A swarm of a dozen Klingon Birds-of-Prey
uncloaked in front of a wing of three Galor
-class Cardassian cruisers patrolling the outer planets of the Beta Veldona system, firing their disruptors at the larger enemy vessels. As the Klingon ships quickly moved past their targets, the Cardassian ships swung around and opened fire. Each of the three cruisers took out a single Bird
The nine ships left standing were soon nose-to-nose with wings of Jem’Hadar fighters. With a barrage of disruptors, the Jem’Hadar hit the Klingons hard, tearing off the wings of two of the Birds. Nearly crippled, both of those two rammed a Jem’Hadar ship, incinerating the attacker and the target. The rest of the Klingon ships continued firing at the Jem’Hadar while moving off to starboard. As expected, the Jem’Hadar fighters gave chase drawing off their regular patrol route.
Elsewhere in the Beta Veldona system, three Galaxy
-class Starfleet vessels were nose-to-nose with five large Dominion heavy cruisers firing swarms of phasers and quantum torpedoes. The enemy cruisers fired swarms of plasma torpedoes inflicting considerable damage to the Starfleet ships’ secondary hulls.
Flanking the larger vessels on both sides were smaller ships—refitted Miranda
-class and fighter shuttles along with Akira
, and Saber
class Federation ships against Jem’Hadar and Cardassian attack fighters. These smaller vessels faced off against each other firing phasers back and forth. A few of the Mirandas
along the outer formation moved in on the heavy cruiser, firing quantum torpedoes at the apparent weaknesses in the shields and the hull, and then moved off. The heavy cruisers, with their more than ten torpedo launchers managed to incinerate a great number of those attacking ships as if they were no distraction to taking on the Galaxy
Those three ships continued putting up a valiant struggle against ships twice their size with triple their individual armaments. In the end, the Dominion heavy cruisers were able to take out the two flanking Galaxy
-classes. The one left standing swerved past two of the heavy cruiser, blowing apart one of them with aft quantum torpedoes. A swarm of a dozen of the smaller Starfleet warships brought up the rear, taking out a second heavy cruiser with what was left of their armaments before moving deeper into the system.
Gul Tajor entered the office of Supreme Gul Lemec on Sentok Nor. Kelnor, the senior gul’s Vorta counterpart stood behind desk conferring on the latest incursion. Tajor exchanged a contemptuous stare with the Vorta before he handed the commander of the Cardassian forces stationed in the Beta Veldona system a padd containing the latest battle updates. “We’ve managed to repel the latest attacks along the outer reaches of the system,” Tajor explained to his superior. “Several enemy vessels got away; we have patrol ships in pursuit of them. They will not get far.”
“See that any and all intruding ships are destroyed,” Lemec replied with a stern gaze. “You’re dismissed, Tajor.”
Tajor nodded to Lemec, and then to the Vorta Kelnor, who had been eyeing him suspiciously, before exiting the office. He usually did not take it personally since the Vorta remained ever vigilant of all Guls during the war. In this instance, however, it was as if Kelnor suspected him of having betrayed the Dominion to the Federation Alliance even though he had no cause for such suspicion.
“They must know that they would need at least three of their fleets in order to break our hold on Betazed,” Kelnor suggested once Tajor was gone. “Yet they continue to try with far fewer ships.”
“It’s consistent with what humans would call a ‘cavalry raid’,” Lemec replied, continuing to look away from his Vorta counterpart.
“They will have to launch a more concentrated offensive sooner or later, knowing of our ability to threaten Federation core systems. The capture of our communications array at AR-558 should give them ample opportunity.”
Lemec tapped a computer interface to call up a holographic display of the latest ship activities. “These last two attacks have drawn a number of squadrons off of their regular patrol routes,” he said, noting a Cardassian Union insignia and a Dominion insignia. “We are prepared to intercept any ships trying to break through the holes the enemy has opened. And I have dispatched additional ships to the Moreska and Zhamur systems to stage our own ‘cavalry raids’.”
“Very good,” Kelnor sarcastically replied, rounding the desk to face Lemec. “And what of the Starfleet intruders your security teams captured?”
“Neither of them is speaking,” Lemec ruefully answered. “But we have ways of making them reveal their plans, disclose the location of the Bajoran who was with them, and identify any other accomplices.”
“So you say,” Kelnor said with a skeptical chuckle. “Do what you must to contain this security breach. Otherwise, I may need to reevaluate this station’s command structure.”
The Vorta marched out of the office while Lemec stared pensively in his direction. As a commander in the Cardassian military, he knew of the necessity of being able to trust those under his command. That was one redeeming quality of the Jem’Hadar, he also mused, even if they were genetically engineered to fight and die for their Founders. The Vorta, on the other hand, trusted no one other than the Founders.
Still, Lemec remained deeply motivated to contain any threats to the Dominion’s hold on the Beta Veldona system.
Some time later, Lemec entered an area of the station’s infirmary designated for the torture of prisoners via a back door. Manuel Amaros and Goris misch Rev were both hanging from the ceiling, their clothes torn and tattered in various places and covered in soot and ash resulting from explosions and weapon fire. A young male technician was organizing an instrument tray consisting of portable electrocution devices, empty hyposprays, and vials of various truth serums and other psychotropic drugs. Both prisoners had been extremely groggy after hours of torture at the hands of their capture. Lemec had been informed that the last does of drugs had worn off, but the two prisoners were still drifting in and out consciousness.
He removed one of the rectangular electrocution devices from the table and jammed against the right side of M’Rev’s chest. The Tellarite convulsed painfully until Lemec yanked the device back and threw clumsily back on the instrument tray. M’Rev was now fully conscious and shooting a hate-filled glare into Lemec’s eyes. “There, that’s better,” the Cardassian said, squeezing the Tellarite’s mouth and chin. “I’m told stimulating that particular nerve cluster in a Tellarite’s cardiac region can briefly awaken even the most comatose of your species. But since the first regiment of ours should have worn off by now, let’s talk, shall we?”
“I have nothing to say to you, spoonhead,” M’Rev hissed. “And for a race that values rigid conformity and order, one would think your breath wouldn’t smell so bad.”
“Yes, we do value personal hygiene,” Lemec replied. “But we can still emit odors offensive to most species, even those who do not possess an acute a sense of smell as we do. And since you Tellarites thrive on insult and argument, let me say you also emit a countless number of offensive odors.”
M’Rev’s only reply was to roll his eyes and sneer in the arrogant Cardassian’s direction.
Lemec gave a taunting smile while wondering what M’Rev was accomplishing with his silence. He remained confident that sooner or later, he would force one of the prisoners to talk. He then sauntered over to Amaros, patting the human’s left cheek in order to coax him awake. Amaros’s eyes opened with a glare of contempt directed at Lemec.
“You look very familiar,” Lemec said with a wry grin. “Have we met before?”
“You tell me,” Manuel quipped. “Don’t you spoonheads boast having photographic memories?”
“Not always as ‘photographic’ as you may think. But you have information I need. How many others are part of your Starfleet strike team?”
“Dozens. You won’t be able to find all of them before they blow this place to bits.”
“That is quite impossible. We would know of any uninvited guests on this station.”
“The two of us slipped aboard, didn’t we?” Amaros sneered with a light chuckle.
“Courtesy of your friend, Thalek,” Lemec said triumphantly.
M’Rev’s eyes widened at the mention of the Cardassian who had been smuggling operatives of Section 31 aboard Sentok Nor since the station became operational. He glared at Lemec wondering whether the Gul was saying that Thalek had been detained and swiftly broken. Not likely since Thalek was a former agent of the Obsidian Order who did not easily succumb to torture. That left only possibility that Thalek had betrayed them. Lemec’s facial expressions and body language gave no clues as to which alternative was correct. M’Rev then scowled at Amaros, furious at his former Maquis colleague, a trained Section 31 operative, for having trusted a Cardassian so easily. He just breathed slowly, not wanting to give anything away to his opponent in this battle of wills.
“Now,” Lemec continued, directing his gaze back at M’Rev. “Where is the Bajoran woman? And where can we find the other four who were part of your aborted assault.”
“Sorry,” M’Rev replied snidely, giving away in his angry stare. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”
Lemec looked to the medical technician requesting another dose of truth serum. The technician filled two hyposprays and handed one to Lemec.
“We’ll soon know if you are telling the truth or not,” Lemec warned, injecting the serum into the center of the Tellarite’s chest.
Crell Moset entered the main living area of his quarters after a long day of work. He threw a padd down on the desk and turned on the flat screened monitor to check his messages for that day. He had only received two, both of which were from colleagues at the University of Culat on Cardassia Prime, from where he was on sabbatical. He entered a few commands on the desk’s user interface, setting those messages aside to easily access at a later time. “Begin daily log,” he then ordered the computer.
The computer chirped starting an audio recording.
“Permanent documentation file,” he dictated. “We have determined that the subject is, in fact, a direct descendant of Bajor’s first Kai ten millennia ago based on the genetic samples procured by Cardassian military personnel during the occupation of that planet. Various artifacts and historical texts of that time period also indicate that the spiritual leader of Bajor had been in constant communion with the entities residing in the Bajoran wormhole, also known as the Prophets of the Celestial Temple in Bajoran theology. We will move on to determining how the subject’s genetic code can be harnessed to manipulate the beings believed responsible for the disappearance of two thousand, eight hundred Dominion vessels last year.”
During his dictation, Moset thought he could hear footsteps in the adjacent bedroom, and he twice looked towards the door wondering if that was truly the case. He thought on a few occasions while recording the log that someone else’s shadow was creeping up on the wall in front of him. Before he could continue speaking he felt the butt of Starfleet phaser on the back of his neck.
Limis had been waiting in his quarters for him, pointing a phaser at him with the right hand and holding the lapel of his shirt with the left. “Make a sound,” she hissed, “and I blow your head off.”
Showing no visible signs of fearing for his life, Moset pushed a control pausing the audio recording.