversation with a Klingon and any
Cardassian will say: “No wonder they ally themselves with the
Humans.” Cardassians don’t know what to think of the Klingons
when viewed in terms of universal evolution. A common saying on
Cardassia: “No system is perfect, just look at a Klingon.” But
once again the Cardassians were defeated. Not just defeated, these
vicious worm-eating savages crushed their military like an aardvark
destroys an ant colony. The final insult was the rescue of the
Cardassian High Command and governmental leadership from the Klingon
forces by, of all sources, the Humans. These tree-swinging,
space-faring mutations once again “accidentally” did the
impossible.

 

The only way out of this humiliation was the Fluid Ones and their
walking lab-rats: the Jem’Hadar. How did it come to this? The
Cardassians had always taken care of themselves and generally minded
their own business. But an expansionist policy set forth by the new
military government had broken many taboos. They wanted space, they
wanted wealth, and they wanted power. Conquering their own planet
wasn’t enough, they had to tempt the Gods and prove to the universe
that the Cardassian was master of all.

 

It began with the annexation of Bajor. Close to the Cardassian
border, the Bajorans suffered only from looking like Humans and from
not having a military strong enough to defend themselves against a
sizable and hostile power like the Cardassians. The Cardassians came.
They came with ships. They came with troops. They brought death. They
brought misery. Their gigantic fleet was so numerous that the Bajoran
citizens mistook the sudden decrease in sunlight for high
clouds…until the attack began. Running for cover, citizens found
themselves in the very structures that would entomb them; for the
Cardassians were intent on destroying all evidence of the Bajoran
culture and rebuilding in the likeness of Cardassia Prime. Spiritual
leaders knelt down where they stood, extending their arms to the
heavens; calling for their Gods to intervene. There was only silence.
The Bajorans, a peaceful and enlightened culture, was now in ruins.
Their centers of learned thought and institutes of scientific
discovery turned to rubble.

 

It is unknown how many Bajorans died during the seven days of the
attack, but estimates place the dead at 30 million with millions more
to die during the Cardassian occupation. Most of the rest that had
survived the onslaught had been forced to live elsewhere. Those that
remained were sentenced to a living death: enslavement. Despite a
friendly and powerful human presence at the end of the occupation,
many Bajorans would not return. The Bajoran paradise that had
flourished was gone. Only ashes of the dead and dust of the once
vibrant civilization remained. Even worse, those that were left
behind on Bajor and lived to see its eventual emancipation were no
longer recognizable as Bajorans. They were in Death Stasis:
the state that exists when the soul has been destroyed but the body
remains. To see their once lively and happy friends and relatives in
such a state was more painful than thinking they were dead. In those
early days of Bajoran Independence it was common for relatives to
kill their loved ones when re-united. Parents that didn’t disown
their children would drown them in the Lake of the Prophets. To stop
these executions Federation troops had to intervene, and no travelers
were allowed to Bajor until the Bajoran spiritual leader ordered that
these “mercy killings” cease. Of the 2.7 billion on Bajor prior
to the invasion, only 274 million remained by the time the Humans
took over the Cardassian space station orbiting the planet.

 

From the annexation of Bajor, the new and aggressive policies of the
Cardassian military would eventually lead to war with the Humans. The
Federation however, was a more challenging adversary that
anticipated. The Humans were tough, skilled, and shrewd. Unlike the
Bajorans, the Humans reacted quickly, as if hungry for a fight. Their
ships were broad and powerful. Stories began to filter throughout the
Cardassian fleet telling that Humans would often smile while engaging
in face-to-face combat, almost in ecstasy. During the Battle of
Lyshan (Lyshan star system), the Cardassians attacked a Federation
fleet less than half its own size. Gaining the initiative instantly
by charging out of a nebula, the Cardassians expected to destroy or
capture a third of the Federation fleet. Unknown to the Cardassians,
the Federation fleet was comprised of surviving loved ones of those
killed at the massacre of Setlik III including the Task Force
Commander (Task Force Baker). The Federation Commander (Captain
Maxwell) ordered the fleet to charge. The Cardassians were not
expecting such a maneuver and immediately halted their advance in an
attempt to form defensive lines. Concentrating their forces densely
along a narrow front, the Federation ships held their fire until at
point-blank range, fragmenting the Cardassian center. Advancing at
full impulse rather than the usual half impulse battle speed, the
Federation caught the Cardassians off guard. The Cardassians were
further confounded by the Federation’s apparent disregard for its
flanks while on the offensive.

 

Once inside the Cardassian lines, the Federation was able to
establish a “pivoting ground” and smashed the Cardassian fleet
from the defense interior. Of the 97 Cardassian ships, 4 escaped. The
Federation lost only seven vessels, including two that were scuttled.
This battle was horrifying, and dealt a serious blow to the
Cardassian war effort. With divisions springing up all over the
Cardassian command spectrum over the continuance of the war, the
Federation was able to gain victory after victory. When the
Federation was to act as peacekeepers on the Cardassian station
orbiting Bajor (renamed Deep Space Nine) the Cardassian High Command
considered reigniting hostilities with the Federation. The Cardassian
populace however, did not want another war with the Humans, so the
High Command acquiesced.

 

But then came the Klingons. Chancellor Galron had to be the most
ambitious and glory seeking leader in the Alpha Quadrant; and that’s
saying a lot. His paranoia that the Cardassian Government was taken
over by the Dominion was an act (ironically, it would prove partially
correct and uncannily prophetic). The Klingon fleet sent in its heavy
cruisers first; destroying every outpost along the Klingon-Cardassian
border. Then, sixteen light-years inside Cardassian space, the main
battle unfolded. The Klingon Imperial Fleet of Kahless attacked a
task force comprised of Obsidian Order remnants and the Fleet of the
3rd Gul. Committing a very serious error, the Cardassians
had placed their heavy cruisers and battleships in the center,
remembering their lesson learned by the Federation. This time,
however the battle wasn’t fast. On this day the Klingons were to
exact Kar Gugh, “slow pain1”
and attack the Cardassian fleet ship for ship. The Klingons
immediately noticed that the Cardassian flanks were manned by light
cruisers and medium destroyers and sent all their heavy cruisers in
one concentrated blow on the Cardassian left flank. The line buckled
instantly, turning the Cardassian flank. Up the center, the Klingons
sent their battleships, light and medium cruisers and destroyers, and
scout class vessels to engage the heavy elements of the Cardassians.
To guard the Klingon left flank, the Klingon Commander ordered all
heavy destroyers in place. The Cardassians made a second error;
during their lost battle with Task Force Baker, the Cardassian
Commander deepened their defensive lines to absorb the fast moving
Federation fleet. The increased depth of the lines only allowed the
Federation to better maneuver against their enemy and prohibited the
Cardassians from concentrating their firepower. This time the
Cardassian Commander condensed the lines. The problem now was that
the Cardassians couldn’t counter-maneuver against the Klingon
tactics. This miscalculation manifested at the Cardassian center:
when the Cardassians attempted to destroy a Klingon battleship, it
would charge its attacker when near destruction, destroying them
both. The tightly sewn Cardassian lines left the ships unable to
evade the death ram of a dying Klingon ship. Eventually, the lighter,
faster Klingon cruisers were able to out maneuver the Cardassian
heavy ships, and with the Klingon heavy destroyers now grinding the
Cardassians on the Cardassian right flank, successfully execute a
pincer maneuver and destroy the remainder of the Cardassian fleet.
The Klingons completely out-matched the Cardassians. For the
Cardassians, all was despair. The Klingons didn’t event bother to
board the broken Cardassian ships. With the main Cardassian fleet
smashed the Klingons were going to strain Cardassia Prime of all its
blood. If it wasn’t for the humans, the Cardassians would be
nothing more than a Klingon Victory Song. But again, being rescued by
a vile and disgusting Human was almost worse than death, and
Cardassia Prime couldn’t take it anymore.

 

So, when Gul Dukat informed the besieged High Command that he was
able to contact the Dominion for assistance, they listened. Dukat’s
plan was to use the numerical superiority of the Dominion to drive
the Klingons from Cardassian space. Once that was accomplished, the
new allies could set on finishing an old plan and set divine
providence right. However Dukat knew that most of the High Command
and the entirety of the civilian government would never agree to
invade the Klingon Empire much less the Federation and the Alpha
Quadrant. Dukat also knew the Klingons and the Federation would
resolve any issues and fight together; and there was a good
possibility that the Romulans would enter the war as an enemy as
well. Because of the possibility of a tri-partite alliance against
Cardassia, the High Command and Cardassian Civil Government would
shrink from the idea of war. For Dukat, the answer to this problem
was simple: get rid of the civilian leaders and take over the
military. To accomplish this task Gul Dukat needed to convince the
Dominion to put him in charge of Cardassia once their forces arrived
and to his naivety they agreed wholeheartedly.

 

Gul Dukat went to work on his plan, believing that he was fooling
everyone including the Dominion. The Dominion could handle the allied
powers, but it would be costly. He would see to it that the
Cardassians suffered few losses and when the war was over and the
Klingon and Federation militaries destroyed, the Cardassians would
unleash their full might against a weak and battered Dominion ally,
driving them from the Alpha Quadrant that they would now be in a
position to control. Gul Dukat had no idea that the Dominion already
calculated this possibility and was planning to do the same to
Cardassia. Dukat could not have known that they already had a
powerful ally inside the Alpha Quadrant that had been making
preparations for the last year. The timetable was set.

 

The Dominion War began at the Federation outpost, Deep Space Nine.
The Great Redemption had begun. No longer would the evolutionarily
superior Cardassians have to tolerate the humiliation of being a
second rate power to genetic waste. They would crush the Humans and
murder2
the Klingons and then move to claim all the Alpha Quadrant. Cardassia
would bask in the glory of their superiority.

 

But that’s not what happened. The Humans once again turned certain
doom to victory. Cardassia and the Dominion were losing despite their
numerical superiority, superior strategy, ships, and technology. They
didn’t know how it could be happening. Even with the tripartite
alliance of the Federation, Klingons, and the Romulans, the
Dominion-Cardassia Axis still out gunned the Allies 3-1. It was
evident that the Humans were gaining assistance from an unseen power.
The Cardassians knew it but did not have proof. Even the Fluid Ones
were whispering in fear.

 

Things went from bad to worse when the Breen entered the war. At
first believed to be a blessing to turn the balance of power, it soon
became apparent that the Dominion never took their relationship with
the Cardassians seriously. At this point Dukat was out of the
picture; hunted by every major power in the Alpha Quadrant. Damar was
placed in power and he and the Cardassian High Command began to
panic. What would the Dominion do to them when the war was over? It
was becoming increasingly more clear that the Dominion hated “solids”
and for the Cardassians that meant subjugation. Why did the Dominion
view the Breen differently? From the beginning the Dominion treated
the Breen as old friends. Further, the Breen behaved as if they
worshiped the Fluid Ones. There was a lucid sort of reverence that
the Breen displayed towards the Founders, and it made the Cardassians
uncomfortable.

 

The Breen brought victory early on, using their shield disruptors on
the Federation and Romulan vessels, allowing the Dominion Axis ships
to easily destroy the Federation allied starships. The only exception
was the Klingon vessels. Publicly, the Klingons maintained that
incidental modifications had been made to the warp cores of their
vessels that rendered the Klingon ships immune to the Breen weapons.
However, many suspected a different answer. Because the Klingons were
impervious to these devises, the Axis powers hesitated to press their
advantage, which gave the Federation time to resolve the lapse in
technology. It was no accident that the Federation found a solution,
and although the Federation maintained publicly that essential
information regarding the systems was provided by the Cardassian
Resistance, the solution was obtained by another source.

 

What ever the cause may have been, the Axis powers lost the war. The
nail in the coffin for the Dominion Axis was the turning of the
Cardassians to the side of the Federation Alliance. This occurred in
two stages: first the Cardassians formed a resistance movement under
the acting Cardassian leader, Damar. Damar was aware that the
Dominion would react strongly to an insurrection; however he expected
that the reaction would be a silent one. Stage two was supposed
to be the slow incorporation of field commanders and Fleet Guls into
the resistance. Once that occurred, the military could revolt at an
engagement near the Romulan border that was scheduled the following
year. It was to be a major battle, said by the Dominion to “pull
the mask off” of the hidden hand behind the Federation’s
continuing power. To prevent a Dominion victory, the Cardassian
Liberation Front would move slow and quiet, like they believed the
Dominion would do. But the Dominion made a serious error. Giving into
their cruelty, the Dominion decided to pull off their own mask and
show the Cardassians what was truly in store for them. In response to
recent Resistance activity, the Dominion attacked Lakarian City
killing 2 million of the 2.2 million residents. The rest were badly
wounded: burned by the Breen energy weapons given to the Dominion. In
Lakarian City…

 

***

 

 

The residents of Lakarian City awoke to the splendor of the
Cardassian morning sun as they always did: a soft morning hymn for
Cardassia, the warriors, and the dead; and then a swim of
purification. The purification was probably the most important part
of a Cardassian’s day. Cardassian purification pools are usually
located at the center of the dwelling in a courtyard. The pool is
constructed, like all Cardassian structures, from smooth, brown,
sandy stone. The water, just perfectly warm for a human, is
refreshingly cool to a Cardassian. Completely naked, Cardassian
females are the first to swim, followed by the children, and then the
males. If there is a reason for the order of purification, it was
forgotten long ago. Following the morning purification is breakfast
or the tasks of the day. On this day however the Dominion arrived in
the skies over Lakarian City after the morning purification.

 

The sun rises in the West (called the Stellar Pillar of the Ancestors
marking the direction that signifies the ancestors rise out of the
sea), and every Cardassian takes just a second each day to face that
direction to pay tribute. But on this day of infamy, when the
Cardassians walked out of their homes, they saw a splendor high on
the horizon in the East (called the Stellar Pillar of Conversion
marking the direction that signifies one’s transformation into the
life hereafter): a glowing ball of blue and green fire, which
appeared brighter and larger than the majestic Cardassian sun.
Curious at first, the citizens soon became horrified as the low
rumble and soft tremble of the ground turned into a roar that shook
the ground with such force that many citizens were thrown several
feet into the air. The sky went from the usual bright
yellowish-orange to a shadowy blue-green. The air hissed with the
heat emanating from the impending doom. The fireball was so massive
and dense that it distorted gravity at ground zero. Just before the
weapon detonated citizens were pulled off the ground towards the
fire. Then the device exploded. The fire consumed the city with such
ferocity that the fire was as a great dust storm. Fire literally
rained from the explosion at temperatures near that of burning
phosphorus. Visibility was less than two feet; a fact that bares
little significance since all who were outside were instantly turned
to ashes. The intense heat of the air killed those who were inside
buildings strong enough to resist the explosion, and had not yet been
penetrated by fire. Many who survived spoke of seeing fire in the
mouths of others as they attempted to breath. The fire burned so
intensely from the explosion that the air was being devoured. A large
portion of the population suffocated, and others exploded from the
inside out due to the sudden displacement of atmospheric pressure.
For one hundred kilometers outside the blast radius the atmosphere
caught fire killing everyone within it. Only one man was completely
uninjured by the blast, and his story is ironic if not farcical3.

 

Lakarian City was like most Cardassian cities: large metropolitan
centers that were surprisingly relaxed surrounded by large farming
communities. Cardassians are unusual in that they don’t care to
become overly imaginative with their architecture. Made of sandstone,
the buildings are generally rectangular and use the preferred earth
tones for color. Their buildings are far simpler than those found on
Earth or Romulus; however this does not suggest that Cardassians do
not take pride in their work. Nor does it suggest that the simplicity
of Cardassian architecture is less attractive; quite the contrary.
Cardassian architecture is among the most beautiful to be found
anywhere in the Quadrant.

 

At the center of Lakarian City was the Provincial Division of
Security located in the City Security Building, also home to the
constabulary forces. In the basement of the City Security Building a
citizen suspected of working for the Resistance was being tortured
for information. Because he may have known the whereabouts of Damar,
a Founder took charge of the interrogation personally. The Cardassian
citizen was to endure the Drowning: a particularly heinous way
to die as the victim is slowly drowned when a changeling turns
to its gelatinous form and pulls the victim into him. Because the
changelings can control the movement of particles through their
bodies, they can set the rate of oxygen absorption. For this citizen,
he was repeatedly deprived of oxygen to the point where he would gasp
for air and take in only the gelatin. The gelatin is harsh on the
lungs and is extremely painful. Because the changeling can set the
oxygen flow, the victim was getting only enough oxygen to keep him
gasping, but alive. This lasted eight hours. Trying to bait the
changeling to kill him the citizen refused to answer questions after
the first pain session and was in the start of another eight-hour
jaunt when the weapon detonated. The Founders did not know that one
of their own was in Lakarian City as he was trying to penetrate the
Resistance and was acting as a deep operative. His last reported
location was 270 kilometers to the north of Lakarian City, well into
the safety zone. The changeling only went to Lakarian City to capture
this citizen, torture and kill him, then assume his identity. He was
not to be more than two days. When the weapon detonated the air began
to burn. The Jem’Hadar guards were killed when the “White”
(their psychological enhancement narcotic) boiled in their bodies.
The changeling began to dry out and turned into a form of silicone,
protecting the torture victim’s body from the heat. The dense
structure of the changeling also protected the citizen from the
sudden atmospheric pressure change. Further, because he had gelatin
in his lungs he was sustained long enough for the air temperature to
cool. This was possible because as the changeling was drying out from
the heat, the oxygen was pushed into non-silicone regions and
eventually all the oxygen was pushed into the gel that remained in
the victim’s lungs. Due to the slow exchange rate of gelatin across
the lungs, coupled with the high oxygen content, the citizen lived
for three hours at which time he broke free.

 

 

The sudden ferocity of the attack on the Cardassian city was both
horrifying and a saving grace. The 2 million dead at Lakarian City
sent a war cry throughout the Cardassian military unlike any that had
been heard in generations. The military turned instantly. Fortunately
for the Federation Alliance, the sedition occurred during the Battle
of Cardassia, saving Captain Sisko, Commander of Deep Space Nine and
the USS Defiant. Fortunately for the Cardassians, the
Federation forgave all and welcomed the added firepower: the
Cardassians were saved, or so they believed.

 

With the Cardassians turning, the Dominion and the Breen knew that
the war was lost. But this war was far from over; they would fight to
the last man if they had to. The Founders would simply not allow one
of their own to stay with the Humans. The changeling Odo, also the
Chief of Station Security at Deep Space Nine, had chosen to disavow
his heritage with the Founders and live as a “solid.” Odo’s
choice infuriated the Fluid Ones; however they did not judge him too
harshly for he could not know the truth regarding the Humans and the
others. The Founders wanted to tell him, but they could not. What if
he told the Humans? What would happen to the Great Event that was to
come? The solids must never know; if they found out, all could be
lost.

 

The Dominion and the Breen reaffirmed their pact and set to work on
their plan for the next war. Once the plans were prepared key figures
of both empires left the quadrant and waited. The rest would continue
their fight against the Humans and go to work on decimating the
Cardassian population. They knew that they had lost this war
regardless and with the next war to come soon they decided that it
was better to have one less race to fight. With that decision made,
the Breen unleashed a series of energy weapons like those used on
Lakarian City, called “Tears of the Sun.” The energy weapons were
used on many of Cardassia’s largest cities, its political and
military centers, as well as their centers of thought and religion.

 

Simultaneously, the Jem’Hadar activated disintegration facilities
in the lesser-populated areas and seized as many women and children
as they could for disposal. The disintegration centers were large
rectangular flat grey concrete-like buildings that were longer than
they were tall with no windows and one large rustic metal door in
front. Inside were a series of conveyor belt- like devices that were
large enough to move cargo and even…people. Each belt had its own
corridor that was independently constructed inside the facility. The
path was long, dark, and quiet.

 

Women and children were ripped apart from each other, bound and
blindfolded. On the conveyor belts they would stand as it moved them
along at a walking pace. At the end of the conveyor belt was a huge
cylindrical pit, forty meters deep, in which its walls were actually
a generator that ran continuous matter-antimatter reactions. The
conveyor belt would reach its end, regurgitating its cargo into the
abyss. The horrifying screams of the Cardassian women and children
would be heard until they hit the antimatter where the screams would
cease to an equally horrifying silence.

 

The men were handled differently: they would be either lined up and
shot with disruptors or taken to cliffs outside the towns and thrown
off. The Cardassian women and children were forced to watch. Through
their very efficient study of Cardassian culture, the Founders
realized that Cardassian females would achieve near maximum fear by
watching their mates being executed, as they would be forced to
wonder what was to happen next. As expected, mothers clutched their
children. The Founders would separate the mothers from these children
and place them in separate conveyor systems. There, in the dark
passageway of the conveyor belts, the Cardassian mothers would
receive their greatest torment by their own horrific imagination. The
males on the other hand, experienced the last moment of their lives
in absolute terror as they were to be executed in a brutal
environment controlled the enemy without knowing what was to be the
fate of their loved ones.

 

The Cardassian landscape was forever changed. Not only scarred by
weapons, but by blood and pain; and the Cardassians renamed the great
features of their planet to reflect their suffering. A mountain in
one of the southern regions boasted the most majestic cliffs on the
planet. Once called The Perspective of the Ancestors, it was renamed
The Echo of Sorrow after ten thousand Cardassian men were bound and
pushed 1446 meters to their deaths.

 

As for the Resistance, Damar was killed while conducting dissident
activities against the Dominion. His death was a shock to the
Cardassian Resistance and it nearly disintegrated. However a young
man by the name of Reegan, a Cardassian intelligence officer, took up
the cause. Reegan had been the central point of contact for Damar.
Their relationship had grown strong during the course of the Dominion
War, and upon Damar’s death, Reegan’s loyalty to his friend drove
him to carry on the cause…

 

 

By the time Cardassia was handed over to the Federation at the
cessation of hostilities, 803 million Cardassian citizens would be
gone. This was one-fifth the population of Cardassia Prime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post War Cardassia

 

 

W

2

ith the Cardassians looking upon their own beloved, rotting in
the heat of the Cardassian summer, many believed that the Gods had
punished their race for the sin of pride. The Cardassians hadn’t
given much thought to the divine powers of the universe since the
military government took over.

 

 

Because of the economic hardships that persisted on Cardassia Prime
prior to the take over, the ending of such conditions brought about
by the military government trumped all other considerations. It
wasn’t the Gods or prayer that saved Cardassia, it was the stern
hand of the military; and they remained stern to ensure that faith
held.

 

But there were 800 million; fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers;
children and grandchildren…parents and grandparents: dead. The pain
was so great that the decayed military philosophy, bereft of anything
spiritual, became instantly obsolete. The Cardassians came to believe
that the Gods of the Ancestors were seeking retribution for having
turned away from them, believing in their mockery of justice over
divine providence. The Gods were mad for the absence of the
Cardassian’s proper focus, and for the misuse of Cardassia’s
gifts of intelligence and wisdom. Many believed that Cardassia should
not have extended its hand out to the Heavens in hate, rather their
culture should have silently “shown the way” to the lesser races.

 

 

Like any holocaust, the aftermath of the Dominion left the collective
Cardassian society heartbroken, confused, angry, and frustrated. Many
who lived through the Holocaust committed suicide upon learning of
the fate of their husbands, wives, or children. One group of men, a
thousand strong, went mad after discovering that their families had
been disintegrated; ran to the cliffs outside the city and threw
themselves off in a stampede. Klingon troops positioned at the tops
of these cliffs reported Cardassians wild-eyed and smiling as they
plunged to their deaths.

 

The preferred method of suicide for women was drowning. Federation
troops were assigned the grim task of going house to house in the
Holocaust regions and checking the Purification Pools for dead
citizens. Children were shell shocked and Federation troops once
again found themselves separating families and restricting travel
because of mercy killings and depression motivated murder-suicides.

 

Once the Allies took possession of Cardassia Prime, it became
apparent to all that the Cardassians had lost all sense of
self-identity. As a result Federation instantly placed operatives
into the environment and went to work on the take-over of the planet
before the Romulans did the same.

 

 

To say that Cardassia was conquered is misleading. More accurately,
the Cardassians were coaxed into handing over their identity to the
Federation. On the surface it didn’t seem like the massive
intelligence operation that it actually was. Section 31 had dreamed
of an opportunity to sink its teeth into an empire like that of the
Cardassians. None outside the Section would ever know of the deceit
and cunning used by the Federation to obtain Cardassia Prime without
a full military take-over of the planet and without resistance from
the Romulans.

 

The planet was originally divided into three even sections: one for
each ally. In very short time the Klingons fused their section with
that of the Federation. The Romulans took offense to the fusion of
the forces without asking if they too were interested. The Klingon
military governor responsible for the Federation and Klingon sections
apologized (a rarity), stating that they meant no offense and assumed
that the Romulans would not be interested.

 

It takes so much to build trust. For the Romulans, trust is the most
sacred of all gifts for they trust no one. But because so many Humans
and Klingons died defending them, they started to believe that the
great conspiracy to destroy the Romulan Empire was only a
misperception. Unfortunately, the exclusion from the fusion of allied
forces on Cardassia Prime only reaffirmed their fears. The
Federation-Klingon alliance had missed its only chance to pull the
Romulan Empire into permanent and friendly relations, and the
Romulans would never again as a cohesive empire speak of trust for
the Humans and Klingons.

 

The mistrust manifested in the tighter control of the Romulan sector.
The Federation and Klingon troops, while allowed to go into the
Romulan Control Zone, had to seek the permission of the Romulan
Commodore and enter at designated points. Later, as tensions rose, no
allied troops except the Romulans were allowed to carry weapons
inside the Romulan sector.

 

The inability of allied troops to carry weapons into the Romulan
Control Zone was of little consequence as the Federation had landed
its Intelligence operatives all over the globe long before the
restrictions went into effect. The role of Star Fleet Intelligence
was to monitor and intercede in any situation that stems from a
resistance movement. Their second mission was to search for Reegan,
Damar’s main contact inside the Cardassian Military Intelligence
Division who was now in charge of the Resistance and his followers
and keep them under surveillance. Star Fleet’s low level
intelligence mission was passive because everyone in the Quadrant
knew they were there. However, the Federation President was the only
one who knew that Section 31 had also landed operatives on the
planet. Despite his knowledge of their departure and destination, the
Federation President was only allowed by law to know that they
existed, and where they were going.

 

Section 31 had incorporated into its operations former members of the
Obsidian Order successfully turned to the Federation’s cause. Since
its inception, the Federation had kept Section 31 its most carefully
guarded secret, making it illegal for anyone other than the
Federation President from even knowing they existed. To divert
attention, the first Federation President ordered the creation of
four intelligence divisions under Article III of the Charter of the
United Federation of Planets (Article III: Defense, Security, and
Military Industry; Chapter 27 Defense Information; Sections 30-37
Military Intelligence)
; Star Fleet Intelligence; The Office of
the Public Information Directorate; The Bureau of Star Fleet Academy
Security Clearances; and the Department of Science, Research, and
Technological Development.

 

Unlike the detailed regulations of Section 30 dictating the creation
of intelligence organizations for major divisions of the Federation,
Section 31 is vague stating only: “The United Federation of Planets
reserves the right to collect, analyze, and disseminate any
information determined be of vital interest to the continuance of the
government’s existence and may further carry out any operation
using any method necessary to this end (Chapter 27, Section 31).”
Section 31.1 states that the President is to know only that an
operation falling within the specific guidelines of acting for the
Federation as a whole, rather than any specific branch is occurring;
and that a team of highly specialized professionals is handling the
task. No other information regarding the operations is to be divulged
to the Presidency or anyone outside the “acting body.” Section
31.1 further states that only the President is to know of the
existence of the acting body. So, when issues arise from the actions
of Section 31 creating questions to their existence, the President
states that an intelligence arm of one of the Federation’s
divisions acted, and that Section 31 only refers to the authority
given to the Federation to create intelligence services and use them.
Section 31.1 was restricted after its inclusion in the charter by the
founding representatives of Vulcan, Andora, and Earth. The
representatives were given broad authority to include, restrict, and
suppress any section of the Charter without question from the
yet-to-be created Federation Council.

 

One of Section 31’s greatest assets is its rumored existence. Very
few other than the Presidency have spoken about the shadowy team
referred to as Section 31. Because Section 31 is said to be so small,
hostile intelligence agencies like the now defunct Tal Shiar and
Obsidian Order believed that it was a ruse to shift focus away from
the impenetrable Department of Science, Research, and Technological
Development. Hostile powers just don’t believe that such a small
agency could be so powerful. Further, no one believes that the
Federation has the intestinal fortitude to possess such an agency.
But Section 31 does exist, and it has the authority to take any
action in the interests of the Federation regardless of any law in
place. Further, Section 31 is no longer small. In fact Section 31 has
become the largest of the Federation intelligence divisions comprised
of individuals from Romulus, The Klingon Empire, Cardassia,
Ferengenar, the Federation, and two-dozen other species across the
galaxy
. All Federation members are listed as deceased, and almost
all of the foreign races are unaware that they are working for
Section 31.

 

***

 

 

Reegan was afraid. The rebellion was successful beyond all hope,
however its success brought about the deaths of millions and the end
of the modern Cardassian culture. Now three powers were on
Cardassia instead of one. Reegan’s dilemma was one of allies and
enemies. Who could he now trust? Not many if anyone. There were
sympathizers of the Dominion, of the Romulans, the Klingons, and even
the Federation. Not many Cardassians believed in Cardassia anymore.
With so many of his own citizens aligned with off world powers, he
could be easily penetrated if not careful. The second dilemma was
concerning the continuance of the Resistance: should he continue the
war, and if so against whom? The answer to the second part was easy:
the Federation. Of all the powers in the Quadrant, indeed the known
galaxy, Reegan considered the Federation to be the most dangerous
next to the Borg. At least the Borg would tell you that they intended
to conquer you, but the Federation somehow managed to brainwash
citizens right out from underneath governments. The first question
however was more difficult. Supplies were low and so was morale. Many
wanted to go home, believing that the Federation would leave in time.
Others just wanted the nightmare to be over. The planet smelled like
burnt flesh, which stemmed from scores of dead that probably included
loved ones. Quite simply, the fight was knocked out of the Cardassian
dissidents. Reegan decided to wait and rebuild the resistance slowly
while trying to gain off world allies. The Romulans were the natural
choice but no one understood the full dynamic of Federation Alliance,
to which the Romulans still belonged. Never the less, Reegan was
determined. He was desperate to keep the Humans from succeeding in
the Cardassian incorporation into the Federation. But first he needed
allies, and he knew right where to start.

 

Two Fleet Legates (Admirals) were in retirement. The Federation
Alliance had dismantled the Cardassian Military with the exception of
small city security forces to assist occupying troops. All Cardassian
Star Ships were in shipyards on the outer ring of the solar system.
The Legates hated the Federation above all others. They too believed
that the Humans were intent on pulling Cardassia Prime and all of its
territory into the Federation. With the Klingons at their side and
Cardassian citizens zealously supporting them, the Humans would be
unstoppable. They had to act. But sitting in their homes with their
arms at their sides and operatives of varying entities undoubtedly
watching them, what could they do? A partial answer would come from
the Resistance as dissidents had heavily penetrated the local
security division. Most importantly, the head of the provincial
intelligence arm of the local Security division was sympathetic to
their cause. With their headquarters well inside the Romulan Zone,
most agreed that the Romulans would at least look the other direction
while they organized. To keep the Federation off the backs of the
Romulans, Reegan decided to suspend military operations and stick
strictly to intelligence gathering. This would not last.

 

Something else bothered Reegan. The Klingons were strangely quiet;
neither proactive in supporting the Federation as they had throughout
the Dominion War, nor intent to speak in regard to the escalating
tensions between Romulus and the Federation. Further, the Klingons
didn’t seem to have a policy towards Cardassia. Allied strategy and
dictates seemed to stem from Earth rather than from the Klingon
Governor. Reegan knew that Star Fleet Intelligence, Romulan
intelligence services, and operatives from several dozen other
regional powers were on Cardassia; however he had not heard even a
whisper about Klingon operatives or any attempt by Qo’nos to gain
intelligence information of any kind. Normally, one could at least
count on the Klingons torturing a few people just to maintain the
illusion that they were concerned about control. But all the Klingons
had to offer was silence.

 

With two Fleet Legates identified and contacted, Reegan now had to
find a way to get them off the planet with enough hands to man two
fleets against the Federation. The more he thought about this the
more impossible the task seemed. Not only was it going to be
exceedingly difficult to find enough Cardassians to participate
without alerting the Federation, but even if he managed to find the
men and get them off the planet, there was no chance that two fleets
were going to defeat the Federation. Even now the Federation was
rebuilding; and from what he was hearing, at a record pace. It would
not be long before Star Fleet not only replaced its ships, but
exceeded its prewar numbers by thirty percent. No, the only way this
was going to work was if he had help from a sizable power, and no one
but the Romulans would even think about doing that.

 

 

***

 

 

Now was time for the dead. For ten miles a long procession of two
million Cardassian citizens walked. Their path would take them to the
great waters of the Sea of the Serpent, which was slightly larger
than the Atlantic Ocean on Earth. Bordering the northern continent of
Jz’Bdal the Sea has seen Cardassia’s greatest Kings and Lords of
old cremated and committed to the waters. Because of the horror in
which the Holocaust victims died, and because the Cardassian populace
felt responsible for their deaths, they resurrected the great Pyres,
now rubble at the edge of the sea, to set the remains of their loved
ones on fire to release their spirits.

 

The journey began in the city of Cortul, one of the only large cities
untouched by the Breen energy weapons, but still bombed heavily by
Jem’Hadar ships. The road to the sea was sharp and sandy; and by
day four the barefoot Cardassians left a trail of bloody foot prints
that would stain the road for three generations. The procession of
Cardassians included citizens from all over the globe. The travesty
endured was worldwide and as a world, they would bury their dead.

 

It was time for sorrow. They had brought it on themselves. With
vanity they believed that they could be master of all, only to be
dashed to oblivion by the Gods. The amount of time it was going to
take to cast the ashes of the dead into the Sea was a problem. In
order to keep the bodies from decomposing, facilities were converted
to keep the remaining bodies frozen until the time came to say
good-bye.

 

Dressed in white robes the men, women, and children walked from the
Great Shrine of the Ancestors in the western extremity of the city,
east through the Grey Mountain Pass, through the Plains of Scales and
Blood (named so after a great battle a millennia ago), and on to the
Sea. It would take the citizens five days without sleep, little
drink, and no food to get to the water’s edge. Only here could they
rest; for it was little hardship to love the dead in such a way. At
the end of their trek would be the bodies of the dead,
pre-positioned, lined up side by side at the water’s edge on pyres
made of rock. Those they loved died; a difficult prospect on any day
however in this case they suffered at the hand of the horror of pure
hatred.

 

The Federation was surprised by what they were witnessing. The
Cardassians seemed so cold and uncaring. So…disconnected to matters
of life and death. The Humans hated to admit it, but they envisioned
the Cardassian attitudes towards death as that of an animal: painful
for a short time, then back to the task of life with no memory. But
these Cardassians were anything but cold. Never before or since have
the Humans seen a race so dedicated to their dead as the Cardassians.

 

As each night began to fall, the Cardassians would begin to hum. This
was not a jubilant kind of hum, but rather a deep dark hum that
reverberated throughout the mountain passes and plains. One could
almost feel the hum vibrating through their body as they listened.
When the fall of night was complete the Cardassians would light their
torches to represent the souls of the dead.

 

At the Sea there was a great silence. Once again the Klingon and
Humans were stunned at the solemn discipline displayed during this
event as not one Cardassian spoke or made a sound other than that of
sand crushing beneath their feet as they walked. From a distance the
sound of two million people walking on sand sounded like the hiss of
a great snake. With all two million people at the Sea, the
Cardassians ate and drank with out speaking. At the end of their meal
they stood in silence until the darkness came again.

 

At the edges of every continent touching the Sea of the Serpent the
same event was unfolding. When the Star of the Great Enlightenment
hit its zenith at the equator the Cardassians lit their torches and
set the bodies of the dead on fire. From orbit Star Fleet Captains
and Klingon Commanders in their star ships watched as the coastal
regions glowed. The Military Adjutant of the Klingon Governor was
bombarded by calls from orbiting vessels that thought that the costal
regions had fallen victim to an attack. Once they realized that the
fires were actually the Cardassians burning their dead, the bridges
of the Allied ships fell as silent as the Cardassian coastlines. This
process was to be repeated 81 thousand times at different places
around the globe over the next nine and a half years.

 

The great cremations were always followed by torch light vigils at
the religious centers. The vigils were funerals for those who did not
have a body to burn. The pain of not being able to release their
spirit in the glory of the pyre was too painful for some to bear.
Once again at the zenith of The Star of the Great Enlightenment (so
named to signify the ancestor’s transition into sentience, and is
the brightest star in the Cardassian sky) the Cardassians lit fires.
This time however, instead of bodies, they burned starflowers. The
starflower is a painfully beautiful fire-orange flower that grows at
the top of the corps cactus (named after the numbers of dead that
have impaled themselves on the cactus spikes trying to get the
flower). The flowers are flammable; and when burned, float upwards
inexplicably.

 

Over cities spanning the Cardassian world, the skies would light up
every six months when the flowers would bloom and become combustible.
Watching the flowers burn and float, the Klingons noted that it was
almost as if the stars in the sky came alive and danced. In the
dance, the souls of the dead with no bodies were set free.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romulus and the Cardassian resistance

 

 

R

3

eegan was extremely unsettled at the idea of contacting the
Romulans. To do so would be officially announcing the continued and
active presence of the Resistance. This would place the Romulans in a
difficult

 

 

position.
Either the Romulans would have to act against the Resistance, turn
the matter over to the Federation, or break away from the Alliance
completely. However, a far better solution, and one more suited to
the particular tastes of the Cardassians was about to present itself.

 

Dissent had been growing in the Romulan military for twenty years.
The continued expansion of the Federation was frightening, especially
since they did so with very little conflict, and a lot of
cooperation. To make matters even more precarious, the Klingons, who
had been a long-time ally of the Federation despite the occasional
spat, were behaving as if they were an extension of the Federation
Council.

 

With the new Senate on Romulus supporting the easing of tensions with
the Federation, key members of the Romulan military decided on
action. The Romulans had devised a plan to rid themselves of the
civilian government and seek new allies in containing the Federation.

 

A rogue arm of the Romulan Fleet Intelligence Division arranged a
meeting between Reegan and two delegates from the Romulan military.
To the surprise of Reegan, one Romulan and a Reman met at the
designated coordinates to discuss an alliance of sorts. The
collaborators from the Romulan Empire made clear that full
cooperation from the Romulan government was out of the question. The
Romulan Senate was planning on opening trade negotiations with the
Federation and would not hear the pleas of the military for continued
isolation. However the goal of the Senate was that, through massive
trade with the Federation and Klingon Empire, in ten years the
Romulan Empire would be in a position of influence over their
adversary’s councils. This influence would allow for more peaceful
negotiation as to the position of the Romulan Empire in the future.

 

The Romulans knew that time was short. The rate at which the
Federation was rebuilding its fleet would put Romulus at a serious
disadvantage. Word had also reached the entire Quadrant that the
Federation and the Klingons had decided that their continued unity
was not only to their mutual benefit, but was destined to become more
pronounced. If this were true, then a hostile position against the
Federation—Klingon Alliance would be disastrous. Rather than
continue with the “cold war” approach, the Romulans were going to
try something more likely to prevent a war, which they believed they
could not win.

 

Obviously, not everyone agreed. The Romulan and Reman hard-line
factions stated that a plan to remove all obstacles to war with the
Federation would be in place very soon, but would not disclose the
details. Reegan was guaranteed enough personnel to man the ships
sitting in unguarded depots at the edge of the solar system and was
instructed to a set of coordinates deep in the mountains not far from
his location where he could find extra troops. His last set of
instructions informed him that he was to evade large scale contact
with Federation forces until the Romulans could complete their
mission.

 

Emboldened, Reegan and his top advisers went to the provided
coordinates to make contact with the forces that were in hiding
there. Expecting to find regular Cardassian dissidents from the war,
a brief firefight erupted when Reegan and his team came face-to-face
with ten thousand stranded Dominion troops. After clarifying their
relationship to the rouge Romulans, Reegan was satisfied that these
troops would suit his needs just fine. His advisors however were not
so pleased and the Resistance began to fracture.

 

 

 

 

It was a gut wrenching decision. Reegan was going to have to wipe out
his entire advisory staff and select new personnel who would be kept
ignorant regarding the source of the forces at his disposal on the
Day of Action. If he disclosed the entire plan, the presence of
Dominion forces as allies would lead to immediate mutiny. No, Reegan
would have to keep this plan a complete secret.

 

But now was the time for dealing with his present issue: his advisory
board knew the full situation and was not pleased. Furthermore, the
junior members of the Resistance who would soon be asking questions
noticed their aggravation. If he wanted the Cardassian Liberation
Front to survive he would have to act now. But how could he act?
Reegan could no longer trust his assassins, as they would probably
kill him when they learned the truth. Reegan needed help…

 

 

Section 31 learned of the plan almost immediately as they had
penetrated the Resistance movement right after the Federation
Alliance take-over of Cardassia. Two Cardassians were sent in to
“watch” the organization under the guise of hating the Federation
and desiring direct action to driving the humans off their planet.
Only one of the two Cardassians knew they were working for a
Federation intelligence service although which one was not known. One
of the agents was close enough to Reegan to have the opportunity
place a listening device on one of the advisory team members.

 

To keep their presence unknown, Section 31 sent two Klingons to
contact Reegan. The Klingons were known as former allies of the House
of Duras and would be believable to Cardassian dissidents. Their
cover story was that a “growing segment” of the Klingon military
was concerned that the Federation was about to attempt the
incorporation of Cardassia and all her territory. Further, they
claimed that this same element believed that the Federation was
manipulating the Klingon High Council and that the Klingon Empire
would soon exist in name only, while in reality being secretly
incorporated into the Federation as well. They offered assistance and
helped Reegan create two false missions that would appear legitimate
and succeed in eliminating his staff without arousing suspicion. This
would free him to pick new advisors while keeping his secret safe.

 

Reegan was uneasy that the Klingons knew of his contact with the
Dominion troops and was really uneasy that they had found him
so effortlessly. If they knew, surely the Romulan authority and the
Federation did as well. The Klingons confirmed this: however they
stated that the Federation would not act for fear of appearing like
the Dominion. Rather, the Federation wished to seduce the
population of Cardassia Prime into wanting to join the
Federation. And as an explanation for knowing about the Dominion
forces, the Klingons claimed that as allies of the Duras family, they
had close ties to the Romulans and had worked hard to destroy the
Federation-Klingon Alliance and were therefore always informed of
political happenings inside the Romulan Empire. This operation was a
bold stroke, they said. Do it and they would start a small uprising
within the Klingon ranks to divert Klingon forces from intervening on
Cardassia.

 

Reegan remained skeptical, but hopeful. How could he create
operations involving the entire advisory arm of his organization
without arousing suspicion? The Klingons had that answered too. He
was to go back and talk to his advisors and tell them that the
Dominion forces would be used as fodder to divert the Federation
while they made a power play against the local Allied forces. With
enough Klingon operatives scheduled to arrive as part of the regular
rotation of Klingon relief forces and the Romulans scheduled to do
the same in the near future, the Cardassian forces could take the
Cardassian ships, divert the Federation forces, while the Dominion,
Romulan and Klingon operatives assassinated the local officials and
took control. The best part was the complete destruction of the
Dominion forces and a deep wound to the Federation fleet patrolling
Cardassian space. The Cardassians would need time and some success to
draw the bulk of the Federation 7th and Klingon 3rd
Imperial fleets away from Cardassia and into deep space to neutralize
air support. To help ensure that the Dominion troops would achieve a
measure of success against the Federation, Reegan’s advisory team
would have to penetrate two targets: first was the Federation
Starship USS Pentagon, a science vessel that was widely
rumored to hold highly classified intelligence information; and the
second was the Klingon command and control center deep in the Allied
zone.

 

 

The advisory team was selected for these tasks as they were regarded
as the best in the trade. Each team had six men: a Geographical
Information Specialist, an Electronic Warfare Specialist, a
Sniper-Scout, a Communications/Intelligence Specialist, a
Technological Engineer, and the Team Commander. All members were
Basic Field Trauma certified, and all specialized in explosives and
silent killing.

 

The first and most difficult target was the USS Pentagon: a
science vessel4
in low orbit flanked at all times by two Defiant class
vessels. The Klingon operatives devised a plan that involved the
capture of the first Cardassian team after a brief firefight and a
feigned attempt at obtaining secure communications protocols and
frequencies. Star Fleet Intelligence was called in and after being
briefed by the Klingon operatives who claimed that remnant Dominion
forces were rumored to be on the planet, the Federation Admiral
overseeing all Federation-Klingon intelligence operations in the
Cardassian Theater took charge of the interrogation personally. To
keep the prisoners safe from rescue or assassination the admiral had
the prisoners transported to the Pentagon. The prisoners were
transported without being searched, as the Federation believed that
the Klingon operatives (posing as security officials) had de-armed
the subjects.

 

Once on board the team was placed in the brig until the Admiral
could contact Star Fleet Headquarters for instruction. Inside their
holding cells the Cardassian team went to work. Each member took out
a small hand held device and placed it on a wall shared by another
team member. The devices then gently probed the shielding of the wall
until the correct frequency was found, and then disrupted the flow of
the force field allowing for one team member to disintegrate the wall
with a corrosive substance. The hole produced was large enough for a
member to slip through to the other side. This process was repeated
until all the team members were in one cell where each member
produced a second type of hand held device that was connected with
the others. The component generated an electromagnetic pulse that
deactivated the brig force fields and knocked out the power on the
entire deck. The Federation security team entered the brig area and
was quickly subdued by the Cardassian who were highly skilled in
hand-to-hand techniques. The Cardassians were now armed with
Federation pulse rifles and communicators that were hijacked by the
Cardassians through some very simple modifications. They could now
hear all the security communications on the ship; however no one
beyond fifteen feet were able to hear the Cardassian communications.

 

The GIS specialist took a tricorder from one of the security
personnel and slipped in an informational chip that released a virus
that broke the security protocols. The tricorder was then used for
navigation to the secure core of the vessel in which their objective
lay. Up through the nearest Jefferies Tub they went. According to
their readings, they would have to go up two decks to reach the
security central command and control office. Once there, they would
have to neutralize any resistance and destroy the force-field
controls for the entire ship.

 

The communications were strangely absent. Normally they would be
hearing at least minimal communications, usually in code, between
security or military personnel attempting to respond to the
emergency. Is it possible that the Federation completely overlooked
the possibility of an escape? Unlikely. Not even the Federation, who
were disgustingly optimistic, would be that negligent. Is it possible
that the design of this ship lends to a more vulnerable interior, and
therefore suffered more extensive damage from the electric magnetic
pulse? Again, unlikely. The Federation science vessels (Olympic
Class) carry very sensitive equipment and are more resistant to
eavesdropping and other electronic warfare/surveillance technology
than other Federation ships. So what were they doing? The team
stopped to recheck its communicators and verified that they were
working, but their current range of reception would remain unknown
until radio silence was broken.

 

The team was growing uneasy now as they had yet to encounter a
Federation security team, or even hear them communicate. It was
beginning to feel like a trap, and since they were committed well
beyond the EPD (End Point of Disengagement) they could not pull out.
But the idea of a trap was ridiculous. The Federation had them in
custody already, if they wanted them dead, why keep them lightly
guarded in the brig? The commander, absent of clear answers, decided
to continue on with his mission.

 

On the tenth deck the team exited the Jefferies Tube. All was quiet
and dark. Now the team commander knew that something was out of
place. Did they all pull back to the central computer core? He hoped
not. If he was on a definitive search and destroy that would be
great: a target rich environment in a confined space meant high
casualties. But in this case he was to retrieve data from the core:
specifically, the information containing the shield modulations for
every ship in wings 3-1 through 3-7 of the Federation 7th
Fleet who were guarding the vacant Cardassian vessels. To get this
information he would have to fight his way past the Federation troops
without destroying the computer core, and before the Federation
erased it. Then, hold them off long enough to break the security
codes, extract the data, communicate it on a secure frequency,
install a cover program that erased all traces of their actions, and
transport to the surface…

 

 

Unlikely.

 

 

They were now at the doors to the security central command and
control area. Using a devise removed from the Federation security
detail at the brig, the Cardassian team over rode the security locks
and entered the room.

 

All hell broke loose. Once the doors shut behind them, two Federation
security details opened fire on the Cardassian team. The Cardassian
Technological Engineer was vaporized instantly. The Cardassians
responded in kind each hitting their mark with their first shots. The
firefight, which began somewhat orderly, turned into complete chaos
very quickly. In almost complete darkness the two sides were firing
at each other at near point-blank range, trying to maneuver for
better positioning, knocking over tables, desks, computers, and each
other. To add to the confusion the Cardassians charged and got within
hand-to-hand range, nullifying the Federation’s numerical
superiority, as the Federation troops were trying to avoid friendly
fire incidents. The hesitation gave the Cardassians enough time and
enough of an advantage to even the odds and then quickly overpower
the Federation personnel from that point.

 

The Cardassian commander took note of how unsettlingly quiet the room
was at the end of the battle. His ears rung in the silence, and only
then did he realize that everyone, including himself, had been
yelling during the melee. Although it felt like an eternity, his
instincts and training told him that the engagement took only several
minutes. A check on his chronometer verified his suspicions: only
four-point-seven minutes had passed during the brief explosion of
violence. Shaking it off, the Cardassian commander signaled the
remainder of his team to permanently disable the internal sensors,
force fields, and security alarms.

 

 

This was too easy. He had been through two wars with the Federation
in addition to a number of classified “incidents” and not once
had he penetrated so deep so easily. Many viewed the Federation as
soft, undisciplined, and bereft of an ability to spill blood. Not
true. He was there the day a Federation “wolf pack” boarded a
retreating column of Dominion and Cardassian vessels. They had
engaged the Federation and Klingons in a not so important sector to
divert attention from a stroke that was planned the next day 200
light-years away. The battle wasn’t supposed to be won, however
even the diversion went extremely bad. Figuring that the Alliance
would be pleased to see the enemy retreating, the Axis vessels turned
tail to run. The Federation did not let up. Full of spite for their
battle dead the Humans attacked the retreating column with malice,
smashing ships and destroying escape pods. Even the Klingons were
dumbfounded.

 

The Federation boarded their vessels. Not to be left out of the fun,
the Klingons quickly joined the bloodbath and claimed first privilege
to the Dominion troops; the Federation did not care as long as there
were enemies to kill. On the Cardassian command ship the Federation
Marines took the bridge after executing the commanding officer and
his staff. Entire crews were rounded up and placed in cargo bays
expecting to be taken prisoner only to realize that the Federation
intended to scuttle the vessel. Such behavior by Federation troops
was beyond comprehension.

 

The Klingons butchered the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar to the last. The
Team Commander, then a Glinn (lieutenant), had managed to beam from
ship to ship, always in a running firefight with Federation troops.
The thick black smoke in dark corridors lit only by fire, the blaring
alarms and lights…the dead lying and dying screaming filled his
ears until he felt his head would burst. He had just beamed on to the
last ship preparing himself to die when their ship miraculously
regained power and warped away from the massacre. From that moment on
the survivors knew that they had lost the war, it was only a matter
of time. The Humans had finally gone mad with rage, and it was they
who had pushed them over the edge.

 

“Sir?”

 

The sudden whisper into his ear had shaken him from his memories. At
that moment he knew that he and his team were dead. He also knew that
he was the only member of the team who was aware that death was near.

 

 

***

 

On the surface Reegan paced. He had received no information regarding
the “operations.” While team one was successfully on the
Pentagon, team two was still working to penetrate the Klingon
command and control facility.

 

Getting to the facility was the easy part, but it was time
consuming. To avoid the intelligence services and security forces,
the Cardassians decided to use the old nomadic trading routes. For
centuries these trails were maintained for historical purposes, but
were now in full use as sixty-two percent of the planet was without
power and modern transporter technology. The pass went through the
Mountains of the Enlightened. At its peak, the pass was brutally cold
and devoid of life and water.

 

They traveled by foot. As Team Two made their way they journeyed
alongside Cardassians who were wearing their tragedies. Some appeared
to have resorted to smuggling; others looked as if the loss of home
and loved ones was so painful that the thought of creating another
home was beyond capability. Most were just moving. The lifelessness
in their eyes suggested that some primordial function lying dormant
in their DNA had suddenly sprung to life, driving them from place to
place. The second Cardassian team could not help but feel pity for
their fellow citizens.

 

The dusty, rocky, hard dirt of the dry and bitterly cold crest
descended into a humid, soft and gentle desert. The presence of the
lowland cacti with its short and asymmetrical spike array and horned
weeds meant that water was near. Not disappointed, the team came to a
large, cool lake. At the north end of the lake were low falls where
water could be re-supplied. In the lake the Cardassians bathed. Many
had gone far too long without the Purification and in these days of
disparity anything that brought the living memory of happier times
was welcome.

 

They were at the border of the Romulan-Federation/Klingon Zone. While
the next several thousand miles were formally under the stewardship
of the Humans, the Federation and Klingons fused their forces and
shared responsibility. The team couldn’t help but wonder if the
same trend was occurring elsewhere in the Quadrant between the two
empires. The Federation didn’t like to be referred to as an empire,
but what else could it be called? What had recently been 8000
light-years of contained Federation space had ballooned to nearly
twice that since the end of the war. The Federation had acquired most
of Cardassian space, the Bad Lands, all Breen star systems bordering
Cardassian territory, and two light-years into the Gamma Quadrant
around the Worm Hole as a buffer.

 

In the distance the Cardassian team could see a Klingon encampment.
That was a good sign. The Klingons weren’t much for paying
attention, and as long as everyone was behaving themselves the
Klingons wouldn’t even so much as grunt at you. Just to be on the
safe side, the Cardassians crossed the border during mid afternoon
amongst the heaviest traffic. As hoped, the Klingons were sitting,
drinking, and laughing around a fire at a distance that made their
presence ineffective. From the border it would be a good three days
on foot before they reached a safe-house. From there they could use a
transporter to the next border.

 

***

 

The safe house was actually a bombed-out, slightly repaired,
spiritual sanctuary. The sanctuaries had been ignored for the most
part by the Cardassian military government. As long as they didn’t
claim to be centers of faith for powers greater than the government
then all was overlooked. To stay out of trouble the sanctuaries had
claimed to be centers for intellectual and emotional tranquility,
claiming remedy for anxieties brought about by technology and the
demands of society. Only the administrators of these programs knew
the truth: the meditation techniques taught had been used by monks
for ages past. Their use would now ensure that the traditions and
philosophical foundations of Cardassian spirituality would remain in
place for day when full religious conversion could occur without fear
of reprisal from the government.

 

The Ever Faithful were known to exist by the Obsidian Order,
but left alone as long as they didn’t openly proclaim their belief
in gods. A secret society wishing to remain so would be useful for
passing messages, gathering information, and transporting agents.
Reegan was informed of their existence after he founded the
Resistance. Angry that secrets of such a nature were kept by an
official government agency, Reegan felt the actions of the Obsidian
Order were a heresy. However, given that more than half of his
organization consisted of former Obsidian Order agents, Reegan chose
to hide his anger and use this resource until it could properly
disposed of.

 

Reegan enlisted the sanctuaries after promising free religious
practice if the Front was successful. This was a promise Reegan had
no intention of keeping. The sanctuaries however were not to be
fooled; they had not survived military persecution, Obsidian Order
infiltration, and millennia of societal ebb and flow only to be duped
by someone as one dimensional as Reegan. His reputation was well
known to the Ever Faithful as Reegan had overseen the execution of
sixteen priests as a young Glinn Troop Adjutant (lieutenant). The
executions were justified because it was illegal to “promote a
pagan ideology, void of reason and ignorant to the glory and
superiority of the military.” Reegan had been the prosecution’s
witness, a duty that Reegan fulfilled with zeal. When the prosecution
stated its satisfaction with a life sentence rather than death, due
to the misguided efforts of the guilty to maintain ancestral
Cardassian tradition, Reegan forcefully protested. His arguments that
their continued lives would only encourage others to abandon the
militaristic ideal swayed the court. The guilty were to be executed,
and Reegan demanded that he be allowed to carry out the sentence.
Yes, the Ever Faithful knew Reegan well, and they had made
preparations to deal with him at first chance.

 

 

The meeting at the safe house went well. Great foods, drink, and the
most sound sleep in recent memory. After two days of rest and
planning, it was back to business for Team Two. The spiritual
counselors, now daring to call themselves priests, had a transporter
in a series of caves accessible behind a picture in the main
meditation chamber. The caves were amazing: miles of networking
tunnels full of supplies, weapons, medical bays, and communication
equipment. The team made a mental note to report all this to Reegan
as he would be pleased. All but one of the team chuckled to himself
while walking through the caves.

 

The Communications Officer was concerned that they were being given
such free access to an area that was clearly dubious at best, if not
illegal. Further, the priests and their followers had not made a
formal alliance with the Resistance, and had not even checked the
team’s backgrounds prior to granting them access. This didn’t
feel right.

 

Despite the agreements made with Reegan, nobody had agreed to unify
their efforts. In fact, the more the Communications Officer thought
about it the more it was clear that neither side had an agenda
congruent with the other. He spoke his concerns to the Team
Commander. The Commander listened intently, however he stated that
his concerns were unfounded, as Reegan had at least made sure that
the two sides were not enemies. He went on to say that if the priests
wanted to betray them that they would have been in the hands of the
Federation Alliance by now. This did little to quell his fears.

 

At the end of the tunnels was a large room with a precious rarity: a
transporter. Unlike the modern transporters that were unobtrusive and
quiet, this 170-year throwback was a metallic monstrosity that would
have been loud enough to alert orbiting star ships if it wasn’t
under ground. The fact that it was normally obsolete in the presence
of more refined technology went far to explain why the transporter
capability of this organization remained a secret during the pre-war
days. In addition to its antiquity, the brave travelers of this
contraption needed a com-link to its original source to establish
two-way transportation. Without the com-links on their persons, the
team could only be transported one way. As much as the team wanted
two-way transportation capability, the Federation Security Probes now
orbiting the planet would detect the presence of active com-links. As
it was, they had only a 30-second window to transport without the
orbiting probes picking up the transporter signal.

 

The next morning the team was supplied in preparation for the
continuance of their mission. They opted for traditional projectile
weapons that could not be detected by the technology sensor grids
surrounding the target. The thermal suits would mask the heat
signature of their bodies and assist in the masking of technology
signatures of small devices. The Cardassians would be transported to
the Federation-Klingon border where they would proceed into the
Klingon territory to their final objective.

 

 

The team was transported to a location 100 kilometers away from the
objective, but .5 kilometers away from the border of the
Federation-Klingon control zones. Crossing into the Klingon zone
should be easy given the response of the Klingons passing into the
Federation area. However when the team reached the border they found
several Federation security teams sweeping the area. What to do? They
were armed in such a way that the security teams would not accept the
explanation that they were simply wandering refugees. While the
presence of Federation troops in this location was unexpected, they
had a plan in place that they intended to use in earlier phases of
their journey.

 

The team had one essential advantage: their weapons were
projectile-based rather than energy. This meant that they would not
need to erect a dampening field to mask the weapons; a dampening
field that the Federation tricorders would probably detect. The
second advantage of the weapons was that they could be broken down
into components made of metal and the Cardassian equivalent of
plastic.

 

Using their ponchos from their backpacks the team constructed tents
in which the barrels of the rifles were used as tent-poles, and the
components of the side-arms and smaller weapons were masked as
weights inside the seems of the ponchos at specific points. The main
components of the rifle stocks where the chambers were located were
interlocked into a bizarre looking “table,” and butts of the
stocks used as the table’s legs. One of the ponchos was thrown over
it and their food and short-wave radio was placed on the top of the
makeshift table.

 

The rounds were another problem. To keep the security teams from
discovering them, the Cardassians dug a hole eight inches deep,
placed the bullets at the bottom of the pit and covered the rounds
with several inches of dirt and small rocks. The rest of the hole was
filled with mud. On the top of the hole a fire was built using a
thermal flare with wood and other debris over the flare. The flare
used chemicals similar to those of the bullets and would possibly
mask their signature from the tricorder.

 

The final problem to be solved was their small communication devises.
These devises acted as communication-trackers, Geographical
Information System guides, shield disruptors, and Electromagnetic
Pulse generators. The only way they could think to fool the security
teams, now only minutes away, was to take out the chips and energy
sources of the devices and place them inside the short wave radio.
This would not be enough to hide their signature so, thinking fast,
the Cardassian team took the smaller pods from the nearest cactus and
placed the chips and energy sources inside the pods, and sealed the
open ends with synthetic skin used for burns. The skin can distort
weak magnetic signatures; a plus for the Cardassians since they can
also use it for injuries. The signal would still be off somewhat, so
to fix this issue, one of the batteries in the radio was dashed
against a rock and placed back in the radio with a small leak.

 

Their cover was as good as it was going to get. The only thing they
could do now was act relaxed, as if tomorrow was no more important
than today or yesterday. The Federation’s tricorders would detect a
slight energy variation at their precise location; the only defense
that could be mounted now was smooth talking. As the security team
came over the dune to their camp the Cardassian team hoped for the
best.

 

***

 

On the Pentagon the Commander of Team One was trying to decide
just how far he should take his mission. His team was in a
maintenance shaft moving towards the greatest electromagnetic
signature on the ship, which was believed to be the computer core. In
his mind he debated the situation: if it was a trap, then who set it?
His feelings told him that the Dominion troops set them up, but his
instincts and training told him someone else was behind it. But why
would the Jem’Hadar do something so strategically stupid? They were
stranded on Cardassia, cut off from the Gamma Quadrant, the Founders,
and reinforcements. The Jem’Hadar would never be able to sustain a
campaign for very long. The best they could hope for was a glorious
death after inflicting heavy casualties.

 

If it was they who betrayed the Resistance, then the team should find
the nearest transporter and beam off the ship to a location to warn
Reegan. The only reason he could think of that would explain the
Dominion ploy was they were going to attempt to retake the planet.
Given the effectiveness of the Front, it was necessary for the
Jem’Hadar to destroy them. But that didn’t make sense either. If
the Jem’Hadar did have intentions of retaking the planet, they
would not succeed with only ten thousand troops, so they would need
significant assistance. Second, they had met with the Jem’Hadar at
the direction of rouge elements of the Romulan, Reman, and Klingon
militaries; all of which had stated their shared desire to push the
Federation from Cardassian space. So who was lying?

 

The Cardassian Commander stopped at the surprise of his team. He
shared his beliefs and concerns: they were betrayed and they were
trapped. Who was behind it and what was their course of action? Two
of the five didn’t believe that a betrayal was in motion and none
of his team believed that the Romulans or Remans would be involved
with treachery against the Resistance, which meant that by default
the Klingons were to be eliminated as suspects because of their
Romulan ties. So what of the Dominion troops? It didn’t make sense
that the Jem’Hadar were lying because if they were the Federation
would have acted against the resistance by now.

 

The only conclusion that they could come up with was that the
Federation had known about the Jem’Hadar the whole time and were
planning on allowing an attack to occur to further convince the
Cardassian public that a permanent Federation presence was necessary.
Convinced that this answer was mostly correct, they had to deal with
the next question: why would the Federation bring their team to the
Pentagon? The obvious answer was to eliminate them. So why
allow those to be executed to escape and run free on a ship they
couldn’t escape from? Why would the Federation even want to kill
the team without taking out the entire Resistance? Another team
member stated that the Resistance still had a purpose in the
Federation’s master plan, but the leadership needed to be removed.
Between the two missions, Reegan would be left alone with someone who
obviously penetrated the Front, and would kill Reegan while they were
away. Obviously, the Teams would not survive, but the Federation
would to keep them alive long enough for the assassin to make his
move.

 

***

 

 

Team Two was having its own problems. Sitting leisurely around while
a Federation Marine Lieutenant explained the terms of the Cease-Fire
Agreement between the Alliance and the Cardassians, the Cardassian
Commander was beginning to wonder how long he would have to listen to
interstellar law before they would be able to move on with the
mission. Pretending to be begrudgingly polite with a sub-dermal layer
of hatred when talking with the Federation troops was the easiest
part of the mission so far; for they truly hated the Federation, and
now more than ever. For the second time in fifty years, the
Federation had defeated them in war, and now the enemy was standing
on their soil.

 

After a few more minutes of listening to the Lieutenant the dull
conversation became tense. A Starfleet tricorder had detected an
anomaly around the fire and around the short wave radio. The
Cardassian Commander nonchalantly opened the back of the radio and
showed the batteries. The Federation engineer whistled at what he
saw.

 

“That
thing is ancient,” stated the engineer.

 

“It’s
been in my family for centuries. We were able to keep it working all
right; of course we never moved it,” answered the Commander.

 

“Why
are you using it?” asked the engineer in an interrogatory tone.

 

“Because,
as you can see, we don’t exactly have homes or technology anymore.
When I went to the ruins of Lakarian City to find my father’s house
I found only ashes. I looked around at the rubble where the home of
my childhood had stood only to find what was left of my father’s
body in the Purification Pool. In his arms he had an airtight box
that we call a “generation box” in which this radio was kept. The
water had been boiled away, as had the flesh on my father’s bones.
This is the only living connection I have to him.”

 

The Federation team was stunned into silence and decided to leave the
Cardassians to their evening. Once the Federation security teams were
at a safe distance, the Cardassians broke down camp, reintegrated
their weapons and communications devises, and continued towards their
objective.

 

The Federation security teams would probably remain in the area for
several days. Not wanting to push their luck the Cardassians decided
to get as far into the Klingon zone as possible. One of the
Cardassian team members commented on the close call with the
Federation, and commended the Commander for his ability to make up
such a convincing story in such sort order. The Commander, without
making eye contact with his subordinate, stated that he didn’t
deserve such praise, especially since he told the truth. It was two
days before the Commander would speak in conversation again.

 

Pushing their way into the Klingon zone, the Cardassians marched
across desert, small mountain ranges, and jagged mesas where the
ground was fragmented open in two foot wide cracks that were at least
several feet deep. Looking at the cracks extending into the distance,
the ground seemed as if it were a great sheet of glass that had been
shattered by a giant rock. In this area the ground was treacherous,
but was perfect for their sheltering needs as they were traveling
only at night and the cracks provided excellent shade and
bio-signature degradation during the day.

 

Traveling at night was difficult. They could not use a tricorder for
more than a few seconds without running the risk of detection by
Alliance roving patrols. And while the Klingons were behaving far
differently these days, they did not want to take a chance on running
into a Klingon patrol since Klingon patrol teams were nothing less
than search and destroy squads. To make up for the absence of a
powerful sensor sweeper like a tricorder, the Cardassians used old
ultraviolet vision enhancement devises (UVEDs) that allowed the team
to see at night. There was still a risk as the UVEDs had two
settings: one active for complete darkness in which the UVEDs
emanated its own ultraviolet light, or the passive setting that could
use the atmospheric UV radiation as a light source. The passive
setting was more difficult to see with than the active setting and
was therefore more dangerous for night travel; however the active
setting could be detected by other UVED devises.

 

Three grueling days later the team found itself at its destination:
Lake Triss. This was the only phase of their operation that they
actually looked forward to. Now under Klingon quarantine for its
proximity to the command and control facility, the lake’s cool and
clear water had drawn thousands of vacationers to its shores prior to
the war. The team caught itself staring at the waters from the sands,
and for several minutes each member had recounted days that they had
stood at the lake’s edge as a guest.

 

About a half kilometer from where they were standing was the scuba
shack, now locked up by the Klingons, but otherwise unguarded. With
very little skill the Cardassians were in the shack and in possession
of the necessary gear. With their weapons and travel packs it would
take 47 minutes to get to the other side of the lake; but would
require nearly ninety-five minutes of air due to the
fatigue-breathing rate. The tanks only held ninety; it would be
close, but to try to approach the facility any other way would
probably result in detection. All they had to do now was wait for
nightfall to attempt the crossing.

 

***

 

Into the lake they went. The first half of the trip was uneventful
and relatively easy. The lake bed near their starting point was rocky
and allowed them to swim shallow; a blessing as they were able to
conserve a couple of minutes of air for the tail end of their
journey. But slightly beyond the half way point two things happened
that put the mission in jeopardy: first, the topography maps they had
been given were obviously outdated. Their GIS data had suggested that
they could swim the rock crevasses for most of the way, and then go
deep for about 17 minutes before being able to surface at the far end
of the lake to make their final assent on land to the facility. The
crevasses had provided protection from sensor sweeps that penetrated
the water, as land features distorted signals of persons and small
objects on or near the rock surface. But instead of the deep
crevasses that were displayed on their maps, only a submersed
wasteland opened before them. The once rocky floor in this part of
the lake had been either removed or destroyed during the war, and now
all that was left was a vast expanse of sand with intermittent
speckles of dark rock. Their shallow cover was gone. This led to the
second issue, as now that the crevasses were absent they would have
to go deep for the second leg of their crossing. This meant that they
could very well run out of air before reaching the other end of the
lake.

 

***

 

 

Exiting a Jefferies Tube on the Pentagon for the last time,
the Commander of Team One had come to a decision: try to get to the
mission objective, but do not fulfill the mission requirements.
Actually, he didn’t come to this decision on his own; it was more a
team consensus. Everyone had come to realize that they would not
succeed in obtaining the data, but not everyone was willing to
believe that they would soon be dead.

 

Half of the team was sure that the Federation would simply take them
prisoner for a while and then let them go. That was the usual
practice, and why would it be different this time? With the exception
of the Commander, the other half of the team was at least fearful of
execution. The Commander himself knew without a doubt that the final
minutes of his life were playing out. He wasn’t afraid of death,
and neither was his team. After all, they had been trained to
understand that Subversive Warfare Operations often brought death.
What brought fear in the depths of his soul was the Federation’s
change in behavior. The Federation had never been this aggressive, so
the concern was the Federation’s plan for Cardassia and the
Resistance. What about the Alpha Quadrant? He would never be able to
answer these questions, as he would not live long enough to receive
them. All he could do now was try to inflict the most damage
possible.

 

The corridor was dark. Around the bend in the corridor was their
objective: the central computer core. Beyond the door lay fate.
Federation security communications were still absent. In the air hung
a silent tension so loud that it nearly drove the Commander to
madness. His hands tightened around his commandeered weapon; he was
only just aware of the thin line of perspiration that had formed on
his upper lip and brow.

 

They turned the corner, moving silently in a tactical formation. They
stopped at the sight of the door. The Commander stared; the door
stared back. Moving to the door the GIS Specialist pulled the door
latch security over-ride devise and secured it to the door. Punching
the command sequence in the devise the door obeyed and unlocked with
a hiss. The slight opening in the door provided just enough space for
the Commander to fit his fingers to pull. Placing his fingers in the
gap, the Commander could feel his heart beating like a piston,
sending a steady pulse of pressure from his chest to the back of his
hands, his ears and forehead, then finally just below his knees. He
looked over his shoulder to his team one final time. They nodded in
acknowledgement: it was time. Taking several deep breaths through
gritted teeth; the Commander pulled the door open with a single great
heave. The team rushed in expecting an explosion of weapons fire;
however what was waiting for the team was beyond belief. The doors
closed behind them as the power suddenly returned. The Commander
yelled in terror and began to fire in a wild fury. The team followed
suit. From outside the room the screams of the Cardassians could be
heard all the way down the hall to the Jefferies Tube where they had
exited. Several minutes passed and all was silence….their fate had
met them at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission’s End

 


4

 

 

If it wasn’t such a detriment to their mission, the scene before
them may have been delightful; the light from the full moon
penetrating from the water’s surface above them, glimmering across
the ghostly white sand

 

gave
the water a purplish-blue tint. Although breathtakingly elegant, they
could not linger to enjoy the seascape for time was running short.

 

Time: this was a serious problem. Running out of air too soon would
mean that they would have to dump their gear while submersed, surface
for air, and then swim at snorkeling depth to shore; leaving them
vulnerable to sensor sweeps. It could also mean that they would have
to alter their trajectory and come on shore a fair distance from the
designated location. The original plan had placed them at the nearest
shore-point to the facility and beneath the sensor sweeps. Surfacing
between the desired location and the now secondary landing zone would
signal their presence to enemy forces.

 

The Commander made his decision: turn abruptly and head for shore at
a point beyond the sweeps. Continuing forward at the newly calculated
depths would probably mean detection and mission failure.

 

On shore the team calculated that they had traveled slightly less
than two-thirds the distance to the command center. They would have
to hide their equipment, scan the area, evaluate the security sensor
sweeps, evade patrols, and identify a weakness in the defenses for
penetration. They found a spot to rest still very close to the water.
The area they had beached was heavy with domicile sized rock
formations and vegetation. Given the analytical task presented, the
Commander decided to accomplish what assessment they could tonight
and finish tomorrow.

 

It was late already, past midnight. The full moon was magnificent.
Well past its zenith for the evening, the moon was on its decent. On
the east horizon came the second moon. It was not quite at full and
not quite the size as the first. The second moon, Tarsis, was a small
gaseous globe that spun with ferocity under tremendous pressure. The
yellowish glow of the second moon as compared to the pale white of
the first cast strange shadows. He suddenly wished he were back in
the water to see how it would have been interpreted by the surface of
the lake.

 

His team slept. In the distance the Commander could hear the gentle
sounds that the ebb and flow of the lake’s tide created. Sitting
against a large rock in darkness eased by the moonlight, the quiet,
still calm of the night embraced the Commander and gently lulled him
to sleep.

 

“Gallal,” declared a sudden voice.

 

The Commander stirred somewhat.

 

“Gallal,” said the voice in a sterner tone.

 

He felt far away from himself. Strange. He was still on the beach
with his team. But yet at the same time he was standing in the water
at the shore’s edge, looking at himself. He knew that the sight of
this should have disturbed him, but his concern was unusually absent.
He was at peace. On the fringes of his consciousness he felt a
presence…it soothed him. From the depths of his subconscious the
presence became more coherent with each second until he recognized it
and turned from the beach toward the water. There, wearing flowing
white robes in water just below his knees stood his father. He was a
stark contrast to the final images that were burned in the
Commander’s mind. In a flash the memory of Lakarian City, the smell
of burned flesh from one hundred kilometers away, the destroyed house
of his youth, and his father’s boiled body, fleshless, came to his
consciousness. He fell to his knees and cried out in pain. One side
of himself was telling him to shut up because someone would hear him.

 

“No one can hear you,” said his father.

 

“Father?”

 

“Do not be sad for me, son. I am well. You are not, however.”

 

“Am….I dead?” The Commander could not decide if he was
dreaming.

 

“No, and no you’re not dreaming…well not entirely anyway.
You’re in danger.”

 

“I know. Allied troops are in the facility we’re going to
penetrate.”

 

“No son, there’s no one in that facility, it’s an illusion. A
ploy by a Federation intelligence organization to start a war, and
you’re playing into it.”

 

“The war’s over.”

 

“No, it’s just beginning. Do not die here today. Cardassia still
has need of you.”

 

“I know Father. I’m here to fulfill that purpose. I have to stop
the Federation from obtaining our world.”

 

“You will not succeed nor should you. The Federation is our
salvation, son. You must understand this.”

 

In shock the Commander uttered, “I do not.”

 

“Son, I cannot explain the universe to you or tell you the future.
It’s not allowed.” His father continued: “Gallal, I have never
lied to you. Now you must go back, pack your things and travel to the
southern provinces below the equator. The Resistance will not find
you there.”

 

“But…”

 

“I must go, my son.”

 

“No…” Gallal’s eyes filled with tears. His father walked to
him and squeezed his son’s hands then brought him into an embrace
that brought back all of his childhood memories: good, strong
memories of his father that filled him with joy. He suddenly became
aware that his father was dead, but instead of a cold empty body, his
father was warm and his embrace was filled with love that you could
touch and ingest rather than just feel with your semi-conscious
emotions.

 

Gallal suddenly felt the sand beneath his sitting body and the rock
wall behind him. He felt as if he had been placed back in his body by
loving hands. It was the same gentle feeling he got when he was a
child and his father would carry him to bed and softly lay him down.
He was still against the rock and he was beginning to waken.

 

“Do not follow me, son. It’s not your time….” His father’s
last words trailed off into silence. He woke with his face soaked
with tears and his hand stretched out for his father who was no
longer there.

 

***

 

The technological engineer awoke suddenly as if he had overslept for
something important. He looked around for the Commander, but there
was no sight of him. A careful examination of the brush near the
encampment turned up the Commander’s rifle, but not his side arm,
blood, and definite signs of a struggle; but no body.

 

After discussing their options, they decided that they should turn
back. Too many things had gone wrong with the mission already and it
was better to cut their losses and try another approach with Reegan;
or at least get a bigger team. They set up the short wave radio for
two-way and sent the abort code. Several hours passed as they waited
for acknowledgement when something happened. They had probed the area
thoroughly before calling it quits, but before they ceased their
assessment they had a definitive reading on the sensor array of the
facility and its shield output. Just now, however the shields were
down and the sensor array was deactivated.

 

This was suspicious, but an opportunity like this could not be passed
up even with an undersized team. The team low crawled through the
bushes to a clearing where they could survey the situation more
clearly.

 

It appeared that the system was shut down for maintenance. Klingons
and Federation personnel could be seen walking the perimeter and
working on the array on top of the station. It was now or never.

 

The team pulled back through the brush and circled east at
three-quarter speed. The facility sat on an elevated circular surface
of rock approximately four meters high and the surrounding vegetation
had been cleared fifty meters back from the facility. Being that the
Cardassians didn’t build the structure, it was round as opposed to
the usual rectangular preference. There were only three ways into the
control center; the north and south (fortified) entrances, and the
drainage systems into the lake, which they had planned to use.

 

They lay in silence for several hours wondering if they would get a
chance to penetrate the facility and complete their mission when the
maintenance teams signaled to the patrolling security personnel that
they had concluded their tasks and were preparing to turn on the
sensor grid. As the Klingon light-weapons team rounded the facility
out of sight the Cardassians leapt from their cover positions and
sprinted to the rock wall. Overhead they heard the low-pitched
activation alarm signaling to a deafening roar and then fall silent
to an electrical hum indicating that its sensor functions had
resumed.

 

They were clear. According to their intelligence the sensor sweeps
began twenty meters from the facility, since the Allies assumed that
no one could penetrate the alert zone without triggering and alarm.
Never the less, they laid flat in a nearby depression and waited for
nightfall to make their way to the drainage tube.

 

 

Another full moon. Cardassian nights under the soft, near-purple glow
of the moon were enchanting. Pity, they could not stop to take in the
beauty. Moving towards their exterior objective the team remained at
a low crawl. Sitting at the drainage, the sniper spoke:

 

“This
isn’t right.”

 

“What’s
the problem?” asked the GIS Specialist, now the team commander.

 

“This
is too easy,” stated the Technological Engineer.

 

“My
thoughts exactly,” chimed in the Communications Specialist.

 

“I
don’t understand,” responded the GIS Specialist.

 

“Sir,
they may be right. I have been monitoring electronic signal output
since yesterday solar zenith, and ever since we detected the
deactivation of the sensor grid the signal output has changed,”
explained the Electronic Warfare Specialist.

 

“Explain,”
demanded the new team commander.

 

“The
center emits an immense microwave pulse that can distort electronic
eaves dropping and targeting systems of aircraft below the
troposphere. Further, sensor scans from orbiting starships get
deflected.” The EW specialist continued, “Our small devises
should not work so close to this facility. By deactivating the field
we can now enter the command center undetected.”

 

“So?”

 

“Sir,
the Klingons have a standing order not to shut down the microwave
distortion signal,” Interjected the Communications Specialist.
“It’s why we chose projectile weapons.”

 

“I’m
afraid I don’t see the problem. This is unusual I admit, but these
are Klingons we’re talking about. We all know the risks of this
mission. We accepted, end of story.”

 

The new team commander had spoken. The only thing to do was to obey
or try to out run the Klingon warriors after setting off the alarms
when running back through the sensor grid. Either way, things did not
look good. The Communications Specialist wanted to press the issue
and remind the group of the missing Team Commander who appeared to be
dead, but decided against it.

 

The drainpipe was only large enough to crawl through. As expected of
a drainage duct it was full of debris, waste of varying kinds,
diseased and foul tempered vermin both alive and dead, and
slippery-wet moss. After forty minutes of crawling through filth the
Cardassians reached the service hatch. Placing their hand held
devises on the hatch the Cardassians heated the door until it could
be pried open with a small metallic bar referred to as a “fang.”
They slipped inside.

 

All was quiet. To their right and left was a long single hallway that
followed the circular shape of the structure, bending out of sight to
either direction. Looking at his team the GIS Specialist went to the
left. The halls were done in modern Klingon: dank putrid green
colored surfaces that were accented with dim orange lighting. For the
life of him he could not understand how such an interesting culture
could be so void of a sense of decor.

 

Minutes went by. No Klingons. No Federation Security Teams. The new
commander was beginning to think his team was right. He was in the
middle of considering turning back when they reached two large doors
that were obviously led to the central core of the facility. In here
their objective lay. Looking at the doors, the GIS specialist was no
longer sure he wanted to complete his mission. In fact, he wasn’t
sure if he still wanted to be in charge. He reviewed his choices on
this mission and in his imagination he and his team were on their way
back to Reegan to explain that the mission had been compromised by a
series of setbacks that included the disappearance of the original
mission commander.

 

Snapping back to a hopeless reality the GIS specialist knew that on
the other side of this door the Klingons and Federation security
teams were waiting. If it was hopeless they would surrender and cut a
deal with the Humans who would want to know all their secrets. The
humans always wanted secrets, unlike the Klingons who would torture
them and hang their skins on the outside of the facility as a
warning. The team closed around him, as if waiting for a decision. He
turned and nodded: “Let’s do it.”

 

The entered through the doors in tactical formation, weapons at the
ready. However inside the center of the dome was nothing. It was
totally empty.

 

“What
the hell is this?” Exclaimed the new commander.

 

“I
can explain…” stated a voice behind them.

 

The team turned to see a Human of mid years. His face was chiseled
and his hair was blond going grey. His ice blue eyes were the
cruelest he had ever seen in any species. He didn’t know the Humans
could produce such men. The commander suddenly felt that surrendering
to the Klingons might be better than he thought.

 

“Your
entry was necessary,” stated the man in black.

 

“Necessary
for what?” Asked the sniper.

 

“We
are taking your world, and you have helped make that possible. Thank
you.” The Human smiled.

 

“Never,”
stated the commander.

 

“It’s
already begun. I’m sorry I don’t have time to explain more. I’m
sure you’ll understand.”

 

“I’ll
file a protest at my hearing and the entire Quadrant will learn about
your scheme, whatever it is.” The commander said defiantly. The
Humans always had hearings for their prisoners that were a matter of
public record.

 

“You’re
not getting a hearing,” chuckled the human darkly. He then raised
his hand and snapped his fingers. The doors all around the dome
opened.

 

The Cardassians couldn’t believe their eyes. Yelling in terror the
team opened up with everything they had. The sniper decided that
orders or not, he was pulling out. The doors they entered through
were closing and he had to dive between them to make it. He could
hear the screams and weapons fire as he ran. It abruptly stopped. He
panicked, as he knew they would now be coming for him.

 

He rounded the corner and saw two Federation security officers at the
hatch. He fired his projectile weapon at them. The quiet chirping of
a rapid-fire assault weapon with a sound suppressor always amazed
him; as did the dull thuds of the projectiles hitting a target’s
body. The first Federation security officer took four rounds to the
chest. The second officer got a series of projectiles that had been
“walked” from his stomach to his head. The hollow slap and thud
of the stomach wound was off set by the hollow punk sound of a
projectile hitting the throat. The sound of the throat getting hit
was cut short by the desperate gasps of the officer choking on his
own blood, followed by the dull thud and pop of a head wound.
The exchange lasted less than four seconds.

 

The humans had gone completely insane. The Sniper was sobbing in a
panic now as he clawed and pulled his way back down the drainpipe.
Like a child he kept looking over his shoulder to see if he was going
to be caught from the darkness he felt behind him while moving as
fast as he could.

 

He was so afraid that he didn’t even see the end of the tunnel in
front of him, as he was fixated on the darkness of the tunnel behind
him. Landing face first, the sniper rose to his feet and ran on
fear-weakened legs, spitting dirt and blood from his mouth. He was
going to tell the first person he saw what had happened. He was going
to tell everyone. The Federation had gone mad. They were going to
take the planet by any means necessary and they had the force to do
it.

 

The sniper forgot about the sensor grid. As he stepped into it alarms
blared. He stopped to look around to see who was in pursuit only to
see the automatic pulse cannons come to life. He turned to run but
the first volley of pulse cannon fire struck his head, which duly
exploded. His body took three steps and fell to the ground twitching.

 

 

Two chirps of his communicator and Reegan knew that he successful in
getting rid of advisory team one. He couldn’t help but feel sick as
his head went from joy at the successful execution of such a
difficult plan, to remembering that he had killed fellow Cardassians
that had served him loyally. It was as if he was shifting his hand to
and from freezing to scalding hot water. He would have to mourn
later, as the rest of the Resistance would have to be informed that
these men were killed in action.

 

The only problem was that the Resistance was gathering under very
different circumstances as the dissidents were all discussing the
destruction of a facility in the Klingon zone, and four subsequent
terrorist attacks in the Federation and Romulan zones. The men were
elated and wanted to know if this was why the advisory team members
had been absent. Reegan held up his hand as if to say “give me
second, and I’ll tell you.”

 

Going into the Op-center Reegan instructed the intelligence
specialists to tap into the Federation topography probe and pull up
all images in the last four hours. The images flashed on the giant
overhead display against the south wall of the room. The Klingon
Command and Control facility burst from the inside out in what was
clearly a tremendous detonation of explosives. All that was left was
a hole that was now filled with lake water. The vegetation for 150
meters around the center was gone and for another 50 meters was on
fire. Who destroyed the facility? Did his team destroy the facility?
And why did he receive an ABORT code indicating his team was
intending to pull out?

 

Dumbfounded, Reegan called the Resistance to briefing. He explained
that the tightest security was necessary to complete the missions
whose details were now unfolding. The dissidents cheered at such
boldness and for a second Reegan felt like a real leader again. But
reality pushed in quick and hard and he put his hands in the air to
quiet the room for some sad news.

 

Reegan further explained that they had been given information that
data vital to the Resistance lay in two targets. One was a starship
and the other was the now destroyed facility. He could not give
specifics as to what they were after but the facilities destruction
was the secondary objective to the data retrieval. Sadly, he had
reason to believe that the team did not survive the operation.

 

The room fell silent. It was clear that the advisory team was
respected by the men; Reegan understood their feelings completely. He
reminded everyone that one team was still in Live Status Mode (LSM),
and had not yet signaled their success or failure. He ended his
briefing by announcing the assignment of a new advisory board, of
which the selectees would be informed tomorrow at 0800hrs.

 

At that moment one of the intelligence specialists shouted to Reegan:

 

“Sir!
The Pentagon’s just exploded!”

 

“What?!”
Reegan stated.

 

“It’s
gone Sir! And the Federation has sounded General Quarters on all
remaining starships! They’re pulling out of low orbit to that of
the moons’!”

 

The men cheered loudly. What a day! Reegan however looked as if
someone had stuffed a really foul tasting object in his mouth that he
was unable to spit out. He quickly tried to compose himself. What
the
fuck was going on here? Reegan’s
communicator chirped twice.

 

“Is
that the team?” Asked one of the dissidents.

 

Reegan tried to wipe the “oh shit” look off his face and
replace it with a sad one. “I’m afraid not, son. It’s bad
news.” Gathering the members again Reegan explained that another
victory was achieved, but again at great loss. They weren’t done,
Reegan continued, but he would keep them informed. Just then:

 

“Sir!
The Romulan Commodore has just been assassinated!”

 

 

The
oh shit look was back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dissident Operations

 

 

O

5

n the other side of the planet the Human with the chiseled
face watched the final seconds of the sun over the Hills of Ungoss.
Looking at his chronometer he signaled the USS Wolf’s
Bane
for transport.

 

 

The
sunlight faded in a haze and a dimly lit cave replaced his view.

 

“Welcome
General Cain,” declared a pleasant but calculating voice. The
General noted that the Cardassian wore his ritual attire.

 

“It’s
always a pleasure, your Eminence.”

 

The two walked through the twists and turns of the caves until they
reached a flat, smooth wall flanked on both sides by the rocky cave
interior. The robed man pushed a stone on the rock face located to
the right side of the smooth wall. The smooth wall slid open and an
elegant room that was clearly a meditation chamber presented itself.
Cain had a hard time keeping himself alert, for this room was
enchanting. The smell of incense flowed freely, as did the soft
flickering candle light.

 

Sitting on the floor the two discussed the day’s events.

 

“What
happened to the Pentagon?”

 

General
Cain shook his head. “It was necessary. We had possession of that
ship so the loss of life was minimal.”

 

“And
the Klingon station?”

 

“That
was perfect. The Klingons did exactly as they said they would.”

 

“We
of course saw to the disposal of the Commodore…Unfortunate. We did
not want to be back in this kind of business.” stated the holy man
solemnly.

 

“‘We
are going to get our hands dirty no matter how antiseptically we do
this.’” The General was quoting from an Earth story called The
Enemy Within,
but the priest missed the reference.

 

“Yes.”

 

After a short pause the priest asked: “What now?”

 

“Now
we set to unleashing the Dominion forces to do their will. Their
level of aggression will do most of our work for us. General
Stevenson’s Army is in the next star system on training. I made
sure he was ordered to conduct full combat scenarios; as a result he
will have the means to engage and destroy the Dominion troops.”

 

“And
the Klingons?”

 

“General Grap’th is waiting at his headquarters in South Fultill.
The Klingons never occupy a planet without at least a task force of
heavy weapons. Their element is less than army size but it will do
nicely. It’s about time that Klingon and Federation ground forces
learn to combine arms.”

 

“It
is set then?” asked the priest.

 

“It
is,” responded the General. “All we need now is a revolution.”

 

***

 

The Romulans had been expecting the situation to turn on Cardassia.
Their intelligence services had been reporting unusual activity from
within their military and from within the Reman faction for weeks.
Add to it an unusually silent Klingon Empire, and a tenacious
Federation military build-up, and you have unpleasantness not too far
behind.

 

The Federation… What the hell are they up to? They have
completely pulled back from the Neutral Zone since the end of the
war…not too surprising…but they are aggressively seeking a way to
negotiate out of the anti-cloaking clause spelled out in the Treaty
of Algeron. Further, they had pulled all known intelligence agents
off of Romulus, to include turned Romulan citizens.

 

Of all powers in the Quadrant, the Romulans knew more about Star
Fleet than anyone except the Klingons. The Federation build-up was
more serious than anyone else knew. During the war the Federation had
successfully led everyone, including the Dominion, to believe that
they were in near dire straights. For months the Federation had been
pulling ships and men from its fleets to an unknown location. To
Romulans calculations, five hundred and fifty ships, give or take,
were redirected. Match this number with Romulan building estimates
that have a history of incredible accuracy, and you get a staggering
3300 ships floating somewhere in space. The final concern: the
Federation has enough materials in production routes to build another
5700 vessels.

 

Would the Federation build such a force? No way, say many. But the
industrial might of the Federation has never been fully calculated,
and the heights of the Federation’s anger after the war are
unknown. Add to this concern the immeasurable Federation Black
Industrial Allocation and the Quadrant could have some serious
issues. The Federation was attempting to make a power play on the
Quadrant. But with numbers like the production estimates, no one
would dare to resist them. The size of the force alone would ensure
that the Federation would never have to lift a finger in the conquest
of the Alpha Quadrant.

 

Interestingly, the new Romulan government had no intention of
standing in the Federation’s way.

 

***

 

 

Gul Catark was having issues. His security forces on the outskirts
of Cortul had reported a change in the behavior of the local
population. To his surprise the priests had resurfaced after nearly
150 years of self-imposed concealment. He was trying to understand
the new religious fervor sweeping the planet. What he could not
understand is their support of the Federation. What was the purpose,
and was the Federation behind this subversion of Cardassian identity?
What Catark had not taken into consideration was the effect that
chaos had on the Cardassian psyche after the war. The Cardassians had
done it to themselves, and the lack of self-identity was a direct
result from the military government not only abusing power but from
its decision to start a war that ended with Cardassia in ruins.

 

Hunger, lawlessness, looting of Cardassia’s ancient treasures, and
criminal syndicates, were the conditions which prevailed outside of
Cardassia’s cities. Inside the city wasn’t much better, the
security forces were outgunned by syndicates and had to repeatedly
ask for Alliance assistance in dealing with the issue. The Federation
zones seemed to be better off. Unlike the Klingon or Romulan zones,
the areas under Federation control had more electricity, at least
cold water running, and most importantly, fully functioning sewage.

 

As for crime and lawlessness the Federation somehow restored order
and drove crime into manageable pockets in the city suburbs. What
were they doing different? When he asked the security guls in the
Federated zones how the Federation achieved so much, the response he
got was that the Federation turned control back to the Cardassians
and stayed out of operations as much as possible. But the Klingons
and the Romulans had done the same. The Klingon zone was still in bad
shape in regard to infrastructure. The Klingon approach to rebuilding
is less than inspiring, but as expected, crime inside the Klingon
zone is nonexistent. Only a fool would try to build a syndicate in an
area under Klingon rule. As for the Romulans, they were doing well in
terms of infrastructure, but crime was rampant. The main issue facing
the Romulan commanders was the inability to think and make decisions
on their own. Attacking crime takes ingenuity and freethinking, and
that trait is sorely absent in the Romulans.

 

So it was no wonder that the citizens started to ask for more and
more Federation intervention on Cardassia; so much so, in fact, that
the Romulans were getting nervous. The Federation was playing the
“joint effort” game, claiming that the Allies won the war
together and together they would win the peace, but the Romulans were
not convinced.

 

***

 

 

With the death of the Romulan Commodore, the Romulans started a
build-up to eradicate the Cardassian Liberation Front, and had put
the first bounty on Reegan’s head. The Romulans were concerned that
the Federation would resist and sent an envoy both to Earth and to
the Klingon Military Governor of Cardassia Prime.

 

Surprisingly, the Federation not only agreed, but also offered any
assistance requested by the Romulan Government, as did the Klingons.
The Klingons had been much easier to deal with since Chancellor
Martuk took power. Political analysts all over the Quadrant breathed
easier when he decided to keep the Chancellery. The only problem is
that wherever you find the Klingons, you can find the Federation, and
Martuk was going to keep it that way.

 

The Romulan buildup included twenty-five thousand troops, another
Warbird wing including a bomber detachment, and three-dozen
more Scorpion Attack Fliers. The Klingons followed suit
sending ten thousand more troops and another heavy weapons battalion.
Two more heavy bombers were placed in orbit bringing the total
Klingon bomber force to 12. Surprisingly, the Federation did not land
any more forces on the planet; however they did add an undisclosed
number of soldiers and equipment to the 23rd Galaxy Wing.

 

With the new force in place the Romulans swept through several cities
and drove out the syndicates, but failed to engage the Resistance.
Reegan had already known what was coming as Romulan counter dissident
tactics were required study at the Cardassian Military Institute of
Warcraft. The problem for Reegan was that he was stuck. With the
destruction of the Pentagon, the command and control facility,
and the assassination of the Romulan Commodore he now had to end his
cease-fire and attack everyone.

 

That would be foolish; he knew that. The Romulans had decided to
strike first, so his prime enemy, the Federation, would have to wait
to meet Reegan and the Resistance in battle. His response to the
bounty being placed on his head was to shoot down the main transport
bringing in clandestine forces and bounty hunters.

 

Yes, Reegan was stuck. He could not attempt to establish a cease-fire
with the Romulans; they would never believe the Resistance was not
behind the assassination. He couldn’t go to the Klingons; they
would not turn against the Federation. And he couldn’t go to the
Federation; they were his hated enemy. Nor could Reegan disavow the
terrorist actions; his precious Resistance would crumble. No, Reegan
had only one available option: war. He had to lay low, wait, and then
contact the Dominion troops.

 

 

The operation to take out the transport carrying Romulan Subversive
Warfare Specialists and bounty hunters was surprisingly easy. He had
received information through the Remans regarding the flight schedule
leaving him with only to plan his response. He picked six of his
better men, none of which had been promoted to the advisory team. The
special ops team was structured in the traditional fashion: a
Geographical Information Specialist, an Electronic Warfare
Specialist, a Sniper-Scout, a Communications/Intelligence Specialist,
a Technological Engineer, and the Team Commander.

 

With the information the Cardassians fashioned their plan: identify
and neutralize Romulan security, take control of the Flight Craft
Guidance Operation Center, guide the transport in, and destroy it.
The key to a successful conclusion of this mission would be timing as
the Cardassians planned to wait until the very last possible second
to strike. To hold the facility longer would risk detection and
mission failure, and mission failure was not an option as Romulan
Subversive Warfare Specialists are among the most ruthless warriors
in the Quadrant.

 

At Station-minus-2 (two hours before tactical deployment) the
Cardassians were supplied and briefed by the intelligence specialists
as to the condition on the ground. The GIS Specialist had created a
holographic topographical map that could be manipulated from overhead
to horizontal-close-up view. And because the Romulans were using
Cardassian buildings, unlike the Federation and Klingons, the
blueprints, which included air vents and security systems, were
available from the Cardassian Security Archives. The Electronic
Warfare specialist had hacked into the security mainframe and
extracted the data and placed a Remote Access Trojan variant in the
central computer that would allow for system penetration at will.

 

The Sniper chose his weapons: a Phase 7 Sniper Rifle (a projectile
weapon roughly equivalent to a .308 Sniper Rifle), a suppressed
sidearm, and a Shoulder Mounted Mortar. The Technological Engineer
loaded his explosives; and the Intelligence/Communications Specialist
loaded his data in his tricorder and encrypted his communications on
his Onmiplexing communications devise. The Omniplexor was amazing; it
could change its communication frequency every .03 seconds and had an
infinite range of frequencies. The decoding mechanism was located in
the sister Omniplexor at headquarters.

 

It was time. Because the Romulans did not allow the Federation to
scan over its territory with the orbiting security probes, the team
could use a transporter without fear of detection. Arriving .5
Kilometers away from their target, the team re-evaluated its
situation after transport. At near full sprint the team ran from its
location to the Transport Station perimeter, cut through the fence,
detected and disrupted the UV Perimeter Detection Grid, and traveled
to the Cargo Holding Area and waited. A check of the chronometer
indicated that they had twenty-two minutes before their assault was
to begin.

 

 

The soft vibration on his wrist told the commander it was time.
Raising his hand in the air and squeezing his fist, the team grabbed
their weapons and they moved to their fire positions. Scanning the
area the team noted four security sentries exactly where they were
supposed to be. Romulans thought the Commander; they’re
such easy targets
. The team divided and went to their kill zones.
The GIS Specialist snuck up behind his target and pulled out his
strangulation cord. With one quick, vicious grab the Romulan was
pulled to the ground and dragged behind a garbage bin. The force used
to strangle the Romulan was so great that the Cardassian could hear
the crack of his target’s trachea. The Cardassian could see the
Romulan’s blood vessels burst in his eyes…and then the struggle
was over. The GIS Specialist left the Romulan behind the bin with his
tongue hanging out, and waited for stage two.

 

Across the field the Electronic Warfare Specialist pulled his
suppressed projectile sidearm and fired on his target: a sentry near
the primary entrance to the Operations center. The unfamiliar
thud-pop of a head wound reverberated in the Cardassian’s ears: it
was his first kill.

 

The Sniper focused his suppressed rifle to his target on top of the
Control facility…breathed out…and squeezed. Churrthh…whispered
the weapon as it regurgitated its gift of death. The Romulan’s
cranial contents were all over the back wall of his tower.

 

The Cardassian Commander was stalking his prey. He snuck up behind
his target with his special Quiet-Kill knife, grabbed the Romulan
from behind and pushed the blade in through the ribs just below the
shoulder blade. The Romulan’s airflow was disrupted so he was
unable to scream. The Commander pulled the blade out and then pushed
the blade through the base of the skull: the Romulan went limp.

 

Entering the facility, they were in a rush now as they had five
minutes to neutralize the rest of the Romulan staff- seven according
to their count- and step into communications without obvious
disruption, rig the landing platform with explosives, guide the
transport in, and destroy it. They entered the control and let loose
on their weapons. 10.02 seconds and the staff were eliminated. The
Technological Engineer and the Sniper went to the platform to
complete their task. The EW and Intelligence Specialists took over
communications and began guiding the transport in. The Commander and
GIS Specialist took care of security and mission updates.

 

The transport was on its final decent to the platform. The Sniper
felt the excitement in his stomach; his Shoulder Mounted Mortar at
the ready. The transport was closer now; the antigravity engines
switched to propellant thrusters and the ground began to shake.

 

Touchdown. “Now!”

 

The Technological Engineer squeezed his trigger devise and watched as
a tremendous explosion erupted through the belly of the 250-foot
long, 22-foot high ship. The Sniper fired: the familiar throomp
of the Mortar rang through the air: direct contact with the cockpit.
The front of the transport was in flames and pieces of it were
landing everywhere. Sirens began blaring.

 

The rest of the team was outside and fired their weapons to be sure
everyone at the rear of the transport was dead or at least injured.
But another throomp made sure that the effectiveness of any
troops remaining inside alive would be nonexistent. The mission was
complete and team pulled out to its secondary zone for extraction.
The entire mission from transport to transport took 37 minutes and
158 lives.

 

 

***

 

 

The Romulans were in chaos. How could such an exact operation be
conducted without inside help? It could not. Commanders were
screaming at each other at the headquarters station, each blaming the
other for the security leak. Finally, the Romulan Task Force
Commander, Admiral Griss, beamed down from the newly arrived
re-enforcements and restored order. But the damage was done. The
command structure was permanently fractured and the seeds of civil
war were sewn on that very day.

 

The next day all twenty-five thousand Romulan troops were on the
ground and the borders to the Romulan Control Zone were closed.
Further, four WarbirdABs (aerial bombardment) were in
low orbit. A curfew was set sparking intense protests across the
cities under Romulan control. In response the Romulans kept twenty
Scorpion Attack Fliers in the air around the clock.

 

The priesthood of the Ever Faithful encouraged peaceful protests…and
Federation support. To curb Federation sympathy the Romulans tried to
suppress the Ever Faithful into silence. That only made matters
worse. At this point the Romulans could not make any winning move,
and it became apparent to everyone, including the Romulans that their
presence on Cardassia Prime was coming to an end.

 

***

 

All Reegan had to do was sit back and let the Romulans do themselves
in, but apparently this was too much to ask. Not known for his
intelligence or strategic skill, Reegan opted to press the Romulans
and attack.

 

 

Four cells were activated in the Romulan zone, and one in the Klingon
and Federation zones. Reegan had at least enough sense not to begin
simultaneous operations in all three zones. His advisory staff, far
more savvy when it comes to intelligence and strategic planning,
outlined the following strategy for dissident operations:

 

  • Attack only the Romulans to take advantage of the Alliance weak
    point and to keep the Federation and Klingons from direct
    involvement

  • Work to further destabilize the Alliance

  • Utilize the cells in the Klingon and Federation zones for
    intelligence gathering and disinformation

  • Work to gain off-world support

 

 

The general strategic outline was sound, but as planning goes, Reegan
didn’t care for such things. He was a man of action and believed
that spending too much time thinking about it would erase fate’s
natural favor for bold action. True to his military heritage, Reegan
pushed his Resistance down this path, and sent it to oblivion.

 

***

 

Inside the Romulan zone, in the city of Dakkar, a man in a
maintenance uniform and carrying a case walked down a dark hallway
containing living quarters for the lower class citizens of the urban
center. He turned the corner of the east wing of the building on the
seventeenth floor. He came to a door which read:

 

1702

 

He knocked.

 

 

The
door creaked open revealing a Cardassian male with a hardened face.
Behind him, four more Cardassians, including one female…make that
one incredibly attractive female, sitting at a table. The
apartment was dark other than the light over the table. The soft
orange light, gently and ever so slightly swinging to and fro over
the table, cast shadows on the face of the Cardassian at the door.

 

“I’m
with building maintenance. I was told that you have rats.”

 

“No
rats here,” stated the Cardassian with the hardened face.

 

“I’m
sorry, but you have pests. I only dispose of rats. Here is how you
dispose of the lesser pests.” The maintenance man handed him a slip
of paper and the case.

 

“Thank
you. Will these pesticides work?”

 

“They
will. My contact listing is at bottom when you run out.” The
maintenance man turned and left.

 

***

 

 

 

Two days later the Romulan security office was busy. Located at an
active intersection in downtown Dakkar, the single story 3400 square
foot building that used to be a shop had served the Romulans nicely
as a headquarters for the 122nd Security Detachment. In
this area of the city the forces were on constant assignment. The
Ever Faithful and their supporters scheduled four protests in the
next week. Daily the security forces were harassed; living quarters
vandalized, and clashes with rock throwing Cardassian juveniles
wearing replicas of ancient death masks.

 

0600 hours was shift change for the late night forces to the day. The
Late Night Supervisor was briefing the on-coming day shift, and the
leaving shift was in the changing area.

 

 

DEATH AND FIRE

 

 

The security building exploded with horrifying violence, leveling the
single story buildings around it, and one across the street. For two
blocks in every direction windows shattered. Fifty-seven Romulan
Security Officers were dead, along with fifteen Cardassian citizens
in the immediate area.

 

Alarms blared from around the city as Scorpion Attack Fliers
converged on the area and the kill zone. The building was gone; only
a pit of smoke and debris. Suppressive fire was a mute point; instead
the fliers began the recovery efforts by taking pictures of the
crowds, the crater, and the debris scatter field.

 

Four Romulan troop-transport shuttlecraft landed near the area. Two
hundred soldiers were on the ground in less than five minutes. The
area was secured, as was the scene. At that point the forensic
experts could begin their investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Creep

 

 

A

6

t the Central Command in the Cardassian city of Da’ne,
Romulan Ground Operations Colonel Dubree Wrok, Deputy Director of
Central Intelligence, Cardassian Theater, Romulan Control Zone was
giving a

 

 

briefing
to field commanders, battle staff, and senior ranking command
officers. Invited were intelligence delegates from the Federation and
Klingon zones.

 

On the giant screen a still picture taken from one of the fliers was
being displayed. The crater with circles around debris and a larger
border around the debris scatter field could be identified. Security
scans and monitors displayed different pictures and sequences of the
probable suspects. In clear view was an extremely attractive
Cardassian female with one arm around a Romulan security officer.

 

According to information, the female had been involved with the
security officer for several months. She frequented the living
quarters of the security personnel and became involved with the
Romulan on the tape. She never asked for information beyond “what
do you do?” And because she was so attractive most Romulan males,
away from the females on their own planet, said everything and
anything for a chance…

 

After becoming involved with the Romulan security officer, she began
taking him lunch. She was searched regularly at first, but then as
she got to know everyone, the searches stopped. On that day she
walked into the station as she always did; although this time not
during her lover’s lunch break. Claiming that she had a job
interview, she delivered an anti-matter device of some kind rather
than his meal.

 

A careful examination of the Romulan chosen by the female: he was
young, only in the military for two and a half years. He was smart
and good looking, but uncomfortable with women. Having such a female
attracted to him caused him to loose all sense of operational
security.

 

 

“This
is why we discourage fraternizing,” bellowed the Colonel. He went
on to say: “The commander of this security section has been
relieved of duty. Not by me, but by his enemy. Gentlemen, if we do
not regain a sense of discipline in our military forces, we will
scrape up more bodies of our young men. Further, I will relieve any
commander for any lapse in security under his command.”

 

The room was silent. The Colonel stepped away from the podium and the
Intelligence Adjutant spoke:

 

“This was the worst incident of the day but not the only. On the
southern border of the city a patrol lost two men from sniper
activity. A building used for cover was located and three Scorpions
attacked the building and effectively neutralized it. However,
thorough sweeps of the debris failed to yield bodies. Two kilometers
to the west of this location another patrol lost eleven men to a
roadside bomb that was masked as a dead common household animal. A
final incident occurred one kilometer northeast of the third
incident, in which a food warehouse was firebombed.

 

“Given the proximity of the incidents, the proximity to public
transportation services, the current state of public transportation
services elsewhere in the city, and the current preference for the
city’s southwest quadrant, it’s reasonable to assume that they
will continue operations in this region.”

 

“How long can we expect operations to continue?” asked a troop
commander in the back of the room.

 

“Indefinitely, until they’re defeated, or until we leave.”
stated the Colonel.

 

Another
asked: “When can we expect another attack?”

 

“Unfortunately we cannot give an estimate at this time. Their
operations have just started. We can state with a fair degree of
certainty that the cell was already here laying dormant or being used
strictly for intelligence gathering until instructed to move to
hostile operations. We can further state confidently that the cell is
small, maybe six to eight people at most. Given the size of this
operation, they would need to be supplied regularly as they could not
store large quantities of explosives onsite due to security reasons.
Until more attacks occur we cannot determine the size of their
supply.”

 

The room filled with murmurs. Now came the difficult part: the
response. The Romulans could not allow the Resistance to keep the
upper hand. Drastic action was called for.

 

The Romulan Task Force Commander, Admiral Griss, had created a plan.
They were going to identify division points along the city and create
half-kilometer buffers between the city quadrant divisions. Doing so
would add to the unemployment rate, the homeless problem, and just
irritate the Cardassians in general, but it would help keep the city
under control and would further help the Romulans to identify and
contain troubled areas in the city.

 

***

 

 

The Romulans were getting real nervous now. They had gone to the
Federation to smooth over the objections they knew were coming. But
instead of the usual “can’t we just all get along” attitude of
the Federation, all they got was: “You sure that’s what you want
to do? Well then ok.”

 

The Klingon Military Governor of Cardassia just grunted while eating
his blood pie; waving them away saying with his hand “go ahead and
have fun.”

 

 

The Romulans didn’t want to ask for help from the Federation and
Klingons. First, they didn’t trust them. Something was up with the
two powers and the Romulans didn’t want to put themselves in a
position to find out what it was…unless of course it was to their
benefit. Second, they had to prove they could do it on their own.
Many both on and off Cardassia were asking if the Federation was the
only true power in the Quadrant, and were further asking if the
Romulans were the most overrated of the regional powers.

 

The troops had begun their forced evacuation of the first division
point in the city. It took all 172,000 Romulan ground troops from
across a third of the planet to get the population of the city under
control. The buffer creation stage was supposed to be a one-day
operation, but two weeks later the city was burning from the civil
unrest created by the Romulan plan. Given the chaos, the Romulan
Commander, Admiral Griss, requested and was granted an immediate
build-up of 250,000 troops to control their zone with a cap of
550,000 in the next year. News of this magnitude swelled the rank and
file of the Resistance.

 

Over the next six months the Romulans divided twelve more cites in
this fashion. But with only 425,000 troops, Admiral Griss was feeling
as if he was trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

 

To alleviate the problem of overextension, the Romulans gave up 70%
of their control zone to the Alliance. Left in their possession was a
2700 kilometer by 1500 kilometer island-continent called Ny (Nye) in
which the Resistance was concentrated. The Romulans were no longer
concerned about rebuilding, managing citizens, or fighting crime:
they wanted the Resistance crushed and they wanted Reegan dead.

 

Most of the Resistance activity was focused in a region called
Soldatt; an area about 450,000 square kilometers (Iraq on Earth is
about 432,000 square kilometers) and located in southeastern quadrant
of the island. Admiral Griss was going to concentrate his forces in
this region, home of the Cardassian Liberation Front, and engage them
on their own ground. It was his hope that by attacking this region,
the bulk of Cardassian dissidents would come to Soldatt and give the
Romulan military a chance to kill them off. All he needed now was
enough forces to guarantee victory…

 

 

“Look
Sir, our image is at stake. Further I am trying to avoid, as I always
have, mission creep. Give me the troops immediately and we can
in one swift stroke destroy the Resistance.” Admiral Griss wished
he could speak face-to-face with the Romulan Praetor but given that
the leader of the Romulan Empire was on Romulus and he was on
Cardassia, the preferred methods of such conversations would have to
wait.

 

“Admiral
Griss, I respect your experience, but 2 million troops is a political
disaster waiting to happen. We entered the Kitamer Accords with the
Federation and Klingons during the Dominion War. The Treaty has
already been stretched to its limits with the allowance of troops
outside of Romulan Space of a size greater than 500,000. Now you not
only want me to break the Accords, but the Treaty of Algeron, which
has stood for nearly 220 years, for a war that has slowly bled 12,300
Romulans of their lives, made no progress, and is becoming more and
more unpopular by the minute.” The Praetor’s eyes were hard, but
understanding. Admiral Griss was concerned for the safety of his men,
the integrity of Romulan policy, and the image of Romulan strength.
But as the leader of the Romulan Empire the Praetor had greater
obligations. The Empire was moving toward civil war, and the military
was moving towards sedition. He sighed:

 

“I’ll
give you another 750,000 immediately, then you’ll have to make do
with the last 125,000 due to arrive during the next six months.”
This decision was not going to make him popular, but it was the right
thing to do.

 

 

Through all the turmoil the Ever Faithful were adding to their
support those who didn’t turn to the Resistance. This was roughly
three fifths of the population and to make matters worse the Ever
Faithful were still supporting the Federation. News of the continuing
successful recruitment of the Resistance was a mixed blessing. On the
one hand it was making the war very difficult for the Romulans as
security patrols regularly came under attack from snipers.
Engagements were often traps to lull the Romulans into confined
spaces where homemade explosive were planted. Deaths were increasing
and Cardassian resistance was stiffening.

 

On the other hand the Romulans were given all the excuse in the world
to use heavy-handed measures against the Cardassian population to
deal with the matter. Cardassian citizens in the Romulan zone were
subject to curfews, at-will search and seizures, segregation, delayed
due process, and electronic tagging. Security checkpoints were
everywhere, as were firefights and innocent bystanders.

 

In Da’ne Romulan Admiral Griss stood at his office window from his
office atop the City Security Building, now off limits to all
Cardassians. He wondered when he would get relief. Mostly, he just
wanted to go home. This occupation was lost. Today alone there were
72 engagements yielding only 147 enemy casualties and costing him 58
men. Yesterday, a Romulan soldier had his throat slit while engaging
in a sexual interlude with a supposed Cardassian prostitute, and two
days ago his favorite restaurant had been destroyed by the first
Cardassian suicide bomber of this “peace action.”

 

Now that the suicide bombers had surfaced, he knew that there was no
way he could turn the tide. Suicide bombers are created from the
emotional uproar of zealous beliefs. As a young troop, Admiral Griss
remembers seeing video footage of Earth terrorists in the 20th
century. In North America, the strongest nation at the time was being
challenged by the anti-abortion group known as God’s Army in which
one of its followers stated that terrorism is the explosion of
violence that is birthed from the madness generated within a person
who cannot reconcile their beliefs with that of the world. Suicide
bombers were the ultimate expression of this sentiment. After
watching these videos his view of Humanity was forever changed as no
other species in the known galaxy could support peace with such
fervor, and then blow themselves up along with as many others as they
could take. It was a frightening thought, and now he had to face it
here on Cardassia.

 

***

 

 

It was two days before the beginning of another death march. It was
hard to believe that it was a year since the first Burning of the
Dead, but here it was upon them again. Much has happened on Cardassia
since that day. The Federation and Klingon sectors have been brought
up to 100% on basic amenities and were almost completely crime free.
The Romulan sector was mostly rubble. Businesses were gone, as were
most law-abiding citizens. The Resistance and criminal elements,
organized and unorganized, had moved into the Romulan control zone.
Two million residents existed in the Romulans sector; only a small
fraction of what was present at the beginning of the Romulan
occupation.

 

There was wide discussion of a Romulan pullout. The major cities were
nothing more than war zones where Romulan troops and Resistance
fighters could engage each other. Inside the Romulan Empire the power
of the Praetor was unraveling and the military had split itself right
down the middle between loyalists and revolutionists.

 

Then there were the Remans. It has been two months since their
military went into hiding. The mines on Remus that had supplied the
Empire with weapons and dilithium through the sweat and tears of the
Reman slaves had begun a deliberate slow down.

 

On top of all the Romulan problems was the death count on Cardassia.
In the months since the first suicide bomber, the mass exodus of good
citizens out of the Romulan Control Zone and enemies in had led to an
exponential growth of Romulan casualties. The current death toll
stood at 42,356; with an additional 3,289 missing in action; and
another 107,234 injured. The Romulan High Command was not pleased.

 

But no one asked how the Cardassians were doing. Despite frustrating
the Romulans, the Resistance had not gained any ground in months and
had suffered nearly 100,000 dead. In this kind of war there were few
in the “injuries only” listing for the partisans, and missing
meant captured-tortured-killed.

 

 

Reegan had been letting the situation in the Romulan zone fester. By
now the Cardassians that chose to engage the Romulans in combat had
seen so much devastation that they would to be willing to do anything
to drive the Romulans out, even possibly side with deserted Jem’Hadar
troops. Just a little longer, and they would get their wish. But
today he couldn’t focus on the impending Jem’Hadar strike; there
was another pressing matter to attend.

 

He had gotten word that the Klingon ground task force was fully
manned and on the march from a staging area on the coast of the Sea
of Whispers on the eastern extremity of Gibron. They were deploying
south to the Plains of Scales and Blood, where the Jem’Hadar were
encamped in a network of caves. If the Klingons successfully pinned
the Jem’Hadar in the caves, then Alliance bombers could annihilate
the Dominion forces with out any real effort. He had to send them a
message.

 

There were other problems as well. 40,000 Romulan soldiers were on
their way to Cafka, the city housing the Resistance headquarters and
the city he was currently in. Reegan had just sent 15,000 of his
25,000 troops to the Plains to intercept the Klingons, 72,000 strong,
leaving 10,000 to face four very aggravated Romulan Security
Detachments. He hoped that his troops going to the Plains wouldn’t
get there until the battle between the Jem’Hadar and the Klingons
was well under way but he would have to tackle that issue when it
arose. For now Reegan would have to convince his subordinates, who
still did not know about the Dominion forces, that the Klingons were
deploying south to take several southern cities and then deploy north
to envelop the Resistance for a final blow from the Romulans; Reegan
called it the “hammer and anvil” approach.

 

“What of the Federation?” was the next standard question. The
answer to this was difficult from Reegan’s point of view, as to
claim that he didn’t know was an understatement. Not one of his
usual contacts was speaking about the Federation. That may have been
due to an information blackout by Star Fleet. Only the Klingons
seemed not to care about the refusal of the Federation Chain of
Command to tell their allies what they were planning. What ever it
was, it must be seriously unpleasant.

 

On the outer ring of the solar system the Federation security patrols
from elements of the 3rd Fleet had almost ceased. The
Federation Council decided that securing the Worm Hole to the Gamma
Quadrant, maintaining high numbers near, but not at, the Neutral Zone
due to Romulan instability, and beefing up numbers in Sector 001 in
case of another Borg invasion were of greater priority. This was
great news as Reegan could send 5,000 men on stolen transports,
shuttles, and Scorpions to the shipyards where the Cardassian vessels
were docked. That would only leave him 5,000 to defend against
40,000. But this was an urban environment, and large numbers of
troops meant high casualties. All he had to do was hold them off for
78 hours.

 

Estimates placed the Romulans on the edge of the City in five hours;
preparations had to be made.

 

***

 

 

 

General Cain of Section 31 was pleased. Klingons on the march,
Romulans scheduled to make their final assault of this war, a
Resistance ready to fall, and a Federation Ground Army on the way
were good news. In another year Cardassia would not only be under
Federation control, but a part of the Federation, along with all of
her territory. In three generations the former Cardassian Empire
could add another 4.5 million bodies to the Federation’s military
might, and an estimated 2500 of the best intelligence operatives in
the Federation’s intelligence arms.

 

In the Federation and Klingon zones, Federation support was almost a
given. No Cardassian wanted to be ruled by a Klingon. And after
seeing the way Romulans were handling the day-to-day lives of
Cardassians in their sector, well the Federation was a savior.

 

The Ever Faithful had gained the upper hand in the political arena in
the two zones. While there was much support of the Federation, many
were still uneasy about joining another alliance. But the retraining
of the Cardassian Militia was slow going. Many who joined were either
too indoctrinated in the old ways, or just didn’t have the skills
it took to be a soldier. For Section 31, these difficulties were a
blessing. When the Jem’Hadar surfaced in two days, the Cardassians
will be screaming for the Federation to save them because their own
troops will be unable to.

 

Just to be sure, the Federation will use them in the up coming battle
to demonstrate their ineffectiveness. Many will die, but it is for
the good of Cardassia, and the good of the Federation. To complete
the ruse, the Federation will refuse to send in troops, insisting
that to protect Cardassian self-sufficiency; Cardassian troops must
successfully meet this challenge. Further, the Federation will insist
that Federation troops of the magnitude requested by the Cardassian
Interim Government are only available to Federation members. This
final bit of information will get the Cardassian minds turning and
discussions started.

 

In the end the Federation will of course acquiesce begrudgingly to
the pleas of the Cardassian citizens; leaving the populace with
little choice but to stay close to the Federation for protection.

 

To many this plan may seem harsh and devishly shrewd. It is not. The
true fact is that without the Federation the Cardassian economy will
collapse. This will lead to civil war throughout the Cardassian
Empire and involve every power in the region. In the end, the
Cardassian Empire will be split by everyone, with the Klingons
controlling Cardassia Prime, the Romulans controlling the nearest 200
light years, and chaos taking the rest. The power of the Cardassians
would never come forth again. That would be a disaster for the Alpha
Quadrant in the next war and Federation wasn’t going to let that
happen.

 

The Federation had planned much for the next 10 years to ensure that
the Alpha Quadrant was ready when the Dominion returns.

 

 

***

 

 

Romulan General Haram viewed Cafka from his Hand Held Remote Viewers
(HHRVs). All was still. Bullshit, he thought. In another
half kilometer the Cardassian snipers and heavy anti-personnel
weapons will begin firing. Another 100 meters from there the
propelled explosives will come.

 

Haram had four combat Detachments at his disposal. He had decided to
hit the northwest quadrant of the city in full rather than divide his
forces between the northwest and northeast. After the successful
penetration of the city the forces would head for the main road that
leads to the City Square. Ordering Security Sub Detachment 1 to break
off of the main group and secure the most northwestern traffic
artery, the troops came under fire at the expected range. On a
200-meter front pulse weapons and projectiles came at a steady pace.

 

1000 strong, Security Sub Detachment 1 began to take casualties. A
medical triage was set up just outside the range of the weapons, but
they were still responsible for extracting injured soldiers. Using
specially armed shuttlecraft, the Med-Evac units would rush in to
take the injured and dead.

 

Sub Detachment 2 was sent in on the right flank of Sub Detachment 1.
The Cardassian fire intensified. With the circling of the 47th
Light Armored Infantry to the left of Sub Detachment 1 the Cardassian
Liberation Front opened fire across a full half-kilometer front.
Heavy Anti-Armor was used effectively against the 47th,
and they were forced to pull back and wait for air support to
suppress Cardassian activity.

 

Without delay a tactical wing of Scorpions concentrated their
firepower at a city block and set it ablaze. The 47th
moved up with much less resistance than before but was stopped
pointedly 100 meters from the safe cover of the rubble of the City’s
first buildings.

 

Sub Detachment 1 was taking a beating. General Haram had just gotten
word that his Howitzers were in place and 4 Heavy Armor sub
detachments were setting up. With a nod the Howitzers sang their
death-knoll with a thunderous shake of the ground. Through his HHRVs
the General could see the half-kilometer front explode with
self-propelled photons. Pointed precision strikes were ineffective,
so he ordered to “fire for effect.” The already broken buildings
from two wars collapsed under a massive artillery strike. Enemy fire
ceased. Round one was over.

 

 

Reegan ordered his troops to fall back to Phase Line 2. Unlike the
usual phases of ground combat, Reegan had worked his Phase Lines in
reverse, slowly drawing the Romulans into the City in an attempt to
surround them. He still had 10000 troops to work with, minus the
current casualties. That would only last another day or two and then
he would have to send half of his troops to retrieve the Cardassian
warships. Until then, he was going to inflict as many casualties as
he could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Lion’s Den

 

 

W

7

hile 15,000 Cardassian resistance fighters marched through the
desert, a not-so-serious debate was unfolding at the Resistance
headquarters. Reegan’s men could not understand why he sent such a
small group to

 

 

engage
such a large Klingon force; however Reegan indicated that he needed
to distract the Klingons from reaching Ba’alin and cutting off any
hopes of retreat for the forces at Cafka. He also had other sizable
elements in the cities of Ba’alin, Prist, and Yammik that he could
use to divert the Klingons.

 

The plan was to delay the Romulans long enough for the warships to
arrive; that would challenge and possibly displace the current air
supremacy status quo which currently sat in the hands of the Allies.
The southern force that was sent to engage the Klingons was to force
a showdown on the Plains of Scales and Blood, ensuring that they
change directions from Ba’alin to the Plains for battle.

 

Reegan did not tell his men that Dominion troops were already set up
waiting for the Klingons, and that the task force sent to “distract”
the Klingons was going to be ordered to assist the Jem’Hadar.

 

 

Simultaneously, the Klingons entered Cortul without a shot being
fired. It was the only city in the Romulan zone that had any
resemblance to stability. The unusually organized societal structure
was probably due to the absence of Romulan troops. At this point in
the war with the Resistance the Romulans had taken such a beating
that they pulled all their troops back behind “Embattlement Line
Falcon,” in which one third of the country lay. In their fallback
zone, the Romulans were regrouping. Revisions of strategy,
re-supplying of units, and the assignment of reinforcements were
taking place.

 

Beginning with Cafka, the Romulans had decided that the Resistance
had to end. With their overwhelming firepower they were going to burn
every major city from Cafka to the Southern Sea and drive the
Resistance into a corner and finish it. Admiral Griss had as many men
as Romulus would allow and he knew that very soon he would be ordered
to start evacuation plans, as he had already gotten the word that the
new government wanted this war to end but had not yet decided on a
date.

 

 

At Cortul, the Klingons waited.

 

 

***

 

 

Two light armor and two infantry Sub Detachments entered Cafka. The
roads were strewn with rubble. It was quiet…too quiet. The Romulan
infantry units followed up the rear of the armored convoy. On the
outskirts of the city the heavy armor, light armor, and numerous
infantry units waited.

 

28,000 troops prepared to move into the city, spread out, and begin
the building-to-building searches. Just as the 4 Sub Detachments past
the rubble piles left by the artillery strike, buildings exploded all
around them. Specially rigged to fall into the streets to block the
paths of the Romulans, the buildings crushed soldiers and vehicles,
leaving the rest pinned down and cut off.

 

The Cardassians then opened up the second round of battle with
mortars of varying kinds, to include shoulder mounted weapons. Using
both projectile and pulse weapons the Cardassians were inflicting
heavy casualties against the Romulan units, trapped and exposed on
the low ground; dazed, confused, and blind from the collapse of the
buildings.

 

The Romulan Commander on the ground called for air support, but had
to argue with the wing commander due to the proximity of Romulan
troops to the impact zone. The ground commander was insistent: strike
this area.

 

Turning down from high altitude into attack formation, the Scorpions
experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire in the form of Heavy Pulse
Howitzers and self-guided shoulder mounted weapons. Although the
attack fliers had electronic weapons jamming capability, several
fliers were successfully shot out of the sky. At an altitude of 150
meters the seven lead Scorpions drew fire and strafed the ground and
buildings with rapid-fire projectile canons. Pulling out of the
attack dive a Scorpion was struck with a Dark Matter Missile, causing
the flier to fold in on itself until it was nothing more than a heavy
mass. The second group to dive struck the buildings with disruptor
canons and self-guided plasma munitions; two buildings collapsed
after exploding in blue flames.

 

The third group to dive was six photon bombers; however the
Cardassians had been holding-fire of their more effective
anti-aircraft systems with the specific intent of shooting down these
attack craft. As the bombers reached 175 meters the Cardassians
launched Cluster Series M bombs: M for magnetic. The cluster
bombs swarmed the air and met the Romulan attack craft before the
release altitude of 150 meters. The bombs stuck to the outer hull of
the aircraft en mass, and exploded in the same fashion.

 

At this point the Romulan Task Force Commander called for the Warbird
heavy bombers in orbit to level the area. Normally, the Cardassian
sky was bright orange with no clouds to be seen. Cafka was one of the
few exceptions. The year-round gray sky meant continual drizzle and
endless mud. On this day the Romulans were up to their ankles in it.
Miserable, wet, tired, and hungry the Romulans soldiers were anxious
for the Warbird strike.

 

But that changed. The already gray and dark sky almost turned black
in midday light as the shadowy outline of the Warbirds could be seen
on the clouds until they broke through. Looking at the gigantic and
magnificent form of the forest green Warbird starships pulling clouds
behind them was like watching the Great Creator arriving in his war
chariots. The awe didn’t last long as the Warbirds unleashed their
firepower.

 

Moving slowly the Warbirds pounded the buildings around the isolated
Romulan troops. Buildings fell, rubble burned, Cardassians died.
Coming around for a second pass the Warbirds formed a firing line and
moved south along the City, carving a path of devastation and death
for the Romulan ground troops to follow.

 

The path led the troops on the ground to the City Central Square
where merchants traded and sold goods in happier times. Now the
square displayed 1027 dead Romulans on stakes.

 

In the City Square the Romulans enjoyed a brief quiet and a meal.
They had lost 2200 to the Cardassians, 988 to falling buildings, and
1259 to the Warbirds; thus ended round two.

 

***

 

 

General Haram was frustrated. He had been told that the city was
clear of civilians, but as he looked at the edge of the city before
him, several thousand Cardassian refugees began streaming off in
every direction. Dead Cardassians citizens would not make their task
easier nor would it enhance or even help to save face for the Romulan
Empire. Further, he was just informed by his Forward Observers that
Resistance troops were circling on the right flank of the front, and
approaching the City Square. To meet this imminent threat, he sent in
his heavy armor.

 

In the City Square the Romulan soldiers finished their lunch just in
time to be called to alert: the enemy was closing. The Romulan
soldiers took down their dead from the stakes. Attached to the bodies
were crudely authored messages in childlike Romulan; warning that
more Romulan soldiers would meet the same fate if they did not leave.

 

The Romulan soldiers pulled back to the north edge of the Square and
fortified their lines in preparation for the next phase of the
battle. On the right and left flanks sat the sleek, sloping
triangular heavy armor vehicles with their pulse cannons pointing
south. The early onslaught of the Warbirds had given the Romulans a
great deal of room to maneuver as almost all resistance to their
front and flanks ceased.

 

The Task Force Commander had originally wanted to rush into the city,
take the Square with its entire force, and attack in multiple
directions, taking the city from its center. This plan did not work.
The Cardassian Resistance was far more organized and better equipped
than Fleet Intelligence had indicated. Therefore, the General had to
modify his plans and break his army into smaller but still effective
pieces to take the city. Now instead of taking the city from its
center, he planned to use the main governmental roads to move his
troops and divide the city. At Governmental Road 3, 4, and 5 General
Haram would sever Cafka in two. Once his lines were secure and
re-enforced with heavy armor, he could resume his push south.

 

 

 

***

 

Reegan
paced.

 

“How
long until the Romulans have secured their lines?” he asked.

 

His
Adjutant responded: “Estimates are 33 minutes.”

 

“How
long until we are ready?” he shot back.

 

“About
thirty minutes.” His Adjutant smiled.

 

“Tell
Section 2 to pull out from their fighting positions at Phase Lines 4,
5, and 6 and prepare to make their run at the Romulan 99th
Field Medical Triage. Second, tell Section 1 to prepare for battle.”

 

He had a plan; a good one he thought. But its success would depend on
two factors: Romulan frustration and Section 2’s abilities. First
he would use his heavy artillery to start an incredible battle. The
intense fire power of the Heavy Pulse Canons used in an offensive
maneuver should catch the Romulans flat-footed. If he could just turn
one flank, it should be enough to get the reaction he wanted. With
half of his forces attempting to take out the Romulan Triage Center
and steal the shuttle craft there was no way he could win the ground
battle for Cafka. But that was ok because all he wanted were the
shuttles. With them, he could send his men to fetch the Cardassian
Warships. And with the Federation and Klingon Fleets scattered
throughout the sector, he would be able to get them back to Cardassia
before serious intervention by the Allies.

 

Then, a horrifying thought: “And then what?” The Dominion and
Cardassian troops would have to create a miracle on the field of
battle to put the Cardassian Liberation Front in the position to
negotiate a peace with control of its own zone. At this point it
looked as if the reward would be the entire Romulan zone if the
rumors about a Romulan pullout were true. The Romulans were losing on
the field, they were losing in the halls of government on Romulus,
and they were losing in the hearts and minds of their own public.
Unless the Romulans won soundly at Cafka, they were going to be
pulled off the planet. Reegan hoped beyond all hope that fate was
with him.

 

 

Several Romulan soldiers were sitting behind their hand-built barrier
on the firing line looking into the Square discussing the differences
between Cardassian and Romulan prostitutes. The discussion had been
ongoing for a couple of hours when one of the soldiers noticed that
it was unusually quiet on the other side of the Square, as if some
great predator was getting ready to pounce. Without sharing his
thoughts with his companions he rose to his feet and peaked over to
look at the other side of the Square.

 

The discussion pointedly ended with a thunderous noise that caused
the other two soldiers to hit the ground.

 

“What
the hell was that?”
asked one of the soldiers.

 

“I
don’t know,” said the other irritatedly.

 

They both asked the soldier who was standing, but didn’t get a
response. Rising to their feet, they discovered that their friend
couldn’t answer because his head above his lower jaw was gone. His
death had occurred so fast that his body was still standing; hands on
the sand bags. It took a few more seconds for the body to finally
fall over spilling copper-green blood, a brain stem, and their
friend’s tongue on the ground.

 

Without even thinking to report the incident, the other two Romulans
cried in horror and anger and began firing their own weapons in the
general direction of the noise. In very short time the entire Romulan
line was firing towards the other side of the Square without knowing
what was happening. No clarification was necessary as the Cardassians
began to return fire.

 

At that time a Warbird came overhead to bomb the Cardassian front
lines embedded within the buildings and rubble. As the ship closed
in, the Cardassians fired Ultra-Heavy Pulse Canons (UHPCs), used for
ground attack against orbiting starships. The Warbird returned fire
but it was too late. Suffering critical damage the Warbird drifted to
its left while slowly falling to the ground as if fainting. It landed
on the southeastern corner of the Square and exploded with surprising
intensity. Thus began round three.

 

Whatever joy the Cardassians had at shooting down a Warbird was gone
after the explosion as the entire Cardassian right flank was
obliterated. The Romulan heavy and light armor opened fire while
thrusting forward, infantry following. Night was falling now, as it
had been nearly fourteen hours since the first shot of the Battle of
Cafka.

 

Night ops were going to be tricky for the Romulans as they had never
been effective at night and the Cardassians seemed to thrive in it.
The only species better than the Cardassians at night were humans.
Right now they felt they could use some and they didn’t understand
why the High Command was so averse to getting at least a little
Federation help against the Cardassians.

 

 

Several hours later in complete darkness the Cardassians were falling
back to Phase Line 5 and regrouping. Despite the backward movement
the battle was going well. But Reegan was concerned as he had not
foreseen the Warbird explosion taking out a third of his UHPC’s.
Nevertheless, he had to pull his weapons together and attack fiercely
in the next round if he hoped to hold the city long enough for
Section 2 to attack the field hospital and steal the shuttle craft.

 

Bright flashes of energy/pulse weapons and the bright red flash of
projectile tracers were the only light enjoyed by either side.
Friendly fire incidents increased. And on the northwestern corner of
the city, Section 2 was preparing its assault on the Romulan field
hospital.

 

4322 soldiers strong after casualties, Section 2 of the Cardassian
resistance prepared to rush the Romulan medical center after
successfully moving past the Romulan lines. Actually it wasn’t much
of a feat as the Cardassians had built a series of tunnels under the
city beginning in the Dominion War that were more useful now in the
continued conflict with the Allies. The tunnels surfaced outside the
city nearly halfway between the city and the Romulan Headquarters.

 

Section 2 was ready…however they couldn’t attack until Section 1
had successfully completed their mission. On the Romulan right flank,
the Cardassian left, a Romulan brigade-sized element of combined
heavy and light armor, mechanized infantry, and light infantry moved
to Government Road 18, where the unit split in two. Half of the
brigade would lag behind and move west to cover the rear-flank of the
rest of the unit. The other half would push forward.

 

Just south of road 18, the Cardassians hit the first half of the
Romulan elements with everything they had. With all their UHPCs
concentrated on that side, the Cardassians broke the heavy armor and
let their heavy and shoulder mounted mortars cripple the light armor.
The partisans attacked the infantry with heavy sniper fire and deeply
wounded the mechanized infantry with rigged buildings. The Romulans
pulled back with haste, and to prevent a bulge or turn in the lines,
the Romulans halted their entire advance until their right flank
could be salvaged.

 

The second half of the unit rushed to support the first half but met
the same fate. At this point, the Romulans were no longer pulling
back but were being driven back at a running pace by the UHPCs and
ground troops. Within an hour the hard-earned ground from Government
Road 5 to 18 had been lost. The flank had been successfully turned
and the Cardassians were now threatening to retake the City Square
and cut off three Sub Detachments that were two and a half kilometers
to the south.

 

To prevent the most southwestern Romulan brigade from swinging west
and cutting off the Cardassian units, small spread out partisan
groups opened fire across the front hitting the Romulans with heavy
mortars and shoulder mounted weapons. Despite holding the Romulans
and making a lot of noise, the Cardassians really didn’t do much
damage.

 

 

Reegan ordered his men to slow down. The Romulans needed to assess
what he was doing, and hopefully they would come to the conclusion he
was trying to force them into: bringing all their Warbirds down to
ground level and attack. If that occurred, Section 2 could then get
the shuttles off the planet and to the Cardassian shipyards. They
would not get interference from the Federation and Klingons as their
starships have been ordered out of Romulan space around the planet
during these engagements.

 

 

The Romulans couldn’t decide what to do. If they sat, the
Cardassians would take the Square and put the troops to the south in
a very dangerous position. If they tried to flank the Cardassians by
moving a brigade west they could be hit with a full assault along
this breach in the southern lines and be divided. And yet, another
major assault from the Cardassians had yet to occur. So far only one
major assault had taken place, the others were just noise.

 

The Cardassians could have sent all of their firepower to one side
and left the rest of the front ready for the taking. However, it
could also be that the Cardassians wanted the Romulans to think just
that and were actually waiting to spring a trap. No matter how they
debated the situation one thought was clear: something had to be
done.

 

The solution was to call for all the available Warbirds to bomb the
city and annihilate the Cardassians rather than gamble by moving
units from the front. Once again swooping down from orbit, the
Romulans warships came down to bomb the Cardassians and provide
relief for the remnants of Praetorian’s Expeditionary Force 77.

 

Instead of slowly circling the city as great carrion, the Romulans
swooped down, truly as birds of prey and struck the city on its west
side. Reegan had assumed that the Warbird strike would be broad,
swift, and deadly so he spread out his UHPCs from their original
attack position to areas better for defense.

 

The strikes were immense. The Romulan commanders on the other side of
the city could see the orange-red glow pulsating from the fires left
by the attack. It was the most light either side had enjoyed during
the night phase of this battle. Reegan noted while looking at the
city from atop his headquarters that the city looked like the pits of
the spiritual abyss. He was not normally permeable to such thoughts;
after all he took an oath to reject such ideas as primitive in favor
of the modern and superior military government. But seeing the night
sky rendered pitch black from the fires now reaching into the
atmosphere stealing the starlight, Reegan couldn’t help but think
of the stories his grandparents used to tell him about the Cardassian
hell. It was a world of fire, broken cities, of sharp rocks and cold
sand, where the dishonored and the wicked were sent for woe and
misery. It is a place of black sky and no stars, choking dry air and
fierce cold. Yes, Cafka was a living, breathing example of hell. His
disbelief disappeared and he suddenly felt great sadness for his
planet and his people…

 

 

Reegan was evacuating. The Romulans had decided that the secondary
Cardassian attacks to the south and east were a ruse and they were on
the march. Despite knocking out two more Romulan Warbirds, the
Cardassians in Cafka were finished; in full retreat across the entire
city. No matter, Reegan thought, because he had just received word
that the attack and requisition of Romulan shuttles was successful.
The hospital was severely damaged and the guarding security
detachment nearly destroyed.

 

Reegan’s final act before ordering tear-down procedures was to set
off a nuclear devise in low orbit to generate a large Electromagnetic
Pulse (EMP) that disrupted communications and tactical displays just
long enough for Section 2 to get off the planet into warp without
being tracked. The Romulans would know that the shuttles were taken,
they just wouldn’t know where. So ended the Battle of Cafka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

In a cloaked vessel a commander watched 197-shuttle craft speed by
and then burst into warp. The commander opened a Com-Channel to his
superior, General Cain.

 

“What
is it?” asked a dry and harsh voice.

 

“They
are off the planet and en-rout to the ship yards,” answered the
ship commander.

 

A
brief pause and then: “Is everything ready for their arrival?”

 

“It
is, Sir.”

 

The Com-Channel closed with a chirp and within seconds a second coded
message was sent out. The commander then told his navigator to set
coordinates and make for the Cardassian shipyards at Markak 2, the
most extreme planet in the Cardassian star system.

 

 

The Cardassian commander of Section 2, Gul Juman, sat and evaluated
his situation. Bloody and nearly broken, Juman figured that they
would be dead before they returned to Cardassia. Nevertheless, he was
thankful to be alive at the moment.

 

“Why
do you think that, Sir?” asked his adjutant.

 

“The
Federation has never left a ship yard unguarded in its entire
existence, especially when hostile action is under way,” answered
the Gul.

 

“Why
not take us at the planet?”

 

“Because
we are of greater value to them alive for the time being; although
for what reason I cannot be certain.”

 

The
adjutant protested: “The Federation hasn’t even been interested
in this war. Why would they start now?”

 

“Do
you really believe that the Federation has been sitting quietly? In
their control zones crime is gone, as is poverty and governmental
strife. There is not one citizen in the Allied zone that would raise
a hand to the Federation despite their alliance to the Klingons.”

 

The
Gul continued: “Speaking of the Klingons, don’t you find it
strange that the Klingons haven’t spoken a word as to policy on
Cardassia Prime, and yet they have an army on the move?”

 

“What
are you saying?”

 

“I’m
saying that the Federation and the Klingons have been allowing the
syndicates to thrive inside the Romulan zone. That they know where
Reegan is and are letting him cause havoc. They are going to let the
Romulans fail and take over operations to the cheers and support of
the entire planet. We are dead. With us out of the way, the
Federation can take the planet without firing a shot.”

 

These words hit his adjutant like a disruptor. The Federation…they
had been planning the take over and incorporation of the Cardassian
Empire from the first day of the occupation. The adjutant quickly
rose to his feet and said to his commander: “We have to go back.”

 

“It’s
too late for that, now. We are committed. If we take the Cardassian
war vessels some of us may live long enough to get the word out. Some
of us may even end up as prisoners and be released years from now to
begin a resistance all over again. It’s even possible for some of
us to escape this day and make it back to Cardassian Prime.”

 

Sighing,
Gul Juman stated: “We wouldn’t make it back to Cardassia alive.
Our only hope is those ships.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearts and Minds

 

 


8

At the shipyards a lone Federation Galaxy B class
starship, the USS Vanguard, slowed to scan the area. Never
mind the Cardassians, the Federation at large was more concerned
about marauding Ferengi, Orion

 

 

pirates,
or half a dozen other unsavory types attempting to take weapon and
tracking systems from the dormant Cardassian ships. During the scan
the vessel picked up blips on long-range scanners. Captain
Sitting-Bull ordered his ship to battle stations.

 

The shuttles were still seven minutes from detecting the Vanguard.
While preparing his interception priorities he received a hail:

 

“What
do you mean we’re being hailed? By Who?” asked the Captain
pointedly.

 

“I
don’t know, Sir. The vessel is cloaked.”

 

Now the Captain was on edge. He ordered all weapons to full power and
prepared to lock horns with the intruders. Just then a Defiant
class vessel de-cloaked 5000 meters to the Vanguard’s port-astern.
The Galaxy B class vessel dwarfed the intruder. The Vanguard
was one of the first Galaxy Bs to be fielded. A full 100
meters longer, 30 meters wider, and 70 meters taller; the new Galaxy
starships boasted 6 more photon ports and three more phaser
arrays.

 

“This
is the USS Dracul. Stand down your weapons and leave the area
immediately. Under Alliance Order 11172 you are to erase all records
of this incident from your data banks and report to Starbase 544
under radio silence for debriefing.” hissed a raspy and cruel
voice.

 

“This
is Captain Sitting-Bull of the USS…”

 

“I
know who you are. You are ordered out of the sector by Lord Groth,
Supreme Allied Commander, Alliance Forces, Alpha Quadrant.”

 

The USS Vanguard swung around to meet the Dracul head
on. “Your vessel does not list in the Federation registry. Lower
your shields and prepare to be boarded.”

 

At that moment two hundred vessels shifted their cloaks just enough
to be detected as faint shadows, but detected none the less. Quickly
following the display a different yet unmistakable, thundering, and
blood thirsty voice was heard.

 

“This
is Lord Groth. Obey my order.”

 

 

Captain Sitting-Bull was known for his fearlessness, much like his
ancestor hundreds of years ago, but all who were on the bridge that
day swore that Captain Sitting-Bull came to attention with such haste
and rigor that he levitated. The USS Vanguard was gone from
sensor range in less than two minutes….

 

 

On approach Gul Juman knew a trap when he felt one. On his screen he
could see 150 Cardassian vessels of varying type; all alone for the
taking. It was interesting to watch the stars flow by at warp speed
as he approached his destination. It always felt to him as if he was
being pulled to his location, or as if he was falling into it. Today
however, despite the image of the ships, it was fate at the
other end of that gravity pit. They would get their vessels alright;
they were going to die in them.

 

 

***

 

 

The Klingon ground commander inside Cortul was eating his favorite:
Gah. His human adjutant never understood Klingon cuisine; then
again, the Klingons thought cooking was for children.

 

General Grap’th had just received word that the Federation Seventh
Army was in orbit and getting ready to deploy to the Flats of Fallen
Starlight, located between the city of Prist and the Plains of Scales
and Blood. The 101st Airborne Division was tasked with intercepting
and delaying the mass of Cardassian troops until the entire Seventh
Army could land and link up with the Klingon task force.

 

On the Plains of Scales and Blood the Jem’Hadar 1st
ordered his troops to full readiness. He had a total of 10973 troops
with included about 1800 Breen to use against the Klingons. The
Jem’Hadar lead new that his chances of overall success were nearly
zero, however this wasn’t about final victory. What many fail to
realize is that for the Jem’Hadar there are two kinds of victory:
strategic and spiritual.

 

Strategic victory is achieved through the successful defeat of an
enemy on the field of battle. Spiritual victory is a little more
difficult. Essentially, the spiritual victory for the true warrior,
regardless of race, is a statement to an enemy that regardless of the
outcome, he will fight to the last. Even in fighting a lost cause,
the warrior achieves victory for he is not daunted by certain death.
Such a death is divine; and that is what the Jem’Hadar wished to
achieve, a last dedication of blood to their gods the Founders as
thanks for their lives.

 

On the Plains the Jem’Hadar used a rock formation that rose twenty
feet from the ground as cover for their defense. The formation of
rock was splintered creating many pathways throughout. On the top of
the formation sat several Howitzers, heavy mortars, light pulse
canons, and communications antennae.

 

Forward of the rock formation trenches were dug to house troops,
shoulder mounted munitions, and crew-served weapons. All there was to
do now was to wait for the Klingons to attack, and the Cardassians to
join the battle. Although they did not have intelligence to indicate
the Federation would send troops, they counted on the Alliance to
remain operationally intact.

 

 

***

 

 

The Cardassian task force marching through the desert was not
planning on combat operations as they still believed that their
mission was to draw the Klingons out of Cortul and into the open so
the Cardassian ships could destroy the force, whereby relieving the
city of Bal’in, east of Cortul, and within Klingon striking range,
of the possibility of siege. But new orders changed that.

 

Reegan now ordered his men to check out reports of a smaller force
camped out in the Plains that did not appear to be Klingon. When
asked about where the Klingons were, Reegan stated that they were
just south of Cortul and not in any hurry to any location. This was
false. Although far from hurrying the Klingons were moving
purposefully towards the Plains in mass.

 

Reegan did not like to lie to his men, especially if they were going
to die as a result. But right now he didn’t have a choice as the
manning of the Cardassian warships was slow going, the Klingons were
again on the march, the Federation would be landing troops, and he
was running from Cafka to Bal’in. He needed time to gather his
re-enforcements from Bal’in and Prist, and then head for Dakkar. He
hoped that Dakkar wouldn’t be his last-stand but looking at all the
pieces in play he could not see how this was going to turn out ok.

 

The battle of Cafka, though successful, had been extremely taxing on
the Resistance. By sending what was left of the 5000 troops
designated to retrieve the ships, losing 3800 of the 4300 that
remained on the ground in Cafka, and sending 15000 to face the
Klingons, he had only about 4200 men at most between the last three
cities to fight nearly 150,000 enemy troops. It was hopeless.

 

Most of Reegan’s second advisory staff was dead after Cafka. The
city was gone along with an estimated 132,000 souls; Cardassian and
Romulan.

 

***

 

 

It was an amazing stroke of luck. Something was happening inside the
Romulan Empire and all Romulan operations came to a halt. Reegan was
elated.

 

General Haram sent word to the Federation Alliance that they could go
no further and wished to seek an audience with the Alliance High
Command to discuss the situation. The Romulan delegation which
included General Haram, Colonel Wrok, and Admiral Griss, the Romulan
task force commander. Representing the Alliance was Federation Army
General Stevenson and the Military Governor of Cardassia Prime,
General Koltac of the Klingon Empire.

 

The Romulans explained that what appeared to be a civil war was
evolving and that the civilian government had been overthrown.
Further, they stated that the new Praetor was an abomination and a
throw back to the days of open discussion of war with the Federation,
but would not explain further.

 

“Don’t
judge us too harshly,” pleaded Admiral Griss.

 

“I
assure you that we will make every effort. Now tell us, what can we
expect from the factions, and what is the worst case scenario?”
General Stevenson was leading the Allied discussion.

 

“The
faction supporting Shinzon is a hard-line anti-everyone faction.
Romulus only; that sort of thing. The second faction is led by the
very types you have already been working with, me included.”

 

“If
the hostile faction is already in charge, then how can we speak of
the second faction and what is the likelihood of war?” It was clear
to the Romulans that the Federation’s usual affable tone was absent
and for the first time since the end of the Dominion War Admiral
Griss looked into the eyes of a Klingon ready to kill. It was a
distinct appearance.

 

“General
and Governor, I do not know what will happen. But I can tell you that
nearly half of the Romulan fleet will not engage the Alliance. At
this point I would worry about the Remans.” Admiral Griss
continued, “The Remans began a passive resistance several months
ago, sent their military into hiding, and, according to intelligence
reports, have developed some sort of super weapon.”

 

“The
Remans?” For the first time the Governor spoke, his voice carried
the usual deep growl of a Klingon.

 

Admiral
Griss nodded, “Governor, Gentlemen, secure your sectors and ready
your forces.” With this last statement Admiral Griss rose to his
feet indicating that the discussion was over.

 

The group was solemn. The prospect of war with the Romulan Empire
after a successful alliance was disheartening. But as the two groups
left the comforting fires of the General’s Counsel Chambers in the
Governor’s Stronghold, Admiral Griss pulled General Stevenson
aside.

 

“I
am leaving my best men here to secure the north and prevent the
Cardassian Resistance from escaping. Take care of them, I’m afraid
these men will have little home to return to.” With that, the
Romulans were gone.

 

 

Of the 1.25 million Romulan troops that were on Cardassia, only
10,000 would remain to secure the northern sector just south of
Cafka. The force included a detachment of Scorpion Attack Fliers,
about twelve strong, and two Warbirds.

 

The absence of the Romulans caused the Cardassians to breath easier,
but not easy. Intelligence reports had put the Klingon ground assault
force much farther south than previous estimates and news of a
Federation ground army had finally leaked. Reegan told his force of
15,000 to double-time to the Plains of Scales and Blood and evaluate
the situation.

 

Reegan had never engaged or heard of anyone engaging the Federation
ground army. Mass land combat just wasn’t done anymore, as many
powers preferred naval combat by starship to planetary battles. His
lack of information was going to make calculating enemy capabilities
difficult.

 

On the other hand, he knew exactly what the Klingons would be
throwing at him; The Klingon Heavy Weapons Expeditionary Force of the
Bloody Sword was on its way to attack Dominion forces his men didn’t
know existed.

 

 

Gul Juman was frustrated. Of the 150 vessels he could man only about
130. Decisions had to be made. Given the tactical situation he opted
to take the heaviest vessels and left the smaller ones. There was no
sight of Alliance starships.

 

Gul Juman brought his ships to full power and began to form his
lines. He would approach the planet en mass and hit the Romulan army
near Cafka and open a northern escape route to prevent Reegan and his
men from being cut off. Gul Juman knew nothing of the Romulan
pull-out or the fact that the Federation and Klingon Alliance had
nearly 400 vessels in orbit around Cardassia at the moment. Nor did
Juman know that the Federation Army was preparing to land near the
Plains of Scales and Blood and conduct its first full-scale land
operation in Federation history.

 

Gul Juman would be ready to get underway in two hours. Because of the
size of his force warping to Cardassia would be tricky. To prevent
accidents he decided that his fleet would have to approach at full
impulse. Total time to Cardassia: 28.7 hours.

 

 

General Cain was sitting with the leader of the Ever Faithful in the
inner sanctuary of the new Holy Temple of the Serpent. Their
discussion was of the impending battle and Cardassia’s
incorporation into the Federation.

 

“It’s
time General Cain.”

 

“Your
Eminence, we have starships in orbit with a ground army in staging
mode as we speak. Lord Groth will pursue the stolen Cardassian ships
and attack them inside the solar orbit of the fifth planet.” Unlike
the orbit of Earth, Cardassia is the fourth planet from its star.
General Cain wanted to be sure that the Cardassian population had
enough time to react to the news they were about to receive.

 

“We
have your approval then to inform the public?”

 

General
Cain nodded: “Now is the perfect time. Once you make your statement
have the Interim Government convene and request for Alliance
assistance.”

 

 

All over Cardassia Prime alarms blared. A general statement was made
to all citizens to go home and wait for an important notice from the
Interim Cardassian government. A half hour later 3 billion Cardassian
citizens huddled around the view screens in their homes. The Interim
Government and the Ever Faithful told the Cardassian citizens that
the Resistance had been lying from its inception. They further
claimed that the Cardassian Liberation Front was only concerned with
re-establishing the power of the military dictatorship. To this end,
they had enslaved more than 10,000 Jem’Hadar troops and were now
preparing to engage the Klingons on the Plains of Scales and Blood.
These troops along with nearly 20,000 Cardassian Military Revolution
fighters were going to try to establish their own sector, rebuild it,
and then attempt a campaign to take the rest of the planet.

 

The news had the desired affect. In 400 cities across the Allied
territory Cardassian citizens packed around Federation Embassies,
bases, and security stations begging and in many cases demanding
Federation intervention.

 

The Federation held an emergency meeting with the Interim Government
that was televised. The Cardassian public watched as the Federation
resisted attempts to be pulled into the conflict. Only Federation
members, applicants under duress, or enemies could expect the
Federation to deploy such a large amount of troops. Since Cardassia
Prime did not fall under any of those definitions, the Federation
could only sit back with sympathy.

 

The televised signal then switched to Earth where another meeting was
being held on Earth between the Klingon Ambassador and the Federation
Council President (not to be confused with the President of the
Federation). The debate was over Federation intervention. The
Federation strongly maintained that Cardassia Prime did not wish to
be a part of the Federation therefore the Federation should allow the
Cardassians to deal with this issue; it was simply a matter of
self-determination.

 

The Klingon position countered using terms like “occupational
responsibility,” “parental concern,” “premature governance,”
and “underdeveloped indigenous defense.” To make matters worse
the Klingon Ambassador, over subspace television, announced the theft
of the Cardassian warships currently en route and only 14 hours away
from Cardassia Prime. If the Alliance didn’t act now, a Dominion
friendly Resistance will re-conquer Cardassia Prime and place the
citizens under a renewed military dictatorship.

 

The Cardassian citizens had heard enough. Nearly rioting in the
streets, the terrified Cardassians demanded that the Interim
Government apply for consideration for entry into the Federation. The
Federation asked the citizens not to panic or make hasty decisions;
however the populace would not be dissuaded. The Interim Government,
acting on the demands of its citizens, and with the full endorsement
of the very popular Ever Faithful, submitted its request for
consideration into the United Federation of Planets.

 

In response, the Federation Council heard and granted a request from
the Interim Government to intervene in the current crisis so that
Cardassia could get a fair evaluation during the consideration
process.

 

The Federation did not want to see another hostile government on
Cardassia nor did it wish to see its resources invested on Cardassia
go to waste. The Federation President gave the order: attack and
neutralize all forces hostile to the Interim Government.

 

Many would silently wonder how the Federation landed such a large
force on Cardassia so quickly after the declaration made by the
Federation President. The answer was simple: influence by Section 31.
As already discussed, the Federation had the entire Seventh Army in
orbit around Cardassia Prime.

 

The chain of command had been re-routed during the Dominion War to
ultimately run through Lord Groth; controlling all information, and
at the direction of Section 31 he withheld information from the
Klingon and Federation Councils so no one would know what the
Alliance was up to. The final strategy used to control information
was to order all Alliance Command Level officers not to reveal any
details regarding operations and destinations to anyone until
specifically authorized by General Stevenson.

 

***

 

 

True to his word Lord Groth prepared to attack the Cardassians
exactly where he said he would. After all the dramatics playing out
on Earth and in the halls of the Cardassian Interim Government, he
received his order and prepared for battle.

 

 

Lord Groth…son of Tag’god, son of Poxx. He has never lost a
battle since the first time he picked up a sword as a boy and killed
his neighbor’s Targh. Schooled in the arts of war, both of the mind
and the body, Lord Groth has felled more enemies than any Klingon in
history except Kahless the Invincible. Many believe that he is truly
the reincarnation of Kahless, rather than the current cloned symbolic
head, Emperor Kahless.

 

From the beginning he was said to be great. Klingons, with their many
rituals are incredibly superstitious. Groth’s mother, the beautiful
Ve’teth, had the perfect pregnancy; but Groth would not come out.
Screaming in pain, very unusual for Klingon women, the labor was
agonizing. Finally after eighteen hours Groth came out and Ve’teth,
after roaring to her son’s arrival, gently touched her son and
slipped away….

 

The attending physician held the still child in his hands. Unlike
human children Klingons are born silent and still. The newborn must
be submerged in freezing water to shock the child into a crying fit
whereby kick-starting the lungs. However a dip into the water only
caused Groth to move; he didn’t cry…he growled…

 

 

Sitting silently, Lord Groth stared at the floor plates of his
command vessel, the Glory of Kahless. At seven-foot one inch,
375 pounds, Lord Groth’s body dared any onlooker to find flaws. His
command uniform was unique: black leather with (Klingon) blood-purple
trim. On his left breast was the only insignia of its kind to be
found anywhere in the universe: the Great Seal of the Federation,
with the Klingon tripartite spikes in the center of the globe
normally displaying the stars of the Federation. Upon closer
inspection, the usual star chart in the center of the Federation flag
was replaced with only two highlighted planets on either side of the
Klingon symbol: Qo’nos and Earth.

 

Groth’s hair was pulled back into a braid. His dark chiseled
features and mustache and beard combination gave Groth a handsome,
yet distinguished appearance. He rarely spoke, but when he did his
soft growl gave the impression that he was holding back a great flood
of rage, just begging to be released. On either side of his collar
five small Klingon tripartite spikes arranged in a pentagon; a
hybridization of Earth and Klingon military insignia traditions.

 

The sash that Groth wore across his chest was again unique. It was
pure smooth, deep, black metal with the likeness of the face of
Kahless in the middle of a battle roar on the upper right of the
sash. Under the face of Kahless are the subdued likenesses of the
skulls of those species conquered by the Klingon Empire.

 

Behind the commander’s throne Lord Groth kept his sword and
Bat’Leh. He is the only Klingon allowed to forge his own weapons…

 

 

The Klingon executive officer informed Lord Groth that the fleet had
gotten into position and that a firing solution was ready for
deployment. Groth stood up.

 

“Attack.”

 

Inside the orbit of Na’dar, the fifth planet of the Cardassian star
system, Lord Groth ordered his fleet to decloak. 210 Klingon and
Federation warships brought their guns to bear and began firing. An
intense concentration of photons on the Cardassian left flank created
a hole in the formation. All 210 vessels made for that opening and
split the Cardassian Fleet in two. It was only a matter of time
before the Cardassians were finished.

 

Gul Juman wasn’t too surprised by the attack, however he was hoping
it would have been closer to Cardassia as to have a better chance of
getting escape pods to the surface. He worried now about the men they
would leave behind on the surface. No doubt the Alliance had
something planned for them too.

 

“Who’s
commanding the Alliance fleet?” asked Juman as his vessel rocked
from receipt of weapons fire.

 

“Lord
Groth, Sir,” the look on the helmsman’s face said he knew he was
going to die.

 

Gul Juman stood straight up. He looked around at his crew and went
back to his command chair and sat down. He resolved himself to
inflicting the most damage he could but with Lord Groth overseeing
the battle, Juman suspected that he would be ineffective.

 

“Helmsman,
send a message…”

 

***

 

 

Looking into the sky the Jem’Hadar First pointed and spoke to his
adjutant. Across the night sky golden streaks appeared; a few at
first, then thousands.

 

“Federation
airborne units,” stated the First.

 

“Where
are they expected to land?” asked the Second.

 

“On
the Flats about a hundred kilometers from here. They are trying to
prevent the Cardassian troops from linking up with our force.”

 

“Sir,
the Klingons are upon us!” yelled a Jem’Hadar electronics
officer.

 

Just over the horizon, still out of weapons range an artificially
made dust cloud was detected. Using his Ocular Enhancement Device in
night mode, the Jem’Hadar First could see the cloud and mechanized
units and ground troops advancing toward their position.

 

“Prepare
for battle…”

 

***

 

 

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride,
Today’s Tom Sawyer

Mean mean pride…

 

 

“Thirty
Seconds!!!”
yelled the Deployment Sergeant in an
undulating rhythmic tone.

 

The
New Jersey class vessel USS Maximus opened doors
along the port and starboard areas of the chassis. Four other New
Jersey
class vessels, the USS Horatio, USS Tokyo,
USS Albuquerque, and the USS Dallas fell into
formation behind the Maximus and followed suit. Between the
heavy infantry and space was the usual force field.

 

The heavy infantry element of the Federation 101st
Airborne Division was a high-spirited group. This was their first
combat deployment, and after what felt like a million hours of
simulations and practice, they were finally getting a chance to test
their mettle. Federation heavy infantry wear robotic space suits that
are fitted with weapons such as projectile mini-guns, rapid-fire
pulse phasers, mini-photon launchers, and guided munitions. All suits
have shields and heads up display. Overhead old earth “rock”
music was playing as “motivational music.”

 

 

Though his mind is not for rent,
Don’t put him down as
arrogant.
His reserve, a quiet defense,
Riding out the day’s
events.
The river…

 

 

To deploy from orbit is tricky as entry burn and communications
disruption increase the chances of casualties. Normally they would
either be deployed from 48,000 feet at sub-mach speed or at a lower
altitude by transporter; however the Cardassians are expecting an
attack and have activated their transporter scatter beams to prevent
troop transport, and have heavy anti-aircraft weapons that would pose
a risk to the deploying starships and jumping troops.

 

In each port sat 450 troops ready for their jump. Although each
trooper had experienced five orbital jumps they were very controlled
and had safeties in place to assist if dangers arose. This time
however, the whole point of deployment was danger and if you ran into
problems you had to rely on your training to save yourself.

 

Exactly thirty seconds from the Sergeant’s count, the interior
lighting that was red switched to yellow, indicating depressurization
of the port.

 

 

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about
society.
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery,
catch the drift…

 

 

“On
your feet!!! Thirty seconds!!!”
barked the Deployment Sergeant
in same harmonic voice. The units were broken down into groups of
seventy-five soldiers led by an Army lieutenant (equal to a
lieutenant junior grade in Star Fleet). The Maximus had five
ports on each side and housed only infantry. The Horatio
housed medical, communication, and maintenance units; the Tokyo
housed the engineers and the armor component; the Albuquerque
the anti-aircraft and artillery elements; and the Dallas held
the forward and rear security sections along with the intelligence,
operations, and the battle staff. This represented one brigade. A
short distance away the next chalk5
was preparing to deploy.

 

 

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe
as his eyes are wide…

 

 

True to his word exactly thirty seconds after his last command the
Deployment Sergeant yelled for the soldiers to turn on their heat
shielding and line up for drop. The interior lighting went from dark
shadowy yellow to a dark shadowy green indicating that it was time to
jump.

 

A pull on the lever near the port opening lowered the shields to open
space.

 

“Guidance
systems!”
yelled the Deployment Sergeant in the usual exuberant
tone.

 

“Go!
Go! Go! Go! Go!…….”
the Sergeant yelled “Go!” every
time a soldier passed him.

 

Today’s Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the space he
invades
He gets by on you…

 

 

The first soldier jumped head first into space, falling towards the
planet. Pressing his BIG RED BUTTON (BRB) on his chest he ignited his
entry rockets, which turned him to the proper degree and entry
vector. Ahead of him he could see the forward security element,
armor, artillery, and anti-aircraft already starting their entry
burn.

 

 

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government.
Always
hopeful, yet discontent,
He knows changes aren’t permanent,
But
change is…

 

 

The friendly feminine voice of the computer informed the soldier that
his correct vector had been reached, and his entry velocity of 22,000
miles per hour would hold for 15 seconds at which time the computer
would reverse thrusters to slow entry until in the primary landing
zone (LZ), where additional breaking thrusters would fire. As the
computer automatically closed his visor and gave him a green on his
heat shields, he sighed a breath of relief that all was going well.
At that moment an explosion was detected to his rear right.

 

“Incoming
enemy fire,” chirped the computer.

 

 

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about
society.
Catch the witness, catch the wit,
Catch the spirit,
catch the spit…

 

 

“No
shit!” answered the soldier. The Cardassians had decided to wait
until the troops entered their entry burn phase as any variation of
their trajectory would cause immediate incineration and therefore the
soldiers could not conduct evasive maneuvers.

 

Not only had the Cardassians waited until the Federation troops were
most vulnerable, they had also waited until the spread of the Brigade
covered all available air space between the Cardassian forces on the
ground and the orbiting starships, neutralizing any possibility of
naval bombardment.

 

 

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe
as his skies are wide…

 

 

Maintaining his course the soldier turned on his rear cameras to see
explosions throughout the Incoming Trajectory Lane (ITL) of the
101st. The Cardassians were using the Heavy Pulse Cannons,
but at the distance and speed of the troops there was no hope of
hitting anything. However the high altitude shock waves could knock
soldiers off course with the desired affect.

 

Sure enough a blast hit in front of several soldiers. The shock wave
turned the soldiers from head first to straight up where shielding
was weakest. The soldier’s bodies were ripped apart and incinerated
in the blink of an eye.

 

 

 

On the USS Star Wolf, the command vessel for the 101st,
General Stevenson, Adjutant to Lord Groth and Cardassian Theater
Commander, was yelling at his battle staff. Apparently, intelligence
reported that the Cardassians on the Flats did not have Heavy Pulse
Cannon capability. Obviously that was incorrect. He needed a
solution; right now.

 

His staff instructed him to contact the Romulans who had Scorpions on
the ground at Cafka. From their location they could be on top of the
Cardassians in 3.2 minutes. General Stevenson did not need to hear
another word.

 

The Romulans were hesitant but agreed, especially since General
Stevenson indicated that Lord Groth would not appreciate their lack
of cooperation.

 

The Romulans were in the air shortly after that conversation and 3.27
minutes after take off the first Cardassian Heavy Pulse Cannon was
destroyed…

 

 

 

Exit the warrior,
Today’s Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,

And the energy you trade,
He gets right on to the friction of
the day…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle for Cardassia Prime

 

 

O

9

n the ground in the Flats, the Cardassians had decided to stop
and take up a defensive position when the Detachment Communications
Specialist detected a massive amount of traffic from orbiting
starships, suggesting

 

 

that
an attack was imminent.

 

The Flats were exactly that…flat; a tactical nightmare. The best
they could do was to find a hill that possessed even the faintest
incline. There were no rock formations, mountains, or forests for
hundreds of miles, but if they didn’t set up their defenses now,
they could be caught completely unprepared for battle.

 

The first priority would be to block transport ability and then set
up anti-aircraft to counter alternate troop transport methods. After
the defensive weapons were activated then the command center could be
erected as well as ground defensive positions built.

 

The Cardassians deployed defenses in a hexagonal pattern. Once the
direction of the attack could be established Gul Denan could
reallocate deployment assignments. Gul Denan was not happy about the
situation. He was sent with 15,000 troops to divert the Klingons away
from cities the Resistance didn’t have the power to defend. What
should occur is to have all available troops fall back to Dakkar,
fortify it and attempt to sue for peace under the condition that
Dakkar remain in the hands of the Resistance; in exchange they would
surrender and disarm.

 

But Reegan would have no part of such a plan. His hatred for the
Federation led Reegan to attempt to take a larger section of the
planet. At first he spoke retaking the planet, but that discussion
quickly digressed to settling for the Romulan zone. But after the
devastating losses at Cafka, there was no way that such a victory
could come to fruition, even with the Cardassian ships.

 

 

***

 

 

Fifty Cardassian warships were making for Na’dar. The hope was that
the inhospitable atmosphere of the gas giant would mask the
signatures of the vessels and give them time to make repairs. Once
ready to get underway, they could run to Romulan space where they
were told they would receive asylum.

 

The battle had gone incredibly bad. Gul Juman was dead, his ship
among the first to be destroyed once their lines had been divided.
This particular Allied fleet, with cloaked Federation ships,
was unlike anything they encountered during the war. The Cardassian
weapons would not penetrate the Allied shields. The Allied phaser and
disruptor arrays were incredibly powerful; punching right through the
Cardassian shielding. It very short time 100 Cardassian vessels were
destroyed.

 

As they ran from the Allies the view screen displayed the
battlefield; ships in pieces and burning…strange…it reminded the
Cardassians of footage they had seen of the Federation ships at Wolf
359.

 

They entered orbit and then began the decent to the mid atmosphere
where methane and ammonium vapor clouds mixed with high altitude
aluminum to screen their signatures.

 

The acting fleet commander ordered he ships to make repairs and
prepare to make a run past the blockade that was surely forming at
this moment. He was wrong. Lord Groth, in no mood to wait or go on a
sporting hunt for the Cardassians ordered all ships to pull back to
6.4 million kilometers and prepare for high-yield bombing.

 

Using yield 40 torpedoes, the fleet struck the planet with 4000
devices in a matter seconds. Detonations could be seen all over the
planet’s troposphere; Na’dar glowed as its atmosphere burned. All
the Cardassian vessels, along with their passengers, were gone.

 

 

***

 

 

On the Plains the Klingons were advancing more slowly now, letting
their enemy think about the impending battle with the Klingon
warrior. The elephantine army would be in range of the Jem’Hadar
weapons in a few moments; General Grap’th ordered his units to
combat positions.

 

Unlike the highly scientific deployment methods of the Federation,
Romulans, and Cardassians, the Klingons deploy very haphazardly.
Combat assignments are guided by the intuition of the commander and
the warrior. For example, General Grap’th tells his forward armor
element to secure the right flank of the enemy; the commander of the
unit will decide the best route of attack and direct the soldiers to
carry out the mission. In turn, the next rank will decide the best
way to fulfill his order, and so on all the way down to the
individual warrior.

 

Conversely, the Jem’Hadar are anything but flexible. The failure of
a soldier to carry out a directive exactly as it was instructed is
grounds for immediate execution. This lack of flexibility has
resulted in the death of an incalculable number of Jem’Hadar
soldiers and the first loss of a war in 4000 years. The soldiers
however view their place as the cannon fodder of the Dominion as an
honor. To protect the Founders is the first law of the Jem’Hadar,
followed very closely by killing all enemies of the Dominion.

 

 

The Jem’Hadar First watched as the gargantuan Klingon armored
vehicles deployed across a 1.5 kilometer front, echeloned to the rear
were infantry, both light and medium, and finally the artillery.
Where are the support units? thought the First as he scanned
his enemy.

 

Just at that moment he was informed of a second force of sizable
compliment arriving from the east; it was the Federation ground army.
Unlike the Klingons, the Federation is a fast moving, highly mobile
force. And, although there is no record of this force’s tested
combat capability he suspected that its effectiveness will rate high.

 

 

“Subdue,”
ordered the First. At that moment the entire Jem’Hadar force
cloaked itself. It wasn’t too soon as the first Federation
Mechanized Infantry units arrived on the battle field to their right
flank, the allied left.

 

The battlefield had been still prior to the Federation arrival. As
soon as the Light Forward Attack Vehicles got within range they began
firing on the last confirmed position of the Jem’Hadar. The
Klingons followed suit. The massive heavy armor vehicles roared as
they fired incredible bursts of energy.

 

Across the front the front the behemoth Klingon armor and artillery
units fired. Torpedoes, plasma bursts, and phased disruptors struck
the ground in the Jem’Hadar position. The opening phase of battle
was designed to suppress Jem’Hadar resistance until Federation
troops were on top of them; which seemed to work until the Federation
troops reached point blank range and the Jem’Hadar decloaked and
returned fire.

 

The night sky glowed red, blue, orange, yellow, green, and white from
the heavy weapons fire. The Jem’Hadar artillery had been brought
forward to be used as anti-armor guns against the Federation Light
Mechanized Infantry. When the Jem’Hadar decloaked the Federation
realized that they moved in too close and tried to pull back but it
was too late. The Jem’Hadar artillery opened fire and annihilated
1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 11th Armored Calvary Regiment (Dark Horse
Regiment).

 

Second Platoon had already deployed its soldiers and began to press
the enemy forward to provide cover while Bravo Company attacked from
the Allied far left flank to secure enough space to allow for Second
Platoon to pull back. However when Bravo Company deployed, Captain
Aladar Natol of Vulcan noticed a gap in the firing line of the
Jem’Hadar. His logic impeccable, Capt. Natol ordered his troops
forward to exploit this weakness. Lt. Murgaan of Andora, Commander of
Second Platoon, knew exactly what the Vulcan was doing and ordered
his infantry to charge.

 

Second Platoon was also annihilated, however their aggressive tactics
prevented the Jem’Hadar from redirecting its forces and allowed
Bravo Company to wedge itself in the firing lines and cause the
Jem’Hadar to pull back on their right flank. The Jem’Hadar
planned a counter effort that was to throw back the Federation troops
but looking out across their right flank, the entire Federation 12th
Inter-Planetary Division was rushing for that opening…it was not
going to hold.

 

The Jem’Hadar 1st declared the battlefield a weapons
free zone,
which meant that the Jem’Hadar soldiers were free to
fire as they wished. At this point, the casualties began to seriously
mount. Federation troops were dying at record pace, but the units
kept advancing. The Jem’Hadar were firing Quantum Singularity
Pulse Weapons; the Federation heavy armor elements imploded when
struck.

 

Despite the stiff resistance the Federation had not only turned the
Jem’Hadar right flank, but also split its forces on that side of
the battlefield. At this point the Jem’Hadar soldiers decided to
have a face-to-face discussion with the Federation troops on the
battlefield, and charged….

 

 

On the Allied right flank the Klingons were engaged in an armor and
artillery battle. The Jem’Hadar anti-armor guns with no final
effect repeatedly struck the slow moving Klingon vehicles. The
gigantic tubules on top of the Klingon tracked chassis rocked slowly
back and forth as they fired. Following closely behind were the
Klingon warriors with their bladed weapons waiting for a chance.

 

The artillery elements on both sides were striking effectively, but
the Allies had too much force, too many troops, and dogged
determination that the Jem’Hadar couldn’t defeat. On the Allied
right flank the Jem’Hadar resistance began to break and the ground
warriors of both sides rushed each other.

 

 

The Jem’Hadar First knew that this battle was lost well before it
began, but he had to admit to himself that the humans were far better
in battle than he remembered. There was something different about
them; something refined and militarily mature. The next war between
his people and the Federation was going to bring destruction like
none on either side had ever seen.

 

With the enemy closing on both sides he decided to send a message to
Lord Groth and invite him to the planet surface….

 

 

***

 

 

On the Flats the Cardassians were taking fire from the Scorpions
flying overhead. Gul Denan ordered the conservative deployment of his
air-defense but it was ineffective. As suddenly as it began the
attack stopped. The Flats were quiet with the exception of the sound
of armor in the distance. Apparently the Federation had landed all
its forces and was advancing.

 

 

Brigadier General Vu’cal was overseeing the final decent of his
Airborne Heavy Infantry. Using his Vulcan logic, he was going to
gather all his forces and then strike the Cardassians in one heavy
blow.

 

Watching the breaking thrusters fire on the heavy infantry suits,
Vu’cal stared in amazement as the soldiers slowed from mach 2 to 50
kilometers per hour, rotate from the head first position to a
feet-first incline, and free fall from 27 feet. It was a hard landing
with the soldiers coming to rest bent down on one knee; one
mechanical hand touching the ground. The soldiers then stood up,
battle ready.

 

The Airborne troops got into their battalion-sized formations, inter
mingled with armor and artillery. They were going to move fast and
hit the Cardassians hard early the next morning.

 

32 kilometers away Gul Denan was establishing his order-of-battle
while studying that of the Federation. His command center was like
those of almost any species: a structure or tent of some kind with
two large maps of the estimated field of battle. One map was of enemy
positions, the other of his forces. Unlike the humans and Romulans,
the Cardassians didn’t use symbols to designate units and unit
type. Rather, they just list the unit and the commander and place it
accordingly. The Klingon ground commanders, with their singular sense
of humor, would use the knives of their battlefield subordinates to
indicate where they were while pinning bugs to the map to indicate
enemy positions.

 

Denan’s battlefield commanders gathered this night to review
strategy for the impending battle with the Federation expected three
hours before next dawn. During the briefing a debate arose:

 

“Should
we continue?” asked a Gul Adjutant.

 

“How
could you ask that?!” shouted another adjutant, clearly affronted.

 

Yet
another chimed in: “We cannot win. Even if we manage to defeat this
specific force, we still have the rest of Allied ground forces to
contend with…nearly 100,000 of them.”

 

“Afraid
to die?” asked a fourth Adjutant.

 

“Not
for the right cause…right now the Klingons are fighting Dominion
forces on the Plains. Where in the hell did they come from and how
long have they been here? Further, why did Reegan send us out to
investigate this?”

 

“Hold
your tongue! You sound like a traitor…” hissed a fifth Adjutant.

 

The
third Adjutant rose to feet with a combative glare. “I’m no
traitor…I speak for Cardassia and its…”

 

“You
speak for no one!” shouted a sixth as he rose to his feet.

 

At this point the command tent exploded into shouting and threats,
with the command staff evenly divided.

 

“ENOUGH!!”
exclaimed Denan, also on his feet. Denan sat back down and stared far
off…

 

“Cafka
is no more. Estimates place the dead at nearly 130,000. For what? So
we can fall back and fall back again until Ba’lin, Prist, Yammick,
and Dakkar are gone as well? What will we leave for Cardassia? If we
exist to protect the citizens from the Allied forces, why is it that
92% of the Cardassian population in the Allied zones support joining
the Federation? What are we fighting for?

 

“I
saw the ruins of Lakarian City. The sight of 2 million dead citizens
that I was supposed to protect…I cannot forgive myself. As for
Reegan…he knew about the Dominion troops. He’s been communicating
with someone outside of our organization for months however I didn’t
know who until now.”

 

The sixth Adjutant was again on his feet. “How do you know that?”

 

“The
communications signal emanating from the Jem’Hadar on the Plains is
the same as the signal I traced at the Headquarters in Cafka….”

 

 

***

 

 

Reegan was on the run. He was trying to get to Dakkar before the
Allies found him, however he had about 75 agents from the Romulans,
Klingons, and Federation on his trail and with the news of Dominion
forces on Cardassia, his inner-circle was far less friendly.

 

He had a near miss in Ba’lin when he ran into three Romulan
mercenaries. He lost three of his staff in the fire fight. The
confined space of the alley left no room for maneuver, for the
Romulans or the Cardassians. From this firefight he had several more
in the city and then one in the desert with some Federation Marines,
who were unusually vicious. Reegan had the impression that the
Alliance did not intend to capture him.

 

After what seemed like an eternity Reegan finally arrived at Dakkar.
When arriving at his new Headquarters it suddenly occurred to him
that he had nowhere else to go and that this structure would be his
last.

 

The Headquarters was really an old house with a basement that served
as a command center. However when inquiring to the state of their
forces all the Guls and Adjutants just stared at Reegan until at last
his lead assassin, now the Gul of Dakkar, spoke up:

 

“We
don’t have anymore troops…” Reegan cut him off.

 

“What
do you mean? We should have nearly 4500 soldiers left. I ordered all
remaining forces to fall back to this location and fortify!”

 

“You
didn’t let me finish. I was saying that we don’t have any troops
left that will follow your orders. And to be clear, they are all on
their way to come deal with you.” The Gul continued: “It seems
they didn’t take well to the news of Dominion forces still on
Cardassia.”

 

“Why
would they blame…” it was the Gul’s turn to interrupt.

 

“Oh
come now Reegan. You didn’t really think we wouldn’t check to
verify the rumors? We did check and discovered that you have been
communicating with them since…slightly before our first advisory
team was sent on their fatal missions?”

 

There were five Guls in the room and no assistants. It was a slim
chance but if he drew his disruptor first he could hit the farthest
and closest one fast, take the Gul on his right hostage as cover,
kill the other two, and then execute the hostage before making his
escape.

 

As he was calculating his possibilities the Gul of Dakkar drew his
weapon and inexplicably shot the Adjutant to his left. The disruptor
ripped right through the left temple of the Cardassian and violently
ejected his cranial contents all over the room. The Gul then quickly
pointed the weapon at the next nearest Cardassian and sent a beam
right through the throat of his target. Reegan didn’t have to wait
for an explanation as he pulled his own disruptor and killed the
other two Adjutants.

 

The two just stared at each other, still clutching their weapons but
not pointing them at each other. The Gul of Dakkar lowered his
weapon.

 

“We
have to get you out of here.”

 

“What
about any loyal forces?” asked Reegan. Apparently, he hadn’t yet
gained a full sense of understanding for the situation.

 

“You
don’t have loyal forces, Reegan. Only a few individuals like me who
are sympathetic to your perspective.”

 

“What
about the men on the Flats?”

 

“There
was an internal squabble after the presence of the Dominion troops
was announced. The entire force turned on itself and those loyal to
you lost and were summarily executed.”

 

Reegan
was stunned into silence. After a few moments he asked: “What now?”

 

“There
is a small group of Guls that still support you. We are going to get
you off the planet and to Romulan space.”

 

“What
about the ships that we managed to steal? Couldn’t we at least
mount some sort of resistance and at least claim Dakkar?” Reegan
didn’t want to accept the reality that his troops wanted him dead
and that victory of any sort was impossible.

 

“Has
no one told you?”

 

“Told
me what?”

 

“The
fleet was completely destroyed by Lord Groth. He’s on his way to
Cardassia at this moment. Let’s get going.”

 

Reegan was crushed. Things were going extremely well until Cafka,
where despite a victory of sorts, the Resistance began to unravel.
The causalities sustained were fatal for the Resistance and with
their limited numbers a war of attrition was the wrong kind to be
fighting.

 

“How
are we going to accomplish this?” asked Reegan. He was suddenly
concerned for his own safety.

 

“We
have stolen a Federation shuttle. It has warp capability so we can
get to the Romulan border before anyone can seriously react.”

 

 

***

 

On the Flats Brigadier General Vu’cal was preparing for the initial
phases of the attack which would include receiving artillery strikes
before his armor could get into range. However, when they got within
range of the Cardassian artillery the enemy failed to fire. What were
the Cardassians doing? Were they waiting until they got closer? Were
they playing dead? Are they intending to surrender?

 

Although they were just out of sight from the Cardassians, the
Cardassians obviously knew they were on approach. A discussion arose
between General Vu’cal and his battle staff over the interpretation
of the Cardassian’s behavior. Finally it was suggested that they
announce their presence on the battlefield and entice the Cardassians
to accept battle. The General addressed his subordinate:

 

“Lieutenant…call
to them.”

 

 

Forward armor elements raised speakers from their chassis. At the
sight of this all ground troops either activated their sound
suppressors or put earplugs in their ears. After several seconds the
armored vehicles activated their sound systems.

 

The magnificent and majestic scream of an eagle emanated from the
speakers of the armored vehicles. It was the battle cry of the 101st;
the Screaming Eagle and could be heard kilometers away.

 

On the other side of the horizon, just out of visual range of the
Federation troops was the Cardassian camp. Gul Denan was dead, killed
by a Cardassian Adjutant that would not hear of peace with the
Federation. After the assassination the entire force turned on itself
and only stopped when it heard the shrill shriek of the screaming
eagle.

 

Gul Tenark, former Adjutant and supporter of Denan was now in command
of the force. The last two Adjutants that had stood against Denan and
still had forces under their commands were called to truce to discuss
the new threat.

 

The sound of a bird of prey screaming its war cry demanded immediate
respect. For the first time since the camp was erected, the
Cardassians were completely quiet and still.

 

In
the distance a dust cloud could be seen rising just over the low
rolling inclines of the Flats.

 

The two remaining rebelling Adjutants agreed on the truce and the
parties met in the center of the camp. Gul Tenark was trying to
convince the other two that surrender was the only option, especially
since they had lost nearly 6000 men during their internal squabble,
however the dissenting Adjutants would not hear of it. As a result,
they returned to battle.

 

 

Across the battlefield, now only minutes away from visual range, the
Federation Brigadier General was confounded at the idea that the
Cardassians would wait until the last moment to spring a trap. To do
so against such superior force on such terrain and that have air
superiority and the capacity for naval bombardment would be beyond
foolhardy. Still, true to his Vulcan ways Vu’cal ordered his men to
increase their depth and spread out further.

 

Once in visual range the forward observers reported the unexpected:
the Cardassians were battling with themselves.

 

“What?!”
asked a stupefied Vu’cal.

 

“Sir,
the Cardassians are fighting among themselves. We have just been
contacted by Gul Tenark; he’s asking that we remain at this
distance until the situation can be contained. He intends to
surrender.”

 

Vu’cal had never heard of such behavior from Cardassians. They were
known to turn on allies, but never each other in the face of an
enemy. The general debated the situation with his staff. The humans
and Klingons were in agreement: attack now and figure it out later.
The Vulcan, Andoran, and Betazoid believed that staying out of the
fray was better. Let the enemy tire himself out, so if he changes his
mind they’ll be in a better position to bring them under control.
Vu’cal agreed.

 

 

2500 Cardassians later, Gul Tenark was victorious. The last Gul and
his remaining 500 troops were brought before Tenark and executed.
Tenark then called to Vu’cal and announced his surrender.

 

In the command tent where the Allies received the Cardassian
delegation, a discussion arouse from a single question: why? The
Cardassians answered that the presence of Dominion forces still on
Cardassia was beyond forgiveness. Further, the idea that a Cardassian
could even think of continuing an alliance with the murderers of
millions of their own citizens was unthinkable. Reegan had to be
stopped and this war could not continue.

 

“We
have lost enough. Between the Dominion War and the War of Resistance
we have lost nearly 825 million citizens. Some of our greatest cities
that remained after the Dominion departed were completely destroyed
by our own hands. We have been mad with our blindness.”

 

Vu’cal
responded: “We are offering you and the rest of your men a fair
truce. Disarm, swear allegiance to the new government, and join the
Cardassian security forces. We could use your experience, and
Cardassia needs the help. We have much to do.”

 

Tenark agreed to the terms after talking to his men. Most would join
the Cardassian security forces; others would return home to rebuild
and morn their losses. Still others would be sucked up by the
Federation intelligence services and science divisions. Tenark was
sent to Star Fleet Headquarters for immediate incorporation into the
Alliance Strategic Command. He would find this fit comfortable, and
would wonder why he ever felt the need to resist the Federation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Groth

 

 

“

10

My Lord, we are approaching Cardassia. The Jem’Hadar First
has provided his coordinates.”

 

 

Lord Groth considered his Adjutant, and with a nod instructed him

 

to
send an acknowledgement.

 

“What
is the status of battle on the ground?” asked Groth.

 

“Alliance
forces have secured the battlefield. 400 Dominion troops remain under
the command of the Jem’Hadar First. The second also remains.”

 

“Order
all forces to hold their position…cease fire.”

 

 

The Jem’Hadar First waited at the designated coordinates. Across
the battlefield a haunting quiet hung in the air; as did an electric
tension. For everyone, friend and foe, awaited the arrival of Lord
Groth. He would meet the Jem’Hadar First in single combat. It was a
glorious way for the Jem’Hadar to die.

 

It was night now. On a hill that overlooked the carnage the First
waited. The half-full Cardassian moon gave little light. In the
distance he could see the bright red light of the transporter signal
announcing the arrival of a delegation with torched flames. The
Klingons on the field roared; the humans came to attention.

 

With torches in hand Lord Groth, General Stevenson, Federation Army
Major General Munoz, Military Governor General Koltac, General
Grap’th, Federation Marine Lt. General Hanson, and newly appointed
General Ru’has of the Cardassian security forces formed the Circle
of Battle
. Alliance troops were in visual range.

 

Entering the Circle, the Jem’Hadar First, Second, and two Eighths
represented the Dominion. Groth broke ranks of the Circle, which
tightened, and stood in the center.

 

“Lord
Groth. Face to face, it is my honor to meet you in battle. My
intention is to kill you or die. Victory is life!”

 

“Jem’Hadar
First, it is my honor to meet you in battle. It is my intention to
kill you or die. It is a good day to die…”

 

Honoring Klingon tradition, the Jem’Hadar First told of his
victories…

 

“I
am the Jem’Hadar First! I kill with skill and precision. I have
never been defeated in the years of my life. I have commanded teams,
fleets, and armies. Those before me fall!”

 

Lord Groth bowed and began…

 

“I
am Lord Groth. I kill with skill and brutality. I have never been
defeated in the years of my life. I command the great and terrible
forces of the Alliance. Those before me are forever silenced…”

 

“It
is my honor…”

 

“It
is my honor…”

 

“Lord
Groth, choose the method of single combat,” called the First.

 

“Hand
to Hand. My I feel your strength.”

 

“My
I feel your power.”

 

 

With these final words the Jem’Hadar First rushed Lord Groth and
swung…

 

  • Block.

  • Counter strike.

  • Evade. Kick to Groth’s head.

  • Groth caught First’s foot and twisted. First is down but gets up.

  • Two fist strike.

  • Groth catches fists, head butts First. First is bleeding from nose.

  • First attempts to grapple with Groth. Groth twists First arms to the
    inside and pulls Firsts left arm from his shoulder socket.

  • Groth follows up with a two strike kick: one to the left knee, the
    other to the head. First goes down.

  • First is up and gets inside Groth’s reach; two, three, four
    strikes to the ribs. Right cross to Groth’s chin.

  • Groth takes a single step back from the force of the blow, but is
    otherwise unharmed.

  • Counter punch one, two, three; First is down and is bleeding from
    his left eye.

  • First closes distance and strikes Groth to the chest, then follows
    up with an uppercut to the chin.

  • Blow is blocked; Groth delivers elbow to right temple.

  • First blocks with forearm. Strike to the left eye of Groth.

  • Groth tilts head down and breaks First’s hand. Groth then steps
    into the First, wraps his arm around the outside of the First’s
    arm and turns the First downward. One, two, three knee strikes to
    the ribs…one to the face.

  • The First, goes for Groth’s leg and attempts to get Groth to the
    ground.

  • Groth forces leg back down and forces First completely upside down
    and flips his body to the ground.

  • On his way down the First uses his upside-down position to kick
    Groth twice to the face. Groth is bleeding from his left eye and
    mouth.

  • The First is up. Charges Groth.

  • Groth intercepts him and delivers a knee to the abdomen, head butt
    to the face, locks the First’s arms and strikes with elbows to the
    right and left sides of the Jem’Hadar’s face.

  • The First, screaming, delivers a blow to Groth’s left eye, a lower
    blow to Groth’s abdomen, crescent kick to Groth’s head, and then
    breaks Groth’s ribs with a kick.

  • Groth explodes with rage and pain. Lets loose his full strength and
    strikes the First four times to the face; breaks the First’s left
    arm; and picks him up, turning him sideways, and drops the First on
    his knee breaking all the ribs on the First’s right side.

  • First gets up and is struck full force by Groth in the face. First
    is down…

 

 

In Dakkar Reegan was running. He and fifty of his supporters were
attempting to get to the shuttle craft waiting for them in a
destroyed warehouse one kilometer from his current location. He
wasn’t sure if he was going to make it. The fifty supporters were
all high ranking Cardassian Commanders and Cardassian politicians. Of
the fifty, thirty-seven were still alive. It seemed as if every
Cardassian in the universe was trying to kill them.

 

After losing two more people. The Gul of Dakkar had finally gotten
them to the warehouse…the empty warehouse.

 

“What
the…” Reegan was confused.

 

From the shadows stepped several hundred Federation troops…in black
leather uniforms. They were surrounded. Reegan wasn’t going to be
taken alive. He raised his weapon and fired. Nothing happened.

 

“Let
me explain,” declared the Gul of Dukkar.

 

“You?”
Reegan was really confused.

 

“Yes,
me. What did you think? I was going to let you live?”

 

“Who
are you?
” demanded Reegan.

 

“I
am the greatest assassin in Cardassian history. Feared by enemies of
Cardassia Prime, exiled because of a woman6,
ran a tailor shop, and taken in by our enemies…and turned.”

 

“Garak?!?”

 

“Yes!
After all is said and done, I find it hard to believe that the
Federation is the true enemy of our world.”

 

“How
can you say that? Look at our world! Why are they still here? They
are planning to take us over and force us into the Federation!”

 

“No,
Reegan. Our world is devastated because Dukat brought the Dominion
here. Our cities are in further ruin because you fought against the
only power that could truly help us. They are still here to prevent a
Romulan take over or a take over from any number of other species
that have eyed our world since its fall. They are not going to force
us into the Federation…our citizens have asked for it.”

 

Reegan couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and then there was
still the issue of the weapons and what was to happen next. The
weapons were easy; it must be a dampening field. The more worrisome
question was the fate of him and his supporters.

 

“So
now what?” demanded Reegan.

 

“I
can answer that,” came a voice from the shadows. The voice belonged
to a human with chiseled features, cold blue eyes, and a cruel stare.

 

“You
are to be executed.”

 

“I
see. What of the rest?”

 

“The
same…Garak…”

 

 

Several hours later the troops were loading the bodies on a transport
where they, along with the transport, would be destroyed. It was
important to draw out all of Reegan’s followers, especially those
who possess that much power. If Cardassia were truly going to be
rebuilt, the Federation needed to be sure an unfriendly base of power
would be absent. With so many high-ranking Cardassians killed, any
that remained that were hostile to the Federation would be silent.

 

The greatest blessing was the internal struggle on the Flats. With
Federation friendly troops defeating and executing Resistance
fighters, subversive Cardassians would never again speak of fighting
the Federation or the Alliance.

 

 

***

 

 

Every part of his body ached. He was only beginning to be aware that
he was lying on the ground. What happened? Where was he? It started
to come back. He was the leader of the last Dominion army in the
Alpha Quadrant. They were defeated, both in this battle and in the
war. He was enjoying a last battle against the Alliance. They had
lost. He challenged Lord Groth to single combat. He had done well but
he knew Lord Groth was holding back. He landed a successful attack
against Groth who responded with all his force and beat him
unconscious. He had to get up.

 

He had never been defeated, nor had he even been put to the ground.
But Lord Groth was too powerful. In this fight he was knocked to the
ground at least five times. As he got up he was aware that half his
teeth were gone. His left eye was swollen shut, his left arm was
damaged beyond repair, and his ribs on his right side were broken. He
stood up seeing to his surprise that the circle was still formed.

 

“I’m
impressed Jem’Hadar. None of my opponents have fought with such
courage. If you wish to surrender, your honor will remain intact.”

 

“I
cannot. You must finish it. I wish to die with honor,” pleaded the
First.

 

“As
you wish.” Lord Groth approached the Jem’Hadar First, who was now
leaking White from his ears. The left side of his face was smashed
beyond recognition, and his tube carrying White was ripped from the
skin.

 

“Good
bye, Jem’Hadar First. You have fought with honor.”

 

“Good
bye, Lord Groth. It was my honor, I am ready.”

 

In an instant Lord Groth shoved his hand into the First’s throat
with such ferocity that his hand penetrated the flesh and came out
the back of the neck, snapping the spine in two. It was over.

 

The Jem’Hadar second and his troops challenged an equal number of
Federation and Klingon troops. The Jem’Hadar chose bladed weapons
and laughed at the humans for not daring to fight in such a way. That
changed when the Federation Marine Commander ordered his troops to
fix bayonets and charge.

 

Although suffering many deaths, the humans and Klingons were
victorious and the battlefield was still at last.

 

 

 

 

 

The End of the Cardassian Empire

 

 

B

11

efore crowds of millions the Federation President, key members
of the Federation Council, Star Fleet Command, Chancellor Martok, and
the Klingon High Command presented the new Cardassian Prime

 

 

Minister
with a permanent peace treaty, formally ending hostilities between
the powers, and ushering in a new era of peace.

 

The Klingons presented the Cardassian Prime Minister, Genard Gatt,
with a Sword of Allegiance to indicate friendship. An interesting
move since the Klingons still had their Heavy Weapons Division on the
planet. The Federation also had their troops still on Cardassia;
however the Alliance had relegated their duties to “stationing,”
acting as defenders of Cardassia in case of invasion.

 

The Romulan zone was still a mess. In the absence of the Romulans,
who had completed their pullout, crime syndicates took control.
However their power was significantly less from when the Romulans
were in “control” of the zone. Two months after the battles on
the Plains and Flats the Romulans were again battling with the
Cardassians in Cafka. Although mostly rubble, Cafka was home to a
large and well armed criminal element.

 

Unlike the high spirited Romulan forces commanded by Admiral Griss,
the remaining Romulan forces commanded by Colonel Tillian Hadd, an
exceptional commander in a very difficult situation, were a solemn
group. Beautiful by any standard, Colonel Hadd captured the attention
and imagination of the Allied troops and commanders, but was unable
to bring back the spark of inspiration and hope to her troops.

 

Romulus was in chaos. A major coup had recently occurred and a
controlled internal conflict had arisen that left the Romulan Empire
without a Praetor, without a cohesive fleet, and without hope for the
future. It was obvious to every major power in the region that the
Romulan Empire would erupt into civil war in the near future.

 

As a result the once proud Romulan troops held their heads low. When
they engaged the Cardassians they fought without heart and walked
away from their battles, surrendering Cafka in the face of very
little force. To keep the Romulan soldiers from being captured the
Allied forces had to intervene and escort the Romulans to a base to
await transport home.

 

The wait was not long. Soon a small fleet arrived to take their
troops home. Unlike the friendly demeanor the Romulans afforded to
the Alliance before their internal strife, the Romulans were back to
their more familiar cool tone, with a clear disposition of mistrust
for the Alliance.

 

***

 

 

The Cardassians now had to finish the arduous task of completing the
application process for entrance into the Federation. In reality, the
red tape, though cumbersome, would be easily overcome as the
Federation had already decided to absorb Cardassia.

 

The Federation had many tasks to complete before the official
incorporation of the Cardassian Empire into the Federation. Already
on the Cardassian border Ferengi were raiding outposts and colonies;
treasures taken included weapons, technology, and slaves. Amnesty
Interstellar reported genocides and slave trafficking along the edges
of Cardassian space. The Federation responded by creating the 21st
Fleet. Consisting of 2200 vessels, the Fleet swept into the area,
attacked the Ferengi within Cardassian space (soon to be Federation
space) and destroyed all intruders.

 

The swift brutality of the Federation surprised the Ferengi who
immediately filed a protest and removed their ambassadors from Earth
and Qo’nos. In response the Alliance removed its ambassadors from
Ferengenar. Two weeks later a Klingon task force arrived at the
Cardassian border to support the Federation. The next day the Ferengi
sent a fleet to their border7.
The fleet was no match for either the Klingons or the Federation, not
to mention their combined strength. However the Ferengi believed that
the Federation would stop short of an invasion. It seemed that the
Quadrant was still under the impression that the Federation was
peaceable; and for the moment that belief held true.

 

It was decided that Cardassian space would need two more fleets. It
was further decided that the Federation would not be the sole
occupant of the former Cardassian Empire. The Klingons would send one
fleet to the region. And while Lord Groth would oversee the entire
Alliance, Federation Army General James Stevenson would remain
Cardassian Theater Commander, and Adjutant to Lord Groth.

 

The combined strength in the region would total 5400 vessels and
require 1.5 years to reach that level; however, putting that many
ships in the Cardassian Theater posed logistical problems for the
Alliance as they were spread thin. Holding Klingon, Federation, and
Cardassian space was an enormous task that required great resources.
Although the combined efforts of the Alliance could easily produce
ten times the ships needed to hold such territory, bodies were less
than plentiful. To ease the strain, the Federation instituted a
Cardassian entry program, and a “lateral” academy that would
train former Cardassian military members to Federation ways. Further,
the Federation for the first time in its existence instituted a draft
that would last for five years and boost the Star Fleet ranks to
needed levels.

 

The Cardassian military took to Star Fleet quite well, far better
than expected actually. The old ranking system of Glinns, Guls, and
Legates was gone, and six months after the first alliance treaty was
signed six captains, two admirals, a general and 50,000 enlisted
members went into service. The Captains were given assignments
according to seniority and skill. Two of the captains were given New
Jersey
Class vessels, one a Defiant Class, one an Intrepid
Class, one a Galaxy A Class, and one a Sovereign Class.
The general was given command of a Special Forces Brigade, and the
two admirals went to Star Fleet Headquarters. All were excited about
their new assignments. For the Captains, commanding the powerful Star
Fleet vessels they had heard so much about was a real treat. For the
senior ranking officers, it was a fresh start among an incredibly
diverse “empire” that seemed to hold much promise for the future.

 

 

***

 

 

In the center of Cortul a solemn event was being held. A war memorial
and holocaust monument had been erected and was officially being
presented to the public. Once again the all important delegates from
the Klingon and Federation camps were present. The new Cardassian
Prime Minister was conducting his first public task that didn’t
involve the power and influence of the Alliance.

 

 

Pulling off a canvass cover, a statue of a mother blindfolded on her
knees facing a wall that was opposed by a child on the other side of
the wall was exposed. The child was also blindfolded. It was a
representation of the genocide at Cortul, and other places, where
mothers and children could hear each other but were separated. This
event was especially touching for the mothers of the crowd, who know
that a mother can always hear the cry of her young; even in the chaos
of mass executions.

 

The inscription on the memorial read: Feel us, hear us, help us…
we are dying…

 

It
also contained a song from Earth called “Lullaby” and read:

 

 

Soft as the night,

 

Drawn from my sight,

 

Sun growing colder everyday.

 

Soul with no rest,

 

Torn from my breast,

 

Cry for baby as I pray.

 

How does the dark,

 

Live in my heart?

 

How can the oceans hold my tears?

 

What will I find?

 

What’s left behind?

 

Call to me baby,

 

I will hear.

 

Sweetly, Sweetly, sing,

 

And I will follow you.

 

Warm and shelter’s charm,

 

It’s all I live to do.

 

Dream of the soul,

 

That won’t forget you,

 

Hear as I sing my lullaby.

 

Sweetly, Sweetly, sing,

 

And I will follow you.

 

Warm and shelter’s charm,

 

It’s all I live to do.

 

One day I know,

 

These arms will hold you.

 

Hear as I sing my lullaby.

 

 

Although the memorial was of the very best craftsmanship, there was
no applause. The pain of the holocaust was still too near. Many
mothers who were left to live on after losing their families
collapsed with grief after reading the inscriptions. The woe and
misery would not subside for two generations.

 

 

Across from the patch of scorched ground in the center of Cortul
where the memorial lay, a man with chiseled features and cruel blue
eyes stood watching the ceremony; next to him stood the leader of the
Ever Faithful.

 

“This
will never happen to our people again.”

 

“May
all the forces in the universe help us to realize that sentiment.”

 

“You
disagree? Do you think our world and our citizens will suffer again?”

 

The man with the chiseled face considered his associate. He
understood his sudden concern; after all they had put all their stock
in the strong arms of the Federation.

 

“We,
the Alliance that is, will do everything possible to keep Cardassia
from ever suffering as she has. It’s the same promise we
have given to Bajor, and Betazed.”

 

“Betazed
fell during the war.”

 

“We
hadn’t made that promise yet.”

 

“And
how do you propose to keep your promises to so many?”

 

“With
unquestioning power.”

 

The leader of the religious sect now took his turn to consider his
associate.

 

“What
of the Dominion? What of the Borg? The Breen, and the others out
there?”

 

“Don’t
worry about the Breen, they’ll be dealt with. The Dominion and the
Borg? We have plans for them. As for the rest of the Alpha Quadrant,
with the strength of Cardassia now in the Federation the Alliance
will have enough power to control the Quadrant. It belongs to us now.
Or soon will…”

 

“What
about the Romulan question?”

 

“It
is being answered as we speak.”

 

 

The Federation and Klingon command structures were adjusting to the
permanent changes that had taken place within their war machines. The
Alliance command structure was to remain intact which meant that Lord
Groth was the Supreme Commander over all Alliance forces in the
Quadrant. The regions had to be divided into theaters, Earth,
Cardassia and Qo,nos. The Klingons maintained domain over their
region of space for the time being, but the Cardassian Theater was
run by a human, and a Cardassian was given command over the Terran
Theater. These commanders were Adjutants to Lord Groth, the senior of
which was General Stevenson.

 

Other adjustments came in the form of moving forces to very remote
locations in the Cardassian Theater. Almost all of the Cardassian
Fleet was scuttled. The rest were handed to the Cardassia Prime
security forces to serve as a “coast guard,” acting as the last
line of defense in a war and also as policing vehicles for the
Cardassian star system looking for smugglers of various kinds.

 

Despite all the logistical issues, the scattered cultural clashes and
some adjustment anxiety, overall the operation was a success. Section
31 had logged the Cardassia Prime mission as a victory. One of many
in their history and the first of many that would signal the
supremacy of the Federation over the Alpha Quadrant.

 

In a dark room aboard the unregistered USS Crystal Palace, an
Intrepid Class vessel, a ceremony was taking place. Garak was
receiving a medal and a certification of full citizenship into the
Federation. Garak wasn’t the only recipient of a medal: there were
saboteurs, snipers, assassins, and master persuaders and others who
also participated in the Cardassia operation, but Garak was one of
the more noted. He had penetrated the resistance, earned the trust of
its leadership, rose to power, identified key targets, lured them
into a trap, and eliminated them. Without Garak, the Resistance would
still be a strong presence on Cardassia and the success of the
operation to topple Cardassia and bring it into the Federation would
have failed. Garak is also unusual in that he is only one of a few
Section 31 members that is not listed as dead or missing, and is
further allowed and encouraged to interact openly with the rest of
Federation society. He received his medal, his citizenship, and his
new assignment: Romulus.

 

 

***

 

 

Across the planet were great celebrations. Another six months had
passed and Cardassia had been granted full entry into the Federation.
The Alliance delegation had arrived for the formal Raising of the
Flag ceremony. In New Lakaria, named so to pay tribute to Lakarian
City and the newly designated capital of Cardassia Prime, the Prime
Minister addressed his citizens:

 

 

Today we end our mourning for our dead, for it is a great day. Our
induction into the Federation represents the end of the cold hateful
hand of previous planetary administrations and the beginning of peace
and prosperity for the people of Cardassia. Through war, famine,
tears, and civil strife we have journeyed. We have learned much.
Those we have hated for many years reached out their hand to help us,
to protect us. Through their patience and understanding we came to
see that we feared without cause, hated without understanding, and
acted without thought. No more. We join the Federation not to deny
who we are, but to reaffirm our identity as a rational race in
possession of vision and great potential. Through the Federation we
can spread the great wisdom and friendship of our culture. Through
the Federation Cardassia Prime and its citizens will help shape the
future of the Alliance and the future of the Alpha Quadrant.

 

 

The citizens cheered with tears of joy. Although they were happy to
be apart of the Federation, they were apprehensive about the future.
Those who hated the Federation would now hate Cardassia Prime; and
the citizens of Cardassia were in no hurry to make any more enemies.
But the Dominion was still out there…alive and well; and every
citizen throughout the Federation knew that they would be back.

 

After several minutes the Federation President handed a scroll of
gold plated paper representing the Charter of the United Federation
of Planets. Several minutes after that, the Minister of Cardassian
Prime and the Federation President raised the flag of the Federation;
the ceremony was done.

 

 

Across the field was a group of men inconspicuously dressed for the
occasion. General Cain wore a hood to protect his identity. He had
shown his face more in the last five years than in the last thirty
years combined. His chiseled features and cold eyes were becoming
more recognizable by the day. It was time for him to leave Cardassia
Prime for good.

 

As he clapped his hands he felt a sense of satisfaction. The
Federation had accomplished a great thing. They had recovered from a
great war, the most destructive war yet. With their recovery they had
solidified an alliance with the great power of the Klingon Empire
that had only loosely existed prior. The Alliance would never be
broken again, and throughout the next two hundred and seventy-eight
wars the Federation and Klingons would become brothers.

 

Section 31 had also done well. They had conducted operations in the
past, but nothing they had done compared to the Cardassian Operation
in size, scope, and complexity. Section 31 had turned an entire
planet, broke the spirit of an adversary, and gained some of the best
covert operatives in the Quadrant. It was amazing that they had
completed this operation without alerting anyone, and without
igniting a war with the Romulans.

 

The Romulans…as the crowd began to disburse General Cain looked
into the sky. The sun was setting and the stars were beginning to
reveal themselves. In the western sky was a small dot that was the
Romulan sun. War with the Romulans…he had worked so hard in the
past to avoid that possibility…and now he was going to work just as
hard to see that war come. While peace with the Cardassians paved the
way to the future of the Quadrant, it was war with Romulus that held
the key to the salvation of the Alliance…

 

 

1
This phrase, and the individual words do not exist in any online
reference consulted. The author submits these words, and phrase, to
be accepted as part of the Klingon language.

 

2
While a matter of perspective, the Cardassians had every intention
of completely annihilating the Klingon race; an intent they knew to
be wrong, but they were going to do it nevertheless

 

3
While it seems unlikely that there could be survivors of any kind,
there are always survivors in these kinds of travesties…if only by
pure dumb luck…

 

4
The Olympic Class science vessels were used as the primary
intelligence gathering/analysis vessels given their specialized
equipment

 

5
“Chalk” is a military term meaning “deployment group”

 

6
This is only one of many reasons provided by Garak as to his exile;
the real reason is still a mystery.

 

7
The Cardassian border and Ferengi border are separated by a fair
amount of space, but still within striking distance of each other.

 

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