CHAPTER 14

"Pity the warrior who slays all his foes."

- Klingon proverb.

IMPERIAL DOSADI ASSAULT CARRIER ISS DELOS, UNDER WAY

JUNE 2268

The Delos had made good her losses in crew and fighters in the four months since Toulagai. Her new crew members had been trained up and fully integrated into the extended family that made up her crew.

Newly promoted to Admiral, Nolin hoped that they were as good as he and Sethos thought they were. The sensor pickups went live and he began addressing the crews of the largest fleet the Dosadi had assembled in some time. Two assault carriers, a battleship, two heavy cruisers, two destroyers, a frigate, four corvettes, and a pair of minesweepers. Seven full Wings of fighters and a full battleforce of nearly a thousand Marines. In his formal uniform for this broadcast, he truly did look like Puss-in-Boots, but only Ensign Wilkes noticed the similarity, or indeed was familiar with the fairy tale.

"There has been treachery." He began. To a Dosadi, this was beyond dishonor. "The commander entrusted with the warriors at Corlon was the pawn of the Gorn. Rather than admitting his shame and paying the price, he has fled into their systems, no doubt hoping that he will find some sort of honor among the lizards." he paused, looking into the visual pick-up. "This cannot stand. He has betrayed his family, his name, and all those who put their faith, their trust, their very lives into his treasonous hands.

"We are going to get him back." Another pause, "We know now where he hides. And we are going to get him back. The challenge is great! We must cross the Romulon Empire, sneak through the Gorn border patrols, breech a minefield, and defeat an entire fleet before we can even begin to crack open the hole he has hidden himself in – an entire battlestation, covered in heavy phaser cannon, torpedo and missile launchers. But. - We are going to get him back.

There is an additional challenge. The Federation, our friends, our allies, are allied also with the Gorn. Out of respect for them and to avoid creating difficulties for the humans, we must apply the minimum of force needed to get Furball back. But we are going to get him back. I will be calling on all your skill in this battle, all of your courage.

"Your Captains have their orders. We leave immediately. The gods alone know when, or if we return! Honor above all!"

Lounging together in a small clear area in the East Living Pod, Corin, Eletha, Wilkes, and Sooth looked at each other as the broadcast ended. The Dosadi were excited at the challenge – Wilkes dreaded the coming battle. Since Toulagai, the Delos had been in a couple of smaller scraps and each time Wilkes was nearly physically ill from worry. What if the terror he felt at Toulagai hit him again? What if this time, he ran, like a coward?

What would Sooth think? Or Corin? OR Eletha's kits? The thought was almost more than he could bear. How could the Dosadi be so damn casual about combat? The Challenge Ring was easy compared to battle.

Sooth, draped across Wilkes' lap said, "About time we Marines got to do some real ground-fighting instead of all this damage control work. And against Gorn too! This is going to be fun!"

Eletha, nursing three of her four little ones said, "For you, at least. I'll be stuck herding kits in the nursery until mine are weaned and I'm finally free of these damn things" she indicated her six full breasts.

Wilkes, gently rubbing behind Sooth's ears asked "How can you not be scared? Gorn are twice your size and you're going to be going toe to toe with them, with nothing to protect you."

"Scared? I'm terrified! But that's part of what makes it such fun! I'll finally get to see what I'm made of – to earn a true tale to tell my kits." she giggled, "assuming I ever have any."

Wilkes blushed at the implication and tried to reconcile feeling both terrified and excited at the same time. There was a slight ripple in the ship's artificial gravity as the fleet moved into warp drive and headed towards Airdrie, in a small outcropping of Gorn space, far from home.

GORN BATTLESTATION AIRDRIE, IN ORBIT OVER AIRDRIE

JULY 2268

Inspecting Gorn Marine positions aboard the Airdrie Battlestation, Colonel Jons walked alongside Admiral T'Skay. The eight-foot, quarter-ton and more Gorn towered above the four-foot two-inch, eighty-five pound Hydran with his violet skin and bright white hair and his severely cut black and silver uniform. The contrast against the towering, olive-drab colored Gorn in their glittering metallic uniforms could not be greater. "Admiral, I do believe you are ready for any eventuality. Your commanders know their business well, from the electronic defenses to the more..." he waved his hand at the assembled Gorn troops, "Physical. I believe it would take a Division at least to overcome your internal defenses, and they would pay heavily for doing so."

"I don't really anticipate anyone trying it, Colonel. With our isolation here, the Romulons on one side and the Federation on the other, a massive minefield and our Fleet positioned to defend us, there is simply no way anyone could dream of trying to take this station."

As they moved away from the assembled troops, the Colonel looked up at the big lizard, "It's not exactly 'anyone' we're concerned with here, is it, Admiral? You know what the intercepts are pointing towards."

T'Skay hissed in frustration. "Yes. They've lost track of several Dosadi vessels, but 'cannot reveal which ships' to avoid compromising intelligence sources. And the idiot paper-pushing rats have delayed getting Furball deeper into the Confederacy at every turn. 'Delicate alliances with the Federation' they say. I've again been assured that Furball will be moved within a day or two – for the third time this week. There are days I wonder how the Confederacy can manage to feed itself, much less conduct operations of any sort."

Jons smiled, "A hazard of any interstellar government, I'm afraid. We men of action must endure the bureaucrats and pay the price for their folly. Still, you are well prepared. If the kittycats do show up, I expect once they see what's facing them, they'll turn right around again. At least if they've got any sense at all."

The big Gorn admiral paused, "They're going to know what we've got, Colonel. The damn Federation has saddled me with a Dosadi ambassador to try to 'normalize relations'. We've done our best to keep him away from anything that can transmit further than the kitchens, but I'm expecting that he's found some way to get the word out."

The little Hydran hissed, "Then there will be hell to pay."

"Just so long as the damn cats are the ones paying the bill, I'll be happy. Will you be attending the party tonight? We're showing off Furball to the various diplomatic missions AND, to add to the fun, he'll be giving a speech!"

Stifling a groan, Jons said, "As the Sword Worlds military attache', I'm afraid I'm required to be there."

Later that evening, both military men were trying to drink enough to drown out the yowling coming from Marshal Furball's seemingly endless speech. Colonel Jons thought to himself, "Thank GOD the Gorn continue to serve food and drink throughout these things or we'd all starve to death before he shuts up." Jons' dinner partner that evening was an attractive, if too tall, young functionary from the Federation. And of course, the humans had no real variation in skin color, which made their appearance rather bland to the Colonel's taste.

The Dosadi ambassador was obviously in a foul mood, which only made Jons feel better about being stuck at the rather silly party. Continuing to engage the empty-headed woman in conversation, Jons noticed T'Skay following an aide out of the ballroom and wondered what was pulling the Admiral away from his triumph.