The Third Order: “Conventions of War” (Fourth in the Series)
By Hadrian McKeggan
Published March 25, 2001
Darek looked over his tactical readout again from his office. And again. His analytical mind exploring every possibility without end. His badge beeped.
“Gul, the commander of the First Battalion is here to see you now.” Glinn Taced said over the commlink. “Send him in.” Darek ordered sternly, regretting the fact that he did not have visual communication so he could make Taced uneasy. The doors swished aside, and the two more fearsome minds of the Third Order met. Gul Malec, commander First Battalion, Third Order, was a veteran from Setlik III, famed for shooting one in every ten of his officers to inspire fear. Malec's only remaining emotions were primal. Violence, revenge, lust. Darek stared at Malec for a long hard time. Malec didn't even flinch. Darek was concerned. Malec was the exact type of officer which could be a threat to him. He needed to inspire fear. Terrible fear. Indeed, he would kill Malec there and then had the situation been better. But Malec knew how to handle his troops, and Darek needed this general. At least, for the moment. “Gul, your targets are three total Class-M worlds of these systems.” Darek said icily, pointing to the three nearest systems to the Third Order's normal patrol zone. “Mobilise your forces for departure immediately. Each of the three convoys will have two Galor-class warships as escorts.” Darek said bluntly, disturbed that his stare at the man did not waver him, but he spoke with a loosely veiled “win or else” tone. A pause. “You may now make any suggestions you have.”
“I require more Galor-class warships.” Gul Malec said simply.
“Denied.” Gul Darek responded. Malec's cool demeanour began to boil.
“I will have those Gal - ” Malec stuttered and broke off. Darek was boring down on him with a far more ruthless look now, and Malec noticed something pressing against his neck. Feeling the blood trickle slightly from his veins, he knew it was a knife.
“You will follow my orders, Gul, or you will die right now.” Darek said, still extremely calm and sharp, but it was obvious he was enjoying himself immensely. Malec was stunned. He had heard of Darek's brutality from the members of his battalion who served as security chief of Uptok Nor, but he had expected Darek to be as lenient as the last commander of the Third Order, who was quite a push over. Apparently, it was not the case. Malec quickly recovered his composure, but that brief second of terror was enough to satisfy Darek. “I accept.” Malec said with a sneer he didn't really feel, and backing away from the knife he stormed out.
Darek studied his console. To the untrained eye, it seemed Cardassian victory was assured. To Darek, it was indeed, but only a Phyrric victory. The other fronts told a grim tale. The Federation was advancing on all fronts, and even if Darek's warships pierced through the lines to Earth itself, it could not change that. Perhaps, if he could draw back his fleet he could hold out indefinitely. But this would destroy his career. And Darek but his career above all things.
“Gul,” Taced said over the com. “The Third Convoy is away. Primary Task Force moving in for Deep Space Four.”
“Received.” Darek said. Taced was quite a smart officer. He seemed to be avoiding direct contact with Darek whenever possible. Darek strolled out of his office, and before doing anything else, simply stared at Glinn Taced. Taced began to quiver uncontrollably. It wasn't until he broke a sweat, dreading his superior's next move that Darek suddenly and abruptly sifted his eyes to the viewscreen. “Time to intercept of Deep Space Four?” He asked Tamar.
“Four minutes.” Tamar replied. Darek walked down into the center of Ops, flashing a warning glance at all officers on duty, and watched the screen intently, not seeming to even blink.
Repair crews floated through space, painstakingly repairing the battered and worn Odyssey. Captain Keogh grimly looked over the report of the dead for the third time. He still couldn't find the words to console the countless families who hand this loss. His sombre musing was interrupted when his First Officer saw the unmanned science station bleep. One of the repair engineers went for it but the First Officer got there first. Keogh had to force back a smile, his First Officer thought he could run the whole damn ship on his own. “Well?” He asked.
“Six Galor-class warships dropping out of warp sir.” Keogh rubbed his forehead as the wave of déjà vu enveloped him. His ship was too damaged to be of use yet, so he immediately got all ships to converge on this point, and began forming his strategy. When it came to war, Keogh was an on-your-feet tactician, forming battle plans in the heat of combat.
And Darek knew this all too well. “Gul, the Primary Task Force have dropped out of warp.” Glinn Taced reported. “Glinn, encode to the force to spilt up as ordered.” Darek said. “Yes sir.” Glinn Taced responded. Two Galor-class warships broke formation and did a series of complex manoeuvres and strafing, occasionally lancing a shot at Deep Space Four. Another three circled the station, releasing devastating barrages at each weak spot. And the final Galor-class warship went for the Odyssey.
Darek watched from his two dimensional screen as his warships skilfully weaved circles around the Federation station. “Gul, the third troop convoy is under attack!” Glinn Taced reported urgently. Darek only smiled.
Gul Malec looked around, urgent as a blast hit the troop transport he was in. “Report!” He ordered Glinn Entak. “Three Starfleet vessels, dropping out of warp.” Entak responded. Malec cursed Darek for not giving him more ships, and his transport shook again from enemy fire.
But the cavalry was on its way. Darek knew that the Federation would attack one of the convoys, most likely the third because by the third they would be well prepared. Hiding in a nebula not to far from the routes each convoy was using were three additional Galor-class warships if the need came. “Glinn Taced, signal to the nebula task force to assist the third convoy.” Gul Darek ordered. The three Cardassian ships struck forth from the Nebula like Mongolian hordes. The Federation ships, now outnumbered and outgunned, began to retreat, but were cut to pieces by the five Galor class warships with backup from the convoy.
But the key fight raged at Deep Space Four. Keogh desperately radioed for reinforcements as the hull of the Odyssey groaned under another impact. A slicing shot from Deep Space Four obliterated a Galor-class warship, but as another explosion erupted from the station it was obvious they were losing the battle. Then the shields collapsed. Keogh looked up grimly as explosions impacted on the stations surface. Starfleet was sending reinforcements, but Keogh had served long enough in the space service to know that they would not arrive on time.
Darek the weak spot this from his detailed analysis from Uptok Nor, and motioned to Glinn Taced. “Signal to all ships to punch through Deep Space Four's weak spot.” He ordered. Taced winced slightly, remembering his earlier encounter with the commander of the Third Order, and carried out his orders.
The Galor-class warship which was attacking Keogh suddenly veered off. “Do we have weapons yet?” Keogh asked his First Officer. His First Officer shook his head. Keogh watched, to his horror, as the Galor-class warships tightened formation and let loose an awesome barrage. The countless torpedoes and phaser shots carved into the station. “We have warp power resorted.” His First Officer said. Keogh fell into his chair, and weakly raised his hand, and said the only thing he could. “Plot a course for the nearest Starbase, maximum warp.” He said. The bridge was cold indeed as the Odyssey departed. Seconds later, the station exploded.
Darek watched the station explode with a grim satisfaction. It was more satisfying to watch your victim die, but then he decided the next best thing was to go over the casualty list and look into the eyes of the lives he had terminated. But he knew he did not have the time. Darek strolled to his office out of Ops, but as he did, he heard Taced breathe a sigh of relief. He flashed a grimace the Glinn's way as he exited, a reminder of just who was his superior. The terrified Glinn straightened to attention, much to Darek's delight. Darek walked into his office and collapsed onto his seat. Swivelling his seat around, he turned on the viewer, and contacted Legate Danor. Finally the Legate appeared onscreen.
“Ah Gul. I'm busy right now.”
“I have destroyed Deep Space Four.” Darek reported.
“I see that is a success. Hold your ground.” Danor said impatiently. It was obvious he was about to leave his office.
“I suggest otherwise, Legate.” Darek responded.
Danor looked up. “You will hold your ground Gul. At all costs!” He snapped.
“Do I make myself clear?” He asked, still monotone. Darek knew better than to question him. “You do.” He said simply. Once again, Darek knew that he would not be able to hold his ground, but he always put his career above all. “Good. Central Command out.” Danor said briefly, not wanting to delay the situation any further. Darek started out at the cold and merciless stars beyond his station, but only for a moment. He pulled up his data once again, and painstakingly studied his stratagem. He was, after all, Gul Elam Darek.