A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.29 up)

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A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.29 up)

Post by Crayz9000 »

A Prelude to War

First book in the Intergalactic Alliance Series

A crossover Star Wars - Star Trek fiction by John H.



This is the final re-do of my long-running story, which I originally started way back in mid-2000 on alt.startrek.vs.starwars. I've posted it intermittently on this board since 2002. By my count, this is the 8th and final draft of the story.

I already have over two thirds of the story completed at this point so I will attempt to keep the updates coming at a steady pace.


Specially trained ASCII characters performed the stunts in this book. Do not attempt to repeat them at home.

According to current NASA data, Voyager is leaving the solar system. It is unknown when it will encounter the Caretaker's array, or if it will be of any use to the Ocampa. In any event, we can only hope that any aliens who come across it know how to play analog phonographs.

Non-original names and characters used without permission. No money is being made off this story, although I can always dream, can't I...

The author reserves some rights to original characters or locations created. All other characters, locations, and situations are the property of Paramount Films or Lucasfilm Limited.

Star Trek © Paramount Films, Inc.
Star Wars © Lucasfilm Limited


The planet was unrecognizable.

In his life, he had visited hundreds of worlds in the known galaxy. Each one of them was unique in its own way, but all shared common themes. In some cases, it was the inhabitants. Humans, for reasons poorly understood by most historians, had risen to become the dominant species of the galaxy at some point during the past fifty thousand years. Therefore, most planets tended to have at least some minority of humans among the population.

Architecture was another common theme. For those planets that had been in contact with the rest of the galaxy, they tended to import architects from several great architectural schools. One of the oldest architectural colleges in the galaxy was located on the capital of the Republic itself, Coruscant.

Coruscant! Many knew it as the glittering gem of the galaxy. The planet's night side was never dark, illuminated with countless trillions of lights from the planet-spanning city. Spire-topped towers rose up kilometers above the plain, industrial-looking blocks of the lower levels. During the day, light reflected off the chromed spires, causing the city-world to shimmer like a giant jewel.

But Coruscant this planet was not. The narrow, rough stone-paved streets of this city were lined with short, quaint two and three story wood-framed buildings. In the distance, a four-cornered skeletal tower curved to a singular point rising high above the rest of the city. Of course, he noted detachedly, the peak of the spire would have barely poked above the lowermost of Coruscant's underlevels.

As he walked down one particularly wide, straight stone-paved boulevard, he heard the distinctive tones of music from string instruments. The melody was quite pretty, almost haunting. It would have been quite romantic, had he been able to share the moment with a loved one.

At the end of the boulevard, a tall, square-framed arch of grand proportions stood. As he approached closer to the building, he began to discern glyphs carved into the stone of the building in an alien script. The building had obviously been erected as some sort of monument, most likely to commemorate a military triumph.

His wanderings eventually brought him to an estate surrounded by wide, expansive gardens. While the gardens at the entrance were filled with neatly manicured shrubs and delicate-looking, incredibly colorful flowers, further inside the gardens vegetables of various types that he'd never seen before were growing.

The air around the mansion was likewise filled with the songs of at least a dozen different species of birds. From that and the angle of the sun, he guessed that it must have been the beginning of the growing season.

While he continued to drink in the surroundings, he observed a humanoid step out of the front entrance of the mansion. Unlike the rest of the city, which seemed to be mostly populated with humans, this humanoid had a tapered head with odd wrinkles, ridges, and multicolored spots. The alien wore an ill-fitting white shirt with double rows of buttons. The observer decided a moment later that the alien's pants were some of the ugliest he had ever seen.

The alien strolled through the flagstone pathways of the gardens with a distinct bounce in his step. Coming to one corner of the garden, he leaned over and ripped a tuber from the ground. As he began walking back, he paused at a thin-leafed plant with brilliant red fruits hanging from it. Then he leaned over again and reached out to flick a bug from one of the leaves. His finger made contact with the caterpillar, which sailed through the air and landed with a resounding thud.

The alien blinked in surprise, looking at his finger as if he'd never seen it before. He shrugged and flicked another bug off of the plant; this one also landed with a crashing noise that shook the ground. The alien pinched himself, flinching as he did so, and turned around.

Then his mouth went wide and a quiet scream escaped his throat. The observer turned to follow his gaze and suddenly realized that the ancient city was now on fire, dozens of columns of smoke rising into the sky.

As he watched, a glowing, golden orb of plasma sailed through the sky. It crashed into one of the mansion's towers, shattering windows, setting the wooden roof alight, and blackening the masonry of the tower itself.

The alien took off at a run for the front gate, obviously intent on saving his own life. The observer followed at a distance, and suddenly the alien ran headlong into another humanoid figure. Unlike the first alien, this one was horribly disfigured, most of its skin removed and the rest of the skin covered in tattoos. At first glance the scarring appeared to have been accidental, but as the observer continued to look, he realized that the scarring was so thorough that it must have been intentional. The end result was that it appeared as a ghastly, skeletal horror held together by nothing but sinews and unholy willpower. It was certainly enough to give children--or adults, for that matter--nightmares.

From somewhere on its form, the horror produced a wicked-looking curved and serrated knife. It brandished the knife and the alien took several steps back in shock before tripping over a planter box. The observer had seen what happened next on more occasions than he cared to count. For that matter, all one had to do was to turn to one of the HoloNet nature channels and watch a documentary on the predators of almost any planet in the galaxy.

The horror and alien circled each other, hunter and prey. It feinted with the knife several times, the alien jerking back reflexively, before finally lunging and slashing across the back of the alien.

"Enjoy the sweet kiss of pain!" the horror said in a guttural, halting language. The observer was somewhat surprised to be able to understand the words. "You will live to serve the..."

The observer suddenly felt the world fading away around him. "Live to serve the who?" he said despite the lack of any listeners. As rapidly as the old city had faded away, the cockpit of a ship gradually revealed itself to him. The odd lights outside the viewports indicated that it was currently in hyperspace, and in the pilot's seat sat a woman with brilliant reddish bronze hair that flowed over her shoulders in gently curling waves.

She looked oddly familiar, he decided, moving forward to take a look at her face. She turned away just as he did so. From what he could see, however, she was resting her chin in the palms of her hands, and her elbows were sitting on the console in front of her. She didn't appear to be doing anything immediate, leading him to conclude that she must be lost deep in thought. Unfortunately it was impossible for him to read minds, so he was left guessing about what she was thinking.

After staying in the same position for what seemed like an eternity, she leaned back in the chair first, then came to her feet and stretched. When she turned to walk out, the observer finally caught a glimpse of her face and would have jumped in surprise, had it been possible for him to do so. She was one of his former students, the daughter of a woman who had once long ago captured him to be her husband.

As she continued walking past the observer, he noted a small smile creep across her face. Mentally shrugging, he followed her down the corridor of the transport and into the darkened crew berths, where she brought the light up to a dim glow and, humming softly to herself, began to remove her tattered jumpsuit.

He quickly turned away. "This is just not right," he muttered to himself. "Just not right at all. What the kriff is this supposed to mean, anyway?"

Behind him, he heard sheets rustle and someone coughed. Then a man asked, "Am I dreaming?"

The observer blinked again in surprise. He knew the man that voice belonged to, and turned around to see if he was right. The woman was now standing with her back turned to him, clad only in her undergarments, and in the lower berth a young, brown-haired man sat up blinking owlishly in the light.

"If you were, you would be disappointed when you awoke," the woman dryly commented. "There will be no such disappointment now."

The observer rolled his eyes. If there was anything he was supposed to learn here, this certainly wasn't it. As the two began kissing, he walked out of the room and back to the cockpit, then took a seat in the co-pilot's chair and stole a glance at the instrument panel.

Just as he did so, the sky of hyperspace suddenly devolved into a dizzying starburst of lights. The ship had been decanted back into realspace, and the observer instantly began looking for the source as alarms began blaring all over the cockpit. The source wasn't terribly hard to find; not one, but several black shapes that dimly glowed with greenish light floated motionless in the distance.

One of the ships projected a green beam at the small transport, and began to pull it in closer. There was a clatter of feet behind him, and the man and woman ran into the cockpit, halfway clothed and quite out of breath.

"Blaster bolts!" the man exclaimed as he began flipping controls in a frenzy. "I thought the wormhole had been sealed?"

"Obviously not," the woman answered. "Or they would not be here."

"I can't break the tractor lock," he said a moment later.

The two looked at each other and then kissed. "We are Jedi," they both said simultaneously. "We've faced greater challenges than this before."

He shivered as his view went black again. He'd never seen any ships like those black cubes, which seemed to radiate malevolence. And what did they mean by their last words? Being pulled in by a fleet of ominous ships, alone, and without support was a tall order to handle, even for a Jedi, and he was left with a general feeling of inevitability when he thought about them.

This time, the blackness remained, and the observer blinked several times to check if it was his eyes or something else. As he looked around, he spotted a point of green light, and a momentary chill passed through him. Was he on one of the black vessels he saw?

Suddenly the light blinked. He recoiled in shock, crashing into something that fell over and shattered. He started to swear, then suddenly realized that he hadn't been able to interact with anything in the apparent vision...

"Room, lights on," he ordered in a hoarse voice.

The room was instantly bathed in the light of several glowpanels embedded in the ceiling, and with a hint of irascibility he realized that he'd knocked a large crystal vase off the table, which is what had shattered.

"Luke?" an incontestably feminine voice beside him asked, a voice that sounded vaguely familiar. "What's going on?"

Groaning, Luke Skywalker came to his feet and looked around. He noticed that he'd somehow fallen off the bed. His wife Mara Jade-Skywalker was currently staring at him with bleary eyes, the bedsheets bulging over her swollen abdomen. Glancing around, he observed that the blinking light was merely that of an emergency monitoring system.

He finally breathed a sigh of relief.

"What are you doing over there?" Mara asked again, her voice containing a hint of a plea.

"I think I fell out of bed," he replied as he lifted the sheet to get back in.

"No, you know what I mean," she replied through her pillow, shivering from the cold air that he'd let in by lifting the sheets. "You were mumbling, tossing and turning, then I heard a thump and a crash."

Luke paused to think. Had he really been tossing and turning?

"I had a vision of a possible future," he finally decided aloud.

Mara propped herself up on one elbow and regarded him with interest. "Really? What was it about?"

He explained about the alien he had seen on the strange planet, and the horribly scarred creatures that had attacked it for no reason.

"Well, that could be anywhere, couldn't it?"

Luke shrugged. "It could, but why would the Force choose to show me a planet if I don't know where it is?"

"Maybe you'll go to that planet in the future."

"I suppose..." He trailed off, looking at the blackness outside his window. "Anyway, after that part of the vision I saw Tenel Ka's ship."

Mara frowned. "The Rock Dragon? That's odd."

"I know. She was traveling through hyperspace, I don't know where, and so she gets up, goes back to the sleeping area. Then she starts kissing Jacen--"

Out of nowhere, a slap landed on his face. "You're such a pervert, farmboy," she said with a laugh. "Spying on your nephew and his girlfriend in a Force vision. What's next, a vision of the locker room?"

"Only if you're the one in the shower," Luke replied with a playful grin, then reached for a glass of water from the table next to the bed.

She tilted her head ever so slightly. "Ooh, so naughty. You're going to have to wait until the baby's born, Master Skywalker, before you get to have me again."

Luke spit up a little bit of the water. "Right. Anyway, I wasn't quite finished. So while they're making out, something yanks the ship from hyperspace and they run to the cockpit. Turns out they're surrounded by large, square black ships, and one of them locks a tractor beam on them. Then they said something about a sealed wormhole, and how they'd faced greater challenges before. I'm really not sure what that meant."

"Well, it sounds like something happens that puts them in danger," Mara replied an instant later. "Although... a wormhole? I can't recall any existing wormholes in the galaxy."

"Maybe someone's going to discover one?" Luke suggested.

"Maybe," Mara agreed. "We'll just have to wait and see, I guess. Can we go back to sleep now, honey?"

"Sure thing, sweetheart," Luke said, turning toward Mara. "Room, lights off."

The last thing he was aware of before going to sleep was Mara wrapping her arms around him.

* * *

Far in the future and far, far away, a certain vessel was quite busy violating (or simply stepping around, depending on one's point of view) laws and theorems that Einstein had created over four hundred years before. Of course, the fact that Einstein had conceived those theorems at a time when space travel was entirely in the realm of science fiction, and the only thing capable of even going near space was the German V-2 rocket (no larger than a school bus), meant that the idea of a three hundred and forty-four meter warship traveling at two hundred times the speed of light was simply inconceivable.

The shape of the ship itself was elongated and streamlined, unlike the rocket-ships conceived by science fiction authors such as the celebrated Jules Verne. Its forward hull was somewhat egg-shaped, although it looked as if it had been cut in half down the center. On the curved upper part of the hull, a small indentation concealed an equally small circular dish. Below it, mounted somewhat further aft, was a far larger dish that rather resembled a capital 'D.' Both dishes glowed brightly with a trace of blue, and they were designed to ensure that the ship would not be turned into a colossal colander by the impacts of hydrogen atoms.

Even so, many parts of the ship's hull were scorched and blackened where the tritanium plating had worn away. In some areas, the internal structure of the ship could be seen, with plasma conduits and various pipelines exposed to space. Printed immediately above the auxiliary deflector dish in large lettering was the ship's registry of NCC-74656; further aft one might make out USS VOYAGER through the missing armor and holes in the hull.

Now that one had seen the ship, they might have wondered exactly what government this warship belonged to. Certainly not any one of the major powers in the area; this part of the galaxy was more or less the backwater area, with a large part of space controlled by a race that is better off not being mentioned.

But even if the crew of this strange ship was concerned about the threats surrounding them, they did not show it.

"Captain," Lieutenant Commander Tuvok's voice echoed across the bridge of the Federation starship Voyager, "I seem to be picking up an object."

Captain Kathryn Janeway didn't reply immediately, being immersed in a book. She finally placed it aside, and looked up at the darkened viewscreen. "On screen."

"It's out of visual range," he reported. "At the limits of our long-range sensors."


"Ten light-years off our present position, inside what would appear to be a fairly typical star system. No other objects have been detected within the system."

Janeway stood up and turned around. "Composition?"

"Primarily metallic, made of an unknown alloy. It is most likely a vessel of some type."

She thought for a moment. "Is there anything else worth knowing about it?"

Tuvok was silent for several seconds while he worked his terminal. "Its course seems to be taking it toward the fourth planet of that system, class unknown."

Captain Janeway nodded, turning toward the viewscreen, deep in concentration. She finally turned back. "Have you hailed it?"

"Yes, Captain, with no response."

"Plot an intercept course with the object," she ordered Lieutenant Paris at the helm, "and increase speed to Warp Eight."

Paris immediately began working. "Course set," he reported. "Increasing warp velocity to factor eight."

Janeway walked back to her chair and sat down, pulling out the book she had been reading--Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea--and tried to find her position in it. Soon she was engrossed in the adventures of the submarine Nautilus...
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2015-02-11 10:28am, edited 28 times in total.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Themightytom »

I'm confused. The description of the Voyager makes it sound like it just left the year of hell... but it has ablative armor?

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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »

Themightytom wrote:I'm confused. The description of the Voyager makes it sound like it just left the year of hell... but it has ablative armor?


That line's been in there for at least the last 6 years and nobody's caught it until now. Thanks.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crazedwraith »

Wait you're restarting this? :( I'm never going to see anything new.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by DaZergRock54444 »

For the first time I've read this, I find it to be an excellent beginning. Of course, my knowledge of Star Trek in general is small, and Star Wars has rather gaping holes. Please keep up the good, revising perhaps?
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War Chapter 1

Post by Crayz9000 »


To say that the air in the main chamber of the ancient Massassi temple was humid would have been a severe understatement. Imagine an old-style sauna, with water being turned into steam over a wood-burning fire. Now replace the wood with two hundred Jedi trainees of varied species, the wholesome smoky scent of the wood with the odor of two hundred bodies, and you approached the atmosphere present in the chamber. But in this case the steam was actually invisible vapor, a sticky addition to the air that could not be seen although it could be felt.

Jacen Solo, standing two rows from the front of the room, certainly felt the humidity. He reached up and loosened the traditional brown cloth robe that he was wearing for the meeting, fanning himself slightly as he did. A half-dozen unpleasant odors assaulted his nostrils, and he decided at that point to rank the smell of damp Wookiee up at the top of his list of unpleasant odors. Considering that Lowbacca, Chewbacca's two plus meter tall Jedi nephew, was standing directly in front of him it was no surprise at all.

On one side of him, he heard a quiet snort, and he turned to look. His sister Jaina turned her face away from him, attempting to cover her mouth in the process. Jacen sighed at the distraction; here he was, nineteen years old, and being laughed at by his sister as if he were only twelve. If there was anything he hated the most about having a Jedi-talented twin sister, that was it: the fact that they almost always knew what the other was thinking.

Pushing all thoughts of his sister aside, Jacen leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Immediately, everything that he hadn't noticed while his eyes were open snapped into focus: the plethora of aromas that wafted about the Grand Chamber, the sounds caused by several hundred trainees, various conversations taking place. Most of the conversations, he idly noted after about a minute, were merely the usual gossip that floated about the Academy. There were some people theorizing about what the meeting was going to be about--he listened to one of those with mild interest--and other conversations concerned the preceding day's assignments.

He sat up and looked toward the exit, wondering if he would see anyone coming in. A slight clatter from above his head distracted him, and Jacen looked up to see a woman, clad in a grey suit that seemed to be made of a type of reptilian hide, descending from one of the temple's skylights. Slowly, she rappelled down the rope, using only her feet and one hand, and finally landed in front of an empty seat next to Jacen. She quickly snapped the smartrope, which detached from the rock face a dozen meters above and landed (albeit somewhat disorganized) in her hand. Several students applauded.

"You always were one to make a grand entrance, Tenel Ka," Jacen commented with a smile on his face as the Dathomirian warrior and sometime Hapan princess coiled her smartrope.

"I decided that it would be easier than pushing through a smelly crowd," she replied nonchalantly after she'd clipped the cord to her belt. Running her hands through her red-gold braids to straighten them out, she continued. "Have I missed anything?"

Jacen shook his head. "No, they haven't even started yet. We're still waiting for Uncle Luke and Corran."

"Good." She sat down, releasing a heavy sigh. Jacen noticed that streams of sweat were pouring down her forehead.

"How hot is it out there?" he casually inquired.

Tenel Ka took a piece of cloth off her belt and wiped her face with it. "It's not as hot as it is humid. And it's definitely hotter in here."

"That's what I thought," Jacen replied. "I guess I'll have to ask Anakin to see about getting some condensers the next time he's offworld."

She nodded, but didn't say anything. For a few minutes, the only thing that Jacen heard from her was heavy breathing as she apparently tried to cool down.

"Looks like they've arrived," he finally said, looking toward the entrance. "You're right, Sis. Anakin's with them."

"And arguing with Kyp, it would seem," Jaina added. "I wonder why. They usually haven't had many disagreements."

Jacen shrugged, coming to his feet along with the rest of the trainees in the chamber as Master Skywalker confidently strode in. As Luke looked at the arrangement of the tables on the dais, however, Jacen thought for a moment that he could see a slight frown on his uncle's face. The frown quickly disappeared, leaving the younger trainee wondering what it was all about. He stood on his toes in an attempt to see over Lowbacca's shoulder, and noticed that the tables were arranged in a V-formation facing outward, which certainly was unusual. So maybe that was the problem, he decided.

Luke remained standing as the other Jedi Knights took their seats, and Anakin slipped through the rows of trainees to get to his brother and sister. Finally, when the tumult in the grand chamber had calmed down, he spoke.

"Jedi Knights and trainees," the Jedi Master began, "I apologize for keeping all of you in suspense as to the topic of today's meeting. I also apologize for the suddenness of this meeting, but unfortunately events occur in the galaxy far faster than I can respond to them."

There was a slight murmur as he continued. "Since communications are obviously restricted here at the Academy, most of you likely have not heard the recent news."

Luke drew his breath in. "Two weeks ago, Dr. Joto Eckels of the Obroan Institute approached me as they had not heard from one of their student research teams on the planet Bimmiel. I sent Corran Horn and his apprentice, Ganner Rhysode, to the planet to investigate." Luke gestured toward Corran, who immediately came to his feet.

Jacen wondered briefly why he was heavily leaning on his left leg, but put the thought aside as Corran glanced about himself, looking toward Luke briefly for approval before proceeding.

"As Master Skywalker mentioned, I left for Bimmiel with Ganner last week. Now, before I go any further, I would like to briefly give you some information on the planet itself." He stepped back, limping slightly, and walked over toward a holoprojector that had been set up in the center of the dais. Sliding what Jacen assumed to be a datachip into the machine, he then turned it on.

"This is Bimmiel," Corran began. "Not much to look at, really. But, as I discovered in the notes of the scientific team, it has quite an interesting ecology."

Jacen perked up at that point. Perhaps this wouldn't be another boring, pointless meeting after all.

"The planet follows a highly elliptical orbit, and its rotational tilt is very pronounced. The result of these factors is that the planet's surface is somewhat inhospitable, being covered mostly in sand dunes. It has two small polar ice caps, which the archaeologists theorized were being slowly worn away by the recent dust storms that have been sweeping across the planet's surface. The southernmost one is already surrounded by a large ocean."

Jaina yawned, distracting Jacen momentarily, and Corran switched the image displayed by the holoprojector. It now showed a small debris cloud that orbited the planet.

"We recovered the data recorder of the Obroan Institute research ship Penga Rift in orbit. While the information on it was corrupted, as near as we can tell they were trying to escape to hyperspace when the ship was destroyed. We could find no sign of their attackers by the time we arrived."

He changed the view again, this time to show a wide, sweeping prarie on Bimmiel. While it seemed to be only grass, after looking at the large holo for several seconds Jacen thought he could make out some debris scattered across the plains.

"This was their campsite. Not much to look at, is it? We weren't sure who was aboard the Penga Rift, so we spent several days scouring the area but came up empty-handed. All the equipment was scattered around the campsite."

"So what did you find?" an overeager trainee inquired from the back of the chamber.

"We found signs that a group of them had sheltered in a nearby cave for a time. Most of the camp was smashed beyond recognition, but we found intact datachips in the computers. Corran reached for the holoprojector controls again.

Floating above him, a skull appeared. It was longer than a human skull, with a low cranial ridge. In addition to its odd appearance, it seemed to have many fracture lines and deformities. The cheekbones had been broken and reset in an odd fashion, resulting in the skull's face having a slope that went from left to right. The nose bones had also clearly been shattered, giving the skull an odd, leering appearance.

"What is that thing?" someone exclaimed.

Corran shrugged. "The scan labeled it as 'AR-312.' There were also scans of the entire corpse, and also a reproduction of the creature as it might have stood. I'll show that right now."

The hologram changed, now to display a full-size view of the humanoid. Human-style flesh had been added to give it somewhat of a more life-like appearance, but just from taking one look at it Jacen knew it wasn't even remotely human. It stood a half-meter taller than the typical human, and its shoulders were broad and powerfully built. Its face, which seemed to be painstakingly reconstructed from the skull, possessed the same leering, almost hideous quality that the skull had. The most disturbing feature were the numerous bony protrusions that extended through the skin all over the body.

"The scans identified this as being over fifty years old," Corran continued. "The coordinates on the chip showed it was discovered in the cave."

"What happened to the body?"

Corran shrugged. "If the camp had not been abandoned and ransacked, I would have said the students took it with them. But with the way that all of the scientific equipment was destroyed, and the fact that we could not find a single item identified on the scans, I believe that their attackers were specifically looking for this person's remains."

"Did you return this information to the Obroan Institute?" yet another voice asked. Jacen identified it as belonging to that of Raynar Thul, a marginally-talented student coming from one of the few remaining royal Alderaanian houses. He'd known Raynar since he had first joined the Academy, and was somewhat glad that he didn't have to see him given the rather garish robes, made of interweaved and often clashing colors, that the man often wore.

Corran shook his head. "Although the Obroan Institute sponsored the trip, it was organized by the University of Agamar. But to answer your question, yes, we did stop by Agamar on our way back and return the information that the scientists had collected before they vanished."

"Did you ever find the students?" another trainee asked. Jacen sighed; the interruptions were getting more than a little annoying.

"No," the Corellian answered. "When we returned the data to the University of Agamar, the researchers couldn't find anything like it in the databases. Based on the remains, they concluded that the group that attacked the students has been on or near Bimmiel for at least fifty years."

Raynar spoke up again. "How could a group that's been in this galaxy for at least fifty years have escaped our notice for that long?"

"I really can't answer that," Corran replied with a shrug. "There just isn't enough information, although I suppose that if the group's small enough, they could easily evade notice for years. Remember, we still haven't mapped out the entire galaxy; there are still thousands of unexplored stars in Wild Space."

The discussion dragged on for several more minutes, but Jacen found his thoughts drifting off to the figure in the hologram. Who are they? he wondered. And what do they want?

His thoughts were interrupted as he heard the twittering of an astromech droid. Jacen quickly looked toward the entrance to the auditorium, just in time to see several people, all dressed in flight suits, come running in.

"That's Miko Reglia in the front," Jaina whispered into his ear. "Looks like Kyp's Dozen just arrived."

"Wonderful," he replied, still keeping his eyes fixed on the new arrivals. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the Jedi on the dais were also looking at the assorted pilots that had just arrived. It was then that he realized that the chamber had gone silent.

Jacen watched Miko climb the steps of the dais, give a slight bow toward Luke, and continue to Kyp. He then watched him hand--what, a datapad?-- to the older Jedi. Kyp's face paled slightly as he read the datapad, which made Jacen even more curious. The Jedi then walked over towards Skywalker, and spoke with him for several seconds before stepping up to the podium as Corran sat back down.

"My apprentice Miko just told me about some new information that I have decided is relevant to this meeting," Kyp said. "With Master Skywalker's permission, we will begin."

He pushed some buttons on the datapad, then walked over to the holoprojector and did something--Jacen assumed he was inserting a datachip--before walking back to the podium. "This information was recorded by a sensor buoy that my squadron had placed in the outer areas of the Tingel Arm, perhaps about fifty light-years from Bimmiel." Kyp momentarily closed his eyes, and the holoprojector switched back on. A long list of coordinates and numbers were now projected into the air beside the podium. "Miko reports that there were some rather unusual findings. Miko?"

Kyp's apprentice stepped up to the podium and cleared his throat nervously.

"The beacon picked up a distress signal from a shipping convoy at about the same time that Corran and Ganner were on Bimmiel. Whoever made the transmission evidently thought it important enough to include a holofeed of their attackers."

Miko waved a hand at the holoprojector. The numbers morphed into what appeared to be an asteroid surrounded by the spinning, mangled wreckage of ships. Smaller rocks orbited around the larger asteroid, although Jacen couldn't help but notice after a few seconds that they seemed to be moving of their own accord.

Corran turned to Kyp with an intrigued expression. "Actually, that's very interesting," he remarked. "The data from the Penga Rift showed some asteroids near the ship before it was destroyed. Now that I think about it, there were no asteroids near Bimmiel when we got there."

The auditorium erupted in conversation, and Jacen noticed that Kyp had a somewhat surprised expression on his face when Corran had spoken.

"Do you think this is connected with Bimmiel?" Jacen asked after almost half a minute had passed.

The older Jedi contemplated the question. "I can't say for sure," he finally stated, "although Miko is all for investigating both matters. I can't say I disagree."

Even more discussion erupted in the auditorium. Finally, Raynar raised his hand. "I don't think that we, as Jedi, should investigate this. I've heard reports of what your squadron had done, Durron. You've given us a bad reputation with the government, which is why they haven't been willing to give us the supplies we need anymore. I don't care what you want to do, because we will not support you."

Next to Jacen, Tenel Ka quickly came to her feet. "Raynar Thul," she began, "this is not the usual brush conflict. Innocent people have died, and we don't even know why. Or did you forget what Jedi Horn said about the students?"

Someone else a few rows back replied. "We're peacekeepers, as Master Skywalker keeps reminding us. Why, then, are we so eager to get into conflict? We should bring this to the attention of the Republic, and let them do the investigation--and get the blame if they make mistakes."

"The mandate of the Jedi is to preserve life in all forms," Tenel Ka sharply retorted, "and you would let people die without raising an eyebrow? What sense of morals do you have? We are already involved. We should find out what this means and then report to the Republic once there is enough information for them to make a decision."

"That's not what I was implying," the same voice said.

On the dais, Kyp raised his hand to cut the arguing students off. "If we inform the Republic of this," he pointed out, "nothing will be done until many more have died. Tenel Ka is right."

"Not the way you do things." Raynar was now on his feet, but Jacen didn't bother to look at him. "You act as if you're the government, making decisions best left to those who are supposed to be in charge."

Kyp's gaze on the Alderaanian was unrelenting. "So what do you propose doing, then?"

Raynar was obviously flustered. He opened his mouth several times as if to speak, but nothing came out the first few times. Finally, he seemed able to collect his wits. "We bring it to the Republic's attention and let them decide on the course of action, but no more than that."

Jacen shook his head as the room erupted in shouting. He would have expected this from Raynar, considering the problems they'd had with the Senate after they had taken it upon themselves to investigate the headquarters of the Diversity Alliance on Ryloth.

"Enough," Luke finally exclaimed in a strong voice that seemed to fill the chamber as he came to his feet. "This conflict is getting us nowhere. As one of you pointed out, we are peacemakers, not warlords." His voice softened somewhat. "We do not dominate the people; instead, we serve them. As such, I feel that we should investigate the situation, then report our findings to the Republic if it proves worthwhile.

"But," he added as he turned toward Kyp, "we should also not take an offensive stance unless we are given the authority to do so by the Republic. Our actions will be in self-defense, and self-defense only; if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves. Do I make myself clear?"

Kyp had a somewhat disappointed expression on his face, but he nodded. "Then we will do so, Master Skywalker. When should we leave?"

"I'll leave that up to you, Kyp," Skywalker replied.

The younger Jedi nodded, turning back toward the assembled Jedi. "Does anyone here want to come with my group?"

After a long period of silence had passed, Tenel Ka stood up, much to Jacen's surprise. "I will come," she offered.

"Good," Kyp said. "Anyone else?"

As the rest of the Jedi discussed the matter in hushed tones, Jacen leaned over toward Tenel Ka with an inquiring expression on his face. "Why?" he whispered.

"I have been planning on visiting my great-grandmother on Dathomir for some time now," Tenel Ka replied quietly. "It will be on the way, so I do not view it as much of an inconvenience."

Jacen considered what she had said for several moments, somewhat confused about the issues. "Would you mind if I came with you?" he finally asked.

"Not at all." She looked at him as if to say, Thank you.

Jacen immediately stood up, raising his hand. "I'll come."

"And so will I," Jaina said a moment later as she came to her feet.

Kyp nodded. "That makes three. Anyone else?"

A low, throaty roar broke the hushed atmosphere. Moments later, a somewhat tinny voice piped up, sounding absurdly weak in comparison. Jacen promptly identified the voice as belonging to the miniature translation droid Em Teedee. "Master Lowbacca expresses his strong desire to come as well," the droid said.

Lowie growled softly at Em Teedee, which jetted backwards on its repulsors. "What do you mean, I could have said it more plainly?"

Jacen shook his head, a wan smile on his face. It was kind of surprising that Lowie hadn't reprogrammed the little thing yet. See-Threepio had put a lot of his own personality into the droid when Chewbacca had first built it, and the results often showed.

"I think you're making a mistake," Raynar began to say, before Luke cut him off as he stepped up to the podium.

"We are all entitled to our own opinions, and I respect that," Skywalker began. "But this kind of dissention will not get us anywhere. As some of you may know, in several days I will be leaving for Coruscant to speak to the government about re-establishing the Jedi Council to handle just this kind of dispute."

"Who will be on the Council?" another trainee asked.

"That will be decided later," Luke replied. "As for now, this meeting is dismissed."

Jacen watched as the people on the dais filed down, some of them--most notably a Twi'lek, Daeshara'cor--with disappointed looks on their faces. He started to leave, but a hand held him back; he turned to see Tenel Ka grasping his shoulder.

"Not yet," she said, pointing toward the dais, where several of the Jedi remained. "I need to talk with Kyp first."

"No problem," he replied with a slight twang of jealousy--but just as quickly pushed the feeling aside, hoping that Tenel Ka hadn't noticed. He knew that there was absolutely no reason for such irrational feelings, but it happened all the same.

When the auditorium had all but emptied, the group walked toward Kyp, who extended his hand toward Jacen. "Thanks for your support," he said, a smile spread across his face. "I really appreciated it."

Jacen half-shrugged. "It wasn't really me," he admitted, wondering where this was going. Kyp's checkered past was fairly well-known to most of the Jedi. Some avoided him because of it; others were constantly asking him for advice. Jacen wasn't sure which group he fit into.

"Well, yes." Kyp turned toward Tenel Ka. "Thank you especially. I take it you're going to be flying your transport?"

"That is a fact," she replied. "Was there something else you had in mind?"

"No, no, of course not," the older Jedi replied as he ran a hand through his hair. "In fact, I was hoping you would be taking your ship. We can use its firepower if we run into trouble."

Tenel Ka nodded in reply, and Kyp turned toward Jaina. "And I hear you've become quite a pilot."

Jaina blushed slightly. "Maybe exaggerating a little, but I suppose so."

Kyp continued without pause. "We have a couple of new X-wings that'll be arriving from Incom in a few days. They're of the XJ variant... have you ever heard of them?"

Jaina nodded, her curiosity piqued. The XJ was a model designed, amid much publicity, to extend the life of the X-wing series and keep it competitive with newer starfighters. She had read the review of it in a Fighting Machines quarterly as soon as it had been published. "I've heard a lot about them, actually."

"I was wondering if you'd like to fly one."

"I..." For a moment, the excitement flashed across her face. Then she remembered who was asking her the question, and closed her mouth. "I don't have any combat experience in X-wings."

"That's not a problem," Kyp replied. "There are a lot of ex-Navy pilots in the Dozen. I'm sure they'd be glad to help."

Jaina considered his offer for some time, her eyes turned toward the ground. "No," she finally said, jerking her thumb in Tenel Ka's direction. "No, I'd rather not--I think she could use my help as a copilot."

If Kyp was disappointed, his face didn't show it. "Whatever you want is fine with me. But if you ever want to reconsider, just remember that there'll be a pilot's seat open for you."

"Well, I'll keep that in mind," Jaina replied.

Another throaty bellow interrupted the conversation. "Master Lowbacca wishes to inquire as to how soon we will be leaving," Em Teedee translated for the Wookiee.

Kyp frowned. "We won't be able to leave for about a week. I want to make sure that the XJs are working right before we field-test them."

"Perhaps we can rendezvous on Dathomir, then?" Tenel Ka asked. "It would be nice to visit my great-grandmother."

"Sounds good to me." Durron looked up at the towering Wookiee. "And you, Lowbacca. I take it you'll be going with them as well?"

Lowie bleated a reply that Jacen took to be a yes.

"Good," Kyp finally said. "I'll tell my squadron that we'll meet you on Dathomir." He turned to Tenel Ka again. "Was there any specific place that you wanted us to meet you?"

"The Singing Mountain Clan fortress will do," the redheaded warrior replied. "I will let them know that you're coming."

"Thanks." The older Jedi stopped to shake everyone's hand--and paw--before turning to leave. "Dathomir it is. I'll see all of you there in couple weeks."

Jacen watched Kyp leave, a confused expression on his face. What have I gotten myself into? he wondered.
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:12am, edited 1 time in total.
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[ST/SW] A Prelude to War Chapter 2

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"Captain's Log, Stardate 52128.1.

"After several days at high warp, we have finally reached the object, although my crew seems to be at a disagreement as to its identity. I will add more information to this as we learn more."

Captain Kathryn Janeway moved her hand down to the armrest controls on Voyager's captain's chair and pressed the button that would stop recording her log. They had arrived in the system, as unremarkable as a thousand others they had passed by on their journey through the Delta Quadrant, to find a massive ship--she couldn't think of the object as anything but--drifting, derelict, on a course that would take it within ten thousand kilometers of the fourth planet in several months' time.

She held up a PADD and looked over the parameters for the fourth planet. It was marginally a class M world, with about 15 percent oxygen concentration. Low, but breathable. No traces of intelligence, only native flora and fauna that at least appeared harmless to Voyager's cursory scan. So, she concluded, nothing of real interest.

Janeway looked back to the ship on the viewscreen. It was massive, not to the extent of a Borg Cube but still impressive in its bulk. At the center was a large cylinder, nearly a kilometer in overall length and roughly three hundred meters in diameter. An open framework had been built around its midsection, and attached to that framework were six squat, clamshell-headed structures that were individually approximately six hundred meters long.

She sighed and leaned back. When they had first noticed it, she had immediately suspected it might be something to do with the Borg. However, despite their presence so close nearby, it had not strayed from its course. In fact, it had shown no signs of being active at all. It had no warp core signatures, no impulse drive signatures, nothing even close to what the Borg used despite its rough-finished construction and clusters of pipes and conduits that jutted out from the surface of both the cylinder and the surrounding structures at random.

"Seven, have you been able to find out anything further with your scans?" she casually inquired, not expecting anything to have changed. They had, after all, been watching it for the better part of a day.

"Nothing..." The former Borg drone's voice trailed off suddenly. Janeway turned around to look at her and noticed that her normally calm face had taken on a perplexed expression. "Unusual," she stated. "There are over ten thousand life signs in the central core."

At the conn, Paris let out a slow whistle.

"Why didn't we notice that earlier?" Janeway asked.

Almost as if she was ignoring the question, Seven continued to tap away quietly at the controls. "I am reading high concentrations of neutronium in the hull alloys," she finally stated. "This makes their hulls very effective at blocking Federation sensors."

Janeway nodded. "I guess that explains the lack of shields, then. Their hulls are hardened against radiation. What about those ten thousand? What can you tell us?"

She was again quiet for some time as she worked the controls. "Seventy three point six seven two nine percent correspond to standard humanoid species. The remainder do not correspond to anything in the Federation databases, or species identified by the Borg."

"I'd think that would cover most of the galaxy," Commander Chakotay remarked from the seat next to Janeway.

"Almost," Janeway agreed, "but even the Borg haven't cataloged the galaxy yet. If they had, we'd be in even bigger trouble than we are now." She stood up, stretched, and turned to face Seven. "What else can you tell about them? They haven't responded to standard hails yet..."

There was more quiet tapping from the sensors console. "They are in some form of hibernation," Seven concluded. "All life signs show dramatically slowed metabolic rates. Heartbeats are very faint, almost nonexistent."

Realization dawned on Janeway. "It's a sleeper ship," she said, her voice barely carrying above her breath. "Like the one that Khan Noonien Singh commandeered... but where did they come from?"

"I believe I have an answer for that, Captain," Seven said, unaware that she was responding to a semi-rhetorical question. "There is an unstable system based around a type-4 quantum singularity, twenty-three light-years away along their trajectory. At their current velocity, it would have taken them approximately thirty years to cover the distance."

Janeway paced back and forth across the bridge several times, lost in thought. "Well, if they have been in hibernation, that explains the lack of response to hails. Presumably they do not have any automated equipment or did not consider it necessary. Or perhaps their ship is out of fuel and that's why it's shut down like this. I wonder how they planned on stopping?"

Seven opened her mouth but Janeway waved a hand to cut her off. "No, don't answer that. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation. What I want to know is how can we contact them?"

"Captain, with all due respect," Chakotay remarked from his seat, "I think the more important question is, should we try to make contact?"

Janeway paused momentarily to consider the question. "Yes, we should," she began. "Computer, magnify." As the computer zoomed in on the alien vessel, she pointed at the screen. "Do you see the battle damage? Whatever was back in that system, they took at least as much of a beating as we have during the last several months. I think there's a good chance that we can find some common ground with them, and possibly help each other on our own ways."

Chakotay's gaze followed where her arm was pointing at the screen. "That's some impressive damage," he remarked after several moments had passed. "Whoever caused that must have packed quite a punch... perhaps even the Borg. How can we be sure that their pursuers aren't right behind, waiting to ambush us?"

"The damage characteristics are not consistent with Borg weapons," Seven chimed in from the station behind them. "It appears to have been caused by a combination of coherent beam weapons and focused nuclear initiations. Furthermore, there are no warp or transwarp signatures within a twenty light-year radius of this system."

Janeway turned her head slightly. "Thank you, Seven," she said before focusing back on Chakotay. "There, you see? In fact, it sounds like the weapons were downright primitive. And with all we've been through, I'm sure that we would be more than up to handling a bunch of pre-warp spacefarers with only lasers and nuclear weapons, should they even decide to show up."

Chakotay sighed; it was obvious the Captain was unwilling to budge. "Very well, I'll trust your judgment. How should we proceed?"

"Standard First Contact procedure will suffice," Janeway replied. "Lt. Commander Tuvok, please prepare an away team. We need to see if anyone's still awake over there."

"Of course, Captain. I assume you and Lieutenant Seven will be joining us?" the Vulcan replied.

"Naturally," Janeway replied.

A short time later, Janeway stepped out of the turbolift into the transporter room. Only an ensign was present, attending the control station, and as he stood to attention he pointed her toward the ready room. Apparently a heated discussion was taking place inside, judging from the raised voices she heard on the other side of the door.

"What seems to be the issue?" she asked as she walked in.

"Ah, there you are," B'Elanna Torres, Voyager's chief engineer, sighed in relief. "We're trying to figure out how to get in. Seven doesn't think our transporters will punch through that hull of theirs, and we can't seem to find any weak points, or access hatches, in the cylinder that we can beam through."

"We could go EVA," one of the five ensigns on the team – Alexander Munro, if she remembered correctly – said. "There has to be some sort of external release, or we could just cut our way in."

Janeway shook her head. "No, no cutting. That might look too aggressive."

"Then what?" he asked. "We go and knock politely, and hope they wake up?"

She glared at him before Torres spoke up. "How about the damaged areas?" the half-Klingon engineer asked. "We could beam into one of those sections and enter through the internal doors. That way, we shouldn't trigger any automatic defenses or anything of the sort."

"That sounds like it could work," Janeway agreed. "Tuvok? Can you find a good entry point?"

"Already locked on," he replied. "Everyone, suit up and meet me back at the transporter pad."

It took Janeway longer than she expected to put on the cumbersome EVA suit. The next several minutes were spent checking each other's suits to make sure that none were leaking, and finally they stepped up to the pads.

"Energize," Tuvok ordered, and Voyager's transporter room dissolved into blackness. Janeway reached up and flicked her helmet lights on, casting two cones of light over a complete disaster area. As she surveyed the area, floating in the microgravity, the other team members turned their own lights on.

Whatever the room they were in had been, it was completely ruined. Aside from one end being open to space, the metal surrounding the tear had been melted and distorted inwards. Blackened shapes that could have been pieces of cargo or equipment were scattered around, some half-fused into the walls and others drifting loosely.

"Does anyone see a door?" she asked after looking for several minutes in vain.

"Over here," Ensign Kim's voice rang out through the comm. "But it's behind some debris that I can't get through."

A half-hour's worth of work with a cutting torch later, they had managed to clear the debris – several girders and deck plates had collapsed in front of the bulkhead.

"Damn it, why won't you open!" Lieutenant Torres exclaimed in frustration from in front of the apparent door control panel before she slammed her fist into the wall, then cried out in pain. Her temper had become legendary among the engineering crew, and Janeway had heard rumors of jokes about her short fuse. For some reason, though, when she had asked nobody could remember there being any jokes.

"I'm reading atmosphere beyond the bulkhead," Seven observed as she fiddled with her tricorder. "Perhaps that's why."

Something clicked with B'Elanna and she reached for her commbadge. "Transporter room, this is Lieutenant Torres. We need an emergency containment forcefield generator and an atmosphere kit beamed over here."

"Just a moment," the reply came over the comm. "Let me check with Engineering and we'll set up the point to point transport." Several long moments later, the equipment appeared in a shimmer of light in the middle of the area. B'Elanna wasted no time in grabbing the forcefield generator and clamping it to the wall.

As she was setting it up, Munro and Tuvok drifted past with the atmosphere kit. "Where do you want it?" Tuvok asked.

"Right there is fine," Torres replied, not even looking up from the generator. "OK, look. I don't know how bad the hull breach is, so I'm not even going to try sealing it. What I am going to do is set up a small bubble right outside this door and fill it with normal pressure atmosphere. Hopefully that should let whatever locking mechanisms the door has disengage. I just need everyone to come..." she paused to look down at the equipment, "within three meters of the door."

As Janeway and the others moved in closer, she continued working. "Ready?" she finally asked.

"As ready as we'll ever be," Harry Kim mumbled under his breath.

Twenty minutes of forcefield-contained atmosphere later, the situation had hardly changed.

"What's wrong with this thing?" B'Elanna exclaimed in frustration, holding up her tricorder. "The atmosphere's stabilized, and I'm reading power here... but it's not opening."

Harry coughed conspicuously. "You know, I'm no warp physicist, but maybe you have to push a button..."

Although her silvered helmet visor made it hard to see, the glare that B'Elanna shot back at Harry could have melted several tritanium armor plates. Without saying a word, she turned back to the door and studied the control panel for several seconds before pressing the largest button on the panel.

The blast door groaned open, revealing a pitch dark corridor beyond.

B'Elanna turned and pointed her finger at Harry ominously. "Not. A. Word."

As Harry tried (and failed) to suppress a snicker, Seven studied her tricorder. "The atmosphere inside is within normal levels. No traces of known chemical or biological toxins. I believe it will be safe for us to remove our suits now." She put the tricorder back on her belt and began to unclasp her helmet.

"Good," Torres remarked. "I hate wearing these things." She started by removing her gloves, then took off the helmet.

As Harry lifted his own helmet off, his nose wrinkled as the air hit his face. "It's pretty damn cold in here... stale, too. I wonder how long this ship's been drifting for?"

"Based on the carbon scoring near where we entered, this ship has been adrift for 36 years, plus or minus eleven months," Seven replied a moment later.

Harry looked back at her in surprise. "How'd you figure that one out so fast?"

She held up her tricorder. "It still has high concentrations of a highly radioactive carbon isotope with a half-life of only 60 years."

He shook his head and continued to work at the seals on his suit.

"Wait. How are we going to move if there's no gravity further ahead?" Ensign Munro asked. "We don't have magnetic boots..."

The away team members regarded each other in awkward silence. "Point," B'Elanna said as she zipped her suit back up and attached her helmet and gloves to hooks on her belt.

Tuvok chose that moment to conspicuously clear his throat. "Right. Everyone, check your phasers and turn the lights on. We don't know what might be up ahead."

Harry nodded and pulled out his compression rifle, double-checking the power pack before he switched the flashlight on. The blue-white beam of light cut through the darkness in the corridor, but it was apparently so long that he could still see nothing ahead except blackness. He grimaced briefly; the pitch dark was certainly a change from the eerie green glow of a Borg cube, but it was just as unnerving. It kind of reminded him of a number of Hollywood holodeck horror programs he'd run back on Earth. He didn't remember the exact name of one, but the aliens in it had really burned themselves into his memory. He laughed quietly. As bad as the Borg and Species 8472 were, they had nothing on humanity's own imagination. The part that really scared him was that as large as the galaxy was, there was also a pretty good chance that something like those freaks existed. He just hoped they wouldn't find them on this ship.

He nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt something touch his shoulder.

"Whoa there," B'Elanna exclaimed as she pulled back. "You're jumpy all of a sudden."

"Sorry," Harry replied. "This whole situation just reminded me of a holodeck program I once used back on Earth."

"Which one?" she asked.

"I forgot the name of it... it was about this derelict ship and some aliens that ate everyone on board and then tried to eat you."

B'Elanna shuddered. "Yeah, I think I ran that one once. One of the damn things attached itself to my face. Gave me nightmares for a week."

"Everyone ready?" Tuvok asked, interrupting their conversation. "Let's move."

Quietly, the away team glided forward, the only noise in the corridor produced by the small nitrogen thrusters on their packs. The walls along the corridor remained just as unremarkable save for what appeared to be the occasional access door, giving Harry no reference for distance. By his rough count, they'd passed about three access doors when the corridor came to an abrupt end. Three curved doors covered the end of the walkway, and there were two normal doors on either side.

B'Elanna slid forward and tried the control panel, but the indicators remained dark. "Looks like the power's out. Seven, which way do we need to go?"

Seven lifted up her tricorder to check the display. "We are now approximately in the middle of the ship, on one of the upper decks. We need to go down twenty decks and then find a way through the pylons to the central core."

"Then this must be the turbolift shaft," B'Elanna guessed. "Crap. We're going to have to force the doors and float down the shaft." She slung her compression rifle over her shoulder before pulling a crowbar from her pack. She then jammed it into the gap at the left side of the door, but it wouldn't budge.

Harry pointed at the unfamiliar script printed on the right-hand side of the door. "You sure you have the right side?"

B'Elanna turned around to regard him coolly. "Now you're the expert? Here, you get it open."

He shrugged and moved forward to take the crowbar out, but instead of pulling it out, he pulled himself into the wall with a dull thud. Grimacing, he pushed himself back and braced his feet against the door, then tried to start working the crowbar back and forth. It refused to budge.

"What did you do to this thing?" he finally asked after several more minutes of trying different approaches. "It's completely stuck."

"Let me see." She braced herself and worked it out after only a couple tries, then handed the crowbar over to him. "There. That wasn't so hard, now, was it?"

Harry looked at her in silence for several seconds before wiping the sweat he'd worked up off his brow. "Yeah. Right," he said sarcastically, in between breaths. "You know, if this ship doesn't have artificial gravity, why isn't there anything to hold on to on the walls?"

"They could have gecko-like hands and feet," Munro said with a shrug. "Then they wouldn't need handholds."

"All right, you two. Stop wasting air and get that door open. You did volunteer, after all." B'Elanna snapped out.

"I'm not wasting air," Munro protested. "I'm sure the ship has recirculators."

"Did it ever occur to you that with the crew sleeping, they don't need much air and probably turned off the life support out here to save power?" the engineer replied. "Now why don't you give Harry a hand, I think he needs one."

"I'll be fine," Harry grunted. He'd finally managed to get the crowbar into the right side of the door, but it had only opened by a couple of centimeters. "These doors sure look a lot lighter than they really are..."

Despite Harry's protests, Munro and B'Elanna joined in and after several minutes of pushing, they succeeded in getting the door open wide enough to pass through. She then hammered a scrap of metal into the door track to prevent it from closing after them as a precaution.

The team spent the next few minutes navigating through the turbolift shaft. To their surprise, it actually connected to the framework that held the outer modules to the central core.

Their next challenge was the turbolift car parked at the end of the shaft. The car, fortunately, had an emergency exit in the ceiling that was easily pried open.

"There's some sort of mechanical socket here," B'Elanna remarked from the bottom of the car. She was floating upside-down relative to the car, inspecting the control area. "It could be an override key... Munro, could you pass me a screwdriver?"

When he gave her the screwdriver, she took it and began to fiddle with the mechanism. "It's no use," she said after a while. "It's got too many cylinders, and it looks like it has some sort of data socket inside. Hand me that crowbar again."

Harry passed the crowbar along to her, and they managed to get both the inner and outer doors opened relatively quickly.

Just like all the corridors so far, the lighting in this one was off.

Seven held her tricorder up and scanned the display. "The life signatures are now two decks below and one hundred meters forward, relative to our present position."

"All right," Janeway said, moving to the front of the group. "Let's keep moving. Hopefully we can help them."

As they started forward again, suddenly and without any warning gravity took hold, sending the entire away team unceremoniously crashing down to the deck.

"Ow!" Harry sat up and rubbed his head, where he had banged it into the deck plates. "Guess they do have artificial gravity after all."

"What's that noise?" Munro asked.

"What noise?" B'Elanna answered the question with a question as she came to her feet, noticing that the gravity was slightly stronger than the Earth standard that Starfleet used.

"That low pitched hum that just started a moment ago, after the gravity resumed."

She focused for a moment. "I hear it, but I don't have any idea. The gravity just came on, so it could be that life support is restarting."

Janeway's commbadge chose that moment to chime. "This is the captain," she answered a moment later.

"Captain, it's Chakotay. Did you find what you were looking for?"

"We're close," she replied, frowning slightly at the quesiton. "Why?"

"You didn't find the helm controls or anything?"

Her frown deepened as she tried to guess where he was going. "No, why do you ask?"

"The ship is beginning to rotate and we're picking up fusion byproducts and ions from the stern. I'd say it's preparing to perform a braking maneuver."

"Oh." She looked around at the away team for a moment before her face went ashen. "Chakotay, can you read any sort of inertial dampening on this ship?"

"Hang on." A moment later, the badge chimed again. "There's nothing that we're familiar with. I am seeing some gravity distortions, but there are no active subspace fields."

"Thanks," Janeway replied, taking her hand off the badge afterward. "Seven, which way is aft?"

She pointed at the wall behind them.

"OK. Everyone, press your backs against that wall. I hope this thing doesn't go over ten Gs, or we're all in trouble..."

Her badge chimed again. "Captain, the power readings are ramping up. We think it'll be ready to fire in about thirty seconds."

Barely fifteen seconds had passed when the familiar chiming noise came once more. "It's firing. Are you OK?"

Perplexed, Janeway took a step forward. "Thanks, Chakotay. We didn't feel a thing. Let us know if anything else happens."

"Of course, Captain," Chakotay answered. "We'll keep you informed."

"Interesting," Seven remarked as everyone looked at each other and shrugged. "They must use the same technology as their artificial gravity for their inertial dampeners."

B'Elanna took on a thoughtful look as they started walking down the corridor. "What do the Borg use?"

"Subspace, like the Federation."

She nodded. "I wonder how you'd use artificial gravity technology to counter inertia..." she said, more to herself than anyone else. "I suppose if you could produce a sort of localized pseudo-gravity field, you could create attraction in the opposite direction of acceleration... but then you'd have problems with sudden changes because you're always reacting... The deflector dish might be a good starting point, I could isolate and reverse the polarity, run the power level up, and focus it in instead of out... Have to evacuate engineering first, though, don't want to hurt anyone..."

"Should I be worried about her?" Munro asked Harry, jerking his thumb in B'Elanna's direction as she continued babbling technical jargon to herself while Seven listened. "She's not going to go start building some experimental contraption now, is she? I like to keep my internal organs safely inside me."

Harry shook his head. "Nah. Her eyes glaze over like that whenever she's thinking hard... it's an engineer thing. Start worrying when she asks for weird elements, parts, or tools you've never heard of."

As they kept walking, the corridor turned first right, then left, then sloped downward for a good few meters. Harry noticed that they had passed through several dividers that looked like open doorways, which was odd because they were almost the full width of the walkway.

Several more bends, turns, and one intersection later, he was surprised when the lights suddenly came on, leaving him and the rest of the away team blinking like owls. The next thing he heard was an odd rumbling noise. At the end of the hallway ahead an odd, metallic copper-colored wheel rolled in and stopped, suddenly unfolding arms and legs.

"Take cover!" Tuvok exclaimed when he realized a moment later that its odd arms, which lacked any kind of manipulators, each had two long tubes – and both were pointed straight at them. Harry was yanked aside as Munro dove for the cover of one of the bulkheads they had passed through. Moments later, there was a loud cracking sound and bright bursts of reddish light flashed past where they had been standing.

"We must have tripped the intruder defenses when we forced that last door open," B'Elanna said angrily. She took a look around the bulkhead and just as quickly jerked her head back as more fire whizzed past.

"It's protected by a forcefield," Tuvok observed after taking a shot at it, only to have it bounce off a scintillating blue bubble that appeared around the mobile turret. "Seven, can you get a reading on it when I fire?"

"It's too strong for phasers," she replied moments after he fired again. "A type 9 photon grenade might work."

"Which we don't have. We'll have to get out of here," Janeway answered, tapping her commbadge. "Janeway to the Bridge. Can you get a transporter lock on us?"

"Negative," Chakotay replied several moments later. "What's going on?"

"The ship's waking up," she answered. "Apparently we tripped some automated defenses and they've got us pinned down."

There was silence from the other end for a long moment. "We'll keep trying to get a lock," Chakotay finally said. "Can you get back to where you came in?"

Janeway looked over at Tuvok. "What do you think?"

The Vulcan shook his head. "Our suits' thrusters are not strong enough to counteract the gravity on this ship. We also will not be able to climb the turbolift shaft as there are no ladders built into the shafts."

There was a clanking sound and Harry glanced around the corner briefly. "It's walking towards us," he said.

"Seven--what about other exits? Are there any escape pods?" Janeway asked.

Seven hurriedly tapped at her tricorder. "Unknown, Captain. However, the other direction at the intersection we passed may lead back to the surface of this part of the ship."

Janeway nodded. "Then let's go that way. Seven, you lead. Tuvok, keep an eye on our backs. Move!"

They quickly got up and began running along the walls of the corridor. Harry, Alex, and the other ensigns all kept looking over their shoulders and firing at the unrelenting turret. As they came to another bulkhead, they all dove behind it again and paused to catch their breath.

Harry looked around at everyone. Somehow, when Alex had pulled him out of the way, they had wound up on one side with the other three ensigns while the Captain, Tuvok, and Seven were on the other side of the corridor. He suddenly realized that they were going to have to jump across the corridor somehow because the bend ahead was on the other side.

"I wish we could have taken these suits off," B'Elanna lamented. "It's nearly impossible to run in these things!"

"At least the suit provides some protection," one of the ensigns next to Harry remarked. Harry winced; that usually wasn't the kind of remark one wanted to make in this sort of situation.

"Go for the next bulkhead!" Tuvok ordered, and the team sprinted down the corridor again. Harry began running backwards, spraying the turret with automatic fire from his compression rifle for all it was worth, and watching nervously as the crimson shots continued to lance through the hallway. There was an explosion and a choked scream next to him, and Harry felt several stinging sensations as his side and face was hit with shrapnel. He glanced sideways at the ensign--Allen, he thought--and saw him crash to the deck in a steaming heap, his suit's propellant pack replaced with a boiling cold white crater. So that's where the shrapnel had come from; apparently the shot had hit the liquid nitrogen tank inside the pack, causing it to explode. Probably froze the poor guy's chest instantly...

"Keep going!" Tuvok shouted. "When we pass the next bulkhead, go right!"

They dove through the next bulkhead a moment later, and Harry again glanced back as he caught his breath. The turret had stopped firing for a moment, and was retracting into a wheel again. He quickly aimed and fired at it. The blast struck the copper-colored metal instead of being deflected, but didn't even leave a mark on the apparent armor.

"That thing's got some serious armor on it, whatever it is," he remarked as he ducked back behind the bulkhead. "My rifle didn't even scratch it."

"Hey, there's a control panel here," B'Elanna exclaimed a moment later. She quickly began jabbing at the controls on it to no effect.

Harry looked around the corner again. The turret was fast; it had already covered half the distance to them in that short amount of time. "Forget trying to figure it out – just shoot the panel!"

Nodding, B'Elanna picked her rifle back up, took a few steps back, and fired. The panel exploded in a shower of sparks, and with a loud whirring noise a heavy blast door began sliding out of the bulkhead. Several seconds later, they were sealed off from the turret, although they could hear it clanking at the other side of the door. Harry sagged against the wall in relief.

"Let's take off our suits," Janeway said after she had caught her breath. "These damned things nearly got all of us killed back there. Speaking of which, did we lose someone?"

"Ensign Allen, Captain," Harry replied.

"Is he alive?"

Harry shook his head sadly. "He took a shot to his thruster pack. I think the liquid nitrogen froze his chest instantly. Couldn't have done him any good..."

Janeway was silent for a moment. "There probably wasn't much you could have done about it, Harry."

"I know."

After a moment of silence for the crewman, they continued on along the other corridor, stopping after several minutes when Seven held up her hand.

"There's a shaft on the other side of this door. It should lead directly to where the crew of this ship is."

"Do we want to go there?" one of the other ensigns asked. "There could be more of those turret things."

"Well, we left our suits behind, so our only other choice is to find out where the escape pods are... and it doesn't look like there are any on this ship," Harry found himself saying.

Janeway opened her mouth to say something but then they all heard that ominous rolling sound.

"Oh, come on!" B'Elanna exclaimed. "How the heck did that thing get through the blast door? It must have been a half meter thick!"

"Well, that settles it," Janeway said. "Down the shaft."

"We're going to have to force this door as well," B'Elanna said. "There's no panel, just a lock like the one in the turbolift."

They all looked at each other. The rolling noise was getting steadily louder, and they expected it to pop around the corner any minute. B'Elanna slammed the crowbar into the crack of the door, and they all yanked on it as hard as they could. Apparently this door was built lighter than the turbolift doors, because it actually popped off its track and bent outward, allowing them to pry it further up and duck inside.

By the time the turret arrived, Harry was the last one standing in the corridor. As the machine began to unfold itself, he threw himself toward the open door, somehow catching a ladder rung inside. He hauled himself down as fast as his arms could move, and just hoped that the infernal machine couldn't use ladders.

"Harry," B'Elanna called from far below him, "you just have to see this."

The shaft opened out on a vast room, which stretched out over a hundred meters in any direction that Harry could see. Across the floor, neatly arranged like pillars, were thousands of two and a half meter tall black slabs.

"This is really weird," Munro remarked. "It's almost like a graveyard."

"Except they're in hibernation," Harry reminded him. He walked forward and started circling one of the slabs. On one side, a humanoid body protruded slightly in the strange black material, its facial expression appearing neutral. "What is this stuff?"

"It's carbonite," Seven answered, standing in front of another slab. "One species the Borg encountered used it to preserve food as part of a cryogenic process. We regarded it as a useless curiosity--I never would have guessed it could also be used to preserve living beings."

"So when are the crew going to wake up?" Munro asked.

B'Elanna turned around and shrugged. "No idea. It's probably on a timer, and since the ship seems to be powering itself back up..." She trailed off as a high-pitched, warbling noise unlike anything they had ever heard began coming from the slab Seven was standing in front of.

"What happened?" she asked Seven. The entire figure, encased in the carbonite, was beginning to give off a reddish glow.

"The controls were simple," Seven explained. "The carbonite casing is dissolving right now, which will wake the person inside from hibernation."

"Okay..." B'Elanna took a few steps back as the glow grew brighter. Pinholes of bright white light formed all over, increasing in size and coming together to form larger areas. She realized a moment later that the white was actually caused by the dissolving carbonite, as skin color could now be seen through the holes in the rapidly disappearing carbonite.

Several seconds later, the carbonite casing had completely dissolved, leaving the man unsupported. As he began to fall forward, groaning slightly, B'Elanna jumped toward him and grabbed one arm as Seven grabbed the other.

Now that he was free of the carbonite, B'Elanna had the chance to take a good look at him. Oddly enough, he looked completely human--sandy blond hair of medium length, average build, no distinctive bone formations that might identify him as one of the many humanoid races of the galaxy, and even his eyes looked perfectly normal with round pupils and grayish-blue irises.

She realized a moment later that he was staring at her with probably a pretty good mirror image of the curious look she had. Oh well. Might as well introduce herself.

"Hello... I'm B'Elanna Torres, from the Federation starship Voyager."

The man blinked several times as if confused, and coughed. Then he said some gibberish that was completely unintelligible even to her universal translator.

"Uh... Seven? Did you pick up any of that?"

Seven shook her head. "It doesn't sound like any of the languages the Borg encountered."

B'Elanna turned back to the strange man. "Where are you from?" she asked.

The man coughed again. "Corellia."

Her eyebrows went up dramatically. Maybe Corellia was the name of the system that the ship had come from. "You can understand me?"

He nodded.

"What is your name?"

"Dellen Coureran," he answered, his vowels oddly accented.

B'Elanna nodded. Now they were getting somewhere. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Coureran." She paused. "We were stranded in this part of the galaxy and were trying to get home when we found your ship drifting."

The man just nodded. "Me... see," he said, sounding unsure of what he was saying.

"I see," B'Elanna corrected him.

He smiled briefly before pointing forward. "I see. Go..."

"Go?" she asked. "That way?"

When he nodded, she looked over at Seven and the rest of the away team, wondering why he wanted that. "Let's walk over there."

As it turned out, the side of the room that he wanted to walk to held what B'Elanna could only assume was a computer terminal. They helped him get into the seat in front of the terminal, and he blinked and peered at the screen, tapping commands into it. She studied the screen but couldn't make any sense of the alien glyphs, which looked slightly like a blockier version of Klingon writing.

Several minutes later, she heard mechanical whirring and clicking noises and spun around, expecting to see another one of the deadly turrets. What greeted her instead was a chrome-plated, stylized humanoid figure walking stiffly forward. In its face were a pair of wide, glowing eyes and a small square opening for a mouth, giving it an eternally surprised look. Whatever it was, it definitely didn't look threatening – but then again, things that looked harmless were often the most dangerous...

"Dellen?" she asked, unsure what was going on.

He turned around to see, and apparently recognizing the chrome figure, began speaking rapidly to it. It responded in the same odd language, and Dellen turned back to face her.

"Talk," he said.

"About what?" She honestly had no idea what he was getting at.

He shrugged. "Learn. Talk."

She looked back at the shiny figure. "Translator?"

"Trans-la-tor," he said slowly, the word coming out with the same accent. "Learn. Talk."

She looked over at Seven. "That machine's a translator," she said, finally realizing. "We should talk to each other so it can begin to understand us."

"What do you want to talk about?" Seven asked.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "How should I know? Stuff we'd talk about to a child, I guess. I'll start. Seven, how was your day?"

"My day went well," Seven replied. "Until the robot turret tried to kill me."

"Same here," B'Elanna muttered. "I don't know what else to talk about. I'm not exactly a schoolteacher..." Her face brightened and she turned to Dellen. "I have an idea. Is your translator capable of teaching your language?"

He nodded. "You want... translator... teach you?"

"Yes," she replied, tapping the side of her head. "We have Univeral Translators implanted that are capable of learning new languages."

Dellen turned toward the translator and gave it some rapid instructions. It shuffled forward and stiffly extended an arm. "I am E-4PO," and the next few words came out unintelligible. "I will teach you translator."

Seven and B'Elanna looked at each other. "I think this is going to take a while," B'Elanna remarked.
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:15am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Star Empire »

very good so far.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Darth Nostril »

Woah, Chakotey grew a pair!
So I stare wistfully at the Lightning for a couple of minutes. Two missiles, sharply raked razor-thin wings, a huge, pregnant belly full of fuel, and the two screamingly powerful engines that once rammed it from a cold start to a thousand miles per hour in under a minute. Life would be so much easier if our adverseries could be dealt with by supersonic death on wings - but alas, Human resources aren't so easily defeated.

Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time!

My weird shit NSFW
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »


Pitch darkness.

He felt himself falling forward in the inky blackness, only to have his arms caught by someone. Blinking, he tried to gather some more information about his surroundings. He could hear someone babbling next to him in a language that he didn't understand a word of. Other than that, the surrounding area was eerily quiet.

That's strange, he thought. If the ship was waking up, he should be hearing the buzz of activity as the droids went through and awakened the other passengers. Yet there was nothing of the sort.

He focused on the two people standing next to him, reaching out to try and understand what they were saying.

I'm B'Elanna Torres, from the Federation Starship Voyager, one of them said. The language appeared to be fairly simple, although its vowels were oddly shifted from what he was used to in Basic. The grammar also appeared to be slightly backwards when he considered how the words he heard compared to the actual meaning he'd picked up.

He tried to speak in reply, to introduce himself, but nothing came out. His throat felt as if someone had poured sand down it while he had been asleep, and he involuntarily coughed.

"What Federation?" he asked, trying to clear the darkness from his eyes. The women standing next to him appeared be confused by his reply and babbled to each other.

Seven, did you pick up any of that? The first one asked.

It doesn't sound like any of the languages the Borg encountered, the other one – he guessed she was Seven – replied. Kind of an odd name for a person. As he continued to try to get his eyes to function, B'Elanna spoke again.

Where are you from? She asked.

It was a pretty simple question, all said. "Corellia," he answered, and from the confusion he again sensed he guessed that they didn't know where it was.

You can understand me?

He started to speak but realized he didn't know their word for yes yet, and nodded instead.

What is your name?

Easy enough question. "Jedi Master Dellen Coureran, at your service," he managed to get out in between coughs.

Pleased to meet you, Mr. Coureran, she replied in that strange language. We were stranded in this part of the galaxy and were trying to get home when we found your ship drifting.

He tried to form a reply in their own language, guessing which words were what. Evidently it didn't quite come out right.

I see, she corrected him immediately.

"I see," he repeated with a smile, trying to figure out what to do next. As he'd been working at his eyes, he had managed to go from seeing only blackness to seeing blinding white light. No shapes were forthcoming yet. He reached out to sense where he was, and realized that he really could use one of those blasted 4PO units. Where were they when you needed them, anyway?

He reached out and tried to guess the word he needed from the women. "Go," he experimented, pointing in the direction he guessed was the nearest terminal.

"Go?" she asked, apparently confused by the request. That way?

He nodded in assent. At least they were getting somewhere. The two women began walking forward, and he tried to convince his legs to move but was somewhat unprepared for how stiff they were. Well, he had been frozen in that block for... well, if they were in the system already it would have had to been around seventy years to account for the acceleration, travel, and deceleration. Then again, with the relative effects of time at the near-light speeds they had tried to hit, it probably would have only seemed like twenty on board the ship...

By the time they had reached the terminal, he was able to see rough, slightly blurry shapes. The two women helped him sit down, and he peered at the screen, trying to make out the Aurebesh lettering it showed. Several false starts later, he had managed to access the ship's droid control subsystem, requesting a protocol droid be sent to their location.

While they waited, he continued to search through the system and noticed that the ship had responded to a perimeter security breach of the storage core only a few minutes before. It had sent two droidekas in response. Intrigued, Dellen checked the current status. Both droids were still active, only two levels above them.

He leaned back and considered the situation. He still had his lightsaber at his belt, but in his present state, with his muscles still not reacting correctly, he would be vulnerable if the visitors decided to become aggressive. The decision made, he leaned closer to the terminal and entered new commands to send the two droids to the main storage area and await his commands.

He didn't have to wait long for the protocol droid, which shuffled forward, its head tilted slightly to one side.

"How may I be of service, Master Coureran?" the droid asked.

"I need you to start learning their language," he instructed it.

"Of course, Master."

Dellen turned around to face group. "I need you to talk," he asked, in a mixture of Basic and the words he'd picked up from the visitors.

About what? She replied.

He shrugged, trying to figure out the correct reply. "The droid will learn what you say. I just need you to talk."

Translator? She asked. Apparently his last reply wasn't as clear as he had hoped.

"Translator," he said slowly, imitating her voice. "Yes. It learns when you talk."

She and the other woman spoke briefly for a short time, but it was immediately clear to Dellen that both were very technical and didn't feel comfortable trying to teach their language.

Is your translator capable of teaching your language? The first one, B'Elanna, asked.

"You want the translator to teach you?" he asked, slightly confused. They hadn't shown any signs of understanding the Basic he was speaking, and only appeared to be picking up the word or two of their language that he was repeating.

Yes. She tapped the side of her head. We have Universal Translators implanted that are capable of learning languages.

Dellen turned back to the protocol droid and told it to begin one of its instructional programs. It shuffled forward, extended an arm, and greeted the visitors.

Several hours later, when the droid had finished its beginner teaching program, Dellen stood up and walked over to where the group was seated in front of the droid.

"How well can you understand me now?" he asked.

"Perfectly," one of the women said as she came to her feet. "I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager, and these are members of my crew."

He extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Jedi Master Dellen Coureran, official historian of the Outbound Flight."

She took his hand and shook it. "Likewise. Now, we do have some questions. Where are you from?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing myself," he replied. "I'm from Corellia. The rest of our crew and colonists were picked from systems all over the galaxy."

"All over..." She paused. "This galaxy?"

Dellen drew his head back. "This galaxy? No... our galaxy is pretty far away from here."

"How long did it take to get all of the crew, if they came from all over the galaxy?" Torres asked.

"About a week," Dellen replied. The mouths of most of Voyager's crew hung agape now, and he decided to try breaking the ice a bit. "Well, going by the looks on your faces, I take it that would be pretty unheard-of here."

"Um..." Torres' wrinkled forehead was even more scrunched up in thought. "How big is your galaxy, anyway?"

"Well, from what we could see... about ten percent larger than this one," Dellen replied.

"Amazing," Munro half whispered.

"We've..." Janeway's voice trailed off, and she was obviously trying to think of how to word it. "We've been trapped in this part of the galaxy for close to five years, trying to get home. Our best estimates give us another fifty or sixty years to go."

This time it was Dellen's turn to be speechless. Somewhere in the seventy or so thousand years between the first sleeper ships and the invention of the modern hyperdrive, there had been a number of attempts to break the lightspeed barrier. All those different methods had been quickly replaced with the advent of the modern hyperdrive. "I'm... sorry to hear that," he replied. "You know what, we might actually be able to help you. I'll just have to wake up the commander so we can discuss it." He pointed to the terminal, which Seven was currently seated in front of. "Do you mind?"

"No," Seven said as she came to her feet.

Dellen took the seat, swiveling around to face the terminal, and started working away at it. A short time later, he stood back up. "The medical and security staff will be awakened first, so you'll have to wait for the commander. There's a room not too far from here where you can sit and rest for a bit while we get everything ready."

"Of course," Janeway replied.

He waved an open hand toward an exit. "If you would follow me?"

After leaving the visitors in one of the storage rooms, Dellen walked back to the main storage room, where the crew were slowly beginning to wake up. He mentally counted the aisles of carbon-freeze units and turned down one, passing several dozen units before stopping at one he recognized the markings of. After activating the controls and waiting for the carbonite to evaporate, he helped the gray-haired man down.

"Master Dellen," the gray-haired man addressed him, although his eyes were still unfocused and staring off into space behind him as a side effect of the hibernation sickness. "Bypassing protocols again, I see. Is there some sort of emergency?"

"Well, not exactly, Master C'baoth," Dellen replied. "We're within the destination system already. However, some local spacefarers stumbled across us and accidentally set off the security systems."

"Are they hostile?"

"No... well, this is going to sound very strange, but they're... ah... human."

C'baoth's eyebrows moved up about half a centimeter. "Indeed?"

"Yes. They're from a government they call the Federation, located on the other side of this galaxy. They've been trapped here for the past five years trying to get back. I was thinking that we might be able to help them."

The gray eyebrows went back down as a frown crept across C'baoth's face. "They don't know about hyperspace."

"I didn't ask, but I would assume that's the reason."

"I see." C'baoth went quiet for a moment. "So we have a contact scenario on our hands. Have you begun the startup procedures?"

"Yes," Dellen replied. "The ship was already in standby when they woke me up. I immediately had the droids start bringing the rest of the crew out of hibernation."

"And where are our visitors?"

"In one of the storage lockers nearby. Master C'baoth, do you want to meet them now or should we wait for the other Masters?"

C'baoth blinked several times, obviously trying to clear his vision. "No sense in wasting time," he replied after a moment had passed. "If the other Masters wish to join, they will know where to find us."

. . .

Janeway was mildly surprised when Dellen returned with another human. It was immediately obvious that he was older than Dellen, with a full head of gray hair that he wore in a loose ponytail and a fairly short beard of the same color that adorned his sharp chin. Like Dellen, he was wearing a simple, rough brown robe tied at the waist. The overall effect was similar to that of the Tibetan monks back on Earth, although they tended to wear brightly colored robes. The other major difference was that while the Tibetan monks never carried anything with them, a silver cylinder about twenty centimeters long hung from the new man's belt.

Dellen stepped forward. "Members of Voyager, may I introduce you to the administrator of the Outbound Flight Project, Master Jorus C'baoth. Master C'baoth, these are the visitors I was telling you about."

At the introduction, she came to her feet, stretching out her hand in greeting. "On behalf of my crew, I would like to thank you for your hospitality," she began. "My name is Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation starship Voyager, and these are the members of my away team."

The introductions briefly went around, with many handshakes to accompany them. After they had finished, Janeway looked straight at Master C'baoth. "I apologize for the sudden request, but we lost a member of our team to your ship's defenses. I would like to know if we could take his body back for a proper funeral as soon as possible."

"I'm very sorry to hear that," C'baoth replied. "Just let us know where it happened, and we'll have the maintenance droids bring the body here."

He had barely finished speaking when Seven replied. "Ensign Allen died two decks above us, approximately fifty meters aft of the access shaft we entered through."

C'baoth turned to face the younger Master. "Dellen, go take care of that if you would, and meet us in the main conference room on D-One."

"Of course," Dellen replied, turning away immediately.

"Now, if you could follow me?" C'baoth asked, but Janeway got the feeling that the question was more of a demand than a simple question.

As it turned out, the conference room was far larger than what Janeway had expected. The solid table at its center, inlaid with intricate designs carved of a very dark colored wood, could have easily seated well over twenty people. The walls of the room were covered with tapestries, which Seven quickly discovered were actually holographic displays.

Shortly after they had all sat down, a humanoid (at the top, at least; the legs tapered into a sphere) robot rolled in and asked in a carefully metered, feminine voice if they wanted anything. Not knowing what their hosts ate or drank, they all asked for water. The robot smoothly rolled out of sight and then re-appeared minutes later with a metal pitcher covered in condensation and enough glasses for everyone.

As they settled in, C'baoth turned to face Janeway. "What's your story?"

Brief and to the point, Janeway thought to herself. He certainly didn't waste any time. She mentally shrugged and decided to go along with it.

"Five years ago, we were sent to investigate the disappearance of a ship in a dangerous area of space, about 70,000 light-years from here. When we got there, we were hit with a strange wave of energy that transported us to this quadrant. Our ship was heavily damaged, and many of our crew died.

"Well, after that, we found the ship we had been looking for. They were in worse condition than we were, and the survivors became part of our crew. We've had a few additions along the way – our ship's cook, Neelix, was a local scavenger who we ran across. And, of course, Seven of Nine here is a former Borg drone.

"But it hasn't all been bad. A parting gift from one of the crew we picked up moved us ten thousand light-years closer. Which leaves us, right now, about fifty years away from home."

C'baoth leaned forward slightly, his hand resting on an open palm as if in thought. "Dellen did mention that to me. As it so happens, I think we might be able to take you in tow back to your home."

Janeway frowned. "But... aren't your drive systems disabled? I mean, why have you been cruising at impulse for the last thirty years?"

"Well, I was going to explain that later, but since you asked...

At that moment, the door to the conference room hissed open and Dellen entered, accompanied by a brown-haired woman of medium build and a tall, balding, middle-aged man.

"Ah, you made it," C'baoth said without missing a beat. "Captain Janeway, may I introduce Jedi Master Justyn Ma'Ning and Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler. Master Ma'Ning is in charge of Jedi operations on D-Four, and Jedi Jinzler is my former Padawan."

"Pleased to meet you," Janeway said as she came to her feet.

"Excuse me," a voice piped up next to her, and she glanced over to see Seven looking intently at C'baoth. "Are you all Jedi?"

Master Ma'Ning broke the sudden silence with a deep laugh. "No, of course not. There are about ten thousand colonists on this mission, along with another thousand Republic Navy crewmen to run the Dreadnaughts."

"What are the Jedi?"

Ma'Ning glanced over at C'baoth briefly before answering. "We are the guardians of the Republic. For over a thousand generations we have stood between the Republic and all its threats, both from within and without."

"So you're police?" Munro asked.

"Not exactly," Ma'Ning replied. "We act as peacekeepers when it is necessary. That is but one of the many tasks the Force calls on us to perform."

"The Force?" Janeway asked, now genuinely curious.

"The energy that binds the universe together," C'baoth answered. "We, the Jedi, have been granted the power of the Force. It responds to each of us differently. For some, it grants visions of past, present and possible futures. For others," he waved his hand and the pitcher of water on the table floated up and began to fill all the glasses, "it grants control over matter and energy. These are but a few of the many gifts offered by the Force. In return, as Master Ma'Ning so eloquently put it, we must follow the will of the Force.

"Now, back to the original subject, I believe you were interested in how we got here. Is that correct?"

Janeway simply nodded.

"Sixty years ago, our mission launched from the Yaga Minor shipyards. To test the ship, we set out through the uncharted areas of the galactic halo. At our last navigational stop, we were attacked by an unknown force that damaged many of our systems. Master Fernas, our navigator, then made an uncharted jump that from the best of our knowledge, took us through either a black hole, wormhole, or some strange sort of hyperspace disturbance.

"And that is how we arrived here. We discovered that our fuel tanks had been breached, so after making repairs we used the food-preservation equipment aboard the ship to enter hibernation while we generated more fuel. We were going to begin our search for life once we reached the system, but obviously you discovered us first."

"So..." Janeway considered the implications. "You're explorers, from another galaxy?"

"I suppose you could put it that way," C'baoth replied. "I personally prefer to think of us as pioneers. You see, when the hyperdrive was first invented, many people, including more than a few Jedi, set out in search of new worlds. After several thousand years, most of the galaxy had been mapped out. The Republic, founded during that time, turned its focus in toward itself and has not looked out beyond its borders since. The people of our galaxy have grown complacent; they no longer view the universe with wonder. To them, planets, star systems, those are just a place to live and fight over.

"But to us, the universe is a place of limitless potential. Who knows what wonders lie among the stars? The power of the Force is as vast as space itself. I feel that there is no greater sign of that than the fact that you sit here before us, nearly eighty million light-years away from our home."

Janeway nodded. "I suppose, then, it might come as no surprise to you that part of the mission of Starfleet is to boldly go where no one has gone before." She felt a twinge of pride resonate as she repeated the words Cochrane had uttered over two hundred years before.

"A worthy sentiment," C'baoth agreed.

"Well, this has been a wonderful history lesson," Janeway replied, "but I think we need to get to business. You mentioned taking us in tow. How would that be possible, and how long will it take?"

"It would first depend on your ship," C'baoth answered. "I'm not sure what we would have to do to prepare it for hyperspace travel. Are you at all familiar with hyperspace?"

Janeway shook her head. "If by hyperspace, you mean a higher domain of subspace, then we have a number of theories on the subject but I was unaware that it was possible to exploit the domain for travel."

"Minor details, I'm sure," C'baoth replied. "Our engineers can work on the implementation with your engineers. Now, do you have up to date starmaps?"

The captain looked over at Tuvok with some concern. "Is that necessary?"

C'baoth nodded. "In order to navigate hyperspace, the jumps must be plotted first. If we have bad astronomical data, then there's a chance of flying into a star's mass shadow or even something as small as an asteroid, which could have very bad – and unpredictable – effects. Thousands of starships are lost each year from such navigational errors."

"But you said that you flew through a black hole to get here?" Janeway asked.

"With the Force guiding us," C'baoth replied. "That is not a feat I would want anyone else to try."

"I see," she replied, letting her shoulders drop with a sigh. "Well, I suppose there's no harm in letting you see the star charts we have. After all, we would be in this together. Now, as far as our government goes, what are your intentions when we arrive?"

"Per our charter, we would open diplomatic contact with your Federation. Our goal would be friendly, mutual understanding between your government and ours. To that end, we would like to set up a world as a Republic colony in peaceful coexistence."

"A laudable goal," Janeway agreed. "So, is there anything else we need to do before we start working with you?"

C'baoth leaned forward, pulling out a datapad and a stack of flimsiplast sheets. "For the sake of both of our crews, I would like to work out a contract with you that will limit the responsibilities that each of us carries. Most of this would be quite standard and basic, so that if any differences arise once we've embarked on this project, we can settle those disputes without any heated arguments. Is this agreeable to you?"

"Of course," Janeway replied. "While you're working on that, if it's all right with you, we would like to hold a funeral for Ensign Allen back on Voyager. Please feel free to contact us when you're ready."

C'baoth set the datapad down and looked up as Janeway came to her feet. "I don't believe we ever discussed how to communicate with your ship," he remarked.

"Oh. Of course," Janeway replied, barely missing a beat. "Torres, would you give them a list of our standard hailing frequencies?"

Torres nodded in acknowledgement, pulling out her datapad and tapping away.

"One last question," C'baoth said as he came to his feet. "I believe you entered through D-Three. Do you have a shuttle waiting? If so, I can make arrangements for them to dock in this ship's hangar."

Janeway paused for a minute as she considered it. "We used matter transporters to beam over, but we entered through D-Three, as you call it, because we found that the transporters don't function through your hull materials. We'll need to go somewhere that won't block the transporters."

The Jedi Master considered the request. "I think the hangar bay should work in that case as well," he declared, turning to face the other Jedi. "Jedi Jinzler, would you mind escorting our guests to the hangar bay?"

"Of course, Master," she replied deferentially, turning to face Janeway. "Follow me, please."

As they followed the young Jedi out of the room, Janeway increased her pace to match until she was walking alongside Lorana.

"So..." she began, not quite knowing how to put it. "How did you wind up on this mission?"

"I was Master C'baoth's apprentice," Lorana answered. "The Council granted me the rank of Jedi Knight three weeks before the mission, after which they assigned me here."

"That sounds ... sudden."

Lorana shrugged. "It came as a bit of a surprise. I'm only 22. Most Padawans have to wait until they're around 25 before they become full Jedi. It all depends on your skill, of course."


"Your strength in the various disciplines of the Jedi. There's no single standard for Jedi, since we fill so many different roles."

"And what's yours?" Janeway asked.

Lorana gave another noncommittal shrug. "To be completely honest, I'm not really sure. I guess I'm pretty good at mediating, because for the last couple of weeks... well, I mean the last couple of weeks before we went into hibernation, anyway, I've been working with the crew and colonists whenever they had arguments."

"Are there are lot?" Janeway asked as they rounded another corner and walked up to another blast door. Next to the control panel for the blast door was some of the strange lettering that Dellen had earlier explained was called Aurebesh.

She leaned over and tapped the control panel. "Arguments? Not too many, but there were a few disagreements with several of the families. Master C'baoth wanted to begin training a number of the children but the parents didn't want them to be taken away. We eventually agreed to begin the training without separating anyone."

"Ah." The blast doors hissed open to reveal the hangar bay, which held two oddly shaped craft that Janeway assumed to be shuttles, plus a number of shuttlecraft-sized blocks that she guessed were cargo containers. "Well, I think we'll be fine from here."

Lorana looked around the hangar. "But there's no shuttle."

"We don't need one," Janeway replied. "You'll see. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your hospitality."

"You're quite welcome," Lorana replied.

Janeway reached up and tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to the Bridge. We're ready for beam-out."

Moments later, the entire away team vanished with a strange sparkling effect. Lorana blinked several times in surprise before heading back into the ship.

. . .

Several hours later, Janeway and Tuvok were back in the conference room on D-One.

"I hope the contract is to your satisfaction." C'baoth pushed two datapads across the table, which the two Starfleet officers picked up and began reading. To Janeway, the contract looked like a fairly standard waiver of liability. She paged through it and didn't see anything that looked immediately objectionable, then set it down.

Tuvok, meanwhile, was taking his time reading it, and after several minutes held out the datapad for Janeway. "Captain, did you read this section?"

Janeway picked up the datapad and her face went ashen. She dropped the pad to the desk and leaned across the table toward C'baoth. "Just who do you think you are, to have the nerve to ask for blood samples of my crew?"

C'baoth blinked. "I assure you, I meant no offense by the request." He paused. "You see, there are several markers that can determine if a person is potentially Force-sensitive. We would simply like to find out if those markers exist in this galaxy."

Janeway shook her head. "I will not have my crew used as guinea pigs. We would not even consider making such a request of you, although we have had our own questions about how humans ended up in another galaxy so far from our own."

The Jedi Master put his hands up. "You have my most sincere apology for this confusion. If that is your concern, we can always make sure that each crewmember consents to the procedure."

"No, I think that you're not understanding me," Janeway replied. "We will not stand for this invasion of our rights. I understand that you are offering to tow us home, which I much appreciate, but if that ride comes at the cost of our genetic rights, then my answer is no."

"We-" C'baoth started to reply but Janeway cut him off.

"We will just have to find our own way home," she replied, pushing the chair back and coming to her feet. "Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, if you don't mind, I believe it's time to return to Voyager."

. . .

"Um... Captain?" Chakotay had confusion clearly evident on his face as Janeway stormed out of the turbolift with Tuvok following close on her heels. "How did the negotiations go?"

"Not as well as I would have liked," Janeway vaguely responded as she turned to the helm. "Lieutenant Paris, we will continue on our original course, Warp Seven."

"Captain?" he questioned.

"Do it."

"Uh... yes, Captain," the Lieutenant replied with some hesitation. "Warp Seven."

"Captain," Chakotay began, "may I ask what happened?"

Janeway took a last look at the massive ship as Voyager accelerated to warp, cutting off the viewscreen image. "Meet me in the ready room in thirty."

As she stepped into her ready room, Janeway was beginning to realize how exhausted she was from the away mission. Between running from the security droids of the Republic ship and negotiating with C'baoth, she realized they had spent close to ten hours on the ship.

Absentmindedly, she tapped the small control panel next to the door. It quietly slid open, and beyond it the room's lights activated.

"Coffee," Janeway ordered the room's small replicator, placing her mug into the opening. "Black. Hot." Within moments, the mug was filled with the steaming beverage and she took it, sitting down in a chair across the room.

"Computer, give me all the data there is on the Outbound Flight vessel."

Several monitors came to life, showing various diagrams and text data screens. She disinterestedly looked them over, pausing several times to change screens.

For nearly half an hour, the room remained quiet save for Janeway drumming her fingers against the chair rest. Then, the door softly chimed, startling the Captain out of her seat. "Come in," she finally acknowledged after glancing around the ready room.

The door promptly slid aside, revealing the mysterious visitor. "Hello, Commander," Janeway announced. "Have a seat."

"I'd prefer to stand," Chakotay replied, taking a close look at one of the monitors in front of the Captain. "What is this?" he asked in a subdued voice after several moments had passed.

Janeway heaved a sigh, looking at him with bloodshot eyes. "I've been analyzing the data we gathered on that ship," she responded. "It doesn't make any sense. Humans from a galaxy millions of light-years away? Blood tests for psychic powers? Fully sapient androids that seem to be no more than servants? Chakotay, I don't know what to make of this! What are we getting ourselves into?"

"Nothing, apparently," the first officer replied. "We're travelling away at warp seven per your orders, if you recall." He paused for a moment. "What do you mean, blood tests?"

Janeway put her head into her hands, her elbows resting on the table. "Their leader, a certain Master C'baoth, wanted us to sign a contract to limit liability in case anything went wrong. I looked over it quickly and didn't see anything obviously wrong, but Tuvok noticed a clause requiring that we submit blood samples for testing. So I called him on it."

"Well, I'm sure he would have been open to negotiating that," Chakotay remarked. "That's a pretty minor request."

Janeway tilted her head to the side. "Perhaps, but we don't even really know anything about these people!"

"And you don't think it's worth trying to learn about them, to understand them?"

"Like we tried to understand and trust Arturis, just a few weeks ago?" Janeway retorted. "Look where that got us."

"It got us light-years closer to home, and Seven's been working on slipstream theory since that incident. I'd say that's a positive."


He cut her off. "Captain, after five years in this dump of a quadrant, I have just about had it with your decisions. You have put both yourself and the crew in danger on more than one occasion. And yes, there have been times when I was tempted to relieve you of your command, regardless of what might happen when we reach Earth."


Chakotay was not done yet. "The Caretaker offered to let us back through his array. He even had a self-destruct device in place. Yet you felt sorry for the poor Ocampa, so we blew it up and saved their day."

"The self destruct was damaged, if you recall," Janeway retorted.

"It wasn't damaged until well after we got there!" Chakotay shot back. "Anyway, after that fiasco, we could have just run for the Gamma Quadrant wormhole which was less than ten years away, instead of seventy."

"We would have been traveling through Dominion space. Besides, as I heard a few days before we left, Captain Sisko mined the other end."

"Fine." Chakotay shrugged. "Maybe he did. And maybe we could have used the fake Dauntless to get home... Oh! Right! We couldn't, because our phasers were set on stun the whole damned time. And then there was Omega, which after Seven stabilized it could have given us all the power we needed to get home. So many maybes, Captain. So many could-haves that you nixed."

"I did that for the safety of my crew, Commander," Janeway replied. "You saw what happened when the Omega in that lab destabilized."

"That's what development is for, Captain," the Commander retorted.

"I did not want to put the lives of my crew in jeopardy."

"That is not the point, Captain. The commander of this Republic ship offered to take us home. I'm sure we could have gotten him to drop that blood test thing, if we had actually taken the time to talk!"

"Commander!" Janeway firmly shouted. "That will be enough. We will not negotiate with them."

"Captain," Chakotay quietly began, "we have been in this quadrant for five years now. Five years! Crew morale is dropping, the ship is falling apart, and you keep turning down opportunities to get home, left and right. I don't know how we're supposed to last for the other fifty odd years it'll take... we'll probably be dead before we get home! Captain, I'll be damned if I can't get this crew home faster myself."

Before Janeway could say another word, he turned and walked out, leaving her to stew in silence.

A flustered Chakotay nearly ran into Tuvok as he stepped onto the Bridge.

"Commander, is there a problem with something?"

He turned to regard the chief security officer. "Would you mind coming with me to Sickbay?"

"Certainly, Commander." Tuvok briefly worked his console, then turned back. "Do you feel ill?"

Chakotay shook his head as he called the turbolift. "It's not me." The door slid open with a whoosh and they stepped inside. "It's about the Captain. Computer, sickbay."

Moments later, the turbolift doors hissed open on the sickbay. "Computer, activate EMH," Chakotay ordered.

"Please state the nature..." The Doctor trailed off as he turned to look the two men over. "Oh. You don't seem to be injured."

"An astute observation," Tuvok dryly remarked.

"We're here to discuss the Captain, Doctor," Chakotay said immediately after Tuvok.

"Why?" the Doctor suddenly asked. "What's the matter?"

Chakotay looked the hologram square in the eye, or at least in the cluster of photons that comprised his eye. "Her behavior has become more and more erratic over the past several months. I'm concerned that she may do something to place the crew in danger."
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:16am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Edward Yee »

"That is not the point, Captain. The commander of this Republic ship offered to take us home. I'm sure we could have gotten him to drop that blood test thing, if we had actually taken the time to talk!"
This one gets worse when one notices that C'baoth looks like he'd been about to concede that, and only talked the blood samples thing once Chakotay had brought it up as well -- albeit I notice that C'baoth didn't go out of his way to actually point that clause out to Chakotay, perhaps in hopes that Chakotay would overlook it?
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »

Edward Yee wrote:
"That is not the point, Captain. The commander of this Republic ship offered to take us home. I'm sure we could have gotten him to drop that blood test thing, if we had actually taken the time to talk!"
This one gets worse when one notices that C'baoth looks like he'd been about to concede that, and only talked the blood samples thing once Chakotay had brought it up as well -- albeit I notice that C'baoth didn't go out of his way to actually point that clause out to Chakotay, perhaps in hopes that Chakotay would overlook it?
Zahn's C'baoth, as depicted in Outbound Flight, was one of the most arrogant Jedi in the Order, bordering on the Dark Side. In that book, he ostensibly set up Outbound Flight as a way to expand the influence of the Republic and secondarily search for Force-sensitives outside the galaxy. His real motivation was to create his own interpretation of the Jedi Order outside the jurisdiction of the Council, where the Jedi could be "benevolent dictators" of sorts.

In this story, C'baoth is still arrogant, but not to the same extent; he is not entirely unreasonable. (That's sort of a hybridization of Zahn's version of the character with the mostly rational C'baoth I had in my original drafts, which I wrote before the publication of Outbound Flight). He still feels that the Jedi know better than "mere mortals" and so should serve as a compass for the galaxy. Even if it means using not-quite-so clean methods.

And in this line of thinking, asking a stranded starship's crew for blood samples to test for Force sensitivity, hidden in the fine print of a waiver, comes naturally to him. Finding Force-sensitives is one of Outbound Flight's primary objectives after all. It never even occurs to him that a blood sample could be considered a genetic right.

It's not the fact that he asked for blood samples that had Janeway pissed off. It's the fact that he tried to hide it in the fine print of a waiver. In her mind (mind you, Voyager was betrayed not two weeks before by Arturis, posing with the so-called USS Dauntless) he is a liar and not to be trusted.

Chakotay is confused. He has just seen the Captain turn down a ride home with a ship from a previously-unknown human civilization, over something that could have been negotiated around. He doesn't realize just how sneaky C'baoth was in inserting it into the fine print.

C'baoth generally means well. He just believes that the end justifies the means.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Edward Yee »

That can't possibly lead to good things once a (certain) Jedi is willing to call him out on that front...
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by B5B7 »

Janeway is such a prig. Having stranded her crew in a distant part of the galaxy, and given a chance to atone for her mistake, with a simple small number of blood samples in exchange for a lift by the alien ship, she without considerable thought nor consultation with her senior officers, makes a unilateral decision to turn down the offer. Nor did she consider negotiation on the issue.
She is also a hypocrite - as she boarded the alien vessel without permission, which could be considered unlawful by some societies. Let's hope her removal from captaincy of Voyager is permanent, and when they get home that she will face court-martial proceedings.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »


Jacen awoke to darkness so thick that one could have cut it with a knife. He opened and closed his eyes several times, but couldn't even tell whether they were open or shut. Something was humming steadily in the background, something that sounded almost as if a swarm of Yavin IV's piranha beetles were nearby.

That thought made him practically fly out of his bunk, with the result that he slammed his head into a hard, cold surface above himself. Rubbing his head, he considered the situation. If there were somehow piranha beetles nearby, he had a serious problem indeed.

Then, finally, he let out a nervous laugh. "Room, lights full," he ordered, and the bunkroom was instantly bathed in light. There were no piranha beetles--the humming was that of the Rock Dragon's machinery, propelling them through hyperspace toward Dathomir.

He quickly swung his feet off the bunk. The entire week before they had left Yavin IV they had been preparing, and that entailed a lot of work. First they cleaned up and sealed their quarters, which took a couple of days. Then they'd had to stock, fuel, and prepare the Rock Dragon, which took several more days. And the trip to Dathomir from Yavin IV was another day and a half because of the route that had to be used, which had plenty of obstacles in the way.

Once Jacen had finished dressing, he stepped outside the bunkroom and walked toward the transport's small hold. He found everyone sitting around a hologame table off to the side.

"Playing Dejarik again, sis? How badly did you get beaten this time?"

Jaina turned to face him, a triumphant smile on her face. "I didn't." She stood up and stretched. "I was wondering when you would wake up, anyway. We're about half an hour from Dathomir now."

"That close, huh?" he asked. As she nodded her agreement, he sat down at the end of the bench and watched the current game between Lowbacca and Tenel Ka. "I'll play the winner," Jacen offered after some time.

"You?" his sister chortled in amusement. "I thought you hated dejarik."

He shrugged. "Maybe I do, but it's better than nothing."

"You won't have enough time," Tenel Ka finally said during one of Lowie's turns, her eyes focused on the board as the Wookiee made his move. "Ah. Aha." She tapped the controls briefly, and one of her smallest holographic characters jumped across the table, knocking down a much larger character. Lowbacca made a surprised noise as the redhead leaned back contentedly.

"You were focusing too much on offense," she offered. "Anyway, I believe we only have about five minutes left. Would anyone care to come to the cockpit?"

Five minutes later, the cockpit of the Rock Dragon was at its maximum rated capacity, with all four seats filled. The cockpit, located at the very front of the transport, had a viewing arc that was completely unobstructed--unlike that of the Millenium Falcon, whose loading mandibles blocked a good portion of the view. At the moment, the viewport was showing one of the oddities of hyperspace, a swirling maelstrom of blue-shifted light that seemed to defy conventional astrophysics.

Not that its occupants were interested in the view, of course. They were no strangers to hyperspace travel, and had seen that 'sky' any number of times. Of course, they were somewhat concerned about where the undefined lanes of hyperspace were taking them; Jaina's hand rested above the manual override, "just in case" as her father had said so many times. Even so, there was really no danger of navicomp failure.

"Right on schedule," Jaina reported as the navicomputer pulled them out of hyperspace. They were instantly greeted by a multicolored orb that seemed to hang in space--Dathomir. Dominated by browns owing to its mostly desert-like terrain, the planet had large patches of blue scattered across its surface. High clouds obscured a third of the visible area, although Tenel Ka didn't have to see it to know what was there.

Tenel Ka was silent for the longest time as Jaina began running their approach vector through the navicomp. It had been almost two years since she had visited her home; she wondered how much it had changed in the time she had been away. Probably not by much, she eventually decided. Although there had been radical thinkers since the planet's incorporation into the New Republic--the ill-fated Nightsisters were among them--none of them had lasted for very long. The Singing Mountain clan, which her mother's side of the family was from, was indeed the largest and strongest on Dathomir.

The planet below seemed to spin in place as the transport rolled so as to be right-side upon entering the atmosphere. The twisted remains of Warlord Zsinj's orbital shipyards flashed by, seemingly streaked by the speed of their descent, and after several seconds had passed they were arrowing through Dathomir's sky. Although none of them could see it yet, their target was a deep canyon that, because of strong winds, was the safest air approach to the fortress.

Less than a minute later, the Rock Dragon set down on the valley floor, overshadowed by the sheer wall of the fortress. Tenel Ka noted with mild interest that there were some modern orbital defense turbolasers positioned on the turrets overlooking them. The last time she had visited, a team of Hapan engineers had been working on something, but she never had a chance to find out what it was; now she knew.

"I take it we're there?" a voice beside her said, interrupting her thoughts. She turned and saw that it was Jacen, realizing after a moment had passed that he'd never actually visited Dathomir.

"Uh..." Tenel Ka paused to collect herself. "Mostly there." She pointed out the viewport at the base of a stair that wound up the sheer wall. "We still have to climb that."

His jaw dropped. "How many steps is that? A thousand?"

"Roughly," she replied, smiling slightly as she saw his reaction. "It was an old protection against invasion, although not always effective."

"I suppose it keeps your clan in shape," Jacen managed to joke. "Anyway, if it's that far, shouldn't we be getting started?"

. . .

Deep space was not a good place for anyone, Cathi Riclin was convinced. And that was the reason why she, as the co-pilot of a Corellian YT-2400 light freighter named Headwind, had dropped out of hyperspace in the middle of what should have been nothingness, their nearest neighbors lone hydrogen atoms separated by thousands of kilometers.

Imagine her surprise at finding an entire fleet.

There had been legends among spacers for years, of course. The Dark Force, the Old Republic's two hundred ship strong parade fleet of fully-automated Dreadnaughts, was one of the most recent legends. It had been discovered by a smuggler punching random coordinates into his navicomputer around thirty years ago. But the Katana fleet wasn't the only fleet of ships that had been lost over the many eons of hyperspace travel. Every now and then, somebody would stumble across a ship that had been assumed lost.

The only issue was that Cathi couldn't for the life of her remember any cases of Imperator-class Star Destroyers disappearing. Or why an Imperator-class would be in the same formation as an antique Lucrehulk transport/battleship. Or why all the ships would appear to be fully powered on with sublight engines blazing...

Her hands dropped to the internal comm. "Tarv!" she shouted. "I need you up here now!"

The Twi'lek pilot staggered into the cockpit moments later, blinking as he tried to see in the dim light, his lekku twitching uneasily. "What's so important that you had to wake me up?" he asked irritably.

"See for yourself." She gestured out the viewports at the fleet that hung so serenely in space.

"A Star Destroyer?" he suddenly asked, not quite believing his eyes. "Where are we?"

"I dropped out to recalculate our course," Cathi answered. "We shouldn't be anywhere important."

"Well, what are we still doing here?" the Twi'lek demanded. "Don't wait for them to spot us! Get us moving!"

"I would be, if the navicomp hadn't crashed the instant we came out of hyperspace!" Cathi snapped back. "What do you want me to do, make a random jump?"

"Point taken," Tarv replied. "Who are they, anyway?"

"They're not broadcasting any sort of IFF that I could pick up," Cathi answered. "I've never seen any Republic or Imperial warship run that way."

"I've never seen any Republic or Imperial warships out in the middle of nowhere like this," Tarv agreed. "So, what then? Rogue warlord? Pirates?"

Cathi shrugged. "Who knows. Tarv, I told you weeks ago that the navicomp was going on the fritz. I thought you had it checked?"

"I didn't know any techs I could trust at our last stop," Tarv shot back.

"Translation: you were too cheap to hire anybody."

"We don't have time for this," the Twi'lek snapped. "We're sitting here helpless with a full load of illegal ryll. I'll take over things from here, you go to the hold and get ready to jettison the spice if things get dicey."

As she affixed another remote detonator pack to one of the spice crates, Cathi heard quiet footsteps coming down the hallway. "Tarv?" she inquired without looking. "What's the matter?"

"I just came down to tell you that that fleet went to hyperspace. You can stop putting the detonators on now."

"Oh." She carefully deactivated the detpack and placed it atop the spice crate, then turned around--

--to find herself staring directly into the barrel of Tarv's blaster. "W-wait, what?" she stammered.

"You're fired," Tarv replied, tightening his grip on the blaster pistol.

"Oh come on," Cathi protested. "If you wanted to fire me, you could have just dropped me off on Nar Shaddaa. What the hell's gotten into you?"

"How am I supposed to know that you haven't rigged something on this ship?"

"Maybe I did."

"I doubt it," Tarv said, and Cathi saw his finger move closer to the trigger. Her mind began racing, trying to figure out a way to stop him...

... when the ship suddenly lurched as if from a turbolaser blast, throwing Tarv off balance and sending his shot wild. Her adrenaline kicking in, Cathi lunged for him and swatted his blaster arm aside. The Twi'lek was nobody's fool, though, and as she brushed past his head he used his sharpened teeth to tear a gash across her arm. She screamed in pain, and promptly punched him full in the face, breaking his nose.

Breathing heavily, Tarv threw her off and tried to bring his blaster to bear again, but she swung out from her prone position, brought her boot behind his knee, and kicked hard. There was a sharp crack as the bones broke, sending him sprawling. He still clutched the blaster in his hand, and let off an accidental shot that brushed past her.

Cathi dove for the blaster, but the Twi'lek rolled over and hit her in the face with its butt. She cried out and redoubled her efforts, landing an elbow in one of Tarv's sensitive head-tails. In reaction to the pain, his grip on the blaster relaxed slightly, which she then kicked out of his hand. With the Twi'lek in hot pursuit, she scrambled over to where the blaster had landed, picked it up, and fired just as he lunged for her.

As Tarv slumped down to the floor, Cathi leaned back against the wall and considered the situation. Ever since she had started working for the Twi'lek, he had taken every opportunity to belittle her. Sometimes she even wondered why she had bothered sticking around as long as she had, but the payout from a successful spice run was often well worth it.

She started dragging his limp body to the nearest airlock. Halfway there, a tinny sounding voice interrupted her.

"What is the matter with Master Tarv?"

"Just a sudden case of death, Orb," Cathi answered the archaic protocol droid. An Orbot model 19 manufactured by Serv-o-Droid before their bankruptcy some four hundred years ago, Orb claimed to have had changed hands exactly three hundred and seventy-nine times (although memory wipes tended to mess that sort of figure up).

"How unusual!" the droid exclaimed.

Cathi rolled her eyes. On the one hand Orb knew millions of languages and the specific place settings to be taken if one was to eat with Seoularians, provided one found a way to travel back in time to a point where it was possible to find a living Seoularian to eat with. On the other hand, he could be extremely naïve and oblivious.

"I don't suppose you could give me a hand here," Cathi said.

"Must I keep reminding you that I was not built with manual labor in mind?" Orb retorted as he stiffly bent to pick up Tarv's legs.

"That's funny, because you seem to do just fine hauling loads."

"My servos are producing 11.6% less torque than factory spec and generating more noise."

"I thought that was normal for droids of your age," Cathi replied.

"Not with regular maintenance, of which I have been severely lacking."

"Then we'll just have to replace your servos with binary load lifter servos, won't we?"

Orb tried his hardest to look haughty. "Binary load lifter servos lack the precision necessary for my operation."

"Right," Cathi nodded, "as if you're going to be performing brain surgery anytime soon. Come on, we're almost there."

When they reached the airlock, Cathi slapped the controls to open the inner doors and then struggled to stuff Tarv's body inside. After closing the inner doors, she then activated the outer chamber doors and there was a quiet hiss as the airlock vented.

She arrived back in the cockpit about a minute later and went back to work on the navicomputer. After several minutes, one of the panel alarms went off, causing her to look up and nearly jump out of her skin.

. . .

By the time the four Jedi reached the top of the stairway, Jacen was wishing that he'd brought a speeder bike or something. He was already exhausted from the walk, and beads of sweat dripped down his face. A quick glance at Tenel Ka told him that although she might have been tired, she definitely wasn't showing it.

At the gate, they were met by two athletic young women, dressed in the same style as Tenel Ka. When they saw her, they nodded and let the group in.

"We should see my great-grandmother first," Tenel Ka said as they walked through the fortress. "She will likely welcome us."

Too thirsty to speak, Jacen merely nodded and followed her through the maze of passages inside the fortress until they came to what he assumed was the chamber of the Council of Sisters. As they stepped inside, everybody came to their feet, and a very old woman at the far end came to her feet.

"You have returned, Tenel Ka Chume Ta' Djo," the old woman, who Jacen realized a moment later was Augwynne Djo, said in a motherly tone. "How are you?"

"I am well," Tenel Ka simply replied as Augwynne walked over and embraced her.

The matriarch turned her attention to the rest of the Jedi. "And these are...?"

"Jacen, Jaina and Lowbacca," she responded as she pointed to each of them in turn.

"Ah, so this is that handsome young man you told me about," Augwynne Djo said as she looked Jacen over. He was painfully aware of the fact that his face was turning a bright shade of crimson as the wizened old matriarch spoke, and hurriedly attempted to run through a relaxation technique. Although it was successful, he realized that he hadn't been fast enough as she noticed the look on his face.

"Don't be ashamed, young man. Tenel Ka has excellent tastes in whom she chooses. You're the first man she has captured."

Jacen realized that his face was probably as red as Tenel Ka's hair by this point. He bowed his head and let out a slight chuckle, then looked back up in an attempt to regain face. "I am... honored?" he replied.

"As well you should be. Now, my great-granddaughter," she turned to Tenel Ka, "do you wish to have a marriage ceremony performed while you are here?"

Lowie let out what might have been the Wookiee equivalent of a chuckle, while a look of horror came across Tenel Ka's face. After a long, awkward pause, she burst out into peals of laughter. "Great-grandmother! I have no plans to wed Jacen. He is merely an old friend from the Jedi Academy."

"Ah, pardon my misunderstanding, Tenel Ka," Augwynne replied. "I had forgotten that you dislike many of the old customs. Still, one could say that there is more to the two of you than meets the eye."

The two Jedi exchanged nervous glances as Augwynne cleared her throat. "What is your full name, young man?"

"Jacen Solo," he nervously replied.

A look of puzzlement came across her face. "Are you related, then, to Han Solo?"

"He's my father."

Augwynne chuckled softly. "Then you must know that your mother was made an honorary member of our clan."

Jacen's eyebrows shot up. "No, I didn't," he admitted.

Augwynne smiled again. "It does not matter too much now," she said, turning to face Tenel Ka again. "So, great-granddaughter, what brings you back here?"

"We are going to meet with a fighter squadron led by a Jedi, and then continue on to investigate some strange attacks in the Outer Rim."


Tenel Ka paused for a moment. "There has been a string of attacks on planets and ships through the Outer Rim, but nobody knows what's been causing them. That's what we're going to try and figure out."

"A dangerous task," Augwynne mused. "How long will you be staying here before you leave?"

"Less than a week," Jaina replied, feeling somewhat left out. "Perhaps five days."

"Ah," The matriarch nodded. "In that case, you are most welcome to stay and rest. I believe you will need it."

. . .

As Cathi sat staring at the fleet that had somehow come within spitting distance of Headwind, the comm suddenly came to life.

"Attention unidentified freighter, this is the Imperial Star Destroyer Magistrate. You are in restricted space. State your intentions or you will be boarded."

Rubbing her head from where she'd bumped it on the panel a moment before, Cathi hit the comm's transmit switch. It wasn't very hard to sound intimidated when an entire fleet was hanging over you and escaping to hyperspace was out of the question.

"Magistrate, this is Cathi Riclin of the freighter Headwind. My navicomp malfunctioned and I was unaware of the status of this area."

She released the button and took in a deep breath. The spice in the hold was enough to land her in prison for life on most Imperial worlds. But with the Star Destroyer hanging overhead, dumping it now would be too obvious. Best to play along...

The voice on the other end of the comm was as unperturbed as ever. "Freighter Headwind, are you in need of assistance?"

Cathi's mind raced as she tried to guess how they would be gaging her response. "Magistrate, thanks for your offer but I think I'll be OK."

"Acknowledged, freighter Headwind." There was a brief pause on the other end, and for a moment Cathi thought they were going to leave her alone. Then a new voice came over the comm and her heart sank. "Freighter Headwind, we will need to ask you some questions. Shut down your engines, lower your shields, and prepare to dock."

"I copy, Magistrate," Cathi replied, crestfallen. As she ran through the docking routines, she idly wondered why the Imperials had taken an interest in an otherwise empty region of space.

The freighter momentarily shuddered as a tractor beam from the Star Destroyer latched on, and she watched the hangar bay grow to fill the cockpit viewports. A slight bump later--the tractor beam operators were pretty good, she decided--and Headwind was resting on the hangar deck.

"Come out of your ship unarmed," an amplified voice boomed from outside. She stood up in the cockpit and tried to look for the source of the voice.


She frowned as she looked over the perfectly ordered platoon. According to most sources, the stormtrooper forces in the Remnant were a pale shadow of what they had been during the heydey of the Empire. Between the original clones getting too old for front-line service, the quality of recruits slipping, and the cost of producing new sets of the plastoid armor (which had to be custom-fitted to each trooper), most Remnant forces had focused more on the regular Imperial Army troops.

Which meant that to find such a disciplined platoon of stormtroopers was a rarity.

Resigned to her fate, she dropped the main ramp and walked down.

"Welcome to the Magistrate," a gray-clad, middle-aged human officer greeted her. "Please follow me."

As she began walking, she glanced back at the ship, wondering if they were ever going to let her leave.

After being left alone in a sparsely furnished room for close to an hour, the door hissed open and two stormtroopers entered, taking up guard positions on either side with their rifles held ready. She blinked; that was something she hadn't noticed earlier. The powerful DC-15 rifles of the Clone Wars had been dropped in favor of smaller, more compact E-11 carbines throughout most of the Empire. Yet these troops carried the old-style rifles.

What really got her attention was the officer who entered next. His uniform was as unremarkable as any other Imperial officer, but his skin was unusually blue, and his eyes... She had only heard of one Imperial officer matching that description, and he had been dead for close to fifteen years. At least that's what the New Republic said.

Her eyes dropped to his rank bars and she took a moment to count. If she remembered the ranks correctly... that would make this alien a... Commodore?

The commodore glanced down at a datapad. "Cathi Riclin, captain of the YT-2400 light freighter Headwind. Is that correct?"

She nodded, unable to find her voice.

"From what I understand, you are 25 standard years. Isn't that a little young to own your own freighter?"

She shrugged, wondering if he'd checked the ship's registration. Probably not. "Age doesn't matter much if you're good at sabacc," she replied.

"Ah." He looked her up and down. "I would not have guessed you were a card player."

"Well, you know what they say about appearances," Cathi said with a laugh that she realized moments later didn't sound very sincere.

"Indeed." He looked back down at the datapad. "My men tell me that your ship's hold is filled with first-grade ryll spice. You are aware that the punishment for smuggling spice in both the Empire and the New Republic is life imprisonment, correct?"

"Yes, Sir," she acknowledged, her head dropping. This wasn't going to end well, she decided.

"Ah!" he exclaimed. "But I am forgetting my manners. I am Commodore Mantrel of the Imperial Navy. The Magistrate is my flagship, and you are my guest today."

"I am?" she asked, puzzled.

"Of course," Mantrel replied. "I'm sure you will agree that life imprisonment is quite a waste of resources. So, I'm prepared to offer you a deal."

"And that is?" Suspicion was beginning to kick in.

"We will repair your navicomputer and take you to a destination of our choosing, after which you will be free to go."

Cathi frowned. It sounded suspiciously generous, particularly for an Imperial. "In exchange for what?"

"Merely information," Mantrel replied. "Who you are working for, your navigational logs, et cetera."

"I see." She considered the unasked questions... "And what about my cargo?"

"Per Imperial regulations, we must confiscate your cargo. I'm sure you understand."

She swallowed and nodded. The amount of spice they had been carrying was enough to buy an entire city's worth of land on some planets. The commodore's generous offer, then, basically amounted to a death sentence from the Twi'lek clans.

"The troops here will escort you to your quarters while we repair your ship," Mantrel concluded as he rose to his feet. "In the meantime, I have other matters to attend to. Farewell."
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:19am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

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"I'm sorry, Kathryn, but there simply is no way around this. I must relieve you of command until you show definite signs of improvement."

Captain Kathryn Janeway forced a sigh as she sat on one of the bio-beds in Sickbay. "I still think this is completely unnecessary, and somewhat primitive. You want to confine me to Sickbay? Why not simply perform treatments while I retain my command?"

"Starfleet Directive 44 specifies that if the captain or other officer is declared unfit for his or her position by the Chief Medical Officer, the CMO may remove the Captain from active service until the point at which the CMO declares the Captain fit for service. It is therefore entirely within my right as the acting Chief Medical Officer of Voyager to remove you from active duty for the time being."

"And who made you the acting Chief Medical Officer?"

"You did, Captain."

"Right. If that's how you want to play this, effective immediately I am revoking your status as Chief Medical Officer."

"Unfortunately, Captain," a voice from behind said and Janeway spun about to face Tuvok, "the CMO's decision has already been logged in the computer. You no longer have that authority."

Janeway threw her hands up in the air before letting them drop back to her side. "Now what? You're in on this conspiracy as well? I thought you were the one person I could always trust."

"As did I, Captain. However, your decisions are becoming increasingly illogical. I strongly suggest you follow the doctor's orders and get plenty of bed rest."

"I am also restricting your caffeine intake," the Doctor remarked as he adjusted a hypospray. "Over the next week, I will allow you limited access to caffeine, as well as analgesics to counteract the effects of withdrawal."

. . .

"Acting Captain's Log, Stardate 52579.9." Chakotay turned and cleared his throat before continuing. "This entry marks the point at which I assume temporary command of the USS Voyager. Relieving Captain Kathryn Janeway was a hard decision for Tuvok, the Doctor and myself, but one that had to be made. We have reversed our course, and are currently five hours from the Outbound Flight at our present speed of Warp 8. I am of high hope that we can resume negotiations and come to a reasonable agreement."

He shut off the recorder, and glanced around the bridge. Directly in front of him, Lieutenant Tom Paris was at his usual position at the helm. Seven of Nine was back in Astrometrics, and other ensigns filled out the rest of the Bridge. Tuvok was currently conducting a holodeck training simulation for his Hazard Team, and Neelix... well, Chakotay could not have possibly cared less as to the whereabouts of the Talaxian.

Slowly, he dozed off, and by the time Voyager arrived at its destination he was engaged in a dream about how one of Neelix's concoctions took control of Seven of Nine's central nervous system and decided to remove Janeway from command for no particular reason.

When an ensign tapped him on the shoulder to wake him up, he at first thought that the concoction had broken out of Seven, and was attacking him. So it was that when he finally woke up, several supernumeraries had their phasers trained on him, and the ensign that had attempted to awaken him was nursing an eye that had gone a lovely deep shade of violet.

"Um... did I hit you?" he asked the injured ensign, who nodded in reply.

He looked down at his hands. "Sorry. I was having a nightmare about Neelix's cooking..."

The remark broke the tension, as both the ensign and the security personnel cracked up.

"Well, Sir, what I was trying to tell you was that we're only a few minutes away from Outbound Flight."

Now fully awake, Chakotay nodded. "Hail them and let them know we'd like to meet with Master C'baoth again."

"Yes, Sir."

Chakotay paused in thought. "Now, where's Tuvok?"

"Still in the Holodeck, sir."

"All right," he said, pausing at the comm. "Tell Paris, Tuvok, and Seven to meet me in the transporter room," he ordered the ensign at the station. Then, he turned and strode to the turbolift.

. . .

When Chakotay materialized in D-One's hangar bay along with the others, he hadn't quite known what to expect. Seven had, of course, told him that the crew was mostly human. However, the thin line between human and humanoid was often quite blurred (especially in the case of B'Elanna) and so for a crew that was supposed to have travelled from another galaxy halfway across the universe, he was half expecting to see at least some sort of forehead ridge, different skin pigmentation, strange eye structure, or some other random mutation.

Instead, the small group that was waiting for him in the hangar bay of the Dreadnaught could have fit right in anywhere on Earth, or the Federation for that matter, without anyone so much as batting an eye.

"Commander Chakotay, correct?" a tall man with flowing gray hair and beard asked as he stepped forward and extended a hand. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, administrator of the Outbound Flight Project."

He took the hand and shook it. "Pleased to meet you."

"Likewise," C'baoth replied. "I'm sorry to hear what happened to your Captain. It must be quite a burden to keep a ship such as Voyager operating for as long as you have been without support."

"Yes, it certainly is," Chakotay found himself agreeing. You have no idea, he mentally added.

C'baoth turned partway around to gesture toward the doorway at the back of the hangar bay. "Well, I suppose you'd like to get started. Please, follow me to the conference room."

After a short walk through the hallways and a turbolift ride, they entered the conference room where several more people came to their feet around the table. C'baoth waved an open hand at the nearest one in uniform, who was quite a bit shorter than Chakotay and had streaks of gray in his otherwise black hair. "Commander, this is Captain Jonas Avin."

"I take it you're captain of this ship?" Chakotay asked as he leaned over to shake the Captain's hand.

"Yes," Avin replied. "Actually, while the entire Outbound Flight can be controlled from D-One, each Dreadnaught has its own commander."

"I see," Chakotay replied, still not fully understanding.

The last person at the table, however, would be difficult to describe as even remotely humanoid except in the sense that it was bipedal and had two arms. The arms themselves ended in flipper-hands, and the creature's head was an ovoid shape with two large eyes that appeared to freely swivel on either side. Its skin coloration was generally salmon mixed with mottled patches of olive green, and had a wet shimmer. Chakotay couldn't help but feel that the creature would be more at home in water than on a starship.

"And this is Master Hkalle, our Jedi healer and head doctor," C'baoth finished.

Chakotay awkwardly reached out to shake the alien's flipper, which felt slightly cold and clammy. "You're from the same galaxy?" he asked.

"Yes," Hkalle replied in a voice as rough as a gravel crusher. "To answer the question I know you are thinking, my homeworld is a watery planet called Dac."

"I see," Chakotay replied. "And being aboard a starship like this doesn't bother you?"

The tendrils that hung below Hkalle's mouth waved slightly. "When we leave the water, we must either stay in humid environments, or moisten ourselves regularly. If we do not, it can become painful. My robes contain a moistening device so I may focus on other tasks."

Chakotay nodded.

"Now, Commander Chakotay, what have you come here to discuss with us?" C'baoth boomed.

Slightly taken aback by the sudden change in tone, Chakotay found it hard to remember what he was planning on saying. "Um... well, as Captain Janeway may have already told you, we have been stranded in this quadrant for slightly over five years now with no clear way home." He paused to clear his thoughts. "I understand that your faster than light drive is considerably more efficient than ours, and that you had expressed interest in towing us home in exchange for permission to set up a colony. Is that correct?"

C'baoth inclined his head. "Go on."

"Well," Chakotay searched for the appropriate term, "I would like to apologize for Janeway's abrupt departure, and while none of us have the authority to promise you a world to use for a colony, we will vouch for your character in front of the Federation Senate when you petition them."

"But we only just met," C'baoth rhetorically remarked. "How can you be so sure of our character?"

Chakotay looked directly across the table at the Jedi. "Master C'baoth, before we were pulled into this part of the galaxy, I was the captain of a ship involved in a resistance against an oppressive government near the Federation. While acting in that capacity, I was forced to make many hard decisions that would determine the fate of hundreds of people close to me. While I know that we are all fallible, I believe that I am at least a decent judge of character, and I have seen nothing from you or your crew to indicate a lack of sincerity."

C'baoth nodded. "Pardon me for playing the devil's advocate, but given your experiences, how is it that you wound up second in command to Captain Janeway?"

Chakotay let out a nervous, stifled laugh. "Sometimes I ask myself the same question. When my ship arrived in this quadrant, it was heavily damaged and we had lost many of our crew. Voyager was sent to look for us and arrived in the same condition. We were attacked soon after by a local spacefaring race, and I made a decision to sacrifice my ship to give Voyager a fighting chance. Captain Janeway decided to accept us as members of her crew, and we've been fighting to get home ever since."

C'baoth pulled out a datapad and passed it across the table to Chakotay. "This is the draft of the contract I presented to Captain Janeway. Read through it, and if you have any issues please feel free to bring them up."

Chakotay handed the datapad over to Tuvok. "We thought that most of it was agreeable the last time, but I am concerned about the blood tests that Captain Janeway mentioned. Why are you asking us for blood samples?"

"We are Jedi," C'baoth replied, gesturing toward Hkalle, Dellen, Lorana, and the other robed figures in the room. "The Jedi Order goes back for many tens of thousands of years, to a time before the founding of the Republic. Originally the Bendu Monks, as we were known then, were a monastic order that debated the morals of society. Over time, we became aware of something called the Force, a mystical energy field that surrounds and binds everything in the universe. To those of us that are called to be Jedi, the Force flows through us and grants us powers only dreamed of by ordinary mortals. This power comes at a price, however; we are entrusted to be the guardians of the Republic, and the untold quintillions of sentients within it."

Chakotay frowned. "I can understand that, but the blood tests?"

C'baoth coughed irritably. "I was getting to that. We discovered that there are certain markers in the blood of most humanoids that indicate who are more likely to be touched by the Force. As part of the Outbound Flight's mission, we must determine if these markers are present in life outside our galaxy."

"And if they are?" Chakotay asked.

"Then we will offer anyone with the potential the chance to be trained in the Jedi ways."

Chakotay leaned back in the chair and placed a hand on his chin. After considering the implications for nearly a minute, he leaned forward again. "We cannot provide you the blood samples you requested. However, you have my permission to perform testing on an individual basis, after obtaining full written consent from the crew members. I must also stress that per Federation laws, any blood samples taken cannot be used for genetic modification."

"That is more than agreeable," C'baoth agreed, taking his own datapad and making the changes necessary. "Is there anything else?"

Chakotay glanced over at Tuvok. "What do you think?"

"I think the contract is very well-written and comprehensive," the Vulcan stated. "We will not be violating any Starfleet protocols if we sign this."

He let out a deep breath. "One last question. How do we sign?"

C'baoth slid a stylus across the table. "Scroll down and mark at the bottom of the document."

Chakotay and Tuvok did so before passing the datapad across the table again, after which C'baoth and Captain Avin signed it in the same manner.

C'baoth stood up and extended his arm to Chakotay. "Congratulations. I believe we've both taken a step on the path to friendship for both the Republic and Federation." He turned to Captain Avin. "Captain, please call in the engineers. We should get started immediately."

"Chief Engineer B'Elanna can stay here to discuss the logistics with them," Chakotay suggested.

"Of course. Meanwhile, would you and your other crew members like to have a tour of the Outbound Flight?"

"Certainly," Chakotay replied.

. . .

Kathryn Janeway drummed her fingers restlessly on the side of her biobed. Being confined to sickbay was simply so... maddening.

She drew a LCARS console closer to herself, and looked it over. As she did so, she remembered that even the famed Captain James T. Kirk had often resorted to underhanded tactics in certain situations.

Several taps of the console brought her out of the Sickbay menu and into the ship's main menu.

One time, when Kirk was in training at the Academy, he was presented with a test. Nobody before had beaten it, as it was designed to be unbeatable.

She accessed the crew roster, and proceeded to scan it.

But he wouldn't let that stop him. He reprogrammed it and made it winnable, and thus passed the test. Only afterward did they notice what had happened.

Perfect, she thought to herself as she noticed one of the ensigns' entries. Janeway was about to access it, but then she stopped herself and casually looked at her own profile.


She scrolled down the display, knowing perfectly well of her own history.


Janeway frowned at the display. She had already completed several batteries of psychological tests; what could this mean?

She shut the LCARS terminal off, shoved it away, and decided to go to sleep. Maybe things would sort themselves out.

. . .

Several hours after the meeting aboard D-One, B'Elanna found herself leading a team of the Outbound Flight engineers through Voyager's engineering section. They stopped in front of the warp core, where the mostly human engineers looked up at with shock and astonishment written across their faces.

"That's an antimatter reactor?" one of them asked.

"Yes," B'Elanna replied. "Deuterium and anti-deuterium."

The chief engineer of D-One, Lieutenant Derek, scratched his head in thought. "Looks dangerous," he finally remarked. "What kind of containment measures do you have in place?"

"The reactions themselves are magnetically confined," B'Elanna replied. "The core itself has an eject mechanism should the reaction become unstable."

"And how do you harness the power from it?" one of the other engineers asked.

B'Elanna pointed to the glowing, transparent plasma conduits that came from the side of the reactor. "Plasma from the reaction is sent through those conduits to the warp nacelles and other critical systems on the ship."

"They look kind of fragile," Derek remarked. "Why not just convert the heat of the plasma to electricity?"

She shrugged. "The efficiency's not high enough to power the warp drive. Cochrane's first warp drive was electrically powered by an old-fashioned nuclear fission reactor, but it was barely able to pass lightspeed. We're able to achieve much faster velocities this way."

"Right, but the conduits are all transparent, so all that light they're emitting is going to waste." Derek replied.

"Look, I didn't design the system, OK?" B'Elanna shot back in frustration. "I just have to keep it running."

"All right, all right," Derek said to calm her down. "I think for safety's sake, we should power down the warp core before we dock your ship. Do you have secondary power systems?"

"Twelve fusion reactors," B'Elanna replied immediately. "Eight for our impulse drives, and the other four for emergency power."

Derek nodded. "That should work. Now, I was looking at your hull damage and I think we're going to have to do some work to reinforce it before we attach Voyager."

"It's been pretty hard finding readily available sources of duranium and tritanium here," B'Elanna replied. "How do you plan on reinforcing it?"

"We'll just tractor in one of the smaller asteroids out in the belt," Derek said. "There's a molecular furnace in the storage core that should be able to fabricate whatever we need. Now, last question. Do you have any sort of relativistic shielding?"

"Relativistic..." B'Elanna gave him a puzzled look. "Why would that be necessary?"

"Well, I'm not sure how your warp drive works, but relativistic shields are basically stasis fields synchronized with the ship's hyperspace velocity. That way, if you're traveling at one hundred light-years per hour, you actually experience one hour for every hundred light years traveled."

"Huh," B'Elanna frowned. "That would be kind of useful for impulse drives."

"How so?" Derek asked.

"Starfleet limits full impulse to one quarter lightspeed," B'Elanna explained, "because at speeds over that, time dilation slows the crew's response to outside threats."

"Ah." Derek scratched his chin. "Never really thought of it that way. It's just one of those things you wouldn't want to have fail on you..." Realization dawned across his face, and he slapped his forehead in the universal symbol of exasperation. "I can't believe we didn't think of that before..."


"If we'd disabled the relativistic shielding, we wouldn't have had to enter hibernation. The last sixty years would only have taken a couple months at sublight..."

B'Elanna started to nod but stopped herself. "I thought Master C'baoth said something about needing the time to generate... what did he call it? Hypermatter?"

"Ah. Right. There goes that idea." The engineer let out a tired laugh. "Not that it would have made any difference now anyway."
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:22am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »


After three weeks of Imperial hospitality, Cathi was beginning to wonder if they would ever let her go -- or if this was just a big, cosmic joke that was being played on her. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that she was being held in one of the Star Destroyer's guest quarters rather than the brig. That was not to say that she had the run of the ship, of course. There was always a stormtrooper escort following her around wherever she went.

The door chimed a moment before opening, and the ever-present guard stepped through, followed a moment later by the ship's captain.

"Good news, Miss Riclin," he began. "Your navicomputer has been repaired and you are free to go."

She let out a sigh of relief. "That's it?"

The captain smiled. "Were you expecting to be held indefinitely?"

"Perhaps," Cathi replied. "As I remember, the Empire did not exactly have the best relationship with smugglers."

"The Empire has changed quite a bit," the captain remarked cryptically. "Would you like to see your ship?"

True to their word, they dropped her off in orbit of a fairly unremarkable planet in the Outer Rim. For hours, she sat in the cockpit trying to think of solutions. She could go down to the planet, sell the Headwind, and make a new life for herself. But what was the point in that? Eventually some bounty hunter would trace the ship back to her, and then she'd be killed. Or worse, like being sent to work in the spice mines of Ryloth for the rest of her life. She had also heard quite enough about the Twi'lek sex trade to have particularly vivid nightmares about what could happen with that.

Or she could jump to a place like Ord Mantell where she could pawn the ship off and get a new life. She shook her head. That only worked in the holovids. She'd heard of too many smugglers who simply disappeared, only to turn up dead months or years later at the hands of bounty hunters.

"Well, that settles it," she said to herself. She couldn't run, she couldn't hide for very long, and she wasn't enough of a slicer to cover her tracks very well. YT-2400 freighters were fairly common – CEC had made tens of thousands – but she had no credits in any accounts to pay for changing the ship's identification. She'd been counting on the payoff from this load of ryll to keep her until the next job, and now that payoff had simply evaporated along with the spice.

She pointed the ship away from the planet and closed her eyes. This wasn't how she had wanted her life to turn out. Once, in fact, she had dreams of exploring the galaxy and discovering one of the millions of still-unknown species in it. But life had chosen a different path for her, obviously.

She killed the safeties on the hyperdrive and grabbed the actuator levers. This was supposed to be quick and painless...

In a burst of charged plasma and Cronau radiation, the small freighter flashed to hyperspace.

. . .

Jacen was starting to see why Tenel Ka preferred the rugged, often arid planet to the overly cultured environment of Hapes. The day after their arrival, she had taken time to teach him, his sister, and Lowbacca how to ride rancors. The sight of the monstrous creatures at first startled him, and he remembered his uncle Luke's tale of the one he had encountered at Jabba's palace all those years ago. The more time he spent around them, however, the easier it was to connect with them, and he had discovered that they were actually quite intelligent despite their appearance.

Once they had mastered riding the giant creatures, Tenel Ka had led them out to a lake some thirty kilometers away from the fortress. They had spent the next few days camped out near the lake, hiking in the almost impossibly tall nearby mountains and then cooling off in the placid waters of the lake. Jacen had been surprised again there; despite only having one arm, Tenel Ka still managed to swim faster than he could. He'd laughed and said that he was out of shape, but he still had to admit that it was impressive.

When they had told Luke that they would be visiting Dathomir, he had suggested that they visit the ruins of the Chu'unthor. The old Jedi training ship was still slowly rusting away in the middle of a canyon, serving as a memorial to those that had fallen in combat with the Nightsisters hundreds of years before.

So it was that they had taken their rancor mounts and made their way out to where the wreckage of the Chu'unthor filled up an ancient canyon. They left the rancors up on the plateau where they could take care of themselves, and headed down the small, muddy path that lead to the slow-moving river that the ship had ended up in.

When they finally reached the muddy waters, Lowbacca dropped the pack he had been carrying, pulled out a bright orange inflatable raft, and set to work with a small pump. Soon they were plying their way across the river, and after a bit of work tied it up on a half-rusted antenna that jutted up from the tilted wreck of the ship.

Jacen already knew that there was probably very little that was new that could be learned from the wreck as Luke had retrieved the ship's store of datacards years before, and subsequent trips with Tionne had unearthed even more information, but just standing on it made his nerves tingle.

"Are we going to go inside or what?" Jaina suddenly asked from behind him.

"Should we?" Jacen asked.

"Well, why not?" his sister argued. "There were training areas inside and I'm curious to see how they set those up. And it's not like there are any bodies aboard, the ship didn't crash after all." She reached into one of the many pockets on her brown jumpsuit and pulled out a datapad, calling up one of the schematics of the ship. "I think there's an access hatch we can use about twenty meters due west."

After following Jaina to where the schematic indicated the hatch was, Jacen frowned. "I don't see how we're supposed to open it. It looks like it's welded pretty tight."

Jaina was already kneeling down on the rusted metal, and pointed to a barely visible hairline seam in the panel. "Uncle Luke told me he and Tionne cut this door at a diagonal so its weight would keep it sealed," she said, coming to her feet and taking a step away from it. "We just need to levitate it up."

"Easy enough," Jacen agreed, and reached out toward the hatch. A moment later, he winced and dropped his arm back to his side as if it had been stung. "Kriff, that thing's heavy!"

"Perhaps we should try to work together?" Tenel Ka suggested.

"That's what I was going to say," Jaina added, "before you went off and tried to be the hero as usual."

Jacen flashed a typically lopsided grin. "Hey, I guess it runs in the family..."

After several false starts, they managed to lift the heavy slab of durasteel off the hatch opening, leaving just enough room for Lowbacca to squeeze through. After some four hundred years of sitting exposed to the elements in a tar pit, none of the emergency lighting was still functional on the ship and all the Jedi pulled out glowrods so they could see inside.

There was a slight growl from Lowbacca and moments later, Em Teedee piped up. "Master Lowbacca says that it smells quite terrible in here."

"So we noticed," Jacen said nasally, one hand pinching off his nose. The odor wasn't anything like the smell of anything rotting, but it was just a musty, dank odor that was quite disagreeable. Probably had something to do with the ship being welded shut for so long with no life support functions.

They navigated the corridors of the ship in silence for several minutes, eventually coming to one of the transparisteel-domed openings that had apparently served as a cafeteria. Plates, cups, and utensils still littered the tables as if someone had left in a hurry. They all seemed to be covered in a thick layer of dirt, which as Jacen approached he realized was actually the dried, decomposed remains of whatever food had been on the plates.

He sneezed as his footsteps kicked up some of the dust on the floor. "Whatever was growing in this mess is long dead," he remarked.

"No kidding," Jaina agreed. "Well, I don't think we're going to learn anything here. Let's keep going."

Another fifteen minutes of wandering dark and often collapsed corridors later, they came to another domed area. This one had patterns of lines painted on the floor, and several huge balls were scattered around.

"I do not understand," Tenel Ka declared. "Was this some sort of game? Or just for exercise?"

"There's one way to find out," Jaina said as she walked over toward one of the largest balls.

"Please tell me you're not going to do what I think you're going to," Jacen said.

"I've been dying to use that telemetric technique that Uncle Luke taught me," she replied. "Isn't this the perfect opportunity?"

"Yeah," Jacen said. "I also remember him warning you about how dangerous it could be if you used it on anything that had been touched by the Dark Side."

Jaina rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Now who's sounding like Mom? We're on a Jedi training ship that hasn't been touched by anyone except Uncle Luke in four hundred years. What's the worst that could happen?"

Jacen sighed. "Fine. Let's see how this game was played."

Jaina reached out toward the ball and put her hands on its surface, which still appeared unblemished compared to everything else on the ship. As Jacen watched, her eyes closed and she seemed to go into a trance-like state for only a few seconds before her eyes snapped back open. She turned back to them, silently, and Jacen waited for her to say something.

"Well?" he finally asked after what seemed like minutes had passed.

"It... for a moment, it felt like I was there," she finally managed to say. "I saw flashes of faces, the Jedi padawans playing the game. I think it was some sort of telekinetic exercise, they would bounce these balls back and forth without touching them, and if one went between these white lines, they scored a point against that person."

"Sounds fun," Jacen remarked. "Sort of like Limmie, I guess?"

"With more goalies," Jaina agreed.

Limmie, or bolo-ball as it was known outside the Core, was a relatively unpopular sport on Coruscant but had a fanatical following throughout the rest of the galaxy. It was played by only using the players' feet to kick a ball through goals on the opposite ends of a wide field.

Jacen looked around at the domed area again. The white lines formed an octagon, with three meter wide openings on each face. He guessed that the Jedi version the padawans had played involved about eight players, each one playing both goalie and offense, paired up against opposite sides of the room.

"Well, I think four of us can give it a shot," Jacen said as he walked over to one of the sides. He reached out and drew the nearest ball towards him. Tenel Ka walked to the opposite side of the octagon, and Jaina and Lowbacca took up positions at right angles to him.

"Who's going to keep score?" Jaina asked a moment later.

"I am capable of serving in that capacity," Em Teedee declared as he floated off Lowbacca's utility belt to a position high in the dome above.

"I'll try not to hit you with the ball, Em Teedee," Jacen laughed as the ball in front of him began to float in his grip.

"All players ready?" Em Teedee asked, changing his voice to sound like one of the HoloNet sports announcers. Jacen snorted at the little droid's antics and nodded.

"Play ball!"

Jacen launched his ball across the room at the same time as the others. As it sailed through the middle, it collided with a ball from Jaina and both went shooting off in diagonal directions, arcing back toward the floor and bouncing several times. As Jacen struggled to maintain his grip on the ball, he became dimly aware of another projectile flying straight at him and jerked himself sideways.

"First goal goes to Tenel Ka!" Em Teedee announced a moment later.

Chagrined, Jacen picked up the ball that was now rolling around behind him and lobbed it upward. As it began to arc across the dome, Jacen reached out to grab the first ball but Lowbacca had already sent it rolling toward Jaina. He gave it a shove sideways toward Tenel Ka, and the ball began to curve around the dusty floor just as she caught the flying ball in an invisible grip. As she sent the hovering ball back toward him, he reached out to swat the ball on the ground, sending it shooting toward an open space of floor near her feet. She reacted a moment too late, only managing to deflect the ball slightly off course.

"Goal: Jacen, against Tenel Ka."

The back and forth continued for several more minutes although both Jacen and Tenel Ka managed to block each other's attempts to score. Jaina and Lowbacca, meanwhile, kept scoring goals against each other. He watched, fascinated, as they made the balls spin in midair, almost dancing in a blur of colors. Then the spinning stopped and the balls shot down in opposite directions. Both Jedi caught the balls and hurled them back, where they collided in the middle and began orbiting once more.

Jacen hefted his ball and hurled it directly at the center, where Jaina and Lowbacca were having their contest. It impacted and sent both balls flying off at crazy trajectories. Maintaining his grip on the one ball, he continued to guide it straight at Tenel Ka, who was simply hovering her own ball in front of herself. He felt his ball come to a halt in front of her. He concentrated and struggled to push it closer, but it simply refused to budge.

Then three balls all slammed into him at once, knocking him over so hard that he landed on his tailbone. For several moments, he simply lay there, stunned, as he tried to recover his breath. When he finally propped himself up on one elbow to look at the others, they had all stopped playing and Jaina was laughing. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, that hit just knocked the wind right out of me," he replied as he got back up and rubbed his back. "It was fun, though. They're going to love that back at the Academy."

"Hey, Em Teedee!" Jaina shouted up at the little droid. "Can you snap a picture of the whole room from up there?"

"Of course, Mistress Jaina," the droid replied, floating back down to Lowbacca's belt after a few moments.

Jacen peered up to see where the position of Dathomir's sun was. "What time is it, anyway?" The way the shadows were aligned, it had to be somewhere around midday.

"The time is 0937 hours," Em Teedee answered.

Then again, Jacen reflected, they had gotten up before dawn had even broken that morning. He wasn't usually a morning person, and trying to adjust himself from Yavin to Dathomir had been quite interesting so far; besides the day/night cycles, which were several hours shorter than a Coruscant standard day, there was also the matter that Dathomir's gravity was a bit lower than the jungle moon.

Jaina had already pulled out her datapad again and was scanning the schematics of the ship. "I think the lightsaber training room is the next dome we'll be going through," she said after tapping away for some time.

"Of course it would be," Jacen replied. "Let me see that thing. Didn't they have some kind of zoo aboard?"

"Sure. And they had a three ring circus with banthas," Jaina replied as she handed the datapad over.

Jacen gave her a pained look. "Come on now, I was being serious for a change."

"So was I... well, maybe not about the circus, but there's a bantha compound on the other side of the ship."

He frowned and looked down at the datapad. Sure enough, one area was labeled BANTHAS. "What the heck would they want with banthas on a Jedi training ship?"

"Perhaps they wanted real milk for the Padawans," Tenel Ka suggested in an absolutely serious tone.

The thought of a bantha dairy on a starship made Jacen crack up, but as comical as the idea sounded, it actually made a certain amount of sense. After all, the only thing banthas really needed was feedstock, water, and a certain amount of space to move around in. The Chu'unthor was certainly large enough to have met all three requirements.

Following the schematics, Jaina again led them through several hundred meters of hallways, although it would have been a much shorter route had so much of the ship not collapsed internally. The first room they entered was filled with dust-covered test equipment. A sheet was draped over something in one corner of the room, and Jaina immediately ran over. The sheet disintegrated in her hand as she pulled it off to reveal a slumped-over stocky, metallic humanoid form.

"Hey, it's a Cybot GA-series analysis droid!" Jaina exclaimed. "I wonder if it's still functional..."

She reached around and flipped a switch on the back of the machine, and was rewarded as its optical receptors lit up. It attempted to straighten itself but the centuries of neglect appeared to have frozen its servos.

"Cybot Galactica GA-16 Information Analysis Unit, serial number 465-besh-nern-44486. Error 483," the droid spoke in a voice that Jacen could have sworn sounded slightly rusty. "General servomotor failure. Please contact the Cybot Galactica support hotline to set up a service request."

Jaina turned to Lowbacca as the droid began to repeat the error message. "Anything you can do?"

Lowbacca shook his head and rumbled a reply, which Em Teedee translated as "Not without the right spare parts."

"Let's see if I can bypass the error message." Jaina switched the unit off and pried open one of its panels, flipping several switches inside. Apparently satisfied, she closed the panel and hit the power again.

"Cybot Galactica GA-16 Information Analysis Unit, serial number 465-besh-nern-44486. Service Mode Enabled. Please state your command."

"Access information records," Jaina pronounced carefully.

"What records would you like to access? Choices are..." The droid paused for several seconds as if stalled. "Error: Unable to access Chu'unthor central computer records. Please state your command."


"Which diagnostic would you like to run?"

"Function test."

The droid began to rattle off a list of functions that Jacen had no clue about. The only information that he caught from it was that its ship datalink was currently down, unsurprising since Chu'unthor had not had power in several centuries, and that all primary servos had failed.

Jaina finally flipped the unit off in disgust. "Without the central computer, it's pretty much useless," she explained. "If we could somehow get the computer back up and running, it would be great to have."

"Doesn't matter anyway," Jacen replied. "Remember, Uncle Luke picked up all of this ship's records years ago."

Jaina scratched her head thoughtfully. "You know, we could probably make good use of this droid back at the Academy. They only replaced it with the GY-I around the time of the Clone Wars, so there are still a lot of them in service."

"Who's going to carry it?" Jacen pointed out.

Jaina looked at Lowbacca, who shook his head emphatically. She sighed, then continued. "Well, I guess if we find a working hoversled we might be able to do something."

"If you believe it will be that useful," Tenel Ka said, "we could all levitate it in front of us like we did with the entrance hatch."

"Let's just come back to it later," Jacen said after considering her suggestion. "We still have a lot of ship to explore."

Leaving the dilapidated data center behind, the next room turned out to be the lightsaber training dome. Several training remotes lay on the floor, collecting dust, and a number of what Jacen guessed were large bowls were scattered around. He walked over to one, picked it up, and frowned.

"Who puts straps in a bowl?"

"Let me see that," Jaina said as she took it out of his hand. "You dummy! It's not a bowl, it's a helmet... and from the size of the harness inside, I'd say it's for a pretty small kid." She took the helmet and dropped it on Jacen's head; the end result must have looked rather absurd, with the wide helmet perched halfway up and completely slanted. For a moment, Jacen thought he heard Tenel Ka snicker softly, but when he lifted the helmet to look up at her, her face was completely unreadable.

Lowbacca, meanwhile, was on the other side of the room. His tall form was bent down as he worked at something on the ground, and a minute later he walked back with some small cylinders in his massive paws.

"Are those lightsabers?" Jaina asked with no small degree of surprise. The cylinders were barely as long as her hand, Jacen noted as she picked one up. Then she pointed it away from everyone and depressed the activation stud. A short, dimly glowing green blade sprung to life with more of a fizzle than the usual crisp snap-hiss, then flickered several times before dying out completely.

"I think they're low-powered training sabers," he observed, picking another one out of Lowbacca's hand. Pointing it outward, he ignited it and made a slicing movement toward the deck. Instead of carving a line into the deck plating, the saber bounced off without leaving a mark, then sputtered out.

"So how old do you think the trainees were?" Jacen asked.

Jaina shrugged and looked at the helmet again. "They couldn't have been very old. Maybe four."

"That's a lot younger than we were," he remarked.

"Tell me about it," Jaina agreed. "If they were training with sabers at four... I wonder when they started?"

"I've heard that some were taken as infants," a voice behind them said, causing all four Jedi to turn around and draw their lightsabers in alarm. When they saw that the voice belonged to Kyp, they relaxed and switched off their blades.

"How long have you been standing there?" Jaina asked.

The older Jedi shrugged. "Only about five minutes. You guys were pretty preoccupied." He looked around the dusty room. "Man, this place really is falling apart."

Jaina frowned in thought. "About what you said... where did you hear that, anyway?"

"Imperial propaganda," Kyp replied. "Got a heavy dose of it at Kessel. Claimed that the Jedi were baby-snatchers. Maybe that part of it wasn't very far from the truth after all."

Jacen and Jaina exchanged looks. "Well, you know what Master Luke says about half-truths often being more effective than outright lies," Jaina said after a moment. "So, anyway, what took so long? I thought we'd be meeting up sometime last week."

"We ran into some snags with the weapons loadout on the XJs," Kyp answered. "They put three torpedo launchers on the fighter in place of the original single launcher. Because of that, the torpedoes are incompatible with all of my other fighters."

"But they managed to keep the firepower the same," Jaina remarked. "That's impressive with such a small warhead."

Kyp nodded. "Anyway, I was contacted by a rep from the Extragalactic Society after you left. One of their observation stations out in the Tingel Arm hasn't reported in in over a month. They sent a ship last week to investigate and haven't heard back from them either, so they want us to take a look."

"So that's our next stop?" Jacen asked.

"No, we'll still check out the convoy first, since it's closer." Kyp replied. "Well, I'm going to head back to my fighter. I'll meet you guys back at the Singing Mountain Clan."

"Wait," Jaina said suddenly. "Could you help us move something first?"

He paused in mid-stride. "Sure. Where is it?"

"The old GA-series in the next room. Its servos are frozen, but Lowbacca and I can repair it back at the Praxeum. I figured Tionne could use the help."

Together they picked up the old droid and levitated it in front of themselves all the way back to the entrance hatch. While Kyp took off in his X-wing, which he had landed on a flat part of the Chu'unthor, Lowbacca wrapped a rough blanket around the droid to cover any sharp edges and placed it into the inflatable raft.

The mood was quiet during the hour-long ride back to the Singing Mountain Clan. Once there, they said their goodbyes to the clan, and set about preparing the Rock Dragon for takeoff. Two hours after that, they were back in space hurtling through hyperspace toward the location of the distress signal.

"You know, this doesn't really make any sense," Jacen said as he paced back and forth in the passenger lounge. "The only link we have between the convoy and Bimmiel is reports of attacking asteroids. And then there's this ExGal station on Belkadan that nobody's heard from. Who would attack such random targets?" He waved his hands emphatically. "I mean, think about it: a scientific research station, a convoy, and an archaeological expedition on an uninhabitable planet."

Jaina regarded him with a bemused look. "We don't even know if Belkadan and the convoy are related to Bimmiel. As far as we know, ExGal 4 could have had a communications problem, while the convoy was probably a pirate attack. The aliens on Bimmiel were probably just upset over the researchers invading their burial grounds!"

He shrugged. "That's a possibility, but..."

"We'll find out when we get there, won't we," Jaina cut him off.

Jacen glared at his sister. "I'd still like to have some idea of what's going on before we get into the middle of things. So far we're only going on sketchy information."

"I know - We know, Jacen." She paused for a moment. "I'm just as nervous as you are about this. But we don't have any choice now; we're going to arrive in a few hours." Jaina gave him a friendly pat on the back. "Try not to worry about it. I'm going to head back to the cockpit and see if Tenel Ka or Lowbacca need to do anything."

"That will not be necessary," a voice behind her said. "The navicomputer will give us fair warning before we exit hyperspace."

The twins turned about to face Tenel Ka, standing as alert as she typically did. She inclined her eyebrows. "Of course, there is always the danger of pirates, but with the Dozen-and-Two Avengers nearby, I would hope that any would-be attackers might realize discretion is the better part of valor."

"They wouldn't even know what hit them," Jacen jokingly commented. "At least judging by the attitudes of Kyp's pilots," he hastily added in response to a slightly confused look from the warrior.

"Ah," Tenel Ka nodded. "Aha."

"If they would spend as much time working on their piloting as massaging their egos, they would rival Rogue Squadron," Jaina added derisively. "Brand-new XJs or not, I really wouldn't want to fly in a squadron like that."

"And I thought you looked almost eager when Kyp asked you if you wanted to join his squadron."

Jaina spun about to face her brother, irritation clearly evident on her face. "Maybe I was, for a moment. You should know that I've always wanted to fly in a professional squadron... but the Avengers are really just amateurs with fancy hardware."

He raised his eyebrows. "Have to admit, they've done a pretty good job against pirates for a bunch of amateurs."

"Hah. Pirates," she remarked scornfully. "They're nothing compared to a professional military force." Her tone changed slightly, gaining a worried edge. "Although that does have me concerned; if you're right and this isn't just some third-rate group that's been causing trouble, then we are going to have serious problems."

By the time the navicomputer signaled that reversion from hyperspace was imminent, the four Jedi were in their positions and the ship was ready, its deflectors and sensors already powered up and waiting. Jaina had taken over piloting, with Tenel Ka sitting in the copilot's seat; while she couldn't easily fly with only one arm, running the navicomputer and various other systems was far from difficult.

"We're powered up and ready," Jacen reported from the port laser turret. A Wookiee roar, which needed no translation, echoed him.

"Standby," Tenel Ka reported, her voice sounding smooth despite the stress that all of them were facing. She waited for the navicomputer to count down...

The Rock Dragon smoothly decelerated, the mottled sky of hyperspace gradually streaking and then turning into a field of points.

"Avengers, report in," Tenel Ka said over the comm.

"We're all accounted for," Kyp's voice responded. "Nothing's turned up on passive sensors yet."

A collective sigh of relief came from the four Jedi aboard the transport. "I'll run a full-power scan," Jaina commented, her hands flying across the console. "It should show anything that's sensor-stealthed."

After a short period of time, she spoke up again. "I've got what looks like a debris cloud, range about ten thousand klicks. No lifesigns anywhere. Sending vectors right now."

As they neared the debris field, the Jedi aboard the Rock Dragon heard a snort come across the com. "Isn't this a little small to be from a convoy?"

"Miko, keep the comm clear," Kyp replied.

Jacen stared out the forward viewport, wondering about the dispersed debris field. Whatever was passing through his mind was interrupted by his sister.

Keying the com on, Jaina spoke into it. "Avengers, this is Jaina. Let me know if you find anything we can use for identification." She switched it off and turned to Lowbacca. "Lowie, I need you to use the tractor beam. Drag in anything that looks promising."

The Wookiee urfed a reply as Jaina got up, giving the controls to her brother. She turned to exit the cockpit. "I'll be in the main hold. If there's nothing on whatever you bring in, I'll dump it back."

"Got it," Jacen replied, focusing on the debris through the Force, trying to see if there was anything that drew his attention. A few minutes later, he noticed a small piece that seemed mostly intact, and Lowie snagged it with the tractor beam.

"Good catch," an excited voice echoed from the hold. "It has some numbers on it, but I'm not quite sure what it's from." There was silence for a moment. "Jacen, can you come here and take a look at this?"

Jacen stood up, leaving Tenel Ka and Lowie with the task of flying the ship. Moments later, he reached the hold.

"Take a look at these," Jaina commented, pointing towards a set of deep scratches in the plate. "I could almost swear that these are tooth marks."

He knelt down, inspecting the plate. ‘You're right," Jacen eventually agreed. "That's kind of odd, though. I don't think there would be any space slugs this far from an asteroid, and they're about the only organic I can think of that could do this kind of damage.

"Well, they did show asteroids attacking them," Jaina replied.

Jacen rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on. Even I've had enough orbital mechanics lessons to know that any asteroid that did this would still be close to the debris."

"Or on an intersecting orbit," Jaina added. "Hang on, let me plot out some of the objects in this system and see if any would have intersected this orbit in the past week or two." She tapped away at the comm-scan computer for several minutes. "Huh. Looks like only a couple of rocks came within a few hundred thousand klicks of this location. Let's check them out anyway."

One short hyperspace jump brought them to the first of the objects, which turned out to be a small, dried-out dustball of a comet. Sensor scans came up blank, so they made several passes around the old comet to try and find any trace of silicon lifeforms like a space slug. Each time, they came up empty-handed. After several minutes of that, Jaina gave up and plotted a jump to the second object, which turned out to be just as uninhabitable as the first: a smooth, metal-rich lump of an asteroid with no distinctive surface features and only one crater right in the middle of its hourglass-shaped mass. It was most certainly too small to host a space slug, barely larger than a Corellian CR-90 corvette.

Just to be sure, several pilots in Kyp's squadrons took shots at the asteroid, but nothing at all happened.

"Hey, I think I've got something," Jaina said a moment later. "Looks like more debris, about ten degrees spinward of our original location." She frowned and looked back at the display panel. "Not sure why I didn't see that before..."

When they emerged from the jump at the newly discovered debris field, Miko let out a low whistle. "This is more like it. There's gotta be pieces of a hundred different ships here..."

Jacen leaned forward to look out the viewport at the black expanse beyond, and tapped at some of the controls to call up a magnified, high-contrast view of the area ahead. The dead hulks of several ships were drifting aimlessly through space. At least one appeared to be a light freighter of Corellian design, while several others had probably been pleasure yachts.

"What do you think happened?" he asked his sister.

"I don't see any carbon scoring," she replied without taking her eyes off the sensor readouts. "Strange... that freighter over there looks like the hull just sort of melted in places."

Kyp and Miko accelerated away from the rest of the squadron and navigated their way through the field of debris to pull up to one of the largest hulls.

"What can you see there?" Jaina asked.

"Maybe I'm imagining things, but it looks like someone splattered the hull with melted rock. The hull plating is deformed around the impact areas."

Jaina suddenly let out a whoop. "I'm picking up a short-range distress signal. Kyp, Miko, can you help triangulate it?"

"We hear it," Kyp replied. "I'll send you my data."

"Copy that," Miko added. "Transmitting now."

After a brief search to find the lone pod in the middle of the wreckage field, Tenel Ka deftly pulled the transport to within a hundred meters of the pod. Lowbacca snagged it with a tractor beam and drew it in to within a meter of the port hatch, then set up a forcefield tunnel between the ship's hatch and the pod hatch.

Several minutes later, lightsaber at the ready, Jacen knocked on the pod's hatch, and was greeted by a weak knock from the other side. The hatch slowly began to hiss open, and Jacen wrinkled his nose at the stench from inside. He counted six people inside the pod, and began dragging them into the passenger lounge. Once the pod had been emptied, he closed the ship's hatch behind him and Lowbacca jettisoned the now-useless escape pod.

"Thank you," one of the men said weakly after downing several full glasses of water. "We were beginning to think we'd never be rescued..."

"No problem," Jacen replied. "I'm Jacen Solo, Jedi Knight. Where are you guys from?"

"Garqi," the man replied. "Name's Ragle." He gestured around at the others sitting on the acceleration couch. "Coda, Lancam, Opardi, Minas, and Walwitt."

"Have you been out here since the attack?"

"Yeah," Ragle replied. "How long has it been, anyway?"

"About a month. How did you manage to survive for that long?"

"Beats me. We ran out of ration bars a while ago, and the water recycling unit broke down... well, I have no idea when but it couldn't have been longer than a week."

"Can you describe the attack?"

Ragle shrugged. "From what I did see, this asteroid-ship shows up and seems to break into hundreds of pieces. Only they're not shards, they're fighters, because the next thing we know, they're shooting at us and we can't hit them for some reason. It was like our turbolaser bolts just disappeared when they got close to them."

Jaina, still standing beside her brother, frowned. "They didn't try to communicate with you?"

"Nope," Ragle replied. "And believe me, we tried. First the standard frequencies, then we just went across everything. The only things we heard were cries for help from the other ships."

"That's terrible," Jaina replied. "Well, we're going to keep searching for any more survivors. You can move around and stretch if you like, or just strap yourselves in to one of the acceleration couches."
Last edited by Crayz9000 on 2011-06-26 12:24am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.6 up)

Post by Themightytom »

Um would it be crazy to suggest you blend these events for a better transition? it's a little jarring to read four chapters about the Voyager and C'Boath and suddenly it's all in the other galaxy.

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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.6 up)

Post by Crayz9000 »

Hmm. Yeah, when you put it that way... Shouldn't be too hard to re-arrange the first few chapters.
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Xon »

Crazedwraith wrote:Wait you're restarting this? :( I'm never going to see anything new.
I think this is the 3rd or 4th restart of this story I've seen, and it's gotten better each time.

The initial Voyager/Starwars interaction had some crazy massively jarring bits. It might have been another story, but I remember some crazy abuse of the term "quantum clone".
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Re: [ST/SW] A Prelude to War

Post by Crayz9000 »

Xon wrote:
Crazedwraith wrote:Wait you're restarting this? :( I'm never going to see anything new.
I think this is the 3rd or 4th restart of this story I've seen, and it's gotten better each time.
Thanks :) Like I've said before, this is the last restart. I'm finally satisfied with where the story is, and the plot is finally coming naturally to me.
Xon wrote: The initial Voyager/Starwars interaction had some crazy massively jarring bits. It might have been another story, but I remember some crazy abuse of the term "quantum clone".
That must have been some other story. I have all of the older versions saved and I never wrote anything about quantum clones. Having said that, I've tried to make the Voyager/Star Wars interaction more realistic with each revision..
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.7 up)

Post by Crayz9000 »


Lorana Jinzler led Voyager's command crew down one of the long corridors on D-One, staying to one side as speeder bikes raced past. They had just completed a tour of the changes on Voyager, which after a month of repairs and upgrades was covered in durasteel alloy patches and supported by an exo-skeletal framework secured to the turbolift pylons surrounding the central storage core.

The end result was a ship that only vaguely resembled the Intrepid-class it was at the beginning. The ribbed effect of the curved exo-skeletal girders gave the ship the appearance of a prehistoric arthropod such as a trilobite. The built-in Structural Integrity Field system had been supplemented on the outside with tensor field generators to strengthen the framework against the stresses of entering and exiting hyperspace, and relativistic shield generators had been installed to make sure that time would flow at the same rate on Voyager as it did on the rest of the Outbound Flight once they entered hyperspace. All of the engineers had agreed that having any difference in the rate of time flow between the two ships would not be conductive to the health of anyone involved.

"Jedi Lorana?" a voice behind her asked. She stopped and turned around to face Tom Paris.


"I heard there was some sort of space fighter aboard. Is that true?"

Lorana nodded. "Yes, there's a Delta-12 Skysprite on D-Three. Why do you ask?"

Paris gave her a slightly goofy grin. "Well, see, I've always been interested in fighters. B'Elanna and I have been working on modifying one of Voyager's shuttles for a few months now to give it better performance, but that probably doesn't compare to one designed for combat from the start. Would you mind letting us see it?"

"Not at all," Lorana said as they arrived at D-One's bridge. "Who else would like to come along?"

Nobody raised their hand, so Lorana turned back to Tom. "Well, it looks like it's just you. The rest of you can stay here with the Captain or go anywhere you need to. We'll be in the hangar of D-Three."

A short walk and turbolift ride later, they arrived in D-Three's hangar and Paris let out a low whistle as he saw the Delta-12. "Man, that thing looks like it's built for speed," he said, admiring its sleek lines and the red stripes that had been painted on its arrowhead-shaped hull. Apparently red paint stripes were indeed a universal concept meant to convey the fact that something was designed to go fast.

Then, as he completed his half-circle walk around the fighter, he couldn't help but notice the two huge cylinders that protruded from its aft section. "Wow... this thing must have some serious power. It's practically all engine!"

Lorana nodded. "It's one of the fastest fighters made. The Jedi Order was the largest customer."

"How come there's only one?" Paris asked.

"Outbound Flight actually wasn't supposed to have any fighters," she replied. "The Jedi Council sent a Knight and his Padawan along with us to try and locate a Jedi that had gone missing in the uncharted regions of the galaxy, and they were going to use this fighter to leave before we reached the uncharted areas. The Supreme Chancellor pulled them off at one of our last navigational stops, so the fighter was left behind."

"Ah," Paris said. "Do you know how to fly it?"

Lorana laughed. "Well, I'm not a crack pilot like Anakin, but yes, I know how to fly."

Paris had an expression similar to that of a kid who's just been given free run of a candy store. "Can we take it out?"

Lorana suddenly looked uncertain. "Well... I suppose. We won't be leaving for several more hours. I'll just let Master C'baoth know so that we don't get left behind by accident."

While Lorana went to contact C'baoth, Paris walked up to the fighter and started circling it. The bubble-domed cockpit was a double-seated tandem configuration. When he walked behind the fighter again, he bent down to take a closer look at the two massive engines. At first, he'd thought they took up perhaps a quarter of the fighter's mass, but as he slid underneath the fighter he quickly realized that the turbopumps and other systems extended for almost the full length of the fighter. They had to be at least half of its mass.

He pushed himself back from underneath the fighter, rolled over, and picked up one knee so that he could get back on his feet.

"Master C'baoth's given us an hour," Lorana suddenly said from behind him, making him jump and hit his head on a protruding baffle. "Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

Tom grimaced and gingerly rubbed the back of his head. "It's OK, I think it'll wear off."

"Here, allow me," she said as she gently placed her hand on the back of his head. The pain vanished the instant that her hand made contact, much to Tom's amazement.

"What did you do?"

"Just a simple Jedi healing technique," Lorana replied. "Anyway, let's not waste time. I'll help you get into the cockpit."

Elsewhere, Captain Kathryn Janeway rolled over on her biobed as if she had just awoken, and looked at the time. She nodded, propped herself up on one elbow, and looked around the Sickbay. It was empty, which was to be expected considering that they had not been attacked by anybody.

This was a routine she had rehearsed for nearly a month now, since they had confined her to Sickbay in the first place. And as far as she was concerned, it was insanely simple.

She tossed her legs over the side of the bed, and dragged an LCARS console toward herself. Switching it on, she accessed the crew roster and glanced at her own profile. No changes had been made to it.

Her next step was to access a section of the computer that seemed completely innocuous and did not appear to be connected to anything. While she was working her way thought a particular sequence of commands, however, her thumb slipped and activated the wrong thing.

The LCARS terminal beeped, the same volume as it had for all of her commands. However, to her the beep seemed to echo throughout Sickbay. She grimaced at the error, and focused even harder on the console.

The sequence was entered once again, more carefully this time. It took a bit more time, but as long as nobody called Sickbay for advice from the Doctor, she was perfectly fine. Finally, she smiled at her work: the LCARS terminal now displayed a detailed list of options. After looking the options over, she selected one and waited.

It worked perfectly.

Her biometric profile was now associated with that of a nonexistent ensign.

Janeway let out a deep sigh, one that sounded as if it had been pent up for several weeks, and perhaps it was. It didn't really matter; she stood up and stretched, listening to the joints in her spine crack. Then she walked toward the exit.

Or at least tried to.

Am all-too-familiar voice behind her spoke. "Are you perhaps going somewhere, Captain?"

Janeway spun around in reaction to the Doctor's sudden appearance.

"Captain," his voice took on a note of annoyance, "I did give specific orders that you were to remain here until I released you from my care."

Janeway dove to the floor as the Doctor suddenly brought a sedative hypospray toward her. As she did so, her elbow slammed into the hard surface of the deck, causing her to grimace in pain; she tried her best to ignore it, stretching out her heel to trip the Doctor. His illusory foot passed right through hers, and as she leaned backwards to avoid the hypospray she fell over the biobed, landing in an awkward heap on the floor.

It's so easy to forget he's a hologram, she realized as she picked herself back up. There wasn't even any point to trying to fight him.

"Computer, end program."

The Doctor disappeared, and promptly she began running toward the exit...

Only to have him re-appear in front of her path.

"Computer-" This time, he did not allow her to complete her sentence as he advanced, still holding the hypospray. She backed up, crashing into a tool cart as she did.

"End program!"

The Doctor didn't pause before he spoke. "I have isolated myself from the main computer, Captain."

"Thanks for telling me," she sarcastically retorted. "Computer-"

Janeway cut her sentence short and rolled sideways as the Doctor forcefully thrust his hypospray toward her again. She came up on the other side of the cart and grabbed it, using it as shield between herself and the Doctor.

"Cut all-"

He again thrust the hypospray toward her. This time, she grabbed the hypospray--that was the only part that wasn't holographic, after all--and thrust it away from herself. She heard the distinctive hissing as he activated it, but thankfully the drug only went into the air.

"-power to-"

She dodged another thrust with the hypospray, madly looking around Sickbay to see if there was something that she could use as a weapon. Her quick search only turned up several pillows.

"-Sickbay!" she finished. The lights promptly went out, but she could still see the Doctor, who faintly glowed in the absence of light.

Crap, she thought. But there was no time to contemplate her mistake, as she observed the Doctor come at her again. She grabbed a nearby pillow and flung it the approaching hologram, momentarily causing him to pause as the polyester projectile passed harmlessly through him. She started running in the darkened Sickbay-

-and ran straight into a biobed, knocking herself off her feet and dazing her for a moment.

The Doctor continued his pace toward her, the ever-present hypospray still in his hand. "Captain, may I suggest you return to your unit before you inflict further harm on yourself? It is difficult enough handling a psychological emergency."

Kathryn ignored his cautions and picked up a nearby medical cart with as much effort as she could muster. She then spun it around as fast as was possible, hitting the hypospray in his outstretched arm and sending it flying.

While the Doctor looked down at his empty hand in curiosity, she dashed out of Sickbay.

As Tom climbed into the rear cockpit seat of the Delta-12, he was amazed at how much the cockpit looked like a higher-tech version of one of the World War II fighters that he admired so much. It even had a flight stick in the center!

"Put your headband on," Lorana instructed him from the seat in front. "We won't be able to hear each other unless that's in place; it's kind of loud in here."

Tom looked at the panels on either side and finally saw where the headband was hanging. He picked it up and, after a moment trying to figure out where it went, put it on his head.

"All right, I'm starting the warm-up sequence. Are you all strapped in?"

Tom looked down and noticed that he was sitting on a harness. He moved and pulled the harness out, then began buckling the five different straps into the center connector and pulled them tight. "I am now," he acknowledged.

"Great. Hangar control's given us clearance to move out."

The fighter picked up off the floor of the hangar with a slight whine as its systems ran up to full power, and then glided out through the containment field into open space.

"I love the visibility in this thing," Tom remarked as he looked all around them. "It almost feels like we're right out in space."

"Here, I'll pull around and get us a better look at Voyager," Lorana said as she swung the fighter around rapidly.

The Doctor snapped back up in time to see Janeway exit the Sickbay. He briefly calculated the outcomes of pursuing his patient, but decided against it. Although a flying medical cart could not do him any lasting damage due to his ethereal nature, it was quite annoying.

Besides, it wasn't like he was the only being on Voyager. He accessed the central computer, noting that there were three security officers on Deck 5, then switched on the ship-wide paging system.

Janeway was stepping into a turbolift just as the Doctor's announcement came over the speakers.

"Attention all personnel. This is the Chief Medical Officer speaking. Kathryn Janeway has attacked me and escaped Sickbay. She is seriously ill and needs to be returned at once."

She cursed silently and hit the control panel rather than using voice commands. The doors slid shut, blocking off the view of the corridor beyond, and there was the briefest of sensations as the pod began moving. It seemed like only several seconds had passed before the doors opened again. She cautiously and quietly stepped into the corridor, walking down it as softly as possible toward the door at the far end. Again, Janeway worked the control panel, and was rewarded as it slid open in response to her thumbprint.

She peeked around the door and then ducked into the shuttlebay, pausing to grab a hand phaser out of a storage locker. Once she had made sure that nobody was present in the shuttlebay, she looked at the deck.

After five years spent traveling through the Delta Quadrant, there was just one shuttle left. B'Elanna and Tom had managed to piece it together over the past several months from one of their wrecked Type-11 shuttlecraft, some of the few remaining spare parts and scavenged components from alien ships. Whatever was left had been fabricated using the ship's industrial replicator, although it had been hard for her to sign off on such a large expenditure of their precious antimatter supplies.

At least we won't have to worry about that now, she mused before cutting that train of thought off. How can we trust them to take us home? They wanted to bolt our ships together which would make us absolutely helpless and defenseless... They could take us back to their own part of the galaxy and we wouldn't be able to do a thing about it.

She shook her head sadly as her hand ran over the name that Tom had painted on the side of the shuttle. Delta Flyer... They hadn't even been able to properly christen it because she had changed course to investigate the Outbound Flight.

Janeway was startled by banging at the entrance, and realized that she needed to get out before they overrode the lock. She slapped the Delta Flyer's hatch release, then jumped in as soon as it was open wide enough for her to fit through. As soon as she was inside, she sealed the panel and locked it from outside access.

When she reached the cockpit, she realized that she had just made it in time as Tuvok and a number of supernumeraries poured into the hangar, compression rifles drawn.

With a sense of urgency, she began activating the shuttle's systems, praying silently that they hadn't overlooked any leaks in the hull or anything else that might cause a catastrophic failure. Then she sat down in the pilot's chair and reached for the touchpad to actually take the shuttle out... and discovered that there wasn't one.

"Leave it to Tom to build a shuttle that only he could fly," she muttered to herself as she wrapped her hand around the joystick. "Now... how does this thing work?"

Experimentally, she eased the joystick forward, and was rewarded as the nose of the hovering shuttle pitched forward, crashing off the deck plates and startling the security officers.

"Captain, your actions are highly irrational and are unlikely to have a positive outcome," Tuvok's always calm voice echoed over the comm. "I suggest you power the shuttle down and come out to talk to us."

She sighed and completely ignored him. I need to talk to Chakotay, not you. At least she might be able to talk some reason into her first officer... but if Tuvok had made up his mind, it would be almost impossible to convince him otherwise.

"Computer, open the shuttlebay doors."

As the doors began grinding their way open, Tuvok spun around before tapping his commbadge again. "Captain, I must strongly recommend you cease your current course of action."

"I can't do that, Tuvok." Just a few more meters...

"Computer, seal the shuttlebay, authorization Tuvok Lambda Seven Alpha."

In a panic, she slammed the throttle forward, spinning the Delta Flyer sideways with the stick while the doors ground to a stop. A moment later, the shuttle lurched as its wingtips scraped between the doors, and then she was out in open space.

Now the only question was where the hangar on D-1 was. Although they'd beamed out of it, she never really had a good idea where it was located. Janeway tapped at the sensor controls, trying to figure out which one of the five attached ships was D-1. Unfortunately they all looked identical, so she took a wild guess and plotted a course for the nearest one.

As she pulled about to line up the Delta Flyer with the Dreadnaught's hangar, a small, dagger-shaped craft suddenly came barreling out of the hangar and the Flyer's panel went wild with alarms.

"Warning. Collision imminent."

"What the hell?" Tom exclaimed as Lorana yanked on the controls and the Skysprite skimmed just below the Delta Flyer. "That's my ship!"

"Your ship?" Lorana asked, slightly confused, as she put the Skysprite into a banking turn to follow the odd-looking craft.

"That's the shuttle I was telling you about, the one I've been working on for a few months now!" Tom exclaimed. "Someone must have stolen it!"

"Are you sure it's not just being used to move something?" Lorana asked.

"Absolutely," Tom replied. "It's not quite finished, and the controls are more like the ones in this fighter than the touchpads that standard Starfleet shuttles use. I'm the only one who really knows how to handle it." He was boiling mad now. "If they so much as scratch the paint..."

"Let me see if I can open a channel," Lorana suggested. "Let's see... I think these are the frequencies and codecs you guys use..." she murmured, more to herself than to Tom. "Delta Flyer, this is Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler in the starfighter behind you. Identify yourself. Over."

When no reply came to her hail, she repeated it again on a different frequency, to no effect. She decided to try again.

"Delta Flyer, this is Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler. If you do not acknowledge, I will be forced to open fire. Over."

In the rear cockpit, Paris blanched. "Hey, I don't want my ship destroyed!"

"Relax," Lorana replied. "I'm just going to fire a couple of warning shots ahead of it. Maybe that'll get their attention."

Janeway flinched as red bolts suddenly exploded in front of her, causing the Delta Flyer to shake as it flew through what appeared to be plasma bursts.

"Shit," she muttered. There was no way she was going to shake her tail off in time to get to the Outbound Flight. Except... She grabbed the joystick and pulled hard to the right, sending the modified shuttle on a course toward the system's asteroid field.

"Warning. You are entering an asteroid field. The odds of destruction are greatly increased," the computer replied in a nauseatingly bland tone.

"Shut up," Janeway snapped. It complied, thankfully. The less distractions she had, the better; now, she concentrated on shaking the other shuttle that had pasted itself to her tail. Absentmindedly, she wondered why they didn't try to attack her.

She pushed down on the joystick, watching the old-fashioned attitude dials spin around like crazy, and looped around a large, slowly spinning asteroid. For a brief second, she thought that she had shaken the strange craft, but it immediately imitated her move and was back in pursuit.

"They must be insane!" Paris exclaimed as the Delta Flyer dodged between several rocks. Lorana matched the move, and was rewarded as the fighter was peppered by a shower of dust kicked up by the Flyer's impulse thrusters.

"Hang on," Lorana said as she dialed up the inertial dampeners. While she needed to keep a feel for the fighter's movement, she didn't need Paris hurling his lunch at the back of her head.

"Watch it," Paris warned as a fairly large asteroid spun into their path. The Jedi was turning the ship almost before the words came out of his mouth; in front of them, the Delta Flyer vanished from view behind another large asteroid. "They went that way."

"I saw," Lorana snapped, quietly thanking the Force that this was a relatively slow-moving asteroid field. Even so, it was not without its dangers as a half meter-wide rock clipped one of the wings, making her shield indicators flash red briefly and sending the fighter into a slight spin.

Janeway glanced down at the controls, then back to the asteroid field. Her brilliant plan was starting to look like a very bad idea now. Trying to pilot the Flyer through the field was very tiring as well, and she was getting jittery as her body demanded coffee.

"Computer, can you get a transporter lock on the Outbound Flight hangar?" she asked.

"Affirmative," the computer replied as cheerfully as ever.

Gripping the joystick, she spun the Flyer about to squeeze through two asteroids that were about to hit. There was a slight screech as one of the asteroids made contact, but no alarms went off and she let out a breath of relief.

"Kriff," Lorana suddenly exclaimed as she pulled the fighter up hard. "They're not going to get out of that one."

"What do you mean?" Paris asked, craning his neck to try and get a good look at the Delta Flyer.

"Watch," she replied. "Those asteroids are going to close at the end. They're not going to have anywhere to maneuver."

To Paris, the field still looked wide open. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Lorana said. "Watch, it's going to happen right now."

Uncannily, the asteroids were indeed moving together, forming an almost solid wall of rock directly in the path of the Delta Flyer.

"Shit!" Tom exclaimed as the Delta Flyer crashed nose-first into the largest asteroid, splintering the tough carbonaceous rock into millions of insignificant pieces before the shuttle's antimatter tanks ruptured. The ensuing explosion blossomed out, engulfing hundreds of nearby asteroids in gamma rays and superheated plasma. The Delta-12 bucked slightly as it ran into the shockwave, and Paris saw, out of the corner of his eye, the shield indicators briefly flash red again.

He swore under his breath as he watched the explosion dissipate. "I could have killed whoever did that... Do you have any idea how much work I put into that ship! Sonofa..."

It took a good several minutes for the swearing to stop.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.7 up)

Post by Crayz9000 »

I just changed the order of the first five chapters (and made some minor edits) to hopefully make the story flow better. Please let me know how it works.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.8 up)

Post by Crayz9000 »


Jaina nearly put her fist through the comm panel, but thought better of it. "It's the third time," she complained, "and I still haven't heard anything from ExGal 4." After picking up the convoy's survivors, they had dropped them off at one of the few major spaceports in the sparsely-populated sector before continuing on to Belkadan.

"What about the scan?" Jacen asked from the rear of the cockpit.

"One humanoid lifesign, and not much of anything else." Jaina turned around in her chair, frustration obvious on her face. "So, what do we do now?"

As he put his boots up on a side console and leaned back, Jacen shrugged. "Knock harder?"

"I guess that could work." Jaina spun back around, immediately reaching for the controls. Then, as if something had stung her, she pulled back. "Hang on. Is the atmosphere even breathable?"

The cockpit was silent, save for the hum of computers, for a long moment. "Yes," Tenel Ka eventually said. "Marginally. There's a lot of carbon dioxide, methane, and sulfur dioxide floating around. There are also intense storms raging across the planet, although none are near the station so far. The situation seems to be calming down, however, and according to the computer the atmosphere should be back at normal levels in another month or so."

"So you're saying that it smells like a cesspool. Wonderful."

Jaina looked at him with an incredulous expression. "What are you talking about?"

"Nevermind. Just page Kyp and tell him that we're going in. He'll probably want to come as well."

She checked some settings on the panel. "Sounds good to me," she said as she reached overhead and turned on the comm. "Rock Dragon to Avenger Leader. Kyp, there hasn't been any response, so we're going to land and take a look. What are your plans?"

The comm was silent for a moment as Kyp talked to his squadron mates. "I'll come with you. Miko and the rest of the squadron will stay in orbit and keep us informed of anything."

"Will do," she acknowledged, switching the comm to standby and grabbing the yoke. The Hapan transport responded immediately, diving into into Belkadan's atmosphere at a shallow attitude. Less than a minute later, they were skimming over the treetops-or rather, what was left of them.

There was a slight stir as Jacen stood up in the back of the cockpit and walked forward so as to get a better view. "Blaster bolts!" he exclaimed as soon as he saw the jungle. "I knew the 3GS data was out of date, but I had no idea it was this bad..." 3GS stood for the Third Galactic Survey, which had been conducted toward the later years of the Old Republic just before the Clone Wars.

"There's ExGal 4," Tenel Ka stated, her arm pointing to a rapidly growing speck on the horizon. "We'll worry about the jungle after we land. Lowie, anything on the short-range scanners yet?"

By the time the Wookiee barked a negative and waited for Em Tedee to translate it, the Rock Dragon was already circling over the science station as Jaina attempted to find a suitable landing zone. The search didn't take very long, and soon thereafter both ships had touched down on what passed for a landing pad.

As the landing ramp unfolded, Jacen was the first one down, holding his lightsaber in one hand just in case there was any wildlife looking for a quick snack. However, it wasn't wildlife that assaulted him. It was the smell.

"Phew. It's like rotten vegetables," Jaina remarked for him as she came right behind him on the ramp.

"No kidding." He stepped onto the stresscrete pad, looking down when he heard his boots crunching on something. The ground was covered evenly with small, rounded, two-centimeter brown objects that looked like surprisingly uniform pebbles. He picked one up and turned it over in his gloved hands. "Check this out. Looks like these are--"

Jacen was interrupted by a loud bellow from Lowie, which was promptly followed up by a remark from Em Tedee. "A pity that you can't shut off your olfactory sensors."

The Wookiee snorted and chuffed something in response.

"What? No, you wouldn't do that. Would you?"

Lowie grabbed the small translator with a meaty paw and held it up to his face, then bared his fangs in a slight grin.

"I see your point," Em Tedee said in a rather humiliated tone. "Can you put me back now?"

The Wookiee did so, then strode across the pad to where Kyp was lowering his R6 astromech. The other Jedi were already gathered there and talking.

"I wonder what happened to this jungle," Jacen was saying. "I mean, we've got these dead beetles strewn all over the place, and everything else seems pretty dead to me."

"The person inside ExGal 4 might be able to answer that," Kyp said, turning as Lowie approached. "Good, we're all here. Lowie, would you mind taking R6 here back to your transport and staying there to alert us in case Miko finds something?"

Lowie bellowed a 'yes,' then walked back to the ship with R6 in tow as the other Jedi went for the nearest entrance to ExGal 4.

"Well, this would explain why they couldn't hear us," Jaina observed as they stopped in front of a fallen communications tower. "Completely sm... wait, there's someone trapped under it! Help me get it off."

Several lightsaber strokes later, they rolled the top of the tower off the body, which was wearing a badly torn envirosuit. Jacen gingerly reached down and pulled the hood off the body, revealing a crushed skeleton that was covered in more of the dead beetles.

"I wonder how long he's been there for," Jacen said, grimacing. "And whoever's inside didn't even come out and check... some teamwork."

"Maybe he couldn't get the tower off," Tenel Ka remarked, fingering her rancor-tooth lightsaber. "Or else whatever hit this planet made him stay inside."

By now the group had reached the door, and Kyp pressed the control panel to no avail. "Security lockout," he remarked, distaste obvious on his face.

Then the heavy door slid open. Standing behind it was a black-haired human male, who looked to be in his middle 30s.

"Welcome to ExGal 4," the man said in passable Basic. "I take it you're the rescue party? We've been expecting you."

Confusion momentarily flashed across Kyp's face, although he quickly recovered. "Yes, we were sent by the Extragalactic Society since they haven't heard from you. It seems we came too late, however."

"Too late for Tomri or the rest of the station crew, perhaps," the man said as he gestured to the body lying next to the tower. "But I am still alive."

'He didn't even seem to care about Tomri,' Jacen thought.

"True," Kyp said, extending his hand. "But I don't believe we've been introduced yet. I'm Kyp Durron, and these are my assistants."

"Yomin Carr," the man said as he somewhat hesitantly took Kyp's outstreched hand. "A pleasure to meet you."

Kyp immediately took charge of the situation. "Can you show us around the facility so we can assess the damage?"

"Certainly," Yomin Carr replied. "Follow me." He began walking down the hallway, stopping at the first door he came to and unlocking it. "This is, or was, our hydroponics facility," he said as they stepped inside. "After the storm, one of the trees overhanging the facility fell over and smashed the upper windows. Fortunately none of the plants were attacked by those beetles."

Jacen looked around the room, which was, just as Carr had said, now open to the sky. The plants scattered around the hydroponics room were all relatively standard food-producing plants, and he didn't notice anything really abnormal about them... "The beetles, can you tell me anything about them?"

Yomin Carr shook his head. "Not much. It's possible that they mutated on this planet and then spread, doing enough damage to the environment to produce the storm that damaged this facility."

"Do you have any genetic testing equipment here?"

"No." Carr frowned. "This is an astronomical station, remember? All the scientific equipment we had was for charting extragalactic objects."

Kyp laughed. "Don't worry about Jacen too much. He's our biologist, and isn't very much into technology."

"I see," Carr replied as he noticed that Jaina was entering some information into her datapad. "As soon as you've finished the damage assessment for this room, shall we move on?"

"Sure," Jaina said, flipping the datapad shut and sliding it back into a pocket on her flight suit. "What's the next damaged room?"

"The observation lounge," Carr replied as he stepped back into the hallway and continued walking.

Meanwhile, in the Rock Dragon, Lowbacca paced back and forth in the cargo bay. He stopped to pick up the scratched piece of durasteel, and looked over it thoughtfully before setting it back down. It had already been fifteen minutes since the rest had left...

Lowie finally made up his mind. Attaching a comlink extender to the Rock Dragon's comm panel, so he'd know if Miko tried to contact him, he stuck a comlink on his belt, gestured to Kyp's R6 to follow him, and headed down the ramp.

"Are you sure this is a wise decision?" Em Tedee warbled from his belt. Lowbacca ignored the miniature translator for the time being, going so far as to slap his paw over its grille as he approached the door. He then tried the door panel, but to no avail, and growled something.

"Lowbacca requests that you override the door's security code," Em Tedee told the R6 in a muted tone. The barrel-headed astromech trundled up, extended its data port, and plugged into the control panel. A tense moment later the door slid open.

The Wookiee grunted an inquiry under its breath, which Em Tedee then translated. A quiet reply promptly came from the R6.

"R6 says that the computer center is approximately thirty meters into the base. The other group is about fifty meters away from the computer center."

Lowie bared his fangs slightly in a feral smile and quickly strode into ExGal 4, R6 in close pursuit.

"What can you tell us about the storm?" Tenel Ka asked Yomin Carr as they left the wrecked observation lounge.

Carr shook his head. "As much as I told... ah... Jacen about the beetles. The storm started a little over a month ago on the far side of the planet. It spread rapidly, and several days after it started, several of the other scientists left in the base's airspeeder to check on its progress. When they returned, we hastily began preparing the base for the storm, but we were not fast enough. As the rest of the team took our shuttle into orbit to map out the global damage from the storm, the main comm tower was damaged. Bensin Tomri, who stayed behind with me, decided to climb up and fix it. I warned him against it, but he ignored me. The tower collapsed and I was unable to free him."

"And the shuttle?" Jaina interjected.

The scientist glared at her. "I was getting to that. I think the shuttle was damaged by the storm when it took off, because when they came back down it went out of control and burned up in the atmosphere. None of them made it as far as I could tell."

"So you basically holed up and waited for help to arrive."

"Yes," Carr replied, stopping in front of another door and unlocking it. "Now this was the communications room," he stated as they stepped inside. "All the equipment has serious acid damage, and will need to be replaced."

"Acid damage?" Jacen frowned, then sighed in realization. "Sulfur mixed with the water in the atmosphere. Of course."

"Correct," Carr replied. "But the equipment was rather old. I hope that the Extragalactic Society can bring some newer equipment."

"We'll mention it when we return," Kyp replied. "But they are on a short budget."

As Carr closed up the comm room, he continued talking. "The astronomical facilities were damaged the worst of all. The main optical telescope was completely ruined, along with the hyperspacial sensor array..."

Lowbacca warily scanned the room as R6 whirred away at the computer terminal, downloading as many of the base's records as possible. The droid paused momentarily, and an audio recording began to play.

"It's the fourth day of the storm," a woman's voice began, "and there's no sign of letting up. When we checked on the storm's progress earlier today, we got caught in it and Tee-Ubo was wounded. She sacrificed herself by giving us her oxygen pack so that we could get back to base." The woman on the recording took a breath, and Lowbacca could tell that she was in pain. "However, the sensor contact has already entered the Helska system and is approaching the fourth planet, decelerating all the time. Despite the storm, in a few minutes we're going to leave in the old shuttle and investigate. Bensin and Yomin are staying behind to watch the base, and I hope they survive the storm. Danni Quee out."

The Wookiee pondered the message as R6 continued downloading. By the time the droid finished, he had made up his mind, and left in the direction that R6 told him the rest of the Jedi were.

Yomin Carr stopped in his tracks as he saw Lowbacca and R6 approaching. "I was not informed that you had androids with you," he calmly stated.

The Jedi turned to see Lowie, who bellowed something.

"Wait a second. Why are droids a problem?" Kyp looked back at Yomin Carr.

"It was an agreement with the Extragalactic Society that this base would not have any droids, as they are an offense to my religion. So I would recommend that you immediately remove your droid from the premises."

Kyp rolled his eyes, but decided that a confrontation was not worth it. "Lowie, take R6 back to the ship, will you?"

The Wookiee barked an objection, but Kyp put up his hand. "You can tell us later. Just go."

"Thank you," Carr curtly stated as soon as Lowbacca and the droids had left.

"You're welcome," Kyp replied, not meaning it at all. "Is there any other damage that we need to know about?"

Yomin Carr shook his head. "There's minor damage all through the base, of course, but that's to be expected."

"Well, then, I guess we're done here." Kyp looked straight at Carr. "Should we take you back to ExGal headquarters or do you want to take your chances and stay here until aid arrives?"

"I will stay here. There is still some data that can be gathered despite most of the main instruments being down. Thank you for the offer, but it is unnecessary."

"In that case, we'll be on our way."

Yomin Carr allowed himself a slight smile as he watched the group return to their ships and leave. He wasn't entirely happy about the fact that they brought a droid into the station-he hadn't made up the part about droids being against his religion, but that was not what worried him. He thought he had disconnected the station's main computer, but astromechs were repair droids and known to be good at slicing.

Carr sealed the door again and walked back to his quarters, lost deep in thought. These people seemed to accept everything that he had fed them, but he still found something a little unsettling about them. Perhaps they were the Jedi that Nom Anor had warned him about?

With that thought, he reached his quarters and slid the metal door open. As soon as he'd shut the door again, he began to undress, pulling off the suffocating artificial fabric uniform that had been issued to all the ExGal scientists. He balled the uniform up and, sneering, roughly tossed it into the room's closet. Then he reached up and pressed an area to the side of his nose. For a moment, nothing happened; then there was a slight, moist, ripping sound, and his "skin" began to peel along his spine. It continued to peel off, tiny hooks unbinding themselves from his pores in a wave of excruciating pain that ran from head to toe.

He savored the pain, drank it in as if it were alcohol. Now the creature-it couldn't have been anything else-was halfway off. It continued to peel off him, now revealing his true face. Finally finished, the ooglith masquer undulated along the floor until it found its typical resting place.

Yomin Carr straightened and looked at himself in the room's mirror. Scars ran along his body, long since healed, evidence of the tortures that he had put himself through while on the Praetorite Vong worldship.

He tore his mind off his appearance, and put on a utilitarian loincloth before reaching into the closet and withdrawing a roughly head-sized pulsating creature, a villip. Setting it on his bed, Carr stroked the ridge on the front of the villip. A seam appeared in the center of the villip, which continued to invert itself until it was almost a perfect ball again. The oblong ball of the villip then took on the shape of a well-scarred face.

"Executor," Carr addressed the person who possessed the villip's twin.

"What do you have to report, Attendant?"

"A small group of humans, as well as a large alien-I believe it's called a Wookiee-visited the station today. They said they were an inspection team from the Extragalactic Society."

Nom Anor's eyes, or more correctly, the villip's rendition of his eyes, narrowed. "How many people?"

"I counted five, Executor."

Anor drew in a sharp breath. "Four humans and a Wookiee? What were the appearances of the humans? Was one a red-haired woman with only one arm?"

"Yes," Carr replied, unsure of what the Executor was thinking.

"Then we must speed up our plans dramatically. Those were Jedi, attendant."

"Jeedai?" the Praetorite Vong infiltrator inquired, slightly slurring the word. "They did not seem suspicious..."

"Jedi can mask their feelings quite well; I have dealt with them before. Are they still on the planet?"

"No, Executor. They left the landing pad several minutes ago."

"Be watchful, attendant. They may return at any time. I will contact Prefect Da'Gara and inform him of this news. He may send a coralskipper to retrieve you, or he may not."

"Understood," Carr replied before closing the villip.

"Did anyone else find anything strange about that guy?" Jacen asked as he took a seat at the rear of the cockpit. "It was... I don't know how to put it... like trying to probe a Hutt but worse."

Tenel Ka nodded. "Almost like he didn't exist as far as the Force was concerned."

"Almost," Jacen agreed. "But that gets me wondering, if the Force is in everything as Uncle Luke has said, then how can a person not exist in the Force?"

Jaina rolled her eyes. "We've discussed that before, well, sort of. How can a ysalamir live if it pushes the Force back?"

He shrugged. "Got me there."

A Wookiee roar from the rear of the ship broke through any semblance of discussion. Sighing, Jacen came to his feet and walked into the hold. "What's the matter?" he asked.

Lowbacca arfed softly, gesturing at the screen of the ship's computer, which was displaying some technical data.

"Kriff," Jacen muttered to himself as he broke out in a run back to the cockpit. "Turn around," he insisted to the surprise of his sister and Tenel Ka. "We need to go back. Now."

"Why?" the two pilots asked almost in unison.

"Because Yomin Carr lied to us."


Jacen paused to brace himself against the doorway. "The base's shuttle didn't burn up in Belkadan's atmosphere," he explained. "Logs showed a signal from sector L-30, about eighteen parsecs Rimward. Most of the personnel left in a shuttle to investigate that, not the storm. So as far as we know they're still alive."

Tenel Ka reached for the comm, leaving Jaina to do the flying. "Avenger Leader, this is Tenel Ka on the Rock Dragon. We just received some new data from Lowbacca concerning ExGal 4."

"-copy," Kyp acknowledged, partially cut off by a burst of static. "R6 already told me. We'll discuss it with the rest of the squadron."

Predictably, the Avengers couldn't form a solid conclusion. Miko and about half of the squadron wanted to investigate. The rest, excluding Kyp (who had decided to wait before he took a side) were in favor of staying.

"Jacen," his sister began, "if you think they might still be alive, we should go to Helska immediately. Not back down there."

"But it could also be a front. We know he's alive, and we can still get information from him."

Tenel Ka nodded her approval. "And what does Lowbacca have to say?"

An excited Wookiee bellow answered the question; there was no mistaking whose side Lowbacca was on. Jacen merely smiled, to his sister's discomfort.

"Squadron's split fifty-fifty," Kyp reported over the comm. "How about you guys?"

They told him.

"Then it's settled," he remarked. "Good point, Jacen; we don't need to waste time chasing wild Gundarks."

With that conclusion the two ships, transport and starfighter, plowed back through the atmosphere at a much faster rate. This time the Jedi wasted no time on pleasantries, leaving Tenel Ka to watch the ships as they charged for the front door.

"Fused shut this time," Jacen remarked as he drew his lightsaber. He quickly sliced through the sealed door, only to find the corridor beyond crushed in rubble. "Kriff."

"Master Lowbacca suggests that we find a back door," Em Tedee translated from his position on the Wookiee's utility belt.

"What a novel idea," Jacen dryly remarked as he shut down his lightsaber and clipped it back on his belt, running to catch up with the rest of the group. They were almost halfway around the station by the time he did.

The sight that greeted the group as they neared the back door was, to put it mildly, gruesome. An astromech droid leaned against the back wall, its dome crudely removed and a human skull in the dome's place.

"My goodness," a tinny voice erupted after it could see the destroyed astromech.

"What kind of maniac does that?" Jaina inquired, thoroughly revolted.

"Same kind of maniac that I suspect we'll find inside," Kyp answered. "So much for his claims of ExGal agreeing to not have droids in the station."

This time Jaina stepped up to the door and tried the controls. "Locked as well."

Lowbacca arfed something, which Em Tedee reluctantly translated. "Master Lowbacca suggests interfacing me to the door controls."

"Alright, then, get up here."

Em Tedee floated off Lowbacca's belt on his repulsorlift cushion. "I must protest being used in this manner," the small droid complained despite knowing the uselessness of the complaint as Jaina hooked him up. Moments later the door slid open.

"Sithspit!" Jaina exclaimed as she involuntarily took a step away from the door. In her startled state, she forgot about the stairs leading to the door and lost her balance, landing in Kyp's arms.

Standing just beyond the door frame was a roughly humanoid creature, almost exactly two meters tall--the same height as Yomin Carr, Jacen thought. In the alien's hand was a snakelike staff, and tatoos covered its body from head to toe. Upon seeing Jaina's discomfiture, it gave what might have been the equivalent of a snort, although Jacen wondered how that was possible given the lack of a normal nose on the alien.

"I did not know that you jeedai were so characteristically clumsy," the alien remarked in Yomin Carr's voice. Then it leapt into action, snakelike staff stiffening and swinging as if it were a lightsaber.

Four humming lightsabers, each a different color, greeted the hissing staff. Jacen, now the nearest to Yomin Carr, swung his saber into the path of the hissing serpent-and was surprised when the living creature deflected his saber as if it were another lightsaber.

"What the..." was all he had time to say before he ducked into a roll, and the creature's staff bit into the wall behind where he had been standing. Now he was inside ExGal 4, but so was Carr. There was an electronic screech, and the wires that connected Em Tedee were broken by the staff while Jacen was distracted; the droid went flying back into the clearing before it could regain control with its repulsors.

The door slammed shut, leaving Jacen standing opposite Yomin Carr. As the tip of a lightsaber poked through one corner of the blast door, Carr sprung into action again, hammering at Jacen with a flurry of blows that put the Jedi firmly on the defensive. The Jedi found himself hard pressed to keep up, feeling rather disoriented around the alien, and after perhaps two minutes had passed his guard faltered; he felt something strike his left heel, and he fell backwards.

Before he could react, Carr was standing over him, armored foot standing on his lightsaber arm, strange staff pointing at his throat. "Too easy," the alien gloated, and drew his staff back for a killing blow--

Which was stopped by a glowing bronze blade. Lowbacca bared his fangs at the alien warrior before applying more force to his blade, driving Carr back. Jaina ran over to help her brother while Kyp joined in the attack with Lowie.

"Are you all right?" she asked, helping Jacen to his feet.

He winced as a starburst of pain seemed to spread from his heel. Whatever the staff was had torn through his thick boot as if it didn't exist. "I think it might have been poisoned."

"Then get back to the ship," she warned him.

"I'll try." He leaned back against a wall, trying to recover enough strength in that leg to limp back to the ship while Jaina charged into battle. As the battle raged on, Jacen focused on halting the flow of the poison before it did any more damage. He already couldn't feel anything below his knee, and as he shifted weight in preparation to walk out the door, his ankle folded and he collapsed with a groan. So much for that idea, he thought as he started crawling.

Now outnumbered, it was only a matter of minutes before the three Jedi brought Yomin Carr down. Bring him down they did; he croaked and fell as a lightsaber punched through his shoulder armor.

"Who are you really?" Kyp demanded, his lightsaber pointed at the alien's face.

Yomin Carr managed to contort his broken and bleeding face into something that resembled a grin. "The beginning of your end," he managed as his hand twitched imperceptibly toward the staff, which was lying only a few centimeters away. The staff instantly responded, softening and becoming more snake-like. Its head coiled upward, and before Jaina or any of the other Jedi could react, it spat a blob of venom toward her face. She started to dodge to the side, but with no warning from the Force her reaction time wasn't fast enough.

The venom splashed across her right eye and cheek, burning like acid. She instantly recoiled, using a gloved hand to wipe most of the venom off her face.

Before it could cause any more damage, Lowbacca rapidly stepped over and in one smooth swing beheaded the now soft staff. At the same time, Kyp moved his lightsaber closer to Carr's exposed face.

"You will tell us who you employed you," he said in a very serious tone, "now."

Yomin Carr managed to choke out a laugh. "I know enough to tell you that your vaunted Jeedai powers are useless against me."

Kyp didn't flinch. "Tell us."

The alien said no more. Sighing, Kyp turned to Lowbacca. "Lowie, bind him while I make sure he doesn't try anything. We'll have to bring him with us."

As the Wookiee reached for the binders that hung on his belt, Kyp spotted Carr's other arm moving toward a bandolier on his chest. He swung the lightsaber to intercept it, cutting off the hand. The arm thumped down on top of the bandolier weakly as dark blood spurted out.

Kyp's eyes widened. "Stand back!" he warned as he took a leap backwards. Moments later, the bandolier exploded, scattering Yomin Carr's remains all over the room. Kyp wiped some dark blood off his face. "So much for interrogation," he sighed.

"Was that the same person who gave us the tour?" Jaina asked in a tone that suggested she'd seen better days. Already she had torn off part of her jumpsuit and used it to wipe the venom off her face.

"Apparently so," Kyp replied as he turned toward her. He noticed that her right eye was tearing; a stream of clear fluid escaped and trickled down Jaina's cheek. "How badly did it hurt you?"

She shrugged. "It burned pretty bad, and I'm having some trouble seeing out of this eye."

Kyp nodded. "All right, let's get back to our ships and patch you guys up. Then we can tear this station apart to see what really happened."

. . .

When Lorana landed the Delta-12 in D-One's hangar, Tom was surprised to find about a dozen security officers and one of the Jedi standing around in the middle of the hangar deck. Once the canopy had opened, he jumped out and began walking over to the group with Lorana.

"What's going on, Master Helsani?" Lorana asked as she approached the Jedi.

He turned to regard the two new arrivals. "Captain Janeway materialized here a couple minutes ago and began shouting about how she needed to talk to Commander Chakotay. We've restrained her until the Commander arrives.

"Wasn't she supposed to be in sickbay on Voyager?" Tom asked. "How did she get out?"

"I'm not sure," Helsani replied. "She has not been very forthcoming."

Tom frowned. "Huh. Mind if I talk to her?"

The Jedi shrugged. "Sure, go ahead." He waved to the security officers, who cleared a path for him to walk through.

As he approached, he noticed several cuts and scrapes on her hands and forehead. "What's going on, Captain?"

"Thank goodness you're OK, Tom!" she exclaimed. "I wanted to come over here to warn Chakotay not to negotiate. Has he already signed anything?"

Tom frowned. "Yes, we have an agreement for them to tow us to Earth. We'll be leaving in about an hour."

"Have they taken any blood samples from you?"

He drew back and narrowed his eyes. "No... why?"

"Nevermind," she quickly said. "I think we're all in danger. I started flying over here but a fighter from this ship started shooting and drove me into an asteroid field--"

"That was YOU?" Tom exclaimed. He lunged for her, colliding and knocking her to the ground. "I-" he grabbed her collar, "can't-" pulled her head toward him and stared straight into her stunned eyes, "believe you would be that stupid!"

Strong arms grabbed from behind and pulled him off the shocked Captain. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"I was on that fighter!" he shouted. "We were trying to hail you but you didn't respond! Those were just warning shots, we weren't trying to hit you!"

She stared back at him, dumbfounded, as the security officers pulled her to her feet and held her opposite Tom.

"Captain, Lieutenant, what the hell is all this about?" Chakotay demanded, having entered the circle during the altercation.









Chakotay held up a hand. "One at a time, please! Captain, you first."

"You're in danger," she repeated. "They've tricked all of you!"

He regarded her with an incredulous expression. "Captain, with all due respect, we've been working together for weeks now on repairing Voyager to depart for Earth. This is our best chance at getting out of this goddamned quadrant, and you want us to just abort now? I think you've completely lost it." He turned to Tom. "Lieutenant, I hope you understand that although Captain Janeway is temporarily suspended of her rank, attacking any superior officer is still insubordination. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Tom looked down at the gleaming black metal deck. "Jedi Jinzler offered to let me ride in a fighter craft they had here. While we were out flying, we saw the Delta Flyer come blasting out of Voyager's shuttlebay. It didn't respond to our hails, so Lorana fired a couple of warning shots ahead of it. The pilot took it into an asteroid field where it was destroyed." He pointed to Janeway. "She just admitted she was the one flying it."

Chakotay turned back to the Captain. "Is that true?"

She nodded.

He frowned slightly. "Aren't you supposed to be in Sickbay?"

"I thought it was more important to warn you," she replied.

Chakotay reached up and began to massage his temples. "I assume, then, that you did not have the Doctor's, or Tuvok's, permission to leave, much less fly over here." He dropped his hands back down. "I don't even know how many lives you risked pulling your little stunt! Then you wrecked the only working shuttlecraft we had left. Do you understand now why the Doctor removed you from command?"

When she didn't reply, he looked down at his wristwatch. "Well, I don't have time to take you back to Voyager. Master Helsani, would you mind having your men escort the Captain to the brig so we can sort this out later?"

The Jedi Master nodded and the security officers snapped binders onto Janeway's hands before leading her off. Chakotay watched the scene for a few moments and then turned to Tom.

"You know, I do understand why you're upset. I'd be pretty upset too if I spent months building something only to have her trash it... in fact, that's almost what I felt like when she wanted us to walk away from this the first time.

"But that doesn't excuse you from attacking Captain Janeway, even if she's not technically in command right at the moment. She is still a captain in Starfleet unless Starfleet Command decides otherwise, and striking a superior officer is still insubordination.

Chakotay looked up at Tom, then nodded in the direction of the containment field at the edge of the hangar. The two began walking toward it, away from where the rest of the people were congregated.

"Having said that," Chakotay said with the slightest hint of humor, "I've been waiting for someone to go off on her like that for a long time. You have no idea how it feels to deal with a captain who is always right, even if she's wrong."

Tom gave the commander a confused look. "So what does that mean for me?"

Chakotay seemed to consider the question for a few long moments. "I'm going to consider this talk we've had your reprimand. To show I'm serious, I'm going to temporarily demote you back to Ensign, and make you spend the rest of the trip back in the brig. When we get home, Starfleet is going to go over this mess with a fine-toothed comb regardless, and I doubt they're going to be very sympathetic with any of us given that we were Maquis."

"I see," Tom replied. "You don't want to look like you're playing favorites."

The commander shrugged. "I don't think I am, but what they think is another story. I just hope they see the big picture here."

"What, that we managed to successfully have first contact with explorers from another galaxy?" Tom asked. "I'd say that's a pretty big accomplishment."

"True," Chakotay mused. "I really don't know how to expect Starfleet Command to react. I mean, I did take a pretty big chance trusting the Jedi. Let's hope it pays off."

Tom nodded. "So... are you going to send me to the brig right now?"

Chakotay shook his head. "I figured that you should at least see us start the trip home. Besides, you're not going to go crazy and attack me, are you?"


"Then let's go to the bridge and see what happens."

While they were walking back, Chakotay's commbadge chirped and he tapped it. "Chakotay here."

"Commander, this is Tuvok. Janeway escaped in the Delta Flyer about twenty minutes ago. We saw that it was destroyed shortly after, although there was a transporter signature targeted at the ship you're on. What happened?"

It only took a few minutes for Chakotay to explain the situation to Tuvok, and by the time he had finished they had already arrived on the command deck of D-One.

Not wanting to get in the way of anyone, Tom stayed toward the rear of the bridge. Meanwhile, Chakotay and Lorana walked forward to where Master C'baoth was standing and overseeing final preparations.

"So there was an accident?" C'baoth asked as they walked up.

Chakotay nodded. "Captain Janeway escaped from our sickbay and took one of our shuttles. Jedi Jinzler here tried to stop her, but Janeway went into the asteroid field and managed to destroy the shuttle."

"I see." C'baoth turned his gaze back to the crew working in the pits. "From your demeanor, I assume nobody was hurt. Is your ship ready?"

"Yes," Chakotay replied.

"Good." C'baoth swept his gaze around the bridge. "Final countdown will be starting shortly. You will be staying here for the first jump?"

He nodded again, and waited for the countdown to begin. Fortunately, the wait wasn't very long, and he listened to the automated countdown with mild interest, walking forward to look at the viewscreens that wrapped around the perimeter of the command deck. When the countdown reached zero, there was a quiet rumbling noise and the faint stars he could see out the screens suddenly turned to streaks, then were replaced moments later with an odd swirling tunnel of bluish light. Barely a minute later, the tunnel dissolved back into pinpoints of light.

"First jump successful," one of the techs in the pit announced. "D-Two through D-Five report no major equipment failures. D-Six remote slave circuits operating nominally. Plotting jump coordinates. Estimated time to next jump in two minutes and thirty-seven seconds."

The countdown clocks on the command deck changed to reflect the new time, and as Chakotay walked back to where C'baoth stood, he tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Voyager, please report status."

"All systems normal," Tuvok's voice came back a moment later. "Warp core still offline, impulse reactors operating at high efficiency. The sensor data we retrieved during the hyperspace jump was quite interesting."

Chakotay smiled. "Well, I'm sure that will keep Seven busy during the trip home."

"Indeed. Tuvok out."

The second jump started off as uneventful as the first, but when the countdown to reversion reached the halfway mark, the ship seemed to lurch, the sky of hyperspace was replaced with a dizzily spinning starfield, and alarms began ringing all over the command deck.

"What happened?" Chakotay asked.

"Gravity-well alarm," Captain Avin replied. "Designed to shut the hyperdrive down before the ship is catastrophically damaged." He took a step forward and looked down into the pit. "Status?"

"Trying to re-establish contact with D-Six, Captain," one of the techs replied.

"Do we have any idea where they are?"

"No, Sir. They could be light-years away. We're looking right now."

"Captain," Chakotay interrupted, "we might be able to help. I can have Voyager scan with long-range sensors."

Avin nodded. "Thank you."

Chakotay tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Tuvok, come in."

"Tuvok here," the reply came a moment later.

"I need you to scan for D-Six. We seem to have lost it during the jump. They think it could be several light-years away."

Chakotay nervously tapped his foot against the deck while he waited for a response. Finally, it came. "We have them, Commander. I'll forward the coordinates to D-One."

"Thank you," he replied.

"Don't thank me too soon," Tuvok said a moment later. "I'm also picking up large subspace distortions near D-Six."

Chakotay frowned. "Please tell me that isn't what I think it is."

There was a long pause. "It's the Borg."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.9 up)

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"The Borg?" Captain Avin asked, not quite sure what was going on.

Chakotay wanted to put his face in his palm, but decided it wouldn't be very professional. During the month they'd been working with the Republic crew, they hadn't really had the chance to explain that they were dangerously close to Borg space. "They're a hive-mind of cybernetic-enhanced sentients who think it's their responsibility to absorb the knowledge of everything in the universe," he blurted out. "We need to get to D-Six, now!"

"They sound more curious than they do dangerous," Avin remarked.

"Did I mention they absorb knowledge in a very... invasive manner?"

"Ah." Avin nodded. "Navigation, are we ready for that jump yet?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Then make the jump, crewman."

"Yes, Sir."

This time, they flashed to hyperspace for only a few seconds before returning to realspace. In the distance a massive black cube dwarfed D-Six as it exchanged fire with the Dreadnaught.

Avin picked up a mic from a nearby console. "Commander Kenor, sitrep."

"Good to hear from you, Captain Avin," Kenor's feminine, slightly irritated voice came back. "I was starting to wonder if you'd ever find us out here."

"I'm touched," Avin replied sarcastically. "Anyway, our new friends wanted me to warn you that the cube you're in a slugging match with belongs to a hive-minded civilization that's on a mission to take over the universe."

"We heard," Kenor shot back. "They declared that they were the Borg, we were going to be assimilated, and resistance was futile."

"How did you reply?" Avin asked, winking at Chakotay as if to say, Watch this.

"We fired a full salvo. That shut them up quick. But I have to say, that ship can really soak up damage. They're repairing almost as fast as we can fire."

Avin turned to the tactical station. "Do we have a firing solution on the Borg yet?"

"Yes, Captain."

"D-One through D-Five are to use ripple fire pattern Leth-Niner-Isk. D-Six is to continue firing at targets of opportunity."

"Yes, Captain."

Chakotay watched with no small degree of surprise as the space around the Outbound Flight lit up as the Dreadnaughts cycled their turbolasers and ion cannon in rapid succession. He tapped his commbadge, thinking of anything they could do to help.

"Chakotay to the Bridge."

"Bridge here. Lieutenant Fernandez reporting, Sir."

He frowned. Wasn't Tuvok supposed to be at station right now? Or some other senior officer? "Where is Lieutenant Commander Tuvok?"

"In his quarters, Sir. He had a personal matter of some urgency, Sir."

Chakotay allowed a slight smirk to cross his face. He was well-acquainted with the feeling and apparently even Vulcans weren't immune to it either. In any case, with Voyager firmly clamped onto Outbound Flight's turbolift pylons, there was no real need to keep the bridge fully staffed. "Lieutenant, how many torpedoes do we have left?"

"Six, Sir," the reply came back immediately.

He turned to Avin. "Voyager has six photon torpedoes left," he offered. "We can help target the cube's weak points... well, the weakest spots it has, anyway."

Avin nodded. "Prepare a firing solution and await my command."

Chakotay relayed the instructions to Lieutenant Fernandez, taking a step backward so as not to get in the way of the chaotic symphony that seemed to be taking place around him.

A dull thud came from the ship-to-ship comm, followed a moment later by a voice. "Master C'baoth?"

Avin leaned over to Chakotay. "That's Commander Leroun on D-Three."

C'baoth, meanwhile, grabbed the mic. "This is C'baoth."

"We just lost our port turbolaser battery," Leroun reported. "The surge knocked out our forward shields, and now the crew is reporting boarders appearing all over the ship. We've deployed security personnel to contain the boarders but so far they are just looking around. Your orders?"

The Jedi Master put the mic down and turned to Chakotay. "Well, since you seem to know so much about these Borg, what do you suggest we do?"

"Don't let them get close to anything," Chakotay replied after a moment's consideration. "The Borg learn by assimilation--injecting nanomachines that can rewrite biology and technology to serve themselves."

C'baoth nodded and held the mic back up. "Commander, instruct your crew to keep their distance. You have my authorization to shoot if necessary to keep the intruders away from your crew or any control stations until we can take care of the problem."

While Leroun acknowledged, Chakotay looked at C'baoth with a slanted, incredulous frown. "What do you mean, 'take care of the problem?' The Borg are not just a problem you can easily take care of!"

C'baoth waved across the bridge, ignoring him, and moments later, Lorana walked up. "Lorana, go with Master Helsani and Master Ma'Ning to D-Three and help them eliminate the intruders. I do not want anything from this mission falling into the hands of the Borg if they are as dangerous as the Commander here insists they are."

"Of course, Master," Lorana said before turning away.

Chakotay watched her speak to the other Masters and leave the bridge before turning back to C'baoth. "What good are three Jedi going to do against a ship full of Borg?"

"Watch and learn, Commander." was the only thing that C'baoth said in reply. "Watch and learn."

. . .

The Rock Dragon had much better medical facilities than the Millennium Falcon, one being a smuggler's freighter and the other a modified Hapan transport, Jacen reflected, but they were both equally cramped.

He sighed and turned his head to the side, noticing Tenel Ka and Lowbacca attending to his sister's eye. His own wound didn't need much, as some bacta and a simple synthflesh patch worked, but the poison had been a little more difficult. Even so, after running through some Jedi purification techniques he'd been taught, the numbness was finally leaving his leg.

It was still going to take a while to heal, he realized as he rolled over. The leg still hung limply, and it was painfully obvious that he'd be of no use in a melee. Not in his present condition, at least.

Across the room, Jaina finally sat up on another fold-out medical bed. For the time being, she wore a crude patch over her right eye. Then she came to her feet and strode over to her brother, sitting down next to him. "How's the leg feel?"

"Not like much at all," Jacen admitted. He didn't have to answer, given that as twins the two Jedi shared a sort of bond, but it was better than listening to the computers hum while the other three Jedi were off searching for anything at all in ExGal 4. "How about your eye?"

"I think I pushed out most of the venom, but there was so much of it..."

He nodded. There wasn't much that they could do for her eye with the limited facilities aboard the Hapan transport, and it would be a while before they got back to anything that remotely resembled civilization. With no person among them really trained in Jedi healing techniques, and no field medics handy, nobody was even really sure how badly Jaina's eye had been damaged by the staff's venom. "Think you'll still be able to fly?" he asked.

She snorted. "Doesn't look like I have much choice, for now at least. I'm hoping that I won't have to get a bionic eye, but..." Jaina shrugged, then stood up. Moments later she returned with a dejarik board. "I'll play you."

. . .

When the turbolift car opened on D-Three, Lorana immediately noticed the unfortunately familiar acrid, burnt smell of battle damage. Dreadnaughts had been used by the Republic's naval forces since well before she had even been born, and although most of them were incredibly crew-intensive, they had a well-deserved reputation for being able to soak up damage and keep on hitting.

Compared to D-One, which was in almost perfect condition, D-Three had suffered the worst battle damage during the ambush so many years before. It had then been repaired using materials from the storage core, but the storage core had been designed to keep fifty thousand colonists fed for about ten years' worth of hyperspace travel, and only included a limited supply of equipment for the ships. It most certainly did not have any of the thick, superconducting armor plating that comprised the outermost layer of the Dreadnaught's hull. Instead, the maintenance teams had made do by welding plates of standard durasteel alloy across the worst of the hull breaches, hoping that the small size of the breaches and the shields would prevent any further damage in the strange galaxy. Other areas, such as where the team from Voyager had entered, were too far away from anything critical to be worth patching and so had simply been sealed off.

In the cargo section of the ship where the turbolift shaft was, the power was completely out and only the dim, eerie glow of emergency permalight panels lit the pathways ahead of them. The three Jedi strode along toward the command section in silence that was punctuated by the sound of electricity arcing in the distance. Occasionally the main lighting would flicker on for a moment, only to immediately die out again.

When they reached the central turbolift core, after a brief debate they opted to take the stairs since the command deck was only a few decks above. The decision was made somewhat easier due to the fact that they were able to jump from one landing up to the next.

The command deck itself was well illuminated. As they approached the bridge itself, Lorana heard the echoes of blasterfire and when the doors slid open to the bridge, she saw that the crew had barricaded themselves at one end of the bridge. In the middle about a dozen gray-skinned, metal-clad aliens of varying physiologies advanced with an odd gait on the bridge crew. Several of them were lying on the deck with gaping holes blown out of their metal plating. Now, every time a shot hit one of the aliens, a faint greenish shield flared to life around them and they continued approaching. Despite this, the bridge crew concentrated their fire on the right-most alien, who collapsed in a smoking heap after about a dozen shots converged on him.

"Now," Master Ma'Ning ordered. The aliens were barely a meter away from the barricade, and in one smooth movement the three Jedi ignited their lightsabers and made a flying leap toward the Borg.

Lorana aimed herself for the left-most intruder. In a quick, chopping motion she instantly bisected the drone and also got the attention of the nearest drones. They began to converge on her, but she rolled backward and held the saber in front of her in the classical en garde stance. One of them tried to reach for her only for a quick flick of the glowing blade to dispose of that notion (and its appendage).

The two drones paused for a moment as if trying to decide how best to approach the Jedi. They separated and started walking around, apparently trying to encircle her, but she would have none of it. Her saber again flashed, severing the head of the one nearest to her, and she turned her attention to the other whole drone.

It suddenly reached out to her, but instead of slicing its arm off, she dropped and rolled, taking one of the drone's legs off at the knee as she did so. When she stood back up and turned around, it was all she could do to keep herself from laughing. The drone that had just lost its leg was hopping awkwardly, trying to keep its balance, while the headless drone was staggering forward in a drunken fashion. She waved a hand and the two drones crashed together and went down in a heap.

She looked over toward Helsani and Ma'Ning, and found them standing in the middle of a ring of dismembered drones.

"I guess you two won't be needing a hand," she remarked.

Ma'Ning smiled. "No, we have plenty of hands already," he replied, levitating a metal-encased Borg hand in front of him.

Feeling a brief flicker, she spun about and saw that the one-legged drone had crawled up to her. Another flash of the lightsaber later and the drone was now both armless and one-legged. It wriggled uselessly but was unable to move. She could have sworn that it was glaring at her with its electronic eye.

"What should we do with this one?"

Master Ma'Ning pursed his lips and studied the immobile drone. "I think that Master Hkalle would be very interested in studying it. We'll put it in one of the detention cells and let him decide."

. . .

Kyp, Lowbacca and Tenel Ka returned around a half-hour later. Each carried a crate of material except for Tenel Ka, who couldn't carry a crate and hold a lightsaber at the same time; as a result, she was bringing up the rear.

"Here," Kyp said as he tossed a couple of medpacks at the twins. "I think these ought to be useful."

Jaina frowned. "You looted the base?"

"Just putting some abandoned supplies to better use," Kyp said with a laugh. "It's not like Yomin Carr could find any use for those in his current state."

Shaking her head at Kyp, Jaina tore open one medpack and pulled a bacta patch out of it. After checking the date to make sure it was still fresh, she flipped up her eyepatch and took off the old bacta patch, then applied the fresh one.

In the meantime, the others were busy unpacking the crates. Tenel Ka handed Jacen a simple glass jar containing one of the brown beetles. "We found this in the station commander's room," she explained.

"Looks like they did know about the beetles after all," Jacen remarked, giving the jar back.

"Yeah," Kyp agreed. "Then we found these."

Jacen craned his neck to get a better view of the stuff that had just been put on the dejarik table. In the middle were two roughly ovoid, purplish blob creatures. "What the kriff are those?"

"Communications devices, or rather creatures, of some sort. They were in Yomin Carr's room. One was already dead when we found them."

"And the other?"

Kyp frowned. "It came alive when we touched its front ridge. That's how we found out it was for communication. Some other alien of the same species as Yomin Carr answered, and laughed when he saw me. He warned me that I'm going to be, ah, dead if I keep sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong." The Jedi chuckled at that. "Then he broke the link. We haven't managed to get this thing to respond since then."

Jacen grabbed a makeshift crutch and hopped off the medical bed, making sure not to put weight on his left leg. Then he ambled over to where the strange, blob-shaped creatures were and put a hand on the one Kyp had indicated was alive.

He normally had a talent with any kind of alien life, in that he could easily communicate with it, but in this case his talent didn't help him; the creature was obviously dead. He shrugged. "I guess we could stick them in a stasis chamber to keep them from decomposing... further." He wrinkled his nose slightly. They were already beginning to smell bad, or maybe that was how they normally smelled. He decided not to push the thought further.

"Yeah," Kyp agreed as Lowbacca took both dead creatures into the cargo hold. "Well, we've completely turned this base upside down. Why don't we check out Helska and see what happened to that shuttle?"

Jacen looked down at his leg. Injuries or no injuries, they couldn't forget about the scientists who had gone to Helska. "Maybe we should have gone there first."

"I think Lowbacca and Jaina can pilot this ship," Tenel Ka finally said. "Jacen and I should be able to handle the turrets."

"Then that's settled," Kyp said, turning and heading for the ramp. "Meet you guys in orbit."

A few minutes later the Rock Dragon broke orbit and vanished into hyperspace.

. . .

The sheer volume of fire that was being exchanged by the Outbound Flight's six Dreadnaughts was, to put it simply, awesome. In his entire career (including the past few years spent in the Delta Quadrant), Chakotay had never seen any civilization capable of holding their own in a slugging match with the Borg. Some tried, but invariably the Borg sent more cubes and those civilizations were soon assimilated like the others.

Voyager, of course, was an odd exception. They had seen more action against the Borg than any other Starfleet ship (being lost in Borg territory tended to have that effect) but he could only attribute their continued survival to sheer dumb luck. There had been so many close calls, so many near misses that one more hit would have been the end of their existence. Sometimes they had been caught between the Borg and another threat like Species 8472, and the Borg in that case had gone for the bigger target and mostly ignored Voyager.

Really, when one got down to it, Voyager didn't hold much interest to the Borg. After all, they had already assimilated Federation technology and humans. They knew Captain Picard's life experiences, and had the complete knowledge of most who had died at Wolf 359. For a collective driven by a thirst for knowledge, what was Voyager? The closest analogy he could think of was a gnat buzzing in the ear. An annoyance to be swatted if it got too close, but not deserving of any further attention.

His commbadge chimed, taking him out of his contemplative mood. "Chakotay here," he answered.

"Commander," Tuvok's voice sounded rough and out of breath, "we've taken a direct hit. Decks 1 and 2 have been breached."

Chakotay felt himself stiffen up. "The bridge?"

There was a cough at the other end. "No survivors."

He swallowed, not really wanting to hear the bad news. "Who was on duty?"

"Lieutenant Fernandez and Ensigns Murphy, Henley, and Wildman."

"Shit," he muttered under his breath. Ensign Henley had been a member of his crew on the Val Jean. After four years in the Delta Quadrant, barely more than a dozen of the Maquis crew still survived. Chakotay couldn't help but feel a twinge at the loss of yet another of his crew.

Then there was Samantha Wildman, one of the few crewmembers to have a child on Voyager. Chakotay certainly wasn't looking forward to telling her daughter Naomi what had happened after this was over.

"Do we still have weapons control?"

"I'm on my way to Engineering right now," Tuvok replied.

Although he was talking through the commbadge, Chakotay nodded out of habit. "Then hit them where it hurts."

He strode over to where Master C'baoth stood on the bridge. The Jedi was watching the battle over the monitors, but greeted him without even turning around.

"My condolences for the loss of your crew, Commander."

Having been around the Jedi for several weeks already, Chakotay was starting to become familiar with their strange abilities to sense things most people would not notice. That didn't make it any less creepy for him.

"Thank you, Master C'baoth." He stopped to scan the monitors and noticed that the cube was starting to fire sporadically. "Are you targeting their weapons?"

C'baoth nodded. "Master Coureran is designating targets for the gunners. We could increase efficiency further if all the gunners were Jedi, but for now, this is sufficient."

"I see." Chakotay looked around the semi-chaotic bridge. "Since we found D-Six, weren't we going to enter hyperspace?"

"Navigation is still computing the course," C'baoth replied. "Unfortunately, this galaxy seems to be filled with navigational hazards that we must correct for. If we are not careful, we could pass through a star or worse."

"Can't you just make corrections after entering hyperspace?" Given how advanced the Republic computers seemed to be, and the fact that the ship was crewed by more androids than humans, what the Jedi was saying didn't make much sense.

C'baoth turned and gave Chakotay an annoyed look, as if a small child had asked him a question he had just explained the answer to a minute before. "We are going to be traveling, on average, at Point Four, or over two light-years per minute. In order to have enough reaction time to make corrections, the navigator would just about have to see into the future. While that has been done before, it is not something I would recommend anyone to try on a regular basis."

Chakotay silently nodded and turned back to the monitors, which showed huge chunks of the cube's superstructure blown away. He ran some quick numbers in his head, deciding that about a third of the cube had been destroyed.

"Master C'baoth?" a voice in the pit asked.


"Message from D-Three. Master Ma'Ning reports that the bridge and engine room have been cleared of intruders. They are checking out the rest of the ship and expect to have it clear within the hour."

"Good," C'baoth acknowledged.

A moment later, a warning klaxon sounded. The Borg vanished as the stars stretched out, and Chakotay was left wondering how they would react.

"They'll follow us," he warned C'baoth. "We still don't know what the upper limit is on their transwarp drive."

C'baoth smiled. "One of the beautiful things about hyperspace travel is that once you enter hyperspace, no sensors can follow you. They can try to calculate our last trajectory, but we will be changing course many times over the next week or so. I very much doubt they will be able to pursue us."

Chakotay nodded, walking toward the displays that were now showing the strange, ever-changing sky of hyperspace. "It's beautiful," he said after watching for several minutes. "Almost hypnotic."

C'baoth walked up beside him and glanced at the screen. "People have been known to go insane from staring into hyperspace for too long."

"When you stare into the void, the void stares back," Chakotay quoted.

"Who said that?" C'baoth asked.

Chakotay sighed and looked back at the displays. "A twentieth century Earth philosopher named Nietzsche," he replied. "I don't necessarily agree with everything he espoused, but some of his observations were quite accurate."
A Tribute to Stupidity: The Robert Scott Anderson Archive (currently offline)
John Hansen - Slightly Insane Bounty Hunter - ASVS Vets' Assoc. Class of 2000
HAB Cryptanalyst | WG - Intergalactic Alliance and Spoof Author | BotM | Cybertron | SCEF
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