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Chapter 8: Casus Belli

Present day: 2285

Like a caged animal slowly losing its mind in a confined space, Amanda paced back and forth in Dr. Puri’s small office in the Grissom’s sickbay. The fingers of her right hand were drilling almost continuously against her thigh, and she moved her left hand in an agitated cycle from the top of her head to her chin and then to her waist. Why, oh why hadn’t Sarek listened to her? She had worried all along that the strain of this mission, coupled with those ridiculously heavy and hot robes of her husband’s, was too much for him. Why did Sarek have to be so…obnoxiously stubborn…when it came to tradition?

Waiting with her were Capt. Esteban and Gorkon. Both men seemed to be considerably calmer, at least on the outside. They had both faced their share of death in their respective careers, and were much more capable of dealing with the reality of what had just happened in the dining room with composure than Amanda was.

Inwardly both were more than a little bothered, however. Esteban, who had been so proud to host an important figure like Sarek on this diplomatic mission, could not help but wonder how his ship’s reputation (and indeed his own career) would be damaged if Sarek died. Gorkon’s worries were considerably larger in scope: he had regarded Sarek as the best opportunity that he and the Chancellor were ever going to have to deliver the true sentiments of the Klingon Empire directly to President Roth, rather than through the dramatic intermediary that they had in Ambassador Kamarag: peace was only going to be possible if the Federation changed its ways and started dealing openly with the Empire. Gorkon had seen with his own eyes that Sarek was an honest man, able to pass along Gorkon’s words with a personal impartiality that no one else could ever achieve, in Gorkon’s estimation. Now the delivery of that message was in danger, and Gorkon felt apprehension growing in his heart.

With a decidedly mixed expression of grim seriousness and relief upon his face, Dr. Puri entered his office. “Lady Amanda…Captain…Councilor…” Puri nodded to each individual in turn. “As far as I can be certain, given the construction of the Vulcan heart, Ambassador Sarek didn’t have a heart attack.”

In what her husband would no doubt have considered an excessive display of emotionalism, Amanda rushed into Esteban’s arms, her eyes moistening up with the sudden release of tension she was experiencing. “Thank the heavens!” She looked up towards the ceiling, wiping at her eyes.

“However,” Puri continued more seriously, now that he had delivered the good half of his news, “my scans indicate that Sarek has suffered from some sort of traumatic neurological event in the synaptic pathways of his brain that are related to telepathy. I can’t even begin to speculate what caused this trauma, because physiologically I can’t find anything wrong with him.”

Esteban wrapped a supportive arm around Amanda, holding her steady as her balance faltered. “Will he recover, Ahsan?” he asked.

“Given that I don’t know why this happened, it’s hard to say…but I believe so, as long as whatever happened before doesn’t happen again. I’m going to monitor him for the time being just to be sure, but it should be safe to revive him in a few hours.”

Amanda cleared her throat quietly, trying to regain at least a shred of composure. “Captain Esteban, would it be possible for you to establish a subspace communication channel with the Enterprise?”

Esteban folded his arms thoughtfully across his chest. “We’re pretty far from the scheduled training area for the Enterprise, but I’ll have Marcelino to look into it.”

As Amanda mentioned the former flagship, Gorkon felt a ripple of electricity pass through his body as he remembered Chancellor Lorak’s words from earlier in the day: General Chang informs me that Intelligence has matched the engine signature of one of the vessels to that of the Enterprise.

Gorkon distanced himself a few steps from the others as he stared blankly off into space. Nimbus III wasn’t terribly far from the Mutara sector. He sighed quietly as he quickly processed Esteban’s statement. By asserting that the Enterprise was outside normal communications range with the Grissom, the Starfleet captain was tacitly confirming for him the fact that the Enterprise was indeed in the Mutara sector for the obviously classified war game exercises that the listening post had detected. Clearly the Chancellor’s message about the Federation changing its secretive ways had already fallen upon one pair of deaf ears.

Amanda nodded tensely to Esteban. “Thank you, Captain. I need to let Spock know what’s going on with his father as soon as possible. I’m sure that he already knows that something has happened to him.”

“You’re talking about k’war’ma’khon, right?” Esteban asked.

“Precisely,” Amanda replied back.

Esteban nodded his head slightly. He’d heard of the concept, had learned about it during his assignment to Vulcan, about how it connected Vulcan family members on a physical and psychological level to one another, and to a lesser extent with clan members and the general Vulcan populace. Until now he hadn’t imagined that the effect could be so powerful that Spock might feel the resonance so far from their present position, but Amanda seemed to be implying that it was. “I’ll make sure Marcelino knows this has the highest priority. He’s a top notch comm. officer, so I’d say chances are good that he’ll be able to work some of his voodoo magic to get you that clear channel.”

Esteban turned his attention to Gorkon. “Councilor, considering the circumstances…”

“Yes,” Gorkon interrupted quietly. “I will return to my own vessel for the time being, until the Ambassador recovers. But I would like to be informed when he has regained enough of his strength for me to speak with him again. There is still much that we have to discuss.”

“Certainly, Councilor,” Esteban said.


Gorkon heard the loud, boisterous sounds of laughter coming from the mess hall of Kronos One long before he entered the emotional heart of the ship’s core. The metallic walls and the conduits running within them easily carried the noise of drunken joviality into the corridors beyond the eating area.

Sure enough, when the doors clanked noisily open in front of him, Gorkon saw the tables of the mess hall were crowded with the members of the ship’s crew, his daughter Azetbur among them. A barrel of half empty bloodwine stood off to one side, opened earlier in the day. The broken heraldic seal on the barrel was that of the diplomatic office on Nimbus III, not of his own ship. Korrd must have brought it with him. The faces of his men held easy smiles, their bodily postures at the tables relaxed over their drinking cups. Korrd stood in the center of the room, his voice booming, his arms gesticulating enthusiastically, bloodwine slopping out of his cup and onto the floor, obviously the current center of attention as he regaled the crew with stories of his own glorious past exploits. Azetbur appeared to be the only sober one in the room.

Anger rose in his gut as he bristled at the sight. His men were celebrating, but celebrating what? He could see nothing about the events of this day that were worth celebrating.

One of Korrd’s arms flew through the air, more bloodwine spilling from the lip of his metallic flagon. “And do you know what happened next?” Korrd roared out, clearly enjoying the attention that he was receiving, the adoring eyes of the crowd upon him.

“What, General?” His men merrily crowed out at Korrd. “What did that worthless dog Chulak say?”

A wide smile appeared on Korrd’s face, but he was interrupted by the sound of Gorkon’s cane slamming impatiently into the floor before he could answer the crowd’s drunken questions. Instantly the sounds of celebration died away as the men looked away from Korrd and towards their commander.

“You men disperse. You can hear General Korrd’s tale of victory over the Romulans some other time.” Gorkon limped tiredly into the mess hall, stopped half way between where Korrd stood and Azetbur sat. “Or do yourselves a favor and read about our wars with the Star Empire from the database. You’ll find the official records far less…fanciful.”

Like scolded children, the crew of his ship skulked silently out of the mess hall.

Korrd set his flagon down on the edge of the nearest table, regarded Gorkon carefully, could see in the obsidian eyes a barely restrained fury, a desire to lash out at him. “Forgive me, Councilor. My choice of stories to tell was regrettable. I had forgotten that your eldest son died at Galorndon Core.”

Gorkon’s nostrils flared. There was a creak of leather as his fingers tightened their grip around his cane of bone. “How could you forget, old man? Has your mind grown so feeble? Karel was one of your two brigade commanders. Did you remember to tell the men of Karel’s death while you were recounting your glorious story?” Gorkon glanced at his somber faced daughter, caught the look of annoyance on her face, then looked back at Korrd. “Apparently not.”

“One in a small handful of deaths that occurred that day, hardly worth mentioning considered the scope of my victory.” Korrd picked up his glass of bloodwine again, drank deeply from the flagon, spoke sarcastically after a long savoring swallow of the warm contents. “Your son died well…his was a death that every Klingon should envy. I did not realize you would object so strongly to my telling the story of one of our people’s most decisive victories in living memory.”

A low growl emitted deep from within Gorkon’s chest. He seemed to rise up, to stand tall and proud upon both of his legs, the weakness of his left leg forgotten, his cane falling to the floor, momentarily unneeded. Not with an awkward limp, but with elegant grace he closed the gap between himself and Korrd. Korrd didn’t even have the chance to be surprised, the motion was so unexpected, nor did he have the chance to defend himself as Gorkon struck out at him, hit him soundly on the jaw with the palm of an open hand, and knocked him off his feet entirely with a second quick blow.

As Korrd fell backwards to the floor, Gorkon spat viciously at him, the spittle landing squarely on Korrd’s cheek. “I do not object to the event. I would never deny you the laurels that you so richly deserve from that day. What I object to is the fact that you tell your tale so subjectively. Yes, you remember to tell the men about the glory of that single battle, but you forget to tell them about the cost of the entire war…the price that we paid in men and material. What I object to is what has happened since that day, that the teller of this tale has allowed himself to become a drunken old fool, a worthless petaQ.”

Korrd held a hand to the place where he had been struck, felt the slow trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth. “A fool, you say?” Korrd rubbed his bloodied fingers together. “Consider the source: the man who wants the wind to respect him…the man who argues against our nature, the man who would have us change everything about ourselves that is fundamentally Klingon.” He rose to his feet, laughing haughtily, contemptuously, now. “I may be a drunk, but that is better than being what you are: a toothless tika cat, yowling nervously from the corner for peace. It is fitting that you hail from the city of Quin’lat, Gorkon. Nowhere else could such a fool arise in the Empire…first came the man that Kahless told us about, killed by the storm he railed against…then it birthed your grandfather Kolos, who died a disgraced prisoner at Rura Penthe…and now we have you.”

“Have you finished yet?” Gorkon asked softly.

“Yes,” Korrd answered with a smirk, as though daring Gorkon to challenge him. Yes, he had been caught off his guard earlier, thanks largely to being drunk, but he had regained his senses now. While Gorkon had the advantage of reach over him with his longer arms, Korrd had the dual advantages of his own sheer bulk and Gorkon’s bad leg on his side. If tradition would have allowed it, he would have challenged Gorkon to mortal combat. Certainly he wanted to do so; much of his own fall from favor with the High Council had been as a result of Gorkon’s ridiculous campaign for peace. But he could not challenge Gorkon directly because of rank, because Gorkon came from a House that had greater nobility than his own. So all he could do was goad Gorkon now and hope that the Councilor would grant him the opportunity of the fight that he so desired.

“Good,” Gorkon said, his voice still eerily quiet, not at all Klingon sounding. “Then remove yourself from my ship. I grow tired of having you in my sight.”

“Councilor,” Korrd said as he bowed low, his arms held out away from his sides, but there was no respect contained in the action.

After Korrd left the mess hall, Azetbur lifted her eyes from the floor and towards her father. “I don’t understand why you don’t just kill him, father,” she said, confusion plain in her voice. “The things he says…about you, about our family…the dishonor is great.”

“Is it so great a dishonor for you to bear, that you must challenge my decision to allow him to leave here freely, daughter?”

“No, of course not,” Azetbur responded quickly, wanting to reassure him. “I trust you, father, your judgment. I would never challenge your right to lead our family…I only want to know what it is that you see in him, that you allow him to live. Please tell me it is not merely for the sake of jop’ej way’.”

“No, daughter, that is not the only reason for it, though I would be lying if I said that jop’ej way’ had nothing to do with it. And in part I allow him to live because, if I killed him, I would have to choose another sad and washed-out old fop to fill Korrd’s empty position on Nimbus III -- and that is a fate that I would wish upon no man.” He gestured with an arm, silently beckoning her to help him to the nearest table bench.

Instantly she was at his side, pulling his left arm over her shoulder so that he would not have to put his full weight on his bad leg. Her father had sustained the wound to the muscles in his left thigh a year ago, acquired in a battle against the Kzinti wherein her mother Raima had also received a wound in the chest, though the stab she had taken to one of her two hearts had proved fatal. That battle, so costly to her parents, had been one of many battles in a border war that had also claimed the life of her younger brother Kintazh a few weeks before her father’s wounding.

It pained her heart to see him like this, weak and suffering needlessly: even with the relatively primitive state of Klingon medicine, the doctors on the home world could have easily repaired the damage to the muscle tissue. But for some unknown reason Gorkon had refused all treatment for the wound, and so in the subsequent weeks the tissue had become infected and pustulant. For over a month her father had been bedridden, delirious with a high fever as the wound slowly poisoned the bone and the marrow within it, and for a time Azetbur had feared that Gorkon would lose the leg entirely, or worse still: that he would die, leaving her, ill-prepared as she had been at the time, to lead their family House. But against all odds her father had survived, and the wounds had slowly begun to heal in the last few months, though he would never completely recover from them.

With Azetbur’s heavy assistance, Gorkon was able to sit down on the bench with a minimal amount of pain. He rubbed at the muscle, wincing; he had done far too much standing and walking already today on the planet and on Grissom, and the final lunge at Korrd had been a needless overexertion. He sighed, squeezing his daughter at the shoulder, a silent thanks for her unquestioning and ever present support.

“Korrd may be a drunken old man,” Gorkon said with exhaustion in his voice, “but he speaks the truth as he understands it. The fool of Quin’lat was just that: a fool. And from a certain perspective, your great-grandfather could be considered one as well. Kahless knows that I thought him one in my vegetable days. As for myself, it may well be that I am the modern fool of Quin’lat. I accept this, knowing that history will be my judge. And even if I am judged to be that fool, it is not such a terrible thing, Azetbur…for the fool of Quin’lat died as a man filled with the conviction of his beliefs. Such a man is to be admired -- Kahless must have done so, otherwise we would not have his story of the fool to tell to our children as they lay down in their beds.”

Azetbur sat down beside her father, but she did not look at him. At his words, her eyes fell to the floor, feeling suddenly ashamed.

“And though I may have called him a worthless petaQ, Korrd will never truly be one, my daughter. He has within him a good heart, one that is as constant as the sun. With that heart he has always acted for the good of the Empire, and even though he has lost his way, I believe that the constancy of his heart will one day allow him to once again act in the best interests of the Empire…if only he can recognize that moment when it comes, and not be too besotted with wine when it presents itself.”

Azetbur stared down at her hands. “Forgive me, father…but I think you see more in him than there is. You always put too much faith in others.”

With a single finger, Gorkon lifted her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his. “We all have within us a tremendous capacity to do what must be done despite the trials that we face -- because we know that it is the right thing to do, Azetbur. We must only possess the strength of heart not to doubt ourselves. Korrd will find his…as you will find yours, when you are called to lead our family. Of this, I have no doubt.”

“Father…” Azetbur murmured quietly as she sank from the bench and knelt down before him, placing her head lightly upon his lap, upon the wounded thigh.

Gorkon placed a strong and reassuring hand on her head. “I am quite content in the knowledge that a female shall pick up my mantle after I am gone. Of all my children, you have always been the most worthy to lead our House, my brave daughter,” Gorkon said, stroking his fingers affectionately through her hair. “So much more the pity that all three of your brothers had to die before tradition would grant you the title of heiress…a title which has always been yours by right, if not always by rite and virtue of birth.”

Azetbur lifted her head, held his hand to her mouth, and kissed the battle-worn fingers. “Thank you, father.”

Gorkon patted the space beside him, inviting her to sit beside him once again. “Now tell me…what was it that put our beloved Dahar master General Korrd into such a good mood today? What has happened in my absence, that the men celebrate and sing the old victory songs?”

A slight smile appeared on Azetbur’s face, one that spoke of delight and pleasure at the news she bore. “There is going to be a war, father. War with the Federation.”

“How do you know this?”

Azetbur pulled a PADD from her waist, held it out to him. “Colonel Kerla sent a message from the home world.”

Kerla…Gorkon nodded, recognizing the name: a rising star, trustworthy, already a brilliant military man despite his youth, one who was destined to hold a junior seat on the High Council once he gained the rank of Brigadier. Gorkon held up the PADD, read its contents.

From: Col. Kerla, Imperial Klingon Defense Forces

To: General and Councilor Member Gorkon

Sir -- be advised that there has been an incident in the Mutara Sector. Our borders have been violated once more by our enemies. General Chang has pressed the Chancellor with news from our Intelligence Division, and he agrees that there can be no other course now but war.

Gorkon lowered the data PADD, looked away from it for a moment. Yes, it was to be war then, if the High Council had deemed that the Federation had violated their borders, however slight that violation. There was no such thing as an insignificant corner of Klingon space.

He looked back to the PADD with dread, wondering what the violation had been. He scrolled down…yes, there was more to the message. Bless that Kerla…he really ought to make him one of his own military advisers.

The Enterprise, which as you know Intelligence has been tracking for the past 24 hours, has engaged another Starfleet vessel, destroying it completely within in the Mutara Nebula.

, Gorkon thought impatiently to himself, but what of this violation of our space? He turned his attention once more to the text.

Further, Intelligence informs us that the Mutara Nebula is gone.

Well then, that explained the so-called violation of Klingon space. The Mutara Nebula was a vast cloud in space, extending itself over nearly a parsec of the Mutara Sector, right into the very edge of the boundaries of the Klingon Empire. But how in the name of Kahless could the nebula be…gone? Nebulas did not just disappear unexpectedly into the vacuum of space.

Our listening posts have confirmed this fact. In addition, there is now a star and a planet where none existed before. All of this happened directly after the Enterprise destroyed the other vessel. There can be no other explanation but that the humans have stolen ashes from Qui’tu.


Gorkon laid the PADD cautiously down on the table. He glanced at Azetbur, said in a voice that contained no joy, “Yes, there will be war. There is sufficient cause for a declaration of war, Kahless help us.”

Azetbur hesitated before she spoke, had not anticipated that response from her father. “You despair, father, on the eve of glorious war?”

biQ ngaS HIvje’,” Gorkon responded somberly. “The cup contains water, Azetbur. I would not have believed it possible that the universe could be filled with such a cruel sense of irony.”

Azetbur shook her head, not understanding her father’s meaning.

Gorkon gestured for his cane, which Azetbur picked up from the floor and placed in her father’s hand. He stood, looking in that moment to her more frail than he had been at the height of his illness. She rose, thinking to help him, but a dangerous glint in her father’s eye told her to keep her distance.

“I expect that Chancellor Lorak will be calling shortly on subspace. I would like you to be present when that call comes in…but in the meantime, seek out the understanding that you lack, Azetbur. Go to my quarters and find my copy of the Paq’batlh. You will find the First Tome of Klavek most enlightening.”

“Yes, father,” Azetbur replied, signaling that she would obey him…though what the story of Kortar had to do with a war against the Federation, or why her father wanted her to take the time to read the holy Book of Honor, she did not know.

“The cup contains water,” Gorkon said again to himself after Azetbur had left the mess hall. The humans had stolen the ashes from Qui’tu…and so apparently had Spock, for he was on the Enterprise. Spock, the son of Sarek.

Gorkon’s eyes closed, a great feeling of pain sitting like a weight in his chest. Could he have been so mistaken in Sarek’s honesty? Could he have misjudged the Vulcan so badly? It did not seem possible, and that contradiction gnawed away at his insides.

“The cup contains water.”


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