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 Post subject: The Twilight War PostPosted: 2003-09-18 10:49am
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The second of my fics to be cleaned up and presented in a nice neat fashion for the casual reader. Please enjoy this tale of the Fall of Anakin Skywalker, The rise of the Empire, A Federation Temporal Civil War and the war to end an era: The Twilight War

Table of Contents

The Twilight War


by Frank Fontaine



BOOK I: WARDRUMS


Chapter 1: A Brave New World


“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

--Hamlet Act 1 Scene V




He slowly closed the book and glanced up out the view port of the shuttle. The pilots were busy chatting to each other softly as they approached the mothership. He subconsciously smoothed out his uniform shirt and squinted to catch more of the pearly white object floating serenely in the darkness. He had longed to see her since he received his orders. She would be his command.

His first command. The thought made him excited and frightened at the same time.

“Excuse gentlemen, but what’s our ETA?” he asked.

The pilots exchanged a bemused expression.

“Eager to get to your ship, Sir? Don’t you worry, we’re on final approach now and we should be docking in 5 minutes.”

“You will be happy to know, sir, that she’s just come back from a major refit. Just about every inch of her has been replaced or renovated. Those five year missions can be a bitch on systems and crews.” The copilot added.

“So I hear, gentlemen, so I hear.” He replied softly as he began to make her out more clearly now in the view port. The pilot smiled and motioned for him to approach.

“Come on sir. We’ll give you a good view as we approach.”

He smiled and quickly crossed the passenger area and stood behind the two pilots and peered out to see her.

“She’s more beautiful than I expected.”

“I don’t know sir. I’ve been doing these runs now for 8 years and I’ve seen plenty of these ships come and go, after a while they’re all the same, seen one seen them all.”

“No.” he shook his head. “No, this one is different.” He looked down at the copilot. “You see this one’s mine.” He replied with a boyish grin.

“Aye aye sir.” The shuttle pilot laughed as they lined up with the huge vessel. Its warp engines swept back on struts she moved through the stars like an angel, glowing white in the darkness, a beacon for all to see. Her name etched proudly on a saucer.

NCC-1701 USS ENTERPRISE

“A word of advice sir, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“Please.”

“This ship has just come back from one the most successful five year missions in Federation history. Captain Christopher Pike is stepping down to become a Commodore and he’s leaving a ship and crew that adore him. You’re the new guy coming in. Be a little careful how you tread around here. Things were done a little differently on Enterprise than on most Federation ships. You are going to have to adapt to that if you want to run a tight ship.”

He nodded slowly.

He knew that he was filling some very large shoes but he had come to a decision last week when he was finally told of his new assignment. This ship would be his. He did not care what sort of legacy had been left behind, he needed to make this ship his. He would not be a caretaker Captain.

“I’ll take your words under advisement, Lieutenant.” He replied. The pilot and co pilot exchanged dubious expressions. They had heard of him, the youngest Captain in Federation history. So far he had not impressed them.

“Would you look at that.” He breathed as the sun caught the hull just right and the ship was lit up like a moon. Her hangar bay was slowly opening.

“Shuttle Currie to Enterprise. We are requesting permission to dock.”

“We copy that Currie. Standby for autopilot.” A cold female voice replied.

“We copy that Enterprise.”

“You ever wonder about her?” the co pilot asked.

“Who? Number One?! You’re one horny bastard, she is a block of ice.” The pilot exclaimed.

“Gentlemen, let’s keep our minds on our jobs.” He interjected and patted the pilot on his shoulder before returning to his seat in the passenger section. He picked up the book he had been reading, marked it and closed it shut with a snap. His brother Sam had sent him the book as a gift. He didn’t know what to do with it. He was not a fan of antiques. He much preferred reading his stories on a datachip.

He could not deny however that it was a good story. He looked at the spine again. “The Three Musketeers.” Not a bad story at all.

“Docking in one minute sir.”

“Thank you Lieutenant.”

He stood up and adjusted his gold shirt and slipped the book under his arm. He waited patiently as the shuttle entered the cavernous hangar bay of the Enterprise. The Constitution class cruisers were enormous by Starfleet standards, they were the largest starships in active service, only the new dreadnought classes were larger and then not by much. It was a sight to behold as the shuttle was swallowed as if by a leviathan and came to rest on the hangar bay floor.

“Well, we’re here sir. Just give the hangar a moment to pressurize and we can be on our way.” The copilot explained as he rose and switched off his controls.

He watched him for a moment and noticed that he was slinging a duffel bag over his left shoulder and smiling at the pilot.

“Thanks for the ride, Jacobi. Always a good thing to keep the old instincts up after flying these beasts.” the young Asian man said with a wink.

“Are you kidding? I’d give up piloting these little flying shoeboxes to get a shot at flying that beauty.” The pilot grinned and winked.

“See you in five years.”

“Watch yourself. When I said five year missions wreck ships and crew I meant it. Lost a lot of good mates on these missions.”

“I intend on coming back.” the co pilot responded with a confident tone.

“See you.”

The copilot smiled and strode up to him.

“Well captain, I’m reporting for duty.”

He eyed him for a moment.

“Who are you?”

“Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, sir. I am your new Helmsman.” he responded with a sharp salute.

He smiled.

“Welcome aboard Mr. Sulu. That was rather deceptive of you.”

“How so, sir?” Sulu asked with a straight face.

He examined Sulu with a bemused expression.

“I see you’ve played Poker before.”

“I consider it a game of skill equal to 3-D Chess, sir.” Sulu replied grinning now.

“Well, I’ll have to keep that in mind. By the way, you gave me the advice on the Enterprise, yet you haven’t served on her before. Any reason why you were willing to dole out that advice?”

“Well sir.” Sulu began sheepishly. “Captain Pike’s the reason I went into Starfleet. He’s been a personal hero of mine for years and I just find it hard to believe that it will be easy to fill those shoes.” Sulu suddenly realized what he had said and who he had said it to. “Uh, what I mean by that sir-”

“I know precisely what you mean Mr. Sulu and I understand. If I were serving on a ship with Garth of Izar I would feel the same way.” He replied.

The doors to the shuttle cycled open. They stepped out onto the bay and he took in his first breath of air on his ship.

The doors at the far end of the bay opened and they made their way there quickly. Sulu could not help but ogle the size of this ship. He had served on a Constitution class cruiser early on as an ensign, but spent the rest of his brief career on lighter ships.

They stepped through and Sulu was immediately confronted with his childhood hero.

Captain Christopher Pike stood at the doorway along with his first officer, the coldly beautiful Number One. He was a tall slim man with graying hair at his temples. Sulu was struck by one detail right away. Pike did not look dashing or heroic in any way. He looked tired. There was a weariness in those eyes that he could not fathom.

Sulu was actually taken aback by the man’s appearance. There was no doubt that he was in command, but it obviously weighed on him like a cloak.

“Captain James T. Kirk, I presume.” Pike said with a polite smile. Kirk smiled in return and extended his hand.

“A pleasure and an honor Captain Pike.”

They shook, Kirk noted his firm grip and was put at ease by his calm easy going manner.

“Let me introduce you to my first officer, Number One.”

“Number One, a pleasure.” Kirk shook her hand, she took it but the grip was almost nonexistent, as if she did not really want to touch him.

“I have heard of you Captain Kirk. Your reputation proceeds you.” She said with a nearly prefunctionary tone.

“Well, Captain, now is better than never, if you please to our main rec room, I have the crew assembled and we can get on with the business that needs to be completed. As I understand it, Starfleet is actually quite anxious to get the Enterprise underway again for a new mission.”

“Yes, there have been very positive signs from our deep range probes of the existence of a wide swath of M Class worlds just beyond the Rigel colonies.”

“Whole new worlds to explore, eh Captain?” Pike replied but there was an odd lilt to his words, almost as if he were not excited but actually angry about the revelation. Kirk had heard rumors that Pike had suffered several serious setbacks in the last year of his mission, including an encounter that had instituted the sole death penalty provision in Starfleet law.

“You know how it is, Captain, eager to get to space.” Kirk glanced over at Sulu who was standing sheepishly. “Speaking of which, this is the new helmsman, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu. Starfleet really is desperate to get this ship underway, they’re cramming as many people as they can into the incoming shuttles. I hear that one of the perks of command is being able to be alone for a little bit.” Kirk said with a grin.

“Sir.” Sulu saluted sharply.

Pike examined the young lieutenant.

“Welcome aboard, Mr. Sulu. My last helmsman got me out of more trouble than I care to remember. I hope that you can do the same for the good captain here.” Pike said with a weak smile. He glanced back at Kirk. “Oh, and Captain, you’ll find that being alone is not so much a privilege of command as it is a curse.” He added and without another word turned and indicated for them to follow as he took them towards the first set of turbolifts.

Kirk began to wonder just what had jaded the man so. Space exploration was in his blood. He remembered wanting desperately to be there from the first time he looked up at the night sky.

The turbolifts took them to the deck 7 and they quickly made their way to the rec room. Kirk noted that there were still some engineers working on last minute upgrades and refits as they worked in the halls installing new circuitry and power conduits, they even had to dodge a set of legs dangling out of a Jeffries tube.

The doors to the rec room hissed open and Kirk was suddenly faced with several hundred crewmen crammed into the large room. A tall slim Vulcan stood to the side and suddenly announced loudly.

“Attention! Captain on the deck!”

The assembled crewmen all snapped to attention. Sulu hustled away from the others and took his place among the assembled crewmen.

“At ease.” Pike said with a soft smile. Suddenly, the dark cloud that seemed to hang over him parted as he was among his crew.

“On this date, I have been authorized by Starfleet to relinquish command of the Enterprise to Captain James Tiberius Kirk. I now formally acknowledge this order and give her over to you Captain.” Pike announced and there was an odd sense of relief in his voice, but his eyes were sad as he looked out at the assembled men and women of his command. It was a rare pleasure for him to see his crew gathered like this in one location.

“Thank you, Captain.” Kirk replied formally and they exchanged salutes.

“If I may I would like to address the crew.”

“Of course.” Pike replied and gestured for Kirk to step forward as he stepped back. Kirk looked out over the eager young faces of his new crew and saw much in their eyes, concern, curiosity and even suspicion.

“I am honored to accept this post. It is not a secret in Starfleet command which is the finest ship in Starfleet. The Enterprise has come to symbolize more than just being one of the greatest starships in the Federation, it has come to represent the Federation itself. Here in these very corridors walks the ideals and freedoms that we aspire to and defend. As we walk out and explore the vast new reaches of the stars laid before us we know that we may be far from home but home is also here, in the deck plates, in the very air we breathe. We take the Federation with us into the deep void beyond and we must never forget that honor and privilege just as I will never forget the honor and privilege of working with you in the next five years.”

Most of the crew smiled politely, it was obvious that many simply did not know where to stand in regard to their new Captain but it did not bother him. It was a natural reaction. He remembered being on the other side of these gatherings and not being sure about his new captain.

“Thank you, captain. If I may I would like to address my crew for the last time.”

“Of course, Captain.” Kirk replied and stepped back. Suddenly the gathered crewmen all seemed to lean forward intently as Pike began to speak.

“We have been together for a long time. I remember many of you from the first day I stepped aboard her five years ago and Captain Robert April handed her over. An untried ship and untried crew. The Constitution class was considered by many at the time to be a disaster waiting to happen. The largest starship ever attempted to fly. The untested warp engines, the experimental systems, I could go on but we all heard it before.”

Several of the crew smiled knowingly while others nodded. But they were all riveted as their ex Captain continued to speak.

I was given this vessel to complete one of the first five years missions ever devised by Starfleet as the Federation attempted to take its first tentative steps into that great unknown. We have been through much over those five years. WE lost many friends, many comrades, but we made contact with many new alien races and civilizations and we went where no other human being has ever set foot. I am very proud of the fact that at the end of our Five year mission, the Federation has grown in that time to encompass several of those new worlds and alien societies.

We have been ambassadors and teachers and unfortunately even soldiers, but thankfully we have shown that the human race has come far in many ways but still held on to the ideals of the explorer and voyager. We have grown to be more than we have ever been but remain essentially human.”

Pike paused as he took a moment to regard his crew and see then all like this for the last time. As he looked out upon them, he saw something the others did not, floating at the edges of the assembly, the ghosts of all those lost in the “adventure”. He saw Poplar, smiling and laughing, before a poison from one of the plants on Mynos IV transformed his body into a haphazard twist of shrunken ligaments and brittle bones. He saw Kelly his somber attitude that had seen them through on more than one crisis after another. Kelly’s fate had been almost comical if not for the fact that he had been a friend. A loader dropped a skiff of supplies right on top of them. Kelly had pushed he and Number One out of the way and taken the brunt of the blow, killing him instantly. This from a man that had fought hand to hand with some of the fiercest aliens he had ever encountered. Killed by at loading dock accident. Pike could almost hear the universe laughing.

The ghosts were congregating and there were so many of them. So many faces, so many people, all with wonderful lives cut short because of one crisis or another, and often because he ordered them into the danger. In many ways, he wondered, these ghosts must blame me somehow. An even darker thought crept into his conscience as well. Will they haunt me now for the rest of my life? Will the shattered remains of these crewmen be there, watching him as he moved through life?

He cleared his throat.

“Many have asked the question, is this worth it? Is the exploration of new worlds and civilizations worth the cost in blood and treasure?” Pike looked out at his crew, caught the eyes of several ghosts. One Ann Marie, young little ensign with a cute giggle that kept everyone’s spirits up had gone up in an explosion as the Enterprise took a hit from an alien warship that later made peace with the Federation. That peace did not bring her laughter back.

She was mouthing something to him and smiling.

“The answer to that question is up to you.” he stated firmly.

Many of the assembled crews nodded.

“You must answer that question for those that do not know. You will blaze a trail for others to follow and you will write the pages of history. It has been my honor to serve with the finest crew in Starfleet. I have no doubt in my mind that history will never forget the name Enterprise.”

“History will never forget the name Pike!” someone shouted from the back of the assembly and soon all the crew was shouting their own encouragement to their Captain. Pike smiled but it was an empty one. He did not know the answer to that question.

Ann Marie’s ghost did not seem to think so. He just realized what she had been mouthing.

“You know the answer.”

He turned away and walked out of the recroom with Kirk and Number One. The tall Vulcan nodded to Pike and turned back to the crew.

“Dismissed!” he ordered loudly.

The crew quickly broke up and began leaving the rec room.

The Vulcan joined Pike and the others as they congregated outside in the main corridor.

“Very nice speech Captain. This crew obviously earned your respect” Kirk noted.

“They earned it the moment they stepped aboard this ship to go far away for five long years, captain. Now I want to introduce you to Mr. Spock. He is my Science officer and a perfect replacement for Number One as first officer when her transfer comes through.” Pike commented.

Spock nodded to Kirk.

“Captain Kirk, I have heard of your missions on the Farragut’s Five Year tour as well as your other exploits. Youngest Captain in Starfleet history is quite an accomplishment.

“Thank you, Mr. Spock, and if you don’t mind me saying, I had no idea that there were Vulcans in Starfleet. I thought that you’re people had a distinct aversion to service in Starfleet, something about violating your pacifistic natures.” Kirk replied.

“I am half Vulcan and for the record I am the first and only Vulcan currently serving in Starfleet. There is talk of more Vulcans joining but those are discussions that do not concern us at the moment.”

“And you, Number One, where are you being transferred to?”

“I am waiting for a spot to open up in the Vulcan Academy.” She replied coolly. Her manner was very put offish to Kirk. He had never met a woman like her and he was a little uncomfortable around her already. In many ways, he was glad that she would soon be off his ship because he did not think that they would gel as well as she and Pike obviously did.

“Vulcan Academy? I didn’t think there were many humans that qualified to get into the Academy. That must be quite an accomplishment for you.”

“I do not see it as an accomplishment, Captain. It is merely the one institution in the Federation that I feel can challenge me and has the resources available for me to further my studies on subspace phenomena.” Number One glanced at Spock and nodded to him. “If not for Mr. Spock’s wonderful recommendation it is highly doubtful that I would have been admitted.”

“Well, I’m glad the people here help each other out.”

“Once Number One leaves, what plans do you have for your first officer?” Pike asked noting Kirk’s evasion of the previous suggestion.

Kirk tried his best not to look uncomfortable. He knew that sometimes it was best to face something head on.

“Actually I have the person in mind for the job. He’s been assigned as the ship’s navigator but as soon as the slot opens, I fully intend for him to be my XO.”

Pike blinked.

“Oh.”

Spock did not reveal any emotion at all, but Number One did purse her lips nearly imperceptible.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spock, I’m sure that Captain Pike is correct and that you would make an excellent second, but the position has been set aside for someone else. I’ll understand if you wish to transfer to another ship.” Kirk replied.

“I see no reason to transfer. It would be illogical to suggest a course of action to appease feelings that I do not have.”

“Oh? I just thought it would be best to avoid any potential problems with the incoming XO.”

“Captain, you proceed from a false assumption, I am Vulcan, I have no ego to bruise.” Spock assured Kirk.

“But aren’t you half human?” Kirk asked curiously. Pike watched the interplay with interest. There was something about these two, Spock was usually quite reserved but he was actually having an exchange with Kirk that had nothing to do with science or shipboard functions. Quite frankly, Spock was an odd person. There were times when Pike had seen Spock actually smile in joy at something beautiful as he did on Talosia. But ever since that mission, Spock had become more reserved and in some cases more Vulcan than most Vulcans.

He suspected that it had something to do with Number One’s sudden interest in attending the Vulcan academy. It was almost as if she had pricked something within him to remind him of who he was. He had spent the last five years with humans alone.

“It is a part of me that I do not acknowledge, Captain. I am a Vulcan and I follow the Vulcan philosophy of logic.”

“Interesting, so none of this bothers you at all?” Kirk pressed.

“You’re making an issue out of nothing, despite the fact that you’re installing an XO that knows nothing about this ship or its crew. The logical alternative would have a crew member from this crew serve as an XO.” Number One interjected.

Kirk looked from Spock to Number One and Pike could tell that he felt slightly overwhelmed.

“Speaking of which Captain. Just when is your navigator coming. I thought we received the last of our crew replacements this morning.” Pike asked softly, breaking the oncoming debate.

Kirk looked relieved for a moment but when he thought about the question he pursed his lips before speaking.

“That’s a very good question Captain Pike. I have no idea where he is.” Number One and Pike exchanged knowing looks.






The buzzing of the alarm was incessant and cut through the sleep like a chainsaw. It was occasionally interrupted by a soft female voice.

“The time is 0635, please wake up.”

His hand suddenly lanced out from under the covers and slapped the snooze button. The computer voice announced: “This alarm will commence again in 7 minutes.”

He mumbled something into the pillow.

His head was pounding and there was no relent to that. He groaned loudly and finally rolled on to his back and sighed deeply.

“Someone help me, this is abominable.” He groaned.

Someone else groaned beneath the covers and there was movement. He slowly rose out of the bed and swung his legs over the edge and sat there for a long minute staring at the floor and wishing he were still asleep. His gold uniform shirt was tossed on the floor by the bed, enmeshed in a tangle of women’s underwear and a single boot.

“Okay, where’s my other boot.” he mumbled as he finally gathered up enough energy to get up. “Whoa, that was a bad idea.” he snapped as his head suddenly swam.

“Mmmm…Gary is that you?” a soft voice cooed from underneath the covers.

“I don’t know.” he replied groggily as he stumbled over to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror.

Gary Mitchell examined his face in the mirror. His eyes…oh god his eyes. His eyes were bloodshot and looked as if they had not seen sleep in days. He waited for his brain to reboot. This was the hardest part of any of the mornings after he partied.

By far the worst was after graduation. Good old Jim Kirk stood by his side the whole time as he suffered the agony of the monstrous hangovers that were a gift from the Saurian Brandy that he and Jim liked so much.

Gary opened up the medicine cabinet and with drew a tab from a bottle and put it back on the shelf. He swallowed the tab with a hard crack of his neck as he turned his head suddenly and the world became a little clearer.

“The guy who invented this should most definitely get a Nobel prize.” Gary announced to no one in particular. The anti-toxin was a staple of any hard drinking party. Its effects were nearly instantaneous as they flushed out all the toxins from the body after alcohol consumption. Meant to be taken before you started drinking to stave off any inebriation people soon discovered that it was just as good dispelling the worst of hangovers.

He washed up, the cool water on his face finishing the job of waking him up and he slapped on some beard suppressant on his face. He preferred the vibroblades to shave, but when one was in a hurry, a slap of beard suppressant was usual enough to at least keep it down to a respectable five o’clock shadow.

He dried his face with a towel and as he did he suddenly stopped.

“Computer, what time is it?” he asked.

“The time is 0642.”

Gary slowly put the towel down, an awful sense of dread coming over him.

“The day?”

“Tuesday.”

Gary cursed and threw the towel down to the ground and rushed over to his closet.

“What’s the matter honey?” a beautiful blonde asked as her head emerged from under the covers.

“I have to go. Damnit!! I think I missed my transport to the Enterprise.” he snapped as he found a clean gold uniform shirt and slipped it on. He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder and paused. That pain always acted up every now and then. He had taken some sort of spear in that shoulder six months ago and the doctors told him that the poison contained in that spear had permanently damaged some nerves there. It would act up occasionally, particularly if he was stressed.

Missing your assignment to the Enterprise and hopefully as XO was definitely stressful.

“Damnit!” He cursed as he started to slap and shove random articles of clothing and devices into his duffel bag.

“Where is my other boot!” he snapped a she passed over the pile of clothes and the single boot.

“Can’t you calm down. I don’t like to see you like this.”

Gary paused and took a deep breath.

“Look, Patricia.”

“I’m not Patricia!” the blonde exclaimed angrily, face turning bright red.

“Uh…”

“What did he say!” another woman poked her head out of the covers. She was a slim brunette with sparkling black eyes and she looked even more exhausted than Gary but she was wide awake now.

“Lizette?” Gary offered with a hopeful glance.

“I’M Patricia, SHE’S Lizette you jerk!” the brunette spat and threw a pillow at him.

“Ladies.” he replied calmly. “I’m sorry but being brought to the heights of passion as you have done, oh so skillfully has all but fried my brain. I’m sure that I was moaning the names correctly last night.”

The girls exchanged glances.

“Well…”

“I think…”

“Good!” Gary exclaimed with a wide smile and quickly gathered what else he could and walked over to the comboard as he was trying to jam in his foot to one boot. he hopped over and slapped the comboard.

“Control here.”

“Control this is Gary Mitchell, Serial number 01223-S89. I need immediate access to a transport to the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701.”

“The last transport to Enterprise left three hours ago, sir.”

“I’m aware of that or I wouldn’t be calling you.” Gary replied as he finally managed to get his boot on.

“I’m sorry sir, but we don’t have any transports on the board for off system transit. I’m sorry.”

Gary looked up at the monitor, glad that the communication wasn’t visual but angry nonetheless.

“Listen to me control, I am a lieutenant commander and the chief navigator for the Enterprise. I NEED to be on that ship before she leaves. Get me a transport now or I’ll have to go over your head.”

“Feel free to go over my head if you wish, sir, but the facts arte the facts, we simply do not have any available transports to get you over to Enterprise.” the voice was tight with annoyance.

Gary sighed heavily.

“Switch me over to your commanding officer.”

“Of course sir.”

“You blithering idiot.” Gary added under his breath.

“Control here, Commander Dalton.”

“Commander, this is Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, I need a transport to the USS Enterprise, I don’t care if she’s a garbage scow. I need something to get me over there, now. I am the duty officer for the navigation station and how’s it going to look if the Chief Navigator isn’t there?”

“That’s sounds to me like its more your problem than mine, Lieutenant Commander.” He replied wanly.

“Damnit! What kind of answer is THAT?”

“The kind you get from a Commander who does not appreciate a junior officer bullying his men. When my men tell you that there are no transports then there aren’t any.”

Gary passed his right hand through his hair in frustration as he spied his other boot jammed in beneath the bed.

“Listen to me carefully, if I have to hire a civilian transport I will, but I am asking you, as one officer to another, I need to be on Enterprise and if its on a laundry ship I’ll take it, hell, strap a warp drive on my back and I’ll call it a day.” Gary asked softly as he reached under the bed and pulled out the errant boot.

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the com.

“Hold on a sec, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Many thanks, Commander.” Gary replied with a smile as he started jamming on his other boot.

Jim was going to kill him.

“Gary?”

“Hold on a sec hon, I’m about to find out whether I should be packing to leave Starfleet or just leave on a monumental mission.”

“He’s such a drama queen.” Lizette said with a roll of her eyes.

“Lieutenant Commander?”

“Yes?”

“You’re are one lucky son of a bitch, we have a transport enroute from Earth dispatched straight from Starfleet command. Its final destination is Enterprise. This transport just appeared on my manifests. This tells me it’s an emergency addition. I can waylay her to you, but it will be at your location in under 20 minutes.”

“I can make it Commander. Thanks again!”

“My pleasure lieutenant Commander. And good luck, I lost a very good friend on one of those missions. Watch your back.”

“I always do.” Gary replied and deactivated the com. He turned quickly, took one last look at the room and slung the duffle bag over his shoulder.

“Gary! Where are you going!” Patricia called out after him.

Gary paused at the door and gave them a warm smile.

“I’m off on a mission, ladies. I’ll look you up after I get back.”

“When’s that going to be?” Lizette asked pouting.

Gary smiled mischievously.

“I’ll be back in about five years.” he replied and quickly left.

The girls looked at each other and shook their heads.

“What an ass.”

“I hate guys like that you know.”

“Guys like what?”

“They think they’re gods or something.” Lizette replied and drifted back down under the covers.







A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY


“You know, I am a Jedi Knight now, there’s no reason for me to call you master or even ask for your advice.” Anakin Skywalker replied tartly as the two Jedi strolled down the main concourse of the Jedi temple.

Usually at this hour in the day, the temple would be alive with the sound of people moving and talking as they went to their appointed rounds. Padawans on errands for their masters. Young padawans rushing to get to Master Yoda’s lessons. Masters quietly discussing events around the galaxy, Jedi knights proudly striding through the halls on various missions and quests for the Republic.

Now it was silent as a tomb. There was no life here. The padawans and knights were dispersed through the galaxy valiantly engaging the forces of the Separatists and the masters were in strategy sessions with the Republic leadership as they planned the next set of campaigns. The youngest padawans had diminished in numbers as the worlds that had broken away from the Republic no longer sent their children to the temple and some worlds had even gone so far as to demand the return of the children. When the Jedi refused, this caused a massive uproar in BOTH the Separatist and Republic circles as the Jedi were portrayed as child kidnappers and worse.

Things were slowly unraveling in ways no one had predicted. This was particularly disturbing for the Jedi who prided themselves on the ability to predict any danger that lay on the road ahead. Instead, it was as if the Jedi were walking blindly into a minefield.

Their support in the Republic was slowly eroding away as the casualty reports returned from every battle. The Jedi, premier warriors and leaders of the galaxy were losing many battles and the ones that they were winning was costing the Republic in lives and treasure.

No one noted the fact that over 2/3 of those casualties were actually clone troopers. Obi Wan Kenobi mused.

The leadership of the Separatists was headed by Count Dooku, who was doing everything in his power to paint the Jedi as corrupt and arrogant, master manipulators who used the force to mold minds and shape ideas in the minds of the senate. He decried the foul use of the force in such a manner and declared for all to hear that the sins of the Jedi had driven him from their very ranks and forced him to raise a banner of independence from a Republic that he once loved.

The Jedi knew the truth. Dooku was a Sith lord and he was obviously using the Dark side of the Force to fan the flames of dissent and rebellion among the Separatists. He was using them to further his agenda.

Unfortunately another series of setbacks had wracked the rapidly dwindling number of Jedi. Dooku’s power had called to the untrained and ambitious padawans, and sadly some knights, to join his cause and embrace the power that the dark side offered. As Master Yoda said upon hearing the news that a renown Jedi knight, Mako Talus who had held one of the key worlds in the Sluis sector had turned to the dark side and betrayed his garrison to the Separatists “Wanting to be on the wining side is one of the hardest desires to fight against when you are facing defeat.”. So much for Jedi unity.

As Obi Wan looked out at the silent temple he felt a sense of dread close to his heart. It had grown since Geonosis.

The Jedi were dying.

But there was one Jedi he was currently annoyed with.

“You like throwing the fact that you’re a Jedi knight now around don’t you.”

“I earned it, Obi Wan, on Geonosis. If it wasn’t for me you’d be dead.”

Obi Wan nodded slowly as they began to ascent the main stairs.

“True enough my young Jedi KNIGHT, but in the end, I am a Jedi Master now and I can press you to call me master if I wish.” Obi Wan replied with a shadow of a smile. Unfortunately his joke struck the wrong chord in his old padawan. Anakin’s face darkened and a terrible shadow crossed his proud features. Obi Wan could sense the anger in him.

He reached out and touched his padawan’s arm.

“It’s just a joke, Anakin. You’re right, I owe you my life and for that I am forever grateful…old friend.”

Anakin glanced down at Obi Wan and at his hand that gripped his arm.

“Certain sacrifices were made, Obi Wan. Sacrifices I will not forget.” he replied stiffly. Obi Wan suddenly realized that he was gripping Anakin’s prosthetic arm. Obi Wan slowly withdrew it.

“Anakin, you should let go of your anger regarding that wound. Many Jedi have cybernetic implants, its not uncommon and its almost as good as your real arm.” Obi Wan consoled softly. “Besides, Anakin, a Jedi cannot hold on to hate. That path leads to Dooku and who knows what else. Be calm, at peace.”

Anakin frowned hearing the wisdom in his teacher’s words.

“I try, Obi Wan, I really do.” he replied softly. There was a deep sorrow in his voice that troubled Obi Wan. He had been so different since Geonosis. There was an edge that he had not seen in Anakin before, and sometimes in the heat of battle he could feel Anakin struggling to hold his anger in check as he fought. He meant to bring it up to Yoda but was not sure how it would be received.

Anakin had grown to be one of the few heroes amongst the Jedi ranks to the general populace. Anakin won stunning victories in small engagements near Alderaan and an attempt by the Separatists to launch a surprise attack on a Republic shipyard was nearly single handedly stopped by Anakin.

Obi Wan was proud of his old Padawan, he had grown to be a fearsome Jedi knight, great pilot an a cunning warrior.

But there was always the anger just beneath the surface and something else as well that he could not quite get a handle on.

“Let’s discuss something else then, for instance I wish you would assert a little influence on the Senator from Naboo. She is constantly bringing up peace motions on the senate floor and she is gathering support, despite the fact that the Separatists are most certainly at our throats she still wants to talk peace.”

“What do you mean by influence?” Anakin asked sharply. Obi Wan could feel suspicion in his old padawan’s heart.

“I meant that you two are friends and after all we went through on Geonosis you would think that she would be a little more supportive of our war effort.”

“Padme is a pacifist and she always has been. She’s never been proud of what she did on Geonosis. She still thinks that a political solution must be found.”

“The only political solution Count Dooku is interested in is the dismemberment of the Republic.” Obi Wan replied.

“She doesn’t agree on behalf of the trade guilds and Federation. She thinks that they are merely trying to exert some independence and the direction this government has taken under the Supreme Chancellor.”

“Oh no, not that again. I will admit that I never really trusted Palpatine but he was backed into a corner by the Separatists and what else was he supposed to do. I was there Anakin, I saw them building those droid armies, I heard them planning. That army was there to black mail the Republic. They’re only crying foul because we found out about it and preempted them.”

“You don’t have to convince me, Obi Wan, I’m a supporter of Palpatine. I was merely relaying what Padme feels.”

“I really do wish she would wake up soon, her naivety, it will be the end of her if she’s not careful.”

“Don’t say such things!” Anakin snapped.

“I’m sorry.” Obi Wan replied hesitantly as they finished the long walk up the main flight of stairs and made their way to the small chambers of one of the order’s chief masters. The rest of the walk was in sullen silence as they approached the door, chimed and waited patiently.

“Come in.”

They entered the Spartan chambers to find Mace Windu sitting on a cushion, legs crossed over each other in the traditional Jedi meditative pose. Master Windu opened his eyes and coolly regarded each of the Jedi. Yoda had privately confided to Windu that these two Jedi were the key to the survival of the Order. The force seemed to be focused on them, whirling around them like a storm. To what purpose, not even Yoda could divine.

“Master Kenobi, Jedi Knight Skywalker, please, have a seat. We have much to discuss.” Anakin and Obi Wan quickly obliged the Jedi Master and were soon seated in the same position across from Master Windu.

“What I am about to tell you is a state secret of the highest order. Only a handful of people in the entire Republic are aware of this fact and you have been allowed into that circle.”

Anakin and Obi Wan exchanged furtive glances.

“We have been in negotiations with an extra galactic civilization.”

“When you say we…” Obi Wan began.

“I mean that the Republic is attempting to establish diplomatic relations and the Jedi have been asked to mediate these negotiations.”

“Extragalactic, when did we discover this civilization?” Anakin asked.

“Several months ago, one of our deep range scouts discovered odd readings in a deserted sector of space, deep in Republic lines. This scout upon further investigation discovered a wormhole which leads to another galaxy that is not even in this galactic cluster. The civilization we made contact with is known as the United Federation of Planets.”

Obi Wan and Anakin were both shocked. Not a whiff of this had escaped to become rumor or innuendo and that spoke of how tight the security around this must have been. The Republic was infamous for not being able to keep any secrets for long.

“I suppose we have a goal in regard to these negotiations? The Republic is not in the business of making contact with new civilizations particularly when we are engulfed in the most horrific war this galaxy has seen in millennia.” Obi Wan commented.

“You’re instincts serve you well, Obi Wan. The Republic has not posted the latest casualty reports from our campaign in the Korvis Cluster. But the most pessimistic reports indicated something on the order of 9 million dead and 680 warships the Force only knows how many fighters.”

“9 million?!” Obi Wan gasped.

“We can’t keep taking losses like that.” Anakin added.

“No, we can’t. This new civilization would prove useful to us as an ally.”

“In the war? Why would they be willing to help us in a war that has nothing to do with them?” Anakin pressed.

“That is something that our negotiator is trying to work out and a fact that was discovered during the Korvis campaign that could prove to be useful for our negotiations.”

“Which is?” Obi Wan asked.

“I’m sorry, Obi Wan but only members of the Council and the Supreme Chancellor know of this secret and I have not been authorized to share it with you.” Windu replied plainly.

“Is this how it is then? Secrets between Jedi.” Obi Wan replied darkly.

“Obi Wan this has nothing to do with our opinion of you but certain facts have come to Master Yoda and my attention which could prove devastating to the order itself if we were to be more open.”

“What are we talking about here?” Anakin asked suspiciously.

“Nothing that concerns you, Anakin. The reason why you are here is that our negotiations have reached the point where the Federation is willing to send a ship across to investigate our claims for themselves and from there come to a decision on whether to ally themselves with us. The Supreme Chancellor has made it very clear to us and our negotiator that they must decide in our favor.”

“I’m sorry, Master Windu, but I don’t like the sounds of that. It almost sounds to me as if the Chancellor is telling us to lie if we have to in order to have this Federation ally with us. That does not sit well with me.” Obi Wan commented darkly.

“Chancellor Palpatine is a wise man and leader. He has guided us through these dark times and if he says that we need this alliance then there is no reason to paint his orders in such a harsh light.” Anakin interjected.

“What?” Obi Wan exclaimed.

“Master Windu, Master Obi Wan has a well documented dislike and prejudice of politicians, I posit that his feelings are not clear on this matter.”

“You’re presuming to tell me about my feelings being clear?!” Obi Wan sputtered in shock.

“Gentlemen, please! This is not a matter up for debate. We are the Jedi, we do as we are told. The Senate wishes us to do our best in helping this new government see things our way and we shall do so.”

“You mean Palpatine wishes the Federation to see things our way.”

“That’s uncalled for!” Anakin protested.

“Enough!”

Anakin and Obi Wan were suddenly quiet, but both exchanged glares.

“The mission to bring the Federation ship across with our negotiator is in danger.

Anakin and Obi Wan instantly forgot about their turmoil and gave Windu all of their attention.

“What’s happening?”

“The Separatists may have discovered the location of the wormhole and they know that the Federation are scheduled to come across very soon. We fear that Dooku is planning an ambush of the Federation mission.”

“Isn’t the wormhole guarded by Republic forces?”

“Unfortunately it was decided to keep as low a profile as possible in regard to this wormhole. No ships were dispatched to patrol it because we knew it would draw Separatist attention. We were hoping to hide it in plain sight until the time came that the Federation would begin using it. However, as it has been the story of this war so far, the Separatist’s intelligence gathering network is far superior to our own. While we seem to only be able to guess where they are and the disposition of their forces, they know intimate details of our own deployments. This is one such success for them. They know where the wormhole is and they are dispatching ships to intercept the Federation mission.”

“Why doesn’t the Republic dispatch a fleet immediately, if we can get a fleet underway now we might make it to the wormhole in time.”

“There are no fleets available in range. We cannot detach any ships from the Coruscant defense force because we are under constant surveillance by the Separatists. Chancellor Palpatine will not allow even the barest threat to Coruscant exist. Therefore I am dispatching my two finest Jedi knights to the war zone in a dreadnought and its support ships right away.”

“A single dreadnought?” Anakin noted with some distaste.

“You realize master Windu that the Separatists have a habit of attacking in large numbers with overwhelming force. We may most likely be overwhelmed at the wormhole.” Obi Wan added.

“There are no other resources available at the moment. I am sorry but this is the mission. You’re sole objective and goal is to insure the survival of the Federation mission. That is all.”

“One more thing, Master Windu, who is leading the mission for the Republic?”

“Jedi Knight Meerlinda Farstrider.” Windu replied. “Now hurry. The fate of the galaxy is in your hands. Again.” He added with a shadow of a smile.

Obi Wan and Anakin bowed their heads slightly and started to quickly file out.

“I could have handled this alone you know.” Anakin whispered to Obi Wan.

Obi Wan smirked.

“In your dreams my old padawan.”

“Oh, gentlemen.”

They turned to face Windu who was not looking at them as he spoke while adjusting some controls on a computer readout.

“Master Yoda and I have come to a decision that we must begin pooling our resources in this war. The Jedi have been dispersed throughout this galaxy and we’re suffering heavy casualties. It would be best from now on to pair Jedi knights and masters together for maximum effect and security.”

Obi Wan knew what was coming. So did Anakin from the growing look of alarm on his face.

“Because of your prior relationship and effectiveness working together it has been decided that you two will be officially designated as a team.”

“Master, I don’t need his help.”

“Anakin, what is the second prelate of the Order?”

Anakin looked down at the floor for a moment then glanced up with a dark expression.

“Obedience.”

“Then follow it. Don’t make us regret making you one of the youngest Jedi knights in our history.”

“Yes Master.” Anakin replied stung by Windu’s words.

“Hurry and May the Force be with you.”

“Thank you master.” Obi Wan replied and gently tugged at Anakin to follow him out.

As they emerged from the chamber Anakin refused to look at Obi Wan.

“Was I that bad of a master?” Obi Wan asked quietly as they walked quickly to the hangar bay.

Anakin paused for a moment.

“No.” he replied. “But I am a Jedi now, not some young padawan. I led the defense of Alderaan when the Separatists launched that surprise attack and I held them off without any other Jedi’s help. They left you alone after Master Qui-Gon died. They did not saddle you with other masters looking over your shoulder. Sometimes I feel that they’re treating me like a child, as if I didn’t earn this knighthood.”

Obi Wan stopped and turned to face his old padawan. Anakin continued walking a few steps but stopped as well.

“Anakin, I was never alone after Qui Gon died. I had you.” Obi Wan noted and smiled warmly at his old padawan, remembering the young child that he had been.

Anakin nodded slowly.

“You’re right and I’m sorry Obi Wan. You’ve always been the father I’ve ever known. Sometimes I don’t think I let you know that.”

“It’s alright Anakin, everyone rebels against their father sometime. Come now we have a mission to complete. But maybe you can tell me whether your intuition told you something in there that has ,e worried.”

“You mean the fact that Master Windu was hiding something?” Anakin replied proudly as they entered the hangar that housed a squadron of Jedi Starfighters.

“Yes, and what that implies.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“The Separatists intelligence network may not be as good as we claim it is.”

Anakin paused at his starfighter.

“Are you saying we may have a traitor in the Republic?” he asked quietly.

Obi Wan frowned sadly.

“No, Anakin, I think it goes far deeper than that. I think we may have a traitor within the order.”






The glare of the red battle stations lights were dimmed as he checked the readouts on the tactical display one more time. There was no doubt of it now.

“Dominion fleet inbound on attack vector.” Worf reported and his fingers hovered over the fire controls.

Benjamin Sisko stood calmly on the bridge of Deep Space Nine and waited for his enemy to come to him. Major Kira stood by his side.

“Captain. Is Starfleet sure about this? We’re the most valuable target in the Alpha Quadrant. They said they weren’t going to send any ships or are they sending ships and you just can’t tell us?” she whispered as the Dominion fleet grew on the screen.

“Major Kira, I do not lie to my staff or my friends. Starfleet’s resources are needed elsewhere. I assure you, matters are in hand and in control.” he replied softly and watched as the Dominion fleet quickly formed up into attack wings as they approached, never once adjusting their speed to slow down or speed up. He had never seen such precision in a fleet before, even the Federation’s.

“Come on Dukat. Show me what you’ve got.” Sisko whispered as the Dominion fleet seemed to pause for a moment as if gathering strength then they surged forward like a pack of wolves.

The Dominion ships unleashed a storm of fire as they lashed into the station, intent on tearing through her shields and rendering her helpless. The First wave was certain of victory as their bright white anti-polaron beams swept the length of the station like deadly scythes.

Fires blossomed along the stations shields but no damage leaked through to the vulnerable hull.

On the bridge Sisko and Kira held onto their stations as the bridge rocked from the numerous impacts.

“Mr. Worf, all weapons fire at will.” Sisko ordered.

Worf savagely stabbed at the weapons controls. The arrays lining the station began firing into the Dominion fleet. Torpedoes exploded within the Dominion lines, vaporizing the smaller vessels as phasers raked the larger ships.

“Enemy ships are closing on the Defiant.” Nog warned.

“Mr. Worf!” Sisko shouted.

“I’ve got them!” Worf replied triumphantly as he locked on to the wave of Jem Hadar fighters racing towards the Defiant. Torpedoes exploded in their path as phasers lashed out and picked off the remaining fighters.





“Sir, the station’s shields are holding.” Damar reported with some surprise.

“That’s impossible, Federation shields have always proven useless against our weapons.” Weyoun interjected as he looked over Damar’s shoulder at the tactical display.

“I have found it wise never to underestimated the Federation’s technical skill or Captain Sisko’s resourcefulness.” Dukat replied smugly. “Damar, bring us around for another pass.”

The Dominion fleet slowly wheeled around and unleashed another barrage on the station. Fires erupted all along the shield grid but they held. A phaser blast cut through a diving Cardasian light cruiser and the vessel could no longer pull out of its dive, crashing against the shields in a burst of plasma and flaming debris.




On the Defiant, Jadzia Dax flipped on her communicator.

“Chief, how much longer?”

“Just another couple of minutes. Take us to our final set of coordinates.” O’Brien replied busily punching data into a pad as he watched his crews feverishly working on the mines in the bay.

“Helm, take us to-”

The Defiant shook violently as Jem Hadar fighters dove down in an attack on the Federation starship. White anti-polaron beams lanced into the Defiant, her shields barely able to hold back the vicious onslaught.

“Chief, I’m going to have to take evasive maneuvers.”

“You do that and you risk setting off every mine on this ship.” O’Brien replied loudly as he held onto a railing for support.

“And if I don’t we may not have a ship left.”

The Defiant moved along in a straight line, an easy target for the hunting fighters. Suddenly a shadow passed the Defiant and the shadow coalesced into a solid form. A Klingon Bird of prey fired her forward disruptors destroying the lead Jem Hadar fighter of the pack. The other two peeled away in opposite directions breaking off their pursuit of the Defiant. The Bird of Prey did not hesitate and locked onto one of the fighters following her.

On the bridge of the Defiant Jadzia smiled as General Martok’s face appeared on her viewer.

“You may continue your work commander. I will handle the Jem Hadar.”

“Who says there’s never a Klingon around when you need one?” Dax asked with a grin. Martok chucked with glee.




“Shields at 35%” Nog reported as a console erupted into a shower sparks behind him.

“Mr. Worf make every shot count.” Sisko urged.

Worf nodded and returned to his duty as he found more targets on his tactical display than he had weapons banks for.




“All wings and batteries, concentrate your fire on the outer docking ring. We have to get their shields down.” Dukat urged.

The fleet soon clustered around the station, inching in closer despite the withering fire and firing their weapons on the outer ring of the station, engulfing it in writhing clouds of fire and plasma.



“We’ve lost main power to the shields!” Nog shouted in alarm.

“Switching to auxiliary power but we do not know how long it will hold.” Worf added as he gripped the sides of his station. A heavy volley of fire rocked the station.

Explosions wracked the bridge of the station sending personnel tumbling over railings or sprawled out on the floor.

“Defiant to Captain Sisko.”

“Dax, go ahead.”

“We’ve set the last mine.”

“Activate field and return to the station.”

“Acknowledged, Dax out.”

The Defiant spun away from the minefield as it slowly faded from view.




“The minefield-”

“I have eyes, Damar.” Dukat snapped.

“This isn’t turning out quite the way I planned.” Weyoun added dejected.

“It’s a minor setback Weyoun. Once we take the station we’ll be able to dismantle the minefield without interference.” Dukat soothed.

“Let’s both hope you’re confidence is justified.” Weyoun replied icily.
Dukat leaned in close to Dumar. “Dumar, signal the reserves to prepare for a final assault.”

Damar nodded.

The fleet gathered for the final push.

“The Dominion fleet is regrouping. And I’m detecting a new wave on enemy ships entering Bajoran space.” Kira reported, despair in her voice.

“What do we do Captain?”

Sisko nodded to himself.

“We wait.”

“Sir?” Kira replied hesitantly.

“Sir, I’m picking up a strange subspace distortion in the midst of the Dominion fleet.” Nog relayed obviously confused.

“I’ll say this for them. They are punctual.” Sisko noted.

“Sir?” Worf asked.

Suddenly on the screen, the Dominion fleet was scattered by several enormous objects that flashed into view from nowhere.

“What in the name of the prophets is that?” Kira breathed.

Seven enormous ships were suddenly in the midst of the Dominion fleet. Enormous spheres surrounded by an armored ring, the ships were firing on the Dominion fleet from numerous quad mounted turreted weapons that were clustered around the main ring of the warship.

The Dominion fleet was in complete disarray, the chaos only increased as the weapons detonated with tremendous power. Dominion ships erupted like fiery blossoms ringing the new comer ships.

Several Jem Hadar fighters broke into a tight formation and began attacking the lead ship, their harsh white anti-polaron beams lanced into the ring section of the warship, only to flare up into a frenetic light show with no visible effect on the ship’s hull itself. Torpedoes flashed away, several detonating harmlessly against the spherical central hubs of the alien ships.

More withering fire was the response and several more of the larger dominion ships were shorn in half by the heavy fire. The detonations of near misses were more than enough to send the smaller fighters into out of control spins.

“Those are warships of the Trade Federation.”

“Trade Federation? I’ve never heard of them, or seen ships like that before.” Worf replied as he watched the Dominion fleet literally disintegrating before his eyes.

“You won’t believe the power outputs I’m reading on those batteries. They seem to be firing some form of plasma based energy.”

“Captain, who are these people?” Kira asked in amazement.

“They are our new allies.” Sisko replied with a slow smile as the last of the Dominion fleet fled into warp.









The small town looked as if it had been standing in the center of the fields since time immemorial. Townsfolk wandered around quietly, each attending to their own business. There was a silence that pervaded this town, a sense of utter stasis.

The breeze was weak and almost inconsequential as it moved through the town, occasionally kicking up a small dust cloud before disappearing into the surrounding builds, rattling a few signs along the way.

A single road ran down the center of the town but it looked as if no one had driven on the road in a long time. Paved but perfect, not a single crack or loose pebble on its black top surface, not even a stray weed or plant poking out of a corner.

A middle aged man sat on steps leading up to a small house staring up into the sky as if seeing something that wasn’t there. He seemed to be lost in thought. He suddenly paused as if he heard something far off, like the distant rumble of thunder.

His eyes narrowed on the far horizon up the road past the tattered scarecrow.

His face suddenly betrayed surprise and dismay.

“Oh no.” he muttered and stood up quickly.

The rest of the townsfolk seemed to feel his distress and several turned to regard him with a passing curiosity.

“No, not this, not now.” He muttered.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 10:52am
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Chapter 2: Marching Orders

“O that a man might know the end of this day’s business ‘ere it come.”
Julius Caesar
Act 5 scene i



“I am most impressed” Kirk commented with a satisfied nod as he examined the cavernous engineering section of his new ship. He could hear the dull steady thrumming of the great warp engines that echoed in the long chamber. The warp core, behind a mesh wall of tritanium was quietly powering his vessel. Engineers were moving throughout the section, checking stations and making minor adjustments, each one intent on his or her duty.

“Mr. Scott, I have heard about you in my years of service, and every time your name was mentioned it was always quickly followed by the appellation of miracle worker. I can see now why that must be true.”

Montgomery Scott smiled softly.

“Tis a moniker that I am most uncomfortable with sair. I am merely doing my duty as a Starfleet engineer. It is my job to make sure these vessels are functioning correctly.”

Kirk smiled as he ran his hand over a console and it came away completely dust free.

“I read in an after action report that on the very first five year mission when the Enterprise left space dock under the command of Robert April the Enterprise’s warp drive refused to function despite simulations that said that they were fine. A battery of self diagnostics later revealed the ship’s warp drive was lightly out of balance and it would take the engineering teams three days to rebalance them. You went in here with a team of your own crew and rebalanced the engines in 16 HOURS.” Kirk relayed softly as he glanced down the long bay where the intermix chamber led off into the deep recesses of his ship, way back to the struts leading up to the engine nacelles. before when he served on these beautiful ships he never really had the time to admire the ships.

“Well, sair, in all fairness to Captain April, he was the one that urged I do so before the launching of the new Constitution class be dubbed a fiasco. There was quiet a bit of pressure to perform then.”

Kirk nodded.

“Modest, I like that, very well Mr. Scott, I fully intend for us to be underway within the next twelve hours. Will the warp drive be ready?”

“You have my word sair. When you give the word, we will be ready.” Scotty replied with a proud smile.

“I don’t doubt it.” Kirk said with a wink and walked out of engineering. Mr. Spock fell into step beside him.

“We have been ordered to take on a transport immediately.”

“Oh?” Kirk asked with a wry grin. Gary had pulled one of his little miracles and actually linked up with the ship. Still, it was not going to spare him from the drubbing Kirk was going to give him for coming late to his assignment, particularly when Kirk wanted him for the post of XO. How could Gary be so reckless?

“Starfleet command wants us to take on Lieutenant commander Elizabeth Dehner immediately. She has special eyes only orders from Starfleet that you will need to see as soon as she arrives.”

“This doesn’t sound like your standard milk run does it Mr. Spock?” Kirk asked slightly concerned.

“Milk run?” Spock asked.

Kirk stopped in mid-stride and glanced over at the Vulcan. There was no sign on his face that betrayed any humor.

“Oh, of course, human colloquial term. It means the simple ferrying of passengers or equipment. I thought Starfleet was anxious to get us back into space.”

“Priorities seemed to have changed. There has been a major outbreak in the Deneb colonies of Rindallan fever. The Lexington was dispatched to the colony to provide medical assistance.”

“What does that have to do with us?” Kirk asked curiously as they entered the turbolift.

“The Lexington was on a mission to an unknown part of space, the transport was originally intended for the Lexington when it was rerouted to the Enterprise in mid transit.”

“And how do you know this?”

“I make it a habit to know the patrol and duty rosters for sister ships in the vicinity for just such occasions. Captain Pike was routinely waylaid from his missions by emergencies which arose that the Enterprise was the only ship in the area to respond to. As a Constitution class vessel we have become the workhorse of the Federation, acting as both diplomatic, humanitarian and military vessel.”

“True enough. But I was rather looking forward to taking my first step into the unknown, not ferrying passengers to god knows where.” Kirk replied with a dejected tone as the turbolift took them to the shuttle bay.




Gary smiled softly at the beautiful blonde seated across from him in the shuttle. She was reading over some reports, almost too diligent. He had seen her furtive glances and continued to smile wolfishly at her throughout the whole transit.

“So tell me, Doctor, what are you assigned to on the Enterprise?” he asked.

She hesitantly looked up.

“I am going as a special consultant. I am a doctor of psychology, specializing in human and alien psychology.”

“Really?” he replied leaning forward. She leaned back.

“I have experience on two other five year missions and many consider me the top of my field in interspecies negotiations.” she offered feeling very uncomfortable under the intense young man’s gaze.

“I’m considered top of my field in interspecies relations as well.” Gary said meaningfully.

“Mr. Mitchell, would you please.”

“What?” he asked innocently, leaning slightly closer.

“You are invading my personal space, there are some species in this galaxy that would consider that an offense worthy of taking your life.”

“Oh, I see, so you’re afraid.” he noted with a twinkle in his eyes.

“I am hardly afraid of you, Mr. Mitchell. In fact, I pity you.” she replied haughtily with a toss of her head.

“Pity?” he asked sharply, drawing back as if stung.

“Yes, I see in you many traits that speak of a man over compensating for some deficiencies.”

“Oh Christ, are we resorting to member size jokes because that’s just childish.”

“Oh no, Mr. Mitchell. What I’m talking about is much more than that. The deficiencies I speak of are self perceived true or not you see flaws and weaknesses within yourself that you try very hard to compensate for with this easy going devil may care attitude of yours. Frankly, I don’t know how you weren’t tagged with this during the battery of psych tests performed in the first year at the academy. You obviously display traits that indicate a willingness to take risks in order to succeed and you measure success as total or none.”

Gary watched her speak, part of him fascinated by her insight, part fascinated by how beautiful she was, the way her chest heaved as she poke, the slight inclination of her long willowy neck, the unconscious toss of her head that sent light spiking through her short blonde hair.

“Your ease with women indicates a general uneasiness around members of the opposite sex and most likely includes the fact that you have no close female friends as you either tend to objectify them as conquests to satisfy your ego or threats to your emotional stability.”

Gary opened his mouth to protest only to realize that he did not have any female friends.

“Your bonds with males is always rivalry whether friendly or not and you cannot connect on a deep emotional level with anyone because you must maintain some semblance of control.”

“Uh.”

“And in fact I do believe that if we go further than that I see a potential for you to even develop a god complex given enough command authority or power in order to exert yet more control. Quite a failing in command material that would have been weeded out if you didn’t sleep with your psych evaluator.”

“How in the hell..”

“Lauren really thought you liked her, Mr. Mitchell. you played her for a fool and I was there to pick up some of those pieces.” she added coolly.

Mitchell sat back and rubbed a hand through his hair.

“Despite the fact that your body language indicates a general agreement with my points I could still be wrong.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, you could simply be an asshole, Mr. Mitchell, a run of the mill asshole.” She replied coolly and returned to her report. Gray stared at her in shock and amazement. He slowly sat back and smirked.

He did not want to think about what she said, she was a headshrinker after all and they tended to be quiet arrogant and self deluded about their own skills.

He opened his mouth to say something snide.

“And as I understand that you weren’t very good either.” She added without looking up from her report. Gary’s mouth hung open.

“Uh, we’re here sirs.” the pilot announced as the shuttle entered the cavernous hangar bay of the Enterprise. The pilot had been secretly entertained by the back and forth between the two.

“Thanks a lot.” Gary said with a smile and gathered up his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. Dr. Dehner gathered her own belongings from an overhead compartment and loudly struggled with a heavy piece of luggage. She glanced over at Gary who was standing whistling to himself. Gary smiled at her.

“This is the 23rd century, DOCTOR Dehner. You ladies fend for yourselves now, no?” he replied and sauntered over to the airlock. Dr. Dehner muttered to herself and managed to pull it down. She struggled over to the airlock as it cycled open and Gary walked out without taking a look back. She glared at him and continued struggling down the shuttle ramp into the hangar bay.

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock stood waiting patiently as she reached them. Gary and Kirk exchanged smiles.

“Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell reporting for duty, sir.” Gary said and snapped a sharp salute.

“Doctor Elizabeth Dehner reporting for duty sir. I have this for you from Starfleet command.” she handed Kirk a data disk and saluted.

“Thank you, Doctor. We will convene a briefing as soon as I have a chance to look at this and be under way.”

“Coordinates for our rendezvous have been loaded here. please have this course plotted and entered. We are under some time constraints and have to arrive at our destination as soon as possible.”

“Of course, Mr. Mitchell?”

“Sir?”

“Since you’re the chief navigator, I want you to plot this course and get us under way immediately.”

“Ji-Uh, Captain I just arrived.”

“According to my duty roster you should have reported for duty 12 hours ago.”

“Well, uh-“”

“That’s all mister.” Kirk snapped.

“Yes sir!” Gary replied stiffly and snapped a salute and stalked off the bay. Spock watched him curiously. As far as Spock knew, Gary Mitchell and Captain Kirk had been friends since the academy. They had served together on almost every assignment. He found it refreshing that Kirk had not allowed this friendship to creep into the professional relationship. Spock was satisfied that the new Captain may not have been as subject to cronyism as Number One had suggested last night over dinner.

“Mr. Spock will show you to your quarters, Doctor. I will attend to Starfleet’s orders and we’ll meet again for briefing in let’s sat one hour?”

“That would be acceptable, Captain.” Dr. Dehner replied with a nod. Kirk walked out of the hangar deck holding the data disk in his hand and wondering what was the rush?

“Is this his first command?” Dehner asked as she watched him leave.

“Yes.”

“I thought so. Starfleet was worried about this but we really don’t have much of a choice.” she muttered aloud.

“May I inquire as to the nature of this assignment?” Spock asked.

“I’m sorry Mr. Spock, but that’s up to your Captain, not me. By the way, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell is a little senior to be a navigator, don’t you think?” she asked casually as she organized her luggage.

“I had not noticed. Nevertheless, he will not be for long. The Captain intends to make him First Officer as soon as our current XO is transferred.”

“First officer?” she replied in shock. “THAT man?”

“Is there a problem.”

“No.” she muttered and fixed her uniform, fuming at the thought that a pig of a man would make it to first officer in Starfleet.

“Well, Mr. Spock, if you will.” she gestured for him to lead the way. Spock eyed the luggage.

“Perhaps, Doctor, I can be of assistance.” he indicated the luggage.

“Why Mr. Spock, didn’t you know, it’s the 23rd Century. We women want and demand equality.” she replied with a lop sided smile and grunted as she hefted her luggage.

Spock raised an eyebrow in response before leading her out of the hangar bay.





Kirk sat back with a groan and slipped the disk into his computer.

“Computer play message from Starfleet Authorization James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise.”

“Working…voice print confirmed.”

The viewer sitting on his desk flashed on and Admiral Nogura spoke.

“Captain Kirk, this is an emergency situation. What I am about to tell you is on a strictly need to know basis. On stardate we made contact with an alien species from another galaxy.”

Kirk sat up straighter.

“This species is remarkably similar to our own, at least the initial contact was, upon further negotiations it turns out that like the Federation this society was a collection of alien species that calls themselves the Galactic Republic. They have close to a million worlds under their control and governance.”

Kirk whistled.

“Currently they are involved in a Civil War with a group of Separatists representing a small but powerful minority of the Republic that are trying to break away and blackmail the Republic through the use of an illegal robot army. This army has inflicted heavy casualties on the Republic military and has forced them to resort to mass cloning to keep up with the Separatists building program. The Republic on the surface appears to share very similar cultural values and a system of government almost identical to the Federation’s.”

“Their technological development is also incredible, surpassing most any other alien civilization we have yet encountered in our five year missions. They have offered to share this technology with us but they are also eager to have an ally in this civil war. The Federation High Council is extremely interested in getting this technology but at the same time weary of entering into a war in a conflict we can hardly understand at this point. The Federation agreed to dispatch a Starship to investigate the matter first hand. The Lexington was originally assigned to this task, Captain Trason was rated best in his class for diplomacy and he is in the middle of a five year mission now. However a recent medical emergency has forced us to reroute the Lexington to save the Deneb colonists. This leaves the only ship which can undertake the mission, the Enterprise.”

Kirk sat back and shook his head slowly. This was certainly what he did not expect.

“Doctor Elizabeth Dehner has been dispatched to act as an observer and consultant. She is an expert in alien human interactions and she has met with the Republic’s representative several times so she has some familiarity with the issues that may come up. You are to utilize Doctor Dehner as a consultant for you, Captain. Your mission is to see if they are indeed what they claim to be. Pay particular attention to the war situation. See what sort of opposition we can expect and what the true gripes of the opposition are. The Republic is an ancient space faring civilization and we will accord them the utmost respect. While in their galaxy you will be representing the Federation so do your best to uphold those ideals and beliefs.

On weightier military issues, you have the following restrictions in regards to rules of engagement. Should Separatists ships enter your area you will not fire first, nor will you initiate hostilities in any way. If you come under fire you have permission to return fire but look for retreat where possible. We cannot afford to be dragged into a war just yet unless we have reason and proof that our potential allies are worth the cost in blood and treasure we will undoubtedly incur. Put it this way, captain. We are not looking for war but we will not back down from it should it come looking for us. You have authorization to negotiate with the Republic any technological exchanges or treaties save an alliance. That must be negotiated by our diplomatic corps. This is essentially a fact finding mission, Captain. A very open ended fact finding mission. You will unfortunately be out of contact with the Federation for the duration of the mission. So far we have been unable to set up a communications link through the wormhole so you will be on your own, captain. Make us proud. Admiral Nogura out.”

Kirk stared at the dark screen for a long while as the depths of the mission slowly sank in.





“Welcome aboard sirs. It is an honor to have you aboard my vessel.” Captain Leeto beamed as Obi Wan and Anakin strode into the command center of the Dreadnought Valor’s Gaze.

“It’s a pleasure, captain. We hope that all is ready for deployment.”

“Of course, Master Kenobi. The last fighters have been ferried up from Coruscant and my escort ships are just now taking up position for the jump to lightspeed.” the Rodian replied with a proud sweep of his arms.

“Good, then there’s not a lot of time. We have to get underway immediately.” Anakin added darkly. Obi Wan glanced at him for a moment and turned back to Captain Leeto.

“Please, captain, we don’t wish to get in the way of your crew’s work. Anakin and I will be setting up our quarters. Do we have an estimated time of arrival?”

“My navigator tells me that we should be able to reach the target area in 13 hours if the hyperspace lanes are kind.” Leeto replied.

“Have you been fully briefed on our mission?” Anakin asked pointedly.

“Why yes, master Jedi, I have indeed.”

“Because this is not going to be a walk in the park. We may be facing down a major Separatist battle group at the target area.” Anakin replied. Obi Wan was concerned by Anakin’s intensity.

Leeto blinked, his snout twitched slightly, a sign of confusion among his people.

“I am well aware of the hazards we may face, Jedi Skywalker. My crew and I just came back from the Korvis campaigns. We know all about the Separatists and what their fleets are capable of. Nevertheless I will do what I can for the Republic and so will my crew.”

“Very good, Captain. We would ask for nothing less. Now if you will excuse us.” Obi Wan bowed his head respectfully and nearly dragged Anakin with him off the bridge. As they walked down the long corridors that led down into the bowels of the ship Obi Wan glanced over at his old padawan.

“Do you mind telling me what that was all about?” he asked.

“Did I say anything wrong?” Anakin replied.

Obi Wan frowned.

“No, but there is a way to convey what you were trying to do without confusing or frightening the crew. You don’t need to remind them that we’re heading into a very difficult battle.”

“Why not?” Anakin snapped and turned on his heel to face Obi Wan. “Why shouldn’t we tell them plainly that they are facing horrible odds. We have vast armadas at our disposal but the best we can do is this ship. Tell me you don’t feel it Obi Wan? There is something else at work here and we’re in the middle of it.”

“Anakin, I will not deny that I too have a strange feeling, like something else is wrong, somewhere, but that does not change the here and now.” Obi Wan blinked for a moment as he remembered his old teacher and realized how he had just mirrored Qui Gon’s philosophy. Sometimes, he wondered, if Anakin ever felt the same way about his own teachings.

“The here and now, Obi Wan? That’s precisely what has me worried.”

Obi Wan’s eyes suddenly narrowed.

“That’s not all, Anakin. There’s something else.”

Anakin grimaced and turned away but Obi Wan could feel it clearly now, despite Anakin’s frantic attempts at covering the emotions raging within him.

“Your thoughts betray you Anakin. You are worried about Senator Amidala.” Obi Wan said softly.

“You stay out of my mind!” Anakin hissed.

“Anakin!” Obi Wan replied hotly. “We are Jedi and you were my padawan. My thoughts and yours have ever been open to each other.”

Anakin stood quietly facing Obi Wan for a moment and he saw a terrible dark shadow pass over his old padawan’s face. For a moment it looked as if Anakin’s face had been swallowed in shadow.

“I apologize, Obi Wan. Yes I am worried about Padme. She is very special to me.” Anakin replied in an almost sheepish tone, but there was an edge there as well, as if it had cost him to even conceded this small point.

“I thought we discussed this.”

“What was there to discuss? As I recall you lectured me as if by you telling me it could erase what was in my heart.”

“I’m not asking you to do that, Anakin. No Jedi could control his heart in such a manner, but loving someone in the way you love Padme is forbidden. A Jedi must not have attachments, you know this. I AM telling you that a Jedi can control his feelings, we must do so at all times. The way down the road that you wish to travel is paved with horrible consequences, Anakin.” Obi Wan reached out and touched his old friend’s shoulder, gently squeezing it. “I’m telling you this for your own good.”

Anakin looked at his old mentor and tried to smile.

“I understand.” he replied softly and walked down the corridor without looking back. Obi Wan watched him s he disappeared down a bend and tried to ignore the warning in his own heart. There was something more Anakin was not telling him.







“And you’re saying that this was known by Starfleet all along?” Worf demanded as Sisko led his staff to the main airlock.

“That’s right Mr. Worf. Our allies would secure Deep Space Nine while a combined Federation-Klingon armada struck at the Dominion shipyards. These two blows have crippled their current offensive and they will be put on the defensive now.”

“I don’t know sir, these allies appearing out of nowhere to help us, nothing comes this way for free.” Kira noted darkly.

“Major, I would agree with you except that I already know the answer.”

“Oh?”

Odo stood stoically waiting for them at the main airlock.

“All security precautions have been made, Captain. Your guests will be arriving shortly.” Odo reported.

“Thank you, Constable.” Sisko replied and stood in front of the airlock waiting patiently.

“You didn’t answer the question.” Kira pressed.

“I just got here, Benjamin, I hope I didn’t miss much.” Jadzia interrupted as she approached walking quickly, O’Brien right behind her.

“No, old man, looks like the fun is about to start.”

They could hear the sound of airlocks coupling and a hiss as atmospheres were mixed and pressurized in the airlock housing. They could also see shadows moving behind the thick glass of the observation window.

“Captain.” Kira began.

“Major, a little patience.” Sisko cut her off.

The doors slid open. The gathered officers snapped to attention as several figures stepped through the airlock onto the station itself.

The first figure was a short and slim alien, with large head and black doll like eyes with a nictating membrane. He moved easily in his long flowing robes and made way for two three others that followed. Two wore impressive battle armor that covered their entire bodies and helmets that covered their faces only revealing a black T on their face plate, no sign of eyes at all. They moved like predators as they cleared the airlock, each one was armed and Sisko noted the way their hands never strayed far from their weapons. Unless he was mistaken, those were missiles strapped to their backs. The last figure was a tall slim female, blue skin and red glowing eyes. She wore a tight form fitting combat suit with black robes that flowed behind her. She was unarmed save for a small metal handle that was clipped prominently to her utility belt.

The alien moved towards Sisko and bowed his head.

“Captain Benjamin Sisko, I presume.” The alien said with a thick accented English.

“Yes, and you must be Biblos Tannas.” Sisko replied with a nod.

“Permit me to introduce my associates in the Separatist Union.” Biblos began and stepped back to allow the two armored warriors to approach. They stopped and slowly pulled off their helmets. One was male the other female. The male was rugged and handsome, a long white scar ran down from his right temple down to the corner of his lip. His eyes were dark and penetrating like a blade and he seemed to be aware of everything going on around him. Streaks of iron gray hair streaked along the sides of his head and his hair was a short austere military crew cut.

“My name is Tantos Dree, Supreme Commander of the Mandalorian Protectorate.” The man said in a dangerous near whisper.

“Commander Dree.” Sisko replied and nodded. Tantos held out his hand. Sisko eyed it for a brief second and extended his own. Tantos without hesitation gripped Sisko’s forearm, wrapping his hand around it and giving it a firm squeeze, Sisko responded a heartbeat later with his own hard squeeze. Tantos smiled but it was like ice.

“You have a good firm grip, Captain. You are a fighting man I presume?” he asked as they released each other.

“Something tells me that the next step may be whipping them out and measuring.” Jadzia whispered to Kira who did her best to withhold the snort.

“I consider myself a commander and diplomat.”

“Ah, evasive are we? I suggest you may be a wolf among sheep captain Sisko. I specifically requested to meet you from reading your record.”

“I had no idea you had access to that.” Odo interjected.

“We are allies, the tripartite agreement was signed on Andor on your stardate . We want to know who we will be fighting alongside.” The woman interjected coolly.

“Allow me to introduce my Adjunct, Vania Lisus.” Tantos added in his whisper.

Vania was a tall dark skinned human with long luxurious hair that she kept in an intricate braid running down the back of her suit. She was young, definitely the youngest in this group but her eyes spoke of experience, stress lines around the eyes and mouth betrayed that she had endured far more than her years should. Her eyes were like ice, slowly passing over everyone and passing no judgments, simply accepting things as they were.

She was also incredibly beautiful.

Sisko took a moment to gather his thoughts.

“Ms. Lisus, a pleasure.”

“Thank you Captain.” she replied and offered her hand which he took and gripped her forearm and she in return.

“My adjunct is fiercely protective of our interests.”

“And by our interests he means the Alliance in general.” the last woman spoke and her voice was calm and quiet, but there was an edge to every word.

“Finally allow me to introduce Severance Tan, she is the apprentice of the leader of our organization, Count Dooku.”

“Ms. Tan.” Sisko nodded. Severance Tan moved as if she were floating through the very air. She glided over to them and regarded each one stoically.

“Captain Sisko, I assume that your government’s ambassador and liaison is on his way? We are anxious to get the operation underway. A pause in the conflict has come and we must do what we can to gather our strength.”

“The Enterprise is enroute. captain Jean Luc Picard will be heading up that mission to your space. The Enterprise is due to arrive in 8 hours.”

“Excellent, I look forward to meeting Captain Picard. His correspondence has been very illuminating on your culture and government.” Severance Tan replied. Kira shivered slightly as she looked at the tall blue skinned woman. It wasn’t the eyes, there was something else about her. While the Mandalorians were obviously dangerous like Jem Hadar, she was dangerous in another way that she could not quite place.

Tantos smiled suddenly as he caught sight of Worf.

“This must be a Klingon.” he stated and eyed Worf. Worf looked slightly uncomfortable with the sudden attention but responded by keeping his eyes trained on Tantos. They stared at each other for a long moment and Tantos finally smiled, it was a cold emotionless smile.

“I have so longed to meet a Klingon and I am not disappointed.” Tantos replied and nodded affirmatively to Vania.

“I am happy that you are pleased. I have never met a Mandalorian. I assume you are warriors?” Worf replied.

Kira rolled her eyes.

“Warriors? Mandalorians are not just warriors, we are the personification of war. We are dedicated to the struggle, our lives begin in blood and torment and end in the same way. Death and we are intimate lovers the old Mandalorian saying goes. But you will see soon enough. One does not dedicate themselves to war with the Jedi lightly.” Tantos replied proudly.

“Shall we retire and discuss matters in a more comfortable setting?” Sisko suggested.

“Of course.” Biblos replied and bowed.

Vania looked around the station as they walked through the promenade.

“This facility is crude but it should proof adequate for our purposes.” Vania commented to Tantos.

“I’m sorry, what would that be?” Jadzia asked suspiciously.

Tantos smiled coolly.

“Why, my dear, Deep Space Nine is going to be transferred to our galaxy to act as a defensive station for the wormhole between our galaxies.” Tantos answered quietly as they made their way through the promenade.

“You really must forgive my adjunct, Captain Sisko. She is young and inexperienced, my people are not known for our diplomatic skills. We leave that arena to our esteemed allies from the Trade Federation.” Tantos added and Biblos nodded cordially.

“And we would not have survived as long as we have without the Mandalorians at our sides. They really are fanatastic warriors, captain as you will soon see. The Separatsist Union is a brotherhood of many disparate powers that do not take kindly to despots and dictators.” Biblois added with his heavy accent.

“After closely studying your Federation and its culture we knew that you would fit in well with the union. The other powers of this quadrant simply do not share our ideals of freedom and justice.” Severance added softly, her glowing red eyes quietly regarding each of them as she spoke.

“And this Dominion least of all.” Biblos added.”

“Cloners.” Tantos spat. “Nothing worse than cloners. Don’t you worry Captain we fully expect to be landing troops at Cardasia Prime in 14 hours.”

Sisko stopped short.

“You just entered the war! Cardasia has rings of fortress worlds you have to penetrate before we can directly assault Cardasia.”

Tantos nodded sagely.

“True enough, but we can bypass these worlds and strike at the heart Captain. Then we can take our time tearing apart the fortress worlds. Without supplies and orders from the capital world, it is our experience that the rest withers on the vine.” Tantos gripped Sisko’s shoulder. His voice dropped to an intimate whisper. “Trust me, Captain. My people have been fighting wars for millennia. We know what we’re doing., You will soon be free of the Dominion and we will have stopped another cloning power from gaining ascendance.”

Kira could not help thinking about what she had said earlier in jest. Nothing was free, everything had a price. Kira and Jadzia exchanged troubled glances.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 10:54am
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Chapter 3: Encounters and Deliberations

“Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest.”
King Lear Act 1, Scene iv



“And why doesn’t she want to use the transporter?” Kirk asked softly as he adjusted the collar of his dress uniform. He had not worn one of these in a long time and his first as Captain. Doctor Dehner eyed the medals on his lapel and breast. He may have been an inexperienced captain but it was obvious that he was no stranger to stressful situations. Most of the commendations were for valor and service above and beyond. This was no paper pushing administrator.

“Her people are inexperienced with transporters. Frankly I think that they don’t trust them.”

“I had an acquaintance of mine that felt the same way about them back on Earth, a Dr. McCoy, perhaps you heard of him?”

“Actually I have. He’s quite a skilled surgeon but has never had the drive to want to go anywhere higher up than a mere ship’s surgeon.” Dehner replied as she helped Jim adjust the collar and paused as she watched Gary Mitchell hurry into the corridor where the other senior staff were assembled.

“A mere ship’s surgeon Doctor? I wasn’t aware that saving crewmen’s lives was not something to aspire to.”

“Perhaps I misspoke.” She replied frostily as she continued observing Mitchell in her peripheral vision. He did not spare her a glance as he slapped Kirk on the shoulder and whispered to him.

“You always looked pretty in your dress uniform.” and quickly slipped back to his place among the staff. Kirk spared him a frown before returning his attention to the dress uniform. He felt uncomfortable with all the medals and commendations. Quite frankly he felt like a walking ornament.

Hikaru Sulu stood there as well, looking very uncomfortable. He was not where he was supposed to be. He assumed he would be the helmsmen of the Enterprise until he ran into a foe he never thought he would face and knew immediately he could not defeat.

Federation Bureaucracy.

It was a vile thing and it reared its ugly head as soon as he came aboard and wanted to report for duty. The duty officer looked down at Sulu’s report chit and back at his log, back at the chit, back at his log and shook his head.

“You’re not the helmsman of the Enterprise.”

“Excuse me?” Sulu’s normally bright grin faltered.

“Lee Kelso is the chief helm officer of the Enterprise.” He said in a cool monotone.

“That’s where you’re mistaken my friend, Mr. Kelso was scheduled to rotate out to another ship and I was to take his place.” Sulu replied hoping that this nice bit of logic would be enough to dispel the dark pall of red tape.

“Nope. Lee Kelso WAS scheduled to rotate out but his ship left port early and so he was reassigned to Enterprise until a new berth opens up.”

Sulu stared at the duty officer for a full minute.

“What about me?” he asked.

The duty officer looked at Sulu’s duty chit again and back at his roster.

“Astrophysics.”

“Excuse me?”

“We need a chief of astrophysics. You’re duty chit says you taught astrophysics in the Academy for two semesters.”

“Yeah, I taught astrophysics that doesn’t make me-”

“Mess hall supervisor.”

“Huh?” Sulu blinked at the robot like change in attitude.

“It’s either head of astrophysics or mess hall supervisor. Considering that there’s now a line building up behind you I suggest you choose quickly, Mr. Sulu.”

“Listen this is-”

“I guess its mess hall supervisor.” The duty officer continued without missing a beat as he started to write something on his duty roster.

“No! Wait!” Sulu exclaimed holding up his hands in surrender. Damn you, brought down by red tape. SO close yet so far. Sulu shook his head. “I’ll take head of astrophysics.” He muttered.

“Very good. Report to duty at 0500 on deck 8. Next.” The duty officer handed Sulu a disk with all the relevant information on his department and waved the next person over. Sulu slunk off, holding the disk in his dejected hands.

Now he stood here, with the others wearing his science officer’s uniform and watching Lee Kelso with barely repressed jealousy as he laughed quietly with Gary Mitchell.\

“Jedi, remember her title is Jedi and she has met with us in the past.”

“Do they really believe they are in tune with some mystical energy field?” Kirk asked sardonically as Dr Dehner inspected each of the frontline officers. She nodded to her satisfaction.

“Indeed they do, Captain. I must tell you she has demonstrated some remarkable capabilities in the past meetings which would indicate some from of psi talent superior to Vulcans.” she answered.

Spock nodded.

“Fascinating.”

The com whistled. Kirk walked over and slapped it on.

“Kirk here.”

“Sir, the Starfighter has berthed in the shuttle bay, we are finished cycling and pressurizing. your guest is almost at the door way.”

“Understood, Kirk out.” he slapped it off and nodded to Scotty who activated the airlock.

The doors to the shuttle bay snapped open. Kirk and the other assembled officers snapped to attention. Scotty blew the welcoming whistle as a hooded figure gracefully crossed the airlock threshold and swept into the corridor.

The figure paused for a moment and slowly lifted her hood.

Kirk stared.

The Jedi Knight was a tall slim woman with full lips and a thick mane of emerald hair that gently cascaded down her shoulders in shimmering locks. She smiled softly and calmly regarded each one with a blissful gaze. There was an air of serenity to her and her eyes, like chipped emeralds were piercing.

Kirk had to stop himself from staring. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“I am Jedi Knight Meerlinda Farstrider. Thank you fro welcoming me aboard your vessel Captain.” she said and bowed her head slowly. Kirk opened his mouth for a moment, nothing came out, coughed, and spoke. Gary was suppressing a fit of laughter behind him.

“Ms. Farstrider, I am Captain James Tiberius Kirk, welcome aboard the Enterprise.”

“Thank you, Captain. However, I must admit some confusion as my report stated that I would be picked up the USS Lexington under command of Captain Trason.” She replied watching each of the officer’s with a keen gaze.

“Meerlinda, I am sorry for the confusion but my government was forced to dispatch the Lexington on an Emergency relief mission and the Enterprise was the closest vessel to the rendezvous point.” Dehner explained with a smile. Meerlinda smiled in return.

“Ah, Doctor Dehner, a pleasure to see you. I was hoping to see you again on this mission. I understand of course, these things happen.”

“Ma’am, if you will allow me I can give you a guided tour of my starship and then we can retire for dinner after you have a chance to freshen up.”

“That would be fine, Captain.” She looked at him for the first time. Really looked at him. Yes, he was a very handsome young man, rugged, strong, and there was an air about him, charismatic, a natural leader. But most importantly of all was the fact that he was strong in the Force. The light of its power shone and radiated off him like the sun. He would make a powerful Jedi, and curiouser still, he was one of the few in this galaxy so far who she had seen touched by the power.

She decided right away to keep an eye on him and instantly suspected that the chance encounter with the Enterprise and the delay of the Lexington was no chance at all but the will of the Force.

Her master had been very adamant in teaching her that there were no such things as coincidences. The Force moved all to its inscrutable will.

“Allow me to introduce you to some of my senior staff.” Kirk began and motioned her forward gently. He watched her move, with all the skill and grace of a panther, sinewy muscles moving under taut skin. Her Jedi cloak parted slightly to reveal a comfortable tunic and pants, boots that were obviously accustomed to heavy wear and tear by the amount of scuff and scrapes around the point and heels, and the only thing adorning her body was a simple silver metallic handle clipped to her plain black belt.

“Number One, my Executive Officer.” Kirk said of the cold woman with short black hair.

“My pleasure.” Meerlinda said with a soft smile. Number One nodded stoically to the woman.

“Mr. Spock, Chief Science Officer of the Enterprise.”

“A Vulcan? I was unaware that any Vulcans were currently serving in Starfleet.” Meerlinda noted with a nod.

Spock raised an eyebrow ever so slightly, surprised by her intimate knowledge of the Federation and particularly Starfleet.

“I am indeed the first Vulcan to serve on a Starfleet vessel.” Spock replied nonchalantly. “I was unaware that you would know Federation member species so well.”

“I make it my business to know these things, Mr. Spock. I am a Jedi and trained in the arts of diplomacy and arbitration. I have found that only by immersing oneself in the culture and history of the culture I am dealing with can I truly understand the other side.”

“A wise policy and imminently logical.”

“Why, Mr. Spock you flatter me.” Meerlinda replied with a light airy laugh. Kirk could not help but stare at her for a moment, to bask in the light that seemed to come from her.

“And this is Dr. Piper, my chief Medical officer.”

“Doctor.”

“Ma’am.” He replied with a bow of the head.

“Gary Mitchell, chief navigator.”

“Mr. Mitchell.”

“Miss, a pleasure.”

She paused. There was something about this one, something odd. When he looked up at her there was an odd silver glint in his eyes and she felt as if his voice were speaking from within a deep well. The image passed as quickly as it came.

“Ah, thank you.” She replied doing her best to hide her unease. He watched her with a mixture of confusion and satisfaction. Dehner watched the corners of his mouth upturned in some mockery of self satisfaction.

That idiot thinks he distracted her with his charm and brilliant smile. Dehner knew otherwise, she recognized fear and apprehension when she saw it.

“Tell me Captain, does you navigator have cybernetic implants in his eyes?” Meerlinda asked softly as they continued down the line of officers.

“Gary?” Kirk replied perplexed.

“Never mind, Captain. A trick of the light, that’s all.” She replied quickly when noting his confusion. She was subject to such flashes from the Force. First Master Yoda than her own Master Thane tried to teach her how to control them but they always came unbidden when she least expected them.

“Mr. Montgomery Scott, my chief engineer.”

“Mr. Scott.”

Scotty smiled at the beautiful lass.

“Now, if you’ll follow me, I can give you a guided tour of the vessel and we can have dinner to discuss your government’s plans for us when we make the crossing.”

“Of course Captain. Elizabeth, will you be joining us?”

“Yes, Meerlinda. The Captain and I will be the primary liaisons between your government and ours.”

“Excellent. Then there will be much to say over dinner, Captain. But I must stress that time is of the essence and the sooner we make the crossing the better. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is most anxious to meet with you.”

“And I him.” Kirk assured her. They walked down the corridor, Meerlinda in the center, Kirk and Dehner flanking her on opposite sides as they spoke. Gary watched them for a moment before smiling broadly. Sulu glanced over at him.

“What are you smiling about?” Kelso asked curiously.

“Nothing, my friend, but its good to know that I still have the Mitchell touch.” Gary said, pretending to buff his nails with his breath and examining them proudly.

“Oh? I thought it was the Mitchell ego.” Kelso replied wanly.

Gary mock frowned.

“You better watch it, Lee. You better be good to me.” Gary replied in an offended tone. He winked at the helmsman and put his arm around him his shoulders.

“Let’s get out of these monkey suits and hit the Rec deck.”

“You know, Gary, sometimes, just sometimes I really believe you could hurt somebody that crossed you.” Kelso replied half joking. Gary glanced at him in bemusement.

“Come on Lee, I’d never hurt a fly, especially you old buddy.” Gary replied with a gentle squeeze of the helmsman’s shoulder. Kelso and Gary had served together on another starship out of the academy and had forged a friendship that was serving Gary well now that he was the newest guy on the Enterprise.

Sulu watched them leave and shook his head. He doubted he would ever get the helmsman’s spot and wondered if that possibility were realized whether he could work with this ego maniac, Mitchell.





There was only breathing. He focused on the half remembered automatic action, slowly descending into the peaceful core of his being. This is what Obi Wan taught him, that in the center there was always peace, the very serenity that all Jedi strove for.

But ever since Geonosis there was no serenity, there was no stillness and peace. There was only roiling emotion, shame, fear and most disturbing of all, anger. He had not found peace even within the depths of his being. The pain of loss, loss of his innocence, his arm, his purpose. Shame, shame of his defeat, his weakness his hiding his love and marriage to Padme. Anger, anger at Dooku for coming into his life and changing it and the galaxy forever, at Obi Wan for standing in his path to power, and most of all at himself for not fully realizing his place in the order of things.

He remembered Qui Gon’s words as clearly now as the day he uttered them in the council chamber years ago.

“He is the chosen one, surely you can see that.”

I am the chosen one and here I sit in some meditative trance hoping to recover the calm and serenity I need to wield the Force as well…no better, than any Jedi. I AM power incarnate. He researched his past, hints given to him by his mysterious benefactor. Someone linked to Palpatine he was certain of that but who he had no clue.

His benefactor began slipping notes to him on his private link. At first they were only cryptic, telling him to look into certain archival books or simply warning him to be more aware of danger, the next day an assassination attempt against the Supreme Chancellor averted by his sharpened senses.

But soon his benefactor began giving him clearer signals. One of them spoke of his mother and Qui Gon’s private notes. All Jedi, particularly masters were encouraged to keep journals to be kept in the vast holo records of the Jedi Archives. Qui Gon’s were short and to the point, but there was an entry containing information about Anakin in his last entry before heading to Naboo for what would prove to be his last mission.

It spoke of Anakin’s past, his birth most curiously of all devoid of a father. He concluded that the midichlorians themselves had conceived him. In other words he was a living personification of the Force. Did anyone else realize what this meant?

I should be more powerful. The force should flow more easily through me, in fact the force should obey my every command, for I am more a part of it than any other Jedi before me. I should be power incarnate, able to move the great energy field without effort.

Then why was it so hard? Why did he struggle with it as others did? Why did it not flow like water for him?

His confusion led to annoyance then anger, sparking more dark emotions in the supposed serene core of his being. I should be powerful, more powerful than any Jedi. He had stopped the Trade Federation attempts to takeover Alderaan in a bid to seize more core worlds in order to force Palpatine to the negotiation table. He had single handedly unearthed the plot of dark Jedi that were planning to betray the Jedi at Maltusia and defeated their leader in a duel of both lightsabers and force skills, a Jedi knight considerably older and more experienced than Anakin and he had defeated him.

Yet there was always two specters looming in his thoughts. Two very distinct ghosts from his past. His mother’s kind loving face, always ready to help and to teach Anakin about charity and compassion. Slain by the animalistic Tusken raiders despite the fact that he was a powerful Jedi, he was not powerful enough to decipher his dreams, to travel to Tatooine and save her. And Count Dooku, the yin to his mother’s yang, the dark half that laughed at him as he callously sliced off his arm and sent him sprawling to the ground like a discarded piece of refuse after Anakin had given his all, opened himself to the force as he had never done before and for a moment, a brief shining moment, felt as if he were truly one with that awesome power.

But then he was defeated, maimed and tossed aside with seeming ease and he began to wonder, was the power enough. Was the Dark side that Dooku worshipped stronger? It had defeated him at his most powerful, when he felt as if the entire universe were revolving around him and the Force was completely his to command, his lightsaber moving with blinding speed, completely trusting to the precognitive flashes of the force and feeling invulnerable.

Then the searing pain of the cruel cut and the savage force push that sent him crashing to the ground like a rag doll.

All for nothing. All that power and he could not defeat this apprentice to the dark lord of the Sith.

Secretly in places that Anakin rarely visited when he meditated, he gnawed on the notion that the Dark side was indeed stronger and strength is precisely what he needed to win. Winning not for himself, for that would be selfish and make him no better than Dooku, but for the galaxy at large, to stop the chaos and the death that was consuming this galaxy. In the span of a little more than a year, millions of soldiers had died, billions displaced from their homes and worlds, entire star systems scarred by the weapons of war unleashed on both sides.

He wanted it all to end. But in order to do that he would have to be more powerful than he had ever been. More powerful than anyone had ever been.

He did not want to think about one road available to him and instead he brought himself out of his trance and his eyes snapped open, staring at the far wall and the single candle that was lit on the small table.

He stared at the candle for a moment and even it did not bring him peace. It reminded him of the greatest secret of all. The secret that would end his knighthood in utter shame. The single solitary candle reminded him of Padme, alone on Coruscant, away from him. The only woman he had ever loved, the woman he had married.

The secret could destroy them both and these thought s now flooded the young Jedi knight’s mind, filling him with apprehension and fear. He could feel it, on the very edge of his consciousness, events were in motion and he could not see them clearly, but they were like the long distorted shadows dancing on the walls behind him. They were creeping in slowly and he could not see their substance yet.





The conference room was abuzz with preparation as various aides moved along the table, handing their delegates datapads and other materials. On the view screen overlooking the table an image of a galaxy not unlike the Milky Way was projected with various color codes for areas of control and conflict. Symbols for fleets and military bases flashed intermittingly on the screen and a constant scroll of data including hard facts and statistics.

Captain Benjamin Sisko was examining the screen for a moment as an ensign handed him another datapad and a glass of water. Worf was watching the two Mandalorians. The others had not noticed he was sure but the Mandalorians had been adamant about choosing their seats. Worf noted that they did not sit with their backs to the door, in fact they had chosen the one spot in the conference room where there was no reasonable avenue of attack, away form the door and even the window behind the table. They sat calmly, allowing the Trade Federation emissary and Severance Tan to dominate most of the conversation but there was no doubt who was more in control of the facts at hand.

They were calmly letting the others take point as Tantos Dree and his aide Vania Lissus watched them with hooded expressions, their helmets neatly resting on the table before them but still wearing their armor, sans rocket pack and missile system. Chief O’Brien stared at them in disbelief as they calmly handed in their backpacks before heading into the conference room.

“As I understand it then, the initial wave of Federation forces will not be deployed to the front lines.” Sisko asked Byblos, but keeping his eyes on Tantos Dree who calmly returned the gaze.

“That is correct, until we can complete emergency refits to your vessels they will be more a hindrance than an asset on the front.” Byblos replied.

“You see, despite the fact that your technology is quite advanced in this galaxy, in our galaxy your offensive and defensive capabilities are simply not up to par with our standard warships. Your fleets would be a liability that would need to be protected more than taking part in the war effort.” Severance Tan added, sounding conciliatory.

“Although I must add that we welcome the addition to the Federation for both their bravery and their leadership.”

“Leadership?” Jadzia asked. “I don’t know about any of you but I can’t see how we can take any kind of leadership role when we have next to no knowledge of your galaxy or this war. I thought we would be junior partners for some time unless those were just words to assuage our wounded egos.” She replied and eyed Tantos warily.

Tantos smiled softly.

“I think I can answer that question old man.” Sisko interjected.

“Oh?” Kira asked curiously.

“The Separatists use war droids as the vast bulk of their armed forces. These wardroids have proven to be fairly limited in their strategic and tactical thinking if I read these after action reports correctly.”

Tantos’ smile broadened slightly. He was right about this man. He was a warrior not just some bureaucrat or glorified scientist as many of the Federation’s officer corps seemed to be. Here was one worthy of having the name ally.

“Indeed, our war droids, though powerful and deadly have proven to be very one dimensional even with extensive strategic and tactical databases downloaded into the officer units. The officers are only marginally better than the standard battle droid. We are e=lacking in a strong officer base, ones that can think on their feet and match wits with the Republic’s forces, particularly the Jedi.” Tantos replied in his soft whisper.

“These Jedi, there is scant information on them. What little is in these dossiers seems a little…far fetched.” Jadzia stated glancing down at her datapad.

“Why farfetched?” Byblos asked.

“I do believe she is responding to our analysis of their force using ability.” Severance tan replied with a sly smile.

“Ah, they would be skeptical. I understand, it is hard to believe but there you have it. My people and theirs have been at war for untold generations. They have a primal connection with a spiritual energy field.”

“Perhaps it’s some kind of esper energy the likes of which we have seen among some of the higher esper rated races in the Federation?” Jadzia theorized.

“Why is it so hard to believe in a spiritual energy field?” Kira countered.

“Let’s not veer off topic, shall we?” Sisko interjected.

“Captain Sisko, we currently have technical teams enroute to begin immediate modifications to your station that will make it a power to be reckoned with. It will become a true battle station and stationed at the mouth of the wormhole between our galaxies, it will ensure that Republic forces are not tempted to either violate your space or try to tamper with the wormhole.” Byblos reported.

“These modifications, what would they involve?” O’Brien asked seriously. He was allowed in the meeting for the plain and simple fact that Sisko wanted an engineer there to see if any of their technical analysis or assessments was questionable. So far, they had been true to their word, telling them everything they wanted to know and as far as O’Brien could tell, they were on the up and up.

“A replacement of your power core first of all, a far more powerful hypermatter reactor will be installed. Your photon torpedo launchers will be modified to fire proton torpedoes and your phaser arrays will be augmented by several turbolaser batteries. We would also need to provide you with a new shield generator grid that would significantly increase your defensive capabilities. The armament should be enough to deter all but a determined fleet level assault.” Byblos replied.

“We have also decided to station several squadrons of droid fighters in your hangar bays to give you an added offensive punch and further add a level of defensive capabilities at your disposal.” Severance added.

“We seem to be changing roles. Deep Space Nine was a station that acted more as a commercial hub for our world and this sector than as a battle station.” Kira commented.

“Let us be frank, Major Kira, this station has been more of a battle station of late with your conflict with the Dominion and the fact that the wormhole makes it the most strategically vital station in your Alpha Quadrant. We are simply optimizing it for its role in our galaxy and most importantly of all it protects YOUR galaxy, not our assets.”

Kira blinked.

“Believe me, Major Kira, you would not want Republic ships rampaging through your Federation in your current state of technological development. It would take a fleet of your starships to bring down a Republic battle cruiser.” Severance Tan added, her glowing crimson eyes boring into Kira.

“I do believe that this might be a good time for a brief break. We’ve been at this now for over eight hours and I would hate there to be any kind of problems caused by frayed tempers.” Sisko announced as he cleared his throat.

“Agreed Captain, even warriors need refreshment after hours of friendly debate.” Tantos added with a slap on the table for emphasis as he rose up from the table. The others did so as well and filed out.

Sisko nodded to the others as he made his way out of the room. Jadzia slipped in beside him.

“Benjamin?”

“You don’t trust them.” Sisko replied with a soft smile as they walked through the corridor.

“No, frankly neither does Kira. They’re too good to be true, and damnit, didn’t Starfleet think before entering into an alliance with a power already at war. A rebel power mind you.”

“Starfleet did not have much of a say.” Sisko replied.

“What are you saying?” Jadzia snapped and pulled on Sisko’s shoulder, pulling him around.

Sisko looked at his old friend, not seeing the beautiful trill woman standing before him but the old Kerzon Dax, looking at him with that determined glint in his eyes. Once Kerzon got a hold of something, he did not let go. Sisko appreciated this trait in his friend, when it wasn’t directed at him.

“Old man, look, all I know is this. This Count Dooku came here himself and had several meetings with the diplomatic corps, then addressed the High Council itself in a closed session and next thing you know, an alliance is signed on Andor and we are now members of this alliance.”

“Ben, you know it too, don’t you? I know you, you’re playing good soldier but you’re not a fan of this alliance either.” Jadzia replied, eyeing him with concern.

“Dax, let’s face facts for just one moment. We’re Starfleet, we do as we’re told. Already, the medical technology they have supplied us, including this stuff called Bacta has saved millions of lives. They are willing to share more and we have a mandate from the Federation High Council to do what we can to help them. I might also add that it’s pretty obvious to me that our allies want to make sure we are ready and stand a chance against their enemies by refitting our ships free of charge with the latest in their weapons and defensive technology. It’s not like their sending us in unprepared waves to plug up their lines. This is a concerted effort to make this alliance work.”

“Then why do I get the same chill up my spine when I look at Severance Tan as I did when we dealt with Weyoun?”

Sisko and she exchanged a long look.

“I do too, Dax. But that does not change a single thing. We are Starfleet, we follow our orders, and they have done absolutely nothing to harm us. We have to wonder one thing.”

“What’s that?” she asked softly.

“Whether we’re actually responding out of fear against facing a truly galactic empire that can inflict heavy casualties on us and make us pay dearly.” Sisko replied.

Jadzia opened her mouth in shock.

“Think on it Old man before you respond. Are we really not just afraid of what lies ahead and project that on our allies? If we’re truly fair and reasonable, we have to think of all the possibilities and that troubles me. Because they’re fighting for freedom, the very freedom that the Federation is based on, the freedom to choose our own destinies, why are we not as enthusiastic about fighting this war? Maybe it’s because we can lose this war very badly and that troubles me, that we can walk away from our very ideals because of fear of losses and death.”

“I don’t think-” Jadzia’s voice trailed off and shook her head. “I taught you to do that didn’t I?” She added sheepishly.

“To look at a problem from all sides? Sure. It’s served me well and it obviously still is. Now I appreciate your caution, so I will tell you this.” Sisko leaned in closely. “Watch them. Closely.”

Jadzia smiled and nodded.






Sisko sighed softly as he put down his datapads and looked out the window in his quarters. Out there was a new frontier. One waiting to be explored and discovered, but it would prove very bloody. Many friends would die and perhaps even the Federation could face destruction. But there was that possibility, that they might win, that they would spread their influence and philosophy to another galaxy altogether.

He glanced down at the desk by the window at the few pictures collected there. His wife, Jake, they were smiling up at him, a comforting presence during times like these.

“You had a wife?”

Sisko whirled around reaching for a phaser that was not at his belt.

Tantos Dree stood quietly in the doorway, hands up displaying nothing in them.

“Please, Captain, please, there is nothing to fear, I mean you no harm.” Tantos said in his whisper.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Sisko snapped.

“We needed to talk.” Tantos replied walking in slowly, helmet off, backpack missing and no weapons in his holster but Sisko was willing to bet that the armor was its own walking arsenal.

“We just came out of an eight hour session of talking. Couldn’t you have said what you needed to then?”

“No.” Tantos replied evenly and stood stoically against the far wall, examining the apartment with a casual gaze.

“Say what you have to say, I have no idea how you got in here-”

“It was a simple matter for my armor to bypass the rudimentary magnetic locks, but that’s neither here nor there. I forgot about your wife until now, it is in your service file—”

“You know I am getting sick and tired of you mentioning our service files and I have never even gotten a peep at yours.” Sisko interjected angrily.

“But I guess it was my own personal feelings getting in the way.” Tantos continued through the interruption.

‘What?” Sisko’s eyes narrowed on the dangerous looking Mandalorian and saw a flash of something in his eyes.

“You were married?” He asked softly.

Tantos nodded.

“My wife was lost in a shuttle accident, killed instantly. I do not like to think of such things and is probably the reason why I forgot it. But in the end this only reaffirms what I think about you.”

“And what do you think of me?” Sisko asked.

Tantos smiled sadly and walked around to Sisko’s desk.

“You don’t trust us.” Tantos added as he examined the pictures on his desk.

“No, I don’t.”

“Why?” Tantos asked, hands pausing over a picture of Jake and he blinked, as if stung.

“Because I don’t understand why we’re trading one war for another.” Tantos did not reply. Sisko cleared his throat and continued. “You saved us from a war against the Dominion only to have us available to drag us into a war against this Republic. That doesn’t sound like a good decision.”

“No, you’re right. It does not. I on the other hand prefer to see it another way. We have come offering you technology beyond your dreams. Imagine power sources that would make your matter antimatter technology obsolete over night, medical technology allowing you to cure almost any disease and extend your lives, weapons technology that will allow you to destroy the Borg and insure the ascendancy of your government for ten generations.”

“Always have to cap things off with the weapons.”

“I’m a warrior, I do not hide this fact. I think of all matters through that lense. My people are dying, Benjamin Lafayette Sisko. We have warred against the Jedi for millennia and it has taken its toll. This war will either be the last war of the Mandalorians or it will be the new renaissance of my people as we end the tyranny of the republic.”

“But that’s really not why you’re fighting, is it?” Sisko asked as he stepped closer to Tantos.

Tantos glanced up at the human captain. I was so right about you. Tantos thought.

“You have a son.”

“Yes.”

“My wife was with child during the shuttle accident.”

“I am sorry.” Sisko replied and his eyes did not leave Tantos’

“The shuttle company knew that the repulsorlifts were failing on that model. But they bribed the senator of Brellia to overlook this fact. The repulsors failed and my wife was slain. My son…would never be a warrior.”

Sisko blinked. Tantos looked human now. Not the cold gruff warrior, but a father grieving for a lost wife and child. My god, did I look like that after Jennifer died?

“The corruption at the heart of the senate was always something I railed against. It was a trite thing to complain about when accusing the Republic. But after that accident, I now knew what corruption could do. People laugh, Sisko, they laugh at the political jokes regarding corrupt politicians, they wink at the fact that the beings they have elected to be their voice routinely ignore them and kill them through vice and betrayal. Their corruption is a stain on the soul of all free beings and after that day when I cradled the broken body of my wife, knowing that the son she carried had his light extinguished, I swore that I would bring down this Republic, I would fight for the freedom of those that wanted to be free of this stain.”

“This is personal.”

“Sisko, there is nothing more personal than revenge.”

They stood together silently for some time. Tantos finally sighed softly and sipped a datapad on Sisko’s desk and began to stride out.

“What is this?” Sisko asked.

Tantos turned his head and looked at Sisko. He smiled softly.

“That is the service record of all those in the briefing room with you including mine.”

Sisko nodded slowly holding the datapad.

“Tantos.”

He remained standing in the doorway.

“Maybe, just maybe, trust can begin between two people. People like you and I.”

“Indeed it can Benjamin Lafayette Sisko. As one friend to another, keep an eye on Severance Tan. The others are dedicated to the cause, but I have had the darkest suspicion that she is following her own agenda, and Dooku is in the dark about it. I’ve never trusted the Chiss and I wouldn’t if I were you as well.”

“That’s a hell of a thing to say about an ally.”

“Unless I found an ally I can trust implicitly, Sisko.” Tantos replied and walked out of the room as silent as a ghost.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 10:56am
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Chapter 4: Breaking Bread

“An honest tale speeds best being plainly told.”
Richard III Act 4, Scene iii



“Remarkable, Captain. I must commend you and your crew on an excellent dinner and voyage. We are now on the cusp of a new adventure.” Meerlinda Farstrider announced holding up a glass in a toast. Kirk and Doctor Dehner knew that the glass held only water, Meerlinda did not drink alcohol.

“Thank you, Ms. Farstrider, it truly is an honor to be taking part in this historic mission for both our governments.

“Ms. Farstrider, I am particularly interested in knowing why your Supreme Chancellor thinks we would make such a great difference in your war effort. After studying some of the technology on your starfighter and these reports, I would hazard a guess that a standard Federation starship stands little chance even against the lightest warship in the Separatist fleet.” Spock asked neutrally as he wiped his fingers on a napkin.

Meerlinda glanced over at Spock, putting her best diplomatic smile on. The exact same question currently plagued the Jedi knights. What was Palpatine gaining by dragging this empire into the war? The Federation would not be able to provide the level of support that they needed to turn the tide. But of course her orders had been relayed to her by both Palpatine and Master Yoda. All available diplomatic efforts would be made to bring the Federation into an Alliance with the Republic. Palpatine was adamant about this and the Jedi were servants of the Republic. But she had heard rumors in the Temple. Rumors that Master Yoda and Master Windu had foreseen something in regard to the Federation and this vision seemed to agree with Palpatine’s insistence that they join.

“Mr. Spock, there are other ways to assist in the war effort and granted while your ships are magnificent they are not up to the standards of the heavier Separatists cruisers, but I have to add that in the beginning of the war, factions of the Separatists were fielding vessels that were nothing more than freighters with heavy guns attached to the hull. We are prepared to dedicate ourselves to the refit of your entire Starfleet to bring you up to our level in terms of firepower and defensive systems. The Republic will not allow Federation ships to be at the mercy of our enemies unprepared for this conflict. But at the same time we would have use for your doctors and scientists to assist us in research and technological development, your doctors would supplement our own medical corps. There are many levels to this alliance, not to mention trade. With the vast majority of the Separatists faction comprised of the heart of our mercantile power, the Republic’s economy has begun to suffer. Opening trade with your Federation and eventually your galaxy, with the Federation as middle man of course, both our governments will prosper greatly.”

“That was very…diplomatic of you.” Number One added coolly.

Kirk shot Number One a warning glance. She returned his gaze evenly and turned her attention back to her vegetarian dish. Kirk sighed softly.

“I understand, I really do. I am not easily offended. The true reason that your vessel and crew are being brought across to our galaxy is so that you can see for yourselves that we have nothing to hide and that this alliance truly is beneficial for both of us.”

“You have to understand our side, Meerlinda. Our people are extremely suspicious of war. We have come out of a time when our people nearly destroyed themselves and the last truly great war we have had almost decimated the human population and sent us into a genocidal tailspin with the Romulans. We are very cautious about engaging in war, we are explorers after all.” Doctor Dehner added.

Meerlinda nodded slowly.

“Of course, Doctor Dehner. I fully understand this. My hope, actually our hope is that you see that our cause is just and that your help could help us end this disastrous conflict sooner. Even if we stop the war a single month earlier, it will mean saving the lives of billions. Surely you can say the justice in that.”

“I do.” Kirk replied. She smiled softly at the young Captain.

“Well, its been a long evening and I must retire to prepare for tomorrow morning sir. If you will excuse me.” Number One asked with a curt nod of the head.

“Of course, Number One. I’ll see you on the bridge.”

Number One nodded to Meerlinda and strode out of the room after politely nodding to Spock. Meerlinda watched her leave.

“She does not trust me.”

“Frankly, I haven’t a clue what my XO thinks of anyone.” Kirk commented dryly.

“Captain..” Dehner muttered to him and shook her head.

“That’s alright Captain. I hardly know what my superiors are thinking either. We just do the best we can to get through the day.” Meerlinda replied with a warm smile. He caught himself staring at her. What the hell was he, some sort of school boy?

She watched him for a moment, her emerald eyes flashing in the lowlight and with a toss of her head she sent her long flowing green tresses back over her left shoulder. Command fit him well, but it was a fit he was getting accustomed to. She felt something else, something primal flash from his deepest thoughts as he looked at her and she batted it away. She was a Jedi and trained to deal with such emotions, but there was an odd reaction she had not encountered before. Her own primal response in return to the handsome young Captain.

She sighed inwardly. Another long night of meditation ahead. She was sure that this was just a passing event, fed more by the excitement of this moment than anything else.

“I do believe that I must excuse myself, I have kept you all up rather late and considering what we are doing tomorrow, it would be best if we all get as much rest as possible.” Meerlinda commented with a soft smile and regally rose from her place at the table. Kirk rose quickly as well and bowed slightly.

“Jedi Farstrider, it was a rare pleasure and honor. I hope to see you on the bridge tomorrow morning.”

“Indeed Captain it has been a pleasure. And Mr. Spock if you have any other questions and concerns please feel free to discuss them with me. I am the Republic’s representative and a Jedi knight, I would be happy to answer your questions as fully and truthfully as I can, but I do hope that our actions speak louder than our words when you come across.”

“Ms. Farstrider.” Spock replied with a curt nod of his head.

“Meerlinda, let me walk you to your quarters.” Dehner offered with a smile and rose form her place at the table joining Meerlinda.

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Meerlinda and Doctor Dehner walked out together as Kirk watched them leave. Spock stood at his place at the table and glanced over at Kirk.

“I am not certain that she knows everything concerning this mission. Logically, we would make a poor choice as an ally in this war.”

“Must everything be logical to you?” Kirk asked absently still looking at the door, remembering the sparkle of her emerald hair, the flash of those green eyes, her pursed full lips as she spoke. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Spock raised an eyebrow at the comment.

“I am a Vulcan, Captain.” he replied simply. Kirk looked over at his Vulcan science officer and could not help but smile.

“Of course you are Mr. Spock and you do it so well.” Kirk replied with a smile. Spock’s eyebrow arched higher which only provoked a louder laugh from his Captain.



The ship was quiet and peaceful. She moved through the corridors like a ghost, pausing long enough to avoid any crewmen that may be walking the halls during the depths of the night cycle on board. Even the lights were slightly dimmed to denote the time difference. Starfleet had learned the hard way that in order to maintain psychological stability amongst its long range ship crews that all manner of small minor details that reminded them of home needed to be taken into account.

She slipped into a turbolift that took her to the level she desired and she moved through those corridors unseen, nothing more than a shadow among other shadows. She finally reached her objective and paused at the door, took one last quick furtive glance and stepped through the doors.



He sighed softly as he stared out at the beauty that was the universe. The stars were bright tonight and the arboretum was quiet. Gamma shift was hard at work and most people did not want to waste precious sleep cycle time walking in the Enterprise’s arboretum.

He liked walking among the green, it made the burdens of command a little easier when he could look up and see trees and beautiful flowering plants on the twisted walkways through the area. The smell was also unlike the rest of the ship with its processed air and perfect temperature and humidity.

Kirk sighed softly as he watched the stars and wondered what wonders awaited him on the other side of the wormhole. He was also concerned by the points brought up by Spock and Number One. They were valid concerns and ones that he was not sure Meerlinda had adequately addressed. Unfortunately the decisions rested on his shoulders. And those decisions were weighing heavily on him and he had not even faced his first true crisis or test.

“This is not at all what I expected.” he muttered.

He heard a quiet rustle of leaves and he found himself slowly stepping back, instinctively melting into the shadows thrown up by a bulkhead overhead. A figure seemed to glide through the foliage and paused at the edge of the clearing. He watched the figure intently as it looked back and forth, it reminded him of the great elks he used to see on trips to the far east during training trips in the academy. The subtle yet powerful grace of the beast was reflected in this figure as it slowly entered the clearing and finally relaxed.

He recognized the soft brown robes and the hood was suddenly thrown back. Meerlinda’s emerald hair glistened in the low light, slowly cascading down her shoulders as she took a deep breath of air. She glanced around slowly, examine the trees and plants around her with a careful but curious eye.

She slowly bent down on one knee and examined a flower that seemed to shimmer and give off a low whisper when its petals were touched. She smiled at the sound. He smiled as he saw her smile.

It was radiant and pure. It made him feel clean somehow, eased his burdens and relax.

She paused. Her head lifted ever so slightly and her eyes darted to the left. She smiled to herself, one hand was already going for the cylindrical object clipped to her belt. Security had wanted the confiscate the weapon when they were briefed on it by Doctor Dehner, but she was adamant that the lightsaber be left alone. It was a symbol to the Jedi as much as it was a weapon. To ask for it would shatter the trust that the Federation diplomatic corps had worked so hard to establish between the two parties.

He did not feel any menace from her at all.

“You know, it is considered rude to spy on someone no matter what galaxy they are from.” she said coolly.

Kirk slowly stepped out from the shadows, hands raised and open at chest level with a childlike grin on his face.

“I wouldn’t touch your eyes after touching the Ithyliss flower. It can cause extreme redness and if the pollen really gets under the eyelids it can even cause some serious inflammation. That’s why her nickname is the redeye rose.” Kirk commented.

Meerlinda watched him for a moment. The last person she had expected to see was the young captain.

“I will take your advice in the spirit in which it was offered, Captain. Many thanks.”

“Enjoying our arboretum?” Kirk asked casually.

Meerlinda nodded absently and rose up from her squatting position.

“It is beautiful. Unfortunately with the war and things being the way they are back home, there is precious little room for such amenities on our warships.”

“This isn’t a warship.” Kirk replied.

She looked into his eyes.

“I know.” she replied evenly and then promptly turned her attention back at the big window facing out into the stars.

“One has to wonder why the stars are so beautiful yet we bring horrors with us into them.” she sighed.

Kirk slowly walked around to stand to her right, arms crossed.

“Spock is right, isn’t he? Our starships aren’t going to do much good in your war effort.”

“He is partly correct. As they are now, your starships will prove quite fragile under the guns of Separatists warships.” she replied. “But we will make sure that you will be ready for them.”

“Can I tell you something that I probably should not be telling you?” he asked.

She slowly turned her head and regarded him with a hooded expression.

“I don’t trust you.”

She blinked.

“Not what I expected, I’ll grant you that, Captain. Are you usually this…diplomatic?” she asked sharply.

“No, I’m usually quite charming I’m told. But I feel that charm will not do here. You prefer blunt and honest.”

“I would prefer that I had some private time with myself, but I will hear you out.”

Kirk shrugged.

“I can always leave you here to your thoughts, but I have to wonder, what is it that drove you here now, tonight? You seem a bit troubled.”

“There is a war going on back home killing millions a day, Captain. Many of my friends, Jedi that I trained alongside as a child are fighting and dying out there. My thoughts ARE preoccupied.” she replied and noted the harshness in her tone. She quickly reigned in her thoughts. He had pricked something in her. There was an odd feeling in her breast when he stated so simply that he did not trust her.

Perhaps because he should not, a phantom voice whispered from deep within her heart. She quickly pushed those thoughts away, banishing them with a simple Jedi mind discipline exercise taught to her by master Yoda so long ago.

“I’m sorry.” he replied.

She shook her head.

“No, please forgive me, I have been too hard on you. How could you possibly know these things, you haven’t even crossed over yet. I apologize, Captain.”

“No need to apologize.” he tried to reassure her with a weak smile.

“You should not have been able to sneak up on me like that Captain.” she said trying to change the subject.

“Oh?” he replied with a cock of an eyebrow.

“You obviously subconsciously used some of your force talent to hide yourself from my senses. A good job too for someone who is not trained.” she examined him more closely, her deep green eyes seem to look past everything, peering into his very soul. He shifted uncomfortable. “A pity.”

“What’s that?”

“That your talent was not discovered earlier, that you were not given a chance to explore your full potential. I sense great promise in you.”

“I would be flattered, Meerlinda, if I believed in your force.” he replied wanly.

She frowned slightly and cocked her head as she peered into his eyes.

“And what do you believe in James Kirk?” she asked seriously.

Kirk stared back and there was silence for a moment.

“I believe in myself.”

“As we all should, but what do you believe in, James.”

“Please, my mother called me James. My friends call me Jim.” he interjected.

She smiled.

“Very well, Jim. What do you believe in, what stirs you, what moves your soul?”

“I believe in the Federation and her ideals.”

She shook her head and started to pace around him, her eyes never leaving him.

“I asked you what you believed in. What is in the heart of your hearts. For instance, Doctor Dehner confided in me that she found it difficult to believe in the Force but that her faith did not lie in the conjectures of a mystical energy field as she pit it but in the cold hard truth of science. Doctor Dehner is a woman of science. What do you believe in?”

“Why?”

“Why are you afraid to answer?” She countered.

“This is getting us nowhere. I’m sorry I disturbed you, Meerlinda.” he started and began to back away.

“What are you afraid of? Perhaps you don’t believe in anything?” she pressed.

“Alright damn you, I believe in man.”

“What?”

“I believe that humanity has grown and will continue to grow beyond itself. That we have reached out from the depths of near extinction and that we will continue to grow and expand. We’ve grown up as a race, shedding the notions of gods and magic and soon we will reach even greater heights. I believe in the stubborn nobility of man, the innate goodness and spirit that will not allow us to fade away.” Kirk stated firmly, his voice rising proudly with each sentence.

“Man does not rise alone. He is in unity with the rest of the universe.”

“You’re trying to sell me on this Force of yours are you?”

“You are so willing to cast aside the spiritual?” she asked with concern.

Kirk frowned.

“Meerlinda, spiritual is not something that I can see or feel or measure and honestly, spirituality has been used too often to harm or hinder our growth as a species. There was a time in our past when we perhaps needed gods and spirits, but we’re not the children we were then, Meerlinda.”

“I do not see it that way, Jim. Man is a spiritual being. You say that he is hungry for knowledge always stretching forth, growing. What drives them besides simple curiosity? What comforts mankind when he is out here alone in the universe? Why do you build these edifices to nature? Perhaps to hold on to, to grab the spark of the divine that resides in all living things?”

“This conversation reminds me of a philosophy course I took back in the Academy.”

Meerlinda laughed softly.

“I’m sorry, I’ve bored you or worse, perhaps offended you.”

Kirk laughed as well.

“No, Meerlinda, I find it hard to believe that you could offend me.” He replied. They both looked at each other for a moment. She coughed.

“Perhaps we can reach some sort of accord between you and I?”

“I’m all ears.” He said with a broad smile. He is quite the handsome man. She noted.

“Perhaps you and I can try to understand each other. You do not trust me and I do not think that you are so devoid of spirituality as you claim.” Kirk smirked. “So let us both have an understanding. We all not lie to each other and we will try to understand each other.”

“You mean a diplomatic mission, between you and I?” he asked incredulously but unable to take his eyes off her.

“Yes.” she replied with a curt nod.

“You have a deal.” he said and stuck out his hand. She promptly took it and they shook. There was an electric spark between them on contact and the shake slowed and they remained holding hands for a long moment before she politely slipped her hand out of his grip.

“This is a good start, Captain.”

“Why don’t you tell me where you’re from?” he asked. Meerlinda was a little confused. There were strange feelings brewing up within her that she needed to control. He was a handsome man but she had met many handsome men in her life. There was something else about this young Captain.

“Correllia.” she answered.

“Can’t say I ever heard of it.” Kirk said after taking a moment to rub his chin pensively and fake thinking deeply. Meerlinda could not help smiling.

“I doubted you would. My world has quiet the reputation, I just hope that by the time you hear of it you will know me better and will not judge me by it.”

Kirk arched an eyebrow. “Really? Now I am interested.”

“And you?” she asked deflecting the direction of the conversation.

“Iowa.” Kirk smiled broadly. “NOTHING happens in Iowa.”

They stared at each other for a moment and both started laughing. Their laughter floated freely on the light artificial breeze in the heart of the arboretum.






“I must say that I am impressed with the resources you have brought to bear in resolving our conflict with the Dominion. You are after all fighting a full scale war back in your home galaxy.” Jean Luc Picard said as he put down the glass of wine from which he sipped. Sitting across from him at the table in his quarters was Sev’Rance Tan. She wore a striking black gown and her hair was draped down her left shoulder in an intricate braid. Her glowing red eyes coolly regarded the Federation Captain. She left hand rested on the edge of her elegant wineglass, her index finger tracing slowly along the lip of the glass as he spoke.

“I am however troubled by reports of Mandalorian brutality.”

“Brutality? Mandalorians are not brutal Captain. They are consummate soldiers.”

“But there have been verified reports from the fleet captains fighting alongside them that they have been utterly merciless with the Jem’Hadar and their Vorta handlers. They have killed every single Jem'Hadar that they have faced and even those that surrendered to our Federation forces have been forcefully taken from our custody and executed.” Picard countered.

Sev’Rance nodded slowly, a lazy smile came to her full red lips.

“They are clones.”

“Excuse me?”

“The Jem’Hadar are clones, are they not?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Picard asked sharply.

Sev’Rance slowly steepled her fingers together as she leaned forward, she reminded Picard of a tiger the way she moved, lazily but self assured. There was a sense that she knew everything that was going to happen and she was prepared for every contingency.

“The Mandalorians despise clones. They always have, a cultural hatred that dates back some time. I’m not certain what the origins of it was, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact they have always been eyed as the prefect template for soldiers and as such it would dilute their pride and heritage if they were reduced to nothing more than a horde of faceless clones. Mandalorians are fiercely individualistic, Captain. A clone for them is an affront to that individuality. Besides, there are rumors about the clones we are fighting in this war.”

“What sort of rumors?” Picard asked as he dabbed the corner of his mouth with a silk napkin. The remains of their meal rested on the beautiful white china plates.

“That the Republic is using a Mandalorian as a template for their clone troopers.”

Picard nodded slowly understanding.

“The fighting between the Mandalorians and the clone troopers are fierce. They can be very brutal. This is a holy war for them, Captain. The Mandalorian who they used as a template was the protégé of the Mandalorian commander Tantos Dree. He was like a son to him and to see his memory defiled in such a manner has driven him and the Mandalorians into a war frenzy the likes of which I have never seen.”

“I met Tantos Dree. He did not seem the type to be in a frenzy. I found him rather friendly.” Picard commented.

Sev’Rance smiled and it was ice.

“The Mandalorians allow you to see precisely what they want you to see. Tantos Dree is a warrior the likes of which I have never seen before. He has in his private quarters a collection of lightsabers. They represent each Jedi he has killed since this conflict began. Believe me, Captain Picard, killing a Jedi is not a simple deed, and he did it one on one.”

“I read the reports. I am a little skeptical about this so called Force. Perhaps they have found a way to tap some sort of esper energy, or maybe they are simply the product of genetic engineering coupled with some form of energy manipulation. It would not be the first time we have encountered such oddities.”

Sev’Rance laughed softly and sat back.

“Forgive me, captain, please. It’s just that your people seem slightly obsessed with the need to find a scientific explanation for everything you encounter. The Force exists, Captain. You will have no doubt of it when you meet the Jedi.”

“Considering what I’ve read so far I wonder whether I would want to meet them. They smack of secret police units used to keep a regime in power and that is distasteful to me.”

“I thought you might feel that way, Captain. You struck me as an enlightened man in this Federation from our correspondence over the last few weeks. You understand precisely what is at stake in this war. It is a war of survival for us as well as a war against oppression and to bring freedom to a galaxy that has been suffering from the iron grip of the Republic for so long.”

“Of course, I am the one who has to make the determination of just how true that claim is.” Picard gently reminded her. Sev’Rance smiled more broadly.

“We have nothing to hide, Captain. I for one am quite pleased that they chose you for this fact finding mission. Captain Sisko seems less than eager about having Deep Space Nine transferred to our side of the wormhole but our technicians are already working on his station to make sure that nothing can happen to it in battle. It will become a veritable fortress of the stars.”

Picard frowned slightly.

“We are not a militaristic people Sev’Rance. We will take no joy out of this war.”

“Do you think that there will be joy in our hearts? Do you think that we enjoy seeing our comrades dying by the millions?” she pressed, red eyes flashing dangerously.

“I apologize. It is just that I am uncomfortable around the banging of war drums and your folk seem to be very enthusiastic about this conflict.”

“We are enthusiastic about the outcome, Captain Picard do not confuse the two. The war is a means to our end.” Sev’Rance paused. “If it will ease tensions I will speak to Tantos and tell him that any Jem’Hadar taken by Federation forces is to be left alone. Will that help?”

Picard nodded slowly, deciding to take another drink from his wine.

“By this time tomorrow the Enterprise will be in your galaxy. Just by crossing the wormhole we will have traveled farther than any Federation starship ever has. This should be quite thrilling.”

“I have such wonders to show you Captain.” Sev’Rance promised with a mysterious smile.





The dining room was silent as the couple ate their meal. The woman was tall and slim, middle aged but still had the rosy bloom of her younger years on her face. Her long hair was like spun gold, slightly dulled along the ends with age but still gorgeous and vital. She sat down and poured herself a glass of purple juice and glanced up at the man sitting opposite from her.

He was tall and large around the shoulders, broadly built with a sharp aquiline nose. Iron gray hair colored his temples and his face betrayed the worry lines of age and responsibility. He was intent on cutting a thick piece of roast beef, his knife glinted dully in the light of the chandelier overhead. Outside the light of a setting sun cast a dazzling reddish hue into the dining room from the picture window on the far side of the luxurious house.

The woman paused as she heard something running up the porch. She looked at the man with an expression of concern. The man pointedly ignored the sound and chewed on the cut of meat he had made.

The door to the house was flung open and the sounds of footsteps approached the dining room.

A man stepped in quickly and brought himself up short as the older man glared at him from his place at the table.

The younger man took a breath and composed himself.

“You know why I’m here.” he said sternly. The older man went back to eating his food. The woman looked from the older man back at the younger man.

“He’s at it, isn’t he? Everyone knows it!” he shouted.

The woman scowled.

“There’s no time for that. You have to help me.”

The older man ignored him and continued eating.

“This is such nonsense. Are you going to keep ignoring me. Do you know how long its been?” he exclaimed in frustration.

The older man paused in chewing but made no other motion.

“And you! You know what he is capable of, I hold you both equally responsible for this mess.”

The woman looked stricken.

The older man slammed his utensils down on the table and glared at younger man. His anger faring up in his eyes.

“You knew what you were doing when it happened. You allowed it to escalate and then you blame me! There are two galaxies about to consume each other in war because of him!”

The older man snapped his fingers emphatically and the younger man vanished in a flash of light. he stared at the open space for a moment as if assuring himself of something then looked over at the woman. She bit her lower lip in frustration and began to speak but the older man shook his head stonily and emphatically before returning to his meal. He chewed his food quietly and stared down at his plate, not looking back up at the woman.

She stared back at the empty space where the young man had stood, concern and shame mixed on her face.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 10:58am
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Chapter 5: A Discourse of Swords

“In a false quarrel there is no true valour.”
Much Ado About Nothing
Act 5, Scene i



“All systems standing by.”

“Warp drive on standby, all systems show green.”

“Shield grid energized. Phaser banks are fully charged, torpedo banks loaded and charging.”

“Sensors at maximum intensity.”

Kirk sat back in his command chair after hearing the last of the status reports and nodded to himself. His crew was working quickly and efficiently. He could not ask for more from them. Not it was his turn to do what he was sent here to do.

“All ahead, full impulse.”

“Aye sir, full impulse.” Kelso nodded and turned back to his controls.

“Navigator?” Kirk asked.

“All helm systems locked on to center of wormhole. Picking up standard gravimetric and quantum flux all consistent with wormhole activity.” Gary replied without hesitation and smartly locked his nav controls as they started to glide towards the spot in space where two galaxies were linked.

The Enterprise entered the wormhole.

“I’m afraid the passage is rather disconcerting.” Meerlinda commented to Kirk as the space before them on the view screen seemed to shatter like glass and bright blinding light stormed into the bridge. Many covered their eyes as the light illuminated everything and for a moment time seemed to completely stop. Kirk was aware that they were frozen, his eyes were locked in a position that saw the bridge and Meerlinda was in his peripheral vision. He had begun to turn around and see her when everything stopped.

His crew were frozen in mid action, some in mid-sentence, mouths open but not a sound coming out. He stared for a moment as light danced around them, pulsing like a living thing. He heard something like voices distantly speaking, whispering secrets.

He struggled to hear but the light began to roar like waves from the ocean and the pulsing grew faster into a strobe effect and soon his vision was utterly destroyed by the bright flashing strobe and the crashing of the ocean around him but he heard something clearly and distinctly as if he had stepped into the middle of a conversation: “Unclouded his eyes are.” “The force speaks through him?” “The avatar of light from another star, he is. On all this depends, whether he will see what needs to be seen.”

Gary stared straight ahead, unable to move save for hearing the whispering voices around him as if he were in a crowded room but could not quite pick up on any of the conversations going on around him. Then suddenly as it seemed as if a crash of sound exploded around him he heard something. “What are you doing?” “I’m trying to stop you Jim.” “Gary, you can’t do this.” “Don’t argue with me about morality, we’re not in your Academy class anymore…remember what I always told you, Jim. You’d better be good to me.”

Spock was staring into his sensor hood, trying to comprehend the stream of data that was being fed through when everything froze. He continued staring at the frozen displays when he heard the chorus of voices around him, one voice in particular broke through the cascade of sound and light.

“You must let it go.” “I cannot.” “The universe does not revolve around logic.” “I am not doing this for logic, I am doing this because it is the right thing to do.” “So be it, Vulcan.”

Doctor Dehner remained rooted to her spot opposite Meerlinda on the other side of Kirk’s chair. She was staring at the screen, waiting to see the wonders on the other side. She was enveloped by the brilliant lightshow and her thoughts were clouded by the constant hiss of the whispered conversations around her.

One string became all too clear to her as the others seemed to hush.

“What price?” “Surely you did not think what I offered you was free of charge.” “Just name it damn you.” “It’s simple really, a small bauble that you can easily acquire for me.” “You mean for your master.” “We all have masters, Doctor, yours is simpering foolish love, mine is a far harsher master and it demands the blood of a Jedi knight.”

Meerlinda was stunned for a moment. The passage had never had this effect before and she had crossed the wormhole on three prior occasions. She found herself frozen in place, time frozen around her like ice, she was a statue, eyes focused on Jim Kirk with a soft smile on her face.

The Force flowed around her like a raging torrent and visions swept around her in the exploding light show, many of the images too fast to discern, but one image in particular crawled across her view like an insect crawling across amber. It was an image of her standing at the precipice of a great abyss and she had to decide whether to fall into the yawning chasm below. She saw several of the people on this bridge and Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi rushing over to her to stop her.

The image flashed away and then there was a low buzz, a conversation, one that she was having. She was suddenly snapped forward into a small cave, or was it an alcove, it was small quiet dark place lit only by the dim plasma torch in the corner. A small figure shifted slightly in the shadows and voice as old as time itself spoke.

“When you decide to undertake his training you have placed him on the path of death.”

“Never. I would never do that.”

“You have no choice, Jedi Knight. Every action has repercussions. It is the way of things, the way of the Force and the Force has laid before you two choices. When you follow one you place him on the path to his doom, the other saves him but places the galaxy on that same path.”

“But that cannot be.”

“The Force is not a judge it merely acts, Jed Knight. I would have thought you would have learned this by now. We all have our parts to play.” the figure seemed to look over her shoulder, as if peering past her to a distant place. “My part is about to play out, young Farstrider. May the Force be with you.”

The ship lurched forward and the light show vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The ship coasted out of the space behind it with not a sign that it had just traversed untold trillions of light years.

“Whoa.” Kirk breathed.

“That was unexpected.” Meerlinda added calmly.

“Unexpected, that was damn near insane.” Gary grumbled.

“Navigation, check our position. Spock, please begin short range scan.”

“Aye aye sir.”

Number One walked down to his side, placing a hand on his armrest.

“Captain, I recommend we enter a defensive posture until we can fully realize what effect the passage through the wormhole has had.”

Kirk glanced at his cold XO but could not argue with the logic.

“Go to yellow alert, raise shields and have weapons on standby.”

“Captain.” Doctor Dehner began.

“It’s alright, doctor, I fully understand why Captain Kirk is taking these actions and do not take offense to them.” Meerlinda politely cut Dehner off.

Kirk turned slightly in his chair to face Dehner. “Doctor, I will not take chances with the lives of my crew or the safety of my ship. Once we’ve gotten our bearings I will take us down from alert status but until then this is the prudent course of action. Besides, I’m sure you’re right and there is nothing out there.” Kirk added with a soft smile, hoping to settle down the obvious ruffled feathers of the doctor.

“Unknown warship off our starboard bow.” Spock announced.

Kirk turned his seat back to focus on the view screen. A massive warship hung off the starboard bow several thousand kilometers away. It was impressive and Kirk could see that it was indeed designed for war with its sleek frame and menacing shadow.

Number One quickly walked down to Kirk’s command chair, placing a hand firmly on his armrest.

“Captain, suggest we go to battle stations. This entire galaxy, strictly speaking is a war zone.”

Kirk glance dup at his cold XO. He didn’t like her much but he could not argue with her logic.

“Wait a moment Captain. That is a Republic Dreadnought.” Meerlinda interjected.

“I wasn’t aware that your government was going to provide an escort.” Kirk noted, his suspicions raised by the action.

“Nor was I.” Meerlinda replied perplexed.

“Sir, receiving hails from the warship.” Uhura reported.

“On screen, Lieutenant.”

The view screen shimmered for a moment and a green alien with a swaying short snout stood in the center of the screen. He was flanked by two young men dressed in robes almost identical to Meerlinda’s.

“Greetings and salutations from the Republic. I am Captain Leeto, commander of the Republic Dreadnought Valor’ Gaze.”

“Captain.” Kirk nodded. “I am Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. Thank you for your words of welcome. However I must express some concern as it was never relayed to me that we would be given a military escort.”

Sulu watched the exchange on the bridge quietly. He and most of the senior staff were invited to watch the crossing over into the new galaxy. He was uncomfortable watching Kelso at the helm. He yearned to be sitting in that station, piloting the Enterprise through the wormhole.

But instead he stood with a group of staff officers, many of them glorified scientists that were truly interested in the scientific data and knowledge that could be gleaned from this passage.

“Can you imagine the kind of information just waiting for you when you get back to your office?” an astrology chief whispered to him with barely constrained glee. Sulu nodded dully. His eyes remained riveted on Kelso, watching his hands at the controls and wondering what it must be like riding through the gravimetric interference and whirlwind like stellar torsion at the heart of the wormhole.

Lucky Bastard.

“Many apologies, Captain. I am under orders from the Supreme Chancellor to provide escort for you in this space.”

“Why?”

“Allow me Captain, I am Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi and this is my associate Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker.” The bearded Jedi indicated the brooding young man with a slight inclination of his head. “We have been dispatched to take you safely out of this space. There has been an unfortunate breech of security and the Separatists are aware of the location of this wormhole.” Obi Wan smiled. “Fortunately we have arrived here before the Separatists.”

The young man stiffened as if he had been stung. His eyes narrowed. Meerlinda felt the warning as well, the force rippled around her as if a great stone had been heaved into a still lake.

“We’re a little late.” Anakin muttered.

“Captain, picking up a strange disturbance in the local space time continuum.” Spock reported.

“Hyperspace emergence.” Meerlinda exclaimed.

“I take it we have company.” Kirk frowned. “Red Alert! All hands to Battle stations!” Kirk ordered tersely.




“Hyperspace emergence in quadrant 37.” a tactical officer announced with some alarm in his voice.

“Give me numbers and disposition immediately. Move the Valor’s Gaze to within a hundred kilometers of the Enterprise and have all gunnery crews begin laying down covering fire for the Federation starship.” Leeto ordered.

“I’m not going to do much good up here. Besides you’re the grand planner not me.” Anakin said with a slight smile.

Obi Wan looked at his old padawan and nodded.

“Get to your fighter and may the force be with you.”

Anakin smiled more broadly and began to race out of the bridge.

“And Anakin.” Obi Wan called after the young Jedi knight. Anakin paused at the doorway and turned his head.

“Try not to do anything foolish out there.” Obi Wan said with a wink.

Anakin nodded and laughed.

“Hey, it’s me.” he replied and disappeared down the corridor.

“We have four, repeat four Trade Federation Battleships moving in a crescent formation.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Leeto replied.

“One Mandalorian heavy cruiser,” Leeto’s snout drooped slightly. “Four Banking Guild corvettes moving in on our flanks.” Leeto shook his head.

“We’re heavily outclassed, Jedi Kenobi.”

“That was the Separatists’ general plan I assume, but we have a rather simple objective, get the Enterprise out of here.” Obi Wan explained calmly as he watched the disposition of Separatist forces on the large tactical display over head.

“We shall do our best. All guns open fire in the name of the Republic!” Leeto exclaimed.

The Valor’s Gaze shook slightly as the massive guns running along her sleek hull began to open fire.





Anakin felt safe and secure in the cockpit of his Jedi starfighter as he launched form the cavernous launch bay of the Valor’s Gaze. He led a squadron of Z-95 headhunters into the fray as the first massive flak bursts erupted in the inky void.

The sound of his ship’s engines were like a soothing hum as he clicked on his communicator.

“All craft follow me in diamond formation. Our job is to make sure that no Separatist droid fighter gets to within weapons range of the Federation starship. We have the edge in firepower and durability, they have raw speed on their side so let’s not waste time in trying to chase them down, try to intercept them BEFORE they pass you. If the fighters blow past us there’s little chance of us catching up to them after that.”

“Roger that Red Leader.”

“Here they come!” another pilot exclaimed.

“Let’s do this.” Anakin ordered and opened up with his weapons suite.

The wall of droid fighters became clear on his cockpit as they approached, in a simple sweep towards the Federation starship behind them. Soon fire blossomed along the entire wall of approaching droid fighters as the squadron poured a deadly fusillade into the enemy group.

“Sir we’ve got another squadron trying to get underneath.”

“I see them,. Red two and six, come with me.”

“Right with you boss.”

Anakin sent his starfighter into a steep dive at an almost 90 degree angle from where he had just been flying right over the next wave of droid fighters. He opened up with his cannons and his angry red fire poured from the nose and beneath the wings of his starfighter. Droid fighters were exploding in clouds of plasma and debris.

“These damned things are so cheap to produce the Trade Federation has no problems throwing them away in these kind of tactics.” Anakin cursed as his fighter zipped straight down the center of the wave, followed quickly by the two Z-95’s escorting him.

“Sir, we’ve got six more squadrons inbound, three are moving to intercept us.”

“Looks like they’ve lost their patience with me.” Anakin smiled and reached out with the Force as he brought his fighter back up to link up with the rest of his squadron.

“Incoming!”

“Where?”

Three balls of light ripped past the Republic squadron and exploded with devastating effectiveness against the waves of approaching droid fighters.

“That’s not one of ours.” One pilot aid in confusion.

“Those shots came from the Enterprise. Some form of matter antimatter torpedo.” Obi Wan’s voice answered their curiosity over the fleet wide link.

“Looks like they’re not totally helpless after all.” Anakin said with a grin. He suddenly spotted three more squadrons racing along the edge of the battlefield in the hopes of avoiding the death trap that the center had become for their droid brethren.

“Come on boys, they did us a favor, let’s return it. On me.”

“Copy Red leader.”

Anakin led the charge as his fighter kicked in its drive at full throttle and raced to intercept the new threat.




“Good shooting, Mr. Kelso. Gary plot a course to parallel the valor’s Gaze, try to keep her between us and the brunt of this heavy fire.”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk glanced down at the tactical display and saw something.

“Warn the Valor’s gaze that the big bruiser there is using the Trade Federation ring ships as a screen and is moving to directly engage her.”

“Why the Valor’s Gaze and not us?” Meerlinda asked curious at the strategy and why she had not seen it.

“My guess is that they think we’ll be totally helpless without.”

“Which means they may not mean to destroy us at all.” Dehner breathed.

“They want to capture us.” Meerlinda concluded.

“Such a move would be disastrous for all sides involved. It would allow the Separatists to gain a wealth of data on the Federation and would most likely sabotage the current alliance between both powers far more thoroughly than if we were simply lost in a war zone.” Spock added from his station.”

“It’s very clear Captain that we must not allow ourselves to fall into Separatists hands.”

Kirk nodded slowly.

“That was never my intention at all, Number One. In fact I intend to get all of us out of here in one piece. Spock, give me a tactical analysis on those Trade Federation ringed vessels.”

“They are battleships.” Meerlinda corrected him.

“They’re not doing a good job of fulfilling their duties of that class, in fact I haven’t seen much in terms of firepower form them at all yet., Our fighters sure are giving them a wide berth.” Kirk noted.

“Most likely because the vast majority of its weapons suites seem to be comprised of anti-starfighter weapons.”

“Really?”

“Their shielding is extremely powerful however, more than enough to withstand an extended bombardment from the Valor’ Gaze.” Spock added.

“Ok, let’s think this through.” Kirk rubbed his chin as he watched the Valor’s Gaze turn to face the immanent threat from the Mandalorian Heavy cruiser that was crawling in under the screen of the Trade Federation battleship.

“Spock, those fighters are launching from the battleship?” Kirk asked as another wave of fighters swarmed towards them.

“Indeed. I am scanning…your suspicions are correct Captain. The Trade Federation ships drop that quadrant of their shields long enough to launch and recover fighters.”

Kirk smiled and glanced back at Spock. Spock looked at his new Captain and arched an eyebrow slightly.

“It was the logical result of your line of questioning.”

“True enough, Mr. Spock. Number One, prepare the ship for emergency warp drive maneuvers.”

“Aye Captain.” she replied hiding her confusion.

Gary smiled boyishly as he cleared his board for emergency warp drive maneuvers.

“Gary we’re going to need you to be extremely precise.” Kirk added.

Gary turned in his chair slightly.

“How precise, sir?”

“Peg me to within a few kilometers of those battleships.”

Kelso whistled softly.

Gary smiled and winked at Kirk.

“I thought you were going to ask me for something hard.”

Dehner glared at the brash young man. His arrogance may be the cause of their deaths. Meerlinda leaned in closely to Kirk.

“What are you doing?” she asked. “You’re ship cannot harm those battleships.”

“No, we can’t, but we can sting her when she’s got her guard down. It might make them think twice about how easy this operation could be for them and it will take pressure off the valor’s Gaze.” Kirk paused for a moment. “The Valor’s Gaze is a dreadnought, correct?”

“Yes, what does that-”

Kirk turned his chair quickly.

“Uhura, send a tight beam transmission to the Valor’s Gaze requesting face to face communication.”

“Aye sir.”

Meerlinda watched him in action. His mind was a storm of thought and possibilities.

“Captain Kirk we’re kind of busy at the moment.” Obi Wan explained as he appeared on the screen.

“I’m well aware of that master Kenobi, but I have a plan. We need to coordinate a strike against the Trade Federation battleships.” Kenobi looked skeptical.

“Captain, the offensive capabilities of your starship precludes a serious threat to the Trade Federation battleships while her shields are up.” he explained calmly.

“Exactly, while her shields are up. They drop their shields in the forward quadrant when deploying fighters.”

“We’re well aware of this weakness in their design but right now we are engaged in heavy fighting with the Mandalorian battle cruiser. We cannot disengage to attack their vulnerable hangar deck.”

“But you’re a dreadnought, you’re not acting out here without support ships, I hope. Support ships that you’re obviously keeping out of sight as a ready reserve or rapid strike team. Well, what I’m proposing is precisely that, a rapid strike.”

“How did you—“”

“Never mind that, whatever ships you have on standby get them ready for a strike on their exposed shield grid. The Enterprise needs to coordinate with your fighters to destroy the current waves they have out there and force them to deploy a new wing of fighters.”

“Please Master Kenobi, time is of the essence.” Meerlinda chimed in.

“I would much prefer that we talk our way out of this.” Dehner commented dryly.

“Time for talk is over with Doc. Besides, there aren’t any comfortable couches for them to lay back on top discuss childhood traumas with you.” Gary interjected wanly.

“That is a backwards Neanderthal’s view of the profession—“

“Doctor, in case you have not noticed we are in a battle for our lives, please allow the Captain to continue his duties or I will be forced to remove you from the bridge.” Number One said coldly with a firm grip on Doctor Dehner’s shoulder.

Dehner began to protest but saw the ice cold expression in Number One’s eyes and knew that any protest would indeed land her in the brig. What was it about the man that got under her skin?

“I’m patching our squadron commander over to you.” Kenobi replied.

“Skywalker here.”

“Commander Skywalker, we need your help. The Enterprise plans to launch a full spread of torpedoes at the incoming wave that you are about to engage, I need your squadron to immediately pounce on their reserve squadron loitering behind them. With those reserves and their current attack wave down we’ll force the Separatists ships to launch a new wave of fighters, bringing their shields down.”

“There’s no way my boys will be able to make an attack run on the battleships even with the shields down. Those things are bristling with anti starfighter weapons.” Anakin protested.

“You won’t need to, leave that to me.”

“Obi Wan?” Anakin asked clearly annoyed with the Captain butting into his attack plans.

“Do it Anakin. His plan seems sound.”

“Roger, Red squadron out.” Anakin replied sullenly.

“Mr. Kelso, full spread, maximum dispersal, proximity charges.”

“Aye aye sir.”

Kirk flicked on the communicator at his armrest.

“Torpedo room, I’m going to need you to reload and recharge all tubes in under 30 seconds.”

“We’ll do it, sir.”

Kirk nodded. There was no hesitation, no attempt to say that such a request was nearly impossible, they were just going to do it. Captain Pike had trained his men well and Kirk meant to see them through this. They deserved as much.

“Gary, set course for the center command ship, bring us into their forward shield arc and at point blank weapons range, we can’t afford to miss. Kelso, unload everything we have into their hangar deck then perform extreme evasive maneuver to get us out of weapons range.”

“Aye aye sir.” Kelso replied and nodded. This Captain Kirk was not the stuffed shirt some said he was. He seemed to have it together, thought well on his feet and most importantly of all, he let the others on the bridge feel as confident as he seemed despite the fact that Kelso was painfully aware that the energy their STARFIGHTERS were throwing around could easily cripple the Enterprise.

“Standby…Master Kenobi we’re going in 30 seconds after the torpedo spread, please time your strike team accordingly, we’re going after the center ship.”

“That places you squarely in the sights of four battleships captain.” Kenobi protested.

“There’ no more time to argue…fire, Mr. Kelso.”

“Torpedoes away!” Kelso exclaimed.

Gary immediately began his calculations, ranging data from the sensors was fed into his nav comp and he primed the warp engines.

“Gary…” Kelso began, his fingers hovering over warp controls as the balls of light that were the torpedoes exploded into a series of massive blasts of bright white light that enveloped the approaching attack wing. The Republic fighters cleared the explosion and lanced down into the loitering reserve like arrows.

“Gary…”

“Don’t wait for me, Lee.” Gary replied coolly as his hands flew over the controls. Coordinates were fed into the computers and checked against ranging data, he compensated for relative ship movements, speed, velocity, mass, all from his head as Lee watched him nervously. If he took the Enterprise to warp without the proper coordinates they would most likely crash into one of those ships.

“Torpedoes room to bridge, 8 out of ten tubes ready.”

“I want all ten torpedo room.”

“You’ll have them sir.”

“Gary…” Lee pressed.

“Lee, I said don’t wait for me.” Gary replied and savagely punched in the last coded string as the countdown clock cleared three more seconds to go.”

“Now Lee.”

“Warp drive aye.”

The Enterprise floated serenely behind the Valor’s Gaze, her ivory hull illuminated by the explosions of energy as the massive Mandalorian battle cruiser, lethal like a knife moved in on the Valor’s Gaze and exchanged deadly emerald energy bolts with the warship. Each explosion on her shields making the Enterprise glow like a small star. Suddenly she vanished from sight.

Almost simultaneously she appeared in front of the center Trade Federation Battleship just as a new wave of fighters was beginning to race out of her hangar bay.

“Fire all weapons!” Kirk ordered.

Kelso pressed down on the phaser control and mashed down all the torpedoes controls simultaneously., The ship rocked backwards slightly as she unleashed all her weapons in one devastating blast. Phasers lanced deep into the hangar bay as ten torpedoes flashed past the fighters, one detonating outside as it clipped one of the fighters and engulfed the hangar bay in fire and plasma.

The Trade Federation battleship seemed to shudder as if slapped by a giant and lights winked on and off along the central globe command module. Fires and explosions raced along the outer ring, sending geysers of molten durasteel into the void around the ship.

“Critical damage to her power core Captain. Her shield grid is failing.” Spock reported.

Kirk had no time to celebrate as the Enterprise shuddered violently.

“Receiving heavy enemy fire from the other battleships.” Gary reported.

“Where are the—”

Another battleship was just finishing disgorging her fighters when a frigate and two corvettes flashed into view and unloaded a steady stream of fire into the exposed bay of the battleship. The red bolts of light lanced deep into the ship and fire and escaping has ruptured out of the back of the warship and it began to slowly drop down out of formation as the central command globe came under fire from the Valor’s Gaze’s support ships.





“It worked!” Leeto exclaimed.

Obi Wan nodded slowly himself surprised that the tactic was pulled off. There was more to this Federation than met the eye and he began to see something in this battle that he did not expect and the wisdom of Palpatine’s desire to have the Federation join in was becoming clear. The same reason that must have driven Yoda and Mace Windu to agree with him.

He was beginning to see now.

“Captain, concentrate all our fire on the remaining Trade Federation battleships.” Obi Wan ordered.

Leeto’s snout twitched for a moment in confusion.

“Master Kenobi, but the Mandalorian cruiser is coming around for another pass.”

“If we do not provide covering fire for the Enterprise now she will be destroyed out there and this mission will be for naught. Do it, Captain.”

“Yes sir.” he replied and nodded to his gunnery chief.

Obi Wan watched the approaching Mandalorian battle cruiser. It was large but sleek, built to be fast and deadly much like the warriors that created it. Through a series of breakthroughs in miniaturization and power cell technology the Mandalorians were able to pack a series of weapons suites on their warships that made them the heaviest armed ships in the galaxy. Much like Mandalorian armor, the warships were bristling with hidden turbolaser emplacements, racked missile launchers and a small hangar bay in the belly of the ship, out of sight of the firing arcs of all Republic ships.

So far the cruiser had not launched any fighters. It was a testament to the fact that the Mandalorians were a dying race, only several hundred left in the galaxy they did not have the manpower to actually take to fighters and many of the ships were crewed by levies from their home system or droid technicians like the rest of the Separatist fleet.

Obi Wan would normally feel pity for such a proud race to be facing extinction at this point but they had taken up arms against the Republic and the Mandalorians had been staunch opponents of the Jedi order wherever they could find them.

Now his ship faced the wrath of a Mandalorian battle cruiser and the commander had seen the shift of fire, knew that the Valor’s Gaze was hamstrung by the need to protect the too fragile Federation craft and was coming in for the kill.

Overall, your average day in the life of a Jedi knight in this war, Obi Wan mused.




“Anyone want to test the Mandalorian cruiser’s anti-fighter defenses?” Anakin asked with a feral grin.

“Do we have a choice red leader?” one pilot asked with an obvious smile in his voice.

“That’s a question I’ve always wanted to answer. We don’t see these things often enough.” another piped up.

“Okay boys, follow me in.” Anakin ordered and brought his fighter around in a tight turn. It was time to save Obi Wan. Again.

“I hope you appreciate me one day.” Anakin muttered as he brought himself in line with the cruiser and activated his missile system.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 11:00am
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Chapter 6: A Sharp Ring of Steel

“The attempt and not the deed confounds us.”
Macbeth Act 2, Scene ii




The concussion missiles exploded against one of the large heavy turbolaser turrets. The explosion engulfed the turret in fire and the small Jedi Starfighter peeled away from the resulting storm of anti-starfighter fire from the Mandalorian heavy cruiser. The fighter squadron he was leading spilt into a starburst formation, individual fighters pulling away in wildly different directions, attempting to throw off the Mandalorian predictors that were aiming the fire.

The Valor’s Gaze was very close now, the Dreadnought's big guns however were not firing on the rapidly approaching behemoth of a heavy cruiser. It was concentrating all its fire on the remaining Trade Federation battleships. Four had entered the battle, but now two were badly mauled by Kirk’s maneuver, one was on the verge of exploding, bright white plumes of plasma were venting from the cavernous hangar bay while explosions were slowly tearing away at the surface of the great outer ring of the circular warships.

The Enterprise was in the thick of the battle, the remaining Trade Federation ships were closing in like sharks, trying to box in the smaller yet sleeker Federation starship, which was now trading fire with the larger ships, phaser fire lancing out in quick furtive bursts that impacted nearly harmlessly on the shields of the battleships.

Obi Wan held on to a railing as the Valor’s Gaze shook violently.

“Steady Captain, we need to get the Enterprise out of there.”

“Our shields are taking a pummeling, Master Kenobi. We need to divert some fire to protect us.”

Obi Wan shook his head.

“My fellow Jedi knight will handle the Mandalorians. Our job is a simple one, protect the Enterprise.”

“And who will protect us?” Leeto mumbled to himself as his snout twitched nervously.

“Come on Captain, get out of there.” Obi Wan muttered as he watched the Enterprise trade fire with the advancing Trade Federation battleships, each one coming in for the kill like a wolf, the center of the battle line dominated by the burning wrecks of their sister ships.




“That’s it, Mr. Kelso, keep us perpendicular to their line of advance. I want some distance between us.” Kirk ordered. “Gary, I’m going o need another short warp burst coming up.”

“You’re not being too demanding today Captain.” Gary replied with a wan smile.

“Captain, our line of retreat is open I strongly suggest we take it now. We have enough of a lead that we can outrun those battleships and get back under the protection of the Valor’s Gaze?” Number One said in her cold professional one as she stood by his chair.

“We have split their line of attack, their center has been crushed and we have two heavies coming in on the extreme port and starboard. What does that tell you?” Kirk asked. His eyes were locked on the tactical display by Gary’s station, watching the relentless march of red threat dots on his bright white starship.

“That we should immediately retreat. We are not officially at war and any actions we continue to take merely puts this vessel and crew at risk, Captain. I urge you to retreat now while we still can.” Number One pressed.

Kirk glanced over at her.

“I’ve taken it under advisement, but right now we can engage and destroy these two battleships. I don’t intend to let them escape from this position.”

Number One pursed her lips but said nothing. Doctor Dehner began to speak in support of the cold first officer when Meerlinda put a restraining hand on Dehner’s shoulder.

“Leave him be, Doctor. It is not your place to become involved in the working of a warship when engaged in battle.”

Dehner furrowed her brow in frustration.

“Captain, the port side battleship’s captain is far more passive, less aggressive than the starboard ship Captain. Your maneuver has unnerved him.” Meerlinda commented and walked down to stand directly opposite Number One on the other side of Kirk’s command chair.

Kirk nodded without comment.

“Uhura, open a channel to the Valor’s Gaze and try to patch in the Republic support ships.”

“Aye sir.”

Number One said nothing. He had made his decision, Captain Pike would have retreated when the opportunity presented himself. He saw the folly in risking both ship and crew in a battle that did not need to be won. This was not their war yet.

Meerlinda watched him, calm, at peace, as if combat and he were old lovers. Not at all the untried captain she expected.

“Captain, in the name of the Force get out of there!” Obi Wan protested vehemently.

“Master Kenobi, I need another favor from you and your fleet, I want you to concentrate all fire on the port side battleship, forward quarter and bring down that shield, even if only for a moment.”

She could hear Kenobi’s sigh of exasperation.

“Captain, we are under heavy attack on our own and I cannot defend myself until you’re clear.”

“Just trust me on this one and we’ll be rid of four battleships not just two.”

The silence on the other end of the line was tense and finally Kenobi spoke.

“Very well Captain.”

Meerlinda closed her eyes for a moment and thanked the Force. The decision felt right, Kenobi must have felt it too.

“All ships, this is the Enterprise, fire on my mark at the forward quarter of the Port side Battleship, all power we need to bring that shield down even if its for a moment.”

“Acknowledged.”

“Gary, you’re on again.”

Gary smiled and quickly began entering coordinates as the fire outside the Enterprise thickened. Lights on the bridge dimmed slightly as the volleys shook the vessel. Several crew members exchanged troubled glances

Gary winked at one of them.

“We’re in good hands boys and girls.” he said proudly.

Kirk was not so sure. If he was wrong they were all dead.




“Is that human insane?” Leeto asked angrily as he stood by the gunnery chief.

“All batteries are holding fire for one concentrated blast, time on target.” The Valor’s Gaze rocked forward slightly. Leeto glanced around with worry but Obi Wan remained calm, one hand resting on the back of the gunnery chief’s chair the other resting at his hip as he watched the gunnery chief at work programming the next volley.

“I think I know what he’s doing but there’s no guarantee we’ll bring down that shield.”

“With our firepower and the escort ships focused on one quadrant of the shields, I’m fairly confident we can get them to at least fluctuate enough for him to get his salvo in, but my chief concern is why are we engaged in this battle when we should be trying to disengage?”

Obi Wan frowned.

“Because our good starship captain seems to have taken to this battle like a fish to water.”

“He seems to be a natural at this.” Leeto observed.

Obi Wan nodded, the depths of Palpatine and the Council’s urgency to bring in the Federation to this war slowly becoming obvious.






“This is getting ridiculous.” Anakin grunted as he brought his fighter about in an almost impossible hairpin turn and the defensive missile tracking him flashed by and exploded harmlessly behind him.

“Sir, we have a positive hit on their port side generator system, reading random fluctuations of the shield grid in the port lower quarter.”

“Good job, now lets hit them hard there before they bring the back ups on line.”

“Roger that.”

Anakin led his squad down in a hard dive through a veritable cloud of anti-starfighter battery fire and whipped them around to the lower port side of the massive Mandalorian battle cruiser. It was now literally standing off and pounding on the Valor’s Gaze which was desperately rotating along its axis in the hopes of evening out the heavy fire along all her shields before the heavy fire became too much.

Her guns were mainly focused on keeping the Enterprise under cover. But now in the last minute all the guns had stopped and the escort ships were not firing either.

Anakin had no time to wonder as more fire blossomed around him. One of his Z-95 Headhunters was clipped by the blast cloud of a battery and spun madly into the superstructure of the cruiser. Nearly half his squadron was gone

He grit his teeth and opened up with his main guns along the exposed superstructure, chewing up what he could of the exposed hardware before beginning to pull away. Suddenly a small missile turret swung out from under a long communications antenna and fired off four missiles at the passing Jedi starfighter.

“Damnit.” Anakin cursed as he brought his fighter down low, using the superstructure of the cruiser to try and confuse the homing warheads of the missiles.

Mandalorians built their warships like their armor, lots of hidden surprises. Anakin had just stumbled into a very nasty one. His astromech droid chirped something ominous.

“I see it.” Anakin snapped as two more defensive missile turrets tracked and fired on him as he flashed by.

“Eight?!” Anakin exclaimed as he glanced down at another warning alarm.

Without thinking he quickly slipped on his envirohelmet and snapped his life-support system on. The end was very near.

“Let’s give them a nice little surprise.” he said with a feral grin and flipped over the bow of the ship and skimmed along the hull, twisting through the ominous gun towers and missile turrets.

“This is red leader, I’m going down in a few seconds, do what you can on your end guys, concentrate fire on their big guns and missile systems to try and take them out and relieve some pressure from the command ship.”

“Roger that sir…and good luck.”

Anakin did not look back, he could see them in his mind’s eye, eight…make that ten defensive missiles, small and sleek like greyhounds racing after him, bobbing and weaving with him as he moved and closing the distance.

The Jedi starfighter raced up the length of the massive cruiser’s knifelike superstructure towards the recessed bridge built at the base of a mesa like superstructure in the center of the battlecruiser. A ring of anti-starfighter batteries opened up on him but he saw their bursts and where they would explode mere instants before they blossomed and he drove his fighter through the scarce empty spaces between blasts.

“R-7, overload the reactor and activate all remaining munitions, let’s make this into a missile. Ejecting.” Anakin reported and without hesitation pulled the ejection controls over his head. The canopy exploded outward silently as the void immediately greedily devoured all sound and Anakin lost consciousness for a split second as his body was accelerated away from the starfighter at incredible speed, and he snapped back to consciousness as soon as his environmental controls took over.

Anakin did not hesitate and pulled a fire extinguishing unit he pulled with him out of the cockpit and turned his back to the battlecruiser just as his starfighter plunged downward and exploded against the greenish superstructure of the bridge. The starfighter exploded as all its munitions and reactor core gave way and Anakin could not help but smile as the defensive missiles dove in and each struck almost simultaneously at the same spot. Their dogged determination to catch him finally rewarded, much to the bridge crew’s chagrin he was sure. The bridge was engulfed in fire and plasma.

Anakin clicked on the fire suppression unit and it fired a strong jet of whitish mist and propelled Anakin down towards the superstructure. He tumbled towards the bridge and passed the storm of molten metal, twisting his body to avoid some of the sharp leading edges of broken superstructure from his fighter’s impact.

He landed solidly against the bridge tower and quickly moved upwards, climbing towards his goal. As he climbed he watched the battle exploding around him, fighters streaking through clouds of fire and plasma, angry red and green turbolaser fire exchanged between the massive ships. It was beautiful but Anakin didn’t have time to admire the beauty.

He reached what he wanted.

The emergency airlock access port on this level of the bridge module. He checked himself one last time, cleared his mind of doubt and questions and unclipped his lightsaber. He activated it, imagining the all too familiar snap hiss that was now silent in space and drove the saber’s blade hard into the airlock’s outer seal.

The glowing blue blade sank into the seal, metal quickly bubbling away and he pulled hard along the seal, rewarded by the cloud of molten metal that oozed out into the void around him and within moments the airlock hatch came loose. Anakin let the Force flow and whipped his hand backwards.

The door quickly slid away from its molten seals and flipped backwards into the inky darkness behind him. Anakin waited a moment, despite his anxiety to get inside as soon as possible the Force gave him a flash of warning and he waited. Suddenly four battle droids whisked by him, head over heels spinning like tops and disappeared.

He smiled and strode into the airlock.




“Now!” Kirk ordered.

Gary nodded to Kelso who tripped the warp drive just as the volley from the Valor’s Gaze and her support vessels cleared the Enterprise.

The Trade Federation battleship that was far in the lower left corner of the screen was suddenly massive filling the screen in between blinks of an eye. The Enterprise arrived just as the impacts of the Republic’s salvo struck the shields.

The Enterprise’s weapons fired precisely at the moment that the shields were their weakest, flickering under the awesome salvo. Several photon torpedoes managed to flash by the breach in the shields, most of the volley and the phaser blast were caught in the shield’s dying nimbus of light. But several torpedoes was all that was needed to blast the vast open hangar bay and send fragments of fighters, landing craft and droids out into a column of fire and hot gasses.

“Full evasive, right now!”

The bridge crew all reflexively clutched their stations as the ship dipped sharply, the inertial dampers briefly failed. The return fire was murderous as the Constitution class cruiser struggled valiantly to get through the storm of fire from the sea of batteries clustered around the central core of the battleship.

Several blasts clipped the mighty starship as it finally pulled away from the worst of it.

The bridge darkened for a moment and crewmen went flying through the air. Doctor Dehner felt herself flung forward almost as if shoved by a giant and was catapulted past the captain’s chair.

Gary was holding on to one corner of his helm station when he saw the Doctor plunging nearly head first towards the helm. He turned in his chair, reached out and grabbed Dehner before she had a very nasty collision with the unyielding helm station.

Gary pulled her up onto his chair and his lap and swung back into his station as they cleared the last of the flak.

“Captain, we have major damage on the port side nacelle, reading a significant power drop, currently 17% of available power.” Spock reported.

“That was too close, Captain. We need to withdraw.” Number One added as she stood by Uhura checking the damage reports streaming in from all stations.

“You’ll get no argument from me on that point.” Kirk replied, and edge to his voice. He realized that he had gambled with the lives of his crew and he had almost lost. What had gotten into him?
“Mr. Mitchell.” Dehner spoke, distracted for a moment by his gray eyes and boyish smirk. His strong firm body was close to hers and she felt warm and safe. Dehner stiffened as she felt something else as well and slapped Gary.

“That will be enough, Mr. Mitchell.”

Gary smiled softly and rubbed his cheek as he let Dehner up from his lap.

“Always a pleasure Doctor.”

“Belay that and focus on the matter at hand. Mr. Kelso, what do you think?”

Kelso glanced down at his readout and back up at the screen as the last Battleship cleared the burning hulks in the formation and began to close the distance rapidly.

“I think we have enough of a head start that we can outrun them on a straightaway.”

“Do it. Plot a course back to the Valor’s Gaze.”

“Aye sir.”

The Enterprise side slipped to starboard and her impulse engines roared as the starship began to accelerate, racing away from the Trade Federation battleship.

“Captain, attack from starboard, a corvette class vessel.” Spock warned.

“Evasive act-“

The Enterprise shook violently. A banking guild corvette, squat and ugly swung into attack position, a quad mounted weapon firing continually on the starship. Kelso guided the Enterprise through most of the fire. ‘

“He’s hot on our tale.”

“Can you shake him Lee?” Kirk asked clutching the armrests of his command chair. He had forgotten about the smaller ships.

Kelso frowned as he worked the helm, fingers flying across the controls. Sulu watched him and yearned to be ion that chair. His own hands were mimicking what he would be doing if he were on the helm.

“Sir, this is a starship, not a fighter. I don’t know how long I can keep this up.”

“Let me, Captain.” Meerlinda said and rushed off the bridge.

“But where—oh hell.” Kirk muttered as he watched her disappear into the turbolift.

“If we take a direct hit from those weapons I’m not certain we will survive more than one or two hits.” Spock said to Number One who nodded and relayed it to the Captain.





“More fire onto that corvette.” Obi Wan ordered.

“Trying sir, but they’re moving fast, avoiding much of our turbolaser fire. We’re trying to compensate and lead them but the Enterprise is so close that we’re afraid we would destroy or crippled her with a large enough burst.” the gunnery chief replied.

“Captain, move us towards the Enterprise. See if we can’t meet them halfway. Have the support ships disengage from the last battleship and move to support Enterprise.”

“Yes master Kenobi.” Leeto paused for a moment. “If we start moving we will still be under heavy fire from the Mandalorian battlecruiser. I’m not sure we will last long, particularly if they focus fire on our engines.”

Obi Wan nodded and seemed to be looking far away, slowly a smile creepy across his face.

“I think that my fellow Jedi knight has this well in hand.”






The lightsaber flashed down three times and four of the battle droids clattered to the floor in various parts and pieces. Anakin strode down the main corridor with deadly purpose. His lightsaber ignited in one hand he lifted the other as a battle droid rounded the corner and opened fire. Anakin caught the bolts in the palm of his hand, feeling their energy in the Force, taking a firm hold. The angry red bolts collapsed into a swirling crimson ball and he extended forth his hand just when the ball felt as if it were going to burn a hole in his hand and released the energy. The ball snapped down the corridor and struck the battledroid square in the chest sending it down to the floor in a pile of ruined parts.

He stopped as he prepared himself for the next phase.

He raced around the bend to face two droidekas and ten battle droids standing in front of the massive bridge access doors that were currently closed.

“Intruder found.”

“Engage.”

“Roger. Roger.”

He knew that Obi Wan would have preferred stealth over raw force but Anakin was feeling frustrated, frustrated that he had been shot down, frustrated that this mission had taken him away from his other responsibilities, frustrated that he was once again teamed under Obi Wan, never feeling like his own man, frustrated that he had not seen Padme in weeks and he was no longer happy. Anakin did not have patience for stealth now, he just wanted to inflict pain on the enemy, punish them for keeping him away from Padme, punish them for making him a nothing more than a padawan again, punish them for his arm, punish them for making him angry.

In his anger he saw the Droidekas start to fire, their movements like the luxurious pace of glaciers. The arm cannons began to fire and the volley of red bolts moved like leaves on a spring breeze and he whipped his lightsaber around in a circle, intercepting the bolts, redirecting them away with a slight push of the muscles. The bolts changed direction and began raining down on the battle droids standing around the Droidekas.

The battle droids exploded as the droideka bolts struck them. One battle droid’s torsos was blown clean off and its legs continued forward in a charge. Anakin leapt forward in a tight roll, hand extended out took a firm hold of the shattered battle droid’s leg units and used them as a base to flex his arm and push up hard, leaping far over the Droideka’s heads.

He landed behind the Droidekas and turned at his waist, lightsaber flashing outward like a scythe cutting through the Droidekas at the waist from behind where their shield generator did not cover them with their powerful personal shields.

The Droidekas let out a horrid metallic shriek as they came apart at the waist and collapsed with a hard thud on the metal floor.

Anakin surveyed the carnage. Smoking droid parts littered the corridor and blackened walls were testament to the power of the droid blasters. He had not remembered moving that fast before. He was not even out of breath. He could feel the power flowing through him so easily as it should, obeying him. Using the Force was suddenly not a negotiation, not an exercise in meditation and focus. It flowed like water through him.

He turned his attention to the door. He could try to force it open. He smiled softly at the possibility of using the force to pry the blast door opens, relishing what it would feel like to move these giant metal doors with sheer will. But there were times for brute force and times for cunning. Obi Wan had imparted that to him many times.

Anakin preferred things quick and easy but here was one example where a little work paid off in a much better way.

He picked up one of the shattered battle droids and popped open a panel on its head. He accessed a few controls and smiled as he was rewarded with a chirping sound. He took the opened droid head and pressed it against the door access pad. The head chirped and the doors began to slide open with a heavy rumble.

Anakin smiled triumphantly and charged through the doors before they finished cycling open, lightsaber ignited.

The bridge was a mess of shattered controls and some crewmen were moaning, wounded and lying in clusters around crew stations. The Captain, wearing his Mandalorian battle armor was directing the healthy members of the bridge crew from the tangled mess of what remained of the controls. A support beam had crashed down from the ceiling and impaled itself in the center of the command walkway.

On the view port, Anakin could see the Valor’s Gaze pulling away quickly trying to get to a sea of specks trading fire far off in the distance.

“Focus all available batteries on the Dreadnought’s engines and tell that slime of a Trade Federation commander to get his ship into this fight now and stop holding back.” The Mandalorian turned as he continued speaking. “Report on the intrud—“ He did not hesitate as he caught sight of the glowing lightsaber and snapped up a blaster rifle and fired.

Anakin barely got his lightsaber up ion time and deflected the bolts as he stalked towards the captain.

“I’m sorry if I crashed your party.” Anakin said with a smirk as the Mandalorian captain activated his rocket pack and jumped backwards away from Anakin.





“More power to the shields.”

“Captain, anymore power to the shields and I canna guarantee that we can continue at full impulse power.” Scotty replied.

“Do the best you can, Mr. Scott.” Kirk snapped the communicator off and looked back on the screen. The Valor’s gaze was growing on the screen as both the Enterprise and the dreadnought were thundering towards each other.

“Time to intercept?”

“Three minutes.” Gary replied as he watched Lee’s face. Kelso was a tight mask of concentration as the rest of the world was gone, replaced only by his helm station and the screen where a rear view showed the Banking Guild corvette hot on their tale, shrugging off what little phaser power could be brought to bear on the target.

Gary doubted that Lee could keep this up for three minutes. All it would take would be one more direct hit and they were done for.

Spock glanced down as an alarm buzzed at his station.

“Sir, the shuttle bay doors have opened.”

“I didn’t authorize-”

The corvette was suddenly struck by a pair of concussion missiles that exploded against the quad guns tracking and firing on the Enterprise. A Jedi starfighter soared past the corvette pouring a steady stream of fire on the corvette’s main gun.

“Meerlinda.” Kirk breathed.

“Corvette is not breaking pursuit.” Spock reported calmly.

“She may provide the distraction we need to escape.” Number One noted.

Kirk watched, stomach in a knot of anxiety as he watched the tiny starfighter zipping around the corvette like a fly buzzing around a horse. The Corvette was so much larger, the only good point was that the quad mounted gun seemed to be its heaviest weapon, the other blasters were not even coming close to hitting the tiny fighter.

Kirk found himself fervently hoping that the beautiful Jedi knight did not end up paying the ultimate price for his gambit.





“I said more power to the engines.”

“If we do that Master Kenobi we will have to decrease the shield regeneration rate. Right now we’re barely keeping up with the damage as it is.” Leeto protested.

“And the other support ships?”

“They are being cornered by the Trade Federation battleship and other Banking Guild corvette. The Enterprise has been isolated from us. My navigator estimates a little more than two minutes before we can intercept.”

“That’s two minutes too long.” Obi Wan snapped.

Leeto’s snout drooped and he shook his head. “There are no other options available to us Master Kenobi.”

“There are always possibilities, Captain Leeto.” Obi Wan replied and nodded to himself as he came to a decision.

“All available power to the drive systems.”

“Master Kenobi our shields will be brought down in a matter of moments.” Leeto exclaimed.

“There’s a young man on board that ship on whom I trust my very life, he will see us through this.” Obi Wan replied.

Leeto hesitated and finally walked over to his engineering team to relay the order.

“You hear me Anakin, don’t let me down.” Obi Wan muttered to the air.





Anakin blocked the next volley of blasts and suddenly leapt upwards into the rafters where the Mandalorian was prowling about. He slid along one of the support beams, saber humming eagerly as he hunted the armored warrior.

The Mandalorian’s head and left arm whipped out from behind the nest of cables and automated systems and Anakin heard the whoosh of a pneumatic launcher. A shimmering crystal net was quickly spreading out like the wings of a bird, ready to envelop him.

Anakin held his ground and brought his saber down along the center of the net cutting it in two, each side of the net quickly becoming entangled in the beams and support structures around him. One of the stray ends of the net caught his ankle and Anakin’s entire leg went numb.

Anakin grunted in surprise and nearly lost his balance on the beam. He quickly let the Force flow to his limb, reinvigorating the numbed nerves.

The Mandalorian took this moment to launch another attack and drove a right cross into Anakin’s chin sending the young Jedi sprawling down from the beam. Anakin tucked in midair and rolled, landing on his feet with all the grace of a wounded duck. His leg was still numb, the Mandalorian must be using some sort of neural paralyzer that was powerful and fast acting.

Anakin brought his saber up without thinking and parried three quick darts that flashed down to his position from above as the Mandalorian followed this attack with a flying grapple using the rocket pack for added momentum.

“Like it, Jedi scum? Bactran eelfish produce one of the most lethal and fast acting neurotoxins in the galaxy. You only got a small taste but it should be enough to keep you hobbled.” The Mandalorian said in a cold monotone and drove a knee into Anakin’s gut doubling him over and followed up with a chop to the exposed neck.

Anakin fell flat on his stomach as the Mandalorian straightened his right arm and a cold metal blade sprang up from his wrist unit.

“One less Jedi in the galaxy.”

“You speak too soon, Mandalorian!” Anakin hissed and whipped his lightsaber out catching the Mandalorian in the ankle, slicing off his foot. The Mandalorian did not scream or exclaim instead he leapt backwards on his rocket pack bring his maimed leg up to hold it with his free hand as he unleashed a hellish torrent of fire with his free hand.

Anakin rolled backwards, the blaster bolts kicking up molten metal and smoke as they marched along after him. Anakin finally came to a stop at the open doors and brought his saber up just in time to catch the next volley of fire and redirected them back at the flying Mandalorian. The Mandalorian ducked under the redirected volley, one bolt exploded behind him sending him down to the floor where he landed with a thud.

Anakin brought his hand back, felt the wreckage around him with the Force, let it flow around him, his anger simmering just beneath the surface as he felt the numbness traveling up his leg like a lover’s hand and touched the right sized and weighted object. He flung his hand forward as if throwing a stone and half of a droideka rocketed past him. The Mandalorian groaned softly and started to rise when he looked up.

The Droideka wreckage struck him like a freight train and drove him back over the railing into the crew pit below.

Anakin smiled coldly as he felt the rest of the wreckage. There was an awful sound of wrenching metal and suddenly the wrecked droid army rose off the ground as one and began to hover over and around Anakin in a ring of steel.

“The rest of you get out of here now. If I were you I would make my way to the escape pods because there won’t be much chance of this ship escaping.”

The bridge crew exchanged quick glances and suddenly rushed out of the bridge, many carrying or helping the wounded, avoiding the ring of spinning steel around Anakin. Anakin strode forward feeling out with the force.

The Mandalorian popped up and fired a steady stream of fire at him. He did not even lift his saber, he allowed the wreckage of the ruined droids absorb the bolts as he got closer. The Mandalorian stood his ground aiming as best he could between the gaps in Anakin’s ring of steel but there was no way his bolts were getting through. The Mandalorian realized that Anakin was walking normally and there was a terrible purpose in his eyes.

“You think you have beaten me?” the Mandalorian hissed and activated his rocket. The switch clicked but nothing happened. The rocket motor was held in place by an invisible force. The Mandalorian glanced up sharply at the young Jedi knight.

“Next time I would not underestimate the power of the Force.” Anakin replied coldly and the ring of spinning droids tore into the Mandalorian. There was a short scream and then silence. Anakin finally relaxed and the droid wreckage collapsed all around him, many of the wrecks were smeared with blood.

Anakin casually jumped down into the crew pits and searched the various stations before finding the gunnery station. He let the Force guide his fingers as he typed in a string of coordinates and watched with satisfaction as the next several volleys suddenly switched over to a new target.





“Alright, all hands brace for—”

The Corvette behind them was struck amidships by a volley of heavy fire. The ship stopped dead in its tracks as another volley landed before the full effects of the first one were finished being felt. The Corvette exploded into a ring of fire and particles.

“What the?” Gary exclaimed.

“The volley came from the Mandalorian cruiser.” Spock reported.

“What’s happening?” Number One asked in surprise.

“Never mind that, get us in under the Valor’s Gaze and prepare to go to warp at my command.”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk looked at the screen that now switched to a forward view that was dominated by the Valor’s Gaze. The Mandalorian cruiser loomed over the Valor’s Gaze but was now switching fire over to the lone Trade Federation battleship.

“Well, that was unexpected.” Kirk breathed.





Obi Wan could not help but smile.

“Good work, Anakin.”

“Master Kenobi, the Trade Federation battleship and remaining corvette are retreating!” Leeto exclaimed.

“Excellent, Captain. Once the Enterprise is secured prepare a boarding party and we’ll take the Mandalorian cruiser.”

“Yes sir!” Leeto snapped a salute, his snout literally bouncing with barely suppressed joy.

“Commanders, we’re picking up a runaway reaction on board the Mandalorian cruiser.”

“Damn suicide switches.” Leeto cursed. “There’s a reason why we have never been successful in boarding or capturing a Mandalorian warship, Master Kenobi.”

Obi Wan blanched. He looked back at the Mandalorian cruiser on the view port.

“Anakin.” he whispered.




“Sir, the Mandalorian cruiser, I’m picking up a buildup towards detonation.” Spock warned.

“Captain, Jedi Farstrider is hailing us.” Uhura reported.

“Patch her through.”

“Captain, there’s a Jedi knight trapped on board the Mandalorian cruiser.”

Kirk nodded and looked over at the cruiser.

“How long until detonation, Spock.”

“It is difficult to tell, captain but I roughly estimate 30.5 seconds.”

“That’s roughly?” Kirk asked with a soft smile.

“I had to round up, my apologies, Captain.” Spock replied.

“That gives us just enough time.” Kirk replied.





“Well, that was unexpected.” Anakin noted sourly. He watched the countdown for a moment and made up his mind. He dowsed his lightsaber and quickly checked a schematic for the nearest escape pods. He jumped out of the crew pits and began racing out of the bridge down the main corridor and took the nearest emergency ladder, sliding down the edges of the ladder and landing on the next level. He fueled his speed with the Force and soon found himself in the nearest escape pod bay. He touched a screen to call up the pod controls but they refused to open.

“That can’t be.”

He checked the next pod. The controls remained dead. Realization dawned on him. The Mandalorians did not expect to survive if their ship was compromised. The escape pods were no longer available. No chance that cowardice might compromise their honor.

Bastards.

Anakin could feel the growing alarm in the Force. The explosion was going to happen any second now.

“Padme.” he whispered.

Suddenly he felt a lightness in his stomach and the universe was enveloped in glowing white light.

Anakin suddenly found himself on a pad and there was a young technician looking at him with a kind expression.

“Got you out of there sir.” she said and flicked on a control. “Transporter Room to bridge. I have Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker on our pad.”

“Good work, transporter room, have Jedi Skywalker come up to the Bridge as soon as he is able.”

“Aye aye sir.” she replied and looked back at Anakin.

“What is this?” Anakin asked.

“A transporter, sir. We beamed you back from the Mandalorian cruiser, just in time too sir as the ship just went up.”

Anakin blinked and looked down at the pad.

“You DISINTEGRATED me?” Anakin asked in horror.

The technician shrugged meekly.

“We did reintegrate you sir.”

Anakin felt sick.






The Enterprise, Valor’s Gaze and her support ships all left the system, mission accomplished, but a sea of wreckage remained behind as yet another battle in the Clone war was won and lost.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 11:03am
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Chapter 7: Quiet Contemplation

“O woe is me, to have seen what I have seen, to see what I see!”
Hamlet
Act 3, scene i



The house was old, pre WWIII, wood still in the frame and the cold bled through the walls sometimes during the winter. There were so many sounds, squeaks, groans, shudders so that the house sometimes sounded alive. There was a well tended garden out in the back and an enclosed glass arboretum attached to the house.

A simple cobblestone path led up from the single lane road to the front of the house nestled in at the edge of the woods.

A fireplace was lit, warm crackling fire lit the interior of the study. Long tall oak bookshelves hugged the walls of the study, every single shelf was taken up by books, no space remained for a single volume of anything else, but the books themselves were neatly organized by categories only known by the owner.

Two men sat quietly, each one in a tall antique velvet chair facing the fireplace. A simple table stood between both men and a silver teapot and two porcelain tea cups with saucers were arranged on the table. A small silver container of cream and a bowl of sugar cubes sat off to the side of the pot.

A light clinking broke the silence, one of them was stirring the contents of his tea cup and he gently placed the small spoon down by the teapot.

“Tell me something, Christopher, when did you decide to lose your sense of adventure and wonder?” The older man asked seriously. He wore a thick white cardigan sweater and khaki pants. A pair of loafers completed his attire’s call for the past. He wore a pair of glasses perched on his nose. His salt and pepper hair was thick but kept neat and well groomed. He looked like the picture of the perfect old time university professor.

Captain Christopher Pike sat opposite his mentor and oldest friend retired Fleet Captain Robert April, first starship captain and first Captain of the Enterprise. Pike had first studied under April as a cadet and served with him as an officer.

Robert April was a living legend in Starfleet. He had founded many of the principles that governed starship Captains, he had shaped and formed that brotherhood of officers and Starfleet was in his image. There was no denying his influence in the organization and even in the Federation.

Starfleet was first conceived as a military organization for the defense of the Federation, it was Robert April who led the charge to change the emphasis to exploration and first contact missions. Starfleet became an organization of diplomats and scientists that could become soldiers in times of crisis, instead of soldiers and warriors that were part time diplomats and explorers,

Many claimed that April was a man dedicated to peace and science as a matter or principle and they were usually correct but the true driving force for April’s opposition to a militaristic Starfleet was the Earth-Romulan war that his father and grandfather fought in. The bloodshed was horrendous. Many Earth families had at least one family member who lost their lives in that awful conflict, and April as a young boy growing up had seen the aftereffects on his father, his grandfather had died in the conflict and he swore that Earth would never wage war again if he could help it.

He did not want any more children to see their fathers reduced to broken men.

Pike was looking down into his own teacup, eyes distant and detached.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He replied.

April frowned.

“How long have I known you?”

“Since the academy.”

“Since the day I called on you in Ethics and you gave me one of the best answers I ever heard in response to my question on the ethical duties of a starship captain.”

Pike smiled softly.

April reached out to his old friend and gripped his forearm.

“Chris, tell me what’s wrong.” April urged.

Pike looked up at his old friend and slowly took a sip of tea and very deliberately put it down on the table.

“On one of my last missions I diverted the Enterprise to Talosia. It’s a borderline class M world and we were responding to a distress signal from an old Earth explorer ship that went down on that world.” Pike began his voice even but April could see the tightness along his jaw and the haunted expression in his eyes. “There we were ambushed by a race, the Talosians who took me underground into a sort of menagerie where they proceeded to torture me with visions they could project directly into my mind.”

April nodded slowly. He had heard some rumors about this mission through back channels.

“I spent my time fighting them, they tried to break my will get me to do as they wanted and start a new race on the surface of the planet using this poor broken girl as my eve. You can’t imagine what it was like to not know what was real and what was not.”

“No, I can’t.” April replied quietly.

“That experience was harrowing enough for me, Robert. But it wasn’t really the torture or experiences on Talosia that have affected me. It’s the questions that they spurred in me.”

“What sort of questions?”

Pike took a deep breath and sat back in his chair. April watched the shadows under his friend’s eyes.

“Is this worth it, Robert? We’re sending young men and women out into the void with hardly a second thought as to what kind of price we’ll pay. I could have been trapped on a planet where I would never know the difference between reality and fantasy. My ship could have been destroyed to cover up the deception and hundreds would have died at the whim of some aliens. What did we gain from that encounter? Was the Federation bettered in any way by that mission, did we come away with some technological development, a new civilization to join us, anything? I’ll tell you what we gained, a general Order that instituted the only death penalty in Federation law.”

April remained impassive.

“So what the hell did we gain Robert? It seems to me that if we had never gone to Talosia the Federation would be a far better place. People would not have been put at risk to die for nothing.”

“Chris.”

“No, let me finish. Space exploration has claimed more human life in this last half century than in all the other centuries combined. What does that tell you? We’re hurling ourselves out there and I’m afraid that people are so enamored by these starships and the new technology that they’re not giving a single thought to the human element, to the lives being spent out there.”

“And you’re the first Starship captain to think about this?” April asked neutrally.

“Don’t get sanctimonious on me, Robert. Because you were the first of us, I’m supposed to think that you’ve seen and done it all.”

April leaned forward in his chair slightly.

“You listen to me, Chris. I was in space when you’re father was dealing with acne. Let me tell you this right now, no one has EVER said that space exploration would be safe or that people would not die. But this Federation and every Starfleet officer that has taken the oath joined with the understanding that we were going to reach out and discover new life forms and new civilizations. That we were not going to the stars as soldiers but as scientists. We were going to explore the mysteries of the universe and the universe jealously guards her secrets.”

“Why? What’s the point of it?” Pike exclaimed suddenly.

April jerked backwards at the sudden exclamation from the subdued Pike.

“Christopher Pike!” A woman interjected in shock.

Pike looked around, suddenly subdued again and looking slightly cowed. A beautiful woman walked into the room, she was beautiful even now in her advanced age, silver haired flowed freely behind her and she wore a simple dress but she moved with a sublime grace and her piercing blue eyes were nearly hypnotic.

Gwendolyn April was a treasure. She married Robert April after his last tour of duty on the Enterprise where she had served as Chief medical Officer. Gwen had been a good friend to Christopher, always an encouraging word and a warm hug. Many said that she was like Pike’s surrogate mother, always the first to send him congratulations, always waiting for him on the rare occasions he returned to Earth.

She was also undoubtedly Robert April’s soul mate. The word was archaic and many more cynical friends of Pike always scoffed at this word, but Pike thought that if such a pair existed that could claim to be soul mates, Gwen and Robert were that pair.

“Gwen, I apologize.” Pike replied softly.

April waved at his wife to drop it.

She ignored him as she was wont to do.

“Christopher, I have these Azaleas in the back and they are in desperate need of some weeding, but there are a few weeds that are simply refusing to come loose. Maybe you can help me uproot them.”

“Gwen, you could just beam them out of there or –“

“Robert April, when I want your advice on gardening I’ll ask for it thank you very much. How about it Christopher, care to help an old lady with some drab chores?” She asked, patting him warmly on the shoulder.

Pike smiled and nodded.

“Anything for you Gwen, although I would hardly call you old.” Pike replied and stood up out of his chair.

“You’re too kind my young man but both Robert and I are what you would call ancient, perhaps even decrepit.”

April snorted and pulled out a pipe from a pouch next to his chair, lightly tapping it against his hand.

“You’re still the best friends a man can have.” Pike replied with a warm smile.

“You go on and do some gardening. I’ll be here.” April added and lit his pipe. Christopher walked out with Gwendolyn leaving April to puff pensively on his pipe. What was it all for? A question he did not have the heart to tell Christopher that he still asked himself on dark days.






“As you were.”

“Acknowledged, Captain.”

Captain Jean Luc Picard sat in his command chair and waited patiently as all stations reported ready for the crossing over. The space ahead of them looked like any other star field. There was no sign that it was the entrance to an intergalactic wormhole that would lead them to another place inconceivably far away. It was the fruition of Picard’s dream to be a true explorer, to go where no man had gone before.

Sev’Rance Tan stood stoically by his side as the assembled Trade Federation fleet surrounded DS9, technicians and droids covered the station, converting it for use in the other galaxy, new weapons systems, a power core the likes of which Federation science had never even conceived of and a shield grid that astounded some of the more tactically minded in Starfleet.

Events were unfolding at a near break neck pace and despite the protestations to the contrary, Picard was almost certain that this fact finding mission he had been assigned to was nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Federation’s involvement in the war.

The promise of the technology that the Separatists offered was simply too great to be ignored. Deep Space Nine for example would be converted into a veritable fortress that could hold off entire fleets by itself. Imagine what other developments were laying in wait for them.

Picard was not so concerned about the technology. His concerns were more material and personal. The same technology that made the Separatists such attractive allies and trade partners also made their enemies, the Galactic Republic especially deadly.

The cost in lives for this war would make the losses projected in a war against the Dominion pale in comparison. But why was no one listening? Picard wondered.

“Alls systems report ready, Captain. We are standing by for passage.” Data reported.

“Very good, Mr. Data. All ahead, full impulse.”

“Can you feel it Captain? The excitement in the air of your bridge? Your ship and crew will be welcomed with open arms by my people and we will forge an alliance that crosses both space and time.” Sev’Rance said lowly to Picard.

“Indeed.” Picard replied neutrally. Sev’Rance eyed him curiously, her glowing red eyes narrowing slightly on the back of his head.

“Approaching spatial distortion, gravimetric readings are off the scale. Quantum particles increasing exponentially.” Data continued as the ship entered the wormhole.

“All hands brace for—”

Picard was blinded for a moment by a brilliant flash of light. He glanced around the bridge and noticed that the crew was frozen in mid motion. Many were speaking or reporting their findings, mouths frozen in the act of speaking.

He glanced back at Sev’Rance Tan and she too was standing stock still behind him, eyes intent on him.

The light pulsed around him like an ocean, crashing steadily against the shore, accompanied by a deep rhythmic beating like some awesome heart.

“We come as emissaries of peace.”

“And you leave here as gods of war.”
A voice replied icily. An explosion ripped across his field of vision. Picard jumped back in his seat.

Data noted his internal chronometer had stopped. He glanced around and noticed the rest of the bridge crew was frozen in place. He heard a chorus of voices around him, speaking over each other and rising in volume.

He tried to discern the various voices and what they were saying, but for some reason his audio receptors could not perform the function.

The rising chorus was drowned out by a single conversation.

“This plan is inherently flawed due to many reasons, primarily because I will never accede to your wishes.” Data heard his own voice speaking.

“You are just a machine, Commander. Machines are designed to carry out the will of true living things.” The voice was old and cold.

“I will resist.”

“What is it that those enemies of yours, the Borg are fond of saying? Oh yes, resistance is futile.”


Date blinked and ran an immediate self diagnostic.

Deanna was looking over at Sev’Rance Tan when they entered the wormhole. The woman had an iron grip on her emotions and thoughts, but something had leaked through and her curiosity was peeked. Deanna suddenly found herself the only person aware that everyone else was frozen in place, even their emotions were cut off, as if she were sitting apart from the others, isolated and alone.

She heard a whisper, off to her right. Someone was speaking, in low hushed tones and she strained to listen.

“This isn’t right somehow.”

“I should not be feeling this way either, I love someone else, but when I look at you, I am confused.”

“When I look at you, all I can think about is being with you.”

“You have a word for that.”

“Imzadi.” She replied hesitantly.


Deanna shook her head emphatically, trying desperately to clear her mind of the disturbing thoughts.

Will Riker was starting to speak when he noticed that the rest of the bridge crew was frozen in place. He was confused. What was happening?

A hush of voices interrupted his thoughts. He quickly scanned the bridge, searching for the source of the words. He looked into Deanna’s face and saw the frozen expression of surprise on her face. He was suddenly swept up the love he had for her.

They were supposed to be married soon, but with the dawning of the Dominion war the plans had been postponed, but now with this new war on the horizon, he doubted they could get married anytime soon.

She deserved so much better.

“You thought I was an idiot that I couldn’t see what you were doing? What you felt about her?” His own voice suddenly spoke, in a low clipped tone.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Riker.” A stranger replied sullenly.

“You know precisely what I’m talking about.” He heard himself shout back. There was a frightening fury in his voice.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“End this travesty and the betrayal once and for all.”

“Will no!” Deanna shouted


Riker was stunned. What was that all about? It sounded so real, as if he had been outside his body listening to the conversation.

Just as suddenly as it happened the Enterprise’s bridge was back in action.

Picard recovered from his fugue state, hiding his confusion he snapped into action.

“Status?”

“All systems are nominal, Captain.” Data reported.

“Would you look at that.” Riker commented.

The view screen displayed a fleet assembled that inspired awe struck silence from the bridge crew. Enormous warships were floating leisurely in tight formations around the wormhole.

“The Separatist defensive fleet, Captain. They are here to protect the wormhole at all costs, at least until Deep Space Nine takes up a defensive position at the wormhole. It will free up a majority of this fleet back into the war effort.”

“Of course you mean IF Deep Space Nine takes up station here.” Picard added sternly.

Sev’Rance blinked.

“Of course, Captain. I have a tendency to get ahead of myself.” She replied airily. Deanna’s eyes narrowed on the female Chiss. There was more to her words, an burst of dark anger, almost fury.

“Captain we’re being hailed.”

“On screen.”

A Numedian appeared on the screen, bowing slightly to the bridge crew he began speaking in the thick accent that the others had grown accustomed to.

“A most gracious welcome to our potential Federation allies. I am Fleet Commander Numus Dalas. It is a pleasure and honor to welcome you to our galaxy Captain Jean Luc Picard.”

“Thank you Fleet Commander Numus Dalas. The Enterprise is honored to be invited into your space and I hope that this mission will help foster an understanding between our people that will be the basis for a partnership.”

“Indeed, Captain. I have no doubt that the freedom loving peoples of the Federation will recognize the intrinsic values that we share and see that alliance is inevitable.”

“We shall indeed see, Fleet Commander.”

“Sev’Rance Tan, Count Dooku expects you to remain on the Enterprise as his direct representative until you arrive at the new headquarters. Coordinates will be shuttled over to you as soon as we can.”

“Shuttled over?” Riker asked curiously.

“Unfortunately, Commander Riker, we cannot even risk the slightest chance at interception by Republic forces. So far we have remained in a stalemate with them because of our tighter security and the resourcefulness of our own espionage division. But make no mistake about it, if they ever got wind of the location of our base of operations they would waste no time in utterly destroying the planet.” Sev’Rance replied calmly.

“We have never forgotten their surprise attack on Geonosis which touched off these hostilities. They gambled everything on stopping our movement in its infancy with a military strike but our leadership managed to escape and the movement survived, but the Republic was exposed for what it was.” Numus explained bitterly. Picard glanced over at Deanna who nodded. The Fleet commander was being honest, down to his bitterness at the Republic. So far, Picard had yet to encounter any subterfuge regarding the Republic’s complicity in this conflict and the claims of political oppression.

“Please, allow Captain Picard to come to his own conclusions, Fleet Commander.” Sev’Rance interjected.

“Of course,” the Fleet Commander bowed his head. “Now I will be dispatching a shu-”

There was a loud commotion behind the Commander and suddenly one of his aides rushed to his side in view of the screen and said something quickly in the Numedian language.

The commander replied quickly, surprise and anger both mixed in his words.

“Commander what’s wrong?” Sev’Rance asked.

“Many apologies, but we have just received word that a Republic taskforce has emerged in the Helvanna system and are engaging the base there.”

“Damn.” Sev’Rance spat.

“All ships available must be scrambled to defend the convoy there and our fleet is the closest to the engagement area.”

“Do we have any choice then?”

“Excuse me for interrupting but what military significance does Helvanna have?” Picard asked.

“Helvanna is a militarily unimportant system on the fringes of both Republic and Separatists space. However Helvanna has been designated as a way station for refugee ships and supply convoys heading out to the Rim.”

“That’s all?”

“You underestimate the Republic’s desire to crush both our military and our spirit. While the loss of Helvanna will hardly affect our war effort, it will result in the deaths of millions of civilians that we have sworn to protect. Every day people flee from the Republic recognizing the oppressive regime for what it is thanks in part to our own efforts. We cannot then turn our backs on these people after we helped them recognize the evil in their midst. They come to Helvanna so that we can take them to Rim worlds where they will be out of the way of most of the major engagements.”

“Isn’t this against the rules of warfare?” Riker asked.

Sev’Rance glanced down sharply at Riker.

“Commander Riker, what are these rules of Galactic warfare? Before this conflict began there was only the Galactic Republic. There was no need to codify rules of war. We are waging this war as honorably as we can, but the Republic’s war is not just on the field of battle but it is also on its streets, trying to win the hearts and minds of the people that doubt it.”

“Hardly seems a rational course of action if the Republic is trying to win the support of its populace.” Picard noted.

“What are you trying to get at Captain.”

“A feint.” Riker breathed.

‘Think on it, Sev’Rance. The only ships within range of Helvanna are in this fleet. Helvanna goes against a rational strategy that would want to win the support of the people but they know that you cannot take that chance. So you dispatch this fleet to protect Helvanna but the true fleet is on its way here.”

Sev’Rance stared hard at Picard.

“Sev’Rance we must go now if we want to get to Helvanna in time to save those people.” The Fleet Commander urged.

“This is the only rational reason for this attack. I refuse to believe that they would attack defenseless civilians within range of a fleet such as this. Even their victory would be a pyrric one because you would have damning evidence of the Republic’s attack and they would lose yet more support. This is a feint.” Picard urged.

“How can you be sure? You have not even seen the Republic’s forces in action? You do not know how bloody this war has been.” Sev’Rance replied quietly. Her glowing red eyes however betrayed that she was beginning to see Picard’s point.

Riker looked from Picard to Sev’Rance. These people may have been fighting a war but so far he was not impressed with their basic military acumen. He was beginning to see that the impression they were trying to impose on them may have been a true one. They were simply a group of Separatists fighting to survive the Republic juggernaut. These were not military men, well except for the Mandalorians but they were definitely in the minority and he was beginning to see why the other defaulted to them in all matters military.

They needed good solid leadership if they were going to survive this.

Something else bugged him about this though, something that buzzed in the back of his mind. But what was it?

“If you’re wrong…”

“If I were in command then I would take the responsibility for the death of millions, but if I am not in command. I am pointing out to you that if you take the bait you will open up this wormhole to attack and you would lose the only lifeline you have to our galaxy.”

Sev’Rance looked up at the screen. Numus looked horrified.

“You cannot be serious, Sev’Rance! I have a family passing through Helvanna. We all do. This would be a slaughter.”

“And if it is indeed a feint, we could lose our only ally and new source of trade and raw materials in this war.”

“Who is in command of the Republic Forces in this sector?” Sev’Rance asked, an idea coming to her mind.

Numus shook his head, visibly distressed and checked something off screen.

“How long before we pass the point of commitment?” Picard asked Sev’Rance quietly.

“Another 4 maybe 5 minutes before the fleet would reach Helvanna in time. Our early warning network is spread very thin across the galaxy, particularly out here near the Rim. If we were closer to the core we would have at least a few hours warning.” Sev’Rance replied.

Picard nodded and exchanged a knowing look with Riker.

“I would suggest that your fleet go to battle stations, the Republic attack will come soon after that point of no return.”

Sev’Rance looked down at Picard, a masked expression of admiration on her face.

“Will they not be able to detect this fleet here?” Data asked.

“Of course!” Riker exclaimed.

“Sev’Rance if we are indeed going to go with the assumption that it is a feint we need to draw them in. They would not be feinting if they had the sufficient fire power and ships to overcome this fleet. We can turn this feint around on them and set a trap.”

“You mean seem as if we have taken the bait?”

“Yes.”

“Sev’Rance, the fleet commander of this sector is Yuess Fane.”

“Fane is a fop and a fool. What about the Jedi?”

“Jedi Master Corvuss Naz.”

“Naz….that Wiley old goat has seen more action than ten other Jedi Masters. He put down the rebellion at Kazan with a feint to their center.” Sev’Rance mused.

“Sev’Rance, my ship captains are begging to be released for battle. We are passing the point of decision.”

Sev’Rance looked down at Picard then back to Numus. She could feel the weight of decision on her shoulders. Millions of lives versus the wormhole were her tow options. She grew angry and in her anger the road became clear as her insight flashed and she saw a brief vision. A cold smile came to her lips for a brief moment.

“Fleet Commander Dalas, prepare the fleet for hyperspace, plot a course three light years from here.”

“Three light years?” Numus asked in surprise.

“Yes, we need the fleet to be out of here but ready to jump back into the system as soon the Republic forces arrive.”

“You actually believe that assertion?”

“I represent Count Dooku. This order comes from him. Now carry it out, Fleet Commander. Also make sure that two Trade Federation battleships remain behind as security, they will warn us when the time is right.” Sev’Rance seemed to grow taller as she spoke and the Fleet commander nodded hesitantly.

“Of course, milady.” He bowed his head and the screen switched off.

“Will that give us enough distance?” Picard asked.

“The incoming Republic fleet will come out of hyperspace nearly blind, but they have will scan as soon as they emerge. A short range scan will reveal nothing in system.”

“And as soon as your battleships see them come out of hyperspace they’ll alert us.”

“With precise coordinates from them we will be able to jump in and seal their avenue of escape.” Sev’Rance finished with a triumphant smile.

“The Enterprise will accompany your fleet out and back into battle.”

Sev’Rance looked down at Picard, red eyes flashed.

“You are committing your starship to battle? I thought it was frowned upon during your time here.”

Picard nodded hesitantly and rubbed his chin.

“Any government that would use its own civilian population as a tool of war must not be allowed to impose their will on those trying to be free.” Picard replied.

Sev’Rance nodded.

“As you wish, Captain Picard. A pity however Jean Luc.” She added in a near whisper leaning over his chair.

“How so?” Picard asked.

“I wanted to show you the wonders of this galaxy, to show you the tings that made our faction worthy of independence and freedom. Instead, your first experience with us is the sting of battle. I am truly sorry.”

Picard looked up at her and smiled. She was beautiful in this light, her soft blue skin nearly shimmered, partially illuminated by her red eyes.

“There will be time for the grand tour later. Besides, this will not be the first time I’ve been introduced to new life forms and civilizations in battle. Let’s concentrate on winning this battle and then we can discuss wonders.”

“Very well Captain. We shall see to that.” Sev’Rance replied with a soft laugh. Riker smiled to himself. It seemed that Captain Picard had himself an admirer.

Deanna was not as happy, her eyes did not leave the Chiss woman. There was something behind the levity and smile, something dark and hungry.





He sighed softly as he found himself hanging off the wooden frame, each arm draped over the horizontal bar that ran across his back. The cornfield stretched out at his feet as far as the horizon, the corn stalks were old and starting to whither, no one had tended to them in a season.

Not that anyone really tended to them at all.

“Yes, well we’ve all been the scarecrow at one point or another, haven’t we?” He spat derisively. He slowly unwound his arms from the wooden bar and gruffly leapt down from the stand. He brushed off his pants and looked around. The sun had started to set.

“This is not exactly helpful, stubborn bastard.” He grunted and started to walk back towards the small town just over the hill to the west where the single road led in and out.

His thoughts were in a storm of confusing questions and options.

“Problems?” a young man asked off to the side of a copse of trees at the edge of the cornfield.

“I don’t have time for your questions, I assume they sent you.”

“Of course they did, when do we ever do anything on our own initiative?”

He glanced up sharply at the young man.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you do. But then again where has that gotten you?”

“At least I try to understand, I try to be involved in life.”

“Life?” the young man chortled. “Life is what they call those so called complex chemical reactions? Why do you even bother?”

He paused for a moment and examined the young man’s face.

“You wouldn’t understand if I told you.” He snorted and turned to walk.

“I am as in tune with the universe as you are. You really think there’s something we missed that you did not? Last time I checked you were the youngest of us. You presume much.”

“Presumption has always been my biggest sin.”

“I thought you gave up being the scarecrow?” the young man asked as he glanced curiously back at the wooden stand.

“It wasn’t my idea. The old man did not take to my tone or news well.”

“Have a little more respect. The rest of us thought that he carried too much of a burden with you.”

“I’m a burden! He chose to have a child!”

“Calm yourself. These emotional outbursts are more appropriate to those animals you like to play with so much.”

He took a deep breath and looked back at the young man.

“I take it the rest of you don’t particularly care for what’s happening?”

“Care is an odd word to chose.”

“No, it’s the precise correct word. He is out there and he is creating the circumstances that will cause such bloodshed that it will be the twilight for two galaxies. Surely even you short sighted cretins can see that?”

“Short sighted? Short sighted is ignoring the fact that YOU are responsible. Now you run around like some runaway paradox begging for assistance from those that warned you and you expect us to take action?”

“Yes!”

“I’m sorry, but I am here to tell you that any more rabble rousing will be met with much sterner action than what you have experienced before. You will watch the events unfold that you caused.”

“I did not cause them!”

The younger man smiled softly.

“Q, really, you need to peer past simple causality, you are most decidedly not human and not constrained by such simple laws of the universe.”

“I refuse to accept responsibility for this.”

“Isn’t that the story of your life?” The young man replied coldly.

The two stood in the cornfield as the sun set.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 11:06am
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Chapter 8: Meeting Engagement

“Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt”
Measure for Measure
Act 1, scene iv





“Status?”

“The Republic fleet is inbound just as you predicted Captain Picard. ETA six minutes from emergence.”

“We would never have been able to turn around in time when we discovered this trick.” Sev’Rance added with a cold grimace.

“We will soon see where this goes.” Picard replied.

“Sir, I’m reading quite a sizable force, considering our tactical disadvantages do you think it’s such a good idea to get involved in this battle?” Riker asked Picard seriously.

“Will, we’re already involved.” Picard replied sternly as he locked eyes with his first officer.

“I don’t see it that way sir, we are part of a fact finding mission and by entering this battle you have unilaterally chosen up sides without seeing the other side of the equation, and my primary concern is that the Enterprise is no match for the republic warships. One stray direct hit from their big guns and we would be reduced to molecules.”

Picard frowned slightly. He chose Riker as his first officer precisely because he was not afraid to speak his mind but sometimes the things he said could be difficult to hear. It was true that his orders were clear that he was there to ascertain the conditions of this galaxy and the Separatists movement but the Council had already signed a treaty with the Separatists. It was a near certainty that they were coming into this war on their side, making this mission essentially an olive branch to those that had wanted more time to decide or were afraid they were being dragged into a war that they had no business being part of.

Picard saw the realities, Riker was still stuck on the formalities of the issue.

Or so he hoped.

“Will, the fact that the Republic threatened a purely civilian target in order to destroy this wormhole shows me that they have no interest in talking with us and more importantly prove the point made by the Separatists that the Republic is a threat to the civilians in their own government.”

Riker shook his head slowly.

“I don’t see it that way, but you’re the captain. That still doesn’t answer the issue about placing us in danger.”

“Captain, if I may, perhaps your first officer is correct. Beam me over to one of our flagships and I will oversee the battle. The Enterprise can remain here and observe the battle. It would not be a boon to our diplomatic relationship if the first starship the Federation sends across is destroyed in battle.” Sev’Rance interjected gently.

Picard looked from his first officer to Sev’Rance.

He straightened his uniform and stood up.

“Mr. Data, prepare to engage warp engines. Mr. Hawk, all weapons are to be armed, tubes loaded and shields at maximum intensity.”

“Aye sir.”

Picard glanced back at Riker and Sev’Rance.

“I will be damned if I’m going to sit back and watch brave people fighting and dying because we’re outmatched. The Enterprise may have a surprise or two left in her for this fight.”

“Aye sir.” Riker nodded curtly but obviously not convinced.

Sev’Rance watched the First Officer with a hooded expression. He would prove difficult, she surmised.

Troi watched the Chiss woman out of the corner of her eyes while pretending to be concentrating on the screen. Sev’Rance Tan was quite adept at holding her emotions at bay but she could sense the rage there, the anger that hummed through her like a the notes on a violin. There was a danger in that anger that had Troi on edge. Even more suspiciously she had not detected this anger or self control among the other Separatists. They truly believed in their cause, even the Mandalorians fore all their bravado had joined the cause because they too feared the growing power of the Republic and its descent to despotism.

Troi knew that there was some other agenda on Sev’Rance’s mind but she could not perceive it. She also agreed with Will, the Captain was undertaking a risky move.

“Republic Forces two minutes from Hyperspace emergence.” Data warned.

“Sev’Rance?” Picard motioned to the communications display.

“All vessels standby for jump to light speed. I want all heavy vessels to emerge in a Vara Crescent. Fourth and Fifth squadrons take the middle and engage nearest Republic forces.”

“Acknowledged Sev’Rance.”

“I’m not sure about you commanding from this ship, you really should be on a flagship.”

“But I am, Captain. I am on the Federation flagship.” Sev’Rance replied with a warm smile. “If we are to be allies then the Federation flagship will be one of our own.”

Picard nodded.

“Very well.”

Sev’Rance smiled and glanced down at her tactical display.

“All ships make the jump to light speed.”





The Centurion popped out of hyperspace leading the Republic armada right behind it. A tight wall like formation of massive dreadnoughts, light cruisers and smaller escort vessels moved forward with deadly intent. Moments after emerging from hyperspace, the larger vessels began disgorging their fighter compliments.

Z-95 headhunters, mixed with small compliments of other sector planetary system security forces formed up quickly and efficiently, fanning out to form protective screens along the flanks of the fleet and a small attack wing quickly surged forward composed solely of Z-95 headhunters accompanying attack bombers. The bombers were a new model that was only just entering service, long and sleek with large powerful engines swept along the sides the Y-Wing was the first dedicated strike bomber created by the Republic in over a thousand years.

“Careful now, those are two Trade Federation battleships. Their may not have the weapons load out that we have but their shields more than compensate for this. We will need to coordinate our attacks.” Jedi Master Corvuss Naz stated grimly as he examined the disposition of the Separatist’s fleet. The two Trade Federation battleships were doing the only thing they could do. They were quickly collapsing in on each other for fire support and launching their fighters.

They already knew this fight was lost, he could feel it despite the gulf between the ships and him, the Force was strong in him and he could feel their despair singing along the surface of the Force. He did not need to use the Force to tell him that however, two converted freighters versus a dedicated Republic task force was hardly a challenge.

The question was how quickly they could defeat this security force and fulfill their primary objective.

“This will be over soon my good Jedi and we can return to our duties back home. I do so detest deploying my fleets far from home.” Yuess Fane commented dryly.

Corvuss fought the urge to grimace. The Bothan was renowned as a power broker and his political base was impressive, in his home sector, but he was nothing more than a fop.

Yuess smiled vacantly and watched the Jedi mater in his drab brown robes as he moved between bridge stations with an intense stride. Corvuss was obsidian skinned, white within white eyes that could be so unnerving when they gazed into your own. He was a consummate Jedi Master, calm, cool, efficient. He was also one of the few masters with actual war time experience out on the Rim. He had been in several civil wars and mediated trade disputes that had turned or were going to turn into shooting wars. He had predicted that the Separatist movement would eventually lead to a civil war but had been quietly sanctioned by the Jedi Council and sent off to the deepest parts of the Rim where his voice could not be heard.

After the Battle of Geonosis the Jedi quickly scoured their ranks for war leaders and the name that topped most of those lists was one Corvuss Naz. The Council asked him to return to Coruscant and begin a career as a general. Naz did not ever say anything about his warnings, no ‘I told you so’ he simply nodded his head and obeyed.

Fane thought that was such a stupid attitude to have. If it had been him he would have held it over the heads of the council until the war was over. All the collected wisdom of the greatest Jedi masters and they could not see what Corvuss had predicted ever since the battle of Naboo.

Fane liked the Jedi master despite his dour serious nature. Besides, ever since Corvuss came on board to command his fleet they had known nothing but victory and that was a rarity for Republic forces. Those victories would be turned to political capital after the war and that made Fane very happy. It did not matter to Fane that Naz had essentially taken command all to himself instead of the joint command mandated by the Supreme Chancellor for large fleets. Naz was a fighter, Fane would benefit from those victories.

“Watch that flanking maneuver.” Corvuss urged his command staff, pointing to a large formation of droid fighters that were circling dangerously close to the strike force.

“Master Naz, the Trade Federation battleships have not yet opened fire, we are in range.” the tactical officer reported.

“They’re just holding their fire for one concentrated attack as we draw closer. They need to make every shot count. I intend to not give them that option.” Naz replied and nodded to the squadron commander. The squadron commander spoke into his commike.

“All wings, begin attack run.”

The fighters and Y-Wings suddenly surged forward, engines flaring brightly as they accelerated into the Separatists formation. The Battleships immediately began pouring a steady stream of fire into the approaching swarm. Blossoms of fire erupted in the darkness of space among the starfighters.

“Have the Bellicose and the Mandate move in on this vector.” Naz pointed to a point in space on the holodisplay of the battlefield floating casually in the center of the command deck. “I want heavy support fire, try to draw off some of the fire from our fighters and start chipping away at those shields.”

“Yes, master Naz.”

Fane slunk over to Naz’s side.

“Tell me old friend, why don’t we just surge in as one, overwhelm them with our raw numbers and complete our mission. These battleships are merely a bonus, the true mission is collapsing that wormhole behind them.”

Naz nodded as he watched the first wing of Y-Wings peel away in formation as blue streaks flashed away towards the battleships.

“We may out number and out gun them but getting mixed up into a brawl is precisely what they will want, there will be so many of our ships in the mix that the chances of friendly fire increase exponentially. The confusion will only serve to keep them functional long enough to actually hurt us. This way I can guarantee a kill with minimal casualties on our part and then we can turn our attention to the wormhole.”

“Master Naz, I like the way you think.” Naz nodded but could not help the shadow of a smile that tugged at the ends of his lips. Fane was a fop but a likeable one. Naz had dealt with far worse in his life.

“Besides, I have a strange feeling.”

“Oh?”

“Somehow this all does not feel right.”

“What do you mean? This is precisely what you planned to draw the Separatists fleet away.”

“I know.” Naz muttered. “But there’s something amiss here.”

The first wave of proton torpedoes crashed against the shields of the battleships. Explosions rippled along the front of both ships, engulfing them in light and fire for a moment then the vacuum quickly squelched the blasts and the battleships continued their oppressive wall of fire against the fighters.

“Their shields are holding.”

“I didn’t expect the new Y-Wings to be so effective as to take their shields out in one wave, we just have to keep at it boys.” Naz replied.

“I have stock in Koensayr. I was about to sell it off after Geonosis, I’m glad I didn’t.” Fane added.

Naz eyed the Bothan critically.

“It wasn’t easy for Koensayr to back out of the Secessionist movement you know. They had to leave the Corporate Alliance they had been part of since their founding.”

“Sienar and Kuat had no problems leaving.” Fane countered.

“It helps when you get exclusive supply contracts with the Republic. Koensayr was given no such promises. The Y-Wing is essentially their audition to be added to the military supplier core of the remaining corporations still loyal to the Republic.” Naz replied with a soft sigh.

An alarm buzzed.

“We have a hyperpsace emergence in sector 14!” the tactical officer warned and glanced over at Naz with an alarmed expression. “A Separatist fleet.”

Naz frowned.

“Alright, now it gets interesting.” he muttered. “Tactical I want a detailed analysis of their attack patterns.” Naz barked and strode down to the center station.

“The Separatists forces are deploying a tight Vara Crescent.”

“Are at least twp squadrons detached towards the center?” Naz asked pointedly.

“Yes, yes there are two squadrons of light warships breaking towards the center.”

Naz smiled coldly as he looked out at the view port at the looming Separatist fleet.

“Sev’Rance Tan I presume. Her opening gambits should be required reading by our line officers.”

“THE Sev’Rance Tan?” Fane stammered.

Naz quickly walked over to Fane and pulled him along towards the back of the command deck.

“The men are already panicking because of this turn of events, we don’t need them seeing fear in their commander. Pull it together and help me control this situation. I’m going to need all my concentration to help me with this battle.”

Fane nodded slowly. He had never seen Naz so serious and that told him that the odds had suddenly shifted very badly against them. Fane stood up taller.

“Captain, inform all fleet commanders that we finally have a challenge. Let’s turn to face it and welcome them to the party.” Fane announced with a smile. Naz nodded approvingly and walked back to the center station.

“Have the reserve fighter wings turn immediately to engage their screen and put us into a Xanthas Box formation. I want the heavies on the corners and tell the commanders that I will be ordering an englobement on the fly so they need to stay sharp.”

“Yes sir.”

“Hold on.” Naz interjected, brow furrowed in confusion. “What is that?” he asked pointing to a ship near the center of the Separatists formation. The vessel seemed out of place among the massive ring shaped battleships, odd battlecruisers, Banking guild corvettes and escorts. It was bright white and almost glowed in the starlight, nacelles swept back from the main body of the vessel, main hull merging into a saucer shaped forward section.

“I’ve never seen a ship like that before.” Fane added curiously.

“Sir, we’re not picking up hypermatter emissions from the vessel, in fact we’re not reading hyperspace signatures. Weapons systems are odd, beam weapons of a class unknown, reading not a single turbolaser emplacement.”

“What in the Force is that?”

Fane frowned.

“Perhaps one of their newer Merc company fleet vessels?” Fane commented.

“No, this doesn’t feel right. Mercs don’t own ships like that.”

“Whatever it is sir, she’s opening fire on our fighters.”

“Well that nails it. She’s most definitely hostile. I want all commands to bracket that ship in their tactical displays. I don’t want her destroyed. She is to be disabled and tractored over to the Centurion. We’ll need to board her and see what new wrinkle the Separatists have added to this fray.”

“Aye sir.”

Naz stood quietly as he watch the fleet deploy. He was under no illusions as to the way this battle would go, he was now facing one of the Separatist’s best commanders in a fight he did not expect to be in.





“All phasers track and fire on inbound fighters. Standby on torpedoes, I want to concentrate fire on one of their escorts as soon as it gets close enough.” Picard ordered, the bridge plunged into crimson lights from the alert status, crewmen grimly manning their stations as the enormous Republic taskforce loomed ahead.

Many knew that the Enterprise was sorely outclassed by even the lighter warships and so this battle was far more dangerous than any they had been involved in.

“Careful Captain, those escorts are inching in closer to your port. Their firing ion bursts, looks like they intend to take your vessel intact.” Sev’Rance noted.

“I see them. Mr. Data, evasion pattern Sierra Gamma. Torpedoes stand by.” Picard ordered calmly as he checked his tactical display.

“We should stick to their fighters, sir. I don’t think we’re much of a threat to their big guns.” Riker commented lowly.

“That’s the intention, Number One. I don’t think they’re going to let us off so easily however.” Picard replied as the Enterprise shook.

The Enterprise sailed through flak bursts and her phaser array suddenly opened up, multiple beams slashing out into the darkness. Several fighters were struck, sparking up into trailing fiery debris like fire flies they descended into the void and eventually vanished, extinguished by the hard vacuum.

The Republic fleet was marching inexorably towards the Separatists fleet. The larger warships began opening up with their heavy batteries and green and red turbolaser bolts crisscrossed the gap between the fleets illuminating the area of space like a small sun. Splotches of angry light flared up on the leading edges of the mighty capital ships’ bows as the impacts became more numerous and insistent.

The Enterprise was followed by a swarm of Separatist droid fighters. The fighters exchanged deadly fire with Republic fighters as they whipped by each other at dizzying speeds. A barrage of harsh crimson phaser fire partially cleared a path through the wall of the fighters.

“Have the fighters follow us through this gap.” Picard told Sev’Rance. Sev’Rance without hesitation entered a series of codes into her station and the droid fighters suddenly pirouetted in space and lanced downward, following the Enterprise through the gap in the fighter screen.

“You have a plan, I assume?” Sev’Rance asked casually as she sent another coded transmission to the fleet, adjusting its disposition in light of the Republic position.

“I always try to have a plan. Number One set up torpedo attack, pattern Sierra Nine.”

“On it.” Riker replied keying in the attack pattern.

A large escort ship that had slipped ahead a bit further than the others in the eagerness to take the Enterprise loomed ahead on the screen.

“I want an Alpha strike on the starboard flank of that vessel, have all fighters follow suit then program into the fighters the evasion pattern Omega Sigma.”

“Omega Sigma?” Sev’Rance asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Allow Number One access to the fighters.”

“Actually I will turn over command to the fighter wing to Commander Riker. I will attend to our capital ships.”

“Understood.” Picard replied. The Enterprise began to shake violently as the escort vessel threw up a wall of heavy fire.

“Now.”

The Enterprise spat forth a volley of quantum torpedoes followed by a steady barrage of phaser fire on the forward starboard quarter of the escort ship. The droid fighters swarming around the Enterprise unleashed a withering volley of fire on the same point. The shields temporarily overloaded but the Enterprise and her fighter escorts could not take advantage of that opening, they were already too close. Instead they peeled away as one in a high speed dive under the escort vessel.

But Sev’Rance Tan was one step ahead of them. The closest Separatist warships concentrated their fire on the escort vessel’s unshielded quarter. Massive explosions rippled along the starboard aside, the hull erupted outward under the assault and the vessel slowly turned away, trailing molten metal and hot gasses.

The escort’s sudden turn forced her sister ships to change formation quickly, creating a ripple effect on the right wing of the fleet.

“There.” Sev’Rance smiled triumphantly and emphatically punched in orders on her pad. The fastest ships in the Separatists fleet surged forward like a pack of wolves. The heavier warships simply poured fire to support the attack into the right wing.

“Let’s see if we can’t spread a little more chaos.” Picard noted with some satisfaction.

“I think the Republic forces have their own plans in mind for us.” Riker noted.

“Captain, picking up three wings of fighters on an intercept course.” Data added.

“I see. Well they will have to catch us first.” Picard noted. “Full evasive, take us right through their right wing.”

“Aye Aye sir.”

“Daring, Captain, right into the heart of the attack.” Sev’Rance noted with some admiration.






“Damnation!” Fane cursed as the right wing began to quickly degenerate into a brawl with Separatist forces.

“Calm, Fane. This is her opening move and I have several of my own.” Naz interjected and nodded to his squadron commander.

“Three wings inbound sir.”

“Tell them to knock out the fighter escort but I want that alien vessel captured not destroyed. Have the center switch to an Adon Spike, the left wing is to sweep in and hold here, fire support for the center.” Naz ordered pointing to the holographic representation in the point in space where he wanted the left wing to position themselves.

“Acknowledged sir.”

Fane took a hold of the Jedi’s shoulder and bent in closer.

“I’m not much of a tactician my friend but you never go into an Adon Spike when one of your wings is in disarray.”

“That is the standard textbook wisdom, but I know Sev’Rance Tan, I’ve studied her since this war began and standard textbook tactics won’t carry the day with her.”

“Here’s to hoping that the Force is with us.”

Naz smiled grimly.

“Was there ever any doubt?”





“An Adon Spike? Why Master Naz, I do believe that you may prove to be a true challenge.” Sev’Rance noted with a cold smile.

“Have we shaken them yet?” Picard asked Riker.

Riker shook his head.

“They’re on us tight.”

“Data, what can we do to give them a jolt off our backs?” Picard asked the android as the Enterprise shook from another near hit as they bobbed and weaved through the right wing of the fleet currently under attack. Separatist ships were now starting to mix in with the Republic forces, trading broadsides that could reduce continents to ash.

“I have been studying their avionics and sensor systems, they are not vulnerable to standard ECM tactics however a polaron pulse at the right frequency directly in their path would render them essentially blind for a few seconds until their systems realigned.”

“Sounds like our best option right now.” Riker added.

“Make it so, Mr. Data.”

The Enterprise soared beneath a light escort vessel, phaser fire dancing beneath her for a moment, illuminating her shield grid as the Enterprise raced beneath followed by the fighter escort which was being constantly harassed by the pursuing Republic fighter wings.

“Keep us clear of those big ships helm. We wouldn’t last more than a few seconds under that fire.”

“Aye Aye sir.”

“Polaron pulse is building on the deflector dish, stand by for discharge.” Data reported, hands flying over his controls.

“Captain, bring us around to 27.475 mark 25. I set up a nice surprise for our pursuers that will go hand in hand with this polaron pulse.” Sev’Rance stated with a cool smile.

“Helm bring us around to those coordinates, Data standby on the pulse.”

“Ready.”

The Enterprise flashed around in a tight turn, the fighters in an even tighter turn right over three ships locked in mortal combat, shields down and now battering against their mighty armored hulls with mighty turbolaser blasts.

“Now.”

The main deflector dish of the Enterprise pulsed quickly and released a cascading white bolt of light slightly below its plain of passage. The bolt of light collected into a coruscating ball of light several hundred kilometers ahead. The ball of light grew more discordant and pulsed faster and faster as the Enterprise passed over it, followed in tight formation by the droid fighter escort.

The Republic fighters were close behind, firing steady harassing bursts of fire. The ball of light exploded just as the fighters passed over. The fighters suddenly began to twist and turn, breaking formation as their avionics fed the pilots data that made no sense.

It was at this moment of confusion, as their systems rebooted to clear the error that a horde of droid fighters led by Corporate Z-95 fighters and a small squadron of mercenary fighters pounced on the confused, blinded fighters.

The Republic fighters did not stand much of a chance and were quickly extinguished into rapidly cooling clouds of gasses and debris.

The Enterprise dipped on her axis and reoriented herself to face the Republic forces again.








The city of Belaphas was on fire. The sound of droid troops marching through her paved streets could be heard all throughout the once mighty metropolis. Screams of dying and wounded were soon drowned out by the bone jarring drone of the landing ships and tanks. The waterfront was gone, vaporized by an orbital bombardment from the Separatist fleet overhead.

The spaceport was in chaos as droid troops fought with desperate pilots, smugglers and remaining defensive troops for control of the sole means of escape from the city and most likely the planet as a similar scene was playing out through the cities of the doomed planet of Camlan.

Two figures moved through the desperate throngs, quickly cutting through buildings and alley ways. They were intent on escape as well but were far calmer than the populace around them. They both were quite experienced with escape and the slaughter that the droid armies brought with them.

Wearing thick black cloaks, hoods pulled over their heads they moved quickly and calmly, obstacles seemed to not appear in their path as if they knew where they were going before they actually arrived there.

An explosion tore through a building off to their side as a droid fighter screamed downward trailing smoke into the building, downed by a man portable missile from a squad further back on the street.

“This is madness.” One of the two finally spoke as he protected the other from the concussion and shower of debris.

“We have to hurry.”

“You’re telling me?” the other replied and grabbed a firm hold of the wrist of his companion and pulled along through another street.

“This did not go as well as I planned.”

“This war, my lady, has not gone as well as planned.”

They stopped short as a tank rumbled into view, blocking off the street, accompanied by a squad of droid troopers.

“Oops.”

The squad was led by a human dressed in the bright colored body armor of a mercenary company. Mercenaries were seeing quite a bit of business in this war, both sides were guilty of using them but the Separatists were the primary patrons of these companies.

“Hold.” The merc shouted holding up his hand.

The two stopped short.

“Head back into the city. You’re all now subjects of the Separatist Union.”

“That’s rather unilateral of you isn’t it?” the man replied.

The merc smirked and nodded to two droids.

“Bring them over here.”

“Roger. Roger.”

The droids quickly approached.

“What do we do now?” The woman asked.

The man turned his head and a smile was clearly visible under the hood of his cloak.

“We escape.”

The droids were at their sides, weapons drawn.

“Come along.”

The man laughed softly.

“You forgot to ask nicely droid.” The man said and was followed by the snap hiss and a lightsaber flashed upwards slicing through the droids in quick rapid thrusts. The woman jerked back her own cloak and fired off a steady burst from a blaster. One bolt caught the merc in the shoulder sending him crashing to the floor.

“Keep firing and stay close to me, Senator.” The Jedi said as he whipped off his black cloak and charged the droid squad which started firing on him. His green lightsaber blade quickly flashed, deflecting the more dangerous shots while allowing the near misses to flash past him.

He launched himself into the air and landed in the center of the squad, sweeping his lightsaber around him in tight controlled circles. The droids began to turn to engage the Jedi but the emerald blade was already cutting through them.

The woman charged, firing her blaster to keep the mercenary's head down when she saw the turret of the tank turning slowly as it backed away.

“Bastion!” she shouted and pointed to the tank.

Bastion laughed, his golden hair shining in the sun he flipped out of the center of the droid formation and landed on top of the tank. The turret continued turning toward the charging woman.

“Senator, hit the dirt!” Bastion shouted and brought his lightsaber down through the turret with an emphatic grunt. The saber burned its way through the turret. He jerked the saber sideways.

A hatch opened behind him as a droid popped its head out to investigate. Bastion smiled as he turned his head to look at the droid.

“Come up for some air? Let me give you a lift.”

The droid shouted something unintelligible as it was lifted bodily out of the turret and flung out into the sky.

“Get down here Jedi dog!” The mercenary shouted and fired his blaster. Bastion pivoted on his left foot and parried the volley, some of the bolts reflected back at the mercenary. The mercenary rolled away and through a grenade up at the tank.

“Thanks for the assist my friend.” Bastion said with a wink as he caught the grenade with the force and redirected its path down into the open hatch of the tank. Bastion leapt off the tank and landed in front of the retreating mercenary. An explosion muffled by the enormous tank’s armor caused a cloud of fire and smoke to rise up from the ruined wreckage of the tank.

“I think this is the part where you surrender.” Bastion said with a smile.

“No you laughing fool, this is the part where you get holed by my friends.”

Droidekas came rolling around the corner of the street and four of them unfurled, blasters at the ready.

“Destroyers, huh?” Bastion replied and punched the mercenary hard. The mercenary went down and lay still as the Destroyers began pouring fire at him. Bastion brought his lightsaber up and started parrying shots, some of them reflected back at the droids but splashed harmlessly against their personal shields.

Bastion slowly advanced, spinning his blade wildly to parry the storm of blaster fire. He noted in his peripheral vision his female companion slowly crawling through the street, past the wreckage of the shattered droids and taking position behind the Droidekas.

“I really hate Droidekas, destroyers, whatever you boys want to be called. This personal shield business is a tad unfair don’t you think? Unless of course you have friends that know of your weakness.”

The female came up on one knee and fired her blaster into the backs of the assembled Destroyers. They squealed and tumbled over with a crash.

Bastion nodded to the female and snapped a salute.

“Senator, the next time someone tells me that you’re too much of a pacifist to have a say in this war, I’ll have words with them myself.” Bastion said with a wink as he helped her on her feet.

“I was hoping to discuss some form of peace with at least one faction of the Separatists Union but it looks like the meeting was nothing more than a trap.” She replied brushing herself off and holstering her blaster.

Bastion sighed softly, his blue eyes softened as he heard the despair in her voice. She had truly believed in this mission. Enough to approach him as an escort and eschew any other protection.

“If it is any consolation Senator Amidala, I sensed that the other side also intended to speak peace, but this invasion was carried out by another faction of the Union.” He said softly putting a hand on her shoulder. She nodded.

“I just find it curious that this invasion would take place precisely now when we started talking peace. There are many things about this war which are both troubling and curious.” She replied looking up at Bastion. Jedi Knight Bastion Vandarre was known among Jedi circles and those in the know as the laughing Jedi. Unlike most of his brethren, Bastion reveled in the use of the Force and used humor as much as possible. He said that he enjoyed life to its fullest and could the Force ask for anything more from her champions?

He was also one of the few Jedi that was a close friend of Anakin and one that Padme trusted implicitly. He had been one of the few Jedi that had both supported the peace movement and had earned a reputation as an implacable warrior to give the peace movement some moral authority.

Many of Palpatine’s supporters had been quick to paint the peace movement led by Senator Organna as weaklings and at worst traitors. However, Organna was a general now and leading the defense of the core worlds while simultaneously pushing for peace, so it was difficult to completely discredit the peace movement. Bastion was one of the more prominent members of the Jedi membership.

The sound of marching feet began again and they caught sight of a formation of super battle droids coming their way.

“Senator, now I think it is time to leave.”

“You know, Bastion, you’ve known me long enough to call me Padme.” She added with a smirk as they started to rush away.

“Well, Padme, Ani is going to skin me alive if he finds out what I let you do today. He thinks you’re safe and sound in committees on Coruscant.”

“You know he hates it when people call him that.” She said wanly.

“I know, Padme, I know.” Bastion replied with a soft chuckle as they vanished into the ruins of the city.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 11:09am
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Chapter 9: How heavy the crown


“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Henry IV Part II Act 2 scene i




The Coruscant star system was perhaps the heaviest trafficked star system in the entire galactic Republic. Untold number of craft would enter and exit the hyperspace lanes in a perpetual stream of engine flare and hyperspace flashes. The traffic patterns swirled around the planet in an artificial ring of metal composed of millions of ships ranging in size from small one man ships to massive super bulk freighters hauling billions of metric tons of cargo.

The Coruscant defensive fleet was deployed along the polar regions of the planet, the bulk of them split between the North and Southern poles while the smaller lighter vessels were strung out in a leap frog pattern along the equatorial plane of Coruscant to act as both a deterrence to pirates and a ready reaction force for small threats like smugglers discovered by the over worked customs officials.

Tight formations of fighters, the bulk of them the newest models of Z-95 headhunters and the occasional squadron the newest fighters produced by Sienar fleet systems aggressively patrolled the outer ring of the planet’s zone of control. The twin Ion Engine Fighters or T.I.E. fighters were small globes with oversized solar panels attached to the sides of the central cockpit. The fighters were quickly gaining renown as the fastest ships in the Republic fleet. They were also maligned by the older veteran pilots as flying death traps, some going so far as to state that the fighters were a reflection of the Republic’s current obsession with disposal manufacturing, like the clones, their fighters were just as disposable.

The add to the criticism, the initial run of T.I.E.’s were piloted solely by clone pilot cadres. Now as the fighters entered manufacturing stage, regular troops were allowed to fly them and the younger pilots swore by the speed and maneuverability advantage the fragile fighters gave them in combat.

Into this chaos of ships the Starship Enterprise and her entourage of escort vessels emerged. The Enterprise soared past a wing of fighters and the Valor’s Gaze quickly took up lead escort position of the starship.

The Enterprise was rather unique among the other countless horde of ships in orbit of the Galactic Capital World. Its distinctive engine nacelles and saucer shaped primary hull made it stand out among the more utilitarian and modular designs dominating the Coruscant star lanes.

“On behalf of the Galactic Republic, Captain James Kirk I welcome you and your crew to the Galactic Capital of Coruscant.” Meerlinda stated with pomp.

Kirk stared at the view screen trying his best not to gawk.

“That’s a lot of ships.” Gary muttered.

“Well Meerlinda, we’re your guests here. I guess you can take us to your leader.” Kirk said with a boyish grin.

Meerlinda blinked, slightly confused by the wave of humor that swept among the humans on the bridge. Seemed that only Mr. Spock and Number One were unmoved by the statement.

“I take it that the phrase is some sort of pun?” she asked softly.

“Indeed it is and I apologize. As the duly appointed representative of the Federation I would be honored to meet with your Supreme Chancellor and any members of your government that would like to be involved in our initial contact meeting.”

“Of course, Captain. Please assemble in your shuttle bay and we will arrange for a shuttle to take us down to the surface.”

“We could always beam down.” Kirk suggested.

The young man standing to Kirk’s right immediately leaned over to Meerlinda.

“You can’t be serious. That is a glorified disintegrator.” Anakin muttered darkly.

“You seem rather intact, Anakin.” she replied with a soft smile. Anakin frowned heavily. He had not been able to transfer back to the Valor’s Gaze since being reintegrated in the transporter room of this vessel.

“That would be a splendid idea, Captain. It would be a sign of our cooperation that we arrive via your method of transit.” she stated with a diplomatic smile.

“Very well, Mr. Spock, Number One, Doctor Dehner you’re with me. Gary, take the con.”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk, Spock, Dehner and Number One stepped into the turbolift followed by Meerlinda and a scowling Anakin. The doors closed shut and the turbolift descended rapidly.

“I assume that they know we’re coming?” Kirk asked.

“Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has been eagerly anticipating your coming here. He also obviously got wind of the trap and dispatched two of our finest Jedi to help us escape the trap.”

Kirk eyes the grin looking young man. Anakin returned the gaze unflinchingly.

“Is there a problem?” Anakin asked.

“No, it’s just well…you look young to be one of the finest Jedi in the galaxy.”

Anakin smirked.

“Surface impressions, Captain. I am not what I seem.” Anakin replied darkly.

“No, I guess you’re not.” Kirk replied staring back at the young man.

Meerlinda felt the tension in the turbolift shoot up immediately and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Put two strong leaders in close quarters together and this was invariably the result. This show of alpha male dominance was precisely the reason why her master only trained human females. She smiled softly remembering the way he would shake his head and harrumph when he saw the young male padawans showing of whenever she was around.

She put a hand on Kirk’s shoulder.

“It will be the first time our government has ever met with an extra galactic government. These are exciting times.” she said with a calm smile. Number One eyed her suspiciously. Spock and she exchanged a furtive glance of concern.

Kirk nodded slowly, his eyes not leaving Anakin’s until the doors snapped open again.

They filed out towards the transporter room.

“This all seems rather sudden. Shouldn’t we have a meeting, a briefing, some kind of organizational meeting to prepare for this?” Dehner asked Kirk as they walked into the transporter room. Kirk stopped for a moment to think about it and shook his head.

“No Doctor, what would we discuss? I prefer to keep things informal. It keeps all parties involved relaxed.” Kirk replied.

“Ready when you are sir.” the transporter technician said eagerly.

“Jedi Knight Farstrider will provide you with the coordinates.”

“Weapons?” Number One asked Kirk softly. Anakin pretended to not notice, but his ears instantly perked up as Meerlinda quietly consulted with the transporter technician.

Kirk shook his head.

“This is a diplomatic mission and I think I’m a good enough judge of character to tell when we may be in danger. Besides, why fight as hard as they have to keep us in one piece to harm us now?”

“They are many things about them that trouble me sir.” she replied lowly. Kirk looked into his XO’s cold eyes and turned up one corner of his lip in thought. He did not like her, that much was clear, but at the same time she had served Pike faithfully during their five year mission and he had to start trusting her if this was going to work.

“I understand, Number One. Let’s play it safe with this one, but I will tell the tech to keep a constant transport lock on us.” Kirk replied. Number One nodded but looked skeptical about Kirk’s solutions for her concerns.

“The transporter is a risky and temperamental thing to be risking your life on.” Number One added then walked up to the platform. Kirk frowned slightly. This relationship was looking rockier and rockier with every passing moment.

“Mr. Spock, I want you to keep a running scan on your tricorder, let’s keep our eyes open.”

Spock regarded his Captain for a moment, recognizing a human idiomatic phrase that his prior Captain used.

“Of course sir.” he replied.

Kirk followed the others up to the pad and as he passed Anakin the young Jedi said only loud enough for him to hear.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Anakin walked up to his own disk and fixed Kirk with a stern challenging gaze. Kirk returned it with a soft smirk.

“Faith is a virtue for those not willing to believe in themselves.” Kirk replied pointedly across the transporter pad. The rest of the assembly exchanged curious glances, all but Meerlinda who frowned.

“Energize.” Kirk ordered.

The group slowly vanished in columns of glittering light.




They reintegrated in a assembly hall. People were milling about, many in deep discussions. The crowds stopped and gawked as the figures materialized in their midst. Murmurs began immediately like a wave on the ocean spreading outward from the nearest crowds back to those who could not even see the scene unfolding in the assembly hall.

Kirk glanced around quickly. This was certainly not his first contact mission but it was the most important mission of his life. Here was precisely what the Federation had created Starfleet for, to seek out and find new life and new civilizations. Here was a civilization older and larger than the Federation and it was up to him to decide whether the Federation should forge ties with this Republic.

He wondered briefly whether it was fair to lay that kind of burden on a single man.

Spock immediately opened his tricorder and began scanning as Number One eased close to her Captain.

A troop was striding up to them wearing ceremonial (or so he hoped) blue armor and long pikes. They were led by an alien in long flowing gowns, his most prominent feature were two long thing horns rising off the sides of a massive bull like head. He paused, examined each of them and bowed his head.

“Welcome to Coruscant representatives of the United Federation of Planets. My name is Mas Amedda, Galactic Senate vice Chairman.”

“Thank you for your warm hospitality. My name is Captain James T. Kirk, My First Officer Number One,” Number One nodded politely. “My Science Officer Mr. Spock.” Spock also nodded politely, surreptitiously keeping his tricorder at his hip fully functioning. “Doctor Elizabeth Dehner our liaison who has worked extensively with Jedi Knight Meerlinda Farstrider.” Kirk stated warmly and smiled.

“Please follow me, the Supreme Chancellor is most eager to see you. I hope that the ambush the cowardly Separatists laid for you was not difficult to escape from. We only have sketchy details here.” Mas Amedda asked an outraged smirk on his face.

“For one thing, I wouldn’t exactly call them cowardly, they fought like a well disciplined military unit and they were most definitely out to disable and capture my ship.”

“That is a disturbing element indeed. It means that they know more about you than we would like them to.” Amedda replied darkly.

“How could they know more about us, sir? We were only recently informed about this galaxy. It seems that negotiations have been underway for months between our governments without any of us knowing about it.” Number One noted curiously, but her eyes were locked on Amedda. The Vice Chairman did not notice.

Amedda frowned heavily as they walked through the growing crowd of senators and aides, many were starting to point and speak excitedly as many began to realize who the newcomers were. Kirk eyed the ceremonial guards.

“Impressive aren’t they?” He asked Meerlinda.

She shrugged.

“The Senate has had this guard for as long as anyone can remember.” She added.

Kirk could not help but feel uneasiness in his belly and he couldn’t pin down why. They passed through the assembly hall and into a long but secluded corridor that led to a large office in the corner of the building. Along the way Kirk admired the beautiful art work lining the walls, the intricate marble looked old but beautiful.

“I bet a lot of this is older than the Federation.” Kirk noted curiously.

Number One glanced over at Spock’s tricorder readout.

“Geophysical scans pegs these art works as older than human Western Civilization.” Number One added with a nearly bemused smile.

Kirk raised his eyebrows slightly in surprise.

They stopped in front of a set of double doors. Amedda smiled politely and nodded to a duo of guards standing at the door. Their armor was different than the blue garbed guard, crimson instead of blue and a harsher more militaristic edge to it.

“The Supreme Chancellor has his own personal guard after a botched assassination attempt by the Separatists before the war.” Meerlinda commented, anticipating the question.

“They tried to kill him before the war?” Number One asked incredulously.

Meerlinda looked slightly uncomfortable.

“The culprits were never found. Palpatine’s commission issued a finding that it was Separatists conspirators.” Anakin interjected.

Number One frowned heavily.

“Logically, assassinating the leader of the government you are trying to secede from would only invite the wrath of that same Government. I would have to question those findings.” Spock added.

“You are not the only ones who have raised this issue. Bail Organna has risen as one of the loudest voices of dissent within our government. He heads up the peace faction of the Senate.” Meerlinda explained.

“Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is one of the wisest men I know. I am not comfortable with these insinuations that are hurled in his direction. He is trying his best to maintain order and keep the Republic together. Already the stresses of war have prematurely aged him. He suffers because of this war.” Anakin added darkly.

Kirk eyed the young man for a moment. There was a passion to the young man that was missing in Meerlinda. Where she radiated a calm serenity he was like a raging tempest held in check by force of will.

The doors opened silently and Mas Amedda led the entourage into the large chambers of the Supreme Chancellor. Kirk was immediately impressed by its size and grandeur, in fact it looked more opulent than the corridors outside. Statutes lined the walls and the marble work was amazing, it almost seemed to ripple like the surface of a lake.

“May I present Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.” Amedda announced proudly and with a sweep of the arm indicated the older man in a long flowing black robe flecked with blue along the seams. Palpatine smiled politely as he stood up from his chair and extended his hand.

“Captain Trason.” Palpatine said with a kind tone.

Kirk looked confused for a moment and realized how quickly events had unfurled that it was hardly possible that they would have reached the Galactic capital in time.

“Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, my name is Captain James T. Kirk. Captain Joshua Trason of the Lexington was called away at the last moment to deal with a medical emergency in one of our colony worlds. Starfleet assigned my ship, the Enterprise to take the Lexington’s place on this mission. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused as the substitution happened at the last moment in our galaxy and we were ambushed on this side of the wormhole before we could inform your government of the change.”

Palpatine looked confused for a moment, blinking and looking from Kirk to Meerlinda and finally Anakin.

“Captain Kirk? My apologies, Captain, I was fully expecting Captain Trason. But one cannot blame your Federation for the change. We all must look after our citizens, after all what else is government here for if not for the welfare of our citizens.” Palpatine noted civilly and indicated the chairs laid out in a semi circle in front of his desk.

“I must say that it is a most distinct pleasure to meet with beings that hail from another galaxy entirely. This is a monumental moment in the history of our Republic.”

“Thank you Supreme Chancellor, the pleasure is the same for us. The Federation founded Starfleet on the principles of exploration and contacting new civilizations.” Kirk explained.

“Excellent.” Palpatine replied with a smile.

Kirk shivered. Did not know why. It was odd, his grandfather had a saying for those odd feelings. Like someone was walking over your grave, he called it. Kirk laughed at such nonsense but now he felt oddly at ease but could not tell why. So far everyone, especially Palpatine was pleasant enough.

A terminal buzzed softly and the woman standing behind Palpatine quickly walked over to the terminal and quietly spoke into it. She was as white as now, every inch of her flesh and she wore an ivory cape and cloak, she moved with a languid precision that reminded Kirk of a feline.

“Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi and Captain Leeto of the Valor’s Gaze await admittance.” she reported, her voice like wind through silk.

“Of course, we must thank our noble heroes who helped save the Federation’s ambassadors. You will find, Captain that the Trade Federation are cunning foes worthy of respect, despite what others may think in this government.”

“I did indeed discover that Supreme Chancellor.” Kirk replied, liking the man for his honesty. Obviously people like Mas Amedda were deluding themselves into thinking that the Separatists were anything but a bunch of rabble rousers.

The doors slid open and Obi Wan Kenobi and Leeto walked in quickly,

“Which one of you is—“ Leeto stopped and saw Kirk. “You!” he exclaimed. Kirk slowly raised an eyebrow.

“You are a brilliant young human and I want to shake the hand of the man that led the defense of his own ship and fearlessly plunged into the thick of battle. I thought you mad, Captain, but now I see that there’s a warrior’s heart in you that refuses to be tamed.” Leeto exclaimed raucously and held out his long fingered hand.

Kirk smiled sheepishly. Palpatine smiled but his eyes narrowed on the young Captain as Leeto firmly took his hand and shook it.

“It’s like we were never there.” Anakin whispered to Obi Wan. Obi Wan shrugged.

“It was nothing really. Without you and your men I doubt we would have lasted more than a minute against those forces.” Kirk replied.

“Maybe so, but it does a Captain’s heart good to see potential allies with such spines of steel.”

“I must say, Captain Kirk you made quite an impression on one of our own finest Captains. I will have to watch your career here with great interest.” Palpatine said casually. Meerlinda paused. She thought she had seen something, a trick of the light she was sure but Palpatine had looked positively hungry as he watched Kirk for a moment basking in the glow of Leeto’s praise. It made her uneasy but just as soon as she saw it, the expression was gone replaced by the kindly smile and sharp eyes of the Supreme Chancellor she knew.

This war has been doing odd things to people, she mused.

“The Galactic Republic is most anxious to forge an alliance with your Federation captain and to show our good faith I am ready to provide anything you request, need or want to help you make your decision on this matter.”

“I appreciate and thank you for your sincerity, Chancellor. But I will not be the one making the decision. I will file my report with Starfleet, so will Doctor Dehner here.” Kirk said indicating the Doctor who smiled and nodded at Palpatine. She had been watching him closely. He seemed to be distracted, almost worried and it had begun the moment he had been introduced to Kirk. She did not understand why. Palpatine had no contact with Captain Trason before so why would he have put so much stock in having met Kirk instead? “The Federation council will make the final finding.”

Palpatine smiled softly and leaned forward.

“Captain, I have been in government service for the vast majority of my life. I recognize the power that you have even if you do not, I’m quite sure that if the intrepid Captain Kirk and the brilliant Doctor Dehner both agree that there should be an alliance the Federation council would have no choice but to agree.”

“I think you overestimate our power, Chancellor.” Doctor Dehner replied with a sheepish smile.

“I think you underestimate yours Doctor. I will not hide my motives, I need the Federation, the Republic is in desperate need of ships, men and more importantly a trading partner to off set the loss of a vast bulk of our merchant and industrial center. We are essentially at war with our merchants and businessmen and it shows in our moribund economy at the moment. Unemployment is skyrocketing and for the first time in memory, the Republic’s coffers are drying up. We are in a crisis both economic and military and your Federation has arrived as if in answer to the Republic’s prayers.”

“I can appreciate your position Chancellor, we in the Federation are also looking for a strong partner, particularly one as technologically advanced as your Republic. However you can understand if we are cautious about allying ourselves with a power that would lead us into a bloody conflict if we do not fully understand what we are becoming involved in.” Dehner replied.

Palpatine nodded.

“Indeed. I plan to show you that it is in the Federation’s best interest to enter into this alliance even with the threat of looming war.”

“I’m curious, Chancellor. I just came from a battle where your men spent more time protecting my ship than fighting the enemy. As a military man I feel uncertain as to what we can bring to this war of yours.”

“An astute question, Captain Kirk.” Palpatine replied.

“We are not beggars, Captain. The Republic is not looking for cannon fodder.” Amedda protested.

Palpatine raised a hand.

“Forgive Amedda, but his home world was one of the first subjected to orbital bombardment after the Battle of Geonosis. The Republic fleet was barely out of its berths when the Separatists struck at over a dozen key worlds. Amedda lost family in that attack and he has been a staunch foe of the Separatists since. A tragedy really.” Palpatine sighed sadly. “I’m afraid that this war has done nothing but visit tragedy after tragedy upon our worlds, Captain. That is the heart of the reason why we are so insistent on you joining. Any possibility that could cut this war by even days must be seized at this point.”

“I noticed that you didn’t answer the Captain’s question.” Number One noted coolly.

Kirk glanced over at Number One but remained silent.

Palpatine sat back in his chair and regarded each of them with a critical eye.

“I have nothing to hide as you will soon discover. Your ships are not what we really need.”

“Oh?” Kirk and Dehner replied in unison. Meerlinda and Obi Wan exchanged curious expressions.

“The clones.” Palpatine replied. “It has everything to do with our clones and our armies.”

“I’m not sure I understand.” Kirk replied curiously.

Palpatine smiled.

“You will be taken on a tour of our barracks and troops facilities here on Coruscant to see them for yourself. I will show you our entire military complex and perhaps you will see things for yourself. I would rather you discover for yourself what I have concluded from meeting your diplomats and reading your Captains biographies.”

Kirk was extremely curious.

“If indeed you are sincere in your wishes to provide us everything we need then I would like to make my first request.”

“Please.” Palpatine asked.

“I want to meet with your dissident parties, your opposition.” Dehner stated coolly.

Palpatine could not help but smile, it was almost as if that was what he expected her to ask and was amused by the payoff.

“Of course. Sly.” The pale ivory skinned woman inclined her head ever so slowly and nodded.

“Yes, Supreme Chancellor.” she replied, her voice an almost whisper.

“Please arrange for Doctor Dehner and Captain Kirk to meet with the peace faction and in particular a personal meeting with Bail Organna.”

“Of course, Supreme Chancellor.” She replied.

“This is Sly Moore. She is my trusted right hand and she will be my representative with your mission. She will be at your disposal and has my authorization to show you everything you require. Never let it be said that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is afraid of the truth.” Palpatine stated proudly.

“I don’t think anyone doubts that sir.” Anakin added.

Obi Wan shot Anakin a surprised look.

“Anakin, here is one of our great Jedi heroes. Defender of Alderaan, defeated the Separatists incursion in the Thalon belt and we believe may have defeated a dark Jedi in service to Dooku on Byss.”

“May have?” Number One asked.

Anakin smiled coldly.

“There wasn’t much left to identify.”

Meerlinda frowned. That was hardly the way a Jedi knight should conduct himself, Obi Wan frowned as well and looked at his young friend and ex padawan. There was a darkness around him, like a cloud and it had grown progressively darker since Geonosis.

“But enough of the praise, I hope one day to be able to praise your name Captain should the Alliance pass.”

Kirk smiled perfunctorily.

“It would be my pleasure to help you in this war, sir. I will be on my mission and I hope to be able to speak with you under less formal circumstances.”

“Captain, it is like you have read my mind. I am inviting you and your staff to a dinner at my estate. i would be more than happy to discuss these issues less formally, I have never been comfortable in the trappings of power.” Palpatine replied enthusiastically.

“It suits you well sir, you are leading your people through a hard time and it is my hope that perhaps we can do it together.” Kirk said smiling as he shook the Chancellor’s hand. Something about this man radiated strength and Kirk could respect him as a leader.

“Doctor Dehner?”

“Thank you for your kind attention Chancellor. I am however curious about the Jedi. I was wondering if we could arrange a meeting with their leadership as well.”

“Ah, now that is the province of these fine Jedi behind us, you will find Master Kenobi most helpful indeed as he has the ear of Master Yoda himself.”

“I would hardly—“”

“And he is quite humble as well you will find. Turned down a medal from the citizens of Davros for saving them from a Separatist attack.”

“I was doing my duty. The Alliance pilots and crews that lost their lives that day deserved the medal.” Obi Wan replied quietly.

“As it were, all matters dealing with the Jedi must be handled by the Jedi. They are independent from our government but partners with it as well.” Palpatine explained.

“Have no fear, Elizabeth, Master Yoda is eager to see you and if you wish I will take you there now.”

Dehner glanced over at Kirk who shrugged.

“Very well, let’s go.” she said and Meerlinda smiled.

“Thank you all and Sly see to their every need, they are guests of honor in the Republic.”

“Of course sir.” she replied.

The entourage slowly filed out of the room.





“Captain Leeto there really is no need.”

“Indeed there is Captain. Your actions inspired my men and it was all they would talk about during the trip over were your actions in the battle, fearlessly attacking no less than three Trade Fed battleships!”

“Now hold on a second I most certainly did not-”

“Launching a counter attack during an ambush into the teeth of the enemy!” Leeto crowed. “If only we had more such as you in command positions the we would not be bogged down in this damnable morass of a stalemate.” Leeto chattered on, his shout quivering excitedly.

“Uh, we were there too Leeto, as I recall I boarded the Mandalorian heavy cruiser that was about to make you one with the stars.” Anakin cut in tightly.

Leeto looked over at Anakin, then at Obi Wan and shrugged.

“You are Jedi, what was I supposed to expect?” he asked.

Meerlinda shook her head softly and smiled.

“We are victims of our own success, Anakin.” she added with a cheerful laugh. Kirk stopped and stared for a moment, the way she shook her head, the way her emerald hair cascaded over her left shoulder, the roll of her neck. He tore himself away to put a hand on Leeto’s shoulder.

“Captain.”

Leeto stopped his chattering.

“How about we get a drink after I meet with this Mater Yoda. Let me convince you I’m just a human being that did what he needed to do to survive and that you have far more experience under your belt as a Captain than I do.”

Leeto snorted.

“Very well, Kirk but mark my words you were born to this.”

Kirk fought the urge to laugh but noticed Number One and Spock’s cool gazes. He straightened himself up.

“Ok, Obi Wan, would you like to lead the way?”

Obi Wan smiled and extended his arm out in an inviting gesture.

“Right this way if you please.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t want those of us without Yoda’s ear to enter the Temple first.” Anakin teased. Obi Wan smiled and looked back at his young friend. There was a warmth there and it reminded him of those early days when Anakin was just learning how to use the force. When there was no dark shadow on his face.

“You keep it up young Jedi and I will have you leading the bucket brigades in the sewer network.”

“Oh, who am I to argue with a general.” Anakin replied with an even broader grin.

“Skywalker.”

Anakin turned slowly and Sly stepped close to him. She whispered and Anakin slowly nodded.

“Go on without me, the Supreme Chancellor needs to give me a message for Master Windu.” Anakin announced and Obi Wan frowned ever so slightly. The smile and laughter were replaced by the dark shadow again. He watched Anakin hesitantly walk away back towards Palpatine’s office.

Sly nodded to Kirk.

“Captain, I will be accompanying you and your group to all of your meetings as a representative of the Supreme Chancellor.”

“That will be fine.” Kirk replied with a boyish smile.

“I hoped it would.” Sly said with a mysterious almost embarrassed smile. Kirk paused for a moment as he caught her intense and meaningful gaze.

Meerlinda swallowed softly and gazed at both of them. She felt the unfamiliar prick of something she never thought she would feel.

Jealousy.

“Let’s be on our way.” Obi Wan urged and led the group back down the corridor to their waiting transport.




Palpatine sat quietly at his desk. Amedda and Sly had left, he had exchanged a knowing gaze with Sly as she left and remained seated staring at his desktop. His fingers rested on the hard crystal fully extended and taut as his mind quickly spun through so many possibilities.

How could it be? There were no contingency plans for this possibility because this possibility should not exist.

His hands trembled slightly now as if struggling against an urge.

Raw anger was coursing through him like plasma.

HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE?

He wanted to scream, to shout it to the very heavens themselves. It was all laid out perfectly, Doctor Dehner played her part well, no variance from her part, the others save for Anakin were unimportant pieces to a very complex puzzle. But the main piece, the one that would be manipulated like a puppet on a string was missing.

He looked back at the empty chair now and replayed the conversation he had a million times in his own head, the conversation that had unfolded like a holo play so many times in his visions.

Save that the face looking back at him was not the dashing young Captain Kirk but the sober older Trason.

With one exchange it had all chaotically unraveled.

But what disturbed him most was not Kirk, not his sudden hold on his officers, not his probing questions that Trason would never ask because of his anger at having nearly been killed by the Separatists' ambush. None of these mattered because Palpatine could think his way out of any situation. What disturbed him most of all was a very simple question.

“Why did I not foresee this?” he whispered angrily.

The door chimed.

“Come.”

Anakin stepped in slowly.

“Sir?”

Palpatine beamed at the young Jedi.

“Come Anakin, we have so much to discuss.” Palpatine said warmly the mask of anger gone like smoke.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-09-18 11:11am
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Chapter 10: Council of the Blind

“There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple:
If the ill spirits have so fair a house, good things will strive to dwell with ‘t.”
The Tempest
Act 1, Scene ii




Kirk hesitantly glanced back and caught her eyes on him like daggers. They were focused solely on him as the group moved then just as casually looked away and nodded politely at a random person watching the entourage walk through the main lobby of the Jedi temple. Sly Moore moved with a silken elegance that was very attractive and mysterious, her white skin almost glowed as she glanced furtively back in his direction and Kirk immediately turned his head away and continued looking forward.

He felt silly.

He did not see Meerlinda watching him intently like a hawk and her eyes dart between him and Sly Moore like a fencer moving between thrusts of a blade. She remained silent but a growing sense of discomfort wormed its way through her, like rubbing her skin raw on an irritant. She was not sure what she was feeling, or more importantly why.

Spock and Dehner watched the comings and goings of the Jedi knights with keen interest. The temple was enormous and beautiful. The Jedi moved though the main atrium with a determined purpose.

“There don’t seem to be as many as I expected. The Jedi knights are supposed to be the peacekeepers of your galaxy and this is their headquarters.” Dehner noted.

Meerlinda nodded slowly.

“Unfortunately Elizabeth, the Jedi were never many but the war has sapped our numbers. Any Jedi that can be spared are at the front lines.” Meerlinda answered.

“Not to mention we’ve lost many good friends in this war.” Obi Wan added sorrowfully.

“It’s the price we have to pay for eventual victory.” Anakin added sternly. He had managed to join the group just as they arrived at the temple after consultations with Palpatine by flying through the thick Coruscant air traffic like a madman.

“You sound like one of Palpatine’s war slogans.” Meerlinda noted sharply.

Anakin paused and looked over his shoulder at the young Jedi knight.

“I’ve been on the front lines, I’ve lost many friends, Jedi Farstrider, I don’t seem to recall your name on any of the rosters for the major engagements of this war.” Anakin replied coldly.

Meerlinda blinked.

Obi Wan placed a gentle restraining hand on Anakin’s forearm, alarmed for a moment that he felt a rage swelling in his old padawan. The rage was quickly clamped down and Obi Wan felt it vanish like smoke on the wind.

“I was unaware that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had ever directly addressed this issue. War is never clean or neat and the casualties we are suffering is a clear indication of our resolve to end this destructive conflict.” Sly Moore added coolly.

“Let’s go they’re expecting us.” Obi Wan replied gently.

Kirk exchanged a quick look with Dehner. The stress of the war was obviously affecting the Jedi Knight corps more than they had been told. Kirk would be very interested to see how the top level leadership was holding up. There was no sense in the air that the war was going poorly enough to believe that defeat was imminent. The doom and gloom of such an eventuality could be smelled in the air, seen in the eyes of those walking a little slower, shoulders stooped a little lowly.

He did not see that here at all. He saw Jedi knights, human, alien, young and old walking with a grim determination to their appointed tasks. There was no defeat in their eyes. There was a resolve and sadness too. A grief at friends and allies lost and at the horrible nightmare that was tearing their galaxy apart.

He slowly took these observations in and could not help but feel a growing admiration and respect for these Jedi.

The group walked quickly past the statues of fallen and heroic Jedi of the past and into the main lift that would bring them to the top of the temple. Obi Wan eyed Anakin curiously in the lift.

Anakin pointedly ignored him.

“Do the Jedi masters in the council go on any combat missions?” Kirk asked curiously as the interior of the temple flashed by them. The center of the temple quickly dwindled and thinned out as they approached the central spire that rose above the main body of the ancient structure.

“Yes.” Obi Wan replied.

“The Jedi Masters are the supreme field commanders for some of the more vital areas of the Republic. Master Yoda for instance is in charge of the defense of Coruscant while Master Windu is in command of the main assault fleet and armies.”

“And the armies and navy of the Republic? Do they have their own officer corps. Separate from the Jedi I mean.” Number One asked.

“Of course.” Anakin replied.

“However there are issues of experience.” Sly added casually.

“Oh?”

“Our officer corps was always small. The Republic’s military was pitifully small before the outbreak of the Clone War. The previous administration had issues concerning increasing military spending. With the buildup our officer corps is green as you military types would say.” Sly continued.

“The massive casualties suffered by the enlisted ranks insure that the officers simply don’t survive long enough to become seasoned veterans.” Meerlinda added.

Sly shot the Jedi a hooded glare.

“As has been duly noted by others, the Republic has been suffering greatly during this war, we have all lost friends and family.” Obi Wan intervened quickly.

“I will assume as I’m wont to do that Meerlinda is a member of the peace faction?” Kirk asked with a soft smile.

“We prefer the term anti-war, as the peace faction automatically connotes a negative view on those for the war.” Sly replied.

“Ah, I see the war faction. Intriguing.” Number One stated with a nod.

“I find it highly illogical that something as simple as a the title one gives a faction to be such a decisive issue. Is not a faction opposed to war then a faction of peace. And by extension is not the faction supporting the war a pro-war faction?” Spock asked seriously.

The assembled group in the lift exchanged a myriad of expressions ranging from bemused to annoyed.

“It’s not quite that simple Mr. Spock.” Obi Wan assured the tall Vulcan as the doors slid open.

“It has been my unfortunate experience Obi Wan that when it comes to humans and their rampant emotions that it is never that simple.” Spock replied.

“Welcome ambassadors from the Federation of Planets. I am Loval Manan, please follow me.” A slim young Jedi announced as they began filing out of the lift. He politely motioned for the party to follow him down a long ornate corridor.

“Spock you may want to keep the human bashing to a minimum.” Kirk whispered to the Vulcan.

“I hardly think that pointing out the inherent flaws in the emotional –”

“Would you like me to phrase that as an order?” he asked coldly.

Spock nodded after a heart beat.

“Of course, sir.” He replied.

Number One pursed her lips for a moment as she stared at the back of the Captain’s head for a moment, not approving of the way he had dealt with Spock. This was a mission to discover whether the motives of the Republic were as pure as they claimed.

No one seemed to be addressing the issue that was in the back of everyone’s head or at the very least should be. So far the fact finding mission was succeeding and the Republic was what it claimed it was and despite some things she had seen that made her feel uneasy. The Republic was very open about its own internal divisions and so far people were free to express them. The Jedi did not seem to be the secret police or Gestapo force that many in the Federation feared. But all of that only meant one thing.

The Federation would be going to war.

Number One wondered whether the enormous scientific and economic benefits that would be realized by such an alliance was worth the horrible bloodshed waiting for them. This was a war on a galactic scale and the Federation had only taken its first tentative steps into its own quadrant much less the whole galaxy. She did not even want to consider the casualties they would be seeing in those first opening days of the war.

Kirk was quietly taking it all in, despite Spock’s annoying tendency to wax philosophical about human emotions. He thought that this would be a key meeting in his decision making process, it would be the Jedi and the opposition party that would help him form his opinion about a possible alliance with the Republic. He would also like to take a look at their after action reports.

His greatest doubt was not the Republic, Palpatine seemed a strong and capable leader who spoke candidly, these were traits Kirk admired and he could not help liking the older politician. His doubts were not the Jedi who so far had been honorable and just and not the barest hint of what many nay-sayers in command had insinuated that they were some elitist secret police force. No, his doubts were with the Federation.

Could they even dare to hope that they could prosecute a war of this magnitude? Did they have the endurance to withstand the casualties that were sure to come? These questions were foremost on his mind as they stepped into the Jedi Council Chambers.

Meerlinda could feel the concern brewing in Kirk’s heart and she quietly listened to its ebbs and flows, attempting to ascertain what had him so concerned. Her master had taught her the nuances of using the Force to measure emotional states and anxiety levels. One did not need brute force telepathy if one were in tune with their targets rhythms. In many instances you could predict what a being was going to do before they even knew what they were going to do.

Her master would smile sardonically and harrumph as he anticipated an opponent’s move before she could pick it up telepathically or even through the bursts of insight and prescience that all Jedi shared.

Knowing your enemy so well that you know him even better than he knows himself is the key. Once locked into their rhythms and emotions there was very little you could not anticipate. Her master was famous for walking into a negotiating chamber, taking one look around and know precisely what each side was willing to give and take to reach an accord. He predicted the outcomes of treaty negotiations within moments.

She always admired him for that. She only hoped to have a tenth of the talent he had.

She also felt Sly Moore’s keen interest in Kirk, and a barely suppressed wave of passion and desire. Once again a thorn of disquiet wormed its way through her heart.

“Welcome, welcome. Come before us you have ambassadors of the Federation. Honored the council is to receive you.” a small gnome was Kirk’s best guess at to the being seated in the center of the assembled masters. The small green being regarded each of the newcomers with a curious gaze but Kirk could see the sharp perceptive gleam behind the wizened old eyes and stooped head of gray hair. This was a being not to be trifled with, he was hardly slow or dull with age.

“I am James T. Kirk, Captain of the starship Enterprise and duly appointed representative of the United Federation of Planets. This is Doctor Elizabeth Dehner, my liaison with the Federation council. Together we head up the fact finding mission regarding the Galactic Republic.”

“By fact finding you mean you are trying to decide whether the cost of joining us in the Clone War is worth the rewards of our rather lucrative technological and economic benefits Chancellor Palpatine has most assuredly offered your government.” A tall slim black man replied. There was a cool confidence about him and he wore his authority and power about him like a cloak.

“Jedi Master Mace Windu of the Jedi Council.” Meerlinda announced bowing her head slightly.

“I believe my people would say you hit the nail on the head.” Kirk replied.

“Be that as it may there are also questions of cultural and scientific importance to an alliance of this type. The Federation was founded on the ideals of peace and exploration. We have only now just started reaching out beyond the boundaries of our home systems into the great beyond. The very idea of standing here on a world in another galaxy is still a little giddy for me at least.” Dehner added after clearing her throat.

Yoda nodded.

“Explorers you are. It saddens me to see you so close to this war.”

“I would also like to extend my sympathies for the loss of so many of your Jedi knights in this war.” Kirk added.

“My apologies Captain if you would allow me to do the introductions this is Master Yoda, head of the Jedi Council.” Meerlinda interjected quickly. This meeting had started off without time for the proper introductions. She could sense an eagerness from the assembled masters.

One of the masters eyed Kirk for a moment and whispered something to the one seated next to him. He then nodded and spoke up.

“Tell me Captain. Is there any Force training in your galaxy? My review of some of Meerlinda Fastrider’s reports would seem to indicate otherwise.” Jedi Master Eeth Koth asked curiously. Kirk eyed his horned rimmed head before speaking.

“Uh…no, sir. We have had no experience with this Force as you call it. We have barely begun unlocking the secrets of the human mind. Esper science is only now gaining acceptance thanks to the Vulcans among the Federation science council who practice such arts.”

“Esper? Telepathy?” Another asked.

“Yes.”

“This person standing behind you is a Vulcan?” A blue skinned master asked curiously.

“Yes, this is Mr. Spock, my science officer.” Kirk replied and stepped aside to let Spock step forward.

“Gentlebeings.” Spock nodded his head politely.

“He is not strong in the force.” Another master wearing a mask and goggles noted calmly.

“Your race, it practices some form of esper talent akin to telepathy?”

“Vulcans are gifted with some psionic talent, yes.” Spock answered calmly.

“Fascinating.” One of the younger masters breathed.

“The Republic, as you should be aware by now is facing a crisis of a magnitude it has not faced since its inception many generations ago. This war is being waged on such a scale and in such a manner that none of us have ever seen and only read about in our earlier barbaric history.” Adi Gallia, a dark skinned human Jedi master stated grimly.

“Earth, one of the founding members of the Federation also went through such a time, when bloodshed and war stained our histories.” Kirk replied.

“And now you have grown past that?” Mace asked pointedly. Yoda was watching the entire exchange in silence. He was not just listening to what was being said but what was not being said.

“Yes, sir. We have become better people because of it.”

“And then, Captain, what makes you think your government could commit to this war and be true allies to the Republic?” Ki Adi Mundi a tall cone headed alien asked seriously.

Kirk turned his head and started to speak. Dehner interrupted quickly.

“To equate Captain Kirk’s statement that we have grown past war to mean we no longer can fight a war if necessary is an incorrect assumption. You’re assuming several things that Captain Kirk has not said.”

“War is not something that you wage with joy or relish, sir. War is not something you undertake lightly or without great contemplation. War is the most destructive endeavor any race can undertake. So when you ask me if we have grown past war I respond that we have grown past the need to wage it in the name of conquest or glory.” Kirk replied tersely.

Master Windu nodded slowly.

“Spoken like a soldier, Captain.” Even Piell noted peering at the young captain in the gold shirt

“I am a soldier when I need to be, a diplomat when called upon to serve and an explorer in my heart.” Kirk replied.

Dehner flashed Kirk a quick warning glare. She did not need this young inexperienced captain getting too far ahead of himself. She was beginning to see something she did not expect. Were the Jedi just as divided about this alliance as the Federation was? She was getting a sense from the questions that they were being probed but she was also astonished to see that there was very little in the way of body language that she could read from the Jedi. They seemed to be in absolute control of themselves.

“Doctor, I wonder, what is your view on the war?” Yoda asked softly.

“I feel that any war is a waste of valuable lives and resources but there comes times when one must defend their lives or way of life.”

Yoda nodded.

“Hmmm…noncommittal is your answer. Diplomatic you are.” Yoda replied.

Obi Wan could not help but smile as Dehner shuffled her feet uncomfortably.

“Not to mention she did not answer the question directly.” Plo Koon replied sharply.

“When we were coming here, my ship was ambushed at the entrance to the wormhole. The Separatists never once attempted to communicate with us and it became obvious fairly quickly that they meant to take us prisoner and use us as pawns or hostages in this conflict. There was no need for this action. Before the attack I was more than willing to request a meeting with a Separatists leader to get their side of the story. In my opinion they have all but shown me their intent and desire to win this war at any cost even if it means the willful destruction or capture of a neutral party in this conflict.”

Several of the Jedi leaned forward slightly, Mace Windu inclined his head in interest towards Kirk as he spoke. Dehner placed a hand on Kirk’s forearm.

“Be careful what you’re committing us to.” She whispered.

“It’s my opinion that we have already been committed to a course of action.” Kirk replied in a stage whisper.

Dehner tried to fight the urge to roll her eyes and instead ended up squeezing his arm.

“The course is clear from their end but my first duty is to the Federation and what is in her best interests so I will not sugar coat it for you. I want to make sure I am not helping commit the Federation to a course of action that will doom her.”

Mace Windu now knew that he admired and liked this young Captain. He was a straight shooter and he could appreciate that. We could certainly use a few like him in the ranks. He mused.

“Your words carry much weight and authority Captain because of the wisdom in them. The Jedi have been fighting and dying in this war since its inception. The leader of the Separatist movement is a fallen Jedi, one who has left the order only to perpetrate this treason against us.” Mace replied.

“I understand. My primary concern is a simple one.” Dehner frowned. She was letting Kirk talk too much.

“I don’t want the Federation reduced to a puppet state in this war or worse, simple canon fodder to help stem the tide.” Kirk stated.

The Jedi each maintained their own council, betraying no emotion as Kirk stood proudly at the center of the council chambers.

“Spoken your mind you have. On this we are united. The Jedi council does not wish our first alliance with an extra galactic power to be bloody or full of dissension. The Jedi council is dedicated to the vision of a Grand Alliance as espoused by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.” Yoda stated with a solemn nod.

Dehner smiled hesitantly and her eyes flashed over to Kirk for a moment. She was afraid that Kirk had been too unilateral, too forceful. He had not left them much maneuvering room for negotiations. She would have preferred a much more neutral statement and avoided the potentially inflammatory statement and concerns about the Federation as cannon fodder. They were the typical diplomatic mistakes of an inexperienced diplomat or Starfleet Captain.

She had written papers on Starfleet’s propensity at allowing too many Starfleet Captains initiate first contact and it was precisely this policy that had sparked the disastrous relations with the Klingons.

“Captain, we thank you for your honesty and trust. We hope that in the end you will find that an Alliance is the only choice for both our peoples.” Mace stated with a polite nod.

“The Supreme Chancellor’s opinion on this matter is more than clear.” Sly Moore added coolly. Her eyes bore into Kirk for a moment before returning to regard Master Windu. Kirk could feel and electric rush for a moment at the eye contact. He was confused for a moment. He was never very good with women, so this sudden attention was disconcerting to say the least.

“I would like to ask a question regarding Count Dooku.” Dehner asked.

“Go on.”

“Meerlinda was kind of enough to give me some detailed dossiers regarding the Separatist leadership and Count Dooku, a former Jedi, is at the head of the movement that threatens this republic. Is there any sense of responsibility for his ascension among the leadership of the council?”

“Why should we feel guilty because of the moral failings of a traitor like Dooku?” Plo Koon asked darkly.

“I am not trying to assign blame I am merely wondering what the sense is amongst the Jedi leadership regarding Dooku.”

“Dooku is a fallen Jedi, he is not the first and I fear he will not be the last.” Mace replied and there was a hint of sorrow in his voice.

“Difficult is the path of the Jedi, full of danger and temptation. Many walk the path and never falter bur we are all imperfect beings and Jedi have been known to stray from the path and into the embrace of the Dark side.” Yoda added wearily.

Dehner could feel the strange mix of sorrow and determination among the gathered masters. She had obviously touched on a sore point and that was her purpose.

“You call that diplomatic and sensitive?” Kirk whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

“No I call it fact finding.” She whispered back.

“I am curious about one thing.” Number One piped up.

“Yes?”

Kirk and Dehner looked back at the cool calm woman as she stood calmly, hands clasped behind her back as she spoke.

“I noticed during the battle at the wormhole that the Jedi knights that helped rescue us were in charge of the operation.”

“We were assigned by the council, but charged by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.” Obi Wan replied.

“Does this mean that the Jedi are the ones in control of the military?” She asked pointedly.

“Control denotes possession and a Jedi possesses no power in this government that is not given to them by the government.” Ki A Mundi replied in a tone that reminded Kirk of a lecturer at the Academy.

“The Jedi Order is at the service of the Republic and while we were once peacekeepers we are now its warriors.” Plo Koon added.

“War does not make one great.” Yoda added a note of caution.

“But then in essence the Republic’s Officer corps is in service to you.” Number One noted.

“We prefer to think of it as working together.” Windu replied.

“It is imminently logical however that the Jedi be placed in a position of superiority over the standard officer corps. The Jedi are gifted with abilities far beyond those of normal officers, most telling of all if I read these reports correctly prescience. Such an advantage is overwhelming on the field of battle.” Kirk could not help but stare at the Vulcan in awe for a moment. Meerlinda had handed him the report on the Jedi right before they transported. How did he read that report in the time between then and now?

“That however belies the fact that the Republic officer corps will always be inferior to the Separatists corps. By relying on the Jedi as they have been doing how do these officers undertake any initiative?” Number One pressed.

“There are many competent officers in the Republic, Garm Bel Iblis has been commanding the Sixth fleet since the opening days of the war with distinction and no Jedi are assigned to his fleet.” Meerlinda replied.

“Does it really matter? We need to win this war not debate our methods.” Anakin snapped.

“Ends justifies the means?” Kirk asked.

Anakin smiled coldly.

“Victory can justify many things captain. I’ve found that out the hard way.”

Yoda and Windu exchanged a secretive glance.

“What are you suggesting? That the Jedi step down from their leadership positions in favor of making the officers feel better and exercise more imitative?” Plo Koon asked.

“You fail to grasp the historical roots of this dynamic. The Jedi have been the peace keepers of the galaxy for untold millennia. The Republic quite simply did not need an officer corps much less a military of the sizes we’re talking about since the founding of the Republic.” Ki Ai Mundi added, as if lecturing the Federation officers.

“Times change.” Kirk noted.

“Perhaps.” Mace replied.

“I found this discourse to be most helpful in clearing any misconceptions and displaying the similarities between us.” Sly Moore announced as she glided to the front of the group. “We have refreshment ready for you at the Senate and a lunch meeting with Bail Organna who is most eager to meet with you.”

“As are we.” Doctor Dehner replied.

“Many thanks for your hospitality and your honesty.” Kirk added bowing his head to the Jedi Council.

“One last matter, as this mission is as vital to the order as it is to the Republic I am assigning a Jedi escort for both protection and a further source of information. I find that sometimes it is best to question those not in leadership positions to get the best information.” Mace stated.

Kirk smiled.

Here was a man after his own heart.

Anakin stiffened slightly as he noticed Yoda’s attention on him.

“Master Obi Wan, you and Anakin are assigned as escorts to the Federation mission while they remain in our space.” Yoda announced.

Anakin swallowed his annoyance. Another mission that would take him away from what he really wanted. Obi Wan nodded obediently.

“Yes masters.”

“Thank you. Your offer of the escorts is most appreciated.” Dehner added with a deep bow of the head.

“May the Force be with you.” Yoda replied.

“Let us hope we meet again as allies united for a single cause.” Mace said with a bow of his own head.

“Many thanks.”

The entourage began to leave the council chambers when one of the masters that had been sitting silently throughout the proceedings lifted a hand and motioned for Kirk to come to him. Kirk looked around hesitantly and by the looks on many of the faces in the chamber this was an unexpected action.

Kirk slowly approached the Jedi master as the others watched.

“Sir?”

The Jedi Master motioned for Kirk to draw closer. Kirk took one look back at Dehner who looked as confused as he felt. Kirk drew closer until he was finally standing right over the Jedi Master.

The Jedi motioned for Kirk to bring his head down to the master’s level. Kirk lowered his head slowly and looked into the master’s eyes. The Jedi Master was humanoid but looked more reptilian than mammal, with dark eyes and yellow thick skin. His breath was hot like a desert wind.

“There is a finality to you Kirk. The others do not or will not see it but I do.” Sassee Tin spoke and it was like rocks rubbing against each other.

Kirk stared at the master in a mix of confusion and concern. Yoda sat back and rubbed his chin pensively while Mace tried his best to hide his surprise. Sassee was always usually quite silent during the council meetings. He was known for listening to all sides of an argument before weighing in with an opinion and even then it was always given reluctantly. What was the Jedi Master doing now?

Sassee suddenly gripped Kirk’s forearm and Kirk stiffened as if touching a live wire. His eyes rolled into the back of his head for a moment.

There was fire everywhere and screams of dying and wounded. A bright humming beam in his hand lit the path through the broken carnage. He heard the soft wails of children right behind him - infants.

“We must be careful.” he heard a female voice speak.

He started to laugh softly.

“How can you laugh at a time like this?!” A male voice interjected, it sounded oddly familiar.

“It’s just that this is the moment I was shown by Sassee so long ago.” he replied wistfully.

There was a deep rhythmic mechanical breathing behind a plume of blackened smoke carrying with it the stench of burning flesh.

“The road has finally come to an end for all of you.” a deep bass voice rumbled as if from the bottom of a well.


He slumped forward as he found himself back in the council chambers, Sassee Tin’s grip on his arm softened.

“I do not know what this means, James Kirk but you have been in my mind for a long time. You are the end, your coming is like the footsteps of doom. But you are also the beginning. But I do not understand what this means.” the Jedi master said and shook his head gravely, seemingly frustrated with himself.

“What was that?” Kirk whispered.

Sassee Tin pinned him with his deep set eyes like lasers.

“The end of an era. You are its herald. Ask no more of me. We will speak on this again. But not now.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will.” Sassee Tin assured him then motioned for Kirk to step away as he lifted the hood of his cloak over his head.

Kirk hesitantly stepped away, staring at the small figure that seemingly shrank in its chair while he walked away. Dehner touched his shoulder.

“Are you alright?” she asked as the doors to the council chambers slid shut.

“No. Actually I’m not alright at all.” Kirk answered.






The cave was quiet save for the light crackling of kindling as it burned brightly, illuminating the cave with a haphazard flickering orange glow. A small metal kettle sat over the fire and something bitter was boiling within.

The old man sat cross legged before the fire enjoying its warmth. His haggard face was cut through with deep lines of age and his eyes were covered by a filthy cloth tied tightly around his head. His robes were wrapped around his thin body as he extended his hand hesitantly and touched the kettle. He gingerly lifted the top and wafted the smell of the brewing tea up to his face. He inhaled deeply and nodded satisfactorily as he replaced the kettle top.

A small boy suddenly walked into the cave and gently placed a small rabbit like creature on the floor of the cave. He fished a pot out from a small alcove in the cave and searched his pouch belt for the necessary herbs and spices.

“They are here.”

The boy said nothing as he laid out a variety of knives.

“Yoda will have no choice but to send him here.” the old man added wearily, he sounded as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders.

The boy sharpened the skinning knife on a shiny whetstone. He moved in quick circular motions the sound of the metal scraping against the stone quickly took up a relaxing rhythm.

“One can only hope that we don’t run out of time.” the boy noted softly as he stopped sharpening the blade and inspected the blade in the light of the fire.

The old man smiled softly as he took the kettle off the fire. He reached down at his side and groped for and found a cup. He gently moved the lightsaber clipped to his belt out of the way while he searched for another cup for the boy.

“All we have is time.” he replied.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-10-14 12:28pm
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Chapter 11: Parting Shots

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”
Twelfth Night
Act 3, Scene iv



The Enterprise soared past a Dreadnought on fire, her hull blackened and split open in several places by heavy fire. She was slowly spinning off her axis into a dive out of the main plane of engagement. A swarm of Republic fighters flashed by the proud starship trading blaster fire and waves of proton torpedoes trailing bright blue contrails as they closed with the starship or passed by it, proximity fuses detonating with bright orange blossoms of light and fire.

The Enterprise’s droid fighter escort was severely depleted in the furious combat that was swirling around the Republic and Separatist fleet. The remaining droid fighters remained close to the Sovereign class starship, in many instances racing to take a hit from concentrated Republic fire to protect the starship, or firing in rapid bursts to intercept any incoming proton torpedoes that were coming too close to the Enterprise.

As the Enterprise cleared the dying Republic dreadnought it fired a spread of quantum torpedoes. A squadron of Republic Z-95 Headhunters flying close escort for a squadron of Y-Wings were caught in the rapidly expanding blast of the quantum torpedoes. Most of the fighters were consumed in the blast, a small number spun out of the blast radius, trailing glittering debris, missing a wing or simply tumbling madly out of control into the side of a capital ship. The Enterprise followed through with quick slashing phaser strikes at the Y-Wings trying to make an attack run on the heart of the Separatist fleet. Some of the Y-Wings managed to withstand the withering phaser strikes, their shields flaring up brightly against the assault but several were destroyed, one of their large engine struts coming apart or the cockpit section spun away from the main body.

The starship dove sharply and spun on her axis as Republic counter fire splashed around the space where she had been mere moments ago.

The battle was a furious brawl between the titanic capital ships of the Republic and Separatist fleet. Jedi Master Naz’s bold strikes to flank the Separatist fleet and directly attack the wormhole were blunted by the surgically precise counterstrokes of Sev’Rance Tan. It seemed that the Separatists had ships precisely in the right place at the right time to meet the Republic advances.

Captain Picard shook his head as sparks flared up on a council behind him to his left. Sev’Rance sat in the seat to his right, Riker to his left. Sev’Rance’s hands were in constant motion on the command pads at the armrests of her seat.

“I commend you and your Starfleet, Captain. The ergonomics of these controls is fascinating. I’ve been able to command the fleet with exceeding ease from this ship.” Sev’Rance noted with a soft smile.

“I’ll let Starfleet know as soon as we get out of this.” Picard replied with a bemused grin.

The bridge shuddered hard as turbolaser cross fire exploded nearby in an exchange between a Banking Guild Bulk cruiser and a Republic assault frigate.

“IF we get through this.” Riker noted with some concern. The scale of firepower out there was amazing.

“Captain, forward shield strength is down to 43%.” Data warned.

“Increase regenerative shield rate.” Picard ordered. “How soon can we expect reinforcements?” He asked Sev'Rance.

“Not for another 30 minutes at least. The Republic was very thorough when they planned this attack. They waited until the bulk of our fleet was repositioning and deployed elsewhere when they made this attack. I think that Captain Sisko’s Deep Space Nine will be needed on this side of the wormhole as soon as possible to provide a true defense for the wormhole.”

“Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves?” Riker interjected.

Counselor Troi paused as she felt a spike of anger from the cold blue skinned woman.

“Nevertheless Captain, we won’t need the reinforcements.” Sev’Rance replied with a sly smile.

“Oh?” Picard wondered.

“This battle is nearly over and we have won.”

“How can you be sure?” Picard pressed.

Sev’Rance looked over at the screen and watched for a moment as the Republic assault frigate trading fire with the Banking Guild Bulk cruiser was suddenly overwhelmed by the combined fire of several Separatists heavy ships that had managed to flank and surround the assault frigate.

It exploded into a ball of fire, debris and wreckage spinning out from the epicenter of the blast.

“Because I can feel it, Captain. The tide is turning and I’m about to finish this battle.” She replied with a cold satisfaction as she entered a string of orders into her tactical pads in a flurry of precise motion.







“The tide is turning. We need to think of retreat.” Naz stated gravely to Yuess Fane. The Bothan’s eyes twitched for a moment.

“Are you sure? The losses we’re inflicting on the Separatists is mounting.” Fane pointed out.

Naz nodded.

“And ours are mounting as well. I had not counted on a protracted fleet engagement. This attack was meant as a quick strike and fade operation. The sole goal of this operation was collapsing the wormhole, not engaging a Separatist fleet.”

“Nevertheless, battle is joined and we’re tearing their wings apart.”

“Their center holds and will not break, Fane. And more importantly, our men are faltering in their hearts. Morale is flagging.”

“Not on MY fleet it’s not.” Fane spat.

Naz smiled softly. He placed a hand on his Bothan friend’s shoulder.

“Yuess, this is not a slight against you or your fleet. They were not expecting this, no one was. The casualties are mounting and many of the ship captains are starting to realize that we are not going to break through to the wormhole. Sev’Rance, she’s a sly one indeed. She can sense the turning of the tide as I do. She is already gathering for another counter attack.”

“Master Naz, strategic scans indicate a sizable Separatist relief fleet inbound. ETA: 27 minutes.” A tactical officer called out from his station.

“And so comes the final stroke. I warned you this was the greatest danger for the plan. The longer we stay here the longer we will be over whelmed.” Naz replied with a bitter frown. Fane looked into the Jedi master’s white within white eyes.

“I should have been more forceful, gotten the Fortieth tactical fleet or the First Correllian Expeditionary force.” Fane lamented.

“Not your fault, Yuess. Now we need to regroup and prepare for a fighting retreat.” Naz counseled softly.

“Is there any choice?” Fane asked his old friend already knowing the answer. Naz was renown for his tenacity in battle. He and Fane had fought in too many campaigns for the Bothan to delude himself as to Naz’s intentions and beliefs.

“No, Yuess. This needs to end now. Sev’Rance will do her damndest now to try and pin us down. If she can trap us here when the Separatist fleet arrives they will cut us to pieces.” Naz replied.

Fane nodded reluctantly.

“Alert all commands. Prepare for a fighting withdrawal. I want the center to hold position and begin withdrawing the wings.” Naz ordered.

“Aye sir.”







“It looks like they’re retreating.” Riker noted with some surprise.

“I am reading general withdrawal of all of their wings.” Data added.

“It looks as if we don’t need those reinforcements as you predicted.” Picard noted as he watched the Republic forces begin their orderly retreat, each wing slowly pulling away from the tangle of warships, simultaneously providing covering for fire for the next wing of ships.

“Our job is not complete yet Captain. We need to keep the pressure on. If we can pin them down this surprise attack can turn into a Republic defeat that will reverberate through this sector.” Sev’Rance Tan replied stonily.

“We’re lucky enough to have fought them off. The prudent thing to do is to disengage and allow them to retreat.” Riker suggested.

Sev’Rance paused and glanced sharply at Riker.

“Talk like that will not win us victory Mr. Riker. We need leaders with vision and daring. In case you have not noticed, this possible alliance hung on a thread this day and if not for the vision of your Captain you would have been stranded in this galaxy for the rest of your lives.”

Riker glared angrily at the beautiful blue skinned woman, his eyes boring into her glowing crimson ones.

“She’s right, Will. We have to push our advantage to the limit. Would you let a Dominion task force get away that easy?” Picard asked gently.

“I just think we are putting this ship at an unacceptable risk sir. I don’t need to remind you that the Enterprise was here on a fact finding mission not combat operations.”

“We’ll discuss this later, Number One.”

Sev’Rance ignore the exchange and eagerly typed in new orders for her nearest ships. The Republic could not be allowed to escape. This would be a pretty prize to bring back to her master in addition to the Federation entourage.

On screen the Banking Guild bulk cruiser that had been engaging the Republic assault frigate was under heavy fire from a retreating heavy cruiser, her port side was on fire and the Guild Bulk cruiser would not relent.

“She needs to pull back.” Picard noted with growing concern as more fires began sprouting along her hull.

“She’s trying to hold back the Republic cruiser until more support ships come in.” Sev’Rance replied coolly as she directed more ships to slash into the retreating wings. Jedi Master Naz was not going to get away that easy from her.

Picard frowned as he watch the bulk cruiser’s forward portions battered by the Republic cruisers turbolasers. He glanced down at his tactical display and saw that any nearby Separatist ships were too far away.

“She needs help. Number One, bring us in on an oblique angle, one alpha strike on the shield portion being hit by the Bulk Cruiser. Maybe we can help bring down that shield.”

“And provide a tempting target for their gunners?” Riker added with a smirk.

“I wouldn’t have put it in quite those terms, Number One, but the idea is to get some pressure off that ship.”

“That is a Republic heavy cruiser, Monarch class, she could tear this ship apart.” Sev’Rance warned eyeing Picard.

Picard returned the gaze with a bemused smile.

“Then the key here, Sev’Rance is not to get hit.” He turned to Riker. “Engage.”

“Aye sir. Mr. Data?”

“Coming in on oblique approach, all weapons on standby for alpha strike.”

The Enterprise leapt forward like an eager wolfhound and raced towards the two cruisers locked in a death struggle. The Republic heavy cruiser loomed on the view screen, her gun arrays spitting out a steady stream of green turbolaser fire. Riker watched the awesome display of fire power, knowing full well that just one of those broadsides could reduce the Enterprise to her component atoms if they weren’t careful.

Data’s hands moved along the helm controls without hesitation in a near blur as he guided the starship through the storm of enemy fire blossoming around them. His eyes did not leave the view screen while the heavy cruiser grew larger, taking up nearly half of the screen.

“Weapons standing by.” Hawk reported calmly as his hands hovered over the weapons controls.

“Closer…” Picard urged and the Enterprise shuddered as if in response to his words.

“We’re taking fire.”

“Captain, this maneuver could be too dangerous, I suggest we do not get any closer.” Sev’Rance warned quietly so only Picard could hear.

Picard did not take his eyes off the screen.

“Duly noted but weren’t you the one that admonished us on being more daring and visionary?” Picard replied dryly.

Sev’Rance shook her head in chagrin.

The Enterprise shook harder and several warning alarms beeped loudly for attention. On screen the heavy cruiser now filled the screen and they could make out the individual gun batteries firing their terrible payloads. Green turbolaser fire cris-crossed the screen etching bright bursts of exploding plasma in the star field around them. Red turbolaser fire was streaming in from the starboard side in a rain of fire that was erupting on the surface of the cruiser’s shields, creating a cascade of light from the strained shield grid as it valiantly tried to vent out the massive energy surges.

“Mr. Hawk, try to match our alpha strike to the bulk cruiser’s barrages, let’s see if we can’t bring down this shield.”

“Aye sir.” Hawk replied enthusiastically.

Riker grit his teeth as the Enterprise shook violently under their feet and a console exploded to his left, sending a crewman spilling backward screaming in pain. The cruiser finally noticed the Enterprise had drawn dangerously close to them and several batteries turned their attention to the Enterprise.

“Now.”

“All weapons firing.”

The Enterprise fired a devastating volley of fire, the quantum torpedo turret swung into action and spat out five torpedoes in the span of a heartbeat as heavy phaser arrays glowed brilliantly and fired several steady phaser bursts that danced along the cruiser’s shield like mad dervishes.

The torpedoes exploded in a plume of fire and plasma as the Enterprise spun on her axis and danced between turbolaser bolts. As she snapped past in a flash of white and ivory, rear mounted phaser slashed into action as the forward arrays switched off. Rear mounted launchers released another volley of torpedoes.

The shield flashed brightly like a lightning storm at night. A volley of red turbolaser bolts slipped past the overloaded shield and struck the hull.

“Shield momentarily overloaded, Captain.”

“Excellent work, Mr. Hawk. Mr. Data full evasive, keep us in their weapons range and prepare for another pass.”

“Captain, daring is one thing, foolhardy is another. I urge you to withdraw.” Sev’Rance exclaimed as the starship came around in a sharp turn just as two turbolaser bolts flashed by, less than half a kilometer from the hull.

“Sev’Rance, if a Federation starship cannot even keep your Republic enemies occupied or support an attack on a capital ship of what use is the Alliance then and would it be worth our while to join if we are so sorely overmatched?” Picard asked without looking at her as he examined his tactical display.

“Number One, set next quantum spread at pattern Sierra. Mr. Data, bring us in low and fast, break into pattern Gamma once we are within 500 meters.”

“500 meters?!” Sev’Rance spat and her hand gripped Picard’s shoulder like a claw. “You do not need to prove anything to anyone Picard.”

Picard glanced at her for a moment. He turned back to Data as another volley of turbolaser fire exploded around them.

“Engage.”

“Acknowledged.”

Sev’Rance stared at Picard, aghast at his actions. Could it be that she had read him wrongly? Was there some odd death wish at work here that she had overseen?

The Republic cruiser was not so trusting of its invulnerability this time and many of her batteries turned to swat the annoying starship away. A veritable cloud of heavy flak fire burst in a myriad shapes and colors around the starship.

Sev'Rance noticed right away that the volume of fire against the Banking Guild bulk cruiser had lessened dramatically. The Enterprise had done her job. Now there was only one problem – surviving this attack run.

“Captain, we have Republic fighters coming in at 67 mark 22.” Data warned.

“Continue your attack. Number One?”

“Already on it.” Riker replied. Counselor Troi watched him intently as he entered a string of command codes. Sev’Rance had granted Will command of the droid fighters escorting the Enterprise. Now Riker was bringing the last of the squadrons around to face the new threat.

He frowned slightly as the tactical display showed the last of the small dots escorting the Enterprise peeled away in a tight formation and moved to intercept the Republic threat fighters.

“We’re down an escort.” Riker muttered to Picard.

“We’re almost out of this Will.”

The Enterprise banked hard to port to avoid another blast of turbolasers and then unleashed a volley from her forward armaments. The Banking guild cruiser, wise to Picard’s tactics now, timed his own volleys to lend maximum effect to Picard’s alpha strike.

The already heavily strained shield grid simply failed under the assault and as the tight bubble of energy simply dropped around that portion of the Republic cruiser, the Enterprise’s rear mounted weapons unleashed a barrage against the open hull. Deftly avoiding the heavily armored portions, Hawk guided the phasers to dance along the open weapons ports and the torpedoes to detonate in tight clusters around exposed conduits, sensor grids and turbolaser emplacements.

Sev’Rance checked the damage and could not help but smile.

“I must commend you and your crew Captain. The Monarch class heavy cruisers are the pride of the Republic fleet. You have just help lay one low.”

“This is not quiet over yet.” Picard replied as the Enterprise suddenly lurched forward, fire alarms tripped simultaneously.

“We took a hit on the port side aft.” Data began to report when there were a few hammer like blows that seemed to drive the starship down and forward. The screen broke into a moment of static snow and when it cleared up three fighters zoomed over head and began a tight banking turn.

“Three fighters managed to slip by our fighter screen.”

“They’re coming around for another pass.” Hawk snapped as he watched the two Z-95 headhunters and a damaged Nubian fighter swinging around.

“Aft Shields are down to 12%. Port side nacelle is showing plasma leaks and I’m getting fluctuations from the warp field.”

“Engineering to Bridge.”

“Go Geordie.” Picard replied as he quickly assessed his situation.

“Captain I have to take the port nacelle off line or we’ll start venting plasma and damage our manifolds.”

“I need every erg of power I can get right now, Geordie.” Picard replied as he nodded to Riker.

“Data, full evasive, lose those fighters. Mr. Hawk, I want you to clear my sky.” Riker ordered.

“On it sir!” Hawk replied and quickly recharged the phasers. The Enterprise began to spiral away from the fighters, keeping her stronger starboard and forward shields facing the eager fighters. Her port nacelle was flickering madly, like bugs zipping into an electric field.

“Captain, I don’t have much of a choice, if the venting plasma gets into the manifold we’re liable to lose the whole nacelle or worse.” Geordie urged.

Picard sighed softly.

“Do it Geordie, but try to find me power from somewhere and try to coax more out of the regenerative shield rate.”

“Aye sir.” Geordie replied. Picard could hear the dismay in Geordie’s voice. Picard was asking for much. The Sovereign was already a power hungry beast, taking a nacelle off line was going to put the power reserves into a nosedive and Picard was asking for more power.

“Controls are sluggish Captain. I suspect some damage between here and the ODN relays.” Data noted as he tried valiantly to steer the underpowered starship out of the zone of engagement.

“Its going to be near impossible to keep those fighters off our tails.” Riker noted.

Picard watched the Monarch class cruiser, damaged and on fire slowly pulling away from the fight, the Banking Guild cruiser not relenting in her storm of fire.

“I have an idea. Mr. Data, take us in, all available power to the engines, take the torpedoes off line and shunt life support from the shuttle bays and other areas with no personnel.”

“The torpedoes sir?!” Hawk replied incredulously.

“The torpedoes aren’t going to help us much against the fighters at this range, Mr. Hawk. I’m trusting to your gunnery skills and Mr. Data’s piloting skills to get us out of this.”

“Aye sir. I won’t let you down.”

Sev’Rance watched the exchange silently, noting Picard’s calm under fire demeanor, Riker’s quiet efficiency and the bridge crew’s loyalty to their captain. No one had shown a single shred of fear or anger at their commander for putting them into this position. They were doing their jobs without faltering.

She was particularly interested in Data. He was slowly proving to be the answer that her master sought in regards to their troop problem. He had shown an amazing versatility and judgment skills that surpassed those of any battle droid yet produced by the Geonoshians and the Trade Federation.

Her eyes fell on Councilor Troi who was watching her with a hooded expression. As soon as she noted the attention the beautiful betazoid turned away quickly and focused on her station.

Sev’Rance’s eyes narrowed on the empath.

Others would have to be dealt with and soon. A slip of anger or emotion and she may be betrayed.

Troi did not know that at that very moment, she had been marked for death.

“Where?” Riker asked amazed.

“Right down her port axis, Data. All possible speed, let’s see if we can’t get some of their friendly fire to help dissuade pursuit.” Picard answered.

“Aye sir.” Data replied without hesitation.

“Try and keep her steady, Mr. Data. I need to draw some beads here.” Hawk added.

“I will try but I cannot guarantee that I will not engage in some extreme maneuvers to evade fire.” he replied evenly.

“Yeah, Ok Data.” Hawk replied with a smirk.

Data blinked for a moment and shrugged as he began his evasive maneuvers right down the port axis of the Republic cruiser.

Hawk worked the phaser controls and peppered the area behind the Enterprise with phaser fire. The Republic fighters bobbed and weaved between the crimson phaser blasts as they closed on their wounded prey.




“We have to withdraw.” Naz urged.

“The 7th wing is still tangled up with the damned Separatists. “Freedom’s Spear” is under heavy attack from that alien ship and a few Separatists support ships. What do you expect me to do?” Fane asked sharply.

Naz girded himself for the reaction.

“We withdraw, leave the 7th wing behind.”

Fane stared expressionless at the obsidian skinned Jedi master. Nothing was said for a few heart beats then Fane exploded.

“What in the name of the Republic are you saying?! That we leave the 7th wing behind?! you say that with such ease Naz.” Fane hissed.

“Calm yourself, anger will gain you nothing save cloud your judgment.” Naz counseled quietly.

“No, anger will allow me to say this to you without regret or hesitation. You advise me to leave the 7th wing behind as if you were telling me to leave behind a handful of fighters or a dying wreck of a ship. We’re talking about 20 ships, their fighters and thousands of lives Naz.” Fane replied, voice dripping with contempt and anger, his facial fur bristled.

“I’m talking about 100’s of ships and tens of thousands of lives Fane.” Naz replied evenly.

The Bothan glared at the calm Jedi master.

“You make that order. I will not.” Fane spat and turned his back on Fane.

“Yuess…” Naz gently reached out to touch his friend’s shoulder.

Fane pulled his shoulder away from the Jedi master.

“You have to realize that if we stay and fight the Separatist fleet will surround us, trap us and destroy us. The Republic would lose an entire battle fleet as opposed to a single attack wing. Surely you can see the military necessity.”

“One wonders, Jedi master Corvuss Naz whether you would make that order if there were Jedi among the attack wing.” Fane replied darkly.

Naz was dumbstruck.

“You know I would.” Naz replied after a moment of disbelief and shock.

“I served in the 7th wing when I was but a youth. I still have friends there.”

“And I do not?” Naz snapped.

“Sirs. Separatists task force will emerge from hyperspace in 5 minutes.”

Both men stared at each other for a long moment as the battle continued to rage around them, every second of their silence countless men and women were dying in the void beyond.

“Alert all commands.” Naz began and his voice was husky with emotion, his eyes never leaving Fane’s. “Begin making the calculations for the jump to lightspeed.”

The command staff exchanged troubled glances.

“Sir,. the 4th attack wing requests permission to lead a counter attack to free the 7th wing.” the tactical officer said quietly, watching the Jedi master intently.

Fane said nothing but crossed his arms deliberately. He would not make this any easier for Naz. Naz was the overall field commander, in the end it was his fleet, his commission by the Republic, but Naz would be the one to give the order to leave the 7th wing behind.

“Navigation, time for the 4th attack wing to initiate counter assault?” Naz asked already knowing the answer.

“Three minutes.”

“They cannot free the 7th wing in two minutes of battle. I will not risk losing the 4th wing as well. Sev’Rance Tan is just waiting for us to pounce.” Naz replied.

“Give…the…order.” Fane said quietly and grimly.

Naz stared at the Bothan and found no sympathy or help in his eyes. He gathered his cloak around him and strode down to the navigation station.

“Alert all commands. We retreat now.”

“Aye sir.” the tactical officer replied flatly.

He felt the surge of anger among the bridge crew, and as the order disseminated among the fleet he could feel the outrage and anger spreading like a storm.

“Get us out of here now.” Naz ordered tightly.

“You heard the Jedi master.” Fane added and politely stepped off the bridge. Naz walked over to one of the bridge windows and placed a hand on the armored glass, watching the 7th wing, swarmed by Separatist ships now slowly pulling away as the fleet pulled back. The wing fought on, turbolaser bolts still flashing out brightly in the dark void until, as the fleet pulled further and further back accelerating to make the jump to lightspeed, all that could be seen of the 7th wing was the flashing green bolts of their defiant courage.

“A bold stroke indeed”, Naz lamented softly to himself.

Naz bowed his head as the fleet jumped to lightspeed.




“It is over.” Sev’Rance announced.

Picard watched as the last of the Republic ships finally surrendered. The attack wing had fought valiantly, chewing up the Separatist forces that tried to overwhelm them. It was only when the Separatists relief forces arrived that the Republic forces finally relented when they saw that there was little else they could do.

“I’m glad to see that your forces have not taken to learning the lessons of other rebel groups and take out your frustrations and anger on the government forces you fight against.” Picard noted with relief. He was afraid that as the Republic forces fought on harder that the Separatists would become frustrated and not accept the inevitable surrender that was to come.

He had to admit that he had his doubts at first. Sev’Rance was very aggressive and merciless in combat but now she was proving that not only was she an implacable warrior but also a humane victor. His estimation of the Separatists had risen dramatically.

“Make sure that every Republic soldier is accounted for and given a field ration and any medical assistance we can spare. Once they have been secured prepare them for processing on the Anvil.”

“The Anvil?” Troi asked.

“Yes, it is the penal colony we have set up in a secret location in the Rim. There the Republic prisoners are held until the conflict is over.”

“I assume similar arrangements have been made for Separatist prisoners?” Riker asked.

“We occasionally hear rumors, some good some horrifying of what the Republic does to our own. Our prefer to believe that they are as human as we are.” Sev’Rance replied.

“Sir, we’re receiving a hail from the fleet commander.”

“Put it on screen.”

The Neimodian, Numus Dalas was smiling broadly as he appeared on the screen.

“Sev’Rance a wondrous victory! And Captain Picard, my fleet captains which to pass on their praise of your actions, particularly Captain Husar of the Assessor.”

“The Assessor?” Picard asked.

“The Banking guild Bulk Cruiser you assisted in bringing down the Monarch class cruiser. In a one on one, a Republic Monarch class would easily defeat a bulk cruiser but you helped tipped the odds in his favor. He is most appreciative.”

“I was merely doing what I could to help.”

“And if the rest of your Federation does as well as you, I have no doubts that we will soon embrace victory.” Dalas said his odd accent lending an almost comical tone to the praise as he clasped his hands together in joy.

“Let’s not count our chickens.” Riker added.

The look on Dalas’ face was priceless.

“We were lucky no clone troopers or Jedi were on board any of these ships or things could have ended far bloodier.” Dalas added.

“Why is that?” Picard asked.

“Clonetroopers are fanatics, Captain. They fight to the death. Much like our own Mandalorians, they never surrender. And the Jedi…well they are an entirely different animal. Not so much mindless fanatic as unstoppable killing machine. I’ve seen Jedi knights empty out entire droid carriers holding off boarding actions. Put the two together and that is a vicious combination.” Sev’Rance replied darkly.

An aide stepped into view and whispered something into Dalas’ ear.

“Uh, Sev’Rance. Count Dooku is requesting the Enterprise’s presence at the Capital immediately.”

“Of course. Inform him that we are coming.” Sev’Rance replied. She turned to Picard and gently touched his forearm. Her eyes gazed into his. “And now Jean Luc, we shall step into a whole new world.”

Picard regarded her for a moment, her crimson glowing eyes looked into his eagerly.

“I suppose that we will.” He replied.






The sound of construction was loud on the promenade, at some points culminating in ear aching shrieks as metal was wrenched from places or plasma cutters sliced through armor. Many people walking the promenade would be forced to cover their ears for a moment as the sounds would pass like wounded predators howling in the night.

For a Ferengi, there were no romantic notions of what the sounds were like.

“This is MADDENING.” Quark shouted over the roar of something being wrenched apart.

Odo nodded slightly, taking note of the Ferengi’s discomfort.

“You’re lucky that Captain Sisko managed to talk the engineers to work on the more massive projects now and not during the night cycle.”

“Does it matter?” Quark replied bitterly as he tried unsuccessfully to block out the sounds with two wadded up cotton balls.

“What do you mean?” Odo asked curiously.

“I’m a Ferengi, Odo, you would have thought that after all these years you would have realized that. Night shift, day shift, this noise reverberates through the hull and it sounds like they’re hammering right in my bedroom.” Quark snapped.

“As usual you exaggerate.” Odo snorted.

“And look at what it’s done to my bar.” Quark continued his tirade. Odo glanced around at the mostly empty bar.

“Some of your regulars are here.” Odo noted. Morn sat several stools down from them staring into his drink. Worf and General Martok were seated at a table to their right deep in a discussion.

“Great, some blood wine, prune juice and a black hole. I can just hear my profits going up, up, up.” Quark sneered. A new cacophony of cutting metal and shrieking steel filled the air and Quark grunted in pain.

“I’m sure that’s not all you’re hearing Quark. By the way have you given any thought to the state of your profits when the Separatists begin passing through here?”

“What are you talking about? All I’ve seen are their droids, which they seem to have plenty of…” Quark glanced over Odo’s shoulder as a trio walked into the bar. “And them.” He indicated the three new comers. Each wore the distinctive battle armor of the Mandalorian super commandoes, they carried their helmets snugly under their arms. They had been stationed on Deep Space Nine to help provide security while the upgrades were completed.

Odo was not particularly pleased with their presence on the station. He took it as an affront to his own competence that they did not trust him with guarding the station from threats to its security. They trusted him when the Klingon threat had loomed, and the Dominion war was about to break out but now this was too much?

He was meaning to speak frankly to Sisko about it.

The Mandalorians were not loud and boisterous like the Klingons, nor emotionless killers like the Jem’Hadar but there was something different about them. They walked like specters of death, they were comfortable with it and that was obvious in the way they carried themselves, the way they spoke, death was around them and like angels of death they frightened those around them.

So even though their leader laughed and smiled, there was a darkness there that unnerved most others.

Mostly.

Odo glanced over at the Klingons.

Martok and Worf were eyeing the Mandalorians with barely concealed interest. Odo had noticed that the Klingons were drawn to the Mandalorians much like moths to a flame. The Mandalorians did not return the favor. They tended to stick to themselves.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Aren’t you going to serve them? Paying customers seem so hard to find these days.” There was a hiss of plasma that sounded as if a giant snake were loose in the bar quickly accompanied by the tear of something else and the bar shook as if a giant foot had stepped overhead.

Odo knew that Chief O’Brien was in heaven at this very moment. The Separatist workers, supplemented by the Federation corps of engineers and a veritable army of droids were basically rebuilding the station from the ground up.

Odo had seen some of the weapon arrays being installed from the upper observation deck and he was impressed. The size of the batteries was an indication as to what sort of firepower the station would soon be able to bring to bear. But the one change that was soon to go underway was the one that had O’Brien most excited, something about the installation of a hypermatter reactor.

What was hypermatter and why it had the Chief so excited was beyond Odo. Sometimes the action of solids could still be so confusing for him.

“You know what they’re going to order, Odo? Water. Antaran Water if they feel adventurous but water and some simple salads.”

“Reasonable diet for warriors, no?”

“Klingons don’t eat like that.”

“They don’t strike me as being cut from the same cloth.”

“What does Garak have to do with this?” Quark replied confused.

“Sorry?” Odo was bewildered by the sudden shift in gears.

“Oh, you’re using Humon idioms now, eh?” Quark noted with some distaste. He shook his head and clucked his tongue as he nodded to a waitress who walked over to the Mandalorians.

“Take it from me, Odo. Humon culture, particularly Federation humon culture is insidious. Don’t let yourself get sucked in or you’ll end up like my brother Rom.”

“Happy and married with a bright future ahead of him?” Odo replied without missing a beat.

Quark waved Odo’s words away like pesky flies. “You mark my words. This whole Separatist Galactic civil war business is something we’re going to regret.”

“Oh?”

Quark picked up a datapad and walked back behind his bar during a moment of relative quiet.

“The lobes know. This whole alliance thing feels wrong somehow, like things aren’t supposed to be this way.”

“I suppose you would have preferred having the station fall into Dominion hands.” Odo replied sardonically.

“As weird as that sounds, Odo, that just feels right to me.”

Odo shook his head.

“You are incorrigible.”

“What I am is a business man and war is bad for business. This is a galactic war, a war we have no right being involved in.” Quark replied. For once, Odo could not disagree.

Back at the table in the corner Martok and Worf watched the Mandalorians as they seated themselves. Even the casual motion of sitting seemed like an intricate dance, they moved with a supple caution that spoke of intimate experiences with danger and death.

“Not one of them sits with his back to the door. I noticed this the second time I saw them seated here.” Worf noted as he rolled the cup of prune juice between his hands. Martok nodded gruffly.

“They are warriors, of that there is no doubt. Captain Sisko has been told that they are the most dangerous warriors in this new galaxy.”

Worf said nothing as he watched them interacting with the waitress.

“But there is one thing we do not know about them Worf.”

“What is that?”

Martok leaned in close and clasped Worf’s forearm in a tight grip.

“We do not know if they have honor.”

Worf looked into the general’s only eye.

“There would be one way to know and that is to talk with them.”

Martok sat back as if stung.

“You have lived among these humans too long, Worf. One does not speak of honor. Honor is in the acts, in the very breath of a warrior. These Mandalorians do not strike me as honorable warriors. They seem more like lovers of death.” Martok eyed them for a moment and grunted. “And it does not help that they seem to be human in every respect.”

“Captain Sisko is human.” Worf noted. He had reflexively defended his human friends from Martok’s knee jerk reaction to the race. Worf had lived among them long enough to know that the old Klingon prejudices simply did not hold water.

“Precisely. Captain Sisko’s honor is worn on his heart like a badge. One can see his honor these Mandalorians however walk among us like ghosts. Besides Worf, how honorable can one be when you go into combat wearing battle armor that makes you into a walking tank? I have not seen a blade among them.” Martok noted derisively.

“What do you intend to do about it?” Worf asked.

Martok nodded to himself slowly. He took a large drink of his blood wine.

“Honor is seen in actions Worf and I intend to read their actions and their honor.”

Worf said nothing but would not be surprised if Martok simply walked up to one of them and initiated combat. Luckily, Captain Sisko seemed to have anticipated this possibility and ordered all Klingons on the station to treat the Separatists with respect and that included the Mandalorians.

“And of the treaty? What has Gowron said?”

Martok looked back at Worf blinking for a moment at the sudden change in conversation. Worf was subtly trying to change the subject. Now was not the time, he could feel it. They would gain nothing from challenging the Mandalorians.

“Gowron is opposed to entering into a treaty with these Separatists at this time. He feels we do not know enough about them to commit the empire to a war of this scale.”

“Eventually the Empire will have to make a decision. We cannot simply stand by the wayside while the Federation engages in glorious combat in another galaxy against insurmountable odds.” Worf said wistfully.

“We?” Martok noted with a hint of bemusement.

“I meant you and the Empire of course.” Worf quickly corrected himself.

Martok nodded and chuckled.

“We may yet make steal you away from your precious Federation my friend.” Martok laughed and slapped Worf on the shoulder. “Now…about these Mandalorians.” Martok turned his eye back on the silent warriors sitting at the table drinking water and watching the crowd with a detached interest of a butcher to his carcass.

Worf sighed softly.






“Are you well, Senator?” Bastion asked softly as he watched the beautiful young senator seated across from him in the small dining room in her Nubian transport.

“Yes, I’m just not hungry.”

“Still blaming yourself for what happened back on Camlan?” Bastion asked knowing the answer already. Her dedication to the peace movement had never faltered but Bail Organna had quickly vaulted to the fore as the leader of the movement. Bail was not afraid to publicly criticize the Supreme Chancellor. Amidala was constrained by the fact that Palpatine was from Naboo, and very popular back home.

“I know what you’re going to say Bastion.” she replied looking up at the young Jedi with golden hair, his blue eyes shown like pieces of sapphire in the light of the ship.

“Really? I was going to ask you if you were going to eat that?” Bastion replied pointing to a piece of fruit at the edge of her plate.

Padme stopped short for a moment and looked down at her plate and started to laugh softly.

“That’s the spirit, my lady. You are far too beautiful to be frowning like that.” Bastion replied with a smile of his own, his teeth shown brightly like pearls. He nodded to her and she acquiesced as he took the fruit.

“Every time people ask me why they call you the laughing Jedi I repeat the things you say so casually. Frankly Bastion you are the happiest person I have ever met.”

“You think I’m funny? You haven’t seen my impression of Master Yoda.” Bastion said with a wry wink.

“Is that even allowed you rogue?” she replied with a playful slap of his shoulder.

“I am a Jedi Knight, milady and I can do as I please as long as I live the ideals of the order.”

She shook her head ruefully. Some days the only bright light during these dark days were her hours spent with Bastion. She had never seen him angry, sad, upset. He was always smiling, always laughing, even in battle.

Her thoughts briefly flickered to Anakin. He rarely laughed anymore.

“You miss him don’t you?” he asked.

She stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowed on the Adonis like Jedi.

“No…no, milady, I was not peaking, it’s just very obvious on your face. You and Anakin are very close friends, most everyone knows that. You’ve known him since he was a child. So did I by the way and I don’t know how you put up with him.”

“He is a good man.” she protested.

“Of that there is no doubt.” he replied with a laugh. He leaned forward and whispered to her in a conspiratorial tone. “I swear by the Force milady, he has made brooding into an art form.”

“He had much on his mind.” she stopped herself. It was Bastion’s way to make fun and she was acting like an over protective woman.

“I just don’t know mila---“

“Bastion, you’ve known me long enough to call me Padme.”

“Very well, Padme.” Bastion replied inclining his head towards her. “You don’t have to defend him so vigorously Padme.” he began. Padme took a sip from her drink watching the young Jedi. “It’s not like you’re married or anything silly like that.”

She choked on her drink and coughed loudly as she tried to clear her throat. Bastion leaned forward with concern.

“Are you alright?” he asked suddenly concerned and leaned forward.

“Yes…” she managed to choke out.

Bastion shook his head smiling and rose from the table.

“I’ll go check the navigational controls, we should be at Coruscant within the hour.”

She nodded still coughing.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-11-03 07:40pm
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Chapter 12: Night Calls

“He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.”
Love’s Labours Lost Act 5 scene i



Sev’Rance Tan moved like a panther, stalking after the damaged droid. Her crimson lightsaber hummed hungrily as she avoided a hot white stun bolt the droid loosed from its remaining blaster arm.

She leapt across a rock formation, past a chasm below and landed agilely in a crouch. The droid’s slender neck twisted quickly as it tried to track her. She moved quietly, her skin tight fighting tunic was black as night and moved like a second skin as her eyes found the droid, measured the distance between her and the droid.

It would be a difficult jump but not impossible, not impossible for one like herself. She spun the blade rapidly as she ran and picked up momentum. The droid’s head snapped over to her position as she catapulted herself off her end of the rock formation and tucked into a rolling ball.

The droid backed up quickly on six spider like legs and unleashed a steady stream of bright white stun bolts. Sev’Rance continued spinning through the air, her crimson lightsaber flashed out and batted aside the stun bolts that would have struck her and she landed behind the droid on one leg, the other leg whipped around in a roundhouse kick striking the droid’s head.

The droid was turning at its waist, blaster arm ready when the blow struck its head, stunning it long enough for Sev’Rance to lash out with her lightsaber and slice through the droid’s torso. The droid let out a pathetic squeal as it crashed to the floor and trashed around violently. Sev’Rance strode over to the fallen droid and placed a foot on its head holding it in place as she stabbed downward into its back. The droid stopped moving instantly and a small cloud of white smoke rose from the droid’s ruined lower torso.

Sev’Rance lifted the lightsaber blade and held up before her face in a strange salute.

“I must say, that was most impressive.” Picard commented.

Sev’Rance turned her head slowly and smiled.

“Captain Picard, what a pleasant surprise.” she breathed.

Picard walked over to the debris that once comprised the combat droid. He inspected it closely and eyed her crimson humming blade curiously.

“I wonder how you managed to keep the beam coherent and at a certain length.”

“It is one of the mysteries of the Jedi which only the initiated may know.” she replied and extinguished her blade. “It is more an objet d’art than it is a practical weapon for most.”

“As I understand it, the Jedi knights use the weapon exclusively.” Picard replied casually.

“Yes, but there are those who do not agree with the direction the Jedi have taken of late, and although we may share the same beliefs we are not like them in many other ways.” Sev'Rance noted as she extended her hand out to Picard and offered the lightsaber to him. Picard looked slightly concerned.

“Do not worry. I have tripped the safety grips, only I know how to activate it at this point. Quite helpful when you’re letting others inspect it. We wouldn’t want the impending treaty between our peoples ground to halt by the untimely death or maiming of Captain Jean Luc Picard by my lightsaber.”

Picard smiled and took the offered lightsaber hilt. He inspected it, marveled at how light it was.

“I was expecting something a little heavier.”

“It is perfectly balanced for my use.” she slid in closer to Picard. “Each lightsaber is crafted by the wielder to their own individual specifications.” she explained her voice dropping slightly.

“Fascinating, Sev’Rance.” he looked up at her, suddenly aware of how close she was to him in her black skin tight form fitting fighting tunic. Her crimson eyes looked into his with a hooded expression.

Picard cleared his throat. “You know, you say my name with a perfect French inflection. Its rare that I meet someone that can do that.” he softly.

“Indeed.” she replied evenly. “I have a gift with tongues. I speak at least 50 different languages not counting various dialects.” she replied, eyes boring into his. There was a palpable heat between them as her heaving chest and finally slowed slightly, but the sweat still ran down the sides of her exquisitely chiseled face.

Picard looked back down at the saber.

“Interesting design.” he said trying his best not to look at her body as he looked down.

“I crafted it in honor of my master’s own lightsaber.” she replied and accepted the lightsaber back from Picard. She leaned in slightly but Picard was already walking around the droid. Sev’Rance blinked and then smiled slyly. She followed him, slinking along like a big cat on the prowl.

“I watched your battle and I have to say that some of those combat moves were simply impossible for a human or humanoid to carry out. Some of those leaps were in excess of ten meters. I assume that you practice using this Force the same way the Jedi do. Can we expect the same sort of fighting from a Jedi Knight as I saw?”

Sev’Rance smiled brashly.

“I expect that I could defeat your average Jedi Knight, if the word average could ever be used to describe them. My training emphasizes the combat uses of the Force for obvious reasons.” she paused and looked up. “Computer end program.”

The droid, rocky terrain and overcast sky vanished, replaced by the cold grid of the holodeck. Sev’Rance glanced around and nodded.

“I must say that I was skeptical at first about this holodeck of yours but I am convinced, this could prove to be an innovative training technique for our warriors.”

“Not to mention a recreational alternative.” Picard added hopefully. Sev’Rance looked at him and laughed, it was a quiet laugh and she smiled broadly at him shaking her head.

“You must think me a fanatic, Jean Luc. I apologize, that was not my intention. It’s this damned war.”

“War has a way of changing a person and not usually for the better.” Picard said with a soft sigh. “It is one of the most challenging aspects of this alliance that has me concerned.”

“How so?” Sev’Rance asked curiously. Picard looked up at her for a moment, weighing his words.

“The Separatists want an alliance to aid them in their war against the Republic, we want the alliance because of the scientific and economic benefits that it would bring. There is a price to pay for the progress and security that this alliance would offer and that is to plunge the Federation into a galactic civil war on the scale that we could only dream about.”

Sev'Rance nodded slowly.

“And yet, as we speak, a squadron of heavy cruisers are currently fighting their way through Cardasian space and have all but eliminated the Dominion threat to your Federation. I can see how war would not appeal to you and your Federation.” Sev’Rance replied frostily.

“I never agreed to the Separatist intervention in the Dominion War.” Picard snapped.

“You did not but your Federation council accepted it as sign of good faith as suggested by Count Dooku himself. So you invited the Separatist into your war but now that we ask the same from you, you recoil from the very thought of it. I am most disappointed Captain. My fleet captains can only talk about the bravery of you and your crew. The attack runs of the Enterprise and the repulse of the enemy fleet has quickly become legendary and spread throughout the Separatists Union. Our allies were there for us from the moment they passed through the wormhole and now you tell me that you have doubts because your Federation may suffer losses?” Sev’Rance strode up to Picard and thrust her face into his. “I am ashamed for you.” she hissed and strode past him, bumping past his shoulder as she passed him.

The doors to the holodeck snapped open and Doctor Crusher walked in and was nearly bowled over by Sev’Rance Tan.

“Sev’Rance!”

She stopped at the doorway, head turned slightly to see him. Picard turned around slowly to face her.

“I thought we understood each other well enough to be honest. I will have to reconsider that notion.”

Sev’Rance stared at him for a long moment, Beverly Crusher carefully watched the exchange between the two.

“I apologize Captain Picard. For now, please prepare yourself, in 7 hours we will reach the Separatist Headquarters where Count Dooku waits anxiously to speak to you.” Sev’Rance replied and slipped away like a shadow.

Doctor Crusher frowned slightly as she noted how Picard looked after her.

“She can be quite bossy, huh?” Beverly asked neutrally.

Picard shook his head as if coming out of a dream. This made Dr. Crusher purse her lips sourly.

“Yes, I suppose so, but when you are saddled with the responsibility of being one of the key leaders of an outgunned and outnumbered liberation movement it can be very stressful.” Picard noted.

“You seem rather understanding.” She said cattily.

“Beverly.” Picard replied with a bemused smile.

“Will you be having dinner with me or do I have to go lead a rebellion somewhere to gain you attention?” She asked with a wink.

“You need to do nothing of the kind, Doctor. I would be honored to accompany you to dinner.” Picard replied and offered his arm.

“You are a charmer, Jean Luc, no one can take that away from you.” Dr. Crusher smirked and accepted the offered arm. They walked out of the holodeck together arm in arm.

“You know, Sev’Rance knows how to say my name properly.” Picard noted casually as they exited the room.

“Did I ever tell you how much I hate Earl Grey tea?” Dr. Crusher replied without skipping a beat. They exchanged quiet gazes and smiled.

As the pair entered a turbolift at the end of the corridor, Sev’Rance watched them. Her crimson eyes narrowed on the pair, particularly the Doctor. She nodded slowly as if coming to a decision and walked to her quarters.





“Captain James T. Kirk, this is such a unique pleasure.” Bail Organna said with a warm smile. He clasped Kirk’s hand and shook it firmly. Kirk was immediately impressed by the large man. Bail Organna wore a luxurious dark blue tunic and pants, a bright elegant silver sash was draped down his right shoulder, strange symbols etched in the face of the sash. Meerlinda had told them in a very brief thumbnail sketch about their next host and one of the details was that the sash was worn during times of war by the nobility of Alderaan. Each symbol represented a victory that he had achieved on behalf of his world.

“Senator Organna, I’ve heard so many things about you.” Kirk replied smiling. There was something about the man, something reassuring and trusting.

“All good I hope.” Bail replied and indicated the open chairs across from his table. Kirk did not see it but Dehner’s sharp eyes saw the briefest flicker of Bail’s eyes to Sly Moore.

“Nothing but the best I assure you. For the head of the opposition party you certainly have achieved a certain elite status even from your opponents.”

“I find it highly ironic that those among the pro war party are the ones who have the least military experience. I on the other hand, Captain am opposed to war because she and I have danced far too often. I have seen what lies behind the veil that so many of her worshippers place on her.”

Kirk sat still for a moment, moved by the man’s words.

“That was a very eloquent statement, Senator Organna. I can see why you are such a persuasive voice. First I’d like to apologize for the lateness of the hour. It was not my intention to make this a night call on your residence. Our meetings with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi Council ran far longer than expected.”

“Please Captain, there is no need. I am gratified that you made the time to see me on the same day you met with such distinguished dignitaries and representatives of our great Republic.” Bail replied holding up a hand.

“Can I ask you, sir, how do you feel about the possible Alliance between our peoples?”

Bail Organna sighed softly and leaned forward as he regarded Kirk with a keen gaze.

“I have led many men into battle. I have also help lead my world through peace and prosperity. I want to see that peace return to our galaxy sooner rather than later.”

“I take that to mean that you agree with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s initiative for the Grand Alliance?” Dr. Dehner asked.

Bail Organna smiled softly. “I never thought you would find me agreeing much with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine but in this instance I cannot argue with the logic that your Federation joining the war effort can only hasten the end of this horrific war.”

“I did not see you disagree with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine when he dispatched me to help you defend Alderaan from the Separatist attack meant to reduce Alderaan to glass.” Anakin commented quietly from his place behind the Federation entourage. Obi Wan spared him a warning glance but Meerlinda was obviously not happy with the comment and openly glared at the young Jedi knight.

Bail paused and looked at Anakin with a hooded expression that slowly melted into one of disappointment.

“I actually accepted your assistance on the recommendation of Senator Amidala. Padme said that you had a knack for getting into and out of impossible situations. And she was quite right, I could never have dreamed that you would infiltrate the Mandalorian command ship and defeat the warrior contingent then send the ship against the siege platform approaching my world. It was a victory unlike many we have seen in this war and lately there have been so few of those victories. I never regretted you assistance Anakin, frankly there was no way we could have won that battle without you. I consider you a dear friend because of it.” Bail replied.

Anakin blinked, caught off guard by the revelation.

“I’m sure Anakin feels the same way, Bail.” A new voice announced.

Bail Organna’s face lit up as he looked upon the speaker.

“Padme! I wasn’t told you were coming.” He exclaimed and rose from his seat respectfully. Kirk and Dehner exchanged knowing glances. There was no doubt that at least on Bail Organna’s part, there was more than friendly or professional feelings involved.

“I do not understand.” Spock quietly told Number One. She nodded as she watched the exchange between Bail and Senator Amidala.

“Humans tend to become very expressive with the ones they love or have serious feelings for. Captain Kirk and Dr. Dehner merely noticed this sudden change in emotional states and concluded the obvious, Organna seems to be in love with Senator Amidala.” She replied very softly.

Not softly enough for Anakin’s ears. He stiffened.

“Well you can blame Bastion for that.” Padme laughed and indicated the dashing young Jedi knight that walked in behind Amidala. She gripped Bail’s hands but he immediately turned it into a warm embrace.

“We missed you. Thank the force you are safe.”

“Come now, my lord, did you think I would let any harm befall on the most beautiful Senator in the entire galaxy?” Bastion added with a roguish grin and a wink. Anakin frowned as he watched the young Jedi and his performance.

“You are too kind, Bastion.” Padme said and others could see the blush spreading on her cheeks.

“Yes, Bastion, perhaps you’d like to come with me on my next mission out to the Rim, trying to track down Separatists leaders and bring them to justice.” Anakin cut in with a dark smile.

“I wouldn’t want to take any of the spotlight away from you, Ani. Everyone knows you’re Palatine’s guard dog.” Bastion replied with a snort.

Anakin swallowed an angry retort, there was no malice in Bastion’s voice or intent. Even Anakin in his simmering anger could feel that clearly, all he could feel from his fellow Jedi was what Bastion always felt towards Anakin, warm friendship. It was Bastion’s way, the laughing Jedi indeed.

“Please, Padme, allow me to introduce you to some very important guests.” Bail said excitedly and led her to face the group. As he made the introductions, Bastion slid in with the other Jedi.

“Meerlinda, lovely as ever I see, and Obi Wan you old dog, I heard about your little adventure on Eminaar…an entire division of droid troopers?” Bastion said with mock shock.

“That was a squadron of droid troopers. How in the name of the Force do these stories get blown out of proportion like that?” Obi Wan wondered.

“False modesty I’d say.” Bastion replied.

“Bastion, it’s so good to see you too. What news do you bring from your mission?” Meerlinda asked.

“Mission, what mission?” Anakin asked sharply.

“Uh…Meerlinda, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Bastion replied hesitantly.

“You told me you would look after Padme here on Coruscant.” Anakin continued his eyes boring into the young Jedi. Bastion tried to look innocent.

“Anakin, I did indeed look after her. I am not happy with this accusation from a fellow Jedi.”

“But-” Meerlinda continued, slightly confused. Bastion force nudged her in the ribs and continued smiling innocently at Anakin who was eyeing him suspiciously.

“And this is Senator Padme Amidala of Naboo. She was one of the first to found the peace movement among the senate despite being at the heart of the start of the Clone wars on Geonosis. She has been an inspiration to us all.” He looked at her and beamed. Kirk and Dehner exchanged another furtive glance. “Many say that I am the head of the Peace party but she is its heart.”

“Thank you, Bail. I am honored to meet the representatives of the Federation. I have heard of your troubled entry into our space and allow me to extend my sincerest apologies that the harshness of war has already touched you and yours so soon after meeting us.”

“There is no need to apologize, Senator Amidala. We were well aware if the risks and I might add has certainly strengthened the Republic’s position with us.”

“Indeed.” Bail replied darkly. “It troubles me that such actions and accidents of fate always seem to take place to our advantage.” He commented dryly.

“What are you implying sir?” Dehner asked cautiously. They were obviously treading in some very highly charged political ground and she wanted to be cautious. The Federation, if the alliance were to be successful, wanted to come in on the best terms possible. They did not want to alienate any of the powerful factions least alone the one faction that was probably most in line with Federation policies and ideals.

“I think that Senator Organna should be very careful about any speculation he makes, particularly in view of the importance of this possible alliance for all involved. Need I remind him that the Conscription Act is still in conference and has not been tabled?” Sly Moore said quietly from her place behind the entire group in a corner of the room.

“And there’s the rub is it not?” Bail replied wistfully. “You see my friends, with losses mounting and no end in sight for this war, the Republic may need to institute conscription. A word that has sent shivers throughout the member worlds of the Republic.”

“With what’s at stake you would think that conscription would be a natural option to follow.” Kirk noted.

“I have been reviewing some very interesting figures, Senator and I note that estimated population figures of Separatist star systems are barely 1/3 of those of the Republic’s.” Spock began. “Through a universal or perhaps even limited conscription, the Republic would be able to field an army and navy that could easily outnumber the Separatists in a matter of months.”

“As the Conscription act proponents have been advocating since the initiation of hostilities.” Sly Moore added and inclined her head to Spock. “The dossier on Vulcans submitted by Meerlinda Farstrider stressed your devotion to logical reasoning devoid of any human emotion. I commend you, Mr. Spock.”

“You commend him for what exactly, Moore? For pointing out that we can efficiently kill more citizens of the Republic as well as Separatists citizens if we force our population to fight?” Amidala asked sharply.

“For seeing the truth in the Conscription act. That we can outlast the Separatists in a war of attrition which they seem so hell bent on carrying out.” Anakin replied before Moore could say anything else. Padme glanced at him and there was pain in her eyes. He had said it so coldly.

“I assume you view the proposed Grand Alliance as a way of heading off that position?” Dehner asked intently.

Kirk shifted uncomfortably in his seat. This was a selling point for the Alliance and he knew damn well that this was one of the primary reasons that Palpatine was so hot to trot to get the Federation to sign on. It was difficult to digest. The Federation would represent the fresh blood and troops that would fill in their worn ranks without having to turn to their civilian population. Yet.

Kirk was no fool, he had read some of the battle reports. The sheer number of ships and troops involved in just one sector campaign gave him pause. Starfleet would be involved in battles of a scale that they had never even dreamed of against an enemy that had a technical edge on them. Cannon fodder was a term that sprang to mind. Talk like this did not alleviate that tension.

Number One carefully slipped a datapad to Kirk. Some numbers were flashing on the screen.

“I don’t think you should interpret it as anything other than your Federation providing the much needed support we need to prosecute an end to this conflict.” Bail stated diplomatically.

“Senator, please forgive me but when we look at the numbers that my XO has just provided me on our own calculations for the economic benefits that a trade treaty would provide the Republic, it pales in comparison to the benefits we would reap, medical and scientific advancements would be nearly one sided in the proposed exchange program. So, in the end the Grand Alliance sole benefit for the Republic would be militarily.” Kirk explained.

Dehner let Kirk field this debate without input. She was not a military expert but even she could see the prime benefit of an Alliance that would forestall a politically poisonous proposal like this conscription act seemed to be.

“We have never said otherwise.” Meerlinda spoke up suddenly, not liking where this train of thought was going.

“I never said that you did not. All I’m pointing out is that the Republic is very adamant about pushing the Alliance and I want to know if the primary reason is that the Conscription Act is forcing your hand and you see the Federation as cannon fodder that can forestall what I frankly see as inevitable.”

The gathered Jedi and Senators seemed to take a deep breath. Kirk nodded slowly as he looked from each face to the other. He had obviously pointed to the elephant in the room.

“I do not see inevitability in the Conscription Act.” Obi Wan said slowly. “What I saw out there, in the battle at the wormhole, was a single Federation starship, willing to risk its self and its crew in a battle against incredible odds and leading the Republic forces in a crushing victory. So if you mean to ask us, Captain, that we think the Federation will bleed for the Republic for a little while in order to forestall the Conscription Act then you are very wrong indeed.” Obi Wan answered, his eyes not leaving Kirk’s as his voice picked up strength and confidence. “I see the Federation bringing us much needed victory so that there will be no need for a Conscription Act at all. And the sooner we win this war, Captain, the sooner we can get back to our lives and the Federation can prosper alongside the Republic.”

Kirk nodded hesitantly.

“I see.”

“Master Obi Wan, whom I had no idea was such an excellent public speaker I believe sums it up rather well for my position, Captain.” Bail added.

“You can understand why we would be so concerned by the thought that the Federation was merely being brought in to help staunch some of the bleeding in this war.” Dehner noted.

“Yes, but I can say this, the Federation was not the only government we considered asking to join in the Alliance.” Bail replied.

“Oh?” Kirk responded curiously.

“There was no doubt that it would be the Federation after initial probes.” Sly Moore added hastily and eyed Bail coldly.

“Captain, I was on the subcommittee established to investigate the opportunities open to us when we discovered the wormhole. I was handed detailed dossiers on the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, we quickly eliminated all the minor powers from our agenda and focused on those three empires. The Klingons and the Federation were of particular interest to us, the pro war faction was inclined to have the Klingons allied with us because of their warrior ethic and warships, but the peace faction was inclined towards the Federation for the simple reason that you are closest to us in philosophy and cultural outlook.”

“I always wondered why we were honored with this offer. I would have been inclined towards the Klingons myself. The Federation hasn’t fought a general war in recent memory.” Kirk replied.

“You do our guests a disservice by not finishing your story.” Sly said in a cool monotone as she drew her white cloak tighter around herself.

“Oh. You are quite right.” Bail added and slowly made his way back to his chair. He slid into the seat and looked into Kirk’s eyes. “It was Supreme Chancellor Palpatine who made he decision after consulting with the Jedi Council to approach the Federation on an Alliance.”

“As you can see, we have nothing to hide.” Amidala effortlessly picked up on Bail’s point. “We stand before you as we are, needing your help to end this war and ready to join you as brothers and sisters to our cause.”

Dehner smiled softly.

“Thank you, Senator Amidala. We don’t want to take any more of your time, and the hour is late.”

“Of course.” Bail nodded to the Federation entourage and they started to leave. Kirk walked to Bail and offered his hand. Bail took it and shook firmly.

“Thank you sir. I was pleasantly surprised by this meeting. You have made quite the impression. I hope to relay to my government the kindness and honesty I have seen from the peace faction here in the Republic.”

“And I would like to add my own thanks for your openness and hospitality.” Dehner added.

“It has been my pleasure, I assure you.” Bail replied and shook Kirk’s hand and delicately kissed Dr. Dehner’s hand.

The Federation entourage politely filed out of Bail Organna’s office. Meerlinda followed them out, falling into discussion with Dehner and Kirk. Obi Wan and Anakin remained behind for a moment as Amidala collected herself.

“I will escort the Senator back to her quarters.” Bastion explained to Bail.

“I was hoping that you would join me for dinner.” Bail interjected softly.

Amidala looked down at the floor for a moment and battled the urge to look over at Anakin, despite the fact that she could feel his eyes on her like lasers.

“I am tired and I want to be at my best when we have dinner with the Supreme Chancellor. It is in our best interest to keep the Federation close to us instead of having them under Palpatine’s thumb.”

“Unless I’m mistaken, we’re all on the same side.” Anakin added casually.

“Indeed.” Bail replied glancing at the young Jedi knight.

Amidala reached out and touched Bail’s hand.

“Forgive me. I simply am not in the mood for dinner. I am looking forward to some rest and a bath.” she explained gently.

Bail smiled kindly and gripped her hand. Anakin’s eyes narrowed on the touch. Too long he held her hand, too long he looked in her eyes. What had happened here while he was away on campaign. His bionic hand closed tightly into a fist.

He wanted answers.

“I think it would be best if I escorted the Senator. She is on the way to the temple and I have not seen her since I left on campaign.” Anakin said clearing his throat.

Obi Wan looked confused as he reacted to Anakin’s response.

“Weren’t we ordered by Master Yoda and Windu to remain close to the entourage?” he asked softly.

“I’m sure you and Bastion can handle the babysitting until I get back.”

“Bastion?!”

“Uh, Ani, she’s on the way to the temple for me as well.” Bastion noted with a hesitant smile on his face.

Anakin bit back the acerbic response. It was hard to not like Bastion but he was not going to abide having to wait any longer to speak to her. Alone.

Amidala came to the rescue.

“It’s alright Bastion, Anakin is a very old and dear friend and I’m sure that he is more than slightly offended that we lied to him and traveled off world.” Anakin’s cold smirk pinned Bastion.

“Well, to tell you the truth, Padme, I sort of convinced him otherwise until now.” Bastion muttered and shook his head looking down at the floor.

“Well, I can certainly understand that Padme. Besides it is time Bastion spends some time doing productive missions for the Republic such as assisting Master Obi Wan in the protection of the Federation entourage.” Bail said with a soft smile. His eyes seemed to only see her.

“Productive?! I am wounded, you have cut me to the quick my lord!” Bastion protested and held up his hands in a mock warding gesture chuckling.

“If not for the fact that we are related—” Bail began with a warm grin.

“Distantly I would emphasize.” Bastion interjected.

“If you’ll excuse us.” Anakin interjected and motioned for Padme to join him.

“Of course Anakin.” Bail replied and his smile dropped slightly. The warm feelings that the two from Alderaan had generated in the room was rapidly extinguished by Anakin’s cold demeanor. Padme frowned slightly and walked over to Bail and kissed him on the cheek.

“Thank you again, Bail, once again you proved why you are the leader of our faction. And we will have dinner soon, I promise.”

“I will hold you to that milady. We nobles must stick together.”

Bastion rolled his eyes.

“Well, I renounced my noble blood long ago when they handed me this pretty light stick and so my friends are the lowly commoners like Master Kenobi here.” Bastion announced as he placed an arm around Kenobi’s shoulder and gave him a good natured squeeze.

“Lowly Commoners?” Obi Wan replied with a bemused smirk.

“Out scoundrel, cousin or not, Jedi or not, you are a constant embarrassment to the family and Alderaan.” Bail exclaimed in mock outrage. Padme could not help laughing. Bastion had a way of bringing out the brightest in people. Bail had been so morose of late with all the pressures of state and the war itself. It was refreshing to see him with a smile on his face.

“Thank you.” Padme said as she laughed and kissed Bastion on the cheek.

“Milady?” Bastion replied, his hand wandering to his cheek. No one noticed how tenderly he touched the spot where she kissed him.

“For living up to your name, my laughing Jedi.” she said and walked out of the room. Anakin glanced over at Bastion.

“You and I are going to have words later about this ‘trip’. Anakin said lowly and walked out following Padme.

Bastion kept his hand up to his cheek a moment longer, as if trying to feel her lips again.

“It was all worth it.” he replied softly then snapped out of his reverie and clapped Obi Wan on the shoulder. “Come now Master Kenobi. We have an entourage to protect and I have to make myself useful.”

Obi Wan shook his head as they walked out.

“Why do I always get stuck with the malcontents?” he muttered.




The door to Padme’s quarters slid open and she stepped through, the lights activating as she entered. Anakin stood in the doorway, the darkness of the corridor during the night cycle behind him covered him in darkness as she stood in the light.

She turned and looked at his imposing silhouette in the doorway.

“Are you coming in?” She asked hesitantly.

“I was waiting to be invited.” he replied softly.

“You never have to wait for me, besides, I don’t like you in the darkness, come step into the light.” she told him and held out her hand to him. Anakin walked forward into the light and took a hold of her hand. The contact was electric. His eyes looked into hers as he drew her close to him.

“Your hair.” she commented looking up into his face.

“What of it?” he asked as he gently stroked her cheek, his yearning to feel her skin after al these long months finally satisfied. He could see his hand trembling slightly.

“Its so wild, unkempt.” she noted as she examined the thick mane of hair on his head, so different from his short padawan’s haircut he sported when she met him again as a man.

“It suits me.” he said huskily.

“I don’t like wild men.” she replied in a whisper as he drew her to him, lips parting.

“I’m not a wild man.” he whispered.

“You look like—” the kiss was slow and the passion built as he held her closely to him. They kissed for a long while, their hunger for each other evident as their hands wandered over each other’s bodies. Anakin swept her off her feet and carried her, still kissing towards the bed.

“Wait.” she said suddenly pulling away from his lips.

Anakin looked puzzled then a shadow crossed his face.

“What is it?” he asked tightly as he let her down.

“Anakin, we just can’t –” she stopped herself, looking for a better word. He watched her like a predator, eyes locked on her, his chest heaving with barely contained passion and desire. “People saw us come in together, and well, we have to be careful. This isn’t Naboo.” she tried to explain.

Anakin whirled, his cloak whipping after him like the wings of a hawk as he turned his back to her. The action hurt her. He never turned his back to her before.

“Is it Bail?” he asked darkly, his voice soft and dangerous.

“Bail? No! Anakin why would you think—”

“Because I am not a FOOL!!” Anakin roared as he turned on her, eyes ablaze with anger and fingers jabbing at her like knives.

“Anakin!” she exclaimed in fear and took several steps back from him. He seemed larger, darker than she ever remembered him.

“What?” he sneered as he saw her cringe. “Do I frighten you? Why do I frighten you unless you’re afraid.”

“I am afraid, Anakin. Stop it! You’re scaring me.” she snapped suddenly standing her ground.

Anakin stared into her eyes for a moment, chest heaving.

“Why would you be afraid, Padme, unless there’s something for you to be afraid of, hmmmm? Maybe you’re guilty of something. Only the guilty cower and cringe from Order.” he declared.

“You sound like a Palpatine propaganda poster.” she shouted.

Anakin laughed darkly.

“Why must you always bring your damned politics into any conversation we have? I’m not a politician, I have no aspirations to power. What do I care for the peace or war faction. What matters to me is that this war be over.”

Padme started to speak.

“But no, you need to live in this putrid world of corruption where under the table bargains and endless committees decide the fate of a galaxy. I am so sick and tired of the talking and the debating and the wheeling and dealing. I want order. That’s all I want.”

“Anakin, we don’t have to talk about politics. I’m sorry but you have to realize that what you and your fellow Jedi are fighting for is our free Republic.”

“Don’t hazard to tell me what my fellow Jedi and I are fighting for.” Anakin snapped.

Padme stopped and looked at him closely.

“Then tell me, Anakin. What are you fighting for?”

Anakin said nothing and glared at her. He started to storm out of the room and Padme started after him. He stopped at the door and turned his head, pinning her with his gaze.

“I thought I was fighting for us, now I wonder whether that was worth it or not.” he said darkly.

“Don’t you say that to me!” Padme exclaimed angrily. “Now get out damn you! Get out!”

Anakin melted away into the shadows of the night.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-11-08 03:34pm
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Chapter 13: All the King’s Horses

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
Hamlet, Act 3, scene iii



The Enterprise emerged from hyperspace accompanied by a flotilla of Separatists ships. She coasted along gracefully as the larger ships slowed and broke formation giving the Enterprise all the space it needed to maneuver through the clouds of droid mines and patrol ships.

Floating silently in the midst of the automated mines were enormous guns mounted on the remains of asteroids. The asteroids were interspersed throughout the mine field and provided coverage on every approach. The massive guns were designed to be a threat to even the largest warship.

Riker wondered briefly what sort of havoc defensive guns like that would cause against a Federation fleet.

“Those are some impressive defensive systems.” Riker mentioned to Picard and motioned to his tactical display. It displayed computer models of the damage levels the guns could deliver.

Picard said nothing but his eye brows raised slightly as he observed the numbers.

Sev’Rance punched in a string of codes from her touch pad on her seat. On the screen, the mines slowly parted, several at first but soon dozens of mines fired small repulsors and spun their way clear to form a clear flight path for the Federation starship. On the view screen the action resembled a small sea of stars parting as one before the bow of the Enterprise.

“We have a visual communication from the planet sir.” Data reported.

“On screen.” Picard ordered and stood up in his chair, adjusting his uniform as he did so.

The screen wavered for a moment and the face of an older stern man appeared. Iron gray streaks in his hair and a powerful steady gaze fixed itself on Captain Picard.

“Captain Picard I presume,” nodded to Picard. “I am Count Dooku, titular head of the Separatist Union. I welcome you to Belos Prime. This is the current headquarters of the Separatists and my home now that the Republic has seized my homeworld in vengeance for daring to rise up against them. I apologize for the recent actions taken against you upon entering our space and it is a relief to see you standing here before me whole. I honestly do not know what I would have done if I had heard the worst.”

“Thank you Count Dooku, I am here representing the United Federation of Planets in anticipation of our alliance.” Picard replied. “And your words are too kind. If not for the bravery of your fleet and Sev’Rance Tan, we would have been captured or worse.”

Dooku smiled warmly.

“Sev’Rance has proven to be a gift for the Union. She has given so much and asked for nothing in return. I could not be prouder of my apprentice.” Dooku added.

“Service to the Union is all I ask but I do believe that a face to face meeting would be appropriate at this time.” Sev’Rance spoke softly.

“Yes, indeed. Captain I am told that you have a mode of transportation that does not require you to take a vessel down to the surface. I am most curious to see this in practice.”

“Of course, Count. We will be beaming down to the coordinates you provide us momentarily.” Picard grinned.

“I will be anxiously awaiting your arrival, Captain. I have been looking forward to this for some time.” Dooku replied and the view screen switched back to a view of the planet as the starship gently glided into a stable orbit.

“He is excited to see you Captain. He has worked very hard for this alliance. He views it as the future of the Union.” Sev’Rance commented as she rose with Riker and Data to walk over to the turbolift.

Picard nodded.

“Not exactly helping your negotiating position are you?” Riker chided. Sev’Rance’s eyes flashed for a moment but a tight smile spread across her beautiful face.

“I’m not approaching these negotiations from an adversarial position,” Sev’Rance paused as he smile grew colder and she pinned him with her steady unwavering gaze. “Are you?”

Picard paused at the turbolift doors as they opened.

“Counselor Troi, I’ll want you to accompany us.” Troi nodded curtly,

“Of course Captain.”

“Is that really necessary?” Sev’Rance interjected.

Picard nodded slowly as he watched her closely.

“Counselor Troi has always been an integral part of my negotiation team.”

“But she is a Betazoid, as I understand it she is an empath.”

“And?” Riker asked tersely as Troi joined them at the turbolift door.

“There can be many ways of viewing her presence at the negotiation table.” Sev’Rance replied evenly, glancing at Troi with suspicion.

“And you choose the most negative way?” Picard asked pointedly.

“I always look at matters in the worst possible way, Jean Luc, it keeps me from being surprised. Count Dooku is a trusting man and he expects this trust to be returned. Counselor Troi’s presence at the table could be…disconcerting. Maybe even misconstrued and we wouldn’t want that at this delicate point in the negotiations.”

Picard looked from Troi to Sev’Rance.

“She’s is coming with us. If Count Dooku really looks upon the Federation as part of the Separatists’ future then he will have to accept that we have diverse species and among them are the Betazoids. He can take her presence as he will.” Picard replied.

“I see.” Sev’Rance replied and nodded sagely. She fell in step with the others and said nothing more. Troi however could feel the hostility directed towards her like daggers. She tried to see of there was deception behind her concerns, a trap perhaps? But there was no hint of any deception at all, simply a dislike of her and what she represented.

Still, Troi did not need her abilities to tell her that there was more here than met the eye and she could not discount the possibility that the blue skinned woman had enough control over her emotions that she could fool her empathic sense. It would not be the first time an alien had done so.

The turbolift doors snapped shut.



“What is thy bidding my master?” Tyrannus asked softly as he bowed his head to the holoimage of his master, the Sith lord Darth Sidious. Darth Sidious stood imperiously above the Count and watched him intently for a moment.

There was a time, when he was first apprenticed to him that the Count kneeled before him as his Maul did. Sidious missed the young Sith lord. Darth Maul was a paragon of the dark side’s power and influence. He had molded him carefully since childhood to be the perfect warrior, the perfect assassin and of course the prefect pupil.

But he had been cut down on Naboo by a Jedi padawan of all things.

It still angered him even now. All that effort, training and energy expended and for what? To be slain by one of the mewling light side’s students?! It was a horrible moment in his plans, as if everything were unraveling but he was a Dark lord of the Sith. He recovered, found a new apprentice and his plans were still on, slightly off schedule but still going forward.

Lord Tyrannus was unfortunately going to be a problem.

He was starting to taste too much of the intoxicating power of the dark side and he was giving in to the constant temptation that all Sith lords were offered - the chance to use that power to supplant their master.

He was not fooled by the obvious masquerade between Tyrannus and Sev’Rance. Nor was he a blind fool to the reports of dark and fallen Jedi massing in the Rim. They were all being called to Tyrannus’ banner in a vain and foolhardy attempt to create a dark side equivalent to the Jedi Order. Tyrannus no doubt was molding himself as the titular head of that order and once he had a literal Jedi army at his side and his own powerful apprentice then what was Sidious to do, hmmmm? He would have to give in to the inevitability of Tyrannus’ command.

Sidious did not smile, did not sneer at the foolishness of those dreams.

Did Tyrannus honestly think that his rallying of the Dark Jedi was not precisely what Sidious wanted? In time, all would be revealed and Tyrannus would serve his master well even in his vain attempts at rebelling against him.

But for now, he missed Maul. Maul lacked the imagination for such plans and perhaps it was for the best that he was not here now. This war would not be won by the vicious and cruel, but by the sly and intelligent. But at least Maul knew how to show the proper respect.

“Offer anything that the Federation wants in exchange for the treaty. You must seal their fate to your own.”

“And what of the Federation from the past?”

“Leave them to me. Your responsibility is to make sure that the future Federation is firmly entrenched on your side and then we will take the next steps necessary.”

“I am troubled my lord by certain news.”

“Go on.” Sidious replied darkly.

“Anakin Skywalker has made it a personal vendetta to find me and bring me to trial on Corsucant.”

“This was well known to you after Geonosis, Lord Tyrannus.”

“Indeed.” Tyrannus replied. He stared into his master’s eyes. Deep down, in the dark reaches of his mind, far from where he thought the Sith lord could probe him without fail a thought bubbled to the surface.

Does he know?

“However when I was on my mission to Bibringi, Anakin Skywalker nearly caught me there.”

“Your point would be, Lord Tyrannus? Surely you are not afraid of a young Jedi Knight you so soundly defeated on Geonosis.” Sidious sneered derisively. His patience with his apprentice was wearing thin. He chose Tyrannus precisely because the ex Jedi master could be counted on to function on his own without support or assistance from Sidious.

“No one knew of my mission to Bibringi. I did not tell anyone, not even Sev'Rance. It was a simple pickup and reconnaissance mission. I was on the planet for less than twelve hours. Yet he nearly found me.”

“You evaded him? Perhaps you should have killed him. Skywalker has been a thorn in our side since the inception of this war.”

“Yes, my master he has, he also seems to have a profound knowledge of many of our strategies and even my whereabouts.” Tyrannus replied.

Sidious paused and his head tilted to the side slightly as he examined his apprentice closely.

“What are you saying Lord Tyrannus?” Sidious asked dangerously.

“Merely that I suspect that Anakin Skywalker may be more powerful than we anticipated, after all the only person that knew of my mission to Bibringi was you. And you would never cooperate with the Jedi so I can only assume that Anakin Skywalker has powers of perception greater than we have anticipated.”

Sidious said nothing for a moment, his hologram hissed softly in the air as both Sith lords stared at each other. Tyrannus knew he had all but said what he suspected, Sidious could act on it and try to kill him now, at the most critical part of the negotiations to bring the Federation into the war and start the endgame that would bring about the fall of the Republic. But the message had been sent.

“We will keep a closer eye on Anakin Skywalker. You remember what you have to do, Lord Tyrannus. The Federation must come into the war. Once the Alliance is sealed we will continue with our plan.”

“May the force be with us in this endeavor.” Tyrannus added.

“Do your part Lord Tyrannus and we will be assured of victory.” Sidious replied coldly and his hologram vanished.

Tyrannus remained standing quietly in the shadows of his study. His hands were clasped together behind his back as he was lost in thought.

A chime sounded.

“Yes?”

“The Federation entourage is here, Count. You asked me to let you know.”

“Of course. I will be right out.” Dooku replied quietly, the darkness around him seemed pull back and his eyes softened. He pulled his cape close to him and strode out of the room.



Picard and his landing party appeared in several brilliant columns of light. The Separatists welcoming committee stood in a semi circle facing the newcomers. A pair of battle droids painted in ceremonial colors snapped to attention.

“Now.” The Neimoidian Ias Dillot ordered.

“Roger. Roger.” The battle droids responded simultaneously. The Anthem of the United Federation of Planets began playing from the droids’ vocal units.

“Captain Jean Luc Picard captain of the starship Enterprise, welcome to the Belos Prime.” Ias Dillot announced with much pomp.

Picard smiled and nodded to the Neimoidian representative.

“I am Ias Dillot, head of the Neimoidian contingent of the Separatist Union.” He indicated with a graceful wave of his hand the alien standing next to him, a tall gray skinned being with a flattened head.

“This is San Hill the head of the Banking guild contingent of the Separatist Union

He inclined his head to a small alien with a large head, it resembled of all things a goblin from Picard’s imagination when he was a child.

“Shu Mai of the Commerce Guild.”

Ias waved to the contingent to his right.

“Passel Argente of the Corporate Alliance.” he pointed to a tall reptilian alien encased in cybernetic gear. It uncomfortably reminded Picard of the Borg.

“Wat Tambor or the Techno Union.”

“On behalf of the United Federation of Planets I thank you for the warm reception.” Picard replied and gently but firmly clasped the Neimoidian’s hand.

“I hope I have not kept you waiting Captain. I had business to attend to but I must say that this is a truly historic moment that I would not miss.” Count Dooku said regally as he strode into the meeting hall. The assembled Separatist leaders parted like a sea allowing him to approach, black cloak flapping behind him like his own personal escort.

Picard sized him up in an instant.

This was a born leader. He was accustomed to power and command. His eyes were sharp and penetrating. Picard doubted that little got past the man’s attention.

“Count Dooku.” Picard said with a warm smile and extended his hand. Dooku clasped his hand, putting his free hand over Picard’s offered hand and fully covered it as he shook his hand. Despite his obvious age, the man was very strong, his grip was uncomfortably tight.

“Captain Picard. A distinct pleasure sir, and your crew?” he asked his gaze looking past Picard to the landing party behind him.

“Ah yes, this is my first officer William Riker.”

“Sir.” Riker politely inclined his head.

“My operations officer Mr. Data.”

“Count Dooku.”

“So this is the one.” Dooku noted with interest as he examined Data from head to toe with a measured gaze.

“I do not understand.” Data replied curiously.

Dooku turned his head to face Picard.

“We have heard of your droid from Sev’Rance’s mission briefings. Most impressive.”

“My droid? You mean Mr. Data? No, he is a free sentient being.” Picard explained.

“Indeed?” Dooku replied as he eyed the android again. “Do you routinely give your droids free status or just the elite ones such as Mr. Data here.”

“I am a unique artificial entity in the Federation.” Data explained.

“They have no droids?” Ias wondered aloud.

“A technological failing that we can easily rectify. The Techno Union would be willing to provide the Federation with a full line of droids, from combat to etiquette and protocol.” Wat Tambor said in a deep bass voice that he adjusted slightly to fight a sudden surge of feedback on his speakers.

“The Trade Federation has been dealing in droids since its inception, I assure you Captain that the quality of our product is second to none.” Ias Dillot broke in softly.

“Our offer would be at a discounted fee of course, a discount which we would be willing to negotiate up once member ship is pending within the Union.” Wat interjected and spared a harsh glare at the Neimoidian.

“The Banking Guild is well aware that the Federation may not be willing or able to expend much money to invest in such a massive overhaul of their infrastructure, we at the Guild recognize the Federation’s worth to us as allies and can make easy arrangements to float a capital loan to the Federation at an almost non existent interest rate to help pay for these droids.” San Hill explained warmly and held out his hands palms upward in a gesture of giving as he spoke.

“Captain Picard, droids can mean only one thing. Maintenance. Despite the Trade Federation’s assurances whether their droids are top of the line or not they WILL break down and we in the commerce guild have sub contractors who are fast, cheap and reliable when it comes to maintaining droids.” Shu Mai added in quick sing song voice that reminded Picard of a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower.

Picard held up his hands and tried to calm the excited trade guilds down.

“I’m not in a position to accept any of these terms at this time. There is also the troubling question of whether your ‘droids’ would be considered sentient and thus subject to the Federations’ rights for a sentient being.”

“Droids’ rights?” Wat stammered.

“Surely you jest Captain.” the Neimoidian guffawed.

“Captain.” Dooku’s voice cut through the growing buzz. “You must forgive them. Despite Republic propaganda efforts to paint us as intergalactic warlords, they are businessmen first and rebels second. They see the trade opportunities that your Federation offers ahead of any military considerations. If you agree with the preliminary findings of the Federation High Council’s Commission on Union with the Separatist faction then we will open such a torrent of trade with the Federation that you will soon be able to buy your opponents instead of making war on them.” Dooku promised. He looked over at Sev’Rance who had her head bowed respectfully in his presence.

Riker was impressed. Everything he had seen about Sev’Rance Tan never let him believe that she would ever bow her head to anyone. It spoke volumes about Dooku himself.

“And Sev’Rance Tan, my good pupil, I assume she has been helpful for you Captain?”

“Indeed she has. We could not have survived our first encounter with the Republic without her.”

“Captain Picard is too kind, my master.” Sev’Rance replied softy, her voice like silk. She spared Picard a secretive glance, her crimson eyes searching out his own blue ones. He found her gaze and quickly looked away.

“My fleet captains have already begun speaking of the bravery of the Starship Enterprise, her captain and her crew. Word is spreading that our allies will help turn the tide in this war.” Dooku replied.

“I think they may be speaking too soon.” Riker commented.

“Hope, Mr. Riker is all my people had when we rebelled against the most powerful and largest civilization this galaxy has ever seen. Hope allowed us to weather the initial assaults by hordes of clone troopers on our respective homeworlds. Hope is what gave me the strength to continue when my own homeworld of Serenno was occupied by the Republic despite the fact that Serrano has remained neutral in this conflict. You will find, Mr. Riker that hope is all that many of us have left in this war.” Dooku replied seriously.

“I stand corrected sir.”

“No need, Mr. Riker. You remind me of my Mandalorian advisors. They too tend to see things in a more…‘realistic’ light.” Dooku replied with a chuckle and gripped Riker’s shoulder. “I’m certain he makes a fine first officer, captain. I find that having an opposing view provides you with the best perspective on decision making.”

“It does indeed Count.” Picard said as he watched the Count move among his people, assured and confident. He would be a dangerous man to oppose. He wondered what the Republic’s leadership was like. As much as Dooku spoke about hope and the suffering his people were suffering he could not detect a hint of any morale problem among the Separatists. They seemed highly motivated and dedicated to their cause.

They had the look of victory in their eyes. They were not thinking of defeat.

“And who is this radiant beauty?” Dooku asked as he stopped in front of Deanna Troi.

“That is my counselor, Deanna Troi.”

“Betazoid?” Dooku asked curiously, examining her eyes.

“Yes sir.” She replied with a gentle smile. His emotions were like exploding rockets. No deception at all. He was a proud man but there was something else behind the man’s demeanor, a deep abiding sadness. The war had affected him more than he would let on to anyone.

“An empath, how intriguing.” Dooku said softly looking into her eyes then suddenly turned his head towards Picard. “I assume that Sev’Rance was opposed to your presence in deference to me?” Dooku asked with a bemused smile.

Picard exchanged a glance with Sev’Rance.

“Yes she did. I told her that the negative implications of bringing an empath to our conference were—”

“Foolish, Captain. I apologize for Sev’Rance’s over protectiveness of my feelings. She has always been fiercely loyal to me and it can blind her to some of the truths that I hold dear.”

“Such as?” Troi asked him curiously.

“That beautiful women can go where they please.” Dooku replied regally and took a gentle hold of Deanna’s hand and kissed her knuckles. Deanna smiled and fought the blush coming on to her cheeks.

“A gentlemen and a warrior. That is a difficult combination to find, Count. I am impressed.”

“And I am flattered young lady. If I were but 20 years younger.” Dooku replied, charm dripping from each word. Riker’s eyes narrowed on the older man with a smirk.

“Now, if you will please, I have refreshments waiting for us in our conference center. I have been waiting too long to hold off these talks any longer.” Dooku announced and clapped his hands together cheerfully. “Please follow me.”

“He’s quite the charmer isn’t he?” Riker muttered to Troi as they started walking.

“I hadn’t noticed.” Troi replied with a secret smile. Her eyes wandered past the group for a moment and saw a pair of humans walking past them. One was older, wearing an eye patch and black cloak and robes. He moved with a determined stride. She noticed the lightsaber at his belt. The younger man drew most of her attention. He moved several steps behind the older man, a stormy expression in his eyes and a dashing sway to his stride, there was raw confidence there but she could feel his anger as well, just bubbling beneath the surface of his carefully constructed demeanor. He wore a form fitting black tunic and boots.

He was also one of the most handsome men she had ever seen.

His eyes flashed up and met hers. They stared at each other for a moment. He smiled softly for a moment, hesitantly as if he were unaccustomed to the action and quickly covered the smile with a scowl as the older man glanced back at him and said something.

Troi watched him closely as he continued to walk by, she noticed the lightsaber at his belt as well, it was much longer than the others she had seen so far and she wondered what that could mean. He glanced back at her as the doors slid open to the conference center. She looked away shyly and he smiled again before entering the conference center.

“Something wrong?” Riker asked.

Troi looked up at him as if she were just waking up.

“Nothing, nothing at all. Do we have any idea who they are?” She asked him pointing at the two dark clad humans.

Riker saw them and frowned slightly.

“They sort of look like Jedi Knights.” Riker noted.

“Jedi Knights? I thought they were fighting on the side of Republic.”

“Those are most certainly Fallen Jedi.” Data interjected.

“How do you know that?” Riker asked.

“I have studied all of Sev’Rance Tan’s briefing reports.” Data replied simply.

“All of them? But she must have transferred thousands of pages of---oh forget it.” Riker finished with a rueful shake of his head as he watched Data’s expression.

The group entered the conference center. It was an enormous room with a large clear crystal table in the center. On the crystal table top readouts were gently scrolling down at each place where a seat was located.

Floating over the table was a holographic display of the galaxy, the portions of space held by the Separatist glowed a dull yellow. Picard immediately noticed that the Separatists held enough space to fill the Alpha Quadrant alone. The number of worlds must have been staggering.

Dooku took his place and politely waited for the rest to take their places. He smiled at Picard and indicated the seat directly opposite his.

The two dark Jedi were seated quietly in the back of the conference center, wreathed in shadows.

“So that’s the Federation?” Bane whispered as he grimly watched them with his single eye while they assembled at the table.

“I could care less.” Janus replied softly, his eyes discreetly watched the beautiful young woman with the haunting eyes.

“All you care about Janus is getting out there and killing more Jedi. It gets tiresome you know. All that killing.” Bane replied wearily.

“Well, you didn’t lose family to them. You have no idea what I lost.” Janus snapped.

“Calm down, Janus.” Bane replied. “All you young lost ones are always so quick to anger.”

Janus said nothing for a moment.

“When do we tell him?”

Bane nodded slowly as he watched the talks begin.

“When it is most dramatic.”

Janus nodded.

“Lord Tyrannus does love his drama doesn’t he?”

Bane sighed softly.

“By the way, kid. Just because I’ve got one eye don’t think I haven’t noticed the eyes you’ve been making at the slit over there.” He said with a cold smirk.

Janus shifted uncomfortably but said nothing.

The talks began in earnest.




“Target aspect is changing.”

“Estimate weapons range in twenty seconds.”

“Bring the wing about in attack pattern J-22.”

“Acknowledged.”

The bridge of the Dominion attack fighter was bathed in an eerie red glow from the alert lights. It looked as if the crewmen were wading through blood as they took their battle stations. The Vorta stood proudly in the center of the bridge, a headset on, her eyepiece lit as she watched the space around them. Bereft of a view screen, the only way of seeing what was happening was by use of the ocular viewers.

The Jem’Hadar first walked over to the Vorta.

“Early readings indicate heavy cruiser class.” The first reported.

“One of those ring shaped battleships again?” Veeta asked.

“Yes.” The First replied flatly.

“We only have a single wing of attack craft. There is no chance of even holding that behemoth here.”

“We have our orders. We must hold the counter attack here as long as we can while the planet is evacuated of all Dominion personnel.”

“I know my orders, the point is that we cannot hold them.”

“That is not up to us to decide.” The First replied coldly.

An alarm buzzed.

“It looks as if they have made the decision for us.” Veeta spat through gritted teeth as the battleship exited hyperspace. A trio of attack ships immediately banked hard and opened fire on the ship as they passed under the main ring.

“Receiving a transmission from the planet. Battle cruiser BC-30099 is inbound from the surface. All attack wings are to provide covering fire until it can go to warp.” Veeta announced. She did not relay the rest of the message. The flashing amber text that scrolled across the top of her viewer alerted her to the passenger on the battle cruiser.

She had suspected from the moment they were rerouted from reinforcing the 17th Tactical wing that had been mauled badly in the disastrous defense of Cardasia Prime to put up a ragtag defense of this relatively unimportant colony world.

There was a Founder on the colony.

She heard that the two founders in the Cardasian Empire had been on Cardasia prime when the Mandalorian attack fleet struck. Hundreds of Dominion ships launched themselves against the fleet only to be slaughtered like lambs. One Founder managed to flee the catastrophe and one vanished on the planet when occupation troops began landing. (within one hour of the battle being joined, it was unheard of in Dominion history for landing operations to have begun so soon after first contact with their forces.)

She was willing to bet that this was the one that had fled, hoping that the relative unimportance of the colony world would keep the Founder safe for some time. Unfortunately this enemy seemed to have the ability to read minds.

The three initial attack ships suddenly vanished under a furious fusillade from the ring shaped battleship. Not even debris was left from the field of energy flak thrown up around the ship.

“Send in the 4th and 5th squadrons, tell them to shunt power from shields to weapons, our shields won’t matter at this point.”

The First nodded.

“Battle cruiser clearing the first perimeter. The battleship has seen it and is adjusting fire to concentrate on the Battle cruiser.”

“Bring more supporting fire from the wing against the battleship and see if we cannot generate a rotating tertrion field to try and mask their scanners.”

“Understood.”

The bridge rocked for a moment as more enemy flak exploded nearer to the heart of the Dominion defensive fleet.

“This feels wrong somehow.” Veeta muttered.

“They have more than enough firepower to deal with us.” The First replied as his viewer showed another groups of Dominion attack ships vanishing in clouds of energy fire.

“These Mandalorians don’t fight with just enough firepower, they surround, they overwhelm.” Veeta countered as the Battle cruiser drew closer.

“Nevertheless we must protect the Founder.” The First urged. Veeta looked up at the Jem’Hadar first in surprise. He smiled sardonically. “Not all Jem’Hadar are mindless soldiers. It does not take Vorta intellect to see that the passenger of that cruiser is a Founder.” He added.

“You continue to surprise me First.” She replied softly.

Another alarm sounded. The bridge crew tensed for a moment waiting for the report but instead the bridge shuddered hard to port and sparks showered from overhead systems that overloaded.

“Another warship has emerged directly behind us!” the First shouted over the din.

“Evasive maneuvers! What’s the status of the Battle cruiser?”

“She’s taking fire from the enemy warship, starboard nacelle has been destroyed and her defensive grid has been smashed.” The First replied coolly as he held on to his station with one hand and entered in a new string of orders with the other.

Veena glanced down to her feet with the viewer, but instead of her feet and the floor, she could see the space beneath the fighter. The Battle cruiser was listing badly, her starboard nacelle sheared off by enemy fire and trailing a glittering stream of plasma and molten metal. The other white nacelle was flickering madly. Holes were blasted into the hull and she could tell that the ship was dying. There was no way it was going to warp.

“Take us down fast and lock on to the Founder’s signature for beam up.” She snapped.

“Understood.”

The small Jem’Hadar attack ship dived sharply down the plain of engagement as the defensive fleet erupted into blossoms of fire around it. Enemy weapons fire exploded in titanic blasts all along her escape route as she wove her way through the dying fleet.

“We are in range.”

The bridge shuddered hard again. A support beam came loose and swung down like a hammer towards Veena’s head. She turned, eyes widened in shock but ready to die. The Jem’Hadar First grunted as he slammed his arm across the beam, tilting it off target and it crashed into a counsel instead of Veena’s head with a crash and the sick sputter of dying circuits and conduits.

Veena looked at the first, his arm shattered by the blow but he did not seem to notice.

“You…”

“You are the Vorta, I cannot allow you to fall if life remains in my body.”

“I am the Vorta.” She replied. “And I shall care for you.” She finished and tore a strip of cloth from her uniform and began binding the Jem’Hadar’s arm.

“What is the status of the transport?” she shouted.

“Commencing.”

“The cruiser’s power matrix is rupturing!” the tactical officer shouted in alarm.

The Jem’Hadar attack ship flashed down past the dying battle cruiser, one of her nacelle’s no longer glowing and her hull pitted and gouged by shrapnel and fire. The battle cruiser slowly exploded, her rear section tearing itself apart and spinning madly away on fire.

“We have the Founder!” The First announced with a triumphant slap of his control counsel.

“Go to warp now!”

“Engaging.”

The Jem’Hadar attack ship vanished in a flash of pseudomotion and light as the Separatist ships slowly met in the middle, the wreck of the Dominion defensive fleet floating around them like attendant insects.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-11-20 05:11pm
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Chapter 14: Welcome Wagon

“I understand a fury in your words but not the words.”
Othello Act 4, Scene ii




The Federation entourage moved slowly through the winding halls of the Senatorial chambers making their way to the air ships waiting for them on the roof to conduct them to their living quarters.

“It will give you a chance to rest and relax. You have had a very hectic schedule today and the Supreme Chancellor would like all of you to feel your best for the dinner tomorrow.” Sly Moore explained softly.

“We appreciate the Supreme Chancellor’s hospitality.” Dehner replied.

“Although I am up for more. This is precisely what we in Starfleet have always looked forward to, making first contact with new worlds and civilizations” Kirk added enthusiastically.

Obi Wan spared him a sad gaze. These people really were explorers at heart. His thoughts flashed back to the bloody battlefields he had visited this last year and wondered how they would react to the slaughterhouse this galaxy had become.

“A hardy breed our potential allies. An entire day and they have rubbed shoulders with the haughty senators, the lowly aides and the mighty Jedi knights and they wish to continue without rest. The Separatists should be quaking in their boots.” Bastion winked to Meerlinda. She frowned at him.

“Now is not the time for your ill timed jibes, Bastion.”

“One thing this war has taught me sweet Meerlinda is that there is always time for an ill-timed jibe.” Bastion replied with a chuckle.

Meerlinda opened her mouth to reply when the lights in the corridor suddenly winked out.

Kirk turned to Spock and Number One.

“Look alive, Doctor Dehner I’m going to have to ask you to get down.” Kirk ordered calmly as he drew his phaser.

“So much for not bringing down weapons sir?” Number One noted coolly with an arched eyebrow.

“Remind me to put you up for a commendation.”

The Jedi did not hesitate and there were three quick successive snap hisses as they ignited their lightsabers. Obi Wan’s blue lightsaber led the way as he moved quickly to the front of the group.

“Bastion secure the rear, Meerlinda stay close to Kirk and Dehner. I have a feeling that they will be the targets of this ambush.” Obi Wan ordered tersely.

“And the universe, like some perverse sadist proves me right once again.” Bastion snorted as he moved to the rear, illuminating the area with his green blade.

“Surely they can’t be serious that this is an attack Here. On Coruscant.” Sly snapped nervously. It was the first time Kirk noticed her loose her cool.

“Hold fast, Captain. We’ll see you through this.” Meerlinda promised as she waved her blade slowly to help illuminate the area around them.

“If you don’t mind, Meerlinda, we tend to fight for ourselves.” Kirk replied as he checked the power setting on his phaser. He had no intention of blasting house size holes in this building.

“Spock?”

Spock opened up his tricorder and began scanning right away.

Meerlinda watched them in action and could not help but be impressed.

“Give us the Federation representatives and this will all be over. You have my word they will not be harmed.” a voice called out further down the corridor.

“Multiple life signs captain, I am also picking up strange EM emissions. I have to assume they are droids.”

“You don’t sound certain about that.” Kirk noted.

Spock fixed Kirk with a steady gaze. “Vulcans do not like to guess unless they have no other choice.” he replied.

“Who are you?” Obi Wan called out sternly.

A shadowy figure approached and they could see the pearly white teeth of his smile but nothing else.

“Master Obi Wan Kenobi is it? I have always wanted to test my skills against one of the mighty legends of the Republic.” the figure replied coldly.

“You haven’t answered the question. By your rudeness I am to assume you are to be counted among the Separatists?” Bastion called out.

“Separatists? Republic? You really think its that cut and dry anymore Jedi?” the figure spat.

“The Republic security forces will be here momentarily. I would retreat if I were you. You will not have the Federation representatives.” Meerlinda pointed out calmly.

The figure cloaked in shadow nodded slowly.

“Indeed Jedi. You’re right. We haven’t a moment to lose.” He lifted his arms and the darkness around him seemed to gather up like a wave on the ocean. Obi Wan and the others felt it right away. They simply could not believe it. The shadowy figure was using the force to manipulate the darkness itself.

“We’ve got company!” Bastion shouted as he heard the harsh metallic sounds of rushing droid warriors. He brought his saber up in a defensive position and waited for them to make the first more, clearing his mind and letting his senses stretch out into the darkness.

Bastion, like all other Jedi learned relatively early on that simple difficulties such as darkness as being underwater were no bar to the Force. He felt the approaching droids, each one illuminated by the stirrings they caused in the framework of the Force around him.

“Everyone look ou—” Obi Wan’s warning was cut off by the swirling wave of shadows that washed over them. Suddenly engulfed in pitch black darkness and jolted off his feet, Obi Wan’s senses were confused by the head over feet tumbling he took in the darkness.

Obi Wan’s senses were one thing, his connection to the force quite another. He reflexively lashed out with his saber and batted aside a blaster bolt meant for him. He continued tumbling the wave of darkness and crashed against the wall with a loud thud.

The wave continued down the corridor, Meerlinda stepped up and swung her lightsaber in a precise cut and some of the darkness melted away but the rest surged around her and buffeted her.

“Mr. Spock, Number One, fire for the center of that mass.” Kirk ordered.

The other two nodded, aimed and fired.

Thick red beams lanced out from their phasers and struck the center of the mass before it could wash over them. The darkness bubbled and frothed where the beams struck and the dark wave floundered, crashing down around their feet.

Kirk smiled and was about to congratulate his crew when blaster bolts whipped by his head.

“It appears we are surrounded Captain.” Spock noted.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Kirk replied wanly and fired a phaser burst down the opposite end of the corridor where the first dim shapes of droid troopers could be seen approaching.

“I am unaware of what you know, sir.” Spock stated slightly confused.

Kirk shook his head.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to working with a Vulcan. Number One, what’s your assessment of the situation?” Kirk asked as he fired another blast and thought he may have struck one of the droids.

“This looks like an intricate ambush sir. The Jedi are holding their own but I have a feeling that the faction responsible for this attack would have taken them into account.” She stated and paused long enough to return fire.

“Agreed. Spock try to raise the Enterprise. See if they can’t beam us out of here.”

“Aye sir.”

“Captain, this is most distressing indeed. We have not had an attack on Coruscant proper since the war began.” Sly noted nervously and slid in close to Kirk. Number One noticed how close the pale skinned alien woman was to her Captain and said nothing but she shook her head for a moment.

“Stay close to me Sly, we’ll get you out of this.” Kirk promised as he watched the attack unfold.

“I’ll stay close, Captain.” Sly replied softly.

Obi Wan was up on his feet and flipped over a battering ram formed from shadows that dented the wall behind him. He landed and delivered a slash to the base of the shadow ram. It boiled and writhed into pools of darkness.

Obi Wan was mystified. He had never heard of a force technique remotely like this.

The shadow stranger made a motion with his hand and a massive bubble of darkness vomited down the corridor past them and exploded in the center of the group. A small cadre of mercenaries were disgorged from the bubble.

“Look out!” Kirk exclaimed.

Meerlinda whirled around and her lightsaber instantly bisected an insectoid alien at the thorax. It gave a loud hiss and flopped to the ground wildly. She twirled her lightsaber and strode over to Kirk and the others.

“We need to get out of here now!”

“You’ll get no argument from me!” Kirk shouted back as the battle grew louder and more dissonant.

“This gets dreadfully dull real fast.” Bastion snapped as he whirled his lightsaber in a wide arc, deflecting the growing storm of blaster fire from the approaching droids. In the center the mercs were rushing at Kirk and Dehner, trying to make a quick grab.

Kirk backhanded a human that grabbed Dehner’s arm while Spock wrestled with a huge Rodian that was snarling a string of epithets that the universal translator refused to translate. Several more were bulling their way in.

Meerlinda whipped her blade in a wide arc taking off several outstretched limbs and delivered a force push that sent several of the mercs stumbling backwards.

“We need a way out.”

“Any suggestions would be helpful, for instance I would not suggest this direction.” Bastion replied as he deflected several bolts back at the droids.

Kirk glanced at the walls of the corridor.

“I have an idea. Everyone watch out!” Kirk yelled as he adjusted the power setting on his phaser, ignoring Meerlinda’s flashing saber cutting down the enemy trying to grab them. Dehner to her credit was not screaming or in shock, she tried to fight off anyone that drew too close but found herself very upset for not taking a weapon down with her.

But quite frankly who could have foreseen this?

Kirk aimed the phaser at the wall and fired. The beam blasted through the wall of the corridor with an explosive blast as debris and dust spilled out into the night sky beyond.

“Let’s go, everyone outside and give the Jedi some fighting room.” Kirk ordered and helped Dehner climb up on the lip of the hole blasted into the wall. Sly remained close to Kirk eyeing the attackers with contempt.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Dehner asked as she peered out.

“Its either outside or get brought down by one of these guys.” Kirk replied and kicked one of the mercs approaching.

Dehner climbed out and froze. She must have been hundreds of stories above the street below. In fact there seemed to be a thin cloud cover below that did not let her see past about a hundred stories.

“Who builds buildings this high?” Dehner muttered as she clung to the side of the building and shuffled out on the small ledge that ran along the level.

Kirk offered his hand to Sly and helped her out on the ledge.

Obi Wan saw what the Federation entourage was doing and smiled to himself. So, they could take care of themselves. It was about time he had a group to protect that could think on their feet. Now he had another concern.

The shadow wreathed warrior slowly drew something from his waist as Obi Wan approached.

“You’re coming with me.” Obi Wan assured him as his lightsaber hummed ominously.

“I am not some child or Separatist official that can be easily cowed to come with you by weight of your Jedi authority Master Kenobi. You will find that there is a great many things I do not care for and one of them is arrogant Jedi who do not know when they have been outclassed.” The shadow warrior hissed and suddenly exploded outward in a flurry of motion as his lightsaber activated with a snap hiss in mid strike.

Obi Wan brought his own blade up quickly and snapped his blade forward in a sharp riposte as soon as he parried the blow. The Shadow warrior smiled as an inky tentacle slapped Obi Wan’s strike aside, the end of the tentacle smoking and bubbling where it struck the blade. Another one delivered a hammer like blow to Obi Wan’s gut.

Obi Wan doubled over from the impact.

The Shadow warrior stepped forward and brought his humming white blade down hard to decapitate the stunned Jedi Master. Obi Wan simply continued to roll forward after doubling over and avoided the blade, kicking up with one leg and connecting with the Shadow warrior’s chin.

The audible click of teeth smashing together and a grunt of surprise awarded his strike. Obi Wan rolled back up to his feet and swept at the warrior’s midsection. The warrior turned at his waist and parried the blow, pivoted hard on his right foot and brought his own blade down from a high strike position to Obi Wan’s head.

Obi Wan brought his own blade up and parried.

As he suspected, another tentacle whipped up from the shadows around him but he was expecting it and he tried the defense he suspected would work best against these strikes. If the shadow objects were force manipulated and created as he sensed then the Force could just as easily repel them.

He held out his hand and the force flowed from his outstretched hand reaching out and disrupting the flow of the force coming from the tentacle. The shadow tentacle simply splashed harmlessly against Obi Wan’s defenses.

The shadow warrior’s smile faltered slightly as he took a step back, waving his lightsaber in an intricate defensive pattern, a swarm of shadow appendages rearing up behind him like striking cobras.

“Now,” Obi Wan began a confident smile on his face. “Let’s try that again.”




Bastion flipped forward and landed in a low crouch among the first wave of droids. They turned to fire on the Jedi in their midst. Bastion spun on his left foot in a fast turn, lightsaber blade flashing out and taking out the droids’ legs with one chopping blow.

He launched himself up again as a half dozen droids clattered to the floor. Blaster fire surged around him as he tumbled through the air in a tight ball, his lightsaber out in front smacking aside the more dangerous bolts. He smiled to himself. His job was accomplished. The droids were switching the bulk of their fire on him instead of the retreating Federation personnel.

He landed on top of one droid, turned quickly to face more attackers, precariously balanced on the droid’s shoulders and parried more blaster fire.

The droids advanced on him and his unfortunate attacker who was trying to shake Bastion loose from his perch atop the droid. Bastion chuckled as he parried one bolt into another droid.

The advancing droids increased their rate of fire as two quickly dropped their weapons and tried to pull him off their comrade’s shoulders. Bastion swept his blade down and summarily decapitated both droids.

The droids paused for a moment as if consulting with each other, their thin flat plate like heads twitching slightly.

“We have no choice.”

“Initiate friendly fire override protocols.”

“Roger. Roger.”

“Uh oh.” Bastion frowned.

His droid mount was suddenly riddled by blaster fire. It toppled over and sent Bastion sprawling out on the floor where he slid to a stop against the far wall of the corridor with a grunt of surprise.

He twirled his lightsaber quickly, deflecting the hail of blaster fire as he quickly sprang to his feet.

“No fair. You guys didn’t have those overrides in the Battle of Agelos.” Bastion snapped as he spun on his right foot and danced between a formation of droids, bisecting them neatly into smoking chunks that clattered noisily to the floor.

“Bring in reinforcements.”

“Roger. Roger.”

“Reinforcements?! That just gives me more targets for saber practice you plodding metallic…fools?” Bastion’s voice faltered as the hard stomping noise grew louder than the blaster fire around him and the first of the super battle droids stepped out of the deep shadows and extended its arm.

Bastion’s eyes widened and the heavy blaster fire began tearing through the air. Bastion back flipped, the first volley passing directly over his belly as he continued his back flip out of the cluster of droids.

“We have company!” Bastion warned loudly as he straightened himself in a defensive crouch and began to whether the storm of rapid fire blaster bolts.

Meerlinda saw the events unfolding around her and she extended a hand at a charging pair of mercs and sent them barreling into the opposite wall where they landed like rag dolls. She whirled her lightsaber blade and deflected several blaster bolts and started to advance on Bastion’s position.

“Meerlinda! Watch Kirk and the others. We have no idea what’s out there waiting for them.” Obi Wan ordered as he parried a strike to his throat by the shadow warrior while simultaneously disrupting three shadow tentacles moving to attack.

“We’ve got everything under control here!” Bastion added with a confident laugh that sounded particularly hollow as he seemed to simply stand firm with his lightsaber in hand holding back the torrent of blaster fire from the approaching super battle droids.

“Damn.” she snapped and turned to exit out the hole in the wall when she saw a Trandoshan launch itself at Kirk as he peered back inside. “No!”

Kirk grunted as the large lizard struck him like a missile and they both stumbled desperately at the edge of the ledge. The Trandoshan was trying to get a firm grip on Kirk while Kirk was trying to beat it off with a flurry of arm blocks and kicks. Suddenly they simply plummeted off the side of the building.

“Captain!” Number One shouted in shock as Kirk and the Trandoshan tumbled into the clouds below.

“Oh my god.” Dehner breathed in horror.

“Kirk!” Sly exclaimed, hands up to her mouth.

Meerlinda catapulted herself through the hole and continued down into the abyss below lightsaber blade alight as she too plummeted into the clouds below.

“Meerlinda!”

“This is most illogical.” Spock noted with an arched eyebrow.




Kirk punched the thing’s scaly snout as it struggled to restrain him. The wind whipped through his hair he could barely hear the lizard aliens’ curses as it tried to subdue the human. Kirk managed to pull one of its talons off his shoulder and another talon now holding something was trying to get a firm grip on Kirk’s chest.

Kirk kneed the things where he thought perhaps the groin would be and was rewarded with absolutely no reaction from the alien as it hissed hungrily and nearly slapped the device in its talons on Kirk. Kirk took a firm hold of its wrist as the building continued flashing by, floor by floor.

“We…are…falling!!” Kirk roared.

The Trandoshan said nothing in return as it tried to fight past Kirk’s grip on its wrist and plant the small device.

“What…is…wrong…with…you!” he shouted and struggled vainly against the thing. The brute was strong. He didn’t think he could continued to fight it off much longer. He eyed the device for a moment, fighting the rising fear that at any moment he was going to come to a sudden stop.

He froze.

It looked like the Starfleet emblem.

Sensing Kirk’s hesitation it tried to lunge forward again and pin the thing on him. Kirk roared and turned his entire body causing the two to spin slightly, with Kirk now on top but they were closer to the edge of the building now and Kirk placed both arms against the Trandoshan’s wrist and pushed to the side with all his strength.

Disoriented for a moment by the sudden turn the Trandoshan lost its battle of strength with Kirk for a moment and that moment was all that Kirk needed to shove it’s talon into the passing walls of the building.

The impact was jarring, it sent Kirk spinning off the lizard alien and it shattered the Trandoshan’s talon and nearly tore its arm out of the socket. The device in its hand flashed past them as it slipped from the Trandoshan’s grasp and vanished up into the night sky.

Kirk looked down and saw a flying truck slowly backing out of a loading dock below. The truck’s container was open at the top revealing a pile of garbage and refuse. It did not look like the landing was going to be a good one. They had been falling for some time now and Kirk knew enough about elementary physics to guess that the impact would most likely reduce him to some form of reed paste.

The Trandoshan hissed mockingly and turned its head to glare at Kirk.

“What now human?” it asked sarcastically.

Kirk looked down at the rapidly approaching ‘landing.’ What now indeed?



The clash of lightsabers was loud in the corridor as Obi Wan and the Shadow warrior circled each other like predators, each one looking for an opening. The shadow warrior was wreathed by a dozen inky tentacles of semi solid shadow like some perverse hydra, each one swayed languidly belying their ability to rapidly strike at a moment’s notice.

“Surely you have a name dark one?” Obi Wan asked.

“A name? Even now, in the heat of battle I can feel your mind working, Kenobi. You are trying desperately to find out who I am and whom I work for.” The shadow warrior sneered. His face was a mask of writhing shadows, only his eyes and mouth were free. His lips were turned up in a sneer of contempt but his eyes remained focused on Obi Wan and his dangerous lightsaber blade. “Aren’t you tried of being the council’s messenger boy? They use you like a tool and when the time comes they will be just as willing to discard you. Join me Obi Wan and we can begin to turn that tide. I am not alone, far from it, we are legion.”

Obi Wan smiled softly as he spun his lightsaber at his side and brought it around in an offensive position, arms cocked at his side.

“What is it about you Sith lords that makes you think that I would ever join the likes of you?” he asked.

The Shadow warrior’s sneer grew.

“Obstinate Jedi, you make judgments in your arrogance without thinking that the order has not only alienated the Sith. But if you insist on dying, Master Kenobi, then so be it.”

The Shadow warrior launched a series of lightning like stroke from his lightsaber.

Obi Wan parried and extended his free hand disintegrating two more tentacles reaching around to grab him. He spun completely around and delivered a slashing attack on the shadow warrior’s head. The Shadow warrior parried the blow and brought two more tentacles up around Obi Wan’s shoulder.

The Jedi Master ducked under their attack and slashed his lightsaber through the shadowy base of the tentacles while extending his hand in a fist and driving the shadow warrior back against the wall with a bone jarring impact.

Obi Wan smiled with satisfaction. Switching tactics worked spectacularly well. The shadow warrior had grown accustomed to his lightsaber attacks and the force defense on his shadow appendages. He let his defenses drop slightly and that was all that Obi Wan needed to deliver a devastating force push on his attacker.

He strode over to the fallen shadow warrior ready to restrain him.

“Obi Wan! A little help would be greatly appreciated!” Bastion shouted. “Not that I REALLY need help but—” Bastion was being driven back by the sheer volume of fire and some of the blaster bolts were clipping the edges of his clothes, leaving smoldering black marks on his shoulders and edges of his cloak.

“Calm your thrusters I’ll be right over.” Obi Wan promised and quickly knelt to secure his prisoner. The Shadow warrior smiled.

“Fool.”

The shadows closed around Obi Wan in a fist. Obi Wan immediately centered himself and tried to push outward with the force to dispel the darkness as he had done to all the other constructs but the fist squeezed hard and Obi Wan exhaled sharply as he felt his ribs constricting dangerously.

The Shadow warrior smiled coldly as he slowly got up to his feet, Obi Wan noted with some satisfaction that he was favoring one side.

“I have underestimated you Master Kenobi, and you have underestimated me. The difference here is that your error will cost you your life.” The Shadow Warrior hissed as Obi Wan felt the shadow fist closing around him even tighter.

“A name.” Obi Wan gasped trying his best to catch his breath as he felt the commotion behind him through the Force. “At least give me your name.”

The shadow warrior smiled and drew Obi Wan closer to him.

“Very well, Obi Wan, you may call me Tanis. Not that it matters, because for you this war is now over and you will be the first master to fall to the righteous fist of the New Order.”

Obi Wan stared at him for a moment.

“You’re not a Sith.”

“Fool! You will die with that foolish expression etched on your face.” The Shadow warrior snarled and held up his hand closed in a fist and started squeezing it tighter. Obi Wan through back his head and cried out in pain.

Behind him battle droids began to drop in explosive blasts. His vision blurring he saw a gold shirted human leading a squad of red shirted men firing into the massed droids from behind. They looked like Starfleet men. What was happening?

Bastion did not hesitate as soon as the Federation team began their counterattack. He launched himself backwards, landed on the ceiling, pivoted hard on his left foot, used gravity to his advantage and as he was drawn back down and ran along the wall of the corridor and launched himself in a spinning attack with his lightsaber, severing the root of the shadow fist which promptly collapsed into pools of shadow.

Obi Wan recovered nearly instantly and whipped his lightsaber upward towards Tanis’ head.

Tanis leapt out of the way, not fast enough as the tip of the lightsaber flashed through his ear and flesh sizzled for a moment. Tanis wordlessly back flipped right into a cloud of bubbling darkness and vanished from sight.

“What in the name of the Force was that?” Bastion asked panting.

“A new threat looming, as if this galaxy needs any more of that.” Obi Wan replied softly as he knelt down to examine something he saw on the floor.

“Clear?”

“We’re all clear sir, some of these bad boys just stopped.”

Gary Mitchell paused.

“Stopped?”

“That’s right sir, like these two.” one of the red shirted security team said cautiously pointing to two super battle droids that had stopped in mid attack and were frozen in place.

Gary approached one and lightly rapped on its metal frame.

“Wolchowski, check on the Captain.” Gary ordered as he examined the downed droid. “I don’t like this one damned bit.” Gary muttered.

Obi Wan picked up the object and examined it in his hand. His eyes narrowed.

Bastion noted the interest and walked over quickly.

“What do you have there?”

Obi Wan held it up for Bastion to see in the palm of his hand. Bastion peered down and his eyes narrowed as well.

“Is that?”

“Yes it is.” Obi Wan replied closing his hand around the severed padawan braid. “This means that our mysterious shadow using Jedi is only an apprentice.”

Bastion was about to say something in response when he froze. He looked up at Gary Mitchell sharply.

“Get out of there!”

Obi Wan felt it as well.

“Oh no!”

“Everyone scatter!” Gary ordered and started to race out of the corridor when the battle droids detonated.




Kirk would not close his eyes to die. He watched the looming garbage pile. Suddenly he felt an arm wrap around his waist and another grab his arm and the descent slowed considerably. Kirk’s stomach continued descending sharply. The sensation reminded Kirk of inertial dampeners coming online during battle and stopping you from crashing into a bulkhead. The softness of the skin, the emerald her whipping around him told him precisely who it was and even if he had not seen he felt that he knew. He knew that somehow she would be the one to save him.

He slowed to a feather fall like rate and crashed into the garbage pile with a force as if he had jumped from a ten foot wall instead of the mile long drop he had experienced.

“That lizard!” he exclaimed without waiting to thank Meerlinda.

“I have him Jim.” she replied smiling softly as the Trandoshan struck the garbage pile a little harder than they did but hardly at terminal velocity.

“We need to know what he knows.” Kirk urged as he walked through the raw muck and debris in a determined stride towards the downed lizard.

“You! Where the hell did you get that device!” Kirk shouted.

Meerlinda followed him wondering with growing concern where the security forces were.

The Trandoshan grunted and slowly lifted itself into a half sitting half prone position.

“I will tell you nothing human.” it spat at him as Kirk approached.

“Careful Jim, he’s still dangerous.” Meerlinda warned as she brought her lightsaber close to it.

Kirk grabbed it by the neck and tried to force its head up to look into his eyes.

“That device. Where did you get it? Who gave it to you?”

“You have no idea what you have stumbled into have you human? Your own future wants you dead.”

Kirk shook his head in confusion.

“You’re not making any sense.”

Suddenly the truck rumbled and the pile beneath the Trandoshan began to sink drastically. Kirk’s eyes widened and he reached out quickly and grabbed the alien’s wrists and began to try and pull it out of the garbage pile. The garbage seemed to be swallowing the Trandoshan from the waist down and sucking it further into the dwindling pile.

“Jim get out of there! They’ve activated their disintegrators!” Meerlinda shouted.

“Help me! I can’t let him die!”

Meerlinda glanced around quickly and without hesitation vaulted over the side of the container. She crawled along the edge to the disintegrator controls below. The droid driving the truck turned its head and looked out of the cab.

“What are you doing? Please step away from the disintegrator.”

“Turn off your disintegrator!” she shouted.

“Negative.”

“I am ordering you to---never mind.” she snapped and drove her lightsaber to the hilt into the disintegrator controls. They exploded and a cloud of smoke and sparks erupted from the ravaged panel.

“Jim?” she shouted up, concern putting an edge in her voice.

Kirk stared into the Trandoshan’s eyes. They were empty and glassy. He dropped his head in defeat as the Trandoshan slumped forward, its lower half gone, vaporized by the disintegrator.

“I’m fine.” he replied softly.



Kirk walked slowly through the wreckage of the corridor where they had done battle. He noted some of his security staff being treated by medical droids.

“Jim, Thank god!” Gary gushed and grabbed his friend in a bear hug.

“Gary how did you get down here?”

“Thank Mr. Spock. he called for emergency beam out but a scattering field was in place. So I ordered Scotty to beam me and a security team as close to this fight as he could and we made our way here. Unfortunately we had to burn our way through a couple of sets of emergency doors that closed between here and us so I hope I just didn’t touch off some diplomatic incident.” Gary explained and smiled sheepishly.

“What would I do without you?” Kirk asked and clapped his old friend on the shoulder. he was distracted watching Spock. The Vulcan was showing Number One something on his tricorder and her face suddenly betrayed surprise and grave concern.

“Captain, this is an outrage! I assure you those responsible will be found.” Sly Moore vowed.

Kirk smiled calmly and placed his hands on Sly’s bare shoulders.

“You’re fine, Sly, let’s count our blessings for now. Heads can roll later.” he said and walked past her towards Spock and Number One. Sly watched him shaking her head and looked over at Obi Wan.

“Is he aware of what this means? An attack on Coruscant, in the Senatorial wing?! And where were you!” she snapped at the closest clone trooper who was busy securing the site.

“I’m sorry ma’am but we were busy at the capital dome.”

“What?”

Obi Wan and Meerlinda leaned forward as they felt the implications of the trooper’s words.

“We had an assassination attempt against the Supreme Chancellor. The fight was bloody ma’am. Wookies led by a Mandalorian.”

“This is getting bad.” Bastion muttered.

“Assassination attempt. This is horrible.” Moore breathed.

“What is it Spock?” Kirk asked quietly as he approached the Vulcan and Number One. Spock glanced up at Number One who nodded.

“There is something you need to see sir.” Spock showed Kirk readings on his tricorder. “While making my initial scans during the battle I picked up these quantum particles.”

“Yes?” Kirk replied in confusion. Number One broke in.

“These particles routinely show up when transporter beams materialize an object.”

Kirk looked up at her sharply.

“That’s right Captain. Our attackers were beamed into this building.” she finished.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-12-09 11:57pm
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Chapter 15: A Rude Awakening

“Speak to me as to thy thinkings, As thou dost ruminate and give thy worst of thoughts. The worst of words.”
Othello Act 3 Scene iii



Picard nodded slowly as he examined the datapad handed to him by Count Dooku. The table was half empty only the head of the table and adjacent seats was occupied by the Separatists and Federation representatives. The table itself was designed to hold a meeting of representatives of all 10,000 worlds of the Separatists so the current delegation was tiny by comparison and were nearly dwarfed by the table.

Around them holographic projections of numbers, figures, graphs and charts constantly cycled around them. Key worlds would occasionally appear with pertinent information such as population, economic output and defensive installations would scroll beneath the image of the slowly circling planet in question.

It was a constant bombardment of information but all of it rather necessary. The Federation’s decisions in the coming days would seal them to the Separatists’ fate and right now that fate would lead them into a general war the likes of which the Federation had never seen.

Picard would examine the figures and nod trying his best to hide the awe that threatened to overtake him every time he received a new set of information that would give him for information about the Federation’s potential ally. One world on the border of their space was defended by orbital platforms and a “small” defensive fleet of close to 50 Capital ships and several wings of droid fighters.

Picard did not want to contemplate what sort of Federation strike force would be needed to overcome such a “small” defensive fleet.

This just does not make sense, he wondered. We would not be the tipping factor that the Separatists were looking for. What other purpose could the Federation have in this war other than to die horribly?

Dooku suddenly leaned over and placed a calm hand on Picard’s forearm, gently squeezing it as he spoke. His voice was soft only loud enough for the two to hear clearly.

“I remember when I first examined the forces arrayed against me during those dark days when the Civil War was looming. What could I possibly accomplish with 10,000 star systems against the assembled might of the Republic? How many ships and troops could I possibly bring to bear against that mighty juggernaut?” Dooku paused as he nodded looking meaningfully into Picard’s eyes. “I do not regret my decision now Picard. You see I have learned that when the cause is just, when your heart is true, that numbers no longer mean anything.” Dooku stated warmly.

Picard searched Dooku’s eyes and saw grim resolve reflected back at him.

“You’re asking me to recommend that my government go to war. A war that would decimate our fleets and men. It could lead to the eventual ruin of the Federation.”

“Yes, I am asking you to take a chance Jean Luc. It is not my intention to hide anything from you. The war is teetering on a knife’s edge right now. We are inflicting heavy casualties and winning many battles, most of our territory is still in our hands one year after the war started but the Republic is succeeding into turning this into a war we cannot win – one of attrition.”

“You understand that the Federation cannot hope to absorb the casualties that you have been dealing with since the inception of this war?” Picard asked seriously.

“Indeed I do. But we need you nonetheless. You offer several alternatives for us in this war. You offer the possibility of ending this war in a position where we can assure our own survival.”

“I’m not sure how we can possibly—”

Dooku leaned in closer, his grip tightened but not painfully, it was more of an attempt to emphasize Dooku’s point as he spoke.

“Picard, you and your Federation have a strength that you do not yet recognize that we desperately need.”

“I’m not sure I agree with you Count.” Picard replied softly. “The Federation has never been comfortable waging war, frankly we would rather be building new worlds and meeting new civilizations than making war on them.”

“A commendable sentiment, my friend and one I wish I had the luxury of when I was thrust into this role as supreme commander. These people came to me because they trusted me, they knew that I would make my stand with them and help them win their freedom no matter the cost. Now I come to you because I trust your people. I think that once we have allied that the Federation will be staunch allies.”

“This is not about what we will and will not be. This is about what CAN we do, Count? I am not relishing the thought of the dead we will be funneling back through the wormhole once this starts. I fear that we are on the cusp of something terrible as if I am staring into an abyss.”

Dooku nodded slowly and sat back for a moment.

“You are afraid of the cost.”

“Wouldn’t you be if our positions were reversed?” Picard asked.

Riker cleared his throat.

“We have run some preliminary numbers and we estimate the initial deployment of starships will nearly equal 25% of our total fleet strength. We also estimate that in three months fighting if casualty estimates remain unchanged from your previous year of fighting that we will not see a single starship return.”

“Indeed.”

“I can run you through the algorithms if you wish.” Data offered helpfully.

“That will not be necessary.” Dooku said with a kindly smile. “Captain, I’m sure that Sev’Rance has assured you that our fleet yards stand ready to upgrade your starships with weapons and defensive systems that will bring you on par with our own ships.”

“I find that highly doubtful, Count. I’ve been looking at the manifests and plans and our space frames are severely limited by what can be added.” Geordie began. “We pack our ships as tight as we can with all the systems we need. Your shield grid system alone would require a massive refit of all hulls to the point where we might as well rebuild the starship. The power generation would have to be paired with our warp core because of compatibility issues and the plain and simple fact that our ships were designed with warp cores in mind. Replacing them with a hypermatter reactor and hyperdrive would lead to unforeseen design performance glitches that could creep in.”

“I see you have put much thought into this.” Sev’Rance noted coolly.

“A contract to rebuild your Starfleet would not be out of the question.” the Trade Federation representative offered.

“That’s not it.” Picard said firmly watching Dooku. “Count we have been sitting here for hours, examining facts and figures, negotiating, and speaking. But you have not put your cards on the table and I think I’m experienced enough in these matters to know when the other side has something specific in mind.”

Dooku looked into Picard’s eyes for a long moment as the assembled Separatists glanced at each other uncertainly.

“Captain, I commend you on your bluntness. You have asked me a direct question and I will give you a direct answer.”

Dooku rose from his seat, hands clasped behind his back as he started to pace along the edge of the table.

“That’s our signal to get ready.” Bane noted. Janus simply nodded as he watched Troi. The Fallen Jedi sat quietly in the upper seats of the massive conference center lost in the long shadows.

“We have a crisis in our military, one that I suspect may be remedied by bringing your Starfleet in on the war.” Picard said nothing but his eyes narrowed in interest. “The Separatist Union is composed almost entirely of merchants and corporate interests. We know how to make money and build things Captain.” Dooku turned in his pacing to face Picard. “We do not know how to fight.”

“But your combat record is exemplary considering the odds.” Riker protested.

“If you look closely at the combat record you will see that the victorious commanders were either Sev’Rance,” he rested one hand on Sev’Rance’s shoulder and gave it a soft prideful squeeze. “or one of our Mandalorian commanders. All the defeats were under the command of one of our traditional Separatist allies. No poor reflection on them of course.” Dooku added stridently glancing over at the other Separatist leaders at the table. “If we were conducting a hostile take over of the Republic I assure you that this war would have been over months ago.”

“Your officer corps…” Picard whispered as he began to understand.

“Yes, Captain, you see our dilemma. Our people are peace loving merchants by tradition and nature. We do not have a martial tradition nor have we ever needed a standing military.”

“The droid armies…”

“Are useless in a fight without concerted leadership.” Dooku cut Riker off.

“Our droid armies are fearsome fighting machines, Captain but we have learned a….” The techno union representative, Wat Tambor adjusted a control on his breastplate and the feedback hissing in the background of his voice vanished. “painful lesson in our major engagements with the Republic clone armies.”

“Why is that?” Data asked curiously.

“Clones are naturally more creative and show initiative. Our droid armies are exceptionally good at following orders, unfortunately we have few experienced ground combat commanders to order our armies competently while the Republic have Jedi knights.” The Nemoidian representative added darkly shaking his head.

“You lack strong commanders.”

“The droid armies could be as effective if not more so under the right leadership.” Wat added.

“Frankly Captain Picard we do not have the military traditions that you have, your Starfleet Academy is a primary example, an institution dedicated solely for the training of an elite officer corps.”

“I don’t look at it that way.”

“Come now, Captain. I understand that your Starfleet likes to pretend it is not a military organization but you were about to go to war with the Dominion and your officer corps was suddenly a very powerful and sharp weapon.” Dooku said with a smile.

“And we come to the second reason why we need you, Captain Picard. Considering your current mode of thinking regarding Commander Data it could prove to be the most difficult.” Dooku said quietly as he focused his attention on Data.

“Data? What about Data?” Picard asked sharply as he glanced over at the android.

“Your droid would prove a vast improvement on the current battle droid design.” Ias Dillot the Neimodian said with a sly smile.

“My droid? Data is a sentient being.” Picard protested, voice rising.

“Captain, Captain…” Dooku raised his hands to calm him. “I assure you that there is no plan to do anything to Mr. Data at all.”

“Then what are you proposing?” Picard asked suspiciously.

Dooku indicated Ias Dillot with a wave of his hand.

“Simple really, Captain. We would need to have Mr. Data’s permission to perform a series of deep scans and tests on him in order to recreate and improve upon his design.”

“Improve?” Data added curiously.

“Why yes, we would need to make you more combat capable, your design is already optimal for most other duties and our modifications would simply extend to strengthening the basic skeletal framework and plating some of your more vital areas.” Wat Tambor added.

“You are essentially proposing creating a disposable army consisting of clones of Mr. Data.” Troi noted darkly.

“That is precisely what I argued against when we fought for Data’s right to be a free being.” Picard added angrily.

“You? You personally argued for his emancipation?” Wat Tambor stammered.

“Yes, of course he did.” Dooku added as he watched Picard’s reactions. “I assure you that the Droid army we create from his template will not have the same level of intelligence as your own, Captain. His positronic neural net would prove to add a level of complexity that would only hinder our efforts at mass production.”

“It is the principal of the matter.” Picard protested.

“Perhaps.” Dooku began and ran his hand along the edge of the table as he spoke. Bane and Janus immediately rose from their seats and quietly descended down into the conference area carrying datapads. “You should consider Mr. Data’s position on this matter?”

“Excuse me?”

“You emancipated Mr. Data precisely so that he could not be treated as a piece of property, noble indeed Captain but at this moment you are making decisions for him regarding his well being.”

“I am his commanding officer.”

“Indeed Captain, that must be the reason why.” Dooku replied.

Picard and Dooku exchanged a hard gaze.

The two Fallen Jedi swept past the Federation embassy and quickly gathered around Dooku. They handed him the datapads and whispered fervently to him. Dooku nodded and his expression grew troubled and he spared a questioning gaze over at Picard.

“If you will excuse me something has arisen requiring my personal attention.”

“Anything we can do to help.”

“Yes actually speak to the rest of my colleagues and we will discuss matters as soon as I return. This alliance is too vital to allow to wait for me.” Dooku said grimly and strode out flanked by the Fallen Jedi. Janus and Troi exchanged a furtive glance before he exited with Dooku.

“I wonder if he has a point.” Picard muttered.

“Sir?” Data asked.

Picard looked at his old friend. Data had changed so much since those early days on the Enterprise.

“Perhaps I am making decisions for you that you need to be making for yourself.”

Data blinked.

“I am uncertain how to proceed sir.”

“Well, let’s try to do this together Mr. Data.” Picard said with a soft smile.





The comet passed the shadow of the gas giant and continued its million year round trip journey around the system’s primary. A trail of glittering ice was streaming away from the central mass of the celestial body as it fought against the solar winds within the systems, slowly warming up from the absolute freezing cold of the interstellar void between star systems.

He stood at the top of the body of the comet hands held up high above his head and smiling joyfully as he felt the ice crystals exploding around him and fade away into the void. The ground beneath his feet constantly shifted as the comet plunged onward heedless of anything or anyone.

He drew pleasure from riding these rocks of dirty snow into a system, it sometimes made him feel part of something larger. It made him forget how angry and jaded he was. So long ago he had been important, he had mattered. Now he was something discarded.

And worst of all he was obscenely bored.

A flash of light behind him warned him of his approach. He said nothing but smiled even more broadly. Maybe boredom would pass this day.

“I can’t believe what you’ve done.” he said coldly arms crossed.

“You remind me of father the way you’re standing there like that. Judging me.”

“Father hasn’t judged you. I am here to do that.”

They were silent for a moment. The newcomer resembled the comet rider almost exactly, save that he was older, a little less hair, more worry lines around the eyes. Pathetic really. There was no need to keep up appearances, especially here among themselves.

“You’re judging me?” the comet rider laughed deeply.

“No one else seems to want to damnit!” the newcomer snapped.

“Anger? Do you realize who you’re angry at, Q?”

Q shook his head.

“I came here to make you listen to reason.”

“By coming here now you have violated one of our most basic precepts no?”

Q sputtered in outrage and shock.

“You. You are accusing ME of violating precepts?!”

The comet rider smiled and shook his head. They were still not facing each other. The comet rider was still standing looking into the system’s primary back turned to Q.

“Whether you like it or not we’re aren’t supposed to be speaking to each other.”

“Damn you! You’re being intentionally obtuse.”

“You should know.”

“I never—” Q stopped short and snorted as he shook his head. “Enough. Look, even you can see what is coming, what is happening. They are not supposed to meet, they were never supposed to meet. Those galaxies are destined to be separate and never know of the other.”

“And?”

Q sighed softly.

“You’re going to start a war that could mean the extinction of the humans.”

“Ah…yes, the humans. I love them too you know.”

“No you don’t! If anyone knows this it’s me. You’re still angry at them, you blame them for the most childish things and this is some petty revenge.” Q protested bitterly.

The comet rider shook his head sadly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see it that way. They can learn so much with what I am going to teach them.”

Q took several steps forward.

“Ah, ah, ah, get any closer and I may have to do something…drastic.”

Q stopped short. He eyed the comet rider critically.

“Now, you made your plea. I ignored it. Leave. You have no right to be here.”

“I have every right.”

“You know the law. To each Q his own time reference and no other. You are violating that as we speak, every moment you speak to me, every moment you look on me and inhabit the same time space reference. You are a law breaker. I have done no such thing. If I am breaking the law it is up to the Continuum to do something not you.”

Q stared hard into the comet rider’s back.

“Damn you to hell.” Q hissed. “This war is no longer one of our games, it’s not fun. This is serious. Deadly serious. Whole worlds will die and the history of both will be indelibly changed.”

“Good. That’s what I intend. Let twilight fall on both their galaxies.” the comet rider said and finally turned his head to look into Q’s eyes. “You of all people know how I feel.”

“yes, yes I do. I also know what you are capable of when angry, I know what dark thoughts are creeping about in your mind.”

“Then aren’t you the good son.”

Q frowned.

“Goodbye Q, I trust we will not see each other again or I will be well within my rights to rectify the situation.”

Q opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it and raised his hand to snap his finger.

“Give father our love.” the comet rider whispered.

“I will Q.” He vanished in light.





The Starship was an experimental warship. That was already a tip off that this was not a normal starbase. Four nacelles sprouted from a large boxy secondary hull where a saucer sprouted forward connected with a long sweeping horizontal neck. Torpedo turrets swung in quick snap like motion along the corners of the saucer and the forward and rear portions of the secondary hull’s ventral section. Written along the forward portion of the hull was NX-08895 USS Dominion.

Several other starships were berthed around the starbase, a conglomeration ranging from Constitution classes to small shuttlecraft.

This starbase was unlike any other. Weapons systems dotted the exterior of the base and armor plating ran along the more exposed sections. It was not listed, no number, no designation. If anyone checked Starfleet’s roster of the starbases and starcharts they would not find this base. They would discover that it did not exist. It was not supposed to exist. This base only dwelled in shadows much like the men that ran it and the fleet that serviced it.

The Shadowfleet was the fleet arm of Section 31 a secret organization created to defend and protect the Federation by any means necessary. Unhampered by such restrictions as Due process, checks and balances, chain of command and even morality they were the avenging angels of the Federation.

Captain Elizabeth Van Rensalear finished reading her reports for the day. She was near the top of her class in the Academy long ago her future bright with no limits. Any starship in the fleet open to her. But then she was approached by a group of people offering her something else. A chance to matter. A chance to secure the Federation and make sure her citizens continued to enjoy the peace and freedom that they lived under.

They asked her simple questions.

Do you love the Federation?

Yes.

Would you do anything to keep her safe and secure?

Yes.

Would you break the laws and defy orders to do so?

Hesitance.

You can be honest cadet, this will not get back to anyone.

I’m not sure I understand the question.

Would you break the law cadet, would you violate a person’s rights in order to secure the Federation from enemies both foreign or domestic. Would you war from the shadows against the foes of freedom, would you win victories that can never be acknowledged, command ships that don’t exist and kill enemies that can only do evil? Would you cadet be a member of a Shadowfleet and be this Federation’s avenging angel?

Without thinking or hesitation she answered simply.

Hell yes sir.

And so it began. Now, years later she was the one asking the questions and directing the fleet to their targets, identifying the enemy of her people and making sure that no one harmed the Federation. Those that looked upon the Federation with greed anger or ill intent would have that eye plucked out.

Youngest Captain to make Supreme Commander of the Shadowfleet she could not afford to be too proud. After all this assignment would never be known outside her circle. Van Rensalear died on a training mission to Saturn weeks before graduation. Her parents cried and there was an impressive funeral and that was the last time she had been on Earth. She no longer existed on any records database in the Federation.

But she was very well known among her counterparts in the Klingon Security Service and Tal Shiar. The Klingons called her the Varta Queen. The Varta were voracious insects that could strip the flesh off of bones of a full grown Klingon in under a minute which lived under a strict matriarchal society. The Tal Shiar gave her the code name: Tessa Johr which in Romulan roughly translated into Iron Mother. But above all her favorite was the name given to her by the Tholians. Tholian was impossible to write, since it consisted of different harmonic sounds from their crystalline bodies but the rough translation was Death’s Mistress.

She smiled softly.

None of those names suited her. She was a simple woman with simple tastes trying to run a very complex game and she was very good at it. She never ceased to be amazed by the need to make a female that had excelled at her art as something different and rare. None of her male predecessors garnered such names as Ant King or Iron Father. It was really sad. So much had not changed no matter what the culture.

All but the Gorn. But they were matriarchal so they got a free pass.

She picked up another datapad to review her comments on the day’s reports when the interior of her quarters was illuminated for a moment. She turned her head quickly and watched one of the starships in berth explode, her starboard nacelle shorn away by a steady crimson blast of phaser fire.

She did not hesitate, did not gawk as four starships decloaked in the center of the base. They were large and powerful but there was no mistaking the saucer shaped primary hull and the secondary hull with slung engine nacelles. That was a Federation design.

She raced out of her quarters to the control center just as deep red lights began flashing and the red alert siren warbled loudly.

She reached the command center on the second level and stalked over to one of the ladders off to the side leading down to the primary level.

“Report!” she snapped as she placed her legs and feet on the outside of the ladder and slid down like an ancient Earth firefighter’s pole.

“Captain we confirm four starships. They were equipped with some form of cloaking device.”

“You mean like the one we suspect the Rommies are working on?” she asked as she watched the starships systematically attacking the berthed starships.

“Yes ma'am. We are bringing weapons to bear.”

“Looks like the balloon has gone up, eh?” she asked her XO.

“You called it ma’am. They wouldn’t want to negotiate.”

“It’s what I would do.” she replied with a cold smile. “All weapons focus on the lead starship, have all the other ships in the fleet focus on the same starship, fire weapons Time on target.”

“Acknowledged.”

“They’re a lot more powerful than we gave them credit for.” her XO noted.

“This fight isn’t over yet.” she vowed as the Shadowfleet scrambled. The starships gracefully moved into fighting position under fire. She was proud of them as they maneuvered under withering fire.

“Fire the subspace pulse. Let’s see if we can’t get their targeting sensors into a snit.”

“Aye sir.”

The starbase focused a large sensor array at the raiding starships. It glowed for a moment and nothing else happened except that almost immediately after the pulse enemy phaser fire suddenly fell short or overshot their targets. Torpedoes raced past their target and exploded out of range.

“Our boys are in position.” her XO Christopher Chambers reported eagerly.

“I’ll let Captain Garret know you referred to her as a boy.” Elizabeth said with a wink. “Fire.”

The assembled starships fired their weapons in a concentrated alpha strike accompanied by the Star base’s own blast striking the Nebula class cruiser leading the assault. Her shields overwhelmed by the massive assault, the forward edge of the starship’s saucer section exploded into a cloud of molten metal and hot gasses.

The Shadowfleet vessels surged forward and struck aggressively against the enemy strike fleet.

“They didn’t expect this.” Elizabeth noted coolly.

“How so?”

“They thought this would be a quick in and out. They didn’t think we could hurt them and now they’re going to pay.”

The damaged Nebula class ship limped out of formation and unleashed a storm of torpedo fire at the approaching fleet ships. One of the single engined Saladin class destroyers caught a blast overhead, blowing its nacelle cleanly off the engine mount sending it tumbling end over end. The remaining raiding vessels stood their ground firing a storm of energy into their charging enemy.

A Constitution class cruiser took a phaser blast that ripped through its faltering forward shields and walked its way up the starboard side of the saucer leaving a blackened trail of metal that cut right up to the bridge. The cruiser bucked to port to avoid the last bit of the blast only to have a pair of photon torpedoes explode into its port nacelle, engulfing part of the saucer as well. The maimed vessel continued going to port as the rest of the fleet surged past it.

A pair of lighter ships raced over the damaged Nebula class starship and unload a barrage of photon torpedoes right into the open shield grid. The torpedoes detonated against the center of the saucer section, blasting the bridge into oblivions and punching a hole clear through the saucer.

The Nebula began to slowly drop down, nacelles flickering madly.

The starbase took that moment to unleash another massive volley against the crippled Nebula and the vessel shuddered as dozens of heavy phasers lanced into it, tearing through the deflector dish and shearing off the sensor pod. The ship exploded suddenly in a blinding white flash of light.

The enemy ships spit phaser fire in deadly arcs that tore through ships, slicing through saucers and primary hulls, angry red torpedoes exploded shearing off engine nacelles or consuming command bridges in ever expanding balls of fire. The Galaxy class cruiser among the remaining ships was firing quick bursts of phaser fire that danced along its phaser strips accompanied by bursts of photon torpedoes.

Ravaged by ships several generations ahead of them in technology more vessels fell to the enemy fire but more fire came to bear on the enemy. Individually not as powerful but using focus fire and raw numbers they surged around and surrounded the enemy.

“They’re going to try to cloak.”

“We can’t let them do that.” Elizabeth said simply and nodded to her fleet coordinator. The starbase opened one of its hangars and eight shuttled quickly emerged.

“All systems are go.”

“Engage.”

The small boxlike shuttles suddenly accelerated to near Warp 1 and struck the enemy ships with an explosive impact that sent the ships spiraling out of control by the shockwave. One of the enemy ships, one shuttle impacting against the saucer, another into the port nacelle and the last in the secondary hull exploded afterwards seconds later.

The shadow fleet circling like wolves delivered another time on target alpha strike on the surviving ships.

The battle was soon over as the final ship, a devastated Galaxy class cruiser, half of her saucer section smoldering or on fire, armor plating blasted off in massive chunks as if a giant hand had simply punched through the saucer. Its starboard nacelle was gone, the support pylon spewing a fountain of plasma and ruined metal and the deflector array hung ajar, knocked off its mounting by enemy fire it flickered weakly like the weakening heartbeat of the dying vessel.

It was dying.

“We’re receiving a hail from the enemy ship.”

“On screen.” Elizabeth adjusted her uniform and stood patiently as the screen went to static snow and then the face of a young man, far younger than anyone should be commanding a vessel of that size. It told her two things. One, this fleet was suffering from a man power shortage if they let someone this young command what amounted to a battleship. Two, the fleet had little faith in this attack if they let someone this young take part in the attack.

“Captain.” Elizabeth nodded.

The Captain of the enemy ship was tired and blood was streaming freely from a gash across his forehead, one eye swollen shut by a sudden impact against a bulkhead.

“Captain.” he replied and coughed. “I salute you.”

“So, the negotiations failed.”

“At this moment your negotiation team has been killed. I assure you it was quick and painless. We are not monsters.”

She nodded understanding intimately what he meant. The shadowfleet took no pleasure in what it did. It was a duty nothing more.

“So, why did you decide to do it?”

He smiled softly, blood caking his teeth. “Because we realized that eventually you would have done the same.”

She nodded again.

“You realize that this is not a raid, this was a full assault on us and that you have declared war on the Avenging Angels of the Federation. This won’t be a war like any other we have ever seen. We will war from the shadows against you. This is a knife fight now, no quarter asked.”

“And none given.” the young captain finished and coughed again. “We fully understand what we’ve done. But we have an advantage.”

“I think we’ve shown we’re not afraid of the technological gap.”

“Indeed. But that’s not what I’m talking about.”

She waited patiently.

“You’re history, Captain Van Rensalear, quite literally. We know precisely where you are and what you will do. How do you fight against that?”

“By rewriting history.” she replied and cut off the communications. “Don’t bother boarding her. She’ll be---” The galaxy class cruiser exploded in a brilliant blast of light. “Anyway, alert all commands. I want this base stripped down and on the move by the end of the shift. Re route every fleet ship starting immediately. Tell the Captains to find the nearest safe port. A storm is coming and we need to regroup.”

“Understood sir.” Chambers snapped a salute and hurried to carry out her orders.

She slumped against a chair and watched her people work. She imagined the knives, all the knives in the shadows around her and wondered how this could all end. “The future is trying to kill its past.” she whispered. She nodded to herself. “Time to start a new history book and take these fuckers to school.” she muttered and rose with new found determination.

“Let’s go people! Move like you have a purpose!”




Picard looked up suddenly as Dooku strode back into the conference center just as they were going to break for dinner.

“Count Doo---”

“You’ll excuse me Captain but this is not the time to discuss pleasantries.” Dooku replied sharply. Picard looked confused. Troi’s brow furrowed an she leaned over to Picard.

“He is extremely agitated and angry sir. I think he’s been told something very disturbing in regard to….us?” she finished it as a question, uncertain what the feelings meant. Picard looked back to Dooku who was putting a disk into a viewer.’

“What is the matter Count?”

“Captain Picard, my fleet dispatched a strike team to destroy a Republic target deep in their space, a secret base we believed. That fleet was destroyed but several fighters managed to escape and they carried the following gun camera footage that I would demand an explanation for.”

“I’m not sure what you’re ---” Picard stopped short as the holoimage floated over the table. It was depicting the scene of a battle through the tiny gun camera on the droid fighter. It swung around a massive trade Federation battleship just as a ship flashed into view unloading a massive strike of phaser and torpedo fire into the open bay of the battleship.

“Oh my—“ Riker exclaimed softly.

“This can’t be good.” Geordie muttered.

“That’s Kirk’s ship.” Picard whispered.

“Can you explain this captain?” Dooku asked darkly.

Picard was speechless as the Constitution class cruiser loomed over the gun camera, the registry numbers and ship name clearly visible. NCC-1701 USS ENTERPRISE.

Things had changed.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-03-06 09:15pm
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Chapter 16: Feasting on Ashes

“He that is robb'd, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know 't, and he's not robb'd at all.”
Othello, Act 3 scene iii




The dinner reception planned for the evening had been all but ruined by the general attack on Coruscant the evening before. But Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had been adamant that the dinner reception would go as scheduled. He would not allow the actions of the Separatists to mar the coming alliance between the Federation and the Republic.

Kirk led his entourage into the reception area and took a moment to uncomfortably adjust the collar of his dress uniform. Not his favorite uniform he knew that in these days of high diplomacy he would be wearing it more often than he would like.

Spock was quiet and reserved as he stood slightly behind Kirk flanked by Number One. She was never comfortable in these social gatherings that humans seemed to enjoy so much. He could see the tension in her neck and her eyes were constantly darting between the small clusters of groups in the spacious reception hall located in Palpatine’s private residence.

Doctor Dehner stood by Kirk’s side looking elegant with head held up high on her swan like neck. Gary watched her intently from his place near the rear of the entourage. Lee Kelso smiled as he noticed the attention.

“So, you would rather take a bath in the intermix chamber than spend another minute with her, huh?” Lee asked quietly.

Gary shot him a withering glare.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about but that woman and I are like matter and antimatter.”

“I know, an explosive combination my friend and I bet even Mr. Spock can see the attraction.” Kelso replied and suppressed a chuckle. Gary shook his head and frowned.

Palpatine smiled warmly as the Federation entourage walked in. He glided over to them wearing long luxurious black robes with deep royal purple lining that dropped down the sides in an intricate interlocked pattern of weaves. He limped slightly for a moment as he came to a stop. The word was that the assassination attempt against him led by Wookie pirates and Mandalorian commandoes had very nearly succeeded. Meerlinda had relayed to Kirk that just how close Palpatine had come to death was being suppressed in the interests of planetary stability.

Coruscant was still reeling from the planet wide attacks. The Separatists had planned their attack meticulously. Every facet of the planetary government and operations did not escape the attack. Thankfully no senators had been killed, but the pro war parties senators offices or homes and villas were bombed, banking accounts sliced, family members threatened and power services to most of the commercial districts has been cut for hours before it could be restored. The peace faction had been untouched in every way.

This of course was now widening the rift between the war and peace factions as hawkish senators sorted through the burning rubble of their homes the peace faction senators were having secret meetings on how to best deal with the latest threat to security. Though the pro war faction would hardly believe it, many in the peace faction felt as betrayed and angry at the attacks. They had spent a year locked in mortal combat with the pro-war faction on the future of the war and possible peace negotiations and this single act by the Separatists had now virtually sealed the fate of the peace movement.

Bail Organna was too experienced to believe that the peace movement could rebound from such a public relations disaster. His eyes narrowed on Palpatine as he limped over to Kirk and the others, accompanied by his ever present aide Sly Moore. The Supreme Chancellor had made no public statements yet. He was silent on the attacks other than issuing a call for calm and reassuring the population that all was well.

His silence however did not extend to his supporters who made it abundantly clear that the Separatists would never have felt emboldened enough to make such a general strike against the Republic capital if it did not feel that the government was divided. The pro war faction was laying the blame for this squarely at the feet of the peace faction.

Bail continued watching the older ex-senator from Naboo. Palpatine was sly. Many had been surprised by his steady rise to power out of general obscurity but Bail had seen how his friend Bail Antilles was outmaneuvered for the position of Supreme Chancellor. It was almost unheard of for a senator from an outlying world to ascend to such a position over a candidate from the core worlds.

Palpatine was skilled in not saying much but letting others say what he wanted to. It was difficult to list issues that the Chancellor felt strongly about. He seemed to be a champion of everyone’s cause without actually taking the risk of standing for that position.

It was a trend that was disturbing to the nobleman. How could you lead, especially in a time of war when you did not stand for anything?

“There’s no need for me to ask what is on your mind.” Padme noted with a soft smile as she took a sip of a drink and watched the Federation entourage as they wound their way through the throng of senators and dignitaries from over a thousand worlds.

“No, and I do not need to tell you that Palpatine all but owns the Federation agenda. He had guided them like puppets through the labyrinthine bowels of our fine system and he has managed to make the prospect of entering a galactic civil war to be a desirable outcome. They haven’t the slightest clue of the butcher’s bill that waits for them.”

“I didn’t realize you had ever actually seen a butcher, Bail.” she offered with a wink.

Bail could not help himself and started chuckling. He smiled, reached out and gently squeezed Padme’s hand.

“I do not know what I would do without you, Padme.”

“You would do as you have always done, Bail. Be the good man that you are.” she replied but she felt awkward at his touch. Whenever he touched her, she thought of Anakin. And lately her thoughts of Anakin had been dark and troubled.

He watched as Palpatine warmly clasped Kirk’s hand and shook it.

“Captain, it is my pleasure to see you here in my humble estate despite all our recent troubles.”

Kirk smiled and laughed softly.

“This estate is hardly humble Supreme Chancellor. Our own president’s estates are no where near this lavish or extravagant. You have my compliments on the architecture and artwork outside.”

Palpatine chuckled as he took Kirk by the arm with one hand and offered his other free hand to Doctor Dehner.

“Back on Naboo, Captain I was considered one of the common men. My household was probably no larger than one of the cabins on your starship. I am not someone who revels in lavish shows of wealth and power. But here on Coruscant one must adapt to the environment and culture and the people here are accustomed to their Supreme Chancellor living at a level commensurate to the Ceremonial position.”

“Jedi Farstrider tells me that your previous Supreme Chancellor ran into some trouble before he was voted out of office.” Dehner noted as she walked alongside the man. There was a magnetic quality to him that drew your attention. Sly Moore was quietly walking slightly behind him, head inclined forward as she politely but unobtrusively listened to the conversation.

Palpatine frowned for a moment.

“Ah, Chancellor Valorum. He was a good man brought down by the corruption raging around him. The last straw was the weakness of his leadership that allowed the Trade Federation to blockade my world. He was a good friend, I never believed the rumors about him.” Palpatine replied.

“Rumors?” Kirk asked curiously.

“There were some rumors that the corruption of his administration did not just stop at his aides and staff. That he himself was as corrupt as the rest of his administration.” Sly replied coolly.

“I do not believe such horrible rumors. I knew Valorum personally and he was a good man.”

“Sometimes you can be far too trusting Supreme Chancellor.” Sly interjected.

Palpatine smiled softly at Moore.

“She is far too protective of me, Captain.”

“A good second can be that way sir.” Kirk added and eyed Number One out of the corner of his eye. She was standing with Spock but her eyed were slowly wandering around the large room. A rotunda like area for the guests was adorned with all manner of art and statues, gold and platinum lined the stairwells and gems encrusted the lining in succinct patterns that amplified the ambient light around them creating a kaleidoscope of colors spinning lazily.

There were two levels to the room. Long tables occupied the center of the main level. Food of all manner and variety decorated the tables in inviting dishes. The guests on the main level were the primary people that the Federation had been dealing with all this time, mostly the highest level of senators, politicians and even the most senior bureaucrats. The fact that even this advanced society still had such people comforted him. It was a sign that some things never changed.

On the upper level junior senators and minor officials milled around each other speaking softly and occasionally glanced down at the level below to get a look at the aliens from another galaxy that were coming to join the war effort.

Number One did not like being on display.

“This shindig is a little too high class for the likes of me.” Gary muttered and suddenly nodded politely to a senator that walked past them while quickly swallowing a ball of what he assumed was rice.

“Don’t blow this now Gary. The Captain is counting on us to make a good impression.” Kelso replied.

Gary smirked.

“Trust me, Lee. I will be the model of the Federation’s finest.” Gary stated dramatically and winked at his old friend. Lee Kelso shook his head slowly and muttered something under his breath.

The doors opened behind them and the pair of Ceremonial guards flanking each side of the door snapped to attention. Three Jedi strode in and the doors sealed shut again. Outside the chamber several clone troopers were conspicuously stationed in the corridor. There would be no chances taken by the Republic of another attack on the Federation entourage.

Meerlinda Farstrider walked along side Obi Wan and Anakin as they approached the Supreme Chancellor. They had just left a long meeting with the Jedi council and they were all troubled by Obi Wan’s discovery.

The attacker that led the assassination attempt against Kirk and his crew was a rogue Jedi, utilizing an unknown form of Force talent that allowed for manipulation of shadows and darkness. Yoda cautioned the others that this did not immediately translate into a user of the darkside.

The news of this odd force user and Obi Wan’s discovery of a padawan braid indicated several things to the Jedi, all of them disturbing. One, the force user had been a Jedi at one point or was being trained by an ex-Jedi. Only the Jedi among all the Force using cults used the padawan braid as a mark of distinction. Tanis, as the shadow warrior called himself, mentioned a New Order and information was trickling in of gathering Fallen Jedi out on the Rim.

The word was that Dooku was gathering all Dark and Fallen Jedi to him. This New Order may be the result of that strategy. Either way it did not bode well for the Jedi or the war effort if what Mace Windu suspected came true.

The Republic forces were fighting a stalemate because of the sheer skill of the Jedi commanders that led them. The Separatists could not easily counter the Force using abilities of the Republic’s battlefield commanders.

But what of the Separatists began fielding Dark or Fallen Jedi as the republic did?

The year of bloody slaughter might become years or decades of the same slaughter. The true intent of this New Order had to be ascertained quickly.

That job fell to Bastion. He would leave for the Rim immediately and try to infiltrate the New Order. Meanwhile Obi Wan and Anakin would continue their ongoing mission of guarding the Federation entourage but Obi Wan was troubled by a stray comment from the wizened Jedi Master Yoda.

“Work well you do with this Federation Captain.”

Anakin and Obi Wan exchanged wary glances. They already knew what the old teacher was thinking. Anakin was understandably not happy with the possibility of continuing the partnership with his teacher. Anakin was chafing to go it alone as he did during the first year of the war. Now with the prospect of having to work under Obi Wan’s shadow for the foreseeable future he was sullen and quiet.

Meerlinda was worried as well. She was taken aside by Master Sassee Tin who quietly spoke to her.

“Stay close to Kirk. When the time comes he will need you to show him the way.”

“The way to what, Master?” she asked softly.

The old master was silent for a moment, as if listening to far off voices.

“To do the will of the Force, Meerlinda. You will understand when the time is right. Listen with your heart to what the Force tells you not your head. We have all been listening with our heads and it has led us down this road.”

“But Master I don’t understand.” Meerlinda objected.

Sassee Tin gripped her forearm.

“You must listen Meerlinda and do as your heart tells you. Kirk must walk a path to complete his destiny and only you can recognize when this is to be done.”

“Will he walk the path?” She asked.

The old Master nodded slowly.

“He will walk the path because he must walk it. He will have no choice. But you, Meerlinda, yours is the far more difficult decision because what you must do will go against everything we believe. In the end you must recognize his path and yours and you must walk it knowing full well the price that will be paid.”

“A price? Master, I’m not sure I unders—”

“If you wish this war to be the twilight of the Republic and the Federation then you will take the safest road.” Tin whispered.

Meerlinda stared into the master’s eyes. The next question came unexpected from her lips.

“And the other road?”

Tin said nothing for a moment. The question hung in the air like a sword dangling over both Jedi.

“Pain and sorrow.” he said darkly and turned away from her. He started walking away. Meerlinda watched him walk, her mind in a whirlwind of confusion and angst, and saw Master Windu step in to try and speak to his fellow council member. Tin ignored him and continued walking.

Mace spared Yoda a glance. The Jedi Master shook his head slowly as if to discourage the other to not pursue the conversation.

“What did he tell you?” Mace asked Meerlinda intently.

“I think…the master would like that to be left between he and I.” she replied hesitantly. Mace’s brow furrowed in concern. Meerlinda bowed her head and joined Obi Wan and Anakin.

Bastion stood waiting for them in the lift lobby. His smile was not as bright as usual but he managed to slip an arm around Obi Wan and Anakin’s shoulders.

“So adventures for us all eh? I pity you. The next few months you will be relegated to being a mother hen for diplomats and that Federation captain, traveling the core worlds, tasting the fine exotic locales of Coruscant, Alderaan, Bpfash.”

“I wasn’t aware Bpfash was in the core?” Obi Wan wondered aloud.

“Details, details my fine young Jedi Master.” Bastion replied dismissively and waved his hands as the doors to the lift opened. He led them into the lift, pulling them along by the grip of his arms around their shoulders. “Meanwhile, I, Bastion dashing young Jedi Knight must brave the foul nether regions of the Rim.”

“I’m from the Rim.” Anakin protested. Meerlinda snorted softly as she stepped into lift after the others.

“And I have always offered my condolences for that fact Ani.” Bastion replied and ruffled Anakin’s hair eliciting an all too rare smile from the sullen young Jedi. The doors to the lift snapped shut. “Alone I will penetrate the nefarious New Order and bring it down around Dooku’s ears.” Bastion said the words ‘New Order’ with a mocking ominous tone. Meerlinda shook her head. “Then I will return to the Jedi temple, my achievements unaccounted for and unnoticed while you and Obi Wan here take the Federation ambassadors on a tour of the fire gems of Andros and eat delicacies from a hundred worlds, I will be sitting in a med bay tending my wounds.” Bastion lamented.

The doors to the lift opened.

“Bastion, as any Jedi knows from his days as a padawan, the life of a Jedi is one of sacrifice and challenge.” Obi Wan began

“We don’t do what we do expecting rewards.” Anakin added.

“I just think you’re whining too much.” Meerlinda finished and the Jedi filed out of the lift leaving Bastion standing in the lift, hands on his hips mouth agape in outrage. He began shaking his head ruefully as he spoke.

“And I call you people my friends?!”

The assembled Jedi laughed as Bastion reluctantly joined them and they left the temple for Palpatine’s personal residence on the other side of the planet.

Meerlinda’s thoughts snapped back to the present as she reached the Supreme Chancellor. She and the others bowed their heads respectfully before she spoke.

“Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, I bring the sincerest apologies of Master Windu and Yoda who are not able to attend this gathering due to the planetary emergency.”

“Of course.” Palpatine replied with an easy smile, but then worry creased his brow. “In hear that there have been attacks against Jedi holdings out on the Rim.” he added quietly.

“Indeed there has, Supreme Chancellor. Master Yoda fears that this attack against you and Coruscant in general were merely the first stages of an attempt to decapitate our command structure as Jedi and our facilities across the rim have fallen under simultaneous attack timed to the attack here on Coruscant. Unfortunately there were losses.” Obi Wan explained.

“Losses that we will make the Separatists pay for dearly I assure you Supreme Chancellor.” Anakin added hotly.

“I have no doubt of that Anakin.” Palpatine replied with a gentle pat on the shoulder. “But I have taken measures to help in this matter. Detachments of clone troops will be deployed to protect the more lightly populated and automated Jedi facilities allowing you to concentrate your forces more effectively on the Rim.”

“We thank you for your assistance Supreme Chancellor.”

“There are not many clone troopers that we can spare at the moment, Chancellor, what with our recent losses in the Korvis cluster.” Obi Wan noted with concern.

“It is the least that the Republic can do to help the Jedi who have shouldered much of the burden of this war. Your losses have been quite heavy and we must all take up some of the burden if we are to see this conflict to its conclusion.”

“Perhaps the Federation can look into providing security on the Rim. As I understand it much of the fighting there is limited to skirmishes and not full blown fleet engagements which our starships would not be well suited for until undergoing the promised refits.”

“You would do that, Captain?” Palpatine asked seriously.

“Well, I’m not in command obviously but it could be my suggestion.”

“If our fact finding mission proves successful.” Dehner added and spared Kirk a warning gaze. He was making promises that they simply did not have the authority to offer.

“Of course. We always assume that fact Doctor.” Sly Moore assured her.

“The rim.” Palpatine sighed. “Captain, I cannot tell you the pain I feel when I think how far things have fallen out on the rim. It has become a place of refuge for the enemies of the Separatists. They have had sympathizers there since the days of the Blockade of Naboo. I thought that they could be brought in line with stern diplomacy and generous outlays of cash and resources and instead we get in a knife in the back as they gleefully assist Dooku and his Separatists in dismembering this Republic.”

“Perhaps the Federation can have a role other than war time ally. As an honest broker we can hear grievances from both sides and forge some understanding.”

“A mutual accord with the Rim? Not very likely Captain.” Sly Moore replied softly.

“I see that your staff speaks for you again, Supreme Chancellor, but I am curious.” Bail began as he stepped into the gathered circle. Bail’s appearance in Palpatine’s small circle drew the attention of many on the second level and soon the junior senators and closets to the railing above only pretended to speak to each other as they turned their attention to the developing debate below. Padme reluctantly followed. She knew better than directly challenge Palpatine, his popularity back on Naboo was extraordinary. She had been told in no uncertain terms by the Queen that the Supreme Chancellor could count on the full support of his homeworld in all things. Naboo was proud that finally one of her sons had ascended to the position of Supreme Chancellor and no one, not even a respected senator and ex-Queen would ruin that honor.

“What your position is on the Captain’s wise suggestion? He is offering the Federation as a honest broker and potential diplomatic ally. We have been discussing war and war making potential. The shipyards of Alderaan are gearing up for an influx of Federation vessels to refit yet why are we not discussing what the Federation can do now, immediately to help stabilize an already chaotic situation particularly out on the Rim.”

Kirk and Dehner looked from Bail to Palpatine.

“I like this guy.” Kelso noted to Gary.

“Who? The stiff in the overgrown turtleneck cardigan? He’s a dreamer. I don’t much have lots of hope for a dreamer in this day and age.” Gary replied as he started drinking from his glass.

“Gary, that guy is for peace. Palpatine and his crowd are itching to get us into this war and he’s thinking of the big picture.” Kelso protested.

“Or missing the picture my friend.” Gary countered. Kelso shook his head.

“Bail, my friend, as usual my respect and admiration for you grow whenever we cross words. The peace faction has seen the results of negotiation and dialogue last night when our world and those out on the Rim experienced heinous attacks. We can no longer allow the angels of our better natures drive the agenda for this war. We will not win this war by talking Senator Organna.”

“Supreme Chancellor, all we have is the hope that the slaughter will end. As a warrior and a leader I think I speak for many when I say that I would rather see this bloodshed end at the point of a pen than a sword. I would rather see worlds leave the Republic than see them laid waste as Alderaan almost was recently.”

“Here, here!” some senators on the second level shouted their support.

“And tell me Senator Organna, did the attack on Alderaan not give you a new understanding of the foe we face? Did you not see to what lengths they are willing to go to win this conflict.” a soft yet regal voice drifted down from the second level. Everyone turned their attention to the new comer’s voice.

Kirk looked up and was instantly impressed by the women standing at the top of the stairs leading up to the second level. She was a tall striking woman, wearing a long white gown, her hair up in a pair of strange buns on each side of her head. She moved with a slow measured step and her presence demanded attention and respect as she descended the stairs.

Bail glided over to the stairs and extended his hand and took the new comer’s hand and helped her down the last few steps. She nodded her thanks to him and Kirk could see that her eyes were bright and sharp as she regarded each of the people in Palpatine’s circle.

“A distinct pleasure. Allow me to introduce the junior senator from Chandrilla, Mon Mothma.” Palpatine indicated the young woman with a wave of her hand. “She has recently become one of my most vocal supporters.”

“I was elected by my people to best represent Chandrilla’s interests and we are near the front lines of this war and though we have not yet come under direct attack I believe that the Supreme Chancellor is absolutely correct. Tyranny, no matter how pleasing the shape must be vehemently opposed if a free society is to thrive and endure.”

“I’m glad you have drawn from your vast experience Senator Mon Mothma.” Bail replied.

Mon Mothma smiled coolly.

“I have not needed my world to come under attack to see the folly of searching for peace in that nest of gundarks. No, Senator Organna, there can be no peace with Dooku and his Separatists because that is not what they seek. You are imputing into them characteristics that you wish them to have but there is no basis in fact for that conclusion.” Mon Mothma concluded.

Kirk and Dehner exchanged hooded glances.

“Enough, enough. I do not wish this to become a full blown debate when the entire point of this dinner is to enjoy each other’s company.” Palpatine protested.

“Indeed let us enjoy the company and leave the war drums alone for just one evening.” Padme said softly and slipped and hand onto Bail’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. Anakin’s eyes narrowed on the action and he pursed his lips.

“I for one found the exchange informative Supreme Chancellor.” Dehner noted.

“Doctor Dehner, perhaps you and I could have breakfast tomorrow on my estate. I would be happy to give you a female point of view on this matter and one not as entrenched as the others that I’m sure you have heard so far. I’ve only been in the Senate since the war started so you can get a fresh perspective that is not as tainted by political agendas as some you may have spoke to.” Mon Mothma added smiling kindly at the Doctor.

Dehner smiled neutrally.

“Of course, Senator, it would be my pleasure.”

“And Captain, I’m sure that Padme would be more than happy to host you in her estate for a light lunch and discuss matters along the lines of your suggestion of dialogue with the Rim.” Bail suggested.

Padme smiled tightly.

“Of course it would be my pleasure.” She did not enjoy being someone’s pawn in an attempt to blunt Palpatine’s own power plays.

“See, and we managed to keep politics out of that exchange.” Kirk noted dryly.

Palpatine chuckled and took Kirk by the elbow as he led him to the table behind them.

“Captain, I enjoy your candor. Too many in our military say what they think I want to hear. I value your views and am thinking on whether your government would be opposed to a suggestion.”

“I guess it would depend on the suggestion.” Kirk replied and glanced back at Dehner who was looking after him. Concerned sparked in her eyes. It was obvious that Palpatine was playing to Kirk and trying to curry his favor while he sicced his junior senator pit bull on her.

“I would like to have you as my liaison with your Federation. you would be based out of Coruscant and be my right hand in matters of security and our relations with our new ally. Such a position must go to someone I feel I can trust because of the sheer power and responsibility it would encompass.”

“Your liaison?” Kirk asked in disbelief.

“Indeed, Captain. The Supreme Chancellor and I have discussed this at length, especially after your brave deeds last night in taking matters into your own hands and saving the Federation mission from the Separatist assassins.” Sly Moore added.

“Without the Jedi we would have been killed.” Kirk protested.

“Of course Captain, but you are a man of action and I trust your judgment. You confronted each of us on the issues at hand, you have the respect of the peace faction and despite the current environment of hostility towards any peaceful settlement to this conflict they still have a powerful voice in the Senate.” Palpatine noted as he indicated for Kirk to try a fruit that was laid out on a sparkling crystal dish. Kirk reached out and took a hold of one and plucked it off the plate as Palpatine watched him closely.

“What do you say to Supreme Commander Federation forces of the Coruscant sector?”

Kirk could say nothing for a moment but he felt the intense gazes of both Palpatine and Sly Moore on him.

He was saved by a commotion near the entrance of the hall. Palpatine looked disappointed but Sly Moore’s gaze was bordering on lustful before she tore her eyes away from Kirk and looked to the front.

Kirk peered out as well and heard Bail Organna mutter “Oh no.” to himself.

A tall powerfully built man strode into the room, a cape draped over his left shoulder, a blaster prominently displayed at his hip and a chest literally covered in gleaming metals and brightly tasseled ribbon. His hair had cast iron gray streaks along his temples and his eyes were smoldering like a furnace. He moved with complete authority and confidence. A small squat astromech droid followed him obediently, green paneling on its domed head gleamed brilliantly and it was obvious that this droid was incredibly well taken care of and maintained.

The man glanced around the crowd and quickly sized up the situation and found what he was looking for. Spock and Number One quickly appeared by Kirk’s side. Spock leaned in closely and whispered.

“Unless I am mistaken that is Garm Bel-Iblis, Commander of the Correlian home sector fleets as well as Admiral of the 14th Assault fleet. He was the first Republic commander to score an overwhelming victory against the Separatists. The word is that he has not lost a major battle.”

“Let me guess a Palpatine supporter?” Kirk whispered back as he watched the impressive man stride over to them.

“No.” Kirk hid his surprise. “He is more hawkish than the Chancellor, having called for general bombardments of Separatist worlds. His view is that the Republic is handicapping itself by trying to fight anything less than a total war.” Spock answered.

Kirk glanced back at his Vulcan science officer.

“Mr. Spock, we have only been on Coruscant for two days, you have had access to their files for a little more than that and you know all this?” Kirk asked.

Spock nodded.

“It is my duty to make sure you have all the information that you need Captain. The logical thing to do was to memorize all the intelligence reports provided to us by the Republic as soon as possible.”

Kirk glanced over at Gary who was laughing with an unidentified young woman. Would he have been as efficient as Spock with the information he needed? He did not want to answer that question nor the rumbling in his heart that told him what he was beginning to suspect about his potential first officer’s qualifications.

“Garm Bel-Iblis. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?” Palpatine asked.

“Chancellor.” Iblis replied and gave a curt nod of his head. “I have come to see these new allies with my own eyes.”

“You mean our Federation friends? Why of course. This is Captain James T. Kirk and Doctor Elizabeth Dehner, representatives of the United Federation of Planets.”

“Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.” Kirk introduced himself and held out his hand. Dehner fought the urge to stiffen up in surprise. Kirk should know better than initiate physical contact based on Earth custom. What if Corellians were different? What if they viewed the initiation of physical contact as insulting, a challenge or worse? He had a long way to go if he wanted to make contact with alien life forms and civilizations.

Iblis eyed the hand as if it were diseased. He suddenly took it in a firm grip and Kirk stiffened as he felt the tendons and bones in his fingers squeezed in a dangerously tight grip.

“Enterprise is it?” Iblis asked stonily.

“Yes. That’s my ship. As I understand it you are an admiral.” Kirk asked fighting the urge to pull his hand away, Instead he returned the tight grip. Both men locked eyes and the rest of the room no longer mattered. Their respective wills were suddenly roused.

“That’s correct. The First Corellian is my home fleet. It stands ready for combat as always but our Jedi advisors always call fro caution. As if the Separatists will kindly wait for us to be ready and have everything in order before striking.” Iblis began. The grip tightened and Kirk’s face began to flush. But he returned the grip measure for measure and he could feel the taller man beginning to feel the pressure as well. But he did note the vitriol in his voice when he said the word Jedi.

“The Separatists you see are fighting us to a bloody standstill Captain. And I’m sure you’ve had an opportunity to see the disparity in planets, ships, troops and resources between the Republic and the Separatists have you not?”

“Indeed I have. A concern of your government I assure you. Perhaps, our entry in this war can finally turn things around.”

“Turn things around? What makes you think your tubs could turn anything around in a war that spans more planets than you can count?” Iblis asked sharply and the pressure dramatically increased.

Dehner looked down and saw Kirk’s hand was flushed crimson and his knuckles were white with effort, forearm shaking with effort. Her eyes narrowed on Iblis. What game was the bigger man playing?

“That’s hardly the attitude I expect from a man that has not known defeat in this war.” Kirk countered.

“Ah, so you have read up on me. Good. I enjoy an adversary that knows what’s coming.”

“Admiral Iblis, this is NOT the time for your grand standing.” Palpatine announced.

“Garm. Let it go. You’re doing far more harm than good.” Bail added sternly.

“Senator Organna. You are a soldier and a leader of men. I have no quarrel with a man that personally leads the defenses of his homeworld. But to others I am far less kind.” He spared the Jedi a harsh glare.

“Maybe you were unaware Admiral Iblis but there were Jedi at Alderaan that lost their lives defending her.” Anakin interjected darkly.

“The Jedi never tell you everything, of that I am sure. Word has reached me concerning certain things about the Separatist leadership. But out of respect for the Chancellor who has been far too patient with me I will keep it to myself for now.”

“Iblis that’s hardly the prudent thing to do when the security of the Republic is at stake.” Mon Mothma warned.

“When you have some wrinkles under those pretty eyes and your robe is not as white and you don’t hold yourself a slave to the fashions of Alderaan then perhaps I will deign to listen to you little girl, but for now the big people are speaking and you are better seen not heard. I assure you.”

Mon Mothma’s face blushed and she looked away from him for a moment in shock and anger.

“That’s no way for a man to speak to a lady, or don’t they have the military tradition of officers being gentlemen in this galaxy?” Kirk asked sharply. Iblis glanced back at Kirk and for a moment Kirk braced himself for a physical assault.

“You must think me quite the brute don’t you Captain? The typical military thug, perhaps you’ve even been assailed with tales of Iblis the Butcher who advocated mass bombings of Separatists home worlds. But these are not the actions of such a man.” Iblis began quietly. His grip on Kirk’s hand finally eased and he released Kirk. Kirk could not close his hand, his fingers were throbbing chords of pain.

“My actions are of a man who loves his Republic more than himself, who will fight and die to win this war because I believe in something that has been built must endure and not be privy to the whims of political folly. But when I am constantly opposed by overly cautious commanders who have no clear place in our chain of command and are obviously playing this war by their own rules and paralyzed by politicians playing soldier I have little patience for betrayal.”

“Excuse me?” Kirk snapped.

“Garm, now is truly the time to explain yourself. I have lost all patience.”

“As have I Chancellor.” Iblis turned his head to look back at his droid. “R-7 play battle report time index 27.8”

The droid whistled obediently and a small nozzle on its domed head focused slightly over the assembled senators and Chancellor and a hologram began playing. It was a pitched battle, the footage was obviously taken from a gun camera on one of the Republic fighters. Explosions rippled off to the left and blinded the camera for a moment.

Voices were playing in the background. A pilot and his controller.

“Say again control.”

“Watch sector three, alien vessel inbound.”

“Alien vessel? What in the name of----“ A shape flashed by the gun camera. Kirk’s eyes widened as he saw a brief glimpse of all too familiar design elements. Warp engine pylons and a saucer shaped forward hull. The actual vessel was unknown to him but the design aesthetics all screamed one thing. That was a Starfleet vessel.

Number One glanced quickly at Kirk. More pieces to the puzzle were falling into place. Gary choked on his drink and Kelso slapped his back as he watched the images in shock and confusion.

“What is that?”

“Blue 9, can you identify craft?”

“I’m getting registry information.” the gun camera zoomed in on the saucer just as a crimson beam flashed along a short strip and lanced right into the gun camera. The fighter obviously exploded.

“Hold and enhance at time reference 28.” Iblis ordered coldly, his eyes not leaving Kirk’s. The image zoomed behind Iblis, a section of the saucer of the alien craft. “So, tell me again Captain James T. Kirk, what is the name of the starship you command?” Iblis asked frostily.

“This is a mistake.” Dehner protested.

“Answer the question.” Iblis snapped.

Kirk stared at the image, then looked back at Iblis. When he spoke it sounded as if someone else were saying the words.

“The USS Enterprise.”

“Registry number?”

“NCC-1701.” he said softly.

Behind Iblis the saucer had the words “USS ENTERPRISE” clearly emblazoned in black letters on the white hull and below it the registry number “NCC-1701E”

“I want this man arrested for espionage and the murder of hundreds of our pilots and crewmen.” Iblis demanded.

There was utter silence in the hall.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-07-01 05:24pm
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Chapter 17: Shadows in the rain

“I am not merry but I do beguile the thing I am by seeming otherwise.”
Othello Act 2, Scene i



“This is a most difficult and surprising situation.” Palpatine noted gravely. He was seated at a desk, the large picture window behind him was covered with an armored curtain, a necessary precautions in these dark days.

“Difficult? Supreme Chancellor this man is in command of a ship that blasted its way through our lines and inflicted horrific casualties. An entire wing of our assault force was lost thanks in part to his actions not to mention the loss of the Freedom’s Spear.”

“Ah.” Palpatine paused as he remembered a detail from his daily military briefings. “If memory serves your brother served on the Freedom’s Spear.” he concluded.

Iblis frowned for a moment and Kirk caught a hint of sorrow in the blustering marionette. The circumstances for Garm Bel Iblis’ anger were suddenly becoming very clear. The man was obviously emotionally invested in this. However Kirk was far more disturbed by the image he was shown back at the dinner reception. A starship named Enterprise involved in hostilities with the Republic’s forces.

Spock had informed Kirk as they left the reception to have a private meeting in Palpatine’s study that the strange starship seemed to conform to Federation design standards and aesthetics. Gary shook his head ruefully and added “What gave it away Mr. Spock, the saucer section or the nacelles?” Spock’s reply was to simply arch his eye brow.

“My brother was XO on the Freedom’s Spear.”

“A terrible loss I am sure but don’t you think it may drive you to make hasty generalizations?” Sly Moore added quietly. She was standing by Palpatine’s side and her eyes narrowed on the tall dashing Admiral.

“Hasty generalizations?” Iblis snapped. “The starship carries the name, it’s technology is the same, there can be no dispute that this is a Federation vessel.”

“No, I don’t doubt that and it is very troubling indeed. However Captain Kirk has proven himself in combat as a friend of the Republic. He saved his mission from a premature death at the hands of the Separatists back at the wormhole.”

“He also repulsed an assassination attempt against himself and his company last night.” Meerlinda added. Obi Wan and Anakin exchanged furtive glances. This was not at all what they expected and Obi Wan learned the hard way that sometimes it was better to sit back and listen to all the arguments before weighing in, but Meerlinda, a diplomat at heart and one of the most popular of the Jedi order obviously did not share his opinion on how to proceed.

Anakin was quiet, eyes hooded he watched the interplay. He could sense the emotions washing from Kirk and his crew. They were as surprised as the rest of them.

Palpatine steepled his fingers together and watched Iblis over his fingertips as if weighing his next words.

“Admiral, Captain Kirk and his crew had an audience before the Jedi counsel you would imagine that the Jedi masters would be able to discern any subterfuge from someone against the Republic.” Palpatine commented.

“The Jedi?!” Iblis replied sharply. “You will excuse me Supreme Chancellor if I do not share you fascination with these robed buffoons.” Anakin stiffened visibly but Obi Wan and Meerlinda were well aware of Iblis’ very vocal opinion of the Jedi Knights. “Their sad devotion to that mystical power have not helped them conjure up Count Dooku or any of his secret plans for this war nor given them clairvoyance enough to discern where the next Separatists attack will fall next.”
“I find your lack of faith disturbing, Admiral.” Anakin interjected darkly.

Iblis glared at the young Jedi.

“I will tell you what I find disturbing, Skywalker. The casualty figures that keep coming across my desk. The number of gallant men and women dying every day out there is appalling yet I notice very few if any Jedi casualties, particularly in this last round of attacks. You may not know how to win this war but you certainly know how to stay out of harm’s way.”

“That’s enough.” Obi Wan snapped. “I’ve lost too many friends and colleagues in this slaughter to remain silent while you malign the order. We may not be on the front lines but it is the Jedi that penetrate deep behind enemy lines and destroy the wonder weapons that Dooku plans to unleash on our forces amongst other missions. Just because we’re not there in the trenches with you does not mean we are not in the same war as you.”

Iblis and Obi Wan openly glared at one another.

“I believe I may have a suggestion on this matter that could explain some of the more troublesome aspects of this charge.” Spock spoke up.

Everyone in the room slowly turned their attention to Spock.

“You will note that the Enterprise depicted in this hologram has a registry number slightly different than our own.”

“Yes I did notice that, what does it mean?”

Spock walked over to the hologram and pointed out several key differences in the design of the starship.

“These systems are natural extrapolations of the systems we see on our Enterprise and seem to be the realization of some technical theories and proposals I have seen in our latest technical manuals. We can reasonably expect Federation technology to evolve into these design specifications, noting the more compact and dynamic nacelle arrays and the streamlined hull as well as advanced navigational and weapons array. The registry number has a letter appending it. Starfleet has been debating the use of old registry numbers to honor starships and their commands that have performed above and beyond the call of duty for Starfleet and the Federation. This Enterprise carries our 1701 registry number with the letter E indicating this is the fifth ship to carry the name after our own.”

“What are you saying Mr. Spock?” Sly asked.

“This Enterprise is not from our own time reference. It is from some point in the Federation’s future.”

“You’ve GOT to be kidding me.” Gary muttered to Kirk.

“Are you serious?” Iblis asked in exasperation.

“I’m always serious, I am a Vulcan.” Spock replied without hesitation.

“Time travel is a viable theory in our science.” Number One added.

“I wish someone would have consulted with me before floating these theories.” Kirk muttered to Number One.

“They are postulating that this vessel is from the future?! I have enough problems dealing with the Force and you want me to believe we are fighting the Federation of the future?” Iblis turned to Palpatine. “Supreme Chancellor allow me to put these people under security custody until we can sort this out.”

“Perhaps you forgot about the entire purpose of this mission, Admiral. A grand alliance is being forged here and you want me to arrest the Federation’s representatives?” Palpatine commented dryly.

“You believe this theory?”

“I don’t have to believe the theory to know that Kirk and his ship were not responsible for the attack on our ships.”

Iblis shook his head and crossed his arms.

“What do you suggest we do about this?”

Meerlinda cleared her throat.

“If I may, this sounds like something that the order can and should investigate.”

Palpatine nodded as he slowly sat back.

“Indeed. It would be best of the Jedi looked into this. Thanks to the Admiral’s display outside, half the senate will know about this by morning and my agenda will be threatened.”

Iblis frowned.

“I can investigate this matter for you Chancellor.” Anakin offered quickly. Palpatine smiled warmly at the young Jedi.

“Anakin, as much as I appreciate the offer and believe me there is no other Jedi I would rather see on this mission but I think that I would feel better knowing that you were watching over the Captain and his team. I feel that their lives are still very much in danger.”

“I understand.”

Obi Wan eyed Anakin curiously. Since when did Anakin acquiesce so easily to someone’s orders? He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his young friend so obedient.

“I think I can only add a new piece to this puzzle.” Kirk spoke softly. He did not want to reveal all that he knew but considering how the mission was going and the broad powers he was given he felt he had no choice but to try his best to assuage the suspicions raised against him and the Federation.

“Go on Captain.”

“During the attack on us in the senatorial complex last night I was assaulted by one of the assasins and he was carrying this.” Kirk held out a small pin in the shape of the Enterprise’s banner. Everyone leaned in for a close look. “As best Mr. Spock can guess it’s a transmitter. A communications device that they intended to use to beam me and anyone else out of the complex.”

“That explains how the assassins were able to penetrate your security.” Moore breathed and looked down at Palpatine.

“Why weren’t you more forthcoming with this earlier.” Iblis asked.

“Because frankly I didn’t know what to think at the time and I was afraid of the answer.”

Palpatine held up a hand as a thought seemed to occur to him like a bolt from the blue.

“The wormhole.” he whispered.

“Sir?”

“Mr. Spock, what would you say is the possibility that a wormhole much like the one you passed through to get here would pass through time as well as space?” Palpatine asked.

Kirk’s eyes narrowed. Dehner leaned in close to him, placing a hand on his forearm as she whispered to him.

“I think Captain that we’re about to find out that they were holding on to something as well.” Kirk nodded.

“The strike fleet that we dispatched to that sector was acting under my direct orders.”

“I wasn’t informed of this.” Iblis protested.

“Security and timing was of the highest priority. I am sorry Admiral Bel Iblis but there was no other choice.” Palpatine answered, regret coloring his voice.

“I brought this to the Chancellor’s attention.” Moore added and activated a display on Palpatine’s desk. A holoimage sprang to life above everyone’s heads. It was an empty star field.

“One of our deep range probe craft that we deployed early in the war to track Separatist movements picked up strange readings on the EM band as well as subspace signals that we rarely ever see in use in this galaxy.”

Several large donut shaped warships coasted into view, obviously emerging from hyperspace. Kirk instantly recognized them as the Trade Federation battleships that he had tangled with when he first arrived in this galaxy.

The battleships seem to pause for a moment in space, all forward movement stopped. Scrolling along the bottom of the holographic projection were constant sensor readouts. The readouts suddenly spiked. Spock and Number One exchanged curious glances.

“Fascinating Captain.”

“Please feel free to share Mr. Spock.” Kirk replied wanly.

“If I am correct those readouts seem to indicate the opening of a wormhole—”

The screen blanked out for a moment and a glowing pulsing maw of cold blue light appeared moments later. The Trade Federation battleships quickly entered the wormhole. The image of the wormhole suddenly loomed ahead.

“At this point the probe was ordered to pursue the Trade Federation ships and try to ascertain the nature of this wormhole.” The image of the wormhole filled the screen and suddenly there was a wild kaleidoscope of light and color. The readouts at the bottom of the screen fluctuated madly. Just as suddenly as it happened the white cascade of light vanished and the calm black void of space returned and the holoimage fixed on the Trade Federation warships. They were coasting to a stop again and they were joined by a small flotilla of smaller vessels.

The holo image began to flicker and the readouts stopped scrolling.

“It quickly became obvious to our technicians that the probe had been damaged by the transit through the wormhole. However we managed to get some fragments of data, one of which was a time stamp for the sensor data which made no sense to us as the probe was telling us that it was transmitting from thousands of years in the future and an almost immeasurable gulf of space.”

“So you can see why we were troubled by this development. The Separatists were obviously gathering forces from somewhere far away and in our future. I acted quickly and dispatched the closest strike force to destroy the wormhole or at least secure it until we could deploy a more powerful force to deny the Separatists the resource.”

Iblis stared hard at Palpatine for a moment. His brother had been lost and for what cause?

“Unfortunately when the strike force arrived they obviously met with resistance.” Moore continued.

“And now we have a visual confirmation of what we feared most.”

Moore looked at Kirk. Her eyes bore into his as she spoke again.

“The Separatists have enlisted an alien government to aid them in their cause.”

“But how could we ever have suspected that the government they enlisted would be your own Federation from the future?” Palpatine finished, a sorrowful expression on his face. “This is a tragic day indeed if what we suspect is true.”

“This doesn’t make any sense sir. If they are from our future then they should know that we ALREADY had dealings with the Republic and that we HAVE fought this war. It’s a silly notion that they would then enter on the opposite side.” Gary protested.

“I would not jump to conclusions Mr. Mitchell. We do not have all the facts available to make an analysis.”

“You sounded pretty damned certain about your hypothesis a second ago Mr. Spock.” Gary spat.

“Gary, watch yourself.” Kirk warned.

“Sorry sir, I just…I just don’t like the implications that this will gave for us.”

“Indeed.” Moore noted as she quietly slipped behind Palpatine.

Kirk looked sharply between Palpatine and Moore. He could feel Dehner’s growing sense of alarm.

“Captain, what would your Federation do now that it has become obvious that your future selves have initiated war against the Republic?” Palpatine asked quietly.

“I would imagine that our government would feel that there was some measure of responsibility for the Federation of your time frame to help deal with this.” Moore added.

“Please, Moore.” Palpatine chided. “The Captain has much to think on as do we.” Palpatine concluded. “We shall meet again tomorrow. It should give you time to contact your government with this information and we can decide where the negotiations stand.”

Kirk and Dehner breathed deeply and Dehner could not help wonder where this would now lead. Kirk frowned. He knew precisely where it would lead. What other answer was there?






The rain was drumming steadily on the windows of her apartment. Padme sighed softly as she slipped into her robes and felt the cool breeze from the opened window leading to the garden terrace beyond. If her security team knew about that open window she would have been chided to no end.

She was tired of living her life as if she could be killed at any moment. The battle on Geonosis had robbed her of whatever fear she had for her life. She had seen the utter chaos and randomness of death. Powerful Jedi knights who effortlessly blocked blaster bolts were killed by random bolts from the ether or a missile strike that knocked the LAAT they traveled in from the sky. How could she be afraid of death? It came from you no matter how powerful or prepared you were. She instead chose to embrace the life that she did have and that included the wonderful smell of a rainy night and the cool breeze that comforted her so and reminded her of home.

She walked over to a table and checked her messages. The usual array of diplomatic chatter and senatorial maneuvering and vote counting. Everyone needed to know where everyone else stood before making a motion or trying to sponsor a bill, in particular a bill that may even tangentially effect the war or more worrisome, challenge or limit any aspect of the Supreme Chancellor’s power.

She and Bail were increasingly troubled by the growing voting bloc that Palpatine had amassed in such a short period of time. There was a war raging, the first in Republic memory and casualties were mounting. Yet Palpatine seemed to grow in popularity every day.

Bail had poured over the appropriation bills and was aghast to discover the amount of money being funneled into projects across the galaxy, projects that he was slowly discovering were all linked to a core group of senators and their lackeys.

In short, Palpatine seemed to be buying his voting bloc and using his powers to quash the opposition’s voice in order to bolster his popularity. Every bill that came before the senate that contemplated raising taxes or customs fees were stalled in committees controlled by the Palpatine bloc and the Peace faction was becoming alarmed.

Was Palpatine so obsessed with his personal popularity that he would risk bankrupting the Republic? Any measure that would be seen as impacting the people in a negative light was lambasted for threatening morale at home and senators who pushed for more stringent taxes were soon labeled defeatists or worse.

And the growing wave of security bills were troubling as well. At first welcomed by the Senate as a way to help the public feel safe in the face of the first general war seen in a thousand generations the security bills gave Palpatine and the Republic security branch more power than ever before.

Rumors of people disappearing in the night had begun to reach the Senate.

For now, Padme like the others would only treat these as rumors because to think of them as anything else would be too horrible to contemplate.

Her eyes narrowed on the latest security bill being drafted. It was the brain child of a young officer who had become a trusted advisor of the Supreme Chancellor, one Wilhuf Tarkin from Eriadu. It proposed the formation of a security branch much like the one from his home world that would be charged with over watch of all the other security branches. She switched to the video link of his proposal before the senate last week.

He was a tall and grim figure, particularly for one so young. He had the bearing of one accustomed to command and respect. Dark eyes bore into the video monitor as he spoke, his voice not loud but powerful nonetheless.

“And so it is with a heavy heart that I must urge you noble senators to adopt my plan. I love the Republic and have served her faithfully all my life as my father before me and his father as well. But the rising incidents of reported abuses by our security branches against our own people in a zealous attempt to root out wretched Separatist agents and saboteurs must be addressed. It is not enough that we prosecute those that have committed these actions.” The problem there, young Tarkin, is that no one has been punished or even charged, she mused. “We must form an agency that will be vigilant and act as the guardian of our freedoms that we fight so dearly for out there in the stars. This agency, titled the Ubiqtorate, would be the bastion of that freedom and the first line of defense against our own zealous agents. Thank you.” The video link flashed off.

The Ubiqtorate, another security agency in the span of a year. Save that this one would bind them all to it and make them one super agency with only one master. She wished she was not more terrified by this than the latest reports of Separatist attacks on Republic targets.

Something dark dropped down onto the terrace behind her.

She ran her fingers through her hair and began typing something on her workstation. She mulled over the latest revelation at the dinner tonight. The Federation suspected of playing both sides. Somehow it did not sound right. Unless she was a horrid judge of character she did not sense any subterfuge from the Federation mission members. Kirk was a prim and proper military man who spoke his mind. Doctor Dehner played her cards close to her chest but obviously was far more worried about the Republic’s motives of bringing them into the war than hiding any secret Federation agendas.

Something did not feel right about any of this.

A dark figure rose to a standing position in the terrace and paused at the open sliding window. The rain pattered on the figure with a soft drumming.

Bail – we must come up with a counter proposal to this Ubiqtorate. Unfortunately our position is weak since the general attack on Coruscant and the Jedi facilities off world. One would almost think the Separatists were trying to prove us wrong. Perhaps breakfast tomorrow where we can discuss our counter proposal. - Padme

She sent the message and switched off her workstation.

There was a light rapping at her window.

She turned suddenly, blaster in hand.

The dark figure stood in the open window as silent as a statue.

“Who are you?” she demanded as she quickly rose to a standing position keeping her blaster trained on the intruder.

The rain continued falling on the figure’s hooded head and shoulders and running in rivulets down to the floor of the terrace.

“Anakin?” she asked softly and drew closer.

“No.”

She stopped short but the voice was very familiar.

“I apologize, Senator, I truly do but this is a difficult time for me.” the figure continued and pulled back the hood of his robes.

“Bastion?” she asked but knew instantly it was him. Bastion’s golden hair was plastered to his head and his brilliant blue eyes were stormy and troubled as they narrowed on her. His near perpetual smile was nothing more than a near grimace of pain.

“The one and only.” he chuckled but it was weak and forced.

“Well come out of the rain you fool!” she laughed and moved to grab his arm. he drew back slightly.

“No. No, Senat—”

“I’ve told you time and again to call me Padme, Bastion.” she replied hesitantly, uncertain why he was so skittish.

“Padme.” he said the name with such eloquence, as if he had yearned to say it aloud. “This is difficult for me. I’m not supposed to be here.”

“Captain Typho would have your head on a plate if he knew about this stunt of yours. How DID you get out there?” she asked and peered past his head to search for some mode of transportation that got him to this height. She missed the long mournful stare at her long neck and face.

“I’m a Jedi. It’s what I do.” he replied with a weak smile. “Padme, I’m leaving.”

“Where?”

“I cannot say.” he laughed at himself for a moment, a low almost secretive laugh as the rain continued to pound down on him. He looked back up at her. “But I will be going far away. I shouldn’t be telling you this at all Padme but I trust you, I don’t know why, I usually don’t trust my own mother.”

“You don’t know your mother.” she pointed out, trying to bring that same old smile to his face she had grown accustomed to these last few months.

“Point taken, you know more about us than I care to admit. I’ve been charged with a mission that will take me far out to the rim and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

Padme brought her hand to her mouth as she caught an expression she was all too familiar with. She rushed forward and put a hand on his hand.

“I know that look, you don’t think you’re coming back!” she exclaimed. She did not notice him tremble at her touch.

He smiled sweetly and passed a hand along her hair in a gentle caress.

“Padme, I’m Bastion Vandarre, the laughing Jedi. Do you doubt my skills and talents?”

“No, but I think you do.” she replied softly looking into his eyes. “What’s wrong Bastion? You’ve always been there for me you can tell me.”

Bastion looked into her eyes and smiled sadly. he took a hold of her shoulders and his lips pursed as if to say something. She watched the struggle and was mystified by his behavior. Bastion prided himself on speaking his mind and taking nothing seriously. It had held him back in his ascension in the ranks as the rumor, from Anakin at least, was that Mace Windu did not like the young Jedi’s seeming lack of commitment.

What could have him so tense and troubled?

Bastion began laughing. It was not his usual bright airy laugh, it was a dark scornful laugh. He released his gentle grip on her shoulders and dropped his head. The rain ran down his cheeks and aquiline nose and his blue eyes, like shimmering sapphires darkened.

“You know, I thought this would be easy. I had resigned myself in this final moment to tell you the truth but I cannot. They trained me all too well.” he whispered. He looked back up at her. “It seems Bastion has lost his courage in the face of fire, Padme and I am truly sorry, you deserve a far better champion than I.”

He turned to leave.

“Bastion wait!” she stepped out onto the terrace. The rain danced along her skin like the light fingers of a child. Her long luxurious hair was damp and began to get matted down to her head and neck.

Bastion paused.

“You might hear things about me, terrible things. Don’t believe them.” he turned to face her and took her hand in his. “Believe in this. Our fellowship has always been true and I would die for you, Padme. It would hurt me more than dying to know that you though ill of me. But my mission requires me to become something I don’t wish to be.”

“Bastion for the love of—I could never think ill of you. Never. How could I think ill of a Jedi that could impersonate Master Yoda – with allergies” she giggled the last part.

Bastion smiled. It was a genuine smile. He laughed softly.

“I knew of all my friends you would make me laugh in the darkest hour.” he noted wistfully. “But I must depart milady. I have other matters to attend to and passage to acquire. When next we meet, smile and say hello Bastion and I will know that all is well. Know that no matter what they say of me I will always be the Bastion you know in my heart.”

Padme nodded.

he stood at the edge of her terrace, one leg raised on the lip of the rail guard and his face regarded her one last time framed by the rain.

She impulsively leaned in close and kissed him on the lips.

“For luck.” she winked.

He stared at her in surprise. He slowly smiled.

“I don’t need luck lady, I make my own.” he laughed and back flipped off the terrace and vanished into the night rain. Padme remained standing on the terrace for a long time, the rain’s cold touch a comfort in these times that drove friends apart and made her wish that sometimes the man she loved was more like the man that just left.


Last edited by Stravo on 2004-11-15 11:50am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-09-22 02:47pm
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Chapter 18:The Webs We Weave

“And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence.”
Macbeth Act1 Scene iii




“I’m not sure I can answer your question in a way that would satisfy you, Count.” Picard stated evenly as he watched Count Dooku closely. Hovering over the center of the circular conference table, the holographic image of the gun camera footage was playing in a loop. The image of Kirk’s Enterprise looming for a moment as the fighter made its pass and then vanishing.

“That is not the answer I was looking for Captain.” Dooku replied stonily.

“This is most disturbing. We lost many ships in that attack. This Enterprise was at the heart of the defense and the Republic forces were clearly working in concert with her. We can only conclude that there is some sort of alliance between this ship and the Republic.” Sev’Rance added.

“I assure you Count that we are as much in the dark as you are.” Picard interjected. “This vessel is not even from our time.”

“What are you saying?” Dooku asked furrowing his brow in confusion.

“There have been well documented instances of time travel in our galaxy. James Kirk’s starship was one of the first Federation starships to do so with startling regularity.” Data added.

“James Kirk? You’re saying that you know the man who commands this vessel?” Sev’Rance demanded.

“In a sense.” Picard answered in a guarded tone.

Dooku pursed his lips for a moment. He walked over to Picard and stood, arms crossed on his chest.

“Are you seriously trying to explain that this incident is a result of time travel?” he asked darkly.

Picard nodded.

“Why would I propose such a possibility if I did not have proof. James Kirk was a legendary starship captain nearly a century ago. His exploits are required reading in the academy and his missions have become the stuff of myths and tall tales. One of the facts about his command was that his starship occasionally encountered space time phenomenon.”

“You will excuse me if I find that explanation to be sorely lacking. There is not a single instance of time travel in the Republic’s long history.”

“From preliminary analysis of the stellar charts and data you provided Starfleet Stellar Cartography we have determined that your galaxy is remarkably stable in comparison to our own in the sense that there are little to no space time distortions. Subspace in this galaxy is almost predictable and untouched. This may account for your lack of time travel experience.” Data explained.

Dooku glanced back at Sev’Rance. She remained poker faced as she watched the crew.

“Count Dooku, do you seriously think Starfleet would try to double cross you at this juncture? We’re here to negotiate an alliance that will benefit both our cultures. An attack like this runs counter to everything the Federation believes in.” Riker added tersely. He did not like the accusatory tone coming from Dooku and his team, though he could understand the confusion.

Someone in Starfleet Temporal Authority would have some explaining to do. How in the hell did they not know Kirk and his ship would be popping in on them at this critical moment?

Picard rose and faced Dooku, absently adjusting his uniform he spoke.

“Count Dooku, if you wish I will provide you with all the data that we have on Kirk, his ship and time travel. But I think I can speak for my crew when I say that we are just as stunned as you are about this turn of developments.” Picard urged. “This alliance is obviously a monumental one between both of our societies. You’ve asked me to be understanding about the Separatist Union and all that we find troubling or puzzling about it. I ask you now to give us the same benefit of the doubt.”

“Dooku, there was much blood spilt in that battle. Three of our battleships annihilated with all hands.” The Neimodian Trade Federation representative added harshly.

“Count, you cannot forget the Mandalorians. They lost a battlecruiser and you know how they feel about casualties.” The Banking Guild representative added cautiously.

Dooku looked from each speaker to the other then back to Picard. His eyes examined Picard closely, as if dissecting him. The room was silent as the two men faced each other. The two dark Jedi that had told Dooku in the first place were standing quietly away from Dooku near the entrance to his personal office.

Janus, the younger of the two was watching Counselor Troi with a hooded gaze.

The one eyed dark Jedi, Bane, smirked softly.

“She’s not for you lad.” He whispered.

“You may be older, wiser and more powerful than me, but you sure as hell ain’t my father.” Janus protested sharply.

“Suit yourself but last time I checked, you were supposed to follow your feelings. You know the Force usually doesn’t lead you astray.”

Janus shook his head.

“The reason why you and I and whole bunch of others like us are here is because we don’t swallow what the Jedi are selling hook line and sinker.” Janus countered bitterly.

“Don’t you fret kid. When we’re finally ready the Jedi will hear from us and they’ll never forget the lesson we’re going to teach them. All their sins will be remembered.” Bane vowed darkly, anger seeping into his voice. Janus caught a hint of something as usual at the edge of Bane’s thoughts. The image of a woman and a child, they were crying, covered in filth and blood. Just as quickly as he picked it up, the image was gone like so much smoke.

Janus and Bane had traveled the galaxy for years now but he never knew what those memories were in reference to and Bane never asked Janus what drove him either.

Janus returned his gaze to Counselor Troi who looked up shyly at the sudden attention.

“Whatever happens in this war, you mark my words, that woman will be the most beautiful thing in it.” Janus whispered.

Bane rolled his single eye and sighed.

“Have your data on Captain Kirk and time travel sent to my personal system. I need to look at this before I make my decision.” Dooku concluded. He stepped up to Picard and leaned in close, so that his lips were nearly touching Picard’s left ear.

“Captain, I want to believe you. But I feel there is more to this and what you or I know. Be prepared for what can be revealed. There has been much blood shed this day and there are always consequences.” He whispered.

Picard turned his head slightly towards Dooku.

“If this is more than what it seems, I swear we will get to the bottom of this. But let’s not forget that we barely got through a Republic ambush of our own. It seems to me that we’re already in this together.”

Dooku nodded slowly and walked back to his office.

“Mr. Data.”

“I will coordinate the transfer of information.” Data replied.

“Will.” Picard motioned for his First Officer to come closer as the meeting slowly broke up. Some of the Separatist Union representatives were eyeing the Enterprise crew with suspicion.

“Sir.” Riker replied quickly walking with his captain.

“We need to find out what the hell is going on here. There’s no record of a mission where Kirk fought a battle in this galaxy. I want you to get in communication with Starfleet command, report what we discovered and see if we can’t get Temporal Authority to give us some idea what is happening.”

“One thing that bothers me sir is if are living an alternate time line we wouldn’t even know that anything was different.” Riker pointed out with concern. It was the one thing that always bothered Riker about time travel. Aside from the philosophical and metaphysical implications, just the fact that you could be living in an alternate frame of reference and never have a clue. It always sent a chill up his spine.

Picard nodded then his eyes brightened as a thought occurred to him.

“Guinan!” he exclaimed.

“Sir?” Riker asked slightly confused.

“Will, Guinan has a…way about her that I cannot completely understand. But if anyone can tell us that there might be something wrong she can. Go back to the ship and speak to Guinan. Ask her if she feels anything wrong about how events are unfolding.”

“Sir, wouldn’t that task be something you’re better at dealing with?” Riker asked.

Picard shook his head but smiled.

“You’re not sure whether to believe me or not Will. Unfortunately, I have to stay here close to Dooku in case anything happens. I trust you to get the job whether you believe in it or not. After all you’re not considered the finest first officer in the fleet for nothing.”

Riker smirked and regarded Picard with a bemused expression.

“Flattery will get you everywhere with me.”

“One more thing, Will. Be discrete. I have a feeling there is much more to this than a simple misunderstanding. Too many coincidences.”

“Understood.” Riker replied and slapped his combadge. “One to beam up.” Riker vanished in a swirling stream of light.

“Counselor.”

“Sir?” she replied, distracted by the intense young man watching her intently from the other side of the room.

“I will need you now more than ever during these negotiations. If I know Dooku, he will start playing his cards close to his chest after this event. I will need you to help me feel him out for any subterfuge or anger in the negotiations. If they continue that is.”

“Of course Captain.” She replied and her eyes slowly turned back to the young man. He stood, arms crossed and gaze fixed on her. There was something magnetic about his gaze and she forced herself to look away. Even if the gaze did not hide anything his feelings for her were abundantly clear. They radiated from him in pulsing waves.

“Are you alright Counselor?” Picard asked.

“Yes…yes, Captain. I’m sorry, just clearing my mind for what is to come.” She replied hesitantly and walked away.




The Klingon grunted and fell back as the bat’leth pushed past his defenses and the blunt end impacted against his chest.

Sisko recovered his bat’leth but another Klingon seemingly melted out of the shadows behind the human and raised its bat’leth for a killing stroke again the back of Sisko’s head.

Worf spun on his right heel and swept his bat’leth down low and caught the attacking Klingon unawares, sending him sprawling down to the ground, following through with a precise stroke the severed the main artery of the neck and was rewarded with a fountain like display of purple pink blood.

Worf roared in triumph.

Benjamin Sisko wiped sweat from his brow and rested on his bat’leth for a moment as he tried to catch his breath. Though well conditioned, his Starfleet training regimen did not include extensive melee combat routines.

He was trying to round out his workout routine as well as establish closer ties with his tactical officer.

Still it wasn’t easy.

“Computer freeze program.” Sisko gasped as he finally stood up.

“You fought well Captain, for a human of course.” Worf said with a smile.

“Oh? I thought I was keeping up with you there until the end.”

“True, but this is my warm up chapter. We have not truly started the program.”

Sisko did a double take.

“This is what you consider stretching before your work out?” Sisko asked incredulously.

Worf shrugged.

“I did not want you to get hurt. Besides it looks as if you got the work out you were looking for.”

Sisko shook his head.

“Mr. Worf I—“ the com panel in the holosuite beeped insistently.

“Go ahead.”

“Captain, the Mandalorian representative wants to see you.” Quark said.

“Well, tell him I’ll be down in a moment.”

“Uh, when he found out where you were he went up of his own accord.”

“And you didn’t ask him to wait?” Worf snapped.

“You tell that guy to wait. He looks as if he would just as soon kill you as talk to you.” Quark replied. “I just want to let you know.”

“Well thank you, Quark.” The doors to the holosuite snapped open and Tantos Dree, representative of the Mandalorians strode in. “It’s much appreciated.” Sisko finished and clicked off the intercom.

“Tantos. I was going to some down if you were willing to wait a few minutes.” Sisko began to explain.

“I’ve heard much about these holosuites of yours.” Tantos replied as he examined his surroundings. The program was still frozen. They seemed to be inside of a large underground tunnel network, dark grey stone and earth interrupted by the occasional outcroppings of quartz like crystal that glowed intermittingly from within which was the only source of illumination in the tunnel.

Tantos ran a hand slowly along one of the walls of the cavern, his eyes alight with interest.

“It is amazing. My senses are completely fooled an I am trying to feel the truth.” Tantos looked over at Sisko. “Simple tricks of light and force fields?”

“That’s about it.” Sisko replied. “Its been fooling Federation citizens for a generation.”

“Remarkable. Truly remarkable.” Tantos breathed. He glanced around at the fallen corpses and knelt by one of the Klingons. He reached out and touched one of the bodies. “Fascinating, still warm to touch.”

“I’m sure you’re not here to marvel at our facilities.” Worf noted.

Tantos’ head did not move but his eyes tracked up and regarded Worf with a quiet measured calm. It was an odd expression that made Sisko feel as if they were always in extreme danger around this man at all times.

“No, I’m not.” He answered simply. He looked back down at the fallen Klingon and rose up slowly.

“I’m here to announce that the final upgrades are being finished. Deep Space Nine will officially be ready for duty in six hours.”

“That was fast.” Sisko noted.

“I have been pushing our construction teams to get the job done as quickly as possible. Until the refit was complete this station was vulnerable.” Tantos replied. He looked around curiously for a moment then looked back at Sisko. “Perhaps we can run this program again?” he asked.

Worf exchanged a glance with Sisko.

“Oh, I assure you that I can handle myself, and I promise not to use blasters in here.”

“This scenario is a test of melee weapons skill. Are you familiar with the Klingon bat’leth?” Worf asked. Tantos nodded as he placed the toes of his left foot underneath the edge of the bat’leth of a fallen warrior and casually kicked it up. The bat’leth spun up and Tantos reached out and snatched it from the air. He held it at a guard position across his chest. He examined the heft of the blade and its balance.

“I am familiar with most of the weapons of this quadrant, the bat’leth is a cumbersome and clumsy weapon, too heavy and slow but devastatingly effective once it connects with the target.”

Worf frowned slightly.

“I think we’re ready Mr. Worf. Adjust for three people.” Sisko said coolly as he watched Tantos closely. The Mandalorian was usually the picture of calm reserve, his outbursts of emotion were relegated to joyful boasts so far. But Sisko sensed something else in the man today.

“Computer, restart program, set for three participants.” Worf ordered.

The scenery wavered for a moment, the fallen Klingons vanished. Just as suddenly as they vanished Klingons appeared at each end of the tunnel roaring at they charged them. Sisko hefted up his bat’leth and caught the strike meant for his throat, he pushed the blade down and away as he countered with a kick up into the attacking Klingon’s sternum.

Tantos spun out of the path of a charging Klingon, gracefully pivoted on his right foot, shoulders dropped as he spun and caught the next Klingon in the chest with a shoulder strike, left arm whipped up with an elbow right into the Klingon’s throat. The Klingon gasped, dropping its bat’leth and fell to its knees, grasping at its ruined throat.

Worf grunted as the Klingon that Tantos sidestepped stumbled right into Worf’s left side, ruining his perfect parry of an attacking Klingon. His assailant’s bat’leth managed to graze Worf’s cheek, drawing blood. Worf growled lowly and countered with a quick thrust of his bat’leth into the Klingon’s midsection and sent it sprawling backwards.

Tantos danced between two Klingons, everyone seemed to be moving a step slower than the Mandalorian, and delivered a swipe at the feet of one Klingon sending it to the ground where a lightning like strike from his right leg snapped the fallen Klingon’s neck. Tantos ended up back to back with Sisko who was struggling valiantly with a Klingon warrior fully a head taller than he was.

“Despite protests from my engineers, I ordered them to armor key sections of the habitat ring. This will allow your civilian and non essential personnel to take refuge in these armored areas during battle. Though it is doubtful anything short of an armada will be bringing down your new shield grid.” Tantos stated evenly as he ducked under a roundhouse swipe of a bat’leth and slipped in under the Klingon’s reach and delivered a precise stabbing strike into the Klingon’s under arm.

“That was thoughtful of you. Tell me, why did you do it? Your engineers were adamant that armoring the habitat ring would only add unnecessary time to the work schedule. As I recall, the Banking Guild representative suggested we simply leave the civilians behind when the station moves to its final position.” Sisko asked as he finally broke the attack of the taller Klingon and drove the blunt edge of his bat’leth up into the Klingon’s chin, catapulting him off his feet and onto the ground, where another blunt ended strike drove its head back into the stone floor and into unconsciousness.

“I know you had strong feelings about maintaining as much of your station’s normal life as possible during the transition. I can respect that.” Tantos replied.

“Are you trying to curry favor with me?” Sisko asked pointedly while parrying a series of strokes from another Klingon.

Tantos was quiet as he drove another Klingon to its knees and brought his bat’leth up around his left shoulder then snapped it downward, decapitating the Klingon.

“You come here despite the fact that you and I had a meeting scheduled in two hours. The news could have waited until then. You tell me all the things you have done for me. What am I supposed to think Tantos?” Sisko asked as he found an opening in his final assailant’s attacks and exploited it with an explosive combination of strikes. The Klingon groaned and went down to the ground face first.

Tantos turned suddenly and his bat’leth was at Sisko’s throat. Sisko’s eyes widened but he could not bring his own weapon up in time. Tantos’ grip tightened on the Bat’leth and the bladed edge nestled in close to Sisko’s skin, blood welling up on the blade’s tip.

The Mandalorian’s eyes narrowed on Sisko.

“Captain!” Worf shouted, but his final attacker would not relent and Worf was distracted by the attacks.

“I have done everything in my power to assure that this station and your crew would be well protected and ready for what lies out there. I spent time away from my men and my fleet in order to insure that this mission was a success. I even shared some of my private thoughts with you because I saw in you a kindred spirit.”

“What’s this about?” Sisko asked slowly, feeling the blade in his flesh. Tantos only needed to increase pressure ever so slightly and he would sever an artery.

“Computer end program!” Worf shouted and the Klingons and the cave vanished. He began to surge forward but Sisko held up a hand.

“So tell me, when did you decide to betray my trust? Did you think because I was loud and brash that I was like these Klingons. Eager warriors with nothing but blood and glory in mind.” Tantos spat, his eyes, like lasers burned into Sisko’s.

“No. I always thought that underneath all that façade you so carefully crafted the moment you stepped on my station that you were a stone cold killer.” Sisko replied coldly.

Tantos silently examined Sisko.

“If you really believed that you should have had me killed before you betrayed us. Now your life is forfeit and I will not stop there. Betrayal will not be tolerated.

“Before you kill me I suggest you ask me about this betrayal. A stone cold killer you may be but I never figured you for a reckless murderer.” Sisko replied calmly.

“You deny it then? Even now with cold steel at your throat?” Tantos snapped.

“I deny any sort of betrayal. I have no idea what you are talking about. I currently have seventeen Starfleet directives ordering me in not so many words to do just about anything to make sure this alliance works. Why the hell would I do otherwise?”

“Hours ago, a Separatist fleet on a secret strike mission deep behind Republic lines was destroyed. They encountered an alien vessel during the attack. The alien vessel was unmistakably Federation in origin.”

“That’s just not possible.” Sisko interjected.

“The vessel was identified as having the registry number NCC-1701 and named Enterprise.”

Sisko’s eyes narrowed.

“Are you sure about the number?”

“I am absolutely certain.”

“Kirk’s ship?” Worf asked incredulously. Tantos’ eyes darted over to Worf then back to Sisko.

“So, you even know the scum responsible.” He breathed. His grip tightened and the blade tensed on Sisko’s throat. The blood welling on the tip was now starting to slide down the bat’leth blade.

“His name is James T. Kirk, a personal hero of mine and he lived nearly a century ago.”

Tantos paused.

“A century?”

“Yes, he died a long time ago. His ship was named Enterprise. If you recall, the vessel carrying out our diplomatic mission into your space is named Enterprise. The registry number is the same ending with the letter ‘E’. This denotes that the ship is the sixth to have the name.” Sisko explained.

“Then how is this attack possible?”

“I honestly don’t know, but you have my word as a Starfleet officer that I will do my best to find out for you and prove to you that we did not betray you.”

Tantos looked from Worf to Sisko and pursed his lips.

“Several Mandalorians died in that battle, including an old friend. We do not take casualties lightly Captain.”

“I know. You’re people are dying.”

“Indeed they are.”

“Then let me help you. You helped me by making my station safe and letting me keep my crew and people here. I want to return the favor and find out what the hell is going on here. But the only way I can do that is if you take that blade away from my throat.”

The two men’s eyes locked for a long moment. Worf tensed. He did not think he could cross the distance and stop the Mandalorian in time.

“I will take you at your word.” Tantos said softly and the bat’leth clattered to the ground.

Sisko rubbed his neck.

“Tell me something Tantos.”

Tantos looked at Sisko expectantly.

“When did you figure out that we didn’t betray you.”

“Excuse me?”

Sisko nodded to the bat’leth. “You could have killed me at any time and you don’t strike me as the kind of man that allows someone to talk his way out of a death sentence once you have your mind set on something.”

Tantos said nothing but Sisko could see a flicker of respect in the cold grey eyes.

“You could have killed both of us at will. You didn’t. You came here looking for answers and I believe you got them.”

“I know a good and honorable man when I meet one, Benjamin Sisko. If anyone was going to tell me the truth it would have been you.”

“You did this on a whim?” Worf snapped angrily.

“I do nothing on a whim Klingon. Don’t ever forget that. I needed to know the truth.”

“And you couldn’t go to your own people?”

Tantos smiled grimly.

“Perhaps you can leave us for a moment, Mr. Worf?” Tantos suggested but there was no hint of it being anything but an order.

Worf began to protest but Sisko nodded. Worf shook his head and stepped out of the holosuite, openly glaring at Tantos as the doors slid shut.

“You remember that I warned you in regards to our allies?”

“Yes, I did. They have shown me nothing but cooperation and restraint.”

“That is their way. You see we have true believers among us Benjamin Sisko. We have patriots and zealots but we also have something else.”

“You think someone is manipulating the Separatists.” Sisko concluded darkly.

“To speak of such things is tantamount to a death sentence so you can never repeat this to anyone, including those among your Starfleet.”

“Then why tell me?”

“Because I trust you and I don’t want to see you walk into the same trap so many others have. Dooku is a good enough man but those that surround him are rather nebulous in terms of their allegiances. Sev’Rance Tan for one is a dangerous woman. I have never seen her species before in my travels yet in a matter of months she has ascended to a position of power that places her in direct ascension after Dooku. She sports a lightsaber even though I can find no record of her being a Jedi anywhere. There is much more to her than meets than eye and just recently she has begun gathering dark and fallen Jedi to her. They say it’s Dooku but this smells of Sev’Rance.”

“What are you saying then? Are you trying to imply that there is a coup in the works?”

Tantos watched Sisko closely and sighted softly.

“I only have suspicions and my instinct. Point in fact there is no evidence that Sev’Rance is nothing more than what she claims she is, a loyal servant to her Master, Count Dooku.”

“But you’re someone that relies on your gut more than your head.” Sisko added with a soft smile.

“Indeed.”

“If there is a coup in the works there is no way I cannot tell Starfleet. We’re about to enter a war that could inflict horrific casualties and our ally might be caught up in some coup attempt.”

“There will be no coup attempt. But there are shadow agendas at work Captain.”

“How can you be so sure? It certainly smells like a coup.”

“I have been involved in coups and insurgencies most of my life. This does not have the feeling of one. There is a different agenda at work here and I’m afraid we’re all caught up in it.” Tantos took a deep breath and stepped close to Sisko.

“Listen closely Captain. This is the twilight of my people. Where once Mandalorian warriors were scattered across the galaxy we now count ourselves by the hundreds. We will not survive this war. I for one intend to make sure that we die on our feet and not on our knees. But you do not have to suffer the same fate. I feel a kindred spirit in you. You remind me of my son, strong, quiet but passionate. Loyal to a fault and steadfast in resolution. I need an ally like you in the coming days.”

Sisko looked into the older man’s grey eyes and saw iron resolve in his gaze, more importantly no hint of deception whatsoever.

“And you also need to understand something more grave ahead for you and your Federation.”

“Oh?”

“When it becomes obvious that your Federation from a hundred years ago is warring against us and allied with the Republic how soon do you think it will take the leadership to demand that your Federation step in and stop them?”

Sisko’s eyes narrowed.

“My god, you’re talking about a civil war.”

“A civil war the likes of which no one has seen before that will cross the ages and pit descendent against ancestor.” Tantos stated grimly.

“A temporal civil war.” Sisko breathed.

“So you see Captain, this war may be the twilight of my people but it may also mean the twilight of your Federation. Are you prepared for what is to come? Because we will need to stand together you and I if we are to face the trails ahead.”

Sisko could not say anything. He slumped against the wall of the holosuite as he contemplated a disaster the likes of which the Federation had never faced before.




Picard rose from his seat as Dooku stepped into the small office. Dooku had summoned him there after a few hours of reviewing the information Data provided concerning Kirk and time travel phenomenon.

The summons was abrupt and unexpected.

The others were sure Dooku would make his decision public. However the servant that asked for Picard made it clear it would be a private audience.

“Count.”

“Captain.” Dooku replied and Picard could see the lines around his eyes and brows. Dooku seemed to be aging before his very eyes since he arrived here. The stress he was under must have been monumental.

“Captain, I must apologize for this informality but I could think of no other way of relaying this information to you without seriously alarming my allies.”

“What is the matter?” Picard asked seriously.

Dooku sat down slowly, sweeping his cape behind him. He activated a holographic projector at the center of the table.

“I have spies on Coruscant. I have come to depend on them heavily as the only real advantage we have in this war so far has been our superior intelligence gathering which allows us to know where the Republic is going to strike and we can gather our defenses there.”

Picard nodded.

“I rarely ask for confirmation because they have always been reliable. This time I demanded it because the very idea was…astounding to say the least.”

“I don’t understand Count.”

Dooku sighed softly again and wordlessly touched a control on the projector. Picard watched the images unfurl before him. He recognized Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from the intelligence briefings Dooku and Sev’Rance provided. His eyes slowly widened as several figures came into sharp focus.

“That’s not possible.” Picard exclaimed.

“These images are no more than 24 hours old. It clearly shows that there is a Federation presence on Coruscant and with the information Mr. Data has provided I have put faces to names.”

“Captain Kirk, Spock…my god they’re all there.” Picard gasped as he watched Starfleet legends standing around the Chancellor, in their old gold and blue uniform shirts.

Dooku nodded sadly but then stiffened with resolve as he paused the image. He fixed Picard with a stern gaze.

“Captain, I must know now. Will the Federation stand with us now knowing that they are responsible for allying themselves with the Republic and killing thousands of Separatist troops a hundred years ago?”

Picard sat back in his chair in stunned silence.


Last edited by Stravo on 2004-11-15 11:53am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-09-29 11:16pm
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Chapter 19: Fly me to the Moon

“They say, best men are moulded out of faults
And for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad.”
Measure for Measure Act 5, Scene i





Christopher Pike stood impassively watching the night sky. The stars winked and twinkled as they had done since the dawn of time. The moon, no longer a silent white orb in the sky was busy with light, steel and starship traffic crossing its face every passing moment. He remembered his grandfather telling him of a time when the moon was simply unmarred and immaculate white in the night sky.

Now Luna City shone like a beacon and a promise that man would no longer allow himself to be shackled to one world. Humanity was out among the stars now and they would never look back.

Pike sighed softly.

Sometimes he wondered whether there was folly in this headlong mad dash into the unknown. It was a sentiment that was viewed with almost derisive distaste by many of his fellow starship captains. But then again they had served faithfully in a Starfleet that mostly patrolled well known reaches of space. Not many had gone out on the growing series of five year missions.

The Enterprise and her sister ships were the first starships to go out on these missions into the unknown, far from hearth and home. They probed the vastness of the void beyond Federation space and sometimes they found such joys and wonders to make a man’s heart soar and then there were times that the universe rewarded their curiosity with brutal violence.

There was nothing worse than feeling your lifeblood spill out on alien soil and lose your life far from home with no hope of ever seeing it again. Those were the deaths that remained in Pike’s mind even now. The expression on the faces of all those young crewmen, and they seemed to be getting younger every year, as they came to the sudden and painful realization that life was going to end for them and they would never see the skies of home again. To die under alien stars was a concept that many people did not consider when they thought of the adventure and excitement that the five year missions promised.

He knew. He was one of those seduced by that siren call only to come back home now, an empty scarred man. Adventure was for the young and reckless. He was no longer either.

“Chris.”

Pike paused in his thoughts and smiled softly but did not turn around.

“I’m sorry Robert. I didn’t mean to get you up so late.”

“I’m old, Chris. Sleep doesn’t come so easily anymore and when it does, it rarely stays for long.” Robert April aid with a soft chuckle as he stood beside Pike and examined the young man’s face for a moment before turning his attention to the night sky as well.

“Sometimes I wish I still had another mission in me.” April commented wistfully.

Pike eyed the older man.

“You still say that even knowing what you know?” Pike asked.

April nodded.

“To be sure, its dangerous out there. I’ll never forget the first time I lost a crewman. Lieutenant Victor DeLaGuardia. We beamed down to Vesta Corinis, beautiful gem of a planet. It was the first away mission outside of known space. We hardly knew what we were doing, overly cautious yet curious as hell. We scanned everything, eyes wide as we breathed alien air and heard alien noises.”

Pike closed his eyes for a moment. His memories drifted back to his first away mission.

“We did cross sections on all known alien wildlife, pollination analysis to make sure their plants weren’t poisonous to breath or touch, we knew the landing area cold. I was so damned confident that this first away mission would go off without a hitch.”

Pike listened quietly.

“Godamned landslide. Can you believe that? Poor Victor is standing there one minute showing me a plant that changed color depending on the ambient temperature and suddenly two boulders come crashing down over the cliff face that we were working under and hit Victor. He was crushed and killed instantly.”

I stood over him and held his hand as we tried to get the boulders off of him for treatment but he was gone. I could tell from the way he felt when I took his hand.”

Pike nodded, well aware of precisely what Robert meant.

“In the end it was a brutal but effective lesson.”

“And that is?”

“You should know this Chris.” April gently chided. “You can never know what the universe has in store for you. You can only plan as best you can and hope that it’s enough.”

“Sometimes I think its better that we don’t tempt fate at all.”

April nodded slowly.

“I felt the same way that night alone in my quarters. You know how alone it can be in that center seat. Everyone looking to you for a decision that could end their lives. When someone dies it’s all on your shoulders. The buck stops with us and God. Save that on a starship we’re also God so in the end it’s just us.”

Pike smiled softly to himself. April was a religious man. It was hard to find that breed in the new Starfleet.

“But something else was brought to my attention by Gwendolyn.”

Pike waited expectantly. April touched Pike’s forearm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“That young man chose to be there. He knew he could die, he knew the risks involved and he went anyway. It is not for you and I to decide what was best for them. They know what they’re getting into Christopher. You are just there to help them on their way. It is in the nature of man to reach out beyond what he knows, to try and find out just what’s over the next hill.”

Christopher nodded but frowned.

“The problem is Robert that sometimes what’s over that hill may not be meant to be known. I fully believe in the old saying that past this point, here be dragons.” Pike replied and looked back up at the stars.

“What is truly bothering you?” April asked softly and looked at his old pupil and friend.

Pike wordlessly handed April a datapad. April looked down and activated it. He slowly scrolled down the nest rows of text, eyes widening slightly as he continued reading.

“And don’t tell me you don’t know about this. I have my friends back at Command and they told me flatly that you were the sole name at the top of the list for Admiral.” Christopher added darkly.

April looked up slowly and sighed deeply.

“Christopher, nothing was written in stone and I was certainly not aware that you would be placed here as Commodore. Although I supposed that if I asked for the best it would have to have been you.” April said with a rueful shake of his head.

“How could you, Robert.” Pike snapped.

“Damnit Christopher you’re acting as if I’m one of these clueless Command bureaucrats who spent their careers filing our paperwork and shuffling datapads. I know what you’ve been through, and frankly you had it easier than I did. We didn’t have tricorders, we didn’t have transporters that were anywhere near as reliable as yours, we didn’t have the medical technology that you had. The medical database that your doctor used to help patch your men together was based on our medical records from the first five year mission. We were actually in unknown space, I spent two consecutive years outside of radio contact from the farthest Federation outpost. Don’t preach to me of the horrors of space travel. I lived it damnit and I will not allow you to belittle that fact because you think you’re the first Captain to discover that losing crewmen is not easy.” April stood chest to chest glaring into Christopher’s eyes. He put his finger into Pike’s chest and punctuated each word of his next sentence with a firm poke of his finger.

“I blazed the trail. You followed in my footsteps.”

Pike’s nostrils flared as he returned April’s harsh glare.

“I’m sorry if you feel that way Robert but you should have told me.”

“Why? You’re a Starfleet officer and you go where you’re told. I retired and they brought me back for this.”

Pike frowned and looked away for a moment.

“What is it Chris? Do you think that a mission like this is unimportant? We’re Starfleet and as much as I am loath to admit it, we’re her soldiers when she needs us.”

“I was going to resign tomorrow.”

April blinked and took a step back in stunned silence.

“I didn’t know.” He said softly.

“No one knew. I didn’t even know myself until I handed the Enterprise over to James Kirk. When I stepped off that ship all I could feel was a deep abiding relief, Robert. As if the weight of the world were lifted off my shoulders. I felt free and I wanted to keep feeling that way.”

April shook his head sadly.

“Christopher. What you felt was a transitory thing. You would have been relieved for a year or two but every time you looked up at that sky you would yearn to be among those pinpoints of light again.”

Christopher examined his old teacher’s face closely as he spoke.

“So, that’s what you felt when you retired?”

“Oh hell yes, Christopher. Gwendolyn walked away from Starfleet with me and she never looked back. I always suspected she journeyed in space for as long as she did because she wanted to be by my side. You see, she’s a creature of green and seas and earth, god bless her. I, I am a child of the stars. I always have been. And so are you.” April noted sternly. “We belong up there. And I can’t say I reacted badly to this assignment. I’m back in the center seat again.”

“It doesn’t bother you that we’re being assigned to the First Federation Expeditionary Fleet? We’re going to war, Robert.” Pike replied softly.

April nodded.

“That we are, son. But she calls and we have to answer. We cannot choose our assignments. The way I see it, we’ve seen some of the wonders and miracles this universe has to offer, more than our fair share I wager. Now it’s time to see some of the horrors as well.”

“That’s what frightens me more than anything Robert. I was willing to walk away from the Federation because of the deaths of my crew. Now you’re talking about me being a second in your fleet that will most likely engage in a very bloody war.”

“Yes. I am asking you to do your duty as a Starfleet officer. Part of that duty is to conquer your fears, Chris. You can ask yourself this question – Do I remain here as a man who will always wonder what if and yearn for those stars but remain safe and sound, never having to face the deaths of those I care about and command, or do I do my duty, face my fears and really find out what kind of man I am.” April put a fatherly hand on Pike’s shoulder.

“The journey out there Chris is also a journey in here.” Robert placed a hand over Christopher’s heart. “To find out just who you are and what you stand for. Sometimes we may not like the answer but in the end I would rather know than not. Self discovery is the greatest adventure any person could ever undertake.”

Christopher closed a hand over Robert’s.

“Thanks. I just wish I had the faith that you have.”

“I’m an old man without much to lose. You’re the one who has a bright future out there waiting for him. So what do you say, Christopher? Will Commodore Pike join me on this, my final mission to serve and protect the Federation in her hour of need, or will Christopher Pike tender his resignation and do an old man a favor and watch over his wife while he’s gone?”

Christopher looked into Robert’s eyes for a long moment. The silence was a soothing song between them.

Christopher suddenly snapped a crisp salute.

“Commodore Christopher Pike reporting for duty sir. It will be an honor serving in your fleet.”

Robert April laughed and embraced him. Christopher looked embarrassed.

“That’s hardly part of protocol.”

“Oh piss on protocol Christopher, wait until you see my uniform.” April winked.

“You didn’t.” Pike smiled in spite of himself.

April nodded as he adjusted his sweater. Robert April was infamous for bucking the trend when it came to uniforms. He believed in comfort over style and as such during his five year mission embroidered the Starfleet command insignia on his Cardigan sweaters, wearing them at post throughout the mission and returning to Starfleet command wearing them.

Such was his fame and power when he returned that Starfleet turned a blind eye to his eccentricity. That age of the great commanders being allowed certain leeway in their duties was quickly fading with the new Starfleet. Sometimes Christopher thought it was better that way, but whenever he spent anytime with Robert he thought that maybe the end of an era was upon them.

“You know something. Before we leave I’d like to do something.”

“What’s that?”

Pike looked up at the moon.

“I’d look to go to the moon before I leave. I’ve never been there.” Pike admitted sheepishly.

April nodded with an impish smile on his face.

“Good, neither have I.”

Pike looked up sharply.

“You?! They have a park up there named after you. The Enterprise launched from the moon on her first tour. You have to be kidding me!”

April shook his head and laughed.

“I never got around to it. Maybe it is that time now that we may not be back for some time.”

“Excuse me but what are you two doing out here at this time of night?” A female voice demanded frostily.

“Oh, nothing dear. There was no reason for you to get up.” Robert protested.

Gwendolyn April huffed up to the two men wrapped in an overcoat over her nightgown. She eyed both men in mock outrage.

“Both men that mean everything to me in the world go off in the middle of the night and you expect me to stay in bed? I didn’t hear you complaining when I got off my duff and saved you from those Batran Night flyers.” Gwendolyn replied sardonically.

“Well…that was different I was your commanding officer after all.” Robert teased.

“Oh?” She replied pointedly.

Pike laughed. These two were a living breathing storybook romance. When she was younger Gwendolyn must have been a spitfire of a junior officer. He could see how Robert could fall in love with her so deeply and with abandon.

“Christopher and I are going to the moon.” He announced nonchalantly.

“Your age is showing Robert, only old timers call Luna the moon anymore.” She replied and sighed as she glanced from Robert to Christopher, glad to see that he was smiling again.

“I’d better go get you two something warm to wear.”

“You do know that the environment is regulated up there dear.” Robert called after her.

“So was the Enterprise and as I recall you never took your cardigans off you cold blooded old badger. You let someone that knows you better take care of you.” She replied with feigned world weariness.

Robert rolled his eyes.

“Women.”

“Can’t live with them.” Pike offered.

“Actually I would recommend it for you Chris. It inoculates you against the harshness of life.”

“I heard that.” Gwendolyn called back to them.




Jake Sisko floated in free fall. He watched the stars with a detached interest.

“Jake?”

“Huh?”

“You’ve been daydreaming since we got here.”

“Aren’t you in the least bit in awe, Nog?” Jake asked dreamily.

“Of your inability to control your motion in free fall?” Nog replied sarcastically while deftly avoiding Jake’s left leg.

“No.” Jake laughed. “We’re in another galaxy Nog! Those stars will never be seen from our galaxy. We’re officially at the farthest point any Federation citizen has ever been in history.”

“Yeah and so are the other hundreds of civilians and officers on this station. Not exactly a solo record breaker.” Nog snorted.

“You know what your problem is?” Jakes asked seriously as he tried to face Nog but spun out of control in the opposite direction. He slammed into the wall and used it to brace himself and face Nog.

Nog floated serenely as he watched his best friend making a fool of himself.

“What would that be?”

“You have no sense of adventure. No romantic streak in you. This is going to be an adventure unlike any we have ever been in. You want to talk about exploration, making contact with new cultures and new civilizations? This is it!” Jake exclaimed barely able to contain his excitement.

“First of all Jake you’re calling the first Ferengi in Starfleet someone who is not adventurous. Second of all before we go exploring and having adventures we have something else to do.”

“What?”

“We have a war to fight Jake. And from the looks of our defensive upgrades and the amount of starship traffic we’ve been getting its going to be bloody and long.” Nog replied. Punctuating his statement, ten starships suddenly appeared in a wild explosion of light outside the view port of the free fall chamber. They rapidly moved to join the veritable armada that was gathering outside of Deep Space Nine.

“Oh that.” Jake’s face fell.

“Yeah, that.” Nog replied with a frown.

“I’m going to try and get a berth on the Defiant when the armada heads out.” Jake added suddenly subdued.

“You do know the Defiant is slated to lead the 2nd wing of the 7th Armada.” Nog noted then rolled his eyed when he saw the blank expression on Jake’s face. “That means that the Defiant will most likely be at the heart of most of the early battles.”

“Oh.”

“I hope you know what you’re getting into, Jake.”

“What about you Nog? Do you know what you’re getting into?”

Nog nodded without hesitation.

“I was ready to fight and die against the Dominion and as far as I’m concerned I feel the same way about this war. Think about it Jake. The other side is almost the same as the Dominion.”

“How do you know that?”

Nog smirked. “Captain Sisko let me sit in on some of the briefing sessions. The Republic rules with an iron fist led by the dictator who calls himself a supreme chancellor. He has this secret police of mystical warriors called Jedi they use clones as their elite enforcers, sounds like Jem'Hedar to me, right?”

“Well yeah but doesn’t it bother you?”

“What? Fighting clones?”

“No, the fact that you’re only getting this information from our allies and we haven’t even tried to speak to the Republic.”

“Jake. They attacked the Enterprise without hesitation when it crossed over. There’s no talking to people like that. They need to be taken out if we’re going to see this galaxy open up for us.”

“I don’t like it at all. I’d love to get a shot at interviewing this Supreme Chancellor. Maybe start a column about life behind enemy lines.”

“Jake!” Nog snapped.

“What?”

“I see that look in your eye. You’re not just wishing it. If Captain Sisko were to even get a whiff of what you’re planning—”

“But he won’t, will he Nog?” Jake implored.

“Don’t play games, Jake. This is not a situation like we’ve faced in the Federation. Just hang out near those Mandalorians for awhile and you get a hint of what kind of fighting and enemy we’re facing.”

“I can’t get them to talk to me.” Jake sighed.

“They make Klingons feel uncomfortable, I like them. They are bad ass.”

“Bad ass?!”

“It’s a hu-mon phrase I picked up at the academy. I think it fits.”

Jake shook his head and laughed. However his thoughts began to work possibilities and the potential results of getting the other side of the story, putting a face to the faceless enemy. The writer in him was getting excited at the idea. Behind him two more starships transited the wormhole. The armada was growing.



“What do you mean you can’t find my beverage license?!” Quark exclaimed angrily.

“I told you Mr. Quark.” The Neimodian began again with a soft sigh.

“Just Quark will do.” Quark interrupted smarmily.

“Very well, Quark, after an exhaustive search of the station’s database and inquiries made on Bajor there is no record of your license to sell alcoholic and all manner of food and beverages. As you know, we in the Trade Federation have very stringent regulations regarding the sale of beverages and food stuffs due to the wide variety of life forms that may partake of your services.”

“You don’t have to tell me about life forms, why I’ve seen a veritable plethora of tentacles, limbs, eyes, you name it, I’ve seen it.” Quark announced dramatically as he swept a drink off a passing waiter’s tray. “Black hole?” Quark asked politely.

The Neimodian frowned down at the drink.

“Quark, I will be blunt since I feel that is the best way to get through to you. We cannot allow this bar to remain open unless you can provide this license.”

“But Sisko knows I have a license, they let me stay open without asking these questions.” Quark whined.

“Typical.” The Neimodian sighed. “Unfortunately for you, as part of our alliance we now must respect each other’s laws in our sovereign territories. This station is now stationed in Trade Federation territory, our troops use these facilities. We have a vested interest in this bar’s compliance with our regulations.”

“You’re troops are droids. What do you want me to provide, proof that my lubrication passed Trade Federation quality control?” Quark smirked.

“Sarcasm is not helping you, Quark. Right now you are on borrowed time. Captain Sisko is vouching for you---” Quark smiled. “barely.” He frowned. “We will not let you slip by as the previous management of this station has.”

“Wait a minute.” Quark snapped. “The PREVIOUS management?”

The Neimodian smiled coldly.

“Your Starfleet feels that they must focus all their attention on the coming war. We helpfully offered to intercede and assist in the management of the station’s trade network. With our enormous experience in management and trade it made perfect sense.”

“You helpfully offered, eh?” Quark muttered.

“I’m officially giving you notice Quark. You have one week’s time to get your papers in order or I will eject you from this prime piece of real estate. I have many business owners who would pay a premium for this place in comparison to the pittance you paid to your Starfleet managers.”

“They were good landlords.” Quark replied and surprisingly he found that he meant it.

“It is a pity really. Such a fine organization but aside from some noticeable exceptions they have a horrifyingly naive view of economics.”

“You should have seen them a hundred years ago.” Quark replied testily. He paused. Why was he so defensive of the Federation and their Starfleet? Maybe because he was finally seeing how good he had it.

“Oh?”

“A hundred years ago, the Federation had the Ferengi wondering if we could ever compete. They were aggressive, cut throats, it was wonderful. We actually avoided first contact because of we were afraid our interests would defect to them.”

‘Then?”

“Things change.” Quark shrugged.

“You don’t tell a very good story.” The Neimodian muttered.

“I’m a bartender, not a storyteller.” Quark replied. “Look about the license, what if I were to tell you that I purchased the license from the Cardasian authorities here.”

“Oh, you bribed a public official to allow you to do business here.” The Neimodian said with a smirk.

Quark blinked.

“Are you related to Constable Odo in anyway?” Quark asked.

The Neimodian blinked.

“Never mind.” Quark waved it away. “Look, I’m sure it’s somewhere in a Cardasian databank. Those people are sticklers for keeping paperwork and details.”

“We do not recognize licenses from enemy powers.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Cardasians are at war with the Federation, thus at war with us. Is this really the best you can do, Ferengi?”

Quark’s eyes narrowed on the Neimodian.

“You’ll have your license by the end of the week. And don’t think I don’t realize what you’re doing here.” The Neimodian frowned. “I can pretty much guess that these merchants hankering to get my space are fellow Neimodians right? In fact I have a feeling that this new management will result in quite a few Trade Federation merchants on the Promenade.”

“You can speculate all you wish Quark, but if I don’t have that license by this time next week I will come here with droid troops and evict you.”

“Not very friendly of you.”

“We have found that it is unwise to allow those that cannot afford it to take resources and space away from those that do. Bad for business. You should know that Ferengi.”

“Oh I do. What’s your name by the way?”

“Haldus Morray.”

“I have a feeling this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.” Quark smirked.

“One week, Ferengi.” The Neimodian snapped and pointed to Quark’s chest. He turned on his heel and the two slim battle droids that had been standing at attention behind him throughout the conversation mechanically fell in line behind him.

“Uh…brother.”

Quark watched the Neimodian strut out of the bar followed by his metal marionettes.

“Brother?”

“What is it Rom!” Quark snapped.

“You have a transmission coming in.”

“Can you take a message? I have a bar to save.”

“It’s the Grand Nagus.” Rom replied reverently.

“Grand Nagus? Of course! He can save me from this!” Quark clapped his hands together and rushed to his office.

Quark eagerly activated his transmitter. The Grand Nagus’ face appeared on the monitor.

“Rom? I told you I wanted to speak to Quark.”

“I am Quark Grand Nagus Zek.”

“What? Oh, Quark. Good, Listen, I assume you’re having issues with the Trade Federation.”

Quark cocked his head to the side slightly and looked confused.

“How did you know that?”

“I’m the Grand Nagus! I’m supposed to know these things.” Zek protested.

“Seriously how did you know?” Quark pressed.

“For someone who claims to have the lobes you are rather dim sometimes Quark.”

“You?!” Quark exclaimed and stood up in a fury.

“Now that I have your attention you may listen to what I have to tell you.” Zek snorted.

“You could have just asked me to pay attention.” Quark sighed.

“Quark! Ferenginar is not exactly thrilled with this new alliance. The TRADE Federation? The BANKERS Guild? What does that sound like to you Quark?”

“Competition?”

“No you dolt. They’re Competition.” Nagus snapped. Quark opened his mouth to speak but decided against it.

“Quark you’re mission is a simple one. Try to find out all you can about this Trade Federation and open up relations with Ferenginar.”

“What? Why would we want to—”

“Funny Quark, I don’t recall telling you why. I don’t recall telling you much except what to do.”

“Of course.” Quark rolled his eyes. “Why me?”

“Because you’re closest to the situation, Quark. The Separatists are blocking access to the wormhole except for Federation traffic. We need to get a foot in the door in that galaxy Quark and sadly you are the Ferengis only hope.”

“So you thought that drawing their attention to my lack of a license was the right move?” Quark asked mournfully.

“Call it incentive Quark. I know you can do it. Grand Nagus out.”

Quark slowly rubbed his lobes and leaned back in his chair.

“This can only happen to me.” He moaned. “Quark, last best hope for the Ferengi.”



Wherever you go, there you are.

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Chapter 20: Fortunate Disasters

“Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.”
Macbeth Act 1, scene v




“Captain, just so that we’re clear on this, you are asserting that the Federation from our future has allied with the Separatists and are now at war with the Republic. Is that about right?” The Federation president asked seriously. He sat at the head of a large conference table. Flanking him were his chief advisors, members of the Federation council and the Admirals of Starfleet.

Kirk stood at attention on the bridge. The main viewer displayed the gathering clearly, solid lines of static and distortion occasionally marred the signal. The Enterprise, still in orbit around Coruscant was transmitting using one the Republic’s holonet communications devices, a gift from Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

Kirk had ordered Uhura to immediately check the communications array for any bugs or backdoors before it was installed. He could not take any chances with the safety of his ship and crew and more importantly giving the Republic an insider’s knowledge of the Federation’s current deliberations. He also had no illusions about the reason for the delivery of this piece of equipment in particular after their tense meeting with Palpatine.

It was a not so gentle reminder of the technical rewards awaiting the Federation should they decide to join the Grand Alliance. They were playing hard ball and it was becoming fairly obvious. Doctor Dehner was going to leave as soon as this meeting was over to have breakfast with Senator Mon Mothma, a well known and fervent Palpatine supporter. He was having what could best be described as brunch with Senator Amidala. Both sides were pushing hard for the Alliance and were making their big push.

He felt that the Federation and all that they stood for were now suddenly standing on the edge of a dark steep precipice and there was no way to know which way to jump at the moment. The Republic was understandably upset about the recent developments and the Federation now faced the dire possibility of not just fighting general war on a galactic scale but also fighting a temporal civil war. The past would be fighting its own future.

The ramifications were daunting to say the least.

“Yes, Mr. President. That is precisely what I am saying.” Kirk replied.

The assembled council members exchanged troubled glances and the president, an Andorian named Jolas Kye, frowned, his antennae vibrating slightly a subconscious signal of distress.

“Captain this is Admiral Turner.”

“Admiral.” Kirk nodded politely.

“Have you been able to discern the veracity of this outlandish claim? We have absolutely no proof that time travel is even possible.”

“Actually sir as my Science officer was careful to indicate in his exhaustive report.” Kirk fought his smile. Spock was asked to put together a quick science report on the issue and within a handful of hours had written a tome on temporal mechanics, theory and application. Kirk was barely able to plow through the introductory points before the briefing but he was more than impressed by the thoroughness of the work. “There are several theories that seriously provide for the possibility of time travel through the unique nature of our subspace fields.”

“That’s a mighty thin premise to be hanging our hats on in this crisis, Captain.” The Earth representative drawled. His Texan accent was thick and made him a distinctive voice on the council.

“I agree with the Terran representative though his use of human colloquialisms can be distracting.” The Vulcan representative added quietly. She sat directly opposite the Earth representative and had Spock’s report open before her. One of the few that still insisted on seeing everything in paper she was an oddity on the council for the stacks of books and reports in omnipresent piles around her.

“You have to understand that it is not as impossible as it seems.” Doctor Dehner added. “Right now we are traveling through time in a sense.” Dehner stressed.

“Explain yourself Doctor.” The president urged in the traditional Andorian whispered voice.

“This transmission is being beamed through the wormhole that leads back to our galaxy. We know from time lapse data that the signal is traveling forward in time as it gets to you, that this galaxy and the Enterprise are currently thousands of years into the past and you are sitting right now thousands of years into our future, not to mention the trillions and trillions of light years between us. We are your past speaking to you in the here and now. Considering these circumstances is it really that difficult to accept that a similar effect is taking place for a Federation in the future?”

“You’re talking about another wormhole.”

“Indeed we are.”

“Excuse me, Doctor, but the Vulcan Science Academy has run the permutations from every conceivable possibility and has found that a similar wormhole similarly located would simply be impossible.”

“What about inconceivable possibilities?” Kirk asked.

The Vulcan representative arched an eyebrow,

“Captain if we could conceive of it then it would no longer be inconceivable.” She explained.

Kirk nodded and felt a very desperate urge to kick himself.

“The only other option would be one that the Science Academy first theorized when we encountered it.” Number One added.

“I’m not sure what we’re talking about here.” The Terran representative interjected.

“The Science Academy originally suspected that the wormhole was an artificial construct.” The Vulcan representative answered.

“Do you have any idea what sort of technological development would be required to construct an object of that magnitude?” The Tellarite representative gasped.

“It is literally beyond anything we can even theorize. Only our wildest conceptions currently support the type of technology required for an apparatus of this kind.” The Vulcan replied.

“What about the Republic or the Separatists?” The president interrupted raising his hand.

“They sure as hell have been dangling their advanced technology under our noses for months now.” The Terran representative snapped.

“Highly unlikely sir. The technology necessary for such a construct is even beyond anything we have seen from either side so far. They are even more at a loss than we are concerning the temporal travel phenomenon. As we recently discovered their galaxy is remarkably free of any subspace distortion or irregularities. They have not catalogued any spatial anomalies even remotely resembling this one in their long history.” Spock replied.

“Captain.” Turner asked.

“Admiral?”

“What are your views on this Supreme Chancellor and the Republic? Do you think they can be behind this possible deception.”

Kirk thought long and hard on this for a moment all the while feeling Dehner’s eyes on him like a hawk. She was wary of telling Starfleet anything unsubstantiated. She was a scientist at heart and as such she was very uncomfortable with stating a hunch or belief that was not backed by facts. Kirk had to admit that she was the perfect counter balance to his rather inexperienced diplomacy. Negotiating with border elements and lone merchants was one thing, trying to hammer out an intergalactic alliance that would inevitably lead to a bloody war for the Federation was quite another.

But he could not simply sugar coat his words. There were certain things which he felt strongly about in this matter and the brass back home could never get the same impressions over a hyperspace com channel than they could in person.

“Admiral, permission to speak freely?”

Turner was silent for a moment but Kirk could see clearly see the Admiral exchange a glance with the other admirals at the table on the crystal clear image on his viewer.

“Granted.” He nodded curtly.

“Sir, it is my feeling that Chancellor Palpatine is a shrewd and cunning politician and he is extremely manipulative however I can’t sense any sort of duplicity on his part in regards to these events as they are unfolding now. His faction has always been extremely interested in having us join the Republic in this so called Grand Alliance. Besides in order for him or anyone else in the Republic to fabricate this evidence would require them to have some influence over the Separatists since they are the ones who utilized this Enterprise from the future in a recent battle with the Republic. Frankly I find it laughable to believe that Chancellor Palpatine has that kind of influence over the Separatists and in particular Count Dooku who has declared himself a mortal enemy of the Supreme Chancellor. The Separatists have everything to gain and the Republic has everything to lose by this turn of events.”

“If I may…” Dehner cleared her throat and interrupted.

“Go on Doctor.” The president nodded.

“Sir, we have a serious issue with confidence within the Republic. While I agree with Captain Kirk concerning the Supreme Chancellor there are certainly elements within the Republic government that are deeply divided on this issue of the war.”

“The peace faction led by Bail Organna?”

“Indeed Mr. President. I posit that we cannot over rule rogue elements of the government being involved in a plot to try and discredit us and sabotage the Alliance.”

“I can’t agree with the Doctor on that point. Bail Organna is a just and honorable man.”

“You’ve known him for all of one hour, at least I have a specialty in alien psychology to base my assumptions on. What do you have?”

Kirk began to reply when the President interjected sternly.

“Please Doctor. There is no time for this. Captain Kirk has my utmost confidence. He is a rising star in the Starfleet ranks and was the obvious choice to undertake this mission considering his wide breath of military experience which I do believe you lack.” Kirk could see the color rising on Dehner’s normally pale face. She was not accustomed to be addressed in this manner.

“Think of your teaming as a balance between your obvious strengths. We hold both your opinions in high esteem. Belittling each other at this point gains us nothing.”

“Logically however the Doctor is right. Her specialty in psychology and her experiences in diplomacy with alien species makes her ideal at formulating judgments concerning other parties.” The Vulcan coolly added.

“I don’t know about my esteemed colleague here but I’ll take a starship captain’s hunch over some academic’s analysis any day of the week.” The Terran ambassador interjected.

“Please.” The president raised a hand to stop the bickering. The assembled council quickly quieted. The Andorian turned his attention back to Kirk and Dehner.

“As I understand it, you have an agenda today with two of the representatives. A breakfast with Padme Amidala one of Bail Organna’s closest advisors and supporters and a brunch with Mon Mothma one of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s most vocal supporters and leader of the war wing of the Senate.”

“Correct.” Dehner replied.

“Excellent.” The president nodded. “Captain, I want you to attend the meeting with Mon Mothma. Doctor Dehner you will attend breakfast with Senator Amidala.”

Kirk began to open his mouth to speak but the president continued unabated.

“I know that the agenda shows the reverse but I feel that Captain Kirk and Doctor Dehner have already made their judgments regarding these factions and I am more interested in hearing their opinions from the other side.” It was Dehner’s turn to begin protesting but the president again continued to speak in his low Andorian whisper. “And more importantly I believe they as well have made assumptions about the both of you and these brunches are an attempt to shore up support and get soundings from both of you so I want to mix things up as the humans are fond of saying and I want to see what sort of reactions we get from the respective factions.”

Kirk nodded suddenly seeing where the president was going with this tact and agreeing. Dehner remained quiet.

“You will reveal nothing about our concerns other than what they already know. You will vehemently deny any and all involvement by the Federation in regards to this so called future Federation and we will discuss with our teams here how to proceed.”

“Mr. President, they will push us hard on where we stand on the Alliance. The Supreme Chancellor has made it implicitly clear that he feels that we must bear some responsibility for the actions of our alleged future selves.” Kirk asked pointedly.

The Andorian frowned, his antennae twitching slightly.

“Captain you understand our skepticism about this future Federation?”

“Of course Mr. President.” Kirk nodded.

“Then you can understand why what the Supreme Chancellor might feel in regard to this matter is not what we feel. He can assume that we have some form of responsibility but we don’t see the connection. How can we be responsible for actions that have yet to take place? Assuming of course that we believe these new antagonists are from the future.”

“That will not be a very satisfying answer I’m afraid.” Dehner noted.

“You are there as representatives of the Federation to make a fact finding mission and hopefully arrange a treaty with the Republic. Despite the many advantages to the proposed Alliance I remain highly skeptical. All things have their price and I feel we have not seen the entirety of the price that is to be borne by our people. The appearance of these mystery antagonists only leads us to believe that there are other agendas at work here.”

“We understand Mr. President.”

“Yes sir.”

“Kirk.” Turner spoke up.

“Sir?”

“You be careful out there. You’re far from home and any support we can give you should things turn ugly. I am authorizing you to take any and all actions to maintain the peace and keep your ship and crew alive but should things get ugly you will comply with the Gamma protocols.”

Kirk blinked.

The Grand Admiral had just told Kirk that in the end he, his ship and his crew were expendable in the eyes of the Federation.

“I understand sir and will do my best.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to anything so drastic.” The Terran representative interjected.

“You don’t have much time so I will leave you to your preparations.”

“Mr. President. The treaty negotiations are scheduled to end tomorrow at this time. I have full singing authority according to my orders but I assume I am to wait until I receive full instructions from the council.”

“You are indeed correct Captain. Do nothing until we order you to. If we lose communications you are to assume you are NOT to sign the treaty is that clear?”

“Absolutely Mr. President.”

“Good luck. To all of you.”

“God speed Captain.”

The screen switched from a view of the council to the planet Coruscant.

“I don’t have full signing authority.” Dehner noted with a raised eyebrow and smirk.

“Comes with the bars.” Kirk replied and pointed to the cuff of his shirt sleeve.

“I take it you’re not pleased with this turn of events?” Number One asked.

“On the record the president is completely and totally correct and we follow our orders to the letter.” Kirk replied as he stepped away from his command chair and walked over to the turbolift. He had to change quickly if he was to make his appointment. Dehner followed close behind. Number One walked in step with Kirk, hands clasped behind her back.

“And off the record?” she pressed as the doors to the lift opened. Kirk stepped in with Dehner.

“Off the record, we’re giving up the opportunity to do precisely what we have been ordered to do, Number One. Make contact with new civilizations and forge bonds of friendship and unity. Their technology alone would catapult us ahead a millennia from any other power in the quadrant.” Kirk explained.

“Their culture would enrich the Federation and make us a power unrivalled in our galaxy.” Dehner added.

“And the war?” Number One asked coldly.

Kirk frowned slightly.

“The president was right about one thing Number One. Everything has its price. We have to ask ourselves whether we’re ready or willing to pay it. You have the con.”

“Aye sir.”

The doors snapped shut. Number One stood stoically for a moment before walking over to Spock’s station.

“These calculations of yours?” she asked softly.

“There is very little doubt in my mind that the possibility of a Federation from the future is a near certainty.”

She nodded slowly.

“So, if we enter this alliance we will be at war with not only the Separatists but ourselves then?”

“It would seem so.” Spock answered.

“I for one do not look forward to the possibility of killing or being killed by my own grandchild.” She said quietly eyes looking back out at the screen and the city world spinning below them.

Spock looked up at Number One.

“Do you wish me to explain the odds involved with you’re offspring actually being a member of Starfleet and involved in the battle that kills you, not to mention the odds of you having offspring in the first place?” Spock politely asked.

Number One looked down at Spock sharply

“No thank you Mr. Spock. I prefer to perform those calculations myself.” She snapped.

“An admirable endeavor.” Spock nodded approvingly.

Number One shook her head and walked away. She stopped short as she saw Gary Mitchell smiling.

“You wish to add something Mr. Mitchell?” she asked stepping down to his station. Gary shook his head, pursing his lips as he did so.

“None at all. “’Cept of course that our Vulcan science officer certainly lacks a certain interpersonal touch when it comes to such a position as First Officer.”

Number One smiled frostily.

“I can say this for Mr. Spock. He’s added more to this mission than any three other officers. Can I say the same about a Navigator who has yet to show me why he should even be sitting at his current post much less the one above it?”

Gary’s smile remained untouched. But his eyes tightened slightly.

“I wouldn’t judge a book by its cover sweetie.”

“I’m no one’s sweetie. But I do have a series of course plots that need to be verified for accuracy in case we need them so I think you should get to them.” She ordered tersely and handed him a datapad.

“Yes, ma’am.” Gary replied happily and turned back to his station. Kelso eyed his old friend. He knew Gary had issues with women but it was bolder than the helmsman was accustomed to seeing from his friend.

“You OK, Gary?”

“I’m fine, Lee. Sometimes you just have to remind people whose in line and whose not.” Gary replied as he began stabbing numbers and figures into his keypad.




“Do you mind telling me what the Gamma protocols are?” Dehner asked in the turbolift. Kirk held onto the control rod and was pensive for a long moment.

“Starfleet has developed several protocols in response to the first five year missions, some of which are fairly well known and some that are limited to the command staff.”

“I assume this is one of those limited examples since I’ve never heard of it?”

Kirk nodded.

“In case we are caught in hostilities with a superior alien culture far from Federation assistance or bases a Captain or Admiral must make the determination on whether there is no chance of escape or victory.”

“And?”

“If there is none which I can sure as hell tell you there is none here should the Republic turn on us now I have standing orders to take this ship and as much of the enemy as I can with me.”

“What?” Dehner gasped.

Kirk looked Dehner straight in the eye as the lift came to a stop,

“If need be Doctor I will take the Enterprise and plunge her straight into Coruscant, hopefully right into the Jedi Temple or a military facility of significant importance.” Kirk said darkly.

“My god…”

The doors snapped open and Kirk stepped out. He paused for a moment in the doorway and nodded to the bars on his cuffs.

“They don’t just mean I get signing rights Doctor. They also mean that I have ultimate power over life and death on this ship.” Kirk added grimly and stepped out of the doorway. “You’d better hurry, you’ll be late.”

The doors snapped shut and Dehner stood in stunned silence.





“Power plays are endemic during these times I’m afraid.” Mon Mothma explained serenely. There was a calm presence about this young woman that was amazing to watch.

Kirk was still quietly angry about the turn of events. Just yesterday the Grand Alliance was ready to go ahead and be signed. Now he was busy contemplating the possibilities of how to destroy his ship and his crew should things turn ugly. The Jedi Temple was the obvious best target. It was non political, a significant structure and housed the best warriors of the Republic. With one strike he could make sure the Republic would think twice before launching an invasion into Federation space. It would at least give them pause long enough for the Federation to hopefully collapse the wormhole from their end.

But the image of Meerlinda strolling through the Jedi Temple gave him pause when he considered the option of vaporizing the temple.

“You seem distracted Captain.”

“More likely madam I am interested in what you have to say. Unfortunately, unlike Doctor Dehner I am not very verbose.” Kirk recovered quickly.

Mon Mothma watched the young Captain intently for a moment holding her teacup in her hands and gently rolling it back and forth along her palms. She had not dealt much with Kirk. It was believed that he firmly believed in the Alliance if not for the same reasons Palpatine did but he was also sympathetic to the peace faction and Bale Organna in particular. Dehner on the other hand was a true believer. She was a good ally and had spoken in support of the alliance from nearly the start.

However, Dehner was a scholar and a doctor. Kirk was a military man and the Supreme Chancellor knew that they would need the support of the Federation’s military if they were going to expect full cooperation in the coming conflict.

“You can understand the Chancellor’s concerns, Captain then when you take into account the power plays running through the senate when the overall agenda and goal could be blunted or even hijacked by the interests of a vocal minority.”

“You don’t need to play rhetorical tricks with me, Ms. Mothma. I am quite aware you’re talking about the peace faction.” Kirk replied.

Mon Mothma patiently sighed and held up her hand. She suddenly resembled a school teacher from Kirk’s childhood.

“On Chandrilla we do not use the salutary addresses such as Ms. Or Mrs. Mon Mothma will do.”

“My apologies.”

“That is precisely what is wonderful about this dialogue Captain.” Mon Mothma suddenly smiled and leaned forward. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“I’m not sure what you’re addressing Mon Mothma.” Kirk found himself fighting the automatic urge to call her Ms. Then settled on a far easier term. “You’ll of course excuse my confusion senator.”

‘Oh, there’s no need for formality Captain. Mon Mothma will do just fine.” She replied smiling warmly. Kirk wanted to kick himself. Gee, thanks.

“I’m referring to the nature of our relationship. You haven’t had the opportunity to meet with any Separatists have you?”

“Well I did have the opportunity to send some of their ships straight to hell.” Kirk replied.

Mon Mothma blinked and smiled. “Of course, I had forgotten and that just leads to my obvious point Captain. You cannot interact with them as you can with us. The Federation and the Republic share common ideals, goals, objectives and interests. Your Federation wishes to reach out to the stars and interact peacefully with its neighbors. The Republic has interacted peacefully with her neighbors for over a thousand generations. I cannot think of better partners for peace and prosperity than ourselves. The Separatists on the other hand.” Mon Mothma’s face twisted in distaste. “They are business men first and foremost and they have no yearning for what lies over the horizon as we share.”

“Well Mon Mothma I can definitely agree with you that our two societies share a common thread and bond but unless I’m mistaken this clone war is really just a very thinly disguised civil war. The Separatists were members of the Republic at one time weren’t they?”

“And they rebelled against the authority of the Republic, refusing to work from within to achieve their goals. The Trade Federation one of the key members of the Union went so far as to blockade worlds in the Republic to get what they wanted. Let me ask you Captain, how far would your Federation go if a member world like say Andor attempted to secede after such actions as blockading Tellar and instigating hostilities against your finest warriors?”

“Well, there is always the option of letting a troublesome member simply leave.”

Mon Mothma frowned slightly. She knew when she was being tested, she simply did not like it.

“Captain would you advise us to allow a significant portion of our manufacturing and economic base simply leave especially after discovering a plot to blackmail the Republic with an army?”

“Senator, I’m not here to debate the niceties of your clone war, I just like to play devil’s advocate and defend a faction whose motives are honorable and more in line with what the Federation likes to expound.”

“Peace?”

“Of course.”

On Mothma nodded slowly and sipped her tea. She regarded Kirk over the lip of her cup.

“Does that include the Klingons?”

“Excuse me?”

“The Klingons, Captain. Would you say that the Federation expounds peace where the Klingons are concerned.”

“I’d say it is always an option no matter who is involved.” Kirk replied testily.

“And the Klingons, would you say they would agree that sometimes a strong hand is needed to deal with internal strife. That sometimes war is inevitable.” Mon Mothma pressed softly slowly putting her teacup down.

“War is almost always a choice that is made Senator.” Kirk snapped.

“Mon Mothma.”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” Kirk replied with an exasperated sigh.

“Diplomatic protocol is not your strong suit, I can appreciate that Captain. You seem to me to be a man of action.”

“And you just very much sent me a strong warning shot across my bow Mon Mothma.”

“Now I am a bit confused Captain.”

“How would you like me to report this to the Council? That the Republic is officially going to approach the Klingons should this process fail or that I gleaned from some subtle innuendo that the Republic is considering approaching the Klingons?” Kirk replied acidly.

Mon Mothma pursed her lips and said nothing for a long moment.

“This is not going well I’m afraid.” She sighed.

“I could say that the Federation may view such overtures as a prelude to war.”

Mon Mothma stiffened.

“You’re not implying…”

“You want to play the game Senator.” He stressed the title through gritted teeth. “Then you have to learn to go all the way. I will make this abundantly clear since I’m a man of action. If you approach the Klingons, if you so much as send feelers or probes into their space we will collapse that godamned wormhole so quickly that you might draw back a nub.” Kirk said evenly and unflinchingly looking into her eyes.

Mon Mothma slowly sat back and regarded the young man with a measured gaze. There was a fire in these people, one she had not seen in her own for some time.

“I must apologize Captain. Unfortunately I am just a messenger and not an initiator of policy.”

“This is Palpatine’s idea isn’t it?”

“He is furious at the very idea that the Federation has initiated hostilities against us and you are now considering leaving when you are needed most.”

“We are extremely skeptical concerning this future Federation theory.”

Mon Mothma nodded.

“Let us be frank Captain. You do indeed believe in the theory it is your government which does not.”

“What I believe is irrelevant.”

“Ah, but I believe that it is not true, I think you have more of a sway and a voice than even you realize.” Mon Mothma leaned forward. “James Kirk I am asking you to consider the possibilities that your grandchildren and descendants are making war against us and that you have an awesome responsibility to answer for that aggression. Look beyond the doubts, the innuendo and see what is right and just. We can help your society in so many way, the medical technology alone would save untold billions, instant communication across your galaxy and you would never have to concern yourself with the Klingons ever again. We offer a chance for the Federation to take its rightful place in your galaxy, imposing the peace and prosperity you seek. We ask for your help in stopping this war sooner rather than later. Yes, there will be death and destruction but the prize at the end of the struggle cannot be quantified.”

Kirk said nothing and the silence between the two was deafening.

“In the end Captain you are of course correct. War is a choice. I’m asking you to help make that choice for the greater good.”

Kirk’s communicator beeped. He apologetically flipped it open and as he listened to the voice on the other end his eyes slowly widened.





“Lovely really.” Dehner noted s she turned the crystal in her hand and watched the gentle cascade of light that flowed from it.

“It was a gift from a friend.” Padme said as she took her seat on the balcony overlooking the endless cityscape below.

“I apologize again for not telling you about the change in agenda ahead of time but my government changed it just now and we scrambled to get here.”

“Oh I understand, you’re speaking to someone who has been involved in politics since she was a young girl. My whole life has been about shifting agendas and sudden changes.” Padme laughed softly.

“I’m curious. May I ask you a personal question in regard to your stance on this war?” Dehner asked.

“Of course, Doctor.” Padme replied and nodded.

“Your world was blockaded by the Trade Federation, you yourself have endured assassination attempts by these same parties and you are a veteran of the Battle of Geonosis where you watched the opening engagement of the Clone War with your own eyes including the treachery of Count Dooku and his Separatists in their attempt to black mail the Republic with their army. Yet you are one of the most vocal proponents for peace. I’m curious as to why.”

Padme said nothing for a moment as she eyed the cold blonde sitting across from her. Dehner was resolutely in Palpatine’s camp. There was little doubt of that but that did not matter. She needed to plead her case and as a senator many times that required her to plead it before very unsympathetic audiences.

“Because I have seen what conflict can create and leave behind I am firmly opposed to war Doctor. When Naboo was blockaded we lost many good people to the Trade Federation and their reeducation camps. It took my world months to recover the damage to our infrastructure and our people grieved. When you have seen a mother grieve over a fallen child I defy you to want to see more such sights spread across a world much less a galaxy. Geonosis showed me that the death toll would no longer be limited to a handful of Jedi and some battle droids. This is a war that has stained thousands of worlds in blood. The devastation will be unprecedented and I feel that as a witness to these horrors it is my duty as a human being to try and stop it.”

“And the Separatists? I don’t think their motives are so pure at all. How do you handle someone who is not going to follow the same rules as yourself, who will not be civilized or who is intent on initiating war and conflict?” Dehner pressed.

“You find a way Doctor to work out a compromise, a solution. It is easy to go to war, Doctor. Easy to simply decide to destroy the other side. The far more difficult and ultimately rewarding path is the one of communication and compromise.”

“You’ll excuse me if I find that view a little naive.”

Padme smiled coolly.

“And how many combat zones have you been in Doctor?”

Dehner shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“None actually.”

“Battles?”

“I haven’t served on a starship that has seen combat. Most of my work has been limited to the inner systems and Earth.”

“Who’s being naive then Doctor?” Padme asked.

Dehner frowned.

Her communicator beeped.

“Excuse me senator.” Dehner flipped her communicator open. “Dehner here. I thought there was not supposed to be any communications until I—“

“Doctor, you have to return to the Enterprise right away.” Number One said tersely.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve recalled the Captain and all crew from Coruscant. We have an emergency situation developing on Earth.”

“What the hell is—”

“The Federation Council has been attacked Doctor. We think the president is dead.”

Dehner stared in disbelief at the communicator.

“An assassination?!” she exclaimed. Padme’s shoulders sagged in defeat.

“Beam up NOW Doctor.” Number One ordered.

Dehner flipped her communicator closed.

Padme sighed very softly and took a sip from her glass.

“I have a feeling Doctor that events have caught up with us and these negotiations are all but over.”

Dehner numbly rose from her seat.

“I have to go.” Dehner said flatly.

“I understand Doctor.” Padme replied as the Doctor vanished in a column of light. Padme looked out over the cityscape watching the lights dance around the glass and steel canyons. She could lose herself and escape her concerns if she stared a the lights long enough. Padme touched a communication panel on her table. Bail Organna’s face appeared in a holographic display.

“Padme? That was fast. Is everything alright?”

“No. I am all but certain that another fortunate disaster has befallen the Federation that all but assures they will be signing the treaty tomorrow.” Padme reported glumly.

“What makes you say that?”

“A feeling I have.” Padme answered sadly and watched the skyline.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2005-02-09 04:29pm
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Chapter 21: Tragedy of Consequences


“The worst is not so long as we can say “this is the worst.”
King Lear Act 4, scene i




The blasts tore through the monorail overhead finally wrenching the last metal pins holding the frame up on the ceiling. It began to collapse with an awful shriek of tearing metal drowning out the far more disturbing screams of people on board the speeding monorail.

Starfleet security personnel were scattered throughout the mall in a running firefight with several assailants. They were firing exotic weapons that tore gaping holes into the pristine marble floors and walls. Many times the near hits sent several security personnel tumbling to the ground as the shockwave passed over them.

“We need back up. Repeat backup!” Lieutenant Commander Dash Rand shouted into his helmet mike. A smoking ruin that was once a marble column was all that remained of his cover for the moment. Thankfully the attackers were more intent on running away than making a stand up fight.

“State the nature of your security emergency.” The calm female responded.

“Damnit we are under heavy attack and need reinforcements. Request a heavy weapons platoon immediately.”

“Scans indicate heavy damage to your sector. Rerouting security personnel to your position. Please be advised that all special weapons divisions are currently engaged in priority mission.”

“Priority mission?!” Dash spat and managed to snake his torso around the smoking column and fire a steady burst from his phaser up at the retreating intruders. They moved with precision and speed. These were not Maquis or Dominion sympathizers, These were obviously military personnel. Perhaps Jem’Hedar or Cardassian agents. The weapons were more troubling to him.

They were powerful and deadly. One third of his men were down or dead in five minutes of fighting and they had only been able to take one down of the attackers so far.

The worst part of this whole mess was that these bastards were cutting a bloody swath through civilians without any hesitation. They had popped in and started this massacre, destroying the tram line going through the mall at the height of rush hour and now engaging targets at will.

He had not seen anything like this in his life. The sheer destructiveness and cold blooded intent of the attacks was stunning. But it also inspired him to drive harder to stop them as soon as possible.

“Watch the left flank. Ramirez, take the right, secure that turbolift!”

“On it boss!”

“Say again control, say again.” Dash shouted into his mike. He knew he didn’t have to, the security line was able to discern combat noise from his speaking voice allowing it to come through crystal clear on the other side but in the heat of battle the niceties of their communications gear was quickly forgotten.

“There are assaults currently underway in nineteen facilities across the planet. Heavy weapons platoons have been dispatched to defend the presidential suites and Starfleet command.”

“My god.” He gasped.

“What’s going on?” Brenda McGee asked as she slid in beside him. Her crimson hair was matted down with sweat as she glanced over the smoldering marble and watched one of the assailants go to one knee and begin firing volley after devastating volley back down into the mall.

“This isn’t some isolated attack. The computer’s tracking nineteen other attacks across the planet including the president’s residence and Starfleet command.”

Brenda’s eyes narrowed and her jaw dropped.

“This is not good.” She gasped.

“You humans always have a gift for understatement.” Dash replied with a grin.

She was about to retort when her eyes widened and she grabbed Dash shoving him down to the floor. “Keep your antennae down blue boy we’ve got incoming!” Brenda exclaimed.

Blaster bolts exploded down on their position.

Dash and Brenda scrambled away from the attack, Dash pausing long enough to fire two quick bursts over his shoulder before they managed to scramble behind a fallen chunk of railing.

“What the hell is that?!” Brenda asked as the assailant got back up, slipped a small round metal disk from his belt and slid it along the floor towards the security detail.

“Bomb!” One of the security guards exclaimed.

“Warning incoming transport beam is being scrambled, initiating emergency recall.” The computer buzzed in Dash’s ear.

“That’s no bomb that’s a transport scrambler. Quick take it out!”

The small silver disk continued sliding along the marble floor, a steady beeping green light flashed in the center of the disk. Several of his men began firing on it as the disc slid by and he heard the humming of transport beams materializing behind them.

“Damn.” Dash hissed.

The transports beams suddenly warbled and distorted wildly. Dash desperately hoped that the beams would vanish, that the computer could complete the emergency recall before the damage was irrevocable.

The beams vanished in several seconds. He could see the afterimage of several figures writhing in pain and anguish still pulsing softly in the air after the beams disappeared.

“There’s no time to wonder boss. We’ve got to get them.” Brenda urged grabbing Dash by the shoulders.

Dash nodded after a moment of hesitation.

“Let’s go!”

The security squad surged forward in pursuit of their mysterious quarry. Terrified citizens had cleared out of the way in desperate flight.

“Computer I need tracking.” Dash huffed into his mike.

“Three threats are heading directly east south east. One threat has turned back 78 degrees and is assuming hostile position.”

“Roger that.” Dash stopped suddenly and held up a fist. “We’ve got a rearguard. Let’s flank him quickly and not let the rest of those bastards get away.” Dash shouted to the others. They grunted their acknowledgement. The lone figure remaining behind crouched down and began laying down a murderous fusillade of fire at the rapidly closing security team.

“Central, transport inhibitors are in place. Request immediate backup by airlift.” Dash requested as he ducked behind a statue and reached up on his body armor and pulled a small cylinder dangling from a clip.

He twisted the top of the cylinder and was rewarded by a sharply increasing whine.

“Air units are en route with an ETA of 3 minutes.”

“Acknowledged Central. Please advise on status of retreating hostiles.” Dash paused as he peeked out around the statue and caught sight of his target. He grunted with effort as he let the grenade fly.

It skittered to a halt by the attacker and the sharp whine suddenly exploded into a high pitched squeal. The attacker screamed and cupped his ears desperately trying to shield himself from the sonic attack.

The security team burst out from behind their cover and rushed the stricken attacker. Brenda stunned him with a precise burst from her phaser. Another security team member instantly knelt by the attacker and checked him. He looked up at the Dash and nodded.

“He’s human.” Brenda noted. The fallen foe had stern dark features and short hair in a military style cut.

“Would it make you feel better if he were Vulcan?” Horsk, a Tellarite, snorted grimly.

“It would be illogical for a Vulcan to engage in terrorist activities such as this.” S’ton replied stonily.

“We humans have the corner on illogic then?” Brenda snapped.

Dash held up a hand.

“We have one hostile down. Let’s cut off the retreat of the others.” He said sternly. He paused and his antennae curled towards his helmet, the Andorian equivalent to placing a hand to his ear to listen better. “Central please seal all exit and entry points to this facility, security clearance Gemini Tau 3467.”

“Acknowledged. All entrances and exits sealed with security fields. Reinforcements arrival estimated in two minutes.”

“Alright, Jones you stay with our prisoner. Don’t hesitate to stun him again if he so much as twitches. Horsk, I want you up in the rafters, we’ll need some over watch support.”

The Tellarite nodded curtly and rushed up to one of the turbolifts.

“The rest of you follow me, loose two man formation and let’s finish this before anyone else gets hurt.”

“Yes sir.”

The security squad rushed forward to catch up with the rest of the attackers. Dash’s mind raced as he did so. Who were these terrorists and what did they have to gain here? The attacks going on across the planet was even more troubling. If this was indeed a coordinated assault how many more could they expect and to what purpose. If these were Klingons, Romulans, Jem’Hedar or even Breen he would have some idea as to the grievance or goal but now he was disturbed by the senseless violence being committed by humans against Earth.

“It’s crap you know. I wasn’t trying to imply—”

“Keep your mind on the job.” Dash snapped.

Brenda frowned.

“Yes sir.” She replied coolly as they approached a large open area that was wreathed un shadows from a massive hanging garden that was supported by a series of intricate fingerlike bars of metal interlacing a glass frame. The gardens were lush and green, large open palms and hanging thick emerald vines grew down the sides of the garden and the earthy scent of living plants permeated the air.

Dash, ignoring the green splendor that seemed to mesmerize the humans who were so delighted by such simple things as plant life and vegetation, knew a natural ambush site when he saw one.

“Slow down.” Dash ordered. Almost simultaneously bright red blaster bolts snapped around them, taking one of his men down hard.

Dash went down to one knee and unleashed a quick burst from his phaser.

“Give me some suppressing fire sir!” Brenda shouted over the din of battle.

“What are you doing?!”

“Just do it boss or you’ll be sending me home to my mom in a box.” Brenda shouted over her shoulder as she took her spare phaser from her shoulder holster, adjusted the power settings and launched herself forward into the center of the enemy fire.

“Krak!” Dash cursed and shouted “Suppressing fire!” And fired blindly into the mass of enemy fire with his phaser, the others following suit with their own wild volleys.

Brenda slid like a base runner along the smooth marble floor, rolled onto her back and ran her phaser beams along the support bars that ran perpendicular to the ceiling and gardens above.

She smiled wildly as the phaser blasts were quickly followed by a groan and a roar of falling wood and soil. The garden’s weight forced the delicate glass and wooden frame to give way and collapse right down on their attackers in a cloud of earth and foliage.

She rolled out of the brunt of it and Dash grabbed her, pulling her completely out of the crashing garden back up into his chest.

Brenda looked up at the Andorian and laughed.

“I’d like to do that again, boss.”

Dash smirked.

“I’m almost certain your psych evaluation must have caught that death wish of yours.” Dash replied as he helped her to her feet and nodded to his squad to begin the search for the attackers in the shifting piles of debris.

“Be careful.” He cautioned. He turned his attention to his fallen man who was being attended to by the squad medic. The medic looked concerned as he ran a medical tricorder over the fallen security guard.

“How is he doctor?” Dash asked.

“Not good sir. I don’t think he’s going to make it. Those weapons must have reduced a lot of his internal organs to mush through hydrostatic shock not to mention the massive burn trauma.”

“Fascinating. The weapons effects were devastating even with standard issue body armor.” S’ton noted with an arched eyebrow.

“This stuff is rated to turn even disruptor bolts.” Brenda protested rapping her closed fist against her chest plate.

“Sir! You need to take a look at this.”

Dash nodded to the Doctor.

“Do your best. Brenda call for immediate Medical Evac.”

“On it boss.”

Dash quickly walked over to where two of his men who were fishing a body out from under the rubble of dirt and debris.

“This is really weird sir.” One of his men pulled the body up into a seated position revealing his face. Dash stopped short. He looked exactly like the fallen enemy they left behind.

“What in the name of Histra is going on here?” Dash hissed.

“Twins maybe sir?”

Dash frowned, his antennae twitching in agitation. His briefings of late concerning the upcoming alliance had mentioned a fact that was now quickly becoming blindingly obvious.

“A clone.” He snapped.

“Clone!?”

“Unless you wanna bank on triplets I’d say the Commander’s right.” Brenda interjected and indicated another enemy pulled from the debris who looked exactly like the other two.

Dash’s jaw clenched in anger. This is what he had been afraid of.

“The war hasn’t even started and they drew first blood.”

“I don’t get what you mean sir.”

“You were going to be told in a briefing in a few days but there is a Galactic power out there known as the Galactic Republic and they use clones as their shock troops much like the Dominion uses Jem’Hedar.”

“I’ve been hearing rumors for months now.”

Dash sighed heavily.

“I never thought it would come to this, running battles on Earth.”

Shadows passed over them and Dash could see the vague shapes of shuttles passing overhead through the frosted glass ceiling and moving towards the landing zone ahead of them.

“The cavalry has arrived.” Brenda commented dryly.

Dash shook his head slowly. For the first time he could hear the groans of the wounded and dying civilians. Things were never going to be the same.




The burning furniture gave off a foul odor as the chemical treatments that gave the wood their ageless quality burned away into a pungent cloud. He could feel the heat on his face but he was intent on his fallen friend.

The president grunted with effort as he lifted the chunk of fallen masonry off the human sprawled beneath it. The masonry rolled off and landed on the carpeted floor with a soft thud.

“Avery?” The president asked but his voice was choked with smoke and pain. He was certain his left leg was shattered in several places but he could not think of the pain right now. There was only the Terran ambassador who had bravely leapt in front of the initial fusillade from his would be assassins and had taken the brunt of the damage from the falling ceiling.

The human was too still.

“Avery, in the same of Histra please.” The president pleaded gently shaking the human’s shoulders.

“Mr. President, we need to leave this facility immediately.” The Vulcan representative, T’Jas urged gripping his shoulder.

“What about the others?” he asked numbly watching the human’s face for any sign of life. T’Jas glanced around. The Tellarite was toppled over in his chair, a smoking hole in his chest and stomach. The others were either rushing out of the room or groaning in pain. The Betazed representative had vanished under a beam of wood, a single bloody arm lay splayed out on the burning table.

“I’m afraid Lomak is dead and the Betazoid Jamilla is also dead.”

The president shook his head.

The unspoken words were on his lips. Standing several meters away near the entrance were three shapes. One was a pair of metallic legs, smoke and fire emanating from a ruined torso of twisted metal. The other was a torso imbedded in the far wall, three large smoking holes burned into its chest from a near point blank phaser blast. The legs of the combat droid were lost in the debris. The third figure was a complete battle droid slumped over in a standing position save that its head was completely missing.

Separatists battle droids.

The doors to the conference room were flung open and Grand Admiral Turner rushed in holding his personal phaser leading a small squad of security personnel. The president heard the distinctive sound of blaster fire somewhere below them.

“The entire residence has been thoroughly infiltrated Mr. President. This place is crawling with battledroids.”

“Your suggestion?” He asked in his Andorian whisper as he touched Avery’s forehead.

“We need to leave immediately. I can’t guarantee that our security will hold them off.” Turner replied grimly.

“Why don’t we simply beam out.”

“We can’t do that.” Grand Admiral Turner shook his head. “They may have transport scramblers in place. They certainly beamed in and if I were them I would be scrambling any and all signals coming out of here.”

“Frankly sir, we’re lucky they didn’t get us all in that initial beam in. They obviously didn’t know where we were in this facility or they would have beamed the whole squad into the conference room.” An explosion shook the very foundations of the building. The president randomly remembered that the building predated the Third World War of Earth.

“Our boys are holding them for now but they have superior weapons and surprise on their side. Our combat scanners were knocked out in the first strike so we’re blind in here.”

“How do we leave?” T’Jas pressed.

“Form up on me, Mr. President. I have a squad waiting outside and we’ll fight our way out.”

“You cannot be serious!” one of the other representatives exclaimed.

“It’s either fight our way out or make stand in this enclosed space.” Turner snapped.

“These are the decisions that will be facing us all, I’m afraid very shortly.” The President replied.

“Very good sir. Now stick close to me and we’ll get you and the council out of this mess shortly. We have to get out of here and to the shuttles outside.” Turner explained.

The president started to lift Avery over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

“What are you doing, Mr. president?”

He grunted as he finished hefting Avery up to his shoulders.

“I’m not leaving him behind. Now lead the way Grand Admiral.”

“Yes sir. Alright, let’s go!” Turner swept his arm forward and led the council out of the room. A squad of nervous looking security guards waited for them in the hallway.

“Form a combat wedge, I want my heavy gunners at my flanks.” Turner explained.

The security squad immediately formed up and checked their weapons.

“Ironic isn’t it Admiral?” The president noted.

“What is sir?”

“That outside of this residence you command the entire might of Starfleet but here all you have are ten men.”

Turner frowned.

“I don’t see it that way sir. These ten men are my Starfleet and we are going to get out of here and then I will lead my fleet to payback this little incursion in spades.” Turner paused. “Sir.”

The president nodded sadly.

“That would be the logical conclusion to this scenario would it not?” the president replied neutrally. Turner glanced back at the president for a moment before ordering his men forward.

The squad quickly led the terrified council through a gauntlet of battledroids who harried the group with heavy and unrelenting blaster fire. Turner barked out commands as they navigated the stairs and hallways towards the rear entrance to the landing pads.

Battle droids seemed to be everywhere moving in their awkward gait as they chased down their quarry and silently sent location signals to other isolated squads throughout the sprawling residence.

“Kind of makes you wish you didn’t live so ostentatiously doesn’t it sir?” Turner asked with a grin as a blaster bolt tore off the corner of the wall a meter above the Admiral’s head.

Humans seemed to revel in combat. He had seen it too many times. As much as they liked to think they had grown beyond their bloody past combat brought it out in them in full force. It was times like these that the president was glad for this racial flaw.

“Suppress that enemy fire now! We are pinned down here and they will flank us if we stay here.” Turner shouted.

“Aye sir!”

“Where are my heavy weapons boys?”

“Here sir!”

Turner grimaced.

“Well what the hell good are you doing back there?! Unload on these ratcheted morons right now. Clear that hallway.”

The heavy weapons troopers nodded and quickly took up position and began firing their heavy phaser rifles in quick powerful sweeping bursts. The rate of blaster fire dropped dramatically.

“Let’s go people!” Turner urged.

The council members did not need to be urged on to move as they dashed forward under the watchful eye of the security squad. They entered the spacious pantry and the back door that led to the landing pad behind

As they exited the residence two men went down to precise blaster fire from a squad of battle droids crouched down in the walkway leading to the landing pad. Turner grabbed the president and hauled him back as another of his men and a councilmember went down to the fire.

“Damnit! Regroup in the doorway and suppress that fire.”

“We’ve got company in the rear.” One of his men warned as he began firing his own phaser at the approaching battledroids, their long shadows sweeping down the walls of the hallway into the pantry.

Turner adjusted his gold command shirt and turned to the president.

“Sir. We are about to be swarmed. Classic pincer maneuver and they’ve outflanked us. The only way out is to breakout to the landing pad below. If we stay here, we die, if we turn back we’re walking deeper into their hands and the rearguard they have out there will squeeze in on us here.”

The President nodded.

“I understand.” He turned to look at the others. “Admiral Turner is asking that we give him our full cooperation. We must run as quickly as we can to the landing bays, if any of you have military training please pickup the weapons from the fallen and help in the fight. I promise you we will survive this.”

“Perhaps it is best that I carry Mr. Duncan.” T’Jas quietly suggested as she noted the strain on the Andorian’s face. Andorians were not much stronger than humans and definitely more fragile.

“No.” He replied. “I owe him this much at least.” She nodded but did not understand the logic. Her experience taught her it was best to simply accept the irrational actions of her fellow Federation council members than try and analyze it.

“Alright. On my mark.” Turner waited for a moment, watching the councilmember’s’ faces intently, some were on the verge of panic but many were as resolved as the president to get through this. One human managed to fish a phaser from one of his fallen men and nodded to Turner.

“Go!! Go!! Go!!”

The security team stormed out and the heavy weapons fired long sweeping bursts, using the intense crimson phaser bolts like scythes to cut through the assembled battledroids as the president huffed through the thick of the crowd carrying his fallen friend. The landing pad was tantalizingly close.

As the team fought their way to the pad, another security officer screamed and fell to the blaster bolts, a Tellarite scrambled for his weapon and was cut down in short order. Battle droids were assembled on the landing pad in neat skirmish lines of 20.

Turner stopped short and cursed.

“I’m sorry my friend.” The President whispered to the unconscious human on his shoulder.

Bright phaser blasts lanced down from the sky like divine lightning and swept through the battle droid ranks sending errant limbs and heads tumbling through the air. Turner looked up sharply and a pair of shuttles rapidly descended out of the clouds while the phasers continued cutting a flaming swath through the battle droid ranks.

“Mr. President!” Turner motioned for him as one of the shuttles landed with an audible thud into the landing pad denting it. The pilot was obviously in a hurry. The side panel to the shuttle snapped open and a team jumped out carrying heavy phaser rifles and armor.

“Get the President to Starfleet headquarters.”

“That’s a negative grand Admiral. Starfleet headquarters is not secure.”

“What the hell do you mean not secure?!”

“We have over 22 attacks across the planet right now. The largest group tried to storm the headquarters and after we drove them back they attempted to detonate an antimatter device. We stopped them sir but the facility is not secure.”

“Next best facility?”

“None on world sir. We’re taking the president up to the Saratoga. She’s in orbit providing fire support for operations here in Europe. The Normandy is providing fire support in the North American sector. We’re coordinating with any other starships to provide fire support in Asia and Australia.”

The president noticed that the shuttle had the Normandy’s registry number emblazoned on the side. That it would have to come to this, fleeing Earth itself to hide on a starship for safety angered him.

The next shuttle landed hard as well and opened its hatches to admit the rest of the council. The phaser strikes from the Saratoga now walked down to the far end of the landing pad incinerating any and all battle droids that escaped the initial volley.

“Take the president up and I’ll help your men secure this facility.”

The president shook his head.

“You are coming with us, Grand Admiral.”

“With all due respect sir, I’ve got more than 20 of my men on the deck. I’m not leaving here without taking this back.”

“No. Think clearly. You are the Grand Admiral of the Starfleet. You are needed now more than ever. Leave this place to the droids for now. I never had much use for it, but you, you are invaluable to me now more than ever.”

The president placed a hand on turner’s shoulder.

“Please.”

Turner shook his head as he looked back at the estate, flames beginning to rise up out of the upper floors, the sound of blaster fire growing more distant as more shuttles began landing on the front lawn.

“You’re right of course, Mr. President.” Turner conceded and joined him on the shuttle. Turner paused and stuck his head out again. “You keep me informed on how this battle is going. And try to keep a few of them in one piece. I want to know what the hell is going on here.”

“Aye sir!”

The hatches sealed shut and the shuttle soared away from the estate, the pilot jinking the shuttle in a series of hard dives and rolls.

“Is that really necessary?” A councilmember complained.

“We lost six shuttles over Starfleet headquarters to anti-air fire. We’re not taking chances.” The pilot replied coolly.

The president breathed a sigh of relief as he eased the unconscious Terran onto the deck plates next to him.

“He’s probably dead sir.” Turner noted.

“Be that as it may, he was my friend.” The President replied.

“This is Saratoga to Pythagoras do you copy?”

“Roger Saratoga, go ahead.”

“Do you have President Dash Rand on board?”

“Acknowledged as well as Grand Admiral Turner.”

“Copy that. Be advised that we are receiving reports that Starfleet headquarters has recalled all Starships within a parsec of Earth for added security.”

“Acknowledge that and please tell Captain Young that I am transferring my flag to the Saratoga until the cessation of these hostilities.” Turner interjected.

The pilot nodded.

Turner slumped his head back against the bulkhead and closed his eyes for a moment.

“You realize I have no choice now.” President Rand whispered. Turner opened his eyes and regarded the Andorian with an even gaze.

“Sir, I realize now that even though we have no choice this is going to be a lot bloodier than our worst case projections.”

“In that case admiral we must prepare for disaster.” Rand stated.

“And hope for only a tragedy.” Turner replied darkly.





The throbbing of the warp drive made the deck plates rattle into a nice soothing hum. The merchant vessel The Whore of Babylon churned its way through Terran space as it was rerouted out to an orbit that would place the majority of civilian traffic out near Pluto. Whatever crisis was gripping the beautiful blue green orb was making the authorities nervous and they trusted no one.

The dark skinned human frowned as he checked off the last report on his datapad. Unlike the dingy grim surroundings of the ship that was ancient before he was even born he wore a brightly pressed command uniform.

“You know, standard protocol calls for civilian dress when posing as civies.” The Asian human noted with an arched eyebrow.

“And when we get boarded I’ll change until then I am a Starfleet officer and I’ll dress the part.”

“Technically that’s not quite true.” The Asian man interjected.

“Look, you boys in 31 may LIKE being separate from Starfleet but we in the Shadowfleet like to remember the good old days before you dragged us into the dark.”

“You miss it then? The cloying rules? The protocol?”

“At least we knew where we stood.”

The Asian man shrugged.

“Well, operations are winding down. The consignment of droids is just about used up—“ He looked up at the Asian man who started to speak “And YES we withheld a few for our own research purposes.” He added.

“Good. They may not be as good as our current android models but they could prove useful. Disposable troops with no connection to the Federation whatsoever would be a boon.”

“It didn’t bother you did it?”

The Asian man looked expectantly at the other.

“Tell me then, what was I supposed to be bothered with Commander Mandell?”

“You just planned an assault on the very people we were supposed to protect. A lot of brave men and women died down there today not to mention civilians.”

“The key is civilian casualties. Kill a few soldiers in uniform and the public makes big displays of affection. But kill a family of four and you have yourself a call for crusade against those responsible.” The Asian man explained calmly.

Mandell shook his head.

“Commander, you have to ask yourself a question at times like these. Is it worth it? Do you cauterize the wound and saw off a diseased limb or do you let it fester and kill the whole? Remember 31 and the Shadowfleet is not about protecting individual Federation citizen lives but protecting the Federation as a whole. Citizens come and go, Starfleet officers are a credit a dozen but he Federation is going to last forever.”

“Those people were not diseased.”

“Ah, but their reticence to embrace the treaty would have led to the destruction of the Federation.”

“Really?” Mandell replied unconvinced.

“Yes really and you know perfectly well what I’m talking about.” The Asian man leaned forward angrily. “Our opposite numbers from the future are doing their damndest to make sure we’re swept aside so that they can help our future conquer our present. We’re behind the eight ball on this one, Commander. Normally we’re one step ahead of the game but they have history on their side. They know what we’ve done and what we can do, the location of our assets, the officers under our control, who on the council helps us, the appropriations we receive, the hulls we steal, damn well anything that we keep in our records. Right now we’re like nomads, scrambling to reposition everything. Well, we also need to be the gadfly that stirs our side up because in the end we’re going to win this war.”

“You sound confident of that?” Mandell pressed.

“Here.” He slid the datapad to Mandell. “Read it. This future Federation is in no condition to fight a bloody war. They’ve embraced pacifistic ideals and their ratio of combat experienced officers to ours is laughable. We’re going to win because we’re still killers. They view us with a mix of horror and reverence. Well, when this war starts I have a feeling that will all change to shock and awe.”

The Whore of Babylon flew right by an incoming starship completely unaware of her crew and cargo as they escaped all notice and attention.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2005-03-02 05:10pm
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Chapter 22: Fading Trumpets

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”
Hamlet Act 2 Scene ii




“Captain Jean Luc Picard, as the duly appointed representative of the United Federation of Planets you are aware of the charges the Separatists Union has brought in regards to hostile actions taken by Federation vessels from your past against our troops and fleet assets, leading to the death of thousands of Separatist troops. We want to know now where does the Federation stand?” Dooku asked coldly as he stood at the head of the enormous conference room table in the Union Headquarters.

Picard rose from his seat without hesitation, casually noting the assembled members who sat at every available seat at the table around him. Before it was just his people and Dooku’s select close advisors. Now he stood before the entire assembly of the Separatist Union. Hundreds of aliens of all manner and shape watched him intently. The most curious of the attendees was a simple olive green protocol droid that stood in the place of the Mandalorians. So few in numbers and intent on revenge against the Jedi, the Mandalorians no longer bothered attending these meetings. Instead they sent a protocol droid to observe and recall everything. Some suspected the droid maintained an active hyperlink with the Mandalorian high command so that they were able to watch these meetings in real time as they prepared for their next battle.

Picard could see the anger and distrust in many of the representatives’ faces. He knew that the concept of time travel was difficult for many here to accept. They were having trouble distinguishing the fact that Kirk’s Enterprise was different from Picard’s. Frankly so was he.

The Neimoidians were particularly angry as their representatives openly glared at Picard. They suffered the brunt of the casualties in Kirk’s attack on their battleships. It was so disconcerting for Picard to even consider that one of his childhood heroes could be involved with a group like the Galactic Republic.

As he watched the assembly for a moment before speaking he remembered the conclusion that he and Riker had come to in regard to their tactical position. Should the Separatists decide to turn on them the Enterprise had no chance of escape from this world’s orbit. They were completely at their mercy and it was an added stark reminder of just how powerful their potential allies were.

He recalled the grim expression on Riker’s face as he pointed to several clusters of Separatist vessels operating freely in the Alpha Quadrant.

“They have over three wings of battleships and support craft operating in the quadrant. If they decided to suddenly leave Dominion space and go on a romp through the Federation we would be in a very precarious position with the bulk of the fleet assembling at the wormhole.” He sighed.

“A sword of Damocles if I ever saw one Number One.” Picard replied softly as he fingered the data pad.

Now he was facing them well aware that his next words could spell certain doom for his ship and crew or bloody war in the Alpha Quadrant. However events had unfolded back home that made these concerns moot. Picard didn’t know which bothered him more. That the events were rapidly spinning beyond their control or the direction in which the events were leading them.

“I must first pass on my condolences on behalf of the Federation for your troops lost in this regrettable incident. An incident that we must stress was beyond our control and had no way of knowing could happen.”

Dooku watched Picard intently. He remained standing, arms forward, hands resting open palmed on the table. Sev’Rance sat quietly by his side. Her eyes were on Picard but he could not read her expression at all. Her blank red glowing eyes reflected nothing at the moment.

“I have also been ordered to share this holorecord time stamped no less than 12 hours ago from Earth.” Picard nodded to Data. The android adroitly activated the controls at his station and a hologram sprang to life over the center of the table.

The assembled representatives watched the flickering hologram with intense interest.

The President of the Federation was making a speech before the Federation council concerning the status of the talks with the Separatists. He stood behind a simple podium as he made his point concerning the new technology and the doors that it would open for the Federation and its citizens.

An explosion could be heard off screen.

“Did you hear that?”

“What’s happening?”

Panic began to ripple through the ranks of the assembled representatives. The president began to call for calm when a second explosion ripped through the chamber above him and debris scattered right through the holoimage as if the shrapnel were raining out from the hologram into the audience at the table watching the events unfold.

There was an unmistakable snap hiss and a bright emerald beam danced through the thick white haze from the explosive. The reaction from the Separatists representatives was explosive. Many rose to their feet exclaiming in horror and outrage. “Jedi!”

The green blade dipped hard as a shadowy figure tumbled through the air and landed on top of the podium, followed by several figures dressed in body armor who rappelled down the ruined ceiling into the Council chambers. They landed and fired from the hip, the unmistakable reports of blaster fire cut through the screams from the Federation council and their aides.

In the back of the conference hall sitting in the shadows Bane and Janus watched the hologram with a critical eye.

“He’s no Jedi.” Bane whispered shaking his head. His lone eye tracked the Jedi’s movements on the hologram as he whipped his lightsaber around into a downward stroke at the president.

“Damnit he sure as hell doesn’t move like a trained Jedi. Look at that sloppy footwork and the leap – did you see that leap? It was atrocious. I’m thinking at best he’s some half assed padawan who ran away a week into his training.” Janus added with a sour frown.

The emerald blade missed the president as he stumbled frantically backwards and the blade sliced neatly through the wooden podium.

Bane and Janus exchanged a knowing glance and nodded.

“He missed.” They said simultaneously and Janus started to chuckle.

“That’s the worst impression of a Jedi I have ever seen.” Bane snorted.

“Boy, Dooku must have scraped bottom of the barrel for this moron.”

“Whoa! That’s weird.” Bane suddenly shifted gears as he saw the Jedi recover his blade, turn suddenly at his waist and deflect three phaser blasts that lanced across the chambers towards him.

“There’s no chance a guy with no training like this clod is bouncing blaster bolts around like that.” Janus

“I doubt he has any precog at all.”

“Hell I doubt the Force flows through him.” Janus smirked.

“Still how the hell is he doing that?” Bane wondered aloud as the Jedi leapt forward off the table and deflected another volley of phaser fire as the armored troops that rappelled down into the chamber started laying down a murderous fusillade of fire that was cutting down the council members and stunned security officers.

He landed behind the president and wound up to swing again.

Several of the armored attackers were clearly visible as they clustered around the Jedi. Their faces were all the same.

“Clonetroopers.” Several of the representatives whispered to one another.

“Money says he doesn’t kill the president.” Janus whispered to Bane.

“Easy money my young padawan.” Bane replied and nodded accepting the bet. Janus smirked as he turned back to see the awkward stance of the would be Jedi assassin. He swung his lightsaber blade, the president stumbled backwards screaming in fear.

The doors to the chamber burst open as more Starfleet security personnel swarmed in. Clonetrooper blaster fire concentrated on the new incoming threat as the Jedi stalked after the scrambling president.

Dooku and Picard maintained a steady gaze on each other, their eyes not wandering from the other. Sev’Rance seemed to be watching the hologram but it was obvious that her full attention was on the reactions of the Federation team seated opposite to Dooku and her.

The Jedi was stalking the president when his lightsaber hand twisted hard to the right intercepting an errant phaser blast. The Jedi seemed annoyed by the sudden twist of his arm. He recovered the blade quickly.

“Did you see that? Horrible form.” Janus sighed shaking his head in disgust.

Bane’s lone eye narrowed on the image.

“Not just bad form, down right awkward, like he didn’t know or want to move his arm.”

“Well then how did he move it then?” Janus challenged. Bane’s eye remained fixed on the lightsaber hilt.

“Now that’s damned clever.” Bane chuckled.

“What?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

Janus frowned and crossed his arms.

The Jedi finally caught up with the president and swung his blade up over his head and drove it down into the president’s midsection. The president screamed and thrashed about for a moment and the Jedi watched him intently as he finally lay still.

Dooku noted the discomfort on the faces of Picard’s crew at the sight of their president’s death. Murmurs of outrage rippled along the length of the table. Picard remained stoic throughout the display.

The Jedi turned suddenly lifting his blade up high as a torrent of phaser fire slashed through him at various points, one blast severing his arm from his body and another lifting him off his feet and sent him tumbling like a rag doll against the far wall of the chamber, crashing into the Federation seal proudly hanging before the council.

The clonetroopers immediately switched into defensive square formations and their fire became more rapid and sweeping as they attempted to break through the cordon of Starfleet security officers. The shrapnel from the explosions of the blaster bolts tearing through masonry and wood downed many security troops as they went down screaming.

A grenade sailed out from the center of the clone trooper formation as they began to slowly move out of the cramped quarters of the chamber and the explosion flashed on the holoimage replacing it with a cascade of static snow.

The hologram dimmed and vanished.

Picard waited patiently for the murmurs and exclamations to subside to a manageable whisper before clearing his throat.

“This attack and many like it took place on Earth not less than 12 hours ago. As you can clearly see from the images our president was killed. Emergency powers have been granted to Starfleet for the duration of this crisis to secure the planet and the Federation in general until emergency elections can take place for a new president.”

Bane smirked. Janus turned back to his comrade in arms.

“Just how did you know that fraud was going to kill the president. He had all the Jedi skill of a gundark.”

Bane shook his head sadly as he regarded his young friend.

“You still got a lot to learn my young apprentice.” Janus opened his mouth to protest. “When you go to kill a king, its best you don’t miss and besides.” Bane looked back up at the assembly. Many of the Separatist representatives no longer looked angry at Picard, many in fact looked sympathetic or nodded in agreement with Picard’s words. “You can’t turn public opinion where you want it without a martyr on the deck. I suspect that we’ll find this president’s name and picture on every damned starship between here and Earth in a matter of days. Humans fight for symbols and causes. Whoever orchestrated this knows damn well that to be the case.”

Janus stared at his one eyed friend for a moment, the black iron eye patch glinted dully in the low over head lights.

“What?” Bane snapped good-naturedly.

“Sometimes I wonder about you Bane. You’re starting to think like those Jedi. Always manipulating and looking for the best way to leverage something out of a situation.”

Bane snorted in disgust.

“What are you snorting at?” Janus pressed.

Bane slapped his friend on the shoulder as he got up to leave.

“You still think the Jedi are the worst thing we have to worry about.” Bane swept out of the aisle and quietly exited the room. Janus watched after him for a long moment.

“Well aren’t they?” he whispered softly in confusion.

Picard looked down the line of the table, to each representative’s face before speaking again. He placed his hands on the table and leaned forward as he spoke.

“Starfleet command has granted me authority to say that we are now united in your cause and we will not rest until the Republic pays for this unwarranted and despicable attack on our people and its leadership. As of this moment I am assuming command of the First Extragalactic Fleet as it assembles at Deep Space Nine.”

Dooku said nothing but pursed his lips.

“I think Captain Picard that I speak for everyone at this table when I say the United Federation of Planets is most welcome among the freedom loving peoples of the Separatist Union. My only regret is that you had to suffer so great a loss so early in this conflict but I think actions speak much louder than any words I’ve had to say to you in our time together, Captain. The Republic has spoken quite loudly this day but I assure you we will be the last to be heard once this war is brought to a just end.”

Many at the table pounded the table top in enthusiastic agreement, some cheered, others clapped various appendages. Picard nodded.

“Thank you Count. I only hope that this conflict can be brought to a rapid end.”

Dooku nodded slowly.

“Indeed Captain. I will want to meet with you and your staff before you leave to take command of your fleet. There is much to discuss these dark days.”

“Agreed Count.”

Dooku looked out over his assembled allies.

“Is there any other business to be brought before us before we conclude this meeting?”

The assembled representatives exchanged glances.

“The android.” The Neimoidian representative spoke up.

“Ah yes, the android Data, Captain, Has your Starfleet decided to acquiesce to out special project?” Dooku asked pointedly.

Data did not look up at Picard. Instead he continued working on his station and staring intently at the status screens. Riker spared Data a glance but Troi watched him, sadness in her eyes.

“Starfleet command has decided that in order to make as great a contribution as possible to this alliance and help speed the end of the war that the Soong type androids should begin mass production as soon as possible, Mr. Data will make himself available to your droid smiths as soon as possible with the implicit understanding that nothing will happen to him and that he will be available to me before we enter combat.” Picard seemed to have trouble speaking the last parts and quickly took a glass of water and drank deeply. Troi could feel the emotions swelling in her Captain. He was not pleased at all with this part of the deal. She could not blame him at all. It seemed that the tone coming from Earth and Starfleet Command had changed almost overnight.

Dooku looked from Picard to the Neimoidian representative expectantly.

“Our manufacturing facilities are geared for full production. As to the integrity of the android we have been building and designing droids for a thousand generations it is foolish to think we would do anything to damage such a valuable commodity.”

“Mr. Data is not some commodity to be traded and exchanged. He is a sentient being and I –”

“I’m sure what the good Trade Federation representative meant is that they would never mean to harm or injure any part of Mr. Data. Their examinations will be quick and painless as they put together a working model for their droid factories. Didn’t you?” Dooku pressed with a stern gaze.

The Neimoidian frowned, hands twitching about in annoyance.

“Count Dooku is correct. Your Mr. Data will only need to be with us for a day or two at most, you are of course most welcome to assign a Federation officer to accompany Mr. Data during his examination. We will use state of the art scanners to break him down to his molecular structure and build him up again as a template for our droid foundries.”

“Very well.” Picard agreed most reluctantly. He felt like a flesh trader brokering a better deal at this point. His conscience would not let him sleep tonight.

“Excellent. We shall begin working on this project immediately. I want to see the first new set of battledroids ready for the offensive our new general is planning.”

“New General?” Picard asked curiously.

Dooku smiled grimly.

“Oh yes. The Jedi have made yet another enemy out on the Rim and he is most anxious to turn his talents against them. I will introduce you to General Grievous shortly but for now if there is no other business let us recess to celebrate the new Confederacy of Allied Powers that we have created. No longer are we simply a Union of Separatist Worlds, but truly a Confederacy of systems all working towards a common goal of freedom from the tyranny of the Republic, prosperity for our allied worlds and security in a most uncertain galaxy. Join me all of you please in my palace. Captain Picard you will be my guest of honor.”

“Thank you Count.” Picard replied with a weak smile.

The assembly rose as one and began to applaud and pound the table as Dooku bowed and swept his cape behind him as he regally exited the chamber. Many of the representatives were lining up at the Federation place at the table and congratulating Picard and the others. The Neimoidian eyed Data curiously and the android watched them uncomfortable by the sudden attention.

In the crowded din around them Picard felt a presence materializing beside him.

Sev’Rance had risen from her seat earlier and suddenly appeared by Picard’s side, placing a calming hand on his shoulder. The cacophony of sound and speech seemed to fade away and it was as if Picard and she were alone in the massive conference hall.

“It is most unbecoming of me to say this Captain but I find myself without escort for this gala event and would not want to impose on you however….it would be most pleasant to be by your side at this event.”

Picard paused and smiled uncertainly.

“I’m not sure how to take that.”

“Take it in the spirit in which it was given, a sign of respect and admiration. My people can be most difficult in making their meaning clear.” She replied coolly.

He looked into her glowing red eyes and noticed the supple rounding of her hip as she seemed to unconsciously lean into him.

“I believe in this instance your meaning is quite clear, Sev’Rance.” Picard replied warmly and then nodded. “Of course, I would consider it my honor to have you as an escort for this event. You might be able to guide me through some of the more prickly diplomatic issues in this celebration.”

“The honor is mine, Captain. I shall meet you in your ready room in an hour.” She paused. “Is that sufficient time?”

“Oh yes.” He replied.

She smiled and seemed to hesitate as if she wanted to say more and stepped away, melting through the crowd and vanishing before his very eyes.

Troi cleared her throat.

“Counselor, I did not need to be an empath to surmise your observations.” Picard interjected before she could speak. More minutes of glad handing and congratulations passed before the final representatives quickly departed and filed out as they hurried to wear their best at this event. Dooku was renown for the elegance and opulence of his festivals and none wanted to disappoint.

Picard sat back down at the table and took a long drink of water. Riker watched his Captain for a moment, an expression of mild bemusement lit his eyes.

“What is it, Will?”

Riker sighed softly.

“You seem to be more thirsty than usual sir.”

“It’s the taste Will. It’s hard to get out of my mouth.” Picard replied grimly as he watched Data gathering the pads and disks while speaking to Troi.

“What taste would that be sir?” Riker asked curiously.

“Ashes, will.” Picard replied as he took another long drink. “It tastes as if we’ve been dining on ashes today.”





The sounds of moans of pain in the relative quiet of the starship’s sickbay was disconcerting for some of the civilian members that found themselves in the over flowing medical facility of the starship Saratoga.

Grand Admiral Turner was in quiet consultation with the Captain of the Yorktown. President Dash Rand sat by the bed side of his old friend, the representative from Earth on the Federation council. He was lying on a medical bed, sweat glistening on his brow pale as a sheet under the lights of the sickbay.

The Andorian absently dabbed the sweat off his friend’s brow.

“Are you certain of this Doctor?”

“Indeed I am Mr. President. Avery Rivers is suffering from a wide array of traumatic injuries, the most grievous being the weapon blast he took in the upper chest as well as his crushed legs and massive internal hemorrhaging which I have finally managed to stop with micro sutures. However it is very clear to me that he will most likely not live out the rest of this day. Even if he were to be treated on a planet bound facility it is highly doubtful we could have saved him. Frankly it’s a miracle he’s still alive.”

“No miracle. This man has a will of iron. I’ve seen him out insult a Tellarite once. Quite a feat even for a human.” Dash noted sadly.

“Right now I’m trying to make him comfortable sir. But he’s still with us through sheer force of will.” The Doctor noted gravely.

“Doctor, I want to thank you on behalf of the Federation for your efforts.”

The human frowned.

“Sir, I’m merely doing my duty. No thanks are necessary at all. I wager you’re the one who has the weight of the world on his shoulders at the moment. There’s really no one else who’s going to have to make the decision of where we go from here. But if it helps any sir, we’re Starfleet officers and we took an oath to preserve and defend the Federation from all enemies foreign and domestic. I don’t think there was a clause in there limiting us to enemies in just this galaxy. We stand with you through whatever bloody business needs to be done.”

The Andorian’s ear stalks twitched slightly.

“Odd. Your sentiments coming from a Doctor.”

The Doctor smiled sadly.

“I’m what you call a realist sir. I know an enemy willing to do this unprovoked will do far worse if we don’t respond. I’d rather be sewing together soldiers fighting out there taking the fight to them than orbiting my homeworld sewing up civilians and my duly elected officials. We’re a fleet, let us do our job.”

Dash nodded slowly.

“I’ll keep your words in mind Doctor.”

“If you’ll excuse me sir.”

“Of course.” Dash replied.

“Sir. He’ll be in no pain.” The doctor added and quickly walked into a gaggle of nurses handing him results and charts.

Rand watched his friend mutter something under his breath,

“What would you say now, old friend? What road will we walk now?” Rand asked softly.

Suddenly Avery’s hand closed around Rand’s. His eyes opened slowly as he gripped the Andorian fiercely.

“They want a war, Rand.”

“Yes they certainly seem to.”

Avery shook his head slowly and coughed.

“No one in their right mind WANTS a war, Rand. We were bushwhacked and they knew that we now have only one choice….” Avery coughed again. Rand leaned in closer, placing a comforting hand on his friend’s chest. “If you don’t go to war Starfleet will eat you alive. The people will call for your feathered head and we’ll go down a very dark road.”

“And if I do call for war.”

“We’ll suffer horrific casualties until we can get up to speed on this technology.”

“Blood on either path I take.”

Avery struggled to raise his head but Rand leaned in closer and placed a supporting hand behind the human’s head.

“The only way to get out of a trap is to know that its there in the first place.”

“Trap? Avery what do you mean trap?”

“No one wants a war yet they came begging for one, just when it looked like we were going to pull out. Smells…Rand. Smells and looks like a trap. Keep your eyes open and trust in Starfleet. They’ll pull us through this. They’ll fight like champions. But watch out for the future…they know what we are, who we are, what we can do.” Avery’s voice weakened.

“Please, hold on.”

Avery looked into his old friend’s eyes as the world began to dim.

“I just wish…I could have…been there for you…to walk that path…with you.”

“Hold on please.” Dash pleaded, tears welling in his eyes.

“War ain’t easy partner. But war seems to be the only choice we have.” Avery gripped Rand’s hands with both of his. His voice rose. “Cowboy up Mr. President. Now’s the time.” He said loud and clear, then his eyes misted over and Avery slumped back into the bed. The diagnostics over the bed rest suddenly all dimmed and an alarm sounded.

Nurses rushed over to the bed but Dash knew precisely when his friend’s essence fled his fleshy prison. He also knew that he was bound to the path set before him.

“Grand Admiral Turner.” He called softly.

The Grand Admiral adjusted his gold command shirt and nodded to the Captain of the Yorktown as he quickly walked over to the president’s side.

“Mr. president?”

“I want you to draft orders of battle, recall every ship you need from all five year missions, reinstate the planetary draft for ground troops and drag every vessel we have out of mothballs and crack the whip on every contractor finishing construction on so much as a shuttle.” The president ordered quietly. He looked into the Grand Admiral’s eyes.

“Get me James Kirk and Doctor Dehner on the line. The Grand Alliance will be signed and by this time tomorrow I consider us at war with the Separatist Union.”

Turner said nothing for a long moment and then nodded.

“Your will be done sir.”





The doctor flipped over his notes and checked a previous entry. He watched him quietly from his seat in restraints. The circulation to his hands and feet was restricted so that they were numb and heavy but not quite uncomfortable.

“You mentioned your crew the last time we spoke of loyalty and trust.”

“Yes Indeed I did.” He replied curtly. He barely hid his contempt for the man.

“You realize that they were being loyal to the Federation when they arrested you.”

“They were betraying their loyalty to me. The Federation is a high ideal and concept Doctor. A starship Captain is a much more concrete concept to feel loyalty to. I am there after all. Sitting in the center seat watching over my crew, telling them when to eat, when to sleep, how to do their jobs. They have moral clarity because I provide it for them. Feel bad about those tentacled aliens we vaporized? The Captain told me to. What’s that? A pang of guilt you feel about failing to get to those colonists on time? Why, it was the Captain’s mission, he’s ultimately responsible. Starfleet really has no clue what kind of stress they put on a starship captain.” He mused.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because if they had even an inkling as to how much stress they place on these fallible men they would think twice about letting them out of Federation space for five years with enough fire power to blast one of these new civilizations they’re so keen on finding into the stone age.” He replied with a bitter laugh.

The doctor nodded, tapping his pen against his pursed lips in contemplation. How he despised this man and his atrocious personal habits. He was practically broadcasting his thought processes for all to see.

If you had been at the peace talks with the Klingons they would have discerned all our state secrets from just watching you imbecilic clod.

“I can understand how that kind of stress and responsibility might lead one to develop a sort of feeling of superiority, perhaps even feelings as if you’re above men in general.”

“You mean like a God?” he offered.

“Yes.” The doctor’s eyes narrowed on him. “Just like that.”

He threw back his head and roared with laughter.

The doctor looked confused.

“What are you laughing at?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” he gasped through his tears of laughter. “You’re an idiot.”

The doctor frowned sourly.

“You try to diagnose me with some pathetically simple disorder like a God Complex? Let me guess…you most assuredly did not graduate at the top of your class.” He asked shaking his head.

“I don’t see what that has to ---”

“Top third even?”

“It is inappropriate for you to be asking me---”

“That settles it then. Bottom third.” He replied calmly while smiling wolfishly at the good doctor.

“What makes you say that?!”

“You didn’t have to say anything Doctor. That’s what I like about you. You’re an open book.”

“So now you’re the psychiatrist is that it?”

“Our careers share a very common thread, Doctor. A starship captain has to know how people work before they can lead them. For instance humans have a strange fascination with symbols and heroes.”

“You say human with such disdain yet you are human.”

He stiffened and his face darkened.

“What did you say?” he asked in a dangerous whisper.

The doctor frowned.

“I don’t understand this almost pathological need to distinguish yourself from---”

“I am a son of Izar! We may look like you, we may sound like you but we are most definitely NOT like you!”

“Humans and Izarians share 99.7% genetic material. All organs are the same, identical down to the cellular level, how can you say with such emphasis that –”

“Chimpanzees and humans share 99% of their genetic makeup and yet it is that 1% difference that you humans cling to in order to not be what you most certainly are – glorified apes. So you’ll excuse me if I’ll kindly remember that I was born and raised on Izar under a crimson sun. You humans infest the Federation now with a sickening fundamentalist zeal of manifest destiny in your heads. We were brought into the Federation at your entreaties, begging us to join you.”

“That’s a rather one sided view of the---”

“And when the Klingons came for our worlds was it an Earther that saved the Federation, hmmm? April was an aging relic who thought we should all be Scientists before we were soldiers.” He spat in derision. “It was me, a son of Izar that defeated the Klingons at Ragresh III, it was I who sundered their impenetrable Kahless Line at Sigma Draconis and routed them back into their space. It was I that brought them to the peace table and forged the peace in which you prosper under so well now. I brought you this. It was not a human that made the Klingons fear us, it was not a human whose exploits are required reading for all Starfleet cadets, it was not a human that rewrote the tactical and strategic school’s curriculum.”

He leaned in hard against the restraints, veins in his neck throbbing as he spoke. “The Klingons feared my name, it was my name that forged a new Federation and saved it from those conniving barbarians. It was my name that drove the Kzinnti into a blood lust that burned through twelve star systems before I brought them to heel. Me. Garth of Izar. That is the name they remember to this day.”

The silence was deafening. Only Garth’s rapid breathing broke it as he slowly sat back against the restraints.

“Robert April was your friend. Can’t you remember that?”

“All I recall is a tired old man who condemned me to this place.”

“He along with four other admirals.”

“His is the only face I care to remember. One legend turning on another. Great epics are written of such things. You. You’re an ant in the afterbirth. Your name will not be remembered while mine burns brightly as long as there is a Federation.”

“I think we’ve had enough for today Garth. Perhaps at dinner we can discuss your feelings about your crew.”

“They betrayed me. That’s all you need to know about my feelings. Mutineers are spaced. They were given commendations.”

“You killed millions.”

“Did I doctor? And how many did I save? How many of you draw breath under a Federation banner because of me?”

“Ends do not justify the means, Garth.”

Garth chuckled darkly.

“Bottom third indeed. I commanded entire star fleets, Doctor. Note that is not the singular usage. I saved them and their pitiful worlds, giving my blood and men and what do they send me? You.”

The Doctor nodded to two burly guards who promptly began to wheel Garth away from the meeting room. The doctor watched him leave in stony silence. Garth no longer deigned to acknowledge him as he exited.

A young female intern stepped out from behind a privacy screen.

“That was intense.” She noted.

“That is the best summation of that man I have heard in a long time.”

“Do you think we can help him? He seems rather…unwilling to be treated.”

“What else can we do? The man is clearly unbalanced ever since his accident. He killed millions of innocents in an orbital bombardment. But he has given us so much we need to make this man whole again. He is a living legend after all.”

“His racism is so unnerving. I thought we were past that.”

The doctor sighed softly as he closed his notepad.

“That man saved the Federation. Twice. The least we can do is save his mind.” He vowed.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2005-04-08 12:59pm
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Chapter 23: Twilight Truce

“A plague on both your houses!”
Romeo and Juliet Act 1 scene iii




The ceremonial trumpets blared loudly and the roar of the multitude easily overwhelmed the instruments. James Kirk walked stiffly alongside Elizabeth Dehner as they approached the Senate building. Clone troopers lined up perfectly along the route rifles at their chests completely unmoving. Each stood shoulder to shoulder forming a makeshift barrier between the people and the pair.

Above them droning in endless circles were Republic LAATs fully crewed and armed. Two LAATs flew very close above them ready to pounce down and form a perimeter around Kirk and Dehner at a moment’s notice.

Kirk knew that far above them in low orbit smaller Republic vessels were stacked one on top of the other, gun emplacements tracking any ship within two planetary diameters from Coruscant. Clouds of Clone fighters, the new Y Wings and Z-95 headhunters and sundry fighters from a thousand worlds formed flying wedges that extended over the entire continent.

“The Supreme Chancellor isn’t taking nay chances.” He muttered to Dehner out of the corner of his mouth.

“Indeed. After the fiascos on Earth and here he can’t afford to look weak again, especially if he loses the only ones in this galaxy with authority to sign the Articles of Alliance.” Dehner replied through a frozen smile as she waved to the crowd.

“Which makes me wonder why all the pomp and ceremony?” Kirk asked smiling and nodding suddenly at a congregation of Wookiees who were howling their support as he passed.

“Because we insisted.” Meerlinda replied calmly as she fell into step behind Kirk.

“The people have a right to see their government in action.” Obi Wan added stepping in behind Dehner.

“Besides.” Mace Windu stated coolly as he stepped in front of everyone to lead the way. “The people need something to cheer them up. It’s been a bad year for everyone.”

Kirk eyed the trio quickly and exchanged a troubled glance with Dehner. Three Jedi to protect the two of them on top of everything else? One a leading member of the Jedi council. They might be expecting something.

They approached the guilded steps that led up to the massive Galactic Senate. Kirk was always impressed by this building, larger than any governmental structure in the Federation it stood proudly gleaming in the sunlight shimmering down on them. There wasn’t a cloud in the deep magenta sky.

“Even the weather cooperated with the Supreme Chancellor’s signing ceremony I see.” Kirk noted.

“Uh, well Coruscant weather control made sure of that, James.” Meerlinda pointed out.

“Oh, of course.” Kirk laughed it off and caught Dehner’s eyes. Weather control. The Federation was only just starting to experiment with similar systems on Earth and on the colony of Riza.

At the top of the long flight of steps stood the Supreme Chancellor flanked by his aides and young Anakin Skywalker stood to his right. The young Jedi knight seemed a permanent fixture around the Supreme Chancellor of late. Palpatine opened his arms wide and smiled warmly.

“Welcome my friends. On behalf of all of the Galactic Republic and worlds under Secessionist occupation allow me to welcome you to the community of stars between our two peoples.”

“We thank you, Supreme Chancellor for this great honor and amazing sign of support from the people of Coruscant.” Kirk faltered for a brief moment when a small unobtrusive silver orb dropped down close to his mouth and his voice suddenly boomed across the massive square that stretched on for miles around the Senate.

The masses responded and applauded and shouted even louder. It sounded like thunder breaking over a rolling Iowa landscape. Kirk suddenly missed home and had no idea why. He spent most of his adult life in space and never felt these pangs before.

But that did not stop him from speaking.

“I think I speak for all citizens of the Federation when I state that out interests are united in a common cause, our love of freedom, or democracy, of justice brings us together to end this destructive conflict once and for all.”

The masses roared their approval.

Palpatine clapped politely. Anakin frowned.

“He’s quite the popular one isn’t he?” He noted.

Palpatine shook his head.

“Anakin, my boy, you must allow the Captain his moment to shine. We are all on the same team.”

“I remember some of the Jedi Masters telling me that Dooku was on our team before Geonosis.”

Palpatine nodded politely towards the Captain and Doctor Dehner but replied softly.

“Being a Jedi Master does not automatically grant you wisdom Anakin, that has always been my experience with the order.”

Anakin said nothing as the roar of the crowd thundered through the flat square. The people were hungry for victory, aching for any news that could hint at an end to the struggle that had burned through this galaxy. He could feel it emanating from them in waves. The emptiness and hunger for more.

Kirk was currently providing it for them.

“And in this Grand Alliance we stand hopeful that together we can achieve what neither alone could achieve, that in this coming struggle there can come something positive and clean from the grit and evil of this war. Let us reach for victory and in doing so open the path for a brighter future where all of us, Republic, Federation and Separatists can walk that new path in peace and solidarity for a tomorrow none of us could ever have imagined alone.”

The crowd exploded in jubilation and excitement at the man’s words. All manner of noises emanated from the decidedly mixed crowd but all of it sounded festive and joyous. Kirk smiled to the people and waved. Dehner joined him.

“You’re quite the public speaker.”

“I never knew I had it in me. Just voicing what we all hope, things are so dark now at home that I want there to be some hope for peace in the future.” He replied softly, she could barely hear it over the chants.

“What are they saying?” Dehner asked curiously.

“I think they’re saying…Kirk.” Obi Wan answered and smirked.

Kirk listened closely and quickly became obvious

“Captain Kirk, you have no idea how much it pleases me to see that our efforts have borne such sweet fruit.” Sly Moore said softly with a cool smile.

“I’m not sure I understand.” Kirk replied uneasily.

“I do. They’ve undertaken a rather broad public opinion campaign haven’t you?” Dehner replied as she instantly realized what they were referencing.

“Yes Captain. The Federation needs a public face to give the people someone to focus on, a symbol if you will.” Palpatine explained gently.

Kirk was distracted by the chants of his own name swirling and crashing around them like waves from the sea.

“Kirk! Kirk!”

“I don’t know how wise that was, Chancellor.” Kirk noted.

“Oh? Don’t you think you are the consummate Federation officer?” He said with a broad grin.

“Well, I would hope I was, sir. It’s just that I won’t be heading up the Federation effort here. I have my orders straight from command. Fleet Admiral Robert April will be arriving with the first task force of the Expeditionary fleet shortly and he will be bringing with him more brass than I can count sir. I will most likely be taking my place in that fleet and be one of many starship Captains in this effort. Admiral April should be the man you look to.”

“But we all look to you Captain Kirk. You’re daring and leadership in the defeat of the Separatist ambush at the wormhole not to mention slipping out of the Separatist’s Assassins’ trap and saving your delegation here on Coruscant. All actions that demand recognition Captain.” Moore replied softly sliding past Mace Windu and standing close beside Kirk.

Dehner cleared her throat.

“Nevertheless Captain Kirk is correct. We are the special envoys for the Federation in this negotiation. Once this mission is over when we sign the Terms of Alliance we will withdraw to our previous assignments. I will return to Earth and continue my practice and Captain Kirk will…fight in this war.” Dehner paused for a moment as the weight of her words suddenly crystallized for her. She glanced at Kirk sadly for a moment.

She would return home, write a series of articles on her experiences here in another galaxy and move on. James Kirk would return to his starship and fight in what would perhaps be the bloodiest war the Federation had ever seen.

Kirk smiled attempting to reassure her and discretely tapped the gold bars on his wrist. He was gently reminding her the responsibilities that went with his rank. It had become a constant theme of late between them.

Palpatine nodded.

“Indeed, Doctor. However you underestimate my powers of persuasion. Imagine how much weight a direct request from the Supreme Chancellor would have if I were to personally request you remain here on Coruscant as personal advisors.”

“That is most generous of you sir.”

“We will of course consult this matter with command.” Dehner added.

Palpatine smiled and nodded sagely.

“You do that Doctor. Now, judging from Master Windu’s rather dour demeanor I assume that all of us standing out here in the open in public is making him increasingly nervous so we will retire to the Senate itself. They have gathered to see this magnificent event and one that I have strived for since the day our peoples first became aware of each other.” Palpatine welcomed them into the senate building with a wave of his arm, his indigo cloak flapped in the light breeze as he swept his arm forward.

Kirk and Dehner exchanged a glance and both walked forward.

“Aren’t you going to say goodbye to your adoring public?” Anakin asked Kirk as he stepped past the brooding young man. Kirk eyed him for a moment, the tall young Jedi eyed him back with a bemused smirk.

Kirk smiled at him.

“As a matter of fact I think I will.” He winked and turned to wave to the crowd. The cheers went up again and started from the front and traveled their way backwards through the throng.

“That’s enough now, captain. Care to escort a lady in?” Dehner interjected taking a hold of his arm and gently pulling back away from the crowd.

“Of course Doctor.” Kirk replied and as he turned to follow he whispered quickly “Why do I have the distinct impression that this crowd is not the only ones being influenced?”

Dehner nodded slowly.

“I know precisely what you mean. Stay close.”

“That’s my line doctor.” Kirk said with a quiet laugh as they walked into the Senate building. Obi Wan and Meerlinda paused at the entrance to the Senate. Meerlinda watched the crowd for a moment as Obi Wan checked the perimeter.

“You know they’re starting not to trust us.” Meerlinda noted.

“The Federation?” Obi Wan asked curiously.

“No.” Meerlinda answered simply as she finished feeling the emotional pulse of the crowd. She looked at the young Jedi Master. “They are.” She pointed back to the horde pressing in on all sides. The sun shone through her long mane of green hair and it glowed brilliantly.

“They’re just weary of this war. Palpatine was too busy filling their heads with visions of glorious battles and thrilling victories and we walked right into a meat grinder.” Obi Wan noted as he walked wit the emerald haired Jedi Knight.

“You’re being hard on him again, Master Kenobi.” Anakin interjected.

“Oh, yes, I forgot he’s just a man trying to do a job.” Obi Wan sighed.

“He’s a good man given a thankless job of trying to win a war that is costing us more than we ever suspected.”

“Peace is still within our grasp if we strived as hard for that as we did bringing the federation into this war.” Meerlinda added sadly.

Anakin grimaced.

“You were always a peace maker, too much the diplomat and not enough the warrior. You weren’t there on Geonosis. You didn’t see what Obi Wan and I saw. I paid for my lack of vision.” Anakin absently closed the golden mechanical fist of his right arm. “I don’t intend to give Dooku and his lackeys the chance at striking at us again unprepared. The Separatists must be dealt with from a position of strength and that is precisely what the Chancellor is trying to do. The Council would be best served in helping him at this moment of crisis.”

‘The council will decide on its own what we need to be doing Anakin. Its always the young one full of fire and vinegar that drives these things.” Obi Wan smirked.

“You were there. You saw what they were planning to do. Do you honestly think things have changed since then?” Anakin pressed.

“You get to excited Anakin. It will be the death of you one day.” Obi Wan chided.

“People change Anakin.” Meerlinda replied firmly. “Time changes all things including motivations and desires. A year of bloody stalemate and lost profits must be taking their toll on these businessmen or have we forgotten that little aspect of our enemies.”

“I haven’t forgotten that they are out enemies.” Anakin replied with a bitter laugh.

“If you Jedi don’t mind….” Windu spoke from within the doorway.

“Right away Master.” Meerlinda replied quickly and followed Windu into the building. Anakin and Obi Wan paused and regarded each other for a moment in the sun.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve just stood in the sun and talked.” Obi Wan said softly, kicking a pebble off the steps.

“Yes it has master. Sometimes…I wish…” Anakin paused and shook his head. “Let’s go.”

Obi Wan followed his ex apprentice for a moment with his eyes and shook his head sadly. He was trying to grapple with feelings and emotions that were hard to deal with alone. Even the greatest Jedi Masters knew that the meditation and solitude only went so far when it came to handling your own tangled thoughts. That is why the Jedi order encouraged the relationship between master and padawan to continue despite the padawan’s ascension to knighthood. There was always someone wiser than yourself that could help guide you through these trying moments in a Jedi’s life.

And therein lay his ex padawan’s problem. He was so powerful that he never thought once to look to another for another answer. With Anakin lay only what he could do and not do. There was never room for anything else.

Obi Wan hoped that before this war was over Anakin would learn that he could turn to others for help and support. Sometimes answers weren’t found within no matter how hard you looked - Obi Wan glanced at the way Anakin strode through the assembled Jedi Knights, almost as if he were apart from them as they entered the Senate. - Or how powerful you were.

Obi Wan never imagined that the Chosen One would get very far not looking past himself. Still there was always time to learn and Qui Gon was certain he was the one. It never helped Obi Wan much during those dark twilight hours when he was alone with his doubts and fears. Could the Chosen One fail?




“He’s a regular ham our Captain isn’t he?” Gary chuckled as he watched Kirk walk into the Senate building on the main viewer.

“The Captain’s sudden upsurge in popularity is hardly his doing.” Spock commented.

“He’s no silver tongued orator is that what you’re saying?” Gary asked with a mischievous smile.

“The Captain has been at the center of a very dedicated and loud publicity campaign from the Government.” Uhura interjected. “You should see some of this stuff.” She rolled her eyes.

“You call it a publicity campaign I call it propaganda.” Number One sniffed.

“Oh do please put it on the main viewer.” Gary begged.

“The ceremony instituting the Grand Alliance between our people and the Galactic Republic and lead us into a war the likes of which we have never seen is about to unfold and you want to watch Republic propaganda?” Number One snorted.

Gary leaned back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head. He swung back and forth in his Navigator’s seat and smiled at the cold XO.

“You betcha! I want to see Jim in all his glory. Besides it’ll take them a few minutes to get set up. These Galactic Republic folks just LOVE their pomp and circumstance.”

“Try to keep your attention on the matter at hand.”

“Ok, let’s sit here and watch the screen showing the crowd chanting our Captain’s name until they get the ceremony underway. Yes, ma’am.” Gary saluted and turned round in his seat to face the screen and sat hands folded neatly at his station.

Number One glared down at Gary.

The bridge was silent as the crew obediently watched the screen. The image was of the massive crowd chanting the Captain’s name went on full a full minute with only the sound of the bridge systems audible. Number One glanced around slowly watching the stony faces of the crew.

“You are such a child.” She snapped and turned back to the Captain’s chair. She slid into it stiffly and nodded reluctantly to Uhura. “A little diversion might be what the crew needs.”

“Gary, this one goes out to you.” Uhura cooed.

“Thank you sweetie. I’ll give you my ration chits for lunch tomorrow.” Gary winked.

Uhura keyed several controls and the image on the view screen switched to the Republic Seal . A deep bass voice began to speak.

“Every war needs heroes and this war is not different.” Gary put his hand up to his mouth to hide the smile.

The image switched to the Enterprise as it soared among the stars. Several members of the bridge crew began applauding drawing the glare of the XO.

“Now we have heroes from a galaxy far away come to help us in our hour of greatest need. Heroes like Captain James Tiberius Kirk.” The image switched to Captain Kirk standing heroically in his gold command shirt, wind tussling his hair as he surveyed the area around him.

“Oh god where did they get that shot?” Gary muttered to Lee Kelso. The helmsman tried not to laugh.

“Captain Kirk is the first of many Starfleet officers ready and willing to join us in a Grand Alliance to defeat the Separatists foe and restore order to our galaxy.”

“My job is a simple one. To help you win this war and bring us closer together.” Kirk spoke to the screen, an obvious excerpt from an interview.

“My job is a simple one – try not to look like an ass.” Gary snorted into his shirt sleeve as his face began turning red. Number One rolled her eyes. She noted with some annoyance that many of the bridge crew were laughing as well now.

“And despite the odds James Kirk is doing just that alongside such notable heroes as Anakin Skywalker –” the image switched briefly to the young Jedi Knight in the heat of battle, lightsaber swinging wildly about tearing through a Separatists droid army lines as he made his way to the command deck of a massive warship. Clone troopers were arrayed around him like a personal army. Oddly enough no other Jedi were seen in the brief montage of the Jedi’s feats. Number One’s eyes narrowed. That was odd. The few battle records she had seen clearly had Jedi working in teams to maximize their effectiveness. Why were these snippets of footage chosen?

“In the never ending struggle against the dark forces arrayed against the mighty Republic. James Kirk sent a strong message of unity and bravery when he led his forces out of an ambush meant to destroy him.” The image switched to a Rodian who was speaking excitedly. “It was amazing to watch him courageously lead his ship into the teeth of the enemy without fear or hesitation. If we had more of him this war would be over.”

Gary started to pound on his Navigational council with one hand while holding back the laughter with the other clapped over his mouth. Kelso shoved him with an elbow but it only made Gary laugh harder.

“He will never live this down.” Gary gasped between breaths.

“That’s because you won’t let him.” Kelso sighed.

“I fail to see the humor in this.” Spock commented to Number One.

Number One eyed Gary with distaste as he slapped his station again when the image switched to Kirk standing in the middle of a pile of destroyed battle droids giving out orders.

“You lack a distinctly childish sense of humor, Mr. Spock.” She replied. To think this man would be XO once she was gone.




The Senate was in full session and everyone was in attendance. Senators, their aides, diplomats, government employees and all manners of beings milled about the enormous chambers but the show was on the Senate floor itself as the flotilla of senatorial repulsorlift pods were starting to rise up into their allotted slots as the last minute additions arrived and hurried to their places. Missing this moment would be unforgivable for many.

Kirk watched the ebb and flow of the movement with a child like wonder.

“We’re proud of getting an assembly of a few hundred representatives in place around a table back home. Look at this.” Kirk gasped.

“It does send a rather distinct signal doesn’t it?” Dehner noted as she watched a senator’s pod rise up right past their faces and disappear up into the near invisible walls of the main chamber. The pod soundlessly nestled into its berth and waited patiently.

“And what signal is that?” Kirk asked watching another pod rising past them into the heights.

“Just how large this Republic is and how small we are in comparison.”

“A wise Jedi Master once said to me “Size matters not.” I think he may be right about that in this instance.” Obi Wan laughed as he checked the surroundings one last time. He could feel no disturbance in the Force but that was never enough in these dark times. Now would be the absolute worst time for something to happen and unfortunately the Jedi had borne the brunt of too many disasters in these dark times.

“We can’t be with you when the time comes. The Supreme Chancellor did not want the wrong signals to be sent if you were to be seen alongside Jedi at this historic moment.” Meerlinda noted as she adjusted Kirk’s collar of his dress uniform.

He smiled at her and Dehner eyed the moment with a speculative eye. Obi Wan pointedly ignored it.

“Now why would that be, Meerlinda? It was through the Jedi that we managed to forge the treaty, because of the Jedi we survived that ambush and if it wasn’t for you and Master Kenobi here my so called brilliant defense of the delegation would have been for nothing.” Kirk replied in annoyance.

“We’re not very popular right now James.” She replied hesitantly.

“What do you mean?” He asked, eyes narrowing on her. She shifted her head on her long elegant neck. He reached out and smoothed the collar of her plain brown cloak.

“Now is not the time.” Obi Wan interjected. “It’s your turn to be in the spotlight. We’ve always been here and we’ll always be here. There is no need for concern, Captain.”

Kirk began to speak when the gentle tap of a cane on the stone floor interrupted his next words.

“Yes, to Obi Wan you listen.” The small frail form of the Jedi Master Yoda spoke softly. “Guardians of the Republic Jedi are and always have been. Dark and turbulent these times are but remain steadfast we must.”

“Of course, I didn’t think otherwise.” Kirk said smiling down at the diminutive Jedi Master. It did not surprise him that the small alien was the source of the Jedi proverb about judging things by their size.

“In you must go.” Yoda gestured to the pod that was slowly descending towards them and settling down on the ground.

“What’s waiting for us there?”

“The future.” Yoda answered as he gestured for them to walk into the pod. Kirk and Dehner hesitantly made their way to the pod. As soon as the pair became visible to the Senators a storm of applause erupted along the parked pods. Kirk waved up at them as he stepped onto the pod and took Dehner’s hand and gently helped her up as well.

“This is a little more than what I expected.” Kirk commented dryly as he checked the pod.

“This is precisely what I expected, perhaps even more low key than I thought. The Supreme Chancellor’s government certainly adores its ceremony.” Dehner sighed softly.

“Master Yoda.” Kirk called down to the Jedi Master.

Yoda looked up expectantly as the pod slowly began to rise off the floor.

“What’s ahead for us in the future?” Kirk asked with a smile.

Yoda almost smirked at the young Captain’s playful question.

“Always in motion is the future. Difficult to tell.” Yoda called back.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Meerlinda, there’s still a chance to be seen with a bonafied hero of the Republic.” Kirk called out to her as the pod gently rotated to face the assembly before continuing its ascent.

Meerlinda waved him away. Yoda and Mace Windu exchanged curious glances as the pod ascended into the lights flooding the senate floor. The assembled Jedi has quietly taken their places, out of sight as usual.

“Close you have become to this starship Captain.” Yoda noted casually.

“Your assignment called for you to protect him and guide him.” Mace Windu added without looking over at the young Jedi Knight. Meerlinda frowned and looked from one Jedi Master to the other.

“I didn’t realize I had overstepped my bounds Masters.” She said calmly.

“We did not say you did.” Mace Windu replied after a beat of silence.

“Observing were we. Strong his feelings for you are. Very Strong.”

Meerlinda looked down at the ground for a moment, clearing her mind as she had been taught.

“Your master Thane was always concerned about your tendency to reach out to far to the ones you were interacting with. He felt you became too emotionally attached to your assignments.” Mace noted. The pod was now at the required height and it halted its ascent and paused. A bright light illuminated the occupants and the front of the pod slid backwards to reveal the Federation seal.

The applause increased and some cheers filtered down from the higher levels. Kirk and Dehner did their best to hide their surprise concerning the pod’s adornment.

“The Order considers me the best diplomat on Coruscant, There’s a reason for that.” Meerlinda countered. Thane had taught her a healthy respect for her Masters but also sprinkled a liberal does of self esteem as well. ‘Jedi Masters sometimes need to be reminded from whence they came and what they have done. The Will of the Force can be carried out by the most humble padawan or the most esteemed Master.’ She missed him. He was off fighting on the Rim and had not seen him in months.

“Indeed.” Mace replied without further comment.

Yoda leaned in closer to her.

“Your feelings you must watch Farstrider, they can cloud judgment and the Will of the Force. A simple reminder that is all.”

“As always you are right Master Yoda and I receive the advise in the spirit it was offered.” Meerlinda bowed her head deeply.

Yoda continued to watch her as she looked back up at the scene playing out above them. He noticed the way her green eyes softened when she saw James Kirk’s face and he sighed deeply. Mace smirked down at his comrade.

“Sometimes the message can be lost among the noise.” He whispered to Yoda as the two masters took their place at the front of the assembled Jedi.

“Confusing this time has become. Jedi losing their path and not watching where they walk.”

“That’s why we are here.”

Yoda glanced up at Windu but said nothing.




“The chair recognizes the Senator from Rodius.” Palpatine intoned deeply from his place at the center of the Senate floor.

“The Rodian people enthusiastically second the motion to agree to the terms of the Articles of Alliance between the galactic Republic and the United Federation of Planets.” The small Rodian senator spoke, shout moving up and down almost like a wagging dog’s tail.

“As I understand it, that means happiness?” Kirk softly asked Doctor Dehner.

She nodded. “Or excitement. Either way that’s good for us.”

“The Chair recognizes the Senator from Naboo.”

Senator Amidala nodded to Palpatine as her pod floated up into view.

“The people of Naboo also welcome the United Federation of Planets to this Senate. We request that 3 days are allotted as per the Floor Rules fro debate on these Articles of Alliance.”

There were some outraged hisses and shouts from the Senatorial pods.

“That’s not so good for us.” Dehner replied but remained stoic.

“She’s doing what she thinks is right.”

“Stalling the inevitable?”

Kirk looked over at Dehner.

“Making sure this goes by the book and there are no regrets later down the road. No one should want to rush to war.”

“Perhaps you saw a different holotape than I did but the war has already come to us. Battle droids in the President’s estate?!” Dehner replied tightly.

Kirk said nothing as another pod floated up next to Senator Amidala’s.

“The chair recognizes the Senator from Alderaan.”

“I second the motion from Naboo. These Articles of Alliance have not even been seen outside of the Supreme Chancellor’s special Committee and have certainly never been disseminated publicly.” Senator Bail Organna stated regally. Kirk’s eyes narrowed on the man. He was a born leader of men and a passionate defender of his ideals. He was saddened to have to oppose this man in any way.

“I wish he were on our side.”

“Once we sign these articles, he will be.” Dehner replied frostily.

Kirk glanced over at the cold blonde.

“A man like that we should want to freely join us not bound by paperwork and words.”

Dehner said nothing in reply as the debate grew heated amongst the senators.

“The Articles of Alliance are well known amongst us and what it entails, the Senator from Alderaan is playing rhetorical games when he attempts to portray this agreement as anything other than a publicly known document.” Mon Mothma stated evenly and with a gentle smile.

“Perhaps the Senator from Chandrilla would like to recite just one of the articles for me then if it is such public knowledge.” Bail pressed.

“I will do no such thing. Perhaps the Senator from Alderaan thinks I am one of this subjects to order around like chattel.”

Bail’s eyes narrowed.

“That was beyond the pale even for a lackey of the Supreme Chancellor like yourself.”

“Calm yourselves.” Palpatine interjected forcefully.. He looked from Bail Organna to Mon Mothma.

“I for one would support the vote for debate by Naboo and Alderaan.” The senator from Corellia broke in taking advantage of the silence. “After all I think with all the hero worship going on here of one of the Federation representatives we need to remember that it was a ship bearing his own ship’s name that attacked and killed many of our troops only several days ago.”

“This is nonsense!” a Senator bellowed from below. A Wookiee howl of anger drifted through the senate floor as well.

“I see the Supreme Chancellor’s propaganda has me at a disadvantage.” The Senator from Corellia replied bitterly.

“I see that Corellia forgets her place when addressing the Supreme Chancellor.” Mon Mothma protested.

“Where has the First Corellian Expeditionary fleet been in this war, hmm?” the Rodian asked acidly.

“Protecting our worlds as she is meant to.” The Corellian replied hotly.

“The Fleets of this Great Republic are supposed to be protecting all of the Republic not just the member worlds of that fleet.” Mon Mothma replied coolly.

“Corellia has always maintained her war fleets. It is not our fault that the rest of you abandoned any pretense of self defense in the vain hopes that the Jedi could turn back the occasional enemy fleet.”

“The Jedi are not up for discussion.”

“Maybe they should be!”

Palpatine watched the exchange in silence, his eyes moving slowly from one senator to the next. He was quietly gauging the emotions on the floor.

“This is about trust and Corellia does not trust the Federation.”

“What a fine statement.” The Rodian sighed sarcastically.

“I think that is Admiral Garm Bel-Iblis talking NOT Corellia.” Mon Mothma interjected.

“I speak for Corellia my lady, we all know whom you speak for.” The Corellian ambassador snapped.

“These Corellians are a bit…” Kirk began.

“Ill mannered? Hot headed?” Dehner offered.

“I was going to say independent.” Kirk replied wanly.

“The Chair recognizes the motion on the floor and will open for voting the motion to begin 3 days of debate on the Articles of Alliance offered by Senator Amidala of Naboo and Seconded by Senator Bail Organna of Alderaan.” Palpatine ordered with a firm voice. “The voting will be tallied by computer in secret balloting.”

Amidala’s eyes widened slightly.

“I call for voice vote. Let the senators be heard and on the record on this matter!” she demanded.

Palpatine smiled like a kindly grandfather.

“Senator Amidala, as you should be well aware by now, any motions carried on the floor can be voted on at the Supreme Chancellor’s discretion in matters of Galactic Security and I choose secret ballot. A voice vote would be unnecessary and take too much of our valuable time. After all you are not suggesting that you’re colleagues would be dishonest about their intentions if they were to be heard on the record?”

Amidala stared at the Supreme Chancellor for a long moment. She could feel Bail’s eyes on her. She knew that the Peace Faction had suffered serious setbacks with the latest wave of violence on Coruscant that happened to miss the peace factions offices and residences. To admit such in public would only weaken them further.

Bastard.

Palpatine would get what he wanted, no matter what. Bail had predicted this from the start. They were still sorting through the Byzantine changes to the Senate Procedures by Palpatine’s special commission.

“No. Of course I’m not making that suggestion.” Amidala replied softly but her eyes narrowed on the man she had helped bring to power.

“Good. Then it is settled.” Palpatine smiled broadly.

“I’ll make that damned suggestion if no one else will!” The Corellian senator shouted.

“The floor is closed to any more debate and the voting will begin.” Palpatine replied sternly.

Kirk watched each senator begin voting using the panels in their individual pods. He glanced over at the central floating platform where Palpatine stood. The supreme Chancellor smiled and nodded reassuringly to Kirk.

“He just knows he has this in the bag.” Kirk mused,

“Captain, you have a lot to learn you know about politics.”

“Do I?” Kirk asked pointedly.

Dehner sighed and tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder with roll of her head.

“Did you honestly think we came this far, saw so much, seen so much political capital spent to have this vote stalled or fail? He wants a Grand Alliance and he’ll get one.”

“I thought this was a democracy, will of the people and all.”

Dehner frowned.

“We’re talking about what is best for all of us.”

“And who gets to decide that?”

Dehner said nothing else as her attention returned to the vote tally illuminated above them in a rotating holographic display for all to see.

“And the voting has been decided. The motion for debate has failed to carry. We know open the floor to voice voting on the Articles of Alliance.”

“On this you will carry a voice vote then?” Senator Organna asked angrily.

“Indeed we will. I have promised the people an open record on how we decided this Alliance and it is time to fulfill that promise. All those in favor or opposed to the Articles of Alliance begin your voice vote beginning in order with the Senators from Aalansk.”

The voice vote continued throughout the afternoon as each senator voiced his agreement or disagreement with the Articles of Alliance. The Senate was hushed when such important members as Corellia flatly rejected the Articles of Alliance. When it came to Amidala she reluctantly agreed, she had little choice, the Queen of Naboo was adamant that they not embarrass the Supreme Chancellor. Senator Bail Organna paused for a long moment and sadly nodded and said yes when it was his time.

In the end the vote was carried by an overwhelming majority.

Cheers arose again amongst the senators though Kirk was quick to search the crowd for those that had said no and noticed that they stood stoically in their pods and did nothing but stand with their arms crossed. He had a running tally of these worlds and would make sure that the federation did what it could to ease their concerns. But one world would require a personal touch. He glanced at the Corellian Senator. He would have to see Garm Bel-Iblis and talk this out man to man.

“We’re up.” Dehner said as the pod they were sitting in suddenly began moving again towards the Supreme Chancellor’s personal floating pod. He was stepping down to the edge, Sly Moore carrying a scroll that resembled parchment paper. Palpatine held in his hand one very exquisitely exotic quill pen and his assistant Mas Amedda with his massive bull like head and horns held out two similar quill pens as well when their pod docked with Palpatine’s.

“Thank you.” Kirk and Dehner replied as they received the pens from Amedda.

Palpatine smiled at each of them.

“I have waited for this moment for three months. It is a glorious day today.”

“I look forward to bringing an end to this conflict.” Kirk added.

“This is a singular moment in all our histories.” Dehner said softly.

Palpatine signed with a flourish and held up the pen. The senators cheered. Dehner signed and she stepped back. The cheers grew. Kirk took a deep breath and signed the document. He stepped back and they could hear the cheers from outside now thundering.

Palpatine eyed the young Captain as he smiled at the cheering assembly. He took a step back and silently mused to himself as he allowed the Federation representatives to bask in the glory of the moment.

“Do you think perhaps we did too well in selling James Kirk to the masses?” Sly Moore whispered to her master as she gently rolled up the scroll and pressed the Republic seal into the side of the scroll.

“Only time will tell my dear. After all this is a long and bloody war and so many heroes have already fallen.” Palpatine replied never taking his eyes off the young Captain. Kirk paused and looked back uneasily for a moment. Palpatine smiled and lifted the scroll up over his head.

“I announce the formation of the Grand Alliance. Let our enemies beware. We are coming for them.” He boomed.

The cheers became a roar and the roar reverberated through the senate like a storm. Yoda frowned as a vision passed across his sight. There was much blood coming. Too much blood. It was as if a great twilight had broken out across the sky and left them all in darkness. He leaned on his cane as he weakened.

“What is it?” Mace asked seriously when he noticed the Master’s weakness.

Yoda looked up at Mace, sadness in his eyes.

“Begun this Twilight War has.”

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2005-06-22 02:08pm
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Chapter 24: Feints and Parries

“Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.”
Hamlet Act I Scene iii




Anakin Skywalker stalked like a panther along the outer ring of the fighting circle, lightsaber humming hungrily as he watched the fighting drones arrayed against him. The drones hissed softly as they cut through the air in intricate patterns. Anakin held up his lightsaber, the pale blue blade illuminating the fighting circle. The rest of the workout room, one of dozens in the temple, was dark and quiet.

It was deep in the night cycle and the temple was quiet and subdued. Deep shadows ran along the clean white walls of the training room and danced with the light from Anakin’s saber.

The temple was quiet for another reason that many of the Jedi did not like to contemplate.

Many of the Jedi were away at war. Some Jedi mentioned that the temple felt like a house with all the children gone. But that analogy always seemed to fail for Anakin since the fact was that the temple was a house with all the adults gone leaving the children behind.

Anakin leapt forward blade tipping down into a spinning strike. The drones split into a cascading sideslip away from the center of his strike. Four drones in total, each one set to maximum engagement mode and they never stood a chance as Anakin’s leaping attack turned into a feint as he tumbled forward seemingly out of control.

The drones were confused for a brief moment as their sensors and predictors crunched numbers and ran decision subroutines trying to make rhyme or reason of their target’s sudden and random aspect change. They reacted and spun in a quick spiral around the young Jedi Knight.

Anakin landed in a low crouch and the drones came in a tight circle around him, stunners humming aggressively as they were about to fire. Anakin smiled grimly and whipped his blade around in a spinning move that caught two of the drones, slicing them neatly in half. He flipped forward almost instantly after striking the two drones and heard the hissing of the remaining two droned as they swept in, one low and one high to intercept the whirling Jedi.

Anakin felt the tremor in the Force that he had been waiting for.

He landed, legs splayed out wide and brought his saber up with a snap of his wrist. The stun bolts ricocheted off the leading edge of the blade. The reflected bolt went in the opposite direction striking each drone with the opposite number’s stun bolt dead center. Both drones immediately dropped like stones to the padded floor.

Anakin stood over the fallen drones his saber humming soothingly as its pale blue glow illuminated the wreckage of his enemies. If only they were Dooku. The Separatist leadership. If only he could end this horrible war and bring peace back through the saber, through sheer force of will. He was the Chosen One after all was he not? The responsibility lay on him to end this destructive conflict.

Yet he could not see clear of the maze of lies and deceptions that seemed to spring up around him. The Republic and this galaxy were like a garden left unattended. It was over run and choked with thorns and weeds.

“It’s like I can’t breath.” He muttered to himself.

He felt the presence now close to him disturbing the tranquil calm of the Force around him like an insect that skipped off the surface of a still pond.

Anakin smiled softly as he turned his head to look over his shoulder.

“You should practice your stealth techniques, old friend, that was sloppy of you.” Anakin said quietly.

Bastion nodded to the young Jedi Knight and stopped at the edge of the fighting map.

“Now why would I want to hide from you, Anakin? You’re a friend and an ally.” Bastion replied.

“Obi Wan is always hiding himself from me. It’s a little game we play. He’s better at it than I am but I will match him someday soon.”

Bastion smirked at the usual competitiveness in his friend.

“You two act like brothers more than master and apprentice.”

Anakin’s face darkened slightly and Bastion instantly regretted his choice of words.

“I’m not his apprentice anymore.”

“Of course you’re not but you yourself just stated that you still have much to learn.” Bastion replied good naturedly as he casually stepped into the fighting circle and eyed the fallen drones.

“I guess so.” Anakin shrugged cloud of anger gone as quickly as it came. It always troubles Bastion how rapidly Anakin could grow angry, even as a child he remembered the young padawan throwing a near tantrum over a loss to another padawan at his first tournament. Despite all the yelling and screaming and accusations of use of abilities that Anakin did not even know existed at the time it took Yoda’s patient explanation that they needed to pair up Anakin with a padawan 5 years older because his skills had grown tremendously in the first year of apprenticeship under Obi Wan. But that was Anakin for you, it was never enough that he needed to have adolescent padawans to just match him, he needed to beat them too.

That’s when they first met. Bastion walked over to the fuming young padawan and cracked a joke. Anakin stared at him for a moment then smiled.

Bastion always remembered that smile because it dispelled the angry storm clouds around Anakin’s eyes and for a moment you saw him as he always should be.

“Looking for a sparring partner?” Bastion asked playfully.

Anakin snorted.

“No one in my class to spar with.” Anakin replied neutrally as he eyed Bastion.

“You know you should not disparage my skills. Master Yoda always chooses me as his sparring partner when we introduce the padawans to the wonders of Ataru.” Bastion replied proudly as he let his robes drop down to the floor with a roll of his shoulders.

Anakin nodded as if assessing the claim while simultaneously taking several steps back to the starting position at the edge of the fighting circle.

“So you’re saying if I wanted a show fight to impress 8 year olds that I should look you up?” Anakin replied sardonically as he took a test swing with his saber and began bouncing on the balls of his feet letting the Force flow around him.

“I’m saying that you should be mindful of who you address, Ataru is a deadly and graceful form in my hands and out of all the Jedi Knights Yoda trusts me to be able to keep up with him.” Bastion smiled as he removed his saber and punctuated the end of his sentence with the snap hiss of his saber activating.

“Is it that or the fact that you keep the younglings entertained when you do your imitation of Master Yoda when you fight?” Anakin retorted.

“Flawless imitation, my friend, flawless. Your imitation of Master Obi Wan lacks the panache and flair of a true Bastion Vandarre Yoda.” Bastion winked and twirled his green bladed lightsaber in an invitation to the intense young Jedi Knight standing opposite him in the fighting circle.

“All I can say is what I told you when we first sparred, Bastion.” Anakin replied with a chuckle. Suddenly his face became very serious. “Ataru is for sissies!” He snapped and lunged into an attack.

Bastion twisted out of the way of the attack and swept his blade in low at Anakin’s legs. Anakin casually slapped Bastion’s strike away and turned at his waist in a roundhouse strike. Bastion back flipped away from the strike and landed in a low crouch.

“That taunt wasn’t even insulting when we were 10 year olds, Ani.” Bastion sighed dramatically.

“This spar could be insulting if you keep leaping around like a Jackflea on steroids instead of fighting me straight up. What’s the matter, afraid?”

“A Jedi does not know fear. And frankly your foot work blows.” Bastion replied and suddenly launched himself into a tumbling attack, lightsaber flashing around Anakin like lightning bolts.

The attack was meant to cause Anakin to retreat for better position, opening him to an Ataru special maneuver utilizing the full range and motion that the gymnastic lightsaber form afforded its adherents.

But Anakin was a seasoned veteran of his own form – Shien- which emphasized power and strength in its strikes and defenses. He stood firm and lashed out in his own series of counterstrikes and parries. This forced Bastion to touch down on the ground on one leg, elegantly sweep his blade before him in wide swipes as he collected his strength for another leap.

Anakin grinned as he waded into Bastion, lightsaber flashing in rapid broad strikes, bulling past Bastion’s defenses and getting in dangerously close. Bastion was forced to abandon his leap to escape and concentrate on his own defense as he stood toe to toe against Anakin. That was exactly where Anakin wanted the nimble Jedi.

Their sabers clashed with loud electronic snaps and hisses.

“You’re better than I remember.” Bastion noted as he twisted his torso in almost impossible contortions maneuvering himself around Anakin like a snake.

“That’s because my powers grow every day.” Anakin replied as he deftly saw the incoming attack and viciously batted Bastion’s strike away and delivered an elbow firmly into the young smiling Jedi’s chest forcing him back and allowing Anakin the room he needed to wind up for a long series of broad strokes meant to batter Bastion into submission.

“You’ve been dark of late, brooding some say. The young Anakin Skywalker I knew was not like that.” Bastion grunted as he caught the leading edge of one of Anakin’s powerful strokes and tried to bull it away with force fueled strength. Anakin smirked as he leaned in as well pressing his blade against Bastion’s emerald blade.

“He was vain perhaps.” Bastion sidestepped away at the last moment and Anakin stumbled forward, carried ahead by the momentum of his own struggle against Bastion and Bastion was ready to deliver the coup de grace against the small of Anakin’s back.

Anakin effortlessly snaked his arms behind him and his blade caught the green glowing strike and swept it upward in a triumphant flex of his biceps. Anakin spun around and swept his blade at Bastion’s midsection.

Smiling with effort and exhilaration Bastion bent backwards at the waist and watched Anakin’s blue blade pass inched over his face and waist.

“Over confident and some may even say arrogant.” Bastion continued his voice strained from the impossible angle he held his body at the moment. Bastion kicked off his left foot and spun in a tight tumble away from Anakin’s blade.

Anakin recovered his wide sweep and stalked after Bastion.

“How can you talk this much and fight?” Anakin growled.

“Strong am I in the Force but stronger you are in wit young padawan.” Bastion threw out an infamous quote form the ancient Jedi Master concerning Bastion’s seemingly inexhaustible need for humor and jokes.

“You’ll be telling your Yoda jokes in the infirmary if you keep running from me.” Anakin vowed as he watched Bastion leap directly upwards into the darkness above.

Anakin smiled.

He may have eschewed the more acrobatic and supple arts of Ataru but he was no slouch at the jumping. He called the Force to him and propelled himself through the air like a bullet from a slug thrower. As he soared up into the rafters Bastion tumbled over and above him swinging his blade down at the swiftly approaching Anakin.

Anakin turned his body into a corkscrew and brought his blade up as he aimed for one of the long metal catwalks strung up in a seemingly random pattern along the ceiling.

His blade caught Bastion’s and pushed it away as he landed in a cat fall on the edge of one of the catwalks.

Bastion landed on the opposite end and brought his blade up in an intricate figure eight motion.

“Some people say you’re fighting these days like you have a chip on your shoulder.”

“Some people sound suspiciously like Master Obi Wan.” Anakin replied coolly as he stepped quickly over to the very tip of the catwalk and balanced precariously over a 25 meter drop down to the fighting floor.

“Some people say you’ve grown darker and angrier ever since your duel with Dooku.”

“Some people need to watch their surroundings.” Anakin chuckled and one of the support chains holding Bastion’s swinging catwalk snapped forward striking the young blonde Jedi in the back of his head.

Bastion did not seem surprised.

Instead he simply tumbled off the catwalk and tucked his arms and legs into a spinning fall down to the fighting floor below. Anakin checked his footing and instead of following Bastion down leapt to a higher perch and waited patiently.

The young Jedi was tempting him to follow him down where his Form would give him an advantage to fight in free fall.

Anakin nodded to himself as Bastion landed on one foot, took a deep breath and launched himself up again in a fast sloping arc towards the rafters again. Anakin took aim and let his lightsaber fly in a twirling scythe like arc at the spot where he dimly saw Bastion landing seconds before he would.

Bastion’s eyes widened as he saw the lightsaber arcing down at him and he shifted his trajectory with a desperate Force nudge while reaching out for the hilt of Anakin’s lightsaber as it arced past him and struck the catwalk beneath him.

Bastion’s reach was interrupted by Anakin’s own force pull that yanked the lightsaber back towards him.

Bastion landed awkwardly on the chain link bridge woven between two catwalks and brought his saber up in a purely defensive stroke as he felt Anakin’s attack before it landed. The intense Jedi Knight was already in the air when his lightsaber was yanked back towards him. The hilt landed snugly in his bionic hand as he nearly landed on top of Bastion.

He brought his saber down in a vicious over handed strike that landed solidly against Bastion’s defenses and sent the Jedi stumbling backwards on uncertain footing. Anakin frowned as he landed on the chain link bridge as well. He meant for the blow to knock Bastion off but the young Jedi proved more resilient than he imagined.

Then he felt the Force around him like a strong wind.

Anakin gathered it around him, stealing as much of the power away as he could but it was too late.

Bastion brought his saber up in his own over handed strike and Anakin was forced to focus on the block meanwhile the chain link unraveled beneath his feet and began snaking up his knees.

Bastion and Anakin’s blades clashed overhead and both stared into each other’s eyes. Sweat was trailing glistening wet trails down Bastion’s face. Anakin looked fresh and flushed as if he just started warm up exercises.

“Clever of you old friend. Master Yoda always said you spent too much too in the physical in your duels.” The young Jedi Bastion used the Force almost exclusively to boost his strength and agility and deflect direct attacks against him. He preferred winning through sheer swordsmanship and physical ability. Yoda and later Cin Drallag, the sword master of the Order, always complained to Bastion of this glaring weakness.

Obviously his friend had learned a trick or two in the War so far.

The chain links were now wrapping around Anakin’s waist and starting to drag him down through weight and the Force.

Bastion winked at Anakin.

“We all learn don’t we Anakin. You know you learned too if you listened to yourself.”

“Oh?” Anakin grunted as he refused to give ground on the saber lock overhead. Anakin did not have his usual height or reach advantage as Bastion was as tall as he was but where Bastion was lithe and supple like a dancer, Anakin was built for power and strength and he would not release the hold on Bastion’s blade, pushing back as hard as he could mindful of the tugging chains slowing him down and threatening to crush him.

“We both know you can’t keep this up at once don’t you?” Anakin added with a feral smile as he pushed down harder and felt Bastion giving ground.

“You’re more powerful than you’ve ever been. I’m using every trick up my sleeve and I’m only slowing you down my friend. Have you ever stopped to think of a very simple fact that I learned long ago in our little spars?” bastion asked as he suddenly slapped his saber down in a quick jab cut, distracting Anakin long enough to disengage and as he back flipped away he sent a strong jolt up the chain link with a wave of his hand.

The chain link bridge jerked Anakin down through it and hanging upside down like a prize catch. Save that as he fell Anakin swept his lightsaber blade along his legs and destroyed the chain link bindings and he plummeted downward head first to the fighting circle below.

Anakin barely had time to recover his bearings, not really needing them since he had the Force but he could feel the sharp pulls on the tapestry of the Force around him and knew that Bastion was approaching rapidly in an attempt to end this as soon as possible.

Bastion suddenly appeared in view behind Anakin and began a series of sharp jabs and sweeps meant to strike at Anakin as he plummeted. Anakin turned his body in mid fall as he parried the first strikes with grunts of effort.

“Did I tell you I sparred with Count Dooku right before he left the Order?” Bastion asked as the floor loomed ahead of them but both Jedi were intent on their attacks and parries. Neither wanting to give ground and both seeking that one opening that would grant them victory.

“What?” Anakin replied in surprise.

They landed on the floor nearly soundlessly, Anakin rolling tightly after Bastion who cart wheeled backwards sweeping his lightsaber up around him like a shield as he tried to find a place to stop and make his stand. Anakin true to his Shien form was not giving his foe a moment of rest. Press, batter, crush, overpower these were the stratagems of Shien and Anakin was well on his way to becoming a master of it.

Bastion decided in an instant what options were left to him and stopped suddenly on a dime, kipping up and slashing out in a sharp stabbing motion while sweeping the floor before him with his left foot.

Anakin nearly skidded to a halt he had been so close on the retreating Jedi’s heels that the momentum nearly carried him into Bastion’s blade. Anakin stared down at the green blade tip that hummed aggressively for a moment then looked up at his friend, the first drops of sweat had swelled on his eyebrows now dropped to the floor with a quiet plop.

Anakin smiled.

“That’s the Anakin I remember.” Bastion noted and promptly closed the gap between them to mere inches as he drove his blade forcefully into Anakin’s defenses. Anakin immediately realized what Bastion’s gambit was and laughed. Someone he could enjoy fighting without having to die.

Bastion had closed the distance to nothing, hoping to rob Anakin of the one advantage a Shien fighter needed to apply his skills with optimum proficiency. Anakin needed room to wind up his wide sweeping powerful blows and Bastion was robbing him of that room, risking an engagement this close to their defense where only prescience and the will of the Force could help him.

It was a hell of a gamble.

“You audacious bastard.” Anakin chuckled and their dance grew louder and more intense as green and blue blades clashed against each other in a rapid dance. Anakin drove Bastion back to the edge of the fighting circle.

“Tell me about your fight with Dooku.” Anakin demanded as their blades locked for a moment.

Bastion smiled grimly.

“Three passes.”

Anakin did not want to look puzzled.

Bastion shouted in a war cry and let loose a rapid flurry of jabs towards Anakin’s face. At the close quarters they were fighting Anakin had virtually no room for error and was forced back by the sudden offensive stance of his opponent.

“It…lasted precisely…three passes…before he handed…me my...ass.” Bastion huffed as he worked his blade around trying desperately to sneak in under or over Anakin’s defenses as he pressed in closer. They could feel each other’s breath as they traded rapid blows, some moves too fast for the eye to follow.

Bastion suddenly pivoted hard on his right foot and Anakin instantly felt his intent and tried to cut in to the right and block his movement while swiping out at Bastion’s left hand. Bastion’s lightsaber jumped from Bastion’s left hand to his right in a fluid snap of his wrist. The lightsaber traveled the short distance between hands and right over Anakin’s blow as Bastion switched hands and stances in one maneuver.

He caught the lightsaber and whipped it down in a darting motion. Anakin was turning hard on his right foot as he spat “One day you’ll lose your hand pulling that little stunt.” Punctuating his point Anakin’s blade missed Bastion’s outstretched right hand by a hairsbreadth as Bastion brought his blade up in an uppercut jab to Anakin’s face.

Anakin twisted his torso and allowed the blade to pass inches from his nose as he delivered a hammer kick to Bastion’s exposed stomach.

“The only one whose even remotely fast enough to take my hand is you Anakin and you wouldn’t do that to a friend would you?” Bastion gasped as he tried to catch his breath and footing after the kick.

Anakin smirked.

“You may be my friend but your lesson is lost on me today. So you lost to Dooku in three passes, I lost my arm to him on Geonosis. I fail to see the point.” Anakin jabbed his lightsaber at Bastion as he advanced.

Bastion frowned.

“Ok, let me spell it out for you.” Bastion collected his strength and summoned the Force to him. Anakin felt the surge around him and collected himself for the attack. Bastion launched himself forward in a high arcing leap, spinning the blade before him like a shield. Anakin parried each blow as they clashed in an increasingly furious and fast series of strikes. Bastion was gasping loudly with each blow as the last vestiges of his strength were poured into the attack.

“No matter what happens Anakin, no matter how hard you try.” Bastion explained as he spun in an intricate series of jabbing feints, each one Anakin saw for what it was and waited for his moment when the Jedi would let his defenses drop for the attack. “No matter how strong you arte in the Force or how hard you trained.” Bastion suddenly sprang up above Anakin and brought his saber down hard on Anakin’s head. Anakin parried hard and whipped his saber down after the strike and as Bastion landed behind him for the killing stroke Anakin’s blade flashed directly under his chin, a mere centimeter away.

Bastion looked down at the blade, sweat slicked his hair and his breath came in rapid shallow exhalations. He smiled up at Anakin.

“There’s always someone better than yourself.” He finished and bowed his head to the victor.

“How sage of you my friend.”

“I’m glad you agree. Now if only I could be a Master without training some snot nosed padawan.” Bastion sighed.

Anakin smiled evilly.

“You’re still not getting out of it.”

Bastion’s face melted into mock outrage.

“I yielded. That’s all that’s required by the code.” He protested bitterly.

Anakin shook his head emphatically.

“You know the deal. We both agreed long ago when we started these exercises.”

“The only reason I agreed was that I thought I could win a few every now and then being your elder. How the hell was I supposed to know you’d win every single one?”

Anakin smirked and tapped his blade up several times at Bastion.

“As the only friend who is allowed to call you Ani and never let anyone bad mouth you behind your back can you just accept the yield?”

Anakin shook his head and tapped the saber point up at him again.

“As a Scion of the Royal House of Alderaan?” Bastion implored.

“Cousin of Bail Organna, eh? Even more reason to exact full penalties for the loss.”

Bastion frowned.

“Bail is a good man you know. Padme could not better than him. She would be a queen.”

Anakin shook his head.

“Have a care old friend. Padme is not meant for him.”

“and just whom is she meant for?” Bastion asked curiously.

“You’re not going to distract me, scion of Alderaan. Now assume the position.”

Bastion sighed as he stood ramrod straight and opened his tunic exposing his chest. He braced himself. “You do realize we’re getting too old for this.” He grumbled.

Anakin took great relish as he whipped his saber around and struck Bastion hard in the center of his chest.

“OOOOWWWWWW!!!!!” Bastion exclaimed in pain and began hopping around alternating legs as he tried to dance the pain that flared along his chest away. Anakin laughed as he extinguished his blade and adjusted his blade intensity back to full. It would do him no good to suddenly find himself in combat with only the ability to stun his opponents painfully.

Bastion was still dancing around the fighting circle.

“Oh you big baby.”

“Easy for you to say you’ve never felt this.”

“And I intend to never do.” Anakin laughed. It came easily now, his smile though cautious was warmer and broader. Bastion stopped dancing and started laughing softly.

“I knew there was a smile under all of that brooding.”

“Thank you.” Anakin replied seriously.

“I figured you needed a good laugh. That’s what I’m here for. Strong am I with the wit.”

“But not that strong…you still owe me the second part of the penalty.”

Bastion froze in mid laugh.

“You’re serious?”

Anakin nodded.

“We REALLY are getting too old for the second part. We’ve…developed since we were younglings you know.”

“Indeed.”

“And the temple is full of women.”

“Just don’t form any attachments then.”

“Very funny.” Bastion replied wanly.



The Jedi Library was a somber quiet retreat for the students. Here they could study in silence and solitude pouring over texts older than some civilizations. Some of the greatest works of poetry and literature sat on the shelves alongside holocrons of Jedi Manuals and Histories.

Several older Jedi were sitting at their tables scanning documents and holoscapes with studious interest. Some of the nocturnal younglings were also doing their own research ranging from lightsaber forms and construction to philosophical discourses on the Jedi Way.

A loud whoop broke the silence. The sound of running bare feet boomed through the somber stacks of holocrons.

Bastion raced down the center aisle completely naked. Nudging himself with Force propelled speed he was nearly a blur as he whipped by the small gathering of students and Jedi and vanished down the exit on the other side.

The Librarian shook her head gravely as one of the older Jedi glanced up from his holocron.

“Bastion lost another duel with Skywalker?” he asked in a bored tone.

“Those boys are getting too old for such nonsense.” She clucked.




Count Dooku was expressionless as he batted aside Sev’Rance’s overhead strike and swept past her in a blur of motion. She snaked around to keep her crimson blade before him, feet agilely dancing in time with the Sith lord’s movements.

“Your work with Captain Picard has been exemplary Sev’Rance. He is beginning to trust you I think.”

“Such were your orders my lord.” She replied coolly as she blocked a quick jab to her throat and danced backwards in a flourish of parries as he pressed forward. He moved with a grace and speed that belied his age. Dooku carried his power like a cloak around him as he advanced on her. She had come to the very quick conclusion early in their relationship that she would not want to face him in true combat.

He was dangerous in so many ways.

“You will continue to engender yourself to him. We need him as a powerful ally in the coming days. Lord Sidious and I have plans for this Federation but they will need to bleed for us.”

“They will do what needs to be done after we’ve finished with them. They like the Separatists are now ours.” Sev’Rance replied with an almost erotic glee.

Dooku’s remained expressionless but his eyes narrowed on his young apprentice. He swept in a low striking attack. She immediately brought her blade down in an elegant sweeping defense but that was not Dooku’s intended target. He reached out with a grasping hand and suddenly plucked Sev’Rance bodily off of her feet and pinned her to the wall.

Sev’Rance knew better than to struggle. She looked into his eyes with her own glowing red eyes.

“Never assume you are on the same level as Lord Sidious or I. You are my apprentice at my pleasure. I can change my mind at any moment, Sev'Rance.”

“Of course, my lord.” She replied quietly.

“Do you have any designs on this starship captain aside from my own?” he asked pointedly, grasping her long elegant neck tighter and pulling her face closer to his as if it would make a difference when he peered deeper into her eyes.

“None, my lord. Your will is mine. You knew this the moment I became your apprentice.” She protested.

Dooku smiled finally and it was a cold superior thing. Sev’Rance liked it better when he remained passive and expressionless.

“The War will require more from all of us I am afraid my dear Sev’Rance and this may mean certain sacrifices. Picard may be one of those sacrifices. After all a man that noble will ultimately question what needs to be done.”

“He will not stand idly by when he starts to suspect something is wrong.”

“How soon do you think it will be, Sev’Rance before they start to see that they are slaughtering their heroes and legends and there is no end in sight. How soon before good men must stop slaughtering the righteous?”

“Rather philosophical question my lord. I prefer to think of it in more realistic terms.”

Dooku raised his eyebrows slightly in a welcoming gesture for her to continue her thought.

“How soon before they start speaking to each other?” She asked.

Dooku nodded and suddenly released his grip on her.

“Quite right Sev’Rance, quite right. I knew there was a reason why I needed you by my side instead of that Asaj Ventress woman.”

“She has all the subtlety of a rampaging Rancor, my lord. The best you can hope from her is that she might bring a few Jedi down with her in a blaze of glory. I on the other hand embrace the Sith ideals you hold dear and only wish to serve you for your greater glory.”

“And I suspect for your own future glory as well?” Dooku chided her gently with an uplifted eyebrow as he turned slowly back towards his private meditation chambers. His eyes caught the insistent blinking transmission light on his desk.

“I only take the Glory you offer me.” She bowed he head deeply.

Dooku regarded her for a long moment bowing before him. She was graceful and elegant but within her beat the heart of a warrior, savage and keen. She would make an awesome apprentice. For a moment the vision of her in a deep green swamp surrounded by foliage and mist as the blue blade of a Jedi Knight advanced on her. She stood defiantly crimson saber held up over her head.

What did it mean?

Whom would she face?

He did not want to admit that he would miss her if she were gone.

“Continue to serve me as you have Sev’Rance and you will have more glory than you know what to do with. For now stay close to Picard and it will be up to you and Grievous to keep them from talking to each other.”

Sev’Rance barely hid the distaste that crossed her features when he mentioned Grievous. The Cyborg Droid General was a walking abomination in her eyes.

“Be mindful Sev’Rance, sometimes we must work with what we despise in order to achieve our goals.”

“Of course my lord.” She bowed again.

“Leave me.”

Sev’Rance snapped her saber up in a salute and extinguished it in a smooth motion as she clipped it to her belt. She began to leave, respectful and quiet as Dooku approached the transmitter. His finger paused over the transmission switch when he paused and looked after her.

“Sev’Rance.”

“My Lord?” She replied curiously.

“Everyone is expendable in this mission. Everyone. Do not test that edict.”

“I live to serve you my lord. Everything else is simply…a distraction.”

“See to it that it never becomes more than that.” Dooku intoned with an edge to his soft as silk voice.

Sev’Rance inclined her head respectfully as she exited the chamber.

Speaking of being expendable, Dooku tripped the transmission switch and the form of his Master, Darth Sidious sprang up into view above him. The pale blue light of the holographic image illuminated Dooku like a ghost. Sidious looked down at his disciple and smiled.

“You have done well, Lord Tyrannus. The Federations are nearly ready to be set upon each other.”

“Your vision has always has been correct, my lord. However the concern that I have is that these factions will try to reach out to each other. They are diplomats and explorers first before they are warriors.”

“Think you that such concerns were not addressed by my plan, Lord Tyrnannus.” Sidious gently chided. Dooku was puzzled. His master must be in a good mood. Rare in these dark days but he would take them when they came.

“All will be accounted for, this young Federation that I have in my palm is strong and impulsive, much like a young Jedi Knight we both know.”

Dooku’s eyes narrowed. Always with Skywalker. His master seemed obsessed with the boy. Dooku had taught the impetuous whelp a lesson on Geonosis he would not soon forget and more importantly sent a strong message to his master. As powerful as Skywalker was Dooku was a master of the Dark side and would always defeat the young willful Jedi. There could be no other pretenders before him.

“They will become more powerful when their hatred gives them focus and terrible purpose. They will not want to talk. They will want to slaughter their future.”

“On what basis?” Dooku asked cautiously.

Sidious smiled and it even chilled Dooku’s blood.

“Prepare your forces for a sneak attack, Tyrannus. Make sure the flagship of the Federation is assigned to this mission and it is time we give the Mandalorians what they have been clamoring for since Geonosis.”

Dooku waited patiently. His Master so adored these rhetorical games.

“Jedi Blood.” Sidious cackled softly. The hologram switched off leaving Dooku in the shadows of his meditation chamber.

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