Star Trek: New Horizons Season 6, Episode 7 (Sleeping Giant) by captaintigranian
Summary: It's election night in the Federation and a new president seems inevitable. As one of the most influential powers in the quadrant grapples with its policy, the fate of the galaxy rests in the balance.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10666 Read: 5141 Published: 24 Jun 2018 Updated: 24 Jun 2018

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Subik IV: Klingon Empire

Stardate: 54524.2

"You've done amazing things here," Laria said walking along a stone path to the crest of a small hill overlooking the new colony. It was a warm, clear day. A pair of children ran up the grassy sides of the knob dragging a kite behind them. They laughed as they tried to get the paper diamond into the air. Behind them, fifty houses sat in a cleared meadow that only a year before had been wilderness. The jungle loomed only two hundred meters away, but a panoramic vista leading down to the winding Hrktar River was breathtaking. This was the new home of the Soldiers of Akarath.

"It was very hard work," Lady Lucretia smiled as she walked besides Laria. She was wrapped in an armored gown and her silver baldric of office glistened in the sunlight across her chest. "But it was work done by free men and women. I can't thank you enough for what you did to help us all."

"We didn't do much," Laria said chuckling.

"Yes you did," Lucretia replied as they approached the top of the hill. "You lit the spark and then kept the fires of liberty burning. Now, we are in control of our own lives."

Tigranian silently stood with his arm's crossed in front of him. He stared out over the new village and towards the river. He filled his lungs with Subik's warm breezes and, for a brief moment, truly felt the peace of this place.

"An imperial jenSa' honors us with his presence here," Lucretia said bringing him out of his trance.

"Nonsense," Tigranian replied. "I serve the people of the Klingon Empire, Governor," he grinned back while holding out his hand. They firmly grabbed each other's wrists in greeting. "And that includes you."

"I have to admit," she replied. "You did look quite majestic leading the parade on Qo'noS last month."

Laria laughed and Tigranian shook his head.

"It was the skill of the cameras. Not anything that I did. I spent the whole parade thinkgin my s'tarahk would buck me off right in the middle of Chancellor's Square."

"My apologies for not attending in person," Lucretia said. "The water reclamation units were giving us trouble and I had to oversee their repair. We now have 1,132 freed slaves from the Romulan Empire living here and all have different needs and different problems. If it's not one thing, it's another."

"Don't think twice about it," Tigranian said. "There's always next turn. Besides, you're a busy woman, Governor, and it shows. I'll be sure to speak of Suvik IV highly in my next report to Qo'noS."

"Thank you, General," she said with a slight bow of her head.

"How's Crestia doing?" Laria asked. "Daniel and I haven't spoken to her in months."

"Oh, the same spirit and discipline as always," Lucretia said laughing. "She received special permission to take two classes more per semester than the maximum. When I asked why, she just said 'Mother, I need to get back out there and start making a difference.' She just amazes me every day."

"She takes after you," Laria said with a grin.

"No," Lucretia replied. "To my everlasting shame, I only taught her to keep quiet and take care of herself. She's the one who decided to become a force for good."

"Forgive me, Lady Lucretia," Tigranian interjected, "but take a look around. You're doing plenty of good."

Lucretia laughed. Then, after a quiet pause, she finally asked a question that had been eating away at her ever since the Tigranians first arrived.

"Have you heard at all from Rellas since we last saw him?" she said softly.

Tigranian shook his head.

"No, but we know that he continues his fight. Every week, we get more reports of how he is crippling Romulus' resources. He didn't go back in vain."

"What of the Federation?" Lucretia added. "Is it true what they say in the news reports? Are they really going to pull out of the alliance and leave Cardassian Space? Are they really going to leave the Klingons, Cardassians, and Rellas' insurgents to fight the Romulans alone?"

"It's just rumor," Tigranian replied.

"For now…" Laria added with concern.

"How can they even consider such a thing?" Lucretia said indignantly. "After everything the rest of the galaxy has done for them they would really turn their backs at the greatest hour of need?"

"They're tired of war," Tigranian said. "Not everyone desires battle. They simply want to live in peace."

"Do you think I urge for battle?" Lucretia said. "Do you think I want to continue to fight every single day just to survive? The Federation has the luxury of pretending the rest of the galaxy doesn't exist. We don't. This planet is less than twenty light years from the Romulan frontier. We'll be one of the first stops if the pointed-ears invade Klingon space. What exactly is the empire doing to keep Starfleet on our side?"

"Are you asking as Lady Lucretia or as Governor of Subik IV?"

"Aren't they the same?" Lucretia replied.

"Of course," Tigranian said with a deep breath. "The answer is…" he began before hesitating.

"The answer is that there's nothing we can do," Laria said. "If the Federation pulls out the Khitomer Accords, we're on our own."

"How comforting," Lucretia said sarcastically.

"If the Romulans invade the Klingon Empire, we would make them fight for every centimeter of space between the border and Qo'noS," Laria said trying to assuage her fears.

"Do you really think Klingons would sacrifice themselves for a new colony of freed slaves?" Lucretia asked.

"You can count on the KDF far more than Starfleet right now," Tigranian replied. He was almost ashamed to say it, but it was the truth.

"If that is the case, then I'm glad my daughter is on Earth. If the Romulans try to attack the Federation, then maybe Starfleet will care."

"If the Romulans attack the Federation, then they will only have done one thing," Tigranian said looking towards Lucretia.

"And what is that?" she asked.

"Awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve…"
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Zarias Cluster: Republic of Cardassia

"Welcome back to FNS' continuing coverage of election night in the Federation!" the talking head grinned from the holoscreen in Annabeth's quarters. The senior staff had been in the captain's living room for the past three hours. They eagerly watched the returns to see if President Zife would remain commander-in-chief of Starfleet or if they would have a new boss come Inauguration Day.

"This is a lot closer than I thought it would be," Adamson said sipping a beer while seated on the carpet. Scharr nervously leaned forward in an easy chair. His antennae were sharply curled.

"I don't know if Zife can pull this off," he muttered.

"Most of the inner systems went for Bacco," Katie said. "It's definitely a comment on his leadership," she said shaking her head.

"He led the Federation through the war!" Phil said grabbing a handful of potato chips. "How much more leadership does he need?"

"That's the problem," Daredevil said staring at the screen. "Most people in the Federation don't want to think about war anymore. Only the systems on the border with Cardassia and the Romulan Neutral Zone are going for Zife."

"What happens to Starfleet if Bacco actually pulls off her platform?" Katan said shaking his head. T'les was sitting next to him but didn't say anything.

"It doesn't matter," Annabeth said softly. "We serve our nation and our president according to regulation and the Articles of the Federation. Whatever happens, we're all going to remain professional. Is that understood?" she said making eye contact with each person in the room.

Everyone nodded before turning back to the screen. A pair of news anchors was standing in front of a colored star map of the Federation discussing the developments.

"Looking at these results and going on exit polls," a human female said pointing at the inner systems of the Federation, "this is a major comment on the direction people want to see the Federation take in the next four years. President Zife ran his re-election campaign on maintaining the status quo."

"What exactly do you mean by that, Christy?" A Rigellian male asked while nodding his head.

"Well Toras," she said zooming in on the planets within five lightyears from Sector 001, "President Zife's platform was really more of the same. He ran on his war record. He ran on his experience, national defense policies, and his passable economic numbers. However, he came into tonight with a lot of baggage. The last two years of his presidency were tarnished by the quagmire in Cardassia, disintegrating relations with Romulus, and the Tigranian Affair between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire.

Quite frankly, looking at these numbers, most people in the Federation didn't buy it. Earth Councilor Nanietta Bacco ran her campaign saying she would aggressively sue for peace with other countries, create new opportunities for citizens inside the Federation, have greater transparency of leadership, and reign in Starfleet's influence on foreign policy.

That obviously really resonated with a lot of voters as we can see by looking at this map: Earth went for Bacco, Tellar Prime went for Bacco, Trillius Prime for Bacco, Betazed for Bacco, Andoria went for Zife…that's not really the surprise but the numbers are a lot closer than anyone expected. Even on Bolarus, Zife's home planet, the numbers were actually fairly close. Zife only won there by five percent. Vulcan is still too close to call.

The only places where Zife really performed well were on the border planets like Archanis, Benzar, and Tzenkath. These planets were obviously very concerned with defense because they're in striking range of the Romulus Pact. However, I don't think it's going to be enough for Zife."

"Based on these projections, what is your assessment?" Toras asked.

"Honestly," she responded, "my gut is telling me that very shortly you're going to see the first human president of the United Federation of Planets in forty years. If I were at Bacco's headquarters in Buenos Aires right now, I'd be getting the champagne ready to pop."

"Hold on, hold on," Toras said placing his finger to his earpiece.

"This sounds big," Katie said shifting in her seat.

"It looks like that champagne is going to pop at Bacco's headquarters sooner rather than later. With 82 percent of the precincts reporting, the Federation News Service is now prepared to call the battleground planet of Vulcan for Bacco, putting her past the magic 760 planetary electoral vote total. This means that Nanietta Bacco has just been elected the next President of the United Federation of Planets. She unseated incumbent Min Zife in one of the most historic elections in this country's history!"

"That's it," Scharr said shaking his head. His voice sounded calm, but his antennae nearly twisted off his head.

"What do you think she means by 'reigning in Starfleet?'" Adamson said nervously.

"I think we're gonna find out very shortly," Daredevil said taking another sip from her beer.

Annabeth continued to stare at the screen. She was still in disbelief that the false accusations surrounding Tigranian may have actually changed the course of Federation history.

"We're now receiving word that President Zife has called Councilor Bacco to concede the race," Toras announced. "We're now going live to Argentina where President-Elect Bacco is about to address her supporters."

The screen cut to a convention center in downtown Buenos Aires. It was packed with thousands of cheering supporters. Many held up blue signs emblazoned with "Bacco-Zonorax 2378: The Change We Need!"

"Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Gendered Species," an announcer said triumphantly over the speakers, "The President-Elect of the United Federation of Planets, Nanietta Bacco!"

The crowd went wild as a short-haired woman in a blue dress walked out from the wings of the massive stage. She smiled and waved her arms with every step. She took her place at the podium and started clapping her hands.

"Si Se Puede!" she called out triumphantly raising her right arm.

"SI SE PUEDE!" the crowd cheered back at her. Bacco beamed from ear to ear.

"Yes we can!" she laughed. "Eighteen months ago when I announced my candidacy for president, not a lot of people thought that we could unseat President Zife but here we are tonight!"

Another massive cheer shook the rafters of the hall.

"Yeah!" Bacco said clapping again. "We said we could and we did!"

"Well, she's pretty proud of herself," Katie quipped.

"Wouldn't you be?" Phil said to her.

"I wouldn't be stupid enough to get into politics, Babe," Katie replied taking a sip of beer.

"I know we want to celebrate, and we will shortly," Bacco continued, "but the election was the easy part. It's time for us to get down to work and put the Federation back on track. No more political elites putting our families at risk, no more sacrificing our children's futures to expand into other nations' territory, and no more unjust wars in our name!"

The enthusiastic cheers from the crowd continued. Her last statement made the men and women in Annabeth's living room even more nervous. From where they were sitting, guarding against the Cardassian State and the Romulans didn't seem very unjust.

"In five days, I will stand underneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, place my hand on the Articles of Federation, and be sworn in as your next president," she said triumphantly, "but even before I begin the inaugural parade down the Champs-Elysees to the Palais de la Concorde, there will be three executive orders awaiting signature on my desk…"

"Here we go," Katan said steepling his fingers.

"First," Bacco began, "will be an order creating a special delegation to begin immediate peace talks with both the Romulan Star Empire and the Cardassian State so we can put aside our differences and start building bridges between our societies…"

"How noble," Scharr said sarcastically, "I'm sure they'll just roll right over and do whatever she asks…"

"Tren…" Annabeth warned.

"Hey Ma'am," he said shrugging his shoulders. "She's not president yet."

"Second," Bacco continued, "as commander-in-chief, I will order Starfleet Command to create a responsible, measured plan that will have all Federation forces out of Cardassian Space by the end of next year. They need to get out of the war business and back to their real jobs of science and exploration."

"She can't be serious," Daredevil said in shock. "If Starfleet leaves the Republic of Cardassia, the Romulus Pact will march straight to Cardassia Prime and build a summer home!"

Annabeth rubbed her eyes. Bacco's pledge was surely being broadcast live to both the leaders on Romulus and Simperia. They would immediately alter the balance of power in this part of the galaxy.

"Finally," Bacco explained, "we're going to send the strongest possible message to other nations that if they want to be considered a friend of the Federation, than they must ascribe to our values of inclusion, democracy, and our dedication to peace. Using my executive authority as president, I will immediately suspend the Treaty of Alliance with the Klingon Empire. When they decide to stop dragging the galaxy into conflict and interfering with our government, then we might reconsider!"

Another roar burst from her supporters but the spirit in Annabeth's quarters dropped.

"The Treaty of Alliance is the only thing preventing the Romulans from attacking us on two fronts," Phil said in shock.

"She said she wants to send a message," Daredevil said. "Well she's sending one all right: the Klingons and Cardassians are on their own."

"By trying to get us out of a war she may put us right into one," Katie said totally defeated.

"There is an old Vulcan saying," T'les finally spoke. She squeezed Katan's hand tighter. "Humans often manage to obtain that which they do not want."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Embassy of the Klingon Empire: Pacific Heights, San Francisco, Earth

Stardate: 54524.8

Though the sun was just beginning to peak over the eastern horizon in California, it was already afternoon in France. Lady L'Stok, Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, sat at the desk in her office watching the news. Not half an hour before, Bacco had completed her inaugural parade and was sitting in the President's office on the other side of the planet. The Federation media covered the signing ceremony live and the UFP's new chief executive smiled from ear to ear as she fixed her signature to the three promised executive orders. With the stroke of a pen, the most successful political and military alliance in the Alpha Quadrant disappeared.

Down the hall from L'Stok's office, a pair of Klingons manned equipment in the secure communications center. Suddenly, the subspace encoded transceiver chirped to life.

"Sir," the communication technician said stepping over to the machine and encoding a PADD with the message, "Flash traffic from Qo'noS. It's pah doQ wa' priority" Both of them knew that meant it had to be put in the ambassador's hands within five earth minutes.

The duty officer stepped over and skimmed the PADD. His eyes immediately grew wide.

"Qu'vatlh!" he shouted as he ran out the door. He nearly knocked over a pair of junior FSOs heading towards their desks. They cursed him but he didn't even slow down. He charged down the corridor and burst into Lady L'Stok's office.

"My Lady!" he shouted sprinting up to her desk. He bowed his head and held the PADD out with both hands. "A message from the Office of the Chancellor."

Despite his agitation, she remained completely passive as if she already knew what was coming. Without a word, she took the PADD from his hands and read the text.

"So," she said with a deep breath. "It is done…"

She pushed back from the desk and rose to her feet.

"I'm going to get dressed," she said walking towards the door. "Tell the motorpool to prep the hovercar. I'm leaving for Paris in thirty minutes. Assign two diplomatic guards to accompany me. Finally, have the duty scribe transcribe this message onto targ skin parchment in both tlhIngan Hol and Federation Standard. Affix both the chancellor's and diplomatic seals in Var'Hama wax. This has to be official."

"Understood, My Lady," the duty officer said. "Do you want me to inform the Federation government you are on your way?"

L'Stok paused.

"No," she said shaking her head. "I want them to be surprised."

"jIyaj, My Lady," he replied as she left the room. After she was gone, he turned to see a statue of Kahless staring back at him from the wall.

"Unforgettable," the duty officer prayed under his breath before carrying out his orders. "I implore you. Watch over your children on this day."

****

A large group of reporters and camera crews were already gathered outside the south entrance of the Palais de la Concorde. They hopedto catch a glimpse of the important guests that would soon be arriving for the inaugural ball. Instead, they were very surprised when a black hovercar with diplomatic plates and Klingon flags on the hood zoomed in and parked at the apex of the circular drive. The photographers quickly leapt up and began snapping holophotos of the Klingon guards as they emerged from behind the tinted windows of the vehicle. One of them marched over, opened the back door, and saluted as Ambassador L'Stok stepped out wearing full dress kamakha. Her dark hair was pulled back into a high dome and held in place with a platinum pin bearing her family crest.

"Ambassador, Ambassador!" several reporters shouted while holding out microphones. "Do you have a comment on President Bacco's firm stance on the Klingon Empire? Will the Klingons attempt to renegotiate the Treaty of Alliance?" L'Stok ignored all of them. She moved with a purpose down the covered walkway and her guards immediately fell in behind her. The Federation Security officers next to the ornate entrance doors didn't know how to react. Before they could stop her, L'Stok pushed straight past and entered the building.

The sound of the Klingon entourage's boots echoed across the marble hallways. They approached a security checkpoint where another group of officers attempted to halt their advance.

"Excuse me, Ma'am," their leader said desperately holding up his hands. "You don't have authorization to enter the building at this time…"

L'Stok ignored him and continued walking. When the security officer tried to reach out and physically stop her, one of her guards grabbed his wrist and shoved him aside.

"Remaja to OPS," the lead guard said into his communicator. "We got a situation down here. Request guidance…"

The Klingons continued their deliberate march towards the President's office. A Federation administrative assistant ran down the hall and began walking beside L'Stok. She kept her eyes firmly fixed forward.

"Ambassador, I'm Sebryan Krasko with President Bacco's staff. Can I help you?" he said desperately.

"I'm here to bring a message to the President from Chancellor Martok," L'Stok replied.

"I'm afraid the President does not have time on her schedule to meet with today," he said trying to sound diplomatic. "She's in with members of the press right now and then she has to begin preparations for the inaugural ball tonight. However, if you give it to me, I assure you she'll get it…"

She cut him off with a growl.

"This is not that kind of message," L'Stok said burning through him with fearsome eyes. Her guards then grabbed Krasko's shoulder and pulled him away from their mistress. The group turned a corner and approached the secure entrance to the President's chambers. Two more security officers blocked the way. When they saw the Klingons approaching, they reached into their jackets and put hands on their phasers.

L'Stok finally stopped. Her guards stepped forward, but she raised a hand.

"Are you going to shoot me?" L'Stok asked the Federation officers dismissively.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am," one them replied. "We cannot let you pass through this door without proper authorization."

"You are doing your duty," L'Stok said. "I respect that. However, the only way you will prevent me from going through that door will be to kill me. Then these two warriors," she said pointing to her guards, "men who have sworn to live and die by my command, will step forward and rip your throats out with their bare hands.

Then, the three of us will be the first casualties in a war their will reduce both our nations to ashes: a war that I am currently trying to prevent. So, gentlemen, what is your answer?"

The two officers exchanged worried glances. Finally, Krasko stepped over and motioned for them to let the Klingons through. As the security officers stepped aside, Krasko frantically pulled out his communicator.

"God dammit!" he muttered as the Klingons entered the Presidential wing. "It's Krasko!" he said to someone on the other side. "We have a big problem!"

****

Inside the President's office, Bacco laughed and smiled from behind her new desk. Several rows of reporters snapped holophotos and asked questions. The large windows behind her gave brilliant views of the afternoon sun glinting off the Eiffel Tower.

"We have already accomplished more in one afternoon to help bring the Federation back from the brink than the Zife administration accomplished in the past year," Bacco said proudly. "The average Federation citizen is going to see a lot of positive change in the coming months. I'm just proud to serve them…"

Suddenly, a side door opened. A senior aide rushed in followed by two plain-clothed security officers. The aide went behind the President's desk, bent over, and began whispering in her ear:

"Ma'am, we have a situation developing outside your office. The Ambassador from the Klingon Empire is here and she wants to speak with you." The two security officers took position on either side of the president. It looked to the reporters like they were preparing for a fight.

"Now!?" Bacco whispered furiously while holding a smile for the cameras. "Can't you see I'm busy? Get rid of her! This is being broadcast live to half the country!"

"I think that's going to be more difficult than you think, Ma'am…" he said as the main door to the office burst open. The shocked occupants of the room all turned to see Lady L'Stok. The Klingon lady draped in white silk strode forward onto the carpet in front of Bacco's desk. The Federation security officers reached inside their jackets as L'Stok's guards flanked their mistress, balled their fists, and stood at rigid attention.

Bacco looked absolutely shocked for about two seconds before her political instincts took over. She cleared her throat, clasped her hands together, and placed them calmly on the desk.

"Ambassador," she said quite perturbed as L'Stok was now standing directly between her and the news cameras. "I'm glad the Klingon Empire is so eager to establish a dialogue with my new administration, but we have a custom in the Federation you might not be aware of. It's called making an appointment…"

A few of the reporters chuckled, but L'Stok remained unfazed. She bowed deeply at her waist.

"nuqneH, Madame President," she replied. "I bring word from Chancellor Martok and the Klingon High Council…"

She reached into the broad sleeve of her elaborately embroidered kamakha. Bacco stiffened unsure if L'Stok was about to draw a weapon. Her security detail also kept one hand on their phasers. However, with one crisp movement, the ambassador pulled out a rolled scroll of targ skin and pulled it open. L'Stok held up the elaborately written text and bold seals of Chancellor Martok and the Klingon Foreign Ministry. After showing the scroll to Bacco, she then turned around so that all in the room, including the news cameras, could see it as well. Then, L'Stok began to read the proclamation with the bold projection of an experienced herald:

In the name of Kahless the Unforgettable, a proclamation from the Chancellor speaking with the unified voice of the High Council and all peoples of the Klingon Empire:

We wish to convey to the peoples of the United Federation of Planets our utter shock and disgust at the actions of your government. You president speaks without judgement and acts without honor. Over eleven million Klingon soldiers gave their lives to defend the Alpha Quadrant from Dominion Aggression. 42 percent of the ships and 78 percent of the ground forces protecting the Republic of Cardassia are provided by the Klingon Defense Forces. To openly accuse the Klingon Empire of being a threat to galactic peace and stability is not only false but also a grievous insult. As a direct result of President Nanietta Bacco's cowardly withdrawal from the Treaty of Alliance, by special vote of the High Council with assent of the Chancellor, the Khitomer Accords are declared void until further notice.

However, the Chancellor, having served with Starfleet and the Federation for many turns, understands that right and honorable people do exist within your nation and therefore also decrees that if the Federation High Council overrides the president's executive authority and issues a full and formal apology to the Klingon Empire, the Accords as well as the Treaty of Alliance will be reinstated. Until this occurs, the following punitive measures leveled against the United Federation of Planets are immediately in effect:

The right of safe passage for all Starfleet vessels in Klingon space is rescinded.

All vessels of Federation registry must be escorted by a warship of the Klingon Defense Forces without exception.

All tourist and business visas issues to Federation citizens are void. These visitors must exit the Klingon Empire within 48 hours of this proclamation or they will be detained.

The Federation Embassy on Qo'noS will immediately be limited to no more than 150 personnel. These personnel must register with the Klingon Foreign Ministry immediately. Their families must exit the Klingon Empire within 48 hours of this proclamation of they will be detained.

All other Federation consulates within the Klingon Empire will be closed and their personnel must exit the Klingon Empire within 48 hours…

Bacco rolled her eyes as L'Stok read off the list of "punishments." She had expected this kind of response to her executive orders. In fact, she had already ordered the Diplomatic Corps to begin preparation for civilian evacuation of the empire the night she was elected. Sure, the Council would be perturbed to deal with a minor diplomatic crisis so early in her term, but she knew she had the support of most of the electorate and would be damned if she let the legislators override her. However, Lady L'Stok had one more provision to read:

After consultation with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cardassia, both our nations agree to demote the United Federation of Planets within the Assistance Forces Joint Command to non-voting observer status. All Federation forces operating with the Republic of Cardassia are now subject to Cardassian legal jurisdiction and must now submit to the authority of the Cardassian Republican Guard in all matters.

Signed by my hand in the First City of Qo'noS,

Martok, Son of Urthog

High Chancellor of the Klingon Empire

The room was silent for a few moments. Ambassador L'Stok rolled the parchment back up, stepped forward, and placed in Bacco's desk. The reporters eagerly awaited the President's response.

"Non-voting observer status?" Bacco said blinking twice. "So you mean to tell me that you now consider the United Federation of Planets to be at the same level as the Ferengi Alliance, the Bajoran Republic, and the Gorn Hegemony? Ambassador, that is outrageous!"

"With respect, Madame President," L'Stok replied, "the only outrage here is turning your back on your allies without proven cause or evidence."

Bacco nervously glanced over at the cameras again.

"The Klingon Empire does not have the authority to dictate policy in the Republic of Cardassia. You don't control the galaxy."

"Neither does the Federation, Madame President," L'Stok replied. "Of course, you may consult with Prime Minister Garak yourself. However, I wish to inform you that your sudden decision to withdraw Starfleet without consulting him first was meant with a similar level of disdain to ours."

Lady L'Stok bowed once more.

"I do hope you enjoy your ball this evening, Madame President," she said not hiding the scorn behind her words. "While you and your country celebrate your election, the rest of the galaxy will be leaving your nation behind." She turned to her guards. "jaH!"

The three Klingons departed as quickly as they arrived. Bacco was suddenly left alone with a group of reporters who had a completely new series of questions to throw at her.

"Will the Federation react with a similar set of punitive measures?"

"Will this new information cause you to accelerate the timetable for Starfleet's withdrawal from Cardassia?"

"Do you think this is the end of Federation supremacy in the Alpha Quadrant?"

Bacco grinned while holding up her hands. As she desperately tried to come up with answers on the fly, she also considered that maybe she should have waited till her second day in office to kick the Lokeg Wasp's nest.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Deep Space Nine: Bajoran Space

Stardate: 54525.4

The IKS nentay was docked at Upper Pylon 3. Down in the habitat ring, a team of Klingon technicians disassembled the headquarters of Klingon Defense Forces: Bajor and packed the maps, computers, and control consoles in crates for transport. A pair of armed Bajoran security deputies flanked the doors. Tigranian and Laria stood next to them observing with silent disdain. They had left Starfleet under pressure almost three months before. Now, the Federation was extending the same treatment to all Klingon military personnel in UFP facilities in reprisal for Martok's sanctions, DS9 included.

The doors behind them parted and a figure wearing a red uniform walked in. Tigranian briefly looked over and nodded respectfully. Laria drew in a sharp breath. She was still in awe of this particular officer.

"The Klingon Empire wishes to convey to the Government of Bajor its gratitude for allowing us to relocate this facility to Ashalla City, Colonel Kira," Tigranian said.

"And First Minister Shakaar and the Council of Ministers wish to convey to you our strong commitment to neutrality during this tense situation. Since the Federation retains control of Deep Space Nine, it is only fair to ensure that the Klingon Defense Forces have equal access to our country," she replied very formally.

"However, I'm not sure the security personnel are necessary, Colonel," Tigranian said indicating the deputies with a tilt of his head. "We're just here to move some equipment, not start a fight."

"Forgive me, General," Kira said with a grin, "but after dealing with Klingons on this station for six years, I know that when your people are present it's always better to air on the side of caution."

Tigranian stifled a laugh.

"Not an inaccurate statement, Colonel," he said crossing his arms in front of him.

"Excuse me Captain," Kira said turning to Laria. "May I speak to you privately?"

"Me?" Laria said surprised. She turned to her commander. "Lord Daniel?" Tigranian knew fully well that Kira was one of Laria's personal heroes and didn't want to stand in her way.

"Go ahead," he said with a smirk. "I think I can handle this."

The colonel gestured for Laria to follow her out into the corridor.

****

A few minutes later, the two women were walking side by side along the upper gallery of the promenade. Both were quite happy to converse in their native language.

"I was quite saddened to learn you resigned your commission in Starfleet," Kira said. "Not enough people in that uniform know how to speak Bajoran."

"Universal translators have spoiled them," Laria replied. "Still, you'd think they'd learn to speak a few phrases. They are stationed on our planet after all." Kira grinned when she heard Laria refer to Bajor as "our planet."

"The pressure was always on Bajorans to learn their tongue," Kira said. "It was considered another prerequisite for Federation membership. That's why I never did. Luckily, when Captain Sisko was here, he never gave me a hard time for having to use the UT with him or his officers. Now, that I'm officially in command of the station though…" the colonel said shrugging her shoulders.

"You're the boss," Laria said smiling.

"I'm the boss," Kira said smiling back. The colonel paused in front of the large oval windows and turned out towards space.

"Why are you stopping?" Laria asked curiously.

"Because it's almost 1500 hours. The afternoon transport is due any moment," she said staying focused on the blackness outside. Laria looked just in time to see the brilliant blue flash of the worm hole opening. She gasped as she ran up to window and pressed her nose against the transparent duranium glass. Kira smiled again as she saw Laria respectfully drop her gaze and shield her face from the glow of the wormhole with her hands. Then, as quickly as the wormhole appeared, it vanished.

"It's alright," Kira said softly. "It's gone."

Laria continued to keep her gaze on the floor. She quickly dropped to one knee, raised her palms towards the ceiling, and uttered a quiet prayer:

"Che ne Vorhagnymas, Das Vorhagnymas, Chav Vorhagnymas. Ra'Tren vos mev. Varo ay tem y Makora." Then, she rose back to her feet. "You are so blessed to live here right next to the home of the Prophets," Laria said with genuine awe in her voice. "You see the Celestial Temple every day!" Kira smiled and put her hand on the shoulder pad of Laria's armor.

"It's good to see that living among Klingons hasn't taken your faith in the Holy Ones from you."

"Of course not!" Laria said genuinely incensed.

"Forgive me," Kira said. "No insult intended. I just wanted to be sure." She turned and continued to walk down the promenade. Laria followed. "I can always tell when someone was raised in an Orthodox family by how they react when the wormhole opens," Kira added.

"What do you mean?" Laria asked.

"When they catch a glimpse of Celestial Temple, they dash forward and gaze upon its beauty for a brief moment of pure joy. Then terror fills their face as they remember that actually seeing it before death is a sin. They immediately look away, but they still feel guilt. Don't punish yourself, Child. The Celestial Temple belongs to all of us. Even the Kais of Bajor love to take in the view."

Laria laughed.

"I don't think there's been a kai in the last two hundred years that my parents thought was devout enough."

"I was raised Reformed and could barely handle the rules," Kira replied. "You have my deep respect."

"It's not that different," Laria said. "Once you just accept that it's immoral to say certain things, look at certain things, or show your hair in the presence of the Prophets as a woman, the rest is easy as mapa bread."

"I never understood that rule," Kira mused. "I mean the Prophets made Bajoran women in their image. Why would our hair offend them?"

"I always chalked it up to some ancient vedek that had a strange fetish," Laria said with a grin. "However, after your mother yells at you about six thousand times when you go to shrine, covering it just becomes a habit."

Kira laughed out loud.

"Is this why you wanted to speak to me?" Laria finally asked. "To show me the Celestial Temple and see if I had lost my faith? If so, I already have a Bajoran mother. I'm not sure if I could handle a second one."

Kira abruptly stopped again.

"The Cardassians took my mother from me when I was barely old enough to stand. I would give anything to have one, more or less two," she said staring at Laria.

"My apologies," Laria said. "However, with the ability to guilt like that you certainly have everything in takes to be a Bajoran mother."

It actually brought a smile back to Kira's face. The pair continued walking.

"Prophets willing I will be one day," Kira answered, "but no, that's not why I wanted to speak to you."

"Nerys!" a middle-aged Bajoran woman in civilian dress came running up to them from across the promenade. "Your order arrived on the morning transport." She handed Kira a large package wrapped in brown paper. It obviously had some weight to it.

"Thank you, Zasha," Kira said smiling. "May I introduce Tigranian Laria? She's the first Bajoran to serve in the Klingon Defense Force."

"Congratulations," Zasha said a bit uncomfortably. Laria awkwardly smiled and nodded.

"Her family is originally from Rakantha," Kira continued. "Zasha is from Musilla."

"Just on the other side of Mount Yanalit," Laria said happily.

"That's right!" Zasha said grinning back. "I should have known you were a Rakantha girl. You have the nose ridges of a kava farmer but the strong arms of a fighter. I bet your father killed many Cardassian animals."

Laria went back to smiling uncomfortably.

"Not exactly," she said. "My father was the one farming kava. My mother was the one killing Cardassians…"

"Ayan vos chev gas!" Zasha said smiling even wider. "Good for her! However, Tigranian? That doesn't sound like a Bajoran name…"

"Her husband is human," Kira said rubbing the side of her neck.

"Child!" Zasha said shaking her head. "The Prophets be with your blessed mother. She spends all those years killing Cardassian filth just for her to daughter to run off and marry an 'odara'!"

"Thank you again, Zasha," Kira interjected hoping the woman would get the hint. "Ok, ok," Zasha said shrugging. "Nerys come by the store the later. I just got the best Bastirmaha sausage from Tazhar. It tastes like it was just slaughtered yesterday."

"Ok Zasha!" Kira said loudly while waving goodbye.

"Very nice to meet you," Zasha said to Laria while walking away. "Tell your mother she is a good woman."

Zasha disappeared back towards her store.

"I guess I have three Bajoran mothers now…" Laria muttered.

"Basrat mes B'hava'ela chas chan mamyran," Kira replied cocking her head to one side.

"Eta basrat mes B'hava'ela chas chan dayustra," Laria said acquiescing to Kira's point. "All Bajoran women are your mothers and all Bajoran women are your daughters. The Sacred Texts: Book 3: Chapter 5. This is the word of the Prophets…"

"Exactly," Kira smirked. "And don't be too hard on Zasha. She commanded a resistance cell and was one of the only Bajoran women to receive a bounty on her head…twice. Now, she just runs a store on DS9 to pay the bills."

"Colonel," Laria said turning a bit serious. "Women like you and her are my heroes. That hasn't changed because I'm wearing this armor. But in all seriousness, I hope you're not speaking with me to make me ashamed of my choices because I'm not."

Kira suddenly looked a bit embarrassed. She reached up and softly grabbed Laria's ear.

"Child no," she said shaking her head. "You have a bravery that I truly admire. However, it is because of that armor I wanted to speak to you. You have a gift that no other Bajoran has."

"And that is?" Laria asked. Kira released her grip on Laria's ear.

"Bajorans are a very proud people," Kira continued while turning back towards the promenade's windows. "For over 10,000 years, we have been leaders in science, art, and literature. But we are also a very small nation surrounded by giants who keep trying to crush us. For almost a century, we've been on the brink of destruction: Cardassia, Federation, Klingon, Dominion, the Romulan occupation of Derna…but somehow we have survived. I don't know how much longer it will be until our luck finally runs out. Another war in the Alpha Quadrant could finally mean the end of us."

"Colonel?" Laria said still confused. "What power do I have to change that?"

"I should have led with this, but call me 'Nerys'," Kira said with a kind face. "And you have a lot of power to change that. You have the ear of some very powerful people in the Klingon Empire. Help them remember that the galaxy is better off for everyone if it stands together, not apart."

"I think you overestimate my abilities," Laria said, "but I promise you, I'll try Nerys…"

"This is for you, by the way," Kira said handing her the package. "It's hand-woven from Rakantha mofar wool. May it always remind you of where you come from."

Suddenly, Laria's mind flashed back to the Prophets' words to her on Cardassia:

"Though it is cleaved from its mother rock, no matter how far it travels it will always be of that mother rock."

"Thank you," Laria said with gratitude.

"No," Kira replied. "Thank you."
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Military Demarcation Line: Border of Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State

Stardate: 54525.6

The doors to the Pershing's wardroom parted and a harried looking Annabeth entered. Daredevil was about to call the room to attention, but the captain silently motioned for everyone to stay seated. Annabeth walked over and took a seat at the head of the table. The rest of the senior staff shifted in their chairs and waited for the verdict from Starfleet Command.

"So what's the damage?" Katie said nervously putting everyone else's thoughts into words.

"Effective immediately, all Federation starships operating in Republic of Cardassia space are now limited to Sectors 2340 through 2355," Annabeth said rubbing her eyes. "We are not allowed to approach within one light year of Cardassia Prime without Republican Guard or Klingon Defense Force escort and we cannot action against any non-Federation flagged vessel without express written permission of the Republic of Cardassia Liason Officer with Assistance Force Joint Command…"

Scharr's antennae flipped backward.

"So, why the hell are we still here? The Andorian said annoyed. "It sounds like we can't leave the immediate vicinity of the MDL anyways with those sector restrictions?"

"Admiral Murphy told me that both Starfleet Command and President Bacco don't want us to just turn tail and run," Annabeth explained. "It would look we were simply abandoning Cardassia…"

"Aren't we thought?" Daredevil asked. "Whether it's a year from now or tomorrow morning, that's exactly how this feels."

"How we feel is irrelevant, Dee," Phil said. "We just do what we're told."

"That's right," Annabeth agreed. "However, the second and more important reason we can't just head back to the Fed is the chaos it would cause in the security plan. We provide almost half the ships guarding the MDL against invasion. If those disappear, who knows what the Romulus Pact will do?"

"Logically, they would immediately attack," T'les said plainly. "It is the only course of action that makes sense for them."

"Are we so sure about that?" Katan asked. "Maybe President Bacco is right. Maybe if we pull out of Cardassia we actually can negotiate a real peace with the Romulans."

"It's true," Adamson said. "We haven't actually had a war with them in over 200 years. If we can convince them just to move back behind the Neutral Zone like things were before…"

"I think that cat is out of the bag," Katie said shaking her head. "Romulans prey on weakness and indecisiveness. All the intel we get indicates that they'll push the Cardassian State to fight."

"It doesn't matter," Annabeth said holding up a hand. "The Romulus Pact will do whatever it's going to do. They may attack tomorrow. They may agree to sue for peace. They're in a tough state as well. They still have an energy crisis, a slave revolt, and a failing economy to deal with. All we can do right now is follow our orders." She turned to Phil. "Set course 348 Mark 079. Admiral Murphy has ordered us to the Raxos Nebula for the time being. In a few days, we'll get a new patrol schedule which we will carry out to the best of our ability."

"Aye Ma'am," Phil acknowledged.

"Number One," Annabeth said turning to Daredevil. "I want a plan for random alert drills on my desk by 1800 tonight. I want this crew prepared for whatever happens and not getting complacent with thoughts of going home early."

"Yes Captain," the Trill replied.

"Just because the XO is spear-heading this, don't wait for her to come to you with a plan," Annabeth said looking down the length of the table. "You're in charge of your individual sections. Check, re-check, and double-check them. One of a million things could happen in the next week. However, one will not be the USS Pershing being caught with its britches down. We will be ready no matter what. Am I understood?"

"Yes Captain!" her officers replied in unison.

"Good," Annabeth said. "You all have been outstanding. I'm proud to serve with each and every one of you. We're going to do more than just survive this. We're going to set the standard for the rest of the fleet."

"Hooyah," the staff replied.

"Alright, Ladies and Gents," Annabeth rose to her feet. The other immediately jumped up as well. "Let's get it done. Dismissed."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Lakarian City: Cardassia Prime, Republic of Cardassia

Tigranian stumbled into the living room from his study.

"I have briefed Ty'Gokor that the headquarters of Klingon Defense Forces: Bajor has been successfully transferred from Deep Space Nine to Ashalla and is once again operational." He collapsed onto the couch. "The High Command congratulates the Imperial jenSa' of Cardassia and also wishes to convey its appreciation to the crew of the IKS nentay for their quick and efficient transfer of all personnel and equipment." He rubbed the side of his neck and looked over to the corner of the room. Laria was balancing on a chair with power drill in one hand and several masonry screws in her mouth. She was in the final stages of hanging a Bajoran wall rug next to the Klingon tapestry of the qo'Sor tree that Lady Elessa had given them for their wedding.

"Laria, are you even listening to me?" Tigranian asked. She glanced over her shoulder and pulled the screws out of her lips.

"High command…headquarters transfer complete…good job everybody…yeah, I'm listening."

He chuckled as he watched her check the level of the tapestry one final time before hopping down to the floor and admiring her work.

"Well, what do you think?" she asked proudly.

"I'm thinking that we have an entire maintenance staff who would have happily done that for you," Tigranian replied.

"Daniel!" she grumbled. "That's not what I meant. I mean what do you think of the wall rug where I put it?"

Tigranian smiled as he looked up at the one by one meter piece of intricately woven Bajoran wool. It was beautifully dyed with dozens of colors. The three peaks of the Bajoran holy mountain, Yanalit, proudly stood covered by their eternal caps of white snow. At the mountain's base was a Bajoran eternity wheel and an inscription written in Bajoran pictograms.

"I think it's perfect there," he said smiling at Laria as she came over and sat down on the couch next to him. "I also think Colonel Kira really likes you to give you such an incredible gift."

"She said she wanted it to always remind me where I came from."

"Well," Tigranian said pulling her into his shoulder, "where you come from is very beautiful…just like you."

"Awww," she smiled as he planted a kiss on the top of her head.

"What does the Bajoran say?" Tigranian asked looking at the pictograms.

"It's a very old saying," Laria explained, "Sumayat Yanalit chav varos gas suruk parav chan B'hava'el hasmets siv yes chagan."

Tigranian looked at her.

"A little help for the linguistically challenged?" he asked. She rolled her eyes.

"I'm learning Klingon…" she muttered.

"Hey," he replied. "I'm doing the language programs just like you asked. I can say, 'Inchbas, Me nassa Daniel' and 'Da hachee'el paron das charan kun.'"

"Great," Laria chuckled. "You can say, 'Hello, my name is Daniel' and 'Thank you very much for the spring wine.' That will accomplish a lot."

Tigranian shrugged.

"In my experience, courtesy and alcohol will get you very far in most places."

"That's actually true," Laria laughed.

"The inscription on the rug?" Tigranian gently reminded her.

"Right," Laria continued, "It means, 'As long as Yanalit stands, the Bajoran heart will still beat.'"

"Wow," he said looking back to the rug. "It really is miraculous. Can you imagine telling a Cardassian fifteen years ago that a Bajoran would be hanging that in her palace on Cardassia Prime?"

"No," Laria said shaking her head. "Speaking of that, Nerys did ask me to do something else."

"What?" Tigranian said turning to her. Laria looked back into his eyes.

"She wanted me to remind the giants in the galaxy to watch where they step."

Tigranian looked confused. She sighed.

"The Federation and the Klingon Empire are playing a very dangerous game, Daniel. One misstep and there's a lot more at stake than just them."

It was Tigranian's turn to sigh.

"I know," he said looking down at his lap. "And I can't help feeling a lot of it is my fault."

"Hey," she said grabbing his chin and pulling his face back to hers. "It's not your fault. It's the fault of powerful people who can't put aside their pride. The question is what are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know if there's anything we can do about it," he replied. "Neither the Federation nor the Klingon Empire are known for their humility. The alliance may be gone forever."

"I really don't believe that," Laria said. "And there is always something we can do."

"And that is?" Tigranian asked.

"We can always do what's right."
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Continuing Committee Chamber: Ki-Baratan, Romulus

"Fellow committee members," Semachs said from the center of the long, semi-circular table. "This moment is one of pure victory," he said balling his fist closed. "The alliance between the Federation and the Klingons that has held our empire at bay for almost thirty years has ended!"

"Yes Proconsul," Senator Barchrus said from two seats over. "This is definitely a triumph for your policies. If only we knew the identity of those helping you," he said casting a skeptical look toward Chairman Koval of the Tal Shiar. "Then, we could thank them properly for their service to the Star Empire."

Koval looked back with the frustration of an individual completely in the dark about the proconsul's sudden success. As head of the Romulan intelligence service, it was a feeling he wasn't used to and it infuriated him. It was even worse considering his secret goal was feeding compromised information to the Federation via Section 31. Koval felt a stab of pain in his left arm and his throat went dry. He lifted a glass with his shaking hand and took a sip of water. The chairman's Tuvan Syndrome was growing worse by the month. He wasn't sure how long he would be able to keep control of the Tal Shiar and therefore maintain his usefulness to the Federation.

"Well," Semachs answered Barchrus while folding the trailing end of his long robe back over the edge of leather chair. "I believe those particular individuals wish to keep their service anonymous at this time. However, I can assure their absolute loyalty to our cause."

"Of course," Barchrus grumbled completely aware that as long as Semachs had control of the information, no one could challenge his supremacy as de facto head of the Romulan State. The proconsul had another good reason to keep his advisors a secret. If the rest of the Continuing Committee knew that he was taking advice from the disgraced Praetor Neral and his half-Romulan, half-human witch, Commander Sela, a dagger would be plunged into his back so quickly he wouldn't have time to resign his post.

Senator Trallian sat near the end of the table. He nervously wrung his hands in his lap. Every time he sat in one of these meetings, he was sure it would be his last. It was bad enough he had been aiding the slaves since the very start of their revolt. Now, he was also clandestinely passing information directly to Rellas since his return to Romulan Space.

Trallian felt trapped. He couldn't even get his family safely out of the Star Empire without arousing suspicion. His only hope was to weaken Romulus' grip on the rest of the empire enough that he could escape with his wife and daughters before getting caught. Now that the Federation made it clear they wished to step back from their military dominance of the galaxy, the task became infinitely harder.

"The end of the partnership between the Federation weaklings and their Klingon apes is all well and good," Senator S'trita said from her chair, "but how exactly can we turn it to our advantage in our current state? Our energy reserves are still critically low, our fleets are still undermanned, and you still have failed to bring all our slaves to heel, Proconsul."

"Oh Senator," Semachs said with a devious grin. "I'm glad you asked." He reached over and pressed a button on the console at his front. A set of doors opened and a pair of Cardassians entered the room. They both bowed their heads.

"Jolan Tru, honored members of the Continuing Committee," the taller Cardassian said proudly.

"Proconsul," S'trita said drumming her fingertips along the wooden table. "I'm very impressed that you were able to teach a pair of Cardassians to perform parlor tricks for our amusement, but I pray to the Raptor gods of Selaya that you have not hitched the hopes of our empire to these lizard-brained simpletons."

Both Cardassians suddenly exchanged nervous glances

"Please forgive Senator S'trita, Gentlemen," Semachs said holding up an apologetic hand. "She simply is more vocal than most about the Romulan belief that all other species are our racial inferiors."

"Of course, Pronconsul," the Cardassian leader said uncomfortably bowing his head again.

"These gentlemen have come before us with a rather interesting piece of news," Semachs said leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers.

Barchrus leaned forward and stared at Semachs.

"I hope this 'interesting news' is worthy of the consideration of this committee, Proconsul," he quipped. "Our Cardassian allies have proven time and time again to be nothing but utter disappointments." He spoke as if the two men weren't even present.

"I don't think that will be the case this time, Senator," Semachs replied. "They may be giving us the opportunity to finally force our enemies' hands at the moment they are most vulnerable."

"Alright," S'trita said cocking her head to the side. "You have our attention."

"Ambassador Korhett," Semachs said to the taller Cardassian. The ambassador's assistant produced a small holoprojector and displayed a large starmap of the Military Demarcation Line between the Republic of Cardassia and the Cardassian State in mid-air.

"Esteemed Committee Members," Korhett began his briefing. "At the behest of Premier Harok, the official Geological Survey Team of the Cardassian State has been conducting exhaustive cartographic analyses of the Military Demarcation Line for almost a year. Our geographers have analyzed every line of the Treaty of Bajor to determine the exact dimensions of the original Romulan Zone of Occupation that now makes up our country when compared to the Federation and Klingon Zones that now comprise the Republic. They have discovered a 0.022 degree variance between the specifications of the treaty and the actual spatial markers laid down by occupation forces between Sectors 2341 and Sector 2353."

Korhett zoomed in the projected star map on a specific star system just inside Republic territory.

"To put it simply," he continued, "the border is in the wrong place. When we correct the variance, it moves nearly 50 billion kilometers." The MDL on the star map moved deeper into Republic territory. The highlighted star system now found itself inside Cardassian State space. "As you can see, this significantly changes the dynamic of our boundaries."

The members of the Continuing Committee suddenly looked quite excited. Semachs grinned.

"What system is that?" S'trita asked enthusiastically.

"The Celdis System, Senator," Korhett answered. Now, the Continuing Committee grew even more receptive. "The Intergalactic Red Cross facility operated on Celdis Prime by the Federation is illegally occupying a planet of the Cardassian State and the 3,542 civilians who illegally fled our borders and now live in its transient facilities should still be under our control."

"This couldn't be more perfect," Barchrus said falling back into his chair. "When confronted with this information, the Federation will be in violation of both the Treaty of Bajor and the Cardassian Non-Aggression Pact."

"It is my duty as Cardassian State Ambassador to the Romulan Star Empire to inform this esteemed body that Premier Harok is preparing to take back the Celdis System by force if the Federation does not withdraw within seven days. We were waiting to issue the ultimatum until we had informed you of our intentions," Korhett explained. "We cannot risk the loss of more Cardassian State citizens to the Republic. The news of the Federation withdrawal has inspired many of the most desperate to flee before the Romulus Pact gains a military advantage."

The mood of the Continuing Committee suddenly changed.

"You're going to do what?" S'trita shouted.

"You can't be that stupid!" Barchrus added. "Right now, we have the advantage of treaty and interstellar law on our side. If you start a war over one worthless planet, it won't matter where the damned border is!"

"That's enough, Senators," Semachs spit at his companions. "The Cardassian State's military mobilization is under my authority. In fact, we are going to mobilize our forces with theirs."

The room became so silent you could hear a pin drop.

"Proconsul," Trallian said finally speaking up from the end of the table. "Forgive me, but it sounds like you just said we're going to war."

"Hardly, Senator," Semachs replied. "Subterfuge and diplomacy are both noble traits, but we have reached the limit of their effectiveness. The recent election has shown the Federation is fractured and fading. They don't have the political will to go to war over one planet. When they see a combined fleet of Cardassian cruisers and Romulan warbirds massing on the MDL they will fold like a house of cards. We will also help influence their decision by sending all available ships and legionnaires to stage on our side of the Neutral Zone.

Once they feel surrounded by the might of the Romulus Pact, they'll run back inside their own borders so fast it will be like they were never an interstellar power in the first place. The Klingon mongrels and the pitiful remnants of the Cardassian Republican Guard will be powerless to stop our advances, and we'll carve up the Republic of Cardassia piece by piece like a fresh baked Viinerine."

"We barely have enough energy in reserve to keep our fleets in a defensive stance. You can't possibly think we're ready to go on the offense!" S'trita said rubbing her eyes.

"Are you listening, S'trita?" Semachs replied like she was an idiot. "We won't be going on the offensive. It's merely a posture that will only have to last a week at most. We don't have to be strong now. We merely have to give the illusion of strength."

"And if you're wrong," Barchrus countered, "we'll be fighting the Cardassians, Klingons, the Federation, and our own slaves simultaneously. Our fleets will be out of fuel in less than two months!"

"It is worth the risk," Semachs replied. "With the Federation out of play, we can reduce our presence in the Cardassian State enough to mount an effective push against the slaves. Once they are pacified, we will be able to increase our deuterium production back to pre-insurrection levels. In less than a year, we will have once again regained our place as the dominant power in the galaxy. If we do nothing, then we will slowly bleed to death. This is not merely my opinion. These are facts."

The Continuing Committee grew quiet again. They knew Semachs had a point but it was still a tremendous gamble.

"Esteemed colleagues," Trallian spoke up. "The proconsul has the authority to execute this plan with or without our approval. However, I vote in support of his motion regardless. He is correct. We can't remain in this stalemate forever. A fight is preferable to a gradual descent into irrelevance."

After a few quiet moments, Senator Taraka also raised his hand.

"I second Senator Trallian's motion of support."

"As do I," Senator Serkalla said raising her hand as well.

One by one, each of the other committee members raised their hands until only Barchrus and S'trita remained. Both knew that being the voices of dissent was suicide. If Semachs' plan worked, they would be purged. If it failed, then it didn't matter as the empire would be doomed anyway. The final senators raised their hands.

"The motion of support carries unanimously," Semachs said with a victorious grin. "I will order the Imperial Navy and Army to begin full mobilization in coordination with the Cardassian State at once. Jolan Tru!"

The proconsul wasn't the only scheming Romulan in the room. Koval immediately decided to pass this information to the Federation. He knew he had to convince them to hold onto the Celdis System to prevent a far greater catastrophe. Trallian also knew that Semachs' gamble might be just the opportunity he needed to push the Star Empire to the breaking point. As soon as possible, he had to get a message to Rellas…

TO BE CONTINUED
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