And saith unto him,
All these things will
I give thee
If thou wilt fall down
And worship me.
Squads of Miranda
-class light cruisers and Klingon Birds-of-Prey
swooped in on a line of Jem’Hadar fighters, Hideki
-class Cardassian patrol vessels, and Breen light cruisers. The Alliance ships managed to damage or destroy numerous Dominion and Dominion-allied ships. Some of them slipped through that line with three Galaxy
-classes and four uncloaking Vorcha
-class ships right behind and confronted an armada of Dracon
-class destroyers. The Cardassian destroyers were able to fend off the enemy light cruisers with secondary disruptor arrays while firing swarms of torpedoes and disruptor salvos from the primary array at the Starfleet and Klingon destroyers.
-class came nose-to-nose with the Pakar
, firing rounds of phasers and quantum torpedoes that knocked out a starboard torpedo tube and inflicted heavy damage to the hull near the starboard nacelle.
The bridge of the Pakar
rocked as the Dracon
-class ship continued taking weapons fire. Glinn Maret gripped the sides of the wall mounted starboard tactical station in order to stay in his seat.
“Hull breach on level five,” he reported. “Emergency forcefields are in place.”
Glinn Orlak looked up from the master situation console in front of the command chair as the bridge continued shaking. “Moderate damage to starboard warp coils,” he added. He looked towards a technician manning one of the port auxiliary stations to issue some additional orders. “Transfer emergency power to the starboard nacelle and keep our port side on the Starfleet destroyers.”
Gul Latham was monitoring his own tactical displays on the armrest of the command chair to gauge the progress of the battle. “All supporting Galor
-class destroyers, target attacking vessels bearing two-six mark three-four. Alter our heading three-four-four mark seven.”
As the comm and helm officers carried out their orders, Diralna glared at both women suspiciously. She was standing in front of the bridge’s port egress, where her two personal guards were situated on both sides of the door. They simply stood in one corner of the bridge taking up space and hoping for someone on the bridge to act suspiciously.
“Tachyon surge ahead,” said Garresh Murrel.
class Romulan warbirds uncloaked. Some were right on top of Galor
-class destroyers as they began firing multi-targeting disruptors.
“Why were those ships not detected earlier?” Diralna demanded as she approached the command chair.
Latham stood up and towered over the Vorta woman. “Either keep quiet or leave the bridge,” he spat.
She was a bit taken aback by his directness, but she put a hand up to signal the Jem’Hadar to stay put. As far as Latham was concerned, though, the Jem’Hadar never moved a muscle. They just stood by the door like statues.
Latham paced towards the primary helm console at the front of the bridge. “Evasive pattern nokta
,” he told the pilot. “Call in all other capital vessels and Galor
wings to support our position.”
Gorr Inira looked up from the port communications station. “They’re all under attack by squads of Romulan warbirds,” she informed the gul.
“Back us off, helm,” Latham snapped, as he saw ceiling panels in the compartment’s aft fall to the deck, “course two-zero-five mark three-one-zero.”
Murrel feverishly entered commands on her console trying to execute the course change. “Ventral thrusters are sluggish,” she said. “I’ll do what I can, though.”
Sparks erupted from two port auxiliary stations, sending two technicians to the deck. A fire broke out at an auxiliary station to the right of the main tactical station. Maret had to jump out of the way of the eruption. An engineering technician raced onto the bridge to put out the fire. Through all that commotion, Diralna and her guards stepped off the bridge.
Latham stared over at the port egress wondering why Diralna needed to be sneaking around when she felt she had the run of the ship, more so than its captain. He turned his focus back to the tactical station as the bridge continued rocking from additional weapon hits. “Keep firing,” he barked. “Lay down cover for our fighters with all disruptors and torpedo arrays.”
“Transferring auxiliary power to the primary disruptor array,” Maret replied while hunched over his station. “Disruptor cannons three, four, seven, and eight are offline. Shields at thirty-seven percent. Four fighter squadrons destroyed.”
“Warp and impulse engines are out,” Murrel grimly added, “switching to secondary systems.”
Latham seated himself in the command chair to take another look at his tactical display. “Lay down support for fighter squads five, eight, and twelve with flanking Galor
One of the Pakar
’s disruptor cannons was able to take out one of the Miranda
-class ships while three nearby Hideki
-class fighters were in close combat with Starfleet fighter shuttles and Klingon Birds-of-Prey
. While two Birds-of-Prey
were destroyed, three Starfleet fighter shuttles slipped through the lines with two Nebula
-class and four Akira
-class ships right behind, firing phaser salvos at two Galor
-class destroyers and two Jem’Hadar fighters.
“Pursuit course, helm,” Latham barked.
Just as Murrel was about to enter a pursuit course, Inira reported. “Incoming message from the Sadok’toran,” the Norsaian communications officer reported. “All Cardassian wings are to hold position while the Jem’Hadar and Breen pursue the ships heading deeper into the system.”
Though he had gotten used to the Cardassian military being used as pawns while the Jem’Hadar and Breen dug in further against the enemy, Latham could not believe what he was hearing. Again, his battle group was being asked to fight a potentially hopeless skirmish. “What?” he snapped.
“Sir,” Orlak chimed in, “we won’t last much longer taking this much of a pounding.”
Latham wanted to say he agreed, but the time to go against the Dominion was not yet right. Deserting in the middle of a battle would be too blatantly obvious and unbecoming of a Cardassian soldier. “Keep your place, Glinn,” he said in a hushed tone. “They’re only looking to disable our capital ships so they can more easily slip through our lines.
Orlak then looked at a tactical display on the master situation console and saw Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan logos moving past Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen logos in single file formations. “Confirmed, sir. The rest of the enemy vessels have broken through, heading deeper into the system.”
“Have all Cardassian wings hold position here,” Latham commanded. “Damage report?”
“All warp and impulse engines are down,” said Murrel. “We only have two functional maneuvering thrusters. Shields and weapons are functioning at minimal effectiveness.”
Latham sighed in disgust. His ship was heavily damaged with many of his crew injured or killed. How much longer was he willing to lay down his crew’s lives while continuing to gather intelligence on the Dominion to pass onto the enemy? “Begin repairs,” he ordered. “Glinn Maret, you and Dalin Thomar make tactical systems a priority. Orlak, you have the bridge.”
“Aye, sir,” Orlak replied, making his way towards the command chair.
Latham kept his head up on his way off the bridge. Once he left the compartment and headed into an adjoining corridor, he leaned back up against a wall. Again, he asked himself how long he could maintain this subterfuge. When open rebellion broke out, Latham truly believed the participants were nothing more than disloyal, self-serving soldiers. As his losses continued to mount, however, Latham knew that the price of defeat was too high for the Cardassian Union, and so he continued to serve the Dominion and its war against the Federation. Little by little, he eventually decided on a more subtle approach to undermining the Dominion once its intentions to withhold military help whenever practical was made quite clear to him.
Latham would have to take more overt action against the Dominion sooner or later. Something was holding him back, though—perhaps a fear that some of his crew did not genuinely support him and that they would turn on him as soon as he staged an uprising. No matter. After the losses the Ninth Order took here at Sarpedion, he would have to act sooner rather than later.
Latham strutted through the corridors wondering what else could go wrong today. He headed for his quarters hoping to ruminate privately over his eventual defeat, down a few glasses of kanar, and perhaps share a night of passionate bliss with Nezhak.
He entered his quarters, his head tilted downward as the double-doors slid open. He was suddenly caught off guard when he saw a trail of blood on the carpet. He looked up and his eyes widened in horror. Nezhak was hanging from the wall, her arms and legs bound. She had been stabbed to death. A knife was still in her chest, her arms spread across, and her eyes wide with terror.
“Nezhak?!” he gasped. He raced towards the corpse and placed two of his fingers above her collarbone to feel for a pulse even though he was certain she was dead. Latham coaxed her eyes shut before resting his head on her shoulder, sobbing.
Latham was too grief-stricken to remember his last conversation with Diralna about Nezhak. He simply wanted to hold the closest thing to female companionship on the Pakar
one last time.
Speaking of whom, Diralna slowly emerged from the suite’s bedchamber with her guards in tow. “I’m sure she’s quite dead,” the Vorta gloated.
Latham turned his gaze towards Diralna while brushing away tears on his cheeks. His grief quickly became murderous hatred as he glared at her for a very long moment. “You,” he hissed, using all his energy to resist throttling the pompous Vorta.
“You against two Jem’Hadar?” she taunted. “I wouldn’t risk it.” She sauntered by him suggestively while the two Jem’Hadar just stood motionless, their rifles at the ready in case Latham still made any threatening moves. “I knew you didn’t have the heart to kill her,” she explained with no hint of remorse in her voice. “But her guilt was quite clear after the Romulans overcome our ability to penetrate
their cloaks. I’m still offering myself to you.” She tiptoed over to Latham and stroked his still tear-moistened cheeks.
Latham gently shoved Diralna away from himself as he took two steps backward. “After what you took from me?” he hissed, words emerging from his mouth like hardened pellets.
Diralna smiled wickedly while taking quick looks at her guards. “Maybe not now,” she teased, “but after a few lonely nights without a warm body to share your bed, you’ll change your mind.” She slowly slinked out of the cabin with her guards right behind.
Again, Latham wanted to throttle her, but couldn’t. He simply watched the doors slide shut, leaving him alone with the corpse of his lover. He walked over to the wall where Nezhak’s corpse was suspended. He leaned on the wall next to her, reaching out his hand towards her. He slid down the wall, letting go of his emotions. This sense of loss felt like more of a blow to his ego than any defeat he had experienced on the battlefield.
Then saith Jesus unto him,
Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written,
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,
And him only shalt thou serve.
Yelgrun paced back and forth on the command deck of Dominion heavy cruiser nine-four seven. He passed by Torgroth, who was continuing to observe tactical displays on the master situation console in the compartment’s center. He then passed by Mirak’tiral at a communications console conferring with other ship commanders via his eyepiece headset. The Second and the Third manned two different panels to his left and right respectively. Various auxiliary stations along the port and starboard walls were manned by lower-ranking Vorta.
At some point in time, the senior Vorta decided that pacing back and forth would not sufficiently alleviate his boredom. And so he stood in the center of the command deck and reactivated the tactical display on his eyepiece, observing the movements of other vessels in the fleet. A blip on the graphic quickly caught his attention. That same blip also triggered proximity alarms on Torgroth’s console.
“Long range beacons are detecting enemy vessels entering the system,” Torgroth reported.
“Number and type?” Yelgrun inquired.
“Eighteen, mostly scouts and fighter shuttles—Starfleet light-cruisers, Klingon Birds-of-Prey
, Romulan starbirds.”
Consistent with the tactic he had used when he sent a wing of Breen vessels to rattle the enemy three days earlier. “A recon wing,” he speculated.
“Looks like it.”
“Then we’ll try and soften them up like they’re trying to soften us up. All Breen fighter nests, break off and confront the enemy squadrons. First Mirak’tiral, dispatch five fighter squadrons to lend support. You will coordinate from the command deck.”
A long silence followed after the First had failed to acknowledge Yelgrun’s order. He took a few small steps towards him and stood quiet and motionless.
“I gave you an order, First,” Yelgrun persisted.
“I cannot carry out that order,” Mirak’tiral unflinchingly replied.
Yelgrun’s eyes widened in disbelief. Still, he was not afraid of what the First would do to him, as he remained certain the Second would back him up. “Excuse me?” he gasped.
“Your battle tactics to date have been overly cautious,” Mirak’tiral explained. “And we cannot halt the Federation advance towards our central headquarters by being cautious. The weapons arsenal of this vessel can take out many of the enemy’s largest capital ships with one salvo. Yet you do not use that arsenal enough to our advantage.”
Yelgrun smirked, as if amused by the bold words of a subordinate capable of snapping his neck in one quick motion. “Second Turak’miron, relieve the First.”
Turak’miron vacated the communications console and sauntered towards the First. “I will not carry out that order either,” he plainly stated. “The Alphas and Gammas may not always agree on the best battle strategies, but I do agree with the First that passivity will inevitably lead to our defeat.”
Still unfazed, Yelgrun nodded in admiration of the solidarity the two different breeds of Jem’Hadar were showing. “That would seem to conflict with your motto of obedience bringing victory,” he quipped. Of course, the Alphas were known for saying that obedience made victory more probable. He had also heard of instances where Jem’Hadar chose to disobey orders and face execution rather than act dishonorably. He still remained outwardly confident he would survive the next few minutes while quite certain that his demise was inevitable. “Third Ikan’irral, relieve the First and the Second.”
Ikan’irral slowly sauntered towards his two superior officers, with one hand on his disruptor pistol. He slowly drew his weapon and pointed it in the direction of the two senior Jem’Hadar. “Obedience brings victory,” he proclaimed. After a brief and eerie silence, he trained his weapon on the Vorta, adding, “But obeying you will bring defeat.” He then shot Yelgrun dead.
The First and Second drew their rifles. They, along with the rest of the Jem’Hadar on the command deck killed the other Vorta, including Torgroth. Mirak’tiral did a visual survey of the deck, seeing dead Vorta littering the floor and only Jem’Hadar still standing. “Secure the command deck, Second,” he ordered his immediate subordinate. “Third Ikan’irral, take a team below and round up all the Vorta. Anyone who resists, shoot them. Once that is done, see to the Founder’s safety.”
The Third stood at attention while watching the Second step off the bridge with three other soldiers. “What do we tell him?” he eagerly inquired.
“Tell him that disloyal Jem’Hadar have killed most of the Vorta and are plotting to seize this vessel,” Mirak’tiral replied.
Ikan’irral nodded in acknowledgment of the order and marched off the command deck accompanied by two lower-ranking Jem’Hadar.
“Sixth,” Mirak’tiral addressed a Jem’Hadar now manning the primary communications console, “relay the Vorta’s orders, only this ship and five battleships will be joining them.”
“Now is our time to demonstrate what we are capable of,” he proclaimed to all his fellow soldiers still present, “Alpha and Gamma Quadrant Jem’Hadar alike. We will no longer shy away from taking extraordinary risks to achieve victory, even if that means laying down our lives. Because in the end, victory is life for all of us. We do this in service to the Founders and no one else. No longer will we bow before some cowardly Vorta.”
Below decks, the Jem’Hadar were rounding up the ship’s Vorta crew. Three Jem’Hadar had resorted to dragging one of the engineering technicians out of his quarters. He put up more of a fight than they had expected, slugging one in the abdomen and grabbing another’s gun. The Vorta was only able to reach an adjoining corridor before one of the still armed Jem’Hadar shot him dead. In the midst of that melee, the third Jem’Hadar in that group ran off in the opposite direction. He kept running until he reached the Founder’s quarters, where two Jem’Hadar were guarding the door.
“The Founder is not to be disturbed,” the guard to the right of the door informed him.
“He must be warned,” Seventh Trok’dalon replied. “He may be in grave danger. The First has staged a mutiny. I had hoped to get to the Founder before his supporters did. All the Vorta on the bridge are dead, and the rest are being taken into custody.”
“How do we know you are not one of the mutineers attempting to set a trap for the Founder?” the guard flatly answered.
“I serve the Founders from now until death,” Trok’dalon persisted. “The mutineers believe they are continuing to serve our gods despite their treachery. We still answer to the Vorta. That is the order of things. It is not our place to question the rules our gods have laid down. If they can waiver on this, then they are just as capable of harming or even killing a Founder.”
Without warning, the double doors parted and the Founder stepped out into the corridor. Trok’dalon was both amazed at having seen a Founder for the first time in his life and terrified at the sight of a god’s life withering away. “You are to be commended for your unwavering loyalty, Seventh,” the Changeling declared.
“Once the Federation and its allies are defeated, I will recommend you for promotion to Third. You are absolutely right that questioning the order of things makes them capable of harming even me. We must stage a counterstrike to purge this vessel of any disloyalty, even if that means killing many of your own soldiers.”