“Ah, Gul Elam Darek.” Legate Danor said. The young but distinctly efficient Cardassian Commander stood at the Legate’s desk. “Legate.” He said.
“Due to your ... special service to Cardassia, I am hereby assigning you command of the Third Order.” Darek knew quite well what “special service” Legate Danor was referring to. The “unfortunate accident” of a certain Obsidian Order member, coincidentally in the best interests of Central Command. Darek was the model Cardassian, ruthless and corruptible, his paranoia and tactical abilities present in every move. Right now, he stood rigidly to attention. “Report to Uptok Nor, the command centre of the Third Order, by tomorrow, Gul.”
“Yes sir.” Darek said, flatly but with a military tone.
“That will be all. Dismissed.” Legate Danor said. Giving him a Cardassian salute, Darek turned and left.
Darek entered the bridge of his Galor-class warship, the Praklar. His crew rigidly stood to attention. He eyed each one carefully, looking for any sign of deception. “Glinn Gamor.” He snapped. Gamor gulped and turned pale. Good. Darek thought. Nice to see the old edge hasn’t worn. “Set course for Uptok Nor, maximum warp.”
“Yes sir.” Gamor said, and he turned around and plotted the course.
“That will be all.” Darek said, and he noticed that suddenly his crew took enormous interest in their computer panels. Darek turned and left, into his office, where he took an overview of each ship in the Third Order. Though he would not formally take command until he arrived at Uptok Nor, he was already making adjustments to the ships’ patrol duties.
Darek came out of the airlock into Uptok Nor, and Cardassian command staff stood rigidly to attention. They were not the crew of the Praklar, so they did not know him, but soon they would know and fear him. He eyed each one. At the moment, they did not seem to be a threat to him, but he knew, sooner or later, they would. And thence he left them, strolling through the Promenade of the Nor-class station. Unlike Terok Nor, a station in place only for mining, Uptok Nor was the command centre of an entire order, and was bustling with Cardassian officers taking some time off, civilians earning a living, not to mention multiple defence perimeters and at least three Galor-class warships stationed here at all times to make it the space equivalent of a floating fortress. Darek finally, through the dim lit hallways of the station, found his office. He sat down and began his analysis of the Third Order, ordering and re-ordering the ships into different formations. The Federation were out there, just beyond the Third Order’s patrol zone, and they where bound to attack.
Three days after assuming command of the Third Order, Darek sat in his office, going over files. He had recently passed an order that officers in the Third Order must make regular transferences from one ship to another, including the station’s complement. This was an idea mainly to make sure that the officers were near strangers to each other, moving from ship to ship so quickly they could never make friends or alliances, which meant he could tighten his grip on control. The idea had been applauded by Central Command, a new way of keeping junior officers in line. “Gul.” A Glinn said. Darek looked up. “What is it, Glinn Macan?” He asked.
“We are receiving a report from the Traglesh, sir. She is under attack.” Darek knew that this was the time to prove his tactical abilities. Darek stood and walked out of his office into Ops. The crew rigidly straitened. Already the legendary Darek discipline was getting to them. Darek walked down into their ranks, which made most of them flinch, and took a central, commanding position, so he could keep his eye on them as well as the screen. “Tactical display.” He snapped.
“Display activated sir.” Glinn Tarak said from the Operations Panel. The screen flickered to show an overhead tactical view of the Third Order. At the top of the screen was the Traglesh, one of the Third Order’s Galor-class warships, patrolling the brink of the Third Order’s zone. There were three Federation vessels attacking the Traglesh.
“Glinn Macan, encode to Gul Jarek of the Traglesh: I.D. Federation vessels.”
“Yes sir. Jarek is sending us the I.D. of the Federation vessels now.” The standard Starfleet symbols changed to three classes: One Miranda-class vessel, one Constellation-class vessel, and the ship which was obviously in charge, one Nebula-class vessel. “Glinn Macan, encode to Gul Jarek of the Traglesh, retreat to Traven IV. Encode to Gul Evok of the Ranok and Gul Rakan of the Kornol, to flank Federation task force.”
“Yes sir. The Traglesh is retreating, the Starfleet Miranda class is pursuing.” Darek looked at the screen thoughtfully. With the Ranok and Kornol moving in flank the Federation task force, there seemed to be a hole in the Cardassian defences, which was exactly what Darek wanted the Starfleet Commanders to think. “Glinn Macan, encode to Gul Jarek of the Traglesh, to alter course for Traven III.”
“Yes sir. Sir, Gul Evok and Gul Rakan report that they are in position and await further orders.”
“Have them attack the Federation vessels, but after a few shots, retreat to the Traven System.”
“Sir?” Darek whipped around.
“Don’t you ever question my orders, Glinn, or I will personally interrogate you on the basis of being a traitor! Is that understood?” Macan paled from the greyish skin standard of Cardassians to a very white indeed. “Un-understood sir.” He gibbered. Darek was pleased to notice this display had given all the Ops personnel sudden interest in their computer panels. He could see the hairs prick at the back of their necks, and a few of the younger and recently assigned Glinns broke a sweat.
“Transmitting orders sir.” The ships moved into attack.
“Sir, the Traglesh is reading two Federation ships off her starboard bow! Nebula and Constellation Class!” Macan said.
“What?” Darek said. It suddenly clicked. “The ships the Kornol and Ranok are attacking are decoys! Emergency orders to Kornol and Ranok, fall back to Traven System!” Darek scanned the screen with his eyes, to spot the nearest other Cardassian ship. “Order Gul Ocatt of the Varnor to the Traven System.”
“Yes sir.” As the Federation task force moved in for the kill, it was flanked by the two Cardassian ships to the north and east as they moved in.
“Gul, I have lost contact with the Traglesh.” Macan said. “The Kornol and Ranok have moved into weapons range.”
“Order them to perform continuous evasive patterns and open fire every time they get a clear hit.”
“Yes sir.” The ships from both sides preformed a dangerous ballet through the endless bounds of space. Flanking and counter-flanking, misinforming and counter-misinforming. And none of the commanders, be he Starfleet or Cardassian, was an easy adversary in this most complex of battlefields.
“Gul, the Starfleet Constellation-class vessel has been destroyed. Gul Rakan reports that the Kornol is disabled. And Gul Ocatt reports that the Varnor has entered the system.”
“Glinn Macan, encode to Gul Ocatt: Have the Varnor attack the Nebula-class ship. The Varnor is fresh, she is better prepared to attack that thing. And Glinn, encode to Gul Evok of the Ranok to attack the Miranda-class ship.”
“Yes sir.” The screen flickered slowly. Underneath the symbols for each ship was the ship’s status, and sometimes torpedoes and phaser fire was reported. The battle was intensifying. After a while, Glinn Macan made a report. “The Miranda-class vessel is destroyed. Gul Ocatt has informed us that the commander of the Nebula class wishes to discuss terms of surrender.”
“Tell Ocatt to patch it into Uptok Nor’s main viewer.” The screen of the Cardassian station changed from the tactical readouts to the battered bridge of a Nebula-class ship. Many lied dead at their consoles, and the bridge was a mess of equipment. In the centre seat was the commander of the federation vessel. Battered, and with a cut running down her face, desperate but determined. The face of the mind Darek had faced, and won against.
“This is Captain Sandra Williams of the USS Wyoming.” The Captain said.
“Gul Darek of the Third Order. Power down all weapons and defensive systems Captain, and prepare to be boarded. Your vessel will be taken to Cardassia Prime, where you will stand trial as prisoners of war. Any attempt at resistance or no co-operation, and my ships will open fire.” Before Williams could get a single word in, Darek finished with “Gul Darek out.”
“Glinn Macan, encode to Gul Evok of the Ranok, lower shields and board the Nebula-class ship.”
“Yes sir. Sir!”
“The moment the Ranok’s shields came down, the Nebula-class ship fired upon them! They have been disabled!”
“Glinn, encode to Gul Ocatt of the Varnor, retreat to Traven VII.” After a moment of deliberation, Darek said: “Glinn Tarak, prepare the Praklar for my arrival, and transfer tactical control of the Third Order to that ship. I’m going out there. Have the Gromok reinforce the station in the Praklar’s place.”
“Yes sir.” Glinn Tarak replied.
Back on his old ship. He had commanded the Praklar for three years, and in that time the ship had served him well. He entered the bridge. There was many new faces which had not been there when he was on the ship last, in fact he recognised none of the old crew. Which was good. His continuous reassignment program was proceeding on schedule. But he knew them by name. He took the liberty of reading the personnel files of all the senior officers of the Third Order, since any of them could be a threat. “Glinn Karnak, set a course for the Varnor, maximum warp, and call up Third Order tactical display.” Darek ordered.
“Yes sir.” Karnak responded. The ship’s viewer, which was smaller than Uptok Nor’s, flashed to show the overhead fleet positions. “Sir, I am getting a report from Gul Ocatt of the Varnor. The Nebula-class vessel has engaged them.” Karnak reported.
“Order them to hold their ground, Glinn.”
“Dropping out of warp.”
“Switch from tactical display to visual, Glinn Karnak.”
“Yes sir.” The screen then showed the Wyoming, bearing down on the Varnor at remarkable speed, cutting it to pieces.
“Target their bridge, Karnak, all weapons and open fire!”
“Yes sir.” The Praklar, the flagship of the Third Order, then let out a barrage of torpedoes, hitting the Nebula ship so hard she was disabled.
“Karnak, signal to Gul Ocatt to continue to fire at the Nebula-class vessel. Continue to fire ourselves each time weapons are loaded.”
“Yes sir.” After heavy bombardment, the Wyoming exploded, and Gul Darek’s first fleet command mission was over.
“Gul, the Kornol, Ranok and Varnor report their repairs completed.” Glinn Macan said. “Good. I hear you will be joining the crew of the Ranok?”
“Yes sir, as per your orders.” Darek grimly smiled. It was another advantage of continuous reassigment, if he didn’t like someone they would soon be gone. He really pitied Evok for having to endure Macan for the next few days. “Gul.” Karnak, who had been reassigned to Uptok Nor in Macan’s place, said. “Legate Danor is congratulating you on your victory. He reports that Sandra Williams was one of the Federation’s best tacticians.” Remembering her cunning ploys, Darek said:
“I don’t doubt it.” She nearly defeated him, but he learned quickly. And now he was the most dangerous man in the sector.