The intimidating form of the newly constructed D7, the I.K.S. T'kuvma, dropped out of warp into the Archanis system, near Federation space. The orange sun bathed the bridge in starlight, even through the polarised view-screen. High Chancellor L'rell sat quietly waiting for her counterpart to this perilous meeting. The air thick with the musk of sweating klingons, melted candles, shedded targ fur, and fresh gagh, drifting in from the less than optimally designed ventilation system, that filled her nostrils infusing every fibre of her being with the feeling of being a soldier of the empire once again. The rush of blood, the call of the warrior was pulsating through her body, knowing the glory of battle was possibly only one heartbeat away. She yearned for the simple times aboard the sarcophagus ship of Lord T'kuvma himself, who she named this vessel in his honour, where great deeds were done, and glorious songs rang out through its halls. The chance to prove herself in the unforgiving intensity of battle never left her. But that was not her mission this day.
As chancellor she knew that she needed to stabilise the empire, and that meant securing peace with the old guard who still saw her chancellorship as an affront to Klingon tradition and security. Several recent attacks on her personal guards by nausicaan and orion mercenaries, had the suspicion of klingon backing. One had almost succeeded in killing her, if not for the faulty disruptor rifle only grazing her arm. Another scar to prove herself with. But wounds accumulate on Qo'noS. They were trying to weaken her position, until all that anyone saw was a vulnerable target, battered and broken, and the final strike would not be long in coming.
Ja'rod, of the House of Duras, who had ascended to leader after his father had died fighting the Federation, had been a constant thorn in her side ever since she seized power almost a year ago, and was a staunch ally of the late Kol-Sha. He had not believed her fabrication that it was he who saved her from Ash Tyler, when in reality it was her who killed him before ushering Ash, and her child away. A half smile crept across her lips as she remembered that satisfying sound of her tajtlq slicing open his stomach and his entrails exploding from his body. She could almost taste the blood in the air. It was soon replaced with the pain at the thought of her child on Boreth, who she was destined never to see again. A mother's pain.
Her spies of House Mo'Kai had informed her that Ja'rod had been trying to form a new alliance of disgruntled houses to overthrow her. It was likely he had sent the assassins to kill her, or knew of who did. House Duras had been only a minor house for nearly a hundred years, after a series of humiliations, but had begun rising back through the ranks off the back of its alliance with House Kor. She could see that Ja'rod was cunning, ambitious and intelligent. There were still many man that despised her and would be happy to see her replaced by a man, any man, regardless of her accomplishments. She had to admit her own claim to being chancellor was based on a threat, rather than bloodline. Her decision to combat the AI known as Control and help Starfleet had not won her many friends in the High Council either. Saving the galaxy was apparently not enough for the old patriarchal fools. Klingon honour was not what it once was. She muttered a prayer for Lukara to give her strength to outlive them all.
"I have scanned the system, my Chancellor," said K'vort, her most loyal and trusted aid. "I detect no activity in this system. Perhaps that petaQ is too cowardly to confront you!"
"Perhaps" she replied, cautiously. Cunning, ambitious and intelligent, she reminded herself. She had invited him to Archanis as it held special significance. It was her that Chancellor M'pek had formed an alliance with his brother, whom he had been at war with for a generation, to push back the Tholians nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. It was a place of honour. Or at least it was.
A green shimmer broke her concentration. Then a second light against the blackness of space. Two ships were de-cloaking. It was a Qugh class destroyer, the Fek'lhr and a chargh class warship, the K'Vagh. After the empire had fractured all those decades ago the houses had begun constructing their own ships. Some resorted to ancient designs from a thousand years ago when one house or another ruled their fellow klingons, while some had used new technology that they had captured from surrounding stars systems during the great expansion to create new weapons of war. Others maintained and evolved the ships of the 22nd century, trying to stay true to what was lost. The fleet had become an assortment of designs that could come from half a dozen species rather than one noble lineage. The line of D1 through D6 battlecruisers had been broken. How could they remain klingon when they had lost one of the great symbols of being klingon? She had wanted her people to return to one uniformed ship design as a symbol of that unity. The continued use of family house ships was a sign of resistance to her vision. Resistance she would not allow to continue, whether with the proverbial Tholian silk glove, or the tritanium fist, she would restore the empire to everything it was. As a member of House Mo'Kai she had learned there was multiple ways to skin a targ.
A beeping sound rang in her ear. "We are being hailed." came a voice from the comms station.
K'vort let an an angry curse. "We agreed on one ship each. This coward can't even face you one on one in space." L'rell raised her hand to wave him silent. She readjusted her position in the chair and waited, slowly turning her neck from side to side to hear the cracking of joints. The bridge was silent as she waited. A second beep. A third. Several of her crew turned to look at her. Her eyes transfixed on the ships in front of her.
"Answer it," she finally ordered, in a dispassionate voice. The image of Ja'rod filled the view-screen. By Klingon standards he could be considered attractive. A strong figure, young, perhaps no more than twenty years of age, and very boastful of his abilities, as young men often are, but to her she only saw a figure to be reviled. He was a threat to her rule, most likely responsible for the deaths of several of her allies and it would not go unanswered. It was said that he was looking to marry into one of the great houses to elevate his status further, the House of D'Ghor being the most likely candidate. Several avenues presented itself to her. Seduction was not a traditional klingon tactic, but he was just arrogant enough to fall for it. Lure him into her bed chamber and strangle him with her bare hands had its appeal. Perhaps wait until his marriage was sealed and then create a scandal with his new partner to ruin his rising career in politics. House D'Ghor had proven stubborn to her reign too, and the chance to destroy two reputations at once would be worthy of a song or two. And after all what was a klingon without reputation? Or she could lock her disruptors on his ship and send him to Gre'thor here and now. The latter option was tempting. If she was to rule the Empire then let her fate be decided by the ever watchful eye of Kahless. Should he deem her unworthy then she would at least join the Black Fleet, to sail through the afterlife with her forebears, and be reunited with her lord, T'Kuvma. But this time, perhaps a longer game was required. Keep your enemies close.
"You kept me waiting, chancellor." his words were cold. She could see his was visibly annoyed. Good. She had drawn first blood.
"You should consider it an honour it was mere moments, Ja'rod. Many have waited until the moment they die before seeing me." she retorted. Her hand deliberately moved to her ornate mek'leth. Klingon politics was fraught with danger at the best of times. Appear weak and be destroyed, appear too threatening and there's blood on the walls over a misunderstanding.
He smiled at her. "Why have you summoned me here?"
"It is time to finally put an end to the feuding of the houses." she replied, an air of conciliation in her voice. "All have fallen into line behind my chancellorship, but I know that you resist. You were to begin constructing D7s months ago and yet you have not. You continue to undermine my efforts, and encourage others to do so."
"Perhaps I do not believe you are fit to rule this great empire." he snarled back. "Perhaps I don't think a woman should command me, no matter how....appealing she may appear." He let those words hang in the air. L'rell scoffed, rolled her eyes and turned her head away. His tone changed once again at the slight. "As Kol-Sha suspected you are too subservient to the Federation scum, rushing to their aid, sharing your secrets with... humans." He almost spat the word from his mouth like a foul curse.
A flash of anger consumed her. She rose forcefully to her fleet. "Voq was klingon and he betrayed me and still he died for it," she said, almost convincing herself. She composed herself, returned to her seat and continued. "In helping the humans we saved our own empire from a far worse enemy, and I decimated Section 31's forces, a threat to our integrity. What would you do Ja'rod? Play politics until the enemy was at our gates?" He didn't reply. A little humiliation would do him good she thought, but now is the time to press home the advantage. "I did not come to fight with you, but to offer you something that would benefit us both. A place on the High Council."
"What?" He was clearly taken back. He hardly expected such an offer, and she knew it.
"By joining our houses we strengthen the empire and put this feuding in the past where it belongs. It has come to my attention that your are in need of a mate. Could you do any better than a chancellor?" Arrogance, she thought. His final character trait. He knew how women looked upon him. Play to his greed, his vanity. "The House of Duras has fallen into disfavour for too long, but together we could bring it back to its former glory. I know you to be a brave warrior," she lied, "and your house is in good hands with you as its torch-bearer, so let us not tear the empire apart, but rebuild it together." she said a touch softer than normal, taking all of her effort to force the words out of her mouth. She could see the wheels of his mind turning. He likely knew it was a trap, but hopefully the offer was too good to refuse. He would rely on his cunning to dispose of her at the right moment. She would reply on hers to beat him to it.
"You would give me a child, despite what you said before, Mother?" The word dripped with sarcasm.
The question reopened the old wound. "No. Not I. Sleep with anyone you wish, and sire as many children as you care to. I will bear no more children. Not now, not ever. That is my burden. I offer you a marriage of power, nothing more." And a funeral, she thought.
"I'm sure I could put a child in that belly, burden or not." A sound of crude laughter come from his bridge. L'rell ignored it.
"Do we have an agreement?" she asked stoically .
He mulled over the question. He took an age to respond. She could clearly see that he was tempted. Power remains the greatest temptation. She could have offered herself to, to have his children, to please him in the bedchamber, but she had her limits. Once she had him close by she could use him to finally unify the empire under one banner, to set out he vision of an empire with one goal, to remain Klingon. Once he had served that purpose she could dispose of him in whatever manner seemed best.
"No." he finally said, his icy voice piecing her plan. "I think not. I have studied you L'rell. You are not a woman to cede power so quickly. While I admit being one heartbeat away from becoming Chancellor is appealing to me, I will not give you even one opportunity to slit my throat."
L'rell burst into laughter. "You dishonourable taHqeq, Jar'rod." You tried to have me killed before your agents failed. Now you will fail here. The D7 is more than a match for those two ancient ships."
Ja'rod laughed. "I did try to have you killed, and if that damned ylntagh hadn't used ferengi weaponry, you'd be dead already. I care nothing for your antiquated honour. All that matters is my rise to power. Do not be fooled into thinking your mighty new ship will save you. You gave us the plans to the D7 remember? I know all of its strengths, and its weaknesses, as I know the location of your fleet, thanks to House Kor. You are alone." he said pointing at her. "This will be a short, but satisfying battle, with traditional, reliable klingon weapons. Today is a good day to die.....chancellor." with that he released a deep laugh.
She snorted to herself. "I'm so glad you agree." She hit the central button on her armrest. Behind Ja'rod's ship two new shimmers of green emerged as a pair of Sech class cruisers de-cloaked. A moment later a third ship appeared.
"What is this?"Ja'rod shouted out loud. "You talk of unifying the fleet and you bring House Mo'Kai ships."
"A little late to become self righteous, Ja'rod. We are the house of watchers, deceivers and weavers of lies, as you should well know. I will unite the empire, but I will not tie my own hands when my enemies do not. You have forfeited your right to honourable combat on multiple occasions. You have sealed this fate by your own actions." she once again rose to her feet. "All ships, open fire."
The battle was fierce. The three flanking Sech classes targeted Ja'rod's engines on the Fek'lhr, as it turned its massive bulk away from them. Disruptor blasts filled the area. Torpedoes raced to their targets. The K'Vagh opened its massive cannons against the T'Kuvma targeting its neck. Disruptor bolts slammed into shields reducing them down to eighty percent.
"They have modified their weapons. They are destabilising our shields and some of the energy is getting through. The shield matrix is struggling to compensate." shouted K'vort over the noise of exploding consoles.
"Modulate them." she snapped back. "Target their bridge. Full disruptors. Overwhelm their defences." The D7 unleashed their new advanced disruptor beams at the K'vagh, weakening its shields before a barrage of torpedoes detonated against them. The Charge class was massive by comparison with substantial armour along its twin huge primary hull sections, but its defences were no match for the unrelenting firepower and quickly its shield began to fail. The captain tried to ram L'rell in desperation, but the D7 was too manoeuvrable, easily arcing over the oncoming ship and began now targeting its aft section. The outer housing of the engines began to be stripped away. Explosions rippled across is hull.
The Fek'lhr had turned its starboard side and fired several disruptor blasts from its three pronged weapons at the first Mo'Kai ship, ripping through it's shields with ease. It returned fire but was no match. A second volley destroyed it. The second ship performed a strafing run along its superstructure. The third tried to take out its front cannons, but was cut to pieces by the dominance of the Qugh's firepower.
"Sir," came a call from the Fek'lhr tactical station. "The K'Vagh is under heavy attack. Once it falls the D7 will turn its attention to us. Our weapons have taken serious damage and the final house Mo'Kai ship is targeting our engines again. We are close to losing power. The T'Kuvma will likely not have enough power to survive." As smoke filled the room, Ja'rod slammed his fist onto his arm controls, shattering the display. He commanded them to withdraw at maximum warp. L'rell had this day but his family's rise to power would not be stopped. He would gather his allies and destroy her. It was only a matter of time.
L'rell saw Ja'rod's badly damaged ship warp out. "The coward runs."
"It has cloaked. We have lost his warp trail. What of the K'Vagh? It is dead in space." asked K'vort.
"Traitors to the empire deserve no mercy. Destroy it." she commanded. With that order the imperial D7 opened up its full weapons and reduced the ship to scrap metal as the ship exploded, sending debris in all directions. L'rell squinted at the intensity of the explosion filled the view-screen. "Ja'rod can run but there will be no hiding place for him." She hit a button on her panel and Ja'rod voice was heard once again. "I did try to have you killed, and if that damned ylntagh hadn't used ferengi weaponry, you'd be dead already. I care nothing for antiquated honour. All that matters is my rise to power." That will be sufficient, she thought to herself, taking the only currency a true klingon has, his honour. "Set course for Qo'noS," maximum warp," she ordered. "tlhInganmaH! TaHjaj!"
The crew crossing their arms over their chest shouted in unison. "tlhIngan maH! TaHjaj!"
"tlhIngan maH! TaHjaj!"
"tlhIngan maH! taHjaj!"
Several weeks later.
On a remote world in the Gasko system, Ja'rod sat alone in the tavern drinking his poor excuse for blood wine. The sounds of laughter from the gambling tables might as well be directed at him. He was humiliated, and his own words were being played around the empire. His reputation was in tatters. Trying to kill your chancellor in combat was hardly frowned upon, but using assassins with alien weaponry? Claiming to not care about honour? He might as well never step foot on Qo'noS again. He took another large gulp.
Two figures looked on from across the bar. "That's him."
"Are you sure, said the other? What use is a disgraced klingon from a minor house to us?" his comrade asked.
"A desperate man is easily controlled, and he has no regard for anything but personal ambition. All we need is coin, patience, and the promise of power. His family could be of great service to the Romulan Empire for decades to come. The House of Duras will belong to us. All in good time."