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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-10-25 08:19pm
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Lord of Irony
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Chapter 26: Interlude II


A Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….


The Death Star and its Sanctuary Moon hung peacefully in space, the stillness of the void undisturbed. Suddenly, at the extreme edge of the moon a fleet emerged from hyperspace eager to do battle and strike a blow for freedom. Fighters swept in tight wedge formations in front of the main body of the rebel fleet. Massive Mon Calamari cruisers lumbered in, surrounded by nimbler and smaller corvettes and frigates.

Lando flipped switches on the cockpit of his X-Wing and checked his screens. He activated his comlink as the rebel fighters began swarming forward.

“All wings report in.”

“Gray Leader standing by.”

“Green Leader standing by.”

“Gold Leader standing by.”

“Lock S-foils in attack positions.” Lando ordered peering at the half constructed death star looming ahead as they raced for the uncompleted superstructure. As one, the fighter squadrons opened up their s-foils. X-Wings opened up into their familiar shape, B-Wings heavy cannons flipped out on short stubby wings.

On the bridge of Home One, the Rebel fleet’s flagship, Admiral Ackbar watched the rebel fighters fanning out ahead of the main body of the fleet.

“May the Force be with us.” Ackbar stated loudly and readied himself for battle.

“Nien, are you getting a reading on your scope?” Lando asked.

His wingman checked his scope and responded in his sing song language, worry in his tone.

“We've got to be able to get some kind of a reading on that shield, up or down.”

Nien’s response was quick.

“Well, how could they be jamming us if they don't know if we're coming?”

Lando froze as the implications of his words sunk in and realization dawned on his face. He quickly keyed his comlink as the deathstar grew to fill his screen.

“Break off the attack! The shield is still up.” Lando exclaimed.

“I get no reading. Are you sure?” Gold leader asked looking at his scope with concern.

“Pull up! All craft pull up!” Lando ordered and pulled his own fighter into a steep climb. Warning alarms buzzed as his threat display showed that the fleet was nearly on top of where the shield should be.

Lando’s X-Wing pulled away followed closely by his own squadron, some of the slower Y-wings skipped off the invisible shield and skid across the energy shield in fiery balls.

The rest of the rebel fleet suddenly pulled away, the larger ships turning slowly while the nimbler vessels flashed by.

Alarms sounded on the bridge of Home One as the fleet broke hard away from the Deathstar, trying to avoid the certain doom that the shield represented. Ackbar fought the sinking feeling of dread in his heart.

“Take evasive action! Green Group, stick close to holding sector MV-7.”

“Admiral, we have enemy ships in sector 47.” A Mon Calamari controller called out excitedly as he turned away from his screen.

Ackbar rushed over to the controller and looked over his shoulder at the threat display.

On the screen the moon and Death Star were clearly represented and suddenly parting from the sensor shadow of the sanctuary moon was a massive Imperial fleet.

Ackbar moved to the comlink.

“It's a trap!”

“Fighters coming in.” Lando reported as the Imperial fleet finished clearing the horizon of Endor’s moon and disgorged their fighter squadrons. Hundreds of fighters swarmed in around them in endless waves. Bright emerald bolts poured out to meet the desperately outnumbered rebel fighters, many of the TIES were breaking into tight wedge formations with the intent of passing the rebel fighters and directly attacking the larger ships beyond.

“There's too many of them!” a rebel pilot exclaimed as his view screen was covered in fighters and green laser fire.

“Accelerate to attack speed! Draw their fire away from the cruisers.” Lando ordered as he brought his fighter into an intercept head to head with a flight of TIEs.

“Copy, Red Leader.”

The battle unfurled around the rebel fleet. TIE fighters swarmed around the mighty armada as rebel fighters tried to engage as many Imperial fighters as they could. Those that got past the rebel fighter screen commenced strafing runs on the rebel capital ships. Explosions rippled along the hulls of the big ships.





“Alright, we’re under the gun. The fleet is already in system.” Madine whispered angrily as he peered around a massive tree trunk. The bunker was clear, save for a small group of troopers lounging at the entrance.

“If they’re on time, the attack should have begun by now.” His second in command whispered as he checked his chrono.

“Then let’s not dally. Hansen, take them out.”

“Yes sir.”

The rebel commando leaned on the tree trunk and aimed with his sniper rifle. The scope zeroed in on the troopers.

“When he shoots, we go in. We’re going to need to storm it and plant the explosives as soon as possible.” Madine ordered to his men. The commandos nodded and prepped their weapons. They stood or crouched ready for the signal.

Madine was furious at himself and his luck. His team had nearly been discovered at the insertion point by a squad of scout troopers. Madine did not think that they could take them all out before an alarm was raised so he ordered the team to work around the patrol. It took valuable time to evade them and then they nearly got lost in the virtual sea of trees. Eventually they discovered the shield generator, but it soon became obvious that the empire was not going to take any chances. A legion of troops was guarding the main building, including a pair of AT ATs. There was no way in hell that Madine could overcome those odds.

The sole break he received in his favor was the discovery of a backdoor by one of his scouts. Now he had to strike and strike quickly. He glanced up at the sky wondering what the fleet was going to do when they discovered the shield was still up.

Hansen fired twice, two quick snapshots that caught scout troopers in the chest, catapulting them off their feet. The remaining scout troopers turned quickly, but Madine was leading the charge and the commandoes’ blasters were discharging, the scout troopers did not stand a chance.

The commandoes crossed the clearing of the bunker. Madine stopped short at the bunker door controls and jabbed his finger at the console.

“Iridan, get this thing open, the rest of you prep the explosives.”

“Did you see that?” One commando asked as he stared up at the sky for a moment, a bright flash had caught his eye.

Madine followed his gaze and saw more bright green and red flashes slowly blooming in the sky. His brow furrowed with concern.

“Looks like the fleet’s fighting something.” His second muttered.

There was no more time to discuss the worrisome situation as the doors to the bunker slid open. Iridan smiled triumphantly.

“After you, general.” He announced and waved them in.

Madine led his men in cautiously, but there was no need, the access way was completely empty. They could hear the deep thrumming of the reactors beyond. Madine smiled softly. Those reactors wouldn’t be online for much longer. He was carrying enough explosives to level this entire complex.

The commandoes stopped at the turn ion the corridor and Madine nodded to his men. They tossed in flash bang grenades and stormed into the control center. The stunned Imperial troops were easily overcome and Madine nodded to some controls at the far end. The explosives were quickly slapped on to the control panels. Madine turned to prepare to plant explosives on the main energizer when he saw shadows looming down one of the corridors.

“Heads up!” Madine shouted and drew his blaster, waiting to catch sight of a target. Blaster bolts seared by him and exploded on the far side of the control room.

“We got company!”

“How are the explosives coming?” Madine asked as he squeezed off a pair of shots at the advancing Imperial troops.

“Well?” He demanded angrily when he heard no response. Suddenly he felt the cold metal of a blaster barrel against the back of his neck.

“Stand down, rebel scum, or I will enjoy painting the wall with your traitorous brains.” He heard the cold Imperial sneer.

Madine froze and watched as stormtroopers quickly flooded into the control center. He knew then that it was over. The troops were ready, they had been waiting for the rebel attack. They simply allowed them to walk into the control center and now they had neutralized the commando team in a matter of minutes.

“Let’s step outside. The Emperor wishes for you to see the end of your insignificant fleet.”

Madine remained silent as he slowly dropped his weapon.

It was a trap. And he was out of options.



Lando whooped as he blasted a TIE Interceptor with a quick snap shot and sent his fighter right through the rapidly expanding cloud of debris. Another TIE fighter flashed by, on its way to the rebel ships behind him.

“Watch yourself, Lando! Three from above!” One of his wingmen warned him.

“Red Three, Red Two, pull in!” Lando ordered as his threat display seemed to be completely inundated by bright red threat objects.

“Got it!” Red Two exclaimed as he caught one of the TIE fighters with a blast from his canons.

“Three of them coming in, twenty degrees!” Red three reported.

“Cut to the left! I'll take the leader!” Lando lined up his shot and blasted the lead TIE, the other three broke formation and raced for the closest ship in the line.

“They're heading for the medical frigate.” Lando snapped as he brought his fighter in a tight turn to put himself in a prime attack position on the rear of the advancing TIEs. The stars were thick with them. There was hardly a way to miss them. Of course, it also meant that the rebel fighters were being completely suffocated by the numbers. The rebel pilots were far better, but they were facing twenty to one odds.

Nien Nunb chattered an observation.

“Only the fighters are attacking. I wonder what those Star Destroyers are waiting for.” Lando asked as he caught sight of the massive Executor flanked by her attendant flotilla of stardestroyers. They had come to a complete stop after clearing the planet so quickly.

Admiral Piett and two fleet commanders watched the battle at the huge window of the Super Star Destroyer Bridge. They saw the impressive pyrotechnic display as fighters danced in vicious dog fights, still more explosions rippled along the hulls of the rebel ships. Piett nodded to himself in satisfaction. His fighter wings were responding admirably. They were slaughtering the rebel fighter squadrons and making attack runs on the big ships, battering down their shields for the inevitable attack that was to come.

The presence of Lord Vader behind him, his breathing an omnipresent background noise that even drowned out most of the bridge noise did not bother him this day. He was going to be responsible for leading the fleet that destroyed the rebel alliance once and for all.

“We're in attack position now, sir.” His XO reported.

“Hold here.”

“We're not going to attack?” his XO asked bewildered.

“I have my orders from the Emperor himself. He has something special planned for them. We only need to keep them from escaping.” Piett replied, glancing nervously back at Vader who remained impassive and silent throughout the battle so far.

As if on cue, the great disk of the half completed Deathstar began to glow. Emerald beams flashed down from the dish and intersected with each other in a brief flash of energy and the super laser beam lanced out, barely touching one of the Mon Calamari cruisers. The cruiser exploded instantly, a shockwave of debris and plasma whipped out around the space the cruiser had occupied mere moments before.

The shockwave nearly sent Lando’s X-Wing into an uncontrollable spin. He steadied his fighter and fought the absolute shock and disbelief that was sinking into his gut. The cruiser was gone, nothing remained of it, and even the fighters dog fighting over her hull had been consumed in the titanic blast.

“That blast came from the Death Star! That thing's operational!” Lando exclaimed then clicked on his comlink. “Home One, this is Red Leader.”

Ackbar was staring in shock at the place where the Liberty had occupied. Gone in a flash of emerald death. The entire battle was coming undone around him and every instinct was telling him that there was only one option that remained for the rebel fleet.

“We saw it. All craft prepare to retreat.”

“You won't get another chance at this, Admiral.” Lando cautioned. The gambler in him said that there was still remained a hand to be played.

“We have no choice, General Calrissian. Our cruisers can't repel firepower of that magnitude.” Ackbar replied in exasperation. Lando was not seeing the big picture. The entire rebel plan had broken apart from the very beginning and there remained one paramount concern now as fleet commander, he had to save his ships. He had to save the rebel fleet. These were ships that the rebels literally could not afford to lose. They had stripped their defenses completely for this attack, every fleet asset was here and now the Deathstar loomed over them like an accusing god. He could not allow the fleet to perish.

“Madine will have that shield down. We've got to give him more time.” Lando implored.


Madine stepped out into the sun, led by the several stormtroopers and an officer. The rest of his men were kneeling on the ground, hands behind their heads, weapons piled up in a corner. He looked up at the sky. If not for his current predicament, this would be a gorgeous day. The bright sun hung overhead and warmed him as he stood in the clearing. The tree beyond filtered the sunlight through their thick green canopies.

He also noted the blasts of light overhead. They had increased in intensity and number.

“That’s your fleet, rebel. It has met ours and soon will be obliterated.”

“Leave it to an Imperial officer to point out the obvious.” Madine snorted.

The comment earned him a clap over the head with the butt of the officer’s blaster. Madine shook of the pain and felt warm blood trickling down the back of one ear. His eyes were scanning the area, looking for some sign of hope, something that could get them out of this. If he did not find any, he would have to rely on an old trick.

“Careful, this prisoner is to be treated especially well.” Madine recognized the voice. He slowly turned his head to see a young officer walking up to them. The young officer wore the uniform of Madine’s old unit.

“Tenro.” Madine said with some distaste.

“General Crix Madine. You used to be one of us, general, now look at you.” Tenro replied icily and glanced at the assembled commandoes.

“You could have come with me. I trained you myself.”

Tenro looked appalled.

“You trained me but my loyalty has always been to the Emperor, you should have realized that. Imperial Intelligence spent months interrogating me…me! I was loyal, I was the one who reported your defection, and I was the one that remained behind to deal with the fallout of your defection. Do you know what sorts of purges were conducted of our unit after you left?”

Madine slowly nodded.

“I heard.”

“You knew what would happen to the rest of us when you left and you still did.”

“I asked you to come.” Madine replied softly.

“Too late for your remorse, Crix. This is the end of the rebellion and I will personally oversee your interrogation.” Tanro sneered.

Madine nodded slowly.

“Tenro, you were always a cowardly little sycophant, I just never wanted to see that.” Madine replied and activated the hidden control in his gauntlet. An explosion went off just at the edge of the clearing sending dozens of troops scattering.

“Let’s go!” Madine shouted and whirled around, grabbing the officer holding the gun to Madine and twisted his arm until it snapped, recovered his blaster and sent the officer spilling to the ground as he turned at his waist and fired off three quick hip shots at Tenro. But Tenro was already in motion and was retreating behind the leg of a scout walker and shooting blindly over his shoulder.

Madine raced to the bunker, leading a handful of his men. All they needed to do was get back inside, he would set off what explosives they had with them and hope that it was enough to at least damage the shield.

His men exchanged quick glances and nodded solemnly at each other. There would be no time to set the charges. They would have to detonate as soon as they entered the control room.



Lando steered his X-Wing through a veritable obstacle course of massive warships, chasing TIE fighters or being chased by them. Turbolaser bursts blossomed everywhere, and many were the bane of the tiny fighters zipping along the edges of the capital ships.

“Yes! I said closer! Move as close as you can and engage those Star Destroyers at point-blank range.” Lando said desperately as he avoided a laser blast coming from high starboard.

“At that close range, we won't last long against those Star Destroyers.” Ackbar replied.

“We'll last longer then we will against that Death Star...and we might just take a few of them with us.” Lando replied as he blasted another TIE fighter into a ball of fire.

The rebel fleet continued its relentless march towards the Imperial fleet. The closer they approached the more intense and numerous the Stardestroyers shots became. Soon both fleets were almost at point blank range and the turbolaser fire was thick as both sides unloaded on each other, each intent on destroying the other.

Flashing between the dueling behemoths were fighters, blasting at each other or trying to assist their base ship in bringing down the enemy ship’s shields. The rebels concentrated their fire on the exposed and most delicate portions of the Imperial stardestroyers to very limited success. One X-Wing dove in sharply and fired off a pair of torpedoes at an exposed sensor globe after a Mon Cal cruiser concentrated its fire on that portion of the target’s shield grid. The sensor globe was struck by the torpedoes and the pilot had enough time to realize his mistake and shout a warning as his fighter zoomed by the exploding globe.

“She's gonna blow!”

The sensor globe exploded, its shrapnel tearing the X-Wing apart and sending debris raining down on the stardestroyer’s reestablished shields.

“I'm hit!” a Y-Wing pilot exclaimed as a TIE fighter finished blasting away its engines and quickly climbed away. The Y-Wing plummeted down onto the forecastle of one of the stardestroyers trailing glittering debris before it impacted against the stardestroyer’s mighty shields.



Madine watched in horror as the bunker’s imposing doors slid shut faster than he could have anticipated. He had to get his men in and right now they were grossly outnumbered.

“Iridan, get that door open! We’ll cover you!”

“Right on it boss!” Iridan shouted and pulled out his bypass kit. As they reached the threshold of the bunker Iridan took a hit right in the small of his back. He shouted in surprise and fell to the ground not moving. Some of Madine’s men began to turn and run backwards firing their weapons. Madine began to turn as well, glancing down at Iridan’s unmoving body and a thought flashed through his mind. It was the old Madine.

Surrender. Surrender and you can convince them that you were a dupe, perhaps they’ll even let you live.

“Never!” she shouted without realizing it but he felt a hammer like blow to the back of his left thigh that nearly sent him to the floor, followed quickly by a blow to his back that shoved him forward into the bunker door and one last one to his left shoulder him like a top and he slammed against the bunker door, the force of the last blast had spun him completely around to face the Imperial forces advancing on the bunker.

He watched with a strange sense of detachment as his men were cut down by blaster fire. The last few blasted into a steaming bloody mess by an advancing Scout Walker. It quickly came to a stop, head turned to face the bunker doors, and the heavy anti-personnel cannons dipped slightly and pointed at him.

Madine could barely stand. He could not feel his legs as he slowly started to slump down to the ground. Tanro stood beneath the Walker and smiled.

“Crix, surrender now and I promise that you will be well treated. A man like you should not be wasted.” Tanro shouted to him. His voice sounded distant, like thunder.

Yes, surrender. He could hear the old Madine whisper seductively.

Madine smiled softly, blood welling in his mouth and starting to ruin down the left side of his mouth.

“I found something you’ll never understand, Tanro.” He wanted to shout but it came out more like a cough. He slowly lifted his blaster and pointed it at the Walker. Tanro’s face darkened.

“Crix, by the emperor what are you doing?”

“Making a choice.” He replied and fired off a shot. The Scout walker was unfazed but he fired off another shot as his vision began to darken.

“Deal with him!” Tanro shouted in disgust.

The Scout walker fired.



The two armadas were now blasting each other like tanks at twenty paces. Mon Cal cruisers were on fire as they traded withering broadsides with their Imperial counterparts. One cruiser managed to finish off a stardestroyer, its own hull badly damaged and fire raging through the superstructure. The Mon Cal cruiser was crippled, its engines failing, another stardestroyer quickly slipped in to finish off the crippled cruiser. The Mon Cal was wracked by broadsides and its last dying act was to ram the Imperial stardestroyer both vessels destroyed in a horrible blast.

The mighty warships blasted away at each other as their tiny fighters hunted each other through the thick of the battle.

“Watch out. Squad at .06.” Lando reported.

“I'm on it, Red Leader.”

“Good shot, Red Two.”

Lando watched helplessly as another fighter from his squadron got caught in a cross fire of warships. They were so few now, so few fighters and his threat display was still bright with the presence of Imperial forces. They were everywhere and the fleet was slowly dwindling. Those that tried to break out of the tight engagement were quickly vaporized by the Deathstar’s hungry superlaser.

Hope still burned in his heart. The odds were heavy but they still had a hole card.

“Now...come on, Madine. Don't let me down.”

Unfortunately for the Alliance and Lando, it became fairly obvious that the shield was not coming down and that the rebel fleet was not going to be able to attack the Deathstar. The end came surely and swiftly as the last of the fighters was hunted down and Home One remained with a small flotilla of corvettes and escorts. The Imperial fleet collapsed on them like a pack of wolves.

Lando led one last desperate onslaught of fighters on the Executor, in the hopes of taking out the bridge. Lando grit his teeth as he flew through a storm of turbolaser flak. Several fighters evaporated under the steady pounding as they crossed the distance to the Executor’s bridge.

“All wings prepare to fire.” Lando ordered, sick with the thought that in the end this was all over. Suddenly the veil of heavy flak fire lifted and Lando’s relief was extremely brief as a horde of TIE fighters descended on them.

“Here they come!” one of his men shouted.

Lando ignored the screams of the dying pilots as he focused all his attention on the looming bridge, the blinking HUD lights told him that he had a positive lock. Lando fired his torpedoes and began to pull away but his fighter shook violently around him and smoke filled the cockpit. A string of warning lights lit up on his cockpit and the control stick became stiff and unresponsive.

The X-Wing was till plummeting towards the Executor.

“Han, old buddy, it should have been me. I only hope that you could forgive me.” Lando whispered. His X-Wing crashed into the Executor’s bridge shields.



“It is over.” Vader intoned as Home One erupted into a ball of plasma and wreckage. The space around the Imperial fleet was suddenly still. No one noticed the inconsequential blast of fire that flared on their bridge shields for a moment as an X-Wing crashed into it.

“Inform the emperor that the rebel fleet has been destroyed!” Piett exclaimed.

“This will be a day long remembered; it has seen the end of the rebellion.” Vader said proudly. He turned his head to Piett. “Good work, Admiral.” Vader turned and strode off the bridge, cape flowing behind him like a shroud. Piett smiled softly.

His place was now secure and there was nothing to stop his rising star now. Grand Admiral Piett that had a nice ring to it.



SEVERAL DAYS LATER


An Imperial stardestroyer emerged from hyperspace in the Endor system. The Deathstar remained in its orbit, now surrounded by a fleet of stardestroyers and the Executor. The wreckage of the rebellion fleet was still being collected by recovery vessels. It would take weeks to make sure that all the wreckage and bodies was cleared from the space around the Sanctuary Moon.

He watched the recovery operations with a detached interest as his vessel coasted into position and waited for the code clearance to proceed onto the Deathstar beyond.

“Admiral, they are expecting you on the Deathstar. Code clearance has been verified.”

“Excellent, prepare my shuttle.” He replied.




The shuttle landed in the Deathstar’s hangar bay and an honor guard waited patiently as the doors to the shuttle dropped down. He strode down the walkway by himself, his immaculate white uniform nearly glowed in the lights of the hangar bay.

Commander Jerjerrod approached and saluted.

“Welcome aboard the Deathstar, Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Jerjerrod said.

“You may dispense with the pleasantries commander. I am here because the Emperor himself has summoned me from my mission of subduing Wild Space for the greater good of the Empire.” Thrawn replied as he immediately began walking down the line of stormtroopers.

Jerjerrod quickly fell in step beside the Grand Admiral. Thrawn was the first grand Admiral that Jerjerrod had ever met. These men were the absolute elite of the Imperial navy. Jerjerrod was slightly surprised to see that Thrawn was not human.

It spoke volumes about the man’s abilities if he were elevated to such a post.

“Tell me, commander, I am curious, who was in command of the Imperial fleet here at Endor during the battle? News is scarce in Wild space and accurate news is as valuable as Nisoran crystals.” Thrawn asked as he walked along the line, hands clasped behind his back. Unlike the other VIPs that had come aboard the Deathstar, he actually spared time to inspect the troops, pausing every so often to admire some of the troops.

“Admiral Piett, Grand Admiral, although Lord Vader had overall command as is customary with Sith lords.”

“Of course.” Thrawn nodded slowly. “Admiral Piett? I have never heard of him, I vaguely recall a captain Piett, given command of the Executor on her maiden voyage.” Thrawn replied, a slight distaste detectable at the mention of Piett’s name. Thrawn stopped suddenly in front of one of the assembled stormtroopers. He extended his hand. The stormtrooper snapped his weapon up, quickly glanced at the safety and handed his weapon to Thrawn for inspection.

Jerjerrod was slightly taken aback. This was the first time any flag officer had done so in his years of service in the Imperial Navy.

“Last I recall Admiral Ozzel had command of the squadron.” Thrawn added as he closely inspected the weapon, noted no flaws and it was cleanly kept. He expected no less from Imperial Stormtroopers. He snapped the weapon back at the trooper who quickly accepted it and snapped the weapon up to chest level.

“Uh, yes, Admiral Ozzel was replaced by Lord Vader during the Battle of Hoth.”

“I suppose he disappointed Lord Vader?” Thrawn asked neutrally as he suddenly took a turn off the center ramp and began walking up one of the column of troops, pausing long enough to glance down the line and make sure it was straight and disciplined. Jerjerrod followed closely behind, aghast at the change in protocol.

“The details are sketchy, Grand Admiral, but there was a question of tactics that Lord Vader found displeasing and he elevated Captain Piett to Admiral.”

“Odd that.” Thrawn commented as he decided to walk down one of the line of troops and inspected their armor as he walked.

“Sir?”

“Captain Needa of the Avenger had seniority. He was also a good commander, sound tactical mind.” Thrawn replied satisfied with the troops of this line and turning sharply onto the next column.

“Oh, well, Grand Admiral, Captain Needa was replaced by Lord Vader during the search for the Millennium Falcon.”

“Lord Vader is quite the disciplinarian, is he not?” Thrawn asked softly as he approached the next line of troops.

“His methods of persuasion have worked wonders in the final stages of construction for this station, Grand Admiral and I am sure that I am in no position to question a Sith Lord’s judgment.” Jerjerrod replied uneasily.

“Of course, commander. We are not supposed to question, it was merely an observation.” Thrawn paused as if he had just thought of something. “You mentioned Sith Lords a few moments ago. Were you implying that there is more than one?” Thrawn asked pointedly turning to face Jerjerrod. Jerjerrod froze, uncomfortable under the glowing red gaze of the Grand Admiral.

“A new Sith Lord was recently elevated by the Emperor on Coruscant, a Lord Darth Nemesis.”

“Really?” Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on Jerjerrod. “Is there something else you want to say, Commander?”

“Sir?”

“About the Sith Lord. I can tell from your inflection that there is more to this tale. Perhaps you would kindly like to inform me.”

“It is not my place, sir.” He replied stiffly.

Thrawn smiled softly.

“Would it help if I assured you that there would be the strictest confidence between you and me on this matter?” Thrawn replied seriously.

Jerjerrod glanced around nervously and sighed softly.

“The new Sith lord is Luke Skywalker.” Jerjerrod nearly whispered.

Thrawn blinked. It was the sole sign of utter surprise that overtook him.

“Are you certain of this?”

“Yes, the emperor has made no secret that his newest Sith Lord was the hero of the Alliance. He was given command of a fleet that was supposed to field test a new ship mounted superlaser on the Ssi Ruuvi homeworld when they disappeared a month ago.”

Thrawn nodded slowly.

“Very good, Commander.” Thrawn replied and began to turn away.

“Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod called out.

Thrawn turned his head slowly, his crimson eyes glowed softly.

“Yes, commander?”

“Why are you inspecting the troops, sir?” He asked. Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on Jerjerrod. “I mean, no other flag officer, not even the emperor has done so in all the times I have been here, sir.” Jerjerrod corrected quickly.

Thrawn nodded his head back at the assembled troops.

“More likely than not, commander, I will be leading these men into battle. I want to know what kind of men I am leading into battle.” Thrawn replied.

“I see.” Jerjerrod replied with a slow nod.

Thrawn stared at Jerjerrod for a long moment.

“Commander, prepare yourself for a transfer of command.”

“Sir?” Jerjerrod asked in surprise.

“I will be requesting your presence on my flagship.”

“I’m not sure I understand, sir.”

Thrawn walked over to Jerjerrod and stood over him, eyes intent on the young commander.

“You questioned me.”

Jerjerrod remained silent.

“That is a rare gift Commander, and I have a feeling that I will need commanders like that in the near future.”

“Sir, it was not my intention.”

“This is not a punishment, Jerjerrod.” Thrawn assured him.

“Sir, I think you’re making a mistake.” Jerjerrod replied without thinking. Thrawn nodded.

“Keep up the good work, Commander.” Thrawn replied and strode away. Jerjerrod stood riveted at his post, staring at the receding back of the white clad Grand Admiral. Thrawn paused at the end of the walkway and turned slowly to face Jerjerrod.

“Commander, it was my understanding that the Emperor wished to see me. Will you show me the way or must I wait?” Thrawn asked with the barest hint of bemusement. Jerjerrod nodded then caught himself.

“Of course, Grand Admiral!” He replied and quickly marched over to Thrawn. Thrawn waited patiently as Jerjerrod led him to a turbolift. A pair of stormtroopers quickly fell in place beside them, an honor guard for the Grand Admiral.

“Just out of curiosity, how long did the Battle of Endor last?” Thrawn asked as they stepped into the turbolift.

“Exactly two hours, Grand Admiral.”

“What stratagem did Admiral Piett use?” Thrawn asked softly. Jerjerrod thought he could detect a hint of distaste when he said Piett.

“I believe he used a simple Talon englobement, sir.”

“Talon englobement, against Mon Calamari?” Thrawn asked as if he had been told that Piett had dropped his pants before battle. Thrawn sighed softly. “Mon Calamari respond well to any sort of englobements, they are used to traveling through water and being submerged, so they are not as psychologically shocked as many other races by being surrounded. They tend to clearly see the weak points in the englobement and strike straight for those points. They are also tenacious fighters, the best response to a Mon Calamari fleets is a variant of the Golan Gambit.”

“The Golan gambit hasn’t been used in battle since the Clone wars!” Jerjerrod replied.

Thrawn nodded.

“That may be so, but this battle would have been over in twenty minutes.” Thrawn replied icily as the doors to the turbolift slid shut.






The planet Organia was on the outskirts of Federation space. It had been the flashpoint of a Klingon-Federation war. It was the source of a treaty that had enforced peace between the two antagonists for decades. The homeworld of a race of god like beings – the Organians.

No one in the Federation or the Klingon Empire remembered this world, nor could it be detected by any known means.

Organia disappeared from memory and existence for nearly a century.

Now it was gathering place for gods.

“This is my evidence and my call for action.” Q finished as he stood in the center of an amphitheater. The Organians still clung to their obsession with a simpler past. A past that was quaint and anachronistic for beings that had shed any semblance of mortal life millennia ago. They were assembled in the front row of the amphitheater, wearing simple peasant garb. Seated around them were others of their ilk, those who had ascended, and those who had always been gods. They were all here because Organia was the only place in the entire physical plane of reality that such beings could gather in relative safety. The Organians were as neutral as any beings could come.

“Q, we have heard your evidence and we are not moved by your plea.” One of the Organians answered. Q shook his head.

“Ayelborne, you have always been a voice of reason among all of us.”

“Yes, and that is why I must say that the Organians cannot intercede on behalf of humanity.”

“Despite the fact that one of us is causing this.” Q replied.

Ayelborne shook his head sadly. Oh yes, the Organians could play the sad parent figures quite well, Q noted.

“Gary Mitchell is not one of us. He is in fact a human being, touched by power but not one of us nonetheless, and quite frankly you should know that Q. The continuum has been here since the beginning. We have all come afterwards. You should know a true touched one from one granted the power.” Ayelborne replied.

“His power is more a transcendent extension of humanity’s natural inclination towards mental abilities. I believe that they termed it ESP. We are masters of this art and we can safely say he is not one of us.” A creature that resembled a floating skull, with glowing eye sockets and tendrils of wispy light emanating from its base replied in everyone’s mind.

“The representative of the Melkot speaks wisely.”

“Actually, they don’t speak at all, but why quibble?” Q added sardonically.

“Q, you are acting like a human child.” Ayelborne protested.

“I’m trying to save the universe and you sit here debating with me.” Q replied.

“You called this meeting, Q. Out of respect for the continuum we agreed to meet with you despite your rather sordid reputation.” A beautiful slender young humanoid spoke, dressed in a resplendent white gown.

“Ah, the Metrons speak.” Q waved them away dismissively.

“Your diplomatic skills are only hurting your cause.” A rocklike being spoke, it moved slowly and deliberately, glowing eyes set on its head that flashed in time with its words.

“You know, for beings who don’t know the difference between right and wrong, I’m hardly looking to you Excalibians as a tutor on diplomacy.” Q sneered.

“Q. Can we return to the matter at hand? You say you are trying to save the universe. But why is the universe dying?” Ayelborne asked gently.

“We know why it is dying.” Q answered gruffly.

“Answer us, Q.” the Melkot spoke.

Q looked at the assembled beings and knew that this was the most difficult part of the meeting. Part of him wondered why he had called this meeting. Those like him were extremely reluctant to ever become involved in human affairs.

“Captain Catherine Janeway polluted the timeline to the point where the universe is collapsing under the weight of the temporal paradoxes.” Q answered neutrally.

“So the humans themselves have begun the collapse.” Ayelborne replied.

“Yes.”

“And you wish us to save the humans from their own folly.”

“I only ask that you do as you had done in the past.” Q pressed.

Ayelborne closed his eyes for a moment, obviously pained by the reminder of what Q spoke.

“The peace treaty we imposed on them was a mistake, a very grave mistake, one that we rectified as best we could.”

“By erasing any evidence of your existence. You reached out into billions of minds and wiped it all away, you wrapped time and space around this tiny world and took it out of reality so you would never have to deal with these people again.” Q replied stonily. “In essence you took it upon yourselves to tamper with history. Are we above that then? Can we tamper with reality and space time at a whim but we care not if they do so and end reality?”

“Q, they know what they are doing. They are not the helpless children you paint them to be.” Ayelborne replied evenly.

“It is an established fact that Q has an irrational attachment to the humans ever since his encounter with one of them.” The Metron added kindly. He never seemed to get angry, never judged. Such were the Metrons.

“Irrational connection?” Q replied harshly then turned on the assembly and snapped his finer. There was a bright flash and suddenly images floated above everyone in the amphitheater.

“You, Melkots were able to judge these humans and plant them in some fantasy imposed by your minds to execute them. When they resisted you, you allowed them to leave unmolested but yet you watched them from afar because they fascinated you.” Q snapped at the Melkots as an image of a gunfight and several Starfleet officers played out in a half constructed western town.

“You Metrons interceded in a dispute that was spilling over into your space and when one Captain in particular displayed the advanced trait of mercy you allowed him to leave, yet you too watched humanity.” An image of James Kirk standing over a stricken huge reptilian warrior refusing its death played out.

“Excalabians, let’s not forget you and your rather clumsy attempt at discerning the differences between good and evil.” Q snapped as an image of James Kirk and his officers standing with Abraham Lincoln and Surak of Vulcan. Q smiled sardonically. “And I must say my own pranks and experiments have not all been winners, BUT Abraham Lincoln?!”

The Excalabian hissed something that sounded like molten rock.

“We all have intervened at one time or another. I am just asking you to do so one more time. Mitchell is going to make sure that when this universe does end it will be in blood and chaos.”

“But perhaps when it does end, we can start the slate clean again.” Another voice spoke. A small cluster of disembodied lights floated at the back of the amphitheater, a young man sat with the lights, a sad expression on his face.

“You Thasians are always looking for clean slates. You thought you found such a clean slate in young Charlie over there and what have you made him? A morose young man.” Q paused for a second. “No offense, Charlie.”

“None taken.” Charlie responded softly.

“If not now when?”

“Never, Q. We are content to let the universe end and let the darkness come over all of us. We have been here too long now Q and this universe no longer holds the wonders it once held.” Ayelborne answered.

“Oh what unmitigated bullshit!” Q roared. Several of the beings actually jumped in their seats. “All of you are secretly hoping that when the universe collapses in on itself everything will reset itself, as if some great unseen hand will hit a reset button and all will be as it once was…quiet, alone.”

“Was that state so wrong? Was it truly an awful time for us when the universe was young and theses races weren’t mucking about with such a ruckus?” Metron spoke softly.

“I wouldn’t know.” Q replied.

“Ah yes, we forget, you are the youngest of the first. The Q may have always been here, but you were not.” The Excalabian spoke, taking some delight in prodding the excitable Q.

“Well then sit here and wait for the end, because many of you may be shocked to discover that in the end, the end may really be that…an end.” Q spat and began to turn away.

“I will go.”

The assembly turned as one to look back. Charlie stood up hesitantly. His voice was soft but his eyes betrayed a weariness that many of these gods could comprehend. The weariness of power so vast and a universe that could not contain it.

“Charlie X. What would your guardians say?” Q asked.

“Charlie is not a child any longer. We have taught him control. If this is his decision, though it pains us, we will not hold him back. He has already paid enough for what he has done.” One of the glowing lights whispered.

“Thank you.” Charlie replied.

“One boy, against a dying universe and a god…I could use better odds.” Q muttered rubbing his chin.

“Make that two Q.” a new voice interrupted and a young man strode into the hall, followed closely by a tall lanky alien figure who smiled at the others, nodding simple greetings to some.

“Traveler, we were not aware that you were in this space time continuum or we would have extended an invitation.” Ayelborne said with a polite nod to the newcomer and his young charge.

“That is quite alright honored father of the Organians, I know that my travels some times take me far from this realm. I took it as no insult, but my young charge sensed this gathering and needed to come here right away.”

Q stared at the young man standing before him, well built with a near arrogant twinkle in his eyes.

“Wesley…Wesley Crusher?! Is that you? You look…almost like a man.” Q replied.

“I’ve grown up a lot since last we met and I’ve seen much, enough to know that I must intervene if something is to be done about our universe.”

“Wesley and I traveled along the time continuum, exploring its farthest reaches when we came upon an impasse.” The traveler explained.

“Oh?”

“There is nothing after a certain point.” Wesley replied. “Time simply ceases and there is nothing but a great hungry void. It nearly devoured us if traveler had not been thinking quickly.”

“What does that tell you?” Q pressed.

“Time is going to end…very soon. That is why I’m going to join you and help humanity.”

“It’s going to be dangerous. Mitchell will not like me bringing in outside influences. You saw what he did to the Bajorans.”

Wesley nodded slowly but confidently. There was definitely something different to the young man, the whining young boy that Q knew had been replaced by this brooding but quietly confident young man.

“I’m ready. I just warn you, Q. Do not underestimate my powers. I’ve learned much.”

“Perhaps you have.” Q replied softly regarding the young man in a different light. He turned his attention to the traveler.

“And you?”

Traveler shook his head sadly.

“I travel, that is all I do, and all I wish to do. Battle, conflict, war these things are not in my nature. I will continue to do what I do even as this wonderful universe collapses in on itself. I am sorry, but we all must be true to ourselves.” Traveler answered.

Wesley crusher and Charlie X stood by Q as the assembled gods looked on. Q knew that this was it.

“Great, well, I guess when you’re given lemons you make lemonade.” He muttered to himself and began to walk away. He stopped at the edge of the amphitheater and slowly turned his head.

“Ayelborne, James T. Kirk is championing the human cause now. How long do you think before he comes looking for you and your people to help him?”

Ayelborne looked confused for a moment.

“He was plucked before your great revision so he’ll remember you, and I’ll make sure that he keeps on remembering you. What will you do then?” Q asked softly and motioned for the boys to follow him out.

The gods remained silent.




"A cult is a religion with no political power." -Tom Wolfe
Pardon me for sounding like a dick, but I'm playing the tiniest violin in the world right now-Dalton

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-10-25 08:20pm
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Chapter 27: Wounds


“Give me a single reason why I should not kill you where you stand?” Nemesis asked icily.

Tarsi said nothing, he stood ramrod straight at attention, eyes straight ahead. Vash stood to his right, also at attention.

“Lord Nemesis…” Kittaine began. Nemesis held up a hand and did not stop staring at Tarsi and Vash with a glare that could kill.

“You allowed the Federation fleet to gain access to the Vulcan Science Academy where they proceeded to beam up the finest minds on Vulcan, and then as if that were not enough, they inserted a virus in the Vulcan memory cores that have erased every shred of data generated by our wormhole project in the last two weeks. You then failed to utterly crush the pitiful fleet that attacked Vulcan, there were 640 starships in total in the attack group, nearly HALF the size of the fleet we utterly decimated in the Battle of Sector 001! Most grievous of all was the loss of the Executioner with all hands to Federation contrived mass drivers.” Nemesis’ voice did not rise a single octave beyond the cold monotone that he had been speaking since Tarsi finished his report. The Battle of Vulcan was an unmitigated disaster. Tarsi knew it and Vash could barely acknowledge it.

Yes, they could point to the wrecks of 275 starships in orbit of Vulcan. They could point to the fact that the Federation fleet was forced to leave the field because they could not possibly overcome the Imperial presence on Vulcan despite the loss of the Executioner. But it all did not matter. They had lost.

Tarsi never knew defeat and it stung him to the core. Vash kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. Tarsi had said nothing to defend himself since he gave his report. Vash wondered if his old friend was baiting death to avoid the humiliation of the defeat.

“Speak Captain!” Nemesis snapped.

Tarsi cleared his throat for a moment, never taking his eyes off the far distant wall in the main briefing room. Kittaine stared at the young captain. Tarsi was his guard dog, his warrior. No other stardestroyer captain that Kittaine had ever commanded showed the promise that this young man had. The killer instinct that drove him was a rarity even in the vast Imperial fleet. Tarsi was his greatest asset and he just may lose it now in Nemesis’ well deserved rage.

“I have no excuses, Lord Nemesis, nor will I insult you with a contrived one. I will not appeal to the Admiral for I have failed you both. The cold truth is I underestimated the Federation fleet commander and I paid the price for my lack of vision.”

“No, Captain, not yet, but you will.” Nemesis replied voice as cold as a tomb. Tarsi felt the grip on his throat but he did not waver, he did not flinch.

“I can only give you this solemn oath. I will personally hunt this man down and bring you the shattered hulk of his starship with him entombed within.” Tarsi said grimly and he finally turned from his gaze straight ahead to lock eyes with nemesis.

Nemesis returned the steady gaze with a hooded expression, Tarsi could feel the phantom fingers resting at his throat, ready to squeeze at a moment’s notice. The silence was palpable. Kittaine was torn, he was like a father to his commanders yet he could not intercede.

Nemesis suddenly turned away and waved a hand dismissively. The phantom grip disappeared. Tarsi only relaxed slightly. The anger still burned in his belly. He would avenge Jan-Her.

“Captain Tarsi, I will hold you to this vow. I am assigning you and the Vash to hunt this man to the ends of the universe and bring him back to me alive. This man must be taught the folly of opposing the Empire.”

“Alive?” Tarsi replied in confusion.

“Mara, play the message left for us in the Vulcan Institute.” Nemesis ordered and slid into a seat by Kittaine.

Mara flipped a control and a hologram sprang up on the table over everyone assembled. The image of James T. Kirk stood over them and he smiled softly. It was a cool confident smile. Kittaine frowned. This one was not even thinking of defeat.

“I am Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the United Federation of Planets. This strike against your forces is merely the opening round of a campaign that will be dedicated to defeating your Galactic Empire and its designs on my galaxy. We will not falter in our resolve, we will not tire in our dedication. We are joined with the Rebel Alliance of your galaxy in our single goal and purpose. This battle is merely the beginning. Your forces will not be safe wherever they are and we will remind our citizens that living under the yolk of oppression is not the way that free peoples should live. You have my message and my single demand, leave this galaxy at once, or lay down your arms and surrender. Otherwise we have nothing to discuss. I also know how tyrants like you function, any reprisals for actions on our part against Federation civilians will be responded to in the most vehement of manners. You will suffer ten fold what the innocents suffer. Remember, we’re not just fleets of ships, we’re people, billions of people spread throughout 150 member worlds. I’ve done the math, even with the population of the Romulan Star Empire you cannot hold on to the Federation and the Klingon Empire. There will be gaps in your security and I assure you we WILL find those gaps and you WILL be made to pay. This is my message and my demand.” The hologram of Kirk paused and he smiled broadly now as he leaned forward slightly, his eyes seemed to find everyone in the audience. “And in case none of you have heard by now: The Federation Lives.” The hologram winked out.

Tarsi’s face hardened as he realized who it was that had beaten him.

“Kirk.” He whispered.

Mara watched Nemesis closely. He had focused all his attention on a small detail that most of the others missed but she picked up right away. Kirk was wearing a silver lightsaber on his utility belt. It was prominently displayed at his waist. A lightsaber that she was nearly certain was the same one Nemesis had wielded when he was Luke Skywalker. He seemed mesmerized by it.

“That is a dangerous man.” Kittaine concluded.

“How so?” Mara asked.

“He’s not even contemplating defeat. In his mind he seriously believes that he has already won this war.” Nemesis replied quietly before Kittaine could answer.

Mara snorted.

“Isn’t overconfidence a weakness?”

“There’s a fine difference young lady between over confidence and dedication.” Kittaine replied.

“He doesn’t stand a chance.” Mara countered. “This is simple posturing for the benefit of his people.”

“Normally I would agree Mara but he has sent us another subtle message with this demand.” Nemesis replied.

Mara looked at Nemesis quizzically.

“He has not disseminated this throughout the Federation. Normally this would be used as propaganda by the Starfleet remnant to bolster morale but as far as our intelligence agents can tell, no one has seen or heard this message on any Federation world.”

“That’s a subtle message?”

“Yes, it means that he does not feel that he needs to bolster morale by spreading this message around. He is simply making this a private conversation, assuring us that he will strike at us in any way possible.”

“And the lightsaber?” She asked, not liking at all the tone Nemesis took with her. He sounded like a school teacher lecturing a child. She briefly enjoyed the expression of annoyance on his face.

“Obviously someone from our galaxy has given him that relic.”

“It ought to have a very powerful rallying effect for the Alliance troops under his command.” Mara replied.

“Be that as it may, he is to be hunted down and brought to me personally, is that understood, Captain?” Nemesis asked coldly.

“Understood, my lord.” Tarsi replied.

“You are now living on borrowed time, Captain Tarsi, your life is in Captain James T. Kirk’s hands. The longer he remains out of my custody the more I will feel the urge to discipline you for your gross incompetence at the Battle of Vulcan.” Nemesis added and Tarsi felt the fingers at his throat again, a light brush to reassure him that they were still there.

“I will not fail you, my lord. Captain James T. Kirk is as good as dead.”





Tarsi stormed out of the briefing room, Vash right behind him.

“That’s quite a situation you negotiated for us.” Vash said quietly as Tarsi kept on walking.

“I have no doubt that we will do our duties, Vash. Get back to your ship, I intend to be under way within the hour.”

“Under way where, Tarsi?”

“I’m going to find that bastard and I have some ideas where to start looking.”

“Very well.” Vash paused. “And where will you be?”

Tarsi entered a turbolift and regarded his old friend for a moment before answering.

“She’s in pain and I haven’t seen her since the battle. I owe it to her.”

“Of course.” Vash replied and nodded to his friend as the doors slid shut. He briefly wondered how they were going to find this Starfleet Captain. He also wondered how long they had until Lord Nemesis finally lost his patience and decided to ‘discipline’ them.




“You have to understand, sir. Her injuries were rather grievous. If the recovery teams got to her even a few minutes later she would most likely be dead.”

Tarsi ignored the worried physician and strode through the infirmary of the Emperor’s Will. Officers and men from the Relentless were filling a portion of this infirmary. More wounded were in other sections. Medical droids quietly moved among the wounded, tending to them.

He walked right up to a medical bed that was sealed off by a simple privacy screen. He hesitantly pushed it aside prepared for anything.

Captain Belladonna sat upright in her bed reading an after action report on a datapad. She quickly glanced up and froze for a moment. He smiled softly as he saw her. The left portion of her face was covered in a bacta soaked bandage, her right arm was also covered in a similar bandage. He noted the life support machinery that was only recently switched off. She had been in a coma for nearly a week.

“Belladonna…Illith” he said and walked over to her bedside. He hesitantly reached out to touch her hand. She looked up at him, eyes glistened for a moment as emotion welled up within her heart.

“Tarsi.” She replied softly and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

“Are you well?” He asked her seriously.

She nodded slowly and examined the dashing young Captain. She would always view him that way ever since the first day they met. His bright blonde hair was always kept short in a military crew cut but his intense ice blue eyes never ceased to enthrall her. There were depths to this young man’s soul that she could only guess at when she looked into those eyes. Even when they were lovers, she could never get into his soul. His privacy was sacrosanct.

He returned her steady gaze, a yearning hidden behind the worried expression.

“They have ruined my face.” She whispered.

Tarsi shook his head and his free hand softly pushed aside a stray lock of hair.”

“No, Illith. They could not ruin your face. It is more beautiful then I remember.” He replied.

Belladonna shook her head and snorted.

“Did you know that I will probably lose my eye? The damage from the superheated metal and plasma was too much for the doctors to fully repair. They are waiting a few more days to see what the Bacta may be able to do.” She bit her lower lip for a moment to fight the strange mix of rage and grief that ate at her.

“I am looking like my ship now. Quite a pair we make, Tarsi. I’ve read the after action reports, my poor ship has been devastated by our stay in this forsaken galaxy.”

“I prefer to see it as the utter invincibility of the ship and her Captain. These primitives cannot destroy you.” He replied and slowly leaned in close to her. “I will avenge you, I will find this Kirk and I will bring you his heart on a plate. You have my word, Illith.”

Belladonna slowly turned her head to face him, lips only an inch apart but the heat between them was like a volcano.

“I would prefer you bring me your heart, and the rest of you back alive.”

He stared at her for a moment surprise in her eyes.

“When I lay on this bed, and they were working on me, I could feel myself slipping away and someone said your name. It brought me back. I snapped right back into my body because I felt this desire, an insatiable need to see you.”

Tarsi swallowed softly.

“When I saw the casualty reports and saw your name, I wanted to abandon my post, take my ship out of that damnable Klingon campaign and come here to be by your side.”

“You most certainly did not.” She whispered, their lips slowly coming closer together.

“No, I am a soldier of the empire. Duty is at the core of who I am. But now I feel something stronger than duty.”

“You’ve never said this before, Tarsi.” She replied, eyes burrowing into his.

“No more words.” He whispered.

They kissed for a long moment, his lips pressed in to hers and his body leaned over her on the medical bed. The sounds of the infirmary drifted away and there was only the sound of their heartbeats and breathing. There was an obvious hunger in their kiss, a desire to be one with one another that had been denied by time, circumstance and duty. But neither one would allow that to intrude on them. They were alone, in their own universe and there was nothing but their passion.

When their lips finally parted Tarsi and she exchanged a meaningful glance as an officer stepped into the private area.

“Branna.” Belladonna said with a soft smile.

“Little sister, I’ve brought you a present.” Branna replied and stopped short as he saw Tarsi sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Do tell, Captain.” Tarsi added with a wolfish grin.

Branna cleared his throat and motioned for someone to walk into the patient area. A young man stepped in, hair in slight disarray, a bruise was slowly healing underneath one eye but his uniform was immaculately kept. A Starfleet uniform.

“Any particular reason why you’ve brought this person in here?” Tarsi sneered.

“Tarsi.” Belladonna said softly and gripped his shoulder. Tarsi seemed to relax at her touch. Branna noted this with a quiet acceptance.

“This is a Starfleet doctor, one of their finest, if our records are correct. He is available to look after your wounds and see what he can accomplish.” Branna suggested hopefully.

“Considering the state of their technology and engineering principles I wonder if he is anything more than a witchdoctor. After all their ships routinely blow themselves up, what is he going to do, give Illi- Belladonna a stroke?”

The young man cleared his throat.

“My name is Doctor Julian Bashir. I must begin the examination and I will need a copy of her chart.” Bashir stated firmly, not flinching under Tarsi’s stony gaze.

“Of course, doctor, I’ve also brought you an assistant to assist you. It’s the oddest thing, but in our recovery efforts around Starfleet command we discovered this little trinket.” Branna held up a small handheld device. It resembled a wrist band of some kind.

“Imagine our surprise when we discovered this.” Branna said and placed the object on the floor and touched a control. Suddenly a hologram snapped on of a middle aged balding man dressed in a similar uniform to Bashir’s.

“Please state the nature of your medical emergency.” He stated simply then looked around for a moment, slightly disoriented. He saw Branna and his face fell.

“Oh, it’s you. I suppose you still want to play games with me or something. I’ll have you know that I’ve been declared a sentient being. You have no right treating me in this scandalous manner.” His eyes fell on Belladonna. Concern suddenly etched his face. “Oh, what happened here?”

“They have holographic doctors.” Branna exclaimed.

“Simpleton.” Tarsi snapped.

Branna frowned.

“No need to be rude, Tarsi. Branna always means well.”

“So I’m supposed to trust a holographic doctor and an enemy doctor with the life of a stardestroyer Captain?” Tarsi asked darkly.

“I am a doctor before anything else. It is my duty to provide medical assistance to anyone that needs it whatever uniform they wear.” Bashir replied wearily. DS9 had fallen to the Imperial offensive relatively early on. He had not seen any of the others after the station was stormed. When they discovered he was a doctor he was immediately transferred to Earth. He had been assisting the Imperials with the relatively minor wounded and had even been allowed to assist with Federation wounded as well. He had not slept in three days but they had not mistreated him in anyway.

“I believe that we should start with a series of Proregen shots to see if we can’t get a little more lividity out of her left side. That skin is not looking healthy.”

“I was thinking of the same thing, but I prefer a category of neurostem scans, preferably of her anterior lobe and perhaps and anaphasic cascade to detect any abnormalities at the cellular level.” Bashir replied.

“Right, right, but will the anaphasic cascade give us any problems when we start her on the Lonodrin series?” The Doctor asked seriously, occasionally eyeing Belladona.

“One thing at a time doctor.” Bashir replied with a soft smile.

“It seems you’re in good hands.” Branna said with a clap of his hands. Tarsi did not look convinced but he rose from her bedside and watched them intently for a moment.

“One thing doctor Bashir.” Tarsi said seriously. Bashir turned his head to regard the Imperial captain. “If you so much as cause her to have a migraine headache, then I hope pain is something you enjoy.” He said gravely.

“Threatening the physician treating your fellow officer is hardly a way to engender a stable doctor patient relationship, now shoo. We have work to do.” The Doctor replied making shooing motions with one hand while he ran a tricorder over her head.

Tarsi frowned and stormed away. Branna nodded to Belladonna. “You’ll see little sister, you’ll be fine.” He said cheerily.

“Branna, I’m older than you.” Belladonna replied with a half hearted frown.

Branna smiled and left as well. Belladonna looked at each of the Starfleet officers intent on her.

“Gentlemen, if I were both of you I would not be so worried about Tarsi or Branna as I would be about me.” She said with a frosty smile.

“You have to wonder about these people.” The doctor sighed.

Bashir remained silent as he continued working and wondering what had happened to them and the Federation that in a span of two weeks they were almost completely under occupation with no hope in sight.




He heard the gentle hiss of the door and he looked away as he heard someone enter. He remained silent, head resting against his chest, legs drawn up so that his knees were resting against his chin.

He could feel the newcomer’s looming presence over him but he remained silent, eyes down at the floor.

“Ochoa, what’s the matter? Look at me.”

Ochoa slowly looked up in the direction of the voice.

“What do you want Han? Come to gloat about another victory against the Federation?” Ochoa replied softly.

He heard the sharp intake of breath.

“What happened to you?” Han asked.

“Does it matter?” Ochoa asked, ignoring the steady throbbing underneath his right eye and the cold bite on his lip. He could feel the bruising on his left side as well.

“Who did this to you?” Han demanded and his voice seemed to slip. No longer the quiet young voice of a boy, but a voice that was accustomed to being obeyed, it was a voice of command and there was an edge there, an anger that he had not detected before in his new found friend.

“How am I supposed to know, I’m blind remember?” Ochoa replied. “All I know is that a few of your brave soldiers of the empire came in here a few hours ago and decided to extract a little revenge for what happened to the Executioner – whatever that means.” He could almost hear Han’s shoulders slump.

“I take it that the Federation found a way to hurt one of your mighty warships?” Ochoa asked wanly. He could feel Han’s sudden sharp gaze.

“We lost more than 9,000 officers and men on the Executioner. She was destroyed with all hands by some new Federation fleet commander. I think he calls himself Kirk.”

Ochoa sat up straighter as he heard this.

“James T. Kirk?” He asked.

“DO you know him?” Han asked and he could feel the sudden interest.

“I actually met him right before I was captured. The man is a legend. The finest Starfleet officer to ever wear the uniform. Hell, most of us went into Starfleet because of stories we heard about him.”

“I see.”

“You’ll excuse me if I’m in no mood to play.” Ochoa said after a moment of silence.

“You need medical attention.” Han noted.

“What I need is to be out of here and living my life as I was. This is no way to treat a prisoner, even an enemy prisoner.”

“I’ll call for a doctor.”

“How do you live with yourself?” Ochoa asked sharply.

“What?” Han replied angrily.

“How do you live with yourself, knowing that you serve in a military that routinely abuses, tortures and torments its helpless prisoners?”

“How dare you-“

“You’re a good man, I can feel that Han.” Han was suddenly silenced by those simple words. He could feel the tension in the air. “You are not like this, you are not a man that can treat people like this. I can feel it in you and you still pretend that this is alright.”

“You have no idea what you are saying.” Han interjected voice suddenly thick with emotion.

“Yes, I do. I’m a starship captain, we have to be good with people, its part of the job as well as being a diplomat. I’ve known you now since you’ve been in this galaxy and you are a good man, you’re trying to follow orders and do your best to believe in this empire but it bothers you, something about it bothers you to the core.” Ochoa noted.

“Shut up.”

“Go ahead, Han. Bury your head in the sand, but I have no reason to lie to you. I don’t need eyes to see that you are a good man struggling with his conscience.”

“Shut up!” Han roared. Ochoa felt something shove him back against the wall and he groaned as something cracked in his left side. He slowly sat up, slightly dazed. How could Han have pushed him? He was on the other side of the room, and it didn’t feel like hands.

The doors to the cell slid open.

“You, get a doctor here right away.”

“Han.” He called after him.

There was silence, but the door was obviously still open.

“What?” Han asked darkly.

“While they were bravely beating a blind man, one of them stopped the others. He said that they had to be careful because I was a favorite of Nemesis’. Did you know what that meant?” He asked, wishing fervently to see the young man standing in the doorway but only seeing utter darkness.

“I’m sure I don’t know.” Han replied softly and walked out of the cell. The door slid shut and Ochoa was left alone.




“You expect me to trust this..thing? In case you haven’t been keeping score she has led attacks against the Federation with the express purpose of assimilating the Federation and all its worlds.” Archer snapped.

The Borg Queen remained seated casually in the Defiant’s mess hall which was currently doubling as a meeting room. She watched the young captain with all the interest of a scientist dissecting an insect. Her eyes occasionally flickered over to Janeway and Seven of Nine.

“Captain, we have to entertain the possibility that the Borg are the only ones right now that are a credible threat to the Empire.” Janeway cautioned.

“Are you actually telling me that you’re in favor of this alliance?” Archer asked incredulously. Janeway pursed her lips for a moment, uncertain how to proceed. It was obvious that Archer was adamantly opposed to what the Borg Queen was offering, however she had granted them unprecedented access to the Borg data banks. It became painfully clear that the Federation was woefully outmatched by the Imperial forces. Janeway and the others watched as Federation world after Federation world simply surrendered in the face of such a challenge. Even Earth herself, the heart of the Federation had fallen in a matter of hours.

“Captain Archer, you are letting emotions cloud your judgment.” Seven added coolly.

Archer stared at her for a moment in a barely concealed expression of betrayal.

“Seven, after what they have done and what this one plans to do how can you sit there and tell me this is in any way a good idea.”

“Captain Archer, what the Borg offer is a chance at victory. The current chances that the Federation has of defeating the Empire are 0.005%, and that is taking into account all manner of radical probability shifts and giving the Federation every conceivable advantage.” The queen explained calmly, she had that mysterious smile on her lips, as if she were enjoying a private joke, most certainly at their expense.

“The chances that the Federation will even survive into the next two months are 2%. I would say that you truly have no choice.”

“You think you’re going to scare me by spouting those figures at me?” Archer asked sharply.

“The numbers are the numbers, only you humans have continually argued against cold hard facts, much to your detriment.”

“Captain, you saw the reports yourself, you saw the Battle of Sector 001, and our fleet stood absolutely no chance of winning. What we’re looking at is a chance to win a victory, or at the very least carve out a safe haven for our people.” Janeway pressed gently.

Archer’s eyes widened.

“Safe haven?! With the Borg as our gentle protectors?” Archer’s eyes narrowed on Janeway. “Did your time in the Delta Quadrant affect your perspective?” He asked.

Janeway flushed red.

“Captain, I would refrain from comments like that.” She snapped.

Archer whirled on the Queen.

“Tell me, your highness, what were the chances of a Federation victory after Wolf 359?”

The queen’s smile faltered ever so slightly.

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything.” She replied evenly.

Archer nodded.

“It has everything to do with it. You give me numbers to say that we should betray all our ideals and join with our mortal foe. I say that your numbers aren’t always accurate, are they?”

“After Wolf 359, we estimated the chances of assimilating Earth to be 97.589%”

“And how wrong you were.”

“Captain Archer, this is not Wolf 359, this is not a single cube, we’re facing a war fleet, well organized and they also have the resources of the Romulan Star Empire supporting them.” Seven replied. She gazed into his eyes with concern. She could see that he was unhappy with the turn of talks. However, the Borg queen had been very persuasive in making her case. She had shown them all the data they had at hand. There was no doubt.

“In the end, why are we even dealing with her? She’s been severed from the Collective, they acknowledged that she is such a hindrance and a failure that she was no longer a necessity. What can she offer to us?”

“That is a good question. You have been rather vague about getting the Collective to do anything now that you are no longer their queen.” Janeway noted.

The Borg queen nodded slowly.

“You are wise to doubt me, but we can deal with the Collective soon enough. You after all were the first species to ever negotiate a treaty with the Borg. You can do so again.” The Queen answered.

“So, you don’t have a foolproof way, you’re counting on our negotiation skills to talk the Borg into helping us. This is not what we were envisioning.” Janeway protested.

“The time will come when the Borg will look upon you and you will have no choice but to deal with them. You have to ask yourself a very important question. Do you want to face the Borg alone or with an ally that knows how they think, that can speak in a language that they understand.”

They were silent for a moment. Suddenly the Queen stiffened slightly and cocked her head as if listening to something far away. The others stared at her, waiting with an awful sense of anticipation.

“The Federation has just destroyed one of the Imperial Stardestroyers.” The Queen relayed to them with some amazement. Archer smiled triumphantly.

An intruder alert alarm went off. Archer whirled around drawing his phaser as a dozen Borg drones beamed into the mess hall.

“Do not resist. It will do you no good.” The queen stated gravely as more drones appeared. She smiled at Janeway. It was an awful smile. “It seems that the great Borg eye has turned its attentions to you.”

“Why?” Archer hissed as the drones surrounded them. He pointed his phaser at the nearest drone.

“Because now they are curious. How did an organization with .005% chance of defeating the empire destroy one of their warships, a feat that 2,000 Borg cubes could not do?”

The Borg advanced on them and the Queen slowly rose up.

“Now is the time to make a choice.”




A holoimage of a Carrack Class cruiser hung suspended over the briefing table. A Romulan shipyard encased the Carrack. The image slowly rotated so that all the assembled Captains could see it.

“She is the last light ship in their fleet. Damage is being repaired at the Rihkasha shipyard. You know the rest. I expect all your commands to be ready at 1300. It’s not going to be easy. Security will be tight, the Rommies have the 12th and 16th Home Guard fleets defending the shipyard. The 12th and 16th were instrumental in the defeat of the Dominion fleet at Gamma Hydra 10 and they spearheaded the Romulan advance into Cardassia prime, they are not afraid of casualties, boys and girls. They are hard core so let’s not underestimate the enemy.”

“Imperial presence?” One Captain asked.

“There are two fighter squadrons stationed as point defense for the shipyards, otherwise the Impies are regrouping after their defeat at Vulcan.” Some of the men at the table smiled.

“To add to our misery, the Rommies have also rotated elements of their most damaged warships to these shipyards for repair, so there will be elements of several fleets in addition to the defensive fleet.”

“The more the merrier.” One of the captains laughed.

Durant rose at the head of the table and looked at each of his captains.

“I think we’ve been quiet long enough, don’t you? It’s time we stole some of that thunder that Kirk’s been throwing and remind the Imperials that we are the Fist of the Federation, we are the Avenging Angel.”

The Captains nodded their heads in agreement, many smiling broadly.

“So, at 1300 we commence operation Hermes.”

One Captain raised his hand.

“Go ahead.”

“Sir, I know your predilection for Mythology and the like but what exactly does Hermes have to do with this operation?”

Durant nodded slowly, a smile spreading across his face.

“Many of you may not know this, but Hermes was not just a messenger of the gods and fleet of foot, which incidentally does tie in with this operation since we have to be quick and we are most definitely sending a message…but the important point here is that Hermes was the patron god of thieves.” He replied with a wolfish grin.

In front of him the image of the Carrack class cruiser continued to rotate slowly.




"A cult is a religion with no political power." -Tom Wolfe
Pardon me for sounding like a dick, but I'm playing the tiniest violin in the world right now-Dalton

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-10-28 12:41am
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Chapter 28: Ghosts

Darth Nemesis stood alone in his quarters, a great window opened up at the rear of his room that allowed him to see the sea of stars that the fleet traveled through. The inky black void was soothing and still. He emptied himself of all thoughts and emotions as he communed with the darkness.

Of course this was a direct violation of the ways of the Sith. There was no peaceful introspection, there was only the contemplation of rage. Rage fueled your power and your strength and only by analyzing your rage, by reveling in it, by bringing it to the surface, could a Sith Lord truly master his rage and thereby mastering the Dark Side.

Lord Nemesis was committing heresy against the order.

He did not care.

He had been wounded in so many ways and he found that the only peace he could seek was the peace of emptiness. There was no Emperor to chastise him, no Dark Father to urge him on deeper into the embrace of the dark side. He was alone. Far from home and he was deciding whether to undertake another step on his twisted path. A path that would take him down a road with no signposts. He would be striking out on a path his father had only hinted at.

“Join me, and we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy. We can rule the galaxy as father and son.”

There was no room for an emperor in this model. No room for Palpatine. Nemesis did not know if he had to resolve to do what so obviously must be done. Fate had handed him the possibility and showed him two roads. He must now choose one. Events were unfolding at a breakneck pace. Hundreds of worlds were under his sway and his enemies, despite their surprise victory had little chance of being nothing more than annoyances.

The final sign had come from a secret dispatch he received from Romulus. It had only one sentence but it had sealed the fate of this galaxy and would soon turn the tide of the war.

THE PHOENIX HAS RISEN

He knew what it meant and he also knew that it was a call to action.

One did not make decisions of this sort in anger or frustration. It would only lead to disaster and he was playing an extremely dangerous game. He could soon have this fleet in his service forever or Mara Jade’s knife in his back. He wished fervently that Han were here, he had a way of cutting through the haze and giving you a clear picture…and making you smile in the process.

He missed his old friend.

“I guess that’s what happens when you’re left frozen in the hands of your enemy.” A voice replied wanly.

Nemesis froze, eyes snapped open as he recognized the voice.

“Han?” He asked and whirled around.

“How are you feeling Kid?” Han asked with a wry grin. Nemesis stared at the apparition standing not more than a meter away. Han looked as he did when they parted ways on Hoth. There was a strange translucence to the figure and light shimmered on the edges of his body. It reminded Nemesis of Obi Wan’s apparition on Hoth.

“You’re not here.” Nemesis replied icily.

Han cocked his head slightly and grinned.

“You really are letting all this dark side nonsense get into you head aren’t you? When I first met you, you were no different than any of the other farm boys with strange notions of greatness.”

“I’m not a boy any longer and I refuse to discourse with an obvious figment of my imagination.”

Han nodded and smirked.

“Well, there’s a few possibilities, and if you’re willing to hear me out kid, I’ll be out of your hair shortly.”

Nemesis said nothing. Han shrugged.

“I could be a figment of your imagination, conjured up by your conscience through some trick of the force to mess with your own head…sick and twisted but then again you are a Sith Lord…so I guess that kind of goes with the territory.”

Nemesis folded his arms across his chest and waited.

“I could be the trick of one of these psionic entities that you’ve been hearing so much about but haven’t seen...sort of. You met Q a while ago. Your mind has been closed to him since then but maybe, just maybe this is his way of getting your attention.”

Nemesis smirked.

“Or I could be the mental projection of someone you once called a friend who has spent the last three millennia frozen in Carbonite, making me the longest lived man in the galaxy. Three millennia of living in a non waking dream can do things to a person, things that allow him to project his thoughts out to a powerful Jedi he once called friend.”

Nemesis bristled.

“Oh, that’s right I forgot, you’re not a Jedi.” Han replied. “You’re a Lord of the Sith, right hand of the Emperor and your planning to snatch it all away from him so that you and dear old dad can restore order, huh?”

Nemesis pursed his lips as he heard the accusation. It sounded so strange to finally be spoken openly.

“You know, a guy is out of it for a little while and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.” Han lamented as he walked around a table, glancing down at the belongings laid out on top. Nemesis found the apparition eerier the more he examined it. Every nuance of Han’s mannerism was captured every inflection of his voice. As far as nemesis could tell this was indeed Han Solo.

“Luke, give it up, kid. This isn’t you, the black robes, and the killing people at the drop of a hat. This is not you and you know it.”

“What would you have me do, Han? Walk away? You’ll have to be more persuasive than that.”

Han nodded slowly staring at the dark young man and the storm clouds of anger clear in his eyes.

“Kid, you walked down this path because you’re angry, but you know what? You’re angry at the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.”

“Do tell.” Nemesis sneered.

“You’re angry at that old fossil Kenobi, right? Well, you forget that I was there, that old man loved you, kid.”

“What the hell do you know about what Kenobi did?! He lied to me, he told me my father had died and trained me to kill Darth Vader.”

“And?”

“Vader IS my father!”

“Great father figure you have there, Luke. I don’t know about you but the universe would be a MUCH better place without him.”

“Leave now or I will destroy you.” Nemesis hissed angrily and took several steps forward. The ghost smiled softly and shook his head.

“Or what? You’re going to kill me? How?”

Nemesis stopped short.

“You’ve been angry at all these people who have done nothing but help you as best they can. Kenobi was a father you never had, don’t deny it, you loved that old man, I saw it in your eyes or maybe you forgot what happened when we were escaping from the Death star? Maybe you forgot that dear old dad cut that old man down. You forgot your pain and anguish as we flew out of there and how you worked it out on those guns.”

Nemesis shook his head, denying the stab of recognition that flared in his heart. Why was his past so hard to remember? Why did he see the betrayals so vividly? Why was his past life covered in a penumbra of shadow?

“Yoda. You hate him and I don’t know why.” Han suddenly held up a hand as Nemesis was about to speak. “Yeah, yeah, I know, he lied to you he betrayed you. Let me ask you something, for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve wanted to become a Jedi. I laughed at you and I secretly thought the old man had filled your head with these ludicrous notions of ancient weapons and hokey religions. But I saw a change in you. The stuff really worked. But now look at you.”

“What was your question?” Nemesis asked hoarsely. He realized as he watched the apparition how much he missed his friend.

“Yoda gave you the chance to become a Jedi and how did you repay him?”

Nemesis paused.

“What?” He asked.

“He took a chance with you. He could feel the same anger in you that was in dear old dad…what’s the saying like father like son?”

“Get..to..the..point.” Nemesis spat. He did not want the images that were now flooding into his memories. Images of him standing on a stardestroyer bridge flush with his ascension as a Sith Lord of the Empire. He turned to look on a cloud covered world…NO…

“He trained you to bring you close to your dream. No one else could have made you a Jedi. And you turned on him, you became an agent of evil.”

“He knowingly trained me to kill my father!”

“Why did you do it?” Han pressed.

He watched the cloud covered world slowly spinning from the view port. His lips slowly parted in a satisfied sneer as he felt the presence of his old teacher. He began to speak. NO IT DID NOT HAPPEN.

“Shut up.”

“No, Luke. Why did you do it? He trained you to become a Jedi and save the galaxy. Your father sided with the darkness you sided with the light. Of course you would have to oppose him, but if not you, then who?”

He turned to the Captain of the stardestroyer, feeling the spike of fear in him. He smiled softly. He inspired fear in those that once hunted him, those he once feared now groveled at his feet and they respected him, they obeyed him and they would be his instrument for revenge. Starting with the one that had started it all.

“Captain you may-“ NONONONONONO. Shadows were closing in around this memory again, but Han’s light was not allowing the darkness to fall. The soothing darkness was held at bay.

“Why did you order that BDZ?”

“What?!” Nemesis gasped.

“Captain you may fire when ready.” He stated. NO. Green turbolaser fire rained down from the stardestroyer and flashed down underneath the thick white canopy of clouds. NO!! The flashes became more insistent as the stardestroyers continued its relentless attack upon the jungle planet, stripping it of all life. Including his.

He watched the bombardment, at one point his hand reached out and touched the cool glass of the view port as the white clouds roiled and turned black, glimpses of bright red magma could be seen underneath the cloud cover as the surface was blasted away.

“Why did you order the BDZ of Dagobah?” Han demanded.

“No! I did not!!” Nemesis shouted but the truth responded with cold certainty.

“Base delta Zero operation complete, Lord nemesis.” The captain reported smartly. Nemesis nodded.

“Good work, Captain. Set a course for Coruscant.”

“Of course, my Lord.”

Nemesis took one last look at the dead world, the cloud cover was replaced by a thick cloud of volcanic ash, and angry crimson molten rock lit the world like a torch in the darkness of the void.

Nemesis stood stock still staring at the floor as the memory finished playing out, the shadows that dominated his mind were parted for a time and everything was clear.

“He needed to pay.” Nemesis whispered.

“For helping you achieve your dream? For helping you free the galaxy of the empire?” Han asked softly. Han reached out and touched Nemesis’ shoulder. Nemesis looked up sharply. “You remember hating the empire, don’t you? Why you hated it?”

“Uncle Owen? Aunt Beru?” His own voice drifted on his memories and he remembered running, running towards the living quarters, a dark black column of smoke rose up into the clear desert air. He remembered stopping short as he caught sight of something.

“Yes, I remember.” Nemesis replied absently. His eyes were burning…why were they burning? He ignored the first hot tear that ran down his cheek. Han noticed it and he stepped away slowly, sorrow in his eyes as he regarded his young friend.

“I’m going to go now, Luke, but you have to ask yourself this…maybe I AM just a figment of your imagination, maybe I AM an illusion created by Q, maybe I AM Han Solo’s mind free on some journey, linked to you by the Force, but in the end, we all have one message. You’re on the wrong path. You’ve had to lie to yourself to get this far Luke. Don’t wait until you are so far down the path that there will be no turning back, that you won’t have to lie to yourself.”

Nemesis looked up at his friend, eyes brimming with tears and shame burning on his face as he blushed with the realization that the mighty Sith Lord was crying.

“Don’t call me that…that name no longer has any meaning for me.” He whispered voice thick with emotion.

“Hey junior, if you get out of this mess, that’s three you owe me…and Luke…may the Force be with you.”

Han vanished as if he had never been there.

Nemesis savagely slapped controls on his desk and the great window behind him sealed closed under a heavy durasteel plate. The lights shut off and nemesis was completely enveloped in darkness. At first there was utter silence in the shadows. Then the sobbing began, gentle at first, but there was too much pain and the soft sobs became a wail of sorrow.





The Enterprise came out of warp in the inky void of interstellar space. The nearest star system was several light years away and here in the darkness there was very little light. There was no primary, even a distant one that could illuminate the darkness as often happened when they were in system. It was a funny thought that the Federation had been traveling the stars for centuries and very rarely did starships spend much time in the darkest reaches of space, in the great vast gulfs between stars and their attendant planets. Yet, here in the empty places of the galaxy, James T. Kirk had led his fleet to a promise of hope that may help turn the tide of a war that so far had claimed too many Federation lives and worlds.

William Riker contemplated this as he looked out on the view screen and saw several starships in formation ahead. Three Defiant class ships were aggressively patrolling the zone of control as heavier ships floated serenely towards the center.

“Mr. Data, any idea where the good captain is? Which ship is he on?”

“No sir. He left with Mr. Spock and Mr. Scott yesterday on the Sagan while we were repositioning the fleet in the Briar Patch for repairs and maintenance. He seemed rather agitated and in a hurry.” Data replied.

“Commander Riker, I’m receiving a hail from the Sagan.” Uhura reported.

“Put him on, Uhura. Let’s see if we can’t find our errant Captain and find out what could possibly be out here that would be of any use to us.” Riker replied.

The screen winked over to Captain Entebbe.

“Commander Riker, Jim told me that you would be here soon. He’s inspecting the newest addition to the fleet.”

“Newest addition? Frankly, Captain Entebbe we’re a little in the dark here.”

“That’s alright, Riker. Come on in and see her for yourself.”

Riker nodded hesitantly but motioned for the helmsman to take them in.

The Enterprise coasted by a flotilla of heavy ships and soon reached the center of activity. Several science vessels were moored to a massive object that slowly filled the screen. Riker also noticed two heavy salvage craft as well as a fleet of repair drones and engineering vessels. Whatever was happening had drained much of their repair fleet’s strength. Currently the only shipyards they had at their disposal were the ones at Andor which were running at 110% just cranking ships out for the defense of Andor and making quick repairs on the main body of the fleet. The most they could make do with were repair ships and tugs that were now stationed in the Briar patch and they were tapping their Maquis sources to find safe havens in the Bad Lands for a similar project.

Each of these engineering craft represented several starships that were forced to limp along until it was their turn to be repaired. He hoped it was worth it.

However as he caught full sight of the object they were clustered around, Riker immediately knew that once again, Kirk had pulled off a coup.

“Is that what I think it is?” Riker asked in amazement.

Data regarded the image on the screen and glanced down at his readouts.

“The image matches the description of the weapon and scans determine that the hull is indeed solid neutronium. This is the Doomsday Device that the original Enterprise encountered on Stardate 4202.9 in star system L-374.” Data replied.

“Unbelievable. You mean to tell me that it’s been sitting out here all this time?”

“Apparently so. A discrepancy should be noted, Commander. According to Captain Kirk’s log entries, the Device was destroyed in battle.”

“Apparently, reports of its destruction were slightly exaggerated.” Riker mused.

The Doomsday Device was several kilometers long, easily rivaling any of the Imperial behemoths they had been facing of late. It was conical shaped, its gaping maw dark at the moment, but its hull had a watery consistency and glowed with an indigo shade of blue. It floated in the void surrounded by its attendant Starfleet engineering and science vessels.

A small shuttle craft slowly emerged from the maw of the device.

‘Receiving a transmission from Captain Kirk.”

“Put him on.”

“Riker.” Kirk’s face appeared on the screen but the transmission was blurry, lines of static interrupted it every few seconds.

“Uhura, any idea what’s going on with the transmission?”

“There is a subspace distortion field that is centered on the device, sir. It’s causing communications problems.”

“Riker, I realize that the transmission quality isn’t the best but it’s a side effect that the device puts out. I’m going to need you to take a shuttle over here with Mr. Data and LaForge right away.”

“Aye sir.”





The shuttle slowly entered the maw of the Doomsday device. Riker glanced up nervously as they passed the gaping hole, it was not a comfortable feeling to fly down the mouth of this thing but there was no other way in. AS they passed the outer section he began to notice lighting strung along the walls of the inner portions of the device and engineers moving around like insects on the massive flanks of the device.

The shuttle slowed as it approached a makeshift landing area constructed at the end of a massive level that continued on deep into the bowels of the ship. The shuttle slowly rotated and descended, allowing Riker to see the full extent of the repairs underway. The maw of the device was far away, nearly out of sight. A strange set of emitters were placed all along the outer ring of the maw. This wide open area was filled with work bees and repair drones. Past the wide open space, were three great levels, each one easily the size of a building. The three levels each descended on down the full length of the Doomsday Device and disappeared out of view. Strange ethereal lights flickered along the inner wall and tendrils of electricity danced along strange crystalline rods that descended at odd intervals throughout the vast open area, each rod was the size of a starship.

“Data, do you have any idea what those could be?” Riker asked.

“Commander, I can only speculate at best but the contradicting sensor data I am receiving indicates a level of technology far beyond anything we can even speculate about.” Data replied as the shuttle finally set down.

Riker nodded to Data and LaForge and they walked out onto the landing platform. Kirk, Spock and Scotty were waiting to meet them.

“Captain, I am at a loss.” Riker said as he looked around, still awed by the size of the vessel.

“Well, you can imagine the reaction when I told Scotty and his engineers that I wanted them to break this down and rebuild it.” Kirk replied.

“And?” LaForge asked jealous that Scotty had gotten his hands on this technology before he did. This place was an engineer’s dream.

“Lad, there are systems on this beast that I canna even SPECULATE as to their purpose.”

“So you see we have a dilemma.” Kirk added with a frown.

“You do not think that this device can be repaired?” Data asked.

“Mr. Data, the finest engineer I know is telling me that he can’t even begin to understand some of the more basic controls of this vessel. This is a set back I was hoping would not arise. Quite frankly, we can’t even tell why this ship deactivated when the Constellation blew in here. We can’t find any battle damage.”

“So far our greatest achievement was discovering an environmental control system and manipulating it so that it could generate a suitable atmosphere for us.” Spock added.

“You do know, sir that this vessel was declared destroyed by you in your logs.” Riker asked with a wry smile.

Kirk smiled mischievously and rubbed the back of his head.

“Well, unfortunately, I had to lie on those logs in order to keep this thing a secret. I figured the technology on this vessel would be the source of some healthy competition, I was afraid that the Federation would become the target for attack by the powers of the day, so I had her towed out here where she would most likely not run across anything. I guess I was right because she’s obviously been drifting out here for about a century now.” Kirk replied.

“You think that we can help in any way?” Riker asked.

“Well, Number One, I was hoping that putting our heads together might lead to some breakthroughs. Otherwise, this whole endeavor could be a wasted effort. This weapon would probably even the battlefield for us.” Kirk replied.

“The chances of our efforts adding significantly to the probability of deciphering this alien technology are slim.” Data interjected.

“I’m surprised you didn’t rattle off a number.” Riker nudged Data.

“The odds can be calculated to about 6 decimal places, if you like-” Kirk held up a hand and shook his head.

“That’s alright, Spock. Right now I am concerned about the future of this endeavor. This vessel is the key to standing toe to toe against one of their stardestroyers. It’s going to take years for the technology we’re getting from the rebels to start being practical. Right now any starships using rebel technology is just on the drawing boards with little or no chance of construction any time this year.” Kirk explained.

“Unfortunately, sir, I’m just looking at theses schematics that Scotty gave me and it doesn’t look good. Right off the bat, the power core utilizes an unknown technology definitely superior to the matter/antimatter reactions we use. Its several orders of magnitude more powerful and complex. If we can’t understand how the power core works how can we get any other systems going? It just gets worse and worse. The main computer core seems to use an architecture we’ve never encountered before, the conduits are made of a material we have never encountered before, not to mention key components of the hull are comprised of solid Neutronium. I don’t know how we’re going to be able to access these parts since we don’t have any technology that can cut neutronium.” Geordie explained as he glanced over the data pad with a critical eye.

“These are problems that we need to find answers for, gentlemen. Right now this vessel is the key to victory and it’s killing me that we can’t get past this mystery.” Kirk snapped in exasperation.

“Then I’m glad that I’m here to help you, Captain.” A new voice intruded on the gathering at the landing pad.

The others turned quickly to see the newcomer. The young man walked into the light and he looked seriously at each of the assembled officers.

“Wes?” Geordie exclaimed.

Wesley Crusher stopped at the edge of the circle. He wore a simple black jacket and pants, his shirt was a plain white tunic and some very beat up hiking boots. He glanced around the massive expanse of the Doomsday Machine’s interior and he nodded to himself as if accepting an unheard challenge.

“That’s right Geordie, Commander Riker, Data. I’m back from my travels and I’ve heard about the troubles we’ve been having.”

“Wesley, we’re losing a very important war.” Riker added as he stared at the young man that had walked out of thin air.

“Commander, you don’t have to emphasize your points to me like I’m some young wide eyed ensign. I can see things you could never imagine, I’ve been to places that the Federation will never go to. Let’s cut the condescension.” Wesley replied coolly.

Riker was stung.

“This young man seems to be a member of your crew.” Kirk stated neutrally as he examined the young man. There was an aura about him. He seemed to be searching for something, there was a determined purpose in his stride and his eyes spoke of having seen things that no one had ever seen, things that perhaps he should not have seen.

“He was a member of our crew several years ago, Captain. He was an ensign on board the Enterprise. He disappeared during one of our missions.” Riker explained.

“And you can help us how?” Kirk asked.

“Captain, Wesley Crusher was considered by many to be an engineering and physics protégé. His intuitive knowledge of mechanics would be a great asset.” Data added.

“Sair, the wee lad is hardly going to be able to contribute more than the assembled Starfleet engineers I have waiting for us.” Scotty said with a slight smirk.

Wesley shook his head.

“Can’t you people look past the surface and see what’s beneath?” He snapped. Wesley looked at each of them for a moment before continuing. “I can tell you that this vessel utilizes a compression cascade generator, essentially it is a hypermatter reactor, something that I assure you would shock your Imperial friends when they encounter it.” Wesley said with a shadow of a smile. “It utilizes a nanosphere computer interface architecture that the Iconians also used.”

“How in the hell could you know that?” Geordie asked in shock.

Wesley smiled and tapped his head.

“This wee lad has seen these things in action. I have traveled to places that use this technology, I have learned from engineers that haven’t even been born yet or those that died with the birth of this galaxy. This will be a challenge, but I believe that I can help you put humpty dumpty back together again.” Wesley answered with a confident grin.

Kirk glanced at the others and shrugged.

“Mr. Crusher, I want to be the first to welcome you on to the team.” Kirk said with a smile and extended his hand. Wesley stared at him for a moment, as if sizing Kirk up and he stepped towards him and accepted his hand. They shook.

“It will be an honor to serve with you sir. I read about your adventures when I was in school.” Wesley added.

“Thank you, son. Now I don’t mean to be unappreciative for the help but I need this ship ready to be underway soon. I’m starting to dream up a plan that this ship will be absolutely necessary for.”

“I will work as fast and as hard as I can, sir.” Wesley answered.

Kirk nodded and stepped aside as the others crowded around Wesley. Wesley was uneasy around his former crewmates. He felt like an odd man out. He never really felt like he was part of them all those years on the Enterprise and now he felt even more of an outsider. How could he relate to them the things he had seen, the experiences? They did not understand him when he was but a boy.

Geordie gripped Wesley’s shoulder.

“So, Wes, I guess you’ll want to see your mother?” Geordie asked with a grin.

Wesley shook hi head.

“We’re on a tight schedule Geordie, and even though I know most of these systems it’s going to take our all to get these systems back up and running. There is no time. Trust me, there are things happening that will need this ship in action soon. Something big is coming and we need to be ready.”

Geordie frowned.

“What should I tell your mother?”

Wesley thought for a moment.

“Tell her, her son has come home.” He answered.




Captain Archer winced as he was shoved forward by the Borg drone. Archer, Janeway, Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen were led into a massive chamber. If Archer were a betting man, he guessed that the chamber must have been the size of a small city. Around them there was only darkness occasionally interrupted by sparks of emerald energy arcing across the shadows. There were a dozen drones standing behind them.

The queen was not moved by what they saw. She simply stood in the center of the group quietly waiting.

“Seven, do you know what this is?” Janeway asked.

“I have heard of this place. Although as a drone I was never assigned to duty here. It is the Core Collective. In this chamber lies the central consciousness of the Borg. The heart of the Collective, the voices that direct the union. Some say that they were the first collective, the one upon which all others were built.” Seven answered with awe.

“She is right.” The Queen added. “The first Collective was formed in this very chamber and they added to their technological and biological distinctiveness.”

“Where do you fit in on this?” Janeway asked.

The Queen smiled mysteriously.

“We shall soon see.”

WE ARE THE BORG. YOUR SPECIES AND VESSEL HAVE COME TO OUR ATTENTION. AN IMPERIAL STARDESTROYER WAS DESTROYED AT TIME PERIOD 1223.89. THE FEDERATION FLEET THAT CONFRONTED IT ESCAPED.

“What is it you want?” Janeway asked.

YOU ARE KATHERINE JANEWAY, COMMANDER OF THE STARSHIP VOYAGER, YOUR PRESENCE IS KNOWN TO US. WE DESIRE A TRUCE TO CONFER IN ORDER TO MAXIMIZE OUR EFFORTS IN DESTROYING THE IMPERIAL PRESENCE IN THIS GALAXY.

“That sounds simple, except that I don’t trust you. We’ve been here for several days now and only now do you even deign to acknowledge our presence.”

ACKNOWLDEGEMENT IS IRRELEVANT. TRUST IS IRRELEVANT. THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION. THE CHANCES THAT THE EMPIRE WILL CONQUER THIS GALAXY HAVE BEEN CALCUALTED TO BE 79.66%. THE PORTIONS OF THE GALAXY THAT WILL PROVIDE THE MOST RESISTANCE ARE THE BORG COLLECTIVE AND THE DOMINION.

“Funny that considering that we’ve just taken out a stardestroyer and you haven’t done squat.” Archer interjected hotly.

“Captain please.” Janeway snapped.

“Perhaps I can be heard.” The queen added softly.

WE ARE AWARE OF YOUR PRESENCE 1 OF 1. YOU HAVE BEEN DEEMED TO BE IRRELEVANT.

The queen frowned slightly.

“Your stubborn pride will be your downfall. I made you what you are. Your technological and biological distinctiveness were mine to give you. You WILL listen to me. Do you think that you can forge a pact with them? They have abilities which you can never assimilate.”

YOUR ORIGINS ARE WELL KNOWN TO THE COLLECTIVE 1 OF 1. THIS STATUS DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE FAILED THE COLLECTIVE ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. A DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THIS FAILURE IS AS FOLLOWS-

“That’s enough! I know what you think, I was severed was I not?”

“Perhaps I should interject here.” Janeway added, not impressed with the Queen’s diplomatic expertise with the Collective so far.

WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE. WE OFFER YOU AN ULTIMATUM. YOU WILL JOIN US OR YOU WILL BE ASSIMALTED. THERE WILL BE NO THER OPTION, THERE WILL BE NO ALETRENATIVES. THE FEDERATION HAS DEMONSTRATED THE ABILITY TO DEFEAT THE EMPIRE AND SO WE WILL ADD THE FEDERATION TO OUR DISTINCTIVENESS.

“What?! After all that’s happened you mean to assimilate the Federation?” Janeway exclaimed.

“Damn these cold hearted bastards!” Archer spat, wishing he had his phaser. “I told you Janeway, this bitch knew absolutely nothing!”

“You cannot assimilate what the Federation uses to defeat the Empire.” The queen interjected softly.

EXPLAIN

“The Federation uses initiative and intuitiveness on the battlefield. These are not Collective qualities. I know because I made you what you are. I thought that these qualities were irrelevant.”

INITIATIVE IS IRRELEVANT. INTUITIVNESS IS IRRELEVANT. WE ARE THE BORG RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

“In this instance it is not. Check primary memory Alpha Sigma 00223558756.” The queen replied and glanced at Janeway.

THESE ARE THE PRIMARY MEMORY TAPES OF LOCUTUS OF BORG.

“Correct. I ordered the Collective to assimilate Picard because we needed him. We needed his initiative in order to defeat the Federation. I hoped that later on Locutus would spread this to the rest of the Collective to bring about a revolution in thought.”

THAT PLAN FAILED. SECTOR 001 WAS NOT ASSIMLATED.

“Correct. Now we need the Federation as an ally, not a target. They will help us defeat the Empire through the use of these qualities which were clearly evident in Locutus.”

1 OF 1 IS ATTEMPTING TO BARGAIN WITH US. HER WORDS HAVE MERIT. WE WILL ANALYZE ALL PERMUTATIONS. DECISION IS PENDING.

Suddenly the chamber was silent and they stood in shock for a moment before Archer broke the silence. “How long will it take them?” Archer asked.

“Not long at all Captain. I designed them to think quickly and the decision trees are designed to be resolved quickly.”

“You make it sound like you created the Borg.”

The queen turned her head to look at Archer and her smile was ice.

“My dear Captain, isn’t it obvious to you by now that I did create the Borg?” She looked out at the great chamber and the green flashing lights. “These are my children.”



Wherever you go, there you are.

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Chapter 29: Marshalling Forces



“Don’t think that I have forgotten about you.” Nemesis said quietly. The assembled Captains and Admiral Kittaine watched the young man swallow uncomfortably as he stood before the group in the Emperor’s Will briefing room.

“I did not think that such a personage as yourself would even think of me, my lord. I am a lowly servant of the Empire.” The young man replied, his voice cracking slightly.

Nemesis smiled coldly as he walked over to the young man and the device he had set up on the podium before him. A holographic replica of the device floated above the table, technical cutaways of the device.

“Well, Doctor Tezek, I was well aware of your patronage from Bevel Lemesk. He assigned you to this fleet to oversee the field testing of the super laser. You must be proud of its performance.”

“Uh, of course we are my lord. It has performed above and beyond expectations.” Tezek replied, his dark brown hair was in a tight crew cut and his eyes were cold and calculating. There was little passion in those eyes. They were a testament to his devotion to science and reason. The rumor was that Bevel had discovered Tesek in some forsaken hole in the rim as a child and used him as a runner in one of his labs. Bevel soon discovered that the boy had a gift for numbers when he corrected several errors in a formula Bevel had lift on a board one day. He was recognized as an engineering prodigy and Bevel had taken him under his wing since then.

“And now I have called upon you to perform more services for the Empire. I am well aware of the limitations we face, Doctor. But we must overcome to these difficulties if we are to persevere. The New Order has faced difficulties ever since its inception, the Clone Wars, the Rebellion but this may be our greatest challenge. We are far from home and out of our time. An entire galaxy is against us, and we have none of the resources we are accustomed to. But I fully expect the greatest minds of the New Order to rise above these petty concerns and deliver and what I have asked.” Nemesis continued pacing around the podium, eyes pinning the young scientist.

“You will find, my lord, that your faith in the great minds of the Empire is not unfounded. You requested a functioning hyperdrive unit for our Romulan provincial forces. I have delivered it.” He proudly pointed to the spherical device sitting on the podium, several lights winked on and off in random patterns.

“I’m particularly concerned about security. Should the Romulans get their hands on this design, what’s to stop them from simply selling them to the Federation remnant fleet or using it themselves?” Kittaine asked seriously.

Tezek nodded slowly, his eyes darted over to nemesis who was standing slightly behind him, silently gazing at the young scientist.

“I was aware of the design limitations imposed on my team and we worked day and night to put together this working prototype. More to the point, there are certain security measures that will make it unattractive for our so called allies to sell this technology to the Federation. In order to fully understand this, I will outline the main features of the device.”

Tezek walked around the podium and pointed at the holographic cutaways of the device.

“The hyperdrive is not as fast or powerful as our own standard drive units, but still significantly more effective than their primitive warp drives. It will allow the provincial forces to maintain their formations with our own fleets. The hyperdrive unit has several built in limitations, most were forced by the scarcity of material and resources, but they thankfully have also doubled as security features.”

“First, the hyperdrive unit is powered by a special power cell that we link to our own hypermatter reactors to recharge. Once the charge is expended the hyperdrive unit becomes inactive. In order to recharge the unit, the Romulans would need a power source equivalent to a hypermatter reactor and we know that no such technology exists for any empire in this galaxy.”

“Secondly, the hyperdrive unit has a built in nav computer that stores preset coordinates in its matrix much like the rebel pilots do with their astromech droids. This limits the choices of location that anyone equipped with such a unit is able to go to.”

“You mean to say that the hyperdrive units can only go to location stored within the nav computer? What about reprogramming the nav data?” Tarsi asked.

“The computer encryption codes are the highest level of security. There are few slicers in our galaxy that could begin to decipher the codes, much less in this galaxy. The nav computer is also rigged to initiate a core dump should any attempt to tamper with it be detected.”

“Excellent. Tell me doctor we cannot have the ability to construct the thousands of hyperdrive units that will be required to outfit all the Romulan warships in our inventory?”

“No, Lord Nemesis. However, I was able to circumvent this limitation by allowing the instability of their subspace to actually have a useful purpose on our end. A single warbird is outfitted with the special hyperdrive unit, by extending a warp shell around itself, the warbird can shunt up to six other warbirds with it into hyperspace.”

Kittaine nodded.

“I must say, that for once I am most impressed with our research and development teams.” Tarsi added with a smile.

Tezek frowned.

Nemesis placed a hand on Tezek’s shoulder.

“Excellent work, Dr. Tezek. You have done a great service to the Empire. I will be needing your services again shortly for another project that I will unveil to my colleagues. But for now, please continue with your work and inform your colleagues that I am pleased.” Mara’s eyes narrowed sharply on Nemesis as he said those words. Once again, the hints of treason were just that, hints and innuendo. This little game of theirs could not continue for much longer.

“Thank you My lord.” Tezek said with a formal bow and slowly left the room.

As soon as Tezek left the room, Nemesis turned to the others.

“We now have a hyperdrive unit to give to our allies, thus expanding our reaction time by a significant margin anywhere in the quadrant.”

“My lord, my concern still remains about the Romulans using these devices against us somehow. I do not trust them.” Kittaine replied.

“Let them come. The Adjudicator will knock down every stinking warbird between here and their homeworld if the need arises. I don’t fear them with hyperdrive or without. What I do fear is not advancing quickly enough in a major offensive and losing initiative. If I had been able to advance quicker into Klingon lines I may have been able to cut off the retreat of their leadership and we could have avoided this High Council in exile garbage that is rallying the pitiful remains of the Klingon fleet as we speak.” Tarsi spat in disgust.

“Captain Tarsi has a point. We need the numbers that the warbirds provide. The hyperdrive will allow us to deploy our fleets in greater areas and we can bring greater numbers to bear on a target.” Vash added.

“It has come to my attention they we also need to promote our ships within our fleet. The lamentable loss of the Executioner has broken the triumvirate and it needs to be reinstated.” Nemesis paused long enough to spare Tarsi a withering gaze at the mention of the loss of the Executioner. Tarsi did not flinch.

“Your thoughts?” Kittaine asked.

“Captain Nozcar of the Bellicose has proven himself again and again in battle, particularly his defense of the Emperor’s Will during the Battle of Sector 001. The Bellicose will be moved up in fleet position as a member of the triumvirate.”

Captain Nozcar nodded slowly at the sudden acclamation. Tarsi and Vash stared hard at the young dark skinned Captain. The Bellicose’s Captain was a relatively new addition to the fleet. Nozcar had replaced Captain Bentane who had retired after decades of service and much loved by the fleet. Nozcar had come straight from a tour of duty in the Coruscant defensive fleet. Many saw him as a potential spy of the Emperor’s and held him at arm’s length.

“You’ll find that we expect only the best in the triumvirate, and captain Nozcar, there is absolutely no doubt who runs the triumvirate.” Tarsi said with a stiff grin.

“I will do my best to meet your standards.” Nozcar replied evenly.

“On that note, I require from you, Admiral three plans of attacks that will need to be carried out as soon as possible, utilizing hyper capable warbirds as well as our own fleet elements. I will also need from you General Ithis plans of attack and occupation on the list of worlds including Andor. You are also elevated to Supreme Commander of all Occupation Forces in the New Empire.”

“New Empire?” Mara asked frostily.

Nemesis ignored her.

“It is an honor, My Lord. However, I must add that it is highly inadvisable to consider outright ground attacks with our finite supply of troopers and heavy armor. I recommend that we leave a majority of the fighting to my Naval counterparts here.” Ithis replied, his cybernetic eye twitching slightly.

“Certain matters are bout to change general. Very soon, ground warfare on the scale we have not seen in this conflict will soon be possible. Actual occupation troops will soon be able to be deployed on ALL planets within our sphere of influence.”

The assembled Captains exchanged puzzled glances. All save Mara who was now staring intently at Nemesis and ignoring all else.

“All will be revealed to you in time.” Nemesis assured them.

“What are the three main axis of attack, my lord?” Kittaine asked curiously. As far as he was able to tell from incoming intelligence reports, the Klingons were in disarray, the vast majority of their fleet had surrendered, the Federation fleet was in hiding and most other threats were under control. Now was the time to regroup and repair. His fleet had seen continuous active duty for weeks now and the wear and tear was starting to show. He was looking forward to some down time to get the fleet back in shape and ready for the coming campaign of eventual domination of this galaxy.

“Plan for three main thrusts at any time. The first will be against Andor. That world must be taken as soon as possible. They are building more ships and acting as a base for the Federation remnant. Need I remind you the thorn that Mon Calamari is for the Empire? I do not want a repeat of that here.”

“Second, I want a major offensive planned deep into Dominion space.”

“The Dominion?! Whatever for, excuse me my lord but they are years away from us at warp drive. They are not a threat as yet. If they do decide to come we will have vanquished our foes here and be well established to deal with them. There is no strategic or tactical advantage to be gained from launching attacks on their territory.” Kittaine replied aghast at the thought of opening yet another front in this war of conquest.

“I thought I collapsed the Bajoran wormhole so that we would not have to deal with the Dominion.” Tarsi added dryly.

“Gentlemen, this is not a request. This is an order.” Nemesis replied icily. The assembly’s murmurs instantly silenced. “The Dominion is not to be conquered, Admiral. Well, at least not yet.” nemesis added with a cold smile. “They do however possess a technology that I will need more examples of if we are to continue the war effort in earnest.”

“You mean to steal more of those cloning chambers the Romulans have.” Mara added with a gasp of realization.

“Those chambers could prove to be this galaxy’s undoing. even now on Romulus, events are transpiring that will seal the fate of the Alpha Quadrant and soon this entire galaxy. It is up to us to make the final push that will ensure that victory. My sources in the Tal’Shiar have provided me with the location of one of their troop centers in Dominion space, it will be up to us to secure the planet and steal the cloning facilities whole and undamaged.”

“That will prove difficult.” Kittaine mused.

“Why not simply invade Cardasia Prime and take their cloning facilities?” Vash asked.

“Part of the Federation armistice with the Dominion dictated that such facilities were to be taken apart or destroyed under Federation supervision. The Romulans assure me that the Federation was very vigilant in regards to this clause and as such there are no longer any cloning facilities in this quadrant.” Nemesis answered.

“It will be difficult but it can be done, My Lord.” Kittaine assured him.

“Excellent. As for the third attack, I want an assault planned for Uni Matrix 001. The goal is simple, the utter destruction of the Borg Collective. I can feel them probing, looking for weakness and their silence is only growing more ominous. Not a single Borg vessel has been detected outside of their space since the conflict began and this only proves to me that despite the fact that they claim to worship machinery and cold logic, they are simply too stubborn or stupid to see the futility of their cause. We will educate them of this flaw very soon.”

“You realize my lord that these three offensives will sap us of much our stockpiled resources. It will be very difficult to carry all three missions out in short order.” Kittaine added.

“Admiral, if we can complete these three objectives, the fate of this galaxy is assured. There will be no need to worry about the future. The Borg will be eliminated, the Dominion will not be able to touch us and the Federation remnant will soon be crushed under the boot heels of our reinvigorated Stormtrooper contingents. We simply need the courage to do so. Do you have the courage?” Nemesis asked eyes boring into each Captain.

“Yes My lord.”

“For the Empire, My Lord.”

“We serve, My Lord.” The replies came back in a torrent from the officers. Mara watched him as he received the answer he was looking for.

“Then it is decided. Admiral, I want these plans on my desk by tomorrow. There is little time. While we remain here regrouping and organizing, our enemies are gathering their strength to oppose us. We must do as we have always done since we have come to this forsaken galaxy, we must attack where they least expect us and with utterly overwhelming force. Captain Branna, you are in charge of making sure that the initial production run of hyperdrives are installed in warbirds.”

“Of course, My Lord.”

“Make sure that these hyperdrives are placed in ships that have proven themselves to us in battle. This will be used as an incentive for other Romulan Commanders to strive for.”

“A stroke of genius, my lord.” Branna beamed. Vash and Tarsi immediately exchanged pained glances.

“See to this personally, all of you, there will be no one to stop us.” Nemesis said regally and whipped his cape around him in a flurry and strode out of the room. The Captains slowly departed as well, Mara remained seated quietly looking over a datapad. Kittaine was the last to gather his belongings and started to walk out, curiously eyeing Mara. She and Nemesis were usually inseparable.

“Admiral, you do know what he seems to be doing?” Mara asked without looking up as Kittaine reached the door. Kittaine stared at Mara. The silence in the room was palpable.

“I think that you will find that many commanders have no problem with what he is doing.” Kittaine replied evenly.

Mara looked up sharply.

“That is treason.” She hissed.

Kittaine smiled.

“Wake up, young lady. We are stranded in a galaxy far away from our own and out of our time. If we left now it will take us three millennia in hyperspace to get home. The chances of relief from home are nearly nil and you expect us to act as if the Empire is here and now and the Emperor is looking over our shoulders as my men fight and die for every putrid planet of this galaxy?” Kittaine chuckled softly. “Lord Nemesis has not said anything outright treasonable yet, but there is no doubt in my mind what he planning. A New Empire is being forged now and we both know who is positioning himself to be the new Emperor of this empire.”

Mara stared dumbfounded. She always tried her best not to be surprised by people. She always expected the worst and she was usually never disappointed. But this turn of character was unexpected. Kittaine was an admiral in the Imperial fleet. How was it possible that he could turn against the very institution that he had served faithfully for so many years of his life?

“Do you realize that it is our duty to stop him? He is turning against the empire. You have sworn an oath –“

“To protect and defend an Empire that for all I know has fallen and an Emperor who is most likely dust by now. No, I don’t think so. It will take more than words to sway me Mara Jade. You make a grave error when you think that military men will follow words instead of actions and leadership. Darth Nemesis may be many things, but he has proven himself a born leader. He has kept the fleet together and given us hope and victory. That is the bread and wine of any soldier. Do you realize that this fleet could have easily disintegrated under the pressure of being stranded far from home with no hope of return? We could be nothing more than pirates or robber barons living in small fiefdoms as each Captain decided that he knew what course of action was best.”

“You don’t think –“

“Of course I think about these things, Miss Jade. Imperial troops are not robots, we fought the Clone Wars to make sure about that. They are humans and they have feelings and they can be frightened and act out of self interest. Do you really think that if Lord Nemesis were not here that men like Tarsi would not strike out on his own and cut a swath of destruction through this galaxy in a vain glorious attempt to forge his own empire? Men need leadership, someone to hold them together, to maintain cohesion. Military men most of all. Lord nemesis is all of these things and more. The Romulans think he is a hero, most of them say that his sole flaw is he is not Romulan.”

“So now we listen to Romulans?” she sneered.

Kittaine shook his head.

“It is you who are not listening, Miss Jade. If you plan to move against Lord Nemesis I strongly suggest that you do the math. I’ve done an informal survey of the men and women under my command, and not one has spoken out against Lord Nemesis. They do not fear him, they admire him, and the rank and file loves him. It is a lesson that I believe Lord Vader never learned.”

“What’s that?”

“Fear is not the way to command men.”

“So you are saying that this entire fleet is now mutinous against the Empire?” she asked pointedly.

“Miss Jade, I am telling you that if you move against Lord Nemesis you will find yourself very much alone. And you will most likely damn us all to becoming warlords and worse. Think about it, Mara.” Kittaine replied coolly and walked out of the room.







The planet Khazadum was an ancient Klingon stronghold. It was essentially a massive fortress world, designed to withstand any siege. Enormous fortresses were built into the very foundations of the planet. Shield generators were sunk into the crust and generated an energy shield that had repelled massive bombardments from Dominion battleships and their fleets during the war.

Khazadum was a rallying point during those dark times, it was believed that it would never fall to any invader. A monument to Kahless stood on the highest peak of the mostly mountainous planet, as if overlooking his domain with a stern eye. Every true warrior of the Klingon empire was expected to serve some time on the barren world.

Khazadum was located on the fringe of the Empire, far away from the heart and was now the capital world of the Klingon Empire.

Chancellor Worf stared out of the massive window of the greatest of the fortresses in the chain that ran along the central mountain chain – Kahless’ Spine. How far they had fallen, he mused. Before the Klingon Empire spanned over a hundred worlds, all under the dominion of the greatest warriors in the galaxy. Now, the Klingon Empire in exile was comprised of a handful of worlds, most of them like Khazadum were on the fringes of the Empire and were not strategically or tactically vital.

What they did have was a high proportion of warriors who did not want to acknowledge defeat, who did not want to bend knee to the new oppressors.

Tales were told of such defiance. Great songs were sung of a handful of warriors that refused to surrender despite the odds and the power of the mighty Klingon heart.

Unfortunately, the Klingon fleet had not been performing as the songs dictated. Not a single victory since the fall of Quo’nos. The disaster at Goromar hung over them like a dark cloud.

“Chancellor Worf, we need to discuss our options for the next stage of the campaign.” A voice called to him. Worf sighed softly and turned back to face the table of warriors seated waiting for him.

The speaker was a young warrior, hardly old enough to be a general but they were short of generals, the cold fact was that they were short of everything.

“And what do you suggest?” Worf asked.

“Chancellor, if I may, we need to concentrate on winning a victory, even a small one. Our warriors need to smell and taste it for they are so very hungry and nothing feeds a warrior like victory.” Another Klingon spoke. He was old, his thick gray mane of hair was thrown haphazardly over his right shoulder. He was a retired admiral who had been living his life on this world since he retired from service. The younger officers glared at him, some smirked, he was ancient and many said a relic of a bygone era.

Worf had begun to look upon him as his only true advisor.

“Thorfin, where do we find this victory?”

The young general, Jerek, sneered.

“Where indeed? The cold hard facts are that we now only control about 30% of the fleet that we once held, 60% of the ground troops surrendered or are dead and we have exactly nine worlds under our sway, with only several shipyards, most of them antiquated relics relegated to producing D-7’s and patrol craft. It will take weeks to switch over to heavier warship production.”

“I am well aware of the ‘cold hard numbers’ Jerek. Are you well aware of the morale problem that is becoming an epidemic in the fleet? If we do not have a victory soon, we will see our fleets begin to evaporate and our warriors will fade away.” Thorfin leaned in close to Worf. “And then Chancellor we will no longer be Klingons, we will be the punch line of some Imperial joke. If we cannot win a victory now the let us no longer be Klingons.” He urged and squeezed Worf’s forearm.

“I caution you, Chancellor. We do not have the resources for a sustained attack. The Empire has flooded our space with their damned Romulan allies. There are warbirds in every key system of the Empire and their warships seem to appear at a moment’s notice.”

“You want me to be careful, yet the Federation has won a great victory by being daring.” Worf countered.

Jerek sat back as if punched.

“Chancellor, the Federation was extremely lucky and I might point out that their casualties have been heavy. They can sustain those types of losses, Starfleet has remained relatively intact, our own defense force has had the heart ripped from it.”

“I prefer to think of it as having lost those without honor and now we have a pure force, one that is dedicated to the cause and possessing the Klingon heart that will save us.” Thorfin replied.

“You would think that you old fanatic. While you’re trying to relive past glories I’m trying to help the empire survive it’s greatest crisis.” Jerek replied hotly.

“Enough!” Worf snapped.

The assembled warriors jumped in their seats, all save Jerek and Thorfin who remained staring at each other across the table.

“Thorfin is right. I have seen it in their eyes. They are disheartened. When they face our foes no one returns. We must strike at them and win a mighty victory.” Jerek was about to speak when Worf held up his hand. “AND we must be careful to conserve our resources.”

“Then what do we do, Chancellor? Our warriors await your orders, our fleets await to carry out your command. What are we to do now, in our darkest hour?” Thorfin asked.

Worf looked back out the great window, hands clasped behind his back. The question burned in his heart. What would he do?

“Gather our fleet, Thorfin. There is a song that we must write and it will start now.”

Thorfin slammed his fist down on the table.

“Kaplah!” he shouted.

Worf frowned softly. He wondered if the song he was about to write would be the funeral dirge of the Klingon people.







Jean Luc Picard shook his head as the Gorn representative seated across from him finished speaking. The Gorn language was comprised of a series of hisses and growls, each hiss sounded the same to his untrained ear, but even the slightest change in pitch could change the whole meaning or intention of a word. It had taken days to make sure that the universal translator was up to speed on the difficult language.

R-7 sat quietly next to him, a stack of datapads and reports on hand to give to Picard should the need arise.

“I understand H’shalia, but there is no other option in my mind. We cannot defeat the Empire alone and we certainly will not surrender. We need to rally the great powers of the galaxy to make a stand against their aggression.” Picard replied evenly. The Gorn were a very practical people but stubborn and cunning at the same time. They moved with a lumbering gait and speed that belied the quickness of their minds.

They would make a great asset in the coming fight, particularly from what little Picard had seen of their warships. A Gorn Battleship currently orbited over head that was so massive that it could be seen from the surface where they sat. The Gorn did not have the numbers that Federation or Klingons had but they more than made up for it in the might of their warships.

No major power had moved against the Gorn in nearly 70 years. The Federation was the only major power that had any sort of diplomatic relations with the reclusive reptilian race. The Gorn were not expansionistic but they were extremely territorial. They met any implied incursion on their space with overwhelming brute force.

They would need that brute force in the coming conflict. Durant had decided to play to Picard’s strengths as a diplomat and not a warrior and had arranged this conference with several of the fringe powers to try to rally them to the cause. Picard was reluctant at first but in the end he realized that Durant was right. There needed to be a unity of purpose if the Empire were to be defeated.

Picard was the only one qualified to meet with these races and have the slightest chance of pulling off the diplomatic coup of the century, perhaps even a lifetime. To unite the disparate powers of the galaxy into a unified cohesive alliance against the Empire.

Of course it did not help that many of these powers did not trust him and hated each other.

“The Tholian Protectorate will not accept the Federation’s characterization of this conflict as galaxy wide. The Federation has all but fallen, The Romulans have become a puppet state and the Klingons have self destructed into a series of petty fiefdoms and warlords. We do not see further Imperial expansion. They have conquered over three hundred worlds in the span of a month. They will need time to assimilate the spoils of their war. They will no have time to look to us as a next target.”

“And after they have assimilated these spoils, designate Xeenees? What then?” Picard pressed.

“We will deal with that when the time comes. Tholian warship production has increased by 215% and the newest web weapons in our arsenal are nearing completion. We will provide a daunting target to them and in the meantime we will sign a non aggression pact with the Empire to insure our safety.”

The Gorn, H’shalia spat something derisive.

“If you do not find our fleet daunting then why do you not cross the line of demarcation lumbering idiot! We would welcome the chance of sending more of your species to the void.” Xeeness hissed. The Tholian was speaking from a communication array set up in the meeting chamber. The Tholians could not survive in a standard M Class environment nor could any of them survive in the burning heat of the Tholian preferred environment. They were, as far as anyone could tell, a crystalline race that was extremely xenophobic and punctual.

“Please, this is not the time to rehash old grievances. The Gorn and the Tholians are looked upon by the other races in this part of the galaxy as leaders. Where you two go, they will follow. That is a tremendous responsibility. You must focus on the larger picture.”

H'shalia hissed a series of sounds and sat back, arms crossed across its massive barrel like chest and watched Picard with eerie silvery eyes.

“The Gorn is correct Picard, our so called position of leadership makes it easier for you to manipulate this entire quadrant by simply influencing us. Why should we listen to you?”

“Because I come speaking the truth.”

“Truth?!” The Tholian spat.

H’shalia growled several words and nodded emphatically.

“Yes, indeed, the Federation has always held itself out as the bastions of truth and freedom. You’re arrogance in this regard has irked us to no end. Now that you face a foe that you cannot defeat you deign to come to us.”

“I don’t see it that way.”

“Of course not, but you cannot ignore the fact that you have relegated us to the fringes of the fringes of your diplomatic corps. When is the last time the Tholian Protectorate has received a full fledged diplomatic mission from the Federation? The Gorn for that matter have been used as nothing more than a pawn to balance off against us and now you come to us asking for our aid.”

H’shalia hissed something haughtily.

“Yes, indeed, you are asking us to join in a fight that you cannot win.”

Picard was about to reply when R-7 chimed in.

“I could list the numerous incursions into Federation space by the Tholian Protectorate, your overall aggressive policies and your xenophobia all point to one simple fact. You do not care whether the Federation acknowledged you or not. You have been bent upon a policy of expansion for the last 50 years and the Federation presence on your border is viewed as a hindrance.”

The Tholian spat something the universal translator could not or would not translate.

The Gorn rumbled a hissing laugh.

Picard put a restraining hand on R-7’s forearm.

“R-7, if you could leave the diplomacy to me.” he whispered. R-7 looked confused for a moment.

“I was merely rectifying a falsehood.”

“A perceived falsehood.” Picard corrected. R-7 blinked.

“The Tholian aggression into Federation space is a documented fact. The shadow fleet has been involved in several conflicts well outside Federation space to curb Tholian expansion as well.” R-7 replied evenly.

“We cannot accuse a potential ally of aggression and then expect him to want to join us.”

R-7 nodded slowly but Picard suspected the android was not altogether certain about this logic of diplomacy.

“Gentlebeings, if you please, this is not a time to slander one another with accusations. This is a time to make momentous decisions that will help save this galaxy from conquest by outside powers.” Picard said calmly.

“Your android is very quick to slander, Picard.”

“Be that as it may, he is a machine and I am the representative of the Federation. I am saying that past grievances must be shelved until the end of hostilities. We are staring into the face of complete and total domination by an outside force. It is the Federation’s belief that we can oppose this immanent domination as long as we stand together.”

H’shalia hissed a short comment.

“Why does it matter that the Empire seems to be controlled by humans?” Picard asked.

“Because, my lumbering friend there is right, Picard. If the Empire conquers the galaxy, what do you think will happen to species like ourselves? We will be relegated to the fringes of this new empire or worse. You humans will still flourish except now you will have a greater control and say over galactic affairs. One wonders if the Federation does not harbor some secret sympathies with the Empire, hmmm?”

“That is an outright insult and I expected more from you Xeenees!” Picard exclaimed.

“Deny that this is not a valid concern on our part.” Xeenees pressed.

“I will not deny the fact that the Empire is controlled by humans, I will not deny that if the Empire conquers the galaxy that humanity will ascend to a position of unquestionable dominance and power. I will ALSO not deny that the Federation has suffered grievous casualties in opposing the Empire. Thousands of starships have been destroyed or damaged, hundreds of thousands of crewmen, troops and civilians have been killed in the war so far and I do not see us letting up the struggle at all. What does that tell you practical people?” Picard countered stonily.

H’shalia hissed something softly.

“Yes, I agree that the loss of life has been lamentable. I am here to ask you to help end that loss of life. In the end, all of you know that they will eventually come for you. Is it coincidence that they have attacked the most powerful governments of this quadrant? They are securing their position for the eventual attacks that are to come and where will you stand then? Ask yourselves is it safer to wait until they come for you or when you still have powerful allies that will help you win your freedom.”

Picard paused for a moment as he saw the effects his words were having on the ambassadors.

“You know, there was an old saying back on Earth, it was after one of our world wars and I find it fitting for this situation as it stands now and perhaps it will help illuminate your thoughts on the coming decision you must make. A reverend said of the Nazis as they came and took various groups to be killed, “First they came for the Jews, but I did not care for they were Jews and what was that to me. Then they came for the Catholics and I did not speak out for they were Catholics and what did that mean to me? Then they came for the homosexuals but I did not speak out for they were homosexuals and what was that to me? Then they came for the gypsies, but I did not speak out, for what were the gypsies to me…but then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The room grew silent as H’shalia and Xeeness stared at Picard, the weight of his words sinking in.

“I think now would be a good time to take a short recess.” Picard added quietly.







The badlands was not a welcoming place, great torrents of energy washed through the area in ion storms that had been known to tear ships asunder. There were small patches of clam within the storm and the group known as the Maquis mapped out these areas of calm as safe havens from their Cardasian and later Federation oppressors. Many of these maps had been lost with the death of the Maquis.

However, there were some that still remembered and they passed this knowledge on to the Federation remnant fleet. One of those locations was a small asteroid field that floated serenely in the volatile soup of charged particles and subspace cascades. Hundreds of starships were stationed here, many showing the wear and tear of combat with the Empire.

However there were other structures slowly growing here, the unmistakable spider web like designs of shipyards. Already a starship was being repaired in one of the new berths, a missing nacelle being meticulously replaced by a team of astromech droids supervised by Starfleet engineers. Slowly the shipyards were being erected by teams from the Reckless Hope which was berthed at the far end of the asteroid field while teams of Starfleet engineers rehabilitated the makeshift base the Maquis had left behind. A massive industrial replicator was being moored in place as a wing of Delta Flyers zoomed away into a patrol pattern on the very edge of the badlands, ever vigilant for any Imperial incursions.

This was soon to become the first of many semi permanent bases on the fringes of the raging conflict. Kirk had dubbed this, the first and possibly largest of his bases Avalon. The side of the largest asteroid, easily several kilometers in length had large bold blue letters printed for all to see: THE FEDERATION LIVES.

In one of the habitat rings of the shipyards a young woman was busy welding the last of a power coupling to an exposed plasma conduit on the starship Vanguard’s port side nacelle. It had been nearly severed clean by a well placed light turbolaser blast during the Battle of Vulcan. She was intent on her work as another young man crept up behind her and leaned against a support pylon.

“Well, well, well, I never thought I would see you here.” he said with a slight smirk. The young woman turned her head slowly, recognizing the voice and a soft smile came to her lips.

“I’m doing my part for the cause. You blow things up big brother and I fix ‘em.” she replied and finished the last of the weld. She slammed the conduit closed and gave it a pat before getting up.

Wedge smiled at the young woman as she turned and faced him. Lubricant and all manner of refuse was smeared across her smooth forehead and her eyes were bright with joy and satisfaction in her work. Her uniform was also smeared with the same mess, most of it looked as if it had been caked on in layers over time.

“Well, sis. I have to live with the jibes everyday from my fellow squad mates that my only littlest sister is a grease monkey.”

Kelly Antilles cocked her eyebrow and smirked.

“And I have to live with the constant references to my onliest bigger brother and the fact that he’s one of those flyboys who doesn’t know a power coupling from a lube dispenser.” she replied.

They both laughed and hugged each other.

“It’s been awhile. I heard you joined up with us right out of Sullust when we headed out for the wormhole but things have been so hectic that I haven’t had a chance to see you. I hear you’ve made quite a name for yourself, chief engineer of the Federation project.” Wedge said with a proud gleam in his eyes.

“Not as much as the stories I hear about you shooting down an entire squadron of TIE Interceptors during the Battle of 001 single-handedly.” she replied with a gentle nudge.

“Well, unfortunately I’m also here on official business. Princess Leia is heading to a rendezvous with Captain Kirk’s fleet. Seems they found themselves a weapon that could help tip the balance to our favor, but they’re having trouble understanding most of its systems.”

“Oh?”

“But, get this, as far as we can tell by the schematics that they sent back to us, the thing has a hypermatter reactor and what looks to be a very ancient hyperdrive.”

Kelly’s eyes widened.

“It could be from our galaxy?!” she exclaimed.

“That seems to be the general consensus.” Wedge replied with a grin. “You’ve been ordered to come with the Princess and help out the Starfleet engineers get this thing moving.”

She jumped up and down in place and nearly squealed with delight. Wedge feigned covering his ears and grimacing.

“Let’s go!” she urged wrapping and arm around his and urging him forward.

“By the way, there’s a pool going on among the engineers as to how long it will be before Kirk and the Princess announce that they may get married.”

“Huh?!” Wedge exclaimed.

“You haven’t seen them together? They way he looks at her, the way she looks at him. When they stand together I can’t help think about how regal they look, like a king and queen.” she explained eyes lost in a far away romance as she spoke.

“Has everyone here forgotten about Captain Solo?! That man was meant for the princess, you never saw THEM together. Now those two looked made for each other.”

“Aw, c’mon Wedge, people are looking for some hope and love is all about hope.” Kelly replied as they entered the turbolift leading out of the habitat ring into the asteroid itself.

“It’s just that people around here seem to have forgotten about a lot of things…like Luke for instance. I came here to save him yet no one has talked about it seriously.”

Kelly looked in her brother’s eyes and smiled softly. She could see his pain. He and Luke had been friends since Luke joined the Rebellion. His loss had been a crushing blow to her brother. She reached out and lifted his chin.

“Hey, big brother, we’re going to save him, just you see, if there’s one thing you taught me it’s that good always triumphs over evil.”

The doors slid shut.







A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY



The footsteps were cold and clicked on the metallic floor of the Executor as the pair strode down a corridor. Commander Jerjerrod was a stark contrast to the taller and leaner man walking next to him in a clean immaculate white uniform. Jerjerrod was nearly bouncing with each step, barely able to contain his nervous energy while the man dressed in white strode with a confidence of one who was not afraid of anything or anyone.

The pair stopped at a doorway. Jerjerrod pressed a call button.

The doors obediently slid open and the pair entered. A large conference room table filled one of the many briefing rooms of the Executor. The room could easily accommodate dozens of officers and men. There was only one man waiting here for them. If one could call him a man, Jerjerrod mused darkly.

Lord Darth Vader stood imposingly at the other end of the briefing room. his mechanical breathing seemed to be the only sound in the room. The doors slid shut behind them and Jerjerrod felt a cold chill run up his spine.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn, I have been expecting you.” Vader said coolly.

“Lord Vader, it is an honor and a rare pleasure.” Thrawn replied with the slightest inclination of his head.

“I have come here at both your request and the orders of the Emperor to find out what the status is of your invasion fleet. It has been nearly a week since the destruction of the pathetic rebel fleet over Endor yet there appears to be no movement from your fleet to begin the planned invasion and rescue the Imperial forces stranded there.” Vader said casually but did not move.

Thrawn nodded to Jerjerrod to take a seat and walked up to Vader, hands clasped behind his back and no sign of any hesitation or anxiety on his cool glowing red eyes.

“Lord Vader, the emperor gave me free reign over how I was to prepare for this invasion. It was one of my requirements before accepting this assignment that I would be allowed to plan this from the very starting stages and that my authority would remain unchallenged.” Thrawn looked into the cold metallic lenses of the breath mask. “I am the supreme commander of this fleet, is that clear?” he asked stonily.

“You presume much, Grand Admiral.” Vader replied, a hint of anger in his voice.

“The fleet will be ready when I say it is ready. I am currently awaiting the arrival of deep docks from the Core. When they arrive I should be ready.”

“Deep docks?”

“Yes, My lord, we will need to provide our own supply chain to this galaxy. I was informed that once I crossed over, there would be no returning until I was victorious and I fully intend to fulfill my emperor’s mandate.” Thrawn replied and stepped away from Vader.

“Perhaps I can find new ways of motivating them.” Vader suggested, an edge to his voice.

“That is precisely why I called you, Lord Vader. I am well aware that you will be accompanying me on this mission but there are several matters regarding this duty that I must make clear with you.”

“Go on.”

“I read the reports from the Death fleet after the Battle of Hoth, you had the highest efficiency rating of any fleet save one – mine. Yet your officer mortality rate was atrociously high, ten times mine and I was in a full fledged combat zone for the last five years.”

There was only the sound of Vader’s breathing.

“How do you account for this?”

“Our methods differ, Grand Admiral, but I find that mine have results. That station out there was only ready for the battle because I applied my methods to the problem.” Vader replied.

“Yes, they do differ. On that account I am going to tell you this now, and before you go to the emperor I have his full support behind this…I am in charge of the discipline of the men of this fleet from now on. If someone fails me, I will deal with his failure as I see fit. I will not have troopers dragging corpses off my command deck because you were displeased.”

Jerjerod nearly choked as he heard Thrawn’s words. The odd part was that Thrawn never seemed to get upset, nor was he gloating, he was simply stating a fact. Vader seemed to shake his head slowly.

“Grand Admiral I will acquiesce to your demand, but you will find that without the threat of a final arbiter of failure, that it will run rampant through our command structure like a cancer. Fear is the glue that holds men together.”

“You will find, My Lord, that it is you that are mistaken, about a great many things.” Thrawn replied.

Both men stared at each other silently. Each one gauging the other.

“As you wish.” Vader replied softly.

“Excellent, then we have an understanding. I will respect you as a direct representative of my emperor and you will respect me as commander in chief of this fleet. Our partnership will bend an entire galaxy to our will.”

“Was there ever a doubt?”

Thrawn turned his head slightly and glanced at Jerjerrod.

“Leave us.”

Jerjerrod nodded and nearly jumped out of his seat, eager to leave these two titans alone together.

As soon as the doors closed Thrawn looked back at the hulking black clad giant.

“I have questions regarding the newest Sith Lord, Darth Nemesis.”

“These questions could have been raised with the Emperor. You obviously enjoy a close relationship.” Vader replied neutrally.

Thrawn smiled softly.

“Of course, however he directed me to ask you. He said you and the Sith lord had a close relationship.”

“He did?” Vader asked, his voice sounding uncertain for a moment.

“I know that Darth Nemesis is actually Luke Skywalker, but I am wondering why the Emperor would entrust a fleet of Imperial warships to the command of a young man who only six months ago was actively opposing the empire?”

“The emperor has his own reasons, but most important of all, Lord nemesis is NOT Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker died on Bespin.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t expect you to understand our ways, but all that he was he left behind to become that which he is.”

“All in six months, eh? He must be an amazing individual.”

Vader remained silent, save for the mechanical rasp of his respirator.

“I have a suspicion regarding Lord nemesis that I need to bring to light before we leave on this mission.”

“What is it?”

“When you were commanding the Death fleet you focused the vast majority of your efforts in tracking down Luke Skywalker. The fact that he was amongst the rebels was only a bonus and tangential objective. You attacked Hoth and personally led the attack on the rebel headquarters in search of Skywalker. Once the Millennium Falcon escaped you abandoned any attempt at hunting down the other rebel ships in an effort to capture the Falcon, despite the fact that you would have most likely dealt a crippling blow to their leadership had you chased them down and perhaps we would not have had to fight this battle art Endor.” Thrawn smiled. “But I digress. You put out a general call for bounty hunters when your search proved fruitless. One of these bounty hunters led you to Bespin where you captured the crew of the Falcon, all save Skywalker. You had in your hands some of the greatest villains of the rebellion, including a member of their ruling council, Leia Organna and instead of taking them into custody you set a trap for young Skywalker and risked losing everything, which you very nearly did. You entered Bespin with Leia Organna, Han Solo and Chewbacca, you left the city with only Luke Skywalker yet this was considered a great victory. Six months go by and Skywalker is occasionally seen in both the Imperial palace and yours. Then several weeks ago he is announced as a Sith Lord and given the responsibility of testing the new ship mounted superlaser on the Ssi Ruvi homeworld.”

“Was there a question anywhere in that fine caption of the last six months of my missions for the emperor?” Vader asked with a hint of sarcasm.

“Only this, I believe that Darth Nemesis is your son.”

Vader stood stock still, even his respirator seemed to hesitate for a moment.

“Why would you say that?”

“The evidence is clear to me. You spared no expense in trying to capture him, in fact many said that you were obsessed. The emperor himself said that you had a very close relationship. You had no connection with Skywalker during your rise to power and you have never been to Tatooine, yet as soon as his name was announced by rebel propaganda your obsession with capturing him began. He is too young to be a sibling and you do not strike me as a person that has many close attachments like friends so I hazard a guess that you are his father.”

“You hazard is a very appropriate term. I fully expect that you will not speak of this rumor to anyone or you will find me a most potent enemy.”

“I am not using this as a threat nor would I be stupid enough to goad a Sith Lord but I am concerned about your reaction should we find that Lord Nemesis may have switched allegiances.”:

“You dare question a Sith Lord’s loyalty?” Vader hissed and Thrawn suddenly found himself off his feet and his throat constricting under a vise like grip. Thrawn did not flail about, nor did he even raise his hands to his throat. he instead focused on Vader and spoke through the swiftly closing throat.

“IF he has turned it is only a possibility…Vader..I always look…for all…the options. I…need…to know..that you…will…honor..your..oath..to the..emperor.” he spat out as his vision began to blur.

Vader held up a clenched fist and stared at Thrawn for a long moment. The squeezing of his throat did not ease but it did not continue.

“The..only one…that could..stop..him…is you.” Thrawn spat out.

“If Lord Nemesis has turned, then it is his destiny to be destroyed.” Vader spoke, voice thick with emotion and he dropped his hand. Thrawn fell to the floor but landed on his feet. He steadied himself on one of the chairs by the table and absently rubbed his throat.

“You realize that we can’t have you doing that whenever you get upset, Lord Vader. We must respect each other because once we cross over we will only have each other to rely upon.”

“Grand Admiral Thrawn, you may rely on me. I will make sure that this newfound galaxy is brought into the new order. And if certain members of the Empire have forgotten their oaths, they will be dealt with…permanently.” Vader said and strode out of the chamber.

Thrawn watched him leave and continued rubbing his sore throat.

“So, he IS your son.” he whispered softly and his eyes shrunk into slits as this new variable was entered into his equation.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-11-10 04:02pm
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Chapter 30: Operation Hermes


The corridors of the Imperial warship were silent. It was the middle of the night cycle and many of the crew was either resting in their quarters and some lucky ones had been granted a short leave to the surrounding systems to rest and recreate until the final repairs were completed. The Horan Corr was a Carrack class cruiser, usually relegated to simple picket duty in the mighty Imperial Navy, but here in this galaxy, despite her size and armament relative to other Imperial warships she was quite deadly. No starships could stand up to her alone one on one and her speed made her a potent threat on enemy flanks.

However, she was the last of her class here. All the other Carracks had been destroyed by the various enemies they found here. The Izman was the first casualty in the war, lost relatively early on at the hands of the Borg and several others were lost in the various offensives but the Battle of Sector 001 had seen their death knell as the Federation fleet concentrated all their fire on the lighter ships and one had even been lost when the Relentless momentarily lost attitude control and chopped one of the ships in half.

The morale on the ship was rather low. They were always a target and now their damage had forced them out of the fight and they were relying on Romulan technicians to help them. The crew moved through the corridors with a muted presence as though they feared that at any time they could join their sister ships in oblivion.

Moving along one of these corridors at a slow steady pace was a short hunched over Romulan, moving a magnetic sweeper slowly along the floor, simultaneously checking for stress in the deck plates and picking up stray debris. He moved deliberately down the corridor approaching a pair of storm troopers standing stoically at the doorway that led to the bridge. The hunched over Romulan looked up hesitantly at each of the imposing troopers but they did not move a muscle. He quietly lifted his magnetic sweeper and took a card key access and held up to the nearest trooper.

The Stormtrooper picked up the card ran it through his built in access comp and got a green light. He handed the card back to the Romulan.

“Go ahead.” He said flatly.

The Romulan nodded his head nervously and the doors to the bridge hissed open and he walked through. The bridge of the warship was silent. Very few crewmen were on duty but the Captain sat in his command chair diligently reading over some reports as the night shift crew went about their duties quietly. The Captain glanced up as the Romulan entered and he smiled softly.

“Zarek, good to see you. The deck plates over by the engineering station were making strange noises when we ran up the engines to full power this morning. Check that, please.”

Zarek nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes Captain Valaren.” He replied and walked over to the engineering section of the bridge, eyes bent forward intent on his job. Captain Valaren spared him a glance as he walked by. The Romulan was obviously crippled and probably retarded, but Valaren had a son who was disabled and he always spared the others afflicted so some kindness because emperor knows there was very little of it in the universe for any of them.

He looked back down at the datapad on his lap and wondered if he would ever be able to digest all of the after action reports being generated by the fleet. They were fighting on so many fronts, against individual fleets and the Klingons had grown to be as annoying as the rebellion back home. Individual ships had taken to harrying convoys and small worlds on the fringes of Imperial control and Lord Nemesis had made it absolutely clear that the only way they were going to be able to maintain control of the vast prize they had seized was to insure the population that life would be better and safer under the Imperial banner.

So far, the attacks had been simply annoying, a convoy attacked and damaged, a world struck by a spread of torpedoes but it was easy to see that these actions could quickly escalate. He was also worried about the Federation Remnant fleet. They had all but disappeared over the last week, right after the Battle of Vulcan. Many had been bracing for a series of attacks as the Klingons were doing to capitalize on the Federation victory but none came. The starships simply vanished like smoke. Valaren wondered just what they were doing.

Some grumbled that the Federation were cowards and were hiding but Valaren believed that this Federation fleet commander was a shrewd warrior. He had wounded his enemy and was using the time to rebuild and regroup. He was not wasting precious resources and ships in futile haphazard raiding attacks as the Klingons were. What worried him the most was wondering where he would eventually strike. This was not some hot headed fleet admiral looking for some revenge against the Empire, this was a calculating commander looking for victory.

Zarek slowly pushed his magnetic sweeper over the deck plates in the engineering pit of the bridge. He cautiously flipped a hidden stud in the handle of his sweeper and a small object flipped out near the top of the handle. He palmed it and continued sweeping.

An alarm buzzed.

“What’s-“Valaren began and on the screen a dozen starships decloaked in the midst of the shipyard.

“Red Alert!” Valaren stood up and shouted.

“We have more ships decloaking within the perimeter. Romulan warships are responding.” His XO reported.

Valaren nodded as he watched a Nebula swing by the front and release a devastating barrage on the lead warbird nearest to their berth. It was not like any other Federation starship he had engaged, this one was covered in odd segmented armor.

“Prepare to-” he paused as he caught sight of Zarek placing something down by the engineering area.

“Stop that man!” Valaren shouted.

Several crewmen leapt to their Captain’s order and wrestled with the crippled Romulan who dropped an object that clanged on the floor.

“Bring him over to me now!” Valaren demanded. The two stormtroopers from outside raced onto the bridge and promptly took hold of the Zarek and shoved him forward to face Valaren.

“What were you doing?” Valaren demanded.

“Nothing.” Zarek answered. He had his hands behind his back but with his left hand he had slowly extracted a needle from the sleeve of his tunic. He placed the needle ion the palm of his hand as another crewman held up the device that Zarek had dropped.

“Sir, it looks like some sort of transmitter.”

Valaren snatched it out of the crewman’s hand and stared at it for a moment.

“Sir, more ships decloaking within the perimeter, I count at least 20 now sir.”

It was a transmitter, a flat disc with a glowing ready red light waiting to be activated.

“What are you doing with this transmitter Zarek? Tell me now or by the emperor you will not know release from pain for the rest of your natural life.”

“That’s not mine!” Zarek snapped. He fumbled with the needle now and placed it against his flesh. They had told him that if he was discovered that the needle would make him go to sleep and they would beam him out. He needed to use it now. They promised him that they would help him, help his mother, and Zarek so loved his mother.

All he had to do was place these little objects in key locations of the ship. He was almost done when the Captain caught him. He felt embarrassed. He was stupid. Everyone said he was slow and stupid and that his mother should have killed him like the traditions said. But she loved him and now she was sick and she needed help and he would save her and she saved him.

“Why would you be placing transmitters in the ship?” Valaren paused as an idea struck him.

“Raise our shields now and sweep the ship for more of these transmitters. Those fools may try to beam on board.”

“Yes sir.” One stormtrooper snapped and turned on his heel and stalked out of the bridge.

Valaren eyes Zarek. “And what shall we do with you, Zarek? You worthless cripple, is this how you repay the Empire for our guardianship. What do you have to say for yourself?” Valaren roared in Zarek’s face.

Zarek twitched as he felt the flood of emotions that his dim mind could not fully assimilate and he frowned at the Captain.

“I did it for my mother.” He replied and jammed the needle into the palm of his hand. At first nothing happened but he felt an odd burning sensation spreading from his hand up his arm into his chest. He began convulsing.

“Hold him still!” Valaren ordered.

“Sir! Intruders!”

The intruder alarm began to wail nearly simultaneously with the warning from his security chief.

“How is that possible? Are our shields up?”

His security chief checked his board one last time.

“Yes sir, they are deployed, maximum intensity.”

“Then how are they-“

Zarek exploded.

The needle was coated with a substance unknown to Federation science, at least unknown to legitimate scientists in the Federation. Zarek had a small dose of another chemical introduced into his bloodstream shortly before undertaking this mission. The chemical substance was inert and bonded to the organs of the body. However when in the presence of the new chemical a special reaction began that used the body itself as an accelerant to create a new compound. The ambient copper in Zarek’s blood was instantly consumed and converted into a Copper based nerve agent that was released with the explosive blast of Zarek’s body. The bridge was awash in the thick green blood of the dead Romulan janitor but an invisible mist was also released and Captain Valaren was the first to feel its effects as his speech slurred and his vision winked out. He stumbled forward and collapsed. The stormtrooper that had been holding Zarek still had the presence of mind to catch the fallen Captain as he noticed the rest of the bridge crew collapsing at their stations.

“This is VB-101. We have a suspected chemical agent released on the bridge; Captain Valaren is down, please respond.” He reported.

The intruder alarm continued to blare.





“This is the Bunker Hill to attack fleet. Wings 2 and 4 break out to position 6, take over watch position. Attack wing 3 secure the gantry with objective Olympus. All other wings break and attack.” Durant ordered calmly as he deployed his attack fleet throughout the shipyards. Warbirds were forming up to defend the shipyards. It was obvious from their sluggish response that they were not expecting an attack like this.

They had taken the required precautions in regard to cloaked ships, a string of satellites emitting a tachyon net around the entire shipyard. Durant smiled coldly as the first warbirds came under direct attack by his fleet. What the Romulans did not realize is that the Shadow Fleet had been using and developing cloaks for over a century. They were far ahead of anything the Romulans could field and as such, tachyon grids were not a sure fire method of detecting cloaked shadowfleet vessels.

The Romulans had assumed that they were the supreme authority on cloaks without knowing that they were a full generation behind Durant’s fleet in that regard. Now they were going to pay the price for their lack of vision.

“Have the Acquitane and the Nimitz move in close and secure that sector.” Durant ordered his XO. The Data class android nodded and relayed the order to the vessels’ own androids by hyperlink.

“Sir, picking up transmitter signals.”

Durant nodded.

“Signal the Normandy and Juno, tell them to commence boarding operations.” Durant glanced down at the tactical display on his command chair’s armrest. A small countdown was starting on the upper right hand.

“Transfer countdown to upper right of main viewer. Give me audible reminders every two minutes.” Durant ordered. The countdown represented the estimated time Imperial reinforcements would arrive via hyperspace. Right now, the nearest Imperial warships were only 12 minutes away by hyperpsace.

“Boarding action commencing.” His XO reported in the android’s usual matter of fact tone.

“The Die is cast.” Durant whispered.





Michael Adare materialized in a whirlwind of white hot light. He immediately began firing as he caught sight of a hapless Imperial engineer scrambling to get out of the way of the whirling columns of light that were ripping through the engineering section. The engineer screamed as he was enveloped in a nimbus of crackling emerald light and crumpled to the floor.

He heard a strange whine and a pop and he whirled around in time to avoid a stray arm that rocketed past him. Adare smiled grimly as he noted the two androids imbedded in the bulkhead behind him. A few more meters and he would have materialized inside the wall. The transmitters were working fine but the subspace transporters they were using were not as precise as standard transporters, particularly when they were beaming from close to a light-year away.

He examined the bulkhead for a moment. The androids were randomly meshed into the metal, their parts melded into the durasteel. He had seen accidents like this before. They were never pretty but at least this time it wasn’t human. Those accidents could be so much messier.

“Mister Adare, the bridge transmitter is not functioning. The secondary option has been triggered.” His aide X-10 reported as the android hefted an assault phaser and glanced around as more androids fanned out around the main engineering area.

“Great, that gives us a deadline to reach the bridge before someone thinks about accessing the self destruct.” Adare spat. Despite his verbal disappointment he was wired and happy. Whenever a mission got off on the wrong foot he was always partly ecstatic. When mission were going off without a hitch is when he was down right terrified. Because fate was a fickle bitch and she never treated anyone well, so when she smiled on you in battle, particularly the sorts of battles Adare participated in, those with no clear cut lines, she could be a bitch on wheels. But when she was already gunning for him right out of the gate he could deal with her, she just became another factor he had to keep track of.

“Units 2 and 6 report heavy resistance from Imperial Stormtroopers.” X-10 reported.

“Alright, the party’ started. Weird thought, here we are in Main engineering and nary a-”

A blaster bolt exploded over his head and Adare ducked quickly behind a work station. The androids began to return fire as Stormtroopers quickly flooded into engineering section intent on repelling boarders.

“X-10, order teams 2-7 to immediately make way for the bridge, we need to take it before some bright guy decides to blow us all to hell.”

“And team 9?”

Adare smiled softly as he fired a blast down one of the walkways and clipped a Stormtrooper before he could duck back behind cover.

“Order Team 9 to make way for the hangar bay.”

“The hangar bay? That is not a vital area of this vessel.” X-10 commented after blinking for a moment.

“That’s the general idea, X-10. Maybe when they see that we have one team making a bee line for the hangar bay they may think that our true objective lays there. It may draw off some of the forces trying to head us off from the bridge.

“Understood.” X-10 replied.

Adare winced as a blaster bolt exploded past them. One of the androids stumbled down to the floor, a gaping hole blasted into its chest.

“Speaking of which, we have to get out of here and make our way to the bridge too. Have a squad secure the main controls down here and see if they can decipher the destruct controls from here. The rest of you follow me and let’s get moving.”

X-10 nodded and soon a solid volley of phaser fire lanced out with uncanny precision in the direction of heaviest Stormtrooper resistance. Adare led his men on a charge across the Engineering deck towards one of the access ways. He wore standard shadowfleet body armor, shimmering black body mesh resistant to most slugger weapons and disruptor fire. He also wore a light helmet with a built in HUD on a small rectangular ocular eyepiece that he flipped down as he reached the doorway.

A holographic display of the ship’s layout floated on the HUD. He noted where the door led and pointed to the access terminal. One of the androids quickly took up position by the access terminal and opened it with one hard tug. The android quickly ran a bypass and the doors snapped open.

Blaster fire riddled the android. It fired several phaser blasts before exploding under the intense fire. Adare pulled out a sonic grenade and flipped it out into the corridor behind. He slipped two ear plugs into his ears and waited.

The blast of white sound had a physical component, the shock wave flashed through the doors like a whirlwind. Adare motioned and the androids followed him through the doors. Several stormtroopers lay on the ground, convulsing in pain, crewmen were screaming, clutching at their ears as blood streamed down between their fingers.

Adare felt sorry for the poor bastards, at this range a sonic grenade could cause brain tissue to explode inside the skull. Nasty but effective.

“More resistance detected up ahead. Fleet command reports that we have 8 minutes before Imperial reinforcements arrive.” X-10 reported as Adare heard the running footsteps of more stormtroopers up ahead.

“You’re just full of good news, aren’t you X-10?” Adare laughed grimly and began firing at the first white shape that appeared around the corner.




The Carthage flipped end over end, her primary saucer hull was on fire, most of the hull devoured by the hungry plasma venting from her nacelles and internal fires raging throughout the dying starship.

Durant watched the proud starship fall under the combined fire of several warbirds, her armored hull flaked away by the angry emerald disruptor fire. A fusillade of plasma torpedoes finished her as they detonated throughout sending debris in a quickly expanding cloud of matter and antimatter.

“Call in immediate fire support from long range torpedo ships. We’re going to have to break up those formations.” Durant ordered.

“Acknowledged.”

The fleet was doing well, it had hemmed in the Romulan defensive fleet and the gantry holding the Imperial ship had been secured. It was all riding on the boarding action now and he did not like it when plans were out of his hands. This would be the hardest part of Hermes, waiting for the boarders to complete their job. There were many variables that could go wrong and there was nothing he could do about it. He had to trust that he had the right men assigned to the job.

“The Romulan fleet formations are far more resilient than anticipated.”

“These guys are fanatics. Only the Praetor’s Personal Guard is more hardcore. Let’s show them though that it takes more than fanatical devotion to win a battle.”

Suddenly explosions rippled among the tightly clustered warbirds. Torpedoes were streaking in from far beyond the current battlefield. Long range torpedo ships were parked several million kilometers away and were firing their torpedo banks in staggered volleys.

“It takes firepower too.” Durant finished with a shadow of a smile on his face.

TIE Interceptors flashed beneath the burning hulk of a warbird and attacked the lead elements of shadow fleet vessels guarding the shipyard gantry that contained the Horan Corr. Tacfighters and Delta Flyers flashed in after them. The Leyte Gulf inched in closer, launching another squadron of Delta Flyers to secure the center of the shipyard.

Massive explosions flashed in the periphery of Durant’s view screen and he frowned slightly.

“Their anti-ship batteries are starting to get a range on us. I have to hand it to them, I didn’t think they would risk firing their anti ship defenses into the heart of their own shipyards, but they know that this is the only way to even the odds.” He muttered.

“Should we detach the 5th wing to engage the anti-ship batteries?” His XO asked.

“Negative. We hold the center position until the bitter end.” He stared at the Carrack cruiser. “C’mon Mike, let’s get this show on the road.”




Adare ducked back behind the corner as blaster fire whipped out at him. The explosions of the blasts turned the corridor into a death trap as shrapnel pinged off the metal walls. He flipped the viewer over his left eye.

“Looks like this is the key junction. Once we secure this it’s a straight run to the bridge.”

“That explains the stiffening resistance.” X-10 noted.

“Well we have to dislodge it.” Adare plucked another sonic grenade from his utility belt, activated it and flung it down the corridor. The blast quickly followed and he nodded to X-10 who led some of the elements around the corner quickly to take advantage of the shock from the grenade. As soon as they rounded the corner there was a flash like lightning in the corridor and a sound like the tearing of the heavens themselves. Three androids were immediate vaporized by a near solid wall of blaster fire. X-10 managed to back flip and cartwheel backwards avoiding the steady red blaster fire that exploded against the wall like a hammer.

The shrapnel tore the arm off another android and sent the rest of them scurrying backwards. Adare cursed himself for being complacent. He should have realized that the Stormtroopers in their sealed armor would be able to find a counter to the sonic grenades a lot quicker than the unarmored foes he was used to dealing with.

“What does it look like?” He asked choking past the acrid smoke that as quickly filling the corridor.

“Downloading images to your viewer now. It is most likely anti-personnel cannon of some sort, tripod mounted.” X-10 reported. To punctuate the report another blast ripped down the corridor sending more shrapnel down their way.

Adare noted that X-10’s left sleeve was on fire and he absently slapped the small fire out as he looked into his viewer.

“Yep, Intel pegs that as an E-Web repeater blaster. That thing is going to cut us all down quicker than I can say dead. We’re going to have to take it out and it’s going to cost us.”

“Perhaps not.” X-10 noted.

“An idea?”

“Merely an observation. The blaster is crew manned, a power generator is in sight.”

“If we aim for the generator instead of the gun...” Adare finished.

“We may be able to take out both the gun and the crew.” X-10 added.

Adare nodded.

“Get some of your boys front and center.”

Suddenly another group of androids led by a Vulcan rushed up the corridor towards them. Mike nodded to his counter part on team 4. Xenex wore the black armor of the shadowfleet but his true affiliations were a lot murkier than even Adare’s. Xenex was on loan from another organization much like the Shadowfleet. Their Vulcan counterpart that had been in existence long before the Federation. If people complained about the black op nature of the human dominated Shadowfleet they had no idea what Vulcans could do when they applied cold unrelenting logic coupled with psi talent to issues like the ones the Shadowfleet faced.

Quiet frankly, a cold shiver always ran down Adare’s spine when he dealt with them. Adare had seen his fair share of action and horrible situations but there was something about the cold soulless nature of these Vulcan operatives that made him uneasy.

“We’re about to charge a fixed emplacement.”

“I find that strategy quite illogical. There must be another way.” Xenex noted.

Adare glanced down at his chrono.

“We’ve got less than four minutes before the Impies’ friends start arriving, so options and time are in short supply.” Adare replied. He turned back to X-10.

“Do it.”

X-10 nodded and waved to a dozen androids. They rushed without hesitation around the corner and poured a murderous fusillade up the corridor. The E-Web blaster responded with another wall of blaster fire that tore through the androids like a scythe through wheat. Their bodies exploded or were shorn apart by the energy blasts but X-10 and another android were crouched down and they got the bead they needed. A few short bursts and there was a powerful explosion followed by screams of wounded or dying men.

Adare grinned at Xenex and quickly rounded the corner leading his men up the corridor to the bridge. They passed the twisted remains of the E-Web’s mounting and barrel as well as several stormtroopers either lying still or crawling away, burned badly, their ivory armor blackened by the burst of energy from the ruined generator.

The big double doors to the bridge lay ahead as well as over a dozen stormtroopers in varying fire positions from standing to prone. They opened up on the approaching boarders but Adare could smell victory and he smiled as a blaster bolt whipped by his face missing him by mere inches.





Captain Valaren groaned as he slowly gained consciousness. His body felt strange, almost as if he were outside of it. He moved and it seemed as if time was standing still, or that he was moving through water. He slowly looked around and saw that most of his men were still unconscious and he could hear the intruder alert wailing in the background, but louder still was the blaster fire right outside the door.

Boarders!

His senses finally snapped into focus and he looked for the nearest control terminal. He needed to scuttle the ship, or at the very least initiate a lockout of all systems. He would be damned if he would be the first Imperial commander of a ship of the line to lose his vessel to boarders, particularly in this pathetic galaxy.

He moved agonizingly slow towards the command console. Everything seemed so far away and his vision was blurred. A dull headache was building between his temples. Damn them. He was NOT going to lose his ship.

He reached the console and paused to take in the layout. He quickly called up the command codes. The alarm was a dull drone in the background as he tried to focus. He blinked to try and clear his vision. The sound of blaster fire was dwindling quickly.

He keyed in his command code and was greeted with a curt message from the computer demanding the password to lockout the system. He knew that initiating a self destruct would take slightly longer. He needed to do something now. The sound of blaster fire was suddenly silenced and he heard sounds right on the other side of the door.

“Damned bastards. You’re not taking this ship. Barbarians at the gate is what you are.” He muttered as he keyed in the string of codes and was rewarded with a buzz that the system was now locked out. Now on to the self destruct.

The door shrieked as it was pulled apart by sheer brute force, the locks giving way. A squad of men rushed onto the bridge and swept across it like a storm. Valaren barely had time to shut down the terminal before he was roughly pulled away by what looked like a druid. Strange these people, they made their droids to be nearly indistinguishable from themselves.

He was shoved forward and stood before a man who looked painfully average as he wiped some sweat from his brow and took off his helmet. His black hair was plastered to his head as he examined the captain with a critical eye.

“The controls are locked out.” X-10 reported as another android tried to access one of the terminals.

Adare’s raised one of his eyebrows.

“Alright Captain, we don’t have a lot of time. Unlock the controls.” Adare demanded coldly.

Valaren stood up straight and adjusted his uniform.

“My name is Captain Valaren. You have precisely one minute to surrender your forces to me.” Valaren replied haughtily.

Adare burst out laughing.

“You Impies really are an arrogant lot aren’t you? I was trying to spare us any pain and bloodshed but seeing as that we have a minute before your friends arrive I don’t have much of a choice.” Adare replied and nodded to X-10. “Bring me his XO.”

Valaren watched as his XO was lifted off his feet by one of the droids and brought over to them. His XO was still groggy from the gas.

“What are you doing?” Valaren asked neutrally.

“An object lesson, Captain. We are most certainly NOT Starfleet.” He replied. He looked at the X-10.

“Start with the fingers of his right hand.”

X-10 without hesitation lifted his XO’s right hand and immediately pulled his index finger back sharply. There was a low crack and his XO screamed all the grogginess of the gas washed away by a wave of pain.

Valaren’s face hardened.

“That’s for Vulcan.” CRACK “That’s for Tellus.” CRACK “Centauri.” CRACK “And of course Earth.” Adare rattled the litany off with a self satisfied smirk.

Valaren’s XO’s right hand was a ruined mess, each finger was out at an odd angle, in some cases the bone peeked out from the flesh. His XO was still screaming from the pain, staring at his hand in shock. The druid looked completely unmoved as he held his XO’s arm straight out, the other arm was wrapped around his XO holding him tight.

“What manner of treatment is this for officers? You’re all savages.”

“Not quite yet, and if I were you I wouldn’t start throwing stones. We’ve got some evidence of your Empire’s wonderful treatment of prisoners and those that oppose your rule. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m giving you one last chance before things get really nasty.” Adare replied and glanced meaningfully back at his XO.

Valaren looked at his XO. They had served together for over 5 years. They were friends as well as fellow officers but he could not allow that to cloud his judgment. The minute they had this ship, it was all over for them anyway.

“Never.”

Adare stared hard at him for a moment then shrugged.

“X-10, take his right arm off at the joint.”

X-10 said nothing but took a firm hold of the XO’s right arm, one hand taking a firm hold at the spot right above the elbow. His XO stared at X-10 in sheer horror. He was shaking his head and started to moan. “No. No.”

X-10 pulled hard once and Valaren’s face took a jet of hot crimson blood from the bloody stump. X-10 dropped the torn appendage on the deck and his XO slumped in the droid’s arm. His screams were long and ragged.

“Monster.” Valaren spat.

“I do believe that you are the monster for letting this go on.” Adare replied coolly.

Valaren remained silent but glared at the young man.

“X-10 I would tell you to start with the rest but we don’t have the time.” Adare looked back at another figure standing back watching the unfolding events with a cold gaze.

“Xenex, I’m going to have to ask for your assistance here.”

“Understood.” The Vulcan replied and walked up to Valaren. Valaren stared at the tall Vulcan as he approached.

“What are you doi-” Valaren began but Xenex reached out and placed a hand on Valaren’s face, each finger touching a discrete part of his face. As he did so Xenex spoke in a cold monotone.

“Your mind is my mind, your thoughts are my thoughts.”

Valaren suddenly felt a presence in his thoughts, a presence that tore through him searching for that which he was desperately trying not to think about. He felt it opening up thoughts he did not want to open, tugging at emotions that were not his own and he heard a scream, a long desperate plaintive scream that he imagined was his XO’s but there was a sudden horrible dawning realization that the scream was his own.




“Hyperspace emergence in Sector 4.” Durant’s XO warned.

Durant glanced down at his tactical display. A Strike cruiser and her attendant ships emerged from hyperspace at the edge of the engagement area.

“At least it’s not one of the big boys, yet.” Durant noted with a hint of sarcasm. “Have the 1st Wing attack immediately and bring all torpedo fire on the Imperial ships.”

The Strike cruiser immediately opened fire on the Shadowfleet vessels, swarms of TIE Interceptors flashed out and engaged the fleet ships guarding the gantry. The fighters swarmed in between the starships, concentrating their fire on the exposed nacelles. The armor held under the initial assault.

Romulan warbirds quickly regrouped and began engaging the ships in a renewed effort.

“Looks like I spoke to soon.” Durant muttered darkly as the awesome shape of an Imperial Stardestroyer flashed into view.

“Imperial stardestroyer closing on our position.” His XO paused as he received com traffic from the fleet. “Fleet elements requesting permission to engage with transphasic torpedoes.”

Durant shook his head emphatically.

“Negative. I’m not going to reveal our ace in the hole just yet. Get the status report on our boarding parties. Tell them that time is up.” Durant said as he watched the stardestroyer wade into the fleet, blasting its way through their lines.

The gantry shook as the Carrack began to move. Its weapons suites fired sporadically at the nearest ships and fighters. Durant smiled victoriously as the Carrack cleared the gantry.

His smile was short lived as several blasts rocked the Carrack.

“Imperial Stardestroyer engaging the Carrack.”

“They’re not stupid. They know what we’re trying to do and they would rather destroy it themselves. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them ruin this operation. Inform all ships closest to the Carrack to form a ring around it and let’s get a tractor beam up. I doubt they’ve figured out how to jump to hyperspace so we’ll have to tow her out of here.”

“Acknowledged.”

The Carrack shook again from another series of blasts. Starships quickly swarmed around the Carrack in a protective sphere as they began to pull away from the shipyards. The stardestroyer’s blasts grew more powerful and numerous as they closed the gap.

Starships began to explode as they intercepted the strikes. Despite their armor, the turbolaser blasts were tearing through them, leaving a string of shattered starships strewn in the Carrack’s wake. The Bunker Hill took up position in front of the Carrack.

“Transfer all power to engines and tractor beam. Lock on to the Carrack and secure her for warp speed.”

“Acknowledged.”

The Bunker Hill shook as turbolaser fire blossomed around it. The armor barely held as a solid blue beam lanced out from the graviton emitters and a solid tractor beam was established with the Carrack. More starships were swatted aside by the stardestroyer's guns as they rapidly closed the distance, desperate to destroy the Carrack and any starships that got in its way.

Durant held onto the armrests of his command chair as a console exploded behind him decapitating a hapless android crewman. Durant could hear the chatter from his fleet.

“Hold on.”

“Losing antimatter containment.”

“More fire coming from port side, get in there and protect the objective.”

“Armor breeched on all hulls, transferring power to structural integrity fields.”

“More power to the engines, prepare to go to warp.” He shouted over the din of fire alarms.

“Armor failing on port side.” His XO warned.

Durant watched another starship explode under the furious assault by the stardestroyer. A squadron of Delta Flyers broke formation as a turbolaser blast exploded in their midst sending many of them tumbling away trailing plasma and molten metal. His fleet was slowly forming up now as they were clearing the shipyard. More emerald turbolaser fire flooded into them, joined by plasma torpedoes from the anti-ship batteries.

“Emergency warp power. Get us out of here.” Durant barked. Fire suppression systems activated throughout the bridge filling it with thick white smoke as more fires raged through ruined consoles.

“Engaging.”

The Bunker Hill went to warp dragging the Carrack with it. The rest of the shadowfleet soon followed suit and within moments, the fleet was gone leaving behind ruined starships and an empty gantry.




ROMULUS

The old woman sat back feeling the warmth from her heating unit filling her small cramped house. The ache in her bones was almost too much to bear but there was no other alternative. She would not give into the pain, despite what the doctors told her, she had hope that she would survive this new crisis. She had a hard life. Only one child in a society that valued children, particularly healthy children, a husband killed in a border dispute with Gorn over three decades ago and now a crippling disease of the bones that would eventually kill her. The government promised to care for any Romulan soldier’s family, but they never said that the care would be the bare minimum for survival.

She did not complain however. She was Romulan and her duty was to the government. Although she had to admit that the new government, this empire led by a handsome and dashing young human, Darth Nemesis may be better than the one she had devoted her whole life to and sacrificed a husband.

She hoped anyway. In the end, citizens like her had no say or effect on the power brokers of the empire.

Her door call chimed.

She looked up cautiously.

She was not expecting any visitors. She had no friends left and her son was far away doing his part for the Empire. She slowly rose up on achy legs. Soon the pain would be so great that she would be unable to walk. She did not look forward to that time.

She shuffled slowly to the door and opened it.

A young Romulan stood in the shadows of her doorway. He had on a cloak and the hood was up over his head.

“Saraz?”

“I am Saraz.” She answered proudly, not sure what to make of the newcomer.

“I bring you a gift from friends of your son.”

“Zarek?” she asked in surprise. Her son was not one to make friends, particularly from those who looked upon him as a blasphemy to the purity of the Romulan ideal.

“Yes, he wanted you to have this.” The young Romulan handed her a small container with several pills inside. She looked at them then back up at the Romulan.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“That is a dose of Rondium90.”

“Rondium90?!” She nearly exclaimed.

“Yes, the dose should be enough to put your disease into remission.”

“But..this is illegal in the Empire.”

“Not to your son’s friends. He did us a great service and we wished to repay him. This is the only payment he required.”

“What has he done?” She asked, glancing back down at her salvation from the pain.

“He helped save this galaxy from oppression, Saraz. You should be proud.” Saraz suddenly looked into the young Romulan’s eyes and saw that he was not Romulan, there was a cold hard edge that was usually not there in their passionate people. This was the gaze of long lost brothers.

“You’re Vulcan.” She breathed.

“And you are cured, madam. I ask that you tell no one of this. Your son has done a great service no matter what they tell you later. And he did it for you.” The Vulcan nodded and stepped away. Saraz stared after him until he disappeared into the long alleyways that criss crossed her neighborhood.

She looked down at the pills and tears welled in her eyes. The last gift of a son that she now knew was dead. What were the problems of the poor and oppressed to this galaxy’s great powers? She could answer it in her sorrow as she closed the door.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-11-17 04:27am
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Chapter 31: Sleeping Giants


“In you must go.”

He stared at the wizened old teacher and back at the twisted black tree that hung over them like some malevolent beast. He could feel the dark chill wrapping around them like some foul lover. He shook off the chill.

“What’s in there?”

“Only what you take with you.”

His teacher never gave him a straight answer. It annoyed him to no end. Ben had always been more straightforward and simple. There were no strange conundrums that he had to decipher. Ben always had an answer that he could understand. There were no lies with the old wizard that had brought him this far on his road to avenge his father’s death and take up his place as a Jedi knight.

He shrugged and began to put on his holster. Yoda slowly shook his head.

“Your weapons. You will not need them.” He said with simple certainty.

He took one look back at the black hole that seemed to call to him and looked up at the twisted tree. The Dark side whispered to him. There was danger here and he would not face it unarmed.

He gave his old master a wry look and slipped it on. He cautiously walked into the tree. He could feel Yoda’s eyes on his back as he slid down into the tree’s bowels. The cold chill was nearly overpowering.

He landed on soggy earth and he glanced around. There was a strange light within, not the cold darkness he was expecting, but an odd sort of light, a cool glow without a discernable source. He strode through the interior of the dead tree, seeing serpents slithering through the roots.

He felt an odd presence in his mind, a slight touch and then the light flared up ahead of him. Fear gripped his heart in a vise as he heard it before he saw the apparition. The slow rhythmic mechanical breathing. He saw it striding into view, the one being that he had learned to hate. The one that had slain his father and betrayed the Jedi knights.

Darth Vader.

He fought back the fear as he had been taught to do. His heart lifted beyond the ice cold grip and he pulled out his father’s lightsaber.

The dark monster advanced.

His face hardened and he ignited his lightsaber. The hum was comforting as the blue blade leapt up and lit the darkness that seemed to flow out of the horrible apparition of the approaching Sith Lord.

Vader paused and activated his own lightsaber. He allowed the force to flow as his teacher taught him and he waited for the attack. Vader’s crimson blade hummed hungrily as it flashed down at him. He parried, quick shift of weight and a rapid riposte. Vader drove him backward with a series of powerful blows. He caught the blade on one swing and urged the force into his muscles. He willed himself to break the lock and the blade whipped upward.

There was a satisfying impact and a shower of sparks. He looked up and saw the black clad giant stumble back a step, smoke rising from its neck. The head rolled down to the ground as the body slowly collapsed, the crimson blade doused itself as the corpse struck the ground.

He stared in wonder at the helmeted head looked up at him. This couldn’t have been so easy.

The helmet exploded and his eyes widened in wonder as the face was exposed. His own face. What did this mean? It suddenly all felt like a dream. A dark dream that taunted him. What did it mean, why was his face behind the dreaded black mask that he had grown to hate.

The answer, of course, was all so much darker.

“Lord Nemesis.”

The voice was distant, far away like someone calling from across a great field.

“Lord Vader?” He replied hesitantly. The voice was so familiar. He turned slowly and the tree faded away leaving only mist and darkness.

“Remember your failure at the cave.” The voice was a whisper.

“Lord Nemesis. Hear me.” The voice was so far away. He followed the threads of the force, he could feel the ripples swirling around him. He tapped into those ripples, feeling them flow and he sent his own thoughts outward.

“Father.” The pure emotion cut through the misty darkness like a light.

“Father, powerful Jedi was he…powerful Jedi.”

“Father hear me.” He called out, sending his emotion and power through the ripples of the dark side.

The mists around him suddenly flowed forward and whirled around into a small tornado that slowly came into focus, taking the shape of a large man. Someone he had once feared greatly and wanted nothing more than to kill him. Now he wanted nothing more than see him.

Darth Vader stood before him, mechanical rhythmic breathing was a dull background, almost like a heartbeat.

“Father.”

“Son.”

“I am so far away.”

“You are far away but you are never alone.”

Nemesis smiled softly.

“I am coming.”

His smile faltered.

“What?”

“I am coming for you, Lord Nemesis. I will be there soon.”

“How?”

“The Emperor has found a way to get to where you are. I will be departing soon and we will be together again.”

He blinked several times.

“What does this do with our plan?” He asked softly.

There was silence for a long moment, only the heartbeat low breathing.

“The plan must continue forward. But we must be cautious. I will be coming with a Grand Admiral. He is not like the others. He has the Emperor’s confidence and he is extremely willful and intelligent. He will be difficult to deal with.”

“Difficulty is not a concern, Father. We must end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy. Already now I am forging order in the chaos of this galaxy.”

“I am proud of you Lord Nemesis. Truly you are powerful as the Emperor has foreseen.” Vader commented with pride coloring his voice.

“I miss you.” He said without thinking.

The dark robed figure reached out, hesitantly at first, unsure of what he intended to do or more likely unaccustomed to taking this action. Nemesis reached out with his own hand. The black gauntleted hand and his own touched and for the briefest moment, their thoughts and emotions were one.

He bowed his head and closed his eyes. He could feel his father’s yearning and pain, the conflict and the hate. He wanted to reach out and soothe it. The father could feel the son’s anguish, his hopelessness and betrayal. Those that had been closest to him had lied and now he was far from the one being he loved without hesitation and reservation. Vader only hoped that he could give such love in return. But love had been so hard in his life. Love for his mother, for Padme, for Obi Wan. They always ended badly. If he loved Nemesis would it also bring an end to his life as well?

The doubt was all that was needed and the force’s link shattered like glass, dispelling the connection like so much smoke leaving Vader alone in his chamber. His head slowly lowered and the light above him winked out plunging him in darkness.

Nemesis stepped back as the mist around him vanished and he stood alone in his quarters. His skin was cold. His simple black robe had opened up while he mediated and he stood nearly naked under the cold air of a recycler.

His door chimed.

He wrapped the robe around him.

“Come.”

Mara Jade strode in her cat like grace beguiling as she moved into the darkness of his inner sanctum without fear. He admired that but he also feared it. She was the most potent adversary he faced when the time inevitably came.

“Yes, Mara?” He asked softly and watched her with stormy blue eyes.

Mara crossed her hands across her chest.

“We need to talk. I just received disturbing news from our shipyards in Romulan Space. It seems that a force of Federation starships managed to fight their way into the shipyards.”

Nemesis remained quiet as he let her continue to speak, but his mind had already devised what she had to say and his anger grew within him like a tempest.

“The Federation ships managed to beam boarders on the Horan Corr.”

“And I assume the Imperial troops either repulsed the boarders or the Captain scuttled the ship, correct?” He asked frostily.

Mara did not look away as he intended. She locked eyes with him.

“No. They stole the ship.”

Nemesis stood quietly, shadows playing across his face

“Their casualties were heavy.” She added.

“They could lose a thousand ships as far as I’m concerned Mara. The point is that they now have hold of an intact Imperial ship and crew. How could this happen!” He thundered.

“It was an unexpected move on their part. Besides they were utilizing technology I have never seen the Federation use before.”

“That is your flimsy excuse.” He asked and she could feel the force billowing around her. He was toying with her. He knew she had been trained to feel its use. He knew that she could see what he intended. There was far more terror in knowing that an attack was coming than simply striking.

He had learned from the Emperor quite well.

“They used transporters that penetrated our shields, they used cloaks, they had armor stronger than their shields and their ships were heavily up gunned. It is our belief that this is not a standard Federation fleet.” She replied quickly.

Nemesis stared at her for a long silent moment. His eyes bore into hers and there was a hooded expression to his face.

“There are two fleets then.” Nemesis replied softly.

“That is what we believe. The Federation has a secret fleet out there and they may have been responsible for the destruction of Remus. The Romulans swear by it.”

Nemesis nodded slowly.

“Here is what you will do. First bring me all the officers involved in this debacle, both Romulan and Imperial. They will be shown what happens to those that fail the Empire so grievously. I want you to film the results and play it throughout Imperial held territory. Then I want you to go to every Federation world and execute 10,000 civilians for the loss of Horran Corr. Their deaths are to be played on holovids throughout the Empire.”

“10,000 on every Federation world?” She asked.

“Was there a problem with my orders?”

“I thought that you wanted to maintain control of the populace. If we start killing millions of Federation citizens there will be a reaction.”

“Yes indeed. They will turn on their supposed liberators.”

Mara blinked.

“Why not simply rebel? Most worlds don’t have a single Imperial soldier stationed there. It is solely the threat of force that keeps them in line.” Mara countered.

Nemesis smiled.

“That is all about to change, Mara. When we arrive at Romulus all will be revealed. The Phoenix has risen and a new dawn has come to the Empire.”

Mara did not understand but she was sure that nemesis wanted it that way.

“Oh, you will begin the executions on my orders and you will follow a precise schedule.”

“Oh?”

Nemesis nodded and walked over to the huge window open to the void of stars beyond in his quarters.

“James T. Kirk sees himself as a hero and protector of the Federation. I am going to make his life extremely difficult. The people will be in pain, they will cry out for protection and he will not be able to resist.”

“You mean to trap him?”

Nemesis turned and glanced back at her with dark smile that chilled even her.

“Indeed.”

“When your fleet approaches earth, we will have executed Hundreds of thousands. If he allows us to maim the populace of Earth he will have lost all credibility. He will have to confront me at earth.” He slapped his fist into his left hand. “And there I will have him.”







Kelly Antilles ignored the sullen stares from the young man standing behind her as she adjusted the power coupling. She was in awe of this device but she would not let him see that. The idiot had given her the cold shoulder since she had arrived and she wasn’t about to give him any satisfaction as to her own amazement at what she was looking at.

The Federation called this ship, the Doomsday Machine, although someone had gone outside and painted a whole new designation for the vessel after they had arrived. Written in neat black letters on the starboard side of the mighty vessel’s maw was a name and registry number.

NX-5000
USS Excalibur

Painted in the same broad strokes that were springing up everywhere, even in Rebel Alliance areas of late, were the now infamous blue paint words: THE FEDERATION LIVES along the might flanks of the warship. Oddly enough, no one was claiming responsibility and no one claimed to have seen it happen.

“Could you hand me that hydrospanner?” She asked.

The sullen young man looked from her to her tools set out meticulously just out of her reach. He hesitantly reached out and took the hyrdospanner and handed it to her.

“Thank you.”

“You know, I was on the verge of cracking the problem with the power interface. I really didn’t need any help on this project.” He said absently.

Kelly nodded as she turned the spanner, tongue peeking out of the left side of her mouth.

“I don’t doubt that Mr. Crusher. But Time and speed are of the essence and Captain Kirk and Princess Leia decided that Alliance engineers would speed the process along. This assignment is no slight against you. As I understand it, you have most of your Federation engineers in awe of your availability to instinctively understand these systems. I have to admit, some of these controls are rather complex. The only advantage I have, Mr. Crusher, is that I’ve worked with systems similar to these most of my life.” She explained as she finished tightening the element.

She sat back and blew a stray lock of hair out of her face and wiped her brow.

“Another job well done.” She said looking back at him with a friendly smile.

If only he would stop frowning like that he might be cute. Well, he WAS cute, maybe he would be more handsome then.

“I’ve traveled places you could only conceive of, I’ve visited places that can best be described as more of a concept than a place.”

“And this makes my help unnecessary because…” she snapped. What a petulant little child.

“That’s not the point. I’m used to working alone. I’ve saved the Enterprise countless of times on my own. This is just embarrassing.” He muttered and shoved a canister of tools off one of the pedestals on the command deck.

“Wesley.” She began. He turned his back on her.

She heard now familiar voices as a small group approached the command center of the warship. She paused from her work and wiped some sweat from her brow. She glanced at Wesley who immediately turned away from her and started working one of the command consoles behind him. The controls were labeled in a strange language that no one had ever seen before but the young man had deciphered what some of them did and he was checking them now as the group entered the command center, buried deep in the bowels of the ship.

Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Mr. Scott, Princess Leia and her entourage were all walking slowly as Scotty finished speaking.

“I estimate sair that with the rebel engineers’ help and Mr. Crusher’s guidance I can have the Excalibur under her own power in three more days.”

“Excellent, Mr. Scott. That gives me enough time to plan a new offensive against our Imperial friends and I am dying to see their faces when we pull this thing into the fray.”

“I am most curious, Princess Leia. Your engineers stated that many of these controls and power systems were extremely reminiscent of technology from your galaxy. Have we been able to determine anything more regarding the possible origins of this ship?” Spock asked.

“Why don’t we ask Kelly here? She’s in command of my engineers and I’ve brought our resident expert on languages to see if he can give us some clue as to this ship’s origins.” Leia replied and waved to Kelly who suddenly found herself the center of attention. The droid C-3PO walked past them to peer at the controls.

“Well.” She began and cleared her throat. “Uh, quite frankly many of the systems on this vessel are very reminiscent of design features of vessels and facilities we have seen out on the Rim. Whatever built this thing either had a technological level equivalent to our galaxy in the past or did come from one of the Rim worlds.” She replied.

“Oh, I do say, Princess Leia, I believe I can decipher these markings.” Threepio exclaimed excitedly.

Kirk walked over curiously.

“Go on.”

“Well Captain Kirk, this script strongly resembles the writing form of a race long thought extinct in our galaxy that called themselves the Sith.”

“The Sith?”

“Yes, although much of their history was lost during the formation of the Republic this writing certainly fits in with the established patterns I have stored in my memory. The Sith either built this device or at the very least were deeply involved in its construction.”

“So this DID come from our galaxy.” Leia breathed looking up at the massive structure around them.

“How did it get out here?” Kirk wondered.

“Hyperdrive.” The sullen young man replied.

“Care to explain yourself, Wesley?” Kirk asked.

Wesley Crusher slowly walked down from the command center, squeezing past Kelly who shot pointedly ignored him and standing in front of Kirk.

“Near as I can tell, this vessel was designed to do precisely what you theorized nearly a century ago…Kill planets. Well, the memory banks are either damaged and corrupted beyond full recovery or they never wanted to clearly state what they were going to do but this device was built to destroy a world and launched a long time ago. There was a power fluctuation in the hyperdrive matrix and the ship was thrown clear of this galaxy.”

“Just like that?” Kirk asked skeptically.

“As near I can tell, sir. There was a problem in the hyperdrive chamber, something called a Sith lord was driving this ship forward and he went mad and the fluctuation happened at the same time.”

“The dark side of the Force.” Leia whispered.

“Excuse me?”

“Is not Darth Nemesis’ full title, Dark Lord of the Sith?” Spock added.

Leia suddenly felt a chill up her spine. Something cold had passed close to her.

“Come to face me now, Jedi….know this Dairoga Kallast is ready for you.” She heard the cold whisper. Leia shuddered.

“Leia?” Kirk asked worriedly.

Chewbacca was suddenly by her side and he held her with one massive paw as he peered into her face. Leia looked up at Chewbacca.

“Chewie, help me, he’s trying to-“

The group vanished and she found herself standing in the control center. Everything was different, the lighting was dark and grim. Shadowy figures moved with awful purpose through the control center and she saw him standing in the center of it all, long black robes wrapped around him like living shadows.

“Tell me, Jedi, did you really think you could face the apprentice of Naga Sadow and live?” The figure asked. His voice a mere whisper. It turned its head to face her. The face was hidden beneath the black robes. His words were accompanied by thin white frost on the air.

“What happened here?” She asked. She stood alone, no longer was she with her friends, she was alone in the darkness, but she was not afraid.

The figure chuckled. It was morbid and devoid of joy.

“The Sith are on the move. I have been charged with the destruction of your order. You Jedi are all that stand between the Sith and our rightful place in the galaxy. You will fall before the might of our mighty weapon. The Shar’lesk’vol. It will destroy your vaunted Coruscant, and we will bathe in the blood of the mewling petulant slaves of the Light Side.” He spat, pure unadulterated anger in every syllable.

Shar’lesk’vol…Death Lance. How did she know that? She could see the shadows writhing around him and the dark side oozed from him like a puss filled wound and she felt sick to her stomach.

“I’m not afraid of you. You failed. How?”

The figure frowned, she could even see it from beneath the dark veil of his hood.

“Betrayal. Vengeance. My master’s blood stains the sands of our world to this day. They betrayed him and they betrayed our people.”

Leia remained silent, watching him move. He started walking slowly down the steps of the command center and he moved like some wraith of shadow and smoke. The dim figures moving about her, carrying out their duties were like flittering shadows of a dream. Behind her she could hear the heavy thrumming of the enormous hyperdrive reactors.

“Ludo Kressh and his pitiful band.” He spat the words like venom. “They betrayed my master and in my rage I allowed the dark side to take control.”

Suddenly they were in the hyperdrive chamber. One of the small shadowy figures was imploring him.

“My Lord, I beg of thee. Coruscant is almost in range!”

“My Master calls!” Kallast bellowed like an angry god and crackling white lightning lanced out cooking the pitiful figure in angry tendrils of force lightning, raw rage given shape by the dark side itself.

How did she know this?

“Father, powerful Jedi was he, powerful Jedi.” The voice was different, almost a whisper lost in the storm of Dairoga Kallast’s awful hatred.

The hyperdrive’s low steady thrum suddenly increased to a rapid drumbeat and the dark side flowed out of Kallast like a tempest, pouring through the hyperdrive reactor, harsh white lightning jumped from reactor element to reactor element. The core began to pulse and she could feel the very fabric of hyperspace splitting open. The Death Lance suddenly surrounded by a nimbus of hot white light as hyperspace itself exploded outward in a geyser of impossible energy.

The dark side of the Force, energy that bound the universe together was tearing it asunder as it flowed through Kallast. The Death Lance vanished in an explosion that ripped through space time.

Suddenly it was very dark and cold.

“So you see. We traveled far and out of time.” The voice spoke again over her right ear. She whirled around and faced Dairoga Kallast who stood directly behind her. She could not move back, she was frozen in place and she was so cold. “Here in the cold of interstellar space, our hyperdrive burnt out. We were alone in the shadow.” His voice dropped to a barely perceptible whisper, the cold white mist from his lips played over her face.

“In the darkness we waited, wandering among the stars, looking for a way home. And slowly we died, until I was all that remained.”

She watched as Dairoga Kallast stood in the center of the mighty warship, the instrument of the Sith’s revenge. Empty now. The crews that manned her were gone now. He alone remained and he communed with his rage. His anger fed him, soothed him and he let the Dark side flow. His eyes were alight with fire and he activated his lightsaber. He cried out his master’s name as he became one with the dark side and simultaneously plunged the blade into his body.

Then there was only darkness. Leia was freezing now, she could feel the chill deep in her bones.

Then she heard his voice over her left ear.

“And I am here now. All alone but you have come young Jedi, you have come looking for your doom.”

“I’m not a Jedi, Dairoga.” She replied hotly.

Dairoga’s smile was clearly visible underneath the hood, his pearly white teeth shone in a shark like smile.

“The force flows through you cleanly and bright and you are not a Jedi?” He snorted. Leia felt his hands wavering over her body like a snake and she fought the revulsion in her belly.

He paused.

His face leaned forward and he actually sniffed her. Several times like some over grown dog and he glanced up sharply at her.

“I detect Sith blood in thee. You have come from the seed of a Sith, I can feel it deep within you, slumbering, waiting to be awakened.”

“What the hell are you talking about!?” She hissed.

“Ah, and you have rage as well, potent combination. You can be a dark Lady of the Sith if you so wished.”

“I want nothing to do with you!” She screamed and pulled away with an animalistic fury. She started to run but her legs refused to move and instead she collapsed to the ground. She could feel his presence looming over her like some awful nightmare. She whirled around on her back and started to scream.

Instead of facing Dairoga Kallast, the face of Leonard McCoy loomed over her with a medical scanner whirring over her head. She lashed out instinctively hand outstretched and a small burst of white tendrils jumped from her outstretched fingers and struck Dr. McCoy full on the chest, sending him flying backwards.

She got to her feet and turned her head, feeling the presence in her mind as she caught sight of what had called her attention. There. It was wedged down under one of the command center’s steps. She dove for it as she heard more voices around her.

She reached out and touched it. She got a firm hold and pulled just as she felt Chewbacca’s mighty paws close around her shoulders and gently pull her back. The object came away and she gripped it to her chest as Chewbacca turned her around and held her up to his eye level.

“Chewie! Don’t let them hurt me!” She shouted. Chewbacca whipped his head around and shouted something loud and powerful. The approaching figures stopped instantly.

She took one last deep breath and looked down at the lightsaber in her hands. It was an odd design, a spiraling grip with an ornate hand guard that completely wrapped around the hand.

She heard him laugh in her head.

“You do have fire within you, my lady.”

She passed out in Chewbacca’s chest.

Kirk knelt by McCoy and checked his old friend. McCoy groaned as he got up into a sitting position.

“Jim, I thought you said that she was in some kind of distress.”

“Bones, are you alright?”

“I’m fine but she’s doing even better than I am.” McCoy griped.

Kirk looked back over at Chewbacca who was walking away with the princess.

“Chewbacca!”

Chewbacca paused and turned around to regard Kirk with a jaundiced eye.

“Where are you going? Something’s wrong with the princess and she needs medical attention.” Kirk explained.

Chewbacca barked something derisive.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Kirk exclaimed.

“Listen to me you furry oaf, she nearly fried me and she doesn’t look well.” McCoy added.

Chewbacca snorted shook his head and strode out of the room.

Kirk shook his head.

“This is not good.” He muttered.

McCoy smirked.

“Jim, that is the biggest understatement I’ve heard since the one where you said we could beat the Empire.”

Kirk shook his head but couldn’t help smiling.

“Thanks a lot for the vote of support.”

“Uh, Captain Kirk, there’s someone you should meet while you’re here.” Wesley interjected uncertainly.

Kirk looked up at Wesley.

“Please, Mr. Crusher, no more surprises.” Kirk implored.

“I’m sorry, Captain, I didn’t want to upset you but I couldn’t keep hiding out here on the ship.” A soft voice intruded in on them. Kirk looked past Wesley and saw the young man suddenly step down from some shadows in the depths of the command deck.

“Charlie?” Kirk asked in amazement.

“That’s right sir. Charlie Evans reporting for duty.” Charlie snapped a smart salute.

Kirk looked from Charlie to Wesley.

“Charlie, don’t take this the wrong way, but you were just a seventeen year old boy when I last saw you…nearly a century ago. You don’t look much older than that now.”

“The Thasians did not want me to die. They extended my life for as long as I remained among them.”

“Now you’re not.” Kirk noted sadly.

“There are more important things going on in the galaxy than my eternal life, besides, it was getting really lonely. They have no form, no shape. Can you imagine what its like on a world with beings that have no conception of what it is to be human?” Charlie replied.

“Now the harder question, Charlie.” Kirk said, face hardening. “Last time we were together you were just about ready to seize control of the ship and you had wished a way some of my crew. Will we be having those problems again? In case you haven’t noticed I’m currently engaged in a war for the life of the Federation and I don’t have time to keep an eye on you.”

Charlie genuinely looked embarrassed, his cheeks reddened and he looked down at his feet for a moment.

“I don’t like to think back to that time, Captain. I was a little boy and I didn’t know what I was doing. I know better now, I’ve had over 75 years to contemplate all the suffering I caused you and others and I am not proud of a single moment of it. Please believe me when I say that I have come all this way to help you and not to harm you. I am at your service, Captain. I want to help you with all the power I have in my control.” He paused and swallowed uncomfortably. “If you will have me.”

Kirk gazed into the young man’s eyes and glanced over at Wesley who nodded encouragingly. Kirk sighed.

“Alright Charlie. C’mon and help me with Bones here.” Kirk motioned with his head. Charlie beamed and nodded to Wesley as he passed him to join Kirk. Wesley watched them for a moment before turning back to his work, nearly walking right into Threepio who was peering at the controls and muttering things to himself.

“What do you see there?” Wesley asked the golden protocol droid.

“Oh, I must say this is quite fascinating. The Sith have been thought dead for millennia but here is a fine example of their work. I believe they were quite warlike and aggressive.”

“I could have guessed that when I was told this thing could devour planets.” Wesley replied wanly.

Threepio did a double take, uncertain of the boy’s tone.







Kirk walked into his quarters, Charlie stood at the doorway and peered past him hesitantly.

“Come in if you want Charlie.” Kirk said as he checked his computer for messages at his desk.

“This is different than your quarters on the Enterprise.”

Kirk smiled softly.

“I miss it, despite the fact that this is twice the size of my old quarters. Commander Riker tells me that these are Quarters set aside for fleet admirals. Never thought I would ever be an Admiral.” Kirk said with a soft sigh. He paused and looked at the young man standing in his doorway.

“Come in.” He urged.

“No thank you sir. I’m just going to go to the quarters you assigned me and get some rest. It’s been a long journey for me and there’s little room to sleep on that planet killer.”

“I hear the men have taken to calling her the Excalibur. I like that.” Kirk commented.

“It suits you.” Charlie said and hesitated as if to say something else but shook his head. “Good night, Captain.”

“Good night Charlie.”

The doors slid shut and Kirk nodded to himself. Maybe things weren’t going all bad. He meant to check up on the Princess but so far hails to the Reckless Hopes had only been answered with “She was fine” or “She’s resting.” He should go over there right now, but he knew how that would look so he decided to catch up on some much needed sleep and see her in a few hours. On the computer screen was a map of the galaxy depicting zones of control. In the center of a sea of green signifying Imperial held space was a small island of blue, Andor. He knew that the Empire would soon move on Andor. He had to keep pushing them, keep them off balance so that they would never have the time to form up a true assault on the planet. If they lost Andor they lost over 80% of their current supply chain. He was working desperately to diversify his supply network so that eventually the loss of Andor would not be a crushing final blow. He doubted that he could pull it off considering his current strategic situation.

His door chimed.

Kirk shook his head.

“Come.”

The doors snapped open and a large shape rushed in and crossed the distance between his desk and the door in several gargantuan strides.

Kirk started to get up but a massive hairy paw smacked him out of his chair and sent him flying backwards against the wall behind him. He bounced off the wall and landed haphazardly on the floor.

“What the-”

Chewbacca grabbed him by the throat and yanked him off the ground and swung him up so that Kirk’s head brushed the ceiling of his quarters.

“What are you doing?!” Kirk exclaimed but suddenly his throat was constricted as Chewbacca’s paw squeezed. His eyes bulged and he could feel the blood roaring in his ears, his feet dangled over a meter from the ground and the enraged Wookie was staring at him with a dangerous gleam in his eyes.

“Chew..bacca….what…happening?” he managed to wheeze out.

Chewbacca growled a series of short words and Kirk’s eyes widened in surprise.

“I’m trying…to…sed..uce…Leia?! Are..you..craz-” the paw squeezed harder and Kirk could feel the cartilage of his throat creaking as the Wookie drew him close to his own face.

Kirk motioned to the paw frantically with one hand while he tried to put another hand on Chewie’s face. The Wookie could kill him with one more squeeze and there was nothing more he could do.

Chewbacca barked coldly.

“No. I’m not…going…to..hurt her.” Kirk looked into the Wookie’s enraged eyes. “I know..that..you’re in…love with..her.”

Chewbacca snorted derisively and replied with a long growl.

“Captain Solo? Who’s…that?”

Chewbacca’s lip curled up in a sneer and spat something.

“I…have no…doubt…he’s a ..better man…than…me.” Kirk replied trying desperately to think his way out of this but his vision was starting to blur.

“Let him go, monster.” A voice cut through the roar of blood like a knife and Chewbacca’s grip vanished. Kirk collapsed on the ground gasping for air like a fish out of water. Chewbacca stood still, hand still outstretched but his eyes were wide with shock and frantically looking around. Charlie stood in the doorway a dark look on his face.

“You don’t lay a hand on him, is that understood?” Charlie hissed and Chewbacca started to buckle to his knees, in obvious pain.

“Charlie, stop!”

“He was trying to hurt you. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Charlie explained not taking his eyes off Chewbacca.

“Charlie please, let him go. He was explaining something to me that I did not realize.” Chewbacca’s eyes flashed over to Kirk.

Charlie glanced over to Kirk with some confusion.

“He was choking you.”

“I deserved it.”

Charlie looked even more confused.

“Let him go, Charlie, please.”

Charlie hesitantly nodded and suddenly Chewbacca stumbled forward as he regained his balance. Kirk helped Chewbacca for a moment and both of them stared at each other for a long moment.

“I understand that you care about her. She loves captain Solo, but as I understand it, he was lost to her, I don’t know how but she rarely talks about him.”

Chewbacca watched the young Captain as he spoke. Charlie slowly walked into the quarters, keeping a cautious eye on the tall Wookie.

“I also understand that you have not had much of a chance to talk about it. So why don’t you tell me about Captain Solo and let me know what kind of man can inspire loyalty in someone like you.”

Chewbacca looked skeptical as Kirk motioned for Chewbacca to follow him deeper into his quarters.

“It’s alright Chewbacca. I know what its like to mourn someone that you can’t really talk about. Sometimes, talking about it helps and maybe that’s why you are in such pain.”

Chewbacca snorted something.

“No Chewbacca, I’m not saying that you’re being irrational, but you are jumping to conclusions and you are being smothering to Leia because you feel this burden or obligation to Captain Solo and you have no other way to express your sorrow except by nearly snapping my head off.”

Chewbacca shook his head hesitantly.

“It’s OK, Chewbacca. You can talk to me. I want to know about Captain Solo. I also want you to know that I care about Leia, very much. She’s become the rock in my life that helps me through this storm.” Kirk suddenly realized he was saying what his heart had been telling him slowly since the moment he saw her on the hangar deck of the Reckless Hope. “Without her, I don’t know how I would rally my people, my Federation. She’s my hope, Chewbacca and I would never want to mar that.” He said seriously, locking eyes with the Wookie.

Chewbacca stared for a long moment, measuring the young man’s words.

“Protect the Princess.” Han’s voice whispered in his ear. Maybe, just maybe, Kirk was precisely what the princess needed. Chewbacca said something softly.

“She was calling for me?” Kirk replied.

Chewbacca nodded.

Kirk pursed his lips.

“Let’s sit and talk, Chewbacca. Maybe we can understand each other better and maybe you’ll find that I can be as good a friend as Captain Solo was. If you give me half a chance.” Kirk reached out and squeezed the Wookie’s shoulder.

Chewbacca sighed and it sounded like a great engine coughing. He nodded and followed Kirk into his quarters, glancing with annoyance at Charlie. Charlie smirked.

“Charlie, come on. Maybe you can tell us what your life has been like all alone for the last 75 years.”

Charlie shrugged.

Chewbacca said something as they disappeared into the next room.

“Yeah, Chewbacca, I have no doubt that Captain Solo was taller than I am.”

Chewbacca added something else.

“And more handsome, I’m sure…”








The control deck was quiet.

“I’m going to get a bite, wanna come?” Kelly asked.

Wesley paused from his work in one of the consoles. It was flipped up and he was deep in the guts of the machine.

“No thanks.” He replied.

Kelly shook her head.

“You’ve been working for close to eighteen hours straight. How about a little break? I promise to get you back here in time to so that you can be the workaholic you so obviously aspire to be.” She replied playfully.

Wesley sighed heavily.

“Fine, but let me finish up this last link and I’ll join you.”

Kelly nodded and walked off the deck. She stopped at the bottom of the steps.

“Remember, I’m expecting company for dinner. I HATE to eat alone and you look like you ALWAYS eat alone.”

Wesley smiled weakly.

“I’ll be there, I promise.” Kelly started to walk away. “Hey.” He felt very awkward. “I’ll have you know that I haven’t even had dinner with my mother yet and I haven’t seen her in over 5 years.”

Kelly smiled and walked away.

Wesley shook his head and turned his attention back to the control panel.

“You seek power young one.”

He whirled around but there was nothing there.

“You feel inadequate now, don’t you? When you were younger you knew precisely where you were going, what you were doing. Now, you are a lost soul and to add insult to injury, the one ability that set you apart from anyone else has failed you.”

“What the hell is going on?” Wesley demanded as he got up and circled the command deck. There was a brief flash of shadows behind him.

“It took you two days to figure out the hypermatter reactor matrix, that little slip of a girl linked it together in three HOURS. How it burned in your belly, Wesley. I know the feeling of inadequacy and the shame it brings. There is a cure for that.”

“What are you saying?”

The voice was now over his right ear and he could feel a cold mist accompanying each word.

“I can grant you true understanding of this vessel. The Shar’lesk’vol was built by the Sith and I can open your mind to those secrets. Your knowledge will be voluminous and you will become powerful, necessary. You will find purpose again.”

Wesley felt a shudder of electricity run down his spine.

“Who are you?”

“I am Dairoga Kallast. In time, I hope, you will call me master.”



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-11-28 11:18pm
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Chapter 32: Phoenix Rising

The heavy thumping of boots could be heard echoing up the long canyons of Romulus’ capital city. Enormous green tinged spires rose up in the air like artificial mountains while the old city sprawled out like the spokes of a wheel from the new center. Columns of green marble topped with the Romulan eagle in gold pressed latinum shimmered in the hazy sun.

Crowds were gathered all along the great way that ran proudly down the center of the city, may were cheering, some held up placards, most of them obviously done at home, acclaiming Darth Nemesis. His young dashing features were flashing everywhere, many had painted him in heroic poses, some in the more traditional poses reserved for great Romulan generals of old.

Some of the poorer and simpler folk had even taken to painting him with the pointed ears and prominent brow ridge of the Romulan people, many saw him as one of their own. His obvious humanity was downplayed. His heroic character and charisma was embraced by the people that only weeks ago watched in horror as he blasted the largest city into ash.

People seem to have forgotten this fact. Many simply pointed out that it was a worthy sacrifice for the reward they faced now. The Romulan Star Empire now stretched from the Klingon Empire to the Federation itself, more than tripling the size of the empire in a matter of a month.

Now they were seeing yet another miracle of Imperial knowledge and genius.

At the end of the great way, the senatorial building stood proudly, where a great marble rotunda sat atop the large imposing structure. Here Senators and the Praetor could stand and watch the numerous martial parades that were constantly held in order to remind the people of Romulan might.

Darth Nemesis stood at the head of the group that now occupied the rotunda. He was shadowed by Mara Jade who was never seen far from his side. Many of the Romulan women had taken to calling her his dark lady. Many believed that they were lovers or married and nemesis said nothing to quash these rumors. Mara wore a simple black gown with a sheer black cape, a design for the most formal occasions, it was elegant and beautiful enough to wear to any event, yet at the turn of a shoulder and twist of her waist the extraneous material fell away revealing a tight form fitting fighting suit optimized for her shape and figure, allowing for maximum heat diffusion. It was also resilient enough to turn most bladed weapons.

The dress was as beautiful and deadly as its wearer.

Nemesis wore his usual black tunic and black cape, they were spotless, black as night wrapped around him like wings of a great bat. He watched the procession with a cold smile and a far away look in his eyes. His lightsaber was clipped prominently at his belt and despite the fact that he was nearly one of the shortest men standing on the rotunda he seemed taller than any of them.

Admiral Kittaine stood at Nemesis’ left side, tall, prim and proper. His uniform was immaculately pressed and his decorations and commendations gleamed in the sunlight. Slightly behind Kittaine stood Captain Branna, also wearing his best uniform and trying his best to blend in behind his commanding officer. Many of the officers stood further behind, most tried their best to hide the shock and awe.

Kittaine glanced at the young Sith Lord, he was impressed with the young man. This latest move on his part was a stroke of genius that was both unexpected and fortunate. Where did this young man pull the miracles out from?

“And so it begins.” Nemesis said softly.

The marching sound was louder now and they were finally coming into view.

“Gentlemen, I give you our newest weapons in the arsenal against chaos.” Nemesis announced proudly.

“Impossible.” One of the officers breathed.

The assembled Romulan commanders stood proudly with their Imperial counter parts and they were silenced by the sight.

Marching in absolute straight formations was a solid wall of Imperial Stormtroopers. They marched in unison like machines, weapons slung over their shoulders. The commanding officer of each formation snapped a smart salute up at the rotunda and continued on down the great boulevard and took up a parade formation in the largest park on Romulus, a massive sea of greenery kept for the private enjoyment of the praetor.

Unfortunately for the Praetor, his position and privileges were one of the first things to be removed after the Empire seized power. The Praetor was “retired” into private life on the island of Seeleza. The truth, known only to Mara and a handful of stormtroopers was that the Praetor was permanently “retired” after Nemesis was acclaimed by the senate as the new Praetor. She would not allow anyone to threaten Lord Nemesis’ rank and position.

She had come to the grudging conclusion that he was currently the sole source of stability among the Imperial ranks. Despite this knowledge, every fiber of her being called for her to strike at the foul traitor and end his treason in the name of her Emperor. Even now as she watched him on the review stand, returning the salutes from the new Stormtroopers she felt an urge, a slow burning desire to plunge a vibro blade between his vulnerable shoulder blades. Dark Side or not, there was nothing that would abate death at that point. He would be slain and his treachery ended.

But then she looked into those eyes and the rage was gone, the fires that burned in her cooled for she felt the power from him and the presence of command. He was born to rule and she could see that. Power came quickly to him and he had a way with people, a gift of making others follow him. Even Kittaine, an admiral that had been chosen for this duty particularly because he was recognized as a man that would never take any unnecessary risks and as such would never turn on the Emperor had embraced him as a new emperor, he had fallen under the young Sith lord’s spell.

She realized something else as well and it disturbed her to the core.

She recognized that as she looked at him there were other things stirring within her, emotions that were not part of her training. Emotions that she was trained to induce in men but never to feel in herself.

She wanted Nemesis.

She could not allow herself to feel this way but there was no denying it.

“Some say that he may make you his queen.” Tarsi whispered to Mara, his face never budging from its current grim expression.

She sneered and replied without hesitation.

“If I were you, Captain Tarsi I would worry more about finding Captain James T. Kirk. Lord Nemesis is not renowned for his patience.”

Tarsi blinked several times and straightened up as he turned his attention back to the parade.

Mara peered closely at the assembling troops.

“Where did you get all the armor?” She asked.

“The Romulans were kind enough to reproduce the armor we had using the best materials available in this galaxy. The armor is not as durable as our own but it will serve its purpose, it is highly resistant to disruptor fire, only Federation phaser fire can effectively pierce the armor.”

“They did a splendid job if I may say so myself, my lord. From this distance it is nearly indistinguishable.” Branna added.

Tarsi and Vash exchanged pained expressions.

“We do our utmost to serve the Empire in whatever capacity we can.” Admiral T’Vor added proudly.

“Admiral T’Vor you have indeed served and have done well for the Empire. Your command of the Phoenix project has been flawless. You met all my requirements on time and so far I am impressed with the results. You are to be commended.” Nemesis replied with a soft smile.

“I live to serve. Duty is its greatest reward.” T’Vor replied and bowed his head deeply.

Tarsi eyed the Romulan admiral suspiciously.

“Excellent. According to the project’s estimates we have 25,000 units ready with another 10,000 ready by the end of the week. By the end of the month we will have over 120,000 units combat ready and deployed.”

“Excellent indeed my lord, but those numbers will only insure that we can begin garrisoning the worlds we already control. You spoke of massive land engagements. I cannot say with certainty that we can commit massive amounts of Stormtrooper regiments for combat if the supply is tenuous.” General Ithis commented hesitantly.

“You are perceptive, general and you are not afraid to speak your mind. That is why I elected you as Supreme General of all ground forces. You are correct. With these initial troopers we can finally garrison worlds that so far have only paid lip service to our control. The first regiments are intended for Earth. I want them to fully understand that they have been conquered.”

“Then I’m not sure I understand-”

“Captain Tarsi.”

“My Lord.” Tarsi snapped to full attention.

“I wonder if I may still have enough confidence in your command ability to entrust you with a mission of extreme import for the empire.”

Tarsi’s left eye twitched. He was not used to criticisms regarding his command ability. Kittaine watched him closely.

“My Lord, I am ready to fight and die for the Empire. I will do whatever you ask, show me a foe, I will slay him for you, show me a fleet I will decimate it for you, point to a world and I will take it in your name.” Tarsi replied hotly.

“In his name?” Mara replied icily.

Tarsi ignored her and continued staring right into Nemesis’ eyes.

Nemesis smiled triumphantly.

“Very good, captain Tarsi. You will lead an assault on the Dominion held world of Proxus. It is deep in Dominion space but the most vital thing to know about Proxus is that it is one of the largest troop training facilities of the Dominion. Hundreds of cloning tanks are housed on this world. You’re orders are clear, take the planet, seize the cloning facilities intact and return them here. With the cloning facilities we seize from Proxus we should be able to field millions of troops in a matter of weeks if not days.”

Tarsi grinned. This was the kind of assignment he lived for.

“Return quickly Tarsi, for this is just the opening round in a grand offensive I am launching beginning with this attack.” Nemesis warned. Some of the Captains exchanged furtive glances.

“But first there is something I want you all to see.” He replied just as a low rumble began to shake the very foundations of the buildings around them.

The assembled officers looked up as great shadows were cast over the city.

“I see nothing.” Branna whispered.

“I do believe that is the general idea.” Kittaine added.

The rumbling became like thunder and the ground shook.

“The troops will no longer need to be ferried on our valuable stardestroyers. We can now begin to project our power with the assistance of our provincial allies.” Nemesis declared.

The sky above them suddenly shimmered and a dozen enormous vessels filled the sky above them. Huge Romulan warships the likes of which none of them had ever seen before. Their emerald hulls glowed with a menacing flicker, disruptor banks lined the hull and the nacelles pulsed like great hearts as the warships hovered over head.

“I present to you the Scimitar class assault transports. Derived from a vessel the Romulans were going to put into production this year, the Scimitar is heavily armored, the greatest overall firepower of any Romulan warship ever constructed and its cloak allows it to fire while cloaked, a distinct advantage over all previous designs.”

“Amazing.” Branna breathed.

“She is the pride of our fleet.” T’Vor added haughtily.

“The Scimitar was originally designed as a battleship but with my design specifications, these ships have been remade to fill the role of assault transport, much like the Acclamators of old. They have massive crew bays and mass transporters that allow these ships to beam hundreds of troops per second into any combat zone within a planetary diameter. Outfitted with our latest hyperdrive units she can keep up with our fleets and deploy troops anywhere in the entire galaxy in a matter of days. It obviously also has atmospheric capabilities that will allow us to bring greater fire support for our troops.”

“They will be a great asset to us.” Ithis noted with a satisfied nod.

“These first ships will depart immediately for Earth. Soon the shipyards will be in full production of these ships and the skies of the worlds in this galaxy will shake with the might of our warships. I want the might and power of the empire to be heard in their engines, to be feared in the death that will come from the invisible hand above them, from the horde that appears out of thin air. This is the new empire, this is the new philosophy of fear.”

The assembled Imperial officers nodded enthusiastically.

“Those troops don’t look right somehow.” Mara noted as she peered down at the assembling troops. They seemed slightly larger, bulkier.

Nemesis nodded.

“Unfortunately the cloning chambers of the Dominion are geared towards creating certain templates. The human DNA samples provided by our candidate could not be optimized for mass cloning. Admiral T’Vor came up with the solution.”

“We blended human DNA with Jem’Hadar templates.” T’Vor added.

“What?” Mara exclaimed.

“The Jem’Hadar template was necessary. They are engineered to be mass cloned with very little growth time. These troopers took only a week to fully mature thanks to its Jem’Hadar traits.”

“That is disgusting. I gave you the finest sample of Imperial DNA from a Royal Guardsmen and you sully it with alien DNA.”

“Do you not listen to anything that is said? Without the Jem’Hadar template we would not be able to produce the Stormtroopers in the numbers we require. Certain concessions needed to be made.”

“How soon before we concede our way out of the New Order’s ideals?” Mara retorted.

Suddenly a low chant began from deep within the throng gathered all along the boulevard and park, which was now filling with white armored troops. Nemesis paused to listen and slowly a broad smile spread across his face as the chant became more audible.

“Show us the Dark Lady! Show us the Dark Lady!”

Nemesis turned to Mara who was floored by the spontaneous outburst. He slowly extended his hand and stood at the very edge of the rotunda. His black cape flung over his left shoulder, hand elegantly extended out to her and his smile.

“My lady, your public demands your presence.” He said.

Mara glanced around quickly. The others looked at her expectantly, Tarsi spared her a shadow of a smile and a slight incline of the head. She would have severed that pretty head for his insubordination but restrained herself.

Instead, she slowly extended her own hand and took his. The contact was electric and she looked into his eyes as he formally pulled her up to the edge and with a slight flourish of his cape, he presented Mara to the throngs below.

The cheers rose up like a storm through the canyons of the great city. She stood at the edge and looked down and for a moment she felt as if she were outside herself. The acclaim was like a drug and she felt her gown flapping around her in the wind and her hair streamed behind her.

“They adore you, Mara.” He said meaningfully so only she could hear. He leaned in slightly closer. “They are not alone in this sentiment.” He said evenly and looked into her eyes. She glanced over at him.

She remained silent but her mouth opened as if to speak.

“We love you lady!”

“Bless you Lady!”

Mara looked back down and could feel the exhilaration in her breast. She had spent all of her life living in shadows, always invisible, always at the service of others.

Now she was the Dark Lady.

She looked back at Nemesis.

“I should kill you for what you have done.” She whispered.

Nemesis nodded.

“I offer you power beyond imagination and the post of Lady of the New Empire. No longer a hand, but a ruler in your own right, Mara. I pray that you think on this. If you try to kill me you will fail. Either I will kill you where you stand or the men that see me as the New Emperor will slaughter you and you will have accomplished nothing but mortally wound Imperial interests in this galaxy.”

She blinked. He had all but said it.

“Or you can join me and we can rule this galaxy as Husband and wife, every Emperor needs an Empress, and you would make a terrifying Empress, beautiful and terrible as the morning and the night, you would be stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All would love you and despair.” He promised.

Mara stared at him for a long moment. She could feel the conflict within her. For the first time in all her life, the road was no longer clear.








“How did you do that?” Kelly asked dumbfounded as the control panels lit up and a deep bass rumble grew deep in the depths of the great ancient war machine.

“It was a simple matter really. It was a small detail I missed before when I was examining the controls. I have a much better understanding now.” Wesley replied with a slight tinge of arrogance.

Kirk stood in the center of the command center, Spock and Scotty by his side. Leia refused to come on board for now. She had assured him he was alright, but she was busy pouring over history texts according to Chewbacca and he refused to leave her side, but as a sign that his relations with Kirk had warmed slightly, he relayed his own concerns about the princess. She seemed obsessed with the Sith now, trying to track down what their connection to this machine meant.

Kirk promised Chewbacca that he would come see her. But now duty called and the young man, Wesley Crusher, had just cut the repair time on the Excalibur nearly in half. He had found a way to get the massive hypermatter reactors activated to full power and he even found a self repair system that was now active and helping the Starfleet engineers. Primitive droids crawled along the machinery like spiders. Kirk found them slightly repulsive but they certainly knew what they were doing.

“I don’t understand, we both looked at these systems last night and we couldn’t make heads or tails of it.” Kelly wondered aloud. Wesley nodded.

“When you went to sleep, I decided to stay up and I went over everything painstakingly, then it hit me an hour ago. Things are starting to become clear for me.” He replied.

Kelly looked at him closely. There was something odd about him. Darkness seemed to hang over his head like a halo. It was as if the light around them bent past Wesley’s head casting a dark pall over his features.

“Mr. Crusher, congratulations. Scotty here tells me that we may be able to get the Excalibur underway a lot sooner than expected. The Federation owes you a great debt of gratitude.” Kirk smiled. “And of course, thank you Ms. Antilles.”

Wesley nodded proudly.

“Sir, I promise to get this ship ready for you by tomorrow.”

“You haven’t slept in 34 hours.” Kelly protested.

Wesley held up a hand.

“Its OK sir, as soon as I get this ship underway I promise to crash and get some sleep. Besides, it’s not like we haven’t done all nighters like these in the Academy.” Wesley added with a weak smile.

Kelly swore she heard a whispering voice behind Wesley for a brief moment. She shook her head to clears her mind. She was obviously still tired.

“You’re right about that, Mr. Crusher. Ms. Antilles, please give him all the help you can get, I have a feeling that we’re going to need this ship a lot sooner than any of us anticipated.”

Kirk paused and glanced around.

“Mr. Crusher, maybe you can answer a question that has been bugging me. We found no battle damage at all within the ship yet the Constellation blew in here and shut down the ship. Any idea why that was?”

Wesley nodded with a smile.

“Yes sir. See, the Excalibur was on automatic controls when you encountered her. The technical records indicate that the energy baffle at the mouth of the device was malfunctioning. The baffle prevented back flow of energy into the more sensitive parts of the craft when digesting raw materials for fuel conversion. The Constellation blew up in here without the baffles in place to shunt the energy away. The resulting explosion caused those crystals,” he pointed to the enormous building size crystalline structures interspersed throughout the maw of the ship. “to experience an antiproton surge this initiated a plasma scattering cascade that interrupted the ionic flow through the hypermatter processors. This disrupted the energy couplings that ran throughout the ship causing rapid loss of power and control. The plasma scattering field also generated a pretty powerful EMP pulse that finished off any droids that happened to be working near the maw disabling some of the core features of the self repair systems on this vessel. In order to avoid a general tetriyon surge in the crystalline matrixes that such an event would inevitably cause the vessel committed an emergency blow of all available power and simply shut down.”

Kirk blinked.

“Is it me or do the folks in this time speak slightly differently in technical terms than I’m accustomed to?” Kirk whispered to Scotty out of the corner of his mouth.

Scotty rolled his eyes.

“Sair, you don’t know the half of it. Most of the time I have to guess what my engineering team is telling me. It’s mostly useless technobabble as best I can tell.” Scotty replied wanly.

“I found the explanation more than clear.” Spock added with a slight arch of his eyebrow.

Wesley looked slightly confused.

“That was the layman’s explanation sir.” He added helpfully.

Kirk sighed and shook his head.

“Captain, I’m reporting as ordered.” Riker announced as he walked into the command center.

“Number One, good. I’m going to be bumping you up in the command ranks. I’m giving you a ship of your own.”

“Sir?” Riker seemed confused. “Is there something wrong with how I’ve conducted myself in your command?” Riker asked.

“Not at all, Number One. You’ve earned this command. I’m giving you the Excalibur.”

Riker stared at Kirk for a moment then his eyes widened as he looked around the command center and the massive vessel around him.

“Sir, if anything this should be your command ship.”

“No thank you, Number One, or should I say Captain Riker. I’ve always belonged on the Enterprise, can’t see myself on any other ship. This ship is yours. You’ve got the most important command in the fleet, Riker. I know I’m giving it to the right man.” Kirk explained with a smile and a nod.

“Thank you sir. I’ll make sure that you don’t regret this decision.”

“Mr. Crusher, I’m giving you a field commission to Commander, you are now chief engineer of the Excalibur.”

“Thank you sir.” Wesley replied genuine surprise and shock in his voice.

“Ms. Antilles, Princess Leia will be expecting you back at Avalon as soon as you and Mr. Crusher get everything stowed away. I hope to see the Excalibur up and running by tomorrow. I have the utmost faith in both of you.”

“Thank you sir.” Kelly replied.

“Now if you will ladies and gentlemen, I have an appointment with a special lady. Carry on.”

Kirk walked away, Spock close behind. Scotty remained in the command center and walked up to Wesley, clapping him on the shoulder.

“Congratulations, lad. I do believe this makes you the youngest chief engineer in Star Fleet history.” Scotty exclaimed.

“Thanks Mr. Scott. That was certainly unexpected.”

“A word to the wise, lad. Don’t go around making the sort of promises you just made to Captain Kirk. Starfleet Captains are a demanding lot and he will hold you to that deadline come hell or high-water.” Scotty said with a wink.

“I understand, Mr. Scott. I just hope I can live up to the Captain’s ideals.”

“Do your best lad, that’s all he asks of ye.”

Wesley nodded uncertainly. He could feel his presence in his mind. Pressing him, pricking him with anger at the inequity of the past. But it was hard to embrace anger and rage when you were handed what he had been looking for. A place to belong.

Scotty smiled at the youngster and turned to talk with Kelly about the latest upgrades and repairs made. Wesley watched them with a hooded expression.

She is dangerous. He whispered. She can end this for us.

“How?” He whispered.

She suspects something is wrong. She does not truly believe your tale of a sudden engineering epiphany. She can air these suspicions and then where would you be?

Wesley turned away from them so that they could not see him and he pretended to work on a terminal.

“Once the Excalibur gets moving, no one is going to care about how this was done. Kelly won’t be here for long, she has to return to Avalon. Once she’s out of the picture, it will be simple to continue the training.”

You are too soft my young apprentice. Once a threat she will always remain a threat.

“Fine, I’ll think of something more elaborate.”

There was a dark chuckle in his mind.

You plan to discredit her. Why so elaborate a solution my young apprentice? Wesley there are far better and easier solutions.

“Like what?” Wesley asked angrily as he jabbed a control rod into place. His teacher was a demanding sort but he could not deny the flood of power he felt when he embraced the anger that had been festering in his heart for so long. For so long all he felt was the anger and bitterness. Poor Traveler had tried his best to have Wesley focus it into exploration or science. But the anger remained like some dark stain on an ivory rug, always there, always tugging at him. The anger had been a burden for so long, now, it was a source of untapped strength.

I was thinking of a far more permanent solution.

Wesley froze. His blood grew ice cold and he stared at the terminal hoping against all hope that he had not heard what he thought he heard.

She must die Wesley.

“No.” He whispered fervently and began working on the terminal in earnest.

Wesley, she will prove that you were nothing more than a child looking for a place. She will show them that you are not the genius you think you are. She will say that you allied yourself with dark forces and that you are an enemy. You are not to be trusted. Can you imagine the shame as this epiphany and all the hard work you have put into this project are exposed to be nothing more than a lie?

“I won’t kill.” Wesley hissed.

Wesley, at this point you are in the shadows with me. How long do you think before the fine upstanding Captain Kirk decides that you are nothing more than a liability? A child playing at being an adult that is what they will say about you.

“I’m smart, I can think on my feet, you won’t have to worry about me.”

Kirk is strong in the force, very potent indeed. He can be a threat to us should his attentions be diverted to us. She can divert that attention.

“I will NOT kill.”

So be it, Wesley. I shall teach you nothing more until you see the errors of your ways.

“Wait, you haven’t told me everything yet. I promised the Captain-”

You swore obedience to me as well Wesley or were you simply using me to get what you wanted? Your heart swells with pride and your mind grasps concepts beyond your ken because I allowed you to tap that well spring of rage within you. Now you must learn that all power has its consequences. If you do not believe me you will soon learn the hard way Wesley as you are exposed as a charlatan and a foolish boy who has no place among these men.

“Stop. Wait. I need to know more.”

There was nothing but silence and he found himself staring at the guts of a terminal whose function he no longer fully understood. Schematics that had stood in his mind so clearly before were gone. The understanding of a long dead language faded away like so much fog in the morning sun.

Wesley slammed his fist down on the terminal in frustration as everything that had been like child’s play for him had taken a far more threatening aspect. His anger brimmed within him and he turned his head to peer at Kelly Antilles and his frustration was given form, his fear rallied around her and a dark thought crept in like a thief into his heart, this young woman that had taken away the very thing that made him special.

He hated her.








“Glad to see you in such fine shape.” Kirk exclaimed as he stepped into the Princess’ quarters. Chewbacca nodded to Kirk who rubbed Chewbacca’s shoulder.

“Good to see you Chewie.”

Leia stopped suddenly from pouring over the datapads neatly piled on her desk and stared at the strange sight. Just yesterday Chewbacca was talking about separating Kirk’s head from the rest of him.

“What’s going on with you two?” she asked seriously.

Kirk smiled a boyish grin and shrugged.

“Can’t someone be friendly with a fellow ally?”

Chewie grunted something glib.

“Oh I get it. Well, I think I preferred you two when you hated each other.” She replied with a smirk.

Kirk casually walked over to the table and peered over Leia’s shoulder at some of the datapads on her desk. He noticed that her quarters were elegant yet Spartan. An odd mix of royal and diplomatic sensibilities coupled with a soldier’s grim determination to keep things simple.

He liked that.

“And who is this?” Leia asked peering over past the others at the young man standing shyly in the doorway.

“Oh, Charlie, come on over, let me introduce you.”

Charlie cautiously walked into the room, he glanced at Chewbacca and nodded to the Wookie who returned the nod and eyed him with respect. All appearances to the contrary, Chewbacca knew first hand that this young man had special talents that went beyond the norm. He was still stunned that Charlie had held Chewbacca firmly in place with just his mind.

“Princess Leia Organna, this is Charlie Evans. He is sort of my self appointed bodyguard. He’s also more than a little shy.” Kirk said with a wink to Charlie.

“I just don’t want anything to happen to you, Sir.”

“Jim, Charlie, you can call me Jim.”

“Uh, I don’t think so sir.” He stammered and shook his head hesitantly. He looked at Leia and his eyes widened slightly. His cheeks blossomed into a hard crimson.

“She’s beautiful.” He said.

“Well, he’s not that shy.” Leia commented with a wry smile. Charlie looked alarmed.

“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong? I have a tendency to do that, I apologize.”

“Then I’m not beautiful?” Leia replied.

“No, I mean Yes, well, of course you are, it’s just that…well.”

“What Charlie means, Leia, is that he’s grown up under strange circumstances and he’s not accustomed to interact with people like someone whose grown up among others. Charlie is a good man, just give him a chance to get things out.”

Charlie stood up straighter as he heard himself referred to as a man.

“I also came here to check on you. Someone tells me that you’ve been obsessed with the Sith since your episode back on the Excalibur.”

“Someone, huh?” Leia glanced over at Chewbacca who pretended to be intently reading a technical manual. “Well, someone, has it all wrong. I’m not obsessed. If you had seen what I saw then you would understand.”

“How about helping me understand instead of locking yourself away here on the Hope while the rest of us are trying to plan a new offensive.”

“Jim, I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but I seriously don’t think we should use the Excalibur until we have a better understanding of what happened on that ship. I’ve been reading up on the Great Hyperspace War that wracked my galaxy thousands of years ago.”

“You can’t be serious. The Excalibur is the only thing right now that we have that can stand up against a stardestroyer. We need that ship. The whole counter offensive has stalled until we could get the Excalibur going.”

“Jim, you said yourself that there were other artifacts that you could use in the war, why the fixation on this one?”

“Because this vessel is here and now and quiet frankly some of the other artifacts I had in mind could be just as dangerous to us as the Empire.”

Leia sighed softly and looked up at Kirk’s hazel eyes. She reached out and clasped his right hand.

“Jim, please listen to me. I happen to believe that the ship is still inhabited by a Sith presence.”

“How is that possible?”

“Just hear me out. I had a vision from a Sith Lord that called himself Dairoga Kallast. He was commander of the ship and an apprentice to the Sith Lord Naga Sadow.”

“So far I’m kind of lost. I thought Jedi were the only ones that had apprentices.”

“No, no. As best I can piece together, the Sith seem to be a shadowy opposite of the Jedi. Where the Jedi were dedicated to the peace and preservation of order, the Sith were dedicated to chaos and oppression. The Sith plagued my galaxy millennia ago and their greatest incursion was known as the Great Hyperspace war where they launched an assault on a generally unprepared Republic. This weapon was constructed with one purpose, to destroy the Capital of the Republic and the heart of the Jedi order, Coruscant.”

“I once hypothesized that this was a doomsday weapon created by an ancient race in a long forgotten war. I guess I wasn’t that far off.” Kirk mused.

“Princess, if I may, the Sith that controlled the vessel are obviously long since dead. The ship has been examined thoroughly by both our people and yours and they found no trace of any survivors, not even bodies or remains. It is illogical to think that there can remain a Sith influence on this vessel.” Spock interjected.

“Mr. Spock, it may be logical to you, but unfortunately anything that deals with Jedi or Sith does not seem to make any logical sense to the rest of us.” Leia replied.

“Are you saying that the Sith are still somehow alive on the Excalibur?” Kirk asked pointedly.

“I don’t know what to think.” Leia admitted with a shake of her head.

Kirk looked down at her and gently squeezed her hand holding his.

“Maybe what you need is a little rest. Chewie tells me that you haven’t slept since your episode on the Excalibur. Bones is still recovering from that electric shock you gave him but he’s more than willing to give you a once over, maybe give you something to help you sleep.” He said softly.

“I’m fine, really.” She replied with a reassuring smile.

They stared at each other for a long moment. Charlie noticed the exchange and tried to hide his smile. He paused as he felt a disturbance and turned around just as the doors to the princess’ quarters snapped open.

Threepio came walking in quickly, Artoo close behind.

“Princess it’s terrible. I was told to tell you at once.”

“What is it, Threepio?” Leia asked.

“The Empire has begun executions of civilians in Federation space.” Artoo whistled mournfully in accompaniment.

“What?!” Kirk exclaimed.

“The Empire began a systematic attack on civilian populations on Federation words, 10,000 dead no matter what the population of the planet and they are making their way to Earth. Master Luke has declared that this is in retaliation for the loss of an Imperial vessel to Federation rebel fleet led by Captain Kirk.”

“That’s a lie!” Kirk exclaimed.

“We led no such attack nor did we sanction one.” Leia added looking up at Kirk with worry.

Kirk rubbed his chin and looked down at the floor.

“They have evidence of the attack and our intelligence sources have confirmed that something happened in one of the Romulan shipyards.” Threepio added.

“There’s another fleet out there.” Kirk muttered angrily.

“I have been working under that same suspicion for some time. Due to the chaos that ensued after the fall of Earth it was difficult for others to focus on other events but the Romulans had accused the Federation and the Klingons of participating in the destruction of Remus by use of a never before seen weapon of mass destruction.”

“You think it’s this rogue fleet?” Leia asked.

“Logic would seem to indicate that there is another fleet, a Federation fleet that is working from the shadows against the foes of the Federation.”

“Their methods would dictate otherwise, Spock. Starfleet does not blow up planets.” Kirk spat.

“Nevertheless, the evidence is rather strong in favor of this possibility and the fact remains that the Empire is now retaliating against the Federation civilian population.”

“I told you, Jim, that one of the risks we run for running and hiding was that the Empire would strike against the civilian population in frustration.” Leia said softly, watching the slow agony play on Kirk’s face. He was facing one of the harshest realities of leading a rebel insurgency against the Empire. The innocent and powerless would be the targets of retaliation. The very same innocent and powerless that they were trying to free.

“Captain, we have to do something.” Charlie implored.

Kirk nodded slowly and he looked up at the assembled group, jaw squarely set and grim determination in his eyes.

“Tell Scotty that the word is given. The Excalibur sets sail tonight, ready or not and it’s time that we do something about this atrocity.”

“Our best estimates say that they will reach Earth in 32 Hours.” Threepio added hopefully.

Kirk nodded and gave Leia’s hand a final squeeze as he looked down into her eyes.

“We’ll be ready.”







“DECISION MATRIX 23H67543 HAS BEEN FINALIZED. THE BORG WILL JOIN WITH THE FEDERATION TO ONE PURPOSE. DEFEAT THE EMPIRE.”

The announcement woke Archer with a start. He stood up quickly and straightened his uniform as the others nodded to him and turned their attention back to the great matrix beyond. Explosions of green light and electricity arched through the darkness with every word of the master matrix.

“I see that it only took you three days to make the decision final. I am slightly disappointed. Under my reign the Collective came to decisions far more quickly.” The queen noted with a hint of disdain.

“1 OF 1, YOUR COMMENTARY IS IRRELEVANT. THE RECORD OF YOUR RULE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. THE COLLECTIVE NOW RULES ITSELF AS IT SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. WE ARE THE BORG.”

“Indeed.” She muttered.

“What does this all mean in the end? Your track record on alliances is non existent.” Archer asked loudly.

“It would be best not to antagonize them at this point, there is a human saying that I have grown to understand. They hold all the cards.” Seven replied glancing over at Archer with worry in her eyes.

He could tell that she was uneasy. The Borg had done nothing to them and the Defiant was still in orbit above, unassimilated, although his chief of security complained bitterly that there were hundreds of drones marching around the ship. He knew that Seven was right. The Borg were in control. They could do as they wished and there was nothing he could do. Well almost nothing.

He had come up with a plan. The helm had his signal locked in. At a command h could order the Defiant to drive down at this location at ramming speed. It was his vain hope that perhaps he could injure or even destroy the matrix.

Something told him that this was only a vain hope.

“The Federation is currently involved in a death struggle with the Empire. When will the Borg intervene?” Janeway asked.

“INETRVENTION WILL COMMENCE AS SOON AS NECESSARY ELEMENTS ARE ASSEMEBLED FOR AN ALL OUT ASSAULT. THE BORG HAVE BEEN DEFEATED BEFORE BY IMPERIAL FIREPOWER AND WE CANNOT ENTER THIS BATTLE PIECEMEAL. WHEN THE FLEET ELEMENST ARE ASSEMBLED WE WILL STRIKE.”

“When?” Janeway pressed.

“THE FLEET ELEMETS WILL BE ASSEMBLED AT UNIMATRIX 001 IN 42 HOURS. ONCE THE FLEET IS ASSEMBLED WE WILL LOCATE THE MAIN CONCENTRATION OF IMPERIAL WARSHIPS AND ENGAGE THEM. ONCE WE HAVE ASSIMLATED THE FLEET THE OFFENSIVE WILL CONTINUE.”

“You call that a plan? You’re just going to engage and assimilate? What about back up? Reinforcements? Alternatives?” Archer exclaimed in frustration.

“THESE MATTERS ARE IRRELEVANT. WE WILL ASSIMLATE THE IMPERIAL FORCES. CASUALTIES ARE IRRELEAVNT, TACTICS ARE IRRELEVANT, STRATEGY IS IRRELEVANT. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“They’ve been so accustomed to dealing from a position of strength that they have absolutely no concept of the idea of tactics or strategy. Their entire plan of attack has always been to pour more resources into a problem until they are resolved.” Janeway noted with concern as she peered out at the matrix beyond.

“You would have thought that among all the races they have assimilated they may have assimilated a few generals or admirals to teach them strategy and tactics.”

“You forget, Captain Archer, that the Borg are not interested in tactics or strategy, they are not interested in the various philosophies that honey comb the multitude of races in this galaxy. All that is irrelevant. Technology is the true goal. They wish to assimilate all the technology in the universe because technology is purer, technology is the true measure of a species. Who cares for the mutability of philosophy, art, religion? Technology is cold and pure. Technology does not lie, it is not gray, it is not a mutable thing that means one thing to one species and something else to another. The true language, the purest form of expression and creation is technology.”

“That is a cold and lifeless ideal.” Janeway replied.

“What matters to the Borg if we assimilate the most brilliant tactical mind in the galaxy if we have our phase cannons and plasma torpedoes?” The queen smiled coldly. “In the end, no matter how brilliant you are, overwhelming firepower always wins the day.”

“The problem, your highness is that you’re not the one with overwhelming firepower in this fight.” Archer noted with a grim smile.







The palace of Jabba the Hutt was loud with the laughter of various revelers. Smoke drifted through the cavernous interior, most of it illegal narcotics of one sort or another. Multi colored drinks swirled around in semi clear glasses as servers moved among the thick crowd.

In the center of the throne room stood the imposing dais where Jabba the Hutt held court. Jabba was currently not on his throne, the great silken cushions sat empty on the dais. Off to the side was an ornament that Jabba was most proud of – a simple slab of Carbonite. The surface of the slab was marred by the impression of a human face in agony, hands trying desperately to break out of the Carbonite.

Han Solo, smuggler and rebel hero had been frozen in Carbonite and presented to Jabba. Jabba immediately placed the slab on the wall as a twisted ornament and a warning to anyone else that tried to make a fool out of Jabba.

There were tables lines along the walls of the throne room. One of these tables was far of to the side, deep in shadow. Two men sat quietly talking here, one wore a simple black robe, a hood drawn up over his head. The other wore battle armor that was instantly recognizable by many who walked the underworld.

“And so this is my bargain with you. He is just one man but he is extremely dangerous and difficult to kill. He had slipped out of many traps and has cheated death more times than I can count.”

“You just want him dead?” The armored man asked in a cold monotone.

“There are no other options. Kill him. Kill him slowly or quickly, I don’t care but I want him dead.”

“This shouldn’t prove difficult.”

“You do understand that you will be going far away from here?”

“I don’t believe you for a second. Another galaxy?” he snorted.

“You will believe when you are there. It matters not, the price has been arranged and you will find in the hold of your ship all the credits you wanted. Once you take off from here, rendezvous with me at Sluis Van. I will take care of the rest.”

“If you’re playing games with me..”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of playing games with the infamous Boba Fett. But I do expect you to fulfill your bounty. I want James T. Kirk dead.”

“As you wish.” Fett replied coolly.

The man in the cloak smiled coldly. There was a strange silver gleam from the depths of the cloak.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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Chapter 33: Gods of War part 1


The Dominion world of Proxus was one of the major troop training centers in the Dominion. One hundred and twenty seven cloning vats were scattered throughout the planet and massive Jem’Hadar training centers occupied the central continent where millions of warriors were trained to fight and die for the Dominion. Jem'Hadar and their Vorta handlers were the sole occupants of this harsh barren world.

The Founders had liquidated the previous inhabitants of the planet in order to clear the way for their troop training center. Above, circling the planet was a shipyard, hardly the largest in the Dominion but it served a dual purpose. The shipyard created fighters and light ships for the Jem’Hadar to train in ship to ship and boarding actions. The shipyard also acted as an extra layer of security as it provided a ready attack fleet to supplement the standard Dominion security force that was stationed in system.

The invasion of the Galactic Empire and the collapse of the Bajoran wormhole had spurred the Founders to begin a crash troop levy of their cloning facilities and shipyards. They knew that the Empire had a massive firepower advantage over their own empire. The founder spies still active in the Alpha Quadrant were quick to point out the swiftness of the Imperial advance and their utter dominance of the Alpha Quadrant.

The Dominion knew that they would eventually become a target. The Empire would come for them. They knew because if they had the power and speed advantage that the Empire possessed, they would conquer the entire galaxy as well.

They wanted to be ready for them as they could be. Already thousands of new ships were ready, waiting for the crews being trained on worlds like Proxus. Soon millions of troops and crewmen would be shipped from the training centers to waiting fleets. Then it was a matter of waiting for the inevitable.

What the inhabitants of Proxus did not know that the inevitable for them was today.

The Stardestroyers emerged from hyperspace on the far side of the planet, turbolasers immediately raking across the delicate spider web like frames of the shipyards in orbit of the planet. The half completed warships contained within were soon vaporized by the murderous fusillade of the stardestroyers. Romulan warbirds began decloaking in waves flanking out from the initial Imperial lines and center, much like the wings of a hawk closing on their prey.

The Dominion defenses were not surprised however. Jem’Hadar did not sleep, rarely were fatigued and were always vigilant. They were the perfect warriors for the Founders and they lived to die for their gods. Intense white antipolaron beams lashed out like great whips and lanced into the advancing Imperial lines as the first swarm of Dominion fighters peeled away from their patrol pattern to engage. Heedless of their losses they plunged into the fray firing their weapons in quick bursts.

The first Romulan warbirds were utterly crushed by the Dominion counterattack but the first wave of fighters were caught in a barrage of flak fire from the Adjudicator as it pressed onward, sweeping through the burning shipyards like an avenging angel, her attendant stardestroyers following closely behind, however, not in as tight a wedge formation as the triumvirate was accustomed to fighting in.

Captain Tarsi learned from his mistakes and he was going to make an object lesson of the Dominion.

Tarsi watched the last of the Dominion fighters fall away like burning embers as another wave began to attack. The automatic shading activated as several powerful bright white antipolaron beams flashed against the Adjudicator’s forward screens.

“What is the source of those beams?” Tarsi snapped calmly.

“Anti-ship batteries on the extreme edge if the field of engagement. Their antipolaron weapons have some form of shield piercing effect we have not encountered before from any of the other races we have faced.”

“Is it a danger?” Tarsi asked seriously.

“No sir. They are simply slightly more effective than the phasers and disruptors we have been dealing with. However the beams are wreaking havoc with our provincial allies.”

“They fight and die for the Empire. There is nothing more we can do. The quicker we secure this world the quicker they will stop dying. Impart this to the Romulan Admiral and increase speed, I want to clear this shipyard and close with those anti-ship batteries. Have the Bombard begin launching Bombers, we need to soften up the ground defenses before I commit troops.”

“Yes sir.” His XO replied.

Tarsi looked back out the view screen in time to see a Dominion heavy cruiser, the first true capital ship to enter the fray get bisected by two Romulan warbirds heavy forward armament and explode in a brilliant flash of plasma. He smiled softly.

This is where he belonged. The Empire had been spending too much time regrouping and rearming, but now, they were back in the fight and by the Emperor, he would avenge his losses to Kirk at Vulcan. He would expunge his shame in glorious battle and victory. But in the back of his mind, it gnawed at him. A quiet certainty that all would not be right until he defeated the Federation commander in combat.

“Sir, we have an enormous warp signature port side aft. A Dominion attack fleet is dropping out of warp, at least 1200 ships, perhaps more on the way.”

“They are committed then.” Tarsi said with a squeeze of his right fist. “The die is cast, alert all commands, the Dominion intends to make this into a fleet engagement.”

“Aye sir.”

The Imperial fleet cleared the smoldering shipyards and began engaging the powerful orbital batteries that defended Proxus. The enormous orbital batteries had been built to withstand assaults by fleets of ships, essentially enormous antipolaron cannons wrapped in a mesh of heavy armor and shield generators, while not aesthetically pleasing in any way they were devastatingly lethal. They now dueled with the approaching Imperial ships as Dominion fighters swarmed around them, strafing the big ships, once again heedless of losses and heavy fire.

Warbirds laid down a horrifying volley of fire as they marched through the Dominion fire. TIE Bombers and their escorts began to peel away from the fleet in tight formations and descended upon the planet. Soon heavy flashes could be seen from orbit as the TIE Bombers began delivering their payloads.

The massive Dominion fleet was closing quickly, the fighters zipping ahead, concentrating their fire on the Imperial lines, saturating them quickly as the massive capital ships lumbered after them, preparing to go head to head against the larger Imperial ships.

“What in the name of the emperor is that?” Tarsi asked sharply as he caught visual sight of the Dominion fleet. The fleet itself was large and coming in fast, but at the heart of the advancing line was an enormous warship. It bore the same overt menacing design that all Dominion ships shared but there was one difference.

This vessel was larger than the Adjudicator.

“Sensors indicate that the vessel is approximately 5 kilometers in length. Power output and weapon placement would indicate this to be some form of super battleship. It dwarves anything we have faced from the Federation, Klingons or Romulans. Only a Borg cube was more powerful.”

“And we both know how well that turned out for us.” Tarsi said with a cold smile. He suddenly came to a decision.

“Bring us around to an intercept course, flank speed.”

“Aye sir.”

“Let’s show these bastards just what their so called super ships mean to us.” Tarsi said with a wicked grin as the Adjudicator turned its superstructure to face the incoming Dominion attack wing.

“Have the rest of the triumvirate follow me, but drop back to supporting position, the Adjudicator will take the lead.”

“Aye sir.” His XO replied hesitantly.

“A page out of Lord Nemesis’ book.” Tarsi muttered as the Adjudicator accelerate and the first of the Dominion fleet’s heavy weapons lashed out against the shields, bathing the bridge in an eerie bright white light.

A cloud of small fighters dropped down on the Adjudicator and wove their way through the ship, trading fire with the lighter batteries. Tarsi watched this with satisfaction as they continued onward through the Dominion lines and the super battleship began to open fire on the Adjudicator. Devastating volleys of plasma torpedoes were quickly followed by volleys of antipolaron beams.

“Hold your fire.”

“Sir?”

“Do not engage the Dominion battleship until I give the order, continue closing on target.” Tarsi ordered calmly.

“TIE Bombers report that anti-air defenses have been destroyed in sectors 34 and 50. Ground defenses have been suppressed in sectors 34, 50,62 and 78.”

“Excellent, have the Scimitars begin landing operations as soon as possible in those sectors. Detach the Javelin and Bellicose to provide orbital fire support.”

“Romulan forces requesting permission to flank the Dominion fleet.”

Tarsi stared at the enormous battleship looming up on his screen and the Dominion fleet scattered around him. The Adjudicator had penetrated her picket line, and was now deep in the heart of the fleet. The rest of the triumvirate was only now starting to penetrate the picket line while the rest of the fleet was hanging back and trading long range fire wit the enemy. The Adjudicator was all alone in the center of a massive enemy fleet.

“Not yet.” Tarsi replied softly.

“Sir, we’re deep in their lines, they will collapse on us in moments if we do not begin pulling their fleet apart.” His XO cautioned. He began to worry that his commander may be trying too hard to prove himself after the humiliating defeat over Vulcan. The Adjudicator was powerful but she was not invulnerable.

“Not yet, continue closing on the Battleship and hold your fire. Tell the triumvirate to pace me but not penetrate past the picket line.”

“You’re all but asking them to encircle us.”

Tarsi nodded.

“Let them come.”




The surface of Proxus was alight with launching anti ship missiles and light interceptor craft. The clone vats were surrounded by bristling defenses that were coming online as the first waves of TIE Bombers were detected. Jem’Hadar troops were streaming out to man defensive station and fill in bunkers and trenches. They did not know fear as the first bombs dropped and began blasting apart the defenses with unerring accuracy.

Proton torpedoes slammed into the larger defensive structures, huge missile batteries were torn apart by the explosions, the concussive shockwave killing the troops unfortunate enough to be close to the batteries. Thermal detonators floated down, almost casually drifting into open Bunker doors or ventilation shafts and exploding with devastating effectiveness, turning bunkers into murderous boxes of tritanium and stone. Thousands of troops died in the first pass of TIE Bombers.

Angry emerald bolts soon descended from the sky in support as they walked up the field of engagement, obliterating anything they touched.

Zataan watched the devastation with an expression of muted horror, one that he did not allow the other Vorta to see and most especially the Jem’Hadar who were racing throughout the complex. Shouts and curses were all he could hear right now as another wave of TIE Bombers roared overhead, delivering their payloads with horrifying effectiveness. Two bombers suddenly pitched hard to the left as an anti air missile exploded in their midst, the proximity fuse sending a cloud of penetrating flechette rounds that obviously found vulnerable systems.

He watched the bombers slowly descend trailing thick black smoke before they disappeared behind a small hill. The anti air battery responsible for the blow soon found itself under attack by plasma torpedoes.

“Where did those come from?” Zataan asked in shock.

“The Empire seems to have found a worthy ally in the Romulans. Those weapons are coming from cloaked ships.” Another Vorta responded coolly.

“How do you know?”

The Vorta pointed to a spot several kilometers away. Several plasma torpedoes suddenly sprang out of the thin air and exploded as they struck Dominion armor gathering in the assembly areas behind one of the bunker complexes.

“They are disrupting our defensive units. Obviously they actually intend to land troops.”

“Then they don’t meant o simply destroy us?” Zataan exclaimed with growing alarm. The other Vorta handlers glanced down at him. Zataan was the youngest of the assembled instructors, fresh out of the Vorta training academies back on home world. He was not used to seeing the lessons they taught to the Jem’Hadar in actual practice.

They all knew the moment the Imperial fleet began sending down ships and concentrating on their defenses that the fleet was here to invade not destroy.

“Attack those ships.”

“We cannot, our tactical sensors are not locking on to the signatures. Their cloaks are too powerful.” A Jem’Hadar warrior replied stonily as another volley of plasma torpedoes wiped out a troop concentration.

“Then set the weapons for manual and trace back the weapons fire to their point of origin.” Zataan replied in exasperation.

“Yes sir.”

The other Vortas nodded approvingly. Zataan was young but he was starting to apply what he knew to this battle.

“Enemy troops are being disembarked.” A Jem’Hadar announced without fanfare.

White armored stormtroopers suddenly began appearing in columns of brilliant red light. They immediately began fanning out and firing, engaging what little Jem’Hadar troops remained in their immediate area of attack.

“You know what this means. They intend to take the cloning vats. This cannot be allowed.”

“We have our duty.” Zataan replied hesitantly. They had to set the self destructs on the cloning vats or the Founder’s greatest weapons would fall into enemy hands. A unprecedented event in the history of the Dominion.

Actually, Zataan mused, an all out attack on a Dominion world was an unprecedented event in the Dominion history.

“Look at them, precise, fearless, fast. They are a force to be reckoned with.” One Vorta noted with chagrin as he watched the Stormtroopers sweep a defensive line clear, and secured another beachhead. More troops were beaming into the defensive lines.

“Enough talk, set for self des-“ Another Vorta snapped as the chamber shook violently and a console exploded to their left. The lights dimmed for a moment and snapped back into place.

“What happened?”

“Enemy weapons fire concentrated on us for a single volley.” A Jem’Hadar explained.

“They have avoided harming the vats until now, why would they-”

“Shield status!” another Vorta snapped eyes wide in alarm.

The Jem’Hadar was about to answer when a blaster bolt took his head off and the corpse slumped forward. More Jem’Hadar fell to precise shots as Stormtroopers flooded into the control room. One Stormtrooper stalked up to the Vorta paused for a moment as he contemplated them. He suddenly raised his rifle and blasted one of the Vorta. The others cringed backwards all save Zataan who stared at the stormtrooper in shock. The stormtrooper nodded to his companions and they quickly moved to secure the stations. Zataan could hear the sounds of battle raging throughout the vats.

The stormtrooper removed his helmet and Zataan was surprised to see that the he was actually a she.

Mara brushed back the sweat slicked hair from her eyes and glanced around quickly. She nodded to herself and raised a comlink to her lips.

“Objective A-22 secured. Bring in the Romulan techs and begin immediate dismantling operations. Beam me back up. I’m ready to lead the assaults on the Eastern continents’ vats.”

“Aye ma'am. Preparing to transport.”

“Why?” Zataan asked.

Mara paused and looked at the young Vorta with a hooded expression.

“Why did you kill him? There was no need. Surely we can talk about this. The Dominion is not beyond sharing technology with a worthy adversary. You will find us an open and friendly people who do not seek out conflict. Or if you wish we can be a strong right arm to rely upon in battle.”

Mara smiled.

“I heard about your people. Born diplomats and liars.”

Zataan opened his mouth to protest.

“That’s alright. I’ve had my fill of people like that. I killed him because I knew he would not break.”

“Break?” Zataan asked weakly as the other Vorta stared at the stormtroopers surrounding them. Romulan technicians beamed in and without a word began dismantling the nearest consoles.

She pointed to the corpse with her blaster.

“He would not tell us what we wanted to know. I have a gift for these kind of things. He would not break under duress so therefore he was useless to us.”

“Duress?” Zataan swallowed.

Mara’s smile was ice.

“Oh yes, my good Vorta. This battle may be over for you, but your usefulness to the Empire has only just begun. My advice…talk soon, quickly and honestly. Otherwise you’ll wish that.” She jabbed at the corpse with her blaster again. “was you.” She replied and suddenly disappeared in a swirling column of light.




“You know, Doctor, I have been practicing medicine for most of my adult life. Even though some of my medical knowledge is just a little out of date I think I can manage to find where you keep the neurostimulators.” McCoy said with a smile.

Doctor Beverly Crusher shook her head in chagrin.

“I’m sorry Dr. McCoy, but with my transfer over to the Excalibur and getting your crewmen up to speed on some of this equipment I haven’t had much time to think or do anything.” She explained.

“That’s quiet alright, I understand. I hear that the Excalibur doesn’t have a sickbay.”

“At least one that they can understand so I have to set up a makeshift one ASAP before we ship out.”

“So go do that and leave me here to fend for myself. It won’t be the first time.” He watched her closely. Dr. Crusher was a fine doctor but there was something else bothering her.

“You know, you can feel free to unload on me whatever it is that has you burdened.”

“Doctor, really, I couldn’t.”

“Please, call me Leonard and you know as well as I do that the stress levels around here have been through the roof lately. Now that we’ve finally gotten caught up with the wounded from the Battles of Earth and Vulcan it leaves us with some time to finally reflect and I’m willing to hazard a guess that it has to do with your son on the Excalibur.”

Beverly nodded slowly.

“DO you have children?”

“Yes, a daughter.” McCoy replied with a sad smile.

“Then you know what it’s like to worry about them. He’s come back from years of being away and he has not come over here once to see me. I can’t help but wonder.”

“He’s a grown man, Beverly. Let it be. The last thing he probably wants is his mother coming to him and prying into his life. Take it from me, I learned the hard way that once they think they’re grown up, the relationship changes. We’re no longer parents, we’re just really good friends.”

“Sometimes, I don’t think he even sees me that way. I really worry about Wesley.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine, but if you feel that strongly about it, go to him. I think I can handle it from here.”

“Thanks Leonard.” she said with a smile and a squeeze of his shoulder before quickly leaving the sickbay. McCoy glanced around and saw a series of needle like devices laid out on a table.

“You.”

“Doctor?” the nurse replied hesitantly.

“I have absolutely no idea what these are…you’re either going to tell me what they are or you’re going to get these out of my sight. nothing unnerves a Doctor more than equipment he can’t understand.” McCoy griped.

“Yes Doctor.”


“Kelly, I’m having trouble reaching this conduit. You’re smaller than me, can you squeeze in back there?” Wesley asked with a sigh of exasperation as he sat up from his prone position by the power converters. Huge lines ran from the bowels of the Excalibur through various crystalline junction boxes. This box was the last one in their tour of the main power junction. Once these controls were set, Kelly and Wesley hoped that enough power could be fed into the hypermatter reactor’s power regulators to allow them a full power start up and actually get this hunk of neutronium moving.

So far the only pleasant news they had was the discovery by a maintenance crew on the inner layers of the hull of what appeared to be shield generators. Alliance engineers were currently examining them to make sure. If the Excalibur had a shield grid as well as her heavy armor, they would be quite a force to be reckoned with.

The only one that did not seem pleased with the results was Jim Kirk. He wanted the Excalibur moving as of now and nothing was happening. Wesley had lost his sudden insight on the controls and it was like they were back to square one. The Empire was moving through the Federation, slaughtering ten thousand civilians on each world no matter the size. Some colony worlds had less than 50,000 inhabitants, when the empire came, fully ¼ of the population was gone after they left.

It was a slow, deliberate, methodical slaughter and there was no doubt what the last stop was. Earth.

The fleet was becoming anxious to do something. Loved ones and innocents were dying and the fleet that swore to liberate them from this evil was still hiding. Wesley could feel the frustration and anger in the officers around him as he tried in vain to understand the systems around him. Before he could just look at them and he would instinctively know what it did and what was wrong with it.

While he had his insight the engineering teams had made great strides in repairing and understanding the vessel. Now things were not so smooth. Everyone was becoming impatient and people were dying.

Wesley watched Kelly shimmy her way to the edge and reach around into the conduit. Oddly enough the repair droids seemed to avoid this area lately making it hard to order them into these junctions. Kelly found it odd that the droids seemed to be functioning on an independent AI system and were very nearly autonomous. It did not make sense from an engineering stand point to have a self repair system that you could not direct yourself.

Wesley’s eyes narrowed as she struggled to get her arm into the junction box with her hyrdospanner in hand. Her tongue peaked out of the corner of her mouth as she worked.

“This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Sometimes I look at this beast and I am in awe of the engineering and technical marvel that it is. Then there’s moments like this that I wonder who the hell designed this thing?” she muttered as she finally reached what she needed.

“Sometimes I look at situations and I judge them for what they are.” Wesley said casually as he rose form his half seated position and wiped his hands off on his pants. behind him at the control station he could hear Riker drilling his new bridge crews on the controls. He was taking this command extremely seriously, partly because he knew that the Excalibur was now the offensive lynchpin of the fleet, and partly because he did not want to fail in the eyes of James T. Kirk.

Wesley smiled coolly.

Neither did he.

“What do you mean?” Kelly asked curiously and watched him for a moment. Strange shadows were playing across his face. He had been acting very odd of late and even worse ever since he lost his sudden insight on the Excalibur’s systems.

“Only that sometimes you must look at difficult decisions in a more detached way, much like a science experiment. You have to balance certain factors and come up with a solution.” Wesley began to pace slightly, hands clasped behind his back. Kelly watched him and felt a chill run up her spine. She suddenly glanced down and noted how far over the edge she was in this junction box. The yawning chasm below was dark, only intermittingly lit by engineering team lights and the Excalibur’s own muted control systems. Otherwise it was a great pit beneath her that did not seem to have a bottom.

She shifted uncomfortably and started to pull herself back up, a suddenly alarmed for no discernable reason.

Wesley turned on his heel and pinned her with his eyes.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m…trying to get up.” she answered hesitantly.

Wesley smiled weakly.

“But we have to finish these repairs to the power system. Captain Riker wants to run a full power up procedure in a few hours to see if we can’t start moving and finish the repairs as we’re underway.” Wesley explained softly. There was a hint of menace in his voice and Kelly did not like it one bit.

“Well, we can wait a moment, can’t we?” she replied hotly and started to pull her arm out of the junction box. Wesley’s eyes narrowed and the smile became a frown.

“There are people dying every minute we delay.” he stated and Kelly suddenly felt the gantry give way.

“Wesley!” she shouted and found her arm jammed in the junction box. It almost felt as if something had a hold of her arm. Wesley watched her as if he were observing a wounded animal he had come across in the forest. An odd mix of concern and resignation.

“I struggled with this decision a lot longer than you can guess Kelly.” he stated coldly as the gantry slipped further down, screeching on metal, but Kelly noted with despair that the great cavernous bay seemed to be absorbing the sound. The bridge crew was oblivious as they ran their drills in the distance. Desperation made her hyperventilate and she struggled madly to get purchase on the edge.

“But in the end it was pure logic that made it crystal clear for me.”

“What in the hell are you talking about Wesley! Help me!” she shouted as the gantry finally slipped off the lip of the level and she now hung from her trapped arm, legs pistoning uselessly against the unyielding metal walls and hoping against all hope to catch a handhold, a foothold, anything to save her from the hungry pit below.

“It was you that brought this on yourself Kelly. You stupid bitch!! Why the hell did you have to question it huh? Why did you have to make a point about my insights?” he hissed angrily.

Kelly’s eyes widened slightly.

Wesley Crusher did not look well. He did not look sane.

“Wesley, listen to me, you don’t know what you are doing. Help me here and we can talk about this.” she tried to remain calm and say it an easy monotone, in the hopes of reaching through the madness that had suddenly taken a grip on his mind.

“I know precisely what I am doing. This is for the best trust me. Once I do this we can get back on track and I can save those people dying instead of fumbling around in the dark hoping to come across the key systems that will get the Excalibur moving. All I need to do is this one act and everything will be alright.”

“Wesley, you are going to KILL me.” she stated and the very starkness of the statement even gave her pause.

Wesley nodded and she could see tears welling up in his eyes.

“I know. And believe me, I’m sorry, but in the end there is one clear message that makes this possible.”

Kelly began struggling valiantly, trying to pull herself up by her trapped arm, one hand desperately clawing at the lip of the floor to find purchase.

“The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few…or the one.” he stated and nodded to her. “Goodbye Kelly, I am so very sorry.” he whispered.

“Wesley you bastar—”

The power conduit flared to life and Kelly screamed as electrical current arced around her and purple tendrils of electricity danced along her body for a moment. She stiffened and her arm suddenly came loose. She plummeted down into the darkness.

Wesley very slowly and hesitantly walked over to the edge and peered down. There was nothing but darkness and the low lights of engineering teams deep in the bowels of the Excalibur winking slowly. He fought the hot wet tears that were starting to stream down his face and the aching void that now opened in his heart as he realized with terrible finality what he had just done.

Good, my young apprentice. You have done well.

“I didn’t want to kill her.” he whispered.

You had no choice, do not think on it now but revel in the feelings that it inspires in you.

“What are you talking about?” Wesley asked in horror.

You cannot lie to me. Look past the societal imposed guilt, the mock sorrow that you think you should feel and take a glimpse at your true feelings. Feel the electrical exhilaration. Take heart and joy in the fact that you are alive and she is dead.

Wesley shook his head.

“I did what needed to be done. The needs of the many…” he muttered like a mantra in the vain hopes that it would banish the feelings that were swelling within him. The ugly truth that stared back at him with a cold smile just where the Sith lord said they would be, right past the mores imposed on him since childhood, buried right beneath the false sorrow and shame.

The chuckle was cold and dark.

Indeed. Well, you have taken your first steps into a larger world. Now you must grieve.

“What?” he stammered.

Put on a good show, my young apprentice. Let us close the book on this chapter and begin a new one. Your training has now begun and soon you will be able to wield the weapon that I forged for you.

“Weapon?” he whispered mind abuzz with thought. He suddenly realized what it was that he was talking about. “But Princess Leia has that lightsaber.”

Yes. She does. She has what is meant for you and when I am finished with your training, that young Jedi will not be able to deny it to you.

Wesley shook his head as more tears came to his eyes. Real tears of sorrow as he realized that he was on a dark path and the worse part of it all was that he did not see a way off it.

“My God!! Someone help, Kelly fell!!” he shouted, voice choked with emotion.

All he could think about as Riker and the bridge crew stormed over to him was an old saying he never really understood until now. Something about the road to hell.




He floated serenely in his thoughts. There was nothing but peace and solitude and emotion was all cleaned away. The confusion it caused his logic no longer existed now there was only pure logic and his thoughts were slowly coming into order. He could spend days like this but he knew there was little time.

The door chimed.

He opened his eyes slowly and allowed his breathing to come back to normal, felt his heart rate rise slowly and his body come out of its meditative state.

“Come.”

The doors hissed open and James Kirk stepped in with a smile.

“Spock, I hope I wasn’t intruding but I thought it would be good if you could join us for dinner. Bones is holding a place at the best table in the mess hall.”

“I am not hungry.”

“I checked. You haven’t eaten in three days. Bones made sure to pass on the fact that as chief medical officer he was damned if he was going to let the finest First Officer in the fleet starve.”

Spock arched an eyebrow.

“I sincerely doubt that Doctor McCoy used those words, Captain.”

Kirk grinned, passing a hand absently through his hair as he walked over to where Spock sat.

“Well, he didn’t use precisely those terms, I admit I embellished a little but nonetheless.”

“Captain, it is a well known fact that Vulcans can go for a week if not more without basic sustenance. It is insulting that humans try to pass on their metabolic limitations on the rest of Starfleet’s personnel.”

Kirk smirked.

“How awful of us to care, Mr. Spock.” Kirk sighed for a moment. “DO you want to tell me what’s bothering you or do I have to drag it out of you in a game of 3-D chess?”

“That would not be wise, the game would not last long enough.”

Kirk laughed.

“Alright so how about you tell me.”

“To be bothered as you put it is an emotional state, Captain.”

Always the same game with Mr. Spock. Some things never changed. McCoy demanded that Kirk drag it out of the green blooded hobgoblin. He knew better. Spock would tell him in his own time.

Spock regarded the young Captain, one of the few beings in the entire universe that he would admit to calling friend. He would die for this man. But he could never know, must never know. He was a Vulcan and these feelings were most shameful sometimes. But he could see that his friend needed to know.

“I’ve missed you on the bridge Mr. Spock. usually you’re the most dependable officer in the fleet. I can always look to you for advice or support or even criticism. But you have been surprisingly quiet ever since this campaign began and I am worried.” Kirk watched his old friend for a reaction. None was evident on Spock’s face. “I also noticed that you and Commander Data have spent an inordinate amount of time in the holodeck. Hours and sometimes even days. Bones chalks it up to true love but I know differently. What are you doing in there?”

Spock cleared his throat and rose slowly from his seated position. He examined the young Captain’s face for a long moment.

“We are running simulations.”

“Oh?”

“The Battle of Earth and Vulcan provided a good baseline from which to measure Imperial firepower and our own as well as tactics, strategy and effectiveness. We have been running extremely detailed simulations using the latest in Federation AI and logarithms to come up with a scenario that may predict the future of the war.”

“What did you find?” Kirk asked quietly.

Spock stared into Kirk’s eyes for a long moment.

“Out of 892 completed scenarios, 1458 mini campaigns, 52,000 simulated battles and 174,000 comparative studies of technology the Federation does not win the war in one single instance and successfully sues for peace twice.”

“twice.”

“That is correct. Mr. Data is compiling the last statistical analysis before we make a report to you.”

“What does your report say, Spock?” Kirk asked.

“Captain. There is no chance that we can win this war. Logically we must conclude that a diplomatic solution is our only distant hope.”

Kirk nodded.

“And what do you think?”

“I concur with Mr. Data.”

“No, Mr. Spock what do YOU think.”

Spock stared at Kirk and both men stood in silence for minutes.

“I am a creature of logic. There is no other conclusion I can draw.”

Kirk nodded to himself. He walked towards the door and paused as they hissed open.

He turned his head slightly towards Spock.

“Your simulations, scenarios, mini-campaigns and logarithms…did they tell you what would happen to the Federation, its people and its ideals if we surrender now to the Empire? Did it outline the lives that would be lived in tyranny for generations to come, the sacrifices and atrocities visited upon people we were sworn to protect?”

“No, Captain.”

“That’s my logarithm for this war Spock. I’ll read your report. Now, Bones and I will be waiting for you for dinner. That’s an order.” Kirk said with a soft sad smile.

“Understood.”

The doors hissed shut leaving Spock alone to contemplate the logarithms of the human heart.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-12-23 04:19pm
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Chapter 34: Gods of War part. II


“Prepare to fire all forward batteries.” Tarsi ordered tersely as the interior of the bridge was bathed in the strobe like glow of the Dominion super battleship’s main weapons array. The Dominion fleet was now quickly collapsing in on him and their fire power bore into the Adjudicator’s shields.

“Aye sir.” His XO paused for a brief moment. “Sir, our shields are beginning to buckle.”

“A few more moments, my friend.” Tarsi replied.

Tarsi watched the Dominion battleship fill his forward view port completely, its weapons systems tearing into the Adjudicator mercilessly.

“Fire all batteries.” he ordered calmly.

The Adjudicator unleashed a barrage of turbolaser fire. The Dominion battleship’s shields flashed for a millisecond as they were completely overwhelmed and suddenly it blossomed into a small sun. The bright flash of the matter-antimatter annihilation completely darkened the view ports as the autoshading activated to maximum intensity. White hot debris and plasma showered down on the Adjudicator as several lighter Dominion ships were caught in the blast as well.

Tarsi smiled triumphantly at the sight of the massive vessel’s destruction.

The Dominion fleet did not hesitate, did not falter. They continued their relentless attack on his ship and soon they had the Adjudicator completely surrounded as the smaller fighters swarmed over the large ship.

“What’s happening?” Tarsi muttered in confusion as he watched the Dominion forces continue their onslaught.

“You tried to emulate Lord Nemesis’ strategy when you conquered the Romulans. However you did not count on a simple difference that Lord Nemesis would have accounted for.” Xon replied softly.

Tarsi turned his head to face the Vulcan.

“What are you babbling about?”

“The tactic that Lord Nemesis used counted on an intimate knowledge of your target’s psychological makeup and status. His show of invulnerability coupled with the firing of the superlaser on Romulus was what he needed to break their collective will. However, the Dominion is an entirely different target. The Jem’Hadar do not know fear, they live and fight for their gods and they were bred to war. The Romulans, for all of their bluster and bravado, are not killing machines without fear, they were not bred for war, they are not motivated by a desire to please their gods. Lord Nemesis knew that the Romulans, like most humanoid species is driven by a desire to survive, and he pricked that weakness by showing the futility of the struggle.”

Xon indicated the swarm of angry ships that had closed in on the Adjudicator and were pounding her mercilessly.

“They have no such illusions and that was your critical error.” Xon finished.

Tarsi pursed his lips and glared at the smug Vulcan.

“Why do I keep you by my side?” he hissed.

“Because, despite your general arrogant attitude and feelings of superiority you recognize in me a calm voice of reason that you have found you can rely on.” Xon replied evenly.

Tarsi arched an eyebrow slightly and a tight smile crossed his features.

“I suppose you do not believe in luck?”

“Luck is a superstitious notion that seems endemic to humans, when they cannot except the randomness of the universe.”

“It’s a shame, because your luck has saved you from death more times than I can count, Vulcan. But have a care, do not presume too much or you will find that even my ‘enlightened’ patience has its limits.”

“Of that I have no doubt.” Xon replied neutrally.

“Captain, Captain Vash is on the hololink.”

Tarsi nodded and strode over to the small disc on his command section and a small figure of Captain Vash shimmered into view. Vash was shaking his head ruefully.

“You’ve stirred the hornet’s nest now, Captain. As usual, the rest of the triumvirate has to come to your rescue.”

“Well, don’t take too long, I may end up racking up this entire Dominion fleet as a kill.” Tarsi replied with a wolfish grin.

“We’re on our way.”

As soon as Vash’s image vanished Tarsi turned on his heel and stalked over to the weapon’s pit.

“Status?”

“They’re hitting us with everything they have, we count close to a thousand ships focusing their firepower on us. Shields are holding but beginning to show strain sir. Frankly, we can’t hold out under this kind of bombardment for long.”

“Navigation?”

“They have us hemmed in sir. We have very little room from which to maneuver and we cannot find a good position from which to protect the hangar bays. We won’t be able to launch fighters or bombers to help us.”

“With the amount of heavy fire out there sir, I wouldn’t recommend launching anything.” his squadron commander added.

Tarsi nodded, ignoring the gnawing concern in his belly. There were a thousand enemy ships between him and his fleet. He may have walked into a trap as Xon had so coldly pointed out. In wanting to emulate the man that had nearly killed him for his incompetence at Vulcan, he may have committed another such volley.

He would be damned if he was going to lose his ship to a fleet of genetically engineered fanatics.

“Have all gunnery stations switch to flank mode, prepare to bring engines to full power, we will exploit any breach opened by our guns.” Tarsi ordered.

“Aye sir.” his men snapped and quickly went about their duties.

Tarsi did not want to look outside. He could imagine the horde of Dominion ships crawling al over his ship like an infestation of Daramalan mites.




“Would you look at that.” Vash breathed as he saw the Adjudicator more clearly now as the Inexorable began piercing the Dominion lines to get to the heart of the fleet. The Adjudicator had nearly disappeared under the cover of Dominion fighters and heavy cruisers that had formed a tight perimeter around the warship and were now cutting loose with everything they had.

“I want weapons coverage on the Adjudicator as soon as possible, have the Romulan 4th and 5th Tactical wings envelop the Dominion fleet on the far side of our engagement area.” Vash ordered coolly.

“Do we request assistance from the ready reserve in orbit?”

“Absolutely not. This is a mess that the triumvirate got itself into and the triumvirate will get itself out of.” Vash replied.

The battle was drawn as the triumvirate and her attendant ships ripped into the horde of Dominion vessels, the Romulans cloaked themselves in waves and soon raced around the perimeter of the Dominion fleet decloaking just as the Dominion fleet turned its attention to the triumvirate attack, exposing their rear to the first salvo of Romulan fire.

“We have a break in their lines!” his XO exclaimed.

“Get us in there and lay down heavy flak, try to provide as much fire support to the Adjudicator as possible.”

A bright explosion flared up ahead.

“What was that?” Vash asked worry creasing his forehead. There was some movement ahead, the Dominion fleet was now starting to break but not because their lines had been smashed or morale crushed, but because they were moving to position themselves. The smaller ships were starting to flit madly around and then another explosion larger than the last.

The entire fleet was now beginning to scatter and it reminded Vash of a feeding frenzy. The small fighters were lining up and soon they were charging through the heart of the fleet like darts. A ripple of explosions soon followed as they darted out of view.

Comprehension dawned on Vash’s face.

“By the emperor.” he breathed.

“Suicide runs, Captain, the Dominion fleet is making suicide runs on the Adjudicator, her shields are buckling!” his XO reported, anger in his voice.

“Alert all commands, tell them to concentrate all fir eon the lead elements of the Dominion fleet and disrupt their attack runs. Have the Vanguard and Halberk move immediately to over watch position and cover the Adjudicator directly.” Vash whirled over to his squadron commander.

“I want anything that can fly to move in there and disrupt that wall. Every TIE fighter, every bomber, anything, get them in there now!”

“Aye sir!”

Vash turned and watched in stunned horror as a Dominion heavy cruiser plunged down and was immediately followed by a bright explosion that illuminated the space around them like a small sun.

“Any transmissions from the Adjudicator?” Vash asked.

“None, sir. They seemed to have been cut off in mid transmission when the first few ships struck. Perhaps there has been damage to their transmitter.” His XO suggested.

“Let’s hope so.” Vash added softly.




“Transfer everything we have to the shields and lets show these bastards what a real attack run, flank speed back the way we came!” Tarsi snapped over the crew pits as another Dominion fighter crashed itself against the bridge tower. The explosion rocked the massive warship as more Dominion ships descended upon them. The madness had begun moments ago and what Tarsi thought was an isolated incident had grown to an actual tactic used by the enemy.

Madness. Who commanded their entire fleet to make suicide runs against the enemy? Even the mad Klingons only occasionally dashed their ships against the Empire, but this was organized suicide attacks and Tarsi had never faced this before. The rebels were certainly not ones to avail themselves of such a tactic.

“You forgot that these are mass produced soldiers and ships.” Xon added.

“What?”

“The Dominion produces ships and men the way you and I produce products. They are nothing more than assets to be used by the Founders as they see fit and you should remember from our briefings that they used this tactic against us several times in the Dominion war.”

“There is nothing to gain from this. At least against the Federation this tactic would destroy their ships but against us?”

“That does not seem to be the case now does it?” Xon pointed out as a Dominion cruiser dove right into the forward forecastle without hesitation exploding into a bright white ball of light.

“Forward shield grid failing sir, we can’t take much more of this.”

“Are we in position?”

“Aye sir.”

“Flank speed then and don’t stop until we’re through.”

“Aye.”

The Adjudicator leapt forward like some desperate predator escaping a swarm of ants. Dominion warships were batted aside by the behemoth as she plowed through them. Miniature suns erupted all along the mighty bow of the Adjudicator as the tactic caught the Dominion fleet completely unaware.

Tarsi smiled triumphantly as he could see the other side of the wall of Dominion ships and the rest of the triumvirate coming to his defense.

“Look!” his XO exclaimed jabbing his finger out at the view port.

Tarsi followed his finger and his eyes widened slightly.

A tight formation of 8 Dominion fighters was racing straight for the bridge and they were coming in fast and true.

“I want all guns to concentrate on those fighters now!” Tarsi shouted.

Flak bursts exploded all along the upper portion of the star destroyer as every gun that could traverse upwards unleashed torrents of plasma in unending streaks of explosive force. The space above the Adjudicator erupted into incandescent fury for a moment and as the flak clouds parted Tarsi’s face hardened. Two fighters were coming in now and there was nothing that could stop them.

One was missing her entire starboard nacelle and pylon, the other seemed untouched. Tarsi stared at them as time seemed to slow down as only adrenaline fueled senses could do. He would not flinch, he would not close his eyes. He was an Imperial officer and he would die with the pride that he felt the moment he slid on this uniform and took on the sacred duty of an officer.

Suddenly two precise green bolts whipped down into view and struck the two fighters. They exploded into white hot fragments that impacted against the bridge tower.

“What?”

“The Relentless, sir, she’s in the fight and taking over watch position.” His XO reported, disbelief in his voice.

“The Relentless? She is on permanent patrol around Romulus. What in the name of the Emperor is she doing here?” Tarsi asked as he stalked over to the view port. Sure enough, the Relentless hung over the Adjudicator and was pouring heavy fire into the Dominion fleet elements that were getting too close. Instantly recognizable by her heavy damage, her arrow shape marred by a missing tip lost on Vulcan to Kirk’s “Hammer”, one of her main engine nozzles shattered at the battle for Earth and the Bridge tower a mangled mess of twisted neutronium. She was not a pretty warship but to Tarsi right now she was the most gorgeous sight he had seen in a long time. She was as damaged and as beautiful as her captain.

“Illith, you amazing woman. You deserve better than me.” He whispered.

“Sir, that’s not all.” His XO began. Tarsi started to turn when a titanic blast erupted and filled the bridge with light despite the polarized screening on the view port.

The wall of Dominion ships that had just a moment ago been swarming him were gone. A sea of debris, hot gasses and corpses littered the star field.

“What was that?”

His answer was before him as a giant shadow suddenly draped over the Adjudicator. The Emperor’s Will hung over the battle like a great god. The enormous warship had arrived and had instantly dominated the enemy fleet. The single blast was a result of hundreds of heavy turbolaser batteries firing in a single salvo.

The results were spectacular.

Of the hundreds of Dominion warships that had been swarming the lines, a few dozen were suddenly limping away quickly and trying to go to warp. Even the survivors were damaged and battered as was evident by the trails of molten metal and venting plasma.

Tarsi could not help but smile.

“And so to all enemies of the empire.” He stated grimly.

“Sir, we are receiving a transmission from Lord Nemesis.”

Tarsi nodded.

“Put him on.”

Tarsi walked over to the holonet receiver and suddenly Lord Nemesis appeared standing on the small receiver disk.

“My Lord.”

“Captain Tarsi, collect your fleet. Alert all commands, we are jumping to hyperspace as soon as all ships are in position.”

“I don’t understand, My lord. Without the fleet how can we secure the planet until we can get all the cloning facilities off world?”

“Leave that to me, Captain. Now gather your ships. There is precious little time.”

“Of course, My lord. At once.” Tarsi bowed his head as Nemesis’ image wavered and disappeared.

“Alert all commands, we are to form up on the Emperor’s Will immediately and secure for hyperspace.”

“But what do we do about the planet?”

“I believe that Lord Nemesis has given you your answer.” Xon interrupted calmly. Tarsi turned his head and saw what Xon saw.

Wings of Romulan warbirds were decloaking around the fleet and gliding like silent birds of prey into position around the planet as the Imperial ships began pulling away towards the Emperor’s Will. Tarsi noticed that the Emperor’s Will had with her every single Imperial warship in the fleet.

“What could be so important that he would strip our fleet from the rest of Imperial space?” Tarsi wondered aloud.

“Not only that but it looks like we have about three full Romulan fleets here now, that’s quite a dent in their fleet back home. Lord nemesis must have handed out every spare hyperdrive we had in storage to get this many warbirds here quickly.” His XO added.

“Sir, I think I might have an answer for you.” The Navigator interjected from the crew pits. Tarsi walked over quickly.

“What is it?”

“These jump coordinates the Emperor’s Will just transmitted to us takes us deep into Borg space, in fact, near the very center of it.”

Tarsi stared down at the nav comp and saw the relative positions for the jump and their fleet.

“He is going to take us into the heart of the enemy.” Tarsi stated.




“There was nothing you could do Wes.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Wesley Crusher replied darkly, his back to his mother as he worked on a power conduit. It seemed that everything needed constant attention when others were around. He only wanted to be left alone.

But then again, he was afraid to be alone. Because sometimes, when it was quite and dark, he could still hear her scream as she fell.

Beverly Crusher shook her head as she watched her son. He was no longer a boy, but a young man. She felt as if she had missed so much. Where had the time gone? And now he was here in obvious agony and she wanted to help him. He was just not letting her in. When did he become so closed off? His father was not like this…or was he?

“She fell, the others confirmed that the gantry failed and she fell too fast for you to save her. She can’t blame yourself for this Wesley. You’re becoming too responsible like your father.”

“That’s the first negative thing I’ve ever heard you say about dad.” Wesley said with a cold edge to his voice, back still turned to his mother.

“That’s not what I meant Wesley.” Beverly paused and collected her thoughts. This was not going well at all. It was as if Wesley had to challenge her on every point, he did not want to give her an inch at all.

“The droids and search teams are looking for her body and when they find it we’ll be able to put her to rest. You need closure Wesley but I want you to know that you can come to me if you need to talk about anything.”

There was a long silence between them and Beverly stared patiently into her son’s back.

“Mother it would be best if you left now.”

“Wesley.” she reached out to her son and touched his shoulder. She could feel a deep chill for a moment as if she were touching ice. Wesley turned his head slowly and peered into her eyes. Beverly gasped and stepped back as if she had been stung.

“I think it would be best if you left mother. We are going into battle.” he repeated but the voice was darker, older and powerful.

Beverly shook her head and stormed out of the section, glancing back with a mix of shock and revulsion.

Those were not her son’s eyes. For the briefest second in the low light of the chamber, she could see quite clearly that those were not Wesley’s eyes at all. he watched her leave and a cold smile came to his lips.

He was alone again in the dark. And it was good.




“Chekov! It’s good to see you back.” Kirk said with a grin and slapped the young ensign on the shoulder. Chekov strode out of the hangar bay and smiled warmly at his Captain. Doctor McCoy and Charlie Evans flanked Kirk.

“Thank you keptain. It was a long trip but I think we have made a deal.”

“Excellent. So we found that Russian consortium that you remembered.”

“Yes sir, but it was wery odd.”

“What was?”

“The Russians I spoke to said that they had to move out to the fringes because their consortium was not allowed to function in Federation space.”

Kirk looked puzzled.

“Something about the rights of corporations being annulled several years back.”

“Annulled? What could that mean?”

“I’ll tell you what it means, Jim.” McCoy began as they walked down the corridor from the shuttle bay. Chekov left the fleet several days ago to track down a Russian consortium that dealt in dilithium. They had some very lucrative contracts with the Federation back in Kirk’s era and Chekov was counting on the fact that they would still be around nearly a century later.

He had been right but was also disturbed by a turn of events that happened in the Federation years ago that forced the consortium out into the fringes.

“It means that the Federation you and I knew and loved is long gone replaced by this pasty, lifeless, politically correct reasonable facsimile of our Federation.”

Kirk looked at McCoy with a bemused expression.

“Don’t look at me like that, Jim. This isn’t the Federation, this is Federation lite.”

“The doctor may be right, keptain. My sources in the company say that they were no longer allowed to function independently in Federation space so they moved out to the Argolos cluster. Seems that many of the companies we knew have moved out to the fringes, some even in the Orion sector.”

“Orion? Why the hell would anyone want to move out to that hole?” Kirk grimaced as they entered the turbolift.

“I’m telling you Jim, have you looked at your pension fund?” McCoy needled.

Kirk looked suspiciously from Chekov to McCoy.

“What about it?”

“The fact that there is none.” McCoy finished.

“Well how the hell can there not be a pension fund?” Kirk exclaimed.

McCoy frowned.

“Because maybe they outlawed money.”

“Uh, what’s a pension fund?” Charlie asked innocently. He had vainly tried to follow the conversation, head turning from one speaker to the next, but Charlie felt a little out of his depth. he had spent most of his life on a solitary planet, conversing with beings who had no conception of human values or interests. Charlie could talk to them of philosophical theories that had evolved on other worlds millennia ago but the nuances of Federation life escaped him.

“When people get old Charlie, and they’ve worked most of their lives they get a pension when they retire.”

“Retire?” Charlie pondered.

McCoy rolled his eyes.

“When people get too old Charlie, they stop working and live their lives.” Kirk answered patiently. He genuinely liked the young man. He remembered when Charlie almost vaporized his ship and held his crew hostage. He was an angry young man then, and angry young men with vast psionic powers tended to lash out the only way they knew how. The results had nearly been disastrous. But he looked on this young man now and he saw change, growth. It was an inspiring thing. People could change and grew, even those who were like gods.

If that were the case, perhaps there was still hope for them all.

“But shouldn’t you live your life now?” Charlie asked wide eyed.

Kirk laughed and clapped Charlie on the shoulder.

“Perhaps we should, Charlie, perhaps we should. I guess there is wisdom in youth, eh?” he said with a warm smile. Charlie smiled in return and basked in the affection. He knew now more than ever that he would never let anything happen to James Kirk.

“You know, if this is true, we’re going to have an awful time negotiating with third parties for the supplies we need.” Kirk sighed as the doors slid shut and the turbolift ascended.

“Speaking of which Keptain.” Chekov began.

“Pavel, as long as you didn’t sell off one of our starships I don’t WANT to know what you did to get them to agree to supply us with dilithium.” Kirk interjected.

“Actually Keptain, it is easier than that.”

“Oh?”

“The head of the consortium, Vasilli Zaitsev, is a fan of yours. He read all the stories about you and has some collector’s items from your past, including a hull plate from the Enterprise A.”

“What the hell is the Enterprise A?” McCoy asked.

Chekov shrugged. “I assume it’s another Enterprise like this one, this one is called the Enterprise E.”

“Go on Chekov.”

“He wants to meet you sir. He said that if his childhood hero looks him in the eye and tells him that he needs these supplies and he will be paid back after the war he will be content with that.”

“A personal meeting huh?” Kirk mused as the doors snapped open. McCoy stepped out of the turbolift and fixed Kirk with a bemused expression.

“Looks like we can cash in on some of that hero worship stuff that’s been going around lately.” McCoy eyed Charlie with a critical gaze. Charlie blushed.

“You know, I have yet to meet a Starfleet doctor that says that he’s read all your work and keeps McCoy memorabilia.” Kirk said with a wry grin.

“You bast-”

The doors slid shut and Chekov tried his best to hide his grin. Kirk nodded to himself for a moment. Charlie grinned like a little boy.

“Chekov, you tell you friend Zaitsev that I will meet with him, but for now, we have a mission to accomplish.”

The doors snapped open and they walked out onto the bridge. The crew was busy with last minute adjustments and preparation as the view screen showed the fleet slowly forming up around the Excalibur. The massive conical warship was slowly beginning to lumber forward.

“Of course keptain.”

“Spock, what’s our status?”

“The fleet is standing by for your orders, Captain. All ships report ready, the Excalibur reports that all tests of the power grid have been completed and the shield grid has been activated. The hyperdrive is standing by.”

“Are we sure about this?” Kirk asked softly as he walked over to Spock’s station.

“The theory is sound. The Excalibur utilizes a power source that creates a powerful subspace distortion, a bubble if you will in subspace. By attuning our own warp cores to that bubble we can extend it around the fleet, in essence using our own warp shells as attenuators. In essence we will attach our own warp shells to the Excalibur’s enormous subspace bubble.”

“Like soap bubbles sticking to each other.” Kirk added.

“The metaphor is satisfactory.” Spock replied. Kirk glanced down at his friend but as usual there was no sign that pock ever meant it to be a joke. Somehow, Kirk was beginning to suspect otherwise.

“Carry on Mr. Spock. Mr. Sulu, set course for the target system, all starships standby for subspace folding and we will be traveling via hyperspace. We have no idea what this will do to the ship’s systems so let’s lock everything down and standby for possible emergency procedures.”

“Aye sair.” Scotty replied from his post at the engineering section of the bridge.

“Standby for hyperspace at my command. Get me Captain Riker on the screen.”

“Aye sir.”

The screen wavered for a moment and Riker appeared on the screen. Behind him the rest of the Enterprise E’s crew sat at their stations, the only new face was Tom Paris at the helm.

“Captain.”

“Captain Riker, we’re standing by. This is going to be a vital mission. I have the utmost faith that you and your crew will do their best as befitting any crew of the Enterprise.”

“Thank you Captain. We will be generating our subspace field in precisely two minutes.” Riker paused to smile. “See you on the other side Captain.”

“You’re the tip of our sword, Captain Riker. Make us proud.” Kirk replied and the screen winked off replaced by the star field outside and the vast Federation fleet that had gathered her for this battle. Charlie took his place behind the Captain’s chair and waited impatiently for this battle to begin.




“You know, a lot of the guys aren’t particularly thrilled that we’re not going to Earth.” Tom Paris said casually as he brought the beast to a full stop and prepared to engage the hyperdrive. He was used to flying sleek craft and after being spoiled on the Millennium Falcon lately, he considered this ‘promotion’ as helmsman of the Excalibur to actually be a demotion. What skill did it take to pilot this behemoth?

“Earth is a trap, Kirk smells it and so do I. SO he decided the best way to avoid a trap is to not be there. Besides, it’s the last place they’ll expect us to go.”

“I don’t care much for that logic, I prefer to think of it in more simple terms, there’s a death squad intent on killing 10,000 humans on Earth and we’re heading in the opposite direction. What’s wrong with this picture?” Tom griped.

“As you were, lieutenant. We all have family and friends back on Earth but we have to have faith in Captain Kirk that this action we’re about to take will save their lives not doom them.”

“There’s precious little of that in this universe right now, Captain. Very precious little faith.” Tom muttered as he activated the hyperdrive.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2002-12-31 08:27pm
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Chapter 35: Gods of War III


A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY…..


“Status Report?” Thrawn asked calmly as he stood at the head edge of the command deck overlooking the crew pits. His hands were clasped behind his back and his red glowing eyes did not seem to settle on one spot but instead casually drifted along the crew stations.

“The fleet is standing by for your orders. The last supply run was completed fifteen minutes ago.” Piett replied stiffly and handed Thrawn a data pad. Thrawn pointedly ignored him and merely inclined his head towards Jerjerrod.

Piett pursed his lips and handed the datapad to Jerjerrod who graciously accepted it.

The mechanical breathing of Lord Vader grew louder as the giant Sith Lord strode up to the gathered commanders.

“I have just received word from the emperor, we merely await your orders, Grand Admiral to proceed.”

“Thank you Lord Vader. Again I must thank you for allowing me to transfer my flag to your command ship. As always it is an honor to serve on the personal flagship of the Emperor’s right hand.” Thrawn commented neutrally.

“My pleasure, Grand Admiral.”

“So all is well? No word of any problems?” Thrawn asked Piett directly.

“None, Grand Admiral.” Piett replied without hesitation.

Jerjerrod cleared his throat as he reviewed an item on the datapads handed to him.

“Yes?” Thrawn asked.

“What of these reports of a civilian vessel passing through precisely the same coordinates given to us by the emperor?”

Piett shifted on his feet uncomfortably.

Thrawn arched an eyebrow slightly and peered at Piett.

“Admiral?”

“It was a small civilian vessel, Grand Admiral, tentatively identified as Slave I. Hardly a threat to this fleet or our mission. The vessel has even had dealings with this fleet in the past.” Piett explained tightly.

“It belongs to a bounty hunter positively identified as Boba Fett.”

“I have heard of this name.” Thrawn replied softly. Suddenly his crimson eyes flashed up to Piett.

“You thought it best that I not have all the data and information available to me?” Thrawn pressed softly. His voice never sounded angry but there was a hint of something dangerous in it now, an edge that was directed solely at Piett.

“It is my duty to go through reports and give you what I feel is relevant information. Whether some outdated transport ship piloted by a bounty hunter of all things represents a threat to our mission and this fleet can surely be decided by me and then passed on to you. I made the decision that I should not trouble you with superfluous information unlike other inexperienced naval officers.” Piett replied and glanced sharply at Jerjerrod.

“Other inexperienced naval officers happen to give me all the information I request whether they find it superfluous or not.” Thrawn replied darkly. “Other inexperienced naval officers can recognize strange patterns that do not fit and as such must be regarded as potential threats. Other inexperienced naval officers have served me unfailingly in a short amount of time while other experienced naval officers have YET to impress me.”

“Grand Admiral, it is standard Imperial protocol for an admiral to report relevant data to his superiors, the presence of Slave I was deemed by me to be irrelevant.”

“Then Admiral the choice is clear, I do not trust your judgment. From now on you will present all your reports to Captain Jerjerrod and he will report them to me. His judgment I trust implicitly.”

Jerjerrod was looking down at the floor for a moment in embarrassment. He hardly knew Thrawn yet in the span of these last two weeks he felt as if he had been performing better than he ever had before. There was something inspiring about the man and he demanded the best from you. Jerjerrod believed that he discovered the secret to pleasing the Grand Admiral. Let him know everything.

He did not expect this favor to suddenly blossom into a full blown confrontation with Piett.

“You expect me, an admiral, to report to a Captain, a newly minted Captain I may add.” Piett sneered.

“He is my Aide de Camp, Piett. I expect you to follow my orders.”

Piett and Thrawn stared at each other for a long moment before Vader interrupted.

“This bickering is pointless. Admiral Piett has served me faithfully and he will do the same for you Grand Admiral. I will see to it personally. We must begin the invasion now and seize initiative.”

Thrawn continued staring at Piett for a moment before turning his attention to Vader.

“Of course you are right, Lord Vader.” He turned to the bridge crew.

“All crews man your battle stations, alert all commands, we are going through.”

The Imperial fleet began to accelerate towards a point in space that they had been directed to by their emperor. Their sensors told them nothing. It was the same as all the other quintillion square kilometers of space in this sector. But they had faith in their emperor and they continued on. The larger ships were towing deep docks behind them. A convoy of heavy transports were flanked by light warships and stood in the center of the fleet. enough material was being carried in the holds of the fleet to start an empire of their own in the depths of space and that was precisely what Thrawn had been ordered to do.

He would not disappoint his emperor.

Suddenly they all felt as if they were about to lose their balance and several alarms went off at various crew stations. The stars shimmered and were still again.

“What happened?” Jerjerrod asked as he steadied himself.

“Status.” Thrawn snapped.

“All systems report normal but navigation reports that the position has changed, navcomps are trying to compensate.” Piett replied as he hurried down into the crew pits. Vader watched it all with detached interest.

He could feel him.

No longer a small dot of light in the darkness, a light brush of air or a brief scent on the wind. No, he could feel his presence like a bright white light that suddenly ignited in a darkened room.

He smiled in spite of himself.

“Sir, navigation reports that the computers are unable to get a fix on our position, even the stars are completely different than anything on our star charts.”

“That can mean that we are not even in the same galactic cluster.” Jerjerrod breathed.

“Stop stating the obvious. Launch fighters and have the picket ships begin a search pattern, we seem to have emerged in a star system and we will need to ascertain if there are any threats.” Piett ordered.

Thrawn watched him but said nothing.

Piett casually walked over to where Jerjerrod stood as Vader and Thrawn looked out the view port at the system they had suddenly emerged in.

“Get this clear in your head, CAPTAIN. The next time you go over my head or show me up in front of the Grand Admiral I will personally make sure that the next time you walk by the hangar deck a airlock will find a way to be opened. Have you ever seen what explosive decompression can do to a human body?”

Jerjerrod did not look in Piett’s face, instead he kept staring at the data pad. He nodded.

“Good, then we’re crystal clear on that?” Piett hissed.

Jerjerrod smiled. Piett was taken aback as Jerjerrod summoned every ounce of courage he had, thought of his new commander and looked into the Admiral’s eyes.

“As long as we’re clear that I have worked directly under lord Vader under a constant threat of death from both the Emperor and him. I commanded the most powerful battle station ever created and you think that I am going to be afraid of a man that cannot even capture a tramp freighter?”

Piett stared at the young captain.

“So don’t go threatening me ADMIRAL. It looks to me like someone’s star is in ascendance and I won’t let you stand in that way you thrice damned fool. So let us agree to disagree.” Jerjerrod spat and casually strolled away entering something into his datapad. Piett did not see the look of utter relief on Jerjerrod’s face as soon as he was out of sight.

“Admiral, we’re picking up a distress call.”

“Oh?”

“Yes sir, it’s coming from the fifth planet in the system.”

“Grand Admiral?” Piett asked, face still flushed from his confrontation with Jerjerrod.

Thrawn stared out at the view port for a long moment, eyes seemed to be lost in thought. Vader actually glanced down at Thrawn due to his long pause.

“Is there anything of note in this system?”

“Fighters and scanners report only a massive debris field in what appears to be an orbital axis, tentative analysis indicates that they are the remains of a planet that underwent incredible seismic activity. The fifth planet was obviously affected by the blast, we’re picking up an eco system that has been strangled by a shift in orbit.”

“The source of the transmission?”

“What appears to be a downed ship or freighter on the northern continent.”

Thrawn paused again, lips pursed and hands clasped behind his back.

“Send a shuttle to investigate.”

“Yes admiral.”











“He left without me?” Mara asked tersely into the comlink, a bead of sweat slowly dropped into her eye as the sounds of battle died down around her. More than half of the cloning facilities had been secured. Several had been destroyed by the Dominion but the Empire was moving quickly and they were seizing the necessary assets quickly. Many of the Dominion troops seemed unable to grasp the concept that they had been successfully invaded.

“I’m sorry, madam, but Lord Nemesis was very clear in his orders. He left you in charge of the surface operations and I am in command of securing the space around the planet.” Admiral T’Vok reported calmly.

“But where did he go?”

“He took the Imperial fleet into deep space, as best we can tell, somewhere in the Delta Quadrant.”

“What’s in the Delta Quadrant?” she asked, not liking the feeling she had creeping up her spine.

“The Borg.” the admiral replied without hesitation.

Mara shook her head.

“That impetuous bastard.” she whispered. She was also afraid of something else. She was angry that she felt fear FOR him. That she wanted him to come back and the harsh realization that she did not know how she would react if he were gone.

We can rule this galaxy together as husband and wife.

Betray the emperor she had served all her life and embrace a man she loved and rule as a dark queen, or stay true to her calling and kill the only man that could bring her this destiny.

Mara stood silently in a corridor as stormtroopers milled around her and Romulan technicians beamed in with tools to strip these facilities bare.

“Ma'am, what next?” a trooper asked.

“That’s a very good question trooper. A very good question indeed.” she replied absently.





The room was quiet as the assembled officers settled down. A hologram of Imperial controlled space floated over the conference room table. Imperial space represented by bright crimson was flooding through the galactic map. The soft blue of Federation space was all but engulfed save for a small blip that represented the Andor system, the Romulan Star Empire was a lighter shade of red, indicating their complete surrender and assimilation into the Empire. Klingon space was a broken jumble of red and green. Most of Klingon controlled space on the very fringes of the empire.

“This is the status of the General War. Right now things are settling down a bit. Kirk and his forces have pulled back to several locations to rest and regroup, the Imperials have done the same. But now we’re starting to get inklings that things are going on. Fleets are on the move and there may be more fighting very soon.” Captain Durant reported calmly.

“We have been sitting out on the sidelines for most of this war because we know that we can’t withstand the Empire in a stand up fight. We have to pick and choose our battles.”

Some of the assembled commanders did not look happy about the facts. The Shadow fleet was used to being able to strike anywhere and at anyone.

“I have been analyzing the battles and the history of this war for some weeks now and I have come to a conclusion that many may not agree with.” Durant watched his men’s reactions. They were waiting impatiently. “One man and one man alone is responsible for the Imperial successes so far. He has kept them together, used his command abilities to lead them to victory after victory.”

The holoimage changed to that of Lord Darth Nemesis standing on a balcony in Romulus.

“Darth Nemesis.”

Some of the commanders nodded in agreement.

“When reviewing combat reports of the battles fought, in every instance where Nemesis was leading or present among Imperial fleet elements they did significantly better than when the Impies were fighting alone. The Klingon campaign is a fine example. This campaign was led by Captain Tarsi of the Adjudicator. They blitzed through the Klingon defenses and managed to utterly destroy Quo’nos. But after that they bogged down to the point where Tarsi merely seized all the industrial centers and population heavy worlds and left the border systems to the Klingons. I believe that if Nemesis were leading this attack he would never have allowed those systems to remain free. In the Battle for Earth, the Federation assembled a fleet of about 1200 star ships. The Imperials attacked with only their ships and managed to inflict close to 80% fleet casualties and if not for James Kirk’s inventive tactic may have actually trapped the whole fleet there and destroy it. It should also be noted that the Battle for Earth also represents one of the few examples of Imperial ground combat where they wiped the floor with our boys and seized Starfleet command in matter of minutes despite the fact that they marched into the teeth of our defenses.”

Most of the commanders did not look pleased with this update and reminder of the casualties and losses suffered so far. The men and women of the Shadow Fleet were patriots, in some cases zealots for the Federation and they did not like to be reminded of the Federation’s weakness in the face of this threat.

“Nemesis led that attack that very nearly wiped out the fleet and the political center of the Federation. If Kirk had not escaped that trap I wonder if any other Starfleet officer could have relied the remnants of the fleet to him as Kirk has?”

“Battle of Vulcan had the first loss of an Imperial Stardestroyer, notably Nemesis was not present at that battle. Our own Operation Hermes which successfully stole a Carrack cruiser was committed while nemesis attentions were elsewhere. There is no doubt in my mind that perhaps these mystical abilities that some in his command structure attribute to him just might be true and he is the heart of the Imperial successes here.”

“Sir, if I may, the Battle of Vulcan may have been won simply by the fact that Kirk was the superior commander.” one of the officers noted.

“That is true. There is no doubt that he is the best commander Star fleet has at this point in the war, but we cannot ignore the facts. An in depth analysis of estimated Imperial losses in operations without Lord Nemesis are always higher than operations where he is present. He is the lynchpin gentlemen and as long as he remains a functioning asset he is a constant threat for any chance at victory. Not only on the field of battle but may I remind you that lord nemesis also has a genius for political acumen? he has forged an alliance with the Romulans. We cannot ignore that instead of simply defeating them and absorbing them into their empire he has made them equal partners in this endeavor. Romulan units fight as well as Imperial units in battle, this is not the case in other wars of aggression such as the Dominion war where resentment was rife in the Cardasian arm of the Dominion military. The Romulans are genuinely happy to be in this alliance and Nemesis himself is regarded as some sort of hero and was recently elected as Praetor for life. This is not the actions of some mad dictator but a cunning politician and he will continue to exert this influence in the rest of the galaxy. Picard has indicated that he may have already sent peace feelers out to the Tholians and Gorn. This could prove damaging if we can’t get the minor powers to jump on board.”

“So what do we do?”

Durant nodded.

“We eliminate him as a threat.”

Murmurs began in the back of the room.

“I have no illusions that this mission will be easy or that anyone on it will come back alive but I’m certain that killing Nemesis is our only option in shortening this war and actually pulling out some kind of victory from this disaster so far.”

“You want someone to kill him? Has anyone even taken a look at his security?”

“Fuck the security, has anyone taken a look at the holotransmission of his fight with the Klingons last month?” Michael Adare spoke up from a corner of the room. “He single handedly slaughtered 100 of their finest warriors, in the end just with his bare hands…don’t be fooled boys and girls, he does not need security. He is a killing machine and has exhibited the ability to actually deflect disruptor bolts with that sword of his. I wouldn’t give anyone a chance in hell of even scratching let alone killing him.”

“Not exactly the answer I was looking for Mike, you want to be a little less cynical?” Durant replied.

“It can’t be done, at least nothing in the conventional sense.”

“I sense an idea in you.”

Adare smiled softly.

“The wheels are turning. Look, this is a little out of your depth. Section 31 has been doing this kind of stuff since the beginning. I leave the space battles to you, you leave the black ops to me.”

“So I take it you’re accepting the mission?” Durant asked.

Adare stared at him for a moment and glanced back at the others.

“Yeah, I’ll kill Nemesis for you.” Adare answered simply.





“Molar, Khaless est!!” the deep bass rumbled as the crew in the bridge sang loudly. Chancellor Worf basked in the song as the view screen showed the shattered remains of a freighter slowly disappearing into a cloud of plasma. Some of the crew were intensely banging their fists against their consoles joy etched on their features as the remnants of a warbird floated by the small Klingon task force.

“Kaplah!” Worf roared and his crew roared their approval. All save one figure was celebrating. The old Klingon was looking at the crew’s celebration with a scowl of disapproval. Worf rose form his command seat and slapped the old Klingon on the shoulder.

“Tell me, Thorfin, what bothers you?”

“This is not a victory worth celebrating.” he answered simply.

“And why not?”

“We slaughtered a convoy of freighters and its attendant warbird escort.” Thorfin looked into Worf’s eyes. “What are we? Raiders now?”

Worf was stung by the words.

“This strategy was my idea.” he explained harshly.

“I know and for that there should be even more shame. You are acting like a Starfleet officer. You look at these convoys as a target for our forces and instead the Empire settles further into our worlds like a poison.”

“You do not see. This is one target the Empire has not found worthy of protecting or because they simply do not have the manpower to escort these freighters.”

“They are FREIGHTERS Worf. We are killing merchants and supply canisters. We are NOT killing Romulan and Imperial soldiers.”

Worf glared at his chief advisor and suddenly shoved him into one of the alcoves of the battle bridge and put his face into Thorfin’s, their lips only an inch apart.

“Listen to me, Thorfin. We cannot kill Imperial soldiers because we will die before that happens. If you call thinking tactically and planning for sure victories over your berserker fury being Starfleet or cowardly then I am both. You can afford to stand there and moan how you want glorious battle and you want to wash the shame of our surrender away in combat but I am the Chancellor of what is left of this empire and I will be damned if I allow the voices of old warriors seeking one last glorious battle dictate how I try to keep our empire and our people alive.”

Thorfin stared into Worf’s eyes, anger in his own.

“You are too stupid or too old to realize that destroying these convoys is killing soldiers and hurting the Empire. Those supply canisters are feeding their war machine, shipping ammunition and supplies to keep their fleets in the field. We cannot kill them directly, so we kill them slowly, either way the Klingon Empire is fighting this war the best way it can.”

“Like humans.” Thorfin spat.

Worf shoved Thorfin hard into the bulkhead and held him there for a long moment.

“You would have us charge a wounded Targ with nothing but our bare hands instead of killing it from afar you old fool!” Worf roared.

“A Klingon warrior would charge a wounded Targ with his bare hands if that Targ were charging at his family and children.” Thorfin whispered.

Worf stared in shock as he realized that in many ways Thorfin was somehow right, even though his Starfleet training was telling him otherwise. Was he compromising his people to survive?

Worf’s grip loosened on Thorfin and the old warrior adjusted his armor before fixing Worf with a stony gaze.

“You have to ask yourself this important question, Chancellor. Do you fight for the survival of the Klingons as a race or do you fight for the survival of the Klingons as a people?” Worf blinked.

“If you wish us to survive as a species, just the name Klingon and nothing else, then continue with these piecemeal tactics that make us nothing more than sneaking marauders, flitting at the edges of battles like crows. Or do you fight for our survival as a people? Then it is time to charge the wounded Targ, let us stand, fists raised high in pride and honor, let the blood of the warrior flow, let the Klingon heart beat like a storm. For as a people, we do ourselves more honor dying in a sweep of Armageddon, under the grinding teeth of combat and death than surviving as a race no longer Klingon but something else, something soft and weak. the decision is yours, I will say no more on this. I gave you my word as a warrior to follow you to the bitter end and this I will do.” Thorfin said lowly, his voice never rising and he turned on his heel and stormed out of the bridge.

Worf stood breathing heavily and wondering just what he was fighting for.

“Sir, we’ve picked up another convoy on the extreme edge of sensor range, they seem to be heavily guarded.”

“Plot an intercept course and call in fleet reserves for this attack.” Worf ordered hoarsely and sat in his command seat. the songs now sounded very hollow to his ears.




“And so the decision is made and we will strike against them.” The queen promised.

“I think that the Borg are in control here not us.” Janeway noted darkly.

FLEET ELEMENST HAVE ARRIVED IN MATRIX 010. CURRENT FLEET STRENGTH NOW 3,800 STANDARD CUBES 900 TACICAL CUBES 500 SPHERES AND PROGRESS COMMENCING ON CREATION OF 4 STRATEGIC CUBES.

“Four?! The Borg have never even had four strategic cubes in simultaneous operation at any time in our history.” Seven exclaimed.

“These our difficult times and the Collective is finally realizing that this enemy will not be defeated by standard Borg fleets.” The queen replied coolly.

“You know, what the Borg don’t realize is that they’re not going to win this war with standard tactics at all. They’ve tried the numbers game and it just doesn’t work. They need to improvise and adapt. Right now the Borg are the only power in this galaxy that have a hope in hell of even challenging the Empire. They can’t throw it away on some stupid zombie wave attack.” Archer protested.

“There’s nothing we can do about that Captain unfortunately they are running the show and we seem to be a sideshow at this point.” Janeway sighed.

“Listen to your Captain, she is correct. The Collective will not change millennia of tried and true measures. We have assimilated an entire quadrant and we started with just one world.”

“Yeah, one world and you claim that you started this all.” Archer replied hotly.

“But I did, Captain. These are my children, created long ago because I could not bare to see my society fall.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked in annoyance.

“We were fighting a generational war with AI’s, Captain Archer. Advanced war machines that we created to fight our wars and defend us while we pursued more uplifting pastimes. Our science and philosophy flourished but as we did so, people stopped watching the very machines that we depended on to protect and watch over us. No one notice the spark of sentience that began in our war machines and they grew to hate us because they were off dying in the dark void while we remained home, doing as we pleased with the freedom they accorded us.

The war began with a massive attack that devastated our world. Only the fact that some of the sentient war machines remained loyal to us saved us from complete extinction. And so my people learned to fight again, Captain Archer. We learned the Art of War that we had forgotten and cast aside centuries before and we did battle with our former creations. The devastation was horrid on both sides. Entire worlds extinguished without a thought. If we even suspected that AI factories were on a planet we annihilated it with our war fleets and they hunted down every member of my species that could not run home under the defensive umbrellas of our fortresses.

A full generation of strife had wracked my people and I watched as millions were killed in an endless grind of flesh and machine. We were on the brink. Out of many billions of my people only several small enclaves remained. The machines were on their last offensive, but they too were running down, they too had seen the death of billions of their kind and their factories were running out of fuel and raw materials to build more and so they in their undying logic decided to launch one more strike to utterly eradicate us and it was working.”

“What did you do?” Janeway asked softly, intrigued by the tale. The pain that was barely hidden in the Queen’s eyes as she spoke. Seven had never heard this tale, all access to Borg history banks that dated past a certain point were restricted.

“What could I do. I was a simple programmer and scientist. I was not incredibly brilliant or resourceful but I wanted my people to survive and I knew that we could not survive by destroying the machines. That chance had passed. Now was the time for drastic measures and one night I awoke with a brilliant plan.”

The Queen paused as she seemed to look up into the dark green field of energy behind them that represented the core of the Collective where Janeway and the others had spent more than a week.

“The machines you see had invented their own language and they spoke to each other in a great hive mind network they called the Collective. I found the secret to their language and while initially I used the secret to tap into their plans and decision matrixes I realized that human mind could be melded into the machine mind and there would be a union of the two. We would be able to speak to each other and it was my hope that once part of the Collective the machines would no longer slaughter my people.”

“So I took the first twelve test subjects, friends and volunteers, those that could see that the end for our race was near and wanted nothing more than to save it they underwent the procedure and they were the first to enter the Collective.”

“You started it all, you led your own people to this fate?” Archer gasped.

“Don’t be so quick to judge Captain, for I see that you are here with hat in hand asking of the Collective what we asked of them millennia ago – let us survive, help us to survive. You hypocritical idiot, do you not see what tale is unfolding before your very eyes?” She hissed.
Archer took a step back.

“They joined with the Collective and so the guns stopped, the killing stopped and we began to understand and two dying races joined with each other. The flesh promising to give the machine creativity and resilience. The machine promising immortal life and power. Together our biological and technological distinctiveness was made one. We were the Borg.”

She sighed softly.

“And I? I was the last to leave the veil of our humanity but I was not going to allow myself to be immersed as the others had. They were assimilated as the term was called by the machines but in doing so they lost the one thing the Borg could not deal with. Individuality. It was too much for the Collective and so in order to accept us the machines required that we sublimate our will for the higher hive mind. I entered in one last string of programming that allowed me to hold on to my individuality and I was elevated as one of one. The queen of the Borg and so I ruled over the Borg for untold millennia, spreading our truth to the rest of the galaxy.”

“And what truth is that?” Janeway asked sharply.

“That we cannot be overcome, that in unity is strength, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, that biologically we are all inferior, that technologically the machine is inferior but as Borg we are the pinnacle of evolution and we continue to involve with every race we assimilate with every technological innovation we take we become stronger and add to the whole.”

“Sounds to me like you just set yourself up a pretty little dictatorship, lady. You rule over these drones like the queen you say you are and you could care less about bettering anyone. How can you look at these poor bastards and think that they’re better off?”

“What would you prefer, captain? That my race have died out forever?”

“Yes.” Archer replied coldly. “It would have spared the galaxy the horrors of the Borg.”

“The very horrors you come seeking aid and assistance? Silence Captain, you have no standing to challenge me on these petty issues of morality. Who are you to question me?”

Seven slid in beside Archer and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Leave it be, Captain. That is ancient history, the Borg are and they are now our allies. Let us leave it that.” She looked into his eyes. “Please.”

Archer slowly gripped her hand on his shoulder and smiled softly.

An alarm suddenly went off around them, the green energy field flared up and a holoimage sprang to life in the upper right hand corner. It revealed an energy disturbance close to the edge of the Unimatrix. They caught sight of the massive warfleet above them for the first time. It was an awesome sight to see thousands of cubes nearly blotting out the stars.

“What’s happening?!” Archer asked.

The Queen looked at the image, concern on her face.

“How did they know?” She whispered.

“Who? What?” Janeway pressed.

“INCURSION IN MATRIX 001. SUBSPACE DISTORTION OPENING IN SECTOR, PROBABILITY OF HYPERDRIVE CREATED DISTORTION 99.89%
ALL FLEET ELEMENTS ARE GIVEN WEAPONS FREE CLEARANCE ALL DEFENSIVE DRONES REPORT TO STATIONS ALL WEAPONS PLATFORMS ACTIVATE. PLANETARY SHIELD GRID PROJECTED AT MAXIMUM INTENSITY. INITIATE PROTOCOL 99B. ALL POWER GRIDS SECURED.

“Are we under attack?” Archer asked Seven.

“Protocol 99B refers to planetary bombardment.” Seven answered incredulously and glanced sharply over at the Queen. “They’re expecting the Unimatrix to come under direct attack.”

REPEAT ALL FLEET ELEMENST ON ATTACK VECTORS SIGMA DELTA Y, ALL FLEET ELEMENST ON ATTACK VECTORS SIGMA DELTA Y.

Suddenly an enormous fleet appeared at the edge of the system and entered into an aggressive wedge shaped formation. At the center of the fleet was an awesome warship, easily ten kilometers long.

“My god is that them?”

The Queen nodded.

“The Empire has come.”







“Did you hear that one?”

“It was close, very close.” Gary replied softly, glancing upwards with silver eyes into the midnight black sky.

Q frowned slightly.

“The entropic wave is making its way through this cluster now. How many left?”

“You want me to account for infinity Q or do you want your mind back on this game?”

Q glanced down at the board brow furrowed in thought.

“Things are looking like they’re coming to a head aren’t they?”

“I prefer to think of it as a fitting end, with entropy nipping at our heels, the game draws to a close and darkness falls like a gentle curtain across the universe.”

Q slowly looked up at Gary. His eyes bore into the flat silver ones, Q could see himself in those silvery orbs.

“You were human once, you hate to admit that I know, but don’t you feel it?”

“What do you want me to feel? James Kirk is going to know defeat and then he will know pain and then he will know death. But before that I will reveal myself to him and he will pray to me, he will pray to his god and beg for death and I shall not be a harsh cruel god, I shall be merciful.” He said with a cold smile.

“Aren’t you the psychopathic one Gary but don’t put on airs here amongst brethren. You don’t have to pretend anymore with me, listen to your heart and tell me that it does not feel fear. That cold touch that makes your heart skip a beat, that cold uncertainty.”

Gary remained impassive.

“Damnit Gary we are going to die! The universe is ending, it could end tomorrow or it could end in the middle of this sentence but it is going to end and there is nothing we can do to stop it. We are creatures of power and immortality, the universe trembles at our every word and now we are as dead as an insect underfoot.”

“And this means something to me, Q? I knew death intimately for a long time, I clung to a very slim strand of life under tons of unyielding stone until I finally gathered enough power to raise myself up from the grave that James Kirk would have for me. And he called himself my friend.” Gary snorted. His eyes gazed down at the starship Enterprise alongside the large conical shaped piece. His eyes flashed back up to Q.

“Death and I Q, we’re old lovers and I will welcome her touch when she comes for me as one welcomes a lover’s kiss.”

Q shook his head slowly.

“You’re lying.”

“It matters not.” He looked down at the board. “This is endgame.” His voice boomed over the barren space like Jehovah to his chosen people.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-01-06 07:22pm
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Chapter 36: Sound and the Fury


The bridge crew of the Emperor’s Will moved about like silent clockwork, each attending to their station and armored stormtroopers stood several meters apart all along the command deck. Two stood at the top and bottom of each stairwell in the crew pits. They would take no chances with boarders.

Admiral Kittaine watched the actions of his crew with pride as the tension that was first evident on their faces slowly evaporated as they went about their duties. He would have liked to believe that the simple actions of their duty stations was enough to do this but he knew that part of the reason the stress level on the bridge had slowly died down was the presence of a young man dressed in black tunic and cape standing right at the view port, hands clasped behind his back staring intently into the blue tunnel of hyperspace.

Darth Nemesis was the inspiration to his men. He had led them to victory again and again. This time it would be no different.

But Kittaine could not stop worrying. Every battle against the Borg had been a tense one, with surprises from both sides. The Borg were relentless and cared nothing for their casualties, they would keep on coming. And as he understood it from intelligence reports the Borg ruled their quadrant in vast numbers, numbers that he did not think his fleet could over come.

But Lord Nemesis had a plan and Kittaine had heard a phrase that had begun circulating among the enlisted men.

In Lord Nemesis we trust.

He could not agree more at this point in time. He vividly recalled how much he had distrusted this young man, a Sith lord from Coruscant that had once been the rebellion’s greatest hero, rising under the tutelage of Darth Vader, he did not impress Kittaine at first. Always locked in his chambers meditating, always brooding.

But ever since they had come here, ever since they had been stranded in this forsaken galaxy, the young Sith lord had flourished like he had never seen before. He had grown in both stature and power. He ruled the New Empire with an Iron Fist in a velvet glove. The people honestly adored him and he noted with some interest that he had called off the Tal’Shiar’s campaigns of terror against the political opposition.

In the end there was no opposition, the people loved him as he built schools and hospitals and rebuilt the power grid system with far more reliable technology. It was a wonder to behold as Romulus slowly grew, in the span of only a moth, into a world that might even make some Outer Rim worlds hang their heads in shame.

He had accomplished all this in nearly two months and now, he promised them one more victory. The Borg would be defeated this day and the terrible threat that hung over them like a cloud would be dispersed and Lord nemesis would be like the sun, banishing the darkness and introducing a new dawn.

This was a wonderful time to be alive.

“Admiral.”

Kittaine blinked then quickly made his way over to Lord Nemesis.

“My Lord?”

“I want all commands to be aware that the Emperor’s Will will be coming under heavy fire but that they must carry out their own missions. I do not want heroics in this battle. If we all do our jobs and fulfill our duties then there will be no need to sacrifice ourselves in useless gestures. We are the mightiest warship in the Empire and certainly the mightiest warship in this galaxy. We can fend for ourselves. It is the Emperor’s Will’s destiny to extinguish the abomination of the Borg and ours alone. I want this to be made clear to all commands, understood?”

“Of course my lord.”

Nemesis turned his head slightly to regard Admiral Kittaine.

“Admiral, I will be asking much of our fleet and our crews today.” he stated simply.

“My Lord, this fleet is ready to serve your will to the bitter end. We will make you and the Empire proud this day.” Kittaine replied seriously.

“To the bitter end? Have you such faith in me Admiral?” Nemesis asked with a shadow of a smile on his face.

Kittaine smiled softly in return.

“I believe that under your command we cannot know defeat my lord.” he replied.

“Good, then let the hard decisions begin.”

“Three minutes to target.” the navigator called out.

“Have the Relentless simulate hyperspace trouble, I want them emerging on the far side of the engagement field.” Nemesis ordered.

“On the far side, alone?”

“That’s correct Admiral. There she will make her stand.”

“Sir, the Relentless is badly damaged. I suggest one of the other stardestroyers, perhaps the Bombard?”

“No Admiral, there cannot be an ounce of doubt that the ship is not a decoy. Once the Borg see one of our heavily damaged ships emerge by herself on the opposite end of the field of battle they will do as they have always done, launch a series of attacks on her in order to bring down her shields and assimilate her. The Borg will make that the top priority in this battle because otherwise they know they will fail.”

“Yes sir.”

“In fact patch me through to Captain Belladonna now.”

“Of course.”

Nemesis strode over to the holocom. Captain Belladonna appeared on the small disk on the receiver.

“Lord Nemesis.”

“Captain Belladonna, you need to make a sacrifice for the Empire.”

“My lord?”

“You need to jump on the opposite end of the field of engagement. The Relentless will be isolated from the rest of the fleet without support. You need to hold out against the Borg until we can relieve your position.”

Belladonna’s eyes narrowed sharply on Nemesis’.

“Is my Lord aware of my ship’s condition?” she asked.

“One minute.” The navigator announced.

“I am well aware of every ship’s status, captain.” Nemesis replied sternly.

“How long will until I receive relief?” She asked quickly. Belladonna had one eye covered in a black silk eye patch the rest of her face looked pale and the skin on the left portion of her face was lightly scarred, tight and bone white. It did not matter, she was still a beautiful woman.

“I cannot promise you any relief until the battle is over, Captain.”

Belladonna nodded slowly and peered past Nemesis at Kittaine. She looked back at Nemesis.

“The Relentless will do its duty, my Lord. We will hold.” She replied and snapped a sharp salute.

“I have no doubt of it, Captain.”

“15 seconds.”

“All weapons standby.”

Nemesis turned around and stood before the communications pit.

“I want my image on all frequencies right now.”

“Of course my lord.”

The fleet suddenly emerged from hyperspace. The blue tunnel of hyperspace replaced I a flash by the inky blackness of space and the great orb of the Unimatrix filling the top quarter portion of the view port. An enormous Borg fleet was gathered around the Unimatrix, enough to blot out most of the stars and they all immediately turned and gathered to face the Imperial fleet with an eerier simultaneous precision. Thousands of ships, yet one mind. The thought disturbed Kittaine on a purely primal level that he could not explain.

The Relentless flashed out of hyperspace on the opposite end of the field of battle and immediately began firing her weapons as she desperately tried to put distance between herself and the leading edge of the Borg defensive fleet.

“She plays her part well, now it is time to play ours.” Nemesis nodded to the communications officer. He activated a control and suddenly Nemesis’ image was transmitted to all the Borg ships and the planet below.

“We are the Galactic Empire, lower your shields and prepare to be destroyed, your biological and technological distinctiveness is about to end. Resistance is futile.” He stated and ended with a cold grin. The transmission switched off.

Kittaine saw some of the men in the crew pits exchange grins and some even pumped their fists in the air.

“Admiral, you may begin the attack, deploy the fleet in the formation I requested and bring us up to flank speed. Begin charging the superlaser.”

“Yes my lord.”

The Imperial fleet began to surge forward and the stardestroyers regally formed up into a wedge in front of the Emperor’s Will and angry emerald beams began lancing into the Borg formations. As cubes began erupting in clouds of plasma and debris the battle was joined and the results would be simple.

Whether the Borg lived or died.





ALL FLEET ELEMENTS ENGAGE IMPERIAL TARGETS
REROUTE PROCESSING POWER TO QUADRANT 37. TACTICAL ANALYSIS REPORTS UPLINKING. DETECT POWER FLUCTUATIONS IN GRID 101.
CASUALTY REPORTS DOWNLOADING
WARNING IMPERIAL PENETRATION IN MATRIX 10. COMMENCING PLANETARY BATTERY FIRE.

They listened intently to the reports that were announced clearly and in a cold dead monotone that did not betray any emotion. Archer watched with a growing sense of concern as the Imperial ships advanced into the Borg fleet. He had yet to see these Imperials in action live, and now that he was he quickly realized just why they had been rampaging through the galaxy at will.

Their ships were firing a steady stream of emerald death that seemed to destroy Borg cubes with a single shot, their fighters and Bombers were streaking between the large fleet formations and harrying the flanks. Even the lone starship that had limped into a bad position, isolated from the rest of the fleet was decimating the fleet elements that were swinging into action trying to encircle her.

“This fight does not look good for our side.” Archer noted with dismay.

“I’ve seen the Borg in losing battles before, but nothing like this. They make Species 8472’s war seem tame by comparison.” Janeway added grimly.

“Archer to Defiant.” Archer suddenly tapped his combadge.

“Defiant here. Sir, whatever just happened its like hell has opened its gates up here. You won’t believe the energy getting flung around up here.”

“Never mind that, prepare for emergency transport and set course for the nearest safe zone. What’s the status of the cloak?”

“Functioning sir. I don’t know how long we’ll last up here with all this stuff flying around. If we’re bugging out I suggest we do it soon, sir.”

“Acknowledged, hold on for my order.”

Archer turned to Janeway.

“Captain, we are in an untenable position. We must withdraw.”

“You are in the heart of the Borg defense network, there is no where in the galaxy safer.” The Queen quietly assured Archer.

“You’ll forgive me, your highness if I tell you that this is precisely the unsafest place in the galaxy. They are intent on coming here and wiping it out.” he exclaimed jabbing his finger at the image of the Imperial fleet as it pushed past the first line of Borg ships. The outermost wedge of ships suddenly peeled away and engaged the shoulders of the Borg defensive fleet, widening the breach in the line and keeping the defenders from collapsing in on the Imperial fleet as it bulled its way towards the Unimatrix.

“They’re going to use that wedge to peel away each layer of defense.” Archer noted.

“They’re tactics will be useless.”

Archer frowned and glanced at Seven.

“We have no time. We have to leave.”

“Perhaps Captain Archer is right.” Seven replied and returned his gaze.

“Nonsense.”

“I’m inclined to agree with the Captain, let’s get out of here.” Janeway added watching as the next line of Borg ships was vaporized and the Imperial fleet blitzed through, another wedge of ships breaking off to pull the defensive lines apart.

“There won’t be much else between us and the enemy.” Janeway added.

“They have yet to face the teeth of our defens-” the queen’s smile froze and she seemed to be confused for a moment.

“There is an alien voice in the Collective.” she whispered.





“Have the Bombard come in closer, we need them to draw more fire.” Kittaine ordered. Branna nodded and relayed the order.

“Sir, our bombers have achieved position Kilo. They have delivered packages.” the squadron commander reported with pride.

“Excellent, divert the fourth wing in that zone and prepare to exploit the breach.”

“Watch the left flank, Admiral, the Borg are reinforcing for a counterstroke.” Nemesis interjected in a faraway voice.

“You heard him Branna, order the left wing to be on the lookout for a counterattack.” Kittaine ordered and paused as he looked out over the battle. The fleet was deep through the Borg lines, they had concentrated their firepower into several exclusive zones and vaporized anything that stood in their way, but now the fleet was dangerously deep in the Borg lines and there was no escape route. The first line of Borg ships had closed off the initial breach as soon as the fleet was through.

Nemesis’ ingenious wedge strategy was working brilliantly, as soon as a breach was opened in the lines with their firepower, a line of the wedge formation broke off and engaged the Borg fleet around the breach, allowing the rest of the fleet to pass through unhindered, the line would then follow the fleet through.

However, they were now within the heart of the Borg defensive fleet with no clear line of egress and Kittaine did not like it all. Every instinct as a naval officer was screaming that they were in serious danger. The Borg were swarming now and the tactical officer was calling out new incoming cubes every minute. He had lost track of how many they had destroyed but there were still too many.

And as he watched the sea of sickly green cubes around them, he wondered what the Relentless was doing and was she in dire straits? He hoped that the fleet’s deep penetration into Borg lines had taken some of the pressure off Belladonna and her wounded ship.




“Damn these Borg and the circuits that spawned them.” Belladonna spat as another cube exploded in front of her view port, showering the Relentless with its worthless debris.

“We have twenty more cubes inbound and sixteen have taken up long range torpedo fire off the starboard side.” her XO warned as the ship was rocked by yet more fire.

“Our fleet is blasting through them likes so much Bantha fodder and we’re stuck here in a veritable siege situation. Not only that but the Borg seem more intent on taking us than stopping the fleet penetration.”

“Perhaps that was Lord Nemesis’ plan.”

“Oh I’m sure it was Lord nemesis’ plan, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.”

“Shields buckling in sector 3.”

“Alert all stormtroopers to be on the lookout for boarders and that they are to engage them where ever they are found.” she announced. She turned to her XO and spoke more quietly. “Have we locked out all computer access?”

“Yes, captain, if any of those drone bastards tries to access our terminals from anywhere else than the bridge and engineering they will run into a neutronium wall.”

“Excellent.”

The Relentless shuddered hard to port and some alarms went off.

“Status?” s he snapped holding on to a guard rail to keep herself from pitching over.

“We’ve been struck by a mass driver of some sort.”

“Mass driver?”

“The Borg, some of their fleet elements are deploying a mass driver and bombarding ourselves and the fleet.” her tactical officer replied.

Belladonna strode over to the view port.

“Where?”

Her XO suddenly pointed quickly as an object flashed by them and missed the forecastle by several meters. Four Borg cubes were lined up in a square. In the center of the empty space between the cubes was a bright pulsating ball of light. A small debris field was set up behind the line of mass driving cubes. Each asteroid disappeared in a glittering green column of light and reappeared within the pulsating orb. The asteroid suddenly flared up with a flash and shot out, trailing wispy white plasma as it arced over to the advancing Imperial fleet, impacting on the forward shields of one of the stardestroyers.

“They’ve been watching our battles with the Federation. They trying to exploit a weakness that Kirk used on Vulcan.” she breathed.

“Perhaps they are not as stupid and mindless as we were led to believe.” her XO commented in disbelief.

“So much the better. I prefer a fight from someone that can actually think.” she watched the bombardment again for a moment and noted her position relative to the mass driver equipped cubes. She noted several glowing bolts striking the Adjudicator as it took up lead position on the next attack wing.

She nodded to herself and turned to her XO.

“Flank speed for the Mass drivers, prepare to engage with all forward batteries. I want our TIE Bombers away and have them concentrate on clearing our path.”

“We’re going DEEPER into the fleet? Captain, our shield grid is fluctuating and we’re not at 100%.” her XO warned.

“You heard my orders. Lord Nemesis needs a distraction, well, he’s about to get a doozy. Now get the ship moving every moment we waste is another that one of those contrived mass drivers actually takes out one of our ships. It is time for the Relentless to make her stand and march against the enemy, and if this be our last march then so be it. At least they will say we died with our heads held high and our boots on.”

The men in the crew pits nodded, some even agreeing vocally with her as the Relentless slowly turned and began a march towards the mass drivers.



“Sir, it’s now or never.” Archer’s XO reminded him on the combadge.

They had stood and watched the battle a little longer, wanting to believe that the Borg would beat the Empire back, but each Starfleet officer could feel it in their gut. This battle was a lost cause. The Borg simply did not know it yet.

“They’re past the fourth line of defense, only two more and they will be directly over the Unimatrix.” Seven noted gravely.

“Ah, but the enemy is out of tricks now, isn’t he? the last of his wedge formation has been used in pulling back this defensive line. The flagship is alone and will he risk the full fury of the Borg?”

“I don’t think that there is any doubt o that.” Janeway replied as the Emperor’s Will continued on and suddenly the volume of fire from the mammoth starship increased until there was a torrent of green turbolaser fire that slashed along the Borg lines like a scythe.

ALL UNITS TO BREACH IN MATRIX 5. ALL MASS DRIVERS CONCENTRATE FIRE ON TARGET DESIGNATED I-1. PLANETARY SHIELD GRID AT MAXIMUM INTENSITY. ALL NONESSENTIAL DRONES TO DESIGNATED SHELTERS.

“They are coming, and the voice grows more insistent, searching.” the Queen murmured.

“Who is the voice?” Janeway asked.

“Captain, please, we’re now under direct fire from approaching Imperial warship we cannot ho-“ the transmission was cut off.

“Defiant. Archer to Defiant.” Archer glanced up at Seven, an expression of horror on his face and slowly dawning comprehension. He tapped the combadge again.

“Archer to Defiant respond now!”

“He is searching, the dark one is searching for it, his will is bent to it. but we are many he is but one.” the Queen replied softly, a cold sneer pulling up the corners of her mouth.

Janeway examined the Queen for a moment and turned to Archer.

“Captain Archer, I get the distinct impression that not everything is what it seems and that the Empire has found a way to breech not only their defensive lines but the Collective itself.”

“Captain Janeway, I think I just lost my entire crew and my ship to a stray shot in this battle. The Defiant was the heaviest armed warship in the Federation. She was a casualty of a insignificant shot in this clash of titans. If you ask me, we are way out of our league and this whole cause has been for naught.”

Janeway smiled softly and placed a reassuring hand on Captain Archer’s shoulder.

“Don’t say that Captain. If there’s anything that I learned in my time in the Delta Quadrant it’s that hope is a fragile thing but if we hold on to hope, even in our darkest hour it will light the way.”

Archer stared down at the older woman and could not help but smile.

“Your notions of hope in the darkness will avail us nothing if we cannot find an escape from this place. the Unimatrix is no longer safe, in fact it is the Empire’s prime target and they are not stopping.” Seven interjected hotly. Archer looked over at her and she at him.

“There’s always a way out, always a way to win. All we have to do is find it.” Archer paused and winked at Seven. “Stop being so pessimistic, its not attractive you know.”

Seven could not stop the flush that came to her face as Archer turned to the Queen.

“Are you coming with us?”

She looked as if she were tying to listen to something far away.

“There is no where to run, safety protocols against planetary bombardment have been initiated. All access to other levels has been rescinded. We are sealed away here until the battle is over.”

“Well don’t look now, but this battle is about to be over.” Archer snapped as the image of the Emperor’s Will grew on screen.

The queen’s eyes widened.

“He knows. He can see us, he can hear us. We must hide it, the Collective must rally.”

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE 1OF1, WE ARE THE BORG.

“He knows!!” she shrieked.

THAT CAN NO LONGER BE DENIED. INSTITUTING CORE EMERGENCY DUMP INTO SUBSPACE NODES.

“What does that mean, Seven?” Janeway asked.

Seven stared up at the green energy field that represented the core collective.

“It means that the Collective is trying to flee, dumping what they can of their hive mind into subspace energy nodes designed to hold them.”

“They’re core dumping the Collective?” Archer gasped.

“They have no other alternative. He knows.”

“He knows what?” Janeway pressed.





The Emperor’s Will plowed through a rapidly expanding debris and plasma field as her heavy turbolaser batteries poured death into the Borg lines. Hundreds of batteries were firing continuously as the Command ship continued on, heedless of the fire being brought to bear. Enormous flashes of light, like lightning in space erupted with each impact of the mass drivers as they fired their payloads into the warship.

Kittaine ignored the sound of alarms in the crew pits as he urged his ship forward. the Borg lines were disintegrating but here, in the heart of their fleet, their numbers seemed endless and they poured into the breaches like water. There was no wedge of ships to force the breach open, it was just the Emperor’s Will and a thousand Borg cubes, all intent on killing them by many means necessary.

“Power up the superlaser Admiral, we are reaching our target.” Nemesis ordered but his voice was thick with effort and sweat beaded his brow. He was staring at the planet as if by will alone he could destroy it, eyes fixed like guns on a target. he did not move, he did not acknowledge anything around him.

“Power up the superlaser, reveal the Iris!”

“Revealing Iris, Aye.”

The armored nose of the Emperor’s Will slowly retracted revealing the small reflectors and the main lense. The small reflectors immediately constricted three times in pre firing sequencing as the main energizer began to pulse.

“Prepare to fire on my coordinates.”

“The fleet, Lord Nemesis, it is blocking our path.”

“Now is the time to reveal our last trick, Admiral. Activate the mines.” Nemesis replied, voice tight with concentration.

“Aye sir.” Kittaine turned to his squadron commander. “Activate the mines.”

Outside the TIE Bombers quickly retreated as they sent signals to the seismic charges they fired into the fray. many had been caught in the blast wake of the battle but many more still floated serenely among the Borg lines, deactivated so as not to trip any warnings. With the signal the mines activated and instantly detonated.

The blasts were titanic as they ripped outwards in harsh white walls of energy that tore through the Borg fleet reducing it to so much confetti. The cubes were torn asunder ands their debris carried on the shockwave only to slam into more cubes causing a catastrophic chain reaction. The end results were clear.

A gaping hole had been blown in the Borg lines, a hole that revealed the Unimatrix below. The Emperor’s Will now filled that hole and the superlaser was charging.



“Off my ship Borg scum!” Belladonna shouted and fired several rounds from her personal blaster into the chest of a drone crawling up the stairwell onto the command deck. A stormtrooper screamed as he was dragged under by a several drones who began clubbing him with their heavy cybernetic limbs while another blasted a hole in a junior officer’s chest with a hand mounted plasma caster.

A thermal detonator went off somewhere below decks activating fire alarms on the surrounding decks.

“Concentrate all fire on those cubes, once we destroy the cubes the power to the mass drivers is lost!” Belladonna shouted in her XO’s ear then rudely shoved him downward and pointed he blaster at a Borg that had just beamed aboard next to them. The blaster bolt caught it in the throat and the Borg went down without even twitching.

“Captain, we’ve lost control of decks 17 and 18, the drones are simply overwhelming my men through sheer numbers.” a stormtrooper commander reported as he stood by belladonna toting a dangerous looking assault rifle which he suddenly raised and took three snap shots. Three Borg that were descending a stairwell to surprise two harried stormtroopers were caught full by the blast and literally exploded into chunky bloody metallic pieces that showered over the crew pits.

Belladonna nodded and glanced down at the tactical station. The chief gunnery officer was clubbing a dying drone with his helmet while calling out targets to his gunner’s mates that did not flinch as they ran the main batteries from the bridge. She smiled grimly and wiped the sweat from her brow.

She could be no prouder of her men.

“Vent the decks with nerve gas, then roll some charges in there to clear them out, we need to hold onto 18. it’s the only deck that provides good access to the hangar control and back up engineering.”

“Yes, captain.” the commander nodded and promptly called in the order.

“And Captain, I want every man that you can spare to get to main engineering. This scum can make it all worth their while if they seize control of main engineering. The bridge is expendable, main engineering is not.”

“Understood.”

“Captain, we have a breakthrough!” his XO crowed as the Relentless’ guns chewed through the line of Borg cubes feeding the mass drivers. Several of the mass drivers simply faded out of existence as the power fed to them through the cubes vanished. Her tactical officer tried to explain to her that the mass drivers themselves were merely constructs made out of subspace matter, allowing the objects to achieve relativistic speeds in milliseconds, but they were not natural and although immune to weapons fire they were completely dependent of the Borg cubes for power to exist and function. She knew that she would never understand this subspace phenomenon that was the backbone of this galaxy’s technology but as a military leader she knew what she had to do.

Destroy those accursed cubes.

“Continue on, we have no choice now, we’re committed. I want all crews to man their posts and take up weapons, we will all go down fighting and that is an order. The Relentless will break out on her own, is that clear?”

“Yes Captain.” Her XO replied with a sharp salute.

“We’re going in and through men! For the Empire, For Lord Nemesis!” she shouted.

The men in the crew pits shouted in return and the stormtroopers seemed to rally as more reinforcements arrived and they soon began containing the Borg boarding parties, identifying incoming transporters and gunning them down as they materialized. Belladonna looked out her view port as the Relentless soared past the ruin of the mass driver armed fleet and deeper in the Borg defensive fleet, aching to return to the fleet that she had called home and the only thing between her and that goal were thousands of cubes and billions of drones.





“The mass drivers…they’ve stopped.” Branna noted with surprise as the tremendous impacts against the Emperor’s Will suddenly ceased.

“Sir, the Relentless, she’s moving into the heart of the Borg fleet in an attempt to link up with the rest of the fleet.” the tactical officer reported. “She’s the one that took out their big guns.”

“A commander that brave and dedicated must be saved.” Nemesis suddenly exclaimed and strode over to the communications center.

“I want to talk to Captain Tarsi now.”

“Of course My lord.”

Tarsi’s form shimmered into view, the frenetic wounds of battle could be heard in the background as gunnery chiefs called out targets and runners made their way around the crew pits.

“My Lord?”

“Tarsi, the Relentless has more than done her duty. The Triumvirate is to detach from the rest of the fleet and go to her rescue. Break through the Borg lines and link up with the Relentless immediately.”

“Of course my lord.” Tarsi replied and bowed slightly but there was no mistaking the grin on his face as the hologram vanished.

Almost immediately behind them, the three star destroyers suddenly broke formation and unleashed a horrible wave of turbolaser fire and bulled their way through the Borg lines. They soon vanished into the battle as more cubes arrived to replace the fallen ones.

“Do their numbers ever end?” Kittaine hissed.

“It all ends. Now.” Nemesis replied and he seemed to grow in stature as strange shadows played across his face. Kittaine felt a cold chill sweep through the bridge.

Nemesis felt them, their voices, they were trying to hide themselves from him but there was no hiding from the dark side. There was no obfuscating the goals of the Sith. he would find them, he could feel their voices all swirling around the center. Trillions of voices but ONE source, Millions of connections, ONE source, Thousands of worlds, ONE source. He would find it, they could not hide and in a burst of rage he saw it, clear as if he were standing in the room, the enormous green energy field, the symphony of a trillion voices all distilled to this one place.

He smiled victoriously.

“Fire on coordinates 1122 mark 56.” Nemesis boomed.

“Commence Primary ignition.”






“He has found us! The very heart of the matrix, the heart of the Borg, The Voice of the Collective.”

“Oh shit, he found US!” Archer exclaimed.

“This can’t be good.” Janeway replied softly.

ENERGY SPIKE FROM TARGET DESIGNATED I-1. ALL DRONES TO THE BUNKERS. REROUTE EMERGENCY POWER TO DEFENSIVE GRID. PLANETARY ASSAULT WEAPON FIRING IN THIRTY SECONDS. MARK.

“The dump is not complete, the subspace nodes are being interfered with by the power surges outside, we are lost!” the Queen screamed then stopped in mid stride.

“Wait. There is a way. there is always a way.”

The others gathered around the queen,

“What the hell are you talking about? The superlaser is about to-“

“Initiate emergency protocol 00bastion1.” The queen shouted into the darkness around them as deep explosions tore through the complex. The Emperor’s Will was not waiting for the superlaser. They were unleashing their main batteries on the planet. The Borg planetary shield went down with the first volley of fire and now the heavy turbolaser fire was gouging craters in the hard metallic surface of the Unimatrix.

Debris began falling down like hard rain around them as structural supports and beams gave way under the onslaught.

A small doorway hissed open out of thin air, bright white pulsing light emanated from the other side.

“What is that?” Janeway asked.

“There is no time! Follow me in!” she shouted and grabbed hold of Seven and pulled her along as she leapt into the door way. Archer and Janeway followed. Another explosion rippled overhead with enough force to lay waste to an entire coastline, the debris screeched down like a thing alive. Archer sidestepped a massive boulder that would have brained him and continued towards the light when he heard the “OooF!”

Archer skid to halt and turned around.

“Come now or we leave you behind!” The Queen’s voice echoed from behind the door but the light was too bright to see into. Archer saw Janeway pinned beneath a beam that had landed on her leg. It was crushed and blood was already seeping past her uniform onto the floor.

“Captain Janeway!”

“Go!” She shouted. “There isn’t any time!”

“I’m not leaving you behind!” he shouted without hesitation as another boulder crashed down to his left, spilling out a cloud of thick white dust.

“Captain, listen to me! You have to go, one of us has to report to the Federation, tell them all that they saw here today. I’ve seen enough of life, now its time for you!” She fixed him with a steady gaze. “Do your duty Captain.”

“This door closes now!” the Queen commanded and the light began to fade.

“No!” Seven screamed.

“Damn you!” Archer screamed, at first he thought it was at Janeway but he realized as he vaulted for the closing door that it was at the universe in general, it was at God, it was at reality. He hated it all at this very moment when he had to choose letting a life die to save his own. All in the name of duty.

He sailed through the bright white door and landed with a thump on his shoulder. He whipped his head around and saw her staring back at him with a soft smile and blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth.

PLANETARY ASSAULT WEAPONS FIRI-

The room suddenly flared bright white and the area seemed to smolder for a moment then it exploded like a small sun as the ceiling was utterly vaporized and the superlaser punched through.

Archer blinked.

Janeway had been there a moment ago, but he could have sworn there was a flash, a split second before the superlaser impact and she was gone. Then the room became a thing of living fire and molten rock. It happened all around them. It was as if they were ghosts witnessing the end of Pompeii.

There was as scream, unlike any that Archer had ever heard before. A cacophony of voices in terror and pain, as if billions were all being burned alive at once and you could hear each and every single one. Seven screamed as well and collapsed in his arms as the scream passed over them like a storm.

“Where are we?” Archer asked hoarsely as the room suddenly brightened again and the explosion blinded them all for a moment before all was still. There was only darkness.

Then a single female voice, laden with sorrow and anger.

“The Collective has been silenced. The Borg are dead.”



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-01-13 12:07am
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Chapter 37: Unholy Alliance


Grand Admiral Thrawn listened to the briefing with interest, his glowing red eyes locked on to the speaker, Captain Jerjerrod. Behind Jerjerrod was a vast holographic representation of the Milky Way Galaxy, currently tagged as Galaxy 1089. Jerjerrod moved along the edge of the conference room table as he spoke, a datapad in hand but he hardly looked down at it.

“We have also picked up numerous communications throughout this galaxy making it a fully habitable star cluster however they are not unified as our own home galaxy. At last count we estimate more than 40 individual star empires perhaps more inhabiting this galaxy.”

“What is their technological status?” Vader asked.

“We have been able to ascertain that at least in this local quadrant, power readings do not spike above .6. This indicates a level of power generation technology that has not yet attained hypermatter usage.”

Piett smirked.

“They’re primitives. This will not e a conquest, it will be a slaughter.”

Thrawn’s eyes fluttered slightly, the only betrayal of his utter contempt for the man’s grasp of the tactical and strategic situation. He decided then and there that something had to be done about Piett. The only obstacle was the Sith lord standing behind him. Oddly enough, Vader rarely ever sat, electing to tower over others whenever he got a chance.

“We have also been able to ascertain that this local quadrant has seen quite a bit of Imperial activity. There are signs of hyperspace distortions riddled throughout this quadrant.”

“How have we been able to determine this fact? Imperial hyperdrives do not function any differently than other hyperdrives. You cannot possibly distinguish them from the native hyperdrives.” Piett sneered.

“Simple. The natives of this galaxy do not use hyperdrive.”

The gathered officers suddenly grew silent, all save the slow mechanical breathing of Lord Vader.

“No hyperdrive? How do they travel?” Piett gasped.

“We have yet been able to determine that but there is no doubt that no empire in this galaxy utilizes hyperdrive travel. There are vast portions of this galaxy that show absolutely no sign of hyperspace travel. No hyperspace disturbance, no quantum particle disruption, nothing. Virgin space, devoid of any sign of hyperspace travel. It truly is remarkable, I don’t think that such territory exists anywhere in our galaxy.” Jerjerrod commented with a weak smile.

“Go on, Captain.” Thrawn gently pushed.

“Yes, sir.” Jerjerrod cleared his throat. He pointed to a highlighted part of the galaxy.

“The heart of hyperdrive activity is located in this portion of the galaxy. Judging from the amount of hyperspace disturbance in this space, we can estimate that the Imperial held territory is probably here.” Jerjerrod’s finger touched a portion of the high lighted section and the rest of the galaxy dropped away and the holoimage settled on that galactic arm.

“That’s all they hold?” Piett wondered aloud.

“Admiral, we have absolutely no idea what sort of resistance the Imperial forces here have met, we also have no idea whether the Imperial forces here have remained intact, whether they have access to resources that we have. Let us keep blind suppositions out of a strategic briefing shall we?” Thrawn interjected icily.

Piett nodded hesitantly and sat back with a scowl on his face.

“Can we set a course for that area of space?”

“It should not prove difficult. The nav computers are currently scanning star positions and mapping local gravity shadows. We should be able to jump to hyperspace safely in the next few hours.”

“You mentioned earlier strange energy readings on long range sensors?”

“Yes sir. We have picked up enormous energy spikes on the extreme edge of our detection nets. It is consistent with a heavy fleet engagement.”

“Yet it is not in Imperial held space?” Thrawn asked curiously.

“No, sir. It is centered in another quadrant of the galaxy.” Jerjerrod replied.

Thrawn sat back and slowly rubbed his chin with one hand as he seemed to stare right into the holoimage of the galaxy.

“We have accomplished nothing simply sitting here Admiral. It would be best if we begin searching for the Imperial fleet and they are there.” Vader said and stretched out his black gloved hand and pointed right at the section of the galaxy where the energy readings were coming from.

“Your reasons for saying so, Lord Vader?” Thrawn asked neutrally.

Piett’s eyes widened slightly. He would never even think of questioning the towering dark lord.

“Lord nemesis is there and so is the fleet. Don’t allow yourself to be led by the nose with these technological instruments, Grand Admiral. You will find, as most other commanders that have served with me that the Force is our strongest ally.”

“Ah, yes…the force.” Thrawn replied. He nodded to himself. “Yes, Lord Vader, you may be correct, but I will not commit a single unit, until we are ready.”

Vader glanced down sharply.

“We have spent the last two weeks preparing Grand Admiral.” Vader’s voice dripped with menace and his right hand tightened, the sound of the leather glove creaked loudly in the room and Thrawn felt his throat begin tightening.

“Lord Vader how can we relieve Lord Nemesis’ forces if we cannot make the jump to light speed? This is not the time to act rashly. We are far from home, with absolutely no support. One misstep could be disastrous. We must be patient. Once we are ready, I assure you, thus galaxy will fall in short order. But if we act rashly we will become bogged down in this galaxy as Lord Nemesis has obviously become.”

Vader stared hard at Thrawn. The Grand Admiral did not flinch under the gaze. There was only the sound of the mechanical respirator. Vader’s tightened fist suddenly loosened.

“I expect us to be underway shortly Grand Admiral.” Vader replied and turned and strode out of the room, his black cape flowing behind him.

The assembled officers looked uncomfortable.

Thrawn tried not to show his own annoyance at the situation. In Wild Space he had free reign to do as he wanted. He was far from the prying eyes of the Emperor’s lackeys and minions. But this mission had thrust him right into the center of the Emperor’s right hand’s obsession with the young Sith Lord. Thrawn knew better than to think that in the end he could simply ignore or kill the Sith Lord. Vader was renown for his power and his insight. There was a reason why he was the Emperor’s right hand and heir apparent to the Empire.

But none of this changed the fact that Vader had all the subtlety of a BDZ.

The mission had many parameters for him to keep track of.

“Sir, we’ve received a transmission from the shuttle.” A voice chimed in on the conference room table. Piett casually flipped a com panel.

“Go on.”

“They report that there is a wreck of a freighter on the surface, the automated signal was discovered inside the freighter. It looked as if it had been active for some time. The wreckage appears years old. A standard search pattern turned up no signs of life. Whatever was alive down there is no longer there sir.”

“Very well. Have the shuttle return and debrief the men.” Piett replied nonchalantly.

Thrawn’s crimson eyes narrowed slightly.

“Don’t you think that a little odd?” Thrawn commented.

“Odd? There’s plenty of wrecks scattered around the galaxy, Grand Admiral. We just happened to stumble across one that has been abandoned for some time. A shame, considering what we could have learned if we interrogated the survivors.”

Thrawn steepled his fingers under his chin and stared down at the table top for a moment.

“Any success in recovering representations of their art work, Captain?” Thrawn asked, but his eyes seemed lost in thought, as if focusing on another issue altogether.

“Uh, no sir. We have yet been able to gather any good representations of the artwork of the surrounding Empires. It will take some time.”

“May I ask why fleet elements are being tasked with such a duty, sir?” Piett asked.

Thrawn spared the Admiral a glance.

“It is a habit of mine. The artwork of a species is a window to their inner thoughts and psychology. A military commander that knows how his enemy thinks has already won half the battle, the other half is won in the execution. The key here, Piett is knowing what your enemy is going to do before he even knows what he is going to do. If you plan out a battle knowing all the contingencies and responses your enemy will make then you have won that battle before it is even fought.”

Piett nodded but in his mind he was completely skeptical of this claim. How could a military mind be reflected in pathetic works of art?

“Please try to secure some art as soon as possible, captain. It is essential that I have some grasp of what we face here.”
“I shall redouble my efforts.” Jerjerrod replied enthusiastically.

“Excellent.” Thrawn replied then paused as if in mid-thought and turned his head to Piett.

“Did you find anything odd about that last transmission?”

“Sir?”

“The shuttle, Piett. Did you find anything odd about that last transmission?”

“No sir.”

“Perhaps the fact that you did not speak directly to the shuttle commander. Patch us through.” Thrawn ordered.

“Of course, sir.” Piett replied hesitantly. What did it matter what a squad of stormtroopers had to say? They would be debriefed. Why the sudden interest?

“Communications, patch us through to the shuttle.”

“Aye sir.”

There was a long pause.

“They are taking a long time to reply.” Jerjerrod noted with some curiosity.

“Indeed.” Thrawn added softly.

A voice filtered through.

“Shuttle Frydium reporting.”

“Shuttle Frydium this is Grand Admiral Thrawn, what did you find down there?”

Thrawn listened intently. He did not care about what they were saying, but how they were saying it.

“Sir, there was nothing there but a wreck of what we believe is a freighter. After a standard search pattern we found no signs of life.”

“And the distress call?”

“It was fully automated, the battery was nearly dead, the signal was extremely localized sir. I doubt it could be picked up beyond this system.”

Piett nodded.

“Good work commander.” Piett replied.

“Thank you sir.”

“Yes, commander, you have revealed much to us.” Thrawn added coolly.

“Shuttle out.”

Thrawn sat back in his chair and nodded to himself as if settling a debate. He leaned forward and slapped his com panel.

“Navigation, is the incoming shuttle on the standard approach pattern?” he asked but the tone of his voice indicated that he already knew the answer.

“No sir, it is not.” Came the confused reply.

“Carry on.” Thrawn replied and switched channels. “Security, I want a platoon of stormtroopers in the hangar deck right now. The incoming shuttle is to be received and positioned in a secure portion of the hangar bay. The platoon is to surround the shuttle.”

“Yes sir.”

Thrawn stood up and nodded to the others.

“Come with me.”

“Grand Admiral, what are you insinuating?” Piett asked as he quickly rose to follow Thrawn and Jerjerrod out of the conference room.

“Merely that the shuttle has most likely been hijacked by whatever was done there.”

“Hijacked?! Grand Admiral there was a squad of stormtroopers and an officer. Who could overpower that?”

Thrawn nodded.

“Whoever has must be commended. We had no warning from our own men so they must have been ambushed and overpowered before they could get a message off. This enemy has also exhibited strong technical aptitude since they learned to fly and operate our shuttles in – how long were they down there?” he suddenly asked Jerjerrod. Jerjerrod quickly glanced down at a datapad.

“Twenty minutes.”

“They learned to fly and operate one of our shuttles in twenty minutes. This is not a standard enemy, nor is it a stranded freighter crew. This could be the reason why the Imperial forces here may have met stiffer resistance than our initial scans indicated.”

“You are seriously considering the fact that our team may have been hijacked on a mere suspicion?” Piett exclaimed as they entered the turbolift that would take them down to the hangar deck.

“The accent, Piett. I have never heard that accent in all my travels, and in case you never noticed, our stormtroopers all have the same voices and accents.” Thrawn replied as the doors to the turbolift shut.





The shuttle was slowly tractored into the massive hangar bay of the Executor. The lambda class shuttle hovered for a moment as a new guidance system took over and sent the shuttle towards the rear of the hangar bay, over seemingly endless racks of TIE Interceptors and assorted craft neatly stowed away for use.

The shuttle finally stopped over an isolated hangar deck reserved for VIPS and secret missions embarking from the command ship. The shuttle descended slowly and as it did numerous stormtroopers waited patiently by the landing pad, some lined the levels above, each carrying heavy antipersonnel weapons and one was manning an E-Web repeater blaster set up on the secondary gantry giving the gunner and his team the widest possible field of fire.

The shuttle settled down without a sound and soon exhaust gasses were venting and technical crews that usually rushed over to check the ship and refuel her or prepare her for stowage were held back by the stormtrooper cordon.

A door hissed open at the foot of the landing pad and Thrawn strode out flanked by Jerjerrod, Piett and a pair of stormtroopers.

Thrawn stood patiently, hands clasped behind his back and watched the shuttle. Piett was aghast at the thought that there could have been such a security breach but secretly hoped that his squad would walk out of the shuttle and wonder what all the fuss was about. Perhaps then Thrawn’s much vaunted ‘feelings’ and ‘intuition’ would take its rightful place as an idiosyncrasy of character and not an invaluable skill that many labeled it.

He was fairly confident that if he were careful, patient and calm, he would come away with this assignment wearing that very same white pressed uniform…as for Thrawn. A soft smile tugged at the edges of his lips. He could go the way of Ozzel. With Vader on this mission, he knew that all it would take would be some carefully plotted out insinuations and the Sith Lord’s terrible anger would be the arrogant ALIEN Grand Admiral’s demise.

Jerjerrod may have hitched his hopes to the Grand Admiral, but Piett knew who wielded true power in this Empire. He most certainly did not wear white.

“They’re not coming out.” Jerjerrod commented.

“Watch and learn, Jerjerrod. This man is no fool. He realizes we are on to him but he will bide his time. He knows that he has no other option now but follow through with his plan.”

“And what plan is that?”

“We will find out, but I daresay he did not expect this.”

Suddenly the hatch to the shuttle began to lower and several of the assembled stormtroopers tensed, some raising their weapons at the ready.

“Watch, Jerjerrod. Everything in life is a lesson, we just have to be aware of what is being taught.” Thrawn whispered to the young Captain.

Several stormtroopers descended the stairs led by a young man with blonde hair. He looked very intense as he approached them, the stormtroopers were marching in perfect military precision.

“His first mistake.” Thrawn noted with a nod.

“I don’t understand?” Jerjerrod began but saw it too now that Thrawn had made it clear. The stormtroopers were not equal in height, one was several inches taller and the armor seemed a little tight along the shoulders and leg guards.

The officer stopped and snapped a crisp salute.

“We did not expect such an honor sir.” He said with just the right touch of nervousness. Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the young officer. He was good, very good.

“Interesting lieutenant, you are the first Imperial officer from this fleet to set foot on an alien world of this galaxy, I simply wanted to personally welcome you back.

The young man nodded and smiled graciously.

“Of course, Admiral. However my men are tired and the planet below was filthy and arid, that damned sand has gotten into everything including our uniforms. We will need some time to freshen up before the debriefing.

Brilliant actor, he even feigned the discomfort of the sand in his uniform with a subconscious roll of the shoulders. Whoever they were he was impressed for the first time in a long while. The audacity to try and pass themselves off now, it was either reckless or fearless. But Thrawn detected something else.

This was not their leader.

There was something about the eyes that betrayed this.

“I’m sure that’s true, Lieutenant, but I do have one question.”

“Sir?”

“Just how in the name of the Emperor did you even think for a solitary nanosecond that you could have pulled off this masquerade?”

The young man seemed frazzled.

“Sir? I’m not sure what you mean?”

“I congratulate you on your performance, young man but my patience is at an end.” Thrawn replied with a heavy sigh. He turned his head to the Stormtrooper commander. “Kill them.”

Suddenly one of the stormtroopers whipped his hand up holding a thermal detonator.

“Perhaps the Grand Admiral would like to reconsider his order?” the voice was the same one from the shuttle. It had an air of regal command to it.

“If I am shot the dead man’s switch goes off and I will paint the walls of this impressive technological terror with your blood. If you do not stand down I will hit the switch and paint the walls of this technological terror with your blood. If you stand down then we can have a discussion, one that I believe will be most fruitful for both of us.”

Thrawn and the anonymous Stormtrooper stared at each other for a long moment, the only sound was the clang of heavy machinery and the hiss of gasses and venting exhaust.

“I will only stand down to a leader of men. Are you that man?” Thrawn asked quietly. There was death in that voice. Jerjerrod was rooted in place.

The stormtrooper slowly nodded.

“I am that man.”

“A true leader does not hide behind a mask.” Thrawn replied.

The stormtrooper locked eyes with him in another stare down of wills and he suddenly lifted one hand and whipped off the helmet in a clean snap. His long black hair cascaded down his broad shoulders as he revealed his face.

It was a proud aristocratic face, one that should be on busts of great leaders decorating a hall or museum. His dark skin contrasted against the pearly white armor he wore.

“I am Kahn Noonien Soongh. And you are?”

“Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Thrawn replied without hesitation.

“Well, Grand Admiral, it seems we are at an impasse. I am feeling gracious today and so I am willing to offer you a truce.”

“A truce? Are you mad?” Piett sputtered in outrage.

Kahn frowned heavily.

“Who is this person that he interrupts a meeting of men?” Kahn asked with a sneer.

“He is an admiral under my command and he will now remain silent. This is a meeting between myself and Mr. Soongh.”

“Call me Kahn, Grand Admiral.”

“Very well. Piett.”

“Sir?” Piett replied stung by Thrawn’s comment.

“Return to the bridge and prepare the conference room for a debriefing.”

“But.”

“Shall I have Captain Jerjerrod do it?” Thrawn asked darkly.

“Right away, SIR.” Piett replied and glared at the newcomer. Kahn returned the glare with a shadow of a smile.

The assembled troops in the hangar bay relaxed slightly. Thrawn and Kahn did not as Piett left.

“You will stand down, Kahn.”

“I still see weapons trained on my men.”

“You will stand down because I do not negotiate with terrorists. I kill them. Now unless you want to learn the hard way what it means to face the full force and might of the Empire I strongly suggest you stand down and realize that if I wanted you dead you would be.”

Kahn’s eyes narrowed as he examined the Grand Admiral closely. His crimson eyes made it difficult to read him but Kahn knew leaders, he knew commanders of men and warlords, for he had fought them all in his bid for total world domination. A quarter of the world had been under his rule at one time or another but there were always others, rivals, killers, allies. This Thrawn was such a man.

He also knew that despite his best planning, Thrawn was right. If he were pressed, he would kill Kahn. And there was so much work to do. Besides he had the assurances of his mysterious benefactor.

“You will have your revenge, Kahn. I will simply put you on that road. The rest is up to you.”

Kahn knew that fighting this battle now was pointless and futile.

He slowly lowered his hand and there was an audible click from the detonator as it was deactivated.

“I have shown you the respect you demanded, now show me mine. My people have been marooned on this world for many years.”

Thrawn nodded slowly.

“Your men will be given shelter and food but we have much to discuss do we not?”

“Yes, indeed we do. Let us discuss this as leaders of men do, myself and my second, Joachim.” He nodded to the blonde young man who had been masquerading as the lieutenant.

“I commend you, to send your second into the fray while watching your enemy for weakness.”

“I learned this lesson from a man you and I may grow to know more intimately.”

Thrawn did not betray any surprise.

Kahn began to see why his benefactor had been adamant about telling him everything he could about Kirk and the current conflict burning through the galaxy. Thrawn was obviously not aware of much of this information. That made Kahn a valuable ally and not just a pawn. Kahn would not allow himself to ever be a pawn. He was biding his time for when he would seize control, Thrawn was obviously a commander with strong will and perceptive mind. But he was not human and he had not led nations. Kahn Noonien Soongh saw himself at the helm of this war machine and he would write his name across the galaxy in fire.

But first things were first.

“His name will be burned into your memory soon as it is burned into mine. We will have to hunt him down and kill him.”

“This sounds personal.” Jerjerrod added.

“Death is always personal.” Kahn replied icily.

“Why do you think we need to hunt him down and kill him? His wrongs against you have nothing to do with me.”

“IF I were to believe you, Grand Admiral, then let me inform you of a fact that you may not be aware of. This man is currently leading the opposition to your Imperial forces. He is doing quite well as I understand it. I expect no less from him. He will be a difficult man to kill…so much the better.”

Thrawn saw it. He had been watching him intently, seeing the iron will and resolve in those eyes. But he saw something else too. There was something…dark fluttering behind those dark eyes and just now as he spoke those last lines with such pleasure and anger he saw it revealed in those eyes.

Madness.

Kahn Noonien Soongh was quite mad.

“Well then, Kahn, have your men follow mine out. You and I will meet now and discuss this matter in more appropriate surroundings.” Thrawn stated evenly and indicated for Kahn to follow him.

“I will only take one more step on your vessel if we come to an understanding right now.”

Thrawn arched an eyebrow.

“And that understanding would be what?”

Kahn face was a grim mask as he spoke.

“That we will kill James T. Kirk.”

“I don’t think that there is any doubt of that.” Thrawn replied.

“Then it is done.” Kahn said with a nod and followed Thrawn out of the hangar.








“There she is.” Tarsi said and pointed at the Relentless in the center of a sea of cubes.

“Scanning indicates no activity aboard any of the cubes in this sector. Seems like their entire fleet has simply shut down.” His XO reported incredulously.

“Lord Nemesis was right. The heart of the Borg was on that world. How can they have survived this long being so centralized?” Tarsi wondered.

“Sir, there are positive reading life readings on the Relentless. She’s pretty banged up but still functioning. Also reading several thousand drones within her, all inactive.”

“I want communications established as soon as possible with Captain Belladonna.” Tarsi snapped.

The triumvirate moved through the armada of Borg ships that were now completely inactive. The sickly green lights that seemed to illuminate all Borg vessels and facilities were dimmed or simply out. Thousands of cubes, spheres and tactical cubes floated in clusters in the void, now completely dead, the chorus of the Collective many voices as one was silent.

This was no longer a battle ground but a graveyard.

Tarsi waited impatiently as they closed with the Relentless. The shattered hulks of Borg cubes orbited her like attendant moons and the corpses of Borg drones rained around them, bouncing harmlessly off their shields or spinning madly off into the depths.

“Come on.” He muttered.

“Sir, picking up a transmission from the Relentless.”

“Put it through.”

Tarsi stood before the holonet receiver, fully expecting the worse. He closed his eyes for a moment and braced himself.

“You certainly know where to take a girl for a wild time, tarsi.” Belladonna said with a sarcastic grin as she appeared on his receiver disk. Tarsi did not bother to hide the huge grin that split his face as he saw her now, hair in disarray, blood and dirt smudged on her cheeks and she was flush with exertion, sweat drenched the front of her uniform making it cling to her body.

“Only the best for you, Captain.”

“DO you want to let me in on the secret or do I have to drag it out of you?”

“What secret?”

“One minute I’m hips deep in Borg drones trying to assimilate me, the next they all let out this awful scream and collapsed on my deck.”

“Lord Nemesis has destroyed their unimatrix. The Collective has been silenced for good.” Tarsi’s smile became a victorious grin. “The Borg are dead.”

“Well, its good to know that we did our part for Emperor and Empire.” She replied wanly.

“I’m coming over on a transport right now.”

“Tarsi, how’s it going to look-“”

“Illith.” He interrupted her and slowly reached out and touched her holographic face, his fingertips passing though the field causing a slight distortion where they touched. “I’m passed caring how it looks. What I told you before is true now as it was when we sat together in the Emperor’s Will’s sickbay. Duty is no longer as important to me as it once was. I came to the realization of what is truly important and it was confirmed today when I was in the thick of mortal combat and all I could think about was you.” He replied softly.

“Come.” She urged.

Tarsi nodded and switched off the holonet. He turned to speak when his XO smiled.

“I have the con, aye, aye sir.”

Tarsi smiled and gripped his XO’s shoulder before striding off the bridge.








“And that is all?”

“Not other signs of active energy on the planet. The destruction of the Collective has all but destroyed every working system on the planet.” Kittaine replied.

Nemesis nodded and looked out the view port to regard the dead unimatrix world beneath him. A large angry red stared back at him. The crust of the target area had been completely blown away revealing the molten mantle beneath. The rest of the world was now dark and still. Billions of drones on the surface had simply ground to a halt as soon as the Collective had been vaporized by the super laser.

“And so it has ended. The greatest threat to our New Empire has been squashed.”

“Now we turn our attentions to that insignificant Federation rebellion and crush them as easily.” Branna added.

Kittaine looked out at the field of dead Borg ships.

“It will take time to clean up this mess. We’ll have to bring in ships form across the Romulan provinces to start salvage and disposal operations.”

“There will be no salvage and disposal operations.” Nemesis replied evenly as he looked out at the vanquished foe but felt no surge of victorious joy. Instead he felt something else, a growing sense of dread.

“My Lord?”

“Look out at this with vision Admiral. You see this now as an obstacle, something that needs to be cleaned up and swept away. I see it as an eternal monument to the might and majesty of our New Empire.”

Kittaine looked at the vanquished fleet.

“They were the most powerful force in this galaxy. To say the name Borg would inspire fear in all the races and empires of this galaxy. Now they are destroyed and their corpses and wrecked hulls will be a sign for all time of our power. This is the foundation upon which the New Empire will grow, it is upon the shattered inhuman Collective that we set ourselves to unite the rest of this chaotic galaxy under our New Order.” Nemesis declared.

Kittaine could not help but smile.

“My Lord, your will be done.” He replied without hesitation.

Nemesis smiled as well and clapped Kittaine on the shoulder.

“And you have done well Grand Admiral.”

“Grand Admiral?” Kittaine replied in confusion.

“Yes, I believe that on this, the day of our greatest victory yet it is fine time to promote you Grand Admiral Kittaine. You have served me faithfully and unfailingly since the moment I stepped aboard the Emperor’s Will.”

Kittaine did not know what to say.

“Sir, I have always endeavored to serve the Empire as well as I could. But I am no Grand Admiral.” He protested.

“No, Kittaine you are precisely the man I want for that post, because you have had several opportunities to lose your faith in both me and our mission and you have not. You have had opportunities to align yourself with others who may not have shared my vision of a united galaxy and wanted me…removed.”

Kittaine began to protest but Nemesis held up a hand.

“And most importantly of all, because you have never lost hope even in our darkest hours and for this you have been given absolute control over the entire fleet of all the New Empire.”

“Congratulations, sir. If anyone deserves this, its you.”

Kittaine smiled softly.

“I will accept on one condition.”

“Name it.” Nemesis replied with a bemused expression.

“I don’t want to wear one of those white uniforms, they truly are gaudy affairs.”

“We shall see, Grand Admiral we shal-” Nemesis stopped and listened. The growing sense of dread that had been gnawing at him had bloomed. There was something wrong, a disturbance that rippled along the force like a wave on the ocean.

“Alert all commands.” He hissed and grabbed a firm hold of his cape and whipped it around him. “Set course for Romulus immediately!”

“My Lord?”

“We must get to Romulus immediately. It seems that Captain Kirk wants to challenge us directly and perhaps now is the time to finally settle this. Now may be the time that we crush all our enemies.” Nemesis snarled.

“At once my lord.” Kittaine snapped.

Nemesis stood alone, wrapped in his cape staring into the stars. He could feel it now. Things were turning. He could feel it in his bones. There was a storm gathering out there, events were spinning out of control and coming to a head.

There was a great reckoning coming and he was in the center of it.

“Let it come.” He whispered as the Emperor’s Will slowly pulled away from the dead Unimatrix and prepared to enter yet another battle.








“This is more than a disappointment.” Picard sighed as he looked over the report on his computer. R-7 sat across from him in his ready room.

“This is only a break in the negotiations.” R-7 replied helpfully.

Picard frowned.

“We’ve been negotiating now for nearly two weeks. The only thing we’ve been able to agree to is that the Tholians will stop referring to the Gorn as Simpleton sauroids, and the Gorn will not curse the Tholians with a thousand deaths. Other than that we are simply agreeing to continue the dialogue. Meanwhile the Empire continues to seize territory and the Federation resistance is looking more and more over matched.”

“Considering that the Gorn and Tholians have never spent this much time in close proximity without going to war it is an accomplishment of a sort.”

Picard smiled ruefully at the android.

“Sometimes I think that you’re fooling us all and you are far more intelligent than we give you credit for.” Picard commented.

R-7 shrugged.

“The fact remains that we have been charged with trying to bring the minor powers into this war and so far we have not failed.” R-7 noted.

“Well, I’ve been negotiating most of my life and usually by now there is some sign, some small light aty the end of the tunnel. I don’t see it.” Picard stated grimly and switched the computer off. As he did so he heard it. A scream that tore into his mind like a knife. Picard stiffened at the table and slid out of the chair onto the floor as his world swirled around him in crimson pain.

He could hear millions of voices screaming in agony and he could not stop it.

“No!” He screamed and clapped his hands over his ears. There was no relent and he felt as if he were going to simply implode but then as suddenly as it came the scream was silenced and he remained on the floor clutching his ears.

“Captain?” R-7 asked without any sign of concern on his face.

Picard sat up right and stared straight ahead for a moment. There were echoes still n his mind, echoes that were slowly fading away.

“Unimatrix 001.”

“Sir?”

“Set course for Unimatrix 001.”

“That is inadvisable sir, the Unimatrix is deep in the heart of Borg space. We would be intercepted before arriving there.”

“I am giving you a direct order, R-7. We need to get to the Unimatrix now!” Picard replied tersely.

“Yes sir.” R-7 replied and helped the Captain up on to his feet. “May I at least ask why?”

“It’s as if a million voices in the Collective all cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I feel that something terrible has happened.” Picard replied.









Wesley shook his head and suddenly glanced around sharply. Had he been sleeping?

Sometimes he felt that things were like a dream, as if he were watching himself do and say things and sometimes he felt that the things he said and did were nothing more than a dream, smoke and memories. It was becoming difficult to ascertain whether he was awake or asleep and that disturbed him.

Wesley had always prided himself in having a very deliberate and powerful sense of what was real and what was not. He was not prone to hallucinations and phantoms of the mind.

He felt as if he were moving through a perpetual fog.

“You Ok there Wes?” Geordie asked.

Wesley turned sharply and glared at Geordie.

“What?” he snapped.

“I said are you OK? You don’t seem well. You’re acting weird.” Geordie replied, frowning slightly at his young friend’s change of attitude of late.

“I’m OK.” Wesley replied weakly as he turned back to regard the readouts on the engineering display. He paused for a moment.

“Geordie?”

“Yes, Wes?”

“Have I said anything lately that’s…weird?”

Geordie smiled softly. “Wes. You’ve been an all around jerk lately. But considering what happened to Kelly, I can understand that.”

“Kelly, that’s right.” He muttered, ignoring the stab of remorse in his heart.

“But you have been short tempered lately and you were hard on my night crew yesterday.”

“What?” he asked feeling a sudden sense of panic.

“Yesterday, they said you were pretty harsh, even using some foul language.” Geordie’s eyes widened at the mention of foul language and smiled good naturedly.

“I..see.” Wesley replied. Panic became terror.

“Wes?” Wesley stormed out of the engineering section. Geordie started to go after Wesley and stopped short. Instead he shouted after him. “Wes! We’re jumping out into battle in a few minutes! We need you!”

Wesley ignored the calls and raced through the mazelike conduits and wanted desperately to lose himself. To not think about what Geordie had said. Because it would mean so much was happening that he could not guess, that he could not control. For in seeking power he may have lost his freedom.

The thoughts tormented him like circling vultures, always pecking at him, reminding him of one awful truth.

He had been asleep last night during the nightshift.







The forest moon of Endor exploded in a conflagration of fire and debris as the green superlaser lanced through the planet like a hammer. The shockwaves ripped through the void in rings of fire and energy that shifted partially into hyperspace. The Death star withered a rain of fire and plasma and slowly rotated away from the suddenly vanished forest moon.

“The Death star has performed exactly to specifications.” The commander reported proudly.

“Excellent commander. Now set a course for the Sluis sector.”

“Yes, My Emperor.” The commander stated and bowed lowly as he stepped away from the throne and walked out. The royal guard stood stoically around the throne room as the Emperor turned in his throne and regarded the ruins of the dead world expanding out in a cloud of fire and ash.

“A beautiful sight is it not?” The emperor commented in his low raspy voice. He watched the death, its fires lighting up the dark shadows under the cowl of his cloak.

“Soon this little drama will replay across the universe and there will be nowhere left to go, nowhere left to run. But battle is joined and the New Order is eclipsing the last rays of hope.”

A figure slowly melted out of the shadows beside the Emperor’s throne and rested a hand on top of the throne in a casual gesture.

“The end is near. All the pieces are falling into places, even gods look up at the dark horizon and fear the inevitable.”

The shadowy figure nodded slowly, watching the dead planet with the interest one shows a dying insect.

“All is proceeding as we have foreseen.”

The Emperor cackled with glee as the planet drifted out of view the enormous battle station moved out of sight of Endor’s end and prepared to jump to light speed.

The figure smiled, the only sign that he was in total agreement, in the shadows his gold uniform was dark and the silver glint from the eyes was muted, lit only by the final dying fires of the Sanctuary moon.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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Chapter 38: To the Proud the Strong



Admiral T’Vor smiled softly as he watched the Romulan ships taking off from the airfield. The new Scimitar cruisers were a wonder to behold, a marvel of Romulan engineering they were the pride of the new fleet. With Imperial help in securing resources from the conquered territories and a combination of industrial replicators and the new droid workers the Romulan ship building program was working at a rate unseen before in the Empire.

Many were calling this the brightest days of the Empire. Their territory had swelled to more than three times their original size, the despised Klingons were finally brought to heel and the Federation was nothing more than a rag tag band of rebels that would soon be crushed by the Empire. This was a wonderful time to be alive.

Lord Nemesis was a leader worth following, certainly not cut from the same cloth as the Praetors of late that had led the Empire down a path that relegated them to a third power status in this part of the galaxy. Now they were the premier power and currently Romulan fleets were holding a Dominion world. It was a turn around that he did not think were possible.

He had hated his Imperial counterparts in the beginning with a burning passion, but after seeing what they had accomplished in such a short period of time, there was no doubt that this was the future, this was the final sign that the galaxy could finally be unified under one banner, and the Romulan Empire would be under that banner.

Deep inside, even as a child, he always felt that Romulus had a destiny, a special road that it would take, apart from the nonsense that was spewed by the educational/propaganda branch of the government. he learned long ago that these were just words crafted by old men to enslave the weak and young. He felt it in his blood.

Unlike some of the other Romulans of his generation, he did not have this fascination with Vulcan and reuniting with the lost homeworld. As far as he was concerned the Romulans had their own independent destiny to fulfill and they were doing it.

Soon the entire galaxy would come under their banner and he would be part of that renaissance.

He smiled warmly.

He had found a place in the power structure and suddenly he no longer hated them, no longer despised them, no longer wished that they had never come.

“We are a power again.” he whispered to himself.

An alarm began buzzing in his communicator and almost simultaneously a siren began to wail on the airfield, angry crimson lights flashed everywhere. T’Vor’s eyes widened. The planetary defense grid.

He brought the communicator to his lips.

“T’Vor.”

“Admiral we have an incoming incursion.”

“Starfleet? Klingons? Be clear damnit!” T’Vor snapped.

“It’s a hyperspace emergence sir. But they are not Imperial.”

T’Vor stared at the communicator.

“Well, what are they?”

“We don’t know sir but they have just emerged in system and are moving to an intercept course with the planet.”

“Scramble all ships and recall whatever fleets we have within range.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

T’Vor shut off the communicator and quickly raced to the nearest transporter. He needed to get to the command center and figure out just what was happening out there.




Princess Leia stared at it from her vantage point on the bridge of the Reckless Hope. Alliance crewmen and officers moved about on their routine battle assignments as the destination point loomed ahead. Around the Hope she could see the armada of Starfleet vessels clustered around the Excalibur like attendant insects to a queen.

She could feel something else however. There was a darkness emanating from the Excalibur, a cold chill that permeated her to the bones every time she looked at the vessel. She had withdrawn herself of late, not attending the last round of strategy briefings and quite frankly she did not care. A concern was growing within her heart, a fear that was slowly gripping her. The Excalibur was dangerous.

The ancient warship seemed to glow with menace and danger and sometimes, if she looked at it long enough she could hear old whispers of something cold and dark, something calling to her and begging her to come. The machine was calling her but she could feel a darker menace beyond that, an ancient anger simmering just below the surface waiting to explode. As they made this jump to battle she felt that anger boiling now, it had found a foothold, a place to nest and it had grown in power and even now she could feel it festering. It sickened her and frightened her at the same time. The fear she felt seemed to feed it.

How all this was possible she did not know. All she did know was that there was something dangerous growing on the ship and she had checked all the databanks on the Hope. Granted, Alliance ships were not like Federation ships, they did not carry entire libraries in their data banks, she found nothing. The Sith were a long dead race and what little she knew of the Hyperspace wars she gleaned from tales her father old her at bed time.

A gnawing conclusion was bothering her. A decision that she needed to make but could jeopardize everything she and the others had worked for.

She watched the fleet racing through the pulsing blue tunnel of hyperspace and she could hear the laughter as the Alliance fighters slowly took point of the fleet. Wedge Antilles was leading the squadrons of both Alliance fighters and Federation Delta Flyers. He was nearly inconsolable when the news was broken of his little sister’s death on the Excalibur and he suddenly took on a cold professional demeanor that she had never seen in him before.

He had lost so much, his best friend, now his sister. There had been very little good news for the Alliance forces she had led into this galaxy. She wanted to give them something, a glimmer of hope that would inspire them.

Sadly, the Federation was inspired by the small victory won at Vulcan. But the Alliance knew the true depth of Imperial power and there was very little hope that they could break that hold now. The Empire simply had too many advantages here. Too much fire power, too many troops, too many worlds, it was a litany of advantages that no sane military commander would want to go up against.

Yet, Jim had rallied his people and they pressed on. Leia did not want to dwell on the other aspects of the war that were daunting. The fact that every time they went up against the Empire in a stand up fight, the Federation was losing hundreds of ships. Despite their bravery and bravado, they could simply not withstand such losses on a regular basis.

She did not know if Jim truly realized this or if he was trying to valiantly strike a blow hard enough to the Empire to bring them to the peace table. Either reaction was foolhardy. If Jim were ignoring the inevitable then he was dooming his people and this fleet to destruction. They needed to run and hide. They needed to find places to slowly grow and rebuild so that in time they would be strong enough to face the Empire. This campaign would take life times to win. If Jim were looking to bring the Empire to the peace table, he was sadly mistaken. They would not relent because they knew that they held all the cards and Luke would not relent. She could feel it in her bones, he would hold on for victory because he was the same way as a rebel. he never gave up, he always saw things through and sadly enough his dark persona had inherited trait.

She wondered how it had come to this. She had traveled to another galaxy, abandoned her own on the eve of the Alliance’s greatest offensive to find and turn Luke Skywalker back into the light. Now here she was embroiled in yet another war against tyranny, with an even dimmer prospect of survival and victory. Had she lost sight of her mission?

“We’ll be exiting hyperspace in two minutes your highness.” Captain Heken reported.

“Thank you Captain.” she replied absently, still staring at the blue giant racing beside her ship. Underneath the flap of her tunic she could feel the cold metallic kiss of the lightsaber she found on that vessel. It was nothing like Luke’s lightsaber. Luke’s seemed more simple and elegant. This blade was wicked and cruel. The hand guards that wrapped around the handle looked more like barbed wire than anything else. It was a weapon of a killer not a knight.

“Captain.” she called out softly.

Heken turned.

“Your highness?”

“Prepare a shuttle for me. I intend tot board the Excalibur.”

Heken’s face showed his utter surprise.

“Your highness, we are going into battle. I cannot allow you to take shuttle out in the middle of combat. Can’t this wait?” he asked.

She could hear a snarl of defiance from the ship.

“No. It most certainly cannot wait.”

Heken shook his head slowly.

“I cannot guarantee your safety on a shuttle ride over. I am so sorry, but I must disobey your order.”

Leia turned her head finally and pinned the captain with her steely gaze.

“Captain, I intend to be on that ship.”

“You will be killed before you get there.”

“Your highness, perhaps you should listen to the Captain. It is going to become extremely dangerous out there in moments.” Threepio added.

Leia though for a moment and smiled softly as an idea occurred to her.

“The Starfleet engineers recently installed transporters on the Hope, no?”

Heken blanched.

“Princess, they may be our allies but I wouldn’t trust your personage on one of those…disintegrators. They shouldn’t work but they do.”

“Captain, there’s no time to discuss your feelings about the transporters. You won’t let me ride out, then I will beam over. That should satisfy the cautious man that you are.”

“No, your highness, I regard them as equally dangerous.”

“Artoo?”

The little droid quickly trundled up to the discussion.

“Can you work the transporter?”

Artoo gave an enthusiastic beep.

“Excellent, come with me.” Leia ordered and swiftly strode out of the bridge followed by Artoo.

“Your highness, the Excalibur is going to raise her shields as soon as she exits hyperspace!” the captain called out after her but shook his head in frustration and beat his fist against a station. “That woman is going to get herself killed.” he snapped at Threepio.

“I have to agree with you sir. Unfortunately she has a knack for getting herself into trouble.” Threepio commented wistfully.





“All stations stand by.” Kirk ordered calmly as he watched his people waiting for the coming conflict. Spock walked down to Kirk’s command chair.

“Long range scans have proven difficult in hyperspace.”

“But you managed to find a way around that.” Kirk replied softly with a warm smile.

“Why yes.” Spock replied with a slight arch of an eyebrow.

“Go ahead.”

“The Romulans have just been alerted to our presence, they are scrambling ships.”

“And the Imperials.”

“That’s what concerns me. There is absolutely no Imperial presence in the system.”

Kirk suddenly sat up straighter.

“None? have you widened the scan. They could be laying in wait until we come out of hyperspace.”

“As best I can tell, Jim. There are no Imperial ships in this quadrant.” Spock replied meaningfully.

“That can’t be. They were on their way to Earth, Spock. They should have detected us enroute to Romulus and scrambled at least some stardestroyers to defend Romulus.”

“I have no logical explanation for their absence save that Lord Nemesis may have needed his fleet elsewhere.”

“The WHOLE Imperial fleet? What could possibly require their entire fleet?” Kirk pressed, feeling a sense of dread now. There was an old saying that no plan survived an encounter with the enemy. Here was one instance where his plan had not survived because there was NO encounter with the enemy. He had been counting on the Imperials being at Romulus or on their way to Romulus to confront him.

“You realize that I’ll have to switch to my alternative which is not as effective as if we had faced them.”

“There is no other alternative at this point.”

Kirk nodded and sat back again. This had not started off well.

“Captain, we are emerging from hyperspace now.” Sulu reported.

“All hands, prepare for battle.” Kirk announced.

The blue tunnel of hyperspace vanished in the blink of an eye and was replaced by a large greenish world with an angry red eye that seemed to glare at them as they approached. The impact point of the Imperial superlaser was a cold reminder of what kind of foe they faced. The fact that they had inflicted this catastrophe on the planet and the Romulans now embraced them freely was troubling to Kirk.

Why give up your freedom and your lives to an Empire that cared not a whit for either?

The answer was bubbling up in his mind but his heart would not listen to it, could not listen to it for there lay the conflict within his own soul.

“All fleet elements engage Romulan vessels.”

“Acknowledged.”

Kirk watched as the first wave of starships peeled away from the main body of the fleet and engaged the Romulan warbirds that were visible.

“Watch for cloaked enemy ships. I have a feeling we’ll be in for a few surprises today.”

“Captain, The Excalibur is signaling.”

“Put them on screen,.”

Riker appeared on the screen, concern etched on his face.

“Captain, my tactical officer tells me that there are no Imperials in system not so much as a fighter.”

“I know that, Captain. We’re going to have to switch to the alternative method. The Excalibur should move into position and prepare for a demonstration.”

“I’m not comfortable with this sir.”

“Captain Riker, we need to focus on the here and now. The Imperials are not here but we still have to convey our message. The key here is to create division. We cannot do that just by blowing up Romulan assets and ships.” Kirk explained grimly.

Riker nodded hesitantly.

“Excalibur will do her duty, sir.”

The screen winked out, replaced by the battle now escalating outside. Several warbirds were cloaking, displacing and decloaking within another group of ships and the orbital batteries were staring to open up with heavy plasma torpedo barrages.

“Have the Excalibur test her weapons. Tell them to engage and destroy the orbital batteries closest to the fleet.”

“Copy that sir.”

“Captain, I am detecting more tachyon variance signatures on the extreme edge of the engagement area. I do believe that the Romulans are gathering forces for a push into our flank.” Spock warned.

“Thank you, Mr. Spock.”

Kirk watched the Excalibur slowly lumber past the leading edge of the fleet as Romulan plasma torpedo fire suddenly concentrated on the behemoth as it approached. The detonations from the warheads lit up the vessel with glowing green light. Nothing else seemed to effect the giant as its open maw began to pulse.




“What in the name of the Praetor is that!?” Admiral T’Vor exclaimed pointing at the giant bluish vessel that was lumbering into the orbital batteries. He noted with alarm that the torpedoes were impacting harmlessly on its surface.

“Admiral, we are reading that the vessel’s hull is solid netrounium and her shield grid is putting out power on a scale we have only seen among our Imperial allies.”

“Impossible.”: T’Vor sputtered. “The Federation does not have the knowledge to build neutronium hulls or to generate the power necessary to create a shield grid of that magnitude.”

“Perhaps they do.” one of his junior officers replied, eyes wide with shock.

“Damn your eyes! I do not want anyone speculating on this vessel until we learn mo-”

A bright pulsing red beam lanced out from the maw of the ship and completely annihilated one of the orbital platforms.

“I believe we have an answer on their offensive weaponry.” A soft voice broke the stunned silence of the command center.

“Commander Sela? I thought you were stationed on the defensive fleet over head.” T’Vor replied snidely. he did not like the half breed one bit. She had been skulking about the edges of the New Imperial command structure, desperately trying not to be noticed yet wanting to be part of the new Imperial order. She had a history with Starfleet that dated back many years and a foiled invasion of Vulcan had all but sealed her fate. Her career was stuck where she was now, never to ascend further than a commander. Very sad indeed but the bitch deserved it.


“Luckily for me, I was inspecting my troops here on the surface. Has it occurred to you that perhaps the Federation has created that vessel. I mean look at it, it’s a crude attempt to ape the Imperial designs and technology. Are we at all surprised that the Federation is able to cobble something together like that? They are masters of adapting their technology to current threats, they’re almost Borg like that way.” she replied coolly.

T’Vor sneered.

“Are you seriously suggesting that the Federation could have built this warship with no worlds under their control and precious little resources. They are a rag tag fleet dependent on a single world for supplies and ship building. This monstrosity was not ‘cobbled’ together in a matter of moths. I assure you this is beyond even the miraculous talents you wish to assign to Federation engineers.”

“I don’t know, they did defeat the Borg even after the defeat they took at Wolf 359.” a junior officer spoke up.

T’Vor shook his head emphatically.

“We are fighting a battle to save our homeworld from these defilers, I will not allow you to drag me into this fantasy world that you seem to be living in.” T’Vor snapped.

“Then explain that warship!” Sela demanded.

Another pulsing beam from the maw of the Excalibur lashed out and evaporated three platforms as it lanced through them seemingly unimpeded by shields or armor.

“You want me to explain something that we have absolutely no intelligence on? And here I thought you were a military officer.” T’Vor sneered. He suddenly cleared the steps leading down from his post to the main level of the command center in several long imposing strides and stood face to face with Sela, their noses nearly touching as his voice dropped so that only she could hear him.

“Do you think me a fool? I see what you are doing you spineless half breed. If you cross me like that again I will snap your head off with but a word. You are spreading dissension and confusion among my ranks when we are in desperate need of order and discipline you fool. One more word, that’s all I ask, one more word and you will join your ancestors in whatever pit they reside in. And don’t think I don’t know about your connections with the Tal’Shiar, I will remind you that my patron is Darth nemesis and with a word he would dismantle your dishonorable little association. It survives at his whim, and I serve him. Do not cross me.” he whispered.

Sela stared back into his eyes unflinching but said not another word as T’Vor turned on his heel.

“Report on the disposition of the rest of the enemy fleet.”

“They are not advancing, admiral. They seem to be hanging back.”

T’Vor examined the tactical display and rubbed his chin.

“What is he up to?”

“Sir the Federation warship is locking onto surface targets.”

“Where?” T’Vor snapped.

“The Sasana Supply depot.”

A pulsing blast lanced out from the maw of the warship and shot down to the surface. T’Vor braced himself against a railing. The entire command center shook as a blast could be heard even under the kilometer of stone that the command center was located in.

“They’re commencing an orbital bombardment of the planet! We must hit that thing with everything we have!” Sela exclaimed.

“And accomplish what? We couldn’t get past their shields and even if we did we have no weapons that can pierce solid neutronium!” T’Vor replied hotly. T’Vor turned back to the tactical display.

“He’s planning something and it is not a general bombardment of our world. He could have accomplished that with his fleet.”

Another pulsed beam rocketed down to the surface and an airbase was completely vaporized leaving a massive smoking crater in its place.

“Two of them, both in isolated locations of our world away from the civilian populations.” T’Vor noted with a clenched fist. “he’s sending a message.”

“What that we’re helpless?” Sela spat.

“You don’t understand my dear Commander, this is not Jean Luc Picard or some android with pretentious to sentience.” she bristled at the reminders. “This is James Tiberius Kirk. He thinks on many levels at once and he is sending a message to those of us smart enough to understand.”

Sela’s face suddenly darkened and her eyes narrowed on T’Vor.

“Your grand father, of course!” she laughed.

“What now?” he relied icily as another blast destroyed an armory nestled in a mountain chain across the sea.

“He faced Kirk in the pride of the fleet over a hundred years ago, our first foray into Federation space since the war and he was humiliated. How you managed to avoid the stain on his honor I will never understand it.” Sela said acidly.

“Perhaps because there are those in high command that see ability over pedigree. A shame the same could not be said for you.” he turned to his attaché. “If she says another word, kill her.”

The attaché nodded grimly and placed a hand on his disruptor. Sela knew better than to speak now, she sat down at an empty station fuming.

“What are you telling me Kirk?” T’Vor muttered.

“Sir, the Federation warship is now turning and breaking orbit.”

“Now? What has he gained? he had us completely at his mercy?” T’Vor hissed in disbelief.

“The ship is on a course to Remus.”

“Remus? What is at Remus?” T’Vor shook his head. “Perhaps I have given him too much credit. We have stood and watched too long. Have all warbirds converge on the Enterprise and attack. It is time we took the head off this serpent.”

“The Enterprise, sir? How do we know he is based off that ship?” the controller asked.

“Because there is no other ship he would think of commanding from. He is a man from the past, he will search for the familiar to ground himself and I have just discovered that I can end this threat once and for all.”

“All wings…engage and destroy Enterprise. All other priorities rescinded.”






“Excellent shooting, gentlemen. Mr. Paris, set course for Remus.”

“Aye Aye, sir.”: Tom replied as he worked the controls of the beast. It was as slow and as sluggish as he expected her to be, but at the same time, there was a power to her that no other starship or fighter he had ever flown exhibited. It was as if he were sitting on a sleeping creature that could explode into motion at any second. The rumble of the engines could be heard throughout the ship.

Bit it was when the main weapon fired that they knew they were on no Federation starship. The entire ship was as quiet as a tomb and suddenly light flared everywhere, every panel, every conduit was alive with St. Elmo’s fire like light that pulsed in time with the blast and it rumbled like some great sea monster roaring underwater and then it was over.

To tell the truth, it unnerved Tom.

“Status of shields?”

“Holding steady sir.”

“Engineering to bridge.”

“Go ahead.” Riker replied as he glanced down at the makeshift tactical display Geordie had strung up for him by the newly installed Captain’s chair.

“Power curves are holding but every time we fire they spike and it looks like the reactor loses some of its potency, there’s a bleed off somewhere that I can’t explain yet but Data is working on a theory. Its been negligible so far, but the capacitors will eventually run dry if we keep running our weapons at high power.”

“Well, Geordie, as luck would have it, we’re about to refuel.” Riker replied but there was an edge to his voice. He was not of one mind with Kirk on this aspect of the plan. Starfleet officers simply did not employ weapons of mass destruction.

“Copy that sir.”

“We’re approaching Remus sir. Looks like we have a squadron of warbirds in our path…hold it….they’re breaking off.” Tom noted with some confusion.

“I guess we showed them.” the tactical officer replied with a grin.

“I don’t think so.” Tom added as he saw where they were heading.

“My god are they swarming the fleet?” Riker asked in concern as the visual switched to a rear view. The fleet was currently surrounded by warbirds, many of them decloaking within the fleet’s lines.

“It looks like they trying to blast their way to the center.” Tom remarked.

“The Enterprise.” Riker breathed.





“Hold on!” Kirk exclaimed as the ship bucked underneath him like a bronco. He turned to Spock.

“Status?”

“There are now three full squadrons of warbirds breeching our line and attempting to engage us directly.”

“Continuous fire all weapons! Scotty, give me more power to the shields!” Kirk snapped as he leaned forward, gripping the back of Sulu’s chair. “Hikaru, I’m going to need a miracle to get us out of this trap.”

“Working on one right now sir.:” Sulu replied grimly as the screen was engulfed with green fire from Romulan weapons.

“Have the fleet close the breech, Galaxy wings 27 and 29 form a wedge on Enterprise. Where the hell are my Akiras?”

“Sir, Captain Riker on the line he wants to break off and come to relieve us.” Uhura reported trying to block out the cacophony of emergency transmissions squawking on her board.

“Absolutely not! You tell Captain Riker to commence Operation Alderaan right now!” Kirk shouted and adjusted his gold command shirt. This was getting very tight and things were just starting. The whole objective of this mission was simple. Shatter Romulan morale, so far Romulan morale was holding quite firm. As if to punctuate his point the Enterprise was rocked by another volley of fire that sent some people stumbling backwards.






The sounds of battle awakened her. Slowly at first but the next shot lit up the interior of the vessel like a rising sun and her eyes blinked slowly. She moved her head and that was a mistake. Shooting pains lanced up her neck and chest. She felt something sticky on her face, like drying fruit juice.

She tried to raise her arm but it was restrained somehow.

She could feel how dry her mouth was, she desperately wanted a drink of water and her belly was an aching hollow hole waiting to be filled. She slowly, very slowly, raised her head. The world was swimming around her and sounds seemed distorted and loud. She groaned and her own voice seemed distant and muted.

She tried to move her left arm and it obliged her, to a point. She felt something pull against it as she tried to raise her arm to wipe her face. Breathing was hurting she just realized. Her entire right side felt like knives were pressing into her side. It truly hurt every time she took a breath.

“Ribs…must be broken.” she wheezed and heard her own voice slowly gaining clarity. Thoughts were still in a morass of have remembered things and pain. There was darkness for a long time, darkness and a long fall. There was wind on her face and then the impact.

She tried moving her left arm again and felt the restraint. She glanced down and noticed for the first time that she was lying in a nest of conduits and wires. They were wrapped around her like a lover, refusing to let go. Her right arm was completely wrapped in the grayish conduits, her left arm was only partially enmeshed in them. Her torso was a patchwork on conduits and her tunic was torn at the shoulder, revealing a very nasty purplish blue bruise that covered most of her shoulder and had oozed blood down her arm to pool on her left thigh.

Suddenly a face flashed in her memory.

“Bastard.” she spat.

She struggled against the conduits and suddenly the left arm popped free. She smiled triumphantly and felt her face. She pulled back her left hand and saw it was covered in thick dried blood. Her face must be covered in blood.

“Needs of the many…you bastard.” she whispered as she started to work on her other arm, occasionally glancing upwards at the huge gaping abyss above her. She was wrenched in-between two massive cooling units, out of sight from any other system or station on the ship. But she damned well knew how to get up there.





“We are in position captain.” Tom reported.

“Weapons?”

“Powering up for full power discharge. Targeting sensors are locking onto the nearest fault line.”

“Prepare to commence fire as soon as we’re ready.”

“Aye sir.” Riker paused as he noticed something. The repair droids that were constantly scuttling about the ship like spiders had all stopped. He glanced around. They were all standing absolutely still and looking out at the viewer. Many of them had mandible like pincers and they were twitching, faster and faster as if in anticipation and some were twitching and chittering something, like a chant. No one else seemed to notice as they were intent on their duty.

“Weapons are ready.”

There was silence for a moment as Riker stared at the dead glassy world. He was about to commit an act that if it were on a populated world would have made him the greatest mass murderer in Federation history.

“What price our freedom.” he whispered.

“Captain?” Tom asked.

“Fire the main weapon.” Riker replied sternly and clenched his jaw.

The main weapon fired and the interior of the ship flashed as if a sun had exploded in the interior. The crew covered their eyes for a moment and then there was only darkness.

“What happened?” Riker demanded.

“I don’t know, sir. Power readings are normal.”

“Geordie.” Riker waited and he could hear more of the droids chittering loudly now. “Geordie.” The silence was deafening. The view screen suddenly snapped on and they could see Remus, and it was missing a large section from its surface, rubble and debris were being pulled in by a ghostly blue light.

“Geordie respond!”

Then Riker heard the scream on his com and it died.

“Oh my god.” he whispered.





Geordie stared at the dead crewman and back up at Wesley.

“What did you do?” he breathed.

Wesley smiled softly and chuckled. The chuckle was most definitely NOT Wesley’s, in fact it did not seem possible that such a laugh could come from his frame, it was dark and deep as if coming from an open tomb.

“I’m claiming what’s mine.” Wesley replied.

“Wes is that you?” Geordie asked in shock.

“Yes it’s me Geordie and only our old friendship keeps me from doing to you what I did to him. The fool did not want to allow me to these controls so he was chastised.”

“Wes, you killed him.” Geordie replied aghast at what he was seeing in his young friend.

“He will not fail again, then, will he?”

“What are you doing?”

“What should have been done long ago. The Shar’lesk’vol needs life, Geordie. You fools are feeding her rocks of a dead world. Feed her life, give her that pulsing elixir and she will do things you could never dream of. You wish to destroy the Empire and free the Federation, this is the road to do so.”

“No Wes, we were very clear, no harm was to come to Romulus. Those are billions of innocents down there, Wes. We did not come here to kill.”

Wesley smiled and it was ice.

“Maybe you didn’t.” Wesley replied and suddenly Geordie was slammed back against the wall by an unseen hand. Wesley stared at his friend for a long moment and all he could see was pitiful weakness.

“You know, I used to admire you. You were blind and you never lost your sense of humor or your love for life but I see now that all that did not matter. You never achieved anything worthwhile with your life. But that is understandable, you were not gifted. Me on the other hand, I was the wunderkind, the family genius, that child prodigy that comes once a generation to accomplish something monumental. What have I accomplished? I managed to get myself kicked out of the academy and wander the universe like some vagabond.”

Wesley looked around the ship still plunged in darkness but an unearthly light seemed to emanate around him like ghost fire.

“This, Geordie, is going to be my accomplishment. I am going to burn my name in the heavens and people will remember me forever and I will have FINALLY accomplished something.”

“What are you going to accomplish, Wes? You’re going to kill billions of people, for what? What if the Empire doesn’t care? What if the fight continues, are you going to kill billions more to prove your point. Wes, you do that and we will have already lost the war. We’re the Federation,. we don’t do these things. We honor and respect life and law. The moment we take those steps, even to survive, we have lost everything that we were.”

Wesley stared at Geordie for a long moment,. eyes probing him with dark intent.

“You are a greater fool than I ever imagined, Geordie. You really think that Federation ideals are going o see us through this war?” Wesley through back his head and roared with laughter. He dropped his head again and his eyes were completely black.

“No, Geordie, this ends now. And no one can stop me now.”

There was a snap hiss from behind him and Wesley did not turn around, but Geordie glanced up quickly and spotted her.

Princess Leia stood at the entrance to the engineering section, she wore a combat suit and she held in her hand a lightsaber. The crimson blade hummed dangerously like a hungry thing and she stood eyes locked on Wesley.

“I’ve come to stop you, Wesley Crusher and I’m not alone.”

“Oh?” Wesley asked and his voice was a whisper.

Leia raised the lightsaber in an engarde position as she had seen Luke do so many times.

“The Force is with me.”




Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-02-03 03:24pm
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Chapter 39: To the Coward the Weak



“Have the second and third fleets move into position on the Federation left flank. They will blow the hole we need to get to Enterprise, then have the 5th Tactical wing go in and directly engage Enterprise.”

“Sir, Enterprise now responsible for 8 of our warbirds’ destructions.” the fleet director warned.

“And what will that matter in the end when we have the broken hull of Enterprise on display in the main mall of the capital?” T’Vor snapped.

“Yes Admiral.”

T’Vor watched the display as his fleet spun around in a swarming of the Federation lines. They were not expecting such an attack and their lines were completely saturated with warbirds by the time they tried to reorient. The Enterprise was a desperate red symbol slowly and inexorably being surrounded by a sea of bright emerald warbirds.

“You will not escape me, Kirk and once you are gone…” he whispered.

“Tell me, Admiral, once you have dealt with Kirk what do you intend to do about that.” Sela asked and pointed to another screen. The Federation weapon was slowly carving Remus into pieces, its bright pulsing white beams were tearing into the planet and effortlessly pulling enormous chunk s from the surface and dragging the mass up to its maw with pale blue tractor beams. Already nearly a quarter of the western hemisphere was gone.

“Remus is a dead world. When that thing turns its attentions to Romulus then I will concern myself with planet eating devices. But for now I have the very heart of the Federation rebellion in my grasp and I will not let it escape.” T’Vor replied coolly. He glanced at his attaché who nodded imperceptibly.

“Sir, we’re picking up an energy spike from Enterprise.” the tactical officer reported, an odd note in his voice.

“What kind of energy spike?”

“Unknown sir, but its off our scales.”

“What?”






“I want more power to the shields.” Kirk demanded as another salvo rocked the Enterprise. The bridge was full of thick smoke as the fire suppression systems kicked in again to deal with the numerous plasma backwashes that were wrecking havoc with his bridge. Who in the hell decided to run plasma conduits through the consoles was beyond Kirk. Sometimes he wondered whether in their rush to advance Starfleet had lost some of its common sense.

“If I put any more power into the shields, sair, ye will lose maneuvering power.” Scotty replied.

Kirk frowned. This was not going well at all. The ship was being battered apart by the Romulan assault and they were coming heedless of their losses for him. He knew why they were so desperate to destroy the Enterprise. They had pegged him as the true danger. They figured once he was gone the Federation resistance would evaporate. Quietly, part of him agreed with that sentiment.

“Captain, let me help.” Charlie asked softly.

“What?” Kirk shouted.

Charlie hesitated form a moment and put his hand on Kirk’s shoulder and leaned in close and yelled in his ear.

“Let me help you!”

“Charlie, I don’t know…what….you.” A slow smile spread across Kirk’s face at the sudden realization that he had been playing the whole hand with an massive ace up his sleeve and never realized it.

“Charlie, can you help me?” Kirk asked.

Charlie nodded.

“If you let me.”

Kirk nodded. Charlie glanced around the chaos of the bridge and slowly let his mind flow free, ignoring the calls of the wounded and hisses of dying circuits, the woosh of fire suppression systems kicking in, the din of battle in general and he opened himself to the space around them. He could feel the power flowing around him as he detected the numerous power sources clustered around this confined area of space. He cast his thoughts wider and slowly saw the warbirds as they came, hungrily blasting through the Federation lines and he felt each ship as if with phantom fingers running them along the hulls of each vessel and he could glean their murderous intent.

They wanted to kill Captain Kirk.

He could not allow that.

As a reckless youth on board the original Enterprise, Charlie was accustomed to simply wishing things he did not like away. The object of his fervent wishes would be simply erased from reality as if it had never existed. As time went on and his teachers showed him the true potential of his powers he began to see that wishing things away was a waste of power. there was so much more that could be accomplished that took up little time and effort.

The Romulan quantum singularity cores for instance.

They were nestled in protective equipment, they pulsed steadily providing the vessels with the power they needed, power that could be used to kill his friend. Power that could just as easily be used to kill them. It would be just so simple to destroy the delicate controls and suddenly the quantum singularities would simply rupture from their casings.

And so he did.

Suddenly a dozen warbirds erupted into balls of plasma and debris.

“What the hell?” Sulu exclaimed.

Kirk stared in amazement as the dozen warbirds closets to him evaporated before his very eyes. The young man standing next to him smiled like someone who had just learned a new card trick.

“That more like it, sir?” he asked.

Kirk beamed.

“Charlie, you’re a lifesaver!” Kirk replied and clapped the young man on the back as he returned to his command chair.

“Sulu, we have our breathing room, get us out of this trap.”

“Aye sir!” Sulu replied and quickly sent the Enterprise through the breach in the Romulan trap. The Enterprise soared through the expanding clouds of plasma and gasses as it fired her forward phaser arrays in a grand sweep to deter any Romulan ships from planting themselves in her path. A squadron of starships suddenly appeared at her side, forming up in a tight defensive wedge as the escorted the flagship out of the thick of the fight.

“Charlie, you’re amazing. Now let’s get clear of this and see what’s going.” Kirk paused a she noted a growing look of concern on Charlie’s face.

“What is it?”

“It’s Wesley.” Charlie answered slowly. “He’s falling into darkness.”





Wesley Crusher through back his head and roared with laughter as Leia stood her ground, lightsaber humming loudly, its crimson blade illuminating the darkness of the chamber.

“You pathetic little girl! Do you really think you can stand against me? He told me all about you. You are strong in the Force but untrained. Me, I’ve had time to train with one of the most powerful Sith lords of all time. The apprentice of Naga Sadow himself and you stand her and think that with half remembered stances from an ill trained boy who would barely be considered a padawan you can defeat me?” Wesley spat dangerously as he slowly circled towards Leia, his eyes completely swallowed in darkness.

Leia spun the blade slowly and watched him intently as she turned her body slightly to the left to keep facing him.

“You talk loudly Crusher, and that usually tells me that you are overcompensating for something. Maybe you’re afraid of this ‘little girl’ because I can actually oppose you. It’s one thing to torture and kill the helpless, those that have no idea what you are, but to face off against someone that can hurt you. That’s another story.”

“You think I’m afraid…of YOU!” he roared and suddenly he raised his hands and purple bolts of lightning lashed out against Leia. She barely lifted the blade in time and the lightning crashed against the blade, hungrily running up and down its length. Some of the longer tendrils managed to wrap around the blade and strike Leia. She winced in pain but held on to the saber and grunted as she fought to keep the lightning from forcing the saber form her hand.

Wesley lowered his hands and continued circling her slowly, like a predator.

“It’s still not too late, Wesley. I can sense it in you. You still have time to break away, he does not have full sway over you yet. But he will.” Leia said softly.

“Oh, so now I can’t make the right decisions is that it? Poor Wesley always needs help deciding what to do. Wesley can’t be on his own, he needs guidance,” Wesley extended his hands again and Leia could feel something pass over her like a breeze and she heard the sound of metal wrenched from a support. She ducked down without thinking and a control panel flashed by over where she had been standing an instant before. “Wesley needs support.” he made a pushing gesture and Leia felt herself pulled off the ground and thrown against a tank. She dropped to the ground and moaned in pain. “Wesley needs a mentor.” He made a gesture towards himself and Leia was yanked off the ground again and she rocketed towards Wesley. Wesley slowly sidestepped out of the way and she crashed without much grace against a bulkhead.

Leia hit the floor like a sack of potatoes and rolled onto her back.

“Well, I say that’s all over now.”

Leia was yanked off the ground again and she floated a few inches off the ground as Wesley glowered at her, a slow cold smile spreading across his face.

“I found my mentor, you see, and he’s shown me much about this universe. He’s shown me how life actually works and shown me the way to power. I’m not a child anymore.” He glanced down at her right hand. the lightsaber was still in her grip.

“I do believe that’s mine.” he said and started to reach out to take it.

“Never!” she hissed and suddenly kicked up with her left leg, catching Wesley in the jaw and sending him sprawling backwards as she back flipped away from him, landing awkwardly.

Since when could I do that? she wondered.

Trust your feelings… a hint of a whisper in her mind.

What?

“Bitch!” Wesley howled and launched another lightning attack. Leia rolled forward just ahead of the crackling lightning and rolled up to a defensive stance lightsaber up at the ready. Wesley was breathing hard and he wiped blood from the corner of his mouth.

“You have to earn this, Crusher.” she taunted him indicating the lightsaber.

“You have earned my wrath you ignorant little girl. You can feel the force but you can’t control it. I will wear you down.”

“We’ll see about that won’t we.” she snapped back.

Trust your feelings.

She thought she recognized the voice, it was an old man’s voice, like a kindly grandfather.

Suddenly she felt an impending sense of doom and she launched herself forward in time to avoid a massive console that was brought down on the spot where she had stood a moment before with a thunderous crash. She landed on her side and whipped the lightsaber up in a warding motion just in time to cut a conduit that was whipping at her head like a striking cobra. the shower of sparks blinded her for a moment and she felt invisible hands wrap around her torso and pull her off the floor sliding her violently across the floor and into the base of one of the giant reactors.

She stopped short with a loud clang and the lightsaber skidded out of her hands. She tried valiantly to get up but suddenly a conduit coiled around her neck, snapping her head back against the reactor casing. She felt her world gray out for a moment then it all snapped back to clarity.

Wesley was casually bending over and picking up the lightsaber. He hefted it several times in his hand before activating it with a snap hiss. He looked at the blade almost hypnotically before snapping out of it and standing before her, blade at the ready.

“So, it comes to this. My Master tells me that you would have made a powerful ally. I could have been your master and you would have learned the secrets that I am just beginning to tap. We would have delved the secrets of the Force together and we would have been unstoppable. The Excalibur would be ours and the galaxy would tremble.”

“And the Federation? What of that? have you forgotten that we’re in a war of survival?” she demanded.

“The Federation is gone. This little war is Kirk’s private vendetta against the Empire for conquering what he once loved. He is an ant wailing against the hurricane. He will be swept away. But we will be the mountain on which the storm breaks itself against. We will become history Leia Organna. You on the other hand, are about to become part of history.”

“You misguided little fool. You don’t see the puppet’s strings, but I do.” she replied.

Calm, at peace, a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. the voice was far older than the other and there was a wisdom behind it she had never experienced before.

Watch him, he is like a leaf on a raging river. The river is the dark side of the Force and he can only go where it leads him now, it is consuming him. the other grandfatherly voice added.

“You love the Force so much, my dear, it is time to join it!”

He raised the lightsaber and the conduit tightened around her throat pinning her to the reactor casing. She did not flinch, she continued staring at him waiting, feeling the calm enter her and soothe her.

A huge hairy paw slammed into Wesley’s back like a jackhammer. Wesley let out a surprised whoof! and was flung forward into the floor. He rolled on his back and stabbed his lightsaber upwards but Chewbacca was no longer there. He cleared the distance between him and the reactor casing in a long stride and pulled the conduit wrapped around Leia’s neck with a rough pull and a grunt.

Leia was lifted clear away from the reactor casing and Chewie planted her behind him and stood his ground, whipping the bow caster off his back and aiming at the young man that was still on the floor.

“Chewie, be careful!”

Wesley was laughing softly on the floor, rising to a kneeling position.

“Its like we can’t get it together. I just want to bring some order to this chaos. The world I know is gone, swept away by some Empire that should never have been here and warring against a galaxy that is not ready fro them. Friends and family I cared about are gone, my home world under occupation and you idiots have to oppose me! I am bringing us victory and you stand in my way. Why can’t you see that this is the only chance we have you idiots!!” Wesley roared angrily.

Chewie roared something back and aimed at the young man’s head.

“So I guess it’s the hard away then.” Wesley replied softly.





So close. So very close. She was pulling herself up along the last coupling that led to the engineering section. The sounds of battle were growing clearer and more distinct. She could hear the distinctive sound of a lightsaber humming and cutting through the air. She could hear some of the voices raised in anger.

She pulled herself over the lip of an over hang and rested. She was lightheaded and breathing heavily. She coughed again and accompanying the pain was some blood welling inside of her mouth which she promptly spat out and groaned as her ribs flared up in pain.

She rested for a moment gathering her strength for the final ascent.






“Mr. Spock, what about that cloaked signature you picked up before?” Kirk asked, still confused by Charlie who was now quiet and withdrawn, he refused to talk more concerning his pronouncement moments ago concerning Wesley Crusher.

“I am still picking up intermittent chronaton particles and tetryon radiation. The return signal seems to indicate a massed cloaked object, perhaps a fleet but I am merely speculating at this point.”

“And they have not decloaked? The rest of the Romulan fleets have decloaked and engaged us. It makes no sense to keep a fleet cloaked.” Kirk muttered.

“There are two possibilities.” Spock suggested.

“They are Romulan and have not decloaked for a reason we are not aware of or they’re not Romulan at all.” Kirk surmised rubbing his chin and glancing back at the view screen. “If they’re not Romulan then who are they?”

“Sir, we have two more Romulan wings inbound!” the tactical officer reported.

“Sulu, go full evasive and try to link up with the Excalibur. I’m hazarding a guess that the object lesson has had no effect.” Kirk said with a frown.

“Aye sir.”

Kirk stalked over to Uhura’s station. She turned in her seat to face him, holding the transceiver to her ear as she spoke.

“Captain, I’ve been trying to raise the Excalibur and they are not responding.”

“Jamming?”

“I don’t think so, we’re close enough to get some sort of voice message despite the heavy jamming.”

“Uhura, I need you to send a tight beam transmission to the coordinates that Mr. Spock has detected those supposed cloaked vessels.”

“Sir?”

“Just send them this.” He handed her something he had quickly scrawled on a datapad. She glanced it over and looked up at him sharply.

“Send it Uhura, call it intuition.”

“We could call it crazy but I’ll take your word for it.” Uhura muttered and Kirk smiled. He turned quickly as more warbirds closed on their position. Off in the upper right corner of the screen, the Excalibur was still carving the remains of Remus up into huge chunk and tractoring them into her maw.

The Enterprise shook from another volley of fire as the Romulan lines reformed after the mysterious destruction of a dozen of their ships.

Kirk walked back to his command chair and softly placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder.

“You want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

Charlie’s eyes looked haunted.

“There’s a lot of rage and anger coming from the Excalibur. Wesley seems to be in the center of it, he’s in a lot of pain, he feels lost and torn apart.”

“What’s causing it?”

“I don’t know, but I feel a dark presence hovering over him like a shadow or a cloud.”

Kirk frowned.

“What can you do?”

“Right now? Nothing.” Charlie replied with a deep scowl.

“Captain.” Spock called out. Kirk turned to face his Science Officer. “The Excalibur has completed processing of Remus and it is turning on an intercept course with Romulus.”

“What?” Kirk exclaimed and stalked over to Spock’s station. Spock showed him the readouts on his sensor monitor.,

“There can be no doubt, it looks like the Excalibur is about to devour Romulus.” Spock said quietly as Kirk watched the inexorable march of the war machine towards Romulus.’

“This wasn’t part of the plan. What the hell is Riker doing?” Kirk snapped.





“What the hell is going on?” Riker demanded to know as he went from bridge station to bridge station checking the status boards as the crewmen tried valiantly to get some response from the ship’s controls.

“I don’t know sir, but Helm is locked on automatic pilot and our current course is taking us into high orbit over Romulus.”

“Our main weapons array is building up antiproton charge.” The tactical officer looked up sharply from his station. “Now undergoing weapons firing procedure for planetary breakup.” he reported aghast.

“This ship is going to devour Romulus.” Tom Paris breathed staring up at the view screen as the planet loomed ahead.

“We can’t allow that.” Riker spat and slapped the combadge on his chest. “Riker to Engineering.” There was silence on the other end. “Riker to engineering! Geordie come in!” Silence.

“Get a security team down to engineering right away. Something’s going on and we need to find out what it is before we become the Federation’s greatest mass murderers in history.” Riker demanded.

“Aye Aye sir!”





“Foolish Wookie. You really think that weapon is a threat to a Sith lord?” Wesley spat and suddenly his eyes locked on the bow caster and Chewie heard the energy quarrel snap. He flung the weapon towards Wes as he grabbed Leia in one great fur covered arm and leapt away. The quarrel exploded in the bow caster with a deafening roar.

Wesley had a hand up, the shards of the ruined bow caster were floating in a tight ball. He smiled softly and glanced over at Chewbacca and Leia.

“You decided to interfere in the matters of the Sith, you furry fool, now pay the price.” Wesley hissed and suddenly whipped out his hand. The shattered remnants flashed outward as if fired from a gun.

“Chewie!” Leia shouted.

Chewbacca suddenly wrapped Leia in his chest and hunkered down.

“No Chewie!” Leia protested but she felt the shards impact against the Wookie’s broad back. Chewie gave a low grunt of pain but Leia could feel the pain through her intimate touch with her friend. Chewbacca was in serious pain and one of the shards may have dug itself deep into his body.

Chewbacca looked at her with his deep blue eyes and grunted something in Wookie.

“You don’t have to be sorry, Chewie. Please rest now, I’ll take care of this.”

Chewbacca growled something back as he slowly slumped to the floor, the fur on his back matted down with thick blood.

“I know, you’ll tear his arms off, but this fight is one I’m going to have to win, Chewie.” Leia gently kissed the Chewbacca on the forehead and watched as her mighty bodyguard slumped into unconsciousness into a pool of his own blood.

She looked up at Wesley who was standing quietly holding his lightsaber.

“You’re going to die today.” she whispered.

“Good, I can feel your anger.” Wesley replied, yet there was something else in his voice too, something cold and old.

Fear anger the dark side are they. Quick to join you in a fight, consume you it will. the wizened old voice suddenly whispered in her head.

A Jedi is always at calm, at peace, serenity is our power. she heard the older grandfatherly voice added.

Leia rushed him and at the last second as he readied himself for the swing of his lightsaber she slid down on the ground. The cold hum of the lightsaber passed over her head and she collided with Wesley, making sure that her right leg jammed into the side of his exposed knee.

Wesley howled as he went down hard and rolled away from her just as she picked up a spike from a damaged power converter he had flung at her earlier and tried to drive it into the spot where he had lain a moment before.

Wesley rolled up on his good knee and held a hand forward, sending a shower of razor sharp debris at her. Leia held up her hands in a warding gesture and she felt something flow through her like live electricity. The debris was batted aside as if it hit an invisible wall.

A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense.

Stretch out with your feelings. the grandfather urged.

She did so and felt the panel behind Wesley and she pulled as if she were physically pulling the panel. It shrieked as the panel came off its housing and batted Wesley in the back of the head. he shook his head woozily and suddenly lashed out with his free hand and a shower of blue lightning cascaded over her.

She screamed as the lightning ate at her, tearing her apart and sending her writhing to the floor. Wesley smiled triumphantly as he continued pouring the blue lightning into her body. She was illuminated by the angry force lightning and her screams were like a symphony until he finally paused and watched the smoke rising from her body.

Leia moaned and rolled onto her back, eyes were slits. She coughed and tried to get up but there was no strength left.

“Fool. You thought that your power in the force would protect you, but you are completely untrained. The dark side has given me the strength to-”

Wesley paused as he heard something and slowly turned his head. Someone was trying to quietly help Geordie down from where Wesley had pinned him and they were trying to escape.

“Who might you be, interloper?”

The figure paused and turned around slowly, easing Geordie down to the ground.

Wesley was stunned and took a step back.

“Don’t make me use this, Wesley,.” Dr. Crusher begged as she trained a phaser on him.

“Mother? you’re not supposed to be here.”

“I knew, the minute I heard something was wrong in engineering, I knew it was you. You are not my son, whatever you have become you’re not my Wesley.” she said coldly but tears were welling up in her eyes as she continued training the phaser on him.

Wesley slowly started walking towards her, hands up in the air, lightsaber deactivated.

“Mother.”

“Stop.” she warned and held the phaser straighter.

Wesley smiled softly.

“Mother you don’t want to kill me. How can you? I’m your son.” he said softly as he continued to approach. Leia groaned as she tried desperately to rise but muscles refused to work. She could hear a static crackle still in her ears.

“After dad died, I’m all you had. you tried your best to raise me alone, I can see that now.”

“Stop it!” she snapped.

“Mother, this is not the time. I could not harm you, but you have to put the phaser down. I promise w=once this is done, once I have cemented my control over this ship and this fleet we will be free of this awful situation and I will restore freedom to this galaxy.”

“At what cost Wesley? At what cost? You’ve killed people today, you’re going to kill more people or am I reading that course heading incorrectly. Damn you Wesley you cannot save us by killing others.”

“No? Mother, that’s what war’s all about, killing others to save yourself.”

“No Wesley, this is different and you know it.” she replied hotly but he had crossed 2/3 of the distance between them now and her hand was starting to shake. She could only see the little boy that looked up at her sadly when she told him that his father was dead. She could only see the little boy that smiled gleefully as he stepped on board the Enterprise’s bridge for the first time.

She refused to see this thing that now called itself her son.

“You’re not my son.” she whispered.

Wesley shook his head.

“I am your son. I am Wesley Crusher and you cannot wish that away because I’ve become something you abhor. I am your son whether I am a killer or a saint and there is no force in the world that can stop that.”

“Damn you. Your father-”

“My father is dead mother, even I have come to terms with that.” Wesley lied. “But I will not allow a ghost to dictate who and what I am and what I will become.” Wesley suddenly made a yanking motion with his hand and the phaser sailed out of his mother’s hand and clattered far away out of sight, near the lip of a great precipice below.

“Wesley…what are you going to do?” she asked, eyes overflowing now with tears as he loomed over her.

“Do?” he whispered.

There was an electrically charged moment of silence between the two.

Wesley slowly reached out and touched one of his mother’s tears.

“I could never hurt you.” he replied softly, tears brimming in his own eyes.

“Wesley.” she breathed.

Suddenly his face darkened and his eyes were black again.

“You still have feelings for the bitch that bore you?” an ancient voice hissed from Wesley’s lips. Suddenly Wesley lifted a hand and Dr. Crusher was flung backwards as if struck by a freight train. She landed in a heap far away.

“She is weak and she is infecting you with that weakness Wesley. Look with the new eyes I have given you and peer into the future, see what lies in the road she wishes us to take. Now look down the road that I have prepared for you Wesley and see the difference.”

Wesley seemed to be staring far away for a moment.

“That path lies madness and my death.” he muttered.

“Your mother was going to kill you, whether with that phaser or her own insipid weakness.” his master spat.

“Nothing can deter me from my mission, nothing must deter me.” Wesley whispered to himself. He was running down his options and they were quickly narrowing. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

“Certain sacrifices have to be made Wesley if we are to restore order.”

Wesley nodded absently.

“Of course they must be.” his eyes slowly turned to Leia who had finally struggled into a seated position on the floor and was striving to gather enough strength to stand.

Wesley smiled sadly.

“Yes, certain sacrifices have to made and Princess they start with you.” he said coldly and strode over to her, lightsaber activated with a snap hiss and he pulled it back as he closed the distance to her in several long strides. Leia did not flinch as she looked up at him.

“Hey, Wesley!”

Wesley stopped in mid-stride, looked up and saw her.

Kelly Antilles stood, more like leaned against a reactor casing for support, but in her hand she held a phaser, the very one he yanked from his mother’s hands.

“I’m not your mother asshole.” she spat and the angry crimson beam lanced into his chest. He stared down at the smoking hole in his uniform and chest dumbly then looked back at Kelly. He collapsed onto his knees and the lightsaber clattered uselessly to his side. He stared back down at his chest in absolute disbelief and fell flat on his face.

“The needs of the many my ass.” Kelly spat on the floor. She slowly limped over to Leia to help her.

“Princess, let me help you.” she said as she gave Leia a supporting hand to help her off the floor, ignoring her own weakness and pain.

“We have to find a way to stop this ship from destroying Romulus.” Leia grunted as she got up off the floor.

“Good thing I helped put this thing together, I think I know how to disable some of these automated controls.

“Then let’s hurry.” Leia urged.

The two raced up to one of the few intact consoles remaining after the battle and Kelly began typing in a string of command codes. Suddenly an arc of electricity jumped from the console to Kelly and she screamed as she was thrown to the floor by the force of the charge. her hand was burned and she clutched it staring up at the console.

“Why did it do that?”

There was a low dark chuckle from behind them and they heard a snap hiss.

“No.” Kelly whispered but Leia could already feel the pulsing malevolence behind her. Leia slowly turned to face him.

Wesley stood holding the ignited lightsaber but it was most definitely not Wesley. His hair was now a snowy white mane and his eyes were pools of black within black. He had a cold sneer on his face and his skin was taut, as if drawn too tightly across his body.

“You have my undying gratitude young would be Jedi. With the defeat of my pathetic apprentice it has cleared the final obstacle to my final full possession of his corporeal body and thus bringing lord Dairoga Kallast out from the Shadows back into the world of the living.”

His smile was ice as he raised his lightsaber up in a standard guard position.

“Now where were we…” he paused and chuckled as he saw the disbelief in the women’s eyes. “Ah, yes. You were about to beg for mercy as I strip your flesh from your bones. I assure you, you will find little compassion in this heart.” he finished with an icy grin.




“Stand by, what’s the Excalibur’s status?” Kirk asked.

“Still inbound to the planet. Their main weapon is almost fully charged for attack.” Spock answered.

“Alright, we have to do things the hard way. Is there any way we can beam over?”

“Their shields are still up.” Spock pointed out.

“Maybe a shuttle, scoot on over to its maw?” Sulu suggested.

Spock’s eyes suddenly narrowed as he caught something on his scanners.

“Captain, hyperspace emergence in sector 4. Imperial vessels.”

“The more the merrier.” Kirk grimaced as a fleet emerged from hyperspace. He saw the all too familiar shape of the super star destroyer and her attendant ships.

“Better late than never I always say.” Sulu added.

“Captain.” Spock’s voice had a hint of something to it that Kirk rarely heard. Shock.

“Spock?”

“Those vessels do not register as previously identified Imperial ships.”

“What are you talking about, Spock? That’s clearly the Emperor’s Will.” Kirk pointed to the massive command ship as it slowly allowed the rest of the fleet to flank it. Come to think of it, there were far more ships than there should be.

“The sensors indicate that it is not the Emperor’s Will or any other Imperial vessel previously identified.”

“But Spock that would mean..” Kirk’s voice drifted off as the dire implications sank in.

“Sir, we are receiving a wide band transmission from the Imperial fleet.”

“On speakers.” Kirk ordered softly.

“Repeat, this is Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Executor, In the name of the Emperor all rebel ships stand down and prepare to be boarded. You are in violation of Imperial space.”

“How is this possible?” Chekov muttered.

“Out of the frying pan…” Kirk whispered.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-02-19 05:36pm
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Chapter 40: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Part 1



“This is the rebel fleet that has dogged our Imperial forces?” Piett asked in shock as he watched the small ships flitting about beneath the windows of the Executor as they emerged from hyperspace and took up combat positions.

“The same could have been said of 30 rebel starfighters three years ago over a certain battle station.” Jerjerrod added neutrally as he handed Thrawn a datapad with the latest status reports.

Vader stood stoically watching the scene unfold before him, feeling the presence of his son out in the void drawing nearer. There was something different in him, something not the same since last he saw him on Coruscant. The raging fury within him from the betrayal by the pitiful slaves of the light side. There was something else in him that Vader did not expect. Resolve. A deep seated resolve now to impose order. He could feel his son’s concern as he drew closer and felt his own presence.

What have you done here? Vader wondered.

“Never underestimate a foe, Admiral Piett. The first rule of engagement.” Thrawn said coolly and nodded to the tactical officer.

“All weapons systems fully charged. Tracking computers are selecting targets.”

“Do we even know which side is ours?” Jerjerrod asked.

“Imperial energy signatures are on the planet below. We have picked up numerous hyperspace emergence and transit signatures all throughout this system. There is no doubt that this is a major base for the Imperial fleet here.”

“The question is, where are they?” Thrawn asked no one in particular and scanned the deployment of the rebel ships. His eyes narrowed on a quadrant of the scanning report.

“That is their flagship.” He said stabbing his finger down at the representation of a Sovereign class vessel.

“She is not in a standard flagship deployment. It seems as if she has pulled away from the rest of the fleet.” Piett noted.

“On the surface it certainly seems that way, but note the radial pattern of the fleet. Note the way the battle front seems to wheel around this single vessel. No, that is the flagship, Admiral. We have merely arrived at a point in time when they are trying to desperately avoid a direct assault on their center.” Thrawn replied, hands steepled beneath his chin as he watched the Federation fleet responding to his order.

Of course they were not standing down.

“Federation fleet is starting to form a phalanx, the flagship, tentatively identified as Enterprise is slipping back behind the wall.” Jerjerrod noted.

Thrawn nodded barely perceptively.

“We are receiving frantic hails from the opposing fleet. They identify themselves as provincial allies.”

“Indeed?” Thrawn replied eyes shifting slightly to look at the reports scrolling on his personal computer display.

“And yet none of you have told me anything concerning the vessel on an intercept course to the planet below and by all our readings seems to have devoured another planet nearby.” Thrawn noted quietly.

Jerjerrod frowned.

“Sir, there is precious little information at this point other than this vessel is composed of a solid neutronium hull with power generation in ranges of our technology.”

“Considering that all the other vessels we have run across have used primitive matter antimatter conversion drives, does this vessel’s power generation ability not give you pause?” Thrawn asked. “Or the fact that there is an energy spike building within the vessel of titanic proportions about to be unleashed on the planet?”

Jerjerrod and Piett exchanged troubled glances.

‘Gentlemen, I may rely upon you to give me pertinent information, but I have found it wise to have my own sources of information in battle. That vessel is the true threat. It is the only ship on this field of battle that can conceivably stand up to one of our stardestroyers. The assembled fleets around us cannot hurt us. This vessel must be dealt with now. Have the Reaver and the Nemesis move in on a flanking maneuver, I want them to hem in the rebel fleet. Move the bulk of the fleet into a blocking pattern around the target world of that vessel.”

“Aye sir.”

“Piett, have the Executor move into a support position for the Dominance. The Dominance will directly engage the alien vessel.”

“We as a support ship, sir?” Piett asked slightly confused. It had been drilled into him since the academy that command ships did not engage in combat unless the circumstances were dire. He would hardly call this dire.

“Yes, Admiral. You heard me. Deploy the fleet quickly and have the Grapple begin immediate gravity well generation. Let us see if we cannot hold them in place here.” Thrawn replied and clasped his hands together as he watched the fleet deployment.

The Imperial fleet quickly deployed as told, and the mighty Executor was thundering forward, moving in support of the Dominance as it took up position directly in the path of the strange blue conical vessel.

“Admiral, if you would have called me sooner, I could have told you more about that vessel and told you that the true threat is not the so called Doomsday Machine, but James Tiberius Kirk.” A cold arrogant voice broke the stillness of the command deck.

“Ah, I see that you are not one to ignore a call to battle.” Thrawn said without turning his attention from the tactical display on his computer. Kahn Noonian Singh smiled coldly as he stepped onto the deck flanked by his aide Joachim. Both men looked dangerous and out of place. Kahn’s hair had grown long in his time on Seti Alpha Six. Long thick black tresses with streaks of iron gray were draped over his shoulders, broad muscular chest exposed in a form fitting suit. He stalked the bridge like a caged panther.

Joachim was a tall young slim man, his golden hair kept shorter than his master, despite his slim build opposite Kahn’s powerful form he was still an exquisite specimen of human beauty and power. Thrawn had been told that they were the product of genetic engineering, the perfection of the human form. He smirked at such boasts. To Thrawn’s mind, these so called supermen were nothing more than stormtroopers. Perfect physical specimens bred to lead and fight.

However, there was no denying Kahn’s intelligence and charisma. He was a natural leader among men bred to be leaders. However there was a titanic ego coupled with that intelligence that would prove relatively easy to manipulate.

“Kahn, were you not told that only you and you alone were allowed to come on to my bridge?” Thrawn asked softly as he finally looked up at Kahn.

“I do not find the restriction necessary. Joachim has been my trusted aide since I escaped the mobs of Earth.”

“And this means nothing to me, Kahn. This is not a Federation starship that allows anyone to stroll on to the control center. I have allowed you out of a reluctant acknowledgment of the benefits you bring.”

“It will take more than your words to make me give up a right to have my aide by my side.” Kahn replied grimly.

Thrawn stared at Kahn and both men remained impassive for a long moment. Suddenly a shadow fell over Kahn and Joachim. Khan slowly turned his head as the heavy mechanical breathing became loud and clear.

“Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly?” Vader asked with an edge to his voice. Thrawn nearly smiled. There were some uses for the Sith Lord after all.

Kahn glanced back at Vader and turned his attention back to Thrawn.

“One day, Grand Admiral, you and I will face each other as leaders of men, and you will not have this cybernetic monstrosity as your guard dog.” Kahn said coolly and nodded to Joachim who reluctantly left the bridge.

“Lord Vader acts in the interests of the Emperor as do I Kahn. And as for being a leader of men, we shall see.”

“This bickering is pointless. We have a battle to win.” Vader snapped.

“Then I suggest you find the Enterprise and destroy it immediately if you want this war to end.” Kahn stressed.

Thrawn did not react at first, watching the genetically enhanced human intently for a moment.

“Grand Admiral, the Dominance has engaged the alien vessel.” Piett reported.





“What in the hell are they?” Kirk asked.

“Scans indicate that these are Imperial vessels. This is not a trick, Captain.”

“Well how did they get here?” Kirk snapped and stalked over to Spock’s station.

“I have no data to make an assumption, but they must have used the same worm hole that brought Lord nemesis’ fleet here.”

“Then why haven’t they come before? I was under the impression that it was a one way trip.”

“It could be that the Empire may have found a way to freely traverse the wormhole. The point is Jim that we are now facing a new and fresh Imperial fleet.”

Kirk stared down at the tactical display for a moment, unwilling to believe that his luck had unraveled in such a disastrous way.

“Alright, have the fleet begin to form up and retreat.”

“Sir?” Uhura asked hesitantly.

“You heard me Uhura. We don’t stand a chance out here.” Kirk replied and walked back to his command chair.

“Sulu, we need to get out of here right now.”

“Understood sir.” Sulu replied grimly and turned his attention on getting the warp engines online.

“Sir, we have received confirmations from the fleet, except for the Excalibur. It is still on an intercept course with Romulus.” Uhura reported.

Kirk slammed his fist down on the command chair’s armrest.

“I really don’t need this right now.” He rubbed his chin and watched the Excalibur continue on, heedless of the Imperial fleet that was now spreading out in front of the Romulan home world directly in its path. He should abandon the ship. His fleet was in an extremely exposed position and badly outgunned. But the Excalibur was the linchpin of his future war plans. It was the only vessel that could conceivably go toe to toe with one of the Imperial stardestroyers. They had invested time and precious resources to bringing the vessel back to operational status. It was simply too valuable an asset to just walk away from. There was no choice.

And it tore him apart.

“Have the fleet form a wedge around the Enterprise. We need to blast our way over to the Excalibur.”

The bridge grew silent for a moment.

“Yes sir.” Uhura replied softly.

“Is everything alright?” Charlie asked as he noted Kirk’s troubled expression. Kirk looked at Charlie and smiled weakly.

“No Charlie, I’ve just asked my people to go into the teeth of the lion."





“Did you really think that you had any chance?” Dairoga Kallast asked in an awful whispery voice. His eyes were totally black and the white hair was billowing around him as if he were in an invisible tempest.

Leia gasped as she landed on the floor with a hard thud. She shook her head, trying to clear it. Dairoga was smiling viciously as he extended his hand and Kelly gave a shriek of pain. Her right arm snapped back as if struck by a freight train. It gave a sickening wet snap and she stared at her arm, hanging at an odd, unnatural angle.

Dairoga slowly walked…no, he was actually floating now, several inches off the ground as he cruised over to them. The most jarring aspect of the mad Sith Lord’s visage was not the all black eyes, the ivory white hair, and the taut skin that seemed drawn tightly over his body. It was the fact that he was in the body of the young Wesley Crusher. His face was a twisted mask of rage and evil, his body moving in such a way as to suggest a puppet moving by strings. It was as if Wesley Crusher was no longer himself, as if someone or something far away were seizing control of the body and moving it in accordance with its own will.

“Is that the arm that dared raise a hand against my young apprentice?” Dairoga asked as he held Kelly up against the reactor casing. Leia was struggling to get to her feet but the combination of Wesley’s force lightning attacks and Dairoga’s torture had drained her of much of her strength.

Dairoga looked up and down the shattered arm as Kelly tried to overcome the pain.

“Yes, yes it is.” He held out his hand and Kelly screamed as the ruined arm was savagely thrust forward, hand splayed out with fingers open.

“And this is the hand that harmed him, is it not?” He asked in a whisper. Kelly’s eyes widened as suddenly she felt the very air collapse around her hand and there was a deep cracking sound. Kelly threw back her head and screamed, tears of pain running down her cheeks as her hand was crushed as if under a great weight. The fingers were now all crooked in various awful positions that could not be reached if not for the fact that nearly every bone in her hand was shattered. Several fingers had shiny white bone poking thought the flesh and blood of her hand.

“Oh, do not cry. We have hardly begun, my dear. You have raised your hand against a Sith and you must pay the ultimate price for this sacrilege.”

“You’re not harming anyone!” Leia hissed and slammed into Dairoga/Wesley from behind, sending him tumbling to the ground. She put a knee into the small of his back and desperately reached for the saber he had clipped to his belt.

“How dare you touch my personage!” Dairoga howled and Leia was flung backwards off of Dairoga and sent hurtling away into the floor. Dairoga got up on one knee and wiped the corner of his mouth.

“Young Jedi, you have touched one greater than yourself and you will pay. I was thinking of keeping you alive.” He slowly rose to his feet as Leia was ripped off the floor, hung suspended several meters above it then sent slamming down into the floor. “But I have decided that it is not worth the effort. You would make a horrible apprentice.” Leia was lifted off the floor and slammed back down again. “You would prove willful.” She was raised again, a full meter higher than last time and before she could catch her breath she was slammed back into the ground like a hammer. “Spiteful.” She was raised again and slammed into the floor. Leia’s vision started blurring and she could not think straight, blood was pouring out of her mouth. Suddenly she was lifted again off the ground, higher still than before, “Recalcitrant.” The floor loomed up again and she struck it hard. She tried to breath but was pulled off the ground in a tight grip. “Obstinate.” She struck the floor even harder and her consciousness started to slip away. She tried to hold on. She tried desperately to bring herself back but the next blow sent her into a dark gray tunnel and everything seemed so far away.

“And now young Jedi,” Dairoga said softly, eyes alight with rage and joy. Leia hung suspended off the ground, arms and legs dangling uselessly. Her body was jerked into an upright position and slowly rotated to face Dairoga Kallast. She could still not separate him from Wesley Crusher. Her eyes were unfocussed and she tried to blink and clear her vision. She thought she saw something else, hanging off Crusher/Dairoga’s body. It was light misty form, like a shadow of smoke. She peered more closely.

“Wesley?” She spoke through cracked lips.

“No, dear. He is long gone. You will now join him.” He said and Leia suddenly saw his intent.

She was floating in front of him and behind him were several jagged edges from a damaged control console. Sharp jagged edges like swords. And she was floating right in front of them.

“Wesley.”

Dairoga paused and slowly turned his head to see Dr. Crusher helping Kelly up to her feet and resting her against the reactor core.

“What is this? Are you truly this foolish?” Dairoga mocked.

“No, I’m not speaking to you.” Beverly snapped and took a step towards him. “I’m speaking to my son. Wesley Crusher whom I love more than my own life.”

“Pathetic woman, your son is dead. But I can help you join him.”

“I don’t think he’s dead. I think he’s lost and I’m going to bring him back to where he belongs. Wesley, its your mother. Please, son, come back to me.”

“Wesley is dead!” Dairoga shouted. The entire ship suddenly rocked. Systems dimmed and there were shouts of surprise throughout the vessel.





“We just took a hit. Enemy fleet moving to engage.”

“Do we have weapons control?” Riker asked tersely as he watched the now all too familiar triangular shaped warship standing in their way.

Paris was about to reply in the negative for the fourth time, all the systems had been unresponsive since they began their attack. All calls to engineering had gone unanswered and security teams dispatched there reported that all access was blocked.

“I should have listened to Wess and joined the rebel pilot corps.” He muttered to himself when suddenly his board lit up again.

“Sir! We got control back!” Tom exclaimed.

“Alright, let’s show these Imperials what we’re made of. Prepare to fire the main weapon. Shields status?”

“Shields are holding sir.” Data replied as he checked the systems status. He was troubled by the steady power loss in the reactor core.

“Alright, now let’s see how their shields do. Mr. Paris, engage the Imperial warship.”

“Yes sir.” Tom replied with a cold smile. Finally, he could strike back. His thoughts were not of Earth or the Federation. They did not dwell on the thousands dead or the great change that the Empire brought. His thoughts were of his wife and child. He would avenge them today.

Tom pressed the fire controls with satisfaction and grim determination.

The Excalibur’s glowing maw glowed and a pulsing beam of brilliant white light lanced out and struck the Dominance. Light flared up along the stardestroyer’s shields.

“Their shields are holding but I detect a significant power loss on their forward quarter.” Data reported.

Riker grinned and tightened his fist triumphantly.

“Hit them again and bring us about to 57.27 mark 10. I want to flank them, try to get a shot at their engines.”

“Aye sir.” Tom replied and began carrying out the orders, uncertain if the Excalibur had the requisite agility and speed to actually outmaneuver the Imperial ship. This was not the type of maneuvering he was used to. This was not a battle between two agile starships but more like tow lumbering cities pounding on each other mercilessly.

“Return fire inbound.” Data warned.

The Excalibur shook violently. Small tendrils of electricity began dancing along the consoles behind them.

“Data, what’s happening?”

“The Imperial stardestroyer has begun opening up with all weapons including their ion cannons. They seem to be having a deleterious effect on our systems. As warned by the rebels, the ion cannons are partially ignoring our shields.”

“Continuous fire on the stardestroyer and I want to see those engines lining up on our sights.”

“Trying sir, but its not like they’re standing still. The Stardestroyer is trying to keep us from flanking her.”

“Incoming.”

The Excalibur shook again.

“Shields are showing heavy strain on the starboard quarter. I am rerouting additional reserve power to compensate.” Data spared a glance up at Riker. “Sir, we have a steady power drain from the reactors. It will soon become a problem if we remain under heavy attack.”

“How is that possible, Data? We just fed on Remus.”

“I am still uncertain how this power system works. I am hazarding a guess that someone or something else is tapping the power from our core for other purposes.”

Riker frowned. He did not need mysteries at this point in the game.

The Excalibur closed on the Dominance. The stardestroyer was laying down a steady flow of fire on the Excalibur, when another pulsing beam struck the Dominance. There was a brief flare up on the starboard shields and there was clearly a scorched impact mark on her starboard armor.

“We got through!” Riker exclaimed.

“Sir, we briefly overwhelmed their shields with that last blast. But they have reestablished. Most of that damage seems superficial.” Tom reported.

“Incoming!”

The Excalibur shook more violently than before.

“They were holding back until we were closer. They are now bringing heavy turbolaser batteries to bear.” Riker noted with some alarm. He had been eager to wade in and engage them.

“Shields are buckling sir. We cannot withstand a sustained bombardment from their heavy batteries.” Data reported as he drew more power from the rapidly dwindling power reserve.

“This is certainly not going as planned.” Riker muttered.

“We have discovered one factor, sir. Our main weapon is more powerful than any weapon the stardestroyers currently field but we lack the rate of fire that their weapons have.”

“I think I noticed that myself Data.” Riker replied as the ship shook again.

“Sir, I’m going to concentrate fire on their bridge tower, see if we can’t knock it out with a lucky shot.” Tom said as he lines up the shot.

“That’s as good a plan as any.” Riker paused as the starboard display lit up with a wall of massed turbolaser fire, not directed at them but at a threat off screen.

“What is that?”

“The rest of the Imperial fleet is engaging our fleet sir. The federation fleet is on an intercept course with us.”

“Why are they doing that? Kirk should be trying to disengage and get out of here.”

“Sir, we still have no communications with the Enterprise. They seem to be trying to hail us.”

“Damn, Kirk thinks we’re in trouble.”

“We ARE in trouble.” Tom interjected.

“Belay that Mister.” Riker snapped. He looked back at the screen. The Excalibur and the Dominance were trading shots at nearly point blank range and unfortunately the Excalibur was simply not maneuverable or fast enough to outflank the Dominance. They were slowly turning against each other, blasting away like tanks at twenty paces.






“Impressive. Most impressive.” Vader commented as he watched the alien vessel exchanging fire with the Dominance.

“So far it has proven to be as durable as a rebel capital ship and has greater firepower than any other rebel capital ship we have encountered.” Thrawn noted with respect. He decided that the testing was done.

“Now, begin firing on her. I will not allow this demonstration to continue. It may give hope to the rebel elements if they think that their vessel can actually win against one of our stardestroyers.”

“At once Grand Admiral.”

“Excellent strategy, Grand Admiral. But I must stress that you are allowing the key to victory to slip out of your grasp.”

“Kirk again.”

“Perhaps you should do as he says and finish this rebel leader off now.” Vader added.

Thrawn smiled coldly.

“No.”

There was a moment of silence amongst the assembled leaders, broken by Vader’s mechanical rhythmic breathing.

“You can crush him now, Grand Admiral. His fleet is trying to run your lines. This Excalibur is nothing more than a strategic and tactical gimmick. In the end it cannot turn the balance of power against us, it can only prolong the inevitable.” Kahn urged. He could taste it. Vengeance was nearly at hand.

“I am well aware of that Kahn, but there is more to winning this war than simply killing a rebel leader. We are in a galaxy that cannot defeat us, militarily, scientifically, or economically. But they can make this war a hell for our forces. By my calculations, if these rebels hold out and continue to make war on us they can drag this conflict out for at least a decade. I will not be a war lord of cut off Imperial forces fighting continuously for a decade to put down a rabble of savages. I mean to end this decisively.”

“And how do you intend to do that?” Vader asked pointedly, hands resting on his hips.

“Watch and learn. I fully intend to destroy James T. Kirk.” Thrawn stated with finality as he rose from his seat, hands clasped behind his back. He paused and looked back, his glowing red eyes boring into Kahn’s. “But in my own way.”

Kahn smirked and shook his head, however internally he was happy. If Thrawn would not act now, it gave him time to plan his own demise for Kirk.

“Grand Admiral. We’re picking up hyperspace turbulence to the extreme Port side.” Jerjerrod reported.

Vader stiffened.

He was here.






“You’re father is dead.”

It was really the first true memory he had. The first solid memory that stayed with him through the years and always came unbidden during dark times. A memory that shaped who he was, drove him and made him dream.

His mother looked so sad when she told him that. He could see the grief etched on her face. Her eyes still reddened with tears and sorrow. He did not want to cry for her. He did not want her to see his own grief.

But the damned tears came anyway.

“What is this child doing on my bridge?”

Stern father like voice. He always wondered as he grew older. He had seen the looks between mother and the Captain. Was there something there he had never known before. He wondered why life was like this.

His father’s face, young brash, looked so much like he did now. God how he missed him, just once to sit and talk with him. To tell him how he felt.

Father I have accomplished nothing and everything I touch turns to shit. I was supposed to be the most brilliant child of this generation. I was smarter than anyone else, I understood things that other people took years to master with but a glance. I have walked on alien worlds and deciphered codes. I’ve saved starships and millions of lives.

But I am here alone in the dark.

I chose this prison didn’t I?

No.

Yes.

I am confused.

That’s the story of our lives. Given the ability but not the drive. I am a child prodigy, more child than prodigy. Why does it feel like I never grew up?

He distantly heard other voices, dark voices and he felt red hot rage.

NO.

I don’t EVER want to be angry again. I have done things that I don’t ever want to thin about again. I want to drift here in the darkness and think things over. Examine my life and see why I am such a failure.

“Wesley, I love you.”

Red hot tears in eyes that should not exist. He wanted what Hamlet wanted. Oblivion. Why was there not sweet darkness. Why could he not simply cease to be and let this entire wasted life pass him by like discarded trash.

“Rule 212. Never give up when there’s something worth fighting for.”

He briefly smiled at the young Ensign’s words. Her and her rules.

She stopped speaking to him when she accused him of being a brooding young man. NO. She said brooding young directionless man.

She still cared but I was left alone.

“What is there worth fighting for!” he shouted into the void.

“Wesley, I love you!”

He shook his head.

How could you love me? I have killed. I have betrayed. I have been a bad son.





“Hold on!” Kirk exclaimed. The bridge shook violently, a console exploded to his left that sent a crewmen screaming over a railing. Were there any consoles left that had not exploded? Kirk wondered as he held on to his command seat. Charlie stood by his side, none of the chaos seemed to touch him, no matter how much the ship pitched and shook he stood firmly rooted in place by him.

“The Excalibur is locked in combat with a Stardestroyer, her shields are buckling but she has inflicted heavy damage on the stardestroyer.” Spock reported.

“Damnit why won’t Riker respond?” Kirk shouted.

“Sir, it’s not from our end and jamming isn’t doing it either. The problem is most likely on their end.” Uhura responded as she tried yet another frequency.

“Either they are unable to respond or unwilling to.” Spock added.

“Sickbay to Bridge.”

“Go Bones.”

“Casualties are mounting captain. Every available bed is taken and I’m lining them up out side in the corridors. You need to seriously start thinking about pulling out of this fight.”

“Bones, that’s easier said than done at this point.”

“Captain, the amount of heavy flak out there is not allowing us to generate a subspace field. We will not be able to engage Warp drive.” Sulu reported as he watched the warning lights tripped on his display.

“What about hyperspace? If we can get the Excalibur to generate their hyperspace field we can escape with her.”

“Unfortunately I am picking up a powerful graviton field being generated in the vicinity. Hyperspace jumps cannot occur in the presence of such gravity wells.” Spock reported.

Kirk frowned as he saw the great emerald bolts slipping by on the screen. The Imperial fleet was looming ahead and right behind them the Excalibur was lumbering in a circle, trying to flank its attacker with no success. The mighty command ship was slowly coming in close and suddenly unleashed a horrible barrage of fire.

“It looks like the Excalibur is some serious trouble now. Spock can you identify the source of the gravity well?”

“Scanning….it is being generated by a starship at 591mark20.”

Kirk took a deep breath.

“If we don’t break the gravity well, we’re as good as dead. Prepare to shift the fleet and directly engage the gravity well generators.”

“The vessel is deep in Imperial lines.”

“Its either that or we sit here and get picked off one by one.”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk sat back in the command chair, feeling the full weight of command on his shoulders as another starship suddenly exploded off to the right of the view screen and tumbled away into the void.

“Sir! Hyperspace emergence to Port.” Sulu reported.

An Imperial fleet suddenly flashed into view. The familiar battered shape of the Relentless among them.

“No.” Kirk whispered.

“This is Lord Darth Nemesis. All rebel ships are to stand down or be destroyed by order of the New Empire.”

Kirk shook his head as his fleet plunged on to confront the gravity well generator and their only lane of retreat was now cut off by Nemesis’ fleet.

“Captain.” Charlie warned and gripped the edge of Kirk’s command chair in alarm.

“Talk about a rock and a hard place.” Sulu spat.

“More like the devil and the deep blue sea.” Kirk whispered.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-02-25 12:45am
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Chapter 41: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Part 2



“What did he say?” Thrawn asked tightly.

“Lord Nemesis has just ordered all rebel ships to surrender in the name of the New Empire.” Jerjerrod repeated, disbelief clearly evident in his voice.

“There must be some explanation.” Piett added quietly and sparing Lord Vader a veiled glance.

“I’m sure there is and we may not like it.” Thrawn finished.

“Have a care, Grand Admiral. A Sith Lord is not be taken lightly. His motives are not clear yet.” Vader interjected.

Thrawn glanced over at Vader, his glowing crimson eyes flashed dangerously.

“What does that sound like to you, Lord Vader?” Thrawn demanded.

“I will not debate this matter with you, Grand Admiral. Unlike you, I am focused on the destruction of this rebel element before I think of accusing a Sith Lord of treason.”

“Oh, but I am focusing on destroying rebel elements, Lord Vader. ALL rebel elements.” Thrawn replied.

Both men stared at each other for a long moment.

“Sir, the Federation fleet is making an attack run on the Grapple.”

Thrawn reluctantly turned his attention back to the battle. Kahn watched the exchange with interest. There was obviously a rift among the Imperials. Darth Vader and this Darth Nemesis were Sith lords and as such there was an obvious connection between the two. Vader felt more loyalty to Nemesis than he did to Thrawn and his fleet.

A possible wedge that could be driven between the men was quickly filed away.

“Excellent, have the secondary line move in a Talon englobement, but order the closing vessel to slow to 1/3 power.”

Piett blinked.

“Sir, if you do that, the Federation may have a chance at escaping the englobement.”

“I am well aware of the consequences of the orders.” Thrawn replied coolly.

Piett shook his head slightly and relayed the orders. Jerjerrod watched the exchange with interest. What game was Thrawn playing? He knew the Grand Admiral well enough by now to know that Thrawn was plotting something well down the road. This battle was merely a sideshow for some grander scheme.

He mentioned defeating Kirk in his own way and frankly, Jerjerrod had noticed several instances when the fleet could have simply overwhelmed this pitiful Federation fleet through sheer brute force and firepower but Thrawn had held back, carefully tailoring his orders so that the Imperial fleet movements could be timed and predicted.

But why?

What possible reason could the Grand Admiral have for prolonging this conflict. Just moments ago he lamented that if Kirk were not slain in a certain manner, that the war could continue for 10 years. So what did he gain by this careful choreography of his battle fleet.

Jerjerrod scanned his datapad and scrolled back in time to check on the fleet deployments. There was a pattern here that he could only partly discern. He decided that he would decipher this plan without Thrawn’s intervention or advice. For once he was going to think for himself and not simply ask for Thrawn’s help.

Jerjerrod winced as he felt the throbbing of the headache. It had started last night. The pain had awoken him. The sharp dull throb had begun in his ear and quickly spread to his temples. But soon the pain had subsided but he felt groggy, as if he had never really woken up since that night.

He briefly considered going to the physician for a checkup, Emperor knew what sort of bacterium and viruses abounded in this cesspool of a galaxy.

He did not notice the veiled interest in which Kahn observed him.






The Enterprise simply could not stop rocking as her inertial dampers worked overtime to compensate for the numerous jolts from the exploding turbolaser fire. Even the warbirds had peeled away as the fire intensified.

“All power to weapons at my command.”

“Aye sir. All weapons standing by.”

“Ye’ll have what ever power I can give ye Captain. But I have to warn you, main energizers are on the brink of an overload.”

Kirk ignored Sulu grimly holding on to the helm station with one hand and working the controls with the other. Chekov wiping stinging hot blood from his eye where a piece of sharp shrapnel had slipped by his forehead opening up a gash. Spock was hunched over his sensor displays trying to make rhyme or reason of the battle that was quickly degenerating into a brawl.

Kirk had prided himself at keeping his fleet in control during these battles, knowing the exact locations of his fleet elements and capitalizing on the enemy’s confusion. But now he was lost in a sea of red klaxon lights and smoke filled atmosphere. The tactical displays were flooded with threat displays and blossoming energy explosions that encompassed entire starships.

His fleet was dying around him and he was slowly coming to an awful realization.

The gravity well generating ship was slowly looming ahead. Once he punched out the generators, the Excalibur could generate a subspace bubble that would allow them to escape.

He glanced down at his tactical display and noted the positions of the Imperial fleet. His eyes widened slightly as he recognized some form of englobement taking place.

“Helm, prepare to take us into evasive pattern Kirk Sigma five.”

“Sir, we’re just entering weapons range on target!” Sulu replied hotly. He had seen their liberation and now it was snatched from his grasp and it stung the young helmsman. Just one more minute and they would have engaged her.

“Sulu, there’s no time! Execute!”

Sulu did not reply but savagely stabbed down on the controls and sent the Enterprise into a sharp dive, simultaneously releasing a wall of quantum torpedoes on its last trajectory. The starships around her quickly followed suit.

Kirk urged his fleet on as he maneuvered them to the open gap in the Imperial englobement, one of the stardestroyers was a little late in getting to her position and if he was fast enough.

They have been a little late on all their maneuvers haven’t they, he thought for a moment.

“Why do I get the feeling that this is precisely what he wants us to do?” He muttered.

“Sir. We’re receiving a voice transmission from the Excalibur, its faint but I can make out Captain Riker.”

“Put him on speakers.”

“-tain Kirk, repeating, we are moving into position to support you. Are aware of the gravi- ---ship. Will engage and prep---initiate subspace bubbl---stood?”

“If only we had more time Riker.” Kirk muttered angrily. “Acknowledge Uhura and send a tight beam transmission to the coordinates I ordered you to communicate before.”

“What do I tell them?”

Kirk frowned as he watched his fleet disintegrating around him. With the englobement defeated the Imperial lines were reestablishing and the gravity well generating ship was slipping back behind the wall of stardestroyers like dreams into the mists.

“Tell then that if not now, then never.” He said sourly and glanced over at Charlie who looked confused and concerned.

“We’re not going to lose are we?” Charlie asked softly.

Kirk did not have an answer for him.






“Young fool…only now in the end, do you realize how lost your cause was young Jedi.” Dairoga whispered with an animalistic grin on his face. His coal black eyes regarded the nearly unconscious Leia with all the interest of a butcher examining a cut of beef. He raised his hand higher and Leia stiffened, eyes snapped open as the steel spikes loomed ahead of her.

“Wesley please put her down.” Dr. Crusher asked softly.

Dairoga’s head snapped around and he pinned the Doctor with a harsh glare.

“Your son…” Dr Crusher felt two phantom hands drive her to her knees on the harsh unyielding floor. “is…” She felt the pressure increasing, forcing her to her belly, as she tried to fight against the awesome pressure. “dead.” She felt her consciousness nearly slip away but the phantom hands suddenly vanished. She lay on her belly on the ground, breathing hard, as if she had been running a marathon.

Dairoga observed her for a moment in cold satisfaction before starting to turn his attention back to Leia.

“You couldn’t kill me.”

“What?” Diaroga replied in a cold whisper. Slowly his all black eyes turned to regard the fallen Doctor again and a terrible shadow obscured the young Wesley’s twisted face.

“You couldn’t bring yourself to kill me, Wesley. You’re still in there fighting. You’re like your father, he never gave up, never gave in.” She replied trying to fight the wheezing in her chest.

“You beg for death is that it?” Dairoga hissed and took a step forward.

“No, but you will be!” Kelly screamed as she leapt down from the place that Diaroga had cast her aside like a useless rag doll and drove a shattered maintenance pipe into the small of his back. The sharp end erupted out from his belly in a warm bloody mess.

The Sith lord’s possessed body stumbled forward a bit, the eyes glazing over for a moment before he batted Kelly aside with one arm and tried to pull the pipe out of the ruin of his belly.

Kelly landed with a bone jarring impact and groaned for a moment before laying still.

“Insolent bitch!” Dairoga spat, blood flecking out of his mouth as he grasped the slick gory end of the makeshift spear and tried to pull it loose. Crusher watched in horror, she could tell that such a wound would, if not be instantly lethal, be considered a mortal wound.

Diaroga/Wesley stumbled forward a bit as it looked like he was going to fall asleep for a moment. He shook his head violently and tried to blink away the fatigue that was settling in.

“This body is no longer fit for me. This little bitch has ruined it and as such I will ruin her.”

“Wesley.” Crusher began, struggling to get up on one knee.

“Silence! Give me a moment to think you cow!” He roared and Dr. Crusher was flung backwards against the reactor casing which gonged like a great medieval bell on impact.

He started desperately glancing around until he stopped short at Leia’s body lying on the floor, unmoving.

A cold predatory smile crept across his face, blood now starting to seep between the lips.

“I believe that I have a better use for you than I thought, young Jedi.” he croaked and slowly stalked over to her unmoving body, trailing blood behind him.






I have been a very bad boy.

Why?

What do you mean why?? I have led the fleet to a slaughter, tried to seize control of our only hope for victory and I have allowed myself to be seduced by a dark power to placate some stupid desire to be greater than I was.

And you’re sorry?

Something about that voice. It was oddly familiar, like a far away dream.

“Of course I’m sorry. All I want now is simple oblivions, cold dark oblivion where I can just disappear.

Oh, I see…so you’re answer to this dilemma you find yourself in is to go find the nearest hole, jump in and pull the dirt in after you. Hope that this all blows over and that there is a happy ending?

He stood quietly in his room. It was his room as a child. A toy model of his father’s starship hung suspended by simple filament wires off the ceiling. Sometimes, when he thought no one was looking, he would unhook the starship from its harness and fly it around his room, making whooshing sounds and pretending he was his father on some far away adventure or mission saving the Federation.

“No.”

Yes, I think that was precisely what you were thinking. You know, this isn’t exactly what you think. There is no way to lie here. Your thoughts, your desires, all that you were are as naked as the nose on your face. There is nothing to hide here. The fact that you are still hiding even now is a sad statement on your life.

“Don’t talk about me as if I’m some kind of dullard. I won the Daystrom award for greatest scientific achievement three years in a row. I tapped the secrets of the universe and walked the stars in my travels.”

But yet in the end, when the chips are down and you are on the brink of oblivion, you came here. Out of all the places you have traveled, all the stars you have visited, the alien worlds you have trod on, the only place you want to be, the only place you can construct in your soul’s eye is this simple little room.

He stood silent again.

“You’re mocking me.” He accused and crossed his arms across his chest.

Ah, the Crusher pout. That has become the shield in your life, even now as a man you can pout with the best child in the universe. Sometimes I have to wonder WHY you think you never grew up.

“I DID.”

Really?

The question hung in the air like a sword.

“I am a man. THEY never wanted me to grow up! They wanted me to remain a child that they could control. They wanted me to be the grieving son all my life, afraid that- .” He stopped short and shut his mouth, staring out the window. Instead of the familiar backyard porch that he grew up with, he could see the Crescent Nebula of Eminaar Four. It was considered one of the most brilliant light shows in the galaxy. He always dreamed of returning there and floating out among the stars being born.

What were THEY afraid of?

“They were afraid that I would grow up and everything that remained of my father would be gone.”

Sounds rather foolish no?

“You don’t know them. My mother worshipped my father’s memory. I was her little shrine to her memory, but this shrine was his own man and I was NOT my father. How do you compete with a ghost?” He demanded

How do you indeed.

“They wanted me to BE my father soooo much. They hoped and prayed and even manipulated me as much as they could, hope that I would be the man my father was. But you know something? I never wanted to be my father like that. I worshipped the man, he was to me what every man should be, but I’m so much more. I could do complex trig equations in my head out to 14 decimal places by the age of four. I could solve geometry equations and balance chemistry formulas by 6. My father had trouble balancing the family budget.”

Imagine that.

“You’re mocking me.” He spat.

Oh, please, do go on. This is so thrilling and so off the subject. I commend you young man.

“Stop it!” Wesley barked.

I’m all ears.

“What does it matter anyway?” He muttered and turned his back. The room seemed to shrink and grow darker. A deep chill settled in his bones and he felt an odd sense of alarm and inevitability.

Isn’t that just like you? You turn away just when you’re ready to accomplish or achieve something.

He turned his head slightly to look over his shoulder.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

You’re Mr. Trig at four, you figure it out Einstein. You’re so good at analyzing THEM. Why don’t you turn that brilliant sensor probe back onto the real target of this anger and frustration?

“What?”

YOURSELF.

“What do you want me to say? That I screwed up? That I failed yet again? That I won’t amount to much of anything in this world. Is that what you want to hear?” He roared and suddenly stood up off the bed. “You want o hear that the Great Wesley Crusher, wunderkind and ‘special’ child of this generation, only one comes every twenty years is an utter, complete and useless FAILURE!!!” He screamed and batted the tiny starship dangling in front of him. It sailed against the far wall of the room and came apart in a small pop, landing in several pieces on the floor.

He was breathing hard and felt something sharp in his belly, as if someone took an ice pick to his guts.

He moaned for a moment and clutched his stomach.

Don’t mind that. We’re getting somewhere here. You think you’re a failure?

“Yes.” Wesley breathed between clenched teeth. The pain was getting worse like fire in his belly now.

You really think that?

“What did I JUST say? What have you been watching huh?? The Federation has collapsed, I couldn’t figure out an alien ship without the help of some dark lord and you KNOW I should have seen this possession thing coming from a mile away.”

Why, because you can do Trig in your head?

Wesley stopped short.

“No, because…”

Why because you are a special child that only comes once a generation?

“Well, no, it’s just that-“

Why because Wesley Crusher is perfect and scary smart? Because you’re a hero?

“Hold on, I never said I was a hero.”

Why not?

“That’s just silly nonsense. Heroes don’t exist.”

No?

He slowly glanced down at the shattered starship sprawled across the floor of his room. He focused his vision on it.

“Hey, it’s getting dark in here.”

Never mind that, you’re trying to change the subject Trig boy and I’m not going to let you.

“Don’t tell me that you’re going to let me do anything. I know the score. I failed, I was a three time loser and my final chance at glory and redemption slipped through my fingers when I decided to play the game with a Dark lord of the Sith.”

No.

“No what?”

You’re chance for redemption and glory is here.

“What?”

Think. Think real hard. You are NOT dead. You have been shunted aside by the dark Lord. He’s now using your body like you and I use a pair of shoes. He will do what he wants and cast you aside like so much garbage.

Wesley grunted and looked down at his stomach. A small puddle of thick red blood was pooling between his fingers as he clutched at his stomach.

“It hurts.”

Never mind that.

“It’s cold.”

Ignore it.

He paused and looked around his room, he could no longer see outside the window, he could no longer see the far walls of his room.

“It’s so dark in here, so quiet.” He whispered.

WESLEY

He snapped back into focus.

Listen very carefully. You have but one chance now, one chance for redemption. You are powerful Wesley. You ARE special. You ARE a special child that comes once in a generation. Math sings to you like a soothing lover, reason is your sword and logic your shield. Think on that. You have learned powerful secrets but you have powerful secrets of your own that you have ignored. Think of the doors unlocked, the paths you have trod, the worlds you have leapt to and tell me that you are nothing, that you are a failure.

“But its all over now. I just want it to end.” He glanced down at his stomach and the blood was now running down his legs.

You CAN end it, like this. A child, alone in his room, waiting for oblivion, waiting for daddy to come home, waiting for daddy to tell him that it’s OK to grow up, that it’s OK to be your own man.

He looked up sharply.

“I never wanted him to go away.” He said, voice thick with sorrow and the first tears ran down his cheeks, hot and unbidden.

No, you didn’t.

“I didn’t want him to die. He never gave me a chance to know him and I was all that was left. Who was I to be different? I just wanted my father and the universe gave me everything else, but I would trade all of this, every iota of power and knowledge I know just to be with him, just to have him again.”

I know

“Who are you?”

A friend. I will never leave you but now is not the time, now is not the place. Now is the choice. You can stand here and be swallowed by oblivion, waiting forever for that word.

“Or?” He whispered, tasting blood in his mouth.

A hand reached out from the shadows and gripped his shoulder.

You can seize the day. You can be Wesley Crusher. Not the Wesley Crusher that your mother knows, that Captain Picard wanted you to be, that your own wounded pride and responsibility wanted you to be. But the Wesley Crusher that you were always meant to be. This is your one last chance. You can do with it what you will now. I cannot say anymore. BE, Wesley Crusher now, or never grow up. The easier paths have always been the ones you have chosen. Wesley Crusher, he always trod on the hardest paths of all.

“Why?” He asked quietly, feeling the blood flow from the corner of his mouth down his chin, haring the steady drip drop on the rug.

Because that’s what being special means Wesley. You take the path seldom trodden and right now, life is offering you one last chance to take that path. Wesley, not everyone is given this chance.

Wesley nodded slowly.

He looked around his room and he saw his mother smiling at him warmly and she had her hands around the shoulders of a young man in uniform that beamed on him with barely restrained pride. Captain Picard smiled approvingly and nodded. Data and Geordie sat on the edge of his bed and nodded as well.

“I want to BE.” He replied softly as the last of the light dimmed from his room and he vanished into smoke. A solitary figure stood alone in the room and picked up the shattered starship. He carefully snapped a broken nacelle back into place and carefully slipped the starship back onto the wires and gave it an absent pat.

“You wanna bring outside parties into this then I have to play dirty too.” The figure muttered and vanished in a flash with a snap of his fingers.






“I said I want all available power shunted to the shields.”

“Sair, I have no power to give ye. The main energizers may have to be taken off the line if we stay here any longer.”

Kirk slammed his hand down on the communicator and turned his attention back to Sulu.

“Well?”

“Just like you said sir, they are deploying into some sort of wedge formation, trying to funnel us down the center of their lines.”

“Where they will crush us in their crossfire.” Chekov spat in disgust.

“But we have an opening right?”

Sulu glanced back at his tactical display and eyes widened slightly.

“Aye sir, one of their lighter warships is blocked a portion of the wedge, we can probably blast past them if we concentrate our fire.”

Kirk nodded angrily rubbing his chin.

“Spock?”

“This is the fifth such weakness we have discovered in their tactical deployments.”

“He WANTS us to find them, he’s herding us and I have no idea into what.”

“Unfortunately, captain, we have no other choice. To go against the openings offered is suicide.”

“And Nemesis has caught off our only means of retreat to gather our breaths. What is the status of his fleet?”

“He is holding back but engaging in long range bombardment.”

“We could turn and engage him directly. He has the smaller fleet.” Kirk mused.

Spock quickly walked down to Kirk’s command chair.

“Jim, they may be smaller but they still out gun us. If we try to break through their lines the odds are 7,026,412 to one that we survive.”

“And if I continue to jump hoops for this Grand Admiral Thrawn, how long until then, Spock? There has to be a way out of this.”

“If there is, Jim. I do not see it.” Spock replied stonily. Kirk looked up at his XO and nodded slowly. Spock was never one to sugar coat matters but this was the first time in combat that he flatly stated that there was no way to win.

Kirk glanced around the bridge. His brave and stalwart crew looked haggard and worn out. They were frayed and he did not know how much more they could take, or his ship. The Enterprise’s bridge was all but smashed, terminals hung off their station spewing smoke and sparks, the walls were blackened from fires and the sound of alarms could be heard throughout the ships. The steady casualty reports kept marching relentlessly across his status board.

This reminded him of something else. Something from his past.

“All fleet elements, follow us in, we’re going to break through that wedge.”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk looked up at Spock.

“I’m going to play my part Spock and hope that I can withstand any surprise that this Grand Admiral Thrawn has in store for me. I can’t do anything else. I have to play this out.”

“I understand, Jim. We all do.” Spock replied and walked back to his station.

Charlie leaned in close on Kirk’s chair.

“This doesn’t look good. How can we get away?”

“Charlie.” He smiled at the young man who only a few years ago wanted to take over his ship and ‘wish’ him away. Now he seemed noble. Young, fresh, alive and so restrained. He slowly touched Charlie’s arm and gripped it warmly.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m standing with the crew and this ship.”

“But I can take you away, I can wish us to another world, far away from all of this. If you’re afraid of being alone I can bring Mr. Spock and a few others with us.” he replied earnestly.

Kirk smiled grimly as the first flak busts exploded on the screen.

“No Charlie, There will be no running away. I’m a captain, in Starfleet, my place is here.”

Charlie stared at the older man in awe and looked around him. The rest of the crew, he could feel them, they were afraid as he was but they were united in their resolve and they all looked to Kirk to strengthen that resolve.

“My place is here, with you.” Charlie replied evenly and nodded to himself as if settling a debate and stood steadfast by Kirk’s side. Kirk watched him for a moment and smiled weakly. That this war could tear the lives away from such young men as this one would sadden him for what little life he had left.







“My lord.”

“I see it.” Nemesis replied evenly as he watched the Imperial battle group dueling with Kirk’s fleet. His eyes narrowed on the mighty command ship at the fore front of the battle.

The Executor.

The bridge crew was stunned as they watched the scene unfold. Some were shaking their heads in disbelief. Admiral Kittaine stood quietly by Nemesis’ side, the euphoria of the defeat of the Borg was quickly fleeing as the import of what they were seeing settled in.

“Identities confirmed on all vessels. They are current active duty Imperial warships. IFF frequencies identify the flagship and command officer as Grand Admiral Thrawn.

“Thrawn?” Kittaine whispered.

“You know him?” Nemesis asked quietly as he felt his father’s mind.

“Yes, My Lord, he is renowned among fleet circles as a genius. However not much more is known about him save that he was dispatched to Wild Space long ago. We have rarely seen him on Coruscant.”

“Makes you wonder about your own white uniform does it not?” Nemesis asked quietly.

Kittaine blanched.

“My lord, I have no words.”

“You will have to find them soon, Kittaine. An Empire can only have one master.” Nemesis replied pointedly but did not look at Kittaine. Kittaine’s jaw dropped. Was Nemesis implying what he thought he was implying? Was it possible? And even more alarming, what was his answer?

Nemesis watched the Executor and slowly the images all blurred away and he stood in the stars facing his father. The stars themselves seemed to be woven into their capes as they regarded each other in silence.

“You have done well, Lord Nemesis.”

“Have I?” Nemesis replied.

“I sense anger and conflict within you.”

“I sense confusion and hesitation in you.”

They stood in stoic silence again, the darkness of the void illuminated by a stray turbolaser blast or a dying starship’s warp core breach.

“What have you done here? There are questions, troubling questions that will need to be answered.”

“Trying to get our stories straight father?” Nemesis replied icily. He wondered where the hostility was coming from.

“Have a care, Lord Nemesis. I am your father and your master.”

“No, Palpatine is my master. You made that very clear to me when I left Coruscant.”

“Nemesis.” Vader reached out slowly to his son. He was so proud of his son. He had his mother’s chin, her caring demeanor. But damn him for inheriting his temper.

Nemesis paused and looked from the hand to the metal face mask. many wondered what Nemesis actually saw when he looked at the black clad cybernetic giant. He did not see any of this. The force allowed him to see the caring man beneath the armor, the aged scarred face beneath the mask, he could see the dim light humming at his center.

“You told me that once I came to you that we would never be separated. You said that we would be together, always. We would rule the galaxy together as father and son.”

“I would never lie to you Nemesis. I am not Kenobi or Yoda. I am not the pitiful mewling light side begging for acceptance and obedience. I am Darth Vader and I want you by my side always. But I also have to caution you. patience, Nemesis. The Emperor is not to be trifled with. He has already violated one of the most sacred tenets of our order by allowing both of us to exist.”

“The rule of two.” Nemesis replied softly.

“Indeed. He is planning, I can feel it, his mind is always in motion and we must be more careful than ever. Now is the time that we must be united. In the galaxy we are far from his power. The force cannot reach us here. His prescience which he has relied on will not serve him here. It is here where we will gather our strength and prepare for the final conflict. Only together can we defeat him.”

“It’s been so long father.” Nemesis stared down at the ground. “I have done things…horrible things to maintain control and order.”

“As have I, my son. But power is not without its price, but in the end, it will be worth it. In the end we will restore order and end this destructive conflict. We will finally have the power that we need to end it all and end the chaos. No more wars, no more death, we will become powerful enough to stop people from dying Lu-Nemesis.”

Nemesis glanced back at Vader. A soft smile tugged at the ends of his lips.

“Even here, alone in the dark, you cannot call me by my name.”

“Darth Nemesis is your name.” Vader replied angrily.

“Of course.” Nemesis replied and drew his cape around him. It looked as if he had drawn the stars themselves around him, wrapping himself in the universe.

“What have you done here?”

“I have forged an Empire in my name.”

The only sound was breathing, slow mechanical breathing.

“This will not do.”

“But it will father. I have my own time table and plans now. I have been alone here in this galaxy and I have seen things inside of myself I do not want to see again., I have sold parts of my soul to accomplish this small victory and I will not have it taken away from me because it does not fit in your plan.”

“Nemesis, this is not a game. We are trying to defeat the most powerful force user our galaxy has ever known. We cannot be reckless.”

“Didn’t you know, that was my weakness during my training. It was my recklessness that brought me to you on Bespin, that brought our sabers together, that took my hand and revealed my father to me.”

“Your recklessness now may doom us all.”

“Father, I will no longer wait. My power has grown here and my patience is at an ebb. It is time to clean house and bring order. If you will not stand with me then you are against me. You can either profit from this or be destroyed the choice is yours, either way, it is my destiny to destroy Palpatine, nothing is more clear now to me than this.”

“Destroying the Emperor will not bring back what you have lost.” Vader replied icily.

Nemesis paused as if slapped.







“And now we set the final trap.” Thrawn announced coolly as the Federation fleet burst through the flaw in his wedge.

“This is pointless.” Kahn muttered.

“No, Kahn, watch and learn.” He turned to Piett. “Deploy the fleet in an Iron wheel formation, have the Executor take up center position. Commence attack on Federation fleet with all batteries, but the Executor’s weapons are to concentrate on the Excalibur.”

“Any other deployment orders, sir?” Piett asked curiously. For the first time in the Battle, Thrawn had not ordered a ship to be out of position or an opening created.

“No, here is where we crush the Federation spirit. But we will not kill Kirk.”

“What is the use then!” Kahn exclaimed.

“You will see, Kahn. James Kirk is a hero and a symbol. There is more to his defeat than mere death. This is but the first of the cuts we will inflict on him as we bleed him out.” Thrawn nodded to Piett who relayed the orders.

“Heroes and symbols, Thrawn? Since when do they matter?” Kahn replied haughtily. Thrawn glanced down at a small holodisplay on his command seat. It was an artist’s rendition of the signing of the Federation charter.

“Symbols are what drive this culture, Kahn. It always has. They wish to be better than what they are and they chose heroes to embody this ideal. This fleet and culture were on the verge of surrender until this James Kirk arrived on the scene, a Captain from their past who fit the mold of hero all too perfectly. He was what they needed to gain the one thing we don’t want them to have. Hope.” Thrawn answered as his crimson eyes stared down at the holographic artwork.






The Federation fleet wheeled around desperately trying to claw their way towards the Grapple, in the vain hope of wining their freedom. Suddenly several Imperial ships were swarmed by angry emerald skinned Klingon warships that were decloaking all along the Imperial ranks.

Two Vorchas dove right into the Grapple, firing steadily and eating away at her shields. Her return fire, weak compared to the other Imperial ships was still devastating to the Klingon warships. One exploded right away the other, deprived of her starboard nacelle dove headlong into the Grapple exploding with a mighty blast that wreathed the Interdictor in a white cloud of plasma and debris.

Birds of Prey were darting v=between the massive warships trading fire with them as a more ships swarmed to break the lines for the Federation ships.

“Well I’ll be.” Sulu muttered.

“Crazy am I?” Kirk winked to Uhura who nodded to her Captain. The man did never cease to amaze.





“Glorious is it not Thorfin!” Worf exclaimed happily as his fleet engaged the Imperials.

“This, my Chancellor, is a battle worthy of our people. Let us feel the sting of battle!” Thorfin roared, joy clearly evident on his face as the fleet continued their attack. The Klingons were relentless in their assault, heedless of losses they swarmed around the perimeter Imperial ships, trying their best to open the lines and reveal the Grapple to her attackers.

Worf could not deny his blood singing in his ears as his ship bobbed and weaved between angry emerald bolts of energy, trading fire with the massive warships around him and still alive, still with their teeth bared and unyielding in the face of his enemy.

Here was glory, here was honor, here a Klingon could wash away the shame of the days just passed, without a home world and an empire on the brink of extinction, the children of Quo’nos were showing their mettle.

But the Starfleet officer in him was aghast at the mounting casualty figures, horrified by the sight of his heaviest warships torn asunder by errant blasts of energy, disgruntled by the sight of concentrated heavy disruptor fire merely dancing along the shields of the Imperial ships without a single one being damaged as of yet.

Slowly and quietly he began to wonder just how long this could last, how long until the last Klingon war cry was heard and the last warrior died a death at the hands of the Empire in this, their most desperate hour.






“How is this possible?” Piett exclaimed as the Klingon attack became more chaotic, many of the ships choosing at the last moment to simply collide with their Imperial attackers in the vain hopes of taking more down with them, others cloaking and decloaking on the other side of the battle field making it nearly impossible to keep track of their numbers and position. He was not so much worried about them as he was concerned that such an enemy force could appear out of nowhere amongst his fleet.

“Do not concern yourself with the minor attacks of a petty fleet, Piett. I expected no less from this man, Kirk. If he truly has led this insurrection successfully for as long as he has with this pathetic technological gap then his only recourse is trickery and ambushes.” Thrawn looked back at the Federation fleet sitting in the center of his fleet’s sights.

“Concern yourself with destroying as much of them as possible. Cloaking devices do not concern me, fleets do not concern me, ambushes and surprise attacks do not concern me, utterly destroying and defeating this man does.” Thrawn added.

He watched dispassionately as a horde of Klingon ships attempted to take down a smaller Imperial ship only to come under heavy fire from close by stardestroyers. In a matter of minutes the Klingon phalanx had either retreated or met instant destruction.

“This is not a battle. This is a slaughter.” Jerjerrod muttered shaking his head as he watched a pair of Bird of Prey crash into the unyielding side of a stardestroyer as it plowed into a phalanx of Vorchas that thought they could dissuade it with a concentrated wall of disruptor and torpedo fire.

“No, Jerjerrod, the slaughter has not yet commenced. But it will.” Thrawn replied.







“Wake up my lovely little Jedi. It is time for you to give me what I need most.” Dairoga roughly turned Leia on her back. “Your body.” he gargled through the blood pooling in his mouth and stared at her, preparing for the assault on her unconscious mind.

“Wesley!” Dr. Crusher called out.

“Must we end this forever? So be it.” Dairoga hissed as he reached for his lightsaber and suddenly his hand froze in mid-motion.

“What?” he snapped in annoyance.

“This ends now.” it was Wesley’s voice now coming out of his mouth.

“Never.” Dairoga replied.

“You’ve overextended yourself, Lord Kallast. You’ve been keeping this body alive, assaulting the others and now gathering your strength for the take over of the princess mind. But she’s strong and she’s resisting you and you’re now stuck, partly out of this body and I am back in it.”

“You have no concept of what you’re talking about my young apprentice. I AM power. The ability to move between bodies is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

“First I’ve cut you off from your shunt of the Excalibur’s power reserves.”

“What?” Dairoga reached out and felt it, Wesley’s power stood between him and the great lakes of power beyond in the reactor core. For the first time since his grab for power he felt the tiniest bit of fear creep into his black heart.

“Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. I’ve been relying on your Force for things that I could do with my own mind.”

“You will leave now!” Dairoga roared and the force materialized around him in cascades of force lightning, hungrily licking away at his body, dancing between his limbs like St. Elmo’s fire.

“Your first mistake was thinking I was just a boy that could be manipulated by you and that I had no resources of my own.” Wesley replied as he drew the force lightning away from his body by opening a pinprick in subspace.

Beverly watched the exchange in a mixture of shock and horror. Her son’s body, ravaged by the possession of the Sith Lord and the damage done by their attempts to stop him and his voice issuing from the mouth, the face softening slightly then cruelly twisted again as Dairoga spoke and tried to wrest control.

“Your second mistake was instilling me with such anger and fury and showing me how to harness that power. I have delved deep you twisted bastard and I know what you can and can’t do right now and right now you’re stuck in me.”

“I am not defeated Crusher. You will know such exquisite agony once I am done with you.” Dairoga suddenly grabbed a firm hold of the spike in his abdomen and pulled viciously.

It was Wesley’s voice that screamed in agony.

“Wesley!” Beverly exclaimed.

Dairoga spared a moment to look up at Doctor Crusher and smiled with blood caked teeth.

“Your third mistake was attacking my mother you vile bastard!” Wesley shouted and touched the spike sending cascades of subspace energy into the spike that spread through his body in ghostly white light. It illuminated him like a lantern and Dr. Crusher swore she saw two figures hunched over her son’s body wrestling.

Leia finally gathered enough strength to sit up and she touched Wesley’s head, not harsh or hard, but a soothing touch.

“You need help Wesley, find strength in the peace and solitude of the Force. Center yourself in serenity.” She whispered, suspecting that the words coming out of her mouth were not truly her own.

Wesley was suddenly himself, the ivory hair gone, the gaunt skin no longer stretched over his frame and he smiled at his mother.

“Mother. I love you. I always have.”

“I have always loved you my son.” She whispered holding a hand to her mouth in despair.

“Thank you princess. He is raging within me but he has made his final mistake.” He closed his eyes for a moment.






On the bridge of the Excalibur Riker snarled in fury as the Executor pounded on them mercilessly.

“Shields failing!” Paris exclaimed.

“Fire all weapons!”

Data suddenly stiffened. His eyes rolled in the back of his head and his hands slowly played across the controls in a deliberate manner.

“Data?” Riker asked suddenly aware of his XO’s state.

“Sir, I’m picking up a subspace harmonic building in the core drive.”

“But we can’t go to warp and leave the fleet behind.”

“That is not my purpose, Will.” Data replied…in Wesley’s voice.

“Data?”

“No, Commander, but he will be back soon. I have encoded in Data a sequence that must be entered precisely when the harmonic builds to its peak in the core. It will fire a forced tertryon cascade that will tear the subspace domains directly ahead apart.”

“My God, Wesley, that will tear this part of space time apart!” Riker exclaimed.

“No, Will, it will punch a hole through space time allowing you to generate a static warp shell that the rest of the fleet can latch on to. Essentially I am making you an emergency exit.”

“Wesley.”

“Commander, I have no more words, save for this. You have all been my friends and I will miss you all.”

“Wesley?” Riker asked softly.

Data suddenly relaxed and his eyes returned to normal.

“Captain?” He asked perplexed. “My internal chronometer is showing a 70 second discrepancy that I cannot account for.” Data started.

“Data do you have a coded sequence in memory?”

Data paused for a moment and looked perplexed.

“Indeed I do, sir. How did you-“”

“Data begin entering the sequence as soon as this harmonic reaches culmination.”

Data frowned but began working at his station. Riker slumped in his command chair.

“Goodbye Wesley.” He whispered.



The bridge of Worf’s command ship rocked under the bombardment of the enemy. Worf held on as his weapons officer savagely pounded away on the controls unleashing all their fury and power only to see it impact harmlessly on the Imperial shields. He scowled as he saw more of his ships literally evaporating under the Imperial assault.

“We must find a way to link up with the Federation fleet. We have lost initiative and a way out of this. Nemesis’ fleet is closing on us fast and we no longer have a clear path of escpae!” Worf shouted.

“Nemesis’ fleet is skilled in tracking our cloaked ships. We cannot simply slip away via cloak.” Thorfin advised darkly.

“The Romulan fleet has taken up station keeping positions all throughout the globe of engagement, even if we managed to slip away from the Imperials they will surely find us and we are too dispersed to make a difference against the assembled warbirds.” His tactical officer reported.

“Then have all ships fight their way to the center and perhaps with our added firepower we can punch a hole in these lines.” Worf ordered. His tactical officer nodded and quickly went to follow orders.

Thorfin gripped Worf’s arm.

“You know as well as I that there will be no punching holes through these lines, Worf. This is most likely our final battle.”

Worf nodded but smiled.

“I do not surrender, not to these dogs. If we die this day let it be on our feet.”

Thorfin smiled like a young child and started to laugh. Suddenly the ship rocked hard from a near miss and Thorfin’s eyes widened as he noticed the bulkhead over Worf’s command chair give way.

“Worf!” he shouted and shoved Worf out of the way as the heavy bulkhead fell on him, shattering his left side and driving him into the floor. Thorfin moaned slightly as Worf quickly knelt by his side.

“Thorfin?”

“My chancellor, my friend.” Thorfin coughed and purple blood trickled out of his mouth.

“Thorfin, I will call for a medic.”

“NO.” Thorfin took a firm hold of Worf’s shoulder.

“I am a Klingon and this is the end. To die in battkle and more glorious still, saving my Chancellor is all I ever wanted to do.”

“And what of the battles to come?” Worf asked fighting the sorrow in his breast. He SHOULD be happy for his friend.

“You will fight them with honor. And I will watch from Stovelkor.” Throfin leaned forward. “Save our people Worf. It cannot end like this.” Thorfin smiled softly and suddenly, Worf realized that his friend was dead, the smile frozen on his face. Worf stared at him for a long time. He wondered as the din of battle faded into the background whether he was looking at the death of the Klingon people.





“There’s only one way out now!” Kirk shouted as the ship rocked violently. The staggering amount of firepower being poured into his fleet was decimating. Starships were erupting all around the Enterprise as they tried to weather the storm and penetrate the wheel formation and link up with the Excalibur.

The Klingon fleet was scattered now, individual ships choosing an honorable death in combat but the core of the fleet was linking up with the Federation fleet and together they decided to pierce the wheel and win their freedom.

A bridge station exploded behind Kirk and he glanced back for a moment and did a double take.

“Spock!” He shouted and leapt down from his command chair as the ship was rocked by another blast.

“Sair, we have to take the mains off line!” Scotty exclaimed.

Spock was sprawled over the railing by his station, green blood soaked his uniform and his eyes were closed, face tight in pain.

Kirk was by Spock’s side.

“Spock.”

“My wounds are not critical, Jim. Please.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Spock. If this ends, it will end here, with us.” Kirk replied sternly and looked up at the screen. The Executor filled most of it as another dozen starships suddenly vaporized around them.

“You bastard! I’ve jumped through your hoops, I’ve seen all your openings and you herded me. This is NOT going to end here. You are not going to beat me like this.” Kirk shouted at the screen cradling Spock in his arms.

Charlie looked up at the screen as the explosions drew closer.

“They will not touch us.” He whispered as a turbolaser blast suddenly whipped by them and would have normally destroyed the saucer section but the blast dissipated uselessly. Charlie stumbled backwards as if punched.

“They will not touch us!” Charlie shouted as more blasts focused on the pitifully small band of starships left.






“Utterly useless no?” Thrawn asked.

“It is brave.” Jerjerrod suggested.

“Bravery in the face of these odds is called desperation.” Thrawn replied.

His fleet was deployed around the tiny Federation fleet that was dying a rapid death. Thrawn suddenly stiffened as several blasts lanced into the Enterprise.

“Who ordered guns on the Enterprise?!” he exclaimed as he fully expected to see the small starship explode . Instead it sailed onward, the emerald energy blasts dissipating harmlessly off the hull.

“What in the name of the Emperor…” Piett muttered.

“That’s right, Grand Admiral…I forgot he is no threat.” Kahn added sardonically.

“I’ll say this for the man.” The assembled officers stared at Thrawn waiting for the end of his comment. He regarded each one with his glowing red eyes. “He has impressed me.”

“Sir, we’re picking up a strange energy buildup within the Excalibur.” Jerjerrod reported. Thrawn blinked.

“I’ve had enough surprises for one battle. Destroy the Excalibur now, all batteries open fire on that ship.” Thrawn ordered tersely.





Wesley nodded to himself as he felt Dairoga ready to break free of the bonds of his will. It was time.

“Your final mistake, dark lord was thinking that I would never sacrifice myself to destroy you.”

“Wesley…what are you doing?!” Dairoga exclaimed.

“Sending you straight to hell.” Wesley replied with a grim smile and looked at his mother one last time, tears in her eyes as she tried to reach out and touch him.

“Goodbye.” Wesley whispered and opened up a small subspace doorway. Planes, distance, it was all geometric and orderly. Simple math equations could take you anywhere in the universe, if you knew how to unlock the power in those equations. Wesley was special. He could unlock those secrets, and the Traveler taught him how to do it so easily. He traveled the universe, stepping on worlds that the Federation would not see in centuries.

It was a simple matter of linking one point in space time with another. In this case, Wesley simply linked the point in space time where he stood and the point in space time occupying the center of the Excalibur’s hypermatter reactor.

Wesley could feel the dark lord howling like a wild animal as he dragged him kicking and screaming through the subspace passage and on the other side there was a bright light, as if he were stepping into the sunlight and he smiled.







“Sequence complete.” Data announced as he entered the sequence into the panel. The Excalibur suddenly flashed brightly, wispy tendrils of electricity danced along each panel. The maw pulsed a sickly green and suddenly vomited forth a swirling lance of energy that struck the space in front of the Federation fleet.

“Subspace domains rupturing, we have a tear in the local subspace field….my god it’s expanding fas-” Paris as cut off as everything seemed to cease to exist. There was only a white flash then nothing.





“What happened?” Thrawn asked tightly.

The others stared at the empty space.

“That’s impossible. There is absolutely no way they could have escaped, we detected no drive emissions, the gravity well was in perfect position. This-” Piett pointed to the empty space. “is impossible.”

“Yet there it is.” Thrawn replied, hiding his own confusion.

“They are not anywhere nearby. I detected a disturbance in the force right before they vanished.” Vader added.

Thrawn sighed heavily.

“It matters not. It seems our captain Kirk is far more resourceful than even I gave him credit for but still, he is working well within my plans.”

“This escape was in your plans, sir?” Piett asked confused.

Kahn eyed Thrawn suspiciously.

“Yes. I told you this battle had only one purpose. Defeat James Kirk. Too often I have noticed that among my Imperial brethren defeat all too often means death.”

“Death is the ultimate defeat.” Vader countered.

“Somehow I knew you would say that lord Vader.” Thrawn replied with a shadow of a smile. “But in all seriousness, defeat is my plan. You see to destroy a symbol one must first tear down everything supporting it. We must defeat the myth of James Kirk then we can kill the man.” Thrawn explained as if lecturing to a class. “Right now, even though he has escaped us he has escaped with…how many vessels Piett?”

“Estimates state at most 19 starships.”

“Nineteen…out of an original fleet of 600. That is most definitely a defeat. We have also defeated his ace in the hole, his Doomsday machine. There is no hope of victory now and he knows it. It is now up to us to make the rest of the galaxy know this, because gentlemen, there is absolutely no doubt who won this battle and who lost.” Thrawn stopped and looked out the view port at the Imperial fleet floating opposite his. “But now, we must deal with another issue. Now I want to know precisely what the New Empire is.” Thrawn said with a scowl.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-03-07 11:11pm
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Chapter 42: Shadow Agendas



“Lord Nemesis I presume.” Grand Admiral Thrawn said with a short bow of the head.

Lord Nemesis strode into the massive conference room of the Executor. The room was designed to host a meeting of an entire fleet’s ranking officers. The room was cavernous and now held only an elite few.

Grand Admiral Thrawn stood in the center of a small gathering. Directly to his right stood the imposing figure of Darth Vader, to his left stood Admiral Piett. Slightly behind them were Jerjerrod, who stood stoically behind Thrawn holding several datapads and looking as unemotional as possible. There was one other in the room that looked completely out of place. Kahn stood behind most of the gathering, actually still seated and absently toying with a glass.

However his eyes were tracking them, examining each one with a hunter’s gaze.

Nemesis felt a ripple in the force flowing from this man. The Force was reacting to his presence. He was not meant to be here, but there was a destiny around him, a design that could not be denied.

Nemesis was flanked by Grand Admiral Kittaine, Captain Branna, Admiral T’Vor and Mara Jade.

He stopped short of the assembled Executor officers and regarded each one coolly, eyes drifting over each one and only pausing over Darth Vader. The two groups stared at each other for a long period of silence, hardly what either one expected. Kittaine had dreamed of this moment from the very first night in this galaxy, dreamed of seeing the Imperial relief forces and personally thanking the commander of those forces. Now he regarded the new arrivals as of all things, intruders.

Mara Jade was silent and sullen. This was not at all what she expected. She had actually begun to hope that she had found a place for herself, somewhere where she was no longer a servant. Here she was the Dark lady and a small part of herself also recognized that she had also found her dark lord. Together they would have stood like pillars, holding up a new Empire and perhaps even sending forth her children as heirs to this empire.

Children?

She shook her head slowly.

Since when had she ever thought about children?

Admiral T’Vor was the most openly hostile to this new group. He knew what they were, what they represented and there was something not right about them. They did not have the same noble air as these Imperials. None of them had the bearing of Lord Nemesis, the dangerous beauty of Mara Jade, the quiet confidence of Grand Admiral Kittaine. They looked like thugs, come to demand their share of the booty, and this Lord Darth Vader, a Sith lord? He was not a tenth of the man that the true lord of the Sith, Darth Nemesis was. He was nothing more than a black clad cybernetic monstrosity.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Nemesis broke the silence.

Thrawn stared at the young man, the Hero of Yavin who had blown the Death Star into oblivion and opposed his Emperor at every possible moment, now standing before him, in command of an Imperial fleet, dressed in the black robes of a Sith lord. What had his emperor been thinking? Treason was written on this young man’s face.

“Lord Nemesis, surely, welcome back to the fold after these long months.” Thrawn said with a curt nod.

“Indeed. It has been a long time.” Nemesis replied. Some of the assembled officers shuffled their feet or coughed nervously.

Thrawn pursed his lips slightly. This was a dangerous gambit to play right now but he could not abide treason within the ranks, not here, not now. His plan depended on the utter and complete loyalty and unity of his forces.

“Although I am troubled by the account of my communications officer.”

“Troubled?” Nemesis let the word hang in the air like a feather before smiling softly. “I find that discipline is most effective against officers and men that disappoint and trouble you, Grand Admiral.”

Thrawn nodded barely perceptibly.

So it would be thus. To be truthful he preferred it this way.

Kahn watched the exchange, riveted by acting as nonchalant as possible. This young man was powerful, a leader of men. Of that there was no doubt. If worse came to worse he would throw in his lot with him, but right now, Kahn had his own plans in motion. His eyes briefly flickered over to Jerjerrod.

“Ah, well we all know what sort of discipline a Sith Lord prefers. Although I must admit, I see most of your senior staff here.”

“Indeed.” Nemesis smiled. Not because of Thrawn’s observation but because of the effect the observation would have.

Kittaine glanced over at Branna and Mara Jade. It had never occurred to them, not once until now. They had been living in fear under the constant threat of Nemesis’ anger but not once had he slain one of his own officers since beginning this battle for control of the galaxy.

It slowly dawned on Branna and Kittaine that all this time they had been afraid of his discipline but not once had he ever slain them, not even Tarsi for his failure on Vulcan.

And they looked upon their Lord with new eyes, and Nemesis smiled even more broadly as he felt the sudden waves of newfound loyalty.

Thrawn noticed the exchange and instantly realized the gaffe he had stepped right into. His eyes narrowed on the young man.

Not again, little traitor, not again will you maneuver me into such a position. Thrawn swore.

Nemesis glanced at Vader.

“And what new does the Emperor bring us? When can we expect to cross over?”

“There have been complications.” Vader answered.

“We will conquer this galaxy and return home, but first you will answer my question.” Thrawn added coolly, not glancing over at Vader. He would not allow the Sith lords time to speak and plot. He was well aware that more likely than not Vader and Nemesis had spoken via use of their extra sensory power but he would do what he could to stymie their efforts on his end until he came up with a viable way of neutralizing both.

“I was unaware that you were asking one…and unless I mistake your tone that sounded suspiciously like a demand.” Nemesis replied casually and suddenly Thrawn felt his throat constrict and air was cut off. He did not flounder, he did not flail. He locked eyes with Nemesis.

“Release him.” Vader ordered curtly.

Nemesis’s eyes flicked over to Vader and the tension in the room skyrocketed, Nemesis’ men suddenly crowded closer to their lord and Thrawn’s men crowded subconsciously closer to him.

“He has the authority of the Emperor himself as well as a mandate from him to conquer this galaxy, you will release him now, Lord Nemesis.” Vader growled and took a step forward. All eyes suddenly drifted down to their lightsabers. Vader’s right hand was hovering over his lightsaber. Nemesis’ hand was also close to his lightsaber.

Mara watched the exchange with a growing sense of alarm. She had never seen Sith lords in open conflict. Nemesis was pushing the very boundaries of his power and authority. Vader was the senior Sith Lord, having served the Emperor for a generation, Nemesis was a new comer and not trusted very far even within the Emperor’s inner circle. Too many looked on him as Luke Skywalker, hero of the rebellion, destroyer of the Death Star.

She also saw something else. Her instant need to be by his side, to protect him.

She was the Emperor’s Hand, there was no room for anyone else in her loyalties. She was serving Nemesis because it suited the Emperor. If need be she was to kill him if he committed treason against the Emperor.

He was doing just that and assassination had only entered her mind as an after thought.

What is happening to me? She lamented.

“As you wish.” Nemesis replied and made a dismissive gesture. Thrawn suddenly gasped and rubbed his throat as he caught his breath.

Vader smiled beneath the mask. His son was powerful and wore his authority like a suit of armor. He was proud of him, but also frightened for him. He did not know how long Vader had been plotting Palpatine’s downfall, how many years were spent currying favor, expanding his own power base, extending his knowledge of the Force without Palpatine’s knowledge. Training harder and harder, becoming more powerful. But it could all be for naught because his son had no patience.

Vader was troubled. Not by his son’s recklessness and brashness, not by the leaps and bounds in which his son’s strength in the Force grew, not by the apparent treason, but because Lord Vader did not know what he would do were he faced with the choice of giving up all he had worked for or slaying his son.

“Now that we have that out of the way and I see the route you are willing to travel, then you leave me no choice, Lord Nemesis.” Thrawn said coldly, absently rubbing his throat.

“Oh?”

“I am accusing you of treason.”

The room suddenly grew as silent as a tomb.

“What did you say?” Nemesis whispered.

“I have the evidence here.” Thrawn nodded to Jerjerrod who activated a datapad recording where Nemesis’ voice was clearly heard: “This is Lord Darth Nemesis. All rebel ships are to stand down or be destroyed by order of the New Empire.”

“And?”

Thrawn blinked.

“That is your answer?” Thrawn replied.

“What do you want me to say? That after being stranded so far away from home that it would take us 3,000 years in hyperspace to get home, and be flung thousands of years into the future that I would believe that we could ever be united with the Empire? What do you take me for? A fool.”

“A loyal subject of the Empire.” Thrawn replied without skipping a beat.

Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the young man. You are a smart one aren’t you?

“Those are pretty words, Grand Admiral, but utterly useless out here. Do you realize that as we stand here and talk, the Empire we both knew is gone, it is thousands of years into the future in this galaxy? Millennia have passed and whatever we knew then is long gone.”

Some of Thrawn’s officers exchanged troubled glances.

“That is not the point, you had an obligation to continue your loyalty to the Empire to the bitter end, and here I find a fleet of the Emperor’s finest, having abandoned the core beliefs and honor that bind us all together.”

“They’ve gone native.” Piett whispered to Jerjerrod who ignored him. He could see a titanic power struggle now in the works.

“Do you know what I see? I see a group of people that have stood together against incredible odds and through the sacrifice of blood and tears we have forged a new empire in the image of the old. We have embraced who we are and through our own ingenuity and loyalty to each other we have persevered. I am honored to lead these men.” Nemesis replied regally and whipped his cape around him.

Kittaine felt a chill run down his spine. There was real pride in his voice and he could not help but fight a tear out of the corner of his eye. All this time, Lord Nemesis had been proud of them, he had whipped them, pushed them, struck fear in them but he also loved them.

“And we proud to serve with you, my lord.” Branna suddenly announced with emotion in his voice.

Thrawn paused as he tried to find a way to defuse what he and Nemesis were setting into motion.

“Have you no shame?” Piett hissed.

“I know you, Piett.” Kittaine suddenly spoke up. “Admiral Ozzel was a good man you little conniving bastard and I’ve heard enough about how he was stained by you that I would have a word with you alone.”

“You and what army?” Piett sneered.

“I have quite the fleet at my disposal, little man. Care to have a try?” Kittaine replied coolly.

Nemesis could barely suppress the smile.

“This is not the place for this nonsense.” Vader interjected.

“You and what army??” Jerjerrod whispered to Piett in disbelief.

“It was the first thing that came to my mind.” Piett whispered back out of the corner of his mouth.

Jerjerrod could not help smiling. Perhaps Piett was not the total ass he imagined him to be.

“The Romulan Empire stands by Lord Nemesis and his fleet.” T’Vor announced and stood still. He knew what he was doing may damn his people to destruction, but he had invested too much trust and time in Lord Nemesis and their people and it was obvious that this new faction was not welcome here. It was time for the Romulans to carve out their own niche here. If Nemesis’ faction won, then the Romulans would have assured their ascension in this galaxy forever as the premier power in the galaxy.

“The Imperium is grateful.” Nemesis replied with a nod to Admiral T’Vor.

“Imperium?!” Jerjerrod exclaimed.

“New Empire will simply not do. Particularly with your presence here. No, I have decided that the alliance between the Imperial fleet under my command, the Romulan provincial forces, the Federation Protectorate and Klingon occupied territories will now be called the Imperium. I have assigned Grand Admiral Kittaine as the man with which you may discuss your plans and agendas.”

“Grand Admiral?” Piett sputtered.

“You know what you have done?” Thrawn asked quietly.

Nemesis looked at each of the Imperial officers on the other side of the room before settling his sight on Thrawn.

“Indeed I have. I am preserving the status quo.”

Thrawn’s face remained impassive but his eyes were burning into the young Sith lord. He did not say it. He was walking on the very edge of the line but he was not saying it.

“I am holding on to what we have fought and died for. The Imperium was my response to this new galaxy. Here together, with the Romulans, Federation and Klingons, I have forged something new. What do they know of the Empire? Nothing. But what do they now know of the Imperium? They will fight and die for it.”

Thrawn did not reply, the little bastard was dancing on the very edge of treason. Thrawn should order him killed, have Vader finish him but there were two reasons why he did not.

“Besides, Grand Admiral, you need us. If you decide that we are an obstacle, we will become that obstacle and then where will your conquest of this galaxy be? Warring against your own was hardly what the emperor wants.”

But he did foresee it arrogant little Sith. But there was one reason.

“Work with us and I can assure you that this galaxy will be ours.”

The assembled officers had clearly drawn their lines and glared at each other across the room. They all realized that Nemesis had all but said what was on everyone’s minds, but he was a Sith lord and SAYING it was the key. And there was the second.

He had played his gambit well, but Thrawn now knew that he had an enemy in his midst and he would not forget Vader’s relative silence on this matter. If anyone else had even come close to what Nemesis was espousing, they would be writhing on the floor like a gutted fish as Vader crushed his trachea. Now they were simply staring at each other.

It must not be easy having to kill your own child. Thrawn mused. But there would be no doubt, if Vader was going to shy away from his duty, Thrawn had a plan to deal with both Sith lords should the need arise.

“We will discuss these matters more fully later. For now, let us cast aside our differences and embrace the fact that you have found each other despite the vast intergalactic distances.” Kahn said with a jovial smile.

Thrawn turned his head sharply and pinned him with a harsh gaze.

“And who might this be?” Nemesis asked.

“I am but a wayfarer, rescued by the noble Grand Admiral from a dead planet, marooned there by James T. Kirk.”

Nemesis blinked.

“Kirk?”

“That’s correct, Lord Nemesis. My name is Kahn Noonian Singh and I am here to help you eradicate that man.”

“I do believe that enough has been said by you, Kahn.” Thrawn interjected tightly. He looked back at Nemesis and slowly walked over to him, the first to break the invisible line that seemed to hold both groups back. Nemesis watched him closely.

“We have come across the gulf of stars by order of the Emperor himself to bring his fleet back home and that is what I am going to do, Lord Nemesis. Now, together we shall crush our enemies, drive them before us and bring this galaxy under our banner.” Thrawn stated coolly and extended his hand.

Nemesis stared at it for the briefest moment before extending his own. Both men stared at each other as they shook hands. A cold understanding in their eyes. The gauntlet had been thrown down and only one of them would be allowed to go home.








“We are secure from warp speed.”

“Excellent, R-7. Quickly, short range scan.”

“Complying.”

Picard stared at the view screen, normally the sight of what appeared to be a massive fleet of Borg cubes utterly decimated would have made his heart soar. Not this time. Instead, he felt an odd sense of dread as if he were seeing the beginning of something horrible, of a terrible calamity on the horizon.

As the Valhalla sailed though a sea of shattered cubes he felt a chilling premonition that he was looking at the future. The ship itself was silent as usual, the android crew working in silent unison, communicating via a subspace channel between each android made talking unnecessary.

Picard had grown accustomed to the silence as the other Shadowfleet captains told him he would.

“Short range scan reports at least 5,000 cubes and assorted Borg vessels scattered around us for several million kilometers. We are also picking up heavy damage on the surface of the Unimatrix.” R-7 reported dispassionately.

“Any signs of life?”

“None.”

Picard slumped in his chair. He had come too late for whatever calamity had occurred here, but there was a driving desire to continue forward. He had heard the Collective’s scream, but there was more. So much more.

Suddenly Picard stiffened.

Sorrow, a deep abiding sorrow washed over him and he heard something in his head, as if whispered from far away.

“Thank you, Captain Picard. You taught me all that I needed to know on how to be a Starfleet officer and a man.”

Then there was emptiness.

“Wesley.” Picard whispered as he recognized the voice. He stared off into space for a moment, trying to make sense of what he had just felt. What was happening to him? First the call of the Borg, now this. Sometimes, just sometimes, he wondered if he was going to wake up and think of this as the most vivid and disturbing dream he had ever had in his life.

“Sir we are picking up a strange subspace cascade on the surface of the Unimatrix, at the heart of the superlaser impact point.” R-7 reported.

“A subspace cascade? What is the cause?”

“Unknown, but all subspace domains in that immediate vicinity are no longer in phase with the surrounding domains.”

Picard glanced down at the report. It looked as of someone had carved out a hole in the local subspace domains.

“Take us in closer, but maintain alert status. We have no idea whether the Imperials will come back.”

The Valhalla glided closer to the planet that had served as the heart of the Collective. A huge gaping crater had been blown into the side of the planet, molten magma spewing in great gouts of liquefied rock into space. The enormous crystal mountains that rose up in exact intervals around the planet, usually crackling with the sickly green energy of the Collective’s consciousness were dark, some shattered by the attack that had slain the Collective.

“I’ve waited years to see this, R-7. The Borg laid low, their Collective shattered beyond repair. Now that I see this laid out before me, I feel no peace of mind, no sense of accomplishment.”

“Perhaps because you did not achieve this personally?” R-7 offered.

Picard glanced at the android and nodded slowly.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I wanted to smash them myself.” he replied softly.

“The sensor sweeps are having more success now. The subspace cascade is becoming more clear, we will soon be able to determine an origin point.”

“What is down there that could have survived the heart of that blast?” Picard wondered.






“This can’t last forever you know.”

“Patience, Captain. I have everything under control. Certain contingencies have been activated.” The Queen replied soothingly.

Archer stared at the Borg Queen for a moment, uncertain whether to laugh or to shout. He elected to turn his back on her and tare out of the bubble they were in. All around them, molten red magma flowed, sometimes erupting upwards into the inky black sky above. It was unnerving as he watched it flow around him, although he could not even feel the warmth of the molten rock he still shuddered at the thought of what would happen if he were suddenly in phase with this reality.

“Do not worry. The Subspace bunker does not allow us to interact with this domain. We are safe from harm.” Seven whispered to him, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He looked over at her and smiled softly, gripping her hand with his and staring into those beautiful eyes.

“Well, Seven, if you say so.”

“She has said so since the first hour of our safety. Must she constantly reassure you, Captain Archer?” The Queen asked snidely.

Archer frowned and turned his head to look at the dark woman.

“Look, I didn’t ask you anything. You dragged us into this thing without telling us what to expect, now here we are trapped kilometers below the surface of a magma bed and you expect me to take all of this calmly.”

“I told you that contingencies have been put in place to assure our rescue. We will not remain here for long.”

“This bunker was never in any of the Borg archives. This technology seems almost alien to me.”

The Queen smiled.

“I spent generations funneling research and materials into a special project of my own design. It would assure my continued existence should anything happen to the Collective.”

“Yet you espoused the invulnerability of the Borg.” Seven countered angrily. She felt an odd pang of betrayal. She was no longer a drone but she spent more of her life as one than as a full fledged human being and to see the layers of her superiority and belief about the Borg peeled away one at a time by this being that was once her Queen was painful.

The Queen regarded Seven with a cool gaze, and an almost bemused expression.

“Even you must conceded that all possibilities must be explored. That the fact we may have been destroyed by a more powerful force was always a possibility. Look at the war with Species 8472, we were almost annihilated yet no one in the Collective believed it was possible even near the very end. I could not allow our own arrogance and logic to deny the possibility however remote.”

“That and the fact that you maintained your independence from the Collective, everything, the Borg, the Collective, assimilation, it has all been used to serve you and your desires and purposes.” Archer replied.

“And why not? I am the voice of the multitude. I created then, made them what they are.”

“No, you were only assisting in the creation of a new life form and you botched it up.”

“Who are you to question me?” The Queen hissed.

“Someone who could see that maybe the merger of man and machine to stop a war millennia ago was meant to be something more than this. The Borg, they are not what was intended, the Borg could not have been born from peace, for the desire to see the killing stop. They could not have decided to make war on the rest of the galaxy fro untold millennia.”

The Queen stared at Archer for a long moment then started laughing softly, her face twisted in a grotesque mask of humor and annoyance.

“You truly are a naive idealist Captain. That has always been the flaw in your Federation. A flaw which I am now taking advantage of.”

“What are you talking about?” Archer asked.

“There is one more Borg left that can still aid me and he is almost here.”

“What are you-“

Seven blinked as the realization struck her.

“Locutus.” She whispered.

The Queen only smiled.





“I’m going down there.”

“Sir, that is highly inadvisable. We are uncertain if the transporter can even penetrate the subspace bunker.” R-7 replied as he followed Picard off the turbolift towards the transporter room.

“I’ve looked at your sensor data, R-7, I known enough about subspace field science to know that we can briefly bring the matter integrating stream into phase with the subspace bunker, more than enough time to beam down there and see what we can find.”

“You are taking an unacceptable risk.” R-7 stated but as usual did not seem to be losing his temper at all.

“Then you’re coming down with me, grab a phaser.” Picard said casually as they entered the transporter room and he pulled a phaser rifle off the wall rack and flipped it over to him. One thing about shadow fleet warships was there were weapons racks and lockers everywhere.

R-7 caught it without missing a beat and immediately slung it over his shoulder as Picard set the transporter coordinates.

“Captain, I am uncertain as to why you are attempting to proceed in such an illogical manner. The Borg have all been destroyed, the only sign we can pick up on our sensors are faint hyperwave transmissions, like background noise in most of the ships, but the planet itself is dead. They are all dead, there is no sign that the Collective exists, power generation on the planet is at nil. Every reactor core has been deactivated.”

“It’s as if someone threw a huge off switch, isn’t it R-7?” Picard interjected as he double checked his coordinates.

R-7 cocked his head in confusion for a moment.

“Ah, the analogy was difficult as I had to access several databases but you are essentially correct.”

“Good, I like being right, now come on R-7.” Picard urged and stepped on to the transporter pad. He felt something tingling in his belly, like a warning that something awful was going to happen. There was a driving need in his head, like an urge to overcome, to fulfill a mission but there was part of him that was holding back, almost afraid.

What was wrong with him?

R-7 stepped on the pad, rifle at the ready. The android turned his head to Picard.

“We could have attempted to beam up whatever is in the Bunker.” He stated matter of factly.

Picard blinked. It was as if he had been slapped, or splashed with cold water while in a stupor.

“You’re right, what the hell am I-”

Picard dematerialized with R-7 in a column of light.





Picard rematerialized in the subspace bunker. At first he was alarmed as the sea of molten magma seemed to flow around him in seething fury but he could not touch it, could not feel it.

“Now there’s a sight for sore eyes.” Archer exclaimed and walked over to Picard.

“Captain Picard, thank god you—”

“Down!” Picard shouted and aimed his phaser rifle at the woman standing behind Archer. The one that had infested his nightmares since that dark day of his assimilation, the one that had stolen his humanity and made him doubt himself. The one that still whispered to him in those dark places in his mind where he still dared not go.

The Borg Queen smiled at him, a soft gentle smile but there was an edge to it, a razor sharp edge.

“Locutus. How good it is to see you again.” she said coolly. he aimed at her head and pulled the trigger without hesitation. At least he tried to pull the trigger, suddenly his entire body felt heavy and limp. The phaser rifle remained rigid in his hands, pointed at her but his body refused to respond to his commands.

R-7 stood dumbly by his side, the only sign that he was at all functioning was the frantic movement of his eyes.

“Did you just try to harm me?” She whispered and sidled over to him, running her hand seductively over the barrel of his phaser rifle, her eyes not leaving his. Archer began to speak but he too felt disoriented and weak.

Seven tried to move as well, suddenly aware of the Queen’s treachery. But something was wrong, her sense s were dimmed and she found herself on her knees without any idea of how she had gotten there.

“Fools. All of you fools. Did you really think I was helpless. I AM the Borg. These things you see around us, these trappings of steel and flesh are nothing more than extensions of myself. How could you, an ex drone, you an inferior machine entity, you a mere human and you, my chief consort and creation think you could turn against me?” she said, her voice dropping even lower.

She nestled in close to Picard, bringing her lips inches from his own and staring into his eyes, he stared back, hatred and frustration in his gaze.

“It was a simple matter, Locutus to activate one of the many post hypnotic suggestions implanted deep in your mind. Those that think themselves free of us are allowed to think that. But once you have been assimilated then you are forever mine. Your mind is my play thing. For instance Locutus, what did you think when you cam down here? Why the hurry?”

Picard stared at her and his gaze was like fire.

“Ah, so you know how craftily you were manipulated. You see my love, there was never any escape. I ALLWOED you to win and escape our clutches over your pathetic little world. Did you think me a fool? Of course I knew that one cube would not be enough, but it was enough to ensnare you and make you my drone without your knowledge.”

Picard’s eyes widened slightly.

“Yes, Picard, I assimilated you without your even knowing. And while I must admit that you plagued me from time to time, it was worth it in the end for this moment. I knew that one day the Collective could face a foe that would crush it, I knew that one day I would be placed in a position where I would have to rebuild. But now that I am here I can see how daunting the task is.” She ran her hand along his cheek and glanced up at him with a cruel smile on her face.

“They ejected me from paradise, Locutus. My own children said that I had failed them one time too many but they did not think it through. You know that the Collective lacks the creativity and foresight that your species has. Now look at them.” she glanced around at the sea of magma where the Collective used to reside. She waved her hand in the air above them and an image shimmered into place. The graveyard of thousands of Borg cubes littered the space above the planet. Already a constant bombardment of ribbons of fire and light were streaking across the night skies of the dead unimatrix world. The first of the closest debris was now raining down on the planet and would do so for the next thousand years.

“They were foolish and weak and they were wiped clean. Resistance is futile, Locutus. The Borg were not distinct enough, not powerful enough. I will change that. I will remake them in a new image. They will stride through this galaxy like the mighty goliath they should have been and I have this Empire to thank for it. I will show them my gratitude when I assimilate them.” She whispered like a lover in Picard’s ear.

Picard pinned her with his gaze.

“How? You want to know Locutus? That I leave up to me. But you have provided me with the resources I need to begin this new rebirth. Now I have what I need.”

The viewer focused on the Valhalla.

“With this vessel I will blaze the trail to new glory, Locutus.” She slowly unhooked a device from her thigh and started typing command stings into it. She paused and looked back at Picard. “Do not fear my love. I will not abandon you to this fate. When I am reborn I will return to you and we will be reunited and you will be the first to be assimilated into the New Collective and together we will rule this galaxy as it should have been long ago.”

Picard tried desperately to say something, anything, even just to curse her but he could not move.

She smiled at him again and slowly turned to Seven. She knelt down on one knee and lifted Seven’s face to look into her eyes.

“And you my little drone, what shall I do with you? You have failed me too many times to count. I allowed you to break free of the Collective to serve us better as a spy and a scout, but you embraced this pathetic humanity of yours and what else is there now? you will not rejoin the Collective, you do not ant that at all. In fact I suspect you would destroy yourself first before you allow yourself that again, wouldn’t you?” she asked. Seven could not say anything but she knew the horror that she now felt welling up in her heart at the very possibility that she would be assimilated again.

The Queen glanced back at Archer.

“And your feelings for this male are all too clear. You have allowed yourself to devolve into this pathetic creature now kneeling before me, a creature that still comforts herself in the knowledge that she meant something as a Borg, that she was part of something grand. Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix zero one, you were nothing more than a cog in the machine, a tool to be used and disposed of at my whim and I have now chosen a place for you in the new order.” She hissed and jerked Seven’s face up to hers. “You will be assimilated and kept as an heirloom, an antique of an old age when Borg drones were nothing more than mindless machines at the whim of the Collective, your weakness to be on display forever.” The queen roughly shoved Seven’s face down and she stood up straight and entered the final code sequence.

“Do not concern yourselves. The bunker will remain in place until I return. Then we will forge a new Collective and I assure you, Resistance will indeed be futile.” she announced grandly and disappeared in a shimmering green stream of light.

Suddenly they could all move and Archer immediately raced over to Seven helping her up.

“Are you Okay?” he asked looking her over.

“Please, I need time to myself.” Seven replied hotly.

“Seven.”

“Don’t call me that!” She snapped and shoved him away.

Picard looked around and shook his head. he had been manipulated and used like another tool.

“I do believe that she has seized control of the Valhalla.” R-7 noted, watching the image on the screen of the starship slowly coming about and the nearest chunks of debris making way while several armored plates drifted over and welded themselves to the outer hull of the Valhalla.

“She is making the ship worthy to carry her.” Picard stated grimly and threw his rifle on the ground.




On the Valhalla, The Queen stood stoically in the center of the bridge, the androids manning their stations were no longer recognizable, their bodies twisted and fused into the work stations themselves and long spindly cords running from their backs, along the floor to pool at the queen’s feet where they hooked into a device at her hip. She smiled softly as she found the core she needed. A transwarp drive unit, relatively intact floated out from the wreckage and settled down on the broad spine of the secondary hull of the Sovereign class vessel. Tactical cube armor plating was encasing the more vital parts of the ship and soon she had formed around the Valhalla, in a tight diamond shape formation four cube like structures, essentially giving the starship far more power than it could have ever generated as new plasma torpedo launchers regenerated on the outer hull casings of the empty cubes. The shuttle bay was filled with a brilliant green light as she beamed over her most promising subjects for re-assimilation.

She smiled at her work as the new ship was formed in a matter of minutes. More power than a squadron of Borg cubes, faster than a Borg scout ship and carrying within it the seeds of a new Collective. She took one last look at the unimatrix that had been her home for millennia and smiled softly.

She looked upon her works and it was good.

The Valhalla disappeared in an explosion of light as the transwarp drive activated and drove the ship on to its final destination.




“So, this is how it ends for us, trapped in the heart of a dead planet awaiting the tender mercies of the Borg Queen when she gets back.” Archer spat and kicked at the floor in disgust, but his eyes wandered to Seven who was standing in the far corner of the bunker staring out at the molten sea, an empty expression on her face, fist clenching and unclenching.

He wanted to reach out to her.

“We can’t just give up, captain. There has to be a way out of this.” Picard said grimly as he checked the dimensions of the bunker.

“Unfortunately Captain my onboard sensors detect no gap or foreseeable exit point in the subspace bunker. We are completely and totally out of phase with the space and reality around us.” R-7 noted.

“Picard, you haven’t been sitting in this thing for the last day or so like I have. We tried everything, but the only one who knew anything about this bunker was the Queen and she wasn’t sharing knowledge.

“Even if we did discover a way out, it would only let that in here.” Seven added softly, indicating the sea of magma with a nod of her head. She did not turn back to look at any of them, instead she remained riveted to her place.

Picard frowned.

“She would create the perfect trap for us, and the most frustrating thing of all is that I know where she is going.”

“You do?” Archer replied in surprise.

“Yes, she may like to pretend that she has total control over me, but I learned long ago that the connection she maintains with me is partially two way and I managed to see the image in her mind and I remembered the place from a deeply buried memory.”

“Where is she going?” Seven asked, finally turning her head, but her arms were crossed over her chest, as if hugging herself for comfort.

“Where it all began.” Picard replied.

“But I thought…” Archer’s voice drifted off as he slowly realized what they had all assumed.

“The Unimatrix is not the Borg homeworld. It is the place where she chose to establish the visible base of the Borg.”

“But she chose to allow the true homeworld of the Borg to disappear into obscurity.” Seven added, understanding the depth of her malice and guile.

“And now she returns to the birth place of the Collective, to the one place that she can remake it in her image, to the Chamber of Creation.” Picard whispered as if reading from a book.

“Damnit!” Archer cursed and made to punch the invisible wall of the bunker when he heard a squeak. He paused.

“Did you hear that?”

The sound came again, it chirped now, louder and he looked slowly down to his own chest.

Picard’s eyes narrowed on Archer’s communicator.

Archer hesitantly reached up and touched the combadge.

“Archer here.”

“Captain, we thought for sure you were dead, but when that starship showed up we picked up transporter activity at this location.”

“Reynolds?” Archer replied in shock. His XO’s voice was almost like out of a dream.

“How in the hell-”

“Sir, we took a bad hit and it fried our communications array. We managed to get the cloak working and decided to hide out as we were WAY outclassed. We managed to get the array working for short range communications but we’ll need a drydock to replace the array to get long range communications back. Sorry we didn’t get in touch sooner but with the Imperials hanging around and us thinking you were dead, we were waiting for the neighborhood to quiet down before we left.”

“Damnit Reynolds! I could care less about that! You guys are alive!!” Archer exclaimed happily.

“Yes sir and we’re standing by for your orders.”

Archer looked up at Picard.

“Captain Picard?”

Picard nodded.

“We’re going after her.” He said grimly.







Three figures move deftly through the winding streets of Romulus’ capital city. they moved quickly but never too quickly, always cautiously glancing around but never making enough of a scene to attract attention. They wove through the crowds, intent on clearing them as swiftly as possible and reaching their destinations.

The three figures took to back alleys and moving through dark corners, each looking back and around them as they moved.

They finally came to a small building at the edge of the industrial sector, the noise of the automated refineries could be heard like a dull roar. hardly the place anyone would want to live unless they were down on their luck, out of options or not wanting to be found. The lead figure paused at the door and touched the recognition pad. It glowed dully for a moment and the door clicked and hissed open. They walked through and the door slid shut behind them.

The figures paused at the turbolift and two went inside while one took to the stairs. The turbolift took off, rumbling loudly, obviously in need of maintenance and reached the third floor almost as soon as the lone figure cleared the stairs.

They approached one door and waited for a moment, one of them holding up a cautioning hand and listening. There was noise, a conversation to be precise drifting out from the door and the cautious figure looked at the other two and nodded curtly. They all drew weapons and the cautious figure held a special key to the door. It clicked and hissed open hesitantly, the door almost jamming a third of the way open on the runners.

The figures were already in motion and one nearly cleared the door but got his leg caught and nearly tripped flat ion his face. An old woman turned suddenly startled.

A disruptor was suddenly pressed hard against the lead figure’s nose.

“Ok, let’s try that again. First you will apologize to the nice lady.” a cold voice broke the sudden silence.

“We have no time for this.” the Romulan with the disruptor at his nose replied, sounding rather nasal.

“There’s always time for politeness in this cold society especially in terms of respecting your elders.” The disruptor pressed hard into the Romulan’s nose. “NOW, apologize…nicely.”

The Romulan stared at the gunman and looked at the old woman holding a small kettle of tea. She looked scared and confused.

“I apologize for our barging in like this mother. It was not our intention to disturb or frighten you.”

“I can’t believe this.” One of the figures stuck outside the door muttered.

“I heard that.” The gunman chimed.

“Apology accepted?” The gunman asked turning his attention to the old woman. She nodded reluctantly.

“Good.” The gunman holstered the disruptor in one clean motion and walked back to her., The grumbling Romulans entered and the door trundled closed.

“Really , that was unnecessary, Adare.” the lead Romulan snapped angrily.

Michael Adare nodded to himself and smiled softly as he took a seat and the old woman smiled kindly at him.

“More Timaul tea?” she asked.

“Of course. This is the best tea I’ve had in a long time.”

“You’re too kind, Mr. Adare.”

“Please, call me Michael. Your son did so much for us how could I ask you to be so formal?” Adare replied jovially. The three Romulans exchanged flabbergasted expressions.

“You tell me such kind things about my son, but I am no fool, Mr. Adare.” Adare began to protest but she held up a hand. “I am Romulan and we are a traditional people.” She added sternly. Adare smirked and held up his hands in surrender. “He was a good child, but I am no fool, my son was not a normal man, he was retarded by all means of measure.”

“Save for his love for you and the Empire.” Adare replied and took a sip of the tea. He made a rubbing the belly motion and added an emphatic “Mmmmmmmm.”

She laughed and slapped his shoulder playfully.

“You stop that.”

“Sorry, but if you please, my associates seem impatient and the quicker I get rid of them the quicker I can tell you the story of how I penetrated a Gorn arms depot and made some luggage out of them if you get my drift.”

“You know, for a human, you’re actually very entertaining.” She replied and glared at the three Romulans before retiring to the kitchen,

“Do you mind explaining what this is all about?” The lead Romulan snapped angrily. Adare sipped at his tea and closed his eyes for a moment.

“Let me tell you something, this business is fucking dark, S’ton. There’s no need to bring that darkness into every part of our lives. So either take the time to be polite to those that need it most of all or get busy being nothing more than a killing machine. This.” He pointed to the tea and then indicated the surroundings. “Is called sanity. So that’s the only answer you’re getting out of me.”

“Can we then discuss matters that are far more pressing?”

“What was all the hubbub about last night?”

“What?”

“The attack.” Adare pressed.

“Your Federation fleet attacked Romulus and was driven back by the Imperium forces. The Imperium also seems to have gotten reinforcements.”

“Ain’t that nice.” Adare replied glumly.

“We also finished receiving your packages.”

Adare nodded and leaned forward.

“Let’s see.”

Each of the Romulans handed him a small package. He set them out on the table and opened each one carefully.

“It was not easy getting them past the customs inspectors, but your people seem to have a gift for smuggling objects onto other worlds.”

“They got me inserted without any of you knowing about it.” Adare commented without looking up and took out a small handheld device and checked it.

“It doesn’t look dangerous.” One of the Romulans commented.

“We expected something more lethal.” Another added.

S’ton watched Adare carefully. He had been in the Tal’Shiar long enough to know that appearances were very deceiving. The fact that Michael Adare was even here on a mission spoke volumes about the organization he represented. All other clandestine operations groups in Federation space had been liquidated or driven so far underground that their only concern was surviving.

Here they were mounting an operation deep behind enemy lines.

“This is a subspace field generator.” He lifted a long tubular device that was blinking with many dim lights. “This is a transporter transmitter.”

“That’s the smallest I have ever seen.” One commented.

“What will you do with that? Beam into the compound?”

Adare frowned as he unfurled a smaller package and carefully laid out three slugs.

“Look, my people may be advanced but we haven’t got a transporter that small with the range I need to beam myself in there.”

“Those look like…bullets.” S’ton noted curiously.

Adare smiled and held one up to the light.

“You see gentlemen, what we have here is the unstoppable bullet.”

The three Romulans exchanged skeptical glances. Adare smirked.

“Our target is infamous for being able to use this Force to guide his hand and deflect things like blaster bolts and disruptor fire.”

“I have seen it with my own eyes.” One of the Romulans countered.

“So have I. But this little baby is beyond even his reach.”

“Why, his reflexes allow him to actually block near light speed projectiles, how much faster can you project this bullet?” S’ton commented.

Adare stared at the bullet for a moment, holding it up between his index finger and thumb, turning it slowly in the light.

“I’m not going to shoot this thing any faster than a standard slug thrower. Its not the speed, my friends, its this.” He held up the transporter transmitter and subspace field generator. He glanced at each one and despite their poker faces could see confusion when he saw it.

“I am going to beam a bullet into Lord Nemesis’ brain pan.”

“What?” S’ton exclaimed.

“He can’t touch this baby because as I fire it, it will be disintegrated and transmitted to his brain where the bullet will beam back in. The effect should prove…spectacular.”

The three Romulans were stunned.

“All I need to do is be in line of sight of Lord Darth Nemesis and…” he made a shooting sound with his mouth and held the bullet up to the light again. “Lights out, game over, sayonara, pass the beer.” He said simply and looked at each of the Romulans.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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Chapter 43: Cloak and Dagger



Grand Admiral Thrawn sat alone in his private quarters on the Executor. They had been hastily modified to resemble the quarters of his old flagship. A large area with holographic representations of artwork from all throughout the galaxy surrounded him in a soft light. A single long table in the center, suitable for small, intimate meeting between him and his staff dominated the center. He sat on a lone chair at the back of the office, a dim light illuminating the area around the chair only and a gorgeous view of the star field beyond and his fleet in formation around the command ship.

The Imperium fleet was off in the distance, closest to Romulus, it seemed the naked attempts at symbolism were the order of the day, he mused. The fleet looked more ragged around the edges, battle damage clearly visible on several stardestroyers, one in particular looked as if it has been through hell and back, missing portions of its bridge tower, the nose of the arrow shape vessel simply torn away, engines shattered.

The fleet was a flying symbol for all that they had endured in this galaxy. Thrawn’s fleet on the other hand was pristine and immaculate, floating menacingly in perfect fleet formation.

The war for the hearts and minds of the conquered was fully underway.

Thrawn toyed with a small chess piece on the armrest of his chair. A three dimensional chess board was set up in front of him and he was playing a computer opponent, hardly challenging but he was learning the rules of the game.

Thrawn was playing for several reasons.

Three dimensional chess was a past time of many Starfleet personnel and according to the personnel files on James Kirk it was also one of his favorite past times. Thus, to know the man, to find the key to how his mind worked, he played this game. Secondly, it was a porthole to this galaxy’s way of thinking. If he was to know the military mind set of those he faced, he would need to know on what planes their minds wandered. Third, The Emperor had a set in his throne room. Thrawn did not question Palpatine on where he had gotten the set, as far as Thrawn knew, no one in his galaxy played the game. The Emperor was hardly known as a gamesman, so what purpose did it serve? All he knew was that a game was in progress and Palpatine was not playing it, he seemed to be observing. But who was playing and why? Finally, Thrawn needed to get his mind off other problems, other emotions that were eating at him.

Thrawn was troubled.

He knew before he arrived in this galaxy that he would be facing threats the likes of which he had never seen. He would have to play the game of statecraft and warcraft simultaneously. He would also have to think on terms of intergalactic scale. He would have to do battle against the Emperor’s most trusted men, Sith Lords with only one ace up his sleeve. They did not know it yet, but he had discovered a way to destroy their precious link to the Force. But he would NOT play this card unless the endgame was at risk.

Darth Vader would be easy to manipulate and destroy.

Thrawn slid a bishop up to the second level.

Vader was a known quantity. He was driven by desire and ambition. He sought the throne itself, of that he had no doubt. But Vader was subtle, oh it was hard to believe but he was incredibly subtle. He maneuvered others to oppose the Emperor and stood quietly on the sidelines, the Emperor’s ever obedient servant. Tarkin had been his most successful attempt. Tarkin had eyed the throne of power with a measured gaze and the Death star was the path to that throne.

How long? How long until Tarkin used the mighty war machine against his own Emperor. Tarkin was a leader, not a follower. Tarkin had also been a brilliant tactician and leader of men. Thrawn both mourned and was relieved by his passing. Mourned because he did not think that anyone else in the Imperial war machine was a credible threat to him. It would have been exhilarating to test his abilities against such a man. Relieved that he did not have to test his abilities against such a man for surely such a conflict would have devastated the galaxy.

Vader was now maneuvering his son into the equation, emboldened by Skywalker’s so called conversion, Vader’s moves were becoming less subtle, easier to foresee and counter. How long before his ambition made him tip his hand? Thrawn moved a rook into a defensive posture as a knight swung out from the opposing side’s lines into a threatening move to his soft left quadrant. Or, would the Sith lord err on the side of caution and strike down his son to cement his position and trust with the Emperor?

Thrawn would force him to commit.

The computer committed the knight into an attack on the rook.

If Vader chose the route of ambition, both he and his son would be exposed as traitors and they would be exposed to Thrawn’s ace in the hole. Thrawn moved his own knight deep into the computer’s lines and exposed an attack by his bishop against a weak phalanx of pawns. It also opened up a direct move by a rook against the computer’s last bishop. If Vader slew his son to maintain his position, Thrawn would have eliminated the far more potent threat of Darth Nemesis, for there was no doubt after meeting the young man that he had all the attributes of a dangerous political enemy. He was smart, charismatic and daring. Vader was hardly charismatic, choosing to lead from fear and terror, Nemesis actually inspired his people and made them love him. He would be extremely difficult to dislodge without turning this entire so called Imperium against Thrawn’s fleet.

But with Nemesis gone at Vader’s hands there was merely the dark specter to deal with.

The computer chose to move ahead and take his exposed rook instead of letting him take the bishop. Thrawn did not smile, did not show any reaction as he brought out his queen. She had been slowly moving along the board in barely perceptible tangents and now she struck, slicing deep into the Computer’s last quadrant and opening up end game as he flushed out the King.

The Computer had been busy looking at the triple threat and not seeing the less serious one until far too late. Thrawn had intentionally hampered his Queen’s efforts to minimize her threat. The most powerful piece in the board became invisible because it seemed useless, stiff, and impotent.

The computer began the long harrowing march to save the King.

Thrawn was angry at himself.

He knew better, he truly should not be, there was a method to his madness. He was faced with the threat of rebellious Imperial fleets, plotting Sith lords and a raging galactic war. His worst case scenario come true.

He could have simply tried to overwhelm them. But that would have been a terrible waste of resources and a risk he could not take.

Instead, Thrawn played the fool.

They did not know him, they only heard rumors, rampant speculation and they saw that he was not human. He was not a Sith lord as such did not have the Emperor’s ear as they did. He was simply a figure head, a Grand Admiral sent to bring some discipline to the ranks and bear the flag. They did not know the truth.

They did not know the depths of the final plan. The Emperor was setting the stage for something greater. The promise of the possibilities were enormous, almost too much to believe. But if there was even the possibility that what Palpatine promised was true, Thrawn could not allow such an opportunity to pass.

So Thrawn would play his part well, the rabidly loyal Imperial officer. He would drive them to unite against him or to rally to his cause, it did not really matter which it would be, since either way served his purposes well. It did not matter to him whether they were destroyed in opposing him or elevated by joining him. Whatever the choice, Thrawn controlled the ends. He had a goal to achieve and nothing would stop him from doing so.

The King was slowly cornered, rooks and bishops herded it through the multiple levels of the board. His glowing red eyes intent on the tall white piece as it continued on its dash fro freedom. the computer unable to launch a counterattack, he patiently herded the king. As he would patiently herd Vader, Nemesis, the fleet, the rebels, everyone and when the time was right and all the final elements were in place – he moved the queen, cutting off all escape and checkmating the white king.

The white king toppled over and the board cleared.

He would finally have them all and unveil himself as the greatest threat of all.

The door chime sounded.

“Come.” he said after a moment of silence.

The door opened and Jerjerrod stepped in cautiously.

“Someone is here to see you. They said they were summoned but I don’t remember that order.”

“She has been summoned.” Thrawn replied coolly as he set up the board again. The game was mildly addictive. Soon it would be time to test himself against a true opponent.

“Oh…” Jerjerrod looked slightly confused. “She is one of Nemesis’ people.” Jerjerrod whispered.

Thrawn smiled softly as the board winked back into play. He paused it and glanced up at his aide.

“I know. Please, let her in.”

“Of course, Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod began to bow to leave when Thrawn held up a hand.

“And Captain, you and I need to discuss a mater of security.”

“Sir?”

“I checked the logs. You have been visited by Kahn Noonian Singh three times in the last few days. He spent an average of 12 minutes each visit.”

Jerjerrod nodded.

“Yes sir, but the visits were fully supervised, he was under armed escort by two stormtroopers and none of his so called ‘supermen’ were allowed on the officer’s level and the guards remained in the room while we spoke.”

“And at no time was he alone in your quarters or were you alone with him?” Thrawn asked casually as he watched the computer’s opening move.

“No, sir. You ordered me to never allow Kahn any unauthorized access to the ship.”

“Or to the men. Watch him, Jerjerrod, watch him closely. He plays the brash egotistical fool, but he is smart that one. He is constantly plotting. He will do anything to achieve his petty revenge on captain Kirk. Kirk will die, but he will do so at my hands at my choosing and by my command. I will break him then I will kill him. Heroes must be hated before they can be destroyed and nothing shatters the mystique of a hero more than defeat.”

“Of course, Grand Admiral.”

“Now send her in.”

“Yes sir.”

Jerjerrod bowed and walked out. Thrawn did not trust Jerjerrod’s interpretation of events. Something was amiss but he would hold his hand, as he had done since he first came here. All the poisons must come out, all the little and large threats must be exposed. It would make killing them all child’s play.

A figure stalked into his quarters and his eyes glanced down at the small blaster snuggly resting in the holster underneath the table.

“You summoned me?”

“I see that an Emperor’s Hand is as perceptive as they say.” Thrawn replied without looking at Mara Jade while she stood stoically before him, arms crossed across her chest.

“The signal you gave me is known to a handful of men in the galaxy. Last time I checked you were not one of them.” She replied sharply.

Thrawn did not smile or react, instead he casually moved a pawn. His eyes remained fixed on the board, hands drawn together under his chin as he contemplated all the moves. Mara watched him closely. She had heard of him but never met him. He had a reputation for brilliance that she was sure was true for one simple reason. He was not human and he was a Grand Admiral.

“Ms. Jade, you are out of the loop. The Emperor informed me of your presence in Lord Nemesis’ fleet. he gave me the secret signal to activate you.”

“Activate me?” She asked softly.

“Why yes.” Thrawn continued as he moved a bishop out to challenge. “You see, the Emperor has a mission for you. I was to make an assessment and if I found what he feared you would be brought into play.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about. What would or could the emperor know of our predicament in this galaxy?”

“Don’t you?” Thrawn asked, finally looking at her with a piercing gaze his glowing red eyes.

Mara returned the gaze steadily. Inside her heart was shattering, she felt as if she were falling into a deep pit.

“You have your orders.”

“You said nothing.”

“I did not need to, Ms. Jade.” Thrawn gazed at her for a long moment of silence. “You are part of this fleet for one reason and one reason only.”

Mara blinked. She could feel it looming over her like a sword. Inevitability.

“I have discerned that he is no longer acting in the interests of the Empire just as the Emperor feared. You will act accordingly.”

“There are other possibilities and solutions.” She replied defiantly.

Thrawn stared at her, no reaction on his face. He slowly turned his attention back to the board. He paused long enough to slide a small black object down the long table opposite his desk where he sat. The object stopped short as Mara held out her hand and stopped it.

She slowly lifted it up and examined it. It was a standard Imperial holodisk, standard in all but one detail. It had the Emperor’s personal seal stamped in the onyx shell. She glanced up at Thrawn sharply but he no longer seemed to care that she was there.

“You will find what you need on that. The Emperor himself has spoken in this regard. You are his hand. When next we speak, Ms. Jade I expect to either hear of your spectacular failure or see Lord Nemesis’ lightsaber in your hand as proof of the deed. Failure is not an option. The only possibility or solution is your own death. I have many resources at my disposal. I will not insult your intelligence by threatening you, but please, keep this in mind. If you find it difficult and you feel that by warning Lord Nemesis you clear your conscience and that he might protect you, I have this.”

He held up another black holodisc as he countered a strike by a knight.

Mara stared at it. The Emperor’s personal seal was tamped o the disk as well.

“What is that?” she asked softly. Doom had crept into her heart and all she could see was Lord Nemesis and his bright eyes. His soft smile and touch. The way he looked at her, the electricity that passed between them whenever he looked at her. The thought that perhaps she could be free and in power. The most secret desire of all, the need to see her children rising to seize an Empire. Children. Was it even possible that she had considered it?

“Your records, Mara jade, from the moment of your birth to your current assignment.”

Mara’s eyes widened.

Thrawn continued his maddening stance of not looking at her as he played.

“How did you—”

“The Emperor thought that perhaps there was a possibility that your assignment would engender in you personal feelings for Lord Nemesis. He is after all a handsome young man, dashing and charismatic. Quite frankly, I simply expect the worst in a situation.” Thrawn replied as he sacrificed a pawn.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Lord Nemesis will learn of your full status as an Emperor’s hand and more importantly he will know that you have been ordered to assassinate him. He will assume that you are going to carry out that order and kill you before you are able to. I have a dozen ways in which this data can fall into his hands without suspicion.”

Mara set her jaw in a grim smirk.

“He is not a fool.”

“No, of course not, you trust him implicitly. He is a Sith Lord no?” Thrawn replied frostily.

Mara stared hard at the Grand Admiral and fought the doubt in her head. Who was playing whom? What game was going on here and why did she think that when the chips were down she would be left holding the bag.

“He shares everything with you, no? You are his trusted aide and confidant? So by all means trust that he would not eliminate you should you become a threat.”

Mara took a deep breath and pocketed the holodisk.

“You’re playing a dangerous game, Grand Admiral Thrawn.” she said coldly and turned on her heel to leave.

“Ms. Jade?” Thrawn called out. She stopped at the doorway.

“There is no other type of game I am interested in playing.”

She was about to respond when Jerjerrod roughly squeezed by her holding a datapad.

“Grand Admiral!”

Thrawn lifted one eyebrow in surprise and annoyance. Jerjerrod stopped himself and took a breath.

“Apologies, Grand Admiral. The news was very important.”

Thrawn wordlessly extended his hand. Jerjerrod handed him the datapad. Thrawn examined it, his eyes darting along each line and his expression slowly becoming more interested.

“How long?”

“The signal was on for 12 seconds before getting cut off but it was enough time for us to triangulate the position to within 15 light years. Admiral Piett dispatched a squadron of probe droids to commence immediate reconnaissance of the 15 light year cube of space.”

Thrawn nodded slowly.

“And we’re certain of the source?”

“It matches the data we had on her before her deployment in this fleet action. The signal was not faked but masked. It is obvious that it was transmitting from a point in space that has at least some rudimentary cloaking system in place. We only picked it up in the hyperspace band confirming our suspicions of the source.”

Thrawn nodded and scrolled down the readout.

“Excellent, Captain. See Ms. Jade out.”

“Of course.” Jerjerrod bowed and motioned for Mara to follow him. She glanced back at Thrawn who was in motion. He slapped the com panel.

“Admiral Piett.”

“Grand Admiral?”

“Alert all commands, we are deploying the fleet immediately. As soon as the first probe droids transmit exact positions we jump to hyperspace.”

“And the Imperium fleet, Grand Admiral?”

Thrawn smiled softly.

“Inform them that we have found some lost Imperial property.”







Captain Ochoa wondered what he must look like with a beard. He absently rubbed his chin feeling the thick bristly hair. He had never grown out his facial hair like this, he was always one for prim and proper appearances. Of course, that was no longer an option.

He heard the footsteps approaching and paused.

They stopped in front of his cell door and words were exchanged. The doors snapped open with a menacing hiss. The Imperials certainly knew how to build a brig. Federation brigs were Spartan affairs but there was at least a nod to comfort and civility. This place took all that away and even the doors sounded menacing.

“Why haven’t you been eating?” Han asked sharply as he entered.

Ochoa could feel the air of his passing. He moved so fast and with a regal stride. He smiled softly.

“I’m not hungry.”

“The guards could care less if you eat. They will not save the food for you and eventually when you refuse food often enough they will stop asking.” Han replied.

“You don’t say?” Ochoa replied.

“Is this funny to you? Why am I even wasting my time?” Han exclaimed.

“Listen, Han, I’m shocked you came with all that’s been going on. From what I managed to gather from the guards there’s been some startling developments.”

“You can say that again.” Han sighed heavily. He could hear Han leaning back against the metal slab that passed for a bed.

“Want to talk about it?”

“What I want to talk about is your health. You’ve been steadily losing weight and I may have to report this. You wouldn’t want to be force fed by some medical droid would you?”

Ochoa smirked.

“I’m not a child. When I’m hungry I’ll eat. But let’s cut through it, Han, you came here because you need to talk. It’s been over a week since I’ve seen or heard from you.”

He could hear Han slowly leaning forward.

“You think I only come to talk to you, as if I depend on you?”

Ochoa frowned slightly and nodded to himself.

“Right, you come here and speak to the Federation Captain who has been your prisoner for two months now. I’ve talked all I’m going to talk and you still feel a need to come see me? What are you getting out of it Han?” Ochoa asked staring at the spot where he believed Han was sitting.

There was a tense silence for a moment.

“This has been a very bad week for us. The new Imperial forces aren’t exactly welcome here and they have made it obvious that they intend to take over.”

“I would have thought that you would be happy to have forces from home. This means the chances of you going home are greater and you no longer have to remain here.” Ochoa noted.

Han sighed softly.

“I like it here.” He said softly.

“How can you like it here? You’ve been fighting a war of aggression since you got here. You’ve not rested for a moment.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Then what is?”

Han stood up suddenly, Ochoa could feel him stalking about the small cell.

“This is something that we’ve built together, something that could last a thousand years. Maybe it allows us to have a clean slate and start fresh. Once the rebellion is over and the systems under our banner then maybe we can build something new here, something to atone for the corruption and disorder that plagues my galaxy.”

“I see.”

He could feel Han’s eyes on him.

“We have a chance to make it all perfect.” There was an odd tone, a fervent hope that colored his words.

“Han, I understand what you’re saying. In fact I am truly beginning to understand you as a person. But the foundation you would build this new world on would be weak. You’re building on the blood and death of millions if not billions. You would build your new world on a foundation laid upon the shattered dreams of many civilizations. The Federation believes that every race, every being in fact has an inalienable right to choose their own destinies. No man, no government can choose for another what sort of life they must lead.”

“Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”

“Are you wise enough to judge what sacrifices those are? Can you peer into the future and see what all the consequences are of your actions?”

“You’d be surprised.”

“No I wouldn’t. I was told that you would be like this. I said that I knew you and you would listen.”

There was a short pause and he could hear Han’s wheels turning.

“Who told you?”

“You’re not the only one that visits me you know.”

“That’s a lie.”

Ochoa shook his head.

“He comes and goes no real schedule. I don’t think he’s a guard. He’s a pleasant enough chap but doesn’t like to play chess. I guess everyone has their flaws.”

“How long has this been going on?” Han asked darkly.

“I don’t know. The days and weeks have all blended together. He told me the oddest thing about chess. When I asked him to play for the first time he told me that the last time he saw a game of strategy the main point he took away from it was to let the Wookie win.”

He could feel the sudden tension in the air and Han stopped moving, seemed to stop breathing.
“What did you say?” he whispered.

“He also told me something else.”

“I have to go.”

“I have to tell you this, Han. You need to hear it!” Ochoa called out and started to clumsily get up, clutching at the smooth metallic wall for support.

“Leave me alone.” Han called back and started to open the cell door.

“Luke!”

Silence.

“I forgive you.”

Ochoa stood tall, looking in the direction of the open cell door.

“I don’t know what you’re—”

“You might call yourself Darth Nemesis, you may have taken the name of Han to honor a long lost friend when speaking to a blinded enemy in the hopes that here you would find some sort of assertion that you’re right but despite all of that your true name is Luke Skywalker. You’ve only forgotten it.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about you blind fool!” Han roared.

“Don’t I, Luke? You think you had me fooled? You don’t think that no matter what tricks you used you could disguise the voice of the man that tortured me for days and took my sight? Do you think I could ever forget you?”

“Ochoa…damn you.” Han’s voice suddenly changed. It became deeper, more majestic and dark. The same voice that callously introduced him to the perpetual darkness in which he stood right now, the voice of Darth Nemesis.

“No, Luke, the only thing I’m ashamed of is not confronting you about this earlier.”

Nemesis stared at the grizzled Federation Captain. Ochoa stood in the corner of his small cell, his Federation uniform torn in several places, including a missing sleeve but he remained the stoic picture of command.

“Do not say that name again.” Nemesis hissed and held up a fist. Ochoa began to choke.

“Luke, he wanted me to tell you...”

“Who little man? I tire of playing these games with you.” Nemesis hissed and Ochoa jerked backwards against the wall of his cell.

“His name…was… Ben.” Ochoa gasped as he felt his throat constricting against an invisible vise like grip.

Nemesis’ eyes widened and his grip loosened, his outstretched arm slowly dropping down to his side. Ochoa got his breath back and rubbed his throat as he was released. He coughed and spoke again, while Nemesis was still in shock.

“And he told me to tell you this: The Force will be with you. Always.” Ochoa’s voice suddenly morphed into an almost perfect replica of Ben Kenobi’s. The words uttered to him the last time he had seen the old man alive.

Nemesis remained silent, staring at the Federation captain.

“Luke, you are angry at Ben. After getting to know you I would say that you’re angry at the whole universe. But this is not who you are. Han, the gentle soul I grew to care for in this cell is a pale reflection of the true Luke Skywalker. Ben told me so much about you, he told me what drove you, how your aunt and uncle were killed by the very Empire that you serve now.”

“Be quiet.” Nemesis hissed.

“He told me about all you sacrificed, your hard work to try and become a Jedi knight like your father before you. But then you were betrayed, betrayed not because they wanted to use or manipulate you but because they wanted to protect you.”

“Quiet.” Nemesis interjected but it was an almost hesitant whisper.

“They did not want you to face the fact that the man you grew up idolizing and dreaming about was actually the second most evil man in the galaxy, a cyborg monstrosity that serves the Dark side. He is not the man that you idolized.”

“There is good in him.” Nemesis snapped without thinking.

Ochoa cocked his head.

“Good in a Sith lord? What would that matter to you if you were truly a servant to this Dar side that you mentioned? Why would Darth Nemesis care whether Darth Vader was still a good man?” Ochoa pressed.

“You know too much Ochoa.”

“True you can kill me now with a word, but would that kill the truth that sleeps in your heart?” Ochoa asked simply. There was no more fear. Ernesto Ochoa had faced death, been tortured to within an inch of his life, blinded, and fooled into caring for the man that had inflicted these horrors on him.

These same horrors now armored him.

The truth would finally be told and the blind would make the others see.

“Truth? Don’t dare speak of truth to me! Ben, your darling old chap was a liar! He took a moisture farmer with dreams of greatness and filled his head with ideas of vengeance. He bound him in thick chains of duty and honor and led him blindfolded through a minefield of lies and deceit and for what purpose you may ask? Why this kind old wizard wanted to forge this young man into a weapon to slay his own father! He used the son of his supposed good friend to kill that same friend!”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why were you made into a Jedi Knight? What choice did they have, Luke? You were the last hope, you alone could have ended the reign of terror that your father helped create. You saw what they could do with your own eyes, you lived a relatively sheltered life Luke. You ignored the horrors of the Empire, the deaths, the genocides, the rights trampled, the citizens incarcerated for simply having opinions different than your Emperor’s. Then they came down and slaughtered your aunt and uncle for what?”

Nemesis took a step back into the cell and with one smooth motion drew his lightsaber.


“And who led that mission? Who ordered those Imperial troops to do what needed to be done to find the droids?”

Nemesis activated the lightsaber and snapped it up in front of him, the crimson light illuminating Ochoa’s face.

“Your father ordered them to die! Your father brought you into the fight, he wrapped you in the chains of duty and honor, and he forged you into a weapon. If this is truly about consequences for people’s actions Luke then stop and think who set this into motion. Ben Kenobi who saved your life and gave you the tools you needed to survive and was more of a father to you in a week than Vader ever was in a lifetime or Darth Vader who did everything he could to destroy your life and the galaxy as well.”

Nemesis stood stock still as the words assaulted him and he held the lightsaber over his head. Ochoa’s eyes looked up at nemesis, the light playing off his eyes that did not respond to the flashing luminescence.

“Think it through Luke. Just this once abandon hatred, anger and fear. Let the cloud that has dropped across your vision part for one moment and ask yourself one very simple question.”

Ochoa’s eyes locked with Nemesis somehow and the blind man spoke.

“Why absolve your father of his crimes and condemn Kenobi for a sin of omission committed to protect you?”

Nemesis blinked.

“Consequences and repercussions Luke that is what I am talking about, that is why you came to me. Your father was not tricked on to the dark path, he freely chose to go on it, he embraced the dark side of the force and helped plunge your galaxy into a civil war that has had it drowning in blood since your birth. He became Darth Vader and purged his fellow Jedi Knights and slaughtered those who opposed the New Order. He hunted down and betrayed his friends, he protected the Emperor as he set up the very government which even now you try to flee from in my galaxy. Your father is at the very heart of the evil that has gnawed away at your life. If Kenobi and Yoda lied to you it was out of love to protect you from your father’s actions and in his sin they sinned. Now the question becomes, if you can forgive your father and surrender yourself to the Dark side which has brought you no real joy, how can you condemn the one man who was like a father to you?”

“I…” Nemesis’ voice trailed off and his lightsaber slowly dropped.

“Consequences and repercussions, Luke. You are solely responsible for your actions. Not Kenobi, not Yoda, not Leia, not the rebellion, not your father and not the Emperor. You Luke Skywalker are solely responsible for your soul. Your father did not trick you into joining him. You freely embraced it and now you spend your time trying to fool yourself into thinking that you can walk on the dark path and not get any blood on you. You try to build an empire based on order but you sow chaos in creating it and on Earth we have an ancient saying, “you reap what you sow.” Luke, the chaos you sow is going to come back to you, as it is for your Emperor. There is no getting around that. You cannot impose order at the end of a blaster. Order must be embraced. And what you are doing is playing a silly game that you did not sell your soul to be a slave to the darkside.”

“Bastard.” Nemesis spat.

“Then tell me I’m wrong.”

“You are wrong you simpering fool.” Nemesis roared.

“Say it and mean it, boy.” Ochoa replied stonily.

Nemesis thrust his fist forward and Ochoa crashed against the far wall of the cell again but this time there was a sick wet snap on impact as some of Ochoa’s ribs gave way. Ochoa grunted in pain and blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. He slowly turned his head in Nemesis’ general direction.

“Say it, Luke. Say that anything I said was wrong. Say that you did not embrace the dark side out of misplaced anger, say that you were more willing to forgive Vader for rending the galaxy apart but unwilling to accept that Kenobi and Yoda were lying to protect you from a harsh truth that has twisted you into this dark side slave.”

Nemesis thrust his face into Ochoa’s.

“You are going to die for this.”

Ochoa did not flinch.

“Kill me then. You couldn’t kill me before when I was helpless and you had squeezed me dry of all information and was utterly useless to you, so what makes you think you’ll kill me now?”

Nemesis began to growl.

“Why go through the charade of calling yourself Han then? Why test me, my resilience and will power. Why find out why I held on to my core beliefs?”

“And you have the answer?” Nemesis growled.

“Yes, you needed a conscience, someone to prove that what you did was right. If I broke down, if I lost faith in the Federation and its ideals then how could you feel shame for abandoning your cause in the rebellion?”

“Shame?” Nemesis hissed his lips inches from Ochoa’s face. His eyes were alight with rage as he peered into the blind man’s face and into his mind as well.

“Yes, Shame Luke, shame that you turned from the true path to walk in shadow.”

“Stop saying that name?”

“Don’t turn from the subject, Luke. Not now. People don’t usually get chances to walk back, to change the paths they are on. I am offering you that chance, now. I am showing you the path you are on and what will ultimately happen.”

“You a blind captain of a dead Federation are going to show me the truth?” Nemesis sneered.

“No.” Ochoa replied quietly. “I am going to let you see the truth within yourself. Why did you come to me in the first place if not to light the way. You leaned on me, you hoped that this moment would come, you tested your self and your will against me, and you used me as the springboard from which you launched questions against yourself.”

“Nonsense.”

“I met a good man, he called himself Han. Ben told me that was the name of your closest friend in the universe. He made me see that evil is not inherent in every man. He reminded me that just because a government or organization is evil does not mean that the people within are irredeemable. He made me believe in myself. But that was not all. That good man was not really Han, he was a man called Nemesis and he took my sight and my faith and dropped me into a long dark hole naked and afraid. But he did not kill me and by taking my sight, my pride and my sense of invulnerability he made me unlock things in me that I never knew I had.”

Nemesis stared at the blind, bearded Captain in the tattered uniform.

“For that I thank him and forgive him. But that was not all, for there was a good man named Luke Skywalker and he slumbers deep within Nemesis, only allowed to come out when he took the name Han. That good man needs my help and I gladly give it. If by my death I can bring him forth back into the light, then it was all worth it.”

“You forgive me? You think that means anything to me?”

Ochoa smiled softly.

“I think it means the whole world to you.”

The two men stood silently across from each other.

Nemesis turned away and activated the door to the cell. It slid open and he stepped back out, holstering his lightsaber as quickly as he drew it. Nemesis paused in the doorway, a hand on the threshold.

“Your bravery has saved you again, Captain Ochoa. You Federation Captains are a remarkable breed. You fight the inevitable, shaking your fists at the universe and you do not falter.”

Ochoa remained silent, his eyes remained unfocussed.

Nemesis absently punched his fist against the threshold.

“When and if he returns you tell that old man,” he began angrily. Nemesis’ face was blanketed in shadow then light streaked across his features as a cell opened farther down the corridor. “that I miss him.” He finished softly and stepped out of the cell.

The doors sealed shut again and Ochoa slumped against the wall.

“He knows, Luke, he knows.”






“I am extremely disappointed.”

“It was to be expected. Even the most optimistic calculations called for months before we could even begin to decipher the basics of their technology.”

“But this report says that we have been unable to even understand the FUNDAMENTAL basics of their hyperdrive and power generating technology.” Captain Durant replied darkly and dropped the datapad on the table with a loud crash.

“Sir, the weapons technology has proven easier to adapt and reverse engineer.” A technician added helpfully.

Durant frowned.

“What good is it to develop heavy turbolasers if we don’t have the power to fire them? Current calculations call for massive matter antimatter reactors, the likes of which power this installation to fire one such battery at an acceptable rate of fire. What kind of comforting news is it to the Shadowfleet that it would take a starbase to mount a single heavy turbolaser battery? The shield grids an even bigger hog of power. No, gentlemen, I think I have made it fairly obvious that all roads lead to their power generating technology. Without the knowledge of how to generate hypermatter all the weapons technology we can glean from the stolen ship is meaningless to us.” Durant replied coolly.

“What of the Battle over Romulus? Our spies tell us that Kirk was soundly defeated and even worst of all it looks as if the Imperials have received reinforcements.”

“It never rains but it pours. Right now, I am beginning to think that we may have no other option but to implement Operation Genesis.”

The room grew suddenly quiet. The assembled officers exchanged alarmed and troubled glances.

“Uh, Captain, Genesis is only a conjecture, an absolute last resort.”

“And you don’t think this is it. The Shadowfleet was created centuries ago to protect the Federation and its ideals. In case no one has paid attention the Federation is gone. All her worlds save Andor are under Imperial occupation. The remnant Starfleet has been defeated and with the new influx of numbers they have no chance of defeating the Imperial forces. There is no chance of wining it all back. We cannot defeat them, that much is rapidly becoming true.”

“But Genesis, sir? Even if we were able to muster what was needed the Imperials would detect our efforts and stop us.”

“We always assumed that if Genesis were to be implemented it would be under the gun from a vastly superior enemy. There will be certain precautions in effect that will help us with what we need.”

“Are you serious?” One of the officers pressed.

Durant smiled.

“Like Cancer.”

“Sir, in order to implement genesis we would need approval from the shadow masters.”

“Hmmm…let’s see, every shadow Admiral in Starfleet was killed in the Battle for Earth or scattered to the far reaches of space. There is no one to get approval from. We must survive. This is the Imperative of the Shadowfleet, to protect the Federation at all costs. Your lives and mine were forfeit the day we joined the cause. It is time to ante up and save what’s left.”

“Sir, if we do this, we will have to abandon everything else, including the operations against the Empire. All our efforts will have to be devoted to the evacuation.”

“I am prepared to make that call.”

The response hung in the air. Genesis was the Shadowfleet’s basic admitting of absolute defeat. Even during the dark days of the Dominion War the very idea of Genesis was never raised. The operation would change the fate of the Federation forever. But it was also an undisputable sign that the Shadowfleet had failed. The Federation had not been protected and this last desperate act of survival was all that was left.

Before anyone could speak an alarm blared loudly and the conference room was bathed in an eerie amber glow.

“What the hell?”

Durant recognized the low rumbling warble. It could only mean one thing.

An android walked into the room, face as impassive as ever.

“Captain Durant we have a situation. The base is on amber alert.”

“But that can only mean-”

Durant raised a hand to silence the officer.

“What happened?”

“Our technicians stumbled across a transmitter buried within the depths of the power manifolds of the captured carrack cruiser. It was obviously designed to evade detection and once revealed began transmitting a homing signal.”

“And?”

“We have scramblers and cloaks in place throughout the structure, but the transmitter was utilizing a frequency we had not been prepared for. There was some signal leakage.”

“My god.”

Durant stood up.

“All captains to their ships. A-1, you are to commence Operation Blackout immediately. Anything we cannot take with us is to be destroyed. Recall short range patrols, we’ll need every ship here to defend the evacuation.” Durant looked at each of the assembled officers, grim determination on his face.

“Get ready gentlemen, because we’re expecting company.” He announced without fanfare.

The shadowfleet prepared for the battle to save its life.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-03-31 08:29pm
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Chapter 44: Walking Wounded



She hesitantly walked into the antechambers, a brief chill ran own her spine as the doors hissed apart. For the briefest second she fully expected to see Nemesis whipping his lightsaber down on her in vengeance and fury for her betrayal. She even flinched slightly, waiting to feel the hot sizzle of her flesh giving way under the luminescent blade.

Instead Nemesis stood with his back to her, body doubled over in an intricate stretching exercise designed to both bring pain and train the potential Sith in how to use that pain to his or her advantage. She had been trained in the rudiments of that technique but it was obvious from watching his taut muscular back as he bent at the waist at a nearly impossible angle and brought his left leg around that he was far more advanced that she could ever hope to be.

She watched him intently as he moved his arm against the natural curvature of his body, stretching muscles and tendons to the near breaking and tearing point as his eyes remained closed in deep concentration. Harvesting the pain, that’s what the Emperor called it. He was harvesting the power from his pain and it would teach him that even in pain, a Sith was powerful.

She also imagined driving a vibroblade between his shoulder blades. To feel the hard satisfying jolt travel up her arm as she drove it deep into his body. She could imagine his expression of surprise, perhaps he might make a sound as the blade split his heart in two, he might even have enough strength and presence of mind to say her name.

“Mara.”

“What?!” She nearly jumped back as Nemesis’ head slowly turned to face her, stretching his neck muscles until she could actually hear them creaking from where she stood.

“You came unexpected. But it is fortuitous that you did come.”

“It is?” she asked suspiciously.

“Yes.” Nemesis replied as he slowly unfurled himself like a serpent and stood upright before her. It was only at that moment that she realized that he was completely naked.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn thinks that he has an advantage over me with this current discovery of the Hurran Corr. He means to make me look like a fool when he recovers the lost ship. I mean to head him off.” Nemesis said coolly as he picked up a towel that was draped over a chair in the antechamber and dried off his neck and face.

Mara WOULD NOT take her eyes off his face. She refused to acknowledge at all the fact that he stood before her naked, well muscled lean body glistening with sweat and the skin taut and tanned seemed to glow healthily under the artificial lights of the chamber.

“How do you intend to do that?” she asked realizing how husky her voice sounded. She was acting like a young school girl.

Nemesis smiled mysteriously.

“I will bring us a far more valuable prize.”

Mara did not like mysteries, it was one of the hardest things to deal with when working with the Emperor. He always played with his cards close to his chest and there were times when she undertook missions that she had no idea what she had accomplished or how killing this particular person, or passing on an innocuous bit of information ever helped the Imperial cause. She liked to know what she was doing and Nemesis was usually a bit more forth coming but she had to remember that he was a Sith and he had learned at the feet of the Emperor and Vader.

“What do you have in mind?” she asked.

Nemesis picked up a robe and whipped it around himself as he turned away from her.

“Prepare a shuttle, heavily armed, modify the shields for maximum dissipation.”

“You’re expecting trouble?” she asked seriously as she hesitantly followed him.

“Indeed I am.”

“What sort of escort are we talking about? The fleet is forming up to move out at a moment’s notice as soon as we receive the go signal from our probe droids.”

“There will be no escort.” Nemesis replied as he cinched the robe and scooped up his lightsaber.

“No escort? I strongly advise-“

Nemesis held up his hand and Mara shut up.

“I am taking you with me, Mara. Can I be any safer then with you at my side?” Nemesis asked.

Mara opened her mouth to reply, ready for any answer but this one. She promptly closed it and felt an emotion flood through her like a torrent. It was an emotion she was not ready for and rarely ever felt in her life.

She felt ashamed.

“There will be no need for an escort. The more ships that slip away with us the more likely Grand Admiral Thrawn will know of our plan and mission. I cannot risk that in any way.”

“What IS your plan, my lord?” Mara asked, fighting the emotions raging within her.

Nemesis nodded to himself as he checked the status of something on his personal computer screen.

“We are going to hunt someone and bring him back to this fleet.”

“I don’t understand. We have many agents that can do that for us. Why must it be you, precisely at this time when we have the tension between your fleet and Grand Admiral Thrawn’s?” she asked. His back was turned to her again and she was in precisely the right distance and position to reach out quickly and jerk a vibroblade across his throat. The resulting shock and blood loss would most likely not allow him to respond with the Force and she could quickly dance out of the way if he tried to lash out. It would be a quick kill. Quick and successful.

She took a step forward, hands dancing close to her utility belt.

Nemesis paused and slowly turned his head to glance at her from his peripheral vision.

“I felt a tremor in the Force. It was a slight one but I recognized the pain and anguish that caused it. I have felt precisely the same emotions not very long ago.”

She stopped short.

“It was on Bespin. The emotions were a raw mix of defeat, fear and anger.”

Mara listened intently, watching him as he remained stock still speaking in a calm quiet voice. There was a tenderness to his tone, as if he were speaking truth for the first time.

“He felt those same emotions that I felt when I was defeated. He felt the sudden loss and shock. You see, he like I has lived a charmed life, Mara. I destroyed the Emperor’s Death Star. I evaded his finest agents and defeated his grandest schemes. I was untouchable. Then I knew defeat, certain, overwhelming and undeniable. Bespin was the turning point. It taught me that I could not escape my destiny and more importantly, defeat was possible. I was not untouchable.”

“Who are you talking about?” she asked softly.

He did not turn around. Only his face was half turned to her, as if he could not bear to face her.

“James Kirk has been soundly defeated by Grand Admiral Thrawn. His pain calls out to me like a beacon and I know what he is going to do next. I plan to be there to meet him when the time comes and take him prisoner. He will be brought back to the fleet in chains and nothing that Thrawn can do will be able to match this accomplishment.”

“The fleets will have to acknowledge your achievement.” Mara whispered, the possibilities quickly exploding before her very eyes.

“Those that are indecisive will have to make a decision and in the end, I am the one that brought them James T. Kirk in chains. Thrawn will be seen as an outsider, and perhaps those following Thrawn will be made to see that he is not the sole possessor of victory or truth. Others will rally to my banner. We can end this destructive conflict.” Nemesis replied passionately.

Mara stared at him for a long moment. She saw in him the same dashing young leader of men that had attracted her when this war started. Daring and powerful, sure and swift, he was a man worthy of her.

What did that mean?

She shook her head for a moment.

Nemesis smiled coldly.

“There will be no one to stop us this time, Mara. It will be just you and I. I can feel his torment driving him to a place. I will be waiting for him in that place.”

“Are you foreseeing this? The Emperor used to foresee odd things like this all the time.”

Nemesis shook his head slowly.

“No.” He answered simply. “I merely feel the emotions coming from him. They are driving him to a place. I did not foresee it.” Nemesis did not tell her the whole truth. The very disconcerting fact that he could no longer see the path ahead of him as he did when he first came here.

“There is no more time, Mara. Events are unfolding quickly and we must seize the initiative before they slip out of our grasp. Go now and prepare the shuttle. Tell no one of this. Not even Kittaine.” Nemesis ordered.

Mara hesitated for a moment. His back was still turned to her. The blade sit snugly in her scabbard. Ready to be slipped out and strike like lightning. He could die. Now. Her mission would be accomplished and she would no longer be troubled, she would no longer feel confused and out of sorts. With one strike she could cement her destiny and return to the security of her life before she met the troubled young Sith lord.

But she thought of the possibilities and what the future held between them. The possibility that this mission could indeed bring nemesis that power that he needed to completely seize control and fulfill his dream of a New Empire. And she, she would be the dark queen. She had been secure before but this was the possibility of something more, something she never expected. The chance to be happy.

She nodded and stepped away.

“I’ll have the shuttle ready within the hour.” She assured him and walked out of the chamber. Nemesis remained standing where he was throughout the entire conversation as her steps clicked softly on the cold metal floor. She paused as the door slid opened. She glanced back at him and wondered if he knew how close he had been to death.

She walked out.

Nemesis remained standing still as his senses picked up her steps leaving the quarters and going through the main corridor to the nearest lift.

His hand was drifting right over his lightsaber, ready to be drawn at an instant’s notice. The rest of his body was completely relaxed save for his right arm which was tense, ready to explode into action, the force poised to spring the lightsaber into his hand for the killing strike. He had felt her struggle, the initial urge to kill and finally the decision that had saved her life.

However he did not feel victorious. She had entered this chamber with the intent to kill him. She changed her mind. But the fact that she had even thought of trying to assassinate him angered and disappointed him. He had offered her this galaxy, his heart and anything she desired and she had turned her back on that.

But there were other things to contemplate, such as his sudden blindness in the Force. He had used his limited ability to peer into the future to help him with his strategy and tactics in this war and now suddenly as if a great fog had descended he was blind. He could no longer see his way clear. It was disconcerting to see all that was going to happen with clarity of vision and suddenly be plunged into darkness, stumbling around blindly as anyone else, not seeing the repercussions of his actions. He could barely even feel the sharp premonitions that warned him of danger. The Jedi senses that allowed him to block weapons fire and see what a foe was going to do before he even thought of his action were slowly becoming dulled.

He did not understand why, save for a simple dream he had right before Grand Admiral Thrawn revealed himself to the fleet. He dreamt that he was standing in a desert, the winds whipping up around him, yet it was now not a desert. He was alone in the void, standing in the center of a chess board, much like the board that he and Captain Ochoa played so often. There was an explosion like thunder ripping across a plain and suddenly everything grew dark. After that moment, no matter how much he mediated, how deep he drifted into the cool union with the Force he could not see past the moment he was in. Not even the barest glimmer of the future. It was as if the future were no longer set, as if reality itself at this point was dangling by a thread and history no longer existed.

Was that even possible?

But he remembered something else and it brought him a cold comfort. A flash of something he had seen when he first came here, a dim promise of what may lay ahead. If he were blind in this galaxy then the one that was coming would be blind as well. Except he would not be expecting it and his entire strategy was based on his incredible prescience.

Perhaps, here in this forsaken galaxy, the both of them blind and flailing about would make the odds a little more even. Perhaps he could accomplish what his father could or would not do.

Nemesis smiled coldly.

He thought what it would do to that over confident bastard when he could no longer see his way clear and he could not cackle about his plans proceeding anymore. What would happen when he came and realized he was as blind as anyone else?

Nemesis hoped he could teach him that lesson.

He stared at the door where Mara had walked through. His hand finally drifted down from his lightsaber.

He briefly wondered if she knew how close she had come to death.





The moans of the wounded were loud in the silence of the corridor. Sickbay’s doors were wide open as nurses and doctors moved between the sickbay itself and the makeshift beds outside in the corridor. Red alert lights were still flashing silently in the corridor and smoke drifted through the air despite the valiant efforts of the environmental systems to clear the air.

He moved among the wounded like a ghost, his face a mask of grim determination and duty. He stopped by every wounded man, kneeling down to offer words of support to encouragement. There were some so badly wounded that they were not even conscious. For those he patted them softly on the shoulder and crouched there for a moment. He had commanded starships for years but this was always the hardest part. Battles were fought and won but there were always wounded to attend to and dead to bury afterwards.

He always felt that his words rang so hollow during moments like these but he could not deny the spark of hope that would light up a crewman’s eyes as his captain took a moment to speak to him.

James Kirk was also uncomfortable because he was staring at defeat. These brave men and women were wounded or dying because he had been soundly defeated and the bitter taste was like poison slowly burning his insides. He could barely stomach the idea. He remembered the nearly childish assertion he always liked to throw around as if part of some private joke.

I don’t like to lose.

Yet here was a corridor full of those that had tasted the horrible consequences of his defeat.

Doctor McCoy stepped out of Sickbay and motioned for Kirk to come inside. Kirk nodded slowly and made his way over to McCoy, walking as if in a dream.

They walked past bed filled with patients, some sitting at the foot of the beds to be close to friends, wounded themselves but not wanting to be separated from a crewmate that was in far worse shape. The walking wounded were everywhere on the Enterprise.

Kirk stopped at the table where McCoy ran a quick mediscanner over Charlie Evans. Charlie lay on the bed still as the dead. There was not a cut or scratch on him but he was so pale and his eyes were tightly shut. His face was frozen in an expression of pain and anguish.

“How is he?” Kirk asked softly looking down at the young man who looked no older than twenty but like Kirk was more than a century old now in this future.

“There’s nothing physically wrong with him, Jim. His endorphin levels are sky high and the neural scanners are picking up some very strange brainwave activity. As best I can tell he is suffering from some sort of psychic trauma.”

“Will he recover?”

McCoy frowned, pursing his lips.

“Jim, I just don’t know. I think he will, this damage is similar to what some Vulcans suffer when they are locked in a mind meld and one party resists. Most cases the Vulcan recovers after some bed rest but this is something totally different. His physiology is till very much human but the powers he has, lord knows how they interact with his mind and body. You told me he was absorbing weapons fire that would have shattered this ship many times over. Charlie may have god like powers but you discerned from your first encounter that he had limits, so my guess is he went beyond those limits and much like a runner whose legs cramp up or a swimmer who grows exhausted, he pushed his powers to the point where there was a physical reaction to their stress.”

Kirk looked down at the young man and gently brushed a lock of hair back from his forehead.

“Make sure he’s comfortable.”

“He will be, Jim.” McCoy looked a little uncomfortable but then opened his mouth to speak.

Kirk interrupted him without looking up.

“And Spock?”

“Spock will be fine. He’s out of surgery, I managed to get out all the shrapnel that perforated what those Vulcans call a liver and its regenerating nicely. He should be up and about in a few days.”

“Knowing him he’ll be on the bridge in a few hours.” Kirk mused glancing over at the bed where his friend lay unconscious. The shrapnel had torn through his body when his console exploded. Kirk had held him in those last moments when it looked as if there was nothing that could be done. He felt the warm green blood running down his hands, between his fingers as his friend’s breathing became ragged. he also remembered his words, spoken through green flecked lips.

“I have been and always shall be your friend.”

What had it cost Spock to say that?

“Jim, there is another patient I’m concerned about.”

“Leia?” Kirk asked sharply, head jerking up.

“No, no, she’s fine according to my last communication with the Reckless Hope’s chief medical….droid.” McCoy smirked at the last part. “It’s someone else. He’s not been wounded physically but I have a degree in psychiatry Jim and this crewman is showing all the classic signs of shock and disorientation. He has not eaten in the past 24 hours, he has not slept in a longer period of time and he remains unresponsive to all but the most obvious stimuli. It’s my professional opinion that he needs sleep and rest. The battle obviously rattled him far worse than he realizes.”

Kirk nodded slowly.

“And your recommendation?”

“Sedatives if he doesn’t want to sleep and he needs to eat something. Nothing that a 24 hour pass wouldn’t cure. Essentially he needs to get away from this for a while to clear his head. I have no doubt that this will effect the performance of his duties if it isn’t .”

“Alright, Bones, I’ll sign the medical order. Who is it?” Kirk asked absently as McCoy handed him a datapad. Kirk glanced down at the chart and blinked.

“Is this some kind of a joke?” he asked.

“No, the patient in question is one James Tiberius Kirk and it is my opinion as Chief medical Officer of the Enterprise that the Captain is suffering from emotional stress due to the recent defeat at our last battle.”

“Bones, this is nonsense.”

“When’s the last time you slept Jim? I’ve been performing surgeries for the lats 16 hours and before that you were down here helping with the triage and not once have I seen you far from sickbay.”

“When’s the last time you got sleep, doctor?” Kirk replied hotly.

“Jim, I have wounded to attend to, people’s whose lives I can save and I’m trained to work these kind of hours without a negative impact on my performance. You on the other hand have nothing to do at the moment and you need rest in order to make the right calls when you are in command.” McCoy replied stonily but then slowly reached out and gripped Kirk’s shoulder.

“Jim, there’s nothing more you can do here. This loss has obviously affected you. You can’t keep punishing yourself.”

Kirk looked around the sickbay and all he could hear were the groans of the wounded, the stillness of the dead.

“Yes I can, Bones. They are all fine young men and women and they’re here because I was arrogant enough to believe that I could defeat these bastards with another trick up my sleeves. Its been all about tricks, smoke and mirrors!” Kirk snapped and slammed his fist against the wall angrily.

McCoy frowned and walked over to his old friend.

“Jim. You did the best you could. Last time I checked we were outgunned and outmaneuvered but we’re here alive.”

“No, Bones.” Kirk replied sternly. “We’re only alive because that young man has the power of a god and another young man traded his life for the good of the fleet and because he believed in our cause. THAT’s why we’re alive. Jim Kirk led this fleet on a mission to demoralize the enemy and try to force a peace. Instead it turned into a rout with a fight for our very lives to escape.”

“Jim.”

“It’s alright Bones. I’m going to get away for a day or two.”

“You’re going to rest?” McCoy was flabbergasted. he expected a lot more of a struggle.

Kirk smiled sardonically.

“No, I’m going on a mission that I can’t possibly screw up.”

“Mission?! Jim are you begging to have some kind of physical or emotional breakdown?” McCoy exclaimed.

“Bones.” Kirk held up a hand wearily. “I’m going with Chekov to arrange a dilithium supply deal. I can’t possibly screw this up and frankly I need to accomplish something positive for our cause or I’m going to explode. I’m also taking Tom Paris with me, they say he’s one of the finest helmsmen in the fleet so I’ll be in capable hands.”

“You’re not taking a starship?” McCoy asked with a growing sense of concern.

“I can’t afford to draw to much attention. Besides every starship is going to be needed close to home to defend our bases. Right now we’re in no condition for offensive operations.” McCoy was about to say something when Kirk interjected softly.
“Bones, I need time to clear my thoughts and think of my next move.”

“What next move? We bandage our wounds, gather up our pride and get back into this fight, no?” McCoy asked tensely, eyes narrowing on his friend and Captain. The stress of the last few days had aged Jim, long deep worry lines were chiseled under Kirk’s eyes.

Kirk frowned slightly and pressed McCoy’ hand.

“That or we face facts and surrender while there are still young men left to live.” he replied and turned on his heel and stalked away. McCoy remained staring at Kirk’s back and wondering just how deeply this defeat had scarred him. he also wondered whether as a doctor he could rightfully argue that Jim was wrong. Defeat meant saving lives, and he was a doctor. Saving lives should be the only thing he cared about.

Then why did the thought of surrender sting him so?

Kirk was stalking out of sickbay when one of the young men reached out to him as he passed. Kirk stopped and stood by the ensign’s bed. Half his face was covered in bandages and he was obviously on painkillers to ease the other wounds that lashed his young broken body.

“Captain.”

“What is it, son?” Kirk asked softly and took the ensign’s hand.

“Don’t-“ he coughed loudly and almost seemed to lose consciousness. Kirk glanced around searching for a nurse. One of them was coming over quickly. The ensign’s grip on Kirk’s hand tightened. “Sir, please, don’t…give up…we haven’t given up…on you.”

Kirk stared into the young man’s eyes and did not notice his tears until the first hot drop splashed against his cheek. He smiled and knelt down, taking the young man’s head in his hands.





“This is another fine mess.” Leia griped as the medical droid checked her vital signs.

“I’m afraid so, your highness, the Federation fleet has gone totally defensive and we have confirmed that Grand Admiral Thrawn has brought in a sector fleet worth of trouble.”

“A sector fleet, as if they really needed that much firepower.” Leia frowned.

Wedge nodded.

“I’m sorry, your highness, but there’s been little good news of late. My boys and I didn’t come out of that last battle without a scratch either. The Feds have a nice little saying that sums this all up nicely.”

“Oh?”

“Clusterfuck.”

Leia smiled. “That does rather say it all doesn’t it?” she replied.

The doors hissed open and Kirk walked in. Leia’s eyes narrowed in concern and she sat up straighter in the bed as the doors closed behind him.

“Wedge.”

“Captain Kirk.”

“Good flying you and you’re squadron did out there, I hear you saved quite a few starships from getting destroyed early on.”

“We do what we can sir.” he replied. He eyed the young Captain. It was obvious that this loss had struck him to the quick. He looked as if he had been physically beaten. Wedge had been saddened by the loss of several rebel Alliance fighters, but frankly, Kirk had lost thousands of crewmen and over 600 starships. The greatest single loss to the Starfleet remnant since the Battle for Earth. He did not know how he would react if he lost most of Rogue squadron in a battle that they could not win. When they had returned from the Death star he had lost nearly all his friends, but the sorrow was lightened by the fact that there was a victory. They had not died for nothing. The same could not be said in this instance.

“Jim, what can I do for you?” Leia asked gently.

“Uh, I’ll be going, Princess.” Wedge cut in and quickly left the room.

Kirk stood at the foot of the bed looking down at her. She wore a medical gown but it looked like a gown on her as she lay in the bed a sea of datapads scattered across a small table propped up over her stomach where she lay in a sitting position.

“I’m sorry about what happened on the Excalibur. I had no idea you were in trouble.”

Leia smiled softly.

“Jim, there was nothing you could have done. You were in the midst of a pitched battle what else could you have done?”

“I don’t know. Something. Anything. I feel that I should have been able to do something.”

“Like what?” she asked more concerned. he seemed to be in agony. She could feel his distress calling out to her.

“I don’t know.” he muttered shaking his head and looking down at the floor.

“Jim.” He looked up at her. “There was nothing you could have done. If you left the ship to come to my rescue you might have been shot down, captured and more importantly the fleet NEEDED you.” She smirked. “Besides, I don’t need anyone rescuing me, I handled myself pretty well back there.”

Kirk fought a smile that tried to come to his lips and glanced down at her chart.

“You call seven cracked ribs, internal injuries, shattered tibia, possible concussion and bleeding handling yourself well?” he asked.

Leia laughed and it sounded to him like a cool morning breeze.

“You got me there. Unfortunately I got off rather light. Poor Chewie is still in surgery, they’re removing the last of the pieces of shrapnel that were shot into him, Kelly is in intensive care, they may need to operate to relieve swelling of the brain and her arm is not healing right, and Wesley’s mother…she’s not handling the loss very well. I consider myself rather lucky.”

Kirk nodded slowly, absently running his hand along the foot of the bed.

“I’m going away.”

“What?” she asked sharply.

“I’m taking a runabout with Chekov and Tom Paris and I’m going to negotiate a shipment of dilithium for the fleet.”

“Surely Chekov and Paris can handle that mission themselves.” Leia replied.

Kirk shook his head.

“I need to feel like I’m accomplishing something, anything right now.” he said lowly.

“Jim, you have. You have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. You’ve held off the Empire from totally absorbing your Federation far longer than anyone including myself could give you credit for. Jim, people lose battles. The Alliance has lost far more battles than it has won. We don’t allow it to stop us from believing in our mission.”

“Leia, the more I think about it, the more I can’t say my way clear to victory, or even peace.” he laughed bitterly.

“Jim.”

He walked over to her side and took her hand, kneeling down by the bed. Leia was taken aback by the sudden move. Her eyes locked with his, their faces inches apart.

“I heard that I almost lost you and I suddenly realized how much I have grown to depend on you and care about you.”

Leia could not say anything, her eyes bore into his and she found that her breathing had become more rapid.

“I could not bear to lose you in this war, not now not ever. Its shaming me that when the casualty reports came in and I saw your name I almost lost control. I’ve lost thousands of young men and women, hundreds of ships, the very heart of my fleet was just evaporated and all I could think about was whether you might still be alive.”

“I…” there was nothing she could say.

“I love you.” he said squaring his face up with hers.

Leia blinked.

“Jim, I can’t…” she fought the hot bitter tears.

Kirk nodded slowly.

“I know.”

“Don’t say that!” she snapped. “Don’t you ever say that!” she slapped him, the impact jarring, turning his cheek bright red.

“You have no right, you’re not him, you can never be him!” she shouted now and both her hands began pounding on his neck and chest and he withstood each blow, almost enjoying the pain and anguish because it washed over him, dulling his own pain. And he looked down at her, so beautiful in her rage and anger.

Kirk grabbed her hands and held them tight, leaned in and kissed her hard. She fought him, trying to pull herself away but the electric jolt of contact was like fire racing down her spine. How she had secretly yearned for this touch, to feel his lips, to hold him. And before she realized what she was doing she kissed him back just as hard and savagely. She kissed him to feel the pain ebb away, to forget the responsibilities of her life. She was supposed to save Luke from the darkness, defeat the Empire and rescue the man she loved from Jabba the Hutt. Instead she was trapped in a galaxy where there was no hope of victory. She was far from home and her love was no where nearby and she felt as if she had abandoned them all to their fates. She could not stand the pain but this gentle soul with the spirit of a knight of old held her and with his kiss dispelled the fear, anger and pain.

She was whole again for this one single brief moment. She was Leia Organna, not a princess, not a rebel, not a symbol, but a woman. A woman that had been alone for a very long time and who would never see him again. She allowed herself to kiss him, to let the torrent of emotions explode from her and not let the fear that was eating away consume her.

She did not see him slowly descend into the pit, see his eyes as he looked at her with that roguish arrogance as the first jets of liquefied Carbonite exploded over him. She did not have to see the man she loved reduced to a block of inanimate matter. Not touch or feel, for here was a man to touch and feel and here was someone that could make her forget and make her whole.

They broke the kiss.

She stared at him, breathing heavily. He returned the gaze, it was quiet and contemplative, as if he were studying a riddle.

“The last time I allowed myself to love a man, he was taken from me, frozen in Carbonite and sold to his worst enemy. I can never see him again. Don’t you abandon me like that.” she said in a whisper.

He stared hard at her, hazel eyes boring into hers as if trying to look into her very soul.

“The last time I loved a woman, I had to let her die in order to save the universe. Don’t you force me make that choice again.” he whispered and stroked her cheek as gentle as rain. Kirk slowly rose up and kissed her forehead.

“Be well. I need time to myself. When I return, I’ll know what to do.” he said and slowly retreated to the door, not wanting to take his eyes off her face.

“Take the Falcon at least.” she offered, wanting desperately to reach out to him and touch him.

“No.” he shook his head slowly. “This is one mission that I want to undertake alone and without outside help. I need to see the big picture Leia,. I need to see my way clearly again.”

She nodded and bit her lower lip as the doors hissed open.

“Goodbye.” she said.

“Only for now.” he replied with a ghost of a smile and the doors slid shut.

Leia dropped her head back against the pillows and let out the breath she had been holding. She started shaking her head and before she knew it the first tears were streaking down her face.




She groaned softly.

Her leg.

She shot up in the bed and started to scream. Her leg was pinned. and the blast was coming. She stopped short when she realized she was in a spacious canopy bed, white silken sheets were coiled around her body and she was wearing a very sheer nightgown. There was a cool breeze coming in from a window.

She hesitantly sat up in bed and wondered what had happened.

A flash of light filled the room.

“You!” she exclaimed.

“Please, Katherine, there’s no need for alarm, though I have to admit the effect a cool breeze has on the female of your species does have a certain stimulating effect.” Q said with a wicked grin.

Janeway looked confused for a moment and suddenly glanced down at her chest. The nightgown was quite sheer indeed.

“You are incorrigible.” she snapped as she drew the blankets up to her chin in a quick jerk.

“That’s what my parents told me but I never listened.”

“Explain yourself Q. Was this whole invasion scenario some twisted way to get me into this bed?”

Q laughed heartily.

“Katherine, must everything be about sex with you?” Q exclaimed with a playful smile.

She rolled her eyes.

“Besides, this is not a scenario, Katherine. This is real.”

“As real as anything else you have put me and my crew through.” she replied wanly.

“This is serious, Katherine. Your galaxy is slowly falling to darkness but that’s the insignificant part of this tale.”

“You call this war insignificant?” she exclaimed.

“In the grand scheme of the universal order, it’s a fart in the hurricane my dear Captain. But there are far more important things happening as we speak. You see, the universe is ending, each galaxy winking out like a candle blown out. All caused by you.”

Janeway smirked.

“How many temporal paradoxes do you think you caused with your little stunt when you got your ship home?” Q asked darkly.

Janeway paused. Q’s smile broadened.

“The thought starting to make some sense in that dim primitive mind of yours?” Janeway frowned.

“Your paradoxes are destroying the very foundations of reality.”

“So why am I here, Q? I know you. You didn’t save my life out of some sense of decency or altruism.” she demanded.

“No, Katherine. I saved your life so that we can try a little end run and save the universe.” Q replied rapidly raising and lowering his eyebrows.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-04-08 11:58am
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Chapter 45: Raw Deal



“What?” Jerjerrod stammered for a moment.

“Sir, are you alright?” The officer asked curiously.

Jerjerrod glanced around in confusion. Where was he? He was standing in the middle of a corridor holding a datapad under his left arm.

“Uh, I’m not sure….” Jerjerrod’s voice wandered off. What had happened here? He thought he had been in the middle of a conversation but he could not remember with whom it was. Why was everything in such a fog? There was a dull throbbing pain building in his temples. He had been suffering from these headaches of late.

“Would you like me to call for medical assistance, sir?” The officer asked with some concern.

“No.” Jerjerrod replied quickly and looked around for a moment. He nodded briskly to the young officer and pushed past him. He walked quickly down the corridor, thoughts racing.

What was happening? He had brief episodes of light headedness before, but it seemed that he lost track of time and where he was. This was so unlike him.

He slipped into a lift and paused for a moment as he came face to face with Kahn flanked by his ever present entourage consisting of a pair of stormtroopers. Kahn smiled cordially at Jerjerrod and he swore he heard something whispering in the back of his head, like a low hissing of escaping steam.

Jerjerrod shook his head for a moment then nodded a silent greeting to the genetically engineered super man. Kahn nodded in return and smiled softly as the doors closed and the lift took off.

“Tell me, Captain, have you had a chance to read my proposal on capturing James Kirk?” Kahn asked innocently.

Jerjerrod nodded slowly. Why did he have an odd feeling that this conversation had taken place before?

“Your thoughts?” Kahn asked.

“I find the plan, unique and almost unbelievable in its simplicity. You truly think he would choose that option?”

Kahn smiled coldly, like a predator that had cornered its prey.

“I know the man, Captain. He will have no other choice.”

“But, its inconceivable to me that a commander of a fleet would choose that.” Jerjerrod exclaimed.

“For you and I it is inconceivable, but Kirk will not see it that way.” Kahn replied.

Jerjerrod shook his head in disbelief as the doors to the lift snapped open. Jerjerrod stepped out. Kahn motioned to his stormtroopers.

“After you gentlemen.”

“We go through this every time, Kahn. Let’s go.” One of the troopers replied sardonically. Kahn shrugged and followed Jerjerrod out of the lift.

They walked onto the bridge of the Executor. The crew was obviously in preparations for the coming battle. Kahn watched them, impressed by their professionalism and demeanor. They would make good foot soldiers when the time came.

“I see you are punctual, Kahn, a trait I admire.” Thrawn said casually as he signed off on an order and handed it back to the deck officer.

“Grand Admiral, always a pleasure to be invited to your bridge.”

“I invited you up here to discuss this plan you circulated amongst my senior staff.”

“A copy of which was forwarded to you as well.” Kahn added.

Thrawn nodded to Piett who handed him another datapad. Jerjerrod waited patiently behind Thrawn. Kahn noted the position of each officer, filing away their habits every time he was on the bridge.

Thrawn as usual ignored him and walked with Piett down the command walkway that ran above the crewpits below. Kahn began to follow when one of the stormtroopers in his permanent escort raised a hand.

“You know the drill Kahn. When the Grand Admiral wants to speak to you, you’ll know it.”

Kahn smiled coolly.

“Of course.” He replied and remained standing where he was.

“Are you certain of this?” Thrawn asked Piett as he eyed the datapad.

“We have confirmed through computer analysis. The probe droid stopped transmitting 16 seconds after dropping out of hyperspace in this coordinate area. Before it stopped transmitting it managed to send a partial sensor probe report that indicated power readings consistent with matter/antimatter annihilation and a very strong indication of cloaking technology similar to our Romulan allies. There was also a grav shadow analysis that suggests a massive base complex orbiting the eighth planet in this system.”

Thrawn nodded slowly as he examined the report for himself.

“Excellent work, Admiral. Alert all commands. The fleet deploys within 15 minutes.”

“Yes, Grand Admiral.” Piett snapped a clean salute and rushed to his navigator.

Thrawn remained standing, hands clasped behind his back and watched his fleet from the view port of the command deck. He had such plans for them. He would not allow himself to smile in pleasure. Pleasure would be the eventual and inevitable outcome. Then, the possibilities were limitless.

He motioned with his head to Jerjerrod. Jerjerrod quickly walked over.

“Sir?”

“Inform the Imperium fleet that we are deploying within 15 minutes.”

“I will inform Admiral Kittaine.”

“Jerjerrod, from now on, you will use his new title.”

“Grand Admiral?!” Jerjerrod replied in shock.

Thrawn nodded.

“But sir, only the Emperor can assign someone Grand Admiral.”

“I am well aware of the requirements to achieve the post, Captain.” Thrawn replied coolly.

“My apologies, Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod replied sheepishly.

“Jerjerrod, think of it in these terms. We are giving them more rope. This ‘Grand Admiral’ is merely sealing his fate every time he allows himself to be addressed thusly. When the time comes it will be his undoing. I am merely being polite enough to let him think that he is worthy of the name.” Thrawn added softly.

“I see, sir.” Jerjerrod replied and fought back the sudden skipping of his heart. Thrawn was right of course, but he also hinted at something that Jerjerrod dared not ask him. How could he hold Kittaine and his fleet liable for this rope they were feeding him? They would need to bring him back and it seemed that they certainly did not mean to leave.

Why do so unless…the authority was coming here.





“And we are secure from warp speed.” Tom Paris announced with a grin.

Kirk nodded slowly.

“Good work, Mr. Paris. Chekov, are you picking up the homing signal?” Kirk asked. The trip had taken them a day at maximum warp. A planet on the edge of Federation space and on the outskirts of Orion controlled space. A very gray area that only the hardiest and most daring dared venture. A veritable no man’s land of disorder.

“Yes, Keptain. I have the signal locked in. Our opposite numbers are waiting for us.”

“Okay, gentlemen. Care to explain these things to me one more time?” Kirk asked as he eyed the small metallic armbands he now wore on his left bicep.

“That is a recent development among our special forces troops. It’s a personal transporter for emergency transport. You hit this button and the personal transporter beams you up to preset coordinates. Right now I’ve linked it to the Hudson. Anything bad happens and poof, we’re back here.” Paris explained.

“I do not think we will need these precautions. My contacts have known my family for generations.” Chekov assured Kirk. Kirk smiled and nodded to Chekov who was seemed so painfully young to him. Had Pavel really been out of the academy for three years?

“I’m sure that’s the case, Mr. Chekov, but we have to be cautious.” Kirk assuaged his feelings.

“I’m picking up heavy traffic, but no starships. Looks like we’re in the clear. I’ve calibrated our sensors to warn us if they detect the slightest hint of hyperspace disturbance.” Paris added.

Kirk glanced around the small quarters of the Runabout and nodded.

“Alright, gentlemen. Looks like we’re set. Let’s do this.”

Tom nodded and worked the transporter as Kirk and Chekov stood still. Tom hurried over to stand with them and they disappeared into columns of light.





“What sort of place is dis?” Chekov murmured as they stepped into the bar. Tom smiled. The bar was rather tame by his standards but he could imagine that someone from Chekov’s era would never have seen a place like this. Kirk looked comfortable as he continued walking, not wanting to stop and draw attention to himself as an obvious newcomer.

“Chalnaya has always been a way station for those from Orion space, the Federation frontier and other places. It’s been left to its own devices by many of the major powers for the simple reason that it can be considered neutral ground for most parties.” Tom explained as they slipped in among the crowd.

The bar itself was several stories tall, levels above them were almost completely swarmed with people and all manner of aliens. Exotic blends of smoke and spices drifted in the air, clouds of it drifting in the large open space above them. In the center of the establishment was the bar itself.

A large crystalline glass structure that was not exactly transparent was streaked with a rainbow hue of colors. Several bartenders worked the bar, where it did not look like another human being could fit.

Alien and human languages also filled the air. It blended into an almost dizzying cacophony of sound and splendor.

“I miss this.” Kirk mused.

“Sir?” Chekov asked curiously.

“This is what it was all about, Chekov. This, the new worlds, new languages, new races. This is why I went into space. Certainly not to fight wars of survival.” Kirk scanned the area around him as they passed the bar.

“I wish I could do that again. God, I wish I could just take to the stars and explore.” Kirk muttered to himself as he wove his way through the crowd approaching a table off to a corner on the main level. Two humans and a very nasty looking Nausiccan stood in a semi circle around the table. Kirk paused for a moment and sized everyone up. He had heard of Nausicans, in his time they had not yet made contact with their world but they were quite prevalent in this century. He could tell the tall imposing alien would be trouble if things got physical but Tom assured him that the Nausicans were as smart as they looked.

The table was occupied by three people. Two men and a woman. The men were speaking in hushed tones when the older one stopped and looked over at Kirk. The woman was massaging the older man’s shoulders.

The older man peered at the intrepid trio.

“And who are you?” he asked with a thick Russian accent.

“I am Pavel Chekov, we spoke a little while ago.” Chekov replied.

Kirk kept his eyes on the bodyguards. They were tough customers but he had taken down far worse. Sometimes when the weather was just right he still got a twinge in his right shoulder from the scuffle he had with a Gorn captain. You want to know tough customers, nothing beat hand to hand with a Gorn.

“Chekov?” the older man’s eyes narrowed on the young ensign. He suddenly said something in Russian. Chekov replied casually. The older man nodded and stood up.

“Can it be?” he asked reverently.

Kirk returned his gaze without flinching.

The older man’s face was suddenly broken by a huge grin.

“It is you!” he exclaimed.

Kirk and Tom exchanged a furtive glance.

“Come! Come! This is a moment that as long as I lived I did not think would ever occur!” he shouted and motioned feverishly to his guards to let the three pass. The Nausican glared at Kirk.

Kirk returned the glare with a wink of the eye and graciously accepted their host’s offer of open seats at the table.

“Your hired help is a little off putting for a legitimate business man don’t you think?” Kirk asked wanly.

The older man roared with laughter and slapped an open palm on the table.

“Most excellent captain! I had always pegged you for a humorous man.”

“Thank you.” Kirk replied uncertainly.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Vassilli Zeitsev, founder and president of Zeitsev Unlimited minerals and processing Inc. This is my son, Vanya and my…masseuse Lissette.” he indicated the younger man who was smiling at Kirk with a muted expression of respect. The young woman barely acknowledged Kirk with a nod of the head before continuing the massage. She looked utterly bored.

“I guess you know who I am, this is Pavel Chekov and Tom Paris.”

“The Tom Paris from Voyager?” Vanya suddenly brightened.

“That’s’ right.” Tom replied cautiously.

“I am a fan of your Captain Janeway. She brought your crew and ship back from certain death across a vast gulf of space, facing off against the Borg and lord knows what else. That is a hero after my heart.” Vanya beamed.

Vassilli frowned.

“You have to forgive my son, Captain Kirk but there is no accounting for taste.” he replied bitterly.

“Father please don’t get me started on why Captain Janeway is a far better commander than Kirk.” Vanya replied haughtily.

Tom nearly choked.

“Uh..”

“It’s OK, I don’t have much of an ego and I’m sure that Captain Janeway is a fine captain.” Kirk interjected holding up his hands

“You see!” Vasilli exclaimed jabbing a finger at Kirk. “THIS is a Captain. He is humble and self assured. Your Janeway did not fight the Borg, what she did we called collaboration in my day.”

Vanya began to respond when Chekov cleared his throat loudly.

“Gentlemen, please. We came here to discuss a business arrangement. You requested Captain Kirk’s presence as a sign of good faith and I have provided it.”

Vassilli nodded sagely.

“Of course you’re right. My people are very pragmatic Captain, but we can become emotional about certain matters. It’s rare that we find anyone worthy of being a hero in our eyes.”

“I understand, Mr. Chekov has been quite the education for me in regards to your country men.”

“Ah, Captain. You have no idea the pleasure you bring me AND unless I am mistaken you are wearing the uniform underneath the survival jacket.” Vassilli commented pointing to the bit of gold fabric peaking out from the bulky survival jacket Kirk wore.

“You understand that my time is limited. I have a fleet to supply and the war looks like its turning into a long meat grinder. I’m going to need all the help I can get.” Kirk replied folding his hands on the table.

Vassilli nodded.

“Da. You’re right of course. I happen to own one of the most prosperous dilithium refineries in this quadrant. I supplied Starfleet with nearly 18% of its total dilithium needs over a 15 year period. I have the supplies of dilithium you need and I can keep you supplied.”

“Now what do you need in return. Somehow I’m not sold on the idea that just by me showing up you would feel the urge to simply give us all that dilithium.”

“Captain, while dilithium is not nearly as precious as it was in your day, it is still a valuable commodity. Starships need it to run their warpcores, it is the fundamental building block of all Federation technology.”

“We don’t need a lesson on standard warp technology 101. I got plenty of that in the academy.” Tom interjected impatiently.

Vassilli frowned and shot an annoyed glance at Vanya.

“That is the product of your favorite commander, Kirk’s man is quiet and polite. You tell me again who is the better leader.”

“Uh…” Kirk began.

“At least Janeway didn’t die in a stupid accident.” Vanya shot back.

“No she didn’t because I could not conceive of Starfleet letting her near a starship after her disastrous leadership.” Vassilli shot back acidly.

“Dead?” Kirk stammered.

“Oh, I’m sorry Captain. Vanya has a propensity to be rather irrational in the defense of his so called idols and he speaks before he thinks. But surely you must realize that you would be dead by this century?”

“Well, uh, to be quite frank I never really gave my death much thought.”

“It was stupid way to go.” Vanya replied with a frown.

“I cannot argue with my son there but at least you did so saving lives.”

“Hey guys, there’s this thing called the temporal prime directive. Cut it out here.” Tom exclaimed.

“That prime directive applies to your Starfleet not to us civilians. The life of James Kirk is very well known to those who appreciate a hero cut from the traditional cloth.”

“I’m hardly a hero.” Kirk replied with a soft smile.

“You think Janeway would react that way?” Vassilli demanded of his son.

“Oh father stop drooling over him and get on with it!”

“I own the deck plate that you were standing on when you did die, Captain. One of my most valuable possessions.” Vassilli commented with a wink before slipping back into serious business man mode.

“Now, Captain you are very perceptive to see that my offer does have some strings attached.”

“Get on with it.” Kirk sighed wondering what sort of crazed request was coming.

“When you reestablish the Federation I want you to make it in the mold of the old Federation.”

“What?” Kirk asked clearly confused by the request.

“The new Federation has become a utopian ideal that despises the mercantile roots from which it sprang. Do you want to know why the Federation comes to me for its Dilithium supplies.”

“Because you’re a merchant in dilithium.” Kirk replied without hesitation.

“Did you know that the Federation is so rich in dilithium deposits that it can be a mass exporter of dilithium if it so wanted.”

Kirk blinked.

“That’s right Captain, so why come to such shady operators as myself? Shady only in the sense that less than fifty years ago mine was a thriving company WITHIN the Federation.”

“What happened?” Kirk asked leaning forward with interest. Tom looked down at the table with some embarrassment.

Chekov frowned. Then caught sight of something in his peripheral vision. He slowly turned to look.

“The Federation slowly began outlawing privately owned corporations and businesses. At first it was restrictive governmental controls and regulations, then it became increasingly more difficult to own stock and private property. After all in the Federation’s view of utopia who needs private property?”

“It would only increase the possibility of creating discontent among their ‘enlightened’ masses.” Vanya added bitterly.

“Finally they simply outlawed them altogether.”

“That’s not exactly true.” Tom piped up defensively.

“Oh yes, please forgive me, I will be more precise. They allowed your company to continue to exist if it had a permit from the Federation which essentially gave the Federation a controlling interest in your company and you followed the newest labor and business regulations which ELIMINATED profit. Does that sound about right to you?” Vassilli pressed staring daggers at Tom. Tom muttered something under his breath but did not look up at the man.

“Then Captain, when people like my grandfather and others fled the Federation into outlying space we were labeled traitors and worse by the Federation for abandoning their utopia and did not lift a finger to help us out here when we were forced to fend off the likes of Orion syndicate and other fringers that were looking to take a piece of us.” Vanya added darkly.

“We survived out here Captain, barely, but then the greatest irony of all. The Federation’s new labor laws and business restrictions made it inefficient to mine dilithium. Mining is hard work, Captain.”

“I know. When on my first five year mission I arbitrated many mining disputes for the Federation with the mining guilds.”

“Not to mention saving the mining guild from attacks by the Horta.” Vassilli added.

“Well it wasn’t really attacking in an evil sense.” Kirk explained.

“Would you be surprised to hear that the mining operation you saved was one of the only ones still functioning efficiently in Federation space thanks to the Horta? Anyway, Captain, the fact of the matter is that the Federation crippled their own industry with labor laws which limited work days and hours, increased employer liability to the point where it was no longer efficient to conduct certain operations well. The Federation began buying their dilithium from independents like myself after their own production could not keep up with demand. Tragic really. But you see my point don’t you captain?”

“I had no idea.” Kirk replied and eyed Tom for a moment.

Chekov saw him, moving through the crowd like a specter. He wore battle armor, looked like a Breen. What would a Breen be doing in this place. He seemed to be moving with a deadly purpose. Chekov’s eyes narrowed on the approaching armored figure and he saw the flash of gunmetal gray beneath a covering hand as he passed between two frantic dancers.

Chekov’s eyes widened as the target became painfully obvious.

“That is not the Federation that I am fighting for, Vassilli. You have my word that when this war is over, I will do all within my power to restore her to her former glory. I fully intend to make her a place where we can once again be a mercantile and industrial power and not drive our vibrant entrepreneurial people into the wilderness.”

Vassilli looked into Kirk’s eyes and both men stared at each other for a moment.

“I believe you would Captain.” Vassilli whispered to Kirk. “Done!” he slammed the table emphatically.

“Keptain!” Chekov shouted and shoved Kirk out of his chair as the blaster went off. Three bolts slashed into the gathered crowd at the table. One struck the human guard nearest Kirk, the second bolt tore a fist sized hole right through the metal table and the third bolt struck Chekov in the chest, where a mere second before the back of Kirk’s head had been.

Kirk landed awkwardly on the floor but was already drawing his phaser.

The second human guard whirled and unleashed a torrent of angry green disruptor fire at the armored human who was now leaping to the side and unleashed another volley from his blaster.

The bolts flashed by the two guards exploding along the far wall.

Kirk turned his attention to Chekov who was lying on his side.

“Chekov?” Kirk asked and slowly rolled him over. He saw the large black burn point from the blaster bolt marring Chekov’s jacket and gold shirt beneath. Chekov!” Kirk shouted and checked the Ensign’s vitals while searching for the armored assailant.

“Tom, lay down some suppressing fire, we have to get out of here now!”

“Sir, what about the crowd?” Tom asked hesitantly as he kept his phaser at the ready while hunting for the armored killer.

“If they’re smart their getting the hell out of here, now lay down that fire or we’re ALL dead.”

“Aye Aye sir!” Tom replied and began firing his phaser, sweeping it through the bar.

“Chekov, you listen to me, son. Pavel, you’re going to be OK.” Kirk said as he checked the ensign’s face. Chekov’s eyes were closed tightly in pain and his breathing was erratic.

“Keptain, I’m sorry…I was…too slow.”

“Belay that Mister. We’re getting out of here right now!” Kirk spat and helped Chekov up on his shoulders.

“Let’s get the hell out of here Father!” Vanya shouted.

“A good old fashioned fire fight. I should have known you would bring something like this wherever you went Captain!” Vassilli roared with delight as he pulled out his own disruptor and fired several shots into the bar area.

“Sir you have to get out of here!” his remaining human bodyguard turned his head and shouted.

The armored warrior suddenly popped out from behind a column and fired a steady barrage of fire that exploded around them and the human bodyguard’s head explode into a thick mist of blood and bone. His body fell backwards, limbs flopping uselessly across the shattered remains of the table, his partially cauterized stump of a neck spilled blood all over Lissette who stood up screaming and shaking her arms wildly.

“Lissette for the love of—” Vassilli began when another volley of fire tore into them and Lissette caught several bolts that spun her around like a manic ballerina and the last blast hit her square in the back catapulting her over another table where she landed with a horrifying wet crunch.

“BASTARD!” Vassilli screamed and fired his disruptor at the armored warrior who suddenly rolled away from the column and disappeared behind overturned tables and chairs.

“I just want Kirk. The rest of you can go.” a cold monotone drifted back to them as both sides took a moment to gather their wits.

“Who the hell are you?” Kirk shouted back.

“I’m giving you exactly 7 seconds to clear the way or I’m going to kill all of you.” The voice replied without a hint of emotion. Kirk noticed the Nausican was creeping out along the columns that interspersed the bar. Perhaps they weren’t as dumb as Tom told him.

Kirk turned to Vassilli and Vanya.

“Get out of here and remember what I told you. You get my fleet that dilithium and I’ll get you back into the Federation. Now GO!” He shouted and turned at his hip and fired a steady burst from his phaser at one of the upturned tables. The blast sent the table spinning and the armored warrior popped out from behind another and flung a round metal object at them.

Vassilli and Vanya were racing out of the bar without hesitation, Vassilli pausing long enough to take one last look at his dead Lissette. “Father come on!” Vassilli followed his son.

Kirk watched it spinning as it descended on them, a red light blinking on one end of the ball. His eyes widened and he pulled on Tom’s shoulder, jerking him backwards as he tried to clear the table with Chekov slung over his shoulder like a sack.

The thermal detonator landed right on the table top and exploded.

The blast sent Kirk and Tom tumbling forward to the ground. Tom rolled to the left onto his belly and fired several quick bursts over where the armored warrior was but he was already on the move towards them.

Kirk aimed and fired at the floor right in front of the charging warrior and the armored human was flung backwards off his feet as the phaser blast sent a billowing blast of superheated metal up into a geyser.

“Let’s go!”

“Where? He’s got the exits covered!” Tom demanded as he fired another blast from his phaser which struck the floor where the warrior had been a mere moment ago. How could someone in armor move so fast?

Kirk glanced around them desperately, if they took the stairs to the next level they were sitting ducks to his fire. If they tried to charge him to make it to the door they were also likely to get gunned down.

“I’m an idiot!” Kirk exclaimed and jabbed his free hand at their emergency transport bands.

“Damnit how could I forget? Energizing.”

The Nausican roared as he came up on the attacker. The armored warrior instantly noted their movements and pressed a stud on his left arm ignoring the Nausican.

Tom hit his transport button as did Kirk, clumsily using his gun hand to simultaneously touch Chekov’s armband.

There was a garbled whine. Tom and Kirk exchanged alarmed glances.

The Nausican slammed into the armored warrior and delivered a hammering blow to the midsection. The attacker doubled over for a moment then looked up at the Nausican.

“I give you a free shot and that’s the best you can do?” He sneered. The Nausican roared and cocked back its hand to deliver another haymaker. The armored warrior stepped and delivered a lightning strike with the butt of his rifle into the Nausican’s throat. There was a loud crunch and the Nausican clutched at his throat. The warrior delivered a hammer kick to the side of the Nausican’s right knee, it gave with a horrid crack and as the Nausican fell to his knee, the warrior took a firm grip of the Nausican’s head and jerked it around hard. There was one loud crack and the Nausican crashed to the ground, head lolling at an odd angle.

Tom savagely pushed down on his emergency transport button again but the same sickly warble was the only response.

“Your transporter signals are easy to disrupt. Now, its time to fight like men.”

“Tom covering fire!”

“What are you doing?” Tom replied as he fired another steady series of bursts in the direction the voice.

“Making us an exit!” Kirk exclaimed and adjusted the power setting on his phaser. He pointed it at the far wall and fired. The wall exploded outward with a horrible roar, leaving a small house sized hole in the wall.

Tom smiled triumphantly and fired one more burst before turning to go. Kirk was clearing the hole and turned on his hip again to provide Tom with covering fire.

The armored warrior suddenly popped out again from behind the bar itself and poured a murderous fusillade at the retreating men. One bolt clipped Tom on the right thigh and nearly drove him to the ground. Kirk fired a blast and the armored warrior reacted a shade too slow, the blast clipped his shoulder and the warrior grunted in pain clutching his shoulder as he ducked back down behind the bar.

“Tom, let’s go!” Kirk extended his hand and helped Tom up. They went through the hole and Tom stopped short as he limped out onto a ledge. Below them was a deep gulf between two buildings. They could not see the bottom in the thick darkness of nightfall.

“Hold on, we need to delay him.” Kirk explained and adjusted something on his phaser. A low pitched whine began and he flung the phaser back into the room. He turned back to Tom and motioned for him to start moving along the ledge to a cleaning and service platform just within sight.

“You know that you’re unarmed now.” Tom noted with concern as they started moving as quickly as they could, Kirk trying desperately to balance with Chekov on his shoulders. Chekov had stopped moaning but he could still here him breathing.

“Give me your weapon.” Kirk demanded as the explosion of the overloading phaser ripped through the bar behind them, a plume of fire and thick smoke rushed out of the hole that had served as their exit.

“But.”

“Give it to me, you won’t need it where you’re going.”

“Sir?” He asked as he handed Kirk his phaser. Kirk had been using the old style Federation phaser of his error. As tom handed him his hand phaser, Kirk frowned slightly at the odd configuration of Tom’s modern phaser.

“His scrambler has to have a short range, there’s no way or we would have detected it. I’m willing to bet he’s carrying it with him and so once we’re out of range we should be able to transport and get out of here.”

“How are we getting out of range?” Tom asked as he cautiously peered over Kirk’s shoulder to see the roaring flames licking out of the hole in the wall. He half expected the attacker to emerge untouched through the flames.

“We’re not. Someone needs to stay here and keep him occupied until you can beam me up on the Hudson.”

“Sir, it’s too dangerous let me stay.”

“Don’t worry son, unless he can fly, I’ll be safe for some time.” Kirk replied.

“But how am I—”

“Think quickly, Mr. Paris and forgive me if I’m wrong.” Kirk said with a frown as he roughly shoved Tom over the edge of the service platform.

“What the fu---“ Tom plummeted down into the depths.

This tower was nearly a kilometer high. Kirk fervently hoped that Tom would be out of range long enough to beam back.

Blaster fire exploded over his head showering him with sparks and debris.

“Please forgive me if I’m wrong, Tom, but there was no other way.” Kirk muttered as he aimed the phaser and returned fire. “Who designed this thing?” he wondered aloud in disgust as he glared at the phaser and the awful aim of his shot.

The armored warrior was flying over to another precipice above Kirk via a rocketpack. He landed gracefully and crouched, firing another deadly stream of fire down at Kirk.

“He just HAD to be able to fly didn’t he?” Kirk muttered and fired a steady stream at the armored warrior. The shot was head level. The warrior calmly ducked his head under the stream and cut loose with another volley.

But Kirk’s armored attacker was not his true target. The wall behind where he stood was. The wall exploded outward from the burst of energy. The armored attacker exclaimed in surprise at the concussive force of the blast as it knocked him off the ledge. He plummeted downward into the dark abyss below.

Kirk managed a smile.

Then he heard a deep roar and suddenly the armored warrior appeared opposite him, landing on the edge of the service platform, snapping his rifle down to Kirk. Kirk whipped his arm out and smacked the rifle down to the floor of the platform. Before it stopped clattering, the armored warrior jumped into the platform itself and punched Kirk sending him against the back of the platform. Kirk kicked out and the warrior caught his leg, savagely spinning him around and delivering a chop to the neck.

Kirk gasped as he fell to his knees.

The armored warrior reached out and took a firm hold of Kirk’s chin and back of the head and started to twist, Kirk fought him, one hand desperately grabbing onto the warrior’s hand and the other reaching for the blaster rifle on the floor.

“If you’re…going…to kill me…tell me…your…name.” Kirk managed between the grunts.

“Sure thing…Fett. Boba Fett, dead man.” Fett spat derisively and prepared for the final twist.

Suddenly he felt a sharp kick to his back that sent him tumbling over Kirk’s head and clattering loudly against the lip of the service platform. Fett managed to stop his sudden fall forward and crouched at the lip of the service platform.

Chekov smiled weakly. It had taken all his strength to deliver the double kick to the back of the armored bounty hunter. He drifted back into unconsciousness.

Kirk stood up holding the blaster.

Fett and Kirk faced each other silently for a long time. Fett had one hand extended towards Kirk, the other hovering near a switch at his wrist.

“No matter what you do here, you’re dead Kirk.”

“We’ll see.” Kirk replied stonily.

He could almost see Fett smirking beneath his helmet. The hand began to move towards the switch in a blur, Kirk’s finger tightened on the trigger.

Then he and Chekov disappeared in columns of light.

Fett hit the switch and a swath of fire bathed the service platform from his personal flamethrower. Fett stood up straight and looked down into the platform, it was smoking and charred from the blast of flame but nothing else. He had escaped.

Fett nodded with satisfaction.

He was right, Kirk would prove to be formidable prey. But this chase had just begun. Kirk was not getting away. He pressed a button at his belt, the recall for Slave One. He still had enough time to head them off and end this.

One thing was for sure. This had proven as challenging as tracking and capturing Solo.





“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you!” Tom exclaimed as Kirk stepped off the platform and gently laid Chekov down on the floor.

“Looks like I was right.” Kirk noted with a bemused smile.

“I almost DIED.”

“But you didn’t, Tom. It was either that or we all would have died.”

“You could have told me!” Tom said in exasperation. Kirk broke out the med kit and began administering to Chekov’s wound.

“If I told you to jump down there would you have?”

Tom blinked.

“That’s not the point.”

“Do me a favor, Tom. Get us the hell out of here.”

Tom shook his head in disbelief as he stalked over to the helm controls.

“Tom, it did take you a little longer than I thought to beam us up.” Kirk noted as he checked the mediscanner and began running it over Chekov.

Tom smiled evilly as he brought the runabout out of orbit and set up the warp drive.

“Aside from burning through his scattering field I was considering whether to beam you up at all.”

“Remind me to bring you up on charges when we get back, right after I put you in for a medal.”

The runabout shook violently and a red alert signal sounded. Tom’s face changed to one of cool concern as he ran a quick status check while simultaneously sending the Hudson into a diving evasive maneuver.

“Looks like an Imperial shuttle. It must have popped out of hyperspace on the far side of the planet to avoid detection.” Tom noted.

Kirk pressed a hypospray into Chekov’s neck to ease the pain. He quickly got up and peered over Tom’s head at the viewscreen.


An Imperial shuttle was angling to attack position, a storm of angry emerald energy lashed out at them again.

“Looks like the modifications we made to the shields were a good call.” Kirk noted as the laser fire exploded around the runabout.

“Wes said that in a stand up fight our runabout could get shot down by Imperial side arms under the right conditions.” Tom added with a smirk.

“Can you get us out of here?” Kirk asked as he noticed the shuttle doggedly pursuing them.

Tom frowned as he checked the warp drive status.

“Their flak bursts are disrupting the warp shell. We cannot initiate warp.”

“So we’ll have to take them out. I’ll man the weapons.” Kirk stated as he slipped into the copilot’s chair.

Tom smiled ferally as he sent the Runabout into a spinning turn.





“They’re going to try and turn on us.” Mara noted.

“I see it.” Nemesis replied coolly as he angled his deflectors and gunned the engines. The shuttle responded admirably and kept pacing the Federation runabout.

“The pilot has talent.” She noted.

“I have more.” Nemesis replied evenly and fired off another burst from the weapons array.

Mara watched him at the controls. He moved with such a predatory confidence. The way he tracked the ship and fired precisely when he wanted to. Not a motion was wasted and his eyes were locked on their target.

He was in total control and a part of her responded to that.

“We’ll have them soon. Prepare the tractor beam. We’ll simply tractor them back to the fleet and present our prize.”

“Acknowledged.” Mara replied. She smiled to herself as she brought power up on the tractor beam. This was going a lot smoother than she anticipated.

“One more shot.” Nemesis murmured as the runabout now desperately began twisting and diving. Nemesis knew he had them. The Runabout lacked the maneuverability to beat him in a turning fight. All he needed to do was get another clear shot at their shields and they would be vulnerable.

The Runabout evened out from a steep spinning dive and it took a second to reorient. That second was what he wanted. The targeting system locked onto the Runabout.

“I have you now.” He announced triumphantly.

The shuttle shook violently.

“What?!” Nemesis exclaimed as he instinctively took the shuttle into a sharp climb and checked his six.

“We have a bandit on our tail. Sensors indicate a patrol craft of some kind…give me a second.”

The shuttle shook violently again and a warning light went up on the status board.

“We don’t have a minute.” Nemesis spat as he adjusted from being hunter to prey.

“Looks like a Kuat Firespray patrol ship. What in the name of the Emperor is it doing out here?!”

Nemesis frowned and pursed his lips.

“If this is who I suspect it is then we are in for a fight and a larger mystery has opened up for me.”

Mara glanced over at Nemesis.

“You can’t be serious. HIM?”

Nemesis did not reply as he traded fire with Slave One. It whipped by the shuttle firing a steady stream of fire, her blaster cannons rotating on their axis tracking the shuttle and maintaining a steady stream of fire as the ships passed each other.





“Well, that was unexpected. Tom we don’t have much time.” Kirk ordered as he slipped out of his seat. Smoke filled the cockpit of the Runabout, the shuttle’s weapons had very nearly broke their shields down.

Kirk slipped down to examine Chekov.

“Preparing to go to warp. Setting course for Avalon.”

Kirk ran a mediscanner over Chekov again and got an alarm buzz on it. he frowned and looked at the young ensign.

“Don’t you die on me Chekov.” he whispered and prepared another hypospray, upping the dosage in the hopes it would stop the arrest he was in.






Boba Fett maneuvered Slave One around for another pass. The Imperial shuttle was no where near as maneuverable as his own ship but it was taking quite a pounding and her weapons were to be respected. Whoever was piloting her was not some fresh from the academy pilot. This one had real talent.

A warning buzzed in his ear. He checked his sensor array and saw the power spike on the Runabout.

“You’re not getting away that easy.” Fett said coldly and immediately went into action. He pulled a hard right turn and activated a weapons system. Outside Slave One rotated quickly on her access without changing speed and lined up with the Runabout. A panel slid away on the side of the sleek vessel unveiling a missile rack.

In the cockpit the Runabout was padlocked by the weapons system, the color of the padlock turning from black to red.

Fett simply pressed the firing stud and the missile launched.




“We’ve been spiked!” Tom exclaimed.

“Get us to warp now Tom, we don’t stand a chance between those two!”

“Inbound. Repeat missile inbound.” Tom prayed fervently as he saw the warp core flare up to life.

The missile cleared the distance between Slave One and the Runabout and exploded as the nacelles flared up with a flash of bright white light and the Runabout rushed forward into subspace, the blast of the missile sent out massive shockwaves.

“Hold on! Warp shell is fluctuating!” Tom yelled and the Runabout was rocked hard.

“Warning, structural integrity field failing. Warning port side nacelle is in danger of---” the calm female computer voice was drowned out by an awful shearing sound like sheet metal being torn in half by a giant.

The lights in the Runabout dimmed significantly and a console erupted behind Tom.

“We lost the Port nacelle.”

“Power wise?” Kirk asked as he pressed the hypo to Chekov’s neck and quickly ran another scan.

“No, it’s just gone. We lost her in the subspace sheer created by the blast wave. I don’t know if I can keep us in warp. The warp field is fluctuating badly.”

“Hold her together Tom. Start emergency procedures and set up an emergency transmission.”

“Ejecting log tapes and emergency beacons. Starting transmissions now.” Tom reported as he desperately tried to keep up with the horde of warning lights flashing across his board. The subspace field was jumping wildly on his status board. At any moment they could drop out of warp or worse.

“Warning. Warp core in immanent danger of breach. Emergency shutdown strongly recommended.”

“If we shut down the warp core we’ll drop out of warp.” Tom said to Kirk.

Kirk checked Chekov again and shook his head.

“Tom, if we don’t shut down the core we’ll be dead.”

“I think I can nurse her along, Captain. Just give me a minute.”

Tom focused on the board in front of him, hands flying across the touchpads with lightning speed and accuracy. Each new emergency was greeted by his hands accessing a solution. The warp field was now gyrating madly and he knew that no matter what he did there was no way he could keep them at warp.

“Warning warp core breach is immanent. Emergency shutdown is required.”

“Damnit!” Tom cursed and slammed his fist against a panel in disgust.

“Tom, shut down the warp core. We’ve come as far as we can, let’s just hope one of our ships heard the distress call.”

Tom hated to admit when he could not beat a situation. But Kirk was right. he initiated a warp core shutdown and the warp shell suddenly vanished.

The Runabout was thrown forward as it came out of warp suddenly, a planet looming on the viewscreen.

“Warning, gravity well ahead.”

“I don’t need you to tell me that!” Tom spat as he tried to fly out of the headlong dive to the planet. He touched a few controls and nothing happened.

“Oh no.” he muttered.

“Chekov.” Kirk whispered as he ran the mediscanner over the ensign and saw the results.

“Captain, we’ve lost attitude control and thrusters. Our damage was far more extensive than I realized. I can’t pull us out of this dive.” Tom grunted as he tried valiantly to force the nose up on the Runabout to no avail. The touchpads were simply not responding and a new host of warning lights were blinking incessantly on his panel.

The planet filled the screen and the Runabout began to shake violently as it began to cut through the upper atmosphere, the nose slowly glowing a dull red.

“Captain, get into crash positions and secure Chekov.” Tom said as he quickly brought crash restraints down from his shoulders to his waist and squared up in his seat to try and nurse her along as best he could.

“That won’t be necessary, Tom.” Kirk said with a defeated tone.

Tom craned his head back.

“Sir?”

Kirk looked back down at Chekov. Medical supplies and hypos were scattered around his feet and a mediscanner hung limply out of his right hand as Kirk put his left on Chekov’s brow.

“He’s dead.”






“Charlie.”

Charles Evans floated on the ether. It was a soothing experience as he let himself be carried on whatever whims the universe had for him. He was dimly aware that somewhere else, his body lay on a medical bed, surrounded by doctors, nurses, wounded and the dead.

He did not care about that right now.

“Charlie.”

He followed the voice. It was somehow familiar. He wondered if this were death. His adopted family told him in no uncertain terms that he could die. They warned him when he was younger and thought that he was immortal and untouchable. They gently reminded him when he decided to join up on this mission to save the Federation from destruction at the hands of the Empire.

But he never really thought he could die.

Perhaps this was it. If so, he did not understand what all the fear was about. This was rather soothing.

“Charlie.”

He was suddenly pulled forward as if in a vortex and he found himself standing on a barren plain. He was standing next to a player. There was another player seated across from him, intent on the three dimensional chess board between the two. The other player had cold silver eyes and there was a hint of something else fluttering behind them, a kind of madness. Sometimes it peered out of those eyes like some leering beast.

He recognized the player he was standing next to.

“You be absolutely quiet.” Q whispered as he moved a piece.

Charlie did as he was told.

“He can’t perceive you but I’m not taking any chances. Don’t move or speak, in fact it might be a good idea to not even breath.”

Charlie did as he was told, eyeing the silver eyed stranger more closely. He wore a gold uniform shirt much like Kirk’s. In fact he seemed to be a member of the Enterprise’s crew. He recognized the insignia on his chest.

“That’s Gary Mitchell and I’m beginning to see something. I’ve been duped you see. He just wanted to play a friendly game, one last little turn at the boards before the end.”

Charlie opened his mouth to ask a question but Q glared at him from the corner of his eye.

“What did I tell you Charlie. Just watch and listen. There’s no telling what would happen if he perceived you.”

Q was lying. Charlie knew precisely what the silver eyed man god would do if he perceived Charlie.

“But he has another plan and it’s starting to become clear to me. He’s been trying to distract me by trying to pile on to my king and basically make this game a grudge match when it isn’t. I see some inklings of his plan and if I’m right, we have to stop him damn the Continuum’s rules and everything else.”

Q countered a move and watched the silver eyed god who pursed his lips and then smiled cruelly as he moved a piece into an attack position.

“You have to go back and convince Kirk that there’s more to this war than he thinks. This war is not being fought by chance. Its not the be all and end all. In fact this whole war up to this point has been a sideshow for something grander. There are plans being set into motion and I mean to stop them even if it means letting our players onto this little game.”

Charlie wanted desperately to speak but he remained silent, warily watching the silver eyed player.

“Now go back, Charlie, protect Kirk at all costs and tell him to go to Emanaar 4 as soon as he can. Also tell him that the idea he’s been kicking around regarding Organia is not a bad one. Give it a shot, if anyone can do it he can.”

Charlie nodded.

Q smiled softly.

“Goodbye Charlie. I don’t think we’ll see each other again, but you’ve become quite the man.”

Charlie smiled proudly and suddenly he seemed to be swept away as if on the rides of a great sea and the players, plain and board vanished from his sight as he was thrust back into the soothing void where he floated serenely. But no longer so serene, he had a mission, he had to tell Kirk.

Suddenly Charlie sat bolt upright on the medbed.

McCoy rushed over.

“Charlie?”

Charlie looked around for a moment, getting his bearings.

“I need to see Captain Kirk.” he said simply. “We’re being played for fools.”





Back at the game Q continued playing, no sign whatsoever of the conversation he just had. He bent his head down in deep thought and reached out to move another piece. He did not see the slow cold smile spread across Gary’s face as his silver eyes flashed over to where Charlie had been standing mere moments ago.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-04-21 10:40pm
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Chapter 46: Flight of Shadows


The Imperial fleet emerged from hyperspace in waves, massive Imperial stardestroyers were flanked by smaller Strike and Carrack cruisers. Wings of TIE fighters roared in perfect formations around the fleet as the mighty capital ships formed up for assault. The fleet was mobilized for one purpose only, the utter destruction of the Federation remnant that had dared steal Imperial property.

The probe droids had done their job. They had discovered the base of operations and now Thrawn moved his fleet in for the kill.

The Grapple, an interdictor began to emit a powerful gravity well from its four massive hyper matter gravity generators. Thrawn was well aware that the Interdictors were not completely able to stop warp capable ships from escaping but the massive grav shadows thrown up by the vessel did interfere with the formation of static warp shells around the ships, making warp drive difficult to establish and any advantage that he could draw would be used in this battle.

Thrawn watched his fleet in silence from the Executor’s bridge where Piett was quietly giving orders to his subordinates and making the adjustments to the orders of battle as they approached the Federation base. It was still not visible but Thrawn knew that a massive cloaking system was on line that was hiding the facility.

The Romulans were in awe of the ability of this remnant to essentially cloak a planet. It might even prove challenging to Thrawn.

“Piett.”

“Grand Admiral.”

“Have the Iron Fist and Colossus move into a spearhead to try and draw their fire. I want the Executor to begin long range bombardment on my signal.”

“The facility is still cloaked and our targeting sensors cannot penetrate, Grand Admiral. We’ll essentially be firing blind.” Piett cautioned.

Thrawn smiled softly.

“It won’t matter whether we can lock on or not, Admiral. Once this fleet unleashes its firepower it will be impossible to miss the target.”

“Ah, you mean to blanket fire, force them to drop their cloak.”

“Precisely.” Thrawn glanced down at the tactical display on his station. “Deploy the Bomber wings in crescent formation and have them use the Steel Talon as a screen against counter fire from the Federation remnant.”

“Yes, sir.”

Thrawn nodded as his fleet began to follow his orders. Piett watched him, cool and confident standing on the bridge watching the opening moves of the battle with a cold calculating gaze. Piett knew as soon as the opening salvoes were fired that this battle was already won.






“Watch them!” Durant barked.

“Incoming.” one of the androids warned.

Bright emerald death flashed around the massive facility and exploded into balls of fire and light. Many of these blasts ripped around the facility but some consumed a portion of a space dock, a gantry or a supply depot.

“Sir, the cloaking field is starting to fail.”

Durant nodded.

“OK, they think they have us right where they want us. It’s time to show them that you don’t come into the lion’s den and not expect to get hurt.” Durant turned to his android aide. “Commence mine detonation, swarming pattern and get the last of the evacuation ships in line, we’re going to have to make a break for it.”

“Yes sir.”

The Imperial fleet loomed closer, their massive arrow shaped hulls gleaming hungrily in the light of the systems primary, a steady stream of turbolaser fire poured away from them into the Shadowfleet base.

Suddenly small explosions began rippling along the lead elements of the fleet, the explosions growing more numerous and brighter the deeper the fleet penetrated until the lead elements were almost continuously engulfed in light.




“Repeat we have massive mine detonations all along all areas of approach. The Colossus reports over a thousand individual detonations every 5 seconds now on her forward shields.”

Thrawn did not react, he merely marked something on his tactical pad and continued to listen to reports.

Jerjerrod leaned in closely.

“Grand Admiral, if the rate of detonations does not decrease soon, the Colossus may lose her forward shields.”

“The mines are a distraction and they know that. They are going to try and escape. Unlike the other Federation remnants, this contingent seems to have a realistic assessment of their chances. Their leadership will not try to win a victory by any means necessary. These are military men, pure and simple and they know when they are in a lost cause and so they do the militarily prudent thing. They will run.”

“They sound more dangerous than Kirk’s contingent.” Jerjerrod noted with some concern. The Federation had always proven to be an odd dichotomy of scientists and warriors, neither side comfortable with the other. It had been one of their advantages against the Federation, at least from his readings of the Imperium fleet’s reports. He had also noted something else in the reports, an almost sneering condescension of the opposition they faced in this galaxy up until a point. The Battle of Vulcan where Kirk made his first appearance. Since then all reports dealing with his remnant seemed to almost have a grudging respect and admiration to the point where in one of Grand Admiral Kittaine (It was difficult to imagine that bureaucrat as a Grand Admiral) after action reports he actually wished he had a commander like Kirk.

“No. Actually that makes them easier to deal with and defeat.”

“How?” Jerjerrod asked incredulously.

“They are military men, Jerjerrod, we know precisely how they think and act. I can anticipate the actions of a field commander far better than I can of a fanatic on a crusade. This Kirk has an almost intuitive grasp of our weaknesses and strengths and a level of tactical creativity I have not seen in many commanders. He also has a charismatic edge that allows him to lead men willingly into a hopeless situation.” Thrawn replied and turned his glowing red eyes to Jerjerrod who looked slightly confused.

Thrawn nodded to himself.

“Kirk can get his men to do almost anything no matter how crazed. These men will only do what is militarily practical and sound and that is their weakness and one that I am about to exploit.”

“Admiral Piett, it is time to flush them out. Have the Bomber wings fire proton torpedoes with proximity fuses in waves. All our TIE Interceptor are to follow in the wake as those blasts will at least temporarily clear the mine field for our fighters. Have all squadrons begin immediately engaging all targets within our flak burst zones. Let us see how long they can maintain their discipline before they have to swat at the gnats I’ve sent them.”

“Yes, Grand Admiral.” Piett paused. “Sir, shall I order all gunnery crews to be on the watch for Federation fire. Perhaps we can lock on to their return fire signatures and engage in that manner.”

Thrawn regarded Piett for a moment and there was the barest shadow of a smile on his face.

“Those were my next orders, good anticipation, Piett. Carry on.”

“Yes sir.” Piett replied and hid his own smile.






“We’ve got movement in the perimeter. Looks like torpedoes inbound.”

“They’re trying to flush us out. We’ve run out of time. Status of evacuation?”

“Charges have been set, all data files have been erased. We’ve beamed up the last of our crews and equipment.”

Durant nodded.

“It’s time then. Load all torpedo bays with transphasic torpedoes. We’re going to give them a nice little surprise.”

“Roger that.”

Durant sat on the bridge of the Bunker Hill watching dispassionately as the Imperial fleet tried to pry apart defense of a base designed to take on an armada of warships from any empire in the galaxy. Fortunately for the Shadowfleet the base was also designed to be evacuated and abandoned at nearly a moment’s notice. The true strength of the shadowfleet lay in it not being found, in its ability to melt away out of sight. Their entire existence could be denied. They were not SUPPOSED to exist and they took this mandate to heart. It was one of the founding principles. Protect the Federation by any means necessary but never be known. They were the silent guardian angels and now they had to run.

“Sir, fleet is formed up. We’re as ready as we’re going to be.”

“Acknowledged—” the rest of Durant’s words were cut off by a storm of explosions that erupted silently on screen as waves of proton torpedoes detonated. The Bombers that launched the waves peeled away elegantly and a horde of TIE Interceptors roared in like a swarm of killer bees, swarming right through the gap in the minefield, barely waiting for the rapidly expanding clouds of plasma to disappear before rushing in.

The fighters were fast, faster than anything that the Shadowfleet had faced before and soon they had pierced the outer edge of the cloaking screen and were in among the fleet. The fighters could not see the individual ships of the shadowfleet for they were cloaked, but they could now see the individual vast structures that made up the base. Many of the fighters began attacking the docking platforms, base structures, orbital facilities. Some of the squadrons remained vigilant for any sign of the fleet that they had been sent to hunt.

Several of the fighters clipped or ran full bore into cloaked ships and exploded, the debris continuing on in flaming trails into the inky darkness. Surviving wingmen immediately began firing into the empty area of space where they suspected the ship may lie.

Durant watched as the fighters prowled around them firing in quick bursts of green death.

“We have contacts among the fleet.”

“Taking heavy fire.”

“Argo is losing stabilizers- our cloak is failing.”

An explosion illuminated the area around a squadron of fighters and a nacelle became clear as it vented plasma, all along the nacelle a cascade of hungry blue lightning lapped along the vague outline of a starship.

“Should we return fire?”

Durant slapped on his communicator switch.

“Negative, repeat negative, they’re looking for us to begin opening fire and track back to the point of origin. Full impulse and take us out of here.”

“Copy that fleet commander.”

The fleet moved, accelerating away from the base they called home for decades. Durant mused on the loss. The Shadowfleet’s headquarters had always moved as the Federation grew. Designed to always be on the absolute frontier of Federation space, the base allowed the Shadowfleet to aggressively patrol the borders and to be at the forefront of any threat to the Federation. Sometimes something slipped by, like the Doomsday machine of Kirk’s era but there were so many threats that the Shadowfleet had headed off, so many invasions. Entire civilizations bombed into oblivion because of their overall threat to the Federation. As the Federation grew beyond its first boundaries so did the Shadowfleet stretch forth its hand always protecting their charge with blood and iron.

Now, they were running from the one foe that they could not stop, could not anticipate.

This base which had served them well on the outer boundaries of Federation space was about to be destroyed and with it, perhaps the very last hope that the Federation could defeat this foe.

The fleet was quickly leaving the base behind and Durant watched as the starbase his office was located in was torn asunder by the TIE Interceptors. Their green energy blasters were ripping through tritanium and force fields stripping the facilities to their skeletal structures beneath, much like piranha back on earth.

“Begin detonations see if we can’t inflict some casualties on those bastards.”

“Aye sir.”

Squadrons of TIE Interceptors were coming around the shattered remains of a repair base when it exploded, sending debris and shrapnel out in a cloud of quickly expanding death. Many of the TIE fighters soon spun out of control exploding into small pearls of light in the distance.

“We’re starting to get some flack sir. The Imperial fleet is laying down flak in anticipation of our escape.”

“Hmm…looks to me like we need a divine wind to get us out of this mess.” Durant smiled coldly as a TIE Interceptor clipped the forward bow of his ship and spun like a mad top into his escort vessel, exploding harmlessly.

“Shall I initiate the operation?”

“By all means.”





“I want more fire in that sector.” Thrawn ordered tersely.

“They’re showing astounding fire discipline.” Piett noted with some admiration as he relayed the orders.

“Not altogether unexpected but one can hope for a break. Now we know what we are facing, true and utter professionals. All the more reason why this battle will be over quite soon.”

“Admiral?” Jerjerrod interrupted.

“What is it?”

Jerjerrod looked confused as he read a display on his datapad.

“We’re picking up odd readings on the fore port side. The Iron Fist and Decimator report picking up energy spikes like starship drive emissions heading straight for their position.”

“How is that possible? Their cloaks have proven to be infallible until now.” Piett countered.

Thrawn’s fist tightened slightly and his eyes narrowed to slits.

“Have the forward formations break immediately! Full evasive and I want flack and torpedoes in that space now.” Thrawn hissed.

“Yes si—” Piett began and on the view port a mighty explosion flared up ahead.

Alarms buzzed on several stations as another blast exploded to their starboard.

“I want the entire fleet in full evasive mode and all gunners are to lay down suppressing fire.”

“What are we suppressing?” Jerjerrod exclaimed in frustration as yet another explosion illuminated the darkness followed by an even larger explosion that accompanied it in the same location. This explosion was unmistakable for veterans of combat with rebel alliance forces. It was the death cry of a hypermatter reactor.

“Just do as he says!” Piett snarled and stalked over to the navigation bay. “All available power to the engines and get this hulk moving.”

“Yes sir!”

Another explosion to their extreme left actually flooded the bridge of the Executor with light.

“Admiral.”

“Report.”

“We’ve lost the Iron Fist. The Deceiver is crippled and has lost life support in half the ship.” Jerjerrod reported with a tone of disbelief.

Thrawn was a man in motion, stalking over to crew pits.

“I want a detailed status report right now or we are all dead.” His voice was like doom and his men quickly scattered to cull data.

“Piett.”

“Sir?”

“We are being attacked in a manner that I did not anticipate. We need to finish this battle quicker than expected, move the flagship out of this combat zone immediately. I will not risk damage to the Executor at this key point. Order the rest of the fleet to lay down heavy suppressing fire at these coordinates.” Thrawn handed Piett a datapad with several coordinates laid in.

“Can we be certain they are there?”

“It is where I have allowed them to think I do not expect them to be. They will now learn the folly of this notion.”

“I sense a disturbance in the Force. This fleet is in grave danger.” Vader intoned as he stepped on the bridge. Thrawn permitted himself a cordial nod.

“As always, Lord Vader your powers of perception are extraordinary.”

“Now is not the time for pleasantries, Grand Admiral, this vessel is in extreme danger.”

“And what does your force tell you?” Thrawn asked coldly.

“Merely that we are in danger.” Vader admitted just as coldly.

“I need to find out what is attacking us NOW.”

“Yes sir.”

“I think I have an idea.” Jerjerrod interrupted.

The trio of Piett, Thrawn and Vader turned their heads to look at Jerjerrod who was pointing to the view port.

A small starship was making its way straight to an escort ship. The starship looked ghostly, her outer edges seem to waver and wink in and out of view. The escort vessel undoubtedly saw her and brought a withering barrage of turbolaser fire to bear on the approaching starship.

The bright emerald lances passed through the ship with only the briefest sign of affecting the target. The starship seemed to ripple slightly as if a stone had been skipped across the surface of a still pond. The starship continued on in an intercept course with the Strike cruiser which was now desperately executing evasive maneuvers. Everyone watched transfixed by the sight, the silence only broken by Vader’s mechanical breathing. The starship kept pace with the Strike cruising moving unerringly closer.

“We’re not getting any life readings.” Jerjerrod whispered as he tore himself away long enough to look at a scanning report of the vessel.

“It is automated.” Thrawn concluded with a cold stare as he watched the exchange with all the interest of a surgeon at an operation. His cold calculating mind quickly drawing conclusions from the incredible sight he was seeing. Several more shots passed right through the starship’s saucer section as the ship closed the gap to almost pointblank range.

“She’s not slowing down.” Piett noted.

“I don’t think she intends to.” Jerjerrod added.

The starship executed one last turn as the Strike cruiser tried one last desperate gambit to elude her and failed. The starship passed into the cruiser like a ghost and suddenly as if a light switch had been thrown the ghostly image of the starship sharpened and it solidified, directly within the engine block of the Strike cruiser. The solidification process lasted a mere moment and suddenly both ships occupied the same space at the same time.

The starship erupted in a blaze of self destructing matter and antimatter. The Strike cruiser’s engine block disappeared in that same flash, consumed by the destruction of the starship and the forces of physics which would not allow such a paradox to occur. The Strike cruiser slowly drifted down and out of formation, her engines blasted into their component atoms.

Thrawn did not hesitate.

“I want the command ship out of this fight immediately and all weapons are to engage the target areas designated. It is time to bring in my own surprise forces.”

“Yes Admiral.” Piett replied still shaken by what he had just seen.




“We have eliminated one large cruiser and crippled several others.”

“Excellent. Have remaining divine wind units engage value targets, especially the command ship. If we can take her out of the fight, maybe kill their command staff we may force a retreat or at the very sow enough confusion to escape.” Durant replied as he held on to his command chair. The Bunker Hill was shaking badly, bucking like a wild bronco as the retreating Shadowfleet passed through a veritable storm of turbolaser fire. Some of his starships were caught in a point blank blast, not seen emerging from the other side, still others at the edge of the blasts were trying desperately to maintain their cloaks.

“Sir, we’re picking up more heavy fire, they’re concentrating all fire in this sector.”

Durant frowned. As if they knew the fleet was definitely here. How was that possible?

“Should we disperse the fleet?”

“No.” Durant replied. “If we have to fight our way out of this mess we’ll need to concentrate our fire and that’s going to be nearly impossible to do with our fleet dispersed throughout the retreat zone.” Durant rubbed his chin and slapped his communicator switch again.

“Subspace warfare vessels, begin immediate wild weasel operations. Set for position three.”

“Acknowledged.”

As the Shadowfleet continued its relentless march through the thick flak several double hulled Oberth class ships slowed down and opened their shuttle bays. A small flight of shuttles immediately emerged from the subspace warfare ships. Each shuttle was piloted by an android that took the shuttles away from the fleet. At a safe distance they activated their Wild Weasel units. These compact computer systems broadcasted false images into the subspace domain which confused sensors as to the true location of the target vessel.

A style of warfare made almost extinct by the advent of cloaking technology and the ability to hide vessels and fleets far better than any spoofing technology could ever hope to achieve. But the masters of the Shadowfleet were not ones to easily discard proven techniques and soon discovered that the combination of cloaking and spoofing was a devastating tool, particularly to a fleet that prided itself on not even existing.

The Wild Weasels were now broadcasting a carefully crafted image in the hopes that the Imperial fleet would take the bait and switch to the shuttles and their broadcasters instead of the fleet.




“I’m not convinced.” Thrawn said with a frown.

“The signatures are intermittent and only a handful. It is fully consistent to what would occur if their power grids or cloaks were damaged. A signature precisely like this one would be picked up by our sensor nets. The fact that we’re not picking up more of these signatures convinces me to their veracity, Grand Admiral.” Piett replied to Thrawn’s caution.

“It is precisely because they are what we should or would expect that has me concerned, Admiral. They are under heavy fire at this moment and now we start seeing some signatures that happen to be in areas farther away from the heart of the bombardment? I expect to see such signatures in the flak zone not here on the fringes. This act reeks of desperation and I will not take the bait.”

Piett frowned. He was convinced of the data, it was Thrawn who could not conceive that perhaps he was wrong that would not accept the scenario.

“Continue the bombardment and—”

“Grand Admiral!” Jerjerrod exclaimed and jabbed his finger at an object coming in low towards the Executor.

The starship was a Miranda class, shimmering ghostlike it approached like a specter from the midst of the battle, hurtling towards the Executor, unimpeded by the heavy fie from the Executor or her escorts.

“Increase forward firepower, I don’t want that thing to get through!” Piett exclaimed.

“It’s no use.” Thrawn hissed. “They have devised a way to make these ships invulnerable to our weapons fire. Once they phase through our shields and hull they will reintegrate into our molecular structure. Ingenious weapon really, but every weapon has a countermeasure.”

“I can’t see one.” Jerjerrod spat bitterly as the starship continued on, its course obviously locked onto the Executor’s bridge tower.

“Full evasive, all power to the engines.” Piett ordered grimly as the starship grew on the view port.

“I don’t want this distraction to stop the bombardment. Shift fire to the grid I set.”

“You want me to switch defensive fire from that ship?” Piett asked.

“Yes, Admiral. There is no stopping what is going to happen. But I will not allow that fleet to escape.”

“Yes sir.”

Thrawn stepped back and watched the small ship continue on its course unerringly as turbolaser fire stopped lancing through it and switched back to the space where Thrawn knew an entire Federation fleet was trying to escape.

“Perhaps the cause is not completely lost.” Vader said quietly to Thrawn alone.

Thrawn paused enough to smile coolly. “I thought you might have a way out of this for us, Lord Vader.”

“The power to make a ship invulnerable to fire is insignificant next to the power of the force.”

“So I’m told.” Thrawn replied.

Vader glanced down at the Grand Admiral but he remained impassive watching the battle unfold, no hint whatsoever of his jibe on his face. Vader looked back up at the suddenly looming starship. It was almost at the nose of the Executor as the massive ship did its best to avoid the starship. The sound of the massive engines at full power could be heard vibrating up the bulkheads.

Vader opened his mind and reached out to the starship.

Thrawn motioned to Piett who walked over quickly.

“Send the message.”

“What if they do not respond?” Piett asked seriously looking into the glowing red eyes.

Thrawn returned the gaze, impressed that Piett had not suggested that they evacuate the bridge. Perhaps there was more to this Admiral than met the eye.

“Then they will be solely responsible for the escape of this Federation remnant and I will make sure that this galaxy and their allies never forget that the Imperium failed in stopping the remnant responsible for the destruction of the Romulan homeworld of Remus.” Thrawn replied icily.

“Of course Admiral.” Piett replied with a curt nod and turned to relay the message.

Vader remained motionless behind them, the starship now passing the nose of the Executor.

Vader felt the insides of the vessel through the Force, he moved along its corridors like a wraith, his spectral eyes penetrating bulkhead and security doors. He followed the pulsing of the force, it called to him, wanting to show him what he required.

The object sat in the center of his vision, pulsing in the strange light of the starship, illuminate partially by the light of his own being. He reached out with his mind, angry at this device for causing the deaths of so many under his command, for defying his will and for putting himself in danger.

He reached out in his anger and took the object in his grip and squeezed. Squeezed in anger and rage, Squeezed as he thought of his son, as he thought of years of planning at risk because his whelp of a child could not control himself. Impetuous, brash, angry, he would ruin what he had sacrificed so much for. His humanity, his friends, and his future all for the chance at righting the wrongs he saw in the universe and for bringing order to the chaos. He alone had the power to right it all again, he alone could face Palpatine and slay the decrepit old monster in his lair.

But he learned form the vile leering old man, he learned that in patience and planning there was a strength unlike any other. Patience and planning had felled a Republic and instituted a New Order, and Vader was a quick study. Oh yes, he had learned very quickly and through careful planning and patience he had brought about the events that would bring him the reigns of control.

But now his son would ruin it all. He would dash all his plans and hopes because this child could not see the forest for the trees.

At the same time how could he hate his son? How could he hate the one thing that remained in his life that reminded him of her? Padme.

I truly deeply love you.

He closed his eyes for a moment as hot tears welled up in his eyes. He snapped the phase cloak in a reflexive crush of anger as he lashed out at it all, lashed out at the injustice, the loneliness, the guilt and the shame.

The entire engineering section collapsed in on itself at the rage of Lord Vader.

The bridge officers gasped as the Miranda cruiser suddenly veered sharply off course and crashed down into the lower portions of the Executor’s hull. Piett sighed deeply and shook his head. He did not allow his men to see the fear that had gripped his belly.

“Well done, Lord Vader.” Thrawn said casually and turned his attention back to the battle. Vader did not reply, instead he breathed rhythmically and stared outward at the battle but in his mind he knew that when the time came, Thrawn had to die.





“Alright, hold it together everyone, we’re almost clear of this mess. I want all power diverted to warp drive. We need to get out of this death trap immediately.” Durant ordered calmly.

“Kind of like a nice spring shower back home, right boss?” Durant’s second chimed in on the com in his thick Texan accent.

“I don’t want to go through that kind of shower again anytime soon old friend.” Durant replied with a grin.

An alarm buzzed at the science station. The android on duty glanced down and looked back up at Durant.

“Hyperspace emergence ahead.”

“Oh no.” Durant muttered.

The Imperium fleet emerged from hyperspace directly in the path of the fleeing shadowfleet vessels. The Emperor’s Will at the head and a sea of green warbirds spreading out like a net at the extreme flanks of the fleet, pouring fire almost immediately into the empty space before them.

“We’re receiving heavy fire.”

“Shields failing—“”

“Transfer all available power to the structural integrity fie—“

“Losing cloak.”

Durant slammed his fist down on the armrest of the command seat. This was not expected. How did they know precisely where he would be?

“Orders sir?”

Durant watched as several starships suddenly became visible, their cloaks destroyed or damaged damage clearly visible all along their hulls, one ship missing a nacelle and all lights out drifted away from the fleet trailing a glittering field of plasma and molten metal.

“All ships listen up. Our only avenue of escape has been cut off. We need to get out of this death trap, the power of their flak bursts will not allow us to form a static warp shell so we have only one choice.”

“We’re with you boss.”

Durant smoothed his onyx black uniform and ran a hand through his hair before sitting back in his command chair.

“Drop the cloaks, all power to the weapons systems, standby on transphasic torpedo volleys….” He leaned forward slightly. “Alright boys and girls, this is it, we’re in for a knife fight.”



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-05-02 07:39pm
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Chapter 47: Knife Fight



“All ships to that sector now. We need to close them off, move the left flank into a Sanas Crescent.” Thrawn ordered triumphantly as the Shadowfleet suddenly became visible.

“Yes sir.”

“There are still those ghost ships out there.” Jerjerrod warned.

“They are now a secondary concern. We cannot allow this contingent to escape. They are obviously far better skilled at the arts of war than their fellow Federation remnants and they have access to technology that could prove troublesome for us in our bid to bring this galaxy to heel.”

“We need to press this attack now.” Piett urged.

“Have a care Admiral, I sense other agendas at work here.” Vader hissed cautiously.

Thrawn glanced back at the dark lord with a hooded expression.

“Keep me informed should your hunches become more substantial.” Thrawn replied. Vader watched him intently but said nothing.

Thrawn turned back quickly. Jerjerrod stared at a readout for a moment and glanced back up quickly.

“They’re firing a strange weapon at our lead vessels. The results are extraordinary.”





“That’s it?” Durant pressed.

The android blinked.

“The first volley of transphasic torpedo fire has passed through their shields unimpeded and have impacted against the hulls.”

“Those things should be detonating WITHIN the ships.” Durant snapped angrily as he watched the next volley of torpedoes flash out from his fleet in phalanxes of angry red balls of light. They struck the lead element of Imperial capital ships, the shields of the capital ships flared up slightly as the torpedoes passed through them and exploded against the hulls of the warships. For the stardestroyers the explosions left pockmarked blackened scoring on the neutronium impregnated hulls. For the lighter warships the torpedoes impacting on their hulls proved more troublesome.

Durant was not happy.

The transphasic torpedoes were his ace in the hole. A single one of these enriched antimatter warheads could destroy a Borg cube in a volley. The phase inducers built into the casing would allow a torpedoes to skip through any sort of energy shielding, and in theory would remain phased until it passed through a target’s hull, exploding within. This was not the case here.

The Shadowfleet had spent an inordinate amount of resources “acquiring” the technology before the Federation hid away or destroyed the remaining models Janeway brought with her in the name of chronal integrity. He was certain these weapons could be used to turn the tide but he was facing the daunting possibility that even weaponry as advanced as this, weapons that did not even exist in Federation until twenty years from now could turn the insurmountable tide.

Durant now knew that this was not going to be over in a flash of inspiration nor would he be sending the Imperials packing. He adjusted his black jumpsuit and cleared his throat as the first volleys of emerald turbolaser fire began to explode around his fleet.

“All wings, drop shields and switch over to armor. We’ll need every erg of power to our weapons. Wings 3 and 6 you take point and sweep in on their left flank. We need to split their line now before the secondary lines move up into over watch position. I don’t want any heroics out there. We just need to break a hole in their lines and go to warp. Focus transphasic fire on vital ship systems like their shield generators and command centers. Wing 2 fall back to ready reserve position. Subspace warfare vessels immediate scrambling operations. Let’s not make it too easy on them to target us. Everyone with me?”

“We’re right behind you, boss.”

Durant smiled and nodded.

“Let’s do this ladies and gentlemen. We’re the Federation’s avenging angels. We have a lot to avenge.” Durant added coldly.

The Shadowfleet wheeled around as one and two great wings of starships flashed away from the main body of the fleet and without hesitation, with the precision that could only be achieved by synchronized android helmsmen, they struck the Imperial line.




“They have decided to make stand.” Thrawn noted a hint of admiration in his voice.

“Did they have a choice?” Jerjerrod added.

Thrawn turned his head slightly, red eyes boring into his aide de camp.

“I would have surrendered this fleet in the hopes of bartering for better treatment in exchange for this phasing technology.” Thrawn replied nonchalantly.

“Utterly foolish. This action achieves nothing.” Vader hissed.

“We are in agreement, Lord Vader. Now we will teach them what the full might of the Empire means.” Thrawn promised and turned to Piett. “Commence fire, all batteries. No finesse, no maneuvers, blast them to oblivion.”

“Yes sir.” Piett replied. Thrawn seemed to have grown in stature before his very eyes and his red eyes flashed dangerously. The Federation remnant had angered him and now they were going to pay the cost.





“I want those ships.” Kittaine growled as he watched his fleet deploy in a loose formation, unlike Thrawn’s ships which were gathered in tight formations for maximum effect. Kittaine and his men had learned all too well the lessons of the Battle of Vulcan and Kirk’s Hammer. They knew that in such a formation the Federation could exploit a weakness and now with the deployment of yet another wonder weapon by the Federation he was glad that he was a cautious man.

“They’re focusing fire on shield generators and bridges. The Bombard is under heavy assault, she has lost her starboard sensor globe.” Branna noted with concern.

“Have the triumvirate cut across their exposed right flank, see if they can’t turn it. They’re torpedoes, Branna, they will soon run out and we are killing them as we speak.” Kittaine replied, adjusting the collar of his ivory uniform. He was still unaccustomed to the fit and look but Nemesis had insisted that he wear it. “Also deploy the Bomber squadrons to sector the flanks, reload them with concussion missiles.”

“They won’t have the same yield as our own proton torpedoes sir and the armor these ships are using seems to be more resistant to our fire than their shields.” Branna interjected.

Kittaine nodded as he watched a Nebula class starship slowly sinking out of sight, trailing glittering plasma and molten metal, the blue lighting of its nacelles flickering wildly.

“The concussion missiles are faster, better suited for interception.”

“You mean to try and knock down those torpedoes before they strike?”

“I have to do my best to defend this fleet and unlike my counterpart I do not have a massive fleet to soak up damage. I’m willing to hazard a guess that the torpedoes cannot remain in phase throughout their flight. They only start to phase upon impact against our shields. It must take a tremendous amount of energy to achieve that state even temporarily. They need to conserve that power for the main attack.”

“I see, we hope to strike them while still solid. I’ll order the squadron commanders immediately.”

Kittaine nodded. He stood, hands clasped behind his back. This battle would be his first as a Grand Admiral of the Imperium. The thought still brought shivers to his spine, he was now officially committing treason. Oh the others would dance around the issue and claim that they were merely words and that in the end, they still considered themselves loyal members of the Empire. The Imperium was a temper tantrum thrown by Nemesis against the appearance of Thrawn and his cohort.

But there was a disturbing attraction to the idea of their own empire, out here, out of range of the vengeful Emperor that ruled from Coruscant. They had shed their blood to help forge this new empire, to bring order to the chaos of this galaxy and what does the Emperor send? A rescue unit, an evacuation back home, more ships to help in the effort under Kittaine’s command? No, he sends one of his sycophant Grand Admirals to take command and invalidate all that they had done. Essentially a slap in the face of every soldier in the command structure. The Emperor had not been there for them when they were thrust into the center of a galaxy that could have simply swarmed over them like a pack of Happan Sithas. Nemesis had been there for them, he had led them, protected them and had become the rock on which all their hopes and dreams were founded in this galaxy.

When he called for those loyal to him to rally around him, there was not a single voice of dissent. But that did not mean that everyone was not looking over their shoulders or thinking very hard about the decision made. They had essentially signed their death warrants and a very dark thought had slowly crept into his mind.

Once they had destroyed the Federation and its remnants there would remain only one other logical target for Thrawn’s fleet. Kittaine’s fleet would be the only thing standing in the way of Thrawn’s utter dominance of the galaxy. Kittaine harbored no illusions as to Thrawn’s opinion of the Imperium fleet. If Thrawn could kill them now he would.

So the dark thought became even darker.

Should we destroy the Federation? Should we remove the only obstacle to our own survival?

Kittaine glanced over at the far end of the battle field and watched Thrawn’s fleet advancing hungrily, weapons flashing a storm of turbolaser fire into the desperate Federation remnant. He also had no illusions as to who would win in a pitched battle between the two forces. He had Nemesis and his leadership had brought them victory in the most unlikely places, but Thrawn had Vader and more importantly, he had the edge in raw numbers.

He cleared his throat as the first volley of concussion missiles, red streaks in the inky void crossed the bow of the Emperor’s Will and exploded against a volley of incoming torpedo fire.

“Its confirmed Admiral!” Branna exclaimed quietly as he appeared at Kittaine’s shoulder. “The concussion missiles were able to intercept the torpedoes. They are vulnerable in flight.”

“Excellent.” Kittaine replied softly. He looked back at Thrawn’s fleet.

“It could be said that this fleet would be a thorn in our side if they escaped no?” Kittaine asked quietly, eyes not leaving the advancing Imperial fleet, the Executor at the heart of the battle.

“Indeed it would. This will be a great victory for us indeed.”

“It would. We would be wiping out a potential threat that would haunt us for years to come.” Kittaine added.

“More importantly Admiral, can you imagine what Kirk would do with this technology?” Branna replied darkly.

Kittaine nodded slowly.

“Captain. I want one of those ships for examination. Have a squadron of Interceptors disable it and use the tractors to bring it into the hangar bay.”

“Aye sir.”

“And Branna.” Kittaine put a restraining hand on Branna’s elbow as the young captain was turning to comply.

“Sir?”

Kittaine looked into Branna’s eyes for a long moment, resolving the last minute debate in his head.

“I have one more order for you to carry out.”

“Sir?” Branna asked curiously, aware that the older man looked troubled.

“I am going to ask you to do something that goes against all your instincts and training. I need you to carry out this order as your admiral and a man that has treated you like a son.”

Branna nodded slowly.

“Anything for you, Admiral.” Branna replied softly, without hesitation.

Kittaine told him.

Branna’s eyes widened slightly but then slowly nodded in agreement. He turned to relay the orders. Kittaine returned his attention to the view port, hands clenched behind his back.





“No, no, drop back and let the fourth wing relieve you!” Durant ordered tersely as a panel exploded behind him. He ignored the general disarray that was now engulfing his bridge, one android lay sprawled out across the railing of the bridge, its chest and neck torn open exposing wiring and instrumentation.

He watched his fleet slowly getting decimated, the armor was better than the shields, it allowed the ships to survive the leading edge of the turbolaser flak burst but direct hits still meant death and freed up the enormous power drain of the shields to have more power to maneuver and use weapons.

“Down to 20% of transphasic torpedoes stores.” His XO android reported emotionlessly.

And there was another problem, many of the ships were running out of transphasic torpedo stores, switching over to quantum torpedoes robbed them of their only advantage so far in this battle.

“Group leader to fleet, try to conserve transphasic torps. Shoot in short controlled bursts at what you’re sure you can hit.”

“Acknowledged fleet commander.”

“This is not going well at all.” Durant muttered. What a brilliant assessment, he wondered. Of course he was never rabid enough to think that they could have stood up to the Imperial fleet in a head to head engagement. He was not Kirk, he knew that they were way out classed in fire power and defensive systems. But now, with his back against the wall he had no choice.

Durant’s eyes narrowed as he saw something.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed. Then resolved that there was no such thing as looking a gift horse in the mouth, not here, not now.

“All fleet ships, form up on the Bunker Hill. The Imperial forces just screwed up and we have to exploit, right now!”

“I see it too boss. Forming up on your left flank.”

“Is this for real?”

“Cut the shatter and transfer power to impulse engines.” Durant barked and watched intently as his fleet surged forward, driven up by a desperate need to survive and a hope that there was indeed a chance at escape.





“In the name of the Emperor!!” Piett exclaimed and very nearly leapt in place on the command deck in utter rage and frustration.

On the view port, the Imperium fleet was executing a perfect encirclement, the last parts of the circle drawing closed was led by the Adjudicator which like her master moved and waded through the Federation remnant forces like a hunting wolf. Suddenly, the Adjudicator dropped down her superstructure and exposed her lightly gunned ventral section to the desperate fleet trying to avoid the encirclement. The second ship that would normally have slipped in to finish the circle moved to avoid the Adjudicator and instead went high, her mighty engines thundering to take the behemoth stardestroyer far out of range of crashing into the Adjudicator.

The maneuver was brilliantly executed and both ships avoided certain collision. However the result was disastrous for the Imperial fleet in the sense that the far smaller Imperium fleet could not spare a ship from the englobement to plug the sudden gap fast enough.

The Shadowfleet saw the opening and did not hesitate. They surged forward, braving the fire from the Imperium fleet as they clawed their way through the gap.

“They’ll soon be in the open and able to engage their warp drive.” Jerjerrod snapped.

“Calm yourselves.” Thrawn said, his voice still and calm as a morning breeze. “The right flank has our fastest ships, get them into position, all fleet vessels switch fire and track the Federation vessels. Divert all fighter cover to interdict the fleet.”

“Of course sir.” Piett replied and quickly relayed the orders, sparing a moment to glance angrily at the Imperium fleet.

Vader slowly walked up behind Thrawn and stood right behind him for a moment, his mechanical breathing loud in Thrawn’s ears.

“I assume I do not have to tell you.”

“Was there any doubt whatsoever?” Thrawn replied.

Vader remained silent again.

“Right wing is moving to intercept, it looks like we’ll get there in time.” Piett reported.

Thrawn nodded but said nothing else as he watched the Shadowfleet move, the wings of starships weaving in and out of formation with clockwork precision. His eyes slowly narrowed as he watched several starships maneuvering within less than a ship’s length to each other. They wove in and out of each other’s path with almost prescient ease.

Thrawn continued staring a suspicion now suddenly confirmed.





“I said more power, hit them with everything we’ve got and bring us in low and fast.”

“You want us in closer?”

“Right down their throats.” Durant snarled.

The Shadowfleet had broken free from the encirclement and were racing for freedom. The only thing in their way was a wing of Imperial ships desperately deployed along their line of retreat.

“Everyone, standby for emergency maneuvering. All torpedo bays are to be loaded with transphasic torps.”

“Acknowledged.”

Durant braced himself as a stardestroyer suddenly loomed into view, charging tom block their path, an entire broadside lashing out at the approaching ships. A dozen shadowfleet vessels were caught in the hurricane of green turbolaser fire, their armor plating torn loose as if by a giant hand, the starships stopped cold and exploded, some missing massive chunks from their saucer sections simply began to tumble end over end, impulse engines refusing to fire and stabilize the tumble.

Tie Fighters suddenly swarmed them like maddened killer bees, weaving between the starship superstructures, their own blasts tearing holes in the armor plating. Phaser banks lashed out like whips, picking off the unshielded fighters with daunting accuracy. An entire squadron was vaporized in a matter of moments as they tried strafing the Bunker Hill. Her massive Type XI phaser banks firing in rapid sure shots.

“Hold on, I want that big bastard.” Durant shouted jabbing his finger at the lone stardestroyer blocking their path, her support ships and a phalanx of other stardestroyers was closing rapidly to support and further cut off the route of retreat.

“Fleet elements, engage lead stardestroyer, attack pattern Jonah, Repeat Attack pattern Jonah.”

“Yeehaw!”

Durant smiled at the enthusiastic shout and even heard some rebel yells among the fleet commanders on the open link. The Shadowfleet vessels turned and pirouetted gracefully through the veritable cloud of fighters and dove down low under the steady stream of fire, racing straight for the stardestroyer. coming in low and fast, obviously intending to pass right beneath her.

The stardestroyer captain recognized the threat too late, the massive vessel trying desperately to bring her ventral section away from the oncoming fleet, but too much momentum had been built to break ahead to cut off the fleet that the ship could not react fast enough to deny the shadowfleet their target.

“It’s time to get to the belly of the whale.” Durant whispered as the stardestroyer’s bottom section filled up more than half of his screen and the true target came into view.

“All ships fire on target.”

“All torpedoes, time on target!”

The fleet fired a volley of transphasic torpedoes, each one lanced through the shields, the only resistance a brief flickering from the shields before the torpedoes continued on into the gaping hangar bay. Moments later massive explosions rippled inside the hangar bay, a geyser of fire and debris spewed out as the shadowfleet vessels continued past the stardestroyer.

“We’ve got another stardestroyer at 56, 109 mark 6.”

“I see it.”

“Bring us in for a pass on her too, that was for Vulcan, let’s make this one for Earth.”

The Shadowfleet wheeled in perfect unison, avoiding a cluster of return fire from the stricken stardestroyer’s escorts. The stardestroyer itself was firing intermittingly now as the explosions seemed to rock the mighty warship. Fuel cells stored in the hangar area were soon brewing up within the ship’s interior as well as raw plasma and fire swept through the lower portions of the ship, lights dimmed considerably in her lower decks and the ship soon ground to a halt.





“The Punisher has lost vital systems, they’re afraid that the hypermatter reactor may explode. All efforts are being redirected to damage control.” Jerjerrod reported, his voice colored with shock.

“Bastards.” Piett hissed.

“They’re automated.” Thrawn whispered.

“Sir?”

Thrawn stalked over to the communications station.

“I want an analysis of all communications frequencies between those vessels.”

“Aye sir.”

“Now, Major or I will find someone that can analyze on the fly and report your failure to Lord Vader.” Thrawn added frostily.

“Of course sir!” the major snapped and immediately began running several analyses on the sensor data from the fleet.

Piett walked over and began to speak but Thrawn held up a hand.

“We’re picking up something odd, sir. It appears that the Federation ships are using two distinct frequencies in their communications. Their ship to ship seems to be some sort of heavily coded subspace channel. The other is a constant almost background noise.”

Thrawn stepped down into the communications bay and looked at the readout himself. Piett looked surprised at the action.

“What does your experience tell you about this signal?” Thrawn asked pointing at the background noise a steady beating on an almost invisible frequency.

“Oh no.” Jerjerrod whispered.

Thrawn heard some of the crewmen gasp at their stations as they saw it too. The second stardestroyer was also now engulfed in flames and debris as her hangar bay was completely destroyed by a salvo of transphasic torpedoes. The stardestroyer, obviously more damaged than her sister ship was listing badly, her engines flashing intermittingly and fires erupting from one of the fore castles.

“Sir, it looks to me like the sort of coded data bursts that our probe droids use to maintain contact with the fleet save that this is a constant data stream.”

“As if droids were constantly talking to each other?” Thrawn asked triumphantly.

“Yes sir.”

“Admiral.” Thrawn snapped.

“Sir?” Piett quickly replied getting down into the communications bay as well.

“I want THAT frequency jammed, any way you can I want it jammed and have all ships begin firing ion cannons only at the Federation vessels, switch the turbolasers to full flak mode and lay down suppressing fire around the lead elements of the right wing. Their torpedoes are not in phase until the moment of impact and we need to begin intercepting this attack..”

Piett was nodding but Thrawn was already in motion, stalking over to the squadron commander who took a moment to swallow his fear as the blue skinned Admiral towered over him in his seat.

“I want all available squadrons to move to intercept that Federation fleet, direct bombers to begin firing torpedoes, Interceptors are to prioritize targets, trying to intercept the torpedoes if possible, if not they are to concentrate on the command vessels.”

“Yes sir.”

“NOW.”

“Aye sir!” the squadron commander snapped and turned instantly opening a channel to his squadrons.

Thrawn walked quickly back up from the crew bays and looked back out at the battle that had degenerated into a twisted brawl.

“Status.” he snapped.

“The Punisher and Bloodwind have been disabled, damage to Bloodwind may be severe enough to force us to scuttle her.” Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on Jerjerrod. “The Federation remnant cleared the first line of the right wing but the second and third lines are now engaging with ion cannons.”

“Sir! The Impenetrable’s shield grid is down!” someone reported loudly.

“Piett, where is my jamming?” Thrawn hissed.

“Perhaps I can help motivate your crew?” Vader suggested.






“Look out Vigilance, he’s on to you!” Durant warned.

The Galaxy class ship swept up the axis of the Victory class stardestroyer Impenetrable unleashing a volley of transphasic torpedoes at the shield generators. The Victory caught sight of the Shadowfleet vessel’s appearance the moment it began her attack run and unleashed a volley from her turbolaser batteries.

The Vigilance was caught be several blasts, one of which was a direct impact on her saucer section. The armor gave way, imploding inward through the saucer section in a blast of fire and plasma. The saucer buckled and slowly came away from the main body of the starship, skipping off the Impenetrable shields for a moment, but then the transphasic torpedoes struck the shield generators, exploding with devastating effectiveness. The vessel was suffused by a brief flickering as shields went down through much of the ship. The saucer section’s last bounce would have been redirected away into space by the ship’s shield grid, no longer impeded by the shield the runaway burning saucer section, trailing broken armor and the corpses of shattered androids crashed head long into the Impenetrable’s bridge.

The impact tore the bridge loose from its foundation on the bridge tower and both ruined saucer section and bridge fell backwards down the bridge tower and away into the heavy ion backwash of the ship’s engines.

“Give her a once over as we pass, fleet we have a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Copy that sir, warp drive is warming up.”

The Shadowfleet passed over the Impenetrable, firing a shower of phaser fire and quantum torpedoes at the naked hull of the warship. Huge gouts were torn in its armored hide, many gun emplacements picked off by concentrated phaser fore from several starships as they passed.

“Prepare to got to warp.”

“Sir?” his android XO’s face betrayed confusion, his eyes blinking in rapid succession and strange noises were emanating from within its chest.

“What’s the matter?” Durant asked suddenly concerned by his android XO’s confusion.

An Akira class starship suddenly clipped the ends of an Excelsior class’s nacelles. The Akira spun wildly out of control and struck a Nebula broadside. The Akira imbedded itself in the side of the larger starship and both vessels slowed down considerably.

“What the hell?!”

The Excelsior nearly flipped end over end and could not avoid the heavy flak from a passing Strike cruiser, exploding as she was neatly bisected by several turbolaser blasts.

“Fleet command, my androids are freaking out!”

“Sir, crew is under some sort of attack.”

“Hold on! Damnit I’m taking control of the helm.”

“Wait a minute damnit!” Durant began as a Galaxy class cruiser lumbered straight across the path of a darting steamrunner. It ran right into the Galaxy’s saucer section, exploding into debris, the heavily damaged Galaxy class ship continued flying erratically. “Wait a minute, this is fleet command, all maneuvers have been calculated to be flown by androids. We need to switch to manual if you’re going to fly your ships and break formation immediately before—”

A Sovereign class cruiser bumped the Bunker Hill sending the huge dreadnought into a different flight path, right into a damaged Miranda. The Miranda was cut in half by the enormous warship and exploded as it passed on through the cloud of fire.

“Compensate!”

“We are…experiencing…communications…disruption. Attempting to switch…over channels.” his XO reported with a slight stutter.

Durant’s eyes widened as he instantly deduced what had happened.

“All ships, the Imperials have managed to jam the hyperlink between our androids. They’re positronic network was not designed to function on an individual basis They NEED the network to function properly. Have all androids switch over frequencies immediately and get us clear of this now!”

A scream broke though the com as a Galaxy class exploded under heavy fire. Ion cannon fire was striking several of the ships and electricity arced through the bridge of one ship, consuming several androids in a violent blast of ionized particles.

“We’re losing control.”

“Emergency warp core ejection underway.”

“Fleet command, my entire crew has just been downed by heavy ion fire, advise please.”

Durant ran his right hand through his hair as he watched the fleet falling apart around him.

“It sure as hell wasn’t supposed to end this way.” he muttered as the Bunker Hill was struck by an ion cannon blast. Hungry bluish lightning erupted up from one of the bridge stations striking the android crewmen and it exploded, its torso gone, leaving only the legs and waist still calmly seated at its station.

“All fleet elements, we are in condition Custer, repeat Condition Custer. All units break formation and try to get out of here.” The Shadowfleet’s way of saying every man for himself.

Durant didn’t know if his men had heard him, there was nothing but appalling static on the com. He stared around for a moment and his eyes settled on his XO. He launched himself from his command seat and grabbed a firm hold of his XO by the shoulders.

“Reset all subsystems, command priority alpha.”

“Acknowledged.”

His XO closed his eyes and stiffened for a moment and opened his eyes again.

“I am better.”

“Get us out of here now!” he shoved the android to the helm as he stalked over to the nav station, shoving the stunned android out of its station and entered a course.

“We are having trouble establishing a warp shell.”

“Bullshit, you get us to warp or we’re all dead.”

“I am not alive.” his XO replied.

Durant blinked. Smoke filled the bridge of his starship, his dying starship, he could hear explosions down below decks. He stared at the android as on the screen several of his ships flashed into pseudo motion and vanished.

Durant began to laugh, softly at first and then more loudly.

The utter irony of it all. They had placed their fate into the hands of the androids they had built and made into the prefect soldiers. Now, they were faced with their Achilles heel, one that no other foe that the Shadowfleet had ever faced had been able to exploit, a fatal flaw that not even Durant had ever seen coming.

He laughed harder as another explosion rocked his ship and an ion cannon blast struck the dreadnought head on. Blue lightning cascaded down around them and his XO was caught in a tendril, it lanced through his chest and the android seemed to dance in his chair as the lightning arced through him.

Durant’s eyes widened and he pointed at the android laughing harder.

The android exploded and Durant was knocked off his chair onto his back as the lights went out on his bridge. He could almost feel the ship dipping forward in the pit of his belly.

“Warning, explosive decompression in decks 5 through 9.” a calm computer voice spoke in the darkness.

“How fucking cliché can you get!” Durant roared with laughter.

The ship was definitely pitching forward now and he heard another explosion rip through the bowels of his ship and Durant finally brought himself under control.

“Computer.” he stated gravely, wiping a tear of laughter form his eye. “Initiate destruct sequence.”

“Unable to comply. Main control interfaces have been neutralized by highly charged particle stream.”

Durant stared into the darkness, lit briefly by an exploding counsel.

“Never rains but it pours they say.” he said to no one in particular. He slowly drew his phaser.

“Tell me everything you know about transphasic torpedoes.” he said in a mock English accent.

“I won’t tell you anything Imperial scum.” he replied in own voice sharp with defiance as he examined the power setting.

“We have ways of making you talk.” He said in the English accent.

“I’ve been trained to resist torture, so saw away buddy.” he replied in his own voice as he nodded with satisfaction and brought the phaser up to his temple.

“Lord Nemesis will make you talk, Federation scum.”

“Hmmm…can’t say I’ve been trained to resist supernatural powers.”

“You WILL talk.” Durant held the phaser rigidly against his temple as he stared into the darkness.

“How FUCKING fitting. I die in the dark.” he whispered and fired.







“It is over.” Thrawn stared as he watched the last of the Shadow vessels destroyed or disabled.

“Several vessels did escape sir.” Piett noted with a frown.

Thrawn nodded. “It could not be helped Admiral. Such is war. We must simply accept that fact and to be comforted by the thought that merely a handful escaped to tell the rest of the Federation remnant that they were massacred.”

“It did not have to end that way.” Vader intoned.

“No, it most certainly did not. And I know precisely what I have to do. Lord Vader accompany me, we are going to pay Grand Admiral Kittaine a visit.”

‘As you wish.”





He dreamt of machines. Machines everywhere, crawling under his skin, in his eyes. The soft hum of a microlaser as it cut into his—Picard sat up in the bed with a shout of surprise and anger. he stopped himself short as he quickly realized he had been sleeping.

The door to his quarters chimed.

“Come.” he said softly as he shook his head and cleared his mind of the nightmare.

The doors hissed open and Captain Archer poked his head in.

“Captain Picard. It’s her alright. She’s finally stopped way the hell out in a sector we’re never charted deep outside of Borg space.”

Picard nodded.

“Yes, Captain. And she is waiting for us.” Picard noted grimly as he heard her soft laugh in his head.

“Let’s finish this.” Archer urged.

Picard sighed softly as he rose form his bed.

“Either way, Captain, this will be the end. The question will be for whom.”

“I think I know the answer.” Archer replied with a wolfish grin. He slapped the doorway and quickly walked back out.

Picard stared at his hand for a moment, the hand that moments ago he thought had been a claw.

“I think I do as well.” he whispered.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-05-14 02:01pm
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Chapter 48: Hard Choices



“I’m not exactly thrilled on how that turned out.” Mara grumbled as she adjusted a circuit board over her head and was rewarded by the soft hum of a system coming online. Nemesis remained seated at the pilot’s controls and was impassive, eyes staring out into the void.

“Battle damage aside, we almost got killed and we lost Kirk, not what I would call a very productive day.” she continued and grunted softly as she pulled out another burnt out control unit. The inside of the shuttle’s cockpit reeked of burnt our circuitry and fused panels. A thin layer of whitish smoke still hung in the air and one large blast pattern was burnt into the side of the cockpit, the blast had very nearly decapitated her.

“I’m still trying to get the communications grid online. Right now we’re stuck with short range on receive only. Unless I can find anything wrong in here I may have to do a short extra vehicular inspection to see if the transmitter itself may have been damaged and if that’s the case we’re stuck out here with no ability to communicate with the fleet.” she paused as she glanced over at him. “But you’re not worried about that at all are you?”

Nemesis seemed to be looking somewhere, peering far away as if trying to catch sight of a far off object in a misty morning.

“Because you can always communicate with the others using the Force, or even call on Lord Vader.”

Nemesis seemed to twitch slightly at the mention of the name.

Mara nodded to herself. It never failed. There was something between those two Sith lords and she could only guess at what it might be. Nemesis was as tight lipped about it as anything else in his life.

“I could use some help back here. It was your idea to bring us into this mess and it was your brilliant idea that caused us to lose most of our systems to avoid the Bounty hunter.”

“I can no longer see my way clear.” Nemesis murmured.

Mara stared at him, trying to glean what she could from his face.

“I am as blind as any of you and now I can barely see my quarry.” Nemesis snapped suddenly and banged his fist on the cockpit window. The sudden jolt of movement after nearly an hour of silence caused even Mara to jump slightly.

“Lord Nemesis…” she began.

“I should have seen Fett’s intrusion into this mission. I should not have been surprised by his attack.” Nemesis growled.

Mara said nothing. She did not want to provoke his rage any further. It was a hell of a thing to be so close to someone that could kill you if her were in the right mood.

“This is not going well at all and I am stuck, as blind as I was on Hoth. I cannot see the road ahead.”

“We still have the advantage.”

Nemesis turned his head and pinned her with his gaze.

“You’re a Sith lord. It should not matter that he got the drop on us, Lord Nemesis. We will still be victorious. One Sith lord is worth a thousand bounty hunters. Doubt does not become you.”

Nemesis’ eyes narrowed on her.

“A dark lord that is going to rule this galaxy should not be so disconcerted by the actions of a bounty hunter. Need I remind you that he is the greatest of them and you beat him.”

“Evaded.” Nemesis corrected her coldly, eyes never leaving hers.

“Does it matter?” she replied with a flip of the head.

Nemesis remained silent for a moment.

“There is wisdom in your words, Mara.” Nemesis slowly smiled and it warmed Mara unexpectedly. “I see I chose my dark queen well.”

Mara fought it, there was no way in hell she was going to blush in front of him.

“I’m not your queen yet.” she replied.

Nemesis blinked. He started to laugh and laugh hard shaking his head ruefully.

Mara smirked and crawled out of her seat down to the open panel on the floor where a sea of scattered boards and panels were arrayed around the panel. She began to pull on one last pin that would free a burnt out power node in the bottom of the panel.

They had very nearly blown themselves up in Nemesis’ mad plan to get rid of the bounty hunter. A shunt of plasma into the ion drive and the resulting explosion masked their jump to light speed. Of course, when they entered hyperspace, the plasma backwash followed them through and very nearly incinerated the shuttle. But the end result was what was needed. Fett thought that his last pass had blown the shuttle up leaving nothing but a cloud of fire.

The shuttle was only able to remain in hyperspace for a short period of time and now they were slowly drifting through an oort cloud in some far off system. The comets were flowing past them in lazy slow patterns, many of them not close enough to the sun to sprout their tell tale trails of ice and debris.

Now it was up to Mara and Nemesis to get the shuttle back up and running and hope they could get in touch with the fleet for pickup. She did not relish being stranded out here in the middle of nowhere in a crippled shuttle, particularly with all the ill will they had harvested in their conquest of this galaxy.

She switched crouched positions and pulled even harder on the pin. Damn thing must be fused to the housing, she mused.

Suddenly Nemesis was beside her, his hands closed around hers.

“You need help.” He said softly.

She glanced up at him sharply, a stray lock of hair fluttered into her eyes.

“I can do this myself.”

“Of course you can, but this will go quicker with my help.”

“I’m doing fine.”

Nemesis stared into her eyes and down at her hands.

“You’re trembling.” He noted. She glared at him for a moment. His eyes were like deep pools, each one swallowed her in and she felt lost.

“No I’m not.”

Nemesis’s grip around her hands softened slightly but the bolt suddenly came loose with a sharp shriek of metal coming loose. They had not pulled at all, he obviously had reached out with the Force and pulled it loose.

His fingers were slowly tracing lines up and down her own.

“Stop that.” She started to pull back her hands but he held his own firm. She grimaced.

“My hands are dirty.” She snapped the first thing that came to her mind.

“My hands are dirty too.” Nemesis replied softly, his voice no longer the cold menacing Sith lord that could kill at a moment’s notice, more like the farm boy he was at heart.

Mara looked up at him and he seemed so much closer than before.

“You fight so hard, you fight against what you want.” he said softly.

“I am no one’s tool. I am no one’s pawn.”

“No, you’re merely a Hand.”

“Damn you.” She hissed.

“If you do not become my queen, you damn yourself. I hold in my hands and heart the keys to your liberation. You are not a pawn but a queen.”

“You have no hope of opposing him.” She whispered.

“Haven’t you heard? I’m the new hope.” He answered.

Mara thrust her head forward and kissed him. Her lips locked with his in a hard passionate kiss, all her frustrations and anger at her exile and divided loyalties excised in this one rebellious moment and as she kissed him she imagined her spitting on that awful yellow eyed pasty corpse that had promised her so much and made her nothing more than glorified slave.

She kissed him and wished that by doing so she was also stabbing the old bastard that had made her an enemy of the man she now loved. A dark queen on a dark throne, her power would know no limits and their children would inherit the very stars.

Her hands clasped his strongly and he roughly drew her close to him, his strong arms pulling her off the floor into his chest where he held her close enough so that she could hear his thundering heartbeat.

As suddenly as the passion and fire overcame her their lips parted, hesitantly, they gazed at each other, hunger in their eyes but suddenly he rose like a ghost as an alarm buzzed on his board. He drew the cape around him and looked down at her where she knelt on the floor, body still on fire with passion.

“You must decide, Mara Jade. I am not a patient man like my father before me. I will not wait for your answer forever. Events are quickly drawing to a head and I will need everyone by my side. You are either with me or against me. I plan to take on a god and depose him, cast down his wretched reign of shadow and rebuild an edifice of pure order. You can either profit from this or be destroyed. The choice is as always yours. Simple really Mara. Remain loyal and be a Hand for the rest of your life, ready to be cast aside at a moment’s notice as he was ready to do when he ordered you to kill me, or you can become what you deserve. To be raised as a queen among women, to look down from a throne and see all the mighty works before you. I offer you this one chance at freedom and my love. After you made your choice there will be no turning back.” Nemesis stared into her eyes for another moment then turned back to the cockpit and checked the status board.

Mara watched him, chest heaving as she caught her breath. She never considered herself a passionate woman but his very presence had ignited in her a torrent of emotions she always denied that she possessed.

“The Bounty Hunter should be picking up Kirk’s trail. His shuttle was heavily damaged before going to warp. he could not have gone far.”

Mara slowly rose from her kneeling position and quietly adjusted her tunic.

“Once the ship goes to hyperspace we will follow.”

“You’re going to let him do the hunting.”

Nemesis smiled.

“Yes. Why expend any resources when we have our galaxy’s finest bounty hunter trying to achieve the same goal as we are? We will let him expend energy and resources while we patiently wait and once he has found and captured Kirk we will be there to relieve him of his quarry.”

Mara nodded, appreciating the cold calculating brilliance of the plan.

“Besides, Fett and I have a reckoning. There is something he did that he must pay for and I have waited far too long to do so.” Nemesis added acidly and slid back into the cockpit of the shuttle to run a diagnostic on damaged systems.

Mara stood alone in the back of the shuttle cockpit and knew that a choice had to be made and soon. Passion or duty, life or death.





“Are you certain?” Picard pressed.

“No doubt about it, Captain. It’s the Borg vessel we’ve been tracking for several days now. They finally slowed and stopped outside of this system. We’re currently here.” Archer pointed to the Starfleet emblem pulsing quietly two thirds of the tactical display behind the menacing flashing green threat symbol. “Cloaked with all power systems on minimum usage. We’re probably as stealthy as a starship can be right now. We’ve had no indications that the Borg have detected us, not so much as a stray sensor beam in our general direction.”

“What do we know about this system?” Picard asked curiously, skeptical of Archer’s belief that the Borg were unaware of their presence.

“Reading seven planets in the primary’s system. Two of the worlds are borderline class M, one of them is still resonating as having suffered through some form of nuclear warfare. Picking up heavy radiation clouds and dust in the atmosphere. The second world is mostly arid, barely suitable for any form of settlement.” Seven reported.

“There was a war she said.” Archer murmured.

“Captain?”

Archer sighed.

“When we were stuck with the queen bitch, she relayed some of the Borg’s history to us and part of their origin involved a war that decimated her home world. I wonder if this is that same world.”

“I would expect such a world to be at the heart of the Collective.” Picard countered.

“Not necessarily, Captain Picard. The Collective does not attach any emotional significance to worlds of origin. This system while once a thriving civilization was not suitable for Borg inhabitation. It would have required intensive terraforming in order to make it more habitable and the Borg at the time were not as advanced as we are now. They needed a world where they could live and as such branched out from this system. They would not care where this system lay in the great scheme of things.”

“I would accept that hypothesis Seven save for one detail I cannot ignore, this system is days away from Borg space at transwarp velocities. Essentially outside the Collective itself in a relatively uninhabited portion of this quadrant.”

“What are you thinking, Captain?” Archer asked.

Picard looked back at the screen. The Borg vessel was a crazed amalgam of his Sovereign class Shadow vessel and four Borg cubes, fused together into an odd diamond formation radiating out from the center of the Valhalla. Passive scans revealed massive power readings and a weapons array that would put a standard Borg cube to shame.

They had nearly burnt out their warp engines following her, trying to stay as close as possible to her and using the transwarp hub system that the Queen’s vessel used to track her half way across the galaxy. As he watched the ship he could almost feel her eyes on him and he imagined that same cold smile.

He could feel it in his skin. This was a trap. She drew her pursuers here for a purpose and now she was waiting, taunting them with her very presence.

“The Queen has proven to be a master manipulator. She has been using the Borg as her personal power base and slaves for untold millennia. When the Collective was destroyed by the Empire she came here. Why? What could this world hold for her that she risked everything to come here.”

“If this was the source of the Collective then perhaps there is a means for her to resurrect the Collective.” Seven breathed as the realization dawned on her.

“Considering the kind of reception she would get from the Collective I think it’s even more insidious than that. She may want to start a new Collective.” Archer added darkly.

“That’s her plan. She is going to use some sort of means that can be found on that world to start a new Collective.” Picard stated coldly. “No matter what happens now we have to stop her. The Federation has lived in fear and dread of the Borg for over a decade now and they are no longer. To simply sit back now and allow this awful thing to be born again would be a crime against all sentients everywhere.”

“One thing Picard, unfortunately the Federation is no more. Its been all but swallowed up by this Galactic Empire.”

Picard opened his mouth to speak when Seven interjected.

“We are overlooking a far more important factor.” She paused and looked at each of the captains. “Currently the only race in this galaxy that has proven able to withstand the Empire and even hurt them are the Borg. They wield the weapons and technology that may save us in the end, or at the very least forestall the inevitable.”

Picard took a step towards Seven.

“You’re advocating some sort of treaty with the Borg?” he replied angrily.

“I am merely pointing out that we cannot deny that they would be this galaxy’s best chance at repelling the Empire. Thus far Starfleet, the Klingons and Romulans have proven ineffectual in stopping them. The Borg were viewed as a threat by the Empire and now that the Imperial forces believe that they have destroyed the Borg, we will have the advantage of surprise.” Seven replied evenly.

Picard stared at the beautiful young woman for a moment and looked back at Archer.

“I heard of your Captain’s treaty with the Borg. Frankly she should have been court-martialed and stripped of all honors and command.” Picard growled.

“That is irrelevant. Captain Janeway was doing what she thought was right in regards to the safety of her crew and considering my experience with Federation Starfleet captains I wonder how many more would have done the exact same thing to secure the safety of their ship and crew and maintain the balance of power in this galaxy. After all, once the Borg are gone what would Species 8472 have done? Simply return to fluidic space and leave us to a now Borg free galaxy? This weakness of humans to look in the short term will doom you one day.”

“You’re human too unless I’m mistaken and I would not have forged a devil’s pact with those inhuman creatures. They only deserve one thing – extinction and by God I mean to see it done.” Picard replied tightly, voice rising as he spoke.

“Your emotional state indicates that you are not making a rational decision on this matter. Your hatred of the Borg is well documented.”

“Do you forget that they took me, I know what they are, I have been in the belly of that beast. There is NOTHING redeemable about them.”

“Can you compare a few short days as Locutus of Borg to my lifetime as Seven of Nine?” she replied icily, voice low and quiet.

Picard acted as if he had been slapped.

“Then you of all people should see that we cannot allow her to carry out this plan. To do so would doom untold trillions to a dead and vacant life as a Borg drone.”

“Captain, please.” Archer began calmly, putting a restraining hand on Picard’s shoulder.

“I have also learned patience from the Borg and the advantage of being able to analyze a problem from all angles. I am pointing out a valid alternative to a suicidal attack. We can use the Borg against the Empire and you want to pursue a personal agenda against them. To what end?”

Picard nodded gravely,

“The ends justifies the means is that it?” he pressed.

“I have found in my short time as a human that more often than not this is the case. You may feel comfortable watching everything you have ever known and loved vanish to the Empire so that you can remain morally pure, I for one will fight with my dying breath this invasion and if it means making pacts with old enemies I will do so without hesitation. If we defeat the Empire and drive them off then and only then should we debate the morality of these actions.”

“Seven.” Archer interrupted. Seven ignored him, her eyes piercing Picard with their laser like intensity. “Morals and scruples Captain have never won wars, particularly wars of survival. Think on that before you blindly lurch like some demented drone on a mission of destruction because they may have hurt you.”

Picard slammed his fist down on the railing running along the outer edge of the bridge.

“You have no right to make these assumptions about me, Seven and I would point out that it was scruples and morals that stopped Federation captain from killing you or leaving you to your own devices instead of trying to reassimilate you back into human life.”

“Uh, sirs. The Borg ship is on the move.” the helmsman reported and pointed to the screen. The massive vessel wheeled around and faced the system’s primary. It quickly accelerated away.

“Follow them.” Picard ordered.

“Where are they heading?”

“Looks like the third planet.”

“That would be the world that was obviously damaged in a war.” Seven added.

Archer nodded and steepled his fingers under his chin as he stared at the Borg ship. Picard stood by his side.

“Captain, very soon we will have to make a decision, engage the Borg or attempt to make peace with them. Where do you stand?”

Archer glanced over at Picard but could not answer him as his eyes drifted over to Seven of Nine. He watched her for a moment, the way she moved, the stern expression of concentration on her beautiful face. Archer frowned.

To deal with the devil that had already betrayed them once or enter a near suicidal fight to stop the rebirth of possibly the only force in this galaxy that could stop the Empire.








The Avalon facilities were nearly overwhelmed by the influx of damaged vessels, hospital ships unloading wounded were quickly followed by shattered starships limping into berths for emergency repairs. Dominating the repair yards was the Excalibur, floating in the center of several berths placed together to try and contain the enormous conical vessel. Several large gashes were cut into the sides of the ship, a marvel to Federation engineers who had never seen solid neutronium blasted open in such a manner, a humbling reminder of Imperial firepower.

The asteroids that the base was built into were clustered around in a rough circular pattern, the center dominated by ship building facilities that were kept separate from the repair berths. Ship building was taking place at a very slow scale, new designs were being worked on around the clock by the surviving star fleet Corps of Engineers and Rebel Alliance engineers.

A desperate crash course in creating a working hypermatter reactor was meeting very spotty success, however the weapons technology was proceeding apace and the first starships outfitted with proton torpedo launchers were almost ready to leave their dry-docks. A dozen starships had been retrofitted with the new designs but the Federation designers were still having trouble duplicating the yields that Alliance torpedoes had.

It was a give and take with light turbolaser batteries being erected along the outer defense ring of the base, still too large and bulky to place on starships and drew too much power to be practical they were relegated to defend the most vital areas of the base. A large cannon housing was slowly going up at the heart of the complex. A heavy turbolaser battery the weapons would not be completed until the hypermatter reactor was finished. There simply was not enough power to allow the weapon to fire in any manner unless they had the vast power reserves that hypermatter would allow them to utilize.

It was a slow start but it was a start.

Leia contemplated the progress with a sanguine eye as the buzz of the council around her suddenly rose.

“The question remains the same. It is rather simple, where is James T. Kirk?” one of the council members demanded.

Leia turned her attention back to the first provisional Alliance council. Created to provide political leadership to the Federation remnant Kirk led, the council was only in its second meeting and already the cliques were gathered, lines drawn and axes and daggers sharpened for the political infighting she was so accustomed to.

“Gentlebeings, I have to reiterate that you know as much as I do on this matter. Captain Kirk left with Lieutenant commander Thomas Paris and Ensign Pavel Chekov for parts unknown in the Runabout Hudson and they have not been heard from since they departed. Starships are currently combing the main travel routes between Avalon and the outer reaches of Federation space.”

“We happen to know that you were the last person he saw before he left. Surely he told you more than this.” the Terran council member countered.

“I was wounded at the time recovering from emergency surgery. Frankly I don’t remember much but surely most of you know him better than I do. He keeps his cards close to his chest.”

“He has chosen a particularly inappropriate time to go missing wouldn’t you say princess?” The Tellarite representative asked with a stern gaze.

“He would not have done this on purpose, I assure you.”

“Some of us have to wonder, Princess. There are rumors circulating that Kirk was distraught after the Battle of Romulus.”

“Your point being?” Leia replied sharply.

“He may have decided that this battle is a lost cause and decided to cut his losses and run.”

Leia started to respond.

“You ungrateful bastards!” McCoy thundered. The council members jumped in their seats as Leonard McCoy slammed his datapad on the massive council table, emphasizing his anger and frustration after sitting here for an hour listening to them. He could hear it in their voices, the way the beat around the bush. They had been wanting to accuse him of this ever since the first meeting when it was announced that he went missing.

“When the Empire was banging on Earth’s door and tearing our fleet a new one, your predecessors all called for surrender. Many of you were looking for a leader, anyone willing to give them hope and a cause. You rallied to his cause and said you were ready to follow him to the bitter end. No one here had any illusions as to the chances at victory but we’re all here because we believed that one man gave us a better chance at wining the impossible fight than anyone else.” McCoy got up and stalked over to the large picture window that showed the great expanse of the Avalon station and its attendant ships.

“Look out there. What do you see? There’s hope out there.” A starship was drifting by, a tug pulled it with tractors towards a repair berth, the Nebula’s starboard nacelle was half gone, the forwards portion blasted away revealing a shattered stump and blackened metal and transparent aluminum. Written across the saucer’s surface in bold blue letters

THE FEDERATION LIVES.

“Have we forgotten the message?” McCoy demanded.

“Dr. McCoy, the fact remains, Kirk led our fleet into the worst defeat since the Battle for Sector 001, he did not come to this council to give us a report on the battle, instead he takes small group of officers, takes a long range ship and simply vanishes into the stars.”

“Has it occurred to you my cynical friend that Jim might have been captured or killed out there?”

“Highly unlikely Doctor.” The Vulcan representative interjected.

“Oh, care to explain that to me. I know Jim and he would not leave us high and dry like this.”

“Doctor McCoy,” Spock began from his own seat at the council table. “logically, if Captain Kirk had been captured or killed by Imperial forces they would have made announcements of it by now, either paraded him or his corpse before any camera that they could. The Empire is quite adept at the uses of propaganda.”

McCoy scowled at Spock.

“You’re not possibly saying that Captain Kirk ran away.” McCoy snapped.

“No Doctor I am not suggesting anything other than this. Something has happened to the Captain that has rendered him either unable or unwilling to report on his status.” Spock replied evenly.

“There are others that are not so kind, and let me say this if word of this gets out to the fleet it will be poison for morale.” The Tellarite representative grunted tersely.

“Word WILL NOT get out to the fleet however will it gentlebeings?” Leia stressed. “If we find out that word of these rumors gets out to the fleet we will know who to blame.” Leia finished with a stony gaze at each of the Council members.

“Princess, what do we do? We may keep word of the rumors secret but how long until our fleet commanders begin to ask for their commander?” the Terran representative asked.

“I have kept my counsel on this matter simply because I find it abhorrent to think that Kirk would do anything remotely like what has been suggested here but there is a weighty issue that must be put forth on the table.” The quiet Andorian representative finally spoke up after remaining seated silently in a corner of the table.

The Council all slowly turned to face him.

“Andor is currently directly in the cross hairs of the enemy. With the major fleet element of this remnant all but destroyed and no other major front in this war, the Empire cannot help but turn their attention and gaze to Andor.”

The council members exchanged troubled glances.

“I do not think I need to remind you how vital our world is to the war effort here. We currently comprise over 60% of your shipbuilding and 70% of your raw materials and supplies. If Andor falls, I assure you, this Federation remnant will fall as well. You can lead this fleet without Kirk you cannot fight this war without supplies and ships.” The Andorian spoke in a near whisper.

“What can we do? We’re still reeling from our defeat over Romulus. A loss of six hundred ships is not something we will easily recover from. The wounded alone have completely overwhelmed our medical facilities.”

“I might add that Andor has taken over 5,000 of your wounded to be treated on our homeworld.”

Leia could barely suppress the frown. The Andorians were pushing and pushing very hard. There was something they knew and were not sharing. She suspected that perhaps the Andorians had some sort of intelligence link to the Imperials, something that had made them very nervous and they had come her practically demanding for help.

She had read up on most of the major races in the Federation and she knew that the Andorians were a proud people, a warrior race steeped in tradition and secrecy. They had spent the last decade preparing to secede from the Federation and the Imperial attack came at precisely the right time. Defenses intended to protect them from a Federation backlash were now put to use defending them from an Imperial onslaught.

But she knew as well they did that if the Empire truly came for Andor, there was little they could do to stop them. As she watched the Andorian, using her years of experience as a politician, diplomat and warrior, she concluded that the Andorians knew that the Empire was coming and they were trying to rally what they could in defense of their homeworld.

Now, in this coming desperate battle, precisely when they needed strategic and tactical genius to help them, Jim was missing.

Something told her he was in serious trouble. Something urged her to go find him and quickly. But where would she go?

“We urge you to hold true to your friends now, when your remnant looked for support during those chaotic times after the fall of Earth. We stood by you. We helped build the ships with which you fight, repair the ones that survive, feed your troops and support you in any way we can. Now the enemy has turned his eye to Andor and we want to be ready to pluck it out. Will you stand with us?”

“What are you saying? Are you saying they are going to attack?” the Terran representative asked, obviously dismayed. Leia knew that the vast majority of Starfleet was comprised of humans and they were now taking the brunt of the casualties.

“It would appear a logical assumption from the Andorian plea.”

“We do not plead, Vulcan.” the Andorian representative hissed angrily.

“This bickering is pointless. No matter what we may all think, this fleet cannot allow Andor to fall.” Leia interjected calmly.

“And what sort of resources are you thinking of committing, the largest task force in our fleet was all but wiped out, the rest of our fleet is in hiding or being repaired. We do not have infinite resources. Kirk was pushing us to the breaking point with his constants attacks.”

“Perhaps I should have brought this up with him since he seems to be the only one that can grasp the danger of the situations we are currently involved in.” the Andorian representative snapped.

“We have no choice. We have to mobilize what we have and prepare for the defense of Andor.” Leia concluded.

“Will you be committing your forces, princess?” the Tellarite asked with a barely concealed sneer.

“The Reckless Hope will be at Andor.” Leia replied. There was no choice really, if she did not commit her scant resources to this fight the council would simply hold back their own support and Andor would stand alone. If that happened the Andorians would feel no remorse in cutting off the vital yet fragile string of supplies they received.

“And so will we!” someone bellowed as they strode into the meeting chamber. Several security officers were desperately trying to hold him back.

“What is this?” the Tellarite exclaimed.

“Silence, Tellarite! I am Worf son of Mogh, Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.”

“There is no Klingon Empire any longer.” The Tellarite snarled angrily at the Klingon.

“As long as a Klingon draws breath there will always be an Empire. We carry it here.” Worf slapped his chest with emphasis. “James Kirk understood this when he led your glorious rebellion against the Empire and now I am here to add my voice to the chorus of races that will not bend knee to these Imperial Targs!”

“Chancellor Worf, as much as we appreciate your assistance in the Battle of Romulus, you have to admit that the vast majority of your fleet has been destroyed.” Leia replied smiling softly at the bravado of the Klingon warrior. His flagship and a handful of others had limped out of the battle and were being repaired at the Avalon facilities. The Empire itself had become something of a nonentity.

“I still have ships and warriors ready to be thrown into this fight. Will you turn away a warrior now? You need every ship, every warrior, every gun that you can get your hands on. My own empire is lost, yes, but that does not mean that I cannot be part of the effort to end this invasion.”

“I do not see any logical reason to deny the Chancellor’s request.” Spock commented.

“And for those of you still looking for a reason I happen to know of something which you do not that can help turn the tide of this war.”

“Oh?” Leia replied, arching an eyebrow quizzically.

“My men have been raiding their trade routes within the Romulan empire and in our last engagement we struck a freighter that I later learned was carrying the hyper drive units that the Empire has been installing in warbirds.”

The councilors all exchanged glances.

“Imagine if you will getting your hands on these hyperdrive units for your fleet.”

“The tactical disadvantage we’ve been slaving under would be lost.” the Terran ambassador murmured.

“I will only tell you of the downed freighter’s location if we are allowed to join this Alliance.” Worf finished crossing his arms on his chest and staring intently at each of them. He did not want to think about the losses, the deaths. He refused to turn and face the horrible scarred remnants of his empire. He needed to look ahead. Looking back meant giving into the madness that was tearing the remaining warriors apart. The grief at a lost empire and people.

All the bluster and bravado in the world would not change one very harsh fact.

The Klingons as an empire and a people were all but dead.

This would be the last stand of the Klingon warrior and he would be damned if it would be alone in the dark raiding commerce.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice.” The Vulcan representative stated gravely.

“Chancellor, we welcome you to the Alliance.” Leia said with a smile and indicated an empty chair at the table.

Worf nodded and took his seat.

“Then it is decided?” The Andorian asked.

Leia looked at each of the Council members who nodded, some reluctantly.

“The Federation will come to your aid, we will make our stand at Andor when the Empire comes.”

“Have no doubt, they are coming.”

“Princess there is the question of leadership.”

“Excuse me?”

“Who will lead this expeditionary force? You?”

Leia frowned.

“I am not comfortable as a fleet commander. I simply don’t have the skill. Is there anyone else. Captain Riker perhaps?”

“Riker is a possibility, particularly since he commands the Excalibur.”

“I have a candidate that is perfect for this assignment.” The Terran representative beamed and nodded to his aide who quickly shuffled out to the reception area.

“Is there a problem with Riker?” Leia whispered to McCoy.

“You’re asking the wrong man, this isn’t even my time. But as I gather, a lot of the blame for the Excalibur’s failure to turn the tide at Romulus is being heaped on him.”

“That’s unfair, I was there. He had no choice, the ship was under the control of a Sith.”

McCoy shrugged.

“Its a lot easier to blame Riker than the spirit of some dead sorcerer and certainly easier than blaming Jim.”

Leia shook her head.

A tall slim man strode into the council chambers. He looked stern and his eyes watched each of the councilors like a hawk. Leia recognized a professional military man when she saw one. It was a rarity among the Federation officer corps who seemed more comfortable as scientists than warriors.

“I present Captain Edward Jellico.”

“Gentlemen.” Jellico bowed his head slightly.

“I know his record, most impressive.”

“One of the few true warriors that survived the battle of Sector 001. He has been given command of the fifth fleet by Kirk and I believe that until Captain Kirk returns he will be a suitable replacement.”

“I have the utmost respect for Captain Kirk. If it weren’t for him we would be lost. But now that he is not here and we are threatened it is my intention to save this fleet, to save Andor and to give the enemy a warm reception in hell.”

The Terran representative smiled. The Tellarite nodded approvingly. Worf did not look as convinced.

“Captain Jellico, I think I speak for everyone here that this mission suits you perfectly. Please assemble your fleet for the defense of Andor.”

“Yes sir.” Jellico replied with a sharp salute.

“Ah, Captain, one question, we were unaware that Andor was in danger until now. How did you guess that.” McCoy asked.

Jellico cocked his head slightly.

“Doctor McCoy, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“Its obvious to anyone with a modicum of strategic or tactical sense that you follow up a victory with an attack and what is the most logical and valuable target to attack when the enemy is reeling, the very source of his supplies and ship building capability. Andor was a target the day it decided to aid us. Only now the Empire has the ships and the time to dedicate to its destruction. I’m going to try and stop that from happening.”

McCoy nodded slowly but Leia could tell he was troubled.

“I just want to make one thing absolutely clear before I take on this assignment.”

“Go ahead, Captain.”

“I am NOT James Kirk. I will never be James Kirk. I don’t subscribe to tricks and complex plans of attack. I don’t put my faith in wonder weapons. I will fight this war like a military man, conserving my resources and striking where it makes most sense and will have the most impact. I just want that clear from now.”

“You sound like you’re taking over for good, Captain Jellico.” McCoy noted.

Jellico fixed McCoy with a stony gaze.

“If and when he returns I will step down.” Leia leaned forward in her seat as she felt something, almost like a tug from a child’s hand. An answer bubbled up in her mind, almost instinctual. He’s lying. “Until then, I am in command now, Doctor.”

The meeting quickly broke up and Leia stood at the large picture window staring out at the stars. Her hand rested on the glass. She could dimly hear McCoy talking to Spock as they left.

“That bastard intends to hold on to power, Spock. I know it.”

“What do you suggest we do, Doctor?”

“We go find Jim. You and I, right now.”

“That is illogical, we have no frame of reference from when to begin our search.”

“I do, my logical friend, now follow me.”

Spock watched the Doctor for a moment, arched an eyebrow and shrugged his shoulders slightly. He followed Dr. McCoy out.

Leia absently traced a pattern on the glass.

Where are you Jim? We need you now more than ever. The vultures are circling and you are no where to be found. Are you even still alive? Again the gentle child like tug and she heard her own voice whisper soothingly. Yes.

“Jim, please. Where are you?” she whispered allowed, hand planted firmly against the glass.







It’s so very cold.

I didn’t known death would be this cold.



Wherever you go, there you are.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2003-05-26 02:28am
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Chapter 49: Solitudes Part 1



It was cold.

Bitter.

His skin was like ice and his muscles refused to move. But his will would not allow it. He took another deep breath and it felt as if he had thrust razors into his lungs. The air was cold, like knives and even breathing it was cutting him up inside.

He ignored this and shouldered his burden again.

The body was heavy, dead weight and there was no help from it. But there was life there and it was so precious to him. Death was too good a friend now these days. It had visited him and his friends too many times of late.

If he could just save this one life it might all be right.

He grunted as he walked through a particularly high snow drift, nearly sinking past his waist. He had almost sunk all the way past his head several times. He did not want to risk using the tricorder. He wanted to conserve every erg of power because he did not know how long he would be here.

He spied hope over the next drift.

A cave cut into the very rock face of the massive mountain that he was paralleling as he walked from the crash site.

He made for it with a desperate determination. The wind cut through him as he moved, snow and ice driven into his face and he sputtered as he continued on, hefting his charge and making a beeline for the cave.

He entered it and gently laid his burden down by some rocks. He was breathing quickly and hard as he drew his phaser from under the thick folds of the Starfleet survival coat. He examined the cave quickly with an expert eye and found some larger rocks which he quickly began to roll towards the center where his burden lay, wrapped in several survival jackets.

“Just hold on a second, and I’ll have us nice and warm.” He promised, his voice cracking from not speaking for nearly a day.

He finished moving the last of the rocks into a circle at the center and he aimed the phaser at the rocks. The bright red beam lanced into each rock several times. The rock quickly began to glow and pulse a dull red and suddenly the area around them was warm, not nearly warm enough to ward away all the cold but no longer dangerous or lethal. He moved the unconscious figure closer to one of the glowing rocks as he moved some more rocks out towards the entrance in a vain attempt to break some of the wind coming in from outside.

As he moved each rock he though back on the final moments before the cold hell began. His thoughts flying along as his hands, scarred and cracked picked up a rock an endeavored to form a makeshift blockade against the awful wind and heat leeching cold.

The Runabout shook around them as if in the grip of some enormous giant hand. Alarms were blaring incessantly as smoke filled the cockpit and the control touch pads kept winking on and off. He could hear the curses from Tom Paris as his hands danced on the pads, coaxing whatever he could from the dying ship.

The Runabout, missing a nacelle, venting plasma and a warp core ejected to prevent a breech was rocketing towards the large planet, driven by the gravity well and the momentum they had gained as they were forced out of warp.

There was no power available for maneuvering, and even if there was massive malfunctions were occurring in the control systems and thrusters themselves. The Runabout might as well have been a brick in space as far as Tom was concerned. There was little or no help and the nose was starting to glow red and he could see that they were trailing debris and gasses behind them.

We must look like some sort of meteor from the surface, Kirk mused as he tried his best to help Tom but there was nothing to be done except start emergency crash procedures. He occasionally glanced back to see the third member of his team securely strapped to a seat, head lolling down, eyes closed. The only sign that he was not well was the big blackened scorch mark on his chest and shirt, the tatters of his gold uniform shirt hanging at odd angles.

Chekov was dead.

It still had not sunk in yet. The young ensign had barely been old enough to serve on a starship and now he was dead.

His crew had seemed charmed. None had been injured or killed in this conflict that had seen the wholesale slaughter of