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Posted on Oct 21, 2019 @ 1:53am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane & Lieutenant Eve Dalziel
Edited on on Oct 21, 2019 @ 1:53am

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Adjusting To Prison Life")

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Captain's log, supplemental - we have made contact with the IKS MoH'Jthor, a Klingon heavy cruiser that is orbiting the first planet of the Alcyonus system - the location of a Klingon prison facility. We now have overwhelming evidence that a Klingon fleet is active in this sector, engaged in an offensive against the Orion Syndicate in an effort to reforge their old empire. This system is also the last known sighting of the USS Satet, the missing starship we are searching for...


Location: Alcyonus system, far from the lights of the Federation
Stardate: [2.19]1020.xxxx
Scene: US Phoenix vs. IKS MoH'Jthor

The two starships were facing off against one another, but there was no trace of hostility in their stances. They just hung there, each waiting for the other to make a move, silhouetted in stark relief by the mustard-coloured desert world behind them.

The Phoenix's gunmetal grey hull reflected the yellow light of the distant sun. Expectation built itself up, piece upon piece.


Location: IKS MoH'Jthor
Scene: Transporter room -> Bridge

A blaze of sparkling orange light materialised her back aboard her ship, and it was her ship no matter who sat in the command throne. Fresh from her meeting with Harrad-Tor, the Klingoness strode back onto the bridge of the MoH'Jthor with her customary confidence, a sneer playing at the corner of her mouth. Even among her own crew, she was considered a formidable presence, and after processing the intelligence she had gleaned, Dhirissa was feeling especially confident.

She said nothing as she walked back to her place at Grin'Kor's side, her smug expression as telling as any words would be. The other bridge officers, exclusively male, watched her intently from the gloomy shadows of their duty stations, any one of them willing to cut her throat if they thought it would lead to their own advancement in the crew hierarchy. Dhirissa ignored the cold heat of their stares. It was pleasing to know that things were swinging back in their favour.

She stopped before the command throne and inclined her head as Grin'Kor looked down at her. Important to keep up appearances. "Tangled webs," she quipped. "The Phoenix knows of our guests at Gran'kothar."

Grin'Kor's thumb rested on his met'leth, and he rubbed the tip against the blade. Pink blood pooled. "They know more than they should."

"I am painfully aware," she said dryly, not wasting an opportunity to remind Grin'Kor of his prior ignorance. "However, they have made a critical error."

If Grin'Kor was still bristling at his earlier error, he did not show it. He stared menacingly down at her.

"Their mistake is a simple one," said Dhirissa. "They expect loyalty of their people above all else."

He grunted. "We Klingons *demand* loyalty. Otherwise it is a life without honor."

"Yes. But their type of blind faith does not go without immediate consequences. They sent Harrad-Tor to look for the prisoners, along with the suspected criminals they intercepted. And yet, *he* belongs to *us*. He will do our bidding. I have his word."

"He is led by love," Grin'Kor huffed. "His time in Starfleet has made him weak."

"He was *already* weak. That is why his Starfleet brothers and sisters welcomed him so easily."

Grin'Kor drew his met'leth from its leather scabbard and leaned towards her, gesturing towards her with the point of the dagger. He lowered his voice so his subordinates could not hear. "When will we confront the Phoenix? We could win glory for the Empire by taking her as a prize today."

Dhirissa's dark eyes narrowed in aggravation. "We will not tip our hand again," she rebuked him sharply. "You will ask for a meeting with them, on their ship, to discuss their missing vessel and our generous goodwill in allowing them to search for it. You will do this in order to keep them here in this system while our forces approach."

Grin'Kor's lip curled. "What makes you think they will accept such an offer?"

"Use your brains. The Phoenix is trying to bide their time and distract us while they seek who and what they are looking for here in this system. If we refuse, it will make them suspicious. They are also hiding behind a visage, acting as though they have nothing to hide."

"The Starfleet captain seems to understand this," Grin'Kor considered. "Very good. I will offer the proverbial olive branch and see how it is received."

"I doubt he will act in an unexpected manner. His consistency will be his undoing." She paused. "Has the General been notified?"

Grin'Kor nodded dutifully. "His arrival is imminent. All of the players will be in place."


Location: Klingon Prison, on the surface
Scene: Exercise Yard

Jasmine Yu shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun. Sweat prickled her skin like wet needles, and she was grateful for the light breeze that was drifting through the prison courtyard. The cloudless blue sky stretched away over the desert like a gigantic bowl, and aside from the noises of the other prisoners chatting to one another, there was no sound from beyond the high walls that contained them.

Klingon warriors manned the parapets, carrying long rifle-like disruptors equipped with homing sights. Anyone who tried to climb the wall was as good as dead. In the centre of the yard was a thirty-foot high tritanium pole topped with a sensor bulb, keeping watch on everyone.

There seemed no way out. Behind her, Allison Samson was conducting her own inspection - looking over the three dozen or so Orions that were grouped together in the yard. Not all of them were military - some of them seemed to be merchant captains and independent traders. When they were being led out here under the sun, the Klingon guards had chuckled that the prisoners would be getting some 'fresh air' - now that she was out here under the heat, Jasmine had to admit to herself that she would rather be breathing the prison's stench than the hot, dry air of the planet's surface.

Boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretched far away in every direction. Heck and Harrad-Tor were somewhere underground, breaking rocks in whatever mining operation the Klingons had set up underground. Joanne Masters was a guest of the prison's warden. Things had not gone according to plan.

She fixed her eyes on Allison as the young medical officer returned to her side. "What's the diagnosis, Doctor?"

Allison shrugged. "Some minor cases of malnutrition and dehydration, but nothing drastic. The Orions in this facility aren't being abused per se, but it's not like the Klingons are going out of their way to help them either. They're giving them the basics - food, water, and shelter - it's just that none of those things are of a particularly high standard."

"Thank you, Doctor." Jasmine looked again at how high the walls of the prison were. Having been split up from the others was bad enough, but how was she supposed to organise a jailbreak when all the conspirators were broken up?

"Lieutenant, there was something else." Jasmine turned around. Allison was gesturing toward a shady part of the wall - a place out of direct sunlight where several Orions had gathered. Standing in the shadows was a young Vulcan man. "Him."

Jasmine took Allison's arm. "A Vulcan. He's the first non-Orion prisoner that I've seen. Did he say there were more?"

"No," said Allison, as they walked across the courtyard towards the Vulcan. "He only told me his name."

"Oh? And what's that?"



Location: USS Phoenix, high above
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane tugged at the collar his grey dress uniform jacket, grimacing with discomfort as the starched edge bit into his throat. Was he putting on weight, he wondered worriedly. Not that the Klingons were likely to give a damn, but they were a people given to ritual displays of honour - how much more honourably could he greet Captain Grin'Kor but in full dress uniform?

"No pressure, Lieutenant Procter, but I could use that report," he said to the Tactical officer. "The Klingons are due aboard any minute and anything you can give me would be useful."

Lieutenant Mackenzie Procter came over and handed Kane a PADD, imperceptibly shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "Our mystery woman is still mostly a mystery, sir. Her name is Dhirissa."

Kane buttoned his collar with one thumb while he used the other to scroll down through the PADD. His earlier ship-to-ship conversation with Grin'Kor had revealed the presence of a shadowy Klingoness at the foot of his command throne, someone who seemed to possess much more information than her captain did. He had never encountered a Klingon intelligence officer before, but this woman seemed to fit the bill. It was clear that she was the main threat, if there was one, the bridge of the MoH'Jthor.

His brow furrowed as he browsed the information on the PADD. It seemed to cover the woman's basic military history. "These records only go back two years."

"I know," Procter agreed. "There are multiple hypotheses as to why."

"She could be some sort of double agent," Eve offered from her side seat. "But even with that, it would be impossible to discern what other faction she might be supporting. The Klingon Great Houses could be warring with one another - does she represent one of them? Or is she working for a player we haven't seen yet? Or herself?"

"If all you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail," Jake quipped.

Eve smiled. "I know- it's the classic Intel response. But on the other hand, if everyone was a spy, we wouldn't have anyone left to actually get the work done."

Procter responded thoughtfully. "It could be because the reformation of the Klingon Empire, if that's what we're calling it, did not begin in an organized way. Who has the time to document personnel when survival is first on the list of priorities?"

"Good point," said Kane. He handed the PADD back to Procter. "Alright, I suppose we'll have to play it by ear."

The voice of Crewman Harding interrupted the suppositions. [[Transporter Room One to bridge. Captain Grin’Kor and Commander Dhirrisa have arrived.]]

Kane stood and quietly sighed. "So much for being prepared. Lieutenant Dalziel, you're with me. Commander Crichton, you have the conn."


Location: Orion war-fleet, destination Alcyonus
Scene: Bridge of the "Green Curse"

Liriss watched carefully on the main viewer. After a short journey, he and his ship had caught up with the Syndicate fleet en route to the Alcyonus system. He had originally intended to make the trip alone, but when Orion military subspace communications channel chatter had revealed the movement of the fleet through the sector he was in, he had decided that there was safety in numbers, and had fallen in with the dozens of Syndicate starships that were preparing to launch a counter-offensive against the Klingons.

Change had come to Orion society in the past century, and it had not always been an easy transition. When Liriss' father was a young man, the Syndicate had been nothing more than a powerful crime organisation, but since it had taken over as the legitimate government of the Orion peoples some forty years ago, the Orions had entered the great game of galactic geopolitics proper. Their society had changed somewhat - there was a lot more equality between males and female now, for one thing - and not everyone was in favour of it back on Rigel, but the Orion peoples seemed happy with the current arrangement. The Federation was always trying to portray the Syndicate as little more than a kleptocracy, but Orions now had one united, central government, and that meant that they had their own military.

This fleet, led by a male admiral named Himmah, had departed Rigel with all the pomp and fanfare due a young intergalactic empire getting involved in its first war. Liriss had stayed away from all that, preferring to concentrate on his own business interests, but occasionally had to admit that patriotism was fun, and good for making coin.

There was an alternate reason for him to join the fleet, too. His former associate Harrad-Tor - who had stolen his woman and fled to Federation space - was in the Klingon prison facility. Right about now, Harrad-Tor was probably lying dead in his cell, murdered by the hands of any one of a dozen assassins who would be happy to receive Liriss' latinum. He wanted to see Harrad-Tor's corpse, wanted to disintegrate it himself. That would be a good revenge.

In the main viewer, the big Dacoit-class cruiser that was leading the fleet - the Howling Hind - seemed to turn on its axis slightly right. A moment later, Liriss' comms woman reported that Admiral Himmah was ordering a slight deviation in course of one-point-one degrees to starboard.

"Obey the admiral's orders, for now," Liriss spoke. His underlings moved to do his bidding, and he beckoned for one of his slaves to bring him a glass of tulaberry wine. He could not resist a chuckle. The plan was working well - the Syndicate fleet would destroy the prison camp for him, and he would drag Harrad-Tor's body from the rubble.


Location: USS Phoenix
Scene: Conference Room -> Bridge - deck 1, saucer section

It wasn't often that a game of cat and mouse would be played in such close quarters, Kane thought, as he tried to look comfortable and affable when he was anything but. The conversation between the two parties - he and Eve on one side, and Grin'Kor and Dhirissa on the Klingon side - so far had been careful and stilted, each party guarded against any misunderstandings or information that could be used against the other.

He looked over at the Counselor. She took another sip of chilled water, attempting to get a read on either of the Klingons seated across from them. Kane was something of a student of psychology himself - being able to read the unstated intentions of other starship captains had given him the tactical advantage more than once - but he was clearly out of his depth here. Dhirissa had drilled Grin'Kor well, and the bulky Klingon captain had not put a foot wrong. Despite their titles, it would appear that Dhirrisa was the more aggressive of the two.

However difficult he was finding it to read the Klingons, he could only hope that Eve was having an easier time of it. The woman spent most of her time keeping her own counsel, and even when they had cause to spend time together, he had never learned much about her true personality beyond the facade that she - and everyone - put up as part of her daily life.

"We are to understand you are looking for your lost ship, yes?" Dhirissa the Klingoness bared her sharp teeth ever so slightly. "And that is why you are here in the Empire."

"Yes, Commander," Kane nodded.

"But that does not explain this other ship's need to be in this sector of space," she concluded. "Why has the Satet penetrated our borders?"

"No Federation ships are *supposed* to be here," Kane reiterated, trying not to sound irritated. Not for the first time, the Klingons had referred to this star system as being inside the Klingon Empire. The real border of the Klingon Empire was about a thousand light years spinward. "We are only needing to eliminate the possibility that the Satet is here. Then, we will leave."

"What about the prisoners? Those criminal Humans who are now in our cells on the surface?" Grin'Kor cut in, unwilling to be a silent partner.

Kane kept a straight face and tried not to think about what Kassandra Thytos was getting herself up to. He set his jaw and waved his hand dismissively. "They are under the jurisdiction of the Klingon Empire now. Justice for them is what your laws say it is. They are no longer our concern."

Dhirrisa found issue with that. "That does not sound compassionate," she said suspiciously.

"On the contrary, it is most efficient," Eve replied coldly. "They are former Federation citizens who broke the law outside of our borders, and we still have duties to perform. This accomplishes two goals in one step. They receive punishment for their crimes and we move a step closer to our goal."

"What is so significant about this missing ship?" Grin'Kor interjected.

Kane wished he knew. Not that he would reveal this to the Klingons, but it would be nice to have the upper hand in this. All he knew is what they had learned so far - Robert Book and his hand-picked crew of intelligence officers had inadvertently revealed themselves to the Orions on the Bazaar, had set an illicit rendesvous with an Orion blockade runner the next sector over, had been forced to flee when that meeting was interrupted by the Klingons, and had supposedly only recently passed through this system. He was unsure if Grin'Kor knew anything about the Satet's movements, but he couldn't afford to taker the chance. He had to default to his original lie. "It is a piece of Federation property. Starfleet must account for it."

"Starships do not simply disappear,” Grin'Kor asserted.

Kane wondered if that meant that the Klingons knew where the ship was, but he kept playing the hand he was dealt. "Indeed. You can imagine, then, our concern in not knowing its whereabouts."

The control panel mounted on Grin'Kor's forearm communication stud chimed. The Klingon looked down at it, and his teeth bared in a wolfish smile. He displayed it to Dhirissa, and she nodded.

"What is happening?" asked Kane.

The Klingon captain pushed back his seat and stood up, puffing out his barrel chest, even as Kane and Eve started in alarm. "Enough talk! We are leaving. You are behaving like Ferengi - dropping suspected criminals into a Klingon prison in exchange for us to look the other way while you move about freely is not honourable."

"I would hardly call this free," Kane chided. Everyone was on their feet now.

Dhirrisa balled her hands into fists. "You have moved far into our territory, Captain. Your reasons for being here are hopelessly inadequate." She paused. "You may be a flagship, one of formidable size and power, but we outnumber you. We may take heavy losses, but we will not retreat. It is more than a suggestion that you should converse with us in a more honorable way."

Kane was flabbergasted. "Outnumbered? What do you - "

Grin'Kor pushed his communicator stud. "MoH'Jthor! JoI ylchu!"

Twin pillars of blazing orange light killed the Klingons, dematerialising them in a dazzling display of colour. Kane looked at Eve. "What was that about?"

As if in deadly answer to his question, the alert klaxons blared into life, ringing out their alarms even as the wall bars flashed red.

[[Red Alert! Captain Kane to the bridge!]]

Kane and Eve hurried out of the conference room and down the hall to the main bridge, to where the crew were hastily preparing the ship for battle. On the main viewer, several flashes of white light were announcing the arrival of dozens of starships.

"Multiple warp signatures!" Procter was yelling from Tactical. "I'm reading over fifty starships!"

Eve caught Kane's eye. "The Orions?"

Kane was shaking his head. The arriving starships shared a broadly similar design - a forward bridge, a tri-shaped superstructure that brought to mind gigantic birds of prey. "Klingons."


Location: Space
Scene: Alcyonus orbit

More and Klingon starships warped in to the Alcyonuis system, quickly filling up the space around the desert world. There were both kinds of Birds of Prey - Bre'el and K'vort classes - several Vor'cha-class attack cruisers, and one solitary Negh'Var-class battleship, that slid forward through space to face the Phoenix head on, a dictator assuming a bully pulpit surrounded by their supporters.

The small Birds of Prey buzzed around the Phoenix's nacelles, while the bigger ships stood off around it, and the battleship came to a halt, head-to-head.


Location: USS Phoenix
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Kane and the bridge crew watched in shock as the Klingon fleet appeared. The Negh'Var-class battleship filled up the main viewer, looming over them all.

"The Klingon flagship is hailing," said Procter at Tactical. "It says that the Klingon General wishes to greet us."

Kane raised an eyebrow at the Klingons' choice of words. "On screen."

The viewscreen winked, and the collective jaws of everyone on the bridge dropped. Standing on the bridge of the Klingon battleship was a fearsome-looking warrior they had seen before. He stood tall and proud, with vaguely Asiatic features - yellow-brown skin and a huge coif of black hair that was splayed out like a fan all around his shoulders. His forehead ridges were not very pronounced compared to some Klingons, but they were there. He had a lean and hungry look about him, and was not wearing anything over his torso except a light armless vest of grey Klingon leather. His arms were bare and roped with muscle, and his throat and upper chest were clearly visible. When he opened his mouth to smile a smile of blades in an alley, his teeth were sharp and his canines slightly elongated. A year ago, this Klingon warlord had seized the triticale harvest of Sherman's Planet and disappeared into deep space.

Kane remembered his name, and breathed it. "Is'toQ."


NRPG: Alcyonus is the flashpoint system for this conflict. The Klingon fleet, led by Is'toQ, is here, and the Orions are en route. Caught in the middle of this brewing battle is the Phoenix. How do we get out of this? Why, through your posting, of course!

This has been a joint post with Susan. All the better parts of the post were written by her.

If you don't know who Is'toQ is, ask on chat. He was the primary antagonist of our 2018 story "The Trouble With Triticale." You can read that story on the website by following the Missions -> Completed Missions path.

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

Susan Ledbetter
Writing for
Lieutenant Eve Dalziel

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117


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