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Free at Last
Valo System: 2368
Worf was somewhat disappointed to learn that he would not get the opportunity to meet with the legendary Khan after his arrival at the seat of the Bajoran government in exile. It seemed the great man was currently out system on some mission of great importance. No matter, he thought to himself as he walked down the gangway that connected his flagship with the station. He was there to do battle, not to meet childhood heroes.
"Greetings, son of Mogh," the scarred part-Vulcan female waiting at the foot of the gangway said as he stepped onto the station. "I am T'Pera, first officer of the John Brown. I welcome you in the name of my captain."
"It is an honor," Worf stated in reply. It seemed he'd get the chance to meet one of his childhood heroes after all.
"My captain would state that the honor was his to get a chance to meet another willing to risk life in our struggle. Pleasantries out of the way, I must ask, do you intend to place your forces at our disposal or do you prefer to maintain separation?"
"The first," Worf stated certain, that there could be no greater place to gather honor than under the command of the Great Liberator, Khan the Peerless.
"We currently have two operations planned. One would present the opportunity to participate in a large fleet action, while the other would require much more independent action accompanied by a higher element of risk. Do you have a preference?"
"No commander worth his salt turns down a chance to be out from under higher authority and no Klingon worthy of his house runs from danger."
"Are you able to attend a meeting immediately or do you have other pressing business you must attend to today?"
"I have placed myself at your disposal. My time is yours to do with as you wish."
A sharp nod summoned a uniformed Bajoran. "Petty Officer Ren will lead you to the conference room where the other captains will meet you. Live long and prosper, Captain Worf."
"It was an honor, First Officer T'Pera."
Worf glanced down the corridor to where the other captains in his task force had gathered while they waited for him to finish his conversation and motioned for them to join him. Quickly briefing them on the parts of the conversation that were relevant to them before turning to his assigned guide.
"We are ready to go to the conference room, Petty Officer Ren."
"This way, Captains."
Out of habit, Worf carefully memorized the path from his ship's mooring through the maze of corridors to the meeting room.
"Is there anything else you or your fellow captains require, sir?"
"That will be all," Worf replied. With a heart full of eagerness, the Klingon stepped through the automatic doors and into the conference room.
His group was the first to arrive and after a moment of careful consideration, he choose a seat them around a portion of the table that offered a good view of the entrance but not the best field of fire. It showed willingness to subordinate themselves to a more senior person coupled with unwillingness to be at the bottom of the heap. A good compromise he decided.
It wasn't long before the doors slid open to admit another Klingon, one several years older than himself if the grey on his temples was any indication, and accompanied by a mixed group of mostly Klingons in a motley array of costumes, most of which bore the sigils of Houses Dis and Singh.
"I am Worf, son of Mogh son of Worf," he introduced himself to the other man.
"Fnord, son of my father Knurd, son of Fnord, and my mother Doran, daughter of Legendary Khan the Unkillable. We are waiting for my kinswoman, Michelle daughter of Tara, daughter of Khan the Peerless. She should arrive soon."
"I have heard of you, your father, and your mother. It is an honor to have a chance to fight by your side," Worf replied, pleased at the chance to be in the company of such warriors of renown. Should they live through the next few months, he had the feeling that his captains and crews would be able to accumulate stories of the sort that would ensure they would never need pay for their own drinks in any port. Should they perish, they'd pass into legend, their example providing tales to nourish and inspire a hundred generations of warriors. It was a heady feeling.
"The honor is ours," Fnord stated. "Long has your house been allied with my father's. Long was your namesake a friend of my esteemed grandfather." He nodded to the Cardassian male on his right. "This is my second, Captain Bendras of House Singh." The older man nodded to the Klingon female on his right. "His wife, my third, Captain Melota, daughter of Kurrivis."
"My second," Worf nodded to an elderly Klingon male. "Captain Keth of House D'jon. My third." This time a middle-aged female. "And my kinswoman Captain Lursa of House Martok."
Just as the two senior captains spent the next few moments introducing the junior captains, the doors slid apart again to reveal a human female of indeterminate age shadowed by another motley group of starship captains. "I am Michelle Singh, of Clan Singh, captain of the James T. Kirk, daughter of Tara daughter of Great Khan, the Liberator."
"Kinswoman, it is my honor to inform you that this is Worf, son of Mogh son of Worf," Fnord announced. The man then introduced each of the captains in the room to the others.
"I had the honor of meeting your grandfather," Michelle stated, turning back to Worf. "He was a good man. He died a warrior's death."
"In his moment of triumph, secure in the knowledge that his enemies were dead and his House was ascending," Fnord agreed. "Few are half as fortunate."
"That my father thought so highly of me that I received my grandfather's name has always been a source of pride," Worf replied with undisguised pleasure.
"As it should be," Michelle said. "Have you been briefed on what we're to accomplish?"
"I have not," Worf stated.
"The plan is a bit of a departure from how we normally operate," Michelle began. "The normal objective is to effect as many rescues as possible. This time the objective is to cause as much damage to Cardassian interests as we possibly can before we're forced to return to base." She transmitted the data to each of her fellow captains' padds. "I have here a list of possible targets. I propose we go through it, taking turns selecting which ones we'd like for ourselves."
"As our newest volunteers, please take the privilege of making the first selection," Fnord nodded to the other Klingon.
"Thank you." Worf's eyes flicked to the pad for a few moments. "The shipyard."
Fnord nodded to his cousin who nodded back, signaling that he should make the next selection. "The convoy to Minos VII."
"The base on Yavin IV." Michelle gave the other two a cold grin. One by one, the captains came forward in turn to select their targets until none remained.
"Captains!" Michelle raised her voice. "Let's set the Union ablaze!"
"QAPLA'!" the assembled captains roared in approval.
Khan relaxed in his chair as around him the crew held their breaths in nervous anticipation, wondering if their mission would be compromised before it had a chance to begin.
"Status of the unknown ship?" he asked calmly.
"Looks to be one of the new Akira-class ships," the crewman manning the freighter's primitive sensors reported. "Can't say for sure with what I have to work with, Captain."
"Orders, sir?" the helmsman asked.
"Maintain course, pretend we haven't noticed them," Khan ordered. "Pretend we're scouting out a prison world in Cardassian space. Act normal and they will perceive us as normal."
"They're hailing us, sir," the communications officer reported.
"Let the computer give an automated reply," Khan replied. "Federation crews expect a certain amount of slackness from their merchant counterparts."
"We'll give it…six or seven minutes before we put a person on the line, audio only," he continued. "I'd say that would give enough time for the alarm to wake up the officer of the watch and get them to the communication console."
"Understood, sir. What should I say?"
"Same thing we rehearsed," Khan said patiently. "We're a merchant ship headed to Cardassian space to deliver a load of manufactured goods from Archibald II."
"And we refuse to agree to any searches for contraband," the man agreed. "Sorry, sir. It shouldn't feel any different from dealing with the Cardassians but it does somehow."
"The Federation ship is changing course," the crewman gave an update.
"Not…exactly, sir. Looks like they're setting things up to make things easier on themselves if we decide to run and they decide to chase us."
"Alright," Khan agreed. "Time since they began hailing?"
"Six minutes, thirty five seconds, sir," Communications replied.
"Answer them, sound as tired as you can and somewhat annoyed that they were inconsiderate enough to ruin your nap."
"This is the Candlestick Maker out of New New Aberdeen." He yawned loudly. "What can I do for you?"
"This is Captain Forester of the USS Geneva," the woman's voice sounded tinny over their low quality communication system. "Are you aware that your present course will take you into Cardassian-controlled space?"
Khan called up the woman's file and began reading as his communications officer replied. "We are. What's your point?"
"What is the nature of your cargo?"
"You are aware that there is an embargo on the export of non-humanitarian material to Cardassian space," the Captain's voice said sounding eager.
"Again, what's your point?"
"My point is that I would like you to allow me to conduct an inspection of your cargo to confirm that you aren't about to inadvertently violate the embargo," the woman's voice sounded smug. "Please cease acceleration and lower your shields."
"I'm going to need to talk to the captain about this," Communications said, sounding resigned. "Hang on." The officer muted the channel.
"Ten minutes and then inform them that the embargo order only applies to Federation-flagged vessels. Point out that we are not and state that the captain refuses to grant permission to inspect the cargo as that would put us behind schedule. If they push, be more firm, get loud, get angry, use terms like 'illegal order, piracy, and diplomatic incident.' Cut channel and ignore them after that," Khan ordered.
Worf's smile was victorious despite the carnage surrounding his seat on the bridge. Blood-spattered walls and burned out consoles along with three shattered hulks that had only minutes before been three Galor class warships gave further evidence of the just how difficult fight they'd endured had been.
"Another Galor has just warped into the system, Captain," his third officer reported.
"Engineering!" Worf called out.
"Twenty minutes to get Warp, Captain."
"Status of the boarding parties?"
"They're still setting charges, sir," his second officer replied. "They state that they will be done in fifteen minutes."
"Tell them that they know their duty, that we will buy them the time they need, and that we will see them in Stovokor."
"Today is a good day to die, Captain," his second officer replied with an eager smile. "I've instructed the boarding team to exfiltrate if possible without endangering the mission. It would be a pity for our victory to be unknown on the home world."
"Fine," Worf replied. A grin split his face as he contemplated the upcoming fight. The last few minutes of his life promised to be glorious.
"Captain," the communication officer spoke up. "The new Cardassian ship is hailing us."
He took a moment to school his features. "On screen." A severe looking female with high, aristocratic cheekbones appeared on the view screen.
"Greetings, Captain, I am Glinn Dal Tulet speaking for Gul Lasaran, captain of the ship Axon. Let me congratulate you on your fight. Pulling off a victory against three larger ships is a notable accomplishment even with surprise on your side."
"You did not call to congratulate me," Worf stated flatly.
"I did not," the Cardassian agreed. "Had my ship been even an hour later, I have no doubt that you'd have repaired yourselves to the point that you could be a challenge, if you were still here at all. Still, the fortunes of war can be fickle, can they not? Our sensors report that your warp core is damaged, your disruptor banks inoperable. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. There is nothing you can do at this point but cause unnecessary death."
"Shields?!" Worf barked.
"Fifty percent, Captain," his tactical officer reported.
"It will have to do," Worf stated calmly. "Helm, set a course for the Cardassian ship. Ramming speed!"
"QAPLA'!" the bridge crew roared in approval. It truly was a good day to die.
"Think of your crew, Captain. We will burn through your shields and destroy your ship before you reach us."
"I would not be so cruel as to deny them an honorable death in favor of a life of dishonor as prisoners," Worf sneered. "Engineering!"
"We need only to get to within two thousand kilometers, Captain, after that we can breach the core and take them with us," the officer said eagerly.
"So be it," Glinn Dal Tulet said with apparent remorse. "Goodbye, Captain Worf." The Cardassian signaled to have the feed cut. A look of surprise appeared on her face when nothing happened, then a frown. "One moment please, Captain Worf," she said, looking unsure for the the first time since the conversation began. "My…the captain of this vessel has instructed me to inform you that he is feeling merciful. Give your parole and he will permit you to return to Klingon space."
Worf's sneer deepened. "I refuse. Tell your ranking officer that if he wishes to see tomorrow, you will lower your shields and prepare to be boarded."
An answering sneer bloomed on Glinn Dal Tulet's face. "Do not mistake mercy for cowardice, Captain Worf. We—" she cut off, a look of incredulity appeared on her face. Not one of the Klingons watching missed the way her hand twitched towards the disruptor on her hip. The woman's jaw clenched. "We…the ca—the ranking officer on this ship, accepts your terms, Captain Worf."
"A pity," Worf stated, sounding disappointed. "Today was a good day to die." He felt a wave of sympathy for the officer on the view screen. How unbearable it must be to have been to have had to serve under a coward. He signaled for his communications officer to cut the feed.
"Boarding party assembled in the transporter room, Captain."
"Send them over," Worf ordered. "Inform them that I will be personally displeased if any of our prisoners are harmed in any way. Even the dishonorable bIHnuch that calls himself their commanding officer."
"And have Glinn Dal Tulet brought to me immediately in my quarters," Worf added. "I wish to offer my personal condolences at her misfortune of being saddled with a QI'yaH tInbIHnuch like her former ranking officer."
The door to his quarters chimed five minutes later. "Enter!"
Dal Tulet paused in the doorway as her eyes flickered around the room before settling on the bed for a few moments. Jaw clenching, the woman visibly braced herself before stepping into the room.
"A pleasure to meet you in person, Glinn Dal Tulet," Worf greeted her.
"Please answer one question, Captain, before we begin," Dal Tulet requested, her face impassive.
"Is it true that your regulations allow the second in command of a Klingon warship to kill an unfit commander?"
"They require it."
"Count yourself fortunate for your government's enlightened policies, Captain," Dal Tulet said calmly. "Not all of us are half as blessed as you are."
"It would have been a good fight," Worf consoled the woman. "But it would have also meant that we would enter the next world in the company of your former ranking officer."
"Which would have taken some of the luster off the privilege of watching him die," she agreed. "Thank you for your consideration, Captain, I am ready to meet my fate."
"What fate is that?" Worf asked, choosing to be amused rather than insulted by the woman's assumptions.
"The fate of any captive called to their captor's bedroom, Captain. It is unpleasant, but endurable considering what will happen to my crew if I refuse."
"Have a seat," Worf waved the woman to one of the chairs around his table. "Have you ever had bloodwine?"
"I have not yet had the pleasure. Assuming it's alcoholic, I will gratefully accept if you are offering," she said, figuring intoxication would make things easier to bear.
"It is," Worf stated, placing a glass in front of her and another in front of himself as he took a seat. "Allow me to make one thing clear before we continue. This is a ship of the Klingon Empire, I am the scion of one of the Greater Houses. More, I am operating under the command of Khan the Peerless. No member of your crew will be harmed so long as I or any of those under my command still draw breath. I asked you here to offer my condolences at your misfortune of being assigned to a coward. I did not order you here to compound the shame of your defeat. The reason we are in my bedroom is because his is a small ship, there is only one conference room and that one is currently open to vacuum. I felt it best to keep our conversation private and this was the only space I had available."
The woman rocked back in her chair. "I…I apologize, Captain Worf, I…I'd forgotten that…" She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "My former commander knew better than to attempt anything with me. The crew was not so fortunate. To my eternal regret, I was not always able to protect them."
"Would you be willing to swear out a complaint?"
"Sector Governor Knurd has set up a tribunal to deal with cases like your former Captain. Swear out a complaint and I promise it will be seen to." He laughed. "Everything goes well and you might be fortunate enough to watch him die after all."
"I will," she agreed, cheered immensely by the thought. "I'll also see that my crew cooperates fully with the investigation." She grinned. "While at the same time ordering them to be as obstructionist as possible in every other area."
"What a loss it was for the Empire that you were born on the wrong planet," Worf lamented. "The Union is unworthy of you."
"True, but duty is duty and several of my crew have families in places the Obsidian Order can reach them. Should that change…well, perhaps we could discuss things."
"Khan the Ever Victorious has a policy of rescuing the family members of any who wish to defect." Worf understood that the great man's people had gotten quite good at it over the past several decades.
"In that case, I shall look forward to revisiting the subject with great anticipation, Captain."
"As will I, Glinn," Worf laughed.
Michelle leaned back in her chair as she contemplated the target they were tracking. It wasn't much, a simple ore carrier. Something worth hitting only if there was nothing more interesting in the area. Still, it prompted the question, what was it doing in this sector of space? Far away from any known mines or manufacturing worlds or anything else that would have required its presence.
"Status of the target's shields?" she asked.
"Navigation only, Captain. They don't seem to know we're here."
"Prepare a boarding party. Tell them I want the target's computer intact."
"Should I hail and order them to heave to?" the communications officer asked.
"No. Weapons, target shield generators and any weapons they might have. Wait until after firing to raise shields. I don't want them to have any opportunity to purge their computer."
"Think they might be hiding something in this sector we'd be interested in?" her first officer asked.
"I think it's a possibility," Michelle agreed.
"Firing in three…two…one…direct hit. Shields up, firing again…another hit. They're dead in the water, Captain."
"Boarders away!" Michelle ordered. She forced herself to stay composed for several tense minutes while waiting for the boarding party to report back.
"Lieutenant K'tarr reports that the ship is theirs without friendly casualties."
"Enemy?" Michelle prompted.
"One death, ship's captain." Who had had the misfortune of being far more willing to go down with his ship than the crew.
"Convey my congratulations and stress to the engineering teams the importance of prioritizing the ship's computer. I want to know where she came from and where it was going."
Gul Hadar kept his face carefully blank when four individuals belonging to the Obsidian Order invaded his office in the company of what appeared to be a Vulcan male.
"What can Central Command do for the Order?" he asked, keeping his tone business-like.
"We require your complete cooperation in the apprehension of one of the most notorious criminals in the sector," the apparent leader said with a smile that promised good things.
"Central Command is always happy to help with the apprehension of wanted criminals," Gul Hadar said cautiously, he knew that smile, he knew that despite what it promised, what it delivered was horror and pain.
"Wonderful. I knew you'd be intelligent enough to be reasonable." He turned to the individual on his right. "Put a hold on the warrant for Gul Hadar's arrest for obstruction."
The individual tapped his padd without making a word or sound.
"The first thing I need you to do is to have these individuals quietly detained in cargo hold number four." The operative placed a data pad on Gul Hadar's desk. "You may inform them that this is just a precautionary measure and that they are not suspected of any crime at the moment. Be sure to remind them how quickly that can change if they do not cooperate."
"I'll have my security chief see to it," he agreed.
"Yes, the Changing. I'm afraid that he and his second are going to have to be detained in one of the secure cells. As with the others, this is merely a precautionary measure and the increased level of security is due only to his unique physiology and not in any way due to an increased level of suspicion on our parts."
"I'll have his third see to it," Hadar amended.
"Wonderful. While you do, be sure to inform him that Operative Sar—" He waved to the woman on his left. "—will be his direct superior for the duration of our operation."
"Excellent. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter, Gul Hadar." The operative turned to the individual on his right. "Be sure to note in our report that Gul Hadar was not obstructionist in any way."
The individual made several notes on their data pad without sound or verbal comment.
"Now," the operative continued, "the Order understands how difficult it would be for you to have to run this station with half of your security and two thirds of your bridge crew unable to perform their usual duties. Know that we are not without sympathy and know that we do not expect you to do so."
Hadar remained silent, not trusting himself to speak.
"I can see that you are overcome with curiosity about exactly how we are going to help you and gratitude that we are willing to do so in the first place." The chief operative beamed. "Wonder no longer. Along with myself and my team, the Order had the foresight to send more than enough extra personnel to not just replace your missing bridge crew and security staff, but to more than double your normal security compliment. Isn't that just grand?"
Oddly enough, Gul Hadar had no trouble containing his enthusiasm.
Michelle frowned as she considered the information her techs had pulled out of the ship's computer. The Cardassians, it seemed, had decided to react to the danger posed by Khan by building hundreds of small stations rather than a few larger, better defended ones. Looked like their target list had just increased dramatically. Security through obscurity was a valid tactic in the short term; time to show them why it inevitably failed in the long term.
"Status of the captured ship?" she asked the officer at the engineering station.
"We can have it running in an hour, Captain," the engineer replied.
"Get to work. We might need the extra room." Depending on whether the Cardassians had chosen to continue the practice of running their new stations with slave labor or not. Her mission brief was to cause as much trouble as possible. She'd be sure each station she captured sent out a distress signal before the scuttling charges detonated.
Legate Dulok had been the civil and military commander of Special Administrative Area Eighty-Eight for nearly two decades. He'd spent his career fighting against the Bajorans and their pirate allies, from being the junior Gil aboard the Kraxon during the conquest of the accursed planet to the action that had gotten him his current position. When as the Jagul in command of a task-force he'd managed to deliver to Central Command one of the few decisive victories against the pirate fleet.
He had nearly half a century of experience against the enemy and he'd thought that had translated to insight on their motivations and actions. They'd focus mainly on prison worlds, reeducation camps, and any facilities that were likely to play host to large numbers of forced laborers. They'd occasionally hit targets of opportunity like merchant convoys and lone patrol vessels and they'd generally avoid purely military or civilian areas as being unworthy of the cost to their time and resources. They were a dangerous nuisance but they did not pose any major threat to the Union.
The past weeks had shown him to be wrong. It was as if Khan had gone mad, it didn't make any sense.
"Ten more sh'ps overdue and f'fteen d'stress s'gnals, Legate Dulok," his aide, a burly man whose speech still carried the characteristic lilt of the colony world he'd been raised on reported.
"Has Jagul Deemeere reported in?"
"He states that he 's m'ssing four more sh'ps 'nclud'ng the one he sent to check on the status of the sh'pyards, Legate Dulok."
"Status of merchant shipping?"
"Merchant sk'ppers are doing their best to f'nd excuses to stay 'n port. Trade's down n'nety percent s'nce th's all started."
"Still no indication on what set them off this time?"
"Nott'ng the Order's been w'lling to share, Legate Dulok."
"Of course not," he sighed. Well, he reflected to himself, at least it can't get any worse.
As if in response to a taunt, it was at that moment that the air-raid siren began to squeal.
"Flot'lla numbering at least eighteen enemy sh'ps have just attacked l'stening post n'ne," his aide reported, relaying the information he was getting though his ear-piece. "Outpost n'ne has fallen. Seven's under atta— seven has fallen. There's nott'ng between them and the planet save the defense platforms, s'r."
Should never have let Deemeere go on patrol, Dulok reproached himself. But who could have predicted they'd have been audacious enough to attack his area headquarters? They'd never done something half as ambitious before.
"Scramble everything we have including the merchant ships," Dulok barked. "Tell them they can be battering rams and mobile shields if they lack working armament."
"Yes, Legate Dulok," his aide said, relaying the orders.
"Add that I estimate they have a five percent chance of survival if they follow my commands. Note that their chance drops to zero if they are foolish enough not to. For them and their families."
"By your command, Legate Dulok."
Fnord looked bored as his ships approached the planet. It had been a long road to reach this point and he'd come a long way from the boy his mother had sent to her father to receive lessons on how to be a warrior and what it meant to be a man.
"Sensors report thirty ships lifting off, Captain," his tactical officer reported. "Mostly merchants, with a few older designs mixed in."
"Focus on the defense platforms. Make me a hole."
"Lt. Commander Vostok, tell the Irena Sendler and the Witold Pilecki to move into position as soon as we knock the platforms out and have the other ships cover them. Inform Captains Endilev and Alandra that they are to deliver the ultimatum that we will commence orbital bombardment of all military facilities if they do not immediately surrender themselves if I am otherwise occupied."
"Yes, Captain," Communications replied.
"Helm, right twenty degrees. Let's see if we can do something about this sortie."
Gul Hadar's face was impassive as he surveyed his bridge. Every station, save his own, was being occupied by a member of the Obsidian Order. It seemed they weren't so far gone to think they could commandeer a military station without serious repercussions. As it was, he was sure Central Command would be asking some pointed questions about why the Order had so many trained personnel on hand.
"Freighter approaching. It matches the description we have of the pirate king's transport ship, sir."
Gul Hadar sourly noted that the individual operating the tactical station had reported the information to the still unnamed scum from the Obsidian Order, not him, the nominal station commandant.
"Allow them to dock and wait until they've gotten three bulkheads in before making the arrest," the head operative ordered.
"Remind them of our deal," the mysterious Vulcan spoke.
"Of course," the operative agreed. "Remind the security force that non-lethal force is to be used only and that the crew is not to undergo any rigorous interrogation until after our friend from the Federation has had his chance to remove his agents from the criminals."
"Yes, sir," the individual at the tactical station agreed. "What about the pirate chief?"
The lead operative glanced back to the Vulcan.
"The deal was that I would be present for the interrogation and would be permitted to submit a list of questions I wanted to be answered," the Vulcan said calmly.
"Of course," the chief operative agreed. "Inform the interrogators that they may begin preparations but that they are to hold off until both myself and our guest are available to monitor the process."
Sel Corat's heart was filled with terror that one of the men had disobeyed his orders to keep their weapons on stun despite the graphic threats he'd made about the fate of anyone stupid enough to do so and the checks his subordinates had made. Success here would mean his career. Failure would mean his life.
He almost missed it when his com crackled. "Go!" he shouted, pushing one of his subordinates into the corridor. "Go! Go! Go!"
The sounds of weapons fire and screams echoed through the station as his men carried out their orders to the letter.
Corat sagged with relief when he peeked around the corner and was greeted with the sight he'd been hoping for. Every pirate was on the ground and, more importantly, every pirate was still breathing. His superiors would not have been pleased to be denied the chance at a public trial and execution.
"Restrain the prisoners and secure their ship." He took the opportunity to place a boot in the pirate king's side and immediately regretted his actions. The man felt like he'd been crafted out of neutronium and Corat was half afraid that he'd broken a toe.
"Hatch is locked, sir," his subordinate reported. "Sensors report no life signs on the ship."
"Put guards on the hatch and seal all approaches. Load the prisoners on the gurneys and get them to the interrogation rooms."
The head operative relaxed a touch when his deputy informed him of the successful capture. If given the chance, he'd have been willing to wager that their target would have found some way to slip out of the trap before it sprung. With luck, he'd be able to be off this dreary station and on a shuttle back home within the day.
"Shall we be about it then?" he asked his counterpart from the Federation.
"Yes," the Vulcan agreed.
"After you," the head operative said grandly, gesturing to the turbo-lift.
"I find myself in a bit of a bind," the Vulcan said after the doors closed.
"Oh? Anything I can help you with?"
"Not all of my agents in place are worth retrieving. At the same time I am unwilling to leave them in your hands."
"I'll inform the guards that they are to ignore a reasonable amount of weapons fire."
"I appreciate the consideration."
"Not at all, I'm sure you'd do the same for me if our positions were reversed. Ah, here's our stop." The doors opened and they stepped off the lift. "You, what's your name?"
"Sel Corat, sir. I was in charge of the group you assigned to capture the criminals and secure the ship."
"Take our guest to the holding area where the pirate crew is being held. Allow him—" He turned to the Vulcan. "Would six be enough?"
"Six should be sufficient, thank you," the Vulcan agreed.
"Six weapons discharges and then allow him to remove as many prisoners as he wishes. Those prisoners are to be given food and are not to be harmed or questioned in any way. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," the clearly confused guard agreed.
"Wonderful. When he is done, escort him to the pirate king's cell." The head operative watched as his guest followed the limping guard to his destination. "Well," he said to himself. "Best be about it."
Whistling cheerfully, he strolled down the corridor and past the guards into the cell that held his prized prisoner.
"Wake him up," he ordered.
"Readings indicate that he's already awake, sir."
"Forgive me," the prisoner spoke up. "I've had so few opportunities to relax in the last few decades."
"I understand completely," the head operative said with apparent sympathy. "You of course need no introduction, so permit me to introduce myself; I am the one who was assigned to your capture."
"Please excuse me for not rising and offering you my hand," Khan said dryly.
"Of course. Rest assured that any lapse of etiquette is completely understandable under the present circumstances."
"Thank you," Khan said.
"Just because we've captured you and we are going to torture you and execute you is no reason to be rude. Speaking of which, I want to start off by telling you that I regret what is about to happen," the Cardassian sighed, his earlier cheer muted.
"Yes, we both know that you are not going to break under the pain and spill everything you know. Which," he sighed again, "makes this whole exercise a rather tedious waste of time in my opinion. I want you to know that were it up to me, we'd never start with something so barbaric, ineffective, and wasteful. We'd skip straight to a wide array of chemicals the Order has developed over the years for circumstances such as we find ourselves in now. Likely just as ineffective, but you never know." The man shook his head in regret. "Still, orders, you understand."
"That you'd be the next guest of this chair if you refused to follow them? Yes, I understand very well how your organization operates."
"I knew you'd be a gentleman about this," the man smiled. "I feel it only fair to warn you that while I dislike inflicting pain and, if permitted to make the choice myself, would never personally inflict it for the sole reason of doing so, the man assigned to do so has no such reservations. I'd apologize for that if doing so didn't risk angering my superiors, which would likely end with me being thrown out an airlock or being made the next guest of that chair," the Cardassian joked. "I will of course, be on hand and I promise that I shall do my best to ensure that he does not go too far. One can't have you looking too rough for your trial and execution. But, you understand, I can only do so much. It is an unfortunate situation the two of us have found ourselves in, but that's no reason not to try to make the best of things."
The two guards Corat had assigned to watch Khan's ship stood alert, content to stare unmoving down the corridor for hours until their relief arrived. They thought their task was to guard the ship from the people on the station, not to guard the station from what should have been an empty ship. It was an understandable error; the Order did not select their low level muscle for their imagination.
They reacted with identical swiftness when the hatch cracked open, and died moments later, the deed done almost before either knew they were in any danger. Neither had managed to make so much as a sound, let alone draw a weapon or raise an alert. Something that would not have made a difference to the two corpses, but may have made things a touch more difficult for Khan's hand-picked boarders as they crept into the station to link up with their allies in the resistance.
Five minutes later, there was no sign that any violence had been done and two new Cardassian guards stood to either side of the hatch, staring unmoving down the corridor.
Gul Hadar frowned when the lights on the bridge flickered. That shouldn't be possible with all the redundancies designed in.
"Contact engineering," he barked at the Order operative at the communications console.
"No response, sir," the operative reported, sounding puzzled. "Wait. Security reports that the laborers are revolting."
"Federation Miranda class— no, pirate ship John Brown has just de-cloaked five thousand meters off the number five spire. They appear to be sending boarding teams across."
"Raise shields. Target Ashalla and commence orbital bombardment. Use the intercom to inform the ridge nosed rats and the pirates that bombardment will continue until they throw down their weapons and surrender and that we will move on to the next largest city once Ashalla has been destroyed. Target the enemy ship with tubes five through six and fire on my mark."
"I can't, sir," the operative at tactical stated, sounding horrified.
"Then move aside for someone who can!" Hadar roared. Order or no, he'd see the bastard shot for the crime of wasting precious seconds with his incompetence.
"It's not that, sir. I've been locked out of the system. I literally can't. We're helpless, sir."
"What?" Hadar asked dumbly. That was another thing that shouldn't have been possible.
Khan's captors shifted nervously when the lights began to flicker. That was unexpected. Unexpected things were bad in their experience. The sound of tortured metal as their prisoner ripped through restraints strong enough to restrain a rampaging Klingon with the same ease that they'd have torn a sheet of paper was the confirming sign that things had gone very, very wrong.
The old man placed the palm of his left hand on the back of the first guard's head and violently slammed his face into the nearest bulkhead while drawing the man's disruptor with his right hand and firing at the second guard in one smooth motion.
"How?" the head operative asked, making no move to draw his own sidearm. "Those restraints were designed to hold your kind, you shouldn't have been able to get out."
"Twice human maximum was the baseline," Khan explained, flipping the switch from disrupt to stun. "I have the fortune of being much more than that."
"Of course. My apologies for the fact that my people underestimated you so badly. A terrible oversight on my part not to check on things personally." The head operative slumped to the floor as the pulse of energy hit him in the chest.
"I understand how difficult it is to remember to check on every little detail," he assured the unconscious Cardassian.
Khan keyed the door open and smiled when he saw who was on the other side.
"I had not thought we would meet again until after the battle," Khan stated cheerfully.
"As I said: My place is by your side, Great Khan," T'Pera said simply.
Gul Hadar didn't know weather he should scream or cry or sink into despair as the door to the bridge glowed redder and redder as the rebels tried to burn their way in.
"Ten unknown ships have just warped in…ten more…ten…sir, there are hundreds of them," Tactical reported, sounding lost.
"Security reports that they can be here in five minutes, sir," communications stated, privately sneering at the man's optimism.
"We're not going to be here in five minutes." He drew his disruptor. "I suggest putting two shots through the door and the third through your head. Better a clean death here than being ripped apart by an angry mob or being sentenced to death by a filthy Klingon." Unfortunately for him, his plans were disrupted by the appearance of gas cylinders in the middle of the room. The bridge was taken without loss on either side.
Khan's smile widened when he rejoined the people he'd been captured with and was able to see for himself that none of them had been harmed during their brief period of captivity.
"I do not recognize you," the great man stated upon seeing that he had one extra.
"He's the one who stunned the guards and helped us escape, Captain," one of his shipmates said helpfully.
"Yes," the Vulcan agreed. "I was also heavily involved in the plot to take your life."
"I see. May I ask what it was that made you change your mind?" Khan asked curiously.
"I did not change my mind. I stated that I was involved, I never stated that I supported it," the Vulcan clarified. "Initially, I had only intended to deceive the other plotters until I had a chance to inform my wife of what I learned. At her request, I remained part of the conspiracy. She told me you were aware of it."
"Aware of it yes, of your part in it no," Khan replied. "I assume she decided that I did not have the need to know."
"That is a logical assumption," the Vulcan allowed.
"She is a fine, dispassionate woman. You are fortunate to have her," Khan stated.
"I am," the Vulcan agreed. "Our parents showed unusual ability when aranging our match."
"May I ask why this particular group of plotters tried to have me killed?"
"They stated that you were both a disruptive influence on the Federation and a danger to peace between the Federation and the Cardassian Union." The Vulcan exhaled. "Their logic was persuasive, but their actions were unethical. Logic can-not be the sole arbiter of one's actions. It is unfortunate that my former colleagues forgot that." He tilted his head and decided not to add that there were times when an individual may be called upon to do things that were distasteful to protect the Federation. It was fortunate for Khan that this was not one of those times. 'We also serve who work in the shadows,' the Vulcan thought to himself. In some ways, he regretted the fact that the plotters had had the poor sense to chose him as their agent. It was a consequence of the fact that his cover had been crafted to make him as attractive as possible he supposed. As he said, a shame. He was going to miss being Kuvok the diplomat; it had been a nice change from the usual routine.
Khan nodded his agreement before shifting his attention to one of his boarders, the great-granddaughter of one of his original men, who had approached in the company of what appeared to be one of the local resistance fighters.
"This is Kira Nerys of the Shakaar resistance cell," the marine introduced the woman.
"It is a great honor and a pleasure to meet you, Kira Nerys," Khan said grandly.
"Mighty Khan," the woman began with a smile as wide as his own. "I have the privilege of informing you that your promise has been kept, Terok Nor is ours and Bajor is free again. Thank you, sir, from the deepest part of my heart, thank you."
Dukat frowned in annoyance at how long it took for the station to reply to his ship's request for docking instructions. Make one short trip back to the home world to give a report on how he had the rebellion well in hand and the idiots he'd left behind forgot what discipline was.
"Hail them again," he ordered. "Tell them that I am on board and that I will demote whoever is supposed to be on duty one rank for every ten seconds they make us wait and have them thrown out an airlock when they run out of rank to lose."
"Yes, Gul," the communications officer agreed. "I'm getting a response," he said in relief.
Dukat's look on annoyance turned into confusion when he saw that the bridge was manned by a mix of humans, Cardassians, and Bajorans. That confusion turned to shock and then rage when he recognized the elderly human sitting in his chair.
"Hello, Dukat," the elderly human said with a wide grin. "I think you can guess what my presence here means. You have ten seconds to power down your shields before we open fire."
"KHAAAAAAAN!" Dukat bellowed in rage, his face locked in a rictus of hate. "KHAAAAAAAN!"
AN: So, here it is. I may or may not write more in this universe, the attempted assassination and coup against Azetbur, the Romulans moving against the Cardassians, the behind the scenes moves in the Empire in support of Bajor, the fact that they have to hold Bajor now that they've taken it. Many many possibilities. Feel free to write in this universe if you want.
This chapter dedicated to the memory of Bobmin356.
I'm always willing to give credit where credit is due and blame where credit is due so here it is:
Based on an idea originally proposed by Jenny_Lou and filled with plot points thought up by doghead_thirteen aka Cal who is also wholly responsible for most of what went into this version of Khan and giving this its title along with a good portion of the plot, a number of scenes, and anything else he wishes to claim or I wish to blame him for. Hell, he's got co-author credit if he wants it.
Speaking of co-author credit, in large part this is a collaborative effort on the part of my yahoo group. I've tried to list the people who helped with it but I'm sure I got only a small portion of them, in many cases someone would say something that would spark an idea that would lead to another that would prompt an idle comment that would spark another idea that would make its way here. So, to simplify things, everyone on the CaerAzkaban group deserves some credit and/or blame for this.
Lots of polish/typo removal along with a pile of suggestions on how to improve things and several lines/scene suggestions by Luan Mao AKA computercondottiere. My drafts looked like a rainbow had vomited on them after he was done with them. He was relentless and any typos you might find aren't because he didn't find them, but because I mistakenly didn't fix them. Did a very professional job for me and I can not recommend him enough. You get the opportunity to work with him, take it.
Several scene rewrites, scenes, and Ideas by Cal
Beta, scenes, scene rewrites, and several titles by dogbertcarroll. Who's value to this fic and almost every other fic I do can not be overstated.
Typos by Mr Bear, laros_deejay, Ronnie McMains, Jim Compton, hsssai, meteoricshipyards, djhardim, lucindas43302, mjihde, stormkitsune, Andrew Chapman, Ronnie McMains
Disclaimer by meteoricshipyards
Line by laros_deejay
Line corrected by KenF
Ideas by ecs_norway, Keith McComb, mohara222m, Veive, polychromeknight, michaelsuave, Tenhawk, Dennis Sicz,
Continuity Details by meteoricshipyards, hsssai, shayterit, ericoppen
There were a number of Omake in this fic. Some were written by me some by others. Some are not in the fic because of timing or continuity issues, some are not in the fic because they don't fit, some are in the fic but not in the forms you saw at the end of the chapter. Hope you enjoyed them.
Omake by diresquirrel
(This is where I got the ending)
"At last we have you, Khan," the Cardassian interrogator said. "We have sought you for years, human. You hunt us down, try to drive us away like an infected Klingon warg. But that all ends now."
Khan looked up at the Cardassian and grinned. It was not a particularly nice grin. The elderly man wrenched his bound hand, ignoring the bits of skin it dragged away and the sound as the manacle was torn free. The interrogator looked on in horror as the old man stood up.
"That was designed to hold a Klingon!" the interrogator sputtered. "You're only a human!"
"Oh, yes, my people are human, but something more, Cardassian," Khan saidas he backhanded the man, sending him flying to the floor. "You thought you were lucky in capturing me and my crew. You were incorrect. Perhaps you should have studied the Earth myth of the Trojan Horse."
Khan stood over the fallen man and grinned as his people arrived.
"Great Khan, we've taken the facility," a younger augment said. "The weapons systems and communications are under our control. Our people are currently giving aid to the freed Bajoran slaves in the mining facilities."
"And the docked ships?" their leader asked as he firmly set a foot on his "interrogator's" neck.
"Neutralized, but we have Bajoran Resistance fighters ready to take command of them, Great Khan," the younger augment reported. "The Amistad is repaired and ready to depart on your orders."
"Good," Khan said as he snapped the neck of the Cardassian struggling beneath him. "I want to see Dukat's face when I tell him Terok Nor is under our control and Bajor is finally free."
Omake: Tom Paris
It was the usual blather; honor, duty, sacrifice, and courage. Words many Starfleet officers, including his father, liked to think defined the service, liked to pretend were their exclusive preserve. Tom caught the eye of one of the engineering cadets in the front row and got a nod and a wink in return.
"-which is why." He turned off his mental autopilot. "I can not in good conscience accept a commission as a Starfleet officer. I stand with Khan!" a small portion of his mind noted with glee the look on his father's face. "STAND WITH KHAN!"
"STAND WITH KHAN!" the engineer screamed. "STAND WITH KHAN!" A few other cadets took up the call but it was nothing like what it would have been when his father was a cadet. Rumor had it that Starfleet had increased the screening process to keep people like him from passing further than a summer in beast barracks. The truth was, in the current era, most sympathizers were grown in the fleet, those that came through the academy tended to keep their heads down till they had a chance to graduate and start their careers away from the rear.
It hadn't been easy to angle his way into the giving the graduation speech. It had taken a reputation for political reliability, his father's connections, and too many hours of study when he could have been partying. It had been at least a decade and a half since any cadet had made a big dramatic gesture like the one he'd just made. But, after seeing the look on Admiral Paris' face, it had all been worth it. It felt good to finally get back at the old man.
AN: Was half tempted to write another scene in which the Admiral expresses regrets that Tom didn't spend a few years in the fleet working to change things before joining Khan, but that he couldn't blame his son for doing something he'd wanted to do himself for several decades. Decided I liked it better without that scene.
Khan opened his eyes to a world of white. It was odd, it was as if he were everywhere and nowhere at all. The last thing he remembered was . . .
"Congratulations!" a man dressed to fit into his crew shouted.
"Thank you, but for what?"
"For a good life lived, for great deeds done, for darings done, for everything."
"I was not a great man," Khan replied.
"No," the being agreed. "No, you were something far rarer: a good man."
"I did nothing more than what my conscience required me to do, what any decent individual would have done if they had my abilities and resources."
"Perhaps a quick look at how things would have been without you to help things along," the being mused.
"Are things better than would have otherwise been the case?" Khan asked curiously.
"Quite a bit."
"Then I am satisfied," Khan smiled.
"You don't want to know how much better things are thanks to your actions?"
"All I ever wanted was to make the world a better place, knowing I did so is enough."
AN: Idea and much of the dialog by Michael O'Hara, below dialog by Michael O'Hara
Bajoran Prophets: "Are you done yet?"
Q: "I'll be done in a minute! Wait your turn!"
Khan: "Is something wrong?"
Q: "You attracted a lot of attention on the higher planes, and there are many who wish to congratulate the man of the hour."
AU Omake: Khan arrives a decade or four later
"Captain, I am detecting the arrival of at least two thousand ships," Data reported.
"On screen," Picard said, outwardly calm, inwardly jumping for joy.
"They appear to be troop transports, sir," Data stated.
Picard smiled. "It appears someone else has learned about what is happening to this planet and decided to do something about it."
"We're just going to stand by and watch them violate the Prime Directive?" Riker asked, sounding like he was reading from a script.
"The Prime Directive applies only to Starfleet personnel. As those do not appear to be Fleet ships, we have no choice but to stand aside or risk violating the Prime Directive ourselves, Number One."
"Yes, Captain," Riker agreed.
An elderly but still spry looking human woman appeared on the screen.
"Madame Delacroix, so good to see you again," Picard said.
"Jean Luc," the woman replied.
"I fear I must file an official protest for your actions towards the Boraalans." The man paused. "You are here to evacuate the race in advance of its planet's becoming uninhabitable, are you not?"
"We are, Jean Luc," she agreed. "I feel I must rely our official position that we are again disgusted by the fact that Starfleet is again seen to stand in witness to the death of a sentient species due to the Prime Directive."
The transmission ended and Picard let his gaze sweep over the bridge crew. "If I find out any member of my crew was responsible for the presence of Khan's ships they will be punished to the full extent of Starfleet regulations," Picard said firmly.
"You would really punish the crew for saving a race, Captain?" Riker asked.
"No member of the crew was responsible, Number One."
"How can you be so sure, sir?"
"Because I contacted Madame Delacroix myself." He snorted. "Five minutes before you did, I might add."
"We don't all have your experience in making untraceable communications, sir," Riker pointed out.
"Do your best to check the crew, if any of them did not at least make an attempt to do something, I want to know about it."
"And I want them off my ship."
Addition by yamaban7010
"They can do their indifference elsewhere. We are Frontline, not backyard hooligans. Give them to the 'Supply and Maintenance Crews' for the established stations. Nothing else matters to Starfleet command, so there they go. Let command deal with their own indifference."
"Aye, sir! Ah, by chance, did you have contact with Khan, in the last time?"
Continuation by me, Omake: Worf
"Three I'm sure about, sir," Riker reported. "One I'm iffy about."
"Who's the odd man out, number one?"
"Mr. Worf, did you communicate in any way with Khan's people?"
"No, sir, I did not."
The Captain frowned in disappointment. "Then I'm afraid . . . did you abet your brother in any way?"
"I may have borrowed one of the portable long range communications relays, sir," Worf admitted. "But it was under the strict understanding that he was only to use it to contract our parents."
"Really, Mr. Worf?"
"I gave him detailed instructions on what not to do, sir," Worf agreed.
Riker snorted in amusement. "Instructions like, don't hit that button . . . right, now don't type in the series of numbers I'm about to read off?"
"Something like that, sir," Worf agreed. "I am within the letter of Starfleet regulations."
"Good man, Mr. Worf," Picard said with a grin. "Remind me to put a commendation in your file for managing to resist the temptation to violate the Prime Directive. Actually, number one, I want you to be sure every man on the ship receives a similar commendation."
"At once, sir. Does that include the three crewmen we're transferring off?"
"I'll take care of those ones myself," Picard said ominously.