Table of ContentsStar-CrossedChapter 1: The Opening Gambit
“What was that?”
The bridge crew was quickly looking about, many looking down at their consoles. Commander Branna steadied himself.
“Unknown sir. We’re checking now.”
Branna shook his head, fighting the brief sense of vertigo. It seemed that the entire bridge crew had felt the same sudden shift. He did not have any idea what had happened but he hoped he got a report before –
“Admiral, what happened?” The voice was soft but cold. A small hologram sprang up by his command post.
“Lord Nemesis, my apologies, Admiral Kittaine is –“
“Just arriving on the bridge, Lord Nemesis.” Kittaine interjected as he stepped in behind Branna.
The hologram looked past Branna. His eyes were cold and they seemed to cut right through you. Branna tried to avoid Lord Nemesis as much as possible. Of course, there were worse assignments. He had lost many class mates in Lord Vader’s fleet.
Kittaine was a tall and imposing figure, hard eyes and aristocratic features, including a proud hawk like nose. Despite the fact that the admiral must have been interrupted in the middle of his sleep cycle his uniform was perfectly kept and looked unmarred. Even his hair was neatly combed and not a hint of stubble on his face.
Kittaine never seemed to flinch under Lord Nemesis’ cold and steady gaze. That is why Branna admired the man. He was like a shield for the others against this unknown dark cloaked stranger who had stepped aboard a month ago and had kept mostly to himself. The crew had been under Kittaine’s command since the turbulent days surrounding the Battle of Yavin. Despite the destruction of the Death Star, Kittaine had never once faltered in his dedication to the New Order. He had hunted rebel ships through nebulas and asteroid fields. He had gone toe to toe with those damnable Mon Calamari ships and had walked away victorious.
His crew had seen him hold them together under some of the most withering assaults, never once raising his voice even in the heat of battle. He was a rock and the crew loved him for it.
“What has happened, Admiral? I feel a disturbance in the Force.”
“I am about to get a report, Lord.” Kittaine did not look up; instead he held out his hand and waited. Branna rushed over to the sensor crews and they handed him the report. He quickly passed it on to Kittaine and waited obediently by his side.
Kittaine stared down at the report for a long moment, paused and then passed it back to Branna.
“My Lord, I believe that your presence is required on the bridge.”
“Oh?” There was a quiet threat to the word.
“According to the report we are no where near our galaxy. All star charts report negative. Hyper space and gravitic sensors also report negative.”
Nemesis was silent for a long moment.
“Are you certain?”
“I am having the report double checked but –“
Nemesis suddenly straightened and pointed to Kittaine.
“Bring the fleet to battle alert. We will be under attack very soon.” Nemesis turned away from the holo projector and disappeared, the flourish of his cloak the last thing caught on the hologram as it vanished.
Kittaine did not hesitate. He turned to face the bridge crew.
“Bring us to battle stations. Raise combat shields and give me a detailed sensor sweep of the area, now.”
Kittaine pointed to the report in Branna’s hand as he stalked over to the main screen.
“Have those readings double checked. I want to make sure that it is accurate.”
“If it is, Admiral, this could mean we are thousands if not millions of light years from home.” Branna commented darkly as he followed his commander.
“One thing at a time, Captain, let us find out where we are before we jump to conclusions.” Kittaine responded softly as they reached the view screen. Beneath them, the massive yet elegant bulk of the Emperor’s Will dominated the lower half of their view. One of the Super Star Destroyer class ships, it was a command ship second to none. Around them, several dagger shaped ships were in various escort positions around them. Their pearly white frames shining in the interstellar void. The Star Destroyers were slowly fanning out as their command ship called for battle stations.
Branna noted with pride the string of TIE fighters flowing out along side the Emperor’s Will, small almost insignificant dots against the enormous frame of the powerful warship. They flew with precision into flowing walls around the warships.
“Fighter screen in place, Admiral.” Branna reported.
“Admiral, we’re picking up an odd disturbance to the starboard.”
“Can you endeavor to be clearer?” Kittaine asked coolly.
“I apologize sir. We’ve never seen anything like it. It seems to be objects out of phase with our space, they are approaching at super luminal speed, but it is definitely not hyperspace travel.”
“That’s odd.” Branna noted curiously.
“What seems odder is that they are using some form of propulsion we are unfamiliar with.” Kittaine added with some concern.
“Those objects are the enemy. Their intent will be very clear soon.” Nemesis spoke as he strode into the bridge. He wore a long flowing black cape and a black tunic. His black boots clicked softly on the metal floor. His sandy blonde hair was kept short giving accent to his eyes. The blue eyes were cold and sharp. His face was in a constant dark cloud of suspicion and anger.
He was followed by a lithe young woman dressed in nondescript gray tunic and pants. She was beautiful but looked dangerous. The crew had taken to calling her Nemesis shadow, as she was never seen far from him. She rarely spoke to anyone and when she did it was always about business, Nemesis’ business. Her gaze was more than enough to unnerve even a veteran officer.
As usual she stood by Lord Nemesis, quietly and trying not to draw any attention away from him. Kittaine knew who she was, or at least what the Imperial high command had deigned to tell him. She was a special operative from Imperial Intelligence, assigned to be Darth Nemesis’ bodyguard and liaison with the Emperor. He suspected much more than that but had no evidence other than his experience and gut feeling about her.
He could not remember exchanging any pleasantries with her. His sole conversation was simple. She walked into his quarters at his request and attempted to engage her in conversation, in a subtle attempt to find out more about his new charge. She smiled coldly at him and spoke, “Admiral Kittaine, I am here to serve at Lord Nemesis’ pleasure. I am merely an agent, anything you have to say, you can say to Lord Nemesis.” With that she politely smiled at him and stepped out of his quarters.
“We will be ready for them.” Kittaine replied.
“Do you have any more information regarding your assertion that we are no longer in our galaxy?” Nemesis asked stepping in to face Kittaine.
“Not my assertion, my lord. Our sensors are telling us that these stars do not appear in our charts, even the charts of neighboring galaxies.”
“Could they be Ssi Ruvi ships?” Branna suggested.
“No. They are something else. Something cold.” He answered in a quiet voice, as if his attention were drawn somewhere else. The young woman watched Nemesis intently.
“Track all weapons on inbound trajectories.” Kittaine ordered. He looked out the view port and seemed to be weighing something. Nemesis watched him closely.
“Have the Adjudicator move out to greet the newcomers. I want the Executioner and the Inexorable to fall back in support positions.”
“The rest of the fleet?” Nemesis asked quietly.
“We will see what unfolds. We may not need them.” Kittaine answered.
Nemesis nodded slowly.
“Objects now within range, slowing…we are receiving communications being broadcast on all possible frequencies, trying to filter one out.”
10 huge green cubes seemed to flash into existence out of nowhere. They quickly spread out, nearly encircling the Adjudicator. They glowed menacingly.
“Adjudicator looks exposed out there by herself.” Branna whispered to Kittaine.
Kittaine nodded sagely.
“Captain Tarsi is a capable man. He’s survived more first contact situations than you have read about.” Kittaine answered.
“I have a transmission isolated, putting it on speakers.”
“-ARE THE BORG, YOUR TECHONOLOGICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DISTINCTIVENESS WILL BE ADDED TO OUR OWN. LOWER YOUR SHIELDS AND PREPARE TO BE ASSIMILATED.”
“It seems we have our answer.” Nemesis stated evenly.
“Open a channel to Captain Tarsi.”
“Tarsi here Admiral. I’m standing by on all weapons. We’re picking up energy spikes on all these cube ships. Something happened a moment ago, seems they were trying to beam some form of energy to us, we’ve picked up multiple impacts along our shield grid.” Tarsi reported smartly. “Orders?”
“RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”
Kittaine paused at the ridiculous statement.
“Captain, show these would be conquerors that the Empire always resists.”
Tarsi smiled coldly, nodded and the holoimage disappeared.
A heartbeat later, the Adjudicator suddenly fired all her weapons at the cubes. Half of them disappeared into exploding debris and hot gasses. The other cubes, huge gaping holes and gashes in the armored hull slowly rotated and released a storm of green torpedoes. They impacted against the Adjudicator. Green flashes of energy splashed along the ship’s entire hull.
Without having to be ordered to, the Inexorable and the Executioner opened fire on the remaining cubes. They exploded under the new onslaught. Within a few moments, the cubes were gone and the space they occupied was littered with debris.
“I want bodies brought aboard for inspection. They managed to send out a signal, Kittaine. Be ready for a counterattack.” Nemesis ordered.
“Of course, Lord.” Kittaine answered neutrally.
The young woman paused before following Nemesis off the bridge.
“Lord Nemesis is to be informed immediately when you have completed preliminary analysis.” She added coolly.
Kittaine watched them leave his bridge. Branna felt relief after they stepped off the bridge. Those two deserved each other, he mused.
The buzz of the alarm awoke him from fitful sleep. He slowly sat up on the edge of the bed, trying to shake off the sleep. The buzzing was incessant. He wanted to ignore it but duty, as always drove him to get up and flip open the panel of his personal comp.
“Captain Picard? I’m sorry, did I wake you? I forget about the time difference between Earth and the Neutral Zone.” William Riker answered hesitantly.
Picard gave him a wry grin.
“Is that where they have you these days?” He asked and slowly sat down at his desk, moving the comp screen to face him as he did.
“We go where we’re told. I thought we would have had some sort of decision by now.” Riker added softly.
Picard nodded and held a hand up to his chin.
“Unfortunately, Number One, it seems that Starfleet command no longer has control over the issue. The Federation Council now has jurisdiction over the matter. The media is still having a field day with the incident.” Picard said incident with just the right touch of sarcasm to let Riker know precisely what he thought of it.
“The entire crew has sent Starfleet command after action reports, completely backing your story and stating that we had no choice.” Riker sighed, knowing how much good that did in the end.
“It seems Number one, that this matter is now in the hands of politicians.”
“God help us all.” Riker smiled. But it was a sad smile. His commanding officer’s fate was in the hands of people that had created the situation in the first place.
“Now, Will, you did not place a subspace call to me just to ask about this case.” Picard noted with a smirk.
Riker nodded and suddenly grew serious.
“I thought you should know it seems that our long range patrols have picked up frenzied transmissions from the Borg.”
Picard stiffened. Wouldn’t he have felt them if they were coming for them again?
“The new transwarp sensors we’ve been putting up these last few weeks have been picking up transwarp conduit activity increasing eight fold in the last hour.”
“They are on the move.” Picard breathed.
“Looks that way, but they’re not coming for us. All the transwarp activity is centered deep in the Delta Quadrant. They’re moving like mad into the center of their own space.”
“This is odd. What else do you have?”
Riker smiled at Picard’s intimate knowledge of how his mind worked. He knew that this alone would not be enough to move Riker to call Picard in this manner.
“Starfleet ordered a special consultant to warp out to the border and investigate.”
“A civilian scientist.”
Picard sat back pondering for a moment.
“I would have thought they may have called me.”
“We all know how Starfleet feels about your connection to the Borg. Actually, they were smart enough to use a Borg to find out about the Borg this time.”
“That’s right; they tell me she still goes by Seven of Nine.”
Picard nodded slowly. He had met her once, at the welcome home party for the crew of the Voyager. She was more than what he expected, but was slightly taken aback by her pride in her drone past. Was it pride though? He should know better, the scars that assimilation could leave behind, and she had been a drone for most of her life. He had only had to suffer the nightmare for a few days.
She left Starfleet shortly afterwards to pursue a career in science. He had read her last paper on Transwarp Conduits. Very informative if a little cold.
“She’s on her way on the Defiant.”
“Then it is a little more than a simple survey.” Picard concluded.
“My thoughts exactly. The Defiant’s cloaking device and armament make her a perfect choice to go poking around in the fringes of Borg space.”
“So the rumors I hear that some of the transwarp technology Janeway brought with her made it on to some of our ships.”
“I don’t think I can confirm or deny that.” Riker stated straightfaced.
“Having only played poker with you a few times, Will, I have no idea what to make of that.” Picard replied wanly.
Riker remained noncommittal.
“I thought you should know sir. It’s not right what’s going on here, but I understand Starfleet’s position. The Federation council is investigating Starfleet for corruption and willful misconduct in violation of our charter and they are trying their best to cover their asses. When we finished off that damned converter and blew the Son’a straight to hell, for some reason I thought it would be over.”
“It’s never over Will. There had to be repercussions for what happened. We betrayed our principles at Baku. It will take sacrifice and pain to stand back where we were.” Picard replied solemnly.
Riker remained silent for a moment when he was interrupted somewhere off screen by someone’s voice. He looked past the screen.
“From whom?” Riker asked incredulously.
The reply etched surprise across Riker’s face. Picard was intrigued.
Riker nodded then quickly glanced back down at the screen.
“Captain, you’re not going to believe this, but we just received a transmission from the Enterprise.”
“The transmission is an old Federation code, the voice has been positively identified as that of Captain James T. Kirk.”
Picard was speechless.
He slowly moved the piece forward and pondered it for a moment. It was a Constitution class cruiser. The 3D chess board was made out of a crystal that changed colors constantly. There were more pieces strewn across the board. One was the Emperor’s Will, the other was a piece consisting of several Borg cubes melded together. Many more pieces still sat in there starting positions. This was just the opening move.
He quietly watched the board, it seemed as if he were looking deep into it, lost in thought.
“Brilliant opening move, a tad dramatic and overstated but I like the flamboyance.” A voice intruded.
The player turned slowly, a cold smile crossing his face like a knife.
“You would like the dramatic, my friend. Disappointed that I thought of it first?” He asked in a strange voice. It seemed to boom out from behind him, as if he were not truly speaking out of his mouth but the voice erupted from somewhere else.
“Moi, dramatic? I prefer the term, excitable.” Q replied and flashed out of sigh of the briefest moment before reappearing in a seat opposite the player.
The player regarded Q with a cold detachment, as if he were observing some minstrel show and looking to critique every mistake, every misplayed note. Q smiled in return but his eyes also seemed to measure the man across from him.
“This is unnecessary, you know. You are playing games at a very dark time.”
“The continuum sent you?” The player asked absently as he contemplated the next move. His fingers stood poised over each piece, slowly moving back and forth down the line.
“No.” Q admitted.
The Player smiled and for all intents and purposes it resembled a shark.
“Then why do I care whether you think I’m wasting my time.”
“Time can’t be wasted, you should know that.” Q put a hand up to his mouth in mock surprise. “Oh, I forgot, you’re human, what can you know of space time?”
The player’s hand paused and his eyes flashed up at Q.
“I WAS human, Q. Now I am no longer. I have achieved apotheosis.”
“What you have achieved is an ego the size of the universe. I always told the others that it was a bad idea to give you sanctuary.”
“Some sanctuary, just when I was getting used to things, you go and have a civil war that nearly reduces the universe to ruin.” This time the player put his hand up to his mouth in mock surprise. “Oh, I forgot, the universe is about to go into ruins.”
“That wasn’t very funny.” Q replied dryly. He looked around for a moment and frowned. They were sitting together on a high rock mesa, the sky above them was pitch black, save for the occasional silent lightning that arced across the sky. Below them was rolling mist and shadow.
“You sure know how to pick a place.”
“Considering what the Continuum was like, I find this place far more to my liking.”
“I came on my own accord because I was a little disturbed by the turn of your game. You seem to be toying with people, places and things that should be well enough alone. They will have their hands quite full when the universe starts to crash down around their ears.”
“You assume that they will know. There are many that believe that when the time comes, it will be swift and dark. There will be no time to save anything.”
“Those people are what we in the Continuum call pessimists.”
The player paused and glanced up at Q.
“I was talking about people in the continuum.” He replied.
“What can I say? When you’ve been around and seen what we have seen, you can’t help but be pessimistic.”
The player stopped, sat back and crossed his arms across his chest. Q noted with some distaste that he still had some distinctly human habits for one that had achieved Apotheosis.
“You’re here because I’m toying with people you care about.”
Q flashed out of his chair and reappeared on the other side of the small mesa.
“What?! Don’t be ludicrous, they’re human beings…barely out of the trees, they have not even begun to fathom the mysteries out there. I have thrown back the curtain over a thimbleful of the vastness of the universe they wish to learn so much about and they have been utterly amazed.”
The player nodded in agreement but he was smiling softly.
“They’re foolish little creatures that seem to think the universe owes them a favor.”
“You wouldn’t have perhaps, fostered that belief by getting them out of some scrapes, would you?”
“Pha!” Q waved the words away in disgust.
“Well, I happen to know your propensity to help these humans out, and I for one am rather looking forward to the big lights out. This universe has been chugging along for far too long. I want to see the end.”
“You should not interfere. The Continuum gave strict orders to all Q, not to help the humans or anyone else in anyway with the coming end. They brought it on themselves after all.”
“They did at that didn’t they. They took time to be their personal little playground and now look what they have done. You would think they would have learned by now.”
“So, my warning to you, don’t interfere in the game. Its all I have to keep me entertained in the end.”
“Petty revenge is all you have this close to the end. You can travel the universe, bend the laws of nature to your whim and instead you sit here and craft some intricate little revenge against everyone that hurt you, or so you thought.” Q replied coldly.
“Revenge?” He eyed the Constitution Class cruiser with particular interest before returning his gaze to Q. “Perhaps, but this will be more than that. A grand experiment, shall we say on the nature of man. How far has he come along, eh? How far from the trees are we?”
He eyed his pieces and touched the Borg cubes.
“Is man nothing more than an advanced biological machine and is the way of Unity above all else really the answer.” He passed a hand over the Emperor’s Will. “Can a man come back from the dark road he is on, can he fight the urge of millions of years of evolution, and can he ignore the siren call of rage and fear to transcend?” His hand brushed the Constitution Class Cruiser. “Can a man come to terms with his own mortality and admit that maybe, losing is a valuable part of life?”
“You don’t believe in any of those ideals.” Q noted with disdain.
“I know.” The player smiled. “But your precious humans are going to prove me very right indeed.”
Q frowned. The player returned to his game, his silver eyes gleaming as if enjoying a private little joke.