Gul Latham paced back and forth on the bridge of the Pakar. He took a quick glance at the tactical station on starboard side of the bridge. Glinn Trejak Maret was manning the primary station, while a noncommissioned male service officer was monitoring readouts on a secondary station to Maret’s right. The tactical display said the same thing it did five minutes earlier. None of the Starfleet vessels were pursuing the Cardassian battle group.
Maret was just a few years younger than Latham, but lacked the qualifications to become a gul. His hair was still a solid jet black, while Latham’s was showing streaks of gray. Latham had come to rely heavily on Maret’s advice over the years, as he was quite possibly the best combat tactician in the Ninth Order.
Latham then sauntered to over to the helm at the front of the bridge manned by Garresh Hamar Murrel. She was a young woman of nearly thirty years, but still fresh out of the military academy. Her experience as an enlisted fighter pilot during the last Federation-Cardassian war came in handy during the Dominion War. Perhaps that was why she made garresh in just two short years.
As had been the case when he had just passed by Maret, he did not want to ask questions to which he already knew the answers. He just glanced at Murrel’s readout screen and saw the same thing he did the last time he passed by her station. The Pakar and the rest of the fleet were on course for their fallback at warp six. He felt a need to check periodically in order to put his own mind at ease.
He then turned his attention to the woman monitoring communications chatter at her station on the port side. “How long can we expect additional ships?” he asked.
“Five days, sir,” Gorr Inira calmly answered. While Cardassians comprised most of the bridge crew, Inira was a Norsaian. They were a longtime subject race of the Cardassian Union who had medium gray skin and completely hairless faces. Outside of the usual gender differences, Norsaians still appeared largely androgynous. Unlike in the Federation, where all member races could join Starfleet and advance in rank equally on their merits, non-Cardassians were confined to serving as noncommissioned enlistees in the Cardassian military.
Latham gave a snort of derision while diverting his gaze towards Diralna, who was consulting with Glinn Orlak. “Maintain course to our fallback position, pilot,” he instructed Murrel. “Glinn Maret, maintain a sensor lock on the remaining enemy vessels and keep an eye out for any additional ships entering the system.”
“Aye, sir,” the junior glinn calmly responded.
Latham slowly approached Diralna with a cold stare at the Vorta. “May I see you in private, Diralna?” he asked.
“By all means,” the attractive Vorta woman responded with an acerbic grin, showing no fear whatsoever that Latham would take the pent up anger in his voice out on her. They both walked up the stairs leading to the gul’s office, oblivious to the rest of the bridge crew exchanging befuddled glances.
Orlak noticed it, however, and was quick to refocus his crew’s attention. “Stations, everyone,” he barked, and they all quickly obliged. But even he could sense an unusual level of tension between gul and Vorta, which he kept to himself as he seated himself in the command chair.
They stepped into the office, both of them keeping a level head until the doors slid shut. Latham then turned his gaze to the Vorta, his eyes widening in a murderous rage. It was an expression Diralna found more amusing than frightening.
“Why do you keep holding out us?” Latham hissed.
“I don’t quite follow,” Diralna innocently responded with a shrug.
Latham snorted, becoming increasingly frustrated with Diralna’s feigned ignorance. “The mines deployed throughout the system,” he said with restrained rage. “Why was I not informed of them? You led me to believe we were on our own to defend what was left of our holdings on what’s been our jumping off point for invading Federation core sectors.
“Nearly a million lives have been lost defending Chudala, Ventani Two, Septimus Three, and now here at Zhamur. Yet, you either do nothing or have some trick up your sleeves we don’t know about.”
Diralna smirked and stroked Latham’s right arm, letting her fingers prance up and down the back of his elbow. “I would think you’d begin to understand why I’ve kept you out of the loop on a lot of these matters, Arrek,” she said seductively.
Ignoring her attempts at flirtation, Latham backed away. He emphatically yanked his arm away while sneaking a glance at her bulbous chest. “Even as a number of misguided officers have abandoned our cause,” he insisted, “my loyalty to the Dominion has been unwavering. Surely, that entitles me to some need-to-know.”
“You make a convincing case,” Diralna replied while taking a few small steps towards the desk. “But you and your crew are still functionally treasonable. So you understand why there are certain risks we are simply not willing to take. Am I making any sense? Or are you too busy staring at my breasts to comprehend a single word I just said?”
Latham let out a resentful snort at the Vorta’s inquiry. “I understood you completely,” he hissed while looking straight into her eyes.
Diralna tiptoed closer to Latham and stroked his forehead ridges. “Good,” she said. “Victory will not come easily. But we will be victorious. You can count on it.”
Latham nodded in agreement while coaxing her hands away from him. But he wasn’t as optimistic as he let on. Defeat was only a matter of time, though he was not prepared to sit back and let the rest of his garrison be completely massacred. But, like a good soldier, he would fight right down to his last breath. Once Diralna was gone, he circled around his desk and tapped the comm panel. “Glinn Orlak, can you come into my office?”
Just a few seconds later, his second-in-command stepped into the office. Orlak looked worried, but Latham tried to assuage those feelings by motioning his exec closer to the desk. Orlak did, allowing the doors to slide shut.
“Gather up all the sensor logs on those mines,” Latham whispered. “And do it carefully so you don’t get caught. Make it look like what you are doing is part of the deletion process. Understand?”
“Completely, sir,” Orlak responded with a nod.
Latham then gently grabbed Orlak’s right arm and coaxed him back towards the entrance. As the doors slide open, he saw Diralna just outside the doorway listening suspiciously. He handed the glinn a blank padd saying, “I want full warp drive capability in six hours. No excuses
“I’ll tell Dalin Thomar to get on it immediately,” Orlak replied.
Dominion Heavy Cruiser 9-47
Yelgrun sat behind his desk as Torgroth, Mirak’tiral, Jroln, and Drelf stepped into his office. After a few hours for his ships to withdraw and regroup just outside the solar system, he called a briefing to discuss how to counteract the ability of the Klingons and the Romulans to utilize their cloaking devices in spite of the natural conditions of the Daxura system.
The Jem’Hadar First and the Breen Thots remained very calm and collected. Of course, with the Breen, it was difficult to tell since they always hid their faces from outsiders. Torgroth appeared the most nervous. That was an unfortunate, yet necessary consequence, of naturally born Vorta. If a clone of him was bred, that personality trait would be quickly removed from his genetic makeup. That was an honor usually bestowed upon the Vorta’s greatest politicians, diplomats, and scientists. Though he was a competent engineer and tactician, Torgroth needed at least another twenty years of service to the gloried Founders before he was judged worthy of being cloned.
“What do you have?” Yelgrun asked his young apprentice.
“I have teams analyzing the sensor logs of when ships uncloaked right on top of us,” he said, trying to avoid the eerie and pensive stare of First Mirak’tiral, “making sure to scrutinize every detail of the surrounding space. We found the same graviton emissions as inside the asteroid belts.”
“It’s a starting point,” Yelgrun replied with an approving nod. “Keep at it. There has to be a way to differentiate natural emissions from those given off by the cloaking device. Thot Jroln. What have you learned about the reconfigured Starfleet and Romulan shield geometry?”
“Shield generators, more resilient against energy dissipaters,” Jroln replied. His voice was that of a hissing whisper through the breathing apparatus in his helmet. Torgroth suddenly froze in shock that he could understand the Breen. “Attempts made to change dispersal amplitude. Shields highly adaptive.”
“We still have an advantage in numbers with your ships as part of the war effort,” Yelgrun reassured Jroln. “And your consultations have proven strongly invaluable.”
“Overconfident, he still is,” Drelf chimed in with a voice that sounded very Neanderthal-like.
“Yours as well,” Yelgrun responded, hoping not to be drawn into another one of their silly arguments.
“Not as overconfident as you at Zhamur,” Jroln shot back. “My ships, consume your ships for midday meal.”
“Save your petty squabbles for after the war,” Yelgrun cut in. “The fact of the matter is that both have been able to quickly improvise new tactics. That’s going to be even more important now that a countermeasure has been devised for your biggest weapon innovation. First Mirak’tiral, institute troop deployment protocol five-seven-four. Reassign squad leaders on this ship to fighters.
Mirak’tiral stood at attention upon hearing his spoken. “Yes, Sadok’toran,” he responded.
“Dismissed,” Yelgrun told everyone else at the meeting.
Once the others had left, the desk monitor chirped. Yelgrun opened the incoming communique, a printed message that the field tests on the mines deployed in the Zhamur system were successful.
That is certainly good news,
he silently mused. Even if the Dominion did fail in the battle for dominance in this quadrant, the enemy would still lose much in the way of ships and other major resources.