Qo’noS. First City. Six Months before the attack
The outskirts of the Klingon capital city, walled off from the more prestigious neighborhoods of the Empire’s patricians, a ramshackle labyrinth of crumbling public housing, on the shabby tenement buildings makeshift additions were growing like fungus. The gothic spires of the Great Hall could barely be seen in the distance through the smoggy haze. Low hanging clouds in burgundy, teal and indigo blocked the sky. The air was moist and noxious. Rain was pouring, washing away some of the grime from building surfaces, turning it into thick oily sludge. A few of the crooked and narrow alleys were teeming with people, mostly off-worlders, members of species subjected by Klingon war prowess.
In a shady dive, populated by an all-male mixture of Orions, Nausicaans, Gorn and a few Klingons, the occupants were yelling, laughing, drinking adulterated blood wine, using their throwing knives for darts. The atmosphere was wicked and brutal.
At the bar, sticking out of the crowd, a person was sitting, wearing a hooded cloak, the face not visible, but one could tell that it was a woman. She emptied her glass and handed the obese bartender a small coin as payment, then she walked towards the exit. A muscular Orion eyed her movement and then secretly signalled his companion who got up from his seat and followed her. The woman turned around a corner, the Orion man following her closely, the second Orion had also left the bar and took a parallel alleyway to intercept his target. The woman, now becoming aware of her pursuers increased her pace and peered over her shoulder a few times, the Orions made sure to duck away in time into a dark spot, avoiding detection. The woman reached into the pocket of her cloak, getting hold of a small phaser. She made another turn, just to find herself in a cul-de-sac, only a dilapidated door of a building at the end. She spun around to see the Orions approaching from two different directions - no way to escape. Behind her the door opened, a geriatric hag emerged, slowly careening towards her with a hunched posture. The woman backed away from the Orions towards the door. The two heavy-set men closed in on her, walking side-by-side now. They were only a few steps away. The woman prepared to fire her weapon, when the old hag suddenly leaped at her with her own phaser and stunned her, point-blank. The woman’s eyes shot wide open, she yelped quickly and then slumped down, both Orion males caught her by her arms and dragged her into the building, directed by the old hag.
The Orion men dropped the woman on the ground. The old hag approached her from behind, now walking elegantly, stepped out of the long overcoat she had been wearing and pulled off a whig from her head, revealing a gorgeous Orion female under the disguise. She grabbed the woman and slapped her on the cheek.
“Come on, wake up!”, she shouted.
The woman slowly came to, got on her knees and looked around. She found herself in a cramped basement warehouse, filled with crates, barrels, loading equipment, from the labels you could tell most of the stuff were military supplies. In front of her on a raised chair sat a massive figure, staring at her with his fierce red eyes, his leather garments worn away at many places, the dark spotted skin on his hairless head tightly stretched over the many elongated or pointed bony ridges that grew on his face, pointing forward, many with teeth-like extensions protruding from their tips, like rudimentary immovable mandibles: a Lethean. The Orion woman was by his side, lasciviously leaning on his shoulder, behind them a ragtag group of militants, mostly males, few women, other Letheans, Orions, Nausicaans, Gorn and members of many more races, like those we have seen earlier in the streets. They were holding disruptor rifles, displaying banners, frowning.
Though illuminated by a large ceiling light above her, her hood still covered the woman’s face from onlookers.
The Lethean impatiently shouted:
“Take that off!”
“No! My identity is not to be revealed. That was the deal, Gumo!”, the woman countered.
“You will address me as Patron, woman”!, Gumo bristled with anger.
“I am not one of your acolytes, so cut it, you fool.”
“We also had a deal about you not being armed!”, Gumo grunted accusingly and threw the tiny phaser at her feet which his henchmen had retrieved from the woman earlier.
“Then you should have picked a better place to meet than this slum. One gets stunned even by the elderly”,
she said while shooting a look at the Orion lady, to which the latter grinned coylily.
“...which was not part of the deal either”, the woman continued while rubbing the sore spot on her back where she had been hit.
“We had to take precautions. How do we know that you are not a Federation spy?”, Gumo responded.
The woman chuckled condescendingly.
“Don’t flatter yourself. The Federation doesn’t consider your little faction worthy of their assets.”
“Enough”, Gumo yelled and moved his clawed hand in her direction, sending a painful psionic attack through her body. She exhaled in agony. Gumo jumped to his feet, walked over and grabbed her by the collar.
“Enough of these games. You said you had a proposition for us, so speak or I will kill you right now.”
Starbase 234, a few hours after the Attack on Khefka IV
Closely followed by a patched up USS Rabin, the USS Valentine was approaching Starbase 234, a huge dock-capable Starfleet installation orbiting a planet near Klingon space, one of her docking arms was still being reconstructed.
Captain White and Commodore Shelk were both on their way to a briefing with the regional command. The hallways of the station were filled with personnel, hectically handling assignments, security officers were posted at all intersections, MACO troops marching in small squad columns.
“Busy morning”, Shelk commented.
“Have you gotten preliminary orders yet?”, the Captain asked him.
“Right before we left. My ship is to head for the Mutara Sector to lead a task force with the Saratoga and the Bennington.”
“So, it will be up to me to follow up with those other coordinates”, White said with resignation.
Shelk grabbed his arm and pulled White to a stop.
“Hold on Jeff, you can’t be serious about going after your little crime story when all this is happening?”
He gestured at the many people crowding the space around them. White looked at his old friend, he was hurt.
“Is this how you see it? Just a little boyish pastime for two bored starship captains?”
Shelk waved conciliatorily and led him to a more secluded spot next to a pillar:
“Look, it’s not that I don’t believe you about this Phoenix guy. And what role Director Jefferson and other Section people might have played or not, I don’t know. But whatever is going on, it concerns the death of one admiral only. The attack on Khefka IV killed thousands.”
Captain White’s resolve began to crumble and his face gave it away.
“You want to tell me that, as Starfleet officers, faced with a threat, it is our duty to protect those that we care about, those that are alive, instead of trying to avenge the dead, ...the needs of the many...”
Shelk nodded. He gently put a hand on White’s shoulder.
“I am no Vulcan, but yeah. Let’s make our official orders the priority for now. Those coordinates will still be there, when this is over.”
He began to walk away backwards.
“And as soon as it is, I will be there to get you out of trouble”, the Commodore exclaimed, giving White a wink.
The Captain looked at him walking away for a few seconds before he followed in the direction for the station’s command center.
A forest of legs was walking through a narrow corridor. A pair of security officers stood to attention when the group passed them before coming through a heavy automatic door into a large cavernous room. The place was filled with about two dozen people. Half of them sat around a large conference table, futuristic, ornate - but functional, with small desktop monitors and interface panels for every seat. The room’s ceiling lights illuminated not much more than the table itself and its immediate surroundings. On the wall opposite to one end of the table, a huge viewscreen was displaying numerous video feeds, statistical charts, space maps and ship deployments.
The room’s occupants were amidst an intense discussion. Upon noticing the group which had just entered, all conversation ceased and turned to respectful silence. Everyone faced the group’s leader, people rose from their seats as one, all greeting him:
“Good evening, Mr President.”
President Okeg gave a quick nod. He sat down at the head of the table, the group around the table followed suit. The President’s staff members moved to the background, the security detail remained by the door.
Gathered around the table were the key figures of the United Federation of Planet’s Security Council.
They were the Best of the Best: Head of Starfleet Operations, Fleet Admiral Jorel Quinn, a silver-haired Trill, revered; Director of Starfleet Intelligence, Vice Admiral William Jefferson, who had risen to become one of the most influential officials in the Federation in a matter of weeks; Director of Starfleet Security, MACO Lieutenant General H’Roren, a battle-hardened Caitian with not only the heart, but also the looks of a tiger; Federal Investigation Agency head, Director Thalen, Xindi, crewcut and serious; Attorney General Chetra Haff, turquoise-skinned Bolian, young and brilliant - the heads of the principal organizations. Furthermore, the group was complemented by the Chairmen of the Federation Council’s Committees for Defense, Internal Affairs, Justice and External Affairs, respectively. The latter, who was also here as Speaker of the Council, Imelda Hayes, former Vega IX representative, a harsh and stern matron on the ungenerous side of fifty, emigrated Filipina mestiza, massive cheekbones under a towering dome of well groomed hair, wearing a much too extravagant dress for the occasion and with a gilded lapel pin the size of a wheel cap, gravel-voiced, severe eyes, well-spoken and courteous only if she chooses to, she ruled over the Council like the empress dowager.
The President began to address the others:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming on such short notice, but I have been informed that we received new and disturbing intelligence on the Khefka IV Attack. Admiral, if you please?”, he looked at Director Jefferson.
“Thank you, Sir.”
Jefferson got up and marched towards the large viewscreen.
“Starfleet Intelligence received this footage a few hours ago. We have not yet been able to absolutely verify its authenticity, but the pictures speak a strong language. See for yourself.”
The footage began to play.
On the black screen red letters began to appear, they were in an alien language, English subtitles were being superimposed:
“This is a communique from the Patronage of Freedom.”
The picture changed to the orbital view of an unknown planet, apparently recorded from a spaceship. A voice began to speak:
“You have conquered our worlds, you have subdued our brothers, you have killed our women and children, you have bombed our cities from afar like cowards, you have imprisoned our freedom fighters and you have executed our martyrs, yet you dare to call us terrorists!
But oppression has many faces. The ugly face of the barbarian who strikes your home with deadly force or the sleazy smile of the self-proclaimed pacifist who wields his influence through economic coercion and political exclusion.
Both are the same to us: imperialism. For too long, you have ignored our pleas, for too long you have declined our demands, but now the Oppressed have been given a mighty sword, to strike back at their enemies.”
On the viewscreen a small flickering bolt of light suddenly shot towards the planet, after a few seconds it disappeared in the thickness of the atmosphere. A couple more seconds later an intense bright glow engulfed an area on the surface.
The picture cut to Gumo, surrounded by his militia men, banners, rifles and all, displaying their entire arsenal, which by now has become much more impressive. Centerpiece was an assembly of plasma torpedoes on flat dolly cars. Some of Gumo’s men were sitting on them, straddling them like kiddie rides.
“A pillar of holy fire has risen from this place that you had occupied in your hubris. The blood of those who died here is on your hands.
Unless the Klingon Empire and the Federation release all of our occupied worlds, as well as pull all military forces out of those areas, immediately and forever, we will rain fire on one of your worlds each week until these demands are met.
You have seen a demonstration of the Patronage's power. Do not try to test our resolve or our patience.
No one can stop us. Righteousness is our guide. We are set on our course and we are many.”
Nobody said a word in the conference room. Finally Admiral Quinn broke the silence:
“Has any of this gone public yet?”
“No, Sir. We received the transmission through a secured channel. Unknown origin, I have to add”, Jefferson responded.
“We better keep it that way, Mr President. If word of this gets out, before we know what to do about it, it could cause a panic”, General H’Roren warned.
The Chairman of Interior Affairs nodded in agreement.
“What about the Klingons? Do they know? Have there been any attacks on their installations?”, the President asked.
“I reached out to my contacts in the Empire, they confirmed that a similar transmission had been received earlier. However there were no attacks on them”, Director Jefferson explained.
“What do we know about this group, Jefferson?”, Quinn wanted to know. Jefferson began to recite from his intelligence report:
“Not much, I am afraid. They popped up on our radar a few years ago. Back then they were just one of the many resistance groups that have been active ever since the Klingons had taken over the Gorn homeworld and they have remained pretty much in obscurity ever since. Their leader, a Lethean who goes by the name of Gumo, used to be a weapons smuggler, he probably provided the group with his caches in exchange for their obedience. Our analysts concur in terms of identification, facial recognition, dialect and speech patterns, behavior, leadership profile: all very definitive in what is known about him. There is not much about the lower ranks though, by the way we suspect that many of his men are hired mercenaries.”
“Would they be capable of carrying out more attacks like this? What resources do they possess?”, the President inquired.
“Mr President, militant groups like this are notorious for their bravado and exaggeration. They might not even be responsible at all and just claim other people’s work for themselves. There is a good chance that we can ignore this threat entirely”, the Chairman of the Defense Committee stated.
“We won’t take chances with the lives of our people, Mr Chairman”, Speaker Hayes intervened.
Everyone’s blood ran cold.
“Of course not, Ma’am. That was not what I meant...”, the Chairman began to defend his statement, but Hayes waved him off. End of discussion.
“Well, what and when will be our response to this attack? You do have a response in mind, Gentlemen?”, she asked
around the room, slicing them with her expectant gaze.
“There are military options, Ma’am, however, as the Chairman stated, there are doubts about the complete truth of their claims. For example, according to our latest report, they do not have access to fast, long-range vessels equipped for delivery of such torpedoes we have seen in the footage”, Jefferson answered.
“Those were plasma weapons of Reman origin, I recognize the type”, General H’Roren added.
“Correct. Some of our older sources claim the group is basically dependent on logistical support from factions within the Romulan Empire or its spin-off successors.”
“Well Admiral, those factions, should they indeed exist, would probably not send advanced torpedoes to the terrorists without a means of delivery”, Hayes continued.
“I guess not, Ma’am.”
“So it seems that you have underestimated Mr Gumo and his friends”, Speaker Hayes excoriated the others.
“As Speaker of the Council I must relay to you all our deepest concerns regarding the latest attack. The well-being of the people of the Federation must not be jeopardized.”
“I think we all agree on that, Madam Speaker”, the President assured, trying to defuse the tension.
“Chairman, would you please take us through the range of options that your committee has worked out?”
“Of course, Sir. Our main response is vigilance, put in place almost immediately after the Attack, we have increased security measures throughout Federation space. We have raised the number of security personnel on active duty, especially at Starfleet installations as well as our embassies on foreign soil. All Starfleet vessels will remain on constant yellow alert and have been recalled to the nearest bases for reassignment and taking on MACO troops. This procedure is currently being completed. Immediate deployments will involve patrolling flights, which will be stepped up at all border areas, as well as the core worlds. Orbital defenses are also being brought up to date.”
FIA Director Thalen interjected:
“I would like to personally lead a team of investigators at the attack site itself. I think a detailed analysis can answer many of the questions we currently have.”
“You don’t have jurisdiction there, Director Thalen. Khefka is not a Federation member”, Attorney General Haff reminded him.
“I like to think I have, criminal investigation regarding a civilian institution concerns my department”, Thalen answered.
“This is no simple criminal act, Director, it was a terrorist attack on a military scale. Legally, we would have to regard this as an act of war by a foreign power, requiring a military investigation, as well as response”, Haff told him.
“Which would mean Starfleet has to take over”, Admiral Quinn summarized.
“And who would be conducting the investigation?”, Thalen asked.
“I believe my department is more than qualified to handle it”, Director Jefferson stated.
“Ha!” Speaker Hayes exhaled in bitter amusement.
“I do not consider your personal handling of the investigation in the death of your predecessor very qualified, Admiral, since you lost the supposed culprit to an attack you could never throw light on”, Speaker Hayes noted while not hiding her disfavor.
“In addition, I would like to concur with Ms Haff that Khefka is no Federation member. It is an independant world and they lost many people during the attack as well. Speaking from the perspective of my Committee it could be considered as treading on their shoes, if we try to impose our own investigation on them. This could unnecessarily complicate our relations with the Khefkans, especially with our ongoing efforts to pitch membership to them. Notwithstanding their poor ability to safeguard planetary defense. Any people we send there would be vulnerable to follow-up attacks.”
“Your objections are valid, Madam Speaker, however I think we owe it to the victims and their families to conduct a thorough investigation. As for jurisdiction, in the spirit of cooperation, I would like to send a joint team, Starfleet, FIA, Intel, delegates of other key departments, if applicable, and invite the Khefkans to pool their resources with us”, President Okeg suggested.
Speaker Hayes fixed him with her stare, while explaining:
“With all due respect, Sir, I am a little unclear about your focus on investigating an orbital bombardment on our settlement, an attack carried out by a group of terrorists that just proudly claimed their responsibility. Our response must not be limited to increased security and an investigation. The only way we can truly protect the Federation from them is by taking up arms. Those people understand only one language: action.”
Her words resonated in the room. They tackled the emotional side effects of the attack, the wish for vengeance. Something they all knew should be beyond their consideration, yet it was what everyone also felt.
“You are talking about a retaliatory strike, Ma’am?! I don’t think that is something the Federation stands for, nor should Starfleet be used in such a capacity”,
Admiral Quinn declared with a hint of horror in his voice.
“Attack is the best form of defense. And it will be exactly what they won’t expect us to do, so we have the element of surprise on our side. Do I really have to explain strategy and tactics to you, Admiral?”, Hayes arrogantly chewed him out.
Quinn, very upset, had trouble containing a burst of rage.
“We can not neglect the patrolling duties we have already implemented either and given the numerous commitments for the Alliance, we are spread thin already on available starships. I honestly don’t see how we could assemble a strike force, even if we wanted to”, the Chairman of Defense noted.
“An obvious result of our outdated policy of peaceful restraint. I have advocated for scaling up our fleet size on many occasions. Times have changed and we won’t stand a chance, if we refuse to change with them.”
Speaker Hayes got up from her seat and began to move for the exit, followed by her aides. Everyone looked at her with astonishment, defying the President by attempting to leave without proper dismissal. Halfway out she turned and said:
“I will brief the Council on the actions you all have taken so far. I am not sure if the other members share your reluctance to use the necessary force to defend ourselves. Good day, everyone.”
With that she left, another day of having successfully tormented high-ranking officials.