Terran Empire: Reap the Whirlwind

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HappyTarget
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Terran Empire: Reap the Whirlwind

Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:10pm

THIS IS A FANFIC BY HAPPY TARGET. THIS IS THE FIRST PART WHICH IS FOLLOWED BY UNITY.

Table of Contents


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Reap the Whirlwind

Prologue

These events take place in the late 24th century. They occur in the mirror universe first visited by Captain Kirk almost a hundred years earlier. In this universe, the mirror Spock was unsuccessful in his attempt to moderate and change the course of the Terran Empire. But it didn't collapse like he predicted either. It continued to expand, steadily pushing outward until it spanned nearly the entire galaxy. When the Empire first encountered the Borg, they met the first credible opponent that the Terran Empire had faced in nearly 70 years. It was only due to the sheer weight of the Empire's attack combined with their on par or superior tech that allowed them to carry the day. Despite the campaign's horrendous losses in both ships and personnel, in the end the Empire was only strengthened by its conquest of Borg space.

Borg manufacturing facilities were adapted to benefit Imperial shipyards. The billions of trained men and women lost to the Terran Empire's war fleet were quickly recouped by adapting Borg maturation chambers to age unmodified human children. It didn't take long for the Empire to regain its stranglehold on the Milky Way. But with all enemies removed, the Empire's ruling council foresaw the death of their cherished way of life. They knew that in order to keep the subject species from rising up they needed a strong military. And in order to continue to justify the massive expenditures on military hardware, that military needed an enemy to fight.

And they found a possible one in the vast recesses of the captured Borg database. One of the species assimilated by the Borg shortly before they encountered the Terran Empire had been experimenting on various ways of accessing a possible other universes. There had been many ongoing attempts by the Empire's scientists to access other dimensions and parallel universes, but they had met with little success. Now, fortified with the new ideas provided by the Borg database, they were finally sure that they were nearing their long sought goal. What they discovered was much more than they bargained for.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:12pm

CHAPTER 1

Delta quadrant, on the outskirts of the former Borg system of A875 34B9, Aegean Class Fleet Support Destroyer I.S.S. Hopolite

The small destroyer came out of slipstream giving off the usual ghostly aquamarine glow. It looked like a cross between the Sovereign and Intrepid classes. It's saucer section resembled a miniaturized version of a Sovereign's. The shrunk saucer was mated to a secondary hull that looked like a stretched version of an Intrepid's. It stretched out almost twice the length of the oval primary hull, streaming gracefully out behind the warship. Slipstream drive nacelles were mounted on swept-back pylons which drooped only slightly below the saucer. The nacelles themselves resembled most strongly a stubbier version of a Sovereign's. They gave off only a pale blue glow through their grills, with their fronts devoid of any kind of bussard collector, as Slipstream drive required none. Shipyards across the Empire were busily swapping out the old-fashioned warp nacelles and drives for the recently acquired Slipstream versions as warships came in for refitting.

The Slipstream drive had proved a boon for the Empire. It had allowed them to strengthen their hold on rebellious systems with fewer ships. With Slipstream's much greater speeds than regular Warp Drive, a rapid response fleet could be anchored at important fleet bases and star systems. Then when trouble was reported, they could go to it with plenty of time to spare. It was added to the list of useful gadgets that Starfleet already had when it was taken from a species near Borg space. Even now, a new fleet was being prepared, equipped with every bell and whistle the Empire had. Subspace weapons, phase cloaking, quantum and tricobalt torpedoes, Type 2 pulse phasers, pulse phaser turrets, Type XVI phaser arrays, ECM drones, ablative armor generators… the list went on and on. All to fight an enemy that hadn't even been encountered by Imperial ships yet. The ISS Hopolite was to secure the Borg complex in system A875 34B9 until the primary attack fleet in Imperial service arrived to begin the assault. The new fleet units would be worked up and follow the primary forces, joining in the attack once thy had been certified fit for duty.

ISS Hopolite, Deck 3, Reprimand Cell, 24:03 AM ship time

The man writhed in pure agony, his mouth falling open to unleash a scream. But instead of a piercing screech, only a hoarse croak escaped his cracked, parched lips. It was barely heard above the whining hum the Agonizer gave off while in operation. A harsh spotlight shining into his tortured face and bared upper torso was the only illumination in the room other than the pale glow of the control panels. It cast a harsh glow on the man's sweat covered face. His eyes alternately went from bulging, to tightly shut to rolling into the back of his head. Taunt muscles rippled and twitched of their own accord. The pain was unrelenting, coursing through his sweat soaked body like a wild fire, torturing each nerve ending in turn, relentless in it execution.

The staff running the Agonizer were surprised that the subject of their ministrations could still get out even that much. After nearly 12 hours in the machine's grip, most people would have been driven nearly insane from the constant pain rampaging through the nerve endings like a pillaging army. They usually enjoyed their job, and who wouldn't enjoy being able to dish out pain when the one you hurt couldn't do a damn thing back to you. But even men such as they were beginning to get upset. No one deserved to be punished like this. An hour in the chair was usually enough of a deterrent for even the worst offender to change his ways. Lt. Cmdr. Ulysses Vanguard must have done a little something extra to piss off the old man this much. Of course the old man did have a sadistic streak a mile wide so a little something extra didn't have to be much. The rumor mill said he had lost his family to the Borg, so perhaps that was the reason why he was being so hard on his new ex-Drone Second Officer.

A century ago, when the Agonizer machine was still crude in its execution, the subject regularly lost consciousness while subject to the ministrations of the machine. This allowed them at least a momentary respite from their torment. The latest version, of which the luckless Mr. Vanguard was strapped to now, was considerably more advanced. It sensed which nerve endings were beginning to lose sensation and shifted to other ones to maintain a constant state of pain. It also kept the subject awake for the entire length of their punishment, not letting them slip into the merciful, waiting arms of unconsciousness.

The door to the room slid open, admitting the man whom had ordered the punishment. Captain Garret McBride strode into the middle of the room, his blood red silk command cloak billowing behind him, contrasting perfectly his black and silver unitard uniform. He stared down at his second officer's writhing body, with no compassion what so ever on his face. In fact, there was a slight sneer on his lips and his eyes sparkled. After taking in his officers suffering for a full minute in deathly silence, he turned to the Agonizer's operators.

"You may release Lt. Cmdr. Vanguard."

The steady hum that had filled the room abruptly cut out, and with it, the rasping cries of the Aegean class' ISS Hopolite second officer stopped. He nearly instantly fell into the long sought arms of oblivion.

"Take him to sick bay and see if Doctor Unger can do anything for him." By his tone, he hoped that she wouldn't be able to repair the damage long exposure to the agonizer's field undoubtedly caused.

"Of course sir, right away!" The head Agonizer tech, Master Chief Olaf Sanderson said. Turning to the other three techs he said, "You heard the Captain, get him unstrapped and down to sick bay." The three techs began to slowly disengage Ulysses from the chair. The door slid shut behind the Captain, and each gave a slight shudder as their tense muscles relaxed. When the Captain was on the warpath, anyone who displeased him in even the slightest way felt the full fury of his wrath. His leaving without doing so to any of the techs meant one of two things. One, they had done nothing to displease him, or two, he had finally calmed down. But since the Captain so rarely calmed down, the more likely of the two was that they hadn't displeased him. They carried their second officer between them down the hall to sickbay, and considering what had just happened to him considered themselves very lucky they hadn't done anything to irritate their extremely irritable CO.

ISS Hopolite, 03:14 AM ship time, Sick Bay

Ulysses Vanguard's hazel eyes fluttered open, then slammed shut again as the harsh white lighting of the Hopolite's sick bay flooded into them like a million tiny needles. His body felt like it was one solid bruise. For a moment, all he knew was the dull ache permeating his every muscle and bone he possessed, even the largely mechanical ones left over from his time as a Drone. Slowly, awareness filtered into his groggy brain. He let out a groan and shifted his hands to massage his head. That was a mistake. Where the blanket covering him brushed against him, the normally silky fabric felt as if it was a power sander applied to his skin. That was another of the benefits of the Agonizer, for its effects also lasted for a time after the subject was released from its clutches.

His groan brought a delicate touch to his muscular arm. Feminine fingers began to run along the fine hairs of his upper arm. Ulysses involuntarily jerked it away from the fine boned hand. The touch was even worse than the pain the blanket had caused, light though the contact was.

"Don't! That hurts like hell." He growled, his voice still gravelly and barely understandable from the abuse he had place upon it scant hours before. He slowly opened his eyes. His optic nerves still protested, but less vehemently than when he had first tried to use them. The lights of sickbay were dimmed except for the ones over his bio bed. They were turned up to full brightness, or at least it seemed so to his complaining eyes.

"I know that silly." A silken voice replied. "It's one of the side effects of extended exposure. Look at it this way, it doesn’t last that long, a day or two tops." Ulysses let out another groan.

"You mean I have to go back to duty like this? No F**king way! There must be something you can give me? Some drug in your pharmacopoeia that can at least lessen it?"

She leaned down and her voice purred into his ear. "Now Mr. Vanguard, that would be against the Captain's standing orders. You know how testy he gets when his commands are not followed to the letter…” she paused, looking around conspiratorially, then continuing in a near whisper, “but I suppose I could make a special exception in your case." Doctor Cynthia Unger said as her hands traced the shape of Ulysses body scant millimeters from his hypersensitive skin. "Perhaps you could do something to… persuade me to give you some aid?" Her hands finished their roaming and stopped to flow through Ulysses chocolate brown hair. Oh crap, Ulysses thought.

He jumped like a scalded cat out of the bio bed and started backpedaling towards the exit, the pain contact with his skin forgotten. Then another fact finally sunk into his still clouded head. He was wearing very little of his uniform. This was bad… very, VERY bad. Ulysses was not usually easy to scare, but he was good and scared now. Part of him wanted to haul off and smack the Hopolite's CMO, but he had spent nearly all of his years since his stint at Starfleet Academy trying to ignore that voice. He felt beads of sweat break out on his back and forehead that had nothing to do with the corpulently warm shipboard temperature

"Oh Mr. Vanguard, I don’t bite." She said through pouting lips. Then a predatory grin spread across her face. "Not much anyway!" She started to round the bio bed in his direction, leaving its pool of light and nearly disappearing into the dimness beyond. Her well-toned body moved with cat like grace, and her eyes were like a lioness that had just decided on which gazelle to take down.

"Ma'am, I think what you are proposing is a very bad idea. You are the Captain's Woman, and I'm in enough hot water with him now to know better than to pour more fuel on the fire." He backpedaled as he talked, and was now only a few steps away from the door. Continuing to back out of sick bay, Ulysses then stepped on something. Glancing down quickly, he noticed that it was the crumpled heap of his uniform. Barely breaking his stride, he stooped and grabbed the sweat soaked bundle with one hand. Then he stood and brought his sodden clothing up like shield.

But that momentary break in his concentration on her was all Cmdr. Unger needed. She was on him in a flash, wrapping her arms and legs around him in a vice like grip. Her form fitting uniform left little to the imagination while engaged in such an intimate embrace. Her lips found his and latched on greedily.

Crap, Crap, CRAP!!! I gotta get out of here PRONTO Ulysses thought. He forced the unwanted, highly dangerous remora off of his body with as much restraint as he could muster. Cmdr. Unger's arms windmilled and her pretty face’s eyes went wide as her candy apple red lips formed a large O. Then she was falling onto the carpeted floor. She let out an angry squeal when her backside landed with a thud. Ulysses saw none of this though. Once free of her clutches, he nearly instantly turned and bolted for freedom, ignoring the aftereffects of the Agonizer nearly completely as he made good his escape. He didn't stop running until he dove into the turbolift at the end of the hall and it's doors swooshed shut behind him.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:13pm

CHAPTER 2

ISS Hopolite, Deck 4, Lt. Cmdr. Ulysses Vanguard's quarters, 3:30 AM ship time

"Computer, engage security lockout on the door to this room, authorization Vanguard alpha five one epsilon!" Adrenaline was still coursing through Ulysses system, the sound of his rapid pulse hammering in his eardrums. That had been too close, much to close. If someone had caught him and Dr. Unger, Captain Garret McBride would have skinned him alive. Even though he had only been on board the Hopolite for a few days, he had found out that in a hurry. The captain allowed no one else to use his personal possessions, and Dr. Cynthia Unger was most assuredly one of his most personal possessions. Of course, by McBride's logic, EVERY soul on his ship was his personal plaything the instant they were assigned to it. He just chose to selectively enforce his rule for his own amusement.

Ulysses threw his damp uniform into the recycler, then went into his closet and selected a new, dry uniform. Slipping into the space black, silver piped jumpsuit was like applying another layer of skin the fit was so tight. The spandex like material stretched to accommodate him. It was relatively simple in its form. The jump suit was almost totally black except for silver piping along the cuffs and down the outside of his legs. Branch was indicated by both color-coded piping along the collar and on a ring of color on his right sleeve. His was the blood red of command. That same ring on his sleeve held his years of service pins, a gold bar mated with a single silver one beside it indicated 6 years in the fleet. His rank pins gleamed on his collar, showing the two whole and one hollow pips of a Lt. Cmdr. It was thanks in part to the war and his innate ability that he had gotten promotion to that rank as quickly as he had. Going over to his room's replicator, he issued another order.

"Computer, replicate one combadge." His was no where to be found in the bundle of his clothing. No doubt Cynthia Unger knew where it was, but he had no desire at all to return to her lair and ask for it. In fact, he decided then and there that he would do everything in his power to never become ill as long as she was the ships CMO. The computer obediently followed his instructions and after a short hum, a shiny new combadge appeared in the replicator's receptacle. It was small enough to fit easily into the palm of his hand. He stared down at it for a few seconds, his face not showing the disgust he felt. Nor did it show the unease as part of him raged, urging him to pull out a phaser and melt the symbol of the Terran Empire to slag. That emblem was the embodiment of all that he loathed and all that was wrong in the universe.

The globe of Terra made up much of the badge, with a sword straight up and down behind it. The continents were laid out in ruby and emerald chips on a silver field. Reaching down, he roughly grasped the communicator and stuck it to his uniform's chest, putting it out of sight but not out of mind. The molecular adhesive on its backside bonded to his uniform soundlessly. Looking at himself in the mirror, Ulysses nearly spat on the floor. Damn the Terran Empire. Damn it to HELL he thought. Although he dared not show it outside of his personal quarters, and rarely even then, the excesses of the Empire lay like spoiled food in the pit of his stomach. He had felt that way for the longest time, for those excesses had reached out and changed his life forever.

Keeping out Cynthia Unger and her desires was only part of the reason he locked the door to his quarters though. Going to an old-fashioned bookcase, he reached into it and pulled out a well-worn volume. He had been in possession of the book since his earliest days at the academy. A cherished friend had given them to him. Walking over to his desk, he sank into the opulent, overstuffed Huvian leather chair behind it. His still sensitive skin made almost no complaint as he settled into the chair. Huvian leather was renowned across the Empire for its comfort. The novel itself was not the reason for his caution. The bookmark it contained was. Although it looked and felt like a normal bookmark, and would even stand up to modest electronic scrutiny, it was far from ordinary.

He opened the book on his desk with one hand, holding the bookmark flat on the desk with the other. Ulysses moved his fingers back and forth along it in what seemed a nervous habit. In reality it was far from it. It was actually a preprogrammed key code, one that would only activate to finger presses from a hand matching his genetic code alone. The key code finished, he commenced acting like he was reading the book. After six years of practice, he knew intuitively when he should turn the page. But his attention was not on the book at all.

They key code activated the hidden and primary function of the bookmark. The code activated a tiny transmitter in the bookmark. Using subsonic waves, it utilized the listener's own bones to amplify the sound and transmit it to his eardrums. A calm, familiar voice seemed to fill his head. Here, in these words, he found both a sense of inner peace and a reason to go on in a service he had come to despise. He listened with every fiber of his being, knowing full well that the penalty of doing so was death. A ghost of a smile crossed his impassive face. Internal Security would have to catch him doing it first. The teachings of the biggest traitor in the empire's history, one Spock of Vulcan, worked their normal magic, repairing the frayed ends of his distraught mind. They filled him with a vision of what the Empire could yet become, the Utopian paradise Spock himself had only briefly encountered. They helped quell the voice that whispered seductively in his ear for release, adding bars to its cage.

After listening to the words for close to an hour and a half, he finally felt at peace and in control again. It was a good thing to, because his bridge shift started in 15 minutes. Marking his place in the book, he returned it to its space on the shelf. Its spine read Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde. Ulysses chuckled for the billionth time at the similarity between the books main character and himself. Of course in his case, the monster needed to be on the outside for all to see, while it was the decent man who remained hidden in the shadows. Making his way to his bathroom, Ulysses stuffed his second uniform of the day into the recycler. After a quick spin in the sonic shower, he donned a fresh uniform. Looking in the mirror, he set his face into its well practiced arrogant half smile. When among animals, one had to at least look the part to avoid unwanted attention.

ISS Hopolite, main bridge, 5:00 AM ship time

As he walked on the bridge, Ulysses gave an order to the computer.

"Computer, activate program Ulysses alpha one." A chorus of groans came from the graveyard shift personnel. "Stop bellyaching and do your jobs!" His voice cracked like the taskmasters whip it was. All disagreement was silenced save for a few sulfurous looks exchanged between some of the more troublesome crew.

They had yet to grow used to their new second officers peculiar custom, and they were stumped as to what would posses him to do it. Following his instructions unquestioningly, the computer raised the lighting to nearly full brightness and dropped the temperature to a chilly 20 degrees Centigrade. The true features of the bridge came into light. Ulysses thought that this was how a bridge was supposed to look. It looked like a nerve center of a starship, not the luxurious grotto it usually was. And although the bridge crew might not like it, Ulysses had found that the lower temperature and brighter lights increased concentration and generally improved crew performance across the board. Which was probably why they bitched. They liked their warm and dark little rut, and saw no need to change it, especially for a recently promoted, excruciatingly young Lt. Cmdr.

Ulysses settled into the less comfortable chair to the right of the vacant command throne. Throne was a highly accurate word. It was one of the most comfortable seats on the entire ship, as well as being the seat of power for her master. Captain Garret McBride also guarded his seat as a king guarded his throne. Thus, Ulysses had to command his watch from one of the far less opulent chairs on either side of it. Being that the Hopolite was only a destroyer, its bridge was correspondingly cramped, with the extra command staff duty stations added in almost as an after thought.

The combination helm and tactical station was directly in front of the raised command platform. The helm controls were stuck into the center of the curved station. Taking up a third of the total length of the console on either side of the helm was dual tactical consoles. The one on the left controlled the rear and left hand side weapons emplacements. The right side controlled the front and right facing weapons. During red alert situations, the chief tactical officer and his first deputy occupied them. To the right of the small bridge were the communications and engineering stations. To the left were the science and fleet support systems. Directly to the rear of the command deck were flight ops, the bridge turbolift, and the captain's ready room door. Flight ops required a special station on an Aegean class vessel because the stretched secondary hull allowed a full wing of fighters to be stowed in her hangar deck.

The fleet support station was currently powered down and vacant because the Hopolite was currently unassigned to any fleet. If it was, and said fleet encountered an attack, Aegean class vessels were responsible for using their specialized systems in support. The main specialized system worked into the Aegean class was a system that boosted and strengthened the shields of the other vessels in the fleet. While not a pure combatant, it was still more than capable of holding its own in a fight. Her crew numbered only 150, but she also carried 100 Terran Marines and all of their gear.

With arrays of Type XII Phaser Arrays and Ball Mount Pulse Phaser Cannons, she was a formidable energy platform even though she was merely an escort and support vessel. A normal cloaking device had been installed in the Aegean class because Bu Ships felt that only certain ships warranted a phase cloak. Ablative armor generators studded her hull. Although the fact that they didn't cover her energy weapons left possible kinks in her armor some lucky enemy could possibly exploit, they still provided a formidable second line of defense to her new style regenerative shields. Instead of the old style bubble shields, the Aegean class was one of the first to boast the new conformal shields as part of her design from the keel out. These made her a significantly smaller target. Weapons actually had to come close to hitting her in order to do damage to her shields, instead of having her shields damaged by what would otherwise have been a near miss. She also boasted a fore and aft burst quantum torpedo launcher. It was capable of launching a volley of up to six torps, with each one capable of locking up a different target. And that was just HER armament. She also carried eight strike fighters.

The Cobra class Strike Fighter is the current front line fighter of the Terran Empire. What it resembled most was a diamond. The cockpit bubble was set forward, and offered considerable visibility. The dagger like nose housed one of the best sensor arrays ever fielded in a fighter. It provided information to the holo projectors in the cockpit, which in turn provided visual information to the pilot. It was armed with dual pulse phasers mounted on both sides of the forward leading edge. It also carried up to eight quantum torpedoes on internal weapons pods and four more externally, making her near equal to a Defiant in her opening volleys.

The Cobra was powered by four impulse engines mounted flush top and bottom with the rear hull. They were stacked on top of each other in pairs, two on the left, two on the right. This configuration gave the fighter phenomenal roll and pitch characteristics. The Cobra's also mounted cloaking devices and ablative armor as standard. Since the fighters systems required more power than could be generated by impulse reactors, but design philosophy dictated a non warp capable ship to save internal space for more weapons, a compromise was made. A warp core was installed for power, but no nacelles and the subsequent power trunks to them were, freeing up enough room for another four Quantums that would otherwise have been left behind.

This powerful package was now gliding slowly in system on 1/4 impulse, roughly 19 PSL. The Hopolite could have made the trip to its destination in mere seconds via slipstream, but the captain needed his beauty sleep, and no one dared call him on it. As such, it was going to take five hours to reach the target. Which meant that all Ulysses had to do was sit and do practically nothing for the next five hours. Nearly any other officer would have jumped at the chance to slack off like that, but Ulysses chafed at having nothing useful to do with his time. The captain knew this and had done it deliberately to further punish him, of this Ulysses was sure. Now if only he knew why he had become the captains whipping boy. Surely it couldn’t be that he was an ex-Drone, could it? That would be highly irrational and just plain stupid… which the more he thought about it meant that it was exactly something McBride would do.

"Miss Petel," he said to the watch's Vulcan science officer, "do you have anything unusual on sensors?"

"Nothing significant to report sir." She replied with the usual even, superior tone of a Vulcan. "Just a fairly large concentration of debris and large constructs further in system. Sensors are not 100% accurate at this range, but it appears to be Borg in origin. It's also right where the brief said our target should be."

She had every right to act superior. It wasn't every day that a species was able to fight the Terran Empire to a standstill. As such, the Vulcans had been brought in as equal partners in the Empire's hierarchy.

"Well, it seems that Fleet Intel got something right for a change." Ulysses snorted. It even got a laugh out of the normally irritable bridge crew

"So it would seem." She said deadpan, but Ulysses could have sworn he had seen a hint of a grin play at the corners of her normally inscrutable features.

Fleet Intelligence had proven just how terribly fallible it could be when Operation Clean Sweep started. Intel had said that the conquest of Borg space would be a cakewalk. If only that was the case.

Oh sure, the opening stages went exceptionally well. Cube after cube, system after system was scoured clean of all things Borg. It was almost laughable. When you destroyed a small Borg fleet, they just sent a bigger one after you. And every time it was in a headlong rush towards your biggest concentration of ships. And every time, the Borg were beaten back with only minimal Imperial casualties. Fleet Intelligence had been scouting the Borg for years in cloaked ships. They had also spent years on designing ways and technology to eliminate the Borg threat. Having developed a way to jam the Borg's link to their collective, and created weapons that would be effective against them, the conquest of Borg space began. Low and behold the weapons worked, and the Borg were just as tactically inept as Intel had prophesied. And everything had been wonderful.

Then the Borg adapted. After loosing over 3/4 of their space, they launched a major counter assault with nearly everything they had left. And Starfleet thought that this one would end like all the others. But it didn't. When the massive fleets came together, many of Starfleet's weapons did only minor damage, and the Borg found ways to partially defeat Starfleet's auto-remodulating shielding. What had been a cakewalk became an orgy of mutual slaughter. Things degenerated into a war of attrition from then on. It was only a stroke of luck and after three years of horrendous fighting that the Terran Empire managed to gain the final victory. Yet that final victory had cost nearly every Imperial vessel and those who crewed them from two quadrants of the galaxy. The death toll ran into the hundreds of billions. Even with the acquired Borg tech, Fleet strength was still only up to 1/2 prewar strength. With the false promises of another easy campaign still fresh in the minds of many, Fleet Intel had gotten a nasty purple shiner that it wasn't going to lose for a long time.

"Let me know immediately if anything odd pops up."

"Of course sir." The words were harmless enough, but the tone said much more. The snide undercurrent was unmistakable. What she really said was 'Not only am I considerably smarter than you, I have been a Starfleet officer since you were still sh!tting in your drawers! So don't presume to remind me how to do my job!

The tactical officers and the helmsman exchanged knowing grins. Lt. P’tel had verbally gutted them before too, and it was considerably more enjoyable to see it done to someone else. Someone else who caused them annoyance. Especially someone else who was higher in rank and thus could have them stuck in the Agonizer if they talked back.

Time ticked slowly away, each second bringing the Hopolite that much closer to the Borg facility. Ulysses resisted the growing urge to sleep. He had been awake for over 20 hours now, and that combined with his recent introduction to the ships Agonizer was beginning to catch up with him. Then it hit him. Captain McBride was trying to force him to screw up. That way, he would have an excuse to liquidate him. But Ulysses still had no clue why the captain was out to get him. The captain had been like this since he came on board. It couldn’t be as simple as misdirected revenge, it just couldn’t.

And while the captain might be a sadist and a cold, calculating SOB, one thing he was not was irrational. He had to have a reason behind his hate. Ulysses watch chimed, alerting him that it was nearly time to go off shift. And also time to change the climate controls. The captain positively despised coming onto a cold, brightly lit bridge.

"Computer, deactivate program Ulysses alpha one."

"Complying" came the gravely, tough voice. The lighting dimmed to its usual twilight level, and within seconds the temperature rose to the normal 32 degrees. The crew sighed as conditions returned to their accustomed norm. Ulysses thought they did it just to get back at him, but said nothing. By now, the shattered Borg complex filled the view screen.

"Whatever happened here, the Borg definitely got the short end of the stick."

"That's why we are here sir. We are to investigate just what happened to this outpost. In 23 hours 5 minutes, 45th fleet should be here to provide backup. We were only sent here first because we were the closest ship."

Ulysses almost spat out an angry retort that he already knew that, but he reigned it in at the last second. Then he remembered being on the opposite end of such a conversation hours before. Swallowing his anger by sheer force of will, he only nodded to Lt. P’tel. She nearly grinned in the dim light, having noticed that her barb had found its mark. Maybe next time, Mr. 2nd Officer would remember to whom he was talking to. When one had served as long as P’tel had, one learned the subtle art of irritating those that irritated you but were higher up on the local totem pole. Both settled in to wait the always punctual Captain McBride's arrival.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:14pm

CHAPTER 3

ISS Hopolite, Bridge, 10:00 AM ships time, entering standard orbit of Borg research facility A875 34B9-001

The turbolift doors opened to admit the Hopolite's master. His crimson cloak edged in silver and held in place by brilliantly polished silver clasps said as much. No one else on the ship was allowed such ornamentation. Captain McBride strode with his usual swagger and arrogant smirk, his command cloak billowing behind him. He settled into a comfortable slouch in his overstuffed command chair with a sigh of contentment. The next watch came seconds later, not daring to presume to ride in the same turbolift as their captain. He tended to frown on such things.

Ulysses stood to follow the rest of the graveyard shift, wanting to get out of McBride's presence as soon as possible. He almost made it. McBride’s dammed smooth, resonant voice called to him just as he was about to enter the lift.

"Just a minute Lt. Cmdr. I want you to beam over to the Borg station immediately. That was the reason you were assigned to my ship. Your knowledge of Borg systems is the only reason I tolerated your addition to her."

Although his pillow was calling powerfully to him, there was nothing he could do. Sighing to himself, Ulysses turned back to the center of the bridge.

"Of course sir. Do you have any suggestions as to which of the crew I should take along with me?" That had the dual plusses of allowing McBride to feel like he was in control and to deflect any anger over being selected for the away mission off of him and onto the despised captain.

"I thought I made myself clear! Very well then, I'll spell it out for your feeble mind. You are to go alone. I expect the station to be active before the 45th Fleet gets here." McBride snarled. Ulysses just stood there with a dumbfounded expression on his face. No way, not even McBride was that sadistic. But he was. "Tic Toc Lt. Cmdr.! Time is wasting!" And the smile that accompanied those words would have scared even an Aldeberan serpent. Ulysses braced to attention.

"Sir, yes SIR!! Anything the Captain wants SIR!!" The sad part was that he really was the best member of the crew to do the job, having been specifically attached to the Hopolite when it shipped out from Starbase 709 just for his expertise in Borg power and data systems. As such, he had no reason that would allow him to complain without sending him back to the Agonizer. And as tempting as that alternative was right now, just to spite the Captain’s whishes, Ulysses just couldn't bring himself to do it. The memories of his last visit were still far to fresh to allow for a repeat visit. So he turned and stormed into the turbolift. His sulfurous visage was enough to make the rest of the shift wait for an empty car. Despite being on the Captain’s personal shit list, he was still a pissed off senior officer. And pissed off senior officers had a tendency to do very bad things to subordinates who pissed them off even more. The doors closed and Ulysses was alone in the lift car. "Three bags full SIR!"

Borg research station A875 34B9-001, 10:15 AM

The transporter whined as a single humanoid beamed into the middle of the thrashed hallway. Or would have wined but didn't because all atmosphere had left the station long ago. The polished obsidian of Ulysses Vanguard's environmental suit reflected the stars showing through the ragged whole at one end of the hall where the station abruptly ceased. Every surface in the hall was covered in a fine frost where the water vapor in the air had frozen when exposed to the eternal chill of space. But the stars were not the only things that reflected off of the polished surface of Ulysses enviro suit. A true testament to the durability of Borg structures, both internal lighting and displays were still mostly online though often flickering fitfully, casting their sickly greenish yellow glow into the hallway. The shadows their light formed looked like medieval demons, come to snatch up the souls of any whom dared trespass on their damned ground. The shadows cast by the lights on either side of Ulysses helmet were little better.

Just being on this station was bringing back very bad memories. Ulysses knew that his fear was irrational. The Borg on this station had been dead for at least five years according to the Borg database. The scans done by the Hopolite proved that conclusively. Come on man, Ulysses thought to himself, there is nothing to fear here anymore. Yet the hair on the back of his neck refused to drop. His brown eyes dilated and his pulse began to race as the surfacing memories triggered his instinctive fight or flight response. Almost of its own volition, Ulysses gauntleted right hand went across and started rubbing the back of the left. Even through the suit's layers of insulation, he could feel the raised mechanical exoskeleton lying beneath. It was similar in style to the metallic docking mechanism for an ocular implant that remained above his regenerated right eye and the fan shape implant that remained near his left earlobe. He had been a drone for to long to successfully remove all of the Borg implants from his body, and so they remained, permanent reminders of his time ruled by the Collective. The biological and machine parts were to integrated and interdependent by the time he was rescued from the Collective for total removal of them. Like so many others, despite the fact that he was an individual again, he would forever carry the signs of his time as a Drone. They would be a constant reminder of the terror and violations he had been forced to endure before he was finally freed.

Despite his desperate attempts to keep them suppressed, Ulysses memories of his assimilation and subsequent time as a Drone flooded his mind. The battle that went horribly wrong, the running firefight down the Galaxy's halls in a desperate bid to escape the inevitable. Drone after drone fell, cut down by the energy of his and others phaser rifles. And then the phasers didn't work anymore, their bolts hitting shields erected to keep them from killing the targeted Drones. He could still feel the assimilation tubules pierce his neck. Still feel the microscopic mechanical parasites they delivered coursing into his body. Then he was Borg.

The unity of purpose, the billions upon billions of voices in his head all saying the same thing in lock step came first in a small trickle, then as a raging torrent pushing everything Ulysses Vanguard had been before it, washing it away and filling the void with itself instead. Then came the gross violations of his person as mechanical 'enhancements' were added to his body. And the whole time he could do absolutely nothing about it. He was a spectator, watching something else control his actions and thoughts like the ultimate puppeteer. Oh he fought the inexorable force, screamed and raged against it, even cried and begged it to stop. It paid not one iota of attention to him, using the husk of his body for its own purposes and locking his personality and individuality away where it sat caged and powerless.

And then, after what seemed like a long, long time, the voices, the unity, the puppet controlling strings all stopped abruptly. He was an individual again. The sheer joy of that caused him to break down and cry like a newborn babe. That was the state the Imperial Marine boarding party found him in, sobbing uncontrollably on the catwalk like deck of the Cube with his arms wrapped around his knees. If Starfleet hadn't been so desperate for trained crew, they probably would have never allowed him to put the uniform back on for a good few years. And even then they would have gone over him with every scanner, biological and mechanical both, numerous times to ensure he wouldn’t break down again. But fortunately for Ulysses, the Empire literally begged him to come back to the service. With the massive casualties brought by the later stages of the war, Starfleet needed every able bodied person it could get. Even ones who were ex Drones.

The dark abyss was clawing at his ankles, threatening to pull him under. Just as Captain McBride had hoped it would. MC BRIDE!! That thought brought him back from the brink. His rage, an ever-present knot of fire in his soul, welled up like it constantly tried to do. A snarl started deep in his throat. Popping the lid to his kit, he reached in and pulled out an interphasic coil spanner. He would do his job despite his fear. He would do any task in the entire universe in fact. Just as long as completing it gave him just ONE chance to even the score with that bastard Garret McBride!

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:15pm

CHAPTER 4

Borg Research Center A875 34B9-001, 11:28 PM

Ulysses continued to toil in the bowels of the Borg station. Over the long hours, his rage had settled down from a white-hot firestorm to a slowly smoldering fire deep in the pit of his stomach. He had also modified his original plans. Instead of challenging McBride the instant he got back, he would attack when the time was right, when he was in better condition and not nearly falling over from lack of sleep. He set his tool carefully back into his repair kit. With a final grunt of satisfaction, he made his way over to a control panel, his fatigued frame leaning against the wall for support. As quickly as his exhaustion-hazed brain would allow, Ulysses punching a specific sequence, he was rewarded with all lighting and controls in the central room coming fully online. Hull breaches were sealed with emergency force fields and internal atmosphere was brought up to normal levels. Ulysses yawned as he consulted his tricorder. They indicated an atmosphere that was holding steady at two kilopascals above Terran normal, so there were no unstopped leaks. They also indicated that while gag inducing, the atmosphere was breathable. With those results checked and double checked just to be sure he hadn’t misread them the first time through, Ulysses cracked the seal of his suit helmet, lifting it off and attaching it to the rack on the front of his space suit.

The foul tasting mixture hit him like a slap to the face with its higher concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide. Ulysses made a face, but forced the rising bile in his throat to subside. He consulted his tricorder again, this time shifting the readout to a different set of easily measured phenomena. The humidity and heat were high, hitting 92% and 39.1 degrees Celsius respectively. Everything looked right on line for normal Borg constructs atmospheric conditions. Ulysses allowed himself a tired smile. Now that the enviro controls are working properly, it's time to modify them to Terran standard. Another sequence of commands was entered into the control panel. It beeped sourly and the lighting dimmed fractionally for a second. Ulysses thumped the panel and the lighting went back to normal. Humidity levels quickly dropped, as did the temperature. The air also became sweeter as the methane and CO2 were replaced with increased ratios of oxygen and nitrogen. That’s better, Ulysses old boy, he thought to himself. Now cross your fingers and pray that you fixed main power as well as well as the enviro controls and the auxiliary reactors.

Punching in a final series of commands, he was rewarded with an increasing whine that eventually subsided into a subsonic rumble more felt than heard. From the Hopolite, it looked like a sleeping giant had awoke from slumber. The slow tumble of the research center gradually stopped as its station-keeping thrusters came online. The surviving portions of the center came on line, ominous and foreboding as their internal light shone through the greenish gray latticework of conduits and passageways enclosing them. It was hard to believe that something that looked so fragile could absorb so much punishment and still be functional. His job finished, an extremely tired Ulysses stretched and yawned at the same time. Then he tapped his communicator.

"Ulysses to Hopolite, mission complete. One to beam up." Within seconds, he felt the familiar tingle as the transporter began disassembling him at the molecular level. Soon he would be back on the Hopolite, soon he could sleep, and soon afterward he could extract his revenge.

The surveillance cruiser hid under stealth, keeping the new arrival at the very edge of its passive sensor's reach. It had noted the appearance of the alien vessel in the system over ten hours ago. The new ship could only be of another new species. The design of their ship was significantly different from both the ships and structures of the other species encountered in this system. They, unlike those initially encountered, did not seem to posses the massive and powerful cubic ships that the others had. This new species, if the single vessel seen was any indication of the norm, built their vessels to as different a style from those know as those whom flew in the cube shaped ships. Both styles of ship were radically different than those encountered by the race before. All known previously had flown in ships at least similar in form to that of their own. Yet these species flew in ships totally different, much like the space that surrounded the surveillance cruiser. It to was totally different than anything the Race had known before. The new alien ship must have entered through a closed warp point in the outer system. The picket cruiser's standing orders were to observe and report, not to engage the enemy. But those orders had been issued before the only known warp point of the system had destabilized and closed itself.

It had ceased to exist not that long after the battle line left back to friendly space through it, leaving the lone cruiser to act as a tripwire. It was to remain on station until an exploratory mission could be mounted to plot the newly conquered systems warp points. But the collapse of the warp point and the subsequent lack of any friendly vessel's return to the system meant that the cruiser could not report its findings to a higher authority. The cruiser had initially tried to find either another warp point on its own. None had been located, despite a thorough search. Finding no new warp points, the cruiser had tried to find a way to fix the original one. But being that there was no known reason for, nor any record of, a warp point collapsing, no success was found in that plan either. So reverted to its standing orders and waited and watched. And for the longest time, there was nothing to watch but the drifting debris cloud of the enemy station. But now a single ship of about destroyer size had entered the system. The event had been logged and now the cruiser watched its actions, recording them for possible use.


ISS Hopolite, Deck 2, outside Captain's quarters, 8:00AM ship time, ETA till 24th Fleet's arrival: 11 hours

Ulysses stalked towards the lair of his enemy. He had slept the sleep of an exhausted man. His dreams had not given him another solution to the problem he faced. The time was ripe to end this, however distasteful the method was. His hand dropped to finger the dagger in its hilt on his left hip. He let slip the rage inside him, harnessing its power towards his aims as best he could. It had not abated a bit from the white-hot rage that had gripped him on the Borg complex, nor had he expected it to. It and he were well used to each other by now, yet he refused to let it dictate his actions. It would do him no good if he lost himself in his anger, for he had done so before finding the Teachings of Spock and it hadn’t done him any good. A man enraged was liable to make mistakes, as a young Ulysses had discovered. With an enemy as cunning as Garret McBride, mistakes could easily cost him his life. But by holding a tight rein on his rage, he made it a tool to be called upon at need. He was its master, choosing when and how it manifested itself. He would use every tool at his disposal if they helped him win the coming duel with McBride. And still a small part of him cried out that taking the path he was went against all he believed in.

Ulysses could only unfortunately agree with that, but these were the cards he had been dealt. He had found no way out of the situation, despite searching nearly continuously since he had been transferred to the Hopolite. When he had first met the captain, his automatic and irrational anger towards him had narrowed his possible paths considerably. Of the few that remained, he had exhausted them one by one. None had yielded success. That left him with only one remaining option. It was the most abhorrent, the most against what he had strived so long to become, and thus Ulysses had left it till the very end. Now he had no other choices. McBride had backed him into a corner, and the rage inside of him wouldn’t let him sit and continue to take the abuse any more. Ulysses had been forced into a situation where the only outcome was death, and he was determined that it wouldn't be his.

A century earlier, the fastest ticket to promotion had been to assassinate your superior and claim his post as your own. But the Imperial Council had seen that this way lead to inexperienced junior officers in command of their warships when the time came to make war. These officers most often lacked the abilities of those they assassinated. This caused conflicts and rebellion suppression to last longer and cost more in both human and mechanical terms than would have been the case. So the council set about to find a way to still have the safety valve of assassination was in place, but to limit it so that when time came for action, most of the war fleet had experienced and capable officers in command.

Under the rules they eventually laid down, assassination was all but outlawed. Only senior officers could ascend to command by killing the captain. And even then, only in a fair duel within normalized boundaries was it to be considered. This allowed for experienced commanders to remain in command relatively securely, without spending most of their time watching their own back. It was a good plan from that respect. Combat records of the fleet as a whole took a massive jump as seasoned officers were at most of their helms from then on. But from Ulysses point of view, it made his job considerably harder.

Finally, he was in front of the door. He forcefully pressed and held the admittance chime. He longed to exercise the more physical means of announcement of pounding on the door. But interior doors and bulkheads on a modern starship were solidly built. He could pound for hours, and no sound would penetrate into McBride's sleeping ears. So he was forced to settle for abusing the door's buttons. After a few seconds, the highly pissed off voice of Captain McBride assaulted his ears.

"Whoever the hell is pestering me at this hour is gonna wish they were dead!" The sentence came out like a growl, meant to intimidate lesser men into submission.

"Captain Garret McBride, I formally challenge you for the right to command this ship." Despite the butterflies in his belly, Ulysses got the sentence out in an even tone. Silence reigned in the hall for what seemed like an eternity.

"So, its you…" The growl was still there, along with something akin to eager anticipation. "I didn't think you would have the balls to try something like this. Not that I care mind you. It gives me a legal reason to kill you myself. That is infinitely preferable to having you killed by other means. I shall be out directly."

In less than a minute, McBride entered the hall in full uniform. The two combatants stepped into the middle of the hall. Facing each other with mirror image masks of hate, they stood with feet spread and within striking distance of each other.

"Your challenge is accepted Lieutenant Commander Ulysses Vanguard." This was merely perfunctory. Accepting a challenge with anything else was a capital offence, and as such was punishable by immediate execution. Thus even those commanders fearful of losing had no choice but to take their chances in combat.

Both drew their daggers from their sheaths, the metal making a rasping sound as it was drawn past leather. Even in the low light of the hall, the polished metal of the blades reflected the lighting like mirrors. At the same time, both pulled the edge of their blades across their left palm, drawing a trickle of blood as each closed their hand into a fist around the wound.

Then both turned their attention on each other again. Ulysses waited, searching for the slightest hint of when the first attack would come. He could tell that McBride was used to overeager or desperate opponents, ones who always tried to strike first. The fact that Ulysses merely stood there, dagger at the ready, waiting, unnerved McBride. Second after second ticked by, with neither man so much as twitching. Ulysses could feel the neuro toxin that coated the daggers blade begin to take hold, sending a slow numbing creeping up his left arm. The same thing was happening to McBride. Ulysses could tell that by the way his left arm hung limply from his shoulder down. If he didn't take action soon, he would be unable to. Once the toxin reached the heart, it stopped beating.

That was the reason for use of the poison. If neither combatant took action, the poison would kill them both. The antidote was in a hypo spray mounted in the pommel of the dagger. No one had ever dared to go for it until after a challenge was ended though. Taking the time to open the pommel left you wide open to attack if your opponent was still alive.

Finally, after what seemed like hours but was only a mere eleven seconds, Ulysses saw it in McBride's eyes. That decision to take action, that predatory instinct to attack awakening, to both initiate and finish the duel. Nearly in unison, both combatants charged towards each other. Their headlong rush brought them careening into each other, the short distance between them closing in a heartbeat. A look that was a mixture of utter surprise and terror spread across Ulysses features.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:16pm

CHAPTER 5

ISS Hopolite, Deck 2, Outside Captain's quarters, 8:01AM

Ulysses looked down and saw for the first time the carnage the short battle had wrought. He sucked breath through clenched teeth in shock and was rewarded with a fresh stab of pain from his ribcage. The influx of breath wasn't the only sound. With it came a wet rasping sound as a mixture of blood and air flowed around the dagger sticking out of the left of his chest. He again looked at McBride, expecting to see his gloating eyes staring back at him.

Instead he saw ones that were confused, and growing more so by the minute. Ulysses couldn't for the life of him figure out why that should be. After all, HE was the one with a dagger lodged deeply into his chest, he was the one about to die, so why was McBride confused? The neuro toxin was beginning to affect Ulysses’ mind, making it sluggish. Why? Why was McBride confused? Part of his mind coldly analyzed his situation, despite the rising veil of fog falling upon his cognitive functions. If McBride wasn't going to kill him quickly, at least the poison coursing through his system would bring death soon. Now why was his right hand wet? His mind worked slowly, like it was moving through taffy. His hand wasn't supposed to be wet. He looked down again, and got an even bigger shock than seeing the knife still lodged in his ribcage.

His hand was gripping his dagger's handle so hard his knuckles were white. Or would have been white if he could still see the skin of his hand. A crimson liquid was flowing over his hand, hiding the skin from view. His mind finally made the connection. McBride's blood! His hand was being covered by McBride's blood! It was coming out in a stream as steady as a metronome. In the eye blink of time when both Ulysses and McBride had clashed, both had scored a blow on their opponent. It just happened by pure blind luck that Ulysses' blow had pierced McBride's cold black heart. He looked into Garret McBride's eyes and saw consciousness fading from them, saw them loose focus and eventually fix on a point in space, never to see again.

With what was almost a sigh, Garret McBride's legs lost their ability to support him, and he slowly collapsed to the ground. Ulysses just stood there, casting a very macabre figure with his face deathly pale, left arm lifeless from the shoulder down, right arm still clutching his knife with blood coating everything up to the elbow, and a dagger jutting out of his chest. The sheer revulsion of what he had done came crashing down on Ulysses. What have I done? DEAR GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE!?! An animal cry of anguish came from Ulysses vocal cords even as a howl of victory rose up from the demons in his soul that had taken over his actions despite his best efforts to keep then under control. He fell to his knees in front of the man he had slain. His tears began to fall, his body wracked by violent sobs, and the spasms of pain they caused when they jolted the blade lodged in his lung. As his respiration increased, so did the wet rasping sound coming from his wound. Ulysses brain, stupefied by drugs, horror and regret, kept trying to tell him he was forgetting to do something. Yet all he could see was the blood on his hands. He turned to the side and vomited. That proved too much for his tortured body. Almost mercifully he passed out, falling backward, the fine metalwork on the handle of the dagger shining brightly as it stood straight up, perpendicular to his chest. Just like a tombstone.

Borg Research Center A875 34B9-001, 8:02 AM

The engineering team had worked through the night, and finally had fruits to show for their efforts. The Hopolite's Chief Engineer, Cmdr Clay Heidberg stared down at the nearly completed job, his gray eyes nearly glowing with satisfaction. Of the entire team working to bring the ex Borg facility fully back online, only he knew what the facility's purpose had been when it was operational. But the other engineers on the Hopolite's staff were a pretty sharp bunch. They had nearly figured out the base's purpose all on there own, just by trying to put it back together. They would have been done a lot sooner if it hadn't been for that Asshole McBride making Lt. Cmdr. Vanguard bring the station’s main systems online by himself. Granted, he was the only ex drone on the Hopolite, and as such most familiar with Borg technology. But even a single set of extra hands would have done the job in less than half the time it had taken the Second Officer working alone.

This station had taken a heck of a beating from something, Clay thought, and that something had to be either really powerful or highly exotic to do this to the Borg.
Surprisingly, the actual damage to the systems vital to the research project had been relatively light. It had taken considerably less time than originally projected to bring the station fully online and capable of initiating its primary purpose. 24th Fleet would be in for a surprise when it showed up in about 11 hours. They were expecting a dead station. What they were getting was one ready and rearing to go.

What had been a Borg control console had been ripped out and was laying off in a corner. An Imperial one was just being put in its place. It would simplify matters when it finally became time to activate the project. Four crewmen were manhandling the table-sized console into position when one of them let it slip. It fell down and smashed the toe of his boot with predictable results.

"Stop your wailing Higgins!” Heidberg ordered the squealing engineering officer. “If you weren't such a klutz, you would have nothing to cry about."

"Damn it Cmdr, but this things heavy!" Higgins whined. "Can't we use the anti grav hauler to position it?"

"If you had paid attention at the briefing instead of checking out the female engineers, you wouldn't ask such a dumb question." A few of the more attentive engineers chuckled and cast grins at each other. Clay sighed inside. "Remember, I said that AG fields would adversely affect the power distribution nodes in this room? And by adversely I mean that it would start a chain reaction in the station's power grid that would fry every EPS relay on the station! If you want to explain the cause of that little doozy to the captain, go ahead. Just be sure to let someone know what you want said at your eulogy."

Higgins had always been a troublemaker, picking fights with crewmen for no reason, slacking off when he thought he could get away with it. And if it wasn't for the fact that he was one of the best young engineers he had encountered in recent years, Clay would have sent him packing long ago. But that was only the official reason that Higgins was still on the Hopolite. Captain McBride had heard that he was a burr under many people's saddles. And since the Captain loved to play the crew against each other, he had made one Ensign Oliver Higgins his golden boy.

Clay could only shake his head. The sick little games that Captain McBride loved to play were just plain dumb. If he ever had to go into an actual battle with the Hopolite, he would be going in with a seriously flawed weapon. And it would be entirely his fault when it blew up in his face. Of course if that happened, it also blew up in the rest of the crew's face as well. Most of them knew this and tried to avoid the games the captain played and get along with each other as much as possible. Yet some, like Ensign Higgins, took every chance they could get away with to belittle and aggravate their fellow shipmates.

Despite being the Captains favorite, even Higgins knew that he would be skinned alive by him for frying the stations EPS system, so he clamed up and went back to helping move the bulky, heavy console into position. Once it was pretty much centered, another tech came up and made the connections from the console to the system, connecting leads and power cables to the appropriate jacks in the front of the console’s base. As power was fed into it , the console blinked to life, its formerly featureless black surface giving way to pastel controls and readouts of a standard Imperial LCARS display. Clay looked at the telltales and grinned.

"Well it looks like you mangy excuses for engineers can do something right after all!" To a man, the team members grinned back. It was tough to get a compliment out of Cmdr. Heidberg, but when you did, it was as sincere as they came. Clay touched his combadge. "Heidberg to Hopolite. Tell the captain that we have the station at full readiness. We can initiate the experiment at any time."

"Understood Cmdr. Heidberg. Let us know when your team is ready to depart." A velvety female voice replied.

"Can do Hopolite. Heidberg out."

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:17pm

CHAPTER 6

Former Klingon Space, Alpha Quadrant, That Same Time

Cerulean blue nebula gasses swirled off of the tiny speeding ship's wings, creating spiral vortices in its wake. Despite its best efforts, the fleet K'Vort class vessel was steadily loosing ground to its pursuers. Its ancient impulse drive, while fleet of foot, just couldn't overcome the advanced design and sheer brute strength of its enemies STL drives. It was a loosing battle, yet it still drove headlong deeper into the nebula. The two Defiant class ships and single Steamrunner class ship chasing it knew that they would eventually force the raider to turn and fight. And then they could kill it and return to base. They had been chasing the ancient Klingon rust bucket for almost six hours, and the pursuit had become tedious. The range finally closed enough to open fire, and pulse phasers lashed out at their cornered quarry.

The ship rocked as a full barrage of pulse phaser shots hit its stern, causing the shields to crackle with dissipated energy. The battered impulse drive housing could take no more and started venting sickly orange plasma. Pursuing Imperial warships, like sharks homing in on blood in the water, closed in for the kill.

IKV Bo'Par, Main Bridge

The tactical officer smashed his fists on his panel in frustration as the small vessel was jostled by another volley of phasers impacting his rear shields. In an angered voice he snarled, "Rear shields down to 20% sir! One more volley like that and they will be gone! The impulse engines are leaking drive plasma. We can only maintain current speed for another minute at most before they burn out completely!" He silently cursed the long dead engineer who had designed the K'Vort class with virtually no rear firing arch. But then he wasn't really that big of a ship, relying more on his speed and maneuverability to bring his weapons to bear than wide angle firing archs. He wasn't made to run from a fight, yet that was exactly what he had been ordered to do.

"Remain steady on course. Divert emergency power to rear shields." The powerful, yet feminine voice of the ship's mistress cut through the wail of the battle stations klaxon. Luza smiled a toothy smile at her ships view screen. It showed the three ominous charcoal gray silhouettes of the Imperial vessels closing on her small command from behind.

That's right you sniveling pahtks! Keep following me. Just a little further and the hunter shall become the prey and you will be gutted like that targ we had for dinner! The ship shook again, and fresh damage exploded on the bridge. Acrid smoke began to stream from a busted conduit overhead and the communications console exploded in a shower of sparks. Bits of molten control panel and razor sharp shards of displays flew into the com officers face and the arms he had thrown up to cover it. To his credit, he didn't scream. Instead he merely staggered off of the bridge towards Sick Bay.

"Rear shields down sir! Hull integrity is failing in compartments A4 to A8!"

"Range to the rendezvous!" She barked to her tactical officer.

"100 kellicams! We will reach the rendezvous in five, four, three, two, one…"

Luza laughed heartily and brought her fist into the open palm of her left hand. The pursuing Imperials were as good as dead and they didn't even know it. "Bring us about, target the lead Defiant and fire all weapons!" The entire bridge crew growled hungrily. They were true warriors, and as such they detested running away from a fight. Now it was time to turn the tables on the Imperial scum. The Bo'Par had been bait in a well thought out trap, but they were bait no longer.

The battered ship flew through an arbitrary point in the nebula. Finally it turned its shredded rear shields away from the enemy, bringing its still fully charged and more powerful forward shields and its own weapons to bear at last.

Negh'Var class IKV Sword of Kahless, Main Bridge

General Worf turned to the only non-Klingon on his flagship's bridge. His eyes fastened on the inscrutable being that stood with easy grace, its features hidden behind its helmet and breath mask.

"Your new wonder weapon had better work!"

The being merely turned and stared at him with hidden eyes, neither saying or doing anything. Worf would have loved to wage the silent battle of wills with his new ally, but there wasn't time for such things just now. Spitting on the floor he turned to his communications officer.

"Orders to the fleet, decloak and attack! Great songs will be sung of this day! For the glory of the empire and of Kahless, VICTORY!" Behind him, the environmental suit cloaked being turned his attention back to the view screen.

Steamrunner class ISS Gnasher, Main Bridge

Captain Giles smiled a tight smile. So the terrorist raider had finally decided to turn and fight. This was good because the chase had lasted much longer than it should have. His lean frame leaned forward in his chair, hinting at his eagerness. He spoke without taking his eyes off of the rapidly growing frigate on the view screen. It spat dual streams of green disruptor bolts at the Gnasher’s escorting Defiant’s, causing its shields to shimmer as they absorbed and redirected the energy away from the hull.

"Target that trash hauler and wipe it…"

"Sir, multiple ships decloaking all around us!" His tactical officer interrupted with growing panic. Captain Giles' head whipped around to the tactical station to his right. He saw the raw terror on the officer’s face and instantly knew that the small ship had merely been bait. Bait to lure his ships into an ambush. He leapt out of his chair and bolted towards the helm station, as if that would make his commands happen faster.

"Helm, hard about! HARD ABOUT!!"

He knew that he was hovering over his helmsman like a worried mother, but for once in his life thoughts on appearances were the last thing on his mind. And as he watched the view screen with morbid fascination, he knew that it was already far to late. First, small ships, much like the pursued K'Vort appeared, then more massive ships began to appear. Their profile was unlike any ships he had ever seen, and they were on par size wise with a Sovereign class. Their blade like curves and talon like weapon emplacements made them look more like raptors than starships. Ship after ship of dark green, emerald green, even sand color appeared on the viewer.

With those ships slightly smaller ones appeared, the metallic look yet organic in nature gray of their hulls gleamed dully in the light of the nebula. Their silhouette made them seem lopsided, not possessing the customary symmetry of a starship. It was from these vessels that the attack came from. Blue white bolts of energy spewed from them, hitting the trio of Imperial vessels with at least two shots each. And when those shots hit home, all energy coming from the Imperials abruptly dropped off completely. Without power for their impulse drive, the three ships that had been in the process of a hard 180-degree turn continued to spin out of control. They were adrift, lacking even power for station keeping thrusters to right their tumble.

IKV Sword of Kahless, Main Bridge

There were cheers all around the bridge. The Breen officer turned again to stare at General Worf. Feeling the beings eyes on him, even though they were hidden behind his environmental suit’s helmet, he turned to regard him again. In spite of the beings face mask, Worf could tell that he was sending an I Told You So look to him.

"Your new weapon does indeed work as you have said. On behalf of the Alliance, I give you our thanks and extend to your people our full partnership."

The Breen said nothing for a second, then nodded at Worf. Not much of a talker are you Worf thought. Oh well, since your weapons work, I suppose you are of some value to the Alliance.

"Orders to the fleet, deploy boarding parties!"

ISS Gnasher, Main Bridge

Now they will attack us, and we are dead Captain Giles thought. But they didn't attack. And seconds later, he knew the reason. The wine of a transporter beam cut the sudden silence that had gripped the bridge. The wine died but was replaced by a blood curdling war cry. Giles was still in the process of drawing his phaser, spinning to face his target, when the first disrupter bolts cut him down. As he fell, his vision tunnelling to darkness, he saw the rest of the bridge crew being hit and slumping across their consoles or down to the deck. The last thing his eyes saw before the black claimed him was the bony brow ridges of a Klingon warrior above the brownish red disrupter pistol pointed at his head.

The Klingon boarder surveyed the bridge, letting out a satisfied grunt of approval. His team had done an excellent job. Only a few shots had missed and done merely aesthetic damage to the bulkheads. He reached to his utility belt and pulled out his communicator.

"Major Kurn to General Worf. I am pleased to report that all resistance on the Steamrunner's bridge has been eliminated."

"Excellent brother! Let me know when the rest of the ship is secure. Once it and the other two are taken, we will repair their cloaking devices and tow them to the nearest Alliance shipyard."

"Understood, Kurn out." He turned to the rest of his assault team. "Well, what are you standing around for? You heard him, we have the rest of the ship to take. The one with the most kills gets a full case of your favorite drink when we return to the ship." The wager had the desired effect. Shouting their war cry, the mix of Klingon, Cardassian, and Romulan boarders charged towards the bridges turbolift doors. Each had dreams of an entire case of Blood Wine, Romulan Ale or Kanar filling their heads.

IKV Bo'Par, Main Bridge

"Sir, we are receiving a transmission from General Worf."

"On screen!"

"Well done Captain Luza! It is due to the glorious actions of you and your crew that we now have three front line Imperial vessels to study. And once we have their secrets, they will make fine additions to the fleet."

"I thank you on behalf of my crew General. But they are warriors, and chafe at having to capture Imperial vessels. They and I both would be much happier if we could actively engage them in true ship to ship combat!"

"I understand their feelings, they are ones I myself share. But the time is not yet right for the Great Alliance to strike boldly. Soon though Captain, we shall be free to smash any Imperial vessel that would dare stand in our path! Soon we shall strike a mighty blow for our people, and the mighty" his words literally dripped with sarcasm, "Terran Empire will be powerless to stop us!"

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:18pm

CHAPTER 7

ISS Hopolite, Deck Two, 8:02 AM Ships Time

Lieutenant P’tel was on her way to the mess hall for breakfast. She nearly lost her appetite as she approached the first corner. What was that awful smell? The hallway fairly reeked of a mixture of distasteful odors. Still walking, preoccupied with the stench, she tripped and fell over something blocking her path. Some maintenance tech is gonna get a new a$$ hole for leaving his shi* in the middle of the hall she thought as she brought her smarting ankle up to survey the damage. And as she looked at her sore ankle, it was then that she noticed that it wasn't a tool kit at all that had caused her to fall. A pair of legs laid at odd angles to each other. P’tel frowned, those shouldn't be there she thought. Her scowling eyes followed the legs up to see the owner to which they belonged.

The lifeless eyes of Garret McBride stared back at her own, the front of his normally immaculate uniform was covered in a wet stain. Her Vulcan mind made the connections quickly from there. Assassinated, that had to be it she thought, but who? Her eyes roamed the rest of the hall, searching for the one whom had killed Captain McBride. Their questing gaze found what they searched for a second later. Lying not to far away from McBride was none other than Lt. Cmdr. Ulysses Vanguard. At first glance he appeared dead as well, the hilt of McBride's knife jutting out of his ribcage very near his heart. Just as she was about to turn away, she saw Ulysses chest rise slightly.

Could he still be alive? P’tel moved closer and felt along his neck for a pulse. Yes, there was a pulse, but it was very weak. That was good P’tel thought, yet she kept feeling like she was missing something. She looked over the scene again, trying to stop the nagging voice in her head. OK, dagger in Vanguard's hand, McBride's in his chest. Both weapons accounted for. But if he was lying there, his dagger in one hand and McBride's in his chest, that meant that he hadn't used the antitoxin! There was neuro toxin coursing through his blood stream, and only she could stop it.

She lurched into motion, her hand reaching for the blood drenched dagger lying clenched in Ulysses' hand. Careful to grasp only the handle lest she herself get poisoned, she hurriedly spun the bottom of the handle off. Once the antitoxin hypo spray was revealed, she pressed it against Ulysses jugular. With a soft hiss, the medicine was delivered into his blood stream. It was only then that P’tel smacked her com badge.

"Lt. P’tel to Sick Bay, medical emergency, Deck Two, Section Two." She hit her com badge again then lowered her hands to either side of Ulysses head. She knew that it would be touch and go, even with the wonders of modern medicine. He had undoubtedly lost a lot of blood internally, and the neuro toxin had been in his body for what must have been a dangerous amount of time. She placed her fingers on Ulysses temples and whispered into his ear. "My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts."

Her consciousness roamed the outer layers of his mind, attempting to get him into a Vulcan healing trance. To her shock, she found that he was already in a crude form of one. A mere human that was able to enter a healing trance unassisted? Her hand’s still on Ulysses temples, her left eyebrow arched in surprise. It was impossible! And yet the fact that he was in one with no outside help was a fact. It was… most intriguing. She had to look deeper, delving into the deepest reaches of his mind. What she was doing was a gross violation of Vulcan protocol, but she had to know.

What she found broke the meld. It was as if she first hit a barrier, then was forcibly evicted from Ulysses mind. Granted all Imperial officers and enlisted crew underwent training to resist telepathic mind control and probes, but this was of considerably greater order of magnitude than that training. P’tel should know, as she herself had taught many before she had gotten her first deep space assignment. Even among Vulcan's she had unusually strong telepathic powers. Yet she was unable to resist the psychic push that forced her from Ulysses mind.

She was still staring in disbelief at Ulysses when she heard the turbo lift doors open and the rapid footsteps of the medical team. She knew that she needed to compose herself before they came. Quickly she forced her face into a neutral expression and stood from where she had been stooping next to Ulysses. She shunted all thoughts about the startling enigma that she had found, vowing that she would get to the bottom of it. But now was neither the time nor the place to do it.

When the med team came trotting around the corner, P’tel turned to them and said the words that sealed the deal, acknowledging what had occurred here and making the change binding. They were also part of the regulations dealing with assassination. The words themselves had been taken from Earth's distant past, yet in their current context, they fit surprisingly well.

"The Captain is dead, long live the Captain!"

Grand Alliance Base, Deep in the Badlands

Twisting lightning-like ribbons of amber colored plasma flashed all around the massive station for as far as the eye could see. Yet the area of space around the station, while still filled with turbulent plasma clouds, lacked the dangerous ferocity of its brethren lying just out of range of the station. That was the main reason that this area was chosen as a site for an Alliance base. It was both hidden and protected by the plasma storms raging around it. The Alliance's tactics also protected the station. No raids were launched anywhere near the base, or any of the Alliance's major bases for that matter. Instead they were clustered around carefully prepared areas. This allowed Starfleet Intelligence to believe that they were actually hurting the Alliance forces, when in actuality they were destroying mere decoy and secondary stations.

The fact that the much-vaunted Terran Empire was so easily fooled into believing what it saw at face value merely made the job easier. They were so arrogant that they thought that the Empire's subject people could mount no credible threat to them. They didn't know how wrong they were. Not yet anyway, but they soon would feel the wrath of those they had crushed under their boot heels for so long.

General Worf gazed upon the fury boiling seemingly just outside the portal, a lazy grin on his face. The last strike had gone better than expected. Not only had they captured the two Defiants and the Steamrunner, but they had captured the ships that came looking for them as well. When the initial ships didn't report back, Terran Sector Command had sent out an even more powerful fleet to find them. And they had fared no better than their three brethren. Even now, the two Galaxy class, one Nebula class, and five Akira class ships were undergoing refit at various hidden yards scattered around the Alpha and Beta quadrants. In the grand scheme of things, they were mere pinpricks but every little bit helped. And these pinpricks will allow us to execute our masterstroke. After generations living under Terran rule, our people will finally be free Worf thought, and his grin turned to a hungry tooth filled smile.

Battle stations klaxons started screaming with out warning, there atonal wail cutting into the peace of Worf's quarters. Before he could respond, a voice came over his room's hidden speakers.

"General Worf, we have an unidentified ship approaching from bearing 020 mark 040, range 500,000 kellicams! They are on a direct course towards the station. Sensors are having a hard time picking up the target because of the storms, but it appears to be a heavy cruiser of some sort."

"Lock on weapons but hold your fire until either the cruiser opens fire or I say otherwise. I shall be in command shortly, Worf out." Worf was already out the door of his quarters. If it was the visitor he was expecting it all well and good that he be on the command deck to receive him. But on the off chance that it was an Imperial patrol, he needed to be in command as soon as possible. And thus he charged down the hall, the armor encased his feet clanging on the metal deck almost as loudly as the alarms that drove him to run in the first place.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:19pm

CHAPTER 8

Alliance Space Station Retribution, deep inside the Badlands

"Report!" General Worf said as he strode onto the command deck.

"The unknown is still closing, range now 1000 kellicams. Readings are still fuzzy but it appears to be a Cartel vessel!" the tactical officer said.

"And they have made no threatening moves? Their shields and weapons off line?" Even among the cartels there were factions. And some of them didn't take kindly the cartel's involvement with the Alliance.

"No Sir, their shields are active," completely justifiable in the energized space of the Badlands, "but their weapons are offline and they have merely continued to close at ¼ impulse… wait! I am receiving a hail!"

"On screen."

The viewer mounted high on the wall came to life, revealing a smiling visage. His almost cherubic features were clad in an expensive looking suit. You might even have mistaken him for an important executive or official from the Terran government, except for one small thing that made him seem out of place. On the left side of his face was a small tattoo, located just beneath the level of his brown eyes almost like it was a tear. It was the flame like dagger on a diamond that was the emblem of the Orion Cartel.

"Hello General Worf. I hope that my unannounced arrival hasn't caused you any undue concern." The easy smile remained, and the tone of voice said volumes about what he thought about any concern Worf might have.

"No, no trouble here. In fact," Worf showed a tooth filled grin, "my crews needed an unscheduled alert. I thank you for providing one." Other than a barely perceptible narrowing of his eyes, the Cartel head showed no outward reaction. Worf was sure that it was only due to his extensive dealings with the Orion Pirate that allowed him to even catch it. "You may dock at port A-5 at your convenience." And before the Cartel head could respond, Worf cut the channel. "Secure from battle stations. And have Captain Luza report to docking port A-5. It is time she was introduced to our gracious benefactor."

Peter "Humpty" O'tole had risen from a mere small time hood in the Cartel to become its most powerful leader in over 200 years. Due to the aggressive expansion of the Terran Empire, the other cartels had been ground down till they virtually ceased to exist. It was this power vacuum that the Orion Cartel had been only too happy to fill. Even the Empire itself had no true idea of just how large and powerful the Orion Cartel had grown.

Which was fortunate for the member races of the Alliance. They had been skeptical at first, many of their leaders having become jaded after being driven from their homes and forced to fight a hopeless guerilla war against the Terran juggernaut. Yet hopeless as it was, they still fought on, attacking where they could, trying to score even tiny blows for their people living as slave species for the Terran Empire. In the end they knew that they would never succeed in their true goal, but with almost fanatical stubbornness they continued to strike at the massive construct that was the Terran Empire.

And just when things seemed their darkest, when nearly all hope was extinguished, a single ray of sunshine filled the pit of despair. The Orion Cartel had approached them with an offer they couldn't refuse. They offered to set up clandestine bases and supply depots, even to build hidden shipyards for the slave species under Terran Empire rule. After seemingly endless years of struggling for no appreciable gain, what the Cartel offered was almost too good to be true. Yet the guerilla fighters had both few other options and little desire to not take them up on their offer.

Which was why what had become the Alliance now boasted a considerable fleet of state of the art vessels. Initially the Cartel had been against building different ships for the individual Alliance races, citing that it was uneconomical to build such diverse designs for each former Empire’s use. Yet the Alliance would have it no other way, and so the Cartel had been forced to relent. The brightest minds from each member race had then set upon the task of designing modern warships. The warships they came up with surely beat taking on the Terran Empire in a broken down Bird of Prey that was ancient before the Klingon Empire fell.

But the Alliance's leaders were fools to think that all this 'friendly' support came without a price. The fact that the Cartel hadn't yet named their price gave Worf and many of his fellow warrior's cause for concern. They voiced their concerns on a regular basis, but it fell on largely deaf ears. Worf knew, not just suspected but knew that the Cartel would eventually call in the very large 'favor' that the Alliance owed them. He just hoped that it wouldn't be something that would not bring their newfound, hard-won, sovereignty to a premature end.

ISS Hopolite, Deck Three, Sick Bay, 4:00 PM Ships Time

For the second time in as many days, Ulysses Vanguard awoke to the medical/chemical smell of sickbay. The drug-induced haze clouded his mind, preventing him from making the links as to how he had gotten here.

"Glad to see you are awake, Captain."

For a moment his brain didn't take any special notice of the moniker the silken voice had attached so naturally to the end of her greeting. Then it seemed like his brain made all the connections at once. He had killed another sentient being in cold blood. And it wasn't some impersonal attack like pressing a button and ending the lives of hundreds via phased energy or matter/antimatter explosions. No this was something entirely different, something considerably worse. He could still see McBride's blood on his hands, coursing out to coat the front of his uniform. He nearly lost it right there in the Sick Bay. He had never killed someone face to face like that before, and he found that he didn't like it, not one bit. Yet a small portion of his soul laughed in satisfied glee.

Ulysses reached up with his left arm and felt around where the knife wound should have been. There was only low-grade pain, no sign of any other damage. He was even wearing a new uniform. That must have been a sign of newfound respect. The last time he had been to sickbay, he had woken up in only his briefs. Whatever the reason for his present state of dress, he was eternally grateful. It allowed him to exit more quickly and gracefully than he had the last time. Cynthia noted his questing hand and after waiting a beat decided to clue Ulysses in.

"All of your wounds are fully healed, although you may still be lightheaded. That is just a side effect of the antitoxin. It should wear off in about an hour or two. So, how does it feel to be the new, undisputed master of the Hopolite? All that power, you can do nearly anything you want…" The way she said those last few words, it was positively scary. The relish she showed when she spoke of his newfound authority turned his stomach. How could one who’s mind was so evil look like an angel and not like a devil made flesh?

Ulysses turned away from the voice, its words flailing like a lash on his battered soul. Swinging his legs off of the bed so that he was sitting up with his back to the speaker, he finally allowed the horror of what he had done to pinch his features briefly. He didn't want her of all people to see the tears welling up in his eyes. Doctor Cynthia Unger was not the person to show any sign of weakness around.

His turn brought the bed beside his own into his field of view. There was a shape hidden by a sheet on it. Thankful for any thing that changed the subject and gave him something to focus on other than the bloody murder he had committed mere hours earlier, Ulysses stood and walked over to the neighboring bed. His eyes narrowed. On closer inspection, the shape on the bed looked almost man sized.

"Now that McBride is out of the way, there is no one between us. No reason to resist the attraction between us. We can be together at last, and what a team we will make." As she spoke, Cynthia walked up beside Ulysses and wrapped an arm around his waist. Ulysses had to force himself not to jump away like a scalded cat. He reached out and grasped the edge of the sheet tentatively. "Go ahead, it's just a small token of my devotion to you." Her voice took on a gleeful edge. "I hope you like it!" Ulysses hesitated, fearing what he might find under it. Finally he pulled the cover down.

It was a body under the sheets, just as he had suspected. But it wasn't McBride like Ulysses had initially thought. That would have been morbid and sick enough. The reality was a million times worse. Cmdr Walter Elas, the ships first officer, lay beneath it. His normally boyish face was warped into a hideous mask of pain and terror, his lifeless eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling.

Now Ulysses did recoil in horror. His hand flew away from the sheet and he jumped away from the embrace Cynthia had initiated. The sheet dropped back, half hiding the tortured features of the body beneath it, yet it could never wipe that horrible visage from Ulysses mind. What kind of monster could DO something like this?!

"It was so easy." She said in an eager, excited voice, staring down intently at the corpse. "He came here to pay his respects to his new captain. I said I had to prepare a hypo in order to revive you. But what I really did was whip up a highly toxic substance. Then I just injected him as I came over to supposedly wake you up. He died in under a minute. I assure you, it was quite painful."

Ulysses stomach was threatening to leap out of his throat, and he felt his knees getting weak. She was so matter of fact about the murder that she had just committed it boggled the mind. Cynthia finally turned to him and saw his ghost pale features. It was only then that she realized how badly she had miscalculated. Someone like McBride would have lauded her actions, but Ulysses Vanguard was most assuredly NOT like McBride. He could see how someone like McBride would be attracted by Cynthia and vice versa. But he wanted nothing at all to do with her, was repulsed by her attempts to win his confidence through murder.

"Don't you see! I did this for you!” She pleaded, her twisted, sick logic trying to convince Ulysses that her true attentions were only to support him. “With him out of the way,” she said, gesturing absently to the corpse on the biobed, “there is no one that could challenge you before you secure your power base. The ship is yours! We can rule it together and be unstoppable!"

"STOP!" Ulysses cried, his horror evident on his face. "Not another word!" Without even thinking, Ulysses whipped out the phaser that lay in his holster and pointed it at Doctor Unger. Then he smacked his combadge. "Captain Vanguard to security. Send a team to sickbay immediately!"

"What are you doing!?"

"Making sure that you don't have a chance to kill anyone else." That much should have been self evident, even to someone as deranged as her.

"But… but… WHY?" There was pain in her voice, the pain of rejection, the pain of humiliation, the pain of dawning knowledge that she had made a serious miscalculation.

"Because you are a sick, twisted person and I don't want you in a position of responsibility that you have no right having. I want you behind a force field so you can only hurt yourself."

The doors to sickbay opened and in swept the security team with their phaser rifles clutched tight to their shoulders. They swept the room smartly, slicing the pie as they breached the doorway. The low lights of sickbay gleamed dully off of their matte charcoal gray body armor. The monocle sights attached to their helmets quickly sorted out that there were only two individuals in the room. One was their new captain, who had a standard issue type-2 phaser trained on the other.

"Take Doctor Unger to the brig under the charge of murder." He said in dispassionate tones despite the revulsion he felt. As he spoke, his eyes never left Cynthia. "At earliest possible opportunity she is to be sent to Starfleet Headquarters for a formal court martial."

"Understood sir!" The detail leader said. "You heard the captain. Ramirez, Chadwick, take Unger into custody." As the two security officers went forward, their three fellows spread further apart in order to maintain a clear field of fire on their target. It was only after she had been cuffed and had her phaser and dagger removed that they relaxed slightly. Cynthia put up no resistance as the led her out of sickbay. She appeared to be in shock.

With a shiver of released nervous energy, Ulysses turned and spied a crimson cloak draped over the desk in Cynthia's office. He strode confidently into the office and placed the cloak around his shoulders. The detail guard nodded in approval.

"Your orders shall be carried out sir. Do you have any thing further to add?"

"No that will be all for now Lt. Bingim, you may go."

It was only after the doors swished closed that Ulysses sank down to his knees. Massive sobs wracked his body. Having taken a life to gain command was bad enough, but it seemed like every senior officer in his new command was either dead or insane. Ulysses had always been an outsider, but only one other time in his life had he felt so alone and lost.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:20pm

CHAPTER 9

Sickbay, ISS Hopolite

Enough feeling sorry for your situation, Ulysses heard the tight ball of hate buried and chained deep in his soul speak. So here you are, surrounded by animals. So what! It isn’t like you didn't realize this ahead of time. You walked into this position with your eyes wide open. Of all the people in the Galaxy, you should have known what some of them could be like. So get up off of the floor. The time for self-doubt is OVER. Ulysses listened to the knot of rage at his core, for while it was something to be kept in check at all times, it was also the source of much of his strength.

He picked himself up off of the floor, brushing away imaginary dirt from his knees. Then he wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands. No more looking back on what could have been. The here and now was what mattered and it required a will of steel. He squared his shoulders and started towards the door.

It opened before he got there. In strode P’tel. Ulysses opened his mouth to speak but was shushed by P’tel raising her index finger to her mouth. Then she made a point of bringing the device she held in her hands up to eye level and turned it on. There was a slight hum and then the sights and sounds of a starship faded away. The two of them were standing in the middle of an egg shaped enclosure. Its walls were a highly distorted view of the sickbay, and the only sound came from the two figures it encased.

"Now we can talk without prying eyes and ears." She said

"A personal bug blocker. But why do you feel you need it?"

"You know full well that without one any person whom chooses to can listen to our conversation. Even with one the chance still exists, but as far as I know Section 31 has had no reason to search this ship for traitors." With the mention of traitors, every mental guard Ulysses possessed slammed down hard. P’tel leaned close to him, her mouth scant inches from his ear. She whispered, "I found you with the ceremonial dagger in your chest. I was the one whom saved you. I tried to place you in a healing trance, but your mind is unlike anything I have ever encountered before. What are you Captain?"

And strangely, he felt that he could risk telling her his secrets. In fact, he felt strongly compelled to tell her. For whatever reason, not telling her now would be far worse in the long run than telling her. He didn’t know how he could possibly know that, but he did.

"If you are sure you want to know, I will tell you." If she was surprised by his candid response, she didn't let on. She just stared intently into his eyes, as if she could see his very soul. "I am part El-Aurian." He continued.

P’tel's breath hissed in between her clenched teeth with both eyebrows raising higher than seemed physically possible. "But all El-Aurians were supposed to have been hunted down and killed. The orders came directly from High Command and the Council. They were labeled a Class - A threat, one of the greatest magnitude, to the Terran Empire." Ulysses just shrugged and nodded with a sheepish look on his face.

"That’s me, a major threat to the Empire all right.” She frowned at him, so he continued. “Fortunately for me, they missed my mother. I am one half El-Aurian, my father was fully human. For the most part, I appear and scan just like a normal human. But I have better developed telepathic abilities than any normal human. And every once in a great while, I get a… well… a sense I suppose… of which path to take, which decision to make. Its really hard to pin down, even I don't fully understand it."

"Is that why you have such inner peace?" Her worried face took on a demanding gleam and she gripped the front of Ulysses uniform. "Tell me!" If only she knew the truth Ulysses thought. All that inner peace was only window dressing on a soul that was every bit as dark and hate filled as the worst Imperial officer’s. That inner peace was merely the bars to the hate’s cage, keeping it from leaking out like it had before.

"In part, but only slightly. I also subscribe to the teachings of a certain Vulcan, which is the larger part of it." The demanding gleam disappeared, and was replaced with the most pitiful look on any sentient being, let alone a Vulcan, that Ulysses had ever seen. It was part longing and part ravenous hunger rolled into one.

"Can you teach me? Can you guide me in how to find this beautiful peace that you have created?" His life was at a crossroads, and for one of those infrequent times in his life, he had no doubts as to which was the better path to take. His sense was making that adamantly clear.

"I will try. I make no guarantees as each follower of the teachings of Spock must find his own way to the peace, but I promise you I will try. In the mean time Miss First Officer, we need to start whipping this ship into shape."

"Understood Sir. And Captain… thank you."

"Miss P’tel, you are most welcome."

Alliance Space Station Retribution, that same time

Luza stood next to the lock with General Worf. She was about to meet someone important to the Alliance cause, but it remained as nebulous as the plasma storms raging around the station weather he was a true benefactor or a wolf in sheep's clothing. Personally, she agreed with the majority of the Klingon Warriors in that he was not to be trusted. But the High Council and the Chancellor of the New Klingon Empire DID trust him, which made him someone to watch.

The lock cycled open and out stepped a slightly overweight individual. In his expensive cloths and with his ever-present smile, it was hard to tell that he was the most powerful criminal in this half of the galaxy. The neat moustache he kept was not what you usually associated with pirates. All of the holovids showed them to be more eccentric, bloodthirsty caricatures, so the difference was to be expected. But the sheer AMOUNT of difference was astonishing. His hair was also neatly trimmed, with a mass of tight blond curls topping his head

Peter O'Tole also had a charming personality to match his slightly paunchy good looks. At first glance, you would dismiss him as some has been playboy. Many of his former competitors in the Cartel had also dismissed him as easily. They weren't around anymore, and few people with any brains at all underestimated Peter O'Tole now. As he cleared the lock, a procession of six bulky, heavily armed men followed him. While Peter O'Tole wasn't often underestimated, he never underestimated his many opponents either. In his fast rise to the top spot in the Orion Cartel, he had made many enemies. Thus he went everywhere, even on allied space stations, with an entourage of highly skilled personal guards.

"I trust that our new allies weapon functioned as advertised? Did I not tell you that it was a wondrous invention that the Breen decided to share with us in exchange for getting their homeworld back?" He virtually ignored Luza, concentrating instead on Worf. As he talked, they all started down the hall.

"Yes you did, and we are grateful towards our Breen allies for their help. That is all any of us want. All we want is our homelands back from the Terrans."

"And you will get just that once we launch our offensive. But the time is not yet ready. Soon the Breen Energy Dampening Weapon will be added to most of the Alliance’s major ships. Until then we mustn't do anything to cause them undue concern." He spoke as if to a slow child, not one of the most successful Klingon military commanders currently living.

"I understand." Worf said with strained patience.

"I still don't like the Idea of building individual ships and systems for all of the members of the Alliance."

"We have been through this many times before. Once we kick the Empire out of our space, once we crush them from the face of the Galaxy, all members in the Alliance will become the proud peoples that we once were. Proud DIFFERENT peoples. Therefore, we need fleets of our own, not just a massive homogeneous mass like the Terran Empire."

"But it would simplify manufacturing greatly if you all used at least similar hulls."

"We are using by and large similar weapons, that is enough. Besides, most of our fleets are already completed, so continued arguments serve little purpose." Fortunately he didn't need to listen to Don O'Tole's complaints for much longer. "Ah, here are your quarters. I trust that they will be to your satisfaction. You may freshen up here, then join myself and my senior officers for dinner tonight. If you will excuse me, I have duties to attend to." Luza followed him down the hall, hurrying to keep up with his powerful stride. Only once they were out of earshot did she speak.

"How can you stand that glob fly? I can't believe that one such as he could be so powerful." She said. Worf stopped suddenly and whirled to face her.

"Don't underestimate him. That was all an act, one that he does well. He may seem like a glob fly, but he is vastly more dangerous than one. The High Council may believe his lies, but he is up to something, of this I am certain."

"I understand sir. His seemingly mindless dronings lulled my guard. It will not happen again."

"See that it doesn’t. When the time comes, the Empire will need people like you to guard it against people like him."

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:22pm

CHAPTER 10

ISS Hopolite, Main Bridge

The turbolift doors opened and in strode the new absolute master of the Hopolite. On the same side as the organic looking remnant of a Borg ocular implant, on his collar, were the four sparkling gold pips of a Captain. The silver clasps holding the platinum edged crimson silk robe gleamed, even in the dull light of the Bridge. A step and a half behind him was his new first officer. Cmdr. P'tel's usually haughty features seemed to have grown even more so, as if emboldened by the new red accents on her uniform in place of her science department blue.

"Captain on the bridge!" the watch command said as he braced to attention in front of the command chair.

"As you were." The bridge crew still looked like they were at attention, despite assuming parade rest. That was good. It showed that, on the surface at least, they were willing to accept his unusual ascension to Captain rank. Thinking that brought back all the memories of what he had done, causing his stomach to flip-flop. He forced it to cease, never once showing his discomfort on his face. "Com, give me all ships address please." The use of please caused a moment of disconcertion on the com officers part. He had never heard a superior officer use it when giving an order. Not that he minded, on the contrary the thought that the new captain considered his crew near equals instead of the usual slave driver/lackey relationship appealed to him. While the aura of command permeated the order, the fact that it was phrased like a request made the officer want to follow it. And not out of fear of punishment for failure, but of fear of causing his new Captain to change his opinion of him.

"Aye sir." After pressing a few buttons the high pitched whistling boson’s pipe chords caused nearly all action on the ship to stop. Those that were doing functions vital to the continued operation of the ship continued to work, but they too turned their ears to the all ship announcement.

"Crew of the Imperial Star Ship Hopolite, this is Captain Ulysses Vanguard. I have assumed command of this vessel. While under my command, things are going to be a little different than they were before. Starting now, while the ship is on day cycle, all lighting in common and work areas will be raised to 90% maximum. The temperature in said areas will also be dropped to 22 degrees Centigrade." There was no reason to tell them that this would most certainly increase their concentration and productivity. To do so would cause the inevitable troublemakers to drag their heels even more than usual. "You are, of course free to regulate the lighting and temperature in your own quarters as you see fit, but any deviation from these directives in both common and work areas will be met with strict punishment. Thank you for your time, Vanguard out."

"Computer," Ulysses continued, "decrease shipboard temperature to 22 degrees Centigrade in all areas but personal quarters. Also increase lighting in all areas but personal quarters to 90% max."

"Complying." The feminine voiced idiot savant replied. The crew seemed to wince and shiver at the same time. The much brighter than usual lighting irritated their eyes until their iris closed enough. And the sudden droop of close to 10 degrees, while not dangerous by any stretch of the imagination, was still a drastic change for those accustomed to warmer temperatures to get a chill. Under the more powerful lights, the silver and gray tones of the ship's interior became evident.

The tactical stations beeped in unison to attract their operators' attention. Chief tactical officer Lt. Cmdr. Percy Davenport and his first deputy Lt. Gabe Eton settled into their chairs to find out what was happening. Once the Captain sat in his chair, the rest of the bridge crew followed suit and started scanning their panels.

"Captain," Percy said, "sensors are reporting the arrival of a fleet of ships. They have dropped out of slipstream 500,000 km away. They appear to be 24th Fleet sir."

"Put them on screen. Transmit standard challenge." The main viewer switched from a view of the Borg station to the massed ships of 24th Fleet slipping rapidly through space. They did indeed appear to be the ships that the Hopolite had been waiting for. The feeble light from the red dwarf that was this systems sorry excuse for a star gave their dark gray hulls and pale blue slipstream nacelles a sickly orange cast. Their spotlights cast a pool of brilliant light on the silver names and registry numbers painted on the forward part of their saucers. They also shone on the silver pennant of the Terran Empire flowing along the sides of their secondary hulls.

They were in standard transit formation. First came a solid, slightly dome shaped wall of Defiant and Sabre class vessels. Behind them came a slightly smaller wall of Intrepid, Steamrunner and Norway class ships. Next were the orderly ranks of 24th Fleet's capital ships. 10 Galaxy, 10 Akira, 15 Sovereign, 10 Prometheus, 3 Aegean class and 2 AWAC Nebula class ships constituted them. Finally, the fleet flagship trailed behind the rest. The Wraith class ISS Vengeance was twice again the size of a Sovereign. It looked a lot like a Prometheus class writ large.

The Wraith class program had been started at Starfleet Research and Development over 10 years before. The original specs had called for a dreadnought that could effectively engage a Borg Tactical Cube one on one and come out the victor on the other side. The end result was the ISS Wraith prototype. The massive vessel boasted enormous amounts of standard ablative armor, running over a meter thick. Over this, the new ablative armor generators had been mounted. They combined replicator and transporter technology to create a 3-foot thick layer of regenerating armor. Its regenerative shields went back to full strength in seconds, and it changed frequency thousands of times a second to keep Borg adaptation guessing. While some might think that its size would cause it to be hit more often, the larger size enabled more powerful shield generators to be installed, more than making up for the greater frequency of hits her larger hull would be forced to take.

It had been decided early on that while the new ship wouldn't have the Prometheus' multi vector assault mode, it would have its redundancy. Four separate Slipstream cores were scattered throughout the primary and secondary hulls. Each one was capable of meeting the power requirements of the entire ship all on its own. In a great departure from tradition, the main bridge was not located on deck one at the top of the primary hull. Instead, it was located on deck 18, in the middle of the saucer section to increase command staff survivability.

Three massive impulse engines were mounted on the rear of the arrowhead saucer section. They were able to give the ship maneuverability just slightly lower than that of a Sovereign. It also was equipped and designed, like the Prometheus shortly before it, to make better use of the newly acquired Quantum Slipstream drive. While standard, old style ships could use Slipstream, their hull forms were not designed to make EFFECTIVE use of it. They could only travel at around 3/4 the speed in Slipstream that designs like the Prometheus and Wraith could.

The ship also mounted weapons systems almost exclusively designed to engage the Borg. Two massive Type I Phaser Lances poked out of both the left and right side leading edge of the angular primary hull. The Type I Phaser Lance was a combination of captured Lyran ESG Lance tech combined with a very heavy phaser bank. The result was a massive weapon that, while slow firing, was capable of nearly cutting a Borg ship in half in one shot. Arrays of Type XIV Phasers wreathed the ship like deadly pearl necklaces. Type XIV Phasers were among the first normal phasers designed to from the ground up to fight the Borg. They jumped frequencies at random every nanosecond. Although their output was slightly less than the Type XII, they were able to penetrate Borg shields more often and more rapidly, making them considerably more deadly. Four burst-fire Quantum torpedo tubes faced fore and aft, fed by massive internal magazines.

A single massive launcher faced fore and aft down the centerline of the primary hull. It held the latest generation of Heavy Photon Torpedo. The size of a large shuttle, the Heavy torps were usually packed to the gills with massive amounts of antimatter or less often as M/AM explosives. They were used primarily against hardened targets after their shields went down, using the ships own hull as the other half of the matter/antimatter reaction. Due to their size, only 10 shots could be taken before the internal magazines ran dry, but it those shots his exposed hull, the ship turned into Swiss cheese if it remained at all.

20 Type II Pulse Phasers in ball turrets were also scattered across the hull. They were mated with a Phalanx Torpedo launcher each, and were primarily tasked with suppressing anything smaller than a Destroyer sized vessel. The Phalanx Torpedo was a Quantum Torpedo the size of a man's head. They only had about 1/20 the power of a normal Quantum, but they could be carried in much greater numbers due to their small size. And when fired in a volley of multiple launchers, even they could hurt.

The class had done very well against the Borg, especially at The Battle of First Urati. A fleet of two Borg Cubes, Three Spheres and 15 Interceptors had caught the Imperial 5th fleet during a resupply from the fleet train colliers. The two Wraith class vessels had been the only ones to have their stores topped off. The fleets Galaxies, Sovereigns, Intrepids, Steamrunners, Prometheus' and various smaller vessels had been forced to engage them with only their phasers and the few torpedoes left in their magazines. Although 1/4 of the lesser vessels had been destroyed outright, and the remaining ones damaged to greater or lesser extents, the two Wraiths had equated themselves well. Although one was destroyed when a sphere got close enough and rammed it, the other was only lightly damaged. On the other hand, all that was left of the Borg was expanding clouds of plasma and debris. The Wraith class vessels were truly the best Super Dreadnought sized ship in known space, and more than a worthy successor to the old Yamato class SD.

"Sir, our challenge has been accepted and the appropriate counter sign has been transmitted. 24th Fleet's flagship is hailing."

"Patch it through Lt. Nugen."

The vast swarm of closing ships on the viewer was replaced for a second by the silver sword and planet insignia of the Terran Empire. Then the dark bridge of the leviathan appeared. A man in the white and gold uniform of an admiral luxuriated in his command chair. His left breast was filled with a rather large cluster of campaign medals. From the horizontal, gold edged black bars on his shoulders filled with five gold pips and the circular pin of oak wreathed arrows on his collar tabs, he was a Fleet Admiral. And therefore he was 24th Fleet's commanding officer. His hair was well on the road from jet-black to silver, and while his face had the lines that age slowly but surely etched, his hazel eyes were still sharp. His elderly yet trim figure cut a dashing picture on the viewer. But Ulysses eyes couldn't help but be drawn to the figure crouched beside him.

There on the end of a chain, more like a leash, was the sorriest looking creature Ulysses had ever seen. The usually proud and stoic features of a Klingon warrior, even one raised as a slave, were long since absent from this ones face. His cheeks were sunken and the bony brow ridges were even more pronounced. He had large dark patches under his sunken eyes, or rather eye as one was covered in a seemingly riveted on patch. It was a haunted eye, an eye that seemed to have lost the spark of life. Yet the creature beside the Fleet Admiral still breathed, though he was terribly still except for when he involuntarily flinched when Fleet Admiral Tomas Chriton gave the leash/chain a quick tug. Admiral Chriton gave a slow smirk that barely lifted the corners of his mouth at the Klingon's reaction, and then turned to face the pickup again. Ulysses felt his stomach turn to ice and a shudder threatened to burst forth, but he fought it down. He had thought that Captain McBride had been bad, but he had had nothing on this monster in human guise before him. Even across the com, he radiated a palpable sense of evil.

"This is Fleet Admiral Tomas Chriton of 24th Fleet hailing ISS Hopolite. I do hope that you have everything ready as you were ordered to do. It just makes things go so much smoother. Not that I mind when things aren't in order. Then things may become a little rougher that way, but it is ever so much more fun!" His gravely voice was almost as scary as Ulysses had imagined it would be. And the way his face lit up when he spoke his last…

"It is my privilege to report that the Borg station is operational, and ready to be activated at your leisure Admiral." Ulysses managed to ground out without having his voice squeak.

"Then I shall contact you again when the 24th establishes a defensive perimeter, Chriton out." He almost seemed disappointed that everything had gone far better than was initially hoped. Almost like he had actually WANTED something to be out of order so he would be able to do unmentionable things to someone… Ulysses did shudder. That man was positively scary he thought, and judging by the reactions of the rest of the bridge crew, he wasn't the only one to feel that way. Ulysses thought hard for a moment, searching his memory for the appropriate term. Ah yes, he thought, that man give out a definite case of the hebe jebies.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:24pm

CHAPTER 11

ISS Hopolite, Captain's Ready Room, Two Minutes Later

Ulysses turned to P'tel. "Well, how about we see just whom we are going to be dealing with. Computer, please list the high points of the service record for Fleet Admiral Tomas Chriton starting from the when he first became a Commodore, in chronological order."

"Processing." The machine replied, and for a few seconds the room was silent. Then the computer dispassionately continued. "First action after assuming command of the Battlecruiser ISS Chernobin was placation of the Irridani uprising in 2324. Casualties: 100 fleet marines, 900,000 Irridani combatants." Ulysses shuddered. While the total casualties had been small in the grand scheme of things, they represented close to half of Irridani's total population. All the Irridani had wanted was to have free elections. Imperial officials would have none of it and violently put down the resulting protestors. The casualties showed what happened when the ~ 1 million strong hastily assembled militia went head to head with 2 million Marines with attack craft, power armor, tanks, and orbiting Fleet fire support. And most hadn't even been killed during the fighting. When the Marines hit the first few pockets of organized resistance, the Irridani knew they were licked. Most surrendered shortly thereafter, hoping for mercy. Then Commodore Chriton had ordered hundreds of thousands of them shot for unlawful rebellion against the Terran Empire.

"As a result of successful and rapid execution of his orders, Commodore Chriton was promoted to Admiral in 2325. His next major action was the conquest of the Cardassian Union in 2333. He was second in command of the Third Fleet when first contact was made with the Cardassians. Third Fleet was dispatched to bring Cardassian space under Terran Empire control. First action of the Cardassian Campaign: Near complete destruction of the Cardassian battle fleet near the Bajor System. Second action: supervising of the cleansing of the Cardassian home world. Seven Billion estimated casualties." Cleansing was a neat and tidy word for a very dirty and despicable action. Cleansing a world involved using a Genesis Device on it, converting a planet filled with potential combatants to a world ripe for colonization.

"Because of successful execution of his orders, Admiral Chriton was promoted to Fleet Admiral and placed in overall command of 24th Fleet in 2334. Next major operation was the Conquest of the Dominion in 2370. Although 24th Fleet was only a small part of the operation, it distinguished itself well in combat vs. the Jem'Hadar forces. 24th Fleet was the primary element involved in the cleansing of the Dominion Core Worlds in 2374." This operation was made possible by the fact that a network of subspace tunnels had been discovered accidentally in 2368.

The Ambassador class USS Voyager literally stumbled into one. After a few hours, the crew finally figured out how to get out of it. When the Voyager returned to normal space, they found that they had traveled a surprisingly large distance. Retracing the events that had led up to the accident, they found that they were able to open access to these, subspace tunnels whenever they wanted. The tunnels opened up the galaxy to the growing Terran Empire. Without them, the sheer distances involved in keeping its holdings under control would have limited the final scope of the Terran Empire or greatly increased its military expenditures to keep pace with its rapidly expanding borders. But since Warp Drive wasn't needed for long distance travel after the discovery of the tunnels, a new wave of conquest followed on their heels.

"Next major mission was the Conquest of the Borg in 2375. 24th Fleet was responsible for both spearheading the initial and the final attacks on Borg space, including the final assault on Unimatrix Two in system 993C TI42 and the subsequent destruction of the new Borg Queen." The first attack on Borg space had involved a surprise attack on the recently located Borg Unimatrix. Involving nearly 500,000 ships striking from subspace tunnels simultaneously, the Unimatrix never stood a chance. 24th Fleet was the first formation out of the tunnels, and they destroyed five Cubes before the Borg even began to respond. With the specially designed weapons and shield enhancements, the Imperial ships had been virtually invulnerable to normal Borg assimilation tactics. That combined with surprise and the scale of the attack enabled the rapid destruction of the Borg Unimatrix. But the Imperial ships did have casualties. Invulnerability to assimilation wasn’t the same as invulnerability to conventional weaponry, of which the Borg had in copious amounts.

"Initial attack on first Borg Unimatrix resulted in the loss of 100,000 ships, including 3,000 of the then new Wraith class vessels. Most losses were due to last ditch ramming by Borg vessels." Subsequent attacks were virtual turkey shoots, as the Borg seemed highly uncoordinated due to the loss of their Queen thanks to the destruction of the Unimatrix. Then things changed. “In an even more distant part of the Delta Quadrant, a new Unimatrix and Borg queen had been created. The Borg found their feet and started using more intelligent tactics against the Terran Fleet. They also adapted, at least in part, to the anti Borg measures that the Empire had undertaken. Suddenly, weapons systems were no where near as effective and shields could often be breached by Borg assimilation and holding beams. While Fleet R&D scrambled to find a way to counteract these Borg advances, Starfleet fought valiantly against their suddenly superior foe. It was only because the Borg fleet had been so devastated before they found their feet again that allowed Starfleet to win in the end, and it had taken 5 long years of hard fighting to do it.

"24th Fleet successfully penetrated Unimatrix Two's defensive perimeter and launched a volley of Genesis warheads at the complex. One got through and remade the Borg station, and the Queen within it, into a small, M-class world. With the subsequent confusion in the Borg ranks, the surviving Fleet units proceeded to destroy all remaining Borg from this galaxy. Because of his pivotal role in the destruction of both Unimatrix complexes, Fleet Admiral Chriton was decorated with the Lion of Terra with clusters. He is currently the only serving fleet officer to be so decorated. He remains in command of 24th Fleet as of current stardate 03.13.2380." The computer finished its dialogue.

"So basically he has virtually no compunction to uses extreme force when he feels it is needed." Ulysses said, a frown on his face and sour taste in his mouth. "Not that that isn't the usual actions of Admiral's and the Terran Empire Council that they serve."

"Granted Captain." P'tel said, and even her usually reserved features showed horror. Many serving fleet officers went out of their way not to see the casualty figures that the Terran Empire had caused. It let them sleep better at night. "But since we are in no position to do anything about it, we need to follow this… man's," she ground out, "orders. And he does seem determined, if not creative, in all of his tactics." Just looking at the 24th's casualties, Ulysses was inclined to agree.

"That loss rate is incredibly high. Sure he gets the job done, but he has no finesse. He just charges straight at the problem, instead of looking for a more elegant solution that would save more of his command's lives. Sooner or later, he is going to hit an enemy that that tactic isn't going to work against." As he said the words, a sense of foreboding came over him, setting the hairs on the back of his neck up, blowing through him like the breath of death itself.

"What's the mater sir? Your skin has gone very pale, and you look afraid." There was genuine concern in her voice. Ulysses shook himself.

"I'm not sure. I just suddenly got a very disturbing feeling, like somebody walking over my grave."

"Despite living so long with human's, that is one idiom I will never understand. How can someone walk on your grave when you aren't dead yet? It is highly illogical, even for a human idea."

Ulysses opened his mouth to reply, but his communicator chirped just then, cutting him off. He gave it the customary activation tap. "Vanguard"

"Captain, the Shiva is hailing us. Fleet Admiral Chriton wants a word with you."

"On my way." Ulysses somehow managed to hide the distaste and more than a little fear from his reply. He stood and strode determinedly back onto the bridge, with P'tel following him.

"Put it up."

The faintly smiling face of Tomas Chriton appeared on the view screen. "Captain, now that the defensive perimeter is established, I invite you to dine with me tonight on the Shiva."

"I would be honored sir. What time should I transport over?"

"7:00PM sharp, but don't use the transporter. Come in a shuttle." That was an odd request, but Ulysses was far too much Chriton’s junior to comment on it.

"As you command sir."

"Splendid!" The Admiral said. "Chriton out." The screen blanked for a split second, showing the Terran Empire emblem, then the outside starfield replaced it. Why in the world, Ulysses thought, would Chriton want him to use a shuttle?

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:25pm

CHAPTER 12

Shuttle Pod Concordia, Enroute to I.S.S. Shiva, 6:38 PM Ships Time

A lone shuttle pod cruised closer to the imposing bulk of the Shiva. As the gargantuan ship swelled in the forward window, Ulysses began to realize why Chriton had wanted him to use a shuttle. The shuttle was like a mere tic on the back of a massive steed, small and inconsequential. It was a tactic designed to make him feel smaller, to remind him of his place in the Admiral's grand scheme of things. And as much as he hated to admit it, Ulysses was feeling slightly insignificant against the vast mountain of alloy and armor in front of him. It seemed plastered with weapons emplacements and armor generators, with the odd window thrown in barely breaking up the pattern. But those windows were few and far between, clustered islands of blue white light shining out in a sea of dark gray armor.

The shuttle pod aligned with the bay, and its ten deck high and 80 foot wide doors began to ponderously slide open to reveal the cavernous interior within. Flight Operations Command was stationed high up on the far wall of the main hangar, ten decks up off of the main floor. Along the sides of the bay were the multi tiered docking slots for the various small craft a Wraith class carried. Some bays were empty, some had parked ships in them, and some had partially dismantled ships undergoing maintenance by scores of engineers.

You could damn near fit the entire Hopolite inside here, Ulysses thought. There must be close to 50 fighters docked in side here, not to mention the four runabouts and 20 odd shuttlecraft of various types. Of course with a vessel the size of a Wraith class, that was to be expected. And all of it just reinforced how small Ulysses command was. Hopolite, despite all her power, was like a mere child's toy compared to this leviathan. In a fight between the two, the Hopolite’s attacks would barely be noticed before she was snuffed out of existence by the massive weaponry a Wraith class possessed. Chriton certainly knew what he was doing when it came to making junior officers' feel small and insignificant. In all likelihood, Chriton or one of his staff, had read his personnel file. They would then know that he had never served on a ship bigger than an Akira class. At the time, then Lt. Ulysses had thought that ship massive. He now knew just how uninformed that personal opinion had been.

Landing in one of the quieter corners of the bay, the shuttle pilot began to shut down systems. Techs and engineering personnel were scurrying around like ants, servicing the Shiva's various fighters and small craft. The sheer scale of operations was something that was usually only seen on starbases, not on starships. Yet the Wraith class was one of the biggest vessels in space and was the flagship of an entire fleet. It was because of this that it was a beehive of activity. Ulysses got out of the shuttle pod, entering into the cavernous bay. There was a man standing at the foot of the shuttle's ramp. His black and silver uniform had the gold and white sleeve band of a flag staff officer. The officer's rank was that of Lt. Cmdr.

"Captain Ulysses?" He questioned as if stating facts in a brisk manner. "If you would be so kind as to follow me." And without a backward glance the flag staff officer turned and strode quickly towards the port side bay exit. Ulysses pursed his lips in a silent whistle. It appeared that Chriton's attitudes towards those lower ranking than he was had rubbed off to at least this member of his staff. No usual Lt. Cmdr. would have dared act like that to a Captain. Yet this one acted like it was merely a mater of course. Ulysses hurried to catch up with him as he walked through the bay exit. Given the way the crewmembers, even those with a similar rank, made way for him, Ulysses thought that he must have been used to having officers fear him. Most of that was probably due to the fact that he was a representative of Fleet Admiral Chriton. Ulysses had no doubt that the Admiral could cause such a reaction from other people, even by proxy through his staff. Just thinking about the Admiral send fresh chills down his spine. And it wasn't even so much his actions, it was more of the aura of dread that he projected so ably.

The main shuttle bay of the Shiva was also much farther away from the Flag Officers dining room than the transporter room was. This allowed for a much longer trip through the ship, further reinforcing its size and grandeur. Yes, Chriton most certainly knew how to best belittle his junior officers, even when he was nowhere near them. After a trip that seemed to take ages after serving most of his career on small ships, Ulysses and the staff officer finally approached the meeting place. The twin transparent doors swooshed open, hiding the etched translucent relief of Shiva, the ship's ensign. Darkness and light played across each other in the dining room beyond. A massive window dominated one entire wall. Where most vessels had only small windows, this one ran from one end of the room to the other and from floor to ceiling, without interruption. Ulysses looked out the massive window upon the top of the engineering hull, the massive upper quantum slipstream drive nacelles gave off a pale blue glow on the dark gray ablative armor that was an integral part of the Shiva's hull. Beyond the Shiva, many of 24th Fleet's units could be seen as they went about establishing a perimeter encompassing the entire Borg installation. The stunning display was made even more powerful by the fact that the room's roof was taller than normal. Most decks were around seven and a half feet tall. This one seemed to be close to 20 feet tall.

Lighting had been turned down to a very dim setting, causing the room to be illuminated primarily by the QSS nacelle glow and very slightly by the meager solar furnace burning around a light hour away. Having nearly an entire wall all but open to space made Ulysses, despite his many years in space, more than a little awe struck. The view was quite simply amazing. There, in the middle of the window, with his back turned to the room, was a figure in the brilliant white and shimmering gold of a flag officer. A dagger with a handle of what looked like gold and a metal so polished it could have passed for a mirror intertwined into intricate patterns graced one hip. A standard Type-II phaser was holstered on the other. The Admiral was standing at ease with his wrinkled, age spotted hands clasped lightly behind his back. They looked more like a bird of prey's talons than aged human hands. And they still held that finely worked silver colored chain. Crouched a few feet behind the Admiral was the same dejected form that Ulysses had first glimpsed on the Hopolite's main viewer. In the pale blue light coming from the window, the Klingon seemed to become even sicklier looking. The light caused his eye to disappear into the shadows below his bushy eyebrows. But Ulysses could spare him little time for a second glance because Admiral Chriton turned his head slowly towards him. When those eagle like hazel eyes settled on him, Ulysses nearly froze in mid stride.

Blue light made the Admiral appear like a phantasm, some ghostly apparition straight from hell. His hazel eyes were turned black pits, as if for the first time in their existence showing the utter darkness within their owner's soul. His creased and age spotted skin was changed to a deathly pale grayish blue. His sliver white mane took on the same blue gray tint as his skin, with the odd black hair mixed in with its far more multitudinous counterparts. That same twisted half smile again played at the corners of the Admiral's mouth resembling some hell spawned imp's. It was as if time itself stopped for a split second. All sound normally associated with a starship ceased inside that room for what seemed like an eternity. Then the Admiral's staff officer spoke, his voice breaking the spell that had numbed both Ulysses brain and his very soul.

"Fleet Admiral Chriton, I present to you Captain Ulysses Vanguard, commanding officer of the ISS Hopolite."

"Very good Herbert, you may leave us. Be sure to tell the cooks that we will start dinner shortly."

"Yes sir." And with that the Admiral's chief of staff left the room, leaving Ulysses alone with the Admiral. The Klingon didn't count, he wasn't a person anymore, not really. He was more of a pet. Ulysses shuddered inside, he had been doing that far to much since he had the unpleasant privilege to meet Tomas Chriton.

"Well, well Captain Vanguard, I see that you ARE punctual." There was again a definite note of regret in his voice.

"I try my best to please sir." Ulysses managed to spit out without too much trouble. Chriton merely gave a half nod.

"So," the Admiral said, coming to the point, "I hear that you gained command through the time honored tradition of assassination. VERY good! I wish more officers of your generation had the balls to grab command by the horns like you did. Why, I made captain myself by assassinating my commanding officer." Ulysses didn't think that telling the aged Fleet Admiral that he had only acted in such a manner out of desperation, and that he regretted that no way else had presented itself to solve his dilemma, would do his career a bit of good. In fact, the opposite effect was a certainty. So he just gritted his teeth and nodded his agreement. What was the ancient saying Ulysses thought? Shut up and soldier?

"What do you think of my view Captain? Beautiful isn't it."

"Yes sir, it most certainly is." Ulysses replied, more than a little relieved at the sudden switch in topics.

"I made them put in this window, so that I would have a worthy place to contemplate. But lets not sand about here in the dark! Computer: Lights!" At his command the lighting increased in the room, casting a more healthy looking yellow/white tone to everything in the room. For the first time, Ulysses noticed the flags of both the Empire and the ship’s pennant standing in holders in the two corners opposite from the window. The one flag's red field was capped by the black sword and Earth emblem of the Terran Empire on a white circle in the middle. Ulysses had taken many history courses at Starfleet Academy. He knew full well the evil that had sprung a flag very similar to this one in Earth's past. Hanging beside it was the midnight blue flag with a stylized picture of the God Shiva in gold and red in the middle. The two go well together Ulysses thought, surprising a snarl forming in his throat, for what is the Empire but the destroyer of worlds.

"The reason I brought you here Captain, is to gain a measure of you as a man. And I have to tell you I like what I see." The impish grin on his face grew wider, but it never seemed to reach his eyes. They remained cold, calculating pits set on the Admirals face. "You are just the man to leave in command here until the follow on force arrives."

The rapid changes in topic were confusing. They must be another tactic to keep me off balance Ulysses thought. For a moment they succeeded. Then the jarred gears inside Ulysses mind began to turn.

"Leave in command sir? But I thought that you would be waiting here until the other Fleet units arrive."

"Bah, that's what the staff flunkies in the Admiralty want. But you and I both know that it takes more than waiting around for help to make history." Ulysses was thoroughly confused by this point. Fortunately the Admiral continued and spelled out the horrible truth for him. "It is my intention to power up the Borg device tomorrow and proceed through it to see what is on the other side."

The rapid changes in topic, the irrational tendencies, they all made sense now. Fleet Admiral Tomas Chriton was quite thoroughly mad.

"But sir, would it not be advisable to wait until the new Conquest Fleet was assembled before attacking? Where ever it is that the Borg went, they got their buts handed to them. According to the records, they sent over 300 Cubes and lord knows how many lesser vessels through whatever it is that that station outside creates. And only one made it back to report what had happened. Then whatever they found followed the Cube through and laid waste to every installation in this system!"

"The recovered reports are fragmentary at best!" Chriton growled, then narrowed his eyes. "I thought that you of all people would understand, thought that you and I weren't too different. Perhaps I was mistaken?" More than you will ever know Admiral Ulysses thought.

"Of course not sir! I only meant to warn you of the possible risks Admiral, nothing else." The hell I did. "Your plan is bold and could provide a valuable first look at the new enemy of the Terran Empire." Ulysses lied.

"Fine, just don't do it again!" For the moment Chriton seemed sated. He started for the chair at the head of the long table, jerking the chain in his hands forcefully as he did so. "Come!" He commanded the Klingon at the end of the leash. The tug caught the Klingon officer by surprise, nearly making him fall over before he got up and followed the Admiral to the head of the table. The doors to the dining room opened and in streamed more officers with blood red wristbands or the gold and white of Flag Officer staff. Introductions were made, but Ulysses was functioning on auto pilot. His mind was filled with the vision of each and every ship in 24th fleet floating broken and scorched against the velvet black depths of space.

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HappyTarget
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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:26pm

CHAPTER 13

Flag Officer's Dining Room, ISS Shiva

Ulysses went through his meal mechanically. It wasn't the food's fault, on the contrary it was some of the best marlin he had ever eaten. The problem was the company. To a man, each and every officer present at the dinner had agreed without question to Chriton's orders. And it was orders, not some proposed mission change to be debated. After seeing how Chriton took dissent to his plans, Ulysses could understand how they would lack initiative in voicing their concerns. It wasn't conducive to further career advancement. It also wasn't conductive to intelligent mission planning, but Chriton and his staff didn’t seem to care about that. Chriton's word was law as far as his staffers were concerned, not batting an eyelash at his irrational and down right stupid command decisions.

First the meal, then the after dinner drinks, seemed to take forever. He tried to talk some sense into the other officers, choosing his words with utmost care, but every time he brought up his doubts about Chriton's plan, they clamed up almost immediately. Or worse yet, they tried to bring him around to Chriton's side. Needless to say, he was soon spending much of the evening starring out the giant window of the dining room, nursing his scotch on the rocks. At least it was the real thing, not that synthehol garbage. It made the time pass smoother than it would without it, and eventually the night of hell was over.

Admiral Chriton dismissed the officers and they proceeded to their own ships and quarters. The walk back to the shuttle was uneventful, as was the return trip to the Hopolite’s shuttlebay. Once Ulysses was safely inside his new quarters, Hopolite's CO stateroom, he smashed his fist into the bulkhead. Smashed it HARD. And yelped in pain, jerking his bruised hand back from the wall, waving it rapidly back and forth like that would somehow ease the pain. He scowled at the offending wall, even his physical pain and momentary lapse in judgement not breaking through his anger. But it wasn't anger alone, there was a good dash of fear mixed in there as well. For after what ever was on the other side of that portal was done with 24th fleet, the first place they would come to was right here. And there would only be the Hopolite between them and the rest of the Galaxy.

Terran Empire space, near the border of what was once the Lyran Star Empire and the Mirak Star League

The Imperial patrol cruised along its standard course. The three upgraded Nova class vessels backed up by two Defiants traveled without cloak on their daily trek through space. This had been a quiet area of the Empire for two generations. Both the Lyrans and the Mirak were well under the yoke of Imperial control. Had been since their conquest by the then burgeoning infant Terran Empire. The patrol searched for the same things they always did, pirates whom wouldn't pay for the privilege, rogue Lyran and Mirak warships (uncommon though far from unheard of), and the odd cargo vessel that needed a little Imperial 'inspecting' for contraband.

Captain Dorothy Chambers lounged, pouting and bored to near tears, in her command chair. Her shoulder length copper hair went along well with her new command cloak. The newly minted captain had been placed in overall command of the patrol as well. Being the daughter of one of the Imperial Council members certainly had its perks. Getting a Nova, especially an upgraded one like the ISS Ogre, as her first command was a definite sign that her star was on the rise.

The Nova class was one of the newest designs of Imperial patrol vessels. It incorporated many of the plusses of both the Defiant class and the Sovereign class. It had five foreword PPC's and dual Q-torp launchers courtesy of the Defiant program. From the Sovereign program, it mounted type XII phasers with the B-upgrade (B-upgrade is an add-on that allows older style phaser arrays to rapidly remodulate their beams settings similar to Type XIV phasers), regenerative shielding, and the general styling of the vessel. It also had bioneural gel packs to speed up ships systems.

Dorothy stared at the main viewer as the rocks of the asteroid belt shattered and burst apart as the Imperial patrol blew through them at 75 PSL. Cruising at full impulse through an asteroid field as dense as this always gave her an unbridled sense of power. It also gave the dull routine of the patrol a more exciting face. Although getting assigned to a Nova class ship for your fist command was a definite sign of family ties to the Imperial leadership, it also meant that you usually weren't assigned to dangerous areas until you were considerably more seasoned. It wouldn’t do for all of the future ruling members of the Terran Empire to be killed by a lucky pirate or rebel.

But politics bored Dorothy. The Machiavellian intrigues of the Imperial Council were nothing compared to the way she felt when she was on a starship. As she had advanced in rank, that feeling had merely grown. And when she was on a starship’s command deck, she alone was the meader out of punishment and discipline. While the Council members might exercise that same power on a near galactic scale, they were always at arm's length with the actual execution of their power. That wasn't for Dorothy. She craved the visceral, spine tingling thrill that came with watching an errant crewmember writhe and scream in an agonizer.

That was what made this cruise so yawn inducing. There had been nothing to punish. Everything had run incredibly smoothly, without one single hiccup in the systems to enable her to send an engineer to an agonizer. Not one wrong move on the part of her helmsman either. She was maneuvering through the latest challenge Dorothy had set for her like the Ogre was a racing shuttle, not a multi million ton starship. And the rest of the squadron was hard pressed to keep up with the flagship as well, which caused both satisfaction and dismay. Dismay because it further emphasized her helmsman's lack of errors. Satisfaction because it meant that she could rib extra hard on the other Captains for their less than stellar performance when they all got back to the starbase. That thought brought a smile to her normally dour expression. Perhaps this patrol wasn't a total waste of time then. The small squadron rushed on through the tumbling, ever changing maze of the asteroid field, completely unaware that predators with very sharp claws and teeth were stalking it.

Imperial Lyran Vessel Scarlet Fang, trailing behind the Imperial patrol

The Lyran heavy cruiser ghosted behind the enemy. It was as invisible to its prey as its crews ancient ancestors hiding in the tall grass of the savana were to theirs. Only instead of hiding downwind of its prey in a thicket of tall grass, it was cruising under cloak. Its two consorts were as well, maintaining formation by encrypted, stealthed datalink. All three ships were new build units, graciously provided by the Cartels. They mounted the latest advances in disrupter, phaser and ESG tech. The phaser arrays were about on par with Imperial Type-X's, but it was the new variable sweep Expanding Sphere Generator. Lyran commanders could now choose weather they wanted to set up a normal ESG attack or a more concentrated, longer ranged Lance attack using the same weapon.

The Scarlet Fang's commander, Captain Zathran, kneaded his claws in and out of the upholstery on his command chair's arms. It was a bad habit, but he couldn't settle his jagged nerves. Here he was, a green captain with an even greener crew, about to launch the first major attack against those whom had enslaved his people. He had every right to be nervous. This battle would either be a glorious victory, or a near final defeat. This battle would tell weather the revitalized Lyran military's secret training had been enough to prepare them for the crucible of battle.

The Lyran people had been through so much. First the little war against the Mirak. Then in the middle of that, the honorless Terrans launched their surprise attack. On BOTH empires! Until that moment, the only thing known about the Terrans was that they were expansionistic and aggressive. But no formal contact was made, not even a single human had ever been seen by the feline eyes of a Lyran, before they launched their attack. Weakened by their fight with each other, both domains were quickly swallowed up by the ravenous maw of the Terran Empire.

Zathran thanked the gods that the conquest had been before the Terrans invented the Genesis Device. That was the main reason why both the Lyran and Mirak homeworlds remained largely as they did since time immemorial. He brown dappled coat quivered as he remembered the footage of the device being used against an enemy of the Empire. Whole ecosystems, billions of sentient life forms wiped out in seconds, replaced by the ideal environment for human populations. And, Zathran worried to himself, they may be yet used against my beloved homeworld even if our attack succeeds here today.

"Captain?" His first officer asked, mild concern emanating from him into Zathran's sent receptors. The young captain realized that he had been gathering wool instead of concentrating on the mission at hand. It was much easier when you followed orders rather than gave them. Command had a way of expanding your horizons, to cause you to worry about things that were beyond your control.

"Excuse me exec," Zathran replied with a sheepish, tooth hidden grin on his face, "you were saying?"

"We are coming up on the intercept point sir. Our 'allies'" Commander Casmir spit the word out like a piece of spoiled meat, "should be in position now. If they can find their way here that is."

"Very well. Are the weapons fully powered?"

"Yes Captain, phasers, disrupters and ESG's are fully charged and ready to fire the moment we drop cloak. Boarding parties are also standing by in the transporter rooms."

"Alright, you may proceed with the attack as planned." The Lyran cruisers were the hammer of this ambush. Now if only the anvil was anyone else life would be good indeed.

Mirak Star Ship Blood Oath, lying in wait in front of the Imperial patrol

It turned Captain Hobbes' stomach to be ordered to work with Lyrans. Yet that was exactly what the Patriarch had ordered the newly rebuilt Mirak Star Navy to do. The Cartels had sat both the Patriarch and the Lyran's Emperor down and made it a condition of their support. Their support was the main reason that Hobbes was on a squeaky new vessel instead of an ancient leftover from the time before the occupation. The Mirak peoples had been ground under the heels of the Terran Empire for far to long. Mirak engineers had jumped at the chance to offer up new warship designs. Hobbes current command was the end result of their efforts. It retained the classic arrow like shape of its ancient predecessors, but it was an entirely new beast. Hobbes just hoped that the new fighters and missiles worked like the tech heads said cuz it was his but on the line with a virtually untried weapons system.

"It is time to show ourselves to our prey. Decloak and begin the attack! May our claws strike deep!!" An eager growl of agreement answered him, backed up by the sent of a pack on the hunt. This was good, it indicated that they were ready to face their prey at last.

ISS Ogre

The squadron had just cleared the asteroid field when all hell broke loose.

"SIR, in front of us!" On the main viewer, what had been unbroken space moments before was filled with four cruiser sized ships. Their hulls were painted in brown and red, in stripes arranged like the pattern on a tiger. Their warp nacelles glowed a pale greenish blue from their perch on the rear of the ship. And all four vessels were powering up their weapons and defensive systems.

"Red Alert! Order the squadron to assume combat spread, formation Chamber Alpha. Divert power to the weapons systems." On her command, the squadron's Novas assumed an arrowhead formation with the Ogre in the lead. The Defiants took up position above and below the command ship.

MSS Blood Oath

Hobbes smiled a slow smile. When faced with four cruisers dropping nearly in your lap, and you only had five destroyers, an intelligent captain would at least execute a tactical retreat to further asses the situation. This one merely rushed out to meet his attack head on. It looked like the enemy commander didn't even intend to use the considerable maneuverability of her lighter warships to their full potential. They were currently in tight, showing no signs of breaking off for independent maneuvers.

He had been like this one once, brash, arrogant, and overly confident. The Mirak Star Navy had done its best to leash these traits into an effective officer, and on the hole they succeeded. But even without the expected help, Hobbes would have attacked the enemy with only his own ships. It would be a much more interesting fight if that happened, for Imperial warships, even destroyers and frigates had sharp teeth and tough hides. But what the enemy didn't know was that the four Mirak cruisers weren't the only enemy they needed to worry about. In fact, the other jaw of the trap should be swinging closed right about … now.

"Sir, three Lyran cruisers decloaking behind the Imperials." There was regret mixed with anger there. Hobbes could hardly blame his tactical officer. He to was angry that Lyran's had to 'help' with his attack, and he to regretted that they had had the balls to show up.

"And look at what the Imperials do now." Hobbes said, and his smile got bigger, showing the needle sharp points of his teeth in a predatory grin

ISS Ogre

"Captain, there is a new force decloaking behind us. They appear to be…" there was shock in her tac officer's voice. "Sir, you're not going to believe this but they're LYRANS sir. They to are targeting us and moving in to attack." As he spoke, he put up a rear view in the lower right corner of the main viewer. In it was a sight out of the history holos. The three ships were highly similar to what Imperial historians called the XCA class. Their angular, almost feline in form, hulls were brilliant gold and crimson with their warp engines and impulse drive gave off an emerald glow. They would have been truly beautiful warships if they weren't trying to kill her.

This was very bad news. If both the Lyrans AND the Mirak were jointly attacking the Empire, it meant that they had somehow managed to put aside their 200-year blood feud and work together for a change. For a second, Dorothy's thought about how this area was going to be a quiet area no longer. Then she refocused on getting her command out of the trap they had walked into. All of her ships were rear echelon patrol units, and as such it was unlikely that they would ever receive the quantum slipstream drive upgrade. She quickly glanced over the display on the right side of her command chair. The kitties had planed out this attack excellently, as the nearest subspace tunnel was on the far side of the systems enormous gas giant. That left good old-fashioned warp drive. Dorothy cursed the accountant on Terra whom had decided not to include cloaking devices on patrol ships. She could really use one now.

"Helm, lay in a course 932 mark 003, warp 7!"

"Course laid in…" The ensign said, then she pushed the execute button on her panel. The familiar rising whine of the warp engines filled the bridge. It reached its apex, then rapidly powered down again to a stop. Staring at the viewer, instead of seeing the smeared rainbows of warp, they saw the same still stars and the approaching enemy. The helmsman pressed the button again, harder this time. Again the warp engine whine rose in pitch and stopped, and again nothing happened. The now frantic ensign punched in a series of buttons on her console. "Sir, we can't generate a warp field around the ship!" That was another useful bit of information. The kitties had somehow gotten a hold of a warp field dissipater and stuck it on their ships. It was a relatively common piece of Imperial tech, heck most Imperial ships of cruiser size and larger carried them as standard equipment. But neither the Lyrans nor the Mirak were supposed to have them, heck no one outside of the Imperial military and system police forces were supposed to have them. Of course neither the Mirak nor the Lyrans were supposed to have warships either, yet there they were.

"Get a hold of Starfleet Command on subspace com."

"No good sir, they're jamming all frequencies!"

"Damn. Very well, if it's a fight they want, it’s a fight they'll get. Order all ships to target the lead Mirak ship. We'll blow through them and make a impulse dash to the nearest subspace tunnel." That was the nice thing about a warp inhibitor, Dorothy thought, it affected all ships in its area of effect, weather they were friendly or enemy. The kitties would have to pursue us on impulse, and by the time they get turned around, we should be far enough away from them to make a run for it.

"Mirak coming in range now sir! Lyrans as well!"

MSS Blood Oath

Hobbes held up his clawed hand and closed it into a fist. His tac officer pressed a single button on his panel and the fruits of the long exiled Mirak weapons engineers streamed into space.

Out of massive box launchers, hundreds of missiles swarmed towards the oncoming Imperial patrol. Seconds after leaving their tubes, they jumped to extremely high impulse, pulling speeds that no ship could hope to achieve. Their internal compensator didn't need to worry about keeping biological beings alive, so the fleet little missiles charged towards the enemy at over 98 PSL. On their heels came the new fighters. They to shot ahead of there mother ships as well, if not with the mind numbing speed of the new missiles still faster than 83 PSL. They were easily the fastest crewed fighters in known space, which made them the fastest warships in known space.

ISS Ogre

If Dorothy hadn't been seated in her chair, she was certain she would have fallen to the floor. Mere missiles were coming at her, technology long since abandoned by Imperial Star Fleet as obsolete tech. But there were SO MANY! She focused on her training.

"Target the missiles! Use everything, PPC's, phasers, proximity quantums, the works! And divert all available energy to forward shields." Missile signatures, unlike the insane amounts of ECM generated by photon and quantum torpedoes that prevented most PD fire from even touching them, were easily picked up. The weapons arrays on the entire squadron opened up in rapid-fire mode. Phaser arrays played from one target to the next in the closely bunched swarm, often not even stopping their fire between them, just changing the aim point on the fly. Blue flares of quantum torpedoes flashed out, bursting proximity warheads among the missiles, taking still more to oblivion. But it took time to kill so many targets, and time was what the Imperials had the least of. The missiles were not only armored, they had shield generators as well. That made them very hard to kill with PD tactics. Seeded in with the missiles were decoys, making themselves look like entire salvos of missiles all on their own, further complicating the plot and causing fire to be wasted for no loss in attacking warheads. Just the same, scores were destroyed short of the targets. But there were far to many for them all to be killed in the short engagement window, and the salvos survivors rushed on to self-immolation.

MSS Blood Oath

There was a visceral snarl on Blood Oath's bridge as the Mirak struck back at the Empire. The strong musk of fighting filled the air. It was a blow for all those whom had had their homes turned into labor camps. It was a blow for all those whom had been made into object lessons by the Imperial authorities. And most of all, it was a blow for freedom.

"Reload the next salvo and fire when ready."

ILV Scarlet Fang

The view screen flared as explosions of the surviving 80 missiles walked across the Imperial formation. Lyrans had scoffed at missiles. In fact, they still scoffed at them. The ESG had been specifically designed to stop Mirak missiles, so they had every right to scoff them. But it was harder to do that now than it had been minutes before. While individually those missiles only had an individual yield of 500 Megatons, there were so many of them and they all hit at virtually the same time that they made for nasty customers. Not content to let the Mirak have all the fun, Zathran turned to his tactical officer.

"You man engage when ready."

"It shall be done sir."

ISS Ogre, main bridge

The ship shuddered to a virtual halt as the first volley broke over her forward shields. The rest of the squadron was little better off. On the Ogre's bridge, sparks flew from overloaded panels and the lights flickered for a heart stopping moment before they powered up again.

"Forward shields down to 53 %. Minor hull damage, forward armor down 10 %."

"Screw this, all ships, target nearest Mirak Vessel and fire!" Q-torps spat from the launchers of all five vessels.

"Targets shields are down to 10 %… target shields gone, they're taking hull damage!" the Ogre's first officer shouted joyously. The Ogre rocked again as a volley of disrupters screamed in from the Mirak. They were just enough to keep the Ogre and her squadron mates' foreword shields down near 50 %, burning back their ongoing regeneration. Then the Imperials writhed again as a fresh attack came from behind.

Three ESG lances speared out from the Lyran cruisers. Their shimmering amber energy fields slammed into the rear of the Nova's. Once they had drained their rear shields to around 45%, the three Lyran's volleyed their disrupter arrays and glowing green splinters of energy knifed into the Nova's draining shields. At the end of the initial attack, the Nova's had only ~ 50 % forward shields and ~ 30 % rear shields. The Defiants were slightly better off with ~ 45 % fore shields and 100% rear.

"Target's weapons systems are severely damaged!" Fresh Q-torps were volleyed. As the range wound down, the squadron began to open up with PPC's and phasers as well. Orange/red beams and amber bolts of phased energy slammed into the targeted Mirak cruiser. Her shields were already down, so the fire rained on her armored hull unabated. "Target is dropping out of formation!" The Ogre’s tactical officer shouted in triumph. The phaser and quantum strikes had gouged glowing, flaming craters on the Mirak’s foreword hull. Lifepods and shuttles began to flee the stricken and dyeing vessel, then the computer automatically dimmed the area around it as a star bright explosion claimed the vessel.

"Shift fire to the next Mirak vessel." Dorothy commanded.

Then the enemy’s fighters streaked in, volleying their ordinance. While shorter ranged than that of a ship, the fighter's ordinance was no less deadly. The 20 fighters launched their own version of the new missile, and it streaked in to strike before more than a handful were killed. One of the Defiants staggered out of the formation streaming debris, atmosphere and drive plasma. Its foreword shields were knocked flat, and the grid overloaded and brought down the rest, leaveing the stricken ship virtually defenseless. There was a giant whole near where its port weapons emplacement should be, and a molten fracture ran rearward from that along the darkened nacelle. The stricken Defiant boosted power to its impulse drive in an effort to courageously rejoin the formation. It didn't make it. A fresh volley of green disrupters streaked in from the Lyran vessels and turned the ship into energetic plasma.

The Mirak launched a fresh salvo of missiles right into the faces of the remaining Imperials. The missiles streamed in, taking out a Nova. Its entire nacelle strut was sheared off at the root and a massive hole gaped from the engineering hull. It spun out of formation missing its starboard nacelle, all helm control lost with lights flickering as internal power failed. As it fell further and further behind the rest of the formation, it started spewing escape pods. Secondary explosions began to ripple across the ship. They rose rapidly in frequency until the entire vessel blew apart from the inside out.

"Fore shields down to 10 %. Aft shields down to 46 %. Fore armor down to 13%. Aft armor down to 82 %. Hull breaches on decks 3, 4, 6, and 9. PPC 1, 2 and 3 are offline, dorsal phaser array is slightly damaged, port quantum launcher is offline. Main power failing!" the Ogre's tac officer said, then coughed on the acrid smoke that was filling the bridge. The science panel was on fire, they yellow dancing, crackling light giving the smoke filled bridge a look of hell. The internal suppression systems must be offline Dorothy thought distractedly, trying to get her mind off of the charred corpse of her helmsman. She had been burned when the EPS conduit near her station had blown, not even the fire retardant, anti ballistic fabric of her uniform was able to hold that much released energy at bay.

"Return fire damn it!" she said as she jumped for the helm station while a crewman put the fire out with an old fashioned manual fire extinguisher. She had to push the scorched helm officer out of the charred chair to sit down. Helm was still partially functional, despite being scorched and half destroyed. The synthetic fabric that had sheathed the station's chair was half melted and felt crunchy under her. It gave off a noxious scent of burnt synthetic and charred flesh.

Feeble next to the storm crashing in on it, the remaining Imperial vessels shot back at their attackers. They managed to take down the next Mirak's shields, but then it was over. The Mirak fighters swung back in from their latest combat maneuvers and volleyed their disrupters till their small capacitors ran dry. At the same time the Lyrans launched their next attack, flailing on the Imperials rear shields with first a lance strike, then a disrupter volley combined with a phaser strike. The remaining Defiant ceased to exist as her warp core breached. That explosion, combined with the devastating disrupter and phaser assault, broke the other Nova in half down the middle. Only the Ogre was left relatively intact. The disrupter bolts smashed into her armored rear and flank, gouging molten pits in the ablative layer and the weaker triple hull.

Dorothy was thrown out of the helm station despite the tractor restraints best efforts as the Ogre was forced sideways. Without the tractor restraints, she would have been slammed into the bridge’s wall hard enough to fracture her skull. She landed hard on the deck near where her helmsman had fallen. Her sightless, blackened face still smoked slightly, her tortured expression forever stuck on it. Dorothy felt her stomach somersault and she vomited onto the deck. Then she heard a whine of a transporter beam and was stunned by a low powered disruptor bolt before she even began to turn.

ISS Ogre, main engineering

"Warp core breach in three minutes." The dispassionate voice of the Ogre's main computer announced. The chief engineer wiped a grimy hand across his brow to remove sweat and blood that had collected there. A piece of exploding panel caught him on his forehead. It was a minor wound, more of an annoyance than anything else.

“Come on baby, hold together just a little longer…” He worked frantically on his panel, trying to solve the unsolvable. His impeccable engineering skills could do nothing. The damage was just too severe. There was only one option. "Computer, eject the warp core, authorization Vigo Delta Niner Alpha Enable."

"Acknowledged, jettisoning the warp core."

The reinforced armored blast door on the bottom of the secondary hull that was hoped would never have to be used slid open. Force fields sprang up around the warp core shaft at the same time. The magnetic connectors and physical couplers disengaged and the core was forced violently out of the ship on its own micro impulse drive. It managed to move far enough away before it blew that the pitted and fractured hull of the Ogre merely rocked slightly. The Ogre's chief engineer sighed in relief. Through the broken bulkheads and swirling veil of smoke, he began to search for anyone left alive in engineering.

Then he heard the wine of a transporter. Without thinking, he ducked behind a still burning workstation. There laid his wife of five years, a broken bulkhead crushing her to the deck, her unseeing eyes starring into oblivion. He lost it. Jumping up, using the workstation for cover, he fired wildly at the oncoming figures in power armor. He was yelling incoherently, barely seeing his targets through his tears of rage and sorrow. A mere Type-2 phaser wasn't much of a match against a power armor's shields and ablative outer armor layer. He played the beam across the torso of the first raider. The Lyran's personal shield hummed and glowed from the maximum powered assault. But while the chief engineer was occupied, the second raider leaped using a light burst from his AG field, closing the distance between them in a single bound. Inside the raider's gauntlets, the Lyran extended his claws. They mated with tiny recesses inside the armored fingers. That caused foot and a half long blades to extend from the end of the gauntlets. The blades were specially designed, coming to almost a single molecule along the sharpened edge, enabling them to cut through most anything. Ogre's chief engineer's face took on the look of shocked surprise as the Lyran marine drove the blades into his ribcage, lifting them slightly as the entered, the bones there providing no more resistance than his soft organs. He then removed them and allowed the human to drop to the deck. After a quick inspection of the rest of engineering using both visual and enhanced sensors his armor possessed, the raider keyed his com.

"Engineering secure, proceeding to deck 14."

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HappyTarget
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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:28pm

CHAPTER 14

ISS Ogre, Deck 4, Cargo Bay 1

The ship was adrift, spinning slowly end for end in the darkness of space. Her running lights and warp engines were offline, and the Ogre was light only on one side at a time by the angry red sun deeper in system, turning her hull orange. There were great holes in the Nova class' hull, both from exterior attacks and interior secondary explosions. She was a dead ship, her warp core gone and her little remaining power from her few operational fusion reactors barely able to maintain life support. Inside the stricken vessel, Mirak and Lyran boarding parties scoured the ship, searching for valuable salvage and prisoners.

The Imperial officers and crew were being herded into the cargo bay by the armored Mirak and Lyran borders. It was one of the few places on the Ogre that could nearly hold them all. Many were injured, and the ships medical staff that were still in one piece were running ragged trying to help them. Fortunately for the medical personnel, there were very few injured left. Far to many of the Ogre's wounded had been to seriously injured for even the Empire's medical technology to save. Things like that happened when a starship was nearly gutted by modern weaponry.

Deck 4, outside turboshaft 1

Captain Dorothy Chambers shuffled down the shattered and scorched corridor of what used to be her ship. The lighting was very low, here and there the crimson red alert lights were still flashing. Here and there blackened star shaped scorch marks centered around melted portions of bulkhead showed, signs of the desperate and ultimately futile attempts of her crew to repel the boarders. The fools, did they think that it mattered now? How long could one shattered destroyer hold out against the boarding parties seven cruisers could pump out? And the boarding parties were clad in full power armor, not the lightweight riot armor of her security personnel. The column of her surviving bridge officers trudged along in front of her. Guards flanked them, numbering at least double the amount of prisoners. From their armor design and weapons, they appeared to by Lyran marines. The surviving bridge crew had been bound, then shoved down the now gravity less turboshaft to other waiting boarders below. They were then forced to march to the main cargo bay were the Imperial personnel were being held till they could be transferred.

The sullen party trudged past a side hall. It ended in a mangled hole open to space. Fortunately the internal force fields were still operational on this deck, otherwise it would be virtually impossible to get them to the cargo bay. Dorothy slowed and looked down the hall that ended in space. Her quarters had been there. Now everything was gone. A disruptor rifle was shoved harshly into the small of her back, causing her to stumble and nearly fall. A series of muted hisses and growls were heard before the Lyran's external speaker spoke in synthesized standard English.

"Eyes front, keep moving!"

Dorothy bit back a harsh reply. She was a Captain no longer. She was no longer in command. She had become a prisoner, and prisoners that got out of line ended up dead. Gritting her teeth she limped back in line. The rest of the bridge crew didn't even turn to look at her. Dorothy's ankle had gotten twisted somewhere along the way, and she had a nasty gash on her forehead that made her woozy whenever she moved her head to fast.

"Damned kitties!" She muttered under her breath. Her captor's acute hearing picked it up, merely helped along by the power armor’s artificial electronic ears, and she felt another not so gentle prod from his rifle. She stumbled to one knee, then got up and staggered into the line with the rest of the prisoners, this time keeping her insults unvoiced.

ISS Ogre, Main Engineering

The Lyran marine looked up from the display he had been studying. His suits sent receptors identified the new arrivals before he even turned towards them. Mirak! The fur on the back of his neck stood up straight under his armor and a half-formed growl started in his throat. The three Mirak marines were marching towards the back of engineering, ignoring the Lyrans in the compartment as if they weren't even there. The Lyran stepped into their path. As he did so, the other two Lyran boarders that had been scavenging the Imperial vessel's engineering section came to stand beside him.

"What do you want here Mirak! This section was taken by Lyran boarders. As such your kind has no claim here." Kaiten of the Red Claw Duchy growled at the advancing trio.

The middle Mirak, evidently the leader of the group, turned to his companions. The sound of hissing laughter gave way to his deep voiced words. "Look at this cub! He thinks that he can stand up to us!" All three Lyran's hissed and laid their ears back. Almost of their own volition, their claws half went into the gauntlet's receptacles. The Mirak marine turned back to the three Lyrans. "Out of our way little one." He said in a patronizing tone. "We are here on official Mirak business. There is no need for us to explain ourselves to the likes of you."

The three Lyrans growled deep in their throats, and the strong musk of anger began to permeate the air like a foul wind. "You stick your snout where it has no business being Mirak! Leave now and you may yet escape with your lives." The air was thick with musk now, so thick that it itched Kaiten's nose. Oh how he longed to lash out at the ancient enemies of his people. But his fealty to the Emperor made him resist his near instinctive impulses. He was an officer in the Lyran Star Empire Navy, and as such was responsible for executing the Emperor's wishes. And since the Emperor had decreed that all Blood Feuds between the Lyran and Mirak peoples on hold, Kaiten was forced to stay his hand. Once the Terran Empire was taken care of, there would be plenty of time to exact revenge.

"You will move out of our way Lyran, or it shall be you that feels our claws! Comply now or die!" The Mirak's voice was patronizing no longer. It was noticeably louder and angrier. As the Mirak spoke, he dropped into a crouch, tense and waiting for the chance to strike. His two compatriots followed suit. The synthetic claws on the ends of their gauntlets extended to their full, deadly length.

"If you don't leave now, it is you that shall die!" Kaiten and the other Lyran marines crouched as well, and the claws that they extended were every bit as good as those possessed by the Mirak. Part of him regretted that they were all in power armor. It would not allow him to see the Mirak's eyes when life left them. He was to far gone now for even his duty to the Emperor to reign in his bloodlust. All he could see was the latest incarnation a century old foe. Inside his battle helmet, his whiskers quivered, expressing their eagerness to scream and leap on the enemy. His rough tongue lapped over his black nose, trying to clear away some of the now oppressive anger musk. Kaiten wanted all his senses as acute as possible in the coming duel. But it was not to be. Even as he crouched, his com beeped. For a moment he ignored it. Then it beeped again, more insistently. At almost exactly the same time, the Mirak's com beeped as well. Both responded, training overcoming instinct, yet neither relaxing a muscle nor moving from their combat crouches.

"Kaiten here, what do you want!" His voice was gruff.

"This is the flagship, you are to return immediately. Long range sensors have detected another Imperial patrol. And if we can see them, they can see us."

"Understood, you may initiate transport at your convenience." Now Kaiten was annoyed. From the few snippets of Mirak he had overheard, the other three had just received similar commands. He stared at the armored figure, silted feline eyes narrowed in anger behind his armored helmet. "It would appear that we have no time to continue presently. But now this Mirak, we shall not forget this day!"

"Nor shall we little cub, nor shall we!" And then the transporter effect took both parties to their respective ships. Vengeance would have to wait.

ISS Ogre, Cargo Bay 1

Dorothy was herded into the center of the room along with most of her senior officers by the Lyran guards. As she stood there, the disconcerting grip of a transporter gripped her. The familiar sights and smells of her ship were replaced by something utterly alien. The Lyran vessel's interior was much like its exterior. The bulkheads were made up of the same golden alloy and lighting was provided by yellowish green lights. The signage that she could see through the forcefield of her cell was done in blood red, knifelike alien script. Lyran marines lounged in the room beyond the cell. There was a quiet hum growing louder in volume, then it leveled off and nearly became lost in the background noise of an active starship.

Must have gone to warp Dorothy thought. The sound was very similar to what her ship had made when it jumped to FTL speeds. She slouched down against the wall of her cell, putting her injured leg out in front of her. Massaging the twisted ankle seemed to help it a bit, but the dull ache remained. Her hand ran across the now crusted over gash on her forehead. She winced when her fingers made contact but continued to explore the wound with her manacled hands. It wasn't that deep, or at least didn't seem so to her inexperienced touch. Already it was expanding to a pretty good-sized goose egg though. Her physical examination through, Dorothy's thoughts drifted towards her future. What exactly were the kitties planing on doing with her?

Near the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, along the Gamma/Delta Quadrant border

It had been nearly 90 years since the entire Interstellar Concordium had packed up everything that could move and traveled to the very fringe of the galaxy. After their stunning and disastrous defeat at the hands of the Terran Empire, the ISC had at first not known what to do. The various member species of the ISC had even begun to bicker among themselves as to the appropriate course of action to take. Some had nearly resorted to civil war before a solution was proposed.

The Veltressai had put their many lobed brains together and had come up with a workable solution. But although it was workable, it was also hard to swallow. They proposed that the ISC abandon everything they had worked so long and hard to create. If it had come from any other species but the highly respected Veltressai, it would have been dismissed out of hand. But because it DID come from the Veltressai, the Council of Five was forced to analyze their proposal. After much deliberation, the found that they had to agree with the Veltressai. After loosing most of their space fleet in the disastrous Pacification Campaign against the Terran Empire, it was the only viable option to save the ISC from the expected counterassault.

So it was that all 1500 settled worlds and over 60 sentient species packed up and moved everything they had lock stock and barrel to the galactic fringe. There, in secrecy, they rebuilt their infrastructure and set about making new ships to fight the Terran Empire and finally bring peace, order and good government to the peoples of the TE. The ISC may have lost the first battle, but they were damned well going to win the war.

Interstellar Concordium Vessel Peace Envoy, on patrol near the edge of ISC space

The amphibian Meskeen sat comfortably in his chair, the small fans that blew moisture rich air on him running nearly silently along with the regular background noise of a working starship. The patrol was going smoothly, there had been nothing abnormal on the sensors. He hadn't even been born when the Interstellar Concordium had launched its pacification campaign into what was known as the Terran Empire. Yet from almost the moment of his birth he had known that he was destined to help return the ISC to greatness. Well, perhaps from birth was a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. It was that drive that made him join the ISC Navy. The new patrol frigate that he captained was a true marvel of modern construction. It carried powerful phaser arrays, high-speed plasma torpedoes and the latest incarnation of the Plasmatic Pulsar Device.

The newest PPD was one of the longest ranged weapons known, capable of delivering intensely focused plasma energy pulses across previously unheard-of distances. While not as good at knife fight range, it was a truly fearsome weapon of war. And it also had an excellent new feature that previous incarnations never had. It was enveloping. Instead of the carrier wave concentrating on a narrow part of an enemy vessel, it could be widened to envelop the entire target. This allowed the plasma to strike not only the facing side of the vessel, but the flanks, top and bottom of it as well. Although it didn't do as much damage to the adjoining sides of the target as a direct blast would have, it was a valuable enhancement to an already deadly weapon.

The high-speed plasma torpedoes were a nice addition to the ISC's arsenal as well. Traveling faster than the TE's photon torpedoes, they delivered a powerful blow. And the plasma degradation problem of old style plasma torps had been fixed in the new type, allowing for the full charge to be delivered across the entire range of the weapon, which was only slightly less than the PPD’s. It also mounted powerful shields and armor, enabling it to withstand the firepower of most normal cruisers. The systems that had been trial run in the Peace Envoy were now being modified for use in all refits and new ship construction. All in all, the Peace Envoy was a tough little ship. And her captain was itching for the chance to strike back at the enemy that had forced the ISC from its home space.

"Captain, I am detecting a disturbance in sector 9552. It is congruent with a subspace tunnel preparing to open into normal space." The Peace Envoy's science officer said, her green skin near blue with the light cast from her panel. Her typical Meskeen voice's high pitch and slightly nasal quality caused the rest of the bridge crew to focus on their instruments, searching for the first sign of the incoming vessels.

"We aren't expecting any company. I wonder whom it could be? Cloak the ship and go to yellow alert just to be safe. I want full passive scans of any ships that come out of that tunnel."

"Sir, judging from the size of the opening, it is going to be a large transit. Quite large in fact…" As the Q'Nabbian engineer spoke, all attention was diverted to the main viewer.

Where there had been normal space moments before, a tear formed spilling the angry orange light of a subspace tunnel into normal space Just as the Peace Envoy cloaked, the first ships began to appear. They were small, beetle looking ships, but the came in a steady torrent.

"Look at the number of them!" The Peace Envoy's science officer said. "They blot out the very stars!"

And then the first of the bigger ships began to appear. They were similar enough in styling to the smaller ships that you could tell that they were built by the same species. But any similarity ended there. These ships were massive leviathans, easily the size of the ISC's biggest class, the Peacemaker. The captain looked down at his readouts. Unlike the smaller ships, those behemoths were well armed and armored. Where the smaller ships had only a single beam weapon, those ships mounted over 30, and they had torpedo emplacements as well. Their nacelles cast an eerie pinkish purple glow on their violet/silvery hulls.

"Contact High Command on the covert channel. They must be informed of this development!" The captain said. Then he turned back to the view screen. Steady as a metronome, the alien vessels continued to pour out of the subspace tunnel like a swarm of locusts.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 07:29pm

CHAPTER 15

ISCV Peace Envoy, 2 days later

The Peace Envoy was about to become the embodiment of its name. Because it had been his ship that had first detected the alien armada, it was his responsibility to start negotiations with the new species. At least that was what High Command had said. They honored him greatly, for it wasn't every day that a powerful species was encountered. It was the ISC's mandate to bring order and peace to the galaxy, so if these new aliens could be persuaded to live in harmony with the Concordium then so much the better. If however they proved unreasonably hostile to the Concordium's overtures, like the Terran Empire had, then the Pacification Fleet was ready to strike at them rapidly. But with such a strong enemy fleet, the Pacification Fleet, although it would inevitably win, would suffer serious casualties if the attack had to happen.

The new aliens had descended on the asteroid belt and metal rich planets of this insignificant system and began processing the gathered materials in their mammoth ships. Vast tracts of the dense asteroid belt were already devoid of even the smallest pebble, the section vacuumed clean in the alien's thirst for raw materials. The entire process was highly efficient and already there were numerous new small craft added to the already substantial number present.

After two strenuous days of stealthy scouting around the alien fleet's perimeter, the Peace Envoy swung towards the heart of the formation. It wouldn't take the unknown aliens long to pick them up. Even while cloaked, the Peace Envoy had proven at least a fleeting target to the alien's sensors. Their patrols had altered course on several occasions in order to execute high intensity scans of the area where the Peace Envoy had just been. It was both a good will gesture and a desire not to overly alarm the new aliens that the Peace Envoy dropped its cloak. Nearly immediately swarms of light units erupted from their mammoth motherships and vectored in on the lone ISC Frigate’s position. As a further gesture of good faith, the Peace Envoy's weapons and shields were powered down. As the range closed, the Meskeen captain ordered a com channel opened.

Dominion command battleship Founders Wisdom

"Founder, the unknown cruiser is hailing us." The Vorta Weyoun said to the smoothed-faced changeling standing near the middle of the massive battleships command deck. "What is to be our response?"

"Open the channel, but keep it targeted. If they try anything be prepared to attack immediately."

"Of course Founder." Weyoun made a small bow then issued the necessary commands to the Jem'Hadar officers.

Seconds later the eyepiece the Founder wore showed the smooth green skin of a Meskeen. His skin glistened with the light sheen of moisture amphibians needed to survive. His black eyes sat in large bulges on either side of his head, much like a Terran frog. The voice that came through the Founder's ear bug was high pitched and slightly nasal.

"I greet you on behalf of the Interstellar Concordium and welcome you to our space. It is the Concordium's hope that all sentient life can live in harmony with each other."

"Fine words, but we place little stock in the words of solids. Just the same, if we have trespassed on your territory, I apologize. There was no activity within this system, so we assumed that it was unclaimed. We shall depart now." Gone was the time when the Dominion took what it wanted. Even with this powerful concentration of ships, the Dominion couldn't afford to lose them needlessly, especially the larger vessels. They couldn't be replaced nearly as readily as the standard Jem'Hadar attack craft could.

With no worlds left for it to use, it had been forced to continue a sorry existence on board the surviving super carriers and battleships of the Jem'Hadar fleet. There were only a few Founders left. Most of those that survived had been off world when the Terran Empire had launched its surprise attack on the Founder Homeworld. Survived that is if you called having to go on living without the Great Link surviving.

ISCV Peace Envoy, main bridge

The Meskeen captain saw opportunity for greatness slipping away from him. The female alien in the orange clothing appeared ready to terminate communication. He had to do something to make her stay in communication longer.

"Wait. It is not my place to pry into your affairs, but how is it that you came to voyage between the stars with no planet to call your own?" Anger flashed on the normally deadpan features of the Founder. The captain didn't know weather that was a good or bad sign, but it did keep the new alien on the com.

"Your right! It is none of your business. I suggest that you leave before we choose to use your ship for target practice! But before I end this communication, I shall give you one piece of advice as a reward for your boldness. If you ever encounter a species known as the Terrans, strike them first and strike hard because you shall otherwise end up like us or worse." Why the Founder decided to warn this nosy species about the Terran Empire escaped her. Perhaps it was because she so deplored the sate the Dominion had been turned into at their hands. Perhaps she was getting sentimental about solids in her old age. But the why didn't matter, the fact that she had named the Terrans was all the Meskeen needed. At the mention of the name, the entire bridge crew tensed.

"Excuse me but did you say Terrans? As in the Terran Empire?"

"Yes. Why? Have you heard of them already?" Out of the camera's pickup the founder began to enter a series of commands into the console. Could she have tipped off one of the Terran's subject species? If that proved the case, she would have to destroy this alien cruiser as quickly as possible.

"As a matter of fact, the Terran Empire is the reason we are here on the fringe of the galaxy. They drove us from our homes long ago. We resettled here in an attempt to rebuild our power base so that when we eventually encountered them again, we could properly defend ourselves."

Was this a solid ruse to entrap the few remaining Dominion forces or was it the truth the founder thought to herself? "I shall require access to your ships database to verify your claims, but if what you say proves true, I may have a proposition for your superiors. The Terran Empire did much the same thing to us relatively recently. If we were to combine our forces, perhaps we could pose an even greater threat to the Terran Empire than either of us would be on our own." After so long in sorrow, the universe had decided to allow a faint ray of hope to shine on the Dominion.

ISS Hopolite, main bridge, that same time

On the view screen the massive Borg complex began to glow, an eerie green showing through the lattice work of metal conduits and walkways. Slowly at first but with increasing speed the stars in the center of the Borg construct began to churn. Tendrils of sickly greenish yellow flowed out of the swirling middle. By all indications recovered in the Borg records everything was going exactly like it was supposed to.

Ulysses slouched in his chair, his face a mask showing none of the turmoil that was boiling inside him. The feeling of dread that he had been having since Chriton first said that he was going to use the Borg device was stronger than ever. But there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

"Gravimetric readings are spiking off the chart sir! Radiation levels have risen noticeably but are within acceptable levels."

"Thank you Mr. Sarkis," Ulysses said to the Hopolite's new chief Science Officer. "Can you interpret what the Borg device is creating?"

"It seems to defy classification sir. It is most similar to a wormhole, yet at the same time it doesn’t have any of the usual markers for one. I'm sorry sir, that’s the best I can do." He actually sounded sorry, which was an indication of just how much better Ulysses system of command was than the normal Fleet style. On most vessels, the only thing the science officer would have been sorry of would have been having to do extra work.

"I understand." Ulysses nodded his thanks.

"And there they go." P'tel said from the chair to his right.

Ulysses turned his eyes back to the view screen. As he watched the ships of 24th fleet began to disappear into the gaping yellow green maw of the artificial Borg wormhole. The crazy fool, Ulysses thought, he's sending his entire fleet through at once, not even bothering to scout the other end first.

"As soon as the last ship of 24th fleet is though, I want Starfleet HQ raised on subspace. I'll take the call in my ready room." Chriton had insisted on a com blackout, most likely to prevent HQ from learning of his foolhardy plans and putting a stop to them. He may be insane and had evidently lost even the limited tactical sense he had once possessed, but he still knew how to play the system to get what he wanted. Orders that HQ didn't know about were ones that couldn't be countermanded. As he watched the first of 24th fleets cap ships disappeared into the artificial wormhole, all Ulysses could do was sit and stew over the sheer stupidity of it.

The new enemy had reactivated the portal that the first enemy had used to enter the Race's space. And like the first enemy, they sent a fleet of vessels through. But unlike the first enemy, these used much smaller ships. So much the better, for they would be that much easier to kill once they were engaged by the Race's fleet. It appeared that the only ship that was going to stay behind was the first one that had entered the system after it had been scoured clean of the first enemies. This was good because it should prove no match for the Race's picket cruiser. As the last of the enemy fleet disappeared into the portal, the picket cruiser powered up its systems from extreme low power to EMCON stealth status and began to stalk the lone unaware enemy left in rear guard.

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Post by Stravo » 2003-09-20 07:32pm

BY CONSENT OF THE AUTHORS since this fic was not posted here originally the rest can be found here:

http://www.angelfire.com/tv2/usssennia/rtw.doc

The Unity Saga will be in its own cleaned up thread in its entirety.

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