Hello everyone. Here is Chapter 82 a revamped version of the original chapter postd so long ago. It has been re-edited and hopefully it is years better than the old version whoch I am sad to say was a travesty. I hope that you enjoy this and see it as a prelude for the new chapters coming rather soon. Thank you for your patience and reviews. Thank you,

AlbertG

Chapter Eighty-Two (Version TWO)

"Wild Dogs"

Minbari Star System

Before the Minbari were united as one people, before they fought with the Vorlon Empire against the darkness of the Shadows and their allies in the Great War more than a thousand years past, they warred among themselves. They fought and died on their worlds and in vastness of space, glorifying in the butchery that was war. Before there were Wind Swords, Star Riders, Blood Knives, Moon Shield, the Alshyn'La, or any of the seven other warrior castes came to be, there were the warrior clans. These clans gloried in war; bloodshed was their mantra. Those not associated with the various warrior clans were usually the victims of their bloodlust. Religious leaders and workers took the brunt of the suffering even as the warrior clans confessed their sins and begged workers to create the various weapons and equipment used to kill them. There was no denying that the Minbari people had potential but like so many others, they squandered their existence, killing one another, committing atrocities and committing acts of brutality and depravity, extending their violence to the stars.

The Shadows had their eyes on them but the Vorlons acted first, taking the five tribes of the Alshyn'La, who would later be known as the Ashen, and molding them into perfect, throwaway weapons. To gain an advantage over their enemies, the Vorlons slowly and quietly genetically altered the Minbari and other potential species over the period of centuries. The Minbari however were special, receiving more attention than the hundreds, maybe thousands of other species they had manipulated in their philosophical battle against the Shadows. The Minbari were molded into the 'chosen people' that would lead in the war against their ancient enemy, the Chaos Bringers.

However, to the Vorlon's horror, they discovered that the Shadows had prepared their own minions for the upcoming conflict and chose to equip them far better than the Vorlons had expected. This truth was known in the previous war a thousand years earlier but the Vorlons hadn't realized the extent of their miscalculations nor the ingenuity of their adversaries. The Vorlon's position became very tenuous as Shadow minions laid waste to entire worlds and allied Vorlon war fleets alike. The Vorlons were forced to join their allies in actual battles but the decimation continued. The Minbari were the strongest of the young races and they fought bravely but they were unorganized, still clinging to their clannish ways, untrusting of one another even as they fought their alien foes. What was needed was a focus, not only for the Minbari but for their other allies as well.

The Vorlons had a plan. It involved time travel and a way that would not only bring an intermediary that could unite the Minbari but also supply them with a fortress from which a rally point would be established. It would be a place of hope, a place of refuge, and a place to defy the Shadow agenda. The intermediary was a being called Valen, 'a Minbari not of Minbar'. He came bearing gifts, an old space station that would become an anchor in which victory would be achieved. The 'not-Minbari' Minbari was an enigma to the Clans who despite the Vorlon decree, mistrusted him and viewed the stranger with opened suspicion. Valen was not stronger than the average Minbari, nor did he understand all of their customs. Physically he was 'less' than the average Minbari, but what he did have was knowledge and an understanding of organization that even the most hardened warriors appreciated. But most of all he had charisma, a sense of presence and command that drew others to him. That popularity mixed with the distrust of his competitors who coveted his position would eventually be his downfall.


With the full blessings and backing of the Vorlons, Valen united the Minbari as never before and together, the Shadows and their minions were pushed back into the darkness. Again with Valen's help, the Minbari harnessed their passions and ushered in a new way of life that, after the Great War, would bring peace and strength to the people for the next thousand years. The Minbari were instrumental in defeating the Shadow minions and were revered by the other young races as the premier, eldest, and most powerful of the young races in the known areas of space. They were acknowledged by the other races as being the most matured and the ones most likely to eventually become the first of a new group of so-called true First Ones. True enlightenment would be theirs. The Minbari believed this.

Therefore, it was perhaps the height of arrogance (or perhaps it was masterful manipulation by their puppet masters who portraying themselves as beings of light) that they had forgotten that maturity wasn't given like someone giving flowers to another; it had to be earned every day by the act of living and learning and growing in the process. They also forgot the first rule of life. There's always someone out there who is bigger and stronger than you are.

However the Minbari by all accounts, were considered honorable people especially when it came to dealing with their own. It was a well-known fact that No Minbari had killed another Minbari in anger for a thousand years, no small feat, and it was something to be proud of. Now that boast had come to an abrupt end as two hundred thousand of their people died, incinerated in the northern city of Kantill by an Ashen warship using a mass driver as the delivery system. Minbari Sharlins destroyed the offending vessel moments later but it was already too late for the dead in Kantill.

The Ashen had chosen death before dishonor. This meant that all Minbari were honor-bounded to make the ultimate sacrifice rather than suffer the ignobility of surrender to the perceived forces of darkness. This belief was central to their ideology and it never occurred to them that any true Minbari would reject such an action. The infuriated Minbari were determined to choose their own fate, not have the Ashen choose for them. None of the larger Ashen weapons could be allowed to inflict their wrath on Minbari soil. Total undeclared war against the Ashen was immediate, brutal and genocidal.

Following the legacy of Valen, there had never been any outright fighting among the different warrior castes; however, aggressive competition between them was always something to be feared. The most aggressive of these competitions usually occurred between the castes of the highly militant Wind Swords and the much larger but less volatile Storm Riders. Rarely did they interact with one another under normal circumstances. Even in cases of conflicts with other races such as the Streib, they remained separated; however, due Ashen actions against the home world every trace of animosity between the different castes evaporated as they chased after their blood enemies, their pure-blood cousins who had abandoned the fight against the star warriors called Starfleet and were now attempting to obliterate all life on Minbar to appease the supposed will of their Vorrin gods. They were firm in their convictions; however in their zeal, the Ashen had forgotten that they were fighting against their own blood cousins with the same passions and whose intensity matched their own.

The Minbari had no intentions of allowing their people to perish by anyone's hands, under any circumstance. Even surrender to the Federation was preferable than the extinction of their people. It was a dark road that no one wanted but they would survive as a people. Now however, the spilled blood of millions of Minbari screamed at the warriors demanding justice for the horrific deeds their long lost brethren had perpetrated. The warrior clans of the Star Riders, the Wind Swords, the Moon Shields, and the small but very militant Blood Knives and Fire Wings were as one. No Ashen was to survive this day even if the clans lost Minbar to the Federationists and their Klingon animal allies. Any surviving guilt for the massacre of the Ashen clans in the wars those thousand years earlier was gone. In the days that followed, it was discovered that the Minbari people were angered that their ancestors hadn't done a more efficient job in eliminating the Ashen clans from the face of Minbar. Many more who knew the truth about the Ashen disappearance cursed the Vorlons for saving the Ashen. The Ashen, unlike the Minbari, were hard-wired by the Vorlons to attack those they believed to be the allies of the Shadows. In theory this would have been a great weapon against the Shadow minions the Vorlons were concerned with, but in reality the Ashen were little more than lobotomized, disposable weapons, unable to control their passions.

Minbari warriors were generally more aggressive than most other Minbari, fiercely loyal, patriotic, nationalistic, and usually less friendly with other races they rarely had contact with. They were often seen as stubborn and ruthless by other castes. But like all Minbari, the warriors were trained to serve and when necessary give their lives for their clan or their people if called upon to do so without hesitation. Just as other castes were fully committed to their paths, so were the warrior castes fully committed to theirs. Thus, they are fierce in war and heedless of their own lives. On Minbar, Ashen warriors clashed with enraged Blood knives and Nightwalker ground units, with both sides using every weapon they had to destroy each other. Heavily reinforced, but stranded Ashen land units originally placed there to resist Federation marines now fought hand to hand against their Minbari counterparts.

The bombardment of Minbar, plus the wholesale slaughter that the Ashen had perpetrated on the Minbari population in their attempt to save the Minbari from the oncoming darkness by conducting genocide galvanized the Minbari warriors, workers and even religious castes. Their collective rage was something not seen in a thousand years. Thousands of Minbari were caught in the crossfires and slaughtered as many more thousands of fleeing civilians sought to escape the fighting. The wonton acts of killing enraged the Minbari warrior clans that much more.

The Minbari soul was a passionate as any Ashen and as a warrior race, such slaughter that had been perpetrated by the Ashen on Minbar had aroused a killing fury that in comparison to the death of Dukhat was put to shame. Ironically, history was repeating itself as the two tribes bloodied one another on the soils of Minbar. This time however it was the Ashen who were the aggressors and in the name of their Vorrin gods they slaughtered every male and female Minbari they could find all over the world. Better death than surrendering to the darkness.

In several cities, the Ashen victory was at best pyrrhic as holdout Ashen fanatics detonated dirty fission devices, destroying cities of crystal and stone and contaminating the areas for thousands of years with poisonous radioactive fallout.

In the city of Fry'sheri, fifty thousand Ashen were wiped out to the last man and woman. No mercy was given and none was expected. Blood-drenched Minbari survivors screamed their defiance at the dead, many of the victors dismembering the Ashen, placing their severed heads in neat rolls to be view by the cheering civilian survivors of the attempted genocide.

Such were the Minbari.

Their passion was such than many had forgotten that their would-be conquers were in the system heading straight for them. The surviving Ashen, seeing the enemies nearing the ancestral world, immediately broke off orbital engagement against their brethren and proceeded to engage the shocked incoming Federation forces. Tactically this was a mistake of epic proportions. For the Ashen Lords this suicide run embodied the very essence of their calling, a last glorious stab of defiance against the dark enemy. Battered and bruised, four hundred surviving Minbari war ships gave chase after the blood enemies following the Ashen vessels determined to inflict more pain upon them before the Federation and their allies could.

With the threat of the Federation became imminent, the Ashen assumed that the Minbari would forget their squabbles and unite with them to kill and destroy the enemy in one last glorious battle. They truly believed that the loss of lives slaughtered by the Ashen on Minbari and in the skies of the home world would be ignored for the greater glory of the Vorrin. Their genetic manipulation allowed no other conclusion and they couldn't help but believe the Minbari would do the same.

They were wrong.

The Ashen were caught in a vice between the Minbari forces on one side and the Federation's on the other. Although the Ashen ships were somewhat superior to the Minbari, with such odds against them, it made little difference. In the end Ashen passion overruled what little tactical strategy they possessed. They came tearing at the throats of the Federation while all but ignoring their Minbari brothers following in their wake. The battle was swift, bloody and decisive as the Ashen were wiped out to the last ship. Not one of them retreated or surrendered, not that the Minbari allowed them to. Ironically, history had in some ways repeated itself once more. The Minbari castes had turned and destroyed the Ashen in a bloody conflict that had left no survivors. The Ashen would not, indeed, could not surrender. The Minbari had not offered any and the result was a vicious, forgone conclusion. Dispatching the Ashen, the surviving Minbari warships quickly retreated back to the planet, preparing to confront the other group of Ashen ships arriving at any time. Aware of the battle against their brethren, this time they would be prepared and the battle would be even bloodier than before.

Hyperspace, massively disrupted, still reeled from the effects of tri-cobalt device detonated not too far from the Minbari star system. Local hyperspace now a swirl of disrupted energy storms and vortices, was too dangerous to safely navigate and the Minbari were effectively trapped in their home system. The Minbari, drawn away from their home world, fighting their greatly hated brethren were frantically trying to redress their defenses of their planet before the Ashen reinforcements arrived. As the Ashen ships used a form of FTL that left their ships unaffected by the huge storms now raging in jump space, there was a real possibility that the Minbari fleet would be flanked.

They were trapped in a no-win scenario and ironically they were more concerned about their incoming insane brethren than they were with the alien fleet approaching.

USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A

From a distance Minbar looked almost peaceful. The huge polar caps could be seen clearly, reflecting the sunlight of the closest star making the world look as it were one huge crystal shining in the darkness. Although having far less water than Earth, the smallish oceans could be seen clearly appearing in some case like large lakes dotting the landscape. However the tranquil looks were deceiving. The planet wasn't tearing itself apart; the people were, gripped in a life and death struggle with their own.

Admiral James T. Kirk stared at the slaughter being played before him in all of its abysmal glory with a mixture of fascination and disgust. Lives were being butchered in front of him and he had chosen to do nothing so far to stop it. There was a cool calculation in his gaze as Tactical gave him updates.

Nearby on the bridge under the watchful eyes of Federation security officers were Satais Cadroni and Coplann, observing the struggles and listening at the frantic transmissions on both sides as Ashen and Minbari tore at each other like rabid animals. Cadroni face was pale, but other than that, he showed no outward emotions at what was being played before him. He remained resolute and proud in front of his enemies, unwilling to show the slightest bit of weakness. On the other hand, Coplann was so racked with emotion that he was barely able to stand unassisted. Every Minbari ship destroyed tore another tiny piece of his heart from him. However he said nothing as the scenes slowly concluded. What was done had to be done. Minbari passions would demand no less. The loss of Dukhat was one thing, the betrayal of their own people another, far worse act. The Ashen were required to pay in blood, even if it took Minbari blood to do it. Neither one of them knew of the atrocities being committed on Minbar, but each one of them suspected.

Still. "Admiral, is there something that you might consider doing?" asked Coplann.

Kirk ignored the question, just as he ignored the constant screaming inside him to order the fleet into a more proactive stance. The Ashen armada was little more than wreckage and the tattered, surviving Minbari ships were fleeing back to defend against another wave of attacks. The Minbari were in agreement of the surrender to the Federation but hadn't yet agreed to the surrender. There were more Ashen arriving soon and Kirk had no intentions of having his fleet trapped between two forces. "Lieutenant, status."

"The Ashen have lost all their forces, no survivors," the female Andorian responded. "Four of their capitals tried breach our lines, trying to get to us but those vessels were destroyed, no survivors. The Minbari have one hundred two functional capitals left, mostly Sharlins and all damaged to some degree. They're redressing their lines in preparation for the second Ashen wave."

Kirk, of course wasn't surprised as he continued studying watching the tactical data coming in. It would happen the same way if the Klingons were suddenly attacked by the Romulans while they were fighting the Federation. The Minbari considered the Ashen the greater threat and rightly so. His fleet effectively provided an anvil against the Minbari's hammer with the Ashen in between. As things stood, the Minbari wouldn't stand a chance against the incoming Ashen forces who would most likely head towards Minbar before changing course to attack his fleet. The Minbari would attack and then so would Federation and Klingon forces, catching them in another brutal but effective crossfire. When he was given a choice, James T. Kirk had a tendency to favor the simplest answer to a combat situation. The Ashen forces would be destroyed, the remnants of the Minbari space forces crippled and unable to resist the final Federation push. They knew that the Federation would not commit genocide and the Minbari pride could affect an honorable surrender. It was a cold blooded decision but one that would minimalize the danger to those under his command. This war would be over.

The Federation didn't want this war, yet he found small bits of him glorifying in it, the same as he had during the Organian and Gorn incidents. In both incidences, total war had been averted through no actions of his own. Would he find a way to stop the slaughter happening at this moment? His demand of unconditional surrender would force the Minbari to submit; however it forced him into a box with the Klingons and every other race watching him to see what he was going to do. Could he extend mercy to a people who would gladly slaughter every human they could find if the situation was reversed? Could he order the destruction of Minbar if they chose to fight? Could he dare not burn Minbar to the ground if they didn't surrender? A single wrong move would leave to disaster.

Well, he was used to that. He already knew what he was going to do.

It was a given that the Ashen would never surrender and Kirk would use his forces to crush them. They were worse than the Klingons who could at least be reasoned with now that they'd blown two thirds of their moon into little chunks. If the Federation allies defeated the incoming Ashen forces, this could well be perceived as an act of honor that the warrior clans would accept and thereby give them an excuse to stand down without the loss of their honor. It was a gamble.

By Satai Coplann's own admission, the Windswords would not surrender or stop until every Ashen were either dead or driven away from Minbar. The warrior clan had declared rash'ar, or blood feud in the ancient war tongue and no Ashen on Minbari soil would be allowed to survive. The Ashen were no less stubborn, so Kirk would make the decision for them.

GCF Fire of Regulus

An entire Gorn fleet arrived in the Minbar system some eight minutes before the Klingon attack force under General Chang. S'Garak hissed in satisfaction since in some ways it had been a race to see who would arrive first, either the Gorn or Klingons. It was unfair since none of Gorn vessels had been damaged at the Proxima battle. The Klingons couldn't say the same.

Despite their fierce nature both in technology and attitude, the Klingons had suffered, in the Gorn leader's opinion, an unacceptable number of losses of smaller frigates, scout ships, and older cruisers because of their overly aggressive and foolish tactics. There was no doubt in the Gorn's mind that the Klingons were brave but the leadership was lacking concern for both their ships and personnel. Putting ships into battle that either had no rear shields or had them turned off so that they would always face the enemy was beyond wasteful.

It was a good learning experience for the Gorn. And this information fulfilled another one of the purposes for joining this war on the far side of the galaxy. When the Minbari destroyed Starbase 25 and the Regulus colony, important representatives of the Gorn government were killed. Naturally, the Gorn were incensed but it also presented an opportunity.

The Federation entities were still a mystery, a possible threat that had to be evaluated in order to prevent war, or to win one if necessary. An earlier confrontation with the group of aliens that had invaded Gorn space in the Cestus star system nearly started an interstellar war.

The Gorn starship commander collected data on the unknowns, destroyed the offending outpost as per standard orders, and prepared an appropriate trap to eliminate ship support. Destruction of the previous Enterprise led by then Captain Kirk failed (fortunately). As per standing protocol, the Gorn ship set a course away from Gorn territory and proceeded to determine the capabilities of the Federation ship. The Gorn fast attack cruiser was somewhat but not overwhelming, faster than the Federation starship, an important bit of data as his people were planning to invade Federation space and remove the threat. However, the plans were clawed apart when the Metrons interfered.

Instead of the Human captain killing the Gorn commander in a one-on-one fight, devised by the Metrons, the Human allowed the commander to live. In horror, the Human explained to the Metron why he chose to do such a thing and the Metron had allowed the Gorn crew to hear everything. No Gorn would have done such a thing, allowing an alien species to live for such a flimsy excuse when victory was all but assured.

To say that the Hegemony was confused was putting it mildly. Alien encounters had always been equated with invasion. But the Federation creatures had openly admitted that they were in error, something other nations never admitted to even if it were true. For years the government debated among themselves whether or not to contact the Federation. Dozens of sorties into Federation space were ordered for purposes of procuring information. What was not voiced out loud even by those in the highest levels of governments was that the Gorn were afraid, not of the Federation, but of the Metrons. That overpowering fear (and the fact that the Metrons looked much too much like the humans to be ignored), eventually forced Gorn officials to send a delegation to neutral territory, the Regulus science colony.

To the majority of Gorn that knew of the circumstance of the first almost war, this action was strange and suspicious. The Federation had officially invited the Gorn to the colony and most believed it to be a trap of some sort. However' the chance to study the warm bloods up close and personal was irresistible. Several high profile members of the leadership and their families went. It their action resulted in ware, there would be a good reason for it.

In the years that followed, detailed reports concerning the Federation, the people that comprised it, their actions, their attitudes and their way of life was informative and enlightening, but with the Minbari attack everything changed. Important, officials and clan members had been killed but even in this tragedy, opportunity for further exploration of the Federation psyche emerged. To experience how they warred was as important to understand as how they made peace.

The Klingons were easier to analyze, understand and predict but it was beneficial to see their reactions as well, and they had not disappointed. They spoke of honor but most didn't even know the meaning of the word. They gloried in the hunt and the kill but had little or no respect for their enemies unless it was in fear of them. They had been assessed as a warrior culture with little self-control, but even they wouldn't commit wholesale slaughter on the scale the Minbari had planned. The initial and follow-up evaluations of the Klingons were as accurate as the experts had predicted. If it came to war with them the Gorn would have to crush them completely. But the Federation? What would they do when they had their enemy's throat in their teeth? This is what the Gorn needed to know and now was the time they'd find out. The Hegemony's opinion was that the Federation was a nation of half savages. S'Garak's observations were telling him something different. Yes, they were savages, but there was something else there as well; something that his people might be able to work with given time. Everything now came down to how the Federation would treat a humbled enemy, which if the circumstances were reversed, wouldn't hesitate to exterminate all of their collective species.

"R'Kusot," hissed S'Garak. "Inform the Federation that our vengeance is complete. We are here to observe only." Then he added, "If you require assistance please ask." The world 'please' was an alien and somewhat difficult concept to understand but the Humans seemed to like it and no one suffered in the use of it.

There was a gentle, amused hissing among the bridge crew. Unless the Federation warriors were completely incompetent they'd need no help and to suggest such a thing was in insult unto itself. But the Gorn understood the reasoning behind their leader's insult. How the Federation responded to insults was valuable knowledge when learning about one's neighbors. As for the commander, with cold calculation he would watch to observe what the human, Kirk would do.

"Lieutenant?" kirk asked. As the officer on sensor duty, said lieutenant was already answering the question.

"Sir, the Ashen fleet will arrive in nineteen and a half minutes. The signal is fuzzy but I estimate approximately six hundred capital ships inbound towards the Minbari system." Walters frowned slightly as he attempted to clear the signal. The hyperspace strata layer favored by the Ashen was still difficult for the sensors to accurately interpret. "I believe they are splitting up into three groups." He looked at the Admiral in alarm. "Two of the groups are heading our way."

"We've got confirmation from other ships, sir. They are splitting up."

"Open fleet com, ship wide." A moment later. "This is Admiral Kirk. Sensors have detected an Ashen fleet vectoring in on our position. Initiate Operation Cameron, repeat Operation Cameron."

"All ships are acknowledging and beginning the operation."

"The Klingon fleet is arriving on a vector that will have them reach Minbar in nine minutes."

"Inform General Chang of our intentions and have them intercept the Ashen fleet at Minbar. Tell him I said to target the Ashen fleet only. Do not attack the Minbari ships unless fired upon. Tell Chang that I specifically order him to leave them alone unless I command otherwise."

"Yes, Admiral." That's going to go over real well thought the Lieutenant Walters.

By now, both Satais Cadroni and Coplann had developed a glimmer of respect for Kirk and his people but the Klingons were another matter entirely. Each of them couldn't help but wonder if their so-called allies would willingly follow the orders of this human? At this point, there was no real choice in the matter. What both of them really desired was an explanation of what the operation was but they weren't truly expecting any answers. That they were even allowed onboard the bridge of the Flagship of the Federation albeit under very heavy guard, was still somewhat of a shock to each of the warriors. These aliens didn't think like proper warriors and it was disturbing on several levels. It was against most established doctrines but the obvious effectiveness against the Minbari were beyond dispute.

There was the taste of bitterness in his throat as Satai Coplann forced himself to speak in submission to the one known as The Warlord. "Admiral Kirk, the Ashen will attempt to jump in on top of your fleet and destroy as many of your ships as they can before you can do anything to counter that attack. With your fleet in disarray they will be able to cause severe damage."

'I'm aware of that tactic, Satai," said Kirk. His answer surprised Coplann because his response held and air of interest instead of distain as the Minbari assumed it would.

"Then you must spread your fleet," he encouraged. "The Ashen have superior sensors and can exit into normal space with more accuracy than any regular Minbari ship."

"Yes," added Cadroni. "That is correct, Admiral. And surely they will focus on the Enterprise as their main target for such an attack."

"Are you inferring that the Ashen can isolate and specifically this ship while in hyperspace?" lieutenant Valeris asked.

"Yes, Admiral. The emissions from your ship are very specific and will no doubt by now have been forwarded to every Ashen vessel." Cadroni felt like a traitor warning the enemy in such a manner but survival of Minbar was at stake and his duty would permit nothing less than his all in trying to save his people. "The Ashen have knowledge of subspace as you call it. They will try their best to kill you and destroy this ship."

Kirk smiled viciously. "They can try."

"You are being foolish, Kirk." Said Coplann in shock. "I would have never expected that you would allow your pride to doom ships under your command. Your only option is to spread your fleet to minimize the damage."

"Who is the Commander of the Ashen forces?" Kirk asked.

"We do not know," admitted Cadroni. "Their leadership is somewhat of a mystery to us. The commander of the incoming fleet is an unknown. We do know that the fleet has ever been in the Minbari system. Why are you asking us this?"

"To know one's enemy is half the battle," was the answer. Kirk turned fully towards the two confused Satais. "Gentlemen, I think I'll stay here for a moment."

Coplann looked resigned and disappointed by the human's arrogance. The human really was a fool. His technology was advanced; there was no question, but he was underestimating his adversary and it would cost him.

Cadroni however was more observant at the moment and there was a glimpse of something that he saw in the Admiral's eyes. "You are expecting such an attack, Admiral. In fact, I believe you are hoping for it."

"Am I?" asked Kirk.

"Speculation?" smiled Cadroni. This human was unusual to say the least. He was inviting his enemy to discuss tactics minutes before a battle that would decide the fate of a people.

"Why not? We have a couple of minutes."

Coplann was the first to speak. "You know that Ashen weaponry is more powerful than Minbari but you don't seem overly concerned," said and then paused for a moment. "You have seen this tactic before and have devised a counter."

"Your people used such tactics in the past. It would seem…logical that some of the Ashen would try the same thing, with modifications of course." The threat in his voice was unmistakable.

"So you are baiting them, inviting them to attack?"

"I am giving them an opportunity," corrected the Hazel-eyed Admiral. "There an old human anecdote that says" what goes around comes around." Coplann felt a chill run down his spine at the cold-eye look and Kirk gave him. "At last count more than twenty-eight million people died on the Regulas colony alone. Millions of Minbari and Ashen, Humans and members of the Federation and others have died. I intend to be the one to end this now."

IKS Black Storm

"…Ordered not to engage the Minbari fleet. The target is the incoming Ashen war fleet only."

On the bridge of the IKS Black Storm, the direct ancestor of what would be known in sixty years as the Vor'cha, the General Chang found himself standing, straining to keep from screaming at the communications officer visibility sweating, knowing that he was a heartbeat from death. Klingon communications officers rarely survived the rage of their senior officers when bad news was given to them. The phrase 'kill the messenger' had a literal meaning to each and every member of the crew. Nevertheless, the officer had faithfully translated the message and relayed it to his commander. At least he would die in honor and hopefully swiftly.

Any other Klingon would be screaming in rage and demanding vengeance. Most Klingons were not him.

"How dare he?" whispered Chang.

Then he smiled and it was that of a predator preparing to defend its territory. It wasn't an insult he realized. It was a challenge to the Klingon Empire, a challenge to him personally. 'Warlord Kirk' was personally asserting his authority of him and Chang wasn't sure if it was good or not, only that it be met in the manner that it was offered. He admitted that it was an excellent order, forcing his adversary to focus on the more dangerous foe-him. Also it provided some much needed glory and revenge on the Ashen. His warriors were bloodied now and would be better fighters for it. At the same time the orders made him subservient to that human and this he could not abide given the insult behind it. But Kirk had issued challenge and it couldn't be ignored.

Kirk was indeed a worthy opponent the Klingon general had to admit. His manipulation of the events were masterful. However Chang could play the game as well.

"Let loose the dogs of war!" His scream echoed across the bridge as he continued to quote an author not his own.