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

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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.19 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-14 02:36pm

19
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"Captain Picard," Jorus C'baoth acknowledged the man who had just entered the room with a slight nod.

"Master C'baoth," Picard replied in a similar tone. "Are you looking forward to returning to your own galaxy?"

C'baoth turned to the simulated view of space that filled one wall of the conference room. It was almost enough to give one a sense of vertigo, if one were sensitive to that sort of thing. "I will not be returning yet," he said softly. "Master Dellen will go in my stead. Once our colony is fully self-sufficient, then I may consider returning. Which reminds me, has a suitable planet been located yet?"

As he sat down at the table, Picard pulled out a PADD. "We have identified five uninhabited planets that met your criteria. The Council was hoping that you would be able to make your selection before tomorrow's session."

C'baoth took the PADD and began paging through it. "This one--Quadra Sigma III--it says here that there was a Federation colony on it ten years ago. What happened?"

Picard paused in recollection. "It was a mining colony," he replied. "There was an explosion in the mine which severely injured a number of colonists some ten years ago. The Enterprise was sent to pick up the survivors."

"Is the world geologically unstable?" C'baoth asked. "Of these planets, it is the closest to a standard atmosphere."

"I do not believe so," the Captain replied. "The Federation simply determined that the risk of continuing mining operations was not worth the reward and shut it down."

C'baoth slid the PADD back across the table and folded his hands. "Well," he said with a hint of a smile, "I suppose I cannot fault your government for offering us unwanted planets. Our request must have seemed like a convenient way of disposing of them without losing territory to one of your neighbors."

Picard shifted in his chair. "Bureaucrats think alike," he ventured.

"Indeed they do." The Jedi Master straightened himself. "Well, it seems that a trip to Quadra Sigma III is in order. I hope Master Fernas has finished making the adjustments for our systems to use your starmaps."

Picard nodded. "In that case, I will let the Council know your decision."

"What you will let the Council know," C'baoth shook his head, "is that before we decide on a planet, I will visit it myself. This one appears to be the most appealing of the choices they have presented, so it will simply be the first one we evaluate."

"It would--" Picard was interrupted by a loud thump outside the room. Several of the assistant diplomats entered and began to set up their own seats at the table. "It would appear I misunderstood," he continued. "You have my apologies."

There was some shuffling noises and muttered curses as one of the diplomats struggled to sort through a stack of PADDs he had brought in.

"Yes, Mr... Anderson?" Master C'baoth addressed the man. "How may I help you?"

Anderson triumphantly grabbed at one of the PADDs. "Master C'baoth, during salvage operations we recovered information from Voyager's computer core that suggested the system crash was no random fluke. In fact, it appears that some members of your crew may have deliberately acted to breach Voyager's computer systems, leading to the cascading system failure that was responsible for the complete loss of Voyager."

C'baoth folded his hands and cleared his throat. "Mr. Anderson, over the past several days you have managed to jump to quite a few incorrect conclusions. Do you have any proof to substantiate these latest claims, or are you simply trying to undermine the last month's worth of work purely out of spite?"

Anderson made a gesture with his arm. "Lieutenant, please enter."

A short, dark-haired man with Asian features stepped into the conference room, fidgeting visibly when he saw Picard.

"Your name, rank and position?" Anderson asked.

"Lieutenant Matt Huang, data forensics, Daystrom Institute."

He handed the Lieutenant one of the PADDs. "Have you seen this before?"

Huang glanced over the PADD for a few moments before nodding. "Yes, this is a summary of the report I prepared during Voyager's salvage."

Anderson's grin widened. "So, Lieutenant, would you like to tell us in your own words what you found?"

"Well," Huang glanced around the room, "Utopia Planitia's salvage foreman called my team in to analyze the events leading up to the failure of Voyager's warp core. Since the computer core was still intact, we began examining the data and process logs. One hour prior to arrival, a number of background subroutines began displaying anomalous behavior. There was a whole string of privilege violations and segmentation faults, which caused all sorts of routines such as waste flow management and fuel level monitoring to shut down. When the computer attempted to restart the subroutines, it threw exceptions because they had been deleted. By the time Lieutenant Torres attempted to reset the computer, over half of the subroutines were missing. The warp core intermix system came back online but was unable to monitor the injector ratio. The injectors continued dumping fuel into the warp core, which was then detected as a core overload by the failsafe processes."

Anderson nodded. "So what then, in your opinion, was the cause?"

"Well... ah... it could have been anything, really. We've seen faults like this arise because of foreign programming; there are a number of documented cases of Starfleet ships coming under attack from data entities. However, I doubt that was the case here. Voyager had been operating continuously for over five years and was three years past its scheduled maintenance review. The bio-neural gelpacks were designed to be replaced at two-year intervals, and when we examined the remaining packs we found severe neural degradation. We suspect that was the cause of the data corruption."

The diplomat's mouth moved several times but no sounds came out. "But you said that foreign programming could be the cause. At the time of the failure, Voyager shared a datalink with the Republican ship. Isn't it possible for a data virus to be transmitted over such a link?"

"Possible, yes," Huang admitted. "Is it probable? No. The data link was strictly related to communications and telemetry. The likelihood of a data virus being transmitted over the link is slim, particularly when documents provided by Outbound Flight engineers indicate their systems operate on a different mathematical basis. As I said, we observed severe neural degradation in the gelpacks. That alone would be sufficient to cause the problems observed."

With a sigh, Captain Picard came to his feet. "Lieutenant, thank you for the explanation. You are dismissed." Then he turned to the diplomat. "Mr. Anderson, you have been an embarrassment to Starfleet. Wild generalizations, baseless accusations, and the like are not the way to promote healthy relations between two governments. While I do not have the authority to remove you myself, I am requesting that you resign your position and return to the Peace Corps."

Anderson shook his head. "I know they did this! Just give me another week to review the data with Lieutenant Huang and we'll get the proof."

"You did not understand me," Picard said firmly. "If you do not resign, today, I will make sure that you are removed by any means necessary. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"

"Y-Yes," Anderson stammered. "Sir."


. . .




First Maje Culluh was arguably the most successful Maje in the Nistrim sect of Kazon civilization. He had personally led the capture of over three dozen starships (not including Voyager) thereby enhancing the fighting strength of the Nistrim. His goal had long been to make the Nistrim more powerful than any other Kazon sect and bring the others under his control.

However, all of his past experiences and ambitions had not prepared him for awakening in a small cell with smooth metal walls and a thick grated floor. Oh, he had taken hundreds of prisoners during the years he had been First Maje. But he had never actually experienced being a prisoner before.

He quickly decided that he didn't like it.

First, the bench in his cell was hard and cold. There was a small piece of foam at one end that he could just barely rest his head on, but that was the only concession made in the entire cell. Opposite the bench was a smaller, boxy bench with a hole in the middle that he could only assume was some sort of human waste device. He hadn't even tried to figure out how it worked yet, but if human physiology was as close to Kazon physiology as his doctors suspected, then it probably worked in a similar manner.

And that was it. The light above was harsh and the light panels themselves were protected by another heavy piece of grate. The metal door of the cell had no obvious handles or other features, so he decided that it must be mounted on tracks. Other than that, the cell was entirely featureless.

On top of it all, he really had no idea how much time had passed. Well, he wasn't dehydrated yet so it couldn't have been more than a day.

The stillness was finally interrupted by two of the white-clad troopers who came in, roughly grabbed him and slapped binders on his wrists, then escorted him out of the cell. The next few minutes were spent walking along seemingly endless corridors that all looked alike: polished metal deck plates, unremarkable gray walls, evenly spaced lighting panels. By the time they reached a doorway that looked like all the others except for the strange lettering on it, Culluh was quite throughly confused about where they had taken him. After the eighth turn, he'd lost count of where they went left and right. Not to mention when they had hopped on a turbolift and come out somewhere else on the ship.

Once inside, the troopers walked him toward another door, which had a darkened window next to it. Then the door slid open and they pushed him into the room. He blinked in the darkness, trying to clear his vision, and then the lights came on full to reveal a simple black table and three chairs, two on one side and one on the side closest to him. Seated in one of the chairs was a human clad in a bland gray uniform that matched the rest of the gray on the ship. Standing next to him, in stark contrast, was a silver-colored, metallic humanoid form.

Are they going to try putting me in that suit? he wondered.

Then the human began speaking in a strange language, and the humanoid form moved its head slightly as its "eyes" lit up.

"I don't believe we have met," the thing translated. "Let us abandon any pretexts. I am Captain Thanan Yates, and this ship that you so foolishly attacked is the Imperial Strike Cruiser Diversion."

Culluh frowned, but said nothing. Apparently the thing was a translator, not a torture device. But if these were humans like Voyager, didn't they have some sort of miniaturized implant? Why would they even need a translator?

"Well. That got a reaction. Now, Mister Culluh, I'm told that you are the First Maje of the Kazon-Nistrim. Is that correct?"

Culluh glared first at the translation unit, then at Captain Yates. "Why should I tell you anything?"

Yates shrugged. "Well, it doesn't really matter. We already know who you are, what planet your family lives on, and that your little fleet of ships was decimated."

"Then why do you bother asking?"

"Because it's incredibly rare for someone to lead his troops into combat from the front, and I wanted to meet the commander."

Ah, Culluh thought. So he sees me as an equal.

"I also wanted to tell him that leading from the front is an incredibly stupid and careless thing for any competent commander to do, which, incidentally, is the reason you are in here. Count yourself lucky that my troops didn't simply blast you on sight."

So much for being equals.

"So, I ask you again, Mister Culluh. Are you not the First Maje of the Kazon-Nistrim?"

"I am," Culluh finally said.

Yates smiled. "There, that wasn't so hard. We're already off to a good start. Now, why did you attack us?"

Culluh paused for a moment to consider the question. "Two reasons. One, you were trespassing on Kazon-Nistrim territory. Two, I had reasons to believe that you might have new information on Voyager."

"So you attacked us?"

"Intending to capture your ship, yes," Culluh admitted.

"I see," Yates said, steepling his fingers. "Now, why do you suppose that plan didn't exactly work out for you?"

"You set up an ambush for us," Culluh spat out.

Yates's expression twisted in amusement. "Did you even consider that was a possibility?"

"No," he finally said. "Voyager was a tough opponent, but they do not know war. They sit inside of their ship, protected by their shields, and fire weapons that they have no connection with. But up close, they are soft. They do not know what it really means to fight and kill."

"So we came as a surprise to you?"

Culluh nodded. "I thought all humans were weak and stupid, as they were. I will admit that was wrong. But your troops fight like machines. There is no emotion, nothing to suggest they enjoy what they do. How do you maintain that? Do they not crack eventually?"

"I will ask the questions here," Yates said firmly. "This is not a meeting of peers, rather this is an interrogation, in case you missed the distinction. You are my prisoner, and while I will treat you with the degree of respect that is accorded to prisoners, I will not freely give you information."

Culluh forced himself to nod, although he had to admit that he felt more than a little insulted by the remark.

"Let me ask you something different. How do you think your ships performed in combat?"

The Kazon looked at the ceiling. "I am still here, so I can only assume that you were able to evade them."

"The first wise assumption you have made so far," Yates said with a nod. "Although I am puzzled at your choice of words, notably how you think we evaded your ships. Actually, it was quite the opposite. We destroyed your force with the exception of two ships that surrendered to us."

Culluh's expression turned to one of disbelief. "Who are you?" he asked.

"We are human," Yates said simply. "But I thought you already knew that."

"You said this ship was an Imperial ship," Culluh continued. "I know of no human Empire."

The captain simply stared evenly across the table at Culluh, which made him feel quite uncomfortable. "Yes, although most of us are human, we are from an Empire of many races," he said, "which is obviously unheard-of in these parts."

Culluh leaned back in the uncomfortable chair. He had a feeling that he now knew less than he thought he'd known about these people when he had attacked. "How can I be so sure that you are not lying about destroying my ships?"

"Well," Yates said, "for one, think about the implications of that, and what it means for the other Kazon worlds. From what we've heard about Kazon society, it seems that the other Kazon sects would be chomping at the bit, so to speak, for a chance to absorb your territory now that you've been weakened."

"This force is but a small fraction of what I can bring to bear," Culluh said in a desperate attempt at bluster.

"And how do you think the rest would fare against us?" Yates asked, his expression completely unreadable. "No, don't bother answering that. We both know how it would end. I will, however, make you an offer that will end this matter."

"I'm listening," Culluh said with a frown.

"The same gracious terms that you offered us," Yates said, "I will offer to you. We will leave most of your surviving crews on a barren planet of our own choosing. Then we will send the ships to crash into that same planet so they will not be of use to you or anyone else."

Although he couldn't see it, the blood had drained out of Culluh's face. "Surely there is another option?"

"You did not give us any other choice. Why should we be so gracious?"

Culluh had to admit that the captain had a point. "You mentioned the other sects. Would you leave my people leaderless in the face of that?"

"Why not? I always thought leaders were supposed to do the right thing for their people." The human paused for a moment, then continued. "Although... that Maje we encountered first seemed to have some wits about him. What was his name?"

"Zerin," Culluh spat.

"Ah, yes, that's right. Maje Zerin. I think he'll make a good First Maje. What do you think?"

"You can't be serious."

The human smiled. "Oh, I quite think I am. Trooper, allow our guest to enter." The door hissed open and Zerin stepped into the small room. "We've offered him your position as leader of the Nistrim."

"But how will you guarantee that the other Majes won't just kill him? After all, succession is usually decided from the end of a gun."

"That's true," the human answered, turning to Zerin and offering him a small pistol. "He will, of course, have our assistance in making sure that his leadership is unquestioned. Which is why we'll let him decide your fate."


As Captain Yates walked back to the turbolift, he heard the muffled blaster shot ring out. One less problem he had to deal with in this galaxy, and they now had a potential ally here. Potential being the operative word, since he wasn't completely sure yet of how trustworthy these aliens were. But that could be dealt with later.

Which just left him with the still unanswered question of what happened to Outbound Flight. He had to admit that the information they had about Voyager was making less and less sense. It was a ship powered by the same sort of subspace distortion drive that was so common in this galaxy. The humans aboard it were obviously not military, but Outbound Flight had Republic Navy crews and Jedi aboard in addition to the colonists. Both were very disciplined, where Voyager was obviously not.

Then there was the matter of capabilities. His ship hadn't even batted an eye at the firepower that eight fully operational Kazon warships had thrown at him. From Culluh's remarks about Voyager, it had been stronger than a single Kazon cruiser, but couldn't compare to an entire squadron of them and had been overpowered quickly.

Which brought him back to the wormhole they had used to enter. Had Outbound Flight really been the first human-crewed ship to enter this galaxy, as he had earlier assumed? He was starting to doubt it. Which meant that an earlier ship must have traveled through the wormhole... but how long ago? Hyperdrives had been in use for tens of thousands of years. Did the strange wormhole predate the hyperdrive? And if so, how was it possible to use it given that it seemed to require the use of a hyperdrive?

Yates rubbed his temples. He'd have time to think about this later. Right now, he needed to prepare to jump to the Ocampa system, now that they finally had its coordinates. Hopefully they would find the rest of the answers there.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.20 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-16 09:51pm

Since I'm kind of backlogged due to my lack of Internet access for the past month (moving tends to do that), here's the next chapter.

One of my beta readers remarked that it read kind of like a Voyager episode, which I guess is sort of what I was aiming for. Hope nobody minds :D


20
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Captain Kathryn Janeway placed one foot on the ground outside the Starfleet shuttle and took a long look around. Her grandfather's farmhouse had been given a fresh coat of paint, but other than that its surroundings hadn't changed in the ten years since she had last seen it. Cornfields always looked alike, and the raucous, incessant cawing of the crows served as a pointed reminder that she was back on Earth.

"Good old Bloomington," she muttered. Slinging her duffel bag over one shoulder, she reached down to grab a handful of dirt. It slipped through her fingers and formed a cloud as the dusty soil drifted back to the ground.

She heard the front door of the old farmhouse slam and looked up to see a face that, just three months ago, she would have assumed she would never have seen again. The silver-streaked hair, sharply defined cheekbones, and a pointed chin were almost like looking into a mirror.

"Kathryn?" Gretchen Janeway, her facial expression unreadable, took several cautious steps down the front of the porch.

"Mother?" The word felt strange coming out, it had been so long since she had used it this way.

Gretchen's shoulders relaxed and she began jogging forward. "Kathryn, it is you!"

When they were a few feet away from each other, she stopped short. "I heard about Voyager's return last month," Gretchen finally said. "Why didn't you call me? I was worried that you had died in that awful core breach. But nothing ever came from Starfleet."

"I was stuck in San Francisco waiting for my review board, Ma," she finally replied. "It's a long story."

Her mother harrumphed. "You could have at least called ahead. I would have put on a pot roast for you. As it is, I don't have anything ready for dinner."

"Ma, it's only eleven-hundred!" Kathryn protested, slipping into a familiar banter without really noticing. "We have all day to make dinner."

"You know full well that my pot roast takes twelve hours," Gretchen retorted. "I knew it. You've been spoiled by those replicated Starfleet rations."

"Well, not so much," Kathryn said. "We had a cook on Voyager."

"Really?" Gretchen seemed surprised. "That doesn't sound like standard Starfleet procedure."

"It's not. We picked up a local Talaxian junk dealer and he made himself at home in our mess hall." She laughed nervously. "Leola root stew is the one dish I won't be missing."

"I'll take your word for it," her mother replied with a short laugh. "Anyway, I just put a pot of tea on, but I can always brew up a pot of coffee as well if you want."

Kathryn grimaced. "No, thanks. I just finished getting over my coffee withdrawls. I'd rather not go through that again."

Gretchen frowned. "Coffee withdrawls? Well, can't really say I'm surprised. What brought that on?"

"Voyager's doctor forced me to detox during the trip back. I hadn't been making the best decisions."

As they began walking back toward the house, her mother turned to face her. "So, how long is your leave?"

Kathryn slowly let a sigh escape through her teeth. "I don't know."

"It's that bad?"

"Yes," she replied. "As I said, it's a long story."

"Well, we have all day to talk about it," Gretchen said. "Unless you don't feel like it, of course."

She stifled a yawn. "Actually, I'm feeling rather tired. Do you mind if I just take a nap on the couch?"

"Your room's still there," her mother answered.

Kathryn stepped through the front door and discovered that like the surroundings, the interior of the house had not changed much. Pine paneling adorned the walls and the old oak floor creaked with each step as she walked toward the stairs.

"I'll wake you up when dinner is ready," Gretchen said, adding with a wan smile, "It's good to have you back."

. . .



It only took two nights for the novelty of being home to wear off. Kathryn had attempted to keep herself busy by diving headfirst into the farm's chores, but they were so monotonous that she found her thoughts drifting back to the Starfleet review board.


She remembered walking into the conference room as if it were yesterday. Admiral Drazman had been chosen to preside over the review board, and she wondered briefly if that decision had been made simply to torture her.

Sitting to either side of him were Admiral Nechayev, who she recalled had also been present at her first review board, and Admiral Namimby.

"I hope you don't mind," Drazman had said in his trademark slow, monotone drawl, "that I've taken over from Admiral Paris. He excused himself due to a potential conflict of interest."

"Not at all," she lied. Anyone but Droner would have been preferred.

"Due to the length of Voyager's journey, this review board will take an unprecedented amount of time. We will all take turns to cover different aspects of the voyage, including scientific, tactical, strategic, and diplomatic procedures. In addition, Starfleet Command has requested that certain portions be reviewed for compliance with regulations by field experts.

"Finally, at the conclusion of the review, Admirals Nechayev, Namimby, and myself will make a recommendation to Starfleet Command as to your future career. Starfleet will be putting considerable weight on our recommendation so while it may not be final, it will certainly serve as an indicator of the final outcome."


The review board went straight downhill after that. Drazman, predictably, went over the logs in chronological order. They questioned almost every decision she made when dealing with the Caretaker, Ocampa, and the Kazon in the beginning. Drazman had even had the gall to ask why she hadn't set timed fuses on the tricobalt warheads so they could use the array to return home! Even if they could have equipped the warheads with the proper fuses in the heat of battle and beamed them into place on the array, who was to say that they wouldn't get prematurely detonated by weapons fire? Stranger things had happened, after all.

"In battle," she had replied, "Starfleet expects its captains to make rapid decisions that first and foremost protect their ship and crew. From the day Voyager departed Utopia Planitia five years ago, I have held fast to that principle. I most certainly was not willing to risk the safety of my crew on a long-shot chance of getting home."

"While I agree with the need to protect ship and crew," Drazman said, "tricobalt devices are one of the oldest weapons in the Starfleet arsenal and are very well-understood. It is quite difficult to accidentally detonate a tricobalt warhead given that it relies on fusion instead of antimatter."


Drazman went on to criticize her for allowing Voyager to nearly run headfirst into a singularity barely a month and a half later; the fact that he praised her for successfully finding a way out had not helped her mood very much at the time.

Then there was the matter of the Romulan captain they beamed over through a wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant twenty years in the past. This time, Admiral Nechayev chastised her for her cavalier attitude in the situation, particularly when it came to giving the Romulans information. The only rebuttal she had been able to come up with was that her crew had been stranded in the Delta Quadrant for three months at that point and they had needed the morale boost.

Nechayev had not been impressed.


She sighed and took a seat at the kitchen table, absently reaching for her black mug. Amazingly, the mug was the one item that had made it through the voyage unscathed. Not even a single chip marred its black surface.

Janeway took a sip from the mug and grimaced. Stale coffee she had grown accustomed to, but stale tea was another story entirely. Seeing no other option, she took another swig and set the mug down, then began going through the stack of mail that had accumulated over the past five years.

It was such an anachronism, she mused, but perhaps the simple charm of receiving a letter written on paper was why it had stuck around. That notion was dashed as she discarded several advertisements from the stack.

The next letter was from Indiana University. Don't they know I already graduated from Starfleet Academy? she wondered as she sliced the envelope open.



Dr. Clyde Barker, Ph.D
President
Indiana State University

Stardate 52290.5


Dear Captain Kathryn Janeway,

We would like to congratulate you on successfully returning to the Alpha Quadrant. Our hearts go out to the crew members that were lost during Voyager's five-year journey.

If you are interested in returning to Bloomington, we would be honored to offer you the position of chair of the Astrophysics Department. This position would come with full tenure in recognition of your outstanding service record in Starfleet.

Please reply to this letter or call our office if you are interested in the position.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Clyde Barker



With a snort, she crumpled the letter up and threw it in the wastebasket. Did they really think she was ready to retire, just because her career had been temporarily put on hold by Starfleet? The sheer arrogance of the idea was astounding. Never mind that IU was nowhere near her list of top universities to teach at after retirement, assuming she decided to retire in the first place.

The next letter on the pile was addressed from Mark. The memory of her former fiancée brought a twinge of pain with it, and she put the letter down almost as fast as she had picked it up. What was done was done, and she could always read it later when she was in a better mood.


Looking for something else to do, she walked over to the food stasis unit and glanced over the local commune news that was displayed on its screen. Most of it was about crops; there were plenty of requests for volunteers to help in the fields. Work like that was monotonous, best suited for those who wanted time to think.

She just wanted something to take her mind off everything that had happened in the last two months. Something she could just get immersed in and forget about little things like losing her command. The other choice was to start having sessions with a Starfleet staff therapist. She had already rebuffed her counselor several times at Starfleet Headquarters whenever that suggestion came up. What, did they think she was going to commit suicide?

Janeway laughed quietly. Having been marooned on a planet in the Delta Quadrant with Chakotay when they had contracted a seemingly incurable disease, being temporarily suspended by Starfleet was nothing in comparison. She would pull through and get her command back; that much she was sure of.

One entry in the list finally caught her eye.

Wanted: part-time engineer. Responsibilities include maintaining combines, antigrav tractors, and grain elevators. Compensation is negotiable in bartered goods. Start immediately.


A few hours later, she was halfway underneath a broken tractor at the agricultural park's equipment pool. Compared to a Type 6 shuttle, the tractor's antigrav unit was straightforward and uncomplicated; she had the unit fixed and halfway back together by the time she heard approaching footsteps. Probably just the operator, she decided.

"I'm almost done, Jimmy," she called out. "Just give me a couple more minutes."

"I don't know who Jimmy is," a new, vaguely familiar voice answered. He sounded amused. "But please, take your time."

Unwilling to break away with the machine nearly finished, she grabbed the last panel and secured it in place before pushing herself back out from beneath the tractor. When she finally had the chance to take a look at the new arrival's face, her jaw dropped.

"Captain Jellico?"

He coughed. "Actually, it's Admiral now."

"My apologies, Admiral," she blurted out, now acutely aware of the grease and dirt on the coveralls she was wearing. Just where had that grease come from, anyway? The tractor didn't have any moving parts near the antigrav unit. "I'm sorry I'm not in proper uniform."

"No worries," Jellico replied with a smile. "You're off-duty. I must admit that I'm a bit surprised to find you here. Word is that the universities are practically falling over each other to get you."

"I'm not sure that I'm cut out for teaching," Janeway replied. "I'm just doing this to keep myself busy."

"Is it working?"

She shrugged. "Not really. Nearly everything I wind up doing reminds me of something in the Delta Quadrant."

Jellico nodded. "It's difficult to adjust to life on the ground once you're used to running a starship."

"Pardon the question," she said after brushing some dirt off herself, "but how did you find me out here?"

"Your mother said that you came out this way."

"Did she." Janeway frowned. I hadn't even told her. "Anyway, Admiral, may I ask why you're here?"

"For you, of course," he replied without missing a beat.

She let out a self-deprecating laugh. "Why me? Admiral Nechayev thinks I'm an incompetent failure."

"Her opinion is not the opinion of all admirals in Starfleet," Jellico rebuked.

"So did Drazman."

"Drazman is a fossil."

Janeway snorted. "I'm glad we can agree on something. What can I do for you?"

"Would you mind walking with me? I have a shuttle waiting outside."

"With respect, Admiral, I'm not dressed appropriately for going anywhere."

"Not a problem," he replied. "I can drop you off at your house to clean up and collect your belongings."

"If I may be frank, what do you have in mind?"

"I'm not sure if you are aware,' Jellico said, "but Starfleet Command put me in charge of operations at Utopia Planitia. I think it's best if you see for yourself."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.21 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-19 03:11pm

21

"Well, Orb, we're finally here," Cathi remarked as the Headwind finally dropped out of hyperspace for hopefully the last time. According to the starmaps the system the Ferengi had sent her to was less than three thousand light-years away from where they had intercepted her. At the speeds their ships traveled at, the trip would have taken over a month. Normally, back home, the trip would take a day at most depending on the route chosen. But there were no routes in this galaxy, so she was stuck making short hops through the voids between the stars.

At least in theory, that is. She had looked at the charts and told them she could do it in a week, but as usual things had not gone anywhere near the plan. It seemed like every other jump she had calculated wound up dropping her out of hyperspace with a gravity well alarm, even in regions of space that were supposedly totally devoid of stars. So far, the trip had taken almost two weeks to complete. She just hoped that the customers would still be there when she arrived.

"Actually, we are not quite there yet," Orb replied. "We still have to cross the system at sublight speed."

Cathi leaned forward to take a closer look at the navicomputer. "Not if we make a short hop over to the planet."

"I believe the Ferengi were quite insistent that we remain undetected," Orb said. "The radiation of a hyperspace jump would be too obvious that close to the colony."

"Not if they don't know what to look for," Cathi retorted. "But if we just go in slow, we'll be seen for sure. What ships are in the system, anyway?"

"There are two energy sources that stand out," Orb replied. "Both are in orbit of the fourth planet."

"That could be tricky," she remarked. "Let me see."

Orb called up a schematic on the holoprojector, which showed the planet and two blue blips flying around it.

She reached out with her finger to point at the moon orbiting the planet. "Look, they're both on one side of the planet. We could come in behind the moon."

"And if they have sensors there?"

She frowned. "That could be a problem. Well, how about this. We could calculate the jump to come in right on top of the planet's atmosphere. It would be risky, but I've done it before. Then we just come in midway between the moon and their ships, and we should be low enough that the planet should block us from their sensors."

"What if it does not?"

She shrugged. "We'll just have to make sure this works."

"I do not find that reassuring."

Cathi brushed the comment off. "Oh, relax. These idiots can't possibly be worse than Corporate Sector goons and you know how many times we had run-ins with them."

"That is even less assuring."

She leaned forward to the navicomputer and started entering in the destination. Once she was satisfied, she pulled back on the activation levers and Headwind shot forward, entering hyperspace just for the moment it took to cross the system.

Then the ship felt as if it had slammed into a brick wall, For a brief instant Cathi thought she had actually hit something before she recognized the cherry-red glow of superheated plasma outside the cockpit, and realized that she had just hit the atmosphere at a much higher speed than was normally safe.

At least the shields were up, she thought as she shoved the throttle controls into full reverse to drop the ship's suicidal speed before the atmosphere got any thicker. Finally the plasma glow disappeared, and minutes later the atmosphere darkened to a beautiful shade of azure blue.

"How far are we from the colony?"

"According to the map of the planet, the colony is almost six thousand kilometers from our position. Both of the alien ships are holding position within observation distance of it."

"Damn it," she cursed uselessly. "Well, we still have that swoop bike aboard, don't we?"

"Yes. You're not going to ask me to ride on that deathtrap, are you?"

She laughed. "Of course not. I'll just bring a comlink so you can translate for me. But you have to watch the ship."

They were now skimming through the lower atmosphere, and the viewports went white for a moment as the Headwind dove through a thick cloud bank, emerging below in a vast sea of green treetops. Spotting a small gap in the trees, she flipped the YT-2400 sideways and slid the small freighter into the gap, settling it down on the forest floor some twenty meters below.

"Get out the camo netting," she said, double-checking the atmospheric readings to make sure she wouldn't be opening the ramp to something dangerous. Once it had lowered, she stepped out into the crisp, cold winter air and took a deep breath. "Wow. Really nice out here," she said to nobody in particular.

"Here is the net, Mistress Cathi," the droid suddenly said from behind her, causing her to jump slightly.

"Since when do you walk quietly?" she asked.

"You never asked if I could before," Orb replied.

She harrumphed. "And here you were complaining about how your servos are noisier than normal. Sounds like they're fine to me."

"They're 0.5 microns out of tolerance."

"Give me that net," she said, taking the ungainly bundle out of Orb's hands. She fumbled with it, trying to untangle the four repulsorpods at each corner from the massive bundle. "Where's the remote for this thing?"

"There's a remote?" Orb asked innocently.

"Go back and see if you dropped it while I straighten this damned thing out."

"Even if I did," Orb retorted, "you should know by now that my design prevents me from bending completely to the deck and thus I would be unable to retrieve the remote."

She threw a glare at him. "Then I guess I need to get a new droid."

"But I like having you as my master."

"Then quit complaining and go find that remote. If you can't grab it, you can at least tell me where it is. Unless you want to untangle this mess of a net while I get the remote."

"I will look," the droid replied after only a moment's pause. "Excuse me, Mistress."

By the time Orb returned, she had finally managed to get the last of the spherical repulsorpods disengaged from the netting and was in the process of spreading the net out. The powercell charge on the repulsorpods was still quite high, so at least she didn't need to recharge them.

She stood up and followed Orb back inside the ship, returning a moment later with the remote control. The net activated with a quiet hum, lifted up several meters in the air by the pods. Then she steered it in position over the ship and slowly lowered it into place. Finally, she activated its built-in holographic grid, and after a few flickers the Headwind seemed to fade away with the exception of the landing struts and the lowered ramp.

She snorted softly. It was't actually a true holographic shroud; those, in particular the personal ones, tended to be obscenely expensive. Instead Tarv had purchased a knockoff model from some trading post they'd stopped at. The net essentially took a snapshot of the surrounding scenery and reproduced as much of it as possible. It wouldn't fool an active sensor scan, but it would defeat most passive attempts at observation.

Besides, there was a sensor scrambler aboard, although she wasn't sure how well it would work on whatever sensor systems they used in this galaxy.

It took much longer for her to unpack and drag the swoop bike out of its place in the packed cargo hold. After quite a few minutes of swearing and cursing, she finally managed to switch on its repulsorlifts and push it down the ramp.

"Alright, Orb. I'm going to drop off a comlink repeater a few hundred meters away. I'll target the ship with a lasercomm. Should be pretty hard for anyone to detect."

Damned ships in orbit, she silently cursed. It was going to take almost a full day at the swoop's maximum speed to cover the distance to the colony, to say nothing of the return trip and how was she going to get their weapons out to them? She just hoped they had some way of moving equipment over such a distance.

She strapped herself into the bike, put the enclosed helmet on, and slowly began moving through the forest in search of a suitable place for the repeater. It turned out that there was a split tree within line of sight of the ship that the repeater neatly fit into.

"Orb," she said, switching on the lasercomm. "Do you copy?"

"Loud and clear, Mistress."

"Good. Only call me if there's an emergency."

"Of course," the droid replied.

After double-checking to make sure her comlink was properly linked with the repeater, she got back on the swoop bike and raised it up to the treetop level. Then she set the inertial navigation system and cranked the bike up to full power, rocketing out over the trees at close to three hundred kilometers per hour.

Some four hours in, a red beam lanced out of the trees, just narrowly missing the swoop. Cathi cursed and killed the throttle, juking the bike down into the trees and grabbing her own blaster out of its holster. Moments later, she was down at the forest floor, looking around to try and find the shooter.

She pulled the helmet off and stuck it back into its storage position. There was a slight rustling noise in the forest and she spun around to look, but saw only a couple of branches shaking. Slowly, she eased the swoop bike over in that direction, still unable to spot anything.

Then four humanoids emerged from the underbrush around her. Two of them she could have sworn looked like perfectly normal humans, while the other two had some distinctive bony ridges and pale, grayish-colored skin. All of them were dressed in loose-fitting military-style clothes with patterns that matched the undergrowth of the forest. The apparent leader, a human man, put up his hand in the relatively universal gesture for "stop" and said something that she was guessing meant the same thing.

"Orb?" she quietly muttered into her earpiece, "Did you get that?"

"Not enough context," the droid's voice replied in her ear.

"OK, then translate this into Ferengi for me: Who are you?

She turned the speaker up so that the humanoids could hear Orb's translation. They paused, glanced at each other for a moment in evident confusion, and then their leader replied in Ferengi.

"They say they are just colonists and are wondering who you are, since you are obviously not from this planet."

"I'm a merchant," she replied, "looking for the colony."

"They say the Dominion does not permit any merchants and want to know how you got through the blockade."

"I'm afraid I can't reveal that."

"Are you a Founder?" one of the gray-skinned ones asked. It took Cathi a moment to realize that they had asked the question in Basic, likely because the accent was off.

"What's a Founder?"

"Who sent you here?" their human leader asked, completely ignoring her question.

"I have a shipment for the colony, from the Ferengi," she replied.

"It's not supposed to be here for another two weeks."

Cathi shrugged. "I was passing through and ran into the Ferengi. They hired me to get this to you. Now you're going to complain that it's early?"

The four looked at her suspiciously. "Where are the goods?"

"Safely inside my ship," she replied.

"And where is your ship?"

"Why should I tell you now? How do I know you're not going to hold me hostage and force me to hand the shipment over?"

"We already have you hostage," the gray-skinned one replied. "Unless you would like us to shoot you while you try to escape on that bike. Now drop your weapon and step away from the hoverbike."

"Fine," Cathi said with a sigh, tossing her BlasTech aside. She still had a holdout blaster hidden, and hoped they wouldn't search her. "But I'm still not going to tell you where the ship is until we can put the weapons aside and negotiate like civilized people."

The leader waved at the other three and they lowered their weapons slightly, although she noticed their hands were still firmly wrapped around the grips. "They have shapeshifters, so we have to take extra precautions." He pulled out a small scanner of some sort and held it up; it began making quiet beeping noises.

"Well?" she asked after a moment had passed. "Am I human or not?"

He put the scanner away, walked over to where she had dropped her blaster and then handed it back to her. "Sorry about all that. I'm Jon Boyd."

"Cathi Riclin," she replied as she slid the blaster back into its holster.

He pointed to the gray-skinned humanoid on his right. "This is Delak, my second in command." He then gestured to the other gray-skinned alien. "Silar, our engineer, and Marina, our sharpshooter." The last person was a tall, lanky woman with short-cropped reddish blond hair.

"Pleased to meet you," Marina said with what might have been a small wink.

"So," Jon broke in, "what do you have for us?"

Cathi closed her eyes for a moment to remember. "Several crates of food and supplies, two photon grenade launchers, fifty grenades, sixteen Cardassian disruptor rifles, and thirty type two phasers, plus one slugthrower of some sort."

"A Barrett?" Marina asked, her face brightening.

"I think that's what it was," Cathi replied. "I'm not quite sure."

Jon stepped forward. "That's good. We're very low on supplies right now anyway. So, how far away is your ship?"

She pointed back in the direction she had come. "About two thousand klicks that way."

"Klicks?"

She caught the confused look on their faces. "Oh. Kilometers."

Jon let out a low whistle. "That's pretty far. Do you think you can bring the ship any closer?"

"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "Do you think they'd detect me if I did?"

"It depends," Delak said. "What kind of ship do you have?"

"A YT-2400 light freighter."

The four humans and aliens looked at her with puzzled stares before Jon spoke up. "I'm not familiar with that model. Where's it from?"

"Corellian Engineering," Cathi replied.

They exchanged glances before Jon spoke again. "I don't think we should chance it. Delak, wait here with Cathi while I go get the jumper."

When they had left, Cathi turned to Delak. "Jumper?"

"Short for puddle jumper," the alien replied. "I think it's an old Earth term."

"I see. Is that where you're from?"

The gray-skinned alien let out what might have been a snort. "No. I am a Cardassian."

Now it was Cathi's turn to frown. "The Ferengi told me that the Cardassians were allied with the Dominion."

"Officially, yes," Delak replied. "Our government is nothing more than a puppet. When they began purging the Maquis colonies here, at first we thought it would finally be our chance to reclaim our territory. Then the Dominion began treating us no better than the humans. We are third class citizens in the Dominion... we might as well be slaves. So a number of us began to fight alongside the Maquis."

"In this case, Jon and Marina?" Cathi guessed.

"Yes."

"How many Maquis are there here?"

The Cardassian looked around as if suspicious. "I am not at liberty to say. We have had many losses to the Jem'Hadar since this began. Hopefully the weapons you bring will be enough to let us make their hold on this world painful for them."

Cathi nodded. "I can see why you would want revenge."

"It is not revenge," Delak replied. "It is my desire to see a free Cardassia once again. That is why I fight." He looked her over. "How well can you handle a weapon?"

"Just fine, thank you," Cathi said in a somewhat clipped tone. "But don't think that I'm going to get myself involved in your war."

"It is not a question of whether you want to be involved in this war," the Cardassian stated in a monotone. "You are already involved."

"No, I can leave at any--" Her protest was cut off by a loud thundering noise. Moments later, a small, dagger-shaped craft streaked over the trees above followed by a deceptively slow-moving, large and ungainly craft with extended outriggers that were glowing an unnatural shade of violet.

"The Jem'Hadar have found us," Delak stated. "We will not be able to meet the others here. Can two ride on your hoverbike?"

"It's a swoop," Cathi corrected him, "and yes. Where are we going?"

"A safe location," Delak replied. "I will direct you."

"Great, I love backseat driving," she deadpanned. "Get on, let's get the hell out of here."


As it turned out, the safe location was a cave hidden in the hills to the north of where they were. Cathi flew the swoop as fast as she dared in between the trees, not wanting to break the forest canopy as she had before.

When they were about halfway there, there was a loud explosion and Cathi saw a reddish glow coming from the forest nearby.

"That wasn't the jumper, was it?" she asked.

"No," Delak replied. "I believe they were able to make it. The Jem'Hadar have likely cleared an area of forest to land their assault craft and begin a ground search."

"Wonderful," Cathi said. "You know, it's almost hopeless if you remain tied to a planet like this. Don't you have any way to escape if necessary?"

"We had a Cardassian shuttle that we stole," Delak said. "We would usually use it to get supplies. Then the Dominion changed all of the Cardassian authentication codes several months ago. We lost the shuttle and one of our best pilots."

"I'm sorry to hear that," she replied.

"I thought you did not want to become involved?"

"I don't," Cathi answered. "But it doesn't look like I have much choice right now. I can take you off-world if you want."

The Cardassian was silent for several moments. "That would be a decision for Jon to make."

Moments later, she pulled the swoop inside the entrance to the cave and shut it down. The dagger-shaped jumper she saw earlier was parked inside as well, with smoke rising from several fresh scorch marks that ran along its skin. On the aft wing surfaces, there were two cylindrical bulges with air scoops and if she looked at just the right angle, she could see the turbine blades hidden deep inside. Idly, she wondered if it had been manufactured locally or if it was mass-produced somewhere.

"This is bad," Jon said as he emerged from the depths of the cave. "One of the beetles landed a few klicks away from us. The other one's flying overhead, so we won't be able to use the jumper any more or we'll reveal ourselves."

"So what are we going to do?" Cathi asked. "If we stay here, they'll find us, won't they?"

Jon glanced back and forth between her and the foliage outside. "They will, eventually. Which is why we need to take the fight to them."

"How many ground troops do they have on each ship?"

"Over forty," Jon replied.

"Ten to one..." Cathi mused. "Not very good odds."

"We'd have better odds if I had that rifle," Marina suddenly said from behind Jon, causing him to jump slightly. "Then we could thin them out first."

"That presumes they will not be shrouded," Delak pointed out.

"Which is why I wanted a laser rangefinder on it," Marina replied. "The readings on it go crazy when you hit a shrouded Jem'Hadar."

"Well, forget that," Cathi interrupted. "What do you have right now?"

"Just type 2 compression rifles," Jon replied. "And a few power packs, but that's not going to be enough to take on a shipload of hardhats."

"I've got some improvised explosives," Marina added. "We could set claymores in the forest."

"That would take out a few of them," Jon said, "but it would also just piss the rest of them off. I wouldn't be surprised if they just fire a torpedo at us as soon as they locate this cave."

"It sounds like no matter what we do, we're screwed," Cathi observed. "Why can't we just use the jumper under the forest canopy? It looks like it'll work."

"It might, but it'll be really slow." Jon sighed and walked to the front of the cave, looking out at the dense forest beyond. "To get back to where you parked your ship, it'll take days at that speed. The reason we're in this cave is because there are minerals in the rock that effectively block their sensors. Once we leave the cave, we'll be wide open."

Cathi looked back and forth between Jon and the jumper several times. "When you went overhead, this looked like it was faster than the Jem'Hadar ship. Why can't we just outrun them?"

Jon exchanged glances with the Cardassians, then shrugged. "We've never really tried before. I suppose anything's better than just sitting around in this cave waiting for them to kill us." He turned to the open ramp at the side of the jumper. "Let's load the valuable stuff up, then get out of here."

The rest of the Maquis team dispersed quickly, returning minutes later with computers, weapons, and food. With Jon's help, Cathi pushed the swoop up the ramp into the jumper.

In less than twenty minutes, the Maquis had emptied everything they considered valuable from the base into the jumper and secured it with webbing inside. Cathi followed them up inside and began strapping herself into an open seat while Delak sealed the hatch.

"Everyone ready?" Jon asked. After everybody acknowledged, he powered up the jumper and the cabin was filled with the loud noise from the aft turbines. "Here we go..."

Cathi was slammed back into the seat from the sudden burst of acceleration as the jumper rocketed out of the cave. Evidently, the small craft didn't have any kind of inertial dampening system.

"Beetle at three o'clock," Marina reported a moment later.

"Re-configuring shields for hypersonic flight," Jon said. "Going to full power."

Once again, Cathi was slammed back into the seat with the renewed acceleration.

"The Jem'Hadar are falling back," Marina said. "Hang on... Looks like they're going to try a sub-orbital hop over us. I think it'll take them about twenty minutes."

"We'll be there in ten," Jon replied.


True to his word, ten minutes later the jumper was settling down in the clearing next to the Headwind, although Cathi had to warn him to keep him from setting down on the hidden freighter.

Almost before he had settled down, Marina and the two Cardassians had unstrapped themselves, opened the hatch, and began unloading the craft.

"I'll set the autopilot as a diversion," Jon remarked from the cockpit. "Maybe that'll throw them off for a few more minutes. How long does your ship take to warm up, Cathi?"

"It's already prepped for takeoff," she replied before she unstrapped herself and started down the ramp. Then she tapped her comlink. "Orb, drop the ramp. We have guests and we're in one hell of a hurry."

The droid acknowledged and moments later, a landing ramp seemed to appear from thin air in the forest clearing.

"Your ship is cloaked?" Marina asked in surprise. "I thought only capital ships could carry cloaks."

"It's just a cheap active camo net," Cathi replied as she steered the swoop out and toward her ship's ramp. "It can only fool the most basic sensors."

"Still, that's pretty useful," Marina remarked. "I can think of plenty of times I would have killed to have something like that."

"Don't get any ideas," Jon said.

Marina threw him an offended look. "You don't think I would really be dumb enough to do that now, would you?"

He shrugged. "Would you?"

She stuck out her middle finger at him before marching up into the Headwind with an armload of explosives.


Shaking her head at the exchange, Cathi went up into the ship behind Marina and stepped into the cockpit, where Orb was seated in the co-pilot's chair.

"Who are they?" the droid asked.

"The customers," she replied. "We were attacked by the Dominion. We're just going to take them off-world somewhere."

"For free?" Orb asked.

She was in the middle of checking the status displays when Orb asked the question. Her mouth opened and then closed as she considered it. "Well, no. I just haven't discussed payment yet."

"Therefore it's free," Orb replied.

"That's not what I said."

Orb tilted his head at a slight angle. "It has been my experience that it is almost always impossible to ask a customer for payment after services have been rendered if you did not first inform the customer of the cost."

"Fine time for you to pick up good business sense," Cathi shot back. "Well, try this one. There are two corvettes, filled with soldiers, that are hunting us down. If we don't get off this planet in the next five minutes, we are dead. Therefore, we don't get paid anything."

"I will start the pre-flight checklist," Orb said.

Cathi stepped out of the cockpit and nearly crashed into Delak. "We have loaded everything," the Cardassian said. "Jon has sent the jumper away but it seems the Jem'Hadar have not taken the bait and will be here in two minutes. Are you prepared to take off?"

She stepped around him for the camo net's remote, activating the repulsorpods and sending it down to the floor of the clearing. Once she had finished winding it up, she walked back into the ship and sealed the hatch.

"Can we help with anything?" Jon asked.

"Do you think you can run one of the laser turrets?"

"I'm not sure if I could," Jon mused, "but I think Marina and Silar could figure it out."

"Good." She pointed down the tight access corridor. "Second opening on the right, take the ladders up or down."

While Jon headed back to the acceleration couch in search of Marina and the Cardassian, she dashed into the cockpit and hurriedly strapped herself into the pilot's seat. True to his word, Orb had already run through most of the pre-flight checks. She flicked the repulsorlifts on, disengaged the throttle interlock, activated the shields, and then grabbed the intercom. "Everyone strapped in?"

"Yeah. How do you turn this thing on?" Marina's voice came over the comm.

Cathi tried to visualize the controls. It had been a while since she'd actually been in the turret. "Lift the upper right cover, then flip the red toggle. That's the power. The switch under the upper left cover arms the guns. Then just use the two sticks to aim the gun and pull the triggers to fire. There's a targeting grid in the center that should show you what you're aiming at, just try to get the target into the box. It'll automatically compensate for range."

"Got it."

She glanced up through the viewport, and not seeing anything overhead, slammed the repulsors to full power. The YT-2400 shot up like a rocket, breaking through the forest canopy and rocketing into the upper atmosphere.

"Hold up," Jon said breathlessly as he came running into the cockpit.

"I thought you were strapped in!"

"I was."

An alarm began beeping on the panel and Cathi checked the scopes. Sure enough, the Jem'Hadar ship was bearing down on them.

"Well hang on then!" She grabbed the throttle controls and pushed them as far as they would go. The ship surged forward, with only the barest hint of acceleration thanks to the inertial compensators. A violet-hued beam lanced through the atmosphere where the ship had been just seconds before.

"It only takes one or two hits like that to take out a shuttle," Jon warned.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Cathi replied. Another beam shot past and she put the ship into a series of twists and turns.

"We'll be clear of the atmosphere in a few minutes. Where are we going?"

"There's a planet in the Badlands that we should be able to go to. I'll get it for you once we go to warp."

"What do you mean, once we go to warp? I need the coordinates now so I can calculate the jump!" Cathi replied, throwing the ship into another barrel roll as more violet beams sizzled past the small freighter.

"Weird ship you've got," Jon muttered as he pulled out his PADD.

One of the shots managed to graze the side of the ship, and a new set of alarms went off in the cockpit.

"That tickled," she remarked, grabbing the intercom. "Marina, Silar, I hope you're ready on those cannons. We're going to make an attack run."

"We're what?" Jon blurted out.

"Well, I have to do something while you get those coordinates!"

"I'm ready," Marina reported.

Cathi yanked back on the controls, throwing the ship into a hard upward turn before suddenly pitching it back down. The Jem'Hadar corvette behind tried to mimic the maneuver and she then put the freighter into a wide barrel roll before punching straight down. As soon as she could tell the Jem'Hadar took the bait, she cut the throttle and ran the repulsors back up to full power. The ship suddenly came to a stop relative to the planet, practically bouncing off of its gravity well, and then it shot straight up through the atmosphere.

Not expecting the maneuver, the Jem'Hadar corvette continued past them before attempting to slow down. Cathi idly noted that its large bulk gave it terrible performance in the atmosphere, and as she lined the freighter up with the corvette's stern, both Marina and Silar leaned into it with the twin lasers. Two staccato streams of red bolts began spraying all over the larger ship, causing its shields to flare brightly where they impacted.

"Those don't look like lasers," Jon remarked in surprise.

"Yeah, I really have no idea why they're called that," Cathi replied.

Now on the defensive, the Jem'Hadar ship began accelerating up in an attempt to get out of the speed-robbing atmosphere. Holding onto the controls, Cathi stuck right behind it as they continued to hammer away at its aft quarters.

Just as it was clearing the atmosphere, there was a brighter flash from its aft shields and suddenly she could see small explosions as the shots struck armor plating. Marina gave a war whoop over the intercom and continued pelting the larger ship with fire.

Now free of the atmospheric friction, the Jem'Hadar craft began spinning around, probably to point its main weapons at them.

"Kriff," Cathi exclaimed, grabbing the controls and pushing Headwind into a dive below the Jem'Hadar ship. "Jon, you have those coordinates yet?"

"Yes."

She glanced over at the droid in the co-pilot's seat. "Orb, calculate the route, will you?"

"Yes, Mistress... but we are too close to the planet to execute a jump right now."

"I'm aware of that!" she snapped. Trying to stay aft of the Jem'Hadar craft, she pointed the ship perpendicular to the planet and ran the engines and repulsors back up to full power. "How much longer until we're clear?"

"Two minutes," Orb replied.

The cockpit was suddenly illuminated by a flash of violet. "Well, I guess they have their guns aimed at us again," Jon remarked.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious," Cathi snapped. "If you don't mind, I'm trying to keep us from dying here."

The seconds counted down agonizingly slow as Cathi continued making evasive maneuvers, all while trying to put more distance between themselves and the planet below. Then the ship suddenly seemed to buck, and the shield indicators on the panel all flashed red at the same time.

"We're doomed," Orb moaned.

"Pull yourself together, you overgrown rustbucket," Cathi retorted. "How much longer until we can jump?"

"Thirty seconds."

When they were down to ten seconds, the Jem'Hadar ship scored another solid hit. The shield indicators briefly flashed red before going out entirely, and Cathi cursed as the acrid stench of burning electronics drifted into the cockpit. Just what I need now. Battle damage.

"Everyone alright back there?"

"I need a fire extinguisher," Silar's voice replied.

"Look for a panel with big red arrows next to it, and push," Cathi replied.

Then Orb announced that they were clear of the gravity well, and she grabbed the hyperdrive controls. As always, the stars seemed to blur before being replaced by the usual mottled tunnel look.

Jon, on the other hand, looked out the viewport in confusion. "What happened?"

"We just jumped to hyperspace," she replied. "Relax. They can't follow us."

He considered what she had said for a moment. "So this doesn't have a warp drive?"

Cathi shrugged. "I don't even know what that is."

Jon threw her a perplexed look. "How could you not know? It's faster than light. Everyone uses it."

"Well, where I'm from, they call it hyperdrive."

He stood up and looked forward. "This isn't warp. I've never seen anything like it." Then he let out a sigh. "Forget it. I just hope you have enough food on board, because it's going to take us the better part of a month to get to the Badlands."

She pulled up the map she'd gotten from the Ferengi and had Orb overlay the coordinates for their destination on it. "Well, normally I could get you there in a few hours, but with all the stops I'll have to make it's probably going to take a few days. By the way, why do they call it the Badlands?"

"How is that possible?" Jon asked, ignoring the question. "Even Starfleet can't get there that fast."

She shrugged. "You're telling me. I've never seen a warp drive being used, so I don't know how they work or what they do, or even how fast they go. Who's Starfleet, by the way?"

Now Jon gave her an even more confused glare. "You really aren't from around here, are you?"

"What made you think I was?"

He slumped back in his seat. "I don't know what to think any more. You've got some weird hyperdrive that you claim is faster than anything Starfleet's come up with, laser cannons that aren't lasers but are powerful enough to take out Jem'Hadar shields, and all of this is stuffed into a ship smaller than a Federation fighter. And you act like you don't even know what Starfleet is. Just who are you?"

"I already told you," she replied. "I'm just a smuggler."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-22 02:16am

22
[/size]


The trip from Earth to Mars only took minutes at low warp aboard the shuttle, and before she knew it they had docked at Utopia Planitia.

"Welcome back," Jellico said as they stepped through the shuttle's rear hatch onto the deck of the station's spacious shuttlebay.

"Thank you," Janeway replied. "So, is Outbound Flight still here?"

"Their main ship left for Quadra Sigma III last week to set up a colony there. They sent another ship back to their galaxy and left one here with a few Jedi diplomats."

She frowned. "Where are they right now?"

"On Earth, I believe. From what I understand, they're having discussions with Starfleet on some possible joint training and operations."

"Really?" She thought back to when they had first boarded Outbound Flight, accidentally triggering a security alarm. The automated defenses had deployed, sending specialized "destroyer" droids to eliminate them. It was only after talking to Master Helsani that she realized just how close they had all come to being killed. Droidekas, he had said, were relentless pursuers and nearly impossible to disable with handheld weapons.

Those would have been really useful for us on quite a few occasions, she realized.

"According to Master C'baoth," Jellico explained, "while their galaxy has not had a widespread conflict in the last thousand years, there are local disturbances every few years, so they do have a fair amount of knowledge and technology related to ground and space combat."

They walked around a bend in the corridor, and Janeway paused to glance out a nearby viewport at some of the ships outside. Most seemed to be heavily battle-damaged. "Did they say what their idea of a local disturbance is?"

He let out a forced laugh. "I think they would consider this war exactly that."

"In other words," she mused, "if they wanted to invade, we couldn't do much more than slow them down temporarily."

"My thoughts exactly," Jellico replied. "Which is why we need to get our hands on their technology. Even though they've done everything they can to help us so far, I don't know if everyone else in their galaxy is like that. It seems that Master C'baoth is a bit of an outcast among his own people."

"Well," Janeway replied, "their ship was attacked before it wound up here. I think somebody there wanted to get rid of them--and probably won't be too happy to find out they survived."

"Which just highlights the urgency of the situation," Jellico said. "And that brings me to why I brought you here. Since they are unwilling to allow us access to their hyperdrive at the moment, Starfleet has given the Daystrom Institute the green light to try and develop a working transwarp-class drive system from the technology you picked up in the Delta Quadrant."

Janeway's brow furrowed. "Were you planning on using Voyager as the testbed?"

"No," he replied. "The structural damage to the engineering section was too severe, so they wrote the ship off. After the engineers finish going over it I'm not sure if they plan on sending it to a museum or just scrapping it."

"Oh." She paused in thought. "I thought I saw some other ships earlier that were being fitted with new engineering hulls."

Jellico snorted in derision. "You mean the Frankenships. Starfleet is so hard up that they told us to start making torpedo wagons out of whatever we had lying around in the boneyards. Problem is, aside from the physical problems involved in bashing two separate hulls together, most of the systems on the ships are completely incompatible. To give you an example, we had to install additional impulse reactors in most of the primary hulls because we couldn't match the EPS conduits from the engineering hull to the primary hull."

"Sounds like B'Elanna's worst nightmare," Janeway remarked.

"Let me tell you, it's any engineer's worst nightmare. The reputation of those ships is so bad, and most of them get sent to the front lines anyway, that being assigned to one is considered worse than being challenged to an honor duel by a Klingon." He looked out a nearby window and sighed. "What can I do? I've tried to tell them that it's not worth spending our resources on old garbage when we could put the same effort into new production. They won't listen."

"I had no idea things had gotten that bad since we left," she replied. "The updates we received didn't sound pretty, but this is even worse." She glanced back up at Jellico. "Why are you running a shipyard of all things? I thought you were commanding a task force over at the Cardassian border."

"I was," Jellico admitted. "About a year ago, Captain Sisko and Admiral Ross came up with a plan to retake Deep Space Nine and regain control of the wormhole. Second, Fifth, and Ninth fleets were to group at Starbase 375 where they would be joined by a Klingon battle fleet. In theory, we were supposed to have over a thousand ships at our disposal.

"Four days before we were supposed to launch, we received intel from operatives on Deep Space Nine that the Cardassians had found a way to shut down the minefield. There was an emergency meeting and Admiral Ross decided to launch while we had the element of surprise. Unfortunately for us, we only had about three quarters of the fleet ready, and the Klingons still hadn't agreed to help.

He shook his head sadly. "By the time we reached Bajor, the Cardassians had deactivated the minefield and the Dominion force was twice the size we expected it to be. We were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and out of options before the battle even began."

"But you survived," Janeway stated.

"Yes," Jellico replied. "Barely. I was commanding a wing of Galaxy-class ships from the USS Magellan. Admiral Ross ordered me to hold my ships back while they probed the enemy lines for weaknesses using attack fighters. They found an opening in the Cardassian fleet. It looked deliberate, but we didn't have any other option so we went in phasers hot.

He let out a weak laugh. "I don't think the Cardies or the Dominion really thought we would take the option. We tore through the Cardassian defenses and went straight to Deep Space Nine, which was our secondary objective. Captain Sisko was certain that if we denied them the station, it would severely weaken their system defenses. I thought otherwise, but it didn't matter at that point. We succeeded in destroying the station and were about to head toward Bajor to try and escape when the Dominion dropped the hammer on us.

"The Klingons showed up a few minutes later, but at this point the Dominions had around three times the number of ships our intel had said. The only thing the Klingons succeeded in doing was providing enough of a distraction to allow the core of our fleet to escape."

"That doesn't sound too bad," Janeway remarked.

He let out another tired laugh. "It is when you look at the order of battle. We started with close to eight hundred ships and left with less than two hundred. The Dominion got access to the wormhole for the cost of Deep Space Nine and about twelve hundred ships. We've lost all of our agents in the Bajoran system, so Starfleet really has no idea how many ships they've diverted through the wormhole since.

"It was a disaster, plain and simple. And to top it off, Admiral Ross and Captain Sisko were killed when the flagship was rammed by Jem'Hadar attack ships. I was the most senior officer left, so Starfleet blamed me."

"By promoting you to Admiral?"

"Well, I was a hero to some for at least getting them out alive, so they were forced to recognize that. Grudgingly, I suppose."

He raised his arms up and waved them at their surroundings before letting them fall back to his waist. "So here I am. A supposed failure of an Admiral, running a shipyard in the middle of the most critical trial this Federation has ever faced." He looked the captain straight in the eyes. "I'll be damned if I can't do anything about this, and that is where you come in."

She was quiet for a moment while the words sank in. "What do you mean?"

"You'll see," he said cryptically. The corridor ended at another set of doors that slid apart with a quiet whoosh, opening onto another shuttlebay. Jellico gestured toward the nearest one which sat with its hatch opened, and she climbed up inside. A moment later, the Admiral passed her and took his seat at the controls.

"Please, sit," he gestured to the co-pilot's seat next to him. "The view is better this way."

She regarded him skeptically as she sat down. "I doubt you brought me all the way out here for sightseeing and a chat."

The shuttle rose and slipped out of the bay in silence while Jellico worked the controls. "You're right," he finally said, rounding one of the station's docking pylons. "But you must admit this is an excellent view."

They swept past a series of interlinked space docks, each one holding a starship in partial stages of completion. Janeway counted four Akira-class gunships and three plow-shaped Steamrunner-class frigates, along with some ships that she coudn't quite identify.

"Our main contribution to the war effort," Jellico said as he followed her gaze. The shuttle began curving away from the space docks and was soon approaching the opposite side of the orbital shipyard, where yet more interlinked frameworks littered the horizon. Spread in between frameworks were battle-damaged hulls anchored by tractor beams. "Welcome to the Frankenship yards," he stated, voice dripping with disdain.

"Is that Voyager?" Janeway asked, pointing to an Intrepid primary hull that had most of its duranium armor plating torn off, revealing the truss structure below.

The Admiral squinted. "That's it."

"Would you mind taking us closer?" Janeway asked.

"I seem to have misjudged you," he replied. "You have a sentimental streak."

"No," she corrected him. "Not sentimental. Just curious."

As they drew closer, she could make out the yellow worker bees of the shipyard hands flying around the primary hull. Several were welding or cutting at remaining portions of the armor, while others were removing parts from the internal areas of the ship.

She was reminded of flies buzzing around a rotting carcass. It's just a ship, she told herself. Yet the sight remained just as disturbing as before.

"I've seen enough," she said after watching for several more long moments. "Please, continue."

Jellico turned the shuttle and weaved his way through more spacedocks and junked ships before finally slowing down in front of one that held what seemed to be a complete starship. As they cleared the edge of the spacedock, Kathryn drew a sharp breath. The streamlined arrowhead shape within was unmistakable.

"What's Prometheus doing here?" she asked.

"It's a perfect example of the kind of waste that Starfleet has become known for," he replied acerbically.

She looked at him quizzically. "What do you mean? It destroyed a Romulan Warbird."

"Starfleet spent twenty years and countless worker hours developing the multi-vector assault system," he retorted, "and all it can do is chase off a Romulan or Klingon threat that doesn't exist. It's a waste against the Dominion and worse than useless against the Borg."

He lined the shuttle up with Prometheus's narrow shuttlebay entrance and guided it in for a smooth landing.

"So what are you doing with it?" she asked.

With a slight shudder, the shuttle landed on the deck and Jellico activated the ramp. "We're converting it into a unified ship," he replied as he stood up. "We already removed almost two thousand tons of armor plate from the internal structure, reinforced the frame, and welded the sections back together. This ship should now be faster, more efficient, and stronger than it was before."

She followed Jellico out on the shuttlebay deck. Crates, loose equipment, and parts were scattered haphazardly around the walls. "So you're turning it back into a traditional battlecruiser," she surmised.

"That's the goal," Jellico agreed. "Right now it's down to the armament it had in its normal mode, since we had to take out all the internal weapons."

"Are you going to add more?" she asked.

Jellico shook his head. "Not immediately. Starfleet sees this as a technology demonstrator." The turbolift doors slid open and they stepped inside. "Deck 12, Engineering."

"A demonstrator for what?" Janeway asked once the doors had closed.

"They want to see if this class is worth funding," he replied. "As well as a few other things. Here we go."

Having never been in the Engineering section of the Prometheus before, Janeway didn't know what to expect when the doors slid open. She had heard how the ship used four compact warp cores to provide power while separated, so the pancaked warp core at the back of Engineering didn't come as too much of a surprise. What did come as a surprise was the glowing sphere that sat in its own area in front of the warp core.

"You didn't," she stated in disbelief. "So that's what you meant."

Jellico smiled. "Now you're beginning to see the picture."

"This is why you brought me here. It wasn't even about Voyager."

"Yes, and no."

Janeway looked around herself and noted the general state of disarray that the engineering area was in. "I would also guess that you're still nowhere near completion."

"Quite true."

"Well, it doesn't matter either way," she said with a sigh. "I'm suspended from active duty."

He gave her another one of his infuriating smiles. "I may be stuck here, but I still have some pull with Starfleet," he replied. "This is your command, assuming you still want it."

"How did you manage that?" she asked, stunned.

His smile widened. "Well, the case I made to Starfleet Command was that you are the only active captain in Starfleet to have experience using a transwarp-class drive. I also recall you had very high marks on your previous science missions, so this assignment just made sense. You are interested, right?"

"Yes, but..." Her voice trailed off as he brain struggled to process all the information. "Just how did they manage to build a quantum slipstream core in only three weeks? We worked for months on one and it still nearly killed us all!"

"It's just a mock-up," Jellico replied. "They wanted to make sure it would fit. The real thing is still undergoing design review at the Daystrom Institute."

"I see." There was a long pause while she considered the implication of his statements. "So is there any word about the crew yet or is it too early to ask?"

Jellico nodded. "I've been told that Starfleet plans on assigning an expert engineering crew. Who that consists of, I have no idea. We should have more information about a month before we launch."

"If you don't mind," Janeway asked, "could you request B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine? I would trust those two more than any so-called experts in Starfleet when it comes to quantum slipstream drives."

"I've already asked," Jellico said, "but I was told that both of them are still awaiting debriefing. I'll see if I can light some fires in Command and get the ball rolling."

"Thank you, Admiral."

He held up his hand. "No need to thank me. If anything, thank you. This technology is vital to the Federation and I'm glad to have an experienced captain on board.


. . .




"We've arrived in the Ocampa system, Sir."

Captain Yates slowly opened one eye to the pitch darkness of his quarters. A small red light was blinking barely a foot away on the intercom unit, and he reached out to tap it. He realized a moment later that he had missed as several items went crashing down to the deck, and made a second attempt to hit the button.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," he replied, shutting the intercom off. "Room, lights on half."

The lights gradually rose in brightness, giving his eyes time to adjust. Yates ripped the sheets off himself, swung his legs out, and proceeded to go through the motions of getting dressed all while his mind was churning at a klick per second.

According to Maje Zerin, Ocampa was one of the systems they had claimed as their territory, but other than a massive space station operated by a powerful being known as the 'Caretaker', there really was very little of value. Since Voyager had destroyed the station years before, and hence doomed the native inhabitants to a slow heat death, the Kazon had essentially abandoned it and moved on to more fruitful pursuits.

Yates, however, wanted to see the remains of this array for himself. Given the technical sophistication (or lack thereof) of the Kazon, he considered it a very real possibility that they had overlooked something.

"How does the situation look?" he asked Commander Rowin as he stepped out of the turbolift.

"Frankly, it's a mess," Rowin replied. "We've located a debris field orbiting the fifth planet that appears to be the remains of the array Zerin described. However, we have counted at least twenty small freighters in the field."

"Scavengers?"

"It would appear so."

"Great." Yates wanted to sigh. Just when it seemed like they would have a break in their search, he was being forced to fight more natives for the information. "Have you picked up any transmissions from them?"

"No. Several of them have fired on each other since we arrived, however, so it would stand to reason that not all of them are allied."

Yates placed a hand on his chin in thought. "I suppose if we just try to capture them, we'll just manage to scare them off."

"Well," Rowin began, "if they behave similar to scavengers from our galaxy, then we could pose as interested buyers."

"Which leaves this ship out of the picture as it would be too intimidating," Yates replied, "but a shuttle should work."

"I'll begin preparations immediately."

. . .


Corporal Landot was bored.

So far, he had spent over three hours aboard a Lambda-class shuttle. On one of the civilian models, that would not necessarily be a bad thing -- depending on what the buyer was prepared to pay, you could get anything from extra plush acceleration couches to full on sleeping quarters. However, the Empire never had been one to splurge on its military hardware, and it showed in the basic, rock-hard passenger seats that filled about half of the shuttle's hold area.

For what was probably the hundredth time, he looked across the aisle at the Navy lieutenant sitting there. Presumably in command of the mission, Lieutenant Ray Kavel was one of the wet-behind-the-ears sorts who had never really had a chance to do things any other way besides the textbook method. Which, Rob reflected, was kind of sad given that Lt. Kavel had been a lieutenant for the better part of four years already.

Come to think of it, that's probably why he's still a lieutenant. There was an old saying among stormtroopers... the most dangerous thing in the Imperial Army was a second lieutenant with a map and direction-finder.

He leaned over to take a glance at the datapad that Kavel was cradling in his lap. The lieutenant had been focused on the thing since they had left the ship. Given the simplicity of their mission, Rob found it hard to believe that Ray was still going over the mission briefing.

Sure enough, the datapad was currently displaying an exaggerated caricature of a Twi'lek woman. Dating sim, Rob thought with amusement. Then, for lack of anything better to do, he decided to play with the lieutenant's head.

After all, isn't that what Lieutenants are for?

"So, have you discovered any exciting new revelations about our mission?"

Ray shrugged. "We're going to try negotiating with unknown alien races for some technology that may or may not even be functional. Seems like a roundabout way to go when we could have just jumped in, tractored in the freighters, and interrogated them."

"Well," Rob slowly remarked, "if you were actually reading the mission briefing, you would know that command decided against that because of how spread out the freighters are. They didn't want to risk scaring everyone away."

"What difference does it make?" Ray asked. "We're still going to negotiate."

Rob shrugged. "Speaking of which, how are the negotiations going with that Twi'lek chick you've got there?"

"What?" Ray glanced around himself, cheeks flushing crimson. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Cut the nerf crap," Rob replied. "I saw you playing that sim. Let me guess, you've been working at her for three hours and still haven't gotten to first base yet."

Defeated, Ray let his shoulders slump. "No. I've been insulted, slapped, kicked in the groin, and pretty much everything else so far."

Rob snorted quietly. "Kriff, man, what did you do to her?"

"Nothing!" Ray protested. "The game's manual said compliments and presents were the best way to get the girls, but every time I try to compliment her she gets angry, and the presents just get thrown back at me!"

"Well, what have you been saying?"

Ray shrugged. "Oh, you know, just normal pickup lines... stuff like that."

Rob wanted to break out laughing, but covered his mouth. "Let me get this straight... you're trying pickup lines on a simulated character?"

"What's wrong with that?"

Unable to contain himself, Rob broke out in laughter. "Because pickup lines only work in the holovids! They don't work in real life!"

Ray frowned. "What do you mean? Sure they work."

The corporal cocked his head to the side and stared at the lieutenant with an incredulous look. "OK, I'll bite. When did a pickup line work for you?"

"Um..." Ray considered the question. "That cantina we were at on Nar Shaddaa the time we went on leave there. Real nice girl, too... and sweet kriff, she was good in bed. Too bad I never got her info."

Rob started laughing even harder, much to Ray's consternation. "Let me ask you this... Was she there the next morning? How about your wallet, was that still there?"

The lieutenant's mouth fell open. "Wait a second. You mean..."

Rob nodded slowly. "Yep."

"Kriff!" Ray exclaimed. "And that was about a month's pay she took, too. Well, at least that explains the rash I had down there a week later..."

Landot doubled over in laughter. "Ray, you're a born sucker if I ever saw one."

"I am not!"

"Right. Just keep telling yourself that. I'll go grab some popcorn."

Ray's face suddenly became serious. "You can't talk to a superior officer like that."

"Oh, I'm sorry... did I push your buttons? Here, let me get a handkerchief... Oh, right, I don't have any."

"I'm warning you..."

"Oh yeah?" Rob leaned forward. "So, any ideas what you're going to do?"

"Don't tempt me."

"Hey, Corporal," Sergeant Kriglen suddenly spoke up. "Don't annoy the Lieutenant. He's sensitive." The remark was followed by muffled snickering from the other troopers in the seats behind.

"Yes, Sergeant," Rob said, snapping off a deliberately sloppy salute. More snickering followed and Ray turned away.

"I hate you guys."

Rob sat quietly for a few moments after the remark. "That's OK, we all love you anyway." The snickering turned into loud snorts and chuckles.

"That's enough!" Ray finally snapped, jumping to his feet and tossing the datapad aside. "I know you guys are the largest group of pranksters and jackasses outside Corellia, but we have a kriffing mission to do here!"

"Says the one playing the dating sim," someone muttered.

"You know what, private?" Ray shot a glare that could pierce durasteel. "I don't have to explain myself to you. Don't forget that I'm the most senior officer aboard this ship."

The cabin of the shuttle became quiet enough to hear the creaking of stormtrooper armor.

"Right. Corporal, you were asking about our plan. Well, here it is..."


. . .



Several hours later, after they had unloaded the shuttle inside Diversion's tiny hangar, Lt. Kavel found himself being stared down by an obviously irritated Lt. Whenne.

"You were supposed to be looking for anything resembling a computer core or data storage unit," Whenne said morosely, gesturing to the pile of burnt and scorched metal pieces. "What the hell do you call this?"

"This was all they had!" Ray retorted.

"Kriff. And no doubt Captain Yates is still looking for me to pull some sort of useful information out of this pile of alien junk." The analyst palmed his face. "This could take me forever, assuming any of this crap is even from a computer!"

Ray picked up a slightly scorched piece of metal that was imprinted with alien glyphs. "The scavenger I got this from said it was a computer," he offered.

Whenne grabbed the piece out of Ray's hands and looked it over thoroughly. "Yeah. It's from a computer alright. It's a kriffing piece of sheet metal, you idiot!"

"Well how was I supposed to know the difference? It's alien technology!"

The analyst held the piece up in front of Ray's nose and pointed to it. "See this? There are no circuit traces, no connectors, plugs, sockets, wires, or fibers of any sort on this sheet of Force-knows-what kind of alloy. All there is is printed lettering on one side. This is not a piece of a computer."

"OK! Fine! I get it, I'm wrong. So is anything we brought back computer-related, or do I have to go do this all over again?"

Whenne sighed. "Let's spread this pile out so I can see what you got. I hope for your sake there's something useful in here."

"Yeah," Ray groaned, stooping down to grab several pieces. "Tell me about it."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Themightytom » 2011-10-24 03:05pm

oops, Sisko's run didn't work out? Why were he and Ross on a command ship instead of the Defiant, were there changes to the timeline before the crossover?

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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Edward Yee » 2011-10-24 03:27pm

According to an author's note/reply-to-review on FFN, yep -- a day's difference in the intel about the minefield.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-25 03:06am

I'd just like to ask something... since I'm not the greatest expert on Deep Space Nine, would it have been more likely for Adm. Ross and Sisko to have been on the Defiant (which was commanded by Jadzia Dax at that time)? Or would Admiral Ross have chosen something more "sturdy" such as a Galaxy-class for his flagship? Would Sisko have requested to be assigned back to the Defiant even if Ross chose a different flagship, and would Admiral Ross have granted that?

Basically, when I looked through how Operation Return played out in canon, there are a few things that stuck in my mind. One of them was how Admiral Ross basically put Captain Sisko in charge of an entire fleet. While I know there is precedence for captains being made "fleet captains", that is traditionally something that falls under an admiral's (or commodore's) role. For something as strategically important as the re-taking of Deep Space Nine and the protection of the Bajoran wormhole minefield, why wasn't there an admiral present?
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Alan Bolte » 2011-10-25 05:58am

Purely as a guess, I would say that (A) Admiral Ross trusted Sisko enough to put him in charge regardless of rank, and (B) the admiral officially supposed to be leading the task force was supposed to arrive leading the element from the Ninth Fleet, but Ross was able to pull strings and get the fleet moving early on Sisko's advice.

In the original episode, Sisko commanded the fleet from the Defiant while Ross stayed behind. In the series finale, Admiral Ross commands from a Galaxy (I think) and Sisko from the Defiant. On the other hand, since Sisko was Ross's adjutant during Operation Return but returned to commanding DS9 and the Defiant afterward, the issue is muddled enough that you can go with whatever you want. That said, it's hard to imagine Sisko not wanting to be on the Defiant.

I suspect Ross preferred to treat Sisko as a commodore, but couldn't promote him for political reasons, considering his connections to mysterious alien gods. That or Sisko turned him down. I don't remember any of that ever being addressed in canon.

So for this story, the timeline would be something like this:
-Admiral Jellico arrives with an element from the 2nd or 5th fleet (point of departure - in OTL the Ninth fleet sends an admiral and the other fleets send only captains)
-Admiral Ross decides to command the fleet himself because he doesn't trust Jellico, and as a result of some of his choices takes slightly longer to prepare and reach DS9 than Sisko did in the OTL.
-Sisko either decides against asking Ross for the Defiant, or Ross decides he needs Sisko close at hand.
-With the minefield down and the fleet outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1, Ross manages to destroy DS9 but his ship is destroyed before Sisko can pull a Deus Ex Machina out of the wormhole.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-25 10:34am

Well, my only comment is that as of Operation Return, Jellico has not yet been promoted to Admiral. That happened after the battle. He was just a captain (albeit a high-ranking one) leading one of the Galaxy wings.

The actual point of departure was when Morn's message (about the Cardassians finding a way to deactivate the minefield) arrived late. Given how close the margins were in canon, with no Dominion reinforcements, things just turn into a bigger clusterfuck here when both the Dominion and the Federation get into it with more ships.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.22 up)

Post by Themightytom » 2011-10-25 01:28pm

Crayz9000 wrote:Well, my only comment is that as of Operation Return, Jellico has not yet been promoted to Admiral. That happened after the battle. He was just a captain (albeit a high-ranking one) leading one of the Galaxy wings.

The actual point of departure was when Morn's message (about the Cardassians finding a way to deactivate the minefield) arrived late. Given how close the margins were in canon, with no Dominion reinforcements, things just turn into a bigger clusterfuck here when both the Dominion and the Federation get into it with more ships.
Sisko would have most likely preferred to be on the Defiant, he oversaw the ship's construction, he trained it's crew, Ross recognized this when, after the original Defiant's destruction, he transferred command of the Sao Palo to Sisko and renamed it the Defiant in advance of the third battle of Chintoka.

Ross, however would not have belonged on the Defiant, he IS an admiral after all, and as tough as the Defiant was, it was not the most tactically significant ship. I've always had a problem actually, with Sisko managing fleet movements from the Defiant, he's got one comm officer, meaning he can only coordinate one ship at a time, and from the bridge he has to pay as much attention to what's happening on the Defiant. You can't lose the command and coordination of your fleet every time a steam pipe bursts near his face on the defiant.

Ross would oversee the battle, but defer to Sisko's judgment. Ross came to trust Sisko's judgement, and deferred to him as having more experience with the Dominion, as well as with that particular sector of space. The battle to retake DS9 would have been lead by Sisko, because of this, but overseen by Ross.

That being said, if either or both need to be dead, it's not inconceivable at all that Sisko for example got blown to smithereens by Deep Space 9, or when he entered the wormhole to face an entire fleet by himself, while the ships he sacrificed trying to break through resulted in the destruction of the admiral's ship. The Dominion would be gunning for the command ship anyway.

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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.23 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-10-28 02:27am

23
[/size]


Luke Skywalker danced back a step to avoid being scored by the viridian lightsaber blade wielded by his opponent. It wouldn't have done any damage even if it had touched him, since it was a low powered training saber, but a touch still counted against him and he wasn't about to let that happen.

He glanced around the sparring room aboard the Jade Sabre, noting the sweat that was dripping down Mara's brow. Her face seemed positively radiant, and the swelling in her abdomen was unmistakable. She seemed more alive than he had ever seen her--

Luke grunted suddenly as she used the Force to shove him backwards. He managed to recover his footing after only two steps, and brought his own training saber into the en garde position.

"How's the baby affecting your stance?" he asked.

"I'm still in one piece, aren't I?" She winked at him. "But you know what, farmboy, if you want to use those healing hands of yours later on I'm not going to complain about it. Now get over here before I kick your sexy ass back to Tatooine."

Training saber humming, he chuckled as he took a few steps toward her. "I would return the favor, but it's just not proper etiquette to do that to a lady, pregnant or not."

"Oh, so now you're going to hold back just because I have something growing inside me? You of all people should know that most thugs don't show that kind of restraint."

"I know," he replied. "I never said anything about holding back." He launched into her, the blade dancing almost of its own accord. Her own blade sang as she parried his blows, the two Jedi locked into what normally would have been a deadly dance. Each cut and thrust was deftly parried, each defensive action followed up with an offensive move.

As they fought each other to a standstill, he leaned forward, pushing the locked blades to the side, and kissed her on the lips. Her eyes snapped wide open before relaxing again, and she let her saber drop to the floor where it shut itself off automatically. Then she wrapped her arms around her husband, enjoying the moment for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, that didn't turn out to be very long at all. "Uncle Luke?" a voice rang through the ship. Moments later, Anakin's head appeared in the opening of the sparring room. "Oh. Sorry."

Mara unwrapped her arms and went to sit down while Luke walked over to his nephew. "What's the matter?"

"Just got a call from Fleet Command. Admiral Kre'fey wants to see you immediately."

Luke nodded. "Well, let's not keep him waiting."



Typical of Coruscant skylane traffic, it took them close to an hour to cover the distance from the spaceport pad where the Jade Sabre was berthed to the offices of the New Republic Defense Force's Fleet Command. With its critical role in the security of the New Republic, Fleet Command was buried within the massive bulk of the former Imperial Palace, over a kilometer beneath the surface of the buildings that made up the artificial mountain.

The air taxi dropped the three Jedi off in front of the main entrance, a massive set of doors that led to the Grand Corridor. The corridor, nearly a kilometer in length, was fortunately lined with moving walkways that Mara seemed to be glad to take advantage of. As they made their way through, Luke glanced up and noted the scaffolding covering the walls. The Senate had been making noise for years about replacing some of the more Imperial elements of the architecture in the Corridor.

While he was watching, there was a slight cracking noise as several floating labor droids detached one of the massive, multi-segmented round windows that topped the vertical slits which let in most of the light to the chamber. As he looked at the window, he couldn't help but be reminded of his time in the Emperor's throne room aboard the second Death Star almost twenty-five years ago, gazing out of an identically-styled viewport as the Rebel fleet had been subjected to the overkill of the Death Star's primary weapon.

He brought his head back down and caught Mara's gaze. She had also been watching, he realized, and he briefly wondered what she thought of the process. After all, she had practically been raised in the halls of Imperial Palace.

"I always thought those windows were ugly," she remarked after catching his unasked question. "Good riddance."

It took several more minutes for them to reach the end of the Grand Corridor, which stopped at the entrance to the Council chambers. Dozens of turbolift shafts lined the now narrowed sides of the corridor. Mara strode over to one and pushed the call button; moments later, there was a soft chime from another shaft and the three Jedi boarded the turbolift.

When the turbolift stopped, Luke deferred to his wife, allowing her to exit first and lead the way. Despite all of the years that had elapsed since she had lived on Coruscant, she still seemed to know the twisting, convoluted corridors of Imperial Palace better than anyone Luke had ever met.

By the time they reached the offices of Fleet Command, Luke had lost count of how many left and right turns they had made.

"Master Skywalker," a gruff voice suddenly announced.

Luke turned to come face to face with a Bothan in an Admiral's uniform. "Admiral Kre'fey," he acknowledged. "How are you?"

The Bothan's ears twitched. "Long times of peace are terrible for those in the military," he replied flatly. "The Senate is thinking about downsizing the Fleet."

"Again?" Luke asked in surprise. It seemed as though a demobilization bill popped up every few years. The simple fact remained, however, that it took countless millions of ships to patrol the galaxy. Most of them were operated by local and sector governments and thus were not directly under command of the New Republic Defense Force. Even so, the Defense Force alone operated more ships than the Kuat Sector Fleet, which most armchair generals agreed was the largest of the sector fleets.

"What about that attack on Rhommamool three years ago?" Mara interjected.

"Brush conflict," Kre'fey dismissed the question. "The local command could have dealt with it, had they had recognized the problem and responded sooner." The Bothan swept his arm around. "But pardon my manners. Please, follow me to my office."

The path that Admiral Kre'fey took went around the strategy room, which was a large pit of computer consoles arranged in concentric semicircles around a holographic projector at the bottom. The projector was currently displaying a massive, holographic map of the galaxy that sat there, spinning sedately.

They entered Kre'fey's modest office and he closed the door behind them, gesturing at the chairs arranged in front of his desk. Mara eased herself into one of the chairs, and Luke noticed a slight grimace flicker across her face before it returned to normal.

"So," Kre'fey said as he took his own seat, "what brings you here?"

"I'm concerned about recent events in the Tingel arm," Luke replied. "In the past several months, we've seen scattered attacks on shipping throughout the area. Kyp Durron lost his entire squadron to a previously unknown alien force in the Helska system less than a month ago."

"I doubt that many in the Senate will be very concerned with the loss of his squadron," Kre'fey said, his ear twitching again. "His reckless leadership has not earned him many friends here on Coruscant."

Luke let his head drop. "I know. I haven't always approved of the tactics he uses. However, there is something going on, and I'm pretty sure it's tied to Helska. His apprentice is still missing on the fourth planet, but we do not have the resources to mount a search and rescue mission."

Kre'fey slowly nodded. "Unlike my cousin Borsk, I do trust Jedi intuition. I will let Dalonbian sector command know what you said. Ultimately, it is their decision. I can only step in if the issue proves to be too much for them to handle."

"Thank you, Admiral." Luke came to his feet and was about to shake Kre'fey's hand when there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Kre'fey said.

The door clicked open and a somewhat nervous-looking young aide stepped in. "Admiral, you're needed in the situation room."

"Can it wait?"

"I'm afraid not, Sir."

Kre'fey coughed and came to his feet before turning to face the Jedi. "In that case, would you like to come see the situation room?"

"I would-" Anakin began before hastily checking his aunt and uncle's faces. Luke merely smiled in response to his nephew's eagerness. "I would love to."

This time, instead of merely passing by the situation room, they entered it and found that the holo view had been changed from the galaxy to one of Coruscant. In comparison to the glittering view of the planet from space, this view was clouded by a sea of glowing dots that hovered above the planet's surface.

"The bigger ones are ships," Anakin remarked after looking at the globe for a moment, "and the smaller ones are pieces of debris, right?"

"Yes," Kre'fey agreed before turning to the aide. "What happened?"

"Sir, a Dreadnaught dropped out of hyperspace in one of the approach lanes. It's not one of ours."

The Bothan's ears flattened. "Imperials?"

"No, that's the thing, Sir. They're broadcasting an Old Republic identification code."

"Then they must be spoofing it," Kre'fey concluded. "We've accounted for all of the Katana fleet dreadnaughts, have we not?"

"We did, Sir. It's not one of them."

Kre'fey walked over to the massive holomap and looked at the marker for the new contact. "Have Viscount move to intercept and in the meantime, keep trying to raise them. Whoever they are, I don't want them getting any ideas."

"Yes, Sir." A few moments later, the aide looked back up. "Channel open, Sir."

Luke followed Kre'fey over to the holoprojector, where a quarter-scale projection of a woman in an Old Republic naval uniform stood waiting.

"This is Commander Tel Kenor on Ny'lith Boro," she introduced herself, "requesting docking permissions."

Kre'fey cleared his throat. "Commander Kenor, this is Admiral Kre'fey of the New Republic Defense Force. I am not familiar with you or your ship. You are in Coruscant restricted space. State your business."

"Good to know I'm still at the right planet," Kenor began. "This is the Ny'lith Boro, Outbound Flight designation D-Six. We have diplomatic envoys aboard from the United Federation of Planets to see the Senate."

The Bothan opened his mouth to reply and then stopped. He turned to Luke, nostrils flaring. "Were you aware of this?"

Luke shook his head, still shocked by the sudden proclamation. "No."

Kre'fey hit the mute button on the projector controls and turned back to his aide. "Get me everything you have on Outbound Flight. I want to know who all the commanders were." He motioned for another aide to come over. "You, run the ship's registry number through the Rendili database, see if it matches what she says it is."

"Yes, Sir."

By the time they turned back to the holo and Kre'fey released the mute switch, a second figure had joined Commander Kenor on the table.

"Excuse me," the new arrival began. "Is there a problem?"

"There is," Kre'fey replied. "Outbound Flight was reported to be destroyed by the Empire on its maiden voyage some sixty years ago."

Now it was the new arrivals' turn to be confused. "The Empire?" the man asked. "What Empire?"

Luke exchanged looks with Mara. I think they're telling the truth.

"The Old Republic collapsed during the Clone Wars only a few years after Outbound Flight's departure," Kre'fey began. "It became the Empire."

The man in the holo frowned. "You speak of the Empire as if it was in the past," he replied. "Who controls Coruscant now?"

"The New Republic," Kre'fey replied. "I am Admiral Traest Kre'fey, New Republic Defense Force First Fleet. Who might you be?"

"Jedi Master Dellen Coureran," the man replied. "May I speak with the Jedi Council?"

After exchanging another confused look with Mara, Luke stepped in front of the holocam. "I am Jedi Master Luke Skywalker," he said.

"You-" Dellen suddenly cut himself off. "Skywalker?"

Luke nodded.

"As in Anakin Skywalker?"

"He was my father," Luke replied.

There was a long pause. "Your father?"

"Yes. Why?"

The other Jedi Master opened and closed his mouth several times. "Then he broke the Code," Dellen finally said. "There is no emotion, there is peace," he recited. "A Jedi must not become attached lest it lead to emotion."

Before Luke could reply, one of the aides ran up and Kre'fey hit the mute switch again.

"Here you are, Sir." The aide handed Kre'fey a datapad, and the Admiral wasted no time looking through it.

"Tel Kenor, age thirty-seven," Kre'fey muttered, glancing back at the hologram. "She hardly looks older now than she did in the records."

"Do you mind if I look?" Luke asked. The Bothan nodded, passing him the datapad. He tapped in a query, and a summary page appeared.

DELLEN COURERAN. HUMAN. BORN IN CORONET, ON CORELLIA, 6\15\73.


Not wanting to waste time, Luke quickly scanned through the early parts of the Jedi Master's history.

ASSISTANT TO MADAME JOCASTA NU AT JEDI ARCHIVES, 10\9\43. GRANTED RANK OF JEDI MASTER BY JEDI COUNCIL, 7\34\38. ONE OF SIX JEDI MASTERS ATTACHED TO OUTBOUND FLIGHT PROJECT 9\4\32 AT REQUEST OF JORUS C'BAOTH. NO RECORDS EXIST AFTER PROJECT DEPARTURE FROM YAGA MINOR, 4\1\31.


He skimmed through the rest of the record, looking for any images of the Jedi, but there were none.

"Is there a problem?" Dellen asked.

Luke released the mute switch. "No," he replied. "My apologies."

Admiral Kre'fey stepped back into view of the holocam. "I have cleared your approach with Coruscant Traffic Control. We will meet you at Docking Platform 587-Besh-93." He looked at the two figures for a long moment. "Welcome home."

. . .



As it turned out, Docking Platform 587's orbit over Coruscant was more suited for drydock use than as a mere docking platform. The platform itself was massive, easily outdoing even some of the heavier classes of Star Destroyer in terms of sheer volume.

Having said that, it would have been insane to put the docking platform up against even the Dreadnaught that was now connecting to it. The orbiting platform's defenses consisted entirely of point defense laser turrets. Its maneuvering thrusters were only sufficient to allow it to hold its geosynchronous position over the planet, and its shields (while strong) would never hold up to any semblance of concentrated fire.

Such thoughts were the last thing on Luke Skywalker's mind. Right now, a ship right out of spacer's legends was docking at port Besh-93. A ship from the legendary Outbound Flight. According to everything he knew, it shouldn't exist in this condition and yet all of his senses were telling him that it did.

As he watched, the skeptical parts of his mind warring with the optimistic parts, the port's airlock began to cycle, and the door irised open barely a minute later. A man with sandy blond hair, wearing well-kept robes similar in design to the one Obi-Wan had worn so many years before, and a woman in distinctly Old Republic military uniform stepped through the airlock as soon as it had finished opening. They were followed by a small group of humans and some humanoid aliens that Luke had never seen before.

He squinted at the man again. Outbound Flight had been missing for some sixty years, yet the man in front of him, the Jedi he realized by the lightsaber hanging at his belt, looked younger than himself. The woman standing next to him looked even younger.

"Dellen Coureran," the man began, outstretching an arm in greeting.

Luke took the outstretched arm and shook it. "Luke Skywalker." A moment later, he realized that Dellen was examining him in the same way he'd studied Dellen a moment earlier.

"You do look like Anakin," Dellen concluded a moment later. "Where is he? I would like to speak with him, and Master Kenobi, if possible."

Luke shook his head slowly. "I'm afraid that won't be possible," he replied. "My father and Master Kenobi both became one with the Force about thirty years ago."

"Then what about the Jedi Council?"

Again Luke shook his head. "The Jedi Council has not existed since... I was born, as near as we can tell. I trained under Master Kenobi and Master Yoda for several years before they passed on."

Dellen looked around the docking platform in surprise. "It seems that we've missed quite a bit," he finally remarked. "I suppose you can bring me up to speed?"

Luke shrugged. "I can give you an overview," he replied, "but if you want to read through everything, we'll have to go take a look at the Senate Library."

"Perhaps later," Dellen said. "Master Skywalker, this is Commander Tel Kenor," then he turned around to gesture at the closely bunched group of humans and aliens in strange, tight-fitting uniforms, "and this is the diplomatic team from the United Federation of Planets."

"Pleased to meet you," Luke replied, shaking a number of hands. "This is my wife Mara Jade-Skywalker, my nephew Anakin Solo, and this is Admiral Traest Kre'fey."

A shocked look passed over Dellen's face. "Your wife? Nephew?" His eyes went back and forth between the Jedi before stopping on Mara, or more particularly, the bulge in her abdomen. "And... ah... I suppose congratulations are in order."

"Thank you," Mara replied.

Luke scratched his head momentarily. "I never did get the chance to ask you when we were on the holo," he began, "but what did you mean about my father breaking the Code?"

Dellen gave Luke an even more incredulous stare. "You are familiar with the Jedi Code, I hope?"

When Luke nodded, Dellen continued.

"Could you recite it for me?"

Luke took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and began.

"Emotion, yet peace.

"Ignorance, yet knowledge.

"Passion, yet serenity.

"Chaos, yet harmony.

"Death, yet the Force."

There was silence for several moments after Luke finished, as Dellen appeared to attempt to come to grips with himself. "That's the old version, not the Code of Master Odan-Urr," he finally said. "Why do you use that version?"

Luke shrugged. "Tionne--our historian--and I spent months going through the Jedi Archives. We chose this because it was most consistent with what I had learned from Master Yoda and Master Kenobi."

"Master Yoda was always strict about using Master Odan-Urr's version," Dellen replied. "He would always warn the Padawans of the consequences of allowing themselves to become overwhelmed by emotions."

A cough next to them caused both Jedi to turn and look at a slightly annoyed Bothan.

"While this has been a fascinating discussion of Jedi philosophy," Kre'fey said bluntly, "we have more business to attend to. I believe your guests have requested the audience of the Senate?"

Dellen nodded and turned to Luke. "I would like to continue this afterward, if you don't mind."

"Of course."

Then the Jedi turned to the Federation diplomats. At the front of the group stood a balding, middle-aged man and a tall, graying near-human with pointed ears. The bald man was dressed in a red, almost skin-tight uniform while the near-human wore charcoal robes. "Allow me to introduce the Federation's representatives, Ambassador Spock and Captain Jean-Luc Picard."

Luke and Kre'fey shook hands with the two, and then Kre'fey focused on Picard. "You are a military man, I presume?"

Picard nodded. "USS Enterprise, Federation Starfleet."

"I see." Kre'fey's ears twitched in thought. "Why did you not bring your ship here?"

"Our warp drive is much slower than Outbound Flight's hyperdrive. It would have taken us many years to cover the same distance."

Kre'fey nodded. "Understandable. Now, please follow me. There is a shuttle waiting for us. I already made arrangements with the Senate External Relations Committee to see you."

"We appreciate your hospitality," Spock replied.


. . .



Dellen noted with wry amusement that the application process for a member government had not changed much between the Republic and the New Republic. The senators in the External Relations committee had rushed them through which forms they would need to fill out, set up appointments with the various New Republic agencies they would need to file said forms with, and generally pushed them out the door as quickly as possible.

That was in stark contrast to the three hour wait in the anteroom of the committee chambers. Another sign that the finest traditions of Republican bureaucracy were still alive and well was the fact that the next available Senate membership hearing was a week away.

"So," Dellen said to Luke, "continuing our conversation from earlier, if you don't use the Jedi Temple any more, where do you train the Jedi?"

"We have a Praxeum located on Yavin IV, in the old Massassi Great Temple."

Dellen frowned. "Yavin IV? The last time the Jedi were there was to destroy Exar Kun."

"Well, if that was their goal then they did a pretty poor job of it," Luke said with the barest hint of amusement. "Exar Kun nearly killed me when I first set up the Praxeum."

"I always had wondered about that," Dellen remarked. "It seems the Jedi of that era assumed that a simple orbital bombardment would be enough to stop a Sith Lord."

"Evidently not. From what one of my students told me, Kun transferred his essence into the Great Temple itself. The building withstood their bombardment, and when I brought my first Jedi trainees there, he began twisting their minds to the dark side."

"Impressive, for a Sith," Dellen remarked. "How did you manage to destroy him, anyway?"

"I had some help from the trainees and my niece and nephew," Luke explained.

"Ah." There was a long pause while Dellen contemplated what he had been told. "Now, about the Jedi Council. How do you govern if there is no Council?"

"Up until about five years ago, there were too few Jedi Knights to warrant a Council," Luke replied. "We've discussed setting it up, but frankly I have no idea where to begin. Or how I can get some of the Jedi to accept its authority."

"That is perhaps the most worrying issue I see," Dellen replied. "Your Jedi have been trained with, from what I can tell, a lack of respect for central authorities. Now," he held his hand up, "I am not necessarily saying that is a bad thing. From what I've learned so far browsing through the archives, blind obedience was the downfall of the Order--of my Order."

"It has been quite a sticking point with the Senate," Luke said. "They feel that as long as I lead the Jedi, if anything were to happen the entire Order could fall into chaos. I'm afraid they might be right."

"Well," Dellen mused, "it seems there are now seven Jedi Masters."

"Eight," Luke corrected. "Master Ikrit has been working with our youngest trainees at the Academy for the last five years."

"Which means that you only need to appoint four more Jedi Masters to have enough seats to form the Council," Dellen finished.

Luke's expression narrowed. "If only I could do that without being accused of playing favorites."

Dellen considered the statement. "I suppose, since we have eight Jedi Masters, that we could convene and select the remaining four as a group." He shook his head. "It's funny. I spent most of my time in the Temple working in the Archives, but never would I have imagined that Master C'baoth's little mission would wind up being the largest surviving group of Jedi Masters in the Order."

"Speaking of C'baoth," Luke paused thoughtfully to scratch his chin, "how do you feel about his administration of Outbound Flight?"

"Successful, I suppose," Dellen replied after a moment. "Considering that we were very nearly destroyed before we had even left the galaxy, I think we can all count ourselves lucky to be alive. Why do you ask?"

"Let's just say I had a run-in with an insane dark Jedi who believed he was Jorus C'baoth," Luke surmised. "about twenty-five years ago."

Dellen frowned. "But he wasn't C'baoth."

"Yes. And no." Luke said. "He was C'baoth's clone."

He nodded, seeing where Luke's train of thought was retaking him. "And you are concerned about the stability of the real C'baoth."

"Yes."

The Jedi licked his lips as he considered the implied question. "Master C'baoth has never been the most... shall we say, conventional Jedi in the Order."

"His biographical entries in the Senate database implied as much," Luke agreed. "I suppose that was one reason why Palpatine wanted to get rid of him. Any Jedi who was not blindly obedient to the Order's way of thinking..."

"Would be a severe threat to his push for power," Dellen finished. "That is food for thought. But it seems that we're fortunate in that the Sith appear to be truly finished with the death of both master and apprentice."

"That hasn't stopped anyone from trying to take their place," Luke said carefully, "including Palpatine himself."

"Sounds like quite an interesting story," Dellen said. "You mentioned the Senate library earlier. I don't suppose you could show me where that is so I can catch up?"
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.23 up)

Post by Themightytom » 2011-10-28 09:37am

That was surprisingly anticlimactic :lol:
"Hey you're from another galaxy, and outbound flight is alive?"
"Yes, and the Jedi are gone and there's been a revolution? Two? hey is your wife Pregnant?"

Spock didn't even get to say "illogical"

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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.24 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-11-05 11:08am

24
[/size]


Whatever the usual perception of outer space was, Cathi was sure it wasn't supposed to look like the inside of a power coupling. Energy discharges arced through space and tendrils of energetic plasma swirled and danced as if alive. "Is it usually this bad?"

"There's a reason why we call it the Badlands," Jon replied from the co-pilot's chair.

She spun the ship between two large tendrils of plasma that were threatening to collide in front of it. As she did so, one of the panel alarms began flashing.

"What's that?" Jon asked.

"Grav-well alarm," she snapped back in between maneuvers. "Means we can't jump to hyperspace. Not that I would even think of trying in this mess. How far is it to where we're going, anyway?"

"This is just the outer shock front," Jon replied. "It takes a few days to cross and then we can go to warp again. Our base is about four light-years inside."

"You've got to be kidding," Cathi muttered. "That could take us longer than it took just to get here."

Jon nodded. "The Badlands are very difficult to navigate. The Cardassians lost at least a dozen warships just to the plasma storms."

"You sure know the right words to keep people calm," she deadpanned.

"Yeah, he's a regular morale officer," Marina added from the seat behind Cathi, with a hint of teasing in her voice. "Aren't you, Jon?"

"Shut up and let Cathi fly."

Without taking her eyes off the hyperactive nebula outside, Cathi replied. "Don't worry about me. Conversation's good. Keeps me alert."

The ship dove through a virtual wall of charged particles and plasma, which sparked off the shields in what would have been a fantastic light show under normal circumstances. Stealing a glance at the shield indicators, she was relieved to find they were still holding at normal levels.

"So, I'm curious. What is this place, anyway? Some sort of supernova remnant?"

"It's... ah..." Jon paused. "Well, I'm no astrophysicist, so I'll defer to the Cardassian. It's in his backyard after all."

"You are correct," Delak said. "It happened about seven hundred years ago. The radiation devastated Cardassia, causing near total collapse of our government and sending the planet into a civil war that lasted over two hundred years."

"That's terrible," Cathi replied. "So your planet didn't have any sort of shield in place?"

The look that Delak threw at Cathi was one of total and utter disbelief. "A shield that covers an entire planet? That's impossible, even for the Federation or Dominion." He frowned briefly. "Wait. Is there such a thing where you are from?"

"Well..." Cathi paused, suddenly wishing she had thought of the implications before she blurted the question out. "Yes, but only the more affluent planets can afford them."

"Your home sounds like a dangerous place," Silar observed.

Cathi shrugged. "Not really," she replied. "I mean, we did have a civil war around thirty years ago, and there are always pirates here and there to watch out for, but as long as you're alert and prepared you should be fine."

"Isn't that the truth," Jon muttered.



. . .




During the week-long wait for the Senate hearing, Anakin had taken every opportunity to pick the brain of the Old Republic Jedi Master that had, practically speaking, returned from the dead. Better yet, Master Dellen had worked in the Jedi Archives with Madame Jocasta Nu and had no small amount of Old Republic history committed to memory. Compared to the out-of-date archives his uncle Luke had pulled from the Chu'unthor, Dellen's knowledge dated back to only a few years before the fall of the Old Republic.

"So once an initiate passed his trials, he would wait to be selected by a Jedi Master, and then he would become his Padawan apprentice?"

"That's right," Dellen replied.

Anakin propped his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. "Can you tell me more about what it meant to be a Padawan?"

"Well," Dellen said slowly, "a Padawan learner was expected to always stay with his Master, so the Master could pass on as much of his life's knowledge about the Force and the universe as possible. Besides learning, a Padawan's duties also included building their first lightsaber once they were deemed ready, and developing and refining their ability to use the Force for more than simple manipulation."

"What do you mean by that?"

The Jedi Master took a sip of water. "As I'm sure you are aware, being a Jedi is far more than just knowing how to use a lightsaber. We must be in touch with the Force at all times. If we are, then we gain the ability to detect far more than what our eyes can see, or what our ears can hear, or what we can feel. So one of the duties of a Master is to work with his Padawan and strengthen the connection he has with the Force."

"That sounds very... specific," Anakin remarked. "But the Force is still more than just sensing or manipulating."

"You are correct," Dellen said with a smile. "And that is why each Master has much freedom in instructing his Padawan in the ways of the Force. It would be foolish to restrict that. I believe that was one of the great mistakes the Council made toward the end; they tried to place too much emphasis on certain things, which made us predictable."

There was a knock on the door and both Jedi looked up to see Mara and Luke. "It's time," Luke said.



Several minutes and umpteen security checks later, the four Jedi and the Federation group walked into a waiting area near the central podium of the Senate rotunda. Anakin could only remember the interior of the building changing once, and he had been so young at that time that he barely remembered what it used to look like. Still, he found it impressive. Thousands of delegation booths spiraled up from the bottom of the concave chamber.

"I was actually expecting it to be larger," Dellen remarked as they walked down the steps toward their assigned booth. "How many seats does the Senate have now?"

"The last time I checked, it was about twelve hundred," Luke replied.

Dellen clicked his tongue softly. "That's not even a quarter of the Senate I remembered..."

"I know," Luke said softly. "Around two thousand Senators signed a petition protesting Palpatine's power grab after the Clone Wars. They were ignored."

"That many?" Dellen asked in surprise. "When we left, his ratings were at an all-time high."

"Would you expect anything less of a Sith Lord?"

Dellen nodded guiltily. "And we were duped just as much as the politicians. If I had known that Palpatine was behind the attack that nearly killed all of us..."

"What's important is that despite all that, the mission succeeded," Luke said. "And that's why we're here today."

"True," Dellen agreed.

At the dais ahead of them, Chief of State Borsk Fey'lya stood in silence, listening to a representative of a multi-world farming consortium drone on about how agricultural tariffs in the mid-Rim sectors were killing business.

When the speaker finished, Fey'lya cleared his throat. "The Senate will now recognize the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee."

After the formalities were finished, the senator launched into an assessment of tariff structures. Anakin tuned him out after only a few minutes had passed, opting instead to mentally calculate the liquid volume of the Senate chambers. By the time the speaker had finished, he had concluded that the rotunda could hold enough water to supply the entire planet's needs for about a minute.

Not that anybody would drink it, that is. The senators would make it taste too bitter.

"... and so," Fey'lya was saying as Anakin snapped back to attention, "it is my distinct pleasure to welcome into this chamber a man who last set foot here sixty years ago, Jedi Master Dellen Coureran."

There were scattered attempts at applause and, to Anakin's surprise, more than a few jeering cries. What was wrong with the Senate, that they would openly ridicule a Jedi?

They walked up to the dais together, where Dellen stepped forward to the front of the podium.

"Thank you, President Fey'lya." He looked around the chamber as his voice echoed from the cavernous walls. "Esteemed representatives and honored guests, as some of you may no doubt know already, exactly sixty years ago this month a ship specially commissioned by the Republic left the shipyards of Yaga Minor on a historic voyage."

The chamber was filled with murmurs as some delegations tried to figure out what the Jedi Master was talking about.

"I am speaking of the Outbound Flight project, which departed with ten thousand Republic colonists and two thousand Republic Navy crewmen aboard six Dreadnaught cruisers. Never in the past thousand years of galactic history was anything so ambitious ever attempted."

The murmuring grew louder as Dellen continued. "As the Senate's history databanks will no doubt tell you, it was ambushed one week later in the Unknown Regions and has been presumed destroyed to this day."

"Where are you going with this?" a heckler shouted from the other side of the chamber.

Ignoring the question, Dellen continued. "I am pleased to report that rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated, and that the Project has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations."

He reached down and activated the holoprojector controls. Above the central podium, a giant representation of a barred spiral galaxy slowly began to spin about its axis, and there was a quiet gasp from the Senate. "Through a fortunate chance, Outbound Flight survived. Although we never made it to our intended destination, we reached a galaxy similar in size to our own. Most significantly, we have contacted a predominantly human government."

The murmuring in the chamber exploded into chatter, and Fey'lya had to pound his gavel to silence it. On the other side, the human representative of the Sluis Van sector stood up.

"Your question, Senator?" Fey'lya asked.

"Forgive me, Master Coureran," the senator began, "but is it not a well-established fact that there is a hyperspace disturbance surrounding the galaxy that makes travel in or out impossible?"

"I would say the simple fact that I am standing here in front of you, today, is enough to disprove that foolish notion," Dellen replied calmly. "I would also like to bring your attention to the Rishi Maze, which I believe we can all agree lies not within our own galactic plane, but is rather a dwarf satellite galaxy of ours. Were there such a barrier, travel to the Rishi Maze would be impossible." He paused for effect. "Historically speaking, the hyperspace disturbance hypothesis was accepted by the public and the Senate without any basis in reality. It was a convenient excuse for us to turn our focus inward and forget our drive to explore the stars beyond."

The silence in the chamber after Dellen had finished was almost deafening. Finally, Fey'lya spoke up. "Would you care to add anything, Senator?" The senator shook his head. "Are there any other questions for Master Coureran?"

"How is it possible for there to be humans in a galaxy so far away?" another senator asked.

Dellen smiled. "I believe I just finished explaining that the so-called Great Hyperspace Barrier does not exist. There are any number of ways that humans could have reached another galaxy in the past."

"But you said just a few minutes ago," the senator protested, "that no project like Outbound Flight has happened before."

"You twist my words, Senator," Dellen replied. "I said that no project like Outbound Flight has happened in the last thousand years of known Republic history. Mind you, we have been exploring space for at least the last hundred thousand years." He paused for dramatic effect. "In fact, I would say it's even possible that humans came from their galaxy!"

"That's preposterous!" the Senator shouted. "We know that the human race originated right here on Coruscant."

Dellen took some time to consider the question. "While it is commonly assumed by many that humans originated here," he said calmly, "there are at least three hundred planets that lay claim to human origins in this galaxy, not least of which is Coruscant. And in the long course of civilization here, any evidence to corroborate those claims has either been destroyed or buried beneath successive layers of growth. In short, Senator, that question is better left for anthropologists."

Dellen looked about the chamber again, which was still buzzing with voices. He raised his voice just enough to be heard over them. "But I have not come before you to give you a history lesson, historian though I may be. I bring to you an opportunity. We have successfully negotiated with this government for the rights to start a colony. This will be the first Republic colony to be founded outside the known galaxy since the discovery of the Rishi Maze."

The Sluis Van senator spoke up again. "I hope you pardon my impertinence, Jedi," he said, "but speaking as the representative of over six thousand systems I must say the founding of one new colony is distinctly unimpressive."

"In galactic terms, I admit it is barely a footnote," Dellen replied. "However, the local government, the United Federation of Planets, wishes to apply for membership. This is where the opportunity lies."

"To put it bluntly, this Senate is not in the habit of granting membership to anybody that just walks into this chamber," the Senator replied. "There are eligibility requirements that must first be met. Surveys must be conducted, and observers will have to monitor their political processes for a set time period before membership is even considered."

"And that is a fact that I am well aware of," Dellen replied. "Their representatives have filled out forms for no less than thirty-seven departments in the past week."

"I suppose then you are asking us to grease the rails, so to speak?"

"There is a certain amount of urgency to their request. I believe that their representatives could explain the situation better than I."

There was a resigned pause, and then Fey'lya's voice boomed out. "The Senate will now recognize Ambassadors Spock and Picard from the United Federation of Planets."

Spock stepped forward without missing a beat. "Esteemed representatives and honored guests," he said, imitating Dellen's opening, "we are deeply honored to be standing here in front of this august body. Like my colleagues, I initially had my doubts when I heard that we had made contact with a galaxy-spanning Republic. Yet, standing here today, I am left speechless at the millions of species and countless sentient beings that have chosen to work together toward a common goal.

He paused to take a breath. "While some worlds such as my home planet of Vulcan have been traveling space for thousands of years, the Federation has only existed for slightly more than two hundred of them. Together we have faced many challenges and emerged stronger for the experience."

As they looked around the chamber, it remained in silent attention.

"Despite that, the Federation now faces a test that it may not pass alone. A power that calls itself the Dominion decided several years ago that it wanted our resources. They have taken many worlds, enslaved their people, and killed thousands of our best Starfleet crews. We have fought back at every turn, but it has not been enough."

After a long period of silence interrupted only by the murmuring of the Senate rotunda, Anakin inwardly sighed when he saw the Sluis Van delegation pod highlighted.

"Forgive me, Ambassador Spock," the senator began, "but are you applying for membership or begging us to come save you from your troubles? Because if it is the latter, I hope you do not expect us to come charging in like some fabled cavalry. We have enough to worry about without waging wars on behalf of governments in other galaxies."

"Your hesitation to intervene in these matters is logical," Spock replied without missing a beat, "as we have faced the same sort of decision in the past. However, I must ask you to consider the fact that by the time all of the surveys are taken and political processes observed, there may not even be a Federation left."

On the small holoprojector at the front of the delegate pod, the Senator crossed his arms. "Then what would you have us do?"

"It is my understanding that there is a large military-industrial complex that services your armed forces. We still have manpower, but are sorely lacking in production capacity. We will only need the means to defend ourselves and training to use the equipment."

"I see." The senator scratched his chin thoughtfully. "That is an entirely different question, then. Assuming that your government passes the tests required for us to export arms to you, the only question that will remain is: What companies will be willing to take the risk of selling ships and weapons to an unknown factor?"

"Senator, Ambassador," a new yet vaguely familiar voice interrupted, "the Corellian Engineering representative has informed me that they are willing to provide provisional financing. How many ships do you expect you will be need, and what is your timeframe for delivery?"

"Mr. President," the Senator replied, "I must protest the interruption by Senator Sal-Solo. The United Federation of Planets has not yet been recognized by the Senate, much less approved for arms exports by the Security Council!"

Sal-Solo? Anakin wondered. It couldn't be.

"Regretfully, Senator Sal-Solo," Fey'lya said firmly, "I must agree with Sluis Van. Trade is the backbone of prosperity and we must take the time to ensure the correct decisions are made. Master Coureran, have the Federation representatives submitted the forms for formal recognition of an independent power to the External Affairs Committee?"

"They have, Mr. President."

"Has the Committee reviewed the forms in question?"

"They have, Mr. President."

Fey'lya turned back to the podium. "In that case, would the chair of the Committee care to state his opinion on the standing request for formal recognition of the United Federation of Planets?"

"The vote was 28-7 in favor of recognition," the chair stated.

"Do any of the seated Senators have any objection to the findings of the Committee?"

While Fey'lya waited for a decision, Anakin swept his gaze around the chamber in search of the Corellian delegate booth.

"In that case, the Committee's decision stands. The Senate will formally recognize the United Federation of Planets as an independent foreign nation."

There was a brief round of weak applause.

"The Security Council will hold a hearing on the Federation tomorrow at 1300," Fey'lya declared with a bang of his gavel. "This Senate session is hereby adjourned. Thank you all."


. . .



A short time later found the Jedi walking with the Federation diplomats through the grand halls of the Senate rotunda.

"I suppose," Anakin ventured carefully, "as far as the Senate is concerned, that was a productive day."

The remark earned him a snort from Mara. "At least they set up another hearing for us. I remember there were times where the Imperial Senate would bicker and debate an issue all day and still not get anywhere."

"I'm sorry," Picard interjected, "did you say Imperial Senate? I thought this was a Republic."

Luke let out a tired laugh. "It's a long story. I went over most of the history with Master Dellen. What do you know about the Old Republic?"

"If by Old Republic, you mean the 'Republic of legend' that Master C'baoth was fond of reminiscing about, I believe I know the basics," Picard replied.

"Good," Luke said with a smile. "Then I can skip all the boring details. Around seventy or eighty years ago, a politician from one of the old, aristocratic worlds started his rise to power, eventually becoming Chancellor."

"That would be the one who authorized the Outbound Flight, correct? Chancellor Palpatine, I believe?"

Luke nodded. "However, what nobody realized at the time was that Palpatine had been trained in the ways of the Sith, who were the ancient enemies of the Jedi. Palpatine manipulated the system to start a series of wars that devastated the galaxy."

"The Clone Wars?" Picard asked.

"Yes. He used the conflict to gather more power for himself and finally had the Senate proclaim him as the Emperor. As the unquestioned ruler of the galaxy, he almost completely destroyed the Jedi Order and removed most of the safeguards on freedom in the galaxy. Slavery of non-human species was not just ignored, it was actively encouraged."

Picard looked thoughtful for a moment. "There are many parallels between that and our own history," he finally said. "One of Earth's greatest civilizations of antiquity, around 2,500 years ago, was the Roman Republic. It was ruled by a Senate of the people for several hundred years.

He took a breath. "Eventually it became threatened by war, and one of the generals in that war was named Julius Caesar. Caesar saved the Republic, and in turn was granted great political power -- so much so, in fact, that his name became the title of his successors."

"He didn't sound too bad," Luke remarked.

"Compared to many of his contemporaries, no," Picard said. "However, some of his successors let the power go to their heads."

Luke nodded. "That's a common theme here as well."

"I'm sure," Picard replied. "We have a saying: power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. I suppose I would not be wrong to assume that these Sith were all seekers of power?"

"They were," Luke said. "In fact, most of the galaxy's largest wars can be traced back to the Sith."

"They sound like a very dangerous enemy," Picard mused. "Do they still exist?"

Luke shook his head. "As far as we can tell, no. I suppose we were fortunate that while Palpatine himself was one of the strongest, most powerful Sith Lords in history, he was also one of the greediest. He gathered up large amounts of Sith knowledge and destroyed any copies. We've managed to recover a little bit that he left behind, but most of it was destroyed with him."

"If he was as powerful as you say," Picard said, "how was he defeated?"

Luke took a deep breath. "By my father, Anakin Skywalker."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "It seems, Master Skywalker, that you come from a powerful family. Yet you do not show it."

"My father was corrupted by Palpatine as a young Jedi Knight," Luke explained, his tone dropping. "He became known as Darth Vader, and helped destroy what was left of the Jedi Order."

"Fascinating," Spock remarked. "How did he come to defeat the Emperor?"

"I was part of the Rebellion -- that is, the alliance to restore the Republic," Luke continued. "It was very much an uphill battle, and the Emperor set a trap for us at the end. As the last Jedi, or so I thought at the time, I went alone to confront Vader and the Emperor.

He took another deep breath. "I nearly failed. But I knew that deep inside, Vader was still Anakin Skywalker." Luke reached up and ran a hand along his face. "I look older than I should now because of how the Emperor tortured me. Something snapped inside Anakin when he saw that, because he picked up the Emperor and threw him to his death."

"Based on your earlier remarks concerning your father," Spock said, "I would infer that was the cause of your father's death."

"The Emperor fried his suit's life support systems," Luke replied quietly. "He died a short time later."



They rounded a corner in the building and nearly ran into the Corellian delegation. Anakin paused to look twice at the man in the center of the group who, were it not for a few extra pounds and white hair, could have passed for his father's twin. But his face was permanently etched into Anakin's memory. He had, after all, been the one who had captured and used Anakin and his siblings as bargaining chips only a decade earlier.

"Senator Sal-Solo," Mara said icily. "What an unexpected pleasure it is to meet you again."

"Miss Jade," Thrackan Sal-Solo said with a small bow. "Likewise."

Mara's eyes narrowed. "It's Mrs. Jade-Skywalker now," she replied. "But of course you wouldn't know that. You were locked away in a Corellian prison when we got married."

Ignoring the jab, Thrackan's eyes fell down to her belly. "I see you have been quite busy in the meantime. I suppose congratulations are in order. When is the baby due?"

"Why?" Mara snapped. "Do you plan on kidnapping him too?"

Thrackan mimed stabbing himself. "You wound me, Mrs. Jade-Skywalker. You should know full well that I meant no harm to the children all those years ago. But I had my back up against the wall."

"That reminds me," Mara said. "Just how did you go from being a convicted criminal in a Saccorian prison to Senator of Corellia in two years?"

"Full pardon from the Governor-General of Corellia, in exchange for helping unlock Centerpoint Station," Thrackan replied. "Along with popular support. Speaking of pardons, can we put the past behind us right now? This is a historic moment for not only our galaxy. I wanted to offer my services in the interest of better relations between the Republic and the Federation."

"Cut the crap, Thrackan," Mara shot back. "We both know that the only reason you're in this is because of the money that this contract could be worth to CEC."

"Be that as it may," Thrackan said with feigned patience, "I don't see the representatives from Kuat or Rendili offering to throw their hats in the ring. Since Fey'lya has basically said the Navy will not assist, what other choice does the Federation have?"

"He has a point, Mara," Luke remarked quietly. "As... distasteful as we may find it to work with Sal-Solo, we don't have many other options."

"The devil you know," Picard said.

"What?" Both Jedi turned to look at him.

"Another old Earth saying," the captain explained. "It's better to go with the devil you know than the one you don't."

"I appreciate the comparison," Thrackan said irritably, "but in all seriousness, I believe it would be better if we could all meet in my office. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we're blocking the corridor."


. . .



As she usually did after the end of a long day at the Senate, Viqi Shesh closed and locked the door to her office. Her staff had already gone home, leaving her alone in the dark room, which was only dimly lit from the light of the Coruscant traffic in the distance.

With a sigh, she sank back in the comfortable chair behind her heavy wooden desk. "Thrackan," she muttered. "You kriffing idiot, what have you gotten us into?"

The KDY representative (who also happened to be a cousin of hers, some three times removed) had already asked her if they should match the Corellian offer of provisional financing. Provisional financing, of course, basically meant loaning ships and equipment in the hope that a customer would be able to come up with payment once the trial period ran out. Customers were always heavily screened prior to being offered such financing, but in this case the customer was in a far-away galaxy, with no basis for the financial wizards to work from. The Federation was, quite frankly, a big fat unknown to her.

Worse yet, her corporate spies had already reported that Rendili was considering the same offer. Which meant that if Kuat did not move, there was a fair chance they would have an uphill battle for sales assuming the Federation panned out.

She put her face in her hands, leaning against the desk for a moment. Then she opened a drawer and pulled out a small glass and a half-empty bottle of strong Kuati brandy, and poured herself a glass.

"Here's to lunatics like you," she said as she raised the glass, before downing it in one gulp. "Asshole."

Several glasses later, she put the bottle back in its place, and pushed several spots on the desk in succession. There was a soft click, and a hidden door opened from which she removed a leathery ball.

After placing it on the desk, she started stroking its center ridge, and the creature unfolded. As many times as she had seen it invert itself, she still found the process creepy and disturbing.

The flat, featureless surface of the villip then morphed into the hideous face of her contact. Why they chose to mutilate themselves so, she had no idea. But she had seen a first-hand demonstration of their power, and they had promised her the safety and security of Kuat in exchange for her assistance. She was doing the galaxy a favor anyway, she told herself; civilian casualties could be minimized with the right intel.

"Speak, Viqi Shesh," the villip intoned.

"I have word of some new developments in the Senate," she began. "I believe you will find this very interesting."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.24 up)

Post by Alan Bolte » 2011-11-05 04:12pm

It's strange that they'd be worried first over lining up weapons contracts, and not whether it's even possible to get back to their own time. Even if they figure that getting the weapons will take long enough that they may as well start now regardless, I'd think Picard and Spock would have had a side-conversation on the subject by this point.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.24 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-11-05 04:37pm

Well, for the purposes of keeping things simple, I've assumed the wormhole is time-stable. Outbound Flight departed sixty years before the current story time. They then spent the next sixty years in suspended animation while the ship replenished its hypermatter fuel.

Now, if they wound up back in the galaxy at the same time they left, they would know something was up.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.24 up)

Post by Alan Bolte » 2011-11-05 05:01pm

Oh, I'd forgotten the suspended-animation plot point. My mistake.

You know you've read too many crossover fanfics when you start getting them mixed up.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.25 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2011-11-12 02:11am

25
[/size]

Captain Yates paced across the bridge deck of Diversion in complete frustration at the current situation and his total lack of ability to do anything about it. It was not for lack of trying on his or the crew's part, however. For the past three days, Diversion's engineering staff had been trying to repair a broken hyperdrive with no success so far.

I should have seen this coming, Yates mused. Jumping around in an uncharted galaxy, relying on starmaps of dubious quality made by local civilizations. How could that possibly go wrong?

Yet go wrong it had. Horribly so, in their case. The Comm-Scan analysts had found some sort of data recorder among the wreckage and junk that they had bartered for in the Ocampa system. The recorder, interestingly enough, had come from a Federation ship named Val Jean. What their connection was to Outbound Flight and Voyager, of course, Yates had no idea. But it was a lead, however tenuous it might be.

So, after several weeks of analysis, they had managed to decipher navigational data contained on the recorder. After cross-referencing it with starmaps taken from the Kazon and Hirogen, his navigators had concluded that the most likely position of this Federation was on the other side of the galaxy. To make matters worse, they had realized that the Ocampa system was actually farther away from the Federation than the wormhole system they had started in!

When faced with a choice of reporting back to the Commodore that no, while they had not found Outbound Flight they did have a good lead on where it was, or actually following that lead even if it meant navigating blindly across the alien galaxy, Yates had immediately gone for the latter option. It was a snap decision he was now regretting, but with any luck his engineers could rig up something that could get his beloved ship back home. At least they were still in one piece.

"Captain?" a voice inquired from the Comm-Scan station.

Yates continued for a few paces, still lost in thought.

"Captain? I'm picking up some strange readings on the scanners," the voice continued.

The captain paused. "Define strange, Ensign."

"Sensor ghosts, Sir. Navigation reported a number of gravity wells surrounding us. When I try to run a passive sensor focus on their position, it always comes up negative."

Having walked over while the ensign was talking, Yates bent over to look at the readouts. "Can you highlight them on the tactical display?"

"At once, Sir."

The tactical display flared to life on the holoprojector, with a wireframe representation of Diversion holding position in the middle of emptiness. As he stared at the display, Yates could see several points around Diversion fade in and out, and suddenly a cold knot developed in his gut.

"Sound general quarters," he snapped out the order to the crew chief. "Comm-Scan, switch to active scan mode. I want those 'ghosts' lit up like a Life Day tree."

The general quarters klaxon began blaring as the crew chief began his announcement.

"Active scan results are negative," the Comm-Scan tech announced with a resigned tone. "Hang on... We're picking up some low-power subspace carriers. I can use that..."

The map suddenly lit up with over a dozen amber markers.

"Gunnery," Yates spun around, "can you get me targeting solutions on the contacts?"

"Tracking system will not maintain target lock, Sir," the gunnery officer reported back.

"Find a solution," Yates snapped back. "Whatever they are, we have to be able to fight back if they are hostile."

"Target lock--"

"Contacts are--"

The gunnery officer and Comm-Scan tech spoke over each other, paused, and then the Comm-Scan tech continued.

"Sir, the contacts just resolved. Thirteen ships, unknown armaments, about one kilometer long each. They must have used some sort of cloaking device."

Captain Yates grimaced as an invisible hand gripped his stomach and twisted. Here they were, stranded without hyperdrive and surrounded by unknown, apparently aggressive ships.

"Gunnery, your report?" he asked.

"Targeting solutions confirmed. Awaiting your command."

"Incoming transmission," the Comm-Scan tech reported a heartbeat later. "Language is not Basic. Waiting for translation..."

"Send our standard query in the meantime," Yates replied. At least that might keep them guessing instead of shooting at us.

"Query sent. Sir, the translation system is saying there is insufficient data to proceed."

"Any more transmissions from any of the ships?"

The tech frowned and turned back to his monitor. "The low-power subspace carriers are still active, but they appear to be encrypted."

"Get Cryptanalysis working on it immediately."

"Yes, Sir."

Several more tense minutes passed as Diversion and the unknown ships held their positions, motionless relative to each other.

"They've opened a channel," the tech finally reported. "Video and audio."

"Put it on the holo," Yates replied.

The communication holo formed a screen as before to reveal another humanoid figure with straight-trimmed black hair, a deeply furrowed forehead and pointed ears.

"What is it with the bumpy foreheads here?" Yates muttered under his breath.

"You infringe territory of Romulan Empire," he began in strangely accented Basic. "Make time and die. Surrender. Your base or belonging is us."

"Romulan Commander," Yates replied in the most proper Basic he could muster under the circumstances, "we were unaware of your government's claim to this region of space and apologize for the misunderstanding."

There was pregnant silence for several long moments as the Romulan muted his end of the link.

"Unknown base," the Romulan began again with a slightly better Basic accent, "surrender and prepare to board. Or choose die."

Yates resisted the urge to palm his face at the mistranslation. Whoever these Romulans were, they weren't about to take no for an answer. Without the hyperdrive, Diversion was a sitting duck. So how could he get his ship--and crew--out of this one?

It took several seconds for him to come up with what he hoped was a believable story.

"Romulan Commander, this is Captain Yates of the Imperial diplomatic ship Diversion. We have traveled from the far side of the galaxy to ask for an audience with your Emperor."

"We do not recognize diplomatic immunity," the Romulan responded a short time later. "Lower your weapons and surrender."

"If you take action against us, we will defend ourselves," Yates warned. "We only wish to speak to a representative of your government."

"Your ship is outnumbered and outmatched," the Romulan replied. "Surrender or we will open fire."

"I would be careful in your position, Romulan," he said in a flat monotone. "Have you heard of a race called the Kazon? They told us the same thing and they also had numerical superiority. Yet we are here, not them."

The Romulan snorted. "Do not think your thinly veiled threat will intimidate us."

"If you prefer," Yates shot back, "I could arrange a live fire demonstration. Would you care to volunteer a target?"



. . .



"They are either crazy, brave, suicidal or stupid. Quite possibly all of the above," Subcommander Ro'cena remarked off-screen once she was sure the channel was muted. "I would suggest we act with caution. They may be human, but they do not act or look like the cowards of the Federation."

"Subcommander, have we been able to get a good scan of their vessel yet?"

"No, Commander," Ro'cena replied. "Their hull is blocking most of our scans. However, from our visual survey it appears that there are at least 100 small turrets spread across the ship."

Commander T'laro shook his head. "It would seem that they are lying about being a diplomatic ship. I also doubt their story about being from the other side of the galaxy. It would take at least sixty years at warp."

"Their ship does not match any known designs, Commander," Ro'cena pointed out. "And it is very possible they could have used a wormhole to get here. But if they are from the far side of the galaxy, why did they not mention the Dominion or Borg?"

"This does not make sense," T'laro agreed. "Open a channel to High Command."


. . .



Yates watched with a mixture of amusement and trepidation as the channel changed to a screen with the symbol of some sort of double-headed bird. The alien commander was likely going to talk to a superior due to the apparent outside context problem that Diversion represented.

No shots fired yet at least, he mused.

While he had been conversing with the Romulan commander, his Comm-Scan crew had been analyzing the alien ships. One of them handed him a datapad with the written analysis, and he began paging through it while he waited.

The first part of the report dealt with the Romulans' power profile. The analysts' best guess was that the gravity distortions observed by Navigation had to do with their way of generating power. Based on the energy conversion potential of a singularity of the size observed, it gave them an a theoretical limit that exceeded Diversion's reactor output.

That said, theoretical limits were one thing. The ability to use the power was another story entirely. Containing a singularity within a ship also imposed a mass penalty that further dropped the efficiency of the process.

They had concluded that if the ship's remaining power output was split equally between weapons, propulsion and shields, then the squadron of ships would certainly pose a threat to Diversion.

Yates just hoped the alien commander would not call him on his bluff.


. . .




The monitor aboard the Vengeance changed to the double-headed Aquila of the Romulan Empire, signifying that the channel to High Command had been opened. T'laro realized that he was involuntarily holding his breath, and forced himself to exhale and breathe normally.

The wizened visage of High Commander Ikarlus appeared on screen seconds later, and T'laro clasped his arms over his chest in salute.

"I see you are reporting in off schedule, Commander," Ikarlus observed. "What is the reason?"

T'laro explained what had happened while the High Commander listened intently.

When he had finished, the high commander spoke up. "You said they appear to be humans, from an Empire across the galaxy, in an unknown design of ship?"

"Yes."

Ikarlus was silent for several long moments. "Has there been any hostility?"

"We traded threats," T'laro spoke.

"Then you will need to calm them down," the high commander ordered disapprovingly. "Do nothing to provoke them."

T'laro looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights, but merely nodded. "Of course, High Commander."

"Good." The commander looked him in the eye. "The information I will be giving you next is for you only. Contact me from your quarters when it is secure."

"Yes, High Commander."

The screen went back to the Aquila before switching to the human ship's captain, who was still waiting with folded arms.

"It... seems there was a slight misunderstanding," the Romulan began awkwardly. "I would like to... apologize... for my words earlier."

"No harm was done," Yates stated. "Have you had any response from your government as to our request?"

He's too calm for his situation
, T'laro thought. Perhaps he was speaking the truth about the Kazon. "They are making a decision and I must speak to them again."

"That is excellent news," the human said. "If you don't mind, while we are waiting, could you ask your ships to increase their distance? My crew is understandably on edge and I would prefer to avoid any accidents."

"I will see what can be done," T'laro replied, seething internally. The human has the arrogance to dictate to me? He clenched his teeth and choked the response back. Orders were orders, even if they went against every fiber of his being. What is so special about these humans, that High Command is willing to bend over backwards for them?


. . .




Yates let out a suppressed sigh of relief as the holoscreen switched off. "Wayyn," he spoke into a comm handset, "how is the repair coming?"

"Not good," the chief engineer's voice replied. Wayyn Ploe had served for years with Yates before being transferred to Diversion. "We still haven't been able to locate the spare motivator. The good news is that the hyperdrive itself appears to be intact. We won't know for sure until we power it back up."

"What other options do we have?"

"Very few," Ploe replied. "We have spare motivators for the support craft, but they have a lower rating and would burn out quickly assuming we are able to connect them without making more of a mess of the system."

"Why didn't you tell me this before we had a whole squadron of alien ships about to shoot us?" Yates asked, exasperated.

"Captain," Ploe said patiently, "I had considered it but I wanted to exhaust the other possibilities first. We can always get a replacement motivator. We can't get a replacement hyperdrive so easily."

Yates rolled his eyes. "No we can't just get a replacement motivator. Any spare parts we don't have on board have to come through that wormhole."

"I am well aware of that, Captain. We can dispatch a shuttle to return to the fleet and get the spare parts we need."

"And what do we do if that shuttle miscalculates one of their jumps?" Yates asked.

"We will still be better off than we would if we overload a shuttle motivator by trying to run Diversion's hyperdrive on it."

The captain shook his head. Technically speaking, Ploe might be one of the best engineers he'd ever met, but there were times he found his personality to be infuriating. "Tell you what. You are going to jury-rig a motivator as quickly as you can so that we have the hyperdrive ready in an emergency. In the meantime, I am going to continue working these Romulans and see if we can get something useful out of them. Once that's done, we are going to meet in my quarters where we can air this situation out without having the crew in earshot."

"What time did you have in mind?" the chief engineer asked.

"I'll page you when I'm ready," Yates replied, slamming the mic down.

"Sir, the Romulans have opened a channel again," Comm-Scan reported.

"Put them back on." Yates waited for the Romulan's face to appear on screen. "What news do you have for us?"

"Captain Yates." The Romulan's tone seemed stiff. "I have orders to escort you and your ship to Remus, where the Praetor has agreed to meet with you. We will send you the navigational data and you will match our warp velocity."

"Well." Yates paused as his brain tried to catch up with the sudden 180. "I wouldn't have a problem with that, except it's impossible."

Now it was the Romulan's turn to boggle. "Explain."

"Our drive system is much faster than warp," Yates replied. "That is how we crossed the galaxy. Wherever Remus is, we would arrive there days or even weeks ahead of you."

Yates saw the flicker of realization that crossed the Romulan's otherwise placid face and suddenly connected it to the about-face that the Romulan had done barely a minute earlier. They've heard about hyperdrives before, he realized. Which means they've had contact with Outbound Flight.

"As a gesture of good will, I will allow you to tow my ship to Remus," Yates offered. Hopefully by the time we get there, Ploe will have that damned hyperdrive running again, he mentally added.

"That will be acceptable," the Romulan began, "but I must request that you remain as my guest aboard Vengeance for the duration of the trip."

Yates nodded. "With equal reciprocation, of course. I will come to your ship with several members of my crew if you will send your second-in-command and several crew members to my ship."

T'laro looked as if he had just swallowed something sour. "That is agreeable."

"Excellent," Yates replied. "We will prepare a shuttle at once."
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.25 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2013-11-08 05:48pm

So, was looking for this thread since I'm preparing to get Chapter 26 out sometime in the next couple weeks, and it seems that my record of providing an update once about... oh, every two years has not changed. This time, at least, it's not due to trying to go back and rewrite everything, but instead I simply got hung up on some very stupid details within chapter 26 and was busy enough in real life to not have anytime to actually think about a way around them.

The good news is that I've settled on a new direction for chapter 26 which at most has only minor consequences for the other ~15 mostly-written chapters, and work is now proceeding apace. I have decided there will be no more rewrites of this story, so once I've posted it through in its entirety, I'm going to go back and tidy up the version on Fanfiction.net and perhaps offer a PDF on my own site (which I need to put back online, given that my old server died and I haven't had the time to replace it).
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.25 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2013-11-13 05:42pm

As promised. This chapter is still quite raw and has not been beta-read, so please let me know if you spot any typos in it.

26


"Ferret data confirms PDC report on OpFor assets."

Standing on the flag bridge of the Executor-class Star Dreadnought Lusankya, Commander Deanna Troi quietly observed the crew as they went about their tasks. They were surprisingly calm and orderly, not given to idle chatter. The ever-present bass thrum of the ship's machinery seemed to provide the perfect undertone to the mood.

Officially, she was there as part of a pilot crew familiarization program launched with the Senate's recognition of the existence of the Federation. The timing of the pilot program had neatly coincided with BASCOTE—the Bastion Accords Strategic Co-Operative Training Exercise—which was held jointly between the Republic and Empire every year at Ord Mantell.

In the holotank beside her, dozens of red icons populated the floating schematic of the Bright Jewel system. Almost all were clustered around the southern hemisphere of the system's third planet, Cairns.

Noticing a sensation of unease, she turned to face a furry, almost canine snout, and momentarily recoiled before she regained her composure. While she had seen many different species during her time in Starfleet, most humanoids seemed to follow certain norms in their appearance. Bothans, however, were slightly unsettling. From a distance they appeared roughly humanoid, which was completely at odds with their equine/canine-like facial structure.

"All commands, execute contingency Osk-Zerek-Niner. Standby to jump on my mark." Admiral Traest Kre'fey waited for confirmation of the orders for a few moments, then spoke. "Mark."

The inky blackness of space outside the panoramic bridge windows turned into streaks of light for a few brief moments, as if looking at a starfield through a lens of infinite curvature. The effect was not too dissimilar to the computer generated representation of space displayed on the viewscreen whenever the Enterprise went to warp. Almost as fast as it had appeared, it was replaced with the crazy, blue-shifted kaleidoscope like tunnel that Troi had come to associate with hyperspace travel. It was still somewhat nauseating to look at, and she quickly turned away from the windows.

"My apologies," Kre'fey said. "I did not mean to startle you. You are an empath, correct?"

Troi nodded. "Yes, although I have some difficulty with species far from the humanoid norm. Maybe I haven't spent enough time around Bothans."

His fur rippled slightly, and she wasn't sure if the feelings she felt coming from him were irritation or... amusement?

"I am flattered you find my species that interesting. Many say that Bothawui is no place for the faint of heart, that we are nothing more than a collection of liars and backstabbers."

She nodded slowly. "If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that prejudices are rarely fair."

"If only more shared that attitude," he lamented, turning his attention back to the holotank as the reversion timer began counting down.

Troi walked forward, crossing the catwalk that spanned the crew pits. She idly wondered about the lack of handrails. Given the mass of the ship and the capabilities of the inertial dampeners used here, she wasn't too surprised, but the various floating platforms and skybridges on Coruscant had similarly been handrail-free. Surely there was some sort of safety standards organization that could be reported to?

The crazy sky of hyperspace blurred back into lines before finally resolving into the pinpricks of light that were the other ships in the fleet. There was barely any sensation of movement despite the tremendous deceleration that must have been required.

"Transit successful, all ships within expected sphere of probability," Comm-Scan reported a moment later.

Looking out the windows, she spotted the brown and white orb of Cairns in the distance. Although technically terrestrial, it was at the extreme limit of that definition, an arid planet with most of its water locked into polar ice caps. The overall effect was not too dissimilar to the early pictures she had seen of Mars before its terraforming.

Her attention returned to the fleet as they began maneuvering into formation. Their movements, at this distance at least, appeared slow and ponderous when compared to the graceful maneuvering she was used to in Starfleet. Although none of the heavy combatants were less than a kilometer in length, they appeared downright diminutive next to the bulk of Lusankya that spread out in front of her, coming to a dagger-like point some fifteen kilometers forward. The tangled jumble of the Star Dreadnought's "habitable honeycomb," combined with its grand scale, bore more similarities to a city than a starship.

She shook her head slightly. The crew of this impossible ship was indeed larger than many cities'—or planets'—populations. Then again, most planets weren't built to destroy other planets.

That was a sobering thought. If Master C'baoth was correct about the drive to explore having been lost in thousands of years' worth of stagnation, the amount of internal strife in this galaxy would be easily explained by an early Terran philosopher's argument for the frontier as a stabilizing factor in society.

The uncomfortable question she was left with was: Would this be the eventual fate of the galaxy she called home?




. . .




"So, how is Tionne getting along with Master Dellen?" Mara Jade-Skywalker asked.

"About what you'd expect," Luke said, stepping into their quarters aboard the Jade Sabre. Clothes and other items were strewn about the bunks, and a large, half-stuffed travel case floated on a cart next to Mara.

"Is Kam jealous yet?" she asked, folding up a jumpsuit and packing it into the case.

"Hardly," Luke replied. Tionne and Kam Solusar had been married for almost ten years, about a year longer than he and Mara.

"Better keep an eye on them for me," she said in a jovial tone. "They're going to be spending a lot of time together combing through the remains of the Jedi Library, and you know how those librarians can be..."

Luke frowned. "Uh, no, not really."

She turned to look at him without straightening up and quirked an eyebrow. "Right. Sorry, I forgot you were a backwater farmboy at heart for a moment there."

"I still don't follow," he said.

She turned back to packing. "Let's put it this way. Libraries are cold, lonely places where librarians spent all their time working."

"Yeah, I know that," Luke said with slight irritation.

"OK, so... put two attractive, lonely librarians of the opposite sex together in an old library for a couple months, and..." She waggled her hips suggestively for emphasis. "Well, things can happen."

Luke sighed theatrically. "Tionne is too dedicated for any of that, and Master Dellen is from the old Order. Attachment is forbidden, and all that."

"They may have forbidden attachment," Mara said, "but did they forbid lust?" Her hips swayed again, and Luke found the motion harder to ignore this time.

"Point taken," he finally admitted, bringin his eyes up in time to see the amused, somewhat hungry look on her face. "You know, I really wish you'd reconsider going."

She stood upright and stretched back enough to flex herself before tracing a hand down her figure. "Going to miss something?"

"When you put it that way, yes, I think I will."

"Aww, the poor lonely farmboy," she said in a mock pout before her expression hardened. "Better not do anything while I'm gone, or you might find yourself wishing I had followed the Emperor's command on Wayland."

"I'll keep that in mind," he said dryly. "But seriously, are you sure about this? What about the baby?"

"The baby will be fine," Mara said. "Besides, I'm barely in my third trimester and it's not like Cilghal's confined me to my bed."

"Would it make any difference if she did?" Luke deadpanned.

She gave him a playful jab in the arm. "When did you turn into such a worrywart anyway?"

"Hey, I'm allowed to be concerned about my wife and unborn son," he protested.

Mara snorted. "There's nothing to worry about. I'm traveling on a top of the line Star Destroyer, and when we get there Ambassador Picard says their medical technology is excellent, perhaps even superior to our own in some ways."

"Why don't I just go with you?" he asked.

"No." She reached over and put a hand to his lips before he could protest further. "Luke, the Jedi Order needs you now, more than ever. Something's going on in the Senate that is turning them against us."

Luke rolled his eyes. "Kyp."

She opened to her mouth as if to rebut him, then closed it again, and her hand slid down to his chest. "Well, yes, but I don't think it's just him. I have a feeling there's something else going on."

He threw his hands up in exasperation. "It's the Senate! There's always something else going on!"

Mara wrapped her arms around his chest, pulling him in so her belly was pressed up against him. The baby gave a soft kick. "Luke, I know you're more concerned about the baby and I than anything, and it's really touching. I wouldn't have it any other way." Her lips briefly pressed against his. "But I think you're missing the picture here. Something big is happening, I can feel it. I'm pretty sure it's connected to what Kyp and the twins discovered at Helska."

"I know that," Luke responded. "That's why we came here, remember? Admiral Kre'fey told us that sector command would deal with it."

"Luke, you and I both know it goes beyond Dalonbian Sector. Somebody needs to stay on top of this, and you're the best Jedi for the job. The Senate won't listen to anyone else, not even me."

He smiled. "Are you sure? You can be pretty damn persuasive."

"That's because I know how to get your attention."

"Hey!" Luke jumped as her hand, still wrapped around him, dropped below his waist and squeezed.

"Admit it, you only married me because of that stretchy black jumpsuit I used to wear."

"Well, you were kind of a femme fatale. Aside from the whole 'trying to kill me' bit," he joked.

"Aha. So that did turn you on." Her smile broadened into a grin. "I thought I saw a bulge in your pants once or twice when we were crawling through those ducts in Mt. Tantiss."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Luke said in mock denial. "But anyway, that's not the only reason I married you."

"So it is true!" she exclaimed, squeezing him with another kiss. As she released, he noted her expression had much in common with a hungry predator. "What else?"

He wrapped his arms around her, letting his fingers work their way up her back. She squirmed against him slightly. "Well, I've always liked your passionate attitude."

Mara smirked. "Are you sure it's not because you needed someone to whip you ever since you left the farm?"

"I was not whipped," he protested in vain.

"But you know you enjoy it."

"Only when you do it."

She laughed, mashing her lips against his again. "Tell you the truth, I'll miss you while I'm gone."

Luke gave her a look of mock disbelief. "You? Mushy? Never!"

"Who said anything about being mushy?" she retorted, throwing him a pained glare before reaching down the front of his robe. "I meant I'd miss this."

"Ah!" Luke spluttered. "Don't make me defend my manhood."

"I would love to see you try, Master Skywalker."

"Fine." He gave her a playful, gentle shove back toward the bunk. "But don't say I didn't warn you."

"What are you going to do, tickle me?" she taunted.

"No," he replied. "But I might do this!" With that, he grabbed her in a hard kiss, spun around, and pulled her down on top of him in the bunk. The floating cart went flying through the door while the rest of the clothes, now forgotten, scattered everywhere.

After several very long moments, she pulled her lips away from his. "Watch it, Mr. I'm-so-concerned-for-the-baby."

"That coming from Mrs. I-can-take-care-of-myself?" he retorted.

"That does it." Mara grabbed the opening of his robe and pulled. "No more nice Jedi. Prepare to meet your doom, Luke Skywalker."

"The line between nightmare and fantasy keeps getting more blurred," he remarked with a smile.

"Just be thankful we have the Sabre all to ourselves while Anakin's out touring the new ships," she said breathlessly in between kisses.

"Believe me, I am."




. . .




"Executing microjump."

The first stage of contingency plan OZ-9 called for Lusankya and the interdictors of Task Force 1's five strike groups to microjump from their holding position at the Lagrange point of one of the system's gas giants to a geostationary position above the attacking Imperial squadron. The transition to hyperspace was so brief that Deanna Troi only noticed the blur of acceleration and deceleration.

The concept of the interdictor was also new to her, since there were very few things that could prevent a starship from escaping to warp. Tractor beams might, but only with sufficient power. The mass of the two ships was another issue; it typically only worked if the target was much lighter than its pursuer. As a result, disabling the warp nacelles of the target was typically the only reliable way to prevent a ship from escaping. Given the way the Republic armored their ships, however, she doubted that disabling a ship here was as easy.

"Jump complete. Interdiction fields activating. Strike group reversion in T-20."

During the briefing, Admiral Kre'fey had explained to her that the tactic was adopted from one of the greatest tacticians in recent history, an alien Imperial admiral named Thrawn. The interdiction fields would be used to pull the rest of the fleet precisely out of hyperspace, maintaining their formations in a manner almost impossible with a normal microjump.

"Reversion in T-15. Monitor reports critical shield failure in aft quadrant and is rolling to compensate."

Kre'fey remained silent, evidently trusting his commanders to make the correct decisions as Lusankya's batteries began to return fire. The only downside to this approach was that it left the Imperials with a brief window to attack the interdictors, which they had immediately taken advantage of.

Although she knew it was only a simulation, and in this scenario the Imperials had attacked first, it still sent chills down her spine to think about the cold clarity with which Admiral Kre'fey had ordered the plan's execution. She had no doubts he was capable of doing the same in real combat. Under most circumstances, a Starfleet commander ordering an immediate attack after dropping out of warp would subsequently face a review board and potential discipline, depending on the severity of his actions.

"Reversion in T-10. Monitor is reporting total shield failure."

"Order Monitor to maintain position," Kre'fey barked.

"Orders sent and acknowledged. T-4. Three. Two. One."

As soon as the countdown hit zero, the fleet suddenly appeared around them with weapons hot. The first salvoes struck out toward the Imperial fleet scant seconds later. For the engagement, all the guns were set to tracer mode, a visually impressive bolt of energy that had little more power than a hand blaster. Without that, every ship on both sides would have had to be slave-circuited to allow the fire control computers to share targeting data in real time to calculate hits and misses—not an impossible task, but a highly impractical one.

"Monitor reports reactor damage, multiple hull breaches, and is requesting permission to disengage."

"Granted," Kre'fey said. "Fall back to sector 23. Gunships are to begin attack runs in T-15."

"Orders sent and acknowledged," Comm-scan reported.

The gunships' scale—around 200 meters in length—and tactical use seemed far more familiar to Troi than the long-distance slugging match the rest of the fleet was embroiled in. As one, they broke formation, accelerating toward the Imperial fleet. Several icons winked out along the way, but over four dozen gunships (out of 60) made it to point blank range and promptly unleashed hell. Each salvo consisted of nearly five thousand missiles, and most gunships were able to fire off three salvos. At the end of the attack run, only about twenty gunships had survived to jump back to the reserve point.

Although for the purposes of the exercise none of the missiles were carrying warheads, and all of them had their booster engines rigged for proximity self-destruction, Troi was able to see the explosions of the missiles clearly as they rippled across the Imperial fleet. Moments later, the tactical display updated itself with the results of the horrific carnage: a half dozen of the Imperials' capital ships had been marked as destroyed, with another dozen mission-killed and the rest of the force suffering major shield depletion.

"Carrier groups have arrived. Bomber strikes inbound."

The one- and two-man attack craft used reminded Deanna somewhat of the Peregrine trainers she had flown at the Academy. Any similarities ended there, however. Utilized in a similar manner to the gunships, the fighters were closing to point-blank range where they would perform missile and torpedo strikes on the remaining capital ships. Unlike the gunships, the craft were far more agile—and fragile.

"All commands to close range and provide support for the bomber strikes."

By now, icons were winking out left and right on the tactical display as the battle continued to unfold. The Imperials had lost almost a third of their total strength, the Republic fleet slightly less, mostly among the gunship groups.

"Reversion in sector 37," Comm-Scan reported a moment later. "No IFF. Visual survey confirms multiple Tector, Allegiance and Interdictor class Star Destroyers. They are targeting the carrier groups."

Kre'fey snarled something that resisted all attempts at translation. "I was wondering what their reserves were up to. Direct Strike Group 4 to intercept."

"Orders sent and acknowledged. Redoubt is reporting shield failures in multiple quadrants."

Kre'fey walked over to a comm set and picked it up. "Get me Captain Durmah." He paused mometarily while the connection was made. "Captain, I need you to target the heavy batteries on the Imperial group in sector 37. Keep them off the carriers until Strike Group 4 arrives."

Deanna sighed softly and continued watching the mock battle unfold. It was becoming clear that despite the parliamentary veneer of the Republic, they had much more in common with the governments of Earth's Dark Age than they did with the enlightened society which the Federation represented. She could only hope that their willingness to seek admission in this Republic was only a temporary insanity brought on by the severity of the Dominion War, and not a first step toward weakening the ideals of the Federation.
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Chapter 27

Post by Crayz9000 » 2013-11-21 02:57pm

The bit about the concussion missiles in this chapter is pure speculation on my part, as I was trying to come up with a workable explanation for the effects documented in-universe.

27





"Captain, we've received a FLASH-level dispatch."

Captain Ollic regarded the Comm-Scan operator with a curious expression. "Who is the sender?"

"The dispatch is heavily encrypted, Sir. The signatures are valid, but there is no real way to tell who sent it without the appropriate code cylinder."

Ollic nodded and exhaled slowly. "Put the message on a datachip. I will deliver it personally."

"At once, Sir."

The Captain took the offered datachip and began walking to the turbolift. While it was not his place to ask, he couldn't help but wonder what the message was about. Flash priority was reserved for only the most dire of emergencies, but the fact that it was encrypted for the Commodore's eyes only was even more puzzling. Speed was typically of the essence when handling FLASH dispatches.

The last time he remembered receiving a similar FLASH was nine years before, in the aftermath of a Jedi attack on Nirauan. He shook his head at the memory; the situation had been a complete disaster. While Admiral Parck had inexplicably refused to blame the Jedi, Ollic knew they had been responsible for crippling the base's defenses. That in turn had given one of the largest pirate groups in the sector an opening. They raided the damaged fortress less than a week later, capturing the Admiral and holding him for a ransom. The Magistrate been the first to respond, setting out in search of the pirates' base. It was only through skillful maneuvering and a delicate strike operation that they had managed to recover the Admiral.

Before long he was standing in front of the door to the Commodore's quarters. With the barest hint of a hiss, the door slid open, and Ollic stepped into the darkened room with caution. The Chiss eye structure allowed them to see into the infrared spectrum, so they were generally more at home in the dark than most humanoids. The same structure was responsible for the red glow that Ollic still found somewhat disconcerting.

"What seems to be the matter, Captain?" Mantrel asked.

Taking care not to stumble or trip in the dim light, Ollic made his way to the Commodore's desk and placed the datachip on it. "We received a FLASH-level dispatch," he explained. "It was marked for your eyes only."

He slid the chip across the desk, where the Commodore picked it up without a word and slid it into a terminal. Ollic waited for about a minute for him to read the message before speaking again.

"What orders do you have for me, Sir?"

Mantrel appeared to take his time choosing words. "The Chiss Ruling Families have appealed to the Empire of the Hand for assistance," he stated. "All available assets have been directed to make emergency flank speed to Csilla immediately."

Ollic nodded. "I will have Navigation chart a course at once. If I may ask, Sir, what happened?"

Instead of replying directly, Mantrel keyed his desk comm unit. "All commands, this is the Commodore. We have received new orders. I will be holding a briefing in fifteen minutes." Having done that, he came to his feet and glanced at the still-waiting Captain. "Walk with me."

"Yes, Sir."

As they made their way from the darkened room into the corridor beyond, Ollic found his mind wandering in the silence. What could possibly cause the Chiss Ruling Families to request the actual assistance of the Empire? The Ruling Families had permitted the Empire to operate, if only because Thrawn had made a point of staying outside their reach and not interfering in the affairs of the Ascendancy. He had not, however, heard of any cases where the Ruling Families had acknowledged—let alone sanctioned—the existence of the Empire. Therefore, whatever reason they had for calling must have been serious indeed.

The turbolift doors opened in front of them with a quiet hiss, and they stepped inside. As the doors slid shut, Mantrel turned to face Ollic.

"What do you think is the reason for the dispatch?" he asked, almost as if he could tell what the captain was thinking.

"A direct attack on the Ascendancy," Ollic replied without hesitation.

"Explain."

"From what I've learned, they are too insular and proud to request help for any reason other than a crisis that threatens the Ruling Families themselves."

Mantrel nodded almost imperceptibly. "Have you considered the possibility of a coup?"

"Possible but unlikely," Ollic said after a moment's consideration. "Power struggles between the Ruling Families are not unheard of, but given the structure of the government, a decapitation strike would be extremely unlikely to succeed."

"Agreed. What possibilities does that leave us with?"

Idly, the captain scratched the stubble on his chin. He would need to shave as soon as he was off duty. "Of the known aggressors in the region, I can think of only two with the motivation to pull off such an attack: the Ssi-Ruuvi and the Vagaari."

He could have sworn he saw a glint of amusement cross the Commodore's face. "Which one do you believe to be more likely?"

"The Vagaari," he replied a moment later. "They have not been seen for over fifty years, but once in a while a small colony will either outright disappear, or report a pirate raid consistent with their motives. Unfortunately, we have never managed to collect conclusive proof it was them."

Mantrel nodded. "Why did you immediately discount the Ssi-Ruuvi?"

"As you are well aware, our campaign against the Imperium conducted Base Delta Zero operations against every Ssi-Ruuvi world in the cluster and limited bombardments of their colonies. Our probe droids scouted every system within a thousand light-years of that cluster. Barring a previously unknown power base within the galactic halo, I believe it is safe to say that their species is extinct."

In reality, it had been less a campaign than a fulfillment of Thrawn's promise of retribution against the loathsome saurian species. Ollic had been a lieutenant commander at the time his ship was reassigned to URCOM (Unknown Regions Command). During the conflict, he had rapidly risen through the ranks, eventually landing his command aboard the Magistrate under Commodore Mantrel.

"A sound analysis," Mantrel nodded. "Unfortunately the data included in the dispatch does not fit the Vagaari, or the Ssi-Ruuvi for that matter."

The turbolift doors chose that moment to open, and Ollic began issuing orders as soon as he stepped out on to the bridge. He noted with no small sense of pride the calm, collected professionalism of his bridge crew as they immediately acted upon the orders. When the ship's bosun sounded general quarters moments later, the pace of activity increased in tempo.

After several minutes had passed, he stood in the strategy room, looking across the holotable at the flickering miniature representations of the other commanders in the task force.

"Commanders," Mantrel addressed the gathering. "As you may have concluded from your orders, we are making an emergency flank speed combat jump directly to Csilla, the capital of the Chiss Ascendancy."

He manipulated the holotable and a rough object that looked like a cross between a rock and a mollusk appeared. "None of us have engaged this enemy in combat before, although General Fel's recon squadrons have been tracking their progress through Wild Space and into the New Republic. For reasons unknown to us, the Republic has chosen not to act. We believe this to be a grave error."

The Commodore paused to zoom in on the ship. "While we are unsure of their motives for attacking the Ascendancy, since Mitth'raw'nuruodo first encountered this enemy over sixty years ago we have believed it only to be a matter of time before an attack like this occurred. Much like the Republic, the Ruling Families have remained complacent about this threat, and today it has cost them dearly."

As the strange craft rotated, he pointed at it. "First, from what we can tell, their hulls are composed of mineral deposits, with high concentrations of metals normally seen in durasteel alloys. Despite this, we do not believe it compares to destroyer armor.

"Second, while we have not detected any traditional form of shielding on their ships, weapon fire directed at them has been seen to disappear.

"Similarly," he continued, "General Fel's scouts were unable to discern the method of propulsion. The boffins have theorized it may involve some form of gravitic technology, but for now I suggest we do not jump to conclusions."

His red-eyed gaze swept over the assembled commanders. "We have, however, witnessed the effects of their weaponry. It appears to fall mostly into two categories: short-range, intense plasma bursts of similar firepower to a turbolaser, and longer range molten metal projectiles."

One of the commanders snickered at that, and Mantrel shot him an icy glare. "While I would normally agree that their firepower is laughable, they appear to possess some means of disabling a target's shields from a distance. I cannot stress hard enough that we must not underestimate this enemy."

Straightening up, he paced slowly around the table. "When the Grand Admiral established our Empire here, on the edge of the galaxy, he did so for a purpose. We represent the first line of defense, not only for the Chiss, but for the entire galaxy. We cannot—we must not—fail."

There were murmurs of agreement from the commanders.

"Dismissed."

. . .

Space above Csilla was already quite crowded by the time the task force arrived, not quite an hour later. Debris fields from the ongoing battle were already beginning to elongate, and without intervention would eventually form rings around the planet. Several Star Destroyer sized rock-like ships hung low over the planet in much the same way that rocks don't. One was in a typical low orbit, while the other three were deep in the atmosphere, blasting away at the frozen surface.

Mantrel took one look at the holotank and picked up a comm handset. "All ships, weapons free. Fire at will."

Space lit up as hundreds of turbolaser batteries spread across the dozen-odd ships of the task force opened up. Yet out of the impressive barrage, only a few odd shots actually connected. The rest simply vanished.

"Emperor's black bones," someone in the crew pits murmured. Ollic found himself agreeing with the sentiment, if not the crewman's loss of concentration.

"Stay focus," he admonished. "Maintain fire."

Nearly three minutes later, no changes appeared to be forthcoming when one of the Comm-Scan techs spoke up. "Sir, the targets in atmosphere have been losing altitude every since the bombardment began."

Mantrel nodded as it seemed he came to a realization. He grabbed the handset again. "All commands, concentrate fire on target designate Besh."

It took several seconds for the effect of the new orders to be seen, but the lowest of the three rock-ships began losing altitude rapidly as more fire was concentrated on it. Evidently the aggressors had some sense of self-preservation, since the other two ships quickly began clawing their way toward space.

"Maintain fire," Mantrel ordered.

Ollic soon realized the other ships weren't trying to escape—they were trying to save their comrades by interposing themselves in the line of fire. He immediately knew they weren't dealing with pirates or any such disorganized rabble—that was the mark of a professional military force.

"Helm, re-orient starboard 37 degrees, pitch minus 11," he snapped off, an idea suddenly coming to him. "Gunnery, six concussion missiles on target Besh, bracketing pattern, standoff five klicks."

"Missiles ready," the weapons officer reported seconds later.

He waited until the two ships were almost directly in line with the target. "Mark."

As their name implied, concussion missiles achieved most of their damage through the concussive shock waves they produced. In space, proximity detonation of a concussion missile would, at most, briefly bathe the target in ionizing radiation. Most navigational deflectors could handle such radiation with ease, which is why the missiles were designed to penetrate shields before initiating on contact.

In the atmosphere, however, the concussion missile came into its own. At the heart of the warhead was a small amount of hypermatter surrounding a target sphere. To initiate the device, the missile's droid brain sent a small pulse through the hypermatter, destabilizing it and creating an explosion powerful enough to compress the target into a singularity. An almost infinitely small fraction of a second later, the singularity would then evaporate, releasing a blast of energy more powerful than the heaviest turbolaser shot.

Six miniature stars, each hundreds of times brighter than Csilla's own sun, flared to life in the planet's upper atmosphere. The initial pulse converted the thin atmosphere surrounding each device to plasma in an instant, creating rapidly expanding concussion waves that merged together into a flower-like toroidal fireball. The hapless rocky craft in its center disappeared in the conflagration, while the two ships that had been trying to save it were caught in the same shockwave moments later, buffeting them up and out of the atmosphere.

When the brightness of the fireballs had died down, Ollic was somewhat surprised to see the target was still in one piece, although even that was debatable as pieces began flaking off of its fractured hull. Smoldering, smoke trailing behind it, it looked almost exactly like a meteor in its free-fall dive toward the planet.

"Launch fighters," Mantrel ordered meanwhile. "Keep their attack craft away from the Defense Force ships."

Moments later, it was over. Between the reinforcements and losing one of his own ships, the enemy commander evidently decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and in a flicker of pseudomotion the three craft were gone. The small craft that had been harrying the CEDF ships likewise vanished into hyperspace only seconds after the destroyers.

"Should we pursue?" Ollic asked.

The Commodore shook his head. "This was a hit and fade strike. The fact that we were able to bring down one of their ships is victory enough."

"What of the wreckage?"

"I will instruct Colonel Sheppard to ready a company to secure the crash site. In the meantime, begin surveying the planet to determine where we should dispatch aid first."

. . .

Little changed in the six hours following the attack. Colonel Sheppard's troops had established a perimeter around the wreckage of the ship, but so far there were no signs of survivors. The CEDF frigates were still licking their wounds, conducting emergency repairs with assistance from his engineers.

Csilla itself remained relatively unscathed, owing to the fact that its major cities were underground. However, a significant amount of its above-ground food production had been destroyed or damaged, along with spaceports and associated surface dwellings. All told, it had been enough to completely overwhelm the medical staff from the fleet, as well as tying up every available freighter within the region to bring food in from the colonies.

"Hyperspace reversion," Comm-Scan reported. "Imperator class. IFF identifies it as the Admonitor." There was a brief pause while the tech checked his console. "Incoming transmission."

Ollic stepped over to the holotable as a quarter height figure appeared. Between the eyepatch and the severe features, there was no way he could have been mistaken.

"General Baron Fel," Ollic said with a salute. "It's been a while."

"Captain Ollic," Fel replied. "Likewise. Since it appears that the Commodore has the situation here well in hand, please inform him that Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano has requested his presence. We will be meeting here at 1800 hours. You and any other senior officers are also welcome to attend."

Ollic nodded. "Thank you, Sir. I shall inform him at once."

. . .

They stepped off the shuttle onto Admonitor's deck several hours later. The old ship—Thrawn's original command—had obviously seen better days, judging by the slightly metallic tang in the air that indicated its atmospheric systems needed maintenance. Other than that, its hangar bay was indistinguishable from the Magistrate's own, which was unsurprising considering that the two ships shared the same Imperator-class block configuration.

Standing at the base of the ramp, where he might have expected to see an honor guard of stormtroopers, was instead a mix of human and Chiss troops in CEDF uniform. Ollic glanced over at the Commodore, but his expression remained impassive. At the head of the honor guard stood General Fel, hands clasped behind his back. Beside him was a Chiss dressed in the formal robes of an aristocrat, who Ollic immediately guessed was Chaf'orm'bintrano.

Mantrel approached first, saluting the General in the normal Imperial fashion. When Fel returned the salute, Ollic's brow furrowed; usually a salute was returned only for officers of equivalent rank. Mantrel then stopped in front of the Aristocra and gave a respectful bow.

After Ollic had greeted them, Fel turned and gestured toward the hangar exit. "After you."


The walk to the conference room, punctuated by two turbolift rides, was about as brief as could be expected on a one and a half kilometer ship. It was also uncomfortably quiet; the silence was only broken by General Fel once they arrived.

"I apologize for keeping you in suspense," he began, "but the magnitude of the topic at hand is not well-suited to informal conversation. You may have already guessed however."

He cleared his throat. "First, I have some bad news to share. Admiral Parck passed away earlier this week. In recognition of his services, the Ruling Families have offered to hold his funeral on Csilla, although it looks as if it may have to be postponed.

"Which brings me to our second topic," and he turned to face Mantrel. "Admiral, you are now the most senior ranking naval officer in the Empire. It is my honor to carry out Admiral Parck's request and grant you this rank."

He pulled out a set of rank bars, removed the old one from Mantrel's unform, and attached the new one in its place.

"Our final topic concerns the future of our Empire, of Thrawn's vision and legacy. I believe that Aristocra Formbi will be the best one to explain."

With that, they all took a seat except for the Aristocra.

"Gentlemen," he began in subtly accented Basic. "Although it comes as no surprise to you, Mitth'raw'nuruodo's warning of a dire threat to our civilization has borne true. Over the past month we have seen similar hit and fade attacks on our colonies. While I still believe we must not violate our ideals as a society, a fact that Mitth'raw'nuruodo and I could never agree on, I also believe there is ample room for improvement within the framework of our laws, and the Families agree.

"I came here on behalf of the Council to meet with Admiral Parck about integrating all of you—your "Empire of the Hand"—into our defense forces. As Baron Fel will attest, the Admiral was supportive of the idea, but did not want to force any decision upon his crews. With his untimely demise, I thought it best if we were able to meet before making any final decisions."

With that, he took his seat, glancing around the table. Ollic himself wasn't entirely sure what to make of the news. On the one hand, he had spent almost his entire career fighting to defend the Ascendancy—and the rest of the region—from outside threats. On the other, Chiss society was quite rigid. He wondered how they planned on dealing with the majority of the Empire's human troops if they accepted the offer.

He glanced over at Mantrel, wondering what his commander thought, and was surprised to see what looked like moisture in the corner of his eyes. His normally impassive expression otherwise remained as inscrutable as ever as he cleared his throat.

"I would be honored to rejoin the Defense Force, but there is a question that remains."

Formbi nodded. "Speak freely."

"What is your plan on dealing with the integration of what are essentially two independent command structures?"

"For now, we plan on splitting the Defense Force into different services. Your Navy will form the core of a new Defense Force Navy, with the existing command structure remaining unchanged for the time being. You will answer directly to the Syndic of House Nuruodo.

"The current Defense Fleet will merge with the Expeditionary Defense Force under the direction of Baron Fel, who will likewise answer to the Syndic. You may still address him as General, but within that structure he will be referred to with an equivalent rank. Your existing starfighter corps will likewise fall into the new structure.

"Finally, we will consolidate all ground troops from both the Defense Force and the Empire into the new Defense Force Army. Since that is a lower priority, we have not made any decisions yet on what structure it will follow."

He looked around the table. "Any questions?"

"How long until the integration begins?" Ollic asked.

"The upper command structure changes will take place immediately following the ratification of the new Defense Force charter by the Council. Following that, your crews will be given a two-week period in which to make their decisions."

The room was silent for several moments before Mantrel spoke again. "There may be a slight problem."

Formbi's eyebrows rose slightly, but he said nothing.

"One of our Strike Cruisers is on a long-term reconnaissance mission, and will be out of contact for the foreseeable future. How do you propose we handle cases like that in this transition?"

Ollic noticed Fel's brow crease during the explanation. Updates had obviously not been going both ways, which on its own was not terribly surprising since Mantrel's task force had been posted on the opposite end of the region, operating semi-autonomously for years.

"Clearly, we need to discuss improving communications as we proceed," Formbi remarked wryly. "How far away are they? If they cannot be contacted, we can simply grant them the two week decision period upon their return."

"Perhaps it would be better if I started from the beginning," Mantrel said. "Aristocra, do you remember Outbound Flight?"

Formbi sighed quietly. "All too well. That was the event that made me begin to reconsider our isolationist stance," he admitted.

"In that case, you may be surprised to discover that we found evidence of their survival."

His eyes narrowed to slits. "Where?"

"A new galaxy."

Ollic could almost see the gears turning in the Aristocra's head. "Exactly how long do you believe it will be before your ship returns?"

"They were equipped with roughly three years' worth of supplies," Mantrel offered. "Transit through the anomaly appears to be instantaneous, but we are not sure how long it will be before they locate the final resting place of Outbound Flight."

"I see," Formbi said. "Was there any sign of other life in the galaxy or any threats we should be concerned about?"

"Our initial probes did not find anything immediate," he stated. "Captain Yates will be providing a more complete report upon his return."

"And if he should not?"

"We have measures in place to ensure data is sent in the unlikely event of mission failure," Mantrel said.
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Chapter 28

Post by Crayz9000 » 2013-12-10 07:41pm

28



It was, Han reflected, another beautiful day on Sernpidal. The system's typical yellow star hung high in the sky, washing the plains with its bright light. Various trees and grasses that Han still didn't remember the names for yet were blowing in a gentle breeze, and the air, compared to most of the places like Coruscant that Han was used to, was absolutely pristine.

Yet, to him, it seemed almost too perfect. Then again, perhaps it was just the old smuggler in him, itching for action. He could not even remember a time at which he'd been settled down for any real length of time, much less the year or so they had now been on Sernpidal. His life had always consisted of running from place to place, being chased by authorities, chasing corrupt authorities, and other various excitement.

Han walked over to the Millennium Falcon with a slow, bored gait. As was the norm for the now almost antique, war-weary freighter, something else had decided to break. In this case, it was the remote-controlled blaster turret below the cockpit. Chewie, who Han suspected was just as bored as he was, was currently hanging halfway out of one of the Falcon's access ports trying to find the damage in one of the wiring harnesses.

He almost envied the Wookiee. While he had spent a lot of his time pacing restlessly, Chewie had spent all his time tinkering on the Falcon as was usual for him. One of the local junkyards had turned up some parts from another YT-1300, which Han found somewhat surprising this far from any of the major spaceports, and as soon as Chewie had seen the parts he'd bought the whole bundle of them and set about repairing minor glitches all over the ship.

The only problem with fixing a glitch on the Falcon was that it had a nasty tendency to introduce a hundred other minor glitches, and after getting the parts Chewie had almost completely disassembled half the ship in the effort to fix them all. The Wookiee had succeeded only after rebuilding almost a hundred meters of wiring harness that had decayed from close to a century of age and abuse. The remote blaster had been the only casualty of the latest round of fixes. Not only were the control axes reversed, the feedback was now so jumpy that it had become impossible to aim.

Han sighed. There had been times when he'd considered getting a new ship, but the Falcon was so much more than a ship to him—it was almost like a member of the family. Newer ships might have been faster, more powerful, carrying heavier loads or more firepower, but Han had known for years that part of navigating through hyperspace was your intuition. It was, after all, the reason he had boasted to a young Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi that his ship had completed the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. It didn't really refer to speed at all as much as it did to his navigational abilities.

The good old days, Han thought wistfully. Whatever had happened to the Galaxy? It used to be simple enough, there was one evil enemy: the Galactic Empire. Now, between all the political infighting and what seemed like yearly invasions by various galactic and extragalactic races, Han wasn't sure who was the enemy anymore. Everyone hated everyone else for one reason or another. In a way, Han almost missed the Empire, because it served as a polarizing agent: it was an enemy that everyone could agree on.

Han looked up at the sky, seeing the light crescent of Dobido, the smaller of Sernpidal's two moons, hanging in the distance, and sighed. Then a bright streak of light flashed by, which wouldn't have been very unusual by itself but the fact that it was followed by another several streaks caught his attention. Not only that, but unlike meteors that usually vanished after a couple of seconds, these left smoky trails in their wakes. On any other planet it could have been space junk re-entering the atmosphere, if it wasn't for the fact that Sernpidal was unusually free of space debris...

"Chewie!" he shouted as he started walking backwards toward the Falcon. "How close are you to getting that turret operational? I have a bad feeling..."

Chewie bellowed a reply.

"Well try to hurry it up, you never know when we'll need the Falcon." Han turned around and jogged in to the house.




"Hi, Han," Leia remarked from where she was laying on the sofa as he entered. As always, her skin was still a deathly pale hue, and her eyes seemed to have aged ten extra years from the strain of the disease. "What's the look for?"

Han shrugged as he sat down and thumbed on the vidscreen. "I don't know," he finally admitted. "Maybe I'm just too tense, but I saw some re-entry trails when I was outside. It didn't look like meteorites or space junk to me."

"Are you sure?" Leia asked. "Remember, we used to see those on Coruscant all the time."

Han nodded. "Yeah, and Coruscant's practically a battlefield, there's so much junk in orbit that it's a miracle more ships aren't lost to it. This place, on the other hand, doesn't have anything much larger than a remote flying around up there, and one of those pieces would burn up real quick. No, those things I saw were spaceship sized or larger."

As he was talking, Han had idly been flipping through the holo channels. Most of it was pre-recorded programs, dramas or documentaries, and some of the major sector news channels. He finally reached Sernpidal's local news, but of course there was nothing happening. One of the local farmers had reported all his crops dying but that was about it.

"Well, I guess you're right," Han said finally, standing up to go pour himself a drink. "I guess what the kids told us has me on edge. I hope they're all right out there."

Leia gave him a wan smile. "They're Jedi Knights now, Han. I'm sure they can take care of themselves. Besides, what would anyone want with a planet like Sernpidal, anyway?"




Several hours later, Han was jolted out of the doze he'd fallen into in front of the vidscreen by a news flash. He was somewhat surprised to see the planet's old Mayor on the screen, while the faint sounds of blaster shots rang out in the distance. Without thinking, Han hit the "record" button on his remote.

"Residents of Sernpidal," the old man began with a wheeze that was hinted with sadness, "it unfortunately falls to me to inform you that we are under attack by an unknown force."

As if to punctuate his statement, there was a loud crash and some dust was shaken loose from the building he was in.

"Sernpidal City is lost. If any of you have ships, get as many people as you can and leave. Our police will try to delay this enemy as much as possible but you will not have much time. Try to send a message to Coruscant, I doubt they will listen but we can at least--"

There was a loud crash from behind him as one of the doors was blown open. Several strange-looking humanoid forms, their bodies showing exposed horn-like growths in random places, ran through the doorway and took up positions around the room. Several screams of panic came from off camera, and the Mayor turned around only to face the incoming aliens. "Guvvuk!" one of them grunted before pointing his staff at the old Mayor. The mayor backed up, and the feed abruptly shut off.

Han sat motionless for several seconds, dazed. "Leia!" he finally shouted as he sprung off the seat as fast as he could. "The city's under attack! We have to leave NOW!" He grabbed a datachip with the recording and ran outside. Chewie, who had apparently finished putting the panels back on the Falcon, was watching more bizarre looking ships landing in Sernpidal City in the distance.

"Chewie, is the Falcon ready to go?"

The Wookiee barked a curious affirmation.

"The city's under attack and we're in danger here. Help me carry Leia out to the ship." Without waiting for a response, Han turned and dashed back toward the house. He found Leia inside the bedroom, trying to pack some of their mementos.

"Do you know where the datachip of Jacen's Jedi Knight ceremony went?" she asked, pausing to lean against one of the chests.

"That's not important," Han snapped. "You are. Chewie and I are going to get you out to the Falcon, where you can start running the preflight sequence. We'll take care of everything else."

Before he could say anything, Chewie scooped his wife up and headed out the door. Han looked around the room at the memories of twenty years of their life together, sighed, and started stuffing what he could into a duffel bag.

Several minutes later, he stuffed the bulging bag under one of the rear seats in the Falcon's cockpit. "Honey, is there anything else we need?"

Leia glanced over at him. "Where's Threepio?"

"Ah, kriff," he swore, ducking back out of the cockpit and jogging back to the house. Threepio was slumped over in a corner of the main room, eyes dimmed. Han whacked the activation switch on the back of the droid's head, and he jerked upright. "Master Han! How may I be of assistance?"

"Shut up and get to the Falcon," Han said curtly.

The droid recoiled slightly. "Why, there's no need to be rude."

"Damn it, Goldenrod! I'm going to get a lot more rude if you don't get your shiny metal ass in gear!"

Threepio began shuffling toward the exit. "Why do I never find out what's going on?" he lamented as he stepped through the doorway.

"Because you're a pain in the ass!" Han shot back at him while rummaging through a drawer. "Damn it, why isn't anything where I expect it to be?"

"I do not believe I can answer that question," Threepio replied.

"It wasn't a question!" Han yelled. "Go! Get out of here!" Without bothering to push the drawer back in, he moved on. Junk littered the counter as he hurriedly dumped out each subsequent drawer, eventually locating the datachip he was looking for with a triumphant cry.

He passed Threepio on his way back to the cockpit, where he found Leia slumped in the co-pilot's chair. "I found that chip you were looking for," he said as he handed it to her. Then he paused. "Where's Chewie?"

Leia waved out the viewports. "He's helping some locals."

Han looked up in the direction she was pointing and immediately cursed under his breath. Some distance behind Chewie and the group of Sernpidalans he was helping, several dark shapes were kicking up a large cloud of dust. "Are those all refugees? I don't think we can fit that many."

"I don't know," Leia sighed. "It's weird. I can sense the refugees with Chewie, but nothing beyond them. Like they're a void." She paused to look at him. "Han, I've got--"

"A bad feeling," he completed for her. "Yeah. Tell me about it. How are you coming on the preflight checks?"

"Engines are warming up," she replied. "Should be ready in another five minutes."

He nodded. "I'll go help Chewie."




By the time he reached the refugees, the dust cloud had grown much larger—and much closer. "What's going on?" he asked, stepping in to help an elderly alien who was limping slowly.

The Sernpidalan gestured to the larger group, which was now not far behind. His broken Basic took Han a few seconds to understand. "Those... those things, they try kill us. Destroy car-ground and home. Many wounds escaping us."

"We're almost there. Just a little--" was all Han managed before a cluster of buzzing missiles sailed overhead, exploding harmlessly in the field and showering them with rocks and dirt. "What the hell was that?"

Chewie bellowed, scooping up two Sernpidalans and charging for the boarding ramp. Han glanced at the elder, who shook his head and gestured to several shorter Sernpidalans. "Childs first."

Not wanting to argue, Han grabbed one in each arm with a grunt, and took off. By the time he reached the ramp, Chewie had already vaulted down and was heading back. After strapping the kids in to one of the acceleration couches, he leaned against a bulkhead, breathing heavily. "Damn it, I'm getting too old for this shit."

He reached the ramp to find the rest of the Sernpidalans filing in, and spent the next several minutes getting them seated. There was no sign of the elder or Chewie yet, so he went back down the ramp and saw Chewie carrying the elder toward the ship. They were only about fifty meters away, but the pursuers had closed to about two hundred meters and Han could now clearly see the disfigured, hunchbacked troops with wickedly pointed staves who were marching alongside floating, snail-like vehicles.

The distinctive buzzing of one of the strange missiles only provided him with a split second of warning before the ground next to him erupted, knocking him off the ramp. He picked himself up off the ground, shaking his head in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the ringing in his ears, and looked around for Chewie.

The enemy troops were now charging toward them, staves brandished overhead like spears. Chewie had likewise been knocked over, and was attempting to pick the elder Sernpidalan back up.

"Chewie!" Han shouted at the top of his lungs. "I'm coming!"

Behind him, the auto-blaster roared to life and began mowing the troops down. Han instinctively knew it wouldn't be enough as he sprinted toward the pair. They placed the elder's arms over their shoulders and began running back to the ship as fast as they could.

Barely twenty meters from the ramp, Chewie stumbled, causing Han to fall with the elder on top of him.

"Chewie! You OK?" he yelled over the frenzied cries of the rapidly approaching troops.

The Wookiee bellowed that he had been hit by something, but he would be OK and Han needed to get to the cockpit.

"I'm not leaving you here!"

The roar he received in reply was an unequivocally clear rebuttal, as Chewie picked the Sernpidalan off him. Han wasted no time scrambling up the ramp, dashing through the corridor to the cockpit and throwing himself into the pilot's seat. His hands flew over the controls on automatic, checking that all systems were ready, but he stopped on the ramp controls.

"Chewie?"

"I can't see him," Leia said quietly. Bodies were strewn all over the field, the damage from the auto-blaster obvious, and the remaining troops were waiting behind the odd vehicles. The nearest one erupted with golden fire, and a moment later the ship rocked from an impact.

"Sithspit!" Han swore, jumping out of the chair and drawing his blaster on the way to the ramp.

What he saw next left his jaw hanging open.

Chewie was in the center of a dozen or so creatures. He had grabbed one of them and was swinging him around as a club, battering the others down until they were bloody and broken. As he watched, Chewie swung and two creatures went flying backwards almost two meters, landing with a sickening crash.

As close as they were, Han couldn't fire for fear of hitting Chewie, so his only choice was to wait for a chance shot that he wasn't sure would come.

Finally it was down to just Chewie and the heavily armored leader of the group, who was unbelievably even uglier than the rest of the troops. Bony horns stuck out from all its joints, and its face was hideously disfigured with protruding teeth, deep scars, and numerous tattoos. In its hand was some sort of long staff, which it twirled menacingly as it and Chewie circled, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Han took advantage of the distance to fire a shot off, only to blink in surprise as the bolt dissipated harmlessly against the creature's armor. Distracted, Chewie turned his head to look at Han, and the creature used the opportunity to strike out with its staff. The sharp edge bit deep into Chewie's leg, and the tall Wookiee crashed down.

"You son of a Gundark!" Han shouted, snapping off a rapid burst of bolts that caused the creature to stagger. Almost calmly, the thing pulled something off a bandolier on its chest and threw it. Han recoiled as something whizzed past, exploding a second later and shredding the padding on the bulkhead.

When he peeked out again he saw that Chewie had come back to his feet, visibly limping as Wookiee and alien continued circling. The alien swung again, but Chewie managed to duck under the blow and grab its arm. A moment later, there was a sickening crunch as the Wookiee ripped the arm from its socket and let out a roar of triumph.

Unfortunately, any victory was short-lived. The staff weapon suddenly went limp, slithering down the detached arm and coiling itself around Chewie. It began tightening around his chest, and Han grimaced as he heard bones crack.

Still, Chewie was not about to let that stop him. He grabbed the serpent-staff's mouth and yanked, roaring in pain and anger. With a snap, the creature went limp and fell to the ground.

Han's attention went back to the alien as he saw movement, and he sent another burst of shots into its face before running down the ramp to Chewie, who was now staggering almost drunkenly.

"Come on, old buddy," he said softly as he draped one of the Wookiee's arms over himself to help him back to the ship. Chewie moaned in pain, but stubbornly continued walking. "We'll get you patched up."

As soon as they had climbed the ramp, Han slammed the controls to close it. "Leia! Blast off!"

The ship pitched suddenly, nearly making Han lose his footing, but he was able to steady himself against a bulkhead and they made their way to the medical berth. Chewie eased himself onto the bench, coughing and moaning, and Han found himself looking at the injuries up close for the first time.

The Wookiee was a mess. His fur was matted with blood, his breath ragged. Seeing his massive hands twitching, Han picked up one to look and almost immediately turned away, seeing bone through deep wounds in the fingers.

"Let's get you hooked up to the life support," he muttered as he fumbled to pull the mask off its holder and tie it around Chewie's face.

"Han!" Leia shouted from the cockpit. "I really need you up here!"

"Hang on!" he shouted back as he grabbed a bottle of antiseptic. "I'm cleaning up Chewie!" He turned back to the Wookiee. "This is going to hurt."

Chewie gave what amounted to a weak laugh, as if to say what was a little more pain?

"Han, there might not be anything left to clean up if you don't get up here!"

"I'm coming, just keep us in one piece!" He splashed the antiseptic all over, trying to wash off whatever might have made its way into the wounds, and Chewie moaned softly. "Come on, you're gonna make it. You can make it. We're gonna get you to Lando's, put you in a bacta tank, and you'll be good as new!"

Chewie chuffed a reply, coughing blood immediately afterwards.

"Of course I'm sure they have Wookiee sized tanks," Han shot back, a faint hint of his trademark lopsided smile creeping across his face. He was just glad to see that Chewie was at least strong enough to make a joke. Then he began wrapping bandages around the Wookiee, hoping they would be enough to stop the flow of blood.

"HAN!"

The ship lurched drunkenly, nearly throwing Chewie from the berth. Han reached over and cinched the restraint straps, then put his hand on the Wookiee's shoulder. "Hang in there, old buddy," he said as he got up, trying hard to suppress the choking sensation in his throat. "I'll be right back."



He rushed to the cockpit, only to stop suddenly at the hatch as his brain tried to take in the sight. "The kriff is that?"

A massive, Star Destroyer-sized lump of rock, crags and spines sticking out of it almost at random, filled the viewports. Orbs of golden light drifted lazily toward them, and smaller craft buzzed about trying to land hits on the venerable freighter.

"No idea," Leia replied as Han dropped into his chair and threw the Falcon into a series of evasive maneuvers. "How's Chewie?"

"Bad," Han said tersely. "Can you set a course for Dubrillion?"

"Why? We need to get to Coruscant!"

"Too far!" Han shouted back, twisting the ship to avoid colliding with another refugee ship. "Lando's operation has a first rate medical center. It's the closest place that can help Chewie!"

"Alright! I'm working on it!"

Han glanced down at the sensor panel and swore softly under his breath. "There must be hundreds."

"What, the fighter things? Try thousands."

He shook his head. "No. Refugees. They're being torn to pieces."

Leia considered it. "Can we help them?"

He shook his head. "Look, Princess, we're jumping as soon as you get that course plotted. I'm not putting you and Chewie at risk any longer than I have to."

"Maybe we can just get them to follow us?" she pleaded.

He sighed. "Fine. Broadcast the coordinates as soon as you get a course plotted. I'll try to get their attention." Hoping that Kyp's guess that the invaders didn't communicate on normal frequencies was correct, he keyed the comm for a wide broadcast.

"All Sernpidal refugees, this is Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon. Your best chance is to get to Dubrillion. We will transmit coordinates shortly."

Whether they followed or not, Han was at least satisfied that he'd done what he could to help.

"Got it!" Leia attempted to whoop, but wound up coughing instead. "Sent."

He spun the ship around to line it up with the entry vector, and hit the hyperdrive controls... only to be greeted by the sound of the gravity well alarm.

"What the..." Han muttered a number of choice Old Corellian curses under his breath as he frantically tried to figure out what was causing the well. They were already well outside Sernpidal's gravity well, so the only other thing that could possibly be causing it...

He looked up at the asteroid-ship in the distance, which barely looked like a speck at the range they were at now. A sudden realization hit him, and he keyed the comm again. "That ship's an interdictor! Try to get on the other side of Sernpidal!"

He spun the Falcon and punched the throttle, diving at an angle that would take him on an arc just barely above the outermost reaches of the planet's atmosphere. Any lower, Han knew, and they'd hit the rarefied air and slow down. Far behind, the nearest of the other refugee ships started the same maneuver.

All of a sudden, cries broke out frantically from the comm. "It's taken down my shields!"

Han grimaced, knowing what was coming. His eyes drifted to the throttle, but it was already set at the maximum, and the Falcon was still accelerating, blasting away on a tangent towards the planet and hopefully freedom.

"Mine are down too!" another voice exclaimed, followed by several cries of "I'm hit!" Far back in the line, the sensors registered an explosion, the first of what Han hoped were very few.

"My hull is melting!"

"What the kriff are they firing at us?" another voice shouted.

Han didn't even want to think about the poor bastards in the haphazard convoy that lacked armor.

"Kriff!" he exclaimed as all the sensor warning lights light up on the console at the same time as a flash of plasma streaked right by the cockpit, indicating that there was an attacker right behind him. He tried several twists and turns to shake it, to no avail.

"Grab the turret controls, I can't shake 'em," Han said to Leia as he strained the Falcon's inertial compensators in another turn. Han heard the turrets open fire seconds later, followed by a swear. "I can't hit it. The shots keep disappearing!"

They were now halfway around Sernpidal, and the warship had just disappeared behind the planet's bulk. Up ahead, all Han could see with both his eyes and the sensors was open space. He snorted to himself; these invaders were pretty inept if they were trying to run a blockade with only one warship.

Another part of his mind disagreed, considering the fact that perhaps a blockade wasn't their aim, maybe they just wanted the planet and any people they captured were a nice bonus.

But didn't that defeat the purpose of sneak attacks if you let people get away?

"Somebody else got 'em," Leia said, snapping Han out of his thoughts in an instant.

"See any more?"

"Not around here," she replied, "but there are a few harassing some ships at the end of the line from what I can tell."

"We're clear!" he said, slamming back the hyperdrive controls and sighing in relief as the stars blurred with pseudomotion. He climbed out of his chair, stretching as the pent-up stress of the situation hit him all at once. When his back finally popped, he began walking to the medical berth.

The Wookiee weakly turned his head toward Han, moaning something that he could barely understand. He looked up at the lifesign monitors and his face went pale.

"Hang in there, Chewie," he said quietly, hoping against all hope that his old companion would find the will to continue living as he applied more bandages. He then grabbed an emergency hydration bag from one of the compartments, hung it up above Chewie, and quickly stuck its drip needle into Chewie's arm. "We'll be there before you know it."

Using what little was left of his strength, Chewie moved his arm, still soaked in blood, to put it on Han's shoulder. He moaned softly again then coughed, blood trickling out of his mouth as he did.

"No, Chewie, you can't say that!" Han insisted strongly. "You'll make it!"

Chewie repeated the moan, softer this time. He gasped and coughed, more blood coming out, and he barely managed to gasp out one last word.

Then he was gone.

Han was silent for what seemed like an eternity as he watched Chewie's lifeless form lying before him on the berth, frustrated by the utter hopelessness of the situation. Chewie was gone, despite everything he could do, and yet he still felt guilty, almost wishing that he had been the one down fighting the creature.

It didn't matter to him right now that Chewie, in his last words, had told him that his life debt was fulfilled.

For the first time since he was a child, Han broke down, screaming at the injustice of the universe. His screams got quieter and quieter until he was finally sobbing uncontrollably with his head on Chewie's chest.

At some point during his outburst Leia had heard him from the cockpit and came to see what was going on. She didn't say a word, just kneeling down next to him, gently reaching out. He didn't even notice as she pulled him up against her. Her gesture said more than words ever could.

How long he continued weeping that day, he would never be able to tell.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.28 up)

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2013-12-10 07:54pm

Damnit you still killed Chewie! You bastard!

Dare I say it it's a worse death this time around, at least in the original Vong War he got a nice defiant-to-the-end death.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.28 up)

Post by Skywalker_T-65 » 2013-12-10 08:05pm

On the other hand, he took down a whole squad of Vong with his bare hands. You don't get much more badass than that.

RIP Chewie.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.28 up)

Post by Crayz9000 » 2013-12-10 09:08pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:Damnit you still killed Chewie! You bastard!

Dare I say it it's a worse death this time around, at least in the original Vong War he got a nice defiant-to-the-end death.
It may have been defiant to the end, but it also seemed generally pointless to me thanks to the circumstances. They made him powerless in the end -- don't get me wrong, we're all powerless in death, but Chewie's death was a literal case of a "rocks fall, everybody dies" in-story death.

Since I've flipped practically the whole setting on its head here, with Leia contracting Nom Anor's disease and all, I figured that the Solos really just wanted some place quiet to retire to, where Han could help nurse Leia along. Lando, ever the opportunist, suggested Sernpidal as a suitably nice world (which it was... at the time) and they moved out there.

In this case, he died as a direct result of his actions defending Han, as part of his life debt. OK, so he really didn't have to help the old alien, but he was already carrying the guy and dropping him by the wayside and running for safety just didn't seem to be part of his character to me.

Han's grief trip is also going to be different. His canon guilt trip also bugged the hell out of me since most of it was just misdirected anger at Anakin. Here, he doesn't have anyone but himself to blame -- if you read between the lines, it was his attempted shot that gave the Vong warrior an opening to injure Chewie.
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Re: A Prelude to War (ST/SW) (Ch.28 up)

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2013-12-11 02:04pm

Ok, on reflection this death works better than the cannon one. I'd still rather have him alive but oh well. At least with no-one to blame and a sick wife Han will have something to focus on to help him deal with it.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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