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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 51: Hunters and Hunted

“Waiting can be very frustrating.” Mara noted absently as she sat in the copilot’s seat of the shuttle and stared out into the void. The ventilation system had finally cycled most of the smoke and smell of burnt out circuitry that had hung in a cloud around the crew compartments.

Nemesis remained silent watching the star field as well. His eyes seemed to be peering out, as if searching for something in the distance. He had not spoken for hours and Mara was trained to recognize a Force trance when she saw one.

She did not think that their mission of capturing James Kirk would bring them out here, hiding out in a nearly crippled shuttle in the vast expanse of a star system’s Oort cloud. Nor that they would be tracking one of their galaxy’s most infamous bounty hunters. Speaking of which, just how did Fett get to this galaxy? The fleet had disappeared from one moment to the next and as far as she knew, it was a one way trip.

The chances of Fett stumbling across the same anomaly in a galaxy that was not known for them until this point were astronomical to say the least. Her instincts, honed by years of service as the Emperor’s Hand were telling her that things were not what they seemed and there was a purpose to these “chance” encounters.

She could almost feel the guiding hands that were making these events unfold. With the war at its height and losses mounting as worlds were taken, the question of just how did they arrive in this forsaken galaxy had been tabled. Nemesis’ own sudden shift in emphasis from escape to founding his own empire out here had nearly assured that any research into the wormhole that brought them here or how to duplicate it would be tabled for a much later time.

Still, it all felt wrong somehow. She realized that she was getting the same feeling from this scenario that she had gotten of late serving Palpatine. She felt as if she were jumping through hoops and for what? There was an unseen puppet master pulling the strings and following his own agenda.

It frightened her to reason out just how powerful this puppet master could be to manipulate Nemesis, the Federation, the Empire itself.

Then she shook her head and snorted derisively.

What a fool she was to think such thoughts. Right now she was hungry and she would grab something to eat. She did not know when Nemesis would need her at her best and being hungry made for poor fighting.

She slowly slid out of her seat to try to get to the food packs in the back. She knew better than to ask Nemesis if he wanted anything. The Sith could meditate like that for weeks at a time. Though the thought of sitting in this cockpit for a week with his silence was daunting.

She started to slide between the seats to the back when his hand touched her, wrapping gently around her bicep. She froze. The touch was electric.

“You think I am being manipulated don’t you?” he asked softly, more as if confirming his own suspicions than accusatory.

She slowly looked down at him. Her eyes searched his. There was a tenderness there, a deeply buried need to touch her, to let her know how he felt and in that moment she opened herself up as well and the touch was like a bridge spanning a yawning expanse. She could feel his own emotions, tumultuous anger and determination mixed with sharp suspicion. She could feel it pulsing beneath the roiling sea of emotion. There was something else, something hidden.

His grip tightened on her arm and broke her concentration.

“Do you think I have not felt it from the moment we crossed over?”

“Then why don’t you do something about it?” Mara asked, her eyes not leaving his.

“Because opportunities have been granted to me here that I would not have otherwise had.”

“You mean that here you can play at Emperor and back home you can’t.” she snapped angrily and started to pull away. Just as she suspected, he was no different than any other ambitious man, he just hid it better.

“No.” he stated firmly and his grip was like a vise but she did not complain, she would not give him the satisfaction.

“I am not playing at Emperor. There are larger issues at hand.”

Mara sneered.

“Damn you woman, I will not explain myself to the likes of you!” Nemesis roared and shoved her roughly away.

Mara stopped herself from stumbling forward and absently rubbed her bicep as she looked over at him.

“The likes of me, my lord?” she asked sharply. Nemesis glared at her. his anger was clearly etched on his face.

“You want to make me your queen and you treat me like this? You can rot as far as I’m concerned, your majesty. You want to play Emperor and be a master of destiny like he does then go right ahead. I see you becoming more and more like him now. He plied me with sweet words too, Nemesis and he spent much of his time searching for the correct path, trying to see his way clear as you do. Prescience seems like an awfully iffy crutch to rely on in the real world. But I guess he is your master so what could you learn differently, eh?”

“Mara-” Nemesis began as his face slowly changed as she spoke from anger, to confusion, to hurt.

“I will be yours Nemesis because you’ve been kinder to me and you’re a far sight more handsome than the other Sith lords I have to choose from but I will never be yours the way you want me to be. I will be your Hand now. But that is all, the likes of me is going to the back to take stock of our supplies in case Fett takes his sweet time tracking Kirk down.”

“Mara!” Nemesis called out and stood up.

She stormed towards the back of the shuttle.

“I could stop you, I could make you stay here.” Nemesis said coldly.

Mara stopped but remained with her back to him.

“I see you continue to learn well from your master. That which you can’t have you take.” her tone was cold and cutting.

Nemesis stood silently for a long moment.

“Leave me.” he whispered.

Mara slowly strode out of the cabin and disappeared into the back. Nemesis suddenly lashed out with his fist and struck the side of the crew cabin. His fist cracked the metal bulkhead, but his own flesh seemed untouched save for some bruising around his knuckles which would soon vanish as he entered meditation.

“The force, it controls your actions?” he heard himself ask in that childish voice. Did he ever sound so young?

“Partially, but it also obeys your commands.” the old wizard replied with a kind smile.

He shook his head. These days it was all about control and he had just tried to exert brute control over the one person he did not want to do so with. He just could not bear her walking away and now he may have destroyed everything for his impetuousness.

“It’s not about control, Mara, it’s not about playing emperor. It’s about redemption.” Nemesis whispered and slowly sank back into his chair.

“I don’t know how you figured it out, Spock but I have to say that I’m glad you’re coming along.” McCoy said as he adjusted the shoulder strap of the bag he had flung over his shoulder as they strolled into the hangar bay of the Reckless Hope.

Spock arched an eyebrow and glanced over at McCoy.

“And don’t give me that look, Spock.” McCoy snapped. “I can acknowledge that you would be helpful in finding Jim. After all, I’m just a country doctor and you’re the big brain with the computer circuits installed in your head.”

“Doctor I admit that I have no words to reply to your stirring vote of confidence.” Spock replied dryly as they walked past a row of X-Wings.

McCoy nodded.

“I thought so.” he replied with an emphatic nod as he stopped to admire the vessel they were going to steal.

“What a piece of junk.” he muttered.

“Having read up on its performance during the battle of Vulcan I was quite impressed. Her speed and maneuverability make her a perfect choice for the mission parameters and her durability should allow us to survive most anything we come into contact with.”

“Yeah, plus she’s fast and tough.” McCoy added.

Spock stopped for a moment and glanced at McCoy with a hooded expression.

McCoy clapped his hands together and rubbed them palm against palm eagerly.

“So let’s get started.”

“I am curious Doctor.”

“Please go on Spock.” McCoy replied examining the Millennium Falcon with a keen eye.

“How do you intend to carry this plan out? You have no technical skills that I am aware of—“

“I put people back together, that’s a mite sight harder than printing circuit boards or hooking up a computer.” McCoy shot back.

“Nevertheless, you are infamous for your dislike of technology and yet here you are attempting to steal a vessel of a technology level higher than anything we possess.”

“Spock, my logical friend, I intend to carry out this plan in a precise logical manner.” McCoy replied with a sharp grin.

“Indeed?” Spock interjected with an arched eyebrow.

“Oh yes, step one of my plan was simple, choosing a ship for our little escapade. A Federation vessel, though far easier to acquire would open us up to the same dangers that probably got to Jim, so I logically deduced that an Alliance ship was needed. We needed something fast to outrun any enemies, particularly Imperial and equipped with a hyperdrive to make searching for Jim go much quicker.” McCoy began as he walked around inspecting the outside of the ship.

Spock listened intently, hands clasped behind his back.

“The Falcon became my clear choice, though aesthetically she ain’t too pleasing but as we of Earth say, beggars can’t be choosers.”

“So I’m told.”

“After choosing the ship the method of acquiring it became my next test in logic.”

Spock continued following McCoy.

“Princess Leia COULD allow us to use it but then we run into the entanglement of her wanting to come along and considering the potential coup situation we have going with that strutting marionette Jellico, I figured it was best we have a friend in power remain behind to keep an eye on things until we get Jim back here.”

“I am impressed thus far, Doctor.”

“Don’t interrupt, Spock, I’m pretty proud of this. Anyway, this left the option of stealing the ship. So I spent the last three days watching them and their protocols and schedules. This is their night cycle and the only real personnel out here are droids. They won’t question us as allies going into the Falcon.”

“Assuming we get in how do you intend to activate the controls and how will you figure out the major systems? I assume, logically this is where I come in.”

“That would be presumptuous of you.” McCoy replied with a grin.

Spock looked confused for a moment.

“I see from your expression that my logic has you stumped by little green blooded hobgoblin, but allow me to illuminate your thought processes.”

Spock said nothing but was indeed perplexed by the turn of events.

“I could not figure out the systems, but I couldn’t count on your assistance because you might pull some logical reason why we shouldn’t go, so I did the next best thing.”

The ramp to the Falcon suddenly started to come down. Spock glanced over in concern mixed with curiosity. The ramp fully deployed and Scotty walked down the ramp cleaning his hands on a rag.

“Tis done, Doctor. I have the power core on line and I’m fairly certain that all major systems are nominal. We can deploy at any time.”


“I wouldna take ye out without weapons, Doctor.” Scotty replied with a grin and a wink. He glanced over at Spock and his grin widened. “Mr. Spock, it’s a pleasure to see you come to join us rogues.”

“Mr. Scott, I must say that I am surprised to see you here.”

“No surprise there, Mr. Spock, all the good Doctor had to say was that we were going to save the Captain and that’s all he needed to say.”

“Very well, we have an engineer, I assume you then asked me to come along to help you pilot this vessel since you lack any piloting skills yourself?”

“It’s all about you isn’t it?” McCoy replied with a wink. Scotty hid a smile as Spock glanced around for a moment, hiding his growing confusion.

“I figured that Scotty would be too busy keeping things running and thinking once again that you might come up with some silly logical notion on why we shouldn’t go rescue Jim I decided on the next best thing.”

There was the sound of knocking and Spock looked up. Sulu waved at him from the cockpit and gave McCoy and enthusiastic thumbs up. Spock looked back at McCoy who was returning the thumbs up sign.

“You’re logic is flawless.” Spock said dryly.

“Of course it was Spock.” McCoy replied and patted Spock on the shoulder. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, at least I did decide to ask you to come along.”

“Considering your flawless plan, I seem a bit redundant at the moment.”

“Nope, I needed a commanding officer for this mission and who better than a fairly decent first officer.”

“If memory serves you once stated that I was the finest first officer in the fleet.” Spock replied with a haughty expression.

“Well, you have to understand that you had just regained your sight after I blinded you and was feeling sort of guilty. We humans tend to say things we don’t mean when we feel pity or sorrow for someone.” McCoy grumbled.

“I will keep that in mind Doctor.” Spock replied.

“Gentlemen, if you will, we’re a little pressed for time and someone’s bound to come investigate.” Scotty urged.

“How about hangar bay access?”

“I already took care of that. The controls have been jury rigged so that I can trigger them from the cockpit, by the time their flight control officer is aware of what we’re doing we’ll already be preparing to make the jump to light speed.”

“You really are a miracle worker.” McCoy beamed.

Scotty opened his mouth to say something when he stopped suddenly and his eyes widened slightly. Scotty fumbled for the phaser at his belt.

McCoy turned quickly and hi eyes widened as well.

“Your flawlessly logical plan, I assume had made arrangements for just such a contingency?” Spock asked.

“Damn it you emotionless dolt, do something. My plans didn’t take into account a seven foot walking carpet.”

Chewbacca stood casually, holding his bow caster in one hand and the other resting against the nose cone of an X-Wing. His paw was lightly tapping the metal skin of the fighter in a drum like rhythm much like a human drumming his fingers.

“Uhhh…I don’t need a universal translator to tell me that he’s pissed.” McCoy muttered to Spock out of the corner of his mouth.

“I find that the best approach to potentially hostile situations is to directly confront the issue.” Spock stated and stepped forward. “We intend to steal this vessel.”

“Why did you tell him that!” McCoy exclaimed.

“We wish to take the Millennium Falcon to find and rescue Captain Kirk.”

Chewbacca glanced between the cool and calm Vulcan and the visibly flustered Doctor.

“We won’t put a scratch on her, I promise.” McCoy added helpfully.

Chewbacca shook his head and snorted something.

“Did I hear that correctly?” McCoy asked Spock.

“I do believe that you did.”

Chewbacca grunted and howled as he waved someone behind him to follow and Threepio and Artoo appeared meekly from behind the X-Wing.

“So you’re going to help us?”

The Wookie replied with another series of grunts and growls as the droids quickly approached the ship.

“We too are concerned for Captain Kirk and you may need my services in this venture.”

“Oh yeah, what for?”

“I am fluent in over six million forms of communication and have recently downloaded your universal translators language database to supplement my own.”

“Ok.” McCoy replied unimpressed. “What about the rolling trashcan here?” McCoy asked jabbing a thumb at Artoo who turned his domed head and squawked something insulting.

“Artoo is a mechanic beyond compare and he has felt an attachment to Captain Kirk ever since their adventure together back on Earth when they escaped the Imperial forces.”

McCoy glanced down at Artoo.

“Fine, the more the merrier, but can we leave now before we have half the ship wanting to join us on this mission?” McCoy asked sullenly.

“Of course Doctor. I might add that your flawlessly logical plan has evolved into a fine example of why logic is not the best path available to humans.” Spock said without looking at McCoy and followed Chewbacca up the access ramp.

McCoy glared up at the ramp.

“Let’s see what kind of turn out we would get if this were a rescue mission for you, you green blooded—“ McCoy disappeared up the access ramp. It quickly closed shut.


There was no other option at this point. Go to ground and ride out the storm. He had been trained endlessly on these scenarios. Cover’s blown, backup plans have gone to hell, contacts have been arrested or worse, assume that everything has been compromised, all safe houses have been tainted and go to ground like a good little agent.

All storms pass, this one would as well the conventional wisdom said. The conventional wisdom was horribly wrong in this situation. The scenarios never envisioned an extragalactic civilization with a technological edge as high as this one, they did not envision leaders capable of utilizing ESP and other non traditional methods to either interrogate or find their opponents. The scenarios did not envision a hefty majority of the quadrant under their control in under three months. It was a worst case scenario to beat all worst case scenarios and was usual in his case, Michael Adare was right in the middle of it.

Adare stopped in an alley off one of the great market bazaars that dominated the center of the Imperial capital. He was sure that he was not being followed but caution was the watchword for the day. He looked as if he were examining a bag of fruits that he had just purchased but he was actually checking himself for tails.

The Romulans may be a conquered people and Nemesis certainly had purged the ranks of the Tal Shiar with ruthless efficiency but those that remained were the truly dangerous ones, spooks and black operators that were either too valuable to purge or too smart to allow themselves to be purged. Gone were the majority of the simple thugs that dominated the Tal Shiar. Now it was strictly dangerous and smart agents that were looking for anything to hang their hat on for career advancement in an organization whose days were numbered.

They must have done the same math that Adare had done when he first made contact with the Tal Shiar sleepers Section 31 had planted here. The Tal Shiar would soon be swallowed up by whatever espionage branch Nemesis would eventually dream up.

He certainly would feel no compunction to keep around an espionage division that had served a conquered government. Those that he felt were valuable would be moved to this new branch and those that were either too dangerous, suspicious or simply annoying would be mercilessly purged. So in these twilight times for the Tal Shiar there was a mad scramble to do anything to distinguish themselves from the competition.

In the end no one wanted to die because they were considered obsolete.

Adare knew it was coming, particularly after the disastrous battle of Romulus. Damn James Kirk for his timing and idiocy. His planet killing machine had very nearly tried to devour the planet and decimated a good portion of the fleet based here. Adare’s sources and contacts dried up over night.

One thing was helping foreign agents out for money or personal vendettas, it was quiet another to help agents of a power that had just tried to literally destroy your world. Soon he had shown up on the radar screen of the Tal Shiar and they had made the opening move.

He had stepped out for a quick run and check of the area, when upon returning to his safe house he noted the red washcloth hanging out of a window. It was the sign he had worked out with Saraz, the kindly old Romulan woman that had housed and fed him all this time in case she was even suspicious that his position had been compromised.

He did not even hesitate, he glanced up and saw the red washcloth and kept on walking without skipping a step, right past two very obvious security agents trying to look casual in the restaurant across the street. he did not stop walking until he was out of the sector and hunkered down inside the burnt out hulk of a processing plant that had seen better days.

He needed to map out a quick strategy.

He had two options.

He could continue his mission, wait until Nemesis returned to Romulus, ignoring the pathetic rumors that he had disappeared. A man that competent and powerful did not just disappear. It was a smart move on his part. He had ‘disappeared’ just as the Imperial reinforcements arrived to test the loyalty of his Imperium. Those that embraced the Empire too quickly would be marked and remembered.

“You ingenious bastard.” Adare muttered to himself as he was finally satisfied that he was clean of tails.

He bit into a juicy wet fruit that he had been introduced to in his last assignment on Romulus. His thoughts were cold calculating and frustrated by the limitations now imposed on him. Adare was a loner by nature but he was accustomed to some support, Section 31 or the Shadowfleet was always a call away.

Now they were both suspiciously quiet.

He had heard rumors, vague and unconfirmed that the new Imperial fleet under a Grand Admiral named Thrawn had attacked a Federation remnant base and decimated the fleet station there. Part of him hoped that it wasn’t true and the more blood thirsty part of him wished that it was Kirk’s faction that had their base destroyed. Fitting punishment for the man that was most responsible for the situation he found himself in.

All he needed to was get Nemesis in his sights and BANG, end of problem, assignment complete and with the right moves he might even pull off framing the new Imperial forces causing one hell of a rift among them, maybe even triggering a civil war between the factions. A man could hope and dream.

Right now the cold harsh realities were that he was an agent whose entire support structure was compromised or even destroyed. On fact he may not even be an agent anymore, but a lone wolf trapped deep behind enemy lines.

He could just run.

Run far away from here. He still had some secret accounts available to him and he still knew some people that would not sell him out, who were sharp enough to realize that Kirk’s actions were wholly independent of his own and which they had formed true bonds of friendship not just connections of convenience.

He could flee to the hinterlands of the galaxy and hope that everything turned out well.

Adare watched the people moving about the market. They all moved as if they were living in a dream, slow, uncertain, quiet. He could feel it in the air, the heavy feeling of oppression and uncertainty. The Romulan Empire may not have been the picture of democratic freedom, but the people were usually happy and well represented. They were a proud and noble people that had been utterly defeated.

He wondered what it must be like on Earth and he imagined streets full of people just like this, zombies walking about doing their duties but uncertain of their future and scarred by the ugly reminder that they were no longer free, but a conquered people. The very thought brought turmoil to his heart and mind. He was a patriot, no matter what the effete snobs like Picard thought, his first true love and duty was to the Federation. The thought the his precious federation was no more, relegated to factions clinging to the edges of known space striking in hit and fade attacks was sickening to him.

It also angered him and he yearned for revenge. He could not imagine his people walking around like these faceless Romulans, as if in shellshock.

He would kill the man most responsible even if it cost him his own life. He closed his fist tightly. He would derive such pleasure from seeing the stunned look frozen on Nemesis’ face as the bullet materialized in his brainpan, exploding and reducing Nemesis’ head to a thick cloud of blood, brain tissue and bone.

All he had to do was be patient.

His eyes darted to the left and he saw the Tal Shiar agent as he wove his way between the crowd.

He smiled coldly to himself.

They could keep looking for him, it would only keep him sharp and when the time came, there would be a reckoning. One thing his training had taught him was the awesome power of patience. Just wait and it will all be revealed to you. Wait and your prey would eventually walk right into your sights.

He nodded to himself.

Michael Adare stepped out of the alley, passed the Tal Shiar agent from behind and palmed the man’s ID. He kept on walking. He knew that it was a useless gesture. The agent would report the identification stolen and they would lock it out of the system in a matter of moments.

But that was not the point.

The point was that the hunter had been tapped by the prey, a sign that the prey was not afraid. Maybe, just maybe it would make them a little afraid of just who they were dealing with. It really didn’t matter, it made him happy doing something to them, his thoughts were soon dominated by the image of Nemesis’ heads in his sights. He smiled softly as he disappeared like a mist into the crowd.

The ship landed with a loud roar, kicking up a cloud of snow that was instantly reduced to a snowy mist by the exhaust. The lights quickly intensified as a flood light swept the barren plain where the vessel had landed. The light flashed along the surrounding terrain in a precise search pattern.

The bright white light cut through the evening darkness, illuminating much of the area as it passed over hills and old battered solitary naked trees. The light suddenly passed over something, paused and slowly swept back.

The light settled on the manmade crater and the aft end of a starship that jutted out of the crater. A recent snowfall had covered the black earth, setting a virgin bed of snow and ice around the shattered starship. The floodlight remained on the starship, illuminating all the details.

A hatch on the ship opened with a soft hiss and a figure descended cautiously holding a blaster rifle at the ready. The figure checked his surroundings and slowly made his way to the starship. He peered into the crater and waited for his internal sensors to verify what he already knew.

The area was not booby trapped.

The ship’s sensors had confirmed that the warp core had been ejected so the potentially most dangerous part of the Runabout was gone. Still, Kirk was a clever bastard and he could just as easily seeded the area with phaser power packs, the man had a knack for that, very nearly killing him back at the bar when he flung his overloaded phaser back at him.

No sign of such a contrivance.

He walked over to the rear hatch and touched the keypad. Nothing. He entered a series of keystrokes on a wrist unit of his armor and held it out to the panel. There was a loud whine and suddenly the doors snapped open after the control panel popped and fizzled with smoke.

He stepped back quickly, rifle at the ready but no fire or any other sound emerged from the open hatch.

He slowly peered inside. He saw no movement, helmet picked up no heat signatures.

He stepped into the Runabout.

His worst fears were abated as he saw only one body strapped into the crew compartment, both the pilot and copilot seat were empty. He thought that Kirk may have perished in the crash which would have been an anti climatic end to a hunt that had thus far proven as challenging as was promised.

He gruffly jerked the corpse’s head up by the hair. It was the kid that had ruined his perfect set up shot. Kirk’s head would have come off in one clean shot and the hunt over. Instead, this kid spotted him at the last moment and had taken the shot for his commander. He could not conceive of ever doing that for anyone.

“Idiot.” he hissed and admired the blaster wound on the young man’s chest for a moment with all the detached interest of a butcher admiring a well placed cut.

He released his grip on the corpse’s hair and the head flopped back down. He quickly surveyed the situation, noted the blood smearing the pilot’s station. One wounded, pretty badly. He quickly checked the ship from cockpit to stern.

Emergency supplies were missing, several survival jackets and various weapons. There was a phaser rifle still strapped into place in an overhead compartment. Kirk had chosen to travel as light as he could, abandoning fire power for mobility. Same decision he would have made faced with similar circumstances. He paused over a box propped up against a bulkhead.

He crouched down to examine it. A transmitter, long range distress beacon. Why would he leave something so valuable behind? This was worth more than anything else he had taken with him if he expected rescue.

He slowly glanced backwards at the pilot’s seat.

“You can’t walk can you?” he deduced coldly. Kirk had abandoned the transmitter to help the pilot. His respect for the man had dulled considerably. Faced with the same set of circumstances he would have left the pilot to rot and lugged the transmitter. This foolish quality of mercy was always the downfall of too many of his prey.

He slowly stood up and aimed downward, blasting the transmitter into a pile of smoking components. He adjusted his utility belt and checked his life support stores. He walked back out of the Runabout and stopped at the lip of the crater. He cautiously kicked away the thin layer of virgin snow.


A deep imprint at the lip of the crater. Kirk was not a large man, neither was the pilot. The depth of the print indicated that Kirk was carrying something very heavy, the pilot. There was no smile of triumph, merely a cold satisfaction that he was right on the trail.

He paused to look back at Slave One. He pointed his left hand at the vessel and triggered a hidden palm switch. The lights dimmed instantly and the Slave One quickly cycled down. In minutes, the ship would be as cool as the snow and terrain around it, making any attempts to track him via sensors from orbit would be difficult at best.

Nothing would interrupt him from this hunt.

“Let’s finish this Kirk.” Boba Fett breathed and started walking into the snow, following the trail and ready to finish the hunt once and for all and there would be no more tricks that would save James T. Kirk this time.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 52: Distractions and misdirection

Thrawn sat quietly in his quarters, most of the lights dimmed save for one light directly over Thrawn that illuminated the book he was reading. His crimson eyes skimmed the pages with machine like precision as he absorbed the words, mulled them over and nodded sagely to himself.

The door to his quarters slid open and Captain Jerjerrod strode in, careful not to make too much noise. It was late into the night cycle. He knew that Thrawn enjoyed the little free time he had.

He stood at attention, hands behind his back silently by the doorway.

Thrawn slowly turned the page of his book and nodded as he finished another line.

“Captain.” he said, his voice breaking the silence of the massive quarters.

“Sir. I apologize for the disturbance.”

Thrawn held up a hand.

“I ask for my direct subordinates to speak their minds at all times, I did not remember specifying that this was limited during duty periods.” Thrawn replied coolly.

Jerjerrod nodded slowly. Thrawn was feared by many, despised by quite a few, but to be frank, he was the finest officer Jerjerrod had ever served with and certainly the best teacher he could ever have.

“I am disturbed by reports that Lord Vader has begun out right infiltrations of the Imeprium fleet.”

Thrawn did not react, instead he continued glancing down at the open book.

“Why is this disturbing? I commend Lord Vader for his initiative. I have undertaken such actions myself. Romulans are not as loyal as one would think for a conquered people.”

“It’s not that sir, it’s the goal of his infiltrations. He is not even attempting to discover fleet dispositions or strength.”

“It’s Nemesis isn’t it?” Thrawn asked but he said it in such a manner that it was an answer more than a question.

Jerjerrod nodded.

“Yes sir. He seems obsessed with finding Lord Nemesis.”

“I see this is Hoth redux, eh?” Thrawn replied with a tight smile.


Thrawn closed his book with a solid thump and laid it flat on his lap. He casually indicated the open chair off to his left. Jerjerrod snapped his heels and quickly made his way to the chair and politely took his seat.

“Lord Vader commanded Death Squadron over 6 months ago in the Emperor’s campaign to crush the Rebellion by finding their headquarters and destroying it.”

“I remember that.”

“It seems that Lord Vader’s obsession with finding one rebel in particular had blinded him during that campaign, some quietly mind you, have whispered that it was this obsession which allowed the rebels at Hoth to escape.”

“The question in my mind, Admiral, is why he is so obsessed with the Sith Lord. It is obvious to me at least that Lord Nemesis has betrayed the Empire and thus the Emperor. Lord Vader should be obsessed with destroying the fleet and eliminating Lord Nemesis.”

“A suspicion has recently come to light that I will keep to myself but if true will explain a great many things regarding the Sith Lords. But I want you to keep one thing in your mind for the future.”


Thrawn’s eyes burrowed into Jerjerrod’s.

“We may need to kill Lord Vader at some point in time.”

“Sir?” Jerjerrod gasped.

“He has walked a fine line of late and I have been watching him very closely. He backed me during the confrontation with Kittaine, but he has not been completely on our side. Frankly Vader could have taken that ship if he truly wanted to, but he is biding his time.”

“For what?”

“That is the question that preoccupies my mind. I will not burden you with my thoughts. Instead I will ask that you add this book to our required reading list for all line officers, optional for junior rank officers.” Thrawn said holding the book out to Jerjerrod.

Jerjerrod took it and examined the cover.

“Sun…I cannot pronounce that last name.”

“Tzu.” Thrawn added.

“The Art of War.” Jerjerrod read the title and flipped open several pages. “Are you serious? They have the audacity to think they can condense the Art of warfare into a single tome?” Jerjerrod asked with a smirk.

“They did.” Thrawn replied simply and sat back.

Jerjerrod looked back at him with some confusion.

“How is that possible? The strategies, tactics.”

“You misunderstand the sheer simplicity of the title, Jerjerrod.” Thrawn patiently explained. “That text is not purporting to simply be a collection of strategy and tactics. It is an examination of warfare in and of itself. It deconstructs warfare to its most simple aspects and postulates what a good commander needs to know and be aware of when waging war.”

“So it is a philosophical treatise on war?” Jerjerrod said with a grimace of distaste. Thrawn frowned slightly.

“The Emperor’s curriculum for the Academy has suffered gravely since the rise of the New Order. Philosophy is a valuable source of WHY we do the things we do, Jerjerrod. We cannot truly lead in war unless we know HOW to lead. Knowing how has been condensed into this one book. I want it disseminated immediately among the ranks. Humans of this galaxy wrote that, not ours and this may go on to explain much of why the Earthers have proven to be the most difficult to deal with in this war.”

“The true reason is James Kirk. Take the man away and you take away the symbol of their leadership. I learned that lesson from the finest officer and strategist I know. You.” Jerjerrod replied and gently handed the book back to Thrawn.

“I assure you Captain, flattery will get you nowhere.” Thrawn replied as he accepted the book.

“I was merely stating a fact.”

Thrawn eyed the young captain for a moment.

“Let us be frank then, your performance has degraded over the last few weeks.”

Jerjerrod blinked.


“Jerjerrod, your performance has suffered seriously of late and I must bring this to your attention. Even Piett has come around and shown me that I have done something I rarely do, underestimated him. I want you to deal with whatever it is that is bothering you. By tomorrow I want to see a marked improvement or I may be forced to take on a new aide de camp.”

Jerjerrod stared at the expressionless face of the Chiss Grand Admiral for a long moment.

“Are we clear?”

“Crystal, Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod replied smartly.

“Dismissed Captain.”

“Aye sir.” Jerjerrod replied stonily as he stood up and snapped a crisp salute. Thrawn returned it and Jerjerrod turned on his heel and walked with military precision to the door.

“And Captain?”

Jerjerrod did not turn around.


“Make sure you distribute these books to the senior staff.”

“Of course Admiral.” Jerjerrod replied neutrally.

He walked out of the quarters.

Thrawn watched the door for a long moment. He slowly activated a comlink at the armrest of his chair.

“Standing by, sir.”

“Follow the Captain and report your findings to me tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.”

Thrawn released the comlink and stared at the book cover for a long moment. He nodded slowly to himself and opened up to the next marked page.

The Defiant shook hard as a storm of green plasma torpedoes exploded around it into a field of fiery blossoms.

“Emergency power to the shields. Where are those phasers?” Archer demanded.

“Shields buckling sir. Phasers are still recharging, the capacitors were damaged in the last pass.” his tactical officer explained in frustration.

“It’s like a death by a thousand pricks. That bitch is tearing us apart system by system.” Archer spat, smoke obscured the bridge forcing Archer to rely on voice recognition as the only way to discern who he was speaking to. The blowers were trying valiantly to suck most of the smoke out of the bridge but with half the consoles smashed and spewing sparks and plasma vapors the system was simply overwhelmed.

“Sir, the Queen’s ship is now less than a planetary diameter from the target. The gravimetric fields will force her to shunt more power to the engines and affect her maneuverability.” Seven explained calmly.

“So she chooses to fight with her back to the planet huh?” Archer replied rubbing his chin. He glanced around his ruined bridge. “If I had a ship that wasn’t damn near crippled that might make a difference.”

“It has been my experience that any advantage you can gain in battle should be seized upon.” Seven added.

Archer smiled. he knew there was a reason why this woman moved him so.

“Alright, take us out on an elliptical, give us a breather to repair some systems then reengage.”

“Aye sir.”

Picard heard another explosion deep down in the bowels of the Valhalla as he and R-7 cautiously made their way through the Jeffries tubes that ran throughout the primary hull their goal was the main junction that sat right under the bridge.

They had avoided the main corridors and the turbolifts as Picard could feel her mind focused on those avenues of attack. She was not sure if they had beamed aboard or not. The small personal transporter units the shadow fleet issued to their command personnel also doubled as a signature distorter, making locking in with internal sensors very difficult. It was serving him well at the moment.

“I wonder how she over powered the crew?” He muttered as the junction became visible.

“I suspect that she used our hyperlinks against us, sending a surge which overloaded our positronic networks. The androids we saw in the lower levels were damaged from within by a power surge, they were not assimilated.” R-7 replied.

“Can you be assimilated?” Picard asked seriously pausing to catch his breath and mop some sweat from his brow. He was really getting too old for this.

“We have been designed to self destruct should the presence of Borg nanoprobes be detected, that may be another reason she did not attempt assimilation.”

“She’s running out of time.” Picard interjected looking up at the junction, feeling her dark thoughts creeping into his own. “She’s desperate.” Picard nodded to R-7 and started towards the junction slinging his phaser rifle over his shoulder.

“Why is she desperate? Her vessel is significantly more powerful than the Defiant. I calculate only a 15% chance that the Defiant will survive the battle.” R-7 responded as they reached the junction and Picard looked up. A single ladder led up into the bowels of the systems directly beneath the bridge. He also knew that among those isolinear boards and plasma conduits was an emergency escape hatch. A hatch that would lead directly into the bridge.

“Because she feels the weight of decision. She knows that the longer we keep her busy here the less time she will have to re-establish the Collective. Those systems are slowly dwindling in capacity. Drones are slowly dying as their organic parts starve to death, in other words, if she acts quickly enough,” Picard started to climb the ladder. “She can salvage a good portion of her Collective. The longer she waits the less chance there will be of there being any drones left functioning for her to rebuild the Borg with. She cannot afford to start from scratch as the Empire is moving too quickly through the galaxy.”

Picard reached the top of the access area and turned his head to say something to R-7 when the air around him flashed a brilliant white and he shouted in surprise as he was rudely shoved off the ladder.

Picard desperately reached out to the rungs that were flashing by and realized there was no way that he was going to make it. He landed with a head snapping impact in R-7’s arms.

“Are you well, sir?” R-7 asked.

Picard glanced down. R-7 was holding Picard like a baby cradled in his arms.

“Uh…thank you, R-7 but it looks as if she has anticipated our move.” Picard replied darkly looking back up at the humming containment field.

“We could try your security protocols to over ride the containment field.” R-7 suggested.

“Good idea, R-7…but…can you do me a favor?”


Picard frowned and fixed R-7 with a partially bemused expression.

“Can you put me down?”

R-7 looked down and nodded curtly putting Picard on his feet.

“The only problem with your suggestion is that she would have changed all the access codes.”

“Perhaps she has not. She may not have expected you as a boarder.”

Picard looked up at the containment field and smiled grimly.

“I don’t think so, R-7. I think she knew precisely who was going to board this vessel. She almost sent me an engraved invitation. But she wants me down here where she can contain me. She still has a use for me and I don’t want to find out what it is.”


“We don’t have a lot of time, R-7 so I’m going to have to go with a wild alternative that would make Wil Riker proud.”

“Sir?” R-7 blinked in confusion as Picard raised his phaser rifle. “I do not advise that sir, the containment field is more likely than not far more resilient than the power output of the phaser rifle and there is a distinct chance that the resulting energy backlash may cause a ricochet which would prove quite detrimental to our well being.”

Picard smiled as he fired the rifle. The phaser bolt exploded against the walls of the junction, right around the field itself. Each blast taking out more than a fist full of metal and equipment. The containment field began to flicker noticeably. R-7 nodded as he realized what Picard was doing and took his own rifle and began marching his blasts along the opposite side of the junction, destroying the wall emitters as they went until the field finally collapsed.

Picard shook his head ruefully as he inspected his handiwork.

“You know, after all the years that we used those I always wondered when one of our captives would figure out this trick.”

“You were aware of this strategy?” R-7 asked curiously as Picard started his ascent again.

“As a captain I have to be aware of all the possibilities, but I always believed that no one would be that desperate to try it.” Picard replied.

R-7 nodded and started to climb after Picard.

Picard could feel her. There was confusion, uncertainty. What had he done? He smiled eagerly.

Right on time, the Valhalla shook violently.

“Keep up the good work, Captain Archer. Just give us a few more minutes.” Picard muttered as he reached the top part of the junction and frantically looked for the emergency hatch.

“What’s taking him so damned long?” Archer snapped as the Defiant soared between the support struts underneath the Valhalla holding a Borg cube. The Defiant snap fired a volley of quantum torpedoes that soared forward, then turned quickly and passed the Defiant exploding against the struts.

The Defiant spun quickly on its axis as hungry green plasma bolts lanced out trying to strike the small craft.

“Good shooting. Now bring us around, low, she seems to be having trouble tracking us on this plane of attack.”

“Sovereign targeting sensors had this problem identified during the Dominion War. Refits were due sometime soon.” Seven replied.

“Good to know that this particular vessel never made the refit in time.” Archer added sardonically.

“Oddly enough, this ship does not show up on any Starfleet registry.” Seven added curiously.

“I guess Picard wasn’t kidding about this Shadowfleet.”

The Defiant pitched forward violently and Archer could feel his stomach plunging downward. Debris showered down from the ceiling and several displays winked out followed by a shower of sparks and smoke.

“Status?” Archer barked as he nearly flew out of his seat. Alarms were sounding all throughout the ships and he could see the warning lights flashing on the helm and ops stations through the thick haze.

“We’ve lost the starboard power coupling. Reestablishing attitude control and stabilizers.”

“Shields down to 15%. Port side torpedo launcher damaged.”

Archer grimaced and stood up, bracing himself against his command seat.

“Reroute all power to weapons, bring us around for one more pass.”

“Sir, even with all available power to weapons, we’re not going to make much of a dent in her. All systems are damaged or destroyed, we won’t be able to muster much of an alpha strike.” His tactical officer warned grimly.

“That ship needs to be taken out now or we’re looking at a reborn Collective and I don’t think anyone here wants that.” Archer stated and looked at the screen, static snow periodically washing across the image of the damaged Borg queen ship.

“Ramming speed.” He ordered simply and sat down.

“Aye sir.” His helmsman responded after a moment’s hesitation.

“Jean Luc, you were expected.” The Queen said coldly, a smile creeping across her face. Picard emerged from the emergency hatch aiming his phaser rifle.

“This ends here and now.” Picard replied stonily staring into her cold eyes.

The queen ran a finger along the skull of one of the downed androids haphazardly laid across the helm station. Her eyes did not leave Picard.

“Locutus, this is indeed the end. The end of the Borg as we knew them, the start of a new Collective. We can be at that genesis. Together as it should be as it was always meant to be.” She said seductively.

“What are you talking about?” Picard snapped, keeping his phaser trained on the queen, but she did not make any aggressive moves, instead she simply watched him, cold satisfaction on her face.

“A new beginning, Locutus. I could have killed you back at the Unimatrix but I did not. Instead I chose to let you come to me as your final test.”

“Test? This is no test, I can feel your own surprise at seeing me here.” Picard countered.

She smiled.

“You and I are meant to be, but frankly, I did not have faith that you would make it this far.”

“Allow me to surprise you once again, your highness.” Picard brought the phaser rifle up tight and fired. The intense blue bolt skipped off the Queen’s personal force field which flared up with a cascading lightning blue field as the bolt struck an overhead terminal destroying it with a loud crash.

“Locutus, you disappoint me, I used to hold you in such high esteem.”

Picard brought his chin against the rifle butt aimed and squeezed off several more rounds, each one skipping off the queen’s shield, but the sheer force of each impact drove her back a few steps until she slapped up against the helm station.

“Enough!” She snapped and waved her hand as if shooing away a bothersome fly. A green cloud of electricity smacked Picard hard across the body, catapulting him off his feet and across the bridge to land with a sickening thud against the lower steps leading up to the turbolift.

Picard groaned and rolled on his back, his shoulder was throbbing and he could see from the odd angle his arm hung that it was dislocated.

The Queen watched him in pain for a moment, sizing up the situation.

“You should not oppose me. If I fail, then this galaxy falls into the iron grip of the Imperial forces and that would doom your pathetic Federation to an eternity as nothing more than a slave state.”

Picard grunted painfully as he fought his way up to a sitting position and slung his rifle on his opposite arm for aiming.

“You are a far worse alternative, your highness. At least with the Empire we will still have the option of being human, of living out our lives as individuals, perhaps not free politically but our souls will be free.”

The queen sneered.

“You speak of souls to me, Locutus? I know you better than you know yourself. You who do not even believe in higher powers or deities invoke such an ephemeral concept as the human soul to me?”

“You cannot deny the essence of the human spirit that your assimilation utterly destroys.” Picard exclaimed as he fired a burst from his phaser rifle. The queen held her hand out, palm open and deflected the phaser burst back at Picard who ducked out of the way as it exploded against the closed turbolift doors.

He rolled away, biting back the pain that exploded in his shoulder as he rolled over it and tried to bring his rifle back to bear.

“Don’t you tire of this Locutus? Don’t you tire of fighting against the inevitable?”

“If I did…” Picard began, gasping for breath and fighting the pain. “I wouldn’t be human.” He finished and fired a burst at her feet. She tried to jump out of the way, surprise etched on her face as the blast wave sent her hurtling over the helm station and landed unceremoniously beneath the main viewer.

She struggled to get up and froze as R-7 stood at the opposite end of the bridge, training his own phaser rifle on her.

“Now Captain.”

Picard and R-7 fired a steady burst at the queen. She threw up her arms in front of her face and screamed something incoherent as both beams danced over her personal force field, some of her cybernetic implants began to glow a dull red as the beams remained on her.

“Alternate your frequencies!” Picard called out.

“Trying sir, we must maintain our phased variances in the high EM band.” R-7 replied.

It was Picard and R-7’s hope that the Queen’s personal force field would not be able to simultaneously block two phaser beams on alternating frequencies, in essence overloading her personal defenses to get in one good shot and it seemed that the plan was working.

The Queen suddenly dropped to her knees and they surged forward, keeping their beams on her. She reached out and touched and exposed circuit panel. Picard saw the movement and his eyes widened.

“Fall ba-”

Consoles around him and R-7 exploded with violent force and Picard felt several pieces of hot shrapnel dig into his flesh and he rolled with the blows landing on his stomach with a sharp exhalation of air.

R-7 tumbled backwards a large piece of debris clearly lodged in its lower abdomen.

The queen slowly rose up and inspected the carnage with an angry glare as she advanced on Picard. She reached down and grabbed a firm hold of his dislocated shoulder and picked him up wit one arm by it.

Picard screamed in pain as she squeezed the damaged shoulder and glared into his eyes.

“Locutus, I am so disappointed in you.”

“My name is Picard.” He spat back.

“What did you think you could accomplish with that attack? While I admit the android was a good touch it was nothing more than an annoyance, a distraction at best.”

“Good.” He spat through clenched teeth.

She cocked her head quizzically and jerked him forward to her face.

“What is that supposed to mean Locutus?” she demanded.

Picard locked eyes with her.

“It means that it brought you close enough to me to do THIS!” Picard brought the rifle butt around with his good arm and slammed it across the Queen’s chin. Her head snapped back and she released her hold on Picard, trying to recover her senses.

Picard braced himself and swung the rifle out like a bat, striking the Queen on the side of her head. She grunted and pitched to the left, propelled by the force of Picard’s blow. He did not let up, stalking after her and winding up for another blow.

He whipped the rifle butt around again but she managed to get one hand up, the rifle butt struck the her forearm and cracked loudly, the butt spun away from the ruined rifle stock. She countered with a hammer kick that struck Picard in the side of his left knee, followed by a sick wet snap.

Picard roared in pain and crashed to the floor clutching his ruined knee.

She wiped her mouth, seeing blood staining the back of her hand.

“Picard it is then. I have lost my patience with you. I thought that I had finally discovered the only being that could match my will, my desires, that could be a challenge for me but I should have known better.” She spat as she stood over him watching dispassionately as he held his knee to his chest and fought the pain as best he could. She coldly placed a foot against his dislocated shoulder and pressed.

He screamed.

She smiled as she held the pressure steady.

“You allowed a new world to slip your grasp, Picard. The new Collective would have finally been what it was meant to be, but you threw it all away you fool.”

Picard looked up at her, his eyes drifted over her shoulder for a moment and he allowed himself a satisfied grim smile.

“What are you smiling about?” she hissed as she turned her head to see behind her and her eyes widened. “No!” she shouted as the Defiant filled the screen.

“The Borg vessel is going evasive!”

“Stay on the bitch!” Archer shot back as the Valhalla filled his screen. Archer spared one last second to look over at Seven, who was looking at him and he smiled softly at her.

The Defiant adjusted her collision course with the Valhalla at the very last moment and crashed through the lower quarter of the Borg cube still attached to the Valhalla, careening forward in a cloud of shattered Borg plating and conduits before crashing into and through most of the primary hull of the Valhalla. The Defiant jutted out of the top portion of the primary hull, one of its nacelles completely shorn away by the impact with the Borg. The rear of the smaller starship hung out at an angle towards the bridge, the forward portion of the Valhalla’s primary hull shredded and bunched up like so much confetti.

At the bottom of the primary hull the forward portion of the Defiant, charred and blackened, all of its ablative armor scraped clear off the hull hung exposed, the Valhalla’s outer hull plates wrenched into giant waves that made it look as of the Defiant were emerging from a sea of ivory steel. The ruined starships spun slowly in an embrace, explosions were rippling along the secondary hull of the Valhalla, lights flickered and in many instances did not come back on.

Both ships continued spinning, caught in the grip of the planet’s gravitational field, slowly descended to the surface, the leading edges of the Borg cube attached to the Valhalla began to glow red, trailing flaming debris and hot gasses.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, my lord. He suspects.” Jerjerrod replied blankly.

Kahn nodded slowly as he rubbed his chin while watching the blank faced young officer intently. His quarters were simple and Spartan, Thrawn made it quite clear that he was lucky to not be relegated to the brig as the rest of his men and women were. Kahn could care less about the size of anyone’s quarters, right now he simply used it as his place to rest and eat. He spent most of his waking hours on the bridge or in the brig with his people.

A stack of datapads on his small work desk were all technical manuals and anything he could get his hands on that would bring him up to speed on Imperial technology. He had to admit that it was far more difficult to grasp than when he had to take a crash course in Federation technology. This civilization had been space going for millennia, there were so many aspects to their systems that he had to learn the fundamentals before going forward.

But his mind was designed to master any subject, his superior intellect would eventually give him the understanding he needed.

Grand Admiral Thrawn on the other hand was turning out to be the most difficult opponent he had ever faced.

“You will continue on your duties and focus on pleasing the Grand Admiral. You will not approach me in any manner shape or form unless I approach you.”

“But the pain, my lord, it grows worse.” Jerjerrod complained.

Kahn frowned.

“You will ignore the pain as I ordered you to. Once your mission is complete I will take the pain away.” Kahn ordered.

“Yes my lord.”

“Now you will leave here and as always forget our conversation, forget that you were ever here until I tell you to remember.”

“As you wish my lord.” Jerjerrod bowed his head low. He quickly left the quarters. Kahn remained silent for a long moment in contemplation. A shadowy figure stepped out behind him.

“Was he followed?” Kahn asked softly knowing the answer already.

“He was just as you expected my lord.” The figure replied.

Kahn nodded.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn is proving to be a far more challenging opponent than I gave him credit for.”

“Why does he simply not arrest you, My lord?”

Kahn smiled coldly.

“He is a strategist, my secret associate, a strategist like myself who thinks several moves ahead. Arresting me will only solve the short term problem, but he suspects that I know more than I am letting on and if he allows my plans to gestate further he may glean more about what I know than I would ever tell under interrogation. Besides, I have proven myself more useful than not so far. He is loathe to discard any advantage no matter how slight. He will prove to be my greatest challenge.” Kahn glanced back at the figure who finally stepped into the light. An Imperial Stormtrooper stood stoically behind him, helmet nestled under one arm.

“How are the plans proceeding?”

“On schedule, my lord. I have managed to infest some of the key personnel you requested.”

“Excellent commander. And the watchdogs following Jerjerrod?”

“They have been dealt with.” The trooper replied coldly.

“Unfortunately this will only bring more suspicion on poor Jerjerrod, but it could not be helped. We need to maintain even the slightest sliver of doubt in Thrawn’s mind. If he knows how deep my plans go he would disintegrate me on the spot.”

“So we proceed apace?”

“Indeed we do.” Kahn replied without hesitation.

He stared at the monitor on his personal computer and his thoughts flashed to those few moments on Seti Alpha Five, when he first infested the stormtrooper commander with the eels that had plagued his people. With the commander under his control he had a secret ally that made sure that more eels were brought onboard and avoided the stringent controls around the ship and hangar bay.

He smiled coldly as he imagined the expression on Thrawn’s face when the depth of the betrayal was finally exposed and he ordered his personal retinue of stormtroopers to dispose of Kahn. His smile grew broader as he thought of the response from Thrawn’s personal guard and Thrawn’s resulting dismay shortly before it was all over.

Then we would see would control this proud Imperial fleet. And more importantly, then he would deal with James T. Kirk.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 53: Masks

The cell was quiet. It had been quiet for days now as he sat in the corner staring off into space. He ran a chess piece between his fingers, back and forth, back and forth. He would do this dozens of times, switch pieces and start over again. He would listen, hear the long monotonous footsteps back and forth along the metal grating outside the cell.

Suddenly the footsteps paused then snapped to attention. His ears pricked up and the chess piece stopped in mid-motion in his fingers as a new set of footfalls strode up to his cell door. They were feet accustomed to command, walking the deck in precise military manner. He straightened up slightly as words were exchanged outside the door and it slid open with that sharp hiss that was all too familiar to his ears.

He remained sitting as the person stepped into his cell.

“Has he been looked after? He looks injured.”

“We can have a medtech see him right away.” The stormtrooper replied.

“Notice he did not answer your question.” Ochoa interjected softly and smiled into the darkness, he could not see the newcomer but knew generally where he was standing. There was some disappointment. His visitor was not who he expected or wanted. He briefly wondered whether back those long moths ago as Nemesis took his eyes whether he would have ever imagined yearning to see him and speak to him.

Ah, but there’s the rub, I’m not speaking to Nemesis. I’m reaching out to Luke Skywalker.

The newcomer was silent for a long moment and then softly spoke to the guard.

“Leave us and have the medtech standing by when I leave.”

“Yes sir.”

The door snapped shut.

Silence in the cell again. Ochoa began flipping the chess piece along his fingers as he remained staring in the general direction of the newcomer.

“Have you come to gawk at your prisoner, Admiral?”

The newcomer seemed taken aback.

“You are blind are you not?”

“I guessed because if anyone other than Nemesis would come see me it would be Admiral Kittaine. He speaks highly of you.”

“That’s good to know, but I’m not here to gawk.”

“No. No you’re not.” Ochoa cocked his head slightly and smiled softly. “It’s not in you to do such a thing.”

“You make some fine assumptions having never met me.” Kittaine replied.

“Cruelty, Admiral colors everything including your voice.”

“I assume then that Lord Nemesis’ voice must be positively dripping with it.” Kittaine stated gravely.

Ochoa smiled mysteriously.

“You misunderstand, Admiral. I have only met Lord Nemesis once, when he took my eyes.”

Kittaine was confused. One the man still had his eyes, according to the medical report on him, his eyes were still functioning, retinas detected and received light, all the nerves were functioning but he could not see. Mara suggested that Nemesis had used the Force to paralyze some brain function that allowed it to interpret the data coming from the eyes. Whatever the reason, it was disconcerting to see this man looking at him with perfectly good eyes and not seeing him, acknowledging his presence in anyway.

“Surely you know that the man that you have been speaking to all these months has been Lord Nemesis himself?” Kittaine finally asked in shock.

Ochoa leaned back against the cold metal wall and shook his head.

“No, Admiral, you’re the one who is mistaken. The young man I spoke to was lonely and confused. He was searching for validation in his choice and I refused to give it to him. He wanted to see me lose faith in the Federation as he lost faith in his own rebellion and himself. I refuse to surrender. I would not bend, I would not break and in my despair I held on to who I was.”

Kittaine looked at this Federation officer for the first time, really looked at him. He was a slim man, obviously made even slimmer by lack of food. His Starfleet uniform was barely recognizable. The sleeves had been rolled back and were wrinkled beyond any hope of fixing, tears along the collar and knees of his pants revealed flesh underneath and his boots were dull and filthy. He had a beard now, several months growth that was not trimmed or neat in anyway. His dark hair had grown long, slowly creeping to his shoulders wild and unkempt.

He looked nothing like the Starfleet Captain they had captured what seemed like an eternity ago. He glanced down at his datapad where Ernesto Ochoa’s face floated on the screen from the day of his capture. There was a defiant glare in his eyes and he looked so young and more importantly, spit and polish.

“I find it hard to believe that Lord Nemesis is hardly lonely and more importantly confused. He is a young man of singular vision.”

Ochoa nodded slowly and placed the chess piece down on the board.

“Where is he?” Ochoa asked.

“I think I’ll be asking the questions here, Captain Ochoa.” Kittaine replied stiffly.

“You know, you don’t even sound threatening.” Ochoa looked right into Kittaine’s eyes. “You’re a good man, Admiral.”

Kittaine shook his head.

“You don’t even know me, you sit there and spout profound lines completely missing the point that you are our prisoner and will be for the rest of your life.”

Ochoa paused.

“I see.”

“Very funny.” Kittaine grimaced.

“Admiral, I’m concerned for him. He left here very angry, very confused. He wants to prove to himself that he chose the right path even though his very soul is telling him otherwise.”

“You almost sound like you care about him.” Kittaine stated bewildered by the thought.

“I love that young man, Admiral.” Ochoa replied without hesitation.

Kittaine was stunned. Ochoa smiled warmly and indicated the bed opposite him.

“I apologize that I have nothing more befitting your station but this is your prison and I do note with some pride that the bed has the approval of a Sith Lord as a comfortable place to sit.”

Kittaine hesitantly sat on the solid metal bed frame. Kittaine looked at the young captain and could not help himself.

“I admire you Captain. Your spirit stands unbowed despite all that fate has heaped upon you.”

Ochoa grinned.

“Did you know that before my stay in your luxurious brig that I was an asshole?”

Kittaine blinked.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes indeed.” Ochoa nodded forthrightly. “I was a spit and polish Captain who believed that if you looked the part you were the part. Surface impressions, Admiral, it was all about what I could see. Get it?” Ochoa stated and tapped his left eye.

Kittaine remained silent. There was a peace about the man, an almost perceptible calm like a light beaming over him, illuminating him. He suddenly felt at ease. He could slowly see why Nemesis came here.

“He didn’t come here to torture you did he?”

Ochoa remained silent.

“He didn’t come here to interrogate you at all did he?”

“Surface impressions, my dear Admiral. We are not at all what we seem. To the crew of this fleet you are the stern commander that has kept them together through one crisis after another. In fact, you are a quiet man that wants peace and quiet more than anything else. You want to win this war not because you crave conquest and victory but because you want to be able to sit under a tree and read a good book.”

Kittaine stared dumbfounded at the young Captain who suddenly seemed wise beyond his years.

“Tell me something, Captain Ochoa.” Kittaine began. Ochoa leaned forward slightly. “What do you want?”

“That’s a thornier question than you could ever know.” Ochoa replied in a near whisper.

Kittaine cleared his throat.

“If you ask for your freedom I’m prepared to give you a shuttle and send you out to the rim of your galaxy, with a good protocol droid to take care of you, you can live a good long time in peace.”

Ochoa was suddenly very quiet.

“You should not tempt a man like that Admiral.” Ochoa said darkly.

“No temptations, you have me all wrong. I don’t want to see you in this cell anymore Captain. Your Federation is all but defeated, there is nothing more we can glean from you. Please allow me to bring some joy into this life we have made for you.”

Ochoa nodded slowly.

“Ease your guilty conscience, eh?”

“Don’t put it that way.”

“The truth is the only weapon I have left Admiral and I fully intend to wield it like a club around here until you decide to silence me forever.”

Kittaine sat back slowly and watched this young man. He had been offered his freedom and he had not taken it. He had a will of steel. Would that he had just a handful of officers like this one.

“Truth is Admiral, I cannot accept your offer.”

“Yes, I discerned that from your truth club statement.” Kittaine replied dryly and could not help but smile.

“She brings out the better part of you it seems.”

“Excuse me?”

“The woman, whoever she is. She makes you smile more easily.”

Kittaine began to open his mouth.

“Nothing mystical I assure you, I can smell her perfume, betazoid I think, they really like that particular brand. It tends to come on too strong, for a race of telepaths its been my experience that they can be quite blunt and as subtle as a warp core breach.” He looked at Kittaine, his empty eyes focusing on Kittaine’s as if peering through flesh and bone. “She suits you.” he concluded with an emphatic nod.

Kittaine’s thought turned briefly to his annoying Betazoid liaison and new security officer. Troi was more trouble than she was worth sometimes, and then there were times that she could make him smile with a careless comment thrown on the wind.

“You got it bad.” Ochoa added playfully.

“Alright, that’s enough.”

“By the way, you have it all wrong about me staying. I’m not doing it for anything so nebulous as the truth. You see, Admiral, I have a part to play in this drama and I intend to finish it.”

“Oh, and how do you intend to do that?”

“Just by doing what I have been doing since I came on board. Being myself and sharing my insights with others, one other in particular.”

“Nemesis?” Kittaine asked with an arched eyebrow.

“You catch on quick Admiral. Yes, I intend to save that young man from himself even if it kills me.”

Kittaine fixed him with a critical gaze.

“It just might kill you.”

Ochoa seemed to be looking far away.

“Admiral, I’ve been dead and I’m back again. I’ve sat in darkness now for what seems like an eternity and I’ve discovered that the Ernesto Ochoa that you brought on board in chains died on the torture beds of your starship. He died an ignominious death, empty and cursing his enemy futilely as they took from him his honor and his sight. So when you say it’s going to kill me, I tell you that I’ve already died, been there done that.”

Kittaine shook his head ruefully.

“Damn you.”

“Sir?” Ochoa replied.

Kittaine rose up from the bed.

“Damn you for making things so damned difficult. I came here out of sheer curiosity. Nemesis has been missing now for a week and we have no idea where he is. He may be dead for all I know.”

“He’s not dead. I would know it.” Ochoa replied.

Kittaine stopped to look down at him before continuing. It was disturbing that he was willing to accept that assertion but he did. Somehow it felt right. “I’ve been looking at all my options, investigating all the places and people that nemesis has known or interacted with and finally I came to see you because in the log it lists you as a person he has come to see on an almost daily basis, sometimes spending hours in here. I assumed it was some twisted torture, but the men assured me that not once had they heard shouts of pain and in fact on several occasions Nemesis had demanded medical treatment and more food rations for you and some men even whispered that he even brought your food in sometimes. They assumed an even more insidious form of torture so I came to see what secret he had hidden away in the brig of the Emperor’s Will. What I find is a young man at peace with himself and death.”

Ochoa remained silent.

Kittaine shook his head. He turned and rapped on the door. It snapped open.

“have this man removed form this cell immediately. I want him billeted in quarters and seen by a medtech.”


“Did you hear me?”

“Yes sir!” the stormtrooper snapped to attention.

“Will that make you feel better?” Ochoa asked, Kittaine’s back was to him. Kittaine slowly turned his head.


“Then that’s all that matters.” Ochoa replied softly. “Admiral.”


“Care for a game?” He held up a chess piece. “He found it quite soothing, it helped him see his way clear. Perhaps I can do the same for you?”

“You want to do what again?” Leia asked caustically. The strutting marionette that she had grown to despise in a matter of a week regarded her stonily.

“I thought I made myself quite clear, princess.” Jellico replied.

“I want you to be extremely clear for the record Captain.” Leia shot back.

“I want an immediate court martial to be convened for certain officers of the Enterprise, most importantly for one Leonard McCoy and Mr. Spock.” Jellico replied.

“You are seriously considering court marshalling these two men, including Hikaru Sulu, Montgomery Scott and Nyota Uhura?” Leia pressed.

“They have abandoned their posts and this fleet to undertake a mission not sanctioned by this fleet.”

“Excuse me, Captain, but I did not realize that searching for James Kirk was not sanctioned by this fleet?” The Andorian representative asked coolly.

“There are already fleet elements searching for Captain Kirk, they were not authorized to undertake this mission. We need our ships and crew to follow one singular authority if we’re to maintain discipline. Discipline will see us through this crisis gentlebeings. We must abandon this farcical notion that singular achievements will make any kind of difference in a war like this.” Jellico countered.

“I think what the Captain is saying is that they were not authorized to undertake this mission and by doing so they have robbed our current fleet elements of resources and men in a time when we need every single ship.” The Terran representative added

“Not to mention this could be deadly for morale.” the Tellarite representative interjected gruffly.

“Whose morale sir?” the Vulcan representative asked pointedly.

“I’m sorry gentlebeings, but I came here to report that some senior officers from my fleet have gone missing, in a Rebel Alliance vessel mind you accompanied by Alliance personnel and I was told absolutely nothing. Am I then to infer that James Kirk and his men are above and beyond Fleet discipline.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Captain James Kirk IS the fleet Captain Jellico.” The Andorian replied icily.

Jellico frowned.

“I was under the impression that we were giving Captain Jellico our full support in his position.”

“Until Captain Kirk returns, I say that makes his rescue a conflict of interest for the good Captain.” Leia stated gravely.

“I have made it abundantly clear that should Captain Kirk return I will step down without hesitation or reservation.”

Leia could feel the lie, it struck her like cold iron. Her eyes narrowed on Jellico. He had been lying from the start. The fleet elements searching for Kirk were too few in number to make a dent in the area of space that they had chosen to be the likeliest area where they had decided he was most likely to be. The Terran representative was making a power play with Jellico at the helm and with the only man that could unite the disparate factions together it was proving to be easy.

She angrily picked up her stencil and began writing a note to herself but stopped to think. She started to lazily doodle as her thoughts swept her attention away from the datapad.

She was angry.

Angry at Spock and McCoy for not coming to her with their plan. Angry at Chewbacca for obviously being clued in on it and not telling her, angry at fate for having put her in this position angry at Jim for leaving her now at this moment, angry at Luke for having turned and started this slide into madness.

“And I say that this assertion is a self serving statement.” another representative shouted from the back.

“Order, we will have order.”

Leia suddenly had a flash of insight, as if blinders had been whipped off her eyes and she could see the world for what it was for the first time. The room had the stink of it. The Old Republic, the Imperial senate itself. There was a stink of corruption and a cold chill of darkness.

She glanced around. There were a few stern holdouts, most visibly the Andorian and Vulcan representatives were fighting the good fight but she could see it in the face of the others. They were giving in to the corruption that was eating away at this body. Many already considered themselves defeated and were only partaking in this fight out of misplaced pride or pressure from those that wanted to fight among their constituents.

Jim had been the unifying force that made them all work together. Without his powerful presence here, driving them, motivating them, they were slowly sinking back into the despair of abject defeat. A malaise that made powerful military men rise to fill that vacuum.

Jellico was going to seize power out of some misguided notion that he could rule them better than this organization of fools. He probably even believed that he could strike a bargain to keep his faction viable and alive. He had wasted no time in shooting down every plan Jim had left in his stead to continue strikes against Imperial forces, particularly the shipping lanes.

Jellico fancied that a waste of manpower and ships at this stage. His lackeys had gone on to paint the Battle of Romulus as a crushing defeat, far worse than reality. Yes, they had lost 90% of that task force, but it was one of many in the Federation remnant. Jellico was laying the ground work for his junta and Leia could see it coming. She knew what to do. She had faced his kind before, even the Rebellion in its early infancy had to deal with rogue commanders who thought that they knew best what needed to be done.

But this would all be so much easier if she had Jim at her side. In the end, these people would not listen to a princess from another galaxy, they would listen to a legend from their past who had come back at their moment of greatest need.

Where are you?

She could not stop thinking that since she sat here at this conference room table.

“We will need to begin fighting again, nothing is more poisonous to morale than inaction, or worse the perception that you are afraid to engage the enemy.” Worf growled.

“May I kindly remind the Klingon representative that his people lost their Empire and their home world because they thought they could go toe to toe with the Empire. Are all of you not reading my reports, the Empire is a quantum leap ahead of us in technology and warship design. It takes hundreds of our starships to even pose a challenge to a single one of theirs!” Jellico snapped.

Worf slammed his fist on the table.

“James Kirk would not see it that way. He had honor. He was the only Starfleet officer the Empire ever respected!” Worf roared back.

Although intent on the angry exchange, Leia was scribbling languidly on her datapad. Her hands quickly drawing out shapes on the small pad, stencil moving back and forth. The Andorian representative noticed this and his brow furrowed in thought. She did not look as if she even knew what she was drawing. It was as if her hands were moving with a will of their own.
“For the last time I am NOT James T. Kirk. What I AM is this remnant’s only hope for survival.”

Worf snorted derisively.

“The Romulans were very disciplined, Captain Jellico and look where it got them.”

“Why is he here?” The Terran representative lamented.

“Where are you?” Leia whispered. She paused and looked down at her datapad. Her eyes widened. There was an intricate diagram, seven circles orbited a large star shaped object, one of the circles had a ring around it and the fourth circle had a small ‘K’ scrawled near the top.

She stared at the diagram for a long moment, mouth open in awe.

She gathered up her belongings and started to leave the conference table.

“Excuse me, where are you going Princess?” The Vulcan representative asked calmly.

“I must consult the astrometrics labs immediately.” she replied breathlessly as she nearly stormed out of the room.

“Admit it.”

“I will do no such thing.” Spock replied as he checked the navigational computer in the hold. They could hear Chewbacca grunting and growling something to Sulu who was nodding with interest.

“Say it.” McCoy demanded.

“I do not understand why this predicament brings you such misplaced glee, Doctor.” Spock replied.

McCoy’s eyes brightened triumphantly.

“So you admit we’re in a predicament!” McCoy nearly crowed jabbing a finger at Spock. Spock looked at the annoying appendage with an arched eyebrow.

“We are currently attempting to identify our bearings.”

“We’re LOST!!!” McCoy exclaimed angrily. “Of all the damned things to be on a rescue mission you got us lost.”

“We most certainly are not lost Doctor.” Spock countered.

“Gentlemen, would you please!” Uhura shouted from the cockpit. She was in the Navigator’s seat behind Chewbacca and Sulu who were in deep discussion about the relative flying abilities between Rebellion and Federation craft. She was holding her ear piece tightly in her ear and listening to the millions o channels, trying desperately to pick up something, anything that may provide a clue to the Captain’s whereabouts.

So far she had no luck but she would not give up. There were millions of frequencies, thousands of bands that she could monitor, but her best bet was monitoring those that Federation equipment were most attuned to. She also memorized the coded frequencies that the Runabout Hudson would transmit on in case of emergency and she had programmed the Falcon’s communication system to immediately isolate any beacons.

“I’m sorry Uhura, but this…this green blooded hobgoblin won’t admit that he got us lost with the last hyperspace jump.”

“Doctor you canna be that hard on Mr. Spock, these systems are hardly familiar to any of us.” Scott offered helpfully from an overhead panel, his head dangling down for a moment in between his work in the bowels of the Falcon.

“You know you never told me what you were doing up there. I’m beginning to think taking this ship wasn’t such a good idea, all I’ve seen is you and the rolling garbage can fixing things.” McCoy grumbled.

Uhura rolled her eyes with a smile as she listened intently to another beacon. McCoy was in rare form but she knew the truth, he felt useless not being able to do anything at the moment and his standard response in these situations was to gripe. She just hoped for the Captain’s sake that McCoy’s talents would not be needed.

“And where the hell is Charlie Evans? He up and disappear just when we could use a super being to help track Jim.”

“Spock, I don’t think anyone would hold it against you if you gave him a little..” Sulu made a nerve pinch motion.

McCoy glared at Spock.

“You even think about that and your next physical could prove VERY interesting.” McCoy spat.

“Doctor, you realize that your outbursts are helping no one, not even yourself. I would suggest a brief rest in the back while the rest of us do our best to find the Captain. You will be the first to know should we discover anything.”

McCoy crossed his arms and slumped into a seat in the crew section sullenly watching the others working.

“Sixteen planets and not even a clue as to where Jim can be.” McCoy muttered. He looked at the table and absently rubbed the smooth table top. “Just hang on Jim, we’ll find you.”

“If I may be of assistance Doctor?” Threepio offered helpfully.

“Shutting yourself down not an option?” McCoy asked grumpily.

“Well I never.” Threepio replied walking away and shaking his head.

“Uh…Mr. Spock, I think I have something.” Uhura said straightening up in her seat and adjusting the communications array.

“What?” McCoy asked jumping up.

“Go on Lieutenant.”

“It sounds like a message between two freighters in orbit of the planet in this system. They mentioned Kirk.”

“Are you sure?”

“I programmed the array to lock in on key words and phrases Doctor. I know my job.” Uhura replied annoyed.

Uhura paused to listen again.

“We have a communications disk the size of a starship welded on the roof of this thing and we’re having trouble listening?” McCoy muttered.

Sulu gave Spock the nerve pinch signal again.

“According to the records here they’re owned by a Russian Consortium in Orion space.” Sulu added as he checked the registries of the freighters.

“Here it is again. A shipment of Dilithium to the Federation remnant ordered by James Kirk.” Uhura said with a triumphant smile.

“Our course is clear. Sulu, find out where this consortium is based and prepare to set a course for that system.” Spock ordered.

“Aye sir!” Sulu replied enthusiastically and winked at Chewbacca.

The shuttle touched down in the soft virgin snow. It’s ivory wings slowly finished sweeping upwards like the wings of a butterfly. The shuttle’s lights brightened for a moment then quickly dimmed. The back hatch opened quickly and two figures descended the ramp.

One was holding a scanner in one hand, the other held nothing but wrapped his cloak around himself in quite contemplation.

“The signal grows stronger this way Lord Nemesis.” Mara stated perfunctorily and led indicated an area to the west.

“Lead on Mara.” Nemesis replied just as coolly.

She checked her equipment, her body suit was designed to keep her body temperature no matter what the conditions much like the stormtrooper body glove. She checked her weapons, all were fully charged and her scanner was functioning well within parameters.

She started to walk into the snowdrifts around the shuttle keying in on the signal of the Bounty Hunter’s life signs. They were easily several kilometers behind, Nemesis had not wanted to tip him off in any way so she chose a landing site that was well beyond visual or aural detection.

She did not look forward to the trek ahead of them. The terrain around here was very difficult to traverse and the storm front did not look like it was going to budge anytime soon. They were in for a long snowy walk.

She decided that speaking to him was unnecessary as she continued bulling her way through the drifts. Nemesis remained close behind her as he followed her into the blizzard swirling around them.

He watched her back intently. She had said nothing to him other than what was absolutely necessary. He did not want to admit that the silence was bothering him. He used to welcome her silence, he would bask in the silence between them.

Now he wanted to hear her voice, see gleam in her eyes as she regarded him, feel the heat between them when they were close. How he longed to touch her.

They walked for several hours, struggling against the piling drifts and the rocky terrain. Mara paused at a rise and suddenly dropped down to a small cave cut into the rockface of a cliff. She checked her scanner again.

“We’re about 4 kilometers behind him. This cave could prove a suitable shelter overnight or at least to catch a few hours of sleep. We’ll need to stay in top shape if we’re going to be taking him on.”

“We will need to close the distance to one kilometer if we’re to keep within striking distance. We don’t want him killing Kirk. I want Kirk alive.”

“As you wish.” she replied coldly.

He stared at her as she started to turn. Before he knew it he grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back around to face him.

“Damn you!” he spat.

She remained impassive.”

“My lord?”

He stood right up to her, eyes locked and she did not flinch.

“What do you want?” he asked coldly.

“Nothing my lord. My place is to serve you.”

Nemesis blinked. Anger quickly washed away the confusion.

“I asked you a question, Mara.”

“I answered it to the best of my ability my lord. I am after all simply a hand. If you are not pleased with my performance you can always call for a replacement. Lord Vader has replaced many hands that displeased him.”

“I don’t want to replace you damn you!” he roared.

“Then what is it that you want of me my lord?” she asked tersely, the wind whipping her hair and her defiant eyes bore into him.

“Stop this charade at once. This is not how you feel, even now I can feel the conflict within you.”

She blinked against the snow snapping into her face driven by the frosty winds.

“I know not of what you speak.” she replied.

Nemesis grabbed her elbows and pulled her to him.

“I will not ask you again, Mara. You will stop this at once.”

“Why would you care what the ‘likes of me’ would do. You’re a mighty Sith lord with delusions of being the next emperor. I’ve seen men like you come and go with frightening rapidity in the palace. One moment you are basking in the glory of your ultimate ascension and the next your clutching your collapsed tracheas as Vader pays you a courtesy call.”

“He will not kill me.”

“What makes you son sure?” she demanded. “Is it your damned sense of destiny?”

“No. He is my father.”

Mara stared at the young Sith lord, all of the pieces finally falling into place with horrifying clarity.

“You father?” she gasped.


They remained standing by the cave.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

He kissed her.

It was a long hard kiss, full of the hunger that he had felt for her since the moment the Emperor first introduced her to him. When she descended the long dais above him on Coruscant, wearing a long black cloak and tunic he watched her unfurl along the steps like a panther and her eyes flashed dangerously at him and he wanted her then. How he yearned for her, dreaming of what her skin must feel like.

She stiffened as his lips locked hungrily with hers and his hands suddenly wrapped around her waist and drew her to him with such force and control, her own lips kissed him back and soon opened fully as they kissed with a passion that was only now exploding between them.

He carried her bodily backwards, through the snow into the cave where she was thrown against the wall with such force, his lips not leaving hers. Their breath came in rapid desperate gasps as his hands roughly found the seams of her body glove and tore it away with an animalistic grunt.

She gasped in surprise as the cold air hit her soft supple flesh, nipples instantly erect. She broke the kiss and stared at him in a mix of barely constrained need and desire and uncertainty. His own eyes were smoky with his passion. Her hands suddenly tore at the utility belt, his lightsaber and belt clattered uselessly to the floor and she grabbed his hair and pulled him to her lips, kissing him savagely as her hands ripped the cloak clasps off his shoulders. His cloak silently dropped straight down to the floor, his own hands finished pulling the body glove away revealing her naked skin.

He could smell the sweet scent of jasmine and sweat. His tongue hungrily searched down following the long gazelle like sweep of her neck down to her supple full breasts where he circled the areola and nipples and she clasped his head to her breasts and hissed in delight. her body was fire. How long since she had let a man touch her? How long since she cared for the man that touched her? How long since passion had been in her life?

“Damn you Nemesis.” she spat and pulled his head up by the back of his hair, eyes alight with delight and pain. “Damn you for making me love you.” she cried, hot tears starting to run down her cheeks.

“No.” he whispered and it was like the voice of stillness itself, one finger touching her lips as he drew close to her face. “No lies between us, no facades, no illusions. I have loved you from the moment I saw you Mara Jade. You alone have kept me in this life. Back on the Emperor’s Will, before being thrown in this hell, I was going to kill myself.”

She stared at him, eyes widening as the final mask fell away, as the Sith lord was replaced by something else, as the young man finally opened his heart.

“I was going to take that lightsaber and plunge it into my heart in despair, but every time I thought of it I imagined you, I imagined what eternity would be without you and I stopped. Now I am here and I want you to be my queen, universe be damned and I will slaughter anyone that will stop me, I’ll kill that ancient cripple on his throne and I will finally have you.”

“Nemesis.” she whispered, the tears still welling in her eyes as her entire body shuddered with need, hunger.

“No.” he repeated and took one tear with his finger and watched it run down his finger, down his open palm. He looked back at her as the final mask fell away.

“Luke. My name is Luke.” he whispered urgently and kissed her harder than ever before, to erase the name of Nemesis from her lips and she responded with a hunger for more as she drew him deeper into her and they slowly dropped to the floor, her legs splayed out as he nestled himself between them. He broke the kiss and stared into her eyes, the very air pregnant with anticipation.

“I love you.” he whispered. For the first time in a long time he told the absolute truth.

“Luke.” she replied quietly, running a finger down his lips.

He entered her with a powerful thrust and she threw back her head, arching her back and screamed in joy.

The last mask had fallen and as he made love to her Luke Skywalker was allowed back into the light again.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 54: Ruminations

“There, you poor dear, now you look so much better.” she paused and admired her handiwork. “Yes, you look more like the dashing young Captain I always imagined.”

“Thank you.” he replied softly.

The door to the quarters snapped open and a figure stepped in.

“Did you bring the uniforms like I asked for? I swear these stormtroopers have no sense of taste or style. Who wears white in space, I mean honestly.” she clucked and turned around.


She stopped short.

“Grand Admiral, I’m so sorry but as you can imagine it has been one thing after the other.”

Kittaine opened his mouth to speak.

“And how could you let your men treat him in this manner? He was absolutely filthy and his wounds…the med techs spent two hours patching him back up.” Luxwanna strode up to Kittaine as she spoke. “You should have seen the bruises and why is he still blind? What did you do to him?”

“Woman will you be silent for just one moment!” Kittaine barked.

Lwaxanna paused and smiled slyly.

“Do you realize that when you get angry you’re temples flare up and your nose crinkles in a very cute manner, much like a Laprosian foxhound I once owned.”

Kittaine sighed in exasperation and stormed past her to look Ochoa over.

“By the Emperor.” Kittaine breathed. Ochoa looked up slowly, following the sounds. The Starship Captain who once had a tangled beard and unkempt wild hair was now cleanly shaven and had lost the mane of hair. He looked ten years younger.

“That good huh?” Ochoa replied.

“It is a miraculous sight to behold.”

“I wouldn’t know.” Ochoa replied sardonically.

Kittaine frowned. Lwaxanna quickly glided over and put a comforting hand on Kittaine’s shoulder, “Don’t mind him, Gideon, he’s been joking about his condition all morning.”

Kittaine whipped his head around.

“GIDEON?” he and Ochoa simultaneously exclaimed.

Lwaxanna looked puzzled.

“Troi, how dare you use my first name! I am Grand Admiral Kittaine.” Kittaine thundered.

“Oh pish posh, since when have I asked you to call me Troi, or worst of all counselor Troi, Security liaison Troi, ugh, even worse. You call me Lwaxanna.”

“This is different.” Kittaine sputtered.

“Indeed.” Ochoa noted with a secretive smile.

“Enough. You will show me the proper respect.”

Lwaxanna smirked and started combing Ochoa’s hair.

“He does get so emotional sometimes, I’ve noticed that human males have a tendency to beat their chests in such macho shows of strength.” Lwaxanna bent in closer to Ochoa’s ear “But I have to admit that I like it.”

Ochoa chuckled. He liked her, she brought light into his usually dark day. It was like a reminder that sometimes life can still be bright and gay.

“Why thank you dear.” Lwaxanna said as soon as he finished his thought.

“Well, that was naughty of you.” Ochoa replied.

Kittaine fumed as he watched her gently comb his hair into a more manageable and neater style. The change was quite stunning. He was also impressed with how gently she handled him, for a woman that seemed so carefree she showed an attentiveness to the blind young captain that seemed almost maternal.

“You’re so sweet, Gideon, thank you. It comes with raising children you know.”

Kittaine’s eyes widened.

“I would appreciate it if you stayed out of my mind. He may find it humorous but I certainly do not.”

“You miss Nemesis, huh? He’s funny that way you know. He inspires such fear and dread in his men but there’s also a devotion as well. His presence is missed.” Ochoa noted casually staring in Kittaine’s general direction.

“Miss is a rather strong word, it connotes an emotional attachment that I do not have with him. I am simply being outmaneuvered because Thrawn has a Sith lord and I do not.”

Ochoa nodded.

“You admire him.”

“Of course I do.” Kittaine began uncomfortably. “But that does not translate to having feelings for Lord Nemesis.”

“I used to hate him, fear him, I wished him dead for a long time. But when I got to know him, see the inner workings of his mind and heart I came to admire him and finally care for him.”

“Yes?” Kittaine asked impatiently. Lwaxanna smirked but remained focused on Ochoa’s hair.

“You don’t have any children.”

“Are you sure you’re not a mind reader like this harpy? And don’t give me any nonsense about being observant, I have never mentioned children.”

“True enough and that in itself is usually a sign but this lovely lady likes to talk when I’m in the bath and that detail was relayed to me.”

Kittaine scowled at Lwaxanna who shrugged and smiled. Kittaine paused for a moment.

“You bathed him?”

“Well of COURSE I bathed him. He was filthy.”

Kittaine looked from Lwaxanna to Ochoa. Lwaxanna suddenly chuckled.

“Oh, you mean THAT. Well I am a decent woman Gideon and we wouldn’t want anything embarrassing to happen so I had Mr. Hom do it.”

“Mr. Hom?”

An enormous figure stepped out of the bathroom area carrying a filthy Starfleet uniform holding it out at a distance with a vaguely distasteful expression on his face. He wore a simple brown tunic and was far taller than anyone Kittaine had seen, taller even than Vader.

Kittaine took a cautious step back, his hand wandered down to his blaster pistol but Hom merely bowed slightly in his direction and turned his attention to Lwaxanna.

“No, Mr. Hom. there will be no need to keep those, find an incinerator and get rid of that immediately.” Lwaxanna ordered as she wrinkled her nose in disgust. Kittaine watched Hom warily as he strode past him out of the quarters.

“What is that?”

“My manservant, Mr. Hom. He’s been with the family for a long time.”

Kittaine shook his head ruefully.

“You never cease to amaze me.” he muttered.

Ochoa smiled softly and cleared his throat.

“You don’t have children yet Nemesis fits the bill doesn’t he?”

Kittaine blinked.

“What are you implying?”

“Lord Nemesis is everything you wanted in a son. Dashing, handsome, intelligent powerful.”

“I hardly think that I would want that cruel tyrant as a child.” Kittaine replied dryly.

Ochoa cocked his head slightly. “Except of course you don’t really think that he’s a cruel tyrant.”

Lwaxanna paused in her hair combing.

“Are you sure you’re not at least partially Betazoid? Maybe some Vulcan in you from the past?”

Ochoa smiled mysteriously.

“No, I’m sure. I just know what to look for now. Admiral, frankly I’m exhausted and I could use some time to myself and actually sleep on a mattress.”

Kittaine stared for a moment.

“Huh? Oh, of course, Captain. By all means. We shall discuss these matters tomorrow.”

“Admiral, there’s one thing you should be aware of. Things are coming to a head very soon. Nemesis left here looking for validation and he will not receive it, at least not in the form that he is looking for. There will come a moment of truth.”

Kittaine remained staring at the young Captain, his eyes vaguely looking in his direction.

“We will need to decided whether we will stand by him or betray him and save ourselves. I know where I stand, the question will soon come, where do you and your fleet stand.”

Kittaine cleared his throat after a moment of silence.

“I will leave you to your preparations for bed, Captain.”

“Admiral. I think that having dinner with Lwaxanna would be a fabulous idea.”

Kittaine opened his mouth to speak.

“Besides, I think you must be tired of eating alone and I can vouch for her ability to keep you engaged and entertained.” Ochoa added.

“Nonsense.” Lwaxanna protested and fixed Ochoa’s collar as she simultaneously smoothed out a wrinkle on his shirt. “Mr. Hom will prepare us a wonderful dinner. You need food to keep your strength up.”

“It really is for the best.” Kittaine added.

“I’m tired Lwaxanna, and surely Admiral you are a gentlemen as well as an officer unless our galaxies our so far apart in culture. You would not let a beautiful woman like Lwaxanna eat by herself.”

“You’re blind, Ochoa. You have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to her beauty.” Kittaine replied sardonically. Lwaxanna started to protest bitterly.

“I don’t need to see her to know that she is a gem among women, Admiral. I envy you that you can see her. But suit yourself, your quarters call you.” Ochoa replied dismissively.

“Oh, very well. Lwax----Security liaison Troi, will you please accompany me to dinner?”

“I don’t know…” she started. Ochoa surreptitiously stomped on her foot. “BUT since you asked me so politely Admiral how could I refuse.” she finished squelching her exclamation of pain with the words.

“Very well.” Kittaine nodded. He started to turn away and paused, head turning back to regard the young Captain sitting with a preternatural calm as Lwaxanna finished combing his hair. There was a peaceful aura to him, as if he knew precisely what was going to happen and had made peace with himself and the universe. There was an odd jab of jealousy in his heart.

“When this moment of truth comes, how will you choose?” he asked quietly.

Ochoa looked in Kittaine’s general direction and smiled.

“I will follow my heart Grand Admiral and not my head. My head led me here, now my heart will lead me out.” he replied.

Lwaxanna peered down at Ochoa and frowned.

“I hate to leave you alone.”

“I am not alone dear lady, but if you wish leave me a token of your kindness, perhaps a rig to remember you by until you return.”

Lwaxanna blushed and put a hand to her chest.

“You are a charmer, Captain Ochoa. Are you sure you’re married?”

“Indeed I am.” Ochoa replied, the first hint of sadness in his voice creeping in. Kittaine made a decision right then and there that he would do something about that.

“Here,” she slipped a ring off her finger and slipped it into the hollow of his left hand. “And I do you one better.” she kissed his cheek.

“Many thanks.” Ochoa replied with a warm smile.

“Dinner, Grand Admiral? I can hear the lady’s stomach grumbling from here.”

“Yes, yes, come along Lwa---Troi, dinner is served at precisely 1830 and it is almost that time.”

“Very well, Grand Admiral. I’m all yours.” Lwaxanna replied lustily.

Kittaine shook his head and started to walk out.

Lwaxanna cleared her throat. Kittaine turned slowly and looked over at her. She stood calmly extending a hand delicately.

“Are you mad?” Kittaine asked frostily.

“Officers and gentlemen, sir.” Ochoa added playfully.

Kittaine rolled his eyes.

“Come.” he said in a defeated tone and accepted her arm. They walked out together, Mr. Hom calmly trailing behind them. Lwaxanna spared a glance back as the doors slid shut and saw Ochoa wink.

Ochoa waited silently in his chair, he knew where the bed was, where the bathroom was but he was waiting for something else. He absently rolled the ring Lwaxanna gave him around the palm of his hand, feeling the cool gold on his flesh.

A sound like a flare being lit hissed through the room and a cold blue light danced on Ochoa’s face. He smiled warmly.

“I was wondering when you were going to show up. Like the new digs?”

“Impressive. I hope you know what you are doing concerning your choice. That boy is our last hope.”

“This entire war, Ben, has always been about Hope.” Ochoa replied.

Another blue light hissed into being to Ochoa’s right.

“Hasty we must not be. There is another. He is being tested, as I once tested Skywalker.”

“I see we have a full house tonight. I am honored.” Ochoa added.

“Princess, you have no need to ask me or even convince me.” Captain Entebbe said with a grin as he adjusted his uniform before rising from his seat behind a desk. Entebbe had been assigned by Kirk as head of R&D for weapons and technological development. He had been busy of late in Avalon tearing apart what small bits of Imperial technology they could acquire and working along side Alliance engineers to integrate Federation and Alliance technology. They were currently focusing all of their energies on constructing a fully functioning hypermatter reactor.

Entebbe never looked happier and it pleased Leia to see him in such a state. She regretted having to ask him what she needed him to do, but there was no one else to turn to at this point.

“Captain, thank you. I don’t know how anyone would take me saying that I knew where Captain Kirk was. It seems that many in the command structure are subtly turning away from him.”

“Never, princess. Captain Kirk will always be our commander, that strutting prima Donna Jellico could never take his place. The problem with some of the higher ups is that they never believed in this war to begin with.”

“I understand, but I just don’t know who I can trust at this point and frankly what I am going to ask goes against the direct orders of your commander, Jellico.”

Entebbe’s brow furrowed slightly as he sat at the edge of his desk. The older man smiled softly, gray shooting through the hair at his temples, his sharp blue eyes focused on her.

“Go on.”

“I need your ship.”


“The Reckless Hope has dedicated itself to the defense of Avalon and by extension the Federation. I cannot take her on this mission. If I do that I would be destroying our alliance and any hope of victory against the Empire.”

Entebbe nodded slowly and rubbed his chin.

“Whereas, if you simply commandeer a single science vessel it will just be my crew, you and I that face punishment while still preserving the alliance.” he noted.

Leia nodded slowly.

Entebbe sighed softly as he looked out the window of his office. The shipyards beyond dominated most of the view. There was a frantic scramble as starships were being refitted and repaired for the defense of Andor. The Empire would be making its big push soon and they needed to be ready. Many of the ships still proudly displayed blue lettering on their hulls.


A few months ago, as the Imperial war machine marched inexorably towards Earth no one believed those words. One man was responsible for the hope that had ignited the passions of the Federation remnant.

And now he needed his help.

“You realize of course, princess, what you are asking.”

“Indeed I do, Captain.” Leia replied grimly.

“You’re asking me to risk my ship on a mission that directly contradicts an order from my superior officer, you are asking me to risk my career and the career of my crew to save a single man.”

“Yes.” Leia replied without hesitation. Entebbe nodded.

“Princess, that man saved my life, the lives of my crew and my ship when the Empire came calling. He alone had the courage to stand up when the rest of us, including me were ready to surrender.”

Leia remained still, looking into the older man’s eyes.

“There is no way in hell I’m going to leave him to his fate. Our careers for the life of James Kirk?” Entebbe paused long enough to make an expression of measuring his alternatives and nodded as he continued, “I’ll take those chances any day of the week. The Sagan will be ready in three hours.” he finished with an emphatic nod.

“Thank you Captain.” Leia beamed.

“Where are we going?”

Leia pulled a datapad out from her pocket and flipped it on to show to Entebbe.

“I drew this in a trance.”

Entebbe’s eyebrows raised slightly.

“I checked the system I drew here against the stellar charts in your databases, extrapolating the general direction Captain Kirk traveled to and four systems popped up as possible from the sketch. I checked each on and Scythia is the one that felt right.”

“Felt right?” Entebbe replied reluctantly.

“I can’t explain it Captain.” Leia said with a shake of her head. “It’s just that as soon as Scythia popped up on the display I felt this undeniable urge to go there. I could almost hear his voice calling for help. I’m sorry of this all sounds strange to you Captain, but you have to believe me. Ever since my battle in the Excalibur against Wesley Crusher I feel different somehow, as if a part of me has awakened from a long sleep.”

Entebbe looked into the young woman’s tired eyes. He could tell that she was wise beyond her years, she had seen so much.

Entebbe chuckled softly.

“Princess, weird is having your home and government invaded and conquered by alien beings from another galaxy wielding technology millennia ahead of yours whose humanity is a direct affront to everything we know of evolution and parallel development.” Entebbe replied. “Let’s assume your correct and it s Scythia, we’re looking at a near week long journey at maximum warp for my ship. A warship could make that in a few days.”

“I don’t have a warship, I have you.”

“Understood, but consider this, we may need one when we get there, because of there’s one thing Captain Kirk is, he is one hell of a weirdness magnet.” Entebbe remarked with a smirk.

“Will you help?”

“Three hours, your highness. I will beam you right out of your quarters.”

“I’ll be ready.”

The steady slow beep of the life support equipment was a sorrowful accompaniment to his thoughts as he watched her. She lay so very still in the bed, eyes closed and her chest barely moving in time with her slow shallow breaths. He sat quietly on one side of her bed watching he, hands closed around a datapad. Reports were slowly scrolling down on the datapad’s screen but he ignored them.

His eyes were on her and there was nothing else in his world.

He had thought her dead, he barely had time to mourn her passing when they brought her in here, miraculously alive but suffering from horrible wounds inflicted on her by a young man that had suddenly exhibited the powers of a god.

“Commander Antilles.”

Wedge turned slowly in his chair as the medical droid rolled quietly along the floor to him and paused to look at Kelly Antilles’ chart.

“There has been some improvement in her condition since yesterday, sir.”

“Really?” Wedge straightened up in the chair. The medical droid noted the sudden increase in heart rate and respiration and recognized that Wedge had over reacted to the news, He switched his tone slightly to not seem as upbeat so as not to get Wedge’s hopes up.

“She is starting to respond to some aural stimulation and brain wave activity indicates an increase in higher cognitive functions indicating that she may be starting to come out of her coma. This is an improvement from her condition yesterday when she did not respond at all to aural stimuli and her brain waves remained suppressed. Despite the surgery and Bacta treatments, the head injuries were quite severe, coupled with strange degenerative damage caused by what Princess Leia called force lightning have made recovery very difficult. Frankly she needed a dedicated hospital facility which we unfortunately have under construction at the moment.”

“I understand, but she IS getting better?”

“Yes sir.”

Wedge breathed a soft sigh of relief.

“I will be around again to check on her soon.” the droid stated and rolled away.

Wedge put his hand on the guard rail by her bed and gripped it tightly.

“You hang in there, sis.” Wedge urged.

Suddenly Kelly’s hand closed around his like a vise. Wedge’s eyes widened.

“Help her.” she whispered fervently.


“Help…her.” she repeated more forcefully, eyes closed shut but her hand was around his tightly.

“Help who, Kelly?” Wedge asked sharply, the sound of the life-support systems grew louder as the steady beep of her heartbeat increased significantly.

“Help..her…she must save him.”


Just as quickly as it happened Kelly’s hand slipped limply away and fell back into the bed and the harsh beeps of the life support equipment died down. Wedge rubbed his hand as he stared at his sister sleeping as calmly as she had been since in this ward.

“Quite frankly Data. I’m ashamed.” Riker snapped angrily as he threw down the datapad Data had handed him moments before.

“Sir?” Data asked quizzically.

“You know what they’re saying about me?”

“Are you referring to the rumors that you were responsible for the failure at Romulus?” Data asked innocently.

“Yeah, that would be it.” Riker replied darkly.

“I see no basis for this line of reasoning. the Excalibur performed as expected against the Imperials and up until we destroyed Remus we were performing well within mission parameters.”

“Up until we tried to carve up and devour Romulus while Wesley tried to kill everyone in engineering.”

“Geordie is almost fully recovered from his injuries and is currently overseeing the repair work on the Excalibur.”

Riker shook his head.

“Not that it matters at this point.” Riker noted Data’s confused expression. He turned the small computer terminal on his desk around so that data could see the screen. Data scanned it quickly.

“I do not understand. It has been firmly established that the only vessel in our fleet that can stand up to an Imperial stardestroyer is the Excalibur.”

“The Excalibur has been reassigned to defensive duty. We’re assigned to protect Avalon at all costs and we won’t even be taking part in Operation Rampart in the Andor system.”

“Perhaps if you spoke with Captain Jellico.”

“Data, he made it very clear to me that he does not trust me or the ship. He’s permanently assigned me to the Excalibur and thus assigned me to stand guard here in Avalon until this war is over.”

“This is illogical.”

“No, it’s the result of a carefully orchestrated campaign to discredit everything that James Kirk built with this fleet. The Excalibur is going to be used as a whipping boy to show everyone what a failure Kirk was in the long run.”

“What are we going to do?” Data asked.

Riker smiled softly as Data included himself in the dilemma. Data tried so hard to be human but sometimes it was the moments like these, when he simply acted naturally that his humanity shown through.

“For now, there is nothing we can do, he is my superior officer, but I will tell you this, when I get a chance to redeem ourselves I’m taking it without hesitation.” Riker replied and sighed heavily as he sat back in his chair.

What have I done? Nemesis wondered horrified as he stirred slightly and glanced around quickly. Mara was in a very light sleep, her shallow breaths coming soft and slow as she lay nestled in his left arm, one hand draped across his belly. Her skin was warm and soft and something stirred in him again.

He glanced down at her and stared at her face, taking in her beauty, following the graceful sweep of her neck, her solid jaw line, her soft luxurious hair. She was so beautiful.

This cannot be.

“Young Skywalker, I look forward to completing your training.”

He shook his head, fighting the unbidden memory.

The cold darkness embraced him and he knelt naked but confident in the circle. Behind him was his father, proud and tall, the slow mechanical breathing breaking the icy cold silence that closed around him like a fist as he bowed his head to the man he called Master. The one that had shown him the depths of the betrayal.

“You have passed the trials, your anger fuels your might like a furnace. Rage is your sword, shadow your shield. None can touch you now as you leave behind all remnants of what you were. Step out of the light and into the darkness my young apprentice. Embrace the Sith Name bestowed upon you and embrace the darkness that is at the heart of our power, ever shall it comfort and fuel you, quick to join you in battle and victory shall be brought to you on its knees for you to seize for you are the master and not the slave of the light. Rise Darth Nemesis and leave the name of Skywalker behind you as you leave the weak mewling of the treacherous light.”

He rose and stood proudly before Palpatine.

The ancient Sith lord stared at him with those malevolent yellow eyes illuminating parchment like skin. He smiled victoriously as Vader slipped the robes of a Sith lord over Nemesis’ shoulders. He drew a small measure of comfort from the touch of his father’s cold metal gauntlets.

“You like your father are now…MINE.”

Nemesis sat up quickly, nearly waking Mara, but a quick exertion of the force slipped her into deeper sleep.

“I am not Luke Skywalker.” he whispered. “That name has no meaning to me.”

“How you feelin’ kid?”

Nemesis’ head jerked up quickly and he saw him standing, more like lounging against the entrance of the cave.


Solo smiled and nodded.

“Quick on the uptake today, have to hand it to ya kid, you have taste in women. First Leia now her.” Han indicated Mara with a lecherous smile.

Nemesis rose up quickly while simultaneously draping the Sith robe over her exposed body.

“Hey hold on a sec, we’re friends and all but do I really have to see all that?” Han asked indicating Nemesis’ naked hard chiseled body.

“You can’t complain because you’re not here.”

“Aw, c’mon kid, do we really have to go over this again.”

“I refuse to believe in you. You’re thousands of years away from here. You’re probably dead or a relic in someone’s collection right now.”

Han frowned.

“Listen you little dark Sith lord if I’m there its because you abandoned me out there!” Han snapped.

Nemesis shook his head.

“Shut up.”

“I wonder what would have happened if I left you in that Trench by yourself? I tell you one thing for sure, Big daddy would have reduced you to free floating atoms. Very parental of him.”

“He didn’t know.”

“And maybe if I listened to everyone back at Echo base you would have been the Jedi Popsicle back on Hoth.”

“You want my gratitude is that it?” Nemesis sneered.

“I don’t want ANYTHING from you. I want to talk to Luke.”

“He’s gone.” Nemesis hissed.

Han crossed his arms and smirked.

“Suit yourself. But remember kid, you’re choices have consequences. You are walking your father’s road and it ain’t looking pretty from where I’m standing. There ain’t no all powerful energy field controlling my destiny and you know what? There isn’t one controlling yours either.”

Nemesis paused.

Han smiled sardonically.

“That’s right, I may not be a Jedi Master but even I can see it’s all about choices kid. I chose to fly back to the Deathstar and save you when I could have paid off my debts and lived a fairly decent…well…somewhat decent life. I made that choice not some power field. The Force didn’t save you on Hoth either kid, last time I checked yours truly made a choice to go out there and save you. Just like you choose to walk off the gantry into the arms of a man that tried to murder you once, maimed you for life and killed the only people you could call family back on Tatooine. But what the hell, Luke Skywalker isn’t around to think about those choices anymore….is he?”

Nemesis stared at Han for a long moment. He opened his mouth to speak but the apparition was gone like snow on the wind.

His jaw tightened.

“I’ll never join you!” he shouted into the tempest whipping around him.

“Liar.” he whispered.

Mara awoke with a start and immediately reached out and felt nothing beside her. She glanced around quickly and saw that Nemesis’ lightsaber, utility belt and clothes were gone. Only the cloak was wrapped around her gently.
Wherever you go, there you are.

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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 55: Solitudes Pt 2

He walked cautiously but without fear into the dark cavern. Q was standing patiently on a long rocky bridge that spanned an enormous abyss below. Kirk paused and peered down into the darkness below.

“Afraid?” Q asked softly.

Kirk looked back up at Q.

“No.” he replied, his voice echoed on the icy cavern walls around him.

“Come across then. We don’t have much time.”

Kirk slowly placed a foot on the rock bridge. It seemed solid enough, but there were patches of thin ice and frost on the path. He carefully wove his way across, keeping his eyes on Q who was casually walking ahead of him. He swore he heard a low rumble below him.

Q reached the other side.

“If I were you, Jim, I would hurry.”

“What’s happening?” Kirk asked as the bridge began to vibrate, small loose stones tumbled over the edge and the ice on the walls around him began to hum in time with the approaching vibrations.

“I would run.” Q suggested.

Kirk did not hesitate and started running the last few meters to the end of the bridge as he heard something hissing up the abyss beneath him and a low rumbling roar followed. He could feel it almost upon him and he leapt the last bit of distance onto the other side of the cavern. He landed with a thud, quickly rolling onto his back as a hurricane like gale ripped into him and he saw his attacker.

An enormous wormlike creature flashed past him towards the ceiling above, a giant pale white tube like body twisted and twitched as armor plating like scales ruffled in time with the muscular thrashing of the creature. It’s head was ringed with several long jagged tusks, one was broken off at the end as it turned slowly he noted it had no discernable eyes.

The thing let out a long shriek as it turned its massive redwood trunk sized neck and started searching.

Kirk scrambled backwards with his hands away from the monster.

“It’s keying to body heat. If I were you I would follow me now.” Q said as he started walking deeper into a new cavern behind them. The worm thing paused as it passed over where Kirk was scrambling backwards dumbfounded.

The thing’s thick muscular neck stiffened as it reared up.

Kirk scrambled up to his feet and raced into the cavern just as it rammed the ground where he had been a moment ago. The rocky surface cracked on impact and the thing whipped back upwards, mouth reflexively closing around what should be prey. It paused as it finally noticed there was no prey and let out a final loud shriek of outrage before slowly descending back into the darkness.

“What the hell was that?!” Kirk exclaimed breathlessly.

“A new life form?” Q replied with a wink. Kirk frowned. “A Scythian Worm. They have kept civilization from developing here and will continue to do so for some time. They are ravenous predators that hunt based on vibrations and when closing on their target, sensitive heat detectors that home them in on their target. They especially haunt the caverns and deep places of this world.”

“You could have warned me damnit.”

“I’m not omniscient, how was I supposed to know that it would attack?” Q protested.

“Wait, you’re admitting that you’re not omniscient?” Kirk noted with a critical gaze.

“Or I could want you to think that, either way we are here.”


“The cave of vision. This place is permeated with a powerful energy field that some in another galaxy call the Force.”

Kirk stepped past Q and looked into the cave. Enormous crystal structures jutted down from the ceiling, tapering down to a fine point at the height of a man’s head. Water gently ran down the crystal and dripped off the tapered ends into deep pools surrounded by a stone structure that for all the world resembled two hands cupped together, fingers splayed upwards in supplication. The ceiling was marred by a round hole that seemed artificially created. It allowed a shaft of bright sunlight to drift down in the cave, illuminating a part of the pool.

“That’s not ice.” Kirk noted as he stepped closer to inspect the crystal. He saw fragments of himself reflected in the facets.

“No, it is not. It is the crystallized form of energy that inhabits this cave. The water running off the crystal forms the vision pond. Those who drink of its waters are granted incredible visions of the future, places far away and friends long gone.”

“You don’t expect me to drink that do you?” Kirk asked sharply turning around to face Q. Q shrugged.

“You don’t have to, but then again you would have come all this way for nothing.”

Kirk heard a soft sob that was caught in someone’s throat behind him.

“Who’s there?” he whispered into the shadows of the cave. The sobs were quickly stifled. Kirk slowly reached down and gripped his phaser, slowly drawing it as he stepped over a ‘finger’ of the stone outcropping and saw something huddled on the far side of the outcropping.

“Who are you?” he asked sternly.

The small shape turned suddenly and looked up at him. Sunlight streaming through the hole in the ceiling caught the figure’s face and Kirk gasped softly and dropped his gun hand.

“Sam?” he whispered.

“Jimmy!” the little boy cried and ran into Kirk’s arms. Kirk held him incredulously for a moment and looked over the small boy’s head to Q.

“This can’t be real.”

Q remained impassive as the small boy sobbed into Kirk’s chest.

“Shhh…” Kirk whispered and stroked the young boy’s head. his hair felt precisely as Kirk remembered it. His flesh was warm to the touch, the hot tears were even starting to soak through Kirk’s gold uniform shirt.

“Are they coming for us Jimmy?”

Kirk slowly looked down at the apparition that was supposed to be his older brother George Samuel Kirk.


“Them Jimmy, the Governor’s men, like they came for the others.”

“The governor’s me-” Kirk stopped short, horrid realization dawning on his face. “You mean Kodos’ men?” he asked tightly.

“They came for Andrew’s parents yesterday.” George Samuel Kirk replied, tears filled his eyes.

“Sam, Kodos is dead. He died a long time ago.”

The young boy shook his head disbelievingly.

“I don’t want them to hurt us Jimmy.”

“I won’t let them hurt you, Sam. I swear.” Kirk replied, gripping his older brother tightly. Only a year older than Jim, Sam was always more interested in science and learning than Jim. His father would often joke that Jim always seemed to be the older brother. During that awful time on Tarsus IV when Kirk and his brother had been sent to live for a short time while their father finished a tour of duty on a far off colony system. A sever food shortage had ravaged the colony and there was simply not enough food to feed all the people. The governor of the colony, Kodos, made a hard decision, only now as a commander facing such horrendous odds did Kirk truly understand what pressures the man must have been under, ordered the summary execution of thousands of colonists in order that others may live. Among those chosen to die were the old and sick, most of the young and children remained alive.

When the Federation rescue ships finally arrived Kodos vanished in the confusion.

Kirk still dreamed of those dark times, hiding from Kodos’ men and watching people you knew and loved, friends and neighbors dragged off to never be seen again. Kodos’ omnipresent voice on the speakers promising that there was a light at the end of the tunnel he had plunged the colony into. Kirk would never forget that voice. It didn’t matter that years later as a starship captain he would face Kodos the executioner again, reduced from a disembodied godlike voice to a broken Shakespearean actor named Anton Karidian haunted by his own personal demons.

Nothing would change the terror he still felt when he remembered clutching his brother in the darkness of an alleyway as that voice boomed out of the endless number of speakers, calling for yet another wave of executions for the good of the whole. Never again would Kirk believe that false assumption that the good of the many outweighed the good of the one. No one could say that with a straight faced that had lived through the reign of Kodos the Executioner.

“No one is going to hurt you, Sam. I swear it.”

Sam smiled softly as he looked up at his younger brother. He stopped suddenly and turned around.

“Jimmy! It’s them!!” Sam exclaimed hysterically.

Kirk looked up quickly and stopped short as he saw a pair of shadowy figures dancing at the very edge of the stone outcropping. As if the sunlight was the only thing holding them at bay.

“These are just illusions, Jim. Remember you’re suffering from massive head trauma. I told you to stay with Paris.” McCoy griped from the other side of the outcropping.

“Doctor, nevertheless the Captain needs our help.” Spock added.

Kirk saw them standing above in a small alcove carved into the rock by a long vanished waterfall.

“Trelayne?” Kirk called out turning to look back at Q but he was no longer standing in the cave.

“Jimmy?” Sam whispered, terrified by the wispy shadows that were slowly becoming more distinct, taking the shape of men in security body armor. There was a growing air of menace about them that he did not like. His gut told him that if he waited for them to fully materialize things would get very bad. He had no idea why or how he knew that but he just did. He felt Sam’s fingers desperately digging into him.

“They’re coming for us!” he shouted.

Kirk brought his hand up and fired a steady burst from his phaser. The red beam lanced through one shadow, its body swirled like inky smoke, and impacted against the far wall of the cave with a small explosion of rocky debris.

He stared at the thing as it quickly reformed and swore there was a cold predatory smile on the shape’s face for a moment. There was an anger behind the malevolence too. An anger that he briefly recognized. There was something familiar, primal about that anger.

“We have to run.”

“No We run and we’re dead.” Kirk replied evenly, no idea who he knew this but he knew it as certain as he knew that he would die alone.

“Jim don’t you get it? You ARE alone? This, this cave, these visions they’re all hallucinations caused by your head trauma. You need to calm down and center yourself. You’re going to get yourself killed!” McCoy shouted.

“Logically Captain you know that your brother is dead, we saw him die on the Deneva. These ghosts are nothing more than phantoms crafted from your own mind.”

“What about this Force, Spock? Could this energy field tap into my mind and create these illusions?” Kirk called back up to Spock.

“Listen Spock, don’t play to those hallucinations Jim is having or we’ll lose him for good. He could go running off a cliff or something.” McCoy hissed to Spock.

“Jimmy who’re you talking to?” Sam asked as the shadows began to skirt closer into the light. The badge of office was clearly visible now, Tarsus IV Security.

“Captain there are too many variables to take into consideration for your supposition. There is not enough data—“”

“Spock damnit! Is it possible?” Kirk demanded and fired another burst. The red beam lanced through the arm of the neatest shadow’s arm. The arm burned away like a cloud on a sunny day but the shadow substance quickly filled in the vaporized limb.


Kirk looked up, eyes narrowed as the voice from so long ago echoed in the cavern like that of some fallen god.

“Please Jimmy, we have to run.”

Kirk slowly lowered his phaser and looked into the eyes of the closest guard. It peered back at him with barely retrained anger and he looked closely now, fighting the urge to look away to not acknowledge what he thought he saw.

The anger roiling right beneath the surface, a desperate anger, fueled by a primal fear. A fear of failure. A fear that he would lose. That he would not have victory.


He stood on the bridge, broken consoles with broken bodies draped across them rapidly filled with smoke as the fire suppression systems blasted thick choking white mist down to consume the fires. He could hear the moans of pain and the dying and the thick hot green blood caking his hands and pants as he held Spock in his arms. On the screen the flotilla of Imperial ships grew as their deadly emerald beams lanced out in a storm of turbolaser fire that evaporated any starship they touched.

All around him just as his starship and crew were dying his fleet was slowly fading away and with it any chance of defeat.

“This is a test of character, ensign.”

Kirk shook his head as he stood at attention, smoke drifting from another ruined bridge, so long ago.

“There was no way to win.”

“That’s the point ensign.”

Kirk scowled, his jaw line hardening as he grit his teeth.

“There are always solutions, people just don’t find them in time.”

The instructor’s face changed as he turned away from the harsh light of the simulator room.

It was Nemesis’ face.

“You will find, ensign, that life can be very hard and very cruel and there won’t be heroes or villains. There won’t be last minute escapes.”

“I don’t believe that.” Kirk replied defiantly.

Nemesis smiled coldly.

“You don’t stand a chance and you know that.” Behind him the tall figure of a blue skinned human with red glowing eyes appeared. The Grand Admiral locked eyes with Kirk.

“You cannot defeat me. You know this.” he stated simply.

“No. Anyone can be defeated.”

“Perhaps.” Thrawn conceded. “But you cannot defeat me and that is what matters.” he added with a stony gaze.

“Damn you!” Kirk roared.


The shadowy guards were now all around them, many reaching out to touch him.

“Jimmy!” Sam exclaimed horrified as the first shadowy wisps touched his arm.


“Drink the water, Sam.” Kirk muttered as if waking from a dream. “I know you!” he shouted jabbing a phaser at one of the shadow guards that was almost fully formed now. “I know you!”

The guard finally solidified. It bore his face.

“You’re me, my anger” he looked to another guard. “my frustration,” to the next guard “my fear. All of it personified in you.”

The guards paused.

“Drink Sam!” Kirk urged his brother and shoved him down to the pond.

“Jim you don’t know if that water’s poisoned. Stop!” McCoy shouted.

Kirk thrust his hands into the water and was shocked by how cold it was, as if thrusting his hands into pure ice, he raised the cupped hands to his face, not noticing that his hands were in nearly the same position as the outcropping’s shape and without hesitation drank deeply of the water as he watched Sam take a mouthful as well.

The water eased down his throat, cold and icy, so cold it felt at first as if he were swallowing knives. He nearly coughed but as he drank the shadows looming over them melted like morning mist and vanished before it could touch them.

He sat back slowly on the unyielding stone, feeling the water settle in his belly like a snowball and he watched Sam as he coughed a bit but slowly smiled.

“They’re gone.”

“This place doesn’t like people being angry. This place feels different somehow, calm, peaceful.”

“Enjoying your stay?” Q asked perched precariously on one of the stone fingers. He smiled mysteriously.

“What is this place, Trelayne? This doesn’t feel like your magic.”

“No it’s not part of my ‘magic’ as you so eloquently put it Jimmy.”

“No one calls me Jimmy.”

Sam looked over sharply, a stricken look on his face.

“All except you Sam.” Kirk assured him and almost instantly felt silly for doing so. He looked so much like the young boy he remembered. They spent those horrible months drawing strength from each other.

“You did well. You actually saw through the cave’s illusion. Not something I would have credited you with considering.”

“Considering what?” Kirk asked sharply.

“That you are nothing more than a glorified ape touching the very face of power. You handled yourself well. Take as a compliment.”

“It sounds suspiciously like an insult.”

“You say tomato I say tomatoe.” Q shrugged.

“Jimmy, who are you talking to?” Sam asked shyly.

“You can’t see him?” Kirk asked curiously.

“See who?”

“Don’t worry about that Jim, but we’re running out of time and as wonderful as this moment of getting to know each other is, we have business to attend to.”

“Really?” Kirk smirked.

“This is no laughing matter, James. This is the moment of truth, this is the time when you will choose your path and thus the eventual fate of the universe.” Q said and he seemed to grow larger and majestic.

“The universe?” Kirk replied surprised.

“Have you forgotten my little light show a few months ago? You humans are ridiculous, I show you the breadth and scope of reality itself and you FORGOT?”

“I have been rather busy fighting for the survival of the Federation.”

“The Federation?! That backwater is a gnat in the hurricane that is coming. You need to open your eyes James.”

Q snapped his fingers emphatically and the cave vanished in a burst of light replaced by a sea of galaxies. They slowly rotated in the dark infinity around them but there was something different this time, something that stood in stark contrast to what Kirk remembered from the last time Q showed him this image.

There were vast tracts of empty dark space. The millions upon millions of lights representing a galaxy were gone, the larger spiral galaxies closest to his point of view were spinning lazily around him when suddenly one of the galaxies began to unravel. One galactic arm slowly spun away from the main body of the disk and stars began to pour out into the void like blood splattering from a wound, winking out like dying fireflies in the cold expanse of the void between the galaxies. The galaxy itself unraveled like a wool sweater being pulled apart by several loose threads, another galactic arm spun away while a portion of the central disk simply sunk away. Within moments an entire galaxy had died before his very eyes replaced by the hungry void of entropy as it advanced like a Mongol horde on the remaining galaxies.

“My god.”

“What used to be a near infinite number of jewels in the crown of heaven have now been reduced to a paltry handful of thousands of galaxies James and not even the gods know what will happen when the final galaxy falls.”

Kirk looked in awe at the yawning expanse of cold darkness and the enormity of it finally hit him.

“Trelayne, what the hell can I do about this? I’m just a man, not a god.”

“That’s what we’re here to find out.”

Kirk stared at Q suspiciously.

“The time has come James.” Q boomed and suddenly Kirk was awash in bright white light, he had to cover his eyes to avoid becoming blinded and he heard a great wind around him.

“Jimmy, don’t be afraid, I’m here with you.” Sam yelled over the tempest and he felt his brother’s hand on his waist.

Kirk finally looked up and saw two great winding stairs leading from the base of the rock outcropping up into the ceiling which had vanished into a swirling maelstrom of light. The stairs seemed to be an odd extension of the stone and clear multi faceted crystals hanging down over the pool. Light pulsed through the crystal like bottled lightning as he examined each one. Q floated between the stairs that intertwined upwards like strands of DNA. Light flowed from him and his Starfleet uniform was now immaculate white and his hair seemed to dance as if in a gale.


“Trelayne, what is this?”

“Your path, James. Walk the paths.”

“I can’t choose without knowing.” Kirk protested.

“And that you shall. Walk and learn, walk and see James. See the two paths left to you.”

“What do you mean left to me?” Kirk asked quietly.

Q smiled darkly. “When this adventure first began, James, there were so many paths open to you, the sky was quite literally the limit.” Behind Q a legion of such intertwined stairs became visible, but they were dark and no longer pulsed with life. “But as time has gone on your paths have been closed, the options available to you have dwindled to these two paths James.”

“What options? What paths? How was I supposed to know!”

Q chuckled.

“James no one knows the paths open to them, you chose freely and that is the only choice you are given in this life, to be free in your choice but every single choice you make opens one path and shuts others. Here.” Q pointed to one stair. “You chose to walk the path of the commander of the Federation remnant and so that path opened to you and the path of freely returning to your own time and living out your legendary life was closed to you.” Another series of stairs darkened immediately. “But other paths opened to you.” Stairs illuminated around him and he began to see that each interlocked stairway led to another and there was a series of chains all leading to this plateau.

“Where do these two lead?”

Q smiled and leaned in forward to whisper into Kirk’s ear.

“I’m giving you a chance that no one else should have. I’m letting you see the paths that stand before you. A sneak preview if you will.” Q put a finger to his lips and hissed “Shhhhh.” “I won’t tell the powers that be if you won’t.”

“You’re serious.” Kirk concluded incredulously as he searched Q’s eyes for any sign of deception or amusement.

“As cancer, James. Now walk the paths before our time is up.”


“We always walk our paths alone, James.”

“No, Jimmy, never alone.” Sam replied and slipped his small hand into Kirk’s. He looked up at his brother and smiled.

Kirk looked down and smiled softly in return.

“You’ll come with me? It could be scary.”

“I’ll be with you.” Sam replied proudly.

“Jim, I’m not responsible for what happens if you go up there.” McCoy called out to him. Kirk looked back at McCoy and Spock. He looked back up at the stairs to Q’s left hand. He swallowed and slowly walked up to the stairs, paused and took his first step.

The room was silent as a tomb. There was a window behind him that showed a star field and a fleet of warships in various positions. He recognized the ships as Imperial stardestroyers and other Imperial craft, there were smaller craft out on the picket lines, some glowed a silvery white, some a sickly green. He walked up to the window and peered closer.

The white flecks were starships. All manner of Federation starships were floating in precise patterns among the Imperial fleet. Romulan warbirds were out on the fringes of the fleet, some vanishing from sight as they engaged their cloaking devices.

“Impressive isn’t it?”

He froze. His eyes widened slightly and he could see the expression of utter surprise reflected on the glass of the portal.

“I know that voice.” he whispered. Kirk slowly turned around to face the speaker. The Imperial Captain sat calmly in his seat, a book open on his lap. His uniform was immaculate, save for the collar which had been loosened as he sat after a long duty cycle on the bridge. His hair was neatly combed back and he wore a smirk on his face.

“I always knew this moment would come but I always forget and so you surprised me as you always surprised me and you always will.” James Kirk replied sardonically.

“What the hell are you doing in that uniform?” Kirk demanded quietly, unnerved by watching himself seated so casually in the command quarters of what was so obviously a stardestroyer. There was an odd silence in the quarters and after a moment realized what was missing. There was no gentle thrumming of the warp drive heard through the deck plates. It was silent, no sound of engines or any other machinery.

“I could ask you the same question. My god, you have no idea how strange this is, having this conversation now but on the other side of the equation as it were.”

Kirk stared at himself in disbelief. There were some odd lines in his face, some shadow beneath the eyes and more importantly a sorrow, deeply buried in those hazel eyes of his. It was not the first time he had faced himself, odd to think of it that way but it was true. There was the transporter incident that split him in two and Korbi’s android replica. But this disturbed him the most because it felt like him in every way and here he was in an Imperial uniform.

“Have a seat, please, Jim.” Imperial Kirk asked politely and indicated the open seat opposite him.

Kirk began to open his mouth but Imperial Kirk held up a hand. “I know that you’re going to say that you prefer to stand but please have a seat I’m not your enemy for god’s sake. I’m you.”

Kirk looked around for a moment as he realized he was alone in the quarters with his Imperial counterpart.

“Sam doesn’t follow us all the way in, trust me, I’ve been where you are not too long ago. Every man’s path is his own.”

Kirk hesitantly took the offered chair and stared hard into his counterpart, looking for some sign of deception.

“Jim, listen to me closely, this is only a preview so your time here is limited and after all this is over, thank Trelayne because when you realize what he actually did for you it will be too late to thank him.”

Kirk nodded reluctantly.

“This path you’re on right now is the result of my surrender to Imperial forces shortly after returning from Scythia. You will know the moment.”

“Surrender?” Kirk exclaimed horrified. ‘After all we’ve been through you surrendered?”

“I am you. And you will see that this path is the correct one. You’ve been thinking about it Jim, you know damn well that you’ve considered the option seriously, particularly after that debacle over Romulus. You can hide it from Spock and McCoy but this is me, I know exactly what you’re thinking because I already lived it.”

“I refuse to accept that I would choose to surrender. We have fought so hard, sacrificed so much.”

“Precisely Jim.” his Imperial double sighed softly and indicated the window with a nod of his head. “Look out there. Those are Federation starships with living crews. Worlds have been spared the Imperial whip because of our decision.”

“And what else did we gain?” Kirk asked sharply eyeing the Imperial uniform with disgust.

“I am the Supreme Commander of the Alpha Quadrant fleet and if I play my cards right the Emperor has secretly assured me that I will be up for Grand Admiral. We just have to finish hunting down the Imperium rebels. I have been assigned to assist Lord Vader in that mission. This fleet is led by my ship, the ISD Enterprise.”


Imperial Kirk smiled softly.

“I managed to squeeze some concessions out of them when I joined.”

“And Spock and the others?”

“Spock is my XO, McCoy is my chief medical officer, they agreed with me that surrender was the only option, Spock because it was logical, Bones because he couldn’t see more Federation civilians suffer.”


Imperial Kirk frowned and sat back.

“We were the victims of our own success. Thrawn loses patience with thoroughly defeating us and begins a campaign of terror against the Federation citizens we claimed we were fighting for. It began with the Base Delta Zero of Earth and only grew worse. By the time I decided to surrender 60 billion Federation citizens met a fiery death.”

The silence in the room was thick. Kirk stared at his Imperial counterpart and the horror of the revelation was mind boggling.

“So you see, you call me traitor and hate me but what was I suppose to do?” Kirk began to open his mouth. “Fight you say? With what Jim? Our fleets could only harass and sting the Imperials. You don’t think I mobilized everything I could to defend Earth when Thrawn showed up? You don’t think I threw every starship we had into that fight and watched in horror as Thrawn outmaneuvered me and ignored my attacks as he rained death on Earth, peeling away the very atmosphere and surface of the planet leaving nothing but a molten ball!” Imperial Kirk’s voice had risen as he spoke until he was nearly shouting. “After that it was one defeat after another, one world reduced ash after every defeat. I had no CHOICE!”

Kirk stood up quickly and strode away from Imperial Kirk and faced the window again, looking out upon the fleet and the stars around them.

“There’s always a choice.” Kirk replied softly. “We always believed that even when we faced certain defeat. There’s always a choice, another way.”

Imperial Kirk looked up sadly and stared into his counterpart’s back.

“You have not seen the other path yet.” he said darkly. Kirk paused. “Once you see the other path you tell me what choice I had.” Imperial Kirk whispered darkly and stood up and walked towards another room.

“I’m going to the bathroom. I know when I come back that you won’t be here. Jim, I’m begging you. Do not try as I did to avoid this path. I did it and 60 billion sentients died. Horribly. There is no other choice. Surrender before that happens, don’t make the same mistake I did.”

Kirk turned his head and regarded his Imperial self.

“You look sad.” he noted.

Imperial Kirk nodded slowly.

“In the end, despite all the pretty words and niceties, Jim. I’m a miserable human being because I am solely responsible for 60 billion deaths and I am here wearing this…thing. Worst of all Jim…there really was no way to win.”

They exchanged solemn nods and Imperial Kirk walked into the bathroom.

Kirk was standing at the base of the steps again. He blinked and Sam stood holding his hand.

“Are you ready Jimmy?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know if I want to see the other path.” Kirk replied darkly. He looked up at the stairs to Q’s right and hesitantly took a step up.

He smelled the blood and gore first, hitting him like a wave. He coughed loudly and fought the gag reflex that was coming up as the new smells of human filth also assaulted him now and with it the sounds of slow metal grinding on metal.

He was standing in a small room, all metal, dark and windowless with a naked bulb of light overhead illuminating the area in a flickering sickly greenish glow. He stopped suddenly as he saw the source of the stink and gore.

James Kirk hung spread eagled in the center of the room, chained by the wrists and ankles to anchors on the ceiling and floor with a harness at the waist that had rows of buttons and switches. The sides of the harness were studded with various implements of pain, cutting blades, prods, needles. Some of the blades were still wet with Kirk’s blood. The chained Kirk’s gold command shirt was torn at the shoulders and wet with blood and spittle, caked with the grime of human filth near then waist, his pants were torn away, they had not survived the sessions and the filth had soiled what remained to nothing more than some rags covering his vital areas. No boots, his bare feet dangled a foot off the ground.

Chained Kirk’s face was a mass of bruises and contusions, one eye completely swollen shut, the other was completely engorged by blood, the pupil seemed to be almost swallowed up by the blood filling the what should have been the whites of his eyes.

Despite all of this chained Kirk smiled weakly and nodded.

“I was wondering when you would show up.”

Kirk shook his head.

“He was right.” he whispered.

“Who, our Imperial friend? Yes, he was right. There were only two paths and how could a sane person chose this path?”

“Why? How?” Kirk suddenly looked around and drew his phaser. “I’m getting you out of here.” he said and walked over to the harness.

Chained Kirk weakly shook his head.

“You can’t change what has already happened, besides there’s no escaping this place. I’m in the heart of the lion’s den, Jim. I’m on the Executor.”

“How did this happen?”

“I took the road less traveled.”

“God, WHY?”

Kirk nodded to himself and looked up a the ceiling.

“Because I would not wear that THING.”

“You KNEW this was going to happen? You knew and you did this anyway?”

Chained Kirk nodded.

“There are paths that even I will not walk. Did you see his eyes, the sorrow? He’s eating away at himself little by little. This way at least is more honest, more direct.” Kirk mused.

Kirk examined his counterpart more closely now and shook his head.

“You’re going to die. They’re beating you to death.” he concluded.

“That is the general idea.” Chained Kirk replied sardonically. There was the sound of footsteps approaching and the hints of heavy mechanical breathing.

“Jim, listen to me, there are always choices, our Imperial counterpart forgot that but I didn’t. Think of the stairs when the time comes, think of what Trelayne showed us Jim. Think on it long and hard. One choice leads to another Jim! Now go!”

The foot steps stopped in front of the cell door.

Kirk stared at himself and reached out and brushed back a stray lock of hair.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t hesitate to tell Leia that you love her. It will save us when the time comes. When you’re here, you can have no regrets, Jim.” Chained Kirk replied. Then his face brightened as he remembered something. “Jim, Duck as soon as you can.”

“What?” The doors to the cell slid open.

He was standing back at the pool save that the stairs were gone now and the cavern was dark and quiet again.

Kirk thought for a moment and simply ducked.

A blaster bolt flashed overhead and exploded further down in the depths of the cavern. Kirk vaulted over the rock outcropping and rolled away as a series of blaster bolts flashed by him. He drew his phaser and rolled behind a boulder knocked loose by the blasts.

“Sam get to cover!” Kirk called out.

“There’s no one else here but us Kirk. You’re not going to fool me that easily.” a cold monotone drifted through the cavern.

“Fett!?” Kirk exclaimed in surprise.

“This ends here and now Kirk.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 56: Bounties of Light and Dark

Kirk flinched as a blaster bolt exploded overhead. He hunched down lower behind one of the stony ‘fingers’ circling the pool of water in the center of the cave. Large crystalline formations overhead captured the light streaming from a single opening in the ceiling of the cave and glittered in an almost life like dance of light.

The crystals also caught the harsh reflections from the blaster fire and he could see the angry crimson light streaking through the crystal like lightning. He checked the power setting on his phaser and fired out in the general direction of the incoming blaster fire. He had no hope of hitting Fett but hoped to keep his head down long enough to think.

The return fire exploded around him and he winced as hot stone fragments ripped into the exposed skin of his hands.

The bounty hunter undoubtedly had a very good idea of where Kirk was hiding. If only he could get more than a general idea where Fett was positioned. He was also curious to know how the Bounty Hunter had gotten into the cave without him noticing.

“What’s this all about Fett?” Kirk asked loudly as he fired another over the shoulder shot while searching desperately for a way out of his hiding place. He knew Fett was armed with more than just blasters. If he chucked one of those thermal detonators over to him now, he would be a thick red paste on the walls and floor of this cavern.

The fact that he had not done so was a sure sign that Fett was close. Close enough so that the shock wave in this enclosed space would injure him as well even with the armor on.

Blaster fire zipped in closer to him, blasting at the edges of the stone finger, but oddly enough despite the demonstrated power of the blasters he had seen, the stone seemed oddly resilient to the attack.

He caught sight of movement to his left and spun, snapping his arm up, phaser ready to fire when he stopped short. It was Sam, crawling along the opposite side of the cavern. He turned around, rose to a low crouch and turned his head to Kirk.

Sam smiled mischievously.

“What are you doing?” Kirk mouthed.

Sam winked and disappeared behind a pile of stones.

More blaster fire exploded around him as Fett brought more fire to bear. The fact that he was not flinging grenades in his direction was a perfect indicator of how close he must be. Kirk fired a steady burst over his shoulder, swinging the phaser left to right, the intense red beam arcing our like a scythe blasting stone and rock like confetti paper.

Kirk immediately dove out from behind his hiding place and rolled off the raised altar landing hard on the cold stone floor of the cavern itself. Blaster fire followed him all the way, kicking up hot molten rock with each successive impact. Kirk took a moment to gather his senses and checked his phaser charge as his thoughts whirled looking for his options.

“Sam, be careful!” he shouted, imagining his younger brother crawling around near the armored warrior. Fett was obviously not to be trifled with.

“You think you're going to fool me with that old trick Kirk, you're sorely mistaken. I've read up on you. I know you like to bluff your way out of hopeless situations. I'm not some idiot waiting to be taken in by your tricks. This bounty is just about over and I'm not going to be another one of James Kirk's vanquished foes.”

“You could really prove me wrong by coming out from behind that rock and settling this one on one. Your rep would be untouchable if you could say that you killed James Kirk with your bare hands.” Kirk added as he slowly crawled away from where he landed. His ears perked up as he tried in vain to pinpoint Fett's position from his voice. Unfortunately the acoustics of the cavern created too many echoes for him to be precise.

Obviously Fett was not so encumbered as a storm of blaster fire chewed up the area where he had been lying only seconds ago.

The helmet must have some sort of tracking system, perhaps infrared. This was going to be even more difficult than he thought.

He aimed in the general direction of the blaster fire and let loose a long steady burst from his phaser. An explosion of stone accompanied his blast but as was becoming frustratingly obvious that he was not even hurting Fett.

“This is rather unsportsmanlike like don't you think?” Kirk asked and quickly scuttled out of position. Fett was hardly a sportsman. He was a stone cold hunter and it was becoming clear that he was almost out of options.

“Stop insulting my intelligence Kirk. Your taunts aren't going to get me to come out and face you hand to hand. It's pathetic really. I expected so much more from you.”

“I guess trying to shoot a man in the back is considered good form on your part.”

“Whatever gets the job done.” Fett replied icily and released another volley where Kirk has been moments ago, but this time the bolts quickly traversed the area towards him. Fett was adjusting his fire. Bastard was sharper than Kirk gave him credit for.

Fett smiled coldly beneath his helmet as he adjusted the range finders. He could see the briefest flicker of body heat to his right. He was moving, but would soon discover that he was running out of room. Fett was driving him towards the far wall, where he would have no more room to crawl and move. Then all it would take would be over in a hail of blaster fire.

He had to admit, this hunt had all the signs of a great challenge like his chase across the galaxy for Solo, but in the end, Kirk had put up a good chase for a brief time but now he was caught like a gundark in a box canyon. He would be glad to be out of this primitive galaxy and back home with a bounty the likes of which he had never seen before.

He heard something to his left.

His grip tightened on the blaster rifle's stock and he tensed.


“What the?!” Fett exclaimed and whirled around firing a short burst at the source of the sound, which to his trained ear sounded suspiciously like a child. His fire caught nothing, merely exploding nearby him through empty air.

Kirk's head shot up from behind a stone and fired a straight and true blast from his phaser at the Fett's silhouette. The phaser blast clipped the boulder Fett had been crouched behind and arced across like a whip.

The Bounty hunter grunted in pain as sharp shards of stone struck his armored back and the beam lanced right down to his left shoulder. There was a brief snap of metal ricocheting the energy beam and Fett went down out of view. Kirk did not hesitate and poured a withering barrage of phaser fire into the area where Fett had been a moment ago.

“This was better than we could have hoped princess.” Captain Entebbe said with a triumphant smile as the Scythia system loomed into view. A tactical plot of the system showed a direct loop towards the fourth planet of the system, as per the princess' drawing.

A squadron of X-Wing fighters zoomed past the small Nova class science vessel and formed a wedge in front in case there were any nasty surprises.

“Wedge's idea was sound. I'm so glad.” Leia replied with a worried smile. As happy as she was she could feel a sense of urgency that she could not ignore. Something was wrong. Jim was in trouble, she could almost hear a drumbeat rhythm urging her on.

The X-Wings had been waiting for the Sagan when it slipped out of Avalon. Wedge had contacted them and informed her that he had been told to help her and so he would. She had no idea how he knew but she was not about to turn down his help. Entebbe was also secretly relieved. The Sagan had survived this far into the war by the simple fact that she had been incredibly lucky and in the company of far more capable warships.

The Sagan had undergone emergency refits back at Avalon when it was decided early on that the very concept of a science vessel was now almost laughable. She was now upgraded to be something akin to a frigate, which in this blasted war meant she might be able to fight off a few Imperial fighters if that. The X-Wings were a welcome addition to this expedition in his view. They might just be able to give any Imperial party crashers a bloody nose.

The best part was Wedge's idea to seal the deal between them. The X-Wings would take a page out of Kirk's idea of using the Hyperspace ability of the Excalibur to grant hyperspace travel to his fleet. The Sagan would use her warp shell to attach to the X-Wing's hyperspace bubble like soap bubbles to one another. The Sagan would be literally dragged along with the X-Wings when they made the jump to light speed.

The journey that his navigators estimated at best could be made in 6 days was now done in under an hour.

It was beginning to look like they had arrived none too soon.

“Sir, I'm picking up trace hyperspace and warp signatures in the system.” his science officer reported.

“Go ahead.”

“I'm updating tactical plots now.”

The screen wavered for a moment and new symbols appeared on the screen. Their own course into the system was overlaid by several bright lines. One line ended abruptly over the fourth planet. The other three were straight even approaches.

“Looks like someone lost their warp shell in a most dramatic manner.” Entebbe noted.

“The runabout?” Leia pressed.

Entebbe checked his own tactical display and typed something in.

“Science, it looks like we may have something on the northern hemisphere of the planet.”

“I read some traces of duranium and tritanium. Standard Federation hull materials.”

Entebbe frowned and looked up at the princess who was standing by his command seat.

“It definitely looks like we have wreckage on the surface. Mind you we're still a ways out but the Sagan's sensors are some of the best in the Federation. Looks like we may have found our lost ship.”

“Sir, I'm not picking up any distress beacons, not even the standard emergency beacon of downed Federation ships. Whatever happened to her it looks like she was damaged badly enough to have lost all transmitting ability.” his communication's officer reported.

“Those three lines, Captain. They indicate other hyperspace capable craft?”

“That's correct princess. Looks like we're not the first ones to come to this party.”

“Good news on that front, sir. As best I can tell, those hyperspace signatures are too small to be standard Imperial craft and we know their fighters are not hyperspace capable. I estimate that these could be some form of light transports, maybe shuttles.” his science officer noted with some relief.

“Send to the squadron to keep their eyes peeled. We have company.”

“Aye Aye sir.”

“Captain, we have to hurry.” Leia said softly.

“Don't worry princess, if Captain Kirk is alive we'll get him out. I swear it.” Entebbe said with conviction. “Helm, all ahead full and let's do this by the numbers.”

“Aye sir.”

“It's damned cold!” McCoy griped as he tried to futilely raise the collar of his jacket. Spock said nothing as he checked his tricorder readings.

“We have to be careful.” Sulu added.

Chewbacca growled and spat something awful.

“Boba who?” McCoy asked blinking past the driving snow to look up at the towering wookiee.

Chewbacca replied tightly as he gripped his bow caster and stared at the familiar shape of Slave One quietly settled in under a snowdrift. The wreckage of the Runabout, aft end sticking out of a crater was beyond the ship.

Chewbacca urged the others to scan for booby traps but he was anxious. Boba Fett here could mean that he could exact revenge on the bounty hunter for all that he had done. He did not bother to question anymore the strange twists and turns of fate that brought others from his far away galaxy here. He was certain that fate had chosen this galaxy to be some sort of battle ground and Chewbacca wanted to make sure that his side would emerge victorious. But Fett's appearance here had brought back sharp memories of the price they had paid so far in this war that did not seem to have an end.

Artoo chirped excitedly.

“The universal translator seems to be catching up to the lingo my little trash can. Are you saying that there's nothing there?” McCoy asked. R2 replied with a series of affirmative whistles.

Spock snapped the tricorder closed.

“The area is clear of any traps.” he announced.

McCoy started to say something but Sulu placed a restraining hand on the Doctor's shoulder. Now was hardly the time.

Chewbacca nodded and quickly lurched ahead to cross the distance between them and the grounded runabout. He avoided Slave One, giving it wide berth. He did not wish to trigger any automatic defenses Boba Fett may have left in place.

McCoy led the others after the wookiee.

“You know Spock, I have to hand it to you, I am amazed that you picked up that trail over that planet leading here.”

Spock did not seem to react for a moment, uncertain where the doctor was going with this.

“It was a simple matter of picking up the warp trail of a damaged warp core. I surmised that the low level radiation I picked up indicating Imperial level weapons fire coupled with the particles indicating a damaged and leaking warp core I made the simple conclusion that the Captain's runabout must have come under attack and become damaged. Following the trail was not difficult, Doctor.”

They trotted together in silence for a moment.

“I couldn't have done it.” McCoy added quietly.

Spock spared the Doctor a glance.

“Then Doctor I take it that it was a good idea that I did come after all.” Spock replied neutrally.

“Well I didn't say that exactly.” McCoy replied sharply.

“Of course, Doctor.” Spock replied.

They reached the Runabout. Chewbacca was standing cautiously at the hatch, bow caster at the ready.

“I must say Artoo, I would have appreciated staying behind at the Falcon.” Threepio added as he tried to keep up with the others.

Artoo replied with a series of short derisive beeps.

“I am most certainly not a coward!” Threepio protested.

“Do you mind?” Uhura interjected softly and put a hand over Threepio's mouth. Sulu nodded curtly to Chewbacca as he drew his phaser and keyed in the open command. The back hatch snapped open and Sulu burst through phaser at the ready. Chewbacca right behind him, finger tensed on the trigger.

“Clear?” McCoy asked anxiously, hands hovering over his medpack.

Sulu peered through the dark haze, the interior of the shattered ship illuminated by a stray panel that still flickered with the last ergs of power from the ship's battery. Chewbacca growled something to Sulu.

Sulu glanced back at his large furry companion.

“I guess you wookiees see better in the dark than we humans.” Sulu noted with chagrin.

“All clear Doctor.” he called back.

McCoy rushed in.

“Jim! Jim it's McCoy!”

Spock stood at the hatch, seemingly unmoved by the scene as he flipped open his tricorder and began scanning again.

“Oh my god.” Sulu whispered in shock.

“Sulu?” McCoy paused, a cold grip closed around his heart.

“It's Chekov.” Sulu exclaimed and rushed over to the corpse lolling lifelessly still strapped into a seat. He checked his friend and the moment he touched Chekov's arm and felt it to be as cold and still as the hull around him he slowly dropped his head.

McCoy knew Chekov was dead as soon as he laid eyes on him. He checked anyway, taking the small hand held mediscanner and running it over Chekov. He quickly checked it.

“He's dead.”

Sulu shook his head and fought back the grief that threatened to overwhelm him. He gently rubbed Chekov's cheek and brushed back his hair. His eyes fell on the burned tatters of Chekov's gold shirt and the blackened flesh beneath.

“He was shot.”

“Looks like a typical blaster wound. I've seen and treated too many of these in the last few months.” McCoy frowned.

“Doctor, the Captain is not here.” Spock announced.

“Suddenly added clairvoyant to your list of abilities, Spock? We haven't finished sweeping the ship.” McCoy replied grumpily as Artoo rolled by him and whistled something mournful.

“What is it?” McCoy asked and walked over to the cockpit of the runabout.

Sulu shook his head and bit his lower lip.

“Damn you Pavel. You had to go and be heroic didn't you? You were too damned young.” Sulu whispered as he stared into the face of his dead friend.

“Blood.” McCoy noted and ran his mediscanner over the dried blood smeared against one of the pilot seats. He flipped open his tricorder and compared the readings to his mediscanner. “DNA matches Tom Paris. Looks like he was wounded badly but since he's not here we have to assume Jim got him out of here.”

“It looks as if someone got to the survival equipment.” Threepio noted with interest as he checked the various open containers and discarded survival gear.

McCoy checked a bloody splotch against an overhead council by the co-pilot's chair.

“Jim's DNA.” he concluded with concern. “Looks like he may be suffering from head trauma.”

“If he was able to rescue Tom Paris and gain access to the survival gear then he is obviously conscious.” Spock noted.

McCoy shook his head as he snapped his tricorder shut and slipped his mediscanner into a pouch at his belt.

“It's not that simple Spock. Head trauma's symptoms can be simple headaches at first and as the swelling of the brain gets worse, or the blood begins pooling in the skull it can be accompanied by hallucinations and finally death. I don't know how bad it could be if he is suffering from it at all but if he is, he's living on borrowed time unless I can get him some treatment.”

Spock nodded.

“Very well Doctor. Then let us be on our way. My tricorder picked up some residue heat signatures going in this direction.”

“Let's not waste any time.”

“You guys go on. I'll catch up.”

“Sulu?” Uhura asked as she glanced over at Chekov, never thinking she would ever see the young ensign in such a state.

“He has to be buried. I'm not going to leave him like this.” Sulu replied simply as he began to undo Chekov's straps.

“I understand, Sulu.” McCoy said softly and nodded for everyone else to leave the crippled Runabout. Artoo rolled by emitting a low plaintive whistle before leaving. McCoy stood at the hatch for a moment watching as Sulu gently lifted the dead ensign from his seat. He briefly wondered whether a similar scene was about to play out at the end of this adventure with Jim.

Kirk grunted as he leapt over one rock 'finger' and raced to the spot where Fett had been a moment ago. He had to close the distance and try to take out Fett now while he still had the advantage. He cleared a boulder and aimed his phaser down at the stunned armored warrior. Fett's left leg rocketed upward and caught Kirk's wrist sending his arm jerking backward and the phaser slipped out of his grasp flipping end over end into the darkness of the cavern.

Kirk desperately recovered as Fett rolled on his back and leveled his blaster at him. Kirk flipped backwards as a series of bolts flashed by him, he could feel the heat of their passing. He landed awkwardly and slipped and fell on to the floor.

Fett was up on his feet, one hand aiming his blaster the other reaching over to a stud on his forearm.

Kirk rolled out of the way of the next blast as he fumbled desperately in his jacket fishing for his spare phaser.

There was a sharp whoosh and a tongue of flame washed overhead. Kirk gasped in shock and managed to scramble out of the way while slapping his smoldering left thigh. Oh yeah this was a fair fight. He was essentially fighting a walking tank.

He pulled his spare phaser turned and fired.

The red beam lanced out but Fett was no longer there. The beam impacted with explosive effect against the far wall. Kirk quickly dove behind cover.

“I don't know how you did that Kirk. But you only get one shot at me.” Fett snapped. His cold exterior cracked by the odd occurrences.

“I did as much as I can Jimmy. He won't fall for the same trick twice.” Sam whispered as he suddenly appeared crouched down by Kirk.

“You did great Sam. Now if only I could find out where he's hiding now.”

Blaster fire exploded around him, reducing the stone outcropping he was hiding on to a shattered smoking ruin. Obviously the special properties of the stone by the pool were into shared by the rest of the cavern.

“Jimmy, you're not alone here. You did bring some friends.” Sam replied and winked as he scuttled away, and not surprisingly drawing fire as he did. Kirk was aware of enough now to know that Sam was not his brother, at least not in the literal sense. He was beginning to feel something else. Distress. It was flowing around him like an ocean current. He was accustomed to feeling the ebb and flow of emotion on the bridge.

He had a knack for knowing what his crew felt, whether they were angry, afraid, calm. He prided himself on knowing these emotional states but he never before felt that way about a place. The cave was distressed. At what he was not quite sure but considering how it felt about his own anger and frustration he was fairly certain the power of this place was not happy about this battle.

“Friends?” he muttered then paused and looked up at the small alcove that hung over looking the pool. McCoy and Spock stood calmly, misty and translucent but slowly solidifying as he gave them notice.

“Bones, I need to find him.”

Fett fired another volley in the general direction of the voice as he slowly maneuvered in for a surprise strike at the place where he was fairly sure Kirk was hiding. Who was he talking to? Kirk was in here alone. He was sure of it. But there was that child's voice. The one that had made him give away his position. What was that?

Was it possible that Kirk had hidden allies?

He snorted derisively at himself for such thoughts. A quick glance around the cavern with his infrared scopes revealed that the only heat signatures were he and Kirk. Of course he also noticed with some concern that his heavy fire had made many of the rocks here begin to glow hotly as well and if this gunfight continued he would lose Kirk in the background heat of the cavern.

He was about to make sure that problem would not happen.

“Jim! He's coming up on your right. He's using that rock formation that looks like a horse as cover.” McCoy exclaimed excitedly.

Kirk peered over to his right and immediately saw the rock formation McCoy had so aptly described.

He aimed carefully, fingered the power output on the phaser up a notch to make sure he went for maximum penetration at this range. He fired a quick slashing strike right to left. The crimson beam blasted through the rock with ease, the explosion of superheated stone was accompanied by a satisfying shout of surprise and pain. Kirk followed through with a rapid series of bursts as he thumbed the power down. He had to be careful the power core did not give out on him at this moment.

Fett popped up from behind the ruined stone and fired a short burst that exploded right in front of kirk, catapulting him off his feet and Kirk landed on his left shoulder, screaming in pain as he felt it come loose from the socket.

Fett activated his rocket pack and vaulted the distance between them in the blink of an eye, bringing his blaster down for the killing shot. Kirk aimed quickly and fired a wide beam shot. The blast missed most of Fett but caught the leading edge of his blaster barrel.

Fett without hesitation cast aside his ruined blaster and whipped his hand up and fired a toxic dart. Kirk was already in motion, screaming in pain as he forced himself to roll up on his bad shoulder and got to his feet as the dart skipped off the floor and richocheted into the darkness behind them.

Fett stepped and delivered a roundhouse kick connecting with the small of Kirk's back driving him into the boulder Kirk had been hiding behind. Fett quickly followed up grabbing the front of Kirk's hair and slamming his face forward into the unyielding stone. Fett jerked his face back up, blood was tricking from the corner of Kirk's mouth and from a nostril.

“Well, this is what you wanted little man. Happy?” Fett spat, ignoring the pain from his own shoulder. Despite the armor one of Kirk's phaser blasts had clipped his shoulder and blood was trickling down the side of his head where a superheated chunk of rock had glanced off his helmet. He would pay for the pain and inconvenience.

Fett slammed his head back into the stone. Kirk delivered an elbow into Fett's gut. The bounty hunter laughed in a dry rasp as he ignored the blow, most of it glancing off a plate of armor and wrapped one arm around Kirk's throat and began to squeeze and turn his head simultaneously.

Kirk struggled to breath, with his injured arm he feebly clawed at the arm around his throat and with the other he fumbled back trying to catch some purchase on Fett. Fett casually slapped Kirk's hand away as he concentrated on squeezing the life from his target. The man was putting up a tremendous struggle but Fett had all the advantages.

Kirk continued reaching back trying to avoid Fett's repelling hand as his vision began to gray out and he could feel his neck straining as Fett exerted more pressure, feeling the breaking point coming.

He slapped against a control surface. He could feel it. He gambled everything on this last desperate reach, putting all his strength in this last attempt as he felt Fett grunt triumphantly and bear down with all his weight on Kirk.

He reached out and half expected to hear his neck snap but instead was rewarded with an audible click and a roar.

“Ahhhhh!!” Fett howled angrily as his jet pack kicked on and he rocketed upwards, his grip broken by the sudden and unexpected acceleration. He crashed against the hard ceiling of the cavern and skipped off, crashing against the far wall, bouncing back up towards the ceiling.

Kirk sputtered and crashed to the floor, his shoulder throbbing unmercifully and his lungs were on fire.

“Bastard.” he spat then looked desperately for the phaser he had dropped.

“Captain I suggests that there is no time for that.” Spock suggested.

Kirk looked up just as Fett landed ungracefully in front of him and kicked out savagely to strike Kirk's head. Kirk caught the Kick with his hands and pushed hard upwards. Fett fell backwards crashing against a ruined heap of rock.

Kirk stumbled up to his feet and charged. Fett kipped up and punched out connecting with Kirk's gut. An open handed strike to his face sent Kirk stumbling backwards. Fett followed him like a panther stalking its wounded prey. Kirk regained his balance and managed to block Fett's follow through punch but could not avoid the other hand that gripped him by the shoulder and threw him like a sack of grain over his Fett's hip and into the ground with a resounding thud.

Kirk's gold shirt tore in the throw at the shoulder.

Fett tried to bring his foot down on Kirk's face. Kirk's eyes widened as he rolled out of the path of the kick but Fett did not hesitate as his foot struck the ground he simply jerked it forward right into the back of Kirk's head and smiled with satisfaction as Kirk slid forward slightly and grunted in pain.

He brought his hand up quickly and flicked the flame thrower controls.

Kirk knew what was coming and scrambled forward as the flame whooshed outward. The tongues of fire caught the drifting end of his torn shirt and survival jacket. He felt the jacket smoldering, thankfully, Starfleet fireproofed their survival gear so it did not go up like a torch.

He raced around one outcropping as he tore his jacket off and held it under his arm. Damn heat was getting to him. He was sweating like a pig and he had been nearly barbecued one time too many in his opinion.

“You can run but you can't hide Kirk. Don't prolong the inevitable.” Fett said frostily.

Kirk looked around for another option wiping the sweat from his brow. Despite the cold of this planet Fett's flame thrower had brought the temperature of this cavern up dramatically. The heat was....a thought came to him unbidden. He glanced back sharply. The entrance to the cavern was between him and Fett.

He looked up at McCoy and Spock. They nodded approvingly.

“I'm going to need a distraction and a weapon.” he whispered to them.

“I'll provide the distraction Jimmy. As for the weapon, you haven't looked hard enough.” Sam replied softly and winked at his younger brother and raced away from Kirk making as much noise as possible.

Not looking hard enough? Kirk quickly checked his pockets as he prepared to run. He had his phasers stashed, both lost, and there was nothing else he could remotely use as a weapon. He stopped as he felt something at his waist.

He smiled softly.

Better late than never. It was time to see how well he could use it.

He heard Fett race past him following the sound and fired another toxic dart after Sam.

Kirk raced by Fett towards the entrance of the cavern. Fett paused for a minute. What was going on here?! He saw Kirk racing to the entrance and turned at his waist and went to fire another dart when his dispenser clicked dry.

Lucky bastard.

Kirk disappeared through the entrance. He was making this entirely too difficult. One thing was a challenging hunt where the bounty was fast and intelligent and made him stretch his abilities, a true challenge so to speak and then there was this. A bounty that just refused to admit when it was dead and did everything and anything in its power to stay alive. There was only one word for that kind of scum.

“Pathetic.” he whispered and trotted after Kirk.

“Captain I'm picking up something odd in orbit.” Entebbe's science officer reported with concern.

“Imperial?” Entebbe asked suddenly tense.

“No sir. It looks like a ship. Whatever it is she is using some form of cloaking device to mask her signature.”


His science officer pursed her lips for a moment.

“There have been reports before the war started of the Orion syndicates using a new class of cloaking device that used a tenth on the power of a Romulan or Klingon cloak and masked readings from all but military grade sensors. The pirates had started using them extensively to harass commercial traffic on the borders of Federation space and we were bracing for them to cross the border.”

“Sort of a poor man's cloak eh?” Entebbe replied rubbing his chin. “What the hell are the Orions doing here?”

“Captain, I don't think we have much time left.” Leia calmly interjected placing a hand on his shoulder.

“You're right, princess. Science keep your eyes on that ship and let me know if it does ANYTHING. For now, I want my entire security force assembled in the transporter room on the double.” He looked up at Leia. “We're going in.”

Fett reached the entrance and paused. He peered through and used his optic sensors to magnify and search for Kirk. His other sensors were picking up some sort of low level geological instability, a low rumbling out of human ear shot. There was nothing for a moment but he caught a flash of a thermal imprint far to his right. A slow smile spread across his face.

“It's over Kirk.” He crouched low and crossed the threshold of the entrance. He aimed his wrist blaster carefully, the built in macro binoculars clicked and whirred as they focused on the target and he paused for a moment.

The heat signature was cooling.


There was a loud snap hiss and a blue blade sliced down and took Fett's extended hand off at the forearm. Fett was in motion as Kirk tried to follow up with a killing stroke to lop the bounty hunter's head off but tried to be careful as he misjudged the weightless blade's momentum and the cut that took Fett's hand off continued down into the stone bridge's surface before he could recover.

Fett rolled forward and and as he straightened out he extended his other hand and a explosion of air was accompanied by a whip like chord of rope that wrapped itself around Kirk, entangling him and he grunted against the tightening grip of the chord, surprised by the sudden constriction as it reacted against his movements. He fell to his knees and struggled vainly against his sudden imprisonment.

The rumbling in the cavern had grown considerably now but Fett ignored it as he ignored the stabbing pain of his lost limb.

He said nothing as he switched controls on his wrist weapon and watched Kirk struggling, the lightsaber hummed hungrily.

“I'm going to enjoy watching you burn.” Fett hissed and activated his flame thrower control.

Kirk finally managed to fight his fear of the lightsaber blade and brought it close to his body, close enough to feel its cool light from the blade as it cut into the rope holding him. The moment the rope gave way he fell backwards as the flame washed over to him. He rolled backwards but felt his clothes burning and a strange burning sensation over his eyes. He stopped in a low crouch and brought one hand up to his face and felt over his eyes. His eyebrows were smoking. He slapped at them as he held the lightsaber up in front of him like a ward.

The bridge was rumbling now. A soft smile came to his lips. Keep using that flamer you idiot.

Fett shook his head. This man had more lives than a cat. Time to make this fight end once and for all.

Fett launched another gout of fire at Kirk to keep to force him further back an activated his jet pack. Fett took to the air and pulled out a thermal detonator from his pack. One blast and it would all be over. There would be no where left to run. He switched on the thermal detonator and prepared to pitch it to the floundering Captain.

Suddenly something loomed over him and screamed like a thousand wild beasts.

“What the?!” Fett turned his head sharply and caught sight of the massive worm like beat towering over him, mouth open with jagged rows of teeth. He instinctively went for his flame unit but threw the thermal detonator at it first.

The small metallic globe sailed right into its open mouth as he managed to activate his flame unit. The fires washed over the worm's armored carapace. It howled angrily and lunged towards him. Fett keyed more power to his rocket pack and over shot the worm as it passed over him. The wind of its passage buffeted him and he floundered in mid air.

Kirk stood by the entrance, ready to make his escape as he watched the Bounty Hunter and the worm do battle as he had planned. The smoldering survival jacket had proved invaluable in providing the required heat signature to decoy Fett. Now he just hoped that the battle went his way. If not, he was out of tricks and options.

Fett recovered in midair and eyed the fuel gauge on his rocket pack. He was running dry. Time to get to earth before he ended up plummeting to the abyss below. He landed on the edge of the bridge just as the worm turned sharply and howled at him.

Fett calmly knelt down and aimed the missile on his back at the beast. It reared up and roared but suddenly there was a deep bass rumble from within the creature and its howls became a squeal of pain. Fett smiled coldly.

“Hurts does it? Let me give you a chaser with that.”

The worm roared, mouth wide open and dove at the armored bounty hunter. Fett launched his missile. The small missile raced up and crossed the distance between the worm and Fett between the blinks of an eye. The missile ripped into the worm's mouth and exploded. The back of its armored head exploded outward like a ripe melon, yellow ichor blood and gore sprayed outwards painting the ceiling of the stone cavern.

The worm stopped short and swayed slowly, a mournful low moan coming from deep within the mortally wounded creature.

Kirk slumped in defeat against the cavern entrance. He looked down at the lightsaber activated in his hand waved it experimentally, listening to the hum and decided that there was only one way to go out. As he had always done. Fighting.

He stood proudly at the entrance and held the lightsaber over his head with one hand. The other hand lay limply at his side, unable to move it any longer, the pain from his dislocated shoulder too much for him . His torn gold command shirt was stained with his blood and burned at the edges.

“You're good, Fett. Better than anyone I've ever had the misfortune of facing.”

Fett straightened up and watched the young Captain holding the ancient weapon of the Jedi in his hands. He ignored the final death moan of the armored worm as it began to sink back into the darkness.

“Kirk, I think you're finally beginning to understand that you never stood a chance.” Fett replied coldly and began to advance on the young captain. A shadow fell over Fett and he looked up sharply in time to see the armored worm's corpse as it collapsed on top of him with a deafening thud that shook the very foundations of the stone bridge.

The stone gave way around the corpse of the fallen worm and tore away in an avalanche of rock and debris. The bounty hunter screamed all the way down into the darkness below, spinning wildly locked with the armored corpse of his last kill before disappearing out of sight until even the sounds of his screams faded away leaving only the silence.

Kirk sighed softly.

“I never want to go through that again.” he muttered.

“You did good Jimmy.” Sam offered with a smile and a soft pat on his brother's waist. Kirk smiled warmly and tousled his brother's hair.

“I couldn't have done it without you. But you're not quite human are you? You're not even my brother.” Kirk replied. The young vision of his brother laughed softly as McCoy and Spock appeared suddenly by Kirk's side.

“You did it Jim!” McCoy crowed.

“Spock?” Kirk asked seriously. If anyone was going to tell him the truth it would be Spock. Spock looked at his captain seriously for a moment before speaking.

“We are shadows from your mind Captain. Given shape by the Force.”

“The Force? You mean like Nemesis' force?”

“No, not like Nemesis' force. Equal and opposite we are. This cave is strong in the light side of the force. Now we must go. Your opposite number approaches and we cannot help you in this struggle.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Be careful Jimmy.” Sam added and gently squeezed his hand.


He was suddenly alone on the stone bridge.


Kirk stopped short. He recognized the voice.

“You.” he snapped and turned to face him.

Lord Darth Nemesis strode towards him, illuminated by the crimson blade of his lightsaber. Nemesis smiled coldly.

“I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, Captain Kirk.”

Kirk lifted his lightsaber.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 57: Damnation’s Defiance

Lord Darth Nemesis paused in his stride for a moment as he examined the scene before him. James Kirk, bloodied, burned and bruised with his gold command shirt torn at the shoulder draped down the front of his chest and a lightsaber held aloft over head. One arm obviously injured or maimed hung limply at his side.

He chuckled darkly and it was like thunderheads in the distance of a quickly approaching storm.

“Captain Kirk, do you seriously expect to challenge me in this state?” he nodded to the lightsaber in Kirk’s hand. “You don’t have a clue how to use that.”

Kirk smiled.

“If you’re so certain of that why don’t you come closer?” Kirk asked and whipped the blade down in front of him accompanied by a hungry hum from the cold blue blade.

Nemesis smiled cruelly.

“It will be such a pleasure to finally rid me of your annoyance once and for all Captain.” Nemesis snarled and attacked. The crimson blade flashed upwards like a claw to decapitate the impetuous young Captain that had dared challenge him and his ultimate goals of conquest and redemption. This little ant of a man that stood in the breach and refused to move and allow Nemesis his final victory and bring order to the chaos. This thorn digging its way into his side reminding him that he once stood in that breach long ago.

The blue blade flashed up and Kirk barely realized his hand had moved, twisting the blade expertly upward and there was a loud electronic clash of light on light. The blades crackled against each other and the light illuminated both their faces. Surprise etched on Nemesis’ features and a bewildered smile on Kirk’s.

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises, Luke.” Kirk said in the cold darkness of the cavern.

“That name means NOTHING to me!” Nemesis roared, recovered the blade, caught Kirk’s blade at the end of his twisted it savagely in several hard turns and hooked the weapon out of Kirk’s hand, flinging it backwards into the cave where it landed with a clatter on the stone behind them.

The crimson blade was at Kirk’s throat.

“It seems your fate ends here on the end of my blade. Did you really think an untrained whelp like you could have challenged a Sith Lord?” Nemesis asked coldly.

“The thought has crossed my mind. But then again, you thought you could as well.”

Nemesis stared hard into the young captain’s eyes. Kirk could not tell what was going on in the Sith lord’s head.

“You will soon learn the folly of that belief.” Nemesis began and an idea entered his head unbidden like the soft whisper of silk on steel.

“Join me and we can end this destructive conflict.” Nemesis whispered coldly, leaning in as he spoke, the crimson blade dancing at Kirk’s throat.

“No.” Kirk replied. The visions of Imperial Kirk flashed through his mind. Nemesis smiled triumphantly.

“Your thoughts deceive you. I can feel the conflict within you.” Nemesis declared.

“The only conflict I have is how to kill you, you black hearted bastard!” Kirk shouted and his kick caught Nemesis in the solar plexus doubling the Sith lord over. Kirk leapt away back into the cave a desperate plan forming. Nemesis took up the chase immediately.

“You know that in the end there are only two ways out of here, fool!” Nemesis called after him.

Kirk stopped short as he kicked something under foot. Glancing down quickly he scooped up the phaser. he turned quickly to face the advancing Sith lord.

“Don’t make me kill you.” Kirk called out to Nemesis. Nemesis stared at the weapon then back at Kirk. He laughed slowly at first but it grew into a long cold laugh.

“Do your worst, James Kirk.” Nemesis advanced.

Kirk fired.

Nemesis walked casually forward, his hands barely seemed to move but the crimson blade whipped around him like a thing alive, intercepting each phaser bolt as if Kirk were throwing wadded up spit balls at him. The last bolt was reflected back and struck the phaser out of Kirk’s hand leaving him shaking his hand to get rid of the sudden numbness.

“Anything else you would like to try?” Nemesis asked sardonically.

“I don’t know what happened to you, Luke, but the man that Leia described to me is nothing like the monster that has killed billions in his ascent to power and carved a bloody swath through this galaxy.”

Nemesis paused for a moment. His eyes scanned the wounded captain as the words sunk in.

“Don’t say her name.” Nemesis snapped and held out a fist. Suddenly Kirk was catapulted off his feet and he went flying into the ground several meters away where he landed with a loud crash. “Do you understand me?” Nemesis continued pulling his hand back hard and Kirk was pulled off his feet like a rag doll and went head first into a boulder by Nemesis. Nemesis mercilessly kicked Kirk off the boulder and he rolled onto his back obviously stunned.

Nemesis glanced at the boulder and back at Kirk.

“Her name is not meant for you filthy little mouth.” Nemesis stated coldly and he raised one hand up above his head and the boulder effortlessly left the ground and hovered over Kirk, covering him in its shadow as he coughed up blood and tried to recover his wits and senses.

“Struck a nerve did I? She still believes in you, you know despite all this insanity and death. She still sees the Luke Skywalker that destroyed the Deathstar and made a stand against the Empire.” Kirk coughed as he spoke. “She believes in the man that stood by his friends in their darkest hour and came to rescue them even though he certainly knew it was a trap.”

Nemesis stared down at Kirk.

“Tell me about her?”

“Who?” he asked coldly.


“Why do you want to know.”

“Intelligence reports said that perhaps you were lovers.”

He turned his head quickly as if stung.

“No.” he replied quickly.

The sound of the heavy mechanical breathing was the only sound in the room now as he stretched his legs in precise long strokes, feeling them loosen up.

“Your feelings betray you, my son. You have feelings for the princess.” Vader replied neutrally and strode out to the center of the dueling circle.

“Correction father I had feelings for the princess. Now there is only the power and the rage.” he replied coldly and casually vaulted over the bench he had been stretching on and landed to square up in front of the black armored giant. How I used to fear you, he mused.

“The Dark side does not tolerate divided allegiances.” Vader warned as he activated his crimson blade and extended it forward.

“The dark side? Or our master?” Nemesis asked coolly as his own blade extended with a snap hiss.

“Both.” Vader replied and the blades clashed with a loud hiss of power.

Nemesis blinked and saw Kirk again, groaning as he tried to sit up but also eyed the boulder hovering overhead.

“She came here not to help the Federation or even to stop the Empire. She gave up everything, abandoned the rebel alliance, all to save you.”

Nemesis felt the truth in his words.

“She will soon learn the power of the dark side.”

Kirk shook his head.

“She will not turn.”

“Don’t be so sure, little man. You have no conception of what you speak of. I hold in my hand the instrument of your destruction, with but a single thought I can end your pathetic existence.” Nemesis threatened as the boulder dropped slightly.

Kirk looked up at the boulder warily and back at Nemesis. He would not think of his plan now, he knew that the young Sith lord could read his mind as easily as Kirk read a book. He just had to keep him unbalanced and pin his hopes on an all powerful energy field he did not believe in.

“I’ve faced your star fleets, your invasions, and my so called inevitable death too many damned times to be threatened by a floating boulder.”

Nemesis regarded the young man for a moment and suddenly dropped his hand casually and the boulder crashed to earth mere inches from Kirk’s splayed body.

“You have courage and heart, I’ll grant you that, but it is not enough.”

“Why because it wasn’t enough for you?” Kirk snapped.

Nemesis’ eye twitched.

“Before you turn I will teach you respect.” Nemesis hissed and Kirk was suddenly picked up bodily and flung against a far wall of the cave. He did not slide down to the floor, instead he was held aloft, pinned to the stone cold wall by invisible hands that clutched at him like claws.

“I will not bandy about witless banter with you, Kirk. I am offering you the chance at saving your life.”

“At the cost of my very soul?”

Nemesis sneered.

Kirk was struck by a brutish backhanded blow across the face. Before he could recover another blow struck him from the opposite side driving his head to the left and just as his head snapped to the left another blow struck him on the right. Back and forth his head was jolted until blood poured from a corner of his mouth and both nostrils and he hovered on the edge of consciousness.

Not yet. He wasn’t mad enough yet.

“Enough Kirk? This can go on for a long time. I will not tire as I pound your flesh into submission.”

Kirk looked up at Nemesis one eye slowly swelling shut, blood shot through the whites of his eyeball.

“But you won’t break my spirit, Nemesis.” he spat a thick gob of blood at Nemesis.

Nemesis started to tremble.

“Why” Kirk was pulled off the wall and crashed into one of the ‘fingers’ of the altar, he heard ribs in his left side go. “won’t” Kirk jerked back off the ‘finger’ and rocketed into a stalagmite. His head lolled forward in shock, the pain was flaring throughout his body like a storm.

Still not ready.

“you” Kirk exploded upwards as if on a rocket and crashed against the ceiling of the cavern, very nearly impaled on a sharp stalactite. “turn?” Kirk crashed down at Nemesis feet with a bone jarring impact. He lay on his belly and groaned.

Nemesis crouched down on one knee and pulled Kirk’s head up by the hair.

Not yet…god I’m in pain….I’m alone, I’ve always known I would die alone.

“Tell me now, is it worth it? Turn and the pain will end, turn and join me and you will be soothed by the darkness and you can use the anger you feel now to become powerful. They never told you did they? No one ever told you that you were strong in the force. I can train you Kirk. Your power will grow and you will be as a god among men. You will bring order into the chaos. All you have to do is take my hand.” Nemesis extended his hand.

“Power?” Kirk spoke, his speech slurred.

“Yesss.” Nemesis replied coolly, feeling his triumph at hand.

A third path? Had Trelayne lied? There was no future as a Sith. Was it possible, could he forge a third path despite what Trelayne had told him?

Nemesis drank in the doubt like an elixir. Delight glistened in his eyes but deep in his heart something wailed in despair. Luke Skywalker beat at the cold black walls that had been erected around him. See now, anyone can turn. We have our answer, our vindication.

Kirk started to laugh.

Nemesis’ eyes narrowed on the Captain’s ruined face.

“Fan out and be careful.” McCoy ordered as they entered the cave network where the Captain’s trace heat signatures ended.

Spock remained by the Doctor’s side, phaser in hand.

Artoo trundled straight down the center of the cave, a spotlight lancing out into the darkness.

“Artoo do be careful!” Threepio called out after him. McCoy rolled his eyes.

“So much for the element of surprise.” Uhura noted sardonically as she patted McCoy on the shoulder and followed the droids into the cave.

“The caves seem to be interspersed with some dense pitchblende metals. The tricorder is having some difficulty pinning down precise life signs.” Spock noted with some concern.

“In other words this is a perfect spot for an ambush.” McCoy snapped angrily. “Listen you over eager garbage can, get back here and switch off that light!” McCoy called after Artoo.

“I found someone!” Threepio called back.

McCoy glanced at Spock and they both bolted for the droid.

Threepio stood over a human wrapped in a survival blanket. The rocks around him still pulsed dully, obviously superheated by a phaser to provide warmth. McCoy crouched down and gingerly turned the figure to face up.

“Tom Paris. And he looks like he’s in bad shape.” McCoy announced as he ran a mediscanner over the unconscious young officer. Spock flipped open his communicator.

“Spock to Mr. Scott.”

“Scott here.”

“Prepare for emergency transport back to the Millennium Falcon. One badly wounded, standby for my order.”

“Is it the Captain?” Scotty asked.

“Negative Mr. Scott, we are still trying to ascertain his whereabouts.” Spock replied and closed the communicator.

“I’ll stabilize him for transport.” McCoy said as he opened up his medkit attached to his hip and began administering mixes of antibiotics and stimulants to keep Tom in the world of the living and to prevent him from going into shock.

Chewbacca growled something and motioned with his head for Spock to come over.

Spock cautiously walked over to the Wookiee and peered into the darkness beyond. There was a large cave in the back of this cavern.

“He may have gone that way.” Spock surmised.

Chewbacca growled something else, a warning.

“Where?” Spock asked suddenly alarmed.

A sharp shriek quickly followed by an explosion at Spock’s feet was his answer. Spock fell backwards as more bolts of intense white flashed by the assembled group, each one accompanied by a harsh shriek. Chewbacca began firing his bowcaster with one hand into the general direction of the attack and with the other dragged Spock behind cover.

“Uhura, cover me. I need more time to get him stabilized.”

Uhura nodded and peered over one of the rock outcroppings and instantly ducked back down as more fire concentrated on her.

“What are those?” McCoy asked as he finished making the last injection with the hypospray and snapped his medkit shut.

Spock propped himself up against the rock that Chewbacca was using as cover.

“The sound and secondary explosive effects seem to indicate some sort of disruptor weapon,” a bolt took off the upper part of the rock outcropping they were using as cover. Spock glanced up at the damaged solid stone. “Obviously heavily modified.”

“Klingons?” McCoy asked.

“It would be illogical for Klingons to be here this far from this space utilizing a modification to their weapons that they would find dishonorable.” Spock shouted over the next volley.

“A simple no would have sufficed!” McCoy snapped.

“I’m no military expert but it seems to me that we’re woefully outgunned here.” Uhura noted with growing alarm.

“Mr. Scott! Energize.” Spock shouted into the communicator over the din of battle.

“Mr. Spock, there is a transport scattering field in place at your location.” Scott reported with concern.

“It seems that matters have grown worse.” Spock noted as another disruptor bolt exploded

Threepio had ducked down into an alcove at the edge of the cavern and watched the exchange of fire with a sense of alarm and urgency. They could be over run and then what? He saw Artoo quietly rolling along the lower portion of the cavern, trying his best to use the rocks and stalagmites as cover.

Where was he going?

“What’s so funny?” Nemesis demanded, jerking Kirk’s head forward and clutching him by the chin with one hand.

Kirk continued laughing until he had a coughing fit and spat up some more blood.

“I just got the damned punch line of this joke.”

Nemesis said nothing.

“You turned to the dark side and now here you are trying to turn me. Why? Why did you come all this way, tracking me down and trailing me over hundreds of light years, then following my tracks through miles of frost ridden tundra?”

“Make your point.” Nemesis growled and squeezed Kirk’s chin tightly, blood flowed from his mouth down Nemesis’ fingers.

“You knew where I was going to be, how the hell else did you find me? You knew exactly where I was going to be and you came for me.”


Kirk looked into Nemesis’ eyes.

“Why didn’t you bring one of your stardestroyers? Why didn’t you come with the full intention of capturing or killing me Luke?”

“I’d say I’ve done a fine job of both and watch what you call me.” Nemesis squeezed Kirk’s chin even tighter.

Almost, though part of him shuddered at the pain that was to come.

“I’ll tell you why. You wanted to turn me not kill me and why did you want to turn me? After all what’s there to gain in turning me? I’m no one, a man out of time with no realistic hope of defeating your war machine. The best I can hope for is make you pay dearly for every world you take but I’m no real threat to you. Hell you’ve beaten me into a pulp in less time than it takes me to shower. What threat could I possibly be to you?” Kirk demanded.

Nemesis stared into Kirk’s eyes, shadows hooded his gaze.

“But you’re not happy with your decision are you Luke?” Nemesis squeezed Kirk’s chin harder. “You don’t think you made the right choice. It’s eating at you and you decided that if you could turn me, if you could make me, the last hope of the Federation turn to the dark side that it would vindicate you.”

“Shut up.” Nemesis whispered.

“You would no longer be the weak willed boy that could not face death.”

“Shut up.” Nemesis’ voice rose.

“You would not be the coward that couldn’t make one last stand no matter what the odds.”

“Shut up.”

“You would not be the traitor to yourself. What happened to the farm boy who dreamed of flying among the stars? When did he become a mass murdering villain?”

“SHUT UP!” Nemesis roared and stood up, taking Kirk with him by the throat. He held Kirk up high with one hand and squeezed his vile throat, Kirk clutched futilely with one hand at Nemesis’ stony grip.


He concentrated and projected. His final kiss goodbye to Leia. How her lips felt, the supple arch of her back, the heat of her passion. He projected every iota of detail from his memory of that moment at Nemesis.

Nemesis’ eyes widened.


Kirk went flying like a rag doll right where he should have. He crashed among the stony ‘fingers’ of the altar and rolled down on his belly at the edge of the pool. He saw the clear cool waters and looked up at the crystal spikes above the pool where the water ran off.

This place was strong in the light side of the Force. Strong enough to project phantoms from his own mind and give them shape, strong enough to help him when his life was on the line against the bounty hunter. Now he pinned all his hopes that it would be powerful enough to open Luke Skywalker’s eyes.

Nemesis loomed over him.

“You have insulted me for the last time.” Nemesis vowed. He extended his hands and focused his raw anger and blue lightning spat from his fingers. Kirk roared in pain as the lightning lanced through him and drove him into the altar. The lightning danced over him hungrily, burning away his life force.

Nemesis advanced on him, hands held out in front of him emitting the stream of force lightning while the other held the lightsaber at the ready. Kirk writhed like an animal on the floor, convulsing in pain and screaming, the blue lightning arced between his lips and sparked, some danced around his eyed and his heart was about to explode in his chest as the thicker tendrils tore through his body.

He rolled back into the pool and reached out. Every time his hand reached out to the pool new pain burned through every fiber of his being forcing him to convulse into a fetal ball. Nemesis stood over him feeling his life burn away like parchment in fire.

He held up his hand and the lightning died away, several tendrils danced along his fingers and down his wrist like water. He smiled coldly as he watched Kirk feebly reach into the pool.

“You proud fool, only now, at the end do you realize what you were up against. Your feeble courage was no match for the power of the darkside.” Nemesis gloated.

Kirk ignored everything but his hand and the pool. The rest of his body was on fire, his breaths came long and ragged, punctuated with sharp pain. Obviously his broken ribs had punctured a lung. His vision was blurring

“Now, you have this one last chance, James T. Kirk. Join me and we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

He felt his hands touch the cool water. His entire mind was focused on this one last chance. He cupped the water in his hand and turned his head to look into Nemesis’ eyes.

He whispered something.

Nemesis paused.


Kirk coughed and his lips moved again.

Nemesis frowned and bent over, one hand reached out and grabbed Kirk’s ruined collar and pulled him up to his face.

“What did you say?” Nemesis demanded.

“Wake up Luke Skywalker.” Kirk whispered hoarsely as he slapped the hand onto Nemesis’ open sneering mouth. Much of the water in his hand splashed into Nemesis’ mouth.

The Sith Lord jerked backwards and slapped Kirk way, the casual blow cleanly snapping Kirk’s wrist. Kirk grunted in pain but could no longer muster any more energy. He simply slipped back down to the altar and his head draped down the side of the pool into the water and waited to die.

Nemesis spat and gagged as the cool clean water slid down his throat. The cave was no longer dark and cold but brightened as if the stone were alive with light pulsing around him, pure white clean light and all shadow was driven away.

“What…What have you done to me?” Nemesis exclaimed.

“This is a most dire predicament doctor.”

“That’s all you can say Spock?!” McCoy exclaimed.

“We are pinned down by superior fire power and numbers Doctor. What would you like me to do?” Spock replied as more bolts shrieked by overhead. Chewbacca fired another volley with his bow caster and roared triumphantly as he heard a scream of pain from beyond the darkness.

“At least he’s not giving up.” McCoy shouted angrily. “Go get ‘em Chewie.” McCoy said and slapped Chewbacca on his shoulder. Chewbacca chuckled and roared his agreement with the sentiment.

“I don’t think it will have to come to that!” Leia exclaimed as she raced into the cavern firing her blaster trailed by Captain Entebbe and his security force. Wedge led several of the rogues on the left flank laying down heavy fire with their blasters.

“The Princess!” Uhura shouted excitedly.

“Who would have thought Spock? We’re being rescued by a princess!” McCoy laughed.

“I do not understand the reference.” Spock replied with a slightly arched eyebrow.

McCoy grumbled something incomprehensible. Leia rushed over to them.

“What’s happening?”

“We are pinned down by an unknown group and I believe the Captain is beyond in that cave network.”

Leia reached out and could feel Jim. His pain was almost intolerable. But she suddenly felt something else as well, a presence looming over everything that she had not felt since Earth.

“Luke.” She whispered. She looked into McCoy’s eyes and gripped his forearm. “We must get through to them now.”

“Leave that to us princess.” Wedge said and nodded to Captain Entebbe.

“Let’s do this gents!” Entebbe shouted to his security team.

Nemesis reeled backwards as he was flooded with memories and half forgotten ghosts.

“There’s nothing for me here now. I want to go with you to Alderaan and learn the ways of the Force and be a Jedi like my father .”

He stumbled forward clutching his head and trying to block out the light that flooded around him, driving his shadows away.

“How did my father die?”

“A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil helped hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.”


“Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father.”

“He told me enough. He told me you killed him.”

“No, I am your father.”

Nemesis dropped to his knees and he bowed his head as the light blinded him. The memories flooded around him like a tempest.

“Wake up Luke.” Kirk whispered fervently like a mantra but he lacked the strength to even sit up. He lay in the pool, his blood slowly seeping into the water, smoke still rising from his body.

“That name no longer has any meaning for me.”

“But it is your name just as Luke Skywalker was mine.”

“No longer. As a Sith we shed the past and are reborn as masters of rage.”

“He betrayed and murdered your father.

“As a Sith we shed the past and are reborn as masters of rage.”

“A young Jedi named Darth Vader.”

“That name no longer has any meaning for me.”

Nemesis pounded his fists into the unyielding stone, his lightsaber rolled away from him as he screamed. There was no physical pain. But the memories were shredding his heart like shrapnel and a growing realization that he had not been able to face in these long months.

Ochoa’s soft voice intruded in his thoughts lending a pale calming glow.

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”


Nemesis looked up slowly, the pain of the light had vanished now, but a brighter light now glowed like a second sun. He held a hand up before his eyes to shield himself from the light but it was not harsh. It was warm like an autumn day.


Leia stood in front of him wreathed in white light. She wore the same white dress she wore when he first saw her so long ago, save that this dress was crafted from white shimmering light.

“Luke, I am here for you as I have always been.”

“Leia.” He whispered.

“Luke come back to me.”

“Leia, it’s so dark here.”

“I know Luke. Please come back into the light.”

“They lied to me Leia.”

She smiled and for some reason he thought of the mother he never really knew.

“I never lied to you, Luke.”

“My work here isn’t finished.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“My father, Leia. My father. I have to save him.”

“Luke, can you? You have to be able to save yourself if you want to save your father and you so perilously close to the abyss now. Closer than you have ever been.”

“It’s so much easier in the dark, Leia. I am so tired of carrying the only hope in this galaxy, so tired of being the one that everyone looks to.” He paused as he dropped his head back into his hands. “I miss Tatooine.”

“Luke, I will be here for you. But your path is taking you farther away from the light and soon you will not be able to find your way back.”

“Leia, I miss you. I miss Han. I miss it all.”

Leia smiled and he basked in the beauty of the smile, closing his eyes as he let the light play on his face as he had done thousands of times on Tatooine and just as suddenly as it had appeared the light vanished.

He was kneeling on the stone in the cavern again. Nemesis glanced around slowly feeling his senses back under his control. His eyes found Kirk lying very still in the pool.

“You did this to me. You made me remember.” He spat and the lightsaber leapt into his hand as he rose like an avenging angel. He moved, hands pulling back, the lightsaber activated with a snap hiss.

“Wake up, Luke.” Kirk whispered eyes locked on the approaching Sith lord. He had nothing left, completely spent, he waited for the stroke of the lightsaber.

“Sleep forever James Kirk. Your adventure is over.” He snarled and brought the lightsaber down to Kirk’ head.

The lightsaber blade exploded into a thousand flashing red butterflies. Nemesis stared in shock as suddenly his world turned upside down.

Kirk opened his mouth to speak when his jaw dropped off his face and rolled down his chest in a gelatinous mass. Nemesis started to scream but his eye balls inflated like balloons and floated out of his head as his body quivered and his right leg slid off like a falling tree trunk.


“Are they down?”

“Look at ‘em.”

Nemesis and Kirk were writhing on the floor, screaming incoherently. A low dull thrumming filled the cave. A large suitcase sized device was set on a tripod behind the altar. It pulsed a sickly green like an obscene heartbeat.

Six figures stood behind the device, each one wore an intricate spacesuit, and each suit had a heavy belt that also pulsing sickly green.

“Check your subspace harmonic nullifiers.”

The figures each checked their belts and nodded.

“Just what the hell does this thing do?”

One of the figures sighed heavily. The Vulcan shook his head. “For the last time it is a Subspace Harmonic Generator.”

“Great that answers our question.” The Andorian replied rolling his eyes. The men gathered around Nemesis. Out of sight of the men, Artoo quietly rolled closer, using the rocks as cover.

“Are you familiar with the concepts behind warp drive?” The Vulcan asked in a bored tone as he slapped a collar around Nemesis’ neck while the others held him down. The collar activated with a deep hum. Nemesis stiffened and remained as still as a statue.

Artoo let out a low mournful whistle.

“Did you hear something?” The Andorian asked. The others ignored him.

“I never get over seeing those slaver stasis collars at work.” One of the men snorted as they hefted Nemesis up on their shoulders.

“Me am hungry.” The Nausican grunted.

“Calm down Grogna, we’ll hit the mess as soon as we beam up.”

“As I was saying” the Vulcan continued. “warp drive creates a subspace shell around the ship allowing it to travel faster than light.”

“Yeah so?”

“This generator functions along the same concept, it creates a subspace bubble in a confined space.”

“Why they scream?” the Nausican asked.

“Because my brutish ally the subspace bubble essentially erases the very laws of physics, right down to the fundamental laws. A new subset of rules exists in this bubble, so in essence, reality no longer exists and the mind can simply not cope with the new rules set and lashes out.”

“So they go crazy?”

“In a manner of speaking. Temporarily of course, once out of the field’s effect recovery can be quick. However prolonged exposure simply kills the subject as their mind shuts down, unable to deal with the new reality for very long.” The Vulcan explained as they stepped off the altar with Nemesis stiff as a board on their shoulders.

“Good thing we have these belts or we’d be the ones doing the crazy man mambo.”

“What’s a mambo?” the Nausican asked.

The Andorian paused and glanced down at Kirk.

“Hey, is that James Kirk?”

The Vulcan snorted.

“Surely you have not fallen for that pathetic line of propaganda.”

“C’mon Taloth, everyone knows that the Feds are claimin’ Kirk came back from the dead to help boost morale. That old legend’s been dead for years.” One of the humans added.

“It just looks a lot like him, he even has the old uniform on.” Taloth replied defensively.

“Since when have you become a historian Taloth, let’s go. The boss is impatient and you know how he can get when he adds something to his collection.”

“Alright, alright, but damn if he’s not the spitting image.”

A series of explosions rippled outside the cave. The six looked over to the sound with concern.

“Looks like those Feddies are makin’ a push. Get the device and lets get the hell out of here.”

“There’s no need for concern.” The Vulcan replied as he deftly switched off the device and dismounted it off the tripod. Artoo rolled closer, excited to see his master but saddened by his fate so far.

“Gold Team to Wraith, we’re a go.” One of the humans reported into a wrist com.

“Copy that Gold Team, energizing.”

Artoo decided then and there that he had to do something, anything. In his frustration he simply raced forward, charging the group of men holding his master.

“What the hell?!”

“What that?!”

“Look out!”

The assembled team, the device, Nemesis and Artoo vanished in columns of light.
Wherever you go, there you are.

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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 58: End Run

Catherine Janeway stood on the bridge of the Voyager - the starship that had taken her home through countless light years and adventures. She felt at home here and she glanced around at her crew. Chakotay sat proudly at his XO station glancing down at a counsel display. Paris was plotting a course at the helm station. Tuvok sat quietly with an intense expression as he analyzed sensor data.

Just one thing was wrong.

Everyone was frozen in place, as if Janeway had walked into a still frame from a holonovel.

“Now are we clear on what needs to be done?” Q asked softly as he sat against one of the railings on the bridge, arms crossed and watching her with a strange expression. One could almost call it pity.

“I think it’s fairly clear what you need from me.” Janeway replied darkly as she examined her crew with pride and sadness. If she succeeded in her mission many of them would no longer be alive.

“I want to hear it from you before I start the ball rolling.” Q pressed.

Janeway snapped her head around and pinned Q with a withering gaze.

“Are you getting some perverse enjoyment out of this?”

“No, not at all. Perhaps it would make you feel better if I were, if I truly cared about the gnat we commonly call humanity.”

“Except this particular gnat can set things right.” Janeway replied hotly.

“And this particular gnat is solely responsible for the impending doom of reality itself.” Q replied without skipping a beat.

They stared hard at each other for a long moment.

“I find it hard to believe that my actions alone could have triggered the events that threaten reality itself Q.” Janeway stated quietly.

Q smirked.

“Did you and your precious Federation think that time travel is some get out of jail free card? That you could tamper with the very fabric of space time without any consequences on your part? You brought the future technology into the present, you knew the consequences and you went ahead and did it. Why? Because you wanted to come home.” Q made a petulant mewling sound to accompany the last portion of his statement.

“How was I to know? Q my crew was looking at either death at the hands of the myriad enemies we would face or a swift return home and defeat of the Borg. How could I ignore that option.”

“Simple really, Katherine. You took the easy way out.”

“You call what we did easy?!” she protested.

“The true path would have taken you a few decades longer, a few crewmen shorter and a wrecked ship, but instead you chose the quick and easy path and now look at us. I have to try and patch up what no one thinks can be fixed or should be.”

Janeway stalked over to him and looked into his eyes.

“You told me that no one else would lift a finger. How could they Q? You so called gods like to think you live on a higher moral plain but I’m beginning to see that this notion is a farce.”

Q smiled and it chilled Janeway’s blood because it was a smile devoid of any compassion, understanding, any human emotion whatsoever. An imitation of a smile but there was no humanity behind it and she did not think such a horror was possible.

“Morality, Katherine is a god’s prerogative.”

“And you want me to help you? The price you ask for is too damned steep.” she spat and turned away from him, unwilling to look at him with his trickster’s mask slipping revealing the entity beneath.

“You mistaken me for someone else. I’m not asking for you to pay the penalty, the universe demand such penalties.”

“And you? You could just whip up your hands snap them and everything would be back in its place. Why this path?” she demanded slamming her hand on her command chair.

Q snorted.

“You really think Katherine that I have such power? We’re not talking about some rogue planet, errant comet or odd anomaly. We’re talking about the length and breadth of reality itself, every world, galaxy, nebula and dimension in the cosmos. You do me too much credit.”

“So the great and powerful Q Continuum has its limits.” Janeway noted sardonically and smiled darkly.
“Not once have we ever insinuated otherwise Katherine. The Continuum plays by its own rules too my dear Captain and like you I am breaking the rules but unlike you my efforts lead to a positive end.”

Janeway slowly turned to look at Q.

“You chose this path?”

Q nodded.

“And Captain Kirk? He seems to be in the thick of the universe saving business.” she asked.

“Looking to foist this on someone else? Katherine, I’m shocked.” Q replied in mock horror.

“I was asking a simple question. Where does he stand in this? You’ve been quick to focus on me but don’t think I haven’t noticed what he’s doing. While I’ve been dealing with the Borg he’s been fighting the good fight and keeping the Federation free.”

“He would trade his place with yours without hesitation were he to know what awaits him. He has only seen a glimpse of his path. I have given you the easiest task my dear. His will test the very foundations of his being and we shall see if the human in him can resist the irresistible pull of entropy.” Q assured her with a dark tone.

Janeway blinked.

“You can try to head that off, Janeway. You can make an end run and stop this disaster now.”

“But it will cost me everything.” She replied.

Q nodded.

“One cannot save the universe and not expect to pay the price. What is your life compared to the utter infinite number you will save.”

Janeway remained silent as she glanced down at her crew seated around her. Q watched her for a moment before continuing.

“You would trade your life for any one of them?” he asked gently.

Janeway nodded slowly.

“If it were just my life Q.” she replied. Q nodded.

“The universe will not be satisfied with just one life. Actions have consequences and repercussions.”

“We just wanted to come home.” She sighed sorrowfully as she slid into her command chair and ran her hands along the arm rests as if looking for support and strength.

“Your life will be a closed circle Katherine. You and your crew. This was not meant to be but so be it. The decision remains yours as it should be.”

“And it has to be now?”

Q nodded.

“You could not just take us back to the battle of the array? I could choose to escape.” Q began to shake his head. “Or the first encounter with the Borg, I could choose a different path.” She continued and realized she was starting to sound desperate.

“No. No. and most definitely no. There is one path that leads to the destruction of the universe.” Q held up a single finger. “One path that allows you to correct a mistake that led to that destruction. One path that is open to us. One path that could end the game.”

Janeway stared into the godling’s eyes and they remained silent for long moments.

“I have no choice Q. In the end I am a Starfleet officer and I have a job to do. When we make mistakes we do what we can to correct that mistake.”

Q nodded.

“Very well Katherine. I must say, it’s been one hell of a ride. You do your species credit, for what its worth.”

“Don’t count me out yet, Q.” Janeway replied with a cool smile. “I could just surprise you.”

Q held up a hand. His lack of a reply told her all she needed to know. He knew that there was no chance of any other alternative.

“And you remember what needs to be done?” Q asked.

Janeway nodded and looked away, staring into the view screen with grim determination.

“I have to lose.” She answered.

Q snapped his fingers with a flourish and the bridge was engulfed in bright white light for a moment. Janeway closed her eyes and centered herself.

“Standing by sir.” Tom Paris announced.
Janeway opened her eyes. The transwarp conduit was ahead, somewhere in the Unimatrix, her future self was facing the Borg Queen. Sacrifices within sacrifices. Now it was just a matter of adding one more to the pyre.

“Take us in.” She ordered.

“Yes ma'am.” Paris replied and his fingers flew across the helm controls. The Voyager quickly accelerated forward into the storm of light seething within the transwarp hub. The starship flashed into the hub and vanished into the transwarp conduit.

“Status?” Janeway asked as she held on to the seat while the bridge bucked around her. One hand was quickly typing a coded string into the tactical display. When the time was right she would seize control of the helm station. She would not ask Tom or anyone else to do what needed to be done.

“The Admiral succeeded, Captain. Conduit shielding is destabilizing.” Seven reported.

“Mr. Tuvok. Fire.” Janeway ordered and as she did so she activated her override program.

Tuvok nodded and punched in a code on the tactical control. Torpedoes rushed away from Voyager and struck the conduit’s support structure. Explosions rippled along the spider web like designs of the conduit and it began to collapse.

An alarm buzzed on Paris’ station. An expression of surprise flashed on his face and he turned in his seat towards Janeway.

“Captain! I’ve lost helm control!” Paris exclaimed.

“I know Tom.” Janeway replied sadly as she keyed in a new course heading.

Paris’ eyes widened.


“I see it, Tom. Katherine! What the hell are you doing?!” Chakotay shouted as he reached out to try and clear the pad. Janeway fended him off as she keyed in the final execution order.

Paris whirled back to his station.

“Oh my God we’re---”

Voyager suddenly pirouetted gracefully in flight and dove right into the expanding shockwave of the ruined conduit.
“Chakotay, we can’t go home, hold on and this will all be over in a second!” Janeway snapped as her XO managed to scramble out of his seat and over power Janeway, reaching for the control pad.

“It’s too late!” Paris exclaimed and put up his hands to his face as the fireball filled the screen.

Instead of the fiery conflagration and oblivion she felt nothing. Even Chakotay’s weight and incessant pulling vanished replaced by a cold quiet stillness save for a single sound. The all too familiar sound of a lcars keypad being tapped.

Janeway noticed that Chakotay was frozen in time, his movements nonexistent, expression stuck in the same angry outrage that had struck Janeway to the core. The expression of betrayal in each of their eyes that she would have exchanged for anything else in the world. For those expressions to be etched on the faces of her crew in their final moment together was more painful to her than a thousand deaths.

She peered past Chakotay and saw Tom working the helm. Except that it wasn’t Tom. The figure had silvery hair, that was once black, some of it still peeked out between the harsh streaks of silver and he wore an ancient Starfleet uniform, gold shirt with turtle neck and old rank insignias at the sleeves.

“Who are you?” Janeway demanded standing up out of her seat and adjusting her uniform.

“A friend.” the figure replied and his voice was like thunder in the distance.

Janeway slowly stepped down from the command level to the helm.

“What’s happening here? Are you a Q?” she demanded.

The figure slowly turned in his chair to face her. She stopped short. It was a man, his eyes were like orbs of liquid silver and his face was sharp and gaunt like a razor. His smile was ice and unlike Q, lacked any sort of human emotion nor was any attempt made to try and hide the utter lack of compassion or empathy. Here was a being that knew he was not human and reveled in it.

“You’re not a Q.” she breathed.

“No, I am most certainly not. Do you see me playing with inferior creatures, toying with the fabric of reality or watching with the barest interest as the universe creeps along at a snail’s pace? I think not.”

“Who are you? Why are you wearing that uniform?”

“I earned this uniform when I graduated from the Academy. I earned these when I tried to breach the barriers around the galaxy.” he pointed to the uniform shirt then to his eyes.
“You were human once, a Starfleet officer.”

“Apotheosis, my dear, say it with me.” The silver eyed figure replied flatly.

“I’ve heard many people claim to be gods.” Janeway snorted. “In the end they all ended up suffering from the same delusion.”

“My name is Gary Mitchell, I was once a lieutenant commander serving aboard the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701. I’ve never fancied Starfleet’s current fetish with registry numbers and letters. It tends to dilute the power of the original, don’t you think?”

“I’ve never heard of you.”

Mitchell waved his hand dismissively.

“I was a little before your time my dear, but suffice it to say that if James Kirk knew I was involved in this mess, well…things would be different. For now I like to keep him flailing madly at the mistaken foe.”

“You’re behind this?”

“Well in a manner of speaking yes, but I detected that note of relief in your voice so let me be the first to squash your pathetic hopes like a bug and tell you that you created the opportunity for me to advance my agenda.”

“A game?!” Janeway exclaimed angrily. “Q’s let it slip several times Mitchell, there’s some sort of game going on and I for one find it pathetic and sad. All the power in the universe at your fingertips and instead of trying to save creation you decide to sit down and play a game in the final moments of reality? I pity you for your lack of vision.” she spat.

Mitchell stared at her for a long moment, completely expressionless as if all emotion had drained away from him. Janeway stared waiting for something, anything, refusing to spend these last moments meekly waiting for the end.

Mitchell started to laugh.

It was a low rumble at first, like thunder heads in the distance coming in from the sea. But it grew until his laughter boomed through the bridge like a tempest.

“Captain Janeway, really.” Mitchell would have been driven breathless by the laughter were it not for the fact that he no longer breathed. “You have proven to be as unintentionally humorous and entertaining as Q suggested.” Mitchell finished and held up a hand to ward off more fits of laughter.

Janeway remained rooted in place. What the hell was happening here?
“Ok, I almost forgot, one last course correction.” Mitchell added, turned and entered another string of codes into the helm station. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.” he added to himself.

“You’re trying to stop me!” Janeway exclaimed and started to surge forward. Mitchell did not turn around to confront her, he merely lifted his head slightly and his silver eyes crackled with some unknown energy. Janeway stopped in mid-stride.

She stood awkwardly balanced on running legs.

“Not at all.” Mitchell replied as he slid out of the helm station. “You will note the coordinates I entered for you.” He indicated the helm display. Janeway could move her eyes and she focused on the coordinates, they only slightly deviated from her own by several degrees.

Mitchell clucked his tongue and wagged a finger in Janeway’s face.

“Any helmsman out on his first tour knows that to make course corrections in mid journey while at warp requires you to compensate both for galactic drift AND subspace variances in the local dimensions. You forgot that as such your little grandstand maneuver would have resulted in the Voyager going into the bow front of the shockwave at an angle that would have tossed your little starship around like a cork on the wild sea. Your crew would have suffered several seconds of agonizing life before the shields and hull gave way.”

Janeway closed her eyes in sorrow.

“This new course takes your starship right into the heart of the blast, my good captain so that your life and the others go like that.” Mitchell snapped his fingers loudly.

“This will of course be the 44, 788th time I’ve done this course correction for you and sometimes I’m tempted to simply implant the suggestion into your mind so that I don’t have to keep doing this.”

Janeway’s eyes betrayed surprise and a growing sense of horror.

“Oh yes.” Mitchell assured her softly as he walked up to her, standing nearly nose to nose.

“I’ve played this out with you on an almost infinite loop and I will tell you this because it always brings me such a sense of accomplishment to see the expression in your eyes as I reveal the truth to you and its still as fresh and powerful to me as the first time I revealed this.”

Janeway locked eyes with him defiantly.

“Your mission was useless.” he explained with a simple shrug. Janeway’s eyes showed confusion mixed with skepticism. “You see I sliced off a split second of time from your mission that brought you home. The exact same split second that meddler Q decided to intrude upon. Think of it as one long chain of events and Q simply paused a millisecond of that chain and inserted you into the chain. You were meant to destroy the ship in order to completely seal off the Federation from the temporal pollution your technology would cause.”

Janeway watched him intently and he smiled as he saw the first wisps of comprehension in her eyes.

“I seized that same moment that Q used and isolated it from the flow of reality and time, allowed you to go forward on a new chain of events so that you could ‘complete’ your mission. Of course, the true consequence dear is that your actions, your noble sacrifices all for naught and will always be that way.”

Janeway’s eyes widened as she could feel the truth in his words.

“Yesss.” Mitchell replied feeling the waves of despair emanating from her. “You see now do you not? I’ve initiated a sweet little temporal loop and Q will always come back to this moment and I will always be here to oppose him. So sweet Katherine Janeway, you will go on dying a million deaths and go to your doom knowing that all you’ve sacrificed is useless, that in the end you are no longer relevant, driving your ship into a ball of fire and oblivion a million times in a universe that only exists for you to die in.”

Janeway’s eyes dropped for a moment as the weight of the revelation seemed to cause her shoulders to slump and despair flared up within her heart.

Mitchell always loved this part most of all.

He reached out and touched took a firm grip of her chin and lifted her face to him. He could see it, right on the edges of her eyes, the tears that were threatening to well up, tears of anger, despair and frustration. He leaned in close to her, lips almost touching hers, silver eyes boring into her.

“And let me make you the only being in all reality to know my plans, to be aware of what will happen.”

Her eyes blinked.

“The game is a distraction sweet Janeway. It is the smoke and mirrors I use to lull the assembled gods into the complacency that will allow them to walk calmly into oblivion. The truth is far more subtle and powerful than that. Let me enlighten you and know this, you can do nothing to change it, you can warn no one. This will be the 44, 788th time that you have gone to your doom and I have revealed my plans and there are an infinite number waiting for you and I will tire of none of them, Katherine. Take this knowledge with you.”

Mitchell leaned in to her ear and began whispering.
Janeway’s eyes narrowed for a moment and then began to widen in horror as Mitchell continued whispering fervently. Soon tears welled up in her eyes and slowly descended down her cheeks in lazy fat trails as Mitchell pulled away.

“Yes, you see the glory of it all don’t you?” he asked as if she were a lover.

Janeway stared at him, tears clouding her vision so all she could see clearly were the silver orbs that were his eyes.

“Captain Katherine Janeway I consign you to oblivion. Again.” Mitchell stated regally and his silver eyes flashed blinding her for a moment.

Voyager suddenly changed course and plunged straight into the expanding fireball from the ravaged conduit. The vessel was swallowed by the storm of plasma and debris, her shields failing immediately as they were crushed by the titanic forces that proceeded to tear the starship apart in a single heartbeat, washing away all traces of the starship and crew. For the 44,788th time Katherine Janeway went down with her ship in an reality crafted by a mad god.


“The last of the functionaries and Moffs on your list have arrived my lord.” the quiet young man in the dark robes reported and bowed deeply.

“Excellent. I want everyone secure in their quarters and schedule a conference for tomorrow. I will meet with them here in my throne room.” the cold ancient voice replied in the empty darkness of the throne room. Behind him was a massive window dominated by the image of the gas giant the Death star currently orbited.

“My lord.”

“And tell them we will meet under new stars never seen before. They will need to become accustomed to that.”

“Of course, my lord. I assume then that we will be departing?”

“Indeed. The time has come. All the pieces are in place, and we will make our presence known soon enough. Attend to my guests.”

“As you wish.” the young man replied and walked out, head bowed until he was out of sight of his emperor.

The emperor turned in his throne and regarded the stars and planet in view. They had spent weeks here patiently waiting for the signal. He had gathered his followers to him, the true believers, not the sycophants or hangers on. They would soon be relegated to what was coming.

Part of him wished he could watch the events that would unfold here shortly. He wanted to see what raw entropy would do to the planets and people. A massive city world like Coruscant gone. Would they have enough time to know what was happening to them? Would they have enough time to feel the fear and the terror of certain death?

But now there were other concerns. For his part he had agreed to make war on gods.

The Emperor activated the companel on his seat.

“Commander, prepare to move us out of orbit and into the distortion the sensors picked up on the other side of the system.”

“Yes my lord.”

“Have the super laser teams standing by, we will be entering combat operations as soon as we emerge from the anomaly.”

“Aye my lord.”

“Secure all commands and make sure all personnel are aboard and accounted for.”

“Supplies have been stowed away as well my lord. All communications arrays are secured, encrypted and encoded. Download from Coruscant archives complete. All your commands have been obeyed. The death star can now be considered the new capital of our galaxy.”

“Oh it will be more than that commander, much more than that.” The Emperor vowed and chuckled softly as he clicked off the com.

The emperor said nothing else as he watched the gas giant slowly drifting away as the half constructed but fully operational battle station rose out of its shadow like a predator emerging from its den.

“Was that really necessary?” Q asked softly.

“You broke the rules, you tried an end run around this whole game and you’re asking me if I overreacted. What would the continuum think?” Mitchell asked coldly.

Q and Mitchell sat on the barren plane in a dimension far removed from the actual game itself. The board sat between them, pieces moving in a slow dance. Several pieces sat off to the side eliminated from the grand strategy. Mitchell’s pieces were slashing deep into Q’s areas. Q was forming small tight defensive formations, with one group of pieces advancing steadily into Mitchell’s center.

“This is getting interesting.” Mitchell noted quietly.

“Indeed. Makes me wonder what the point of that is.” Q noted pointing to the deathstar piece that was suddenly proudly on the board and advancing alone.

“I like to bring out the big guns during endgame.”

Q smirked.

“You think we’re in endgame already? You think very lowly of me then.”

Mitchell said nothing but eyed him with a bemused expression.

“Why do I get these jobs?” Charlie asked himself as he walked through a dark tunnel. Q told him that as a higher being he had higher responsibilities, some of the more vital and dangerous jobs had to be carried out by those like him.

He had a growing suspicion that Q was simply giving his crappy details to Charlie.

There was no reason why Q could not do this himself. Charlie was itching to get back to Kirk’s side. Q had not allowed him to peer over and see what was happening. Q assured him that the Captain would be fine without him for now. Charlie doubted that. He could feel events closing in around them like an inescapable vise. No. That wasn’t quite right. It felt more like the every wild turn they could take was slowly being cut off, as if they were on some road and the forks and bends in the road were slowly vanishing and coming fewer and farther between.

Suddenly a tall burst of flame exploded in his path and he jumped back, the heat nearly blistering his flesh. The ground beneath his feet hungrily began to suck him down like walking through quicksand.
The geyser of flame solidified into a column of fire that slowly approached him as he floundered in the muddy earth.

He paused for a moment.

The fire was wavering in his vision and his feet were suddenly free of the solid stone floor.

“You’re going to have to do better than that.” Charlie called out as he managed to center himself and cleared his mind.

The fire still advanced without hesitation but Charlie walked through the fire as if it were air. Mostly because that was precisely what the fire was. Thin air given shape by another mind.

“I’m not here to harm you. Surely if you can force your illusions into my mind you can tell that.” Charlie protested. Q warned him they would be skittish.

“What do you want?” a voice echoed in his mind. It was cold and sterile.

“I’m here to meet with you on behalf of Q.”

“We were unaware that Q had emissaries. The last time he visited our world it nearly destroyed us.”

Charlie cursed to himself. Seems where ever he went he was running into the detritus of Q’s actions.

“I am not here to do the same. I don’t want to hurt you. In fact we need your help.”

A small figure approached, dressed in gray flowing gown the sexless creature stepped into the light. A large bulging head lined with throbbing veins topped a frail child like body.

The Talosian examined Charlie serenely.

“We have ignored the rest of the galaxy throughout our entire history. What does it matter to us what happens outside this world.”

“Surely you noticed there’s a war raging out there.”

“Indeed. A massive army from another galaxy has all but conquered this galaxy.”

“So they will eventually come for you.”

The Talosian smiled.

“Child, there is no doubt that they may come bent on conquest but they will soon learn the folly of attacking those that can shape their perceptions like clay.”

“And how many can you do that too? How many soldiers can you and your people manipulate before it becomes too much? Even if you could hold them off, what’s to stop them from simply bombing you out of existence?”

The Talosian said nothing.

“The boy is right.” a cold monotone spoke.

Charlie looked past the Talosian to a seated person approaching, he was accompanied by a woman, clutching the side of the chair.

“We did not mean this confrontation to disturb you.” the Talosian replied with genuine concern.

“I’ve been away long enough. The galaxy has finally come calling again.” the voice replied and the figure in the chair rolled into the light. Charlie frowned for a moment. It was a horribly scarred human male, old, very old but still alive. The woman next to him was also ancient but proud and she looked on her man with love and genuine affection.

Q warned him that the Talosians may have kept him alive with their technology. Their deep seated sense of morality would not allow them to let him pass easily. They felt they had grievously harmed him and so they worked diligently to please him, make his life easier and more comfortable.

Q also said he was their ace in the hole.

“Captain Pike?” Charlie asked uncertainly.

“Yes.” Pike replied, his voice a cold monotone emanating from a speaker system on the front of the chair.

“This is none of your concern, Captain Pike. Vina, please take the Captain back to your quarters. We did not meant to alarm him.”

“Christopher?” Vina asked quietly. He looked at her and Charlie saw a love there that instantly made him miss his parents.

“No.” Christopher Pike replied and for emphasis a single ancient light blinked twice on his chair.

“The galaxy is in the midst of a war that is threatening to engulf her completely. The Federation is reaching out and asking for all her sons and daughters to come to her aid and who am I to say no.”
The Talosian looked startled.


Charlie smiled.

“We need heroes, sir.”

Pike’s frozen face betrayed no emotion but his eyes seemed to shudder.

“Heroes?!” He spat derisively. “No son, the Federation has enough heroes. But the call has come and I’m ready.” His eyes slowly turned to Vina. She smiled warmly and passed a hand across a frozen cheek.

“Where you go, I follow.” She replied and kissed his forehead.

Charlie looked over at the Talosian who was staring at Pike. The Talosian hesitantly turned and returned Charlie’s gaze.

“Where he goes…we follow.” The Talosian replied hesitantly.

Charlie clapped excitedly and smiled. Things were looking up. The Talosian did not look so optimistic.
Wherever you go, there you are.

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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 59: A Murder of Crows

The conference room on the Executor was silent save for a lone voice speaking in a quiet confident tone. Arrayed around the table were the Imperial officers who arrived with their Grand Admiral to bring a new galaxy under the auspices of the Empire. Standing at the back of the table, arms crossed and watching the proceedings with great interest was Grand Admiral Kittaine. He watched the speaker intently.

The speaker, Kahn Noonian Singh finished his presentation as he said, “And this my friends is precisely how we will neutralize and capture James T. Kirk.”

The assembled officers said nothing at first, many glancing subtly or not so subtly to the back of the room where Grand Admiral Thrawn sat calmly, hands clasped together, fingers steepled under his chin. Thrawn’s glowing red eyes did not leave Kahn’s face as the superman stood under the holoprojection of the planet Earth.

“Excellent stratagem, Kahn but I have a very important question.” Thrawn finally spoke and the entire table of officers as one turned their heads to regard Kahn.

Kahn respectfully inclined his head to the Grand Admiral.

“Do you really expect me to believe that a warrior such as Kirk would allow himself to be captured in this manner?” Thrawn asked.

Kahn smiled and shook his head ruefully as he switched the holoimager to display James Kirk and his service record. Kirk’s face floated at Kahn’s head level, he was looking grimly at the assembly as his service record slowly scrolled to the left of his head in the two frame display.

“You know this man from these records, seized from Starfleet command. You will note the various citations and medals for valor.”

“That is my point is it not?” Thrawn interjected coldly. Jerjerrod watched the exchange with interest. Kahn seemed to always want to speak in long flowery soliloquies and speeches. They were inspiring in spite of his questionable status in the fleet. His constant escort of two stormtroopers surreptitiously stood off to the side watching their charge.

“If you bother to look past the surface and actually investigate his service record you will see that despite the fact that he had the most combat experience in all of Starfleet at the time he was also involved in no less than 500 missions of mercy to various Starfleet installations, colonies and worlds. This number only reflects his first five year mission. Over 1,000 missions of mercy in his career.”

“And?” Piett snapped in annoyance. “There is no doubt that this Federation was far too consumed with helping those weaker than themselves to the point where they neglected their own defenses and are now paying the ultimate price.”

“I was unaware that your staff could be so dense, Grand Admiral.” Kahn replied with a tight smile.

Piett frowned heavily but knew better than continue the debate with Kahn. Thrawn did not like Kahn scoring rhetorical points against his staff.

“You are entitled to your own opinion, of course but you will find that my patience grows very thin when personal attacks are used to waste my precious time. In case you were not paying attention, Kahn, I am in the process of conquering a galaxy.”

“Of course, Grand Admiral. As I was saying, James Kirk is a warrior yes, a fighter, yes, but he is also a man of his time.”

“The past?” Jerjerrod interjected.

“Ah, I keep forgetting that small detail.” Kahn said with a tight smile. “What I meant to say is that he is the consummate Federation man.”

Some at the table exchanged confused glances but Thrawn leaned forward slightly. Kahn smiled at the crimson eyed Chiss. He knew that of all the people in this room he would understand immediately.

Kittaine’s eyes narrowed on Kahn as he continued to speak. Lwaxanna and Ochoa had briefed him on this man. Kahn Noonian Singh’s name still reverberated through history. He was a genetically engineered superman that had nearly conquered his world. Ochoa was certain that he and James Kirk had met and fought during his five year mission nearly a century ago. The mystery of his appearance in this time was troubling to say the least. Sometimes, late at night when he was alone and reading after action reports he had the oddest feeling that things were unfolding according to some plan.

It was the strangest sensation as if he were simply a piece on some board. But the feeling quickly left him when he became conscious of how ridiculous the notion was.

But this meeting was far more important not because of what was being said but what was not. Thrawn had seemingly abandoned his crusade against the Imperium forces. But that was the most dangerous part and Kittaine knew it.

Thrawn was not your standard Imperial stooge. He was a Grand Admiral and as such his concerns were on a galactic scale and what was best for the Empire, not your simple knee jerk zealot response, but a more measured long range response and goals. Kittaine knew that up until recently Thrawn would have accepted the Imperium’s surrender. If Kittaine had bended knee to Thrawn and surrendered his fleet to Thrawn’s authority he knew that Thrawn would have accepted the surrender and not a word would have been mentioned to the Emperor.

Thrawn knew that he did not have the resources to fight both the Imperium fleet and the Federation remnant effectively. As a master strategist, Thrawn would want to win a victory with as little expenditures as possible. If part of that sacrifice was a simple looking away from an officer’s transgressions then he was sure that Thrawn would accept that.

But things were different.

Thrawn was no longer making the comments, veiled threats, and general distaste for Kittaine and his decision to break away from the Empire public. But among all these statements was the unspoken promise that should Kittaine surrender things would be forgotten. That promise was no longer there for one very simple reason.

“What do you think Grand Admiral Kittaine?” Thrawn asked softly.

Kittaine snapped out of his reverie. With those simple words Thrawn had signaled the obvious to Kittaine.

He was a dead man.

Thrawn would never accept Kittaine’s title otherwise. That was the one concession that the Grand Admiral would never make, the one transgression he would never overlook. By accepting the title for Kittaine he was essentially telling Kittaine that Thrawn would do everything in his power to crush the Imperium fleet.

“I have been fighting James Kirk since he took command of the Federation remnant. Before his ascension the Federation forces were scattered before our might. In the very first battle that he fought against us, the battle of Vulcan, James Kirk destroyed the Executioner. His successes continued up until the Battle of Romulus. He is not lucky. This is a commander that is gifted in the field of battle and commands the respect and loyalty of his men. This Federation fleet will bear any casualties that we can inflict in order to achieve a victory for him.” Kittaine replied as he started to pace slowly, hands clasped behind his back. It was only after a brief line of static crossed his features that it quickly became obvious that he was a hologram.

“I cannot believe that after all he’s been through that he would decide what Kahn is saying in his plan. Kirk is a fighter and he will go down fighting, of that I have no doubt.”

“You give him too much credit Grand Admiral.” Kahn replied without hesitation.

Kittaine frowned.

“It has been my philosophy not to underestimate my enemy. Kirk has fought to hard and knows what’s at stake in this war. To think that he could be made to surrender with this tactic is a gross underestimation of his resolve.”

Kahn shook his head.

“It seems that you are the one that has built him into something that he is not.” Kahn said with a jovial laugh. “James Kirk is the paragon of his society’s virtues. What does the Federation stand for to humans?”

The assembled officers remained silent.

Kahn looked around at each one’s face before speaking.

“They actually believe that they have evolved past basic human vices such as greed and selfishness.”

Several of the officers exchanged disgusted expressions. Thrawn remained impassive watching Kahn speak, his eyes never left the genetically engineered tyrant.

“I have a far more realistic view of the state of human nature, but luckily for us James Kirk was not raised in my era, or as I can see from your actions to date, in your galaxy where we seem to collectively value ambition and embrace our human nature.”

“The point, Kahn. I am not seeing a point.” Thrawn interrupted in a quiet tone.

Kahn stopped for a moment. On Earth, 200 hundred years ago, he would have had this alien’s head on a pike for such insolence. Kahn knew that Thrawn understood precisely the point he was making but he wanted to subtly exert control over Kahn.

This would soon change.

His eyes did not look at Jerjerrod but the young captain was tantalizing close to the Grand Admiral. One quick strike to the Grand Admiral’s throat, one casual reach for the blaster at his side and Thrawn would die.

It pleased Kahn to no end to have the arrogant white uniformed Grand Admiral live at his whim. One day he would have him.

The doors to the conference room slid open and the black armored giant, Darth Vader strode into the room. His cape trailed behind him as he strode past Kahn and took a position standing directly behind Thrawn and crossed his arms. The sound of his heavy mechanized breathing accompanied the quiet hum of the holoprojector.

“As I was saying James Kirk is an enlightened man. Yes he is a warrior and yes he has sacrificed much and knows what is at stake but in the end he is wearing a Starfleet uniform and that makes him a rare breed indeed.”

“I am not seeing why his Federation ideals would make him sacrifice the war effort.” Piett interjected.

“The Federation values above all else life.”

“Our early and most successful victories against came when we started striking civilian targets during Lord Nemesis’ march on Earth.” Kittaine noted, starting to see the point but refusing to believe that the man he had been fighting tooth and nail against these last few months would ever surrender under such contrived circumstances.

“The Federation fleets opposing us either withdrew or spent precious resources trying to protect the civilian infrastructure.” Kittaine finished.

“We’re talking about the leader of the movement fighting to protect and save his Federation surrendering to us based on a simple threat.” Piett countered incredulously.

“We also need to take into account a very simple problem with this plan.” Kittaine added.

“Oh?” Kahn asked curiously.

“What if Kirk calls our bluff? He is exceedingly good at seeing through pretenses and trickery. I find that direct approach is the best strategy to use against him.” Kittaine asked pointing at the holoimage of Earth behind Thrawn. It was an eerie sight to see Earth floating over Kahn’s left shoulder and Kirk’s face floating over his right shoulder.

“I agree.” Kahn replied without hesitation. “That is why you must follow through with the threat even if he does not surrender.”

Thrawn watched the look of horror on several of his officer’s faces. He noted each one for future reference. In the end they would have to be replaced by those more willing to do what needed to be done to achieve victory.

“We’re talking about losing a jewel in the Imperium crown. Imperium blood was shed winning it.” Kittaine protested.

“I wonder, Grand Admiral whether you were calling yourself the Imperium at that time?” Thrawn asked.

Kittaine glared at Thrawn.

“It doesn’t really matter now. Imperium troops occupy that world and Imperium ships orbit her. You will not just destroy it because it MIGHT lead to the surrender of one man.”

“Grand Admiral, Grand Admiral…” Kahn chuckled darkly. “I have no doubts that this plan will not fail.”

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you, after all what do you have to lose Kahn?” Kittaine shot back.

“Frankly, if it meant ridding us of Kirk I would gladly sacrifice a hundred Earths.” Kahn replied.

“I don’t think it needs to come to that do you?” Thrawn asked sharply.

“No. Kirk could not conceive of the deaths that he could avert with a simple act.”

“You claim to know him so well. I have fought this man and surrender is not in his creed. He can see what is most important in this struggle, one world or a hundred, if he can drive us out of this galaxy he will.” Kittaine snapped.

The room was silent for a moment, save for Vader’s breathing.

“I am surprised that this tactic was not used earlier against the Federation, Admiral Kittaine. You identified this weakness in their structure and you did not exploit it.” Vader spoke quietly from his place behind Thrawn but his head turned to stare at Kittaine.

“What are you saying Lord Vader? That I did not do my best to crush this rebellion?”

“Isn’t it obvious? The Federation Remnant still fights on, yet we have managed to recover a stolen Imperial vessel and utterly crush this so called Shadow Fleet that laid waste to one of your worlds. Do you have an explanation for this Admiral?” Vader asked pointedly.

“Grand Admiral Lord Vader.” Kittaine corrected him.

Everyone in the room froze, all but Thrawn and Kahn.

“You are an Admiral in the Imperial fleet, Kittaine. Make no mistake your treachery has been noted and will be dealt with.” Vader spoke and his hand motioned towards Kittaine, emphasizing each word.

“I am a Grand Admiral in the Imperium Navy. If you wish to discuss this further then you must deal with Lord Nemesis as he is our Emp—leader.”

“Emperor?!” Vader seethed.

“Enough.” Thrawn demanded quietly. His voice did not rise above conversational level but both Vader and Kittaine grew quiet.

“Kahn, I will take this plan under advisement. While I can see your point, I simply find it impossible to believe that this man would surrender under such a threat. However as time goes on we may need to take such action.”

“Do I have to point out again that this world is the Imperium capital of the Federation Protectorate and –”

Thrawn lifted a hand.

“When it comes time to discuss the plan I will make sure to consult your glorious leader. Odd that he should not be attending this strategic conference, no? We are, after all discussing how to end the threat of the Federation remnant once and for all.”

And how to free the Imperial fleet of one enemy to concentrate on another. Kittaine mused darkly.

“Lord Nemesis is indisposed at the moment. He takes his position seriously.” Kittaine replied neutrally.

Thrawn nodded slowly.

“I see.” was all he said in response but Kittaine could feel Vader’s eyes on him like lasers. They seemed to burn into his flesh, seeking the truth. It was his own strength of will and the comforting presence of Lwaxanna in his mind that shielded him from the brunt of the Sith lord’s probing.

The experience was not at all pleasant, as he could feel the seething rage of the Sith lord battering him like some fiery tempest.

“The decision has been made to shelve the operation for now but we will revisit it should events demand.” Thrawn concluded.

“I will not put too fine a point on this Grand Admiral Thrawn, but you are grossly mistaken about James Kirk. This plan will work and will save us much time and effort.”

Some of the assembled officers immediately looked down at their datapads, assuming the worst was about to happen. Kahn’s stormtrooper escort took a step forward, hands on the butts of their blasters.

“I will take that assessment under advisement Kahn.” Thrawn replied icily.

“I am only doing my best to ensure this faction victory.” Kahn assured the blue skinned alien.

“Of course you are.” Thrawn said coolly, his eyes boring into Kahn’s.

The stormtroopers stood down.

“I will leave this assembly with something to think about. Should your forces attempt to carry out this foolhardy plan without the Imperium’s consent then the uneasy peace between our fleets will undoubtedly end. We will defend Earth no matter the cost.”

“How touching.” Piett smirked.

“And take this with you, Grand Admiral. If and when we come for Earth, there will be nothing you can do to stop us.” Thrawn said grimly.

“Then you will know the price for treason in the Empire, Admiral. I will see to it personally.” Vader added.

Kittaine looked at each of the principals with a steely gaze.

“Then I see we have come to an understanding. Good day gentlemen.” Kittaine’s holoimage faded away.

The room was silent for a moment, no one dared speak waiting for Thrawn.

“Is he gone?” Thrawn asked Jerjerrod.

Jerjerrod checked the room readings to make sure that the hyperlink signal from the Emperor’s Will had been fully terminated and no other transmissions were beaming in of or out of the Executor’s conference room.

“We are secure Grand Admiral.” he replied when he was satisfied with the readings.

“Excellent. Kahn you may be seated. Piett I believe that I asked you for a preliminary plan for our assault on Andor?” Thrawn asked.

“Indeed you did, Grand Admiral.” Piett replied as he rose from his place. Kahn slid into his seat at the bottom of the table and picked up a datapad. He activated the briefing file but paid no attention to it. Instead he watched the face of James Kirk floating serenely over the holoprojector.

“I will have you.” he whispered under his breath, as Piett switched the display. Kirk’s face vanished, replaced by the large planet of Andor.

“I have dubbed this Operation Twilight.” Piett began and soon tactical images representing Imperial ships, Federation ships and orbital defenses filled the holographic display. Kahn cared for none of these things. Andor would fall, there was no doubt of that but Kirk. He remained like some cut on the inside of your mouth that you constantly probed with your tongue, never allowing it to heal.

“That was most unpleasant.” Kittaine sighed as he checked his end of the signal, making sure that Thrawn or his lackeys did not piggyback some surveillance program onto his carrier wave.

“You poor dear. But my how handsome you looked when you stood up to them, especially that Vader person. What an unwholesome person.” Lwaxanna Troi commented as she brushed back a stray lock from Kittaine’s forehead.

“Woman I am not a child.” Kittaine exclaimed in mock exasperation.

“That is what you human men like to think.” Lwaxanna protested as she gingerly ran a hand down his cheek.

Kittaine rolled his eyes and sighed heavenward.

“I suppose you find this funny.” he snapped at Ernesto Ochoa seated opposite them fiddling with a datapad modified for use by the blind.

“I find many things funny in the dark these days, Grand Admiral. I truly do. But happiness and love are no laughing matters. They are becoming increasingly precious these days.”

“Happiness?!” Kittaine spat in surprise.

“Love.” Lwaxanna replied with a wistful tone.

“Indeed.” Ochoa added and chuckled softly.

“Enough, I need to know what you think.” Kittaine said as he poured Ochoa a drink. Ochoa gladly accepted the help. He did not have the heart to tell the Grand Admiral that he was not thirsty and even if he was blindness did not preclude him from pouring himself a drink. But somehow, it was the little things that Kittaine did for Ochoa that helped clear his conscious.

“You’re a good man Kittaine, never forget that.” Ochoa had told him several times and it was true, but it was when Kittaine poured him a drink, helped him out of his seat, read him a report that Kittaine felt like a good man. And Ochoa was not about to rob him of that.

“Kahn’s plan will work.” Ochoa stated after a moment of contemplation.

“He’s right.” Lwaxanna added sadly.

“Madness.” Kittaine whispered as it sank in. “You’re telling me that he would surrender?”

“He will. He’s a Starfleet officer, he would have no choice.” Ochoa reasoned.

“The life of billions for the life of one man.” Lwaxanna said with a shake of her head.

“He is the only hope they have at victory. His surrender would be preposterous.”

“He’s a better man than that, Gideon. Starfleet officers are trained from the beginning to put others ahead of themselves, humans in particular are very good at that.”

Kittaine stared at Lwaxanna and back at Ochoa. The concept that the supreme commander of a fleet would surrender because they threatened to blast a single world into rubble was inconceivable to him.

“Which leads me to the next step, we need to eliminate Kahn Singh as soon as possible.”

Kittaine shook his head.

“He is a perfect counterpoint to Thrawn. Thrawn is not secure on his own ship as long as Kahn is in play.” Kittaine explained. “I prefer to keep him there, I don’t want Thrawn to get too comfortable.”

“I have to agree with Ochoa, Gideon. Kahn knows Kirk too well and by extension the Federation mindset. If Thrawn really starts listening to him…” Lwaxanna’s voice trailed off.

“For now, we will keep Kahn in play, besides it won’t be easy to get an assassin team on board the Executor.”

Ochoa nodded, he never argued with Kittaine’s decisions.

“You do know they’re discussing the Andor operation.” Ochoa noted.

Kittaine nodded.

“There’s no doubt they will move on Andor.”

“I always wondered why the Imperial, excuse me Imperium fleet never moved on Andor. The buzz back on Betazed was that the Empire was afraid of the losses Andor’s defenses would inflict on them.”

Kittaine toyed with a glass on the table.

“No. That’s not quite right. True, Andor’s defenses were going to bloody our noses, after all they had spent a decade preparing to secede from your Federation and they suspected that your Starfleet would not allow that to happen without a fight so they prepared defenses that could have turned back your Starfleet. But in the end you simply lack the raw firepower to truly hurt a fleet the size of ours. We would have taken Andor in a day.”

“So why not?” Lwaxanna asked curiously.

“Nemesis.” Ochoa stated simply. Kittaine nodded at the blind starship Captain. Ochoa was wearing a brand new Starfleet uniform. He refused to wear an Imperial one and Kittaine respected his choice. It felt odd however to sit in this office and discuss matters so openly with a man wearing the uniform of the enemy.

“Darth Nemesis was going to launch an assault on Andor in response to our loss at Vulcan when he suddenly changed his mind and ordered us that under no circumstances were we to assault Andor. I never knew why but I had learned by that point to implicitly trust the young Sith lord’s instincts.” Kittaine explained.

“A wise decision. I wonder why Vader doesn’t sense what Nemesis sensed?”

“An interesting question. Vader seems distracted somehow.” Lwaxanna noted. “He could have pushed through my mind shields of Gideon with a little more effort.”

“It’s Nemesis. My agents tell me that Vader has been obsessed with finding him. He has probe droids making reconnaissance of all Imperium held systems and the space around it and his own spy network is working nonstop. Quiet a few agents have been found with crushed Tracheas on the Executor.” Kittaine explained.

“So unlike Nemesis, this Sith lord follows through on his threats.” Ochoa noted.

“I wish he were here. He has placed me in such a position that I do not know if I’ll be able to get us out of this one piece.” Kittaine whispered.

“Gideon, don’t worry you have us.” Lwaxanna comforted him.

“It’s not just me.” Kittaine countered. “It’s those young men and women, they are like a family to me and they have followed me into treachery. What do I have to offer them?”

“Hope.” Ochoa responded without hesitation. “In this war, Grand Admiral, that is the strongest weapon of all.”

Kittaine nodded slowly watching the young Starfleet captain that he had captured months ago, tortured and broken, sitting before him speaking of hope.

“Speaking of which, I can feel their thoughts. They’re getting impatient.” Lwaxanna interjected.

“Led I’m sure by Captain Tarsi.” Kittaine said with a dry laugh. “Let them in.”

The bridge of the Bird of Prey was quiet as they watched the convoy on the screen. There really was no need for quiet, the cloaking device was functioning well within parameters and it still offered a measure of safety against standard Imperial sensors. Sound could not travel through space nor be detected by normal means, but this crew was a superstitious lot and they had own many victories by observing the silence before the kill.

This mission was different than most.

Their captain was no longer in command, he stood off to the right of the command chair. The Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, Worf son of Mogh sat calmly in the command seat, hands clasped tightly together under his chin.

“Range: 15,000 Kalikams.” the tactical officer growled lowly. Worf could hear the anticipation in his voice. His warrior’s blood was singing in his ears.

“All weapons, stand by on my mark. Sensors does the cargo match my specifications?” Worf whispered throatily.

The female science officer checked her screen one more time. She turned to Worf.

“Yes, Chancellor. The quantum signatures indicate some form of hypermatter in their holds.”

“With any luck, we may get our hands on some fully functional generators.” the captain whispered to Worf.

“I have begun to despair against any hope. But here in this ship, with this crew, I will bring the hope back into the hearts of the Empire.” Worf said lowly.

“Kaplah, my Chancellor.” The Captain snapped a proud salute. He heard in his chancellor’s voice something he had not heard in months from anyone in charge, a fierce sense of pride and anger at their fortunes.

“Bring us in slowly, signal the rest of the fleet to follow our lead. Position the third wing in the forward position but they are not to decloak until the Imperials start to bolt.”

“You give them an opening…”

“They will take it.” Worf finished for the Captain.

“How long has it been since we have stalked prey like this among the stars?”

“Too long.”

The Klingon fleet moved like sharks cutting through the murky depths. A fleet of hungry hard emerald and ruby warships approaching the small convoy as it waited for the last of its number to enter formation for the jump to lightspeed.

The convoy consisted of several heavy haulers and numerous smaller merchant vessels. The convoy was surrounded by a wing of Romulan warbirds and smaller warships. A handful of TIE fighters and a carrack class cruiser were hanging above the convey, giving them perfect fields of fire over all avenues of approach.

Worf had waited patiently. All these days he watched as convoys came through this system, formed up and prepared for the jump to lightspeed. Sometimes they were heavily defended, the sight of a Victory class stardestroyer and attendant ships had awed the massed Klingon fleet, sometimes they were lightly defended, a few warbirds and perhaps a squadron of fighters.

Worf waited for the perfect balance of protection that he knew he could defeat and indicated that the cargo was valuable enough to capture. The highest priority on his list were any form of hypermatter technology that could assist the forces of this galaxy in developing the power source that gave the Imperials such an advantage on the field of battle.

Now the time had come.

Worf raised his arm as the Klingon fleet closed the distance.

The drumming began. Slow at first, a pounding beat of fist on metal. Then the singing followed a low guttural song of impending joy and victory. Each verse brought another few members of the crew into the song. Worf’s blood sang with each lyric as he watched the Imperial fleet loom on the screen.

“1,000 Kalikams!” the tactical officer shouted over the cacophony.

“All weapons open fire!” Worf shouted and dropped his arm like a hammer. The Klingon fleet surged forward as their cloaks dropped. Suddenly the convoy was surrounded by Klingon warships slashing deep into their flanks.

The Romulan warbirds immediately returned fire filling space with bright green disruptor fire and plasma torpedoes. The Klingon ships, comprised mostly of birds of prey were moving quickly, bulling past the escort vessels and directly attacking the cargo haulers and merchant ships.

The Carrack announced her presence with a flurry of turbolaser fire as she accelerated down into the plane of engagement. Several Birds of prey were caught in the emerald storm of fire, exploding or spinning madly out of control as their shields failed under the assault.

TIE Fighters quickly dove down in tight formations like a pack of hounds and engaged the small nimble Birds of Prey, bright green fire splashing against the shields in an impressive light show.

The Birds of Prey had done their jobs. The fast ships were flushing the unarmed merchant vessels out of the defensive zone of the escorts. No longer feeling safe, a point emphasized by the fiery destruction of a merchant vessel under the rapid fire of a Bird of Prey’s twin disruptor banks set to rapid fire mode, the civilians were panicking and starting to bolt.

“We have a break at 4732 mark 70.”

“We need more pressure, I want more breaks in their line, have the 8th tactical wing concentrate exclusively on the merchant ships. Warn them to fire only on ships that show no hypermatter signatures.” Worf ordered.

“Glorious.” the Captain whispered as he watched a warbird slowly dropping out of the battle, both nacelles blasted out of their housings venting bright white plasma into space. As she dropped down out of control her disruptors continued firing desperately into the Klingon swarm.

“I see that the Romulans are not as spineless as Gahk after all.” The captain noted.

“They are without honor, but even the honorless can have courage.” Worf replied. He could not help it. He smiled. For the first time since the fall of Quo’nos he smiled.

“Chancellor, we have four breaks now. They are in an utter panic.”

“I’m picking up orders from the Imperial command telling the merchants to form up behind the Carrack.”

“Jam them.” Worf barked then grinned as he saw the merchants scattering like children before a run away Targ.

“Now Captain.” Worf nodded.

The captain turned to the communications officer.

“All wings but the third decloak and engage. For the Empire!”

“Kaplah!” the bridge crew shouted as one.

The warbirds were quickly forming a ring around the Birds of prey, directed by the Carrack cruiser that was now deep in the disintegrating convoy center wading into the Klingon ships. They would trap these Klingon dogs and slaughter them for their insolence.

They were certainly not expecting the waves of heavy cruisers, Vor’cha class attack cruisers and sundry other heavy hitters to decloak in the rear and begin to direct their fire in salvoes at the various defensive ships.

Warbirds withered under the assault of a dozen heavy cruisers combining their fire. The Carrack cruiser did not hesitate as she continued her attack on the Birds of prey.

“Tell them to fire as one, continue to concentrate fire on the value targets. All bird of prey wings, ignore the merchant men. It is time to go Targ hunting.”

The crew cheered and many pounded on their consoles with emphasis and cheer. Worf shook hid head in delight. During the dark days, when the Empire was on the verge of utter defeat it seemed that something always went wrong in combat, a ship failed in her duty, an enemy vessel was precisely where she should not be, the enemy’s reinforcements came quicker than expected and the Klingons knew defeat after defeat.

Then the disaster at Romulus had torn the heart from his people.

But Worf son of Mogh had decided this day that he would bring them back, like Kahless leading his ragged band against Molar the tyrant.

The Birds of Prey quickly swarmed the Carrack, dozens passed in flashes past the Imperial vessel, trading fire, in many cases drawing fire and decloaking at one side of the ship and decloaking on the opposite end.

“Her shields are holding.” the tactical officer reported, but there was a difference here as well. There was no hint of disappointment. No frustration. This was the voice of a warrior pleased that the prey has turned out to be more resilient than expected.

“The Cruiser is laying down a murderous fire on her forward arc, we’ve already lost 6 ships in the last three minutes.”

“Status of the third wing?”

“They are holding position but commander Jespar is begging to attack.”

“Tell him to wait, we are driving his targets to him. Have the 10th and 11th Attack wings focus their attacks on the merchants, tell them to drive them like Grislas to the third wing.”


“There is no dishonor in disengaging from this enemy.” the captain whispered to Worf as the Bird of prey losses mounted. The Carrack was slowly pulling away, a tight cloud of Klingon fighters whipping around it exchanging fire in an endless stream of green disruptor fire, countered by turbolaser fire.

“Tell our wings to strike closer, she is not designed to fight ships of our size this close.”

“Yes Chancellor.”

Heroic tragedy turned the day for the Chancellor’s attack wing. A Vor’cha class attack cruiser dove straight down through the dorsal spine of a warbird, her forward disruptor cannon fired a steady emerald beam that ate through the warbird’s dying shields and tore into the delicate spine that connected the warbird’s bridge section to the main body of the vessel. The warbird slowly came apart, unfortunately not fast enough and the Vor’cha dove right into the remains of the warbird’s spinal structure, blasting it apart.

The attack cruiser’s shields absorbed the brunt of the impact but her forward cannon was crushed deep into the command pod of the Klingon cruiser. It continued to plunge downward, trailing molten debris from the warbird as it exploded.

The Vor’cha’s dive continued down into the depths of the battle, screaming past dueling cruisers, warbirds trading fire with limping K’tingas, fleeing merchant men and right into the forward hull of the Carrack.

Many would say that the Vor’cha’s captain had embraced his death like a good Klingon, had directed his dying crippled warship into the enemy ship to help his Chancellor in battle, that the spirit of Kahless himself had guided the helmsman’s hand.

In reality the captain and his bridge crew had died on impact with the warbird’s hull and were already wading across the river to Stovolkor when their vessel rammed the Carrack. The effect of the impact was as jarring to the Klingons as it was to the Imperial’s.

“Her forward shield grid is down!”

“Bring all fire to her now. All warships are to concentrate fire on the forward quarter!” Worf roared and rose from his seat as if he himself were going to deliver a blow to the stunned cruiser, wreathed in the dying plasma fired of a ship’s ruptured warp core, the momentum of the impact driving the light cruiser down off center.

Torpedoes and disruptors showered the Carrack’s forward section, tearing gaping holes in the armored hull. Return fire was devastating as gunnery crews knew that this could be their final moments.

Klingon ships blossomed into balls of fire and molten metal as the turbolaser chewed through the advancing Klingon lines. The Carrack captain was horrified when his engineer reported in panicked tones that the forward shield grid had been badly damaged in the impact and opening volleys and that the cruiser would not be able to establish shields.

“She’s trying to run!” the tactical officer crowed.

“All heavy cruiser follow us in the attack, try to get to her forward section. Status of the third wing?”

“Merchant ships are in position.”

“Give the third wing the attack order.”

Worf sat back. He watched the Carrack as it floundered under the combined fire of dozens of cruisers, harried at the flanks like a wounded saber bear by the fast moving birds of prey. Her engines flared as all the captain could think about was escape.

His escape came in a single volley from two passing birds of prey that roared past the forward section of the ship, twin disruptor banks in rapid fire mode, found a vulnerable spot, a weak point in the dying ship that touched off a series of internal explosions.

“She’s on fire!”

“Her weapons fire is still deadly.” Worf snapped as one of the heroic birds of prey was clipped by weapons fire and tumbled end over end for several hundred kilometers before exploding. The carrack floundered engines dying as fires raged through the interior of the ship, overloaded systems gave way and the first escape pods began to drift away from the dying hulk.

“Orders Chancellor?”

“What did the Federation use to say about Klingons in battle?” Worf barked.

The Captain smiled, his fangs gleaming in the crimson lighting of the bridge. “They said we do not take prisoners.”

“So be it.”

The battle was over and the sound of chanting Klingon warriors was heard throughout the fleet com system as the merchant convoy was rounded up and quickly ‘escorted’ out of the system.

No one noticed one small bird of prey coast to a quick stop beside one of the heavy haulers for several minutes then bank away and cloak. The Klingons were too happy to notice the theft occurring beneath their noses. But for now it did not matter. The spirit of Kahless was among his people again.

“Excellent briefing Admiral. You have my permission to proceed with the plan as it stands now, I of course will be adding some modifications but they will be minor at this point.”

“Thank you Grand Admiral.” Piett inclined his head respectfully.

“Dismissed. Lord Vader, Kahn, please remain behind.”

The officers quickly filed out.

“Kahn your plan has much promise.” Thrawn stated as he watched him. Vader stood behind Thrawn as usual and said nothing.

“That is why you decided to adopt it?” Kahn asked in a near sneer.

“It will be adopted if Operation Twilight fails.”

“You seriously think the Andorians will repulse your attack?”

“Of course not.” Thrawn replied with a snort. “The true goal of Twilight is to bring Kirk into battle with me again so that I can kill him.”

“You think that this chance at one final battle to decide the fate of his remnant will bring him into the fray?”

“It is not an altogether false assumption. He knows the value of Andor. He knows that the future of this conflict will be decided at Andor. It is an apocalyptic final confrontation and how could he, James T. Kirk, hero of the Federation turn his back on this final battle?”

“You have no idea who you are dealing with.” Kahn shook his head ruefully.

“I assume you believe in that rather pathetic notion that you can only know someone if you fight them.”

“No more pathetic than thinking that some piece of artwork will help decide your strategy in battle.” Kahn countered without skipping a beat.

Both men stared at each other for a long moment, as if measuring each other for some revelation.

“You are a gifted leader of men, Kahn Noonian Singh. I have allowed you this far into my confidences and my ship because I recognized that the risks of having you are far outweighed by the benefits that your skills and insight bring to this conquest. Don’t ever make me think otherwise.” Thrawn stated calmly.

“I see that it is we that have reached an understanding.” Kahn replied after a moment.

“Do not think you can fool us, Kahn. Make no mistake, the moment mere plotting becomes action, mine is the last face you will see.” Vader added.

“A challenge gentlemen is something I have never been able to resist.” Kahn replied and calmly walked out of the conference room.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 60: Dreams of Light and Shadow

Everything was so far away.

How did he come to this?

He was running. What was he running from? It was dark, there were flashes of images, a corridor, a door opening, his legs pumping. His breath came ragged, shirt slicked wet with his sweat stuck to his chest.

He could not resists any longer, he could feel the overwhelming urge to turn around, to look and see.

He began to turn, his head looking back through the dark corridor, lit by what seemed like distant fires.

A shadow moved through the shadows and fire, it crossed into his field of vision.


He was stuck. Immobilized.

Fear shot through him like an arrow. He felt as if he were drowning. He struggled against the brackish black fear that threatened to swallow him like a hungry sea. Why couldn’t he move? Why was he trapped?

I need to be free! He shouted to no one and everyone.

Heat. At first the heat seemed familiar. The heat of arid dry desert. But there was more to it than that, wasn’t there?

He remembered looking up at the twin suns and feeling their warm caress on his face. The heat never really bothered him. He was used to it, moved through it, worked in it, lived in it. The heat was comforting.

But there was something else. The heat was intensifying and he could feel it on his flesh now. He tried to turn but the crash had collapsed the housing of the cockpit around him, pinning his legs and his left arm was tangled in one of the overhead compartments that had been pulled loose from the framework by the impact.


The feeling of confusion passed quickly as he tried desperately to turn and face the source of the heat. Then he heard the low crackling behind him and the smell of burnt circuitry and insulation.

“Luke, are you alright? Luke?”

The voice, it sounded familiar.

“Biggs?” he muttered, still confused, head full of cotton.

“Luke! Hold on buddy, you clipped that outcropping on your last pass. Your hopper’s in really bad shape.”

“I’m hurt.” He muttered.

“I’m coming down. Your uncle, he’s come all the way from the homestead in the speeder. He might get there before me, just hold on.”

“Uncle Owen?” He moaned as pain shot up his right side. But he could now only hear static from his headset. He could feel the fire creeping closer into the cockpit. He tried futilely to free himself, to pull himself free from the crumpled cockpit trapping him as well as any cage might.

The fire was getting so close now. The hair on the back of his head was up.

“Let me out!” He shouted suddenly and shoved hard against the housing. The light from the fires was throwing up an orange flashing light that played off the spider web patterns on his shattered cockpit window.

“I want out!” He shouted and the world seemed to slow down for a moment, as if he were immersed in a raging ocean, massive waves crashing overhead as he continued sinking down into the abyss and his hands pushed upwards and he felt one of the crashing waves wash over him and the cockpit gave way, wrenching open and falling away from him.

Just as suddenly as it came, the waves washed over him and he was free again, the desert heat washed over him and he could smell the sand and the burnt sky. He could also hear the high pitched whine of a speeder coming to an abrupt stop.

He was slowly dropping down a dark tunnel. A familiar face hovered into view.

“Just hold on Luke. We’ll have you out of here in just a minute.”

“Uncle Owen?” his voice sounded as if he were speaking with marbles in his mouth, his tongue refused to work properly.

“Just hold on Luke. I have no idea how you got this canopy off, but now’s not the time.” the gruff older man grunted as he pulled Luke free from the cockpit and half carried/half dragged Luke away from the wreckage.

“Uncle Owen, I’m so sorry.”

“What are you sorry for Luke?” Owen asked as he gently lay the boy out by his speeder. Biggs had come racing down a dune behind them.

“Is he Ok?”

“Yes, he is. Maybe later you can tell me what you boys were doing out here in Beggar’s canyon.” Owen replied grimly.

“We will sir, but I have to save Luke’s skyhopper.”

Owen glanced back at the skyhopper half buried in the sand, thick black smoke started belching out of the cockpit. The thought of Luke burning in that contraption angered the older man as he looked back at his nephew. Darker thoughts also crept into the recesses of his mind.

“Let it burn.” Owen spat.

Biggs’ eyes widened in shock but he shook his head and ran over to the Skyhopper and started spraying the flame extinguisher into the cockpit.

“I’m so sorry Uncle Owen.” Luke muttered weakly. Owen turned back to Luke and put one hand under his nephew’s chin and started undoing his helmet strap.

“Stop talking nonsense Luke. There’s no being sorry for making a stupid choice. We’ll talk about that later.”

“I never meant to, I had no choice.” he muttered, his head swimming as if he were floating above the accident site, looking down at himself and Owen.

“What?” Owen asked in annoyance. Luke looked like he may be suffering a bad head injury.

“I never meant to join the dark side. I didn’t want to become an agent of evil.” Luke replied weakly.

Was that right?

“Why would we be angry about that Luke?” Aunt Beru asked gently as she knelt by Luke and Owen.

She wasn’t there that day. Aunt Beru had taken care of him when Uncle Owen brought him back on a stretcher in the speeder. Where Owen had left Luke in bed with a stern lecture on what he had done, Aunt Beru had quietly walked in afterwards with cold compresses and cool water.

Her touch had eased his pain that night.

Uncle Owen did not come in that night to check on him. HE was ashamed. he could never seem to win Uncle Owen’s love and affection.

She had not been there.

But that morning, when he stumbled out of bed in a ill advised attempt to feel better he walked slowly up the stairs out of his room and watched in shock his Skyhopper sitting out by the garage.

Biggs later told him how Owen had driven out to Beggar’s Canyon and helped Biggs unearth the things and haul it back to the homestead.

Where Beru’s love had been in the compresses, gentle words and cool soothing water, Owen’s love had been in the sweat and grunting of labor. Pulling free the instrument of Luke’s near death because Luke loved it so much. It was important to him and Owen Lars would be damned if the one thing his nephew loved would be allowed to rot in the wastes.

Luke had a revelation about love that day.

“I’m so sorry, I did not want to wear the cloak of Darth Nemesis.”

“It’s Ok, dear. We understand.”

It was Aunt Beru’s voice but a smoldering skeleton stood over him speaking the words. Another smoldering skeleton stood over him undoing his helmet.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for Luke. You were too much like your father. What could be expected.”

“You don’t understand, I’m sorry.”

“Who were we to think that we would have any affect on you?” Owen said darkly.

“There was really nothing else we could do, Owen. Luke, we always wanted the best for you.”

Luke tried to crawl away from the grinning skulls that spoke to him in the voices of his long dead aunt and uncle. He crawled desperately, hands digging deep into the hot sand and pulling himself backwards away from the horrible apparitions.


“Luke.” they called to him, skeletal arms extended and they suddenly keeled forward and lay sprawled out at the entrance to one of the underground homes. Luke stood by his landspeeder staring at the fallen corpses.

Things are so confusing.

He felt a presence behind him. It was drawing closer. He did not want to look back. The shadow was falling over him as he watched the skeletal remains of the only people he could call parents smoking in the harsh desert winds.

He dropped to his knees and vomited, spewing a thick stream into the sand and slowly slumped down until his forehead touched the sand. He began to sob softly at first as he did so long ago on this very spot.

The presence loomed over him and he saw two black booted feet stand to his left.

“You know who I am. Why are you running?”

Luke closed his eyes and drove himself deep down into the darkness, deep into the very depths of his own mind. Deep where Yoda had taught him to place himself when he wanted to commune with the force. The center of the being, the very core of who he was. Yoda had taught him that here a Jedi was at peace, calm, nothing could penetrate the cool layers of darkness.

Why am I remembering Yoda’s lessons?

He stood alone in the darkness. His breathing relaxed and his thoughts slowed down. He centered himself as he had been taught and reached out slowly with his mind. He needed to know what was happening, why he was so confused.

“A Jedi uses the force for knowledge.”

“These aren’t the actions of a Sith lord.”

Luke smiled softly and turned around to face the speakers.

Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi stood side by side, illuminated by a pale blue light that emanated from their very bodies. Obi Wan looked just as he remembered and Yoda leaned heavily on his walking stick as he examined his old pupil.

“What do you know about the Sith?” Luke asked directly.

Obi Wan and Yoda exchanged veiled glances.

“We know what needs to be known.” Yoda replied.

“Then you know nothing.” Luke replied bitterly.

“Explain yourself.” Obi Wan demanded.

“I think I’ll be asking the questions here, Obi Wan.” Luke replied hotly. “After all you are in my consciousness.”

“Consciousness is a very tricky subject Luke, particularly from a novice like yourself.”

“Novice?!” Luke laughed bitterly.

“A padawan has more self control than you. Betrayed you have all that you have learned.” Yoda added sadly. There was not a single note of bitterness or anger in the Jedi master’s voice, only a deep abiding sadness and disappointment. It hurt Luke in a way he had never expected.

“Betrayal!” Luke roared. He seemed to grow in stature, towering over the two Jedi masters. Obi Wan and Yoda did not look concerned at all.

“You both taught me everything I needed to learn about betrayal, you taught me a lifetime’s worth, both of you.” Luke pointed an accusatory finger at both of them. “You taught me about my father, you told me he was a hero betrayed by a Sith Lord named Darth Vader.” he jabbed his finger at Yoda. “You told me how powerful my father was and then reinforced this one’s lie. Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, my father and you two purposely lied to me, drew my anger and forged me into a weapon to be used against my father.”

The two Jedi Masters said nothing as Luke’s rage illuminated the interior of his center with a pulsing crimson light.

“You would have let me kill him without a SINGLE WORD as to who he was and what he meant to me.”

“Luke—” Obi Wan began.

“Silence!” Luke shouted and his voice was accompanied by thunder and crimson lightning split the dark interior.

“No we will not be silent.” Yoda replied sharply and rapped his stick on the non existent ground for emphasis. “You called us here because you wanted to know why. You have brought us here we did not come.” Yoda replied.

“I brought you?”

“Luke, don’t act as if you don’t already know. You left the service of the Emperor to find the answer to the question troubling your heart.”

“Your heart in conflict it is.” Yoda added.

Luke looked at each of the Jedi masters eyes boring into each one.

“There is no conflict.” he replied coldly.

There was a moment of silence between the three.

“Why have you come here?”

Obi Wan began to speak but Luke held up a hand. “Fine, why did I bring you here? I know you’re liars, I know you betrayed me, I know you tried to manipulate me to kill my own father and now you’re here to try and make me feel guilty about my choice.”

“We said nothing about that Luke. So far you have done most of the talking.” Obi Wan noted.

“And you’ve said nothing.” Luke spat. “You’ve never even tried to admit that you were wrong. Do you have any idea how I felt when he told me?”

“And do you have any inkling the betrayal I felt when my former padawan and good friend turned against the order and the Republic. Your father became Darth Vader and hunted down the Jedi order, Luke, he slaughtered his friends like animals and was a willing accomplice in the destruction of the Republic.” Obi Wan interjected.

“He was my father!” Luke shouted.

“And which part hurts you more, Luke?” Yoda asked quietly. “Darth Vader your father is or lied to you out of love Obi Wan did.”

Luke frowned.

“He lied to me. He sold me his twisted fantasy of being a Jedi knight like my father so that I could kill my own father. Those aren’t the actions of someone that cares about me.”

“Luke, I lo—”

Yoda held up a hand.

“Slaughtered hundreds of Jedi Darth Vader did.”

“And the response is to have the son kill the father?”

“Darth Vader is on the road of darkness. Forever does it dominate his destiny.”

“Palpatine laughed at that particular platitude if you must know. In fact he pretty much eviscerated every little dictum of yours and left me with nothing.”

“Nothing but your own faith in yourself.” Obi Wan noted. Luke crossed his arms and shook his head laughing ruefully.

“You chose to join Vader of your own free will.”

“And what else was I supposed to do? Leap to my death?”

“If you honor all that your friends and you have fought for? Yes.” Yoda replied without hesitation.

Luke blinked at the simplicity of the answer.

I was afraid.

“Luke, you are entitled to know why I said what I said.” Obi Wan began. “When your father turned to the dark side, the good man that was your father was destroyed, replaced by the evil man that is Darth Vader. I could never bring myself to really believe that Anakin, the Anakin I knew most of his life could be the monster that was now stalking and killing his friends was the same person. In my mind he became Darth Vader. Anakin died when he turned.”

Luke shook his head in disbelief. “So you are saying that what you told me was true from a certain point of view?!”

Obi Wan sighed softly.

“Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.”

“That is a coward’s answer.” Luke snapped.

“It matters not, defend our actions we cannot nor will not.” Yoda interjected. He jabbed his walking stick at Luke. “You brought us here, to this place where your mind is quiet enough to finally hear us, to the place where neither dark side or light side hold sway. This core of your being to ask us a question.”

Luke turned away for a moment, staring down into the darkness at his feet. They all seemed to be standing on nothing, surrounded by simple deep darkness illuminated by their own essence’s light.

“Is there no hope?” he asked softly.

“Luke. There is always hope.” Obi Wan replied gently and reached out to touch his young friend, the son of his oldest friend.

Luke shied away from the touch.

“I’m afraid.” he admitted, shame in his voice, remembering his impetuous statement to Yoda so long ago. “I’m not afraid.” Yoda, it turned out had been absolutely correct, “You will be, you will be.”

“The darkside’s grip upon your heart, with fear does it start.” Yoda pointed out gravely. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

“I took my father’s hand in the hope that I could bring him with me to the light, but I also joined him out of fear, fear of death, and in that fear there arose anger, anger at the betrayal of two teachers that I trusted implicitly and in that anger I grew to hate you and all you stood for, hate the path that I had walked before and the weakness of the light was revealed to me as I grew in power by leaps and bounds.”

“More powerful than any padawan I have trained were you. Fast was your ascent in power and skill, faster than your father.” Yoda pointed out.

“Luke you are in the clutches of the darkside now but there is a chance, if you walk away now, if you turned back onto the path you walked before.” Obi Wan urged.

“I’ve done…terrible things.” Luke whispered. The deaths of billions flashed forward across his vision like crowds revealed by a stroke of lightning and their deaths weighed him down like a thousand millstones.

“He needs another voice.”

Luke’s head jerked up as another figure was slowly revealed under the pale blue light of the Jedi Masters. He noted how Obi Wan deftly reached out and took a firm hold of the figure’s hand.

“He is frightened and alone and most importantly of all he wants answers.”

“Ochoa?” Luke exclaimed in surprise. The blind young Starfleet captain smiled warmly.

“Luke, its good to hear your voice again.”


“Ben here was very helpful in filling me in on the details you left out and Yoda finally revealed himself to me when it was certain that I could be trusted. I’ve been helping them find you and try to talk to you. But frankly, Luke, this isn’t very helpful is it?”

Obi Wan turned his head sharply.

“What are you doing?” he asked with concern. Yoda nodded sagely.

Luke said nothing but watched Ochoa closely. His heart seemed to ease in the young man’s calm presence.

“We cannot answer your question, the one that has been eating at your heart like acid.”

Luke stared as the truth of his words penetrated the anger and confusion.

“So, Luke, the question is where do you go from here? You thought that Yoda and Obi Wan could answer it for you and you brought them here to the core of your being, But their answers are not what you are looking for. The time has finally come..” Luke felt the presence again.

How could it be here of all places?

“Why would I NOT be here?” came the chilling reply in a painfully familiar voice.

“to discover that the answer does not lie with anyone else but yourself.” Ochoa continued

“But where do I go?” Luke asked.

“Only you know the answer to that.” Ochoa replied without hesitation.

Luke stared into the lifeless eyes of the young captain, the reminder of his own darkness, and began to realize that there was one place he had not gone. One dark place beyond the core.

“Ochoa, why have I not cured your eyes?” Luke asked. The footsteps of the presence reverberated like thunder as it approached.

Ochoa smiled sadly.

“Because until you are not whole, I cannot be Luke. Until you shed your darkness, I will live in darkness. You and I are a closed circle.”

“You must hate me.”

Ochoa shook his head slowly.

“I love you Luke Skywalker, because in the end, I know that the darkness stalking you here, in your core is the construct of anger and fear, the true Luke Skywalker is somewhere else, deep inside, sleeping. It’s up to you to wake him up.”

Luke did not want to look back as he felt its cold fetid breath on the back of his neck.

“I have to go deeper.” Luke replied.

“Luke, no Jedi has gone into the Abyss and come out again.” Obi Wan warned.

“Ben.” Luke smiled softly. “I missed you damn you, I missed you despite it all.” Luke said with a final smile as a cold hand gripped his shoulder.

“You cannot run from me.” it spoke like cold ice running along stone.

Luke closed his eyed and folded his arms across his chest and the young Jedi slipped deeper, past the final shrouds of his core to the one place that all Jedi were warned never to enter, the one place that all Sith lords were told that rage and anger would not offer protection or solace, the one place where the Force itself held no sway.

Into the Abyss.

The last words he heard as he slipped away were his old master’s.

“Mind what you have learned, save you it can.”

The quiet rumble of the Emperor’s Will’s mighty engines reverberated through the cabin. Ernesto Ochoa sat cross legged on the edge of his bed and his eyes snapped open. Almost immediately there was a soft hiss like a flare being ignited and a pale blue light illuminated his face.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself. You led him into the abyss, the very depths of the soul where no Jedi or Sith has ever returned.” Obi Wan snapped.

“The answer is there.” Ochoa replied.

“It matters not. The shroud of the dark side has fallen across this galaxy and the light slowly dims. Little time is left to the defenders of life.” Yoda sighed.

“That boy was our last hope.” Obi Wan whispered.

Ochoa began to laugh.

The two Jedi eyed him curiously.

“How is it, masters, that you have known Luke so much longer than I have, that he has taken my eyes, broken my spirit then gave me false hope masquerading as someone else and you fail to see that there is an irrefutable fact about this that I know in the very core of my being.”

“And that is?” Obi Wan asked.

Ochoa looked right up at the old man’s eyes with his empty ones.

“He will be back.” he replied simply.

Things turned. He could not see what they were but dark shadows crossed his vision and gave him the stimuli he needed to try and raise his head from where it lay, the cool waters of the pool soothing his troubled mind.

I’m going to die.

There was no doubt about that. The headache which had been bothersome at first was now threatening to pound his head into a pulp. He felt torn up inside, shooting pain crossed his organs like phaser blasts and try as he might he could not move.

I’ve always known I would die alone.

“Jim!” the voice was distant like the rumble of thunderheads over the horizon on a cloudy day.

He could not move, did not want to move actually. Things were getting dark.

McCoy’s face drifted into Kirk’s blurred vision.

“Bones.” he muttered weakly. “I think I’m all broken up inside.” he said and smiled. Blood trickled down the side of his lips and caked his teeth. Spock loomed overhead as well, Kirk could tell that concern crossed Spock’s face. Always so stoic his Vulcan friend was. “Spock, you don’t have to be ashamed.” Kirk said and his voice sounded as if it were coming from somewhere else and not his own lips.

“He is obviously delirious.” Spock noted.

“Why don’t you let me make the diagnosis, Spock!” McCoy snapped and opened his medkit at his hip, pulling out a hypo.

Leia rushed over and knelt by Kirk’s right side, grasping his hand.


He smiled weakly and turned his head to face her.

“Leia…so damned beautiful. Leia.” he whispered as McCoy pressed the hypo against Kirk’s bicep. It hissed softly and McCoy began running a small med scanner along Kirk’s chest.

The hypo made him feel warm and comfortable.

“He’s fine Leia, Luke is fine. He will wake up, he has to.” Kirk explained, his words slurring slightly.

He shook his head as he tried to clear it, but it hurt so much.

“Like I thought, a bad concussion, looks like we have swelling of the brain, some blood pooling in his skull. We’ll need medical emergency teams standing by.”

Leia frowned as she imagined that Luke had done this to Jim. She felt guilty having dragged him into this private crusade to save the fallen Jedi when it was obvious that Jim’s galaxy needed him now more than ever.

“Will it be safe to beam him?” Captain Entebbe asked as he examined Kirk, lying sprawled at the lip of a small pool of clean water, his head lolling in the pool, uniform shredded, blood streaked his face and his left shoulder was in an odd position, his left arm hanging limply at an impossible angle.

He was a scientists not a doctor, but Entebbe knew when a man had been physically beaten into a pulp.

“I’ve stabilized him. Frankly we don’t have the time to shuttle him up. Its amazing he’s still alive as it is.” McCoy leaned in close to Kirk, trying his best to compartmentalize his growing concern for his friend. He needed to be cold and calm at this moment if he was going to help Jim at all. “Jim, listen to me.” McCoy began slow and loudly. “We need to operate right away Jim. I won’t lie to you, you’re in bad shape but I’m going to save you Jim.”

Kirk nodded weakly and coughed, spitting up some blood and shaking his head.

“Damnit, there’s no time.”

Entebbe slapped his combadge.

“Entebbe to Sagan.”

“Go sir.”

“Medical emergency, beam us all directly to sickbay and have trauma and surgery teams standing by. Fire up the EMH for assistance.”

“Aye sir.”

“Clark Gable? You want to see a Clark Gable movie?” Kirk asked looking at Leia with a bemused expression.

“Clark who?” Leia asked McCoy.

“Never mind.” McCoy replied. “You hang on Jim, you hear me, you hang on.”

Kirk grabbed a firm hold of McCoy’s hand.

“I’ve always known, Bones. I’ve always known that I would die alone.” Kirk stated strongly.

McCoy raised an eyebrow in surprise. He squared himself up. “You’re not alone Jim.”

“I never meant it, Edith.” Kirk’s expression suddenly changed as he seemed to look far away with mournful eyes.

They vanished in columns of light.

“Alright clear a space.” McCoy grumbled as he looked around quickly at the large sickbay where they reappeared. Chewbacca quickly bent down and scooped Kirk up in his arms and waited patiently for an order.

“Edith, I never meant to, please believe me.” Kirk muttered loudly.

“Biobed three has been prepped for surgery Doctor McCoy.” a young doctor explained, staring at McCoy with barely restrained admiration.

“Chewie.” McCoy snapped and inclined his head to biobed three. The Wookiee casually strode over and gently laid Kirk out on the bed.

“There was too much at stake, too much to sacrifice, but I did love you.” Kirk whispered fervently.

“We could sure use some Bacta right about now.” Wedge noted with concern. He did not like the look of the young Starfleet captain. He had seen too many pilots brought into med bays looking like that and never coming out again.

“Is that--” the young doctor began staring in wonder at a man lying in his sickbay who must have just stepped out of a history book.

“He is our patient, Doctor?”


“Doctor Lothan, that’s who he is. Now we need to clear this room.” he turned suddenly to a nurse. “Start neocortical stimulation we need to keep him from slipping into a coma.” she nodded quickly and rushed over to assemble the equipment. “You, start a series of Pthalotrissus shots. Start dosages at 20cc’s and increase by 10% each new series.”

“Yes sir.” the nurse replied and searched the crash cart for the Pthalotrissus.”

“Let me get you some more help, Sir. I’m not experienced with this kind of head trauma, we could use a second opinion and assistance.” Lothan explained. He quickly keyed in the sequence that activated the EMH program.

“State the nature of your medical emergency.” the sullen looking doctor said appearing out of thin air.

McCoy paused as he stared at the EMH with a look of revulsion and disbelief.

“Holographic doctors?! What has the Federation come to?” he exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, would you please repeat the nature of your emergency?”

“Massive head trauma, patient is human, male, 33 years old in peak physical condition.”

“We will need immediate neocortical stimulation and a series of pthalotrissus shots to stabilize his condition.” the EMH replied as he peered over at Kirk with a clinical eye.

“You know what you can do to help me?” McCoy asked as he suited up and activated the sterility field around bio bed three.


“Hold this.” McCoy replied and handed the EMH sutures. The EMH looked down at the sutures and back at McCoy. “I am a fully programmed medical hologram. My medical database most likely spans more knowledge than you could ever accumulate in a life time and you want me to hold your equipment?!”

McCoy eyed the EMH with amusement.

“That’s about the long and short of it.” he replied. “Everyone clear the operating room.”

“But-“ Leia began.

“I said clear the OR now or I’ll have security escort you out damnit!” McCoy shouted. The assembled pilots, Wookie, droid, Vulcan, Starship captain and his security team reluctantly filed out.

“I must say I admire your operating room acumen, you have seized control of the situation and projected your sovereignty of sickbay expertly.” the EMH noted.

“That is THE Doctor Leonard McCoy.” Lothan replied.

McCoy rolled his eyes.

“Angels and ministers of grace preserve us.” McCoy muttered. “I’ll get you out of this Jim. I swear.” McCoy vowed as he made his first incision.

The darkness closed in around James T. Kirk and he was very much alone.

The soothing darkness was broken by pain that lanced up his leg like cold steel. He screamed but it sounded muted and weak.

“Apologies Captain, but there is no other way. My internal chronometer has been damaged by a surge of polaron particles. It will take some time to compensate so I do not know how long you have been unconscious or how long I have been in a self diagnostic mode.” the voice cut in through the hazy darkness.

There was a smell. Burning circuitry and thick brackish smoke whirled around him as he moved…no that wasn’t quite right, his legs were not moving. Carried. He was being carried.

“The ship…on fire.” he managed to speak. His voice did not sound like his own, it was thick, clumsy, weak.

“Yes, sir. The fire suppression systems on the bridge were still functioning but several banks were knocked out on the lower decks, the ship is on fire and falling out of orbit.”

“The Queen?” he asked, as time slowly came into focus for him, memories were still jarred and out of place.

“Unknown. When I awakened from my diagnostic loop she was gone.”

“We have to find her, Data.” Picard said as he regained more consciousness, and found out why unconsciousness had been such a blessing. The pain was unbearable, it felt as if every bone in his legs were shattered. His heart pounded in his chest like a jackhammer.

“It is R-7, sir.” R-7 gently corrected him.

“Of course you are R-7, what did I say?” Picard asked confused, memories were leaking in here and there.

“Nothing, sir. I need to stabilize you further. Injuries are extensive, unfortunately I am not programmed for anything other than the most basic first aid.”

R-7 paused at a doorway and keyed it open. Picard vaguely recognized it as one of the escape pod bays on deck 6. R-7 wordlessly placed him on the floor in a sitting position.

Picard gasped as he saw the android clearly for the first time.

The right side of R-7’s face had been blown clear off by some energy surge, exposing the delicate neural grafting and hard unyielding alloys that composed his skull. His naked eye was fully exposed in the eye socket and moved with cold machine like precision. His right arm was limp at his side, burn marks run all along the upper bicep down the elbow, the rest of his arm was missing and his right leg was twisted at an unnatural angle, with a bright shining thin metallic skeletal support structure jutting out at his lower thigh.

“My god, R-7 are you alright?”

The android glanced down at himself.

“I am functioning within parameters considering the extensive damage to my chassis. Unfortunately I was forced to short circuit my self destruct system.”

“Self destruct?”

“All shadowfleet artificial personnel are outfitted with a standard demolition charge to make sure that we do not fall into enemy hands should damage incapacitate us or place us in danger of falling into enemy hands.”

“This is unfortunate?” Picard noted and tried to smile. The pain was too much and he ended up groaning instead.

“Unfortunate in that now I am unable to self destruct of my own accord. Should I fall into Borg hands now…”

“Then we will make sure that does not happen.” Picard assured him.

“Of course sir.”

“Captain Picard!”

Picard stopped short.


“Who is that?”

“Entering combat mode. Hold position here sir.” R-7 stated and unslung a phaser rifle strapped over his shoulder and cautiously peered out of the airlock.

“Hey what’s that?”

R-7 fired a shot from his phaser.

“Damnit! Hold your fire!”

“We are not Borg!”

“Seven? Captain Archer?” Picard coughed.

R-7 paused.

“I believe that they are the ones in the corridor.” R-7 replied simply.

“Let them in.” Picard ordered.

“Acknowledged.” R-7 slung his rifle. “You may proceed.” he called out.

Archer and Seven slowly approached the airlock and peered past the damaged android.

“Captain Picard! Are you alright?” Archer asked and walked past R-7 reaching for an emergency medical kit at his hip.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Captain, but aren’t you supposed to be dead?” Picard asked as Archer pressed a hypo against Picard’s neck.

“Funny you should ask that. I thought the same thing. I made sure my helmsman was aiming for the bridge when we rammed you.”

“Your crew?”

“Dead.” Archer replied darkly. “The inertial dampers failed on the engineering deck on impact, everyone else died from injuries and a massive coolant leak that flooded the ship. The bridge was the last to go and Seven managed to set up a containment field as we tried to transport out.”

“Unfortunately the containment field collapsed as we were beaming and only the captain myself and XO Chambers managed to beam out before it was too late.” Seven continued.

“And Chamber beamed into a bulkhead back on Deck 10. Our targeting sensors were obviously off.” Archer finished with a sad shake of his head.

“I’m sorry, Captain.” Picard replied and gripped the young Captain’s forearm. “It’s not easy losing a crew.”

“I know, Captain. But all those sacrifices will be for naught if we can’t stop her.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Queen fled in the Captain’s yacht down to the planet surface several hours ago. Unfortunately we had no way to follow her. She jettisoned all the escape pods on the ship.”

“Save this one.” Picard noted with a soft smile. “I thought it would be best to isolate this pod’s systems from the ship’s core in case R-7 and I needed to beat a hasty retreat.”

“Your foresight could prove to be our salvation.” Seven noted as she walked over to the escape pod.

“Help me up, R-7.”

The android obediently walked over and helped Picard to his feet. “Lean on me for support Captain.” R-7 suggested.

“There’s no way I can talk you out of coming?” Archer asked. Picard fixed the young man with a stony gaze.

“I have been doing battle against the Borg now for years, Captain. This moment has been in my dreams since the day I was freed from their grasp long ago. I plan to be there when the life leaves her eyes and the Collective is finally dead.”

“Then we should get a good chance. I managed to get a satisfactory reading on her course to the surface, I should be able to land us within a few kilometers.”

“Let’s do this Seven.” Archer replied and limped into the escape pod. Picard noticed the blood on Seven’s uniform and the way she nursed her left arm.

“Looks like we’re all a mess.” Picard noted. “But as long as we draw breath…” the doors to the escape pod closed shut. It detached from the Valhalla with a loud whoosh of thrusters coming online and the small ivory pod began its descent to the long dead planet.

Behind them the Valhalla, coupled to her Borg cube escorts and the Defiant jutting out of her saucer section slowly sank into the atmosphere, trailing glittering fire and molten metal as the wrecked ships began their own final descent.

“What do you think he’s dreaming about?” the Andorian asked curiously.

The human shrugged. “How should I know?”

“He looks like he sleeping.” the Nausican noted simply.

“Well he is not. His brain functions are abnormally subdued. I’m concerned the exposure to the subspace cascade may have effected him worse than I predicted.” the Vulcan noted as he watched the readouts on his tricorder.

“Well, then step on it, man, because I just want to get our payment and be out of here before anything happens to him.”

“The boss is just as impatient as we are to get his cargo, don’t you worry. We’ll be making planet fall in six hours.” the human explained.

The Vulcan glanced back at the young sandy haired Sith lord lying on the bunk in the quarters of the small starship. His eyes were wide open but there was no sign that he was even alive. They resembled doll’s eyes as he remained stiff and impassive, the slaver stasis collar around his neck hummed softly suffused with a sickly corpse white glow.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 61: The Abyss

Descent. Pure descent through veils of shadow and fire. He sank deeper and deeper, deeper than he had ever gone, deeper than any Jedi had ever gone before. His thoughts floated freely now, fear and anger seemed to slip away like discarded old clothes. All sound ceased, even the dull beating of his heart and it grew cold, colder than the frozen hell of Hoth.

As he descended his memories turned to a quiet time on the swamp world of Dagobah, sitting under the cool shade of a Eunice tree. The broad long leaves formed a thick canopy keeping the sunlight that would sometimes shine through the upper layers of trees away from him. He lay back, arms folded under the back of his head as he stared up into the leaves as if listening to some far off song.

“Beautiful?” Yoda asked casually, standing on the end of a rotting log jutting out of the muck. He contentedly chewed on one end of his walking stick as he watched the birds migrating overhead, their calls echoing in the thick foliage.

“Yes. Its like the forest is singing to me.” Luke replied dreamily.

“Many wonders the Force has. Seductive and peaceful it is.” Yoda replied. Luke knew a lesson was coming when the old master spoke in a certain tone.

“Seductive? I thought that was the Dark Side’s ways.” Luke noted but half of his attention was on the lattice of leaves and ferns above his head and the chorus of life singing around him in a private concert for his ears only.

Yoda eyed his student with a critical eye. Such promise in Anakin Skywalker’s son. How the different the galaxy would have been if the father had the boy’s inquisitive mind and peaceful nature.

But there were moments, brief flashes of truth when Luke failed at an appointed task, when the target drones scored a particularly painful strike that a rage clouded his eyes, an angry scowl on his face that looked almost exactly like Anakin as a padawan long ago. And the darkest possibility entered the old Master’s mind.

That he had trained Luke Skywalker to be a new Sith lord for the seductive employ of the dark lord himself, Palpatine.

It was a chance they were willing to take. Yoda paused and shook his head sadly. No, that was not right at all. It was the only chance they had.

“Evil seduction is not.”

“You make it sound like it is.” Luke replied.

“Different seduction is for each path. Seductive the Force is to Jedi for the songs of life it weaves. Seductive the dark side is for the warrior.”

“I don’t know if I see the difference.”

“Hmmm...” Yoda mused. “Pretty woman smiles at you, to dance with you she asks. How does this make you feel?”

Luke shrugged.


“And now, with song of life around you how do you feel?”

“Good, Master.” Luke replied hesitantly. “Are you saying the Force is like a pretty woman at a dance?” Luke added in confusion.

“No, like the feeling of happiness when woman smiles at you is the Force. Good this seduction is.”

“And the Dark side?”

Always with Luke were questions about the dark side. Such curiosity would have marked a padawan as someone to keep a close eye on during training. The utter irony of that caution was that Anakin never once asked about the dark side when training. He expressed absolutely no interest in it.

“When meditate you do, find you the center?”

“Yes.” Luke answered and shifted position slightly, his interest slowly being drawn back to his teacher.

“In the center what find you?”

Luke thought for a moment.

“Peace. Solitude.”

“Hmmm…what else?”

“Nothing else. It’s the place I go to clear my mind of questions, just like you taught me.”

“Nothing else you feel?” Yoda pressed.

“Well, there is this sense, like I’m standing over a yawning abyss sometimes, as if I’m floating over Beggar’s Canyon. It’s strange really, I could swear that there are times I might descend.”


“But something holds me back.”

“Yet tempted are you?” Yoda asked softly.

“Yes…like a song it calls me in the dark.”

“The song in the darkness the dark side is. See you the difference now?”

“But Master, you told me there’s nothing beyond the center. Isn’t that true?” Luke asked sitting up for the first time.

Yoda shook his head sadly. There was no control in this padawan. He was listening to what he wanted to listen to. He was trying to teach him about the dark side and its seductive siren song and he was asking questions unrelated to the topic at hand.

“Do not listen you do.” Yoda chided gently. It was hard to be angry at the eager youth no matter what his shortcomings. It was becoming clear what Obi Wan experienced training young Anakin Skywalker and why matters were allowed to get so out of hand.

“Please, master. I need to know. Because when I do think about descending…” Luke’s voice trailed off.

“Afraid are you?”

“Yes.” Luke replied embarrassed, he had assured the wizened Jedi master that he would never be afraid.

“Hmmm…and wise are you, Luke. Past the center, one level is, a deep dark pit.”

Luke leaned in closely as he watched his master speak.

“The Abyss the ancient masters called it. A place before there was the force.”

“Is that possible?” Luke gasped.

Yoda nodded as he seemed to be looking far away.

“Explore the depths of the abyss many Jedi have tried.”

“Tried and failed?” Luke asked.

Yoda fixed his erstwhile student with a stony gaze.

“Tried and died.”

Luke stared at Yoda for a moment then looked away, thinking of those times when he had peered down in the vain attempt to see the Abyss that he could feel looming below him.

“So the Dark side resides there.” Luke concluded.

“No.” Yoda answered simply. “A place of shadow with no substance the Abyss is, there is no life there, only memories thus the force cannot propagate, no sway the force has there.”

“What is that place where the Force hold no sway? How is that possible? You taught me that the Force is everywhere.” Luke replied feeling as if he were out of his depth. Why must there always be exceptions to every rule?

“A powerful ally the force is, but life creates it, makes it grow. Without life, the force holds no sway.”

“What is down there?” Luke asked quietly, and noticed that the chirping animal sounds that seemed to perpetually carry on around him had silenced slightly, as if the swamp itself were waiting for the answer.

“Not important, Luke. Lessons you have to learn. Many tests yet to accomplish.” Yoda protested and started to walk off the tree stump. Luke reached out and touched his master’s shoulder.

“Please Master. I would like to know.” Luke implored.

Yoda frowned and regarded his student closely.

“A dark and forbidding place, the Abyss is. A place of primal memories and refuse of the darkest, basest instincts. There can be no light and dark side for instincts so base. It is the place where we were all once animals. Born there is the beast.”

Luke did not truly understand but he could feel the apprehension in Yoda’s voice as he discussed it.

“Lost have we many Jedi probing the darkness of the pit. Forced were we to put down those that did return. Brought back they did evil such as we have never known since. Same fate for the Sith that dared plunder the secrets of that dark place.” Yoda fixed Luke with a grave stare, his eyes not wandering from his students’. “No power, light or dark dare venture into the Abyss. Madness and death that path lies.”

“I’ll never go there, Master, I promise.”

“Hmmmm…” Yoda murmured. “Come, we have much more to train, stop we will when we reach a certain tree.”

“Of course Master.” Luke replied obediently and slipped on the modified rucksack to carry his wizened master. “What tree? Is it that old battered tree you told me never to go near?” Luke asked curiously as he helped Yoda into the rucksack.

“Different today is.” Yoda replied mysteriously.

How deep must I plummet, and what manner of madness lies here where the beast is born and dwells? He kept his eyes closed as he descended, fearing the dark things he could feel clinging to the very air around him, like insects clutching to a rotted carcass, sometime he could even feel them scurrying around him. Dark thoughts chattered madly and a whisper of secret desires and pains blew through the darkness like a cold clammy wind, carrying on it the scent of rot and despair.

He felt it closing in around him, like someone squeezing its fist closed around him and the descent stopped suddenly. Dark cloying mists whipped around him and the smell of rot overwhelmed his nose and he gagged reflexively.

As if in response the darkness and the chittering things swarmed him. He calmed himself as best he could as their cold hard talons grabbed at his flesh and clothes and he could feel them doing something, he wasn’t quite sure what. It was a burning sensation at first all along his back and chest and especially stomach.

He cleared his mind and focused on one thing. Escape. He released his tense grip on the force and swatted outward, letting the waves of power course through him like a dam holding back a raging river.

Save that nothing happened.

The darkness continued to swarm and now he felt as if her were drowning in foul filthy water and as he struggled valiantly he suddenly stopped and realized what they were doing to him, why the claws were clutching at him so insistently, why he his flesh was burning.

They were burrowing.

He screamed and flailed madly as more of the brackish water spilled into his mouth and his stomach cramped horribly as the filthy water settled in. He wanted to scream again but only more water rushed in and the pain was agonizing as he felt them entering his flesh and the sick wet slap of slime covered egg sacks deposited within his torn flesh and he opened his eyes finally.

He stared at himself rotting before his very eyes as the black insects scurried along his body, blood and fluids covered their indigo carapaces, their sharp legs slicing up the flesh and muscle with their passage.


He screamed, mouth wide open as the tendons anchoring his jaw rotted away. One of the beetle like creatures scuttled into his mouth as one crawled up past his fore head and dug a scalpel like leg into his left eyeball. It popped in a soft whisper of popping jelly.

Luke Skywalker finished rotting into a feast for the insects of the Abyss.

“I’m so tired.” Kirk whispered standing in the middle of the cold white room wearing his Starfleet uniform.

“It’s to be expected Jim. You’ve done so much, more than can possibly be expected of you.” Edith Keeler replied as he looked around slowly. There was a door slightly ajar opposite where he stood in the stark white room. Kirk slowly approached the door. He turned his head to look back at Edith.

“What’s on the other side of that door?” Kirk asked.

“As with all doors, James, another side.” she replied and got up from her seated position on a stark white chair and led him to the door, pushing it open gently. Kirk hesitantly followed her through the door, simultaneously he was thrilled by the prospect of seeing her again.

He felt disoriented. It was a feeling like knowing you were in a dream but still feeling like it was real.

He stepped into a beautiful Iowa morning with the sun painting its gorgeous hues of gold and white along the fields and the horizon.

“My god, I had forgotten.” he whispered.

“It is beautiful James. The kind of place one would not want to leave.” Edith noted.

“Your horse sir.” a new voice intruded on the reverie.

Kirk turned slowly and his eyes widened.

“Trelayne?” he exclaimed. Q smiled and held out the bridals of the beautiful chocolate colored horse to Kirk. The horse snorted obediently.

“Are you ready?” Q asked.

“For what?” Kirk asked suspiciously. Q smirked.

“You are too suspicious good sir. This is your horse, sir and you’re now ready to ride off into the sunrise.”

Kirk looked at Q for a moment and glanced backwards at the horizon and the beautiful sun. He looked back at Q.

“I’m dead?” he asked hesitantly.

Q shrugged. Kirk advanced on him, hands clenched into fists at his sides. Q held up his hands defensively.

“Jimmy this is so unlike you. Working out your problems with your fists.” Q mocked.

“Damn you why I can’t I get a simple straight answer out of you!” Kirk snapped. Edith floated over to him and placed a soft restraining hand on his shoulder.

“The truth is, dear boy, you and your kind don’t WANT a straight answer. If we were to pull the veil from your eyes, oh how you would all wilt. Your kind lives on hope and illusions. It really is rather moving and sad at the same time. An odd convergence of neurosis.” Q replied.

“Jim. Please. Don’t be upset. let us just leave this place. I’ll go with you.”

“You will?” Kirk replied softly, eyes softened as he looked into her open naive ones. Somewhere far off, like a gathering thunderhead in the distance he heard a voice.

“Again! Increase power on the defibrillator by 20% and initiate neural stimulation.”

“Doctor, blood pressure is bottoming out.”

“Max out the Enerretherol.”

“His dosage is already dangerously high.”

“We don’t have a choice, now clear.”

Thunder rumbled and lightning danced on the horizon, threatening to mar the beautiful sunset. Kirk felt an odd sensation in his chest as if lightning bugs were dancing on his flesh.

“Are you alright?” Edith asked, her touch a reassuring gentleness.


Luke slowly looked up from oblivion. The bartender looked upset, his eyes fixed on Luke, nostrils flaring.

“What?” he asked dreamily.

“Your droids, we don’t serve their kind here.” the bartender growled. Luke looked behind him. Threepio and Artoo stood at the entrance trying to look inconspicuous and faring badly.

“Ok.” Luke replied and walked over to the droids. “I think it would be best if you left, we wouldn’t want to start any problems.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more Master Luke. Come on Artoo.”

The droids walked out of the cantina. Luke turned back to the bar and watched the assembled clientele with a mix of humor and fear. There were more aliens collected in one place than he had ever dreamed of. Smoke and all manner of narcotics drifted through the cramped cantina as a band played.

Luke walked down to the bar and tugged on the bartender’s shirt. He turned glaring at Luke. Luke quietly ordered his drink and waited. Someone shoved into him but he tried to pointedly ignore the commotion. The thing shoved him again and he was forced to turn around and look right into the eyes of a walrus alien that was grunting something guttural and unintelligible.


“He doesn’t like you.” Another man spoke up and Luke stopped short. It was undeniably him. Behind the twisted nose and filthy tufts of hair on the head was his own face looking back at him.

Luke hesitantly turned away.

“I don’t like you either. You’d best watch yourself, I have the death sentence on twelve systems. I’m a mass murderer of epic proportions young fool, why I once destroyed a battle station with hundreds of thousands of lives on it and celebrated afterwards.”

Luke froze and his eyes locked on the horrible version of himself.

“That battle station was altogether evil.” Luke replied softly.

“Really?! I tell myself the same thing every night so I don’t have to think about the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters that I killed.” the twisted nose monster whispered to Luke and gave him a conspiratorial wink.

“Wait that’s not right!” Luke protested.

Suddenly a snap hiss interrupted their conversation and a humming lightsaber blade swung out like a stroke of lightning and took the twisted monster’s arm off at the shoulder. He screamed and retreated away from them clutching his smoking stump that was once his arm.

“Ben?” Luke asked quickly turning to see Obi Wan but instead he saw himself, gray hair and old battered Jedi tunic and robes looking around the cantina, his face was wrinkled as if he had aged half a century in a day, lightsaber activated.

“What’s happening here?” Luke asked in dismay.

“Are you alright?” Obi Luke asked sternly and deactivated his lightsaber, snapping it back onto his belt in one smooth motion.

“Who are you?”

“Chewbacca here is first mate on a ship that just might suit us.” Obi Luke replied and put an arm around Luke’s shoulder and guided him through the throng in the cantina, now all backing away a respectful distance from the Jedi warrior.

“I don’t like this.”

“What is there not to like Luke? We are creatures of duty and honor. All Jedi must do what they have to do. We follow orders and obey. Just as I obeyed my old master when told to lie to you about your heritage. Just as I hid away the child of my oldest and dearest friend for fear of what he may do to them.”

“Ben, what are you saying?”

“That the only thing a Jedi must worry about is his duty Luke and you have failed in yours have you not?” Obi Luke replied and glanced at his young charge with an expression of disgust.

“I have NOT failed. You lied to me, you betrayed me.”

“Yes I did.” Obi Luke responded without hesitation. “That is the truth, there is no certain point of view, I lied to you, I betrayed you and yes in many ways I hoped you would kill your father to put him out of his misery and release him from the grip of evil.”

Luke stared at the older wizened version of himself as it spoke, completely surprised by the answer.

“You did not expect that answer but the truth is all we have now, Luke. And now that I’ve told you the truth, answer me a question.”

Luke nodded slowly.

“Despite all that, despite the lies and betrayals, is your father any less evil than what we said about him?”

“Stop it.” Luke snapped and started to turn away. Obi Luke squeezed his shoulder painfully.

“If you turn away now, if you run away now, all will be lost. This is your final chance Luke so I expect you to do your best.” Obi Luke said sternly then suddenly nodded politely at the young Corellian sitting at the table Chewbacca had led them to.

“I hear you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.”

Luke stared, mouth agape. It was him, a slightly older and more cynical version of himself and what was worse was Leia was there, seated on his lap in a state of near nudity and Han/Luke had one hand slowly sliding up her inner thigh. She was smiling seductively and whispering something in his ear before turning her eyes on him.

“You want me don’t you?” she whispered to him.

Luke stammered.

“I’m Han Solo Captain of the Millennium Falcon and this is my first mate Chewbacca. The lovely young lady here is Leia. We like to call her unattainable Leia.”

“Unattainable?” Luke commented without thinking.

“For you.” Leia replied softly and extended a long silky leg towards Luke and rested her foot on his chest. “How could I be interested in a boy like you when I have a man like this.” she said and nuzzled under Han/Luke’s cheek.

“Stop it.” Luke snapped.

“What’s the matter kid? Don’t like the way the cards were dealt? I know how you secretly carried that jealousy in your heart when you heard the whispers in the halls.” Han/Luke replied with a sardonic grin.

“Shut up! I don’t want to be angry at you.” Luke lamented.

“But I’m angry at you kid. Don’t you get it. You never came for me, despite everything I did for you, I pulled your ass out of the fire so many times that I lost count and where were you when I needed you most?”

“What was I supposed to do?”

“You were off cozying up to daddy. What did he do for you, chop off your hand, turn you away from the only friends you ever had, killed your aunt and uncle-”

“He had no idea about that!” Luke protested.

“That’s it, stand up for the old man, he might let us kill some more people. Remember what if felt like back on Romulus, when you blew up their largest city in one clean blast. How did it make us feel when we smelled their fear surging around us?” The twisted nose Luke whispered to Luke as he appeared behind him.

“I guess he had no idea about Biggs either.”

“Biggs?” Luke asked, eyes watering as he remembered his friend.

“He did blast him in the death star right? And as I recall he was hot to trot to send you into oblivion to.”

“He didn’t know.”

“Stick to that story kid, and we’ll be home free.” twisted nose Luke hissed hungrily.

“What of your duty to your friends?” Obi Luke asked sternly.

“With you its all about duty!” Luke shouted angrily.

“What else is there? Duty kept me from betraying the order, slaughtering my friends and abandoning my children.”

“And what did it gain you? Living in some desert hoping that one day I would give a shit enough to follow in your footsteps. You wanted me to be a good little soldier and do my duty for the Force and the Order.” Luke roared.

“Yes, that’s it.” Twisted nose Luke urged, gripping Luke’s forearm.

“He’s got spunk, I’ll give him that.” Leia commented lazily as her hand slid down the front of Han/Luke’s shirt.

“I never had to come this far down to find myself after walking the path of shadow.” Obi Luke replied haughtily.

“This is all your fault!!” Luke screamed and he instantly reached for the lightsaber at his belt. The saber leapt into his hand and activated with a snap hiss. Obi Luke was drawing his own blade when Luke whipped his weapon down in flash and recovered the blade in the next heartbeat.

There was a loud thump of meat hitting the floor. Obi/Luke was cut in half, his legs and lower torso still stood, while his upper torso and head had slipped down to the floor, half cauterized arteries pumped blood onto the floor.

Obi/Luke looked up at the young man.

“And at least duty never led me to slay the one man that never judged me and accepted me for who I was. I always loved you Luke. Even now.” Obi/Luke’s head slumped down and his eyes closed.

“Wow, that was great kid. Good to know you can follow in daddy’s footsteps and kill your mentor and teacher because he annoyed you.” Han/Luke laughed.

Luke was breathing hard as he held the lightsaber up at face level and slowly examined the carnage that he wrought.

“That’s it, we can handle this. What’s one more life in the scheme of things?” Twisted nose Luke noted.

“Keep it up, big man, you just might win me in the process. You know how much I aaddorreeee homicidal maniacs.” Leia added as she rocked back and forth on Han/Luke’s thigh and her hands hungrily groped his body.

“This is all wrong. This isn’t me.” Luke whispered shaking his head. “This can’t be me.”

“So you say.” twisted nose Luke hissed.

“Hmmm…looks like someone took an interest in your work.” Han/Luke noted with a grin. Luke turned around and saw him. He was walking through the crowd, black cape flowing behind him as he approached like an avenging angel.

“No..” Luke whispered in fear and started to turn and run.

“If you run now, kid, you’re never going to stop running.” Luke/Han cautioned.

“Running now, Luke, is the end of everything. Why not be a man?” Leia asked, licking her lips hungrily.

“You should run, yes, there’s no telling what he will do to you when he catches you.” twisted nose Luke added, fear in his voice.

“It is your duty to stand and face the darkness you so casually embraced and see if this is worth it.”

“I wanted to know.” Luke said softly as he stopped in mid-stride. “I wanted the answer to my question didn’t I? But the sad part is that I have spent all my time running away from the one person that could answer my question. I’ve run across the galaxy…” Luke stood up tall and started to turn around, he could hear the figure’s footsteps approaching, booming like the footfalls of doom itself. “tried to batter the answer out of James Kirk, run into my own mind and finally descended into the abyss itself, where no other Jedi has come out again whole to avoid the one person that can answer my question.” Luke finished turning and faced the newcomer.

“So now, I won’t run anymore. Now I am facing you and asking you once and for all. Was it worth it?” Luke asked.

Darth Nemesis stood before him, crimson lightsaber lit and black cloak fluttering around him like the enormous wings of some obscene bat.

“We shall now see, Luke Skywalker. Here in the shadows of the abyss, where the force holds no sway we will answer each other’s questions and only one of us will be allowed to return.”

“So be it.” Luke replied and raised his lightsaber in a classic fighting stance.

“I don’t know.” Kirk replied to Edith’s question. “I feel like I’m being drawn somewhere else.”

“Don’t leave James. You’ve done so much already. Let someone else take up the cause, carry the burden. Fate has asked too much of you already.” Edith replied with concern as she ran her hand along his cheek.

“The lady does have a point, Jimmy. You’ve done far more than I could ever give you credit for. This horse will lead you to the third path.”

Kirk froze as he cupped his hand over Edith’s. How he had wanted to feel her warm skin again, to smell her scent of roses and jasmines. But Q’s words were like ice water.

“The third path? You told me there were only two paths.”

“Well there are always other possibilities, and the sole other possibility that will not lead down the other two paths is this one.” Q helpfully held out the reigns of the horse.

Kirk slowly approached the horse and patted its nose. He could feel the power in its flanks and the warm gentle gaze as it looked into his eyes. Edith smiled gently.

“James, rest. Please. I’ve seen what waits for you.”

Kirk looked down at Edith.

“I missed you so much.” he sighed.

“Then come with me and leave your woes behind. There will always be others.”

Kirk shook his head and laughed softly. “How could I have let you go?”

Thunderheads were still gathering and another rumble carried strange voices to his ears.

“He’s not responding to the Enerretherol.”

“Switch to Diaximine.”

“Doctor that is dangerous, unless we’re careful it could cause his blood vessels to rupture.”

“I don’t expect second opinions on my OR table. Now assist me or go reside in whatever holoemitter they dragged you out from!”

“Very well.”

“Now I need another defib charge – clear!”

Thunder rumbled then lightning flashed, much brighter this time and Kirk doubled over as a sharp pain lanced through his chest followed by the strange feeling of spider legs crawling along the flesh on his chest.

“Jim!” Edith exclaimed and was by his side. She helped him back up.

“This is strange I feel…like this is a dream.” He looked over sharply at Q. “This is a dream isn’t it?”

Q looked pensive as he tapped a finger to his chin.

“Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, but not really. You see, unlike a dream, the decision you make here will carry on in real life.”

Kirk slowly looked over at the horse then at Edith who was watching him with concern.

“If I ride off in that horse…”

“That’s the long and short of it Jimmy. The story ends for you and you accept the third path offered to you.”

“Death is my only other choice?!” Kirk exclaimed. “I can’t accept that!” he snapped.

“James, please, don’t get angry.” Edith pleaded. He turned to her and grasped her hands to his chest. “And why are you here Edith? How can I leave you again?”

“Then don’t leave.”

He glared at Q.

“Trelayne, you sadistic son of a bitch! Why did you bring her here?”

“I didn’t. Frankly I was as surprised as you that she is here. I guess your final thoughts in life were about her and your mind has conjured her here for your benefit.”

“James, what’s the matter, have I done something wrong?” she asked quietly.

“No…no, Edith, you could never do anything wrong. This is my fault…again.”

“What is?”

Kirk fought the tears in his eyes.

“Is he crying?”

“Must be a reaction to the medication.”

“More likely the neural stimulation, increase it to maximum. I’m closing him up.”

“Edith, honey, I can’t get on that horse.”

“Why?” Edith asked stunned as she took his face in her hands and looked into his eyes. “What have I done?”

“Nothing. You see, I have responsibilities.”

“You’re a starship Captain. You must save the Federation.” she replied nodding slowly.

“Yes.” he replied, tears drifting down his cheeks.

“Did it ever occur to you that others could save the Federation or maybe it was meant to fall. Why fight the inevitable?”

Kirk looked into her eyes and slowly bent his head down and kissed her. It was deep and slow and his heart soared as he felt her lips and her touch and her body wrapped up in his.

“Every time I see that it gives me the heebie jeebies.” Q snorted.

Their lips parted and Kirk smiled gently, touching her lips with his forefinger. “I fight, because I can.” he replied. “Now you have to go.” he said, voice thick with emotion.

“Please, don’t leave me again.”

“Edith, please…I have no choice. I cannot rest, I cannot hope there will be others and I will not accept that fate exists.” Kirk answered and dropped his head. He started sobbing into his chest as he felt her disappear, his hands no longer clasped hers, now they gripped empty air and he no longer smelled roses and jasmine.

Q peered in closely, his head at Kirk’s shoulder. Q’s lips were right at Kirk’s shoulder.

“Never say I didn’t try and do something nice for you. Now your path is set, Jimmy.” Q whispered.

“His vitals are coming back.”

“I’m reading normal levels of neural activity.”

“Congratulations Doctor.”

“I have a feeling that I wasn’t the only reason he came back.”

The clash of lightsabers lit the interior of the cantina in a kaleidoscope of crimson and blue light. The patrons scrambled out of the way of the two dueling warriors. Luke swept in low and Nemesis leapt over the blade stroke, legs tucked in and lashed out with his own crimson blade.

Luke parried and spun around to slash out at Nemesis’ midsection. Nemesis blocked the attack and delivered a sharp riposte to Luke’s face. Luke back flipped away from attack and landed on top of a table waving the lightsaber in a defensive pattern in front of him as he watched Nemesis stalking after him.

“You are no longer relevant, Luke.” Nemesis growled as he launched another series of strikes. Luke backed away, parrying and blocking the blows as he leapt from table to table top.

Nemesis leapt up to another table top opposite Luke and continued a furious assault. Both warriors attacked and parries, counterattacked and dodged, moving from one wobbly table top to another, their balance absolutely perfect despite the movement.

Luke catapulted himself off the last table, backwards onto the bar. Nemesis followed like a panther, landing dangerously close to Luke, viciously pushing Luke’s blade out of the way as he landed and brought his blade up by his ear for a thrusting attack.

Luke positioned himself in a defensive crouch and waited for the attack.

“Why so desperate to get rid of me Nemesis? What are you afraid of?” Luke asked pointedly.

“I fear nothing!” Nemesis snapped and drove his blade forward, stabbing down at Luke. Luke managed to redirect the blow away from him. The crimson blade continued forward and struck one of the shelves of drinks, shattering the glass bottles and igniting the liquor within.

Flame quickly lapped up the sides of the bar.

Nemesis strode through the flames as Luke back up to the end of the bar and swung out in a series of precise clean strokes. Nemesis was forced back a few steps as he parried and looked for an opening for a counter attack.

Luke sprang backwards and landed at the entrance to the cantina.

“Run all you wish, Luke. You’ve been running from me all this time. Why doesn’t it surprise me that you are running now.” Nemesis said with a feral grin as he hopped off the bar and stalked over to Luke.

“I’m not running, Nemesis. You’d like me to stand and be cut down. Why are you so desperate to kill me? I thought you were in control here.”

“No one is in control here, Luke, that’s the point of this place. And frankly I am sick” he launched a series of rapid slashing attacks at Luke’s head. “and tired” he grunted as the blades locked and he shoved Luke backwards towards the door. “of listening to your whining!” Nemesis exclaimed and brought his blade down in a two handed over head strike that Luke managed to parry but was shoved back by the impact as the doors gave way to his body’s impact.

Luke landed on his back and quickly rolled backwards and came up in a tight crouch as he sung his lightsaber out in front of him in a warding gesture.

Nemesis was no longer in front of him.

In fact he was no longer on Tattoine. He could not feel the heat and stench of Mos Eisley as he suspected. Instead he smelled the cold sanitized smell of machinery and the dull roar of wind behind him. A low rhythmic tone was omnipresent around him.

He slowly rose up to his feet.

“Oh no.” he muttered as he looked around. He was in an all too familiar control room outside the central wind tunnel of the floating city of Bespin. It was here that he had died, where he decided to walk the dark path.

He turned quickly, alert for any movement.

He could not feel anything here, the force did not register here at all, unlike the last time he had been here.

He slowly creepy forward, lightsaber at the ready as he resolved to find a way out of here as he tried to do so long ago.

Suddenly a lightsaber slashed down over him and he leapt out of the way just as it sliced down to the floor and the steel grating on the floor hissed away immediately from the blade’s heat.

Nemesis surged forward from behind the pylon and drove his blade forward in a series of brutal all out attacks. All Luke could do was hold his lightsaber up and block the attacks, the sheer ferocity of it was devastating and frightening and Nemesis’ face was twisted into a mask of anger and fury.

The attacks irresistibly drove Luke backwards through the door of the control room where he entered the roar of the central wind chamber. Luke barely ducked under an overhead blow of Nemesis’ and sidestepped out of an immediate side stroke as Nemesis recovered the stroke and tried to catch Luke’s head in the side stroke. Luke’s hair was blown around him as he managed to lock blades with Nemesis and drove it to the side putting all his weight behind it. Nemesis’s lips curled back in an animal growl as he fought against Luke’s push and managed to throw Luke to the side into the corner of the walkway leading to the end of the catwalk that flew away from the central control station.

Luke tried to race out of the corner but Nemesis blocked him off and attacked again forcing Luke onto the catwalk. Their lightsabers crackled and hissed as they crossed and hacked into each other.

Luke locked blades with Nemesis again and he grunted as he managed to hook the saber and drive in into the guardrail which gave way with a metallic squeal as both blades cut through the metal effortlessly. Nemesis flashed his shoulder forward into Luke’s chest and knocked him off his feet onto the stairs.

Luke landed on his back with a sharp exhalation of air and shook his head to clear it. The crimson blade flashed down to Luke’s throat. Luke’s own blade hummed in his right hand having not lost his grip on it when he fell.

“You are beaten. It is useless to resist.” Nemesis said, slightly out of breath. “Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Obi Wan did.” Nemesis asked darkly.

Luke watched the blade, eyes wide with apprehension and fear as the hungry blade hummed aggressively at his throat. His right hand slipped down to his side as he tried to pull himself up on his left hand, the crimson blade followed him unerringly.

Luke rallied and suddenly his blade flashed up and caught the tip of Nemesis’ blade and drove it up and away from his throat, delivered two quick strikes to keep the blade away from him and kipped up to his feet as he got up to the top of the catwalk platform. Behind him there was nothing but the open yawning abyss beyond.

Nemesis attacked, strokes falling in wide sweeping arcs as if her were trying to cut down a tree. Luke blocked one of the blows and pushed it backwards. Nemesis brought the blade around his shoulder as quickly as he could and swung out in a monstrous aggressive stroke that Luke managed to duck underneath, snaked at his waist and drove his lightsaber up into Nemesis’ shoulder in a glancing blow, hissing blood and tissue spun away into the wild wind current flowing around them like a tempest.

Nemesis brought his blade down quickly while clutching at his ruined shoulder and howled in pain. Luke danced out of the way of the lightsaber blade and deftly climbed over the safety railing onto the instrument panel out at the end of the catwalk.

Nemesis growled something unintelligible and attacked wildly. Luke parried one blow and tried to counter attack hoping to take advantage of Nemesis’ unbalanced anger. Nemesis’ rage gave him speed and strength and he managed to hook the leading edge of Luke’s strike and spun the blade savagely upward.

Luke’s blade was thrown up as well as his hand and Nemesis struck out quickly in a snap of his wrist and severed Luke’s right hand at the wrist. Luke screamed as he watched his hand and lightsaber spin away into the void below.

He jammed his smoldering stump under his left arm and desperately moved away from the triumphant Nemesis. Nemesis watched Luke moving away with a strange mix of fear and apprehension as he felt events coming to a head. The noise of the wind channel seemed to die down and even the lighting dimmed.

“So here we are again.” Nemesis said softly. Luke looked up at him fighting the pain.

“I never wanted to come here again. This was not supposed to be like this.” Luke protested.

“We never want to come back to moments when we knowingly made a wrong choice.” Nemesis replied as his lightsaber blade deactivated. He snapped the lightsaber onto his utility belt and watched himself dangling at the end of the instrument panel.

Luke looked up sharply.

“Yes. I said it.” Nemesis replied.

“All this time…I was running from myself.” Luke said sadly.

“All this time I was trying to deny that my heart and soul have suffered every moment as I walked this path. The path my father had set for me.” Nemesis noted and shook his head ruefully.

“And I out of fear reached out to walk that path.” He looked at the young man in black tunic and robes across from him. “I left you alone to face the fury of the Emperor and our father.” he said softly.

“I was more alone than you can ever know. Who could I speak to, who could I unpack my hearts troubles to? Who could soothe this tortured soul? I could not even turn to myself.”

“I am so sorry.” Luke replied.

Both of them stared at each other, the only sound was the wind whipping around them.

“What do we do?” Nemesis asked.

“Kill him!!” The ruined nose Luke shouted from the other end of the catwalk. “Your hate has made you powerful! Do it and we can go back to what we like to do!”

“Wow, kid, looks like I won’t be coming to save you.” Han/Luke said from beside twisted nose Luke. Leia had one leg curled around Han/Luke’s waist as she hungrily kissed his neck. She glanced over at him.

“You could never have me as Luke. Nemesis might just take me.” she whispered.

Luke looked back at Nemesis.

“They are from the Abyss.”

“No. Haven’t you figured it out yet.” Nemesis replied with a soft sigh.

“The Abyss, its not a place is it?”

“No more than the Force is a simple energy field. Why does the force hold no sway here?”

“Yoda said because there is no life here.”

“Yoda was wrong. There is life here.”

A moment of silence and Luke’s reply.

“My life. The Abyss, its not a place, its not a dimension, its here, within me, the deepest darkest part of me, the part of me that always will be petty and perverse,” he looked at twisted nose Luke, “lustful” he looked at Han/Luke and Leia. “And angry” his eyes locked with Nemesis’.


“I came looking for answers.”

“Now you have them.”

Luke looked at Nemesis.

“You’re more powerful than I am, than I could never be now. You faced what I could not and you did your best.”

“I was angry, always angry. I missed your humanity.”

Luke looked down at the chasm below him. What he could not do before now stretched before him. He looked back at Nemesis.

“Come with me.” he said softly.

Nemesis blinked.


“I cannot do this alone anymore. I am not the man I was before Bespin. I am not the Jedi I could be. But you, you are my strength, my will, my driving ambition and together, together Nemesis we can do this. We can do what no other Jedi could do. We could ascend out of the abyss because I am willing to embrace what they could not.”

“Your dark side.” Nemesis replied, comprehension dawning in his eyes.

“We could not do this alone. If you slew me and rose up you would be nothing more than festering rage, my humanity no longer able to color your actions. If I slew you, I would be weak and listless, unable to embrace my destiny, I would run away from what must be done.”

Nemesis slowly threw one leg over the railing.

“What are you doing?! Kill him!!” twisted nose Luke shouted in outrage.

“Wonderful, now both of them got suicidal.”

“I guess they’ll never have me now.” Leia added lustily.

Nemesis slowly walked along the panel to Luke. Luke reached out and Nemesis clasped his hand.

“I once promised to never join you.” Nemesis said softly to Luke. Luke smiled and drew Nemesis close to him. “In the end, no matter what happens we will be whole.”

Nemesis and Luke dropped off the end of the platform.

They plummeted, the wind whipping through them like wild animals and they did not break eye contact as they fell. They fell holding each other tightly, Nemesis’ black cloak wrapping around them like a blanket of night and as the darkness overcame them both they suddenly realized they were not falling but rising.

Luke Skywalker and Lord Darth Nemesis vanished in the frantic flailing of the black cape and someone else ascended, someone not Luke Skywalker, not Darth Nemesis, but someone whole.

The slow dull hum of the starship’s warp drive could barely be heard through the deck plates. Artoo stood silently watching over his master. The Vulcan had placed a small explosive device on Artoo’s dome, should he leave a certain radius of the quarters, the Vulcan assured him that the device would blow a whole clean through the droid.

Artoo instead focused his attention on his master. Luke was frozen in a rigid posture, the collar snapped around his neck glowed a corpse like white and Artoo could detect a powerful subspace field that had placed his master into stasis.

The band that captured him were all sleeping, the Nausican’s snores were like explosive devices going off but the others had grown accustomed to it over the years and slept peacefully.

Artoo managed to ascertain that this group was part of an Organization known as the Orion syndicate. They were hired by one of the most powerful Orion crime lords in the galaxy to bring him Lord Darth Nemesis. For what reason, Artoo could not decipher but he seemed to be a collector of sorts and Nemesis would be a prime addition to that collection.

Artoo briefly wondered how insane this Orion crime lord must be to want to have a Sith lord as a trophy but he had more important things on his mind. Like escape.

He whistled mournfully as he regarded his master’s plight and his small nozzle eye suddenly lowered and focused on something. A tear was welling up in Nemesis’ eye and slowly dropped down his cheek. It was the first positive sign that his master was still alive that he had seen.

Artoo beeped happily.

An alert klaxon suddenly accompanied his beeping.

“All hands, all hands report to stations. We’re entering the Vanguard system. Lord Darkstar is most anxious to receive his present. He’s dispatched his personal ship to intercept and take on the booty.” a cool female voice announced.

Artoo whistled apprehensively.

So now they would fall into the hands of the crime lord Anton Hieronymous Darkstar.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 62: Moving into position

The bridge of the Executor was a model of quiet disciplined efficiency. Officers moved between their stations and enlisted men worked diligently rarely looking up from their duties. Admiral Piett watched his crew with pride.

They had formed a team that had not known defeat. The Battle of Endor was the beginning of their journey of success and he did not think there was anything that could stop them. This galaxy would be no different.

He had despised Thrawn at first when the Grand admiral joined his fleet. Now he saw Thrawn as a man that he could learn from. Thrawn had ridden him hard, far harder than Ozzel ever did. But he began to see results. Piett was sharper, more alert to the little details that he had ever been.

He noticed the changes for the better in himself. And he had the Grand Admiral to thank.

Of course, when push came to shove, Piett knew where the true path to power lie and when Vader gave the order, Piett was ready to assassinate the alien.

“I have the latest tactical reports.” Jerjerrod said calmly as he handed the datapad to Piett.

Piett accepted the pad without a word and glanced down at the report.

“I am concerned by the fighter readiness status on the Iron Fist and Death’s Head.” Piett noted with a raised eyebrow.

“They suffered heavy casualties to their fighter corps and the Iron Fist’s hangar deck was badly damaged in the battle against the Shadow Fleet.” Jerjerrod explained.

Piett looked up at Jerjerrod.

“Are you making excuses for my Captains?”

“Not at all.” Jerjerrod replied stiffly. “I was merely pointing out the reasons behind those substandard readiness reports. Reasons that you should be aware of if you were fully briefed in the after action reports.”

Piett stared at Jerjerrod for a moment.

“There will come a time, Captain, when your status as Thrawn’s attaché will not protect you.” Piett promised softly.

“I look forward to the day when you will actually get your hands dirty, Admiral. Perhaps if you came out from behind Vader’s cape I will surprise you.” Jerjerrod replied coolly.

“One day, my good Captain, one day.” Piett vowed.

The doors to snapped open and Thrawn strode onto the bridge speaking calmly with Vader.

“Grand Admiral.” Piett bowed his head sharply, Jerjerrod followed suit.

“Do you have the latest fleet readiness reports?” Thrawn asked.

“Right here sir.” Piett handed Thrawn the datapad. Thrawn scanned it quickly, his crimson eyes scanning up and down like a machine.

“I see the Iron Fist is still having trouble with their hangar bays and the Death’s Head’s fighter losses have begun to impact readiness.” He noted. Jerjerrod shot a glance over at Piett. “Still.” Thrawn continued switching the datapad off. “That’s a poor excuse for a stardestroyer in my fleet to have such a paltry readiness status when we’ve been in base for weeks now.” Piett fired off a glance at Jerjerrod.

“There are other dangers that we are overlooking while in base.” Vader interjected gravely.

“Oh?” Piett replied curiously.

“The Imperium.” Thrawn said to Vader, the distaste evident in his voice.

Vader nodded.

“The Romulans have grown bold of late. I have personally executed six Tal-Shiar agents that have tried to infiltrate the fleet.” Vader warned.

“Indeed. Well, we shall give the Imperium fleet something to think about.” Thrawn replied. He turned his gaze to Piett. “Admiral, alert all commands. I want the fleet in tactical formation and have navigation prepare an oblique approach to this system.” Thrawn handed Piett a datapad. Piett examined it.

“These coordinates…they take us to a system not less than two parsecs from Andor.” Piett noted in confusion and glanced up at Thrawn.

“The fleet is to initiate stealth procedures and observe strict communications silence. Any and all messages between fleet ships will be relayed by probe droids.”

“How long will the fleet maintain this status so close to Andor?” Piett asked.

“As long as I wish it.” Thrawn replied.

“A fleet of this size will be difficult to hide from Federation sensors particularly at the distances we are discussing.” Vader pointed out.

Thrawn casualty walked down the central walkway that led over the crew pits, hands clasped behind his back. Vader fell into step after him and Piett and Jerjerrod managed to exchange troubled glances before following suit.

“The plans for Andor have changed.”

“Indeed.” Vader replied but said nothing else.

“Was there something wrong with my operation Grand Admiral?” Piett asked.

Thrawn glanced back at Piett.

“No.” He answered turning his head to look forward again as he continued walking slowly over the crew pits. The officers below nearly trembled at the collection of powers that passed over them.

“Romulus is no longer a viable home base for this fleet.”

“I have initiated security protocols for ships operating in Rebellion space.” Vader added.

“Very good Lord Vader, I knew there was no reason for me to issue such an order with you in charge of fleet security. However we need a home base from which we can operate with impunity. The Imperium fleet has this advantage here and now.”

“We outnumber and outgun them.” Jerjerrod interjected.

“Numbers and firepower are not the be all and end all.” Piett replied tightly.

Thrawn stopped at the end of the walkway and looked out the view port for a long moment of silence. Piett and Jerjerrod continued to glare at each other.

Thrawn pointed to several freighters slowly passing by the picket ships and heading deeper into the fleet. The freighters were being guided in by a Lambda shuttle towards the unloading area.

“If those freighters were loaded with explosives, exotic explosives that this galaxy seems to have an abundance of that our sensors were not calibrated to detect, they could now devastate several of our ships. The picket line would be destroyed and if they wait long enough…” the docile line of freighters passed within several hundred meters of a Carrier and a Stardestroyer lumbered overhead, her cavernous hangar bay exposed to the freighters. Piett’s mouth dropped open slightly as he watched the deadly ballet unfold. Who noticed these things? Thrawn did, that’s who.

“They could have knocked out the fighter coverage in that sector.” Thrawn finished, his voice dropping slightly. “Precious seconds pass as I try to ascertain what has happened and in that time a squadron of Romulan warbirds decloaks in the midst of the chaos. The warbirds, no real threat to the capital ships instead focus their fire on support craft and superstructure. With the fuel ships exploding into a cloud of superheated gases and fire, several of our captains seize initiative and break formation despite my orders not to do so, you see our communications would suddenly be blacked out by the detonation of a subspace mine nearby the Executor. Experts have been warning us since we arrived that this culture’s near dependence on subspace has made them very good at manipulating it and forging it into a weapon.”

Thrawn turned suddenly and looked down into the communications pit.

“Duty officer I am initiating a surprise drill.”

“Sir!” The young officer snapped to attention. Jerjerrod could see him swallow in fear.

“Simulate the detonation of a powerful subspace explosive precisely keyed to black out communications. Scramble your boards and reestablish communication. You will be timed. Lord Vader will assess your performance.”

The communications officer’s eyes widened but he did not hesitate.

“You heard the Admiral. Scramble the boards. Simulate subspace interference.”

“Aye aye.”

Thrawn turned back to his officers.

“I cannot direct my fleet and we are forced to watch in horror as Lord Nemesis drops his next surprise.” He pointed to a corner of the fleet area. “Three stardestroyers, the triumvirate as they were known in our space drop their cloaks.” Piett started to speak but thought better of it as Thrawn pinned him with his crimson eyes. “Intelligence reports have begun whispering that Nemesis may have dropped out of sight to experiment the interface of Imperial technology with this galaxy’s technology. The implementation of Romulan cloaking devices on Imperial ships has been a top priority of his fleet. You see Nemesis has imagined for some time the psychological impact upon the Federation of a fleet of stardestroyers decloaking within a Federation battle line.”

“Status?” Vader asked menacingly.

“We’re working on it Lord Vader. Interference is clearing up, I will have the fleet wide band up momentarily.” The communications officer promised breathlessly as his hands flew over the controls. The enlisted men were working furiously and not looking up.

“And as our com techs work valiantly to restore communications the triumvirate advances on our exposed left flank. Their combined firepower overwhelms the Vigilant.” Thrawn pointed to the Victory class stardestroyer out on the extreme edge of the battle fleet’s left flank. “Now watch as the left wing collapses on the Triumvirate.”

“That’s what Nemesis would want.” Jerjerrod breathed.

“Indeed.” Thrawn turned slowly and pointed to the fuel dump and armory slowly being constructed at the opposite end of the fleet assembly area. “A wing of Romulan warbirds decloaks now that our assets are concentrating their fire on the left wing as per standard Imperial doctrine and destroys the dump and armory. The chain reaction from the explosion blinds the right wing for a moment. And a moment is all they need to let the rest of the Imperium fleet decloak within our right wing, their sole purpose to start a brawl and thus nullify our superior numbers.” Thrawn looked back to the right.

“Status?” Vader asked and his voice was like ice.

“Fleet wide band will be up in three seconds my lord.” The Com officer vowed as he watched the transmitter finishing its self diagnostic.

“Look, we just destroyed one of the triumvirate, not able to withstand the withering fire. Retreat not in their game plan the rest continues forward, shields failing, armor collapsing but they are damaging us in a not so subtle manner, the entire left wing is occupied by three star destroyers while our right wing must contend with the rest of the Imperium fleet.”

“Communications restored sir!” The Com officer announced loudly.

Thrawn nodded.

“And the center?” Piett pressed, surely even without communications we should be moving forward. If the center saw the Executor move then surely they would follow.”

“I give orders for an immediate withdrawal.”

“Sir?!” Piett exclaimed.

“The Emperor’s Will.” Vader concluded.

“Indeed. There is a command ship out there hunting us. Waiting for us to break formation and out from under cover of the rest of the fleet.”

“I wager that the Executor can destroy the Emperor’s Will. We can outfight that pretender Kittaine and Lord Vader can nullify any force trickery that Nemesis would try to bring to bear. I would order us to move forward and engage quickly. Our fire power would easily over whelm any opposition until I could find the—” Piett began.

“A flash of green light fills our bridge and the tactical officer barely has time to report incoming fire when we explode in a blast of hypermatter annihilating itself.” Thrawn finished.

“You are forgetting that the Emperor’s Will out guns us, Admiral. We cannot make such basic errors on this mission of vital importance to the empire. You’re eagerness would have killed us all. I would be most displeased if I saw such rash action from you again, Admiral.” Vader said darkly, pointing a crooked finger at Piett.

Piett blanched.

“The superlaser.” Jerjerrod muttered shaking his head. “To think, that traitor Nemesis has his hands on such a weapon.”

“I ask you all Gentlemen, do we want to stay in this death trap or is it time to seize our own base?” Thrawn asked, hands clasped behind his back as he turned his attention back to the

“Andor, you mean to seize Andor!” Jerjerrod concluded excitedly.

“Its shipyards and manufacturing facilities are crude but it should prove adequate to supply our fleet long enough to secure this quadrant of the galaxy.” Vader noted.


Piett nodded, he was looking out as a new string of freighters floated into the fleet assembly area.

“I don’t want to have to think about what will happen here should Nemesis decide to strike against us.”

“So then you understand our caution. I have been examining Andorian artwork. They are a warrior people at heart, proud, stiff necked and they will do anything to be free. They even planned their succession from the Federation, a relatively benign empire and they still chaffed under its rule. They will not allow the Empire to take their world.”

“You suspect sabotage.” Vader noted.

“Do you see it?” Thrawn asked quietly. He did not like asking the Sith Lord to use his fortune telling abilities, for many reasons, least of which was his own pride in not needing such crutches but there were times that any advantage, any edge was needed to plan a proper offensive, and Andor was a key to taking the rest of this galaxy.

“There is danger. The Andorians have no faith that the Federation will hold the planet. There is a resolve among the leadership to do what has to be done.”

“And their plans, the battle?”

There was silence for a moment and only Vader’s rhythmic mechanical breathing could be heard. Thrawn said nothing, continued to look out of the view port.

“As you suspected, there are explosive devices implanted in every shipyard module and depot in orbit. They also have prepared antimatter warheads for their surface installations.” Vader lied.

“They are going to pursue a scorched earth strategy.” Piett muttered darkly.

“We will have no choice but to strike quickly and overwhelm them with raw speed and firepower.” Jerjerrod offered helpfully.

“That will not be enough. I will be working on a plan of attack that will surprise the Federation and Andorians. We cannot afford to lose that advantage.”

“We may if they detect us in orbit of this system.” Piett worried.

“Then you will see to it personally that they do not.” Thrawn said frostily. “The Federation has become adept at tracking our hyperspace passages. Despite the speed advantages that we possess, if they get wind of our coming they may decide to blow the facilities prematurely. We must strike so quickly that their early warning systems will not save them.”

“A hyper jump from this system will place the fleet within Andor’s system in moments.” Jerjerrod concluded.

“There is one problem.” Vader interjected. “The Federation will most certainly detect this fleet’s hyperspace wake approaching the system.”

“Lord Vader, it is refreshing to work with someone that thinks several steps ahead. I see your reputation as a fearsome warlord is well deserved.” Thrawn replied with a cold smile.

“How are we going to mask our hyperspace wake?”

“Simple. A single ship will be outfitted with a subspace beacon. It will put out enough ‘noise’ so that it masks our hyperspace signature from long range sensors. It also helps that I’ve ordered our special weapons units to set up a small outpost here.” Thrawn indicated a system several light years from Andor. “They began jamming operations last week, day in day out, constant white noise. The Federation long range sensor nets around Andor should be unreliable at best. They will interpret the noise from our passage as another subspace anomaly.”

“Have a care Grand Admiral. You are relying too much on these technological wonders.” Vader noted.

“Any advantage that I can gain Lord Vader. Their reliance on subspace is both an advantage and a disadvantage and I intend to school them on all the disadvantages by the time this battle is over.” Thrawn stated and calmly walked away from the view port, hands clasped behind his back. He paused for a moment and looked down at the Communications pit.

“What is your assessment Lord Vader?” Thrawn asked.

Vader looked down at the communications officer, his black lenses focusing on the obviously terrified young officer.

“The communications could not have been cleared any faster. He displayed calm under pressure. I would have put him up for a promotion after the battle was over.”

Thrawn’s left eye brow rose up by an inch, the only show of surprise evident on his face. Thrawn spared the young officer a glance and then turned his attention to Piett.

“Have this man raised up in rank and insert a letter of commendation in his record.”

“Of course Grand Admiral.”

“This may not have been combat, but I will reward those who treat any situation as if we were in combat. We must be on the razor’s edge of readiness at all times.” Thrawn announced to the bridge officers before turning on his heel and striding towards one of the lifts.

Jerjerrod caught up with him.

“Sir, there is one thing we have not discussed.”

“Oh?” Thrawn replied as the doors to the lift snapped open. He stepped in.

“The minefield, Grand Admiral. The Andorians have erected a minefield that stretches across their system. It would slow us down considerably in any assault scenario.”

“Leave that to me.” Thrawn replied with a secretive smile as the doors snapped shut.

“Stolen, right out from under our noses!” Worf snapped and pounded his fist on the wardroom table. Captain Entebbe jumped up in his seat. He had not met often with Klingons, as a scientist he was far more accustomed to staid and stale environment of a conference than this impromptu strategy session.

Worf had arrived in orbit of Scythia only hours ago after receiving Entebbe’s signal. The Klingon chancellor had been adamant that he be informed should they find and rescue James Kirk. Riker and the others were bound by their oaths of loyalty to Starfleet and follow Jellico’s orders. Worf was under no such restriction.

As a favor to his old crewmates he promised to help Leia with rescuing Kirk when the time came. He had arrived late for most of the festivities. Kirk was found and recovering in the sickbay, Nemesis was captured by a third party in this mess.

But Worf was angered by another unfortunate turn of events.

“Twice?” Leia replied frowning.

“Twice.” Worf snapped angrily and pounded the table even harder. “The first time involved a cache of downed hyperdrives we traced from a freighter we attacked not long ago. I promised the Federation remnant those hyperdrives as a gift upon my joining them and when we returned to the asteroid where the freighter lay broken, its holds were empty. The men on patrol guarding the area swore they saw nothing. Now this disgrace, stolen while my men were engaged in honorable and bloody combat.”

“Do we have any idea who they are?” Entebbe asked.

“Orions. They have their stink all over this operation and many of my people started working for them when the Empire collapsed. They would have gotten wind of our plans to steal hypermatter reactors or hyperspace motivators and acted.” Worf grumbled.

“Orions? I haven’t heard of this faction.” Leia noted.

“Pirates and rogues all of them.” McCoy snorted.

“The Orions of this century seem more organized and powerful than their ancestors whom the captain and I have faced before.” Spock added.

“The Orion syndicate was an outgrowth of the pirate clans from your era. They are more formalized, richer, organized. They gave up competing with the Federation and started raiding the outlying sectors and gray areas where our power doesn’t reach.” Entebbe replied.

“You sound like you’ve had some experience.” Wedge noted.

“The Sagan has had some run ins with Orions in the past. They know better than to take on a fully armed starship so sometimes a raider decides he might be able to make a name for himself taking down a science vessel.” Entebbe explained. “After my first experience with them, I’ve tried to brush on their culture and history, try to give me an idea of who and what I was facing.”

“We also made contact with an individual in the fringe that could help us identify our attackers.” Spock noted.

“I provided them with a snapshot that one of my guys picked up before the ship went to warp.” Wedge added and touched a button. A small holographic image of a large squat ship popped up on the table. The vessel seemed to fade in and out of view.

“Something wrong with the image?” McCoy asked.

“No, doctor. That looks like a custom cloak job. They’re generating an optic scattering field along the outer hull, it disrupts photons coming off the vessel making it difficult to detect visually. Very cheap but technically difficult to pull off.” Scotty answered. “And these ports here look like thermal diffusion units, they’re scattering their plasma and ion trails through miniature sub atomic vents that make it difficult to track their vessel with standard sensors.”

“In other words a poor man’s cloaking device.” Sulu added.

“Yes, and they were obviously running silent in orbit when we arrived, we had trouble picking them up and the Sagan’s sensor package is second to none.” Entebbe said glumly.

“Whoever pulled this off had money, resources and know how. That has to limit our pool of likely pirates.” Leia surmised.

“And when we find out, we will crush them.” Worf vowed.

The companel beeped. Entebbe hit the blinking button.

“Entebbe here.”

“Sir, we’re receiving a transmission by someone who identifies himself as Vasilli Zaitsev. He says he knows Mr. Spock.”

“Indeed. He is our contact in the Fringe that is helping us.”

“Go ahead and patch it through Lieutenant.”

“Aye sir.”

The voice was distant and static faded in and out of the transmission as he spoke.

“Hello? Mr. Spock?”

“Spock here, Mr. Zaitsev. Were you able to help us?”

“Yes indeed I was but you have to promise me one thing.”

Spock looked at the others seated at the table for a moment. “Go ahead.”

“That if you get involved with this person that my name does not get mentioned at all in any way shape or form. I want your word as Starfleet officers.”

“I take it this person is powerful?” Leia asked.

They heard Zaitsev’s snort loud and clear despite the static interference.

“It was once said that a fly bit him on the neck drawing blood. He ordered the decimation of the continent by orbital bombardment.”

“Not powerful, princess, he’s obviously mad.” McCoy frowned.

“You have our word as Starfleet officers that your part in this will be strictly confidential, only the people in this room know and only I know your face. I am a Vulcan, there is no need to doubt my words now.”

“Very well.” Zaitsev sighed heavily after some hesitation. “The man’s name is Anton Hieronymous Darkstar.”

“Oh my god.” Entebbe muttered.

“Whoever said that has it right on the money.”

“I am at a loss.” Spock replied.

“Darkstar is a legend among Orion Syndicate bosses. He is the most powerful, richest, and maddest of all of them. He has palaces throughout the Orion cluster but his main palace is at Vanguard. He is a collector or oddities among his other, shall we say eccentricities.”

Entebbe was already checking the charts for the Vanguard system.

“I have a feeling that he’s the one taking your hypermatter materials. He’s expressed an interest in these invaders since they first arrived. He knows that if his faction gets its hands on hypermatter and in particular hyperdrives they will be able to subjugate the rest of the syndicate. He’s posted a very hefty bounty on any technology from the other galaxy.”

“What about people?” Leia pressed.

“He’s collected any materials, be it holoimages, pictures, discarded clothes that he could find concerning Lord Darth Nemesis, that Imperial Sith lord or whatever he calls himself.” Leia exchanged a look with McCoy. “He’s obsessed with him.”

“Mr. Zaitsev, we are in debt to you.” Spock stated.

“Is Captain Kirk alright? He saved my life and given my company a new business opportunity. I owe him much and he is a hero of my childhood.”

“Captain Kirk is in recovery sir. I assure you I will let him know you asked for him.” McCoy explained.

“Thank you. And gentlemen, one last word of advice, if you’re going to go after Darkstar you need to know, he’s not going to go quietly and he’s never lost anything from his collection, ever. He has his own private fleet nearby and he is a powerful man. Don’t underestimate him because he is a crime lord. He has a cunning that has let him rise from nothing to a ruler of many worlds in a single lifetime.”

“We will take it under advisement, Mr. Zaitsev. Thank you again for your assistance.”

“Good luck. You’ll need it.”

“Well, that explains a lot.” McCoy sighed.

“I am very curious to find out how they managed to capture Luke. He’s powerful and I seriously doubt that a crime syndicate has the resources to take him down.”

“Nemesis defeated one hundred of the Empire’s finest soldiers in single combat. He did not go down easily, I assure you.” Worf added.

“I may have an answer to that question.” Spock stated as he switched the view screen in the wardroom to the image of some sort of radiation wave form. “I detected quantum particles near the point where we found Captain Kirk, quantum particles that usually can be found in such concentrations near the leading edge of a subspace warpfield.”

Leia blinked.

“I’m not exactly up to date on your technology or this subspace I keep hearing about.” Leia explained dryly.

Entebbe slapped his hand on the armrest of his chair as he examined the readings and came to Spock’s conclusion.

“A subspace domain was generated there!” He exclaimed.

“Huh?” Wedge muttered.

“Don’t look at me, I’m a doctor not a subspace field specialist.” McCoy interjected.

“Let me explain.” Entebbe stood up excitedly. “The area around Kirk did not exist in our plain of reality for a short time because of the introduction of a subspace field. Judging by the radiation we picked up the subspace bubble completely shunted this portion of space from our frame of reference.” Entebbe highlighted a bubble around here Kirk had been found. “What happened within the bubble is essentially imprinted a new set of universal laws.”

“Is that even possible?” McCoy breathed.

“Aye Doctor, but such technology was beyond anything we had.” Scotty answered.

“What does that mean to the people within the bubble?” Leia asked curiously.

“The resulting set of a new set of rules governing reality would be maddening for a mind accustomed to our set of rules. In essence, their minds would try to shut down to avoid the exposure to a reality it cannot even begin to grasp.” Spock answered.

“So that’s how they did it.” Wedge stated and nodded his head. “Luke would never stand a chance inside that thing, he would have blacked out and they simply walk in and take him prisoner.”

“Not to mention poor Artoo.” Threepio interjected mournfully.

“That also explains some of the strange readings I got from Jim’s electrolytes. His whole biochemistry underwent some awesome strain that I couldn’t explain.”

“The question is what do we do now?” Worf asked gruffly.

McCoy’s combadge beeped. McCoy fumbled on his chest and tapped the combadge.

“McCoy here.”

“Doctor, you wanted me to inform you when the patient was fully awake.”

“Are you sure he’s awake? He should still be out for a few more hours.”

“He is quiet insistent.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “I knew I should have doped him up with something stronger.” he grumbled.

“We need to talk to him, he’ll want to know what happened.” Entebbe noted.

“Very well.” Spock agreed and rose up from his seat. The others followed suit and filed out of the wardroom.

“Well?” Picard asked.

“Atmosphere looks breathable, but there’s a lot of silicates in the air.” Captain Archer replied as he finished checking his tricorder.

“Positive evidence of the global war that the Queen relayed to us at the Unimatrix.” Seven added.

“Are you alright?” Picard asked R-7. The sight of the mauled android worried Picard.

“I am functioning well within parameters considering the state of my chassis.” R-7 replied.

“Good to hear that, R-7.” Picard replied and smiled softly. No matter how hard he tried he could not help but think of Data when he saw R-7.

They were gathering their equipment and weapons for the long trek to try and catch up with the Queen. The escape pod had soft landed in a clearing several kilometers from the Queen’s own landing point.

“She’s well ahead of us, at least an eight hour lead and she knows where the hell she’s going.” Archer commented darkly as he shouldered a phaser rifle.

“It’s going to be hard to keep up with her.” Picard replied gingerly testing his legs. He was broken up inside, held together by nano-sutures and a generous use of regenerative stimulators. He was far from 100%.

“We’ll do our best sir.” Archer replied enthusiastically.

“There is no telling what she will do once she reaches her objective.” Seven added.

“I think she’s trying to jump start a new Collective, Seven and I think you know that.” Picard said tightly.

“Why would I—”

“Because you’ve been acting distracted since we escaped from the Valhalla. I’ve been hearing it, but only snippets of it.” Picard accused, stepping up to Seven, eyes boring into hers.

“Snippets of what?” Archer asked.

Picard and Seven glared at each other.

“The Captain is accusing me of knowing what the Queen is planning.” Seven replied, her eyes not leaving Picard’s.

“And is that true, Seven?”

There was silence in the capsule.

Archer slowly reached out and touched Seven’s shoulder.


She blinked and slowly turned her head to look at Archer. She looked down at the floor for a moment.

“I have been hearing the Queen’s thoughts. She is trying to influence me, she wants me to join her.”

“And you decided not to tell us this?” Picard shook his head.

“Perhaps we should leave her behind Captain. Standard Shadow Fleet protocol is to exterminate all Borg drones before proceeding to the next objective. We still do not know what level of control the Collective or the Queen for that matter can exert over a drone.”

“I am not a drone!” Seven exclaimed.

“Anyone even thinks about touching her has to deal with me!” Archer snapped and stepped between Seven and the others.

Picard held up his hands.

“Alright, alright damnit! This pointless bickering is playing precisely into the Queen’s hands. We need to start after her. Once we are on the move then we can decide what it is she is doing and try to figure out a way to stop her.”

“I’m all for moving.” Archer replied glaring at R-7.

“Then let’s go.” Picard ordered and led them out of the escape pod.

As Picard and R-7 walked along side each other, the android spoke quietly.

“We must maintain surveillance of the drone.”

Picard said nothing as they walked into the dark blasting winds. A perpetual black gloom in the air as whirling clouds of blackened soil and blasted sand whipped around them framing the desiccated landscape of the ruined planet. Cities could be seen in the distance like fossilized bones jutting into the sky.

“Anika, whatever happens here, I’ll stand by you.”

“Why?” Seven asked suddenly turning to look at him. Archer paused uncertain but shook his head ruefully.

“I’m standing here on the true Borg homeworld, most likely never coming back and here I am afraid still to say I love you.”

Seven stared into his eyes.

“That’s right Anika, Seven of Nine, whatever you want to call yourself I love you. I’ve almost died a few times before this moment without telling you but I’m going to do that now.”

“I…” Seven looked into his beautiful calm eyes. “I do not know how to answer you.”

Archer looked disappointed for a moment but smiled warmly.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something before this mission is through.” He laughed and helped her up out of the crater they had landed in.

Kirk smiled softy as he saw the others walking into the sickbay.

“Well, looks like my rescue mission was a command performance.” He said weakly.

“You should be sleeping. You just had major surgery.” McCoy complained as he glanced at the bio bed monitors to check his vitals.

“Your bedside manner has me making a comeback.” Kirk shot back and smiled.

“Jim!” Leia rushed over and hugged him tightly. “You’re alright.”

“Leia.” Kirk said softly, his eyes looking into hers for a long moment. Many things were said between them with that one glance.

“Sir, we have a problem.”

“First, I want to know what happened to Luke.” Kirk said sitting himself up, Leia helped him, amazed by how weak he still was.

“He was taken by a band of pirates in the employ of the Orion syndicate.” Spock answered.

“They hit us with something…weird. I lost all sense of reality I guess would be the best term.”

“That is consistent with the evidence we found of a subspace domain generator that was used in that cave.”

“And what do we know about this Orion syndicate?”

“The man’s name is Anton Hieronymous Darkstar - seems he’s rather a big wig among the Orions.” Entebbe replied. Leia watched the exchange with interest and a secret smile. He was in his bed recovering and all these starship captains and officers were gathered around him and briefing him without hesitation. She felt such a bond of loyalty and trust between these people that Jim inspired. It brought her a sense of hope she had not felt since Jim left.

She had forgotten the leader that he was when she focused on the man she was looking for.

Kirk nodded, he absently squeezed Leia’s hand.

“Look, I know you came looking for me to bring me back, but this mission is not over.”


“I met with Luke Skywalker down on that planet. He’s still in there.” Kirk turned his head to Leia. “I saw him Leia, he’s still there buried beneath all the hate and anger. I saw him and he reached out to me when they snatched him away.”

“Sir, you do realize that what you’re talking about is a rescue mission.”

“That’s precisely what I’m saying, Sulu.”

“Captain, that’s Darth Nemesis we’re talking about. He’s the brains behind the Imperial forces that have taken the Federation.”

“Perhaps it is best that he rot in the hands of the Orion syndicate.” Worf snapped.

Kirk’s eyes narrowed on Worf.

“You’re a Klingon aren’t you?” Kirk noted.

“Of course I’m a Klingon.” Worf replied.

“You’ll have to forgive me, in my day you guys weren’t sporting…” Kirk made a motion to his forehead. Worf sighed.

“It is a long story and we do not speak of such things.”

“The Klingons of my day were fierce warriors, sly but honorable. I fought alongside a Klingon named Kang when our crews were being manipulated by an emotion controlling entity.”

“That story is one retold many times.” Worf stated with a hint of awe.

“I also heard that Nemesis fought bravely, defeating one hundred of the Klingons’ finest warriors.”


“So, you prefer that a warrior that fought honorably to end a war rot in the hands of some filthy Orion pirates? What happened to the honorable Klingon warriors I knew, what happened to the Kangs and Kors?”

Worf fumed.

“That man ordered the destruction of the Klingon homeworld and is directly responsible for the deaths of billions. There is no honor there. Why should we risk our lives to save him?”

“Because the man that ordered those deaths is dying and the young man that can help us is being held by pirates. If we free him we give him a chance to redeem himself for what he has done. In the end we all deserve a second chance.”

“He does not.” Worf replied darkly and crossed his arms. “Somehow I thought that the great James Kirk whom my people looked on with admiration as a worthy adversary would not have been so soft when it came to his enemies. Would you have shown such mercy I wonder were it not for the obvious relationship between Nemesis and the princess.”

Leia frowned and started to say something.

“Then we don’t need your help. We can go on without you.” Kirk snapped losing patience with the obstinate Klingon.

“You are welcome to do so.” Worf replied tightly.

“Uh, perhaps I can offer an alternative.” Leia began. The assembled officers and men looked at her.

“We also suspect that this same crime lord stole some very valuable technology, technology we will need of the Federation is to have any chance at stopping the Empire.”

“What kind of technology?” Kirk asked.

“Hypermatter generators and hyperdrives.” Worf answered. “Stolen from under my nose after honorable combat by that Patahk’s forces.”

“So, then it looks like we can come to some accord. We need those generators and hyperdrives, they can be our primary objective.” Kirk regarded each of his men. “Rescuing Luke can be a secondary objective.”

“Our sole objective SHOULD be the technology.” Worf stated grimly.

“That can be your objective if you wish.”

“But how do we go about it sir? We’re far from any fleet assets. I’d feel a lot more comfortable with a few starships backing us up if we’re going deep into Orion space.” Entebbe asked.

“Unfortunately, the direct approach would fail anyway. If Darkstar saw our starships coming or if we orbit overhead and threaten him with force he could just as easily destroy the hyperdrives and kill Luke.”

“We will need to infiltrate his palace then.” Spock surmised.

“You are right, again, Mr. Spock.” Kirk said with a wink.

“We will need to get ourselves into the palace without drawing too much attention.” Leia said thinking aloud.

“Or” Kirk wondered. “We could draw the right kind of attention.”

“What do you mean?” Leia asked confused. Kirk started eyeing her up and down. She felt uncomfortable.

“Tell me Princess.” Kirk asked with a boyish grin. “Do you like the color green?”

Some of the men were smiling, Sulu choked back a laugh and McCoy rolled his eyes.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 63: Darkstar

“Wake up my pretty, pretty.”

The voice was soft like a gentle desert morning breeze. He stirred.

“Wake up my little Sith Lord. I want to look upon you.”

Luke slowly opened his eyes. The light burned into his vision like fire. He squinted.

“Ahh…look at him, so beautiful, so powerful. I wish I had more of him.”

“He’ll be trouble to control, governor.”

“Oui, but I do so look forward to disciplining him.”

“Shhh.” the original voice admonished the other two.

Luke blinked and cleared his vision as he examined his surroundings. He could feel a cold metal clamp around his waist and his neck had a heavy collar on it. His hands and legs were free as best he could tell. A quick check told him that he was intact and healthy, no toxins or drugs in his system.

He saw the face slowly come into focus. It was the face of a young man, no older than Luke, he had a mane of red hair that swirled down in barely controlled locks to his shoulders. A thin red goatee framed his face. His deep purple eyes gazed into Luke’s and he smiled softly.

“He is beautiful.”

“He is dangerous if I may say so meself.”

“Dangerous can be fun.”

Luke slowly turned his head and saw the source of the two voices.

They stood together, almost hip to hip. Tall and imposing figures with muscles that seemed to have been sculpted on their bodies that rippled. They wore right and black skin tight body suits, each of their body suits patters were an opposite reflection of the other’s, as if Luke were looking into a mirror. One had a single top knot of white hair, the other a top knot of black hair and they even seemed to blink in unison.

“Who are you?” Luke asked.

“He is lucid as well, splendid.” the red haired human exclaimed and clasped his hands together joyfully. Luke got a better look at him now. He was slim and elegantly dressed, a silk robe over a custom tailored tunic and pants. His boots were polished and clean, they acted as mirrors, reflecting everything around them.

He saw the extra pair of legs behind the twin muscle men. He peered past them and saw a gorgeous woman standing nearly naked in a dress that only covered the strategic areas – barely. She moved in a languidly slow and elegant motion as she picked a grape from a plate she was holding in her hand. Her hands were covered in decorative body paint depicting a series of intertwined serpents, each one unraveling and traveling up her fingers. Each finger bore a beautiful ring of multi colors.

Her long blonde locks were in a several intricate braids with rubies and diamonds worked through her strands of hair like a delicate embroidery.

“I see you have noticed my lovely Anastasia. She is the jewel in my crown.”

“Your wife?” Luke asked softly trying to draw the power of the Force and prepare to escape this prison. The metallic band holding him by the waist would be a problem without his lightsaber but---his thoughts seemed to flow like water, hard to concentrate, he was so easily distracted, the flash of light from Anastasia’s platinum earrings, the shifting feet of the muscle bound twins.

What was happening?

“I take it from your expression my good Nemesis that you are slightly…confused?” The young man with the purple eyes asked softly, he placed his index finger under Luke’s chin and raised Luke’s face up to look into this eyes. “You were downed by the use of a subspace domain generator. It really is a work of art. The Romulans secretly developed it a long time ago, you see they feared this entity known as Q and they saw what havoc the Q would cause in the Federation so the Praetor at the time in his infinite wisdom commissioned the creation of an anti-Q weapon.” The young man explained his eyes wandering over Luke, making him feel like an animal on a dissection table.

“The weapon was designed to impose another set of rules on the wayward Q. Once immersed within the subspace domain, the Q would be bereft of his abilities and easier to handle and kill. Ingenious, the technology seems like technobbable magic to me but what do I know.”

“So it’s on now?” Luke asked trying to focus on the conversation. He could barely follow it, his mind would slip away like a fish leaping up waterfalls to the next level, busily being distracted with something else.

“Oh no, Nemesis. If it was on now you and I would be screaming like babes in diapers. No, no, no, we wouldn’t want that. Besides, prolonged exposure to the subspace generator results in insanity and death. I assure you.” the young man replied as he turned Luke’s face to examine the sides of his neck and shoulders.

“I’m only going to say this once. Release me now or I will make you pay for holding me here.” Luke said darkly, eyes locking with the younger man. His thoughts turned to worries about Mara while he was trying to search the man’s eyes. What was wrong with him?

“Oh a threat! This is rich. I was so hoping you would have spirit even in your condition. I see I was not disappointed.”

“Lord Darkstar, how long do we have to be here?” Anastasia asked lazily.

Darkstar’s face twisted into a grimace.

“My love, my dear sweet Anastasia, perhaps you can do your lord a favor?”

“Yes my lord?” she replied barely interested as she placed another grape in her mouth and chewed it seductively.

“Be quiet!” he hissed angrily glaring back at her with a withering gaze.

She frowned and said nothing else.

“Lord Darkstar I presume?” Luke replied. What a beautiful edifice. He noticed. The white marble rippled like the surface of water and was meticulously carved – what in the name of the Force was wrong with him?!

“Indeed I am Lord Nemesis. I am Anton Hieronymous Darkstar, lord of the Orion Syndicates. These are my associates –” he pointed to the twin muscles. He found himself examining their odd clothes and their pretty black and white patterns. “Tweetle Dee and Tweetle Dum. Mr. Dee and Mr. Dum are in charge of my security and they are quite frankly the best that money can buy. I have assigned them to keep a special eye on you, sweet Nemesis.”

“Please to meet you governor.” Dee stated in his thick cockney accent.

“The pleasure is all mine, monsieur.” Dum added in a fine French accent.

“What have you done to me?” Luke asked tightly, he could not even hold on to his outrage and frustration, they evaporated like fog in the sun.

“Hmm, you noticed that eh? Be assured you are not drugged nor have I done anything permanent to you.” Darkstar brushed back a stray lock of hair from Luke’s forehead. “This collar houses a very teeny tiny hypersonic generator. It is putting out a steady signal that is inaudible to human and most humanoid ears.”

Luke was having trouble focusing, suddenly Anastasia moved and bells on her ankles chimed softly drawing his full attention away from Darkstar. Darkstar frowned and placed his hand around Luke’s jaw and roughly drew his attention back with a solid jerk of Luke’s jaw.

“Listen to me, Nemesis. I know its hard for you to focus that is the general idea but I find it unconscionably rude to lose interest in what I have to say.”

Luke blinked and tried to clear his mind.

“The hypersonic signal disrupts certain portions of your brain, in essence it keeps you from concentrating. At higher settings…” Darkstar lifted one hand up to Luke’s eye level. In his meticulously manicured hand he held a small remote control device. He clicked on a button. Luke winced and shuddered in the grip of the metallic waist restraint. He bit back a scream as he felt ice picks stabbing into his brain. His left eye could no longer see and he was having trouble breathing.

“The signal can effect your brain, to the point where your central nervous system would simply…overload.” Darkstar leaned in close and whispered the word in Luke’s ear as he began to writhe in pain. He could not even concentrate enough to block the pain, the simplest of Jedi pain control techniques was beyond him. His thoughts passed each other like debris on a raging river.

Darkstar watched him for a moment then nodded in satisfaction. He clicked another button on the remote. Luke slumped forward breathing hard. A small thin red drop of blood slowly rolled down his left nostril.

“Oh!” Darkstar gasped. “I’ve injured you.” he placed his finger against Luke’s nostril and collected the blood on the tip of his finger. “I would never want to harm you permanently my sweet Nemesis. That would be tragic indeed after all the work we’ve done to bring you into my collection.”

“Collection?” Luke croaked.

“Yes.” Darkstar replied eyes widened gleefully. He stepped back and extended his arms out in an expansive wide sweep. Luke looked up and saw the walls were covered with all manner of objects, art work, items and clothes. Each one was neatly arranged on a stand or suspensor field. Artwork floated in carefully arranged rows, a small holographic label floated above each painting or sculpture giving a detailed description of the piece.

The sculpture closest to him was a medium sized female carved out of white marble missing its arms. The sculpture looked ancient but still had a beauty and majesty that could not be denied.

“I am a human being, Darkstar.”

“And that makes you oh so much more valuable.” Darkstar replied. “You see unlike the rest of my collection you will eventually whither and die. But before that I have you now and forever my adorable Sith lord.”

Luke looked closely into the young crime lord’s eyes. He tried to focus as best he could, his thoughts wavered, threatening to disappear at a moment’s notice. As he looked into his eyes he could see it clearly dancing just behind the young man’s eyes, like a shadow swirling just out of sight.

Darkstar was clearly completely insane.

He saw the silver glint of something clipped to Darkstar’s belt. His eyes narrowed on it. His lightsaber. Darkstar nodded and patted the lightsaber.

“You want this don’t you? I’ve seen what you can do with this little gem.” Darkstar said with a cold smile as he ran his right hand over the polished pommel of the lightsaber. “You of course can’t be allowed to have this. Just to be sure about that, I will be keeping this unique treasure on my person at all times. You should be honored. It is rare that I keep any of my treasures so close.”

“You will release me now.” Luke stated firmly and clearly as he tried to hold onto the rhythm of the Force, trying to make it flow from him to the crime lord.

Darkstar paused for a moment as if he heard something far away then a smile slowly crept across his face.

“You are learning, aren’t you that you cannot use your magic? I gambled that it would depend on your ability to focus and concentrate. I see now that I was right.”

“And if you were wrong?” Luke asked, he kept trying to search for another option, but as soon as he tried to reason a way out of this gilded cage his thoughts would break up and vanish, concentration lost before he could focus. It was quickly becoming frustrating to him.

The voice of his master filtered through the confusion.

“Calm at peace. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and” the words vanished in another flurry of thoughts.

“If I were wrong Nemesis then you would no longer be alive, I assure you. Dee and Dum would have handled the situation.” Darkstar nodded to the two behind him. Dee stepped forward hefting a long thin staff. One end of the staff ended in a sharp point emerging from a blunted rounded end. Yellow tendrils of electricity danced along the pointed end and Dee jabbed it into Luke’s shoulder.

Luke grunted in pain, fighting the urge to scream as his shoulder felt as if it had exploded. His nerve endings were on fire as the Dee pulled back the staff.

“Don’t do anything permanent to him Dee.” Darkstar snapped in annoyance.

“It’s alright sir, nothing permanent happened I swear. It’s set on the lowest charge.”

“Besides, boss, it would be wise to acquaint him with the consequences should he decide to do anything unwise.” Dum added and winked at Luke.

“I think he got the point, eh kid?” Dee chuckled and pressed a hidden stud on the pike and it retracted instantly to the length of a baton which he clipped to his belt.

“So I will set you free now, Lord Nemesis and you are free to roam my palace. You are of course to be at my beck and call at all times. If you make me wait or otherwise act willful.” Darkstar held up the remote control and touched the button again. Luke stiffened and clenched his teeth to fight the urge to scream. He would not give the bastards the satisfaction. Darkstar flicked off the control. “Are we clear?” He asked darkly.

Luke’s head snapped up and he locked eyes with the mad Orion crime lord.

“Yes, but we need to be clear on two other things, Darkstar.”

“Go on.” Darkstar replied, smiling expectantly. He obviously enjoyed Luke’s willfulness whatever he said to the contrary.

“One, my name is Luke Skywalker not Darth Nemesis. Nemesis died on Scythia.”

Darkstar glanced over at Dee and Dum. Dum put his finger to his temple and made circular motions with his finger. Dee snorted.

“And?” Dee pressed.

Luke smiled softly and looked at both of the twins.

“There will be a reckoning between us. I assure you of that.” Luke replied coldly. Dum strode over to Luke and thrust his face forward into Luke’s.

“I look forward to that n’est pas? You and I we will do a little dance.”

Luke nodded.

“Then we have an understanding.” Luke replied coldly.

Darkstar smiled and shook his head.

“You are as unique as I imagined you to be Nemesis or Luke Skywalker, whatever you choose to call yourself, it does not matter at all.” Darkstar nodded to Dum who touched a switch on the metal restraint at Luke’s waist. There was an audible click and it swung away from him. Luke stood calmly watching the three, trying his best not to let his attention wander.

“But in the end it is all the same, Luke.” Darkstar extended his left hand casually and Anastasia floated over gracefully and took his hand, the other holding her bowl of grapes. She spared Luke a glance of bored interest. “You like everything else on this planet are now mine.” Darkstar declared with a gleeful smile and walked away.

She eased the controls and marveled at the ship’s responsiveness. This certainly beat a battered and damaged Lambda shuttle. The faint beeping on her screen increased in pitch slightly and a pulsing light began to flash on another screen.

She smiled softly.

The tracking device she had planted on Nemesis was working perfectly. He was far away but not out of range of the transponder.

Mara made the calculations for the jump to lightspeed while keeping an eye on her sensor net. It wasn’t easy taking off in this thing and not attracting attention from the orbiting ships. A small flotilla of Klingon ships were in orbit. They were orbiting in tandem with a Federation science vessel and of all things a squadron of X-Wing fighters.

She doubted that Slave One could handle all that firepower at once, no matter what modifications Fett had made to the patrol ship. Of course actually trying to fly this thing had turned into an adventure in itself. It seemed that every inch of this ship was bobby trapped.

She spent precious hours undoing all the traps Fett had set for anyone who dared penetrate his ship. Luckily her training as a Hand prepared her for such eventualities. She had to admit however that some of the traps were quite ingenious and she almost lost a limb several times in the process.

She was driven and nothing would stop her. Not booby traps, not enemy ships, not the growing realization of how stacked the odds were against her. She was going to rescue Nemesis no matter what it took.

She did not want to listen to the quiet voice in the back of her head telling her to turn this ship around and return to the Imperial Fleet, bow before Thrawn and explain that Nemesis was dead.

She could not imagine herself doing that.

She could feel the warmth of his body on hers, the soft silken kisses along her flesh still made her shudder with electric pleasure. She had said so much to him in the darkness of that cave. How could she turn back on him now? How could she deny the inexorable truth that had risen from her heart unbidden and unwanted.

She loved him.

The navcomputer indicated that the coordinates had been laid in and she was ready to make the jump to lightspeed.

“They say Fett’s ship was fast, fast enough to run down just about any quarry. Well, it’s time to find out.” she muttered and tripped the hyperdrive.

Slave One’s engines roared for a moment and the small patrol ship vanished into the star field as its hyperdrive activated.

“I’m coming to get you, Nemesis and pity the fools that get in my way.” she vowed quietly and made her way to the back of the ship and started to search through the weapons lockers and hold of her galaxy’s most formidable Bounty hunter for tools to help her in the quest.

The shipyards at Avalon were working in full swing, four shifts, twenty four hours a day. The nonstop activity was clearly visible to those in the main conference room. The representatives of the Federation government in exile could see as they spoke their fleet girding for battle. Endless lines of starships were pulling in for emergency repairs and upgrades on the eve of one of the most important battles in their history.

A Nebula class starship was parked not more than 200 meters from the main window that looked out on the center of Avalon so that the council was constantly reminded of what they were fighting for.

The Andorian representative paused in his deliberations for a moment to examine the starship outside his window. The blue lettering written boldly proclaiming: THE FEDERATION LIVES written along the primary hull’s saucer was faded and old, indicating that the ship was one of the first to join Kirk’s remnant fleet. Its battle scarred hull was a testament to her history in this war. One nacelle was cracked and blackened along the pulsing red bussard collector. Her secondary hull had several black scorched streaks running from the tip of the navigational deflector to the rear of the ship and a small corner of her sensor pod had been blasted off in some encounter.

Like a proud warrior the starship bore her scars without complaint as she patiently waited her turn to enter the over flowing shipyards, hoping to receive any last minute repairs that could be made before the order was given to travel to Andor and make a stand. Perhaps they hoped to receive the rapidly dwindling supplies of the first proton torpedoes produced by the Federation manufacturing facilities at Avalon.

A Miranda class cruiser coasted by, her overhead torpedo launcher reduced to a charred twisted mass of skeletal metal and the words THE FEDERATION LIVES was marred by battle damage to read: THE FEDATION LIES.

He wanted to cry at the sight before him.

Their finest warriors were coming to do battle despite their own damage, their leader lost to the fates and hope always at a premium during these dark times had abandoned the Federation.

His world and his people were facing slavery or worse and their only hope was these battered but proud warriors who would not bow to the inevitable. One could write a saga of this time.

“I finished ordering the transfer of three more wings of starships to the defense of Andor. Final adjustments are being made to Operation Rampart.” Jellico explained calmly as he stood before the council.

“These three wings.” the Andorian began. “consist primarily of Miranda and Excelsior class starships, each wing led by an Ambassador class starship. None of the Excelsiors are Lakota refits and only 15% of the total wings have received the new proton torpedoes we have developed.”

Jellico nodded.

“You are correct, sir.”

“Considering what’s at stake, Captain, do you think it wise to reinforce our system with your ready reserves? Did you think my government’s fears would be eased by seeing three wings, not even a full squadron of starships arrive to help reinforce the system and when we look closely those ships are all reserves that have been dragged out of mothballs or created by slapping together decimated wings from earlier battles?”

Jellico frowned and looked into the Andorian’s eyes.

“Sir, those men may be in old ships, they may come from wings, in some cases FLEETS that have been gutted by the Empire and Kirk’s fruitless attacks on their holdings but they are good people willing to fight and die for your world.”

“Not a single front line ship sir? Not a single Galaxy class, Nebula, Sovereign or Defiant? You have not even had the decency of sending at least the latest upgrades of these older ships. Not a single Lakota class refit?” The Andorian complained bitterly as he scrolled down the fleet manifests on his datapad, disgust evident on his face.

“Out of the entire Excelsior class fleet only a fraction received those refits before the war started.” Jellico replied evenly. What he wanted to say was, why would I throw away the cream of my fleet in a hopeless battle but that was not an option. Realistically, even though there was no hope of winning against a determined Imperial assault he had no choice but to make a stand.

Kirk’s plan on file was a laughably optimistic. He thought that he could hold the Imperials using a device that Spock, Scotty, Geordie LaForge and Leia’s engineering team had cooked up. The device was simple in description but the effect could be awesome except for one simple fact. The device would trap the Imperials in Andorian space and the last thing Jellico wanted to do was trap the fleet with his own.

He wondered whether Kirk had slowly gone insane as this war raged.

He was actually trying to fight this war to win it. The Federation could not win this war, Jellico had been certain of that since the Battle of Sector 001. He tried his best to be heard during those dark days. He thought that the Federation should either surrender and save the people any more suffering and save Starfleet lives. Either that or Starfleet should gather together what survivors they could and make a push out to the rim, somewhere in the Delta quadrant perhaps.

But this business of standing and fighting, frankly Starfleet was not cut out to be a guerrilla force. How do you fight a guerilla war utilizing ships that take time and resources to build, crews to recruit and train? The Empire held a vast majority of Federation space and every world of note save Andor was under their sway.

“When do you intend to make a stand at Andor? Our intelligence services predict a strike any day now. They have begun continuous jamming of our long range sensors.”

“I am well aware that the Empire is preparing the way for their strike but you must look at it from my view, this could all be an elaborate trap.”

The Andorian representative sat back slowly as if he had been told his children were dead. He slumped slightly, hands slowly folding together on the table top of the conference room.

“The Empire has made no secret of their intention to take Andor. Why are they taking their time? Its becoming obvious to me that they WANT us to make a stand at Andor.”

“You are afraid.”

Jellico shook his head and chuckled softly.

“Sir, it will take a lot more than that to get my goat, I’m not a Klingon, you can’t push my buttons with a simple assertion that has no basis in fact.”

“You are an accomplished orator, Captain Jellico.” the Andorian said softly as he gathered his belongings and rose from his seat. His aides immediately followed suit.

“What are you doing?” the Terran representative asked sharply.

“Is this wise?” the Vulcan representative asked.

“This is so typical. They have been hogging the attention all to themselves since this war began simply because their world had the good fortune of not succumbing to occupation troops!” the Tellarite representative spat sardonically.

“You called this meeting to discuss the defense of my homeworld. We have provided this remnant with shipyards, manufacturing centers, medical supplies, food, spare parts and we have given you, not sold, not lent or leased as the Ferengi have offered but GIVEN you a plethora of industrial replicators to aid you in your cause and now that we face near certain annihilation you tell us this could be a trap.”

“If you’ll calm down and listen—” Jellico began.

“I’m through listening to this funeral dirge Captain Jellico. You have decided that my world is a trap, that our defense will cost you ships and lives and that perhaps, maybe the Empire will crush your fleet but I ask you this—” The Andorian walked towards the door followed by his entourage. “Where will your fleet be three months from now when Andor has fallen. Where will you look to? The Gorn? The Tholians? How long before the Empire swarms over the rest of this galaxy? Once Andor falls they will move on and the lesser powers will certainly not hold out anywhere near as long as we have. So, Captain, please go on and lie to these people.”

“Don’t you accuse me of lying, sir. I’m trying my damndest to hold this fleet together against all odds.” Jellico snapped.

“Tell them that you are husbanding your fleet resources, that you are trying to avoid a trap crafted to destroy your fleet but don’t dare tell them what the Empire knows and I know. That this fleet will be destroyed if Andor falls whether you stand and fight or not.”

“You don’t know that.” The Terran representative replied.

The Andorian smiled sadly.

“Yes, yes I do. And so did James Kirk. The difference between this current administration and James Kirk’s command is that he was willing to fight even if the odds were slim to none he was ready to make sure that even if your fleet was to be defeated it would do so on its feet and not die slowly on its knees.”

“You answer me something then, councilor.” Jellico asked sharply. “You answer me what we gain by losing everything we’ve built here by willfully entering a trap the Empire has set for us.”

The Andorian glared at Jellico then looked at each of the Council with a sad gaze.

“If you don’t know the answer to that question then there is nothing more I need to say. You do not have the heart to win this war.”

“I’ve been commanding starships most of my career. I’ve fought in every war my Starfleet has sent me to defending and protecting this Federation. I am not afraid of war, or a battle.”

“Frankly Captain Jellico you have taken the spirit that Kirk infused in this fleet and made my people believe in the Federation remnant and have twisted and subverted it. You see, you’re fighting this war to survive. Kirk fought this war to win.”

“Where is your champion now, sir?” Jellico asked quietly.

“I wish I knew, Captain. I truly do.” The Andorian representative bowed his head slightly to the assembly and walked out.

The room was dark, only a single floodlight illuminated the center of the complex. A single missile sat on a launch pad. A series of command consoles surrounded the launch pad and technicians worked at computers lining the launch pad, several were running tricorder scans of the missile itself and comparing the readings to a datapad and nodding approvingly.

Silvis First Thane of Andor watched the proceedings with a grim determination.

Behind him on a large screen were large astrometric readings of the Andor system, her planets, moons and in particular her pale blue sun in the center. Readings concerning the sun’s solar mass, density, plasma flow, electromagnetic readouts and all sundry readings on the stellar body were continuously scrolling down the side of the main viewer. Scientists monitored the readings and were diligently plotting various course headings from Andor to the sun, shortest possible routes, circuitous routes, oblique approaches.

Data was fed from the astrometrics computer to a launch controller at the base of the pad. This self contained computer core’s sole function was controlling and caring for the missile and her payload.

It was also the computer that would most likely end all life on Andor.

“It is frightening.” Silvis whispered as he watched a small boxlike attachment being fitted onto the missile housing very carefully.

“It is our last defiant spit in the face of the Empire.” Holkom replied grimly. He was an older Andorian, his antennae were starting to become rigid and callused and his white down hair was fading to a more yellowish tone. Holkom was a mystery to many in the government but the First Thane knew who he was.

Holkom was the head of Andor’s intelligence community and a member of the Shadowfleet. The organization had secretly been helping Andor in its bid to secede from the Federation. They hoped to be able to create bases in an independent Andor and use Andor as a test bed for many weapons that the Federation and in particular Starfleet would have qualms fielding.

He came to Silvin’s office a few weeks ago when it became abundantly clear that Andor was going to stand alone against the fury of the Empire’s armies. The Andorian government issued a referendum asking the populace to grant them the mandate to do whatever it took to defend the honor of Andor even if it caused planet wide disruption to the lives of the people. The referendum was returned with a massive majority voting for the mandate.

Holkom had an alternative that was not open to the Andorians before. Stolen technology that the Shadowfleet had procured and was now disseminating to Andor. Silvis was no fool. He realized that if the Shadowfleet and Section 31 were starting to come out of the woodwork and working with the current governments of this quadrant then they had been dealt a mortal blow, one that Holkom had hinted heavily upon when making his proposal. There would be no cavalry of secret ships to help them.

However the option offered was chilling.

“The El-Alurians are a peaceful people are they not?” Silvis asked as he watched the device firmly fitted to the housing.

“Indeed they are. Mostly artists and craftsmen. The Borg assimilated their homeworld in the span of minutes. So much for the liberating nature of art.” Holkom replied. There was no hint of disapproval or derision. He was simply making a statement.

“I find it ironic that it was one of their species that designed such an awful weapon.” Silvis said softly.

“Irony is in the eye of the beholder, First Thane. This weapon will make our defiance against invaders legendary.”

“And the blood on our hands? Will it be any less damning?”

Holkom had no answer for the First Thane’s question as the missile suddenly wavered and vanished out of sight. The technicians that had attached the device to the missile’s housing turned to them and held up his hand in a positive gesture. Humans would call it the thumbs up sign.

The Melkot were slowly passing over their world, letting their minds float freely. It was their way. Their physical bodies had been reduced over time as their minds continued to evolve. They reveled in their ability to separate their minds from their bodies and float freely among the cosmos, allowing them to contemplate its mysteries.

Occasionally they would notice a starship that would stray into their space. They jealously guarded the area of their world, not through some aberration of evolution where they held on to such primitive notions of territoriality. They did so because they were afraid that the appearance of primitive minds may surprise a Melkot lost in the ecstasy of union with the universe.

In that surprise the Melkot would lash out hurt himself or the primitives. It had happened once in their distance past and the surprised Melkot annihilated a portion of their moon and the ship.

The last starship to cross their borders was a tiny vessel from the United Federation of Planets named Enterprise.

The Melkot dimly remembered James Kirk and his crew as they were brought to their homeworld’s surface and prepared for execution by the specters of their own mind. Lacking any knowledge of human history the Melkot simply plucked from James Kirk’s mind a setting for the execution. An old west shootout that would have eliminated the offenders were it not for the creative use of will power on the crew’s part.

The Melkot had been impressed and allowed the humans to leave, knowing that they would warn anyone else of the dangers of entering Melkot space. And they had done an excellent job, the Melkot were rarely if ever disturbed.

They continued as they had always done and did not notice the small moon that had suddenly appeared in the orbit of their homeworld. They did not feel the power of the battlestation as its main weapon was powered up.

One of the Melkot slowly drifted into the battlestation’s magnetic field and paused. It detected the electromagnetic disturbance and reached out. It was driven back by the raw hate and anger of the dark side of the force that had cloaked the massive vessel from the god like entities of the planet below. The Melkot reached out more forcefully this time, battering past the waves of anger and hatred and touched the source of this darkness.

“Who are you?” It asked.

“I am power.” came the reply in a reptilian like hiss.

“What are you doing here?”

“Killing you.” the reply was like ice.

The Melkot let loose a mental alarm as the battestation finally revealed itself in the light of the rising sun. Massive, hundreds of kilometers of durasteel and armor the superlaser lense irised and focused on the Melkot homeworld. The cloak of the dark side parted like a matador opening his cape defiantly.

The super laser fired.

An angry emerald beam lanced down to the planet and within seconds the ancient homeworld of the Melkot vanished in a titanic blast that evaporated the damaged moon in orbit as the debris of a dead planet smashed into the moon and continued accelerating away into the darkness of the void beyond.

The bodies of the Melkot were reduced to their component atoms in less than a heartbeat, delicate flesh and bone vaporized by the superheated death of their world. Their minds wandering the far reaches of the galaxy all screamed at once. Savagely deprived of their bodies they no longer had a source for their mental projection and in the instant their world died, the Melkot race vanished from reality with a death knell that continued echoing on through reality for all eternity.

“All is done as you command my master.” The young man in black announced as he bowed deeply.

The Emperor smiled.

“Good. Excellent work my young apprentice. Now we must leave this system before more of their brethren come to investigate.”

“Of course my master. I have already arranged for the Deathstar to hyperspace out to the extreme rim of the galaxy away from any civilized world. There in the shadow of a gas giant, lost in the frenzy of a pulsar star we will be undetectable until you order us to our next target.”

“Excellent work. I sense a question in your mind.”

His master knew him all too well.

“I did not think that slaying gods would be this simple, my lord. I could never have imagined this.”

“We have yet to ascend to the true heights I have planned for us. We will soon storm the very gates of reality and there will be nothing and no one that can stop us.”

“There are questions, my master. The Moffs and adepts are questioning why we have not contacted Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fleet?”

The Emperor glanced over at the chessboard set up at his right hand.

“All in good time, all in good time.” he promised softly in the shadows.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 64: Gilded Cage

“Are you bored?” Anastasia nearly purred. She moved slowly through the series of silk curtains surrounding Luke’s sleep area like layers of a cocoon. Luke sat cross legged on the edge of his very comfortable bed trying to focus. He had been in this position for a better part of two days now. No success whatsoever. His mind would refuse to focus long enough to manipulate the Force in anyway. He had never felt so frustrated in his life. He could feel the Force flowing around him, he could listen to its ebb and flow but he could do nothing else.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I would prefer to be alone.” Luke replied softly, not opening his eyes. He could feel her presence close to him, her life force pulsing and throbbing.

Anastasia smiled curiously and examined the young man with one finger hooked into the corner of her luscious mouth.

“You can be left alone here for weeks if you like, Luke or Nemesis or whatever your name is but you’ll never beat Darkstar’s little trick.”

“Oh?” He was instantly annoyed by the fact that he could not remain focused enough to ignore her. He also tried to fight the urge to give in to his annoyance. Any small straying from the precarious path he walked made him nervous. The dark path was always seductively close now that he had walked it for so long. But he was not afraid of it anymore. He simply had a healthy respect for its siren song.

“He’s been planning this for a long time you know. Ever since you appeared on the scene he has wanted you. Darkstar has a way of getting what he wants no matter what and unique people and items are precisely what he craves.”

“He’s clearly insane.” Luke replied trying to maintain his concentration but failing utterly. He sighed softly.

Anastasia smiled sardonically at him and leaned against one of the posts of his bed.

“You’re not afraid of him, even now are you?”

“No. Fear leads to the Dark side and quite frankly Anastasia, the things I’ve seen and done make sure that it will take much more than a fop like him to frighten me.”

She stared at him for a moment, as if judging the sincerity of his words.

“He’s much more than a fop, you know. He comes off that way because that’s what he wants you to think of him but I bet you didn’t know he was an eleventh level master of Gen-ko.”

“You’ll forgive me if I am not impressed, and I don’t just mean because I don’t know what Gen-ko is.” Luke replied with a smirk.

“You really are from another galaxy aren’t you?” She breathed as she stepped closer to watch him. “Some people have said that you just come from a distant part of the Gamma or Delta quadrants, others say that you’re from the future but you really are from another galaxy. There’s something about you.”

“I’m flattered but right now I need to concentrate.”

Anastasia smiled and stepped back, crossing her arms. “I guess that means you’re not interested in the present I bought you.”

“Not remotely.” Luke replied and closed his eyed again.

She smirked.

“Fine by me.” she replied and strolled out of his bed chamber area, the silken curtains slowly sliding over her body like a lover’s hands. She paused at the last veil and looked down at a squat shadow on the standing calmly outside the bedchamber.

“He doesn’t want to see you. I’m sorry I guess we’ll have to keep each other company.”

There was a series of desperate whistles and beeps.

Luke’s eyes snapped open.


The droid’s joyful beeps and whistles replied loudly. Luke was instantly out of his meditative pose and strode through the silken curtains to face his small droid companion.

“Artoo Deeto it IS you!” Luke exclaimed happily and crouched down to be as close to eye level as possible with the droid. He warmly patted the droid on its dome head. “It’s been too long.”

Artoo whistled hopefully.

“No.” Luke shook his head. “Nemesis is gone, Artoo. He died on Scythia.”

Artoo made a quizzical whistle.

“I still carry the best of him inside me Artoo. And yes, I am so glad to see you old friend.” Luke answered with a grin. He looked down and noted the black metallic bands wrapped tightly around the droid, in essence locking down all his tool compartments. “What have they done to you? Are you Okay?”

Artoo whistled enthusiastically.

Anastasia watched the exchange with a hooded expression.

“It’s amazing; you actually have feelings for this machine?” Anastasia

Artoo turned his domed head and spouted something distinctly unflattering. Luke smiled softly.

“Artoo is not juts a machine, Anastasia. He is my friend.”

Anastasia laughed coolly.

“Well friends you’ll find in short supply here in paradise.” She replied.

“You don’t seem happy here, Anastasia. You’ve never tried to leave?”

Anastasia shook her head and snorted softly. “You think people can just leave this palace, this world at their whim? Darkstar rules this world, this entire star system and I won’t go into the syndicates that bend knee to him from here to the Argolos cluster. Even if you did leave here, there are syndicates in the star systems you need to travel through that would gladly sell you out for a chance to cozy up to Darkstar.”

“Sounds like you have put some thought in it then.” Luke noted. Anastasia said nothing for a moment.

“Since we’ll be here for quite some time, maybe you’d like the guided tour? A way for you to get to know this wonderful little prison.”

“I don’t think I want to.”

“Suit yourself.” She replied tightly and turned on her heel to leave. Artoo’s dome turned from Luke to Anastasia.

Luke looked after her and shook his head.

“Look, you’re right. I really should get to know this place.” Anastasia paused.

“I don’t know if I want to show you now.” She replied petulantly.

Luke smirked and got off his feet in one graceful sweep of his legs. Despite his inability to channel the force, his intensive physical training had honed his body to near perfection and nothing was going to take that away from him.

“Now, now. There’s no reason to act like that.” He walked over to face her. “Why don’t you show me your world?” Luke asked.

She glared at him for a moment.

“You think just like the others, don’t you? You think I’m just some pretty woman with no brains, don’t you?”

“No I don’t.” he answered simply.

She gazed into his eyes.

“You’re telling the truth.” She whispered.

“You’re used to men lying to you, I understand that.” He nodded.

“Do you?” She snapped.

“I do.” He replied simply. “My father, my mentor, my teacher - They all lied to me.” He added darkly. “But in the end, I could not let that define who I was, believe me, that road is long dark and leads to ruin.”

Anastasia watched him as he spoke. She nodded slowly.

“There’s more to you than meets the eye isn’t there?”

Luke smiled and it was a boyish almost shy smile.

“You could say that. I’ve been asleep for a very long time. I’ve just woken up from a very bad dream only to step into this.”

“Then let me help you out of that sleep, Luke.” She replied and offered an arm. He slipped his into hers and turned to Artoo.

“Artoo, let’s take a walk.”

Their steps echoed on the meticulously carved green marble floor. The corridor led to a round walkway that encircled a beautiful pool of cool blue water. The pool itself was enormous and rippled softly as a small waterfall gurgled above them, running down one end of the circular enclosure into the water below.

“It’s beautiful.” Luke breathed.

“Darkstar had this created to mirror the Still Pool of Avanus.”

“What is that?”

“The Still pool was a monument created by the people of Avanus to remember one of their greatest philosophers. He urged them to give up their war like ways and embrace peace and reflection. He was so persuasive his people embraced this and disbanded their fleets and armies and became a world of artists and philosophers.”

“That’s beautiful.”

Anastasia nodded.

“They were assimilated by the Borg a decade later.” She added coolly.

Luke blinked.

“Life is funny that way, Luke.” She sighed and ran her hand along the marble railing.

“When you take selected portions of history you can certainly make it look that way.” Luke countered, following her along the railing.

“How so?”

“The Vulcans for instance, gave up a war like past and embraced logic and they have prospered.” Luke noted as he watched the play of water below.

“Under the protection of the Federation and their Starfleet. Peace for peace’s sake has always led down the path to –” she stopped herself short and watched him closely. “Forget it, let’s go on.” She waved him elegantly to follow.

Luke walked after her, Artoo trundling along obediently, whistling to himself contentedly now that he was reunited with his master. It did not matter to the droid that they were in the heart of an enemy fortress, all that mattered was that they were back together. Besides, Master Luke would find a way out of this prison. He always did.

Anastasia led him through endless chambers displaying artwork from hundreds of civilized worlds, many crafted by races long since dead or vanished. Luke absorbed the relics, knick knacks and antiques that were carefully arranged in massive gallery like displays in the great rotundas that made up the interior of the massive palace. It in of itself a relic as well, as Anastasia relayed its history as the palace of the first emperor to rule this planet long ago before Orion pirates landed and used it as a base of operations.

Luke walked through silent halls with portraits of leaders, religious holy men, madmen and aliens lining each wall. Some of the portraits watched him intently, some spoke to him others would vanish from sight as their photoreceptive paint required light to be seen and his shadow fell over them.

He had not seen such treasures collected in one place since his tours of Palpatine’s estates on Coruscant. He also saw these collections for what they truly where. A quadrant’s history and culture stolen by an insane crime lord for sheer pleasure. It made his stomach turn thinking of all that was lost hidden away in these beautiful halls, all of it at the mercy of a mad man.

She led him through an armory with weapons of all manner, shape and form behind force fields. He had a vague hope of seeing his lightsaber mounted here but Darkstar seemed to be true to his word. No sign of his blade anywhere, though he did see and Imperial stromtrooper’s blaster mounted in the newer wing of the armory, as well as a helmet.

Anastasia noted that Darkstar was in the market for a full set of armor.

As they entered yet another level of the estate she turned to look at Luke for a moment and smiled softly.

“I want to show you my favorite item in his collection.”

“What is it? A rare and unique cultural artifact that belongs back with its people?” Luke asked sardonically.

She frowned.

“You’ll see.” She promised and led him through a set of double doors and into a quiet dark room with only one object in it. At first Luke thought it was a tree from the shape and size in the shadows but as they drew closer he saw that it was actually a massive crystal formation growing right out of the marble floor and stretching up right towards the cavernous ceiling overhead.

“These crystals were brought back from the ice world of Mafice IV on the very rim of known space in the Alpha Quadrant. It took Darkstar’s expedition 2 years to and back at high warp to bring them here.” The crystals spiraled upwards like DNA strands, a rainbow of colors running through the faceted structure.

“I’ve seen crystals like this on Scythia.”

“Really?” she smirked and walked over to the base of the crystals and lightly tapped the base.

Luke’s eyes widened as he slowly looked up. Sound reverberated along the crystal, the resonance growing exponentially as it rose along the crystal. Anastasia’s light tap grew into a virtual symphony and deep within the crystals lights exploded in accompaniment to the sounds.

Luke watched the show in wonder and delight. Anastasia watched him quietly, as if measuring him up. His face, a mask of quiet strength slipped and she saw something else, something surprising. He was suddenly a young boy lost in amazement at a wonder of nature. The dangerous warrior’s stance he carried with him softened.

“It’s beautiful.” He breathed as the sound slowly died down after reaching the summit of the crystal spire.

“Of all his possessions, this one is my favorite.” She added.

“It’s a toy, a big overcomplicated toy.”


Luke slowly turned his head to regard the twin bodyguards that were tasked with shadowing him. He sized them up quickly and noted with some chagrin that in his state and condition, they would most likely kill him. They moved like jungle cats, each one keeping the other in their peripheral vision as they approached.

Despite their casual saunter he could see from the supple motion of their taut muscles that they could strike instantly, switch to combat mode in mere moments. He also detected something else, something not right about these two. Something about them reminded him of his father of all things. He could not place his finger on it.

“Dee. Dum. Do you mind?” Anastasia sighed.

“You taken a fancy to this fancy pants Sith lord?” Dee asked snidely as he circled her like a wolf.

“Or are you just bored, mademoiselle? Perhaps I can offer you something to recreate with?” Dum added without missing a beat.

Luke noticed the way they moved, almost as if in tandem. They must have been training together for many years. But that wasn’t quite right was it? He shook his head. He could not maintain focused enough to carry his observations to their ultimate conclusions. This would be far more difficult than he thought.

“Maybe you’d like to leave the lady alone.” Luke said tightly.

Dee and Dum froze in mid-stride simultaneously. Perfectly simultaneously. Something about that was setting off warning bells in Luke’s head but nothing could stop his thoughts from melting into the shadowy recessed of his mind.

“Maybe we’d like to teach you a little lesson.” Dee snapped.

“A lesson about respect.” Dum finished.

Luke did not see the attack coming. He had been waiting for the warning twinge from the force and the slight tensing of their muscles. Instead he heard the sharp metallic clack of the pain pike as its metallic segments extended instantly and slammed into his chin catapulting him off his feet where he landed on his back with a thud.

Dum was by his side almost as he landed and placed the pain pike against his throat where the bladed end crackled with the harsh yellow energy of the pain delivery system. Luke caught his breath for a moment and tried to understand what had just happened.

“You may be some uber warrior without that collar, Sith lord.”

Dee was right beside Luke now, he had been standing several meters away between the blinks of Luke’s eyes. Dee placed his own pain pike against Luke’s throat from his side.

“But with that little trinket my sweet, you’re just another rube that needs to be taught respect.” Dee finished.

“Damnit, would you too just leave him alone!” Anastasia called out and rushed over to Luke. She knelt by him and glared at the twin killers. “You two just love showing off. Easy for you two to beat him up with this damned thing on.” She touched the collar. “But I didn’t see you too so eager to deal with him when he didn’t have it on.”

“And we’re dumb enough to fall for that one, luv?”

“Oui, we are not dumb, mademoiselle. That one is the oldest trick in the book.”

They retracted their pain pikes, the metal segments shooting back up into the control rod where both Dee and Dum twirled the rod and effortlessly slipped it on to their belts. Luke’s eyes narrowed on their hands.

They had snapped the pain pikes and holstered them in absolutely perfect precision.

“Now get out of here. Darkstar said that he was free to move through his palace.”

“That he is.”

“Until tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Luke muttered.

“Yes, governor, tomorrow.”

“You think that Darkstar wanted you for your good looks? He saw your performance against those Klingons back in the early days of the war.”

“The Klingons?” Luke replied and slowly got up into a semi sitting position. Thoughts were too clouded now, too much information was passing him by that he knew he would have anticipated by now if not for this damned fog.

“Yes, he saw what you did to them.”

“And he wants you to entertain him.”

“No.” Anastasia snapped. “That can’t be right.”

Dee and Dum exchanged a chilling smile.

“Take a look at the arena, luv.”

“It is being prepped for a demonstration tomorrow.”

“He wants me to fight?” Luke asked in confusion. What was happening? He needed focus, time alone.

“He’s gettin’ it even with the collar.”

“He’s a smart lad.”

“I won’t fight for his pleasure.” Luke stated with grim resolve.

Dee and Dum shrugged simultaneously.

“Then you die.” They replied in unison and walked away from them.

Luke said nothing as he got up smoothly from the floor. Artoo whistled something to Luke.

“What was that? Cybernetics?”

“I thought you would have guessed that already but I forget about this thing.” Anastasia noted as she eyed the collar with distaste.

“I didn’t notice anything obvious.”

“They’re the best money can buy. After Darkstar was through with them there wasn’t a natural bone left in their bodies. Their tendons, cartilage, muscles, bones, everything about them is cybernetic implants, kriegswire tendons, laminate plated bones, even their damned brains have been linked with some sort of combat computer.”

“Making their moves smooth and in synch like a machine.” Luke said with a rueful shake of his head.

Anastasia didn’t say anything else for a long moment. She paced slowly back and forth.

“All my sins remembered.” Luke muttered.

“What?” She asked.

“Back when I was Darth Nemesis, I reveled in what I could do. I also knew that by spreading fear I could assure victory far quicker than by simple brute force. I slaughtered millions, billions even and I would proudly display what I did for all to see in the hope that the fear it would inspire would cripple this galaxy.” Luke explained. “My battle with the hundred greatest Klingon warriors in their empire was broadcast to the far reaches of your galaxy.”

“I remember watching it. Darkstar set it up so that everyone could see it, he considered it pure entertainment. He loved what you did to the Federation, Romulans and Klingons. He urged you on and had conquest festivals in the Great Gardens to celebrate the fall of the old order. But things changed when he watched you in action against those Klingons. Something in his eyes as he saw the reaction of the crowd to your fighting.”

“And in my pride, I started the path to my own downfall and imprisonment here.” Luke realized. The universe seemed to have a way of ensuring that all prices were exacted eventually for actions taken.

Anastasia stepped up to Luke and placed a silken hand on his cheek.

“He will make you fight, Luke. And I know what you’re going to say, you think because he values you that he won’t harm you but you don’t know him. The lengths to what he will go.”

“I can’t fight as someone’s slave, Anastasia. I won’t. I have a mission to complete.”

“What’s more important than your life?”

“Saving this galaxy. I have so much to atone for.” He answered his voice dropping slightly as he contemplated briefly the depths of his crimes.

Anastasia shook her head and turned away from him.


“Just leave me alone.” She replied and started to walk away from him quickly, pushing open a set of double doors as she started to pick up her pace. Luke followed after her and Artoo whistled hesitantly before following.

“Anastasia, please. What is it?”

She turned suddenly on her heel and Luke had to stop short or he would have run right into her.

“I didn’t want to like you. I was just looking for some company. I’m very bored here with just Darkstar and his lackeys and I thought maybe you would make some interesting company.” She hissed angrily.

“I’m sorry.” Luke had no idea what else to say.

“You have no idea what its like being stuck here, year after year and watching things come and go with no relief in sight.”

“You sound like you’ve been here for decades or a lifetime, Anastasia. If there’s one thing I know for certain, collar or not, you are not an old woman.” He said softly and smiled at her.

“That’s just it Luke. I am.” She replied darkly.

Luke was confused.

“I don’t understand.”

Anastasia wordlessly took his hand and guided him through several more massive rooms and into a main hall where holoportraits floated serenely among meticulously kept gardens and soft running streams. She led him to several portraits in particular and pointed to one of an older man with thinning red hair and a royal cloak of purple over a rich and elegant white tunic.

Luke’s eyes narrowed on the man’s face.

“He must be Darkstar’s father. The resemblance is uncanny.”

She waited for his eyes to naturally follow to the next portrait and there was an older stately woman wrapped in a beautiful dress of flowing blue. She was looking out from the portrait with an intensity that drew you to her eyes.

“By the Force.” Luke breathed and his head whipped around to look at Anastasia then back at the portrait. “Tell me that’s your mother.”

She shook her head slowly and sighed.

“No. And that is not Darkstar’s father.”

“But how…”

“Darkstar recently came upon another discovery, a man not so unique and not so entertaining but he had in his possession a drug we dubbed the Methuselah Draught. Darkstar went from being an ailing man in his late 60’s to a young man in his late 20’s. He keeps the man here now, under lock and key to make sure he always has the Draught ready for him.”

“This is amazing.” Luke breathed still looking between the portrait and Anastasia.

“Not so for me.” Anastasia replied and her shoulders sagged. Luke stepped over to her and placed hands on her shoulders.

“What is it?” He asked looking into her eyes.

“Don’t you see what this means, Luke?” she asked in despair. “As I grew older I had hope Luke, hope that I would one day die and be free of this place. Now with this Draught I shall be his prisoner for all eternity.” She said softly eyes brimming with tears.

Luke looked back at the portrait of the old man and could see the insanity clearly evident in his younger self’s eyes hidden behind a wrinkled and tired face. He looked at Anastasia’s portrait, intense gaze an expression of defiance and grace all at the same time.

He steeled himself and looked back into Anastasia’s eyes.

“You listen to me, Anastasia. I am going to get us out of here. No matter what the cost.” He tightened his grip on her shoulders and she looked into his eyes. “We will be free.”

She fell into his arms and sobbed into his chest and Luke held her there for a long time in the cold hall surrounded by the artificial gardens of a madman.

The image was captured by one of the myriad hidden cameras in the palace and a figure watched the exchange for a long moment, fingers drumming incessantly on one command keyboard.

“Good.” He murmured. “Good.”

“I have no idea HOW you talked me into this.” Leia spat angrily as she regarded herself in the mirror in sickbay.

“I have to admit green is flattering.” Kirk replied.

Wedge tried his best not to stare too obviously.

“This is some of my best work if I may say so.” McCoy added with a proud smile. The EMH did a double take. “With some fine assistance of course.” McCoy added with a playful wink.

The EMH grumbled something unintelligible.

“Is this really necessary?” Leia asked as she turned to examine her back. Her flesh was an emerald shade of green. She wore a simple gown but her outfit was waiting for her on a hangar beside her. It was less than flattering, garish actually and most importantly embarrassing.

“Unfortunately Princess the Orions are a strictly male dominated organization. The syndicates would look very unfavorably to Captain Kirk’s attempt to infiltrate them with a human female at his side.” Spock explained.

“The Orions however have used the Animal women of their home world as a badge of status, the more beautiful and feral the greater his standing among other Orions is.” Entebbe continued.

“With the abolition of slavery in the surrounding systems and the Federation’s dim view of this sort of thing only the most powerful and daring syndicate lords still maintain a harem of slave girls.” Sulu added.

“But must I dress like this? This is bordering on the obscene.” Leia protested as she touched the metallic bikini that she was to wear.

“One Orion woman’s obscenity is another man’s delight.” Kirk added with a playful wink.

Leia shot him a withering gaze.

“Don’t get any ideas flyboy and I’ll be drawn and quartered before I call you master in front of anyone.” She replied hotly.

“No need for that, most Orion women use their bodies to speak.” Entebbe noted and hid his grin by placing a hand over his chin.

“And now for my piece de resistance.” McCoy announced and lightly dabbed something behind Leia’s neck.

“He did not even try to emulate a French accent.” The EMH grumbled.

“And?” Wedge replied, not able to keep his eyes off Leia.

“Well if you’re going to use a French phrase at least try to emulate the accent. It’s common linguistic courtesy.” The EMH replied sardonically. He noticed Wedge was no longer paying attention and rolled his eyes.

“My god, she’s gorgeous.” Wedge exclaimed.

Leia’s eyes widened and she turned around suddenly to face him.

“Wedge Antilles you mind your---” she stopped short as she suddenly noticed Captain Entebbe and Kirk leering at her.

“What the hell is going on here?” She demanded and defensively placed an arm across her chest. Only Spock seemed unmoved. McCoy nodded to the female nurses that were suddenly flanking each man and they injected a hypo into each one’s bicep. As suddenly as the change came over them they blinked for a moment in disorientation and returned to normal. All save Wedge who was as red as an apple and quickly excused himself.

“My deepest apologies, princess. I would never have reacted in that manner, I just have no idea what came over me.”

“This came over you, Wedge.” McCoy held up the small vial of pinkish liquid that he had dabbed behind Leia’s neck.

“Orion animal women make use of a very powerful aphrodisiac pheromone that makes them renown across the galaxy for their sexual aggression and skill.” Spock noted as he eyed the vial with interest. “Males, particularly human males have very strong reactions to the pheromones, oddly enough, Orion males have developed an immunity to this pheromone in their evolution.” Spock contemplated this for a moment. “This development would be worthy of a paper on the subject.”

McCoy chuckled softly and shook his head.

“Spock, you always live up to my expectations of you.”


“You can suck the joy out of even the most erotic topic my green blooded friend.” McCoy noted with an arched eyebrow.

“And how do we intend to carry out this mission without this bunch drooling all over me?” Leia asked with a smirk.

“Easy. I have distilled a counter agent to the pheromones, essentially deadening the sensory nerve endings that detect the pheromone. It’s effective for six hours.” McCoy handed each of the men a hypo. “I would make sure you inject yourself well before it wears off, in a confined space with the princess you may be overwhelmed.”

“And then I would have to overwhelm you the hard way.” Leia added dangerously.

“Wedge, are we all set?” Kirk asked.

“Yes sir. My squadron will hyper out to the rendezvous point where we will wait for your signal. Then we’ll come in and eliminate any orbital defenses and ships.”

“We have to do this fast. If Darkstar gets wind of what we’re going to do he could blow the hypermatter tech and kill Luke in a matter of minutes. Chancellor Worf?”


“Are you with me on this?”

Worf nodded.

“I did not fight hard to lose this technology to a band of pirates without honor. Wedge’s squadron will be joined by my fastest Birds of Prey. I will accompany you personally to the palace as your ally.”

“Can you act like a Klingon that has abandoned his empire for pay?” Kirk asked seriously.

“This will not be the first time I have had to act like something I am most certainly not.”

“Excellent. The rest of you know the plan. Now let’s meet down at the hangar deck and we’ll insert in three hours. Alright people, let’s move like we have a purpose.” Kirk ordered and the assembled crew quickly dispersed.

McCoy handed Leia the vial.

“Princess you need to apply this every 10 hours of the effects wear off and even though Orion males are immune they still smell it as a sweet perfume on the animal women. If you don’t smell like one there will be some tough questions for Jim and you to answer.”

“Understood doctor.” She replied and examined the vial closely.

“For maximum and optimal effect I would apply a single dab to key points on your body.”

“Key points?”

McCoy looked around for a moment and leaned in closely and whispered something into Leia’s ear. Her eyes grew wider and wider as he spoke. He finally stepped back.

“And how am I supposed to reach the last spot?” she asked darkly. McCoy shrugged.

“Perhaps Captain Kirk could be of assistance. He seems most taken with you pheromones or not.” The EMH offered helpfully.

Leia shook her head and stalked into the changing area with her ‘uniform.’ As she slammed the privacy screen down she exclaimed. “How did he talk me into this?”

“Perhaps he’s taken with him as well?” The EMH noted to McCoy.

“A word of advice my luminous friend. If you want to avoid deletion I would keep those observations to myself.” McCoy said with an ominous laugh.

The EMH looked confused.

“Deletion?” he squeaked.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 65: A Book by its Cover

The quarters were quiet, in the middle of the ship’s night cycle his quarters were dimly lit as he thumbed through the last pages of the treatise by a human named Carl vonClausewitz. Behind him on his computer screen floated the image of an Andorian artifact that was on display at the Louver on Earth. The Imperium was kind enough to send him a holoimage at his request. His file on Andorian artwork had grown considerably as the eve of battle approached.

Despite the battle reports that were neatly stacked by his computer, the battle readiness drills that were consistently coming up in the excellent ranges and in some cases setting new fleet records, despite the latest intelligence reports that the Federation was fortifying their position but that so far they were vastly outgunned something troubled him.

He could not put his finger on it. Like some rodent gnawing away at a worn leather strap, he could feel his worries gnawing on his confidence concerning this mission. There was something amiss and he had campaigned far too long and hard to ignore his feelings. If something troubled him it was usually for a reason for which his conscious mind had not yet become aware of.

Once, during a campaign in Wild Space he had met with the Admiral of the opposing side of a conquest. The Admiral promised him that he would surrender his fleet at the next battle and welcome him with open arms. Thrawn’s fleet would be allowed into the defensive perimeter and the surrender would be complete.

He had been troubled the night before to the point where he could not sleep. It was only as he lay awake in the very dawning of the new morning that his eyes widened and he realized that the Admiral’s aide looked sick with fear. It was almost palpable.

The Admiral’s last gambit was to bring Thrawn’s fleet into the defensive perimeter, reactivate it and hope that the combination of the defensive guns and his own fleet’s brawling tactics might bring down the Imperial fleet.

Thrawn imagined he expression on the Admiral’s face when he emerged from hyperspace and launched the massive asteroids they had brought with them into the defensive perimeter in makeshift mass drivers. The slaughter commenced moments later.

If not for his noting the young aide’s obvious discomfort he may well have blundered into the elaborate trap. Sometimes the mind noticed things subconsciously and the conscious mind was too distracted to take note. What was bothering him now?

The door to his office opened quietly and Jerjerrod walked in.

“Sir? Lord Vader is here at your request.”

“Very good, Jerjerrod. Please let him in.”

“Yes sir.”

A few moments passed and the armored giant Darth Vader strode into Thrawn’s quarters. The Sith lord paused for a moment at the threshold. Thrawn appreciated the minimum respect that Vader showed him. It would be most gratifying to see the Sith lord on his knees in the near future.

“Lord Vader, if you please.” Thrawn indicated the empty seat opposite his.

“I would prefer to stand Grand Admiral.”

“Of course.” Thrawn replied evenly and regarded the tall imposing Sith lord for a moment through hooded crimson eyes.

“Lord Vader what is the current status of our fleet?”

“We are in position in orbit of the gas giant of this system. Strict communications silence is being observed and any and all communications must be sent either by shuttle or probe droid. All fighters have been recalled and a small perimeter sensor net of probe droids relying solely on passive scanners has been set up on the perimeter of the system. We should have at least 15 minutes warning should any vessels approach via warp drive.”

“I didn’t order the probe droid net.” Thrawn noted.

“It was my order. I do not like the position we are in. We are vulnerable and I will not give our enemies the slightest advantage.”

“Excellent Lord Vader. I must admit that when the Emperor stated that we would compliment each other perfectly for this assignment I was skeptical.”

“Indeed.” Vader said but his voice betrayed nothing. Some whispered that Vader was nothing more than some berserker stuck in the past who slew at a moment’s notice and had not a whit of political acumen. Thrawn quickly learned otherwise. Vader cultivated the image of himself as a lumbering hatchet man. He was a cunning warrior and had a keen mind that let him see through almost any plot or ploy and was ruthlessly efficient at eliminating his enemies. Most telling of all was the fact that the Emperor kept him as his right hand for these long decades without fail.

He would be a force to be reckoned with and Thrawn privately relished the possibility.

“I have formulated a plan, lord Vader that will help assure us victory.”

“It is my understanding with the firepower we have assembled that victory is assured.”

“Not the kind of victory that I want and we need.”

“Go on.”

“We need the Andorian shipyards, we need their infrastructure and manufacturing base.”

“In my opinion Admiral, you have placed to much value and emphasis on Andor. They are one of the most highly developed worlds in the Federation that is true but they are not the only world. There is also the Borg Collective, there is an entire swath of this galaxy with dead worlds brimming with manufacturing facilities and shipyards that we could easily convert to our use.” Vader countered.

“The problem, Lord Vader, is time and distance. It will only help the Imperium’s cause if we set up a base of operations in another quadrant of this galaxy. If, however we are right on their doorstep so to speak then we have a better chance of keeping them in line until it is time to remove them from the equation.” Thrawn explained.

“You will leave Lord Nemesis to me.” Vader said coldly. Thrawn could feel the cold smoldering anger beneath the words.

“Interestingly enough, Lord Vader, my own spy network has unearthed a possibility we have not considered concerning Lord Nemesis’ disappearance.” Thrawn began, his crimson eyes narrowing on the towering giant.

Vader said nothing, only the mechanical rhythmic breathing of his respirator filled the silence between the two.

“It seems that the initial story concerning his disappearance proved false. The Imperium is desperately trying to hide the fact that they have no idea where he is.”

“What are you implying?”

“That he abandoned them to their fate perhaps?”

“He would gain nothing by running. It is not in his nature to turn away from battle or a challenge. If the Imperium does not know where he is it is because he intended for them not to know.”

“You seem to know Lord Nemesis very well.” Thrawn noted. “I was impressed with the young man but he is a random element we can no longer afford. His loyalties were questionable to begin with and now they have borne fruit in this forsaken place.”

“Be that as it may Admiral, you will leave Lord Nemesis to me. A Sith lord must be dealt with by another in matters of betrayal.” Vader warned.

“I would not think of usurping your role Lord Vader.”

“And Mara Jade.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“You approached her some time ago in a private meeting. The Emperor’s hand is closest to Lord Nemesis, seems to have gained his trust what better assassin than someone trained to do precisely that.” Vader noted coolly.

“You assume much Lord Vader. Besides she disappeared with him, many whispered among the Imperium that he intended to marry her.”

“That would be false. A Sith lord does not marry a woman. He takes what he wishes.”

Thrawn shrugged slightly.

“I am merely relaying what my network has managed to gather.”

“We are not fools, Grand Admiral. I respect you enough not to play semantic games with your intelligence, I ask you to do the same with me.” Vader replied darkly and pointed a crooked finger at Thrawn. Thrawn could feel phantom finger caressing his throat.

“Of course, Lord Vader. I respect you and consider you a valuable if not essential part of my fleet and command staff. So much so that I will rely on you to give us victory in the coming battle.” Thrawn commented casually.

“Indeed?” Vader asked curiously, the fingers retreating from Thrawn’s throat but an outside observer would never have guessed from looking at Thrawn’s face that he had almost been killed.

“The minefield is the key to the Andorian defense. They know that the minefield is not powerful enough to stop us, only slow us down.”

“Giving them the time they need to set up their defense and decided where they will make their stand while we are blasting our way through millions of self replicating mines.”

“More to the point, giving them time to begin self destructing the very assets we intend to capture.”

“You have found a way to deactivate the mines?”

“Not quite.” Thrawn replied and reached over to the stack of datapads on his desk. He checked it and handed the pad to Vader. Vader glanced down at the report.

“You’ll note that this is an after action report for the Battle for Earth or as it is more commonly known the Battle of sector 001. Note the highlighted portions of text.”

Vader scrolled down and read. He looked up slowly.

Although obviously Thrawn could not read the masked Sith Lord’s face he could feel the sense of realization dawning in his mind.

“The question most pertinent to both of us is simple Lord Vader.” Thrawn leaned in closely. “Can you duplicate what Darth Nemesis accomplished in the Battle?”

Vader handed the datapad back to Thrawn.

“There is nothing that the boy can do that I cannot.”

“Good.” Thrawn replied with a sharp nod. “I am placing the fate of this fleet and our future in this galaxy in your more than capable hands.”

“As you wish.” Vader replied and began to turn to leave.

“Lord Vader?” The Sith Lord paused. “I am curious.” Thrawn began as he toyed with the datapad in his hands. “Should Lord Nemesis return and I begin my assault against the Imperium what will you do to him?”

“What needs to be done.”

Thrawn watched him closely now, his crimson eyes narrowed to slits.

“Does that include killing him?”

“If that is his destiny.” Vader replied without hesitation.

“Lord Kierkegaard, it is indeed a pleasure.” the fat major domo exclaimed clapping his hands together gleefully as he swept down the long marble steps that led up to the front of the enormous palace. His long black and white silk robe flowed behind him like an ocean on a windy day.

“I was hoping that my arrival had been announced with enough time.” Kirk replied arrogantly as he extended his hand nonchalantly towards the major domo. Kirk wore a sparkling golden toga like robe, the long end held up by his free hand. Each finger was adorned with beautiful sparkling diamonds, rubies and gems of other persuasions, each of them rich and rare. Around his neck was a pendant worked from a pure dilithium crystal.

Behind him was his entourage.

Chancellor Worf was wearing battered old Klingon body armor, stains of various species’ blood spattered the armor in odd places along the steel gray scales. He held a batleth at rest in the crook of his right arm and his hair was wild an unkempt, a mad bloodlust dancing in his eyes. He watched everything with a hawk like gaze.

Flanking Worf was Chewbacca standing tall next to the Klingon and holding his bowcaster close to his chest as he glowered at those around him.

Doctor McCoy wore a simple white tunic and a Denebian leather medical bag encrusted with diamonds. He looked bored and distracted.

Spock stood right beside McCoy in an elegantly tailored suit in the sharp utilitarian style of the Romulan Empire. In one hand he held a personal credit computer for quick access to cash and in the other he held a datapad at the ready.

Uhura stood by Kirk’s left hand side dressed in a gorgeous skin tight leather dress accented by flourishes of long crimson feathers from the firebirds of Orion. Her hair was up in a beautiful mound of braids and buns to form a mountain of hair capping her beautiful face. She was smiling politely and one hand remained on Kirk’s shoulder rubbing it softly.

Threepio stood off to the side looking around with some trepidation.

Finally Kirk’s extended hand held a chain wrought of cold black iron and it led behind him to a collar of stylized steel and crystal. The collar was tightly wound around Leia’s pale emerald swan like neck. She wore a metallic bikini that just about covered only the most vital spots to be remotely modest. She was swaying slightly from side to side, almost as if desperate to start running, balanced on the balls of her feet. A feral expression on her face did not hide the smoldering erotic heat that glowed in her eyes as she examined the newcomer.

“Of course not sirrah. My Lord Darkstar is always eager to welcome a fellow Orion in these troubled times. He is always on the look out for news of the war that is consuming our galaxy and has thankfully bathed those self righteous drones of conformity of the Federation.”

“Thank the suns for small favors my good man.” Kirk replied as the major domo politely bowed his head and kissed Kirk’s signet ring, holding his birth stone, the syndicate crest etched into the band as per Orion tradition. Every male must wear this ring on their middle finger of their right hand. The tradition had fallen to the wayside by many of the younger Syndicate lords who were far more concerned about being identified and caught by the numerous security forces of the governments their syndicates preyed upon.

To uphold this tradition in these times spoke volumes about the syndicate lord. They must be powerful enough not to care about such petty concerns or they simply did not care and had no fear. Both of these were attractive traits to other crime lords.

“Will you please follow me Lord Kierkegaard Ossus and I will show you the pleasures of my lord’s palace.” the major domo replied proudly.

“My ship?”

“It will be housed in our hangar system beneath the hills to your east.” the major domo stated with a graceful sweep of a meaty arm.

“I see. There are two men on my personal transport, please see to it that they find their way back to me. one of them is my personal security guard and he will be anxious to join me.”

“You have nothing to fear my lord. We have not had an incident here since Lord Darkstar took over this palace fifty cycles ago.” the major domo sniffed.

“Of course, I did not mean to insinuate otherwise.” Kirk turned slightly and tugged on the chain jerking Leia forward as he started to walk.

“I must compliment you on your entourage sirrah. A Klingon, Vulcan, humans and what precisely is that impressive alien? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.” The major domo glanced back at Chewbacca with a mixture of apprehension and appreciation.”

“I don’t know what race it is, my people picked him up out of a wreck a few years ago and he has been fiercely loyal to me ever since rescuing him. I would not get too close as he can be…frisky.” Kirk said with a wicked grin.

“Quite a diverse group.” the major domo beamed eyeing the group.

“With the current crisis gripping our galaxy the available talent pool is swelling as people are growing desperate to try and start a new life anywhere but in Imperial controlled space.” Kirk replied with the right touch of haughty pride.
“I see.”

They walked up the stairs to the palace entrance and the major domo nodded to several guards holding disruptor rifles at attention. They snapped their weapons down respectfully as Kirk, or Lord Kierkegaard Ossus as he had chosen to call himself and his entourage passed by, several of the guards eyed Leia hungrily as she bounded up the stairs, she shot one of them a hungry expression and he almost melted in pleasure.

Truth be told there was something to be said for these pheromones but as soon as she started feeling heady with her power Kirk would jerk the chain and remind her that she was standing chained to the man nearly naked. Then she grew angry that she had allowed herself to be placed in this position, particularly with Uhura taking the role of personal secretary.

She felt as if she had been fooled into this.

They entered the main courtyard of the palace.

Everyone stopped for a moment and gaped at the sights around them, the massive meticulously manicured gardens were a wonder of emerald splashed with every natural color of the spectrum and the fragrance of thousands of wildflowers and roses drifted on the moist mist in the air. The roar of an unseen waterfall became a natural accompaniment to the vista.

“Well shut me down if this is not a natural wonder.” Threepio commented brightly. The gardens reminded him of his home on Alderaan so long ago.

“Lord Kierkegaard Ossus! A pleasure sir.” Lord Darkstar boomed from the edge of the large bridge of marble spanning the small river that ran through the heart of this garden. He stood with a beautiful woman with long blonde locks smiling with a bored expression. He was flanked on either side by tall masses of slim sculpted muscles. They wore loose fitting suits one was all in black the other all in white. They eyed Kirk with a predatory interest.

“Lord Darkstar, I thank you for your kind hospitality. Please allow me to introduce my entourage.” Kirk turned his head and rested a hand on Uhura’s hip. “This is Nyota Umbasha my personal secretary and trainer.” Uhura bowed her head respectfully and smiled with a vapid expression on her face. As awful as she felt acting like a walking stereotype she felt far more for the poor princess reduced to the state she was in.

“This is Soren my accountant. I have discovered that there is nothing like a Vulcan mind when it comes to making sure I know what I have in my coffers to the deca-credit.”

“I agree Lord Ossus. It is a testament to your personal power that one of their kind would logically follow you.”

“That and the fact that they have no where else to go. It is either serve the Empire or take to the very space which they oppressed all these long years.” Kirk leaned in slightly and immediately noticed the two muscle bound guards inched in closely and their hands flashed to the small metallic studs at their belts. He also noticed that they moved as one, exactly simultaneously. “I have found that many credits can instantly make anything very logical.”

Darkstar eyed Kirk for a moment, his eyes boring into Kirk’s for a long uncomfortable moment, the twin guards’ hands were hovering over the metal studs without shaking. Darkstar suddenly guffawed and slapped Kirk on the shoulder.

“You have a sense of humor Kierkegaard….I can call you Kierkegaard of course…I am so weary of the gaggle of so called Syndicate lords so full of themselves as they preen in my presence with their stony serious faces.

“I find that a humorous outlook in life is a necessity particularly in these grim times.”

“Agreed my good lord and please tell me who is this enchanted creature.” Darkstar said as he eyed Leia with unconcealed lust. Leia tried her best to scowl menacingly at him and she found that her experiences in the Imperial senate proved valuable now. She had to speak before thousands of senators as a young woman alone in the spotlight. Now all she had to do was face down a petty crime lord and despite the fact that she was nearly naked she was not afraid. She held her head up high and scowled at the young crimson haired Orion.

“This is my most prized possession. Leeta.” Kirk replied and tugged at the chain bringing her closer to him.

“Her scent is strong, I commend you. She looks as if she is in her prime. I suspect that even you do not last as long as she does.”

“Anyone who has ever been with one of the animal women knows that they can outlast ten men let alone one.” Kirk said with a wry smile and glanced back at Leia. His eyes softened slightly as he looked into hers but quickly recovered. “She is more energetic than most.”

Darkstar’s raised his eyebrows in surprise and respect.

“You are a lucky man sir.”

“I consider myself so.”

Darkstar’s eyes wandered over Leia’s body but she did not flinch, she would not give him the satisfaction that he was making her feel uncomfortable.

“And this creature?” Darkstar asked looking up at Chewbacca with an appraiser’s eye.

“I don’t know his species, I found him in a wreck a few years ago and he has served me faithfully since.”

“He looks strong.”

“I’ve seen him tear arms out of a Nausican’s socket for looking at me the wrong way.” Kirk offered.

“Hmmm.” Darkstar tapped his chin as he examined the Wookiee. “Would it be possible to purchase him from you?”

Kirk looked pensive for a moment and walked over to Darkstar. The muscled twins were instantly flanking him as he drew closer. Chewbacca growled at them menacingly.

“I would watch your step here. Lord Ossus likes his personal space and I enjoy enforcing that edict.” Worf snapped.

“Ah, my bodyguards, they can be so enthusiastic.” Kirk noted.

“A Klingon eh? Not the first of these so called honorable warriors to have fled the field of slaughter and come into our employ. They are loyal and easy to care for, much like human canines in my opinion.” Darkstar sneered.

Worf scowled at the Orion. He had to fight the growing urge to run this scum through with his batleth for what he was spouting but he had given his word to Captain Kirk, the completion of this mission would bring much more honor to Worf and his Empire than killing an Orion crime lord.

“Save that it costs more to feed him.” Kirk replied without skipping a beat and laughing haughtily.

Darkstar looked but at Kierkegaard.

“I like you Kierkegaard.”

“Why thank you, but like and business usually don’t mix.”

“And you are here to do business are you not?”

“Of course I am. I am a busy man, I spend much of my time traveling the far reaches of this quadrant. I have rarely spent any time in the Home systems of Orion.”

“Mmm…so I’m told.” Darkstar replied as he examined McCoy and Spock with a critical eye.

“My personal physician, Doctor Renner.” Kirk said helpfully.

“He stinks of Starfleet.” Dee spat.

“Kill him I says.” Dum added hand on the pike at his belt.

“Hold on now.” McCoy began backing away and holding his hands up defensively.

“What is the meaning of this Lord Darkstar!” Kirk boomed and everyone jumped slightly at the sudden change in Kirk’s demeanor and volume of his voice.

Darkstar held up a hand and his twin muscle men stopped instantly. He glowered at Kirk and softly strode up to him until their faces were almost nose to nose.

“Let us get something straight between the both of us, Kierkegaard. I like you, but that does not mean you will be allowed to address me in such a manner. Next time you feel like speaking to me in such a tone think on this.” he snapped his fingers and Dee and Dum were instantly at either side of Leia and grabbed a firm hold of her arms. Kirk took a step forward and Chewbacca roared as he turned to attack the muscle men.

“Oh my goodness! What a horrible man!” Threepio exclaimed excitedly waving his arms.

“They will tear her apart before your walking throw rug can do a thing I assure you!” Darkstar shouted.

“Chewie!” Kirk called out. Chewbacca paused his eyes boring into Dee and Dum with a murderous rage.

“Now, should you decide to indulge yourself in further histrionics I will have Dee and Dum tear her apart. Don’t think I haven’t seen the way you look at her and for shame Kierkegaard….an animal woman? How truly pathetic.” he spat then made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “But to each his own.”

“I think we have an understanding.” Kirk replied his voice thick with anger.

“Good. I pegged you for a smart man. Now, this Doctor Renner does indeed have the stink of Starfleet about him. tell me about him quickly and I will know if you’re lying. Remember, the little lady is on the spot.” Dee and Dum grinned mischievously and their grip on Leia’s arms tightened.

“His real name is Doctor Steven Harper.” Kirk began his tone defeated.

“Damnit you fool shut up!” McCoy snapped angrily but Worf suddenly brought his batleth to McCoy’s throat.

“He was chief surgeon on the starship Endeavor which was downed over Ralyia in the opening days of the war. Harper wanted off the planet, I needed a new doctor after my old one met an unfortunate end.”


Kirk eyed Chewbacca meaningfully.

“Ah, I see.” Darkstar noted as he watched McCoy.

“Do you know what these people do to Starfleet officers?!” McCoy exclaimed.

“Well your hardly Starfleet now are you? Deserting your post and the damned drinking.” Kirk shot back acidly.

McCoy looked wounded.

Darkstar chuckled and motioned for Dee and Dum to release Leia. They instantly let her go as Dum blew Chewbacca a kiss. The Wookiee took a step forward. Leia shot him a warning glare and Chewbacca stopped short but barked something nasty at the twins.

“I like that, Kierkegaard. You taking the dregs of Starfleet. I always suspected that at the heart of that self righteous organization beat a rather corrupt heart of humans. No. I will not kill him. I want him to know that we all know he is a failure and a deserter. That his Federation ideals were not there to help him when he needed them most and most importantly of all they have proven an old Orion axiom correct: Everyone has their price.” Darkstar said icily as he walked past Kirk and the others back to the bridge.

“Perhaps I can help smooth things over between us.”

“Yes?” Darkstar asked innocently.

“Allow me to make you a gift.”

“Hardly deserving of a gift if you ask me.” Threepio whispered to Chewbacca who looked down at the golden droid in mild annoyance.

“Allow me to give you this example of technology from the alien galaxy. Left behind in a battle near Alpha Centauri some agents managed to scoop it up and sell it to me at a very modest price. I offer you my droid.” Kirk said with a cool smile and made a generous sweeping motion with his right hand.

“What did he say?” Threepio exclaimed and did a double take.

Darkstar smiled pleasantly and nodded to Kirk

“I accept your gift in the spirit in which it was given and allow me to reciprocate by inviting you to a game this afternoon where I will show off my latest acquisition.”

“I thank you, Lord Darkstar. If I could please retire to dress for the occasion as I hardly think this old thing is worthy of such an honor.”

“But of course. My palace is your palace, Good Kierkegaard. You will be allowed to roam freely as you will find that my secrets can guard themselves.” Darkstar stated with a cold smile as he took Anastasia’s hand with pomp and circumstance strode away as Dee and Dum stood by Threepio smiling down at the droid.

“But my lord…what did I do??” Threepio shouted in despair as Kirk led the rest of his entourage away following the major domo to their rooms.

“This can’t be serious.” Jellico snapped darkly as he watched the shuttle approach.

“We’re about to find out sir.” Riker replied neutrally as he stood quietly behind his interim Supreme Commander. He had noted how subtly the word interim was being dropped from the title these days.

“Don’t tell me you believe the message, Captain?” Jellico asked watching Riker with a critical expression.

“Quite frankly sir after all we have seen in this war there’s not much I can’t believe at this point.” Riker said with a soft smile tugging at his lips.

“You can afford to be light hearted about these matters Captain Riker, I can’t.”

“Sir, if I may be so bold, Captain Kirk always took the time to smile and laugh. otherwise, what are we fighting for if we can’t take the time to enjoy the life we are fighting for.”

“And look where it got him, Captain.” Jellico replied frostily as the shuttle docked with the airlock. Riker frowned but said nothing as the airlock cycled. The airlock snapped open and three figures slowly entered the base. First was the young Charlie Evans and he was helping a twisted gnarled older woman past the open airlock. She moved with a delicate grace belying her ancient twisted and broken body.

Behind her another figure rolled into the base, his life support chair humming softly as it traversed the area on magnetic cushions. The figure in the chair was old, face scarred by radiation and emergency surgery to save what little flesh had not been ravaged by Delta waves. Despite the age and damage there was enough left, particularly around the eyes to make it obvious to those who knew him in a previous life whom he was.

“Captain Christopher Pike.” Riker beamed.

“Captain Pike?” Jellico asked fighting the disbelief he felt at the appearance of yet another living legend from Starfleet’s past.

“Yes. I thought Captain Kirk would be waiting for me. We have much to discuss.” Pike replied in a cold monotone from a speaker built into the front panel.

“I’m afraid sir that Captain Kirk has left the fleet and we have no idea where he is.”

Riker said nothing but glanced over sharply at Jellico. He knew damn well that some of Kirk’s command crew and the Princess left last week because they were certain where he was but nothing had been heard from them since.

“That’s an unexpected wrinkle.” Pike noted, his face however was frozen in a rictus scowl of pain. Only his eyes were freely moving and they looked alive and alert as they glanced between Riker and Jellico. “Who might you be?”

“I am Captain Jellico, Supreme Commander of the Federation Forces at war against the Empire.”

“Interim supreme commander?” Pike asked pointedly.

“Officially, but it is highly doubtful that Captain Kirk will return Captain Pike. These people need leadership. Surely you of all people can recognize that.”

“I’ve been around long enough, Captain Jellico to know the kind of leadership that these people need. I will wait for Captain Kirk’s return.”

Jellico blinked.

“Sir, maybe you didn’t understand what I just said but Captain Kirk has been gone for some time now and it is doubtful that he will return. If you have anything to say to him you can say it to me.”

“No.” Pike replied simply.

Jellico glared at the crippled older man. What was it about these legends that they thought they were above it all? That life seemed to bow to their whims? He would love to take them on a tour of the medical wards after one of their inspired strategies. Battles were always glorious and inspiring it was the aftermaths no one wanted to deal with. Jellico had to deal with them and as such he had an appreciation of the price to be paid for victory. It was a price that he would not pay if he had anything to say about it.

“Fine by me sir. I will have you assigned quarters. I’ll leave you in Captain Riker’s more than capable hands. Now if you will excuse me I have urgent fleet matters to attend to.” Jellico stated gruffly and started to stalk away but stopped at the door as they obediently snapped open. He looked back at Pike.

“You should ask yourself Captain, whether what you know can save lives and if it does, then any life lost because of your pride should be on your head and not mine. I have very broad shoulders sir, responsibility comes easily to me, I wonder how yours are feeling these days.” Jellico commented dryly and walked out.

“I apologize sir.” Riker began.

“He’s right you know. No matter which way you cut it.” Pike noted.

Riker said nothing for a moment.

“Tell me something, Captain Riker. Do you believe that James Kirk will return?”

“I want to sir. I truly do, but hope has left this Federation with him.”

Pike tried to nod, no matter how many years he had remained in his wasted shell it was hard to discard a lifetime of habits.

“He will return, Captain. These final battles will not be fought without him, trust me on that. Fate has something in mind for him and it is not to die somewhere far of and forgotten.” Pike replied simply. There was a rock solid faith in his words.

Vena smiled warmly and cupped his face and kissed his cheek.

“He is amazing isn’t he? I would listen to him, Captain. He has a tendency to be right about these things.”

“I can believe that.” Riker said with a smile.

“Now I will need to get some rest, its been a long flight. Charlie, why don’t you come with me, I can use the company.”

“You’re not bored of me, sir?” Charlie asked hesitantly.

“Bored? I’m living a new youth through you young man. Besides I want you to read me a good book, its called the Odyssey, I think you might like it.”

“I don’t read so well sir. We didn’t do much reading where I come from.” Charlie said sullenly.

“Charles Evans there is nothing in this universe like reading a good book.” Vena chided.

“Take that Jellico character Charlie. He never learned one of the basic precepts of life.”


“Never judge a book by its cover.”

Charlie mouthed the words to himself and nodded as he suddenly understood.

“Now come on, I still haven’t convinced you that Starfleet will make a man out of you.”

Charlie smiled shyly as he fell in step with Vena and Riker. Vena placed a maternal arm around the boy’s arm and smiled up at him.

“Don’t let him bore you with those war stories.” she added playfully.

“Hasn’t stopped you from asking me to tell them.” Pike replied with a mechanical laugh.

Riker watched them for a moment and of all things it reminded him of grandparents with their prize grandchild. He could not help but smile and chuckle to himself. Captain Christopher Pike had brought some joy and light with his arrival and for a brief moment Riker forgot that they were facing Armageddon.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 66: We who are about to die

Kirk closed the door softly and turned to face Leia. Her slap cracked across his cheek and jerked his head to the side with the force of her impact. Kirk rubbed his reddened cheek and tried to smile.

“You bastard.” Leia spat.

Kirk held up his hands frantically and then pointed to the ceiling of the room. Leia was fuming, she could only think about slapping him again.

Kirk quickly grabbed a datapad off the table in the spacious suite and started writing frantically on it. She watched him fuming. She could not abide this situation any longer. She wasn’t serving much of a purpose on this mission save to act as some twisted form of amusement.

She could also feel something else. Something distant like the sound of some far away voice that she recognized. The last time she had felt that was back on Earth when she faced…

“He’s here.” she breathed.

Kirk held up the datapad to her eyes.

I know you are angry but this was all necessary.

Leia shook her head emphatically.

Kirk frowned and scribbled furiously. She watched him intently. He held up the datapad again,

I need someone on the inside and no one would suspect an Orion slave woman.

She snatched the datapad out of his hand and started writing. Kirk glanced around the opulent room they were shown too. He had not seen quarters like this for any visitor in his life. The room rose to several levels connected by a gorgeous spiral staircase. A fountain gurgled softly from the top level and water ran down a real stone face to cascade gently into a pool of rose petal filled water at the first level. Statutes of all manner lined the walls and the furniture was stately and ancient.

He had no doubt that there were many things in this room that belonged in a museum instead of being part of some guest room.

She shoved the datapad into his chest. He paused for a moment noticing how beautiful her eyes looked when she was angry and his own eyes softened as he looked into hers. She looked back, eyes sparking with barely restrained rage but she suddenly looked away for a moment as she became uncomfortably warm noticing his intent gaze.

He looked down at the datapad.

Why me? You had no need for me, Uhura or anyone else could do this.

He shook his head and started writing again, noticing for a moment how revealing Leia’s outfit truly was now that they were alone together. He handed her the pad.

She looked down.

You’re the one with the most experience at espionage and avoiding detection. Uhura is a communications officer, you’ve been fighting a rebellion in secret for longer than any of us.

She looked up at him slowly understanding.

He reached for the pad and she offered it to him. He scribbled something quickly and handed it back to her.

I trust you. And you will find Luke quicker than any of us could. Please trust me.

She looked back at him. He smiled sheepishly and shrugged.

She wrote something slow and deliberate then handed it back to him.

I trust you Jim.

He smiled as he read it and she smiled as well.

“I don’t think anyone’s told you how beautiful you are.” he said in a near whisper as he drew closer.

“You better watch it ‘master.’” She snapped and started to shove his chest back. Kirk paused, looked into her eyes and suddenly swept her up in her arms and gave her a sold deep hungry kiss. Leia struggled at first but her lips began returning the kiss in a slow burning fever as they enveloped each other in their arms.

They slowly parted, lips sticking to each other for a moment, moist with their exertions and finally broke contact.

“Don’t do that again.” She said breathlessly.

“You have to forgive me in this enclosed space.”

“Of course, the pheromones, I completely understand you better dose yourself up again.” She replied, eyes not leaving his. He cleared his throat and gently released his hold on her before adjusting his tunic.

The door chimed.


Spock and McCoy walked in accompanied by Sulu and Tom Paris.

“Gentlemen, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Kirk asked with a curious smile as he handed them a datapad.

“Lord Darkstar is most anxious for you to arrive my lord, he says the games will begin very soon.” Spock reported as he simultaneously wrote on the pad.

“The hangar complex was most impressive my lord.” Sulu added with a meaningful raising and lowering of his eyebrows.

Tom nodded as well.

“Most impressive my lord. You will have to see it before we leave.” He added.

Spock handed Kirk the datapad.

Security is not heavy as he promised. No sign of Darth Nemesis but have detected quantum fluctuations consistent with hypermatter technology in the lower levels of the palace. A complete set of readings have been downloaded on to my tricorder for the princess to use.

Kirk smiled.

“Of course, very good job gentlemen on everything so far. With any luck we’ll make a small fortune on this venture and we can finally settle back down in the Orion system.” Kirk said with a good natured laugh as he clapped Spock on the back.

Spock arched an eyebrow but said nothing as he handed Kirk the tricorder. Kirk palmed it over to Leia who read Spock’s report on the datapad and nodded as she slipped the tricorder into a fold of her metallic bikini.

Kirk winked at her. She slapped his shoulder.

Sulu and Tom exchanged a furtive knowing glance.

“Now I think I’ll slip into something quickly and please let Leela out, she needs some air, besides who knows what she’d do to this place without my supervision.” Kirk announced as he wrote something quickly on the datapad and handed it to Leia.

You find Luke or the hypermatter tech let us know immediately. We’ll set the extraction plans into motion. Good luck.

Leia nodded to Kirk and the others before slinking out of the room. Kirk walked over to a dresser and immediately started slipping out of his toga like robe.

“It will be a shame about the droid.” Spock noted.

“I know, Threepio was quite excellent at his job.”

“He was well prepared.” Sulu added. Kirk nodded. So Spock had figured out what to do with Threepio. Good.

“I hope he will prove useful to Lord Darkstar as he was to us.” Tom said wistfully.

“I’m sure Lord Darkstar will be as surprised as we were.” Kirk replied as he finished dressing quickly. They didn’t have much time. If Worf was right then the Imperial fleet was making moves towards Andor and the Federation remnant seemed to be unwilling to make the move to meet them.

So many things to do, so little time. He only hoped this little side show proved to be as important as he thought it was. Luke’s rescue could be the turning point he was looking for in this war. As usual however there were so many things that could go wrong.

Kirk finished dressing and strode over to the datapad. He wrote quickly and handed it to Spock.

Worf, Uhura and Sulu with me. Spock, McCoy and Scotty try to find that hypermatter tech and keep your eyes open. Tom get back to the hangar and get the Falcon ready. I have a feeling we’ll be blasting out of here.

The group nodded and they soon made way to their individual tasks. Worf waited impatiently outside of Kirk’s quarters while Uhura tried her best to look bored and disinterested as he stepped out.

“The games will begin soon. They showed me how to get to the Arena.”

“Very good. Shall we?” Kirk ordered with a broad sweep of his arms. He looked back at Spock, McCoy and Scotty and mouthed the words Good luck.

“Good luck? I’d say it’s the captain that will need all the luck he can get.” Scotty mused.

“How so, Scotty? I mean we’re the ones sneaking around this place trying to find something that Darkstar doesn’t want us to find.” McCoy grumbled.

“Aye, but he’s the one that has to look that insane bugger in the eye and laugh and smile, knowing that a single slip up could lead to his very painful death.” Scotty replied seriously as he watched Kirk and his entourage vanish into the depths of the palace. McCoy nodded.

“You do have a point.” McCoy admitted.

“It is illogical to concern ourselves with the Captain’s well being, he is experienced and knows what he is doing. The quicker we find what we are looking for the sooner we can leave this place.” Spock explained.

“Then let’s get to it.” McCoy said with a firm nod and the three quickly vanished through a side door as Spock adjusted the settings on his tricorder to mask their life signs.

The dull roar of the crowd in the arena was growing steadily as they knew the time was approaching for the games. The crowd stomped its feet and chanted loudly as they began to demand the blood that they were accustomed seeing. The stomping of the multitude above was sending a deep throbbing through the stone walls of the preparatory chambers beneath the arena where the fighters would gather or victims would say their final prayers before being led out to die for a twisted crime lord’s pleasure.

Luke Skywalker stood in black combat fatigues and was gently shaking his head.

“I am not some puppet for his amusement. You tell that twisted little man that he will have to kill his precious little collector’s item but I will not fight.” Luke said coolly.

Dee and Dum exchanged a hooded glance and nodded.

“He thought you might feel that way.” Dee stated grimly.

“Odd considering how you eviscerated those Klingons.” Dum added and eyed Luke in disgust.

“That was a different man and a different time. I don’t expect you to understand that.”

“Are you calling us dumb?” Dee snapped.

“Easy mon amie, he’s not that stupid is he? He forgets that he’s wearing that collar and as long as he does.” Dum snapped on the pain pike. It extended fully in segmented metal strips and he flipped the bladed end to Luke’s chin. Luke did not flinch. “he’s our bitch.”


Luke looked over slowly and saw Anastasia. She looked terrified.

“Anastasia, what’s the matter?” Luke asked.

“Nothing really my little Sith lord. It’s a simple matter of the law of unforeseen consequences that I have come here to discuss with you.” Darkstar replied as he strode into the room, in one hand he held a bowl of gelatinous purple grapes.


Darkstar regarded Luke with a critical eye as he drew Anastasia close to him.

“You are scheduled to fight. I promised my subjects a Sith lord and that is precisely what they are going to get. Now step out onto the transporter and prepare to fight.” Darkstar ordered indicating the small filthy transporter pad with a nod of his head.

“No.” Luke replied simply.

Darkstar nodded slowly.


“I didn’t think you were deaf as well as insane.” Luke replied coldly.

Darkstar and Luke locked eyes for a long moment. Darkstar suddenly shoved Anastasia forward and Dee grabbed a firm hold of her neck.

“Dee, I would like you to twist her head off very slowly.” Darkstar ordered casually as if he had asked for a drink of water.

“My pleasure governor.” Dee said with a smile and wrapped his hand around Anastasia’s neck. He started to twist and Anastasia screamed.

Luke took a step forward but Dum’s pain pike jabbed him in the neck and he screamed as he fell back, the pain receptors around his neck firing off wildly.

“You see Nemesis, if you were a tenth the man I thought you were you would not have fallen for my subtle yet simple trap.” Darkstar began as he plopped a grape into his mouth and let it roll around slowly. He glanced over at Anastasia who was gasping and kicking madly but Dee continued to twist, her head was slowly turning to the right.

Luke gasped rubbing his neck and stood firm but his eyes were on Anastasia.

“I know she is beautiful but she is smart as well.”

“I…sorry.” Anastasia gasped, spittle on her lips as her face bloomed crimson with effort.

“She is so alluring and most importantly of all so easy to care about no?” Darkstar said soothingly. “She is so defenseless, so afraid and if you were a tenth of the man that I thought you were you would let Dee finish twisting that pretty little head off. If you were truly Darth Nemesis you would sneer at me and say ‘Do your worst foolish little man, I am Darth Nemesis and I bow my head to no man.’” Darkstar paused for a moment as if contemplating his own words then plopped another grape into his mouth and waved dismissively. “Or something to that effect.”

“I am Luke Skywalker.” Luke replied simply.

“And so I already know your answer don’t I?” Darkstar replied. They locked eyes for a long moment.

Anastasia spat through her clenched teeth as Dee turned her head almost to the breaking point. Luke watched the chords in her neck jut out on the surface of her flesh. Dee looked over at Luke.

“Say bye bye to the pretty lady.” He said with a cold sneer.

Luke took a determined step towards the transporter pad. Darkstar nodded to Dee and the killer relaxed his grip on Anastasia’s throat, only enough so as neck would not snap but her face remained flushed and her neck taught under his iron grip.

Luke stood on the pad and extended his hand. Dum strolled over and handed him an unactivated pain pike.

“It’s a shame really, Luke, if I had known about this change in you I would not have expended the resources in taking you.” Darkstar said with palpable disgust. “She knew by the way about my plan. Yes, she knew that I wanted you to like her, to care about her and you were so pedestrian in your feelings. So tell me ex-Sith lord, fallen whatever you would like to call yourself what are your thoughts as you are about to die?”

Anastasia tried to shake her head miserably and tears started rolling down her cheeks. She whispered, “I’m sorry.” through gritted teeth.

Luke accepted the pain pike and examined it for a moment then looked back up at Darkstar.

“When this is over, Darkstar, as I promised before I swear now on the Jedi of whom I have no right to claim their heritage that there will be a reckoning and you will find no mercy in me, nothing will stop me when I come for you. I promise you that. Do you really think that a little man like you with a pittance in power and a mind of traps and children’s desires can stand against the last of the Jedi? Did you possibly believe in the deepest recesses of your putrid mind that these children with man made parts could ever challenge me? My ally is the Force and when I come for you I will be legion and you will learn what justice is little man and believe me,” Luke snapped the pain pike open, it extended in the blink of an eye on segmented metal parts. “I am a hard teacher.”

“Beam this would be avenger to my arena. I want to be entertained.” Darkstar snapped.

Dum nodded and tripped the transporter controls. Luke vanished in an angry red column of light.

Darkstar shook his head.

“Imagine that boys, him threatening me.” Darkstar laughed loudly, too loudly and slightly nervous.

“He’s blowing smoke, boss.” Dee noted.

“He’s no trouble, for all his bluster he still has that collar and he’s still our bitch.” Dum added.


“Boss, we got one more detail.”

“My drought?”

“Yep, fats has to tell you something and I don’t think its good news.” Dum growled.

Darkstar rolled his eyes. “Let the fat fool in and let’s be quick about this.”

The doors snapped open and a short overweight man was shoved in. His briefly touched his handlebar mustache and stammered.

“L..lord Darkstar. My most humblest apologies.”

Darkstar sucked his teeth.

“Would you just tell me where my next draught is. The time is almost upon me and already I feel my joints tightening, my bones ache. Where. Is. It?”

The fat man muttered under his breath and looked up hopefully at Darkstar.

“My lord, the ingredients are delicate, hard to find. You have to understand that it is alwa---”

“I am most decidedly NOT interested in your feeble excuses. Can you or can’t you provide me with the Medusaled Draught?”

The fat man looked from Darkstar to Dee and Dum and his eyes uncomfortably took in the sight of Anastasia held firm by the throat.

“My lord, I can find the materials I need and ---”

“That’s a no.” Darkstar snapped. “Take him to the dungeons, say if some discomfort can shake loose some knowledge from his bloated brains.”

“But my lord! I have only tried my best to—”

Darkstar’s hand whipped out and grabbed the fat man by his thick neck and brought him close to his face.

“You’re looking particularly youngish my good man, the bloom of youth his is still rosy on your cheeks and your eyes look so clear.” Darkstar whispered darkly as he examined the fat man’s face. “Now if what I suspect is true, you started feeling the withdrawals and instead of taking the doses set aside for you, you dared take my own draught. I should bleed it out of you but I think some time down below will help you see your way clear to getting another dose. But if it should become clear that you drank the last of it and have no way of synthesizing more then Mr. Dum and Mr. Dee will have to take their pound of flesh.”

“Surely you’re not insinuating my lord that I would do something like ---“

“Take him away.” Darkstar snapped and flung the fat man aside. He strode to the door and paused as it snapped open. “Anastasia dear.” He held out his hand and Dee released her with a simple opening of his hand. Anastasia gasped as she was finally able to breath clearly. She rubbed her throat and looked up sharply at Darkstar.

“You an either come with me or join the jolly fat man in the dungeon. What will it be, hmmm?”

Anastasia glared at him.

“You truly are a bastard.” She hissed.

“On the contrary my dear I know precisely who my father and mother are. It’s unfortunate for our guests that they do not.”

Anastasia blinked and looked confused.

“Don’t worry all will be clear to you shortly. Now come, you will miss quite a show. Luke Skywalker nee Darth Nemesis fighting a Mugato and the acquiring of yet another unique person for my menagerie and the settling of some very old debts.” Darkstar promised with a wink. She hesitantly walked over to him and took his offered hand. Her thoughts turned to Luke and the look in his eyes when he realized that she had been in on the betrayal from the beginning. Unfortunately it was not the first time she had done this for Darkstar, but as she watched Luke valiantly defy him and show no fear even in the moment of betrayal, she felt shame for the first time, a deep seated shame and she wondered if it would ever go away.

Kirk stood calmly at the top of the special box seats in the arena. He was flanked by Worf and Chewbacca. They were eyeing anyone that approached with a critical eye. Uhura was standing behind Kirk massaging his shoulders and keeping him quietly informed of the status of the recon mission through a miniature ear piece firmly planted in her ear. Sulu stood slightly behind and to the left of Kirk covering the doorway behind them.

Kirk glanced around the arena, it was not as large as he expected but then again he realized that the small confined space served its purpose. It was intimate and allowed the crime lord to fully enjoy the spectacle below.

He fought his contempt and disgust for the man. Despite the obvious insanity Darkstar was not stupid. He was sly and sharp eyed. Kirk had to be on his toes if they were going to pull this off.

“Spock reports that there is a complex beneath the Palace. He’s found evidence of Dominion technology.”

“Dominion?” Kirk whispered.

“He is locking on to a hypermatter signature that is close by. He’ll report in as soon as he confirms.” Uhura murmured into his ear. The casual observer would merely see another Orion crime lord being catered to by his woman.

“Kirkegaard! You must forgive me but I was unavoidably detained disciplining a wayward employee. You must understand of course.” Darkstar exclaimed as he strode into the box seat area from his own private entrance. His beautiful companion looked haggard and her neck was covered in a splendid silken scarf but it did not hide well the pale bruises that were appearing across the delicate flesh of her neck.

Kirk’s fists clenched at the thought of what this monster was doing to her.

“I understand completely, Lord Darkstar. I’ve had to make examples myself every now and then.”

“Of course you have. Come, take your seats and enjoy the show. This should prove to be most exciting.” Darkstar said with a grin but his ices were like ice as he regarded Kirk. Kirk felt uncomfortable but obediently slipped into his seat, Uhura right next to him. Worf and Chewbacca stood behind him as Dee and Dum took up positions behind Darkstar.

The crowd was composed of the dregs of this planet, peasant farmers slaving for their crime lord, drunkards and down on their luck gamblers. Hardly the cream of the crop of Orion society.

“I notice that a distinct lack of other crime lords or syndicate bosses here. Why allow this filth into such a fine arena to be entertained by you?” Kirk asked.

“I didn’t peg you for an elitist Kirkegaard, but you’re right, not many of our fellow crime lords here at all. This is by choice. I despise my fellow lords and feel more in touch with the common people. I consider myself one of them,” Darkstar chuckled. “Besides, only they can truly appreciate the spectacle of blood and death that is about to unfold.”

Kirk nodded.

Darkstar eyed him for a moment and smiled coolly.

“We can’t all be great captains of industry can we?” he added. Kirk paused. There was a distinct edge on the word captain. He exchanged a furtive glance with Uhura.

“Now you will be witness to my most recent acquisition in action.” Darkstar announced grandly.

“Really? Why would you risk something so valuable in the arena?” Kirk asked curiously as he watched the arena below. The groundskeepers had finished preparing the fighting area and were scurrying out as one of the transporter pads suddenly sprang to life and an angry red column of light sprouted from its center.

Moments later a large horned gorilla like creature appeared and immediately started screaming in rage and leaping off the pad to run up to one of the arena walls and pounded on it viciously as it looked up at the crowd above.

Kirk blanched.

“Recognize it, my good Kirkegaard? That is a Mugato. I import them for the arena. Few creatures are as vicious and dangerous.”

“They’re also very poisonous.” Kirk added as he absently rubbed his shoulder where the Mugato had bitten him on his mission to Tyree’s planet. It had only happened a year ago subjectively but he knew that a century had gone by since that mission.

“Yes, indeed they are. You surprise me my good Kirkegaard. Very few people are so knowledgeable about those beasts.”

“I have my sources.” Kirk replied weakly.

“Of course you do, that must be some Enterprise you run my friend.”

Kirk slowly turned his head to look at Darkstar. There was that hint again, an edge to the word Enterprise.

“Whatever are you getting at sir?” Kirk asked softly. Worf’s grip on his batleth tightened and Chewbacca slowly shuffled in closer to Kirk.

“Look! It has begun!” Darkstar exclaimed excitedly and clapped. Kirk looked down into the arena and his eyes widened slightly.

Luke was standing on the transporter platform in a skin tight fighting tunic holding a quarterstaff length segmented metal weapon with an edged end. He glanced around quickly and saw the Mugato. It turned quickly on it simian like legs and saw Luke. It reared back and let out a challenging roar.

Luke swung the pike out, testing its weight and balance as he crouched defensively.

“Is that?”

“Yes, indeed it is Lord Darth Nemesis of the Imperium.” Darkstar said with a cool smile. “But unfortunately for both he and I he decided to have a change of heart and now calls himself Luke Skywalker. He claims to be something called a Jedi, whatever that is. All I know is that he’s damaged goods and not what I paid for so off to the arena with him.”

“Luke Skywalker? Are you sure?” Kirk pressed as he felt a satisfaction stirring in his heart. Luke had indeed woken up.

“Yes, of course I am. It’s a damned shame, can you imagine the audacity of that? Changing who he was because of some mental breakdown. I wanted some twisted dark Sith lord that kills billions without batting an eye and instead I get this fool. He deserves a fate far worse than this and if he survives I’ll make sure I think of one.” Darkstar growled.

“Of course.” Kirk replied and watched intently as Luke began circling the Mugato, spinning the pain pike in a clockwise pattern

Luke watched the creature intently as it circled in close, charging slightly and forcing him to switch the spinning pike to face it. He was testing himself now, despite his blunted connection with the force he was still in perfect physical condition and his weapons training had been augmented under Palpatine’s tutelage.

Hopefully that would prove enough to overcome this creature.

The pike was different that what he was used to, it was not balanced or weighted to even be remotely saber like. It was more like the staff double bladed sabers that Luke had studied from Palpatine’s Sith holocrons. He had a rudimentary understanding on how to use them and unfortunately he was about to find out how well he could fight with it.

The Mugato no longer patient charge in with a burst of speed. Luke pivoted swiftly and brought the blunt end into the Mugato’s neck and connected solidly. The creature grunted and spun in against the pike.

Luke back flipped out of the reach of its talons and landed several meters away and spun the pike in a tight defensive pattern as he watched it shake off the solid impact to its throat effortlessly and come in quickly, head lowered into a full charge with horn aimed for his midsection.

He waited for a moment, his fear controlled as the beast barreled in and he quickly pivoted and sidestepped the creature, pike lancing down into its feet tripping the creature and sending it sprawling head first into the ground. Luke swung the pike under his arm and held his hand out in a warding gesture as he watched the lumbering brute kip up to its feet in a heartbeat and whirled its head at him, mouth open in a roar of defiance and teeth caked with a filthy green film.


The creature’s bite was venomous. Luke took a cautious step back and brought the pike back out from under his arm and held it out straight. He had to keep his distance, couldn’t let it get too close.

“It looks like he’s holding his own. I always thought he was far more proficient at fighting than this.” Kirk noted.

“He would indeed probably have killed the Mugato and the rest of us as well but that little collar he has on makes sure that he is nothing more than a man.” Darkstar replied proudly. Kirk focused on the metallic collar around Luke’s neck. So that was it.

“Despite the odds being against him he fights valiantly and with honor.” Worf noted grimly.

Darkstar snorted derisively.

Luke switched hands in mid-motion as the creature charged again and slapped the pike’s blunt end against the side of its knee and was rewarded with a sickening wet snap. The creature howled and lashed out with one sweeping paw. Luke spun the bladed end around and struck its wrist lopping the hand neatly off.

It lurched backwards blood spraying from the maimed appendage. Luke advanced determined to put it out of its misery as quickly as he could. He underestimated the Mugato’s pain and distraction and left himself wide open for the beast’s sudden explosive attack as it lunged at him, landing squarely on his chest.

Luke twisted the pike as best he could to try and blunt the creature’s attacks but it outweighed him and in its desperate scrambling with talons and feet drove Luke into the sands of the arena, one talon digging deeply into his shoulder.

Luke screamed and managed to bring the blunt end of the pike across the Mugato’s snout with a loud crack. It reared its head back and roared more in shock than pain. As it roared Luke could smell the fetid odor of the poison caked on its teeth.

It would bite him in seconds and he no longer had the Force to help him beat its brute strength or push it off. A desperate plan flashed into his mind. He turned his wrist and deactivated the pain pike. It slid back into a hand sized tube. The Mugato lunged forward towards Luke’s neck.

Kirk started to stand up in his seat. He stopped himself short and Darkstar looked over at him casually as if he was fully expecting Kirk to react that way.

“What’s the matter Kirkegaard? Eager to see the blood?” he asked softly.

“Of course not.” Kirk snapped but watched intently as the Mugato leaned in for the kill. Chewbacca tensed barely able to restrain himself and started to raise his bowcaster.

Luke shoved his hand forward gripping the sides of the Mugato’s mouth and pointed the pain pike into its gaping maw as it hissed hungrily. He activated the controls and the pain pike unfurled along segmented plates of metal, accompanied by a sick wet sound like a hammer striking a melon.

The Mugato shuddered as the pain pike’s bladed end neatly punched through the back of its head, blood and pulp caked the bladed end of the pike fully extended through the beast’s head. The Mugato let out a low sad hiss and slumped down the length of Luke’s extended pike and lay still on his chest.

Luke grunted as he gently shoved the corpse off of him.

The crowd was cheering madly, stomping their feet and chanting. Luke wiped the blood from his hands and pulled the pike loose.


“He’s learning to use the pike awfully quickly, too quickly for my tastes.” Dee noted.

“A man must have hobbies, don’t you agree Kierkegaard?” Darkstar asked pointedly ignoring the spectacle below as Luke looked up defiantly at the lord of the arena.

“Yes. I agree.” Kirk replied cautiously while one handed slowly drifted to his belt.

“My hobbies are as diverse as my tastes but there is one I have had ever since I was a boy.” Darkstar began and clapped his hands. Servants approached carrying a veritable feast. “My hobby is knowing the enemies of my family and eliminating them.”

“Really? A noble hobby for an Orion.”

“Indeed.” Darkstar eyed him like a butcher eyes a particular cut of meat. “So imagine my shock when I see an enemy of my father’s that has been dead for well on 70 years at my doorstep.”

“Oh?” Kirk replied and his hand reached his belt, Uhura was already drawing her small palm sized phaser from within the folds of her skirt. Worf casually stood legs apart and his Batleth tensed as he prepared to strike.

“I wonder how he managed that, I wonder, and then my thoughts turn to other possibilities. Perhaps the propaganda I’ve been hearing from the Federation remnant is true. Perhaps one of their greatest heroes returned from the past to save the future and perhaps my employees were not morons when they claimed to have seen him lying beside Lord Nemesis in a cave on far away Scyhthia.”

Kirk reached his phaser and gently unhooked it from his belt as he disguised the motion with a nervous cough. The servants were among the box seats offering all manner of foods and drink. Chewbacca shooed the ones closets to him away with a shake of his furred head. Worf glowered at the ones stepping up to him.

“I could not believe, not until I asked sweet Anastasia here who is a living archive if you will, her people trained her to be a walking repository of knowledge, the vast volumes of information contained in her head could fill a starship’s memory core.” Darkstar leaned in closer to Kirk and whispered conspiratorially “Her people were afraid of machines, something about some revolt of AI’s that nearly destroyed them long ago, Butlerian something or other but that’s not important.” Darkstar leaned backwards again and placed a hand around Anastasia. “So it was rather simple for her to access her memory on legendary starship captains and confirm that an enemy of my father had come to my very doorstep.”

Kirk glanced over at Worf and Chewbacca with a flicker of an eye. They were ready.

“So tell me, James Tiberius Kirk why have you come to my father’s house?”

Kirk stood up quickly and whipped his phaser up as Worf started to swing his Batleth. Chewbacca roared as he could finally unleash his fury on the twin killers. Uhura backed her captain up as Sulu grabbed the nearest servant and flipped him over his hip.

The nearest servant turned and fired a dart gun into Chewbacca’s chest as the Wookiee leveled his bowcaster at Dee and Dum. Chewbacca grunted and slapped the dart off his chest with one hand as he tried to fire but his vision was already blurring.

Dee vaulted past Darkstar and Kirk and delivered a crushing side swiped kick that connected with Worf’s chin. Worf’s head snapped to the side as Dee landed in front of him and grabbed a firm hold of Worf’s wrists and twisted savagely. Worf shouted in pain as he dropped the Batleth.

“Foolish Klin. You’re just all natural, me, I’m something so much more.” Dee hissed and head butted Worf. Worf crashed down to the floor and rolled to the side, blood dribbling from his nose.

Sulu drew his phaser and aimed at Dee’s midsection.

Darkstar regarded Kirk’s drawn phaser.

“You’re furry friend will be no help, we use that drug to knock out the Mugato, I was fairly certain it would effect him, your Klingon neutralized, your spies corralled and captured, well, save for your Orion woman but she will be found and now there’s just you and me. ”

“I seriously doubt your cybernetic thugs will get me and Ms. Uhura in time before one of us hits you.”

“Oh please, Captain. Do fire away.”

Kirk smirked. Dum slowly walked towards him and Kirk aimed and fired. The phaser let out a sickly electronic hiss. Kirk looked down at the phaser. The charge read full.

“There is an alien device in the doorway of my father’s home.” Darkstar began as Dum slapped Kirk’s phaser out of his hand and got a hand around his throat and jerked him off his feet. “It discharges any energy weapon’s battery but in such a manner that it will not register until it is too late. I’m glad to see that paranoia is an emotion that crosses species.” Darkstar added with a wink.

Kirk struggled against Dum’s iron like grip.

“Take them away. I will decide what to do with them shortly…perhaps we can see if the legendary James Kirk can defeat a Jedi in my arena.” Darkstar wondered and started laughing loudly as the group was herded or carried out of the arena.

Anastasia looked down at Luke. She broke away and ran down to the arena floor. Dee eyed her and looked at Darkstar.

“Let her go, she is of no concern, so he will care more for her, so much the better.” he sighed.

“Luke!” she appeared racing to his side and wiping some of the blood off of him with her scarf. Luke nodded slowly and examined her neck.

“I’m so sorry Luke, I was so afraid, I’m always afraid.” she started to cry.

Luke placed a finger beneath her chin and lifted her face to look him in the eyes.

“Anastasia, you have to ask yourself something very important now.” She watched him, tears welling in her eyes. “Do you want to live in fear the rest of your life or do you want to take the chance at being free from it forever. I should know Anastasia, living in fear is not the answer, it hurts worse than anything he can do to you.”

“What are you asking of me?”

“You will know when the time is right.” his eyes drifted down to his collar. She started shaking her head.

“He’ll kill me.” she stammered.

“And won’t you be free of fear then Anastasia, and believe me, once I am whole again there will be nothing he can do to stop me. Nothing.” he vowed and his eyes looked back up at the box seats, locking with Darkstar’s eyes. Darkstar turned away quickly and vanished with his entourage.

“Hundred of bottle of Romulan Ale on the wall, hundred of bottles of Ale, knock one down…” he was cut off by the shriek of the metal bar being slid back roughly and the door opening. Dee and Dum roughly led a small group down into the dungeon and his eyes widened as he recognized the lead prisoner.

“Well bless me!”

“You!” Kirk stopped short.

“You know him?” Worf asked darkly. He was shamed that he had been defeated so soundly.

“Harry’s my name and business my game.” the fat man exclaimed happily.

“His name is Harcourt Fenton Mudd and I have no clue where you fit in all of this.” Kirk replied warily.

Harry Mudd shrugged innocently.

“A victim of circumstance?” he offered.

Kirk rolled his eyes.

“More like hoisted by your own petard.” he replied.

“Look at us Captain, together again, I’m already getting misty.”

“Now I know it can’t get any worse.” Kirk muttered as Dee slapped manacles on him and the door to the dungeon slid shut with an audible boom.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 67: A Fool’s Hope

“You’re responsible for the Medusaled Draught? You?! Since when are you a genius, Mudd?” Kirk snapped in disbelief.

Harry Mudd looked hurt.

“Captain, I can’t help but be wounded by your words. It’s not like I’m some idiot.” Harry exclaimed and frowned sadly.

“You’re right Harry, you’re not an idiot.” Kirk conceded. Harry smiled. “Buffoon maybe but you’re not idiot.” Kirk added sardonically.

“Laugh all you want.” Harry sputtered. “But I don’t see you coming up with any brilliant plans to get out of here. I’ll have you know that Lord Darkstar has never had a prisoner escape from his dungeons.”

Kirk frowned and glanced around the small cell. The walls were stone, probably carved right out of the foundation of the palace. Small rivulets of water ran down the sides of the wall behind them. The manacled prisoners were forced to stand up straight for if they leaned against the wall, the ice cold water would run down their backs.

Kirk was sure that was a deliberate design choice in this place.

The manacles were tightly closed around their wrists and their arms were fully extended over their heads. Chewbacca was wrapped in chains and placed in a cage at the foot of the stairs. He was still slumbering fitfully from the tranquilizer darts.

“I suspect they were on to us from the start. Any luck at all Spock before they caught you?” Kirk asked.

Spock nodded.

“We were able to penetrate the lower levels of the palace before we were found. My tricorder picked up a clear quantum signature that indicated hypermatter technology in the vicinity.”

“That wasn’t all we stumbled across.” McCoy added darkly.

“What is it Bones?” Kirk asked.

“We found what looked like a Dominion cloning center.”


“The Doctor is correct. My initial scans indicated a large number of gestating clones within the vats beneath the palace. I estimate 10,000 clones in various states of development.”

“What would Darkstar want with Dominion clones?” Kirk muttered.

“10,000 Jem’Hadar would be a devastating army for a crime lord to field out here. He could take over all the other Syndicates in a relatively short period of time.” Sulu noted.

Kirk nodded slowly as he began to understand what the mad crime lord intended.

“He wants to set himself up as some sort of god out here. Doubtless Luke was going to be his coup de grace, a general to lead his Jem’Hadar army.”

“The fact that he has Nemesis doing battle in the arena would seem to indicate that Darkstar has changed his mind.” Spock noted.

Kirk nodded.

“He was expecting Darth Nemesis and instead he got Luke.”

“Look, I’m not sure what you’re talking about here Captain but we’re going to be tortured and most likely killed.” Harry interrupted.

Kirk looked over at Harry.

“We’re working on an escape plan.” He stated.

“We are?” McCoy asked sardonically.

“Yes we are. He hasn’t gotten all of us yet. Leia and Tom are still out there and free.”

McCoy nodded. “That’s right. I forgot, a nearly naked woman and a guy stuck on a tramp freighter. I feel so much better.” McCoy rolled his eyes.

“Doctor your attitude is not helpful.” Spock interjected.

McCoy looked at Spock then up at the manacles on his wrists and back at Spock.

“My attitude is not going to do anything about these manacles or this dungeon.” He snorted.

“Bones, have a little faith. Leia’s been under the gun before, I suspect far more than many of us have.”

“Hmmm…I suppose your companion will be able to get through Darkstar’s personal guard, automated defenses and Dee and Dum?” Harry asked.

Kirk smiled.

“You gotta have faith, Harry. Now tell me everything you know about Darkstar and his operation here.”

The team of goons grunted sourly as the sensor technician shook his head emphatically. The goons were sporting a variety of weapons from disruptors to Cardasian plasma rifles. None of them were set for stun.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m telling you, we’ve run the whole gamut of the electromagnetic spectrum plus the usual subspace bands and there’s nothing here. If anyone was on this ship he’s long gone.”

The leader of the goons muttered something unintelligible under his breath.

“Fine. Clear out. Seal the ship and prepare to transport it into the main hold down below.”

“Is that wise?” the sensor chief asked as his men began gathering their tricorders and various sensor devices.

“Lord Darkstar wants this ship in his collection as soon as possible. It’s a genuine ship from the other galaxy and he is excited.”

“Lord knows when that man gets excited…” one of the goons added voice trailing off with a chagrined shake of his head.

“Besides, you certified that there’s nothing here.” the leader of the goons noted with a critical eye.

“Yes, yes, I did.” the sensor chief replied fighting a stammer.

“So you attest to the fact that this vessel is harmless and our quarry not here?” the leader pressed.

“Yes, what do you take me for? I don’t tell you how to do your job.” he snapped.

“Fine, so let’s get out of here and boys, we have some more hunting to do.”

The group quickly filed out of the Millennium Falcon. The hatch and ramp hissed shut. There was silence for a long while in the tramp freighter then a metal panel on the floor of the main gangway slowly shifted and slid aside.

Tom Paris cautiously lifted himself from within the small compartment. He held a phaser in one hand as he quickly scanned the area around him.

“When Chewbacca told me about these things I never thought I’d be smuggling myself in them.” Tom muttered as he got to his feet and gently slid the plate back into place. Chewbacca showed him and Sulu the smuggling compartments when they wondered how they would get weapons past Darkstar’s security service.

Now the secret hold was packed with phasers, blasters and the like and the rest of his team was captured. Not exactly according to plan was it?

Tom crept up to the bridge as the Falcon shuddered for a moment. He peered out of the cockpit and watched as the Falcon gently lifted off the ground in the grip of a tractor beam and began to glide over the assembled smaller ships in the hangar bay. The pale green tractor field was guiding the ship past the neat rows of ships deeper into the hangar area.

He checked his position on one of the passive readout screens. The Falcon was definitely moving deeper into the complex.

“Tell me you Orion scumbag. Ever hear of the Trojan Horse?” Tom asked with a cold smile as he glanced back at the transporter Scotty had installed in the Falcon months ago.

A green sinuous shadow slowly slid along the shadows beneath a series of catwalks cris-crossing the strange complex that hummed with a nearly organic quality. An alien white metallic framework framed the series of tanks that lined the cavernous lower level in neat rows.

Leia paused as a thug strode past toting a wicked looking Cardasian plasma rifle.

She was here alone without backup. Kirk and the others had been captured and she knew that at this moment, they’re only hope was her finding a way to get them out of the dungeons. She fervently wished she had a clue where to begin.

She slipped past another patrol and found what she was looking for. A computer terminal in a relatively secluded spot of the complex. She quickly scanned the area then turned her attention to the terminal. She quickly began typing in a series of codes and the terminal happily divulged information to her.

The chambers around her were Dominion cloning vats. Currently 10,175 clones were gestating, over 90% were at a viable birthing stage.

She shook her head. What was this man doing with Dominion cloning vats and what could he hope to accomplish with these troops? She typed more and noted with some amusement the atrocious security protocols in place. Whoever designed these computer interfaces was not very experienced with slicers as she knew them from back home.

She glanced backwards as she heard a sound and quickly melted back into the shadows. Another thug strode by, peering into the alcove and walking on. She thought for a moment.

Darkstar was looking for her, his troops were expecting trouble and undoubtedly also keeping a close eye on their captives. She needed a distraction, a feint to draw attention and occupy Darkstar’s security until she could help free the others. But where could she find such a distraction?

Leia shook her head and muttered to herself darkly. She was all but naked with a holdout blaster as her only weapon. What could possibly distract the entire complex?

Her eyes drifted over to the control panel and then snapped up to the vats around her. A soft smile slowly crossed her emerald lips.

“I’m so sorry.” Anastasia whispered as she dressed Luke’s shoulder wound. Artoo was by Luke’s side whistling softly.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.” Luke replied quietly as he stared off into space, trying to ground himself and fight past the fog that kept encroaching on his concentration. He was simultaneously fighting the growing frustration and its hand maiden anger. He would never walk that path again. He would die first.

“Yes there is.” she stated sternly and gripped his chin turning his face to look into her eyes. “I knew what I was doing Luke. I knew what he would do once he knew that you had feelings for me. He is very adept at that and discovered that I am very good at having men care for me.”

Luke searched her eyes for a moment.

“He told me about you. He said you are not here because of your beauty or grace. You are here because of your mind.”

She looked down at the floor for a moment.

“It is something you should be proud of.”

“It should be indeed, but I’m not any longer. My people distrust machines and computers and so an elite corps was trained to be human computers. My memories of events and calculations span my entire world’s civilization before Darkstar stole me away to be here.”

“And you miss your world don’t you?”

“Of course I do Luke, but I’ve run the calculations, I’ve examined the odds and studied the simulations. I am never going back home Luke.”

Luke watched her for a moment as Artoo lent weight to her observation with a low mournful whistle. He touched the dressing on his shoulder.

“That’s a good field dressing.” he noted. She smiled weakly.

“I don’t have much experiences but I do have my people’s collected medical works up here.” she tapped the side of her head.

“Let me ask you something Anastasia.” Luke began as he slowly rose and gingerly tested his arm, rotating the shoulder. She looked at him expectantly. “In all your analysis and scenarios did my appearance ever come into play?”

She blinked.

“Uh, no.”

Luke nodded.

“Then you should consider what that might mean for you.”

She squared up her shoulders and stared at Luke for a moment.

“I know what you want me to do but if I do that I might as well kill myself because Darkstar will never forgive me and maybe worse, he may decide to draw out my punishment and I’ve seen with my own eyes what he does to people who have displeased him. You’re asking me to risk death and worse for you.”

“No.” Luke shook his head emphatically. “Not for me, for you.”

“I don’t really have the patience for this Luke. It’s my job to manipulate you and get you to do what I want not the other way around. I assure you I am painfully aware that you will say anything at this point to get out of your situation.” she replied frostily.

Artoo squawked something unflattering.

Luke returned her gaze steadily.

“Anastasia, you’re right that I want to get out of here but I would not say it if I didn’t mean it. You haven’t seen me in action. Once free I will bring this entire palace down around his ears and free you finally.”

“I have seen you in action Luke. You slaughtered those Klingons without mercy, but Dee and Dum, they’re something different.”

Luke nodded.

“You saw Darth Nemesis in action, you haven’t seen me yet.” he replied evenly.

“There’s a difference?” she asked hesitantly. His voice had sounded so certain, so sure. He had no doubts about what he was going to do once freed.

“Oh yes.” Luke said emphatically. “Where Nemesis reveled in his anger and frustration, where he wielded the Dark side like some blunt club and battered his opposition relentlessly, I will act in the name of justice and my ally is not the fickle darkside, but the Force as it should be. And I assure you Anastasia, a powerful ally it is.” he said slowly.

She frowned and watched him for a moment. There was no doubt in his eyes. Yet her own heart was a tempest of doubts and fears. She feared the pain that would be brought to bear, the scars on her body and mind as Darkstar did as he was wont to do with those he considered enemies.

The possibilities that unfurled in her mind made her shudder and she stepped away.

“I have to go.”

“I understand, Anastasia. You are afraid.” Luke said as she walked to the door. Luke remained seated, Artoo by his side. She reached the door and it snapped open. “You have to ask yourself, and run this equation through your head. Which is better? To live in fear for the rest of your very long life or to have a very good chance at being free from this forever.” Luke locked eyes with her. “Either way, I’ll make sure you get to go home.”

“I don’t doubt that you would do as you say, Luke. But you haven’t lived here as I have, you haven’t seen the things I have. There is no hope here.” she said softly.

“I was told once that I could bring hope, let me do so here.” Luke asked gently.

Anastasia opened her mouth to speak but thought better of it. Dee suddenly appeared in the doorway with her.

“Well, luv, what will it be? In or out?” he asked and winked at Luke.

“W…what?” she stammered.

“The doorway. In or out.” Dee responded sardonically.

“Of course.” she muttered and stepped out of the doorway. Dee watched her leave and openly leered at her.

“What do you want?” Luke asked sharply.

Dee’s head slowly swiveled and regarded Luke with utter contempt.

“The guvner wants you and what he wants he gets.”

“Haven’t I entertained enough for one evening?” Luke asked coldly.

Dee leaned on the doorway and crossed his arms.

“Your problem Nemesis is that you got used to being in command and in control. Now you’re not emotionally equipped to deal with this turn of events. You could have done so well if you just held onto that part of you that made you dangerous.”

“It was as dangerous to me as to everyone else.”

Dee shrugged.

“I’m not a good judge of character but I’d say this. The master has no patience, especially for failure and you my friend are most definitely a failure.”

“I’m glad I don’t live up to your ideals of success.”

“I suppose you think you’re getting out of this meeting alive?” Dee asked darkly and sneered.

“You will find Dee that it is you that are mistaken about a great many things.” Luke replied and rose from his seated position. Artoo beeped cheerfully and fell in line beside Luke.

Dee didn’t say anything as the young man strode past him without fear or concern. All would proceed as the Force required it to and if this day would be the day he would need to atone for his crimes as Lord Darth Nemesis so be it, but if this were the day he would be Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight then there would be a reckoning.

The doors to the main audience chamber slid open quietly and a woman strode into the chamber. She wore a long black cloak that trailed behind her like billowing wings. She moved with a calm cold precision, eyes tracking the various figures in the main chamber. Her eyes slowly settled on the man draped across his throne.

She stopped as two guards blocked her path and crossed pikes.

“That will be close enough my dear.” Darkstar said as he eyed the newcomer.

“I was told you were the man to see and do business with.” she said coldly.

“Indeed I am.” Darkstar extended his hand absently as Anastasia walked onto the dais behind his throne. She weakly took his offered hand and sat by his side.

“Well I have your merchandise.”

“So you say, but how can I be sure it is authentic? I may be a collector but it is a collector of true treasures. I’m not some provincial who has collections to show off.” Darkstar replied lazily.

“It’s authentic.” She replied and whipped back her robe to reveal a stormtrooper helmet.

Darkstar raised an eyebrow and chuckled.

“That could have been replicated my dear. I have no way of knowing otherwise unless we make a detailed analysis.”

“I though you might say that so I brought along my corroborating evidence.” she replied and a boom echoed from beyond the main audience chamber. Many of the assembled guard immediately rushed towards the sound while the seasoned guard under Dum’s command inched closer to Darkstar in case it was a distraction.

She noticed all of this with a calm expression on her face. The guards that were running away would not be a problem. Typical conscript material, many were working as guards because they probably had nothing better to do and the pay was probably good. The goons closest to Darkstar and their leader would be dangerous. They weren’t in this for the money. There were real bonds of loyalty there willing to do what was necessary to protect him so they would be trouble.

But this so called palace and court were no different than the dens of rot and corruption she waded through back home, instead of a Hutt she was facing it was an Orion with a propensity for self importance.

“My lord!” one of the guards from outside ran into the audience chamber. “There’s a shuttle out there. It looks Imperial to me.” he announced out of breath. Darkstar sat up and leaned forward slightly. Her smile broadened. Got your attention now don’t I?

“I must say you are a surprise aren’t you my dear? How is it that you came by these goods?”

“I’m fairly certain that’s not a question you ask all your prospective dealers otherwise your collection would be fairly poor.”

Darkstar laughed and clapped his hands.

“You are a sharp one aren’t you?” he exclaimed. Dum received a report whispered fervently into his ear from one of the guards which he relayed to Darkstar. The shuttle’s origins had been verified, it was most definitely an Imperial shuttle. He smiled as he rose and regarded the woman with a hooded expression.

“Here you come to my palace, replete with Imperial equipment ready to deal with me and I have never heard of you. I have had many visitors of late with Imperial technology.” Darkstar snapped his fingers and Threepio hesitantly stepped out from behind the heavy silk curtains behind the dais. She did not react. Her training had been very clear on one point, never let them know what you were thinking.

“Tell me droid, do you know this woman?” he asked slyly.

Her hands did not move but the butt of the blaster hidden inside the stormtrooper helmet was now snuggly in her hand.

Threepio peered closer at her. She did her best to look nonchalant, wishing that the shadows of her hood would do their best to hide her face.

“Why…oh my! Unless I’m mistaken that is the Dark Lady herself!” Threepio exclaimed as he backed up suddenly then stopped short. “Oh my was I supposed to say that?” he asked sheepishly out loud.

“You’ve done well droid.” Darkstar laughed and slapped Threepio on the shoulder. It knocked the protocol droid out of the Orion’s way as he strode to the end of his dais.

“The Dark lady herself. Did you think I wouldn’t know you my dear? I have been stalking Lord Nemesis since his Klingon Campaign and I would not know the face of the woman who we all knew he would call queen or maybe even Empress.” he said coolly.

“Too bad for you I’m a good marksmen.” Mara snapped and the helmet fell away as she raised her blaster and without hesitation lined up the barrel with his head and squeezed the trigger. It was her experience as an assassin that once you chopped the head off organizations like this tended to vaporize within moments.

She was not rewarded with a sharp loud report and Darkstar’s scream. Instead there was a sickly warble from the weapon. She immediately squeezed off another round only to have the same results.

She checked the weapon as she began to draw her holdout blaster.

Dum was on her like a panther and drove the pain pike to her throat. She let the blaster drop from her hand, registered full on the charge so what the hell happened there, and blocked the pike with one hand while sweeping her left foot in and hooking the thug’s ankle.

She delivered a crushing elbow to his chin and jerked her foot hard right.

Dum did not go crashing down stunned as she expected.

Instead he grunted, turned his head to recover from the blow and his feet remained firmly planted on the ground. He whipped the pain pike back around and hooked her legs sending her falling backwards and as she landed with a thud on her back, the pike sliced upwards faster than any human could or should and the bladed end of the pike was at her throat.

She stared up at him.

How in the name of the Emperor could he move so fast and his strength? Was he some force user she was unaware of?

“It’ll take more than the likes of you to take me madamsoile.” Dum hissed.

“This is too rich.” Darkstar chuckled deeply. “You’ll find my security measures are quite effective my dear. Now to the matter at hand. This could prove to be a most interesting development.” his eyes slowly drifted towards the newcomers that strode out of the side turbolift.

Luke was led by a pair of guards and Dee right behind him, pike at his back. Luke stopped short as he saw Mara on the floor. She looked into his eyes and there was surprise. His eyes. There was a light there, a gentleness that she had only seen once before.

“What is this?” Luke asked.

“So, my dear Luke, there are some aspects of your old life that you do remember eh?” Darkstar noted with a smirk.

“I have no idea who she is.”

“You’re as bad a liar as I am honest my good Luke. She was to be your empress, the dark lady. I am shocked at the loyalty displayed here, not only by your friends and I assume lovers but by your enemies as well.” He turned his head to Dum. “Have Kirk and his friends brought here.”

“Yes my lord.” Dum replied and brought the pike away from Mara’s throat as a half dozen guards trained disruptors on her. Dum strode away and as he entered the turbolift Darkstar called after him.

“And find me that Orion animal woman and Kirk’s pilot. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about them.”

“Of course my lord.” Dum bowed his head as the doors to the turbolift shut.

Darkstar turned his attention back to Luke.

“Bind him.”

Dee roughly grabbed Luke’s arms and pulled them back behind him. He felt the manacles lock tightly around his wrists.

“That’s a little tight.” Luke noted as he rotated his wrists in the hopes of gaining some circulation.

“Don’t worry mate, there won’t be much more pain in your future.” Dee replied in his ear before shoving him forward. “Here, let me make a small adjustment.” Dee added as he touched a control on the collar. Luke grunted as he felt a low throbbing in the back of his head and suddenly all his thoughts were in chaos. “We wouldn’t want you pulling nay sudden heroics.”

“You remember the Venus drug when we first met don’t you?” Harry noted.

“That’s what makes the Medusaled Drought?” Kirk asked.

“Yes, mixed with certain other chemicals that I stumbled across on that planet of androids you stranded me on-” Kirk opened his mouth to clarify the statement but Mudd continued on. “I found the Draught. Well Darkstar’s people managed to spring me from there.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t out of the kindness of his heart.” McCoy muttered.

“No, actually I had to trade the majority of the Draught for my freedom. A rather unfair exchange if you ask me captain.”

“Harry, has it ever occurred to you that maybe all these bad breaks and unfair deals are caused by your own greed?” Kirk wondered aloud.

Harry looked pensive for a moment and looked back up at Kirk.

“Actually no Captain I never gave that much thought about that. I think life is simply unfair.” Harry concluded. McCoy rolled his eyes.

“What about it Bones, are you ready?” Kirk asked McCoy.

“If my hands are bound like this I doubt I’ll be able to get at my implant.” McCoy noted wanly.

“If you were determined enough you would find a way.” Worf interjected gruffly.

“Would you mind telling me my ridge headed friend how I’m going to reach my implant with my hands up here.” McCoy demanded and rattled the manacles around his wrists to emphasize his point, hands thrust upwards over his head.

Worf frowned.

“You would find a way if you had to.” he added.

McCoy grimaced at the stern Klingon.

The doors to the dungeon suddenly snapped open and Dum led a small contingent of guards down the winding stone steps. They trained their weapons on the prisoners.

“This is no way ta go.” Scotty muttered darkly.

“You’re coming with us. Lord Darkstar would like to see you one last time before you are consigned to your deaths.” Dum announced. He nodded to Chewbacca who was growling menacingly from his cage. “See that he gets beamed directly to the audience chamber, I’m not risking letting that walking carpet loose.”

“Yes boss.”

“I’m a little busy at the moment, catching up with an old acquaintance. Tell Darkstar I can fit him in a little later.” Kirk replied sardonically.

“You smart ass. This is not a request.” Dum snapped and the guards quickly undid their manacles and bound their hands forward. McCoy and Kirk exchanged a knowing glance.

“I’m almost afraid to ask, does this summons include me?” Harry asked weakly. Dum smiled cruelly.

“Oh yes, fat one. He has something special in mind for you.” Dum promised and nodded to the guards who quickly took Harry down. Chewbacca vanished in a column of light.

“Now, James Kirk, it’s time to see how a legend goes out.” Dum sneered as he finished checking everyone’s manacles and led the group out of the dungeon.

“This is such a pleasure and a joy.” Darkstar exclaimed happily. The assembled prisoners stood before him manacled and bound. Mara stood by Luke who was standing at the front of the group. Kirk and his company stood neatly behind Luke. “I have here a collection of the finest heroes and villains in the war raging around our galaxy. Darth Nemesis held such promise for me, oh the army I had for you my dear and his dark lady who out of love has come here to rescue her lord.” Mara said nothing, merely continued staring at Darkstar as if her gaze could kill. What was the matter with Nemesis? Why was he not mowing through these fools like an engine of destruction?

“And James Tiberius Kirk. I suspect you’re here not so much for our good friend Luke here but for my hypermatter technology. Everyone knows your fleet is on the brink of losing it all and that you’ll do anything to bridge the technology gap and I intend to make you Federation pay dearly for it.”

“How?” Kirk asked.

“I will sell them what I have but it will cost them entire planets my dear friend, territorial concessions and the like and they will recognize my sovereignty over the new Orion hegemony.”

“The Jem’Hadar troops you have, you intend to forge your own little empire out here.” Kirk replied bitterly.

“So, you know about them. Good. But when I make them pay it will come with sad news that will seal the deal between us, you see I will tell them how you came to me to bargain for the technology when our good friend Nemesis here and his dark lady show up to recover their stolen technology. There was a struggle as there always is and the great James Tiberius Kirk lay dead but with a final blow he delivers a killing stroke that slays the evil Sith lord.”

“You really think the Federation will buy that?” Mara sneered.

“Oh my dear, you Imperials have always underestimated the gullibility of the Federation and more importantly how heroic it sounds. They are so desperate for a hero that they handed their entire future into the hands of a man from their past.” Darkstar replied and made a sweeping gesture with his arm towards Kirk. “Imagine their faces when I tell them how he valiantly did battle with Nemesis, the chief villain of this piece, and kills him with his final blow, its so poetic it brings a tear to my eye.”

The assembled group shuffled nervously.

“And when I tell them that his final wish was that his Federation be saved by this technology they will gladly deal with me.” Darkstar finished. “It’s a shame really, that you my dear Luke are not able to fully appreciate my plan as your mind is probably quiet a jumble as we speak no?”

Luke said nothing, eyes closed and grunting as he tried to focus on something, anything but his thoughts vanished into the fog of oblivion and he could barely remember his name.

Darkstar watched the young man’s suffering for a moment and sighed softly.

“Very well, let’s get on with our fun and –”

“Lord Darkstar! If you will please listen to your humble servant!” Harry exclaimed.

“What is it fool?” Darkstar snapped in annoyance.

“I have information that can help me win my release or at the very least my life.”


“They were talking about an implant in McCoy’s ear back in the dungeon.” Harry sputtered quickly.

“Indeed.” Darkstar replied with a raised eyebrow.

“Harry you snake!” Kirk snapped.

The guards quickly surrounded McCoy and dragged him out of the group throwing him to his knees on the hard marble floor. One of them ran a tricorder over McCoy. The guard looked up quickly.

“There’s some sort of transmitter in his earlobe sir.”

“Ah…no doubt to call your friends. I think we can dispense with the foolish plan don’t you think Dee?”

“My pleasure Guvner.” Dee smiled and casually ripped McCoy’s earlobe off. McCoy screamed as blood oozed between his fingers.

“You monster! There was no need for that!” Kirk shouted.

“There is always a need for pain, Kirk. You taught me that well when you hounded my father and his associates long ago. It was my family that tried to deny the admittance of Coridan long ago that you thwarted.”

“I knew the Syndicates were involved but that was your father?” Kirk breathed in shock.

“Yes and he never recovered from that loss. Do you have any idea how many credits he sank into that operation? The prestige that he lost and the economic hit the syndicates took when we lost that rich revenue stream. It took our Syndicates nearly a generation to recover!” Darkstar boomed. “You managed to do in one mission what many starship captains dreamed of for decades, cripple the Orion Pirates. My father never forgave you for what you did and now I have a chance to avenge his loss and cripple your federation simultaneously. Richly ironic is it not my sweet Captain? If I didn’t know any better I would say this was being written by someone as we speak.” he chuckled.

Anastasia was watching the entire exchange but her mind was on Luke and his final words. As she watched these assembled heroes and villains she wondered if this was life’s way of offering her that one last chance at freedom, the one moment where she could be free and out from under the shadow that had dominated her life for so long.

“Harry Mudd, you have proven useful in the end. Come away from them. Let us see if we can find more uses for you.” Darkstar ordered and guards escorted Harry away from the group unlocking his manacles. Harry glanced sadly down at McCoy and his bloody ear.

“Mudd you gutless P’Tak!!” Worf roared after the rogue.

In an instant a snap decision was made.

Anastasia rushed down the steps of the dais and started crying uncontrollably. Darkstar paused in mid-speech and watched her for a moment. Dee and Dum moved to stop her but Darkstar held up a hand. He was amused by this sudden emotional outburst.

Just as she predicted.

She wrapped her arms around Luke’s neck and sobbed into his neck, silk trailers drifted down her arms.

“I don’t want you to die Luke!” she shouted.

“Oh really, dear, come away from there and stop looking foolish.” Darkstar laughed and snapped his fingers. Dee and Dum each took a hold of her arms and pulled her away.

The thoughts were lost in a tempest. He tried valiantly to forge something coherent, maybe just a word, anything but there was the dull throbbing and the fog that was slowly crystallizing now, threatening to drape his mind in total stasis.

Then there was silence.

His thoughts flowed like water and the throbbing was gone, the fog vanished and most important of all, the Force sung in his mind, alight like a beacon cutting through the shadows. His eyes focused on Anastasia as she was pulled away.

“No more fear Luke.” she whispered.

The collar was off.

“Now that this most unpleasant outburst is over we shall commence—”

An alarm sounded throughout the palace. Red lights flashed ominously and guards were rushing deeper into the complex.

“The clones…” Darkstar muttered in shock.

Luke began to laugh, low at first but louder and more vibrant and powerful.

“Whatever is the matter with him?” Darkstar snapped.

Luke looked at Darkstar and winked.

He leapt upward and executed a perfect standing roll, legs tucked into his midsection as he spun his arms jerked forward over his head and he landed with his bound wrists in front of him. The manacles snapped and clattered to the ground as each arm whipped in the opposite direction crushing the throat of each guard standing to his left and right.

“Now…” Luke began as he force pulled a pain pike out of the hands of the nearest guard to him, it landed obediently in his hands. He activated the pike and it snapped open in a heartbeat, extending on metal segments to its full length.

“Darkstar.” The manacles on each of the prisoners snapped and clattered uselessly to the floor, the door to Chewbacca’s cage suddenly exploded off its hinges and slid along the floor on the opposite end of the audience chamber nearly decapitating several guards as it tumbled end over end.

He swung the pike around with one hand, wrist turning rapidly and the metal pike’s ends nearly sung as it cut through the air in an intricate pattern. It stopped short in a guard position extended out ward with one hand, the other held up above him in a closed fist and the ceiling of the palace began to rumble.

“There will be a reckoning.” he announced coldly as the ceiling began collapsing on the guards.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 68: Reap the Whirlwind part 1

The ceiling rumbled and fell away in man sized chunks to shower onto the floor below. Many guards screamed, hands thrown up to their faces as they were struck by the massive pieces of falling masonry. Screams and the sound of shattering bones accompanied the deep booms of rock and stone striking the floor and any unfortunate that happened to be between them.

All except for the group of prisoners in the middle of the audience chamber. The rock and debris crashed around them in a perfect circle, none even coming perilously close to the stunned former captives.

Luke whipped his pain pike around in a dazzling display of movement as he swept through those in front of him, his pike sweeping the guards out of his path like a swinging scythe. He moved like a panther on the prowl, muscles taut and powerful rippling underneath the skin tight black fighting suit.

Mara did not hesitate and grabbed one of the fallen disruptor rifles and swung it over at Kirk.

“You’ve been a thorn in our side long enough, Kirk. This ends here and now.”

“What the—” Kirk couldn’t think to do anything else, caught completely flatfooted by Luke’s performance. His own plan of escape was unraveling when the young ex-Sith lord was now on a rampage.

Mara squeezed the trigger, or at least tried to. Her finger would not move. She grunted and suddenly felt the flow of the force around her hand and weapon. It was different because it did not feel like the Force as she was used to and trained to counter and detect. This felt different somehow, brighter, cleaner.

Her head whipped over to Luke.

“Lord Nemesis! What are you doing?”

Luke smiled sadly.

“Things have changed Mara. Now help them escape, Darkstar and I have some things to discuss.”

“I’m not about to leave without you!” Mara snapped.

Luke turned his attention for a moment on the guards gathering around Darkstar as the petty crime lord shouted orders, face blooming with fear and exertion.

“Did you think you could take me on boy?” Darkstar roared and the ceiling above Darkstar rumbled open. A large plasma cannon descended rapidly and snapped into position aiming at Luke and the others.

“That’s a big gun.” McCoy gasped, ignoring the pain of his ruined ear lobe for a moment as he watched the large cannon and the tubes that wrapped around its base and up into the ceiling mount begin to pulse with a cold blue aura.

“This is the part where our friend Threepio finally proves useful.” Kirk exclaimed suddenly realizing that elements of his escape plan would now prove absolutely vital to their survival. Kirk turned his attention to Threepio who was shouting excitedly and holding his hands up over his head.

“Threepio!” Kirk shouted as the cannon finished its power up sequence.

“Sir?” Threepio replied curiously head peering our from under the protection of his arms.

“Queen to Queen’s level three!”

“I’m not sure I----oh my---I feel strange.” Threepio replied. His eyes flashed brightly and an invisible wave of energy flashed from deep within the droid. The EMP pulse expanded outward in a globe of energy that burned out the delicate systems of the disruptors rifles carried by Darkstar’s guards nearest to Threepio and more importantly the plasma cannon above them slowly dropped down into a neutral position as the pulsing power cables dimmed.

“What?!” Darkstar roared. He turned on Threepio and shoved him off the dais. “Damned machine!”

Threepio landed awkwardly below. Artoo whistled angrily as he raced over to where Threepio had landed.

Luke walked quickly to Mara looking into her eyes the whole time.

“Mara, I need you to help these others escape.”

“Luke, with all due respect, we need that hypermatter technology he’s holding so we’re not going anywhere but deeper into that mess.” Kirk interjected hotly. Luke turned his head and looked into Kirk’s eyes for a moment.

“The last time I saw you, we were trying to kill each other.” Luke noted neutrally.

“That’s not quite true.” Kirk replied.

“Yes…yes you’re right. You were trying to wake me up to the truth.” Luke said as he examined Kirk for a moment. “Perhaps I’ll have the time to thank you but for now it seems we’re going to have to bring this place down around his ears. You get your hypermatter technology, I get Darkstar.”

“Sounds like a fair exchange, Luke.” Kirk watched Luke for a moment. It was as if he were speaking to a completely different person. There was strength in his eyes, a steel that reminded him of Nemesis but also serenity and confidence that was daunting. This was a man who owned himself.

Luke nodded to Kirk and turned his attention back to Mara as Darkstar shouted for more guards. The ones closest to him were impotently trying to fire their weapons at the prisoners. As a squad raced in from the back of the audience chamber there was an awful roar and a great brown furred streak flashed over to them and gave them no time to even scream as Chewbacca barreled into them and cast them aside like rag dolls.

“Mara, things have changed.”

She looked into his eyes. The hot molten rage that had frothed so violently behind those blue eyes was gone. The dark circles under the eyes, the nearly perpetual sneer. She searched his face for any sign of the man she had fallen in love with.

“You’re gone, not a sign that Darth Nemesis was ever here.” she breathed.

Luke smiled softly and brushed his fingers against her full lips.

“No, he died on Scythia Mara but it wasn’t Darth Nemesis who loved you that night in the cave and touched your heart. It was me.”

He bent down and kissed her passionately. Mara did nothing at first but she felt the passion and love in his lips and she vividly remembered his touch and her body responded and she kissed him back her body leaning into his.

Kirk paused for a moment and stared.

“Sir, the enemy is getting away and if Darkstar makes it to the storage areas below the palace…” Spock noted with concern as he picked up a discarded rifle and tried to ignore the broken body of the weapon’s previous owner crushed beneath a chunk of the ceiling..

“Good point Spock.” Kirk snapped out of his confusion and scooped up his own rifle. He looked over his shoulder. “Chewie!” Chewbacca was lifting a guard over his head with both hands as a crowd of them circled him warily. He looked back at Kirk.

“Are you going to be alright?”

Chewbacca roared enthusiastically as he flung the guard into the crowd bowling many of them over.

Kirk laughed.

“I don’t need a universal translator for that!”

“I’ll help the big lug out sir, you go on ahead.” Uhura assured him as she also chose a hand weapons and rushed over to join Chewbacca on his rampage through Darkstar’s befuddled guards who had not learned the bitter lesson many in Chewbacca’s galaxy had learned. When dealing with a Wookie, it’s best to let them win.

“Bones?” Kirk crouched by McCoy.

“I’ll be alright Jim. Let’s get this over with.” McCoy assured him as he expertly placed pressure on the ruined ear lobe and stood up.

“Lord Darkstar.” Harry Mudd urged. “I think now would be a good time to retreat while they are regrouping.”

“I am the lord here. How dare they –” a disruptor bolt snapped by his head. “Quickly we must retreat and find out what is happening to my clones.” He continued without hesitation.

“And her, my lord?” Dee asked snidely as he shoved Anastasia in front of Darkstar.

Darkstar glared at her.

“I should kill you where you stand my treacherous little whore.”

“I’m no longer afraid of you!” She spat defiantly but her voice cracked slightly and it was obvious from looking at her neck that her heart was beating furiously in her breast. Darkstar’s left hand suddenly whipped up and he held a disruptor to her face. Her eyes widened.

“No my dear. I think you are very much afraid. But in the end rage must give way to reason.” He eyed something over her shoulder. “And I do believe that despite the young Sith lord’s obvious attentions to miss Jade he still has feelings for you and that will prove useful when the time comes.” He nodded to one of his guards and they quickly and roughly grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her along.

Darkstar dropped his hand down and eyed Dee and Dum.

“Now is the time to prove to me and yourselves that the young man never needed that collar for you to deal with him.” Darkstar stated darkly. Dee and Dum smiled and bowed their heads.

“We’ll bring him back to you, guvner.”

Darkstar began to speak but Dum interrupted.

“His head on a pike for you.”

“I would prefer his heart on a plate.” Darkstar interjected acidly.

“Your will be done.” Dee added without hesitation and the twin goons turned on their heels and strode off the dais, pulling their pikes out of their respective holsters. Darkstar took one last look at the assembled mess in his audience chamber. He glanced up and saw the massive chunks of masonry torn away from his beautiful marble palace.

He frowned angrily and watched as Luke finally parted from his mystery woman.

He knew it. This whole time, he knew it. His acquiring Lord Nemesis would be the defining moment of his life. He was precisely as he expected - a force of nature. But he never expected that power and rage to be directed at him.

He did not try to think that his only real hope of survival lay in the possible success of twin insane cybernetic killers.

Luke and Mara’s lips parted. He looked into her eyes.

“I missed you.”

She shook her head.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you missed me, say you loved me as I have you my dark lady.” he replied without hesitation.

Mara looked up at him, tears brimmed her eyes for a moment as alien emotions surged through her. She looked down at the floor, a deep primal part of her offended and ashamed she felt this way about this man.

“I…don’t know…what to say.” She whispered.

Luke looked down at her for a moment, pain etched in his eyes.


He paused and his face suddenly slid into a mask of quiet determination.

“I never stopped loving you from that day you stepped into the Emperor’s audience chamber.” He told her quietly before turning sharply to face Dee and Dum.

The twins were standing casually several meters away from him. They were smiling coldly as they watched him with a predator’s gaze. The battle raging around them nothing more than annoying background noise.

“You owe us something Skywalker.” Dee sneered and his pain pike snapped into full extension.

Dum moved in perfect synch with his brother.

“You owe us a reckoning and we’re here to collect bitch.” Dum added and his own pike snapped into full extension.

Luke stood still for a moment, his eyes switching between Dee and Dum as they slowly slid in closer to Luke, each one moving in perfect tune with the other. As Anastasia pointed out their brains were amplified by a battle computer that brought their reflexes up to near inhuman levels and allowed them to synchronize their movements.

“Dee and Dum, I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Luke glanced at Dee. “Anastasia tells me that you’re entire anatomy has been modified, enhanced if you will, kriegwire tendons,” he glanced over at Dum. “duranium plated bones, positronic network wetware allowing you to enhance reflexes and metabolism.” Back to Dee. “Yoyodine muscle sheaf and neuralgelpack neural enhancers.”

“Yeah, we know our own specs, Skywalker.” Dee snapped.

“Is there a point to this, other then knowing why you’re out classed?” Dum added.

Luke smiled softly and tapped the blunt end of his pike against the marble floor in a patient rhythm.

“I just wanted to let you know that I was aware that there’s not a natural bone in your bodies, that you have been modified to such a degree that you’re more machines than men and you have been engineered to be perfect killing machines.”

“He talks too much.” Dee sneered.

“I think he’s scared.” Dum added as they closed in on him, pikes at the ready.

Luke nodded to himself.

“But in the end none of that matters, despite all your so called enhancements and abilities I’m not afraid.” Dee and Dum inched in closer. “As an ancient and far better Jedi than I once said, the Force is my ally,” Luke snapped his pike up and slapped Dee across the knees in a flurry of movement sending the cybernetic thug sprawling down to the ground faster than any human or cybernetically enhanced eye could follow. Luke twirled the pike in an intricate dance before him as he advanced on Dum.

“And a powerful ally it is.” He finished and delivered a straight on strike to Dum’s chest, missing his throat by a mere inch.

Dum sputtered and slapped Luke’s pike away from him, knowing instantly that if Luke had chosen to use the bladed end of the pike he would most likely be dead.

Dee kipped up, landing slightly off balance, the blow to his knees not able to damage his reinforced joint but the surrounding tissue was bruising and swelling.

“You bastard, there’s no pathetic all powerful energy field controlling me or Dum’s destiny. You’re dead.”

Luke pirouetted gracefully his body flowing like water and ducked under and then over Dee and Dum’s attacks.

“You still don’t get it do you?” Luke asked sharply as he deflected a bladed pike end to his face and countered with his own bladed end and sliced through Dum’s shoulder. “You two sealed your fates when you crossed me.”

The battle was joined as the two cybernetic thugs danced in and out of Luke’s reach driving him back past the dais deeper into the palace.

“Come again?” Leia asked loudly into the small communicator hidden in one of her bikini cups. The sound of alarms was nearly deafening and the veritable forest of cloning vats was going through a very loud and complicated birthing cycle. Hatches and tubes were opening or blasting off the sides of the vats in sequence.

Tom Paris’ voice was nearly drowned out by the sounds of the premature awakening clones.

“Princess! Kirk and company seem to be causing a ruckus in the audience chamber. I think I’ve got a good enough sensor look to beam you over to their coordinates.”

“I’m not thrilled about this Tom. You THINK you have good coordinates? That thing could beam me into a wall or worse.” Leia protested bitterly as she saw some shadowy figures lurking through the mists of the venting coolant systems.

“By the readings I’m getting in here it doesn’t look like you have much of a choice. I’m picking up massive life forms reading down there. Jem Hadar if I’m not mistaken.”

Leia frowned as the first of the cloned Jem Hadar strode through the mists closest to her. It saw her and a cold smile crossed its face.

“Uh…Tom I think you might be right.” Leia snapped as she fired a bolt into the Jem Hadar clone. It had barely begun slumping down to the floor when ten others came roaring through the mists for her. Leia fired two more shots, blasting one Jem Hadar clone’s shoulder off and taking another right in the face. One of the clones batted her hold out blaster from her hand and savagely reached for her throat. Its skin had not yet finished growing and its musculature was clearly visible.

Leia cross blocked hard, hearing the splintering of the Jem Hadar’s arm as she stepped into it drove her left foot into its ankle and threw it over her shoulder. Without hesitation she continued turning and drove her right foot into a Jem Hadar’s solar plexus.

“Tom! Energize!” She shouted and grunted as a Jem Hadar hand cracked across her face in an open palm. She tried to pull it away but another clubbed her in the back of her head driving her to her knees. Another kneed her right in the face, blood spurting from her nose.

A Jem Hadar strode over to her as the rest held her down. She looked up at him through pain clouded eyes. He raised a metal pipe over his head like a club.

“This is disastrous.” Darkstar snarled as he stalked through the long corridor that led to the lower levels of his palace. “My own personal transporter knocked out by that damned droid’s EMP unit, Nemesis wreaking havoc in my palace and my clones are all waking up far ahead of schedule with no way to control them.”

“Sounds rather ominous if I may say so myself my lord.” Harry stated and cringed as a disruptor bolt exploded over head.

“Don’t be obvious you fat fool. This is serious. We are facing grim problems here and we can all thank my pathetic mewling concubine here.” Darkstar jerked a thumb back at Anastasia who was being dragged bodily by two guards. “She couldn’t keep her feelings separate from her job. All I asked of you was to be your usual charming self with the young man but noooo, you had to get delusions that you were better than what you are.” He sneered.

“No matter what happens-“she gasped as she was dragged along. “I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you were afraid and ran.”

Darkstar shook his head and turned suddenly. He slapped her across the face. The suddenness of the action made Harry jump. His eyes drifted down instantly to the lightsaber hilt on Darkstar’s utility belt.

Darkstar turned his head and pinned Harry with a steely gaze.

“And what are you looking at Mudd?” Darkstar hissed.

Harry’s eyes widened as he glanced over Darkstar’s shoulder.


“What?” Darkstar turned and saw Kirk leading his crew through the guards and gaining on them. “I want every man that can carry a rifle between him and me. The rest of you follow me. I know what he wants and I mean to give it to him in spades.” Darkstar roared and stalked away towards the exits at the far end of the suddenly very long corridor that was branching out into a garden area.

“What are you talking about Darkstar? What are you going to do?” Anastasia asked spitting blood from between her lips.

“My sweet dear, you can do calculations in your head, imagine what one of these hypermatter reactors could do if we allowed it to explode within an atmosphere?”

Anastasia shook her head.

“Not even you would do something like that.” Anastasia gasped. Darkstar turned his head and regarded her with a hooded expression.

“I guess we’re all going to find out won’t we my love?” He replied icily.

“Good shooting Mr. Sulu.” Kirk said as Sulu crouched down and blasted upwards taking two guards off the catwalks above as they entered the large spacious gardens following their quarry. Slightly behind them were the loud clashes of metal pikes on metal pikes as Luke, Dee and Dum dueled.

“I’ve sent the signal sir. Darkstar’s fleet should be getting a rude surprise any minute now.” Sulu replied as he took aim and blasted another guard trying to take cover behind a rock

“Excellent. Now all we have to do is catch up with Darkstar.” Kirk replied and fired blasting a part of the walkway overhead cutting off the movement of the guards overhead.

“And Mudd and I need to have a little chat.” McCoy grumbled holding one hand to his ruined ear and another holding a tricorder.

Spock fired a quick snap volley from a discarded plasma rifle.

“According to my readings of the palace he is heading for a shaft that leads directly to the sub level. The hypermatter signatures I picked up earlier were located in that sublevel.”

“Along with a bunch of Jem’Hadar clones.” McCoy added morosely.

“Do you people always talk this much?” Mara snapped as she let loose a devastating volley from her blaster, tearing through a thick tree trunk and showering the gathering guards with red hot splinters. Many screamed and fell back firing as she regarded her handiwork for a moment with a satisfied smile. It hid the raging confusion that grew within her.

Why couldn’t she tell him?

A pillar of light materialized to their left and Leia appeared on her knees swaying slowly from side to side.

“Leia!” Kirk shouted and charged towards her. Disruptor fire kicked up around, ripping fist sized smoking chunks into the marble floor. Sulu nodded to Spock and both began laying down suppressing fire against the guards overhead.

“This is getting ridiculous! We’re way out in the open out here and someone’s going to tag us.” McCoy complained.

“Then Doctor I would suggest we hasten our pace and close with Darkstar.” Spock suggested.

“You’ll get no complaint from me.”

A roar of pleasure broke the moment of levity and Worf appeared through a thick copse of trees in a corner of the garden swinging a pike in quick precise strokes striking guards at joints and heads.

“Glad to see one of us is enjoying being outgunned and outnumbered.” McCoy grumbled.

“Leia, are you alright?” Kirk asked as he cradled her to him for a moment and peered up at the guards trying to get a bead on them from above.

“Tom did it.” She muttered. “Jem’Hadar, they almost got me.”

“Well, glad to see that wasn’t the case, but right now we need to get a move on.”

Leia nodded and groggily got to her feet with Kirk’s help, he paused for a moment and aimed his phaser pistol up and blasted a guard right over the railing of the catwalk.

“Have you seen Luke?” She asked.

Kirk grinned.

“Seen him? Take a look.” He inclined his head to the right and Leia followed him. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw the young man in a black fighting suit dueling simultaneously with Dee and Dum. At the moment he blocked one pike blow while simultaneously jumping over a low blow directed at his knees. He landed and extended a free hand towards a set of double doors that were rumbling open ready to admit fresh reinforcements. The heavy metal doors suddenly screeched and stopped suddenly, the metal bending inwards as if a giant fist had crashed against the doors.

The doors were only open enough to let one man squeeze through at a time.

“Is he?”

“Let’s just say he doesn’t answer to the name Nemesis anymore.” Kirk grunted as he helped her walk quickly to the group.

Leia smiled and beamed at the young warrior and Luke actually paused in his battle and looked over at her direction. He smiled warmly at her and winked. Leia laughed. This was better than she had ever hoped or dreamed.

“Captain, this is glorious! How could I have ever doubted you?” Worf exclaimed, the sheer joy on his face making his eyes shine. Blood caked the bladed end of his pike and an ugly bruise was swelling under one eye.

“What are you talking about?” McCoy complained.

“A small band of honorable warriors looking to liberate one of their own and stop the spread of an evil empire outnumbered and outgunned, little hope of victory and instead of withdrawing we are pushing deeper into the very heart of our foe’s stronghold! This is worthy of a saga Doctor. Can you not feel the joy in your heart, the surge of your blood in your veins?”

“All I know is, Chancellor Worf, that when this glorious battle does start going badly for us I will be dealing with pumping blood and failing hearts and a lot worse than that to patch you honorable warriors together.”

Worf clapped McCoy on the shoulder.

“That’s the spirit Doctor! There is a place in the great song for healers as well as warriors.”

McCoy rolled his eyes.

“Mr. Worf, we need to push on, try to get to Darkstar before he gets to the turbolift.” Kirk urged.

“And we shall do so!” Worf growled and immediately broke ahead, firing a disruptor pistol with one hand and swinging his pike in broad strokes with the other.

“I never thought I would ever find use for Klingons, I like being proven wrong.” Kirk noted.

“Captain, might I suggest that standing here is not the prudent course of action when Darkstar is drawing dangerously close to his turbolift.” Spock suggested.

“Quiet right, Mr. Spo---” Kirk was cut off by an explosion behind them that emanated from the audience chamber.

“Good God, Uhura and Chewbacca.” Kirk fumbled for his communicator. It beeped of its own accord and he activated it.

“Kirk here.”

“Uhura here sir, don’t worry about us. Chewbacca and I set off some overloaded rifles against the main doors to seal them shut. We’ve secured our rear and are coming to join you.”

“I copy Uhura, good work. Watch your back as you approach, there are snipers all over the second tier.”

“Copy that sir, Uhura out.”

“Let’s move out.” Kirk urged and they quickly surged forward through the burning garden.

Artoo rolled quickly over to Threepio and regarded his friend sprawled out at the base of the dais in a very unnatural looking position, his photoreceptors were dark. Artoo beeped inquisitively.

“Artoo?” Threepio thrashed about.

Artoo whistled happily.

“It is you Artoo! Oh my, this is a horrible situation I can’t see. Help me.” Threepio lamented.

Artoo whistled sadly his small optical unit rotated down to regard the harsh metal bars wrapped around his body that prevented any of his compartments from opening.

“Artoo, this is not what I expected at all. What is happening out there?”

Artoo let out a series of whistles and beeps as Threepio struggled to sit up. “Master Luke?! Where is he?”

Luke laughed softly as he ducked under Dee’s pike strike to his face and simultaneously brought his pike up behind him and blocked Dum’s attack. He sidestepped the follow up thrust and brought his elbow into Dum’s cheek.

They quickly recovered and circled him.

Luke spun his pike around and watched them intently. Dee and Dum nodded to each other and suddenly their battle computers linked their reflexes and bodies finely attuned to one another. They moved as one.

Luke felt the sudden change in his opponents and he let his own mind go as well save that unlike slaving his to a computer he gave himself to the Force. He was no longer making conscious decisions, he transformed into an extension of the Force itself.

Dee and Dum moved as one and attacked, lighting like strikes with their pikes. Kirk blocked Dum’s bladed strike to his throat and whipped the other end of his pike down and blocked Dee’s strike to his knees, locking his pike to Dee’s. He savagely pulled the pike out of Dee’s grasp and flung it over his shoulder as he finished bringing his pike up and around. Dee’s pike clattered loudly behind him on the marble floor. Dee did not hesitate and kicked out to strike Luke’s midsection.

Luke was already in motion, pike shot out in a quick thrust and took out Dee’s supporting leg out from under him. Dee crashed to the floor. Luke turned his head at the last moment to avoid Dum’s bladed end of his pike. He brought his pike out in a broad sweep, Dum avoided the blow and ran right into Luke’s backhanded blow across the bridge of his nose.

Dum lashed out with his pike in a slash to Luke’s throat. Luke vaulted in a tight ball past Dum, pike out towards Dum’s midsection. Dum wheeled his pike along with a snap of his wrists and blocked Luke’s blow. Dum pivoted hard on his left leg and brought his pike around calculated precisely by his battle computer to strike Luke as he landed.

Luke slowed his descent just enough tucking his legs into his midsection and then extended them and landed right on the edge of Dum’s pike. Dum froze for a moment completely surprised by Luke’s unexpected maneuver but his battle computer instantly seized control and reacted automatically, bringing the pike up quickly to shake Luke loose.

Luke took off from the pike and as he fell backwards he lashed out with a sharp kick and connected with Dum’s throat. Dum sputtered as he stumbled backwards. The twins’ anatomy had been reinforced and altered in any way possible to limit or eliminate the vulnerability of certain areas such as joints and nerve clusters but the throat had been left very much alone.

Luke landed gracefully and spun his pike in a tight fast circle with one hand, with the other he made a welcoming gesture.

“You little snot!” Dee snarled.

“You think you can win?” Dum hissed hoarsely, his throat raw from the impact.

“Do you think you really stand a chance?” Luke replied and smiled sardonically. “Do you really think you can beat someone that can see what you’re going to do before you even think it? Do you really think you can beat someone who has already seen your deaths?”

Dee leapt in and drove his pike down hard at Luke’s chest. Luke pivoted and snapped the blunt end of his pike and connected solidly with his chin. There was an audible click as Dee’s jaw was snapped shut. Luke sidestepped Dee’s landing and with a lightning stroke delivered the blunt end of his pike into the small of Dee’s back.

Dum surged forward pike bladed end of his pike flashing in a series of strikes that were blurs to the outside observer. To Luke, each blow moved in a leisurely pace. He deflected each blow and as he did so he drove Dum backwards.

“And while I know this is a hopeless battle for you.” Luke suddenly took to the air, leaping straight up as Dum lunged forward with another edged strike. Luke landed on Dum’s head and back flipped off of it, landing behind them in a semi crouch, pike in his right hand held away from his body, the length of it resting on his hip. His left hand rested on the ground, fingers splayed open. He smiled at the wounded twins.

“I do appreciate your efforts.” He finished.

“Look out!” Kirk warned. Disruptor bolts fell all around them exploding and tearing apart the trees and stones around them, geysers of smoking earth and burning tinder took to the air. He crawled in behind the smoking remains of an ivy covered column. Mara slid in beside him and peered past the column.

Spock was nestled in between two ruined tree trunks and began laying down fire on the throng of guards that were gathering. Kirk noted how open his position was.

“Spock, get out of there!”

He heard a moan of pain and saw Scotty clutching his left leg.


“I’m on it.” McCoy replied without hesitation and scrambled towards Scotty. Worf roared loudly and drove the bladed end of his pike into a guard and pinned him to the tree he was standing behind. More disruptor fire came in, the explosions forcing them to take cover.

“This is absurd!” Mara snapped. She pulled a comlink off her belt and activated a beacon.

“What are you doing?” Kirk snapped.

“I’m doing what any other operative would do when outgunned and out numbered. I’m calling in for reinforcements.” As if to punctuate her point another volley of disruptor fire fell on them like rain.

Kirk’s eyes widened and his hand closed around Mara’s hand holding the comlink.

“Imperial Reinforcements?!” He exclaimed.

Mara’s free hand suddenly sprouted a small vibroblade and it was at Kirk’s throbbing coradic artery.

Leia’s eyes widened and she drew her blaster on Mara.

“You let him go now.” She snapped.

Mara ignored Leia. Her eyes bore into Kirk’s like knives.

“Don’t think that because Nemesis wants us to work together means you can touch me. Don’t forget who I am, I’m Mara Jade, the dark lady of the Imperium and if you touch me again I will hue the offending appendage off. Are we clear?” She hissed.

“Crystal.” Kirk replied and slowly released his grip on her hand. She slowly withdrew her blade from his throat.

“You realize of course that the moment your friends show up me and my crew are as good as dead.” Kirk said darkly.

Mara smiled coldly.

“That’s not really my problem is it? And it looks like our own position is about to become a bit more untenable.” She added. Kirk glanced past the column and he saw several guards carrying a large gun and a tripod up to the point where the rest of the guards had gathered. Undoubtedly it was antipersonnel cannon. Darkstar was approaching the turbolift. His men were pinned down. Things were getting bad.

He looked back at Mara.

“You need to ask yourself this question Mara, what will Luke think when your friends arrive, unless you haven’t noticed he hasn’t exactly been answering to the name Nemesis anymore and more importantly, what will your friends think of him?” Kirk asked sharply.

Mara said nothing but looked back over at Luke as he battled his way towards them. She wondered what she may have set in motion and in the end, where her heart now stood. Did she love Lord Darth Nemesis in all his dark fury and majesty or Luke Skywalker? She did not know the answer and that frightened her more than anything this day.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 69: Reaping the Whirlwind part II

“Are you certain?” Admiral Kittaine asked sharply while he strode towards the lift leading to the bridge of the Emperor’s Will. Captain Branna nodded emphatically as he handed Kittaine the datapad in his hand.

“Communications has cross checked against all verified codes and we have confirmation. This is a Sith emergency beacon.” Branna replied, his voice colored with excitement.

“We have no idea whether this is a Federation trap. Perhaps they captured Lord Nemesis and are using his beacon to lure us in.”

Branna frowned as they entered the lift.

“I doubt that Lord Nemesis would allow himself to be captured and in any event what sort of trap could they set for us?”

“I have learned not to underestimate my opponent anymore Captain. This galaxy has taught me that harsh lesson all too often, particularly with Captain Kirk on the other side of the equation.”

“The location does not sound right. It’s coming from a sector where the Federation or ourselves for that matter have not had much of a presence. Our intelligence indicates that the area is ruled by crime lords and pirates.”

“Another Nal Hutta eh? Good to see that even these people are afflicted with some of the same parasites that plague our home. This may fit into what I’ve been thinking.”


Kittaine rubbed his chin for a moment as he examined the datapad.

“He left the fleet on a long range shuttle with Mara Jade. The last known jump coordinates we were able to ascertain indicated the shuttle has jumped out of this area of space. My thoughts are that Nemesis went off to sort matters out.”

“What matters sir?”

Kittaine paused and pursed his lips as the doors to the lift hissed open. He stepped in, Branna following closely behind. Kittaine turned his attention to the younger man as the doors started closing.

“One does not make war on the Emperor and face the full might of the Empire without taking a long hard look at themselves.”

Branna looked puzzled.

“I’m not sure I understand sir.” he replied hesitantly as the lift began its rapid ascent to the bridge,

“Insight on Lord Nemesis that I have been working on for some time with the help of a blind starship captain.”

“I’m not very comfortable with his position in your inner circle sir. He is bound to have a competing agenda, namely saving his Federation from utter destruction.” Branna complained.

“Captain.” Kittaine chastised softly. “we have been quite thorough in our little private war out here. The Federation will not be returning in any way shape or form that is remotely similar to the one we conquered. He is well aware of this. He is starting to show me that his concerns are of a much broader scale. For instance, have you not ever thought once or twice that certain events we have experienced seem almost…staged for the lack of a better word.”

“I have thought that some events have been a little incredulous sir. But staged? I for one do not believe in some all powerful entity guiding any of our actions.” Branna protested as the doors to the lift snapped open.

“So be it. I have felt it, and I do not like it one bit. It’s time we at least try to seize the reigns of our own destiny.” Kittaine stated gravely as he stepped on to the bridge.

“So you will grant Captain Tarsi’s request?” Branna asked as Kittaine paused at the top of the bridge station, glancing down at his crew working intently at their stations. The row of armored windows set above the crewpits displayed the rest of the fleet as it deployed calmly around the world of Romulus and the scattered remains of Remus.

Bright emerald warbirds and their attendant craft obediently flanked the larger Imperial warships. Dangerous and dark warships were forming up in the cold shadows of Romulus. The first wave of Scimitar class planetary assault craft were rolling out of the shipyards and preparing to take their place in the Imperium fleet.

Kittaine was at a loss in regard to their current use to the Imperium. They had all but conquered the Alpha quadrant and it would take time to assimilate all the worlds and population. There were still too many systems that were officially under Imperium control yet not a single trooper stood on any of those worlds. They were spread thinly. What possible use would more conquest achieve at this point other then create more worlds where rebellion could foment unchecked?

But he would leave those details to Lord Nemesis.

“It’s about time we get him back don’t you think, Captain?” Kittaine asked seriously and turned his attention back to Branna. “Too long Thrawn has been fencing with me, all the time holding his Sith lord in reserve as a silent threat to this fleet and to what we have built here. That has to stop now.” Kittaine declared and stood to his full height as he handed Branna back the datapad containing the report on the Sith beacon.

“Order Captain Tarsi to take the Adjudicator and rescue Lord Nemesis by any means necessary. He can take whatever ships or equipment he needs but he is to leave immediately.” Kittaine ordered.

“Aye sir!” Branna replied snapping a salute as he fought the urge to smile.

“And Captain?”


“Begin running combat drills for the rest of the fleet. Use standard Imperial tactics and fleet ships as our enemy.”

Branna paused for a moment.

“I’m not sure I understand sir. You want the men to drill as if they were fighting other Imperial…oh.” Branna stopped himself in mid-sentence.

Kittaine nodded. “Indeed, Captain. It is time we start preparing to do battle with Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Kittaine noted softly and turned his attention back to the armored windows. Branna nodded and quietly stepped away to relay the orders.

“Alright, hold formation in our first pass and make sure you focus on disabling their engines. Their warp cores provide energy to everything including shields and weapons, we focus on their nacelles and engines and we should cripple most of them on our first pass.” Wedge noted calmly as he checked his status readouts and programmed in the next set of jump coordinates into this R2 unit.

“We copy that Wedge. Angling deflectors for optimum phaser and disruptor dispersal.”

“Don’t be too overconfident, gentlemen. The Orions have been out gunned and outclassed throughout their history with the Federation and Klingons on their borders. They’re used to fighting in hopelessly outmatched situations and they have come up with some rather creative tactics. They will surprise you and frankly I would be careful gunning around in a small one man fighter against those ships.” Entebbe warned.

“This coming from the man in the science vessel.” Wes snorted.

“Alright, knock it off. We’re going to try and cut a passage out for Captain Kirk and his team. We’re facing a planetary defense force and they will be trying to get reinforcements as soon as we arrive. Let’s not focus on the kill. I want you to focus on knocking those ships out of commission. Conserve your torpedoes as we’re light-years from any sort of re-supply.” Wedge commented as he finished the last of his pre combat checks and brought his X-Wing around in a tight turn as he lined up for the jump to light speed.

“And don’t just go head to head with these guys, they out mass us and they have a lot more weapons to bring to bear than we do.” Hobbie added as he brought his own X-Wing around for the jump. Above Rogue squadron the Sagan took up position, her warp nacelles pulsing with a steadily rising beat as the subspace bubble generated by a starship at warp was expanded in order to be caught up by the hyperspace signature of the X-Wings. The science vessel would be caught and dragged along, its warp shell like a soap bubble attaching to another would grant the Sagan the ability to go into hyperspace with the squadron.

Captain Entebbe eyed readouts he rarely paid attention to when on survey missions- the tactical display. Of course the Sagan was not the ship she was when this whole disaster began. With a constant need for ships the Federation remnant was busy refitting anything with a warp core for combat. The Sagan, a Nova class science vessel, no where near a combat powerhouse was upgraded with new phaser banks, quantum torpedoes and a more efficient shield grid. Ina matter of a few weeks she went from a science vessel to something more akin to a frigate.

But Entebbe was no fighter and he had joined Starfleet to command science ships. Battle was not his style, although he found to his surprise that he was good at surviving them in these dark days.

“Bring us to battle stations, XO.”

“Aye sir.”

The bridge was suddenly plunged into a crimson lit darkness. His tactical display showed the status of phaser output and torpedo load out. The shield grid waited patiently for full energizing.

“Raise shields.”

“Shields up.”

Entebbe watched the tension on the faces of some of his junior officers. Their jaws tightened as the prospect of combat loomed once again for a crew that was far more accustomed to charting gaseous anomalies. He cleared his throat.

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we all have a job to do. I know many of you didn’t exactly sign up for this but the Federation we know and love is gone. We have a duty to try and defend what’s left of her and I know that we all are scientists first, but we’re also Starfleet officers and enlisted personnel and that makes us soldiers as well. Right now one of the last hopes of the Federation is on that planet and needs our help. There’s also the hope that we can snatch up some of that hypermatter technology that could turn this whole war around for us. And in the final analysis, just the possibility of ending this war is worth all of our lives and this ship.”

The crewmen exchanged quick furtive glances for a moment, then one by one they all nodded and turned their full attention to their stations. As they did so each one announced boldly.

“Captain, station is ready.”

Entebbe smiled softly. He touched a switch on his chair.

“Sagan to Rogue squadron. We’re standing by.”

“Copy that Sagan. Hold on. Transit time to target is less than 5 seconds.” Wedge replied.

Entebbe turned to his XO now doubling as his tactical officer.

“Are you ready, we’ll be in the thick of it in seconds.”

The Vulcan nodded to his captain as he stood at his station. Entebbe turned back around and watched as the X-Wings surged ahead for a moment, quad engines burning a bright crimson as their wings split neatly forming the eponymous X formation.

“Here we go.” Entebbe muttered.

The space on the view screen suddenly formed a white swirling vortex as the fighters accelerated into hyperspace, dragging the Sagan with them. Entebbe leaned forward and watched the vortex as his crew tensed.

As suddenly as it appeared the vortex vanished from sight and the X-wings and Sagan were suddenly in the midst of a formation of starships orbiting Vanguard, the homeworld of Darkstar’s Orion crime syndicate.

The assembled fleet did not have any warning and the attacking wing of fighters and the Sagan did not hesitate to begin their attack.

Rogue squadron immediately sprang into the fray, wingtips spitting volley after volley of angry red bolts as the Sagan dove through the main phalanx of raiders and attack craft and launched a volley of quantum torpedoes into the exposed bellies of the ships, following the volley with a series of phaser strikes that danced along nacelles and delicate control surfaces. The science vessel continued its dive away from the main plain of engagement as the first stray shots from the Orion vessels began to lance out into the void hungrily searching for targets.

One volley clipped the Sagan as she awkwardly began a tight turn to return to the main attack. Her shield grid flared up brightly.

Entebbe braced himself as the bridge shook violently for a moment.

“Watch that cross fire. Bring us about on an oblique approach and prepare another spread of torpedoes.”

“Caution Captain, we are not a full fledged warship. We have a very limited amount of torpedo volleys.” his XO warned as his hands flew over the touch pad setting up the next volley of torpedoes.

“Then we’re going to have to make every shot count won’t we?” Entebbe replied and watched as three X-Wings split in perfect unison, a torpedo volley passing between them and exploding harmlessly behind them. These guys were good.

“Watch the fire coming from that big bastard.” Hobbie snapped as his X-wing’s nose pitched furiously downward in response to the explosions of a nearby torpedo volley. He lined up his next shot and watched with satisfaction as his next volley tore through the bridge station on a small raider craft. It began to dive away from the battle trailing a glittering stream of molten metal and escaping gasses.

“You don’t have to tell me twice. Rogues 6 and 9 come around with me. Let’s come in low and try and take out one of those nacelles.” Wedge ordered.

“Right with you boss!”

The trio of X-Wings roared through a cloud of heavy fire, beams of phaser and disruptor fire danced precariously close to the fighters as they approached the large cruiser from below. Wedge lined up his shot, his targeting computer aiding him by highlighting the port side nacelle with a hard red lock on signature.

Wedge pressed his firing stud and watched the crimson bolts from his cannons chew through the big ship’s shields, its aura flaring up like a small sun. Rogue 6 and 9 joined in the attack and their own bolts blasted through the shielding and sliced neatly through the support struts of the nacelle. Wedge finished his flyby and blasted the rear most portion of the nacelle itself into a rapidly expanding cloud of plasma.

The trio of X-Wings completed their attack run, the nacelle falling away from the main body of the cruiser as it brought what weapons it could to bear on the retreating fighters. Angry red phaser fire ripped between the X-Wings, the light from the bursts illuminated the interior of Wedge’s cockpit.

“Watch out. Things are getting intense out here.”

“Wedge, you picked one up on your tail.” Wes warned.

Wedge glanced backwards while simultaneously bringing his fighter around in a sharp turn. A raider was desperately trying to get a clean shot on his rear and it was slipping into his blind spot.

“Oh no you don’t.” Wedge grunted as he pulled back hard on his control stick. His X-Wing responded admirably and soared up and backwards. The raider tried to decelerate and match the nimble fighter’s sudden change in heading and speed but the ship proved too clumsy and slow. It resorted to a frantic barrage from all its weapons emplacements to knock the errant snub fighter out of the stars.

The X-wing completed its loop backwards and Wedge savagely pressed down on his firing stud as the Raider loomed in his cockpit. Red blaster bolts spilled out and exploded against the raider’s shields. The larger ship tried to accelerate away while bringing its weapons to bear.

Wedge grit his teeth as a disruptor bolt splashed against his port side shield causing his R-2 unit top squeal in shock as indicators suddenly flashed red. The shields were strained and the X-Wing wanted to spin to port in response to the strike but Wedge fought her to hold the attack run steady. His fingers mashed hard against the unyielding firing stud and he willed his fighter to pour more damage into the floundering raider craft.

His R-2 unit began whistling frantically as the Raider loomed dangerously on his HUD and the proximity alert began buzzing.

Wedge shut these distractions out as he continued pouring a murderous fusillade into the Orion raider and watched for the tell take signals of impending death of his enemy’s craft.

“Boss, get the hell out of that dive!”

“He’s committed.” Jansen interjected hotly.

Wedge saw the shield halo of light suddenly flicker and die and his bolts tore gaping holes into the raider’s hull. Bright white plasma blasted from one of the raider’s nacelles and the lighting on the vessel winked in and out. The Raider began to nose dive away, her hull splitting away in massive chunks as Wedge’s X-Wing blasted the unshielded hull mercilessly.

Wedge’s eyes widened as the Raider filled his cockpit. He knew better than jerk back on the stick, the raider’s weapons would instantly have him at near point blank range and despite the disparate power differences he had no doubts that a full volley would destroy or cripple him.

Turned out Jansen was right, he was committed.

Wedge grit his teeth and focused on splintering raider as its hull rapidly gave way. His X-wing dove straight into the cloud of debris and hot plasma. Hot gasses washed over his canopy and if not for his tinted goggles he would have been blinded by the energetic destruction of matter and antimatter.

Alarms simultaneously lit up and buzzed in his ears as his fighter roared through the cloud of fire. His R-2 unit was beeping and whistling furiously.

“I know, I know. My scope is dead. Starboard engines out.” Wedge snapped as he pulled on his dead stick furiously while keeping one eye on the sea of red alarm lights flashing along his HUD. Suddenly another alarm buzzed in his ears and a line of red lights flashed overhead.

“Looks like the Port engines are out too. R-2, I’ll need them back on now.”

The astromech droid whistled fervently as its small stubby tool tipped arms whipped around feverishly in an attempt to repair the sudden damage.

Wedge shook his head as he cursed softly. He was riding a dead fighter down through the main plane of engagement. This was not a good situation. He did not mind horrible odds because he was confident in his ability to fight his way out. But there was no amount of skill and luck that was going to help him when his fighter was dead in space.

He glanced over his shoulder sharply and saw the last remnants of the Orion raider spin away and vanish in a molten flash of light. He looked back ahead and saw two of the bigger Orion ships moving in like sharks to cut him off.

“R-2, I need some engine power NOW.” Wedge ordered tightly. The astromech droid whistled despondently as it realized that there was no way it could comply in time. “Great.” Wedge spat and watched as the Orion ships closed in on his crippled fighter.

A shadow fell over his X-wing and darkened his canopy. He looked up and watched as the Sagan soared overhead and a pale blue tractor beam lanced out encompassing the X-wing. Within moments the fighter was pulled along with the racing starship. The Orion ships unleashed a withering volley of phaser and disruptor fire. The Sagan shuddered as she absorbed the volley, her shields flashed in response to the weapons hits.

“Hang tight Wedge, we have you.” Entebbe said with a grin.

Wedge laughed softly.

“Thanks Sagan, I owe you one.”


“I wonder if Captain Kirk is having as much fun as we are.” Wedge mused.

The Millennium Falcon soared over another access junction in the twisting winding tunnels that burrowed beneath Darkstar’s palace. The network of tunnels serviced the vast hangar bays that honeycombed the palace.

Tom Paris had come up with the brilliant plan of using the Falcon’s hidden cargo holds to smuggle himself into the palace onboard the Falcon in sort of a poor man’s Trojan Horse. Once inside the bowels of the palace he would have access to the more sensitive portions of Darkstar’s operations not to mention be in a position to dish out some havoc from an unsuspecting quarter.

He had everything planned out and was damned proud of himself.

He had not counted on one simple problem that had immediately arisen when he slid into the controls of the Falcon and began his little escapade.

Tom had not counted on getting lost.

“You were supposed to be automapping damnit!” Tom snapped angrily at the computer as he took the Falcon through a twisting series of tunnels only to roar right into a massive hangar bay. It looked precisely like all the other hangar bays he had seen.

Phaser and disruptor fire exploded in a furious assault as the Falcon passed under a large loader that was slowly rumbling on an overhead rail from one end of the hangar to the other. Shuttles and small smuggler craft were lined up neatly on the pads below him. Catwalks and gantries crisscrossed the hangar bay’s upper levels like a spider web and guards standing on them fired their weapons at the errant craft that was loose in the bowels of their master’s bays.

The Falcon’s computer rumbled something that sounded like a stomach in the throes of the Titan two step.

“I don’t need a universal translator to tell me that what you said was pretty rude. Now try and find me a way out of this mess.” Tom replied hotly as he spun the Falcon on its axis, weaving through a thick jumble of skeletal gantries. Weapons fire was bouncing off the Falcon’s hull.

A warning alarm buzzed overhead and Tom saw the brief flash below and the smoking trail of something rushing towards them.

“Missiles?! These psychos are firing anti-ship missiles in here?!” Tom sputtered and sent the Falcon into a hard dive as he spied another access way between two landing pads.

The Falcon’s computer gurgled.

“Your scanners have to be better than that and you still haven’t answered my question. I ordered you to automap your way in here.”

The computer warbled and screeched. Tom grimaced.

“You had better things to do!” Tom shook his head and gunned the engines. The Falcon raced through the new access tunnel just as the missile trailing behind them exploded harmlessly on one of the launch pads in its race to intercept the Falcon. “In case you haven’t noticed we’re getting in deeper and deeper and there’s still no sign of a way out of here or how to get back to the surface.”

The Falcon’s computer emitted what sounded to Tom like a long drawn out belch. Tom stared at the panel for a moment, the universal translator unable to decipher the odd dialect. He returned his attention to the tunnel ahead and shook his head as he blasted a catwalk crossing the tunnel ahead where guards were firing down at the ship.

“I wish I were with Captain Kirk right about now. At least he knows where the hell he is.” Tom spat darkly.

“This is not good.” Kirk muttered as he glanced over at the thugs setting up an anti-personnel cannon on the second level catwalk over the lift doors that Darkstar had finally reached.

“Do we fall back and wait for Imperial reinforcements?” Mara asked sharply. A disruptor bolt flashed inches over their heads as if to punctuate her question.

Kirk did not look back at her, instead he quickly assessed the situation. Within moments the situation was about to change irrevocably against him. He could feel the imitative slipping away like a thing alive.

He nodded to himself and looked over at Spock. Spock glanced back at his captain.

“Spock, lay down suppressing fire!”

Spock nodded and turned attention to Darkstar’s guards.

“Leia, Mara, you’re with me.” Kirk snapped and fired a steady burst from his phaser before charging ahead. Leia and Mara exchanged a furtive glance before they followed.

Kirk raced ahead, as he leapt over the smoking remains of a fallen tree he called down to McCoy and Scotty.

“Bones, I need Scotty mobile to jury rig that lift!”

“I’m on it.” McCoy replied without looking up as he applied a dermal regenerator to Scotty’s thigh and knee.

Kirk rushed past Spock as the Vulcan began laying down a heavy base of fire from his plasma rifle. Worf grunted loudly as he cross blocked a clumsy strike from a guard and countered with a literal jaw shattering open handed blow that sent the guard tumbling backwards into the soft grass of the garden.

“Worf!” Kirk shouted as he continued charging forward, one hand raised firing bursts from his phaser. The Klingon whirled his head around to regard the rapidly approaching figure. “Take out the gun any way you can!”

Worf turned his attention to the second level catwalk and quickly realized that he was just about out of time. He did not hesitate and hefted the bladed end of his fighting pike and let fly like a javelin up at the guards desperately assembling the cannon. One of them screamed as the pike punched through his back and emerged from his midsection in a gory mess. He stumbled backwards, taking with him one of the components of the cannon he was holding as he fell over the railing.

Worf roared in victory. “KAPLAH!” and charged forward as well, firing his disruptor.

The Klingon’s battle cry attracted Luke’s attention and he swiftly decided at that moment that he would have to stop this game and get to the business he needed to finish with Darkstar. He snapped his fighting pike to the side and smiled softly at the twin killers.

He heard the warning voice of Ben Kenobi, far away as if he were whispering from across an expansive room.

“Pride and arrogance are the twin guardians at the gate which leads to the road of the darkside.”

Luke nodded as Dee and Dum realized that they would have no other chances. They were going to kill him or be killed. To their credit there was no fear in their cold eyes as they too made their decision.

See that’s the thing I’ve been thinking about Ben. Luke thought as he slipped in between the pike thrusts of the twin killers and drove the blunt end of his pike into the side of Dee’s right knee. There was a loud crack and the killer screamed in pain but his neural network reacted on pure instinct and lashed out with an elbow.

Luke ducked his head under the blow while simultaneously delivering a slashing attack with the bladed end of his pike that sliced open Dum’s side. He tucked himself into a tight ball and spun forward past the twins and landed firmly behind them.

Luke’s eyes snapped to the guards finishing with the anti-personnel cannon on the catwalk above Kirk and his team. There was little time now. The doors to the lift were opening. Darkstar was getting away.

I’ve been thinking that perhaps, just maybe you and Yoda were wrong.

He launched himself upwards, flipping end over end as he rose. Guards closing in around him fired a cascade of searing energy bolts at the flipping young Jedi. Luke’s leap was timed perfectly and he rose between the slashing multi-colored bolts of energy bolts and landed perfectly balanced on the guard rail of the catwalk above.

Dee and Dum did not hesitate either and crouched down as they gathered their strength and leapt together as one.

Maybe I was never meant to revive the Jedi order or its code.

Dee and Dum’s leap brought them over the catwalk’s guardrail and landed on the catwalk itself. They immediately attacked but Luke was already in motion. He blocked Dum’s slashing strike to his midsection, turning the pike hard and out of Dum’s hands he vaulted backwards landing 10 meters down the catwalk, again landing just on the guardrail.

Dee and Dum raced after him, Dee limping furiously and cursing.

Maybe the code is part of the reason we’re where we are. Maybe the Emperor was able to lead my father down the dark path because the code was not flexible enough. Maybe the code was simply wrong.

Luke danced between pike thrusts and waited for his opening, an opening he knew was coming…now.

The bladed end of his pike casually slashed out with a speed that was imperceptible to the human eye. Dee stopped short as he felt something hard and cold strike his neck. It took him a moment to register the pain. It took him another moment to see the spray of hard crimson blood splashing against the far wall. He blinked several times as his neural net received confusing signals. The panic of knowing that he was dying was interfering with the signals from his combat computer lodged in his brain.

The combat computer did as it was designed to do and as Dee died it savagely took control of his motor functions and Dee’s body acted as it was supposed to do and tried its best to kill Luke, the combat computer dispassionately calculated that it only had a handful of minutes left before oxygen deprivation killed the very organ it was housed in and thus truly ended its functional life.

Dee would have been proud as Luke’s eyes widened slightly in surprise when the mortally wounded Dee suddenly lashed out in a series of precision attacks with his pike. Luke countered the attacks and twisted his torso to avoid a blow to his stomach.

How can anyone live up to the code? Jedi masters have failed, Jedi knights failed, the entire order was brought down by the machinations of an evil man. What was it Yoda had told me when I left Dagobah Ben? You were there. Only a fully trained Jedi knight could defeat the Emperor and Vader. That statement had me thinking Ben. Thinking long and hard as I struggled up out of the abyss.

Luke and Dum’s fighting pikes locked and Dum pulled Luke’s face close to his.

“You’re going to pay for my brother scum!” Dum spat. Luke immediately released his plan in a burst of thought carried by the Force itself and it struck Kirk like a hammer as he paused in his headlong charge towards the lift.

Kirk turned on a dime and raced towards the dueling trio to his right.

“Cover me!” Kirk shouted over his shoulder as he adjusted the power setting on his phaser with one hand and gauged the distance.

Mara and Leia stopped short in shock but Leia promptly began pumping blaster fire into the catwalk above forcing any guards to keep their heads down.

“This James Kirk is a rather eccentric individual. I take it you are lovers?” Mara asked coolly as she concentrated her covering fire on the guards on the lower level moving to intercept Kirk.

“We are NOT lovers.” Leia protested.

Mara smirked.

“And I told you there would be a reckoning.” Luke vowed and snapped his pike away while planting a leg right into Dum’s midsection and back flipping away from Dum and up and over the railing to the ground below.

“That’s not saving you boy! Not in the least.” Dum hissed, spittle exploding from his pursed lips as he launched himself over the railing. As he did so, Dee’s body, combat computer still linked to Dum’s followed as well.

Luke smiled as he plummeted.

I guess the question really is Ben, if a single fully trained Jedi can take down the Emperor why couldn’t the entire order do it? Why can I do what 10,000 Jedi could not?

Luke tumbled in a tight ball and deactivated his fighting pike as he felt Kirk’s presence rippling in the Force as he arrived in the precise place he needed to be.

The interesting question Ben is why did Yoda think that would be possible? Why did the force place me in that position? Is the answer something so simple that the wisdom of the Jedi could not see it?

Luke landed and pivoted hard on his left foot, turning and brought his force pike up and around, bladed end first. Kirk skidded to a stop and raised his phaser and fired.

Dee’s body was encompassed in a crimson streak of energy and vanished like so much smoke, as it was instantly disintegrated.

Dum snarled in fury as he aimed the bladed end of his fighting pike down at Luke but his eyes widened as he saw what Luke had done and there was nothing his cybernetically enhanced body could do. No amount of reflexes, enhanced muscle tissue, krieg wire tendons and tritanium plated bones could make him change his trajectory and momentum. He was at the mercy of his fall and as Luke activated his fighting pike Dum knew it was all over.

There was a sound like a side of beef being struck and a sick wet explosion of blood. Dum slowly slid down the segmented metal parts of Luke’s fighting pike, it had entered from his lower abdomen and the bladed end emerged out of his throat. His head lolled on the ruined stump of his neck and blood continued gushing from his wounds in an ever expanding pool beneath him.

Luke watched the display for a moment with a cold sense of satisfaction but there was no joy there.

I think there is more to my mission. I am no longer the boy from Tatooine seeking to follow in his father’s footsteps. I have tasted the dark road and the light and neither has satisfied me.

He stepped closer to Dum and watched his eyes for a moment, seeing the pain mixed with fear.

The light lied to me in because it judged me unready to know the truth. The dark consoled me with false rage and true rancor.

He reached out and gently took a hold of Dum’s chin. He turned his head to face Luke.

“I know you’re afraid. But all things end. I do not take joy in this even though I will be honest and tell you that I thought I would.”

Dum gurgled through his ruined throat, thick coppery blood drowning his words, each geyser like stream erupting from his gaping throat wound in time with his heart beats.

Each fork in the roads have left me scarred and assailed me with the weakness within me. I found no solace in the light and the darkness was anathema to me. So what options are left to me Ben? What happens to one who finds no comfort in light or dark?

Luke shook his head.

“I do not hate you.”

Dum gurgled strongly again and this time his words were clear enough to understand beyond the wet pulsing of a blood drenched throat and flesh.

“Fuck you.”

I think the answer is a simple one Ben, one that you or Yoda or even Palpatine would not understand or approve of. I must forge my own road. I must walk a new path and in so doing reconcile the light and dark. The way of the Jedi lasted a thousand generations. The way of the Sith has plunged this galaxy into turmoil and darkness. In the end both sides have served their purpose and balance must be restored.

“I do not hate you Dum. Go now in peace.” Luke whispered and with a gentle nudge of the Force he finished severing the assassin’s neck and as he reached out to lower the man’s eyelids he reached into his brain and found the battle computer. With a simple touch he smashed it just as it began to make Dum’s body flail about in a vain attempt to kill him.

Dum slumped lifeless on the pike.

That’s what I discovered in the abyss Ben. I went down into the depths of the primordial force we all carry within us and in it I wove a balance between Darth Nemesis and Luke Skywalker. Alone, neither of us was strong enough to rise from the depths, but together in balance we were unstoppable. And so it must be here Ben.

“Luke! We have to stop Darkstar!” Kirk called out.

Luke turned and nodded to the young Starfleet captain.

“It’s time.”

“They are too late, the fools!” Darkstar howled victoriously as he slipped into the lift. The charging Klingon was too far away to stop them as the doors to the lift rumbled shut. Not before a single disruptor bolt flashed through between the closing doors and struck one of Darkstar’s guards right in the face, sending him sprawling lifeless to the ground.

Harry Mudd’s eyes widened as the man landed in a heap beside him.

“I...I must say my lord that this situation has become intolerable. Surely you have an escape plan?” Harry asked hopefully.

“Escape? Escape in our moment of triumph? Surely you overestimate their chances, Mudd.” Darkstar growled.

Harry shook his head but eyed the lightsaber dangling on Darkstar’s belt. Darkstar turned his head at the sudden interest and pinned Harry with his eyes.

“What are you thinking in that dim fat little mind Mudd?”

“Nothing your grace! Merely how you intend to slaughter these meaningless insects.” Mudd replied with a frozen grin.

“This is foolish, Darkstar. Give this up.” Anastasia implored. Darkstar smiled coldly at his concubine.

“No dear. It is they that will have to give up.” The lift rumbled and the sound like thunder unleashed roared overhead. “As you undoubtedly hear now the antipersonnel cannon is up and running. They will be torn to shreds and if there are any survivors I still have a surprise or two left for them. Skywalker and Kirk will rue the day they crossed me. And when this is over they will beg me for death.” Darkstar vowed.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 70: Unexpected Departures

Grand Admiral Thrawn stood, hands clasped behind his back staring at the expanse outside the view port of his quarters. His fleet was tightly clustered in low orbit of a blue green gas giant. Far too tightly clustered for his tastes but circumstances, strategy and the cruel mistress known as fate dictated that there was no other way to carry out the greatest hammer stroke against the sole organized resistance against Imperial control in the Alpha quadrant.

He had waited impatiently knowing that at any time the other powers would decide that the Empire’s goals were not jut for a single quadrant. They would not allow the Federation and its gallant Starfleet to slip into oblivion in the vain hope that Thrawn would halt his advance.

If they had any inkling as to the Emperor’s mandate they would throw every single ship and soldier into the breach against him.

Instead, they were content to sit back and wait. No one was ever eager to die.

But time was slipping by him and he knew it. How long before they would realize that there was no stopping his fleet? How long before they listened to Kirk’s envoys and realized that it was now or never? The Borg were gone, the Romulans defected, the Klingons were being bled dry and the Federation was only a handful of battles away from being destroyed and scattered to the winds. Without the great powers of the Alpha Quadrant how could they ever stand a chance?

With these thoughts starting to gnaw at him he started to feel a sense of urgency that he had not felt before. He could feel the ebb and flow of the war, the heavy tides of chance and initiative slipping around him and he did not like the way it was turning. There were too many enemies, too many angles and he needed to control every aspect of he was to complete his mission and achieve the impossible.

Galactic conquest. Never achieved in all the history of his own galaxy not even at the height of the mighty old Republic had a single commander taken a prize as vast as an entire galaxy.

But of course that was all consequential to the true reward that lay in wait for him. Oh what would those counselors and Sith lords think if they knew what was promised him?

Now he would be one step closer to victory with the oncoming battle. With Andor crushed the Federation would be out of bases and resources. They would be ground down to nothing in a new campaign he would launch immediately after the fall of Andor. In a matter of weeks the Federation and the Klingons would be arguing surrender terms instead of fighting him. Then he would have to make the great decision. Risk his flank and attack the other powers while Nemesis and his so called Imperium bided its time looking for weakness or attack the Imperium and risk bleeding his forces to the point where a successful conquest could be called into question.

These were the thorny questions that he was best at solving. He lived for these puzzles of tactics and strategy.

But now his intuition was telling him that something was about to happen.

As if in response to his thoughts a stardestroyer close to his center slowly rotated off axis, pointing away from the gas giant the fleet orbited and its engine nozzles flared up brightly like miniature suns.

Thrawn stiffened and a hand darted to the armored glass and touched it, as if he could reach out and grasp the mighty warship and pluck it from the stars. The Stardestroyer vanished in a flash of light and pseudo-motion as it entered hyperspace.

Thrawn’s hand drifted back away from the window as a chime sounded behind him.

He sighed softly.


Jerjerrod strode into the quarters holding a datapad and trying his best to look composed. He was flanked by a pair of stormtroopers. He glanced down at the pad and back up at Thrawn. He opened his mouth to speak but Thrawn raised a hand to interject.

Jerjerrod shut his mouth and stood at attention.

“Let me exercise some clear deductive reasoning Jerjerrod.” Thrawn began quietly as alarm lights began flashing silently at several displays in his quarters.


“First I assume that the communications division has verified the source of the coded beacon we picked up.”

“Yes sir.”

“It is as we suspected, a Sith emergency beacon.”

“Yes sir.” Jerjerrod replied his eyes on the Grand Admiral’s back. Thrawn stood back still to him looking out the view port, but Jerjerrod could tell that the Grand Admiral’s eyes were on Jerjerrod. Reduced to crimson slits were reflected in the armored glass as they regarded Jerjerrod with the interest of a surgeon.

“The Sith emergency beacon belongs to one Lord Darth Nemesis.”

“Yes sir and that’s why---”

Thrawn held his hand up again. Jerjerrod shut his mouth quickly.

“The information concerning this revelation was picked up by Lord Vader’s agents before it got to you.” Thrawn continued quietly.

“Yes sir.” Jerjerrod replied darkly.

“And as I suspected—” Thrawn was cut off by Admiral Piett’s appearance in his quarters.

“Grand Admiral, the Devastator has broken formation and gone to light speed.” Piett announced consternation etched on his face.

“Lord Vader has gone and done something rash.” Thrawn finished frostily.

“Sir?” Piett and Jerjerrod replied simultaneously.

“It seems that Vader’s inspection of his old command ship was just a veiled attempt to put himself into position to do just what he has done.” Thrawn explained.

“You don’t mean to say that he broke formation and the security of the fleet to try and investigate this beacon? It makes no sense. Without independent confirmation he could be heading for a trap or a simple mistake.” Piett protested.

“He has other means of conformation, far more esoteric means.” Thrawn replied.

“His Force.” Jerjerrod whispered.

“And with his rash decision to answer the beacon he has thrown this entire assault tomorrow into tumult.” Thrawn said coolly and finally turned to face the growing entourage in his quarters.

“Grand Admiral, we have the ships and the firepower to blast our way into Andor.” Piett said with grim resolve.

“True enough Admiral Piett but that is not the plan and never was the plan. There are times when brute force is absolutely required but this is not such a time. Vader was the key to a relatively bloodless victory and now he has decided to pursue his own agenda.”

“We can track him. His last known trajectory was marked and we can pursue.” Jerjerrod suggested.

“And what would we do then?” Thrawn asked.

“Order him to return to the fleet. Remind him of his duties to the Empire and this command.”

Thrawn shook his head ruefully.

“I have the most distinct feeling Captain that Lord Vader has acquiesced to following my orders up to this point because it did not counter his own agenda. I’m afraid that this time my orders would be meaningless. As the lord of the Sith he has certain…prerogatives that cannot be denied.”

“This is madness Grand Admiral. The fleet is poised to strike, we were ready and the longer we wait behind this gas giant the higher the chances are that Federation sensors will pick us up so close to Andor.” Piett noted with grave concern.

“If they already haven’t picked us up with the Devastator’s jump to light speed.” Jerjerrod added.

Thrawn nodded and glanced at each man for a moment before speaking again.

“No, we will hold position. I suspect that if the Federation had picked us up we would know about it. Instead we will hold position and do what every military commander in history has been loathe to do gentlemen.”


Thrawn pursed his lips and his crimson eyes reduced to slits.

“We wait.” He answered and turned his back to the commanders.

They did not need to be told that they had been dismissed. Piett filed out of the room and Jerjerrod sharply turned as well to leave.

“Jerjerrod.” Thrawn called quietly.

“Grand Admiral?”

“The next time you enter my quarters with armed guards I will have you permanently dealt with is that understood?”

“Sir I do not understand.” Jerjerrod stammered.

“Those are not my personal squad of stormtroopers. It is a dangerous time and I have to be cautious Captain. You would not want me to suspect that there are ulterior motives to your bringing guards I do not know into my own quarters-” Thrawn turned his head to pin Jerjerrod with a steely unflinching gaze. “Would you?”

“No sir. Of course not. I serve only you sir!” Jerjerrod protested. In the back of his mind there was a dim blurry memory, like a half remembered dream of a stern voice asking him who he served. ‘I serve only you my lord.’ ‘Excellent.’ The voice replied. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and he grimaced in pain. Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the young Captain.

“Indeed. That is the only warning I will ever give you Jerjerrod. I respect your talents and you have been an invaluable right arm but I will brook no threat to my command. If I were you I would think on these words. Dismissed.” Thrawn said coldly.

Jerjerrod snapped a crisp salute and turned on his heel striding out of the quarters.

“It is almost time.” Thrawn noted as he watched the young commander leave. He walked over to the comlink on his desk and flipped it on.


“Double the watch on Khan and post one of your best men on Jerjerrod. Also inform the medical department that it may soon be time for an in depth physical of the command staff.”

“As you wish Grand Admiral.”

Thrawn snapped the comlink off and tapped an index finger on the edge of his desk in a precise rhythm.

The screaming wind of the dead and poisoned world increased in pitch, thick black clouds of soot and debris scraped the sides of the burned out hulks of fossilized buildings. Four figures huddled under the wreckage of an ancient flying vehicle imbedded in the side of one of the structures.

Picard coughed as the thick ash and dust settled around him, driven by the unrelenting wind.

“We cannot stay here much longer and maintain any reasonable hope of overtaking the Queen.” R-7 noted quietly.

“Indeed.” Picard replied wearily as he tried to peer through the thick haze. Somewhere out there she was racing towards her destiny and he could not shake the feeling that he was as well. His entire life seemed to shrink to these handful of empty moments before the final decision.

“I know I’m slowing you down, Captain. Just leave me here. I’ll set up a makeshift shelter, tend to my injuries and join you as quickly as I can.” Archer stated grimly as he shifted weight off his wounded leg and leaned more heavily against a dirt encrusted beam that jutted deep into the center of the makeshift cave. It was hard for him to imagine that this artifact dated back to the birth of the Borg Collective.

Picard turned and looked back at the young erstwhile captain.

“He has been slowing our pace dramatically, Captain. We have slowed from our initial pace by 40%.” R-7 added helpfully.

“Thank you R-7.” Archer interjected frostily.

“I’m afraid that I do not run my command in that manner, Captain Archer. We’re doing this together.”

“You’re a damned fool, Captain.” Picard frowned. “With all due respect of course.” Archer added.

“Captain Archer is correct. We need to reach the Queen and intercept her. Otherwise we risk the return of the Borg Collective.” Seven stated evenly. She did not try to acknowledge the aching in her breast at the thought of leaving Archer behind in this wasteland.

“We’re not sure she can do that at this point. We’re not sure what she’s going to do once she reaches that lab.” Picard replied weakly.

Archer shook his head.

“No, I’m not going to let you do this Captain. She’s going to restart the Collective and you know it. Then we’ll have the Empire and the Borg and frankly sir, I think anyone in this galaxy would rather live under the heel of the Empire than live as a drone in the Collective.”

“I would prefer neither of the options.” Picard muttered and looked into the young Captain’s eyes. “I’m not about to leave a member of my crew behind while I can help it. Otherwise would I be any different from her, using my fellows as throw away units, easily cast off when the whim suits me?”

“You’re over thinking this Picard. The worst part is that you know it. You remember the command fitness exams. What was the most difficult part?”

“Yes, I do remember.” Picard whispered. Every commander was tested extensively on various skills integral to a line officer. The last test was one that forced you to sacrifice the life of a crewman in order to save the mission or the ship. It was hard to look a man in the face, especially one that you knew and cared for and order them to essentially die.

Archer was being none too subtle in his reference. He knew precisely what it would mean to be left behind.

Picard searched Archer’s eyes for any hint of recrimination. He found only stalwart determination and wondered briefly whether the Federation could ever find herself in a state of abject defeat with men like these. Pride stirred in his heart but also cold realization loomed that he would have to make a decision he had hoped not to make.

“Captain.” Seven began. “Her goal is a simple one, Recreate a Central unimatrix here on this planet and rebuild the Borg Collective. No doubt she intends to recreate the Borg in secret and strike when the Empire least suspects it. Our last standing orders from Starfleet were clear. Destroy the Borg by any means necessary. Right now the Queen is all that remains of the Borg.”

“They’ll never be more vulnerable, Picard.” Archer urged.

“Captain Archer.” Picard stated tightly.


“I’m going to need you to stay here and guard the base camp. We will be proceeding on in pursuit of the Queen.” Picard ordered softly.

“Aye aye sir. You can count on me.” Archer replied and groaned as he finally relaxed and slumped down to the floor. Seven turned away for a moment, anguish clawing at the back of her throat, making her want to cry out. She quickly composed herself and knelt by Archer.

She rummaged in her survival rucksack and handed him several tubes.

“You will need nourishment. There is no telling how long we will be gone.”

Archer smiled at Seven as he accepted the food concentrates. He gently reached out and brushed back a stray lock of blonde hair.

“You know, I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t tell you how much I loved you Annika.”

“Please do not…”

Archer placed a single finger on her lips. He shook his head sadly.

“I’ll be waiting here for you.” Archer promised, seeing only her face as he spoke despite the throbbing pain in his leg and the exhaustion setting into his limbs. “I’ll be waiting for you because when you get back Annika I plan to marry you and take you away from all of this mess to some domestic bliss.”

Seven blinked.

“I…do not know…I am not sure it is a good…”

“We’ll talk about it when you get back.” Archer chuckled softly.

“I will be back.” She replied without thinking, the words coming unbidden. She was surprised by the ferocity in her vow.

“That’s my girl.” Archer finished and without further prompting leaned forward and kissed her, gently and furtive at first and she stiffened at the contact but her lips welcomed his of their own accord and the hunger for him that had been slowly stirring within her uncoiled. She returned the kiss and pressed her hands on his cheeks and tried to draw the moment out as long as she could, as if she wanted this whole experience to be the be the sum totality of her existence.

The war, the terror, the death could all be held at bay even for just a moment by the power of this man’s kiss and she did not want it to end.

“I find human rituals of farewell far too complicated to comprehend.” R-7 commented as he looked over at Picard. Picard smiled and touched the android’s shoulder.

“Come on R-7. Let’s take one last look around before we head out after her.”

“I take it my orders are clear?” R-7 asked as they began to exit the artificial cave.

“Indeed they are R-7. We have to kill her, no matter the cost.”

“Rituals of war on the other hand are simple and I am quite adept at carrying them out.” R-7 replied and switched the power core of his phaser rifle to max kill setting. Picard turned at the entrance and looked back at the young Captain and the ex Borg drone as their lips parted. The bitter sweet joy in their eyes made him briefly wonder if he would ever find such love. He ignored the cold calculating part of him that wondered whether he would even leave this planet alive.

“Captain Archer.”

“Captain Picard.”

“I will be seeing you soon. Otherwise, it has been an honor and a pleasure.”

“Same here, sir. It’s not every day I get to serve under a living legend. But do me one favor. Kick her ass.”

“Consider it done.” Picard smiled and nodded to the young captain before exiting the cave.

“And you?” Archer asked Seven huskily.

“You will see me soon…and then we can discuss domesticity. I have my own ideas that we should explore together.” She replied. Archer laughed loudly and slapped his knee.

“Well then I guess we have a date.”

Seven gently caressed her fingers across his face, down to his chin and then lay her index finger against his lips, as she stood she brought the index finger to her own lips. She walked backwards, unwilling to take her eyes away from him. She finally reached the entrance of the cave.

Archer waved slowly to her.

“Be seeing you.”

She nodded and began to turn to step away. Paused. She turned her face to look at him.

“I have discovered that in the end I too cannot part with you without telling you that in my limited human experience, I do believe that I too love you Jonathan Archer.” She could not bear to say anymore and she exited the cave.

Archer sat in silence for a long while. The only sound was the low moan of the wind as it blew through the artificial caverns. He hummed slightly off tune and opened up a tricorder and checked his leg again.

“You know what sucks? Love stories like this never end well.” He muttered to himself and resumed humming into the cold dirty wind.

She watched them, struggling like tiny ants through a litter strewn field. They struggled through the overturned vehicles, shattered towers and piles of debris and refuse. They were moving with a determined pace and a murderous intent she smiled coldly at their wasted efforts.

“How valiant of you Locutus.” She whispered.

Her left hand was methodically typing string of code into an interface port.

“You know that you don’t stand a chance yet you still come. This dead world refuses to give you an inch and yet you come and most important of all, you know that the Collective might be the only chance against the Empire yet still you come.” She finished entering the codes and a deep bass rumble began to grow louder as if a great engine had been awakened from a long fitful slumber.

“I wonder Locutus what you would do if you did confront me. Would you follow through with your mission or would you look at the larger picture?” A massive crimson stained metal giant slowly rose up behind the queen. Extending four limbs out with a loud click whir of gears and stabilizers the armored giant rose to its full height. On each arm a multi-barreled railgun spun with a whisper of steel on steel as slugs were loaded into the ready position from belts feeding into the railguns from a central armory housed in the giant’s back.

The Queen smiled and ran a hand along the giant’s armored torso.

“You can kill me and end the threat of the Collective forever, consigning your precious Federation and the galaxy itself to eternal slavery at the hands of the Empire. Or allow me to resurrect the only tool that can possibly stand up to the greatest threat this galaxy has ever seen. What would you decide then Locutus?” The Queen murmured as the armored giant focused emerald eyes on her.

“You have your mission parameters?” She asked.

“Three to four targets inbound. Mission: Annihilate.” The war machine rumbled like a Titan.

“Excellent.” She replied and looked past the ancient war machine to the Ziggurat structure that was the goal of her quest. At the top lay the foundations of the ancient Collective and the promise of a new Collective.

“Resistance is futile.” The war machine rumbled.

“Indeed.” She smiled.

The Metrons were silent in contemplation. The Organians had called for yet another council of elders to discuss the impending end. The great darkness had consumed more than two thirds of eternity. The paradox of this very statement was simply another to be added to the weight of the paradoxes that had consumed this universe.

The species known as man had shown splendid promise. They were forthright and driven and most important of all evolving towards a higher state of consciousness. They were taking those first tentative steps into a new world. One day in the distant future of this galaxy they would ascend to a place among the elders.

But now they had done something unexpected.

They had destroyed the universe.

And there was nothing the elders could do. The Organians were unable to break their long tradition of non interference, even if it meant their own end and the Continuum was as much an enigma now as ever. The Metrons lacked the strength to stop the darkness.

So they did all that they had left to them. They contemplated fate and its many complexities in the fading hope that an answer could be provided to them. In the end, they were coming to the slow realization that the only being that could turn the tide was man himself. The creator of this doom was the only one that could cure it. If only they could find the strength among themselves to carry this out.

They were reminded that one of the great leaders of men struggling against the doom was James Kirk, a human that they were familiar with. It was James Kirk that had made the Metrons aware of humanity. He displayed the courage to embrace mercy against a fallen foe and in his defiant eyes they saw a future for this species that had only recently struggled from self annihilation.

Perhaps this was an encouraging sign.

Or perhaps they were scrabbling for hope in whatever scraps destiny had let fall from her table.

Suddenly the Metrons felt it. The very air around them seemed to thicken like paste and their disembodied energy selves faded into physical shells that they reserved for interaction with lesser developed species. The change was rapid, sudden and painful.

The Metrons screamed in pain and their minds immediately swept up and outward to discover the source of this attack. The ethereal plane of their existence was filled with a roiling darkness, vomited forth from an unknown source. The darkness was seething with hatred and rage. The most powerful of the Metrons could see past the rage and followed the shadows to their source. A metal artificial moon that had suddenly appeared over the Metron home world.

Alarm swept through collective consciousness of the Metrons as they deciphered the intent of the moon. They also sensed the source of the anger and unknown energy field. A voice boomed from the artificial moon as a massive energy cannon powered up.

“There is only room for one god in this universe.”

The death star unleashed its titanic energy beam and the Metron home world was blasted into a sea of mountain sized debris. The Metrons that were still trapped in their physical shells were blasted as well, consumed in the death of their home world. Many were able to flee, some half mad into a far plane of existence, wrenched from their physical shells by sheer force of will, torn from flesh and blood into cold energy their minds could not withstand the horrid transition and some were left half mad screaming into the ether, others floated in concepts and dimensions far flung in absolute silence in a state that could best be described as catatonic.

The few survivors that still had their minds and powers intact from the attack found themselves swept up in a tempest of crimson wrath, summoned by a supremely dark will and the Metrons struggled against this storm, many were torn apart, their energy selves painfully vulnerable to this attack.

A precious few managed to slip the hungry the maw of the Force storm and fled into the deep abyss far far away. The Metrons were scattered, divided and lost. All this happened in the span of moments.

The Emperor on his throne turned away from the spectacle of a dying world expanding in a thick cloud of fire and ash. The dark cloaked young humanoid knelt before his master.

“Your power knows no bounds my master.”

The Emperor smiled coldly as he contemplated the kneeling warrior.

“Remember well the lessons you learn here my friend. This is only the beginning. When this war is over, when all our goals are achieved we will shape a universe with our own will.”

“At last we will ascend to our rightful place, at last we are no longer troubled by the Jedi. This will be a great time.”

“Yes indeed we will. Now prepare for the next operation. Your services will be needed sooner than expected my friend. I fear that the Sith lords I have left here are slowly turning from my will and they will need to be disciplined.”

The young humanoid rose from his kneeling position, a hand going unconsciously to his double bladed lightsaber hilt. From the deep shadows of his cloak a clod white smile was clearly visible.

“I look forward to that moment my master. These Skywalkers have vexed you long enough. They will soon learn the harsh realities of the dark side. They will learn the folly of crossing you and I will be a harsh teacher.” He vowed.

“Go then my young apprentice and prepare for the lessons you must teach. You are my finest warrior bar none and I will soon unleash you on this unsuspecting place.”

The black cloaked apprentice bowed deeply and stepped away from the throne. He strode out of the audience chamber as crimson armored royal guards snapped to attention. The Emperor watched him leave. His presence was a miracle but one that he would never admit to.

“Like him eh?” Gary asked softly from behind the throne. The silver eyed god watched the Emperor with a veiled gaze.

“He has always been my most faithful student.” The Emperor replied neutrally.

“I admire you Palpatine. Even when I first called him forth you never once showed surprise or amazement.” Gary leaned in close to the Emperor’s left ear. The Emperor did not flinch or react. There was only cold confidence that this was a meeting of equals.

“I would hate to play poker with you.” Gary confided with a smile.

“Is games all you can talk about? The final plan is ready to come to fruition and you stand here admiring your own handiwork. I think it is time that we finally finish this.” The Emperor replied sharply.

“Patience Palpatine. You took over a galaxy in a lifetime of patience and political and not so political moves. You of all people should understand the concept of waiting for the precise moment to strike. After all what took you a lifetime I propose to do in a matter of days for an entire universe.”

“All may be going as I have foreseen but the future is growing darker and more difficult to see. The far sight is failing me as we get closer to the appointed time.”

“It’s to be expected, I warned you that as the entropic wave consumed more and more of reality that the threads of fate and destiny would unravel to the point where all attempts at precognition would end in failure. That works to our advantage Palpatine. The others will not see us coming.”

“Indeed. I however prefer seeing where I am going.”

“Leave that to me.”

“You will not be offended if I do not.” The Emperor replied without hesitation.

“Of course not, Palpatine. As long as in the end we both agree on what must be done. You do what you want until then and I’ll do my part.”

Gary bowed his head and vanished. Palpatine turned his throne slowly back to the view port and watched the last of the Metron home world extinguish itself in the hard unyielding void.

“All that is left is the attempt.” Palpatine whispered.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 71: Reaping the Whirlwind Part III

The angry young man stood stoically in the admiral’s quarters, hands clasped behind his back as he contemplated the older man. He was conspicuously flanked by two stormtroopers.

“You may be seated Commander Shinzon.” Grand Admiral Kittaine indicated the chair in front of the tall young bald human.

“I prefer to stand.” Shinzon replied.

“As you wish.” Kittaine nodded and watched Shinzon for a moment. The young human was an anomaly amongst the Romulans. But he was also a valuable find. Considering the storm that was coming, Kittaine had no choice but to exploit this new resource.

“Tell me Commander, do you know why you’re here?”

“I am mystified Grand Admiral. However, I also know that the Romulan fleet is being mobilized for extended duty.”

“Indeed. For someone who many consider an outsider in your government you are remarkably informed.”

Shinzon smiled coldly.

“I may be an outsider to the Romulans but I had been moving among them for sometime from the shadows.”

“Yes, I am well aware of this.” Kittaine peered down at a datapad. Shinzon kept his eyes on the Admiral and ignored the pad and the guards. The coming of the Empire had left him stranded in a sort of political limbo. His home world reduced to rubble he had lost much of his support but he still had his contact and his one ace in the hole that he had recently played before he vanished into the oblivion of those without power.

“You were instrumental in providing us with the new Scimitar assault cruisers that we have begun producing.”

“They were a gift to Lord Nemesis and his Imperium.” Shinzon explained.

Kittaine stared at Shinzon hard for a moment.

“I see. It has nothing to do with the fact that you were placed in a precarious position with our arrival?”

“I don’t think I under---”

“My agents are well aware that you were on the verge of executing a coup against the Romulan government and that the Scimitar was to be provided as a gift to the admiralty in order to gain their support.”

Shinzon frowned. He had not counted on the Imperium figuring out the plots that were circulating before their arrival. Unfortunately he should have expected it since many of these agents that Kittaine mentioned were former Tal-Shiar who were collapsed into the new Imperium security forces. He certainly did not expect to be confronted about it. A simple thank you and a shift to a post somewhere off world would have been more welcome.

“I will not deny such reports but in the end does that change anything Grand Admiral?”

“Perhaps not, but it brings your loyalty into question.”

“Why? Because I gave the Imperium a mighty gift? If that is being disloyal Grand Admiral—”

“Don’t be coy Shinzon. I’ve read your dossier. You’re a warrior and a leader but you’ve been a member of a disenfranchised group for most of your life, you’re human which is even more stunning in this society and you’re home world was recently destroyed. I have to wonder where you stand at this point.”

Shinzon began to pace but the stormtroopers’ sudden snap of weapons at the ready made him think twice about that decision.

“Perhaps you can lower the lights a bit Grand Admiral.”

“You’re human not Reman Shinzon. Let’s get to the point shall we?”

What was the old man trying to get at? He knew enough about this Imperium to understand that if Kittaine was indeed concerned about his loyalty he would be dead by now. So what game was he playing?

“Let us be absolutely clear then Grand Admiral.” Shinzon began hotly, eyes boring into Kittaine’s. “It was the Federation that destroyed my home world using their infernal world eating machine, it was the Federation that reduced my home world to a tomb when they activated their weapon of mass destruction in the opening days of this war. They are the source of my hatred and anger and I will indeed have my revenge.”

Kittaine nodded satisfactorily.

“That’s what I thought. I wanted to hear it from your lips, Admiral.”

Shinzon tried his best to hide his surprise but failed miserably. Kittaine offered him a datapad. Shinzon hesitantly took it. He scanned the datapad while furiously trying to figure out what just happened.

“I am putting you in command of the first wing of Scimitars that have been constructed at your shipyards. You will be responsible for the defense of the home world should we have to pull a significant number of Imperium ships to combat a growing threat.”

“Thrawn.” Shinzon concluded.

“What makes you say that?”

“If this were Kirk and his paltry Federation remnant you would not have to pull most of the main Imperium fleet off the line. You could easily hunt him with the Scimitars you have on hand at this point.”

“You are sharp. It looks as if I have made a good decision. And now let me try to make one more decision that could save your world and help the Imperium in the coming war.” Kittaine stated and leaned forward over his desk.

“As the humans say I’m all ears.” Shinzon replied with a cool smile.

“These so called perfect cloaks of yours…how compatible are they with Imperium technology?”

“Everyone duck!” Kirk shouted as a blast tore through the grounds around them heaving steaming earth up into geysers.

“We have to suppress that weapon!” Worf shouted as he tried to get a shot off at the anti personnel cannon unleashing such fury at their group. Scotty was limping over with McCoy at his side. The lift doors were sealed shut and Kirk desperately needed to get Scotty to the control panel in the hope that they could get the doors open.

“I’m open to suggestion Chancellor!” Kirk shouted back as another volley ripped down a line behind them, showering the defenders with hot earth and stone.

“Captain, if you allow me.” Someone shouted as they passed in a flash.


“Jim! It’s Luke!” Leia exclaimed.

Luke raced past the pinned defenders as the cannon crew caught sight of him charging their position. They laughed. The cannon was set up on a second level catwalk over the lift. There was no access anywhere nearby and the catwalk was ten meters off the ground. What was the mad man trying to accomplish charging their gun?

“Give him a shot for Lord Darkstar!”

The crew cheered as they recharged the weapon and began firing. The angry crimson beams lanced out hungrily searching for Luke. He smiled grimly as the beams flashed by his head mere inches away. He was nearly at the wall, pain pike snapped up into a ready position.

“What’s that fool going to do? Jump?” Worf snapped.

“You know something, Chancellor, I think that’s precisely what he’s going to do.” Kirk muttered as Luke leapt up in mid-stride and soared towards the catwalk. The gunnery crew stared in amazement at the feat, while some had the presence of mind to fumble for their weapons and fired a blazing criss cross of disruptor and phaser fire. Luke tucked in and rolled, passing between the beams as if he knew where they were going to be before the gunners did. He continued soaring up in a tight roll right over the gunners’ heads.

Luke landed behind them on the catwalk in a low crouch, just in time to avoid a lashing beam of green disruptor energy meant to blow a hole in his chest, instead it only managed to blow a fist sized chunk out of the marble wall behind them.

Luke lashed out with his pain pike, taking the legs out from under two of the gunners. As they fell he rose quickly and lashed out with the bladed end of the pike and cut off the hand of another gunner. The maimed henchmen screamed in pain and held his ruined stump, blood spraying out in time with his heartbeats.

The two gunners on the floor scrambled up to their feet as quickly as they could but to no avail as Luke casually snapped the blunt end of the pain pike across their chins, sending their heads crashing backwards against the catwalk grating. He took one last look at the fallen guards as the maimed one collapsed to the floor staring at his ruined hand.

“I would try a tourniquet as soon as possible if you want to live.” Luke cautioned.

“Are we clear?” Kirk called up.

“You’re clear from up here, Captain.” Disruptor fire exploded around the lift area as more guards poured in from other points in the massive rotunda on the catwalks above and side entrances. “Let me clear that up Captain, you’re clear from my end, let me help you out.”

Luke took a hold of the anti personnel cannon, quickly scanned the controls. This beast was a power hog and would over heat quickly. Without a crew helping him he could only get a few volleys off before the generator or the barrel started to cook, so he had to make every shot count.

Luke aimed carefully and pressed the firing stud.

The cannon kicked in his hands like a wild Bantha as it spat out a lethal spray of crimson energy that sliced its way up the far wall and tore through the far right catwalk, reducing men and metal into a fine mist.

Kirk turned back to Scotty.

“C’mon Scotty, we don’t have much time.”

“He is a great warrior even if he is responsible for the death of millions of my people.” Worf mused as he watched the young black garbed warrior with growing respect.

“I’m right here sair!” Scotty exclaimed as he reached the control panel.

“Did we miss the party?” Uhura called out as she and Chewbacca charged in to help cover the door.

“You’re just in time for the main event. What’s the matter Scotty?”

“I canna get this housing cover off to get to the controls and I’m afraid of just blasting it off.” He complained as he tried vainly to peel the main panel’s cover off. Chewbacca growled and reached over, pulling the housing clear off with a loud squeal of metal giving way. The Wookie casually flipped the ruined housing cover over his shoulder.

Scotty smiled at Chewbacca and nodded approvingly.

“Thank you lad.” Scotty immediately turned to work on the panel.

“This is madness you know, Kirk.” Mara snapped as she joined Kirk and Leia crouched by the door and returning fire at the gathering guards.

“Oh? What part?” Kirk asked sardonically.

“Laugh now if you will but you’ll be praying for the Imperial reinforcements to arrive soon enough if this gets any hotter.”

“Imperials?! Why would those heathens be coming here now?” Scotty asked as he fished among the glowing ODN relays and found the chip he was looking for.

“The nice young lady here called for them.” Kirk explained.

Scotty muttered something dark as he pulled the chip and quickly worked to reroute the others.

“That about sums up my feelings on the matter as well Mr. Scott.” Leia added.

“If you ask me, this mission passed the point of being suicide when you let them rip my earlobe off.” McCoy added.

“Doctor, it was part of the plan.” Spock noted as he arrived toting an extra disruptor rifle which he handed to a very grateful Worf.

“And whose idea was it to put the transmitter in my earlobe?” McCoy muttered.

“Yours.” Sulu replied as he fired a long volley up at a group of guards inching closer to their position along the far left catwalk.

“And whose idea was it to tell those animals about it?” McCoy added angrily.

Kirk looked pensive for a moment.

“Don’t remember if it was mine or Mudd’s.” he admitted.

McCoy shook his head and sighed.

“I never thought this plan would ever hinge on Harry Mudd.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“Says who?” McCoy demanded as a disruptor bolt splashed against the armored lift door.

“Watch out, the big ship’s making a run on the Sagan.”

“He’s not even going to get close enough to get a clear shot boss.” Hobbie vowed. His X-Wing dove straight through a hail of disruptor fire and fired a volley into the Raider’s forward weapons array, slicing through its shields with an explosive impact the sent the Raider tumbling out of control.

“Let’s close up the gaps in our lines, we’re getting too spread out.” Wedge cautioned as he gunned his engines and was rewarded with a gut wrenching acceleration. “Good work on the engines, R2.” Wedge commented. Only a few minutes ago his X-Wing had been powerless, forced to be dragged along by the Sagan on one of her tractor beams until repairs could be completed.

The astromech droid responded with an enthusiastic series of beeps and whistles.

“Roger that sir.”

Rogue Squadron continued pitching in and out of the fight, keeping the much larger Orion defensive fleet off balance. The Sagan kept her distance, firing in support of the X-Wings and trying to maintain a sensor lock on the palace below. Darkstar’s transport scramblers were still up and running but Captain Entebbe had been told to keep an eye out for the field dropping and that would be his single to get the group the hell out of the hornet’s nest.

“Oh, oh, looks like more reinforcements in bound from the far side of the system.” His XO warned as a new series of readings came up on their station displays. Entebbe grunted. The one advantage to being in a fight on a science vessel was that you were painfully aware of your surroundings at all times. Science vessel sensor suites were the most powerful the Federation had developed.

“Is that?”

“Yes it is sir, capital ship class.”

“I wasn’t aware the Orions had anything remotely like that.”

“With this war raging I have a feeling that Darkstar has been very busy raiding the battlefields for new ships.” His XO noted. Entebbe switched to the fleet channel.

“Wedge, you and the rogues watch your backs, we’re reading a capital class ship inbound. We’re trying to ascertain ship class but she’s big and her power consumption curves indicate an attack cruiser of some kind.”

“Well, Captain, I’d say its time to hike up our pants because the Bantha poodoo we’re in is starting to get deep.” Wedge replied.

“Get me readings on that capital ship. What is she?”

“We’re trying sir.”

The battle continued to rage outside as Orion raiders traded fire with the far more nimble X-wings. Fires blossomed around the warships and beams lanced through the darkness searching for targets.

Two X-Wings split just before going head to head with a large raider and each one attacked a nacelle, destroying it in a rain of bright red fire. The raider’s lights dimmed and weapons fire dwindled to stray random shots as the ship’s power core died.

One X-Wing spun wildly as a detonation from a photon torpedo clipped it. A raider rose to intercept the helpless X-Wing when the Sagan brought herself between the X-Wing and the Raider’s weapons fire.

“I have confirmation, she’s definitely Klingon, tentatively identified as a Vor’cha class attack cruiser.”

“Damnit. Those are nasty bastards.” Entebbe snapped.

“Reading an escort of modified raiders, up gunned and overpowered.” His XO looked up at Entebbe. “These are obviously Darkstar’s heavy hitters.”

“Well, there you have it, the party just got interesting.” Entebbe muttered.

The Klingon cruiser arrived on the scene in moments as she led her escort of Orion raiders and announced her presence with a series of heavy disruptor fire, several strikes which battered the Sagan and collapsed her port side shields.

Entebbe held onto his command seat and shouted out commands as bridge lights flickered.

“Reestablishing port shields!”

“Captain reading fluctuations on port side nacelles…damn we’re venting plasma!” his engineer reported.

“Helm bring us about, defense pattern Gamma, fire all phasers time on target to the Vor’cha’s nearest nacelle. Torpedoes?”

“We have two full spreads left in the banks sir.”

“Engineering lock down that plasma leak and shunt all non essential power to re establish shields.”

“Aye sir!”

“This is Rogue leader to Sagan, we’re taking this beast head on. Withdraw to 210 mark 29, we cleared the path for you.” Wedge cut in.

“Roger that Rogue leader, we’re complying but be careful, that thing was built for pure combat unlike these raiders we’ve been tangling with and if there’ anything the Klingons can build well, its warships.”

The X-Wings quickly formed up in a flying wedge and raced towards the Klingon warship. As they rapidly closed the distance Wedge noticed that the Vor’cha cruiser had seen far better days. The dusky emerald hull was patched in several places with dull gunmetal gray armor and the port nacelle was missing several components, the red bussard collector was cracked and glowed intermittingly. But she was still dangerous as her opening volley had proven.

“I think this might be the right time to start using out torpedoes, boss?” Wes suggested.

“I couldn’t agree with you more.” Wedge replied. He set up his targeting system to missile lock on with a flick of a stud on his control stick. “Try to concentrate on the engines and weapons, we may not get another pass like this one.”

Back on the Sagan, Entebbe’s XO whistled softly as he saw the wedge of X-Wings closing with the Vor’cha.

“They’re going right down its throat.”

Entebbe’s eyes widened as the X-Wings began receiving heavy fire and the torpedoes parted from the fighters in bright blue plumes of plasma. They raced towards the big cruiser as it immediately began evasive maneuvers.

The big ship was too slow and the first wave of torpedoes struck with devastating effectiveness. The first few tore through the heavy shields, its energy field flaring up dramatically as it was overwhelmed by the high impact blast. The right nacelle was blown completely off its housing and the nose mounted disruptor cannon was blown clear deep into the hull of the warship. Despite the massive damage, the ship was till in fighting condition. She fired off another salvo that caught one of the last X-Wings as it almost completed its high G turn out of the attack run.

The X-Wing spun madly trailing a glittering stream of molten metal and hot gasses.

“Helm, take us in quick, see if we can’t scoop her out of the line of fire, transporter room, get a clear lock on the pilot and get ready to beam him aboard.” Entebbe ordered.

“Sir.” His XO warned.

“We’re almost there.” Entebbe urged as the Sagan soared towards the stricken X-Wing.

“Sir…there’s something on our warning display.”

“We’re surrounded by enemy ships, what else could be on our warning display.”

“Warning, hyperspace emergence in grid 22.” the soft female voice of the computer warned.

“Oh no.” Entebbe breathed.

An Imperial stardestroyer emerged from hyperspace in a blast of bright white light. A frenzy of green turbolaser fire erupted with its arrival and the closest Orion raiders scattered or were blown to their component atoms with the opening barrage. The mighty warship soared through the wreckage unhindered and made a course straight for the planet. TIE fighters were slowly dispersing out from the hangar bay in tight formations as three assault shuttles formed up beneath the ship.

“Transmission coming through on all frequencies.”

“Put it through.”

“Once again this is the Imperial Stardestroyer Adjudicator. There will be no mercy for those that oppose us. If you value your lives Orion scum, you are to stand down and make way or be destroyed.”

“This is what we call out of the frying pan.” Entebbe sighed heavily.

“My most humble apologies for doubting you my lord.” Harry Mudd pleaded as they stepped off the lift.

Darkstar nodded absently as they stepped out of the lift.

“This will be the shortest way to the safe room. From there I can control and direct my troops and then we will see why no one has challenged my power in generations.” Darkstar vowed. “Then you will see why it was foolish to doubt me in the first place bloated one.”

“Yes, I am beginning to see that.” Harry replied biting back the scathing come back that followed.

“Sir we must hurry.” His remaining guard urged as he keyed the code to enter the level.

“Of course, I cannot wait to crush those fools. In fact I have a perfect plan, do you know what this level is, Mudd?”

“I can’t say that I do.” Hurry answered as he watched the lightsaber on Darkstar’s belt dangling tantalizingly close.

“It is where I keep my growing clone army.”

“Clone army but I thought that was all hogwash.” Mudd protested. “The delusions of a fevered mind, the ramblings of an off kilter conscience, the ---”

“Mudd do shut up! It took many resources and men to get me a working clone facility from one of the Cardasian border worlds at the close of the Dominion war. Now I will soon have an army of Jem’Hadar loyal to me and me alone and I will sweep my armies across this wretched quadrant and become the preeminent power.”

Mudd smirked. This was almost clichéd and amusing if the bastard did not truly believe it.

The armored blast doors hissed open.

“Step through with me Harry Mudd and watch the power that I command.” Darkstar announced grandly. The guard began to step through when a dozen shadowy forms jumped on him and the guard barely had time to let out a strangled scream before a bloody crunching sound ceased all movement and sound from the hapless victim.

“Damnit!!” Mudd exclaimed and jumped back. Anastasia screamed and started to run as a dozen Jem'Hadar, some in varying states of growth, missing patches of skin, exposed muscles and tendons scrambled into the lift area. Murderous fury in their eyes they approached Darkstar who was standing still before them. Anastasia frantically banged on the lift door. Mudd looked past the Jem’Hadar and saw a legion of them gathering at the door.

Darkstar was unmoved by the sight of his impending death. Perhaps he was madder than Mudd had ever imagined.

“My sweet Anastasia, Mudd if you value your lives you’ll come closer to me.”

“Are you insane Darkstar! We have to get out of here!” She screamed as more Jem’Hadar passed into the lift area. They were gathering like a swarm.

“I will say nothing more then. Die where you stand or come to me and live.” Darkstar stated grimly and began walking towards the Jem’Hadar horde.

“You will be the first to die!” One of the Jem’Hadar shouted and charged. He stopped short as if hitting a brick wall. The Jem’Hadar screamed and fell to the floor, writhing like a snake.

Mudd knew a good thing when he saw one and rushed over to Darkstar’s side. Darkstar turned and regarded Anastasia with a cold smile. He extended his hand.

“Come love, unless you want to know what it feels like to be rent limb from limb.” He stated.

Anastasia gasped as she saw the Jem’Hadar edging around Darkstar, several who came too close collapsed onto the floor and screamed in agony. She ran over to him and desperately took his hand. Darkstar smile as he walked towards the door. The Jem’Hadar reacted instinctively and pulled back away from him. The Jem’Hadar that had fallen and remained closest to him stopped moving and lay still.

“What is going on if you don’t mind my asking my lord?” Mudd asked eyes wide with fear and apprehension as they walked into the cloning chambers. Each chamber was lit and the hatches were wide open. Deep white mists poured from the chamber and warning lights were frantically pulsing.

“I will make them pay for this sabotage.” Darkstar snarled. “An entire army ruined by their actions. Do you know how long it will take to put down the flawed ones and restart the process, the costs involved?” Darkstar lamented angrily.

“Uh, my gracious lord, this effect you have on these beasts?” Mudd pressed.

“Mudd you are a tiresome whelp. I should shove you outside the radius of my agonizer but you may yet be of some use to me.” Darkstar snapped.


“The implant you were talking about.” Anastasia breathed.

“Indeed my sweet dove, I have an implant in my right wrist that insures the loyalty of my clone troops. Any clone trooper within a certain radius of my body will suffer agonizing pain and if within the field long enough, death.”

“A most fortuitous decision.”

“One does not try to build an army of killers and takes no precautions, Mudd.” Darkstar regarded the sometime smuggler and ne’er do well and tapped his temple. “Always plans within plans. Darth Nemesis will learn that soon enough.”

The lift behind them shuddered and came to life rising up back to the palace.

“So, it looks as if Kirk and his crew have found their way to my lift.”

“I told you they were not ordinary men.” Anastasia countered defiantly.

“I would expect no less to challenge me.” Darkstar hissed. “You!” The Jem’Hadar who seemed to be the leader of the swarm regarded the little man with open contempt and anger. “You wish to be free do you not?”

“Yes.” It replied darkly.

“Kill those that come down that lift and I will give you your freedom.”

“And how do we know you will keep your word?” it asked angrily.

Darkstar smiled.

“Does it really matter? They will not hesitate to kill you and frankly, that lift leads to freedom and they will be all that stand between you and it. In the end you can seize your own freedom instead of begging it from me. So I ask you, will you let a handful of Starfleet officers and a mystical warrior from another galaxy stand between you and freedom?”

The Jem’Hadar first slowly looked back from Darkstar to the lift doors. Mudd noticed that one of the First’s eyes was milky white, the eye not fully developed. The first’s smile was ice.

“I am First Rulek Par and I am dead. As of this moment, we are all dead. We go into battle to reclaim our lives. This we do gladly, for we are Jem’Hadar – remember,” Rulek Par glanced around at his gathered Jem’Hadar warriors who grew closer to him as he spoke until the entire legion of warriors were all around him as close as they could come. “Victory is life!” he roared.

The Jem’Hadar clones shouted as one. “Victory is life!”

“A fine speech, now if you will excuse me, I will leave you to do what it is you do best.” Darkstar said as he began striding to the command bunker beyond the cloning bays. “I really underestimated the Dominion’s genetic engineering prowess. I was assured by my science teams that we had eliminated all the hard coding.”

“We were obviously wrong.” Anastasia added.

“Damn those founders. If only I could get my hands on one I would wring its neck for the secret of turning those super soldiers into my slaves.”

“It has always bothered you, hasn’t it, not being able to control everything you see.” Anastasia noted acidly.

“Oh my sweet one, you have much to answer for, but for now I need you by my side, and before you get teary eyed and sentimental, it’s for one reason and one reason only. If that man is as powerful as he claims to be and survives the Jem’Hadar gauntlet I laid for him, I will need you to be my shield.” Anastasia grimaced in disgust at him. “For I fear that this Achilles has his weakness and it is his feelings for you. I am all about exploiting my enemy’s weaknesses.” Darkstar laughed.

They disappeared into the darkness of the complex beyond as the Jem'Hadar horde gathered. The lift began to descend. First Rulek Par nodded and turned to his horde.

“Now, my brothers, it is time.”

“Scotty we don’t have much time.” Kirk urged as he fired another volley against the gathering troops.

“This is surgery Captain. Would you rush doctor McCoy if he were operating on someone?” Scotty protested as he finished the last reroute patch and was rewarded with the lift rumbling to life.

“Actually, yes he would.” McCoy answered glumly.

“We have a heartbeat!” Scotty exclaimed as the lift approached.

“Luke! Time to go!” Kirk called up.

“On the way.”

Luke watched the temperature soar on the warning gauges. There was just enough for one more volley. He watched a cluster of troops approaching quickly through a thicket of trees under cover of heavy fire. He pressed the trigger and the cannon kicked again. The energy beam tore up along the earth towards the phalanx of troops and ripped into them. They screamed as they fell to the lashing beam.

Luke dropped the cannon as smoke sputtered from the power generator and fires began to spring up along the conduits and wires. He scooped up his pain pike and leapt down to the group below as the armored doors to the lift slid open.

He stepped up to Leia who quickly threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.

“Luke! You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you, talk to you like this.”

Luke smiled warmly as he ran a hand along her cheek. Noting her emerald skin and bikini he smiled wryly.

“That’s a new look for you.” He smirked.

“It’s been awhile.” She replied with a nervous laugh.

“Leia, it’s been too long, I’ve been walking in the shadows all this time but your faith in me helped me come back.”

Leia shook her head, tears welling in her eyes.

“I crossed galaxies to save you and I feel like I didn’t do enough.” She protested.

“No, you did more than anyone, Leia. You believed in me when not even I did.” Luke explained holding her close to his chest. Mara stared at Leia’s back with a cold glare.

“Let’s go people! Move like we’ve got a purpose!” Kirk shouted and the group began falling back into the lift firing their weapons. Worf stopped to stand by Kirk, firing his disruptor rifle with gusto.

“Captain Kirk I apologize.”

“May I ask for what Chancellor?” Kirk asked with a boyish grin.

“You promised a battle and you have delivered one worthy of the sagas.”

“You need to apologize for that?”

Worf looked over at Kirk.

“I did not believe you could deliver one.” Worf answered simply.

“Oh. Well then apology accepted.” A disruptor bolt exploded over their heads. “But let’s say we join the others before we’re sung about posthumously. Besides, I could use you for the coming battle below.”

“Like Kahless descending into the underworld…I was born for this Captain and you have helped me realize this dream. When this is over, we will drink a barrel of blood wine and I will welcome you as a brother in my empire.”

They fell back into the lift. Chewbacca was happily hugging and hefting Luke off his feet. Luke laughed and rubbed Chewbacca under his chin.

The doors rumbled close. Kirk looked over at Worf.

“I never thought I would be welcomed in the Klingon Empire, Chancellor. Thank you.”

“Is everyone ready?” Luke asked sharply.

“What’s the problem now?” McCoy asked.

“What’s waiting for us on the other side of that door is not going to be easy at all.” Luke explained.

“After fighting our way through that mess upstairs what else does he have to throw at us?” Sulu asked.

“You really are a glutton for punishment Sulu.” McCoy grimaced.

“I am reading massive life form readings captain.” Spock cautioned as he checked his tricorder.

Kirk sighed.

“It never rains but it pours.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 72: Reaping the Whirlwind IV

“I want the troops on the surface by the time we achieve high orbit.” Tarsi ordered tightly.

“Already on the way, sir. All gunnery crews have acquired targets and we await your command.”

“Fighters?” Tarsi snapped as he strode over to the crew pits below his command deck.

The fighter command officer’s head shot up from his station and he spoke.

“All wings are currently deployed, bombers have been held in the bays on your orders.”

“I want the fighters to stay close to the assault shuttles, when we recover Lord Nemesis they are to escort the shuttle back up to the ship. It would not bode well for us if after recovering Lord Nemesis we lose him on the way back to the ship to an errant shot.” Tarsi explained with a grim smile.

“Aye sir.” His XO nodded curtly.

Tarsi strode the command deck and watched his crew as they worked feverishly to follow out his orders. They moved with cold calculating precision and discipline. But he sensed something else bubbling right beneath the surface.

The fleet had been idle for far too long. They had seen non stop action since their arrival in this forsaken primitive backwater and they had been honed to a razor’s edge by the constant battles. Tarsi was nearly certain that the fleet had seen more action in the shortest amount of time than any other Imperial fleet in history. He was proud of his men.

But they were straining now, barely able to focus, like growling dogs straining at the slips they were urging forward, eagerly looking to embrace battle. He wanted badly to give them that chance.

“Sir! I’m picking up Rebel Alliance ships within the fleet in orbit, starfighters…X-Wing class.” The tactical officer reported.

Tarsi quickly approached the station and examined the displays with a keen interest. X-Wing fighters were indeed mixed in with the fleet of makeshift warships, tactical data constantly streamed in bold crimson text beneath each fighter.

“The infamous Rogue Squadron I presume.” Tarsi breathed. He looked up at his flight coordinator.

“I want four squadrons of our best fighters to be rerouted to intercept and bring those rebels to heel.”

“Yes Captain!” the flight coordinator nodded quickly and started feeding the new target data to his hand picked squadrons. The TIE Fighters and TIE Interceptors broke formation as one and began their aggressive stalking of the rebel fighters scattered through the Orion fleet.

“If the rebels are here can Kirk be far behind?” Tarsi muttered as he absently rubbed his chin. He had stumbled into too many of the irritating Federation Captain’s intricate ambushes and tricks. He was not going to allow himself to fall into one of those traps now, not when he was so close to achieving his goals.

The young Sith lord was a constant threat to Tarsi’s life and upon reflection there was many a time that Tarsi did not wish for an unfortunate shuttle ‘accident’ or very unexpected and sudden decompression in Nemesis’ vicinity. But now as events unfolded in the Imperium it became painfully obvious that Nemesis was an absolute necessity.

Thrawn’s heavy handed abuse of Grand Admiral Kittaine was only possible because the man had his own personal Sith Lord attack dog and the Imperium lacked theirs. Thrawn would very soon not hold back at all as soon as it was confirmed that Nemesis was not just on leave somewhere.

Besides Thrawn there was emptiness at the heart of the Imperium without him. Kittaine was a noble man and a fine leader but he was no politician. He could not demand the loyalty of the trillions of occupied Imperium citizens as Nemesis had. He was the heart and soul of this Imperium and Tarsi knew that in the end, if Thrawn did not finish them, their own internal divisiveness would.

So he was here, ready to risk his life, his crew and his ship to make sure that he could bring Nemesis home again. To restore what was missing and make the Imperium whole again. He wondered briefly whether he had ever been that loyal to the Emperor.

He motioned for his XO. He approached quickly and Tarsi nodded to the planet below.

“I want you to monitor all communication traffic down there and run deep scans of the palace facilities. I have a sneaking suspicion that our good friend James Kirk is or will be down there.” Tarsi smiled and drew his head down closer to his XO’s ear. “Imagine my friend what reception we will receive when we bring Lord Nemesis whole and intact and James Kirk in our brig.”

His XO smiled in return.

“We would be heroes of the Imperium.”

“We do need heroes.” Tarsi breathed and turned back to the armored view port. “Alright gentlemen, we have a job to do.” He announced and his crew smiled and turned back to their work.

“Alright, does everyone know our mission objectives?” Kirk asked coolly as he checked the power reading on his phaser. The mission so far was hardly going as planned. But then again in this little war nothing seemed to be going as planned for anyone.

“Simple enough, recover any hypermatter technology and make sure none of it falls in the hands of these pirates.” Sulu replied as he slammed a fresh power cartridge into his disruptor rifle.

“Simple huh? Who thought up of the idea of implanting the transmitter in my earlobe?” McCoy grumbled as he held one hand to his bloody earlobe while the other adjusted a hypospray into his bicep.

“I believe that was your idea Doctor.” Spock replied.

McCoy glowered at the Vulcan.

“Fine whose idea was it then to have Harry Mudd betray us?”

“I seem to recall that may have been mine.” Kirk said with a soft smile.

“You owe me a new earlobe Captain.”

“I would be more concerned about what is waiting for us when those lift doors open.” Mara said grimly.

“Darkstar is a target of opportunity that should be eliminated with extreme prejudice if possible.” Worf added as he tested the balance of his pain pike and slung his disruptor rifle over his shoulder.

“Leave Darkstar to me. I intend to keep my promises to that man.” Luke added quietly as he centered himself. He sought the cool calming center of his being, feeling the Force flow like a river around him. But there was also the natural excitement of the adrenaline rush that was coursing through him, making him angry, and putting him on edge.

His natural Jedi training urged him to push away those feelings, to negate them with Jedi combat meditation techniques. His Sith training reveled in the aggressive sensations and prepared to use them as fuel for his power.

Now was the time to truly explore his theory, to walk the path between dark and light. He hoped that the same strength of will that had brought Luke Skywalker and Lord Darth Nemesis together could forge a new path. A path not limited to the duality of light and dark. Instead of pushing down and ignoring the anger and excitement he used it, rode the anger and the boost in power it gave him while allowing the calm collected center guide him.

He closed his eyes for a moment and felt the surge in his senses, the minor tears and bruises along his muscles and ligaments healing in pinprick like sensations along his arms and legs. His bionic hand opened and closed rhythmically, he had been ignoring the need for some time.

He missed his lightsaber.

Leia watched Luke. She had spent the last months of her life desperately searching for him, she had crossed the vast gulf of space and time between this galaxy and her own just to have the chance to save him.

And here he stood, right next to her and he looked so much like the boy she had seen on Hoth in those last desperate moments as the Empire came to destroy their base. Yet he was not the same. There was hardness around the eyes, a distance in his gaze, as if he had seen too much in his short life. A fragment of the angry young Sith lord she had seen on Earth was still in his face.

She did not know what to think.

Mara coolly prepared for battle but one eye remained fixed on Leia. She watched the rebel princess watching Luke and she debated whether friendly fire could bring her down in the heat of battle. She nodded to herself.

Yes, perhaps it was time for this group to take some casualties. A woman with green skin and a metal bathing suit made for a fine target in the midst of a firefight.

“Captain life form readings are converging near the lift.” Spock warned.

“Then it looks like we’re going to have company. Chewie, I want you and Luke on point. Worf, guard our backs. The rest of you provide covering fire as we get through the level.”

“Kirk, I work far better alone.” Mara said sharply as she held her blaster up at the ready. “And frankly you have no place giving Lord Nemesis any orders.” She added and glance at Luke meaningfully. She searched his eyes for an answer. She was not sure she was going to like it.

Kirk looked over at Luke as well.

“I guess that all depends.” Leia interjected softly. “Is he still Lord Nemesis?”

Luke looked from Mara to Leia. He turned his head back to the front of the lift and extended his pike. It snapped open on metal segments and clicked into a locked position with a loud snap.

“My name is Luke Skywalker. Darth Nemesis died back at the abyss. As to who is giving who orders?” Luke turned his head and looked into Kirk’s eyes. “Let’s just say that for now, we are on the same side and want the same things. I am here to exact justice on Hieronymus Darkstar.”

“Justice or revenge?” Leia asked.

Luke smiled to himself as the doors to the lift opened. He snapped the pain pike at the ready as he stepped out of the lift.

“I’m done questioning myself Leia. I am the like the arrow in the bow.” He replied.

“This is not good.” Tom Paris muttered as the Millennium Falcon looped over a wreck of a ship, half buried into the side of an ancient access tunnel.

“This looks like it hasn’t been used since Captain Kirk’s time.” Paris lamented.

The Falcon’s computer belched.

Paris glanced sharply down at the computer panel. The tunnel opened up into an eight tunnel intersection.

“You know this is your fault. You were supposed to automap you heap!”

The Falcon’s computer emitted a series on increasingly unflattering noises.

“Yeah, well remind me to upgrade you to a standard Federation interface as soon as we get out of this mess. I’d like to see you say that stuff to me in a sweet feminine voice.”

The Falcon’s computer rumbled.

“Promises, promises. Coming from a computer that couldn’t even remember to automap the route in I’m not exactly impressed.”

Disruptor bolts flashed past the Falcon as it hovered in the center of the intersection. Ships were swarming from all directions toward the freighter.

Tom quickly checked the threat display and noticed something.

“Hey, do you see what I see? They’re coming from all directions but one.”

The Falcon’s computer squawked. Tom frowned as he threw back some switches and pulled on the throttle.

“What we’re looking for wouldn’t have any ships. They’re scrambled from all over his base but there’s one place where there wouldn’t be any ships and that’s our objective. Damn I’m good!” He laughed and accelerated the Falcon down to only tunnel without Orion ships. The pursuing Orion ships did not hesitate as they followed the Falcon down spitting a furious fusillade of disruptor and phaser fire.

The tunnel around the Falcon was chewed up by the hostile fire, spraying the fleeing ship with molten concrete.

Tom wiped his brow and chewed on his lower lip as the Falcon shook violently and threatened to pitch dangerously close to one of the walls.

“Of course, if I’m wrong this whole party is for nothing.” He muttered.

“Watch yourself Wedge, three from above!” Hobbie warned.

“I see it. Rogue 6 bring that tail you’ve got over my way, I’ll clean it off you and you return the favor.”

“On the way!”

Rogue squadron had quickly discovered that they were being hunted as the TIE fighters came in from all angles and attacked the small snub fighters as they tried their best to mingle with the Orion fleet and stay out of sight.

Unfortunately it was not enough.

Now Wedge was leading his men in a desperate cat and mouse game through a hostile enemy fleet while being stalked by overwhelming Imperial numbers. In other words it was another day at the office for his rogues.

The Sagan was doing her best to keep track of the Rogues, but the fighters were now pulling fantastic maneuvers, diving and rolling through the heart of the Orion fleet trying to avoid their pursuers.

“Can you get a clear shot?” Entebbe asked as he watched a pair of TIE fighters come into view and just as quickly as they were spotted they split up and spun away between a large bulk freighter pretending to be a warship and vanished.

“They’re moving awfully fast sir and with all the ECM and ships in close proximity to one another its getting hard to get a phaser lock.”

“And we’re running out of torpedoes.”

“Not that it would matter any, the quickest way to get us fired on is to start lighting off torpedoes in this fleet.” Entebbe sighed and checked his tactical display.

“The problem is we’re not a dedicated warship sir. If we had the latest Federation tactical controls we might be able to pull off a phaser lock under these conditions.” His XO noted.

“Well, we’ll just have to do as we’ve always done since this mess started. We make do with what we have and hope for the best. Helm?”


“I’m willing to bet that those Imperial fighters are too busy tracking the Rogues than watching their own backs, pick a pair and bring us to point blank range for a phaser strike.”

“Aye sir.” His helmsman smiled and turned back to his controls.

“And our ace in the hole as Captain Kirk calls it?”

Entebbe shook his head slowly as the image on the view screen began to tilt madly in response to the helm’s commands.

“No. The Captain was very specific about that one. We wait until we cannot wait any longer.”

“You don’t think we’re in dire straights now?” his XO pressed.

Entebbe turned his head and smiled grimly at his XO.

“Have you not been paying attention since this war started? I guarantee you, this can and will most likely get much worse.”

The group stepped out of the lift quietly, Luke and Chewbacca walking out first followed by the others and Worf brought up the rear, turning quickly to check the area behind the lift and above them.

The lift bay was stonily silent.

“Make no mistake. They are here and watching us.” Luke calmly warned as he continued walking forward, pain pike held up at guard position. Chewie trained his disruptor rifle at any sign of movement as they approached the second set of doors that led to the cloning chambers beyond.

“The life form readings…they’ve vanished.” Spock said suddenly as he checked his tricorder.

Kirk stopped short.

“Perhaps you are receiving interference from the structures around us?” Worf suggested quietly, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, he could hear his blood singing in his ears, eager to embrace the sting of battle.

“Not likely. I was receiving the signals strongly up until a moment ago.” Spock looked up at Kirk. “I would suggest extreme caution at this point Captain. The enemy obviously has the ability to manipulate our tricorders. The last set of readings indicated hundreds of life forms just beyond that door.” Spock pointed to the double set of doors that Luke and Chewbacca were standing in front of.

“We’re not going to have much more time to proceed unmolested.” Mara urged.

“Scotty, the door.”

“Aye Captain.”

As Scotty approached the door it hissed open on its own. Scotty paused and drew his phaser.

“Look alive people.” Kirk warned.

Luke cautiously peered into the doorway and saw nothing but shadows interrupted by the cool blue alert strobe lights cutting through the thick white mists hissing from the veritable forest of clone tanks. He held up a hand and nodded to Chewbacca. The Wookie grunted as he brought his disruptor rifle up his chin and aimed.

Luke stepped into the cavernous cloning facilities and scanned slowly but he did not rely on his eyes.

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.” Obi Wan’s voice drifted softly in his memories. Luke half smiled to himself as he let the force flow around him, through the cloning canisters, cables, conduits and coolant mist. Stretch out with your feelings. Within a few steps he had a feel for the entire room, down to the low clicking of the cloning vat to the far right of the room as coolant mist was freezing the outer nodules of the vents and causing them to click rhythmically together in time with each emergency venting of the mist.

The quiet dripping of condensation on the nearest open pod.

The low breathing of something rapidly approaching to his left.

Luke pivoted hard on his right foot and drove the bladed end of his pain pike into the empty air to his left. He was rewarded by a sudden impact that traveled up his arms and the splotch of blood that exploded in the empty air.

The air wavered and splintered, forming a body of a Jem’Hedar warrior as it slumped down to the ground twitching. Luke instantly recovered his pike and swung the blunt end around in front of him, the air sparked and fractured as his pike impacted against multiple solid objects rushing towards him.

“Jem’Hedar! They have personal cloaks!” Worf shouted and fired a steady burst from his disruptor as the air around the entire group wavered and blurred. Hundreds of Jem’Hedar were materializing like a wave crashing in around them.

“Fire support, two by two man cover and make for that exit there!” Kirk shouted as he valiantly began unleashing a barrage from his phaser pistol with one hand and pointing emphatically to the exit at the far end of the cloning facility.

Spock and McCoy stood back to back and began firing their weapons at the Jem’Hedar horde. Scotty and Sulu advanced under Leia’s covering fire and secured the next cloning vat. As Sulu turned to motion for Leia and Mara to advance through the throng as he and Scotty provided covering fire he felt an arm close in around his throat and jerk him up off his feet.

He gagged as his vision blurred. The Jem' Hedar was hanging off the top of the cloning canister with one hand while strangling Sulu with the other. Scotty immediately aimed up but the Jem’Hedar and the struggling Sulu were too close.

“Damn sinner!” Scotty spat and pulled a rod from the inside of the birthing chamber and began smacking the Jem’Hedar’s arm with it.

Mara advanced quickly and took a shot at the strangling Jem’Hedar, blasting the shoulder of the arm that hung on to the canister. The Jem’Hedar grunted and slipped off the top of the canister spilling onto the ground in a tangle with Sulu. Sulu delivered a quick strike to the Jem’Hedar’s throat and it gurgled sickly as Sulu scrambled to his feet.

Mara ran up to them, Leia close behind her and she quickly scanned their surroundings as she casually put another blaster bolt into the strangling Jem’Hedar.

“Was that really necessary?” Sulu asked darkly as he rubbed his throat. Mara regarded the young helm officer with barely restrained contempt.

“If you like I’ll let the mortally wounded ones finish you off next time.” Mara sneered.

“Would you look at that.” Scotty breathed.

Sulu glanced back and his jaw dropped as he watched Luke Skywalker stride into the center of the Jem’Hedar horde, no fear on his face, only a cool calm determination as his pike spun and struck two Jem’Hedar approaching to his right and then swung forward, slicing open a Jem’Hedar’s throat as it advanced.

He cart wheeled over, pike out an angle and landed among a cluster of Jem’Hedar, pike flashing about him like lightning bolts sending Jem’Hedar sprawling around on the ground. His right fist arced backwards into the face of a Jem’Hedar, driving what little of the face it had into a wet pulp while his left hand maneuvered the pike in a downward slashing strike that tripped up several Jem’Hedar rushing past him to get to the group.

“Out of anyone here he is all but untouchable.” Mara began. A Jem’Hedar went sailing overhead screaming and landed with a sick thud against the side of one of the cloning cylinders denting it. The flying Jem’Hedar was accompanied by a roar of outrage and challenge.

“Well…maybe the Wookie as well but the point is that we need to get to that exit now before we are truly swarmed.”

“What about the Captain?” Sulu asked trying to peer through the smoke filled chamber.

Leia looked back sharply.

“Jim.” She whispered as she saw Kirk firing his phaser pistol desperately into a wave of Jem' Hedar that leapt over a fallen comrade and landed on top of him. Spock turned and his right hand snaked past one of the Jem’Hedar and delivered a nerve pinch. The Jem’Hedar slumped down to the ground but before the Vulcan could completely turn around and bring his weapon to bear another Jem’Hedar delivered a crushing double axe handled blow to Spock’s chest sending him stumbling backwards into the arms of another Jem’Hedar.

“We have to help them!” Leia ordered and began firing her blaster into the throng of Jem’Hedar as she watched in horror as Kirk floundered under three Jem’Hedar trying to bring him down.

Mara grabbed Leia by the arm and glared at her.

“Princess, if you want to save them we have to get that door open.”

“She’s right.” Sulu concluded. He nodded to Scotty and they immediately began to blast their way to the door. A Jem'Hedar leapt down from one of the cloning vats but Leia picked him off in mid drop and the Jem’Hedar crashed against the vat sliding down into the swirling mists around the cylinders.

She glanced back to see Kirk backhand a Jem’Hedar soldier and duck under a roundhouse kick. Spock picked a Jem’Hedar up by the waist and flung it bodily into another as it approached. Suddenly Chewbacca waded into the cluster of clones and began flinging them off like so much debris.

Worf was grunting loudly as he delivered a point blank disruptor blast into a Jem’Hedar’s face while simultaneously slashing his pike across his left side taking down another warrior.

“Come! Come and grapple with me!” Worf shouted at the clones as they gathered around him while he backed towards the group.

Luke blocked a quick jab to gouge out an eye and jerked hard on his pike, rewarded with a sickly wet snap from the Jem’Hedar’s arm. He shoved the maimed clone back with a jab from the blunt end of his pike then swept it in intricate figure eights from left, to front to right blocking Jem’Hedar attacks.

A roar of triumph sounded and a squad of Jem’Hedar charged at Luke holding up a slab of metal like a battering ram. One Jem’Hedar was watching intently from the top of the closest cylinder. Luke smiled softly and extended his hand in a closed fist.

The air around him rushed forward and the Jem’Hedar’s forward momentum suddenly stopped and were thrown back as if hammered by a giant. The Jem’Hedar crashed backwards through one of the birthing chambers.

Luke stood legs apart and twirled his pike in an intricate pattern in front of him and motioned with his free hand to the growing horde of Jem’Hedar to come closer.


Luke’s eyes snapped up to regard the lone Jem’Hedar. He immediately pegged him as the leader. He had all the earmarks of an alpha male. He would have to be eliminated as soon as possible.

“You are more powerful than that fool Darkstar led us to believe.”

“He tends to do that. You can just let us pass, I assure you that we will not stop you from escaping and all we want is Darkstar.” Luke said loudly. He fought the urge to attack, dancing on the edge of his aggression he allowed is cool rational side to probe the alpha and find a way out of this that did not require more bloodshed.

The alpha smiled cruelly, his one white within white eye bore into Luke.

“You do not understand.”

“Oh?” Luke could feel the spike in anger and adrenaline.

“I find Darkstar’s underestimation of you to be a blessing.” The Alpha raised a hand. Luke snapped his pike up into a fighting stance and all calm melted slowly and his excitement and aggression bubbled into predominance. He did not feel the usual sense of …taint. This was something different. There was acceptance of what needed to be done and the Force granted him the strength and speed he needed to accomplish his goals.

“Thank you.” He whispered.

“We will revel in our victory bringing you down.” The Alpha said coldly and dropped his hand.

The Jem’Hedar surged forward in a storm of bodies. Luke was in motion, the pike an extension of his hands. Where he moved the pike was there, streaming silver as it moved in a blur. Jem’Hedar grunted and howled as bones snapped, ligaments popped and muscles tore with each hammer like blow.

Luke moved slowly, pike moving in an increasing blur, cutting through the Jem’Hedar like a reaper cutting his wheat. He could feel them all around him, angry, frustrated, vicious, each blow landed like a lightning stroke as he slowly waded into them. Sidestepping kicks and punches, catching errant limbs on the ends of his pike and twisting them hearing the snaps like dry twigs.

“Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.”

Luke did not even notice or think about it, but his hands flipped the bladed end of his pike backwards into the sternum of a Jem’Hedar while he consciously reached out with the force and drove a pair of clones backwards into an open birthing chamber. Without thinking he back flipped away from the swipe of a makeshift club and landed low just in time to avoid a flying tackle.

“You mean it controls your actions?” Did he ever sound so young?

Instinctively he held out the pike horizontally and a wave of force energy picked clones off their feet and drove them into the next wave coming around one of the cylinders. He did not notice his left foot jerk back and snap through a Jem’Hedar’s shin sending it crashing to the ground where the blunt end of his pike snapped downward and crushed its neck.

“Partially.” He felt a surge of anger as he caught sight of Leia blasting at a wave of clones swarming over and around a cylinder, trapping her against it as Mara fought her way free. Kirk saw it too and shouted Leia’s name, hammering a Jem’Hedar across the nose plate and another tore his shirt off at the shoulder as it grasped for him.

He would be too late.

But the anger was quickly submerged under the quick thinking calm. Rage would not serve here what he needed. Blind rage led to blind actions and in this battle there was no room for error.

He reached out with the force as he drove the blunt end of his pike into a Jem’Hedar’s throat. The cylinder rumbled and squealed as metal gave way to the force of Luke’s will. The Jem’Hedar swarming over the cylinder looked at each other and then the cylinder itself in confusion. The cylinder suddenly snapped closed like a Venus flytrap, crushing the Jem’Hedar into a pulpy mess of blood and bone.

Leia backed away quickly as Kirk reached her, followed quickly by Spock. The ruined cylinder shuddered once and was still again, save for the muffled groans of the trapped and dying.

But it also obeys your commands.

Indeed. He could feel the force flowing now like a raging river, fueling his strength and agility, a thin bright sheen of sweat on his brow as he fought for control of his pike while three clones grasped each end and the center and tried to wrest it from his hands as the alpha landed from his perch and approached Luke with a cool calm gait.

There is anger here, there is rage, there is conflict. But I am the calm in the center of the storm.

He savagely ripped the pike from the their grip and snapped it down hard to his right and left, crushing their ankles and knee joints sending them crashing to the floor.

I am the director of this strife. I control the rage and anger it does not control me.

He swept his pike backwards, catching a clone’s charge but it held on to the end of his pike, spoiling the rest of his swing and two clones managed to drive into the small of his back and brought Luke to his knees where the Alpha struck with a blow meant to decapitate him. Instead, his force enhanced reflexes merely caused the blow to glance off his chin and right cheek.

He could already feel the right eye swelling shut.

Luke grunted once and shrugged off the clones grasping at him to keep him on his knees. He kipped up and ducked backwards at a nearly impossible angle from his waist avoiding the Alpha’s follow up haymaker.

He snapped his pike down and around blocking the crippling knee strike that would have hobbled him but could not avoid another wave of clones that struck him from all angles and consciousness slipped away for a moment. While he was stunned his body reacted on its own, like a preying mantis his legs and arms flailed taking lives with each blow struck at vital nerve clusters or joints.

Worf’s pike suddenly sliced into the crowd, punching its way through the heart of them as he howled something in Klingon, blood streaming from open gashes on his face and chest as he rescued the downed Skywalker.

Luke’s eyes snapped open again and he lashed his arms out in an open wave and the clones clustered around them were flung backwards, landing with bone jarring impacts against the walls and ceiling of the chamber.

Luke glanced over at Worf, his right eye nearly swollen shut now and blood dripping from his nose.

“I decided even you needed some assistance.”

“I slaughtered a hundred of your finest warriors and laid waste to your empire, Chancellor Worf.” Luke said between deep heaving breaths. His black form fitting fighting tunic was stained with blood, gore and sweat, torn open at his stomach and from the back of his left shoulder to his spine.

Worf looked at the young man and saw only hints of the Sith Lord Darth Nemesis he had sworn to kill.

“Perhaps this is a good day to die, Skywalker. But not for us, not now. This is a battle that will be remembered through the ages and there will be no stanzas that say Worf son of Mogh allowed his ally to be felled by Jem’Hedar scum.” Worf replied evenly.

Luke nodded.

“I suspect, despite this respite that you and I have unfinished business.” Luke said softly feeling the intent steaming off Worf like the heat of the midday off the sands of Tatooine.

Worf nodded as the Jem’Hedar collected themselves for another attack.

“There will come a time for debts to repaid in blood and I will be there to collect. The blood of Qou'Nos screams from every fiber of your being and Kahless would damn me from entry to Stovolkohr if I ignore the call for vengeance.”

“It seems Worf that there is one aspect to my return that I did not fully anticipate.” Luke replied not flinching from the Klingon’s steely gaze. He snapped his pain pike at the ready as the Alpha nodded to his horde and they surged forward again, heedless of loss of life and limb.

“That all my sins will be remembered.” Luke finished and swept the pike out to take on the first wave. Worf nodded and brought his own pike up over handed like a spear and fired round after round from his disruptor into the approaching wave of screaming clone warriors.

“Damnit! I can’t shake him!”

“Calm down rogue 9, just swing round two more degrees.” Jansen said coolly as he pursued the TIE Interceptor that dove down from an unseen angle was right on Rogue 9’s tail. The Imperial fighter was angling for a quick kill and the X-Wing was in little position to do anything about it as it only now began to break free from a thicket of Orion ships.

“Jansen! You picked one…no make that two up.” Wedge warned as his own X-Wing dove tightly under a lumbering Orion warship and nearly ran right into a Raider trying her best to pace the fighters zipping around the fleet at will.

Behind them the massive Imperial Star destroyer had just achieved orbit and the attendant assault shuttles were nothing more than rapidly dwindling dots to his unaided vision as they dropped into the cloud cover of the planet.

“We’re out numbered and out gunned flying through an enemy fleet that wants us just as dead as the Impies.” Hobby griped.

“Stick to the plan. Hobbie get down there and clean Jansen’s tail. I’m going topside to get a better look at the situation.”

“Watch you back boss, I counted at least four squadrons coming for us before we dove for cover.”

Wedge smiled grimly as he climbed past a wheeling formation of Raiders. The Orions had been stalled as they contemplated their own next move. They were obviously not expecting this kind of fire power.

“I for one take it as a complement that our Imperial competition thinks four to one odds is what they need to win.”

Wedge’s X-Wing climbed high up over the main axis of deployment for the Orion fleet and his threat display lit up like a Chandrillan fire parade as his fighter was painted by a dozen Imperial targeting computers.

“I feel so popular.” Wedge muttered as he immediately activated countermeasures and dove back down to the relative safety of the Orion fleet.

Unfortunately he did not react fast enough to avoid a barrage of emerald laser fire spit out by a flight of TIE Fighters that roared right past his position. The blasts lanced between the spaces of his s foils and impacted against an Orion Raider. The Raider jerked downward by the impact and clipped a bulk freighter. It spun madly out of control into the depths of the Orion fleet.

Wedge’s eyes widened as his tactical computer picked up a frenzied burst of subspace traffic between the Orion ships in his vicinity and spread like wildfire.

“Oh no.” he muttered. “Rogues get your heads down right now and stop hugging the Orion ships for cover. They’re pissed.”

The Orions punctuated his statement as the fleet began to open fire on the zipping fighters in their midst.

“Oh crap boss you know what the Impies are going to do now.”

“Hobbie since when were you a master of understatement.” Jansen interjected.

The nearest Orion heavy warship suddenly flared up like a fireworks display as turbolaser fire carved through her shields and blasted her hull apart like confetti. The Orions did not hesitate now and the fleet’s fire focused on the steel grey behemoth in orbit. Disruptor and phaser fire lanced out in concentrated bursts as the first torpedo strikes flashed out in expanding patterns from the lead ships.

“Wedge, we have company.” Entebbe warned.

“I see it, Sagan. The party is full swing.” Wedge replied as he grit his teeth and brought his X-Wing into a sharp climb avoiding a veritable wall of angry red and green weapons fire.

“No, we have more company!” Entebbe pressed and Wedge could hear the calm female voice in the background announcing “Hyperspace emergence in sector 14.”

A bright flash of light exploded nearly directly above the fleet and an Imperial star destroyer emerged from hyperspace.

“Whoever said the more the merrier never attended any of our shindigs.” Jansen sighed.

“Rogues. Form up on me. We’re going to have to blast our way out of here and link up with the Sagan. We are so in over our heads.”

“This is the Imperial Stardestroyer Devastator. You will stand down, lower your shields and surrender to the might of the Emperor. You will receive no further warnings.”

“The Devastator? Isn’t that his flagship.” Rogue 6 breathed.

“Just because its his flagship doesn’t mean he’s on it.” Hobbie countered.

“Switch to Imperial channels. I’m getting chatter.” Jansen noted.

“Imperium ships in this system will withdraw immediately as the Empire and Lord Vader have jurisdiction here.”

“On who’s authority?” the voice from the Adjudicator demanded.

“On my authority, Captain Tarsi. I am giving you the benefit of precisely one minute to withdraw. Otherwise you will know the wrath of the Emperor and the proper extent of my mercy.” The voice was cold and mechanical, punctuated by a slow rhythmic breathing.

“You were saying?”

Wedge shook his head.

“We are way and I mean way over our heads.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 73: Reaping the Whirlwind IV

The star destroyer Adjudicator slowly turned to face the Devastator as the newly arrived star destroyer coasted to a halt directly above the large swarming Orion defensive fleet that was now herded in between the two massive warships.

Tarsi watched the Imperial stardestroyer looming on his armored view port as his men scrambled to prepare for this new threat. The Orion fleet was one thing, but a fully armed and operational stardestroyer was a different matter altogether.

“Sir, we have less than 40 seconds according to Lord Vader’s orders. We have just enough time to recover the fighters but the shuttles will take more time. They have their own hyperdrives. They can make their way back to the rendezvous shortly.” His XO counseled.

Tarsi watched the stardestroyer intently for a moment and wondered about all it represented. It was his last link home and a symbol of the Emperor’s authority. He had taken oaths to defend the Empire and obey his Emperor. He had been given a direct order by Lord Vader to withdraw.

The Imperium forces and Thrawn’s Imperial Armada played a not so subtle game of pretending that each faction was in accordance with the other and the Emperor’s wishes. The words traitor and rebel were never used but heavily intimated. But at no time was there ever a moment where one confronted the other directly.

Now Lord Vader had all but said that the Imperium forces were separate and beneath his. The Imperial forces had jurisdiction here. The Imperium forces were to leave and even ended his transmission with a promised threat to this ship and crew.

“Captain.” His XO urged as he watched the timer quickly counting down.

“Sir! The Devastator’s heavy guns are painting us with their targeting systems.” The Tactical officer warned and his voice betrayed the tension slowly building on the bridge. It was one thing to run battle drills simulating attacks on Imperial forces quite another to actually engage forces that only months ago you had been a proud part of.

“Who does he think he is.” Tarsi whispered.

“Sir, we have to withdraw. The Grand Admiral did not foresee this eventuality.”

“Didn’t he?” Tarsi snapped as he turned his head to regard his XO. “He sent the finest ship in his fleet and me. He knows I don’t back down from anything or anyone.”

His XO’s eyes widened.

“Captain Tarsi listen to me very closely. If we engage the Devastator we will be plunging the Imperium into a war with Thrawn’s armada far ahead of schedule.”

Tarsi regarded his XO coolly for a moment before speaking. His XO could not help notice that there were now less than 20 seconds remaining on Lord Vader’s ultimatum.

“Besides sir. This is Lord Vader we’re talking about.”

Tarsi nodded.

“And Lord Nemesis is down on that planet below waiting to be rescued.” Tarsi suddenly strode past his XO and stood at the edge of the command deck. He placed his hands on the security rails as he regarded his crew. Many looked up at him in return.

“Down there on that planet is Lord Darth Nemesis. He needs our help. Out there.” He pointed to the armored view ports. “Is the Devastator and Lord Darth Vader who would like nothing better than taking Lord Nemesis prisoner and depriving us of our leader. They want to dominate and dictate our destiny and think we should run cowering back to our fleet because a Sith Lord just said that he has control here. I say other wise. I say that there is another Sith Lord that has control here and more importantly our loyalty. When we first arrived in this forsaken place it was Lord Nemesis who held us together during those dark days, constant Borg attacks, the taming of the Romulans, the taking of Earth and even now with Kirk and his blasted Federation remnant he has been by our side, leading us, guiding us and doing whatever it took to save us, to establish a home for us here in this place. And who can forget the day he strode out upon a blasted field and faced one hundred of the finest warriors the Klingons have and defeated them all to prevent more loss of life for us in that campaign. He has always looked out for us from the very beginning and he needs us now.”

The bridge was stony silent save for the occasional beep or electronic signal.

His XO noted the timer approaching ten seconds.

“I ask you now, as members of my crew and citizens of the Imperium, an Imperium we built with our own hands, shed our blood for, sacrificed our lives willingly can you now turn your backs on him? Can you say that we will accept the orders of a Sith Lord that has come at the bidding of an Emperor who forgot us and abandon the one man that stood with us no matter the obstacles and danger? Will we abandon Lord Darth Nemesis or will we fight for him as he fought for us?”

The timer approached 5 seconds.

Tarsi watched his crew unflinchingly.

“Sir. Tactical reporting all guns are active and I have firing solutions on the Devastator.”

“All squadrons are being rerouted to screen us from the Devastator’s fighters and launching bomber squadrons.”

“Shields deployed maximum intensity, closing blast doors in all vital sections and scrambling damage control parties.”

His officers all spoke in turn, quiet determination in their voices.

“Sir time’s up.” His XO stated evenly,

“Then let us show that Sith bastard that we are the Imperium and this is our galaxy and there is only one man whose orders we follow and they stand between us and him.” Tarsi said hotly.

His XO nodded curtly.

“Aye sir.” He turned to the gunnery station. “Commence fire, repeat fire at will.”

“The fighters, they’re leaving.” Hobbie exclaimed as the TIE fighters suddenly peeled away as one from their pursuit of Rogue squadron.

“Look alive boys, I don’t like the looks of this at all.” Wedge noted.

“I guess as usual when Vader barks everyone listens. They must be bugging out.” Jansen snorted.

“Rogue squadron this is the Sagan, we’re picking up an energy spike on the Adjudicator.”

“Oh, oh.”

“The Adjudicator just painted the Devastator with multiple heavy weapons tracking sensors.”

“They’re really going to---”

A storm of angry emerald bolts erupted from the Adjudicator and splashed against the Devastator’s shields in bright red splotches that propagated along the hull of the stardestroyer like waves crashing against the shore. The fighters that were only moments ago stalking the rogues suddenly fell on the initial wave of fighters flowing from the Devastator’s hangar bay.

Soon TIE fighters were spinning madly in tight dogfights dancing along the hull of the Devastator. Wedge spied the first squadrons of TIE Bombers forming up under the protective wedge hull of the Adjudicator.

“They mean business and this gives us the chance we need to get Captain Kirk and the Princess out from under this mess.” Wedge commented as he maneuvered his X-Wing closer to the planet’s surface, the Orion Fleet realizing that perhaps it was best to be forgotten were quickly trying to withdraw into the planet’s sensor shadow for a get away.

“Is everyone relatively in one piece?” Kirk gasped as he fought his way to the group crouching down for cover at the base of one of the cloning cylinders.

“Right now Jim I certify us all as walking medical miracles for surviving this long.” McCoy replied eyeing Kirk’s wounds and bruises. His shirt nearly torn away save for a few strands held at the left shoulder, blood streamed freely from several gashes along his side and chest. The Jem’Hadar were obviously not above using tooth and nail in this fight.

“Captain, probability dictates that we will eventually succumb to these numbers.” Spock warned as he checked his tricorder again while Sulu was busy laying down a base of fire to deter further Jem’Hadar swarm attacks.

“I won’t argue with your logic there Mr. Spock. Mara, you seem to be the least hurt, care to take point and blast our passage clear to that door?” Kirk suggested.

Mara smirked.

“I have a better idea. The door is obviously the primary objective to this entire ambush. These Jem’Hadar may be brutes but they’re not stupid. There’s bound to be stiffer resistance getting to the door.”

“And your option?” Kirk asked in annoyance as he snap fired from the hip and took down a Jem’Hadar creeping along an overhead coolant pipe. The Jem’Hadar silently tumbled to the ground and lay still.

“That air circulation vent.” Mara pointed to a duct over one of the cylinders to their left.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” McCoy griped.

“That duct is pretty small.” Scotty observed.

“The Princess and I should be able to fit in there, maneuver to a point where we can either drop in on the door avoiding the bulk of the Jem’Hadar resistance or even better yet cross over to the other side of that door and open it that way.”

“I’m not so sure.” Leia protested.

“What are you afraid of?” Mara pressed.

“I’m not afraid of anything!” Leia snapped. “But there’s no reason to take that detour when we can fight our way to the door.”

“Very well.” Mara said quietly. “I assume that Luke can hold out until then.” She added nonchalantly as she rose from her crouch.

“Luke?” Leia glanced back quickly and saw Luke and Worf back to back swarmed by what seemed like hundreds of Jem’Hadar and they were starting to press in with their weight in numbers despite all of Luke’s skill with the Force and the pike.

He would soon fall.

“Damn you.” Leia hissed to Mara and rose from her crouching position.

“Leia.” Kirk stood up and touched her shoulder. She turned to face him. Kirk looked down at her and smiled softly.

“You be careful.”

“I’ll be fine.” She promised then impetuously kissed him on the cheek. “For luck.” She added and followed Mara.

“Quick, give them some covering fire!” Kirk ordered and the team promptly began firing volley after volley from their weapons into the surrounding area, soon creating a blanket of fire and smoke. Mara moved expertly through the debris, Leia right behind her.

“Lovers?” Mara asked casually as she took a breath and leapt up on a cylinder and shimmied up the side with a deft swing of the legs and arms.

“Hardly.” Leia replied as she followed suit, taking pride that she was keeping pace with the Imperial assassin. They reached the top of the cylinder. “Not that it would be any of your business.” Leia added and shot Mara a venomous glare.

Mara chuckled softly.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head Princess. I have no designs on your man.”

“I can imagine whom you do have designs on.” Leia replied coolly.

The women regarded each other in charged silence, interrupted by the constant barrages of fire from down below.

“We have a job to do.” Mara said quietly, her eyes not leaving Leia’s.

“Indeed we do.” Leia replied.

Mara turned and opened the duct over the cylinder they stood on. She carefully placed the vent down at her feet and turned her head to Leia.

“I suppose you’d like me to go first?” Mara asked.

“Please.” Leia smiled coldly.

Mara shrugged and quickly scrambled up into the duct. She grunted for a moment.

“This is a tighter fit than I thought it would be princess. Maybe I should go on alone.” Mara called back down from the duct.

“That’s alright Ms. Jade, I’m much thinner than you are.” Leia replied and hauled herself up into the duct.

Mara said nothing as she started her crawl through the air duct.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a spare energy pack?” Scotty asked around as he heard the warning buzz from his phaser.

“Make every shot count.” Sulu replied as he slapped a power pack into Scotty’s hand.

“This position will soon be untenable. I suggest we begin moving to the door. At the very least we will draw attention away from Mara and the Princess when they get to the door.” Spock suggested.

Kirk nodded.

“You’re right Spock. Sulu, lay down a base of fire. Scotty, you and Bones act as a rearguard. Spock you’re with me on point. Where’s Chewie?” Kirk asked suddenly aware that the Wookie was missing.

“He’s back there, Uhura’s in trouble and he’s not letting her out of his sight.” Sulu replied pointing to a cluster of Jem’Hadar that were piled up in broken heaps. Chewbacca had placed Uhura on an overhanging pipe jutting from a cloning cylinder and with his back to her he wielded his disruptor rifle with deadly skill and when the Jem’Hadar managed to draw to close were rewarded with a swipe of his massive paws or a blast from Uhura’s pistols. She was firing a phaser in one hand and a disruptor in the other. She was also sporting a split lip and blood matted down the hair on the left side of her face.

“Uhura!” Kirk called out across the cavernous bay.

“Don’t you worry about me, sir! The big lug and I have things well in hand!” Uhura shouted back. Chewbacca followed with a loud enthusiastic roar.

“Alright, let’s get on the move.” Kirk ordered.

Sulu nodded and crouched down, rifle butt nestled in his chest and began firing a steady stream of bright white disruptor fire. McCoy placed his last power pack at Sulu’s feet and slapped him on the shoulder. “You’ll need that more than I do.”

“You sure about that Doctor?” Sulu called out as he hit a Jem’Hadar trying to vault over a fallen beam.

“I’m a doctor not a soldier!” McCoy yelled back as he tried to keep up with Spock and Kirk, he and Scotty turned back to fire several volleys.

“You ever get the feeling Scotty that we end up doing things we’re not supposed to?” McCoy asked as he tried to at least aim at the shadowy shapes of Jem’Hadar moving swiftly through the increasingly smoke and mist filled room.

“I mean I’m supposed to patch people together not blow them up.” McCoy continued.

Scotty fired a beam that lashed through a cylinder and created an explosion that tore through a line of Jem’Hadar closing on them. Scotty noted the fine construction of the systems, light years beyond anything he had seen during his time. It now lay in a smoldering pile of overloaded and blasted circuits.

“Aye.” Scotty replied wistfully. “I understand more than you can guess doctor.”

“I must say Artoo the damage didn’t seem to be so bad from out there.” Threepio noted as they cautiously walked through the garden. Trees were overturned, roots suspended in the air as fire and smoke billowed throughout the once beautiful landscape.

Marble columns were shattered like glass, smoking stumps in many instances were all that remained. Steaming piles of earth were scattered across the garden, sign posts of where some of the more intense fighting had taken place.

Bodies of guards littered the catwalks above.

Threepio thankfully did not spy any fallen from their group in the massacre.

Artoo whistled excitedly as he caught sight of something behind a sliding door as guards ran out still arming themselves, slipping on helmets and whatever passed for body armor among the Orion pirates.

“Control center? Oh no, Artoo. I agreed that it was time to leave the audience chamber once my circuits recovered from that shock but I did not agree to any more adventures. We have to find a way out of here immediately. Captain Kirk was quiet clear that were we to be separated we must find a way out.” Threepio protested.

Artoo beeped plaintively.

“No Artoo. It’s too dangerous, besides you wouldn’t know what to do when you got there.”

Artoo turned his domed head to regard the open door and the control center beyond with racks of monitors and consoles. He turned his head to regard Threepio again and whistled and beeped fervently before rolling towards the door.

“Oh my! Artoo!” Threepio called and shook his head. “Always getting us into trouble.” Threepio muttered and reluctantly followed his counterpart.

Artoo rolled quickly towards the open door happily whistling to himself. Things were finally starting to look up in this operation.

He stopped short with a confused squawk as a guard interposed himself between the squat droid and the doorway beyond. The guard was stroking the barrel of his disruptor rifle and eyeing the droid with keen interest.

“And where might you be going?” he asked tersely.

Artoo whistled and beeped a long explanation that involved the guard, his mother, a randy Gammorean and duct tape.


“Excuse me ever so much sir. This is R2-D2 and I am C-3PO human cyborg relations. We were on our way to the command center to run diagnostics on my little friend here when he got ahead of me. Pardon the distraction. We will be out of your way in a moment.”

“Hold it right there golden tonsils, I have my orders and they are clear. We need to keep everyone where they are until we can root out the intruders and rescue Lord Darkstar from the scum.”

Artoo squawked something rude.

“And scum they are.” Threepio quickly added. “However perhaps you are ignorant of the fact that Artoo and I are droids from another galaxy making us quite unique and special.”

“Oh yeah? Well there are quite a few robots I’ve seen in THIS galaxy that are lot better looking and valuable than you two appear to be, a walking toaster and rolling garbage can from the looks of both of you. Now get back to the audience chamber.” The guard ordered.

“There’s no need to be rude!” Threepio protested and Artoo beeped and whistled a string of binary epithets. The guard did not look impressed.

“Come along Artoo.” Threepio said casually and began to walk away. Artoo turned his domed head to follow Threepio and burst out in an electronic whine.

“I said come along now you bucket of bolts. I know your internal circuits are scrambled, perhaps when you finally shut down from an overload I can explain to Darkstar what happened and he’ll be understanding of his guards for allowing one of his collection to end up a smoking pile of circuits.” Threepio explained softly.

“Hey!” the guard protested.

“Yes?” Threepio asked without turning to face him. Artoo’s head swiveled back to face the guard then back to Threepio, a soft approving beep indicated that he suspected what Threepio was up to.

“You didn’t say anything about Darkstar’s personal collection.”

“You are quite right sir! Sometimes I do forget myself. It does not matter. My companion and I will be out of your hair and when he breaks down I know Lord Darkstar will understand.” Threepio politely explained. know what? Why don’t you go ahead and take your friend into the command center. We’ll forget this little incident happened.”

“As you wish sir. Now let us be on our way so we can get out of your hair.” Threepio said smoothly and walked past the guard. Artoo beeped and squawked at the guard before following Threepio. The guard let out a sigh of relief.

Artoo whistled excitedly as they entered the command center and were out of earshot of the guard.

“Poker face? Where did you learn that phrase?”

Artoo beeped a response as he approached one of the empty terminals. The technicians in the room paid them little attention as they were too busy trying to keep the palace together and it looked as if they were also trying to coordinate with a fleet in orbit. Threepio peered into one of the status monitors as he replied “Captain Kirk? Well I would refrain from picking up so many uniquely Federation phrases.”

Artoo whistled quizzically.

“Why? Well because it’s my job to learn how to better interact with humans.” Threepio explained in annoyance.

Artoo examined the control console. The standard input port was missing but then again he didn’t expect one so he had to improvise. Astromech droids were designed to be able to interface with all but the most primitive computers and Artoo was assessing what sort of connection would be possible with these.

“Oh my Artoo, it looks like a dangerous space battle is brewing over this planet.” Threepio noted as he watched the battle unfolding on screen.

Artoo squeaked happily as he found the right frequency for a wireless connection. The screens and displays at his console began flashing quickly and touch controls activated of their own accord.

“What are you going to do Artoo?”

Artoo whistled excitedly as one of the screens showed a battle in the lower levels of the palace. Chewbacca was clearly visible in the lower left corner of the screen picking up a pair of Jem’Hadar in a bear hug and then flinging them against a cloning cylinder. In the uppermost portion of the screen Luke Skywalker was cart wheeling in a tight turn, remaining at Worf’s back as he slipped his pike in and out of the rushing Jem’Hadar, bright crimson blotches blossoming on their chests or necks with each stroke.

“Master Luke!” Threepio exclaimed.

Some of the technicians glanced over at the pair.

“Yes Artoo, you’re right there’s some damage in your digital cortex.” Threepio stammered. The technicians returned their attention to the growing disaster. The palace shook once, then twice. The very foundations rumbled.

“By the maker!”

Artoo switched the display to the outer monitors. He began beeping and whistling in alarm. Threepio saw what had Artoo so disturbed.

“Oh no!” White armored shapes were moving like machines in precise formation into the palace. Any resistance was mercilessly gunned down by short controlled bursts from their blaster rifles. Two reached the double doors leading into the audience chamber from outside and tried the access terminal.

“What the hell are they?” One of the technicians sputtered.

“Stormtroopers.” Threepio said in defeat. The pair of stormtroopers at the door upon seeing that their hacking did not force the electronic lock motioned in short curt signals and a squad arrived and placed a shaped charge against the door as more of Darkstar’s guards met their ends at the end of their imperial blasters. He looked down at Artoo. “We’re doomed.” Threepio sighed.

The Adjudicator’s bridge rumbled. Tarsi ignored the sounds of hurried crewmen rushing to fill stations, damage control teams being directed to various areas and the constant drone of targets and tactical data. He stood over the fighter control station.

“Are the Bombers all modified as per my instructions before we set out?”

“They are all standing by and their new shield grids are functioning well within expected parameters. Keep in mind that they are a hybrid of our shield technology and Romulan. They can survive several hits from standard TIE armament but the anti starfighter weapons of the Devastator will tear them apart just as neatly as if they didn’t have shields at all.” His flight commander warned.

Tarsi nodded.

“I’m well aware of the system’s limitation. They just need to survive the Devastator’s fighter squadron. At this range the Bomber’s cannot miss. What about our new fighters.”

“The Interceptor squadrons have all been upgraded with the same shield systems, sir. They’ll escort the bombers in.”

“Have the Interceptors focus on taking out the Devastator’s fighter screens on the way in and out.”

The flight commander nodded.

The Adjudicator shook more violently this time. Tarsi looked up sharply.

“I want us to stay in close, keep our bow to her starboard side and I want a higher rate of fire from our heavy batteries.”

“We’re working on it sir.”

Tarsi walked over to his XO and looked over his shoulder at the tactical display.

“Our shields are holding as you expected and her starboard side is starting to show strain.” His XO reported without looking back as he directed the gunnery teams to concentrate on the points where the Devastator’s shields showed any sign of weakening. Each shield quadrant had a fluctuating state of power as massive barrages exploded against them from the Adjudicator’s guns.

“As soon as you see that power level fluctuate you launch the bombers on their run.” Tarsi ordered pointing to one of the power displays on the Devastator’s display.

“You mean to hit their port side shields as soon as Captain Tyco gives the order to shunt power to stabilize his starboard shields?” His Xo asked, surprise and respect in his voice. Tarsi was renowned for sniffing out weakness and exploiting it. He did not think in a fight like this one where they were so evenly matched that they would even try for a knockout blow.

Tarsi, of course, never even thought of fighting a holding action. Battle had a victor and a loser and Tarsi intended to win.

“Once the Bombers start their strike Tyco will think I intend to strike on his starboard side.”

“We don’t?” His XO asked in sudden confusion.

“That’s precisely the confusion I hope to create.” Tarsi smiled triumphantly. “Captain Tyco will jump to the same conclusion that you just did, reroute power to his port side shields knowing that the time it would take for me to jump across his bow is seconds less than the time it takes to reroute shield power.”

“Then why---”

“Tyco is a man who acts quickly and decisively when he sets his mind on something. A trait he honed to near perfection serving under Vader. He will not hesitate to act and that is where I must take him. Once he sees the Bomber strike he will shunt power and maneuver the Devastator hard to port to make us work harder to get at his exposed side.”

“But by doing so he only further exposes his starboard side.” His XO concluded softly.

“Indeed and we will need our helmsman to make the Adjudicator handle like a TIE fighter for this to work. We will feint a run underneath his hull, a perfect attack run to his other side since that is his most vulnerable point that exposes us to the least amount of fire. He’ll see my move coordinated with the bombers and shunt power.” Tarsi looked up quickly from the tactical display. “Helm.”

His helm officer looked up expectantly.

“Aye sir.”

“I’m going to ask you to perform a Gryphon Feint.”

“Sir!? I don’t believe that is a recommended or even safe maneuver on a stardestroyer. At most, carracks and frigates can perform a Gryphon Feint without tearing themselves apart.”

“Are you saying that the finest ship on the Imperium can’t pull this off?”

The helm officer looked wounded.

“Sir, I said IMPERIAL manuals do not recommend it. I can’t remember the last time the manual said anything of worth in this galaxy.” The helm officer replied with pride. His helm crew all nodded their heads enthusiastically. “In other words Captain, your will be done.”

Tarsi laughed and pointed to his helm officer.

“On my mark. And if you pull this off there’s commendations for every man in your pit.”

The helm station was all smiles and they grimly bent their heads to their work. Not one of them five minutes ago would have believed a Gryphon feint was possible on a ship this size but now they were all true believers.

“Are you sure this is going to work sir?” His XO asked softly as they strode back to the other end of the command deck watching the sea of green fire between both battling juggernauts. Small pinpoints of steel gray metal swarmed in hungry packs in the spaces between the no man’s land of turbolasers as TIE fighters hunted each other.

“You have to learn your ships, my friend, even our own. The Devastator for all her fame and glory is a venerable Mark I destroyer. We are a brand new Mark II. We are built for this kind of ship to ship fighting. The older destroyers were more jacks of all trades. We need to exploit every advantage and that includes our edge in heavy anti-ship weapons which is why I’ve been keeping our bow to her, forward weaponry is where we have her beat. Tyco is an old school battleship captain down to his need to set up for a broadsides exchange. We’re frustrating him with these maneuvers, keeping our forward bow to him. The strike we’ll make on his starboard will only be enough to take down his shields, it’s the bombers and our secret allies that will put the coup de grace on his exposed hull.” Tarsi vowed.


“Is it time?” Tarsi snapped.

“No sir. There’s a shuttle deploying from the Devastator, it’s accompanied by a pair of assault shuttles.” The Tactical officer reported in disbelief.

“In this heavy fire?! Is Tyco mad?” Tarsi’s XO shouted.

“Take them down now. I don’t think Tyco sent those ships.” Tarsi concluded.

“All gunnery stations engaging shuttles.”

Tarsi waited impatiently, almost bouncing on the balls of his feet. This battle was making his blood quicken as it had not in so long.


“Uh…sir, we’re shooting.” His gunnery chief adjusted several controls and his expression grew more puzzled then concerned crept in as well. “Sir, we’re getting clear solid locks on those shuttles but our shoots keep going wide, as if someone or something were…”

“Blocking the shots, perhaps bending them away?” Tarsi suggested, it sounded more like certainty in his voice.

“I can’t explain it.” His gunnery chief replied shaking his head ruefully.

“I can. Vader.” Tarsi frowned. “Never mind, divert all fire back to the Devastator and warn our ground team that they’ll have company shortly.”

“Aye sir.”

Tarsi pounded his fist against the safety railing. “Hold on Nemesis. We’re almost there.”

Luke batted aside a Jem’Hadar hand and snapped the bladed end of his pike into a Jem’Hadar’s throat. As it gasped its last he heard it. Soft like the whisper of silk on steel.

“I am coming, my son.”

“Oh no.” Luke whispered. He could feel the dark storm overhead, descending upon him with a fury that could rend worlds. “I’m not ready for him.”

A punch crossed his nose and sent him tumbling backwards as a kick tore the pike from his hands. Luke landed sprawled out on the ground, the alpha looming over him.

“I am First Rulek Par. And now you will die.” He vowed.

“There.” Mara said as she dropped down from the ventilator shaft onto the small workstation at the entrance to the cloning chambers beyond.

“This is a main reactor shaft.” Leia noted after dropping down and quickly scanning the area. There was a long one man bridge that crossed a gulf towards a central chamber beyond where she saw deep angry purple electric bursts dancing along crystalline spikes radiating out from the center of the chamber suspended over the abyss below.

“Where else would this fool try to keep hypermatter reactors than in his main reactor?” Mara pointed out as she leaned over to examine the locking mechanism. Leia checked for any traps, internal security guns that could end their mission unexpectantly.

“You know, when I first joined him he wanted me to be his dark queen?” Mara asked softly as she expertly flipped the control panel’s housing off and familiarized herself with the set up. This galaxy’s primitive and quaint use of chip technology was sometimes difficult to manipulate.

Leia glanced down at Mara.

“No, I didn’t know that.” Leia replied neutrally. Was Luke truly as different as he seemed to be while he was Nemesis? Was there no hint of him in that dark man? The Luke she knew would never feel drawn to this woman. She smelled of danger and passion.

Mara nodded as she pulled the main control chip. The inside of the panel lit up red instead of the natural cool blue.

“Indeed he did and I said no. You want to know why?”

Leia shifted uncomfortably on her feet.

“I’m not sure.”

Mara chuckled softly.

“At least you’re honest.” Mara conceded as she fished for the ODN relays. “I didn’t know where my loyalties lay. You see I love him.” Leia paused, the air was charged and not just with the megawatts of raw power flowing from each crystalline spike into the recesses of Darkstar’s palace. There was something wrong here.

“You’ve never told anyone.” Leia concluded, her hand tightening on the grip of her blaster.

“No I haven’t, hell Princess, I only recently admitted it to myself.” Mara replied as she found the relay and smoothly uncoupled the correct sequence of cords. “You see I thought, what the hell right? Nemesis will love me and I’ll ride out this little war and make my decision when I must thinking foolishly that I would never lose him.” Mara slipped the last of the conduits away and twisted the relay. She was rewarded with a soft hum from the panel.

“But now he’s no longer Nemesis.”

“No. He’s most decidedly not. He’s Luke Skywalker. I’ve lost the man I love.” She concluded sorrowfully.

“I’m sorry.” Leia sighed.

“Don’t be. It’s your fault.” Mara concluded and her left leg snapped up like a lightning bolt striking Leia square in the chest. The air rushed from her explosively and stumbled backwards against the railing of the small work station. Mara whipped herself around at the waist, uncoiling like a cobra and snapped her right fist across Leia’s face.

Leia grunted as her head snapped to the right, blood exploding from her nose and mouth as Mara simultaneously drove her knee into Leia’s midsection.

Leia fumbled with her blaster while jabbing with her free hand to rake Mara’s face. Mara soundlessly ignored the bloody nail lines torn across her cheek and nose and gripped Leia’s wrist, savagely twisting it and smiling as she heard the sick snap and Leia’s scream of pain. The blaster clattered to the ground.

Mara pulled Leia’s face close to hers and smiled.

“You took the man I loved from me with your endless search for his humanity, prodding him and poking his conscience with your very presence. I briefly considered killing or seducing Kirk to make you feel some of my pain but frankly princess.” Leia spat in her face. Mara grinned. “This is far more satisfying.”

Leia was thrown clear of the railing and vanished down into the dark abyss of the reactor core. Mara looked down after her and waited a moment before placing her hand against the railing and with the butt of her blaster smacking down on her forearm with all her strength, she screamed in pain even though she was expecting it. She gingerly took Leia’s blaster and fired a volley of rounds into the air, then fired several of her own.

She turned back to the door and snapped the main control chip back into the panel. The panel lit up blue again and the door slid open. Mara slid down in mock fatigue and pain and held her blaster to her chest.

“The things we do for love.” She whispered.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 74: Brief Interludes

The two men sat quietly watching the star field. The office was silent save for the soft ticking of a time piece on the corner of the simple desk. Stacks of datapads were neatly piled on almost every available inch of work space.

“You’re worried aren’t you?” The blind man whispered softly breaking the silence that had endured for several hours now.

“Is it that obvious?” Grand Admiral Kittaine sighed and took a sip of his drink. The tea was warm and soothing. He had discovered it in the Romulan replicator archives.

Ernesto Ochoa, former Federation Captain of the starship Thunderchild and prisoner of war shook his head and smiled. His blank eyes continued staring ahead as he spoke.

“You’re a good commander, Admiral. As such you cannot help but be concerned about your men. Remember I sat in the center chair and I know what it’s like. But in the end you cannot concern yourself with what might have been. You know as well as I do that the end result of this mission will mean that your Imperium is going to have to face Grand Admiral Thrawn’s forces.”

“That may be so.” Kittaine replied. “But that does not make it any more palatable to me. I used to be one of them you know. I was a loyal member of the Empire. There will be officers and men in Thrawn’s fleet who served under me or whom I served under at one time or another. This is not like killing aliens, this war will be killing friends.”

Ochoa said nothing but pursed his lips in thought before speaking.

“You know, each of those starships you destroyed in your little war against the Federation contained hundreds of people that I cared about, knew and were friends with. Yet I can put aside the anger I feel for your little dictatorial regime because I set my sight on a long term and far more important goal.” Ochoa replied evenly. Kittaine was unnerved by the sudden attention given him by the blank eyes of the Federation captain. They bore into him as if the young blind man could actually see him.

“You want to know something Captain Ochoa?” Kittaine asked as he slowly rose from his chair and walked over to his desk. “I have heard this often from you since I freed you from your prison. You keep talking about the bigger picture, the long term goal. I have no idea what you mean. My goal is simple. Keep the Imperium in one piece. Short term goal, find Lord Nemesis at all costs.”

“Isn’t it enough that I help you? Lord Nemesis came to me for advice.”

Kittaine nodded as he picked up some data pads and gave them cursory glances.

“And there’s the problem. After speaking to you he left the fleet and vanished, ending up as prisoner on some crime lord’s world.”

“You’re trying to blame me for this?” Ochoa asked in confusion. “Nemesis is and always has been his own man.”

“Yet he seemed to confide in you a great deal How do I know you have not steered him into certain courses of action? I mean, I must admit you are a charismatic young man, made even more so oddly enough after your incident.”

“You can say my blinding. After all your Imperium hospitality has put me through saying what I am is not going to hurt my feelings.” Ochoa countered.

“Alright damnit then I’ll come out and say it. You got your revenge against Nemesis by planting the notion in his head that he should leave the fleet and find himself or whatever damn fool thing he was doing out there in the hopes that he would be killed or captured.” Kittaine snapped.

Ochoa smiled sardonically.

“Poor little me. I talked a Sith lord into putting his life in danger. My, my Grand Admiral, whatever shall I do next as an encore, maybe convince you to surrender to James Kirk’s Federation remnant, perhaps?”

Kittaine frowned.

“Your sarcasm certainly isn’t helping.”

“What else am I supposed to say? Nemesis is his own man and he has been thinking about leaving for some time. He came to me as a sounding board for his own ideas. I merely told him the truth.”

“And that would be?”

“That you can’t truly listen unless you’ve quieted your own mind. I certainly didn’t have time to listen to the truth until I could no longer see.”

Kittaine was silent for a long while as he quietly regarded the young man. His anger was misplaced. He knew it as soon as he listened to Ochoa. This was anger at fate, at circumstances that had drawn him into this moment in history.

“You know I dispatched my finest warship and the best Captain I have.”

Ochoa said nothing.

“Tarsi is an attack dog. I never met a more aggressive commander. He does not see things in your standard tactical and strategic terms. For him it’s all about winning and losing.”

“That would be the kind of commander I would want to lead the rescue.” Ochoa replied.

“But I know that we will not be the only ones to pick up the Sith beacon.”

“And you’re afraid of what will happen should Vader come knocking.”

Kittaine shook his head ruefully.

“No. I know precisely what will happen when Vader arrives. Tarsi will not back down and we will have a war on our hands that I do not want nor am ready for.”

“This war happened the moment Thrawn came through the wormhole.” Ochoa noted.

“I’d like to think that sometimes war is not inevitable.” Kittaine sighed.

“Funny.” Ochoa said tightly. “War certainly seemed inevitable when your fleet came into this galaxy and took what it wanted. After all you burned a bloody path through the Alpha quadrant never once thinking that you may have been welcomed with open arms if you had offered to share what you had with all of us instead of conquering us and then giving us the benefits of your technology.”

Kittaine’s eyes narrowed on the young man. Ochoa’s back was to Kittaine, as the Grand Admiral’s eyes bore into it.

“Your galaxy was a chaotic quagmire of competing feudal powers. Lord Nemesis came and imposed order.”

“The litany of the tyrant.” Ochoa laughed bitterly. “My world and much of the Federation left those impulses behind long ago for something better. A world where might does not make right but might is FOR right. Where you help your enemy see the good in him instead of blasting him in self righteous anger.”

“And look where that got you.” Kittaine said it before thinking. He stopped himself short and opened his mouth to apologize but quickly shut it. There was an awkward silence in the room.

The doors opened and Lwaxana Troi strolled in holding several datapads in one hand while primping her hair with the other. Her Stormtrooper escort grimly strode in lockstep one step behind her.

“Oh you two have been marching around after me all day. Go to that mess hall or whatever it is you call it and get something to eat, you must be famished.”

The stormtroopers hesitantly glanced at each other.

“Oh shoo! Go away and get something to eat. And don’t fret what the Admiral will think. He has far too much on his mind and I intend to be here long enough for you to get something proper to eat.”

“Lwaxana, these men are—”

“Too scared of you to make the right decision. Now go. Please and try the Lamek soup, it is particularly good.” Lwaxana clucked like a mother hen and swung her arms in a shoving motion forcing the stormtroopers back through the door.

“And don’t think I won’t ask whether you two actually went to eat.” She added.

“Yes ma’am.” The duo replied like scolded children as the doors slid shut again. Lwaxana smiled and turned to face Kittaine and Ochoa. As she adjusted her hair again her eyes narrowed on Kittaine.

“You know, even if I weren’t a telepath I could tell that you two have been fighting again.”

Kittaine frowned.


Ochoa remained silent.

Lwaxana nodded sagely. “Do you two want to tell me what this is all about? We were getting along so splendidly and now I can’t leave you two alone for more than 10 minutes before you’ve been at each other’s throats.”

“This is none of your concern. And since when did your position as my aide mean that you can question me? Do you have the data I asked for or not?”

Lwaxana's lips pursed into a thin line.

“Yes I most certainly do.”


“Thrawn is going to attack Andor.” Ochoa interjected softly. He slowly rose to a standing position and adjusted the guidance control on his belt buckle. It was a gift from Kittaine. The belt was a device used to assist those who could not see to navigate as they walked, small buzzes acted like a sonar letting the wearer know when he was too close to an object.

“You’re leaving?” Lwaxana asked with concern, sparing Kittaine a harsh glare.

“I find, Miss Troi that my services are no longer required here. I’ve been accused of being an undue influence on the man that captured my ship, killed much of my crew and tortured the others. I wouldn’t want to give the Grand Admiral any advice that may lead to him making a disastrous decision.” Ochoa explained as he carefully walked towards the door, unerringly avoiding furniture.

“You’re being unfair.” Kittaine accused.

“Am I?” Ochoa asked sharply as he turned his head and seem to stare right at Kittaine.

“Ernesto, calm yourself dear. I’m sure the Admiral has been stressed by all that is happening. It’s only going to get worse when he hears what I have to report about Thrawn.” Laxwanna leaned in close to him. “He needs you…we need you.”

Ochoa quietly stood still for a moment, the betazed’s soft touch on his forearm.

“Perhaps I’ve been pushing my point of view too hard.” He replied. “I think that I need to pull back from this.”

“That’s not it entirely is it?” Laxwanna pressed as she felt the strands of his thoughts flowing.

“That’s not very nice now is it?” Ochoa snapped.

“What are you afraid of?”

Kittaine watched the exchange with great interest. It seemed sometimes that the blind man was privy to knowledge that he and the others were not. He always had some secretive half smile on his face when he made his cryptic proclamations. As if sharing in some private joke between himself and the universe.

“I’m not afraid of anything. I’m merely looking at what is to come.”

Lwaxana blinked. What was he driving at?

“Ernesto you’re being far more cryptic than usual today.” She gently chided.

Ochoa looked up at her, his eyes were brimming with tears. Her brow furrowed with concern. There was real anguish flowing from him.

“Listen to me. Both of you.” Ochoa announced. Kittaine stiffened, the starship Captain’s voice was thick with emotion. “There is one thing that I have tried to teach you, especially you Grand Admiral. Only time will tell if Luke listened to me as well. You see there is hope in even the darkest places of the universe. No matter how dark the night there will always be the dawn, no matter how long and deep the tunnel there will always be a light at the end of it. And in this war of the Starcrossed our single greatest weapon is hope. Hold on to it, do not let it go. Too many of us already have, whole worlds have lost it, the universe seems dimmer for it but as long as we few hold on for all the others there is a chance at final victory.”

Lwaxana was stunned by the passion in his words. Kittaine looked at the blind man with a new found respect. Ochoa reached out for Laxwanna with his hand. She gently clasped it. He reached up to her face and cupping her cheek before leaning in and kissing her ever so gently.

“You have been kind to me. I will never forget you. Take care of him. For all his faults he is a good man and we have so few left.” He whispered like a lover to her before parting.

Ochoa turned to leave and paused at the door.

“Holding on to hope is all we have.” He smiled softly. “Even a blind man can see that.” With those words, Ernesto Ochoa, Captain of the starship Thunderchild walked out of Grand Admiral Kittaine’s quarters.

The doors slid shut leaving Lwaxana Troi and Kittaine alone.

“Uh, I don’t quite know what to say. He seemed to be in anguish but he’s perfectly healthy…well except for the eyes.” Lwaxana began furtively touching her cheek where he had kissed her and trying to fill the uncomfortable silence.

“For all your telepathic talent you could not tell me what was bothering him?” Kittaine asked but his eyes were on the door, as if expecting the man to return.

Lwaxana shook her head. “Remarkable really. But there was no doubt that he was in pain. If only I knew why.”

“You know what bothers me more than anything else my dear.”

“Grand Admiral?”

Kittaine watched the door intently for a moment, as if he could will himself to see past it. His hands clasped the edge of the desk.

“That sounded very much like a goodbye.”

Picard reached out and grunted as he pulled himself over the lip of the cliff face. Beneath him stretched out the ancient fossilized remains of a city. He paused at the edge to catch his breath as Seven of Nine negotiated the ruins above him. She was moving at a fairly rapid pace and he was starting to fall behind.

He could not ask her to slow down. He knew why she was moving as if possessed.

The man she loved was somewhere down in that ghost city and he was going to die if they did not catch the Borg Queen and stop her attempt at restarting the Collective.

The lead she had on them had been shaved down but she was still far ahead and Picard was beginning to have serious doubts that he may not be able to keep up this pace for very long. He could almost hear his artificial heart pumping frantically in his chest.

He had dispatched R-7 ahead to try and reach the Queen. Seven and Picard had concluded that there was no way they could have a good chance of reaching her at this pace but the tireless android was another matter altogether.

Picard remembered watching the android bounding over the debris and disappearing from sight within moments after being ordered to track her and if necessary eliminate her. Now it was just him and Seven and he had no idea what R-7’s status was since he was under strict communications silence.

But he found himself hoping for the best. He did not want to see the android lose its life at this point in its development where he reminded Picard so much of Data.

He glanced around the ruins where they stood, or at least he crouched down, hands resting on his knees trying to catch his breath and saw a massive mangled mess of steel hanging askance far to his left at the edge of these ruins.

“That looks like a gantry of some sort or maybe even a crane.” He commented.

Seven stopped her movement and paused as her tricorder beeped. She flipped it open and watched the liquid crystal display with interest, occasionally adjusting a control.

“This must have been some sort of landing platform, perhaps a space port.” Picard concluded as he swept some dust and debris away with his foot and revealed the flat black surface beneath and what looked like the edges of large numbers that most likely acted as markers for pilots. The archeologist in him was excited. He was standing on ruins that predated the Borg and could help explain the evolution of their culture and society.

“Captain. I’m picking up odd subspace signals.”

“Oh?” Picard gasped as he stood straighter.

“I believe there is some sort of power source ahead. The presence of debris and heavy metals in the air is making it difficult to pinpoint precisely.”

Picard walked to her position, feeling some relief now that the pace had stopped for a moment.

“Could be an ancient device left on after the war, maybe a piece of equipment or vehicle buried under all this rubble.” Picard suggested as he wiped sweat from his brow and scanned the wreckage. Always looming above them was the fortress like structure that was their destination.

“I would normally agree with you.” Seven replied, she regarded him with a quizzical arch of her brow. “However the source of the signature has been moving the last few minutes.”

“Not just moving randomly either.” Picard noted instantly concerned as he watched the movement on the screen of the small tricorder. His finger jabbed down at the latest movement trace. “It’s been stalking us.”

The air around them exploded with a shrill shrieking like metal tearing itself apart. The debris in front of them exploded into the air in a thick hazy cloud driving Picard and Seven of Nine down to the ground. Seven’s tricorder buzzed a warning as the air rippled above them and the explosive destruction continued chewing up the ruins around them before suddenly stopping just as quickly as it began.

They heard a high pitched whining as if a motor were overheating and the sound was drowned out by a low rhythmic beating of something heavy crunching through the debris in a slow deliberate walk.

“Captain, the tricorder indicates that the hostile fire is most likely some advanced rail gun.”

“Rail guns? That’s not standard armament that I’m aware of among the Borg or anyone else of note for that matter.” Picard gasped as he rolled onto his knees and crouched low, trying too peer past a hunk of metal deposited squarely by his side after the attack. The ruins were smoking from the impact of the enemy rail gun, Picard could spy several white hot metal slugs smoldering deep inside the earth and the debris around them.

If just one of those just struck them they would most likely be killed instantly.

The clomping heavy metal foot steps paused. The high pitched whine turned into the metallic shriek as the slugs tore through the air.

“Down!” Picard shouted and dropped to his belly and placed his hands over his head. The debris field erupted into a chaotic storm of metal and earth. Some of the debris sliced his hands and back.

The attack stopped suddenly once again and the clomping grew louder.

Seven immediately checked her tricorder. She shielded it with her body in the last attack. It was their main advantage in this engagement. They were obviously out gunned at the moment.

“Captain, the signature is much stronger and clearer now. I am picking up a clear antimatter reaction and heavy armor of some form of tritanium remarkably similar to the armor on Borg drones save significantly heavier.”

“It’s pinning us down with heavy fire and closing for the---”

The high pitched shriek of metal ripped through the air much louder now and Picard caught sight of muzzle flashes top his right. The debris was further reduced to shards and shavings by the hot slugs.

The war machine drew close enough to be seen roughly. Picard estimated the attacking mechanical killer was roughly 5 meters tall and its vaguely humanoid shape was badly distorted by armor plating that covered nearly every inch of the machine.

He took his phaser rifle and adjusted the power settings quickly.

“Let us hope that unlike the Borg this war machine is not shielded.”

“Captain, a direct confrontation would be foolhardy. The machine seems to be designed to take out large concentrations of infantry. But I have an idea.”

“Now would be the time.” Picard replied as he set the power up to max. He rolled back to lie on his belly and aimed his rifle up towards the looming behemoth. He could now see the rail guns, much like the ancient Earth gatling guns with multiple spinning barrels, mounted on the machines arms. The barrels began to spin again.

Seven pressed a button on her tricorder and she dashed out away from Picard through the debris field. The war machine paused and let out a rumbling sound like an old engine starting up. Picard watched its head follow Seven, eyes mounted on armored turrets independently tracked her movements from separate angles.

What was she doing?

The war machine suddenly lurched forward and began following Seven. Using one of its battering ram like arms to swipe aside a chunk of molten concrete as it made a path for itself.

Picard noticed that the war machine’s armor was indeed thick and heavy, perhaps heavy enough to repel his phaser strikes. But the rear and sides of the machine were not as heavily armored and Seven’s ploy became obvious. She was trying to maneuver the killing machine into a more vulnerable position.

Picard brought the stock of the rifle up under his chin and aimed carefully. He needed to make every shot count.

The war machine emitted another loud roar of cogs and gears as its eyes tracked through the mountains of fossilized debris with an eerie precision. Whatever sensor packet it used, Seven’s trick was blinding it to everything else including himself.

Now to make it pay for that weakness.

Picard pressed the trigger and fired a volley of bright white phaser fire. The salvoes danced up the ‘spine’ of the machine, accompanied by a shower of sparks and smoke upon each strike. The machine roared again, a strange cacophony of electronic noise and squealing gears as it turned quickly, spinning on its waist like a top.

Picard was completely surprised by the machine’s speed and agility as the return fire of rail gun slugs screamed through the air. He rolled to his left and managed to squeeze off another shot before ducking in under cover.

The rail gun fire tore through the ground where he had lain only moments before and swept back and forth for a moment before stopping. The machine turned its body completely around now and squared up to face Picard’s direction. Its eyes were now tracking back and forth, scanning the field for its assailant.

Picard’s communicator clicked once. He tapped it but said nothing.

“Captain…this is Seven…the machine is using a form of thermal imaging coupled with a magnetic detection grid. My tricorder can fool its sensor suite but you are vulnerable. I will attempt to draw its attention again.”

Picard nodded as he shifted quickly and scuttled along the floor. If he remained in one place too long – the place where he had been crouched only moments before exploded into a haze of metal fragments and dust as the machine liberally doused the zone with heavy fire. It began walking towards him, the thunder like foot falls made the very floor reverberate.

“We have another problem Seven.” Picard explained as he hefted a heavy piece of stone and let it fly in the opposite direction. He got up into a running crouch and started to race towards the twisted skeletal remains of the crane far to his left.

The stone evaporated as the rail gun fire followed it unerringly and destroyed the area around it.

“The machine seems to be nearly impervious to phaser fire even at its weakest point.”

“I was afraid of that.” Seven replied. “Perhaps I can find another antimatter power source among these ruins and rig a small antimatter grenade.” Seven offered.

Picard shook his head as he dove over a gaping chasm where the landing pad had been blasted away and rail gun fire sang behind him.

“No Seven. We don’t have time. I’m running out of space…” the war machine suddenly erupted from one of the walls of fallen debris behind Picard and turned its square head to pin him with a cold calculating gaze.

“And time!” Picard exclaimed as he leapt up and caught the end of the crane’s structure. He swung himself up with one arm, the other jerked forward and fired a round into the machine’s arm, ruining one of the rail guns in an explosion of molten metal.

The war machine began sprinting towards him.

Picard climbed faster than he ever had before. The crane was easily ten stories tall and he was only near the base, hands desperately grasping for the dust covered metal spines and spokes as he negotiated the intricate framework of steel.

“Captain I am coming!”

Picard took another breath and tucked into the heart of the cranes framework as the machine aimed upward with its remaining rail gun and unleashed a horrid barrage. Metal fragments pinged off the framework and one lanced right through Picard’s left bicep. He bit back his scream as he waited for his moment.

The war machine’s guns silenced again as it scanned the upper portions of the towering crane for signs of Picard,

Picard ducked back out and aimed his rifle down. The machine immediately raised a protective arm over its head as it brought the arm with the still functioning rail gun around to protect it from Picard’s fire.

“You’re as smart as I thought you’d be.” Picard muttered as he began firing.

The war machine did not immediately notice that the fire was not directed at it at all. It let out a quizzical snort of derision at the poor marksmanship only to be answered by a slow tortured groan of steel grinding on steel. The foundations of the ruined crane were blown away by the intense phaser fire.

The warmachine’s head jerked up with an almost comical expression on its plain tritanium plated features. It opened its mouth an bellowed a challenge that Picard answered with a roar of his own as the crane began to collapse.

The machine raised its remaining rail gun up at its human target and began to unleash its final volley. Picard leapt from the crane, legs splayed out wildly, arms flapping as the tower collapsed down on top of the warmachine. The high pitched squeal of the rail gun was silenced in an instant by the roar of steel falling steel, hundreds of tons crashing down with a titanic boom.

A thick billowing cloud of black dust and powdered concrete swept ahead along the entirety of the landing platform enveloping everything in a pervasive silence that followed the crash.

The landing platform was still for a long while, the only sound was the occasional clatter of debris and shifting steel beams as they settled in to their new resting place. The silence was finally broken by Picard’s coughing.

He sat up and winced in pain as his felt his ribs. There was a stabbing pain in his left side. Damnit. He spat blood out from his mouth and tried to rise to his feet. Someone was sliding in to his position through the debris. Picard quickly raised his rifle but immediately stopped himself as Seven approached and dropped down to one knee beside Picard.

She ran her open tricorder over him as she glanced back at the crane.

“I did not foresee your strategy until it was too late to help.”

“That’s alright.” Picard gasped in pain. “The general idea was to not be anticipated. From its reactions to out tactics I gleaned that the war machine has a sophisticated enemy AI software. I had to take action that one would think of as rash and irrational but get the job done.”

“You have three broken ribs and a fourth one fractured. I would recommend we stop and camp here while I tend to those injuries.” She paused. “You also have a ligament damage in your left ankle and knee.”

“Well, unfortunately we do not have the luxury of doing that. She’s bound to be at the laboratory already. That behemoth may not have killed us but it did the next best thing.” Picard reached out for Seven and she clasped his hands helping him to his feet. He groaned softly. “It stalled us here, giving her time.”

“I’m not sure you are in any condition to continue.”

“You let me be the judge of that.” Picard countered. He heard something. Softly at first, almost lost in the wind but it became more insistent.

“Do you hear that?”

“Yes. It’s coming from the direction of the machine.”

Picard and Seven exchanged a troubled glance but Picard began to walk towards the wreckage and stopped in mid-rise almost collapsing in pain. Seven was instantly by his side, supporting him on her shoulder.

“You were saying about being your own judge.”

“I think I may have misjudged my injuries. My knee feels like its going to explode.”

“The ligament damage was severe. You will need surgery in order to walk properly.”


The whisper was insistent now and much louder.

“I have to get over there.”

Seven nodded and helped him get to the wreckage of the crane. The warmachine lay beneath much of the twisted metal, both arms shorn off, the torso was traversed by several beams neatly pinning it to the ground like a dissected animal.

Its head was slowly flailing about and its mouth opened speaking in the Queen’s voice.


“I’m here.” Picard replied stonily.

The warmachine’s head turned slowly and regarded Picard with a blank stare. It opened its mouth again.

“Locutus. Somehow I knew that this ancient would not be able to stop you.”

“But that was never your goal was it?” Picard replied with a frown.

“No. I needed time and it bought me more than enough. I am inside the laboratory as we speak. Everything is almost ready.”

“I never thought of you as the gloating type.” Picard said acidly.

“I do not have to gloat Locutus. My victory was a foregone conclusion and now I am merely missing the final ingredient to my plans.”

“And that would be?”


Seven and Picard suddenly vanished in swirling pillars of emerald light. The platform was silent again as the warmachine bowed its head one last time and switched off.

Archer shivered as he pulled the survival blanket closer to him. The cold was pervasive even within the confines of his makeshift shelter under the cover of a downed ancient craft.

The cold did not bother him, or the wind, even the dull throbbing pain of his injuries were not as horrible as the voices he had been hearing the last hour. They were whispers at first. He had assumed it was a trick of the wind coupled with his weary mind but they became clearer, more audible and soon it was obvious that he was actually hearing voices.

They were speaking as if to someone else. He was an unseen witness to a conversation that he wanted no part of. But now, the voices were the least of his concerns.

Now he was seeing things.

Shadows at first, flitting by the corners of his shelter. Movement out of his peripheral vision that maddeningly disappeared when he turned to look directly at it. However he was always relieved when the shadows vanished once confronted. It was a cold comfort to someone who believed that he may be losing the one faculty he had left that was still in perfect working order – his mind.

When he turned and actually saw one of the shadows taking shape and moving he wanted to scream. Not from terror or fear, those emotions were far removed from someone who had seen entire worlds stripped of life by a relentless enemy. It was from the abject horror that indeed he was losing his mind.

He did not want to look, tried to force himself to look away but the shadows became more solid, more substantial. They moved like people now and they were talking. Wandering. Yes, that was the term. They seemed to be wandering, completely oblivious to him.

“This can’t be real.” He muttered.

One of the shades paused as if it heard him.

“Can you hear me?” it whispered in a plaintive wail. Archer crew his legs up closer to his chin and began rocking back and forth.

“This isn’t happening. There are no such things as ghosts.”

“You must hear me. We need to be heard. The pact was broken. Our people consigned to oblivion.”

Archer slowly looked up. The voice was oddly like Seven’s. Strip away the cold tone of her voice, the calculating diction and it sounded so much like her.

“Please listen. There was a pact. It was our final attempt at peace. The machines were on the verge of wiping us out, whole worlds were burned away by their legions and this world, our home world was our last stronghold. We decided to make our stand here. But the machines kept coming until we decided that there was only one possibility left to us. A possibility that we had feared but was the only road left for survival. The road of the trinity.”

Archer leaned forward. This sounded so real. The story had a ring of truth to it. What happened on this world. How did this hell birth the Borg.

“But the pact was broken. Someone decided to eliminate the trinity and instead formed a simple union. But it was incomplete, mindless, a cacophony of voices that needed guidance.”

“The Collective.”

“Yes…yes, that’s it the Collective.” The shade implored.

“What is the trinity then? Man and machine?”

“No. The trinity is the perfect union of human and machine not man and machine.”

“I don’t understand the difference.” Archer protested. The shade drew closer and he could make out a hint of flesh and hair in the swirling shadows.

“This is humanity.” She stated proudly and grasped his wrist. Archer stiffened as his mind was assaulted by images. Flashes of Seven and him. The way she looked at him, his heart stirring that first time he met her on the transporter platform. The way her presence placed him at ease even in the thick of battle. The electric jolt of her touch making his skin come alive. The rush of passion as he kissed her for the first time and the horrible sorrow that had crept into his heart as they parted. He felt alone.


“My god.” He gasped as the shade withdrew her touch. “I understand.” He exclaimed and rose to his feet despite his injuries. “She needs me.”

“Go to her.” Another shade urged. Archer saw the image of a machine in his mind, towering and massive, green light surged along crystalline circuit path ways and he saw her. Seven standing in the center of the machine, her long luxurious blonde hair flowed around her as if she were in standing in a tempest. She stretched her arms out to him as light enveloped her like a lover.

“Complete the ancient pact, seal the breach.”

“Free us.” Several more whispered like a fervent prayer.

“Become one, seal the Breach and give birth to something new.”

Archer looked back and saw a young man clearly among the shades.

“What will I become?”

“Something wonderful.” The young man promised.

Archer limped frantically over to the downed ship. There was no way he could walk. The ship would give him what he needed.

“It’s old.” He reasoned as he opened a panel. Dust of ages lay within the exposed circuitry.

“She will fly again.” The female shade vowed.

“We built our machines well.” The male shade noted with a ghost of a smile.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 75: Desperate Maneuvers

“Go, go, go!” Kirk urged as the doors snapped open leading to the reactor core beyond. Spock, McCoy and Scotty quickly raced through the opening as Kirk covered them. He looked sharply over to his left and saw Luke being swarmed by the Jem’Hedar.

“Do not wait for us!” Worf shouted wiping blood from his mouth while snapping his pike up in a guard position near Luke.

“Captain, Go! Chewie and I will get to you.” Uhura urged as she nodded to the towering Wookiee who immediately turned and picked up a pipe blasted loose in the firefight and began swinging it in wild arcs like a scythe, bulling his way through the Jem’Hedar. Uhura leapt off her perch and supported Chewbacca with deadly fire from the phaser pistol in one hand and disruptor in the other.

“Luke!” Kirk started to move towards the fallen young Sith lord.

Luke shook his head.

“Go! Leia is in trouble!”

Kirk hesitated one last time before making a break through the door.

“What the hell do you mean she fell?!” McCoy exclaimed.

“What’s going on here?” Kirk demanded then glanced around sharply. “Where’s Leia?”

Mara shook her head, pain etched on her face as she struggled to get up on her feet.

“There were Jem’Hedar on this side of the door. The bastards got the drop on us. I blasted two of them but the last one was struggling with Leia.” She glanced morosely at the lip of the guard rail. “They tumbled over the edge before I could get to her.” She finished softly.

Kirk rushed over to the edge and looked down into the yawning chasm below. There was no sign of Leia but it was dark down there only occasionally illuminated by arcing purple electricity from the reactor. He noticed Mara’s hair beginning to stand on end, he imagined the air must be highly charged. His eyes narrowed on her suspiciously.

McCoy noticed something else.

“What happened to your wrist?” He asked with concern.

“It’s nothing.” Mara objected and rubbed it.

“No, that is a broken wrist and that is most certainly not ‘nothing.’”

“Bones, we don’t have much time.” Kirk said softly. He was fighting the dawning realization that Leia might be dead. Numbness was settling in around his heart.

“Jim, if I don’t tend to this it could get worse. It won’t take me more than a few minutes. You and Spock go on ahead. We’ll be right behind you.” McCoy urged as he inspected the wrist.

Kirk shook his head and cursed before turning to Spock.

“Spock, let’s go.”

The two ran over to the walkway and made their way towards the reactor.

“How did you get that scratch?” McCoy casually asked Mara while wrapping her wrist tightly. The ugly red gash ran down from the top of her left eyed to her cheek.

“The Jem’Hedar. They use whatever is at hand, even fingernails and teeth.”

“Hmm…nasty bastards.” McCoy commented but in the back of his mind something did not sit right with him about the wound. It looked too small to have been made by a Jem’Hedar. But then again it was easy to be suspicious of the Imperium’s Dark Lady.

Mara watched McCoy for a moment, ready to reach out and snap his neck should it become obvious he suspected the truth. The heat of battle was proving a very opportune moment to dispatch enemies.

“Far better men than you have promised me death, Rulek Par. You’re more than welcome to join them in failure.” Luke stated calmly as he rose to his feet.

“We shall dance then you and I.” Rulek hissed and feinted in with a head first lunge. Luke did not fall of the feint and instead delivered a crushing snap kick to the Jem’Hedar’s knee. Rulek grunted in pain but reached out and grasped Luke’s ankle before he could withdraw his leg and pulled him off his feet. Luke spun backwards and landed in a low crouch in time to avoid Rulek’s follow through punch.

Worf was growling loudly as he battled the Jem’Hedar horde pressing them from behind. His pike snapped back and forth, striking errant Jem’Hedar across their throats or shattered an exposed joint. He moved with a feral intensity, feeling their numbers beginning to overwhelm him and the sense that this was indeed his final battle was settling in his heart.

In comparison to the deaths of billions of Klingons who died on Quo’nos as their world was blasted away beneath their feet this was a far better death he fought for. A far better resting place awaited him on the other side of the river on his way to Stovohlkor. But he simultaneously found himself wishing that he could have seen his son was last time. To tell him that he was hard on him because life was far harder and no matter what he loved his son. He wished that he could stand on the bridge of his flagship and see the end of this conflict for good or for ill.

But death won in close combat against a horde of your enemies would do for the Supreme Chancellor just fine. But first they would have to kill him. He roared his challenge as he drove his pike into the phalanx of Jem’Hedar, smiling victoriously as he heard the wet snap of bone and cartilage.

Luke leapt up over the Jem’Hedar first and landed behind him. Rulek started to turn but Luke already planted his foot into the Jem’Hedar’s spine. He shoved him forward. Rulek stumbled forward face first. Luke extended his hand and Rulek’s fall stopped suddenly. He jerked the Jem’Hedar up through his control of the Force and snapped him back into his fist.

Rulek slumped to the ground and shook off the shock of the blow, ignoring the bloody mess that remained of his nose which was driven back into his face by Luke’s fist.

Rulek spit a bloody glob of mucus and blood onto the floor the slowly rose to his feet. He laughed bitterly.

“So, this is how you intend to defeat me in honorable combat. Simple tricks and nonsense. I expected better from one who calls himself a great warrior.”

“A very wise person once told me that wars don’t make one great.” Luke commented dryly.

“So, finish me. I am no match for you and your tricks. But know that you did not defeat me Luke Skywalker and you never will. You can only kill me.”

“Were I Darth Nemesis I would laugh and gladly take you up on your offer.” Luke said coldly. He stepped around to face Rulek directly. He noticed the Jem’Hedar swarming them had slowly stopped fighting and were gathering around the two, intent gazes bore into Luke and Rulek.

Rulek stood proud and defiant, blood still dripping down from his ruined nose but his eyes were like steel.

“But I’m Luke Skywalker and I will accept your challenge. I am not a fighter with a bag of tricks, I am not someone who is defined by his abilities. I am who I am and you will soon discover that as others have and will.” Luke replied softly and stood in a defensive stance, hands swept outward in a welcoming gesture.

The Jem’Hedar first watched Luke intently for a moment. He nodded grimly.

“Very well. Let us finish this.”

“I want more fire from the heavy batteries.” Tarsi urged.

“We’re doing the best we can, any faster and we risk overheating the guns or worse sir.” The gunnery chief replied tensely as he strode from station to station, hand on each gunnery chief’s shoulder looking down at their readouts and displays, pointing to any adjustments that needed to be made and moved on.

“Status?” Tarsi snapped as he looked up and watched the Devastator looming ahead on one of the armored view ports. Angry emerald streaks of turbolaser fire danced between the two behemoths as they traded continent slagging fire.

“The Devastator is initiating another series of maneuvers, she’s trying to keep her starboard side as far away from our main guns as possible.”

“Helm?” Tarsi’s head snapped over to his navigation and helm pit.

The chief helm officer smiled coldly.

“There is no way in hell that tub is going to outmaneuver us sir. We’re maintaining range and distance.”


“Sir!” The chief tactical officer shouted in surprise.

“Is it time?” Tarsi asked leaning forward eagerly.

“The Devastator’s shield grid is showing a power fluctuation.” The tactical officer paused as he focused on his display. “There it is sir. Power is shunting to the starboard shield grid.”

“Flight command, initiate bomber wing attack.” Tarsi ordered and returned his attention to the helm station. “Stand by on Gryphon feint.”

“All stations prepare for extreme maneuvers. Repeat, prepare for extreme maneuvers.” Someone announced over the ship wide band. It was a warning rarely issued on a stardestroyer. Several crewmen exchanged troubled glances.

“Bomber wings on inbound to target.” The flight commander reported as he concentrated at his station, watching the tactical displays of his fighters and bombers as they wheeled around the threat ships of the Devastator’s fighter wings.

“Light guns firing in support of our strike, sir.” The gunnery chief added.

Tarsi motioned for his XO.

“I want you to find out the status of our ground team. Where they are and if they have any idea of Lord Nemesis’ whereabouts.” His XO nodded and began to walk away when Tarsi touched his forearm. “And tell them Vader is on his way. They don’t have much time left.”


Tarsi turned to the view port, hands clasped behind his back he waited patiently as the first wings of bombers and their fighter escorts peeled away in orderly wings away from the protection of the Adjudicator’s bow and raced towards the Devastator. The tiny grey metallic dots were illuminated or altogether blocked out by the storm of green turbolaser fire that rippled between the two mighty juggernauts.

He was not nervous. He was not afraid. This was battle and he was firmly in his element now and these were men that had served him well through a war that had nearly won them a galaxy. His eyes focused on the Devastator and prepared for what was to come.

“I told you!” Tom Paris crowed.

The Millennium Falcon soared up through a tunnel of concrete and steel and a bright pulsing light illuminated the far end of the tunnel. The Falcon’s computer whined and screeched,

“You most certainly did not tell me to go this way. Now lock onto the strongest power source that should be the main reactor.” Tom replied hotly.

The Falcon’s computer growled and stuttered.

On the small tactical display to his right, Tom saw the missile lock on flashing then turn a sudden sharp red. The concussion missiles were locked on to the reactor core.

“Let’s see you work all your toys now Darkstar.” Tom said with a grin but it faltered as he saw something tumbling towards him. “What the hell is that?” He peered through the cockpit window and saw the object growing in size quickly and fluttering madly. His eyes narrowed on the object and he caught a flash of emerald, the fluttering was the mad flapping of limbs.

“Oh my god!!”

Princess Leia flashed by the Falcon. Tom did not hesitate and threw the controls back and shunted what power he had into the engines. The Falcon spun on its axis and entered a steep power dive, engines flashed an intense blue as it chased the plummeting princess down through the tunnel. Slashing red and white bolts of energy whipped by the freighter.

The Falcon’s computer rumbled a warning.

“I know! I know!” He replied angrily as the pursuing craft that had chased them all through the tunnel network loomed into view, phaser and disruptor blasts streaked past the view port exploding along the walls of the tunnel. “Prepare for emergency transport.” Tom ordered as he flipped several controls and was rewarded with the familiar transporter control panel as it was revealed overhead by a sliding panel.

“God, I hope this works if not she could be reduced to a chunky soup.” Tom muttered as he energized the transporter pad. “Getting a lock on.” He said to no one in particular as her figure began to fill the view port. A phaser struck the Falcon and nearly sent the ship spinning out of control.

The Falcon’s computer emitted a sharp loud shriek that sounded like sheet metal coming apart.

“Ok, it’s now or never.” Tom exclaimed and activated the transporter.

“Spock, what do you make of that?” Kirk asked as they approached the central core of the reactor. The main core was a large octagonal shaped metallic sphere, a walkway encircled the sphere at its equator and slowly rotated around the reactor. A large bunker sat at one point on the walkway slowly rotating along as well. The bunker seemed to be surrounded by a bright pulsing energy field.

Kirk and Spock stood at the end of the walkway that led from the cloning chamber to the main reactor. The walkway ended a little over a meter short from the reactor’s rotating walkway.

“It is most likely some sort of control room, heavily shielded against these plasma blasts and errant radiation coming from the reactor.”

“Is it a hypermatter reactor?” Kirk asked as he watched another impressive electrical display shoot across the top of the reactor core. He glanced down and saw that the bright purple and indigo tendrils of electricity were dancing all along the silver shell.

Spock double checked his tricorder.

“The power readings prove that it is not. Although the plasma discharges and the growing radiation surge would indicate that there is some sort of damage between here and the core.” Spock answered. “Captain it is most likely that this reactor will breech the shell and begin consuming the immediate vicinity of the core.” Spock said grimly.

“Do we know how long?” Kirk asked sharply. Spock could tell that Kirk was on edge. He had a mission to accomplish yet they had likely lost the princess so far.

“Anywhere from minutes to an hour. But one thing is for certain, the reaction has built up to a point where simply shutting it down will not suffice. This reactor will detonate into a cascade of energy as soon as the reaction reaches a critical level.”

“Then we don’t have much time.” Kirk grunted as he leapt onto the rotating platform and checked the area for traps. Spock deftly followed.

“I thought that civilian reactors have safeguards against these kinds of runaway reactions Spock.” Kirk lamented as a bolt of plasma seared the air several meters away and impacted on the far wall of the massive chamber. An avalanche of shattered concrete and steel tumbled down into the abyss below.

“Federation civilian reactors do have safeguards making something like this Captain but this is hardly a civilian reactor. It has parts ranging from Cardasian, to Romulan to Klingon.” Spock sounded incredulous as he identified each major piece of equipment, many in configurations he doubted that their original creators ever dreamed of. “Is that Tholian?” Spock added with an arch of the eyebrow.

“Leave it to Darkstar. He cobbles together a Frankenstein of a reactor to power his sweet little palace.” Kirk shook his head then frowned as they approached the bunker. The energy field covering the structure looked quite formidable.

“Looks like both my aces in the hole are not working out as I intended. One is obviously lost somewhere and the other is sitting behind that energy field doing exactly nothing. Some monkey wrench in the works Mudd turned out to be.” Kirk sighed.

“Captain it was quite illogical to expect Mr. Mudd to be successful in any venture he took part in.” Spock consoled him.

Kirk glanced over at his first officer with a bemused expression.

“You know how to make a man feel better about the chances he takes, Spock.”

“Your human need to find the best in people has led to some rather interesting results, sir.” Spock observed.

“I prefer to think of it as finding hope where there is none.”

“An altogether human sentiment captain. One not suited to logic.”

“We can debate the nature of my command decisions when we’re back at Avalon. Right now we have a rather tough nut to crack Mr. Spock.” Kirk said and stood before the entrance to the bunker. A cold yellow energy field pulsed around the entire structure. Suddenly two figures stepped out into view.

Darkstar waved to Kirk and held a disruptor pistol to Anastasia’s head.

“Well Captain. It seems that we finally have come face to face. You must indeed be James Kirk if you made it through my troops, traps and clone army to get this far. But as usual brain wins over brawn. It would take starship rated weapons to cut through this force field.” Darkstar made a show of peering around Kirk and Spock. “And I don’t see any around Captain. So permit me to say that the game is over.”

“It’s never over Darkstar. Do you honestly think we’d come this far and simply walk away?”

Darkstar laughed sardonically.

“Do you worst captain. There is nothing to be gained flinging yourself against my forcefield, but please if you must, I am in need of amusement on this wretched day.”

“Surely you must be aware Darkstar that this reactor is reaching a critical stage and will explode in under an hour.” Spock noted.

“Leave it to a Vulcan to state the obvious. Of course I know fool!” Darkstar spat.

“And you intend to remain in the control center knowing that means certain death. That is illogical.”

“He is crazy Mr. Spock.” Kirk interjected.

“Think what you will, but while you batter yourselves against my forcefield I shall laugh as my fleet comes around and beams me out of here leaving you here to fight your way back out through my guards and escape this explosion.”

“Beam you through the field?! Sorry Darkstar but that detail may have escaped your precious little plan.” Kirk taunted.

Darkstar merely smirked and jammed the disruptor into Anastasia’s side.

“Say goodbye to the nice legendary starship captain my sweet. This will be the last time we see him.”

Anastasia weakly waved goodbye.

Kirk shook his head and raised his phaser.

“This is not going to end like this.” Kirk snapped and fired. The bright crimson beam lashed into the field and it flared up in a clockwise spinning bright orange burst of light around the point of impact. The field at the entrance deformed into a deep dish like crater but nothing else happened.

Spock looked from the field to Kirk.


“Find me a way in Spock.”

“Captain you will drain the phaser and accomplish nothing. The field is indeed rated to withstand all but capital ship scale weapons.” Spock explained.

Kirk turned his face to glare at Spock. His anger clearly evident on his face as he tried to fight the rage clawing at him for the loss of Leia and everything else caused by this madman.

“He intends to beam out of there with the field up. That tells me there’s a way out. Now find me a way in.”

“Understood.” Spock replied.

“Flight leader we’ve got bandits inbound at 23 degrees.”

“I see it. Stay in formation and stabilize shield grid.” Grey Wing leader said coolly. The sound in his spacious bomber cockpit was dominated by the high-pitched whine of the high performance Sienar ion engines. Many TIE pilots learned to make that sound a background noise during their flight, some even found it soothing on long missions.

He hated it. Always did.

The Devastator loomed on his view port. Emerald bolts of pure death spun out around him, exploding in the vast inky blackness of the void and illuminating the battlefield for brief moments, like tiny sunrises. Save he was not exactly thrilled by what was illuminated by these bolts. The space between the two battling space battleships was quickly filling with the shattered remains of fighters and bombers as they did battle for their motherships.

What bothered him was that these weren’t Federation ships, or Klingons or even Romulan. These were Imperials and he knew the Bomber wing leader on the Devastator. Tar Iklis, good man, great flight leader. Taught him everything he knew. Now he might be dead out here, destroyed by one of the Adjudicator’s guns, or shot down by an Imperium pilot.

It was a travesty that would have made him bitter and angry. Were it not for the fact that these bastards had waltzed in here and were keeping them from their Lord. Nemesis had led them to victory after victory and forged an Imperium that they were all proud to be part of. It was something that he could call his own, something that he could say that he had helped create and that spoke so much more than the cold dead Empire that he had defended half of his life.

The Imperium was his. History would forever remember those that helped found it. In the Empire he would simply be another faceless pilot the rest of his life, quickly forgotten with the next influx of pilots.

His Bomber shuddered but he kept a steady hand at the controls. The Devastator loomed much closer now and his HUD lit up as it fought through the electronic noise the stardestroyer was flooding into almost every conceivable band.

“Come on.” He urged his targeting computer. One of the most advanced targeting systems in the Imperial arsenal began its battle against the electronic jamming and noise.

His Bomber shook harder this time and an alert buzzed.

A TIE fighter swooped by and began a quick spinning recovery to come around again for another pass. Grey leader glanced up at his shield display. If the Bomber had not been shielded he would most likely be a field of scattered debris at this very moment.

“Grey flight maintain attack run. We have your bandits in our sights.” A voice announced grimly. A pair of TIE Interceptors flashed by his view port, one on each side of his bomber and fired a steady burst of fire. The TIE fighter splintered, the flaming central cockpit spinning away from the shattered panels and vanished out of view.

“Grey leader my shield grid just collapsed.” One of his pilots exclaimed nervously.

“Hold formation boys. I’m getting tone.” Grey leader stated. His targeting recticle began to pulse a steady yellow, a sign that a targeting solution was now possible. The bomber was getting a solid targeting lock for its

“Same here.”

“New group of bandits inbound.”

The pair of TIE Interceptors spun madly and shot off to head off the new incoming threat fighters.

“Stay on target.” Grey leader ordered tersely as the anti starfighter batteries began to open up on the incoming bombers.

Grey leader focused on his HUD now. Any radical movement would ruin the lock on and they may have to initiate the attack run again. This was the tensest moment of any bomber crew’s mission. They were locked into their attack. Even with the new shield grids a direct hit from one of the anti starfighter batteries would vaporize them.

He opened up his missile bay and ran his fingers down the arming switches and was rewarded with an aggressive hum. He smiled coolly as his HUD’s targeting recticle suddenly glowed a steady red and beeped steadily.

“Payload, armed. Lock on achieved.” Grey leader announced.

The same phrase was repeated by his flight.

“Hits away.” He savagely pressed down on his firing stud and his bomber shuddered. Bright blue streaks rocketed away from beneath the bomber frame and raced over to the Devastator.

“Break now!”

The tight bomber formation spun away from the bright stream of blue missiles that lanced down towards their targets with unerring precision. The anti starfighter batteries pounded away at the fleeing bombers in a merciless barrage that blossomed along their flight path. Many of the bomber flight were caught in the explosive bursts, their shield grids flaring up in brilliant white or green cascades of light before vanishing into flaming debris.

The Devastator quickly began to shrink in his rear view port and he wiped sweat from his brow as he set his beacon to link with the hangar guidance systems and breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly a titanic blast enveloped the Devastator’s port side as the Bomber’s ordinance detonated simultaneously on target. Grey leader smiled grimly.

“Mission accomplished.” He checked his view port then looked down at his short range scanner. There was too much silence on his band. The visual check confirmed only two other bombers on his wing. The others were either atomized or were still back in that mess trying to find their way out.

He rested his helmeted head against his controls and breathed deeply. This war was going to get very bloody very fast.

“We have direct hits all along his port side.” The flight commander reported excitedly.

“You have your orders. Navigation, initiate gryphon feint. All gunnery crews prepare for all out strike on my mark.”

“Targets marked and locked in.” The gunnery chief announced gruffly.

“Gryphon feint initiated. All power to main drive, standby all port side stabilizers.” The chief helmsman ordered. He stood proudly in the center of the navigation pit as he directed his crew. “Drop power on Starboard inertial compensators on my mark.”


“Main thrust increasing to flank speed.”

“Structural integrity in the green.”

A low rumbling could be felt on the bridge, anyone touching or holding onto a station could feel it vibrating in place as the Adjudicator accelerated to attack speed. Tarsi stood impassively watching his crew working to pull off a maneuver designed for vessels orders of magnitude smaller and faster than his own.

“Watch that backwash and prepare for emergency braking.” The helmsman said coolly as he brought the stardestroyer into a classic Gryphon Strike position. The Gryphon strike was a classic maneuver to slip in on a weakly shielded side of an enemy vessel. The Gryphon feint was a variation of the strike, meant to look like a standard Gryphon strike until the very last moment. Then an emergency change in speed and heading brought the ship back around to deliver a strike on the opposite end of where the strike is expected to land.

In order for the feint to be effective the maneuver had to take place after the initial thrust into a standard strike. This ruled out large warships that needed time to make an emergency maneuver. It also made the maneuver particularly effective because there was no way of knowing whether the attack would be a standard strike or a feint.

Of course once you got to ships the size of cruisers and star destroyers the maneuver was no longer a safe idea. As far as anyone knew a vessel as large as a stardestroyer had never even attempted a Gryphon feint. There was a very real chance that the Adjudicator would tear itself apart halfway through the maneuver.

“Port side braking system primed.”

“Starboard stabilizers are running at maximum.”

“We are at flank.”

The Adjudicator rumbled hard and fast, lancing down straight below the Devastator’s bow. The Devastator began peppering the enemy ship with fire, but most of her guns were no longer clearly lined up with the Adjudicator as she ran straight down and along the ventral side of the ship.

The Devastator began to tilt drastically into a matching port side dragging turn.

“He’s keeping us away from his Port side.” Tarsi’s XO noted, excitement coloring his voice. If Tarsi’s instinct was right, they were about to score a stunning victory against one of the finest stardestroyer’s in the entire Empire.

“Our allies know when they must strike?” Tarsi asked coolly as he watched the mighty warship pitching at an angle it was not supposed to. He was not facing a fool. There was a reason why Captain Tyco and his ship were considered one of the finest crews in the fleet and had been Vader’s flagship for years. He could afford to take no chances especially now.

“They are standing by and know precisely when to strike. This is their element after all, striking from a cloaked position.”

“If they strike too soon it will all be for naught, too late and Tyco will have reestablished his shield.” Tarsi growled lowly.

“At this point there is no other choice but to trust in our allies and your plan.” His XO replied.

Tarsi nodded then stepped forward.

“Now helm. It is time for the impossible.”

“Aye Aye Captain.” The helmsman replied and turned to his men. “Right. Cut in auxiliary power to the port side engines. All power to the starboard braking system and lock down the stabilizers.”


The Adjudicator rumbled loudly and several men in the pits nearly stumbled off their feet as the ship began to sideslip. The hull shuddered slowly at first but as the helmsman called out more orders the hull began a low pitched moan. No one on the crew had ever heard a sound like that before.

“The Devastator is shunting power to the port side shields!” The tactical officer reported excitedly.

“Now! All back full, retrothrusters all to Port.”

“She’s going to spin out of control!” one of the helm crew cried out in alarm as a series of alarm warnings illuminated his control screen like fireworks.

“Belay that and follow my instructions.” The helm officer shouted over the growing din from the hull. The deck plates themselves were starting to hum beneath their feet.

“Aye sir!”

The helm officer leaned in over the shoulder of one of his men and eyed the readouts.

“Cut power to N through Y stabilizing thrusters and shunt all available power to the port side engines. Give me 24 degree positive Y axis thrust starting now.”

“On it.”

The bridge shuddered even harder and parts of the superstructure moaned in protest. A blaring ominous alarm began to sound in the depths of the ship.

“Structural integrity failure.” Tarsi’s XO answered Tarsi’s inquisitive glance.

The last time any of them had ever heard that warning was during simulations in the Academy.

“Now, one last big push. All back full and give those stabilizers everything we’ve got.”

The Adjudicator pulled away from beneath the Devastator’s bow and performed a stunningly agile turn back to the starting position. The Devastator, still turning away to keep her port side away from the Adjudicator was totally out of position. Her starboard side was exposed to the Adjudicator’s guns and her crew and captain stared in utter disbelief as an Imperator agilely pulled back from a flank speed dive in an opposite direction to take up a primary fighting position precisely where it should not be.

“Gunners. Alpha strike, time on target. Show them why we have conquered a galaxy.” Tarsi ordered.

“Aye sir!”

The Adjudicator’s guns opened fire and a tempest of green turbolaser bolts struck the starboard shields of the Devastator. The impact of the broadside seemed to shove the Devastator to Port as her shields were shredded by the blasts. Bright white ion bolts preceded each salvo, striking vital areas, electrical ionization dancing along the Devastator’s hull, wreaking havoc with gunnery stations and shield generators.

Soon the mighty stardestroyer’s weakened shields were pushed past their breaking point but as Tarsi predicted, his guns were in the cool down phase and would take moments to recharge and fire. Moments that Tyco would not give him before having the shields reestablished before any damage major or permanent could be done to the Devastator.

At that moment of weakness, with the Adjudicator maneuvering for another in close pass of her main guns and the Devastator drifting to port while desperately trying to recover from an but impossible maneuver followed by an all out assault, a wing of ghostly green Romulan warbirds slowly appeared, wavering at first and translucent, they solidified and unleashed a torrent of plasma torpedoes and disruptor fire against the warship.

The Devastator was illuminated by explosions rippling all along her upper hull and bridge tower. One of her sensor globes exploded into a cascade of debris when a pair of plasma torpedoes found their mark. A potent explosion venting fire and molten metal jetted from one of the armored gunnery stations along the starboard side belt of the stardestroyer, resulting from a heavy turbolaser emplacement detonated by a torrent of disruptor fire.

The Warbirds made their pass and vanished as quickly as they appeared. The Devastator’s counter fire managed to clip the last warbird in formation and force it into a spin, trailing a glittering stream of plasma as one of her nacelles ruptured. The rest like ghosts faded into the starry sky.

Tarsi nodded and gripped the railing.

“Fire at will. Prioritize her bridge and engines. Let’s see if we can’t reduce Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fleet count by one.”

“Sir! Navigational systems are all overloaded. It will take time to reestablish the system. We’re not going anywhere.” His helmsman reported grimly.

“I don’t intend to go anywhere until we have Lord Nemesis.” Tarsi replied and the Adjudicator’s guns came alive again.

Luke slipped to the left and countered a quick kick to his head. Rulek stalked after him with a predatory gleam in his eye.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.” Luke offered.

“Do not insult me by talking peace while we have killing to do.” Rulek growled and back spun with an elbow to his throat. Luke bent backward at his waist and the blow passed over him. He jerked back up and caught Rulek’s arm, twisted it at the shoulder and heard a soft wet crack and pop. Rulek’s arm went dead but the Jem’Hedar did not halt his forward momentum and pulled Luke along, jerking him off his feet and sending Luke tumbling towards one of the shattered cloning chambers.

Luke tucked into a tight spinning ball and landed with his feet against the wall of the cloning vat and jumped off on it right back at Rulek. Rulek spun kick and caught Luke on the chin, sending him crashing to the ground.

The Jem’Hedar growled and brought his foot down to crush Luke’s throat. Luke brought both hands up and trapped the Jem’Hedar’s foot and twisted it hard to the left, snapping the ankle and then shoved it backwards, sending Rulek spilling backwards onto the ground.

Luke kipped up and spun around to face Rulek.

The Jem’Hedar hobbled up to his feet and stood in a defensive crouch.

“You don’t stand a chance. End this senseless slaughter.” Luke urged softly but he already knew the answer. He knew the answer before this battle had even started. He had read this Jem’Hedar’s heart when they first faced each other.

Rulek smiled coldly.

“You win this battle yet you do not have the heart to finish it? Let me make it easy for you.”

Luke sprang up as Rulek rushed forward. He landed behind the Jem’Hedar and planted a foot firmly into the base of his spine. The Jem’Hedar crashed face first into the floor but spun quickly on his back and kipped up.

Luke moved in for a quick disabling strike but Rulek roared and delivered a series of killing swipes with his good arm and managed to wrap his leg around Luke’s right foot and sent him to the floor. Rulek landed an elbow into the back of Luke’s head, snapping his face forward into the metal grating.

Luke grunted and spun around trying to get behind Rulek but Rulek wrapped his arm around Luke’s neck and began to squeeze. Luke gasped and struggled against the Jem’Hedar’s grip. He drove his head backwards into Rulek’s face and delivered an elbow to the throat. Rulek gasped and his grip faltered.

Luke rose against the Jem’Hedar’s weight and fought his way out of Rulek’s grip, putting him under his own viselike grip. Rulek struggled against the grip on his throat.

“Stop struggling.” Luke grunted with effort.


“You want to die.” Luke realized suddenly as he felt the thought crystallizing in Rulek’s mind.

Rulek said nothing but his struggles intensified.


“Because…I cannot…live…free.”

Luke paused.

“You can now.”

“No. My gods…are far…from here.” Rulek replied bitterly.

Luke shook his head.

“Damn this galaxy.” He whispered. He jerked hard once and Rulek’s neck snapped. Rulek relaxed in Luke’s arms. Luke slowly released his grip and gently lay Rulek back against the floor.

The Jem’Hedar’s head was at an odd angle. His eyes were still open. Luke’s eyes widened slightly.

“Do not…fear. This…is not…your doing. We are…Jem’Hedar. We are not…easy to kill.” Rulek whispered in a raspy weakening voice. “Release…is short in coming.”

The horde around Luke, Worf and the others was silent. Some bowed their heads solemnly.

“I cannot live…without my gods. At the…mercy of a madman…who bargains away my honor…as…if it were nothing…more…than a…commodity.”

Luke nodded as he felt the warrior’s life force fluttering away. Even now, he fought for every second of life. Of course, one could argue that he was engineered that way. But as Luke watched First Rulek Par’s eyes slowly close with a smile of relief on his face he knew that there was more here than simple engineered survival instinct here. This was a creature of honor that did not want to end his life in bondage to another and away from those he though of as gods. So he entered a duel he knew he could not win to feel alive in those last few moments of life.

“When they end comes, I hope I face death with the same ferocity and honor as you did.” Luke whispered and gently closed his eyes.
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