"Deguello" (de-gway-o) is the name of the battle charge sounded by General Santa Anna's buglers when his Mexican army attacked the Alamo fortress in 1836. "Deguello" is also symbolized by a blood-red flag. Roughly translated, it means "No Quarter". No Mercy.
James Kirk strode briskly through the darkened corridors of Federation Starbase Eleven toward the administrative section of the station. He was tired, hungry and decidedly annoyed by the circumstances that brought him here.
The Enterprise had once again been called into service as a very large, highly prestigious taxi cab, this time to chauffeur the Tamolian ambassador to a diplomatic conference at the station. It was not exactly the kind of adventure Kirk had envisioned when he took command of a Federation starship.
He had hoped their late-evening arrival would allow him to bid the Ambassador a quick but pleasant farewell, and then the Enterprise could continue on its way to their next assignment with only a minimal loss of time. Unfortunately, a message awaited him at Station Operations that Admiral Fitzpatrick wished to speak with him upon arrival.
As much as Kirk enjoyed the friendship he shared with John Fitzpatrick, it was just an added complication to an already wasted day.
He paused only briefly at the door of the admiral's office before reaching to activate the buzzer. Almost immediately, the door slid aside, and he found himself face to face with the white-haired Starfleet admiral.
"Jim," Fitzpatrick said warmly, offering a handshake which Kirk accepted graciously. "Come on in. Make yourself comfortable."
"Thank you, Admiral," he replied, stepping into the room.
A brandy snifter seemed to appear from nowhere in the Admiral's hand, and he handed it to Kirk as the captain sank into a plushly upholstered chair.
"I hope the ambassador didn't give you any trouble," Fitzpatrick said as he dropped himself onto the sofa adjacent to Kirk's chair and raised his own glass to his lips.
"Nothing we couldn't handle, sir," Kirk replied ruefully. "But I must admit, the Enterprise makes a rather expensive shuttle service."
A smile played on the admiral's lips, but only for a moment. "Sorry. I know how much you hate that, but it was the only way I could get you here without raising too many eyebrows."
Kirk had just taken a swig of his drink and suddenly had to force himself to swallow it. He had thought this was nothing more than a social call on an old friend. Apparently it was something else entirely.
"That sounds ominous," he said, as lightly as he could manage.
"Believe me, it is." Fitzpatrick settled himself back against the sofa as he continued. "I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but the Klingons have been unusually quiet the past several months."
"Yes, sir, I am," he admitted. "It gives me the impression they're gearing up for something."
"That was my impression, as well." Fitzpatrick's voice was grim. "And unfortunately, intelligence reports indicate we may be right. It appears the Klingons have decided to test the Organian Peace Treaty."
"You mean launch an attack to see if the Organians will respond?"
Fitzpatrick nodded. "Exactly."
Kirk was not surprised by the news. In fact, he had always thought it was only a matter of time. He was surprised, however, that the admiral was sharing this information with him.
"I assume there's a reason you're telling me this," he said.
Fitzpatrick's pale blue eyes studied him closely. When he finally spoke, his voice was edged with heartfelt concern.
"According to the intelligence reports, you are to be the target of the attack."
Kirk chuckled quickly, more in disbelief than actual amusement. This had to be someone's idea of a joke.
"They're going to test the treaty by attacking the Federation's flagship?" It was absolutely absurd, especially for a military organization as efficient and well-ordered as the Klingons. "Setting their sights a little high just to test the proverbial waters, aren't they?"
Fitzpatrick continued to gaze at him steadily, and it was becoming an uncomfortable sensation.
"It's not the Enterprise, Jim. It's you."
It was probably the tone of his voice more than the actual words that sent the chill up Kirk's spine. He could only hope it wasn't a noticeable reaction.
"We can't know for certain," Fitzpatrick replied. "But personally, I can think of several reasons. You're a starship captain...certainly the most publicized one. There are people who don't know the name of the council president, but they know you. To those people, you are the Federation. So if the Klingons can destroy you, they destroy morale. Then the rest is easy."
The perks of notoriety, Kirk thought ruefully but said instead, "You obviously have a counter-offensive in mind."
Fitzpatrick leaned forward to place his glass on the table before him, and retained that position with his forearms resting on his knees.
"The way I see it, we can handle this one of two ways. We can beef up security, rework the Enterprise's mission docket and keep you out of the line of fire..."
"...or we can let them make the attempt. Only we'll be ready for them."
It was obvious the admiral favored the second option, and Kirk had to agree. He refused to spend any amount of time in what could only be considered Starfleet's protective custody.
"I'm going to be honest with you, Jim," Fitzpatrick continued. "There has been speculation on both sides of the neutral zone as to whether the Organians would actually enforce the treaty. We've never considered testing it because, quite frankly, the terms of the treaty are acceptable to us. And it's better than constantly living on the brink of war."
"But since the Klingons have decided to force the issue..."
"We are understandably curious."
Kirk raised his glass to his lips as he considered his options. Any way he looked at it, he was to be the pawn in the Klingons' war game. His only choice was whether he would play the role willingly or unwillingly. It wasn't much of a choice.
"Let's do it," he said at last.
"Jim, I want you to think about this." The man on the sofa was no longer Admiral Fitzpatrick of Starfleet Command, but John Fitzpatrick, colleague and friend. "We will be as prepared as we can possibly be, but if something goes wrong, you'll be dead. There's no doubt in my mind."
"Then we'll have to make sure nothing goes wrong, won't we?"
Kirk saw a mixture of sadness and respect in Fitzpatrick's eyes as they gazed at each other in silence. At last, the elder officer inhaled deeply and straightened his spine. The Starfleet admiral was back.
"All right," he said finally. "We know the Klingons have obtained the Enterprise's mission docket, so we'll try to make as few changes to it as possible. We don't want to arouse their suspicions. We don't expect them to move for several months...possibly weeks, but I think that would be pushing it. Until we know more, it's business as usual. We'll work out the details of our plan once we know more details of theirs."
Kirk leaned forward to place his glass on the table, then settled back in his chair.
"I have only one condition to this agreement, Admiral. I don't want the Enterprise involved."
Fitzpatrick's face fell. "That's a big condition, Jim."
"I know that. But I won't endanger my ship or my crew just because the Klingons have some personal vendetta against me."
"Any sudden changes we make could be considered suspicious," Fitzpatrick said. "We don't want to risk tipping our hand."
"Then don't make it sudden...and make it to my personal docket. Get me off the Enterprise. Give the Klingons an opportunity they can't resist. But I don't want the Enterprise anywhere near when this goes down, John. I want your word on it."
Fitzpatrick closed his eyes briefly and exhaled an audible sigh before he finally met the captain's steady gaze.
"I don't have any guarantees for you, Jim...but I will tell you this. I will do everything within my power to keep the Enterprise out of harm's way. That's the only promise I can give you."
It was not quite the steadfast assurance he was hoping for, but Kirk knew it was the best he was going to get. He finally nodded.
Fitzpatrick rose from his seat, and Kirk followed his lead. The admiral was nearly a head taller than he was, and Kirk had to tip his chin to look into his haggard face.
"I'm sure I don't have to tell you what you've heard here tonight is highly classified. The fewer people who know about this, the better."
This time it was the captain who offered the handshake. When Fitzpatrick accepted it, he gripped Kirk's hand firmly in his own.
"The Enterprise is scheduled for shore leave in a few days," he said. "I suggest you take advantage of it. It may be the last chance you get for a while."
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