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Friends In Unexpected Places

Posted on Mar 23, 2020 @ 1:21am by Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Mar 23, 2020 @ 1:22am

Mission: Last Days of Empire

"Friends in unexpected places"

(cont. "What secrets lay hidden at Beta Thoridor")

* * *=/\=* * *

Stardate: 2.20.0322.1643
Scene: Bridge

Kassandra strove to be a woman of action, not one of deep thoughts, and certainly not one of brooding machinations, but hearing the conversation between Harad-Tor and the Klingon agent, she couldn’t help herself. She sat in the observer’s chair to Kane’s left long after the conversation was done, a deep frown on her face.

“Something wrong, Major?” Kane said, an expression that she interpreted as amusement on his face. His voice was that bland, neutral tone that he used in more formal settings, the one that made him seem unreachable and cold to many of his underlings.

“Not as such,” Kassandra forced her brows to un-knit and her shoulders to drop. “Just…”

She let the sentence trail off, and felt the muscles in her forehead bunching up again.

“What’s on your mind Kass? It’s not like you not to say what’s on your mind,” Jake leaned around from where he sat on Kane’s right hand, and grinned at her. “From the look on your face, your head’s going to explode if you don’t get it out of there.”

Kassandra jokingly made a rude gesture at Jake, taking care to keep it out of Kane’s line of sight.

“Something stinks,” Kassandra said finally. “Something about this whole situation is fishy as hell, and I’ve been trynna figure it out, but I feel like I’m missin’ a crucial piece of the puzzle.”

“I imagine we’ll have that piece of the puzzle when we get to BETA THORIDAR,” Kane set his chin on his fist and stared out the view screen at the mottled lights of warp speed. Kassandra imagined that if she was able to see he would look quite broody and full of gravitas, and she quickly stifled a chuckle.

“Me too, only… You considered that maybe we should be thinkin’ about tellin’ Is’toQ about the Rommies and the Orions, an’ maybe even about this Dhirissa lady? Aw, heck. I can’t believe I’m even entertainin’ the idea of tellin’ that no good sneaky POS anythin’, but at least I kin understand an’ anticipate what Is’toQ’s about, an’ I’d rather face a man like him over Dhirissa any day.”

“What do you mean?” Kane turned from his contemplation of the screen to look sideways at Kassandra. Something about the way his muscles tightened around his eyes and a certain sharpness at the end of the question gave Kassandra the impression that this was something he had already been mulling over in his head and he was looking for independent confirmation of something he’d already decided.

“Is’toQ might be an underhanded rat-bastard, but he’s an honorable underhanded rat bastard,” Kassandra responded, picking her words carefully. “I can’t forgive him’ stealin’ from Sherman’s Planet, but give him his due, his people could have killed a lotta farmers, but they didn’t. Took what they wanted, and let everyone away more or less unharmed. So he’s got a sense of honor, more like the old Klingons, which makes him more predictable an’ means that he ain’t going to just go in and kill non-combatants. Take over their planets and enslave ‘em or kick ‘em out, sure, but he ain’t going to kill people who ain’t fighting back. That Dhirissa lady though? Ain’t so sure about her. She’s the type of sneaky that’d send an agent to spread an infectious disease to wipe out a planet so that she could move in and take it over. Leastways that’s my opinion, anyway.”

“I had a similar feeling about it,” Jake admitted. “He’s been a thorn in our side recently, but he is the devil we know.”

“And what are you both saying, then?” Kane kept his voice neutral and leaned back, flicking his eyes back and forth between her and Jake.

“That if there comes a time to have a dog in this fight that it Is’toQ should be that dog,” Kassandra said bluntly. “Dhirissa is clearly doin’ somethin’ behind his back, an’ dependin’ what it is, the smart thing would be t’ tip off Is’toQ an’ help him to take her out. At the very least, if the SATET is at Beta Thoridor, he might let us take it home without a fight. If not, then maybe our help puttin’ down insurrection in his burgeoning empire might make him lay offa Federation citizens and interests along the old neutral zone. Either way, it’s better than having crazy at he helm of the Neo-Klingon Empire. An’ you can take that as a cold hard truth, comin’ from me, as there ain’t no love lost between us.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Jake looked uncomfortable, and waved a hand in the air. “Us actually backing one of the Klingon factions is not- well, it’s not our place. We already know the Romulans are backing the Orions and us getting involved with the Klingons? That’s uncomfortably close to being a…”

“A proxy war?” Kassandra interjected, judging that he was searching to remember the archaic term, long dead. “Yeah, but so what? If we let the Klingons descend into a civil war, the Romulan backed Orions wipe out the Klingons then we’re suddenly faced with two allied enemies which together might become powerful enough to feel that they launch a campaign against the Federation, and then where will we be? Launched into a war that we could have avoided.”

“But even if we warn Is’toQ, there’s no guarantee he’d win over Dhirissa’s faction, we’d have to devote time, intelligence, and maybe even resources to his faction to ensure he wins, and then what? An endless quagmire that we can’t extricate ourselves from, and it might even come to us sending our own people to bolster their forces. Are you willing to send your Marines in to fight over a conflict that isn’t even theirs?” Jake objected. Kassandra felt her dander rising. She liked Jake but he was, despite everything the world threw at him, an eternal idealist, striving for high ideals. That often made her squirm inside, and feel a little dark and dirty for her cynicism and utilitarian attitude to everything. Which also made her defensive. She didn’t mean to, of course. At more than half a century old she should be able to take his mildest, well-intentioned, and gentle criticisms but she couldn’t help lashing back.

“I’ve been sent to worse places for less reason!” She shot back. “And I’d rather they be the ones to sustain most of the casualties, wouldn’t you? ‘Sides which, how do you know the Federation isn’t already takin’ part in this conflict, how do you know that the SATET wasn’t-” Kassandra stopped as Kane held up a hand, calmly. He pointed to the viewscreen with great solemnity.

“Preparing to drop out of warp, sir.” Lieutenant Sotaar said, his voice calm as his hand pulled back on the throttle, slowing the ship down.

Kassandra’s jaw dropped.

* * *=/\=* * *

Location: BETA THORIDAR system
Scene: Space

Around the solitary planet that took its name from its star, a cluster of bright pinpricks of light floated lazily in orbit like a necklace around the equator of the fat rocky, inhospitable body.

It was just a small group: a handful of Orion freighters, three antique Klingon birds of prey that had been retrofitted, and a solitary Romulan scout ship. The ships were firing at something and quite unexpectedly it was not each other. It was something invisible to the naked eye, its presence revealed only when one of the ships scored a hit, and the energy beams of their weapons fizzled into nothingness. After a few minutes, finally, the object became visible, a Federation vessel, the SATET, her shields flickering around her like a soap bubble. There was no time for enemy vessels to celebrate, however, because just as the SATET revealed herself a large, heavily armed warship dropped out of warp.

* * *=/\=* * *

Location: The Romulan Scout Ship ERINYE
Scene: cockpit

It had taken months for Marau to get to this point, to bring together the two warring sides in one place. The Tal Shiar had learned of the Romulan government’s decision to back the Orions in the conflict for the territory of the Old Klingon empire, and had made their dissent known. There was no guarantee that once the nacent Klingon empire was destroyed that the Orions would continue to view the Romulans as an ally, or feel that they owed them anything. Once the Klingons were gone, the only way for them to expand their territory would be to either attack the Federation or to attack the Romulans. There would be no question of which choice to make, and the Orions would become the wolves at the Romulan Empires doors. The Tal Shiar believed that it was far wiser to form a three-way alliance with the Orions and the Klingons, an alliance to topple the Goliath that was the Federation. The Federation held more than enough resources and territory to keep all three occupied with conquest for decades, if not centuries, before the three empires inevitably turned on each other to expand their empire.

Of course, when the Tal Shiar put this forth they were summarily ignored and Romulan command began feeding information to the Orions. So the Tal Shiar had sent Marau, one of their most ruthlessly efficient agents to take care of things.

Whether it was a sweet word or a sharp stick that was needed, Marau was able to wield it with lethal precision. A woman of amazonian proportions and a face covered in mourning tattoos, Marau was a fearsome sight, commanding respect from those around her. No one quite
knew what the mourning tattoos were for, and her answer to those who were brave enough to ask her was always the same ‘I am in mourning for the former glory of the Romulan Empire.’ A consummate patriot.

Her first job task once she was deployed was to extract the Tal Shiar agent known as Jerika from the Orions and repurpose her as an emissary to the Klingons to counterbalance the interference of the Romulan military. It quickly became apparent to Marau and Jerika that Is’toQ would never listen to any preludes for an alliance. Marau ordered Jerika to find and exploit any schisms she could find to topple Is’toQ, to install a leader more amenable to Tal Shiar’s plans. Jerika had found and exploited House D’ghor, a lower house chafing under Is’toQ’s stuffy leadership and what they believed to be outmoded concepts of honor. She helped them build underground support for toppling Is’toQ, and their Klingon liaison Dhirissa had quietly kept what passed for the Klingon Intelligence Services busy, preventing them from uncovering the plot.

The SATET had nearly toppled Marau’s carefully laid plans, sparking a wave of conflict between the Orions and the Klingons with its meddling as it tried to escape the Klingons that made the two sides far more antagonistic, especially with the current battle over ALCYONUS. It had been all she could do to convince the Orions and the Klingons not to open fire on each other the moment they had dropped out of warp at BETA THORIDAR, but here they were at last after laying months of groundwork, ready to talk about an alliance.

“And this is why both of you should consider an alliance. Together will be able to help House D’ghor overthrow Is’toQ and his house and consolidate the Klingons, and we will be able to work together to set up supply chains and infrastructure which will allow our Empires to begin to build up state-of-the-art fleets to rival that of the Federation, and-”

“Marau, I’m picking up some sort of anomalous reading,” Jerika hissed, suddenly. “And some energy spikes, I’ve not seen anything like it before, however I have a sneaking suspicion that we have an eavesdropper.”

“Stop transmission. Jerika, send your information to the other ships on a direct beam link, with readings from the other ships we should be able to triangulate the source. Once they’ve done that have them ready themselves to use their weapons.” Marau stared coldly out at the stars. “Start transmitting again. My pardon, my friends. As I was saying, we should, together be able to rival the Federation, and have the resources to begin a war of conquest against them in less than a decade, if we ally ourselves together.” Marau saw Jerika signal her from the corner of her eye, and smiled. “And here, I think, is our first chance to taste what victory our alliance could bring us all. Fire!”

Within moments a hail of weapons fire burst forth from the gathering of ships, and into empty space. With each shot, the gunners of each vessel refined their aim, until, at last, the cloak dropped from the SATET. Marau smiled victoriously, sure that now, with such a prize in their grasp, the Orions and the Klingons would see the wisdom of an alliance.

Her smile was quickly wiped off her face before the flush of satisfaction had filled her chest when an instant later a large, heavily armed Federation warship dropped out of warp.

* * *=/\=* * *

Scene: Bridge

Kane took the scene unfolding in front of him, and barely managed to keep an expression of incredulity from washing over his face. Of all the things he’d been expecting to find in BETA THORIDAR, this was not it. From beside him, Jake let out a long, low whistle, while Kassandra made a sputtering noise of disbelief. There was a long moment of silence as everyone took a moment to process what was going on so they could react accordingly.

“Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit,” Kassandra choked out finally. As though she’d broken some sort of spell, the bridge seemed to shake themselves into action.

“Red alert. Shields up,” Kane snapped. “OPS, Tactical, I’m going to need everything you got.”

As OPS and Tactical worked furiously to comply with his orders, Kane flicked his eyes back to his screen and shook his head.

Butter my butt and call me a biscuit indeed.

* * *=/\=* * *

NRPG: Hah, okay, there it is, hopefully it's a plot twist everyone likes! What happens next?

Alix Fowler
writing for:
Kassandra Thytos
A biscuit


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