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 WarTable of ContentsThe Twilight War
by Frank FontaineBOOK I: WARDRUMSChapter 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.”
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“I’m not Patricia!” the blonde exclaimed angrily, face turning bright red.
“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.
“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 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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.