Authors: Keith R. A. DeCandido
Tags: #Science Fiction
Governor Tiral pounded his fist on the desk. “This is outrageous! They are jeghpu’wl’. They have no more right to appeal to the Federation than my pet targ.
“I am responsible for this planet, Ambassador, and I will not have its fate decided by outsiders—especially not a coward who has lived his life among inferiors, and who has
been declared a traitor.”
Worf rose from his chair. “This meeting is over.”
“There is no point to this. The solution to what ails taD is obvious—replace the governor. I daresay the situation has gotten out of hand because its current leader is not fit for the job. He has been presented with a Federation ambassador. His response is to indulge in name-calling. Fit behavior for a tavern, perhaps, but not a meeting to settle an issue important to the empire.”
Tiral also stood up, unsheathing a
“You dare insult me?”
Behind him, his three guards moved forward, pointing their disruptors at Worf.
Worf ignored the guards and stared at Tiral without blinking. “I do not mean to insult, Governor. I have simply made a statement based on my interpretation of what I have been presented with. It is possible that my interpretation is in error.” He leaned forward, resting his fists on the desk. “Convince me that it is.”
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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For Bertram S.A. Herbert, without whom
I might not be where I am today
This novel takes place shortly after “What You Leave Behind,” the final episode of
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,
and several months after the movie
Star Trek: Insurrec
This would place it at approximately Stardate 53000 in the Starfleet dating system, at the cusp of the 2375/2376 new year on the Earth calendar, and about midway through the year 1001 on the Klingon calendar.
S RIGHT ARM ITCHED
Since he had lost that arm six months previously in battle against the Jem’Hadar, this irritated him.
“Status,” he said. He was sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the
—one of the newest ships in the Klingon Defense Force, and also Klag’s first command.
His first officer, Commander Drex, was standing next to Lieutenant Rodek at the gunner’s post behind Klag. Drex walked to the fore of the bridge. “All systems remain at peak operation, Captain,” he said in a deep voice that reminded Klag of sandpaper being applied to a rock. “All department heads report the shakedown cruise a success.”
“Good. Is there any reason why we should not return to the Homeworld?”
“No, sir. The
has performed to all expectations.”
Klag smiled at that. “In that case, Commander, let us begin our mission in earnest.”
Drex nodded. “Yes, sir.” The commander turned to the helm position. “Set course for Qo’noS.”
The pilot, a lieutenant named Leskit, said, “And at what speed would the commander like me to wend our way homeward?”
Klag sighed. He’d been warned about Leskit, who had been assigned to the
was being repaired. But, despite his irritating demeanor, he was an excellent pilot, and Klag had found no cause for complaint in his performance. As for his attitude . . .
perhaps he will be transferred back to the
after the shakedown. If he is not—I will deal with it.
Drex barked, “You will speak when spoken to, Lieutenant! Set course as ordered!”
If Leskit was bothered by Drex’s tone, he didn’t show it. “Yes,
Setting course zero-six-seven mark one-nine,
“Execute at full impulse until we have cleared the star system, then go to Warp 7.”
“It is my humble duty to do as the son of Martok orders,” Leskit said, voice dripping with sarcasm. Drex merely snarled in reply.
Klag looked around at his bridge. The
was the first of the new
class vessels, one of many ships that had been commissioned in the last few years in support of the war effort against the Dominion. The bridge had a more-or-less standard Defense Force design. The captain’s chair was located front and center, with a small space between it and the main viewscreen. The helm was located immediately to the captain’s left, with the operations and tactical consoles immediately behind him, and
various other stations in the rear. Klag found the design practical—it put the most important systems, navigation, weapons, and sensors, closest—though he would have put the helm behind the captain with the other two instead of to the left. To the right lay the entrance to the captain’s office, with the main bridge entrance in the rear.
Standard design, yes, but with the newest and best equipment.
And, according to Drex, it had passed all the tests they’d put it through on the shakedown and was ready to begin its mission.
Klag looked at Drex. “Commander?”
Klag sighed. “With the successful completion of the shakedown, I believe there is a duty you must perform.”
Drex nodded. “Of course, sir.” He turned to Lieutenant Rodek at the tactical station. “Gunner, commence the record of battle.”
Rodek nodded, and retrieved an ornate padd from under his console. Formally, he said, “I, Rodek, son of Noggra, gunner for the ship
commence the record of battle for this ship on the one hundred and ninety-second day in the year of Kahless, 1001. May it be filled with exploits of glory and honor and be worthy of your leadership.”
He handed the padd to Drex, who took it, thumbed it, then looked at Klag. “The record of battle has commenced, sir.”
Then a klaxon went off.
“Report,” Klag barked.
“Shields have been raised,” said Rodek. “Sensors are detecting an explosive device ten
off the starboard bow.”
“Destroy it,” Klag said, then turned to the second officer, Kegren, who stood at the operations station to Rodek’s left. “Why was this not detected sooner, Lieutenant?”
Kegren said, “The bomb is located in the debris of a Breen ship. This area was the site of a battle—”
of that, Lieutenant.” The fact that a Breen/Klingon battle had occurred in this star system during the Dominion War was precisely why Klag chose the locale. The debris and excess radiation provided navigation and sensor hazards that would make good tests of the
capabilities. “Answer the question.”
“The bomb did not activate until we came within fifteen
Until then, it simply registered as random debris that would easily be deflected by our navigation shields.”
“Quantum torpedoes locked on target, Captain,” Rodek said.
Klag stood up and looked at Kegren as he said to Rodek, “Fire.”
“Torpedo away,” Rodek said.
Turning toward the viewscreen, Klag saw the torpedo strike the debris. The resultant explosion was felt by the
“Damage report,” Klag barked.
“Shields held—barely. Had we been any closer, we might have lost them and suffered hull damage,” Rodek said. “However, the explosive has been destroyed.”
Not exactly a stirring beginning to our record of battle,
Klag thought. Turning back to Kegren, he said, “This ship is supposed to have the best sensors available in the Defense Force. Yet we could not detect a threat to the ship until it was less than fifteen
away. Why is this, Lieutenant?”
“Sir,” interrupted an ensign from the secondary operations station behind Rodek. “I warned Lieutenant Kegren of the possible danger. He chose to ignore it. My logs will bear out my word, Captain.”
Kegren spit. “Ensign Toq is young and foolish—he sees
behind every meteor, ready to eat his heart.” Kegren punctuated his insult with a chuckle.
No one joined in the chuckle. Klag continued to stare at his second officer.
“Captain—” Kegren started.
Toq walked forward, unsheathing his
“Kegren, son of Pers, you have dishonored yourself by endangering this vessel and the warriors who serve on it. I challenge you for the right to serve as second officer of the
Kegren turned to Klag. “Captain, tell this
to go back to his playpen. I don’t have time for these—”
“You have been issued a challenge, Lieutenant,” Klag said. “You will answer it, or I will kill you myself.” Klag wanted it to be clear that he approved of the ensign’s action.
Kegren sighed, and said, “Very well, let us get this insanity over with.” He unsheathed his own
and went to the fore of the bridge. Toq followed. “You have been a pain in my crest from the moment you reported, infant.”
“And you have been an incompetent fool,” Toq said, holding his
in the proper position—ready to strike or parry at a moment’s notice.
They made an odd pairing. Toq was young, fresh-faced, a mouth full of white teeth, hair only down to his shoulders, and a thin beard that looked like it had only
been recently grown. Kegren’s hair was longer and grayer, his beard fuller and better trimmed, and was missing several teeth. But, while Kegren looked like he had seen many years, it didn’t seem to Klag that he’d
them. He didn’t move like a warrior, he moved like an old man.
Toq lunged, and Kegren easily dodged. Kegren did likewise, and Toq blocked the thrust.
Klag stood next to Drex to observe, as did everyone on the bridge, and whispered to his first officer, “Has Kegren been this—lax throughout the shakedown, Commander?”
“Occasionally, Captain. This is the first time he has endangered the ship. I had intended to file a report on him.”
Kegren deflected a
thrust of Toq’s, but Toq took advantage of Kegren’s lowered arm to deliver a hard backhand to the older officer’s jaw. Kegren stumbled backward, then straightened, spitting out blood and one of his few remaining teeth.
“But I think Ensign Toq will make that unnecessary,” Drex added.
The combatants locked into a wrestling hold. Both of them growled as each tried to subdue the other. Within a few moments, though, Toq’s growl grew louder and Kegren’s became more of a cry.
Then Toq threw Kegren to the deck, gripped his
and slashed down at Kegren. Blocking the strike with his left arm, Kegren swung his own knife with his right. Toq evaded easily, but Kegren gained a moment to get to his feet.
Klag thought, looking at his first officer,
you really intended to file that report or not, Commander.
Drex had been completely silent when Klag reprimanded
Kegren, and when Toq issued his challenge. But if one of his officers was negligent—as it seemed Kegren was—Drex should have informed Klag of that sooner.
Turning his attention back to the scuffle, the captain noticed that Kegren seemed winded. The fight had gone on for only a few minutes, but Kegren was slowing down noticeably.
What self-respecting warrior keeps himself in
such poor shape?
the captain wondered.
They parried for several seconds more. Toq slashed Kegren’s cheek, and blood started to run into the older officer’s thick beard, over the bruise that had already started to form where Toq had struck. The bridge crew had abandoned the pretense of neutrality, and were cheering Toq on, chanting his name.
Obviously the lieutenant
is not well loved by his comrades.
Kegren lunged clumsily, and Toq sunk his
into his opponent’s chest.
With a look of shock on his face, Kegren fell to the floor.
The chants of Toq’s name from around the bridge grew louder as the young warrior knelt over Kegren’s prone form. He turned the body over, removed the bloody
from Kegren’s chest, and then screamed at the ceiling. There was no need to pry Kegren’s eyes open, as they were still quite wide, no doubt from shock at losing to an “infant.”
Klag nodded his approval. Whatever his failings in life, Kegren did die a warrior’s death, and he deserved the proper death ritual.
“Well done, Toq,” the captain said, and his words dimmed the chanting of Toq’s name. Walking around to the young man’s left side as he stood up, Klag put his hand on Toq’s shoulder and said, “Commander Drex.”
“Note in the ship’s log that the
has a new second officer:
The chants of Toq’s name started up again, and Klag added his own voice to the tumult.
After ordering Kegren’s body to be disposed of, Klag went to his office. Sitting at his computer terminal, having poured himself a flagon of
he called up the performance reports the crew had written regarding the shakedown, and also the personnel records of both Kegren and Toq.
Kegren’s reports, Klag noticed, were lackluster and incomplete. Lackluster he could live with, but incomplete could get them all killed. Klag fully intended to die in battle with his hands around his enemy’s throat, whether literally face to face or metaphorically in ship-to-ship combat—not because an operations officer couldn’t be bothered to make sure the lateral sensor array was at peak efficiency.
There was no sign of dissatisfaction from Drex over Kegren’s performance.
The price Klag had had to pay for getting a brand-new ship for his first command was that he had no real say in his command crew. The son of Chancellor Martok—with his slight build, wispy moustache, and wide mouth that gave more the impression of a
bird than a warrior—was the last person Klag wanted as a first officer, and yet was the one person Klag could not dismiss. Or, if he did, it would need to be for a better reason than simply not wanting a politically powerful first officer. So far, the commander had proven himself competent, but not much
more than that.
This ship deserves better than competent.
And so do I. I have had my fill of those who use their
House to make up for their shortcomings.
Still, at least he had command of a brand-new ship.
that it wasn’t ready until after the
Founders surrendered. It would have been good to take a
top-of-the-line ship against the Jem’Hadar, instead of the
Pagh. . . .
Just the thought of the
made Klag’s right arm itch again, and the memory of its loss resurfaced. The
—which hadn’t been top-of-the-line for well over fifteen years—had been destroyed in the Battle of Marcan. Klag, the ship’s first officer, was the only survivor, and that survival had cost him his right arm. After the
crash on Marcan V, Klag single-handedly (literally) slew several Jem’Hadar and their Vorta leader. As a reward, the Hero of Marcan had been given command of the