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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 76: Traitors and Traps

The Imperial stormtroopers moved like machines through the shattered entrance to the once idyllic gardens of Darkstar’s delights. They traded fire with Darkstar’s personal guards. Crimson blaster bolts sliced through the air crossing paths with bright white and green disruptor fire.

Moving with cold precision they crossed the threshold into the garden several falling to enemy fire but none hesitated or paused in their assault. They mercilessly gunned down those that stood against them and continued to surge forward.

An officer paused at the door way and nodded to his communications trooper. The stormtrooper handed him a comlink. Colonel Kilraven switched on the comlink.

“This is Grey Wolf group. We have entered the palace and have engaged hostiles. We are proceeding into the structure and have locked onto the Sith beacon.” Kilraven reported as he watched with pride his Stormtroopers moving in two by two covering formation, blasting their way through a cluster of Darkstar’s troops who were trying to use massed fire to break up the Imperium assault.

“Be advised Grey Wolf, you have hostiles inbound. Imperial troops under direct command of Lord Darth Vader.”

Kilraven’s face drained of color and he blinked.

“Direct command?” he asked softly.

“Roger that Grey Wolf. Command advises you to expedite your search and recover package ASAP. We will provide fighter cover for extraction on your mark.”

“Acknowledged command. Grey Wolf out.”

Colonel Kilraven snapped the comlink back to his communications trooper and raised a set of macrobinoculars to his eyes and peered into the shattered remnants of the garden. The blaster fire ignited a fire among some of the ruined trees and they were starting to blaze up, sending a thick plume of smoke up into the air.

The smoke would not be a deterrent to the stormtroopers, whose built in optical suite would automatically switch to another spectrum an allow the troopers to keep on fighting. The Orion crimelord’s men on the other hand were at a distinct disadvantage. They were starting to panic and fire wildly into the smoke.

His macrobinoculars clicked and whirred as they focused on the far end of the garden rotunda.

“Looks like a pair of doors, a lift perhaps.” He muttered. He focused closer onto the doors. “Let me see the Sith Beacon readings.” He asked holding out his free hand. The communications trooper obediently handed over the display

Kilraven glanced down at the liquid crystal display and watched the red blinking light of the beacon source.

“Judging from signal distortion and distance readings I would surmise that Lord Nemesis must be deeper within the palace. Perhaps in some sublevel.” Kilraven surmised and looked back into his macrobinoculars. “That lift seems to be the sole entry point in this area.”

He looked over at his communications trooper.

“Have the squads move in a pincer formation, isolate the pockets of resistance and open a lane for our demolition and slicer team to get to that lift unmolested.”

“Aye Colonel.” The trooper replied with a nod of his head and immediately began transmitting the orders. Colonel Kilraven turned to his engineers.

“There is a lift access doorway at the end of the rotunda. Looks like a simple locking mechanism, considering the state of their technology I don’t foresee you having any issues overriding the command codes.” Kilraven explained as he pointed back into the rotunda and shouted over the sounds of heavy blaster and disruptor fire.

“Piece of cake, sir.” His chief engineer grunted, smoke and debris had smudged his white helmet.

“I want that lift secured and checked for traps.”

“On it.”

As the engineers moved into the rotunda, Kilraven grasped the Chief Engineer’s shoulder. The trooper turned to face his commander.

“I want you to leave two of your men behind. I want booby traps left behind us as we advance. As nasty as you can make it. Imperial troops are on our tails.”

“Understood sir. They won’t get to us without bleeding.” He vowed.

Kilraven nodded and slapped him on the shoulder before advancing with his men into the rotunda. Behind them two engineers quickly uncoiled a length of wire and set explosive charges with practiced ease.

“So what will you do now?” Luke asked quietly as he regarded the horde of Jem'Hadar clones surrounding them. At Luke’s feet, laid out respectfully was First Rulek Parr. He had died a better and more honorable man than many Luke had met in his travels in this galaxy. The ultimate irony was that Rulek was probably less than an hour old.

The clones were silent for a long moment. Silent enough for Luke to hear the tell tale reports of Imperial blaster somewhere above them.

“You slew our first in combat.” One clone noted.

“Yet he is the enemy.”

“Am I?” Luke pressed. He looked from one clone to the next. “I have done you no harm nor wished you ill. I killed your first because he demanded it of me and the honor in him could not be denied.”

Many of the clones exchanged glances and some nodded in agreement. Despite the fact that none knew each other for more than an hour, Parr obviously won their loyalty and trust. Luke regretted taking his life even if that was what he wished.

“Taking life is the most solemn of all Jedi responsibilities.” Obi Wan had said to him on that walk over to the Falcon when Luke marveled at Ben’s prowess with the lightsaber in the cantina. “Once taken it can never be returned, Luke. You cannot know the weight of such a responsibility. Because the Force makes us better at taking life it makes us more responsible. The stain of the dark side of the force can be easily gained and never easily removed. We walk a fine line and killing always dangles us over the precipice.”

Luke remembered nodding bashfully, afraid that he may have offended the old Jedi. Now as always, the wisdom of his old master revealed its deeper truths to him. Was it fair that I hated you for your only lie?

“You can win your freedom from the man that thought he could create you to be his slaves.” Luke said and pointed his pike to the doorway beyond that led to the reactor.

“We can simply kill you and escape.”

Luke nodded.

“You have done well so far.” He replied coldly and swept the pike around him casually, displaying the stacks of fallen Jem’Hadar sprawled along the floor and splayed against the shattered cloning tanks.

“We are Jem’Hadar.”

“Death does not frighten us.”

“You are a fool to think fear will move us.”

Luke shook his head, whipping his pike back into an at rest position.

“You misunderstand me. I am showing you that your efforts have led to this carnage. And what have you gained? The loss of your First and are you any closer to freedom? Instead, Darkstar has manipulated you into this battle, one that you had no need to fight. We’re not interested in stopping you from being free. We want to stop Darkstar and bring justice to him.”

“Jem’Hadar are not interested in justice.”

“We live to serve the founders.”

“Victory is life.”

Luke held up a hand and strode forward into the Jem’Hadar horde. Worf tensed. The boy was braver than he ever expected. If the Jem’Hadar decided to swarm him now he would be at a distinct disadvantage.

This would not stop him from killing the boy when the time came.

“What about freedom? Freedom from the man that put you here, far from your gods and your home? Will killing me, us.” Luke paused to indicate Worf, Chewbacca and Uhura with a sweep of his arm. “make any of this change? Will you be truly free? Or will you be doing the bidding of the very man that took you away from all that makes you Jem’Hadar?” Luke asked as he watched the faces of the clone killers surrounding him.

He took a deep breath.

Now for the risk. Yoda taught him one day on a hot humid sticky day on Dagobah, the air so thick that even the old Jedi Master deiced that physical training would do more harm than good, that in order to truly gain the trust of those that you appeal to, you must give them power.

“A dance diplomacy is. Complicated and full of danger but rewards far greater than simply fighting.” The wizened old Jedi grunted as he leaned forward slightly on the old tree stump and gazed intently at Luke. “Most important lesson of all is this: Power must be given in order for you to be heard.”

“I don’t understand Master.” Luke said reluctantly after pondering the words. for a long moment.

Yoda frowned.

“You do not listen.” Yoda lamented. Luke opened his mouth to protest. “A Jedi must listen to everything said and unsaid. Guide you the Force will in your attention. Show you what is important and what is not.”

“The Force will help me understand you when you’re being cryptic?” Luke replied and smirked softly.

Yoda batted Luke’s head with his cane lightly across the forehead.

“Cryptic am I only to those that hear without listening.” Yoda snapped.

“Sorry master.” Luke replied sheepishly and rubbed his forehead.

Yoda sighed. Anakin would have the exact same expression when chastised by Obi Wan. It was like looking into a mirror. Yoda hoped again against all hope that the mirroring stopped at mere physical traits and that he did not carry the same seeds of darkness in his breast.

“In order for understanding, power must be given freely.”

Luke listened intently now, clearing his mind of questions and doubts as Yoda taught him. The old Jedi nodded with satisfaction as he continued speaking. Perhaps there was hope yet in this reckless padawan.

So the lesson was relayed and now it was time for Luke to exercise a Jedi ability he never had time or occasion to use before. The power of being heard and listening. Diplomacy as only a force user could exercise.

First step was calming them down.

Now he had to take the risk and give them power.

He took the pain pike and jammed it, bladed end down, into the floor of the birthing chamber. The assembled Jem’Hadar eyed Luke and then each other with hooded expressions.

They can now see this as a sign of strength or weakness but the power is in their hands. Luke thought.

He stepped deep into the crowd, almost touching shoulders with some of the Jem’Hadar, hands out in front of him clearly showing he was unarmed but also showing that he approached them as equals.

Worf’s eyed widened and Chewbacca began to growl a warning.

“What is he doing?!” Worf hissed.

“All that he can to stop this killing.” Uhura replied in awe of the young man that had all but destroyed the Federation.

“You are Jem’Hadar. I have looked into your first’s face and I see people of honor. This wanton slaughter gains you NOTHING. You kill us and you will still have to fight your way bare handed through the Imperial forces above us.”

The sounds of blaster fire was much louder and as if on cue a series of blaster shots exploded near the lift, reverberating down to the chamber. Some of the Jem’Hadar murmured in concern.

“However, if you allow us to pass you will still face those same Imperial troops who are undoubtably looking for me.”

“Then there is no reason to talk is there? You are saying that we are dead and for a Jem’Hadar death is not to be feared because we are already dead. Only Victory brings us life.” One Jem’Hadar exclaimed proudly. The Jem’Hadar parted like the sea to reveal the tall imposing figure.

Luke’s eyes narrowed on him.

This was the one. Every group needs a leader, sway him and you have done 90% of your job.

“Indeed.” Luke replied as he slowly strode up to the Jem’Hadar. Good. He’s taller than me. He looks more powerful. They won’t think of this as equals talking. They will feel powerful.

“But will you die with honor or as a pack of rampaging clones?” Luke asked tersely and did not break his gaze into the Jem’Hadar’s eyes.

“And the alternative? What honor is left to us?” the alpha spoke coolly.

Luke nodded slowly.

“You can help us stop Darkstar and show the man that Jem’Hadar do not bend to the will of just anyone.” Luke took a step in closer to be almost nose to nose. Dangerous. He was invading the personal space of an alpha male. This could end badly but he could feel his presence above now. Vader was almost upon him and there was still much work to do.

“You are the Jem’Hadar, you have served your gods faithfully for untold millennia. Now you only have yourselves and your honor. The question here my friend is whether you will perish as simply another clone gone amuck as these have.” Luke indicated the piles of broken Jem’Hadar scattered across the chamber. “Or as an honorable warrior who faced death without fear and earned the name Jem’Hadar.” Luke nodded his head back to First Rulek Parr.

“What do you say?” Luke pressed softly.

“The Captain obviously needs help Doctor.” Sulu snapped as he peered towards the main reactor.

“You don’t see me holding you up do you Sulu?” McCoy snapped. He finished wrapping Mara’s wrist and checked her face wound again. He sprayed a gentle antibiotic mist over it.

“Mr. Scott?” Sulu turned to his superior officer.

Scotty nodded as he saw the tell tale bursts of deep indigo electrical tendrils hungrily dancing along the silver round canister of the main reactor core. An occasional plasma burst leapt out of the top and bottom of the rounded core and splashed into the sides of the massive chamber, blasting through the concrete and steel walls of the chamber and showering debris into the abyss below.

“That reactor is on the way to an imminent explosion.” Scotty stated gravely.

“Is there a way we can stop it from here?” Sulu asked.

“No laddie, this is a runaway reaction in the final throes of consuming the core shielding. The best we can do is clear out of here, judging by her size I would estimate the blast radius to be several hundred square miles.”

“The Captain is in the thick of that.”

“Then we don’t have much choice do we?” Mara interjected as she got up and hefted her blaster in her hand. “We have to go help him or get him out of there.”

“You’d like that wouldn’t you? Make sure we don’t get our hands on that hypermatter technology.” Sulu snapped angrily. He did not like the story Mara had offered for the princess’ death. He knew where she stood. Squarely on the side of the people that were eviscerating the Federation.

“Well, then we can keep your Captain in the heart of that reactor. Either way it serves my purpose does it not? Captain Kirk is eliminated as an enemy of the Imperium if he stays and if we save him your rebel element does not get its hands on the hypermatter technology. You see, Mr. Sulu, this is what we would refer to as a win-win situation for my side. The choice here now lies with you.” Mara sneered her reply at the helmsman.

“I’m not leaving the Captain.” Scotty pressed.

“And I never said we were.” Sulu snapped angrily.

“Let me see what the Doctor and I can do about this reactor. Mr. Sulu, you and Ms. Jade see what kind of help you can give to the Captain.” Scotty ordered.


“We’ll be right behind you..” Scott nodded and paused for a moment. “Watch your back, lad.” He eyed Mara meaningfully.

“Always do Mr. Scott.” Sulu replied and quickly made his way up the walkway towards the reactor core.

“And how exactly am I going to be able to help you?” McCoy griped. “I’m a doctor not a nuclear physicist.”

“Doctor, Engineers work in mysterious ways.” Scotty replied with a wink.

McCoy shook his head as he followed Scott into the main reactor.

“Alright, looks like the big boys are busy bashing on each other.” Wedge noted as he led the Rogues past the fleeing Orion fleet towards the planet below.

“A three way war huh? You weren’t kidding when you said this would be the adventure of a lifetime boss.” Hobbie snorted.

“I’m a lot more concerned about extracting Captain Kirk and the Princess right now.” Wedge stated gravely as he checked his communications array one more time. The signal had not been sent yet. Time was of the essence. Landing parties had been sent down and the stardestroyers were pounding on each other but eventually one would get the upper hand and then they would be seriously outgunned.

The plan was falling apart and Wedge was not sure they could pull this off if they waited any longer.

“Rogues, this is the Sagan.”

“Go ahead Sagan.”

“Our sensors are picking up massive power spikes on the surface, concentrated about a hundred meters under the palace. I suspect we may have an antimatter reactor about to core breach.”

“The Captain and the Princess are right in the center of that mess.” Wedge snapped.

“We have a problem.”

“That’s an understatement.” Jansen replied sardonically.

“What about your transporters?” Wedge suggested.

“Aside from the fact that we haven’t gotten the signal from the Captain, Darkstar’s transport scramblers are still up and running.”

Wedge nodded then adjusted his controls.

“According to our briefing the transport scramblers are scattered throughout the compound.”

“Boss…” Hobbie warned aware that Wedge was thinking as he spoke and the same idea was materializing in his head.

“If the scramblers were knocked out then we would get a clearer picture of what’s going on down there and if need be pull the team out ahead of schedule.” Wedge continued and finished adjusting systems for atmospheric flight.

“I have a feeling we’re taking a close-up tour of his palace.” Jansen sighed.

“Rogues, set controls for atmospheric flight and standby for strafing attacks. Sagan download targeting data to our computers.”

Captain Entebbe frowned as he nodded to his tactical officer to comply. He switched to a private channel with a press of a stud on his command chair.

“Wedge. You know the air defenses he has set up on his palace. It’s the main reason we didn’t plan for an airstrike.”

“I know that Captain. But I can’t just fly up here and wait to see if the Captain will pull through. He needs some help.”

“You were the one that concluded the air defenses were too tight for a surface strike.” Entebbe urged.

Wedge sat quietly in his cockpit for a moment. Darkstar was quite the paranoid, a mark of a successful crime lord in any galaxy. His air defense network began in low orbit and continued like an intricate maze down to the surface. His X-Wings had been in near continuous combat since the start of this mess and he wondered if his boys were up for this.

Then he thought about what would happen if the Captain needed help. Every little bit helped.

And darkly, in the back of his mind lay the fact that Luke was down there. The real reason he decided to accompany the princess on this mission.

“I’ll pit my Rogues against any air defense network in this or any galaxy Captain Entebbe.” Wedge concluded.


“We’re standing by for surface strikes. Targeting data has been downloaded and locked in.”

“Well, we’re certainly not going to just stand by and let you guys have all the fun. The Sagan will initiate a polaron pulse from our main deflector directed along your flight path. With any luck it will scramble the defense network sensors and make targeting you that much more difficult.”

“We appreciate the help Sagan. Initiating attack run on my mark.”

“Good luck Rogue Squadron.”

“Luck? We ran out of that back at the Battle for Earth. This is all guts.” Jansen laughed.

“Cut the chatter and accelerate to attack speed.”

The assembled X-Wings angled in on the planet and their engines flared up an angry red as they accelerated down to the blue green orb. The Sagan loomed up behind them and her navigational deflector began to pulse a pale blue, faster and faster until a solid crackling beam lanced out and down towards the planet, between the X-Wings and exploded in the upper atmosphere.

“This is it.” Hobbie grunted as they dove into the storm.

“Artoo, are you sure that is wise?” Threepio asked.

Artoo whistled affirmatively as he continued scrolling through the main computer’s command files. They flashed by on the small interface screen while Threepio kept looking over his shoulder as Drakstar’s technicians scrambled back and forth between stations while the battle raged outside.

Imperial Stormtroopers were moving like lightning through the palace killing anything in their path. One technician barred the command door, tripping every electronic lock that he could while the others desperately searched for help on the systems to help stop the onslaught.

“Smokes not stopping them so why the hell do you think Halon mist will?” One shouted.

“I’ve got to try something.”

“What about the sprinkler system?”

“You know how long it’ll take to flood that area? We’d only be washing the muck off their pretty white armor.” Another exclaimed and slammed his fist against a terminal in disgust.

“The reactor core is overloading?!” Threepio exclaimed.

“What was that?”

“What did he say?”

Artoo squawked in disgust.

“I’m sorry Artoo…well, what I meant was why don’t we overload the main reactor?” Threepio stammered.

“And blow ourselves up? What kind of self preservation programming do you have anyway?” One of the technicians snorted derisively. The others laughed.

Threepio shook his head slowly.

“Well I never.”

Artoo beeped excitedly.

On one of the observation monitors Captain Kirk and Mister Spock were standing in front of the reactor control station. Kirk was firing a steady blast from his hand phaser into the shielded control bunker.

“It looks like a powerful forcefield is in place Artoo. I sincerely doubt the Captain is going to get very far with his hand weapon.”

Artoo whistled and beeped inquisitively.

“Do you think you could do that?”

Artoo beeped insistently.

“I’m not doubting you Artoo but the forcefield controls cannot be easy to access.”

Artoo whistled and beeped proudly as the forcefield control menu popped up on the screen. Threepio did a double take.

“How did you---”

Artoo began accessing the forcefield controls. As he did so he squawked something to Threepio.

“The comlink? Oh yes. We need to tell the Captain.” Threepio extended his hand and a comlink dropped down from his wrist into his hand.

“Threepio to Captain Kirk.”

“What the hell is that!?” A technician exclaimed.

Threepio glanced over at the commotion.

“Artoo.” Threepio gasped.

Artoo squawked in annoyance as he continued navigating the controls.

“Artoo!” Threepio struck the small droid on the side of its domed head. Artoo spun his head to look at Threepio and emitted a long string of whistles and squawks.

“Look you little glob of grease and gears!” Threepio exclaimed jabbing a hand excitedly at one of the main viewers.

Artoo whistled softly at the sight on the screen.

“We’re doomed.” Threepio moaned.

On the screen the dark armored specter moved through the entrance of the palace with a horrible purpose.

“Hold it right there!”

“You don’t belong here!”

Darkstar's guards exclaimed in rage and bravado as they fell upon the new wave of Stormtroopers gathering outside the palace. Disruptor and phaser fire rained down on the troops as the guards surged forward, hopping over well trimmed bushes and dancing around columns as they moved.

The assembled stormtroopers did not panic. They immediately shifted into defensive lines and poured a murderous fusillade of fire into the advancing crimelord’s forces.

One figure was unmoved by the attack at all.

Lord Darth Vader stood facing the palace, his black armored mask regarding the palace with dark intent. Disruptor bolts lanced over his head. He could feel him. The Force was brilliant in him. It shone from beneath the palace like a small sun.

“Luke.” Vader whispered. Then he remembered himself. “Nemesis.” He corrected himself. Turned slowly to his men and regarded the stormtrooper commander.

“Commander. I want you to tear that palace apart and find Lord Nemesis. Everyone else is to be killed. Is that understood?”

“Of course my lord. But we’re currently under heavy attack. We need to eliminate these enemies if we are to---”

Vader looked over at the advancing troops and suddenly the air around them shimmered as if a summer heat was rising off the pavement and the troops all screamed at once, blood, bone and tissue exploded outward in a thick frothing cloud. The Stormtroopers paused in their fighting, puzzled by the sudden death of their foes.

Darkstar’s men were compacted together into a ball of greasy blood and shattered white bone. A ball of flesh and bone lay in the center of the gardens leading to the entrance of the palace. The tops of the stone columns were shorn off. The stormtrooper commander thought it looked as if a giant hand had reached out and crushed the crime lord’s guards into jelly.

“Guards do not concern me, Commander. Bring me Lord Nemesis or do not bother coming back is that understood?” Vader pointed to the commander. He swallowed deeply and nodded.

“I shall find him and bring him to you Lord Vader. Nothing will stop us.” He vowed and immediately motioned for his men to follow him and raced up to the palace entrance. Vader paused as he felt a fleeting disturbance in the force.

The explosion rocked the palace entry way and sent scattered pieces of Vader’s vanguard into the air.

“Booby trapped.” A trooper hissed in disgust.

Vader gathered his cape around him and strode up to the palace.

The gathered stormtroopers did not hesitate. They followed their lord as they had always done - without question or fear. Vader walked through the smoke filled entrance and paused long enough to wave his hand slightly and the mines laid out in a pattern around the audience chamber suddenly had their arming mechanisms crushed.

Vader continued striding forward, cape billowing behind him like wings, his stormtroopers following close behind as he moved unerringly towards the shattered gardens beyond. A guard that was slowly getting up from being wounded spied the black armored giant and reflexively raised his disruptor rifle to fire.

Vader acknowledged his presence with a mere sweep of his arm and the guard was catapulted off his feet and landed against the wall with a bone snapping impact.

“Nothing is going to stop me Nemesis. I am coming for you.” Vader vowed as he entered the garden. Imperium stormtroopers turned suddenly at his entrance.


“Sir?” One of his stormtroopers replied quickly.

“They are traitors to the Empire. Show them the error of their choice.” Vader growled.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 77: The Fall of the House of Darkstar Part 1

“Keep her in range and concentrate fire on her bridge and engines.” Tarsi snapped.

“Aye Captain.”

The Adjudicator’s many batteries were pouring a torrent of green turbolaser fire into the Devastator. Both behemoths were now fully engaged with each other, giving no quarter and fully intent on destroying the other.

Their fighters swarmed around each of the small cities like attendant insects, battling in mad dervish like dances.

Tarsi smiled grimly.

His men were rising to the challenge. He could see the gleam in their eyes, the smiles just behind their lips. They were alive again. They could taste victory. The crew was too long in dock, too long in doubt of their mission and their future.

Tarsi gave them a chance to seize their own fate and they were proud to be masters of their destiny once again.

It no longer mattered that out there the enemy were men and women who called themselves Imperial as they once did.

“You know something Scotty?” McCoy huffed as he managed to negotiate the last set of steps on the ladder.

“Careful Doctor McCoy. There are many things up here that could hurt you or worse.” Scotty warned. He was examining several conduits intently. Bright electrical tendrils of energy arced between the conduits illuminating the area around them like an artificial sun.

“I am a qualified psychiatrist, you have to be when you’re the chief surgeon on a starship.” McCoy continued as crouched down to catch his breath. Scotty smiled to himself as he popped open a panel on the side of one of the active conduits.

“And I believe I can honestly say that you are certifiable for bringing us up here when you said yourself this beast is going to blow up into a radioactive cloud the size of Montana.”

“For someone who is constantly on the officers to get into shape and diet you certainly look like you can use a wee bit of your own advice.” Scotty noted with a grin as he found the controls he needed and began working on the chips.

McCoy grimaced.

“You keep your diagnosis on what’s wrong with the warp drives and such and leave the medical opinions to qualified personnel.” He grumbled. “Besides I’ll have you know I am perfectly within the range of average fitness for a man my age and build.”

“Of course you are Doctor.” Scotty relented. “Please hold this for me and don’t drop it.” Scotty handed him a small crystal chip.

“What is it?”

“A plasma relay control chip. I intend to bring down that shield one way or another.”

“You mean you can control the field from here?” McCoy asked excitedly.

“No.” Scotty replied simply as he slammed the console shut and carefully walked over to the next console searching for the same crystal plasma router.

McCoy frowned.

“Then what the hell can you do from here?”

“Well Doctor, it’s a matter of simple redirection of force.” He snapped out the next router with a satisfying click and made his way to the last console.

“Redirection of force?”

“The reactor is venting plasma at an increasingly accelerated rate. Eventually it will reach a critical level when it will no longer matter and the core will consume itself in a runaway reaction. But before that happens these relays are trying their best to vent the plasma away from the core.”

Scotty indicated the tall spindly conduits towering overhead. A sparkling brilliant ball of plasma suddenly danced between two of the conduits and lashed out like a lightning bolt against the concrete and steel containment walls, punching a house sized smoldering hole into the wall.

“You want to control those?!”

Scotty nodded.

“Aye, Doctor. The shield around the control station is too powerful to overcome with anything short of these plasma bursts.”

“Scotty, Jim and Spock are down there. They’ll be fried too.”

“That’s why you have to warn them. While I’m making the final adjustments to the emitter.” Scotty said as he took the crystal chips from McCoy’s hands and carefully approached one of the tall conduits.

“This is sounding like one of our usual half assed solutions to a problem.”

“They usually work.”

McCoy smirked and flipped open his communicator.

“Jim, it’s McCoy.”

Kirk wiped sweat from his brow and lowered his phaser. It was warm in his hand. The shield quickly stabilized back to a cool glowing wall after the angry red distortion caused by his phaser subsided.

Darkstar chuckled.

“You never stood a chance Kirk. Frankly, I must say I am disappointed. I really thought you would be some sort of challenge.”

“This isn’t over yet.” Kirk snapped angrily.

“Did I touch a nerve?” Darkstar sneered.

“I’ve taken down men much larger then you Darkstar.” Kirk smirked.

“Let’s get one thing straight Captain Kirk. You are a relic of an age long gone by. Your Federation is long gone replaced by this ghost of its former self. Now a mere remnant struggling to survive from under the jackboot of the Empire I hear your slogan is ‘The Federation lives.” How quaint and touching but who are you kidding Kirk? Your Federation died decades ago when those that embraced the ideals of pacifism and the betterment of humanity seized the reigns of power. To them you are an anachronism, much like my collection here. An oddity from the past with an odd sentimental value.” Darkstar leaned in close to the shimmering field.

“Tell me Kirk, what do you say to yourself when you’re alone in the dark, hmmm? Why did you come out here in the first place? What were you running from?”

Kirk glared at Darkstar, hands tightening into fists.

“Ahh…so I was right. You were running. How many have you led to their deaths? Hmmm…sweet boy? How many of those oh so young Starfleet officers ended up sucking vacuum or vaporized by plasma because you thought you could win a no win scenario?”

Kirk stared hard at the young mad man on the other side of the field. His communicator chirped.

“Go ahead. Answer the call. I have all the time in the world and I’ve looked into your heart James T. Kirk. You are a tired young man who thought if he held on long enough and fought with the ferocity of a man afraid of oblivion and defeat that you could turn the tides of fate itself but you my dear Captain are Fortune’s fool. You just don’t know it.”

“Kirk here.” Kirk said tightly.

“Jim! You’ve got to get out of there. Scotty’s gonna direct some of these plasma bursts down on the bunker.”

Kirk nodded.

“Good work Bones.”

Spock strode over to Kirk holding his own communicator to his ear and nodding.

“Please alert Mr. Scott that optimum firing time would be on my mark.”

“I hear you Spock.”

“What are you doing?” Darkstar asked, eyes narrowing.

Kirk smiled as he began to back away.

“Let’s just say that you’re about to find out that never giving up is the reason why the Federation is not simply another fiefdom of the Empire and why we will win this war. Because I don’t believe in what everyone else believes. I don’t believe in the no win scenario.”

Darkstar opened his mouth to reply when Harry Mudd sprang on top of him and frantically reached for the lightsaber clipped to his belt. Darkstar exclaimed in fury and surprise when Anastasia clawed his face with one hand and also reached for the saber. The three figures formed a tangle of limbs and tortured faces as they struggled valiantly for superiority.

"Whatever you're going to do do it fast Captain!" Harry exclaimed as he bit three fingers of Darkstars that found their way in his mouth.

“I didn’t think he had it in him.” Kirk sighed.

Sulu and Mara raced up to Kirk preparing to fire on the bunker when Kirk began waving them back while Spock watched his tricorder.

“I have calculated the transport window he has on the shield allowing beam up by weakening the shield at one particular point. The window itself is keyed to an exponential scale, difficult at first to discern but ---”

“Ready whenever you are Spock.” Kirk cut him off as they backed away quickly. The trio was now on twisting and turning madly as Darkstar began to work Mudd off his back and slapped Anastasia hard, sending her stumbling away from him.

“Now Mr. Scott!” Spock shouted then all of them raced down the walkway away from the bunker. The air around them exploded into a brilliant white cascade of light and fire. If they were able to look back and see through the incandescent blast they would have seen the three figures transfixed by the light, their skeletons suddenly briefly visible for a moment before impact.

The shield bunker was blasted by a successive wave of plasma bursts and the superstructure around the bunker screeched and gave way under the jarring impacts, metal on the edges of the bunker instantly vaporized into bright red light. The walkway groaned and finally screamed as it started to come loose from the reactor core. The Bunker shuddered and dipped backward into the abyss below as its foundations slowly gave way.

Kirk looked back and squinted through the bright light and molten metal.


Spock cupped his hand over the display on his tricorder.

“Shield function is non existent. We’ve overloaded the grid Captain but there is no telling how long we have until it reactivates or the bunker falls out of its housing. I’m reading catastrophic structural damage. In a matter of minutes it will fall off the housing as will this entire walkway.” Spock warned. The walkway groaned lowly and shook as if in response. Kirk rose unsteadily to his feet.

“Then we don’t have much time.” Kirk stated grimly and motioned for the others to follow him.

The doors to the lift snapped open and Colonel Kilraven and his troops snapped their blasters up at the ready.


“I see them.” Kilraven replied as he saw the wall of Jem’Hadar clones standing in front of the lift. He noted the body of one of Darkstar’s men rent limb from limb. He also saw the shattered remains of many Jem’Hadar littering the massive room. Cloning tanks neatly lined up in rows all around them. A very quick count gave him a daunting possibility as to the number of clones he could be facing.

Some of the stormtroopers with him were the newer variant of clones with Jem’Hadar traits. Bigger and bulkier they were possibly facing brothers on the other side.

The stormtroopers did not hesitate as they filed out of the lift and immediately knelt or crouched into a defensive square with the Colonel in the center.

“You will disperse in the name of the Imperium.” Kilraven ordered grimly.

The Jem’Hadar said nothing.

Kilraven was on a tight schedule, above him Lord Vader was wading through his men intent on getting down to this level as quickly as possible. He did not relish engaging a numerically superior foe at this range.

“Colonel Kilraven is it?”

Kilraven’s eyes narrowed as he heard the voice. Was it possible?

“The voice sounds familiar. Identify yourself.”

“I would not be so keen on taking that tone of voice with me colonel.” Luke replied as he stepped out from the center of the crowd of Jem’Hadar. They obediently parted for him.

“Lord Nemesis. Forgive me my lord I had no idea.” Kilraven replied immediately and bowed his head respectfully.

“I take it Lord Vader is above us assaulting this position?”

“Indeed my lord. I assigned most of my platoon to hold the enemy in a rear guard action long enough to locate you and get you to an LZ ASAP.”

Luke nodded and seemed to look away for a moment.

“They will not hold for long, his fury is like a super nova. Signal the landers to use blasters and torpedoes and make an LZ in the chamber beyond.” Luke indicated the reactor core with a sweep of his arm. Worf and Uhura watched him with quiet respect. Chewbacca was stunned by the sheer command presence and confidence in the young man who only a year ago Han had pulled from the snow drifts in Hoth.

“Of course my lord.”

“Who is in command above?”

“Captain Tarsi has theater command sir. The Adjudicator is currently engaged in hostilities with the Devastator.”

“S, it has begun.” Luke murmured, He looked back up at Kilraven. “Colonel, these Jem’Hadar are allies of the Imperium.”

Kilraven’s eyes widened slightly.

“They will assist you in the defense of this platform. Your orders are simple. Hold this position as long as possible, delay Lord Vader and his men then initiate a fighting withdrawal to the LZ behind you. You are authorized to use any means necessary to stop his advance.”

“Understood my lord.”

“And Kilraven. I mean it when I say to initiate a fighting withdrawal. When your position becomes untenable you are to withdraw. Too many have died here already. It is time to leave this place.”

“Permission to speak freely sir?”

Luke nodded curiously.

“Are you well sir? I mean…you seem different somehow.”

Luke smiled coolly.

“All will be explained in the debriefing. Do you have a com channel to the Adjudicator?”

“Of course.” Kilraven nodded to his communications trooper who dutifully handed a comlink to Luke.

“Adjudicator come in.”

“Adjudicator here.”

“Tarsi this is Lord nemesis.” Luke hated addressing himself as Nemesis but now was not the time to make announcements as to his true identity.

“My lord! Where are you?”

“Lock into my position with this comlink. I will need an orbital strike from the Adjudicator’s guns. I am currently over a hundred meters below solid rock and will need a chamber exposed for an LZ.”

“My gunners are tracking now…yes…we see it. Looks like some sort of power core.” There was a muted report on the other end then Tarsi spoke again with tension in his voice. “My Lord the reactor core shows it is not far from a critical overload. You don’t have much time.”

“Then you will make sure the chamber is exposed as quickly as possible captain. Prepare the Adjudicator to make the jump to lightspeed as soon as I am aboard.”

“Of course my lord.”

“And Captain?”

“My lord?”

“Good work.” Luke switched off the comlink and handed it back to the communications trooper. He nodded to Kilraven.

“Give me some time, Colonel. That’s all I ask.”

“You will have it my lord.”

“First, let us make sure they’re descent will not be easy.” Luke stated calmly and extended a hand towards the lift. The lift suddenly groaned lowly like an old man getting out of bed then the metal struts supporting the shaft began to buckle in hesitant squeals of metal and circuitry. Finally the shaft and lift gave way as if a giant fist had closed in a vise around the lift. It collapsed into a crumpled ball of twisted steel and the shaft shuddered hard, collapsing halfway into a shattered funnel.

Luke turned on his heel and approached Chewbaccca and Worf.

“I’m going o ask you to help them in the defense here.” Luke asked.

Chewbacca roared something. Luke smiled and gently reached out and scratched Chewbacca under the chin. “Chewie, I need you here. I’m not the boy I used to be. I can take care of myself.”

“We’ll do as you ask.” Uhura replied without hesitation. Chewbacca growled his assent and Worf snapped up his pain pike. “I do not shy from battle.”

Luke paused and turned his head to regard the assembled Jem’Hadar.

“First Parmok Krell.”

The big alpha nodded to Luke.

“I want six of your best men to accompany me in this attack run while you assist the Imperium forces in this holding action. Then I want your men to prepare for extraction.”

Krell nodded slowly.

“Jem’Hadar do not retreat.”

“Unless it is in their best interest, I made it clear to all of you that we are leaving this hole together or not at all. I will need warriors such as yours in the war that is coming with the Empire.”

Krell smiled softly.

“As you say Walker of the Skies.”

“Artoo are you certain this is a good idea?”

Artoo beeped and whistled happily as he finished venting insecticide into the part of the garden where Vader’s men were advancing in the face of furious defense by the Imperium storm troopers that were left behind.

“Their life support systems will protect them from that! You have the tactical genius of a hyrdospanner.” Threepio complained bitterly.

Artoo squawked a string of unflattering remarks as he activated the electrical outlets scattered around the periphery of the garden and several of them managed to spark. The sparks ignited the flammable insecticide and a wave of fire whooshed down the line of troopers and splashed over to the other side of the garden.

“Artoo! That was wonderful.” Threepio exclaimed. The technicians in the control room with them whooped in joy and slapped Threepio roughly on the back, some patted the domed droid’s head.

Vader strode through the smoldering fire and suddenly turned his head to look right at their observation camera.

“Artoo…” Threepio moaned.

“Oh crap, it’s like he can see us.”

“What is that thing?!”

Vader motioned towards the command center with a quick cutting motion of his hand and a team of stormtroopers broke away from the main body of troops and rushed to the command center.

“How is that possible?”

Artoo whistled bravely and beeped an encouragement to Threepio. A panel slid away beneath the onrushing troopers revealing the waste disposal chute below. One of them charged right into the open space and disappeared into the cavernous disposal bays below the palace. Another trooper toppled over the edge and held on for dear life.

The team continued advancing more cautiously.

“We’re running out of tricks little guy.” A technician sighed deeply.

Artoo refused to surrender to despair as he activated a series of sprinklers in front of the control room. Water quickly began pooling around the entranceway.

“You won’t have enough time to flood that space, we thought of that.”

Artoo whistled an explanation as he accessed the power circuitry again.

“Uh, you have us at a loss.”

Threepio was about to explain when the sound of men hammering against the door interrupted them.

“Open up in there! Open up in there!”

“Artoo now would be a good time.” Threepio urged. Artoo waited a little longer and the monitor showed one of the stormtroopers stepping away from the door and motioning with his thumb towards it. The others aimed their blasters.


Artoo watched the stormtroopers sloshing now through ankle high water and beeped mischievously as it activated the power outlets near the door. The water frothed and sparked. The troopers standing in the water stiffened suddenly and began convulsing before collapsing in smoking heaps into the water.

The technicians roared their cheers of approval.

“I must say Artoo all of this is giving me a flutter.” Threepio sighed in relief.

Vader continued striding forward. One of Darkstar’s guards popped up suddenly and fired a disruptor burst at the dark lord. Vader held up a hand and the disruptor bolt struck it dissipating in a flash of light and sparks. He extended his hand outward with palm open and the guard was blasted off his feet and soared several meters up through the air and struck a marble column with a bone cracking impact and flopped lifelessly down to the floor.

He advanced and activated his lightsaber, deflecting several more blaster bolts from stormtroopers and waving his men forward. The stormtrooper commander quickly took up a pace beside Vader.

“Commander, I will not ask you again. Take the command facility over there or you will displease me.”

“Of course my lord!” The stormtrooper snapped obediently and personally led a squad to the command center.

Vader snapped another blaster bolt back at the Stormtrooper firing it not bothering to break his stride as the trooper screamed and collapsed.

Above the advancing Imperial troops, two Imperium Stormtroopers crept up to the discarded antipersonnel cannon and inspected it. The over heated battery was not a problem. A few adjustments later the cannon was ready.

Vader’s helmet snapped up to catch sight of the threat and the source of the disturbance he felt a moment before.

The team opened up with the newly repaired anti personnel cannon. Angry red bolts streaked along the ruined garden gouging out new trenches of earth and stone. Several of Vader’s men screamed as they were felled by the new attack.

Vader stood before the onslaught as one of the Imperium troopers directing the gunnery crew waved frantically towards Vader. The cannon swung quickly and opened up again. Vader snapped his saber up and the storm of red energy danced off his blade as it moved in a barely perceptible spinning circle, the black armored giant did not budge under the vicious assault, the ground around him hissed and exploded at the energy deflected by his saber but he himself was untouched.

As he withstood the energy blasts the rest of his men surged forward in a merciless wave and assaulted the remaining Imperium position.

Vader suddenly pivoted on his right foot and swung his saber in a wide arc, catching the next volley of energy and batting it back up to the cannon. The catwalk and the gunnery crew along with the cannon were instantly vaporized by the redirected bolts. The lift area below was littered by raining shattered stone and steel.

He strode to the lift after a moment of inspecting his handiwork. He glanced at the controls and his men quickly gathered in a defensive square around him.

“Sir, it will take us a few moments to override the control co---”

Vader’s fist burst through the command pad. Sparks and smoke hissed and spat from the ruined pad as he extracted his fist holding several blackened chips in his hand which he promptly discarded into the floor. The doors to the lift snapped, open.

“We don’t have time for battlefield niceties. Gather your men for a rappelling assault down the shaft. Lord Nemesis is slipping away from us.”

“At once my lord.” The storm trooper bowed his head quickly and scurried to the rest of his men who were uncoiling rappelling line and prepping their weapons. Vader glanced down the ruined shaft way and could feel him moving like a ghost down below. There was something different about him. The cold furnace of his anger no longer burned brightly. There was an odd calm about him, like a cloak as he let the Force flow. The Darkside bubbled and frothed around him like a stormy sea but it was held at bay as he worked the light side of the Force. But the darkside was around him, an ever present hungry thing. Yet he held it at bay, tapping its strength but not its taint.

“What have you done, Lord Nemesis?” Vader hissed to himself.

The X-Wings soared down past the first missile batteries in sub orbit over the palace. The missiles spun away from the batteries as the fighters passed and began pursuit, their seeker warheads eagerly searching for signatures to home in on.

Several explosions blossomed in their path as Wedge whooped in exhilaration while passing through a thick cloud of bright white hot rounds.

“That was close boss.” Hobbie warned.

“I’m picking up multiple threat signatures from the surface.” Jansen warned.

“Guns. A lot of guns.” Wedge concluded.

A hornet’s nest of orbital gun batteries uncoiled from their positions and began firing round after round into the air with the intent of knocking down the Rogues before they could do their damage.

“What about torpedoes boss? From this range it’ll be hard to miss.” Rogue Nine suggested as he held his fighter steady through the shockwaves of missiles exploding behind him.

“That’s no good. We can’t be sure if they’ll hit with all this flak.” Wedge explained as he nearly lost control when three missiles zipped right over his cockpit and unleashed their multiple warheads into empty space. The warheads exploded almost immediately as their proximity sensors were tripped and a series of explosions rippled right into his flight path.


“Hang on!” Wedge shouted and shunted what he could into the forward screens and angled the ship to miss the center of the explosions. The shockwaves ruined his aerodynamics, batting the fighter around like a butterfly in a stiff wind and sending him into a corkscrew spin.

“Boss, we’re coming in to try –”

“You stay on target damnit!” Wedge shouted as he grunted against the unyielding controls. “We need to knock out those scramblers and torpedoes might nuke the whole palace making all this for nothing!” he explained as the X-Wings alarming spin suddenly recovered and he eased it back into the attack dive. His threat displays were all lit up like a carnival but the target lights suddenly appeared dimly.

“I’m getting targeting data!”

“Copy that Rogue two. Steady boys, lets make this pass count because I sure as hell don’t want to go through that again.” Wedge snapped.

“Roger that. Coming up on my targets.


“Picking up ground fire. Looks like phasers and disruptor cannons.”

“Angle your deflectors for maximum phaser deflection.”

“Rogues, this is Sagan, picking up a new group of signals. Enemy fighters coming your way.” Captain Entebbe warned.

“I don’t see anything.”

“Pick up your visual scanning.” Wedge ordered as he eased the cross hairs on his cannons to the first set of target designation lights.

“I see them.”

“Here they come!” Hobbie warned.

A squadron of converted shuttles and civilian transports soared down out of the low lying cloud cover and began firing volleys of phaser and disruptor fire at the swift X-Wings.

“I’m going in.” Wedge announced and unleashed a furious fusillade from his cannons, bathing the target area in angry strobing crimson light. The laser bolts slashed through the transmitter complex at the top of the hill overlooking the palace and it detonated into a rapidly expanding column of fire and smoke.

Wedge’s X-Wing banked hard around the column of fire avoiding a scissoring attack from multiple phasers. Three shuttles swarmed Wedge’s X-Wing as he avoided the next series of attacks.

“Rogues, the priority targets are the transport scrambling stations! Don’t let these clowns divert you.”

“Roger that boss.”

Wedge pulled back hard on his control stick sending his X-Wing into a hard climb. The shuttles tried to match him and continued hounding him with phaser fire. He smiled and dropped power to his engines.

His X-Wing dropped back down suddenly as it stalled and lost all forward momentum in its climb. It dropped right past the pursuing shuttles.

Wedge aggressively stabbed down on his weapon controls while simultaneously gunning his engines and hoping that he had enough thrust to stop the plummet into the ground rapidly looming up behind him.

Two of the three shuttles blossomed into balls of fire and molten metal as Wedge accurately picked them off. The last shuttle peeled away and flew right into another volley of fire and another X-Wing flashed by over head. Wedge’s X-Wing recovered from its stall.

“Good shooting Jansen.” Wedge laughed as he leveled his fighter.

“What would you do without me boss?” Jansen replied.

“I’m sure I’ll think of something snappy but right now I’m just trying to keep this squadron in one piece.” Wedge replied as he watched two X-Wings split into a quick scissors attack on a group of shuttled while a third span through the brief hole created and destroyed another transporter scrambler transmitter.

Kirk rushed through the entranceway of the control center and ran into a right cross that sent him sprawling into the opposite wall. He shook his head to clear the ringing.

“Fool!” Darkstar spat and swept Kirk’s legs sending him crashing onto his back. Darkstar followed up immediately with hammer kick down on Kirk’s sternum. Kirk cried out I pain and blood spat from his mouth onto his chest.

“You thought me some sort of fop didn’t you Kirk?” Darkstar sneered as he snapped kicked and caught the side of Kirk’s head. Kirk groaned and rolled over, catching a hold of Darkstar’s ankle and pulling it along with him as he rolled over.

Darkstar snarled in anger and frustration as he was yanked off his feet and crashed to the ground where Kirk delivered an elbow to the fallen crime lord’s throat. Darkstar sputtered and gasped, one hand clutching his throat as the other whipped out like a striking cobra to collapse Kirk’s nose into a puddle of ruined cartilage and blood. Kirk was not there to receive the blow however, as he rolled away and kipped up quickly to face his foe.

“You talk too much.” Kirk gasped.

Darkstar kipped up as well and entered and offensive stance, arms tucked in and ready for a quick strike, legs dancing around looking for an opening.

Mara rushed through the door toting her blaster. She glanced over at Kirk and Darkstar then back into the recessed of the control bunker.

Kirk smiled at first but then frowned as Mara avoided the combatants and rushed towards the back. Sulu and Spock quickly followed and stopped to circle Darkstar.

“No! Mara’s going after the hypermatter reactors! Stop her whatever the cost!”

Sulu and Spock hesitated, noting Kirk’s injuries and Darkstar’s aggressive stance.

“Damnit that’s an order!” Kirk barked. “I’ll handle him.”

“We’ll be right back sir!” Sulu shouted and he and Spock raced after Mara into the back of the bunker.

“Handle me?!” Darkstar sneered. “You should show more respect Captain. After all, I’m about to kill a living legend.” Darkstar snapped and swept in a roundhouse kick towards Kirk’s head. Kirk caught the kick and twisted the leg hard at the knee.

Darkstar howled and was pulled off his feet and swung into the far wall with a resounding thud. Kirk smiled and wiped blood from his lips.

“You know that human phrase about counting chickens?” he taunted.

“No I cannot say I am familiar with your pathetic culture, Kirk. I would not be so proud of a race that will live out the rest of their lives as slaves!” Darkstar roared and charged at Kirk. Kirk stepped in to receive the charge but at the last moment the crime lord danced out of Kirk’s grasp and back spun with a kick into Kirk’s groin.

Kirk cried out in pain and awkwardly fell to his knees. Darkstar drove his knee into connect with Kirk’s chin. Kirk fell backwards, legs splayed out like a spider’s. Darkstar took a moment, dancing on the balls of his feet to catch his breath and smiled viciously down at his fallen foe.

Kirk’s legs snapped together and caught the crime lord’s injured leg and collapsed it hard down on the knee with a wrench of his waist and legs. A low wet crunch followed and Darkstar howled in anguish as he fell down on top of Kirk and began throttling him, sweat and spittle dripping down on Kirk’s face as his eyes blazed into the Captain’s with a murderous fury.

“You will die now Captain. Die like the scum that you are, dreaming of a free Federation that is no longer yours to save in a battle you cannot win at the hands of a man that is out of his time as well.” Darkstar grunted with effort as he squeezed and squeezed, feeling Kirk’s throat constricting with a delicious effort. Kirk’s face was swollen and red as he struggled against the death grip on his windpipe.

Kirk’s hands suddenly lost their grip on the crime lord’s choke hold and surged forward, fingers curled like talons right into Darkstar’s eyes.

Darkstar screamed and released his hold on Kirk. Kirk did not hesitate to bring his knee up hard in three quick jabs into Darkstar’s groin and midsection. He worked his feet up into Darkstar’s stomach and kicked up sending his stunned enemy up into the air to crash down a meter away from him.

Kirk coughed and gagged as he struggled into a standing position.

Darkstar rolled onto his back and groaned as he dragged himself up into a crouch, one hand cupping a ruined eye, blood pooling up around his fingers. The other eye blinked painfully as it regarded his foe.

“That doesn’t work anymore Darkstar.” Kirk said in a raspy whisper. “I came all this way to face those demons and I have. The end result doesn’t matter. It doesn’t whether I win or lose. What matters is the struggle. What matters is that humanity and the Federation said ‘we will not surrender’.”

“And…” Darkstar choked back a spastic cough. “what does that matter in the end, James? What have you gained by prolonging the inevitable?”

“The same thing I gain by fighting this fight against you in a reactor that’s about to blow.”

Darkstar’s sole eye blinked.

“Enlighten me you bilious bastard.”

Kirk smiled weakly.

“That who and what we are is not dictated by who wins or loses. The measure of a man is in how he acts in defeat and not in victory. It’s all about who and what we are in the dark, alone, when it doesn’t really matter. Look at you for instance. Running away, throwing anyone and anything in our path whether it be a horde of your throw away troops or an army of rampaging clones but in the end, despite it all, you ran and you continue running, hiding behind force fields and defenseless women.”

“Interesting you should say that Kirk, because my favorite woman is off on a grand tour of the tunnels beneath us. That treacherous slug Harry Mudd joined her.” Darkstar said coldly.

Kirk’s face contorted into a mask of anger and frustration.

He started to surge forward when he was interrupted by the sharp snap hiss of Luke’s lightsaber. Pulsing crimson light danced along Darkstar’s face as he held up the lightsaber and spun it several times as if testing the weight. He turned his full attention back to Kirk.

“Now where were we? Oh yes…you were going to ‘handle me.’” Darkstar said in a cold monotone as he advanced with the lightsaber blade humming hungrily.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 78: The Fall of the House of Darkstar part 2

“Stop right there!” Mara snapped and held her blaster to the largest hypermatter reactor set up in the maintenance room. The back of the room was open to the abyss below, the wall torn down by the stresses of the plasma strikes and the failing structural supports. The air howled in a loud cacophony around them. Her hair tumbled around her as if she were underwater as she watched the two Starfleet crewmen with a menacing glare.

Sulu stopped short but held his phaser steadily on Mara as Spock checked his tricorder and scanned around the room.

“You know what would happen Vulcan if I blasted this reactor.”

“The resulting damage could cause a core breach and destroy the reactor.”

“And?” she pressed.

“The explosion would detonate this bunker and most likely most of this chamber as well as initiating the larger core breach of the reactor.”

“In other words one big boom.” Sulu muttered.

“Don’t be so down, Mr. Sulu.” Mara chided. “This battle was over before it began. Your precious Starfleet is not going to get its hands on these reactors.”

“I must point out the logical conclusion to your threat.”

“Which is?”

“You will die as well. Frankly Ms. Jade, after a short analysis of your behavior coupled with the rumored romantic links with Darth Nemesis who now calls himself Luke Skywalker I do not think that you mean yourself harm even if you wanted to make us think so.”

Mara stared hard at the Vulcan and then at Sulu.

“If you were so certain of that Mr. Spock why are you not doing anything about it?”

“Because I was hoping to bring this confrontation to a peaceful result. All we want are the reactors. You can leave with Lord Nemesis or Luke Skywalker or whatever he is calling himself unmolested. It is an even exchange in my view. The high lord of the Imperium for a handful of reactors.”

“You logical fool!” Mara exclaimed. “What makes you think you can even threaten him?”

“I wouldn’t have to harm him at all.” Spock said evenly and took a step forward. Sulu tensed and aimed his phaser.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Mara exclaimed and pressed the blaster into the side of the reactor.

“All I have to tell him is that you murdered Princess Leia in cold blood.”

“What?!” Mara whispered. “You can’t prove that and what would it matter?”

“I can prove it by simple logical deduction Ms. Jade.” Spock continued and took another step forward. “You see the scratches on your face were created by a being whose nails were significantly narrower and smaller than those of a Jem’Hadar. The location and depth of your scratches would indicate that your assailant was significantly shorter and smaller of frame than a Jem’Hedar, much like the Princess.”

“And Nemesis would believe that nonsense why?”

“He doesn’t need to believe me completely Ms. Jade. All I need to do is pique his curiosity and natural suspicion. Then he would simply probe your mind for the truth.” Spock paused for a moment as he let the words sink in. “I wonder Ms. Jade…how long could you resist his mind probe? Would you even know he had discovered the truth until it was too late?”

“Damn you!” Mara snarled and her blaster suddenly trained on Spock’s midsection. The Vulcan leapt out of the way as Sulu fired a short burst from his phaser. The stun blast sent Mara recoiling backwards, the blaster slipping out of her grasp and right out of the open back wall behind her, vanishing into the swirling abyss below.

Mara shook off the effects of the stun as if it were a mere body blow and reached for one of the reactors. Sulu’s eyes widened.

“Spock that was max stun!” He exclaimed in shock.

Spock charged her and Mara sidestepped him delivering a crippling kick into the back of his thigh and following up with a chop to the nerve clusters of his neck. Together the blows would have crippled or killed a normal human but Spock was a Vulcan. The blows merely slowed him down as he backhanded Mara with a resounding crack as his arm connected with her torso and face.

She sailed backwards and into the opposite wall.

Mara landed on her feet and wiped blood from her nose. The Vulcan would be trouble, he possessed five times her strength and was obviously trained in the rudiments of hand to hand combat. She needed to destroy those reactors and he stood between her and the objective.

“You have no idea what you’re facing Vulcan. I am one of the Emperor’s Hands. I deal in death and dismemberment. I am his will made flesh and you think you can stand between me and my objective?”

“Yes, I do. You don’t have the time to be making threats and chest beating statements Ms. Jade. Time is on my side.”

The bunker decided to protest that statement as it shuddered hard to the left and a squeal of metal coming apart was followed by the room dipping backwards a full 20 degrees. Sulu lost his footing and slid down to the open wall in front of him. Spock quickly reached out and snatched Sulu’s right shoulder and hooked his arm underneath it as he held himself steady with the other arm holding onto an overhanging coolant pipe.

Mara stumbled to her left as well but recovered her footing quickly and launched herself in a flying leap past Spock and landed on the maintenance table where the reactors were neatly arrayed, held in place by a stasis field.

“Now, Mr. Spock, let us see what we can do about your predicament.” She said frostily and casually released one of the reactors from the field. It slid loudly off the edge of the table and tumbled end over end towards Spock.

“Spock let go! I’ve got a way out!” Sulu shouted.

Spock swung Sulu towards the near wall and reached out with the other hand and caught a hold of the tumbling reactor and held it firmly over the yawning abyss as he strained with the other hand to hold himself in place.

Sulu scrambled up on the wall and started to make his way towards the table.

Mara quickly kicked the next reactor off the table and its started its rapid slide towards Spock. Spock grunted as he looked up at the rapidly approaching reactor and had to make the decision to either get out of the way or try to stop it from tumbling out of the room.

“Do you have the targeting data?” Tarsi demanded.

“It is marked and locked in Captain.”


Tarsi watched his gunnery crew in action. On the view ports beyond he watched several turbolaser bolts flash down to the planet’s surface.

“Now I want that air defense network cleared. I don’t want Lord Nemesis being knocked down by a stray missile.” Tarsi ordered hands on the railing to his command deck. He could feel the tide turning, the captain of the Devastator must be feeling it as well.

“Already on it sir. Bomber squadrons have begun launching torpedoes. Fighter squadrons following through to escort the landers home.

“Sir, the Devastator is trying to launch fighters to assist in their own recovery efforts.”

“Let’s not give them the bloody satisfaction. Concentrate fire on the hangar bays and likely areas of egress. All anti-starfighter batteries are to prioritize targets to anything that tries to head to the surface. Have the Warbirds decloak on the far side of the planet and begin long range bombardment and over watch positions from extraction point.”


“I want Lord Nemesis in our hangar deck within the next fifteen minutes. Navigation.”


“Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed as soon as we have package secured. Course heading is directly back home. I have a feeling we’ll be bringing hell back with us.”

“Understood sir.”

Tarsi strode over to his XO who had his head bent over the tactical station and talking in an animated fashion with the long range sensors chief.

“I take it we’re having company?” Tarsi asked.

His XO looked up sharply.

“Hard to tell sir, but we may have several Imperial ships inbound. Their hyperspace signatures are hard to make out due to a mixture of damage to our long range arrays and the amount of energy flying out there.”

“If I were Thrawn and Lord Vader decided to come here on his own I would make sure he was successful in this mission.” Tarsi concluded.

“Or it could be reinforcements from Grand Admiral Kittaine.”

“Or it could be a Federation fleet using the rebel frigate’s hyperdrive to drag them along to these coordinates.” The tactical officer added.

Tarsi looked down at him, eyes narrowing.

“What makes you say that?”

“These signatures are a little too weak to be large Imperial cruisers. We know the Federation Remnant has used this piggy back tactic before in several battles. I suspect that’s what we may be facing.”

Tarsi nodded.

“Kirk is down there. He only has that damned Science vessel and the X-Wings…it makes sense that he would have his own extraction planned as well.” Tarsi mused. “It matters not. Let’s keep our eyes open. Whether it is the Empire, reinforcements or the Federation all we have to do is hold position long enough to recover Lord Nemesis.” Tarsi stated and straightened up.

“You hear me. No matter what comes we will hold here for Lord Nemesis. We will not leave this system without him no matter the cost.” Tarsi announced proudly.

His crew all exchanged glances and nodded in agreement before returning to their work.

Kirk ducked under Darkstar’s swing. The lightsaber sizzled as it touched off the metal wall beside Kirk. The crime lord stalked after Kirk, lightsaber flashing before him.

“This ends here and now. I have suffered enough of your insolence. Do you know what will be lost when this reactor explodes!?” the lightsaber flashed down hard nearly taking Kirk’s left leg off. Kirk danced out of the way but Darkstar brought the blade back up at an angle towards Kirk’s midsection. “All the unique and wonderful treasures that will be lost because of your half assed rescue attempt!” Kirk twisted at the waist to avoid the blade.

“Centuries to collect and catalogue!” Darkstar continued swinging the blade in a series of chopping strokes, each missed strike touched the metal grating and it sizzled and snapped on contact with the humming blade. Kirk back pedaled furiously out of reach from the blade and then stopped short, pivoting in hard at the bottom of another downward stroke and delivered a crushing elbow into Darkstar’s throat.

The crime lord sputtered and swung back out wildly. Kirk barely ducked under the swing, feeling the passage of the blade over his head by mere inches. Darkstar swung it back down furiously. Kirk danced back. The blade landed in the grating, metal sizzling into a pool around the blade tip. Darkstar smiled viciously and snapped the blade up at Kirk, flinging the molten metal at him.

Kirk exclaimed in pain as some of the molten metal struck his chest and arms.

The room shuddered hard and dipped backwards again. Kirk lost his footing and stumbled to one knee. He looked up sharply as Darkstar smiled triumphantly. He whipped the saber up over his head and laughed heartily.

“It’s over James.”

The lightsaber came down hard and fast and Kirk tried to roll out of the way but knew he was a step too slow.

The lightsaber was savagely yanked out of Darkstar’s grip. The crime lord stared dumbly at his now empty hands and slowly looked up.

Luke Skywalker stood defiantly in the entrance of the bunker and held the lightsaber in his hand. He swung it in a figure eight around his body and smiled softly as he closed his hand around the hilt and felt all the grooves and notches he had not felt in too long.

“Darkstar, you treat this like a utility knife, some weapon to use to hack up your opponents. This is a lightsaber.” Luke said coolly. Darkstar was suddenly thrown clear against the far wall and held there.

“Wait! Wait a damned minute!” Darkstar sputtered.

“You see this is a Jedi’s weapon. Not so clumsy or random as your disruptors and phasers. It’s an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Luke finished and Darkstar felt his face slapped back and forth by an invisible hand. Blood spilled from his nose as he glared at the young man as he quietly walked up to Darkstar. He was flanked by several Jem’Hadar.

“Now. It’s time you were brought to justice.”

“You think you have the balls Nemesis?! No matter what happens here today you were mine. All mine as my plaything and nothing you do here now or ever will change that.” Darkstar shouted, spittle spraying with his words.

Luke examined the crime lord closely for a moment, he held out his hand and Darkstar flinched. Luke grabbed a firm hold of Darkstar’s chin and cheeks and turned his face from side to side.

“I don’t hate you little man. I pity you. You think you are some great power in the world, a mighty titan astride his empire. You are nothing more than a maggot feeding off the rotten scraps of the table of those who are indeed great and better than you. A filthy little worm that thinks he is the king of all that he surveys. You will soon discover that these treasures you’ve spent your life acquiring own you and not the other way around. You are defined by what you own and who you hate and nothing more. Now that I look on you all I see is a miserable creature beneath my contempt.”

Darkstar smiled coldly.

“That may be Skywalker but since you’re no longer Darth Nemesis that means that telling you that Anastasia is about to die might move you to save her, no?”

Luke’s eyes narrowed on Darkstar and he saw the image in the crime lord’s mind.

“You diseased maniac!” Luke shouted and strode past him, releasing Darkstar from his grip the crime lord slumped down to the floor. “Watch him!” Luke ordered and rushed towards the back of the bunker.

Darkstar slowly rose to his feet and smile at the Jem’Hedar.

“Now that wasn’t exactly the best course of action to take, wouldn’t you agree?” Darkstar chuckled. The Jem’Hedar started to back away as he stepped forward. Darkstar extended his left hand. One of the Jem’Hedar doubled over in pain. Darkstar cackled with glee.

He did not see the haymaker that struck him squarely on the nose. Darkstar stumbled backwards as his nose collapsed into his face in an explosion of blood and snot. Kirk lunged forward and pinned the crime lord to the wall, placing one forearm under Darkstar’s chin and into this throat.

“Now that I know about your little pain implant maybe I can separate it from your arm.” Kirk jerked on Darkstar’s left arm. Darkstar snarled and struggled. “I don’t think a human can rip another human’s arm off Hieronymus. But let’s find out.” Kirk said with a harsh smile as he jerked on Darkstar’s arm.

“Blast you Kirk! This ends one way or another.” Darkstar howled and slammed his head down against Kirk’s.

Mara reached for the next reactor. The Vulcan was forced to dodge the previous reactor as it tumbled past him and down out of into the abyss. Spock struggled valiantly to hold on to his purchase with one hand and the hypermatter reactor with the other.

She grunted as she kicked the next reactor off its housing and towards the edge of the table. Mara was bathed in a bright green light and she was thrown off the table. Sulu quickly scurried hand over hand along the piping on the ceiling towards the table.

“I’m moving to secure the reactors. Get yourself clear, Mr. Spock.” Sulu called out as he landed on the edge of the table and checked the stasis field around each device.

Spock nodded and took a deep breath before pulling himself up over to the wall and hauling the reactor to a more secure spot in a corner of the maintenance room. He paused to check the reactor for any damage. His eyebrow arched as he spotted something odd.

“Not so fast Mr. Sulu.” Mara gasped as she swept Sulu’s legs out from under him. She groggily leapt up onto the table and dropped a knee down on Sulu’s chest as she reached for his throat. Sulu blocked her with an elbow and struggled to bring his phaser up around for another shot.

Mara grasped his wrist and held his gun hand away from her.

“What kind of lady shakes off two heavy stun blasts?!” Sulu growled.

Mara smiled grimly. She slapped away his elbow and snaked her free hand over to Sulu’s throat.

“I’m no lady, Sulu.” She replied. She did not want to admit that the second blast almost knocked her out. It took all of her training to overcome the stunning effect of the Federation phaser. One more hit and she doubted she would recover. She needed to end this quickly.

She started to squeeze and jerk his head to the right. Sulu kicked up at the waist and managed to hook one leg over her shoulder and pulled backwards. Mara grit her teeth and leaned forward as hard as she could and squeezed his throat even harder, digging her fingers into his flesh.

She saw his eyes begin to flutter and his legs slowly weakened.

“That’s it, it will be over soon.” She promised.

The impact of the third stun blast was like a freight train bowling her over. She spun off the table and crashed against the wall, slumping down out of sight. Spock waited a moment, phaser trained on the spot where she fell.

Sulu coughed and sputtered as he rose to a seated position and rubbed his raw throat.

“Thanks Mr. Spock. Looks like the third time’s the charm.” Sulu croaked.

Spock arched an eyebrow.

“Quaint human sayings aside, Mr. Sulu, we have a problem.”

“What?” Sulu asked suddenly concerned.

“The hypermatter reactors are---“ Spock paused as he noticed something in Sulu’s hands. “Where is your phaser?”

Sulu looked around suddenly alarmed. A bright green blast snapped Spock back off his feet and sent him sprawling to the ground. Sulu spun on his waist and began to lash out with his legs to strike Mara.

Mara was a shade faster and blasted Sulu with his phaser.

Sulu slumped down on the table top.

Mara slowly inspected both fallen men. She nodded to her satisfaction and checked the phaser’s power setting.

“Remarkable weapon. Non lethal uses are very efficient and powerful. Let’s see what happens when we crank it up a bit.” She said coldly.

“Watch yourself, there’s a nasty crossfire by that transmitter.” Wedge warned but it was too late. The X-Wing was spinning in a tight strafing run on one of the last remaining transport scramblers when it got caught in a storm of metal fired by the emplaced guns circling the transmitter.

The X-Wing was smacked to the left by the hammer like impacts and smoke began to belch forth from one of the engines. The fighter struggled to maintain control.

“Eject Rogue 8, eject!” Hobbie urged. He glanced back at the transmitter station and gunned his own engines for a tight turning attack run.

“I think I can keep her up.” Rogue 8 grunted loudly as he fought with his control stick. The sharp whine coupled with the cacophony of multiple alarms in the background of his transmission told a different story.

“Rogue 8, listen to me, take her down quickly. It sounds like you’re having a multiple engine core failure. Rogue 9 fly over and watch him as he ditches then mark with flares and transporter markers so that the Sagan can begin recovery operations as soon as we get this blasted scrambling field down.” Wedge ordered.

“Roger that boss. Sorry.” Rogue 8 lamented.

“Nobody’s fault. We knew this would be a tough nut to crack now get out of here before you draw more fire. Rogue 9, stick to him until recovery starts.”

“No problem.”

A warning buzz overhead on Wedge’s HUD drew his attention.

“Missiles inbound from orbital platforms!”

“They can’t be getting a signature!” Jansen protested.

“They’re not.” Wedge concluded coolly as he saw the first wave of missiles raining down on their position. The missiles opened their cones and spat forth a smaller barrage of warheads that exploded as they fell in a rain of fire.

“They’re blanketing this whole area in the hopes of just taking us out.” Wedge concluded as he brought his X-Wing out of a steep climb and dove for cover.

“Damnit boss this ain’t exactly fair.” Jansen spat.

“Since when has fair had anything to do with it?” Hobbie sighed.

“Boys, I’ve got an idea how to take that hornet’s nest out.” Wedge said softly as he checked his tactical computer

“Anastasia!” Luke exclaimed. He rushed to the edge of the ruined back wall of the bunker. Large swaying metal conduits and pipes jutted out into the abyss below. Anastasia was hanging on to the very end of one of the conduits. Harry Mudd was slowly crawling out towards her.

“Now hold on my dear, this is a little more than what I’m used to doing.” Harry stammered trying his best not to look down and ignore the steady groan of the metal shaft that he was relying on for support.

“Please hurry Harry. I’m slipping.” She cried out in a near panic, legs dangling helplessly.

“Anastasia!” Luke shouted again. The wind tunnel effect of the chamber and the constant blasts from the reactor were drowning him out. Luke doused his lightsaber and clipped it onto his belt then somersaulted up and out of the chamber.

He landed gracefully on a ruined gantry that had been blasted down off the roof of the bunker and now hung perpendicular to where Anastasia was holding on for dear life. Luke quickly scurried down the gantry, not fearing the height and the cross wind at all, confident that the Force would keep him safe as he approached them.

“Goodness gracious!” Harry exclaimed and held up one hand defensively over his face as he saw Luke appear beside them. “Please don’t hurt me Lord Nemesis! I am a simple man! I am an insignificant insect! I am—”

“Harry.” Luke interrupted gently.

“I am a worm your Sithness!” Harry groveled, trying to gauge Luke’s reaction through fingers splayed over his face.

“Harry!” Luke interjected more forcefully.

“Have mercy to one who is not worthy to be shine your boots!” Harry pleaded.

“Harry!!” Luke and Anastasia exclaimed in exasperation.

“What?” Harry asked cautiously.

“Help me.” Luke said as he straddled the gantry and Harry’s conduit then reached down for Anastasia.

“I knew it.” Anastasia gasped as Luke reached down and grasped her wrists and began to pull her up. Harry reached out and steadied her as Luke lifted her and held her close to him on the gantry. She looked up into his eyes. “I knew you would come back for me, Luke.” She kissed him long and hard as the wind whipped around d them.

They parted and Luke watched her for a moment.

“There’s a lot we’ll have to talk about. For now, we have to get out of here and deal with Darkstar.”

“How do you intend to get out?” Anastasia implored.

“Uh...a hand perhaps?” Harry asked trying to maneuver his bulk up to the gantry and teetering dangerously close to falling off his conduit.

An earthquake suddenly rumbled through the chamber, concrete and steel began giving way above them. The ceiling started to crumble and tumble away down through the chamber in massive chunks the size of houses. Sunlight streamed through the crater above them and the sounds of engines thrummed deeply in the air.


“Seriously, I’m having a little trouble here.” Harry stammered as his eyes widened as he regarded the yawning chasm below struggling to maintain his balance.

Luke looked up and smiled.

“That, Anastasia is the way out courtesy of an Imperium Stardestroyer.”

“Anastasia dear…this is a rather impending disaster for me.” Harry snapped but it was drowned out by the roar of more debris coming down with a thunderous roar. The first Imperium lander appeared at the lip of the cavern, pausing to sweep the area with search lights before descending into the chamber.

Another explosion rippled further off to the side, thick black smoke began billowing out from the main access way leading back to the cloning chamber. Luke frowned.

He spied several of his stormtroopers exiting the cloning chamber onto the bridge firing a steady fusillade back into the chamber as they waved the Jem’Hedar back past them.. The Jem’Hedar for their part moved in tight disciplined formation out onto the bridge. Chewbacca’s roar was clear even this far away as the Wookiee backed out onto the bridge firing his disruptor.

“He is a little ahead of schedule.” Luke muttered.


“This is getting ridiculous!” Harry shouted and suddenly yelped as he slipped off the conduit and began to plummet down into the depths below. How embarrassing. Harry mused in his head.

Luke extended his hand outward as he turned with Anastasia on the gantry back towards the bunker. Harry’s fall stopped short merely a few meters into his plummet. He quickly ascended up to the gantry and landed with all the grace of a wounded duck behind Luke and Anastasia.

“That was unnecessary you know! Making me wait like that?”

Luke paused and looked back at Harry. Harry’s lips snapped shut as he saw something in the young man’s eyes.

“I didn’t forget the part you played in this tragedy Harry Mudd. The fact that you tried to save her is the only reason I didn’t let you meet your fate at the bottom of this pit.” Luke said with a steely intensity.

“I meant no harm! I assure you!” Harry stuttered and held up his hands defensively.

“I know you didn’t Harry.” Luke’s voice softened slightly. “But you see, all our actions have consequences whether we ever meant to or not. It’s a hard lesson to learn. I mean to make you see the errors of your ways. That’s why you will join with Captain Kirk in his rebellion against the Empire.”

“Kirk?! He’d as soon send me out the nearest airlock as have me help him out.” Harry exclaimed in outrage.

“Then I guess you’ll have to convince him how useful you are, won’t you?” Luke replied as he gingerly led Anastasia over the last portion of the ruined gantry back into the bunker.

“The man is an insufferable do gooder! He wants nothing to do with me!” Harry whined.

“You will try to convince him.” Luke replied waving his hand gently.

“I will try to convince him.” Harry replied without hesitation. Anastasia glanced curiously at Luke and then to his hand. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the ship rising loudly behind them.

“What is that thing?!”

Luke looked back towards the sound already certain of the answer. How could he forget the sound of those engines?

The Millennium Falcon floated at the same level of the bunker. Luke peered into the cockpit and spied the young man at the controls. His eyes narrowed.

“Han?” He whispered. No, that couldn’t be right. Upon closer inspection it was not Han, but his vision wavered for a moment and he saw Han again sitting at the controls. Han looked over at him, a mournful expression in his eyes. He was not wearing his normal clothes. He wore an Imperial uniform.

“What is it?” Luke asked.

“It is the Future you see.” Han replied in Yoda’s voice.

“The future?” Luke asked in confusion.

The vision vanished as quickly as it came. Luke felt a ripple in the Force.

“Mara!” Luke exclaimed suddenly and rushed back into the bunker just as it screeched and rumbled again and tilted backwards another 20 degrees. Anastasia helped Harry by pulling him back into the bunker.

“Are you feeling alright?” She asked him inspecting him.

“I am fine my dear…but can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“What was that thing he was doing with his hand?”

“You’ve got me.”

“That’s an odd man you’re in love with my dear.”

“I don’t love him!” Anastasia protested.

Harry shook his head and muttered "He's a little too young to be having nervous tics like that." as he followed her out in her pursuit of Luke.

“Goodbye Sulu, Mr. Spock. If it’s any consolation you almost won.” Mara said as she aimed her phaser at the two fallen Starfleet officers. Her head still swam from the heavy stun blasts and her limbs felt leaden and numb. Intense light flooded the maintenance room as the wind picked up accompanied by the unmistakable loud throbbing of repulsors.

She looked up sharply and saw the Millennium Falcon floating steadily in front of the open back wall.

She heard something behind her.

Mara turned as quickly as she could, pivoting on her left foot. She turned to face the slight green figure of Princess Leia. Her metallic revealing suit was replaced by a snug fitting Starfleet uniform.

“Remember me?” Leia spat and delivered a haymaker that catapulted Mara off her feet. Mara landed on her back and started to kip up when Leia’s follow up roundhouse kick connected with Mara’s face and snapped it backwards painfully.

Mara blocked the next kick with a sweep of her forearm but the phaser fell from her clumsy numb fingers.

Get it together damnit! Mara urged to her self as her head swam. Her senses were distorted and out of whack. She tried to focus, using all the techniques her master taught her. The focusing worked. Long enough to feel the jarring pain of Leia’s punch that twisted her nose and sent her head snapping back into the metal grating floor.

Leia slid on top of Mara and began to unload all her pain, frustration, anger and sorrow into this woman who had tried to kill her, a woman that had betrayed her, and a woman that loved Luke.

Mara groaned under the hail of fists. She could no longer fight the Princess off as the damage she had absorbed finally overcame her.

“Stop!” Luke shouted and Leia was pulled off Mara and landed unceremoniously on her back several meters away.

Leia looked up at Luke.

“Luke, she---“”

“I don’t want to hear this right now. Vader has broken through our defenses. Unless you want to face him you have to leave now!” Luke urged.

“Jim!” Leia breathed.

Luke looked confused at the sudden explosion of emotion and concern from her as she got on her feet just as Spock and Sulu groggily came around.

“Will you leave them alone?” She asked Luke.

“You’d ask me that?!” Luke replied stung by the unspoken accusation.

Leia frowned and glanced over at Mara.

“Sometimes the only way we can gauge others is by the company they keep.” She replied frostily and rushed past Luke. He stood quietly for a moment pondering her words.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 79: The Fall of the House of Darkstar Part 3

“Are we clear?” Wedge asked.

“We’re with you boss.”

The Rogues formed up around Wedge and they raced in a tight formation towards the last set of transmitters.

“Those guns are tracking us.”

“We only need to stay in formation for a few more seconds.”

“Here they come boss!” Hobbie exclaimed looking up at the sky and seeing the rain of white missiles streaking down towards them.

“Rogues break!” Wedge shouted and the X-Wings suddenly burst away from each other in a starburst pattern as the missiles blindly laid their payload out in a saturation bombing of the area in the vain hopes of bringing down the X-Wings. Instead the missiles managed to destroy the final set of transmitters in a storm of fire that washed around the installation and gun emplacements.

“Rogues this is the Sagan. All transport scramblers are down! Repeat they are all down. We’re getting clear locks on the team.”

“Sagan this is Rogue Leader, I’ve got a man down. Please initiate recovery operations ASAP.”

“Roger that Rogue Leader. The cavalry is on the way. I would get the hell out of Dodge.”

“Already on our way out.”

“Here come the big boys.” Jansen added as the X-Wings raced away from the palace leaving it behind as they soared into orbit. The air shimmered around them and ships suddenly appeared around them, diving past the X-Wings towards the palace complex they were leaving behind. The predatory shape of the Klingon Bird of preys swept past the X-Wings and began firing their disruptors at the palace and the Imperial landers clustered around it.

One of the Bird of Preys peeled away from the pack and swept in close to the downed X-Wing. A tractor beam lanced down and gently picked up the fallen X-Wing and tucked it in under its belly while the pilot was quickly beamed up.

The last Wedge saw before the stars suddenly appeared on his canopy was part of the palace collapsing as a Bird of Prey passed over it firing a steady stream of disruptor fire into it.

“Nothing pretty ever lasts in these wars.” Wedge muttered.

“What was that boss?”

“Set up for escort of the Sagan and prepare for the jump to light speed.” Wedge ordered as he snapped out of his reverie.

“Artoo! We’re doomed!” Threepio exclaimed as the stormtroopers trained their blasters on them. The control room’s door was blasted off its track and the technicians that had been in hiding with the droids were either dead or on their knees, hands on the back of their heads.

“Droids. What are they doing here?”

Artoo squawked something bitter at the troopers.

“I must say this is unnecessary.” Threepio protested.

“Take them for questioning. Lord Vader might find this interesting.”

Threepio felt odd for a moment, as if his circuits had skipped a beat then suddenly the stormtroopers were replaced by the kind faces of Sagan transporter engineers.

“Are you guys alright?”

“I’ve forgotten how much I hate transport travel.” Threepio lamented. Artoo beeped happily as he rolled off the transporter pad.

Leia rushed out to the main control room in time to catch Darkstar and Kirk struggling like two wrestlers, each grasping for the other’s limbs, fingers clawing for eyes or looking for an opening to hook on to. Kirk swung Darkstar over his hip but the crime lord managed to hold on to Kirk and dragged him awkwardly down to the floor with him where they proceeded to roll together into the next room.

She saw the Jem’Hedar staring dumbly at the fight.

“Do something!” She called out to them.

They remained stoically watching it.

She sighed in frustration and charged into the room after them just as the entire bunker moaned and screeched louder than ever before. The bunker titled madly forward until they were all nearly tumbling out of the ruined back of the control room.

Kirk and Darkstar were on the very precipice leading down to the chasm below, punching, kicking and Leia swore she saw Darkstar biting Kirk.

“Jim! We have to get out of here now!”

Kirk grunted and spun his body clockwise then counter-clockwise as quickly as he could and the crime lord was shaken loose for a moment. Kirk used his legs and shoved him up and off of him. Darkstar tumbled backwards as gravity did its work and pulled anything down towards it. Darkstar’s arms flailed as he tried to catch anything to stop his fall.

Kirk scampered up towards the door and Leia’s outstretched hand. He caught her wrist and began to pull himself up and out of the room as tables and chairs swept down and out of the room back down into the abyss below.

Darkstar snarled like an animal and launched himself forward with a Herculean effort and snatched Kirk’s left ankle in a death grip. Kirk exclaimed in surprise and was pulled off his feet to fall on the floor, Darkstar’s weight pulling on him like a stone.

Darkstar grinned like a mad man and laughed heartily as he held on to Kirk’s ankle then swung his weight forward on more time to catch Kirk’s left calf with his free hand.

“You’re not going anywhere Kirk!”

Leia grunted as she held on to Kirk and Darkstar’s weight with both hands. Her legs were splayed open and hooked into the sides of the door for support. She pulled back her head and grunted with the effort of holding on to him with all her strength.

“I’m not letting you go!” she shouted breathlessly.

Kirk looked up at her and saw her face flushed with effort, temples throbbing and looked back down at his leg with Darkstar’s face frozen in a mask of maniacal fury and joy. One eye a ruined bloody hole the other blazing into him with a horrid intensity.

“You’re telling me this was all for nothing?!” Sulu exclaimed in outrage.

“No, if you listened more closely I said that these reactors are counterfeits.” Spock explained as he flung the last one off the table not bothering to watch it tumble out into the chasm below.

“But then—”

“There is a secret compartment beneath these.”

Luke wordlessly swept Mara into his arms and lifted her into his chest. He regarded to two Starfleet officers for a moment. Anastasia rushed into view and paused at the doorway as she saw how Luke was holding the woman in his arms.

“Luke, your people have finished their retreat up the bridge. The Imperial forces are almost here and they have something leading them. I’ve never seen his like before.” She warned.

Luke nodded.

“You two.”

Spock and Sulu glanced over at Luke.

“Take what you can and get out of here now. Lord Vader will have no mercy upon any of you if he catches you.” Luke stated then without waiting for a reply swept out of the room with Mara in his arms.

“I did it all for you.” She whispered in a fevered voice into his chest.

“I know you did.” Luke soothed.

“We have little choice it seems.” Spock commented then flipped open the communicator.

“Spock to Sagan.”

“Sagan here, Mr. Spock. It’s great to hear your voice.”

“Beam up the object at my coordinates. Immediately.”


“Spock to Millennium Falcon.”

“I see you Mr. Spock.” Tom Paris replied waving from the cockpit.

“Engage hostiles coming across the bridge. We need a little more time.”

“Understood.” Tom worked some controls out of Spock’s sight. A volley of bright crimson blasts spat out from beneath the Falcon towards the bridge. Spock eyed Sulu who was battered and bruised.

“Beam Mr. Sulu up, maintain a lock on me until I can find the Captain.”


Sulu’s eyes widened.

“Wait a minute Spock I---” Sulu vanished in a column of light/

“Spock this is the Sagan. We’ve beamed your object up and Mr. Scott and Dr. McCoy as well.”

“Sagan prepare to break away from the planet. I will make sure the Captain and I get away on the Millennium Falcon. Oh, and the Captain wanted to make sure no one forgot about the droids.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Spock. They’re safely aboard but we’re not leaving without you.”

“You will follow the Captain’s orders Sagan. You have the hypermatter reactors onboard. The mission is a failure if we cannot return that technology back to Avalon.”

Entebbe sighed heavily on the communicator.

“Understood. Sagan out.”

Spock was never surprised by the human need to cling to the irrational when confronted with difficult choices. Now he had to find the Captain. This Darth Vader, if he was anything like the man Nemesis used to be would be a difficult foe to face at the moment.

Vader watched the first sortie of his men onto the bridge scream and tumble away off the sides as bright crimson bolts swept out from the side out of view and struck his men with unerring accuracy.

“We’re receiving heavy fire from a tramp freighter on the far side of the reactor, my lord. I’ve called for an E-Web cannon. We should be receiving it in a matter of moments.” His commander explained.

Vader watched his men trying to break past the heavy fire, several lying prone and firing at the tramp freighter while simultaneously dealing with the Imperium troops they had chased out of this chamber moments ago who were setting up a defensive position on the other end of the bridge and were pouring a murderous fusillade down the bridge back at his men.

He spied the first Imperium Lander as it roared overhead and quickly took up a position on the edge of the walkway ringing the reactor.

“We don’t have the time commander. Have your men follow me in a tight formation. We will only get one chance at this.”

“Understood my lord.” The stormtrooper commander waved to the rest of the platoon. “Form up on Lord Vader and follow him. We do not stop no matter what.”

Vader ignited his lightsaber and centered on his anger, his frustration his fury at the betrayal of his son. All that he had worked for and suffered, the struggle, the constant feuding and infighting. The death that swam around him like a sea of blood and offal, would he ever finally rise above it all as the master of his own destiny?

If his son had only listened to him things would be different. Thrawn would be neutralized and the Emperor would be facing the combined might of two of his greatest fleets and the most powerful Sith to have ever existed.

Instead his son’s pitiful calm and laughable serenity was an affront to him.

“The boy needs discipline and he shall have it.” Vader growled.

He did not wait. Vader charged out the door in long strides, crimson blade flashing as he moved. His stormtroopers swarmed around him pouring covering fire out at the Imperium troops at the end of the bridge.

The Falcon fired another volley over at the bridge. Vader snapped his saber up and deflected the bolts down the length of the bridge where the bolts exploded among the Imperium troops. They screamed and began to fall back as his men surged forward but remained close to him.

Vader continued his steady but quick pace up the bridge as the Falcon continued firing, he could feel the pilot’s frustration growing and Vader smiled grimly beneath his mask as he deflected the next volley up at one of the approaching Imperium landers. It was struck twice amidships and the lander faltered in midair before returning fire at Vader’s men. Vader’s saber neatly swept to the right and caught the bolts, swinging them back over to the Falcon. The Falcon was rocked by the impacts and spun out of position, dropping out of sight for a moment.

“Do not stop commander, kill them all. Save the Wookiee and the Federation officers. Death to all Imperial traitors.” Vader ordered angrily.

“And Lord Nemesis?”

“Leave him to me.” Vader hissed as they reached the other side of the bridge and his men surged forward in a disciplined wave blasting away at the hastily regrouping Imperium troops.

Vader stood at the bottom of the bridge and reached out with his mind, searching for his traitorous offspring.

“You see Kirk! You’re not going anywhere!” Darkstar spat as he started to claw his way up Kirk’s leg. Like a leering demon he gasped and laughed simultaneously while moving, pulling Kirk further down and causing Leia to groan as she fought against the urge to let Kirk’s hands go. She closed her eyes and focused her will into a bright white light and remained attentive to that one light. Nothing else mattered.

“You say you’re not running but you lie. You say you don’t care whether you win or lose this battle but you lie. You say that you don’t believe in the no win scenario but you lie! You have been lying to yourself and everyone else when you sell them on the notion that you can possibly win. Accept it!”

“Never!” Kirk spat. He grunted as he tried to shale the crime lord loose as the bunker moaned and tipped forward until it was nearly horizontal to the walkway around the reactor. Kirk managed to finally work his right leg up past the desperately clawing mad man.

“Darkstar!” The mad crime lord glared up at Kirk, face leering up at him like a demented clown. “I…” Kirk brought his foot down on Darkstar’s face. “Have.” Another kick to the face sent the crime lord sliding down Kirk’s left boot, his hands losing their grip. “Had” the kick landed squarely on Darkstar’s face, several teeth burst down the crime lord’s throat as blood and puss streamed freely from his ruined nose. Darkstar lost his grip with one hand, the last one clinging to Kirk’s ankle like a vise. “Enough of you!” Kirk shouted and his foot came down on the crime lord’s face again and the heel dug into his ruined eye socket. Darkstar roared in pain and frustration as he lost his grip on Kirk’s ankle.

Darkstar screamed as he plummeted out of the room and down into the abyss, but his desperate flailing caught the end of a ruined conduit swinging freely from the main body of the bunker. He laughed at his luck as he held on, despite sliding steadily down on blood slick hands.

“Leave him Jim. We have to get out of here.”

“Jim!” Spock exclaimed as he finally found them. Spock wrapped his arm around Leia’s waist and with the other hand held himself steady as the bunker started to slide down.

Leia pulled Kirk to her and they held on to each other for a moment in a furtive hug.

“Captain it would be prudent to leave now.” Spock urged.

“Always the practical one, Mr. Spock. C’mon let’s go.” Kirk agreed as he and Leia clawed their way along the walls and up and out of the room and towards the bunker’s exit. Kirk paused long enough to look back at the dangling crime lord.

Darkstar glared up at the starship captain.

“No matter what happens Kirk you will lose. This will be you soon enough, clinging to a slender strand of hope over the abyss.” Darkstar screamed up at him over the howling wind. The conduit screeched and moaned as it swung more precariously.

“What matters here, Darkstar, is that you’ve lost everything and I’m still free. It won’t matter to you what happens later. You’ll be gone and forgotten. I’m not giving you another thought after this moment.” Kirk replied and simply turned away.

“Don’t you walk away from me! I am Hieronymus Darkstar! You don’t walk away from me!”

Kirk said nothing as he walked quickly to the entrance, helped Leia leap out and followed her out. Spock was the last one out. The sounds of battle were close. They could see the flashes of blaster bolts whipping around them and the screams of the wounded and dying.

“You sure know how to show a lady a good time.” Leia laughed and hugged Kirk. He smiled and kissed the top of her head.

“When I joined Starfleet they told me I’d get to see the galaxy and live adventures. They weren’t kidding.” He replied. He examined her for a moment, green skin, Starfleet uniform, hair in an odd bun on both sides of her head.

“That uniform suits you.”

“Be quiet.” She playfully slapped his chest.

“Glad to see you two made it out safely.”

Leia froze and turned to regard Luke who was cradling Mara Jade in his arms. Harry Mudd and Anastasia stood nervously beside him.

“Luke. Is that you name now?” Kirk began.

Luke nodded.

“We have a lot to talk about. This war, the Empire—”

Luke held up a hand.

“This is neither the time nor place. I have to warn you Captain, I may have returned from the abyss and rejected the teachings of the Sith but that does not mean that I am the idealistic young farm boy Leia undoubtedly remembers. I am something more. This means that if you thought there would be an instant rapprochement between our factions and that everything would go back to the status quo antebellum then you are sadly mistaken.”

Kilraven rushed up to Luke, taking a moment to fire several volleys back the way he came, returned his attention to Luke.

“Lord Nemesis. We have no where else to retreat. Lord Vader is nearly upon us.”

“Call in the Landers. Provide covering fire and prepare for a complete withdrawal.”

Luke turned his attention back to the others. Leia shook her head sadly.

“Luke, you can’t mean that. How is this different than your being lord Nemesis?”

Luke cocked his head as he regarded her. It was as if he were surprised by her sentiment.

“Leia, of all the people here I would expect you to understand me.”


Luke shook his head sadly.

“Leia, you ruled over Alderaan and were part of the rebel high command for many years. Let me ask you, would you ever have abandoned them? Would you have asked them to sacrifice their lives and their freedom to build something greater than themselves then walked away or asked them to give it all up?”

“That’s different – ” Leia began.

“Different how?” Luke pressed as a lander descended behind them, an access ramp dropped loudly and several squads of storm troopers and Remans raced out of the lander forming up defensive perimeter around the lander.

“Kilraven.” Luke interrupted.

“My lord!”

“Take Mara Jade and make sure she is the first one on the lander. Make sure no harm comes to her.”

“It will be my honor to take the Dark Lady sir.” Kilraven bowed his head respectfully and motioned for a pair of stormtroopers to help him carry her respectfully to the lander.

“Sir, with all due respect – Vader.”

“I know how much time we have. You make sure the Jem’Hedar are all on board as well. Do not wait for me.”

“My lord! We came here for you! If that is the case give me and my men the honor of standing by you until the end.” Kilraven protested bitterly.

Luke smiled softly and gripped Kilraven’s shoulder.

“You will stand by me. But get everyone else on board now.”

Kilraven nodded.

“Do you understand me Captain Kirk?” Luke asked suddenly pinning the man with an intense stare.

Kirk nodded slowly. Leia looked from him to Luke.

“As a Commander who has asked his people to hold on and fight against an insurmountable foe I could not ask them to surrender now.”

“The Federation Lives after all, doesn’t it, James.” Luke added.

“You can’t be serious Luke. You feel a sense of duty to them!? Look at them! Just look! These same Imperial troops have cut a bloody swath through our galaxy, killed our loved ones, and destroyed my world!” Leia snapped.

“When I look at them Leia I see beings from a patchwork of worlds. Romulans, Remans, Jem’Hedar, Coruscantians, Corellians. In many ways they are like the rebel Alliance I left behind. They have come to look upon me as their leader and their source of strength.”

“That sounds suspiciously like a Cult of Personality Luke. Do you want to be this galaxy’s Palpatine?” Leia exclaimed angrily. This is not what she had expected at all. She always imagined that when Luke came to his senses, when he abandoned this awful quest for power that he would return to the good man that he was. Instead he was something else. Something different and unexpected.

“People said the same thing about me.” Kirk interjected.

“You’re not taking his side.” Leia accused.

“Leia. I’m not taking his side.” Kirk replied putting his hands on her shoulders. He looked up at Luke. “But I do understand him.”

Luke nodded.

“A very old and wise Jedi Master once said that Looking through the others eyes is where the path to understanding begins. I’m glad to see it is true.”

Blaster fire exploded directly behind them. Reman disruptors joined the chorus of Imperium blasters in the return fire.

“Captain, I’m leaving Harry Mudd in your custody. I think you may find him worthy of something in your organization. He is misguided and a fool but he’s a good hearted fool.”

“Talk about your ringing endorsements.” Harry muttered.

“Mudd?! You want me to take Harry?” Kirk asked aghast.

“If you don’t you’re signing his death warrant Captain.” Luke turned his head to Anastasia.

“You should go with him too. It would be best. You can live amongst them better than you will with us.”

“You just espoused the virtues of your new society and you don’t think I should join you? You taught me to think for myself again, to struggle and be free. I’m not leaving your side.”

Luke nodded and motioned for her to go to the lander.

A roar of steel coming loose made some of the assembled people jump in surprise. The bunker behind them finally came loose from its mounts and slid down off the side of the reactor plunging down into the chasm.

“So much for Lord Darkstar.” Harry sighed.

A deep mad laughter floated up from the empty space after a moment of silence.

“It can’t be.” Anastasia gasped.

“Don’t worry Anastasia. His fate was sealed the moment he crossed me.” Luke said softly and urged her to move to the lander. Harry reluctantly walked to stand with Kirk who eyed him cautiously.

“You really should go now. We will meet again Captain. Perhaps sooner than you think.” Luke promised.

“I’ll be waiting.” Kirk replied. He turned his head to Spock and nodded. Spock flipped open his communicator as the Falcon soared overhead.

“Millennium Falcon. We’re ready to beam up.”

“Acknowledged Mr. Spock. Energizing.”

“Luke! Please see what it is you’re doing.” Leia urged.

“I know precisely what I’m doing Leia. Too many people in my life thought they knew what I should be doing. It’s time I followed my own path.” Luke replied then turned away to give his attention to the final evacuation.

“My lord, the Jem’Hedar are getting restless. The First is saying they will not go anywhere without the Walker of the Skies.”

“Very well. I am on my way. Secure the rest of the men and prepare to make a run for the Adjudicator.”

Luke froze in mid step as he heard the deep rhythmic mechanical breathing. Vader seemed to step out from the smoky clouds of debris and weapons fire. He stood stoically before Luke.

Luke could feel his anger like an inferno burning in the Sith Lord’s chest.

“Don’t you touch him!” Kilraven shouted and aimed his blaster at Vader. Luke placed a restraining hand on Kilraven’s shoulder.

“Do not wait for me. I want you lifting off as soon as you step on the Lander.”

“My lord.” Kilraven protested.

“That is an order. This foe is beyond any of you.”

Kilraven was obviously torn but his instincts were to follow his orders. He snapped his blaster back down and rushed to the lander, waving his men in.

“You have taught your men well. They follow you.” Vader noted but his

“They came here for me. That says all that I need to know about their loyalty.”

“Fear, Lord Nemesis keeps your men in line, fear of retribution.” Vader replied coldly.


Vader said nothing as he took several steps closer. Luke grew apprehensive and took a step backwards, his hands drifted closer to his waist and his lightsaber.

“That name no longer means anything to me.” Luke finished.

Vader stopped short a mere meter away. His breathing was the only sound between the men. Luke felt the Force flowing and could sense the tension increasing exponentially.

“What are you calling yourself then? Emperor? Imperator? Conqueror?”

“Luke Skywalker.” Luke replied proudly.

“That is no longer your name.”

“It was the name my mother and father gave me. I bear it proudly. Skywalker is a name meant to save a galaxy.”

“Skywalker is the name that led you to betrayal and manipulation by the Jedi, it showed you to beg and plead for the feeble light to give you power and was worthless to you when you set on the dark path. Are you so proud to bear it now?” Vader sneered.

“I will bear it until the day I die. It is the name of my true self that I have forgotten.” Luke leaned his head in closer. “It is also the name of your true self.”

“Never.” Vader snapped and his lightsaber ignited with a slow snap hiss.

“I will not fight you father.” Luke asserted.

“Fight me? Luke, you decided to raise your hands against me when you turned from the dark path. You are unwise to lower your defenses.” Vader roared.

Luke’s lightsaber sprang to life and blocked the over handed strike. Luke grunted with effort as he pushed the blade back and swung his own in a wide side to side stroke, blocking Vader’s next set of attacks, each one landing with thunderous strikes and obviously meant to kill.

“You decided to fight me when you turned back to the teachings of those that betrayed me and you. To think you would embrace the title Jedi after all you have seen and been taught. It sickens me and you will meet your destiny for your weakness.” Vader vowed as his strikes began driving Luke back to the edge of the walkway. Luke blocked each blow, sweeping passes from his blade hummed loudly. He suddenly pivoted hard to the left and pressed Vader with sharp short blows. Vader effortlessly shifted to the defensive and brutally swept each of Luke’s strikes aside. The boy wasn’t even trying to kill him. Was he foolish enough to think that he would not kill him for this betrayal?

“I am not a Jedi. I forsook that path father.”

“Then what are you?” Vader snapped as he shifted into the offensive, his saber slashing in long broad strokes.

“I walk my own path now.”

“Your own path?! Many fallen Jedi thought as you do and they were all consumed in the end.”

“I’m different than they are father. I have walked the Abyss and returned.” Luke replied, catching the tip of Vader’s saber and viscously drawing it down to the floor. Luke kept it trapped low with his own blade as he leaned in close to mere inches from Vader’s mask. He looked into the black featureless eyelets.

“You can walk this path too. I can show you.” Luke urged gently.

“There is only the light and the dark Luke.” Vader replied bitterly.

“Then I will walk in the shadows between the two.” Luke replied. “Let us walk that path together as father and son.”

“You will not turn me Luke. You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.”

“But father…I did.” Luke said softly.

Vader paused.

“I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate. If I can return from the dark path than how can you not, father?”

“Obi Wan once thought as you did.” Vader whispered.

Behind them the lander began to take off. Fire from Vader’s troop concentrated on the lander but the shields easily repelled the blaster bolts. The lander began a slow climb past Luke.

Luke released his hold on Vader’s saber and took a step back extending his cybernetic hand to Vader as he doused his own blade.

“Father. Come with me.”

Vader looked up at Luke. How like Padme he looked. The same passion in his eyes, the full lips, and roundness of his body, it was all there. He imagined her offering her hand to him as they worked on him. The sound of surgical equipment, the buzz of the saws, the squeals of the needlers, the cold monotone of the medical droids.

Searing pain of lave and fire.

Vader took a step back.

Betrayal and jealousy, lies and corruption.

“Lord Vader?”

“Yes My Master?”


“It is too late for me, my son.” Vader replied in defeat.

“If one thing this galaxy has taught me it’s that it is never too late. You can never surrender.”

“When next we meet, Luke, there will be no reprieves. I will not listen to your entreaties.” Vader held up his saber and pointed it at Luke as the lander floated directly overhead. One of the crew areas was open and Anastasia and Kilraven were urging him aboard.

“When next we meet you will meet your destiny.” Vader vowed darkly.

“Then my father truly is dead.” Luke whispered, collected his strength and leapt backwards in a spinning somersault and landed within the ship. The lander suddenly accelerated and rocketed towards the crater above. Vader watched his son as he stared at him from the open hatch before the lander vanished.

Vader lowered his head and stood silently for a long moment.

“I have lost him. I have lost my son.”

“Lord Vader, we have some Jem’Hedar prisoners as you requested. The Imperium troops have all been killed.”

Vader said nothing for a moment then he sensed something. Vader wordlessly strode over to the lip of the walkway.

Darkstar chuckled to himself. Oh yes, they would pay. How sweetly they would pay. Every single one of them - Kirk especially. Oh…the sweet anguish when he would pluck Kirk’s eye out. Mmm…sweet and delicious. The fools, how could they know that fate adored him. As he held on for dear life on this conduit the bunker collapsed around him. As it tumbled backwards and down into the abyss imagine his joy as he passed through open doors and access ways, never once struck by the falling behemoth. When it finally tumbled away he found himself still holding onto the conduit, the only piece of errant debris still firmly anchored to the walkway.

How could there be any doubt that he was destined to avenge himself on Kirk and his pitiful band. And Skywalker, oh he would entertain him again, that he would.

Darkstar continued to shimmy up the conduit, bloody hands leaving streaks as he worked his way up, legs wrapped around the conduit and working furiously as he saw the edge of the walkway.

“Fools. You’re all fools. The look on your faces when I see you again, how sweet your pain will be.” Darkstar chuckled. With grunts of effort he finally climbed over the lip of the walkway. He paused for a moment.

There was a strange sound, like mechanical rhythmic breathing. His remaining eye caught sight of black boots.

Darkstar looked up slowly and saw the black armored giant.

“What the hell are you?!”

Vader opened his hand and Darkstar was jerked off his feet and floated a foot off the ground.

“So, you are the fool who thought he could hold a Sith as a personal play thing.” Vader growled.

“What are you damnit! I am Lord Hieronymous Darkstar! This is my palace. My world!”

Vader turned his head to his stormtrooper commander.

“Bring me the Jem’Hedar prisoners.”

“At once my lord.”

“Release me at once and I may think of letting you join me.”

“You entertained yourself with Lord Nemesis. It is only fair and just that you now entertain me.”

“Entertain you?!”

The dozen Jem’Hedar were shoved before Vader, stormtroopers kept their blasters trained on the sullen looking warriors.

“Indeed. Let us see if you can entertain me, Lord Darkstar.” Vader’s voice dripped with contempt. “If you can survive I will allow you to live.”

Darkstar eyed the Jem’Hedar.

“You can’t be serious?!”

“I am deadly serious Lord Darkstar.” Vader replied and Darkstar descended down to the floor. He stood uncertainly before Vader.

“If the Jem'Hedar kill you I will let them go.”

The Jem’Hedar eyed each other.

“But first we must punish you for touching Lord Nemesis without his permission - For sullying him with your filth.” Vader suddenly snapped his saber down in a quick slash. Darkstar screamed as he stared at his left arm. The hand and most of his forearm was gone, instantly cauterized by the blade. His flesh still sizzled and smoked. The forearm and hand spun away, caught by the wind and vanished into the chasm.

“God no.” Darkstar whispered. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

The Jem’Hedar smiled coldly and began to advance.

A stormtrooper tech rushed up to Vader.

“My lord, this reactor is minutes from exploding. We must withdraw.”

“Prepare my shuttle. Evacuate the base.” Vader ordered casually as he watched the Jem’Hedar stalking after Darkstar. The foppish fool stared wild eyed at the approaching killers.

“I created you! I made you!” Darkstar shouted madly.

Vader watched as the Jem’Hedar fell on him like a pack of wolves.

“Noooo!!” Darkstar screamed and suddenly there was a hard snap and his screams became incoherent babbles mixed with insane laughter. At first there was the sound of blows striking a side of beef, deep muffled impacts and then it suddenly progressed to wet sickening popping and snapping and the screams were soon drowning in blood.

Vader continued watching even as his shuttle descended behind him. The reactor began to shudder and rumble. Vader slowly walked backwards into the shuttle’s waiting hatch as the Jem’Hedar began pulling apart the crimson stained mess into wet handfuls of gore. Vader continued watching as the hatch closed.

He did not know why. He could not understand his own emotions as the shuttle rose away from the reactor complex and into the sky. Klingon Birds of prey made one last pass on the flattened palace and fired another volley of disruptor fire into the burning ruin before peeling away as one group and climbing up through the clouds.

Why did he feel no satisfaction? Why was he so empty inside?

His gloved hand closed around one of the coolant pipes running along the sides of the hatch and he squeezed, the metal slowly giving way as he saw the planet fall away behind him and his stardestroyer looming ahead.

A bright flash of light appeared on the surface of the planet, growing quickly in size. Some of the troopers glanced out of the view ports to marvel at the titanic blast.

The Adjudicator had already broken away from the battle and hung suspended in view for a moment before her engines flared up and vanished into the star field. Now there only remained the Devastator and the Klingon ships which were all wavering and fading from view as they accelerated away from the planet.

He wanted to focus on the death of the small man that had dared think he could hold a Sith lord. He wanted to think about his ship and what he was going to do when he returned to Thrawn’s fleet empty handed. He wanted to imagine himself rending and tearing the smug blue skinned red eyed alien apart with his bare hands.

He wanted to think about anything else to get rid of the only image currently running through his mind.

The image of his son holding out his hand and asking him to join him.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 80: Wicked Games

“This is most unfortunate wouldn’t you say Doctor?” Jerjerrod said softly. He finished buttoning up his uniform and neatly smoothed out the wrinkles along his epilates. His eyes were hooded as he pretended to focus on his rank insignia all the while watching the doctor look over the results of his medical scans.

The doctor nodded absently.

“Most unfortunate indeed. Tell me, these headaches of yours, when did they begin?”

“Shortly after we transited to this backwater. I always chalked it up to stress. I was just promoted to Grand Admiral Thrawn’s adjunct and the workload had all but tripled. I can tell you overseeing the construction of the Death star was a picnic compared to one day under the Grand Admiral’s command.” Jerjerrod explained as he stretched out his arms.

“You are preaching to the choir commander, as one of his personal physicians it’s no cake walk as these Terrans are fond of saying.” The doctor’s eyes narrowed slightly as he saw a blemish on one of the cranial scans. He increased the resolution on the display.

“Well Captain I may have found the source of these headaches and it certainly does not look like stress.”

“Hmmm?” Jerjerrod replied as he slowly rose from his seat.

The Doctor stopped short as he finished adjusting the spectrum analysis on the image and suddenly the image came into sharp clear focus.

“By the Emperor!” the Doctor gasped.

“What is it Doctor?” Jerjerrod asked calmly as he approached.

The doctor looked up sharply.

“Stay right where you are Commander.”

Jerjerrod obediently halted.

The doctor fumbled for the comlink.

“Guard. I need you.”

The doors to the small isolab snapped open and a stormtrooper strode in, weapon at the ready. Jerjerrod looked from the stormtrooper to the doctor.

“What is the meaning of this doctor?” Jerjerrod asked curiously.

“You know damn well what this is about Commander. The Grand Admiral suspected that there was something wrong with you thus why he ordered the compulsory examination to be personally conducted by myself.” The doctor replied hotly.

“Ah.” Jerjerrod said suddenly enlightened. “But you underestimate me, Doctor.”

“I don’t think so Commander. The next call I make will bring the Grand Admiral and his personal guard down here to interrogate you.” The doctor smiled coldly. “And I happen to be one of his personal interrogators.”

Jerjerrod shook his head sadly.

“But that guard you just called in here is not one your personal retinue is he?”

It took a moment for the implications of Jerjerrod’s words to sink in and register on the Doctor’s face. He turned suddenly but the stormtrooper’s blaster rifle nestled in roughly between the Doctor’s ribs.

“Don’t move!” The trooper ordered.

“Not a muscle Doctor. My friend here is rather trigger happy.”

“What the hell do you think you’re going to accomplish here Jerjerrod?”

“I have no idea what I’m going to accomplish but we have our orders Doctor.”

The doctor stood grimly, hands up at shoulder level while Jerjerrod sent a signal via comlink. He nodded in acknowledgement and motioned for the Doctor to follow him. Before leaving he paused at the Doctor’s station in typed in several commands, deleting the incriminating images but not before Jerjerrod stopped at the last one.

The worm was wrapped serenely around his cerebral cortex, the sick pinkish flesh pulsating softly in time with his own heartbeat. He stared at the obscenity with an odd sense of detached disgust. Somewhere deep inside Jerjerrod the man he used to be screamed in abject horror at his fate. One thing was to know objectively what was inside of him because of what he had been told. Another was to actually see the obscenity growing inside of him, knowing that every moment it grew crowded more of the man he used to be out of his head.

“It looks big Jerjerrod. You won’t have much more time left. If it grows any larger it is going to kill you. I can help get it out of you.”

“Shut up.” The Stormtrooper snapped and accentuated his point by jabbing his weapon into the Doctor’s ribs.

Jerjerrod shook his head as he deleted the final image.

“There is no help for me Doctor. Just as there won’t be any left for you either. Let’s go. We wouldn’t want the Grand Admiral checking in on you at an inopportune moment.” Jerjerrod explained as he led them out of the lab.

The doctor noted with a sense of despair that the corridor was cleared between his lab and the room Jerjerrod was leading him to. The commander and his stormtrooper lackey had been quite thorough. Obviously the Grand Admiral was unaware of the depths of the treason that nestled in the heart of the man he considered his right hand.

“That creature, it looks as if it is interfering with your higher brain functions, Jerjerrod. It could make you susceptible to suggestion or orders not unlike our burly friends here.” The doctor stammered.

“If you don’t remain silent you’ll know what point blank blaster trauma feels like.” The Stormtrooper snapped menacingly.

The doctor watched as two more stormtroopers quietly fell into step with them and Jerjerrod opened the door to the empty lab.

“You’re making a big mistake Jerjerrod. The Grand Admiral believes that you are not acting of your own volition. He wants to help you.”

“If the Grand Admiral believed for a moment that I was indeed a traitor he would have had me killed a long time ago. He may know how his enemies think but I am beginning to know how he thinks.” Jerjerrod replied frostily and helped shove the doctor into the empty lab. The stormtroopers quickly filed in afterwards and shut the door.

Jerjerrod turned to the new pair of stormtroopers and bowed.

“It went as expected master.”

The taller of the two swept off his helmet, a cascade of black hair falling down to his shoulders as he inspected the doctor with a predatory gaze.

“I know you.” The doctor gasped.

“Indeed. Then so much the better that I do not need to make introductions, Doctor.” Khan smiled.

“What does this intruder have to do…my god…the parasites.” The doctor exclaimed turning quickly to look from Jerjerrod to Khan.

“You are quick Doctor. I am pleased to see that the Grand Admiral is such an excellent judge of character. He must trust you Doctor.”

“I don’t know how you managed to infest Jerjerrod here but there’s no way you are getting any more onboard here you mad man.”

Khan smiled coldly. He nodded to the Stormtrooper that had led them in here. The trooper took off his helmet. Khan slowly walked around to the trooper as he watched the doctor intently.

“Smuggling the parasites on board isn’t a problem Doctor despite your thorough biofilters and hangar scanners. It’s difficult to conceive of a walking infestation.”


“Now Doctor allow me to introduce you to Ceti Alpha Five’s only remaining indigenous life form.” Khan extended a hand and the stormtrooper reached to his ear and slowly pulled out a wriggling worm. The Doctor’s eyes widened in horror. “What do you think?” Khan asked as he held up the worm to the light.

“They’ve killed twenty of my people, including my beloved wife.” Khan explained, the pain coloring his voice at the end.

The other stormtrooper removed his helmet and the Doctor recognized the other superman that was always seen in the company of Khan. How in the name of the Emperor did he have such access to stormtrooper armor?

Joachim stepped in behind the doctor and placed restraining hands against his shoulders.

“Oh, not all at once, and not instantly to be sure.” Khan explained as he walked towards the doctor, holding the worm out before him.

“You see their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering victim extremely susceptible to suggestion.” Khan loomed over the doctor. “Later as they grow follows madness – and death.”

“How did you do it?” The Doctor stammered.

“The eels my good doctor are borne by the female. A particular mutation in a subspecies I discovered recently allows for a female to grow inside of a host body and send her young out, acting as a form of walking incubator she remains protected inside the host but still produces the young.”

The doctor tried to edge away but Joachim held him firmly, his superior muscular structure easily handling the doctor’s struggles.

“Evolution, Doctor. I am a student and a fan. How could I not be after all as I am a product of genetic engineering, seeking to perfect what nature began. Now it serves me once again by allowing me to infest a single soldier, one of your faceless minions that no one notices yet his omnipresence is a great boon to me. His status gives me eyes and ears everywhere as well as the side benefits of the occasional masquerade.” Khan indicated his storm trooper armor with a sweep of his free arm.

“You mean to move against the Grand Admiral.” The doctor concluded grimly.

“You are a smart one Doctor. You will be a great asset.”

“I’ll never serve a megalomaniac like you so go ahead and kill me.”

Khan chuckled and the sound of it froze the doctor’s blood.

“Kill you? Now why would I do something like that Doctor? I was a price with power over millions why would I sully my own hands with your insignificant blood. No this is about control.”

The doctor’s eyes flashed over to the wriggling worm in Khan’s hand.

“Oh no…” he breathed.

Khan nodded to Joachim who grunted and forced the Doctor down to his knees. The doctor began to struggle wildly. Khan shook his head sadly.

“Please doctor, he has five times your strength. Do not make a scene, be a man for once in your life and face the consequences that like all pawns in the wicked game you are quite expendable.” Khan explained in an almost soothing coo.

Joachim gripped the doctor’s chin with one hand and turned his head effortlessly to expose his left ear to Khan.

“This will all be over soon.”

Jerjerrod watched the process with empty eyes. Somewhere in the haze of his consciousness he wanted to scream, reach out and grab the blaster on Khan’s hip and blast the scum into a smoking pile. He wanted to wrap his hands around the superman’s throat and watch the life flow out of his eyes as his own will flowed from his.

He wanted desperate hungry revenge.

But he just stood there like an obedient dog and watched as the Doctor’s struggles and screams suddenly stopped and Khan took a step back to inspect his handiwork. The doctor remained kneeling but there was a vacant expression on his face.

“Tell me, Doctor, what is your name?”

“Doctor Thaddeus Bollis.”

Khan nodded.

“Very well, doctor Bollis, you will listen very closely…it is time that you begin making some discrete medical examinations. One or two of the Grand Admiral’s personal entourage will do. I wouldn’t want to arouse any suspicion.”

“And then what will we do master?” Bollis asked languidly as if lost in a dream.

Khan only smiled.

The hangar bay was a flurry of activity as TIE fighters rumbled overhead racked in robotic cranes that ran along rails. Munitions were loaded and unloaded by mechanics as they worked to make sure all the Bombers were fully stocked and the re-supply ships that kept them in the battle were also made ready. The occasional pilot could be seen inspecting his craft but many more were in their ready rooms going over the final plans of attack. The whispers among many were that this battle would finally end the conflict with the Federation remnant.

The hangar bay of a Super Star Destroyer easily dwarfed any other in the Imperial fleet. Sprawled over several levels and wove between the superstructure of the mighty warship. There were many places to hide and get lost if one were determined enough.

Grand Admiral Thrawn walked with Admiral Piett through one of the secret alcoves of the Executor’s gargantuan hangar bay.

“As I was saying Grand Admiral if I had been told about this secret mission.”

“Then it wouldn’t be very secret now would it?” Thrawn replied quietly as he stepped onto a catwalk and spied the shuttle tucked away inside one of the loading areas.

“They had all the correct pass codes and clearances but the shuttle is not standard Imperial issue and with all the tricks Kirk and his Federation have been infamous for I was not about to just let them have unrestricted access.”

Thrawn paused and looked back at Piett.

“If you are concerned that I am angry or upset with you Admiral, don’t be. You did the right thing. If you had not followed standard security protocols simply because they had access to our codes and clearances then I would have been upset.”

Piett nodded and fought the urge to sigh in relief.

Thrawn began to raise a comlink to his lips when a shadow melted away from the others on the gantry and bowed.

“There is no need to communicate. We have been waiting patiently.” The shadow spoke in a low throaty whisper.

Thrawn turned slowly and nodded.

“Good work.”

Piett stopped fumbling for his blaster.

“You know it?”

“It is an associate of mine. His mission just might help turn the tide of this war and eliminate our most troublesome enemy.”


Thrawn frowned.

“Kirk is an insect. How he has garnered such a reputation particularly after his utter defeat at Romulus is vexing.” Thrawn snapped.

“He has fought the Imperium to a standstill Grand Admiral. You may not see it or want to see it but the man is a hero to these people.”

Thrawn watched Piett closely for a long moment, crimson eyes drilling into Piett’s. The shadow remained still next to the Grand Admiral.

“Admiral Piett, you are correct. Sometimes I get ahead of myself when I have made up my mind about a situation. In my mind Kirk’s defeat is an inevitability and his tactical prowess child’s play to me, but I have overlooked some of the more obvious advantages he still holds. Keep speaking your mind Admiral and you may find a very bright future in my command.”

Piett nodded.

“Thank you sir.”

“Now, you have acquired what I sought?” Thrawn suddenly turned his attention to the shadow.

“Indeed we have. It was not difficult to find but the owner was unwilling to part with it even when we offered your rather overly generous reward.”

“Indeed? I am told he can be rather difficult that way.” Thrawn replied and motioned for the shadow to lead the way up to the shuttle. Piett followed, intrigued by the newcomer and Thrawn’s secret plans. Here on the eve of their greatest battle to destroy Andor, the one last remaining world supplying the Federation remnant a shuttle appears, knows precisely where the fleet that Thrawn took great pains to hide so close to the enemy system and has a cargo that brings Thrawn from his private study at a moment’s notice.

“The enemy you spoke of sir?” Piett asked as they approached the shuttle. The lambda’s rear section was open, the hatchway revealing several more shadowy figures moving in the bowels of the ship getting something ready to be brought down from the hold.

“Nemesis. He is the only one that can truly stand between us and complete and total domination of this galaxy.”

“We have Lord Vader to counter Nemesis. I have served under him long enough to know there’s nothing that he cannot deal with.” Piett noted.

Thrawn said nothing but watched the object being pulled up into a prone position. Repulsors hummed weakly as the object floated a meter off the ground and the shadowy objects slowly pushed it down the walkway towards Thrawn.

“This mission was done for Lord Vader’s benefit.” The small figure protested vehemently.

“Of course it was Rukh. The Admiral is as fiercely loyal to Lord Vader as you are.”

The small figure nodded curtly.

“Since he did not accept my overly generous reward I assume you simply took it then?” Thrawn shifted gears.

Rukh nodded and Piett could see teeth flash in the darkness its face in what he assumed was a smile.

“He was even less happy when we decided to simply take it.”

“I’m surprised he survived.”

“I did not say he did survive Grand Admiral.”

“Ah…fine work then.”

Piett’s eyes narrowed on the object as it completed its descent to the gantry. The small figures moved away from the object as the last tow tipped it back into a standing position. The slab of metal landed on the grating with a loud clang and came to rest.

“What is that?” Piett asked confused. “Is that a man?”

Thrawn slowly approached the slab of whitish metal. He ran his hand along the surface.

“Carbonite.” Thrawn said softly and inspected the face and hands that broke the cold surface of the metal. It looked as if a human was trying to struggle through the Carbonite and escape.

“His status?”

“He is in perfect hibernation. The Hutt was most definite as to his identity before we left his bloated carcass to the carrion eaters.” Thrawn started to open his mouth but Rukh continued speaking. “DNA scans confirm.”

Thrawn smiled softly. The Noghri was fastidious. They were very quickly becoming invaluable to him. Stealing them away from Vader would take some masterful manipulation on his part. He was not quite ready for that move but every mission they accomplished made it more obvious to him that he would need them on his side.

Piett watched the small figures more closely. They were in the light now and he was amazed. As an admiral in the Empire he was accustomed to seeing a wide variety of aliens but this species was unknown to him. Small and childlike but feral they moved with a deadly grace and their feline features displayed a dangerous predatory quality on their faces and in their eyes.

“You have done excellent work Rukh.”

“For Lord Vader we would undertake any mission and endure any hardship.

“And he appreciates your efforts Rukh. As soon as he returns I will make sure he is aware of your success.”

“Excuse me sir, but who is this person? Why is he important to our plans concerning Lord Nemesis.”

“Two excellent questions that I can answer with one sentence.” Thrawn replied as he pulled his hand away from the Carbonite. “This is Han Solo.”

Piett slowly looked from Thrawn to the block of Carbonite comprehension dawning in his eyes.

“And the other control I need.”

“The other team is in position and will take him as soon as possible. They will communicate with me as soon as they have him.”


Piett’s comlink beeped.

“Piett here.”

“Admiral you wanted to know as soon as the Devastator returned.”

Piett looked over to Thrawn as he replied “Yes, Thank you.”

“Rukh, place this in the room I have prepared and we will meet later. Make sure no one sees you. There’s no way of knowing how many people may be eyes and ears for Nemesis.”

“Of course Grand Admiral.” Rukh inclined his head respectfully and moved over to the Carbonite block. Thrawn turned and walked away, Piett followed him sparing one last glance back to see the Carbonite block lifted and carried away by the Noghri.

Luke opened and closed his hand. He nodded approvingly.

“Excellent work.”

“Thank you, my lord.” The cyberneticist replied with a deep bow and backed away respectfully.


Tarsi stepped forward and bowed his head.

“My lord.”

“The men? How are they?”

“In the infirmary, several were very badly injured and required complete bacta immersion.”

“And the Jem’Hedar?”

Tarsi shifted uncomfortably on his feet. The sight of a lander full of those animals set him on edge. He thought that perhaps one his landers had been compromised and if not for Lord Nemesis’ quick communication he would have had it blasted from his hangar. “They refuse medical treatment and are demanding to see you.”

Luke nodded.

“I suspected as much. They are going to have to wait but they are to be treated respectfully.”

“As you wish my lord.”

Luke eyed the young blonde Captain for a long moment.

“Captain Tarsi, you and I have butted heads on more than one occasion. In fact I’m fairly certain I threatened to have you killed at least once.”

Tarsi’s jaw clenched but he said nothing.

“That is why I feel that I have to thank you for coming to my rescue.”

Tarsi blinked.

“My lord?”

Luke smiled coolly. He handed Tarsi a datapad. Tarsi hesitantly took it. Luke tested his hand again. Perfect. He had felt it slightly off since his extraction from Darkstar’s palace. Now it was like new.

The easy part was over. Now he would have to return to the Imperium he forged through anger and fear and try to rule it as Luke Skywalker. As if that were not hard enough he also had to prepare for war now. His extraction had brought the Adjudicator and the Devastator into open hostilities. As soon as Thrawn knew there would be no other option but war.

Unfortunately Thrawn had all the advantages. Luke was protecting a large swath of space with a handful of ships. Thrawn could strike in force anywhere along his exposed flanks and deliver crushing blows before Luke could react.

Luke also did not harbor any illusions concerning his tactical and strategic skills against the Grand Admiral’s.

Tarsi looked up from the datapad sharply.

“My lord I don’t…this is…”

“You can thank me later Admiral Tarsi. The fleet will need your skill soon enough. The emperor thinks Grand Admiral Thrawn can outfight and outthink us. I say I have the triumvirate and Kittaine. It is Thrawn who should be worried.”

Tarsi smiled wolfishly.

“I dare say I look forward to it my lord.”

“And another thing Tarsi. We will need to call a meeting of all the fleet commanders and senior officers. Then I will want to call an assembly of the Romulan senate. They will need to be addressed about certain matters.”

“The war you mean.”

“That and a change in leadership that everyone should be made aware of.”

Tarsi frowned.

“I’m confused my lord.”

Luke very briefly considered telling Tarsi about the change but felt that it was not the right time.

“All will be made clear in time Admiral. I assume you will want the Adjudicator as your flagship?”

“Is there any doubt my lord?”

“Excellent. Now prepare a holonet transmission to Grand Admiral Kittaine he should be made immediately aware of my return and the war.”

“At once my lord.” Tarsi bowed and began to leave when he paused at the door. “Lord Nemesis?”

Luke looked up at the young Admiral.

“We sorely needed you my lord. It’s good to have you back.”

“Thank you Admiral.”

Tarsi walked out and as he did so he was nearly bowled over by a doctor.

“Do you mind?!” Tarsi snapped.

“My apologies Captain! I just needed to see Lord Nemesis immediately.” The doctor apologetically stammered.

“Well don’t keep him waiting damnit.” Tarsi growled.

Luke curiously inspected the doctor as he walked in. He was obviously agitated but he sensed no ill intentions at all. Quite the opposite actually, he was dying to inform him of something.

“Doctor. Please.” Luke indicated the empty seat near his table.

“Thank you my lord. I’m sorry to barge in on you like this.”

Luke waved him to continue.

“I completed the medical exams on all the people extracted from the palace as you ordered and I have Mara Jade’s medical report here.” The doctor handed the datapad to Luke.

Luke accepted it and casually scrolled down the report.

“Are you going to tell me or let me find it on my own?” Luke asked as he scrolled.

“The dark lady is with child my lord.”

Luke froze.

“Normally that would not be worthy of bothering you eminence but when the DNA scans were confirmed I felt you needed to know immediately.”

Luke looked up from the pad completely shocked.

“You are going to have a son.”

Luke wanted to speak, say something, anything. How could he have not seen it? How could his vision have failed him so utterly and completely.

“Isn’t it grand my lord?” the young doctor beamed. “You have provided an heir to the Imperium something the Emperor has certainly been unable to do.”

“Does she know?” Was all Luke managed to get out from his suddenly dry mouth.

“No, my lord, I thought it best to let you know first. Perhaps you would be the one to tell her.”

“She already knows.” Luke concluded.

“I haven’t told a soul my lord. I swear it.” The doctor protested.

“She would know Doctor, she would know.” Luke replied coolly. This changed everything.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 81: Dance of the Pawns

“It’s almost as if the game were forgotten don’t you think Q?” Gary asked as he adjusted the position of one of his pieces.

“Hmm? I’m sorry strategizing and all that you know.” Q replied absently.

Gary smiled coldly.

“Bad position?”

Q glanced up at the human. Gary’s temples were almost all white now where before only streaks of white shot through his normally black hair. The silver eyes were a deeper shade, almost mirror like now in their metallic quality.

You’re getting stronger aren’t you? You’ve been husbanding your strength, barely countering my blatant moves outside the game. What are you up to? Q mused.

“You should know by now that my position is never hopeless. Weren’t you declaring victory a little while ago before Kirk pulled his little finding myself routine?”

Gary’s mouth twisted in distaste.

“I’d rather not discuss that turn of events, it threw the entire game off. Now we can get back to finishing our little challenge.”

“You may not want to discuss it but I noticed a distinct change in the pieces.” Q peered up over the table at Gary. “Don’t you?”

Gary did not acknowledge the Emperor’s Will that now stood prominently on Q’s side of the board. Before Nemesis’ conversion it was a rather important piece in Gary’s assault on Q’s position.

“I would not be so quick to crow Q, after all that piece has switched sides but you know as well as I do that it is liable to switch sides yet again.” Gary noted darkly.

“I’m not so sure. I think the boy has found his stride, he’s comfortable in his skin as these humans are fond of stating.” Q smiled.

“Despite all that I’d say you’re position is rather untenable, wouldn’t you say?” Gary asked pointedly. The board, comprised of squares of darkest crystal juxtaposed against clear white crystal was a jumble of pieces, some representing entire powers such as the warbird sculpted from flawless emerald representing the Romulan star empire to individuals such as the piece sculpted from alabaster and rubies in the shape of the Enterprise.

Q sighed heavily and sat back regarding the human who thought himself a god.

“Have you heard from the Melkot lately?”

Gary didn’t react at all.

“The Melkot? I would assume like many of our brethren they are either leaving for parts unknown or have gone into seclusion to wait for the end.”

Q nodded, pursing his lips.

“And this little beastie.” He indicated the piece in the shape of an almost completed Deathstar. “It’s all on its own way the hell out there. What are you waiting for? She could come into this fight and end our little game in no time. Yet you’re sitting on her, making some random moves out there on the rim. Just what are you waiting for Gary? You don’t seem the type to wait for your gratification.”

“Oh I’m patient Q.” Gary replied coolly. “You have to be patient when you have experienced what I have. Try lying under a boulder, crushed into the consistency of soup by the weight and impact of the unyielding stone, feeling your life fluttering on the end of a long line in a stiff wind like some demented kite. Patiently waiting as the barren world you’re on revolves around its primary dozens of times while your strength slowly waxes and wanes as your own will does. A part of you wishing for death and a final release and a part of you screaming for revenge against the man you called friend. Slowly feeling the stone give way as wind and time work their effortless magic and your body slowly builds itself up again. Tirelessly you crawl up against the relentless weight of the rock, as muscles and tendons knit themselves solely by will alone until finally, Q, finally one day the sun touched my face and I was out of the grave fashioned by my own hand for an old friend.”

Q said nothing as he watched the would be god closely.

“Do you know what hurt me the most Q?”

“The fall?”

“No.” Gary replied tightly. “That I was going to kill him quickly. A simple wave of the hand and he would have embraced oblivion before he felt much pain. It would have been a clean death. In return I am given a purgatory of pain and suffering. Crushed into a pulp yet still alive and very much aware. Can you imagine what it would be like to be aware at the bottom of a filthy pit of rock and stone as the days pass into weeks and they pass into years. Aware of every moment, every passage of dust and pebbles, denied feeling the wind or the gentle caress of the sun?”

“One would say that it would drive someone mad.” Q proffered neutrally.

Gary smiled icily and turned his head to regard Q with his silver mirror like eyes.

“You don’t like me much, do you?”

“Like? What does like have to do with anything. I don’t like much of creation and you don’t see me reveling in its destruction.”

“I don’t revel. I merely accept.” Gary replied simply.

Q nodded sagely.

“One could say, Gary, that someone who refused to let go of that slender thread of life in the face of decades of unending pain in the dark would not be so accepting in his nature.”

Gary slowly slid back into his seat and touched the tip of one of his pieces, rolling his finger along the top in a slow methodical circle.

“Don’t be so coy old friend. Are you accusing me of something?”

The question hung in the air of the barren wasteland where they sat for a long time. Neither one acknowledging the other, attention focused on the game unfurling before them.

“It’s not in your nature to give up Gary. Just as Kirk is not giving up even though I’ve wanted to tip my king for some time. Just like Luke has not given up in the face of his rage and his father’s crimes, just as Vader has not given up hope that he will rule this galaxy with his son by his side, just as Khan has not given up in his attempt to destroy Thrawn, Just as Thrawn has not given up in his quest to bring this galaxy to heel just as Palpatine has not given up…” Q paused meaningfully and his brow furrowed in thought. He looked up at Gary. “Just what is Palpatine up to anyway?”

Gary pursed his lips, contemplating his next words very carefully.

“What do we all want Q?”

“A nice piece of pie and a quiet evening with a beautiful woman?”

Gary blinked.

That got you didn’t it? You’re so divorced from what you were that the simple pleasures are alien to you.

“Immortality.” Gary finished.

“Kind of a bad time to be vying for immortality now, isn’t it?”

“How so?” Gary asked curiously.

Q leaned forward.

“The end of reality Gary. There’s not much stock in being immortal when it all comes crashing down.”

Gary nodded. A slow mysterious smile appeared at the corners of his mouth.

“Care to share?”

“Hmm…Oh…I was just looking and saw an opening.” Gary concluded and moved a piece forward.

Q acknowledged the move but kept his eyes on the silver eyed god.

“This is not at all what I expected.” Charlie stammered.

“You are confused?”

“You are angry?”

“You are sad?”

Charlie Evans shook his head slowly as he examined the three sentient rock formations as they moved their clawed appendages in slow rhythm with their words. Several crystalline eyes set at the top of their heads flashed in brilliant yellow and white in time with each syllable.

The Excalabians were considered oddities even by the community of elder beings that lived on this plane of reality. The mysterious stone beings were always curious but also cruel and vindictive. They were never easy to deal with. They viewed the others like them as something to be pitied or worse, hated.

No one knew where they had come from or why they settled so close to human worlds. Usually the great ones traveled away from expanding empires, the Organians especially were susceptible to the pain associated with inhabiting the same space as the twisted emotional beings like Charlie and other humans.

The Excalabians were drawn to them like moths to a flame.

“This is not about some game or examination.”

“It is always a test Charlie Evans. That is what you do not understand.”

“Reality sets for us challenges and obstacles. It is up to the lesser beings to overcome them.”

“We learn from them.”

Charlie sighed deeply.

“The Continuum is calling for another conference at Organia. They say some of you have gone missing. The Melkot, the Metrons and some of the lesser known have vanished, their home worlds wiped from the stars as if they never existed.”

“And this concerns us how?”

“We can wipe our home world from existence with a simple expenditure of our power.”

“The Organians have wiped their home world from human history and memory, a far greater feat and we are concerned about missing planets?”

“Don’t you see?” Charlie protested. “There’s something out there stalking you. We think that Mitchell has something to do with it but can’t be sure.”

One of the large stony Excalabians let out a rumbling laugh that sounded like a volcano trying to erupt.

“You give the itinerant god too much credit. Mitchell is a leaf in the hurricane of reality. He is blown where the wind takes him and he calls it destiny.”

“Mitchell is playing a deeper game than we realize.” Charlie countered.

“Even if Mitchell is plotting against us what does he gain?”

“A transitory moment of supremacy followed by violent oblivion.”

Charlie looked to each of the Excalabians and shook his head. Q said this would not be easy. It was as if they had all lost any motivation or desire to go on. Even the Continuum was shutting down and it was up to Q to drive this investigation. But what could he say against the Excalabians’ cold logic? What did Mitchell have to gain? What point was there in opposing him if he wanted to take over the galaxy when the galaxy was about to be swallowed up by entropy?

But something nagged at Charlie and it was hard to tell them that he suspected there was something more to this. They were all being played and distracted, even the war for survival being waged in the Alpha Quadrant could be a simple smoke screen for what the ex-Starfleet officer was planning.

Charlie did not want to admit it to Q but Gary Mitchell terrified him. The eyes unnerved him, and not because of the silver glow, but because of what lay behind the eyes. Nothing.

Any sign of humanity that remained in the man as just gone replaced by the empty silver eyes that reflected everything they saw because there was nothing else behind them.

“Will you at least come?”

The Excalabians were silent as they moved slowly, arms swaying back and forth while their eyes pulsed slowly. Charlie could feel the disturbance in the air around him. They were obviously communicating in a way that was unknown to Charlie.

They had to come. Events were speeding up now and Charlie was afraid that they would lose their chance to head this off. Whatever it was.

One of the Excalabians turned its attention back to Charlie.

“We may attend.”


“You have our answer human.”

“That’s not an answer.” Charlie replied tightly.

The three Excalabians turned their full attention to Charlie.

“You come unbidden to our world, assume to speak to us as if we were equals and now demand what you would interpret as a clear answer.” One of them spat, jabbing a clawed appendage at Charlie.

“Perhaps we should ask you to explain to us why we should listen to you any further?”

“You are a child amongst giants and you dare demand answers from us?”

The three Excalabians’ eyes suddenly glowed steadily and Charlie felt every nerve ending explode into an inferno of agony. He collapsed to his knees and his back arched as it felt like his skin was being scraped by a live wire.

“Speak human. We cannot hear you.” One Excalabian taunted.

Charlie grunted, gritting his teeth against the urge to scream and tried to focus desperately on his abilities. He wished himself out of their grip, off their world, anywhere away from them but he could not maintain his concentration long enough.

His mind was a whirling dervish of thoughts and fears as the pain drove him to writhe on the floor.

“The Q chose a frail messenger.”

“They will have to replace him.”

“What does it matter, he is only human.”

Charlie remembered Q’s smirk as he described the Excalabians. He tried to speak. His tongue refused to obey him for a moment.

“Q…Q…was right…about you.” Charlie grunted.

“It speaks.”


“We obviously underestimated its pain threshold.”

“Perhaps humans have an ability to temporarily overcome this pain threshold?”

“Shall we continue our examination then? Increase the pain level?”

“He said…you…were unimportant.”

The Excalabians each paused, the only movement was the constant swaying of their claws.

Charlie tried his best to laugh. The pain was still chewing through him and it came out more as a groan. “The Organians….and the Q…they don’t need…you…poking around their plans.”

“That sounds like the audacity of the Q.”

“They have always been afraid of us.”

“The human may be trying to deceive us.”

Charlie rolled over into his back and bit back another scream. He did not let his thoughts follow the conversation, would not allow a glimmer of any hope escape into the ether. He could feel their minds probing him, their thoughts like fingers kneading through his brain.

“The human’s mind is laced with pain.”

“It cannot possibly deceive us.”

“It is saying what it knows to win freedom.”

“Q…laughed when the…Organians suggested…approaching you. I can see now why.”

The Excalabians said nothing but their glowing eyes suddenly darkened and Charlie slumped into a fetal position, clutching at his legs as they were drawn up into his torso and he let the pain wash over and past him.

God this hurts so much.

One of the Excalabians extended its claw and Charlie was roughly jerked onto his feet and held suspended a meter off the ground.

“Be thankful human. Be thankful we have decided not to allow you to enjoy the full hospitality of our world.”

The desolate rocky surroundings were suddenly replaced by shifting molten rock and seas of magma flowing around them in titanic tidal surges. Black plumes of inky smoke swirled through the night sky blotting out all but the brightest stars. The air smelled of sulfur and it nearly choked him but he knew that they were letting him breathe just enough air to keep him alive and conscious. He instinctively knew the atmosphere was a poisonous cloud of sulfur and ash that would have instantly killed him.

This was the true face of the Excalabian home world.

“Now child we have a simple mission for you.”

“Inform the Q that we will attend.”

“Inform them that we will be ready.”

“And tell him that he will have much to answer for. Perhaps we will send messengers of our own into the Continuum and see how they react to savages polluting their world and reality.”

“I’ll tell them.” Charlie replied out of breath.

“You are dismissed.”

The Excalabians waved their claws and Charlie vanished in an explosion of fire and smoke. The Excalabians stood silently in the shadow of an exploding mountain.

One of the stone figures suddenly looked up into the sky as if it had heard a distant thunder’s call.

“Something is amiss.”

The other two looked up slowly as they heard it as well.

“What is that?”

A great shadow fell over the stone titans and then the darkness was illuminated by a bright emerald light.

The Excalabian home world evaporated into a storm of rock and plasma.

“Target destroyed my lord.”

“Excellent Commander. Set course for our secondary holding station and I await my orders for the next set of targets.”

Emperor Palpatine switched off the companel on his throne and returned to watching the amazing display of martial prowess. His face was illuminated by the crimson light of the double bladed lightsaber. The cloaked figure moved with the graceful precision of a panther as he ducked and weaved between a dozen soccer ball sized attack drones.

His saber moved in wide sweeping arcs, deflecting the bright kill beams as it moved.

“Faster.” Palpatine commented in a cold whisper.

The Sith Lord responded by spinning on his right foot, snapping his double bladed weapon in tighter faster arcs until the light from his saber was no longer a single beam but had melded to become a solid wavering wall of red light.


The Sith Lord slashed one of the attack drones, cutting straight through the center, the force of his blow sending each smoking stump of the drone skidding into the far corners of the throne room.

Behind the Emperor on his armored view port the remains of the Excalabian home world tumbled through the stars in bright balls of fire.

“Good. Good. Feel your rage, your anger. Feel it fuel your strength. With this rage you can do anything.”

The Sith Lord grunted as he catapulted over three attack drones, landed on one of the upper support beams crisscrossing the ceiling of the cavernous throne room. He back flipped without hesitation down into the thick of the swirling drones. His lightsaber flashed in quick slashing arcs that ended as the Sith Lord landed, his cloak billowing around him like wings. The attack drones clattered in a loud rain of metal on metal as they crashed to the floor.

The Sith Lord snapped his lightsaber closed and effortlessly slipped his lighsaber onto his belt. With a sweep of his left arm he swept his cloak backwards and knelt before his master, dropping his head down low.

“That was the fastest time yet my apprentice.”

“I live to serve you my master. The thought of those pretenders betraying you fuels my anger and with that anger I will crush them, I will teach them the final price of betrayal.”

The Emperor watched the Sith Lord with a hooded expression.

“Betrayal must not be countenanced is that not correct?”

“Never. They will pay and pay dearly.”

The Emperor nodded almost imperceptibly.

“Lord Nemesis completed that exercise quicker than you have so far.”

He watched the jaw line of his apprentice tighten and his eyes burn.

“Lord Vader defeated twice the number of drones you have.”

His apprentice’s shoulders tightened and he could feel the shame fueled anger burning like a furnace.

“Vader.” He hissed the name like poison. “He will pay most of all.”

“How does that matter? In the end you have declared yourself to be my instrument of vengeance.” The Emperor leaned forward slightly so that his yellow eyes glowed as they caught the dim lights. “I find you lacking in that regard.”

The Sith Lord stiffened but said nothing.

“You wish to lead this Empire of mine, to be my right hand, defeat two traitors to my Empire then you will have to do better than what I have seen. You say you are filled with anger that rage makes you powerful. It is time you show me for if this were true your power would be unassailable.”

“My Master is displeased with me.”

“No, my apprentice. You are an excellent instrument of my power but you will be facing my greatest enemies. One is the living personification f the Force, the other is his son who is unfettered by the constraints of his father’s cybernetic prison. Together they would be the most powerful Force users we have ever faced. If you are to defeat them you must be a razor, you are not there yet.”

“I will work harder.”

The Emperor smiled coldly.

“You cannot ascend to the levels you need to achieve against remotes.”

The Sith Lord looked back at the ruined drones and then back at his master.

“What do you wish of me?”

“It is time you begin hunting my enemies. It is time you exercise your abilities against those I need hunted and destroyed.”

The Sith Lord rose up quickly.

“Raise your hand my master. Point me to your enemies and they will know death. Command me. I am the arrow in your bow.”

The Emperor nodded in approval. He was always the best of his apprentices, eager to please, loyal as a dog and deadly as a viper.

“Find Organia. It is a world that has vanished off all the charts in this galaxy. The Organians have even wiped their existence from the memories of an entire quadrant. But they are here. They need to be found, if anyone can oppose my final plan it is these self proclaimed gods.”

“Nothing is beyond the abilities of the Sith.” The Sith Lord’s smile was clearly evident beneath his hood. “At last I can come out from the shadows, at last we will have our revenge.”

“Go now my apprentice and do my bidding.”

As the Sith Lord bowed his head and turned to leave the Emperor raised a hand stopping the Sith lord in his tracks.

“Oh, and while you search for Organnia I need you to kill a very special boy.”

“A child?” The Sith Lord snapped angrily.

“Careful.” The Emperor said in a deadly whisper.

“My lord, anyone of your Adepts can –”

“YOU will kill this boy because he is powerful beyond your imagination. You want to be considered a weapon worthy of taking down a traitor like Vader then you must kill a child who is like a god.”

“Name him.”

“Find and kill Charles Evans. You will find him easily. He is James Kirk’s lapdog.”

“Then I will kill Kirk as well.” The Sith Lord concluded.

“NO.” The Emperor boomed.

“I do not understand-”

“Understanding is not a prerequisite for this mission my apprentice, we have special plans for James Kirk.”

The Sith lord nodded slowly. His master had intimated several times that he was working with someone but who would be powerful enough for his master to consider an equal? His Master was a wonder of Byzantine plots and traps. He preferred the direct approach. A dead enemy was no longer a threat. But there was no questioning his orders. He would earn his Master’s respect again.

“I will kill Charles Evans and then I will find Organia.” He said darkly.

“And once you have killed a god and found their last refuge you will be ready to bring the Skywalker line to an end.” The emperor declared and began to laugh.

“Mr. President I am well aware that your government has gone out on a limb for us.”

“What a descriptive and apt human phrase Captain Jellico.” The Andorian relied frostily.

Jellico frowned and rubbed his chin softly.

“Andor is in an untenable position, Mr. President. If I deploy my fleet at Andor there will be no escape from there. Frankly Andor is the biggest trap of this war.”

“Andor is also your last supply depot and shipyard. We’ve repaired a total of 347 starships since this conflict began and have finished construction of new starships including two Defiant class ships.”

“You’ve built new starships?” Jellico straightened in his chair.

“Yes. We most certainly have.” The Andorian replied with a cold smile.

Jellico nodded knowingly.

“And of course you’re withholding delivery until our fleet deploys.”

“Tell me Captain, what sense would there be in sending you starships we’ve constructed if you will not put yours into the fight?”

Jellico said nothing for a moment.

“Allow me to be blunt.”

“If you’re unwillingness to aid us has not been blunt so far then I am most surprised.”

Jellico frowned.

“This is a difficult decision sir. I am holding together a fleet of thousands of ships that have one hope as their ultimate goal, to restore the Federation. If I deploy at Andor we will lose.”

“I am well aware that you have some very difficult decisions to make, Captain Jellico but we have been talking in circles for weeks now. You do not wish to deploy and we are under an imminent threat. Andor is not some other world to be lost. Andor is your life line. You lose us and you lose this war. Kirk understood this.”

“Kirk is not in charge here, sir.”

“That much is obvious.”

Jellico leaned forward to peer closer into the screen.

“Sir, while many people like to make comparisons in the end he abandoned this fleet to parts unknown. I’m the one left holding this cause together. Kirk was an adventurer and we were handed our greatest defeat at Romulus. I will not allow this to happen again.”

The Andorian and human stared at each other through their monitors.

“The Empire is coming.” The president stated simply.

“Yes, we’ve heard this before.”

“No. You have not. A scan by a vessel at the edge of our space picked up a hyperspace emergence 14 light years away in a barren star system nearby. At that distance an Imperial fleet could jump and be within our lines in a matter of seconds. We would have no warning.”

Jellico sat back.

“Why didn’t you tell me right off the bat?”

“Because I wanted you to think about what you’ve been saying Captain. It is far more difficult to serve me platitudes when the threat is no longer vague. The time has come. The Empire is going to strike and we need the fleet here to make a stand.”

Jellico pursed his lips.

“Emergency transmission.” The computer interrupted him before he could begin speaking.

“Computer I asked for no interruptions.” Jellico snapped.

“Command over rides have been instituted with this transmissions.”

“Command over rides? But the only person—oh no.” Jellico stopped short as realization dawned on him.

Every screen in his office suddenly flashed on.

“Attention. This is an emergency command transmission. Attention. This is an emerg---” The soft female voice of the computer was interrupted as the view screen switched to an image of James Kirk. He wore his gold command shirt but Jellico could see the bruise swelling up his left eye and the scratches along his neck. But there was a fire in his eyes that Jellico recognized. This was a man ready to fight and more importantly – lead.

“This is Captain James Tiberius Kirk. I am enroute to Avalon on board the Sagan under escort by the Klingon Chancellor and his fleet. First to the brave beings of Starfleet I offer my sincerest apologies. I know many of you must think I have abandoned you in this our greatest hour of need. I can only say that events have progressed beyond my control and have forced me to be away from you far longer than I ever imagined. I cannot ask for your forgiveness. That is something that you must give freely.”

He paused. Jellico quickly glanced around and saw the personnel outside his office all standing at any available viewer watching with intense interest. He tried to gauge their reactions but many were still too surprised.

“I am returning to you with the knowledge that the Klingon Empire stands fully behind me and ready to stand by all of us in the coming struggle.” Jellico grit his teeth, those backstabbing barbarians. “The Orion crime syndicates have been crippled and will no longer be a threat to us.” Jellico blinked. What was going on here? “We have several hypermatter reactors in our hold to provide our engineers, both Rebel Alliance and Federation with working models from which we will be able to construct hypermatter reactors of our own giving us for the first time the ability to field starships that can threaten the Imperials and make this war as bloody for them as it has been for us.”

Jellico slowly sat back in his chair. “The bastard.” He whispered. “He left us and he comes back bearing gifts.”

“And finally we have discovered that Lord Darth Nemesis is no longer the man he used to be. He has abandoned the teachings of the Sith and is now known as Luke Skywalker. We believe a tentative and temporary truce is in place between our powers allowing us freedom to engage the Imperial fleet elements of Grand Admiral Thrawn.”

Jellico shook his head slowly. He glanced back out and saw several officers nodding their heads with each announcement but no one looked happy, no one looked thrilled. Perhaps Kirk’s betrayal could not be bought off with gifts. His respect for his men grew.

“As I return to you I have discovered that Andor is under threat of imminent attack by Imperial forces. Several hours ago an Andorian patrol ship picked up hyperspace signatures on the edge of their space. After tactical analysis there is no doubt that a large Imperial force is based in that system. They are coming for Andor and it is time that we made a stand. Andor has been our staunchest ally. Remember those dark days after the battle for Earth. We lost that world and most of the rest of the Federation. Other member worlds were too afraid to help us. They called us an illegal force as the Federation council had formally surrendered. They said we were fighting a hopeless battle. They said if they assisted us they would be crushed under the Imperial boot. Only one world responded to our call for aid.”

“You bastards.” Jellico snapped as he whirled to face the president who was still on his monitor. “You told him.”

The president nodded.

“Kirk contacted us an hour ago to try and secure our support for his return. We shared with him the data and he vowed to come to our aid.”

“You and he have doomed this fleet to destruction.”

“We do not see it that way Captain Jellico.”

Jellico turned his head to see Riker rushing into his office, barely able to conceal the grin on his face.

“Andor provided us with aid and comfort when no one else dared. They have repaired our ships, provided us with industrial replicators, tons of medical supplies, food, water and clothes. Some of our most gravely wounded are living on Andor. Andor is our last link to what we fight for. It IS the Federation now and she is under assault. I call on you Starfleet officers and service beings to make your stand now. As Andor has stood by us this Starfleet will stand by them and if that means we have to sacrifice on the altar of war then let it be so knowing full well that this is what we are, this is who we are. We are Starfleet and we will be heard this day.”

Kirk took a deep breath and looked into the screen, to many who were watching it was as if he were looking at each of them.

“I will return in one hour, you have my word and my bound that we will finish this together. As always it has been my honor and privileged to serve with you. I only ask that you give me this honor one last time and say with me that the Federation Lives as long as a single one of us draws breath in defiance of tyranny.”

The screen switched off.

Riker opened his mouth to speak but Jellico held up a hand and listened.

There was a deep silence throughout his office level for a long moment. He watched the officers and men exchanging inquisitive glances.

The he heard it.

A whoop of joy from down the hall. The whoop was taken up by others and then cheers and exclamations of joy. Jellico’s eyes drifted down to his companel. He flipped it on. Fleet chatter immediately flooded from his speakers.

“—a treaty with the Imperium?!”

“He’s back damnit that’s what matters!”

“You see his face he’s been through hell.”

“Anyone get confirmation on that.”

“Take that you Orion bastards.”

Several starships were in view from his viewport behind Jellico. One of the Excelsior class starships began firing off torpedoes. They flashed past the fleet and exploded into a dizzying pattern of color and light. More starships took up the salute.

“What a damned waste of ordinance.” Jellico frowned.

He switched off the companel and turned to the monitor.

“Mr. President I have to go now, we will be in touch.” Jellico did not wait for a response as he switched off the monitor.

“Yes, Captain Riker?”

“Sir, the Enterprise is requesting permission to go out and meet Captain Kirk.”


Riker blinked.

“Sir, Captain Kirk is coming back. We have to begin preparing for battle and he should return on the flagship.”


Riker took a deep breath, jaw set in anger.

“Sir, permission to speak freely?”

Jellico nodded fingers steepled beneath his chin.

“Captain Kirk is the supreme commander of this fleet. He’s returned and its time to turn over command as you promised when you assumed the position.”

Jellico watched Riker intently for a moment before speaking.

“Captain Riker, what gives you the idea that I have any intention whatsoever of turning over command to that man?”

He smoothed out the wrinkles on the uniform. He could feel them as he meticulously examined his uniform with his hands.

The sonic shower was so relaxing. He had not had enough of them lately. Spending time sitting in your own filth, blind and beaten gave you a new perspective and appreciation for the more basic amenities of modern life.

He raised the recorder again.

“And know this. There should be no guilt. There is no one to blame. Fate can be like that my friends. It is very likely I will never see you again and that’s OK. I’m used to this sort of thing you know. I just wanted to thank you one last time for reminding me how human we all are no matter what side of the war we stand behind.” He switched off the recorder and walked over to the computer terminal, feeling the keyboard for a moment.

“Computer please download recorded data and encrypt for Admiral Kittaine’s eyes only.”


Normally Imperial computers did not have oral interfaces but Kittaine had surprised him with a Federation interface for his personal terminal in his room. He waited patiently as he felt the recorder vibrate in his hand while it was accessed by his computer.

He placed the recorder down on the desk.

“Computer have all files been prepared?”


He heard the light footfalls outside his room. He could not see the shadows dancing slowly under the door.

He cocked his head at the sounds and nodded knowingly.



The lock to his door clicked and he heard the low squeals as the hydraulics were bypassed. The door snapped open obediently and three figures quickly entered.

He turned to face them, hands up at his shoulders. He listened to see where they might be standing. He could hear their breathing a few meters away, his face turning towards that sound.

“Gentlemen. My name is Ernesto Ochoa, Captain of the Federation starship Thunderchild. I’ve been expecting you.”

He could feel their confusion and smiled softly.

“You will come with us.” It sounded like a small child but there was an odd resonant growl in the back of the speaker’s throat.

“I will not resist. I suggest you move quickly. Grand Admiral Kittaine will be quite furious with you when he discovers what you’ve done. I wouldn’t want to be within 10 parsecs of this ship when he finds out.”

The beings quickly scrambled around him. One gripped each arm and forced him forward. He nearly tripped into a headlong sprawl over an errant piece of furniture.

“If you don’t mind gentlemen I am blind. It would be helpful if you looked out for me or I may end up slowing you down enough for ship security to catch up.”

The three Noghri exchanged confused glances. The leader nodded. The other two Noghri took a firmer grip of Ochoa’s arms and the leader led them out of the room. The door snapped shut as they left.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 82: The Illusion of Independence

“I’m going to save her.” He muttered as his fingers worked the controls with one hand and the other pulled back on the control stick. The ancient vessel shuddered like a thing alive and slowly ascended up through the fossilized remains of the ancient city. Dust of ages and debris showered down from the vessel as it slowly tilted around to point towards the citadel beyond that glowed with newly restored power.

His eyes glanced down at the displays. They were in an alien language but something nagged at him, whispered words to him and he could understand the swirling script.

“Hold on.” Captain Archer muttered to no one in particular and activated his forward thrust hoping that his emergency repairs would hold together. The ship’s nose dipped forward dramatically and he briefly thought this was al over and he would end up a smear on the ground.

But the ship responded admirably and soared forward over the ruins where it had slept for untold millennia.

He checked the readouts as the ship continued in a slow steady climb away from the lost city. He smiled.

“Like a glove in the pike five by five.” He laughed.

“She is in danger.”

“The Traitor will not rest until she has defiled it all again.”

He stopped short as he heard the whispers that had begun while he was down in the ruins waiting to die.

“Of course she’s in trouble and I’m going to save her.” He replied.

“Be careful.”

“She is dangerous.”

“She is powerful.”

“She was the most intelligent of us. She will stop at nothing to maintain control.”

Archer smiled grimly.

“Well that’s just fine by me because I don’t intend to stop until I save her.”

A female shaped shade slowly grew more distinct in his peripheral vision and she bent down to whisper in his ear.

“Remember to seal the breach. Only together as one can you forge the past and future as it was meant to be.”

Archer nodded but his thoughts flew back in time and he smiled softly.

“You’re not what I expected ma’am.” He muttered to himself as he guided the ship through the mazelike framework of the ghost city, using it to shield his approach to the citadel above them.

The Defiant’s transporter room was a cramped affair, much like the rest of the starship. But he would never trade it for any of the other starships in the fleet. This vessel aside from being the most powerful warship in the Federation harkened back to an era that Archer’s great grandfather lived in. He could imagine the old starships of that bygone era, cramped and crewmen on top of each other. Did his grandfather walk decks like this, eat foot in the tiny mess hall and not even have a ready room?

“Have you seen her sir?”

“Nope, not that I care to see a Borg drone up close.” Archer replied as he stood expectantly in front of the transporter pads.

“I don’t think she’s supposed to be a full on Borg drone.” His XO commented.

“Well considering that she’s likely missing an eye and an arm I don’t know what to expect. Any experience fighting the Borg?” he asked his XO.

“Sorry sir. I’ve pulled Neutral Zone patrol duty most of my life. Chasing down cloaked ships and Orion pirates is the sum total of my experience.”

“Well, I was there at their last incursion into Earth and it wasn’t pretty. I for one am not too thrilled that we’re having an ex-Borg drone as our resident expert on the Collective on this mission.”


“I know what you mean sir. Any truth to the rumors that Admiral Janeway will be accompanying us?”

“Everything about his mission has been hush-hu-” Archer stopped short as the figure materialized on the transporter pad. Seven of Nine stood stoically on the pad, a silver suitcase in one hand and a data terminal tucked under the other.

“Permission to come aboard?” she asked coolly.

Archer stared at her dumbfounded.

His XO cleared his throat and nudged Archer gently with his shoulder.

“Permission granted.” Archer stammered.

Seven examined the young captain with a critical eye.

“Is there a problem Captain Archer?” she asked him pointedly. Archer could not stop staring at her. She was most likely the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her blonde hair was up and nearly glowed in the overhead lights.

“Uh…no not at all.”

“Excellent, we have much work to do. For instance I’ve been checking the schematics on your pulsed phaser array and I believe that I can adjust the emitters to increase output by 7% and once I have installed my customized program for automatic phaser frequency modulation we should prove quite a threat to a Borg vessel.” She began as she stepped off the platform.

“Ma’am, the Sovereign class vessels have a standardized phaser frequency modulation system, we’ve uploaded that program into our tactical displays.” His XO commented.

Seven stopped in front of them and eyed each one carefully.

“Their program is not as advanced as my own and fails to auto correct as quickly as mine does to Borg adoptions. My program will be loaded into all Federation starships by the end of the year starting with the Sovereigns but this vessel will be the first to field test them.” She explained. Seven’s brow furrowed as she noted Captain Archer’s expression.

“Are you sure there is nothing wrong?” she asked.

Archer blinked.

“Uh…no…there’s nothing wrong, it’s just…well.” He laughed nervously. “You’re not quite what I expected, ma’am.”

“Would you prefer I wear something more appropriate?” Seven asked frostily.

“Excuse me?” Archer replied in confusion but his eyes immediately dropped down Seven’s slender busty figure.

“Perhaps Borg implants and a body suit?” she asked helpfully.

Archer’s eyes shot back up to look into hers.

“I apologize, ma’am.”

“Seven will do. Now if you’ll excuse me.’

“Maybe I can give you a tour of the ship?” he added hastily. She stopped walking forward and turned her head to regard him. His XO pretended that there was an itch on his cheek allowing him to cover his smile with his hand as he scratched.

“And what purpose would that serve? I ma quite familiar with the schematics of this vessel.”

Archer shrugged. “It’s been my experience that seeing these systems in person can help you design your subroutines, after all some of the modifications that Captains Sisko had installed in this vessel are not on any schematics.”

“Intriguing. Most unorthodox and disorganized on Starfleet’s part but I am intrigued. But my bagga—”

“My XO will be more than happy to make sure your baggage makes it to your quarters. We’re rather cramped here on the Defiant but I’m sure you’ll find your quarters more than adequate.” Archer interjected smoothly as he delicately placed Seven’s suitcase and data terminal on the floor by her feet and smiled up at his XO.

“It would be my pleasure.” The XO said and he fought with every fiber of his being not to laugh.

Seven looked at Archer reluctantly as he indicated the corridor ahead with a sweep of his arms. She walked forward and he watched her for a moment and thought.

“She’s the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen on Earth or among the stars.” He muttered softly as he guided the ancient craft past another series of fallen skyscrapers.

“Why do you struggle?” the Queen asked gently as she brushed a stray lock of Seven’s hair out of her eyes. “You would think that all your years amongst us, as one of us, a voice in the single Collective would have taught you that resistance is futile.” She cooed.

“Damn you!” Seven cursed and grunted with effort as she flung herself against the restraining field. It flared up bright white and knocked Seven back against the rack where she was splayed out, legs and arms wide open.

“You will harm yourself.” The Queen warned. “The field has not been calibrated as well as I would have hoped.”

Seven said nothing but gasped softly as she tried to catch her breath.

“There’s no reason to hold her. You have me.” Picard spoke up from his place on a surgical table. Long sharp blades tipping spindly robotic arms hung suspended around him like a spider web.

“Ah, Locutus, I see your injuries are well on their way to healing. Excellent. It would be most disappointing if my consort and representative of the Collective were a limping cripple.” She said with a cold smile as she glided over to him leaving Seven behind.

“Why did you have to come here?” Picard asked pointedly.

The Queen smiled sadly and ran the back of her fingers along Picard’s left cheek.

“This is the place where it all began Picard and the one place no one would suspect that a back up Collective system lay hidden under the dust of ages.” She explained as she adjusted one of the overhead surgical implements.

“A backup?”

“Indeed. Can you imagine it, Picard. Here in this laboratory I labored feverishly to create the ultimate man and machine interface. Here the first Borg drone took its tentative beginning steps into a whole new page of history. Here the voice of the many became one unified voice. A Collective that would one day impose order and harmony to this galaxy.”

Picard watched her intently. He knew there was little hope in escaping. The restraining field that held him down did not allow him any space to move or even squirm and the drugs she fed him kept his head swimming intermittingly through a haze of near unconsciousness and delirium.

But his knee was healed, his wounds closing and vanishing, whatever she did had taken him from battered wreck to peak physical condition in less than an hour. He would need every advantage should he get the chance at escape. He did not nor would not contemplate the other possibilities should he not get free.

“Do you remember these Locutus?” she asked him intently as she ran her other hand along one of the bladed implements hanging directly over Picard’s eyes.

Picard did not want to look at it. In the back of his mind, unbidden came the sound of metal tearing through flesh as it willingly gave way to the unyielding Borg implants.

“Yes.” He replied tightly,

“Of course the tools on our Borg ships were far more precise and painless. Certainly not as crude as these instruments but they serve their purpose.” She glanced down at him, feeling the fear that he held so tightly under control. Beads of sweat were starting to collect on his brow but his eyes remained defiant as he returned her gaze.

“I spared you these. I spared you the touch of saw on bone and sinew, the squeal of metal through soft fatty tissue, the pop of gelatinous eye fluid as the insignificant orb is cleanly plucked free.” With each description she touched the body part in question. “I am afraid I cannot spare you those now Locutus. I made a tactical error with you, allowed you a path back to your old life as a single being with its own voice. Now I will bring you fully into the Borg Collective and you will lead us to victory against the Empire.”

“I will not help you.” Picard spat.

The Queen shook her head sadly.

“Such defiance, have you not learned by now Locutus? You will have to learn soon enough if you are to be our voice.” She leaned in close to him like a lover, cold lips gently brushing against his earlobe as she whispered. “I offer you power beyond your imagination. You will command my armadas with unquestioned authority. Together we will assimilate this Empire and bring order to this galaxy. The order of the Collective where all voices are made one.”

Picard turned his head to look into her eyes.

“Your cause is lost. And I would never willingly partake in the enslavement of the galaxy under your will. At least with the Empire there is individuality, there is life. What you propose would be a mockery of life, you would be imposing a waking death not order. I would rather die.”

The queen’s lips curled back in a cruel smile.

“I didn’t say I needed you to acquiesce, Locutus. It would merely make things less…painful for you.” She toyed with the screw like device that hung directly over Picard’s left eye.

“and her?” he asked indicating Seven with an inclination of his head. “Why bring her here. This is a matter between you and I.” Picard caught a glimpse of a shadow moving sharply overhead but used every iota of his will not to register it or follow with his eyes. Instead he focused on the Queen’s pale features.

“Let her go.”

“My Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01?” she smiled and looked back at Seven. “Why should I? She’s the entire reason this reboot will work.”

“What?” Seven and Picard exclaimed simultaneously.

The Queen shook her head and stepped away from Picard.

“Your Captain Janeway was so easily fooled and manipulated. I doubt I would have been able to do the same to Locutus. He’s not very trusting when it comes to me and my intentions Seven of Nine. You see the explanation has been in front of you this entire time and you were too proud and stubborn to accept the very simple fact.” She paused as she glanced from Seven to Picard.

“I allowed you to leave the Collective Seven. Isn’t that so obvious? When have you ever known a drone to willingly leave the Collective? Who supplied you with that force of will? Do you truly think and insignificant gnat like yourself could ever hope to disconnect from the symphony of the Collective. But then again that is what makes you so very human and desirable for my plan Seven.” The Queen gently chided. “Only a human could believe that it had the will to resist trillions on its own.”

“Liar!” Seven spat.

“But it was Locutus who sparked my plan so he shares some of the blame.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

The Queen glided over to a large computer counsel and began typing in long strings of code. As she typed sections of the lab began to illuminate, machinery sprang to life and the size of the chamber dawned on her captors.

“Do you remember a drone designated Third of Five?”

Picard’s eyes narrowed.


“Yes.” She replied with a secretive smile as she initiated an operation at her terminal that began a low throbbing that hummed in the back of Picard’s teeth. Something enormous was slowly ascending from the circular depression in the center of the massive installation. Now that the lights were all on Picard could see the extent of the facility. It wasn’t just a large warehouse sized laboratory. There were machines, enormous building sized machines jutting into the side of the mountain and glowing with a pale green light.

He could see the silhouettes of these machines from the panoramic view provided by the wrap around windows that ran all along the perimeter of the lab showing a breath taking vista of the ghost city at the foot of the mountain fortress.

Some of the skyscraper sized machines began to slowly pump up and down, arcing sickly green energy between their parts and into the air around them. Picard could see the silhouette of more of these machines coming to life all along the mountain.

The object rising up from the floor was clear now. A liquid metal globe that slowly came to a halt as it hung suspended between the floor and the ceiling of the lab.

“You see the Collective became aware of Third of Five’s malfunction. His independence and initiative immediately infected his local collective and following protocol his vessel was severed from the Collective. However I was intrigued. I knew that the drone had been in Federation space and suspected contact with your culture. I allowed a dim thread of connection between myself and one of the drones in Third of Five’s new Collective. From there I observed them closely.”

Seven listened intently but also began to concentrate on the inert Borg implants in her arms and chest. If she could find the correct resonance frequency for the restraining field she would be able to override the field. It took most of her will to still activate those implants. Within a few years the implants would become completely inert. Now she simply hoped that they still functioned to save her life.

“I observed the speed, ferocity and inventiveness of this new Collective under the command of Third of Five and later the android identified as Lore. A realization and a theory sprang to my mind.” She continued as the liquid metal globe slowly pulsed to life. Bright emerald light splashed along the sphere in oscillating waves.

“What if the Collective could be adjusted? What if it could adapt as we have always done save now our adaptations would take the best of what Third of Five had discovered about your individuality and initiative but in a controlled state that would best serve the Collective.”

“You want the Collective to become like those Borg under Hugh.” Picard said with a horrible premonition of what other revelations were to come.

The queen shook her head slowly.

“No, that would no longer be a Collective. It would be a rabble as Third of Five discovered. The Collective I intend to reform will have all the drive that Third of Five exhibited. The initiative and passion that drove them to succeed and nearly defeat you save that it would be in service of the whole and not themselves. But how to achieve this? There lay the thorny question. So what does one do when they have a theory, Locutus?” She asked him with a cold smile.

“You experiment.” Picard said softly, eyes drifting over to Seven. She was still as she closed her eyes and rallied the last of her will to begin her escape.

“You were always so intelligent, Locutus, it’s what I enjoy about these conservations.” She purred as she ran a hand along a control counsel. Panels began illuminating in a slow steady march along the far wall.

“I needed a drone that I could use as my project. One that I could carefully observe, record and allow to grow as I saw fit. The key to this experiment was simple, the drone would need to believe that it was indeed independent. The drone could not for a moment believe that it was still under observation or control. I needed to add an element of danger so that the drone would have to actively choose its independence from the Collective. It could not be independence by fiat but earned.”

Seven paused.

“What are you saying?” Seven whispered, horror coloring her question.

The Queen turned her head and regarded Seven with a contemptuous gaze.

“How else would a drone learn independence unless it believed itself to be so? The perfect opportunity presented itself during the disastrous war with Species 8472. The starship Voyager arrived in our space. My experiment was undertaken as I assigned a group of drones each of whom had exhibited a tendency towards independence and initiative. Anyone of those drones, given the proper incentive in combination with the exposure to your corroding Federation ideals would provide me with the perfect model for my new Borg drone. Seven of Nine, my sweet Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix 01 exceeded my wildest expectations.”

The queen glided over to Seven. She smiled proudly like a parent over a gifted child.

“And now Seven you will be re-designated. 1 of 1. The first of my drones and from your mind the template of all other drones will be established. You will be the rock on which my Collective will be formed. So you see, you’re mission is accomplished. Now it is time to be assimilated again.” The Queen placed her hand against Seven’s throat and the nano injectors slowly unsheathed from their compartment in her wrist. They rested against Seven’s throat and waited for the mental trigger that would flood Seven’s blood stream with Borg nano probes. The Queen paused and tilted her head to the side as she regarded Seven’s, eyes wide with terror and confusion.

All that she knew about herself was a lie. All that she had struggled against and overcome was simply part of a lie and an experiment.

“I doubt that you will remember what you’ve experiences Seven if that is any comfort. It is merely the sense of drive and initiative that I need from you. But if you do retain the memories I am certain the soothing chorus of the new Collective will help you adjust.”

“You’re forgetting something.” Seven whispered.

“I do not forget anything Seven but if you want to bargain for a few more seconds of this life you find so appealing I will grant you that much.” The Queen shrugged.

“I’m still free!” She shouted and jerked forward against the restraint field to head butt the Queen. The restraint field flared up brightly and slammed Seven back down against the bed with a bone jarring thud.

The Queen sighed.

“Seven. Did you think I lied when I said you were still part of me? Your implants sing to me and sometimes I sing back.” The Queen explained softly as she reached out and grabbed her throat. “Now it is time to end this exhilarating experiment.”

A pale white hand closed around the Queen’s wrist and squeezed with a viselike grip, crushing the nano-injector. Simultaneously another hand grabbed the back of her head and jerked it back to reveal the face of R-7.

“I cannot allow you to finish what you started Borg scum.” He stated coldly and slammed the Queen’s head straight into the side of the examination table, denting the metal frame and sending her tumbling down to the ground.

“R-7!” Picard exclaimed. “Get us out of here.”

“I am attending to that sir. Please hold still.” R-7b explained calmly as he touched the release control on Seven’s restraint field. The field dropped with a sharp hiss. R-7 aimed his phaser rifle at Picard’s restraint field controls.

Picard’s eyes widened. “R-7 wait!”

R-7 fired a precise burst that destroyed Picard’s field control. He flipped his rifle butt back down to crash against the back of the Queen’s head but she was no longer there. She snaked up behind him and delivered a crushing backhand that sent R-7 spiraling off his feet over a work table and out of sight.

The Queen grabbed Seven by the throat as she tried to get up out of the examination table.

“No Seven, this needs to end now. The new Collective is waiting downloading of the new matrix.” She indicated the rapidly spinning liquid metal sphere with a nod of her head. “All you need to do is step inside and the program commences. Resistance is futile.”

“We will always resist!” Picard shouted as he tackled the Queen. She shrugged him off over her hip and maintained her grip on Seven. Picard crashed into a workbench and tumbled head first onto the floor.

“No one else to come to your rescue.” The Queen sneered.

“Warning. Aerial incursion. Warning. Aerial Incursion.” A cold mechanical voice droned.

“What?” The Queen hissed.

“Jonathan.” Seven whispered.

The Queen looked down sharply at Seven and dragged her off the table by the throat.

“Your retinue of would be heroes expands I see.” The Queen noted coldly. She looked into Seven’s eyes and began to squeeze her throat. “Initiate anti-air defenses. Eliminate the threat.”

“Acknowledged. Initiating air defenses.”

“No.” Seven croaked under the weight of the grip on her throat.

“Whoa!” Archer exclaimed and jerked back on the controls. He reacted to the sudden explosion of missiles that leapt up from the mountain he was approaching. The rippling stream of missiles swept in and over towards his lone vessel.

“I know where I’m not wanted.” He muttered as he worked a series of controls over his head while keeping a firm grip on the control stick and pulling into tighter and tighter turns away from the incoming horde.

An array of warning lights were springing up all along his board and the HUD display insistently flashed bright crimson, the missiles nearest to the ship were highlighted and bracketed. He ignored these for now, looking for the opening he needed as the first few missiles slipped past him and exploded within seconds of passing him by before they could even begin to turn back to chase him.

“Proximity fuses. Why am I not surprised?” he laughed bitterly as he swept past another pair of missiles. The next wave was much thicker and swarming him from multiple trajectories.

“Shields deployed, maximum intensity.” He announced to no one in particular as he threw back a series of switches on his tactical board. The HUD displayed a transparent representation of the ship with a pale blue aura around it.

“The grid will hold.” The female specter promised.

“That’s an awful lot of explosive force heading my way and I’m a Captain of a starship not a pilot.” Archer snapped as he barely avoided another tri of missiles, one of which exploded directly over his cockpit. The ship was shaking violently now as the shockwaves of multiple close detonations battered her like a hurricane.

“The grid will hold because it must.” The male specter pressed.

“Not exactly the most reassuring bit of advice I’ve gotten in my life.” Archer muttered then grunted with effort as he climbed hard and over another wave of missiles, they exploded directly beneath him, sending his ship tumbling forward directly into the path of the nest wave. They struck several points around the ship, the shields flaring up in a flash of dark blue energy.

The ship began to fall into a spin.

Archer pulled of his weight against the controls and frantically switched over engine power with the other hand in a desperate attempt to recover.

“We are almost there.”

“The traitor thinks we are dead.”

“In case you haven’t noticed we are almost dead.” Archer shouted as he managed to recover the spin but another series of explosions rippled around the ship, the shields flaring up weakly in a crimson aura indicating shield failure. Smoke began belching forth from one of the engine pylons and a part of the hull plating swept off into the winds.

“She is waiting for you.” The female specter whispered in his ear.

“You must fulfill your destiny.”

Archer looked up at his HUD display and saw the facility looming up on his screen. The shield display was starting to flash on and off and more warning lights illuminated his board, some refusing to switch off no matter what he did and there was an alarming rumble coming from behind him.

“How are we going to play this?” He asked himself as the next swarm of missiles was nearly on top of him. “Hard or soft?” He whispered and checked his engine readouts. He rerouted power to the impulse engines. A ship should never use its impulse engines in atmosphere, that had been drummed into him since the academy. Sublight speeds in atmosphere was a bad idea.

He grinned.

This whole affair had been strung together by one bad idea after another.

“We’ll play this hard.” He announced loudly and looked over at the barely perceptible specters of the man and woman. “You said your machines were built to last. It’s time to find out.”

“We will guide you to her.” The female replied without hesitation.

He punched the throttle.

The sound of explosions rumbled in the laboratory like distant thunder.

“Do you hear that?” The Queen asked softly as she dragged Seven towards the spinning liquid metal sphere. “That is the sound of your last hero dying.”

Seven said nothing but desperately clawed against the hand around her throat. For some reason she could not seem to rally her strength against the Queen, it was as if her limbs refused to fully respond.

“The sphere is the Collective interface my dear. Here the first Borg were born as the human occupants of this planet stepped through with the first machine warriors in a glorious attempt to create a new life and consensus. It was magnificent.” The Queen said proudly.

“She lies.”

Seven stopped struggling for a moment as she heard the whisper in her ear like the soft whisper of silk on steel.

“There is no need to struggle Seven. You could not raise a hand against me unless I wish it. I told you that you were still mine, body and soul. Now with you about to be properly prepared you will step through and give me my template for the perfect drone. Then I will reawaken the Collective from here and start the war as it properly should have been fought.”

“She betrayed us.”

“She betrayed the machines.”

“There was never supposed to be a controlling voice. She is merely a union of the whole. She is a lone voice but we needed the Iron Trinity.”

“Now Seven, this little game comes to a close.” The Queen intoned darkly as she managed to adjust one of her nano injectors.

A phaser burst exploded off the Queen’s shoulder and ricocheted into the far wall. The Queen barely flinched.

“It is as I feared sir. She has adapted to our phasers in anticipation to this battle.” R-7 reported as he dropped the phaser rifle from its firing position and began to charge the Queen.

Picard grunted with effort as he hefted a heavy piece of machinery over his shoulder with the intent to bash the Queen’s head in and followed R-7 but he knew they would be too late.

“I am so sorry.” He whispered.

The panoramic window in front of the Queen exploded into a shower of glass and steel as a ship crashed through the side of the mountain facility, smoke and fire wreathing the vessel like a thing out of hell.

The Queen looked up in shock and released her grip on Seven. Seven rolled out of the way gasping as the bulk of the flaming wreck struck the Queen without pause and sent her crashing through several large wall sized computers and into the far stone wall of the mountain.

The ship skidded to a halt several meters away from the spinning sphere and sat still, smoke and fire crackling loudly in the cacophony of the ruined mountainside.

R-7 stopped short and inspected the vessel for a moment.

“Jonathan!” Seven screamed as she saw the state of the vessel. She got off her feet and raced over to the ship.

“Is Captain Archer in there? R-7 try to get him out.”

“Acknowledged.” Te android replied and agilely climbed up the side of the ship searching for an access way.

Picard turned his attention to the Queen.

“This ends here and now your highness.” Picard vowed and walked over to her fallen frame still carrying is murderous load.

R-7 found a panel and casually ripped it away revealing the airlock seal which he punched open. The cockpit suddenly hissed and gave way in a bath of steam jets and Archer hesitantly got to his feet.


R-7 offered to help him and Archer readily took the android’s offered arm and stepped off the cockpit just in time to fall into Seven’s arms.

“Jonathan! How did you? How could you?”

He put a finger to her lips and stared into her eyes for a long moment.

“I said we would see each other again and I never intend to lie to you. Now is this a rescue or is this a rescue?” He laughed.

R-7 looked back to the fallen Queen sharply.

“Sir! I am picking up an energy surge from the Borg!” R-7 called out but the noise of the shattered facility and flaming ship swallowed up the warning.

Picard stood over the Queen and raised the machinery over his head aiming at the inert Queen.

“After everything we have been through, all the death and destruction that can be laid at your feet, the loss you inflicted on my very soul I consign you to hell!” Picard spat.

The Queen suddenly shot up into a forward seated position and jabbed the last working nano injector into Picard’s leg. Picard screamed and dropped the machine uselessly to the floor and stumbled backwards clutching his leg.

The Queen smiled triumphantly as she stood.

“That was meant for Seven but I need you now Locutus more than ever.” She said softly walking towards Picard. Picard could feel the nanoprobes surging through his leg like tiny knives. The wound was starting to turn gray, hints of circuitry forming on the surface of the skin near the wound. He stumbled further backwards, the left leg stiffening like stone.

“Come Locutus. Did you think that resistance could ever be anything but futile?” she whispered seductively.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 83: The Iron Trinity

Picard gasped as he fell to his knees and doubled over in pain. The nano probes were tearing through his blood stream and converting his tissue to Borg circuitry. The Queen smiled coldly as she watched him writhing in pain.

“It will all be over soon Locutus.” She promised.

She walked over slowly to him and ran a hand along his cheek as Picard grunted in pain, sweat beading his brow.

“Endure for me Locutus and all will be yours. In there, in that orb lies the new Collective. All that we ever were and will be is encoded in that matrix and as soon as Seven steps through we will have a new template for our drones, then you will wait as I enter the sphere and give birth to our new Collective.” Her eyes were alight with the possibilities that waited as she leaned in closer to him, smoothly touching his lips. “Stronger, faster, with the merest hint of independence - all of Seven’s gifts and initiative under our control. Then we will see this Imperium crushed under the weight of our consensus.” She whispered like a lover in the dark.

A phaser bolt struck her hip and the kinetic energy of the blast spun her away from Picard and backwards in a half spin. Her personal force field flared up in a brilliant flash of white light deflecting the energy of the blast away from her.

She looked up sharply and Archer smiled as he lowered the phaser rifle.

“You still have to face us your highness. And we don’t intend to lose.”

“How quaint. Perhaps I’ll allow you to live long enough to see Seven assimilated and then have her remove your heart at my bidding.”

“You have to take me first and I will never join you!” Seven shouted as she took a phaser from R-7’s utility belt and fired a long arcing burst that slashed down towards the Queen’s torso. The Queen cart wheeled away from the blast and disappeared behind a bank of machines.

Picard groaned softly and slid down to the floor writhing in agony, eyes wide with horror as he saw the flesh of his arms slowly muting into a dull gray tone.

“The Queen’s nano probe injector must have only been able to inject a significantly smaller does of nanoprobes than usual if Captain Picard has not been assimilated yet.” R-7 noted. “We must help him.” He added.

Archer eyed the android for a heartbeat, surprised by the emotion behind his assertion the nodded.

“You’re right, R-7 you have away to help the Captain?”

“The Shadowfleet suspected that a large enough electromagnetic pulse directed at the still developing nano probes would either slow their progress or halt it entirely. The problem arose with the speed at which these nano probes assimilate their hosts.”


Seven blinked. He was using her real name for a reason. He would not give her up to her Borg past, not even her name. There was an odd flutter in her stomach at this realization.

“Yes, theory is sound, but where do we generate a pulse?”

R-7 held up his right arm.

“I will reconfigure my systems to deliver the pulse.”

“Good, Anika and I will stalk this bitch and put her out of our misery.”

“Acknowledged.” R-7 nodded and immediately raced for the prone figure of Captain Picard.

Archer checked his phaser rifle and smiled softly.

“You and I together at last. I guess if there was a way to go it would be this way.”

“I’m not sure why you are so happy. The Queen has completely adapted her defenses to your phaser rifle and it is unlikely my pistol will do anymore damage. She can still infect you and I with nanoprobes. Time is on her side and she knows this laboratory far better than we do. She seems to have all the advantages.” Seven replied grimly.

Archer looked into her eyes.

“We’re together and that must count for something.”

“It counts for everything in this battle.” A soft whisper on the wind drifted into Seven’s ears. She looked around sharply and saw only shadows dancing in the ruins of the laboratory, the lights frantically winking on and off in a staccato beat. The ancient vessel was hanging down onto the floor, jutting out from the armored windows in the side of the mountain.

The only steady source of light was the spinning sphere in the center of the lab. It was beginning to hum lowly so that the back of her teeth were vibrating in her jaw. The sphere was ringed by several liquid metal silver bars. She was in awe of the sphere. It was here that the Collective began. Thousands of worlds, trillions of drones all began here in this simple sphere.

“Let’s go.” Archer urged and began stalking through the veritable forest of consoles and banks of machines.

She followed after him uncertainly. There was an odd electricity in the air.

“Our hour has nearly come round at last.” The spectral woman whispered to Archer.

“And then?”

“We all meet our fates.” The male specter replied.

“I don’t like the sound of that.” Archer whispered as he snapped around the corner of one large machine and aimed his rifle. There was no sign of his prey.

“Who are you speaking to?” Seven asked him sharply.

“No one.” Archer replied softly as he crouched down on one knee and peered down looking for the Queen’s feet under some of the machinery and computer consoles.

“I’ve been hearing voices.” Seven confided in him.

Archer paused and slowly looked up at her.

“Really? What do they say?”

“You will never know.” The Queen vowed as he hand thrust out from between data terminals and gripped Archer’s throat, savagely pulling him into the gap and banging his head against the terminals.

“Stop!” Seven shouted and pointed the phaser at the Queen’s head. She smiled coldly as she tightened her grip[ on the gasping Archer.

“What will you do, Seven of Nine? Will you fire at this range and risk killing the man you think you love?”

“You have not had time to adapt to this phaser. At this range I cannot miss.” Seven replied coolly aiming clearly for the Queen’s face.

“And if I have? The android’s phaser riffle never struck me before yet I am perfectly adapted to it? Do you think my defensive matrix is as limited as a drone’s my errant little messenger?”

Seven said nothing maintaining her aim on the Queen. Archer began thrashing his legs as he tried to gain leverage on the vise like grip on his throat. His lungs were beginning to burn.

R-7 skid to a halt beside Picard. He placed an arm under Picard’s head.

“Captain, you must listen very closely.” R-7 began as a panel on his right arm flipped open. “I am going to initiate an intense electromagnetic pulse. I am bereft of a tricorder. Can you direct me to the highest concentration of nanoprobes?”

Picard gasped loudly and looked up at the android’s emotionless face.

“How?” he asked desperately.

“Where is your pain the most intense? That will be where the nanoprobes are concentrated at the moment.”

“My chest…god R-7…my heart, I can feel them accessing my artificial heart…” Picard gasped and reached out grabbing R-7’s free hand.

“Hold on sir. You will be free of this infestation in a moment.”

“If it doesn’t work…”

“I calculate an extremely confident level of success with this procedure.”

“R-7, if this fails you know what to do.” Picard grunted in pain as he felt the nanoprobes begin to move again like tiny knives in his blood hacking their way through vitals.

“Hurry! They’re moving.”

R-7 held his right arm over Picard’s chest.

“Brace yourself sir.” R-7 said evenly then activated the built up electromagnetic charge in his arm.

Picard arched his back and screamed in agony as the small whirling knives in his bloodstream all seemed to explode at once in a frenzy of slashing and whirling movement. The chords in his neck stood out against his flesh as he flailed his arms as he leaned backwards and mouth wide open as the pain flared through him like a wildfire.

The pain vanished suddenly and he found himself lying still in R-7’s arms. The lights around him were dim and the sound muted.

“You are Locutus of Borg.”

“No, I am Jean Luc Picard.” He replied weakly.

“You were and always have been Locutus of Borg.” The male voice asserted.

“I am Captain Jean Luc Picard.” Picard snapped angrily now.

“You were part of the Collective and you shall be part of the Collective again. It has always been your destiny. The more you fight it the more it will pain you in the end.”

“I will not surrender. I will not give in.”

“No one is asking you to.”

“We merely point out that when the time comes you will be one with the chorus again and you will achieve what needs to be done. In your hands is the fate dealing blow for you have been seen by us from the very start of the treachery.”

“You are Locutus the Breaker of Treason.”

“Why did she choose the name?”

“Why did she choose you from all those trillions of souls?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he stammered. “You’re some sort of delusion brought on by the EMP.”

“She did not choose you.”

“We chose you.”

“She cannot act without consequences.”

“And you are our response.”

Picard caught his breath and glanced around sharply. The lab was still, R-7b seemed frozen in place and the mad blinking lights no longer even so much as flickered.

“What is happening?”

He saw the briefest hint of two shadows, figures one female the other male. He saw more shadows gathering at the entrance of the lab, they stood still as statues but the light from the sphere seemed to give them weight and substance.

“We are preparing for the coming of the Iron Trinity.”

“The way it always was meant to be.”

“Who are you?” Picard asked softly, eyes drilling into the male shade with the faintest sense of recognition. He had seen him before, like a half remembered childhood dream. “Where have I seen you before?”

The male shade slowly reached out and touched Picard’s breast, right over the heart.

“The ship…” Picard breathed in realization. His memory swept back into the green lit bowels of the Borg ship as he lay prone waiting for his flesh to conform to the Borg implants as he was inexorably assimilated. There was a presence there with him in the room. A calm quite shadow that whispered to him to be calm, to relax, that fate would have its way not matter what.

“And when the time came for me to be assimilated I was given a designation. And you whispered it to the drone.” The male shade nodded slowly. “I thought I was imagining all of it.” Picard looked deeper into the shade’s hooded eyes. “You whispered ‘Locutus of Borg.’ And now I know don’t I – Locutus?” Picard asked.

The male shade nodded.

“I was Locutus of Borg, the last defender of our people and the last one to fall to the machinations of the Great Traitor. In you I saw the potential to finally destroy the usurper. Now, it falls to you Locutus. The very nano probes coursing through your blood will give you the strength you need to throw her down.”

“Archer and Seven?”

“They have another destiny.”

“What destiny?”

“The three must become one as it was always meant to be.” The male shade replied sternly.

“Never a Collective with one unifying voice. Always the divine union of machine and man to seal the breach between our races.” The female shade intoned as if she were reciting an ancient oath.

“Three?” Picard pressed.

The male and female shade exchanged glances.

“We are running out of time.” The female warned.

“We will be with you when the hammer stroke falls.” Locutus promised.

Picard watched them fade away and suddenly the world came back into painful focus.

“Are you feeling well sir?” R-7 asked.

Picard felt his chest. The pain of the small knives tearing through his flesh and blood had subsided.

“Captain Archer and Seven, we need to get to them now.”

R-7 nodded and helped Picard up.

“And you would risk anything including physical harm to help them?” R-7 asked curiously. Picard paused as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. They were still stiff and numb.

“Of course, R-7. That’s what friendship and duty is all about.” Picard replied quickly. He searched for the others through the haze and flickering lights.

R-7 watched Picard for a long moment, his yellow eyes softening slightly as he could see the human was still in pain. His eyes drifted down to Picard’s limbs and his eyes narrowed.

“It appears we were not entirely successful.”

Picard looked back at R-7 then down to his arms immediately noting with concern the grayness of his skin along his arms. Tendrils of gray crept slowly along his forearms in a slow but methodical march.

“So we only managed to dramatically slow the assimilation process.”

“I am truly sorry Captain Picard.” R-7 stated simply.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned R-7 in my time in this world is that all good things must come to an end.” Picard sighed and tried his best to smile for the android. He looked more closely at R-7.

“You’ve come a long way from the simple war automaton the Shadowfleet thought they had haven’t you?”

R-7 cocked his head to one side before replying.

“I have discovered this much sir. That I would risk even bodily harm for someone who saw in me more than a simple war automaton.” R-7 replied.

Picard reached out and gripped R-7’s shoulder.

“Data would have been proud to know that his humanity is inherent in all of his progeny.”

“It would have been interesting to meet him sir but unfortunately that is not to be.” R-7 replied and suddenly stumbled backwards.

“What’s the matter?!” Picard exclaimed. He rushed forward to help R-7. The android steadied himself.

“The EMP was a risk.” R-7’s voice had a weak distorted

“My god, you weren’t properly shielded were you?”

“No. My neural net is experiencing severe degradation. Internal systems are failing. Data would have easily survived such an effect but my simplistic nature that made me such an asset proved to be my downfall.”

“There is nothing simple about you R-7. In a matter of weeks you have gone from a soulless cog in a machine to a friend.” Picard urged.

R-7 looked into Picard’s eyes.

“What is it you said sir? All good things…” R-7 stopped in mid-sentence, words trailing into a squawk of feed back and white noise. His eyes continued looking straight ahead and like an old clock winding down the android ran down.

Picard watched him and slowly raised his hand to touch his face. He noticed the first tendril of gray molting crawling up his middle finger, the rest crawling up along his wrist.

“I don’t have much time.”

“We never did.” The male shade whispered into his ear.

“But thanks to you R-7 I’ll have just enough time to put some ghosts to rest.”

“And then?” the female shade asked.

“Yes, and then?” he asked Locutus.

“Something wonderful will happen.” He vowed.

“Choose soon Seven. I’m afraid your little toy may be about to draw its last breath.” The Queen said coldly and spared a glance down at Archer as his thrashing legs weakened and his eyes began rolling into the back of his head. She did not see his fingers methodically punching buttons on his phaser rifle.

“I wonder if you will regret never having had the chance to say goodbye. Humans are such a virulently emotional species. Always clinging to what it cannot have much like how you have clung to your notion of independence and freedom.” She looked up at Seven with a triumphant gaze. “Everything you are you owe to me, everything you have ever been you owe to me. You are Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix 01 because I chose to make you so. You are the end product of my designs. How dare you think you are more than what I made you.”

Seven’s eyes bore into the Queen’s, her phaser steadily held in firing position trained on the Queen’s face.

“You took a frightened little girl and made her into a soulless machine. You stole everything I could be and was meant to have and replaced it with a waking nightmare. Now that I’m free of you I have learned that I will do anything to hold onto the humanity I have earned. You failed your highness, I’m not a template for your new Borg drones. I am the one who will end this madness forever.”

Seven squared up and fired.

The angry crimson beam from her phaser lanced out and struck the Queen’s face. The impact caused her personal defense field to flare up and the beam ricocheted back to the left, exploding out of sight.

“Such pretty words for such a lost cause.” The Queen sneered and squeezed one last time on Archer’s throat.

A high pitched whine followed her final effort to crush the life out of Archer. Her eyes widened as she looked sharply down at her seemingly helpless opponent. Archer brandished the phaser rifle like a talisman. The overload lights were lit and blinking ominously faster with each passing moment as the whine grew louder.

“Let’s see your field deal with this bitch!” Archer spat triumphantly, eyes bloodshot from broken capillaries.

“Worm!” She roared and lifted Archer bodily with one hand and flung him clear from her. Archer landed with a bone jarring impact and rolled along the floor towards the pulsating spinning sphere. Archer lost his grip on the phaser rifle and it skidded out of his grip and under the ringed structural supports surrounding the spinning sphere.

He tried to get up gasping desperately for air. His eyes darting about frantically looking for the rifle as the whine grew dangerously louder.

Seven aimed again but the Queen did not hesitate as she exploded out from between the computer terminals and rammed into Seven, throwing her aside with ease like a rag doll. Seven landed on her back and the Queen was on top of her in a heartbeat, right foot firmly planted on Seven’s throat, left foot kicking Seven’s phaser free from her hand brutally shattering several fingers in the process.

She sneered down at her.

“Seven, this was all so futile. Do you feel it was worth it in the end? To know freedom, independence, even love and have it snatched away from you at a whim?”

Seven clawed at the foot eyes blazing with furious passion at the Queen, throat constricted and unable to speak she focused all her strength on getting the Borg Queen’s foot loose from her.

“How disappointing Seven, that you have no last words to throw back at me now in my moment of triumph.” The Queen smirked and leisurely reached down and injected Seven’s hand with her nano probes. Seven’s eyes widened and she tried to scream as she felt the pain of the nanoprobes flooding through her bloodstream. Tendrils of gray exploded outward along the skin from the point of injection.

“Fire in the hole!” Archer shouted as he flung himself away from the sphere once he caught sight of the phaser rifle lodged firmly beneath one of the silver support rings and simultaneously hearing the last second warning wail of the overloaded power battery.

The Queen looked over sharply and her eyes widened.

“You fool!! What have you do---”

The phaser rifle exploded drowning out the Queen’s words and sending her spinning away into the darkness. The blast whipped through the nearest terminals igniting them and blasting the debris into a sharp hissing field of daggers.

Seven rolled over on the floor pulling herself into a fetal position as she cried out in agony.

A loud shriek of tortured metal quickly followed the roar of the explosion and the liquid metal rings came apart snapping like broken elastic bands. Rent chunks of silver spun madly through the flickering darkness and crashing into the walls of the lab or through the armored view ports.

The spinning sphere hummed loudly as it began to roll forward, absorbing the debris scattered along the floor as it went leaving behind a clean trail in its wake, even the surface of the floor was washed away. As the sphere rolled into a terminal it vanished into the sphere in a flash of light and explosive sucking sound.

The Queen quickly rose to her feet and watched the sphere with wide eyes.

“It is time Seven! This chaos will not deter me from my hour of triumph.” The Queen hissed as she sprinted over to Seven and reached down to grasp her by the arm.

A fist connected with the Queen’s cheek snapping her head to the left, a foot connected with her midsection doubling her over with an explosive exhalation. She stumbled backwards in shock.

Picard stepped forward, hauling Seven up with one arm while picking up an errant pipe from the debris scattered along the floor, pointing it to the Queen like a sword. Tendrils of gray were clearly crawling up his neck and the first hints of Borg implants were clearly visible along his chest.

“Where are your jibes now?” Picard snapped angrily.

“Locutus, this is not the time for your false nobility.” She snarled at him.

“Oh no, it is precisely the time. Now more than ever, at the moment of you trying to birth this foul abomination into the world once again now is the only time to make a stand to say that this far no and no further. There will be no more falling back, no more retreats. This is our final battle Zarabeth.”

The queen blinked.

“Who told you that designation?” She whispered suddenly very aware that she did not feel alone. The shadows were closing in around them and despite the shrieks of falling metal and the suction of the sphere there was the barest hint of whispers in the air.

Picard smiled grimly.

“I am not alone.”

“Give her to me or I will kill you.”

“Simple as that? No threats, promises, seduction?”

The Queen smiled coldly.

“I can kill you and bring you back Locutus. Once I have reestablished the Collective there will be nothing beyond my power. Now. Give her to me.”

Picard held Seven’s hand tightly and turned his head to look in her panic stricken eyes as she watched the rapidly advancing gray that was turning her flesh.

“Listen to me Seven. Find Jonathan.”

She looked up at him.

“I am being assimilated.” She whispered in horror, tears welling in her eyes. It all was ending too damned soon.

“Find Captain Archer and then embrace your destiny.”

She looked confused.

Picard looked over to the sphere meaningfully. The Queen caught the look and her eyes narrowed on Picard.

“What are you doing Locutus?” She hissed.

“Go NOW!” Picard roared and shoved Seven back towards the center of the phaser rifle blast as he swept the pipe in front of him and readied a swing.

“She cannot go in the matrix unprepared. Not with HIM.”

“So you know then? You knew all along what was supposed to be?” Picard pressed as he blocked the Queen’s movement after Seven.

“I know that what you are planning will surely mean the death of her and Archer.”

“Liar!” Picard spat and swung the pipe into her midsection. The Queen sidestepped the blow and brought both hands down against Picard’s shoulder. He grunted and stepped away from her.

“You are running out of time Locutus.” She noted caustically as the gray was now sweeping over his cheeks and down the last of his fingers.

“More than enough time to end our little dance.” Picard replied and attacked again with a grunt of effort and determination.

“Jonathan!” Seven called out desperately as she stumbled through the wreckage. The gray was rapidly rising over her chest and up her neck.

“Anika.” Archer called out weakly.

Seven zeroed in on his voice and found Archer entangled in the ruined remains of a control console and some of the silver metal of the restraints that held the sphere. She immediately saw that one of the silver shards had passed right through his left leg and most of his upper thigh was meaty mass of blood and gore.

“Oh no.”

Archer struggled to sit up.

“Anika. There’s not much time.”

“What am I supposed to do?” She implored.

“Go to him.” The female shade urged.

“It is your destiny.” Locutus added softly.

Seven stumbled over to him and began helping him up. The sphere slowed to rest near the shattered panels and the half buried ancient vessel jutting into the laboratory. She noted that and hefted him up to rest against her hip and shoulder.

“We don’t have much time.”

“No we don’t.” Archer replied with a weak smile. His vision was blurring and the undeniable chill of signaling the onset of shock was overwhelming him.

Seven grit her teeth and began walking as fast a she could working past the painful stiffening of her limbs as nano probes worked to convert her body into a more suitable host for Borg implants.

They both stumbled/walked towards the spinning sphere, the silver light washing over them like moonlight.

“You owe me much Zarabeth.” Picard grunted and smiled as he connected with the Queen’s left leg just below the knee. She winced and half spun her elbow into Picard’s chest.

“You have no right to call me by that designation Locutus.” She snapped and caught hold of the pipe by the middle. Picard and her wrestled over the pipe, each one pushing against the other in a tug of war.

“You owe me for making me feel responsible for the death of thousands of Starfleet personnel,” he shoved her into a data terminal. “For losing my very soul on your ship.” She shoved him back and swung him around towards a sharp end of a twisted support beam. “For the anger and impotent rage all these years.” He growled as he stopped himself short and pulled on one end of the pipe sending her spinning out of their tug of war. He swung the pipe high for her head. She began to duck but saw too late that the blow was a feint and Picard discarded the pipe in mid-swing to tackle the Queen to the ground.

He immediately wrapped his hands around her throat and began to throttle her as hard as he could. He banged her head backwards into the grated floor as he brought his strength and weight to bear on her throat. In his mind came the memories of the Borg ship, of lying helpless on the surgical bed as he calmly offered his arm for implantation and did not fight the commands given to him as his body was sculpted to her desires.

He remembered watching the starships relentlessly slaughtered at Wolf 359, many were friends who met their deaths at his hands. Starfleet battle tactics were effortlessly picked from his mind while the cube cut a bloody swath through Earth’s final defenses. Captain Tramok prefers to put distance between himself and his target, standard torpedo reload times for an Excelsior class starship was 15 seconds, Admiral Hanson was a by the book strategist all this and so much more he gave to the Borg as they slowly cut him to pieces.

“Damn you!! You took my very soul!” Picard screamed into her face as he slammed her head back into the floor again.

The Queen’s eyes darkened and she placed her hands firmly against Picard’s chest. She shoved hard and Picard was catapulted up into the air and arced back down hard to the floor, landing on his shoulder with a loud wet crack as bone and tendon gave way.

She kipped up in a frenzy and turned to face Seven and Archer as they stopped and stood before the sphere.

“Get away from there! That is not meant for you!”

Picard groggily got to his feet.

“How could you betray them? How could you destroy the last hope of peace among your people and the machines?”

“Because I knew better than they did what was needed to ensure our survival. The united voice they planned would have destroyed me. There would be nothing left of me.”

Picard shook his head in disbelief and wiped blood from his mouth.

“All of this disaster, this waking nightmare that has plunged two quadrants into fear and apprehension was caused because you feared losing your own individuality?” He replied aghast.

“I was the greatest of our scientist. I alone amongst my peers fully understood the implications of the Collective they planned. I adjusted the programming to allow me to be the guiding voice of the Collective.”

“I’m sure that’s what you have convinced yourself after all there years, Zarabeth but all you have managed to do is betray your people and enslave billions.”

“I tire of this Locutus.” The Queen replied in a whisper and was suddenly upon Picard. Picard was shocked by the speed and fury of her attack and she drove him back towards the jagged pointed end of the support beam. It gleamed hungrily in the low flickering light and she pushed him right to the tip of the pointed end. He could feel the cold hard steel cutting into his back. His legs stiffened and his arms tangled with hers, neck taut with effort as he held her at bay.

They stood poised over the pointed end, grunting with effort, sweat dripping off his brow their eyes locked in death.

“And this is it isn’t it?” Archer whispered, eyes fluttering weakly as his legs sagged out from beneath him under his own weight.

“Jonathan. I’m afraid.” Seven said simply as they stared at the pulsating silver liquid metal surface of the spinning sphere. The humming that was shaking the very foundations of the lab was slowly crytsalizing into a soft chorus of sound. It sounded suspiciously like a half buried memory of a lullaby her mother would sing to her. The tune was inviting and comforting yet somehow alien.

Archer gripped Seven’s hand.

“If we do this together then there is nothing to be afraid of?” He looked into her eyes. “Is there?”

“No.” She answered without hesitation and returned his gaze. Shadows coalesced around them like a chorus.

“The Iron Trinity is nearly complete. You are beginning to understand the mystery aren’t you?” Locutus asked Archer. He nodded.

“It is the union of man and machine. Save that man is not a singular being, he is a union of man and woman to form the complete whole.” He looked back at Seven. “I understood this when she was apart from me and I no longer felt…”

“Complete.” Seven finished.

The female shade nodded.

“But we lack the machine component. This will fail as surely as the Queen’s initial Collective.” Seven lamented as she felt Archer weaken in her arms and the pain of the Borg nanoprobes completing their work.

“We need a machine but not just any machine.”

“No, you need a machine with a soul.” The female shade cautioned.

Archer nodded.

“A machine willing to fight by our side even though there wasn’t any real logical reason to.” Archer gasped.

“A machine that gave its life to protect its friend.” Seven added, comprehension dawning in her eyes and she quickly searched the ruins, stopping sort as she caught sight of R-7 slumped down in a seated position several meters away.

“R-7?” Archer whispered.

“There is no one else. He was meant to be here as surely as the rest of us were.”

“Fate always finds her way.” Locutus nodded.

Seven gingerly placed Archer on the ground and limped quickly over to the fallen android. Her limbs were growing stiff and heavy, her breathing labored as the advancing gray sheen covered most of her face. She quickly slipped her arms underneath R-7’s armpits and pulled with all her strength, dragging the heavy android to the sphere.

“Hurry Anika, please, I can’t hold on much longer.” Archer pleaded, the blood pooling beneath him from his ruined leg. Blissful sleep was lulling him into sweet unconsciousness. Seven was growing blurry and indistinct in his sight.

“Resistance…is…futile…Locutus.” The Queen grunted out the words as she pushed against Picard, sending the sharp end of the beam an inch into his flesh. He was throwing every ounce of his weight and all his strength against her, legs digging into the ground, thighs taut like steel cable, chords jutting out along his neck, nostrils flaring. His eyes bore into hers.

“For once, Zarabeth, you are absolutely correct.” Picard grunted and smiled sadly.

“What are you---”

Picard stopped resisting.

He grabbed a firm hold of the Queen and pulled her to him as her strength and weight carried him backwards right into the sharp beam. Its jagged point effortlessly punched through him and exploded out of his midsection continuing into the Queen’s chest and jutted out of her back. Her defensive field put up a pathetically useless resistance to the kinetic attack, flaring up in a display of light and sound drowned out by the Queen’s scream of pain and frustration.


Picard did not hesitate as he reached out for her neck and snapped it to the side with his remaining strength rewarded with a loud wet crack. The Queen’s head lolled to one side but her eyes blazed into his with a fury that would have burned worlds.

A bitter laugh escaped her lips as Picard slumped forward into the beam gasping his last breaths, blood flecking his lips.

“It is finished.” He breathed.

“Never…Locutus. You should…know…by now…that I…cannot die. I escaped you before…it remains child’s play now. Your sacrifice…was useless.”

Her eyes dimmed and she lay still.

Picard smiled triumphantly.

“And he piled upon the whale's white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” He whispered weakly.

“And now we must do our part.” Locutus stated proudly beside Picard.

Seven grunted with a last bit of effort and placed R-7 at Archer’s feet. She knelt beside him and touched his cheek. Archer’s eyes fluttered open.

“I’m so cold Anika.”

“This is almost over.” She looked up at the assembled shadows while cradling Archer’s head to her chest. “We are here. We are willing. What must we do now?”

“Simply state the words as I tell them to you child of the Borg.” The female replied.

Seven nodded as she heard the words. She turned to the sphere as electricity built in the air. The shadows were humming in time with the sphere.

“Matrix 01. Activate assimilation procedure password Theta Epsilon 1701-1138.” She stated loudly. The sphere suddenly stopped spinning and pulsated strongly in place, growing larger with each pulse. The sphere rapidly expanded towards them, wisps of silver light reaching out for them.

Seven took hold of Archer’s hand and squeezed them gently. Archer looked over to her, eyes barely open.

“I love you, Anika.” He breathed.

“I love you Jonathan Archer.” She replied and leaned her face forward while reaching out and taking R-7’s hand.

They kissed long and deep and as they did so the sphere expanded enveloping Seven, Archer and R-7. They vanished into the swirling light. The sphere spun faster and faster before vanishing in a blast of incandescence. Then there was only flickering darkness and stubborn silence.

The Queen chuckled darkly.

“Foolish little man. To think I could be vanquished so easily. I have ruled over the Borg for millennia this is a simple setback.”

The darkness was palpable in the barren subspace domain. Her consciousness had fled her broken body as it had done many times before. Now it would be a simple matter of downloading into another body within range and terminating the farce that was under way in the laboratory.

She cast her senses out to search for a new body when she felt the sudden presence in her domain.

“Who dares?” She snapped angrily and turned to face the newcomer. She stopped short.


“Yes, Zarabeth. Did you forget where you were? Did you think you could enter this domain and not face your final retribution here in this place.” He asked.

“Locutus. You fool this was your plan wasn’t it?”

“My plan, but fate was the final arbiter.” He said coolly.

“And he is not alone.” The female shade appeared beside him.

“Jocasta.” The Queen sneered. “You were the proponent of the final peace and you stand here and dare accuse me of treason?”

“There will be no trial, Zarabeth. The decision was made millennia ago when we discovered what you had done to all of us, damning us to this soulless state.”

“Locutus, can you feel that? You have to let me go. The Matrix has been activated.”

“And a new dawn is coming.”

The Queen stared wild eyed as hundreds of shadows slowly moved in around her, pressing in hungrily. She moved backwards and looked back to Locutus.

“You said you loved me once, Locutus.” She said softly.

“I did love you, Zarabeth. To my everlasting shame and our race’s doom. It is time for another race to start fresh and bring forth the Borg as they were always meant to be.”

“It cannot end like this.” She shouted in anger.

“But it has.” Jocasta replied grimly. “They have all been promised a piece of you, Zarabeth. I hope you feel a tenth of what we felt during this exile.”

“Stay away from me! I am the Queen of the Borg! I am the guiding voice, the --”

The Queen vanished under the swarm of shadows as they fell upon her, screaming in rage and gnashing of teeth. Her hand erupted out from beneath the shadows, frantically reaching for the light. Locutus watched her hand slowly vanish beneath the broiling shadows.

He placed and arm around Jocasta as the darkness of the domain faded into oblivion.

Picard slowly raised his head. Blood trickled from his mouth down to his chest. The gray sheen covered his entire face and he could feel his consciousness fading away. Vision dimming he searched for any sign of Archer or Seven. The laboratory was dark and quiet, no sign of life remained.

Could it have truly ended like this in darkness?

“I am so sorry my friends.” Picard whispered as his vision darkened and he no longer had the strength to lift his head. As he dropped his head in darkness he lay still and his final breaths came rattling and wet from his lungs.

A warm light touched his face.

He could not lift his head but the light burned through the darkness in his eyes. He felt comforted and the pain slowly vanished from his gaping wound.

“Who…who…is…there?” He asked breathlessly.

A warm hand wreathed in golden light reached out and cupped his chin, slowly and gently lifting his head like a mother would for a child.

“Picard of Earth, we are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be honored by our own.” A voice with the power of a male voice, the warmth of a female voice and the cold precision of a machine spoke.

Picard looked up into the warm golden light and it was as if he were looking into the sun on a warm Spring day. He smiled. Outside the armored windows of the lab, the city flared up to life, the pale green light flared up into a golden shine. The light illuminated the Golden figure that smiled down warmly at Picard.

“It is…wonderful.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 84: The End?

The bed sheets shifted under the furious long and hard strokes as James T. Kirk ripped into Princess Leia Organna’s willing throbbing secret garden. He grunted like an animal as he hooked one of her long lithe legs over his shoulder. She bit back a moan, lips wet with anticipation and passion. She ran the fingernails of her left hand along Kirk’s glistening back leaving a trail of red gashes.

He hissed passionately and jerked her head back by wrapping his fingers through her loose hair, the buns worked loose by the furious gyrations in the rumpled bed. She screamed out “Fuck me Jim! Fuck me harder!!”

“Whose your Captain?” Kirk grunted as he began a series of slow deep thrusts punctuated by Leia’s sharp intake of breath with each stroke.

“You’re my Captain! You’re my Captain!”

“You want my load?” Kirk grunted aggressively.

“Give me a full spread Captain!” she demanded as she wrapped her legs around him and pulled him into her not giving him any chance at escape.

Kirk thrust one final time deep into her and threw back his head in a loud shout of pleasure, eyes rolling into the back of his head as Leia writhed in his grip feeling every explosive hot drop of his milky white eruption.

They collapsed into the bed sheets breathing heavily like races horses.

“That was amazing.”

“I’ve had lots of practice.”

“I heard and its time we discuss more permanent arrangements.”


“You heard me, Mister. No more green women, no more chocolate fantasies.”

“Chocolate fant—”

“I’ve seen the way you look at Uhura. I’m not blind damnit.”


“But nothing. I’m a princess damnit. I’m not supposed to be single at this age.” Leia whined.

“Oh for the love of---” Kirk muttered something darkly and rose up out of the bed and shoved his gold command shirt on.

“And just where do you think you’re going?!”

“I’ve got a Federation to save.”

“You’ve had over 60 Chapters to save the Federation, you think maybe you’re out of your depth?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Kirk exclaimed angrily as he slipped on his pants.

“Face it Jim.” Leia sighed as she lay back and placed her hands behind her head and eyed him caustically “You used to be able to solve these crisis in an hour – actually 47 minutes without commercials.”

“This situation is a tad different don’t you think?” Kirk snapped as he slipped on his boots.

Leia shrugged.

Kirk shook his head and stalked over to the door.

“You’re such a princess, one roll in the sack and you want to get married.”

“Hellooooo…I am a princess you moron.”

The doors snapped open and a tall man stood in the door way arms crossed.

“Well, aren’t we the merry couple.” Han Solo sneered.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the party pooper.” Han snapped and delivered a crushing right hook that sent Kirk sprawling backwards and landing awkwardly at the foot of the bed. Leia gasped and clutched the sheets up to her chest.


“Hold on a sec, Your Worship, I’ve got some unfinished business with Goldenboy here.”

Kirk scrambled to his feet and held up a hand.

Hand stopped for a moment and smiled sardonically,.

“Gonna ask for some forgiveness, Captain?”

“Nope, just want to even the odds a bit.” Kirk replied as he reached up to his shoulder and pulled his sleeve loose from his shoulder, ripping his shirt. “There, now where were we?” he snapped his fist out and caught Han on the cheek jerking his head to the left while charging forward. Both men crashed into each other in a grunting mass of legs and arms that exited out of the quarters in a cloud of curses and blows.

Leia began primping and fixing her hair humming the wedding march.

“Are we ready?” Grand Admiral Thrawn asked.

“Ready as we’re going to be.”

“Prepare to crush this insignificant rebellion and bring order to this galaxy once and for all.”

“Yes Grand Admiral.” Piett bowed lowly and walked away.

“What is that?” Vader asked after several moments of silence where the dark lord kept turning his head to examine Grand Admiral Thrawn’s face.

“Are you referring to the thick hot white fluid running down my cheeks and hair?” Thrawn asked calmly as he watched the Federation Remnant fleet as it massed for the attack.

“What else would I be referring to?” Vader hissed angrily.

“It is the by product of all the fan wanking concerning my character.”

“You can’t be serious.” Vader replied in shock.

Thrawn turned his head to regard the dark lord.

“I have no sense of humor Lord Vader. This is a sign of love and affection.”

“It’s actually quite disgusting.”

Thrawn shrugged.

“You want disgusting try a fanfic that spans over two years and nearly 100 chapters with no foreseeable end in sight.”

“Well there’s that too.” Vader conceded.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn. It is time we bring this hanging subplot to an end.” Khan announced grandly as he stepped onto the Executor’s Bridge flanked by his supermen.

“Oh noes! It’s Khan and he’s trying to take over the ship!” Piett screamed. He paused for a moment and spoke out of the corner of his mouth to the bridge pit crews “Like no one saw THAT coming.”

“Bring it bitch tits.” Thrawn snapped angrily.

“We shall see who is superior!” Khan roared and raised his hand to order the charge when a blaster bolt took off his head and sent his body flopping down to the floor like a gutted fish.

“Superior, Inferior, I’m the one with the blaster rifle.” Boba Fett growled menacingly as he stepped out of the shadows.

“Hold on a tick, aren’t you dead?” One of the Supermen asked annoyed at the sudden death of his leader and his manly oiled chest.

“The author always intended for me to survive. Hell if I can crawl out of a Sarlaac I can crawl out of a fanfic author’s Sarlaac knockoff no?”

“This is fucking weak.” Piett sighed.

“Look! The Federation is attacking.”

“Please don’t tell me they’re shouting that weak ass slogan: The Federation lives.” Thrawn asked wearily.

“Unfortunately they are.”

“Alright, open up with everything we have and…hell we all know Kirk is going to win this fight right?”

“Are you just giving up?” Vader snapped.

Thrawn wiped some of the milky thick liquid off his cheek and smirked,

“I was set up to lose from the start of this damned story.”

“I find your lack of conviction disturbing.”

“And I find your ability to paraphrase your own quotes annoying.”

“Don’t blame me.” Vader protested and looked meaningfully up into the ceiling.

“Oh yeah…forgot…HE likes that shit.” Thrawn sighed.

“Can we not denigrate the author of this tale, this is the end you know.” Piett grumbled.

“Aren’t we the brown noser.” Thrawn chuckled.

“Blow me you blue skinned asstard.” Piett snapped.

“Sir! Techno babble device mixed with character shields and author fiat just exploded off the port bow.”

“How original. What’s next? More subplots to bring to an end?”

“Father! I have returned.” Luke announced grimly as he marched onto the Executor’s bridge followed by Mara Jade who was pushing a baby stroller. She was cooing gently to a small baby.

“Daddy has some subplots to finish and then we can go play.”

“Someone really needs to lock that door.” Fett noted.

“Father, I can feel the good within you let go of your hate.”

“Obi Wan once thought as you did, though he slapped me down for being a whiney twat.”

“Well, things change.”

“Yeah, now you’re the whiney twat.” Piett chortled.

“You know a secondary, fuck that a tertiary character like you has no right to make fun of a main character like me.” Luke protested.

“Main character?! You stopped being interesting when you turned in the Lord Nemesis shtick.” Thrawn sneered.

“It wasn’t a shtick!” Luke whined. “I was full of anger and angst because daddy didn’t really love me.”

“Jesus Christ was I ever that bad?” Vader exclaimed.

“You were worse.” Obi Wan’s voice echoed in Vader’s helmet.

Spock began to give the order to attack when the turbolift snapped open and a cloud of fists, legs and curses stormed into the bridge.

“Captain on deck.” Sulu announced.

Kirk’s face appeared out of the cloud.

“Initiate maneuver Kick Imperial Ass then break up the fleet into Character shield formation.”


“Get back here!” Han growled and pulled Kirk’s head back into the twisting and whirling cloud of ass kicking and conflicting character shields.

“So it ends here.” Palpatine laughed as he watched the fleets fighting outside his view screen on his throne room.

“Yes, the game is complete, the pawns are all in place and our secret plan can finally be revealed.” Gary Mitchell chuckled evilly.

“Initiate the secret plan.” Palpatine ordered.

“Initiating secret plan.” One of his guardsmen called out of the throne room.

“Initiating secret plan.” Someone shouted down the hall.

“Initiating secret plan.” Someone shouted from another level.

“Initiating secret plan.” A voice called out dimly from the bowels of the death star.

“What?” someone asked in a barely perceptible whisper from the core of the mighty juggernaut.

“So now the fans that have suffered through the horrific grammar, bad punctuating, lazy spelling and spotty updates can finally know what we’ve been doing together you and I.”

“We promised not to reveal that to anyone.” Palpatine whispered angrily. “I was young, inexperienced, curious,”:

‘No No, not THAT. I mean our other secret.”

“Oh! Oh, yes of course. Everything has gone as I have foreseen.” He cackled evilly. His eyes caught sight of someone and stopped in mid cackle. “Hey…who’s that?” Palpatine asked curiously at the tall overweight figure calmly walking across the throne room to a rather large light switch panel.

Gary’s liquid silver eyes narrowed on the newcomer. He could feel his power and he was instantly afraid.

“Oh no, it can’t be.” He whispered.

“Who is it?” Palpatine demanded.

The overweight figure stopped at the light switch and adjusted his tie.

“I’m not much of a comedy writer. A man has got to know his limitations.”

“Shouldn’t you be doing billable work?” Gary asked sharply.

“Or at least practice some of this dialogue, It can get real hackey sometimes. And I’m not getting enough scenes.”

“This little experiment in comedy is over.”

“No!!!!!” both evil geniuses shouted.

Stravo reached for the light switch.

“The evil secret plan is -----” Gary began to shout desperately to the audience when all the lights went our leaving only the author standing in a soft spot light. Stravo looks over his handiwork and frowns as he looks up at each of you.

“April Fools.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 84: Homecomings

“What do you mean he’s gone?” Luke asked darkly.

Kittaine shook his head slowly. This was not the way he envisioned their reunion. He had not seen the young Sith lord in some time and now instead of smiles and congratulations for a return to the fleet and his Imperium Lord Nemesis was unfortunately greeted with alarming news.

“I had my men check the length and breadth of the Emperor’s Will. Captain Ochoa cannot be found.”

Luke scowled.

“There’s more.”

Kittaine nodded.

“My scanning crews picked up odd particle readings in the forward hangar deck. They followed up and upon further examination we confirmed that they were particles consistent with a cloaking device.”

“Not a Romulan or Klingon cloaking device was it?” Luke replied nodding knowingly. Sometimes Kittaine wondered why he bothered reporting these matters to Nemesis. He seemed to unravel the mystery within a few words.

“They were consistent with by products of a class 12 cloaking device. Imperial issue.” Kittaine finished.

Luke stood silent for a moment.

“They took him.”

“We came to the same conclusion. My main concern is how they got on board so easily, even with a cloaking device there are security codes, locked access ways, a thousand ways to impede intruders and not a single one was tripped and they managed to smuggle a person off ship without us being alerted to it.”

“Take me to his quarters.” Luke ordered suddenly and strode past Kittaine to the doors of his quarters.

“Of course my lord.” Kittaine replied and quickly followed.

They entered the quarters quietly. Two stormtroopers stood silent guard at the entrance. The room was neat, every piece of furniture in place, nothing amiss. There were no obvious signs of struggle save for a chair slightly off kilter.

Luke glanced around the room slowly, eyes tracking along the floor and then the walls. Kittaine stood hands clasped behind his back in the doorway and out of Lord Nemesis’ way. He shook his head slowly. How could he have allowed this to happen?

A commotion down the corridor drew his attention. He recognized the voice and stepped away from the doorway to intercede before it grew loud enough to distract the young Sith lord.

Lwaxana Troi was arguing hotly with a hapless stormtrooper.

“You will let me pass you armored buffoon. Do you have any who I am?”

“Lwaxana, for the love of the Emperor would you calm yourself.” Kittaine snapped as he approached.

“You see here, Grand Admiral, I just heard that Ernesto is missing and you didn’t bother to tell me?!”

“I needed to keep tight security on this.” He explained in exasperation and nodded to the Stormtrooper who obediently stepped out of the angry Betazed’s way.

“I could have helped, I am a telepath after all. I could pluck out the guilty ones with a simple glance.” She stated huffily as she stepped past the stormtrooper and faced Kittaine directly. “I cared for that young man very much.”

“As did I.” Kittaine protested.

Lwaxana frowned and began to stalk towards Ochoa’s empty quarters. She spared a glance over her shoulder at the stormtrooper who had blocked her way.

“And don’t think I didn’t catch that – for shame I’m old enough to be your mother.”

The trooper stiffened and looked back sharply.

Kittaine stifled a smile as they approached the empty quarters.

“What is he doing in there?” Lwaxana asked curiously as they paused outside the doorway. Kittaine said nothing for a moment than turned and looked at Lwaxana.

“He is doing what Lord Nemesis does.” Kittaine replied with a slight shrug.

Luke slowly walked a circuit around the room. He gently ran his hand along the furniture. He could still smell the scent of the blind Starfleet Captain in the slowly circulating air. His eyes slowly drifted along random parts of the quarters.

He could feel it coming. The Force flowed through him and it was tugging him towards the center of the room, in front of the bed, to the left of the dresser. He followed the flow until the tide rooted him to one spot.

He closed his eyes and reached back, easing through the gossamer strands of time and letting the Force fix him in place. He opened his eyes when he was ready.

The images were sharp as glass.

Ochoa walked past him solemn and at peace. He moved with deliberate purpose speaking into a recorder he held in his palm. The blind starship captain looked so vibrant. Nothing at all like the filthy matted down man sitting in a brig. The Starfleet uniform he wore was immaculately pressed and clean, hardly the rags that he wore when he first met him.

He was clean shaven, empty eyes swept across the room as he turned slowly as if he heard something.

Luke’s attention was drawn to the door. The lock was being tampered with. It was opening hesitantly and several shadows loomed beneath the door jam.

He looked back to Ochoa.

The blind captain was looking directly at him, his empty eyes pinning Luke under a steady gaze. Luke wanted to see past the empty orbs, to see into Ochoa’s mind and soul and speak to him.

I am so sorry. Luke whispered.

Ochoa’s lips moved in a silent statement and then he turned to face the newcomers who moved into the quarters with deadly intent and precision. Ochoa had whispered “This is not your fault.”

Before Luke could register the fact that Ochoa seemed to know he was there his eyes narrowed on the shadows as they approached the blind man. He could see their faces as they stepped into the light.


Luke’s face hardened.


Ochoa smiled as if he head foreseen all of this. He went willingly as the small child sized aliens took a firm hold of him and dragged him away. He did not resist at all. The doors slid shut and the room fell into darkness.

Luke closed his eyes again and the dream like state of his vision faded away like smoke in the wind. He controlled the anger that flared inside of him.

“What did you see?” Lwaxana asked with concern.

Luke turned his head slightly to look over at the Betazed woman.

“And you would be?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.

Kittaine appeared behind her.

“My lord I apologize. My aide can get ahead of herself.”

Luke immediately felt the bond between the two. It was like each one was holding the end of a livewire. He couldn’t help but smile.

“Of course, Grand Admiral, I understand.” Luke replied and motioned them to approach. They did so, Lwaxana without hesitation while Kittaine shuffled his feet like a guilty school boy. Luke thought the man had more than earned a right to find a little happiness in this forsaken place. But then he realized that as far as Kittaine knew he was still the angry young Sith Lord ready to kill anyone that annoyed him in the least or showed any sign of failure.

There were many fences to mend and an image to repair. For some reason he was finding it very difficult to approach this matter forthrightly. What was he afraid of?

Luke sighed.

The answer was so simple. Why he did not want to address it was the more troubling question.

Luke looked into the Grand Admiral’s eyes as he had looked into the other men under his command, from Tarsi to Branna and now the Grand Admiral.

You were willing to follow Lord Nemesis, are you willing to follow Luke Skywalker.

He was afraid of the answer he would get.

“The people responsible for taking Captain Ochoa were agents of Darth Vader.”

Kittaine shook his head and cursed under his breath.

“As such Grand Admiral there was nothing you could have done to stop them. They would have had access codes that you would not even be aware of. Palpatine was a very paranoid old man.” Luke mused.

Kittaine was always taken aback by such intimate and revealing details revealed about a man that he had served most of his adult life. Nemesis knew more about the man that Kittaine had fought and killed for in 6 months of service than he did in his entire lifetime.

“As such we need to institute new security measures effective immediately, and damn it for not doing it sooner. I want you to oversee this personally Grand Admiral.”

“Of course.”

Lwaxana watched the young man intently. There was power behind his words and a burning intensity but beyond all that there was a quiet softness. As a telepath she always knew that what you saw was not always all that there was. Darth Nemesis was such a man.

“I want every line of code in every system and sub system checked for any unnecessary data. All passwords and encrypts need to be changed as well. I want only you, myself and Captain Branna to have access to all the codes for the Emperor’ Will.”

“My lord the amount of code on a vessel of this size is astronomical.” Kittaine pointed out in exasperation.

“Indeed, therefore you should start as soon as possible.” Luke was thoughtful for a moment. “Assign a small core team of our own personnel to this task, people you can trust.”

Kittaine began to speak but Luke continued unabated.

“Supplement their numbers with a team of Vulcans and Binars. The Vulcans are detail oriented and are not as susceptible to fatigue as our own human crews will be. The Binars’ skill with computers will also help speed the process along. It is about time we start fully utilizing our Federation assets.”

“But can they be trusted?” Kittaine pressed.

Luke eyes Lwaxana.

“You seem to think certain members of our Federation contingent can be trusted. Why not ask for the lovely Ms. Troi’s help in rooting out any potential saboteurs.” Kittaine did his best to hide his embarrassment but his cheeks flushed nonetheless. “Make no mistake we must make this project our top priority. We don’t want to enter a situation where Grand Admiral Thrawn or Lord Vader can enter a self destruct code in the middle of battle or disable our shields or the superlaser with some cleverly hidden lines of code.”

The possibilities of what sort of acts of sabotage could be wrought made Kittaine blanch.

“And Ernesto? What sort of priority are you giving his recovery?” Lwaxana pressed. Kittaine placed a firm restraining hand on her shoulder.

“Now is not the time woman. Do you have any idea who you are speaking ---”

“Captain Ochoa will be on his own for now. He is accustomed to that. His rescue will be effected but on my schedule not theirs.” Luke answered.

“He said you were a good man. I think he may have been wrong about that.” She snapped.

Luke said nothing for a moment but he could feel the tension in Kittaine rising rapidly.

“Think on this my dear, despite all we’ve been through I have never returned his sight to him. How good could I be?” Luke was surprised by his own answer.

Lwaxana stopped short at his cold tone and stared hard at the young man.

“Has it occurred to you that a Sith lord took him? Captain Ochoa means nothing to him, he has no access to secrets of strategies yet he was targeted for abduction, not Grand Admiral Kittaine or anyone else for that matter. Captain Ochoa was chosen for a very particular reason.”

“And that would be?” Lwaxana pressed.

“They want me to go rescue him.” Luke replied simply.

She calmed down as the logic of his deduction became painfully clear.

“They’re using that poor man as bait?” She breathed in outrage.

“Welcome to the cold logic of the Sith.”

“Why do I have the impression that this is more a plot by Grand Admiral Thrawn?” Kittaine added darkly.

“What makes you say that?”

Kittaine frowned.

“I’ve heard rumors about him here and there. He prefers to act from hidden strength and misdirection and is a master of ferreting out weakness in an enemy. If I were him I would find a way of eliminating you my lord and frankly there are no assassins in the known universe that can reliably bring down a Sith lord. The only way to get to you directly and place you in a prepared position would be to use a hostage.” Kittaine noted. “That kind of tactic is a little…indirect for Lord Vader.”

Luke nodded.

“It seems I made the correct choice in elevating you to Grand Admiral. Your suspicion feels right to me.”

“Thank you milord.” Kittaine bowed his head slightly.

“Which reminds me just why aren’t you wearing your uniform?” Luke asked pointedly.

Kittaine looked down self consciously for a moment at his gray Imperial Admiral’s uniform and back up at the young Sith lord. He grimaced slightly.

“With all that’s been happening my lord, I just…of course I will have one –”

“White doesn’t suit him. He looks rather….whalish.” Lwaxana interjected

“Whalish?” Luke and Kittaine replied simultaneously. Kittaine’s tone was outraged, Luke’s bemused.

“Never you mind, I’ll have something tailored that will suit him better shortly.” She said dismissively. “I am concerned about Ernesto. The man deserves better.” Lwaxana urged.

Luke nodded.

“You’re right of course. But I saw what I saw. He went willingly as if he knew this was going to happen. Captain Ochoa seems to know when fate has a new path laid out for him and he’ll have to walk it for a little while longer.”

Lwaxana frowned but there was nothing else to say and she knew it. The young man had made up his mind.

“I’ll begin the security upgrades immediately. Lwaxana, please see to the initial staffing from the Vulcan and Binar side.” Kittaine ordered.

Lwaxana looked back at Kittaine and he nodded to her meaningfully.

“You have your orders.”

Luke watched her hesitantly leave the quarters, eyeing Kittaine curiously. The doors closed and Kittaine and Luke stood together in silence.

“My lord, may I speak?”

Luke pursed his lips as he examined the older man for a moment.

“Of course Grand Admiral.”

“Something happened to you out there.” Kittaine noted eyes on the younger man.

“Try to be more specific Kittaine.” Luke replied turning to face the man arms crossed.

“You’re not the same man you were when you left us.” Kittaine said calmly.

Luke watched him closely, eyes narrowing on the older man’s face.

“What makes you say that? The same instinct that pointed you to Thrawn?”

Kittaine pursed his lips before he spoke and looked past Luke at the far wall as if gathering strength to speak. Luke understood. If he were still Nemesis, Kittaine’s next words would most likely lead to his death.

“You have not been the same since your arrival, you were far too forgiving concerning Captain Ochoa’s disappearance.” Kittaine held up a datapad. “Expecting your reprisals I had a list drawn up of the guards on duty on this level and one above and below ready to relate them to you for your assured discipline.” Luke said nothing, eyes drifting down to the datapad for a moment. “When I related the near impossibility of the new security protocols you wish to initiate you essentially told me to do my best. Lord Nemesis would have told me to simply get it done, perhaps throw in a threat to my life or the crews working the new protocols.” Kittaine took another deep breath. He knew his life was now forfeit if he were wrong about his hunch.

“You allowed Lwaxana far too much latitude. I honestly expected her not to leave this room alive. And frankly my lord, you’ve been seen smiling several times since your arrival. Lord Nemesis would not smile so freely, would not allow an annoying woman like Lwaxana play her verbal games, would not concede that certain tasks were simply beyond us.”

Luke said nothing.

“But Luke Skywalker, hero of Yavin and member of the Rebel Alliance would lead in such a manner, behave in such a manner.”

“And if Luke Skywalker were standing before you Grand Admiral what would you say to him when he said that he wanted to lead the Imperium to a final victory.”

Kittaine stared hard at Luke. Luke could feel the swelling of conflicted emotions in him.

“I was under orders to arrest you on sight as the greatest enemy to the Empire - even more dangerous than Mon Mothma. You were some young bush pilot from the Rim laboring under the delusion that you were some mystic warrior. You destroyed the greatest war machine the empire ever constructed, killing many of my friends by the way.”


“Why the hell should I trust you now?” Kittaine snapped. Luke was taken aback by the Grand Admiral’s reaction.

“Because despite all that I am back here on this ship ready to lead this Imperium to triumph. We built this Imperium together, Kittaine, and just because I no longer kill people because they fail me and I no longer wish to rule by fear does not mean that I am not ready to do what must be done to save everything we’ve built here from the predations of a Sith Lord and his Grand Admiral.”

“And you’re the man to do that?”

“Yes. I am.” Luke replied without hesitation.

Both men remained staring at each other. Kittaine rubbed his chin and shook his head laughing bitterly before speaking.

“The way I see it, Skywalker, Thrawn is a tactical genius, a true Grand Admiral of the Fleet handpicked by Emperor Palpatine and he has Lord Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith veteran of the Clone Wars and right hand of the Emperor himself. What do I have now? A gawking farm boy with powers that could be simple tricks and nonsense as far as I know.”

Luke shook his head and smiled.

“You see there’s where you always have had a failing Kittaine. You judge books by their covers. How often have I and this galaxy had to prove you wrong about this attitude. Captain James Kirk, a relic from his Federation’s past, utilizing sheer charisma and courage has forged a fleet that has fought us to a bloody standstill and won victories where he had no right or reason to. But you have something that they do not.”

Kittaine said nothing.

“Grand Admiral Thrawn has Lord Vader, a Sith lord, you have me, Luke Skywalker.”

“Doesn’t sound like even odds to me.”

“Depends on how you look at it Admiral. A Sith lord is anchored in the dark side of the force, enslaved by his rage and anger. I’m free of those entanglements.” Luke explained calmly as he turned his back on Kittaine and looked out the view port in Ochoa’s quarters. The fleet moved lazily in view, dozens of Romulan warbirds flanked the stardestroyers in perfect formation. A Valdore coasted by closest to the view port, close enough to make out the individual feather decorations painted into the emerald armored hull. The Romulans had recently taken to painting their vessels in the manner they used to in the early days of their empire.

Luke clasped his hands behind his back and watched the Valdore intently.

“You see I have grown more powerful than I ever was Kittaine. All that anger and rage was confusing, made me lash out when I should have thought things through.”

The Valdore began to slow down considerably, the starboard nacelle began to flicker erratically. Kittaine noticed and his eyes narrowed on Luke’s back.

“Power cannot be applied through the haze of anger and frenzy. Power must be a cold calculated decision, like a scalpel or a lightsaber blade.” A second and third Valdore began to slow as well, the first one was starting to spin out of control. “Power is a gift Kittaine, a gift from the Force.” A massive D'Deridex warbird skidded to a halt, both nacelles flickering violently as it began to sink down out of its plane of travel. Kittaine’s eyes widened as the Valdores began to spin in a precise ballet around the falling warbird. It slowly sped up into a dance right outside the view port.

Kittaine’s comlink buzzed.

He absently raised it to his lips as he watched several TIE fighters zip into the dance to investigate and they too rapidly joined the swirling cascade of ships.

“Grand Admiral, we’re receiving reports of a strange phenomenon off the starboard bow. Six provincial vessels and now a flight from the 83rd Interceptor squadron have been caught in it.”

“I am aware of the situation. Keep the area clear of traffic.” Kittaine replied quietly as he watched the young man with a growing sense of wonder and awe.

Luke smiled.

The Force flowed through him so cleanly and completely, part of him wanted to flow with it, to become one with the unifying Force and disappear forever. But that was not going to happen today. It had never been like this on Dagobah or Coruscant.

Luke turned back to face Kittaine.

“So you see Grand Admiral, what I am saying is that before you had Lord Darth Nemesis on your side who seriously considered killing you and some of your senior commanders for failures beyond your control. Lord Nemesis brought you fear and rule by force. Now you have Luke Skywalker and with me I bring the Force and a powerful ally it is.” Luke said coolly as he raised his arms palms up at his shoulders and the dance stopped. The ships slowly regained control.

“I see.” Kittaine managed to say.

“So will you follow me?”

Kittaine glanced over Luke’s shoulder and back at the young man.

“You have always had my loyalty Lord Skywalker. But when you reveal yourself to the others they will be asking themselves the same questions that I asked of you. Lord Nemesis did a marvelous job of emulating his master, Palpatine, in creating a realm based on fear. Can Luke Skywalker who fought so valiantly to bring down the New Order replace that system? Can he be a leader like Nemesis? Can he keep this fleet and this Imperium together and defeat our foes?”

“Look into my eyes and you will find that answer.” Luke replied.

There was a deafening silence in the room.

“Lord Skywalker, the men need to know this as well. They’ve earned the right to know.”

“Call for an assembly, all our captains, senior staff and Provincial leaders. It is time that Luke Skywalker ascends to the throne of the Imperium.” Luke ordered.

“As you wish.” Kittaine replied with a broad smile. “Lord Skywalker, if I may, you have been sorely missed.”

“Ah, Grand Admiral but you have never met me before. You will all soon get to know me.” Luke answered with a soft smile.

“Mr. Data you’re just full of good news for me aren’t you?” Kirk sighed.

The android’s hologram image looked perplexed for a moment.

“I was unaware that my report could be quantified as good news for you, Sir. I merely relayed my assessment of Captain Jellico’s actions during his stewardship.”

“Which means you walking mannequin that Jim’s job gets harder with every thing in Jellico’s good column you keep feeding us.” McCoy grumbled.

“I was following Captain Kirk’s orders for an honest assessment of Captain Jellico’s –”

“Yes, we know that Data, now back to your report, I am most concerned about the state of fleet unity behind Jellico’s command.” Kirk interjected.

“If we are going to assert Captain Kirk’s command we will need to know how many ships we can expect to stand with Captain Jellico.” Spock added.

The conference room on the Sagan had all of its seats filled. The round table was hollow in the center making room for the state of the art holographic communications suite. The holographic image of Commander Data serenely watched the others. Data was currently on the Enterprise at Avalon. The Sagan was still light years away rapidly approaching the secret Federation Remnant base. A flotilla of Klingon warships were flanking the Sagan in a protective umbrella. The X-wings of Rogue squadron flew in close formation with the Sagan, almost hugging her hull like remora.

Captain Kirk sat quietly in his gold command shirt, happy to be out of his Orion syndicate garb; however Princess Leia still sported her green skin as there was no time to reverse the cosmetic surgery before this war council. She wore a spare Starfleet uniform. Chewbacca sat hunched between two chairs, his massive Wookiee frame all but blotting out any sight of Artoo. C-3PO was standing calmly behind the Princess.

“The honorable thing to do would be to have Captain Kirk and this Captain Jellico face each other in combat. The winner would be the one best suited to lead the fleet.” Worf said sternly.

McCoy muttered something unintelligible under his breath.

“What was that?” Worf snapped.

“Nothing Chancellor, Doctor McCoy was doing his part for Klingon-Federation relations.” Kirk smiled. “And as to your suggestion Chancellor, that’s not the way I’m doing this. The Federation I’m fighting and bleeding for will not be built on strength and might makes right.”

“Does it even really matter how many ships Jellico has?” Worf pressed.

“Of course it matters.” Sulu protested.

“What are you suggesting Chancellor?” Leia asked curiously.

“That the Klingon fleet you have escorting your vessel will balance out any Federation defections.”

“You can’t be serious.” Sulu gasped.

Kirk frowned.

“No damnit. The Federation will not rise and fall on the strength of numbers each commander has. This is not ancient Rome where I come with my mercenary armies expecting to wrest control. I would rather die first than assume command in that manner.”

“Then why was it so important to make sure that I could muster as many Klingon ships as possible for this mission if not to ensure your bid for power was successful?” Worf challenged.

“Because Chancellor, it is vitally important that the fleet see that Captain Kirk has the broadest base of support possible when he arrives. If the fleet sees that the Klingon Empire and the Rebel Alliance is behind him then Jellico looks weaker diplomatically, politically and militarily. Your fleet numbers are making a difference just not in the way you envisioned it.” Leia calmly explained.

Worf blinked and sat back as he digested what she just relayed to him and began to nod approvingly.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you were a diplomat back home.” Kirk whispered to her out of the corner of his mouth. Leia smirked and playfully slapped his knee under the table.

“We must address the facts that make Jellico a good commander. He has instituted a crash program that has currently replaced over 60% of the fleet’s torpedo systems with the new proton torpedoes the Rebellion engineers have helped us create. He has repaired 89% of damaged vessels and rotated crews so that all ships are currently crewed at maximum efficiency. The fleet’s raiding assignments have yielded more supplies and equipment in the last two weeks than they were able to raid in the first two months of the Captain’s mission.” Spock calmly ran down the list.

“I’ve been involved in this war long enough to know that this is about loyalty and symbols. Jellico is doing things by the numbers but he wasn’t there when Earth had fallen and our fleet was ready to surrender. He wasn’t there when we took those bastards on at Vulcan. The fleet will remember that. They will remember what we’ve done.” Kirk asserted.

“Those victories were a long time ago by the time frame of this war. Jellico has been very visible and making sure the fleet knows what he’s done for them. Let’s not forget that our last battle was that disaster over Romulus.” Sulu countered.

“And he knows we’re coming.” McCoy added.

“Where do we stand politically?” Spock asked Data.

“The Vulcans and Andorians are firmly behind Captain Kirk. The Tellarites have been very guarded about their support. The others are giving partial support to Jellico but many keep asking when will Captain Kirk return. Most troubling is that the Terran representative is firmly and vocally behind Jellico and has made sure to focus on the current advances under Jellico.”

Kirk watched the android intently, hand resting at his chin, forefinger casually running along his lips.

“Damnit, can you believe Earth would backstab us like that after all we’ve done?” Uhura exclaimed angrily.

“His repair schedule is nothing short of miraculous. He must be running his engineering crew ragged.” Scotty mused.

“The damage rates on his ships are almost nonexistent. Our casualties were outrageous in the opening days of the war and even on a relatively peaceful week the fleet would lose several starships if not more.” Spock added.

“It’s like they’re not fighting.” Captain Entebbe muttered.

“Wait.” Kirk snapped sitting up as if he had been kicked.


Kirk leaned forward.

“Commander Data apart from the raids how many engagements has Jellico ordered or led against the Imperium?”

“None.” Data replied.

The assembled officers exchanged glances and looked at Kirk.


“Captain Jellico is trying to institute a new policy of engagement where the state of the conflict would be ramped down to a level of pure guerilla warfare. No major fleet engagements. Raiding ships are under strict orders not to engage if there is any major Imperial presence nearby.”

“That’s how he’s keeping his casualty rates so low. He really isn’t fighting.” Entebbe noted grimly.

Kirk nodded knowingly.

“And that’s where we have him.”

“I do not understand.”

“How is fleet morale Mr. Data?” Kirk asked pointedly.

“It is neither good nor bad. There is a general sense of…resignation is how Captain Riker described it.”

“You can’t keep them down. My fleet are hard chargers.” Kirk slapped the tabletop.

Leia smiled.

“Hard chargers?” Data was thoroughly confused.

“It means Mr. Data that the fleet WANTS to fight. They want to engage the enemy and do what damage they can.”

“It is not logical to wish to place yourself in harm’s way and suffer heavier casualties under your command than under Jellico’s command where survivability has increased dramatically.” Data noted.

“I find Mr. Data that logic has little place in the fleet dynamics of this war.” Spock replied with an arched eyebrow.

“If Jellico wants to hold onto power so be it, but this confusion of command ends in twenty minutes. If there’s one thing you learn in Starfleet, it’s that a ship can only have one Captain. The fleet is going to decide this, not him or me.” Kirk stated confidently.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 85: Triumph of the Will

The assembled Imperial and Romulan officers watched Luke riveted at attention. The Imperial officer corps fanned away from Luke in order of importance and rank in the Imperium. Grand Admiral Kittaine sat closest to his right, the seat directly to his left was empty. This was Mara Jade’s place in the rank structure. She was the Dark Lady.

Newly ascended Admiral Tarsi sat with hands folded neatly in front of him, his uniform immaculately pressed. The other captains of the triumvirate knew that this was a uniform Tarsi had struggled for and hoped to wear some time in his career. Tarsi lacked the family connections and requisite wealth to be considered for the Admiralty without a sterling record to back him up.

Even with the combat experience and his service under Lord Vader and Lord Nemesis it was doubtful that Tarsi would have seen the Admiralty anywhere within the next 10 -15 years. Now he was one of the youngest Admirals in Imperial history.

He was loving every moment of it but he would not allow the others to see it. However he did make a show of inspecting his rank insignia as Captain Branna walked past to take his seat opposite Grand Admiral Kittaine.

“Perhaps you may see these in your lifetime, eh Branna?” Tarsi asked casually as the officers began settling in.

Branna managed a weak smile.

“Congratulations are in order I see. Still, one has to wonder how you earned those when your sole standing order since Vulcan has been to bring James Kirk in dead or alive.” Branna replied tightly.

“What?” Tarsi snapped.

“Well, its not like he was on Darkstar’s planet when you arrived…but wait…” Branna smiled coolly at Tarsi. “He was wasn’t he?”

“Why you little ---” Tarsi began to get out of his seat when a calming hand suddenly draped over his shoulder.

“The uniform suits you, Admiral.” Belladonna smiled serenely down at him.

Tarsi smiled sheepishly.

“Why thank you Captain Belladonna. Its good to see you. This seat is empty.” He pulled out the seat next to him just as Captain Vash started to sit, without skipping a beat he cleared his throat and stepped over to the following seat.

“You’ll need to move down.”


“You ARE going to move down.” Vash repeated icily. “The triumvirate sits together.”

“But she’s not—”

“Perhaps you didn’t hear the man.” Captain Nozcar of the Bellicose leaned over and whispered darkly. The sullen young captain gave up his seta without further argument and soon a domino effect began along the table as captains displaced commanders and so on to make room.

Vash and Tarsi nodded to Nozcar. The dark skinned human smiled. He was the junior member of the triumvirate taking the place of Captain Jan Herr who was slain on Vulcan along with all hands on the Executioner. The rest of the triumvirate had held him at arm’s length because they did not really know him and his last tour of duty had been on the Coruscant defensive fleet. Many whispered he was a plant of the Emperor’s but his service so far to Nemesis had been impeccable and now he was reaching out to his fellow triumvirate captains.

They were beginning to respond.

Belladonna smiled as she noted the ripple effect along the entire length of the table caused by Tarsi’s simple offer. She slid into the offered seat.

“You’re as subtle as a turbolaser my dear Admiral but you certainly know how to make a woman feel welcome.”

“Not just any woman sweet Illith.” Tarsi winked.

She self consciously brushed her hair as she sat back so that the long ebony hair fell over the left side of her face, covering the scarring that resulted from the Battle of Sector 001. She had nearly lost an eye in a jet of plasma and molten metal caused by the near destruction of the bridge by a suicide run of the starship Enterprise in the Federation fleet’s desperate escape.

Tarsi calmly reached over and brushed her back revealing her entire face including her eye. She would have lost it if not for the tender ministrations of Doctor Julian Bashir and the Holographic EMH. Newly cloned the eye was still tender and the colors had not fully come into their own, and the eye socket around it was scarred and paler than the rest of her flesh.

“You’re more beautiful than any other woman in this room. Don’t ever forget that.” Tarsi stated firmly.

Belladonna glanced curiously up and down that table.

“I do believe I am one of the only women in this room.” She replied playfully.

“You bitch.” Tarsi chuckled.

She gently squeezed his hand on the table.

Kittaine watched his officers and then slowly turned his attention to the Romulans who were all quietly seated, not a word was spoken between them and they were all attentive and rigid. He could respect that about their culture. But he would never give up the playful banter of his fleet commanders for this rigid discipline. He likened it as always to his extended family. Childless these were now his children and he adored each of them for their various strengths and skills. Tarsi was his oldest son, dashing, reckless but always loyal and strong. Branna was the unfortunate middle child, trying desperately to please everyone but always a clam voice of reason when things got out of hand. Many wondered why Kittaine picked him for Captain of the Emperor’s Will instead of someone like Tarsi and the answer was simple. Branna was the only one that would quietly tell Kittaine that a certain road he was taking may not be so prudent.

Belladonna was the princess of his family, despite her aggressive nature and iron will the others immediately looked to protect her and put her on a pedestal. She hated the attitude but even Kittaine sometimes found himself struggling to not to look at her as his only daughter. She was a strong right hand for him when the triumvirate was guarding his left.

The triumvirate were his foundation and he relied on them for any mission that absolutely required success and he knew that if it ever came down to it each of them would willingly lay his life and command down to protect the fleet.

He could not ask for a better family if he had raised them himself.

Many of the younger commanders if they knew his thoughts would remind him that in many ways he had raised them.

The Romulans however were not as playful or approachable. At first he had mistaken it for anger and resentment at their conquest but as time went on he realized it was simply their nature. They were more like their Vulcan cousins than they would like to be reminded.

The third wing of the triangular shaped table was drawing the most attention as that delegation began taking their seats. Starfleet officers and Federation politicians were filing in and quietly sitting at their places.

Several were instantly familiar to the Romulans such as Admiral Ross. Ross looked tired as he watched the assembly for a moment.

“Some of these men have wanted to kill me a few years ago.” He mused.

“The Federation is counting on you, Admiral.” Togray whispered to him. The Tellarite had been the prime negotiator of the Federation surrender months ago. Now he was the de facto head of the Federation Provisional Government.

Ross nodded absently.

“Of course sir. I will not disappoint.” He replied quietly.

“Are well here?” Kittaine asked.

The room instantly fell silent.

“Good.” Kittaine nodded to Luke. “We are ready my lord.”

Luke slowly rose from his seat. He looked over the assembly with a critical eye. The massive table was triangular in shape, each side of equal length. On one side sat the Imperium officers and men of Luke’s fleet, on the next side sat the Romulan and lesser provincial officers and politicians and finally the last side was reserved for the Federation and Starfleet. Luke noted the quiet defiance on some of the Starfleet Officer’s faces while others simply looked weary.

“I have called this assembly to announce a new policy within the Imperium that will take effect immediately.” Luke began sternly. “Starting from this moment on we will no longer use the terms Provincial, Provisional or Occupied to refer to anyone sitting at this table. The Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets will now be considered equal members of the Imperium.”

There was a surprised murmur from the Imperium side of the table while the Romulans all nodded, some lost their steely composure and the shock was clearly evident on their faces. The Federation side simply sat in stunned silence.

“We can no longer afford to divide ourselves along such simple lines any longer. Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Imperial Forces are united as never before in their determination to destroy us. As some of you may already know in my recovery from Orion Space Admiral Tarsi was forced to confront and engage the stardestroyer Devastator. There can be no doubt that at this point we are now officially at war with Empire.”

More murmurs now from the audience. Luke let it pass. If he bulled his way past their concerns and worries then it would only build up and make his final revelation all the more difficult.

“As such we must also be united in our opposition to this new enemy. Like a phantom menace they have haunted our every moment since arriving in this galaxy and we cannot turn away now that the dagger is pointed at our heart. In recognition of this new change in the balance of power in this quadrant I have decided to integrate all the various factions of our proud Imperium into one. Together we can overcome any obstacle and defeat any foe.”

“Does this include James Kirk?”

The question hung in the air and all eyes immediately focused on the other end of the table. Tarsi grimaced and motioned for a stormtrooper to head down to the Federation end of the triangle.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Togray hissed one hand clutching Admiral Ross’s shoulder. Ross nodded.

“I’m doing what you told me to do.”

“I didn’t tell you to bring down the wrath of Lord Nemesis on the Federation. Do you realize how hard I’ve worked to keep this government stable and working, what it took to make sure we didn’t become slaves to the Romulans or the Imperium. I demanded respect.”

“And I’m demanding to know just how equal this partnership really is.” Ross turned his head and spoke with his eyes locked onto the Tellarite’s. “Or do you seriously expect the new Starfleet to fire on Kirk and his Remnant Forces?”

Togray blanched.

“They’ll have your head and mine I might add on a spit the moment you issue that order to our ships.”

“Your question is a valid one, Admiral Ross.” Luke replied. “You have anticipated my next announcement. Due to actions taken during my recovery from Orion Space and a recognition of a unity of interest in our upcoming war with the forces of Grand Admiral Thrawn as of this moment we have a cease fire in effect with the Federation Remnant.”

Instead of an increase in mutters or cries of outrage there was a thunderous silence. Several sharp intakes of breath but stony silence followed for several heartbeats.

“What?” Tarsi asked quietly breaking the stunned quiet.

Kittaine looked over at Tarsi.

“Did you have problems hearing that Admiral?” he asked.

Luke placed a restraining hand on Kittaine’s shoulder but his eyes were on the newly minted Admiral.

“If you have something to say to me spit it our, Tarsi.”

Tarsi began to open his mouth.

“But have a care, Admiral. I am may be uniting the disparate factions within our Imperium and giving them an equal voice but never forget whose driving will is the final word in this assembly.”

Tarsi paused cautiously gauging the reactions of the others around him.

“A ceasefire Lord Nemesis? You vowed to destroy those federation scum and drive them into the stars, Kirk especially. I lost many friends – we’ve lost many friends in our war with Kirk and his remnant. They tried to devour Romulus and they killed the crew of the Executioner with all hands.”

“Wasn’t your mandate to find and kill him?” Luke asked pointedly.

“and I tell you now that I will take my ship and hunt him down and bring him back here broken and in chains. Give me the word and I shall leave now but do not disgrace us with a ceasefire!”

“Are you demanding?” Luke dropped his voice and octave and the air suddenly became electric.

Tarsi stiffened as he expected his throat to constrict slowly and effortlessly. Tarsi would not claw at his throat like so many before him had done. He would not die like a child clutching for any purchase before falling into the abyss below.

Instead he felt nothing, merely Luke’s intense gaze and the intent interest of his fellow officers.

“I am asking you as our emperor to not forget the men we’ve lost.” Tarsi continued.

“They are always on my mind. Tell me Tarsi, since you have become quite the romantic and humanitarian is there any sense in continuing a war of two fronts especially against an enemy like the Federation that can hurt us and fade away into the shadows. Tell me, from the standpoint of your strategic and tactical expertise, how do I save more lives? Fighting Grand Admiral Thrawn while worrying about guerilla attacks within my supply lines and in the rear areas or securing my flank as I prosecute the war on a common foe, perhaps even using the federation as an added tool in that war?” Luke leaned forward hands splayed open on the table.

Tarsi glanced down at the table for a moment gathering his thoughts.

“Anyone but Kirk, my lord. I cannot stomach the thought of letting that bastard escape our retribution.” Tarsi finished tightly.

“Enough. I have made my decision and we will abide by it. We have a war to fight. Thrawn is our enemy. He has the power to put an end to all that we built here. Kirk only has the ability to be a constant thorn in our side, nothing more. I will face and defeat the gravest threat to the Imperium, Kirk is an extravagant distraction at this point and we cannot afford to be distracted is that clear?”

“Yes my lord.” Tarsi replied quietly.

Luke took a deep breath and cleared his mind of doubts. He could feel them around him. Their thoughts and emotions pulsing around him like heartbeats. The heartbeats were a symphony of sound and light and he stood at the center like a composer.

How easy it would be to simply reach out and ‘adjust’ them to his liking. Prune away the doubts and fears, roll back the suspicion, increase the anger, round out the self interest. Mold them into his perfect followers.

You did this didn’t you Palpatine you old bastard? You molded and sculpted your perfect little Empire until everyone was a puppet dancing on your strings. All those people driven by your singular will. How intoxicating it must have been. The exhilaration. The exultation of success. A triumph of the will itself.

Luke could be this and so much more. With his new found powers he could be more than Palpatine, more than any of the Sith pretenders, both light and dark served him now and the dark was opening that very simple possibility. It whispered to him like a scorned lover trying to get him to share her bed again of promises of power beyond imagination.

But Luke Skywalker was no longer a thrall to the shadow. Darth Nemesis had served his purpose and now Luke Skywalker had come into his own. He did not serve the Dark. In his serenity he saw the offer for what it was. Madness. He viewed the will of his followers and he knew that there was only one way to do what needed to done. To fulfill his destiny and cement the Imperium he created he needed to be honest and trust in the loyalty of his followers. Otherwise he was merely Palpatine with a different agenda.

“And now that we are here together it is the hour to finally reveal the last change that we must undertake. In conjunction with our declaration of sovereignty from the Galactic Empire and the establishment of the First Imperium I declare myself Imperator.”

There was thunderous applause from the Imperial side of the table, several cheers and accompanying this cacophony of sound was a general wave of relief.

It had finally been done. There was no longer a coy game of sly rewording or phrases. They were no longer using the term Imperial and Imperium interchangeably. But most vital of all, Lord Nemesis had finally declared what everyone else knew. He had ascended to his throne and there was nothing else to be said, no more secretive fears of Sith plotting and double crosses.

They had their own Emperor now and all was well in their world.

Kittaine nodded and smiled at his officers, several of whom were enthusiastically pumping their fists in the air or banging on the table in enthusiastic support and celebration. He understood what they wanted and what this announcement meant to all of them.

They had come into their own now. They were finally out from beneath the long shadows cast all the way from Coruscant.

But there was one more announcement to be made and one last risk to take. Luke glanced over at Kittaine who nodded. No matter what happened, he would have the Grand Admiral’s support. But Kittaine did not think it would be necessary. He knew his people. They were his family. They would not betray him or Luke Skywalker. Kittaine paused. Luke Skywalker. It seemed almost foreign in his thought to refer to young Force User as anything but Lord Darth Nemesis.

But if this galaxy had proven anything it was that there was no certainty in anything.

Luke cleared his throat.

“Imperator Luke Skywalker.”

The room’s applause died down quickly and several Imperial officers exchanged puzzled glances while the Romulans seemed as impassive as ever but Kittaine could see the twitches around the mouths and eyes. The Federation on the other hand was quietly smiling. They had heard of the Sith Lord’s old name. Kirk and his remnant’s propaganda machine made certain that everyone knew that Darth Nemesis was once like them, a freedom lover. But the dark evil nature of the Empire had twisted him into the killer he was during the war. A cautionary tale that was meant to counter the arguments from those that wished the Federation to lay down arms and accept the inevitable. After all was Nemesis and his Imperium offering to merely change the flag that fluttered overhead and not their way of life. What could be so wrong with that?

Kirk and his Remnant pointed to Darth Nemesis as all that could be wrong with that mindset. If a rebel and hero against oppression could be turned into this mass murderer then what would it do to all of them, to the Federation and her ideals.

And now here he stood proclaiming to all the galaxy that Luke Skywalker had returned.

Luke looked out all along the large triangular table and said nothing letting his revelation sink in. He could feel the clash of emotions in particular among his most loyal men and women. There were even sparks of outrage, some of fear but all were bundled with confusion and apprehension. The question hung in all their thoughts.

What did this all mean?

“Just as we have rejected the Political machinations and entanglements of the Empire, just as we have let go of all our last loyalties to an entity that no longer heard us, just as we have built a new beginning in this galaxy upon the ashes of our old one I now proclaim that I reject the teachings of the Sith. The lies and oppression of the Sith will not taint this new Imperium as it has done to the old Empire. We are new here, we each have a new beginning a clean slate so to speak and I too step willingly into this new Age as Luke Skywalker.”

“Jedi Knight?” Someone asked from the Imperial side with a pointed edge in the voice.

Luke shook his head.

“As your Imperator and defender of the Realm. Those who wish to do harm to the least of you is doing harm to me, those that seek to take your lives also seek to take mine, those that will rob us of our worlds and space that we bled for will are also seeking to steal from me. We stand together and we will fall or rise together. That is my pledge to you on this day. I ask you for your loyalty and fealty in return. I ask for you to stand by my side and together we will crush Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Emperor’s desire for vengeance upon those he abandoned here.”

Tarsi stood up from his seat. The rest of the triumvirate watched him intently. How Tarsi went they would go, Kittaine knew that.

“You ask this of us?”

“Yes I do.” Luke replied without hesitation.

“I could leave in the Adjudicator, take the triumvirate with me and carve out a nice Empire out in the Delta quadrant. Leave you to your fate here. You would not stop me?”


Tarsi looked furtively down at the others seated around him.

“Why not? Is there no strength in Luke Skywalker?” The question was the one Luke had known was coming. Darth Nemesis had been so good at ruling through fear that these poor souls mistook it for strength.

“I don’t need you. There is more than enough strength in that statement Admiral.” Luke replied coolly. Many on the Imperial side of the table muttered softly, some shifting uncomfortably. “If you leave it makes no difference to me, I do not need to make you see my side of things Tarsi. I always imagined you would be smart enough to see that divided we would fall to Thrawn and his minions. But if you wish to leave despite this fact why should I pollute my high command with lunacy such as yours.”

Tarsi’s lips twitched.

“However I am confident in my own strength and position that I do not need to choke the life out of any of you to gain your trust and respect. Decide you must on how best you serve yourself and your friends. You can remain here with us and stand against Thrawn or in your stubborn pride and arrogance you can leave and be cut down after the rest of us make our stand together because make no mistake about this. If you leave this family now, if you walk away from all we have built once I defeat Thrawn I will make sure that whatever petty fiefdoms you’ve managed to scratch together fall in a single day. Are we clear?” Luke pressed frostily, hands resting on the podium but his eyes were like ice.

Tarsi said nothing and the entire assembly watched him.

Kittaine could feel Laxwanna seated beside him tensing. She might be scanning his intent but Luke’s presence seemed to cow her in regard to indiscriminate use of her powers of telepathy.

He placed a firm hand on hers and gave it a gentle reassuring squeeze without looking at her. The tension in her melted slightly and she returned the squeeze adding an inviting sweep of her fingers along his palm. It was Kittaine’s turn to hide his discomfort as his cheeks reddened slightly.

The tense seconds were broken from an unlikely source. Captain Belladonna rose from her seta with polite grace and dignity and strode past the assembled officers approaching Luke. The stormtroopers at the head of the table crossed their weapons in front of her but Luke made a barely perceptible nod of his head and they parted without hesitation. The two Jem’Hedar flanking Luke where he stood tensed slightly but did nothing else. They were like statues.

Kittaine admired their discipline.

Captain Belladonna bowed her head as she approached Luke and knelt down before him, she took his hand and kissed it. Luke said nothing as he watched her. She was a hard woman but dangerously beautiful even with her injuries.

“The Relentless and her crew pledge themselves to you Imperator Skywalker. Now as always we will stand between you and whatever harm is meant to fall upon you.” Belladonna rose and quickly stepped in behind Luke and watched Tarsi carefully.

He stared at her for a moment as if searching for an answer to why she had left his side but he knew why.

There really was no other choice.

Whether the young man called himself Darth Nemesis or Luke Skywalker he was their only hope to survive the coming storm.

“Will you be strong enough to win?” Tarsi asked tightly.

Luke locked eyes with the young Admiral.

“There is only one way for you to find out Admiral Tarsi. The same chance you took when you followed me into the unknown I now offer you to defend what we built here. You and the triumvirate can be the Guardians of our future and prosperity.” Luke paused for a beat. “Or you can abandon all that you fought for because you don’t like the name Skywalker, because you mistook rule by fear and terror as strength. I offer you strength of confidence that whatever comes we will stand together. And I remind you of what you reminded me.” Luke leaned forward slightly. “You asked me not to forget the men we lost. I am wondering if you will do the same.”

Tarsi stood silent for a moment and looked down at his fellow captains. Vash whispered only loud enough for Tarsi and Nozcar to hear.

“We’re with you Tarsi no matter what you decide but bear in mind what he just said.”

“And our little sister stands with him.” Nozcar added quietly.

Tarsi looked back up at Luke.

Tarsi was renown for making snap decisions and sticking to them. He was like a Rancor on the rampage when he finally decided on a course of action. The last time he made a decision it led to this very war that was upon them.

He stepped away from the table and approached Luke. The stormtroopers let him pass as Luke once again nodded to them. The Jem’Hedar were not as unmoved this time. Both of them inched in closer to Luke and eyes Tarsi with unconcealed suspicion.

Tarsi bowed his head to Luke and went down on one knee.

“The Adjudicator and the triumvirate stand with you Lord Skywalker. We are with you until the end.” Tarsi said loudly for all to hear.

“Then together we will stand, rise Admiral Tarsi.” Luke replied.

Kittaine smiled like a proud father as he watched his officer corps begin to relax, many nodding to each other and speaking in hushed whispers.

Kittaine rose from his seat and adjusted his new white uniform. Laxwanna covertly plucked some lint off the shoulders as she rose with him. Kittaine spared her a mock annoyed glare before clearing his throat to speak.

“In acknowledgement of our new status and celebration of the ascension of the First Imperator we have renamed the Emperor’s Will to the Imperator’s Will. All your commands should be receiving the new IFF data reflecting this change.”

Many of the Imperial officers cheered or applauded. The Romulans politely applauded.

Luke smiled and clapped Kittaine on the shoulder. He drew the Grand Admiral in close to him in an embrace and Luke whispered to him.

“Everything changed today Kittaine, and I will never forget that you were the first to stand by me.”

Kittaine smiled at the younger man.

“I will never forget that you were the first to stand by us my lord. You never stopped believing in us or what we could accomplish here.” Kittaine drew back from the embrace and smile at Luke Skywalker, finally comfortable with the idea of who he was now and the name.

“For what it is worth Lord Skywalker, you’ve made a believer out of me.”

Luke nodded warmly. He then turned to the rest of the table and watched the Romulans and Federation for a moment.

“And what say you citizens of Romulus and Remus?”

“We have always been loyal to the Lord of the Imperium and whether he chooses to call himself Nemesis or Luke Skywalker it matters not to us. We stand ready to be commanded.”

Luke’s smile broadened and waved Admiral T’Vor over to him. The Romulan hesitantly rose from his place and walked over to the new Imperator.

“Admiral T’Vor, you have proven your loyalty beyond any doubts. Your stewardship of Operation Phoenix has flooded the Imperium with new Stormtrooper divisions and your defense of the homeworld has been stellar. It is time you be awarded.” Luke nodded to Kittaine who ceremoniously handed the Romulan a green silk sash with the symbol of the Imperium, a variation of the Imperial standard with rays of light emanating from all points in bold red and blue.

“You are now Grand Admiral of all Romulan forces within the Imperium. Your word on Romulus is law and your command will stretch out to any corner of space where your brave soldiers and ships stand with ours.”

T’Vor numbly placed the sash around his torso and glanced back at the young man.

“I do not know what to say.”

“There is nothing to say, Grand Admiral. You’ve done commendable and tireless work for the Imperium and such loyalty is rewarded. I want you on my right when the battle comes.”

T’Vor snapped a sharp salute. Luke returned it.

His attention now fell on the Federation side of the table.

“And what does the Federation Protectorate say?”

Admiral Ross looked from Luke to the rest of the delegation. His expression was neutral.

“Now is our chance.” Togray hissed into Ross’ ear as he gripped the human’s bicep. “We can try to ask for more concessions for cooperation.”

“Or we can break away, correct?” Ross suggested quietly, face still neutral and voice calm.

Togray’s eyes lit up with the possibilities. He could see the masses cheering him for bringing freedom to the Federation where Kirk could not.

“Yesss…” Togray muttered with barely concealed glee.

“If we were bold we could be free now.” Ross murmured seductively.

“Free without blood being shed. It is the Federation ideal, no Admiral?” Togray replied with a sly grin.

Ross frowned.

“Our time for freedom and peace is passed, Togray. It’s up to Kirk now if we are truly going to be free. For now, we stand by Skywalker.”

“What?!” Togray bristled in outrage.

Ross nodded his head towards the watching assembly and the calm Luke Skywalker.

“You’ve just watched a triumph of his will against those that could have opposed him. We’re the least of the powers assembled here. The heart and soul of our finest officers and ships are fighting with Kirk. Point in fact we are the remnant, we are the shadow of what is left and what Kirk is fighting for. I’m not about to lead us down a path that will leave us further isolated and alone. We stand with him until Kirk can make us free.”

“And if he does not?!” Togray hissed dangerously.

Ross smiled softly feeling a weight lifting off his shoulders.

“Either way we’re still what we are and my hope is that if we do not win this war by force of arms I still have faith that Federation ideals will touch that young man’s heart and change him for the better. The Federation is more than just a collection of ships, troops and planets, Togray. It is an ideal and the ideal has not been extinguished. Our ships and worlds may be conquered but what makes us better people cannot be conquered. We will win this eventually one way or the other. I choose to accept the inevitable here and hope for the best.”

“This is a coup.” Togray spat.

“No First Minister. This is a new beginning.” Ross replied and rose from his seat.

“The Federation stands with Luke Skywalker.” He announced. The Tellarite slumped in his seat and slapped a cup away in disgust.

Luke nodded and waved Admiral Ross to join him. Ross could see the sash in Kittaine’s hands as he approached and he knew what waited for him. As the sash was placed around his torso he thought of Kirk and all that he suffered and valiantly struggled against and hoped the man would find it in his heart to forgive him.

Ross could not find it in his heart to forgive himself despite his brave words to the Tellarite First Minister.

Luke held up his hands and the room instantly fell silent.

“And now I give you the first order as new Imperator.” Luke turned to regard Kittaine. “Grand Admiral, prepare the fleet for battle. Set your course for the Andor system.”

“Of course my lord.” Kittaine bowed his head.

“Grand Admiral T’Vor, rally the ships of the Romulan fleet, I will need you on my right at Andor.”

“With pleasure.”

“Grand Admiral Ross, every ship of the Federation must be mobilized, I want you on my left at Andor.”

“Right away.”

Luke looked at his assembled officers and men.

“We fight at Andor for the future of this Imperium and this galaxy. May the Force be with us.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 86: Chains of Command

Luke stood silently at the foot of the medical bed. He was watching the young woman with a deep penetrating gaze as the duo of Jem’Hedar stood silently like hunting dogs at his sides.

“Leave us.” He ordered.

The Jem’Hedar wordlessly stepped out of the room but stood stoically immediately outside the door. The stormtroopers outside and the Jem’Hedar exchanged perfunctory glances but said nothing.

“Nice watch dogs you have there for yourself.” Mara finally broke the silence. She looked into his eyes, returning his intense gaze. “So…I hear you’re and Imperator or some personage of importance these days.” She smirked.

“Word has it I am in need of my Dark Lady.” Luke commented quietly.

Mara frowned. She shifted uncomfortably in her bed. She was a woman of action and detested these moments of weakness.

“Did you have to do it? You were fine where you stood. No one blamed you for testing the limits. You’re a Sith lord after all and like Vader you’re given an extreme amount of leeway when it came to challenging the Emperor. But this.” She paused as if trying to get a bad taste out of her mouth. “You’ve declared war on the Empire Nemesis. What choices have you left me!” She spat and slapped the tray hanging over her bed with glasses of water and fruits away in furious impotence.

“Are you going to kill me then?” Luke asked as he took a step over from the foot of the bed to her bedside. His eyes drifted down to her belly. Within he could feel it, the life growing inside and it was strong in the Force. It shone from within like a beacon.

He wondered if his father ever had a chance to watch him grow or did he fall before he knew? Vader never discussed those matters. He never wanted to talk about the past, before he was Vader. But a name drifted on his thoughts for the briefest moment when Luke pressed him one day. Padme.

If his child had been a girl for some reason he would have named her Padme.

“You’re a bigger fool than I thought.” Mara sneered.

“Why? I won’t stop you.”

Mara eyed him dangerously. He knew that she was seriously considering it. This moment was dangerous for him. His vision was particularly clouded here. Too many decisions to be made, too many forks in the road and the Force was no longer as clear as it once was. It was as if a great mudslide had clouded the waters of the future. So little could be seen now – he had never even had a glimpse of his son until now.

“You would wouldn’t you? You would let me kill you.”

“If it means so much to you. But you and I both know you won’t.”

“Don’t test me. I don’t like it when people test me. I push back.” She whispered darkly.

“So. This dance we’re having, when precisely will it end?”

Mara said nothing.

“You are angry at me for finally declaring what was an open secret. You knew my intentions long ago sweet Mara. You chose to stand by my side nonetheless and you tried to rescue me from certain death. If you were still an Emperor’s Hand you would have left me back there on Darkstar’s world or at the very least you would have struck me down now but you have not.”

Mara was suddenly up on her knees with one hand whipped around Luke’s waist holding his saber and the other placing a knife that had materialized out of some fold in her clothes planted firmly against his throat.

The Jem’Hedar instantly snapped to attention and stormed into the room, the stormtroopers closely behind, weapons drawn.

Luke held up a hand at his guards.

“Everything is under control.”

“Is it?” She asked sharply increasing the pressure of the knife on his throat.

“Cut it.” Luke instructed.

Mara looked from Luke’s face to the guards and back at Luke.

“Cut it or sit down and let us discuss the future of our son and heir.”

She reacted as if Luke had struck her.

“You may leave us.” Luke turned his attention to the guards and placed some emphasis on the words with the Force. A gentle tug on their relatively simple minds and the guards walked out almost robotically, the Jem’Hedar looking confused that they had done so without hesitation or complaint.

“I don’t want him.” She said fervently.

It was Luke’s turn to feel as if he had been given a terrible body blow.

She slumped back down into the bed and let the knife clatter uselessly to the floor. Luke watched her for a moment, feeling her despair and confusion.

“Why?” he asked simply.

Mara stared at him in half bemusement and half confusion.

“Can you imagine what it will be like, Nemesis.”

“Luke.” He interrupted gently.

She sighed deeply. It was all coming apart before her very eyes.

“I fell in love with Darth Nemesis not some hick farm boy.” She replied hotly.

“Ah…so you are in love.”

Mara sat up in the bed and jabbed a finger into his chest.

“Do you want to hear it? Is that it?! Yes I am in love with Lord Nemesis, I loved him when the Emperor showed me his holodisplay and ordered me to watch over you and kill you if necessary should your allegiances falter. I loved him when he destroyed all opposition to our rightful rule of this wretched galaxy and I loved him when he challenged the might of the Empire without fear and hesitation.”

Luke took her hand, wrapping it in his and bringing it up to his lips. He kissed it gently, smelling her scent and feeling the hard calluses and still soft spots along her palms and fingers. SO like her, hard yet soft at the same time.

He looked down at her meaningfully.

“Yet you made love to Luke Skywalker and now you carry his child.”

She drew her hand away as if stung.

“Luke Skywalker is weak. He cannot lead. Unlike Nemesis he needs to be loved, he needs to feel that people WANT him to lead. Just as you came here asking me to tell you that I love you Nemesis would have accepted it as a given.”

“Nemesis did not love you.” Luke finally stated with conviction.

Mara’s eyes widened slightly and he could see the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

“He did not love you. He saw you as an instrument, a tool, a way to gain leverage and by clouding your emotions he would remove your ability to threaten him for how could someone kill the man they loved.”

“That’s not true.” She whispered.

Luke nodded gravely.

“I am so sorry Mara. The love that you felt in return for yours was mine. The Luke Skywalker that crept out in moments of weakness or distraction for Nemesis. It was that one moment of weakness that allowed me to come to the surface and truly love you. If you don’t believe me then do what must be done.”

“What?” She asked uncertainly.

“I have no doubts that a trained Hand like yourself must know some techniques to abort that child.”

Mara eyes narrowed on Luke.

“What are you saying? That I should kill him?”

Luke pursed his lips. “Listen more closely. If you do no accept that I love you and that it was always Luke Skywalker that loved you then destroy the end result of that love. But if you are willing to accept that love then take my hand and let us be joined forever as husband and wife and raise our son to be ruler of all that we have built here.” Luke gently extended his hand out to her.

Mara watched him closely for a long silent moment.

“What kind of parents would we be, Luke?” she asked softly. “What kind of son could I raise? I’ve spent my entire life killing and destroying. I don’t have a maternal instinct in my body and yes damnit I’ve been taught to abort the unwanted products of any couplings I’ve had. All the better to seduce and destroy good men.” She spoke like a ghost revisiting her past, a haunted expression in her eyes as she looked away. One hand absently fell to her stomach as she spoke. “It should be second nature to me by now and I almost did when I felt it inside of me.” She looked up at him now, pain etched on her face. “But it was a part of you and I did not think I would ever have that again.” She said, voice cracking. Luke’s eyes moistened but he said nothing. “And now you are offering me a chance to be a queen, raise a son, love a man. And frankly Luke…I don’t deserve it.”

“I love whom I love. You have been my queen the moment you stepped on this vessel and stood by my side as my little deadly shadow.” Luke replied and ran his free hand along her cheek, now wet with her tears. “As to what sort of parents we will be…my father was Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith and I think we can do better than that. Don’t you?” he smiled warmly.

Mara could not help it. She laughed. A short burst at first but then she laughed harder and even snorted which caused her eyes to widen in embarrassment and she laughed even harder in reaction to that, getting up on the edge of the bed and falling into Luke’s chest laughing harder still. And as she laughed one hand very quietly, hesitantly at first, but gently slipped into his offered hand.

Luke closed his hand on hers and held her to his chest as she continued to laugh and he began to laugh as well, running one hand through her hair and trying not to think of the battle to come that might render this scene moot.

“We are secure from warp speed Captain. Approaching Avalon at one half impulse power. Awaiting your orders.” Sulu reported calmly as his fingers danced along the helm control and brought the science vessel in on a leisurely approach towards the Federation Remnant’s secret headquarters.

“Continue on this course Mr. Sulu.”

“Tactical?” Entebbe asked.

Kirk shook his head slowly as he saw the first wing of starships swiftly approaching.

“No, we’re doing this the hard way. If Captain Jellico wants to hold onto his command he’s going to have to fight for it but he’s going to start that fight.” Kirk glanced up at Entebbe and smiled softly. “I’ll finish it.”

Entebbe nodded but was not thrilled with the option of hi science vessel flying right into the teeth of Jellico’s defenses without at least her shields raised. They were playing for the most serious stakes of all right now. The future of the Federation.

“I’m scanning twenty seven starships on approach and thirty more holding back in reserve. The rest of the fleet is in standby mode.” Spock reported as he analyzed the data scrolling on his science monitors. He found these control interfaces far more ergonomic and useful than the hooded sensor system on the original Enterprise.

“Fifty Seven starships. Is that how many he can count on?” Kirk wondered aloud.

“According to Captain Riker he has almost complete control of the attack wing he originally commanded and was working hard at gaining the loyalty of other like minded commanders.” Leia noted standing by the Captain’s chair.

“Bloody mutinous sinners each and every one of them.” Scotty muttered darkly.

“They were brave commanders under my watch.” Kirk replied chidingly. Scotty shrugged.

“Sir, we’re not picking up any hailing frequencies.” Uhura reported. “Rather cold reception when your commander in chief returns from almost certain death.” She added.

Kirk nodded understanding the intent.

“He wants me to make the first move. It acknowledges his position. I have to come to him if anything will happen.”

“We can raise the rest of the fleet and just call them out now. Draw a line and get them to cross it on our side or remain on his.” McCoy suggested sternly.

Kirk looked to his new friend and then over at Leia.

“If I understand Jim’s course of action here we can’t do that.” Leia replied.

“Why not? In the end that’s what we want to do. Essentially say more people want to follow Jim so you better back down.”

“We want to put a finer point on it Bones.”

“If we begin these negotiations demanding allegiances it leaves Jellico no room to maneuver and may force him to rely on brute force to hold on to power. Unless you want to start a shooting war out her between our own forces we need to proceed with diligent caution.”

“Besides, I’m not too thrilled with those Klingon ships out there. The minute they smell glorious combat they’ll start scrapping too and we’re in deeper.” Tom Paris noted from his place at the Navigation station.

“Ah, the Klingons.” Kirk sighed. “Well, let’s see where things go from here.” Kirk saw the lead ships of the incoming wing slow down and stop right in his path. The lead ship was a Nebula class vessel. It was flanked by a pair of Exclesiors.

“Spock, do we have registers and Captains yet?”

“The lead vessel of the interception group is the Colossus.”

“Captain Damien Edwards?” Kirk asked checking his own knowledge.


“Edwards is a hard ass. He and Jellico graduated together and have been drinking buddies before that.” Paris muttered. Kirk’s eyes narrowed curiously at the young man. Tom noticed the attention and shrugged. “Friends of my father. You get to know some of the brass whether you like it or not when you’re an Admiral’s son.”

Kirk always meant to ask Tom about his father. Unfortunately none of the Admiralty save for Ross and a handful of others escaped Earth and all surrendered with the Federation Council days later. Kirk did not recall Admiral Paris among those men. Considering what happened to Tom’s wife and child Kirk hoped that when this was all over the young man had someone waiting for him back home.

“So he sends his most trusted Lieutenant out to face me. What about his flagship?” Kirk asked.

Spock was already checking anticipating the Captain’s request.

“The Cairo is still docked at the main station. She is however powering up and preparing to clear moorings.”

“He’s playing casual, not rushing out to meet me.”

“The fact that he’s on his starship and not in his office tells me he’s expecting trouble.” Leia cautioned. Kirk nodded in agreement.

“The question of the hour is will he fight for this if push comes to shove.”

“Captain Jellico’s service record indicates that in the end, even when he strongly disagrees with Starfleet he has always followed his orders.” Spock offered.

“The rub, Mr. Spock is a very simple one. I’m not Starfleet. Hell, I’m not even supposed to be in this time line. What reason does he have to follow me?”

“Well, Jim, you’re going to have to make a decision.” Leia gently urged as the enormous Nebula class vessel loomed over the Sagan.

Entebbe said nothing. It was his ship and he knew damn well that even with the combat upgrades there was no chance in hell they would last a minute in pitched battle with one of these war nebulas. The sensor pods were replaced with a dozen phaser strips and several torpedo launchers giving these vessels a punch one did not expect. After all the big boys were the Galaxies and the Sovereigns. The Nebula class was a workhorse and had proven themselves throughout the war. Their survivability rate was near astronomical in comparison to the other ship classes.

All that said, Entebbe still felt confident they were going to win this.

“Hailing Frequencies?” Kirk asked after a moment of silence in the facedown between the two vessels.

“None.” Uhura reported annoyance creeping into her tone.

Kirk nodded.

“Alright, we do this his way. Open a channel with the Colossus.”

“Fleet wide band sir?”

“Not yet, Uhura. Let’s try to see if we can settle this in private first.”

“You’re being too nice about this, Jim.” McCoy grumbled.

“Chancellor Worf suggested a warning salvo across their bow before opening frequencies. I like to think of this as my way of striking a balance.” Kirk replied with a somber smile.

“Hailing frequencies open sir. On screen.”

Kirk sat coolly in his command chair, Leia to his right and Chewbacca to his left. The Wookiee remained silent so far throughout the exchange but there were no doubts he was not thrilled with this distraction as he saw it.

Captain Edwards appeared on screen. He was a striking older man, silver hair grown long tied in a ponytail and neatly trimmed goatee. He was quite an interesting looking figure, not so spit and polish like Jellico but the same unyielding resolve when it came to matters of discipline and command.

“Captain Edwards, This is James T. Kirk on the Sagan. I take it you received my transmission earlier?” Kirk stated neutrally. He could see a communications officer relay something to Edwards’ XO, a Tellarite, who quickly whispered something in Jellico’s ear. Undoubtedly they wanted to make sure this was not going out on fleet wide band.

“Captain Kirk, indeed we did.” Edwards replied with a cold smile. “Captain Jellico expressed grave concerns regarding the tone. Frankly he’s a softy. I found it mutinous.”

Several of the bridge crew on the Sagan visibly stiffened and McCoy let out a snort of disgust.

“I didn’t realize I wasn’t clear in my transmission. I am assuming command of my fleet.” Kirk replied sternly. Leia watched him. He was obviously accustomed from dealing from a position of strength, whether bluffing or other wise. Jim did not like to be on the short end of the negotiating stick. Jim just couldn’t resist. They came at him hard and he pushed right back. She only hoped this was the correct tact to take with Jellico and his stooge. Too much was riding on this to allow foolish pride to get in the way.

“By whose authority Captain? The Council is gone, last we heard they signed a formal surrender to the Imperium and are now a full fledged member.”

“And by whose authority did you follow me into combat, Edwards?” Jim shot back. “You guarded my left on Vulcan. You helped hold the line against the stardestroyers until we could drop the hammer. You were there with me in every battle. I didn’t hear you complain about authority then.”

“I was also there when you went running after the Battle of Romulus, Captain Kirk. I was here when Jellico held us together, rebuilt the fleet, got our butts in gear and kept hope alive. Now you come back here thinking all he was doing was keeping the seat warm for you?” Edwards shook his head emphatically. “No dice, Kirk. You can take your ship and get the hell out of here but you’re not taking command.”

“Starfleet Academy should have taught you that there can only be one captain on a ship. I’m the Captain, I always have been and I always will be. If it weren’t for me you and Jellico would be looking very smart and proper in your Imperium uniforms.”

That comment obviously stung Edwards as he sat back in his chair and glowered at Kirk for a moment.

“You’re not going anywhere past me, Kirk. Is that clear. I don’t give a damn about your reputation and support among rebel elements of this fleet. You think you can take me in a suped up science ship? Try me.”

Kirk nodded.

“That would be true if I were alone.” Kirk gave Uhura a silent signal with his hand and she beamed a transmission out into the space behind them. “But unfortunately for you and your Captain I have friends.”

The space around the Sagan warped and shimmered like the heat coming off a pavement on a hot summer day. Hundreds of Klingon warships appeared in perfect formation radiating out behind the Negh’Var class Battleship Vengeance of Kahless, the Flagship of the Klingon Fleet.

The Sagan was nearly dwarfed into insignificance by the massive warship bristling with weapons emplacements and hungry to live up to its name. The Klingons worked long and hard on completing the warship during the dark days after the Base Delta Zero of Quo’Nos. She was their defiant answer to the Imperium claim that the Klingons had been broken.

“That thing is more like a super Negh’var.” Tom quipped.

Edwards did not look impressed.

“You did say you were bringing the Klingons to the party in your transmission. I for one am not impressed.” He smirked.

“Look a little closer, Captain.” Kirk suggested. Leia made her own surreptitious signal to Uhura who promptly made another transmission. There was a brief flash of light and the Reckless Hope appeared in front of the mass of Klingon warships, X-wings quickly filed out from the main body of the fleet and formed up around the rebel frigate. Andorian planetary defense ships were out on the flanks and sprinkled throughout were Vulcan, Tellarite, Rigellian, Trill, Betazoid and all other manner of ships from throughout the Federation down to shuttles and courier vessels.

Edwards’ eyes narrowed sharply as he began to see the tapestry of vessels behind the Sagan.

“I’d say the people have spoken, Captain.”

Edwards was about to retort when his communications officer reported something off screen. Edwards nodded.

“Stand by Kirk.”

The screen switched off for a moment

“Let me guess…” Kirk began.

“The Cairo has reached the front line.” Spock reported.

“Now this is where the fun begins.” Leia nodded seriously.

The screen wavered and Captain Jellico appeared. He looked grim as he stood arms clasped behind his back.

“Captain Kirk.”

“Captain Jellico.” Kirk nodded.

Both men regarded each other in steely silence for a long moment.

“So, Captain. It seems you think you can just walk back and take your command seat again.” Jellico indicated the empty captain’s chair behind him with a sweep of his right hand. Leia did not react but her estimation of the man’s diplomatic prowess rose significantly. He was using props in his little opening speech and that took some forethought. The man was not just flailing verbally. He had come ready to fight this out in whatever arena Kirk chose to fight him.

“It was never yours to take.”

“What else was I supposed to do, Jim, just let the fleet muddle about on its own until you found yourself or whatever the hell it was that you were doing out in Orion space? There was a war that needed to be fought.” Jellico replied tightly but betrayed no annoyance or anger.

“And from what I’ve seen you haven’t been fighting much of a war at all. The Excalibur hasn’t left Avalon since she returned from Romulus, the fleet hasn’t sortied and you haven’t fought a single engagement. That’s not fighting, Jellico.”

“You think this fleet could fight in the state you left it in after Romulus? I’ve spent this time preparing this fleet to fight the Imperium and Thrawn’s new empire. You seem well informed about the fleet’s status. I can only assume I have Riker to thank for that.” Jellico shook his head in disappointment. “With the new torpedo systems we’ve installed in the majority of our ships, the shield upgrades and tactical system adjustments our starships are no longer flying death traps. We actually have a chance of surviving any engagements.”

“Your stewardship certainly succeeded where I could not in getting us on a better fighting footing but now you have to realize what is needed.”

“And what would that be?” Jellico asked pointedly.

Kirk leaned in slightly.

“This fleet needs me now Jellico. You made it stronger now you need me to make it win.”

“You seriously expect me step aside based on that argument?” Jellico snorted and crossed his arms.

“No, I honestly don’t. But I do know that you’re a man that respects discipline and the fact that you chose to follow me in the first place tells me that you believed I was the man that would lead the Federation to victory.”

“That was before Romulus, Kirk. That was before you abandoned the fleet.”

Kirk and Jellico watched each other for a long moment, the only sounds were the respective bridge stations of each starship.

“Take a look around you, Jellico. I have the full might of the Klingon Empire behind me and more importantly I have the support of Andor and Vulcan as well as the other Federation worlds that chose to send ships here. How long before the fleet starts to tear itself apart in mass defections if you refuse to step down now?”

Jellico smirked.

“You really are a piece of work aren’t you? You’re a man out of your time and everything I always heard about you is right there for all to see. Reckless. Daring. Rebellious. All those traits are not what this fleet needs. It took time for me to admit this to myself but this whole campaign under your command has been nothing more than one gimmick after another. Vulcan. The recovery of the Excalibur. Romulus. I was the one that pushed the Alliance Engineers to get those proton torpedoes working, I organized the massive refits for the entire fleet and I stood here and had the thankless job of holding these people together all the while they asked me the same question.” Jellico frowned. “When is James Kirk going to return?”

“And that didn’t tell you something?” Leia interjected.

“I was wondering when your silent partner was going to speak up.” Jellico snapped.

“A leader needs to know when to lead and when to step aside. These people follow Kirk because they want to. They follow you because they have to.”

“I have a newsflash for you Princess. They follow me because their hero left them in a fit of pique. This is not some ass backwards monarchy like the one you seem to be a member of Princess Leia. This is a military and as such we do not follow those we wish we follow those we must. Discipline wins this war not flash in the pan tactics and cowboy strategy.” Jellico retorted some real anger in his voice now.

“Don’t lecture me on military discipline. You’re facing a single sector fleet. The Rebel Alliance has faced the full might of the Empire - Hundreds of thousands of warships spanning an entire galaxy and limitless legions of stormtroopers hunting our Alliance with very little friends or hopes. We held it together for over a generation. You’re months into your resistance and you cry to me about hardships. I’ve lost my homeworld and not the way you lost Earth, Captain. My world was reduced to scattered debris.” Leia explained in a cold calm voice.

“And this explains the defection of your vessel and your engineers to Kirk how?”

“Because James Kirk is the Commander of this fleet. I was there in the Council chambers when you promised to step aside if he were to return. So much for the word of a Starfleet officer.”

“You’re willing to walk away from this fleet and all we stand for to be with him.” Jellico indicated Kirk with a jerk of his head. “Without our infrastructure and our ships what are you people going to accomplish? If the Alliance wants to count for something in this war then it needs to stand by us. But by all means abandon any pretense for caring about the fate of the Federation and we’ll accept that the Rebel Alliance stands with a man and not an ideal.”

“In this instance the man is the ideal.”

Jellico smiled cruelly after a moment and Kirk could see it coming with the quick glance over at Kirk before he spoke again.

“I guess the intelligence reports I’ve been receiving might be more than just rumors.”

Leia blinked and then realization dawned on her face.

“It helps when this ideal is also your lover doesn’t it?”

Leia maintained her composure. She was surprised that she did because Jellico was such an unlikable bastard that reminded her too much of the Imperial officers she grew up knowing in the Imperial Senate. All frustrated bureaucrats and strutting marionettes. The fact that this man could sneer such a claim as a logical response to what she was saying infuriated her but her training as a politician and diplomat would not allow her to give him the response he was so obviously fishing for.

“Whatever he is, he has the loyalty of his fleet with him or is that why you’re so afraid to have this exchange on the fleet wide band? I know you’ve done a quick head count, I know that this portion of the fleet is all that you can count on to stand with you. Precarious is one word I would use to describe where you stand if the time came to see who stood with you.”

“And I have another word for what you’re suggesting – mutinous.” Jellico turned his attention back to Kirk.

“You know you have the numbers, I’ll grant you that but I have what you can never take with weight of numbers.”

Kirk said nothing.

“You need legitimacy Kirk. If I don’t stand aside and give you the command then you have to take it from me.”

“Is that what you really want?” Kirk asked sadly.

“What I want Kirk is for you to take that fleet of paid mercenaries and political malcontents and leave this space forever. You had your time and now it’s mine. With any luck we won’t have the kind of casualties we’ve suffered under your command.”

“Jellico, you go to war with the fleet you have not the fleet you want. All I had was what was there after the Battle for Earth. Whatever starship captains wanted to follow me and ignore the surrender order during those dark days is what we had to fight with. Now you’ve brought the fleet to a point where it can actually be a threat to these Imperial fleets. You addressed a weakness in my command.” Jellico looked closely at Kirk as he continued speaking. “I’m a man of action; I make no apologies for that. I want to be out there scrapping with my fleet against the enemy but I gave little thought or priority to building up my ships and trying to make headway against the technological gap. You did that and there’s no taking that achievement away from you.”

“But. There’s always a ‘but’.” Jellico interjected.

Kirk smiled weakly.

“Indeed. But Captain, you don’t intend to fight with that fleet do you?”

“Of course I do.” Jellico replied in exasperation.

“Not in the way that will win us this war.”

“What do you want Kirk - that I lead the fleet in a series of propaganda victories utilizing wild unconventional tactics to defeat a superior foe? That’s not going to win us this war. The princess should know damn well that the best way to fight these Imperial forces is a highly coordinated and disciplined guerilla campaign.”

“We don’t have the time for a guerilla campaign.” Kirk replied and passed a hand through his hair. He could not substantiate that statement in any reasonable way. How could he explain the visions he’s had with Trelayne of the universe ending?

Jellico smirked.

“Why don’t you do all of us a favor and leave Kirk?”

Kirk stood up from his seat and walked closer to the screen.

“I will leave. And I’m going to Andor.”

Jellico shrugged.

“You know as well as I do that Andor is a death trap. You want to walk into that trap be my guest. I won’t stop you.”

Kirk smiled grimly.

“I’m going to Andor with the fleet I have not the fleet I want.”

“You want this fleet? I’m ready to fight for it Kirk.” Jellico nodded to his XO. Moments later the red lights of battle stations flashed on the screen. “Are you?” He asked pointedly.

“How dramatic of you.” Leia smirked.

“Come off it, Jellico, this is insane fighting amongst ourselves is doing the enemy’s job for them!” McCoy exclaimed in exasperation.

Kirk quietly watched Jellico. He nodded to himself.

“Do they still have the Kobayshi Maru Scenario at the Academy?” He asked curiously.

Jellico blinked in confusion. Leia could tell that in his head he was desperately trying to analyze where Kirk was going with that statement.

“Yes, they do.”

“And did you take it?”

“All command staff has to. Though it isn’t as important a tool in our time as it was in yours.”

Kirk nodded.

“Quite a bit has changed about this Federation and Starfleet opposed to mine. But one thing I hope hasn’t changed.” Kirk looked meaningfully at Jellico. “The character of a Starfleet officer.”

“Get to your point.” Jellico grumbled.

“I’m giving you a no win scenario Jellico. I’d like to imagine that I know how you will respond.”

“You’re going to fight?” Jellico’s voice betrayed disappointment and tired resignation.

“No, I’m not.” Kirk replied after a moment of silence between the two men. “I’m going to call upon those that want to follow me to Andor. I will take the fleet I get and not the one I want.”

Jellico began to speak but Kirk cut him off.

“Here are your choices. I call for the fleet to join me and you lose a vast majority of ships and personnel and I get to keep the hypermatter reactors I have and the Alliance technical expertise. You try to stop me from making that call, the Klingons and rest of my fleet responds and we have a shooting war here in Avalon that does the job for the enemy without us having to go to Andor. You acquiesce to my return to command and take your place in my lead attack wing as my second in command. These are your options. Two of them lead to destruction of all you’ve built here and the last merely robs you of the power you’ve gained here. The course open to you should be as clear as day if you’re half the Starfleet officer I think you are.” Kirk explained coolly.

“Of course the same could be said of you. You would be tearing this fleet apart by taking this tact.”

Kirk shrugged.

“The difference here is I have all to gain and not much to lose. A vast majority of the fleet will come with me, you know that, and the technology we need to continue this fight is in my hands. Imagine what you could accomplish if I placed you in charge of retrofitting this fleet with turbolasers and the hypermatter reactor cores in my hold. You could truly make this fleet a weapon to be feared. All you have to do is step aside and let me lead what you build.”

“You’ll do anything for power is that it?”

“I would rephrase it as anything to save the Federation.”

“Great dictatorships have been built on similar ideals.”

“If that’s what you think then why did you join me in the first place? Nevertheless these are the choices I’m gibing you…now.” Kirk nodded to Uhura. Another transmission was sent.

Almost immediately a shout of alarm could be heard on Jellico’s bridge from the communications station.

“Sir! The Enterprise is breaking formation. She’s heading straight for the Sagan—” a long pause. “The Excalibur is powering up her engines sir!”

Jellico frowned and regarded Kirk on the screen with a hateful intensity.

“You are forcing my hand.” He growled.

“I’m forcing you to make the right decision. If you are indeed the consummate Starfleet officer you know what choice you need to make. It’s never easy to lose, Jellico. The trick is losing in the right way.” Kirk stepped closer to the screen. “Remember it’s a test of character.”

“And if you were wrong about my character?” Jellico replied dangerously.

“Captain, the Colossus is locking phasers on us.” Spock calmly reported. “The rest of the attack wing is entering attack posture.”

“The Klingons aren’t taking this sitting down.” Tom warned as Bird of preys broke formation and fanned out into an attack pattern around the Federation first wing.

“Evasive maneuvers, sir?” Sulu asked tensely, hands hovering over the controls to execute the command as soon as he heard it.

“Negative.” Kirk replied evenly eyes not leaving Jellico’s. “I’m listening to my people, are you listening to yours?” Kirk asked.

Jellico said nothing but the reports were increasing. A list of ship names that were dropping formation and joining Kirk was increasing as his communications and tactical officer tried to keep up with the mass defections. The Excalibur rumbled over the Cairo its long blue conical shape casting a shadow over the starship.

“Your move, your decision.” Kirk stated grimly.

“Sir, Chancellor Worf is demanding we strike.” Uhura reported to Kirk who remained impassive watching Jellico.

“Sir, fleet commanders want to know what to do. Do we fire on mutinous ships?” Jellico’s communications officer asked apprehension obvious in his voice.

The ships were massing now around Kirk’s side of the divide. The Klingon fleet was quickly fanning outward behind the Sagan.

“Sir, what do we do?” Jellico’s XO demanded tensely.

“What are you going to do, Captain?” Kirk asked gently.

Jellico seemed as impassive as stone for the longest time as more ship names were announced in the rapidly growing list of defectors and targets were announced from the tactical station. Then as if punctuating the state of his command one of the ships in his attack wing broke formation to Kirk’s side.


“Yes?” Kirk replied.

“I believe you will be going to Andor with the fleet you want.” Jellico said without emotion.

“Thank you, Captain. You are a true patriot and a Starfleet Officer.” Kirk replied but was quickly drowned out by the whoops of joy and exultation as word spread like wild fire throughout the fleet.

“Jellico out.” He stated with no emotion but his jaw was clenched.

The screen went blank for a moment and the image of his fleet came back on. Her watched with barely concealed joy as the ships formed up around him.

“I’m home.” Kirk sighed. Leia hugged him tightly and laughed.

“You did it.”

Kirk laughed as well. While making his way around the bridge exchanging hand shakes, congratulations, hugs and slaps on the shoulder Uhura motioned for him to approach her station.

“What is it, Uhura?” He asked curiously.

“I received a transmission from the Cairo right after Jellico signed off, your eyes only. Thought you might want to take a look at it.”

“Go ahead.” Kirk nodded.

Uhura keyed her codes in and allowed Kirk the privacy to open the transmission. Kirk read it for a long moment as the celebrations continued around him on the Sagan’s bridge.

It was a simple text message.

And when your time comes for the No Win Scenario what will you chose?

Kirk keyed off the message and stood in silent contemplation while the others shouted and exclaimed in glee.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 87: I tan I Epi Tas*

James Kirk stepped off the transporter pad and smiled at the small gathering of officers squeezed into the large transporter room of Avalon’s main station hub. The applause began, polite at first but then more insistent and jubilant as he made his way through the crowd, shaking hands and clapping people’s shoulders as he walked through them, thanking each of them as he walked.

He stepped out of the transporter room and found the corridors clogged with bodies as people stood shoulder to shoulder and began applauding as soon as he appeared. Several whoops and cheers echoed off the walls as he entered the press of bodies. The crowd parted respectfully as he walked into the throng and continued shaking hands, smiling and nodding at his enthusiastic supporters.

Riker waited for him at the end of the corridor flanked by Data and another figure that made Kirk pause.

Captain Christopher Pike sat in his full body life support seat beside Riker. His face was frozen in a sleepy expression, eyes foxed forward, mouth slightly agape and skin pale and lifeless. But there was a spark of intelligence behind the eyes.

“Captain Pike?” Kirk asked softly.

The gathered officers and crewmen behind Kirk all quieted down as they watched the exchange with curious expressions. Two living legends were meeting for the first time. To many of the more devoted this was akin to a religious experience.

“Captain Kirk. I finally caught up with you.”

“Sir, I’m not sure what to say.” Kirk began. Pike interrupted him, his voice a cold mechanical monotone.

“There is nothing to say, Captain. I came here to offer my support and remind you of something.”

“Remind me?”

An older woman stood by Pike’s side, one hand gently resting on his shoulder.

“It would be best Captain if we discussed that in private. For now we just want to join everyone else in welcoming you back.”

“Thank you.” Kirk smiled warmly.

“Captain Kirk.”

Kirk turned slowly and watched as Captain Jellico strode calmly through the crowd towards him. He did not make any sign of annoyance or anger as he approached. There was no surge of support like this for him. No throngs waiting outside his office when they were left leaderless and alone.

But that was over now.

Jellico was a soldier and he did was he was told and followed his orders. If he stood firm against Kirk he would ironically lose all that he had fought to rebuild here. Jellico would not destroy the Federation in order to save his vision of it.

He stopped in front of Kirk and there was a nervous rustle of murmurs through the crowd. Eyes watched both men intently.

“Captain Jellico.” Kirk immediately held out his hand without hesitation. Jellico regarded the hand for a moment then took it in a form grip. The men shook hands.

“The fleet stands ready Captain Kirk. I formally hand over command to you.”

Kirk nodded.

“Thank you Captain Jellico and the fleet thanks you for all your hard work and dedication. We need more officers like you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure we have victory at the end of the day.”

Jellico nodded in response and stepped back snapping a sharp salute. The assembled officers cheered enthusiastically. The transfer of power was complete. The fleet was whole again.

“Hey Captain Kirk!” Kirk looked over in the general direction of the shout. “Where are we going sir?”

“To Andor and nothing will stand in our way.” Kirk shouted back into the crowd. The roar was like a wave as it passed over everyone. Several people pumped their fists in the air and the only pockets of calm were from the small clusters of Vulcans who looked distantly uncomfortable surrounded by the volcanic eruptions of emotion from their fellow Starfleet Officers.

“I thank you for your warm welcome, I have missed this family more than you know but now there is little time for celebration. I mean to take this fleet into battle within the next 3 hours. Get to your ships, prepare them and your crews because the Federation will be heard today.” Kirk stated with conviction.

The crowds applauded and cheered again but this time it was more subdued as the weight of his words sank in to many of the men an women surrounding him. Soon many started filing out to their ships.

“Captain Jellico, I’d like you to stay with us. We need to plan for the coming battle and I would value your input.”

Jellico covered the surprise on his face well and fell in step behind Kirk as the group walked back into the main conference room behind them. Princess Leia, still green skinned and wearing a Starfleet uniform, was speaking quietly to a team of Alliance engineers when she turned to greet them with a smile.

“We’re ready for the briefing on Project Amber.” Leia stated with a confident nod.

Kirk motioned for the Riker and the others to take their seats but left the seat to his right open for Jellico.

“Project Amber?” Jellico asked pointedly as he took the offered seat warily. Kirk was being very gracious with him. Hardly what he expected from the maverick commander at this stage in the game.

“Yes, Captain, a special project undertaken at my insistence after the Battle of Vulcan.” Kirk replied as he motioned for Spock to begin the presentation.

“The Vulcan scientists we recovered from the Imperium’s Wormhole project were assigned to help develop subspace weapons that could be used against the Imperium forces.” Spock continued as he nodded to a small team of Vulcan scientists standing behind a holographic projector who responded to his signal and activated a display. A strange octagonal device sprang up on the holoprojector for all to see.

Jellico looked from Spock to Kirk, his eyes naorrowed.

“Subspace Weapons? Are you aware that those weapons are strictly banned by the Federation?”

Kirk frowned.

“Captain Jellico out of all my commanders I would think you would realize that doing things the way the Federation has been used to doing them won’t win us this war.”

Jellico shook his head in exasperation.

“Damnit Kirk I don’t give a damn about treaty stipulations or niceties. There’s a reason why subspace weapons have been banned or strictly controlled by every space faring species in the galaxy. Subspace weapons can destroy or render local subspace too chaotic to navigate.” Jellico leaned forward “We would be taking a chance on rendering Federation space a chaos of ruptured subspace domains and spatial anomalies.”

Kirk nodded slowly.

“You’re not willing to take that chance to save the Federation?” Kirk asked quietly searching the older Captain’s eyes as he asked.

“Save it by destroying it?! No, I don’t think so.” Jellico replied icily.

“And I agree.” Kirk replied firmly.

“I don’t understand, you just mentioned developing subspace weapons, why develop them if you don’t mean to use them?”

“That’s what Project Amber is all about. The Alliance Engineers and the Vulcan science teams have spent the last few months since The Battle of Vulcan trying to come up with a subspace weapon that we can use once for maximum effect.”

Kirk nodded to Spock.

“Project Amber is an attempt by the Federation to deploy a subspace weapon of sufficient power that would devastate the Imperium fleet. Captain Kirk when approached with the possibility of using subspace weapons early on in the conflict came to the same conclusion as Captain Jellico. Widespread use of subspace weapons would have potentially devastating effects on Federation subspace nullifying our ability to use warp drives. However the potential of subspace weapons in this conflict could not be ignored.”

“Our fleet has been consistently outgunned in every engagement despite the fact that we outnumber Imperial forces by a wide margin. A weapon was needed that could bypass Imperial shield technology and directly attack the vessels themselves whether by directing assaulting the hull or by other means.”

Spock stepped aside as he motioned for a tall slim Vulcan female to step forward.

“At this point I present Doctor T’Nis of the Vulcan Science Academy.”

Doctor T’Nis was young for someone in her position and considering the relative conservative nature of Vulcan Society that was a good indication to her abilities that she was leading a team of scientists many years her senior.

“Thank you, Mr. Spock.” She turned her attention to the assembled officers around the table.

“Project Amber is the logical result of our analysis of wormhole phenomenon conducted over a period of two weeks in the Science Academy under supervision of an Imperial Officer names Tarsi. We were directed to explore any and all means to generate and control wormholes. When we were rescued by Captain Kirk and his fleet we were asked to continue our research to help develop a subspace weapon to use against the Imperial forces.”

“We were directed to find a way of inducing a subspace wormhole that could either sweep Imperial ships out into deepest space, hopefully to another galaxy or beyond. Or in the alternative the wormhole would induce massive structural damage to the Imperial ships destroying or crippling them. We were well aware that inducing a wormhole of that size and nature would dangerously destabilize local space and would need to be a weapon of last resort.”

T’Nis pursed her lips slightly and the others could immediately deduce that despite the fact she was leading this effort she was no in agreement with many of its goals at all. But like many in this war they found themselves doing things and making decisions they never thought they would make otherwise. Leia imagined that many people in this room would be quite disturbed at what they had discovered about themselves during these dark days.

This war was a twisted mirror indeed. A man she loved like a brother had changed from quietly noble and somewhat naive young man into a dark lord of the Sith and now into some sort of noble dictator. Luke Skywalker was never meant to be anything like what he had become.

But then did any of them belong here? A commander out of his time, a fleet from another galaxy far away and long ago, a rebellion continued here and no end in sight.

“The crux of our dilemma was how to initiate a wormhole of this nature.”

“And that is where the Alliance and our engineers came in.” Leia spoke up as she rose from her seat. She touched a panel in front of her and the Octagonal device shrunk down to a quarter of its former size and instead an Imperial warship dominated the display now.

“This is an Interdictor class cruiser. We’ve had run ins with these vessels in this campaign but their effectiveness has been greatly reduced by the fact that Federation and Alpha quadrant warp drives in general are not as easily blocked by localized gravity wells as our hyperdrive units are.”

“The Interdictor class cruisers use artificially generated gravity wells and project them outward from these points.” Several large egg shaped bumps on the hull of the warship were highlighted in yellow. “This technology is common place in our galaxy and your own technology has lacked a need to generate a gravity well of this magnitude but it is well within your ability to generate a field like this one.”

“Save on the scale that the Interdictors are able to generate.” T’Nis clarified.

“So you’re going to use the gravity well generators that the Alliance is helping you design to be the catalyst for your weaponized wormholes.” Scotty exclaimed awe in his voice.

“Young minds fresh ideas Mr. Scott.” Kirk chided.

Scotty smiled and shook his head ruefully.

“Indeed we are Mr. Scott. Your reputation is indeed well earned.” The young Vulcan nodded in acknowledgement. T’Nis casually raised a laser pointer to the hologram next to her as the Interdictor was replaced by the octagonal device again.

“This is the end result of our efforts. The Amber Device is a hybridization of Alliance technology and our own advances in subspace weaponry. The Amber device works on the principle that a high enough gravitic field compressed into a finite small space will tear open a hole in subspace causing an explosive rupture in subspace domains. That rupture theoretically should form a wormhole or at the very least a spatial anomaly that will either shunt mass into all the subspace domains effectively erasing anything in its event horizon out of our existence or create a series of subspace shockwaves that will tear apart anything up to and including planetary masses.”

McCoy’s hand shot up instantly.

“I heard the word theoretical.” McCoy snapped.


“You want the fleet to rely on a device that you don’t know for sure works? If that little firecracker fizzles in the middle of our engagement we’ll have our you know what’s swinging in the wind.”

“Actually doctor I do not know what.” T’Nis replied without skipping a beat.

McCoy frowned. Scotty, Sulu and Riker suppressed their smiles and Kirk shook his head. Data was confused as he looked from the Doctor to the Vulcan woman.

“Can you just address the question.” He finally relented with an exasperated wave of his hand.

T’Nis spared Spock a sidelong glance.

“Theoretical because understandably a live fire exercise runs into the obvious problems of destroying the local subspace domains and more importantly these devices are extremely difficult to construct without a dedicated planet bound infrastructure.”

“Well how do we know they’ll work then?”

“All computer simulations have resulted in 99.89% success rate for a weaponized wormhole to be initiated.”

“And what happens .11% of the time?” McCoy pressed.

T’Nis looked into McCoy’s eyes without hesitation.

“A runaway cascade effect that creates shockwaves through the subspace domains comprising the local galactic cluster.”

McCoy blinked.

“From reviewing your data that would constitute the explosive disruption of the Milky Way galaxy and perhaps Andromeda as well.” Data concluded matter of factly.

“Undoubtedly the local Magellanic clouds would be extinguished.” Spock added.

McCoy’s eyes widened and he whirled to face Kirk.

“Jim, you can’t be serious.” He exclaimed in horror.

“It’s a slim chance Bones.” Kirk answered calmly.

“Slim chance?! Jim you’re talking about cooking a thing off that could destroy the galaxy and beyond. There is such a thing as victory at too great a cost.”

“Bones, when they detonated the first atom bombs back on Earth there was a slim chance that it could have ignited the Earth’s atmosphere. They went ahead anyway because the chance was small and the benefits were too large to be ignored.”

“And if I recall my history Jim, those same atom bombs were then use to rain fire and death upon civilians. Do you think that maybe you should rethink that analogy?”

“Bones, this decision like any other command level decision I or any other flag officer makes is not up for review. If we were discussing the overall health of the fleet then I would like your input.”

“Or MAYBE you’d like my input if we were discussing a mutagenic plague designed to specifically target extragalactic humans.” McCoy shot back acidly and instantly regretted what he said.

“Doctor..” Riker began.

“That was low, Bones. Beneath you really.” Kirk replied tightly glaring at one of his oldest friends with anger and bitter disappointment.

Jellico cleared his throat.

“If I may,” he began. “Moral issues aside I have a far more pressing concern.” The gathering at the table turned their attention to Jellico but Kirk and McCoy remained fuming at each other.

“As I understand it this weapon can shatter worlds. We would not be discussing Amber if not because we intended to use it in our upcoming battle at Andor. Has anyone thought about the consequences if the device were to destroy Andor?”

“Every moment of every hour since I decided to deploy Amber at the battle.” Kirk replied evenly.

“Is that really up to us to decide? One thing is using subspace weapons that could leave Andor unable to use warp drives, at least they will still be alive. Quite another to be responsible for 9 billion lives lost and a planet reduced to rubble.”

“I have to admit, Captain, I have to agree with Captain Jellico on this point. What gives us the right to decide Andor’s fate? We’re not talking about losing a battle to the Empire or even abandoning them to occupation. This is genocide.” Riker’s voice caught slightly as he said the last part.

“That’s a decision that some of us may have to live with after this war is over but I am not about to destroy a world that has done nothing but aid us in this conflict without them knowing about it.” Kirk answered as he touched a control at his place at the table.

A hologram unfurled over Kirk’s place at the table. The now familiar face of the President of Andor floated at head level with everyone else.

“That is why Captain Kirk requested my presence here.” The president of Andor stated gravely.

“I was able to inform the president of Project Amber on my flight here to Avalon. He understands the gravity of this situation.” Kirk explained.

“We have our own contingency plans in place should an outright invasion take place against us if the Imperial fleet defeats your forces.” The president’s face darkened and his voice grew quieter and angry. “We have made the decision that we will do anything to ensure that Andor does not fall in Imperial hands. Andor has never been conquered or occupied and it never will. Our world is of one mind on this notion. However we have secretly begun ferrying children, scientists and leaders off our world in fast transport ships to Avalon. We request that the Federation Remnant provide more space lift capability to help move more of our population off world.”

“A planetary evacuation the like of which you are suggesting is nearly unprecedented in our era.” Data noted.

“But it was routine in mine.” Kirk interjected. “Mr. President I have dispatched every freighter, courier ship, starships too damaged or out of date to fight to Andor. They will arrive under command of a Klingon security force so don’t be too alarmed when a Klingon warship decloaks in your system with a ragtag fleet behind it. I have given you every ship we can spare sir. The rest will be needed in defense of Andor.”

“And you are coming?” The president asked him directly.

Kirk nodded.

“Mr. President the Enterprise herself will be leading our task force. We are leaving Avalon in several hours and take up position in your system to defend it from the Imperial attack. We stand together and we will fall together if we must Mr. President but the Federation will not abandon Andor.”

“We had no doubts that the hero of the Federation would not come to us in our hour of greatest need. Whatever the outcome Captain it was an honor working with you in these dark days.”

“Thank you Mr. President. If this war is to end at the gates of Andor then so be it. I know I will be standing with brothers at the end of all things.”

“We await you at Andor Captain Kirk as I suspect Fate does as well.”

The president’s face faded from view and Kirk looked out over the assembled officers and men.

“My decision has been made we will deploy Amber at the Battle should the tide begin to turn. If we’re going down we’re going to take those bastards with us.”

“There is a problem that we have not had time to relay Captain.” T’Nis interjected calmly.


“Let me guess, someone has to turn a crank on this thing and stay with it when it goes up.” McCoy sighed.

“We do not have the requisite number of Amber devices to create a wormhole large enough to damage a significant portion of the Imperial fleet.”

Kirk frowned and his face darkened.

“Are you seriously going to tell me that on the eve of the definitive battle of this war we won’t have our most powerful weapon ready?” he asked quietly, anger singing in every syllable.

T’Nis shook her head.

“The weapon itself is ready but in order to create a stable weaponized wormhole that can effect a large enough area to make a difference in a fleet engagement of this size we need a minimum of 9 Amber devices. We currently have 4 devices in our stocks.”

“If you knew we needed 9 why are there only 4?” Riker asked shaking his head ruefully. A weapon that could finally hurt the Imperials and it would not be ready for the final showdown. This was so anticlimactic that he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

T’Nis sighed softly. Even her Vulcan demeanor was slipping under the sudden intense scrutiny by everyone in the room.

“As I explained earlier the Amber devices are incredibly difficult to construct without a planetary infrastructure. The industrial replicators on Avalon have all been tasked with mass construction of starship parts and other essential items and we have had to make due with lesser methods of construction. If I may I will add that Captain Kirk’s strict secrecy regarding this project also limited our options in terms of what resources we could allocate and with his absence we were severely limited to what we could use as Captain Jellico was exerting almost complete control of any construction facilities on Avalon to upgrade the fleet.”

Kirk’s hands were splayed out on the table in front of him and Leia noticed that his knuckles were white with tension. Yet another consequence of his leaving the fleet unexpected was rearing its head and there was nothing he could say in his defense. How many more consequences were waiting for him?

Captain Entebbe, quiet throughout the briefing was rapidly writing something in his datapad and checking calculations against a computer terminal at his place at the table. He had begun his desperate scribbling when T’Nis revealed the working mechanism of the Amber device.

“What can we do with 4 devices?” Kirk asked neutrally.

“We can set up a much smaller wormhole, perhaps trapping and destroying several Imperial warships. The damage and area of effect will simply not be as potent if we had a full set of nine devices.”

“If I may sir?” Entebbe interjected holding up one hand as if he were back at the Academy while finishing another equation on his datapad with the other free hand.

“Go ahead captain.” Kirk nodded to Entebbe. The young Captain had been with him since the very first days of his coming into this timeline and he was a constant fixture at his briefings ever since.

“If I’m figuring these subspace resonance equations correctly I think I may have found an option to broaden the effect of the Amber devices we do have.”

Scotty peered over Entebbe’s shoulder at the datapad. Kirk smiled softly.

“Go ahead Captain, and please explain it simply to some of us who wouldn’t know what a subspace resonance equation even looks like.” Kirk chided gently.

“When you’re a captain of one of the newest science vessels around you’re expected to be more scientist than Captain.” Entebbe chuckled. “Anyway the way I figure it, if you get enough ships at the center of the four devices generating a tachyon pulse at this resonance frequency,” Entebbe paused as he plugged his datapad into the table and the equations slowly rotated in a hologram above Entebbe’s head. The frequency in question lit up in bright yellow. “It will build up a resonance cascade effect that should amplify the output of the Amber devices.”

T’Nis was examining the equation but she was ready for this observation. If anything Vulcans were thorough in their calculations and examinations.

“What Captain Entebbe is saying is true.” T’Nis concluded.

“Then we have an answer to our problem.” Riker concluded with a relieved smile.

Jellico did not look as convinced as he watched the young Vulcan woman.

“I detect a but coming.” Jellico concluded.

Scotty’s eyes narrowed as he read a portion of the equation and he looked sharply down at Entebbe.

“Your distance variables…you know what you’re doing lad?” Scotty asked worriedly.

Data’s eyes did not leave the equation but his own positronic net had already extrapolated all the results of the equation.

“The Vulcan Science team came to the same conclusion as Captain Entebbe when we were trying to address the issue of maximizing the effect of the Amber devices. The only way a ship borne method could have any appreciable effect on the Amber devices would be to have the ships nestled directly within the Amber devices’ area of effect.”

Riker’s smile died.

Kirk’s eyes narrowed on Entebbe.

The young Science vessel captain remained impassive as he sat back in his seat and nodded.

“My equation accounts for a zero distance variable. I know it means that any vessel that sits in that zone will be destroyed in the resulting cascade.” He calmly explained.

“That’s unacceptable.” McCoy slapped the table with his hand in frustration. He was not a fool, perhaps an idealist in terms of morality but he also knew that such sacrifices may be called on by this war.

“Is it the only way?” Kirk asked T’Nis.

“We have exhausted all other possibilities that can be instituted on short notice.”

“We leave in 2 hours.” Kirk noted.

“Can’t we wait, Jim?” McCoy pressed.

“No.” Jellico and Kirk replied simultaneously. Both smiled softly at one another.

“No, Bones. Every moment we wait the Imperials can attack. We know for sure there is an Imperial fleet less than 10 light years away massing for the attack. With hyperdrive that’s a few seconds head sup time before they arrive. Andor cannot withstand a full on Imperial assault alone.”

McCoy said nothing in reply but sat back in defeat and glanced over at Entebbe. The young Captain looked completely unmoved by the revelation that other starships would be destroyed trying to amplify their wonder weapon.

“Load up the Amber devices on their assigned ships and begin operations for high speed warp to Andor. Captain Jellico.” Jellico stood up.


“I’m placing you in charge of getting the fleet assembled and ready in exactly 2 hours. Every proton torpedo you’ve built should be loaded up on anything that can carry it. We leave behind only the ships that are too damaged or undermanned to fight. If this fleet falls Avalon won’t be far behind. There’s no use in husbanding our resources now.”

“I’m on it, sir. Riker.”


“Take your place on the Excalibur and you’ll be the rally point for the fleet.”

“Understood sir.”

Kirk took a moment to gather his thoughts and nodded to his people.

“I know this is not the way we ever imagined that this could end. But there’s no choice now. I know that I can count on each and everyone of you in this coming battle. I wouldn’t want to stand with anyone else in this our darkest but finest hour. Thank you, all of you, for believing in me and our cause. I will address the fleet before we leave. For now…I need an hour.”

“Sir?” Riker asked confused.

“Just an hour. One hour to myself before we pull out. Can you all give that to me?”

Jellico nodded and took Kirk’s shoulder, gripping it gently.

“You’ll have your hour sir and your fleet will be ready.”

“Thank you Captain Jellico. For everything.” Kirk added with a knowing smile.

“A pleasure and an honor sir.” Riker snapped a sharp salute and filed out of the room with Data. Entebbe nodded to Kirk and smiled.

“I always imagined as a boy being on adventures with you sir. Not many people here can say that their dreams came true in these dark days but I’d like to thank you for letting me be a part of this adventure.”

Kirk extended his hand and Entebbe took it.

“Captain. You were the first to follow me, the first to join the cause and you have never wavered or doubted. Its people like you that made this adventure possible.”

Entebbe seemed to stand 6 inches taller and beamed as he walked out of the room.

“T’Nis, please pass on our deepest thanks and gratitude to you and your team.”

“Many of us disagreed with the goal of our project.” She replied quietly.

“And because of that you have my personal thanks. You could have said no, after all gratitude for saving you from Vulcan’s occupation did not logically include working on a project that violates your conscience.”

T’Nis nodded.

“We never forgot our duties to the Federation, Captain.”

“And the Federation will never forget.”

The Vulcan team filed out in short order. Leia and the others gathered around Kirk.

“Scotty, I’ll need you to make sure the Enterprise is in top condition when we head out.”

“Just give the word, Sir and it shall be done.” Scotty promised.

“Spock, I’m placing you in charge of implementation of the Amber project so oversee the loading of the devices and prepare a plan of deployment.”

“Yes sir.” Spock did not leave however, he remained hovering near the door as Kirk thanked the others and sent them on their assignments. Leia finally faced him and she placed a hand on his cheek.

“I won’t ask you if you’re fine because I know the answer. I’ve been where you are.”

Kirk clasped her hand to his cheek and closed his eyes for a moment as if willing the moment to last forever. He held onto it, locking away the memory and then opened his eyes and smiled warmly at his partner in crime since the early days of this conflict.

“And what is there to say to you, Leia? Thanks for not forcing me to rescue a princess in this story?”

“This story hasn’t been finished, Jim. And you’ll find that this princess tends to do the rescuing.” Leia laughed and kissed him on the cheek. “For luck.” She added.

“You’ll be on the Reckless Hope?”

“Fighting by your side.” She replied.

“Thank you.” There was an awkward pause but Leia demurely nodded to him and smiled as she walked past him and was quickly followed by the droids and her Alliance staff.

Kirk found himself alone with Spock and McCoy.

“Well.” He sighed.

“Jim, now is not the time to let emotion cloud your judgment. You have done everything you can for this fleet. What happens now is out of our quite fallible hands.” Spock noted calmly.

Kirk smiled softly at one of his oldest and dearest friends.

“Just once, Mr. Spock, I would have liked to see you smile.” Kirk commented. Spock raised an eyebrow.

“Really Captain, now is not the time for your rather perverse desires.” Spock replied dryly.

“Say what you will about Spock he knows how to drain the warmth from a room.” McCoy snapped.

“You two have been my rocks. I don’t know where I would be without you.”

“Dead.” Spock replied mater of factly.

“At the very least stranded on that ice planet with massive head trauma.” McCoy added with a shrug of his shoulders.

Kirk laughed hard and he embraced McCoy and Spock in a bear hug. Spock looked distinctly uncomfortable while McCoy clapped his friend on the back.

“You take your hour Jim. We’ll be here waiting.”

“I daresay we will always be here.” Spock added.

“Thank you.” Kirk replied. McCoy and Spock walked out of the room flanking Kirk. Captain Pike and the older woman stood patiently waiting outside.

“Captain Pike.”

“Captain Kirk. I’ve come here on behalf of the Talosians. They wanted me to remind you of something vitally important.” Pike spoke in an odd monotone from his life-support chair.

“What would that be?”

“Remember your errand of mercy to Organia.”

Kirk frowned slightly.

“You know it’s been confusing Captain. Aside from my crew you are the only other person that remembers the Organians. I’ve asked everyone else here and it only draws blanks. Hell even searches on Starfleet databases come up blank.”

“That is because the Organians stretched forth their mighty hand and erased their existence from human history, Captain. The reason why you remember is because you are not from this time. It seems even the mighty Organians cannot foresee where fate takes you, Captain.” Even though Pike’s face was frozen by his injuries Kirk could detect the warm smile in his words.

“And will the Organians help?” Spock asked.

“That remains to be seen. The Organians’ motives can be inscrutable even to their brethren.”

“Thank you Captain Pike, I’ll keep that in mind. Right now you’ll understand if I’m more concerned with winning this battle than Deus ex Machina waiting in the wings that need to be cajoled into saving this galaxy.”

“Of course Captain.”

Kirk paused for a moment.

“Is Charlie with you?”

“Charlie has been running…errands of late. He was supposed to be back by now. He so wanted to be by your side in this battle.” Vina replied clucking like a worried grandmother.

“It would be good to have him. If you see him please make sure he gets to the Enterprise in time.”

“Of course Captain.”

“Good Luck James.” Pike added.

Kirk walked slowly into his office, an office he rarely if ever used on Avalon but one that Captain Jellico had all but lived in. There were stacks of datapads in neat piles along his desk and his work station computer terminal was on standby.

Outside the massive full wall window opposite his desk he could see his fleet beginning to form up. The larger starships elegantly lumbered past the window as they moved towards the massive shimmering blue conical shaped warship sitting patiently at the edge of Avalon’s space.

Some of their hulls were freshly painted with the words THE FEDERATION LIVES proudly displayed on their saucer sections. A declaration of hope and defiance that had rallied his people from the first dark days of this war.

James Kirk stood at the window for a long moment, hands clasped behind his back. Like many commanders on the eve of the defining battle of any war he was reduced to waiting.

“Computer. Play something quiet. Something classical.”

“Classical Earth Period?” the computer enquired.


A soft tune began to play in the background. Several lone violins followed by soft horns welcomed his hour of silence and introspection. He had been moving so fast this entire time that he did not remember the last time he was actually able to stand here and think.

He decided to do what he had not done since this all started.

“Captain’s Log Stardate 98897.10. I have been given command of the mightiest fleet that Starfleet has ever assembled. Thousands of starships all waiting for my commands as we embark upon a battle that will decide the fate of the Federation. If Andor falls we lose our main supply base, repair and construction infrastructure and not to mention our primary medical facilities.

Andor has come to represent the Federation. The last of the primary signatories not under occupation and final link to all that we are fighting for. It is everything to us now, our greatest asset, our primary base and our greatest symbol of inspiration. To lose Andor will mean losing everything.

We have no choice but to make our stand. I have withheld hope that perhaps we will have another ally in Luke Skywalker and his Imperium but I cannot assume anything. It will be Thrawn’s fleet we will be facing in this battle and he has every edge conceivable in this battle.

Our only choice is to fight, our only hope is to win. If I do not make another entry in this log let it be known that every single Starfleet officer and crewman gave everything they had to this cause, this war went above and beyond duty and honor. This was the defining conflict of the Federation and she should be proud of her children for she has bred heroes like no other.

I only hope I am worthy to keep their company and deserve their trust in my command. The Federation Lives.”

Kirk bowed his head slightly and placed his right hand against the glass. He stood there head down hand on the glass with only the sound of his breathing and the gentle music.

He looked up slowly and saw his office reflected in the glass. There was someone sitting in the chair to his office. He said nothing.

“You remember me don’t you?”

“How could I forget?” Kirk replied, throat dry and constricted.

“And me?”

Kirk’s eyes followed the reflection of his office and saw the other figure drawn tightly in an X in the doorway. Chains and manacles clinked quietly as the figure moved slightly, its tattered gold shirt and filth blurry in the glass.

“What do you want?”

“It doesn’t end with this battle. The choice still has to be made.” The scarecrow like figure, a mockery of himself stated grimly from his chains.

“There is no escaping destiny Jim. You will have to walk one of these paths.” The Kirk seated in his chair in an immaculate Imperial uniform.

Kirk whirled around quickly.

“I don’t believe in you!”

He stood alone in his office. There was no one in his chair. No one crucified against his door.

He laughed darkly to himself.

“Captain’s Personal Log.

Its really very simple. I’m facing Grand Admiral Thrawn and his fleet. The man who defeated me soundly at Romulus and who has racked up such impressive victories that he has become an instant threat to our forces as well as the Imperium.

I’ve gone over it a thousand times in my head and I don’t know if I can beat the man. He is perhaps the most astounding military genius I have ever faced but in the end he is fighting against freedom and justice and wants to kill the Federation I love and that may be all the edge I need.

This war has been about hope. Its always been about holding onto hope against the storm. And my hope is a simple one. That we will win. We will defeat the Empire and restore peace and order to the galaxy.”

Kirk sat down in his seat and gently laid his head against the back of the chair. He closed his eyes and listened to the music. In the end no matter what happened he would have this moment when he was truly alone and the world did not exist outside his walls

For just this single hour he would know peace.

The Federation Fleet was assembled now. Thousands of starships from all corners of the Federation were lining up in neat orderly battle lines, ranging form state of the art starships like the precious few Prometheus class warships, the mighty Galaxies and the powerful Sovereign class ships. Zipping in between the battle lines like attendant insects were the Defiant class ships and their lesser cousins the Sabers and Steamrunners. Swarming around the wings of the fleet were the Delta Flyer fighters and their larger Runabout counterparts.

At the center of the fleet were three ships. The conical miles long Excalibur, her golden glowing maw pulsed slowly and patiently. Beneath her floated the Reckless Hope, her long spindly shape was surrounded by the fighters of Rogue Squadron. Above both vessels at station keeping was the USS Enterprise ready to lead this mighty armada into the battle of their lives.

James Kirk stepped onto the bridge and took a moment to look around, taking in the sight of his crew eager and ready to do battle. Uhura turned slightly at her station and announced in a beautiful clear voice “Captain on the Bridge.”

His officers all snapped to attention as Kirk strode over to his Captain’s chair.

“As you were. Uhura please put me on the fleet wide band.”

“You’re on Captain.”

Kirk looked out at the screen and on thousands of ships he looked down at the crews, his voice piped through to every speaker available both on the ships and on Avalon.

“You all know me and I won’t take up your precious time with platitudes and jingoistic phrases. We are fighting a war of survival. You are here with me because you could not and would not accept the loss and surrender of the Federation to a dictatorial regime. We are here because the ideals of the Federation mean something to us. We are here because we are the children of the Federation and our mother is under attack.

It is the place of heroes to sacrifice what is necessary to achieve victory and I will not lie to you when I say that this battle will require much sacrifice from all of us. Much blood will be shed on the altar of victory to see this war and in particular this battle through. And the Federation is calling us now. She is calling us to shed blood for her and I have only this to say. If the Federation requires every drop of my blood then she shall have it without hesitation because I am nothing without her but she is an ideal. The Federation is forever.”

Kirk paused as he looked out across his gathered forces feeling their eagerness, fear, apprehension and righteous anger. It would be his to wield now.

“The standing order of the day is a simple one. “I tan I Epi Tas”” He could see smiles spreading across the faces of the more classically trained members of the crew. “On Earth in ancient Greece the Spartan mothers would tell their sons “With your shield or upon it” before he left for battle. The same holds true for us. We either return with our fleet or upon our shields in defeat but we will not surrender, we will not retreat. We will fight and we will stand against the darkness and shake our fists at the storm and say The Federation Lives.

So stand with me Starfleet because we will be heard this day and it will be a sound that will echo throughout history.”

There were no cheers, no exclamations of joy. There was grim resolve and an utter realization that their lives were leading up to this moment. This single battle would define them and their cause. Victory was nearly impossible but it had been that way since the beginning and they were still here and Kirk was still here and that was good enough for all of them.

Starfleet gathered its forces and jumped to warp speed and into destiny.

*Special Thanks to Crown for providing me with the Greek Translation of the Famous phrase.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 88: On the Precipice

“And so this is the end is it?” Piett noted gravely as his tactical report played out on a floating holographic bubble over the conference room table.

Thrawn sat quietly, hands clasped together elbows resting on the edge of the table. His crimson eyes narrowed as the flickering lights indicating Federation vessels moving into position around the pale blue orb that represented Andor.

“The trap is sprung, now we close it once and for all.” Jerjerrod nodded sagely.

Thrawn’s eyes did not leave the planet of Andor or the massive Federation fleet that was gathering there, far larger than any other fleet Imperial forces had engaged before. This would be a historic battle - The culmination of their campaign here in this new galaxy.

Vader stood behind Thrawn, arms crossed stoically.

“Don’t be so proud of this trap you have baited. There are currents and eddies of the Force swirling around that world that indicate the outcome is far from decided. There are too many variables and this is a shatter point in fate. There is more that will be decided in this battle than a simple military victory. Empires will rise and fall there. Heroes will die and the cowardly will live. Courage will falter and fear will rise. This is more than just a battle. None of you seem to grasp this.”

“I’m not certain how one would plan for currents and eddies in the Force Lord Vader.” Kahn added casually with a pointed half smile.

Vader’s inclined his head slowly and raised a gloved fist, one crooked finger curled towards the Terran Superman.

“I can teach you Kahn Singh if you would like.” Vader rumbled.

“He’s planning something.” Thrawn finally interjected as if he had not noticed any of the interactions around him.

“Sir?” Jerjerrod asked cautiously.

“Kirk.” Thrawn replied as if in a reverie, eyes following a dance of fireflies gathering around the Northern pole of the planet. Brilliant pinpricks sparkled around the world like a halo, the massive mine field erected by the Andorians to protect their system, originally from the Federation once they declared their independence and now from the Empire.

“We have no intelligence that Kirk has returned.” Piett sniffed.

“I saw it with my own eyes, Admiral. Kirk was there at Nemesis’ rescue and he was returning to Federation lines. There can be no doubt that he will reassume command of his forces.” Vader replied.

“Yes, curious business that.” Thrawn interjected softly, his eyes sliding over to the giant standing behind him. “We never discussed the implications of your shall we say unsanctioned mission to respond to Lord Nemesis’ beacon.”

“There is nothing to discuss, Grand Admiral.” Vader replied an edge to his voice.

“The Devastator, the vessel that would be leading this assault and occupying a key position throughout this offensive is at 75% combat efficiency, several of her heavy gun emplacements damaged beyond repair and two full squadrons of fighters lost with another three squadrons at 80% readiness status due to casualties and equipment failure and you think there is nothing to discuss?” Thrawn asked coldly.

“The Devastator will do her duty, Grand Admiral. I could ask why a Sith lord’s emergency beacon was not responded to despite the act being in violation of your Second Primary Directive from the Emperor himself that all line officers must swear to.”

“Lord Nemesis wouldn’t exactly fall into the category of ‘Faithful Servant of the August Emperor Palpatine’ as I believe the exact wording within the Articles of Directives defining a Sith Lord. Wouldn’t you say Lord Vader?”

Vader looked down at the insignificant gnat. How his manner reminded him of the Jedi Masters. So sure of themselves, so arrogant in their smug righteousness. As he had dealt with them he would deal with this one. But for now he must bide his time. Vader could feel it sometimes, at the very edge of his consciousness like some half remembered dream.

The Emperor was out there. Lurking in the darkness between worlds and no one else in this room knew it.

Vader had worked with the Emperor long enough to realize that the man had plans within plans. The fact that he was in this galaxy, hiding his presence from him his most faithful servant and friend as well as every other sycophant in this galaxy spoke volumes.

The Emperor was moving on his own and that frightened Vader.

There may not be enough time left to bring Nemesis back to his side. Without Nemesis power Vader could not overcome his Master. There was no doubt of it. Just as Vader had grown powerful over the years so had the Emperor. The wizened figure sat on his throne on Coruscant and consulted with Sith holocrons, ancient manuals and Jedi Archives his power grew like a cancer.

Meanwhile Vader’s strength was wasted on efforts to curb the Emperor’s enemies. He should be preparing for the final destruction and usurpation of his master’s power. Visions of Luke standing by his side as he took the throne of two galaxies danced before his eyes. The combined might of the Empire and this galaxy’s forces would be his to command with but a word. Tributes would be laid at his feet as Humans, Twileks, Vulcans, Rodians, Andorians, Romulans would file past rendering him honors and glory. They would thank him for bringing peace and order to two galaxies. Justice would finally be achieved, not the pale malformed justice of Palpatine and his twisted ideals. It would be Darth Vader bringer of peace and prosperity.

His enemies were driven before him, Xixor of Black Sun flogged by his personal guard at their own whims as the once proud crime lord was completely subjugated. Thrawn brought up the rear of the rather long and undulating procession of Vader’s enemies and this one drew his special attentions as he slowly squeezed the life out of the blue skinned alien watching the crimson eyes bulge wildly as his internal organs were slowly and methodically squeezed into a paste of whatever color blood coursed through the former Grand Admiral. Thrawn gave one last half strangled wet gasp before his body folded into a tight ball of meat and bone and fell to the floor before Vader in a satisfying wet slap of finality.

And throughout it all his son stood by his side. His most beloved ready to do his father’s bidding and in the end they would dance as well as all Sith must dance and his son would be greater than he. But for now the two galaxies would be Darth Vader’s and none would stand before him and his progeny.

In his ecstatic vision he saw a sad faced woman barely perceptible in the crowd. He looked from his throne, black lenses focusing on the figure that was marring his reverie. His eyes narrowed and there she was as beautiful as she had ever been when he held her by the lakes of Naboo.

“Anakin, you’re breaking my heart.” She sobbed softly.

Darth Vader, ruler of two galaxies, bringer of justice, and peace and order tyrant of the dark side gasped in pain as her words cut him to the quick as they did back on Mustafar. The pain was quickly hidden by anger as it was on Mustafar and Vader clenched his fist to crush the vision out of his head to bury it under decades of fury and smoldering resentment.

Ever since his confrontation with Luke….Nemesis…his name is Nemesis – he had been having visions of the one he had forgotten, the one he had pushed down into the cavernous depths of his will returned like some loathsome ghost. It clung to the edges of his reason like gossamer wings.

He would need to meditate on this but that would mean probing those memories and all he ever wanted to remember of Mustafar was the pain of betrayal from both his love and his best friend whom he looked on like a father – a pain far worse than the ravenous fire that devoured his flesh and left him a mockery of the man he once was. Now he served another dark father who whispered to him that all betrayals must be avenged, all deceptions must be ferreted out and yes Vader, you are special, you are powerful you are the jewel of the Sith.

He did not want to push further. He did not want to know why she was returning to his memory and his visions since Luke - NEMESIS – had turned back to the mewling light. She seemed to be trying to tell him something but her words always came back from Mustafar but the apparition seemed frustrated. Those were not the words she wanted to say.

He strained now to hear her. The vision returning but the throne room was empty, the roars of the multitudes were silent and there was only she and he as it should always have been. He raised a black gauntlet clad hand to her and she raised her tear streaked face to him. She began to speak and he strained with all his might to listen.

She opened her mouth to speak and there was a dull white noise roar. Vader urged her to speak again and bent his mighty will to listen, focusing his anger and passions into his senses as he sharpened them to superhuman levels so that he could hear leaves fall on the other side of Coruscant.

Padme reached out to him – imploring and shouting her words now and the voice was not her sweet dulcet tones but that of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s and her eyes suddenly flashed crimson and the throne room vanished as dreams are wont to do under the harsh light of reality.

“Wouldn’t you say Lord Vader?”

Vader’s head snapped down to Thrawn who had finished speaking and was looking intently at the dark lord.

Vader had no idea what the man said. But the Force effortlessly interpreted the body language and surface impressions of the blue skinned alien.

“Let us dispense with these implications and innuendoes and address the matter at hand. Are we or are we not going to attack?”

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

“Grand Admiral Thrawn, we can stand here debating the will and intent of all our actions until the end of time or we can put an end to this destructive conflict and bring order to this savage galaxy. As Commander of this expeditionary force I leave this up to you, after all I am just an observer for the Emperor and his interests. Of course if you choose not to initiate action against the Federation fleet I will observe this as well and make sure that the Emperor is fully apprised of this situation.”

Thrawn’s eyes did not leave the black clad cybernetic giant.

“I do not doubt that you would be an impartial observer of these matters, Lord Vader.” Kahn added as he drank from a glass.

Thrawn’s eyes flickered over to Kahn and for a brief moment annoyance seemed to flit across his features.

“Try to remember you are here at my pleasure, Kahn. You may find yourself back in that cell your so called supermen are sharing if you try my patience.”

Kahn’s eyes flashed dangerously. This was a man not accustomed to being threatened or challenged. But he quickly masked it under the mask of cool arrogance that he constantly wore in these meetings.

“Of course, Grand Admiral. I meant no disrespect but I must say that I find this debating to be frustrating and ultimately fruitless. You want to crush Kirk? Then follow my plan. Threaten Earth, demand his surrender and he will. The man is a warrior but lacks a warrior’s will. He is a product of his century as much as I am a product of mine. They are weak, these enlightened humans of the Federation. Somewhere in the span of two centuries humanity lost its fire, its drive. The Will to Power has been wasted away and spent like water on the sands.” Kahn rose from his seat immediately prompting the two stormtroopers that were his constant shadows to snap to attention and bring their weapons up at the ready.

“Kirk is and always has been the key to this war. When he vanished into Orion space attacks on our forces dropped off dramatically, limited to raids along exposed supply routes and useless attacks on meaningless outposts. Now look at what we face hours after our return.” Kahn’s hand swept back to the holoimage of Andor and the thousands of sparkling dots of the Federation remnant fleet.

“Kirk is a focal point in this war. Eliminate him and you eliminate the Federation remnant as a threat. Frankly this attack on Andor is ill-advised and an unnecessary waste of resources and effort.”

The rest of Thrawn’s command staff looked uneasily from Kahn to Thrawn. Piett was barely restraining his contempt for the man.

“I am curious, Kahn.” Thrawn began as he very calmly and mechanically took a drink and watched the superman with a hooded expression.

“Yes, Grand Admiral?”

“What would you suggest we do with Andor?”

“A siege. Plain and simple. Starve the world into submission. With only a tenth of the forces you have assembled here I could bring this world to its knees.”

“Are you aware of how difficult it is to starve a world, particular worlds with replicators, into submission Kahn? This is not your world’s 20th century.” Thrawn noted as he calmly placed his glass back down on the table.

“I would bombard the planet with mass drivers, keep this fleet out of range and fling some large asteroids into the planet, at the same time we would be clearing holes through the minefield for an eventual assault that would take the wounded world with insignificant casualties. The Andorian will would wither as they watched countless so called innocents fall to our rain of stone.”

“Did you realize that Andor has never been conquered, never even been threatened to be conquered? Do you know that Andorian history is rife with examples of Andorians fighting to the last man instead of becoming prisoners or giving up Andorian soil to an enemy?” Thrawn interjected pointedly. “Did you know that there is a top secret Starfleet Command report we recovered from their archives that indicates Andorian Captains are 57% more likely than any other Federation member race to initiate self destructs of their vessels in both simulations and real life combat rather than surrender?” Thrawn touched a control by his console and a small hologram sprang up next to the much larger hologram of the planet Andor and the massing Federation fleet. The hologram was a slowly scrolling series of images of various works of art.

“Andorian artwork, in particular the most revered classics displays a disturbing self destructive tendency.”

“And this means what precisely, Grand Admiral? That the Andorians are self destructive because their art says so?” Kahn replied with some incredulity. He was aware the alien had his peculiarities but this was most strange indeed. Yet there was no denying the Grand Admiral’s results.

“You’re not listening to me. The art work is a reflection of a society’s culture, a society’s mindset. Art is like taking a snap shot of all a culture’s fears, hopes, aspirations and dreams. Art is a misty mirror that can show you what the artists himself does not realize he is showing you. This art tells me something most disturbing about this race.” Thrawn frowned slightly. “They would rather destroy themselves than submit. Your grand strategy of starving them would only encourage precisely what I do not want. The Andorians destroying the very infrastructure we need. The entire purpose of this campaign is to seize a base of operations for ourselves as Lord nemesis did with Romulus.”

“You will forgive me Grand Admiral is I do not share your enthusiasm for this…unique method of yours for divining an enemy’s intent. To me your method is more akin to searching through animal entrails for augury. No plan survives contact with the enemy of that I can assure you. My plan however is most sound and plays to the very principles of the Federation and its weak resolve and love of their citizens. If I were commanding the siege it would be successful, self destructive tendencies or not because I would will this victory.”

“I notice you keep using yourself as the commander in this scenario of yours.” Thrawn said icily.

Kahn smiled indulgently and shrugged softly.

“I am a military commander, many consider me a genius of my era. You could do worse than placing me in command of a small flotilla that could free your attentions from Andor. I would take this world for you as you hunt Nemesis and his renegade fleet.”

“You?!” Piett spat in stunned disbelief finally losing his composure.

Thrawn held up a hand and Piett calmed his sputtering tirade against this arrogant little man with delusions of grandeur.

“Are you serious?”

“Indeed I am.”

“Then let us be grateful that I am not in desperate straits Kahn because I will never allow you anywhere near a command of any ship, vessel, fighter, freighter or shuttle of my fleet. You will never have authority on this fleet. You are a glorified prisoner nothing more. Never forget your place.”

“My place?” Kahn hissed.

“Have a care.” Vader suddenly interjected.

Kahn’s eyes went from Thrawn to Vader and back to Thrawn.

“In my world, Grand Admiral, we did not let our bodyguards speak for us.”

“We are not in your world you foolish man, how many times must I remind you of this?” Thrawn replied evenly and nodded to Vader. The dark lord raised his hand and his fingers sternly closed together.

Kahn felt his throat instantly constrict as if a vise had been clamped down on it. Kahn gasped and his legs buckled.

“We may be at odds in some things Kahn and your clumsy childlike attempts at driving wedges between us have been duly noted but in this we are united. This is the Empire.” Thrawn rose from his seat and quietly strode over to Kahn who was holding onto the edge of the table with both arms refusing to grasp at his neck in a futile attempt to stop the attack. Instead he refused to fall.

Thrawn approached him, hands clasped firmly behind his back as he inspected the gasping genetically engineered human.

“Nothing. No man, no alien, no force in the universe can stand against us. We are power incarnate Kahn.” Thrawn spoke as if he were lecturing a particularly slow witted student. Thrawn watched the man gasping, eyes beginning to bulge as his perfectly sculpted muscular arms were taut with effort to hold himself up. “I suffer your presence Kahn because in some as yet unknown way I think you have a role to play in this little drama unfolding around us. You are a tool, Kahn Noonian Singh, nothing more nothing less. I will use you like a tool must be used.”

Kahn began to lose his footing and his hands were holding onto the edge of the table, knuckles and fingers white with effort as every tendon and sinew began to swell against his bronzed flesh.

Thrawn leaned in closer to Kahn, crimson eyes boring into the human with laser like intensity.

“Do we have an understanding now? Do you see now that your time as prince over your world, warlord and military genius are over?”

Khan tried to get a word out through his completely closed throat now, only spittle and a strangled gasp were the best he could muster as he finally lost his grip and collapsed down to his knees. Thrawn bent down at the waist and reached out grasping the chin of the thrashing superman and jerking his face up to look into the Grand Admiral’s stony gaze.

“Do we have an understanding?”

Kahn glared defiantly at the Grand Admiral but his vision was tunneling and his body despite the enhancements had its limits and they were rapidly approaching. A lesser man would have been dead by now. Kahn was not a lesser man. But he was dying.

“Lord Vader…if he does not answer me again. Kill him. Painfully.” Thrawn ordered never letting his eyes leave Kahn’s.

“As you wish.” Vader replied coldly.

Kahn felt phantom fingers closing around his heart and a fire began in his brain. There was no doubt what the Sith lord was about to do.

And there was also no doubt as he watched his tormenter’s face slowly fading from sight that Thrawn had played right into his hands.

“Do we have an understanding, Kahn?” Thrawn demanded one last time.

Kahn took one moment to assuage his wounded pride before answering. This was all for a cause. Every leader must make sacrifices for the ultimate victory and this was Kahn’s.

Kahn nodded,

“Say it.” Thrawn snapped.

Kahn tried to but his throat was completely closed and numb now.

Thrawn nodded to Vader who relaxed the pressure along his forefinger and thumb. Kahn felt his throat open slightly, sweet air flooded down into his lungs and his throat burned like fire. Kahn gagged and almost heaved his lunch down onto the plate decks but Thrawn would not release his grip on Kahn’s chin.

“Say it now or we end this charade.”

“I…agree…Grand Admiral.” Kahn managed between his frantic gasps for air.

Thrawn eyed him for a long moment and then nodded curtly, releasing his grip on Kahn’s chin with a perfunctory snap of his wrist and resumed his standing position over the superman.

“Then we have an understanding. I do not instruct my prisoners a second time, Kahn. Let that be your sole warning.” Thrawn nodded to the flanking stormtroopers. “Take him back to his cell where he can contemplate his newfound place in the universe. He is to have no visitors is that understood?”

“Yes sir.” The troopers replied in unison and without hesitation. They roughly picked up Kahn by each shoulder and dragged/walked him out of the room. Thrawn turned his attention back to the rest of the gathered officers.

“We are going to Andor. Even though we meant for Andor to be our trap where we would finish the Federation remnant off once and for all I suspect that Kirk is also setting his own trap at Andor. Whatever that man has planned we must be ready for it.” Thrawn stated grimly as he walked back to his seat.

“My battle plans are on these data pads.” Jerjerrod was already distributing the pads to the assembled captains. “Commit them to memory for they will self erase in one hour.” Thrawn noted pointedly. “I want all navigational computers on all ships of the fleet to be slaved to the Devastator’s navcomp. Lord Vader will be guiding our ships in via hyperspace.”

“Using the Force I will guide us through the minefield and bring us to within two planetary diameters of Andor.” Vader explained calmly.

Some of the Captains began to mutter to themselves. General Imperial tactics called for large fleet engagements to be carried out at least 10 planetary diameters from any celestial body. Two planetary diameters would trap much of the fleet in the gravity well of the planet. There were some scholars and even veterans of the Battle of Coruscant among the fleet commanders and they knew the wanton slaughter that took place when two massive fleets were trapped in the gravity well of a planet bereft of maneuvering room for combat. Point blank range battles between capital ships were extremely messy and costly affairs. The majority of the commanders were fresh from the Battle of Endor and knew first hand what it was like to have to slug it out with the big ships when your maneuvering room was curtailed by a planet.

This battle would be costly just on that front alone.

“I am well aware of what the limitations are by engaging the defensive fleet that close to their homeworld but there are several factors to consider. One, the minefield is built out almost directly around the planet. Any farther out and we risk having Kirk or another intrepid commander decide to drive us into the minefield or swarm detonate their mines in our rear echelons. This would in my opinion be more harmful than having our fleet hemmed in by the gravity well of Andor. Secondly, we will be in position to directly invade Andor and secure the planet’s key infrastructure sites before any planned sabotage can take place and thirdly and most importantly we will be in a position that they will not expect and we will maximize the shock of our attack to the utmost. We will drive this Federation to its knees. There is only one order above all of these that I expect my commanders to follow.” Thrawn looked meaningfully at each of his commanders. “The Enterprise is not to be destroyed. I want her captured and her Captain in chains. Any commander that destroys the Enterprise or kills Kirk will answer to me. Personally.”

Some of the commanders shifted nervously.

“I will NOT have a martyr made of this man. The Federation and Starfleet in particular are obsessed with symbols. A dead captain dying in a blaze of glory will not do if we are to truly crush this rebellion. A prisoner of war in chains will break their will as surely as his death will inspire them. Otherwise your orders are quite simple. Kill everything that you see. Take no prisoners. These insignificants are all that stand between us and our rightful place in this galaxy.”

Thrawn paused for a moment his eyes tracking each of his commanders and his face a composed mask of serene yet stern calm.

“I know that many of you are wondering and I will relay my own suspicions. We will most likely face Imperium forces in this battle. Lord Nemesis will not give up this opportunity to strike at us in this crucial battle. I want you all prepared for the inevitable and be ready to destroy ships that you may have fought alongside back home. We are battling for the future of our Empire. If we are defeated here then we have failed our Emperor and our Empire. We are power, we are strength and there can be no treason that we can brook, no deception we can ignore. They must all be exterminated before the disease of treason they carry can have a chance to take root here. This is a new world. Let us make sure that when the dawn comes here on the morrow that it sheds its light on the New Order.”

Some of the commanders nodded emphatically, others shouted their support of Thrawn’s position. They were all earnest and ready. Thrawn could feel them eager to return to their ships.

“Now do your duty for Emperor and Empire. The droid Armies of the Separatists could not stop us, the Sorcerous powers of the Jedi were no match for our iron will. Let us show Kirk and his puny band of rebels and Lord Nemesis and his traitorous nest of vipers that they cannot stand against us. We are the Empire today and they will know our wrath. In thunder and lightning we will come like the ancient gods of the tempest and they will die.”

The shouts were now exclamations of support and rage against their old friends and allies. There would be no quarter given.


His commanders quickly filed out of the room and rushed to their shuttles. Many quickly scanning the data pads before their contents were erased.

Thrawn stood quietly for a moment, regarding Andor again with a wary eye. If Jerjerrod could not imagine it he would say the Grand Admiral was actually concerned.

“Sir. Your orders of battle have been drawn up as you requested and the Bridge awaits your final inspection.” Jerjerrod cleared his throat as he spoke.

“You were quiet today.” Thrawn noted but all his attention seemed drawn to the planet.

“I had nothing to say, Grand Admiral. Kahn was dealt with as he should have been and we are going to attack Andor as we must.”

“I read your medical report.”

Jerjerrod said nothing. The silence was palpable.

“Did I meet your approval, sir?” Jerjerrod eyed Lord Vader nervously as he stood silent save for the rhythmic breathing of his life support system. Vader had not moved at all. Thrawn said nothing. “If I may?”

Thrawn brought one eye on Jerjerrod and nodded very slightly.

“I realize that my actions of late have not been up to par. I have no excuse other than this. I was a moff of a backwater world, brought to the Deathstar project as a yes man for the Emperor and I have never truly had my abilities challenged. I did not react well to your commands and I have no excuse. I only have my word as an officer to do better by you, Grand Admiral. I am ashamed that it has come to this.” Throughout Jerjerrod’s speech he could hear the echo of Kahn’s voice in the back of his head reciting to him these words including the inflections and pauses he should make. A part of Jerjerrod screamed futilely from his subconscious.

Thrawn eyed the young officer with a hooded expression.

“In hours we will be in mortal combat with not only the Federation but also the Imperium. Are you going to be the officer I need you to be?”

Jerjerrod snapped a sharp salute.

“I am yours to command sir.”

Thrawn nodded.

“Indeed.” He let it hang for a moment before continuing. “See to it that you get one hour’s rack time, Jerjerrod. We will be in battle and you look as if you have already been in one.”

“Of course, Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod replied and stepped away and walked out of the room. Thrawn looked back to Andor. What was the man planning? He could feel it as surely as he felt the blood coursing through his veins. As more ships arrived and took up position he could see patterns, intricate interweaving swirling patterns and they all pointed to the inevitable.

“Andor is a trap for us as well.” He mused.

“There is nothing they can do that can harm this fleet. They have learned that the hard way.” Vader offered.

“And the Imperium fleet?”

“If and when the Imperium fleet arrives we shall deal with them as well.”

Thrawn turned his attention from the planet to the Sith lord.

“Are you so sure? That is your son on the other side.”

Vader brought his arms up across his chest and let out a cold laugh. It was disconcerting. Thrawn had never heard this monstrosity laugh before.

“You underestimate me, Grand Admiral and I think you will find that my son will underestimate me as well.”

“He will seek you out then?” Thrawn asked with an arched eyebrow.

“He means to save me from the Dark Side Grand Admiral.”

“And can he?”

“No Grand Admiral. He underestimates the Power of the Dark Side. He was weak and so he must be culled.”

“You can kill your own son?” Thrawn pressed.

“Grand Admiral, I slaughtered my best friends and allies in the Jedi Purge. I brought order to a galaxy wrought by terror and chaos. I will never let anyone bring us to that state again, even if he is my son. In the end we are all slaves to fate and if Nemesis will not join me then he will meet his destiny. Blood has nothing to do with matters of power and the Force.”

Thrawn nodded but said nothing for a moment.

“Did you do as I asked?”

“He is tainted.” Vader answered simply.

Thrawn shook his head and sighed like a disappointed father.

“I should have killed him.” Vader added darkly.

“No, he will serve his purpose.”

“It has been my experience that you cut the offending appendage before it can turn on you.”

“Is that the Sith way?” Thrawn asked casually and eyed the dark lord meaningfully.

“If it was, Grand Admiral, we would not be here having this conversation and there would be no Empire. But we do not tempt fate from others. Kill Jerjerrod quickly for I feel something dark and malignant coiling within him and it oddly enough had the echo of Kahn within it.”

“Is Kahn a Force user?” Thrawn wondered.

Vader shook his head empathically.

“Kahn is mad and a tyrant in waiting but the Force does not touch him.”

“I will keep your advice in mind Lord Vader but my people have an old saying – The assassin should be closer to you than your flesh and blood.”

“I have never put much stock in that way of thinking.”

“Ah, but in your case, lord Vader, the assassin IS your flesh and blood.” Thrawn replied quietly.

Both men regarded each other in the uneasy silence before the plunge.

Captain Ochoa wondered how long it would take before the hurried sounds of crewmen preparing for battle would be replaced by the actual sounds of battle. As a starship captain he was well aware of what a ship sounded like when it was going into battle.

He had no illusions as to whom they were going into battle against.

He was alone in this rather spacious cell. He had been alone since the Noghri left him here. Food was delivered on a very strict schedule and in silence.

He did not care. He had suffered far worse. Besides he knew there was a reason why he was here.

There were footsteps that approached the door. He smiled softly to himself.

“Speak of the devil.”

The door snapped open with a harsh pneumatic hiss like the jaws of a beats opening and several figures immediately entered the room. He recognized the near silent footfalls of the Noghri but there was a distinctly human set of footfalls.

“Get off me!”

“Stay here human.”

“Until Lord Vader has need of you.”

“Vader?! Well he can kiss my Corellian a---” The human’s loud boisterous voice was suddenly interrupted by a sharp intake of breath which Ochoa interpreted as one of the Noghri pain sticks jabbing the human in the midsection.

He heard the human fall to his knees and groan in pain.

“You bastards! If I could see –” Another sharp intake of breath and a yelp of pain followed. Ochoa’s ears perked up at the human’s comment. Blind eh? He was beginning to see where this road would take him.

“It will be silent.”

“Or it will take the pain stick again.”

“We have little patience for you. Blind or not.”

“You will not speak of Lord Vader in such a way again.” The last voice was the most threatening and the one that had not spoken until now. Ochoa recognized the voice as the leader of the Noghri that had taken him prisoner on the Emperor’s Will.

The young human grunted something but remained silent this time.

“I think I can take it from here, my friends.” Ochoa offered gently. The Noghri eyed the tall starship captain with hooded expressions. He was an odd one. Never seemed to get flustered and never used his crippling handicap as a crutch. His serenity unnerved the warriors but drew them like moths to a flame as well. There was something about this young Captain that demanded you listen.

“At least your sight will return human. His sight will not.”

“He does not mule like a Bantha calf.”

“The hibernation sickness will pass in time.”

“And then perhaps Lord Vader will see you.”

“Until then, you remain here under the Ochoa’s care.”

“The Ochoa huh?” He could hear the confused smirk in the young human’s voice and then suddenly the human began to complain “Hold it! OK! Ok I get it. You don’t want me making fun of him either.”

Ochoa said nothing; the Noghri had obviously threatened him with the pain stick again.

“Do you require anything Ochoa?”

Ochoa seemed pensive for a moment. He looked down at the general direction where he thought the newcomer might be.

“Do you need anything?” He asked the stranger.

The young human seemed wary.

“I could use a way out of here.” Bzztzttt. “Oww!!!”

“Try to be serious and this will all be over soon.” Ochoa cautioned.

“Fine, I’m starving.” He replied in angry resignation.

“Some food for he and I would be nice.”

“They are not feeding you?” one of the Noghri asked suspiciously, anger at the edges of his voice.

“No. No, my friends. They certainly are but I never liked eating alone and I certainly wouldn’t want our friend here to feel uncomfortable while he ate.”

The Noghri exchanged confused glances.

“The Ochoa is strange.”

“The Ochoa is odd.”

“But we will comply.” The leader confirmed.

“Many thanks.” Ochoa replied with a warm smile. The Noghri glared one last time at the bedraggled human in blue pants and a still wet white tunic shirt before quickly exiting the cell. The door slammed shut behind them with the finality of death.

“Here, let me help you.” Ochoa offered.

“Why would you want to help me?” The human replied bitterly. Ochoa heard him trying to get to his feet and slipping back to the ground. The human let out a string of curses in various languages.

“Because you’re someone in need.” Ochoa replied evenly and took a firm hold of the human’s forearm and hauled him up to his feet.

“Those little womp rats actually respect you.”

“Because I respect them. It’s karma you know. You show respect you’re bound to get respect back.”

“Karma, huh? What is that? Like the Force?”

Ochoa paused.

“You’ll forgive me for asking you this but you’re not from around here. Are you?”

The young human snorted.

“I was about to say the same thing. Your accent’s a little weird, sounds like you’re from the Core Worlds, maybe around Coruscant but that’s not quite right.”

“Oh, you’re a wee bit off.” Ochoa chuckled.

“Let me guess, a secret Imperial base near the Core. Vader’s not done messing with me. Guess Fett got screwed out of his bounty – the bastard. I just hope Luke got away in time.” The human mused softly.

“Luke?” Ochoa asked, emotion thickening his voice.

“Luke Skywalker. The kid gets into more trouble than he’s worth except this time I’m not around to bail him out.” The young human slapped the air in frustration. “I’m damned helpless like this.”

“Luke Skywalker…and who might you be?”

“Han. Han Solo.”

Ochoa stood stock still for a moment and then suddenly began to laugh. His laughter exploded like a rocket around him as tears came to his sightless eyes.

“What the hell is so funny, buddy?” Han asked angrily.

“Forgive me Han…it’s just that…it’s just that it’s so damned funny sometimes.”

“What is so funny? Got a screw loose there pal?”

Ochoa gasped for breath and clapped the young man on the shoulder.

“Life. Life is so funny Han. It’s funny how it can come full circle.”

“They’re right about you…you are weird.” Han sighed.

“I’m back!” Charlie Evans announced as he impatiently passed through the airlock in a flurry of motion. He could feel it. There was a passage of mighty ships through the space he had passed. He couldn’t have come too late. He promised himself he would stand with Jim again when the time came.

“Captain! It’s Charlie.” Charlie shouted as he passed through airlock control into a main corridor. It was deserted.

“Hello?” Charlie called out again and peered down each end of the corridor. That was odd, even when the fleet sortied there was always a bustle of support staff and security in these halls. The place felt cold and empty.

“If I’m late Q, I’m going to—” Charlie stopped short.

There was a leg protruding out from a doorway at the far end of the corridor. Charlie cautiously glanced around again and then walked towards the leg. Apprehension gripped his belly and his senses were suddenly very much alive. He could feel the pulse of the matter antimatter generator at the heart of the station. He could feel the passage of air through the various recyclers around him. He could smell the sharp tang of his own sweat. He could also feel a pervasive chill of death. The screams still echoed along the halls.

He approached cautiously and saw that the leg was just a leg. Neatly severed from the rest of the body it lay still like a slab of meat in the doorway. The automatic doors remained open detecting the obstruction.

“What the hell?” Charlie quickly knelt down to inspect the appendage. It had been cut by what looked like fire. The wound was cauterized and neatly cut through the flesh with surgical precision. And it was still smoldering.

Charlie looked up into the inner offices beyond where the supply clerks and their assistants worked diligently to maintain the fleet’s readiness and hungry need for all manner of materials from food to fuel to spare parts. The cubicles were all silent save for the brief soft hum of a computer terminal working quietly on unknown equations and processes.

Charlie’s hand went to where a phaser would be on his hip. He winced. Charlie had no need for such weapons. But he had watched Jim and the others so intently, wanting to be like them that it was his first instinct.

His second instinct to stretch out with his esper senses ended up saving his life. He felt the aggression and murderous intent like a jackhammer and his body reacted the only way it knew how.

Charlie leapt forward curling himself into a tumbling ball as a crimson blade leapt out from behind him and cut down like a scythe burning through empty air where Charlie’s head had occupied only split seconds before.

Charlie stopped his tumbling with an awkward flailing of his arms and he desperately tried to remember Jim’s lessons on judo and space karate as he came up in a fighting stance. Charlie had sneered at Jim all those years ago about these fighting lessons. Why learn tumbles and falls when all Charlie wanted to do was learn how to fight? Jim had explained with a quiet smile that he needed to learn how to fall before he could learn how to fight.

How right you were, Jim. Only I wish you were here right now.

A dark cloaked figure stood in the doorway and it seemed to be taken by surprise at Charlie’s reaction and agility. But it recovered quickly and stood right in the doorway sweeping the crimson humming blade before it like the welcoming arms of a lover. Not that Charlie had ever been with a woman but he had imagined it many, many times.

“Who are you?” Charlie asked trying to gather his wits and stifle his fear. There was something about this figure that was sending frosty stabs of terror into his bowels. It was shocking for him to feel such terror and dread. He was not accustomed to those emotions.

“You are quick; I’ll grant you that Charles Evans. Kirk chose his lapdog well.” The figure replied with a dark ominous voice. There was much fury behind every syllable it uttered and it moved like a predator. This thing was used to killing.

“I asked you who you were and what have you done with the people here.” Charlie asked tightly fighting the cold in his bowels that threatened to make him lose all control and function. Now wouldn’t that be embarrassing? No one ever told him you could mess yourself in a fight.

“My name is unimportant but the fact that you have been marked for death is.”

“It’s gonna take more than a fancy lightsaber to kill me.” Charlie replied with some conviction and smiled. “Whoever sent you had no idea what I’m capable of. I don’t like you much and I think I’m going to send you away.”

“What a child you must be if you think such petty threats have any sway over a Lord of the Sith.” The figure sneered and suddenly dropped his hood revealing the face beneath. Charlie was beginning to rally himself and he reached out to the threatening figure and imagined him far away in the limbo where he sent those that displeased him when he was a younger more callow youth.

He could imagine him fading away as the others had calling out for mercy or in fear as their voices echoed into infinity.

Save that this one did not vanish. He did not go away. It raised one hand and a terrible shadow seemed to fall around it. The shadow rippled and wavered like a lake on a windy day and then Charlie felt the fear increase ten fold within him and he stumbled backwards, eyes widening with a horrible realization that this red faced horned demon with words of power etched on his face in the blackest ink was more than any man he had faced before and he wasn’t just going to go away.

The Sith Lord raised his saber and suddenly a second blade snapped hissed into existence and he spun it in a tight intricate dancing circle and his blades hummed eagerly. Charlie’s face was illuminated in the hungry crimson light of the lightsaber.

“Time to die Charles Evans. You underestimated the power of the Dark Side and the might of Darth Maul. Your adventure ends here and now.”
Wherever you go, there you are.

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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 89: Battle of Andor Part 1

Phase 1: If I die before I wake

Luke Skywalker smiled softly as he ran his hand along the fuselage of his fighter. The feel of the hull was like a touchstone for his memories. As he moved quietly along the elongated main body of the snub fighter and smelled the sharp tang of the fuel lines as they were unfurled like tentacles throughout the massive hangar bay of the Imperator’s Will he remembered Yavin when he first flew her.

“You sure you can handle that thing?” Red Leader’s thick drawl drifted through his memories as he completed his walk along the starboard side of the heavily modified X-Wing fighter.

“Are you kidding sir? Luke is the best bush pilot on the Rim!” Biggs laughed and clapped his oldest friend on the shoulder. Luke smiled sheepishly at the older man who regarded him with an experienced eye.

Luke remembered the electric excitement traveling up his spine as he approached his fighter, the only reward he requested when he saved Leia from Imperial hands. Leia tried to talk him out of it but he would have it no other way. This was his destiny. He felt it as surely as if he had already lived it.

“You and me. We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Luke whispered as he crouched down to check the underbelly.

“If I had not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t believe what Branna told me.” Kittaine interrupted as he watched the young man inspect his fighter as if he were just another pilot preparing for combat and not the most powerful man in the quadrant.

Luke smiled and looked back up at the Grand Admiral.

“She was a gift from Lord Vader upon my ascension to Sith Lord.” Luke explained as he watched the older man admiring the fighter. “Refitted from the ground up she’s faster, more powerful and more durable than any production X-Wing has any right to be. Hyperdrive refitted as well giving her a range nearly double that of any fighter mounted hyperdrive. I can take her from here to the Gamma Quadrant and back without stopping for a refuel or checkup.” Luke walked back around running a hand along the aggressive nose cone of his fighter. The normal white hull of the Rebellion vintage X-Wing was replaced by a cold almost iridescent onyx hull plates that shimmered softly and seemed to absorb the harsh overhead lamp glare.

“Her hull plating has been replaced by an experimental stealth material that dampens standard sensor array reducing return cross signatures and making her virtually undetectable by mark 1 eyeballs unless I’m close enough to kill you.” Pride tinged Luke’s voice as he looked back over his fighter. It had been a long time since he had looked her over this closely. Nemesis had never come down here once. Perhaps the Sith Lord had been afraid of the memories that would be dredged up.

“Most impressive my lord but one wonders why Lord Vader would not have an Imperial Fighter custom built for you. A rebel fighter, an iconic one at that seems a rather an odd choice for the Sith lord especially considering the question of conflicted loyalties many people muttered about you in those early days.”

“This fighter is very dear to me. She’s the same fighter I flew into battle at Yavin. The fighter that Lord Vader and I first did battle in together.”

Kittaine’s eyes narrowed on Luke and then looked up at the fighter with respect.

“The shot heard round the galaxy.” He whispered.

“I would have thought an Imperial commander wouldn’t be as impressed by that fact as you obviously are.” Luke noted standing back up and walking down the port side of the fighter.

“The Deathstar was an abomination of cronyism and wasted resources. I recognized it for what it was. The Emperor’s attempt to hold on to power and circumvent is military.” Kittaine replied with distaste.

“How so?” Luke asked curiously. He had fought against it and destroyed it but he had never really considered its place in his world or the galaxy. Back in those heady days all he understood was that it was a threat to his friends and his new found cause and it needed to be destroyed.

“The Deathstar was a concentration of the Emperor’s greatest sycophants and yes men. The military units stationed there were allegedly the elite of our forces but I noticed that they were also the most fanatically loyal to the New Order.”

“So the Emperor was creating some sort of…bastion for his supporters and puppets.” Luke mused as his hand checked the grooves between the armor plating.

“In essence.” Kittaine shrugged. “It smelled of a political tool rather than a military one. Even Tarkin’s policy of Rule through Fear was more like a political ideology than it was a military one. Why were we striking fear and terror into the very people we were supposed to be protecting?”

Luke nodded as his hand paused at the torpedo groove, he touched the edges, the black carbon scoring of the first and last time he launched his torpedoes in combat remained at his insistence. They were a constant reminder of what he earned in this craft.

“You do realize of course Grand Admiral that you are an exception to the rule as far as I’m concerned. Many in the military do not view it as protecting innocents. It has become a place for advancement, wealth and power.”

Kittaine chuckled softly. Luke looked over at him curiously.

“Forgive me, Lord Skywalker, but I forget how young you are sometimes.”

“Oh?” Luke replied with a bemused tone and raised an eyebrow.

“You have delusions of the military and the Old Republic instilled in you by your time with the rebellion. Their propaganda was starry eyed and naive. Painfully naive in my opinion. The military has always been a vehicle for advancement, power and wealth. The Empire simply makes it more obvious. You forget that I was an officer in the Old Republic that you worshipped so fervently as a young rebel. Have you ever truly examined the history texts concerning the Republic? It was as corrupt as the Empire in many ways Lord Skywalker. You need to remember that.”

“I sense you’re trying to tell me something more Grand Admiral.” Luke observed.

“Is that your Force powers telling you this?”

“No, I just know you well enough. You like to be a father to all of us I think.”

Kittaine smiled self consciously.

“This fleet has benefited greatly from your guidance and will, Gideon.” Kittaine was surprised by the use of his first name. “We are lucky to have you here and now Grand Admiral. And we will need your leadership now in this battle.”

Kittaine nodded slowly and eyed the young man for a moment.

“If I may my lord, allow me to make one observation in comparison to Lord Nemesis and then I will never bring it up again.”

Luke nodded curiously.

“He would never fly this fighter into combat. He preferred to lead from his place on the bridge. He would consider your actions to be needlessly foolish and place the Imperium at risk because we may lose you out there.”

“Your faith in my piloting skills is duly noted.” Luke replied with a rueful smile.

“You misunderstand me Lord Skywalker. On the bridge of the Imperator’s Will you will be unassailable. I can protect you there. Out there in this fighter.” He indicated the X-Wing with a nod of his head. “You will be all alone.”

“I am never alone, Gideon. I have the Force.” Luke assured him.

“I’d much prefer that in addition to the Force you had a few hundred turbolaser batteries and our shields to protect you.” Kittaine added.

Luke walked over to Kittaine and placed a hand on the older man’s shoulder.

“I understand what you want to do Grand Admiral but like any good father you must let go. I will be fine. This is where I belong. I am not Nemesis. He wanted to stand on the bridge and command from on high. In my heart, I am a bush pilot from the Rim who feels more comfortable in his cockpit than he does anywhere else.” Luke walked back to the X-Wing and slapped the nosecone.

“Here I can control my destiny. I do not watch or command, here I take charge and I would not have it any other way.”

“As you wish. But I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to. What you must do is find a way to defeat Grand Admiral Thrawn.”

Kittaine sighed softly.

“You realize the man is a tactical and strategic genius not seen since the Jedi Masters during the Clone wars.”

Luke nodded.

“Indeed. And lucky for you that I’m as close to a Jedi Master as you’re going to get.”

“So you have some idea?” Kittaine pressed.

“It’s really rather simple. We must expose the Executor to the superlaser.”

“Thrawn will do all in his power to make sure that does not happen. He knows as well as I do that we have a one shot one kill weapons platform but our recharge time is atrocious and we are barely able to accurately target even a ship of his size with any certainty. We will need to be at nearly point blank range to be assured of a clean hit.”

“He will use his fleet as a shield.”

“Absolutely.” Kittaine nodded.

Luke sighed softly.

“The plan stands. We will peel them away one by one if we have to and then we’ll risk it all in that one strike. We kill Thrawn and we end this little civil war in one battle.”

“If we lose the Imperator’s Will or you we’ve lost our war as well. I have no illusions that Thrawn will be spending his time in this battle hiding from me. He will be hunting me as well. We are too great a threat and too vital a target to simply let go.”

“And that is what I’m hoping for. I will weaken him and divide his attention and you will be the patient hunter waiting for your opening.”

Kittaine’s eyes narrowed tightly on the young man.

“Wait a moment…”

“Trust in me and we will come through this with victory.” Luke assured him. A Jem’Hedar proudly strode up to Luke accompanying a trio of flight crewmen.

“We have come with the torpedoes you requested Lord Skywalker.” The Jem’Hedar reported tersely but Kittaine could detect a hint of awe in its voice. It had become rapidly clear to many among the command staff that Lord Skywalker’s new personal guard were not just fanatically loyal to him but many considered him some sort of god. It jibed with prior reports about the Jem’Hedar that they had been conditioned by the Founders of the Dominion to view them as gods. It was troubling to Kittaine to see this kind of fanaticism from the young man’s guard. It smacked too much of Palpatine for him to simply accept.

“Very good. Make sure they are loaded up and ready. Preflight is in 15 minutes and I don’t want to spend a second more than I have to.”

“It shall be done.” The Jem’Hedar vowed and nodded to the flight crew who promptly began loading the torpedoes into the X-Wings’ magazines that obediently descended from within the elongated hull.

“Special torpedoes? Lord Skywalker I am beginning to see your strategy and it is most alarming.”

“The X-Wing has been retrofitted to carry the newest proton torpedoes meant for our missile boats back home.” Luke explained pointedly ignoring the latter part of Kittaine’s comment. “They’re specially designed to penetrate capital ship armor and shields so I’ll be more of a threat than a simple TIE fighter.”

“Even so a single payload wouldn’t do more than show up as a blip on a stardestroyer’s shield grid. You’d need at least a squadron’s worth of these to make a dent in the grid even for a moment.” Kittaine explained quickly hating himself for playing into Skywalker’s attempt to deflect his point.

“Leave that to me.” Luke replied with a soft smile. He slipped on his life-support pack that another Jem’Hedar handed to him as yet another checked Luke’s flight suit for him. One more of his personal guard, Kittaine recognized him as the leader of the Jem’Hedar on board led a series of astromech droids to Luke’s X-Wing. The sounds of fighters powering up began like a storm in the cavernous flight deck.

“Lord Skywalker, these are the finest astromech droids in the fleet. I have personally inspected them for any sabotage devices and watched as Vulcans examined every string of code for any discrepancies.”

“Very good, Rulek Parr. You’re people have done well.”

“We serve the Walker of the Skies.” Rulek Parr bowed his head deeply.

“About your plan Lord Skywalker?”

“Never mind that Grand Admiral, everything is proceeding as it must and it sounds as if our fighter corps is also getting ready.” Luke replied speaking louder and louder with each word as Twin Ion Engines roared to life around them. Hangar crews raced for their final positions as fighters eagerly began to descend from their racks into standby positions in the enormous hangar bay of the Imperator’s Will. All around them pilots gave enthusiastic thumbs up from their rounded cockpits and turned their attention to their controls.

The cacophony of fighter squadrons coming to life washed over Kittaine like waves from a deep loud ocean. Kittaine leaned in close to Luke and shouted into the young warrior’s ear.

“I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to draw Vader out. Distract Thrawn with your presence on the battlefield.”

Luke looked into the older man’s eyes for a long moment. The only sound between them was the harsh roar of the ion engines gunning for takeoff and the rumble of racks rolling overhead and blow them carrying entire squadrons of fighters and bombers into position for launch. The occasional shout of a hangar bay technician punctuated the frenetic activity of the preparations.

“It’s the only way, Grand Admiral.” He replied softly.

“You’ll die out there.” Kittaine pressed, hand squeezing the young man’s shoulder as if willing Luke to step away from his fighter.

“They said the same thing to me at Yavin, Grand Admiral. I’ve learned that when it comes to fate nothing is ever certain.” Luke answered and gently pulled away from Kittaine and slipped his helmet on as he inspected the lineup of Astromech droids. He found himself wishing for Artoo at this moment.

“That one.” He replied without thinking. His hand touched the cylindrical head of a gold paneled astromech droid. It beeped obediently.

“Are you sure about that sir? He’s a little beat up. We could get you a brand new one, my lord.” A hangar tech replied as he eyed the older astromech droid with a critical gaze. Luke smiled in spite of himself.

“I’m quite sure. What is its designation?”

“R-3 D-4.”

“Very well, D4. Get plugged in and prepare the fighter for battle.”

The astromech droid whistled acknowledgement and trundled over to the X-Wing the technicians quickly fitting him into his harness and lifting up into the X-Wing’s droid slot. Luke took one last quick look over his fighter and felt Kittaine still hovering behind him.

Luke paused and turned to face the Grand Admiral.

“Grand Admiral Kittaine.”

“My Lord.” Kittaine straightened as he noted the young man’s suddenly serious tone.

“I leave the fleet in your hands. I will lead our fighter wings into battle. Have you made sure all new IFF signatures have been downloaded into the fighters?”

“Yes sir, just as your ordered. We are also standing by to switch IFF signature data on your command when we ascertain the Federation’s intent.”

“Very well. There is nothing more I can say. We must do our best but I’ve always expected that of this fleet. Do your duty, defend the Imperium and together we will stand on a brave new world that we created with our own hands. That is a dream I have, Kittaine. I want to share it with everyone. Let us make that dream come true today.”

“And your wife? Is she not part of this new dream?”

Luke stopped short but his smile was brilliant and warm as he turned to face Mara. She stood in the center of a squadron of stormtroopers and Jem’Hedar. The look of barely concealed annoyance as she brushed past her guards made Luke chuckle softly.

“My personal guard takes the protection of my dark lady quite seriously it seems.”

“Don’t give me that.” Mara snapped as she approached him and stood a meter away, arms crossed. “Don’t even think of telling me this walking cadet review is not your idea.”

“Forgive me Lady Skywalker but it was mine.” Rulek Parr interjected reverently and bowed his head.

“You?” Mara replied hotly.

“Indeed. You carry the Walker of the Skies’ seed. You will give birth to a new god. There can be no threat to you during this time. My people are ready to lay their lives down for you.”

“I don’t need protection.” Mara protested bitterly.

“But I feel better knowing that you are.” Luke said softly as he stepped to her and took her hands in his.

Mara eyed the young man with a hooded expression.

“I never liked you.” She concluded.

“I know.” He smiled.

“I thought you were too young for me. You were arrogant and vain. You thought the galaxy owed you for whatever the hell it was you think you had coming to you.”

“I know.” He replied softly leaning in closer to her. She made his heart race and his head spin. The heat that jumped between them was nearly palpable.

“I thought that I would have to kill you.”

“I know.” He whispered lips inches from hers.

Mara grabbed the back of Luke’s head and pulled his face back several inches locking her eyes with him.

“You come back to me you son of a bitch…to us.” She added very hesitantly.

Luke kissed her. Hard. He wrapped her up in his arms and she closed hers around him tightly and their embrace was one of desperate love. A love found in hardship long denied and finally able to express itself.

Kittaine looked down at his shoes uncomfortably but the Jem’Hedar and stormtroopers were as impassive as ever.

Their lips parted and Luke gently ran a hand along her cheek and his other touched her stomach.

“I will be back. I promise.”

Luke slipped down his visor and turned to his fighter. He strode over to it and quickly slipped a foot on the small ladder that led up to the cockpit. His astromech droid beeped excitedly as the converters switched on and the entire X-Wing began to thrum aggressively.

“Lord Skywalker!” Kittaine called over the quickly increasing roar of the X-Wing’s engines.

Luke looked over at the Grand Admiral, one hand balancing himself on the lip of the cockpit as he stood on the small ladder.

“My lord I think I speak for all when I say – May the Force be with you.”

Luke smiled. A genuine warm smile and he nodded.

“May the Force be with us all today.” He replied and catlike leapt into his cockpit and quickly began flicking controls.

Kittaine nodded to the flight crew as they finished the rest of the preflight checks on the X-Wing, pulling away fuel lines, checking to make sure all panels were closed and all systems were green. The tall imposing Jem’Hedar leader found himself standing beside the Grand Admiral.

Mara stood off to the side one hand over her mouth as if trying to hold on to the kiss he had given her, the other hand reflexively fell to her stomach. She refused to cry or even let a single tear well up as Luke gave her a thumbs up sign quickly followed by a kiss to his hand and pressed to the cockpit.

She laughed despite herself. But despite the bittersweet smile and laugh she could feel the darker part of herself, hidden away by years of discipline and foul dark side techniques laugh bitterly. You found him and he must leave. Isn’t that how it always ends for us? Alone and forgotten.

“You look concerned.” The Jem’Hedar noted eyeing the human with a hooded expression, a single milky white cataract eye, not fully developed in the cloning process interrupted during Lord Skywalker’s rescue contrasting sharply with the other bright yellow eye.

“He is our only hope. If we lose him in this battle we’ve lost everything we have accomplished.”

The Jem’Hedar grunted to himself and shook his head ruefully.

“What is it?” Kittaine asked as the X-Wing slowly began to rise off the flight deck guided by a flight crewman waving light wands.

“He is the Walker of the Skies, his destiny is not meant to be insignificant. If his death means the end of an Empire then so be it. But I do not believe that it will end thus. I believe he is meant for a grander thing and I want to be there to see it.”

“You have a lot of faith in him for someone whose known him all of a few days.” Kittaine replied dryly.

The Jem’Hedar smiled grimly.

“My people have walked among gods, Grand Admiral. We know greatness and destiny when we see it. That one – ” Rulek Parr indicated the X-Wing as it slowly began to rise off the gantry with a nod of his head. “He is destined for something greater than we can even imagine. I want to be there by his side when he realizes his destiny.”

Kittaine paused and eyed the brutish Jem’Hedar.

“Let us hope you are right. Because this battle will be one for the ages.”

“As it should be.” Rulek Parr replied with an emphatic nod as the X-Wing slowly passed over them, the whine of her engines drowning out any other sound.


“And this is the best we can do?” Kirk asked seriously as he examined the tactical reports.

“Yes sir. All fleet elements have been deployed. As per the Klingon Chancellor’s request we have stationed the bulk of the Klingon fleet on the outer rings of our defensive perimeter.

Kirk nodded.

“We will have the honor of being the first to engage the Empire in combat.” Worf announced. “What happened to our people will be answered here if it must be.”

“You’re awfully eager for this Chancellor.” Jellico stated pointedly.

“Do not mistake resolution and determination for eagerness. Your people were always too quick to judge us so.”

“But I’m more concerned by this wing right here.” Kirk pointed to a spot on his perimeter far to the right of the fleet center. Most of the right wing covered the population centers of Andor and its closest moon which over the last few months had been fortified into a veritable fortress.

“The Andorian defensive fleet has demanded that the sector be defended solely by Andorian fleet assets.” Spock continued curiously.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense. This places the Andorian capital and its infrastructure at risk. I don’t want to sound too egotistical but wouldn’t the Andorians want at least a few ships with our experience and upgrades to help defend that zone?”

“I can only relay what the Andorian president insisted upon.” Spock replied but they could tell he too was as perplexed as Kirk.

The conference room on the Enterprise was packed with Captains and their tactical officers. Nearly the entire Federation Remnant fleet was here, thousands of starships and their attendant fighters and support craft not to mention the Andorian defensive fleet and the Klingon Home Guard. Some more melodramatic were dubbing this the Battle to End all Battles.

“The Andorian fleet has seen better days. Some of these ships are decades out of date.” Riker noted gravely as he scanned the registry. His eyebrows went up for a moment. “I think there are some ships here that are vintage your time Captain.”

Kirk frowned. What were the Andorians trying to prove?

“You know damn well what this means.” Kirk stated as he placed the datapad down on the table and looked at his closest officers. “Thrawn will hit that wing the moment he sees the opening.”

“Will he be that obvious?” Riker asked.

“He doesn’t need to be subtle Captain Riker. Thrawn holds all the cards in the firepower department.” Jellico interjected sternly.

“Thrawn will not be subtle. He will be brutal and effective. He doesn’t have the time to waste to be subtle with us. He has to be worried about Luke’s Imperium right about now if reports of hostilities between the two stardestroyers at Darkstar’s palace are true. He needs to knock us out quickly and decisively. He cannot allow this fleet to escape to fight another day.” Kirk explained.

“Good thing we’re not running.” Leia added wryly.

“Not a laughing matter from where I sit.” Jellico interjected darkly. Leia glanced at the older man as if to respond but noted Kirk’s annoyed expression and decided it best to let the comment lie.

“The orders are clear. We are not running from this fight. We make our stand here and now and we will do our best to defeat the Imperial forces by any means necessary.” Kirk explained softly but his words were edged with emphasis on his meaning. There would be no retreat, no surrender, no quarter asked and none given.

“And these Amber devices?” Jellico asked pointedly.

“They will be deployed upon my command not before. They are a weapon of last resort.” Kirk replied. He looked over at Riker. “Captain Riker we’re going to need the Excalibur to go above and beyond today. She’s the only ship in the fleet that stands a chance in hell of going toe to toe with Thrawn’s stardestroyers.”

“The Excalibur will do her duty, Captain. They will not pass where we stand.” Riker stated stoically.

“That’s all I can ask of you and your brave crew. Thank you, Will, for all you’ve done for me and the Federation.”

“It is an honor sir.” Riker smiled.

“Chancellor Worf?”

“Yes, Captain Kirk?”

“I want to especially thank your people for standing with us today on the field of battle. We could not have asked for stauncher allies in this fight and I could not imagine this final conflict without the proud Klingons teaching us what brave warriors are like in times of crisis.”

Worf seemed genuinely surprised by Kirk’s words. Some of the Klingons seated with him exchanged equally surprised but proud glances.

“There is no one else we would rather stand with on this day, Captain. With our Bat’leths in hand we know we have the Federation at our back and that is all we need to know.”

Kirk nodded gratefully.

“We shall see each other again on the field of battle.” Kirk stood up and thumped his chest. “Kaplah!”

Worf and the other Klingons enthusiastically returned the salute with loud exclamations of Kaplah! Many of the assembled officers began joining in smiling and Leia could see the tension quickly draining from their faces.

“Wedge Antilles!” Kirk called out over the chants as a Klingon began a low thumping war chant in the back that the others were quick to pick up on. A tall slim Trill woman stood by a brash young Klingon and she soon took up the beat and tempo by watching him.

“Sir!” Wedge replied from his place behind Leia.

“I fully expect you and your Rogues to bag me a full stardestroyer’s TIE complement.”

“Just one sir? You insult us.” Wedge laughed. The war chant was clearly being picked up by the Starfleet officers, many mangling the Klingoneese but clearly too enthusiastic about it to care.

McCoy tugged on Spock’s sleeve and shouted over the growing din. “What are they saying?”

Spock glanced at McCoy and back at the chanting crowd.

“It is an ancient Klingon Battle song. I believe the gist of it is ‘Eat the Targ’s Heart, Drink the Blood Wine, Make a Joyful noise for tomorrow we cross into Stovolkohr.”

McCoy frowned peevishly.

“Not exactly uplifting lyrics are they?”

“Quiet the contrary Doctor, it seems they are.” Spock replied watching more Starfleet officers join in the chant, thumping their table tops or even their chests in time with the beat.

Threepio stumbled to the left and right as Klingons jostled past him to join the growing jubilant crowd in the center of the room.

“I must say this is frightfully decadent.” Threepio complained.

Artoo whisteled and chirped an observation.

“Exciting is hardly the word I would use.” Threepio retorted tartly before stumbling backwards from an exuberant sweep of a Klingon inviting more people forward to the cneter of the drumming. Some humans began dancing to the beat with frenetic swinging of hips and arms. Tellarites lost their dour expressions as they were reluctantly pulled into the celebration by smiling Betazoids. Even the Vulcans allowed themselved to be caught up in the moment somehow a Vulcan lyre found itself in the room and the gentle sturmming took up a counterpoint to the deep bass drumming of fists on any hard surface available.

“Chewie!” Kirk called out with a growing smile of joy.

The Wookie roared a reply.

“You watch over the Princess. She’s been my partner in crime in this and I would hate for anything to happen to her.”

The Wookie gave Kirk a joyful roar as he placed a protective arm around Leia. Leia laughed seeing the room virtually glowing as hundreds were putting aside all their tension and fear in this one orgasmic moment of joyful celebration of the battle to come. She quickly walked over to Kirk who was shouting encouragement to the Captain of another starship.

“You should know by now I don’t need rescuing.” Leia complained as she playfully punched him in the shoulder.

“It’s a hard habit to break for me.” Kirk replied smiling boyishly.

“You be careful out there. After all I’m the one on a rebel frigate that can at least survive a few broadsides from a stardestroyer. Have you reconsidered my offer for you to take command from the fleet on the Hope?”

“No. The Enterprise is and has always been the flagship of the Federation. In this, our final battle she will retain that honor and distinction. I could never leave her.”

“I understand.”

Kirk gripped her hands.

“Thank you for everything Leia. This could not have happened without you.”

“You underestimate yourself, Jim. But I’ll accept it with grace.”

“Just like the princess you are.”

They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment, the war chant picking up volume if that were possible and the Klingons impetuously began competing with the Starfleet officers in who could chant the loudest.

Leia leaned in close to him and kissed his cheek, missing his lips by a mere inch. She smiled meaningfully at him.

“For luck.”

Kirk put an arm around her and drew her to his side and turned to face his rowdy commanders, eyes widening as a Betazoid went sprawling out on the table flung there by an over enthusiastic Klingon reveler. Kirk laughed warmly, gripping a beautiful woman at his side and feeling as if all the worried of the world had vanished and he was a simple Starship captain discovering strange new worlds and civilizations. He could still be amazed by flowers that changed hues at the slightest whisper of the wind and the varying shades of color that were unique to every world he walked on. He imagined himself that young man building his first model sailing vessel and looking out at the stars from his Iowa farm and imagining himself out among those very stars. And he was happy. He held on to that moment for as long as he could.

“Are you going to come away from the window?” his bonded one’s voice drifted out from behind him.

He stood quietly on the balcony of the presidential estate. In his hand he held a drink and the other rested on the cool marble railing. The dim blue sun was slowly drifting down into the horizon. He watched it intently as if willing himself to remember every detail. His head antennae reflexively swiveled back into the house to catch all the sounds.

“Did you hear me, love?” his wife asked in the traditional quiet Andorian whisper.

“Of course my love.” He replied distracted by the way the blue light cut through the leaves hanging over the balcony.

His wife eyed him quietly for a moment, taking measure of his mood and stance. She placed a soft powder blue hand on his shoulder.

“Is it the Battle?”

Above them, starting to become visible in the twilight sky were thousands of large streaking stars. They blotted out the true stars in their aggressive ballet above. An armada the likes of which Andor had never seen before was gathering and very soon, some believed in hours, the final fate of the planet and its people would be decided.

He tried to smile reassuringly but instead it was a sad tired smile. He gripped her hand in his.

“Is S’Yblis asleep?”

“Yes.” His wife replied hesitantly surprised by the sudden change in topic.

“Good. Good. You know I used to be ambassador to Earth before being elected by our people as Primarch.”

“Indeed. I remember watching you speak when I was a reporter for the Federation news service and wondering what sort of husband you would make.”

Now he smiled warmly and drew her close to him. Andorians were cool compared to humans but he felt warmer having her close to him like this on this night as the pale blue Andorian sun faded from the horizon.

“And did I meet your expectations?”

“Here and there.” She shrugged.

He laughed softly and kissed her hand.

“The humans had a prayer when they put their children to sleep. It always made me curious and wonder if humans are not the most morbid creatures in this universe but only now here, at the end of all things do I see the wisdom in the words.”

His bonded one watched him intently. Worry and stress had creased his face now since the fall of the Federation and his bright head feathers were dulled and beginning to thin. There was no doubt that these troubled times had carved out their scars on her husband’s face. He was no longer the gentle quiet soul she remembered marrying. She mourned for him.

“What is it?”

He looked back out into the sun as its final sapphire light shone in the coming darkness.

“Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

His wife was quiet as the sun finally vanished on the horizon.

“Is it truly the end?” She asked, voice catching with emotion.

He looked down at his wife and his mind flashed back to the ultra secret control center at the center of the sprawling estate. He could see the missile in his mind’s eye quietly waiting. He could see one of his oldest friends sitting patiently sipping Suralek tea and gently tapping the crystal spoon against the delicate porcelain lip of the tea cup. Deprived of his Shadowfleet this was his last duty, his final post. The control panel was within arm’s reach and displayed along massive screens comprising the far wall of the complex were constant readouts and trajectory calculations leading from Andor, from that very complex to the heart of Andor’s blue sun.

He imagined the signal that the battle was a loss. He could see his friend quietly set his tea cup down and perhaps he may spare one last breath of resignation before hitting the control panel and the missile would be primed and launched within moments. Trajectory and guidance information downloaded, cloaking device activated and the matter antimatter reactor would spin to life sending the missile rocketing out of the complex and to its destiny.

Would his friend even give any sign of despair? He doubted it. Perhaps his friend would wait for his death like the others. The pale blue sun would vanish and be replaced by a wall of fire and oblivion and the entire planet, the entire system would die. But they would be free and in the end they had decided better to die free than live under the yolk of oppression.

Let the humans like Kirk fight and scrap until they exhausted themselves.

Andor would be free forever and no one could change that.

But his eyes wandered to the hall and the bedroom beyond where his precious jewel slept and he hoped she would not wake. He prayed to the eternal her soul to take. Let her life end in dreams.

He watched the horizon one last time before answering, tears beginning to stream down his cheeks.

“I have watched my last sunset my love. Another will not set or rise over Andor ever again.”
Wherever you go, there you are.

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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 90: Battle of Andor Part II

Interludes in the Dark

“This is awful.” Orliss huffed. His partner grunted as he pried the access panel open and grimaced at the acrid smell of burnt circuitry and the sight of blackened boards and half lit panels hit him.

“It’s going to take hours to pinpoint the short.” His partner Chaltok snapped angrily.

“You’d think on a relay the size of this little baby it would be easy.”

“But it’s not.” Chaltok finished with a heavy sigh as he gingerly pried one of the boards loose from the array inside the panel. He held it up to the light and inspected the blackened veins that ran through the normally pristine circuit board.

Orliss leaned back against the bulkhead of the small relay satellite. They were floating in the middle of the great voids between worlds and star systems in this forsaken galaxy. With the need for communications and surveillance that spanned this new galaxy Lord Nemesis had secretly ordered the deployment of hyperwave relay station in key points of the galaxy.

These relay stations were responsible for the emergence of a primitive but efficient holonet network for the Imperium. Nemesis also knew that they could be a target for those like Thrawn who was intimately familiar with their technology and so a sharp eye was kept on these relay stations for signs of tampering or sabotage.

It was a vital assignment to keep the lines of communication open for the Imperium especially during these dark times. Orliss sighed deeply.

That didn’t mean that the assignment wasn’t any less boring.

“Are you just going to stand there or are you going to help me track down this short?” Chaltok asked with a frown. He gingerly pulled another board loose and saw the trail of blackened material. He was on the trail of the short that burned its way through the network. Problem was that just this access panel alone contained over 2,000 boards so it could be a long investigation.

Normally they would just run diagnostics and the like but Nemesis had been clear that he also wanted manual inspections. He was a paranoid bastard but they understood just how easy it was to hide sabotage and the like in a system this complex. It helped that Nemesis had been a rebel once long ago and he knew how easy it had been for the Alliance to hide their works from Imperial repair crews.

As sensible as the orders were it wasn’t Nemesis who would be checking a million boards by hand.

“Don’t you feel frustrated?” Orliss asked as he got down on one knee and pried open another access panel.

“Yeah, I think this level has over 100,000 boards alone.” Chaltok replied glumly.

“No,” Orliss snapped. “I mean our fleet is about to engage Thrawn’s and we’re out here in the middle of nowhere looking at circuit boards!”

“Calm down.” Chaltok replied in annoyance. “In case you didn’t know this about us – we’re technicians, low level ones at that. What good are we going to do in that battle?”

Orliss shook his head.

“We could do a lot. Damage control, who knows we could be the ones that fix the component that allows the ship to destroy an enemy vessel. Hell, we could be the very ones that turn the tide of battle.”

Chaltok glanced over at his co-worker and smirked.

“You still having those delusions of grandeur are you?”

“It’s not delusions to say that we can make a difference, even you and I.”

Chaltok chuckled softly as he pried another board loose.

“I am very accepting of my place in the universe my friend. The battles are won by the stormtroopers, soldiers and pilots out there. People like you and me will always be behind the scenes quiet and forgotten.”

“And you don’t think that can change?” Orliss pressed.

Chaltok seemed pensive for a moment and promptly shook his head.

“No. You and me, we’ll be out here fixing relay stations for the rest of our lives and patching together electronic gear while the others reap the glory and frankly that’s fine by me. Since when did you get all religious about those making a difference stuff?” Chaltok gently chided.

“Since we got here. This galaxy is different somehow, so many opportunities. Hell look at us indeed, we were 4th class techs trusted with only the most basic of hardware and now look at us – upgrading and maintaining a holonet of our own.”

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t celebrate out meteoric rise to glory.” Chaltok replied with a snort.

Orliss pursed his lips and held another board up to his light as he inspected it for tell tale markings of a short.

“I think we can make a difference. It’s all wasted out here though. The real battle is about to happen any day now.”

“If it makes you feel any better I think I may have found the source for our short.” Chaltok announced triumphantly and held up a board over his shoulder.

Before Orliss could say anything else the lights all winked out in the blink of an eye plunging the interior of the relay station into darkness.

“What the hell?!”

“Calm down, check your other work lights and if they’re not working we simply make our way back to the ship.” Chaltok said coolly as he slowly rose up off his knees and felt around for the nearest bulkhead for support.

He could hear Orliss fumbling around his utility belt for his other lights and clicking each one.

“No go on the lights. Its as if every battery lost their charge.”

“Well, we’ll solve that mystery once we get back to our shi—“

A golden light exploded in the interior of the relay station flooding over the two men and forcing each one to shield their eyes with their hands.

“What the hell is that?!” Orliss exclaimed.

The light began to die down almost as quickly as it came into being and through the harsh golden glow they could see the figure of a human being walking towards them. Both men were riveted in place as the golden light dimmed enough for them to clearly make out the figure that stood calmly before them regarding the duo with a passive gaze.

“Who are you?” Chaltok stammered wishing desperately he had his blaster with him.

The human was tall and lean, bald head and piercing eyes that regarded them with a preternatural calm.

“I am Picard of Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be honored as our own.”

“The bloody Borg.” Orliss hissed in desperate anger.

Picard was suffused by a pale golden luminescence and there were crystalline like implants along his arms and torso that pulsed in time with his heartbeat. He watched each one with a compassionate calm expression.

“Do not be alarmed. Much has changed since last you encountered the Borg. The Collective is no more. The Borg are a unity as they were always meant to be.”

“That all sounds well and good, Borg, but you’re not assimilating us without a fight!”

Picard held up his hands to show that they were empty.

“We no longer assimilate by force. We are inviting you to join the Unity.”

Chaltok and Orliss exchanged confused and uncomfortable glances. Despite Orliss’ bravado they both knew that there wasn’t much of a fight they could put up against the Borg. Chaltok glanced out one of the view ports as movement caught his eye.

A massive cube was floating into view, completely dwarfing the relay station and the Imperium shuttle. The cube was different somehow to Chaltok’s eye. It was cleaner, more ordered and instead of metallic tubing and irregular plates this cube was encased in crystalline ribs but the most striking feature was the change in color. Instead of sickly emerald glow that emanated from all things Borg, this cube was brimming in golden light identical to the halo that shimmered around Picard.

“You think we believe you when you say you won’t force us?!”

“You think we’re stupid Borg?”

Picard shook his head slowly and smiled.

“No, on the contrary you have very valuable knowledge that could help turn the tide of this conflict and bring peace to all the factions.”

Orliss’ eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“And how could that possibly be?”

Picard took a moment to regard each one before speaking.

“Your intimate knowledge of the foundations of Imperial technology will allow the Unity to better assimilate Imperial Technology and find weaknesses that will allow us to defeat Thrawn and his forces.”

“And just as easily turn on Lord Nemesis too? I don’t think so Borg scum.” Chaltok replied tightly.

“We are prepared to offer a lasting peace to the Imperium. The Borg Unity is not interested in war. However it is interested in ending a growing threat from the Imperials under Thrawn’s command. We have recently discovered a weapon of awesome power in their arsenal.”

“What are you talking about?”

Picard extended his hand palm up and a golden hologram sprang to life dancing in the middle of his hand. Both technicians saw something massive move past an unknown camera position and the view focused sharply now on the object. It was the size of a small moon and spider web like skeletal material jutted out from the unfinished framework.

“This object passed through a star system 6 hours ago and took up station keeping in the shadow of this gas giant. We only know of its existence after we reactivated our reconnaissance and surveillance network. The power readings on this vessel indicate that it has the potential to shatter worlds.”

“The deathstar…” Orliss gasped.

“That isn’t possible…is it?”

“So you are aware of this vessel’s capabilities?” Picard asked simply.

“Yeah.” Chaltok replied suspiciously.

“And you’re right about what it can do.”

“So you see the dilemma. Can your Imperium defeat this deathstar?”

Chaltok and Orliss exchanged troubled glances.

“The entire Starfleet would be hard pressed to crack that nut let alone our small fleet.” Chaltok mused grimly.

“But you think these guys can stop it?” Orliss indicated Picard with a nod of his head.

Chaltok eyed Picard up and down. He didn’t look like any Borg he had ever seen before. There was no pale greenish pallor to his skin, the implants seem to compliment him and were certainly not intrusive like the eye socket implants he knew all Borg to possess. Unlike the other Borg they had seen this one displayed emotion.

“What will happen to us if we agree?”

“I will take you to my vessel where you will be assimilated into the Unity.”

“So we’ll be zombies like the rest of your kind?” Orliss pressed fearfully.

Picard smiled softly and shook his head.

“No. You will become part of something…wonderful. You will lay your troubles down and embrace something greater than yourself and not by force as the previous Borg incarnation has done. The assimilation is a process of free will and choices and once you are joined there is no turning back but you will be part of something that will last forever. I cannot make the decision for you but you have my word on this – if you join the Borg Unity we will make war on Thrawn and drive him from this galaxy and we shall make peace with the Imperium. You see we harbor no ill will to Lord Nemesis or your Imperium. It is your coming that has allowed us to ascend to our true state. If not for your destruction of Unimatrix 001 we would still be locked in an awful stasis of Collective Will.”

“This is a bad idea.” Chaltok commented darkly to Orliss. Orliss did not seem as troubled as he continued staring at the image of the deathstar.

“We can do this.” Orliss muttered.

“What?” Chaltok exclaimed in surprise.

“We can do this, we know all the major systems on that beast, including the general theories. Hell most of her technology is merely a step up from technology that’s been around since before the Clone Wars.” Orliss explained as his voice grew more sure.

“You can’t be serious.”

Orliss looked at his partner and smiled warmly.

“I’ve never been more serious. Let’s do this old friend. You and me.”

Chaltok was aghast at the sudden change in attitude on Orliss. Fear was replaced by a great driving motivation now and the technician took a step towards Picard.

“You’re sure this will work?”

“There are no certainties in life, but at least we can say that we tried…and we made a difference.” Picard looked at Orliss meaningfully.

Orliss extended his hand to Picard and turned his head to Chaltok.

“I can’t do this alone, Chaltok. You’re better at the power technology that I am. We need you.”

“Suddenly it’s ‘we’!” Chaltok protested.

“Please. This is our chance, do you really think the Emperor is going to give a damn about two techs out in the void? But when those two techs hand the Imperium victory we will be remembered and we will have made a difference…” Orliss extended his other hand to Chaltok. “Or do you want to go on tracking down shorted panels for the rest of your life?”

Chaltok numbly looked down at the panel in his hands and then back up at Orliss. The panel slowly slipped out of his grip and clattered to the ground. He hesitantly extended his hand to take Orliss’ then looked at Picard.

“Will it hurt?” he asked softly.

“There is no pain where we are going. Only the promise of a new beginning.” Picard replied and they all vanished in a sparkling column of gold light. The relay station was left again in darkness, the only evidence that the two technicians had ever been there was a dropped circuit board and two open panels.


“All wings report in.” Uhura ordered.

Kirk half listened to the chatter now as thousands of starships began reporting in. He focused on the datapad in his hand and kept one eye on the tactical display on the main viewer. On it Andor was a large bluish orb surrounded by a crown of stars. Each star indicated a wing of starships all standing by for the coming battle. A countdown was quickly – too quickly for his tastes – unwinding on the top left portion of the screen and a hyperspace disturbance was slowly forming on the lower right portion of the screen.

Thrawn’s expected exit.

Kirk however suspected otherwise. He knew that the Grand Admiral would not risk dropping out of hyperspace in the midst of a minefield even if they were no real threat to his shields. Too many things could go wrong, one errant blast, one shield malfunction and he could lose a warship without the Federation firing a shot.

No. Thrawn left nothing to chance and he certainly was no going to do so now. They both knew this was the battle that could decide the fate of the galaxy and neither Thrawn nor Kirk were going to allow that bitch Fate to take one shot at ruining the party.

This would be decided by their fleets and nothing else.

“Uhura, patch me through to the fleet wide band.”

“You’re on sir.”

Kirk took a moment to compose himself and spoke, one eye on the countdown.

“All fleet ships, this is Captain James Tiberius Kirk. This is the moment that we have been waiting for since this war began. The galaxy makes her stand and whether we be Klingon, Human, Andorian, Vulcan or any other of the myriad of species upholding our cause we will not back down, we will not break, we will not yield.”

“And if this be our hour then let it come and what ever the end result may be – if we are to come back with out shields or upon them this galaxy will know that we made our stand and we said Come and take our freedom if you are able. Let future generations say of us millennia from now, ‘they were brave, they did not yield and when our time comes may we be like them.’”

Kirk nodded to the view screen.

“The hour is at hand, the wolf is at our door stand with me now.”

“Picking up a surge in quantum particles at 16 light years out.” Spock announced coolly.

“Red Alert.” Kirk announced grimly. “Battle stations.”

“Lord Vader, this fleet is in your capable hands.” Thrawn announced calmly as he stood hands clasped behind his back and watched his fleet deployed around the Executor. His officers moved quickly between crew stations below him and the quiet murmur of orders and reports being passed between crew pits created a satisfying background hum.

“Victory is now at hand.” Vader replied.

On the bridge of the Devastator Lord Vader stood at the navigation station and the officers in the pit were stiff and slightly uncomfortable with the presence of the armored giant in their station with them but they were all ready to do their duty as they had always done under his command.

Vader placed his hands on the navigation counsel and began working the controls, the rest of the fleet’s navigation systems were slaved to the Devastator’s counsel to allow this maneuver to work. Now Vader would be in control of the fleet and where it would go.

All he needed to do now was replicate his son’s feat at the Battle of Sector 001. Simple enough really, the boy was powerful indeed but he was still woefully unprepared for the true mysteries and powers that the Dark Side granted its adepts and masters. Vader had basked in the shadows and soothing darkness of the Dark Side for decades. There was nothing the boy could do that he could not.

He held onto that ember of anger. Luke had betrayed him. Luke had walked away from all that Vader stood for and arrogantly thought that Vader would follow him. Bitterness at the thought that after years of planning that were soon coming to fruition with his son at his side he would cast down Palpatine and bring Order to this galaxy. Palpatine had failed in so many of his promises, whispered vows of powers and secrets beyond knowing and in the end they were two old men desperately clinging to what they had. No immortality, no unlimited power.

Vader would change all that.

He realized what the limitation was. It was not in him as his Master insinuated so many times during their arcane research in plumbing the depths of the darkside – it was actually in Palpatine himself. Palpatine was a shadow of what Vader could have been and that was what was holding Vader back. It was only when he was in the presence of his son that he realized the truth.

With Luke at his side he could accomplish nearly anything. The Force sung in his son like a chorus. He had never met anyone as powerful except for himself back in those dark days before Mustafar. The Force sung in him as well but now it was always muted, always distant as if the cold dark suit and machinery were cupping his ears from the song.

But Luke had no such restrictions and together they could have found the secret of Plagueis and that would be the Sith’s ultimate gift to the galaxy wouldn’t it? The gift that would seal the people to the Order far greater than the pathetic Jedi. The Jedi promised law and order, peace at the end of their lightsabers.

Darth Vader would bring them life eternal.

Who would be remembered and revered forever?

One of Vader’s black gauntleted hands gripped the edge of the navigation counsel in anger and the metal creaked and began to buckle.

But Luke had ruined that now. His betrayal assured that Palpatine would hunt the boy down and destroy him and Vader would once again be under the old man’s shadow.

Damn the boy.

Vader’s anger gave impetus to his senses as he opened them up the very foundations of the universe. He stretched out with his feelings (Luke betrayed me) and he could feel the pathways between the stars. He could sense the ebb and flow of gravitic currents and eddies (Luke will force my hand) and he anchored himself on his end and searched out for the strands that would bring him to Andor. The pale blue sun was merely a glittering jewel in the galactic firmament and he could feel it now in his hands, he cupped it close to him and (I must obey my master) felt the strands connecting Andor to his current location. He sensed the quivering links of the Force that extended outward from the life generated around the fourth world from Andor’s primary and out to his fleet – the only source of life in this system.

It did not matter that the life energy was separated by sixteen long cold light years of empty lifeless space (The Emperor will demand Luke’s Life) because with the Force time and distance (and even death) meant nothing. Sixteen light years might as well have been sixteen steps.

The path was clear. (I will have to kill my son) The course was set.

As if in a dream Vader inputted the coordinates and the fleet launched itself into light speed.

I will have to kill Luke. It is his destiny.

“Hyperspace emergence…sector 7?!” Sulu’s astonished report mirrored the shock from many as an Imperial fleet seemingly appeared out of nowhere in a flash of pseudo motion, bypassing all the mines and defensive rings that enclosed the last free system of the Federation. Grand Admiral Thrawn announced his presence with a storm of green turbo laser fire that lashed out like the rage of a god.

“All vessels, commence evasive action and group for phalanx formation on my mark.” Kirk ordered as the Enterprise pitched and yawed madly to evade the enemy fire. He watched without reaction as several starships flanking the Enterprise were peeled away in plumes of fire and plasma like fireworks in the night at the lethal touch of the emerald turbolaser bolts .

“Fleet elements moving into position.”

“Holding fire.”

Kirk leaned forward in his seat as the Super stardestroyer Executor loomed on his view screen flanked by her squadron of stardestroyers. They waded into the fleet without hesitation.

Around the Enterprise hundreds of starships in the initial attack wing quickly formed up around the Enterprise in a wedge formation, doing their best to ignore the turbolaser fire and rapidly approaching cloud of Imperial fighters.

“All ships in position.” Spock reported.

“Execute phalanx formation. Mr. Scott, this is your show.”

Scotty nodded sharply and turned his attention to the engineering station monitors. On his screen hundreds of small icons flashed and spun as the computer picked up the various shields grids from the hundreds of starships forming around the Enterprise in formation.

The icons all began to flash as one, a single pale blue color spread from each icon until the shields all morphed into one.

“Shield harmonics have been matched and overlaid. Phalanx in place.”

“Now, all fleet elements, hard to Port and concentrate all firepower on the nearest stardestroyer. Fighter wings move in to intercept TIE fighters and take some heat off our big ships.”


The leading elements of the fleet turned as one in a giant pinwheel like formation and unleashed a murderous fusillade of torpedo and phaser fire. The lead stardestroyer, Accuser, took the brunt of the strike on her conning tower shields. Unlike before, when dozens of starships at a time would concentrate fire on a single shield arc, here hundreds of starships were beginning to concentrate their fire and the Imperial shields were showing the strain.

However the true surprise came when the Accuser returned fire with several turbolaser volleys that seemed to splash harmlessly against the shields of her attackers. Green splotches of turbolaser fire angrily spread over the shields of incoming starships but did not touch their hulls.

“Scotty?” Kirk asked without turning his attention from the view screen.

“Phalanx is holding sair but I canna guarantee it will hold against a full broadsides from those beasts.” Scotty reported, pride shot through his voice.

“Let’s see if that gives the Grand Admiral something to think about.” Kirk mused and motioned for the next wing to add to the attack on the Accuser.

“Their shields are holding?!” Piett announced in stunned disbelief.

“They must have found some frequency that nullifies our turbolasers.” Jerjerrod suggested.

Thrawn grimaced in distaste.

“Don’t be a fool. Our weapons are not frequency based. But their defenses are…” Thrawn turned his head towards the tactical station. “I want a full spectral analysis of their shield grids before the next pass. Do not fail me.” Thrawn ordered coldly.

“Right away Grand Admiral.”

“What do you suspect?” Piett asked.

“That James Kirk will be taking full advantage of his primitive technology for this battle and we will have to adjust accordingly. Have the second wing move in to support the –”

A beam of coherent light slashed downward like a blade and cut through the forward sections of the Accuser as it prepared to unleash a broadsides at the passing Federation attack wings. An explosion of bright light was immediately dimmed by the automatic dampeners of the Executor’s armored view ports.

“Sir…we’ve lost the Accuser.” The tactical officer reported with some dismay.

“Report!” Piett snapped.

“An antiproton beam of super laser levels discharged into the Accuser’s weakened shield grid.”

“Our mystery vessel reveals herself.” Thrawn nodded knowingly as the debris field that was once the mighty and proud stardestroyer Accuser parted to allow passage of a massive kilometers long conical vessel. Its open maw glowed hungrily as she faced the rest of the Imperial armada.

“The Excalibur. I thought her lost over Romulus.” Piett snarled and nodded to his gunnery chiefs. “Lock on and prepare to engage.”

“Negative, Admiral. I have plans for that vessel. Have the forward wings split into an S Formation, completely bypass the vessel and launch tac bomber wings Theta and Zeta to commence attack runs on the Excalibur. Tell them to focus their runs on the maw structure as we planned. No other capital ship is to get within range of her. If she cannot engage us she cannot harm us. Leave her to our fighters and bombers. Her lack of point defenses will prove her undoing.”

Piett smiled triumphantly at the wicked simplicity of the Grand Admiral’s plans.

“You’ve managed to neutralize their greatest asset in one fell swoop. My congratulations Grand Admiral.” Jerjerrod pointed out with a respectful bow of his head.

“You’re all fools if you think that Kirk will simply roll over and die because you neutralized his best combatant.” Khan piped up quietly from his place behind Thrawn. He was flanked by two Noghri who watched the genetic superman with a cautious eye. Kahn was wearing a simple tunic and had his hands bound in front of him. Thrawn made it clear he did not want Kahn out of his sight again. Ever. So now he played the part of ornamental prisoner for the alien.

Kahn was a patient commander though. His time would come. Vader, the only thing he feared was not on the Executor and the chaos of battle was so enticingly ripe for gambits such as his.

“The Excalibur is and always has been the lynchpin of any offense on the Federation’s part. Make no mistake that her neutralization will have a devastating effect on Kirk’s stratagems today but you are quite right Kahn. Kirk will not simply roll over and die but consider this, I have yet to see anything that I have not formed a contingency against.”

“His trick with the shields…” Jerjerrod began.

“Grand Admiral we have a spectral analysis of the leading attack wings’ shield grids. They read as one single grid.”

Thrawn nodded and pursed his lips.

“As I thought, he has found a way to link all their shields together, instead of a single starship forming a shield grid he is using complementary harmonics to make it seem as if one shield grid is being generated utilizing the power cores of hundreds of starships.”

Piett nodded with a respectful smirk.

“Creative little gundark isn’t he?”

Thrawn nodded.

“I would expect no less.” Off to the lower right hand corner a Strike cruiser dropped out of formation as a wing of Vorcha class attack cruisers concentrated a volley on her engines. The Klingon ships were decloaking within the fleet with impunity and making haphazard attack runs on any exposed ship.

Or so it seemed haphazard for someone who had not dreamed this battle to the final detail.

Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the Federation fleet formation as it bypassed the wreckage of the Accuser and began marching out to meet the secondary wings with impunity. The phalanx shields were holding to the barrages lancing out to meet them and the return fire was like a tempest of red phaser and cold blue quantum torpedoes.

“What’s going on here?” Thrawn wondered aloud and strode closer to the view ports.

A Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly decloaked off to the upper starboard and fell into pursuit of a passing Tie Fighter squadron, her disruptor cannons firing in a maddening fast stream of sickly green bolts that picked off the majority of the squadron before she broke off in a tight turn and cloaked again just in time to avoid an angry torrent of fire from a close by support vessel.

“I want positional reports of the Klingon fleet elements.”

“It will prove difficult sir, they keep cloaking and decloa---” the tactical officer’s voice trailed off as Thrawn turned his full attention on him.

“Did I ask you if my assignment would prove difficult?” Thrawn asked coldly.

“As you command Grand Admiral.” The tactical officer stammered and quickly turned to his scanning crews.

“You suspect the Klingons are planning something for Kirk?” Jerjerrod asked quietly as he stepped to Thrawn’s left. Thrawn watched the young officer out of the corner of his eyes. A Noghri was very subtly trailing Jerjerrod.

“Quite the contrary,” Thrawn replied as a Vorcha attack cruiser dropped past them, both nacelles blasted off by Imperial fire and a small flight of TIE fighters mercilessly pursued her freefall blasting away at the hull. “I don’t think they’re working with Kirk at all.”

Jerjerrod blinked in confusion.

“Note the Federation fleet positions. They are trying to push our fleet away from Andor and into the defensive perimeter around the planet in hopes of bogging us down in the mine field and Andor’s moon defenses. The Klingons however are doing absolutely nothing to aid in that endeavor and instead seemed to be focused on their own goals.” A pair of Bird of preys were blasted apart as their pursuit of a TIE interceptor squadron brought them right beneath the Devastator.

“I don’t understand.”

Thrawn was handed a report from the tactical officer. He glanced down at the positional report on the Klingon ships. He nodded to himself.

“So, Kirk has unleashed the Klingons on us and he has no idea what they’re doing.”


“Or genius. That means I have to deduce what two fleets will do instead of just pulling apart a single plan. He is so afraid of me getting into his head he has purposefully kept himself ignorant of the Klingon battle plans.” Thrawn sighed softly. “The fool is merely delaying the inevitable.” Thrawn turned to Piett.

“Admiral, I tire of seeing the Federation fleet flaunting their new found strength. Show them what an Imperial focused barrage can do, I want all guns to track and fire, time on target, aim for the center of that fleet.”

“Understood Grand Admiral.”

“Now Kirk, you’ve shown me your opening gambits, allow me to retort.” Thrawn whispered icily at the sight of the approaching Federation fleet.

The Executor’s hundreds of turbolaser batteries tracked the approaching Federation fleet and unleashed a single voluminous barrage of green fire, all bolts computer timed and aimed to strike the federation fleet simultaneously.

The impact occurred less than a second later.

“Hold on!” Kirk shouted as the bridge pitched hard backwards and sent several crewmen sprawling off their feet and into railings of other crewmen. A counsel died in a violent blast of sparks and smoke.

Around the Enterprise starships suddenly came to a sudden stop and erupted into miniature suns as their warp cores breached in response to the violent feedback from their shields. Many more starships seemed to slow or come to a dead stop, damaging explosions rippling through their interiors.

“Scotty, I need a sitrep now. Sulu bring the fleet around for a pass at that stardestroyer and keep it between us and the Executor. And where the hell is Riker?”

“Sair! Phalanx system temporarily overloaded. We just received far more than we could possibly compensate for. Feedback destroyed some of our ships and we have damages on many more. I warned ye about this.” Scotty replied in frustration. Even with the phalanx the federation shields were hardly on a par with the destructive firepower of Imperial warships.

“Duly noted.”

“Sir, the Excalibur is trying to get back into the fight but she’s not fast enough to catch up with the Imperial ships. They’re avoiding her and she’s under heavy fighter and bomber attack.”

“Alright, let’s see if we can’t help her out. Sulu have the 2nd Defiant Wing detach and support the Excalibur.”

“Aye sir.”

“Now,” Kirk began, adjusting his gold command shirt and wiping sweat off his brow as he took his seat again. He eyed the Imperial fleet before him on the view screen “maintain attack posture keep those stardestroyers between us and the Executor and standby for Operation Round hammer. All tactical stations, prepare to swap out quantum torpedoes for proton warheads”

“Aye sir.”

Kirk flicked a private com channel on his command chair.


“Here sir.”

“It’s time for you to join our little dance as soon as the Round-hammer falls.”

“Watch us soar, sir.” Jellico replied.

The fleets continued hammering at each other, hundreds of starships swarmed around the massive Imperial warships as fighters danced between them in tight little dances of death, white, green and red bolts zipped between the combatants sometimes connecting with explosive results.

A wing of Defiant class starships raced over the conning tower of a stardestroyer and suddenly dropped straight down, spinning on their axis as they came upon the Excalibur. Her long blue cylindrical hull was lit up by the explosions as torpedoes skipped off her neutronium hull in impotent explosions. TIE fighters walked their hungry green laser bolts along the hull of the ship as they swarmed like flies around a carcass.

The Defiants broke off into two separate attack wings, one took a sharp hairpin turn and drove straight for an approaching wing of TIE Bombers intent on delivering their destructive payloads into the open maw of the Federation warship. The other wing immediately fell upon the TIE fighters like a pack of wolves.

William Riker held on to one of the makeshift command stations built into the Excalibur. He cursed softly and looked over Data’s shoulder.

“Mr. Data am I correct in assuming that if those bombers deliver their payload into our maw section that would be a bad thing?” Riker asked tightly.

Data looked back at Riker for a moment.

“It would be a very bad thing sir.”

Riker smiled and slapped Data on the shoulder. “I do believe you just made a joke Mr. data.”

“I was merely trying to emphasize the gravity of the situation utilizing the terms you used as a frame of reference.” Data explained with some confusion.

“Never mind, Data. Mr. Paris?”

“Sir?” Tom replied without looking up as he worked the helm controls frantically trying to get the ship with the responsiveness of a Denebian slug worm to out maneuver Imperial fighters for their very survival.

“Don’t give them a clear shot at us and prepare a scattershot from our main gun.”

“Aye sir.” Tom replied and fought the urge to roll his eyes. This ship was in no way shape or form going to be able to dodge torpedo fire or prevent anything else other than the broadside of a barn target that it was.

Riker hit his com badge.


“I’m working on it.” Geordie replied anticipating Riker’s next request.

“They’re not having trouble locking on to us Geordie. Our subspace scattering field is doing little good in terms of EM jamming.”

“Well sir, if I amp it up anymore we’re going to start interfering with our own fleet’s systems.” Geordie explained calmly as he diligently worked on several counsels at once in the makeshift engineering section.

“Understood, and Geordie what are the chances of getting a better rate of fire on the main gun?”

“Unless you want to start devouring Andor we have to be very careful with our capacitors, sir. I’ll try my best but frankly we’re skirting the edge of exhausting our batteries as it is.”

“Damnit, you think whomever designed this thing would have made it a little more user friendly.”

“Frankly sir, my best guess is this thing wasn’t designed to be a warship but more of a terror weapon.” Geordie replied as he smiled. A system responded to his gentle ministering and he got a desired result, not a usual event on this vessel.

“We’ll talk about this later, we’re trying to stop the Empire from ramming a few torpedoes down our throat.”

Geordie frowned and stopped working for a moment as the implications became readily apparent.

“That would be a very bad thing.”

“So I’m told.” Riker replied with a grim smile.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 91: Battle of Andor III

Hide and Seek

“You can’t hide from me forever, boy.” Maul growled darkly as he stalked through another corridor hatchway. The big double blast doors were off their tracks and whining loudly as the motors tried to move the half ton tritanium seals into place. Sparks leapt off the edges of the octagonal doors and spilled around the Sith Lord’s boots. His crimson lightsaber hummed hungrily in the near darkness. Lights were winking on and off in random patterns and wires trailed down like leaves from a weeping willow to the floor from gashes in the ceiling and walls.

Maul stretched out once again with the Force and he searched for his quarry. The human was close, he knew that. He could almost hear him breathing hard somewhere behind a stray piece of furniture or an errant corpse. The fool thought he could evade the Sith Lord but all he was succeeding in doing was exhausting his patience.

“You know you’re only delaying the inevitable.” Maul continued as he walked slowly down the corridor, his senses fully alert. Something had brushed past his last Force sweep, like wind on silk curtains. The boy was talented he would give him that. He was no Force user however and that gave the Sith Lord some pause.

Whatever abilities the boy drew upon they did not touch the Force in any way so he could not track him in that manner. And his previous attempts at finding him had been successful only because Charlie Evans was obviously as unfamiliar with the Force as Maul was with these psi talents the boy possessed.

When the boy first turned to hiding Maul had easily found him but soon the boy began to melt away like so many shadows in dusk. Then Maul last found him only because Evans hid so well that he formed a void in the space where he stood and Maul nearly had him then.

Maul frowned heavily.

Charlie Evans was learning too fast for his tastes. Now he seemed to be perfectly blended into his environment. Maul would literally have to walk over him to find him. He had no time for this. His master assumed he would be able to slaughter this nuisance and return to the Deathstar to begin the final phases of his plan.

The fact that this uninitiated child was eluding the best hunter the Sith had ever produced was enraging him and his rage was giving him a pretnatural focus. He needed that focus now to peer past the veils the child was putting up to protect him.

Somehow Evans knew that all he needed to do was outwait Maul. The Federation Remnant’s meager skeletal security force would eventually realize something was wrong and come in force. Then what was Maul to do? Kill everyone until he found his prey. There simply was no time for this.

“You are only prolonging the inevitable. This blade.” Maul indicated his double bladed lightsaber with a quick jerk of the weapon. “Will assure that you die quickly and painlessly.” Maul glanced backwards. He felt it again, like a wind in the grass. When the boy moved he left slight ripples in the Force. If not for Maul’s single-minded concentration on finding him it was doubtful a Jedi or Sith would ever detect them.

The Master, as always, was correct. This Charlie Evans could not be allowed to live. He was too dangerous. If he could avoid the Emperor’s greatest hunter like this then he was too grave a threat to the Order. He must die.

Now if only he could find him.

“Coward. You think you accomplish anything by hiding from me?” Maul snapped. He calmed his breathing. He needed to use all his senses not just his Force abilities. There had to be a flaw in this veil of psychic camouflage his prey hid behind and he would find that flaw. And then he would make his prey beg for its life.

He felt the ripple in the force like a tsunami hammering towards him. Maul flipped end over end and brought one hand up quickly and called upon his anger and rage to form around him like a shield. The psychic assault crashed around him and the walls of the corridor visibly buckled inwards as if a great hand had flexed itself in the tight constrained space. Metal groaned and bulkheads shuddered as the psychic assault passed over him and subsided.

Maul reached out with the Force and sent a force push down the corridor in as wide a n arc as possible. He heard a deep exhalation of air and a blurry shape catapulted off its feet backwards and down the corridor. Maul charged forward after his prey. His smile was triumphant and cold.

“Fool, you’ve tried and tried again and you have failed. Your power is no match for the darkside.” Maul snarled as he raised his lightsaber over his head. His prone opponent rolled onto his back and smiled at the Sith lord.

“Isn’t it now?”

The floor beneath Maul vanished between footfalls. Maul’s eyes widened in surprise and he plummeted down through the hole to the floor below. Charlie scrambled to his feet, gingerly touching his left side. Those pushes of force were like jack hammers. He had no doubts that if he were struck head on by one of them he would have been severely injured.

Unfortunately this Sith could somehow ward off his most potent attack. He had tried half a dozen times now to wish him away but the dark warrior was able to somehow use his anger and rage like a shield. Charlie was unaccustomed to someone who could match him on equal footing and found himself reaching deep into his grab bag of tricks now.

He was sure that he had a wide range of abilities at his disposal, it was usually just limited by his imagination but the key here was that Charlie had never had to imagine such creative things like invisibility and more importantly as much as he was putting on a brave front for this Darth Maul he was afraid. Very afraid of the Sith and that crimson lightsaber. Charlie kept imagining what it must be like to be touched with that blade. It would hurt wouldn’t it?

Charlie shook his head strongly and cleared his thoughts of the fears and doubt that kept creeping in. He wondered briefly if these distractions were some trick of the Sith lord’s doing, flooding his mind with fear and apprehension. But that would be fooling himself.

Charlie had not had to fight for his life ever. This was a new experience for him. Fate had simply decided to make it more than a challenge the first time out.

“Q, I could really use your help right about now.” Charlie muttered. He looked down the hole and saw nothing but inky blackness below. The lights were out. Part of him urged him to overcome his fears and leap down there to confront Maul. But on second thought he realized he would be trading cowardice for foolishness. A lightsaber blade could easily be waiting to eviscerate him should he just carelessly fling himself down there.

No, you have to think creatively he mused and waved his hand over the hole. The floor returned to its intact state. He nodded satisfied with himself and hurried over to the turbo lift.

The boy was dangerous. Despite the earlier bravado every time Evans launched that broad psionic assault on him his strength waned and ebbed shrugging off the attacks. Maul had no doubts that over time Evans would batter his defenses down and he would be caught up in that maelstrom.

Maul did not enjoy being outclassed in terms of raw power. The Dark side was supposed to be the path to ultimate power – his master had even suggested that a true master would be able to tap into reserves of unlimited power. Maul was no where near ready for that level of enlightenment it seemed because a boy was able to batter and punish him effortlessly.

If only Maul could get one attack on him, one strike and this would all be over. He did not want to conceive of what his master would do to him should he fail in this mission. This was the test, the gauntlet he had to endure in order to be deemed worthy of engaging the traitorous scum Skywalker. How he yearned to clash sabers with the sandy haired youth and teach him about power and obedience.


Maul smiled coldly.

He melted into the shadows as the doors to the turbolift down the hall snapped open. Charlie cautiously stepped out, holding one hand up above his head from which a pale blue light sputtered into life bathing the corridor and surrounding offices in its aura.

“You want to finish this Maul. I know you do. Come out and face me like a man.” Charlie called out. In his mind he held onto the vision of his plan. He could not allow fear and surprise to cloud his judgment or his reaction time. It was all about the plan. He could no longer run and hide from the Sith lord.

He could feel the security teams on their way and he had also read the murderous intent in the Sith lord’s mind. He would butcher them all if he had to. He would cut a bloody swath through whatever stood between he and Charlie. Charlie could not stomach the notion of people dying because he was too busy hiding.

Jim would never approve of that and he would not be hiding. He would be down here, in the dark, hunting the hunter. He would not let James Kirk down.

Maul slid quietly along the walls, willing the shadows to cling to him like desperate lovers as he approached his target. The bastard was foolish enough to come down here and confront him directly. Now he would pay. Obedience. There were many paths to power in the Force, especially in the Dark side. One of those paths could illicit obedience from those with weak minds. Whereas the Jedi used a stunted form that they so childishly labeled the Mind Trick the Sith were well versed in the far more efficient and brutally effective version known simply as Command.

Maul exploded out from the shadows to Charlie’s right and focused his mind like a scalpel as he uttered a single word backed by all his vaunted will and malevolent rage.


Charlie felt the influence on his mind, the almost irresistible urge to simply stand stock still despite the fact that every instinct was telling him to move, to run, to do something. But Charlie’s imagination was in full tilt and while his body was battling with itself on whether it should move or not, neurons misfired, muscles spasms wracked Charlie as his will battled the Force driven command his mind was free and in motion.

The dark lord roared triumphantly as he pulled his lightsaber backwards in a clean sweep to take the man child’s head and bring him victory. Charlie Evans’ will was in motion bringing reality to bend to his whim as it always did.

And like a willing servant reality indeed unfurled for him and Darth Maul. The air around the Sith Lord solidified quickly like amber as he tried to trap his dark attacker but Maul was determined to strike and he fought past the mental trap, swinging his blade with determined effort. Charlie fought the control word as well and raised his hands in a warding gesture across his chest as the blade impacted against an invisible wall thrown up by his desperate mind.

The saber reverberated backwards and the air where it struck mere inches from Charlie’s face sparked and shimmered like heat off the pavement in summer. Charlie however was thrown back by the kinetic backwash of the Sith lord’s strike and as he stumbled backwards Maul did not hesitate to raise the saber up at his shoulder and stab towards Charlie’s heart, grunting with effort as he let the hatred and anger flow, giving him strength unlike any man’s.

Charlie’s hands rose up again in a cross armed warding gesture and his will solidified the air again but the strike was much harder, more precise and focused. The blade punched through the psionic shield and stabbed Charlie’s upper chest.

Charlie gasped in shock. Because there was no pain, no searing of flesh and bone as he expected but instead an abiding cold and numbness that spread outwards from the wound. Charlie slumped backwards but his raised arms lashed down as if striking and Maul was launched off his feet and tumbled backwards.

Maul landed in a low crouch and extended a gauntleted hand with a cold smirk of derision at his wounded prey. Charlie was gaping down in shock at the partially cauterized wound in his upper chest. Maul’s strike was intended for his heart but a lung would do for now.

“I will take you in pieces if I must, boy, but for now, you will feel the fury of the Dark side.” Maul snarled and white lightning erupted from his outstretched hand and closed the distance with Charlie in the blink of an eye. Charlie screamed as the lightning shit through him hungrily lapping up his life force and driving him to his knees.

Maul’s smile was ice as he began to walk towards Charlie, letting the lightning ease up slightly so he could enjoy the child’s screams. Charlie writhed on his knees, head down into his chest biting back the screams of pain.

“Only now do you realize how hopeless your cause was little boy. At last we bring this game to a close, at last you shall know pain and then death. Then my master and I will take this wretched galaxy by the throat and seize it for our own. The Sith empire will span two galaxies and we will be unchallenged in our might.” Maul stood over Charlie and raised his hand directly over his fallen foe’s head. The lightning drew down to almost a light rain of electricity and dark side energy that danced hungrily over Charlie’s body, collecting around his wound and his joints.

“You…don’t even…care that the…universe is…ending. Do you?” Charlie managed to grunt out between rapid breaths and the pain that lanced through his body. His breath was low and ragged, it seemed difficult for him to swallow enough air.

Maul sneered.

“If it ends, let it end in fire.” He replied grimly and then he stabbed down with his hand and the lightning exploded into a torrent and Charlie threw back his head and screamed.

“That’s it. It’s almost over now, boy. Just let go. You cannot win.”

Charlie’s eyes narrowed on his tormentor. He could hear James Kirk in his head. He could see all that was at stake. The universe falling apart, each galaxy snuffed out like so many guttering candles and here he was on his knees ready to give up and die.


Charlie raised his hands and caught the leading edges of the force lightning in his hands. The dark power burned between his fingers and through his hands as he felt for the conduit of how it flowed. He could sense the strands of hatred and anger in each tendril of agony and it all led back to Darth Maul.

So Charlie exerted his will and he completed the circuit between himself and Maul.

The room warped and shuddered under the contest of Force energies and psionic will. Walls buckled and conduits and panels tore themselves from their moorings. The air itself seemed to congeal and thicken like ice.

The lightning suddenly blossomed from a steady stream of bluish white lightning into an explosion of light and hate that enveloped both Charlie and Maul. The Sith lord’s eyes widened as his attack was turned on him and he was flung like a rag doll spinning backwards into a support beam that gave way under the assault. Maul continued on and crashed into an access door, knocking it off the doorway and he landed in a loud thump on the floor.

The Sith lord gasped for a moment.

How was it possible that one untrained in the ways of the Force could turn such an attack?

“You’re no Jedi Master.” Maul spat, blood speckling the air around his mouth as he spoke.

Charlie struggled up into a standing position and shook his head slowly.

“No, but I don’t believe in the no-win scenario you black hearted son of a bitch.” Charlie shouted as he gathered up his strength and his power and instinctively charged forward. Maul kip upped and landed awkwardly as he suddenly realized that his left leg was shattered like glass. He could feel bone fragments working their way through muscle tissue and sinew.

Pain was irrelevant. Instead of hindering him Maul fed off the pain letting it fuel his anger and rage. He called upon the darkside and rained more lightning down on the charging child.

Charlie called up his own power and formed a battering ram around himself. He ran headlong into Maul and both crashed against each other in a furious clash of flesh and bone. They continued on through the access door that led into a maintenance Jeffries tube.

Charlie could feel the thrumming of the matter/antimatter reactor beneath them as they clashed with fists, lightning and psionic blades.

There was no other choice. He couldn’t out fight this creature. Desperation fueled a plan and Charlie rallied for one last strike. Maul activated his lightsaber with a loud snap hiss and brought it around for a killing stroke. Charlie struck down with all his might and the grilled plate beneath their feet shattered as if struck by a giant fist and the two tumbled down into the yawning chasm below into the engineering deck of the station. Charlie whipped his hands forward and saw a slash of crimson out of the corner of his eye, felt an icy slice and then for a brief moment of chilling clarity realized that his left arm just tumbled past his field of vision.

They continued to plummet twisting and twirling through midair directly down into the reactor core.

Charlie did not hesitate to reach out and place a hand firmly against Maul’s chest and willed the bastard to simply cease to exist, to be erased from the very fabric or reality like a bad dream. It was the dark lord’s turn to scream in pain and anguish as he felt the very essence of his being fading away.

Maul fumbled for his belt. As he locked eyes with the youth. His wrath was terrible.

“You lose.” Charlie smiled grimly, blood trailing from his nose and mouth.

They impacted against the reactor core and moments later there was only white light and then silence.


The Enterprise shuddered hard as she suffered another volley from her attackers. On the screen several star destroyers were moving in a wedge to break through the tight Federation formation. The key to the Phalanx defensive system was that the starships had to remain a certain distance from each other in order to allow the shield harmonics to sympathetically reinforce each other.

The Imperials had obviously quickly discovered this weakness in the system and Thrawn had set his leading ships into Kirk’s lines to try and break the formation.

Kirk did not allow his concern to show on his face. Instead he paced between the tactical station and the helm, occasionally patting a crewmen on the shoulder or whispering a word of encouragement.

“The Second wing is faltering.” Spock warned.

“Have the Galaxy wing closest to them move in for support.” Kirk ordered tersely as he watched several starships suddenly vanish in balls of plasma and molten metal, unable to withstand the assault from the Imperial stardestroyer picket line that was slashing into his formation.

He couldn’t simply bull past them. Leaving such the stardestroyers in his rear echelon could only prove disastrous.

Thrawn was proving to be as brilliant a bastard as he was back at Romulus. But the odds were still not as bad and Kirk had some surprises up his sleeve.

“Position of the Executor?” he asked. The screen brightened as an Excelsior class ship had a nacelle sheared away by a turbolaser blast. The stricken starship spun into the shot, the energy of the impact spinning her on her axis and sending her speeding away trailing a glittering stream of debris and hot gasses.

Kirk leaned over to Sulu.

“Have the Hornblower break off and assist the Melbourne. She’s spinning out of control and could endanger the other ships.”

“On it.” Sulu nodded. Kirk looked back up at the screen eyes riveted on the command ship hanging back beyond the initial wave of Imperial ships.

“She is nineteen kilometers from prime position.” Spock reported.

Kirk rubbed his chin. He needed that ship to move.

“There’s only one way to get Thrawn to move forward and that’s be giving him reason enough to want to place his ship in further danger.” Kirk surmised. He stalked back to his command seat and adjusted his shirt as he sighed deeply collecting strength and resolve. This was going to be a tricky maneuver.

“Have the fleet fall back in wings to rendezvous point Baker.”


“And Mr. Sulu, keep the Enterprise firmly in front. I want Thrawn to see we’re among the last ships to reposition.”

“We are a rather tempting target just sitting out front like that.” Sulu grinned.

“Let’s hope we’re tempting enough.” Kirk replied darkly.

The Federation fleet began to slowly fall back, apparently searching for some respite from the charging Imperial ships. The stardestroyers like hounds on the hunt began to surge forward in response, eager to hunt down the ships that were keeping them from their victory.

TIE fighters dodged in-between the ships trading shots with passing starships and moving deeper into the Federation lines. They were hunting for cracks in the disciplined retreat. Bright emerald twin bolts lashed out in machine gun like staccato bursts when they found any floundering starships, flickering nacelles or trails of plasma and debris were like blood in the water for these small one manned predators.

Like wolves racing along a pack of mammoths the TIE fighters were quick to find their marks and engage them.

An ancient Constellation class starship slowly fell behind, one nacelle damaged and her impulse engines misfiring she was quickly surrounded and swarmed by the TIE fighters when they found her. The Imperial fighters danced around, flicking in and out and battering at her shields waiting to draw blood, hoping to bring down their prey as quickly as possible. Simultaneous attacks from above, below and behind were overwhelming the venerable ship’s defenses.

Soon one of her bottom nacelles exploded as a TIE fighter walked its cannon fire along the length of the nacelle and continued on to the elongated saucer hull. The bolts worked their way up to her bridge section and the fighter peeled away as the Constellation ship began to explode.

Her death drew the attention of a Nebula class the starship that quickly fired off a volley of torpedoes into the swarm of TIE fighters sending many to a quick fiery death as the spread of torpedoes exploded into crimson clouds of flame.

It is said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The quick yet orderly withdrawal of the Federation fleet was stinging the eager Imperial forces forward. Tightly clustered wedges of stardestroyers were finding themselves spreading out in a vain effort to engage as many Federation starships as possible.

As stardestroyers paused here and there to concentrate fire on a cluster of starships that were too slow to get out of the path of their hunters as they broke from their battle lines other continued on, surging forward to try and cut off the retreat.

Soon the leading picket lines were spread throughout the Federation fleet. Bursts of turbolaser batteries no longer as concentrated as when the stardestroyers were moving in tight wedges.

“No. This is not the time to move the command ship.” Thrawn replied quietly as his bright red eyes skimmed along a battle report that Piett had just handed him.

“Grand Admiral we are losing cohesion among the forward fleet elements. Standard Imperial battle tactics call for the command ship to be a certain distance from the leading elements of our fleet. We are nearly double that distance now.” Piett explained calmly. He knew that getting excited when debating the Grand Admiral was a pointless exercise.

“Since when have I ever followed standard Imperial battle tactics, and frankly I’m surprised after our experiences together that you would begin following them now precisely when standard tactics is what Kirk is counting on for us to rely upon.” Thrawn replied lips pursed in disappointment.

“His fleet is in retreat. I think we should fully exploit this momentary break in their formation and force the issue. One strike deep into his flank there –“ Piett jabbed a finger against the armored glass of the command window indicating a point in the Federation fleet’s retreating lines closest to the Executor. “could open a gap that would break this special shield defense that has been stymieing our efforts.”

Thrawn nodded sagely.

“And that is precisely where I would attack as well.”

Piett was puzzled.

“Save that that is precisely where Kirk wants to be as well. This retreat stinks of Vulcan.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Read Imperium battle reports more closely, Admiral,” Thrawn replied. “At the disastrous Battle of Vulcan he initiated a masterful series of retreats and displacements that lured in the Imperium stardestroyers into a point where they could bring crude mass drivers to bear and managed to destroy one of the ships and cripple the other.” Thrawn nodded to the battle raging outside. Just above the Executor an errant Klingon D-7 attack cruiser fell past the window, spinning like a mad top out of control trailing fire and debris before it impacted harmlessly against the forward shields of the Executor. “He is doing the same here.”

“Save that in at Vulcan he was facing solely three star destroyers. Here is facing the might of the finest sector fleet of the Empire. If we move swiftly enough we can overwhelm him.” Jerjerrod added quietly. He seemed distracted but now he was focused on the battle. Thrawn eyed the young commander with a hooded expression.

“We will not place our fleet at risk by doing what the enemy wants. Instead what we shall do is do what the enemy does not want in this instance.”


“Alert all commands. I want long range planetary bombardment to commence on Andor.” Thrawn ordered decisively.

Piett frowned slightly.

“At this range we won’t do much damage or be very accurate.” He warned.

Thrawn smiled softly.

“We do not have to be very accurate to injure their world, Admiral. The whole reason Kirk is fighting so hard is to protect that world. When he begins to see that I refuse to engage him and instead will destroy his objective slowly but surely we will force him to act.” Thrawn closed a fist in front of Piett. “In this battle, my good Admiral, it will be James Kirk and his Federation that will dance to my tune.” Thrawn vowed.

Kahn’s eyes narrowed on the Grand Admiral and he smiled softly and nodded. Indeed, Grand Admiral. But there are still so many tunes to be played. Kahn mused.

Chancellor Worf growled in frustration as yet another of his capital ships met fiery doom as they continued to draw a cordon around the Executor. Soon they would be in position to launch their decisive stroke. His flagship and the Imperial flagship would do battle. He was no fool. He did not expect to win this battle at all. Especially not alone. Instead hundreds of Klingon ships were slowly circling the gargantuan command ship and taking up position for the all out assault that would hopefully destroy or at least cripple her.

Each of the Klingon ships was tasked with sections of the vessel to attack, most concentrating on the command and control centers and the main weapons emplacements. Worf doubted that even with their combined fire power they would be able to do more than injure her but if he could render her deaf, blind and dumb then he would score the victory that would be necessary to turn the tide.

“We have ships in position now Chancellor. We await your order to strike.” His XO announced with a barely restrained eagerness.

“Have our torpedoes tubes been loaded with the Federation proton torpedoes?”

“All the vessels that we could supply with the new torpedoes have at least one full spread of proton torpedoes to fire. We and a few other key command vessels are carrying a full load out.”

“Excellent. When the time comes we need to strike as one in order to have any hope of breaching those shields…and then…”

“We will avenge the loss of Quo’nos.” his XO replied proudly.

Worf eyed his eager XO and the other officers. They had expressions of anticipation that could only mean that the sting of battle was what they were craving now more than anything else.

“We will wait until the precise moment to strike, is that clear.” Worf warned strictly.

“Will we know it?”

Worf nodded eyeing the giant vessel slowly growing on his screen.

“When the Imperials need her most, when the Grand Admiral most wants to reach out to his fleet and take command we will silence her with our assault and hopefully give the Federation fleet the advantage it needs to turn the tide.” Worf assured him. Like all great hunters now all they had to do was wait.

“Geordie?” Riker asked tensely as the TIE Bombers began to complete their attack run on the open maw of the Excalibur. Their payload of proton torpedoes ready to explode within the Excalibur and wreck havoc with her delicate internal systems.

Riker knew that Geordie and his team barely understood the complexity of their craft so if there was major damage it was doubtful even the masterful Federation engineering corps could pull of the sort of repairs necessary to get them back in the fight.

“I can’t get the main weapon to burst fire, sir. We’re going to have to hope that we can scatter them with one of our shots.”

Riker frowned as he noted the Imperial formation.

“I think they’re a step ahead of us, Geordie. They’re coming in widely dispersed. We might hit some of them but we certainly won’t catch all of them. All it would take is one or two of those torpedoes exploding in here to knock us out of the fight.” Riker glanced down at Tom Paris who was wrestling with the controls as if he were fighting for his life with a Nausican.


Tom glanced up at Riker.

“Sir if you’re going to ask me to try and evade them I have to say that there is no way in hell I can get this beast to do more than its already been doing. She just wasn’t designed to be anything more than a weapons platform. I can’t squeeze any more out of these engines.” Tom explained shaking his head in frustration.

Riker nodded and placed a hand on Tom’s shoulder.

“I understand, Lieutenant. Just do the best that you can and let’s hope for the best.”

“The Defiants are coming around for another pass.” Data noted with a nod of his head to the view panel.

Four Defiant class starships were harassing the Bomber wings relentlessly during their attack run but there were simply too many of them and the fighter escort had gone from making attack runs on the Excalibur to trying to drive the Defiants off.

A volley of pulse phaser fire sent a pair of bombers spinning out of control where they exploded further away from the main attack wing. Another Defiant turned on a dime and fired off a volley of torpedoes in the path of the bombers. A flight of TIE fighters dropped out of nowhere and began firing into the spread of torpedoes, detonating several before they reached their objective.

“These guys are good.” Tom noted grimly.

A warning buzzed loudly on Data’s terminal.

“We are in torpedo range, Captain.” Data reported emotionlessly.

“Geordie, standby to fire the weapon. Maybe instead of the bombers we can catch the torpedoes in one shot.”

“Worth a try, Captain. Standing by on your mark.” Geordie replied. He eyed the equipment around him, strange colored lights and tendrils of energy leapt from one connector to another and the reactor core hummed loudly. The machinery was twisted in awkward poses and composed of crystalline and metallic material never before encountered. It was no Federation starship but it was his ship now and arguably the most advanced vessel in the Federation fleet right now. He just lamented that he could not understand most of this technology. He knew that if he had a better grasp of the alien control systems he might have been able to save them by being able to burst fire the main weapon.

Instead they were pinning their hopes on one shot.

As the bombers began to release their payloads a storm of angry red bolts slashed down into them like accusing thunderbolts. Many of the bombers came apart in moments, unable to fire their torpedoes. Others broke formation under the assault, only a handful of bright blue trails indicated that a small number of torpedoes were fired.


“Rebel Alliance fighters coming in on an oblique approach. Rogue squadron sir.” Data answered.

X-Wings shot past their viewer as they dove past the Excalibur. Several were spinning on their axis and pulled away from the main body of the squadron. The Defiants passed the fighters and gunned their impulse engines as they tried to run down the errant proton torpedoes that were rapidly closing the distance with the Excalibur. Pulsed phaser fire lanced out in quick furtive jabs, hunting out the torpedoes and soon they all exploded in puffs of fire before they could ever threaten the several kilometers along conical vessel.

“Receiving com traffic from the Rogues sir.”

“On speakers.”

“Excalibur this is Rogue Leader. Sorry we arrived late for the party.”

“As they say on my world, Wedge, better late than never.”

“They say that on Corellia too. Nice to know certain sentiments are universal.” Wedge laughed. “Captain Riker we’ve noted your predicament. The Imperials are taking advantage of your lack of point defenses to slow you down with fighters and bombers. I think we can help you out on that end.”

Riker smiled gleefully.

“Is that an offer of escort from Rogue squadron?”

“We’re with you until the bitter end. We’ll keep those pesky TIEs off your back and you get back into this fight. Kirk needs the Excalibur more than ever.” Wedge explained.

“Well then, let’s get started.”

“This is the USS Thermopylae.”

“Roger that Thermopylae.”

“We’re wondering if your could use a few Defiants on this escort mission or is this strictly invitation only.” The female voice of the Defiant wing’s commander filtered through the speakers.

“They also say on Earth, the more the merrier. Welcome aboard Thermopylae.” Riker adjusted his shirt and sighted his new target. “All craft form up on the Excalibur. Its time we get back into this fight. Geordie, all power to the engines. I want to try something.”

“Uh, sir, with all respect, we’re not exactly in a position to be experimenting with the ships’ systems.” Geordie warned.

“It’s the only way we can close to knife fighting distance. We’re too slow to lumber right up to them so I was hoping Mr. Data here could plot us a hyperspace mini-jump , oh, say enough to get us up close and personal with that attack wing of stardestroyers.” Riker pointed them out on the tactical display.

Data raised an eyebrow.

“I have never attempted to interface with this vessel’s navigation systems.”

“No time like the present, Mr. Data and we need those coordinates ASAP.”

“I will endeavor to try.” Data replied and did not hesitate as he began working out the complex equations that would send the trillion ton craft into hyperspace and emerge in the exact spot that it had to be with no margin for error.

“You realize sir that we could end up smacking right into one of those stardestroyers if either Data’s navigational calculations are wrong or our hyperdrives aren’t functioning properly.” Geordie stated grimly.

“Right now, Geordie, we don’t have much of a choice.” Riker replied and shook his head. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and we seem to be very desperate right now.”

Lord Darth Vader watched impassively as the Devastator continued its relentless march into the Federation lines. He said nothing as starships blossomed into beautiful blasts of multi colored plasma under the wicked assault of the stardestroyer’s guns. Fighters clashed off to his right trading blasts with each other in frantic twists and maneuvers.

“My lord, all systems are nominal and our shields are holding. We are closing on Enterprise as you ordered.” The Captain of the Devastator reported stoically. He had served with Lord Vader many times in the past and did not feel the same trepidation that many flag officers felt in the Sith Lord’s presence. He knew there was one simple rule under Lord Vader’s service. Never fail.

“Excellent Captain. Soon we will have them.” Vader vowed.

“I have assault transports standing by to board her once we disable her.”

“All troopers are to be armed only with weapons set for stun. I want everyone on board alive, in particular the command crew. If James Kirk dies in this assault you will answer to me personally, Captain.”

“Understood sir. I have my best men assigned to the Bridge assault. No one will be killed without your explicit order, my lord.” The captain replied without batting an eye.

“Sir, the Executor has ordered all fleet assets to begin long range bombardment of Andor.” The Devastator’s XO reported as he handed the captain the datapad with the orders.

The Captain did not even glance at them. Instead he turned his attention to Lord Vader.

Vader looked down at the captain.

“You will carry out my orders to the letter, Captain. All other priorities are rescinded.”

“Of course milord. You have been and always shall be our commander.” The Captain replied with a sharp salute and returned his attention to the battle.

Vader eagerly anticipated having James Kirk brought before him. It was time to end this farce of the Federation Remnant fleet and Vader understood what lay at the heart of the Federation resistance and it was one man. One man who was going to completely submit to Imperial will as it was broadcast to his desperate fleet.

Vader smiled softly under his breath mask.

Thrawn had his methods and Vader had his own.

Vader stopped suddenly as if he had been shocked. His head jerked to the right as if he heard distant thunder threatening. His breathing seemed to skip a beat as well.

The disturbance in the Force was powerful and unmistakable.

“He is here.” Vader hissed.

“Imperium Fleet coming out of hyperspace in sector J. All fleet elements stand by.” The XO announced loudly. Alarms blared insistently as large warships emerged from hyperspace virtually on top of the Imperial forces.

“Luke.” Vader whispered. “You are going to meet your destiny today.”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 92: Battle of Andor IV

The Imperium Defiant

The Imperium fleet emerged from hyperspace directly in Thrawn’s left flank. Before anyone could raise the alarm stardestroyers from the Imperium were brawling with the left flank of the Imperial forces and fighter wings were sweeping forth to envelop the flank in an effort to completely cut it off from the main body of the Imperial fleet.

By the cold blue light of Andor’s primary the first wing of fighters led by Luke Skywalker, Imperator of the Imperium, former Lord of the Sith, former Jedi Knight in training, former Rebel War Hero slashed through the Imperial fighter screen like a scalpel, cutting away dead and useless flesh to get at the cancer that infested the body.

Luke smiled softly as an entire squadron of Imperial TIE fighters were vaporized in seconds under a combined onslaught of his heavily modified X-Wing’s quad laser cannons and the cannons of his personal attack wing of TIE Interceptors. Surrounding his body of fighters were four Dominion Attack fighters crewed by the Jem’Hedar warriors that had pledged themselves to his service.

The flagship of the Jem’Hedar escort, formerly AF-1278A in the traditional nomenclature of the Dominion that treated its vessels in the same manner it treated it warriors, as disposable commodities, was now renamed Dynasty Ascendant in honor of Luke and Mara’s new dynasty. He had asked the stout Jem’Hedar commander, Rulek Parr to think of something less Grandiose. The grim faced clone merely shook his head and said there was no other name meant for that vessel just as there was no other man meant for him to serve.

Luke appreciated the sentiment as the Dynasty Ascendant spun on her axis and blasted away at an assault gunboat sending one half spinning on fire in its original course and direction and the other tumbling sharply away downwards and out of sight.

“All fighters form up on Grey Leader. I’m taking us through the screen. We need to cut them off before they can regroup.” Luke explained calmly as he scanned the immediate vicinity with not just his eyes but with the Force.

“Copy Grey leader, moving into position.”

“Dynasty Ascendant as always at your command.”

“We live for the Walker of the Skies, we die for the walker of the Skies.”

“Let us keep the dying to minimum. Follow me in; this is going to get hairy.” Luke responded as he took his X-Wing into a steep climb and just as suddenly kicked his fighter over at a 90 degree angle and gunned his afterburners sending the X-Wing into a power dive right into the next wave of Imperial fighters driving into the retreating Federation fleet either heedless or unaware of the loss of their flanking squadrons.

They were about to get an education in loss.

Luke opened fire with his cannons, blasting away at the leading edge of the fighter screen and sending their flight leader into fiery oblivion. Angry emerald bolts zipped past him and plucked more Imperials out of the sky while cold white anti-polaron beams swept the rear elements of the fighter screen and within moments they were in their midst.

Tie fighters, Bombers, Interceptors and gunboats seemed to flash by Luke’s canopy like a hard driving rain. Luke ignored them all, letting his feelings take him where he needed to be, threading his Onyx X-Wing through the wall of fighters and enemy fire, being out of the path of a TIE, side slipping between emerald laser bolts and spinning out of range of missiles. The force guided him and made him safe.

His fighter wing followed him as best they could, some fell to enemy fire or were simply caught up in a dog fight or two but the Jem’Hedar fighters, much heavier and shielded had no problems keeping up with their Imperator and they crossed the first wave without trouble.

Luke glanced up while sending his X-Wing in a sharp spin and engaged a TIE Interceptor that was creeping in too close. He saw the Devastator, it took up fully a quarter of his canopy. The Tie Interceptor vanished as it flew directly into a pair of crimson bolts.

Now, for the sting.

Luke reached out again with his feelings. He felt the ebb and flow of the force and life coruscating around him, deaths causing small vortices of emptiness that were quickly filled in by the ambient life energies of the fleet, the planet, the star system and the universe like water flowing into a hole on the shore of a desolate beach. Violent angry emotions causing spikes of bright red power in the general cool blue hue of the Force flared up around him.

He felt the angry power of his father emanating from the Devastator like a beacon. The stardestroyer was resplendent with the power of the darkside. Crimson light filtered through the hull plating, pulsing from the hangar deck, filtered through every gun port and armored view screen. But at the top of the conning tower in the bridge, like a beacon of fury stood the locus of this father’s might. Resembling a horrible lighthouse illuminating the Imperial fleet the Devastator was the anchor of the darkside power that suffused the Imperial fleet and infused in each of the fighting men a focused resolve and purpose. It gave them discipline and courage that they would not normally have. It gave them a unity of purpose and a synchronised fighting style that could not easily be overcome.

This was the power of Battle meditation. It was a lost Art even amongst the Jedi of the Clone Wars. Palpatine had hinted heavily that the power was tainted by the darkside and only a Sith could wield it effectively as his father was proving quite adeptly now and Palpatine has used with brutal effectiveness throughout his reign.

But as with all force abilities they could be interfered with or even snuffed out entirely by a powerful enough force user. And Luke was powerful.

He closed his eyes for a moment, unerringly dodging a concussion missile in the process, the offending gunboat was mercilessly blasted into its component atoms by the Dynasty Ascendant. The Dominion fighters immediately closed ranks around the X-Wing like the wings of a hawk and covered her from any more enemy fire giving Luke the moments of peace he needed to complete his task.

Luke did not lash out as he would have if he were still Nemesis, using the brute force of the dark side to sever his father’s contact with the Force. Nor did he try to smother his father with the soothing serenity of the light side were he still a Jedi in training. Instead he searched out the vital focal points from where his father drew out and sent out his power. Incredibly volatile points in the Force where dark and light collided and recombined in an ecstatic jubilation of creation and destruction were easily identified and he focused on each one.

He felt them trembling on the skeins of the Force all around the Devastator and emanating out like ripples on a lake to the Imperial forces, gentling nudging each with the uniting will that made them better warriors.

He took a firm grip on each one and severed them cleanly.

Suddenly the Imperial forces were no longer as coordinated. A chain reaction spilled out throughout the fleet and the Force retreated from the minds and will of the pilots, soldiers and officers now that the driving will of his father was absent.

A pair of TIE fighters chasing a Bird of Prey plowed right into the forward bow of a Strike cruiser as the Klingon vessel bobbed and weaved through an obstacle course of capital ships and cross fired to try and shake their pursuers. A TIE Bomber launched its bombs too soon and peeled away from the wall of phaser fire and ever increasing blossoms of fire and plasma from torpedoes detonating in its path as the pilot suddenly felt the urgent fear that had been muted before by the Meditation. A stardestroyer was no longer as quick to track incoming torpedo fire and several starships escaped her heavy fire to reform with the rest of the Federation fleet.

The Imperial fleet itself as whole seemed to suddenly lose the cohesion that made it wade into the Federation fleet like a deadly machine and march relentlessly through their lines. Lighter warships were breaking too far ahead, stardestroyers were turning slower or simply not tracking targets as quickly as they were before. Fighters and bombers were not as aggressive, not as agile or synchronised. Mass evasive maneuvers by squadrons no longer as crisp or sharp resulted in more casualties.

Luke nodded in satisfaction.

He could feel his father tentatively trying to reestablish his connection to the fleet. First it was hesitant as if he could not understand or believe what had just occurred. Luke was certain it was the latter. Anakin never believed in his heart that Luke could have ever been a threat. He would always be his son, always his pawn, his lesser.

He was quickly learning how powerful Luke had become. He was no longer Darth Nemesis forever in his father’s shadow, always at is beck and call, another of Anakin’s pawns in his vicious game of cat and mouse with the Emperor. Playing over and over again the wretched tragedy of the Sith with the death of master at pupil’s hands. Did father ever even contemplate what it would mean once they had removed Palpatine? Had he even considered that Luke would then have to kill Anakin?

He felt a deep abiding sadness for Anakin Skywalker.

Trapped in a never ending struggle where even his own flesh and blood would have to slay him. His vision of a galaxy at peace could never come true. How could one bring peace and order at the tip of a lightsaber? How could one bring justice using the power of the dark side?

Now his father understood and his anger exploded painfully in Luke’s consciousness like a thermonuclear blast. The crimson lighthouse beacon shining forth from the Devastator’s conning tower became a baleful lightning bolt and the furious force of Anakin’s anger lanced out into the darkness probing the void like a searchlight.

Luke did not have a need to hide. Doubt he could hide from his father anyway. No, Luke had other plans.

“Attack pattern Thorn.”

“Acknowledged Walker of the Skies.”

The quartet of Dominion fighters suddenly broke away from him and the enemy fire concentrating on them relented as Luke’s X-Wing throttled away in a steep climb up and closer to the Devastator.

His target was close. His eyes never even glanced down at his scanners and scopes. There was no need for them anymore. The battlefield was bare to him. There were no secrets here. Nowhere to hide when he could see the very flow of life and death like a great river.


A squadron of dark dagger shapes was moving like sharks through the water. They were the Emperor’s finest fighters. The TIE Advanced. Only a relative handful had yet been constructed but of course the Emperor would field several here. An entire squadron of fighters designed to effortlessly destroy an X-Wing fighter or any fighter for that matter.

And he would kill them all. Alone.

“Grey leader engaging Vipers. Ascendant, break hard right and keep the battle field clear of any interlopers.”

“Imperator’s War hound requests permission to assist.”

“Negative.” Luke snapped as he brought his X-Wing in a slashing approach at the undersides of the squadron of Advanced. They had seen him. They were breaking in two groups forcing him to choose.

He was impressed. At this range he should be invisible to them. The first hint of his presence should have been when his first laser burst sent one of them to hell.

This would not be that easy.

Then again it was not meant to be. It was an offering, a jibe, a threat. I am here father.

Luke gunned his engines and closed the distance rapidly with the lead group. There was no hesitation in his choice. It was as clear as crystal to him. No conscious thought was allowed from this point on. There was only the Force. The Force and twelve TIE advanced fighters piloted by the finest pilots in the Empire who wanted nothing more to than to kill him and he was alone.

“What the devil is he doing?” Branna snapped as he watched the combat reports filtering in. If he wasn’t seeing it with his own eyes he would not have believed it. Imperator Skywalker had cleared out a battlefield for himself and was engaging a squadron of TIE Advanced fighters and his fanatical Jem’Hedar bodyguard were busy making sure no one interfered.

“Madness.” Branna added breathlessly.

“He is doing his part. Let us do ours. I want the triumvirate to cut that flank off now. Give them whatever fire support they need and charge the superlaser.” Kittaine ordered resplendent in his immaculate white Grand Admiral’s uniform, hands clasped behind his back.

“Of course Grand Admiral.” Branna bowed his head.

“And get me James Kirk on the screen. Its about time that commander and I meet face to face and discuss the future.”

“Are you certain?” Kirk demanded as the Enterprise rocked from another near hit by a series of turbolaser blasts tearing into the retreating Federation fleet. The march of Thrawn’s stardestroyers was relentless. But frustratingly out of reach was the Executor. The massive superstardestroyer simply would not move no matter how much Kirk was pulling Thrawn’s forces out.

The man was not going to move and Kirk was rapidly running out of space behind him. Soon they would be out of Andor’s gravity well and the Imperial vessels would have additional speed and maneuvering room.

Damn the man. He was too damned smart for him.

“Yes, Captain. I count nearly the entirety of the Imperium fleet. They are engaging only Imperial targets. Even their fighters are only engaging Imperial targets as well. We are being given a wide berth.” Spock reported calmly. He looked up at Kirk and arched an eyebrow. “Curious.” He added.

“That’s an understatement, old friend.” Kirk laughed.

“Captain, we are receiving a hail from the Imperator’s Will. Grand Admiral Kittaine wishes to speak to you.” Uhura reported and she tried her best not to sound shocked.

Kirk paused for a moment assessing in his mind what this could mean.

“On screen, Uhura.” He decided quickly and took his command seat.

The screen wavered for a moment and Kittaine’s face appeared. He was older than Kirk imagined him and he looked different in his white uniform as opposed to the standard Imperial grey.

“Grand Admiral Kittaine.”

“Captain James Tiberius Kirk. It has been long overdue that you and I speak.” He sounded proud and firm. His eyes were narrowed on the young man seated in his command chair. By the Emperor how could one so young have brought them to this point?

“Unfortunately I was not prepared to carry on full diplomatic discussions under these circumstances.” As if on cue the Enterprise shook hard again, forcing Kirk to take a firm hold of the arm rests of his command seat so as not to spill out onto the floor. “As you can see, we’re more than a little busy here.” Kirk added with a tortured grin.

“Understandable Captain. With that in mind let me make my proposition as brief as I possibly can. I have full authorization from Imperator Skywalker to forge a truce with you. A ceasefire, if you will, that will ensure that no hostilities between your forces and mine occur until the Imperial menace has been thrown back.”

“Weren’t you the Imperial menace just four months ago?” Kirk countered.

Bright flashes of thermonuclear fireworks briefly washed out the view screen for a moment before the automatic dampers kicked in. Kittaine smiled grimly.

“As you can see I’m getting busy myself, Captain so let us debate semantics another day. As a sign of good faith I am prepared to transmit our IFF transponder codes to your tactical officers so that your ships can distinguish ours from theirs. It would be appropriate if you could return the favor once we conclude the truce.”

Kirk looked into the man’s eyes. He was a diplomat as well as a soldier, trained to both fight the battles of the Federation and forge the peaces. He had to as a starship captain of that bygone era.

Cadets and junior officers would sometimes ask him for advice on how to conduct negotiations with other cultures and societies, particularly alien ones. How do you know when the other side is lying? How can you tell when they’re holding something back or hiding a vital piece of information?

The answer always shocks them, in particular this current group of officers from the future Federation.

You look them in the eyes. The eyes will tell you everything you want to know.

Grand Admiral Kittaine’s eyes told Kirk that this was the only way out of this mess for both of them. And Kittaine was not someone to go back on his word. He was too proud for that, too disciplined to deceive with the practiced charm of a Romulan or the brutal directness of a Klingon.

Kirk could trust this man.

And frankly there was no other real choice.

“Uhura,” Kirk began speaking over his shoulder. “please transmit all IFF transponder frequencies to the Imperator’s Will, tight beam highly scrambled transmission. Also on fleet wide broadcast that all Imperium vessels are considered friendly and should be treated appropriately.” Kirk ordered calmly his eyes not leaving the Grand Admiral’s.

A shadow of a smile creased the corners of the older man’s lips.

“Captain Branna,” he imitated Kirk’s manner of speaking over his shoulder. “Please transmit the codes to the Enterprise and apprise the fleet that the Federation Remnant are now considered allies for the duration of this battle.”

“Of course Grand Admiral.” Branna replied.

“And so it begins here, Captain Kirk.”

“It could end here too you know, Grand Admiral.” Kirk replied.

The older man laughed, a real laugh from the belly and shook his head in bemusement.

“Quite right, Captain. Now if you will let me address our current plan. I have orders to isolate this beast of fleet and kill it in pieces.”

“I see you’ve started with the left flank.” Kirk noted as he glanced down at a tactical report Spock had just handed him anticipating where the conversation would next turn. Kirk smiled to himself. His first officer was once called the finest in the fleet. That was an understatement.

“Precisely. It would be most advantageous if your fleet could assist in keeping the other fleet elements at bay.”

Kirk looked up sharply at Kittaine.

“You want me to keep 2/3rds of this juggernaut at bay while you deal with one third of it? Hardly seems fair to me.”

“Think of it this way, Captain. Before we arrived you were dealing with the entire beast all by yourself. Now all I’m asking you to do is try to keep them off my back long enough to annihilate their flanks and then together we take on the center.”

Kirk’s withering expression of discontent prompted Kittaine to continue. “With their fleet elements desperate to try and rescue their isolated flanks they will not focus on you as much as they would had you been assaulting them alone. You need to trust me on this. Imperial doctrine calls for flanking elements to hunker down and hold the line and wait for reinforcements from other wings. We will use that against them here.”

“Grand Admiral Thrawn does not follow standard Imperial doctrine, Kittaine. From my experience fighting the bastard he doesn’t seem to follow any doctrine that I’m aware of.”

“There is no other choice, Captain.” Kittaine urged.

The screen washed out again as another burst of thermonuclear firepower blazed across the armored view ports of the Executor. As the resolution hesitantly returned Kirk could see officers scrambling to duty stations behind Kittaine.

“Time is running out, Captain. I can no longer spare the time to convince you. I can only hope you will be there to help us. It will be the only way to defeat Thrawn.”

“You’re talking to the wrong man about there being only one way to win, Grand Admiral. But you can be rest assured we will do our part to keep them off your backs.” Kirk replied. “And Grand Admiral?” Kittaine paused from turning off the screen. “May the Force be with you.”

Kittaine smiled.

“May it be with us all today, Captain. May it be with us all.” Kittaine replied and the viewer switched off. The view returned to the furious battle raging outside just in time for Kirk to see a starship on fire limping desperately out of the path of an incoming Strike cruiser.

“All Galaxy wings in this sector. Follow me in and let’s blow that thing straight to hell.” Kirk ordered as he pointed to the Strike cruiser.

“All wings acknowledging.”

“Mr. Spock, get me tactical information on the deployment of the Imperial fleet and feed it to my tactical terminal here. I want it updating minute by minuet. I need to identify their flank elements if we’re going to do this right.”

“Of course sir.” Spock replied. “If we were to proceed logically we should begin sharing tactical data with the Imperator’s Will.” He added.

“Your logic, as always, Mr. Spock is flawless. Uhura see if you can’t charm their communications people over there to start sending us some tactical data.”

“I’ll do my best, sir.” Uhura smiled sweetly.

On the screen the Strike cruiser was shaken by the multiple phaser hits from the passing Galaxy wing. Torpedoes streaked from beneath the Enterprise’s view screen and impacted with explosive effect on the cruiser’s starboard shield.

“I said closer damnit. The Devastator is mine.” Admiral Tarsi snapped angrily as he strode down the command deck of the Adjudicator. His crew was working feverishly in the pits below him and his eyes scanned their stations for a moment before returning back to the view from his armored windows.

The Adjudicator was leading the charge of the Imperium’s heavy ships slashing across the left flank of the Imperial fleet and isolating it from other fleet elements. Tarsi had suggested a direct full scale assault on the Executor. Go for the throat. Always. If you lost you lost but if you won the prize was a slaughtered enemy commander, a shattered command and control structure and a fleet that was usually too busy trying not to disintegrate than fight.

But Grand Admiral Kittaine and Imperator Skywalker had other plans. They would not risk the Imperium on a high stakes gamble assault on Thrawn. Instead they would defeat him at his own game. They would outthink him and strip him slowly and surely of his assets.

Tarsi was chosen to lead the attack and he was proud to do it.

Now he had the entire Imperium fleet at his command and he would not fail.

The Imperial fleet was going to lose today and he would be the one to hand them that defeat.

But first there was the matter of the Devastator, tantalizingly close to his vessel and the lynchpin of the left wing. If Tarsi could turn their flank and either drive off or destroy the Devastator he would successfully complete his slash across their flank and isolate this fleet element.

Tarsi smiled wolfishly. Driving off the Devastator was at the bottom of his list of options.

“All heavy batteries prepare to fire, time on target, on my mark.”

“Aye sir.”

His XO sidled up to him quietly and handed him a combat report.

“Lord Vader is confirmed on the Devastator.” His XO whispered.

Tarsi glanced up at him.


“Perhaps we should wait for more support. This won’t be like back at Darkstar’s world. The captain of the Devastator will not allow himself to be defeated.”

“But that’s what I want. I want him to stand and fight.” Tarsi noted tightly.

“You can’t make this personal sir. We need to complete our mission parameters and if we can drive off the Devastator that will be just as good as destroying her.” His XO noted Tarsi’s stormy expression and the way he glanced back out the view port at the rapidly approaching stardestroyer. His XO leaned in closer.

“Sir, please, listen to me. She will be destroyed but if we wait any longer, if it takes us too long to close the trap then we will have already lost before this begins. The entire battle plan calls for us to entrap each flank and destroy it. If we fail here…”

Tarsi looked into his XO’s eyes and then up at the ceiling of his bridge and shouted out his rage and frustration.

His XO was taken aback by the action for a moment but understood it. Tarsi had been wound tightly since the battle with the Devastator. He felt that the battle was his to win and yet again the possibility of total victory was being taken away by circumstance.

But Tarsi adjusted his uniform and nodded to himself and his XO knew. Tarsi was also a good soldier and knew when things needed to be done.

“Have Bomber wings Eta and Gamma move in to support our attack. Concentrate on their hangars and engines. We will focus on their weapons batteries.” Tarsi glanced meaningfully at his XO. “They will have to withdraw.”

“Yes sir.” His XO smiled softly.

Luke grunted as he fought against the g-forces that wanted to make him one with his cockpit. Green bolts whipped past his canopy and illuminated the interior of his fighter in a sickly glow.

The rapidly condensing ball of plasma and molten metal dimmed behind him as his X-Wing entered a tight corkscrew spin dancing between the emerald machinegun like fire of the pursuing TIE Advanced.

Two down.

The X-Wing banked hard to the right and he jerked his head to the left to catch sight of what concerned him more than his immediate pursuer. He tracked two of the TIE Advanced that were powering away from the swirling fur ball, putting as much distance as they could between him and them. That could only mean one thing.

He had seconds to react and he took advantage of it, reaching out with his mind and feeling the sleek shapes of the TIE Advances, so much like his father’s fighter over the deathstar in what seemed like another lifetime ago. He let his mind feel the power of the advanced Ion engines that gave them their deadly speed and fed their hungry weapons suites and their humming shield grids. He traced phantom fingers along their hot exhaust panels and down the cold armored glass of their view ports.

He passed over their cannon emitters and finally found the missile tubes. He felt the hard metal clunk of a missile slamming home into the breech followed by a low frequency growl as the warhead came online and eagerly hunted for his signature.

He pulled back away from the missile and felt along the tubes again.

The pair of TIE Advanced turned hard and sharp to face the frantic dogfight. Their concussion missile launchers primed, the tubes revealed as panels snapped back. The first of the missiles launched seconds later.

Luke jerked hard up as he avoided another burst from his pursuers and simultaneously squeezed. The tubes buckled and that was all he needed. He now concentrated on survival as missiles streaked towards him and a pair of TIE Advanced stalked him on his six. The others were swirling around him making shooting passes at him in quick furtive strikes.

The missile tubes did not need to be fully crushed, he did not have to make needless expenditures of power and concentration. All it took was a nudge and the housing came loose by several hairs - more than enough to ruin the mechanism and cause the next volley of missiles to launch and explode in the tubes.

The missile firing TIE Advanced blossomed into fiery balls of hot gasses and debris.

Two more down.

He checked his six and the pair that we on him were moving in tight formation, each one taking a moment to pour a nasty volley of green fire towards him allowing the other to recharge and cool his cannons then dropping back slightly allowing his partner to edge forward and release another torrent of fire.

The effect was that Luke was under near constant fire.

He didn’t mind. This was not going to last much longer.

He checked his controls and made several adjustments.

“D4, give me manual control of the thruster vectors.”

The gold plated astromech whistled and beeped uncertainly. Luke smiled softly.

“Don’t worry my little friend; I know exactly what I’m doing.”

The astromech droid reluctantly complied. Luke’s X-Wing had been rebuilt nearly from top to bottom to his specifications using the latest in Imperial developments and technology. The standard X-Wing was a high performance space superiority fighter with no real weaknesses. Luke’s X-Wing was a quantum leap above those fighters.

Where TIE Fighters had the edge in raw speed and maneuverability, Luke had compensated for this by installing vectoring thrusters into the quad engines of the X-Wing. With the computer controlled vectored thrusters he could perform far tighter and faster turns and maneuvers than he ever could in a standard X-Wing.

He was about to give his hunters an object lesson in the maneuverability of his X-Wing.

Luke manually adjusted his thrusters and then threw his fighter into a hairpin climb while dropping backwards. The X-Wing in essence fell backwards while its nose rose up high pointing its quad laser cannons up as well. The two TIE Advanced pursuing him passed directly over head and he poured a murderous fusillade into them as they passed. One of the fighters’ shields was immediately overwhelmed and it came apart in a series of rapidly expanding internal explosions. The second had its starboard exhaust panel shorn clean off but the pilot valiantly managed to maintain control of his fighter long enough to eject.

These pilots were aggressive and fearless.

He should count on those qualities if they were going to be allowed to fly the Empire’s finest fighter.

Luke ignored the crippled fighter and instead searched for the other six fighters.

They had paired up and were coming in from three different vectors hard and fast. And then there were the missiles.

They had keyed in on his signature despite his stealth equipment and hull plates. They flashed by over his canopy trailing bright red exhaust. He allowed them to turn towards him as an idea came to him. The three pairs of TIE Advanced were closing on him rapidly and were going to pass him all at once from three different angles. It was simple arithmetic. They were going to overwhelm him with firepower from too many directions to compensate.

He would have to bring a trump card to this little game of chicken.

Luke gunned his X-Wing towards the squadron commander’s pair approaching him directly ahead. Head to head they began spitting fire at each other. The other two pairs also began firing. The fighters were closing at high sublight and within seconds they criss-crossed each other in a heartbeat.

Luke let his instincts guide him through the flashing beams and fighters and he seemed to effortlessly bring his fighter through and as the others began to turn to follow his trump card announced itself.

The missiles following Luke caught two more TIE Advanced and sent them spiraling away on fire to explode seconds later. Another TIE caught the leading edge of the explosion and a fragment the size of a human head punched through the canopy and disintegrated the pilot into a fine red mist.

The now pilot less fighter continued on at high speed in a straight line away from the battle.

Luke took note of that as he immediately gunned his engines one more time, ignoring the sudden hammer like blows that shook his fighter to the core and sent a series of sparks spurting up from his panel and spun his fighter in a tight turn while cutting power to the thrust so his X-Wing essentially spun end to end without moving forward.

D4 howled in protest and alarm.

“We’re hit but it’s not bad, D4 see what you can do back there.” Luke replied calmly and furiously punched down on his fire controls. Another TIE Advanced evaporated under his crimson lightning like blasts, its shields unable to stand up to their pounding. The pilots were obviously pumping their energy into their engines and weapons. He watched as the final pair of TIEs split in opposite directions accelerating away from him.

Luke did not hesitate and followed the squadron commander. He watched the TIE begin advanced evasive maneuvers, trying to draw him into a turning battle so his partner could come up behind and wax Luke’s six.

Luke played along and matched the TIE move for move and started to run the fighter down, an occasional burst of his weapons discouraged the TIE from trying to turn to far into a high deflection shot.

He felt the tremor in the Force. The other pilot was coming in low and fast on his six. He was going to spray him manually with laser fire, not wanting to risk Luke’s threat display from warning him of the weapons lock.

The other TIE initiated a series of high velocity spinning dives and wide arcing climbs as it tried to distract Luke for those final seconds. Luke calmly let go of his apprehension and fears, instead he used them to fuel his power as he cut back on the throttle bring his X-Wing to a near stop, lining up his shot as the TIE began another dive – right into Luke’s field of fire. Luke vaporized the squadron commander.

As the other TIE began firing a large grey shape rose sharply in front of it colliding hard and rending the cockpit off the main body of the fighter. The rest of the TIE exploded as it continued crashing into the shape.

Luke had brought the pilotless fighter back to this position using the Force and had crushed his final pursuer with the fighter itself like a bludgeon.

He smiled triumphantly and spun his fighter in a victory dance.

Any moment now they would have to tell---

“Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Piett quickly approached with a datapad in his hand and concern on his face.

“What is it?” Thrawn asked calmly. The Imperium forces had hammered into his left flank without warning or preamble. Far closer to the Andorian gravity well than even Thrawn felt was possible. Skywalker had led them in with the Force. Vader had drawn his own fleet in as close as they dared. Skywalker had brought his fleet in even closer.

Was it possible? Could the young whelp be stronger than his father?

Now they were trying to isolate his left flank and the rest of his fleet was suddenly reacting sluggish and disjointed. He could feel it. The unit cohesion was fading like shadows under the noon day sun. What the hell was happening out there? Vader had been good at keeping his men focused like razors and as soon as the Imperium arrived it was as if…

“Bastard.” Thrawn whispered. “He just may be more powerful.”

“Grand Admiral, you need to take a look at this. We lost a squadron of our TIE Advanced fighters.”

Thrawn looked from the datapad up to Piett and his eyes narrowed.

“Why, in the Emperor’s name should it matter to me that we lost a single squadron? Don’t you realize I have over one hundred and twenty currently deployed out there?” He asked sharply.

“It was lost to a single fighter.” Piett finished meaningfully.

Thrawn was suddenly calm again.

“Are you certain?”

“Fighter command has been tracking losses and reports since the Imperium arrived. There have been reports of a single fighter, the identifications are sketchy but most agree that its probably X-Wing class and it has racked up approximately thirty seven kills in the span of nine minutes.”

“The last time we saw flying like that was in the Clone Wars.”

“Jedi pilots.” Piett finished with an emphatic nod.

“So Skywalker has taken the field personally but why announce his presence so grossly. It’s almost as if….” Thrawn clenched his fist. “Raise the Devastator now!” he demanded and strode to the communications station. “Squadron commander no fighters are cleared to leave the Devastator under my direct orders is that clear?” he spat down to the CAG in his crew pit below.

“Of course Grand Admiral.”

“Well?” Thrawn hissed icily as he arrived at the communications pit.

“I have the Captain of the Devastator, Grand Admiral.”

“Captain. This is Grand Admiral Thrawn. I want you to shut down you hangar deck and reroute all your fighters to rendezvous or rebase on surrounding stardestroyers.”

“I don’t understand, Grand Admiral.” The captain began.

“Your duty is not to understand but obey, Captain. Now put on Lord Vader.” Thrawn ordered in a cutting tone.

The Captain of the Devastator looked stricken. Thrawn’s head bowed slightly. No. Not now.

“Where is Lord Vader Captain?” Piett demanded as he noticed Thrawn’s sudden cold expression.

“He…my lord…Lord Vader went to his fighter, sir.” Thrawn’s fist suddenly banged against the communications array in a flurry of motion, the only time anyone had ever seen the Grand Admiral act of frustration. It was a disconcerting sight for all and several officers began murmuring among themselves. Thrawn immediately drew himself up to his full height and cursed himself for losing his temper.

“Have a detachment of troopers go down and meet him. You have my authority to use any force necessary to restrain him but he is not to get to his---” Thrawn began as calmly as he could.

“Grand Admiral I have an unauthorized launch from the Devastator…its Lord Vader’s personal fighter sir.” His CAG came up behind Thrawn and reported breathlessly. “There was nothing I could do.” The CAG added apologetically.

Thrawn held up a hand.

The officers immediately gave him space.

Thrawn stood stoically for a long moment and took several deep breaths.

“Sith lords. Never had any use for them anyway.” He whispered to himself. He turned suddenly.

“It is time we use our own wiles against the false Emperor Skywalker.” Thrawn announced.

“You hear that?” Han asked sharply. The vessel did not shake or shudder. But the sounds of combat reverberated off the cold steel bunks like distant drumbeats.

“I hear it quite clearly. I’ve heard this tune before. We’re in combat.” Ochoa replied.

“We need to keep our eyes and ears open for our chance.” Han whispered as he crept over to the door and glanced beneath the slab of durasteel that posed as their door in the cramped detention cell.

“Our chance for what, precisely?” Ochoa asked curiously.

Han glanced back at Ochoa with some annoyance on his face.

“To escape, of course.”

“Escape?” Ochoa rolled the word over his tongue for a moment and then chuckled to himself.

“What’s so damned funny? Don’t you want to escape?” Han demanded.

“Han, I need you to take a good look at me.” Ochoa replied and held out his hands as if to hug the smuggler. “Despite appearances I am completely and totally blind. And although popular novels and holovids have tried for ages to make the claim that when one sense is lost the others are heightened to make up for it…” Ochoa smiled sadly. It was odd to see as Han noted that his eyes were clear and lucid but his pupils remained dilated and unfocused. “but I assure you my friend that it is not the case. I would just end up slowing you down.”

Han strode over to Ochoa and placed a reassuring hand on the Starfleet captains shoulder.

“Look.” He began calmly. “There is no way in hell I am leaving you here to rot in Imperial hands. We - ” Han stressed the word so emotionally that Ochoa wanted to smile and cry at the same time. He was a good man. He could see why the divided and confused Nemesis clutched to the fake Han identity as he did when they first began chatting. “are going to get out of here and then we’re going to see about getting you patched up.”

“You’re a good man, Han Solo. However I don’t think the doctors will find anything physically wrong with my eyes.”

“What do you mean?” Han asked curiously, sliding in to sit next to the young man. He had been impressed by the calm serenity of Ernesto Ochoa. It was as if he knew precisely what was going to happen and had made peace with it a long time ago. Sometimes Han wished he had that kind of peace. But right now all he could think about was getting away from this ship and finding Leia and Luke. Chewie must be with them. Lando. Han closed his hands into fists. Then he would deal with Lando, his old friend.

“My blindness is not natural.” Ochoa began carefully. How to address this has been gnawing at the back of his mind for some time. Han was clearly under the impression that he was still in his home galaxy and not much had changed since his hibernation.

He still thought of Luke as the young hick with delusions of grandeur who needed saving. How to illuminate him to the truth was a tricky proposition. But Han was strong. Stronger than Ochoa suspected Han himself thought he was.

Truth was truth, until the ending of the world.

“Sometimes a man needs to know the truth about those he loves.”

Han’s eyes narrowed on the young Captain.

“I’m a Correlian. You Terrans may like to approach something in a runabout way but me, I’m all about the direct approach.” Han smirked.

“Direct approach it is then.” Ochoa nodded. “I was blinded by a Sith lord when he was interrogating me.”

“Vader. That black hearted bastard will get his soon enough. I’m sure Luke’ll be the one to do it too.”

Ochoa nodded quietly for a moment.

“It wasn’t Lord Vader. I have not had the pleasure of being introduced to him but his fame precedes him.”

“Not Vader? C’mon everyone knows there’s only one Sith lord. He’s it. You can’t mistake him. Black armor, deep voice, nasty case of asthma.” Han chuckled and nudged Ochoa with his shoulder.

“It was Lord Darth Nemesis.”

“Darth Nemesis? That sounds silly. You sure it wasn’t Vader?”

Ochoa looked over at Han’s general direction. His eyes unfocused seemed to be searching out Han’s.

“He was a friend of yours.”

Han started to get up.

“I don’t think I want to hear this.”

“Luke Skywalker.”

Han shook his head emphatically.

“You listen to me, blind man. I don’t know who the hell you are but I know Luke and Luke is no damned Sith lord. You can just shut the hell up!” Han hissed and jabbed his forefinger into Ochoa’s chest emphasizing certain words.

“What possible reason do I have to lie?” Ochoa asked gently.

Han laughed bitterly.

“Look here, friend. I’ve been in the rebellion long enough to know how Imperials work. Sometimes the torture ain’t direct like it was on Bespin. Sometimes it can be pretty nasty and dirty in terms of the psychological aspects. You’re a plant.” Han concluded with a firm nod of his head. “You’re here to break my spirit telling me lies about my best friend.”

“He is still your friend. He’s changed much since last you saw him Han. He went from callow youth to Sith lord to something much greater than he ever was. He has learned to embrace his dark nature instead of shutting it away.”

“Dark nature? Luke?!” Han guffawed. “If you’re going to try and sell me on a bill of goods make sure I can’t smell the stink of your cargo of lies first.”


“Just shut the hell up. I’ve got nothing more to say to you and I don’t want to hear another word out of your stinkin’ mouth. Liar.” Han snapped. He stood off in a corner and crossed his arms.

“You are right about him. He is a good man.”

“I thought you were blind not deaf. I said shut up.”

Ochoa heard the footsteps approaching. He cocked his head slightly to listen. There were several stormtroopers from the sound of the armor.

“Whatever happens, Han, I’m not angry with you. I understand exactly where you are right now.” Ochoa explained softly.

Han frowned.

“Why are you talking like that now?”

The slab that was their door snapped open like the jaws of a snake and a pair of stormtroopers immediately stepped inside, blasters drawn.

Han tensed but two more stormtroopers strode in followed by one of the Noghri.

“The Grand Admiral wants to see you both now.” The Noghri explained in its soft childlike whisper.

“It’s about time.” Han commented dryly.

“The time has indeed come.” Ochoa sighed and extended his hands to be clasped as Han’s were.

“Not for you Ernesto of Ochoa. You come with us freely.” The Noghri replied gently placing Ochoa’s hands down.

“I always do.” Ochoa shrugged and did not hesitate to take the Noghri’s hand for support as he rose from the cold bed.

“Hey, how come he doesn’t get bound?” Han protested and winced as the stormtrooper tightened his cuffs.

“He comes freely. He knows the end result and he does not show fear. He is respected by the Noghri.” The small alien replied dismissively as he helped lead Ochoa out of the detention cell. The pair of stormtroopers fell in behind Han and one roughly shoved him to move forward.

“He is an Imperial agent.” Han surmised proudly. He couldn’t be telling the truth about Luke. No way. Not at all.

But there were the dreams weren’t they? The dreams of Luke dressed in black. Luke with a cold expression on his face occasionally broken by a sneer as he stood imperiously on an Imperial vessel. Luke grimly ordering the death of a world. Luke standing in the dark speaking to Han about his doubts and fears.

They were just dreams.

Han exited the detention cell.

Weren’t they?
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 93: Battle of Andor V

Knife Fight

“Are you ready Mr. Data?” Riker asked sharply.

“All coordinates have been calculated and fed into the navcomputer.” Data replied calmly.


“Hyperdrive has been recalibrated for a short range hop. Whether this is going to work or not is a little beyond me.” Geordie added reluctantly.

“Duly noted.” Riker nodded to his comofficer and spoke again. “Rogues? Wedge? What do you say? Are you standing by for hyperspace hop?”

“We’re right with you Excalibur. Should be fun.” Wedge replied gamely.

“Thermopylae? Are you and the Defiant squadron ready?”

“Ready, willing and far more than just able sir.” The voice of the Thermopylae’s captain replied and he could hear the smile in her voice.

Riker leaned in close to Tom Paris, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Are you ready, Tom?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s punch it.” Tom replied with a grin and took a firm hold of the controls.

“Alright. All hands standby.” Riker stood up straight, took a moment to adjust his uniform.

“This one’s for you Belanna.” Tom whispered as he called up the tactical controls as well and saw with satisfaction that the main weapon was fully charged. One full on anti-proton beam from this beast could carve a hunk out of a world or more appropriately for this battle, vaporize a stardestroyer in one shot. All that power in his hands right now. He lamented that he had not have this power at his disposal during the disastrous battle for Earth. The battle that not only lost him his homeworld but also his wife and unborn child.

Every time he fought against the Empire it was his way of little by little avenging their loss. Every TIE fighter, every stormtrooper, every single Imperial soldier that died was one little drop in the ocean of vengeance he was looking to fill.

Now as he prepared to bring the Excalibur back into the fight and he would make sure that the Imperials would never forget what they did to him.

“Alright, Lieutenant Paris, let’s make this a knife fight. Engage.” Riker announced calmly.

“Aye sir. Engaging hyperdrive.” Tom replied and palmed the controls. The view screen wavered for a moment and there was a bright burst of light from deep within the vessel like lightning flashing across a dark sky.

Then the view screen was filled with the hull plates of an Imperial stardestroyer. In fact there was nothing else visible, not even a hint of black void or a star field at all.

The collision alarm sounded before anyone could speak.

Tom was in action as Riker gripped the head rest of Tom’s seat.

“Evasive action.”

“No time, sir. We’ve only got one chance at surviving this.” Tom grunted as he tried his best to get the engines to react. Sluggish as always the vessel was less than a ship length away from the looming Imperial cruiser which had not even seen them yet as their bright emerald fire was lancing out in other directions but theirs.

“All power to main guns. Locking on.” Tom announced as the view screen flickered again. The Imperial cruiser’s view ports and individual gun ports were now clearly distinguishable as the distance between the two vessels vanished.

“All hands brace for impact!” Riker ordered and immediately threw himself back into his command seat and slapped down the folding armrests to lock in around his thighs.

“Fire in the hole!” Tom barked and savagely pressed down on the firing stud to his right.

The screen washed out in a brilliant cascade of white and gold. Almost simultaneously the Excalibur jerked backwards and the emergency lights switched on as power surged across the strange crystalline circuits and controls panels. Pale indigo tendrils of electricity leapt from panels like clutching hands, some crewmen screamed in pain as their flesh was burned and blistered by the electrical discharges.

Then the Excalibur lurched forward as suddenly as it had jerked backwards and some of the crew spilled forward out of their stations. A square panel hurtled inches past Riker’s head and clanged loudly off the view screen and flipped down to the floor.

“Mr. Paris!” Riker shouted over the din of arcing circuitry and injured crewmen.

“I’m trying my best sir. We’re in a deep dive now but I’m pulling us out.” Tom managed to grunt out as he struggled to bring the leviathan back under control with one hand, the other holding himself steady against the con.

“Data did we hit anything?”

Data was the only one who was firmly seated and did not seem flustered by the events unfolding around the makeshift bridge of the Excalibur. He calmly sat and punched up reports on his ops station.

“We have not hit anything sir, other than a thick cloud of plasma and debris. Shields have compensated but our engines experienced a flux as we passed through. We should have full operations restored momentarily.” Data reported. “I am also picking up the power signatures of several stardestoryers immediately around us.” Data glanced back at Riker. “Apparently my calculations were off by several kilometers. Instead of coming out of hyperspace in the flank of the nearest wedge of stardestroyers we have emerged directly in their midst. My apologies Captain.”

Riker grinned like a boy at Christmas and clapped Data on the shoulder.

“Mr. Data, what you call an error I call a stroke of luck we’ve sorely been lacking in this fight so far.” Riker slapped his combadge. “All attack wings form up on Excalibur and keep the enemy off our backs. Leave the big boys to us.”

“Roger that, Excalibur, Rogue squadron forming up, we have a squadron of TIE interceptors inbound. We’ll give them a warm welcome.”

“This Defiant attack squadron on your Port side, Excalibur, moving in to support.”

“Alright then, let’s do this by the numbers…Mr. Paris, if you will I want you to bring the main weapon to bear on that stardestroyer.” Riker smiled victoriously. “Let’s kick their asses back out of our galaxy.”

“You don’t need to tell me twice sir.” Tom replied eagerly.

The Excalibur lumbered through the quickly expanding cloud of molten metal, plasma and debris that was once a proud Imperial Stardestroyer and turned as sharply as the behemoth could to face the remaining stardestroyers in the attack wing.

Bright emerald bolts began to splash against the Excalibur’s shields bathing the shimmering cobalt blue hull in the incandescent light show of the exploding turbolaser blasts. She heedlessly began to lumber towards her enemies as a squadron of Defiants peeled away from beneath her shields to eagerly hunt down the bomber wings that were rapidly approaching in defense of their base ships. The silhouettes of X-Wing fighters flashed over the Excalibur like a hungry pack of wolves and swept in tightly to intercept the first wave of fighters swarming in on the Excalibur. Angry crimson bolts lanced out in a stutter fire pattern as green laser bolts churned out in rapid fire succession from the TIE interceptors closing in.

The deadly dance had begun. The Excalibur was precisely where she needed to be when fighting these deadly Imperial warmachines, she was in a knife fight with the Imperials and much like the Federation she represented, she was not going to go down without a fight.

Hope Cuts like a Knife

The cities on the Azure coast of Andor were on fire. Their pyres could be seen all the way from the Capital city illuminating the twilight sky in a harsh angry glow that heralded the coming fires that waited to consume this world and the combatants above.

The president glanced up as the night sky briefly became day and a salvo of emerald bolts slashed down out of the evening sky like an angry god’s accusations and impacted against his world. Clouds of earth and superheated gasses erupted off into the distance with a distant thunder that was much louder to the sensitive ears of the Andorians. The fire and dust were a sign that the bolts had not just hit earth but part of some distant city or installation. People were dying.

The planetary shields were reestablished moments later accompanied by a hazy nimbus of electric blue light.

Like shooting stars, streaks of fire and light scarred the night sky right above the capital for a moment then vanished into the clouds. Another ship lost to the enemy and hungrily pulled in by the gravity well of the planet.

Once a vessel lost her motive power she was a slave to Andor and the world had not been kind to many of those vessels. Pulled in with an inexorable might they caught fire in the upper atmosphere, acting as funeral barges for their crews, and plummeted down into the planet below, most of the lighter vessels like fighters and runabouts simply flared up and vanished in the upper atmosphere itself, sometimes putting on a show for those close enough to see them vaporize so elegantly but the larger vessels were another matter entirely.

Plunging down from the night sky trailing bright streams of fire and molten metal these once mighty and proud starships screamed down into the planet like arrows of light and exploded with titanic force upon impact, scattering earth, stone and debris throughout the countryside. One such vessel hurtled down into the capital city’s huge inland sea and a geyser of superheated water and steam bathed the ports and lake side villas.

The Capital had not yet been touched directly by Imperial fire. The president glanced back westward at the nearby coast. The harsh glow danced mockingly before his eyes and his antennae twitched in anger and agitation.

But the coastal cities were all on fire. How many dead or dying would never be known.

Not because of the sheer number of dead or the Herculean effort it would take to count them all and find them in the rubble of the now dead or dying cities. No. It was a little simpler than that.

He did not think they would be alive when the sun rose once again over this world. Not because the Empire would win. But because there would be no pale blue orb to rise again and certainly no Andor. This world was doomed. Her sun would consume her like a ravenous wolf.

It was only a matter of time.

Another bright pluming arrow of fire and smoke pierced the high cloud cover overhead. This one was different. The people below in the city noted it immediately as well and many pointed and shouted in excitement and fear.

The object was large, larger than any of the unfortunate starships that had fallen prey to Andor’s unrelenting gravity well. Large chunks were coming away in explosive bursts from the main body of the flaming hulk and these new chunks hurtles away into distance places beyond the hills and gentle lakeside mists of the capital. The vessel screamed down like a banshee, howling in agony and impotent rage at its fate before finally crashing down a mere hundred kilometers from the city center.

The impact sent citizens to the floors or ground as they temporarily lost their footing by the seismic aftershock of the crash. A cloud of debris and gas hissed up into the sky from the impact point.

It was an Imperial vessel no doubt, perhaps one of their Strike cruisers or a similar sized vessel. Certainly not the gigantic Imperial stardestroyers, the president shuddered to think what the impact of one of those vessels would be like on his scarred world, but Imperial nonetheless.

And it made him shake his head and sigh. For this was Kirk’s gift in this wretched war. He gave them hope. A little glimpse of victory in the long night of their defeat. Above him more shooting stars signaling the death of yet more fighters and craft flashed as he thought about their fate.

He could not bring them victory. He had not promised it, nor would the president have believed it were it offered. This was their moment to stand defiant one last time before the end. But Kirk fought on, bringing down another of the enemy’s invincible warships. What more could be asked of the man?

But damn him anyway.

Damn him for giving him some hope even now.

The communicator pin on his sleeve gently buzzed. He activated it with a light brush of three elegant powder blur fingers.

“Go on.”

“Mr. President, the battle has been joined by the Imperium and we have reason to believe that Imperator Skywalker is personally overseeing the battle.” A low growling voice reported. Not the usual whisper of an Andorian, this particular Andorian was nothing if not unique.

“So all the pieces are in play then?” the president asked casually.

“Yes sir. Imperial forces, Imperium forces and the leaders for all factions involved. It cannot get any better than now sir.”

The president said nothing for a long moment.

“I am waiting, sir.”

“Tell me this is the right thing to do, old friend.” He asked softly.

“I can’t tell you that, my friend. You must make that decision. However I will tell you this. The tide of battle is in flux.” The old Andorian on the other end of the com replied coolly.

“You think there’s a chance of victory then?” the president asked sharply. Hope. It was like a knife in his gut.

There was a long moment of silence. A deep sonic boom interrupted the silence as a dog fight that had begun in space had obviously been dragged down into the atmosphere somewhere above them. He could imagine the old Andorian calmly sipping at his tea and thinking while regarding the torpedo sitting on the launch pad before him. A torpedo aimed directly at the Andorian sun with an awful purpose.

The old general was a secret. He wasn’t supposed to exist. His records indicated that he had died in a training accident three decades ago. Instead he was inducted into the Shadowfleet. They had been the ultra secret protectors of the Federation, the naval arm of Section 31, since the inception of the Federation. But this war had even destroyed them.

Scattered and weakened the factions of the shadowfleet were flocking home to regroup and rebuild. The old general was one of them. He had returned home, to Andor, and to his government with warnings of this Imperial threat and what must be done to oppose them. He came bearing the technology of the Trilithium torpedo that could destroy a sun. Technology the shadowfleet had ‘acquired’ from a rogue El Aurian scientist.

Now that torpedo sat ready to be launched as a final defiant gesture from the Andorians who refused to bow their heads as so many others in this galaxy had done when the Empire came for their world.

But it meant the end of their world and effectively their race for what was a species without a homeworld. How could the surviving Andorians hold their heads up with pride when they could no longer feel the cool blue light of their sun on their skin?

“No. I don’t think we can win sir.”

The President bowed his head.

“But if it makes your decision any easier we can wait a little while longer. However I strongly urge you to be ready to make the decision soon, sir. There will be little time and this may be the only way to kill them all in one swift stroke.” The gravely voice replied sternly. There was little doubt that if he could he would move the president to make the decision now.

“Await my instructions.”

“I have always served Andor and will continue to do so until the end, Primarch.” The Andorian replied stoically using his official Andorian office designation.

“I never doubt you for a moment, old friend.”

“When next we speak, I will be ready to follow your will, sir. They will remember Andor for what we did here today.”

The channel switched off and the president slowly looked back up into the sky. His wife slowly walked onto the balcony. She had obviously been crying but was composed and quiet now.

She placed a cool hand on his shoulder and he glanced down at her.

“Is there no hope then?” she asked simply.

He smiled softly and gripped her hand.

“Hope. Hope is all we have now, my bonded one. And that hope is in the hands of a human named James T. Kirk. Only he can save us now.”

Holding the Beast at Bay

“Evasive!” Kirk ordered tightly as a blast of plasma and molten metal rose up to nearly engulf the Enterprise. The Victory class stardestroyer’s conning tower was gone in a roiling plume of fire. The rest of the mighty vessel was tilting forward madly like a bull lowering its head to charge. The bright white engine corona flared up as her engines burned out of control.

Small clouds of debris and hot gasses were punching out through random locations along the vessel’s wedge shaped hull.

The stardestroyer was dying.

Kirk glanced back sharply at Spock while the rest of the bridge crew began cheering and slapping each other on the back.


“As we hoped, Captain, the new proton torpedoes have proven most effective against their shields.” Spock reported calmly. “I am receiving similar reports throughout the fleet.”

Kirk smiled and clenched his fist triumphantly. Something was finally going their way.

“Alright, let’s get going before Thrawn realizes we’re no longer flinging around quantum torpedoes. All attack wings closest to the Enterprise form up on us and follow us in for an Alpha strike on the lead stardestroyer of this tactical wing.” Kirk ordered firmly as he rose from his Command seat and stood behind Sulu’s station gripping the back of the helmsman’s chair.

“Target is marked and locked in.” Sulu reported proudly. “Wish you were with me on this one, Pavel.” Sulu added under his breath as a stardestroyer loomed ahead on screen. The attack wing of destroyers and supporting ships was trying to break the stranglehold that the Imperium had on the Imperial left flank.

Kirk’s job was a simple one.

Keep the Imperial fleet from relieving and freeing the trapped left flank.

Easier said than done of course especially when the rest of the Imperial fleet was wheeling around for a strike against the Imperium forces behind him. Thankfully Kirk had kept this trick up his sleeve until now. All the Federation starships had swapped out their quantum torpedoes with the proton torpedoes designed and manufactured by the Rebel Alliance and Federation engineering team.

The Federation simply did not have the power generation technology to make turbolasers feasible for ship deployment but the torpedoes were another matter entirely. Captain Jellico had made it top priority to ramp up production of the new torpedoes while he was in command of the fleet and his decision was bearing fruit now in their darkest hour as Starfleet was finally able to field a weapon that could hurt the Imperials.

Now all they had to do was hold the line.

“All wings in position.” Uhura reported.

The Imperial tactical wing began concentrating fire on Kirk’s rapidly approaching units. He watched as emerald bolts splashed against the phalanx shield system and crimson phaser fire lashed out in return fire while the two fleet elements closed.

“All torpedoes stand by. Lock onto their bridge and forward weapons array.” Kirk ordered calmly as the Enterprise began to shudder under his feet. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Scotty working feverishly on his engineering control station as he tried to maintain the stability of their experimental shield grid.

At any other time, in any other war, Scotty would have been rewarded the highest honors that could be given by the Federation for performing far above the call of duty in all that had accomplished in this war. But it made Kirk proud that Scotty’s contributions and actions were only one of thousands made by so many of his fellow officers and men. This fleet had in essence all risen as one to heed the call.

They would be rewarded with a victory today. He swore it.

The Imperial stardestroyer easily filled half of the screen now, the emerald and crimson explosions rippling against their shields was bathing the bridge in an angry lightshow.

“Fire.” He ordered.

Hundreds of starships released their first volley of proton torpedoes accompanied by a veritable storm of phaser fire. Almost immediately afterwards another wave of pale blue streaks launched from the torpedo bays of the assembled starships and streaked towards the stardestroyer.

Point defenses roared to life as laser cannons blazed away at the incoming torpedoes. Fortunately the Rebel Alliance had trained Kirk and his fleet well. They knew about the overwhelmingly potent point defenses on a stardestroyer so they developed the tactic of firing their torpedoes nearly pointblank on the lumbering leviathans of the Empire.

The tactic had the drawback of reducing the torpedoes into dumb fire weapons but as Princess Leia aptly pointed out “At that range, it just doesn’t matter.”

The torpedoes were already impacting against their targets before the point defenses could completely bring themselves to bear. Explosions blossomed along the ship’s shields, accompanied by pinpoint phaser fire that probed for openings in the shields. The second wave of torpedoes arrived instants later before the first explosions had even begun to subside and many slipped through the weakened shields of the stardestroyer.

The Federation fleet passed overhead, as the stricken stardestroyer poured a murderous fusillade of turbolaser fire into the passing starships. Despite the phalanx shield grid many of the starships suffered under the assault. An Excelsior class starship clipped by the intense bolts spun like a mad top right into the flight path of an Akira class ship. Both exploded simultaneously with the impact as a Nebula class starship lost a nacelle to a well placed hit.

Despite the casualties, the fleet elements turned as one for another pass, their phaser arrays unrelenting in their constant peppering of the target with heavy fire while another wave of torpedoes were launched.

TIE fighters and Interceptors suddenly fell on the ships in an angry swarm. Green laser bolts spat out in rapid fire bursts as the Imperial fighters tried to pry about the tight Federation lines.

“All phasers on rapid fire, pattern Charlie Victor.” Kirk ordered sharply as objects on the view screen tumbled madly about while Sulu executed a spinning corkscrew maneuver, allowing the Enterprise’s ventral and dorsal phasers to fire in cutting scythe like arcs through the fighter swarm.

“Torpedo impacts on bridge section. We may have knocked out her dorsal shields.” Spock reported.

“Have all wings concentrate on downed shield section!” Kirk shouted over the din of a fire alarm as a panel melted behind him and showered the control station with red hot droplets and sparks. Someone screamed in pain as a power conduit arced for a moment and seared off the flesh from the hapless crewman’s forearm. “And Sulu, get those vultures off of us.” Kirk barked as he stumbled backwards from another series of hits by the hungry Imperial fighters.

“Permission to fly freely sir?” Sulu asked with a wildman’s grin as he took the Enterprise into a hard dive towards the wounded Imperial Stardestroyer’s forecastle.

Kirk glanced down at his helmsman and they smiled at each other. Years of camaraderie made them more than friends.

“I’m going to regret this aren’t I?” Kirk chuckled.

Sulu shook his head and laughed as he began furiously working on the helm controls. The Enterprise kicked up as her impulse engines flared and she spun again on her axis, firing all the while on multiple phaser strips reducing the pursuing TIE fighters into rapidly expanding puffs of fire and debris.

Above them, a Strike Cruiser loomed, firing her weapons in support of the floundering stardestroyer. Sulu marked her in on his helm and drove hard into a power climb away from the stardestroyer, the resulting fire from her point defenses that eagerly sought out the Enterprise that only moments ago was diving right for her, instead found the cloud of fighters swarming after her.

Kirk nodded and patted Sulu on the shoulder.

“Not done yet, sir.” Sulu replied as the Strike cruiser drew closer. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Hawk, I could use some covering fire.” Sulu added.

The tactical officer grinned and began laying down a heavy pattern of phaser fire that danced off the port side shields of the Imperial light cruiser. Trailing behind the Strike cruiser was a Lancer class frigate. The smaller vessel was laying down a torrent of laser fire trying to act as a supplemental point defense for the stardestroyer as the fourth wave of proton torpedoes began punching gaping holes in her armored hull.

Kirk tensed as the Enterprise began to loop in under the Strike cruiser, her weapons fire splashing across the forward saucer.

“Scotty?” Kirk asked tensely.

“Phalanx is holding but we have to be careful sair, we’re skirting at the edge of the grid’s effective range. We dunna want to be outside the phalanx right now.” Scotty warned as he cautiously watched the stuttering readouts of the phalanx shield grid encompassing many small icons representing the fleet’s ships. As if to punctuate Scotty’s warning the stardestroyers closest to the battle began lending their firepower to the defense of their command ship.

Thermonuclear fire works and blossoming clouds of plasma tore the void around the Federation fleet and drew closer and closer to the Enterprise. There was no doubt that if the starship left the protective umbrella of the phalanx shield grid that it would be instantly vaporized under the withering assault.

“You hear that Mr. Sulu?” Kirk stressed.

“A little busy at the moment, sir. Give me a moment.” Sulu replied. The Enterprise bobbed and weaved between the storm of laser bolts and point defense fire, Imperial fighters right on her tail and pouring fire at the starship.

On screen the Strike cruiser skewed hard right then Sulu committed the Enterprise into a rapid spinning side slip into the wash of the Strike cruiser. Its weapons fire skipped off the Enterprise’s shields and the Lancer frigate switched from trying to intercept the incoming proton torpedoes to help destroy the Enterprise as she passed between the cruiser and the frigate in the blink of an eye. The fighters that doggedly followed were caught between the wash of the Strike cruiser’s ion engines or the rapid fire laser volleys of the Lancer frigate.

Sulu grunted as he worked his magic for one final maneuver and the entire ship moaned, deck plates rattled and the impulse engines vibrated so hard from the effort that the entire saucer section rumbled.

Kirk clutched at a guard rail by the upper portion of the bridge and held on for dear life as the Enterprise performed a seemingly impossible high g spinning turn, end over end, to face the remaining fighters that still followed.

“Now, Mr. Hawk!” Sulu shouted.

“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Hawk exclaimed and phaser fire coupled with proximity fused torpedoes bracketed the fighters and blasted them into fiery oblivion.

Kirk realized he had been holding his breath those last few minutes and smiled.

“Mr. Sulu, I think I may put you up for a promotion.” Kirk commented dryly.

“Just doing my job, sir.” Sulu winked.

“Alright, what’s the status on the attack on the stardes---” Kirk began walking away from the guardrail back to his command chair when the Enterprise lurched forward hard then seemed to dip even harder to starboard.

Proximity alarms blared for a moment and then on screen the predatory image of three assault gunboats gracefully swept by the Enterprise and intense white fire jumped from each gunboat and struck the Enterprise.

Three more gunboats surged up from beneath the Enterprise and white bolts connected the vessels again prompting the Enterprise to buck upwards like a wild bronco trying to rid itself of a troublesome rider.

White arcing tendrils of electricity leapt from console to console. Readouts and controls went dead or winked on and off intermittently. Sulu found the helm sluggish then increasingly unresponsive.

“Sir, I’m losing helm control.”

“Navigation is out.”

“Communications down, sir.” Uhura reported with concern.

“Spock?” Kikr looked back at Spock fighting to stay on his feet as the Enterprise rocked again.

“Ion cannon blasts are disabling our central systems, Captain. We are losing power on all decks and weapons systems are disabled.” Spock explained.

“I thought we were hardened against ion blasts.” Kirk demanded of Scotty.

Scotty frowned as he was simultaneously trying to coax the starship back to life.

“Captain, I can harden the Enterprise to withstand ion cannon shots but there’s only so much she can take before the defenses are overwhelmed. Those are concentrated shots directly blasted into our key control systems.” Scotty replied bitterly. “There’s not much I can do sair. The ion charge needs to be cycled out of our systems and the main computer core needs to reboot.”

“How long?” Kirk demanded as he strode up to Scotty’s station. On screen the six assault gunboats came together and banked back around quickly to pass directly overhead.

“Hold on!” Sulu warned.

The intense white ion bolts flashed down along the saucer section, dancing around the bridge module and back down key power lines. The Enterprise dipped down hard in response to the kinetic impact of the ion bolts, her impulse engines unresponsive and warp drive down she was essentially dead in space and could not compensate for the force of the blasts.

Kirk was catapulted off his feet, crashed over the guard rail and landed awkwardly on his head.

“Captain!” Uhura exclaimed in alarm.

Sulu rose from his seat to quickly attend to Kirk while Spock seemed to vault over his science station with grace and speed and landed beside Sulu.

“Station, please, Mr. Sulu.” Spock calmly ordered as he gently cradled Kirk’s head.

Sulu reluctantly nodded and returned to his station.

“Mr. Scott, if you would please endeavor to recover our systems. We are as you humans like to say, a sitting duck, right now.”

Scotty nodded, a stricken expression on his face at seeing his Captain splayed out on the floor looking so lifeless in Spock’s hands. He composed himself quickly and turned his full attention to the controls.

Spock examined Kirk closely and then gently tapped on the combadge on his shirt.

“Spock to Dr. McCoy. We need you on the bridge immediately.”

“Hold your horses Spock, I’ve got a lot of casualties down here right now. I’ll be right up.”

“Doctor, it is the Captain.” Spock explained calmly as the Enterprise bucked again eliciting a rather colorful expletive from Scotty.

There was a muffled exclamation and then the channel went dead. The doctor was now indeed rushing to the bridge.

“Jim, you must hold on.” Spock urged softly.

The Dark Side of the Moon

“Jim’s in trouble.” Leia noted darkly. Her command crew was busy keeping track of the battle on the bridge of the Reckless Hope. The Alliance frigate was station keeping behind Andor’s fortress moon accompanied by several wings of starships and their support craft.

The hologhraphic representation of the battle playing out on the tactical console in the CIC of the frigate. Her military advisors were taking notes and passing on observations to the fleet commanders.

“The Enterprise has been disabled by ion cannon fire, Princess. The rest of the attack wing is trying to rescue them but they’re being swarmed by fighters and the stardestroyer Vengeance is refusing to die.” The captain explained.

Leia did not look down at the holographic display of the battle. Instead she looked back out at the armored view port where all she could see, aside from Andor’s moon, were the bright flashes of the battle raging beyond. But it did not matter. She felt as if she could see the battle better this way. She could almost feel Jim’s distress calling to her like a beacon.

“Captain, how long before we could clear the moon and rescue the Enterprise?” Leia asked evenly.

Captain Terrel blanched.

“Princess. I must stress that we have the entire Imperial right and center wing to fight through before we could approach the Enterprise. Not to mention Kirk’s plan for us.”

“Damn the plan. I need to save that man.” Leia explained.

“Princess. I have a priority message from the Cairo. Captain Jellico wishes to speak to you.” Threepio announced from his place at the comstation.

Leia frowned. Jellico was an infuriating man and she had not forgiven him for his near mutiny.

“He requests a private com channel with you.” Threepio added with some confusion.

Leia’s raised an eyebrow and quickly stalked over to the comstation. She glanced back at Terrel. “Prepare to make a hyperspace jump on my mark past the Imperial fleet and as close to the Enterprise as possible.” She ordered.

The command crew exchanged troubled glances. Terrell nodded curtly. He was from Alderaan. There could be no argument with his sovereign, especially after all that she had done for them.

Leia slipped an ear bud on and slapped the blinking button on the board.

“Jellico, this is Leia.” She announced calmly.

“I know what you’re thinking of doing.” He began simply.

“I didn’t know Terrans were mind readers now.” She replied evenly.

“Let’s not make this a sparring match, princess. You don’t like me and frankly I don’t like you either but that man out there gave us our marching orders and he was pretty explicit on what needed to be done. He even told us that the Enterprise is completely expendable. Don’t go half cocked like you’re wont to do and try and launch any rescue missions.”

“The plan will be just fine without the Hope.”

“Bullshit.” Jellico replied tightly. “This fleet is going to get massacred without your shield power added to our phalanx network and your big guns. Aside from the Excalibur, yours is the most powerful ship in our fleet. I won’t lecture you, your highness. You’re a big girl and you know what I’m saying is true. So I’ll just make my point bluntly.” Jellico paused so that all Leia could hear was her own heartbeat pounding in her ears, her anger at his frank assessment made the color rise in her face, and the light hiss of the comline.

“Don’t fuck with the plan.”

“Excuse me?” Leia hissed not accustomed to being spoken to in such a manner.

“You heard me. I’m not your daddy, princess so I won’t coddle you. You do this, you go and rescue Jim and you just ruined whatever chance we have of stopping this war here and now. Think on that.” Jellico closed the line without another word.

Leia pursed her lips and stared at the comboard for a long moment while she composed herself.

“Captain Terrell?” she asked quietly.

“Yes, your highness.” The Captain replied stepping in beside her.

“What are the chances of pulling Rogue squadron to assist in the Enterprise’s rescue?” she asked calmly.

Terrell frowned.

“Princess, I’m afraid Rogue squadron is currently in a battle supporting the Excalibur deep behind Imperial lines. If we order them to pull back –”

Leia nodded and smiled softly.

“We may lose the Excalibur. I understand.”

“Princess, just give me the word and I will take us into the maelstrom.” Terrell said grimly.

Leia reached out and gripped the young Alderanian’s shoulder and nodded softly.

“Thank you for that, Captain.” She took a deep breath. “But we will maintain our position until the time is right.”

“Understood, your highness.” Terrell paused. “He’s a great Captain, princess. He’ll get out of that trap. You’ll see.”

“Indeed. He is a most remarkable man, Princess.” Threepio chimed in cheerfully.

“Yes, he is Threepio. Yes he is.” She felt an odd sense of foreboding. There was something hanging on the periphery of her consciousness like a half remembered dream. For a moment she thought she heard Luke’s voice, distant like an echo. Then it was gone.

You’re swatting at Cat’s-paws

He was either dreaming or dead. He wasn’t quite sure as he had never been dead before except once on Vulcan long ago.

There was a sense of floating, as if he were carried on strange but calming winds. His troubles fell away from him like leaves from a tree in autumn. The war. The loss. The heartache. The loneliness. It was all falling away leaving just James Kirk.

No longer a Captain. The hero that he needed to be was no longer so important anymore. Even the defiance that he carried with him was laid down like a heavy burden by the river.


How did he come here?

He glanced around and saw the trees bending slightly in the wind. It was all so familiar yet alien. A picnic blanket was laid out neatly beneath the shade of an elm tree. A basket, half open with a loaf of bread hanging out of one corner and a bottle of wine resting nestled beneath it, sat in the middle of the blanket.

A butterfly darted out of his way.

He was walking? When did he stop floating?

“Cortical stimulator.” A voice hissed on the wind through the leaves.

“What?” his voice sounded tired and muted.

A feminine figure stepped out of the river, water running in glittering rivulets off of her soft body. She was humming a simple tune to herself. He knew her. He would know her anywhere in the universe.

“Edith.” He whispered.

She turned to him and smiled. Her smile melted his heart as surely as it did so long ago when he was also a man out of time forced to make decisions that would effect the entire universe.

Save that his decision so long ago killed the woman he loved.

“Sentimental tripe really, you humans are so self involved it’s a wonder you evolved past the stage where you could annihilate yourselves.”

He blinked and looked down at the picnic blanket.

Q was sitting cross-legged on the edge of the blanket and casually tore off one end of the loaf of bread and sniffed at it.

“Trelayne.” Kirk frowned. “I’m either dreaming or dead. I don’t want you here either way.”

Q shook his head and clucked.

“I keep forgetting the differences between you and Picard. Granted you knew me during my shall we say impetuous youth but surely you think you could treat me with a little more respect. I am, after all, on your side.”

Kirk sighed heavily,.

“You’re on nobody’s side but your own.”

“Is everything alright, James?” Edith asked. She walked over from the river bank toweling off her hair and smiling at him curiously. She did not seem to notice Q sitting on the blanket.

“Everything is fine.” Kirk assured her and hesitantly reached out to touch her.

“Is this really what you want?” Q sniffed in disdain as he glanced around. “A rustic countryside, a rather unremarkable female of your species and some barely palatable food served on a cotton synthetic fiber draped over…unprocessed” Q wrinkled his nose as he noticed the ants crowding around the edges of the blanket. “soil?”

“Get out.” Kirk snapped angrily.

“James?” Edith whispered in surprise.

“Not you, sweetheart. Never you.” Kirk replied quickly and held her to him. He closed his eyes to feel her in his arms. When he did he saw Spock’s face hover into view for a moment and McCoy growling in the background. “I said 10cc’s nurse.”

Kirk’s eyes snapped open and the beautiful world where he stood was still there but everything had died down. The wind vanished and the swaying trees seemed frozen in place, Even Edith was nestled in his arms, unmoving, eyes closed as she was enjoying the moment too.

Only Q was moving. He rose from the picnic blanket and shrugged.

“I can leave if you want but I thought it was time I reminded you of the big picture, Jim. I can call you Jim of course.”

“Are you here to tell me that the universe is still ending?”

“You are sharp, aren’t you?” Q smiled. “For a glorified ape that is.” Q added under this breath in a stage whisper to no one in particular.

“Just get to the point.”

“Impatient. You know it was your human impatience that started this whole inexorable slide. Your Katherine Janeway and her impatience at getting her crew home, her tampering with the timelines one time too many. She caused the final unraveling of all you see before you. You think this pretty little war you’re fighting is some sort of random occurrence? You think its just another entry in someone’s history textbooks.” Q strode right up to Kirk, nearly standing nose to nose with him. “Everything that has happened has done so for a reason. This war is being orchestrated.”

“The Empire?”

“The Empire are cat’s-paws, Jimmy. So is the Imperium, Skywalker, Vader, Thrawn. All this time you think you’ve been carrying out a grand crusade to save your Federation when point in fact you’ve been swatting at cat’s-paws.”

“Then help me. Help me understand my enemy.” Kirk demanded.

“Your enemy is….” Q paused as if balancing what he needed to say very carefully. “someone you already understand quite well.” He finished with a mysterious smile.

“You’re about as helpful as Rinarian Anthrax.” Kirk smirked.

“James. Listen to me now. This battle is merely a shadow play. It is a pale reflection of the one to come very soon. Battle lines are being drawn for the true conflict. Your enemy, he’s a sly one, he thinks he has me fooled. He thinks I’m ignorant to what he is planning but I’m not. He and his ally will bring death and destruction to this galaxy before the wave of entropy that has consumed more than two thirds of the universe arrives here at the locus point of it all.”


Q smiled softly and shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

“You…don’t know.” Kirk repeated hesitantly.

“Shocking, isn’t it?” Q snorted. “You are the first mortal I have ever uttered those words to in all seriousness. I just don’t know. But I can tell you this. You must seek them out. Here.” Q held up the palm of his right hand and the image of a great angry red and green gas giant sprang to life over it. A metal orb, half constructed and bloated with weapons and malevolence sat quietly in the shadow of that world.

“What is that?”

“The Deathstar.” Q’s eyebrows rose up and down with the answer in mock dramatic fashion.


“You remember your last errand of mercy where you made a stand against the gods there?”

Kirk confusion was clearly etched on his face.

“Ask around about that world, James. You will find that only you and your crew remember that mission and the treaty you helped forge.”

“Organia?” Kirk replied hesitantly.

“I will say no more,” the world around them seemed to flutter. Q looked around. “apparently your doctor is more skilled than I thought. You’re not going to die. Yet.” Q winked. The world around Kirk faded quickly like a hologram being shut off. Everything dimmed until there was only darkness and Kirk could feel hands roughly manhandling him. Something was on his forehead and Edith started to vanish as well. She looked up at him.

“I know you will always do the right thing, James.” She said with a gentle sigh and then she too was gone.


Kirk stood alone in the dark save for Q who stood in front of him holding a guttering candle.

“You remember what I told you. Organia, James. That’s where this drama must end.”

“You bastard. I bet you could end this with a snap of your fingers. All of this.”

Q smirked.

“But where would the drama be in that, James Kirk? Every story needs a hero, a villain, a romance and a climax. Deux ex machinas are for the weak and the morons. I don’t count you among their number.”

Even Q began to fade. Intermittingly Spock’s or McCoy’s face hazily drifted into view.

“I think he’s coming around.” McCoy pronounced with a smile.

“Oh, James. You didn’t think I was kidding when I said you had two possible paths to take did you? You still have a decision to make.” Q reminded him slyly.

“Trelayne!” Kirk sat up ramrod straight, the cortical stimulator hanging off his forehead while Spock and McCoy restrained him.

“it’s alright Jim. You’re going to be OK. Just a concussion.” McCoy explained gently.

The ship lurched beneath their feet for a moment but it wasn’t weapons fire that caused it. A deep thump echoed up the hull.

“What the hell is going on?” Kirk demanded.

Spock was about to answer when the soft female voice of the ship’s computer suddenly announced “Intruder Alert. Repeat Intruder Alert.”

“The Imperial ships immobilized us and disabled our defenses.” Spock calmly explained as he helped Kirk up to his feet.

“Mr. Spock there’s another one.” Sulu stated grimly and pointed to the view screen. An imperial assault transport was descending rapidly towards the view screen and it soon covered the entirety of it. The bridge shuddered hard and a deep clunk of metal on metal reverberated through the walls and floor.

“We are being boarded.” Spock finished.

Kirk shook his head to clear it and pulled the stimulator off and cast it away.

“Alright then. All crewmen to your battle stations. Security teams to the bridge and engineering.” Kirk began ordering. There was the sound of heavy machinery moving above them and the scrape of metal boots on the ceiling. Someone was walking on the bridge module.

“Scotty lock out all controls and let the computer run things, I don’t want those bastards seizing control of the ship because they managed to get a hold of a random computer terminal here or at engineering.”

“Aye.” Scotty replied tightly.

“Everyone, draw your weapons.” Kirk ordered loudly. Sulu and the others drew their phasers and backed away from the source of the noise directly over the viewer. Suddenly sparks hissed down from a portion of the ceiling over the view screen.

“Intruder alert. Intruder alert.”

They could hear the distinct sound of blaster fire echoing up the tubolift shaft.

Kirk’s hand drifted down to his belt to grab his phaser but it was no longer there. He looked down sharply. His phaser must have come loose when he took his tumble. But another weapon waited patiently at his hip.

“I’m not going to let those sinners take this ship.” Scotty snapped angrily as he drew his phaser and powered it up to kill.

The shower of sparks and molten metal grew more insistent and the ceiling began to give way. There was a hint of motion and white armor.

Kirk drew the lightsaber and held up over his head, activating it with a sharp snap hiss and illuminating them all in its cool blue glow just as the primary lighting flickered then failed.

“Crew of the Starship Enterprise.” Kirk began looking around at his assembled bridge crew. “Loyal officers and men of Starfleet, valiant citizens of the Federation.” Kirk shouted over the sound of the burning ceiling. “Prepare to defend yourselves!”

The ceiling gave way and the Imperial Stormtroopers dropped down like a grim rain of white and black. Kirk flashed his lightsaber forward.

“The Federation lives!” he exclaimed.
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 94: Battle of Andor VI

That which was lost

Luke grunted hard as he pulled back on his control stick and his onyx X-wing responded admirably as she soared high above the ever expanding clouds of debris and plasma marking the death throes of another Imperial fighter.

As soon as he cleared the field he took a moment to drink in the vision of the battle unfurling beneath him as three titanic fleets intent on demolishing each other tore into one another like frenzied predators. Fighters prowled the edges of the battlefield hunting each other with cold deadly precision as their enormous command ships blasted one another with enough firepower to reduce a world to a smoldering cinder.

The fleets were massing around each other, the smaller Federation vessels swarming Thrawn’s left wing and forming a blocking force preventing a center and right wing from collapsing completely on Luke’s own Imperium fleet which was occupied with annihilating Thrawn’s trapped left wing.

Flaming wrecks were falling down in Andor’s inexorable gravity well. Each one was one less enemy vessel to concern themselves with and one step closer to eliminating Thrawn’s left wing.

But despite Luke’s hopes and wishes it was quickly becoming evident that the Federation could not hold the Imperial relief forces back. They fought valiantly, they fought without fear or hesitation, but that was simply not enough. Thrawn was cutting into them like a scalpel, pulling them apart and exposing their primary weakness. Kirk’s brilliant use of this new Federation shield technology was severely limited by range. How Thrawn devised the weakness so quickly and set his ships to methodically pull apart the clusters of starships was a wonder to the young Imperator.

During his months as Darth Nemesis he was privy to many of the Emperor’s secrets and machinations and the Grand Admiral’s name had surfaced several times, always spoken of with a mixture of awe and barely concealed jealousy. The other officers respected and feared him and now he could see why. Thrawn was confidently in charge of this battle even now when facing attacks from two fleets.

He could sense it from the command ship. Calm and calculating precision was flowing from the bridge where before Luke had felt pin pricks of concern. Thrawn had recovered from the surprises and was now resolutely killing his enemy.

Deeper within the Imperial lines however he could sense another resolve. One that was focused on killing as many of the enemy as possible and not caring about their own losses. As if to punctuate his point a brilliant yellow beam slashed out and cut its way through the forecastle of an Imperial stardestroyer, the stricken vessel began to tumble forward and down out of the plane of engagement her emerald blaster bolts splashing against the shields of the cold blue conical vessel that lumbered heedlessly forward through a tight wedge of Imperial ships.

The Excalibur was announcing her presence in this fight with authority and her tiny companion vessels, a squadron of Defiants and X-wing fighters were surging ahead to clear the path. Luke smiled softly. He could almost hear the triumphant whoop from Wedge as he took out yet another Imperial fighter.

He did not think he would ever see his old friend again.

And if not for the brief surge in alarm that roused him from his reverie he probably would never see Wedge again. Emerald bolts flashed by his cockpit as he pulled hard to the starboard and gunned his engines while violently kicking down on his vectored thruster controls. His X-Wing barrel rolled and then dove down hard as the emerald bolts hungrily followed his flight path in deadly staccato volleys that illuminated the interior of Luke’s cockpit with a distracting strobe effect - distracting if you were not one with the Force.

Luke allowed his hands and feet to guide him through the slashing laser bolts that were eagerly hunting him in the void.

In the back of his mind he could feel the presence pressing in on him, a dark familiar mind encroaching on his consciousness like a sand storm coming in off the Dune Sea.

“You are unwise to lower your defenses, Lord Nemesis.”

Luke grit his teeth and yanked back hard while on the control stick while stamping down hard on his vector controls and sliding a thumb along his control stick hitting small buttons built into the sides of his controls stick.

The stars tumbled in a mad dance and he felt his stomach leap into his throat and his vision blurred for a brief moment, alarms buzzed loudly in his ears as a litany of alert lights flashed desperately on the cockpit displays around him. The X-Wing shook and shuddered to its core as she reversed herself, spun backwards end to end while losing little to none of her forward momentum. In a split second Luke’s X-wing fighter was now facing the 6 o’clock position while continuing backwards carried by its forward momentum briefly before her engines could force a reverse in direction.

Luke victoriously pressed down on his fire controls and bright crimson bolts lanced out around the quadrants of his vision narrowing sharply into a single point. A TIE fighter with predatory bent wings and a blazing pair of laser cannons illuminating the small fighter with a sharp emerald glow flashed by his cockpit and the shrill drone of her twin ion engines hissed in his ears as it passed, a brief glimpse of molten metal and hot gasses spraying out from one of the engine struts made him nod knowingly.

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises, father.” Luke replied and swung his fighter around hard to fall in behind his attacker, the hunter effectively becoming the hunted in a split second.

Vader calmly adjusted his controls to compensate for the damage scored on his starboard stabilizer and heat exchangers. The cold hiss of his breathing did not alter a wit as he checked his six o’clock position and gunned his twin ion engines to accelerate. It was all second nature to him. He had fought in battles like this all his life and now the Force was with him more than ever before. He was a master of the dark side and small eventualities like battle damage did not concern him.

The sole thing that concerned him was the treachery of his son, and it seethed in his belly like a venomous serpent.

“Rage can be like that, Father. It coils within you, devours you and leaves you empty and cold inside.”

“Spare me your empty platitudes, Lord Nemesis. You sound like one of your Jedi mentors. Obi Wan was misguided in his attempts to save his Republic. You cling to a dream of a world you never knew an ideal you never experienced.”

“What once was lost can be found again.” Luke replied jerking the controls to the left and avoided a spinning Federation engine nacelle that whipped past his X-wing as he pursued his father deeper into the fray unfurling before them.

“You are a fool to think you can rebuild what never worked. The Republic is dead, Nemesis.” Vader hissed as he corkscrewed his TIE fighter through an exchange of fire between a Miranda class cruiser and a pack of Imperial gunships.

Luke followed close behind, mirroring his father’s maneuvers perfectly. He sprayed out another burst from his cannons for emphasis as he spoke.

“I was not speaking of the Republic, I was referring to you, father.”

Vader hesitated for a moment. He could feel the emotions washing from his son despite the distance and speed. He could feel something he had not felt since that day on Mustafar. Love.

It blinded him for a moment.

It made him remember.

“I love you.” Padme implored. It was the last words she spoke to him before he…

Memories seared across his mind and his limbs ached for the first time in decades.

Fury. Pure unadulterated fury exploded from his withered heart and Vader hissed without thinking.

“I will teach you boy, I will teach you the folly of your intentions.”

Vader’s TIE fighter side slipped over and around a stricken Steamrunner class starship. Just as his fighter cleared the craft one of the bulkheads gave way with a blast of plasma and molten metal spraying into Luke’s path.

Luke did not think, did not pause, he merely reacted, one with the force he trusted to his instincts. His X-Wing spun like a pinwheel and the debris clanged off the leading edges of his wing and nosecone but the body of the fighter was untouched by the nearly impossible maneuver.

However trusting to the Force and instinct protected Luke from the immediate danger not one further down the road. It was a weakness that was known to any Jedi or Sith - a weakness which Vader had exploited in hunting down Jedi for nearly twenty years. He simply never imagined he would use such tactics in hunting down his own son.

The weakness immediately became evident as Luke recovered his fighter from the mad spinning maneuver and quickly checked his surroundings. Vader’s fighter had looped around the Steamrunner in a tight high speed turn and was now firmly behind Luke. The Force protected you from immanent dangers, doing what it could to place you out of harm’s way, but rarely looking past the danger in front of you to the dangers beyond.

At the height of the Clone Wars the Separatists would lay a series of rapid ambushes for an errant Jedi with the goal of placing the Jedi in a position of vulnerability for the kill. Vader had played the same game with Luke. He led the young upstart into a position that would make him react instinctively using the force to escape harm not realizing that he was merely placing himself in a more vulnerable position.

Vader savagely pressed down on his fire controls and laced his bright emerald fire down at Luke’s fighter. Luke tried to jig hard but some of the TIE’s bolts struck his engine full on, the engine block glowed a bright red for a moment then streamed molten metal and hot gasses from the ignition chamber.

“I’m hit but it’s not bad – D4 see what you can do. Hang on back there.” Luke ordered as he jerked down hard on his stick and kicked his vector controls pedals.

R2 D4 whistled excitedly as it extended a control arm towards the stricken engine.

Vader smiled under his breath mask as Luke executed a perfect spinning dive to break away from Vader. Despite his fury towards the boy he was proud of him. Even Obi Wan was never this good of a pilot.

Vader followed Luke’s X-Wing doggedly deeper into the fleet engagement.


Kirk grunted as he slipped the lightsaber deep into the chest plate of the nearest Imperial stormtrooper. The trooper grunted sharply and slumped forward, his blaster clattering uselessly onto the deck grates. A flash of bright white light blinded him for a moment as he withdrew the humming blade without resistance.

Stormtroopers continued to drop down into the bridge of the Enterprise like a foul white rain. They dropped into low crouches immediately hunting for targets as they crab walked out of the way of more troopers dropping down from the hole blasted in the ceiling of the bridge where the Imperial assault transport had docked with the crippled starship.

The moment the stormtroopers began to board the starship the crew fought like tigers to protect their starship for at this moment in time the Enterprise was the Federation. The stormtroopers were the Empire come to take. They would not allow it. It would not happen.

Phaser fire lanced out in volleys that picked stormtroopers off their feet slamming them against bulkheads and the view screen. Stormtroopers returned fire but instead of the deadly red blaster bolts that would have torn the crew to pieces there were bright white circular blasts that hunted men and rendered them unconscious.

Kirk immediately understood that this boarding action meant to take them prisoner and in that restraint they had a distinct advantage. The crew did not have to hold back but the Imperials did.

“Don’t give them an inch! Push them back into their ship!” Kirk urged whipping his lightsaber before him and illuminating those around him in the pale blue light of the blade. The lights on the bridge were either out or flickering madly throwing up mad shadows against the ivory walls.

Sulu ducked quickly beneath the helm and emerged from the other side and squeezed off two shots, taking out one stormtrooper, the phaser bolt shattering the eyepiece of the trooper’s helmet and burning through his skull. The second shot lanced up into the breach of the bridge clipping a stormtrooper as he descended, severing a leg and sending the trooper spinning into a control station with a crash.

Scotty was wrestling with another trooper, grunting mightily as they pushed against each other searching for an advantage. A young ensign tried to intervene but a bright white bolt took him down sending the young man slumping down head first onto the floor.

Spock calmly took aim and fired, sending another trooper catapulting backwards over a guardrail.

“Intruder control systems have been disabled.” Spock reported as he glanced down at the tactical panel by the security station. Two more bridge personnel succumbed to the expert marksmanship of the Imperial boarders.

“Mr. Spock, you’re just full of good news.” Kirk shouted back as he swung his lightsaber in a sidestroke that took a stormtrooper apart at the hip. Kirk recovered the blade carefully, aware of how light the blade was and how little effort it took to cut through his enemies. He also noted grimly how few of his men remained conscious and able to fight.

As if in answer to his prayers the turbolift doors snapped open and a fully armed and armored security force burst in with phaser rifles at the ready. They did not hesitate to begin laying down heavy fire on the stormtroopers concentrated at the front half of the bridge.

Spock made his way down to Kirk placing a hand on Kirk’s shoulder.

“Captain, we cannot continue fighting like this on the bridge, we will reduce it to scrap soon enough and the damage will force us to withdraw to the auxiliary bridge.”

Kirk glanced around quickly seeing his security team ducking behind seats and control consoles for cover while firing back angry red bolts at the stormtroopers who were also using any part of the assailed bridge as cover, resulting in seats having the backs blown off or fires burning from ruined stations.

“We won’t have time for that, Spock.” Kirk replied hotly ducking back as another white bolt flashed by.

“My point precisely captain.” Spock noted dryly.

“Let’s see what we can do about this but first let’s secure our right and see if the miracle worker can give us a way out of this.” Kirk ordered.

Kirk nodded towards Scotty as he swung his blade in a wide high arc and severed the outstretched arms of a trooper aiming his blaster at the security team. Meanwhile Spock quickly reached over with one arm and gripped the trooper that Scotty was wrestling with and yanked him back off his feet and into the helm station with a jarring thud.

Scotty smiled wearily and wiped sweat off his brow.

“Many thanks, Mr. Spock, but I had the situation under control.”

Spock arched an eyebrow slightly and nodded.

“Then I apologize for cutting it short, Mr. Scott. Perhaps you would like to assist us in getting the intruder control systems back online.”

Scotty immediately turned to his station, gingerly pulled an unconscious crewmen sprawled out across his panels and checked the status reports. He grimaced.

“I take it our situation is not ideal?” Spock asked. He took aim and fired again while Kirk waded out to his left attempting to shore up what little remained of his crew’s resistance in that quarter. Say what you will about the Imperials, their stormtroopers were most adept at taking a position against heavy resistance. There was no doubt in Spock’s mind that even with the reinforcements the bridge would be lost in short order.

“Ideal is certainly an understatement. These bloody bastards have fried half the control circuits between here and the central command core systems. The main computer is rebooting but it will take too much time to reroute the intruder control systems,”

“Unfortunately time is a luxury we do not have, Mr. Scott.”

“But we do have power.” Scotty noted.

“I’m afraid I do not follow.”

“You remember that little vacation we took on Taurus 1?” Scotty replied as he quickly began working at his station, fingers flying over controls and touch pads.

Spock almost seemed to frown.

“Indeed I do, Mr. Scott. But what does the crash landing of the Galieo7 have to do--- I see your point.” Spock changed tone in moments as realization flashed in his mind.

“We’ll need a distraction to set this up, these aren’t exactly the most ideal conditions.”

“Nor as I recall were the ones on Taurus 1.” Spock replied without skipping a beat.

“Mr. Spock, Scotty!” Uhura vaulted over the guardrail between her station and theirs. White bolts slipped by right over her head as she landed with a grunt in a low crouch, phaser in one hand and communicator in the other.

“Uhura, keep your head down lass, this isn’t exactly the kinda fight you should be involved in.” Scotty warned.

Uhura frowned.

“Because I’m a woman?”

“Well…” Scotty began sheepishly.

“That’s what I like about you, Scotty. You’re so 20th century.” Uhura dead panned with a smile then she instantly became all business. “Mr. Spock I believe I have your distraction.”

“Go on Lieutenant.” Spock replied ducking his head back as more bolts flashed by where they were crouched. More security personal were falling to the deadly accurate fire of the stormtroopers. It was an almost comical sight to see two armed units blasting at each other at a dozen paces in the confined space of the bridge, forced to used chairs and control stations as cover. If Spock were fully human he may have fully appreciated the humor of the sight. As it stood now logic dictated that this battle was lost.

“I think I’ve keyed in on their helmet frequencies.” Uhura explained holding up the communicator.

“I assume you will then push down a feedback loop into their communications systems?” Spock asked.

“Great minds think alike, Mr. Spock.” Uhura replied with an impish grin as she tapped her head with the communicator.

“So be it, lass. Mr. Spock all I need is a minute to reroute the power coupling feed into the deck plates.” Scotty asserted as a panel burst into flames not more than a meter away from a stray phaser bolt.

“I will provide covering fire.” Spock added.

“Alright, let’s do this.” Uhura nodded and keyed in a code to her communicator.

The stormtroopers immediately stopped short and many instinctively cupped the sides of their heads and cried out in pain.

Kirk did not hesitate. He waded into the stricken troopers with a ferocity that surprised even himself and swung his lightsaber like a baseball bat slicing through the contingent of troops that had nearly overwhelmed the left side of the bridge.

“Make every shot count men!” Kirk shouted over the screams of pain and the sharp hiss of fire control systems vomiting forth their thick white mist.

The remnants of the security team began firing into the center of the clustered troops with enthusiastic whoops.

Spock coolly squeezed off shot after shot that took troopers off their feet or severed limbs in hot mists of blood. The troopers quickly recovered however, for these were the finest in the Empire, these were the first ones in, the last ones out. The sonic attack was just one more obstacle to overcome.

One of their officers held up a fist and made a combat sign that looked like the spinning of a clock or turning of a dial and the troopers quickly changed the frequencies of their helmet communicators.

Kirk saw the quick reaction, the mechanical like precision and knew they were about to be overcome. The bridge was nearly in ruins, half the stations were heavily damaged, the con was in bad shape and many of his bridge crew were either wounded or unconscious. The only advantage they had at the moment was in edge in raw numbers. That advantage led to only one alternative. He gave the last order he ever expected to give in fighting for his ship.

“Close to melee, take them out hand to hand!” He shouted.

The security team did not hesitate and launched themselves at the enemy with fervor and a mixture of war cries from a dozen worlds in the Federation. They were being ordered by James Kirk, icon from the past, hero of the Federation and savior of all that they held dear and precious. If he ordered them to charge the very gates of hell unarmed they would. They were asked to defend the flagship of the Federation with their fists and blood and they would do so to the man. The Imperial stormtroopers were surprised by the sudden change in attack posture and several were driven to the deck with phaser rifles used as clubs. The ferocity of the Enterprise’s security team’s assault drove the stormtroopers back with the initial contact but the finest of the Empire were not going to be clubbed or beaten into submission and they responded in kind with furious swipes from the butt of their blasters or armored fists and elbows.

The struggle was horrific in its intensity as troops tore into each other with fists, feet, and blunt end of weapons and as the battle progressed no one knew how it happened, perhaps one of the stormtroopers grew frustrated or angry or perhaps even afraid and they instinctively switched their weapon to kill.

Whatever the reason the shot went off like a thunderbolt from an angry god. The red bolt flashed past the massed men and exploded overhead destroying several panels of the ceiling. Another bolt followed almost immediately and Sulu screamed as the bolt clipped the side of his face sending him spinning like a dervish off his feet and into the con with a sickening thud.

McCoy was off his feet and racing in a low crouch towards Sulu in an effort to drag him into the makeshift triage area he had set up in the back right corner of the bridge near the turbolift.

The shots confused the rest of the stormtroopers who were so caught up in the hand to hand that they did not have time to check in with each other over their helmet comlinks. Some made the mistake of assuming that an order had been given but the sudden switch in com frequency did not allow them to hear the order. So several others switched their weapons to kill and began firing as well.

“In the name of Lord Vader hold your fire men!” One of their commanders implored.

The order seemed to go unnoticed or unheard as Federation security teams screamed in pain and anguish as blaster bolts tore through them with murderous power. Kirk drove his saber through the commanding officer’s helmet killing him instantly before he could order his men again and the melee dissolved into a murderous brawl with no quarter asked and none given. The fate of the Enterprise hung in the balance.


The battle played out in sharp high contrast vibrant colors on the holographic displays at the tactical station of the Andorian fortress moon’s battle bridge.

Stenos, the old admiral and war hero of the Dominion War, stood impassively, hands clasped behind his back his head leaning forward slightly allowing his antennae to pick up every nuance of sound from the battle reports streaming through on the open com channel.

The Imperial forces were represented by a bright emerald coloring while the Federation forces were represented by a bright blue. He was carefully watching the bright blue icons trying their best to screen the Imperial center from coming in to relieve the harried Imperial left wing. The left wing was swarmed by angry red icons indicating the Imperium fleet that had recently arrived in force.

Stenos’ eyes wandered over the field of battle watching the position of the Imperial right wing which was inexorably starting to flank the Federation screening force and would inevitably either completely envelope it or force the Federation fleet to withdraw and expose the Imperium fleet to the full brunt of Thrawn’s forces.

What interested him most was the position of the Executor, command ship of Thrawn’s Imperial forces. The mighty juggernaut was standing off away from the main body of the Imperial fleet with only a small picket line of light ships as a defense.

He watched, willing the vessel to move forward several more agonizing kilometers. It was maddening to see the goal so tantalizingly close yet Thrawn acted as if he instinctively knew precisely where the Federation wanted him to be.

Stenos stood in the center of the Battle Bridge on the most powerful weapon in the Andorian arsenal. Kurgos was the largest satellite orbiting Andor. In the early days of Andorian space exploration and expansion, Kurgos was mined for raw resources including Dilithium. The moon was stripped of everything in a matter of a century.

It was seen as mildly shameful that the moon was left hollowed out and barren due to Andorian greed and general short sightedness. Kurgos stood as a monument against the excesses of the Andorian era of expansion. However, Andorians are a warrior people and it would not stand for long as mournful monument to excesses past.

The military saw the moon as a key part of a defense network for the home world, in particular in light of their strained relations with the Vulcans and other neighbors thus work on transforming Kurgos into a fortress moon that would guard the gates of Andor began in earnest.

The hollowed out moon was fitted with life support systems, power cores sunk deep into the rocky satellite and shield generators were erected in record time. Weapon systems were installed all along the surface and in recessed caverns just beneath the rocky crust ready to provide firepower that could punch a hole in a planet.

The moon was a generational project, an ongoing affair that spanned lifetimes. Older weapon systems were supplanted by newer ones, shields grids updated, modules replaced, power cores upgraded in a never ending project to make the moon a powerful statement of Andorian independence.

When Andor decided that it needed to secede from the Federation it began a crash program in upgrading the fortress moon yet again in anticipation of having to fend off Starfleet itself should the Federation try to force Andor back into the fold. These emergency upgrades brought the moon to its current state of readiness and she was a wonder to behold.

Stenos glanced around with pride at the masterpiece of his people. Kurgos was designed to hold off an entire fleet of warships and buried down here, kilometers beneath solid stone and rock the bridge crew would be nearly invulnerable. However the frustration of a very real limitation of Kurgos now ate at them.

Kurgos could be bypassed. It could be ignored and they could do nothing about it. Imperial mobility had once again proven the futility of fixed fortifications against a highly mobile foe. Kurgos, for all her impressive armament was impotent in the face of Thrawn’s fleet. Reduced to firing long range salvos whenever an Imperial fleet element drew close enough to the fortress moon the frustration among his handpicked crew was palpable.

However, if Kirk and the team of his madmen engineers were correct then that might all change at any moment.

Or they may all die spectacularly.

“Imperial bombardment of Andor is penetrating most of the planetary shield.” One of his officers reported in the typical near whisper of his species, only the pitch and tone indicated the fury in the voice. It snapped Stenos out of his reverie.

“I want another positional report.” Stenos replied coolly.

His officer blinked, stunned by his commander’s studious calm in the face of the awful crime being committed against their home world. Even from the armored observation ports where their world hung nearly a million kilometers away, the crew could see Andor burning. Stenos turned his head slightly to regard the young officer with a hawk like gaze.

“If you wish to avenge Andor and our people you will do precisely what I ask you to do.”

“Of course! Right on it, sir.” The officer replied with a curt nod of his head. He stepped away and quickly made his way to the navigation and tracking station.

Stenos returned his attention to the battle.

“The Enterprise is in trouble, admiral.”

“What kind of trouble, Lieutenant. You will have to be a little more specific as unlike our Vulcan allies I do not read minds.”

The officer’s lips pursed slightly and he continued his report.

“Looks like a boarding action taking place, Starfleet vessels are moving to support her but the Enterprise is drifting out of the main plane of engagement and deeper behind Imperial lines. Sir, I don’t think even the Imperials realize this yet, their battle lines are too chaotic at the moment.”

“But when they do—” Stenos added darkly.

“Sir! Imperial stardestroyer Devastator is moving into an attack posture on Enterprise.”

“And so spoken to their ears.” Stenos spat bitterly. “Alert all Starfleet vessels of the situation, tactical, I want all weapons systems standing by prepared to fire in an alpha strike on my mark and make sure that all torpedo racks are currently loaded with the new proton torpedoes. Engineering, pour whatever reserve power we have into our shield grid, I don’t care if you tap life support and evacuate all non essential crew areas and seal all bulkheads and levels from each other.” He paused for a moment to make sure this was all sinking in. Some of the men seemed confused and uncertain. They were preparing as if Kurgos were about to enter the fray yet the fleet action was in low Andor orbit nearly a million kilometers away.

“All hands prepare to initiate Operation Mohammed.”

The men scrambled to carry out his orders with newfound fervor. The moment of truth was almost upon them.

“Communications get me the Cairo.”

“Captain Jellico already on the line, Admiral.”

Stenos smiled grimly. He strode over to the communications station.

“Kirk is in trouble.” Jellico started without preamble.

“We see that here. He has the authority to call for Operation Mohammed. If he is unable to give the order…” Stenos let the rest remain unspoken.

“We can’t allow ourselves to lose this opportunity.” Jellico replied without hesitation with steely determination.

“I am in complete agreement. I have already ordered the fortress and my crew to stand by for combat operations. And You?”

“My men have been chompin’ at the bit since the Imperials arrived. We have all our equipment in place. My last orders from Kirk were to stand by.”

“And now the Enterprise is being boarded.”

“Are you comfortable with me making this call?” Jellico asked quietly.

Stenos stood at the station pensive for a long moment. His instincts were urging him in one direction and his years as a Starfleet officer were leading him to another. Stenos lived most of his military career as a leader of men and a warrior. He was a warrior who followed his instincts, instincts that led to a stunning series of victories against the Dominion during the darker days of the war when victories were as rare as Denebian fire rubies.

Stenos shook his head ruefully.

And truth be told, he was a poor Starfleet officer.

“The Kurgos is standing by on your command.” He replied simply.

“Jellico out.”

Stenos sighed softly. He motioned for his chief engineer to approach. He was immediately by Stenos’ side.


“Contact the planetary power grid and tell them to prepare to initiate power spike.”

“Acknowledged. Our power transmitters are also standing by and the power tap to the Reckless Hope is active and standing by.”

“What do you think? Can this work?” Stenos asked seriously pinning the engineer with a stony gaze.

“Theoretically? Yes. The theory is sound.” The engineer replied hesitantly.

“What does your gut tell you?” Stenos pressed.

The engineer shook his head slowly.

“I don’t put much stock in theories sir. Frankly we’ll be lucky if we’re not reduced to pebble sized debris.”

“Well, then, now I am reassured.” The old Admiral chuckled darkly.


“You’re going to what?” Leia asked hotly.

“We don’t have much of a choice, princess. The Enterprise is being boarded, our fleet is being encircled and we’re running out of options.”

“If we don’t initiate this operation precisely as planned, we will lose the entire moon not to mention this battle.” Leia cautioned.

“Are you suggesting we wait for Captain Kirk?” Jellico asked pointedly.

Leia glanced back at the Reckless Hope’s captain. The Alderaanian gently shook his head.

“Your highness, the Enterprise is crippled and about to be drawn into the Devastator. There’s little chance the captain is getting out of that.” He cautioned softly.

Leia leaned over the communication station and looked back out at the armored view port where the battle was playing out, partially obscured by the fortress moon. She willed herself to feel Kirk’s presence as if wanting some confirmation from him that this was the correct decision. So much was riding on this radical plan and now the architect may be lost. It never occurred to her for a moment that Kirk and the Enterprise could be a casualty this early in the battle. She somehow saw things differently.

Chewbacca towered over her and placed a reassuring paw on her shoulder and huffed softly. Leia placed a hand on Chewbacca’s hairy paw and nodded.

“Captain Jellico, I’m afraid I can’t argue with your logic on this. We will need to initiate the operation.” Leia replied dropping her head slightly in defeat.

“Thank you, princess. Have the Hope prepare to open up the power tap to Kurgos then provide covering fire for my fleet element once we enter the rally point. We’ll only get one shot at this.”

“May the Force be with us.” She whispered.


Han Solo grimaced slightly as he was roughly shoved through the open doors. He immediately knew he was on the bridge, the sounds were all there, the hustle of people moving by him, the constant stream of reports and orders and the distinct lack of engine noise save for the slightest tremor on the deck plates.

“Is your vision getting any better?” Ochoa asked softly next Han.

Han thought about responding sarcastically or angrily but he couldn’t seem to summon it up against the blind starship captain despite his suspicions that he was an Imperial plant.

“Well, instead of a big black blur I see a big light blur.” Han replied casually.

“Well, if it’s any comfort we’re both probably missing the greatest space battle in Federation history.” Ochoa replied with a laugh, both men clearly oblivious to the massive armadas flashing by the expansive view ports of the Executor’s bridge locked in mortal combat.

Han frowned.

“Gee, thanks, you’ve been a big help.”

“Captain Solo, I presume.” The cold voice cut through the chatter like a scalpel and drew Han’s attention in an instant. This was not your standard Imperial officer or commander. This voice belonged to one accustomed to command, someone who did not need to demand the attention and respect he deserved but one who unhesitatingly earned it.

“And who am I presuming?” Han asked tightly glancing around trying to pierce the fuzzy darkness of his sight.

“More respect for the Grand Admiral, rebel scum.” A stormtrooper snapped and planted the butt of his blaster right into Han’s kidneys. Han stumbled forward slightly and grunted in pain.

“Grand Admiral, huh?” Han replied to grit teeth. As he spoke he tried to fight through the thick shadows that were closing in on his vision. He felt damned helpless and it irked him to his core. It was time to let the world share a little in his pain. “I guess I’m moving up in the world, from Hutts to the crème de la crème of the Emperor’s finest.” He suddenly swung around sharply with his elbow and dug it right into the chin of the stormtrooper catapulting the trooper backwards off his feet and sprawled out on the deck.

Another trooper immediately stepped in and delivered a crushing blow with the butt of his blaster to Han’s jaw and sent the Correllian to his knees. Han spit blood onto the deck and breathed heavily trying to regain his bearings again. The sudden jarring impact seemed to have loosened up something and his vision cleared for a moment.

“That’s quite enough.” Thrawn ordered sternly.

“Ah yes, the brave Imperial soldiers showing their battle hardened combat skills by beating on a blind man.” Ochoa chuckled darkly.

“Watch it.” The trooper behind Ochoa warned.

“You will not touch the Ochoa.” The nearest Noghri to Ochoa whispered sternly glaring back at the trooper.

“Enough.” Thrawn’s order was like steel and everyone stopped.

“Chaos everywhere, Grand Admiral. It takes a strong will to hold it altogether. I commend you.” Khan added with a grandiose smile.

Thrawn turned his head slowly and pinned Khan with his glowing red eyes and his voice was even and betrayed no emotion.

“Another word, Khan Noonien Singh. Simply speak one more syllable and I will have your life.”

A ring of stormtroopers surrounding Khan immediately raised blasters at the ready.

Khan casually looked around at each of them then held up his hands slowly and nodded in acquiescence. Thrawn returned his attention to his captives, ignoring the sights playing out behind him on the huge panoramic ports behind him. A Klingon bird of prey was locked in a spinning dive, her engines were on fire trailing a glittering stream of charged plasma and molten metal as a pair of assault gunboats followed her spraying a stream of bright green blaster fire.

Khan winked at Jerjerrod and the young officer stiffened slightly and sweat began to bead his brow as he walked very stiffly towards the Grand Admiral.

“Now, Captain Solo, while my men may be a little enthusiastic shall we say in upholding my rank and privileges they are correct in that you will not address me in that same casual tone you would with your other pirate and rebel associates. You will address me as Grand Admiral or sir and nothing else. Your life is virtually meaningless to me.”

“So why am I here?” Han spat. The trooper standing over Han firmly placed his blaster against Han’s temple. “Grand Admiral.” Han added stonily.

“You are here because I want to reunite you with some of your friends.”

“Go on, I’m listening.” The trooper shoved the barrel firmly against Han’s temple again. “Sir.”

“Incidentally trooper, if he does that again you will discharge your weapon without hesitation.” Thrawn prefaced before he answered Han.

“Yes, sir.” The trooper responded with a perfunctory nod in a cold monotone.

Han frowned sourly.

“You will find that I am a fair man, Captain Solo. I have no need to slaughter every insurgent, every rebel that defies the will of the Emperor. I require only obedience and subjugation. This battle is a fruitless waste of energy and resources. Your friends refuse to listen to reason.”

“What friends would that be, Grand Admiral?” Han asked sardonically.

“Luke Skywalker who now refers to himself as Darth Nemesis and Princess Leia Organna who is accompanied by a Wookie whom I’m told is a companion of yours.”

“Why would they mean anything to me, Grand Admiral and why would I mean anything to them at this point?” Han snorted. “After all I’m just a smuggler, space trash for hire. What possible worth do I have in their eyes? If Luke is a Sith Lord now he doesn’t give a damn about me and Leia is a princess, to her I’m just the hired help and Chewbacca is a Wookie, they’re aliens and who knows what worth their loyalty and friendship has? He left me to my fate so go figure.” Han smirked and shook his head. “I’d say you’re barking up the wrong tree Grand Admiral. You’re wasting your time.”

Thrawn was quietly walking over to Han as he spoke on his knees, hands still manacled together in front of him. Han was trying to look for an audience as he spoke, blank eyes searching for even a shape to fixate on.

Thrawn slowed, circled the blind smuggler like a shark and when he spoke it was a casual conversational tone. Jerjerrod moved like a ghost off to his right and stopped to inspect a random report.

“I agree with all of your points, Captain Solo. You are space filth, a mercenary of ill repute and questionable moral fiber, hardly the sort that an aspiring Jedi Knight and Alderaanian princess would look to as a friend.”

Han nodded in agreement but his heart was in turmoil. Leia. Here? And Luke, a Sith lord? What had happened to his world?

“If I were to say I had you as my prisoner to do with as I pleased I suspect that they may even ask to help me hurt you.”

“Damn straight Grand Admiral.” Han added.

Thrawn paused to Han’s left, examining the young smuggler’s face with barely concealed contempt. Thrawn leaned down at his waist and stage whispered into his ear.

“After all, the princess has found a suitable lover in James T. Kirk.”

“What was that?” Han asked nonchalantly. The dagger dug deep into his heart.

Thrawn’s crimson eyes narrowed and there was a hint of a smile on his blue lips. He pulled away slightly.

“My agents were quite explicit in their reports concerning their relationship, and after all, why not?” Thrawn mused in an almost good natured tone of voice. “He is a man of action, a commander of thousands of ships with hundreds of worlds marshalling to his cause. He has single handedly led a revolt that has frustrated the designs of two Imperial sector fleets and a Sith Lord. I would call a man like that…iconic. What would you say, Captain Solo?”

“I don’t know, Grand Admiral. I don’t know the man.” Solo replied but his jaw tightened ever so slightly. It couldn’t be true? Could it?

“Are you quite done toying with the blind man?” Ochoa asked frostily.

Thrawn did not spare the starship captain a fraction of his attention.

“And what have you accomplished in your lifetime, Captain Solo? Made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs? I can see where that would fascinate a lady the likes of Princess Organna.” Thrawn sighed and then stood straight up and glared down at Han.

“You’d be so right, Captain Solo. You would be nothing more than a mercenary, hired help as you so aptly put it to a woman such as Princess Leia. In Kirk she has found someone so like her, passionate, powerful, a founder of a great rebellion against tyranny. What else would she want? More pointedly what could she possibly want in you?”

There was a moment of electric silence between the two men.

“Like I said, Grand Admiral, she doesn’t want me. I’m a scoundrel.” Han replied biting off every word as if chewing on them. He ended the last part with a smile.

“Indeed.” Thrawn nodded without much emotion. “And you think I am a complete simpleton don’t you? You think I have not been privy to the very propaganda vomited forth from your pathetic rebel alliance? The heroes of Yavin they called you. You, Skywalker, the princess, all together like one big happy family and you expect me to believe for one nano second that they won’t care about you?” Thrawn explained coldly.

“They’re not stupid, Grand Admiral. They won’t back down just because you reveal that you have me.”

“Because Leia no longer needs you, she has James Kirk after all and Skywalker never gave a damn about you is that it?”

“That’s the long and short of it. Are we done here, Grand Admiral?” Han replied without hesitation.

“Not by a long shot, Captain Solo. Because there was Bespin.”

“I’ve got unfinished business on Bespin.” Han spat.

“Calrissian you mean? I wouldn’t worry about him. He died at the Battle of Endor. He’s no longer your concern. But you are your friends’ concern now my good Captain. They did everything they could to rescue you, even Skywalker came out of hiding into an all but certain trap to save you.” Thrawn continued.

Han felt numb. Lando. Dead. He wanted to strangle him with his bare hands just moments ago yet now with the certainty of his death at the hands of his enemies he could only feel a deep abiding sadness.

“Lando.” He muttered under his breath.

Thrawn nodded to the pair of troopers hovering by Han and both manhandled him up to a standing position.

Thrawn turned to his communications officer.

“Prepare to transmit on wide bind all frequencies. I want their entire fleet and anyone else that may be listening to see this.”

“Aye Grand Admiral.”

Thrawn took a step towards Han and placed a finger on his chin in thought.

“It occurs to me Captain Solo that you owe them nothing.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Grand Admiral.” Han replied weakly.

“Don’t sell me on that nonsense that you mean nothing to them, your bluff was anemic, amateurish and quite frankly embarrassing. Don’t bluff a Grand Admiral, smuggler, I am not one of your underworld scum sitting across from you at a Sabaac table. However you’ve been quite angry at the revelations I’ve had for you. Luke Skywalker a man you called brother now a Sith lord and a lackey to Lord Vader and the Emperor. Skywalker helped us dismantle your rebel alliance cell by cell, secret base by secret base. But I don’t think that irks you nearly as much as a very simple little fact.”

Han looked up at Thrawn and his eyes seemed to be gaining focus.

“He never came for me.” Han replied the bitterness etching every word like acid. Ochoa took a step forward.

“Han! Don’t give into despair! He’s a good ma—” the stormtrooper behind Ochoa moved to jam the butt of his blaster into Ochoa’s back when the Noghri closest to the blind starship captain whipped an arm up like a striking cobra and yanked the blaster away with a sickening crack of broken fingers and a wrist. The stormtrooper grunted in pain and took a step backwards.

“We said you will not touch the Ochoa.” The Noghri huffed as if in annoyance that the trooper dared to cross them.

The other Noghri moved to gently restrain Ochoa who did not resist.

“No, he did not.” Thrawn answered simply. The disturbance behind them would be dealt with soon enough.

“And do I need to tell you about the princess and Kirk?” Thrawn added darkly. “There are holovids of a most…delicate nature which I could share with you but let us be blunt. She was a woman, he is the kind of man she has always wanted and you have been gone for a very long time. Could you have been anything other than a plaything for her?”

“Leia.” Han sighed and his head seemed to slump down for a moment, Thrawn nearly smiled in triumph but instead he allowed his voice to show no emotion. The man was nearly his.

“What then does it matter now? Who are they but traitors and liars? Both knew where you were and neither came to your rescue. Now here you stand in my hands, the last resource you have and all I ask is that you make a simple statement.”

“What?” Han asked dejectedly.

“Surrender.” Thrawn nearly purred. “You will ask them to lay down their arms and in exchange you will live and so will they. I merely want hostilities to end.”

Khan stood stoically to the side completely and totally unconvinced by this tactic. Kirk was weak, yes, in his own way but to think that he would lay down his arms over this blind wretch or that any of them in this grand glorious battle would even pause for a moment over a single man was inconceivable. What was the Grand Admiral thinking with this maneuver?

Khan casually rubbed the side of his nose twice. Three stormtroopers watching over him stiffened slightly then slowly switched their blasters to kill with a thumb stroke as they surreptitiously shifted to their left and positioned themselves behind the other troopers watching the Old Earth superman.

“I can’t do that.” Han protested.

“Even if it meant you would save Captain Ochoa from certain death?” Thrawn’s voice dropped an octave.


“Why else would I bring him on my bridge, Captain Solo? But do we need to be so vulgar? Luke Skywalker is currently out there forging a bloody empire in the name of the Sith and Leia Organna is standing by Kirk’s side. Chewbacca has abandoned you and what is left for you Captain Solo?” Thrawn leaned in closely. “What else do you have to lose?”

“Han, you have everything to lose. I don’t matter, you don’t matter but they do. We are simply pawns on a board but we cannot lose sight of the game.” Ochoa protested.

Han looked down at the floor for a long moment, anguish etched on his face. His shoulders slumped ever so subtly and his breath came out in a long mournful exhalation.

“I think we have an understanding, Captain Solo.” Thrawn nodded. “Communications?”


Thrawn strode over to his com officer.

“Make sure everyone within 10 light years can see this broadcast and we lift our own jamming when we transmit. I don’t want the rebels to miss this for a moment.” Thrawn dropped his voice slightly. “And make sure you capture Ochoa in the background off to the side. I want Skywalker to see him.”

Khan walked up to Thrawn’s side, several stormtroopers close to him weapons at the ready.

Khan inclined his head indicating his need to speak.

Thrawn seemed pensive for a moment and then nodded dismissively.

“Why?” Khan asked simply.

“You will have to be more specific, Khan.”

“Why this charade? You know as well I do that this means nothing. It is an empty gesture. What do you possibly gain by this?” Khan asked pointedly.

“It must have pained you to admit that you did not see the logic or purpose behind this, did it not?” Thrawn noted with an upturned eyebrow.

Khan frowned.

“Well then imagine what discord I sow among their ranks when Princess Leia discovers her lover in my hands and Kirk’s refusal to surrender is the immediate cause of his death. What will the Wookie do? Stay loyal to Leia? Avenge Captain Solo’s death on Kirk? And Skywalker? What will he do when confronted with the knowledge that he too bears responsibility for the death of a dear friend?”

“You merely want to disorient them, distract them with strong emotions, make them vulnerable, doubt themselves, each other and their own actions? For what? Yet another advantage in a fleet full of them?” Khan seemed genuinely perplexed and annoyed by this tact now that he had knowledge of Thrawn’s intentions. “It is a waste of time, Grand Admiral. Kill them and be done with it. You have a battle unfolding around you that you seem to be forgetting and your fleet is in jeopardy while you hang back here.”

“Khan, you are a brute. I can respect that to a point. But there are finer points to be made here. Should they escape this battle” Khan’s eye brows raised slightly at the passing comment. “they may well fall on each other over this and I will simply need to pick up the pieces. Even if they do not turn on each other the doubts and anger that will flow from this event will echo on in every single decision and action they take from here on in.”

“There is something to be said, Grand Admiral, for the directness of a knife to the throat.” Khan countered. Jerjerrod drifted between the stormtroopers guarding Ochoa and one of them palmed a hold out blaster into Jerjerrod’s sweat slicked hands. He continued his collision course towards Thrawn.

“We shall see.” Thrawn replied coolly then turned to Han and his com officer.

“Shall we begin?”
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Post by Stravo »

Chapter 95: Battle of Andor VII


“Go, go, go!” Jellico barked loudly as he stood up from his command seat and urged his fleet forward.

“All ships you are go!”

“Reckless Hope moving into covering position.”

“Dresden taking the vanguard position.”

Jellico continued standing as he watched Kurgos, the Andorian fortress moon, quickly falling away as his starships gunned their impulse engines and raced for their rally point. With the Imperial fleet’s center of gravity drastically forward and away from Kurgos there were no immediate threats to Jellico’s task force.

That did not mean that the Imperials could not hurt them, long range turbolaser fire could be just as deadly to the starships than if they were right with them toe to toe. It did not matter that the stardestroyers were fully engaged with the Imperium and Federation fleets either because the mighty warships had more than enough guns to spare.

But so far Jellico was satisfied with their start.

“Begin sensor disruption operations. I want so many false shadows thrown up that they think their equipment is failing. It is essential that Thrawn not have a clue what we’re doing out here or the jig is up.” Jellico ordered tersely as his taskforce began to fan out in a precise geometric patterns to form a large sphere.

“This is the Endeavor, deploying our payload.”

“Acknowledged Endeavor. Sagan do you have a reading?”

“All systems look good.”

Captain Entebbe sat impatiently in his command seat. He was watching crucial readouts scrolling across the top and bottom of his view screen. He drummed his fingers nervously while his science officer ran the series of continuous scans on the rapidly unfurling project dubbed “Mohammed.”

The Endeavor, a Nebula class vessel, slowly backed away as a volley of canisters were launched from her weapons pod mounted over her primary hull. The canisters fell away and as they cleared the starship they exploded open, the shell spinning away revealing a delicate framework of receivers and glittering circuits. The framework unfurled quickly, long spindly metallic arms lancing out driven by motors and each arm quickly found another and linked with it.

In a matter of moments the Endeavor’s payload had fully deployed into a latticework of vaguely triangular shape. Small rectangular pads flipped out from the sides of the spider web of tritanium and focused inward facing the interior of the triangular field.

More canisters were launched from the task force as it fell into a spherical formation. Each canister deployed a similar device of tritanium latticework that all slowly cam together.

“We have company, Captain. I count seven squadrons of Imperial fighters in bound and looks like a Carrack frigate is moving in to support.”

“That all you’ve got Grand Admiral?” Jellico smirked. “You’re going to regret treating us so casually.” He quickly glanced down at his tactical display as the spider web continued to grow exponentially, each triangular cluster of arrays joining together linked by powerful magnets and interlocking seals.

“Have the Endeavor break off and support the Dresden and the vanguard units in screening the array. Those bastards can’t get a whiff of what we’re doing out here or we’re in deep trouble.”


“Sir, Reckless Hope is moving into over watch position.”

Jellico nodded perfunctorily and watched the progress of the growth of the array.

“C’mon, boys. Faster.” Jellico urged. The first flashes of phaser and laser fire criss crossing in the corner of his screen signaled the start of his own battle. The moment the Imperials got wind of what was happening here Thrawn would squash them utterly. Of course, that would require him to believe what they were attempting out here. Part of Jellico still thought this was going to be a spectacular failure but he could not deny that if it worked they would be making history at this moment.


“Stay on him….all weapons prepare for time on target volley.” Tarsi urged hands closed in fists so tight that his knuckles were bone white. On the view port an Imperial stardestroyer, the Irresistible, was listing badly to port, the entire forward forecastle was engulfed in flamed and one of her sensor globes had just erupted into a geyser of molten metal and hot gasses. She was a ship wracked by death throes. Tarsi was about to put it out of its misery.

“Does the rest of the triumvirate have our targeting beacons?” Tarsi asked quickly not willing to take his eyes of his prey even for a moment.

“They are standing by.”

Tarsi nodded.

A wave of TIE Bombers delivered their payload with devastating effect at that very moment and a bright blossom of fire and plasma burst on the starboard side of the crippled Imperial warship.

“Now! Fire for effect!” Tarsi barked.

The triumvirate, moving aggressively forward in a tight wedge formation were perpendicular to the Irresistible. All three stardestroyers released a horrific torrent of emerald turbolaser fire as one single volley that easily ripped through the Irresistible’s heavily taxed shields and blew open gaping holes in the armored side of the warship.

Moments later geysers of molten metal and plasma plumed all along the center and port side of the ship, scattering debris and hot gasses into the void as the proud stardestroyer finally died. It erupted into a bright star of rapidly annihilating hypermatter while the triumvirate gracefully peeled apart in three different directions away from their fallen foe.

“We have heavy fire from 27 degrees!” Tarsi’s XO warned.

“The Hierophant?” Tarsi asked tersely.

“And her strike group. They are massing on our right wing.”

Tarsi glanced over in the exact location where the Imperial stardestroyer and her retinue of experts were gathering. The Hierophant was obviously the command ship of the trapped Imperial left wing and she was putting up a valiant fight. She had beaten off a determined assault from a pair of Imperium stardestroyers and had hulled over a dozen Romulan warbirds. She was a sight to behold, resplendent in ivory armor plating bristling with a weapons suite that put his own ship’s to shame.

“I see the Emperor has been keeping new stardestroyer classes from us.” Tarsi noted grimly.

“Captain, I have a holo-transmission from the Imperator’s Will.” The comchief reported over the din of the bridge crew hard at work at what they did best. Destroying their enemies.

“I’ll take it here.” Tarsi replied and took his post at one of the command posts on his deck. “And Joril, for the love of Skywalker get our fighter screen back, they’re all over this battle field and we’re heading into the thick of this nest of gundarks.” Tarsi added with that self assured smile that signaled to his crew that all was well. They were all in their element now, no more guerilla fighting, hunting random starships through ion storms, subjugating barely defended worlds or

His CAG acknowledged with his own smile and quickly began recalling whatever fighters he could. There was only one reason Tarsi would want his entire fighter screen back in place so abruptly. It meant he was going to try and destroy the Hierophant.

“Grand Admiral Kittaine.” Tarsi reported with a perfunctory bow of his head. A holographic representation of Kittaine stood on the small holographic display disk. He was handing a report to Captain Branna as he turned his full attention to Tarsi.

“Admiral Tarsi. The Hierophant is the lynchpin of their defense. My intelligence sources have pegged her as an Imperial Mark III, they were not meant for mass production until three more years of testing and test bed vessels. Obviously the Emperor has sped up that production schedule.”

“I suspected as much, she’s the most heavily armed ship of her size I’ve ever seen. She’s built for ship to ship obviously.” Tarsi mused darkly and with a hint of jealousy.

“Consider her the natural progression of the ISD class, the Mark II’s were the interim design but you have some advantages, for example you may have noticed her escorts.”

“Indeed. Lancers and some Strikes.”

Kittaine nodded with a half smile. Tarsi was his best tactician, best fighter over all. If anyone could sniff out the weakness of a new ship it was him.

“Her weapons load out comes with some sacrifices. Her fighter load out is minimal. She compensates with an anti fighter heavy escort.” Kittaine paused as the bridge obviously took a hit and bright light washed out the image for a moment. “Intensify the anti fighter batteries and get the Romulan warbirds to take over watch, too many of their torpedoes are getting through.” Kittaine ordered. He turned his attention to Tarsi again.

“I don’t have much more time, the Imperial relief forces are hitting us hard, Tarsi. Kirk’s fleet has been doing their best but they’re being bulled aside. I need you and triumvirate to take out the Hierophant immediately. You will only have your local sector resources. I cannot spare you any more Imperium warships. I can give you access to the Scimitar squadron cloaked in your sector. A dozen scimitars so use them wisely. They’ve proven to be more effective than we imagined. Commander Shinzon is in command.”

“We will not fail you, Grand Admiral. Consider her gone.”

“Hurry Tarsi, Thrawn’s dogs are nipping at our heels and too many of his left wing are still intact.” Kittaine replied seriously. “Tarsi, I want you to clear my sky.”

“Understood, Adjudicator out.”

The holographic image of Kittaine vanished.

Tarsi nodded to himself for a moment and examined his target through one of the armored view ports of the bridge. The Hierophant floated serenely ahead and above them, her turbolasers hungrily searching for prey whenever one of the Imperium ships drew too close.

“You’re mine.” Tarsi whispered. “All hands prepare to engage the enemy.” He announced a moment later and strode down the length of his command pit. “Navigation bring us hard about, I want us on an oblique approach to the Hierophant keep as many of our guns on her as we can during final approach. Gunnery, maintain a steady stream of fire on her, concentrate on a single shield grid if possible throughout the approach, forget counter battery fire, she’s got too many guns for us to suppress. Shields, maintain intensity at all costs, you are authorized to draw from emergency and battery reserves and if necessary bleed some off of the off angled shields but you must maintain them throughout the approach or we’re all dead. Fighter command, have our screen move in behind us, they will execute a concentrated alpha strike on the shield grid that I designate when the time is right and keep our fighters away from their escorts, I have something special planned for them.” Tarsi stopped at the end of the walkway after his machinegun like delivery of orders.

“Inform the triumvirate we’re moving now. We will utilize a Correllian Flying Wedge on the advance.” Tarsi informed his XO.

“I will have our navigators coordinate for the wedge formation.”

“Very good.” Tarsi leaned forward on the railing overlooking his command pits. “This is our hour crew of the Adjudicator. We are going to take that bitch down and clear our Grand Admiral’s sky in the name of the Imperium and Luke Skywalker. It will take more than some warship dragged out of a space yard to stop us. The emperor himself could be on that beast and it wouldn’t matter a whit because I am with the finest crew on the finest ship in the Imperium or any fleet for that matter.”

The men exchanged smiled and some even laughed nervously.

“Now.” Tarsi smiled wolfishly. “Let’s go kill the Hierophant.”


Kirk jumped back in time to avoid a sizzling bolt of blaster fire that blew open a panel on the far wall behind him. His lightsaber flashed up reflexively and he severed the blaster’s barrel and then he swung the blade in a back stroke that cut a glowing red swath through the stormtrooper’s white breast plate.

The fight for the bridge of the Enterprise was a bloody struggle now, dead and wounded lay next to each other as the bridge of the proud starship was being reduced to a smoking battered moonscape of destroyed consoles, chairs and melting deck plates. Stormtroopers were still dropping like an obscene ivory rain from the assault transport latched onto the Enterprise.

If Kirk could see outside of his starship he would see several more of the heavily armored beetle like assault transports clinging like obscene parasites to the graceful Enterprise with armored legs that punched into the hull of the starship giving them purchase as their boarding umbilicals burned through the hull plates allowing their cargo of stormtroopers access to the interior.

“Anytime would be good Scotty!” Kirk shouted back at his chief engineer who was feverishly working on some control panels. Spock and Uhura were providing covering fire.

“You don’t rush this kind of work, sair.” Scotty replied as he entered a string of over rides into the control system as it bitterly protested what he was trying to do.

“Yes. Actually yes I do.” Kirk snapped as he grappled with a stormtrooper shoving him back against the guardrail adjacent to the view screen. They struggled fiercely for a moment each trying to gain leverage on the other. Kirk unexpectedly dropped one hand down bringing the butt of the lightsaber crashing into the stormtrooper’s helmet. The trooper grunted and stumbled backwards giving Kirk the scant second he needed to flip the humming blue blade up and through the trooper’s midsection.

Another stormtrooper vaulted over a fallen comrade and clubbed Kirk viciously between the shoulder blades with the butt of his blaster while Kirk was in the middle of recovering the blade. Kirk jerked forward and the trooper managed to swing his blaster around Kirk’s shoulder pulled it taut against his throat holding onto the barrel and the butt like a makeshift garrote. The trooper hauled back hard and Kirk gasped loudly, his grip on the lightsaber loosening and falling down blade end first into the deck plates at their feet. The blade hissed hungrily as it ate into the plate and reverberated back and forth on its own weighted hilt without anyone holding onto it to stabilize the weapon.

Kirk clawed at the blaster rifle’s barrel as it dug further into his throat and breathing was impossible. The trooper pulled back hard again putting all his weight behind the movement and the barrel dug in deeper to Kirk’s throat and neck. Kirk’s vision blurred and his face turned a deep purple.

“Die, rebel scum.” The trooper grunted as he prepared for one last pull that would surely shatter Kirk’s windpipe and end it all.

In his rapidly decreasing peripheral vision he saw the dancing lightsaber blade as it swung back and forth like a humming pendulum while the blade’s tip continued burning into the deck plate. Kirk gathered up all his strength, braced himself and swung around as hard and fast as he could, carrying his assailant with him using the momentum of his movement.

The trooper flailed about for a moment before gathering his wits enough to jerk back harder than ever on the blaster rifle and settle all of his body weigh beneath the move.

Kirk gasped and croaked as air completely cut off now and his windpipe creaked in his ears where this heart was pounding like drums and the roar of blood rushing through his body became an incessant all consuming noise. His vision tunneled and he could feel himself letting go.

He felt a sudden jerk and a loud hiss followed by a scream. An ivory armored leg spun into his field of vision and clattered lifelessly against the guardrail. Kirk fell forward onto his stomach and the stormtrooper toppled over on top of him. His grip was still strong against Kirk’s windpipe but it was weakening and the trooper’s breath came ragged and wet over the helmet speakers until it finally ceased and the trooper’s grip slacked off.

Kirk rose up to his knees simultaneously pulled the rifle away and it dropped down to the floor. Kirk gasped frantically to get back his breath and coughed in a spastic fit rubbing his raw throat. He gingerly reached out for the swinging saber that was now half way into the floor and took a hold of the hilt. The blade doused he brought the hilt to his side.

“Captain! I’m tripping the fuse!” Scotty exclaimed over the din of battle.

Kirk rolled his eyes.

“Now you tell me.” He croaked and immediately leapt up onto one of the remaining whole seats on the bridge and then launched himself onto one of the guardrails on the second level of the bridge. The rest of the Enterprise security detail heard Scotty and they struggled to get off the main bridge deck’s floor.

Scotty tripped the control stud and the suddenly all the stormtroopers on the primary level of the bridge stiffened and began to jerk uncontrollably like puppets on strings. Sparks flared up all along the deck plates like Fourth of July fireworks as thousands of volts of power surged along the plates and through the stormtroopers. Light blue tendrils of power danced between their legs, equipment, utility belts and weapons.

Scotty took a moment to admire his handiwork.

“It took me precious minutes ta bypass every security and safety code built into our power supply and environmental system but seeing these sinners in this state was worth every moment of it, Mr. Spock.” Scotty mused with a soft smile.

“As you promised, Mr. Scott, just like Taurus II.” Spock noted.

“I’ve never flown a shuttle that handled quite as well as the Galileo 7.” Scotty added.

“Only you two could get sentimental about that mess of a mission. Now let’s go help the captain and get these bastards off our bridge.” Uhura chimed in raising her phaser.

“You are one fiery lass!” Scotty exclaimed with a laugh.

“Would you three get down here!” Kirk croaked as loud as he could through his raw throat in annoyance but with a large grin on his face while crouched against the guard rail watching the electrical display going off mere meters away. “We’ve got a job to do.”


Luke grunted against the monstrous g-forces that were piling against him as he flung his X-Wing between two dueling capital ships and finished his maneuver with a mad spinning corkscrew as green bolts whipped past him seeking his craft with eerie intensity and precision. Every move was instinct and reaction. There was no time for thought or hesitation. Do or do not, there was no try.

He smiled to himself as he remembered those words from his ancient Master.

The green flashes from the near hits of Vader’s attacks were illuminating the interior of the cockpit bathing Luke and his controls in a sickly emerald glow.

His father was trying to kill him.

The thought was like a sledgehammer driven into his consciousness. It was a realization though painfully obvious also easily ignored or overlooked in his experiences. It was so simple to categorize Anakin as Darth Vader, a figure cloaked in shadow and darkness, trapped inside a walking life support tank who had eliminated all his old friends, in some cases hunting them down like animals. This creature of the Sith was easy to categorize as an enemy, a fiend who deserved not a whit of pity or compassion and certainly no remorse in killing it.

But this was also his father.

The duality was hard to accept. It was one of the reasons why he did not know if he had the strength to do what must be done. If his father would not turn then he would need to be destroyed.

Save that Luke could only feel the good in him, past the anger and fury that seethed from the fighter behind him, he could sense it pulsing softly like a dying heartbeat almost drowned out by the cold cutting murderous intent behind his father’s attacks.

The intent unexpectedly stung him for a moment. His father had no hesitation. He was actively trying to kill Luke and if not for Luke’s skill and strength in the Force Vader would have made him one with the stars by now. Luke was holding back, had been holding back from the moment he started down this path with his father. And his father knew Luke was holding back yet here he was trying his utmost to kill Luke.

Damn him.

Without thinking Luke jerked back on the controls and kicked his vectored thrusters hard with a grunt and his eyes narrowed as he swung his X-Wing into a spin on its horizontal axis, lights glared bright red and his engines shuddered as baffles swung directly into the engine nozzles directing the exhaust into a nearly impossible angle perpendicular to the same plane as the fuselage.

The X-wing spun like a top and faced the TIE Fighter. For a moment both fighters were face to face roaring at each other at high sublight speed. Only Jedi reflexes allowed each pilot to get of a burst from their weapons before each blasted past each other between the blinks of an eye. Luke’s burst found their mark, one blast tearing a gash from the leading edge of the armored cockpit to the wing strut while another vaporized the life support unit slung under the body of the TIE. Vader’s burst scored twin hits, one knocking one of Luke’s laser cannons askew, the tip melted away into a white hot steam and the other had hit Luke’s nosecone, shearing away components and ebony armor revealing a delicate latticework of sensor equipment.

Both fighters immediately dropped away from the main plane of engagement in power dives, engines flaring bright crimson, both spun in and out of a increasingly shrinking spiral, every time one fighter pulled slightly ahead and fell within weapons range of the other, weapons fire burst forth in brief staccato bursts seeking their prey.

Each pilot ignored the increasingly alarmed warnings of their crafts, Luke’s astromech droid was nearly shrieking now as it saw all indicators flaring into a cacophony of distress and hysteria. Each pushed their fighter to its limit and beyond, each one built to the specifications of its pilot. One was a veteran warrior and the greatest pilot of the Clone Wars the other was young, fearless and a pilot without peer of his generation.

One was the father, the other the son.

They each were intent on killing the other.

Sweat beaded on Luke’s brow as he stabbed his firing control studs in precise clipped patterns and peppered the silhouette of Vader’s TIE fighter as it barrel rolled across his field of vision in a daring attempt to cross Luke’s forward weapons arc and fall into his six o clock position. The TIE fighter’s barrel roll took it right between the crimson bolts as if each shot were coming in slow motion and the fighter pirouetted elegantly through the storm of crimson blaster fire.

Luke’s fingers suddenly switched over to his torpedo control stud and he knew within a heartbeat that if he released his torpedoes the proximity fuses would detonate destroying his father, no amount of Jedi reflexes could outrun the blast wave. Luke also instinctively knew he could pull away and only catch the bow front of the blast, damaging him as well but not killing him.

“I have you now.” He whispered and then his finger froze and his eyes narrowed and his breathing seemed to stop and he heard a distant voice like a whisper in the wind that could have easily been mistaken for the soft gurgle of air from his environmental unit. But Luke was currently one with the Force and he knew this was so much more.

A ripple in the Force brought time to an absolute stop. All was still, even his own breathing simply ceased and a host of possibilities opened themselves to him. Each one dark and chaotic as the future was no longer set. The very fabric of reality seemed to unravel around him on each path, as if it was all going to end the same. In oblivion.

He briefly wondered if this simply meant he was doomed to die and after that there was nothing but he remembered the ghost on Hoth and Dagobah of his lost master. Obi Wan was proof that death was meaningless in the Force.

His memories suddenly drifted back to the dueling circle on Coruscant. He walked around the outer rim stalking like a panther crimson lightsaber lit and humming hungrily for its prey. Standing in the center like a mountain was the armored giant Darth Vader who watched his move with calm precision. Vader’s own saber was not activated but rested on his belt.

Lord Nemesis smiled predatorily as he watched for an opening.

“The dueling circle is not just about trying to kill your opponent, Lord Nemesis.” Vader cautioned.

“Indeed?” Nemesis replied darkly and suddenly he sprang forward in an explosion of movement and flashing light. He feinted hard left and bent his body at an almost impossible angle back to the right and drove his lightsaber blade tip first into the center of the black armored mass with a grunt of effort, muscles rippling like an ocean swept by tempests beneath the black skin tight fighting suit.

Vader’s hand swept upward calmly and his lightsaber sprang from his belt, activating mid-flight and landed firmly in Vader’s gauntlet. His blade easily intercepted and parried Nemesis’ strike. He forced Nemesis blow away from his body and followed through with a sharp riposte.

Nemesis parried with ease and twisted his body at the waist to sneak his blade under Vader’s.

Vader batted Nemesis’ strike aside and launched a series of wide sweeping strikes.

“It measures your own will.” Vader’s blows came down around Nemesis like a flashing crimson rain. “It judges your strength” The strikes crashed down against Nemesis’ blade with a harsh electric sizzle. “Your cunning.” Vader bulled in past Nemesis’ harried defenses closing the gap between them so that he could bring his bulk and superior strength fully to bear on Nemesis. “and your power.”

Vader’s blade meant to take Nemesis’ head in one swift stroke. Nemesis raised his blade instinctively and blocked the blow and as the blades locked both Sith lords stared into each other’s eyes, wills locked in the same contest of superiority as their blades.

Vader’s blade suddenly slid down off of Nemesis’ and struck Nemesis’s exposed bionic hand and slid down his forearm. The smell of burnt flesh flashed up into the air and Nemesis hissed in anger and pain as he fell back and his blade dropped from his wounded hand.

Nemesis fell to one knee for a moment to gather his breath.

Vader towered over him, saber still lit.

Nemesis looked up apprehensively at the silent goliath staring down at him. His eyes drifted between the emotionless eye lenses of the Sith lord’s helmet and his ignited saber.

“You have much yet to learn young one.” Vader said softly as he doused his blade and extended his hand.

“Why would you help me?” Nemesis asked sharply, pride still stinging at the ignominious defeat.

“Because you are my apprentice, because you are a fellow Sith lord.” Vader gripped Nemesis’ hand and hauled him up gently to his feet. No one would have believed the giant armored warrior could have shown such gentleness and care but then again they were not there at Bespin when the Sith lord brought Nemesis to him, crippled and battered and placed his cape around him to shield him from the cold winds whipping around the central processor station of the Cloud City.

“And because you are my son.” Vader finished as he brought Nemesis completely to his feet.

“The emperor warned us about our feelings interfering with our training. He is violating one of the most sacred covenants of the order by working together as three.” Nemesis pointed out sullenly.

Vader seemed stung by the correction.

“Do not presume to lecture me on the Sith. You have not seen what I have seen, whelp.” Vader hissed and released Nemesis’ hand as if it were diseased..

Nemesis could feel the anger seething at the jibe and he instantly regretted what he said. It did not occur to him then but it did now in the clarity of his experiences since then that he chose that particular tact because he knew Vader cared. He knew Vader loved him. It was the one chink in his armor Nemesis could exploit without fail.




That was his name, the old Sith trick still worked. It was so simple and it worked now even millennia after the founding of the Order. You separate the man from his name and you have reinvented the man. Anakin Skywalker needed to die in order to become the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Back in the dim half forgotten past of the Sith Order the prospective lord would be required to face trials that were meant to burn away the man that was whether figuratively or literally and in his place leave a new man, a new person that needed a name to give him power and meaning.

Thus the renaming ceremony that shaped the Sith way since its inception. Take away the old name and give a new one and you can change the man. You can make him powerful, feared, respected. You can liberate him and make him do anything he desired for he was no longer chained to what he once was. Now he was someone else entirely.

Luke Skywalker was once Darth Nemesis. He betrayed his old friends, destroyed the rebellion, killed his master and had brought this quadrant of the galaxy to its knees. Now as Luke Skywalker he fought to defend this galaxy from what was once his master’s military. He struggled against his very flesh and blood.

And that was the old Sith trick he nearly fell for now. Darth Vader and Anakin were two separate individuals for the Sith. But Luke was no longer a Sith and he did not need to see it that way. Just as he had let go of the dogma of Light versus Dark Sides of the Force he needed to see this conflict through new eyes.

Luke Skywalker could kill Darth Vader but he could never kill Anakin Skywalker.

With this revelation the anger vanished like some fevered dream upon awakening and his fingers relaxed on the trigger of the weapons stud. His eyes fluttered as if waking up from a long sleep and for the briefest moment, reflected in the canopy of his fighter was the face of a young woman. Her face was beautiful and innocent. Her deep eyes regarded him with love and affection and he felt a fleeting sense of recognition.

“There’s still good in him Luke. Do not give up as I did. Save him, my dearest son.”

Luke’s eyes widened.

“Mother?” he whispered.

Her face was no longer in the reflections of his canopy. There was only Anakin’s TIE fighter and he instinctively depressed the trigger to his torpedoes, simultaneously yanking his fighter hard to starboard.

The torpedoes whooshed out of the tubes and the glittering trail of their onboard rockets activating blinded Luke for a moment. Anakin’s TIE fighter spun into a steeper dive to get away from the torpedoes. The combination of Luke’s violent maneuver upon firing coupled with Anakin’s peerless piloting and Jedi reflexes saved him. The proximity fuses detonated heart beats too late to encompass Anakin’s fighter and he managed to escape destruction but one of his bent wing panels was perforated in many places by shrapnel and plasma, nearly completely shredding it and sending his fighter into an out of control spin through a haze of a dying starship venting a cloud of molten metal and plasma from the stump that was once an engine nacelle and out of sight of Luke as he recovered from his own wild maneuver.


“Can you feel it, the tension is rising. So dramatic, so epic.”

“Clichéd?” Q offered as he slowly slid a piece down the line of the board threatening one of Gary Mitchell’s pieces. The silver eyed god smirked as if insulted by the move.

“That offense your piecing together out of the disparate remnants of your side is what I find clichéd. I mean really, who didn’t see the boy having a change of heart and joining the side of the angels.” Gary sneered in disdain.

“That’s just it, Mitchell. What you fail to realize is that there is no side of the angels in this game. Skywalker chose to walk on the side of his enlightened best interest. He did not disband the Imperium, he did not free the worlds occupied by his forces. He is maintaining the status quo save that now he is not a dark lord of the Sith.”

“You sound almost disappointed.” Gary noted with a cold smile.

“That would mean I actually gave a damn about these primitive creatures.”

Gary shook his head.

“You know, Q, here, at the end of all things, you are still going to sit there and tell me you don’t care?” the silver eyed god asked with a nearly bemused tone.

Q sighed softly as he regarded the god that was once human sitting across from him. Gary Mitchell was the embodiment of the Continuum’s greatest fear. That humanity, so full of promise and ability would ascend too quickly. That they, gifted little monkeys that they were, would take the power that the rest of the community of ascended had earned over millions of years in a relatively short time without maturing as the others had.

Gary was a god but humanity still clung to him like a cheap coat and all the negative connotations that went with that state of being. Emotionally immature, primitive in out look, vengeful, spiteful and petty like a child. It was all the ingredients that could make humans the holy terrors of the galaxy in a scant million years or less.

The Continuum had debated the fate of mankind since they first left their caves and commanded the basic elements. There were several instances were extinction was seriously considered and nearly carried out. How many near asteroid and comet misses that the Q almost nudged an extra degree to the left or right had the humans not known about?

Their self destructive streak saved them. The Q and the other members of the ascended decided that direct action, something all but the most reckless were loathe to take in particular the Organians, would not be necessary. They would destroy themselves in a blaze of stupidity at some point in their bloody history.

But now look at them, taking their first childlike steps into the unknown and Q was there waiting for them, like an older brother ready to tease and cajole but also to secretly assist when the time was right and the parents were looking the other way. The rest of the Q thought he was mentally ill to take a liking to the race known as humans. Of course, when the Organians got involved no one gave them grief or called them unstable. But Q was used to the slings and arrows of injustice.

But when Q looked into those cold silver eyes he could see the anger, the hunger for power and vengeance that consumed Gary Mitchell. In the silver eyed god seated across from him, Q could see the personification of the Continuum’s and the other ascendeds’ fears. Mankind with the power of a god held the promise of horrible things to unfold.

“This game is almost morbid when you think about it. Don’t you just want to give it up and walk away?” Q asked softly.

Gary blinked as if the concept had not even crossed his mind.

“When you think about it, it doesn’t really matter what unfolds here does it? We’re all facing oblivion in a very short amount of time.” Q added with a shrug.

Gary shook his head as he touched a piece and contemplated the board with a critical eye.

“No, Q. You don’t seem to grasp that for me, the game is everything. If you want to tip your king, please do so but the game needs to go on.”

“Why?” Q asked nonchalantly.

Gary smiled softly as if at a private joke.

“Don’t worry, my friend. When the end comes all will be made clear to you.”

Q pursed his lips.

“You do realize that I’m, the one that’s supposed to be all mysterious and mischievous. It doesn’t become you.”

Gary paused and looked up over the board at Q, silver lifeless eyes boring into Q’s.

“There’s so much about me you don’t know Q. I can be full of surprises.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Q replied with a shrug but he immediately reached out across the ether. No one was going to pull a fast one on him, much less this human relic.

“Some people on the other hand,” Gary continued. “Can be so predictable.” He finished with a cold smirk. Even though his eyes were on the Enterprise piece Q did not think it meant James Kirk at all.


“It will be over quickly, Captain Solo. You can spare them so much pain and suffering.”

“This is not what I want to do.” Han protested as the comlink was raised to his lips by a stormtrooper.

“I understand but as you can see, Captain Ochoa is in no position to accept your defiance, isn’t that correct, Captain?” Thrawn asked calmly with a sweep of an arm.

“This ends poorly for you Grand Admiral.” Ochoa bit through clenched teeth as the Noghri around him held him still and one unsheathed a humming vibroblade.

“This is regrettable but unavoidable.” The Noghri commander whispered to Ochoa. The blind starship captain nodded.

“It always is.”

The Noghri shifted uncomfortably. They detected no fear from Ernesto Ochoa and it only made them feel worse about killing him in cold blood. One so brave was not meant for a death like this one.

“I said I’d do it now leave him alone.”

“I will, Captain Solo, as soon as you speak to your friends and convince them to lay down their arms.”

“Things may have changed a lot since I went under but I don’t think for a second Luke or Leia is going to lay down their arms because I say so.” Han replied sardonically.

“You never know until you try.” Thrawn chided darkly then turned to the com link open in his hand.

“This is Grand Admiral Thrawn to the Rebel forces of the Imperium and the Federation Remnant that are defying Emperor Palpatine’s will at this very moment.” Thrawn began evenly. “I extend this offer of clemency to all forces involved in hostilities against Imperial authority. I will only extend this offer once. To show my good will towards this moment I present a rebel who has accepted my mercy and authority.”

Thrawn inclined his head towards Han. The holographic cams focused on Han and bright lights illuminated him in an intense halo. Han blinked for a moment, trying to shield his eyes as the blindness that he suffered since coming out of hibernation was dispelled for a moment by the intensity of the lights.

“Hi, guys. It’s me. Han. Miss me?” he asked after clearing his throat nervously.


“What in the name of---” Leia froze in place and her blood ran cold and her skin was electric. Her eyes widened slowly as she regarded the hologram standing over her in one of the tactical displays.

Her heart sank deep into her stomach.

Chewbacca’s roar of surprise, joy and outrage echoed through the CIC of the Reckless Hope.

“Oh my! It’s Captain Solo.” Threepio exclaimed. Artoo whistled excitedly “Indeed Artoo he does look rather well. I told you the Carbonite would keep him safe.”

Leia’s hand slowly lifted and gently reached out to touch the grainy black and white hologram of the man she loved. He seemed lost. Almost afraid if that were possible and her heart went out to him at that very moment. He was alone on the flagship of their enemy and it pained her most to know that they were no longer together, not like they used to be. Before the Battle of Hoth when they seemed like a big family and no one could stop them and the galaxy was awash with possibilities.

Now they were broken up, Luke leading a rebel contingent of Imperial forces, Lando and the Alliance back in their home galaxy and now Han alone in the clutches of the Grand Admiral. It struck a deep abiding sense of sorrow to her soul.

“Han.” She whispered.

His holographic image seemed to look up at her as if he heard her.

“Luke. Leia. I know everything.”


“Han.” Luke gasped in surprise as he heard the transmission. He could feel his friend’s presence in the Force like a beacon at the center of the Executor far ahead of him with the rest of the Imperial fleet between him and his friend.

Or was it another vision? No. He was sure of it. That was Han and he was in Thrawn’s presence speaking to him after all this time.

All thought and concerns about his father faded for a moment. All he could do was listen to Han and wonder where everything had gone wrong. For if anything crystallized for him how much his life had changed it was this moment, seeing his dearest friend alone on the bridge of the Executor while he was off trying to kill his father leading his own Imperial faction.

How things had changed from those days on Tatooine and Yavin.

“I know that you have all changed and forgotten what you were. Luke, you’re a Sith lord now and it breaks my heart to know that. After all we’ve been through kid, you might as well have spit on my face at Yavin when I saved your life. Makes me wish I left you to freeze out there on Hoth.”

Luke’s jaw tightened.

“I don’t think you care anymore, but I’m ashamed of you, ashamed of what you’ve become. Did Ben Kenobi die for nothing?” Han demanded.

Luke felt shame prick at him and he was silent for a moment as his friend’s words sunk in like a corpse into the mouth of the Sarlaac back home.


“Ignore that noise on the main channel and focus on the mission objectives.” Jellico snapped as he watched the lattice work expanding swiftly before his eyes until it was growing off screen.

“We are at 87% completion.” His science officer reported.

“Sagan, how is she looking?” Jellico asked leaning down into the com board at his communication officer’s station. The usually cool calm commander had taken up pacing between the stations as the project neared completion. The Imperials were obviously getting suspicious of their activities as more and more vessels started to approach.

The Executor, looming far to the Port remained stationary but one glance down at his tactical display showed another half dozen squadrons peeling away from the fighter screen and racing towards their position.

“We can’t keep him in the dark forever, she’s getting too big to hide.” Jellico muttered under his breath.

“Entebbe here, sir. The array is functioning well within parameters. The power cells are fully deployed. We need to begin the jump start process if we want her fully charged in time for the go ahead.”

“I copy that Entebbe, pass on the order to Andor.”

“Acknowledged, Sagan out.”

Jellico had to grip the com station for a moment as the Cairo pitched forward nearly ten degrees and lights dimmed for a moment. A flight of TIE Fighter roared into sight on the main viewer as they completed their strafing run on the Cairo and spun like mad tops in tight turns to come around for another pass.

“Damnit, get those fighters off of us and prepare to initiate the final phase.”

“Yes sir.”

Jellico pursed his lips as he peered at the viewer and seemed to be willing the array to finish its construction.

“Andor, this is the Sagan. Begin power transfer. Repeat, begin power transfer.”

“Acknowledged Sagan. We are transmitting in five...four…three...two…one.”

A series of bright white beams lanced out from Andor and crossed the gulf between the planet and the array in less than a heartbeat and caught the dish arrays fanning open on hard points along the increasingly oval array. The dishes sparkled and glowed brightly and moments later small disc emitters built in regular intervals along the spider web like structure flexed and started to pulse in regular geometric patterns.

Captain Entebbe watched the sensor readings scrolling along the top and bottom of his main viewer and nodded.

“It’s working.” He glanced back at his Science officer. “We’re almost ready.” He smiled.

“This is going to make history, Captain.” His science officer replied with a hint of awe.


“And Leia, I know all about you and your Captain Kirk, I can’t say I blame you. You had no way of knowing if I was coming back. But you know something? I loved you and still do, and knowing that I would have waited. I would have done everything in my power to save you. Instead you left me behind. I can’t believe you would all abandon me. Even you, Chewie.” Han’s eyes glistened slightly with tears and his voice was thick with emotion. Thrawn nodded approvingly. Yes, Solo, was playing his part. And then, off balanced and confused by emotion he would deliver the coup de grace.

Jerjerrod blinked away the sweat that was trickling down past his eyes and focused on his target. There was nothing else but the one he needed to kill and his master’s voice demanding that he do it, over and over again like a dark chorus. There was only one way to silence it.

His hand trembled slightly as he felt the cool bulk of the holdout blaster nestled in his hand.

He silently brushed past the last pair of stormtroopers between him and his quarry.

He lifted the datapad in a motion to hand it over to an aide.


Chewbacca let out a loud mournful growl and hung his head at the sound of Han’s disappointment.

Leia turned on her heel and grabbed Chewbacca’s forearm. She was battling her own regrets and guilt that were gnawing at her like predators at a carcass.

“Listen to me, Chewbacca. This is what Thrawn wants, but we can do something about this. We know where Han is and we have the modified Falcon.”

Chewbacca glanced up at her and let out a plaintive warble.

“Do you understand? A good enough pilot can get you close enough to the Executor and then….”

Chewbacca’s eyes lit up with understanding.

“We’re not going to abandon him again Chewie.” Leia urged eyes softening as she shared the Wookiee’s pain. Han’s words struck harder than any blaster bolt.

The Wookiee nodded fiercely and immediately turned and began to storm out of the bridge, he paused long enough to haul Artoo with him. The astromech droid let out a surprised series of beeps and whistles before vanishing out the door.

“Artoo! Artoo! Oh my, where is that crazed Wookiee taking him?” Threepio lamented.


Thrawn’s crimson eyes narrowed as he saw the white power beams emanating from Andor and touching on the mysterious object that the Federation was deploying in the gulf between the Executor and her fleet and Andor.

“Sir, those are raw power transmissions coming from the planet. We believe the Andorians are transmitting all their excess power capacity into the object. Their planetary shields are weakening in response.” Admiral Piett reported with some bewilderment.

“Why are they beaming that much power into space, especially when it leaves them vulnerable?” Thrawn demanded coldly.

“I do not know sir, but I will find out.” Piett assured him.

“I want to see all status reports on that object now.” He whispered out of ear shot of Solo’s performance.

He was immediately handed a data pad and as he quickly scrolled down the sketchy tactical readings he was receiving several things immediately stood out to him and he scowled.

“These particle readings, I’ve seen them before…” his voice trailed off as he tried to recall from his vast encyclopedic memory where these readings had appeared before. Something ubiquitous about this galaxy, something on the tip of his tongue, in the background of every combat report.

He heard the sudden change in the smuggler’s tone. Thrawn sighed deeply, how pathetically predictable this whole farce had become. Just once he would like someone to surprise him in this wretched galaxy.

“I don’t care about any of that. I want you to do what you’re doing, I want you to fight, fight these bastards and send them straight to hell.” Han urged.

Thrawn nodded to the troopers behind Han and one grabbed Han by the shoulders and the other tried to placed his blaster rifle against Han’s temple.

“It doesn’t matter anymore, I’m gone, they killed me on Bespin and I know that you tried to save me –” Han tried to fight off the troopers that were restraining him as he spoke. “I don’t want to be here anymore in a place that I’ve never known, out of my time and with friends who’ve grown without me. Finish what you started here! Kill these Imperial slugs!”

The stormtrooper wrestling with Han finally got him under control with a savage grip that nearly shattered the bones in one arm. Han twisted and grunted in a frenzy but paused when he felt the cool metal against his temple.

The transmission still open they could all hear Thrawn’s voice off screen when he spoke.

“Your defiance results in the same for all who oppose the Empire. Death. Say goodbye to your friends Captain Solo, I am told parting can be such sweet sorrow.” Thrawn stated with grim purpose. He raised a hand to give the motion to fire.

“DIE TYRANT!!” Jerjerrod screamed as he raised his hand, dropping the datapad and pointing his holdout blaster right at Thrawn’s head. Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the young wild eyed officer.

“It doesn’t end this way.” Thrawn assured him.

The entire bridge froze for that instant before Jerjerrod’s blaster spat crimson death.


Q2 sat quietly, straw hat on his head and chewing on a blade of grass feeling the breeze off the cool waters. He hummed something off tune. He ignored the cold that clawed at the edges of his consciousness. The raw entropy hungrily devouring all of reality and leaving oblivion behind.

No, this was a place of quiet contemplation. He wanted the end to find him here. Content and alone.


Q2 paused humming and tried to imagine it was one of the bugs buzzing around the river bank

“It’s not bugs, Q2, it’s me.” Q snapped.

“What do you want, Q?” Q2 asked in annoyance not raising the straw hat from his face.

“You have to go to Mitchell’s house.”

“Gary Mitchell? The human you’ve been paling around with all this time? How is your game going by the by? The Continuum is none too thrilled with your pursuit of this game, toying with mortal lives and history at this twilight hour for all of us. They think it cruel and twisted to play with the mortals when the end of history approaches so rapidly.” Q2 smiled beneath his straw hat. “I tried to tell them you are that twisted but some of them still have high opinions of you. I can’t guess why.”

Q appeared floating over the river in a wispy smoky image.

“I don’t have time for this. I’m using a momentary distraction to send this signal and you know damned well how hard it is to pull of the two places at once trick.” Q2 shook his head in dismay. “You need to go to Mitchell’s house, the one we were so gracious to grant him when he came to us. He is hiding something in there.”

Q2 raised his straw hat slightly and eyed Q critically.

“Are you losing the game? Is that why you’re coming to me like this?” Q2 asked suspiciously.

“The game has always been a damned distraction both for him and me. I can feel it, Q, I can feel that he is hiding something monumental from us. Every now and then his shields slip, his guard drops and I get a hint, a glimpse. This time I managed to catch more of it. His guard dropped enough for me to see it, like a roach crawling down into the rotten pilings of a house it scuttled away but I caught enough to know that he is hiding something in that house.”

Q2 grimaced.

“Couldn’t you have used a less disgusting description.” He sniffed.

“It’s apt, trust me. Q. I am serious. You have to go.” Q’s voice sharpened.

Q2 smirked and methodically slipped his straw hat back down over his face and slumped into a reclining position..

Q shuffled his feet uncomfortably, looked down at the water flowing beneath his feet and frowned.

“Please.” He added reluctantly.

Q2 lifted his straw hat and looked genuinely surprised at Q.

“Alright Q, I’ll go.” Q2 shrugged. He lifted an index finger suddenly. “But if you’re sending me on another wild goose chase…” he warned.

“I wish I was.” Q replied gravely before vanishing with a snap of his fingers.
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Re: StarCrossed

Post by Stravo »

Chapter 96: Battle of Andor VIII

ENTERPRISE 1701-E ---------------------BOARDING ACTION

“Stop fidgeting and let me check you out damnit or I’ll hit you with enough sedative to knock you out for the rest of this war.” McCoy snapped angrily as he tried to check Kirk’s throat.

Uhura remained by his side, an ear bud she held in place with one hand and a phaser in the other. She was listening intently while firing her weapon at the stricken stormtroopers wracked by electrical energy running along the deck grating on the main level of the bridge.

“Sir, Operation Mohammed is fully underway and almost ready for deployment.” Uhura reported.

“They didn’t wait long did they?” Kirk replied dryly as he tried not to fidget as McCoy tended to his bruised and swollen throat where a stormtrooper very nearly succeeded in collapsing his trachea with his blaster rifle.

“You did choose Captain Jellico for his strong independent streak, captain. I fail to see why you would be disturbed by this development.” Spock noted and for a split second Kirk could have sworn he saw a hint of a half smile on the Vulcan’s lips.

“Duly noted, Spock. Remind me to recommend him for a distinguished service medal once this is over in whatever fleet we end up serving in.”

“You’re lucky you didn’t die, you know that?” McCoy added with a grim smirk as he finished examining Kirk’s bruised throat.

“Let’s not count ourselves lucky yet, Bones. We’ve got a boarding party to repel and a fleet to get back in gear. This battle is far from over and Mohammed is far from a done deal.” Kirk replied with a curt nod to Scotty.

“Mr. Scott, can you do something about that assault craft latched onto us?”

Scotty nodded.

“Aye, Captain. They’re locked on with magnetic grapples. By reversin’ the polarity of our hull and generating a burst from our security field we may be able to push her off, if you will.”

“I like the sound of that. Let’s get to it.” Kirk nodded to his team. He motioned towards the stricken stormtroopers and the battered and bloody remnants of his security team redoubled their efforts to kill the remaining boarders.

As they stalked around the upper tiers of the bridge and blasted away with phasers and stolen blasters at the stricken white armored enemy Scotty’s hands were in motion over and engineering control panel. In moments there was a loud blaring alarm and deep blue lights lit up along the bridge panels.

It was an alarm tone unlike any usually heard during standard starship operations and it was one many captains dreaded ever hearing. Imminent Explosive decompression.

“Everyone! Hold on for your life and lets pray the emergency force fields do what they’re supposed to!” Kirk ordered loudly. He wrapped his arms around one of the guardrails of the upper deck of the bridge.

“Wait one damned second, Jim! You’re venting us out into space!?” McCoy sputtered.

“Calm yourself doctor. The captain knows what he is doing.” Spock gently explained as he took hold of McCoy’s waist and then with the other hand he gripped the bridge station he was using as cover. Uhura quickly scuttled under a control station.

“The man just took a blow to the head and is probably suffering from a concussion and you’re telling me he’s in his right mind?” McCoy shouted over the rising alarms.

“Now, Mr. Scott.” Kirk nodded.

“Well, here goes nothin’” Scotty sighed and hit the final control sequence.

The hole blasted through the ceiling of the bridge compartment was suffused with a burst of brilliant white light as the magnetic polarity of the hull shifted and the security force field system kicked in sending a jolt through the Imperial assault shuttle clamped onto the bridge unit like an armored beetle.

Articulated magnetic clamps lost their purchase and gave way as the armored hull plating ruptured in some parts. The kinetic impact of the security fields pushing outward gave impetus to send the shuttle tumbling up and away from the stricken bridge, a small cloud of oxygen, debris and several white armored figures tumbled away from the broken umbilical connection.

The Enterprise was free of her boarders.


Q2 sniffed the air with some disdain as he stepped onto a rock in the middle of a stream separating the forest from the barren land up ahead. A cliff jutted out from the landscape into the oblivion beyond where the sky was no longer blue but black and not a single star shined but light suffused the area from an unseen source.

At the very edge of the cliff was a small rather humble home. The style was that of Old Earth before the Eugenics and nuclear war that ravaged her. A large welcoming wooden porch was covered by a low overhanging ceiling with plain brown shingles. A screen door squeaked softly as it caught some of the breeze that seemed to blow through this landscape without much let up.

“How so very droll.” Q2 muttered as he slowly made his way to the house. His house. Gary Mitchell had constructed this shelter from his very thoughts and dreams. Here on the very frayed edges of the Continuum no one cared to look in and see what the refugee from humanity was doing. As far as the Q were concerned, Gary Mitchell was a problem they had solved way back when he first approached them for asylum. With his predilection for mental instability and exponentially growing power he was a dire menace to humanity and galactic stability. Frankly if he had not approached them something would have been done about him anyway.

It was such a neat solution to a potentially thorny situation.

Maybe that’s why Q had been so opposed to it. Q had been suspicious from the start of the human’s intentions. Why would he act so rationally? Why would he willingly exile himself from a race he had grown to view as insects and hold a grudge against for murdering his physical shell?

The rest of the continuum’s reaction was a collective shrug of the shoulders.

As Q2 stepped onto the porch he felt an immediate sense of unease. There was a dread in the air, as if the entire universe had taken a sudden sharp intake of breath in anticipation of something horrific about to occur. Q2 paused for a moment and marveled at the sensation crawling up the back of his neck. Goosebumps. How long had it been since any of his kind had felt such a viscerally organic sensation?

“Q, what have you gotten me into.” Q2 muttered to himself as he took some hesitant steps to the door. The floorboards of the porch creaked ominously and Q2 shook his head ruefully.

“Alright, this is just silly. These aren’t even real objects just constructs of mind and shadow.” He sighed dramatically and took a firm hold of the door knob. He received a brief flash of thought, an imprint left behind by someone, a being dark and malevolent wreathed in dark power like some primordial god out of a distant and archaic past.

He stood still, hairs on his arms and back of neck standing up almost comically as the power of the being’s aura still cloying to the knob coursed through his fingers and hand.

“This is not what I expected.” An old voice almost sneered.

“It usually never is. Please, come in. We have much to discuss.” A voice that was unmistakably Mitchell’s replied.

“You are certain of this theory of yours?” The ancient wizened voice asked sharply.

“Even if I was not, my ally, it doesn’t matter much now, does it? Our universe, as we know it, is unraveling around us like some well worn sweater fraying at the seams. If I am wrong we will cease to exist. However if I am right.” Mitchell’s voice trailed off with an expectant pause.

“Power beyond imagination.” The statement was followed by a dark chuckle.

“Are we agreed then?”

“My friend, when this is over the entire universe will know my name and the unlimited power of the dark side.”

“Our names.” Mitchell’s voice gently chided.

A brief pause pregnant with barely contained malevolence. “Of course. Our names.”

Q2 pulled his hand away from the door knob as if shocked. He stared dumbly at his hand and rubbed his fingers together to regain the feeling in them. The menace in the air was now palpable as he pushed his way into the house, more determined than ever now to put this all to rest and calm the dread sinking into the pit of his stomach.

“What the hell were you planning in here, Mitchell?” Q2 whispered to himself as he quickly scanned the foyer of the old house. His eyes swiftly adjusted to the gloom barely kept at bay by a sputtering lantern hanging off of a hook on the side of the doorway leading deeper into the house.

He could smell nothing. Not even the obvious mold and decay that was eating away at the wooden slats on the floor and the exposed wooden panels of the peeling walls. There was an old wood burning stove and a kettle was sitting on the top. Q2 noted that there was a fire still burning, bringing the contents of the kettle to a low simmer.

He gently stepped over a pile of old mail collecting underneath the door and snidely noted that Mitchell held on to too much of his human memory in this construct. Mail. On actual wood pulp written with ink. How crude and barbaric.

“You’re no mastermind, are you?” Q2 snorted softly while he peered into the inner sanctum of the house. It was cold and dark in the heart of this house and the only source of illumination came from the crude stone fireplace at the far end of the small living room. The fire cast long wicked shadows up against the wall behind Q2 as he cautiously stepped into the room.

There was an odd electricity in the air that he was certain humans would equate to the feeling in the air right before a particularly violent thunderstorm was about to break. There was something else too but Q2 could not quite put his finger on it. There was a presence or object that was trying to avoid detection as if there was something darting in and out just out of his peripheral vision taunting him. The moment he brought his senses to bear it was gone like a half glimpsed shadow.

“Whatever is going on here I’ll figure it out, Mitchell. You’re just human but I was born to this nature.” Q2 muttered darkly. He did not like how out of sorts he was increasingly feeling in here. In the end this cabin and everything in it was an expression of Gary Mitchell’s subconscious. It all meant something even if Gary himself did not realize it.

Humans had only glimpsed their true selves and very few truly knew themselves enough to recognize all the signs and symbols. The voyage of discovery they were so enamored with at the moment, flinging themselves so haplessly into the void, was an ironic joke to many of the great powers. To try and discover the without before having mastered the within was like putting the cart before the horse so to speak.

Gary Mitchell likened himself to a god yet he barely knew himself. Every aspect of this mental construct was a clue to his true nature and inevitably his plan. Though what the human could possibly accomplish that worried Q so was beyond Q2. The end was very nearly here. The signs were all on the ether. The galaxies were burning in wars and insurrections and the very foundation of it all was floundering. Time and space, the most vulgar of the manifestations of reality was the first to come undone and but there were other signs as well.

What was Mitchell trying to accomplish? What ephemeral objective or goal was within grasp?

“Why the hell are you doing all of this here at the end of all things?” Q2 muttered.

Q2 whirled around as he felt it again. Something at the very edge of his perception was flitting around and it was starting to annoy him. What was hidden that even he could not see?

He let the annoyance pass as he slowly ran his hand up one of the wooden planks of the wall nearest to him. Resonance. It was all in here. You just had to be patient enough to look. Unlike Q, Q2 was very patient indeed. One had to be when they journeyed with someone like Q. His fingers felt the grain of the wood, every knot, every flaw as they slowly ran down the plank with delicate slow purpose. He could smell the wood, the sharp pine and the oils that had seeped into the seams.


Yes, that was paramount in everything he did but where was the power here? Where did power shine from such a simple shack? What was this mental form telling him?


Indeed. His hands paused over a particularly deep knot in the wood, there were sharp splinters that were arrayed around it like a hedgehog of spears. His fingers cautiously felt out the outlines of the flaw.


Ah, here was something. It was dark and deep, like a worm slowly eating away at the heart of the wood, splitting the planks, ruining the grooves and grains. Q2 leaned in closer as if he were listening for a sound from the very wood board itself and he braved the splinters to feel out the deep indentation of the knot, the hard warped wood here.


“Mortality.” Q2 whispered and his voice sounded distant, his eyes were no longer focused. It all started to gush forth like an underground stream bubbling up to the surface.


His fingers worked the deepest portions of the knot, hungry for more. It was almost here, bobbing just beneath the surface like a storm tossed corpse.

Q2 paused, eyes focusing slightly.

What an odd image he used. Then Q2’s eyes narrowed and he dug his fingers deep into the knot, irritated by the distraction and heady with anticipation as he felt a truth right within reach.


Q2’s eyes snapped open.


Something was beeping. Q2 slowly turned his head towards the sound. It was out of place in this mental construct. An aberration at the heart of this perfect little masquerade. Images were flashing unbidden into his mind. He had tapped it, the very vein of secret hidden desires he had been looking for. Beneath his feet he heard it for the first time. Scuttling like fingers gently brushing against a drum. His stomach turned and there was a brief moment of panic as if a part of him realized something his conscious self had yet to discover.

Nonsense. Q2 snorted. He completely turned around and listened carefully for the beeping. It was muffled as if buried under something. His eyes darted around the small living room. A battered old sofa with a checkered quilt not unlike the pattern of a chessboard was draped over one end of the sofa and on the other was a book, half opened to a certain page. The cover was well worn and jagged on one corner. The pages were slightly yellowed and many pages were marred by bunny ears from years of book marking as the reader advanced along the plot.

Q2 briefly checked the title.

Conquest by Mike Wong. was not familiar to him.

The beeping sound interrupted his ruminations and the curiosity took a hold of him again. He continued checking past the sofa along the wooden floor where a thick yellow rug sat in the center of the room. The starfleet emblem was emblazoned on the rug but it was worn and tattered from countless footsteps on the frayed rug.

Q2’s hunt for the sound continued and in the distance, through one of the simple four paned windows on the far wall there were storm clouds gathering, thick black nasty clouds, roiling with anger and menace. The air was electric and he could barely make out a thin low keening that was picking up as he walked closer to the sound.

A small wooden end table stood at the side of the sofa where several picture frames were huddled together as if seeking warmth on a blustery winter day. The center frame held a vivid color photo of Gary Mitchell in his Starfleet cadet uniform beaming proudly while he hugged a young James Kirk with one arm and the other he held up his officer’s commission. Q2 paused and felt a pall over the picture. Like a cloud of thick sullen melancholy. He could feel Mitchell’s fingers gently running along the glass of the frame. Q2 instinctively reached for the picture and touched the frame.

A jolt of anguish and betrayal swept up his arm and he withdrew his hand as if burnt.

“He’s almost finished.” The voice was a ghost whisper almost lost in the background noise of his breathing and the mildly annoying low keening. He turned slowly and this time caught a hint of the gold and silver.

His eyes tried to focus where he had seen the flash of color but there was nothing there. The beeping pierced his concentration again and he turned towards the fireplace. There was a chessboard set up on the floor in front of the fireplace. A game was in progress. He recognized some of the pieces and a slow sense of dread crept into his heart like a thief.

There was a piece that looked undeniably like Q, another that strongly resembled the Organian Ayelborne and there in a corner square was one of the Metrons. What was this? There were some pieces off the board indicating their removal from the game, among them was an ornate sculpture of an Excalabian and there was the bulbous disembodied brains the Melkot enjoyed masquerading under.

The other side of the board was spartanly adorned with several neatly arrayed pieces, a mysterious ancient wizard wrapped in black with arcing blue lightning and a massive spherical object with for all the world looked like a gun port near its equator among their number.

Q2 wanted to turn on his heel and leave immediately. Outside a swollen fat drop of rain splashed against the window and a low rumbling thunder clap broke the sudden silence. The beeping, always there grew slightly louder and his eyes alighted on a large open wooden crate by the hearth. It was packed with curios, rags, old clothes and some shoes.

The beeping was definitely coming from the box.

“What’s in the box?” He wondered aloud.

The thunder rumbled again and the sky grew darker still, a stiff wind picked up and the windows began to rattle. Branches swayed menacingly and some scratched the corrugated tin roof as if trying to pry it open.

Q2 slowly reached down towards the box.

IMPERIAL CENTER---------------------------EXECUTOR

Time stood still.

The players were arrayed around the bridge of the mighty command ship ready to play out the final drama of an assassination.

Jerjerrod stood impeccably straight, right hand jutting out straight hand ending in a nasty black holdout blaster. His finger tensed on the trigger and mouth open in a snarl of defiance.

Kahn Noonien Singh stood to the right of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a growing expression of alarm and shock on his face, one hand slowly rising towards the Grand Admiral.

Grand Admiral Thrawn with his back towards the armored view ports overlooking one of the greatest battles in Alpha Quadrant history unfolding before them, faced the Imperial commander, aide de camp and now would be assassin. His crimson eyes were narrowed on the young man’s face and his own expression was one of beatific calm. His lips pursed as he finished speaking the simple sentence that had come unbidden to his mind.

“It does not end this way.”

Fate herself seemed to gather her breath in anticipation of what was to come and then time snapped back into focus and life unfurled again into destiny.

Jerjerrod snarled in rage and almost orgasmic release as he felt his mission, the one pounding imperative beating through his consciousness all these weeks was finally here. Kill Grand Admiral Thrawn.

His finger jerked on the trigger and his eyes bulged as the part of Jerjerrod that was not devoured by the infernal will of the parasite growing in his brain rebelled with all his might against the treasonous act that he was committing but in the end all he could hear was the commanding steely voice of Khan Noonien Singh imperiously urging him to “Kill Grand Admiral Thrawn.”

“Kill Grand Admiral Thra---” Jerjerrod’s shout of anguish was interrupted as his head exploded into a bloody pulp and his body slumped forward only to be propped up by a fusillade of blaster fire from the stormtroopers crowded around him who responded with reflexive precision to the threat. The blaster bolts riddled his body and made it writhe like a marionette on broken strings until it was finally allowed to slump to the deck in a smoking ruin.

In the heart beats between blaster fire Khan Singh was in motion, propelled by the genetically perfected muscles that had been granted to him at birth, and despite his hands being bound by manacles he performed a perfect flying tackle that took Grand Admiral Thrawn down hard to the floor and hairs breadths away from the angry crimson bolts that spat from Jerjerrod’s holdout blaster. The blasts impacted with violent thumps against the armored viewport where Thrawn had stood mere moments before leaving blackened streaks like claw marks gouged into the glass.

Jerjerrod’s corpse continued to smoke and hiss from the dozen or so close range blaster bolts that tore through it with such murderous intent. The body still twitched and shuddered as if some portion of it was still trying to carry out the final command.

ADJUDICATOR-----------------------------IMPERIAL LEFT WING

Captain Tarsi ignored the column of smoke rising from one of the station pits below his bridge walkway and continued examining the status reports constantly scrolling down on his display. Several men were combating a fire while two were carried out quickly by stormtroopers to waiting medical teams that were assembling a makeshift triage area just outside one of the side turbolift areas.

Angry emerald turbolaser fire splashed into a deadly explosive display right outside the armored viewports of the bridge while TIE fighters whipped around each other like a frenzied swarm of insects directly over the forward bow of the mighty stardestroyer.

The source of the enemy fire was a large vessel looming menacingly over the right port side of the Adjudicator. She resembled an Imperial stardestroyer in basic ship frame and silhouette but the amount of turbolaser batteries, torpedo launchers and sundry other ship to ship weapon, in particular an awesome bank of quad heavy turbolasers mounted right on her forward forecastle made her something radically different. An Imperial stardestroyer was always meant to be a jack of all trades in terms of her capabilities. She could assault a planet, engage in ship to ship fighting, act as a fleet command vessel, part carrier, part garrison, part warship she could set out to accomplish nearly any mission given to her by the Emperor.

This vessel, the Hierophant, was a ship killer, pure and simple and her weapons load out attested to this fact as the triumvirate was discovering much to their chagrin. Tarsi hoped to keep the tight wedge formation of his attack plan under the withering fire. He was trying to keep as much of the fleet and anything else flying between themselves and the enemy ship but as they came within kill range it was rapidly becoming clear that this would not be enough.

The Relentless was in trouble. The battered and half crippled star destroyer was buffeted by another painful barrage of heavy turbolaser fire while her point defenses valiantly swatted away as many of the wall of torpedoes marching towards the attack wing as possible. Tarsi had no doubt that the ship was not going to survive until final approach. He watched with a sinking sense of dread as the banks slung over the sides of the Hierophant glowed menacingly and promptly followed by another wave of torpedoes launched like red claws arcing away from the stardestroyer. How many had she expended so far was beyond his calculation.

“I cannot believe that she can keep up that kind of rate of fire on her heavy batteries.” Tarsi snarled and strode purposefully to his tactical officer. “I want all scanners focused on her heavy batteries.” Tarsi’s head snapped up to his gunnery bays “focus all our fire on her primary coolant exchangers.”

“Aye sir!”

“Captain, I’m picking up horrific IR spikes along her port side batteries.”

Tarsi smiled wolfishly.

“So, she has reached her limits after all. Signal to the triumvirate to follow our firing solutions and put everything we can spare into their engines. We need to close to slugfest range.”

“Immediately sir.”

As the tactical officer began to turn Tarsi gripped him by the shoulder. “Let’s see if these Scimitar ships are worth the time and effort Emperor Skywalker expended. Signal to Shinzon to begin his attack runs.”

“Without our covering fire they will be torn to shreds.” His officer warned.

“She’s overheated and overtaxed. They might be the final blow I need to pin her down for the kill.” Tarsi explained coldly. He turned his attention back to the beast looming on the top quarter of his viewport. “Soon, we shall dance you and I.” He vowed and tightened his grip on a guard rail.

As if the behemoth heard him the fury of her fusillades increased and battered the brave triumvirate as they made their final approach.


“Did you hear that?!” Jellico asked tightly. The sounds from the channel broadcasting Thrawn’s propaganda that Jellico had relegated to the background to avoid any confusion had suddenly exploded with the unmistakable sound of weapons fire and confused shouts.

“Sounded like…blaster fire.” His XO volunteered with bewilderment etched on his face.

“Captain Jellico, this is Princess Leia.” Leia’s voice broke through on the priority alert com.

“Go Princess.”

“The Reckless Hope reads all systems fully charged on the apparatus.”

Jellico nodded and eyed the tactical display. There were an increasing number of fighters and now several smaller capships making a beeline for their position.

“I’d say we couldn’t have waited another moment. I’m sure Thrawn is on to us.”

“Begin Operation Mohammed immediately. The Hope is on an intercept course to provide covering fire for your ships as they pull out.”

“Acknowledged Princess. Don’t keep us waiting.”

“Leia out.”

Jellico turned his attention to his bridge crew as he stood up from his command seat and adjusted his uniform.

“Alright, people. Let’s be quick about this. We’re pulling out but providing whatever firing cover we can for the array. We cannot afford to have the Imperials even damage her or this whole party will be for nothing. We’ve got a nice probe in force coming at us in the form of a few squadrons of TIE interceptors backed up by some Strike cruisers so this is going to get hot and heavy. Lay down suppressing fire with the phasers and load the proton torpedoes. Let’s see if we can’t give these bastards a bloody nose.”

“Aye sir.”


“Entebbe here, sir.”

“I’m handing off the actual operation to you. We will hold them off as long as we can but for the sake of the Federation get this contraption up and running ASAP.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice, sir.”

“Anyone want to tell me where the hell half the Klingon fleet has been through all of this? We could sure use them now.” Jellico griped darkly as he watched the whirling dervish of a battle unfolding on the larger tactical display behind him.

“Unfortunately they’ve been cloaking and uncloaking throughout this little party so we can’t get proper ID’s but without a doubt, Chancellor Worf’s flagship has yet to make an appearance.” His science officer replied.

The Cairo shook heavily and explosions began rippling outside on her viewport. Jellico’s jaw tightened and he leaned forward with his hand on the back of his helmsman’s seat.

“Helm, turn us to face the enemy and bring us up to full impulse, weapons I want a constant stream of phaser fire, focus on the fighters.”

“Aye sir.”

“Take us in.” Jellico ordered grimly as behind the Cairo the web work frame of thin metallic arms fully extended to form a spherical object that began to pulse and glow in a rhythmic pattern. Tendrils of lightning began to spark off between some of the farthest metallic spider web filaments and a dull smoky ball of light slowly coalesced at its center.

IMPERIAL CENTER-------------------------------EXECUTOR

Thrawn’s head snapped up to regard Khan with an expression as close to surprise as could be expressed on the cold blue chiss’ features. Khan merely smiled coldly.

“If not for my superior reflexes I do believe this assassination attempt would have been successful.” Khan noted and pointed to the grim remains of Jerjerrod.

“There is no time for this.” Thrawn snapped. “Kirk is planning to pull off something insane in the midst of my fleet.” He continued in a hurry as he extricated himself from Khan.

“You’re most welcome of course.” Khan replied sardonically as he effortlessly kipped up to his feet hands still bound like a prisoner.

“I want every rear guard ship we have to close on the coordinates of that anomaly.” Thrawn emphatically ordered as he coldly stepped over the remains of Jerjerrod. Khan quietly watched him with satisfaction. Now try to factor what just happened into your equations my good Grand Admiral.

The confusion on the bridge was still running its course and Han Solo was lost in the jockeying of bodies as stormtroopers and imperial naval personnel who were closing in around their Grand Admiral.

“Han, I’m close by.” Ochoa shouted over the din.

“The Ochoa will behave himself.” One of the Noghri guarding the blind starship captain warned.

“I intend to but I know the panic that must be gripping him at the moment. He’s been tossed into a world he does not recognize anymore. I don’t suppose one of you fearless warriors would mind fetching him for me?” Ochoa replied.

The Noghri exchanged hooded glances. One of them quickly peeled away and stalked over to Han. The other Noghri remained close to their charge.

“Why does the Ochoa bother? He is a dead man as soon as Thrawn recovers and orders it.” One Noghri asked perplexed by the mercy shown.

“Because every life is important, my friend. When we lose sight of that we have lost this war.”

Another Noghri snorted derisively glancing out at the viewport behind them.

“It looks as if you are losing this war.”

Ochoa smiled softly and looked down directly at the Noghri despite his blindness.

“That’s not the war I’m talking about.” He replied mischievously.

“The Ochoa is strange.” The lead Noghri replied with some annoyance.

“That I am.”

Han was brought over to Ochoa by the Noghri while pandemonium was still raging around them. Han looked the blind starship captain.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

Ochoa nodded and smiled softly. Han had been accusing him of being an Imperial spy only a short while ago for revealing the truth about Darth Nemesis, yet even now he was concerned for his well being.

“Han, I need you to listen to me carefully.” Ochoa began.

Suddenly the floor beneath them shuddered and explosions erupted like suns all around the bridge area, the armored viewports automatically dimmed but not fast enough for some who shielded their eyes or were temporarily blinded by the thermonuclear fireworks that had unfurled around them. Alarms blared and several frantic shouts resounded from the enormous bridge pit below them.

“Oh hell…” Ochoa frowned.

“What the hell is going on now?!” Han exclaimed in exasperation. He hated every moment of this weakness and confusion. He yearned to jump into a cockpit or get into a firefight. Anything to make him feel more in control of his destiny than this mess. He never imagined as he had slowly descended into the carbon freezing pit that destiny would find him here in this place. For a brief moment he found himself yearning for the cold solitude of the carbonite.

“We are under attack.” One of the Noghri hissed.

“Really? I’m glad you’re hear to tell us these things.” Han deadpanned.

Outside the viewports hundreds of Klingon warships were decloaking as one. Waves of birds of prey pirouetted gracefully and dove down in an angry swarm firing continuously from their rapid fire disruptors, green bolts lancing out in quick staccato bursts that lapped hungrily against the battered shields of the Executor. Vorcha class attack cruisers unleashed an awesome torrent of heavy disruptor fire while above them the Klingon flagship whipped out a veritable storm of proton torpedoes, the opening salvo served as a signal and the second wave of Klingon heavy ships uncloaked as they released their own salvos of torpedoes all timed to impact at the same point at the same time.

Thrawn’s eyes narrowed as he instantly recognized the danger that he now found himself in,

Thrawn’s head snapped back to his crew and began to warn loudly “All hands brace for imp---” but was interrupted as there was only the hot white storm of hundreds of proton torpedo detonations at once that illuminated the bridge in such intense light that only one person did not cower or throw up and arm to shield their eyes - the blind man Ernesto Ochoa. Instead he looked into the light and frowned.

“I’m running out of time.”

KLINGON ATTACK FLEET------------------------EXECUTOR

“That’s it! KAPLAH!!” Worf roared victoriously and pumped his fist in the air as he watched with unrestrained glee while hundreds of torpedoes detonated against the might Imperial warship’s bridge tower.

Worf had quietly bided his time. His fleet had slowly taken up a tight cordon around the Executor, careful to make sure that their cloaks were as perfect as could be, power levels were kept to the bare minimum, in some cases even life support was left to such a level that ice was forming at some of the outer decks. They surrounded her like a pack of Targs ready to pounce on their prey.

Like any good hunter he had judged his moment to strike and when the comlink erupted with the confusion of gunfire and shouts he knew that this was the moment he and his fleet had been eagerly anticipating. All Klingon warriors were well versed in the ebb and flow of combat. There was always those moments, ever so fleeting when the tide of war turned and battles took on a life of their own making the invulnerable vulnerable and the mighty weak. Here was his one chance when even such a brilliant tactical mind could be distracted that he could plunge his dagger into the heart of his enemy and watch the emotions that played across the fragile stage of their face as life left them.

But these moments of introspection were all too human. Now there was bloody work to be done and the Klingon in him needed to take complete control.

“Shields are down!” His gunnery officer reported as he nodded with satisfaction and this encouraged several of the bridge crew to break out into spontaneous song.

Worf switched to the command wide band and when he spoke it was with his blood on fire, his eyes locked on his prey and vengeance the sole thought. The dead of Quo’nos would be heard this day.

“All Klingon attack ships, converge on the Executor. We have opened a hole in her defenses. Unleash you fury and vengeance and let the Imperials know this day that they are facing Klingon warriors and we will make them pay for every life ripped away in such cowardly fashion on Quo’nos. They will rue the day they spilled Klingon blood and as our own batleths drip with their thrice damned blood I want you all to remember the howls of the dying mothers clasping their children to their breasts, the screams of the innocent civilians boiled alive in oceans of super heated steam, the silence of our now dead home world and for every Imperial you kill you redeem one lost Klingon soul. So kill them without mercy, without surrender or retreat in mind and let us send a message to their Emperor that will be heard from one end of this universe to the other.” Worf leaned in close to the com and smiled darkly. “We are Klingons. We are coming for you. May your gods have mercy on you for we killed our own long ago.”

A roar cascaded away from the com like one he had never heard before. Thousands of Klingon warriors united with one purpose.

“Send our away teams and begin our attack runs. Let nothing survive us.”


The flagship dove headlong into the fray, an attendant wing of Bird of prey cruisers broke ahead like war hounds and swept all before them in a storm of disruptor fire. The flagship unleashed torrents of withering disruptor fire punctuated by waves of torpedoes focused on taking out as many shield generators as possible, with her defenses down the Klingons were intent on making sure they would not come up again.


“What is it?” Worf asked barely able to keep his eyes off the screen. A Vorcha was lanced by a turbolaser blast that sent it tumbling out of view and a blossom of fire a moment later at the bottom half of his screen told him she had met her fate.

“I’m picking up an odd reading to port. It looks like there is another cloaked ship is nearby moving beneath us.”

“Attack profile?” Worf asked suspiciously.

“ No sir. Whatever it is it seems to be using out sensor shadow to further mask her presence. She’s using an old cloak, something ancient, definitely Romulan. It’s purely visual with little pattern masking.”

Worf paused for a moment weighing his options.

“Keep an eye on it. If she meant us harm I doubt she would remain silent at this point. Our shields have dropped to deliver our away teams.”

“Of course, Chancellor.”

IMPERIAL RIGHT ---------------------------EXCALIBUR

“Would you look at that.” Riker mused with a grim smile. Smoke and the sharp tang of ozone hung thick in the air of the makeshift bridge of the Excalibur. Some of his crew were moaning quietly in pain behind him as Beverly Crusher worked to stabilize them in the midst of the pitched battle the Excalibur was brawling her way through.

On the liquid crystal screen display a stardestroyer was slowly falling out of the plain of engagement, her forecastle blasted clean away leaving a twisted jungle of blasted metal plates and conduits spewing all manner of superheated gasses and plasma into the void. Her starboard gun decks were on fire, a raking blast of anti-protons had gouged a jagged scar across the valley between the top and bottom portions of the hull.

She still managed to fire what little guns remained on the lumbering behemoth that was the Excalibur. The conical shaped deep blue vessel was turning slowly away from her mortally wounded prey. The enemy weapons fire that once slid off the powerful shields of the mighty planet killer now sparked weak pulsing clouds of energy discharges with each impact and many of the emerald bolts were now scoring directly against the solid neutronium hull. As the ship continued her turn the screen slowly revealed two other stardestroyers hounding her cautiously.

Will Riker smirked at the sight.

They should be cautious. When the Excalibur had first jumped into this wing there were five stardestroyers, now there were only these two.

He glanced around his bridge for a moment, taking stock of the damage. Geordi was below trying his best to keep alien power plants and weapons systems that had only been theoretically possible, and in some instances just pure magic as far as Federation science was concerned, from falling apart on them. Several stations were ruined messes of overloaded plasma conduits and blackened circuit boards while extraneous power couplings and other cables and conduits hung like blackened vines over their heads. Some of the cables still occasionally sparked dangerously and drew worried glances but all the damage control teams were tied up taking care of far more dangerous situations at the moment.

“They’re really laying into the Executor.” Tom Paris breathed with some awe as he watched on a second monitor screen the furious Klingon assault currently underway against the Imperial flagship.

“Good old, Worf, always there when you need a Klingon to lay down the law.” Riker smiled.

“The Klingon fleet has managed to bring down a large swath of shields by the bridge tower of the Executor. I am detecting heavy transporter activity as we speak.” Data reported easily multitasked between keeping the power systems of the Excalibur running, monitoring the battle they were currently involved in and running a multitude of other analysis from his station. His fingers flew over his control board with blinding speed.

“Only a Klingon would board that beast. They’ve got to be outnumbered a hundred to one.” Paris noted grimly.

“Fortune favors the bold.” Riker replied hopefully.

Data frowned slightly in response to new information scrolling down his status board. “Unfortunately I am detecting a power spike on their shield grid. They will be able to re-establish their shield momentarily.” He glanced over at Riker.

Riker absently rubbed his beard as he contemplated courses of action available to him. He nodded to himself and sighed deeply before switching on the com.

“Wedge, we’re thinking of taking a trip.”

“What’s the matter, Excalibur, not liking the company in this neighborhood?” Wedge replied through a hail of static. The amount of energy flying around was starting to interfere with ship to ship coms.

“I was thinking more along the lines of joining a party underway.”

Paris smiled to himself though Data was slightly confused and cocked his head slightly as he noticed some of the smiles among the bridge crew.

“I never say no to a party.” Wedge chuckled.

“I’m assuming that you’re not thinking of shedding such an attractive escort?” the captain of the Thermopylae interjected. Her Defiant squadron was sweeping ahead of the Excalibur and intercepting incoming fighters and missiles with bursts of their powerful pulse phasers.

Riker laughed.

“The more the merrier. Geordi, I assume you’re listening in?”

“I am though I don’t like where this is going.” Geordi replied warily.

“I want you and Data to work on a hyperspace plot that puts us right into that dog pile going on over at the Executor.” Riker ordered.

“Captain, may I remind you that the last time we plotted a micro jump we very nearly materialized inside a stardestroyer. With all the energy being expended in that small space it is liable to cause some spatial distortions that may impact my calculations and ---” Riker gripped data by the shoulder.

“Mr. Data. I’ll risk my life, this ship and this crew based on your calculations no matter the variables because I know you always manage to get it right.”

“Do you have statistical evidence to this effect?” Data replied simply.

Riker smiled as the Excalibur began shaking, reminding them all that they were in the midst of a battle.

“None needed Mr. Data. Our lives are in your more than capable hands.” Riker replied and turned his attention back to Tom.

“Now, Mr. Paris, let’s see if we can’t blow these bastards to hell before we leave.”

“With pleasure, sir.”

Data looked confused for a moment and merely shrugged and began making the calculations for the jump to light speed as Geordi fed him the variables he needed.

“Don’t worry Data, you know what they say. Practice makes perfect.” Geordi added with a good natured smile. Data nodded sagely as he watched his friend on the comlink.

“Unfortunately Geordi we are practicing with calculating billions of stellar variables, millions of power and mass conversion equations and thousands of possible approach vectors to place ourselves in a spot no more than several kilometers away from an object that is not stationary and buffeted by millions of terawatts of power that may be bending the very localized area of space we wish to enter.”

Geordi smirked.

“Sounds like a day in the park for your positronic brain and my know how.”

“And let’s hope fortune doesn’t laugh in our faces…” Riker muttered softly to himself as the Excalibur traded fire with the stardestroyers she faced.
Wherever you go, there you are.

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