Command Center, Cardassia Prime, Cardassian Union
"You... you incompetent coward! You worthless excuse for a 1st Gul!"
Yatar Hergata's face had changed color to an impressive red and he was nearly blubbering as he continued to vent and scream obscenities at Relim, the two men standing with Kelataza in a conference room near the Central Command. Kelataza finally calmed his subordinate with a raised palm, having decided the verbal abuse on Relim was enough. "Gul Torcet, please, explain to me why you deemed it necessary to withdraw our fleet at their moment of triumph?"
"There was not going to be any triumph, Legate," Relim replied. "There were over seven hundred Alliance fighters inbound, carrying enough munitions to devastate the fleet at Darane. A withdrawal was the reasonable thing to do."
"Do you understand how badly this makes the Union look, Torcet?! We were winning and we retreated! We're the laughing stock of the Alpha Quadrant! We would have been better off detailing those one hundred ships to joining the assault on Darane!"
"Yes, and then we wouldn't have even managed to get one of the Alliance's carriers. What you should have done, you fool, was wait until 2nd Fleet came so we could guarantee we would have the necessary force to overwhelm both the ships at Darane and the carriers. But instead you forced me to attack early, and now the Alliance knows we want Darane back and the Alliance knows we'll be coming after their carriers, so they'll keep moving them. You have squandered our one chance to stave off the Alliance onslaught!"
"I would shoot you for cowardice right now if only I had my pistol!" Yatar stuck a finger in Relim's face. "As it is, I'll have you tried, convicted, and executed in the public square! Your family will be deported and that bitch Bajoran housekeeper you keep sent to a labor camp!"
"Gul Hergata, calm yourself." Kelataza intervened once more. "Gul Torcet's actions were justifiable. He preserved our fleet." Kelataza sighed. "Still, the fact remains that our forces were winning at Darane when they withdrew. To maintain the reputation of Cardassia's military, Gul Torcet, I have no choice but to hereby strip you of all command authority over our military forces. You may continue in your current capacity as the government's senior military strategist."
Relim clenched his jaw before nodding. "Yes, Legate. You must do as you see fit, for the good of Cardassia."
Kelataza smiled and nodded back. "You're dismissed, Gul Torcet."
After Relim left, Yatar looked to Kelataza. "The Operations Commission is going to want more. We're going to have to try him for incompetence, Legate."
"After the war, yes", Kelataza replied. "Before then, we dare not. The last thing we need is to inspire more dissension in the ranks. If enough of the field military turns against us, we could very well suffer a coup."
"The field personnel would never dare move against us in this time of war!"
"If they feel that we're going to send them and their soldiers to death and defeat from incompetent leadership, there are millions of idealistic Glins who would gladly shoot us and then submit themselves for execution if it meant preserving their troops' lives and giving Cardassia better leadership. You underestimate the dissension already in the field ranks, Gul Hergata. You do not understand their impatience with the upper levels of governments, their contempt for our leadership. We must tread carefully. Work with Gul Torcet. Begin drawing up a plan for another assault on the Alliance forces in Darane. And it must be soon, before the Alliance can resume fortifying their position."
Sakata Estate, Rymorta, The Sphere
The Sakata Estate, in a secluded area outside the city Kellerman, was an estate of some size, with four structures that included two guest-houses and the main mansion. The red dragon motif that Jane Sakata had adopted was prominent on the outside walls and the main gate. Up to date security systems protected the estate from attack or intrusion, as well as volunteer combatants under Jane's command.
It was all a very impressive site for Zachary Carrey as his aircar moved up to the central building. A short woman and a tall man girded in phaser-disruptive protective armor (the armor acted to disperse the effect of the nuclear-disruption beam, protecting the wearer briefly) welcomed him at the door and admitted him inside.
Jane Sakata was waiting for him, wearing a simple kimono in the Japanese style, unarmed. Kristin Ignacian was with her, dressed modest as she went with a sleeved purple-blue blouse and knee-length skirt. "Mister Carrey, it is interesting to finally meet you," Jane remarked. "Kristin tells me much about you."
Looking at the gorgeous, lithe redhead, Zack answered with a charming smile and accepted the offered hand. "As I've heard about you, Mrs. Sakata."
The two women led Zachary into the living quarters area. Some of the rooms were occupied by children, adolescent and teenage, the orphans of people killed by bandits or seized by slavers and taken under Jane's care. Others had full-grown adults, mostly women, of varying ST-3 races, almost all with the markings and appearance of those forced into prostitution as sex-slaves by the Orion Syndicate and other criminal organizations of the ST-3 universe associated with the lucrative, expansive slave trade. Zack swallowed at the sight of them, thinking of the Vulcan girl at Bruno's and just how much humiliation and suffering these poor souls had endured.
They came to one of the rooms set up for medical recovery. A young Trill girl passed by wearing white, a nurse, and gave a soft smile to him as they passed. Inside Jane brought them to the bedside of a gown-adorned young Oriental woman with blue eyes, recognizable immediately as the exiled Omiko Kurita. She was awake and looked to them immediately, bowing her head respectfully to Jane. She spoke to her in Japanese, a language Zack had no experience in, addressing her as "Sakata-[/i]san[/i]" "You are, sir?", Omi said, addressing Zack directly.
"I am Mister Carrey," he answered candidly. "A consultant for Security Concept Enterprises, which was contracted to guarantee your protection by the Red Cross. I was asked to check up on your recovery."
"I feel stronger now, and better. I look forward to working on this poor planet to help the unfortunate." Omi gave a smile smile, a reserved content look, but there was something in those blue eyes that told Zack she wasn't fooled as to whom he represented. "I hope that those in the Alliance who are concerned for me will not begrudge me my desire to be of use. It is not right for the Keeper of the Family Honor to have idle hands, you understand."
"I do, Miss Kurita." Stepping up toward her - and admittedly a little interested in her personally, in the fashion that Zack usually had for lovely women - he took her hand and gave it a soft shake. "But you must understand now that Rymorta is not safe. The Red Cross believes that you might be better suited for caring for Bajoran refugees and, eventually, for helping in rebuilding efforts on Bajor should it be liberated."
"Yes, I had heard that war with the Cardassians had begun. I hope very much for the victory of the Alliance." She betrayed no response at being asked to change her plans. "If the Red Cross asks I will accept assignment elsewhere, though I am opposed to leaving Rymorta without being of some service to the people here. I have seen t0o much of the depredation they live in to leave in such circumstances."
"You can be of service to the people of Rymorta, Kurita-san, by helping us with what you saw," Jane spoke up. She produced a PADD from the folds of her kimono, on which was the picture of a green-skinned alien who looked mostly human save his skin pigmentation. "Do you recognize this man?"
"I do, my captors called him 'Chief Oloparatho'."
"Subspace? As in your interstellar communications? Yes. A video call." Omi's eyes wandered a bit and she clearly had a less-than-pleasant memory in her thoughts. "Sanda had me brought out of my cell to be shown to him. He demanded I be... examined... for his benefit." Her voice weakened a little and there was a clear sense of humiliation.
"Examined?", Zack asked. "In what way?"
Kristin chose to volunteer the information, seeing that their guest would probably prefer not to. "Orion slavers like to see their merchandise, Mister Carrey, and to know there are no physical defects. It involves being stripped, physically groped and manhandled to look for physical imperfections and characteristics and to test... tenderness in one's figure, how pleasing it could be for a potential buyer," she answered. It was all he needed to know.
"He was impressed with me, I believe," Omi continued on her own, giving Kristin a carefully grateful look at her taking on the job of explaining the humiliation she had endured. "He told Sanda he would pay two thousand bars of gold-pressed latinum for me. Sanda convinced him to go to thirty-five hundred, stating the ISF's promised fee for my 'recovery' was worth three thousand such bars and that he was taking a risk of retaliation giving Oloparatho right of refusal."
Carrey did the math in his head. 3,500 bars, 7,000,000 slips, thus... $3.5 million ADN. God damn that's a lot of money, for one woman?
"After my... examination.... I was re-clothed, fed, and placed back into my cell," Omi finished. "The next day was when you arrived."
"Thank you, Kurita-san," Jane remarked politely. "This information may be of great use to us and is valuable to protecting the innocent people here."
"I am in your debt, always, Sakata-san," was the reply.
Jane looked to Kristin and Zack and they both followed her out into the hall. "Three point five million Alliance dollars for her?", Zack asked increduously.
"Oloparatho could have easily made twice that by selling her to the right people," Jane remarked bitterly. "Human women of Omi's age are 10 to 20 bars typically, as low as 5 in some markets, but since she's a virgin her value doubles, and then we get to the fact that she is the daughter of a noble Human house that rules its own interstellar empire, even if in a different universe. I could see him selling her to the Kunar of Tanar or the Great Chief of Saraspo for ten thousand or higher."
Zack almost asked how Oloparatho would know about Omi's virginity, but the thought quickly came to him on just what the demanded "examination" likely entailed and he remained silent. "The ISF really screwed the pooch," he sighed. "They didn't have the time to build the right networks and get to know the local environment, they just slapped together a half-assed operation to try and get some prestige back for their conservative faction back on Luthien."
"The yakuza here are tightly connected to the Orion Syndicate and the Alpha and Beta Quadrant slave trades, and aren't nearly as tame as the yakuza of the Inner Sphere," Jane explained. She spat a Japanese phrase out, clearly directed at the ISF, then for the benefit of her Japanese-oblivious guests she switched to English. "Dumb bastards almost got their precious princess turned into some misogynist Orion bastard chief's concubine. As it is she's been humiliated, shamed, by the examination process she was subjected to, and is going to need time to heal from that." Jane looked to Zack. "Mister Carrey, please tell your employers that several dozen highly-trained volunteer agents stand between your subject and further harm at the moment and that I am willing to assign two of my best bodyguards to her protection if expenses can be covered. No profit is requested."
"That is awfully generous of you," Zack replied. "And Oloparatho? You seemed awfully interested in what she had to know of him."
"And she told us a lot." Jane smiled wickedly. "Moving thirty-five hundred bars isn't easy, especially if he wants to avoid detection by various authorities. The money is still here. And I think it'll make a proper compensation for all the pain that son of a bitch has personally caused to my people."
Karlsburg, New Styria, United Federation of Planets
29 November 2153 AST
Zandra's was a "gentleman's club" of some ill repute to the locals. An exotic nude dancing club, the proprieter - herself a former dancer and prostitute - maintained backrooms for drug use, prostitution, and various perverted activities in between. Of course, though the locals had a love/hate relationship with Zandra's, foreign shiphands found it a great place to come and view the finer specimens of native womenfolk, and sexual promiscuity was a vice that spanned universes.
The seductive gyrations of a topless Trill dancer, with short brown hair and possessing "natural" hormonal breast augmentation, drew hollers and wolf whistles from a crowd of "spacemen" from the Federated Commonwealth, crew on board the JumpShip Shackleton. The Shackleton and the four DropShips attached to it were stopping at New Styria to pick up about eighty college upperclassman and teachers - including the three young men at another table enjoying the sight of a naked Orion girl leaning her back against a pole - before making their way back to New Liberty and the Interuniversal Jump Gate Assembly there.
As the Trill danced closed to them, meeting their eyes often to ensure she was keeping their attention, they nevertheless spoke to one another. "I can't wait to get home. Seein' lots of different aliens and all is interestin', but not somethin' I wanna do for long, y'know?"
A third man, their DropShip's First Mate Alex Richmond, laughed at that. He invited the Trill dancer into his lap, slipping her several kroner coins "Ah yeah, got lots of aliens. And some of those Bajoran ladies on the Eckhardt would be cute if they weren't, y'know, starved and all. Though there is that one weirdo Bajoran with the scar who's staying on the Rasmussen..."
"Yeah. Saw 'im at the last port when I had to go over and help move around some cargo. Don't ask me why the SOB wants to stay on a cargo hauler." At that point, First Mate Richmond concentrated on the Trill girl in his lap and said nothing more.
After giving Richmond his lap dance, the Trill girl finished her routine. She returned to the back, where she was met by a human and usual client. She told him in hushed tones what Richmond had said. He nodded and left.
About an hour later, a message was being sent to the local Obsidian Order handler about this newly-gleaned intelligence.
First Mate Richmond was right on time to the offices of Universal Transport in Karlsburg. A company founded from investors from the Federated Commonwealth, Universal Transport was a growing business that was working tirelessly to expand the Commonwealth's trade links through the known multi-verse.
Once he arrived, he left a note to a Mr. Curtis that was immediately delivered to the branch manager's office. After reading the note in the security of the office, Mr. Curtis took out a small noteputer and typed a simple message to be relayed back home.
"Mr. Secretary, I have given your request all the consideration it was due. Sincerely, Mr. Curtis."
When he was done, Mr. Curtis made a call. "This is Curaitis. Ready the transport. We've done our work here."
New Liberty Station, Orbit over New Liberty, ADN Colonial Zone
Rana Shaheen was sitting in the light-dimmed living room watching TV when the door opened and Danielle entered. She was still in her work uniform, the blue engineer's worksuit of a dockyard repair engineer covered in zipper pockets, and it was flattering on her in a modest kind of way.
"How was work, Dani?", she asked, and all Rana got was a low groan. Dani walked right by her and into the bedroom, where she promptly plopped herself onto the bed. Rana watched Dani curl her pillow up under her disheveled locks of dark hair and almost immediately go to sleep. Dani's sigh of exhaustion as she fell asleep was echoed by a sad sigh from Rana.
Hackins, damaged at Zygola, had been routed to New Liberty along with some other ships due to Kensington being filled to capacity. Damage to ships in the carrier strike forces, at Zygola, and now Darane had every fleet station in the Colonial Zone filled to repair yard capacity, and every day a skirmish here or there along the fringes of the Cardassian-Alliance front brought in ships in need of some repair work. The Navy was trying to get them in and out as fast as possible, and so it fell upon the repair yard personnel like Danielle to maintain a fast tempo.
Thirty-six hours on, eight hours off, with thirty minute breaks every six hours for a stim dose and refreshment. Sometimes I think I am the lucky one. The thought came to Rana's head as she stripped off her informal uniform and switched into a one piece nightgown, a spaghetti strap gown of navy blue made of replicated silk. She slipped into bed next to her fully-clothed lover and draped her arm around Danielle after slipping under the covers. Soon, to get comfortable, she shifted to lay directly on her back, staring at the ceiling as she waited for her body to be ready to sleep as well.
Afte ra short time, Dani turned in the bed, moving so that she was facing Rana and laying on her own belly. She laid her head over Rana's heart, made a happy-sounding sleep-moan, and draped her left arm over Rana's belly and up to where Rana carefully laid her own right arm. Sighing contentedly, even with the weight of Dani's head on her chest and Dani's tangled, unwashed hair close to her face, Rana laid her left hand on Dani's lower back and let herself fall asleep as well.
Ikithra System, Disputed Territory (Joint UFP-Cardassian Control)
30 November 2153 AST
The Ikithra System, marked as Sydonis on Federation charts, was one of the systems that had been disputed when the ceasefire between the Federation and Cardassia was made. Colonized by the Federation first, in the 2330s, the Cardassians nevertheless claimed prior control and had seized two of the three habitable planets in the system, deporting the non-Cardassian population to labor camps deep within Cardassian space. A quarter of the Sydonians taken as such had never returned home and some remained imprisoned after all these years, more victims of Cardassian perfidy and the Federation's spinelessness. Not that this had stopped the Cardassians from claiming that all living Sydonians were indeed returned, a claim not entirely untrue as many Sydonians had died from brutal conditions in various Cardassian labor camps. As such, only one planet remained inhabited by Federation citizens, the other two home to Cardassians now.
It was in this system that the JumpShip Shackleton and its two escorts - the Fox-class corvette FCS Swiftsure and the British-built Type 298 frigate FCS Upholder - had arrived, to pick up a DropShip that had dropped off a load of grain for the Federation colonists on Sydonis 6.
They were halfway to Sydonis 6, on full impulse, when the interception squadron of ten Cardassian ships - led by a Dorkarak-class cruiser - made contact. The order was made to allow immediate inspection for Bajoran terrorists. The Shackleton refused and barely succeeded in sending out a distress call before jamming began.
On the bridge of the CDS Gorecet, Gul Makel was uncomfortable. The intel was supposedly good - the Bajoran terrorist leader Opel Nevis was on board the Rasmussen - but finding his location seemed too good to be true.
"Glin Ikim, I want to be sure we get Opel. Order all ships to target any of the outsiders' ships that have Bajoran life signs. We'll take a couple of ships and deal with those escorts."
"Yes, Glin, right away."
Avalon City, New Avalon, Federated Commonwealth
Universe Designate MWB-32
The new Assembly Building for the Estates General of the Federated Commonwealth was one of the newest and most beautiful additions to the great metropolis of Avalon City. Built close to the Palace and the Davion Peace Park, the Assembly Building was just eighteen months old, placed so that the Estates General could meet on either capitol of the Commonwealth as part of Hanse Davion's steps toward a "more democratic" form of government. Along with the limitations on the nobility to seek seats - no noble higher than a Baron was permitted - the democratic voting process insured that the Estates were seen as the voice of the people in the government. A number of planetary, regional, and Commonwealth-wide political parties had seats. Royalist "Loyalist" factions controlled the Estates General with about thirty-three percent of the seats, but another fifth of the seats were taken up by the growing Coalition for Democratic Reform, a group of democratic parties from different regions and even of different specific interests that represented the growing pro-democracy sentiment of the Commonwealth, with the Alliance's existance and stability disproving the centuries-old notion that democratic government was unsustainable on the interstellar scale.
In the end, though, the Estates General were more form than function. Seen as necessary to mollify certain groups from the ADN that were uncomfortable with the heavy-handed rule of Inner Sphere nobility, the Estates General still had very little real power to enforce legislation and continued to act mostly as an advisory body.
Of course, such a body still had its uses, and Hanse Davion intended to have unquestioned support from them if he were to pursue war in another universe. The debate was now raging late into the day on whether the attack on the Hermocrates was sufficient provocation. Emotions were running high among some, as the confirmed Cardassian atrocities were being used as arguments for the moral necessity of war. Hanse had returned to the session to observe how the proceedings were going.
Currently the floor was being held Representive Annabelle Grassi of Kentares. A woman of Mediterrenean complexion and appearance, she was into her early fifties and a prominent lawyer from Kentares who was considered a "loyalist" to the Davion family while giving support for some democratic schemes. Of course, she was also a vicious anti-Combine speaker and something of a crusader for the downtrodden; during a visit to the New Liberty Zone she'd met Bajorans and had made them her personal raison d'guerre when it came to any issue concerning the Alpha Quadrant. As a result she was the "odd woman out" when it came to most of the Draconis March's representatives as they were generally isolationist when it came to extrauniversal affairs, preferring to focus upon local issues and especially upon the Draconis Combine.
"The pure barbarism of the Cardassian State and its disregard for the rules of civilized conduct are a matter of the public record. There is only one way to deal with beings of such cruelty, and that is to meet them in battle and rout them! I need not remind this assembly that Cardassia committed the most grave and barbarous of acts, the use of a nuclear weapon upon an innocent and unarmed civilian population, and has consistently violated the rights of neutral vessels to innocent passage through space."
"Mark my words!" Grassi lifted her right hand into the air, her index finger raised. "If you think we are immune to this war, that we can stand aside, remember that one day we will all be judged for our actions at this time! When History points its finger toward us and asks us what we did while Cardassia was committing genocide upon the Bajoran race, what will we have to say? Will we use the excuse of Thomas Marik and his ilk, babbling weakly about 'chivalry' and 'peace' to hide our cowardice? Will we sneer and ignore the issue like the autocrats on Sian and Luthien, confident that History's judgement can be kept from their own people whom they also butcher at their discretion? No!" Grassi slammed her right fist down upon her desk so hard it thundered throughout the chamber. "No, I want us to be able to look History straight in the eye! I want us to stand and say that we, the loyal subjects and retainers of the Great Houses of Steiner and Davion, drew our swords and fought as Knights of all that is good and noble in Mankind! Let History recognize us as honoring that which we claim to serve and believe in! Let it not be said that we cowered in the corner or stood silent in self-righteous false chivalry as innocent children were butchered by Cardassia!"
A roar of agreement came from various parts of the Estates General. The loudest roar was not from Hanse's pro-military loyalists but from the democrats, who usually opposed Hanse's military policies but were currently viciously anti-Cardassian and pro-war. Some political attacks had been mounted against them, accusing them of being puppets of the Alliance, but Hanse had used his influence to keep them low key. Right now, he preferred that support.
After order was restored the debate continued as usual. As Hanse watched the Representative from Freedom voice opposition to war, he was handed a note by an aide. He read it and, to observers, visibly sickened, as Hanse learned now of the fate of Shackleton in the ST-3 universe. He waited for the Representative to finish his comments, thinking of what he would do as ill disgust slowly turned to cold rage within him, before standing and boldly asking the Speaker to let him address the Estates General. His face looked paler than his usual color, filling the Estates General with dread.
"Representatives of the Commonwealth Estates General, I have just learned of another attack upon a Commonwealth ship by Cardassian forces. It is currently being reported on by a number of news services. With the agreement of the Speaker, I would like it if we could all observe."
There was a nod from the Speaker, and all eyes looked behind and above Hanse to the massive plasma digital screen built into the Assembly Chambers wall. The screen turned on and presented the live video channel of the Inter-Universal News Service and caught a reporter in mid-report, standing in a concourse somewhere on New Liberty. "...spoken to a Captain Edgar Matheson of the JumpShip Shackleton. They're still counting the casualties from the attack, but it appears that there are no survivors aboard the DropShips Rasmussen, Eckhardt, and Bountiful Harvest. The only ship not directly fired upon by Cardassian forces was the passenger liner Galax Eagle, which also suffered damage and casualties. The current count of dead is in excess of 1,500, including about four hundred Bajorans who were scattered around the three DropShips, most of them women and children."
A female voice - presumably from the studio anchor - asked, "So it was a Cardassian attack?"
"Yes, Maggie. It has been confirmed from numerous sources, including the Federation colony on Sydonis 6 and the Federation Starfleet vessel USS Hawk which responded to the distress signal of the Shackleton and her escorts. The attack happened about six hours ago as Shackleton was awaiting the DropShip Bountiful Harvest on its return flight from Sydonis 6. After being refused inspection, Cardassian ships engaged the Shackleton's military escorts and destroyed one while others opened fire on the ships attached to Shackleton. They retreated after destroying three DropShips which all were reported as having Bajorans aboard as passengers or crew. Again, the final death toll is 1,500, with about four hundred Bajorans amongst them."
"Do we know who these people were, Greg?"
"No, names have not been officially released. The authorities are compiling a casualty list now to officially notify the families of the deceased and the injured, but we do know that there were several groups from the Inner Sphere traveling aboard the three ships, including a tourist group from Saint Ives and three groups of college teachers and students from the New Avalon Institute of Science, the University of Tharkad, and the University of Donegal. They were on an extended field trip in the Federation that was commissioned by the Commonwealth Ministry of Education and the Elaine Welford Foundation." There was a sudden wail from someone in the Assembly, one woman closer to the back burying her face in her hands in an attempt to suppress agonized sobs. "I'm told that the Commonwealth Consul-General on New Liberty is in the process of authorizing a preliminary press release, which we will have soon hopefully...."
The signal was turned off. Hanse looked to the Assembly, his jaw locked tightly. He had an idea on what to say. There was no guilt to be shown in what had become of his carefully-laid plans, of his terrible miscalculation in having Curaitis set the Cardassians up to provide him with casus belli. The guilt would come later, in private, as he grieved for his innocent subjects, men and women he had failed; he had failed by getting them slain because he had yet underestimated the cruelty and disregard for life that the Cardassians possessed. For now, he hid any trace of that realization, in favor of the appearance he needed; the stern, commanding Sovereign of innocent people slain by alien barbarism. "As we can see, even as they are being pushed back in war, even as they are suffering defeat after defeat at the hands of the Allied Nations, Cardassia retains all of its cruel arrogance and disregard for the laws of civilization. They have attacked our ships and murdered citizens of the Federated Commonwealth in neutral space. I... I can no longer remain silent on this issue."
"What we have seen here is further proof of the insidious mindset of Cardassia. To them, other races fall under two categories. They are either slaves to Cardassia or they are enemies that are to be exterminated or enslaved in the future. Cardassia... holds no regard for any laws, any morals, any kind of restraint or code that contradicts their desires for conquest and power."
"The Federated Commonwealth cannot allow its rights to be so easily taken. We cannot allow the murder of our citizens to go unpunished. I now back Ambassador Grassi's eloquent call to arms. I call upon the people of this Commonwealth to draw their swords and fight this menace to the security and freedom of all nations, Human and Non-Human alike! The call to battle has been made and we shall answer it, in our ships, in our 'Mechs, in our tanks, and in our hearts! If this Assembly desires it, if it wishes to see proof that I believe this war is necessary and must be waged, I will go get into my 'Mech and fight Cardassia myself!" A thunderous roar erupted from the Assembly, silencing itself when Hanse continued to speak. "I now ask for you to vote on whether the Federated Commonwealth should declare war upon Cardassia."
As the Speaker came back to the podium to call for the official vote, the chanting began. The chant consisted of only one word: "WAR!" It erupted first amongst the Democrats and a split second later amongst the Loyalists, their numbers ensuring that "WAR!" echoed throughout the Assembly Chambers. Everyone else began to join in, swept up in their emotions, their anger for the crimes of Cardassia and their pride for their homeland, overriding any of their prior opinions on the matter. The chanting alone was deafening, but many of the assembled now added to the noise by slamming their fists upon their desks. The Speaker was not even heard at first, unable to quiet the Assembly for nearly a minute before finally gaining their attention with repeated hand gestures. "The vote shall be held by acclaimation!"
And the chanting immediately continued.
DNS Lexington CVF-4, Near Rekfeth System, Cardassian Union (Occupied)
Universe Designate ST-3
1 December 2153 AST
Even in wartime, the crew of a warship still had to get off-duty time when not in combat, and fighter pilots were no different. This was the time when pilots sent messages home, played cards, watched movies, worked out, and the like.
Thanks to the movies, there was a persistant misconception about the average fighter pilot. Naval aviators would often laugh at viewing any such movies and seeing "pretty boy" actors and "super model" actresses flying fighters with seeming ease. The truth was, muscle power was necessary for good flying, and so pilots kept in shape with weight-lifting and other exercises.
On a bench in the gymnasium weight room, Lieutenant Anahita Razmara grunted with a bit of effort and lifted the bar and weights as high as she could. Her wingmate, Lieutenant (J.G) Linda Mackey, took the bar with her hands and brought it to rest on the hooks. They were clad in the usual combination of white sports bra and gym shorts, the white contrasting more with Anahita's bronze skin than Linda's fair complexion. Anahita was the senior pilot in their squadron, WFS-28, and unlike Linda had seen far more combat, being a veteran of the Tenth Euro-Iranian War (Universe FHI-8) ten years ago. Anahita was thirty-five years old, though with anti-aging treatments she still looked twenty, with a fit and muscled body like that of a trained athlete, not at all the kind of beautiful body the media would have preferred. The crescent moon brand on her right thigh and the scar that ran from her right temple to her right heel were leftover reminders of her time as a POW in the Euro-Iranian War. The fact that she had survived the mandatory execution that the Eurofascists of her universe ordered for all Muslims was in of itself a tale of luck that seemed to be a gift of Providence. Anahita had transferred from the Shah's Royal Navy to the Stellar Navy when her homeland, the Kingdom of Iran, officially joined the Alliance in 2150 AST.
On the other hand, Linda was a young pilot of twenty-three, only fifteen months out of the McNicholson Naval Aviator Training Academy in orbit over Monroe (Universe PA-6). Her violet purple hair was a result of exotic gene-engineering that had caught on as a short-term fad in PA-6 near the start of the "Interuniversal Era" in 2028 AST, Linda's maternal grandmother being the source of her strange hair color. Linda was not as muscled as Anahita, with a lithe body figure that was strong enough to do the job required of her. She was a runner and had been an important member of the Training Academy's swimming and track-and-field teams in her class days. "Anyone you knew on the Kaga?" Linda asked Anahita as the older woman sat up on the bench.
"No. Did you?"
"A pilot with a Marauder squadron was one of my classmates. I hear she's okay."
Anahita nodded. "I am quite sure that a number of admirals were not happy to hear about Kaga. But such are the risks of war, and I suppose we allowed ourselves to get overconfident after the opening attack on the Cardassians. As they get more desperate, they'll try things like that even more."
"My friend who works in the CIC says we might be heading to Darane soon." Linda noticed someone changing the channel on the TV screen on the far wall. "Captain looked over an intel report and even told everyone that we'd be seeing action if the Cardie fleet moved again. And.... hey, what's this?"
Noticing something on the screen she was interested in, Linda went to the closer one and changed the channel to IUNS. The screen flashed to show the studio, where a male anchor was speaking. "So far, no official comment has been issued by the President on the Commonwealth's declaration of war on Cardassia. Sources close to the White House say that the President has been in contact with First Prince Hanse Davion on the matter of Commonwealth troops deploying from Alliance territory. Now we will be going live to Tian-tan and our Saint Ives correspondent Zhu Xiao-Mei."
The screen changed once again to an open street in the capitol city of the Saint Ives Compact. A small Chinese woman was on the screen and began to speak in the majority Han dialect, which the channel auto-translated into English. "Here in Tian-tan the mood is one of outrage and anxiety. There were approximately three hundred citizens of the Compact killed on board the liner Eckhardt when it was struck and destroyed by Cardassian weapons fire during the attack at Sydonis. But even the pro-Alliance rallies held outside the Alliance Embassy have not been able to cover up the deeper concerns of the people here, namely, if they too will be going to war with Cardassia. Many Compact citizens still fear the power of the Capellan Confederation and the continued rhetoric by Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao at his intentions to push for reunifying the Compact to the Confederation. The sentiment is mostly one that if the Compact joins the war, it should contribute money and advisor roles, not troops, which would be used instead to free up some of the estimated two hundred thousand Alliance troops that are currently stationed in the Compact. Either way, there are some sources close to Duchess Liao that say a declaration of war is imminent and will be announced within the hour. We will keep you posted. Live from Tian-tan, Saint Ives, this is Zhu Xiao-Mei, InterUniversal News Service. Back to you, Richard."
Back in the studio, the male anchor began speaking again. "Our final note from Universe MWB-32 comes from Terra. The Military Governor's Office announced that two dozen Blakist insurgents were killed or captured in a home near Lakeland in the Florida Peninsula by Alliance occupation forces and local authorities. This was the terrorist cell apparently responsible for the rash of car bombings and ambushes that have killed three hundred people and wounded over a thousand in the Orlando-Tampa Bay corridor in the past month. On the other side of the world, one Alliance soldier was killed and three injured last night in Mesopotamia when Blakist insurgents in Fallujah opened fire on a foot patrol, bringing a total of ten thousand soldiers killed on Terra MWB-32 since the President officially announced in April that all ComStar military forces had been eliminated. Now we go on to news from Universe SE-1..."
Linda turned the TV off and looked back to Anahita. "Looks like the Cardassians shot themselves in the foot again."
"Given the quality of Humanity in this universe, it's easy to see why they think they can push us around and get away with it. So, off to the showers?"
New Tel Aviv, New Israel, Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate FHI-8
One of the non-descript buildings in the National Defense Complex of the New Israeli capital was dedicated to perhaps the most well-known, if secretive, government entity in the State of New Israel: Mossad. The Mossad had for centuries been one of the finest intelligence organizations in Universe FHI-8, the first and final lines of defense for the organized, powerful, yet beleaguered New Israeli state after the Great Exodus from Earth in 2095. Today they were an integral element to the Alliance's overall intelligence network, providing analysts and contacts to AID - the Alliance Intelligence Department - and directly working with the Alliance on matters of internal and external security.
In the bowels of the central offices of Mossad was a non-descript group of offices and rooms for Cryptography. Among the Alliance's many intelligence services Mossad Cryptograph stood out, to such an extent that they had agreed to assume a fearsome task from Director Sir James Bronson of AID; breaking Cardassian military codes.
For months a team of experts, given hypnocram-assisted crash courses in Cardassian language and linguistic patterns, had taken up the duty under the charge of mathematician Dr. Givon Levitch. The vagarities of Cardassian language had been a difficult hurdle, as the work of what was called "xenocryptography" required an innate understanding of an alien culture's functional use of numbers as well as the mathematics understandings usually associated with cryptography.
Among the cryptographers, forty-two year old Hibah Haswari was busily studying the basic element of the Cardassian codes, part of the unit working on the all-important naval code. He was a unique figure in the unit; the only Muslim Arab present, descended from the Palestinians who joined the Great Exodus, taking the bold decision to try and co-exist among a people they generally despised in order to survive. These days those old hatreds were gone; Jew and Muslim alike had lost their homeland and now had a new one, with plenty of space for all, and co-existence was the norm. That he was the only Palestinian in the unit was not from any discrimination but simply the demographics of the population compared to the majority; his presence alone actually meant his people were overrepresented compared to their percentage of the population.
Hibah had a first-rate mind when it came to numbers. The Cardassian numerical systems, particularly their use of separate measurement and organization bases for civilian and military use, had been a challenge in of themselves, and now he had to combine that with needing to determine how they coded and decoded their language into numerical and lettered form. It was a daunting process, made easier recently with the cracking of the administrative codes to give insight on how Cardassian cryptographers did things.
A new calculation was running, being tested to see if it worked as a decryption algorithim, and Hibah was watching it intently. He felt he was close to a breakthrough, he had to be. He'd invested so much time in this, had seen the pattern in the Cardassian code begin to emerge, and found it hard to believe it could long deny him.
The initial result wasn't successful, but he was clearly close. Hibah modified the decryption algorithim and let the powerful quantum-scale computers go back to work, their isolinear-based processing working at a scale that was mind-boggling in terms of speed and complexity. Feeling tired and knowing his shift had another four hours to go, Hibah secured his workstation and went to the replicator to make coffee. Replicated coffee was free for them and, while not nearly as good as the actual stuff - he preferred the Arabica-style Pomerantz coffee, from a New Israeli grower in Equatoreal Judah - it still had all the kick necessary to keep someone awake and functioning.
He returned and restored his workstation, taking a sip and letting the caffeine work to his brain. As he brought the cup down with another gulp of coffee in his mouth, its cheap flavor a way to help bring him back to full wakefulness, his eyes moved over his screen.
At seeing the successful result, and a completely decrypted Cardassian communication now flashing on the screen, Hibah nearly choked as he forced the coffee down his throat - lest he spit it out instead - so he could let out a full-throated whoop of joy. "We have it! Allah be praised we have it!" Not that he was entirely religious, but in his joy Hibah was quick to revert to the religion he'd been raised in and to call out to God in a moment of triumph.
The others noticed his reaction and came over, Dr. Levitch among them. His eyes went over the results on Hibah's screen and he happily clapped his subordinate on the shoulder. "Well done Hibah," Levitch proclaimed. "We've got it! We've got the Cardassian naval code!"
Washington D.C., Earth, Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate HE-1
2 December 2153 AST
President Mamatmas was in the den of the White House, seated withthree of his grandchildren by his adopted children. After he and his wife Karyn had their only child Kevin, Karyn had developed an illness and required surgery had left her infertile, requiring adoption for the expansion of their family. Together they watched a computer animated kids' show playing on the den's television, a pre-ordered program from a digital database provider. Five year old Tamika cuddled beside him on the couch while seven year olds Michael Jr. and Evelyn sat in other chairs. Mamatmas watched patiently, not really enthralled by the very childish antics of the characters - if pressed he could barely remember which was which - but happy to be with his grandkids whom he saw so very little of.
Of course, as there was a war on, Mamatmas could be called away at any time, and his grandkids became very apprehensive when the phone beside the couch started ringing. Mamatmas nodded at Michael, who dutifully paused the show while he reached for the phone. Underneath its slot in the base were two lights, green and red, and it was the red light showing, telling him it was a secured line. Seeing this, he pressed a finger to the base of the phone, allowing the electronics built in to scan the DNA of his skin cells to determine who he was. "Hello?" he answered when the light on the phone changed from red to green and confirmed he'd been cleared.
Director Bronson was on the other end. "Good evening, Mister President. I have a piece of good news for you."
"And that would be?"
"I just got a report from New Tel Aviv. Our Mossad cryptographers have broken the Cardassians' naval code. They're working on interpreting the latest comm intercepts now."
"Wonderful news. Keep me appraised." Mamatmas turned the phone off and looked back to his grandkids. "Don't worry, kids, I'm not being called away yet. Turn the movie back on."
Michael Jr. dutifully obeyed.
Ikila, Bajor, Cardassian Union
The holy city of Ikila was the spiritual center of Bajor. Though there were far larger cities elsewhere, Ikila stood above them all, for it was the home of the Kai and the Great Temple of the Prophets, a structure that had stood for millennia as a testament to the beauty of Bajoran architecture and the skill of her ancient engineers.
Ikila's population numbered about 300,000 Bajorans. Counting all of the towns and villages around it, the entire area had a population of about half a million, and in fact there was farmland all around it, for the Bajorans had long ago decided that it was not proper to bring the natural life of Bajor too far from the Great Temple. And it was usually during the muddy winter rains that farmers were out digging and planting that which was best grown in the mud and cold, plants like the vegetable opila, which restored the rich soil for the main crops to be planted later and gave them additional foodstuffs as spring planting began.
But now the farmers and their families were digging for something else entirely. In the towns and villages outside of Ikila - in Ikila itself - Bajorans flocked out to the mud and ignored the cold rain to begin digging furiously, and they weren't digging plots this time but trenches. The people of Ikila were preparing for war.
At about 1:15AM Alliance GST, Opel Nevis and his guerrilas had struck the local Cardassian offices and field base. There were not many targets for them to deal with, thankfully. Ikila had a Cardassian garrison of only one hundred or so soldiers in a small field base outside the city and only about fifty Cardassian inspectors for its spaceport. The Cardassian presence was purposely light because the Cardassians believed the Kai and the Bajoran clergy pacified; they also had a massive force of elite mechanized troops, over 100,000, less than a day away that would viciously suppress any attempted rebellion.
Dealing with this force was going to be the real challenge for Opel. But he and his supporters had spent a year smuggling weapons in, using bribery of the local Cardassian officials and forged documents to prevent inspections, once even smuggling in the weapons with other contrabands the local Gul and his officers wanted. Opel himself had come with the last load, just a day ago, having been smuggled through the Badlands to Federation space for transfer to a freighter of Federation nationals sympathetic to the Bajoran cause. And it was all for the purpose of defending Ikila when the day came to rise up in defiance of their hated oppressors.
As soon as the rebellion began there was some chaos. Opel and his people were quick to raise a shield dome - powered by the city's fusion reactor - to protect from orbital bombardment. The Cardassians managed to get warnings out before being overrun, provoking some fear in the populace as a number of them became faint-hearted at their fear of provoking Cardassia, and thus contributing to some of the chaos in the opening hours of the Uprising. Finally, the Kai was asked to weigh in on the issue, but Kai Opaka merely responded that she would have to go speak with the Prophets on the matter. She was walking a fine line; opposing the rebellion would only hurt the Temple by making them appear to be collaborators and potentially divide the Bajoran people as liberation seemed nigh, while open support might prompt the Cardassians to begin killing temple clergy and taking prisoner the civilians that they, to this point, had left alone as under Temple protection.
The panic and chaos ended as Opel Nevis' voice boomed throughout the area, his image soon appearing on viewscreens as far as four thousand kilometers away. "Sons and daughters of Bajor, I beg your attention!" the sixty-five year old rebel shouted. Opel, the writer the Cardassians could never silence and the dissenter they could never kill, the man now credited with founding the Resistance, drew the attention of millions of Bajorans. "I come to you now to tell you that the time of liberation is finally at hand! Cardassia, in her blind pride and arrogance, has provoked a power greater to her own and is now being repulsed! The Cardassian fleet has even chosen to flee rather than to give battle to their new enemy!" There was a roar from the crowd. "People of Bajor, throw off your terror for your oppressors! Work with me, work together, and we shall be free! I ask you to fight! I ask you to dig! I ask you to do everything in your power so that, with the blessing of the Prophets above, we can free our native soil!"
The speech alone might not have done the work of persuading enough Bajorans, but Opel had already arranged for news reports from the Alliance to filter in. The Cardassians no longer had one foe but three; the Federated Commonwealth and the Saint Ives Compact of Universe MWB-32 had declared war on Cardassia. This news, and the news from Cardassian sources that an "error in command" had led to the withdrawal of Cardassian forces from the fight at Darane, fueled the hopes of the Bajorans in and around the city. Cardassia's hold on them was finally at an end, and now thousands of the Bajorans were willing to risk it all if it meant they could finally be freed from the terrors Cardassian used to keep them down.
And so the work on the trenches continued. Three trench lines in all, circling Splendid Ikila, to be defended by a people invigorated by their faith and hope.
Space Station Terok Nor, Orbit of Bajor
Uvil Koral, a 2nd Rank Gul of the Cardassian Defense Forces and Prefect of the Cardassian Oversight Authority of Bajor, was rubbing his forehead in irritation at the reports. The eastern continent of Bajor was now ablaze with a rebellion centered around Ikila. Koral cursed those incompetent fools at Central Command and the Obsidian Order who had now provoked a war with two more extrauniversal states when the man they were trying to kill had been on Bajor all along. Had the Obsidian Order really gotten that soft?
Koral now had to deal with the rebellion. He called down to one of his lead subordinates, 3rd Rank Gul Sevarak, who commanded the Central Mechanized Detachment, made up of seven of Cardassia's best-equipped and trained Orders. It was the Central Detachment that was responsible for keeping the knife at Kai Opaka's throat, and now that she had proven incapable of keeping her flock in line....
"Prefect Koral, what do you wish us to do?"
Koral's jaw clenched. "Wipe them out, Gul Sevarak. Every living Bajoran within fifty kilometers of Ikila is to be put to death for this act of outright insurrection. The severity of our response should keep the others in line." And hopefully the Central Command will deal with these damned Humans and end this spark of revolt once and for all, he added to himself.
With Severak's orders given Koral returned to other work until a figure stepped through the door to his office. The being before him, while humanoid, only adopted that figure as a way to interact with his environment. Koral showed none of his general dislike for the shapeshifting biology sample called Odo, made security chief on Terok Nor by Koral's predecessor Gul Skrain Dukat, whom Koral regarded as too soft toward the Bajorans (just as he regarded Dukat as having been too soft). "Constable Odo?"
"You called, Gul Koral?"
"There's an uprising in Ikila. I want you to triple security patrols and institute a station-wide curfew of all personnel. Bajoran worker dependents are to be confined to the habitat ring until further notice. Any violation of curfew is to be dealt with by summary execution. Is that clear?"
Koral cursed at seeing Odo's reaction, or rather, apparent lack of one. The shapeshifter's flawed facsimilie of a humanoid's facial structure made him hard to read which, in turn, frustrated Koral and contributed to his mistrust. "It is, Gul. I'll begin the curfew immediately."
"See that you do." Koral watched Odo leave and put in a private call to Glin Durel, Odo's second in command, and as for as Koral was concerned, the proper security chief of the station. His orders would be repeated to Durel, with an additional one: Odo was not to be informed of Case Red, Koral's plan to blow the station up in event of imminent invasion... with the troublesome Bajoran population still aboard.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia
American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.
Moderator of SDN, Former Spacebattles Super-Mod, Veteran Chatnik