The Third Order: “The Art of War” (Third in the Series)
By Hadrian McKeggan
Published March 19, 2001
“I trust you have heard of Gul Macet's recent victory?” Legate Danor asked Darek over the commlink. Darek tilted his head in confirmation. The frontline update was transmitted to him every day to keep him informed on the other fronts in the Federation War. Noting Darek's visual response, Danor continued. “We have reason to belive Starfleet is sending reinforcements from your battle zone to his.” Danor leaned closer to the viewscreen, as if he did not want to be heard by anyone other than himself and Darek. It was a useless gesture. The channel was secured, and even if it wasn't leaning against the viewscreen would not make it more audible. “We belive that there is a reasonable chance of victory if the Third Order strikes into Federation territory and annexes this sector.”
“A reasonable chance, Legate?” Darek asked sceptically. He was never one for any form of optimism.
“The odds are good enough, Gul. Attack Starfleet Space Station Deep Space Four, and attack them now.” Despite the cliché saying, if glares could kill, Danor's glare certainly would have. “We need this victory, Gul. Central Command out.” Darek was un-wavered Danor's posturing in the least. However, Darek was not stupid enough to go against his orders. He heard Starfleet Captains did so on a regular basis, and he considered it a wonder they were not executed.
Darek studied his battlefield in minute detail, starting at his small viewscreen in his office on Uptok Nor. This was the first time he was to plan an offensive. He was used to strengthen defences, preparations for a siege. But an attack would require a new way of thinking. His photographic memory taking in every sector of space. Every curve, every phenomena, every belt of asteroids. Once he considered himself familiar with the arena, he set out his battle plan. Full of backups and redundancies, preparations for every conceivable failure, the plan had the definitive imprint of Darek's style. Once he was satisfied that the strategy was at least partly enough for his intense paranoia, Darek called up on his screen a complete biography of Captain Keogh, the commander of the Starfleet Forces in this sector. As a human philosopher said, “To know your enemy is to know yourself.” Scrolling through, he examined his foe's strengths and weaknesses, and began to speculate on the type of action Keogh would make.
“Gul, the selected ships report that they are at the rendezvous.” Glinn Gared said the moment he entered Gul Darek's office. Darek noted that this Glinn was particularly young, and gazed into him long enough to make him uneasy. When the Glinn began to visibly shake, searching though his mind if he had done something wrong, Gul Darek suddenly stopped, and walked out into Ops. Darek walked down to the centre of Ops, noting each officer on duty. “Glinn Gared” he asked as the Glinn took his station, “tactical representation, focusing and following designated task force.” Darek ordered as he walked over to a central area of Ops. The screen shimmered to life and the tightly packed Galor class warships appeared on a two-dimensional display. Like the Phalanxes of Ancient Greece, the Galor warships formed a rigid and merciless advance. Darek's eyes darted around the screen, taking in every inch of the battlefield. “Glinn Madec, encode to all ships: Proceed to the assigned coordinates. Divert all nonessential power to sensors, and perform unified sensor sweep of all sectors ahead. Forward all results to Uptok Nor.” Darek barked out the complex order.
“Yes sir.” Madec replied. Immediately, the Galor warships began moving, and the screen moved with them. The vague sensor information of the sectors ahead turned precise, charting stars, planets and other spatial bodies. Tense minutes passed. Darek glared at the screen. Worried Glinns exchanged glances, hoping that Darek's frustration would not boil over to them. At last, a Starfleet symbol appeared in the right-hand corner. “Long range sensors picking up —” Gared began.
“I can see that!” Darek yelled, losing his patience with his subordinate stating the obvious. Gared nearly doubled-over, his lower lip fluttering slightly. The other Glinns on duty suddenly discovered something of extreme interest in their panels. Darek whirled around to Madec. “Order Gul Maced of the Gromok —” Darek said, gesturing at the ship nearest to the Federation vessel “— to identify.”
“Yes sir.” Madec complied, typing in the order into his panel. A few seconds later a reply message was sent, and Madec looked up, worried. “Sir, Gul Maced of the Gromok reports that Federation vessel is too distant to identify.” Glinn Madec said, and he looked down at his panel for conformation for the rest of the message. “The unknown Federation vessel is on an attack vector.” Gul Darek's eyes darted across the viewer. “It's a ruse.” He said finally. He did not need to explain, the Glinns who did not know would not dare to open their mouths in question, fearful of Darek's quite evident wrath. Of course, he knew the Federation vessel was a decoy. While his ships attacked, another force would likely move around him, flanking his force. Well, two can play that game. Darek thought.
The Odyssey bore down upon the five Galor class warships. Captain Keogh watched his First Officer instinctively go for the unmanned Tactical Console. Some habits never die, do they? Keogh thought, giving himself a short respite. This was a dangerous game, a game of risk, but a game nevertheless. And Keogh was a champion at the game of war. An explorer by heart, a solider by necessity. This was the formula which made the best of the Federation's tacticians. “Captain, the Cardassian Galor warships are in range, all ships are signalling the ok.” Keogh's First Officer said in his concise military tone. Keogh stood upright, the adrenaline taking over. “Execute.” He ordered.
“Gul, three Federation starships are appearing from the far side of a planet!” Glinn Gared reported. “No change.” Darek ordered calmly. Gared open his mouth to protest, but remembered what had happened minutes beforehand, and closed his mouth again. The five Galor-class warships continued on a direct course to the now identified Starfleet vessel, the Odyssey. He knew that the manoeuvre left his rear flank extremely vulnerable to “Sir, Gul Maced of the Gromok reports that the Federation Galaxy-class starship Odyssey is attacking his ship.” Glinn Madec said. Madec looked down at his panel. “Gul Maced reports that the Gromok is sustaining heavy damage.”
“It's time, Glinn.” Darek said.
Another explosion came from the Gromok as the Odyssey fired another skillful shot. Captain Keogh watched as this time the Cardassian warship was torn apart. The remaining four Cardassian ships continued to bear down on the Odyssey, seeming not to notice the three Starfleet ships moving in from behind. Wait a minute! Keogh thought. The Starfleet ships were close enough for any ship to detect them, and still the Galor warships ignored them like they were not there. “Full reverse!” Keogh shouted to the CONN Officer as he realised it was a trap. Sure enough, his confused First Officer reported “Captain, I'm detecting five Cardassian Galor-class warships coming from beneath us!”
It was an old tactic, but one seldom used. For many tacticians, it was easy to forget the three dimensions of space and fight as if on a two dimensional battlefield. Darek kept this fact at the back of his mind at all times. It was elementary but was as deadly as using a subspace phenomena to obscure one's approach as effectively as a force field. “Glinn Madec,” Darek began. “Encode to the four Galor-class warships under attack, open fire on the three flanking ships. Encode to the second task force to concentrate fire on the Odyssey's underbelly. He was soon to discover if the Obsidian Order report was true about Galaxy-class starships having far weaker shielding beneath them then above. He watched as the Galor-class warships identified the Odyssey's support: A Miranda class, an Excelsior class, and a New Orleans class. The cards had been played, now it was in the hands of the starship commanders, trying to make sense of the confusion. As in all battles, nothing went as planned, for either party. ”Gul Ocatt of the Varnor reports the destruction of the Starfleet New Orleans-class vessel.“ Glinn Madec reported. ”I have lost contact with the Kornol." Glinn Madec continued as new information came through his console.
An explosion shook the Odyssey. “Lower shields are offline!” The First Officer, reported, bracing himself as another impact rocked the ship. Dead littered the bridge, consoles smashed and equipment scattered. As much as he hated to do it, Keogh knew what he had to do next. “Plot a course for Deep Space Four, maximum warp.” He said, his voice heavy. Equally depressed, his First Officer gently pushed aside the limp body of the CONN Officer and plotted the course.
“Gul, the Odyssey is retreating from the system.” Glinn Gared reported. “Glinn Madec, order the ships attacking the Odyssey to attack the remaining Starfleet vessels.” The Glinn was confused, but this was only because he did not know that Galaxy-class starships where faster than Galor-class warships. Outnumbered and outgunned, the two remaining Federation vessels pulled up, looking for an escape. Darek watched with stratification as their symbols winked out.
The first offensive battle Darek commanded was a success. But to follow up this success would not be easy. Many of the other offences engineered by Central Command due to Gul Macet's excellent defence had ended in failure. He had just discussed the possibility of pulling back and reforming his defensive line. Legate Danor had dismissed the idea immediately, insisting he continued to press the Federation. So he was doing so. Galor-class warships were preparing to guard convoys carrying soldiers of the Third Order's First Battalion to secure the Federation planets. Plans were being made for an assault on the Federation's only outpost in the sector. Darek even pondered this as he strolled down the Promenade. Darek entered Ontak's, a restaurant on Uptok Nor's Promenade at about the same place Quark's was on Terok Nor. The busy centre of commerce suddenly hushed. Nervous civilians and officers alike looked up at the commanding officer of the Third Order. Pleased with his effect, Darek walked deeper into the room. He was given a wide berth. Pale and trembling, Ontak, the short chubby Cardassian who owned the establishment walked over to Darek, trembling. “Eh, um, Is there anything, eh, I can get you uh, Gul?” Ontak asked in panic. Darek stood there, and watched to his delight as Ontak shrivelled up under his gaze. Finally, Darek said “One glass of kanar.” He made his officers vacate a table in the centre of the restaurant, and his eyes darted to and fro, making everyone feel uneasy. Ontak cursed his luck, Darek was scaring away the customers and the bartenders. And so Darek relaxed in his favorite of pass times, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, but that he would face it with brutality and a stern resolve.