Manifest Destiny

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Post by Stravo » 2003-06-26 12:28am

“That is a negative, Omega. We are seeing no activity in your vicinity.”

“Copy that, Command,” Lieutenant Masker said into his helmet transmitter and shut off the channel. Looking up, he knew the satellites stared down at him from somewhere. He knew that they could differentiate one insect from another from orbit. He just couldn’t believe what he was being told.

“What do our boys tell us,” he asked, turning to one of his sergeants.

The soldier tapped a few commands on a forearm pad and seemed to focus off onto nothing for a moment.

“All spy-globes report no activity,” he relayed. “No visual, no movement, no humanoid thermal. The hills appear to be clear, LT.”

Masker and his unit, along with many others, had been tracking the rebel Bajorans through the mountain and hill country for about a week now. They had routed the savages and were now making a clean sweep of their strongholds and hideouts. Intelligence held that these were the last of the overt holdouts, but that just meant that they were the best. They had been putting up one hell of a fight this whole time and now they were desperate.

He looked back at his waiting men and than onward to the hills ahead. They rolled away from him almost lazily. It was a deceptive illusion however. The thick forest that bordered the left side mocked his visual scans. The stands that dotted out from the main mass spread shadow and darkness. Recon told him that the area was clear. There was someone who had a different opinion. Someone he had learned to trust.

The Lieutenant glanced over to the soldier at his side and waited for the man to rebut. Corporal Jacem ‘Jedi’ Jonner merely shrugged. It was just a feeling after all.

Jonner was, of course, not actually a Jedi, but he was the closest they were going to get as far as Omega Unit was concerned. No one had any idea what his medichlorine count actually was, accept maybe himself and the medics, but everyone was sure it had to be pretty damn high. When The Jedi got a feeling about something, you listened to it. It was usually right.

New recruits to the unit always asked if he’d ever been approached for training. They harped on how he should try for acceptance and develop his talent. In true Jacem fashion, he would simply shrug. He was a soldier, not a monk.

Besides, hokey religions and ancient weapons were no match for a good blaster at your side.

“I don’t know, Boss,” the corporal’s voice came filtered through his helmet. “The hills aren’t right. I’d glass the whole place before we go in.”

“Problem with that, Jed, is that Command doesn’t believe you.” Masker brought the magnification up on his HUD system and once again scanned the horizon. “We can’t get confirmation of any activity.”

Jonner’s Sergeant stood next to the two with his arms folded. “Call in the droids.”

“The only units available are the ones we have left,” the superior answered. “Again, Command isn’t willing to commit resources without evidence of enemy forces. Satellite sees nothing, globe recon sees nothing, we get no support.”

If the floaters didn’t find anything there was no way one squad of battledroids and six destroyers would have any better luck. Not with so much ground to cover.

The man put a hand on Jonner’s shoulder. “Sorry Jed. Looks like they don’t think you’re good enough. And we’ve already burned way to much of our timeline standing around. We’re moving out.”

The Jedi shrugged, still looking off into the hills.

Back among the ranks, Sleed was rechecking his gear for the tenth time.

“Whadda ya think’s going on,” he asked the others around him. “We’ve been sitting here staring at those hills for two hours now.”

“I think Jac’s got one of his feelings again,” someone answered. “They’ve been sending out floaters.”

“Fuck the remotes,” Morae piped up. “If The Jedi says they’re out there, we should be getting off our butts and kicking some of theirs.”

Sleed shook his head in exasperation. “Shut up.”

* * *

Lana watched the advanced line of enemy through simple binoculars as they held their position miles away. He was hot as hell. The bloody stealth suit was seeing to that. At least it was doing its job though. Not one of the tiny globes that zipped by had homed in to his location. Or that of any of the others, for that matter. Nor had they seen the artillery that was hidden either.

The grizzled old fighter ducked his head back into the dirt and underbrush as another of the persistent little orbs flew by. The nest did seem to be stirred up. He didn’t like it. Someone out there knew something. They were searching too hard.

Everyone had been on the run since the thunder came down on the main base of operations. They were scattered throughout every wilderness on Bajor now, picking up supplies and people as they found them. It was desperation and Lana knew it. They were running out of places to go.

I should have stayed in the city with the smart ones, he thought to himself. Urban terrorism was a hell of a lot easier than this guerilla shit.

The soldier pulled his face slowly from the ground. The wide tarp that covered him and his gear lifted slightly at the edge once more to allow him his vista.

Come on you lot. Come on. There’s no one here that’s going to hurt you. Much.

He smiled as the troopers he was watching disappeared over the ridge and in time came pouring over at a easy, yet steady, gait. The bulk of the Reapers were taking the easy way down the middle but they were also sending their robots out in two groups to sweep the hills to either side. It wasn’t unexpected.

* * *

“I still don’t like this, Boss,” The Jedi said, scanning the surrounding tree line and re-adjusting his grip on his blaster.

The Lieutenant did not respond, but instead, looked to the soldier in command of the droids. The trooper shook his head, indicating that still no contact had been made. The orbital operators too, advised yet again that they could see no activity.

“Alright Command,” Masker spoke into his helmet link. “But keep up scans. This whole place stinks.”

“The whole planet stinks, Omega,” the reply came through with little humour. “I have you in my scopes and I’m not letting go.”

And so they marched on with small comfort and less chatter, checking their surroundings and looking over their shoulders, never quite trusting in the mechanized support flanking them. Perhaps it was simply that the idea of ambush had been planted in there heads. Or maybe the air was thick with suspicion in those highlands. Whatever it was, it came as no surprise when the first shots were heard, ahead and to the right.

“I’ve got something now, Lieutenant,” the familiar voice, now somewhat more interested, advised through the ether. “Multiple humanoids engaging your droids on the western ridge. Twelve in all. The thicket of vegetation isn’t large. Encircle and you should be able to prevent escape. If they break for the western slope you should be able to pick them off from any lower position.”

“Way ahead of you, Command,” Omega Leader said as his soldiers fanned out and advanced on the position being fed into their helmet displays. They had known this was coming. They were ready.

To the west, blaster fire scorched the air and wisps of smoke twisted up to mark the destruction of a Republic Destroyer droid. The bolts of energy crossed over one another through the trees, turning anything they touched to blackened char. The shadows under the sylvan canopy flashed red with greater and greater intensity.

The droids had marched right over the rebel position. Shrouded as they were in their life sign dampening camouflage, the bajorians had allowed themselves to be by-passed before striking at their enemy’s rear. The destroyers had been the first to be targeted. Everything available was punched into the droids’ hind-quarters to ensure their destruction before any shields could be activated.

The ploy had seen to the end of two of the deadly machines but the third managed to survive. It now stalked the underbrush on its tripod base, felling trees with great arm cannons in a brute force attempt to flush out its attackers. Its five humanoid companions moved with much more ease in the forest and added their own cold proficiency to the battle, as well as guarding its unprotected back.

A single shot lanced out, taking the head from automated shoulders. The two battledroids at its side spun on their heels and raised their weapons but found nothing. Taking one silent look at each other, they each began to advance, one on the left, the other, the right. A second blast streaked to the right. The droid ducked behind an ancient tree, its partner let forth with its rifle at the calculated origin of the attack. When the smoke cleared, there was one less bajorian.

Behind the two, four rebels had popped up from the vegetation and rained their own energy down on the remaining destroyer. It was to no avail. Their blasts and phasor beams deflected harmlessly off of the shield to impact on and slice through the thick trunks and branches around them. They soon had to retreat for cover as two more of their number fell to the droids that had manoeuvred to flank them.

As another battledroid dropped, its chest glowing as it disintegrated, the tri-legged juggernaut pushed forward in a growing swath of havoc. Four more savages had been reduced to burning pieces at its might and it showed no sign of stopping. A blast ricocheted off of its shield, what would have been a hit to the head, and flew off into the sky. The location of the shot was drenched in a storm of fire.

Of the original twelve, now only four rebels remained to make a random and weaving path away from their enemy. “We can’t get a positive fix on the rebels themselves through the trees,” the voice from Command advised. “But we’re tracking the droids toward the ridge. They’re going to try to make it up the slope.”

“Roger that, Command. My shooters will be ready.”

* * *

Intelligence indicated that the enemy was coming in its usual overwhelming fashion. It hadn't taken long for them to find the location of this staging point once they had set themselves to it, and it had been even faster for reports to start coming in that they were amassing at Earth for their strike. The hit and run attacks with the subspace explosives had given the Republicans more than enough incentive to expedite their efforts in enforcing peace.

What was the count, Picard thought to himself as he listened to the communications chatter between ships. Was it really five? Five systems rendered completely uninhabitable by the subspace rifts? He hoped everyone else thought the price had been worth it. Now they had angered the giant.

And the one most responsible for all this in Picard’s mind, this Commander Bala, was as deeply in bed with the Command Council as ever. Even after his mysterious disappearance and subsequent return not two days ago, he was still untouchable. In fact, the man had not been seen since being sequestered with the rest of the aides, councilors and other general no-it-alls. The Federation was about to officially falling apart and they were whispering behind closed doors. The Enterprise’s captain wasn’t even sure which vessel they were actually on any more.

He scowled and watched the massive viewscreen before him as his compatriots jockeyed slightly, deep within the churning clouds of the Briar Patch. All ships were as ready as they were ever going to be, as far as the reports coming in indicated. Now all they needed to do was wait for their turn. Hopefully, back here in the second wave, it wouldn’t come too quickly. As Picard listened to the comm traffic of the front line silence almost from one second to the next, he knew that probably wasn’t true.

Looking at his crew, the people he had spent years of his life with, the people that were closer to him now than his own blood, he wondered if he would see any of them alive again. This stand off was wrong. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach. Even with the sub-space torpedoes they could not hope to win against a foe with that much fire power, that many resources. They should be scattering the fleet. If the Republic had found them than they should be running away. They should be getting as far away from this place as they possibly could. The whole situation was absurd.

Commander B' Val stood aboard the Romulan Warbird, Semek, studying the wave after wave of enemy ships appearing before him and thinking the same thing. They blinked into existence one by one, seemingly stretched and distorted, and than condensed back to their normal shapes to hang silently in the darkness. Even as his keen eyes crossed the great expanse to connect perhaps with some other commander from a galaxy far, far away, his ship's sensors were registering hundreds more just like it, from all sides. The whole area was being englobed. For all the Republic’s might, they had not been expected to engulf an entire nebula. This changed things already. There would be no escape.

The plan agreed upon had been a simple one. The Republic had tracked the resistance fleet to its base in the Briar Patch and were making no illusions as to their intensions. Their nose had been bloodied in the latest round of skirmishes and their ire had been flamed. They meant to crush the rebellion once and for all. The Romulan Empire and its allies would let them come and a portion of the combined fleet would make a stand on the outskirts of the ion storms. Intelligence told that the Republic had no firm idea as to the exact numbers that they would face and it was hoped that they would believe this portion to be the total of their enemy's forces.

While battle was joined by this first group, another portion of the allies would hold position within the Briar Patch itself, using the chaotic environment as cover. These ships would wait, ready for their companions at the front to retreat. When the enemy ships gave chase, they would be met by fresh forces and a renewed attack.

A third group, laying in wait, in the shadows of the system's outer-most planets would than charge from the rear, dividing the Republic's attention and forcing them deeper into the natural plasma discharges of the area. These vessels would begin their bombardment from maximum distance, maintain the assault with full firing capacity until they had reached point blank range, and than commence engagement until their forces were diminished such that they must regroup with the other defenders. Warp strafing had been a tactic argued for this battle group but the inevitability of Republic Interdictor Cruisers, as well as the incredible danger of warp maneuvers where sub-space explosives were in use, ruled it out entirely.

The defender's fourth and final detachment would make an appearance only when the Republic was on the brink of victory. There were no doubts that the Reapers would win the day, it was only a matter of giving them something to remember and being able to get at least a few survivors out to keep up the fight. This fleet was too large to hide from the unblinking eye of the Republic Navy, but if a few good people could live on, they could recruit and rebuild and slowly find a way to win back their homes. That was where this last contingent came in.

The men and women of these final ships would not be the ones to live on. Quite the opposite, they were there to give their lives so that others could escape. They would strike out from their position in orbit around the Baku homeworld, deep within the Briar Patch, and create as much of a shield as they could around their crippled brethren. They would do their best to guard the retreat of any survivors before trying to head for warp themselves. All of the ships new they would see action. None expected to see warp at the end of it.

It was a simple plan indeed, the romulan thought. And useless now that he saw the the numbers they faced. He would be lucky if he saw half of what would become of it once the first shots were fired. It was easy to become pessimistic when facing the forces that had turned the entire military of your government into dust.

* * *

The Republic Star Destroyer, Leviathan, dropped out of hyperspace neatly in line with its comrades and held its coordinates, waiting for the remainder of the armada to form up. The bridge was alive with activity. Every one was in motion checking status, giving orders, carrying out orders, or merely somewhere in-between. It was a din that echoed throughout the assembly.

Captain Mulby stood amid the cacophony, still and silent, his executive officer at his side. Before them a holographic globe displayed the arrival of the Wayfarer and the Wraith in perfect formation beside them. The man nodded at the precision and sighed.

“Something wrong, Captain?” the XO asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, no,” the older man replied. “But it’s almost sad, this battle. For awhile there we had something interesting to do. After today it will be over. Back to patrols.”

“Not to worry, Captain. I’m sure this wild galaxy has plenty for us to do.”

“I suppose you’re right, Commander.” The captain didn’t look at the man but continued to study the formation, taking note of any possible errors that may effect his own ship. “Inform the Forger to tighten formation with us. She’s drifting.”

“Aye, Captain. Com/scan! Open channel to...”

* * *

The endless swirl of the wormhole was almost hypnotic as Darth Stryfe watched it. His universe had become nothing now, accept that colossal vortex, the hum of the shuttle around him, and his undying hatred. Even the presence of Darth Necros, piloting at his side, was but the slightest breeze on his perception. His was a singularity of purpose, a refinement of thought and deed.

The leader of this invasion, the very head of the dragon, was going to come out of that black cave. He was going to cut it off. And he would work his way up and down the command structure if he had to, until the Federation was back in the rightful hands of its people. Nothing would stand in his way. Nothing.

“Do not allow over confidence to be your down fall my friend,” the trill in command of the tiny ship remarked, pulling Stryfe from his reverie. “Our enemy is powerful. The Force has brought us here together. That is how we will prevail.”

“One of us must prevail. That is why we are both here,” the other returned, annoyed at his partner’s condescension.

“Your perceptions are weak, Lord Stryfe. You do not have the experience at listening to inner guides that I do. Nor the patience.”

“Don’t confuse your slug with the Force, Necros. You don’t have a frame of reference for any of this. You don’t have some past life comparison that you can drag out now.”

The two sith warriors turned from each other and continued on in silence until the great expanse of the Republic Dawn was all that filled their main portal. Security clearance was given almost before it was asked for and even though it was no longer valid, for some reason docking control let them through. That code clearance would do.

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Post by Stravo » 2003-08-27 12:06am

Admiral Pooda stalked around his war room as if trying to evade the following shadow that was his aide, Commander Wullo. Everyone else in the room merely tried their best to stay out of the way of his considerable bulk. He was occupied with four things at the same time and none of them was what, or who, was in his path.

After checking a data stream over the shoulder of one annoyed-looking crewman, the monstrous human looked back to the trailing Mon Calamari and mouthed what were obvious obscenities in any language.

“I understand that the Senate, in its infinite wisdom, has deemed to give you certain liberties, Doctor,” Pooda said into the comm he was carrying. “But I do not have the time for this.” The words, ‘Why was she put through!’ were mouthed angrily at the aide.

The Admiral’s face screwed up slightly in confusion at Wullo’s silent reply. “What?” he asked. “Oh, sorry. Not you Doctor. Will you excuse me?”

“The shuttle has arrived,” Wullo said again as his superior’s comm pick up was muted.


“Yes, Sir.”

Pooda flicked the switch on his comm and spoke into it again. “Doctor, we can’t discuss this right now. Yes, I’m sure you’re information is very important but not right now.” He disconnected without another word and thundered out of the room, leaving the bustle of the command centre behind.

* * *

In other parts of the great expanse of the Republic Dawn two hooded wraiths drifted unimpeded from one corridor to the next. They moved without hesitation, as if led by directions only they could hear. Those they passed could not hold the image in their minds for more than an instant. It flittered away as soon as the black spectres turned the next corner. They were nothing to note. A bad taste. A shiver down the spin.

* * *

The Admiral stepped off of the lift into the corridor containing the ship’s guest quarters and looked to the left and right. Midway down, to the left, two guards stood at unblinking attention. Their armour was the deep crimson of the Republic’s elite guard. They were the best of the best. Genetically engineered and given a lifetime of training, the practice of producing them was a hold over from the Stormtrooper days of the Empire and many found them highly offensive. Pooda was one such person. They would not normal be found on his ship.

Aside from the colour, their armour was not unlike that of the general trooper. Slightly more specialized and twice as stylized, it was certainly not as robust but it afforded the wearer much more protection to vital areas. The general utilities carried by the suit too were more refined to the purpose of protection, allowing for increased weapons capacity. Both men held standard blaster rifles stiffly at their sides.

The crimson guard snapped to attention as Pooda approached. He ignored them and pressed the door’s buzzer. It shot up into the ceiling a second later, leaving the way open into the room.

Inside the well appointed yet sterile suite, Grand General Bastin sat expectantly on a utilitarian but somehow comfortable chair. His young face turned up in a welcoming grin at the sight of the much larger man. The scars that made there home there, signs of battles hard won, twisted with the expression. It was odd to see but the jagged lines seemed to compliment the General's natural looks.

Two more crimson clad warriors stood, one on either end of the room, as still and mute as statues. It was impossible to tell what their eyes followed beneath the black depths of those eye screens but to Pooda they were trained unblinkingly on him. It was like being in front of a review board. Only the review board was waiting for you to stop talking so they could kill you.

"Admiral," Bastin greeted. "I didn't expect you to take the time to see to me while you were on duty. I have been well taken care of."

"Not a problem, Grand General," Pooda replied. "We are just taking care of the last collection of organized local resistance. Little more than marauders really. They have proven to be quite stubborn but everything is well in hand."

"Good. Than I will not have to go back to the Senate and tell them that they must wait even longer to begin commercial expansion into this territory. They are rather eager you know."

The Admiral held his tongue for a moment, looking for the proper words. "I am aware of the promises you have been giving the people, yes sir. I understand that your intent is to force the Jedi into assuming a policing role in this galaxy, freeing Naval forces to continue our operations further into the wild space. I believe though, that a more prudent course of action would have been to ensure that the quadrant was secure first before agreeing to allow civilian traders access. Adherence to procedure has become too lacks in dealings with this enemy.”

“Are you telling me that the savages have not been pacified yet?”

“No. Not at all, Sir.” Pooda began to regret speaking so freely. “As I said, they are little more than pirates. We are seeing to the destruction of the bulk of their forces as we speak.”

* * *

“All about to three six mark five!”

The Romulan Warbird, Semek, wheeled about on impulse power after letting another volley of subspace torpedoes loose at the net of Republic ships steadily closing. A wave of heavy turbolaser fire turned the three vessels flanking it into memory. Whether piloting skill or blind luck had brought the Semek through, was impossible to tell.

The torpedoes were targeted and picked off by light weapons fire as they approached the wall of attackers. As each was hit, it erupted in a massive detonation that, even at that distance rocked the Republicans and stressed their shields. They also masked the advance of the allied defenders who were trying their hardest to get under the range of their enemies heavy cannons. Already they had lost twenty-five percent of their forces.

A few of the projectiles made it through the cloud of angry bolts however, and impacted with devastating effect. A small corvette blinked out of existence. A squadron of fighters was consumed. An unfortunate Star Destroyer found its nose drifting away as unassociated atoms. The ship listed briefless, causing a ripple in its advancing brethren as they adjusted to give room.

Other explosions flashed here and there across the battle field, met with an even greater number of green streaks. Those too invariably ended in eye-catching bursts of energy. It was a confusion that one could only know in battle and it was only added to by the terrible dance of the different craft trying desperately to survive it.

A cruiser was torn to shreds by a pack of death spewing Federation runabouts off of the Semek’s port side. The force of the explosion knocked the romulan ship off course just in time to avoid the effects of a proton torpedo.

“Shields are already down to fifteen percent, Commander,” the tactical officer warned. “We’ve lost life support on decks six and eight. Weapons systems are still optimal.”

“Any indication of our loses,” Commander B’Val asked. “Can we cut through this static enough to see if the out system reenforcements have started an attack run?”

* * *

“Sir. We’re getting reports from Sigma squadron. The enemy has amassed a force lying in wait in the outskirts of the system.”

The bridge of the Leviathan pitched as a Klingon battle cruiser was consumed in plasma but not before unleashing its payload of subspace weaponry. The great grey Star Destroyer shifted its angle to protect the weakened shields on that side as smaller picket craft moved to provide further cover. Information was fed to the gunners of the affected area and they doubled their efforts to make sure nothing got through.

The ship was in the thick of the battle. Past the front window whipped a cloud of claw-like droid fighters. They soon reduced to pinpoints in the distance before the patch of blackness they had been headed toward flashed brightly. More flashes popped left and right around the vista in staccato.

“What are our orders?” Captain Mulby tapped a series of coordinates into the holographic display before him, not even looking at the young officer addressing him. They were buried in the front lines. He could think of no reason why they would be called to defend the rear. “Increase cover fire for the Raptor,” he commanded into the bridge pits.

“We are to continue our assault, Captain,” the Lieutenant replied. “Groups five, six and seven are turning to confront.”

The Leviathan rocked again, trapped beside the death throws of the Star Destroyer on its weakened side. The shields pulsed as the hapless ship beside it cracked open and let loose a shower of debris. Another subspace explosion ripped space below the keel, washing the area in energy.

“All ahead full,” Mulby ordered as he watched the small model of his ship light up before him. “Take up position between the Rockvale and the Gillamma. Call droid squadrons back to regroup.”

“Sir,” a voice called from the comm/scan station. “I’m picking activity from the explosion point of that last blast. This one is beginning to form a tear.’

So it was finally happening. The savages had been quite careful up until this point to make minimal use of their space warp fields. They were well aware that it would cause more damage among their own ranks than those of the Republic’s. Now, it seemed, they were weighing the variables.

“Keep your eyes open but continue on course.”

As the Star Destroyer pulled one way and the tear pulled the other, a wicked, black scar could be seen marring the otherwise pale surface of the hull.

* * *

“We’re picking up subspace activity through the static now, Sir,” the tactical officer of the Semek advised. “The rifts are starting to open. It’s a good indication that...”

“Phase two has begun,” B’Val finished. “Keep to impulse. I want to deal as little with those as possible. Let the humans, klingons and other rabble play at being prey to their own weapons.”

The Semek wheeled over a pitched battle between three Gorn light cruisers and a Republic corvette. As it passed, it rained streams of disruptor fire down on the enemy ship. Glowing fissures opened in the defenceless hull and the Gorns moved in for the kill. Another volley of energy provided cover from the diving fighter craft that spun in, swarming the allies.

The nebula loomed on one side. The endless wall of the Republic menaced from the other. Everything was mixed in a haze of electromagnetic snow. Everywhere, ships were exploding, leaving their remains to drift haphazardly amid it all.

The romulan warship skipped daftly around a devastating rift cutting its way toward the Republic line and beyond to the distant warp fields. All of the newly detonated explosions were opening. All those that were recent enough not to have collapsed in on themselves yet, that is. The tore through both sides like bulls through tall grass. A cascade of light and death filled the void everywhere in their wake.

Momentarily distracted by the cosmic display, the tactical officer of the Warbird failed to heed the warning at his station telling him an enemy vessel had broken through the sensor fog and was baring down on them. The massive grey ship pushed passed as if the romulans weren’t even there. A smattering of medium turbolaser fire riddled the green hull and sent the ship drifting helplessly. Bouncing off of the Star Destroyer’s shields reverberated damage in all sections and broke a large portion of nacelle from the port side.

“Shields are gone and we’ve lost primary power,” the Semek’s operations officer reported.

“Take us out of the battle as best you,” the commander ordered. “Fall back to the nebula rendevous point. Engineering, we need power NOW!”

* * *

Mulby watched through the main port as his ship bowled over a stray Warbird and took up a cover position for the surrounding picket ships and fighter squadrons. A swarm of automated fighters arced by their giant ally on their way to devour another target when a rift in space, just as hungry, snuffed them out in one fell swoop. The release of energy from the droids sent the tear slightly off its course to vector straight at the Star Destroyer.

“Re-align shields to sector three,” the captain shouted to his crew, gripping the support strut to his side. “Adjust attitude to three sixteen!”

The great beast of a starship worked to comply to its master’s command as the energy phenomenon closed in. Rotating on its long axis, the Leviathan had barely shifted its side down out of incoming danger when the tear surged past. Energy crackled over the stubborn shields and finally broke through, bubbling durasteel and bursting portals down the four hundred meter length.

The Leviathan shrugged off the damage and let fly its heavy cannons at a quartet of enemy retreating into the mists of the nebula. Two of the ships disappeared in fiery balls, the other two made good their escape amid a cloud of fighters. A moment later, a full broadside attack wreaked devastation through a line of Federation and Klingon craft holding defensive positions.

Behind Mulby, at the command station, the ship’s XO watched a hologram of the combat ravaged system as a whole. The first wave of torpedoes streaking in from the rear had been castrated with deadly efficiency. The second, third and forth volleys however, came in too fast on top of each other for all to be intercepted. A grid of subspace detonations washed over the rear guard, straining the line and causing more fleet elements to be called in. Heavy turbolasers at that range made short work of any savages that hadn’t entered warp at that point.

But most had already began their light speed charge. In seconds they were amongst the Republic lines hitting with every pitiful weapon they had and drawing subspace rifts from both sides of the battle. The rear guard, and much of the main battle formation, was caught in the gluttonous fingers of the savage’s chaotic last hope.

Trapped behind a wall of Republic Star Destroyers however, the rear attack group did not last long. Ships of more Alpha Quadrant species than could be counted winked out like stars before the dawn. As valiant or heroic as they fought, as many enemies as they managed to destroy, they were soon slaughtered. Even their own weapons fought hard against them to cause just as much damage as the turbolasers and concussion missiles. Many starships met their end in the glow discharges of the spacial rifts.

Many Star Destroyers did as well.

“Sir. The enemy is retreating into the nebula,” the commander advised.

“I know,” Mulby replied from the front of the bridge, silhouetted by the pulsing clouds of the Briar Patch. He had been watching the tiny lights of the battle moving steadily into the cloud. “Hold position. Clear this area of all remaining attackers. The armada will advance into the nebula as one.”

* * *

“Look at their advance Lord Stryfe. Pathetic.”

The two Sith had made their way deep into the heart of the Republic Dawn before finally being noticed. It had taken only one crewman, sharp of mind and stronger of will, to naturally resist their mind tricks and sound the alarm. In moments the Super Star Destroyer was even more alive with activity than before and soldiers were closing in.

Stryfe nodded at his companion’s statement. The troopers, clad in armour of deep blue, made their way down the corridor in precision movements designed to leave on man unprotected by his fellows. Not once did the bead of their weapons waver. Obviously they did not know how useless a gesture this was.

“Drop your any weapons you may have and put your hands on your heads,” an amplified voice shouted from behind an unreadable mask. On the other end of the passage, another squad closed off the intruders’ escape.

The Sith warriors look at each other, carefully reached to their sides, produced their lightsabres and threw them to the floor. A slight murmur rippled through the ranks of the troopers upon seeing the weapon of a Jedi. None were sure how to react. All could sense impending doom.

Necros and Stryfe raised their hands slowly as the soldiers moved in to take them. When they had reached about head height both sets of palms were turned outward and both minds connected with the Force. The lightsabres leapt back to their masters just as the they were about to be picked up and soon came down hard through the helmets and skulls of the two closest, unfortunate souls. A second later, the two men who thought they could retrieve the weapons were decapitated where they knelt.

The corridor irrupted in blaster fire. From both sides plasma streaked invariably toward the two intruders, their courses aided by the best personal targeting systems Republic credits could buy. The Sith were no longer there however. Each had flipped through the air in opposite directions, their arcs taking them over the flying energy blasts and right into the heart of both squads.

Many men were cut down by shots from their own comrades in the first volley. The rest died shortly after. The two warriors landed amid their enemies, already cutting through armour and flesh with their humming blades. They waded in, deflecting blasts and sending men pounding against the walls. They were two whirlwinds and the hapless troopers were being pulled to their doom.

Darth Stryfe kicked out in an arcing roundhouse as he pulled his glowing, red sword from the chest of another lifeless corpse. Allowing the momentum of the movement to carry his body around, he swept his weapon out, slicing the troopers around him in half as he spun. He ended in a crouch, sabre above his head deflecting another well placed shot. The blaster bolt sped quickly back to its origin, killing the shooter instantly.

With a thrust of one hand, the Sith flung a trio of troopers skidding down the hall on their backs and vaulted from his crouch into another victim. The soldier was falling with a broken neck before Stryfe landed. Two more soon follow only their necks no been broken but completely split. After a moment of concentration, the three men down the hall regaining their footing grabbed their throats, clutched their chests and dropped.

On the other end of the corridor, Necros was faring in much the same way. He moved with lightning speed, thrusting and swinging his blade with superhuman precision. When his enemy began to retreat, he took the battle to them or merely pulled them back into range. One soldier, thinking he was not noticed, shot off a rapid fire burst at his target. To his dismay, the bolts were sent back, one by one, to kill his own comrades.

The Trill pounced to the shocked man, now the only one left standing, and hoisted him into the air by the collar of his chest plate. Pathetic, he thought. With the teachings of Master Gallus, the Federation would be back to normal in no time.

Taking the opportunity of his enemies sneering inaction, the soldier pulled a vibroblade from his belt and activated it. He struck down at the man swathed in black and was more than surprised when he found his wrist held firm in a grasp like durasteel. The Dark Side had come swiftly to protect its servant, controlling his actions as it gave its warning. Necros laughed as he twisted his hand and shattered the man’s wrist. The knife clattered to the floor. A dead body followed seconds later.

“Looks like the jig is up,” Stryfe stated calmly over the alarms that were now sounding as he joined the other Sith.

“I don’t know about that,” the Necros replied. “I think this dance has just started.”

* * *

“It looks like they’ve gone into the ventilation shafts, Sir,” the tiny hologram of Commander Wullo reported. “Their last know movements seemed to indicate they were heading toward engineering. We have teams preparing their now and have sent droids to perform a sweep of the air system. We should have them shortly.”

“Very good, Commander,” Pooda said. Bastin watched silently in the back ground. “Have additional squads sent up to the Grand General’s suite as well. He may be their target.”

“Already done, Sir.”

“Good. Keep us advised.” The hologram winked out and the two Republic leaders were left to look at each. The crimson clad guards had made no change in their positions.

“An admirable precaution Pooda,” the younger man said of the added security. “But my men will be more than a match for them. It is there only purpose.”

Pooda shuddered at the thought of the two other men in the room. “All the same Grand General, it can’t hurt.”

* * *

Necros and Stryfe immerged from the door of a utility closet to watch the latest group of blue-armoured soldiers round the corner at the end of the hall. They had left their cloaks at a junction near the main mess and were now left with only their fitted, jet black Starfleet uniforms. That was only one of the misdirection tricks they had been pulling. By now the entire command ship didn’t know who was coming and who was going.

They made their way forward, keeping close connection with the Force to monitor everything around them. Reaching the end of the corridor, the two men pressed themselves against the wall and made ready to ignite their weapons. By now they didn’t need the Force to hear the half dozen pairs of feet thundering towards them.

At the last moment, Darth Stryfe’s swivelled into the intersection, he lightsabre extending with an angry snap. The first two soldiers were decapitated before they knew what happened. The remaining men reacted swiftly and severely.

Four blaster rifles levelled and released their ordinance in the blink of an eye. Two men knelt while the other two fired over their heads. Each one of the troopers aimed with deadly precision and let loose enough focussed energy to bring a house to the ground. Their target was soon lost behind the blaze of vibrant red slashes.

Little did they know that it was not their shots that obscured the man before them but the glowing blade in his hand. With a precision well past that of deadly, the Sith batted each blast away as if it were nothing more than a childish ball. They rocketed off harmlessly toward walls, ceiling and floor. None of them were directed back at their senders, that would be letting the soldeirs off too easily. When the smoke cleared, the man before them was still standing, now with a hideous grin adorning his face.

Necros calmly stepped in behind his partner. Another volley of fire greeted him. Another volley reflected harmlessly off of a humming lightsabre. His patience lasted only a second before he had seen enough. Raising a hand, he beaconed for his enemy toward his and forward they came.

Taken aback, the squad began moving closer as if pushed from behind. Pushed right into the waiting arm of Stryfe. One broke ranks and charged ahead, trying to take his opponent off guard. He was cut in half like so much raw meat. The others tried unsuccessfully to backpedal while opening up with everything they had. It was no use. The spinning blade crackled ever closer and somehow, the way behind was forever blocked.

A deviant light flashed in Stryfe’s eyes as his weapon hacked into the next victim. One less enemy. One less invader soiling his galaxy. One less piece of his soul left to get in the way.

The last soldier was slowly butchered at the feet of the two Sith as Darth Stryfe shook the odd though out of his head. He focussed his concentration on the next round of imminent combat. To his side, Necros ignited his own blade and contemplated the feelings emanating from his partner.

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Post by Stravo » 2003-10-18 05:55pm

“Your thoughts betray you.”

“Excuse me?” Seven of Nine had been pulled from her reverie by the smooth, probing words. Through the window before her, mangled and blackened ships appeared one by one from the concealing mists of the Briar Patch.

Even within the familiar confines of an Intrepid class starship, the woman could find no rest from impending doom baring down on her. Down on them all. She had raked her brain to come up with some option that could save the Federation from being swallowed but could find nothing. Now she sat well behind battlelines with the president and remaining members of the Federation Council, waiting for the order to evacuate once again. Judging from the wave of retreat, it wouldn’t be long now.

“The look on your face,” Commander Bala explained. “I can tell what you’re thinking. You don’t hold out much hope.”

He had come to her side without her noticing, his footsteps silent, his reflection in the window half obscured. It troubled her that she had become so unaware of her surroundings. As a drone there would have been no such lapses. It troubled her more that it was this particular man.

“I believe I have told you, Commander,” the once borg replied, not turning to face him. “There is always hope.”

“There is hope, yes. That the Federation will live on and see the end of this occupation. But only if our leadership remains. I fear this battle is not going to end well.”

Seven finally pulled her eyes from the oddly serene vista of battered vessels, barely a handful of true warships among them, reforming into defensive groups with the ships of the third wave. “We have all come to expect your pessimism, Commander,” her ever demure tones began. “Perhaps it would have been better however, when you were so grandly convincing the council to proceed along this path.”

“I am afraid you are right, Seven,” the man said. “Though you know as well as I that we must use every weapon available to us against a foe such as this. It is unfortunate that the Republic has taken such overwhelming retribution so swiftly, and not allowed us to fully stock our arsenal, but it was inevitable that they would at some point.

“But the very fact that they have struck at us so hard attests to the validity of our actions. We have finally, actually hurt them and they are finally taking notice. This force they have sent here tells me that we have finally become a threat.”

“And it has brought us our death.”

“Don’t lose hope, Seven. I’m told this ship, The Hermes, is the fastest ship in the fleet. With luck we will be able to get the council out safely when the time comes.”

“And what about them?” The woman pointed through space to the growing assembly of ships that refused to admit they were scrap. “You would abandon them to their fate? Sacrifice them for our own lives? Our forces will not survive this. Starfleet will truly be no more. What will you be saving?”

“My wishes are in keeping the president and the councilors safe. As long as command is still in place we can carry on. As long as power is not put in the hands of some puppet of the Republic we will survive. You know this to be true Seven. You know the safety of the command is paramount.”

Seven of Nine turned away from Bala and resumed her gaze out into the nebula. He left her to her thoughts and those thoughts drifted out into the void, into the growing debris field of the battle.

* * *

“Once we are together, all will scatter before us,” Mai-Men’s words echoed from millions of voices. “We will be beholden to nothing.”

Jedi Master Jenna Carrel found herself held prostrate, waiting for the drones around her to finally get on with it and inject her with the nanoprobes she knew were teeming everywhere around her. They weren’t all that pushed in on the woman’s senses, however. The Dark Side of the Force had encompassed everything. It weighed her down, counteracting everything she tried to do. It seemed her former apprentice had decided to bring their game to an end.

The Jedi did not struggle. What could have been done? Alone in a hostile ship within a hostile armada, she had no hope physically. There was another path she knew she must take and it had the potential to end all of the madness. It was what she had felt she must do since her capture.

“Welcome, Master.” The two words held a finality that opposed their meaning and hinted at things never meant to come.

“Things will be made right soon enough, Mai.” Jenna returned as nano-injectors were thrust into her body. She went limp as her flesh began to grey and the neural transceiver grew and took hold of her brain.

The next moment the Jedi found herself standing free and whole again in an endless expanse of clouds and murk. She was alone and once again in the simple black robes of her order. At her side her lightsabre hung, natural and reassuring in its weight and feel. She was everything she had been. A manifestation of her physical form, right down to the hard won scares and wrinkles.

“Is this where you bring all of you victims, Child?” she asked calmly, looking around for some sign of her captor.

“Don’t! Call! Me! Child!” The disembodied voice screamed with livid, burning, rage and frustration. In a snap it regained its control and floated through the mists like a coo. “I have grown beyond being your student.”

“Yes, I suppose you have,” the older woman said with a hint of melancholy. “There must be millions of beings out there on those cubes. Where are they?”

“Them? You know they’re gone,” Mai said matter-of-factly. “I destroyed them as they would have done me. This place I have created to hold you for the time being. I don’t want to just add your body to myself, I want to share this power to you.”

“The Dark Side does not share,” Jenna said into the nothingness. “You may as well devour me like you have all the others. I will not join you. And that is something YOU should know by now.”

The Jedi turned around calmly, sensing the presence behind her. Mai-Men now stood there, her young body twisted by ungainly cybernetic implants. She was more imposing as well, darker. The girl’s image emanated a power that it had not before being turned.

“This is what the Light Side gave me,” Mai said, holding her arms wide. “And it is all that it will give you in the end. It was the Dark Side came to my aid when I was in my darkest hour! It was the Dark Side that gave me the power to lay the Borg to waste!”

“So you have said before. My answer is still the same.”

The girls body morphed before her old teacher into that of a towering warrior. The mechanical constructs melted away, leaving a woman of hardened steel beauty. “You have no idea what you are saying, Master. I will make you see. One way or the other, you will join me.”

Outside, thousands of subverted Borg cubes and spheres continued to race along their transwarp conduits toward the Alpha Quadrant.

* * *

“Move it! Move it!” Masker screamed into his helmet link to the men charging past him. Behind them, the other droid team was covering their rear. “I don’t want those bastards getting high ground.”

That was wishful thinking however. The fleeing bajorian rebels had already made it part of the way up the slope and the bulk of Omega platoon was still pushing through what remained of the underbrush. Two more of the natives were gunned down by the relentless droideka while the other’s tried in vain to penetrate the machine’s shields. It was when they had just made it to the peak of the embankment that the wish was burst like so many soap bubbles.

“Everyone! Incoming,” Corporal Jonner’s voice suddenly broke over the link.

“Omega, we’re picking up multiple signals on the ridge now,” the voice from orbit advised calmly. “People and equipment. Watch for artillery.”

Moments later the destroyer droid’s thundering cannons were silenced by four separate explosives rocketing toward it. It was too much for the personal shields to bare and the droid was soon reduced to its component parts. It wasn’t long after that the charging troopers found themselves in a rain of ordinance.

It seemed that the ground was erupting everywhere around them. Dust, smoke and blood mist mingled together in a foul haze. The choking air flashed in red strobe as combatants from both sides continued to fire. The troopers’ helmet sensors allowed them to see through it all but unfortunately there wasn’t much to see. The rebels were dug in tight.

The bajorians didn’t much care about the growing smoke cloud either. They knew roughly where their enemy was and blanketed the area with as much as they had. Anyone or anything that stuck their head out of that cloud was gunned down in short order.

“Keep going you useless slugs! Go! Go! Go!” the lieutenant bellowed to his men. “Get under their range! Cut the angle! Where are my rockets?! Panny, take your squad and flank right.”

Hell rained down around the Republic troopers in even greater concentration. The rebels were determined to wipe their enemy out as quickly as possible. To the right, three soldiers were gunned down by a spray of blasts washing down the ridge. Armour smoked from blackened impact points across their twitching bodies. To the left, an emplacement was vaporized by a lucky mortar shell landing in their midst. The screams of the wounded and dying filled the communications channels.

"LT! This is Blue Two," a voice came through the chatter. "Sarg is dead. My team is getting mulched. Are we going to get orbital support?"

"It was Corporal Newmark, the lieutenant's computer display told him. It had also noted the sergeant's demise as it had happened. Far too many of the symbols floating before his eyes were changing colour to black. But they were making headway. They were good men.

"Not at this range," he replied. "Not if you don't want to get cooked along with them." Switching to the command channel he involuntarily looked up into the gloom above. "You believe me now Command? Any chance of air support?"

"Gunships are on route, Omega. Continue your engagement."

* * *

Lana didn’t flinch as the shining, fist-sized sphere with the blinking light landed by his side. With barely a thought he grabbed it and tossed it back at its senders. The device had just reached the top of its arc when it detonated, adding its blinding flash to the havoc of the battle and washing all around with raw energy.

The bajoran pushed himself behind the ridge in front of him as much as possible and hoped for the best. The protective clothing covering his body smoldered but he managed to survive more or less intact. It was a damn sight better than the person beside him had made out anyway. That poor bastard was nothing more than a shadow on the brittle, glassed earth.

Three more of the explosives went off far to the left, followed by the return fire of those that still remained. Lana trained his weapon over the lip of his cover and let off a short burst at a small group charging through the haze. Two fell, two others fell back.

The wrinkled veteran took a quick look around at the status of his comrades. Men and women lined the ridge as best they could. Some, like him, layed down cover fire while others attacked with rockets and mortars. Still others kept everyone else loaded. They were holding their own now but it was coming dangerously close to the time when they would need to make an escape yet again. He looked up at the mountains behind them. Escape might not be possible at this point.

They’d just have to win this one.

Just then his eye caught another metal sphere, one much larger, come barrelling over the line almost directly above him. It soared through the air for a moment after reaching the top of the ridge before landing with an unceremonious thud and unfolding into a more deadly form.

“Behind the line!” Lana bellowed before burying his head.

The scream of multiple rocket propelled grenades bore into the man’s ears before everything went dark.

* * *

The blast doors flew open, showering those beyond with the molten durasteel that had once been the door’s locking mechanism. The ready soldiers did not wait for their enemy to gain initiative but immediately opened fire, choking the hall with blaster bolts. The barrage didn’t stop until every man’s energy clip had been exhausted.

Encountering no resistence, they quickly reloaded and rushed forward. No one was there. Nothing. The corridor was empty. Accept for the dozens of minced bodies of their comrades strewn about, of course.

Not far away, the two Sith charged onward at incredible speed. After breaking through the blast door they had headed in a different direction, leaving their would-be captors to wonder at their true intentions yet again. They moved almost faster than the eye could see, hacking down random security personal as they passed. They were close now. Somewhere on the decks above, their target was waiting for them.

The two men rounded one last corner and came to a halt. Lining the hall on either side were banks of turbolifts. There shafts were just what the two Sith had been looking for. These would take them straight to the living quarters of the massive command ship. These would lead them to the end of their journey. To the very end of it all.

After making short work of the guards positioned at the turbolifts, Stryfe and Necros found themselves crawling hand over hand up the shaft to the floors waiting above. All but the most essential lifts in the immediate area had been locked down by this time but that made little difference. They could not be stopped by such simple barriers.

"What I wouldn't give for a site to site transport," Stryfe commented.

"Tell me about it," the other replied before igniting his weapon and slicing effortless through the floor level door they had arrived at.

Both men pulled inward with all of their concentration, sending the door clanging down to disappear below, along with five guardsmen that had been waiting on the other side. They swung in and were on solid deck plates again in the blink of an eye, both lightsabres in ready positions.

The royal blue armoured soldiers positioned at the end of the corridor, somewhat surprised to see their brethren disappear into the lifts, hesitated for a heart beat. They looked blankly at the Sith, the Sith scowled back. Suddenly, everything was in motion.

The two intruders were a blur of humming red and rushing black forms draped in a cascade of energy bolts. The corridor was soon choking in a haze of vaporized wall, ceiling and deck plate, pitted from the arrant blasts deflected like so many lazy snowballs. Both sides gave the mist little heed; one seeing by technology, the other by the power of the Force. They clashed together like lightning across the clouds, forces of nature unhinged.

Four soldiers were thrown from their feet by an unseen, irresistible force while one of their companions was hacked from shoulder to hip, his armour no help at all. One of the fallen kicked out at his attacker, connecting with a shin that held as solid as steel. He was quickly spinning on his shoulder to avoid the downward strike meant to take the offending foot off.

Coming to his feet, the soldier brought his rifle to bare and opened fire in an effort to protect his comrades still struggling to remain in one piece while trying to stand. His blaster bolts were parried with ease and sent straight back at him even as the lightsabre to do it took the head from another’s shoulders. They slammed into his chest with deadly precision, dropping him to his back, never to raise.

Another man tried staying on his back where he was and firing up at the two seemingly unstoppable attackers. A black boot struck the weapon from his hand out of nowhere. It finished its motion with a hammering step on to his chest. His protective coverings groaned in protest but absorbed the force, leaving him pinned but able to grab the appendage and twist with all his strength. The Sith let his foot turn with the attack and lifted himself from the deck to allow the rest of this body to move as well. He was now standing completely on the soldier, in perfect balance and spent little time stabbing his prey through the forehead.

Necros looked up from his kill, the last of the group to be dispatched, just in time to drop to his chest, narrowly dodge a new hail of blasts from down the hall. Stryfe was already advancing towards this latest team of opposition, allowing nothing to hit him but ignoring everything else. Had he even deflected some of those shots backward?

“Thanks for the warning, asshole,” the Trill barked to his partner.

“Can’t you fend for yourself?”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?”

The attacking soldiers were soon retreating amid their own bolts while the Federation agents continued to press. Following them around a corner, the Sith stopped short as they found themselves faced with a veritable horde of shining blue. The two spun back around the corner to watch the wall that had been behind them turn into a smoking crater. There was no way they were going to be able to fight their way through that.

“Can’t go through ‘em,” Stryfe said, dousing his lightsabre.

“We’ll have to go around them,” Necros finished. “A little distraction if you can manage it.”

Darth Stryfe sneered and rolled his eyes.

The human closed his eyes and calmed his thoughts, focussing his anger, as the trill turned his crackling blade on the wall at their backs. It cut through as if entering nothing more than cardboard, melting the steel wall plates and structure behind and cutting upward with no resistence. As the weapon reached the height of its line and began a ninety degree turn, the other invader was becoming attuned with the men around the corner cautiously waiting for anything to enter their sights.

As Necros’ lightsabre finished its horizontal travel a Republic soldier began to gasp and claw at his throat. Stryfe smiled as he could feel the life force ebbing away in the man. In his mind’s eye he could see him, tearing desperately at his helmet clasps, fighting to understand why he could not draw breath. Many of the other troopers had forgotten all about the danger around the corner, trying to help their friend. None of them knew exactly what was happening.

Necros began his steady, downward sweep as Stryfe ignited his weapon once more with a vicious snap-hiss and spun to charge the enemies of the Federation. He faced down the corridor just in time to see a thermal detonator sailing toward him. Pointing a finger at the deadly ord, he sent it back the way it came and quickly returned to cover.

He gave no warning to his partner other than hunching down and covering his head. The trill knew the danger was coming none the less, withdrawing his lightsabre from the wall and falling to the floor a split second before the fiery explosion thundered around them. A bubble of telekinetic force surrounded the two, protecting them as the hellish wave blasted around the corner and over them.

The makeshift door they were creating in the wall blew open and was ripped away revealing what was once a storage closet. The small room was now nothing more than part of the gapping ruins of the corridor. Those soldiers that had not be turned to bloody mist, the ones at the rear of the pack, were strewn about like leaves tossed on the wind, their limbs and necks twisted at odd angles. The explosion had opened wide the dividing walls of the various leisure rooms and quarters, stopping only at the next isolation wall and blast door. The floor and ceiling of the level, being designed to contain such things, were still intact.

“They could have told us they were going to do that,” Stryfe commented. “Saved you the trouble.”

Necros only pointed to the next blast door. “You go first.”

It didn’t take long for that door to open before the power of the Dark Side. Its lock was melted by two lightsabres and its heavy pistons were torn asunder by the universe itself. The two men in crimson armour on the other side of that door watched the entire process with patience. They had been listening to the updates coming through the comlink and knew after the third group of dead guards was found that there could be only one destination for the path that was being taken.

When the doors were opened the guards launched grenades of their own, their localized explosions ruining the thick blast doors even further. It did little to stop the Sith, who sprung through the rubble, slightly charred and smoking but fully in one piece none the less.

* * *

Two glowing green blades clashed together in the endless white ether, sparking and hissing between the combatants. Neither of the two women wielding those weapons showed any sign of sweat or strain. There were no physical limitation here, only the strength of the mind and the will of the Force.

“You can’t beat me, Master. Not here.” Mai-Men smiled in confident contempt as she effortlessly parried yet another counterstrike from the older woman. “I have gathered too much power. This is only a fraction of my concentration.”

Jenna took a half step back, lifting her foot to block a low kick and raising her lightsabre counter a high strike at the same time. Her body flowed like a wisp of cloud on the wind. She moved with ease and grace, unbound by the laws of physics to an extent she had never dreamed.

“That is where you have made your mistake young one,” she replied. “Here may be the only place where you could fall.”

The girl answered with a flurry of lightning strikes, her face contorted in a mask of unthinking rage. Each attack was knocked deftly off course which only added to the fury. She spun and slashed and kicked at her former teacher until the two were hopelessly entwined. And yet all of her wrath was met with nothing more than sorrow and pity.

Jenna’s experienced hand angled her blade downward as she stepped into her opponent’s attack, locking the weapons together. She held the blades in place with one hand, fuelled by the unerring power of the Force, and with the other, chopping hard against Mai-Men’s chest. The blow pushed the girl back into the woman’s waiting leg, tripping her and sending her sprawling.

The older woman leapt back incredibly, giving them distance and allowing her to reassess her former apprentice. Mai-Men’s face darkened as she raised to her feet. The limitless surroundings followed suit.

The Jedi readied her lightsabre once more. “Perhaps you need to spare a little more concentration.”

* * *

Captain Mulby watched the bow of his massive ship disappear into the clouds of the Briar Patch. All around, the other Star Destroyers plowed ahead in steady formation. Behind them the blackened remains of both sides of the battle drifted lifelessly. Having devoured all of the ships with warp fields, the lances of subspace energy had played themselves out. Not before driving up the death toll for the Republicans however.

The rebel’s rear attack had inevitably been a useless gesture. While the subspace torpedoes had ripped through Republic lines, the Federation’s hidden force had been hopelessly cut off from any support and had been wiped out with ease. It had barely been a diversion for the bulk of the force.

“Tactical,” the captain began. “Lower the jamming field. Com/Scan, full, active sensor sweep.”

A moment later the forward view port was alive with holographic displays and visual enhancements. Out in space, the obscured portions of the ship came stunningly back into view along with the advanced vessels of the forward line. Tiny fighter craft zipped here and there throughout, ever ready to fill the gaps that would soon be forming.

Communications fully back on line, information came streaming in from all corners of the system, updating the battle simulation that floated at the command station. The third and sixth fleet on the other side of the nebula had yet to come across any resistance. It seemed that the opposition was either staking all of their efforts on the main front or simply did not have the ship to cover their rear. Closer to home, the fighters were making contact with another wave of fresh ships covering the retreat of the damaged survivors of the last bout.

Sure enough, through the mists appeared a grid of miss-matched ships stretching kilometres in either direction. Behind the main line, scared and sputtering ships could be seen turning to make what would be their last stand. Before, fighters winked out of existence as they tested the enemy with missile volleys and strafing runs and were met with short bursts of phasor fire.

The Leviathan stopped with the rest of her sisters to face off silently with what must be crushed. When all ships were in position and the fleets closing from the other side of the nebula were almost in combat range, the orders came from on high. Wipe them out. All of them.

The first volley of heavy turbolaser fire slammed into the defenders with unforgiving might, bent on cleansing space of their presence. The beating didn’t stop as the allied ships of the defenders returned fire and broke whatever formation had been left in the face of the devastating attack.

“Continue fire, all batteries,” Mulby ordered calmly, watching as waves of projectiles streaked toward him. Even a few energy beams shot out to connect harmlessly with the Leviathan’s shields.

“Many of you younger officers with less experience should note the difference in the enemy’s attack,” he continued. “And the effectiveness of sensor and communications jamming.” He turned to his XO, “Quite a good comparison, don’t you think?”

Thousands of torpedoes were intercepted by turbolasers, hundreds of others made it through to be shot down by light, anti-fighter guns, and a precious few found their way to their targets. Explosions rocked the looming Star Destroyers, cracking some open and blackening others. Even those weapons that had only made it half way across the void sent waves of energy in all direction.

“Brace for impact!” The Leviathan’s executive officer shouted the order as everyone on the bridge watched and waited. “Continue firing!”

A nearby blast shoved the craft hard on its lower front quadrant, working through the shields and melting away layers of durasteel. To add to the damage, the debris of a small cruiser was washed along on the blast’s heel, destroyed by another explosion and sent along like so much flak. The giant shards of metal cut into the exposed side of the Star Destroyer with blinding speed, sending tiny, split-second gouts of atmosphere into space and setting off alarms on the bridge.

And than the next wave hit. Again the ships of both sides were buffeted by the power unleashed in the subspace explosions. More alarms sounded as the forward shields started dropping into their critical range. Even still, the heavy turbolasers continued to pound at their targets, vaporizing anything that got in their path. The exchange of fire reeked destruction up and down the front line. Destruction that only increased as the Federation ships and their allies closed the gap.

The huge Republic ships hammered mercilessly, turning their enemies into shimmering dust. Even with the effects of the torpedoes it was a slaughter. The third and sixth fleet soon added their might to the fray, cutting off those ships trying to escape.

A swift Intrepid class ship and three Klingon Birds of Prey made it through the wall of green fire to swoop between the ranks along side the Leviathan. Their quantum torpedoes sailed into any weakened shield or exposed hull that they could find, taking opportunities where they could get them.

Massive guns from the ships on either side of the quartet tracked them with deadly precision and soon cut them down. Multiple warp core explosions flashed in the expanse between ships, destroying a number of unfortunate fighters and triggering arms of subspace to lash out.

The Leviathan shifted position to avoid the tears in space and vaporized another pair of enemy ships at the same time. As it did, it came out of the cover of a group of picket craft and found itself open to attack from a limping Romulan Warbird. The smaller ship shot out a dozen tiny drones whose limited warp cores flared to life as soon as they broke from their mother. As they did, they attracted the hungry energy of the subspace rifts and wove them into as much chaos as possible.

The group of picket ships blinked out of existence and another Star Destroyer lost its bridge tower as the Leviathan tried to weave its way free. Crackling energy struck out across her bow after an agile drone, darkening the hull before catching its prey.

“Pull us back,” Mulby ordered. “Bring us to the rear for damage control.”

* * *

Explosions rippled around the Enterprise, rocking everyone on board to the center of their beings. Still the flag ship of the Federation, for whatever that was worth now, held on. Phasor banks lit up in constant succession as torpedo bays gave everything they had.

Allies and enemies alike cracked and died around them without end. The viewscreen was washed out with the blinding flashes of those meeting their end. Through it all they kept a hectic pace, always one step ahead of the thundering green blasts in their wake. It was not something that they could hope to maintain forever.

“Provide cover for the Hero,” Picard shouted through the hell of smoke and sparks that was the Enterprise’s bridge. He gripped the arms of his command chair as his world trembled again.

From beneath the ship’s battered saucer section a stream of phasor fire swept across the vacuum. It played over the ranks of fighters doggedly pursuing a Miranda class ship trying to find some solace in the mists. The tiny, one-man craft blinked out one by one as they were touched by they deadly beam. After the initial seconds though, they broke formation and agilely evaded further losses.

“Our power reserves are spent, Captain,” Geordie’s voice came crackling from the engineering section. “There’s no more I can give you without ramping up the warp core and risking attracting a subspace tear. I advise taking the phasors off line and diverting their power to the shields. We can use torpedoes until they run out and than maybe switch back.”

“Shields down to ten percent, Captain,” Data added from his station.

“Make it so Mr. Laforge,” Picard decided. “Give us everything you can.” The ship jerked to the side sharply as another ally off their stern ceased to exist. “We have to buy as much time as we can for the others to escape. But make sure you’re ready to give me full power from the warp core when we need it.”

“That takes time, Captain!”

“God damn it, Geordie!” It was Riker now that barked into the air. He had just pulled himself to his seat after regaining consciousness. “You heard the Captain!”

“Commander,” Data again interjected. “To bring the warp core from idle to full capacity takes...”

“That’s enough Mr. Data,” Riker shouted back. “Keep your concentration on your duty station.”

“Easy, Will.” The captain waved smoke from his face and watched as his tactical officer peppered a listing Star Destroyer with quantum torpedoes. They were moving deeper into the lines.

“Helm,” Picard ordered. “Bring us back around to the wounded.”

The ship cut a sharp arc around a group of Warbirds tearing into a lone corvette. It passed by to narrowly miss the rain of green fire that struck down from the monstrous, grey Star Destroyer that appeared out of the mists like an avenging angel. The shower of wreckage pummelled them from behind.

“Launch drones!” Picard’s command was echoed by a myriad of Romulan officers and the hulking vessel was soon ripped apart from all sides. Unfortunately, now they had the subspace energy to contend with, and it was dangerously close to the wounded.

“Do we still have communications?” the captain asked.

“Aye, Sir.”

“Advise the Hermes that now would be a good time for them to make their move if they are going to.”

“Aye, Sir,” the tactical office answered. “I am connecting to the...”

The words trailed off and no one looking at the forward display needed to ask why. A universe of grey monsters, surrounded throughout by a cloud of tiny fleas, was waiting for them. They were englobed. All directions were cut off from them. There would be no escape.

* * *

The Semek spun hard on its axes and bolted for the relative safety of its fellow Warbirds. It launched the remaining store of its subspace torpedoes as it fled and the rear sensors recorded the chaos they unleashed. A triad of Republic behemoths countered the strike as best they could while occupied with the attacks of a dozen other Romulan craft, intercepting all but three of the projectiles.

Those missiles that were shot out of space did not go down without saying goodbye however. While half were turned to plasma instantaneously, the others managed to detonate their ordinance even as being struck. They washed the area in scorching radiation and merged to become a gapping hole into subspace. In the confined spaces of the battle, easily a hundred ships were caught and ravaged by that blast.

The three explosives that reached their targets impacted against the Republic shields in an instant of light, burning through everything in their blast radius and leaving shattered, drifting husks. The Star Destroyers banked away from each other haphazardly and fought to regain control of their ruined forms. Two had taken heavy damage to their upper forward sections, much of the lower hull of the third was a total loss. The hanger bay was none-existant.

The Semek had somehow managed to find some source of power within its battered hull and though it would never see warp speed again it was more than capable of sublight manoeuvres. This had been the only thing holding the Warbird together. That, and the unyielding determination of her crew. Every last drop of blood, sweat and tears would be squeezed from these soldiers of the once great empire before they would lay down and die.

His ship venting plasma and barely holding on to any semblance of life support, Commander B’Val formed up with his comrades as best he could and made for the next target. There was no way his ship could run from this battle now. His fate would be decided then and there. It was calming feeling, coming to terms with the inevitable. He finally understood the klingons.

The wing of Romulan ships, six Warbirds and a few lesser craft in all, swam through the nebula, hunting new prey and avoiding the hungry grasp of the natural destruction they had let loose. Explosions erupted all around them and squadrons of fighters nipped at their heels but still they moved from one craft to the next, doing their best aide those in need and destroy those enemies that showed any sign of weakness.

The group lost some vessels here and there but more were always gained. The weakest would be sheltered amid the strong. Those with torpedoes left teamed with those who only had drones. Soon they were a rallying point for the allied defenders throughout the line.

They flew throughout the enemy, gathering as many ships to their banner as they could and causing as much damage was they could. Some ships, knowing their end was near, would dart away from the main group to flare their warp cores and sew havoc and death among the Republicans with the subspace tears that now laced every part of the surrounding area. They would bob and weave at break-neck speeds until either shot down by the blinding plasma of their enemy, or caught by the very phenomenon they hoped to attract.

B’Val limped along with the rest, sheltered with the other damaged, shooting down any fighters that came within his disruptor sights. From what was left of his tactical display, the group had grown to nearly four times its original size. The majority were Romulan, since they had comprised the majority of the defending force, but many other species flew along side them. They always moved, keeping everyone as off balance as possible.

To the battle-beaten Commander it was false hope against insane odds.

The group was alone now, surrounded by an ocean of Republic starships. Five Warbirds shattered like broken glass around the Semek. Turbolaser fire was everywhere. In the blink of an eye a dozen ships blinked into nothingness. A small Defiant class, clipped in the rear, spun madly past the on the viewscreen.

In the throws of the killing field, B’Val sat back calmly in his chair an contemplated the events of his life. Around him, what was left of his bridge crew worked furiously. There was nothing else they could do to save their lives but they strove on just the same. At the mouth of their doom, the Romulan men and women wasted none of their last breaths on self-pity or regret.

As the warship rattled around them one last time, a hand came to rest on the Commander’s shoulder. He looked up at his Subcommander and nodded wearily. An instant later there was nothing.

* * *

“So this is the end of it than,” the Leviathan’s first officer stated to his captain as they watched the rebels pushed into a tighter and tighter ball. With so few warp signatures to excite them, the deadly subspace rifts were now fizzling out and turning in on themselves. The battle was all but over. Even if it had left the Leviathan more the worse for wear.

Scares ravaged up and down the hull of the great ship, tiger stripping the grey skin with lines of long, jagged black. In three locations, interior was exposed to the vacuum of space spanning decks. Her shields now functioned in only a patch-work array. Her fighter bays were all but dry.

“Oh, I should think it is only the beginning.” Mulby crossed his arms tightly over his chest as we watched the holographic display. “The end of them perhaps, but this is only one quadrant.”

“Aye, Sir. That it is.”

As the two spoke, pieces of chatter began to drift up to their ears from the Com/Scan pit. Long range sensors all over the armada were picking up transwarp exit apertures some five light years out. There were over a dozen of them, all spewing out distinctive cube-shaped starships like water from a tap.

“What, in the Force, is this now?” Mulby asked his crew after ordering a secondary hologram to appear, showing this new fleet amassing.

* * *

“The Galactic Republic forces are ordering our total and unconditional surrender. We are being advised that failure to comply will result our destruction. No further quarter will be given.”

Aboard the bridge of the still relatively well intact Starship Hermes, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok said the words and hoped that his captain would heed the logic of the situation. At least in surrender they might remain alive long enough to figure out some way to carry on. Unfortunately his captain, like so many other humans, was not always known for following logic.

The vulcan tactical officer looked around the bridge at the assembled crew. It may be a new ship, but these were the same people he had travelled with for so long, making his way back from the Delta Quadrant. Even Seven Of Nine was back among them, standing to the rear with the President of the Federation, three councillors, and two other aides. In the heat of the moment he still couldn’t help but wonder why these type of distractions were always allowed to be on the bridge.

“At this point, Mr. President,” the aide Tuvok had come to know as Commander Bala murmured. “We must submit. For your own protection.”

“Belay that, Commander,” Captain Janeway cut in. “Mr. Paris, can you see any way through that gauntlet at all?”

At the helm, Tom Paris’ hands flew over his controls, rapidly playing out one path after another, trying to find the shortest distance required before they had a straight path for warp. All roads led to the same place however. The field was just too thick with enemy ships.

“It’s too tight, Captain,” he finally replied. “We won’t get five seconds before being vaporized.”

The woman’s face hardened as she looked back at the leader of her defunct government and the grim features of those around him.

“Send the signal to the other remaining ships, Captain,” the president sighed. “We surrender.”

“You heard him, Mr. Tuvok,” she relayed to the vulcan. “Signal the fleet.”

“Wait,” interrupted Harry Kim from the operations station. “Sensors are picking up a new armada inbound to this position, warp nine point nine. It’s the Borg.”

All eyes turned to Seven of Nine. She frowned for a moment, giving only four words as reply. “No it is not.”

* * *

Brilliant green clashed with green as two women fought amid the mists of their own minds. The lightsabres, really manifestations of their wielder’s will, were nonetheless just as deadly as their physical counterparts. They hissed and crackled challengingly at each other as each played up and down the other’s length.

“You’ve come out of light speed,” Jenna noted as she parried a series of dizzying strokes, all aimed for slitting her throat. She could sense the change, feel the presence of so many others growing nearer. “Now you mean to destroy those whom you once swore to protect, I suppose.”

Mai-Men fainted high with her weapon before dropping into a lightning quick sweep kick and taking her former master’s feet out from under her. As the older woman lost her footing, the younger thrust out a free hand and sent her enemy hurtling backward. Jenna twisted in the air as if performing a well-practised dive and landed with perfect balance, bringing her blade back up into a defensive position at the side of her head.

“You mean those insignificant mites deluding themselves into thinking they hold any sort of power? Don’t worry. They won’t all be destroyed.”

Jenna didn’t bother to respond but merely held her stance, waiting for the next attack. It wasn’t long before she was again nothing more than a blur of motion, calmly countering everything her opponent had to give. It was a dance like nothing else in any galaxy.

Mai flew forward, randomly attacking high and low without reason, trying to catch Jenna off guard. A down slice to the head was stopped with a solid block that locked her blade in place. This forced her to bring her knee up into the other woman’s sternum. The knee forced Jenna to release her grip on her lightsabre with one hand to block. Mai stomped down with her raised foot and used her momentum to push her enemy’s weapon away. Her two handed grib should have easily overcome the other’s one hand but it was not the case. Jenna pushed back just as hard.

“Your exertion is pointless, Mai-Men. Here, there is only the Force.”

“Indeed.” Again the girl attacked, thrusting her glowing sword into her enemy’s face. When it was diverted up and out, she kicked with both feet at Jenna, connecting with her stomach and finishing with a somersault in mid air. She landed deftly to continue into a spin kick that sent the Jedi sprawling.

Jenna shot a defending hand out, directing the Force, as she rolled away from her apprentice’s pressed the attack.

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Post by Stravo » 2004-02-27 10:15pm

“My God, Number One. Look at that.”

Through the layers upon layers of Republic warships, the sensors of the battered starship Enterprise managed to afford her equally worse-for-ware crew a view that held both terror and hope at the same time. A seemingly endless swarm of Borg had been belched into space from nothing. They were now advancing as one and were by no means taking their time doing it. As the approach continued, there was also no sign of the Cubes’ slowing.

Will Riker stared at the screen before him blankly for a moment. He was on the verge of laughing at the total absurdity of the situation. But it was a situation that could be taken advantage of.

“The question is,” he replied. “Who are they after? And how much of a distraction are they going to be to the Republic?”

Captain Picard regarded his first officer and raised a weary eyebrow. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Number One?”

“Especially when they’re both at each other’s throats, Captain,” Riker confirmed.

Picard turned to his bridge crew. “Mr. Data, keep an eye on the activity. Helm, plot us any available course you can find out of here. Engineering, have warp power ready when we need it.”

“Easier said than done, Captain,” Commander LaForge’s voice crackled from nowhere. “That last barrage knocked the crystals out of alignment. We’re still trying to correct them, along with everything else that needs repairing.”

“We need those engines Mr. LaForge. We’re not going to get another chance.”

* * *

Out in space the still staggering array of Star Destroyers began turning their silent attention outward to their new threat, away from the broken remains of the Alpha Quadrant’s alliance. Those wounded ships that had been relegated to the rear of the armada now drifted snugly into the midst of their brethren while those more able took up position, angling to present the most weaponry with the least exposed surface area.

As the titanic ballet took place, a smaller, swifter dance was also occurring within and around it. Bombers, minuscule in comparison, wove their way around their parent craft and broke from the front line. Each ship sped out to the very edge of the system and held position. If they had continued on for a few more light years they would have come into direct confrontation with the Borg.

As it was, the pilots of those ships made ready their most devastating anti-capital ship ordinance, keyed in any final, nervous adjustments to their flight and targeting computers, and did the only other thing they could. They sat tight and waited for the enemy. For some it was an easy silence. Something in which they could centre themselves. For others it was like that of a tomb. Like sitting alone in space with nothing between them and the frozen void but a thin sheet of durasteel.

* * *

“It’s no use, Captain. We’re dead in space.”

“Unacceptable Lieutenant!” Captain Picard would not admit defeat now. Not with such an opportunity for their escape. “If you can not get those engines running we’re all dead. Do you hear me!? Now I know you can make those repairs. We’re counting on you.”

“Aye, Captain,” Geordi sighed. “I know I can make them too. But I’m going to need a dry dock and six weeks. I can get you some power but there’s just no way in hell that the Enterprise is going to warp. I’m sorry, Captain. Those are just the facts.”

Picard looked around his shattered bridge. Bodies littered the floor as carelessly as the demolition around them. All non-essential stations were abandoned. Blood and char was everywhere. He took a deep breath and tapped the badge on his chest.

“Attention all hands,” he began. “This is Captain Picard. As I’m sure you are all aware, the Enterprise has been severely damaged. We will be unable to go to warp and will most likely not survive further attack. You are ordered to the life pods and to abandon ship. I repeat. You are ordered to abandon ship. Any who wish to remain on, report to the nearest battle station. Good luck.”

The bridge was silent for a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity as no one wanted to make the first move. When the still was finally broken, it was by two of the younger crew members who threw their gazes to the floor and quickly made for the turbolift. Riker was up the instant later and taking position at what remained of the tactical station.

“Phasors are at forty percent capability, Captain. The nearest Star Destroyers are still locked on to us.”

* * *

The Borg cloud surged into high warp in one rippling wave after another and sped their course with steady determination. Those that were their targets merely waited. They waited for the exact time to strike. Any who had read the data available on this latest force to stand against them knew that their strike would be swift and brutal. No negotiations would be given for the Borg. No statements about the futility of resistence would be listened to.

In clockwork precision the far-seeing eyes of the capital ships fed targeting information to the computers of the bombers amassed on the edge of the system. The computers, in turn, signalled their pilots at the appropriate time to fire. And fire they did.

As one, a veritable storm of missiles shot forth into the black reaches of space. They disappeared from sight instantly, only the computers able to track their breakneck course to oblivion. Seconds later the bombers were being battered by a shrapnel field of debris no longer able to sustain warp. Bloodied cubes and spheres followed, and soon fully functional ships as well, caught behind a shredder that was once their front line.

Those bombers that survived the deadly hail released the rest of their payloads on any targets they could find before turning tail for the safety of the fleet. They had already been passed by the majority of the Borg armada still at warp, however, and would hae a hard fight to get anywhere near friendly forces.

All of this was a mere speed bump for Mai-Men.

Even as the Republic bombers were unleashing their attack, the capital ships arrayed deep in-system were already barring their own teeth. Heavy turbolaser fire blasted unendingly, creating a green river of energy. The Borg, running straight into them, were once again torn to pieces. Great swathes were cut from cubes, entire groups were transformed into dust. Even as the armada finally came fully out of warp, they were choked by their own casualties.

Still, they did not stop.

As one writhing mass or many, Mai-Men surged at maximum sublight speed through the remains of her own forces. The captains of the Republic line, appalled by the complete lack of strategy shown by their foe, but taken slightly back by the sheer bruteness, held their lines and continued to fire. Even as the first Borg cubes to reach them crashed headlong into those lines, still the turbolasers fired.

Captain Mulby watched the battle from the battered Leviathan, pulling his ship deeper into the fleet formation. As crude as it was, the Borg charge had devastated the Star Destroyers at the front, pounding them at high speed in a great suicide wave. Those that now came after discharged what appeared to be monstrous arms of lightning into their enemies. Large and small ships alike were falling part everywhere. Shields seemed to provide no help.

The fleet was falling into disarray. Somehow, an irrational fear seemed to grip everyone. Death held reign and it had taken the form of the Borg.

“None of the information we have on these ‘Borg’ show them with this kind of weapon?” Mulby barked incredulously as his ship tore into a cube that had breached that far. “This is impossible!”

What was more impossible was that two of the Leviathan’s sister ships were now colliding, as if pushed together by some devious child.

* * *

Mai-Men laughed wildly as she plunged her lightsabre down where her former master’s head was only a moment before. She brought the energy blade back up with an angry hum and wheeled around to parry a counter attack. The two locked beams sparked and hissed, seemingly throwing insults at each other, even as their wielders locked together in deadly combat.

“Do you feel that?” the fallen Jedi boasted. “All that fear. The pain and death. I can almost taste the blood in my mouth.”

“Yes I feel it,” Jenna replied, wiping blood from her brow. “But all I taste is bile.”

The younger woman cackled with laughter and pushed her opponent back with the Force. Jenna sailed through the white void to land with a shoulder roll and come back to her feet. Beside her, the aged form of her old master, Luke Skywalker, was standing as solid as if he were still alive.

“I’ve been watching,” he said. “You’re showing good form. Though I never was one who should critique duelling form, was I. You don’t seem to be winning though.”

“Master! You’re here!” She had not expected this but had little time to react as her foe shot a bolt of lightning in her direction. The malicious energy was caught on her sword to dissipate into nothing.

“Master Luke,” Mai-Men said, somewhat surprised. “So you’ve come to try to stop me too?”

“Oh, I can’t interfere,” the old man answered. He sat back against nothing as if once again the teacher evaluating two pupils. “I’m only here to illuminate the right path.”

The girl snorted and swiped her weapon through the man’s head. It passed through with ease but left nothing to show for the trouble. Luke’s wrinkled face only smiled softly.

“You really don’t see the true nature of the Force, do you Child? Even where it is so apparent.” Luke sighed as he took another chop to the head.

To the side, Jenna stood calmly, gathering her strength and her connection to the Force. Her master HAD just shown her the path. Her destiny and that of her apprentice were layed out clearly before her. When Mai-Men finally turned her attention back on her original opponent, she was greeted by her master as she had never seen before.

* * *

Stryfe and Necros cloaked themselves in the Force once again as flames erupted from the forearm of one of the elite guard. Both men then made incredible leaps toward their enemies, just in time to escape the destruction of the grenade thrown by the other. The hallway was left in ruin and the battle was joined face to face.

Stryfe twisted in mid air to bring his feet to bare on the chest of the guard using the flame thrower. The two crashed to the floor and the guard used his momentum to hurtle the Sith over his head and away. Even as he stood, the red armoured man activated a small energy shield on each forearm.

The other guard too, had activated his forearm shields, and just in time. Necros had come in hard with his lightsabre ignited and the small shields had been the only thing to keep the man alive. He blocked left and right with expert motions, never expending more energy than necessary. Finally, the guard was able to grab the wrist of the trill’s weapon hand and twist it brutally.

Necros shouted in pain as his weapon dropped and he instinctively pushed his attacker against the wall with the Force. He sneered as the guard drew a blaster pistol and fired. The lightsabre was already back in his other hand, deflecting the blast.

Down the hall, Stryfe pushed his opponent into the on coming blaster bolt but only managed to have it graze armour. He immediately followed up with a Force push that the guard turned into a backflip, using his flamethrower once more to bathe the corridor in fire. Stryfe leapt back and launched his sabre through the air.

The energy blade spun end over end through the flames straight for the guards head but met only with wall plate. The guard had dropped to his back at the last moment to watch the weapon sail over. He now quickly pulled his pistol from its holster and began firing. His only hope was to keep the Force User distracted and unable to concetrate.

The guard battling Necros continued firing in rapid succession while diving to the side to avoid getting hit by his own shots. Even with his off hand, the Sith was still more than formidable. Crimson armour hit the floor hard and the guard reached to his belt for the grappling hook he knew was there. A moment later it was around Necros’ legs and pulling them from under him.

As the trill fell, he kicked his legs up, pulling the rope and the person attached to it. The guard slid along the floor until he was next to the Sith and wasted little time before pounding a fist into the other’s rib cage. Necros grunted with pain and rage, focussing it all into a flurry of punches at the man’s head. Though the helmet remained intact, the head inside it was quite stunned by the impacts and stayed that way until it was cut from its neck by a red, glowing blade.

Stryfe dodged and pirouetted to avoid the deadly bolts of the now lone guard. He even ran up the side of the wall but still the blasts followed him. There seemed no escape but the manoeuver did manage to bring him close enough to pull his sabre from the wall.
As he brought it to bare, the guard was already throwing a barrage of well-placed fists.

The Sith blocked each punch as it came until a lightning quick kick finally landed to his stomach, pushing him back. He took the opportunity of the added distance to sweep out with his lightsabre and put his attacker off balance. The guard simply parried the stroke with his shielded forearm and rushed in again. Stryfe was battered with one hit after another until he tangled the man’s arm within his own.

A Force-aided knee thrust up into the guard’s armoured sternum, lifting him from the deck and doubling him over. A Force-aided punch to the top of the skull brought the guard low. The man groped on his belt for a thermal detonator as he tried to focus his eyes again but was rewarded with having the offending hand removed. The detonator clanged on the metal floor and rolled away. Then his head followed.

Stryfe looked up from his kill, panting from the exertion. The blacked corridor still smoldered acridly in places. A short distance away, Necros leaned casually against the wall, cradling his injured wrist.

“You could have helped me!” the human accused.

“Can’t you fend for yourself?”

Stryfe scowled and turned his ire on the door that stood between them and their prey. It creaked slightly before the mechanism gave way but the door did not move.

“Damn these Republic ships,” he spat. “Why don’t the fucking doors slide sideways like their supposed to!’

“So that they’ll stay shut, like this, if the mechanisms broken, like you just did, moron,” Necros replied and lent his focus to lifting the barrier.

The door raised open to reveal a conservatively appointed room that was completely devoid of life. In shock, the two Sith rushed in and quickly searched the small adjoining bedroom and head. In the bedroom a red light flashed over a small sealed door. They didn’t have to be able to read the large yellow print across that hatch to realise General Bastin, Admiral Pooda, and their two remaining guards had escaped in the VIP room’s personal life pod. Through a tiny window they both watched the craft shrink into the distance.

Necros smashed his fist on the hatch and shook his head. “I saw this coming. You wasted too much time.”

“I wasted too much time?!” Stryfe pointed his finger at his partner accusingly. “If you hadn’t stood around and watched out in the corridor we would have gotten in here before they left. Now the missions a failure!”

The trill waved his good hand dismissively and walked back into the main room. “You’re really an idiot, do you know that? I’m surprised you’ve been carried this far. It doesn’t matter if we killed them or not. The damage is done.” He turned his back on the human and looked out the room’s portal. “We’ve walked our way through one of their command ships, right to the room of their military leader! They aren’t safe! And now they know it, you fool.”

Darth Stryfe stared at the other man’s back and smoldered.

“I foresaw that we weren’t going to actually kill Bastin,” Necros continued. “You didn’t see this coming? You never were very smart.”

A cold hand closed around Darth Necros’ shoulder and a snap-hiss sounded from behind. The pain that burst through him did nothing to dull the shock of what had just happened. His eyes, wide with understanding, grew wider still as they cast their gaze down to the confined beam of energy protruding from his chest. His final gasp did not drown out the words that snarled in his ear.

“Didn’t see THAT coming, did you, slug puppet?”

Darth Stryfe was gone before the body of his fellow Sith had hit the floor.

* * *

The sleek form of the USS Hermes wove through the titanic ships around it, trying desperately to stay out of the way. It was as if they were blessed somehow, guided by a knowing hand out of harms way. On board, Commander Bala stared intently at the view screen, eyes unblinking.

“What did you mean when you said that this wasn’t the Borg, Seven?” Captain Janeway hardly spared a glance at her former crew member through the flashing red lights of the bridge.

Massive ships clashed all around them and were in turn reduced to shards of deadly debris. In a bank that pushed the inertial dampers to their limits, the Hermes slid past a disembodied bridge tower, still crackling with white lightning. At the helm, Tom Paris took yet another deep breath as his finger flew over the controls.

“It is hard to explain,” Seven of Nine tried to answer. “The cubes are Borg, the spheres are Borg but there is a difference. This is not the Borg. For one, I have had no contact from the Queen.”

“Captain,” Commander Tuvok interjected. “I would agree with Seven of Nine’s assessment. There is no know record of any Borg using weapons or tactics of this kind.”

“Than this is what you’ve been sensing through your neural-transceiver, Seven,” the Federation President stated. “This isn’t the Borg. It’s what’s been killing them.”

“Rogue Borg?” Ensign Kim asked.

Unexpectedly, Bala’s voice broke his reverie. “No. I feel that this is much worse. We must escape this battle as soon as we can.”

Out in the void, the fleet federation ship swung around the aft of two Star Destroyers, completely ignored for the trio of cubes trading gouts of Force lightning for heavy turbolaser blasts. Each side took debilitating damage before the tiny craft had cleared the scene.

The ship’s shields flared as they were buffeted by a spinning chunk of discarded hull, ripped from some nameless combatant. It sent them off course and directly into the path of a group of crippled corvettes. Those vessels didn’t think twice about opening fire, desperate as they were to see their own survival. The Hermes rocked and spun as it blackened.

Switching course again, the federation craft darted down along the edge of a drifting cube and banked hard to avoid a burst from a Republic cruiser. The move brought them straight into another cloud of rubble and through that, face to face with the lifeless remains of a beaten Sovereign class.

“My God. That’s the Enterprise,” Captain Janeway breathed. “Mr. Paris, get us out of here!”

“I’m trying, Captain. Believe me, I’m trying.”

The ship was smacked hard again.

“Shields failing, Captain.”

“Structural integrity field fluctuating.”

Janeway recovered from the impact and straightened in her seat. “Try harder, Mr. Paris.”

* * *

Mai-Men shrank back slightly at the brilliance that had once been her foe. Where the form of Jenna Carrel had stood before was now only a luminescence of vaguely human shape. Clothing was gone, lightsabre was gone, even digits and limbs seemed to shift in and out of the main mass. And the mass was growing.

“Good,” Luke said. “Your master shows you that you still have much to learn, Mai-Men. At our cores we are beings of energy, not the solid matter housing it. You know this yet you seek control of more and more beings.”

“Yes,” Mai spat. “And each of those beings has a connection to the Force that I can use.” She slashed her blade through Jenna’s calmly expanding form even as she backed away from it. She pushed with the Force but to no avail. Curiously, however much she moved, Luke always seemed to be sitting at her sit.

“One connection, one hundred, one billion,” the old man counted. “What’s the difference? The Force is everywhere, in everything. How many times do you need to tap the same thing?”

“It seems to have worked so far, Old Man!”

“So far.” Jenna soothingly repeated, filling the ether with the meaning of those words. “You can no longer hurt me, Mai-Men. Not here.”

The girl attacked the giant before her savagely, pouring everything she had into it. The glowing form of her teacher stood as a parent allowing a small child to vent. The aggression was fruitless. Outside, the ships of the Borg armada faltered.

“Are you finished, child?” Jenna asked. “There is no place for you to go now. Will you not see reason and return with me to the light?”

“The light would have had me killed or worse! You have no idea what power the Dark Side has left to unleash! These cyborgs got everything that they deserved and so will everyone else who stands against me. Including you and the Jedi!”

Luke closed his eyes sadly. Jenna too, radiated the emotion like a star. Those of the battle fleet outside wept for seemingly no reason.

“So be it,” the woman said “I am sorry I failed you my young apprentice.”

The Jedi’s shining image burst out like a super nova, enveloping both Mai-Men and Luke Skywalker. It washed over them and continued out into the endless cloud, bringing a brightness that had not been there before. With it all, the young girl’s mind, connection to the Force, and even very being itself was wiped away as well.

Jenna woke, naked on an unforgiving metal table, once more trapped within the confines of her body. The drones of Mai-Men that had filled the room now lay strewn lifelessly about but the woman was not alone.

“You’ve held up fairly well over the years,” the spirit of Luke Skywalker said, somewhat embarrassed.

“Thank you, Master,” she replied, undistracted by her lack of clothing and already on the move to see if she could find some. “And not just for the comment. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without you by my side.”

In the dim light of the cube’s systems automatically rebooting the Jedi found her discarded robes and equipment and began to dress. Every now and then the deck would rock from the impact of some hit or another but the section seemed to remain intact. As long as the air held for enough time, Jenna knew she would be rescued. She would trust in the Force.

Luke watched the woman as he had since his physical death. “Well I didn’t let myself get blown to pieces for nothing you know,” he replied with a smile.

In space, The Republic fleet, decimated by the unforeseen and terrible battle, found themselves now in a graveyard of what had suddenly become derelict ships. After the beating they had just taken however, they were not taking any chances. No cube or sphere was left in one piece. Every ship of the fleet that was still able prowled the field, lashing out at anything Borg that even hinted at moving.

Everything that is, accept a small piece of cube, not more than a tenth of the whole, that was surprisingly transmitting a Republic distress signal.

For their part, the crew of the United Federation of Planets Star Ship Hermes had wasted little time pondering the whys and hows of the Borg’s, or Unborg’s, or whoever they were, abrupt inactivity. The event was just the opportunity they had needed to bolt from the scene and head to warp. Inexplicably, it had been the brooding Commander Bala to leap into action at the very moment the Borg had fell dead. It had been as if he had known it was about to happen and had only been waiting all that time for it to come to pass.

The tiny ship was gone before any of the Star Destroyers even had time to notice.

* * *

The light hit Lana’s eyes has hard as any slap. Blinding and eternal. Than it was the smell that got him. Blood, sweat, dirt and steel. Odd how those scents seemed so harsh to him now. He had been living with them most of his life. Finally sound assaulted his ears. Transports whined, people shouted, equipment hummed and the damn flies buzzed everywhere.

“Yeah,” a voice behind the light said. “I’m getting good response here. This one’s fine. Just out.”

A grip was loosened, the light was pulled away and Lana’s eyelid was released. He blinked a few times and things slowly came back into focus. Unfortunately what he was shown was that he had lost.

The ridge he and the others had been defending was now an enemy base camp and evacuation zone. Gunships sat ready to take off as others patrolled over head. The air was now as hot as if it were summer on the equator and from his position he could see great beams of energy descending from the sky. He held no hope for any of the other ambush sights.

Around him the other wounded lay moaning quietly under the unblinking supervision of a mechanical sentry. Enemy soldiers walked freely here and there, cleaning up bodies and gathering equipment. There were no two ways about it, he was screwed and there wasn’t much chance for escape.

The Reaper that had examined him stood and motioned for him to do the same. To the side, another armoured figure had levelled his weapon and didn’t seem to be taking any chances with him. That was a good thing. The wily old Bajoran wouldn’t think twice about killing either one of them if it helped him escape.

“On your feet,” the closest trooper ordered, reaching for a pouch on his belt. When Lana complied, he was turned quickly around and his hands were roughly bound with a thin plastic zip-tie. The two men than pushed him to what looked to him like a cargo container. The other Bajorans inside indicated it as the prisoner holding pen.

“In you go,” the same soldier to speak ordered evenly as he pushed.

“Yeah,” the other added. “Off to the spice mines with you, Old Timer.”

The barred doors closed with a solid clang and the two troopers walked away. Lana couldn’t help but overhear their parting conversation.

“Shut up, Morae.”

“You know Sleed, I getting a little tired of you always telling me to shut up.”

“What did I just say?”

“Shut up.”

“Good advice. Follow it.”

Lana looked from the camp that had sprung up around him while he slept and than back to the handful of sullen faces with him in the pen. “Spice mines,” he said mostly to himself. “I don’t like the sounds of that.”

* * *

Guinan squinted as bright light flooded in from the open door of the life-pod she shared with five others from the Enterprise. The gangly silhouette of a security droid soon cut that light as it stepped up to the opening a scanned the interior. As it motioned with its blaster for them to follow, the dark-skinned woman rose and complied with a certain, unequalled dignity.

She led the little procession out of the pod, an ancient book clutched to her breast, protected and surely as any child. It was her only possession now aside from the closes on her back. She would not leave it behind on her dying ship. It quite possibly held the only clues to the origin of this whole affair.

The woman calmly, almost regally, let herself be marched to a winding line of other recovered Starfleet personnel waiting to be processed. As she passed the small cluster of stern-looking, uniformed officers she looked each one in the eyes.

“Welcome home, Gentlemen,” she said as she smiled and bowed politely.

To be continued in...
Manifest Destiny: Episode II
(“Star Wars: Legion of the Sith” or “Star Trek: Expansion”)

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