The Third Order: “Changing Times” (Seventh in the Series)

By Hadrian McKeggan

Published May 10, 2001

Darek flew into a rage, and stormed out of what was once his office into Operations.

“Glinn Omar!” He shouted at the young officer. Omar turned to him, absolutely petrified at the sound of Darek shouting. “Order the fleet —”

“Belay that order.” Daned barked, walking out of his office. Darek whirled around to him, fury in his eyes, barely restraining himself from choking Daned to death there and then. “Must I relive you of command of the Praklar as well, Gul Darek?” Legate Danor said, following Daned out of his office. Daned and Danor stood side by side, eyeing Darek. Daned was the officer Darek had always feared, and had worked so hard to stifle. Danor knew that Darek reduced his officers to gutless yes-men through his brutal discipline, so he chose someone from outside the ranks of the Third Order to replace him. Darek gave Daned a cold, unnerving look, but Daned returned it equally. Daned was the exact type of officer Darek had worked so hard to purge from the Third Order. The Glinns exchanged concerned looks at the intense, and yet silent, standoff. “Status report.” Daned ordered at last, breaking the ice. Omar took a look at Darek, and then looked back at Daned. “The fleet is maintaining its ordered positions sir. Communication has been cut off from the three occupied worlds, which we believe to be under bombardment.” Omar reported. Daned walked towards Omar, but Darek blocked his path. Without a word, Daned merely walked around him, and to Omar. “Well done, Omar.” He said as he approached the Glinn. He is supportive of his inferiors. Darek thought. How pathetic.

“When can the Praklar be expected to return to full battle duty?” Daned then asked Darek. “Soon.” Darek snapped, and turned to leave. As he stepped onto the elevator shaft, Daned insisted “Gul, I need specifics.”

“You’ll have them when I have them.” Darek said as his face disappeared from view. The tension broke at last, and Danor retired to Daned’s office while Daned turned to the people who were now his officers.

In a barely concealed rage, Darek stormed through the Promenade. A very wide berth was given for the maddened Gul as civilians and officers alike edged against the walls in terror. Darek could not belive it. His command was gone. His career stinted in disgrace. He stormed into Torol’s bar. Instant silence. His feet padded against the metal floor, his face that of intense anger which could snap at any moment. The lean barkeeper called Torol approached Darek, wearing a façade of calm but inside he was terrified. “Is there something I can get you, sir?” Torol asked, straining his voice so there would not be a crack. “Kanar.” Darek ordered. “Now.” Torol jumped under the table and grabbed the nearest bottle of kanar, throwing it up onto the table. The glass smashed in Torol’s hands. The barkeep fell, bleeding, but Darek fell on top of him, releasing all his anger on the unfortunate barkeeper, jumping over the counter and clasping his hands on Torol’s neck. In moments, the place erupted into a brawl, as the customers threw themselves at each other in total chaos. Smashed bottles, even chairs, went flying through the bar, smashing into any target available. Darek lurched up from a barely alive Torol, to find two Cardassians struggling next to him. One was pushed by the other in his direction. Darek grabbed the unlucky Cardassian by his hair and threw him in the direction of the other. Both toppled over. Darek was shot down by a phaser as the security teams filed in to put an end to the brawl.

Darek’s eyes fluttered open. He immediately stood upright and groped for his gun. It wasn’t there. Darek saw two guards standing by at the corner of the room. One of them hit his combadge. “Sir, he’s awake.”

“On my way.” Came the filtered reply. Gul Daned. Darek sat back down onto the ledge and stared at each guard in turn. They knew they were protected by the lethal force field, but this didn’t give them any reassurance with a glare like that. One of the guards began to whimper when Daned came in. “I want an explanation for this.” Daned barked at Darek. Their eyes locked, deadly gaze returning deadly gaze. Daned walked towards him, until only a short space and a lethal shield was between the two Cardassians. “Explain this!” Daned shouted again. Not even flinching, Darek eased against the wall, relaxed. He folded his hands. “This undisciplined act of barbar—”

“What do you know of discipline, Daned?” Darek interrupted. “You most certainly show your officers no discipline, what effect did you expect?” Daned stopped himself and revaluated. Whatever had possessed Darek to do what he did, it had died down now. “I respect my officers—”

Respect.” Darek scoffed. “What good does that do for you? Sweet words and a knife in the back.”

“Is this the reason you started this brawl? That you see conspiracies everywhere?” Daned asked angrily. Darek sat up, confident in his opinion. “I don’t see conspiracies everywhere, Daned. I see the potential for them. You treat your officers nice, and they get lenient. You give them free berth, and they get ambitious. And then the alliances form and the conspiracies follow. To stay in charge, you cut it off at the roots. It’s all about control, control in every and all aspects. Give them no quarter for error or mistake. Give them no options, and keep them apart, distrustful of each other and afraid of you. Break their self-confidence like you would an eggshell. And then, and only then, are you in control.”

“Then you are truly mad.” Daned responded.

“No. You simply cannot see.” Darek bit back. Daned sighed and rubbed his temples. He was tired of this debate. “In other circumstances, Gul, I would drill you out of the service on the spot. But at the moment, I need you.” Daned turned to the guards, and motioned for them to come over. Daned turned back to Darek. “Return to your ship and supervise the repairs.” He finished as one of the guards punched in the combination code, and the forcefield fell. Darek stood, and the guards hastily backed away as he left. But he left in a more reserved and methodical way more common of Gul Elam Darek. He had been demoted, his career stunted, but the anger had left. All that remained was to pick up the pieces and start again. For Darek never surrendered.

Gul Elam Darek stepped through the airlock and onto the Praklar. Glinn Ranad approached him. “Still on board?” Darek asked, as if it was an accusation. “You should have been reassigned by now.” Ranad gulped. He knew what he was about to say would not be received well. “Gul Daned has terminated your standing order of continuous reassignment, sir.” Ranad replied. Darek gave Ranad a sharp look, not because of the news, but he needed to keep his regime of strict discipline, even if it was only on his ship. This new commander sounds stupider by the minute, Darek thought. Darek began walking towards his office, motioning for Ranad to follow. He ducked slightly to avoid venting gas as engineers repaired the damage to a conduit in the corridor. “Status report on the repairs, Glinn Ranad.” He ordered.

“Engineers from the station have been assigned for work on the outer hull, sir, and are assisting our engineers on the interiors. We estimate one week until the Praklar reaches full battle readiness.” Ranad reported. Darek tilted his head in conformation.

“Have the teams focus on the weapons systems first, Glinn Ranad.” He commanded, as he turned a corner and got to the doors of his office. Ranad departed with his new orders. Darek pressed a button, and the doors of his office opened. He immediately felt nostalgia as he entered the small, cramped and confined, but adequate office of the Praklar. His finger traced through the thick layer of dust collecting on the table. It was just as he remembered. He sat down in his chair, and turned on the monitor, and began over viewing his ship’s efficiency. He skimmed through reports, and at the same time analysed the Federation offensive. He may no longer be the commander of the Third Order, but that didn’t stop him from knowing what was going on.

And as Darek monitored his repairs, a former nemesis of his was doing the same. Captain Keogh read over the repair reports silently in his ready room while the grandeur USS Odyssey majestically rested in the confines of Spacedock. Engineers floated around her scarred hull, painstakingly repairing the ship which had seen more action then it could take in the past few weeks. According to these estimates, it would only be a day or two before the Odyssey was repaired. The screen to the left of him bleeped. He looked up at it. He was being hailed by the commanding officer of the Starbase. Keogh raised a curious eyebrow and hit the panel. The face of Admiral Hanson appeared. “Admiral Hanson, what can I do for you?” Keogh asked. Keogh read the face of the Admiral and instantly knew it was not good news. “As soon as the repairs of the Odyssey are complete, Captain, you are ordered to assume command of Captain Raymond’s offensive force.” Hanson replied.

“Admiral, I have specifically requested —”

“Yes, I know that.” Hanson interrupted. “But the war with the Cardassians has entered a crucial phase, and you are the best man for the job.” Keogh looked up at the Admiral. “I don’t have a choice, do I?” He said with resignation.

“That you don’t, Captain. Admiral Hanson out.” A quick jab by the Admiral severed the link. Keogh turned back to his table and rubbed his temples. He had had enough of war. But war hadn’t had enough of him.

The elevator shaft stopped. The Glinns turned gave merely a passing glance as Gul Darek walked through Ops to his — no, Daned’s Office. Legate Danor and Daned were deep in a discussion, but Darek knew what he had to say could not wait. He hit the panel, and the door opened. Darek stepped into the office with resolve, making his way towards the table. Danor saw him first. “Yes Gul, what is so important as to intrude?” Danor asked tiredly. Darek placed a PADD on the table.

“My evaluation of the situation and suggested tactical moves.” He responded. Daned looked at them. “I didn’t ask for this!”

“Well, now you have it. I advise you abide by it if any of the Third Order is to survive in one piece.” Darek turned to leave.

“And this coming from the man who gave us our most recent defeat.” Legate Danor said. Darek halted, and turned around.

“You were the one who was responsible for that defeat, Legate, not I.”

“Oh?” Danor said sarcastically.

“If you had not insisted on no retreats, we would still be on top of the situation.”

“Retreats don’t sound like a winning strategy to me, Gul.” Daned interjected.

“Part of being a successful tactician is knowing when to advance and when to retreat, Gul. You should know that.”

“Retreating is nothing more than an admittance of defeat.” Daned responded.

“Not always. If utilised properly, you can trick your enemy into overreaching, or to establish a firmer and more inflexible defence. Pay heed to my advice, Daned, or the Third Order may most surely be destroyed.” With that, Darek left. Hesitant, Daned picked up the PADD.

“Are you actually going to read that?” Danor asked.

“Some of it may prove useful, Legate.” Daned offered in his own defense. Danor let him read. He knew Darek was right in his assessment, but someone else had to take the blame, and the only other person he could pinpoint was Darek. Danor contemplated and considered this as Daned scrolled through Darek’s lengthy analysis.

Gul Malec opened his eyes. He immediately shielded himself from a bright light, and he looked around. He was in some sort of alien medical facility, at least judging by the fact his wounds where healed and the pain was gone. And judging from the bright light, the cold air, and most of all a few damned humans standing around him, he was on a Federation starship. Malec lurched upright, and stood. He was still wearing his Cardassian uniform; at least the human bastards had given him that dignity. Of the many humans standing around, one of them stepped forward. “I’m Captain Raymond. You are onboard the Federation Starship Tecumseh.” A lean, militaristic dark-skinned man told him. Malec saw a slight shimmering. “Forcefield.” He commented. “You Federation types aren’t as foolish as I thought.” Raymond decided to cut to the chase. “Gul Malec, I want information, you have it. Start talking or I’ll interrogate you.” Malec was slightly startled at first by the use of his name, but he brushed it aside. The Federation must have some intelligence records, even if they aren’t advanced or as accurate as the Obsidian Order. At last, a thin smile spread across Malec’s face. “I’ve seen what you call ’interrogation,’ Human.” He said mockingly. “Do your worst.” Raymond looked as if he expected that response, but not just expecting, but looking forward to it. “I will, Malec. I will.” Raymond responded.

Darek was examining the latest repair reports in his office on the Praklar, when a metallic Cardassian beep sounded at the door. “Come in.” He said, still staring at his monitor. The door swished aside, and Gul Daned entered. “Gul Darek, I have considered your advice and deemed it to be worthwhile.” Daned said, almost like a confession. Darek looked up. “You’re not as stupid as I thought.” Darek responded, swivelling his chair to face Daned. “I am open to any ... suggestions you may have in the future, Gul.” Daned said as he left. Darek turned his chair to his window, looking as a transport docked with the station. That transport was Legate Danor’s ticket home, and the same transport was carrying the new Obsidian attaché to replace the deceased Ziral. As he watched the ship clamped down, Darek wondered if he was still on the Obsidian Order hit list. He thought he was, because the Obsidian Order still knew of his danger to them. Times Change, Darek thought, but that is what makes life ... interesting.