The Third Klingo-Federation War or the Taal Tan Offensive as it is now known to Federation historians could more accurately be referred to as "the End of the Two-Day War" or "The Organian Conflict, Part Two". This is because, in the almost sixteen years of relative peace as imposed by the Organians, nothing had changed between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.
While governments and nationally famous or infamous personalities had come and gone, the reasons behind the aborted Second Klingo-Federation War of 2267 had remained. In the intervening years the diplomats of both sides had not addressed these deep-seated issues, only put them aside to continue with The Great Game under the new rules imposed by the Organian Treaty.
In the lead-up to the Second Klingo-Federation War more infamously known to the Federation public as "The Two-Day War" and to Federation historians as the "Organian Conflict" the Klingons saw the Federation as hemming them in, cutting off their avenues of expansion, actively working to stymie their natural means of expansion namely, conquest and suffocating their trade. When the Klingon Empire tried to expand into a sector abutted by Federation interests, the Federation took to calling it a "disputed area" when their respective interests clashed. Imperial Commander Kor, the intended military governor of Organia put the Klingon point of view most eloquently in responding to Captain Kirk on Organia:
"They're not disputed! They're clearly ours!"
This then was the Klingon mindset of practically the entire 23rd Century T.C.E. And when the Organians put an ignominious end to the war just started and fortunately before major loss of life began the Klingons were forced to compete on what they saw as the Federation's terms of diplomacy and competition. With no more glorious battles to be had, the Empire set itself to competing with cunning and guile.
For the next decade and a half the Klingons used both as best they could to varying results, while still working angles to circumvent the intent and spirit of the Treaty while remaining within the letter of it. Incidents of Klingon interference on less developed non-aligned worlds became as commonplace as seeing Klingon "advisors" everywhere, and extra-special effort was put into publicly besting the Federation at it's own colonial development game. The results of both ranged between success and failure of varying degrees wherein the only measuring stick was how much the Federation's own goals were stymied.
However, some of this did not sit well with the Klingon psyche, and all of it did little to gain the Empire the "disputed" worlds it saw as rightfully Klingon property.
All of this then set the stage for what happened after the Federation and Empire discovered in early 2283 that the Organians had gone, with no indication of why or when if they would return.
This revelation was met with trepidation and concern by the Federation Council, who set their explorers and scientists to investigate what could have happened and why, at the same time increasing their border patrol activity.
The Klingon High Council received this information as if it were a particularly bountiful gift from their dead gods. They neither knew nor cared where or why the Organians had gone; all that was important was that they had. Also not knowing when if the Organians would return, the Klingon High Council decided to strike immediately while the opportunity was there. War was declared on the Federation though not to the Federation and battle plans quickly drawn up.
For four months the border garrisons were discreetly reinforced with combat-ready vessels, cleverly disguised as merely matching the Federation increase in border patrol, while many more ships underwent minor refitting and resupply in shipyards well inside the Klingon frontier out of sight of Federation border surveillance nets.
With plans finalised and ships hurriedly refitted and pre-positioned, on the 10th of June 2283 T.C.E. the Klingon border garrisons poured across their border with the Federation and immediately set about attacking targets of opportunity such as merchant ships and convoys, mining outposts, science stations, and frontier colonies. Starfleet raced to confront them, stripping some garrisons down to the bare bones of local defence to get numbers to the Federation citizens screaming for rescue. Initially focussed in the Taal Tan Sector, this soon spread the entire length and depth of Federation border zone.
This was of course part of the plan, and exactly what the Klingons were waiting for. On the first wave ships reporting contact with Starfleet vessels, the pre-positioned second-wave ships streaked for the "disputed" systems they had been guarding and set about irrevocably claiming them for the Empire.
Having successfully achieved their initial objectives in less than a month, the Klingons got greedy. Seeing no reason to stop with their current claims, they pushed further into Federation space while Starfleet scrambled to present a coherent defence and rushed in fresh ships. Now aiming for the destruction of as much Starfleet infrastructure and as many ships as possible as well as seizing more worlds for the Empire much as the Mirak had done in their campaign of 2275 the Klingons pushed Starfleet resolve too far. Much as they had done against the Klingons during the Four Years War of 2251-55, Starfleet finally rallied cohesively and stopped responding haphazardly to individual incursions to began a unified, integrated counter-campaign to force the Klingons back.
Not logistically prepared for a deep-strike war, the warships of the Imperial Navy found themselves hunted and forced into battles on unfavourable terms against superior Starfleet numbers. These battles soon began taking their toll on the lean and mean Klingon warships. Rather than be disabled and trapped in Federation space, the Klingon invaders began withdrawing from Federation sectors into the formerly disputed sectors. This war of attrition over the next three months forced ever-more damaged Klingon warships to be herded back to their originally-seized objectives along the border, but it was not soon enough for the Federation. Many worlds, outposts, and ships had been savaged and many more lives had already been lost.
Having finally done so, however, Starfleet was not content to stop where the Klingons decided to hold the line. Though reinforced with garrisons of fresh ships, troops, and equipment from the Empire, many recently "annexed" worlds and their star systems were reclaimed by the Federation.
More and more ships from both sides poured into the border regions and full-scale interstellar war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire looked set to ignite. Planets where the Klingons were firmly entrenched on were in Starfleet's sights and a no doubt costly ground campaign to root them out was being prepared. Similarly on the Klingon side, assault ships were already on-loading troops and their equipment to reinforce these worlds and take again those worlds Starfleet had managed to wrest from their grasp.
Seeing the scale of upcoming loss of life, Federation diplomats desperately contacted their Klingon opposite numbers with a compromise plan:
The Klingon High Council looked upon this offer with suspicion but surprising consideration. Many in the Council wanted to continue the glorious war they'd been waiting all their lives for, upping the ante to winner-takes-all, but just as many thinking shrewdly also saw the wisdom in taking what they'd been offered.
The worlds they'd already taken balanced the scales nicely, without the need for massive, eventually self-defeating expenditures on occupation forces while still being engaged in an ongoing galactic war.
In the end, greed won over blood lust. The Empire formally and legally gained many formerly forbidden or Federation resource-rich worlds with the stroke of a stylus while simultaneously avoiding the resource-sapping occupational duties that came with conquering and maintaining order over a resistant population.
The unusual part of this is that both sides saw this as a winning solution, at least initially.
The Federation diplomats and politicians saw the Treaty of Archanis as a moral victory, trading unnecessary resources for lives and freedom while simultaneously preventing the horrors and loss of life from full-scale interstellar spaceborne and ground-based warfare.
The Klingons saw something entirely different. They saw that they had effectively won their campaign and perhaps come out in even better condition than had they achieved an outright victory by their own goals. The Klingons saw that, on the cusp of possibly defeating the Klingon invasion and beginning to take the war into Klingon space, the Federation had bractically begged for peace. So much so that they had given up what they saw as their own territory and resources rather than allow their forces to continue fighting to a possible hard-won victory.
While not accepting the Federation's viewpoint that those systems were Federation possessions, the Empire at least acknowledged their right to view them as such. In their place, the Empire would never willingly have given up any of their own territory, and fought to reclaim what they saw as being taken from them no matter the cost in ships and lives.
In the High Council's view one that was soon shared by the majority of the Klingon people and their military the Federation had proven beyond the shadow of a doubt just how cowardly and craven it truly was. Instead of pursuing their victory and conquering in return, they had given it all up for the illusion of peace and the ending of bloodshed.
The Federation diplomats still had not learned the simple truth that Klingons valued strength above all other things, even the saving of countless lives.
Had the Federation continued the war and fought the Empire to a standstill, or inconceivably even taken the war to them and began conquering Klingon worlds, this act and the determination motivating it would have earned the Federation the respect of the Klingons. It would never have resulted in friendliness, but it would perhaps have led to an understanding, and more secure borders. It would have given the Federation true standing as a worthy adversary in the Klingon halls of power, giving pause to any future adventurism on the part of the Klingons.
Instead, the Federation took the respect earned in the blood of Starfleet crews, frontier colonists, and merchant mariners as worthy foes and threw it all away to cave in to Klingon demands. Instead of fighting to reclaim what they saw as theirs even if it wasn't, by Klingon lights the diplomats bought off the Klingons to prevent further destruction and bloodshed.
This approach of appeasement would merely embolden the Klingons to continue attacking. As every Englishman once knew, over twelve centuries ago:
"That if once you have paid him the Danegeld,
You never get rid of the Dane."
The Klingons took their bribe and the breathing room it offered to rebuild their ships and learn the lessons of their war, while looking ever more eagerly at the Federation's rich worlds. They now knew that the cowardly Federation would never invade them, only repulse them. And in doing so, and throwing the threat of full-scale interstellar war at them, more concessions could be wrung out of the spineless diplomats no matter how bravely and well their Starfleet fought.
In this way both sides felt as if they'd won, come out of the war and negotiations with a victory of some kind. The Federation diplomats and the majority of citizens Federation-wide congratulated themselves on stopping an interstellar war by trading some resource-rich planets which nonetheless were not worth the thousands of lives that would be paid for each of them, and saving the lives of yet more tens of thousands of Federation citizens without resorting to liberation ground battles which would cost yet more lives.
The Klingons gained much needed mineral wealth, divested themselves of slave labour planets, saved many front-line warships which could now be fully repaired instead of being lost to Starfleet, and preserved ship captains and crews with experience in fighting Starfleet at its best.
However, those self-same Starfleet crews and Federation colonists were considerably less enamoured of the terms of the negotiated cease-fire. At the sharp end of the lance these people, whom the diplomats were genuinely trying to save, saw the sacrifice of their comrades and neighbours disregarded as nothing. Colonists saw their homes being given away to those who'd taken them by force. Starfleet crews saw part of the nation they and their comrades had bled and died for eagerly fed to the ravenous beast outside the gates. All saw those who'd killed and destroyed their friends, homes, and dreams going off unpunished for their crimes and still with hungry looks in their eyes.
To put it mildly, the citizens of the Federation directly affected by the war felt betrayed. And from this betrayal came anger and a hardening of hearts. The Federation colonists of Epsilon IV were particularly vocal in their condemnation of the Treaty of Archanis, even though this treaty saved their world from a ground war that would have razed it. Perhaps it was survivors guilt heaped upon old animosities stretching back to before the Two-Day War, but the administration and it citizens took every opportunity to strike at the Klingons that they could. They were not the only ones to do so, either.
The rest of the Federation managed to hold onto their optimism and self-congratulation for all of four months before realising that a mistake may have been made.
With the Battle of Khatanga in early 2284, where a shocking seven Starfleet vessels were lost to the Klingons, it was obvious that the Klingons' claims against the Federation had not been settled or laid to rest with the Treaty of Archanis. Incidents with the Klingons came thick and fast as over the next year scores of Federation merchant ships and convoys were ambushed and raided or hijacked by cloaked Klingon warships. Ever-hungry for more resources, the Klingons began practicing unrestricted commerce raiding against Federation interests.
Protests to the Klingon High Council fell on deaf ears and contemptuous hearts. Unless the Federation wanted to go to war against the Klingon Empire again, all that could be done was to institute convoy escort duties, reinforce border planet garrisons, and intensify border patrol activities specifically related to the hunt for cloaked vessels. This last was two-fold seeking both ships penetrating Federation space and any that may be hiding along established shipping routes.
The Klingons' shift of focus to Federation commercial shipping did not bring to a halt direct attacks on Starfleet vessels, though. Border skirmishes throughout 2284 were a regular accompaniment to the reports of convoy raids, though the Klingons by no means had it all their own way. The Rykla Dagh Incident of 2285 is a prime example of this, as the D-11 SuvwI`QeH-class battlecruiser I.K.V. L`kjta had the tables turned on it by the Federation flagship U.S.S. Hood under Captain Elizabeth Buckingham. Not only was the L`kjta defeated, he was also captured. A prize crew took the L`kjta back to Starbase Six deep within Federation space to discourage any attempt by the Klingons to retrieve him. He was escorted by the Hood herself carrying his former crew, a potent message to all Klingons that they were not invincible.
The L`kjta was studied extensively and added to Starfleet's Aggressor Squadron of captured Klingon vessels. His crew was held at Starbase Six until good-faith negotiations with the Klingon Empire were resumed. This was the price of their release, that the High Council faithfully and sincerely engage in dialogue with the Federation to try and resolve their differences and put and end to Klingon aggression.
In order to get their crew back, the Klingon High Council under duress agreed to this, and their Ambassador to the Federation Council was once again sent to Earth and directed to conduct peace talks. The surviving crew of the L`kjta were transported back to the Klingon border, where they were transferred to a Klingon vessel. It was shortly after revealed that to a man, the nearly 200-strong crew were allowed to commit suicide to regain a measure of their House's honour to purge the stain of their being captured, taken prisoner, and paraded on Federation news channels as defeated enemies.
The Federation diplomats responsible for negotiating the trade were horrified, as were a great many citizens. Again it proved just how inadequate what little was known about Klingon culture really was. Klingo-Federation relations reached a new low with Federation citizens and politicians seeing the Klingons as brutal barbarians and the Klingon people seeing the Federation as dishonourable, treacherous, spineless weaklings they could never respect.
Further, though it was not proclaimed to the Federation or in Klingon media, the Hood was targeted for destruction for engineering this disgrace and embarrassment to the Empire. Any Klingon vessel, squadron, or flotilla that succeeded in destroying the Hood would be greatly honoured by the High Council.
The next issue to assault the beleaguered Federation Council was the Genesis Project/Protomatter Controversy two months later. The culmination of a decades-long "instant terraforming" project, the Genesis Device was stolen by terrorists and detonated when defeated by the U.S.S. Enterprise, forming a whole new planet out of the Mutara Nebula's dust clouds. Instantly becoming a galactic controversy the planet was quarantined for the forseeable future and a science team prepared to investigate it.
It seemed apparent to all that this literal "planet-buster" torpedo was a deadly threat to civilisations everywhere, and the Federation Council was under siege to explain itself and its motives. Despite extensive documentation of the length of the research project and that it was a civilian project to terraform barren rocks into livable worlds tailor-made to supply real food to entire star clusters, these "scrambling after the fact" explanations failed to convince those it had to. The Federation's allies gave them the benefit of the doubt or even believed the Council, but independent and adversary nations were not so trusting.
The Klingon Empire believed none of the Federation's reassurances. Believing instead that the Federation had purposefully demonstrated the Genesis Torpedo's awesome destructive potential through a supposed accident due to rogue elements, the High Council had no choice but to increase its ship production to counter the Federation's ultimate weapon.
Many Klingons feared that, unable to win openly in honourable combat, the Federation leadership would order the execution of entire Klingon planets with this device to force the High Council to end its attacks on Federation interests. So fearing, they believed that it was in the Empire's best interests to go to all-out war with the Federation before they could produce enough of the Genesis Torpedoes to negate the entire Imperial Navy. The border skirmishes again increased and again switched their focus, this time back to Starfleet vessels. Casualties began to mount.
Four months after the capture of the L`kjta Klingon vengeance caught up with the U.S.S. Hood. The current flagship of the Federation Starfleet with the U.S.S. Enterprise reassigned to Starfleet Academy as a cadet training vessel, she was ambushed by three Klingon warships in the infamous Donatu system.
The D-12 K`teremny-class heavy destroyer I.K.V. Qrish, the L-9 Sivista-class heavy frigate I.K.V. chu`wI`a`, and the D-8 K`t`inga-class battlecruiser I.K.V. K`ghan attacked a Federation science outpost known to be within the Hood's patrol zone. With no immediate backup the Hood was forced to respond alone to an unknown threat level; the Klingons allowed only an uninformative distress call to make it through their heavy jamming.
After arriving to find the outpost still intact and with surviving personnel waiting to be rescued, Captain Buckingham knew she had no choice. It was obvious the Klingon squadron was after her ship, but to simply turn and leave condemned the two hundred-strong outpost crew to death. The Hood immediately launched a warp-capable comms buoy to update Starfleet on the situation and stood into danger, hoping to hold out until reinforcements could arrive.
Arrive they did, and in force, but far too late to do any more than collect the Hood's survivors from their escape pods and shuttles, her flight data recorder, and to render aid to the distressed science station. The Klingons did not destroy the installation and merely left after their battle, thereby honouring a worthy foe by allowing their sacrifice to not have been in vain.
Klingon propaganda trumpeted the Hood's loss, crediting the death blow to the D-12 Qrish. They made no mention, however, of the set-up or the loss of the D-8 K`ghan and the heavy damage taken by the L-9 chu`wI`a` before the Hood succumbed.
Klingon spy Valkris obtained the Genesis data and transmitted them to Commander Kruge. Deeply concerned by the new Federation's "doomsday weapon", which could at turns render formerly uninhabitable worlds in strategic areas into livable planets for Starfleet bases and render inhabited Klingon worlds barren of life and facilities, Kruge took his ship to the Genesis Planet to seize the Federation Council's science team for the Empire.
Things did not quite go according to plan and with the destruction of the science vessel U.S.S. Grissom, the murder of preeminent Genesis scientist Dr. David Marcus, the "murder" of Kruge and his crew and the capture of his ship, the destruction of the former Federation Starfleet flagship U.S.S. Enterprise, and the aforementioned self-destruction of the Genesis Planet itself, all led to the suspension of the peace talks.
Federation and Empire were once again at each others' throats, and border skirmishes and provocations continued unabated.
With their identities known it was not too long before the still active I.K.V. chu`wI`a` was tracked down and destroyed along with several other Klingon vessels at the Battle of Pelarsk in 2286 by the Knox-class heavy frigates U.S.S. Thach and U.S.S. Ability, and appropriately enough, the Miranda-class light cruiser U.S.S. Avenger.
Quite the Klingon celebrity, the Qrish never went anywhere on the Federation border alone after this, always being part of a strike group or attack squadron. In this way, he always managed to survive his later brushes with Starfleet.
The still doggedly-proceeding Klingo-Federation peace talks were dealt a fatal blow when the events leading to the destruction of the Genesis Planet became known to the Klingon High Council. The Klingons obtain copies of the Enterprise's flight data recorder and Kruge's duplicates of the Genesis Device data.
Klingon Ambassador Khamarag demanded the extradition of Kirk, and when denied over Starfleet's prior claim he declared to the Federation Council that "There will be no peace while Kirk lives!"
The subsequent planetary distress call from Earth issued by the Federation President mere days later was received in the Klingon Empire with a sense of poetic justice. No more would they be troubled by the Earthers to quite the degree as before. Even the Federation itself might be irrevocably weakened with the loss of its most cohesive factor: the Earthers themselves. The coming of the Cetacean Probe was looked on with glee and as a celebratory event in the Empire.
But the return of Kirk and his crew and their alleged saving of the entire planet again was met with disbelief, and the reinstating of "the renegade and terrorist" to starship command by no less than the Federation President himself was deemed a deliberate and calculated insult to the whole Empire.
In response, the Klingon High Council placed a bounty equivalent to ten million Federation credits on the head of one James T. Kirk for crimes against the Empire, and invited anyone to collect on it. Outraged Klingon ship commanders eagerly sought the new Enterprise out to claim her commander, and several mercenaries decided to try their luck against the Empire's Most Wanted.
Events continued to gain momentum and while outright war was avoided at all costs by the Federation, the Empire lived up to the pledge of its ambassador and peace was a very elusive state in the disputed zones.
Confrontations and skirmishes continued to the end of the decade, until a new crisis erupted that forced these bitter enemies to work together with their other partner in crime, the Romulans, to resolve:
The Metar Onslaught.
SFC1: F&E discover Organians are gone.
Taal Tan Offensive starts.
Treaty of Archanis ends Taal Tan. Several planets ceded to the Empire.
Battle of Khatanga; 7 Starfleet vessels lost. Unrestricted commerce raiding begins by the Klingons against the Federation.
Federation flagship Hood defeats & captures L`kjta.
Genesis device detonated, Reliant destroyed, Enterprise damaged, Spock killed.
Klingon attack squadron traps and destroys Federation flagship Hood.
Genesis is a galactic controversy. Klingon spy Valkris obtains Genesis data. Kruge sees it as the ultimate weapon and heads to Genesis planet. Enterprise stolen by Kirk and attacked by Kruge, defeated. Kirk lures Kruge's crew on board by a dishonorable subterfuge and "murders" them, then "murders" Kruge on Genesis and steals his ship. Genesis explodes. Kirk & Co. go to exile on Vulcan.
Battle of Pelarsk. One of the Hood's assassins is destroyed by Thach, Ability, & Avenger.
Klingon Ambassador declares "There will be no peace while Kirk lives!" Kirk & Co. decide to return to Earth. Federation President transmits planetary distress call from Earth due to Cetacean Probe's actions.
Kirk & Co. reinstated.