Terran Empire: Unity

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 09:48pm

Chapter 25 – Thunderhead

Galactic Unity forward command and control base, near Gamma/Alpha Quadrant boarder coreward

Pacification Fleet Prime Supreme Overlord Brakiel rested his towering five and three quarter meters height in a comfortable chair ringed with atmosphere hydrators. The ancient Meskeen was well past 2000 years of age, with all the wisdom his long life afforded him currently bent towards the analysis of 901st Pacification Fleet’s after-action report. He had served in the ISC’s Peaceforces since his youth, back when the Terrans were still using metal swords and armor to kill each other. He well remembered how the handful of species, his own included, had clustered together, combining their fates and common goals of galactic peace and unity into one political organization. And he also remembered the fateful day when the Veltressai far seers had brought their horrible vision of the future forward, changing the ISC’s policies forever.

They spoke of the day when the destroyers would come, that they would endeavor to consume the galaxy and the sentient peoples of it, leaving nothing in their wake. It was this terrifying vision that had dominated the ISC’s galactic agenda virtually since its inception. United, the galaxy stood a chance to stave off destruction, but divided as it then and still was, they would be picked off one by one. At first, the ISC had tried to bring other species into peaceful cooperation through peaceful means. But while they met with considerable success using this tactic amongst their local star cluster, external species, some with thriving empires of their own, were a different story.

Many were non-espers, unlike the varied species of the Meskeen’s home star cluster. They as such lacked the ability to read the sincerity of the ISC’s desires, many in fact afraid of the possible threats the esper races posed to them. They ignored the ISC envoy’s overtures at best, starting armed conflict with them at worst. This opposition to peaceful coexistence couldn’t be tolerated, especially in light of the threat the far seers foresaw. So ISC policy shifted from peaceful promotion of unity to unity through force of arms. Even so, the ISC advanced slowly, utilizing internal opposition to the current government to aid in making the shift into the ISC as bloodless as possible while always striving for a peaceful incorporation whenever possible. The ISC wasn’t out to conquer after all, they were merely doing what must be done if the galaxy was to survive. In many, many cases, the vast majority in fact, once the pacified species had experienced ISC’s rule of law, they rightly found it preferable to their old systems. True there were some systems that required greater means of persuasion of the rightness of ISC membership than mere examples of ISC justice and time, but they had always proved the minority.

Not so with the Terran Empire. The far seers had dreamt of them in their visions, and what they saw disturbed them greatly. The Terran Empire did not seek to unite the galaxy. They sought only to destroy and spread their cancer across the cosmos. They posed the single greatest known threat to uniting the diverse peoples of the galaxy. As such, they needed to be removed as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Brakiel’s immediate predecessor had not succeeded in wiping out the threat of the Terran Empire. He had come tantalizingly close, but had failed to take into account just how devoted and highly motivated the Terrans were to their misguided ideals. Nearly 200 years of propaganda backed them, making it very hard to convince the Terrans to change beliefs ingrained in them since they were babes in arms.

The first Pacification attempt of the Terran Empire had been crushed as a result. Brakiel was determined not to make the same mistakes his predecessor had made. Old Uziot had been too cautious, endeavoring to utilize the minimum amount of force possible. As a result, his Pacification Fleet Prime had been insufficient to the task of eliminating Terran resistance. By the time reinforcements arrived, they proved to be too late to be decisive. After overrunning over half of Terran held space, Pacification Fleet Prime was pushed back inexorably, finally being forced from their last foothold in Terran space nearly 90 years ago. That devastating upset had forced the ISC to flee its home systems in the Gamma Quadrant, retreating to the Gamma/Delta boarder along the fringe of the galaxy.

But the ISC had used those 90 years to repair its shattered fleets and make them grow even larger than they had ever been previous. New, more potent weapons systems were devised and installed. Armor and shields were bettered. In total secrecy, in a remote, isolated corner of the Milky Way, the ISC had built up the largest military force in the galaxy. The hundreds of billions of souls that made up the ISC were a fairly large force to draw from, and with modern mater synthesis replication nearly all could be part of the Peaceforces. The new home worlds had been virtually stripped of citizens as the starships and ground forces were assembled. And with the addition of the ISC’s newfound allies, the Dominion, the Terran Empire would finally be brought into the peaceful unity that was the ISC.

The 901st Pacification Fleet’s actions finished their run on the holodisplay as the last Galactic Unity ship fled through the corridor locus. The bottomless ebon pits of Brakiel’s eyes narrowed and for the first time in ages he felt the weight of his years pressing in on him.

They brash, young Q’Naabian Fleet Marshal that had commanded the 901st had failed to take all pertinent information into his decision making process. While he was almost as good at his job as he thought he was, his boldness had blinded him to the realities of his opposition. With word of the 901st’s defeat, Brakiel had poured over every scrap of information in the ISC databanks about the young Imperial officer responsible for temporarily stymieing the Galactic Unity’s pacification of the Prescott’s Star system. What he found had startled him, which was something quite unexpected for one as ‘experienced’ as Brakiel was.

Ulysses Vanguard was a competent officer, carrying out his assigned duties with exemplary fashion. Yet he seemed to be prone to almost careless violence. He ascended to Captain rank by murdering his CO, and his Academy file was filled with black marks of unnecessary violence against fellow cadets. More recently, he had a band of pirates summarily executed. Yet despite all this violence, he was fiercely protective of both innocents and those serving under him. The pirate incident exemplified this, for even though there was not a proper esper investigation into the events, and the punishment he chose was rather severe and permanent, given the weight of physical evidence it was in all likelihood the proper decision.

The young Imperial Officer had also shown a flair for creative problem solving, coming up with original and unexpected solutions to the military problems posed to him by his Academy instructors. Just such an original solution was used against the 901st. OWPs that were light enough to be easily moved by an active fleet formation were not tough enough to stand up to Line Battleship and Superdreadnought weapons fire. Everyone knew this, which was why no one ever thought about bringing them along into a firefight. But not Ulysses Vanguard. He brought them along anyway, and their added firepower had given his initial volleys much heavier weight than would otherwise be the case. True the lack of protection light OWPs was the reason they were so rapidly dispatched once they were used, but the initial volleys had proved decisive, for they had chewed a gaping hole out of 901st’s hammer.

And in reality, although OWPs were expensive, their replacement cost were far outweighed by the total capital ships they had allowed Ulysses to damage or destroy outright.

The fact that if 901st CO had attacked with less flair for the dramatic he would have won was beside the point. The pincer attack chosen by 901st CO had given his Imperial counterpart an opening that allowed him to defeat the attack. And the Imperial was smart enough to take it with both hands. It wouldn’t save him from a future assault done with competent tactics utilizing every advantage the Galactic Unity possessed over its adversary. If the 901st had just attacked in a single massed force, even though the assault would have lasted far longer than a successful pincer attack would, it would have been guaranteed of success. 901st CO had always been far to preoccupied with the fictional deeds of Q’Naabian heroes rather than with utilization of tactics and strategies that would work best in real life.

The pincer movement attack could even had worked, resulting in the speedy elimination of the Terran’s mobile forces in Prescott’s star, but only if the Terran fleet did exactly as the plan laid out for them to do. Such a plan was not one to rely on, for enemies rarely were so cooperative. EW drones had fooled the ISC forces long enough for them to commit to the attack plan. They were caught nearly completely unawares when Ulysses brought the majority of his mobile forces from under the powerful ECM put out by the Battlestations. A short warp jump into the Pacification Fleet’s path resulted in the range and speed advantages they possessed being nullified. The use of light OWPs towed behind Imperial warships resulted in the Pacification Fleet’s slight firepower advantage being nullified. The young Imperial that had risen to control the sector after the GU’s successful decapitation strike had not only made the defenders even more cohesive and better trained than they had been under their old superiors, he had stopped the pacification of the only major obstacle in the sector through his ingenuity and luck.

901st CO had failed to take all the unexpected changes the decapitation strike had wrought into account when laying out his battle plan. As a direct result, he had died when the mangled warp cores of his heavily mauled flagship breached early on in the battle.

“A pitiful performance.” A matter of fact voice said from behind the Supreme Overlord.

“You feel you can do better?” Brakiel’s nasally voice said evenly as he slowly pivoted his chair to face the white, sky blue and gold clad Peaceforce officer.

“Yes sir, I do.”

“Such confidence from one so young.”

“Sir, you know as well as I do that it was Fleet Marshal T’krit’s tactical blunders combined with his overconfidence that enabled the enemy’s victory over his forces.”

“And you have no qualms about fighting your own kind?”

“None sir.” The reply came without any hesitation and with total conviction. The human’s voice went cold as he continued. “I am not Terran, Sir, anymore than you are. I resent being associated with those… animals.” She voiced her view of the Imperial’s like she had tasted something sickening. “I was born a citizen of the Interstellar Concordium, and will remain a citizen till I die.”

Brakiel eased himself out of his large chair and began to pace, his towering frame looming over his lone companion. He found the human practice useful for collecting his thoughts. “Very well, Fleet Marshal Teresa Chora. Since you are convinced you can do better than the late Fleet Marshal T’krit, you will take the 1294th Superdreadnought Battlegroup and its escort to rendezvous with the 901st survivors in System 61003 A. You are charged with striking Prescott’s Star and bringing the system and its defenders into the peaceful unity that is the ISC.”

The usually dour human’s face light up with a brilliant smile. “Thank you Supreme Overlord. I shall prove your faith in my abilities well deserved.”

“I expect nothing less Fleet Marshal. And I urge you to use caution with your confidence. Do not underestimate your opponent. He may be young and inexperienced, but he has done more to advance the enemy’s combat readiness than the entire Fleet’s worth of flag officers did before him.” The middle-aged, Asiatic Human female nodded back at him, her expression serious again. When a commander as old and wise as Supreme Overlord Brakiel spoke, subordinates would do well to listen to his informed council.

The particular subordinate before him now was one of the most promising officers to come from those that had fled with the ISC during the first Pacification Campaign against the Terran Empire. Billions had chosen to join the ISC’s ranks, even in the face of the resurgent Terran Empire that eventually forced them away from their final foothold in the Alpha quadrant. They were a diverse bunch, including Humans, Romulans, Klingons and a plethora of other, less populous species. They were dispossessed, not having any worlds of their own, but shortly thereafter, ALL member species of the ISC had no worlds to call their own. They had packed up their civilization lock, stock and barrel and moved as far away from the ever growing blight of the Terran Empire as was possible, almost to the direct opposite corner of the galaxy. There, they had rebuilt their civilization and rebuilt their fleets, preparing for the day when they would again send their Peaceforces out to Pacify the Terrans.

An aide entered the flag holodisplay room of the massive ISC SM-class Super Monitor One, named Unity before she had even finished construction by her first captain. She was easily comparable to Voth Cityships in size, designed from the keel up to be the centerpiece of Pacification forces operating far from ISC held space.

“Supreme Overlord Brakiel, Peter O’tole sends his regards and wishes to convey a message to you.” The Gorn like Pronhoulite aide said.

“Yes, what is it?”

“He says that the self styled Grand Alliance races have refused to aid us in removing the Terran Empire. He further says that they will view any breach of their sovereign space as an act of war.”

The Supreme Overlord of Pacification Fleet Prime sighed, another useful trait adopted from the Humans. “While unfortunate, this chain of events wasn’t all that unexpected. The Grand Alliance species have spent to long under the cruel boot heels of the Terran Empire to recognize the truth of our offer.” Inner eyelids blinked closed over his eyes, carrying the soft sheen of accumulated water droplets with them. “Issue the necessary orders to activate Battle Plan Korikuk.”

“Should 17th Fleet be diverted from their impending attack on the Bajor Sector Sir? They should be in position to strike within a day, and their position will place them the closest to Grand Alliance space than any of our other active fleets.”

“No. Advise them to divert into Cardassian space once they have secured the Bajor Sector. 421st Fleet will take over the 17th’s assigned Imperial targets. Have a fresh list of Cardassian targets assigned to 17th Fleet as soon as possible. This Pacification Campaign has just gotten a little longer, but thanks to our Dominion allies, we have sufficient hulls to continue aggressive persecution of it.”

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Post by Stravo » 2003-09-20 09:50pm

Chapter 26: The Emissary Rises- By CaptainChewbacca of the TrekBBS (aka Peter Knudson)

“In here, Jake!” The voice giggled in the dark.

Young Terran smiled as he stooped and moved from the bright sunlight into the cave. “Alright, Lirinn, let’s see what’s so great about these ‘Ice Caves’ you keep telling...” As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, two shapes holding disruptors became visible. Jake Sisko swallowed at the sudden dryness in his mouth. “You don’t want to do this, really. Do you know who my father is?”

A hand rested on his shoulder. It was Lirinn, his lover. He searched her eyes for anger or betrayal, but found none. Confusion furrowed his brow. “It’s alright, Jake. They won’t shoot, you are not to be harmed.”

“Come with us.” The taller of the two Bajorans gestured with his disruptor toward the back of the cave. One walked ahead of Jake, the other behind, with Lirinn at his side. Jake’s mind raced, trying to think of what could be going on. Were these Bajorans with the Circle? Religious fanatics? Rumors had been circling that spies from the so-called ‘Grand Alliance’ ranged far in the Imperium, all the way up to the top military ranks. Could someone unhappy with his father have arranged for his kidnapping? The Bajorans were loyal citizens of the Imperium, and had been integrated almost sixty years with few incidents.

As they came to the back of the cave, the lead guard, the one who had spoken, pressed a rock which looked no different from any others, and a portion of the tunnel wall disappeared. They went inside, and Jake stopped for a moment. Inside was an immense cavern, perhaps a kilometer across. They walked around an elevated ledge which ringed the room, and as Jake looked down he could see cooking fires and lanterns glinting in a sea of tents; a whole city underground.

As they descended to the floor, a shout went up from the village, and from the tents poured Bajorans. Men, women, and even children stood and watched. Some were smiling and waving, a few were cheering, and many had stern looks on their faces as they held weapons close. Jake had no illusions about what they wanted to use those guns for. As they walked, the crowd began to grow thicker and he could see their faces. The people were tired and dirty. Disgraceful for citizens of the Empire, but what could be expected from aliens?

“Are you going to kill me?” Jake spoke in a low tone to Lirinn.

She took his hand. “No, something else altogether. But just wait.”

A few people threw stones at Jake, but the lead guard fired a shot into the ceiling. “None of that!” He shouted down the growing murmur. “He is under the protection of the Kai.” They walked Jake quickly through the village to the far side, where a low archway was flanked by another pair of guards. The entourage stopped, and the lead guard turned to Jake. “Only you are to enter.”

“What’s in there?” Jake had a bad feeling about what was inside. But his escort was silent. Lirinn only smiled and clenched her hands together in anticipation. The young Terran went inside. The tunnel was narrow and dim, with only a single lamp illuminating it. He walked slowly to the corner and turned, coming suddenly into a small library. At least that’s what it looked like. Jake was a writer, and the smell of old parchment tickled his nostrils. A small fire on a hearth lighted the room and cast strange shadows. Stacks of books and scrolls filled two walls of shelves and covered a table. He almost didn’t see the room’s occupant because a stack of books hid her in her chair.

“I have been expecting you, Jacob Sisko.” The tiny robed form stood slowly. She turned to Jake and for a long moment the two looked at each other. She was a tiny Bajoran woman, no more than one and a half meters tall, and very old. There was a cold light in here eyes, but a slight smile on her face. She stepped forward and in an instant grabbed Jake’s ear. A cold finger and thumb pinched the skin, but not painfully. Her eyes closed and she breathed deeply. “Your pah is strong, Jacob Sisko. The prophets words always find the true path.”

Jake pushed her hand away. Now that the guards were gone, he was starting to get annoyed. “Prophets? What are you talking about? Do you know who I am?”

The old woman turned away and went to the fire. “Such demands from one so young. Which shall I answer first?” She retrieved a steaming kettle from the fire.

Just play along and get out of here, Jake thought. “I guess first tell me who you are.”

She walked past him to the table and started rummaging amongst scrolls for cups. “I am Kai Opacca, servant of the Prophets.” She handed Jake a cup of steaming liquid and sat in the large overstuffed chair. Opacca pointed to a chair in the corner, motioning for Jake to sit down.”

The young Terran tried to speak with dispassion, remembering some of his father’s lessons in diplomacy. On Bajor, a Kai was a religious leader, and if he remembered correctly, the ‘Prophets’ were the less-hedonistic of Bajor’s two sects of spirits. Jake had heard horror stories of the violence caused by the cult of the Pah Wraiths. “I greet you, Kai Opacca. If you know who I am, you must know that my father is the Vice Admiral of this sector, and will not permit me to be held. He won’t pay you ransom, he’ll just send an assault team. The Imperium protects its people well.” Somehow, Jake didn’t think he sounded as menacing as his father.

Kai Opacca sipped her tea and then waved his words away. “You misjudge us, Jacob. We are not Terrans, who attack and conquer without provocation. I asked Lirinn to bring you here so I could ask for your help.”

Jake suppressed a laugh. “My help? What makes you think I’ll help you?” This woman is insane.

“Yes, your help. We wish for you to take a gift to your father, Admiral Sisko.” She leaned to one side and picked up a box. It was the size of a small strongbox, but of beautifully carved wood.

Now Jake was curious. “What is it?”

She slowly opened the box and took out something wrapped in cloth green cloth. She carefully removed the wrapping and Jake leaned forward. In the old woman’s hands was a small box perhaps only twenty centimeters on the side. It was roughly trapezoidal, with glowing blue gems decorating the center of each face.

“What is it?” Jake reached out to touch it, but Opacca grabbed his wrist and looked into his eyes.

“It is the Orb of the Emissary, sent by the Prophets for your father long ago.” She let go of his wrist and started to wrap the orb again. “We wish for you to give it to your father. He will know what to do with it when the time comes.”

Jake stood up and walked to the fire, warming his hands. The hand he had reached out with was very cold. “Let me get this straight,” a slight grin on his face, “These Prophets of yours told you to kidnap me and give me a magic box to give to my father? Why?”

“Ours is not to question the Prophets, young Sisko.” Opacca stood and handed the box to Jake. “Ours is but to follow our destiny. And you, you Jacob Sisko, have a great destiny.” She looked up at him, her smile growing. “You will take the will of the Prophets from this place, and be the herald of the Emissary.”

--- --- ---

Captain Kira’s cloak billowed behind her as she stalked across the promenade of Deep Space Nine, driving the few shoppers out of her way like a gust of wind. Normally, the Captain of the ISS Saratoga kept her pace more measured, with dignity that her position demanded. But some logistics reports had taken longer than she didn’t want to miss the debriefing.

She stepped into the turbolift and smiled slightly as the doors closed. That thick-headed Terran, Admiral Riker, had gotten his battle group knocked around by a Jem’Hadar patrol, and had come in for repairs. Kira shook her head, wondering how the Imperium she loved could promote Terrans like him while loyal non-Terrans like herself had to fight for advancement. It would be sweeter than a jum-ja stick to see him dressed down by Fleet Admiral Sisko.

Her musings were over in an instant, and as the turbolift rose into station ops, she made her face a mask of stone. A young ensign towering at the door in armor announced “Captain on deck!” and as one the Terrans, Bajorans, and Vulcans snapped to attention. She dismissed them with a nod. Her people feared her, and with good reason. She was the highest-ranked Bajorans in Starfleet, and the only “lesser” alien to be ranked so high in a sector fleet. Kira descended the stairs and crossed the room, cursing the Cardassian design. It was the Terran’s sense of irony that made DS9 the only Cardassian military outpost still in existence, well it used to be. As Kira climbed the stairs she could already hear Sisko’s voice. He was more on edge these days, with the Cardassian resurgence making his sector of vital strategic importance. Sisko was tough on his officers, but usually fair. Right now he was being tough on Riker.

The door opened. “.. and you are telling me that you are short six Defiants, two Prometheus cruisers, and the Vengeance is so badly damaged my engineers tell me it’s a tossup whether scrapping her would be a better use of resources.” Admiral Sisko was in fine form today, his thundering voice filled the room and he was already pacing behind his desk. A datapad was wagging in his right hand like a snake. Across from him stood Riker and his second, Captain Lore. Kira shuddered as the android’s eyes studied her for an instant. She had heard stories about the androids of Section-31, and he was their prototype.

“With all due respect, sir,” Riker was trying to keep his voice measured, and fairing poorly. “the battle group was outnumbered almost three to one. Only superior firepower helped us to counteract their maneuverability.”

Sisko raised the datapad and studied it. “Ah yes. Thirty Jem’Hadar destroyers and four battle cruisers. It must have been terrifying- How ever did you manage to survive?” He cocked his head and for a moment there was a smile on his face. Then it vanished as he slammed the datapad on his desk, smashing the small thing into pieces and causing his baseball to jump out of its stand. “By dumb luck, that’s how!” Sisko picked up his baseball and began to spin it in his hand. “I have read your report, Commissar Troi’s report,” he nodded to the Batezoid reclining in the corner “and Captain Lore’s report. I even read the sensor logs from the Enterprise, and I was shocked. Do you know what I found out, Vice Admiral Riker?” He looked into Riker’s eyes, and the mutual hatred glowed between them. Riker remained silent.

Sisko tossed his baseball and caught it. “Captain Kira, what does the Starfleet code of military conduct say in section two, paragraph four?” Kira was his favorite Captain. He hoped she would play.

And Kira didn’t like Riker either. She stood straight. “Sir, when an Imperial force has encountered an enemy force and has determined it to be of inferior stature, it is to attack immediately taking all possible precautions.”

“Ah, attack immediately. That is correct, Captain.” Sisko turned to Riker. “Are you familiar with the Starfleet code of military conduct, Admiral?”

Riker kept at rigid attention. “Yes, sir.”

Sisko smiled. “Good, for a minute I was worried. Do you know how long it was between the detection of the enemy force and the Enterprise’s engaging of the enemy? EIGHTEEN POINT FOUR SECONDS!” He spat out the words like fire. He spun around and looked out the window. “Eighteen point four seconds! And, after the enemy force had ALREADY closed to weapons range and fired on the battle group, did you order an attack?” The silence in the room rang in Kira’s ears. Sisko turned around and leaned across his desk. “Did you order an attack after being fired upon, Admiral Riker?”

“No sir.”

“NO YOU DID NOT!” Sisko pushed away from his desk. “The good Commissar had to order an attack after your indecision became so painfully obvious that even SHE could see what needed to be done. Captain Lore!” The android shifted from his motionless stance. “Captain Lore, what would your course of action have been?”

The android clearly did not want to answer the question, for fear of earning the animosity of either of his commanders. “Sir, I was not in command of the force, and may not have been privy to-“

”Yes, yes, you want to keep your job.” Sisko waved away the rest of his sentence. “What would your course of action have been?”

“Sir,” Kira could almost here the processors inside the android crafting the proper response. “I believe if I were in charge I would have dispatched the Defiants in pairs on Destroyers, two Prometheus’s and one Sovereign per Battlecruiser, and sent the last Sovereign on overall cover, shepherding the Defiants.” For a moment it seemed Lore would continue, but he closed his mouth.

Sisko clapped. “Excellent strategy, Captain. You are a credit to the Empire. But YOU” he pointed at Riker “are something less. Perhaps one day I will tell you exactly what that is. In the meantime,” He put down his baseball and picked up another datapad and tapped a few keys. “I am entering a formal reprimand into your record, and am requesting a review of your status as battle group commander.” He handed the pad to Riker. “Do you have anything you wish to say, Vice-Admiral?”

For a pair of heartbeats Riker stood fuming, then seemed to subside. “No... Sir.” He took the pad.

“Then all three of you are dismissed.” Riker spun on his heel and left, followed by Lore, and Troi. The doors slid closed.

Kira burst out laughing. “Did you enjoy that, Admiral?”

Sisko sat back in his chair and started gathering pieces of datapad off his desk. “Yes, yes I did.” He smiled. “It’s a shame, so many valuable ships in the hands of that man.” He gestured to the chair opposite his.

“What keeps him in his chair?” Kira relaxed in the plush cushioning. The Terrans had improved on the Cardassian design.

“Nepotism. Nepotism and the unwillingness of Starfleet to admit its mistakes.” He picked up his baseball and tossed it to Kira. “Makes you wonder if Twain was right about irony after all.”

“Twain, Sir?” The admiral was a literary man, always quoting his ancient American authors which Kira couldn’t tolerate. Not at all like the poetry of Jetain.

There was a far off light in Sisko’s eyes. “Never mind about that. Still, that Captain Lore shows promise, don’t you think?”

“Some, Sir.” Kira had seen that light before. She knew Sisko was thinking about the future of the Imperium, and what Captain Lore could do for it. It was why she admired the man. They both believed in the Imperium, really believed. It was why she had killed her captain, and why Sisko had pardoned her and made her his Flag Captain. They were kindred souls.

“Now then, Admiral.” Kira pulled a datapad from the desktop. “I have the new analyses of fleet combat performance drills for your review, as well as construction summaries for the new defenses...”

--- --- ---

Director Garak strode slowly through the command section of the Cardassian Hutet Cardassia’s Song, his dark expression cast an aura of worry around him which drove the crewmen before him like a whirlwind. From humble beginnings as the son of a poor tailor, Elim Garak had traded secrets and information with his Imperial masters and done it well. He had pitted one greedy Terran against another ambitious one time and again, all the while securing supplies and information for the Unionists. Sixty years of occupation and humiliation was now over, and hope shone from the face of every Cardassian. Except his.

Garak climbed the steps to the Command dais and pressed the door panel. The doors silently opened, and he stepped inside. Seated behind the immense desk, Gul Damar was looking over a stack of status reports from the various leaders of the fleet. The ruddy glow of the subspace corridor illuminated the dim room. Garak knew that Damar enjoyed his kanar off-duty, but when he was working he let nothing distract him. He glanced up when he heard the door. “Good day, Director. To what do I owe such a visit?”

“There has been an incident on one of the Terran Superdreadnoughts.” A note of gloating was in Garak’s voice.

Damar continued to study his reports. “Yes, I know. Most unfortunate.”

“Unfortunate??” Garak laughed. “My dear Legate, I would hardly call the accidental triggering of the tactical counterinsurgency holograms and the loss of the entire crew 'unfortunate'. The ship had to be destroyed.”

“As I said, unfortunate.” Damar looked into Garak’s eyes, reading his meaning. “But we must continue with our mission; no delays.” He picked up another PADD, but Garak wasn’t finished.

He snatched the PADD out of his hand, and Damar rose to his feet. He was not about to be challenged in his own ship. “Damar, look around you!” Garak stepped back but spoke with force. He knew he had just one chance. “Our new-found empire is barely six weeks old, and our borders are far from protected. And yet, here we sit in the midst of a new and untested fleet with faulty ships on our way to attack the most heavily defended Imperial world in this sector. Attack and conquer it. Eighty years ago the Imperium and the Bajorans destroyed our homeworld, and now our vaunted military leaders want revenge.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” Damar leaned over and snatched the PADD from Garak. He set it on the desk and walked over to a cabinet. “Do you think I don’t know that Legate Dukat and his peers are idealistic fools who think we’ve already won this war?” He opened the cabinet door and took out a bottle of amber kanar and a pair of glasses. “In seven hours I am to lead a fleet against a heavily defended Terran world with barely enough forces to match them gun-for-gun.” He filled each glass with a few centimeters of the liquid. “Don’t you think I argued with central command for five hours against this?” He handed Garak a glass and then pounded down his own.

He set the glass on the table. “Cardassia has to be more than strong. It has to be feared. And the central command thinks the best way to do that is to keep our enemy off guard, and to do that, I am to conquer Bajor in the name of the Cardassian Union.”

Garak studied his drink, and tasted it gingerly. “And what do YOU think, Legate?”

“I think...” Damar chose his words carefully. The Obsidian Order was always searching for chinks in the loyalty of officials. “...I am loyal to Cardassia, and will carry out the orders of the central command. I am ordered to engage the Imperial Fleet at Bajor and conquer it, so that is what I will do.”

“Hmmm... very well Legate.” Garak drained his glass and grimaced slightly. “To our victory!” He spun on his heel and left.
As he passed the communications pit, he tapped a few buttons on a console. No one would question him, they wouldn’t dare. A light flashed on the panel, and Garak’s carefully disguised signal leapt into the void. He walked to the turbolift and smiled slightly. One last card, and he had played it. He wasn’t about to let one fourth of the Cardassian fleet be dashed upon the rocks and shoals of ignorance. The Order protected Cardassia, even from its own leaders.

--- --- ---

In a dark, remote room on Imperial Listening Post 21419 in the center of a hollow asteroid, a panel of lights sprang to life. A long-ago written code hardwired into the system overrode its normal functions, sending a massively encrypted data file to a receiver somewhere deep in Imperial space. If the automated outpost could reason, it would have wondered why high-level intelligence messages were being sent between two governments at war. But ILP21419 couldn’t reason, and didn’t care. For three tenths of a second its transmissions were interrupted as it sent its tight-beam transmission. No had one noticed the lapse in function, and no one ever would.

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Post by Stravo » 2003-09-20 09:54pm

Chapter 26 Continued by CaptainChewbacca

The dinner table in the executive quarters deep in the heart of Deep Space 9 was a flurry of activity when Admiral Sisko walked inside. His four youngest children, Anna, Gabriel, Eli, and Henry, were busy putting out table service, arguing about who got to do what. In the kitchen Ben could hear his wife, Jennifer, chopping the peppers for the jumbalaya. Ben had made it clear to his family long ago that a weekly meal was necessary and that only "savages" ate replicated food. He stuck his head into the kitchen and gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek, "Hey, baby! What's cookin?"

Jennifer laughed "You, if you don't get outta my way, Mister Captain Admiral Sir!" She slapped his hand away from the peppers and shooed him out. It was her turn to make dinner, and Jennifer didn't want any help.

Ben sat down on the couch and was promptly swarmed by his children. "Daddy! Daddy! What did you do today?" Little Eli, only four, was at the age of always asking questions.

"Well, let's see..." Ben gathered up his children with him, grinning a peaceful smile "What did I do today? I had a meeting with Prince Aesstuusss, and talked to him about his fighter-ships. I decided he's doing well enough that I'm going to send a request to starfleet that each and every fleet has some of his Hydran fighter-ships."

"I don't like Mr. Aesstuusss, Daddy" Anna was eight, and spoke her mind. "He smells funny. Last time he came to dinner, he made my tummy feel icky."

Ben laughed "An icky tummy?? Sounds serious. I'd better have uncle Julian check you out. But you can't say that to Mr. Aesstuusss. Even if he is an alien, he's one of the better ones, and a good officer."

"I'll eat to that!" The door swished open, and Ben Sisko's second son, Lafayette, ducked to cross the threshold. A towering youth, a mistake in his engineering to correct diabetes had given him abnormal growth patterns, leaving him almost two meters tall by the time he was seventeen. His dark flightsuit and white trim almost sparkled with cleanliness and the lieutenant's pip on his collar, quite a mark for a man at only twenty, was well polished. He saluted his father, and then gave him a hug. "Good evening, Vice Admiral!"

"Good evening, Lieutenant Sisko." Ben laughed "You're letting that new pip go to your head. I might have to have a talk with Aesstuusss about demoting you."

Lafayette plopped down in a chair and picked up Eli, who was trying to pull off his commbadge. "Try it and I'll have to challenge you, Dad." Lafayette leaned forward and grabbed a small object from the table. "What's this? It looks Bajoran."

Ben sat down across from his son. "It is. Jake found it on the planet a few days ago, said some Bajoran priestess wanted me to have it, my destiny or something."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much, Dad." Lafayette bounced his youngest brother on his knee. "Those clerics just grab your ears and say "pah" all the time." He stared at the orb. "Still, its pretty nice. What makes it glow?"

"The science department is clueless." Ben made a tent of his fingers and looked intently at it. "It has no power source, no energy signature, and the interior can't be scanned. The only thing they're sure of is its not dangerous." They passed a few more minutes in conversation about the war and politics before the door chimed again. It was Jake and his fiancé Lirinn. Sisko knew what people would say about his oldest son marrying an alien, but he didn't care. Bajorans were respectable and hardworking.

"Hey, Jako!" Jennifer called from the kitchen. "You're just in time, if Lirinn can help me out."

Lirinn went to help, and Jake was engulfed by a hug from his younger, bigger brother. "Hey, Laffy! How's the flying?"

"Oh, it has its ups and downs." They both burst out laughing and sat down at the table. For the next twenty minutes there was chewing and many voices talking at once, a familial "roar" of fellowship. Suddenly, the Siskos' comm chimed for a secure line. Jennifer shot her husband a glance as he rose. "Don't worry, Jen. I won't be long."

In his bedroom, Ben switched on the comm panel. It was his personal aide and intelligence officer, Julian Bashir. Doctor, tinker, spy, the genetically enhanced man did it all for the Empire, and for Section 31. Ben had pardoned him when it was discovered he had been concealing his genetic engineering, and had transferred him to his staff. "This had better be good, Julian. It’s Tuesday night."

Julian nodded "I wouldn't be calling if it wasn't, sir. You had better get to command with the senior command staff, we've got..."

"... over a hundred Superdreadnoughts, including as many as thirty of our own Wraiths, almost a hundred Sovereigns, and several thousand auxiliary ships heading this way." Five minutes later Sisko was on the command deck with his senior staff. Kira was there, as was Prince Aesstuusss, the Hydran Admiral in command of a wing of Ark Royal Carriers in Sisko's fleet. Also there were Admiral Riker and Captain Lore, as well as a half-dozen captains from both commands. Julian was behind Sisko, and Troi was hovering silently in a corner.

"How sure are you of the intelligence?" Riker's fists clenched.

"Quite sure, admiral." Julian smiled slightly. "My source is very highly placed in the Cardassian Central Command."

<REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE WE MUST ACT> Aesstuusss used a speech processor to communicate from behind his methane tanks. He rocked on his rear legs. <I RECOMMEND WE PREPARE TO MEET THEM AT THE BAJOR DEFENSE PERIMETER>.

"No," Kira cut through sharply. "If they get into the system we can't guarantee they'll be kept away from Bajor. The defense stations aren't finished yet, and we don't have the ships to fill in the gaps."

"Agreed." Sisko nodded. "But we can't just meet them head-on. Even WITH the Enterprise groups and some luck with outlying fleet units being recalled, we're just barely outgunning them. Chief," His chief engineer Miles O'Brien stepped off the turbolift. "What's the status of the torpedo upgrades?"

Miles O'Brien grimaced. "We've been working round the clock, sir, but our priority was the defense platforms. For ships, we've only got the new torpedoes on twenty-seven of the Wraiths, ten upgrades and seventeen standard ships. Four shifts ago we started putting them on the ship-launchers, and if you give me free reign to motivate my men, I can get you another thirty Steamrunners and twenty Akiras loaded and ready in ninety minutes. Then we can get back to the stations."

"That will have to do." Sisko turned to the sector display. "We know they're coming direct from Cardassian space, where can we get them?" He tapped his fingers on the map."

"Admiral," Lore was at Sisko's side "I believe the most opportune place would be here," he pointed towards a section speckled with small flecks. "The Denorias belt. The tachyon eddies inhibit subspace corridors, so they will have to transit to normal space there and continue with regular warp engines. As they transition, we can attack."

"Excellent." Sisko clapped his hands together. "We will make our stand at the Denorias belt. I want the fleet in three sections, with a rearguard for Bajor. Admiral Riker," Riker straightened "You will remain on DS9 and lead the defense of Bajor. If we fail, you will be their only hope." Sisko knew that would sting, leaving a buck Admiral in a rearguard, but Riker needed to learn a few things. "You will have five Wraiths, three-dozen Sovereign-class Battleships, and most of the smaller ships. Captain Kira will direct the Bajoran Defense Fleet under you and-"

"The hell I will, Admiral!" Kira now looked mad enough to spit nails.

"I beg your pardon?" Sisko and Riker said in perfect unison.

"I'm not going to stay here while a Cardassian fleet is coming at me. I'm going to go blow it up." Kira straightened her uniform and stood tall. "With all due respect to Admiral Riker, if I'm going to die for my homeworld, I would like to choose who I die under."

"You are way out of line, Capt-" Sisko held up a hand and cut off Riker in mid-rant.

"Very well, Captain Kira. You will be with me on the Saratoga, and lead one of the three fleetgroups. Captain Lore, you will command the second group from the Enterprise. For the duration of this engagement I am promoting you to the field rank of Admiral. Please update your protocols." The android nodded. "Aye sir."

"Captain Eddington," Sisko turned to the quiet captain whose crewman had dubbed 'The Marquis du Sade'. "You will take the Bahamut's Fist and lead the third element. I will direct the battle from the Saratoga." Sisko looked around. "Contact your ships, and transfer personnel. We depart in two hours, and I want all civilian personnel off DS9 and fleet ships and onto Bajor. Dismissed." The men and women quickly departed. He stood there, for a moment, and then went to his office. He picked up the small Bajoran sculpture from his desk. Somehow he had brought it with him from his quarters. "Maybe it will bring me luck." With the Orb in hand, Vice Admiral Sisko went to his ship.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 09:58pm

Chapter 27 – Small Victories

ISS Valley Forge, Commissar Stevens Personal Quarters

Commissar’s Log, Supplemental
The situation at Starbase 2000 has rapidly improved, due in large part to the actions of my primary charge, Ulysses Vanguard. While at first, I found his command style strange and unworkable, I now am pleasantly surprised by its results. The base has changed in the few short weeks we have been here from Starfleet’s unofficial dumping ground for those that irritated their superiors to a potent fighting force. Where I thought his light handed approach would cause no end of problems, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

One development that I am keeping a close eye on, and one that is an offshoot of the previously opposite effect, is the rising cult of personality springing up around young Mr. Vanguard. It has merely intensified after the successful repulsion of the Galactic Unity assault. While still not of a level warranting any special action, it is something I am keep a close eye on. The base personnel have begun speaking of him with a sort of reverent awe, even dubbing him with the honorific moniker ‘The Skipper’. The civilians of Lilith are even more unabashed in their hero worship, for it was Mr. Vanguard that saved them from being overrun by the forces of the Galactic Unity. The local government has even declared a yearly celebration to be held in Mr. Vanguard’s honor, to the wild jubilation of Prescott’s Star’s civilians.

I endeavor to remain on top of both the Starfleet and civilian side of Mr. Vanguard’s rampant and growing personality to ensure neither becomes a threat to the Empire. One never knows just how loyal an officer truly is, especially if he becomes to well aware of how powerful a position he has.

I have encouraged Starfleet Command to expedite the relocation of Flag Officers to Starbase 2000 to prevent exactly that. Both the public and military of Prescott’s Star have become too fixated on Captain Vanguard for my liking. It will be better once there are others in-sector to assume command from him, but till then I must remain vigilant.

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Dining Room

The cobra necked alien delegation was at the far end of the long dining table, seated next to Cavit and his senior officers. To their left, man tall vertical windows allowed the snowy orb of Lilith to shine through. Voyager’s Captain was just finishing up recounting how the Vaadwaur and his command had met.

“… so then we lit off of Vaadwaur Prime and set a course for Prescott’s Star because it was the closest Imperial base.” Cavit said as the stewards cleared away the remnants of dinner from the spotless white linen table cloth.

“An interesting tale Captain. And I must say it was very fortunate that the Vaadwaur decided to lend us a helping hand when they did. They made the GU forces at Loci Kappa pay a far stiffer price than they would have otherwise, and they bought us the time we needed to intercept their other pincer before they could join together. I wish to offer my thanks to both the crew of Voyager and our new Vaadwaur friends.” Ulysses said. All things considered, the mobile forces at Loci Kappa had gotten off with only a handful of casualties, and it was due in large part to the Vaadwaur’s Flux Wave weapon. “The Emperor has sent word of his personal thanks as well, and hopes that diplomatic talks between the Empire and the Vaadwaur will be as fruitful as our partnership in the defense of Prescott’s Star has been.”

A beat after Ulysses had finished, one of his aides entered the dining room and whispered into his senior’s ear.

“If you will excuse me, I have to take care of something that cannot wait.” Ulysses said, standing to leave.

The rest of his personnel clustered around the dining table stood out of respect as he left, then reseated themselves as the stewards brought in desert. It was apple pie a la mode, and the assembled Imperial Officers and Vaadwaur began to make polite small talk amongst themselves as they pecked at it.

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Ready Room

Ulysses forced the snarling darkness that threatened to engulf him back into its cage. Seated across the desk from him was the cause of it. The officer was a Captain, but not of Starfleet. He wore the black, crimson and silver uniform of Section 31, the uniform of the real enemy, the uniform of those that had killed his parents in cold blood. Ulysses made his face remain neutral and his voice normal, having had years of practice in ensuring a seamless mask over his true feelings was in place. It wouldn’t do for both the Section visitor and his personal watchdog leaning against the wall to have him erupt in front of them.

“So Captain, to what do I owe you and your Battlegroup’s visit?” Ulysses said with a casual wave to the false window behind him. The flawless computer projection framed the ebon black and red forms of Section Akiras and their escorts back dropped against the yellow boil of plasma that was Prescott’s Star.

“I have been ordered to distribute a new weapons system to you by Section High Command.” The Section officer said, his tone clearly indicating what his personal opinion was of those orders.

“And what might those new weapons be exactly?”

The Section officer made a sour face, like he found the mere mentioning of the weapons to a Starfleeter offensive. But he reached down and pulled a PADD from the leg pocket of his uniform. He seemed to hesitate for a brief instant, his ingrained desire to keep the new weapons a Section only system warring with orders from on high. Then he slid the PADD across the desk to Ulysses. Ulysses scrolled through the description and statistics of the new weapons Section was giving his command. His eyebrows rose upwards and his lips pursed in a silent whistle.

“So these new torpedoes have a reach basically the same as that of the GU’s PPD as well as improved ECCM, speed and yield wrapped up in a same sized package?”

The Section man bobbed his head once in a curt nod, a scowl on his face.

“Well now… this changes things a wee bit. How many are you planning on leaving me?”

“I have orders to give you all of Section’s local stockpile. It should be enough to outfit your Battlestations for an extended engagement as well as most of your launcher heavy Fleet units.”

“And with these plans, the local armories can begin to turn out more of them almost immediately.” Ulysses said. Starbase 2000 was designed to be the stepping off base for colonization of the Delta Quadrant. As such, it was very nearly as industrialized as many Imperial core worlds.

“If that is all Sir, I’ll take my leave of you and depart from local space.” The Section officer said, already standing and turning to leave. It was a coldly calculated act of disrespect on the Section Captain’s part, but Ulysses chose to let it slip. It would make what he was about to spring all the more satisfying.

“Actually, there is one more thing Captain.” Ulysses said, and the Section officer stopped in his tracks and turned to face him again with narrowed, suspicious eyes. “As per General Order 9, I am impressing your ships into service in defense of this sector until such time as I deem them no longer necessary.” Ulysses dark inner demons howled in glee at the stunned expressions that flashed across both the Section officer’s face and his Commissar’s.

“But… you CAN’T…” the Section officer sputtered.

“On the contrary, G.O. 9 says I can, and in my current situation, I WILL.” Ulysses said evenly, but the look in his eyes left no room for a contrary opinion.

“But you’re only a Captain…” the Section officer tried again, only to be cut off a second time by Ulysses.

“And I’m also a Brevet Vice Admiral and Sector CO until my relief arrives on-station. As such I can invoke G.O. 9 on any Imperial asset, ANY, Captain, that I so choose. Your Battlegroup will make an excellent addition to my force, and it is not one that I intend to let slip away.”

“But you have no right, my Battlegroup is under Section jurisdiction, not Starfleet.”

“’Any Sector or Fleet CO, in a time of emergency, can override the orders of a locally deployed asset of military, intelligence or civilian sectors of the Terran Empire, save for the fact that they are already under orders from a higher authority. G.O. 9 Section 1 Paragraph 1.” Ulysses said with a sly smile. “Now my good Captain, since you are currently under no such orders, you will obey my lawful order to join my fleet. If you choose not to, I will place you and your senior officers in the brig and have you up on charges of treason and dereliction of duty. I need more ships, and you have them. So either you cooperate or you face a court martial and I place prize crews in control of your ships. The choice is yours Captain, but I suggest you choose quickly.” The corners of Ulysses mouth continued to remain upturned in a satisfied smirk, complimenting the devilish gleam in his eyes.

“Admiral Vanguard, I must say this course of action is most unprecedented.” Commissar Stevens said, casting an irritated look at her charge.

“Commissar, Section 31 is an Imperial asset. Unless you can prove to me otherwise, I don’t give two hoots as to how unprecedented my actions are. They are allowed by both Starfleet and Imperial law. I am charged with defending this sector and it’s civilians from invasion, and that is something I take deadly seriously.” He turned his now icy gaze on the Section Captain. “Your ships won’t be much additional tonnage to my order of battle, but I’ll take any additional tonnage I can get, no matter where it comes from. Am I understood?”

The Section Captain turned a startling shade of puce but a jerky nod twitched out of his rage filled body. Section didn’t like being told what it could and couldn’t do, especially by a hopped up Starfleeter. Yet in this instance, with the invocation of G.O. 9, they could dislike it all they wanted and it wouldn’t alter a thing.

“And I assume you have decided to join my forces to defend this sector?” Ulysses continued. The upgraded Section Akiras and their supposedly normal Defiants and Achilles that escorted them would pose very little actual combat firepower, but Ulysses truly would take any and all ships he could get his hands on.

Again he got a jerky nod in reply, and the Section Captain’s eyes were filled with venom. He was most certainly not used to being treated this way by a Starfleeter, let alone a Captain with delusions of grandeur.

“Fine, my staff will contact you shortly for your fleet assignment. Captain, you are dismissed.” Ulysses spun his chair 180 degrees, turning his back to the impotent Section officers, and began entering commands into his personal terminal, acting as if they had already left.

The pair of Section officers stared at the back of his chair for a few moments. Then, with a primal snarl, the Section officer spun on his heel and stalked sullenly out of Ulysses ready room. Commissar Stevens followed him a moment later with an exasperated sigh. Ulysses smiled like a Cheshire Cat. It was a minor victory, but even small victories can be very fulfilling when they allowed one to tweak Section’s nose and get away with it.

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Briefing Room

“… now with these new torpedoes, we have the range and firepower to pretty much level the playing field with the GU’s PPD.” Ulysses said to his assembled cadre of command officers. “They might still be faster than our heavy units, but our ships with slipstream can get past this deficiency by using tactical FTL micro jumps and our fast attack and fighter squadrons should hold em in range. The orbital factories are already spooling up to produce more of the torpedoes, and I hope we can get some more before the next GU assault comes in. Now I was planning on placing a majority of the new torpedoes on the battlestations and on Starbase 2000 herself. I would like to hear your thoughts on this.”

Ulysses sat back in his chair. There had been a visible release of tension when he had told them that the next time the GU fleet came calling they would have a little surprise in store for them.

“I’d say it’s the best platform for them Skipper.” Davenport said almost immediately. “At least until we get more of them anyway. With all the launchers on the battlestations and Starbase 2000, they’ll be able to put out an ungodly number of them, and their long range punch should come as a nasty shock. What I really like about them is their new overloaded shield grid paired with the new impulse thruster assembly. Normal torps shields are impenetrable, but the suicide overload shield grid limits their max range. These have a time delay activation that is re-programmable from tactical. This means that they still have the near invulnerability normal torpedoes do, but you can extend their range considerably by having it come on once it nears the enemy rather than immediately. When paired with the extended range thrusters, you have a potent weapons system.”

Ulysses nodded his agreement. Making an impulse drive with enough endurance to cross light minutes of distance packaged into a torpedo sized casing while still including all the other things a torpedo needed to execute it’s primary function had been so far unachievable. When one needed space for the warhead, seeker systems, datalink and penaids, it put a crimp on a weapon as small as a torpedo. Starfleet had looked into larger torpedo weapons systems, eventually resulting in the heavy photon. But till recently, most Starfleet ships were too small to mount effective numbers of these weapons in their internal magazines. Starfleet had even experimented with external box type launchers, but had dropped the idea when they proved excessively difficult to harden to weapons fire and to reload in a combat situation.

“In addition, I’m also happy to report that the 501st Marine Expeditionary Unit has found its way here. Their Galaxies have already dropped their troops, and General Bradley tells me that Lilith’s militia is surprisingly good for a group of civies. Add to this their extra Phaser Lances will be a welcome boost to our overall long range firepower. But best of all, the 501st MEU picked up some mine layers for their fleet train somewhere. I’ve already put them to work seeding the most probable avenues of approach.” For a major system with a lot of infrastructure, Prescott’s Star’s secondary defenses hadn’t kept up with the near constant expansion of deep space industry. Minefields were light, as were the systems anti warp and sensor nets. Past station SOs hadn’t made making and emplacing better fortifications a priority, hence why they were in such a sorry state.

“But I think that the GU won’t be as accommodating as they were in their initial assault.” Ulysses went on to his attentive officers. “They’ll likely drop out of the corridor network early and come in at warp from an unpredictable bearing. And they’ll be concentrated this time, without the fancy coordination and maneuver that cost them last time.” Faces pinched around the conference table. They were experienced officers, and they knew that an enemy that had resources to burn like the GU seemingly did would hit them hard when they inevitably returned.

“They are coming back ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake of that. But when they do, we’ll give em another black eye, just like the first time.” His officers’ faces showed determination mingled with a small yet healthy dose of fear. They knew they would likely have to pay a stiff price when the enemy came calling, but they were ready and willing to do so in order to protect the civilians on Lilith. They were no longer thinking or acting like the gang of rabble they had been when he had first came on station. They were now a finely honed blade, tempered in the crucible of battle. They were also willing to follow wherever Ulysses led them. They were, many for the first time, guardians, caring more for their duty and their protection of others rather than themselves. Ulysses felt extreme pride in getting them to rise to their present status. Yet doubt stalked deep in his soul. It asked him in a seductively sweet voice just how many would be left alive after the next attack, preying on his weaknesses. It caused Ulysses to wonder just how many empty chairs there would be around his briefing table after the next battle.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:00pm

Chapter 28 – Assassin

Ulysses’ Quarters, ISS Valley Forge

A blizzard blew its icy breath about him, howling like the demons of hell as it bit at his exposed flesh that peeked past his heavy jacket. Billions of snowflakes swirling, blocking out all save that which was his immediate surroundings, with even them shrouded in near obscurity. He felt totally alone, with a growing sense of unease, like something was watching him from a hidden position just beyond where he could see. Ulysses unease grew, and the hair on the back of his neck stood up underneath his tightly drawn hood. He began to quicken his pace through the near knee deep snow, but the farther he went, the deeper the snow got. Soon, it was nearing his waist, slowing his pace to a crawl. Outright terror began to course through Ulysses as the grayed out world around him darkened, reducing his stunted field of view still further. The wailing walls of snow enshrouded him, muting his cries as he called out for help.

Then there was a light in front of him, and relief coursed through Ulysses, joining the adrenaline surge of his fight or flight response. Out of the swirling torrent of snow emerged a small figure clad in white fur. The figure held the source of the light, a flashlight, in one tiny hand, appearing to be searching for something. Catching sight of Ulysses, the figure paused for a moment, then approached him cautiously. The figure walked not through the snow, like Ulysses had been reduced to, but on top of it, as if her diminutive form was insufficient to leave more than faint impressions in the snow pack. As she approached close enough for Ulysses to get a good look at her, he saw that she appeared to be a young human girl of about seven or eight years of age. A lock of ebon hair fell beneath the hood of her white fur coat to lie across the white porcelain skin of her forehead. Her lips were pale blue, almost like those of a suffocated person, but they were not what held Ulysses attention. Her eyes were a very ghostly blue, almost pure white, and they didn’t look quite... human. Yet for their alien-ness, they were at once familiar and inviting, showing no ill will towards him. They welcomed him like a long lost friend, and a small, perfectly girlish smile perked the corners of her blue hued lips. As if coming to a decision, she gave a quick nod of her head.

The moaning of the storm, the chill bite of the sub zero air, the driving snow flurries, even the thoughts of being stalked from the shadows melted away from Ulysses. All he saw was the girl in white. As if in a state of awed wonder, he reached out towards her with an outstretched hand. She tentatively raised her own small hand, slowly bringing it towards Ulysses own. The instant they touched, it was as if Ulysses touched a live wire.

Ulysses jerked upright in his bed, eyes wide, his heart beating a mile a minute, muscles twitching as if unsure weather to freeze or snap into instant action. Terror gripped him, but he wasn’t sure what it was from. The dream itself gave him no real cause for it, for he was actually calming down towards the end of it. Giving his head a quick shake, as if to clear away the last vestiges of sleep, Ulysses laid back onto his mattress. Soon his heart rate slowed. “What a strange dream.” He mumbled, then drew the covers back up over him and closed his eyes, falling soon thereafter back to sleep.

Starbase 2000, Prescott’s Star

Unity operative 11J fumed silently under his disguise. Yet again his plan had been stymied by the Sectors new SO. The Galactic Unity’s invasion force had been thoroughly manhandled and forced to retreat. They never even got to within striking range of the substantial fortifications orbiting Lilith, and the carefully hidden extra code added to an otherwise benign program that had spread to nearly 2/3rds of the stations orbiting Lilith wasn’t able to be utilized. If the Founder had believed in gods, he would have cursed them for dropping the damnable solid on him, ruining all of his plans time and again.

But new orders had been given to him by his superiors, and he was delighted that they were finally taking his reports seriously. Nothing like loosing a good part of a fleet and throwing initial battle plans into turmoil to get their attention. If the fools had taken him seriously, none of this would be necessary. The Galactic Unity would be in control of the system and on its way forward, deeper into Terran space. The lightly defended and lightly colonized holdings in former Dominion space in the Gamma Quadrant had already been near totally overrun, most of the Terrans only making a half hearted attempt to defend them when faced with superior numbers and PPD fire from beyond their own max weapons range. His old homeland had only been lightly affected by the transfer of control from the Dominion to the Terran Empire, for it was shortly after their successful campaign against his people that the Terrans encountered the Borg. The Terrans’ losses incurred in eradicating them had slowed expansion of the Terran Empire to a virtual standstill.

While Operative 11J had no idea of the long range military plans of the GU, just incase he was somehow caught alive and handed over for interrogation, there was a regular stream of communication between himself and his superiors through various 3rd parties. He had to be far more careful now that non-military traffic was competently searched, but there were many places one could hide secret messages aboard a starship. The searchers were primarily keeping an eye out for things like explosives and weapons and spies, not for illegal correspondence. While alert, operative 11J didn’t feel particularly at risk, even with the increased security concerns.

However, with his new orders, he would have to ensure that his escape was ready to execute, for he wouldn’t be able to remain hidden once he executed them. The beehive he was about to tip over would surely cause him to be hunted down otherwise. His PADD let out a discreet chime, and he activated it. His dour expression was creased with an eager smile. The discreet data acquisition software he had uploaded into the Starbase’s primary computer core had just sent another burst to his PADD. To all monitoring devices, it would appear to be a mere scheduling change command, but it was in actuality an upload of the latest movements of Prescott’s Star’s senior officers. This was just the opportunity he needed. He left his assumed quarters to put the necessary plans in motion, both to execute his new orders and ensure his getaway.

Lilith, City of Eden

Ulysses smiled and waved back to the cheering throngs of civilians, then turned and walked through the waiting aircar’s hatch. A man could definitely get used to such attention, he thought. Being a hero definitely had its advantages. Being sector governor did as well. It was under this hat that he had called for a meeting of prominent Lilithians. He had given them leave to initiate elections for an advisory committee to the Starfleet Governor. They were as large a concession as he could wrangle out of his Commissar, but he had sent a recommendation up the chain of command that Prescott’s Star was ready for independent civilian administration. Nothing might come of it true, but it just might become fact with the sway he was gaining with Starfleet’s upper echelons. While he didn’t truly consider himself a hero for his actions, thinking them merely the successful execution of his duty and oath to Starfleet and the civilians of the Empire, there was something to be said for the respect and power it gave his recommendations to his superiors. Better to make the recommendation while he could to, for the first batch of new Flag Officers was slated to come in-system within a few days. Ulysses hoped that they wouldn’t undo all that he had accomplished for Prescott’s Star in his short tenure as Sector Governor.

Ulysses could have ordered his ship to beam him back up, but he had never truly surveyed the bustling capital city of Prescott’s Star and used his meeting as a pretext to do so. As such, he had taken both a shuttle down and an aircar to and from his meeting with various influential citizens of Lilith. While not as awe inspiring as the massive forest of alloy spires of Terra, Vulcan, Alpha Centauri or any number of core Imperial worlds, the city of over 400 million strong was quite impressive. The yellow primary of Prescott’s Star was setting behind the towering sky scrapers to his right, casting everything in pleasant reds and warm oranges. Steady streams of aircar traffic threaded their way through the sky above, moving along the invisible pathways assigned to them by Eden’s central traffic computer.

While most people used the planetary mass transit transporter system, sufficient number of them chose to use their aircars, allowing them to see their beautiful city far more than the transporter network allowed for. It also allowed them to go to areas where the limited utility mass transit net didn’t service. Rather than spring for a fully capable transporter system for civilian transport use, the Empire had decided for a more limited version that only went from point to point, much like an old Earth subway system or bus route. While some might complain at the slight inconvenience this caused, it drastically simplified sensor and computational requirements for the system as well as allowed for near 24/7 transporter inhibitor use throughout the rest of the city. With terrorists having access to high-powered explosives and transporters, the Empire had learned early on to ensure that it controlled all transporter activity on its planets.

Ulysses strapped himself in to the copilots chair, smiling to himself that Starfleet Regs didn’t let Flag Officers fly themselves dirtside. “Well Lieutenant, are we ready to proceed to the spaceport?” Ulysses asked the very young officer that was his pilot/chauffer for the duration of his stay on Lilith.

“Yes we are Skipper.” There was a slight breaking of his voice, showing he was more than a little nervous. He was more used to less larger than life superiors, and was more than a little uncomfortable at Ulysses polite but resolute insistence that he take the copilots station rather than the more customary rear bench seat.

“Then proceed at your discretion.” Ulysses encouraged with a half smile

“Aye Sir.” He said, then proceeded to activate the sporty luxury aircar’s AG drives. Aside from a soft whine, there was no sound other than the throngs of people surrounding the grounded aircar. Seconds later, the aircar was lifting off on its quiet drives and flying down the path assigned to it by Eden Traffic Control. His pilot, though young and nervous, was an exceedingly talented stick, handling the fighter like throttle and side stick controllers like a seasoned pro. Since Ulysses conveyance was a special case, it was assigned its own skyway on a more direct route to his destination than was the norm. Once the Lieutenant was certain that the complete course was uploaded, he handed control over to the aircars computer autopilot.

“Well done Lt. Theisman, that’s some excellent piloting skills you have.”

“Thank you Skipper!” The now beet red Imperial officer said with a smile that was more boyish than anything else.

Was I ever that young?, Ulysses thought. Then, Am I really that old? Ulysses nearly snorted in laughter, here he was not even 30 years old yet, and likely to go far beyond that given his heritage, and he was already thinking like an over-the-hill coot. Relaxing in his chair, Ulysses turned his eyes from the holographic skyway to look through the dome like one-way transparent bubble that capped the aircar. They had ascended quite high, and were now above the scattered cotton puffs of the cloud deck. The gleaming alloy spires of Eden still towered above their course, their lights gleaming in the growing twilight. Overhead, one could easily see the shapes of the OWPs and Battlestations that stood guard over the planet. Near the far west horizon, where the sky had already turned a deep navy blue flecked with stars, the Nightingale Yards could clearly be seen, their massive structure blocking out a good portion of the western sky near the horizon. The city was truly a beautiful place, cosmopolitan without having to go too far to reach relatively virgin land, a relatively uncluttered sky for such an important system. Ulysses was glad he had decided to use shuttles and aircars rather than the transporter. It reinforced just what he was fighting for. These people needed to be safeguarded. While there were worse fates than being removed from the Terran Empire and incorporated into the Galactic Unity, incorporation into the Galactic Unity wasn’t the best option either.

While Ulysses hated the excesses of the Terran Empire with a passion that at times threatened to consume him, he had learned long ago that not all, or even most of the Empire’s citizens were evil and deserving of death. Many were in fact just like he was, trapped in a system he couldn’t control and unable to change things. He had truly come a long way from the hate filled teen he had once been. He had funneled his anger and rage into something that was bigger than his own schemes of revenge, and in doing so had gained some distance from it. It was still there, always a part of him, always threatening to gain the upper hand, but he could now see that true change must be wrought on the system from within if it was to fix things. Anything less wouldn’t solve the problem.

Eden, Rooftop of Tower 602

Tower 602 wasn’t one of the brightly lit titans that made up Eden’s downtown core, but it did have its uppermost floors peeking just past the cloud deck. The top of the roughly cylindrical spire was flattened out, allowing for an emergency landing pad and various transmitters and receptors to be planted on it. Operative 11J walked out of the roof access door amidst the forest of vane and spine antennas. He strode across the roof to a seemingly benign access panel. The changeling popped it loose, tossing it skidding across the smooth armorcrete surface of the rooftop. Now exposed to light for the first time in close to half a year was one of the agents many contingency plans. With rapid, deft movements, Operative 11J began to assemble it.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:03pm

Chapter 29 – Assassin

City of Eden, Ulysses’ Aircar

The sleek form of the sporty black aircar cut through on course between the stacked levels of local traffic. The cloud deck was a fiery crimson turning towards purple bubbled plain below him. The near countless windows of the downtown core’s towers cast their glow to reflect off of the suspended water droplets that wreathed them. They cast long shadows as their forms interrupted the nearly set sun’s final rays.

Ulysses was lounging in his copilot’s seat, his eyes staring out the aircar’s bubble canopy, seemingly entranced by the near perfect grid lines of fellow aircars that passed above and below his own. For once in what seemed like a very long time, he was at peace. He relished it, for he knew it would only last a short time. He even was able to ignore the assault shuttle that had slipped silently in behind his aircar, trailing it at a discreet distance. Being the current leader of the sector, and with the assassin of the previous ones still at large despite a system wide dragnet, certain precautions had to be taken to protect him. Both aircraft were going considerably slower than their max speed, not even edging the sound barrier, in order to comply with Eden airspace safety and control guidelines. It would still be a few minutes flight time to the Spaceport because of this.

Ulysses wished that he didn’t have such a near unbearable weight to return to. Even with his solid cadre of loyal officers, it was a very heavy responsibility he had assumed when he took the reins of power into his hands. As much as he was concerned over any new senior officers Starfleet assigned to the sector, part of him was almost glad that the crushing responsibility of safeguarding billions of lives would no longer be his alone.

Suddenly, he felt a spike of wrongness in his head. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant as much as it was unexpected and alien, yet almost at once was familiar. In his minds eye, the little girl from his dream appeared. Her piercing blue eyes were concerned, and she parted her blue hued lips to speak with a distinct British accent.

“You are in danger, you are not safe.”

Then the presence in his mind was gone, as if turned off like a light switch. Ulysses blinked, shaking his head a few times as if to help clear it. In its wake, a feeling of crushing dread washed over him. It was much the same feeling he had had when the Section 31 ship had tried to turn 2nd Fleet into part of a new planetoid. It was telling him to alter course immediately.

City of Eden, Police HQ, that same time

“Captain?” A young sensor tech asked.

“What is it Horrowitz?” The department’s shift CO growled gravely. Appropriately named Quentin Justice, he was a man of 42, balding gray hair, and carrying a slight paunch around his middle. He wore the near black navy-blue uniform of Prescott’s Star’s System Police Force. He had been a law officer on Altair before he had joined the first wave of colonists to Prescott’s Star. He had remained in law enforcement here, and was now a well respected individual in the local community, known for enforcing equality under the law for all citizens.

“Just got a blip from security monitor Tango Charlie Four Nine. Unauthorized power source on the roof of Tower 602.”

“Do we have a drone to poll for data in the area?”

“Yes sir, I have already dispatched a Sierra Roy Six covert recon drone to give a look see. Should be onsite in about 50 seconds.”

Quentin nodded. “Good job Horrowitz.” The young officer beamed at the praise.

It had been a relatively uneventful day, as if even the cities criminal element was unwilling to spoil The Skipper’s visit. It was still an uneventful day, likely the unknown power source was merely a service team suffering from a fowl up of authorization. Just the same, the Book said all such occurrences had to be looked in to. And for good reason, for a rooftop with a heavy weapon was prime terrorist real-estate. The damage one could do to the air traffic, or even nearby towers if he had sufficient firepower would be considerable.

City of Eden, Roof of Tower 602, that same time

The final piece of his weapon slotted together and locked in with a satisfying click. The heavy Hyper Velocity Missile launcher unit completed its self tests and lit the appropriate telltale lights along its base. It indicated that all four of its missiles were ready for launch. Taking a stroll to the opposite side of the rooftop, Operative 11J slipped the control VR glasses over his eyes. His hands plugged a datalink cable into the PADD he carried, allowing the data from the City Traffic Control computer hack he had emplaced to be shown in his VR glasses. They showed the normal rush hour, ray pattern grid, the traffic coming and going with precise precision and razor straight lines. All save one small, unobtrusive black aircar with a considerably more noticeable, predatory form trailing behind it on an identical course. They had a special lane all to themselves, and priority clearance through Eden airspace to the adjacent Spaceport. That was his quarry. Had to be.

Lining up the targeting crosshairs over his prey with his VR glasses, Operative 11J smiled lightly as the HVM launcher on the opposite corner mimicking his head’s movements. Initial aim point was critical when the range was as short as this, for the speed of HVM’s meant that they had very little time for in-flight course correction beyond relatively minor adjustments. Satisfied that he had an adequate lock on both targets, Operative 11J pressed the launch commit button on the HVM unit’s stick style controller and waited half a heartbeat. The unit received the launch commit command, and popped open the guard doors on the front of its quad launch cells. The unit didn’t need to use its onboard sensor suite to get guidance instructions, for Eden’s own ATC computer was giving it all the data it needed.

Their warheads consisted of nothing outside of the missiles themselves, little more than javelins of extremely dense battlesteel. These were not the smaller, man-portable versions, these were the heavy ones, as big around as your arm. An unassisted man could barely raise them from rest in standard G, but Operative 11J’s adaptive muscles merely shifted to a form that could lift them in Lilith’s slightly stronger than Terra standard gravity. Faster than an eyeblink, the four heavy HVM’s ripple fired from their launch cells and their impulse engines slamming them to velocities upwards of 95 PSL.

City of Eden, Ulysses’ Aircar, that same time

“Descend… Now!” Ulysses ordered. His tone demanded instant compliance.

Lieutenant Theisman hesitated for the briefest instant, but word had percolated throughout Prescott’s Star’s Starfleet ranks that when The Skipper gave one strange orders, it was best to obey them. It had saved quite a few lives in the past, and as such merely added to The Skipper growing larger than life mythos. Almost before conscious thought, he had shoved the side stick controller as far ahead as he could while simultaneously slamming the throttle stick to its forward detent. Autopilot automatically disengaged, and near instantly a giant hand forced Ulysses deeper into his seat as the peppy aircar snapped to respond to the pilot control inputs.

City of Eden, Police HQ, that same time

The spherical, golf ball sized SR–6 RD was finally coming into range of Tower 602. Its sensors sent a real-time data feed back to Police HQ, dumping it to Trooper Horrowitz’s terminal. He looked over it, with Captain Justice looking over his shoulder. Quentin’s eyes bulged in dawning horror.

“Jesus Cr…” Horrowitz managed to squeak before quad trails of dazzling incandescence snapped into being from the business end of what could only be a heavy HVM rack. At virtually the same instant as they appeared, they were virtually drowned out by the day bright flash from somewhere to the camera’s left. It light up the twilight like a temporary second sun. Then the signal went haywire as the tiny RD went tumbling to the right, out of control.

City of Eden, Roof of Tower 602, that same time

11J’s first two missiles tracked perfectly, striking the aircar’s escort squarely on it’s pilot compartment and AM stores. While both were heavily armored, they couldn’t withstand a Heavy HVM strike on their own. And since the assault shuttle wasn’t in a combat situation, they had their shields down. Just the same, the Empire made their assault shuttles tough. Her entire front end disappeared into a boil of harsh light with the first HVM strike. A split second later the rest of the ship was gutted as her AM storage pod was breached. Out of the brilliant glare and shockwave of the detonation, the shattered remains of the assault shuttle tumbled down towards the distant ground.

The second two HVM’s also tracked well, but for some inexplicable reason, the aircar had begun a steep dive. They struck further back from their intended aim points, ripping the aft half of the aircar free in an eye tearing boil of light and sending the relatively intact front spiraling away. This was good, for his primary target was likely dead thanks to the rear passenger compartment’s virtual disintegration.

The explosion of the assault shuttles AM stores created a temporary second sun for the city of Eden. Those unfortunate to be looking near directly at the blast were blinded. The aircar traffic in the general vicinity was scattered like lake water from a thrown stone. Some of the less lucky ones careened into buildings.11J was fortunate he knew the blast was coming. His from reverted from its rock like state to his natural gelatinous, amber form. It reformed into the smooth featured humanoid shape his kind favored when not liquid. 11J walked over to the edge of Tower 602, continuing to watch his target spin towards terra firma. The light cloud deck had been boiled away from the local area by the energies liberated by the assault shuttle’s destruction, allowing him an unobstructed view.

City of Eden, Police HQ, that same time

Quentin Justice began to bellow orders even as the general alarm began to wail upon sensing weapons fire and explosions.

“Dispatch EMS, Fire Department and SWAT teams to Sector 21 on the double! Tell em to watch themselves, there’s a Heavy HVM site on Tower 602.”

“Captain, Sierra Tango One and Sierra Tango Two are both going down according to ATC! Casualties are currently unknown but believed to be 100%!” Another dispatcher shouted from across the room.

“Bloody hell!”

“When the assault shuttle’s AM stores went, there was a MT level explosion Captain. Reports are coming in from across the city of flash blinding cases and severe radiation contamination. Also, the blast front forced some local aircar traffic down. Confirmed casualties so far are five dead, with at least 23 injured.” A different dispatcher said grimly from a few desks away. “Atmosphere regulation installations are removing most of the airborne radiation as we speak, but cleanup is still gonna be a pain.”

“Double check that all personnel going into Sector 21 have anti-rad vaccines beforehand. And make sure they’re in HASMAT gear and get deconed afterward.” The nanites of the anti-rad vaccines would continually purge the harmful radiation and repair the damage it caused to living tissue. The bad thing is that they had a limited endurance, meaning that they had to be replenished after a time. The SWAT teams would be adequately protected in their unpowered assault armor, as would the Firemen and women with their power assist suits, but the EMS personnel would be quite vulnerable.

At least it was a small blast, and the towers weren’t affected through their defenses either, thank God!, Quentin thought.

“You tell SWAT that I want that bastard, if he’s still alive, to be taken out with extreme prejudice!” As per His Imperial Majesties General Edict 12, Section B, all those suspected of being involved in assassination of political or military leadership of the Empire can be summarily executed. While for most cases, Quentin Justice’s personal leanings were that they should at least have a fair trial, he was more than willing to exercise the full extent of the law in this particular case.

City of Eden, Ulysses’ Aircar, that same time

It was as if someone had turned on an impossibly bright light behind them. There was a loud pop-bang combined with the sounds of tearing alloy as an intense surge kicked the back of Ulysses chair. The aircar was already starting to dive into the cloudbank when it was as if a giant fist took the small aircraft and shook it like a dog sheds water. Then the aircar was in an uncontrolled descent, punching through the vanishing cloud deck in a flat spin combined with a slight tumble. The G forces forced Ulysses’ head around and down, allowing him to see past the back of his chair. He frowned for an instant, for something was wrong with the view. Then he realized that he was seeing far more out the back of the aircar than he was supposed to. Ulysses addled mind took a few seconds to register that the entire back half of the aircar was gone. The only thing that had saved his life up to this point was that he was on the right side of the internal armored divider of the small aircar. The entire aft half had been blotted out of existence.

All flight controls were unresponsive, save for the small forward airflow control surfaces operating on redundant backup. But with the main wings ripped away, the small front canards proved inadequate to maneuver out of the violent death spiral the remains of the air car was locked in. Ulysses caught a fleeting glimpse of the onrushing ground before the G-forces caused the world to go black.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:05pm

Chapter 30 – Assassin

City of Eden, Roof of Tower 602

11J watched as the shattered, smoke trailing remnants of the aircar slammed down into the slightly rolling hills dotted here and there with clusters of deep blue evergreen and deciduous trees. A fountain of earth and sod was thrown up like a cresting wave, then the aircar pin wheeled back into the air in a lazy looking arc. It amazingly landed right side up, skidding along the uneven ground amidst the sound of tortured metal for another 100 feet before finally shuddering to a stop within a clump of pine tree analogs. Their desiccated needles caught softly to light, smoldering as the piping hot sections of the aircar came to rest on them. It was only thanks to his mimicking ability that he saw and heard it at all, for the ground was far, far below his vantage point. The crash site was in the lightly wooded meadowlands that wreathed Eden where the massive towers ended.

Time to make sure of things, then to escape, 11J thought. He leaned forward and dove off of the roof. Tower 602’s floors whipped past him as he fell headlong down its side. The operative could see startled people’s faces as he fell by. They had been startled when they heard and saw the explosion, and with typical predictability, many had approached their windows to rubber neck. He extended his arms, transforming them into giant leathery wings with tufts of ebon feathers along their leading edge. Once he was fully a Grenobulin Condactal, he tucked his wings back in and plummeted earthward like an arrow shaped stone.

City of Eden, Ulysses’ Aircar, that same time

Ulysses awoke to a pounding pain from the left side of his head. He faintly heard the popping and sizzling of electronics coming from what was left of his ruined ride. The air was a mixture of melted synthetics, acrid smoke and almost pungent pine. His vision was messed up, and not only because he was still woozy from the crash. All he could make out was blurred, indistinct shapes. The synthetic Imperial eyepiece that had replaced the scabberous growth of a Borg ocular implant was now transmitting snowy and only intermittently sending a signal to his brain. Its view, normally seamless when compared with his lone remaining biological eye, was now noticeably mechanical. Ulysses reached up to finger the wound. It seemed the entire mechanism was smashed, and as he probed further, he discovered why. A Frost Shadow Pine branch, as big around as his torso, had speared itself through the spider web of cracks in the aircars windscreen. A fraction of an inch to the right and it would have smashed his head flat as it took out his seat’s headrest. As it was, the harsh branches and needles had caused a plethora of small scratches and cuts to his face as they passed, adding to the blunt force trauma the main branch had caused.

Ulysses hand probed downward, meeting up with the smashed and swelling remains of his left jaw, involuntarily letting out a low groan of pain as his hands grazed the sensitive wound. He considered himself lucky though, for he couldn’t feel anything above it other than a dull ache. The synthetic eyepiece’s sensory co-processor must have been damaged, which explained both his poor vision and general lack of feeling. “Letinint Thismen.” Ulysses distorted speech echoed off of the bulkheads. Nothing answered. “LETININT THISMEN!” He half shouted, wincing as the slight movement grated his pulped jaw together. Ulysses finally heard a soft groan reply, then nothing his ears could discern. At least his pilot was still alive, as was he. His vision clearing, if still cause for slight disorientation, Ulysses began to take stock of his situation. Feet moved, as did legs. Left arm moved. Right arm… Ulysses screamed! His vision began to tunnel as unconsciousness began to beckon again. Ulysses resisted, and gradually the gray edges around his distorted sight began to retreat.

Definitely broken, he thought, his left hand gingerly probing along the top of his uniform’s arm. As carefully as he could, he reached across and pulled out the first aid kit from its storage space under his control board. Extracting the adaptive splint spray, he applied it directly onto his forearm. The nano-polymer streamed out and enveloped his arm, the nanite’s simple programming taking over and causing the foam like substance to wrap around his wounded appendage. Once the two sides had met on the other side, taking mere seconds, they began to harden until they couldn’t be moved apart from their set position by average movement. While still painful, at least he could move around now. Unhooking the harness that had likely saved his life, Ulysses rose on unsteady legs The implant camera was responding fitfully, and without the mechanism to close his eyelid, or even an eyelid left to close for that matter, Ulysses solved the problem with an old fashioned eye patch. In addition to the wound sutures and other high tech medical tools in the pouch, there was old fashioned gauze and bandages. Ulysses took the gauze and wrapped the bundle around his head, covering his damaged eye, blocking its view. Immediately, his lone good eye became much easier to use to see.

Ulysses scrambled out through the virtually nonexistent windscreen, the chill of the rapidly cooling air causing him to shiver slightly. It would be winter here in a few months, and Lilith winters were fairly intense for one used to the carefully regulated temperature of a starship. He picked his way across the tree branch and finally got his first look at young Lt. Theisman. There was a bloody gash across his forehead, just below his close cropped blond hair, and a snapped pine branch about as big around as Ulysses wrist lay in his lap. He was not conscious, and with possible neck injury Ulysses was hesitant to move him. Then he realized he had no choice. There was a steady hissing sound, and Ulysses realized what it must be. The aircar’s hydrogen cell must have ruptured, and was now leaking. There were small fires all around, sizzling and popping in the tinderbox dry needles and grasses, sending growing curls of smoke into the star flecked navy sky.

Ulysses good hand flashed out and quickly undid Gerald Theisman’s restraints. As the Lt slumped forward, the hand caught his uniform front and pulled him outward onto the nose of the aircar. Hefting him into a fireman’s carry position, Ulysses picked his way, as quickly as he could, away from the ticking time bomb that had been his transportation. His feet moved with care, yet strode as quickly as was prudent through the flickering orange flame lit twilight. He was just exiting the tree line and out into the grassy meadow region that bordered it when a large shadow fell across him and a giant kicked him in his backside and sent him cart wheeling down the shallow grade.

Lilith Orbit, Assault Shuttle Marine 238 Baker, on Customs Patrol, that same time

Chief Gunnery Sergeant Brian McKennon surveyed the Marines, all 103 of them, assembled in the back of the assault shuttle that had been tapped to provide customs inspection teams for this shift. Clad in combat power armor with full weapons loads, they were a fearsome sight, and one that caused McKennon’s heart to warm. If there were any enemies of the Empire in the system’s recent arrivals, they would get a pointed showing of just how much the Imperial Marines thought of them.

They were all currently aboard an assault shuttle, currently in transit to the next titanic merchie that had been forced to Prescott’s Star. Although there was nothing that could be done to safeguard the surrounding colonies that wouldn’t leave Prescott’s Star itself vulnerable, that very same concentration of Fleet units had made Prescott’s Star the only viable harbor in the sector for merchies who served those colonies. The ones that couldn’t cut directly for safer space, those who needed to make repairs or refuel, they inevitably wound up at Prescott’s Star. And as such, they had to be looked over lest they be harboring Galactic Unity spies or worse.

While none had yet been encountered by any of the customs patrols, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t, and with new ships arriving hourly, Prescott’s Star’s parking orbits were beginning to get a might crowded. McKennon didn’t envy STC one bit, for they must be having a hell of a time ensuring the safe separation distance between merchies and the mandatory separation between merchies and Starfleet assets.

“Attention, Attention!” the com speaker snapped with the shuttle pilot’s voice. “We have a Fallen Angel, repeat, Fallen Angel. Orders from the Forge are to render assistance, both in air support and securing the crash site and any survivors. Get ready, we’ll be over the drop site in 20 seconds.”

Fallen Angel was code phrase for an attack against a senior officer, and as far as McKennon knew there was only one of those dirtsid… Oh HELL! Many of his fellow Marines realized the same thing in almost the same instant, and an almost feral growl coursed through them, and McKennon joined them. Nearly all of Prescott’s Star’s Marines approved of Ulysses handling of things, especially how he set things straight right away. This was only understandable, given that it would be the Marines who would pay the price for any screw ups by Starfleet. They saw Ulysses Vanguard as one of their own, both for his professionalism and the respect he held for all Marines under his command. And if they got a hold of the person responsible, he was going to be sorry he was ever born.

--- --- ---

The shuttle’s aft swept airfoils gave it the appearance of a bird of prey on the hunt. The adaptive skin that made up her hull was currently in a black/gray shatter frame scheme. She had been nuzzling up to the primary docking port of a multi million ton merchie when Fallen Angel was issued. By pure chance, she was persecuting the intercept almost directly above Eden, and as such was likely to arrive on scene before even the dirtside assets. Her pilot retracted the half extended belly docking collar and went to full impulse in virtually the same motion. She ignored the squeal of protest from the merchie’s captain, shifting com channels to declare her intentions to STC. At least dirtside traffic was already fleeing from the crash site as fast as they could, it would free up airspace her use. With a quick snap turn, the distant 2/3rds blue/green/white crescent of Lilith began to grow very large, very fast, as the Imperial assault shuttle made planet fall like a bat out of hell. The assault shuttles sensors had clearly shown the destruction of her sister planet side, and as such, this one’s crew were eager for some retribution. She trailed incandescent hellfire as her conformal shields swept atmosphere aside contemptuously, bulling it out of the way as she speared near straight down through the sky.

Outskirts of Eden, that same time

Operative 11J’s ears could pick up the still faint wail of emergency response vehicles approaching his position. Not that they would catch him, all he had to do was morph into one of the local fauna and slip back into a darkened alley or underground parking garage and change back into one of his assumed identities. His keen, bird of prey eyesight picked out movement at the crash site that was by now quite close. Two individuals, one unconscious and being carried by the other, were making for the open ground to the south of the crash site. 11J extended his taloned feet, preparing to pounce on his prey with their foot long, scythe like edges. He was within mere seconds of doing so when a wall of heat and force crashed into him, sending him into a tumble up and away from his targets. A brilliant blue fireball lit the near darkness, catching the pine tree grove on fire. The leaking hydrogen bottle aboard the aircar had finally encountered the small bushfires surrounding it, and the results were to be expected. But unlike the first explosions, 11J wasn’t expecting it, and it caused him to loose sight of his target as he was thrown violently about. The sonic boom that came at near the same instant as the thunderous explosion went unnoticed.

Assault Shuttle Marine 238 Baker, that same time

The pilot station’s sensors had zoomed in on the shattered remains of Ulysses’ aircar. There were two distinct life signs, and both were strong and steady. As a MFD visual display showed, one was carrying the evidently unconscious other away from the wreck. Then another biosign, ignored at first but now becoming a concern, was falling fast and coming down virtually on top of the two survivors. Then, mere seconds before the impact, a miniature blue mushroom cloud blossomed from the aircar’s location causing the IR sensor return to flare white. The explosion swept all three biosigns away from its center, throwing The Skipper and his pilot nearly 30 feet away. Both landed near each other and lay on the ground, unmoving but with steady biosigns. The pilot lifted a hand off of her throttle to push a button on her control panel. A muted whir-thunk went through the assault shuttle, more felt through her flightseat than heard, as its drop bays opened to the chill air of Lilith.

--- --- ---

“Go! Go! Go!” Lt. Avery’s voice boomed through McKennon’s comlink. Not that the Marines needed any encouragement, the first two pairs had already walked out the now open aft end of the Assault Shuttle before he had even opened his mouth with the others following as rapidly as they could. McKennon stepped out of the perfectly good assault shuttle and into Lilith’s atmosphere with the groups CO, Lt. Avery, beside him. Seconds later, his suit twirled him so that he was feet down, then went into a wicked 8 G deceleration. His downward motion had slowed to virtually nothing when his feet finally met the ground. When the first one touched down, McKennon was already in motion. The grav gun held in one of his power armor’s mechanical hands came up across his chest where his other mechanical hand gripped its middle. He had come down very close to his destination, as had the rest of the Marines. Both his internal sensors and the coordinates being supplied by the assault shuttle told him that The Skipper and his pilot were a few hundred meters behind him. Pirouetting till he was facing the right direction, McKennon then strode forward, leaping and activating his AG harness almost as soon as he left the ground. Following his direction, the AG harness popped him up about a foot off of the ground, then held him there as he floated towards his destination. He floated for about 20 meters before he let himself fall back down and repeated the process. The light beads that marked his fellows on his HUD were similarly closing on The Skipper, those fortunate to land nearer to the mark already taking up defensive positions while groups two medics approached closer to look the pair of Imperial officers over.

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

Chapter 31: The Battle of Bajor

The fleet drifted in the black of space, waiting. All weapons were ready, all crews prepared. Admiral Sisko sat quietly on the flag bridge of the Saratoga, thinking. All of his life, the Empire had been powerful. It had been strong, determined, and victorious. But now, the Cardassians matched them in all three. He was about to engage an enemy fleet, and for once, victory wasn’t certain, or even likely. Riker’s android, Lore, had given odds of success at only 72.3%. Sisko didn’t like those odds, but they would get better fast. He wished Julian was here. The man was a good commissar and would have made a joke right about now. But he was attending to other things.

He stood and straightened his uniform. “Fleet Status!” He barked.

Kira was seated on her command throne four decks down, overseeing several displays on the arms of the seat. “All groups report optimum readiness.” She spoke to the voice coming from the speaker in her chair. “We are deployed in a Zeta-screen formation, and groups alpha, beta, and delta are holding steady. Admiral Aesstuusss reports that Nova wing is fueled ready to launch.”

“Excellent.” Sisko turned to his science officer. “Anything on sensors?”

The young lieutenant worked the controls. “Nothing yet si..” She trailed off. “Wait. Admiral, I am detecting in excess of seven thousand vessels transiting to normal space at seven-eight-two by four-four-one.” Her voice trembled as the color drained from her face. “It’s the Cardassian fleet.”

“Red Alert.” Sisko strode back to his throne and rubbed the Bajoran box he had placed on his console. The light was so... compelling. “When they are within comm range, hail the lead ship. Designate hammer flight and trident flight subordinate to Nova wing.” There was an electric silence throughout the fleet as the Cardassian fleet approached, spreading out like the hood of a cobra ready to strike. In its center, holding back, was a sight which put a knot in Sisko’s stomach. “Tactical, give me a reading on their flagship.”

“It’s a monster, Admiral. Over four kilometers by three by one and a half. It masses more than half of a Bastion-class, and its defenses are just as good..”

The magnified ships were now visible, and Sisko counted the captured Wraiths. The Arizona, the Behemoth, the Meteor, and other paragons of Imperial engineering. How many men had died locked in their quarters on those ships when the energy-dampers hit?

“Admiral,” the comm tech called to him “I have communications with the flagship. It is identifying itself as the Cardassia’s Song.”

“Now batting for the London Kings...” Sisko muttered under his breath. “Onscreen.” With a flicker he was face to face with a Cardassian who he would have to treat as an equal. The commander was a large male, with prominent neck folds. Standing behind him was a stern-looking cardassian dressed in dark leathers, with a cape. He reminded Sisko of a commissar.

The seated male spoke. “This is Legate Damar of the fourth order of the Cardassian Union. We do hereby claim the Bajoran system and the remainder of sector 3921 in the name of the Cardassian Union. Remove your fleet immediately and evacuate all Imperial personnel from the sector in twelve standard days.”

Cardassians always were bold. “Legate Damar, I am Vice-Admiral Sisko, commander of this sector. I do not intend to surrender it to you or to any other hostile force which claims it. This sector belongs to the Empire and to the Bajorans. Now, why don’t YOU withdraw your fleet and go back to your Cardassian Union before I decide Bajora needs a new planet orbiting it.”

Damar gripped the armrests of his chair. The Cardassian homeworld had been destroyed by a Genesis torpedo, but it was a bluff. Sisko had no Genesis torpedoes, the so-called grand alliance had seen to that, but maybe Damar didn’t know that.

The standing Cardassian whispered in his ear, and Damar nodded. “Do what you must, but my men would be honored to die the same death as our homeworld. Check your sensors, Admiral. You are outnumbered and outgunned. No one need die today.” A sardonic smile told Sisko that this Legate didn’t believe that at all.

Sisko reached for a comm panel on his right, and tapped in a set of commands. “Legate Damar, how is the security on your ships?”

Damar’s brow furrowed. “Second to none. What is this about?”

“Well,” Sisko smiled. “you seem to have multiple security breaches.” He hit the execute button on his panel, and space lit up in the Cardassian fleet. “Close channel. Attack all weapons, all ships.” He sat back in his chair. Batter up!

Alarms blared on the Song. “What is going on?” Damar threw a young technician away from a flashing panel and scanned the data.

“Legate! The wraith ships!” A comm operator shouted. “Twelve of them have self-destructed. No survivors.”

“To darkness with diplomacy!” Garak was livid. “Punish the terran Terran Treachery!”

A red light on Lafayette Sisko’s control board flicked to green. All forces attack. He took the controls, yanking his cobra out of hits holding course and reading his orders as they came from fleet command. Admiral Aesstuusss was a brilliant tactician, and he knew his job. As Lafayette formed his wing together, the Ark-Royal carriers and Agean destroyers formed a great disk, crisscrossing space with their upgraded shield generators to protect the fighters. Lafayette and the rest of Berserker flight were to join the rest of the fighters in torpedo interception. Long shots were long, but take enough and either side could even up the odds with enough of them.

“Berserker Flight, this is Berserker Lead, signal click all.” Lafayette counted silently as twenty-three clicks echoed in his earpiece and were tallied up. The EW generators on each fighter began to charge up, creating a wall of false echoes for the torpedoes to get through. That was Aesstuusss’ favorite tactic. All too soon, the space between the fleets began to shrink, and filled with streaks of light. A few torpedoes came his way, and his flight took care of them with efficiency. A low tone sounded in his headset.

“Screen volley! Flight to position one in ten seconds!” His fighters scrambled to the safe zone, but Berserker fifteen had an engine flutter and didn’t get clear of the friendly fire. Two solid walls of quantum torpedoes flashed out from the steamrunners he had been screening. They streaked across the vanishing gap and slammed into the Cardassian fleet, blossoming into fire and eating away at ships like waves against a sand castle.

A glint of metal caught Lafayette’s eye, and he instinctively mashed down the trigger on his phasers. As he banked to follow, he saw phaser-fire from four of his flightmates converge with the golden energy of hellbore cannons from two hydran fighters against the shields of a galor-class cruiser. It resisted for a few seconds before it exploded. He looked around, and saw that the fighters were now surrounded by Imperial and Cardassian ships. A higher tone echoed in his headset. “Close range achieved. Engage all targets of opportunity.” The Agean destroyers picketing the Ark Royals would still reinforce the shields of Imperial ships nearby, but now Lafayette’s flight was to sow destruction among the lumbering ships of the enemy fleet.

“Berserker flight, form up. Time to hit a few out of the park.” He grinned and glanced down at his readouts. Imperial forces were down four percent, and Cardassians down six percent. Still room for improvement.

Legate Damar glared at the display in front of him. Those imperial torpedoes were more powerful than anything his intelligence had reported, and had better tracking, too. He had separated his fleet into five elements, each led by twenty superdreadnaughts, but now they were all blunted thanks to Sisko’s trickery. He silently cursed the Obsidian Order, they had assured the central command that there were no computer-traps or latent programs left, but he had already lost half of the captured wraiths.

He pounded the console. “We have to break through the Imperial line! If we don’t get to Bajor nothing our fleet does is going to matter.” On the display, three of his forward elements were firmly engaged with two prongs of the imperial fleet. The spine of Ark Royals and Ageans down the center of their formation was providing them an anchor they couldn’t dislodge, with the Ageans protecting the carriers, who were constantly refurbishing those blasted fighters. Both forces were evenly matched, but the Cardassian fleet wasn’t advancing.

Garak watched the display with a cold gleam in his eyes. “We seem to have encountered stronger resistance than expected, Damar.” His gaze pierced into the commander’s soul. “Fortunately, we have prepared for this eventuality.”

“Indeed we have.” Damar relaxed visibly, the fog of anger clearing from his mind. “Signal the second fleet. Begin Vole Swarm.” The comm pit scrambled to carry out his orders. Behind the fleet, boiling out of subspace corridors, came five thousand ships. Mostly Rasilaks and Legates, they swarmed over and around the larger Cardassian ships like angry rodents.

“Fleet is in position, Legate!”

Damar clenched his fist and looked out at the Imperial ships.


Onboard the Enterprise, Admiral Lore was standing rigid in front of the tactical display. When he was devoting his mind to thinking, he tended to keep his body still. “Signal the Rutlidge and the Hyperion and have them bring the third arm to grid twenty-two by eight.” His crew carried out his orders with efficiency. On two separate occasions, Lore had summarily executed crewman who failed to perform at his expectations.

“Admiral,” Commissar Troi was growing alarmed in the midst of this. She had never been in a battle of this magnitude, or one that might be lost. “Moving up the third arm will leave our rear exp-“

Lore’s head snapped around and he cut her off with a raised hand. ”Thank you, Commissar for your thoughtful analysis. In the time I am using to tell you to be quiet, almost two-hundred ninety Imperial citizens will die in this battle. Do not make me waste their contribution.” He turned back to the display. “Contact the Wrath of Hydria, and tell them to send four wings through the gap in our flank. Order assault platform groups alpha and delta to fire a stuttered quantum burst along their vector in exactly fourteen point two seconds... mark!”

In space the pair of Wraiths flanked by Sovereigns brought up their arm of the second fleetgroup, bringing heavy fire to bear on the Cardassian line. In doing so, they left a large section of the fleetgroup undefended. Sure enough, a trio of Sartans, each the match for a baseline wraith, flanked by a number of Keldon cruisers came soaring in for the kill.

Suddenly a hail of glowing nova-blue torpedoes streaked out towards them, overwhelming their shields and vaporizing ablative plating. As the blasts subsided, the ships were surrounded by a swarm of Cobras, Vipers, and Hydran Trebuchets, spitting death from their hellbore cannons and carving flaming gashes along the superstructure of the ships. The Vipers pounded the ships with quantum torpedoes mercilessly. In another ten seconds, all eleven Cardassian ships were expanding balls of plasma.

Lore didn’t look back at Troi, but she knew that everyone else on the bridge was, and she could hear their thoughts; Section 31, always on the job... She never even went to fleet, who does she think she is? Her cheeks glowed in embarrassment.

“Admiral, I’m detecting a second wave of Cardassian ships advancing, mostly smaller hull-sizes.”

“Highlight the display, and give me scans of three of the nearest ships. I want details.” Lore bent to study his sensor console.

A tactical officer was processing the data. “They have minimal shields, sir, and their crew count is low. I am detecting no significant antimatter onboard, so they aren’t suicidal.”

Lore’s eyebrow arched. “There seems to be a scattering field preventing detailed internal scans... attempt to penetrate it.”

“Admiral,” Troi tried to salvage her authority “ there are currently over twenty wraith-analogues for our fleetgroup to contend with. I don’t think these new ships are any concern.”

"On the contrary, Commissar Troi," Lore looked up from his display while his hands continued working the controls. “ they are extremely important. Since Cardassians are neither unintelligent or vainglorious, they do not intend to sacrifice those ships for no tactical gain. I intend to determine that tactical gain.” He turned back to his readouts. “There is a high-energy surge in the forward section of each ship that is spiking into the terradyne range at an increasing frequency...” He jerked up and looked to the comm.

“Lieutenant Kellan, signal the fleet! Flash warning code Alpha nine. Designate each of those ships as a priority target.” He turned back to the display, “Shields emergency full to front. Link warp cores three and four to the main relays and engage power transfer.” As he watched, each of the smaller ships spat a massive bolt of energy towards an Imperial ship.

It was too late. The maulers began to slam into ships, shredding smaller ones and crippling those which survived. Four bolts were coming towards the Enterprise, and Lore knew the shields would not reach full power in time. “Oh... SHIT.”

“Kira, what is going on?” Sisko’s voice thundered across the command bridge.

After a few seconds a holo of Kira appeared on the stand next to him. “Admiral, it appears that the Cardassians refit a number of smaller ships with a single mauler cannon. Our forces are currently down eighteen percent, the Cardassians are at fifteen.”

“Those maulers can’t be firing more than once every forty seconds, destroy those ships!” Sisko flipped a switch on the comm and Kira was replaced by Aesstuusss. Without his suit, the hydran made Sisko do a double take. “Admiral, you see what’s going on?”

The Hydran’s eyelids blinked simultaneously, the equivalent of an affirmative nod. <I DO, SIR. I AM DISPATCHING ALL FIGHTERS TO SWEEPER DUTY.>

“Good. The first fleetgroup will provide covering fire, and we’ll see if we can get closer to the command ship.”


“Comm, get me our SWACS and have them paint all of the mauler-refits as priority targets, then flash that to the fleet. And-”

“Admiral!” A lieutenant interrupted him as he ran to the “The Enterprise is down. Last communique had breaches spanning fifteen decks and two of its warp cores were ejected. Its dead in space. Commodore Minchori has taken over for the second fleetgroup.”

Sisko’s eyes fell, and he clenched a fist. The banner ship of the Imperium had just been holed and was drifting. “Noted. Mark its position for salvage and signal the fleet that Rutlidge now has command of the second group. Transmit all codes to Commodore Minchori” He turned back to the holographic display and watched the tiny flashes of ships exploding. The battle wasn’t lost yet. Not by a long shot.

to be continued...

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:11pm

Chapter 32 – Assassin

Outskirts of Eden, Assault Shuttle Marine 238 Baker

The anomalous biosign, the one that had been falling towards The Skipper and his pilot, had righted its explosion induced tumble. The Assault Shuttle’s airspeed had by now been reduced to a virtual crawl, her altitude maintained by her AG drives. Her now un-stowed, ominous looking chin turret tracked soundlessly, following the ship’s weapons officer head movements as he tracked the anomalous biosign. The ATG and ATA munitions housed in her belly bays were ready to launch at a moments notice, as were her own heavy HVM racks nestled in her wing roots. The targeting computer registered the anomalous biosign as a Grenobulin Condactal, but that was virtually impossible to be the truth. Grenobulin Condactals were avian predators of the Imperial colony world Grenobule. They were both the most intelligent of Grenobule’s denizens and occupied the highest rung on the planet’s food chain, at least till Terrans settled the world. As such, their transport to other worlds was very strictly regulated, and as far as anyone knew, none were on Lilith at all.

Then, the virtual impossibility of it being an actual Grenobulin Condactal became certain impossibility, for the biosigns shifted, replaced by those of a Vedran Titan. The beast, resembling a carnivorous version of a Terran rhinoceros that had enough natural armor to give a full powered hand phaser shot pause alighted on the ground, then began to stampede directly towards the marines clustered around Ulysses.

Valley Forge, I have contact with a Changeling infiltrator. Suspect that he was responsible for Fallen Angel. Request weapons free status and permission to engage.” The pilot commed with a predatory snarl as she began to side-slip her large craft around to get a clear lane of fire.

Outskirts of Eden, Galactic Unity Operative 11J, that same time

This Terran was proving all too meddlesome. Once again, 11J had nothing to show for his efforts. But that was not how things would end. Not this time. Ulysses Vanguard was all too competent in his job to remain as a stumbling block to the Galactic Unity’s advance. 11J would see to that, even if it meant his own death. He morphed into one of the most terrifying predators in the galaxy, let out a blood chilling bellow, then charged towards his target.

Outskirts of Eden, Marines at Ulysses’ Position, that same time

Nearly as soon as the bellow came, every gun in the Marines trained on the now rapidly approaching monstrosity. For a split second they questioned how what their sensors were telling them could be true. Then a voice barked from their helmet speakers. “Chicks, this is Mother Hen: weapons free, repeat, weapons free. Take it out!” The Assault Shuttle’s pilot said.

The Marines went into action as soon as they heard the first weapons free order. Some had to take a short spy hop on the AG harnesses to gain sight of their target as it barreled through the softly undulating terrain. It was almost totally dark now, but to the Marines composite sensor arrays, it was of no consequence. Night was like day to their mechanical eyes, and they spat their sensor returns to the HUD that was painted on the Marine’s helmet. Targeting pipers fell across their target as they brought their weapons up to their shoulders. The Marines opened fire as near one, sending 103 streams of hypervelocity grav gun rounds into their target.

And nothing happened.

The kinetic punch of the bullets did nothing to the charging Titan, seeming to pass straight through it as if it wasn’t even there.

Outskirts of Eden, Galactic Unity Operative 11J, that same time

11J was ready for the likely response to his attack, altering his density on the fly, allowing the finger sized solid bullets to pierce him with no affect. As expected, they all had disarmed the bullets’ terminal impulse boosters to limit collateral damage. They were also using only AP bullets, not the more deadly HE ones. Their hesitance to employ heavier weapons would be their downfall.

Outskirts of Eden, Marines at Ulysses’ Position, that same time

McKennon swore under his helmet. Standard Anti-Changeling Tactics 101: Use energy weapons! Kinetic weapons would just pass right through them given their liquid natural state. In his and the others rush to fire, they forgot this cardinal rule. He commanded his suits AG harness to lift him up even as his thumb flicked the selector lever on his grav gun. Hovering in mid air, he shouted over the group com net. “Fire in the hole!”

His armor’s finger twitched, tugging the trigger. From his weapons under slung secondary launcher, a photon grenade spat forth at Mach 15. An unmistakable wail/scream joined the sky sundering thunder of his grenade’s birth.

Outskirts of Eden, Assault Shuttle Marine 238 Baker, that same time

The shuttle’s weapons operator silently cursed the fact that the target was to close to used really heavy weapons. Bringing up his weapons MFD, he selected the dual PPC’s housed in his chin turret. His index finger slid their power setting down to minimal levels, prayed it still wouldn’t hurt Ulysses and Lt. Theisman who were virtually unprotected. But there was no time for second guesses, in no time at all, the Changeling would be on top of The Skipper’s prostrate form, and then he would die regardless. The weapons operator pulled the trigger on his control stick ever so briefly, and four bolts golden bolts were loosed with a banshee scream that pierced the night air.

They slammed into the charging Changeling in Titan guise at virtually the same instant as the tiny AM charge of a photon grenade was freed from its prison. The PPC’s, even at low power, glassed a good portion of the target area’s soil. They also threw up fountains of dirt and debris, digging small, smoldering craters. But all that limited destruction was wiped away as the directed AM explosion of the photon grenade loosed itself. For a brief moment, a tiny new star was birthed, loosing an eye tearing boil of light and energy that pockmarked Lilith’s surface. While the directed nature of the blast wasn’t perfect, for not even Imperial micro forcefields could hope to fully contain and direct the full force of an AM explosion, they did last just long enough to focus the lions share of the blast and it’s accompanying radiation into a roughly meter wide radius cone at the target. The crater that this release of energy caused was quite large, and debris was thrown quite high up into Lilith’s atmosphere. Shockwaves blew outward, knocking the nearer Marines over in spite of their anti-kinetic shielding. The medics had extended their own suits shields around the unconscious forms of Ulysses and his pilot, weakening their overall strength to allow the two some mediocre level of protection. It proved to be sufficient however, for the pair only received slightly increased radiation exposures through the cocooning embrace of the shields. Through both the out gust and corresponding return of air and the raining down of debris that included head sized chunks of smoldering granite.

And then it was over.

“Indigo,” the assault shuttle’s weapons operator said, turning to his left to stare at the pilot shrouded in her flight suit, “I am detecting no more anomalous readings, biological or technological. I think we got em.” There was evident relief in his voice as he continued. “Also, both Admiral Vanguard and Lt. Theisman are still alive according to my screens.”

“Thank God for that Rocky.” The assault shuttle’s pilot replied from behind her concealing helmet, her own relief giving her voice a slight quaver. She forced it away as she continued. “Keep an eye out though. If the GU managed to get a changeling dirtside and a heavy HVM emplacement kept secret, lord knows what else they may have done.” As she spoke, she pulled the assault shuttle’s nose up and slipped into an oval circuit over the Marines below her. There was a crater, glowing faintly dull red, far to close to the Marine’s position for comfort. Another piece of good news was that the blast wave from the photon grenade had largely put out the small fire that had near totally consumed the small grove of trees where the remains of Ulysses aircar had crashed.

“238 Baker, this is 409 Alpha coming in from your bearing 308 mark 193.” The ship to ship com system crackled. “We can provide over watch while you descend and pick up Fallen Angel.”

“Acknowledged 409 Alpha. As soon as our medics give the word, well do just that.”

“Mother Hen, this is Chick Mike One.” The senior of the Marine’s medics reported up to the assault shuttle. “We have Fallen Angel and his pilot as stabilized as we can get them. Requesting biovac ASAP.”

“Roger Chick Mike One. Mother Hen to all Chicks, well be landing 104 meters due south of Fallen Angel. Expedite loading, we need to get The Skipper and his pilot to medical attention.”

Outskirts of Eden, Marines at Ulysses’ Position, that same time

“Understood Mother Hen. Well be ready when you land.” Lt. Avery replied. For once, he didn’t notice and take exception to the flight crew’s mollycoddling.

By now, the SWAT Hoppers and other emergency aircars were nearly onsite. The piercing wail of the sirens created a cacophony that was all but impossible to ignore. The Hoppers, their open sides heavy with armored SWAT troops, were approaching cautiously but with all due speed. The ambulances and fire trucks were farther back but keeping themselves occupied treating the wounded citizens and putting out the small fires caused by flaming debris.

The medics had already applied neck and back supports to both parties, for they had endured considerable trauma to their neck and spines and the medics first aid kits couldn’t effectively treat them. The chief medic was concerned with the considerable damage done to Ulysses head. Judging from the wood splinters imbedded in the lower wound, it had been done by a tree limb. But the upper wound was the one that concerned him. It had fractured the Admiral’s skull, caused when he had become a projectile after the hydrogen explosion and happened to have the bad luck to land head first on pretty much the only exposed rock around. Another crack of thunder was heard as the power armor’s sensors detected the approach of another assault shuttle.

The medics extracted fist sized cubic bundles from their combat webbing. Shoving their mechanical fingers into similar sized recesses along one side of the cube, it promptly sprang apart, expanding into two parallel poles with pliable thatch pattern webbing between them.

“Gotta love adaptive alloy.” One of the Marines quipped. The metallic alloy was very tough and durable, virtually indestructible in fact, but possessed nearly the same flexibility as cloth unless a proper current was applied to make it stiffer than steel.

“Ready? One…Two…Three!” Under the medic’s direction, a cluster of marines shifted the two wounded Imperials as gently as possible onto the gurneys. Then one picked up either end of the gurney, scarcely noticing the weight thanks to their exoskeletons. Whisper quiet, a black dagger against the night sky, the assault shuttle swooped low overhead to settle down on landing skids a short distance away. The Marines hustled their charges aboard, clanging quickly up the lowered rear hatch. The last one had barely cleared it when it began to close and the assault shuttle began to rise. Thanks to its internal grav plating and dampers, it was able to climb vertically without waiting for the passengers to secure themselves. It did exactly that, screaming upward and leaving the atmosphere behind in seconds. 409 Alpha took up station on their port wingtip and matched their full power climb to orbit. Halfway to the Forge, a full three wings of fighters dropped about them. As 238 Baker slowed her advance, coming close to the Valley Forge’s primary landing bay, the fighter’s peeled back out of her way, but didn’t stray far. It wasn’t until after the bay’s tractors had pulled her inside and the armor blast doors had resealed that the fighters again returned to their patrol routes.

Valley Forge, Lilith Orbit

The usually bustling docking bay was unnaturally quiet as the assault shuttle settled into its birth. Drifting tail first into its honeycomb like cell, with the now sealed blast doors almost directly in front of her predatory beak, anchor arms settled around her, binding her fast to the deck. The rear ramp was lowered and the Forge’s medical personnel were already in place waiting with an pair of AG carts. Anna Petersmith was at their head, blue eyes worried and face pinched with concern. P’tel and Commissar Stevens were also on hand, both with masks of neutrality. P’tel because she had to maintain her emotional detachment, Stevens because she wasn’t sure weather to be happy or sad that Ulysses had nearly died. True, he was a gifted commander, but that sword cut both ways, making him a potential threat to the Emperor and the Empire.

As soon as the Marines had settled Ulysses gurney down on the AG cart, she slipped her medical goggles down and activated them. Having all the functions of a medical tricorder but in goggle form to allow both hands to be free and a much more user friendly display, it quickly showed her just how extensive Ulysses injuries were. Flicking between sensor return overlays, she saw every broken bone, every abused muscle, every ruptured blood vessel. It wasn’t pretty.

“Get the Admiral prepped for surgery immediately.” She said as she and the medical staff trotted down the hall towards Sickbay Four with the two AG carts in tow. It was only a short distance down the hallway, placed there specifically to expedite the speed which wounded Marines could be patched back together. The skull fracture had caused internal hemorrhage on the brain, and the pressure was slowly building to dangerous levels. Although it should be easy to repair, it could be more complicated than it first looked.

“It could be a while.” She said to the Valley Forge’s mistress and political watchdog. “I’ll com you when he’s ready to receive visitors.” She then spun on her heel, ending the conversation and striding through the sickbay doors that shut behind her with a squeak/swoosh.

Ulysses had just been set down on the operating table when he began to thrash. “He’s having a seizure!” A nurse shouted as Anna sprinted to the table. Then Ulysses life sign readings began to plummet.

“Damn it, don’t you die on me Ulysses Vanguard!” Anna cursed. “Neural and cardiovascular stimulators, NOW!” Sickbay burst into a flurry of motion as her medical staff raced against time to save Ulysses life.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:13pm

Chapter 33- Into the Valley of Death

“Order attack wings two and three to move forward. Gul Marin is to take the invasion force to the Bajoran defense perimeter and to begin the assault on Terrok Nor. Make sure the troopships are well-defended.” Damar watched as almost a fifth of his fleet broke away and began to fly towards the Imperial fleet like a barbed arrow. Garak watched with silent glee as the ships proceeded. If he had been successful in drawing off enough of the Imperial ships, even if the main assault failed, Sisko would return to find Bajor in flames, crawling with three hundred thousand armed and trained Cardassian troops.

Damar glanced at his readouts. “The Vole Swarm has done its work, but it is down to twenty-three percent strength. Order Vole ships to fire one last volley along the invasion fleet’s vector, then bring them back to primary positions. If we have to retreat, we’re going to need a rearguard.”

“If I may, Legate.” Garak pressed a sequence of buttons and a number of Imperial ships began to flash on the display. “These ships are salvageable, if we act quickly. The Vole swarm has rendered many ships open to boarding. I recommend we rescind our reserve ground forces and put them on ship assault. The Cardassian people need every ship they can get.”

Boarding actions against the Imperium were often suicide, but Garak was right. “Agreed. Dispatch reserves for boarding. If capture of the vessel is unlikely, they are under orders to sabotage any critical systems available in order to destroy the ship.” Damar thought back to a history lesson from his school as a child. Terran military history was a subject he enjoyed, they were such a violent people. During one of the bloodier civil wars, one of the Terran factions had been forced to retreat back through his home region. Along the way, their General Sherman had destroyed everything useful to the enemy, from crops and farms to basic amenities. Leave the enemy no advantage. He would leave the Terrans no advantage, not after their atrocities.

Berserker flight was down to half-strength. Lafayette Sisko continued to destroy ship after ship with his flightmates at his wing, but there were always more. They looped around the superstructure of a Wraith, and then drew a line of fire across an exposed section of a Cardassian Sovereign. As they wheeled away, Berserker Nine came over the comm “Lead, looks like the cardies are trying for a breakthrough!”


Lafayette grinned. Fleet does the flying, fighters do the dying. “Well let’s ride, ladies and gentlemen... and others.” He added, eliciting a laugh from a few of his pilots. In combat, forced humor was a useful calming agent. The fighters streaked towards the convoy, joined by dozens of fighters and a wing of assault shuttles. The convoy was immense, almost two hundred larger ships and a thousand transports. The fighters evaded the sporadic fire as they dived towards the convoy. “Launch phalanx salvo!” Lafayette mashed the control panel and watched as over a hundred phalanx quantums reached out. “Prepare for active-“ And space around Lafayette exploded in golden light.

Maulers, everywhere, over a thousand blasts screening the convoy, and overwhelming the fighters and few capital ships. Over his comm, Lafayette heard screams get cut off one by one. A mauler flashed by less than three meters from his shields, the energy corona frying them. Golden lightning crawled up the fuselage of his fighter, shutting down his engines and weapon systems.

His control panel winked out and Lafayette was drifting at one-quarter impulse towards the Cardassian convoy. He tried a manual restart, but nothing happened. On his headset he couldn’t hear any of his flightmates. He was alone.

Well, nothing to do now but die for a reason. Lafayette opened the panel for emergency thrusters. He couldn’t stop himself, but he could steer. And without a power signature, he was significantly harder to hit. Looking at the convoy for a few seconds, he spotted his target. “Hellooooo reason.” A troopship, lumbering and slow, heading for Bajor. His mother, his four brothers, and his sister were on the planet and they weren’t going to be killed by any Cardassians. He checked his torpedoes. Five left. Enough to save some lives. Lafayette armed the warheads as he nudged his ship into an impact trajectory. Phasers sliced through space near him, but none hit. He ignored them, worrying wouldn’t help at this point. When the ship filled half his canopy, he pulled his ejector bar.

Explosive bolts thundered around him as his seat flew clear of the ship. “Emergency! Emergency! Berserker Lead is EVA. Requesting pickup.” He set his beacon to rebroadcast the message every thirty seconds. He looked down and saw his fighter plow into the side of the transport. It was completely enveloped in the ship before it exploded. That’ll do it. Lafayette nodded and smiled behind his enviro-suit to himself as he spun around to see how the battle was progressing. He turned just in time to see a large chunk of hull-plating spinning towards him. I did it, Dad.

Smoke wafted across the flag bridge of the Enterprise. A thud and a clank heralded Admiral Lore tossing pieces of deck plating away from the command console. “Status! All systems report!”

A bloodied lieutenant pulled a body off of the tactical console and checked the readouts. “Sir, the Enterprise has sustained heavy damage. We have hull breaches on decks nineteen through forty-two, and bulkheads aren’t responding on decks twenty and thirty-seven. Power is down to fifty-eight percent, and warp cores three and four have been ejected. Main computer, weapons, and communication are down.”

“Any word from the command bridge?” Lore’s fingers were flying over controls faster than any crewman could see as he attempted to initialize systems.

“Sir, the command bridge is in the depressurized section of deck thirty. Readings show no survivors.” The young girl looked like she was about to cry. Several other crewmen were staggering to their feet.

“All of you, listen!” Lore tried to sound compassionate and
authoritative at the same time. These humans were in a very fragile state right now, and he didn’t want to break their psyches. “I want damage control teams to restart systems in the following order: Main power, shields, weapons, computer, engines, communication. Impress every crewman needed regardless of rank.” He looked around at their stunned faces. “NOW.” They sprang into action.

Commissar Troi staggered to her feet, blisters dotting her face and right arm where sparks had burned through. “What is the status of the battle?”

Lore pointed to a sensor display. “Feel free to investigate for yourself, but until I can proactively participate in the battle, I see no need to observe it.” He continued to move debris from damaged systems and repair them.

Troi frowned at his back, and went to the panel. “There seems to be a large element penetrating the lines heading for Bajor.”

“That is likely their invasion force. They intend to get entrenched regardless of the outcome of this battle, to put the Imperium on the defensive.”

“How do you know that?” Troi sounded suspicious.

Lore shrugged as he hefted a four-hundred kilo beam. “Its what I would do.” For the next few minutes there was quiet as the crew attempted to reactivate the ship’s systems. Suddenly all the display consoles on the bridge flickered on.

“We have power, sir!” The young lieutenant was almost smiling. It was likely her first military engagement. “Sensors online...” She frowned. “I’m detecting a transpor-” a low whine filled the bridge, followed by a boom and hiss.

“Nerve agent!” Lore ran for the canister, looking to seal it, but there were too many aerosol jets for him to block. “Lock down environmental systems!” He ran across the bridge at blinding speed as crewmen began to drop.

“Can’t lock...” A blue-uniformed commander gasped in his seat. “power activated diagnostic cycle.” He looked at Lore, and then his head dropped.

Lore grabbed his neck. Still breathing, they want prisoners. He checked internal sensors, and found that three-hundred canisters had been beamed throughout the ship. And only main power had been restored. Without the computer, he couldn’t call for help, couldn’t-

A second whine began on the bridge, this time towering forms in metal began to materialize. “Computer, activate emergency tactical holograms.” Lore whispered as he knelt down.

BEEE-uuuurrrrrt Unable to comply. Main computer is offline.” The precise voice irritated Lore. He counted twenty-two boarders on the bridge, all in armor and with disruptor rifles. They weren’t expecting a fight. Lore smiled. He looked over to his right, and saw that one of the security guards had been carrying a vibro-axe with him when the maulers hit. He inched his way over to it as he listened to the Cardassians. They were looking for the Captain, and weren’t happy about not finding one.

He gripped the axe in both hands, twisting the handle to activate the power-pack. He closed his eyes, and unlocked memory blocks long dormant. After all, he had been designed as a prototype assassin android. This was second nature to him.

Lore’s mind sped up to maximum processing, operating on friend-or-foe only. No higher functions. He stood and twirled the axe, and leapt. His powerful legs sent him almost eight meters across the bridge, towards the closest Cardassian. A shout from one of his comrades made him turn, but Lore’s axe split his rifle before it was even readied. Blood and sparks flew as he bisected the man’s torso.

Rolling and leaping, Lore spun the axe and swung again and again. The boarders tried to shoot him, but Lore dodged the disruptors with unnatural leaps and dodges. Fourteen had fallen dead before they shot his axe. For two point four seconds Lore calculated his alternatives, before his programming had an answer.

He rolled across the floor and stood with a pair of disruptors. He fired as he ran, cutting down more Cardassians as their fire traced behind him. One of them lobbed a pair of grenades at Lore. His enhanced aim tracked them, but one slipped by and detonated behind him. The concussion blast lifted him off his feet and threw him towards the two remaining Cardassians. He tumbled like a rag doll and landed in a limp pile of appendages.

The two armored figures walked towards him, weapons leveled. One prodded him with the barrel of his gun, rolling him onto his back. Two of his head panels were open, and they could see flashing lights. “I think the pale bastard is dead.” The leader said and looked at his partner.

“The pale bastard is not.” Lore’s eyes snapped open and he rolled up onto one arm. His legs swung out and connected solidly with the knee joints of the leaders, overpowering the mechanical servos with a crunch of metal and bone. He swatted the other Cardassian’s gun across the room and flipped backwards onto his feet. The Cardassian bellowed and swung a massive armored fist at Lore.

It stopped, four centimeters from Lore’s face. The android’s muscles strained against the machinery, but his strength was greater than even an enhanced humanoid. Lore let his mind return to normal speed as he stared into the faceplate of the Cardassian. He could hear the man’s pulse thundering and his breath straining. Lore shook his head. He grabbed an armored elbow and bodily flipped him over his head, onto his stomach. He planted his left foot on the Cardassian’s back as he tried to stand. A sharp kick in the head ended his struggling.

Lore turned back to the Cardassian he had crippled. He walked up to him and knelt down, taking off his helmet. The man was in pain, and looked in horror at Lore “Who... what are you?”

The android cocked his head, as if he was being asked for the first time. “I am Admiral Lore of the Terran Imperium. Who are you?”

His voice trembled. “I am Palim Oset, of the fifth batallion.”

“Well, Palim Oset of the fifth battalion.” A gleeful light gleamed in Lore’s eyes. “Would you like to know a secret?” Palim nodded, frightened. Lore leaned down and whispered in his ear. “I am death.” His hand flashed down and grabbed the cardassian’s throat. “Now die, Palim Oset.” He squeezed, and the blood came bubbling from his mouth.

Lore held on for a few more seconds, until his programming comprehended there was no longer a threat. He relaxed, and looked around. His crew was unconscious. He grabbed a tricorder and examined the nearest crewman. Anesthisine gas. Easily remedied. “Computer. Mix with air composition tricillium in a concentration of eighty parts per million.”

A less than satisfactory answer came. “BEEE-urrrt. Unable to comply. Atmospheric controls are down due to loss of main computer.”

The Enterprise’s computer was down, and unless Lore could bring it up soon, his crew would start to die from overexposure. Unfortunately, the main computer core was eighteen levels and two kilometers of corridor away, in a section of the vessel currently blocked by heavily reinforced bulkheads. Lore turned to look around, a human gesture of frustration. As he did, a metal beam caught at his secondary cranial access plate, tearing it off completely.

He put a hand to his head, and then stopped. There was another computer right here capable of controlling all of the Enterprise’s primary functions. Lore went to a nearby terminal and tore it from the deck, exposing the main data line connected to it. He smiled. “If you want something done right...”

An exploding panel showered the main bridge of the Saratoga with sparks. Kira leapt up and grabbed a fire extinguisher from under her throne, smothering the fire in extinguishing foam. “Return Fire, all weapons!” She watched through her viewscreen as a quartet of wraiths and their accompanying vessels blossomed into fire.

“Captain!” Her sensors officer, a Bajoran, looked panicked. “The Cardassian advance has broken through the lines! I count over a hundred tactical ships, minesweepers, and troop ships.”

Hell. Kira threw the fire extinguisher across the bridge, causing two crewmen to duck. “What do we have to stop them with?”

Her officer checked the scanners. “The convoy was under heavy fighter assault, but they managed to clear them. Only the remnants of the second wing are standing in their way, and that’s not for long.”

Its up to us, then. Kira hit her comm, activating the holo-communicator. Sisko’s holographic form sat in midair next to her. “Admiral, the Cardassians have broken through the line. I would respectfully request that we withdraw to the defense perimeter.”

“Hold your position, Captain. We need every ship we’ve got here. “Even at one-fifth size, Kira could see the grim look on Sisko’s face.

“And why the hell is that, Sir?” Very few people could talk to Vice Admiral Benjamin Sisko like that without fear of execution.

“Because, Kira, we’ve got bigger problems.” Sisko deactivated the link.

On the main display, Kira saw over ten thousand new ship signatures appear from the subspace corridor. It was a huge fleet, outnumbering both Imperial and Cardassian fleets combined. “This is Fleet Commander Ardiion of the Galactic Unity. We are here to bring you peace and happiness...

Admiral Thomas Riker leaned back on his command throne and smiled. Seated in a warm, dark bridge, he was the new master of the Centurion; a new wraith-class upgraded battleship, right down to the cloned leather seat. He looked at the status reports his aide gave him and frowned. The battle wasn’t going well in the Denorios belt. An item on the list caught his eye. “Dammit. Dammit to hell.” The Enterprise was down, and had taken boarders. Lore had been a good captain.

“Something wrong, Admiral?” Commissar Bashir was seated next to him. Sisko had ostensibly left Bashir behind as a watchdog. Why couldn’t the Saratoga have been damaged, get Sisko out of his hair.

“No, nothing wrong.” Riker tossed the datapad on the floor. “Just wondering why the good ones always die first.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Julian leaned back in his seat. “The bad ones catch up on their own.”

Riker was about to say something when a priority message came through to his station. He read it and frowned. “A Cardassian force has broken through the line and is on its way here. Apparently the appearance of a Unity fleet in the Denorios belt has pinned down all reinforcements, so we’re on our own.” He looked a little bit worried.

“Cheer up, Admiral!” Julian smiled. “We’re defending a tiny outpost of the Empire against a superior force, and there’s no retreat. If we win, we’re heroes, and if we loose in six hundred years they’ll still be saying ‘Remember Bajor!’” He could barely hold in his laughter.

Unfortunately, Riker didn’t share the joke. “Red alert.” Sirens blared and red lights flashed. “Activate all weapons platforms, scan all regions for subspace signatures, and ready the fleet.” He tapped a comm switch. “Chief O’Brien, is the Vengeance ready for deployment?”

“Aye sir. Remote operation codes are being sent to you now.” O’Brien’s gruff voice sounded tired. He and his crews were working nonstop on the defenses, and now they would have to scramble to make repairs during battle.

“All systems report ready, Admiral.” A commander who’s name escaped Riker was manning the fleet comm. “The Cardassians have reached the minefield.”

Out in space, at the threshold of Riker’s vision, small white flares began to flash. The cloaked field of subspace mines was no doubt ravaging the Cardassian fleet. “Get me live feed from one of our sensor drones, I want to see them.” A flicker on the screen and then the Cardassian fleet was in full view. Riker jumped up. “Dammit to HELL!”

On the screen he could see the fleet, plain as day. It was in four wedge segments, each built around the troop ships and each segment led by twelve galor-class cruisers. The cruisers were saturating space around their elements with tetrion beams, which lit up the mines like glowing jewels for a second before being destroyed. The fleet was already two-thirds of the way through the minefield, and had taken no casualties serious.

Julian laughed out loud, causing Riker to turn and glare at him. “You think this is funny?” The commissar tried to contain himself with mock serious. “No Sir, Admiral Lennigan. Its not funny at all.” He glanced at the advancing fleet. “I suppose someone should send Fleet Engineering a report about those minesweepers. Rather more efficient than ours, don’t you think?”

Just as Riker was about to let the pompous young man taste his fist, the comm officer waved. “Sir, hail from the Cardassian force. They say the Imperial fleet will not survive and we are to surrender Bajor to them. All officers below the rank of Captain will be free to return to the surface of Bajor after being disarmed. All senior officers will be held as war criminals.” He looked at the Admiral, appearing for all the world as the mouse who had been asked to bell the cat.

“Send no response.” Riker sat down on his throne. “Activate defense platforms, and signal the fleet to move to echo point.”

Out in space, the Cardassian fleet and cleared the minefield and was now under fire from the automated defense platforms. Each ADP was able to fire one of the new upgraded torpedoes every eight seconds, and thanks to their extended range over sixty-five batteries were able to fire on the fleet. Fireballs erupted in space on and around the Cardassian ships. One by one, the ADP’s were targeted and fired upon, slowly reducing their number.

“All ships, attack pattern Kirk Theta.” Riker tented his fingers and watched the enemy ships grow on the screen. It was enormous, outnumbering his fleet three to one, but he had Bajor’s defenses. The two fleets met, and began delivering massive broadsides against each other. From the planet’s surface swarmed almost two thousand Laraks, Bajoran-made variants of the Imperial Cobra, with a double-bank of photon torpedo launchers and a pair of MK VII phasers for armaments.

Though the Imperials fought bravely and the defenses hammered away at the Cardassians, they just couldn’t stop them. When the fleet was down almost eight percent, Riker tapped on his controls. The Vengeance soared into the fleet formation, with its functioning weapons firing. “Signal Imperial assets to fall back, and have the Bajoran defense ships screen the Vengeance until we’re clear.”

The Imperial wraiths and sovereigns slid back, still firing, while the Vengeance charged like an angry bull into the Cardassian formation. Riker smiled and opened a panel in his armrest with a set of switches. “Admiral!” Julian grabbed his hand. “Aren’t you going to withdraw the Bajoran ships before proceding?”

A genuinely puzzled frown crossed Riker’s face for a moment. “Why?” He flipped a trio of switches and a miniature nova filled the viewscreen with white light as 90,000 tons of antimatter and antimatter waste was detonated onboard the Vengeance. Her holographic crew had done its job, bringing it to the center of the formation where it could hit the most troop transports.

He looked at Julian. “We would have lost our element of surprise.” Riker closed the panel and stood up. On the viewscreen less than a fourth of the Cardassian ships were remaining, and those were now retreating back towards the main Cardassian force. “I’ll be in my ready room. I want a damage report and final crew performance numbers for review.”

In the ready room, Riker sat down on a plush couch and poured himself a glass of whiskey. Long live the Empire, he toasted himself. He might even get a commendation for today. A chime at the door brought him out of his own self-congratulation. “Enter.”

Inside stepped Julian Bashir, with a datapad in his hand and a smile on his face. He sat down in a chair across from him and handed him the pad. “What’s this? Performance numbers?”

“No Admiral, its your sentence.” Julian pulled a phaser from his hip and shot Riker in the stomach. A low-powered bolt, it caused all of Riker’s nerves to fire, sending the glass flying and him tumbling to the floor, twitching, but awake.

Julian stood over his twitching body. “Admiral Riker, for the willful destruction of the ISS Vengeance and the Bajoran defense fleet including thirty-seven thousand nine hundred eighty-five Imperial citizens, Section 31 finds you guilty of Treason against the empire and of committing Attempted Genocide against the populace of Bajor. The penalty for these crimes is immediate death, and no appeal is to be given.” He thumbed the power settings to maximum. “Do you understand the charges against you?”

Riker struggled to move. “Sisko...” He gurgled.

“Admiral Sisko has no say in this matter, but after your blatant disregard for the lives of I have no doubt he agrees with me.” Julian smiled. “Since you clearly understand the charges...” He fired at Riker’s chest, turning the man into vapor instantly. He holstered his weapon and sat at the desk, bringing up the post-battle reports from the various captains. Long live the Empire

The battlefield was now total chaos with the arrival of the Unity fleet. In the last five minutes Sisko had lost an additional four percent of his fleet. “Regroup! Signal all ships to fall back around the first fleet group in a Legionary formation. That Unity fleet is cutting us to pieces!”

Out the viewscreen Sisko could see the fleet of the Galactic Unity, wave after wave of massive ships all ringing a command ship which could destroy a Bastion without too much trouble. The Cardassians were having a worse time of it, though. The Unity fleet had come in behind them, out of the subspace corridors, and had caught them with their pants down. Now Damar was fighting on two fronts.

Sisko started to call for his comm officer, then halted, in deep thought while his fleet drew around him. He seemed to make up his mind and stood and strode toward the viewscreen. “Get me Damar, now! Emergency priority, I don’t care.” Within seconds, Legate Damar was in front of him. The bridge of his ship was now smoke-filled, and the transmission had lines of static.

“If you want me to surrender, Admiral, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait your turn.” Damar was dispatching orders from his console while Cardassians behind him ran to and fro.

“Nothing like that, Legate.” Sisko smiled. “I’m offering a cease-fire.” The flag bridge of the Saratoga was now completely silent. No Imperial officer had made such an agreement since the days of the Hydran incursion.

“You what?” There was distrust in Damar’s voice.

“I am offering a cease fire. Neither of us wants to fall to the Unity, and we’re not going to defeat each other here.” Sisko bent and checked the display of a nearby crewman. “Together we have a fleet almost eighty percent of the Unity’s.” Damar still stared in silence. Sisko let out an angry sigh of disgust. “Come on, man! Your invasion force has been routed before it even got CLOSE to Bajor. You’re not going to win, why not go home alive?”

The Cardassian in black leaned over and whispered to Damar, who nodded. “Granted, but what assurances do I have that if we drive off the Unity fleet you won’t wipe us out?”

Sisko clenched his fists. “Do you have children, Legate?”

“Yes, I have seven.”

“Well I have five.” Sisko stepped closer to the screen. “And right now my second-oldest son is drifting somewhere in the middle of all of this, and I want to find him. You will not be harmed, not until my son is safe.”

For what seemed like an eternity the bridge crews of both ships held their breaths. “Agreed.” Damar nodded. “We are sending you our telemetry to recognize our ships and friends, and we are awaiting your codes.” On the display a large swath of red dots suddenly glowed green and golden. “Now then, Admiral, I have more important things to do. My ops officers will handle the rest.” And the channel flicked off.

“You heard the man!” Sisko strode back to his throne and sat down. “We have some important things to do. The Terran Imperial Fleet, led by the ISS Saratoga, moved to support the Cardassian positions and pour heavy fire into the Unity lines.


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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:16pm

Chapter 34 – Eye of the Storm

Valley Forge, Sickbay Four

The young girl in the white fur, the same one that had warned him and haunted his dreams, smiled up at him then began to fade out. All to soon, she was totally gone, leaving Ulysses alone in the darkness. But even the darkness began to fade, growing brighter and brighter.

Ulysses biological eye fluttered open as consciousness forced its way through the thick shroud of darkness.

“Welcome back into the land of the living Uly.” A soft voice said from beside him. It took him a moment to focus on its source, his eye blinking a few times to help clear its vision.

“Anna?” His voice cracked, as if starting afresh from long disuse.

“Yes Uly, it’s me.” There was relief in her voice. “How do you feel?”

“Not that bad actually. I assume that I have you’re expertise to thank for that?” His voice became closer to normal the more he used it. Ulysses tried to sit up, but moved to fast. The room swam and his arms went rubbery. He allowed himself to fall back down to the padded biobed with a small groan. The room continued to wobble and he felt like he was in a tumble, but it gradually subsided.

“Slowly, Uly, slowly.” Anna said, placing a restraining hand lightly on his chest. “You took a nasty couple of bumps on the head and have been out for close to three days now.”

“Three… DAYS?!?” Ulysses said in a forceful whisper, startled that he had been out of it for so long.

“Yes. It was touch and go there for a while, but you’re a fighter, just like you’ve always been. I wasn’t able to save your cybernetic eyepiece, it was too damaged. The major trauma was from a boulder you fell on after the hydrogen explosion threw you for a loop. There were times where I thought you stayed with us just because you were too stubborn to let go.”

“Or you were too stubborn to let me give up. Thank you, Anna. For… for everything. For patching me back together. For being my friend when I needed you to be. Just… everything.”

In the muted lighting of the Sickbay, Ulysses swore that Anna’s fair skin turned a few shades darker. Then she spoke with a strange tone in her voice. “And thank you Uly, for staying with us.” Then she leaned down and kissed him lightly on the lips. Contact was broken near instantly, but the passion of it left Ulysses head swimming. Now it was his turn to blush, eyes showing surprise. But Anna was already walking across the Sickbay. “There are some others that are eager to see you up and about again, and I think I’ve kept them waiting about long enough.” She said over her shoulder.

Ulysses slowly managed to rise to a sitting position and swing his legs around to let them dangle off the side of the biobed. Surely she didn’t feel THAT way about him?! This was something that was going to require more thought and searching of his own feelings on the matter. He wasn’t certain that he was ready to take things to the next level if that was where she was leading. But that would have to wait. The Sickbay doors swooshed open, admitting P’tel and Clay Heidberg.

“Skipper!” Clay said. “Good to see you up and about again. You really had us worried there for a while.” There was a look of mild concern and anger on his face as he took in the mess of Ulysses left eye socket. The ruined ocular implant couldn’t be replaced with local resources. It would require a trip to the core worlds where a specialist could stick on a new customized eyepiece.

“Admiral.” P’tel said from behind her customary Vulcan mask of non-emotion, but Ulysses swore he saw something much akin to joy flash in her eyes.

“Good to see you all again to, all three of you.” Ulysses said pausing a beat with a smile before continuing. “Can someone tell me what happened? The last thing I remember was flying through the air.”

P’tel proceeded to tell him what the Marines had done to save him.

“Make sure they all get my recommendation for a medal. Especially that Assault Shuttle’s pilot and crew. It was their quick action that got them there soon enough.” Ulysses said. “So what else has happened in my absence?”

“Only one major incident Admiral.” P’tel said. “We received a distress call from an Imperial vessel that was abruptly cut off midstream. Sir, the vessel was the Anubis.”

“Damn.” Ulysses cursed softly. The ISS Anubis was the transport that was bringing replacement Flag officers to Prescott’s Star. If it was lost, Ulysses was on his own for the foreseeable future. How the Anubis was taken out was up for debate, for it shouldn’t have happened given its phase cloaking device.

“We have also received word that Bajor Sector has come under attack by not only the expected Cardassian forces, but by a major Galactic Unity Fleet as well. Shortly after the message was sent, all communications from the Bajor Sector were cut off.”

Ulysses blanched slightly. “I sure hope that this doesn’t mean that the GA and GU are starting to act in concert with each other, I don’t need to tell you how difficult a position that would put the Empire in.” Ulysses gave a silent prayer for the tens of thousands of Imperial personnel and innocent civilians on Bajor that were under assault by two foes.

“Agreed Admiral, but until contact is reestablished, we will not be certain weather they are in collusion or not. It would be illogical to form any conclusions on such fragmentary data.” Ulysses nodded his agreement. He sincerely hoped that all of the Empire’s enemies weren’t operating together. Such an outcome would be even worse than letting the monsters in Section and Starfleet have free reign.

“In the system itself,” P’tel continued, “there have been a few probes by GU forces but nothing significant. However, the probes have been increasing in both frequency and size. It is my belief that the GU will attack soon. The fact that the final outer colony in the sector has fallen to the GU further supports that they will attack us again soon.”

“Agreed. If they’ve finished with the outer systems, we’re the only ones left. How’s the Fleet elements shaking down to the new tactics I initiated before my… accident.”

“Quite well sir. Needless to say, they were slightly irritated at being sequestered to ensure that word doesn’t get out, but they have been practicing your new tactics and are now thoroughly capable of executing them.”


“One minor thing I think you should get a heads up about Skipper,” Clay said, “The Commissar wasn’t too pleased when she figured out the cost to loss ratio of those new energy buoys you got her to agree to just before you went down to Lilith.”

Anna snorted. “That’s the biggest understatement of the year. If you’d been conscious at the time, she might have tried to throttle you. She was really steamed that you were able to pull one over on her like that.”

“I don’t think you’ll be able to pull a fast one on her like that again Sir.” Clay nodded as he continued. “She’s to smart for it and she’ll be on the lookout for it in the future.”

“She didn’t stop production on them did she?” Ulysses asked. If she did that, things could prove more difficult when the GU Fleet again came calling on Prescott’s Star.

“No sir, I don’t think she could without a considerable loss of face. It would show to all who cared to look that she had signed off on something without knowing everything about it.”

“Good. The cost to loss ratios were in the brief I gave her, it isn’t my fault she didn’t read them thoroughly.” Of course, in his pitch to get her support, he conveniently ignored the cost to loss ratio and sold her on the high points of the new energy buoy design. Just like any salesman would do when trying to sell something.

“That is why Commissar Stevens isn’t here now Admiral, she is currently out at Nightingale Shipyards looking over what you conned her into authorizing. At least their simplistic design means they’re a quick assembly. We should have adequate numbers for when the GU come calling again. Same goes for the new torpedoes Section was kind enough to give us.”

“Very good. They just might give us an edge if the enemy behaves as I think they will. As far as they know, they have all the advantages. Hence, it’s my belief that they will come in with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. It’s what I would do in their place, with their advantages. But given our new assets, it will bleed them white before they even gain range.” Fire flared in Ulysses eye momentarily.

“But until then, I want to continue to have the fleet train hard. They might grumble, but the extra training will make the coming battle easier. Have our GU guests said anything of use?” Ulysses asked. Quite a few GU personnel had been picked up by the SAR crews and were currently dirtside on one of Lilith’s more isolated islands. Ulysses had left strict orders that they were to be fairly treated.

“Nothing other than surprise Admiral. It seems that they were under the impression that we were raving animals who would eat them at the first possible opportunity.” Anna said. “While they’ve been tight lipped to our interviewers on matters of technology and protocol, they have been quite forward in their observations of us. Many seemed quite shocked that their accepted worldview was so thoroughly wrong.”

“On the tech side of things Skipper, I think we may have hit the jackpot.” Clay’s eyes gleamed. “Per your orders, I’ve had all spare Engineers combing through the debris and shattered ships the GU left behind. And I think that we’ve unearthed one of their internal dampers.”

“You’re serious?!” Ulysses said, his lone eye widening.

“It’s still preliminary, but I believe so yes. It might prove a false alarm yet, but so far it looks like the real deal.”

“Hmm. Keep me apprised please. If we can neutralize their STL speed advantage, it’ll be a major boost to our combat effectiveness. Slipstream works to gain the range, but not all ships have undergone the refit and with the hot war with the GU and the stalled one with the GA, I doubt that very many will be able to receive the extensive replacement anytime soon. But if all we have to do is replace our damper system to level the playing field, it can be done in field with little effort. Well done, and give my personal thanks to whomever was responsible for unearthing this little treasure.”

“Aye sir.” Clay said with a smile.

“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said, standing up from his seat on the biobed’s edge, “I need to put on a uniform.”

“Of course Sir.” Anna shepherded the two officers outside while Ulysses picked a new uniform that she had conveniently laid out on the next bed for him. Walking slowly and deliberately towards the adjacent bathroom, Ulysses gradually felt his unbalance subside. One look in the mirror showed him how badly his mangled face looked. Anna had been forced to seal over the now dead cybernetic implant with false skin. His face was nearly featureless on his left side thanks to his lack of definable eye socket, eye and eyebrow. After slipping into the bodysuit of his uniform and clasping his command cloak around him, Ulysses surveyed himself in the mirror. His face looked out of place, with only one eye staring back at him. Then he got an idea.

--- --- ---

Ulysses walked out of Sickbay with a jaunty smile on his face and a black eye patch over where his left eye should be. P’tel merely raised an eyebrow while Clay and Anna raised two. Anna was the first to speak.

“On you, the look works for some strange reason. Just don’t replicate a stuffed parrot and stick it on your shoulder. That might be taking the motif a bit too far.” A smile creased her face, and it was the most beautiful thing Ulysses had ever seen.

ISCV Purity of Heart, 1294th Superdreadnought Battlegroup, 901st Fleet, Galactic Unity Peaceforces

“No, NO, NO!” The remnants of 901st Fleet and its assigned reinforcements were working up far better than could possibly be hoped for, but it still wasn’t good enough to mollify Fleet Marshal Teresa Chora. “You call that a tight formation?” she said, gesturing to the recent fleet exercise in the holotank behind her as her irritated voice and face went out to the command and flag decks of each ship in her Fleet. “Look at how loose your squadron level manuvers are. When a snap maneuver is ordered, I expect it to be carried out smoothly, not with half of you beginning your turn when the other half are nearly done. We are going to stay here and do this till you get it right. I don’t care if it takes all night. When we engage the enemy, I intend to have this Fleet tempered into an razor sharp blade, not one better fitting a cudgel in name. We are members of the GU Peaceforces, not a bunch of Terran rabble, start acting like it!” She snarled. “Again!”

--- --- ---

It had only taken another four hours of fleet wide exercises for Teresa to be satisfied, her lips curving upward slightly in a faint smile. That same satisfaction had corresponded with an upwelling of pride throughout the fleet upon successful execution of her orders. She had kept her telepathic barriers down, allowing everyone in the fleet who had the ability to sample her thoughts and feelings. They knew that she was honest when she said she was proud of them, and as such, they began to take pride in their own success. The following day, they responded just as crisply, with the confidence that they had thought lost after the disaster in Prescott’s Star.

“Taskforce 90153 has reported back Ma’am.” A Q’Nabbian Lieutenant said through his environmental suit’s external speaker. “The Imperial colony world of Williamsburg has fallen, population of two million. Peaceforces report light resistance dirtside. It would appear from preliminary reports that orders have been given for the civilians to be as peaceful as possible. Many of those with less extensive mental shields leaked that they feel that they will not be long under our control. They are under the impression that our fleet will loose its battle to control Prescott’s Star, and that Admiral Vanguard will then come out and free them.”

“Send those who are caught in open rebellion to Justice. They’ll deal with them just like they have on all the other world’s we’ve taken over.” The telepaths in ISC Justice Department were amongst the most gifted of all ISC telepaths. If anyone could make the Terrans who rebelled against GU rule see reason, it would be them. “Have Taskforce 90153 form up, it’s time to remove the Terran’s false hope in salvation by one Admiral Ulysses Vanguard.” Shortly thereafter, the prodigious might of 901st Fleet of the GU Peaceforces began to move. A yellow pinprick of light was directly in front of them, the place where the final resistance in the Sector would be crushed.

ISS Valley Forge

Ulysses was awakened by the insistent piercing chime of his com. Rolling out of bed, he swatted the com acceptance key.

“Vanguard here, go ahead.”

“Admiral,” P’tel’s usually cool voice had a barely discernable edge. “Sensor platform 459 – A has detected an incoming warp footprint. It is a large one Sir, and it is coming from the probable approach vector of the Galactic Unity Fleet. ETA is seven minutes, 56.2 seconds a present velocity.”

“Order the Fleet and fortifications to battlestations.” Ulysses said as he began slipping on his uniform. “I’ll be on the Flag Bridge momentarily. Ulysses out.” And so it begins. Ulysses thought.

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

Chapter 35- Extra Innings

The bridge of Cardassia’s Song was a barely constrained chaos from Damar’s command pedestal. As he scanned the battle, things didn’t look quite so grim as they had only a few minutes earlier. He watched in amazement as the Terran destroyers extended their shields around his Vole-ships, which continued to lob heavy blasts against the unity ships. The “Galactic Unity” had sent an immense fleet, but they hadn’t expected to start fighting quite so soon, which meant they weren’t properly ordered. The fleet was attacking in largely one group, unspecified, using simple numbers to pound back the two enemy fleets into submission.

“Fleet Status?” Damar knew he was losing ships fast.

“Almost twenty percent losses, Legate Damar.” Garak at his shoulder like a phantom. Analysis of the outcome doesn’t look promising. Unless we can turn this around soon, I expect total losses within the hour.”

“I suppose you have another plan?” Silently, Damar wondered why he had civilian oversight on this mission.

“Actually, I do.” Garak tapped a few buttons. “With the position our ships are currently at, we can destroy almost sixty percent of the Terran fleet. Once we do that, we can use the debris as a screen and retreat to Cardassian spa-“

A loud crack emanated from Garak’s jaw as Damar’s fist connected solidly, sending him on his back to the floor. The Commissioner was in shock. “You listen to me, you pathetic worm.” Damar was visibly enraged. “Civilian orders got us into this mess, and I have no doubt more civilian advice would be most unhelpful. I am not going to betray Sisko like some Terran general and run home. We are going to fight!” The last he said loud enough for the whole bridge.

Garak stood and rubbed his jaw as it clicked into place. On the tactical display, another Sartan exploded under a volley of plasma torpedoes. “We are going to die.” He said under his breath.

On the bridge of the Transcendence, Fleet Commander Ariidon was very pleased. He studied the display and smiled. The unenlightened Terrans and Cardassians had been in the middle of a large engagement when his fleet stumbled upon them. Although this meant that both fleets were somewhat diminished, that also meant that to get to Bajor, he would have to go through the fleets. And now they seemed to be working together, a most upsetting development. “Form up assault groups nineteen through forty, and have them mass at the center of our formation to split them.” No need for overcomplicated work, the sheer power of the unity fleet would overwhelm them.

“Commander, we still are not able to destroy the Cardassian mauler-ships.” A Pronhoulite lieutenant was monitoring the battle. His tail twitched in frustration. “The Imperial destroyers continue to deflect our fire, and their superdreadnaughts are equipped with far better torpedoes than we anticipated.”

The commander sighed. “Increase fire on the Imperial destroyers, and dispatch the sixth superdreadnaught group to disable the Imperials.” He gave his orders with disinterest. There was no challenge here, only waiting.

As Ariidon watched the battle display, a ship suddenly appeared beyond the edge of the Imperial fleet. “What is that?” He pointed to the red dot that was now approaching the Imperial rear.

“An Imperial Sovereign-class, sir. It has taken heavy damage, but all its systems are operating at full efficiency.” The Pronhoulite twitched again. “I see no way it could be functioning with such damage.”

“Ignore it.” Ariidon lapsed back to an amused boredom. “One ship is of no consequence.”

“Are you sure?” Sisko leaned forward on his throne.

“I’m sure, Admiral.” The lieutenant continued to scan. “The Enterprise is somehow up and running, all systems operational.”

“Signal them, get me Admiral Lore.” This is good sign, Sisko thought. Morale had taken a hit when the banner ship of the Empire went down, but now it was charging to the fore.

“Admiral, I have the Enterprise.” Sisko nodded.

On the screen he could see the ruin of the flag bridge of the Enterprise. Consoles were torn from their mounts, wires were dangling from the ceiling, and bodies littered the floor. But most disturbing was what was in the center of the image. There sat Admiral Lore on his command throne with a coil of glowing optical cable connected to one of his cranial ports. The cord shimmered with the volume of data traveling through it. Sisko was speechless.

“Hello, Admiral Sisko.” Lore’s mouth didn’t move, but his voice came over the display from the Enterprise’s systems. “I suppose an explanation is in order.”

“You’re damn right it is, Lore.” Sisko felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. It would be the M-5 debacle all over again. “What have you done?”

“The main computer core sustained heavy damage due to a warp-field backwash when two cores were ejected. All main systems were offline.” Lore continued to stare straight ahead, not moving. “A Cardassian boarding party anesthetized over ninety-five percent of the crew, but I was able to overcome them. Unfortunately, environmental controls were offline, and the crew needed an antidote within ten minutes.”

“So you thought you’d handle it yourself.?” There was an incredulous tone in Sisko’s voice.

“Indeed, Sir. The crew has been treated, and should regain consciousness within fifteen minutes. I felt I could contribute to the battle in the meantime.”

Sisko sighed and rubbed his head. What the hell. “Agreed, Admiral Lore. The command of the second group will remain with Commodore Minchori, but you are free to engage all Unity targets. We have a ceasefire agreement with the Cardassian fleet for the duration of the engagement.”

A handful of heartbeats passed in silence. “Understood. Enterprise out.” The display went back to the battle. A pair of wraiths passed over a Unity dreadnought group, tearing jagged holes into their ablative armor. The comm clicked to signal a message from Kira.

“Are you sure this is wise, Admiral? You know what happened to the M5.”

“Yes, Captain.” Sisko leaned back in his chair. “But right now I doubt we could stop Lore if we wanted to.”

The ISS Enterprise flew through the fleet with more agility than any ship her size had a right to be. Lore could see through every sensor, in every direction and in every spectrum. He marveled at the beauty of the EM signatures of the phaser blasts, of the radiation spikes emanating from the torpedoes that grazed his shields. Every hull seal, every conduit on the ship tingled in Lore’s mind. He WAS the Enterprise. He was a ship of war.

Acquiring targets at extreme range, Lore sent volleys of quantum torpedoes to break up formations of Unity ships. He twisted, dodged, and wove a curtain of deadly energy around himself. Again and again he fired his phaser lances through ships, all the while cycling his shields so that they met individual hits with maximum strength, at a speed no humanoid mind could comprehend. He was actually using LESS energy for his shields than normal, but was absorbing far more damage.

Suddenly, Lore found himself in the middle of the Unity fleet, coming up hard on their Monitor ship. It was immense, but Lore’s keen sensors detected a weakness. He powered up his torpedo launchers and emptied them into the rear of the ship before banking away. A flurry of blue-white explosions rocked the back of the vessel as its engines went dead. Lore mused, as he fought his way back to the fleet, that the Transcendence would never move again without significant repairs.

“Commander! Main engines are down, as are warp cores four, seven and eight!” Alarms blared across the bridge of the Unity command ship.

“Seal the drive section at once!” Ariidon bellowed over the din. “We’ll get by on thrusters until we can effect repairs. They can tow us to Bajor if we need.” He glanced to his weapons officer. “How is our weapon status?”

“Full power, Commander.”

“Excellent.” Ariidon sat down. “Show them they aren’t the only ones that can make crippling strikes.”

“Incomming!” The Saratoga was rocked by plasma blasts. A large battlegroup had broken through the line and was now pounding Kira mercilessly. “INCREASE SHIELDS! Target their weapons!”

“No effect, Captain! Primary power relays are offline!” There was panic in the air. The lights dimmed and came back on. “We just lost main power, Captain. We’re on reserves and those are dropping fast.”

Kira stood glaring in silent fury at the ships on the screen. Their blue lights glowed like the eyes of predators. “Abandon ship.” She turned to her crew. “Abandon ship. Signal all crew. I’m going to the flag bridge with the Admiral. We’ll engage the forcefields and continue to direct from there.”

Crewmen scrambled to escape pods as Kira headed for her private turbolift. “Computer, activate automated combat sequence Beta four.” The doors closed and she sank eight levels to the flag bridge.

The doors opened into a still bustling room. Flag staff would not be permitted to evacuate as long as the Admiral remained. “How bad is it, Admiral?” Kira took her seat next to Ben.

“Could be worse,” he smiled to her. “The Cardassians and us are each down almost twenty-five percent, and we have a long way to go before we have numbers on the Unity.”

“Can we retreat?” Kira checked the displays. Things were indeed going bad. Half of Eddington’s group was gone, Minchori was fast becoming surrounded along with his fleet, and the Saratoga was now abandoned.

“No, we can’t.” Sisko shook his head. “If we did, they’d pick us off as we ran. Their weapons have a range better than our upgraded torpedoes. Hell, we can’t even warp-ram them for all of the subspace interference around here.” He looked at his XO “We’re in trouble, Nerys.”

“I know, Ben.” Kira smiled. “At least I’m going to die for the right man.” The ship shuddered under another volley and the rear wall of the bridge exploded. A sheet of fire swept across the bridge, throwing everyone to the floor. Sisko rolled over, trying to find a railing to steady himself. His grasping hand reached out, and instead found a small box. Instinctively, he held it to his chest and pressed the gems on its four sides.

The top of the box opened, and a shimmering white light flashed out.

In the middle of the fleet, a great wheel of light appeared. Over twenty kilometers across, it blossomed from nothingness into a great hole in space, with a golden light shining from it. All of the ships near it were brushed aside by the shock and arcs of energy coming from it, except the Saratoga. A wave on white energy suddenly leapt from the surface of Bajor, streaking faster than light into the hole. It dragged the Saratoga with it into the golden light, and then everything vanished.

What is it? It is not the Sisko.

It is the Sisko, but another one. Another game.

“Game?” Suddenly Sisko was standing on the main deck of DS9.

“Another game.” Jennifer was suddenly next to him. “You are another game. Our Sisko taught us about such things. "

“What? Who are you? Where am I?” He reached out to grab her, but she vanished. He turned around and was in his quarters.

Now his son Jake was speaking to him. “You are the Sisko. Another, Sisko. Your game is ending.”

“Yes, I am losing the battle.” Sisko looked at the being with his son’s face. The eyes were not ones he recognized. “Why do you care?”

“We are of Bajor.” Kira was at his side. “You are of Bajor. You will take our word to them. You have many tasks.”

“You’re damn right I do.” He had better things to do than play riddles with aliens. Like find his son. “And winning that battle is one of them.”

“He cannot win.” Now Julian was speaking to Kira. “We must change the game.”

“It is not linear.” Kira shook her head.

“But he is of Bajor. Bajor must remain linear. Its game must not end.” Julian looked to Sisko. “Will you play the game?”

“Will I fight? Yes.” Sisko crossed his arms.

“We must tell him more, he must learn.” Now Jennifer was standing with them.

“Not yet. He is not ready.” Julian stretched out his hand, palm up, to Sisko. “We will send you help, to win the game. In one of your year’s time, you will return to us at this place, and we will speak more.” There was a flash of light, and Sisko was back on the floor of the bridge. Kira was next to him, badly burned.

She looked into his eyes. “Emissary...?” Her head dropped as she gasped for air. Her lungs were scarred, and now breathing was almost impossible.

“Medic!” Sisko bellowed and a blue-uniformed man came running. He knelt to treat Kira. “Give me a sensor report!”

“Admiral!” The lieutenant’s voice was filled with disbelief. “I’m detecting almost three thousand old-style Jem-Hadar fighters emerging from the anomaly.


“What?” Legate Damar was dumbfounded.

“I said, sir, that a Jem-hadar fleet has emerged from the wormhole and is hailing us. They are looking for Gul-Dukat and are awaiting orders. They don’t recognize the hull signatures, but they claim to be allies of the Cardassian Union.”

Damar and Garak looked at each other. “What the hell is going on, Garak?”

Garak slowly craned his neck back. “I would say an opportunity, my dear Legate.” Garak smiled. “Signal the lead Jem-Hadar ship, and give them our sensor feed, with the Unity fleet as enemy targets.”

“Yes... YES!” Damar laughed out loud. “Order them to make every possible effort to destroy the Unity fleet.”

“What?” Fleet Commander Ariidon was dumbfounded.

“Commander, they are old style Jem-Hadar fighter-class destroyers. They could be old Dominion remnants off the white and out for revenge, I don’t know.” The tactical officer’s voice was quavering.

“They came from behind and started firing and ramming our ships on their rear sections, where shield strength was weakest They are wreaking havoc with our ships!” On the screen fireballs continued to blossom as the small fighters tore through the Unity fleet like locusts.

How in the universe could this be happening? Ariidon’s mind whirled. “Signal all ships! Rotate modulation and target them. Keep trying to transmit-“

”Commander! There are eighteen fighters closing in on our position at flank speed!”

“Evasive action! Bring weapons...” Ariidon remembered that the Transcendence’s weapons were offline. “Screening fire, intercept-“ But he never got a chance to finish the order, as over a dozen Jem-Hadar fighters tore through the armor and superstructure of the ship at full impulse.

Victory was life... and death.

On the Flag bridge of the Saratoga crewmen were cheering. The Jem-Hadar ships had destroyed most of the Unity capital ships, and now the smaller ones were fleeing into the subspace corridors.

“Stand down, all ships!” Sisko smiled and rolled his baseball in his hands. “Begin repairs and begin to bring the fleet under order for return to Bajor.

“Incoming transmission from the Cardassia’s Song, Admiral.”

Sisko turned to the screen and saw similar jubilation on Damar’s bridge. “Well done, Admiral Sisko.” Damar smiled. “I don’t know where those ships came from, but I’m betting they were your doing. Someday you’ll have to tell me.”

“I look forward to it, Legate.” Sisko laughed. “My ships will render you whatever assistance you need in retrieving your injured crewmen, and in making any repairs to your ships necessary to get you under way.” An edge came into his voice. “In one day all operational ships will leave the system.”

“Understood, Admiral.” Damar nodded, his eyes narrowing. “And I offer to you the same assistance.”

“Thank you, Legate.” Sisko turned to end the transmission.

“Oh, Admiral?”

“Yes, Legate?” Sisko raised an eyebrow.

“Find your son.” Damar. Gave a military nod, and the channel closed.

“A home run, Admiral?” Kira was in her seat, groggy from the medication she had been given.

Admiral Sisko sat on his throne and began to check damage reports. “I’d call it a Grand Slam, Captain.”

Last edited by Stravo on 2003-09-20 10:23pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:22pm

Chapter 36 – In Death Ground

ISS Valley Forge

Ulysses strode down the short hallway to the Flag Bridge, already abuzz with activity. Red alert alarms ceased their piercing cacophony, but the steady pulse of the crimson alert panels remained, mirroring Ulysses own quickening heartbeat. He strode through the double blast doors and stopped, surveying the organized chaos swirling around him.

“Admiral on the Bridge!” A marine honor guard at the door barked, his armored feet clanking together and his similarly clad arm snapping upward in salute so perfect even his Academy DI would have found it impossible to criticize it. All action temporarily stopped on the Flag Bridge as the assembled officers and enlisted ratings braced to attention and raised their arms in salute. All save Commissar Stevens, she merely stood and stared at him. Ulysses responded to his crew’s courtesy in kind crisply, his hand knifing through air. As one, the personnel of the Flag Bridge released their own salutes, staring up at him from the pit that surrounded his station. Again, all save Commissar Stevens who busied herself with her station mounted near the bulkhead behind Ulysses.

“Report.” Ulysses voice resonated throughout the Flag Bridge, and he was surprised at how calm it sounded, betraying none of the somersaulting his stomach was doing. The officers staffing the Flag Bridge seemed to take heart from his calm, even voice and presence, relaxing from their near frantic pace to a more even approach. They still had an edge, which was good, but they no longer were ON edge.

“GU Fleet is just entering the system now Admiral. CIC is still working up numbers, but preliminary estimates are that they have a slight advantage in SDs.” An aide provided. Ulysses nodded, then continued on to his throne in the center of the bridge. Settling in, he slipped his hands into the gloves that controlled the holo display. The Flag Bridge melted away, replaced with a 360 degree bubble of holographic space. ID tags popped up over all Squadrons, along with Battlegroup and Taskforce Flagships, to allow rapid access to overall battle stats and greatly ease unit identification. With a deft flick of his wrist and a gesture of his hand, the displays POV shifted up and back from his ships, settling nearly over Lilith’s substantial polar icecap. Ulysses never got tired of the photorealistic visuals of the holodisplay. This is what the Gods must view things like, he thought, feeling the rush of power the view gave him.

Suddenly, a rash of angry red contacts swarmed up in the distance. CIC began to assign them class designations as quickly as they could. Which turned out to be surprisingly fast, for the enemy seemed to have his EW suites offline. The enemy vessels were also arrayed in what was almost a parade ground formation, a long wall of capital ships with their escorts arrayed about it similarly. Their fleet numbers were slightly better than his own. They had decelerated to impulse short of his hastily assembled warp inhibitor network, slowing nearly to a crawl. And had done so deliberately. Intimidation, Ulysses thought. They WANT us to see how strong they are, to dishearten us, to try and break our will to fight. Not that that was going to happen.

“My God… there’s so many of them!” Commissar Stevens’ voice filled the sudden tension filled silence on the Flag Bridge. She had just blurted out what everyone in the fleet was feeling at that exact moment, and the fact that she had voiced it increased the anxiety in the room above and beyond what it would normally have been.

Ulysses pivoted his chair to face Stevens’ station. He liked to speak to his officers whenever possible, although once the battle was met, it became far too easy to loose track of which direction was front and which was back within the cocoon of the holodisplay. “Yes there certainly is Commissar. The good news is that when we engage them, we’re bound to hit something with that many targets to choose from.” A soft chuckle ran around the bridge. The remark had its desired response, cutting the tension back down to acceptable levels. “Orders to the Fleet.” Ulysses said smoothly. “Execute battle plan Chimera Two.”

On the holoplot, the titanic, hulking forms of Imperial cargo ships broke orbit. Flying away from Lilith along the safest least-time courses to the subspace corridor network loci, Ulysses could practically hear their crews’ sighs of relief to be exiting the war zone. Unfortunately, the least time corridor route required them to nearly go through the approaching GU Fleet, so the majority were taking the longer routes. But there were some diehards who were willing to risk the fact that the GU would stay true to form and leave non-combatant craft largely alone by making for the least time loci.

“Admiral, I have a signal coming in from the enemy commander.”

“Put it up please.” Time to see the face of the enemy. Ulysses thought as he leaned back in his chair.

The com window blossomed on his display, and the face on the other end of the com caused Ulysses to pause for a fraction of a second. A Terran? And a Fleet Marshal no less. Ulysses thought, taking in the gold, sky blue and ivory white uniform of the ISC Peaceforces and the shoulder flashes of the ISC equivalent of a Fleet Admiral. Starfleet command will be very interested in that little bit of information. I wonder how Pub. In. will end up spinning it? The Empire’s propaganda ministry had been spouting off of late that no Terran would willingly leave the Empire to join something like the ISC, that all those billions that had left with their retreating forces had been taken by force rather than willingly joining the aliens. It would appear that that ‘fact’, like so many others in the Empire, would need some revising. Just as Ulysses himself had thought it would when he first heard it rebroadcast on the local news networks.

“I am Fleet Marshal Teresa Chora of the Galactic Unity Peaceforces.”

Ulysses nodded respectfully. “Pleased to meet you Fleet Marshal. My name is Ulysses Vanguard, Admiral, Imperial Starfleet.”

“I surmised as much already Admiral. We have compiled quite a file on you in light of your recent elevation in rank.”

“Understandable, I would do the same thing in your position if I was able to. But then you didn’t call just to tell me about my file in the Galactic Unity’s database, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. Direct, just like your file says.” Chora’s mouth perked a bit, in a ghost of a smile, then quickly reverted to what seemed its customary, dour looking demeanor. “Since you are direct, let me get right to the heart of the matter. I am calling to demand your surrender, or at least the withdrawal of your mobile units from this system. There is no way the majority of your forces can engage us unless we let them. We can pick them off at our leisure from beyond their range. You know this. I plead with you not to sacrifice them needlessly, there is no need for them to die today.”

Teresa hoped that he would comply, for he seemed like a reasonable sort for a Terran. So far, the orders she had seen issued by him supported everything his file said about his character. Most Terran Commanders wouldn’t have ordered the civilian populous to remain civil. Hell, most had done the exact opposite in the planets already conquered, and the civilians were practicing civil disobedience or joining the militia and playing terrorist. This would change in time, just like it had once the Terran’s propaganda was broken and the true nature of the ISC was seen by the people that had been liberated from the Terran Empire the last time. But there would always be some who needed to visit Justice to be shown the error of their ways. She sincerely hoped that Admiral Vanguard was not one of these individuals. The smartest play he could do would be to surrender outright, for while it might take some years, the ISC and Dominion would overrun the Terran Empire eventually. In the interim, she didn’t think that a brevet Admiral, even one with Ulysses’ reputation, would last long if he surrendered a major system and retreated back to the Terran Empire. Starfleet officers that displeased their Emperor had developed a nasty habit of disappearing of late.

“I’m sorry, Fleet Marshal, but I must decline your offer.” Ulysses said, raising his hands from their armrest and sticking his chin on their steepled fingers.

“Admiral Vanguard, I beg you not to order your people to their deaths in an un-winnable fight.”

A wolfish smile played at Ulysses lips and his lone eye blazed. “For one who hasn’t even fired a shot yet, you seem quite certain of your victory, Fleet Marshal. If you want this system, come and take it.” The com window closed and the channel was cut by a gesture from Ulysses.

“Open a channel to Rear Admiral Anace.”

“Channel open Admiral.” Paulette Wendell said from beyond the holodisplay’s barely translucent veil as the com window blossomed to life, showing brevet Rear Admiral Suzette Anace’s oval face, curly brown hair and deep brown eyes.

ISS Vigilance, Enroute to the Outer System of Prescott’s Star

“Rear Admiral Anace,” Ulysses’ calm voice resonated throughout the Vigilance’s Flag Bridge as his virtual doppelganger spoke on the holodisplay, “you have your orders, and it’s what you and your ships have trained so hard for these last few days. Good luck and good hunting.” Ulysses said with a nod.

“Aye sir!” Suzette Anace deep voice replied. “We’ll be ready when you give the order Skipper.”

Ulysses com hologram nodded again. “Vanguard out.” And his com window closed as the connection was closed from his end.

“Open a channel to the Taskforce.” Anace waited till the connection was established, then continued. “Ok people, I want as intense of a passive watch on our little deception as possible. I don’t want there to be as much as a flicker on the GU’s plots. We’re just a bunch of merchies going hell bent for leather to the least time loci.” A predatory grin birthed on her lips as a soft chuckle ran around the Flag Bridge. “Keep us out of their hair and inconspicuous, just like we trained. All except our escort. Captain Terrel, I want you to act like you would in any other escort situation.” She told the lone Imperial vessel in her Taskforce that wasn’t hidden behind its holo-chameleon cloak. “After all, one wouldn’t want the big, bad GU to try a long range attack on helpless Imperial merchantmen. Keep you ECM at a respectable output. It’ll help mask the mines’ and buoys’ deployment when we reach point Invictus.”

ISS Valley Forge

Ulysses was very thankful that the Nightingale yards had cranked out as many of the warp inhibitor platforms as they had. It was still far short of the net such an important system should have, but at least it would keep them coming at impulse for almost four hours. Even such a small radius of coverage centered around Lilith was far preferable to letting them drop out of warp in his lap. As he watched the holodisplay, what had been clearly defined enemy formations finally dissolved into a sea of ECM as they picked up their pace of advance.

“Order Indomitable Squadron to deploy recon drones to cover the GU’s line of advance.” The RD’s would give him a better picture of the enemy’s actions now that they had hid behind their EW systems, but their limited duration and necessity of flying close to the enemy meant they would have to constantly be replenished until the range wound down. “All ships will form up, formation Talbot, and proceed on course 149 mark 025, 3/4rs impulse.”

“The fleet reports ready Admiral.”


--- --- ---

The assembled ships’ formation shifted smoothly, the ease of the manuvers borne of incessant weeks of drills that had forged the 401st Imperial Fleet into a finely honed weapon of warfare. The mighty Galaxies, Sovereigns and Wraiths fell into place in a slightly concave, ovoid disc with squadron level escorts tucked in close to provide support. Other ships, primarily fast attack hunter/killers like Akiras, Prometheus’ and Soulwolfs, slipped in along the flanks of the rounded wall in a oval half cone. Aegeans, Nebulas Steamrunners and Ark Royals tucked themselves and their escorts into the relatively safe pocket this formation generated, free to perform their tasks with little fear of direct opposition. Then the EW drones began to fill space with a plethora of false signatures that were still largely hidden from any sensors the enemy could have by the intense and copious amounts of ECM Lilith’s Battlestations were putting out. Ulysses forces had learned much since the last fight. Analysis of captured GU ships had given them insight in ways to better their electronic warfare’s effectiveness, and they had shifted their canned routines to take advantage of this.

--- --- ---

The GU Fleet had thoroughly masked itself now, but Ulysses’ ships ECCM began its work, endeavoring to sift through the false sensor echoes to bring actual targets to light. It was a tall task, for even with the knowledge gleaned from the previous attack’s wrecks, the Unity’s electronic warfare systems still had a slight edge over their latest Imperial counterparts. As the electronics of the two fleets squared off, the ships themselves closed on each other, winding the range between them down with neither side blinking.

Subtle as a bull in a china shop alright. They just came in, let us get a good look at them, then cruised in system at max STL.

“Order the fighter strikes to commence, but make sure they keep to extreme range. I don’t want to loose fighters needlessly by sending them into the jaws of that unimpeded enemy wall.”

His order went out, and shortly there after, a mass of tiny blue light beads erupted onto the holodisplay, spilling from his ship’s flight decks and shuttle bays. They were joined shortly thereafter by a much larger swarm boiling out from orbital and dirtside bases on Lilith. There were ten thousand of them, and they lit off for the Unity fleet at their max rated velocity.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:29pm

Chapter 37 – In Death Ground

Vigilance Taskforce, Point Invictus, Prescott’s Star

“Coming up on Point Invictus now Ma’am.”

Suzette Anace’s mouth birthed a tooth filled predatory grin. “Execute Chimera - Phase One on my mark. Three, two, one, MARK!”

The minelayers that were assigned to the Vigilance Taskforce, easily as large as the massive merchantmen they were playacting as, began to birth clouds of space black stealthed mines and Ulysses new energy buoys. Energy buoys were virtually never used in modern combat because they were often destroyed before they even fired a shot, and once they began to fire, they became even more obvious targets. Little more than a power plant, and EW suite and an energy weapon system, it was far more cost effective to build full up OWPs. But the drawback of OWPs was that they are hard to make stealthy. They rely on numbers and their hardiness to survive till it’s time for them to launch. But Ulysses’ plan called for stealth to be the key, not hardiness. And as such, he had revived the energy buoy weapons platform from history and was seeding it in with his hastily deployed minefield. If all went as planned, the enemy wouldn’t know they were there till it was too late.

On Suzette’s holoplot, nothing changed. Which was as it should be, for if she couldn’t detect the mines deployment, there was no way the enemy could, even with their slightly better sensors. The predatory smile remained as thousands of invisible, deadly spoor trailed out in her Battlegroup’s wake. The position of Point Invictus was almost perfect, for the Unity fleet was boring near directly for it.

“Orders to the Battlegroup: course change, come to port, heading 120 mark 015.” Backdropped by the inhospitable lump of gray, lifeless rock that was Prescott’s Star V that was in the local vicinity as it made its leisurely sweep around the distant yellow primary, the formation of Merchies snapped onto their new course with just enough raggedness to be believable. Under normal circumstances, Suzette would have been ashamed to be commanding during such sloppy maneuvering, but the seeming lack of coordination was just what she had been training to achieve. That’s it you bastards! She thought. Just keep going straight and you’ll blunder right into The Skipper’s little trap!

ISCV Purity of Heart

“Ma’am, the Division of Imperial Merchant Vessels are changing course, they appear to be commencing a dogleg maneuver that will carry them well clear of the fleet. Should we detach a squadron to scope them out?” A young Meskeen Lieutenant asked

Teresa Chora thought for a moment before replying. “Not much point. As a show of good faith, High Command wants all legitimate merchant traffic left alone, a policy I agree with wholeheartedly. And besides, they only have a lone Destroyer as escort and are staying well away from even extreme PPD range. If they attempt to close to weapons range, then send out the patrol. Otherwise, I want all the ships I can have with me when I finally engage Admiral Vanguard. He’s up to something, I can feel it, I just can’t put my finger on it yet.”

“Fleet Marshal, the Terran’s fighters will be in extreme weapons range in three minutes.”

“Have all assault ships prepare a warm welcome for them since they are so willing to die in a lost cause.” There was no sense wasting PPD fire on something as fragile as a fighter. It would be like smashing an egg with an antimatter warhead. Far better to have the plasma torpedo biased ships in her fleet go on Point Defense duty.

Prescott’s Star

The fighters closed to extreme standoff attack range and let loose a torrent of quantum torpedoes. Over 120,000 were birthed in a near solid wave of blue white that proceeded to rush towards the rapidly closing Unity fleet. As much as Ulysses wanted to equip them with his enhanced quantums, he didn’t want to tip his hand until the blow would be decisive. Because of this, the standard quantums homed in on a mere handful of GU ships. Hiding behind their near invulnerable overloaded shield grids, the quantum volley slashed in on the enemy wall of battle, spending themselves against shields and then armor. Three enemy Superdreadnoughts and a number of lesser ships fell out of formation, air and debris streaming wrecks with huge white hot fissures gouged deep into their armored hulls. But like any standard torpedo engagement against ships of the line, the fighter strike hadn’t been expressly targeted to take out enemy ships. It was merely to soften up the opponents’ shields by creating small chinks in them that were more susceptible to phaser strikes and to tear a ragged hole in the enemy’s EW drones. The fact that a handful of superdreadnoughts had been knocked out was pure gravy. With their primary ordinance expended, the fighters wheeled to return and rearm. They would be able to attack once more before the fleets reached engagement range.

But even as they executed snap turns and boosted away under maximum acceleration, the plasma heavy ISC Cruisers that had streamed out a distance ahead of the main fleet body spat defiance back at them. Their shotgunned plasma torps split to track six individual targets for their customary lone one. Screaming up the now retreating fighter’s wakes, the packets of energized plasma caught a few before they reached their max range and winked out of existence as their containment fields failed. Orange phaser beams slashed through space, but at the extreme range, actually hitting something as maneuverable and small as a fighter through its ECM was a tall task for even ISC sensors. The 401st Fleet recorded its first combat casualties of the day, but all things considered, the initial fighter strikes had done everything right and gotten off quite lightly in the exchange. The tonnage and firepower losses for the enemy had been far in excess of the handful of Cobras lost in return. The opening attack done, calm returned to the battlefield as the two massive fleets continued to bore in on each other relentlessly.

ISCV Purity of Heart

Fleet Marshal Chora winced as Fearless Defender, Even Hand of Justice and Tenacious Civility fell out of her battle line. Close to two dozen escort vessels were also heavily damaged, wounded minnows next to the gutted sharks of the dying Superdreadnoughts. Orders need not be given, for her officers knew what to do all on their own. Fresh EW drones were salvoed, slotting themselves into place in the formation, filling the large hole the torpedo volley had blown in her wall of ECM. A light cruiser squadron was dispatched to save as many as could be pulled from the wrecks. Other ships, still in her squadron and holding their own, had a plethora of minor wounds - hull breaches, glowing scars in armor, damaged subsystems and the like.

Her fist clenched in anger as her counter volley claimed only a handful of the Imperial fighters. She longed for fighters of her own, so that she could respond in kind. But ISC High Command had decided to concentrate its resources on ships of the line, not small, fragile fighters. As such, she dare not send her lightest units out to hit at long range in a counter blow, for they were far more vulnerable to long ranged fire and far more expensive in both materials and personnel for every one lost. She took some solace in the fact that she would soon be in PPD range and this battle could be quickly finished.

ISS Valley Forge

The light beads of Imperial Cobras swarmed back into their births on Ulysses holoplot, those from Lilith’s fixed fortifications cycling through the Ark Royals’ hangar decks to rearm. After the next attack, they would barely be done rearming again before the battle lines met. And it wouldn’t be standoff attack they would be reaming for, it would be close attack, with PPC gun packs attached to external hard points instead of externally and internally mounted quantum torpedoes. And it was then that the fighters would be blooded, for even in the swirling near-chaos of a fleet vs. fleet engagement, there was little something as fragile as a fighter could do to hide from close in weapons.

Fully rearmed now, the near 10,000 strong swarm again sped off ahead to strike at the enemy. The Unity fleet was now much closer, having been close on the fighter strike’s heels as they returned to reload.

“Orders to the Fleet. Deploy armor and commence shield reinforcement forward. Damage control teams to the ready.” Ulysses resisted the urge to rub his sweaty gloved palms on his uniform’s legs, again surprised at how calm his voice sounded. This battle was different from the other ones he had fought, for in those, there had been no time to sit and stew as a potent force came inexorably closer. Both the S-8472 fleet and the first Unity attack had been fast paced affairs, with enemy contact rapidly established and nothing much to do but fight. Pre-combat jitters were getting to him, all his self doubt and feelings of unreadyness coming to the fore, as he could only wait for his plan to come to fruition and pray it would work.

Prescott’s Star

The second fighter strike was nearly as successful as the first, and another rash of enemy vessels fell out of the Unity’s formation, their hulls battered and broken. Again, long range PD plasma fire had little effect, the fleet fighters able to outrun most of the plasma torpedoes before they hit. But this time, the fleet fighters made it back to Ulysses wall of battle with the Unity fleet hot on their heels. They would be in extreme PPD range in mere minutes. But they were also just now entering Point Invictus’ area of effect, and the storm of quantums had temporarily blinded their sensors to what lay in front of them.

ISCV Purity of Heart

“Fleet Marshal! I am detecting tens of thousands of faint sensor returns, they’re all around us!”

“Mines!” Teresa hissed. “Anti-mine protocols NOW!”

Her ships opened fire on the now visible targets, clawing at the nebulous sensor returns with their phasers and plasma torpedoes, blotting the from space. But Ulysses’ emphasis on stealthing them had paid off. Combined by the perfectly timed second fighter strike, the mines and buoys had remained hidden until the Unity fleet was near totally enshrouded in them. Flashes of star bright light began to erupt within Chora’s fleet as the mines unleashed their zero point energy warheads on her ships. But they weren’t the worst, for even as their eye searing self immolation spent itself against her ships, a deadly latticework of silver lances was let loose. Fusion beams, the massively powerful but short legged weapon system of the Hydrans, was unleashed at optimal range. The Purity of Heart shuddered and bucked as brilliant sliver lances ravaged her.

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Bridge

Dear God, Ulysses thought, somewhat shocked, it actually worked. Fusion Beams spider webbed throughout the Unity formation, adding their energies to the simple mines that were wreaking terrible havoc on the ISC vessels. Whole squadrons were falling out of formation, bleeding debris and air into the swirling cauldron of released energy that enshrouded them. “All units, engage Helping Hand maneuver on my mark. Three, two, one, MARK!” On his command, tractors flashed outward, catching all non-Slipstream capable units, save the fire support and carrier ships nestled in the formation’s pocket, in a web of mutual support. Then, after this was accomplished, the entire Fleet flashed out of normal space for a fraction of a second only to reappear well within standard phaser range of the Unity Fleet.

There was an imperceptible shudder followed by a metallic groaning sound as the Forge lodged her protest at the excessive strain even the millisecond at Slipstream while dragging such a load along with her. The maneuver put stupendous strain on her space frame, causing micro fractures to form across her hull. Throughout Ulysses entire fleet, ships were strained to the near breaking point. But in the end, it worked. The holodisplay shifted to show the now much closer Unity Fleet. The mines were done now, either having spent themselves or destroyed, as were his Fusion buoys. But they had done their job. What had been an unshaken enemy Fleet, with near double his own weight of metal, was now brought down to near half again his number in active units. Most of those still functioning were damaged to some degree. And best of all, his maneuver had brought the 401st within the PPD’s minimum range.

“All ships, open fire! Fireplan Alpha Four!”

ISS Valley Forge, Slipstream One

“Damn it!” Clay Heidberg swore as he stared at his master situation display. “I told him that this little stunt was likely to fry the nacelle inducers! ‘Acceptable risk’, he said. Well now look, just like I told him would happen when we dragged that much extra mass into Slipstream, we no longer have FTL!” He swatted his com badge. “Bridge, this is Slipstream One. Don’t expect to go to Slipstream any time soon, the entire nacelle inducer matrix is fused and will require time in a repair slip to fix!”

“Understood Chief.” P’tel’s calm voice replied. “This was allowed for. Do what you can. P’tel out.” The same story was being played out across the fleet as every slipstream capable ship had the exact same problem show up. Aside from the fused nacelle inducers though, there was only some minor microfracturing for damage. The 401st was near 100% combat effective, and was within range of the enemy fleet.

ISCV Purity of Heart

That sneaky sonofabitch! Teresa thought. He set me up and I walked right into it! Then her holodisplay flickered, shifting the enemy fleet’s position to one virtually on top of her own. There was no time to think about how the maneuver had been accomplished, she could only act. “All units, open fire! Emergency power to forward shields! Destroyer Flotilla Alpha, Cruiser Taskforces nine through thirteen and Battlecruiser Taskforces three through ten are to deploy aft along base course and up to gain clear PPD firing lines on the enemy fleet. Get a fresh volley of EW drones out NOW.” With her fleet’s damaged shields, shifting the power to the front ones would leave most of them quite weak in other aspects, but that couldn’t be helped. Besides, Mr. Vanguard wanted to have a good old fashioned slug fest between capital ships. With her individually superior shielding and still superior numbers, she was still certain she could win even with his energy range firepower advantage. “Cruiser Battlegroups 39 through 46, concentrate fire on their Aegean class support ships hiding just behind their wall. Take them out and we’ll have a much easier time taking these Imperial scum out.

Prescott’s Star

Space disappeared as titanic energies crisscrossed space. Phasers and Phaser Lance fire crashed in on the ISC ships in a carefully controlled fireplan. Squadrons concentrated their fire on individual targets, killing ship after ship. Quantums, the enhanced ones this time, spat from Ulysses launchers and from the Type-V OWPs he had molecularly coupled to his unit’s hulls. He wished that he had more Type-X’s, but nearly all of those had been destroyed during the first battle and the yards hadn’t had time to make more yet. Still, the Type-V’s, packed with the enhanced Quantums were a handy addition. They were only slightly less vulnerable than fighters, but they packed considerably more punch by devoting all drive and life support space to heavier armor, more potent shields and more weapons bunkerage. The two fleets had slowed to a virtual stop relative to each other, content for the moment to flail away on one another at close range.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:30pm

Chapter 38 – In Death Ground

Prescott’s Star

Cobras, Defiants, Novas and Sabers bobbed and weaved through the Unity’s lines at knife fight range, burning EW drones from the stars and pouring close range fire in on the ISC Superdreadnoughts weaker aft shield arcs. They were tailed by ISC Destroyers and Cruisers sending reams of weapons fire after them. The smarter Imperial commanders used the dead and dying hulks of ISC ships as cover whenever possible, ducking behind them to shield them from their pursuers as they corkscrewed and jinked in wild evasion courses. A wing of Cobras, recently arrived from Imperial carriers that were still far beyond visual range dove in close to a ISC Superdreadnought, their PPCs sending a torrent of amber/orange bolts into a downed shield arc. The bolts ate away at the leviathans armored hide, leaving molten edged craters in its hull. The SD’s carapace was punctured, sending a spray of molten hull plateing and frozen water vapor out into space. A torpedo magazine was hit, and the hull breach widened in a white hot fireball as the plasma warheads it contained detonated within the ships hull. As the Cobras pulled up and out from their successful run to target the next vessel on their assigned list, half their number were atomized as the attacked became the attacker. A The deep blue/green slash of one of the ISC SD’s dorsal phaser arrays cut through space, and it was near perfectly aimed. Moving in a sweeping arc, its path intersected that of the Cobra wing, leaving nothing of half of them except subatomic debris clouds.

ISC Superdreadnoughts sent a wave of plasma torps and phaser beams down on their assigned targets, still little more than a point of light to the unaided eye, causing more than one Imperial Wraith to wilt in spite of their attached Aegeans’ best effort to boost it’s shields. Fleet ISC Destroyers were also playing havoc amongst Ulysses fleet. They bored in on their assigned targets, trying to score kills on the precious Aegeans who’s shield boosting capabilities were keeping Ulysses ships in the fight. They were met with a hail of PPC fire from the Aegean’s escorting Achilles. Opening up with as many of their PPC’s as they could bear on the approaching enemy, they sent out a near solid phalanx of bolts. It caught the first wave of hard charging Unity forces square, rapidly chewing through their shields and armor to kill the ship beneath. It was so intense that it forced the ISC Destroyers to break off and look for easier prey among the growing number of lamed Galaxies, Sovereigns and Wraiths in Ulysses battle line. They never got a chance, for a squadron of Vaadwaur ships swooped down on them just as they were completing their turns and sent a rippling red energy wave into them. Impulse drive shorted out and the transferred kinetic kick of the weapon’s impact sent the ISC Destroyers spiraling out on random but linear flight paths. The Achilles’ and Vaadwaur ships finished off their now drifting targets with concentrated weapons fire. Then the Vaadwaur flitted off to execute similar attacks elsewhere in Ulysses formation.

ISS Valley Forge

“Section Iota Five is weakening, order surrounding vessels to shift position to compensate.” Ulysses said, his voice still calm even as his Flagship shook when a fresh volley slammed into her shields. He was hurting the enemy badly, using his close ranged firepower superiority given him by both his Phaser Lances and uprated quantum torpedoes to the hilt. But even this wouldn’t be enough, as he had known from the outset. The Galactic Unity’s shields were too much tougher than the Empire’s own. GU Battleships and Superdreadnoughts died hard, and his own losses were increasing as the enemy overcame their shock and shifted their manuvers to exploit the situation. But he must wait as long as possible before implementing Phase Two of his battle plan. Otherwise, it might not prove decisive enough, leaving him in a position where all he could do is order a retreat and even then most of his ships wouldn’t be able to break free given they lacked Slipstream drive.

On the holodisplay, his concave wall parted slightly and a fresh volley of quantums slipped through the gaps, fired from the fire support Nebulas, Steamrunners and New Orleans classes hanging well aft of the battle line. Far too many ships were IDed in the black and white of combat casualties, and the number was growing. Not yet, just a bit longer, just hold on a bit longer, he thought. His hands were constantly in motion, issuing target prioritizations, shifting fire, pulling back to survey the battlefield.

Commissar Stevens pierced the holographic veil. “Admiral, you must issue Phase Two.”

“Not yet Commissar.” Ulysses said without pausing his direction of the battle nor taking his eyes off of the holodisplay before him.

“Admiral, our ships are being decimated. You must issue the command before it’s to late! We could loose the battle…”

“As I told you already Commissar, not yet!” There was an edge in Ulysses voice now, his words almost a growl. “You signed off on my battle plan, so let me worry about its execution. Now sit down and let me do the job I swore to do when I joined Starfleet, or so help me, I’ll have you removed from the Flag Bridge for the duration of this battle!”

Commissar Stevens closed her mouth with an audible click. Ulysses cursed his temper silently, but continued to fight the battle while keeping his back to the Section 31 Commissar. Finally, she relented and retreated through the holodisplay’s aft section. There would very likely be repercussions to his defiance to his watchdog’s wishes, but that was a battle for another day. Right now, he had to ensure that as many of his people as possible and the billions on Lilith were around to see it.

ISS Voyager

Commodore Cavit kept his command tucked in tight with the wing of Akiras he was tasked with escorting. He had a squadron of Intrepids under his command, a scratch built unit made up from the odds and ends left over from the first battle. But even if it wasn’t as smooth in operation as Cavit would like it would have to do, for the enemy hadn’t given them any more time to work out the final kinks.

The Akiras had swept in on the enemy from their position along the fringes of Ulysses wall. The multicolored rainbow of weapons fire that filled space between the two opposing fleets gleamed dully off of the Akiras and his Intrepids charcoal gray armored hulls. Looping below the enemy wall, aiming for an apparent gap in its escort coverage, the small Imperial Battlegroup wrenched back the course to put themselves in a vertical climb parallel to the Unity’s formation. The Akiras torpedo tubes went into continuous rapid fire, space flashing bright as their small weapons pod birthed volley after volley of quantum torpedoes.

Cavit’s Intrepids joined in with their own quantum tubes, pumping out pairs of the uprated weapons steady as a metronome. Phaser arrays joined in the medley of death, lancing outward as fast as their capacitors charged and unleashing their destructive energies against the enemy. The shimmering blue/white spheroids angled away from their motherships, pulling near 90 degree turns to align with their targets. They bored in, slamming into paper thin shields and vaporizing the armor underneath. Phaser strikes, with almost surgical precision, cut deep glowing wounds into the already savaged warships. Cavit and the squadron he was escorting were rewarded with a brilliant flash aft of them. An ISC Superdreadnought’s warp core breached, turning the once powerful weapon of conquest into largely vaporized expanding cloud of debris. A howl of glee coursed through Voyager’s rebuilt Flag Bridge.

“Watch your screens, they aren’t liable to be too pleased with us for taking out one of their heavies and should be dispatching somebody to take us out before we can do it again.” Cavit said. Then, the tactical plot proved him right, for a squadron of ISC Battlecruisers broke off from their position to interpose themselves directly in the middle of their course. “Orders to the Squadron, Target those BC’s and give ‘em hell!” Shield reinforcement across the battlegroup shifted from their starboard to frontal shields arcs, and the already speeding Imperial warships boosted to maximum military power. All forward weapons systems on both Cavit’s Squadron and the Akiras they were escorting went into continuous rapid fire. The enemy responded in kind, blue/green ISC phasers crisscrossing with the amber/orange ones of the Empire and brilliant white/blue quantums passing the deep red hued orange plasma torpedoes.

Both ships disappeared as their conformal shield grids flared brightly under the assault, but neither flinched. At least until some of them started to die. The Akiras could put out an ungodly number of torpedoes for something their size, and with the new enhanced ones giving the torpedoes a far heavier punch, the ISC ships thicker shields were rapidly drained. Five star bright explosions and an abrupt cessation of enemy fire heralded another victory for Commodore Cavit’s charges even as his command shuddered slightly from impacting their leftover debris at a high percentage of lightspeed. The fresh chorus of cheers were cut off abruptly as the Intrepid class ISS Osiris blew up. Her shields had been pounded near flat in the short but pointed engagement, and her helmsman hadn’t been quick enough to dodge a particularly massive piece of debris left over from the ISC Battlecruisers’ destruction. The hunk of gutted but still thoroughly dense alloy blew through the Osiris’ virtually nonexistent shields and crumpled her hull with a mutual closing velocity in excess of 75 PSL apiece.

“Orders from the Flag, Commodore.” A com officer spoke into the deathly silence. “We are to come to course 334 mark 319 and render assistance to a squadron of Promies that have gotten into some heavy resistance.”

“Understood.” Cavit said after a beat. “Orders to the Squadron, form up and shift course to bearing 334 mark 319.”

Vaadwaur Warship 003

Falran disliked how the scabberous looking Terran PPC mounts hastily slapped onto all Vaadwaur ships ruined its otherwise sleek lines. But what he had no argument with was the increase in firepower they gave what remained of the Vaadwaur Fleet. The Terran commander, Admiral Vanguard, had originally proposed dispersing his ships throughout his fleet. He wanted them to act as support craft, using their Flux Waves to make enemy incursions into his rear areas that much easier to take out. But Falran had convinced him that the Vaadwaur ships would be far better off operating in concert with each other rather than trying to integrate them into a navy they had only a passing similarity with. The Vaadwaur were now operating in squadron level groups, stalking about Ulysses wall of battle, hitting targets assigned to them by the Terran commander.

“Pop up target in sector Beta 12.” His tactical officer said from his station, indicating that one of the Imperial squadrons hadn’t done a proper job and had allowed one of their assigned targets to slip past them.

“Show the Imperials how it’s done!” Falran said with a slight smile. Being able to show up the mighty Imperials, even in something as small as taking out a target that had leaked past their front line defenders, was something he relished. The Vaadwaur might be down, but they most certainly were not out.

“Coming up on target now.”

“Fire the Flux Wave.”

“Firing… NOW!”

On the main viewer, an undulating wave of energy spat outward from his ship. It struck the ISC Cruiser square, sending it into an uncontrolled spiral. It slammed into one of its companions, draining both of their shields considerably. Falran’s squadron opened fire, spitting streams of PPC bolts into the ISC’s weakened shields. They were not alone in their attack, for five squadrons of Imperial Fighters had converged on the luckless trio of ISC Cruisers as well. Six of the furiously maneuvering fighters were hit, flashing out of existence in the blink of an eye, but the combined firepower of the rest added to Falran’s own ships finished off the ISC ships soon thereafter.

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Bridge

“Divert Soulwolf Squadrons Four through Nine to take out those ISC ships.” Ulysses spoke as he highlighted the cluster of enemy vessels that were falling back from the frontlines more and more with each passing moment. Early attacks had been largely repulsed, and the ISC were using their superior speed to outdistance most pursuers. If they were allowed to get into PPD range to quickly, he would have no choice but to kick off phase two immediately.

36% of his ships were now combat ineffective. The enemy had over 41% of theirs in the same state, but their fleet had been bigger to begin with. ECCM allowed for fleeting glimpses through the EW haze, and close in attack runs gave infrequent snapshots of the enemy, letting him know that more and more shield power was being diverted forward to reinforce the enemy’s defenses as he battered at them without respite. The Forge bucked again, and this time damage alarms chimed above the otherwise near unnatural quiet of the Flag Bridge. Just a little while longer, hold on just a bit more and we can end this. He silently willed his ship and crew.

ISS Valley Forge, Main Bridge

The bridge was darkened slightly, lit more by control consoles and displays and the steady strobe of the Red Alert panels than the overhead lighting fixtures. There was a faint burnt synthetic smell as primary fuses melted into a puddle under an unexpected power surge in the EPS grid.

“Damage Report.” P’tel said from her throne in the center of the bridge.

“Slipstream Two took another hit.” Gabe Eton said grimly from the deputy tactical station. “The core’s offline and most of the section is depressurized and open to space. 100% casualties. Emergency forcefields aren’t responding, but section blast doors have deployed. The breach is cut off from the rest of the ship. Port Phaser Lance is gone, that last plasma salvo vaped the entire mount and took a good bite out of our primary hull. We have hull breaches on decks seven through 21 from frame four to frame 25. Most sections near the outer hull within that area are totally gone. 89% casualties within affected sections. PPC Turret Alpha Eight through Alpha 10 are offline. Primary, secondary and tertiary power leads are cut. Dispatching Damage Control teams.”

Lt. Sulu had been in the process of swinging the downed shield out of the way, but an ISC warship had fired his weapons at just the right instant to have them catch the edge of the downed shield and eat away at the Valley Forge’s armored hide. The fully regenerated and reinforced aft shield arc was now facing the Unity Fleets battle line, and the aft weapons were firing back defiance at them.

“Forward shields are regenerating.” Gabe continued. “But there’s going to be a large kink in our armor on our dorsal primary hull. Recommend that all future manuvers keep the breach out of direct line of fire if at all possible.”

“Understood. Helm, make it so.”

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:32pm

Chapter 39 – In Death Ground

ISS Valley Forge, Deck Five, near PPC Turret Alpha Eight

A jet of fire retardant foam sprayed out of a nozzle mounted on one of the Engineers synthetic arms, spraying a small flicker of flame into nonexistence. The nozzle folded back out of the way, falling into line with an assortment of various tools. The engineer extended his hands, grasping a hunk of alloy. His artificial muscles that were part of the engineering hard suit he wore strained to lift the collapsed frame member off of a trapped crewman. Basically a scaled down version of infantry power armor minus most of the protection and combat systems, it was used extensively by Starfleet engineers during battle situations, especially for damage control teams. There was a groan of stressed metal as the fractured frame member inched upwards. Another set of mechanical hands gripped the unconscious crewman under his shoulders and pulled, dragging his limp form out from under the collapsed debris. A medical tricorder was waved over him by the team’s medic, allowing for a quick diagnosis of the extent of the crewmen’s injuries.

“Get him to sickbay. Triage priority Beta.” The medic ordered. A pair of marines slipped him onto a gurney, rapidly strapped him in, then each grabbed an end and went jogging off down the hallway towards the nearest sickbay.

The damage control team’s supplemental marines, decked out in their power armor suits, were unrolling two power lead coils. They had been spliced into the closest working EPS trunk, and now only needed to be attached into the remains of the grid closest to the PPC Turret. Another Marine followed them in, stringing out a much thinner C&C datalink hard-line. The engineers strode towards the access panel where the connections would have to be made. On of them removed the cover, exposing the scorched, torn tubes beneath. The other surveyed the mess for a few seconds, then came to a decision. Reaching in, he brought out a torn datalink cable about as thick as a man’s thumb. A tool folded itself out from its stowed position along his forearm. There was a flash of light as it made contact with the cable above where it was torn, then the torn piece fell away, leaving only a cleanly cut end ready for reconnection. Taking a hold of the fresh datalink cable from the marine, the engineer let what little remained of the coil fall on the ground save for the end he grasped in his other hand.

The other engineer approached with a piece of pliable material that looked like a metallic bandage. The first engineer, using the suit’s excellent micro-movement servos, butted the two line segments together near perfectly. The second engineer applied his bandage, then deployed another tool. There was an audible humming and a rapidly strobeing purple light. Quickly, a sizzling sound was heard. The whole process lasted a handful of seconds, then the engineers stepped back. Aside from a slight bulge at the connection, there was very little to tell the difference between it and the rest of the cable.

The Marines manhandled their EPS conduits towards the exposed trunk. Fresh tools deployed from the engineers, sending out arcs of intense white lightening where they met along the connection between the conduits and the dead trunk.

ISS Valley Forge, Main Sickbay

Anna and her staff worked furiously to save the seemingly endless stream of broken bodies that had begun to pile up out into the hallway. Plasma burns, shrapnel wounds, smoke inhalation, crushed and broken bones and all combinations possible by mixing them and varying the degree came across her operating tables. It was truly hell, and something not often shown in the entertainment holos. They all too often showed only sanitized ships destroying other ships, ignoring how beings aboard them died horrible deaths or were severely wounded.

A nurse swept a neuroelectrical suppresser across a wounded man’s upper torso. He had third degree plasma burns to his upper torso and a broken arm. His thrashes of pain became low moans as the signals his pain receptors generated stopped going to his brain. She switched tools, pulling out the dermal/muscle regenerator and using it to repair the lion’s share of the burn damage.

“Hold her down.” Anna’s stern command was heard over the cries of the wounded. Her patient was bucking wildly, and there was a large splinter of bulkhead sticking out of her chest. Then the monitoring sensors shifted from irregular pulsing to a steady beep. “Damn it! Seven cc’s of leporazine!” There was a soft hiss as the hypo was pressed to the woman’s neck. There was no change to the steady beep. “Neural stimulators!” The small, stamp sized tools were stuck on the now still woman’s temples. Anna pressed their activation button. A whine was heard, and the body convulsed. But there was no change. Again, Anna pressed the activation button, another whine was heard, and again the body convulsed. This time, the steady beep shifted to something approaching normal. “That’s it, fight! Alright, let’s get this splinter out and get her patched up before she crashes on us again…” She told the surrounding nurses as she moved down the biobed to look closer at the hunk of alloy jutting out of the woman’s chest.

ISCV Purity of Heart

Teresa’s detached units were nearing nominal PPD range. They had been peppered by the Terran’s damnable enhanced torpedoes, some of the lighter ones dying, paying the price so that their brethren could reach range. They had been smart in their manuvers, hiding behind the bulk of her ships of the line, sheltering in the shadow of their potent defenses until they were nearly far enough out. Only then did they shape their course upward, terminating just high enough to gain clear firelanes against the Terrans capital ships. The Soulwolfs and Cobras that had been tailing them virtually since they began their maneuver finally caught up to them, but that was a mixed blessing. For while the Imperials could now engage the ISC vessels with their energy armament, the ISC battle line could also now engage them with their PPD’s. More of Teresa’s detached units were cut down by the Terran’s potent Phaser Lances, but they were all soon dead as the massed aft PPD batteries of her entire Fleet gave voice to their displeasure. Soulwolfs may be quick and heavily armed for an Imperial Destroyer, but their shields and armor were little better than most other Destroyers as a result. Within seconds, they were all glowing wreckage having taken only a handful of the enemy with them. The Cobras faired even worse, for with the Soulwolfs removed from the equation, every phaser and plasma torpedo emplacement the detached units possessed could be trained on their elimination exclusively.

“Fleet Marshal, I believe that we have nailed down the location of their Flagship! They, just as we, are rerouting fleet orders through other ships to prevent their localizing our Flagship.” The process sent orders through the short ranged secure datalink to nearby ships, using their com systems to transmit rather than the flagship’s own, decreasing the likelihood of the enemy deducing which ship was the enemy Flagship and executing a decapitation strike against it. But given time and a little luck, the enemy might deduce where the center of the near random pattern was and get an approximate location as too one’s Flagship. “CIC thinks that they have localized the enemy’s flagship in sector 24 grid 13.”

Teresa dour face switched to a wolfishly. “Got you now you sneaky bastard.” She whispered, then spoke loud and clear. “Flag to detached units. Engage the Terrans with PPD’s. Fireplan Unity Alpha on sector 24 grid 13.”

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Bridge

Now. Ulysses thought as his final units pursuing the detached ISC units were cut down. “All ships! Execute Phase Two! Repeat, execute Phase Two…” His words were drowned out by the sounds of tortured alloy as the first PPD wave slammed into his command.

ISS Vigilance

Suzette could only scowl at the tactical plot in consternation as her ships flew farther and farther away from the titanic battle burning space at Point Invictus. They were totally ignored now, as the Unity Fleet was fully engaged with Ulysses smaller wall of battle. All her firepower was forced to sit and wait, not contributing to the battle, not aiding their comrades as they were slowly picked off one by one. It was maddening, being ordered to do nothing. Her hands gripped the upholstery of her command chair’s armrests like talons. The ISC ships that had fallen back from the main battle lines slowed. On her tactical plot, they showed a deadly hail of weapons fire blot out their pursuing fighters even as long ranged PPD fire claimed the Soulwolfs.

“All ships! Execute Phase Two! Repeat, e…” the Flag Bridge’s speakers blared to life, shattering the tension filled silence that had settled on it and jerking the crew into action. They had been ordered to act immediately, not to wait for Suzette to repeat the command.

Holocloaks dropped, showing her ships for what they truly were, Steamrunners and Nebulas of Imperial Starfleet. Ulysses had thinned his fire support squadrons to dangerous levels in order to put them into the Vigilance Taskforce, but now that calculated risk was going to pay him back in spades. The Taskforce stopped its motion towards the corridor loci and swung about as if directed by one mind. All torpedo tubes went into continuous rapid fire, birthing tsunami after tsunami of enhanced quantums that began to home in on the enemy from far beyond normal torpedo range. Steamrunners might be potent fire support platforms, but they didn’t hold a candle to a standard configuration Nebula.

Each of the Taskforce’s 21 Nebulas including the Vigilance spat 51 quantums from their tubes in both their massive saucer and their attached weapons pod. The 26 Steamrunners spat out 32 apiece from their quad tubes. Over 1900 torpedoes were vomited into space. Three seconds later, another salvo, equally as dense, followed. Three seconds after that, a third was born…and unlike those used by the rest of Ulysses Fleet, these were implementing the upgraded torpedoes full capabilities.

ISCV Purity of Heart

“Fleet Marshal, the Imperial merchant ves…”

“I see them.” Teresa said with a scowl. What the devil were they doing? As she watched, the now maneuvering merchantmen transformed into Imperial warships. What were they doing there, what possible advantage could they have by sneaking past her fleet and dropping their masks now? They must have been responsible for deploying the mine field she had stumbled into, that much was quite evident. But WHY would they choose now to show their true nature? It couldn’t be to launch weapons, for they were far to far away for that. So what could it be?

“Dispatch Superdreadnought Battlegroup 31 to take them out if they fail to retreat or surrender. And send a recon drone to scout them out. Something doesn’t feel right about this.”

On her tactical plot, her detached units continued their merciless pounding of the Terran BB’s and SD’s in the general location where the enemy flagship should be. If it wasn’t already out of action, it soon would be. And then, the rest of the Terran fleet would undergo the same systematic pounding that was right now being reserved to a handful of its fellows. Soon, this battle would end, and the sector would come fully into the peace of the Galactic Unity.

Oddly, all Imperial vessels operating in the rear of her formation suddenly broke away to the periphery, disengaging from attack runs and accelerating hard to beyond the edge of her wall. Now what were the Terrans up to? A brief flicker on the tactical plot caught her attention. Her eyes narrowed. The flicker returned, looking like a massive swarm of sparks dancing where nothing should be. “What the hell..” The recon drone she had sent aft to scope out the Imperial fire support ships was nearing the cloud. Suddenly, it blossomed into thousands of targets. With a scowl, she zoomed the tactical plot in closer. The targets were small, only about the size of a… TORPEDO! The thought hit her at the same time that the enhanced quantums brought their shields online. Teresa’s eyes bulged.

“All units, emergency shield reinforcement aft!”

Prescott’s Star

The enhanced quantums, all but invisible at long range thanks to their small signatures and lack of active shields, suddenly showed themselves as they brought their shield grids up. They numbered in the thousands, and they crashed down on the weakened Unity fleet’s aft arcs like the waves of an incoming tide. Teresa had just issued her order when the first deadly volley struck. Weakened shields were saturated to the breaking point, armor boiled away exposing the weaker superstructure beneath to damage. Whole squadrons of ISC Superdreadnoughts and Battleships were knocked out of the fight, but the destruction didn’t end, for scant seconds aft the first wave hit, the next one struck, wreaking the same havoc. And still more appeared on tactical plots as the enhanced quantums brought their shield grids online, a seeming endless flood of them.

ISCV Purity of Heart

Teresa lurched forward, nearly thrown out of her chair. Lighting flickered throughout the Flag Bridge, and the tactical display nearly died before snapping back on. The picture it showed wasn’t good. Nearly 78% of her ships were down, and the number was growing with every passing moment. Her choices flashed through her head. She couldn’t retreat, for that would expose her to fire from both directions and in her weakened state her ships couldn’t survive it. Neither could she stay and continue to fight. She could hurt the Terrans more before she died, but at the rate she was loosing ships she could only hurt them a bit more. There was only one possible course open to her, distasteful as it was.

“Signal all ships, stand down and surrender. Open a channel to the Terran Fleet. We surrender! Cease fire. We surrender!”

“Fleet marshal?” An aide said, his expression stunned and his voice shocked.

“You heard me damn you! Do it now, before more die needlessly!” And pray that the Terran commander chooses to give us quarter, she thought.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:34pm

Chapter 40 – In Death Ground

Prescott’s Star

Plasmatic Pulsar Device fire smashed down on Ulysses wall, concentrated on the section that held the Valley Forge. Incandescent boils of light vomited into the velvet blackness of space, their fury made all the more terrible by the silence of the void. The plasma waves washed over the stupendous warships of Ulysses battle line, flailing against shields and armor. The ablative armor spent itself in a vain fight to save the ships it guarded, boiling away in a wave of hard radiation and vaporized atoms. ISS Heidon was bracketed by five PPD’s, her hull disappearing from view as the plasma waves liberated themselves against her weakened shields and riddled armor in the a star bright cauldron of white light. Seconds later, her internal ammo stores and slipstream cores were breached, unleashing an even brighter flash of light as the molten remnants of her hull exploded outward trailing flame.

ISS Kraken, the lone remaining original capital ship from the Valley Forge Battlegroup aside from the Flagship herself, was also under concentrated attack. PPD’s slashed away the last remnants of her shields and dug deep into her armored hide. Wreathed in fire, weapons systems blotted away, her captain gave the order to abandon ship. Sensors were near totally gone, but they saw enough to show that the Flagship was being pounded nearly as mercilessly as the Kraken was. There wasn’t even a shadow of hesitation as the Kraken’s CO as she darted across the shattered, smoke filled ruin of her bridge to the helm. The Skipper wouldn’t die today, not as long as she could stop it. Through fortuitous act of fate, her Borg STL drive was still functioning at 12% efficiency and accepted orders through the mangled control leads that ran from the bridge helm console.

The debris streaming, splintered and cratered hulk that had once been a proud warship lumbered into motion. Fire trailed from her gaping wounds, and she was little more than a half molten mass of alloy so extensive was her damage. But her still functioning drives pushed her onto the course her captain wanted. Shedding escape pods and shuttles, she drifted towards the wounded Valley Forge, interposing herself into the PPD’s line of fire. Her valiant self sacrifice was not in vain, for it saved the Valley Forge from a fiery death.

The PPD’s destruction of the Valley Forge was abruptly cut short, leaving her grievously wounded hull glowing white hot with the ship powerless and adrift. Instead of finishing off the 401st Flagship, they killed her squadron mate instead. The Kraken had positioned herself just right to interdict the incoming fire, and her own mangled hull absorbed it to the breaking point. In a flash of immensely intense but highly localized energy release, her slipstream cores let loose, largely vaporizing her hull and sending a lone flaming nacelle corkscrewing outward. Then all at once, the PPD fire stopped. Even phaser and plasma torpedo fire from the Unity battle line ceased as well, in spite of the fact that they were still being pounded by wave after wave of phaser strikes and enhanced quantum torpedoes.

ISS Anasazi

All contact with the Valley Forge had been lost, which was perfectly understandable given the extent of her damage. And since Admiral Vanguard was out of communication or worse, command of the 401st devolved to Brevet Rear Admiral Vivian DaGaule. CIC had confirmed that quite a few of them were from the original attack force. Something primal deep inside Vivian growled with glee to be giving them something back for the murderous casualties they had piled against the forts under her command in the first go-around. Now that the other jaw of the Skipper’s trap had been sprung, the bastards were well and truly mouse trapped. They couldn’t run, and they couldn’t hide. All they could do was die. And Vivian took savage satisfaction in that. The ghosts of First Prescott’s Star would be avenged. The enemy would be burned from the stars, the only possible response for attacking the Empire and killing her citizens.

“Admiral!” A com officer half-shouted to get her attention.

Her eyes deviated from their position as she stared hatefully at the Unity battle line that had claimed far too many Imperials. “What is it.”

“The enemy commander is requesting parley to offer terms for her surrender!”

We have the upper hand and she wants us to surrender? She thought. Then the com officer’s actual words hit her. No, wait… SHE wants to surrender! An animalistic snarl contorted her face into a hate filled ghost of its former self. She nearly ordered the offer to be ignored and offensive fire redoubled as her hate boiled upward, but she squelched it through sheer force of will. It wasn’t what the Skipper would have wanted, and it would save many Imperial lives to bring the battle to a rapid close. Her personal feelings would have to be ignored.

“Open the channel.” She ground out even as her holodisplay showed the enemy ships halting their weapons fire. The com window blossomed unobtrusively above the combatants even as the smaller Imperial battle line continued to fire and the Vigilance Taskforce continued to launch quantums. The Terran CO of the Galactic Unity Fleet opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Vivian’s raised palm. “You will not maneuver an inch from your current positions, you will power down all weapons and shields and surrender your ships intact and with no resistance to my boarding parties, or so help me I will keep right on grinding you into atoms. Choose now.” The officers on the flag bridge seemed to hold their collective breath.

The face on the other end of the com window looked like it had bit into something sour, but after half a beat, there was a nod of agreement.

“Orders to the Fleet.” Vivian spoke instantly. “All ships will cease fire and hold position while the enemy stands down for boarding.” A victorious roar went up from the Flag Bridge crew, echoed throughout the Imperial Fleet. Ships stopped firing, but their weapons systems were primed for instant resumption should the Unity fleet try anything fishy. Space rippled with blue white flashes aft of the Unity formation as the quantums filling space between it and the Vigilance Taskforce were remotely detonated. Vivian returned her attention to the Unity Fleet Marshal. “My ships have suspended their fire. Shut down your shields, engines and weapons systems and prepare to be boarded.”

ISS Valley Forge. Main Bridge

P’tel clung to her chair grimly as the Forge bucked and writhed under the Unity’s assault. Main power failed, cutting out for a split second and dimming the bridge’s lights. Then the emergency backups kicked in, feeding fresh power to the Valley Forge’s nerve center. Then the assault stopped, leaving the 401st Flagship in peace. Crimson damage indicators painted themselves across the Forge’s status display.

“Damage control to the Flag Bridge, Medics to the Flag Bridge.” Her even voice commanded, even though she felt a pang of fear pierce her shield of non-emotion. She forced it away, there was nothing more she could do

ISS Valley Forge, Flag Bridge

Billowing layers of smoke filled the Flag Bridge, reducing visibility to a few feet in any direction. Small fires burned here and there, casting their orange glow through the shrouding smoke. The piercing wail of damage alarms melded with the arcing fizz of spark spewing electronics and the groan of overstressed alloy. Emergency lighting, pale beside the normal shipboard lighting setting Ulysses favored, cast cones of brightness on the Flag Bridge’s exits and primary egress routes. Displays were either totally dead or filled with crazy, multicolored squiggles and dancing snow white dots of light. Commissar Stevens and more than one other crewman, their forms hidden by the smoke, began coughing on the choking, acrid smoke. Grabbing her facemask more by feel than by actual sight, Jessica slipped it over her head, purged it, and then took in a precious breath of sweet, fresh air.

Emerging like a phantom out of the smoke came a hulking, seven foot tall shape clad in power armor. Surprisingly delicate mechanical hands touched her shoulders. “Are you all right Commissar?”

“Yes, I’m fine, just a little shaken up is all.”

“Good. Ma’am, I need you to get the others out of here.” He said with a jerk of his head, barely discernable through the dark tint of his helmet’s relatively small forward view port. Medical teams and damage control are on the way, but it’s faster to take the walking wounded out to meet them. Can you do this Ma’am?” Although it was phrased as a request, the Marine Sergeant made is sound like an order. Jessica merely nodded, her usual armor and demeanor changed by what must be shock. She began to walk towards the port side pit, intent on doing just what the Marine told her to do. She had to pick her way carefully, for there was splintered and broken hull segments strewn across the Flag Bridge.

The Marine watched her walk off for a moment, the enhanced vision his suit provided him allowing him to follow her in spite of the smoke. Then once he was satisfied that she was actually following his directives, he turned and strode towards the Skipper’s chair. Bunches of multicolored cables hung like jungle vines from the wrecked roof, and the chair was lying at a strange angle with the broken remains of a deck support lodged in the floor against it. It was a miracle it hadn’t crushed Ulysses as it fell. At least the Skippers biosigns are strong. The Marine thought as he slipped a breathing mask over the evidently unconscious Admiral Vanguard’s head. The main door swooshed open behind him and on his helmet’s display, he watched the first of the Flag Bridge crew stagger out into the relative safety of the hallway. The Damage Control teams and Medics trotted past them in the doorway.

Ulysses eye fluttered open as the power-armored Marine slipped a breathing mask over his head. “Easy Sir. The Medics are here now. Let them look you over first.”

Ulysses nodded, greedily gulping down the fresh air. One of the medics swept her tricorder over him. “Minor smoke inhalation. Other than that you’re in perfect health Admiral.”

“Then how about we get this” Ulysses said with a gesture to the beam pinning him to his seat, “out of the way, shall we?” Ulysses voice was muffled by the full face mask, but that in no way muffled the quiet snap of command in his voice.

“Aye Sir, we’ll have you free momentarily.” One of the Damage Control team’s engineers replied. Orders were issued, and most of the team went to the far side and gripped the collapsed beam. Synthetic muscles strained, and with a metallic groan the collapsed beam shifted away inch by grudging inch. Ulysses slid carefully out of his canted chair, edging around the shifted beam.

“Thank you. See to the others, I need to find a working com system.” The Damage Control team acknowledged his orders, and Ulysses nodded, then spun on his heel to stride through the smoke to the main door.

ISS Valley Forge, Main Sickbay, One hour later

Ulysses walked amongst the biobed’s filled with wounded, giving and encouraging word and a smile to the battered Imperials. Sickbay lighting was muted to allow the injured crew to rest, and the virtually exhausted medical staff was also sprawled wherever they could find room, oftentimes near passed out in corners or against walls. In spite of the atmospheric systems best efforts, the stench of burned flesh and hair mingled with the metallic tang of blood still hung in the sickbay like an ill wind. Many of the Forge’s crew in sickbay were short fingers or arms or legs. Others had large portions of their faces disfigured, their wounds covered over by regenerated skin tissue yet unable to hide their lost eyes or ears. The injured, however battered and maimed seemed to take heart from Ulysses mere presence, almost in awe that one as exalted as he would stoop to visit the wounded in sickbay. Even the Imp-drones, perhaps taking their cue from their normal crewmates, seemed to relax.

And the Imperials were not alone in the sickbay, for even as grievously wounded as she was, the Valley Forge had taken on Galactic Unity survivors. Many had been in just as dire need of medical aid as Imperial personnel, and the GU’s surviving sickbays had been hard pressed to shoulder all of their wounded. Ulysses had ordered that they be brought aboard Imperial vessels and triaged in the same way Imperials were. Some had argued vehemently, Commissar Stevens among them, that Imperials should be treated first no matter the extent of the GU survivors’ injuries. Ulysses and firmly shot down that suggestion. Medical aid would not be withheld from those who required it merely because they were aliens.

Having nearly finished making the rounds in sickbay, Ulysses heard a commotion behind him. Turning, he saw Anna blocking the path of two hulking Section 31 goons.

“Is there a problem here?” Ulysses said in a stern tone, cutting off Anna’s heated reply.

The muscle bound brutes swiveled their heads to look at him as if with one mind. Both had matching snarls on their faces at yet another Starfleeter poking his nose in their business. That was, until they saw just who they were being addressed by. Starfleeter or no, Ulysses had been issued the Lion of Terra by the Emperor himself. As such, he deserved some amount of respect. Both lost their snarls and straightened their posture to something approaching attention. “We are here for prisoner interrogation.”

Anna inhaled to bark at them, but Ulysses cut her off before she could with a raised hand. “You may interrogate these prisoners after they are released from medical care and not a moment before.”

“We have our orders sir.” The one that had spoken before, a Lt. by his rank pips, ground out.

“And I am countermanding them Lieutenant. These POWs will be made available for questioning once they are healthy as per Starfleet General Directives on the treatment of POWs.” Those who had made the directives had been more concerned with ensuring that POWs survived their initial interrogation to be further interrogated later rather than for their own piece of mind, but Ulysses was perfectly willing to use them that way. He would sleep easier at night knowing that he had done his level best to at least slow down the torture some of the GU personnel would endure. It was yet another thing to add to the list of complaints that would eventually be rectified when change finally came to the Terran Empire. But till that day, Ulysses could only push things as far as the letter of the law let him. The fact that it would stick in Section’s craw was merely gravy.

The Section goons knew they were beaten. Casting a deadly glare at both Ulysses and Anna, they spun on their heel and stalked angrily down the debris strewn hallway.

“Thank you Uly, if you weren’t here, I’m certain I would have had to call security to get them to leave, and that would have created a minor incident I’m quite happy was avoided.” Anna said, pitching her voice low so that only he could hear.

“Think nothing of it Anna.” He replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. “If Section is too cocky to follow established guidelines, I’m more than happy to tweak their noses over it.”

“Just the same, thank you.” Anna said touching his upper arm. Gratitude sparkled in her eyes, and just perhaps something else as well.

Seeing an opening, Ulysses took it. Despite his eagerness, he was easily as afraid as he had been during the build up to the battle. Clearing his throat he continued. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?” He forced his voice not to break and to meter his words rather than spit them out in a burst.

Anna smiled broadly. “I do believe I would at that.” Ulysses exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and a matching grin blossomed on his own face and his lone eye twinkled with delight. “‘Bout time you asked me to. I’ve just been dropping signals since forever.” Ulysses face reddened noticeably, but the Cheshire grin remained.

“1830 sound alright?”

“Baring any emergency, yes 1830 sounds just fine.”

“Good. Well, in that case doctor, I’ll leave you to your duties.” With a final nod, Ulysses turned and walked out into the hallway, the grin plastered on his face mirroring the joy in his soul.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:35pm

Chapter 41 – Strange Bedfellows

Imperial Palace, Moscow, Terra

“But your majesty, such a proposal…” One of Jack’s inner circle of bureau heads began only to be cut off.

“You will cease your whining willingly and immediately, Mr. Valtaine, or I will compel your silence through more forceful means.” Emperor Chambers ground out, his voice cold as ice. “I have made my decision, and it is the course of action the Empire will take. Am I completely clear?”

Custer Valtaine, in charge of industry, closed his mouth with a snap, turning pale as fear forced blood from his face. He nodded nervously, his eyes darting up and down the table. None of the other bureau chiefs said a word and kept their gazes elsewhere, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible lest they draw the Emperors ire down on their own shoulders. All save Cherice Paxton, bureau chief of Internal Security and Public Information. Her oval face, framed in straight, orange/red locks was turned directly towards his. Her cold blue eyes were looking intently at his own, with a devilish smile picking up the corners of her mouth. Her expression caused him to blanch even more, for he knew full well that with a mere word from the Emperor she would execute him here and now.

“What was that Mr. Valtaine? I couldn’t hear you.”

“Yes sir, crystal clear.”

“Good. Dispatch the proposition to the GA governments. Many of them have already been attacked by the GU. They should be as eager for a temporary suspension of active hostilities as we are.” Jack said, his voice loosing some of its dangerous edge, but not all. It was never truly normal since he learned that his daughter was lost and in enemy hands somewhere, possibly even dead. “The GU is the primary threat, to all of us. They are intelligent enough to see this as clearly as we can. At the very least, even a partial cease fire will allow us to shift some of our fleets currently guarding against the GA to face the new threat Unity poses. And once the GU are dealt with, we will be free to resume unimpeded offensive operations against the GA powers. But only afterward.” The Emperor stressed the last word. Hell, he thought, if Ben Sisko can make the Cardies stop fighting us, even for just a few days, a general ceasefire with all the GA powers isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. And even if they do not accept, there is no harm in making the offer so long as it’s done covertly with no public foreknowledge. Hell, the public doesn’t even have to know at all, especially after we have been so effective whipping them into a frenzy against the GA powers. And once the GU is out of the way, I can deal with the GA and those traitorous bastards in the Orion Cartel. Pain clouded his eyes, but the flames of hatred near totally obscured it, overpowering it, using it as more fuel to fan the raging furnace in his soul higher, threatening to consume him. Only the faint glimmer of hope that his daughter might yet be found alive kept it at bay. They’ll pay! For the pain they have caused me and mine, they’ll damn well pay!!

ISCV Unity, Gamma/Alpha Quadrant boarder coreward

Peter O’tole forced his face into his carefully practiced mask of non-expression as he strode down the massive starship’s proportionally massive corridors. He was surrounded by Pronhoulite and Korlivilar marines clad in spotless sky blue and white with gold trim power armor. But it was no less functional for all its immaculateness. They were his escort for the duration of his stay on the Galactic Unity’s Flagship, there to ensure that he didn’t do anything he wasn’t supposed to. Not that he was stupid enough to attempt such a thing here deep in GU held space aboard their conquest fleet’s… check that… their “Pacification Fleet’s”, Peter gave an mental roll-eyes as he shifted his thoughts to the ISC’s designation, Flagship.

He still didn’t know why his ISC benefactors had insisted that he come here, well into GU held space. All his previous dealings save his initial contact with the ISC had been via long ranged scrambled and encrypted com. The change, and the fact that it was the GU’s Flagship he’d been ordered, was more than slightly unsettling.

The hallways were made of dark gray alloys and an obsidian black substance that felt like polished stone. Purple hued lighting shone down from the roof mounted fixtures, banishing any shadows that would otherwise inhabit the Unity’s cavernous corridors. Their unnaturally large size also contributed to Peter’s unease, making him feel like a Lilliputian from the Terran myth. But these corridors large size was perfectly functional, for as Peter and his entourage strode through a junction, a very tall Meskeen could be seen down it. He was conversing with a Terran…“Human” he corrected himself with a mental sigh, and a Rovillian. With big brutes like that elder Meskeen roaming the GU’s Flagship, he could easily see why they had settled on such unnaturally large corridors and rooms. It didn’t make him feel much better, but at least his mind had an obvious reason for the need for massive corridors, even if it still couldn’t accept them into his view of what was proper for a warship. Of course, on any ship designed to standard humanoid specifications, the elder Meskeen would be incapable of maneuvering through them without the aid of site to site transporters. He nearly snorted out loud in laughter as his mind produced the mental picture of one of the green skinned amphibians stuffed into a standard sized hallway like it was a Gentonian sausage casing.

One of his Terran lynx-like Korlivilar guards, perhaps slightly superior in esper ranking to the rest, or slightly less willing to swallow her feelings, half hissed. Her tufted ears folded down tight to head as it turned toward him, grass green felinoid eyes boring into him. Peter gave himself a mental kick even as he reinforced his anti-esper barriers, managing somehow not to break stride. This was no time to let his mental shields slip. Nearly every being on the ship, aside from the Dominion contingent that is, were espers of some level or other. He had a gut feeling that this was a critical juncture. It wouldn’t do to mess it up because he slipped up on such a small thing as making a careless mental joke about one of the ISC’s oldest and most powerful races. Fortunately for him, the Korlivilar took no further action, but Peter could almost sense the non-verbal interplay that his guards engaged in. The Korlivilar was using telepathy to inform the rest of his guards of whatever she had been able to pick up, he was certain of it. But none of the others took any overt action either, and Peter let out a mental sigh of relief behind his barriers.

The corridor continued on till it terminated in a set of massive doors, each intricately worked with a bass relief in bronze. The relief appeared to show a battle of some sort, with ranks of ISC member races in opposition to another group of aliens. But the other group was nebulous, their features absent. And the things the relief showed them doing to the ISC they had captured were… disturbing. But Peter only had a scant few seconds to study the artwork before the doors’ swung open archaically to admit him and his escorts.

--- --- ---

Supreme Overlord Brakiel moved his massive bulk back and forth, pacing another useful habit he had acquired from the Humans, as he mulled over the distasteful choice he had been ordered to make. The Council of Five wisely only rarely interfered in actual Peace Forces operations after ordering them to action. But they had chosen to interfere now. And their order, however unpalatable he found it personally, was one he had no choice but to implement. The Council of Five’s word was law, and if they told him to do something he found repulsive, he would execute their orders without question or comment. He let loose a slightly honking sigh.

“Come now Supreme Overlord,” The female Founder’s wry, slightly gravely voice said from her position near where he paced in the center of the room, “Although it is sometimes bothersome to use tools as low and base as this one, they can prove to be of some use from time to time.”

Brakiel sighed again, but had to nod his assent. “I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like using them.”

The massive doors swung open and he turned to watch the approaching procession with trepidation, for it was his lot to serve the Council of Five’s wishes.

--- --- ---

Peter passed through the archaic swinging doors and into the presence of the largest Meskeen his limited experience had ever shown him. He stopped himself from doing a double take and forced his feet to continue their measured stride. The Meskeen was a titan, likely near six meters high, towering over him by a decidedly imposing amount. His faintly glistening green amphibian skin was backlit by the glowing green, purple, gold and silver displays that made up the walls of the otherwise Spartan chamber. The only other being present in the room was a female Changeling, but she was staying back, present but not an active participant of what was to come.

“Peter O’tole of the Orion Cartel,” The ancient Meskeen began in his deep, resonating if slightly nasal voice, “I am Pacification Fleet Prime Supreme Overlord Brakiel. You are no doubt wondering as to why you have been called here for a face to face meeting with me rather than your customary handlers.” He stared intently at Peter, his space black eyes boring into him from their frog like bumps on either side of his head. “The Council of Five, the political leaders of the ISC, have fresh orders for you.”

Here it was, the moment of truth. “What might they be Supreme Overlord?”

“Your vessels are to report to the following rally points,” Brakiel said, holding a PADD out to Peter, “where they will join up with Galactic Unity Fleet elements for offensive action against the Terran Empire and Grand Alliance forces.”

The Orion’s eyes went round as saucers. He had worked a lifetime to hide his true feelings from others, but even his extensive experience was insufficient to steel his expression to neutrality. Stark shock, far beyond simple surprise, was easily seen on his face. “You want my Pirates to join you in true offensive operations against heavy naval warships? Have you lost your mind? They’re no warships, their raiders at best, relying on superior numbers and surprise to take down weak convoy escorts. You can’t seriously expect them to take on an actual enemy fleet formation can you?!?”

“I’m sure that an appropriate use that best plays to their advantages can be found for them. In the mean time, I expect them to arrive within the month at the assigned rally points. All of them, for we know exactly how many you have.” The slightly nasal voice resonated within Peter’s very bones, with a definite snap of command born from long experience. “And should you decline to cooperate, there are certain parties that would take much delight in the information we have on you and your operations...” The massive amphibian’s voice trailed off, allowing Peter to draw his own conclusions as to who those parties might be.

Peter’s mouth closed with a click and his lips curled back into a snarl. “You bastard! If I give you all of my fleet, I’ll be ruined. Section 31 is nipping at my heels as it is, searching for the Emperor’s daughter that I handed off to YOU people. Starfleet has managed to scrape together stronger forces for patrols and given the Emperor’s directive against my line of work, bribing them is becoming increasingly more difficult, to say nothing of the other means of getting my way. Hell, even the other cartels are threatening to re-stake their claims to space that’s MINE! And you want me to pull all of my active duty ships to aid you?”

“Think for a moment just who gave you all those ships, all the power you currently possess and covet.” Brakiel’s voice was deadly calm. “We made you what you are in order to serve our wishes. You seem to have forgotten that. You have two choices. You can bring your fleet to the rally points before the end of the month, or you can ignore our orders. The choice is yours to make, but you really do not want the Galactic Unity as your enemy… not knowing what we know of your operations. That is all Peter O’tole, return to your den of criminals and decide.”

Peter snarled, coiling to strike out, his brain awash in hate and terror. All that he had worked so hard to gain, everything, was slipping away from him like so much sand spilling out from between his fingers. The thought terrified him, that he would wind up back in the gutter where he had started from. It also angered him, throwing him into a blind rage against those that would dare use him so. His hate burned away caution, burned away rational thought, feeding off of his fear to make itself that much stronger. But even before he could move, the security detail was on him.

The saurian Pronhoulites were already in motion before he even did more than twitch. Their ‘combat intuition’, a sense that was on the borderline of precognition, told them almost exactly what Peter would do. Powerful mechanical arms wrapped around Peter, holding him tight, letting him do no more than squirm impotently.

“Take the animal back to his ship.” Brakiel said over the incoherent ravings of Peter. “And remember my promise, Mr. O’tole. You know the consequences of choosing not to aid us after we have done so much for you.”

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:36pm

Chapter 42 – Strange Bedfellows

IKV Bortas, Klach D’Kel Brakt system

White sparks cascaded down like a waterfall of light from a ruptured conduit on the bridge’s roof. The Bortas shook again as a fresh volley of plasma torpedoes struck his drained shields. The main bridge was a cacophony of noise and a flurry of activity as Luza’s finely tuned command crew fought their ship.

“Message from the Flag, Captain.” Luza’s com officer belted out over the blaring klaxons and battle damage noises. “The ISC Battleship Five is weakening and he is ordering us to finish it off.”

All this over a worthless system in the back of beyond. Luza thought, for the skirmish against Galactic Unity forces was about as far away from Qo’noS as one could get in the reborn Klingon Empire. On the Bridge’s wrap around displays a force of about a dozen Vor’cha’s and their escorts were in a furious firefight against a mixed force of ISC and Dominion vessels. The Klingon forces were little better than a very light Taskforce, with nothing heavier than the Vor’cha Battlecruisers. Fortunately, the ISC considered this system just as much of a backwater as the Klingons did. They had only sent a lone squadron of Battleships and their escorts. Under normal circumstances, this would have been more than sufficient to either burn the Vor’cha’s and their escorts from space should they choose to stand, or force them to withdraw if they wouldn’t.

But fortunately for citizens of the Klach D’Kel Brakt system, the Klingon High Command had dispatched Luza’s squadron of Vampire’s here, escorting a titanic mobile smelter that was supposed to break down the system’s mineral rich asteroid belt into vitally needed supplies for the shipyards near Qo’noS. Replicators could reconstitute nearly anything into virtually anything one needed. But for certain elements and compounds, it was more efficient energy and time wise to harvest them the old fashioned way by taking them directly from their natural sources. Luza’s squadron’s presence tilted the odds ever so slightly in the system defender’s favor.

But even that would have been insufficient to stop the Galactic Union forces given the extended range of their PPD and their STL speed advantage. But the mobile smelter’s Captain had volunteered to act as bait to lure the GU forces in close enough that they could be targeted by the Klingon’s shorter ranged weapons. It was a truly selfless act, one worthy of song, for if the battle failed to pan out in the Klingon’s favor, the smelter’s captain would go down with his ship rather than surrender it to the GU. With the mammoth smelter presenting a near impossibly fat target, the GU forces had set off after it and the EW drones operating in concert with it. With them pretending to be the smelter’s escorting warships, the GU had closed steadily, unaware that the real warships were lying doggo under their passive stealth systems nearly directly in their path.

The initial strikes had hammered the GU Battleships hard, the Klingon vessels erupting into action from their hidden positions with guns blazing. They had even managed to get in under the GU’s PPD minimum range, and although the potent phasers and plasma torpedo batteries the ISC ships housed spat back answering volleys of their own, two were quickly cut down to size by the Vampire’s Maulers. After that, the two opposing formations actually interpenetrated one another and combat devolved into a swirling melee of frantically maneuvering capital ships as precise fleet formation became a detriment rather than an asset.

“Gunnery, target Battleship Five.” Luza ordered. “Order the Kirom and the Sompek to attack as well on their next passes.” As she finished, her command shuddered again as a fresh volley of phased polaron beams slammed into his shields as the Jem’Hadar attack craft struggled to down her weakening shields. With a final torrent of emerald bolts, the Bortas broke off pursuit of the now expanding cloud of wreckage that had once been a Jem’Hadar attack craft to begin a run against the Battleship. Or rather the quartet of Battleships, as the ISC warship had deployed three EW drones and all were swarming in helix patterns around their base course.

Streams of brilliant green splinters of energy spat from their emplacements, connecting with the false signatures as well as the actual Battleship. The EW drones faked battle damage quite well, but the range was far to short for the deception to fool Luza’s sensors. Bortas’ CIC near instantly sent targeting updates to the rest of the Klingon ships, letting them know which ship was the true target.

Phaser and polaron beams cris-crossed with disruptors on the forward viewer, creating a cacophony of visual stimuli, but Luza tuned it all out. Her attention was focused on the soon to be dead Battleship. He was maneuvering with ever erg of impulse speed he could get. As maneuverable as Klingon designs were, the ISC Battleship was noticeably fleeter on the helm than something his size had any right to be.

“Mauler charged!” Her weapons officer shouted across the orange hued bridge

“Fire!” Luza replied at once, her upraised, leather gloved fist closing tightly.

A lance of silver appeared between her command and her target. It blew threw the Battleship’s weakened aft shields and bulled forcefully through the hull to explode out the other side. Even as he began to spiral away from the point of attack, a fresh assault clobbered him from his ventral side as the Kirom and the Sompek opened up with shimmering silver swords of their own, wreaking vengeance down on the GU for daring to attack a Klingon world. What had once been a proud ISC Battleship shattered as secondary explosions consumed what little remained of her hull in brilliant white hot fireballs.

“Captain!” a shocked cry came from across Bortas’ bridge, causing Luza’s head to snap towards her gunnery officer. “Sensors show another Galactic Unity force dropping out of warp! They will be in PPD range of our position in eighty seconds!”

“Bearing and strength!” Luza snapped.

“186 mark 124. A minimum of one wing of Superdreadnoughts and approximately two dozen lesser vessels as escort.”

The bridge went deathly quiet as the new enemy formation size was announced.

“Open a channel to the Flag.” Luza ground out.

“Channel open.” Her com officer replied quietly.

“Sir, we must withdraw.”

The voice on the other end of the com let loose a stream of colorful curses. “Agreed.” Luza finally heard his growling voice snarl back. For a heart wrenching moment, she had worried that his warrior heart might have overcome his common sense and reason. “General order to all ships, fall back to the rally point in the Balduk system.” At least all the Klingon ships were light enough to outrun the mass of alloy rushing up behind them. Even the mobile smelter was far enough away that it would shortly exit its nearest warp field inhibitors area of effect. Although the loss of Klach D’Kel Brakt would hurt, it was after all a relatively worthless system in a strategic sense, and the only recently resettled Klingon population had survived for virtually their entire lives under Terran boot heels. They could survive being occupied by forces of the Galactic Unity until sufficient forces could be scraped together to force whatever picketing force the GU left behind out again.

The cost of the system’s now failed defense had also been light, especially if one took into account the tonnage they took away from the enemy even though they took the system. The outright destruction of three ISC Battleships easily outweighed the three destroyed Vor’chas, five vaporized Chava’kals and the plethora of minor and serious wounds the ships on both sides had received. Forming up into their squadron level formations, the Klingon ships accelerated away from the remaining two Battleships, both crippled and in need of extensive repair work before they would be ready to fight again. Fortunately, none of the lighter escorts still alive mounted PPD’s, and those on the surviving ISC Battleships had been to heavily damaged to be useable. It was that which allowed the Klingons to withdraw so easily.

Some Jem’Hadar and ISC Destroyers left their posts guarding the Battleships to pursue the Klingons in a vain attempt to slow them down. They were easily discouraged by the Vor’chas aft weapons batteries and by selective assault by the operational members of Luza’s squadron. Her Vampires cut their impulse engines, coasting onward on momentum alone and using their bow and stern thrusters to bull themselves end for end. Now flying at slightly over full impulse tail first, their heavy forward weapons arc was again exposed to the enemy. Disruptors birthed streams of bolts down where the Klingon ships had just been. Maulers sent out lances of eye tearingly bright silver, and every time they fired, another GU ship died. Kirom even got lucky and scored a hit on one of the now EW shrouded Battleships, finishing it off in a savage blossom of white light and molten, half vaporized debris. Seeming to take the hint, the GU Destroyers threw themselves into even more wild evasion routines that curved them back towards the remaining, wounded Battleship and the onrushing Superdreadnought Battlegroup.

The Vampires and their consorts sent a token barrage after their retreating foes, then pivoted back and snapped their impulse engines back on. They had nearly rejoined formation with the mobile smelter by now, throttling back to full impulse as they fell in around it. Luza settled into her leather command chair, finally allowing herself to relax. They may have lost the system, but at least the had made the pahtk pay in blood for it.

Suddenly, a guttural alarm sounded, causing Luza’s head to snap up as she pivoted her chair to face her gunnery officer.

“Contacts coming out of warp!” He shouted. “Multiple contacts!”

Almost against her will, Luza forced her eyes down to her tactical repeater. Superdreadnoughts. Dozens of them, coming out of warp all across their path, their careful organization exposing them as a carefully planned ambush. Some of them had light combat damage, hinting that they had been called in from successful combat in surrounding systems.

“Long range fire control sensors detected. I’m picking up energy spikes centered in their PPD’s, their weapons are hot and ready to fire.” Her gunnery officer said tersely.

“Incoming signal from the lead GU ship Captain. It’s an all ships signal.” Her com officer piped up

“Put it up.” The screen came to life, showing the lightly smiling visage of a Dominion Vorta.

“Klingon brothers and sisters, I call on you to stand down and prepare to be boarded. There has been enough loss of life today. Do not throw your lives away in a futile effort to halt our advance. You will see that the peace, unity and acceptance of all peoples that we will bring. There is no need to oppose us. I call on you to see reason and prevent your own destruction.”

Luza spat onto the deck, her leather clad hands straining their gloves as they balled into fists. “Perhaps today is a good day to die after all. Open a channel to the Flag.” Her com officer entered commands into his console, then nodded to her. “What are your orders Sir?”

Second Fleet, ISS Athena, enroute to the frontlines near the Alpha/Beta Quadrant boarder

“Admiral,” T’var’s com officer said, “the Tempest reports that they have detected significant EW interference coming from the Davion system. Far more than could be accounted for by any natural means.”

Second Fleet, the premier offensive battle fleet of the Terran Empire, had been enroute to the frontline of the Galactic Unity’s advance. Once there, the ships were bound to have a significant impact on GU battle plans. 2000 Wraith upgrades and 4000 Excaliburs, along with Athena herself, composed the core of the heaviest Imperial formation ever put into space. Even with tightened spacing, the fleet was a large and ungainly when tucked into one cohesive force. It moved like a snake through slipstream, rank after rank of upgraded Wraiths, Sovereigns and Galaxies ringing the mobile shipyards, hospital ships and fast Marine transports of Second Fleet’s fleet train. While they still were a little rough around the edges (only to be expected with a virtually scratch built fleet), T’var and her fellow taskforce and battlegroup CO’s had instituted an in-depth, fleet wide program of battle drills and sims to hone the massive mace of Second Fleet into a razor edged sword. One of the most promising commands to emerge so far was the ISS Tempest, and as such, she had drawn duty as Second Fleet’s starboardmost guard and sensor platform, scouting along Second Fleet’s right flank. Her position, far out from the rest of the fleet, allowed her to see farther than any other ship.

“Does the Tempest’s Captain have an idea as to what type of unnatural source was causing the interference?” T’var replied with a cocked eyebrow above one of her deep blue eyes.

So far, the GU had been dispersing their strength whenever they could. While this allowed them to attack more targets in the same amount of time, it also spread them thinner than would otherwise be the case. T’var had been tasked with exploiting the enemy’s current disposition, and in the initial stages at least, Second Fleet could do exactly that with ease. If this interference proved to be what T’var suspected it was, it would give her a chance to bloody her still largely green units relatively painlessly.

“He says his tactical department is convinced that the interference is of GU ECM in origin.”

“Hmm…Order the fleet to drop to impulse and reorient to formation Epsilon Four. Detach BatCru Ron 2.32 and Dest Ron 2.61 to fall back to Davion system,” T’var, as her com officer before her, used the ‘correct’ Imperial designation for what the Klingons had once called and now called again the Klach D’Kel Brakt system, “to execute a covert long ranged sensor sweep. Commissar Augustus, if the Tempest’s tactical department’s hunch pans out, we may get a live fire exercise against GU targets.”

T’var’s personal keeper strode onto the raised platform that held her command chair. He was a short but wiry man, with the mass of tight black curls above his swarthy complexion streaked with the silver of age. Green eyes that couldn’t quite mask the coldly calculating intelligence behind them from T’var’s experienced gaze stared back at her. He tried his best to hide the true level of his competency from her, and a lesser judge of character may well have believed him, but not T’var. She was acutely aware of just how competent a watchdog the Empire and Section had saddled her with, and knew full well why. Her covert probes of secure databases, probes she was sure had never been uncovered (for she was still breathing and free), had long ago alerted her to Section’s piqued interest in her.

Fortunately she had been too good at her job, or they were never sure enough, or a combination of the two, for Section to act on their interest. But Julius Augustus’ presence on her Flag Bridge showed her that that same inaction hadn’t indicated that they trusted her. Quite the opposite in fact, they had gotten crafty and saddled her with a seeming incompetent in the hopes that she would get complacent and slip up.

“And you’re sure that the enemy is too weak to pose a credible threat?” His deep yet melodic voice resonated in the expansive Flag Bridge facilities.

“We will not know for certain until the recon elements report back, but I doubt that the ISC and Dominion would commit serious numbers to conquer such an unimportant Klingon world. Even when it was under Imperial control, the system’s lone M-class world never boasted much population wise, and there was never much reason to colonize it more heavily because it was so far from core systems and trade lanes.” T’var shook her head. “Not that even a serious enemy fleet would be sufficient to stand up to Second Fleet without significant fixed fortifications to back them up. The Davion system never possessed any, so I am confident we can overcome any opposition the GU is capable of mounting. But it is always good to be thorough, which is why I detached the scout formation to probe the system first.”

“I see. Very well then Admiral. If the GU forces are as weak as you suspect, we shall engage them at your discretion.”

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-09-20 10:37pm

Chapter 43 – Strange Bedfellows

ISS Hera, BatCru Ron 2.32 Flagship, Outskirts of the Klach D’Kel Brakt system

Commodore Hans Grotzen peered intently at his Flag Bridge’s holodisplay. He had it set for ¼ view that worked best for portraying the enemy maneuvering far in front of him, and the swirling light beads of hostile ships played across the gold bright work of his uniform. His new flagship, still possessing that new starship smell throughout, as did most of Second Fleet’s ships, was the most capable variant yet devised on one of Starfleet’s most versatile platforms. The new upgraded Nebulas boasted virtually the same long ranged fire support capability of their torpedo heavy/weapons-podded cousins mated with near the same sensor fidelity and reach of the SWAC subtype. All it cost was slight lessening of internal crew space and torpedo bunkerage, but he was more than willing to accept the trade-off since it gave him one of the most potent and sensitive sensor suites in known space. He used those powerful sensors for all they were worth, but in passive mode only. Active sensor sweeps would light up his position like a beacon, and it wasn’t as if the passive systems lacked targets to pick up. Neither the GU nor the Klingons appeared to be making much of an attempt to hide their locations. There was the usual fuzz of ECM, put out by what could only be Galactic Unity EW specialist subtypes or ships of the line. CIC was doing its best, but with only passives to work with combined with the extreme range, they were only getting sniffs as to what the ECM was shrouding in a sensor defying haze. Finally letting out a satisfied grunt, Hans spoke.

“Well Commissar,” he told his political watchdog, “it would appear that Starfleet WDB and BuShips were right about the capabilities of our new EW systems.”

“Why is that Commodore?”

Hans sighed mentally, cursing Section for saddling him with a mental deficient for a Commissar, but forced a seemingly eager reply. “Because, Commissar Ananasis, neither the GU forces nor the Klingons have shown any reaction to our presence. Our scouting party is large enough that we should have sparked at least some reaction had we come in under normal cloak, phase cloak or other older active stealthing measures. While the fact that they, as yet, have shown no response is a good indicator that we are still hidden, it’s not a certainty. They may well be ignoring us even though they can see us, but I find that unlikely. They have sufficient firepower in system to detach at least a destroyer squadron or two to take a closer look at us. Yet they aren’t. No Commissar, I’m pretty much convinced they don’t know we’re here. It is my intention to close to within one million kilometers of Starfleet WDB’s estimated detection threshold and see just how accurate it is. I’m also going to detach the Bellerephon”, one of Dest Ron 2.61’s Novas, “to report back to Fleet Admiral T’var. Commander Tillman,” he said, turning towards where his ops officer sat, “make sure the Bellerephon gets complete sensor tracks from every ship in the squadron. Perhaps the Athena’s sensor techs can refine the raw data further.”

Hans pivoted his command chair back to where Commissar Ananasis sat behind him on the Flag Bridge’s back wall. The position had been carefully thought out, for it allowed him to have a free view of nearly the entire bridge while simultaneously fading into the background to be all but unnoticed when he so chose. Not that many Starfleet personnel would be stupid or naive enough to forget about their political overseer and the power he wielded, but even the best could slip up occasionally. And that could well be all that Section required to disappear you. Although the bloodletting in Starfleet had so far been largely limited to the Sol system’s Starfleet Command Headquarters and most of First Fleet’s senior officers, that didn’t negate the threat that anyone could become a target if one gave Section and their Commissars sufficient cause. It had always been the case, but it was even more evident and invasive than it had been before the attempted coup.

After a slightly pregnant pause as Commissar Ananasis’ brain mulled over the information he had just been told, he nodded to the Starfleet officer. “Very well Commodore, you may execute the plans you have outlined.”

Hans resisted the compelling urge to curl his lip in a snarl. He was as impotent to do anything about the watchdogs Section had assigned him as any other Starfleeter. Commissars had been assigned to virtually every command in the Fleet after certain flag officer’s in ‘Home Fleet’ had been shown to be either complicit or downright active participants in the deaths of virtually every member of the Terran Council. But even though he was impotent to remove them, it wouldn’t do either his career or his person any good to let it show either. So he merely ground his teeth softly and whispered curses at the cosigner of all his orders from behind the safety of his mental shields. With a false yet believable amicable nod to the Commissar, he spun his chair back to the forward holodisplay.

“Lt. Pelatin, initiate a com link to Captain Shroderberg.” Hans commanded his communications officer.

“Aye sir.”

Seconds later, a perfect holographic bust of ISS Hera’s Captain, CO of Hans’ flagship, blossomed into a com window on his holodisplay. He had established a good working relationship with the attractive Betazoid when she had become the Captain of his previous flagship. Needless to say, he had been rather pleased when he had been informed that she was available for his new flagship in the freshly expanded Second Fleet. It helped to have a Flag Captain that fully understood what he expected of her, especially in a scratch built squadron that had only a few months to train together. And it also saved him the hassle of training a replacement under those same conditions. It was bad enough putting a new squadron together with a staff and Flag Captain he knew he could count on. He shuddered to think what it would have been like with all new personnel, for the few rough edges his squadron still had were bothersome enough.

“Well Captain,” he said with a real smile, “let’s move in to about seven million kilometers from their nearest unit and execute another passive sensor sweep. Just be ready to bug out if they detect us. That much weight of metal is too much for us to handle on our own from in tight. If they don’t see us, prepare a stealthed RD spread through their formation. Admiral T’var sent us here to scout the enemy dispositions, and I don’t intend to disappoint her.”

“Understood Sir. We won’t do anything to cause the Admiral any disappointment.” She replied eagerly.

“I never expected anything less Captain. Grotzen out.” The holodisplay com window closed and Hans refocused his attention on the tactical projection. Entering a series of commands into the console that sprouted off of his chair’s left armrest, the holodisplay expanded, stretching around him, wreathing his command chair with a full 360 degrees of enhanced exterior view. The display stabilized in its new configuration, then shifted again as the brilliant pinpricks of distant stars elongated into rainbow hued streaks. But only for a brief instant. The space distorting glory of warp speed reverted back to normal space in an eyeblink as the assembled Imperial warships micro jumped into range of the GU vessels warp inhibitor fields. Continuing on at full impulse, they stalked ever closer to their still unsuspecting quarry. They stopped as if with one mind seven million kilometers out from the closest GU vessel.


Not an active sensor ping, not a shift in escort maneuvers, not a single solitary sign that the GU ships knew they were there.

“Detach the Volga, Commander Tillman.” Hans told his ops officer, not wanting to press his luck by risking a subspace com message to the waiting Second Fleet and instead making the far safer play of detaching yet another of his destroyer screen to play courier. “Make sure she gets the updated plotting information along with her orders.” With the closer range, Grotzen’s sensors had been able to isolate another seven Dominion Battlecruisers and four ISC Superdreadnoughts behind their ECM. With passives only, it was still impossible to keep them locked up. But CIC was virtually certain that they had gotten definite and distinct hits on some of them, and he trusted his crew’s instincts.

“Aye Sir.” Wendy Tillman said, then turned to establish the necessary tight beam whisker com to one of Hera’s escorts.

On the holodisplay, the plot resolved itself into a much clearer picture, and Hans leaned forward, his posture intent and his eyes eager. The RD volley his ships had launched was finally close enough for their passive arrays to pierce the GU ECM. It bulled through the less effective Klingon ECM as well, and even though it wasn’t as detailed info as Hans would have liked, it was about as much as could be expected from a passive RD sweep.

“Commander, append the data dump to the Volga to include the RD information.”

“Already doing it Commodore.”

Second Fleet, ISS Athena

“Admiral, the Volga has returned with the second data dump from Commodore Grotzen’s force.”

“Send it to my console.”

“Already on it Ma’am.” And her chief of staff was, for as she spoke it appeared on the console that sprouted from her right armrest. Her staff functioned well, for she had had most of them together virtually since she had assumed command of Second Fleet. True some had been lost in the unfortunate backlash of the failed psychonic attack against Species 8472, but their replacements had slotted into the vacant positions surprisingly well. While some were nearing the point when seniority would force her to give them up for further advancement, she could still hold on to them for a year or so before they moved on. And they deserved their advancement, for they had patterned their actions as officers after her own. They were good officers, and what was more, they were good persons. Not filled with the petty hatreds and cruel vindictiveness that far too many citizens of the Terran Empire held dear. T’var suppressed a surge of pride. These were the type of officers and beings that Spock had wanted populating the galaxy, and they had followed her example on how to get there.

T’var studied the information on the enemy for a moment, then made her decision. “Orders to the fleet. Set course for the Davion system. Fleet train units shall remain here along with SD Ron 2.07 and BC TF 2.29 for protection. N-space reversion for the other fleet elements will be at the following coordinates.” She listed exactly where she wanted her forces to appear. “Red alert, prepare to engage the enemy but only fire on my orders or if fired upon. I want to capture the enemy ships intact if possible.” A subtle growl seemed to come from the flag bridge officers and ratings. They were eager to strike a blow at the enemy, a pack of wolves that had seen their pack mates harried and pressed and were finally able to do something.

IKV Bortas, Klach D’Kel Brakt system

The small Flotilla’s CO had opened his mouth answer her, but he never even started before a shout on his own bridge cut him off. Virtually simultaneously a similar shout flew across her own bridge. Her head snapped from the com screen to her gunnery officer. Then, upon seeing his expression, they jerked back to her tactical repeater. Terran vessels, hundreds… THOUSANDS of them! And in the middle of them… Luza’s fiery warrior’s blood turned to ice in her veins. A Bastion! Kahless protect us!

A com message broke across all subspace channels.

“Galactic Unity vessels, I am Fleet Admiral T’var of the Terran Empire. You will surrender your ships to my custody immediately or you will be destroyed. Cut your engines, deactivate your weapons and defenses and prepare to be boarded. Any resistance will be met with deadly force. Respond imme...” the voice on the com died as ships of the Galactic Unity sprang into action.

ISS Athena, Flag Bridge

A handful of GU commanders made a fateful choice, and that choice started a chain reaction that sealed both their own and their comrade’s fates. On half a dozen ships, impulse engines flared to brilliant life as they began frantic evasion manuvers. Weapons systems, already prepared to open fire against the Klingons, now birthed a storm of phaser and plasma torpedoes against the alloy wall of Second Fleet’s assembled ships. The firepower might have hurt the lighter units in Second Fleet’s screening elements, or have damaged heavier ones if it was applied with any overarching plan. But the GU commanders were panicked and acting as individuals, not as parts of the whole. As such, they would have been better off not taking any action at all.

One second, seven GU Superdreadnoughts and a smattering of lighter ships were engaging Second Fleet’s ships. The next, over a dozen white hot balls of flame and molten shrapnel cast a pall over the Galactic Unity’s lines as Second Fleet showed their surviving consorts the futility of resistance. T’var continued on, her face seeming to tighten slightly.

“I regret that such demonstrations were necessary. I have no desire to see you all dead, but if I must, I will destroy every one of your ships. I leave the decision up to you, stand down or be destroyed.”

For a dreadfully intense moment, immeasurably long yet remarkably short, no one dared breathe. True the Galactic Unity were the enemy, but if more chose to go down fighting it wouldn’t be a battle. It would be a slaughter. And if some of Second Fleet’s newer officers and enlisted personnel might have reveled in that slaughter, the vast majority wouldn’t. The level of basic decency that was part of every human being had grown enormously from the dark days of the 2260’s. The basic Imperial citizen now wasn’t a raving xenophobe like they were then. Nor were the basic Imperial military personnel the psychotic, uncaring monsters like Kirk and the rest of his breed had been.

T’var’s com window blossomed to life. “I am Valis of the Galactic Unity.” The cold eyed Vorta spoke, an all too human looking frown of impotent rage on her face. “I accept your terms and have ordered my remaining units to stand down.”

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-10-29 11:07am

Chapter 44 – For the Honor of the Uniform

ISS Athena, Flag Ready Room, Klach D’Kel Brakt system

Fleet Admiral T’var, commanding officer of Second Fleet, sat behind her desk sifting through a pile of PADDs while also sometimes scrolling through extra information on her personal terminal. Unfortunately, the situation aboard the captured GU ships was as logic dictated it would be. All computer cores had been thoroughly wiped and overwritten, and pertinent tech items like the GU’s internal damper and PPDs had been thoroughly slagged. She had considered adding a prohibition on acts of sabotage to her list of terms, but she knew that they wouldn’t be followed. The GU was to well aware of its tech and information edge, and would be perfectly willing to make a hash of their databanks and useful pieces of technology even if they agreed not to. So rather than make unfulfillable demands that would be broken and cause her to kill POWs, she hadn’t made the demands in the first place. She had more than enough blood on her hands and conscience as it was, she had no desire to add what would amount to murder to the mix.

Suddenly, her telepathic sense picked up the distinct flavor or her Section watchdog’s mental defenses. He was just outside her ready room and… the door slipped aside without even the simple courtesy of waiting for her acknowledgement. Commissar Augustus was at his heart a petty bully, eager to push his weight around against those whom he could get away with it. From T’var’s limited experience, most of those assigned to be Section’s watchdogs over Starfleet were of similar mindset. They reveled in tormenting and instilling fear in those who dared not fight back.

Trailing behind the Commissar was her flagships CO. Captain Detrich Filser had succeeded Ulysses as commander of the Athena, and T’var wasn’t all that satisfied with the trade. Detrich was a hard man, as were most Ekosians. Ekos had been a peaceful world that had been corrupted by a Section 31 Pre-contact Civilization Preparation Team headed by the infamous Section agent John Gill. Agent Gill was a vocal advocate of ideals virtually identical to those of Terra’s Third Reich, and it showed in most of the worlds his team was responsible for preparing for Terran rule. By the time the selected worlds were introduced to Imperial Starfleet and the Terran Empire’s envoys, they were firmly under the control of individuals the Nazi’s would have called brother with open, welcoming arms. Coincidentally, they welcomed the TE with open arms themselves, hailing them as brothers and accepting their role in TE society easily.

Detrich came about as close to the Nazi’s Slavic ideal as a being born hundreds of years after the fall of the Third Reich and of a totally different planet could. The way he looked in an Imperial uniform was downright scary, for he filled the uniform’s blackness with a determined sense of dark foreboding. In order to advance to his present position in the Terran dominated Imperial Starfleet, he had to be an exceptional individual. And he was, T’var couldn’t find any reason to complain about his competency even if his methods left much to be desired. He was a cold, calculating individual, and a downright fanatic concerning the TE’s new emperor. Considering the suspicions T’var knew Section had about her, she wasn’t all that surprised she had been saddled with such a true believer like Detrich for her new Flag Captain. He was another uncorruptable set of ears and eyes she would have to keep alert for, lest he find some scrap of information that Section could take action on.

“Admiral, what do you intend to do with the Klingon vessels?” T’var’s keeper said, intruding into her silent perusal of the after action reports.

“Do Commissar?” T’var said, turning her chair towards Julius Augustus. “Considering that the latest orders from Emperor Jack Chambers in relation to the GA powers dictated a cease fire existed between us, I see no reason to do anything with the Klingon vessels.” Julius’ eyes narrowed ever so slightly, but T’var continued. “Until such time as either the GA breaks the cease fire or the Emperor gives orders different than those he has recently issued, I will abide by the terms laid out in the agreement.”

“Admiral, we posses the power to crush the Klingons or at least demand their immediate and unconditional surrender. While their ships are admittedly few and light, there is at least a squadron of top of the line cruisers out there.” He said, gesturing to the holodisplay where the crimson banded amber icons of the surviving Klingon ships hovered with neutered menace. “The loss of those vessels would be a potent blow against the Klingon scum that dared rise up against their rightful masters!”

T’var held back the reply to such a comment cold logic dictated needed to be said. The loss of a mere five ships, even ones as potent as the KDF’s Vampire’s, would be a mere pinprick when their total number of hulls was in the hundreds of thousands. Julius continued. “We can destroy every ship and installation the Klingons have here, then glass their colony! We could arrange it to appear that the Galactic Unity was the culprit. And there would be no witnesses left to say different and just that many fewer… vermin… infesting our galaxy!”

There was a certain intensity in his voice, almost a sub-vocal snarl, as he spoke of intelligent beings who had the poor fortune to be born non-Terran in a Terran dominated galaxy. This wasn’t his act anymore, no longer the persona of carefully constructed feigned ignorance and simple mindedness. No, this was his true self showing through, the passion was too raw, the flame in his eyes to evident for it to be anything else. T’var picked her words carefully, wanting to diffuse the situation as quickly and as safely as possible.

“Commissar, until I receive orders to the contrary from the Emperor, or the Klingons attack Second Fleet, I will NOT break the cease fire agreement.” T’var stressed the word not with emotion but with emphasis. That decision is the Emperors to make, not yours or mine. To do as you suggest is both illogical and treasonous.” Like a fleeting shadow, naked hatred flashed on Julius’ face as his mask slipped when confronted with T’var’s defiance. He was definitely a bully, hating those that didn’t bow immediately to his commands. And apparently a bully blinded by his petty prejudices, for T’var’s dropping of treason into the conversation caused his hate to evaporate into fear almost as fast as it showed its vile head in the first place.

Captain Filser inserted himself into the conversation. “I believe the point Commissar Augustus is trying to make is that we can bend the rules the Emperor laid out for us if we are thorough enough. I am sure the Emperor will be pleased if we remove the Klingon scourge from the Davion system, cease fire treaty or not. However, I do feel that it is best to do as you say and err on the side of caution rather than attempt to guess how the Emperor is likely to react.” It still amazed T’var, even after being forced to work closely with him for months, that he could be so smooth in diffusing potentially dangerous situations. She could almost be grateful for that, save for the fact that it was hard to be grateful for the deadly snake in the grass that is just waiting for a chance to strike at you yet kept the rodent population under control in the mean time. T’var decided not to press the point any further, for there was nothing to be gained pressing her Commissar further on this point.

“Finish securing our prisoners and complete the engineering evaluation on the GU vessels, then recall our away teams and prepare to depart. We will destroy all GU vessels as we withdraw from the system.” Her tone of voice indicated that this uninvited meeting was finished as far as she was concerned.

As alien as the vessels were, part of her wished she could send them back to TE held space under prize crews. But the cost of refitting them to Imperial spec was prohibitive. About the only thing that would be left of their original workings at the end would be the shell of the ship, her outer hull and internal divisions with virtually everything else ripped out and replaced with Imperial systems to simplify resupply and repair. Considering that the basic hull structures were among both the cheapest and easiest piece of a modern starship to manufacture, this generally limited the true utility of captured enemy units in modern warfare. The GA powers got around this significant hurdle in using alien hardware by starting out using stock Imperial specs for all components in their hidden fleets to begin with. What better way to use your enemy’s ships when they used the same parts as your own did for virtually everything? The downside was that enemy raiding parties could use captured ships and supply convoys easily for his own forces as easily as your own could, but T’var could easily see why the Grand Alliance powers had done what they did when they set about building up their secret fleets.

“As you command Admiral.” Captain Filser replied in an even tone. Saluting with snap and panache that would have eased even the DI’s at Starfleet Academy’s first form middie training’s dour stares, he turned on the heel of his mirror like polished obsidian leather boots, saluted Commissar Augustus, then strode out her.

Augustus was back to his slightly vacant looking self, although T’var’s learned and experienced eye could still detect the faint traces of hate and genuine fear lurking behind his practiced mask. She could also just make out his discomfort with both emotions. The former because it was rendered impotent, the latter because like any bully, he detested being fearful of anything. Without even the courtesy of a nod goodbye, he spun on his heel and strode out of her office.

A less logical and more emotional being would have erupted into gleeful laughter at the sight. But T’var refused to give into her emotions, keeping them on a very short leash deep inside a prison of steely control. Instead, she merely raised a lone eyebrow very high as the door to her ready room swooshed shut, then went back to her small lake of electronic paperwork.

IKV Bortas, Klach D’Kel Brakt system

Luza had watched the ease with which the Terran’s elite Second Fleet units had cut down the foolish Galactic Unity vessels that refused to accede to their demands. The incomprehensible energies released in that brief moment of terrible, rending fury had virtually atomized the offending units, turing them into expanding clouds of energetic plasma that sleeted against the shields of their more fortunate comrades.

But the huntress in Luza couldn’t help but admire the precision of the kills, even if it was Terrans executing it. No shot went wide. No shot blew through its indented target and accidentally hit another combatant. It was the stopping power of a bat’leth combined with the finesse of a d’k tahg, and even if it was an enemy wielding it, Luza’s warrior spirit rallied in awe at the assault.

All communication attempts with Second Fleet had been rebuffed with terse commands to remain in place with engines, weapons and defensive systems offline. Not wanting to die for no return, Luza and the other members of the Imperial Klingon Defense Force could do nothing more than do just that and pray that the spirits of their ancestors in Sto-Vo-Kor held the Terrans to their end of the cease fire agreement.

And wonder of wonders, the Terrans actually HAD kept up their end of the cease fire. While standard observational sensors were constantly trained on Luza and her fellow Klingons, the distinctive spikes of fire control sensor hits remained in abeyance. Bortas’ sensors showed her the motes that swarmed out of the Terran lines, thousands of small craft of all shapes and sizes that descended upon the GU vessels. Most were Viper assault shuttles with Cobra’s riding shotgun, but there were also the blocky, bulky shapes of Forager cargo shuttles sent along to bring choice bits of Galactic Unity machinery back to Second Fleet.

GU crews, after having been picked over for select personnel, were transported down to the surface of Klach D’Kel Brakt B-4. The small Class L world, orbiting the distant Class O and F pair of Klach D’Kel Brakt’s quartet of stars, was only marginally habitable. But with a low powered food replicator provided from the ISS Athena’s prodigious stores it would suffice for the few thousand GU survivors not chosen for TE internment until the Klingon High Command decided what to do with them.

Then all the small craft returned to their motherships and Luza was treated to another massive wave of destruction. Terran slicers and xenolinguists had breached the GU vessels security measures and induced them to self destruct. Systematically, boils of bright light marked the funeral pyres of once proud warships as their scuttling systems activated, helping along the AM charges Terran engineers had added to ensure complete destruction.

Athena Battlegroup is closing, now entering visual range.”

“Show me.” Luza replied to her gunnery officer. The main viewer shifted to show the approaching Terran ships. Out of the maelstrom of released energy, the Athena and a lone wing of Wraiths. Next to the Bastion, the mighty Terran SD’s looking like Glob Flies buzzing around a Targ. They flew ever closer to Luza’s command, looming large, covering the stars themselves.

When they got within a virtually unheard of kilometer of each other, the Athena and her consorts angled parallel to the Bortas and his brother ships. The Terran vessels’ running lights flashed twice in salute, then the Athena and the rest of Second Fleet simultaneously stretched and went translucent as they entered the blue vortexes of slipstream before disappearing altogether.

Luza let out a breath. Much as she might have detested the cease fire agreement between the Grand Alliance and the Terran Empire, she understood why it was brokered and agreed upon. All powers in the Alpha and Beta quadrants were in a fight for their very survival with an opponent more powerful than all of them together. To have any chance at all of surviving, they had to take every edge they could get. If that meant setting aside collecting of debts until after the threat to all was eliminated, so be it. She knew well the old Terran saying ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. While she wouldn’t go that far when it came to the Terrans, and she doubted she ever would, it did exemplify the current arrangement far more eloquently than most other descriptions. For today at least, the tenuous ceasefire between the powers of the Grand Alliance and the Terran Empire had held and as a result, Luza and her fellow Klingons had survived to fight another day. That was what truly mattered after all.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2003-11-11 09:36pm

Chapter 45 – Battle on the Banks of the Lethe

Flag Bridge, ISS Nebuchadnezzar, Lethe Star System, Delta Quadrant

Ulysses Vanguard, brevet Vice Admiral in Imperial Starfleet, defacto commanding officer of Sector 2000 and its attached fleet units, rested his head on steepled fingers as he studied the strategic holodisplay before him. His hazel eyes were narrowed in concentration and thought, the skin pulled taunt around the remnants of his ocular implant because of a faint scowl as he watched the enemy maneuver deeper in-system.

The Neb was one of the fortunate few of Prescott’s Star’s defenders that had gotten through the last battle relatively unscathed. Once her basically superficial damage and slipstream nacelles had been repaired, Ulysses had claimed her for his temporary flagship while the Valley Forge completed her considerably more extensive repairs under P’tel and Clay’s watchful eyes. While he would have liked to have waited for further ships to be repaired before he began taking back neighboring star systems, he couldn’t afford to play things safe. The local Galactic Unity forces were weak for the moment, having concentrated virtually all their units for the near final push against Prescott’s Star. Uly he didn’t want to give them a chance to reinforce and make his job harder than it already was.

So he had taken a squadron of Wraith (U)s out, backed up by a Sovereign Battlegroup and a Battlecruiser Taskforce, to either scare away or blow to hell any GU pickets holding down the Imperial colonies in the sector. So far, Task Force 2000.3 had freed and repicketted 27 systems and from the looks of things was about to add 28 to the list.

The Flag Bridge was abuzz with normal pre-combat activity, with orders, status reports and the other plethora of minutiae details involved in getting a large concentration of warships ready for battle. But Ulysses tuned most of it out, instead concentrating on the angry red light beads of his opponent. Like him, they were heavy in Destroyers and Light Cruisers. Unlike him, the heaviest unit they had was a Battleship, and then only a heavy division’s worth. Any sensible opponent would have cut their losses and begun a retreat from the system by now when faced with the overwhelming superiority in weight of metal bearing down on them, and the GU were certainly not fools. And that was the cause of Ulysses scowl, for the enemy had NOT withdrawn from the battlefield. Quite the opposite in fact, the GU Task Force appeared to be falling into strike formation about six hundred thousand kilometers from Lethe’s massive Class S Gas Ultragiant, Nephthys.

Nephthys had not quite reached the levels of self sustaining reaction necessary to become a full fledged second sun in the Lethe system, but it was close enough to be throwing out fairly substantial radiation and was even briefly luminous in places. The Gas Ultragiant’s massive size had dragged in quite a few moons, with many being planets in their own right and more than a handful whipping around in rather exotic orbits. With such effective cover near by, there were ample places to hide a starship, even a whole fleet.

Ulysses, frowned as he stared into the holodisplay with his lone working eye. Something was nagging at him, nibbling at the back of his brain. He didn’t like the setup to this battle at all. While it could be just a ruse designed to scare him off from attacking, the force before him was to powerful to leave running around in his rear areas, especially considering he had only been able to spare Destroyers and Cruisers for picket duty in his recaptured systems “Order the scouting elements to concentrate on the nearside of Nephthys especially. I want detailed sweeps as deep as we can get them before I commit to battle. This entire setup smells of a trap and I’d really rather not walk right into it and make the enemy’s job overly easy.” His forces could handily keep the GU in range thanks to their slipstream capability, so he wasn’t too worried about their STL speed advantage. But they were definitely up to something, and he didn’t want to pop in unless he could at least make a solid guess as to just what that was.

By now familiar sounding “ayes” answered his even toned order. If he couldn’t have his home along with him (strange as it seemed for a child of the stars who was a follower of Spock to call an Imperial Warship home), at least he had been able to take his staff along when he had transferred his flag to the Neb. Unfortunately it also meant his watcher had come along as well. At least Commissar Stevens couldn’t possibly have anything to complain about so far. It had been an easy thing to pounce on the light GU system pickets providing orbital fire support for GU ground troops. With mostly only light handfuls of combatants present, it had been easy to use not only Ulysses superior firepower but superior numbers to clear every system visited so far.

On the holodisplay, the Imperial scouting units that had by now broadly enveloped the GU Task Force spat a volley of recon drones. His sensor systems couldn’t pick up their covert launch, all indications of their activation and course were based off of their pre-programmed course only. His sensors should only pick them up if something went wrong with their stealth systems. Most were set to curve around the enemy to stay clear of his PD, tracking instead for the massive swirling ball of gas and energy at the enemies’ backs. A handful cut straight for the heart of the GU formation, attempting to gain firmer data on their numbers and dispositions than the long ranged scans of the scouts could get.

Every now and then, a brief contact blossomed near his units. They were enemy recon drones scouting his own formation, nailed by escorting Achilles or other ships either quicker off the draw or closer to the drones to begin with. The enemy likely had fairly firm readings on him by now thanks to their damnably effective stealthing systems, and with his self evident superiority it wouldn’t really matter all that much when the battle came. But Ulysses didn’t want to give any possible edge to the enemy if he could help it, hence the enemy drones continued to be vaped as soon as they were spotted.

The recon drones pierced Nephthys’ turbulent, energized atmosphere, spreading out into a standard search grid pattern. It was tighter than was optimal due to the intense sensor disrupting disturbances present, but there were enough individual probes to provide adequate scan coverage in spite of the planets distortion.

Deeper and deeper Ulysses’ probes went, seeking the enemy with their extensive sensors suites as the pressure on their shields grew with every extra meter from the surface. Like they were caught in a giant three dimensional vice, the drone’s shields weakened at an ever increasing rate. One, likely succumbing to a design flaw, lost its shields. In virtually the same instant, it crumpled like a deflating balloon as the massive pressure unleashed itself against the drone’s weak hull. The other reconnaissance platforms smoothly shifted their formation to cover the resulting gap, but an already small net got even smaller as a result. And then, as the recon probes were nearing the deepest into the atmosphere they were rated for, an angry rash of scarlet enemy icons flared on the holodisplay.

“There you are, you sneaky little buggers.” Ulysses said softly. The frown mostly left his face and he peered intently over his steepled fingers, trying to glean anything from the red hued flecks that represented the enemy. “Designate new enemy units Force Beta.” Ulysses ordered.

It wasn’t the individual set of icons that a more thoroughly scouted formation would be. It was more of a shifting, misshapen blob of crimson as the probes could only give very general information on their targets. Every once and a while a target would firm up enough to give a rough mass reading. By CIC’s best guess, there was at least another division of GU SD’s down there. The recon drones systems couldn’t provide more fine detail with passives only, their synthetic eyes were too distorted by the interference to hope to gain hard numbers on them, let alone firm readings on what class they were, and at any rate, Ulysses didn’t want to tip his hand that he knew about the ambush,.

Fortunately enough, the GU commander had made a mistake in setting up his little trap. It relied to much on Ulysses not spotting it before hand to ensure its success. If Ulysses approached the main enemy force through Nephthys’ turbulent upper atmosphere, he could peg the hidden one as he passed, allowing him to defeat the divided enemy forces in detail rather than being caught in a murderous crossfire. The plan also had the benefit of greatly increasing his force’s effective ECM while engaging Force Alpha, at least until he broke free of the atmosphere or they came into it after him.

“Orders for the Task Force, come to heading 042 mark 355 and prepare for slipstream micro-jump to the following coordinates.” Ulysses listed the desired alphanumeric sequence. “Then come about to heading 181 mark 190 and go to full impulse. I want saturation fire on Force Beta’s location as we pass, but keep your drives at full impulse. If we start to lallygag, they’ll be crawling up our buts by the time we reach Force Alpha thanks to their superior top speeds.” As Ulysses spoke, his steepled fingers slipped apart to order the holodisplay into tactical mode. The strategic representation grew, wrapping around his chair, making the Flag Bridge disappear behind a veil of stars. In front of him was the white and gold titan of Nephthys, seven of its moons clearly visible. Lethe cast a slightly blue light on the surroundings, the massive disc of the giant star a thumb sized orb at his back. The point of view shifted as his ships came to their new heading smoothly. Icons shifted as the enemy’s sensor returns hardened or faded. The world he had come to liberate was a distant flicker, distinguishable from the stellar backdrop only by the orange edged green ID bracket around it. “Engage micro-jump in three… two… one… execute.”

Having found the trap, Ulysses still felt uneasy though he couldn’t explain why. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion, he put his feelings aside and concentrated on the coming battle. The slipstream cores powered up, their bottled fury transmitting through the ships alloy bones as a rumbling hum. For a brief instant, a swirling blue void flashed on the viewscreen. Then it went back to the normal backdrop of star flecked ebon vastness.

While the Nebuchadnezzar Squadron wasn’t quite up to the snap the Valley Forge’s had been when it came to maneuvers, they were getting close. Ulysses could find no fault as the entire Taskforce flipped end for end while simultaneously swerving onto the preassigned heading change. Smaller ships pulled tight half loops, but thanks to their Borg inspired STL drive, the TF’s Wraiths were easily as quick as even the smallest Nova class escort and merely began accelerating down their desired heading as they gracefully swept their prows around. The course change completed, all ships executed simultaneous barrel rolls so that they were correctly oriented with System North, the arbitrarily assigned ‘up’ from Lethe’s planetary orbits. The final maneuver, while not necessary, simplified formation maneuvers by having everyone on the ‘same page’ and made minor mistakes in helm control much easier to correct should they crop up. This was especially true once the ships started their own evasion routines inside the formation, but with everyone oriented the same way, it made it a simple thing to keep your place.

Ulysses assembled ships plunged into the charged atmosphere of Nephthys, their high speed passage turning the already chaotic maelstrom into incandescent fury as atoms smashed themselves against the carefully reconfigured shields. Leaving kilometer long tails of flame in their wake as they punched deeper into Nephthys, Ulysses Wraiths swung about so they were flying sideways. Reaching out with their powerful tractor beams, the Neb and her sisters caught a Sovereign each. Once they felt the tug of the tractors, the Sovies cut their impulse drives and swung onto the same axial bearing as the Wraiths. From the otherwise sleek Imperial Battleships and Superdreadnoughts, unsightly tubular growths detached with a series of commands from their motherships. Basically retooled Type-X orbital weapons platforms, the new parasite weapons platforms as Clay Heidberg had coined them were designed to latch directly onto their motherships outer hull matrix via molecular bonding. With a seamless bond thanks to the molecule sized velcro like effect of the molecular bonding process, the PWPs rode into battle with their motherships to greatly enhance a forces offensive firepower.

But that massive boost to firepower came at a cost. When attached, the PWPs covered shield grid sections. This weakened a ships shield levels for every extra pod that was attached. Also, if they remained attached during battle, any hit that destroyed them would cause massive damage to the mothership thanks to the PWPs individual M/AM power plants and capacitor systems blowing up in contact with the mothership’s hull. Finally, for every extra PWP present on a starship, her top speed at FTL and impulse dropped by a noticeable amount. This was thanks to the fact that Type-X PWPs had to be near cruiser class in size to house the massive Phaser Lance system and its required potent power plant. Pushing that much extra weight around at high speed could get very dangerous for a ships structural integrity, even in vessels as tough as the Terran Empire’s Superdreadnoughts.

For all the drawbacks carrying PWPs, especially the massive Type-Xs, their increase in offensive firepower made it all worth it. Ulysses was able to double his heavy long range punch with them, and he used that edge mercilessly as his ships opened fire on Force Beta. The PWPs slipped outward, held steadily by their motherships tractors as Nephthys’ atmosphere turned to plasma around their cocooning shields.

The golden orange spears of 50 Imperial Phaser Lances stabbed outward, boiling away the tortured atmosphere in their path with contemptuous ease as they saturated Force Beta’s formation. Some, more likely most, of the terraton pillars of hellfire would miss any ships present deep in Nephthys’ atmosphere. But given Force Beta’s tight formation, and the number of Lances brought to bear, the first volley was bound to have a telling effect on the concealed ambush force. Nor was it left to the Lances alone, for all other weapons that could be brought to bear volleyed as well, seeding the gaps between the heavies with weaker but still substantial energies of destruction.

Enemy PPDs, plasma torpedoes and Phaser beams were flaring around Ulysses position by now, but it was even more ineffective than his own fire because his ships were maneuvering like dervishes rather than standing still. Must have hit them good, Ulysses thought, there’s only smattering of return fire coming from Force Beta. At least I’ve managed to slip inside the PPD envelope of whatever is left hiding down there and only have to worry about Force Alpha’s heavy hitters. With the PWPs and fore Lances recharging, Ulysses nodded in satisfaction as the Neb’s Captain, Erika Benteen, ordered the Wraiths to flip end for end even as they continued to fly sideways and hammered away at Force Beta’s position with every other weapons system. After flipping end for end, the Wraiths aft lances let loose. Fire from Force Beta’s position slackened noticeably, and the recon drones indicated that most of the targets had been hit, including internal explosions as weapons magazines and capacitors were hit. Debris and spikes of oxygen rich atmosphere were also detected, easily picked up as there were no competing sources of oxygen so deep into the gas giant.

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Terran Empre: Unity

Post by Akira » 2004-07-25 11:06pm

Chapter 46 – Battle on the Banks of the Lethe

Flag Bridge, ISS Nebuchadnezzar, Lethe Star System, Delta Quadrant

The seconds’ long flight through the turbulent, energized atmosphere of Nephthys was nearly over now. The attack on the enemy shrouded deep within her boiling embrace had gone off without a hitch, with the computers handling the rapid targeting and launch of weapons human reaction speeds couldn’t really compensate for. The computer could also have handled warship maneuvering, but the ingrained distrust of dominant machines that virtually every Imperial Citizen combined with a warriors desire to fight had made the helm officers decline to let the computer execute the maneuver. And it was a simple end for end switch about mid way through the passage anyhow, so nothing could really go wrong. The computer could handle the evasion routines while the helm officers would execute the combat maneuvers.

Nothing did. The maneuver was slick as one could ask for considering the warships were being manhandled while traveling at just over a quarter of the speed of light. The second, lesser volley of weapons fire from the formations rear arcs speared outwards to rain destruction and death down on the enemy. From as far as CIC’s best guess with the limited sensor data, Force Beta was combat ineffective, which left only the paltry in comparison Force Alpha to be dealt with. Punching out of Nepthys’ atmosphere like a blade of blue tinged orange fire and once again reentering the star flecked ebon void that ships of war called home, the vessels of the Nebuchadnezzar Battlegroup reoriented themselves once again to demand Force Alpha’s surrender at the tip of a lance.

Ulysses scanned the butcher’s bill out of the corner of his eye as he kept his attention largely focused on the remaining enemy. He had won yet another system back into the arms of a government he hated and despised, done it with only minimal casualties in exchange for what he’d caused the enemy in turn. The news services throughout the Empire would inflate his public image even further. Hero of the Empire! Ulysses had to hold himself back from spitting on the deck. The propaganda mills made it seem like he was winning the war single handedly, without the support of hundreds of thousands of military personnel and the millions of civilians who were working like men and women possessed to achieve what he needed them to. He was really nothing more than a killer if one cut away all the rhetoric. He had just competently and quickly consigned thousands of sentient beings to their death, for tough as escape pods were, they couldn’t hope to survive that devil spawn pit that was the lower atmosphere of a class S Ultragiant.

And for what? For fame? Certainly not, for though he may fight for the Empire’s civilians, they didn’t KNOW him. They merely knew what the propaganda TOLD them about him. For the Emperor? Emphatically not, for if the chance presented itself, Ulysses would end his existence without a second thought nor a troubled nights sleep.

No, the true reason Ulysses fought the Empire’s enemies was because of the men and women working around him now. Even more so than safeguarding civilians, Uly fought and now led his fellow warriors into battle for their sake. To give them an example of what a true officer should be, to endure the same risks as they did and fight along side them, to lead them through the valley in the shadow of death, that is why he sat in his chair and unflinchingly destroyed the enemy. They were his comrades in arms, and his battle tempered blade. It was his job to ensure that as many of them survived this war as possible so that they could instill in others the example he had set for them. Change them on a more basic level by showing them that they didn’t have to be worse than the barbarians they were concerned about.

If a follower of Spock couldn’t cause overt change, then the only logical thing to do was cause covert change. It may not be as fast, but that didn’t make it any less substantial. Just look at a glacier, moving mere inches in a year, yet capable of drastically altering the surface of a world.

Perhaps that was what had been bothering him this entire engagement, his own concern about being worthy of orchestrating such a change. Was it niggling self doubt that was causing him to second guess himself? Ulysses shook himself. Analyze later, there’s still a battle to be won, he thought. His darker half growled its agreement, thirsting for greater bloodlettings to sate its appetite however momentarily. Ulysses ignored it and breathed in to order a com channel to Force Alpha.

ISCV Superdreadnought Path of the True, Lethe system, that same time

Junior Fleet Marshal Grot watched the steadily advancing crimson blob of fading and brightening light beads that was the enemy task force on his holodisplay. It was obvious from their maneuver that they had bought the bait. A competent enemy could have smelled his trap a mile away, and Ulysses Vanguard was anything but incompetent. So what better way to mask the actual trap than with a more obvious one that was really a ruse? The enemy had done everything by the numbers, eliminating the superior threat and then continuing to advance to defeat the dispersed enemy in detail. It was primarily how Ulysses had won First Prescott’s Star in spite of the odds against him. It would be something he would be looking for in his enemy for this battle. Grot saw no reason not to oblige him when inspiration struck for this battle.

With luck, a stumbling block in the Galactic Unity’s road towards peaceful coexistence would be removed this day. Without it, the short lived counteroffensive of Ulysses’ 2000th Fleet would be at an end. Either way, things were about to get very messy for the hard charging, young Imperial officer in command of the enemy force on Grot’s holodisplay. And considering the drubbing Ulysses had given the previous GU officers and crews sent out against him, as far as Grot was concerned (to borrow a useful Human expression) he couldn’t care less on the subject. Revenge wasn’t proper for a flag officer in the ISC Peaceforces to feel, but feel it he did. His telepathic crewmen picked up on it through the complex, multileveled interplay that always existed between open ESPers, but his non telepathic crewmen also picked it up via his perch on his chair. He was sitting on its edge, leaning forward, calm and collected but with a predatory gleam in his black eyes that said one Ulysses S. Vanguard would be made to pay for baring the road to peace.

The cost of the op so far had smarted, for even with barely functional wrecks and minimal crews, the Peaceforce vessels used as bait in the planet had been exactly that, bait. While the GU had the numbers to be so callous with their assets and though all crews on the ships were volunteers, their loss to the cause of peace and justice was painful none the less. They were just one more reason why the Terran Empire must fall, for it forced peace loving peoples of the galaxy to make such choices and take such actions.

“Execute the plan as ordered.” Grot’s slightly nasally voice echoed on the largely silent flag bridge of his new flagship, sending his crews into instant activity.

ISS Nebuchadnezzar, that same time

Ulysses slow intake of breath became a pinched hiss and his hazel eye narrowed as the plethora of asteroids and moonlets that had been captured by Nepthys swirled out of their customary orbits. For a seconds long eternity, Uly was paralyzed as he realized the scope of the trap. Nepthys no longer HAD any captured asteroids and moonlets, for they had all been replaced by enemy warships using deception EW. A small part of Uly’s brain had to admit that it was a very well executed trap even as the rest of him snapped into action thanks to years of experience and training. His hand snapped to the emergency fleet-wide broadcast button on his right console.


Whump-CRUNCH! The substantial mass of the ship lurched as the first FTL plasma wave caught her prow and washed across her shields. Nearly immediately, the Neb’s helmswoman began to throw the warship into emergency evasion maneuvers, bouncing the ship around inside her maneuvering bubble like it was a spooked horse. Not that it helped much, for a virtual tidal bore of recon drones were flooding into TF 2000.3’s formation mere seconds behind the onrushing PPDs. With all ships currently more worried about immediate survival than plugging the drones, the enemy had a far simpler time punching the stealthy sensor platforms in close enough to get accurate fixes on his ships.

One of the Achilles class escorts, the Angra Mainya, shifted from dancing every bit as much as the Neb to stand and fight. Bearing her fangs and talons in defiance of the ship-killing weapons bearing down on the Task Force’s position, her PPCs and Phalanx batteries opened. They sent a blizzard of light sleeting outwards, reaching for the closest drones even as the valiant warship slammed her engines to the firewall to gain the range on the incoming swarm. Seconds later, she was joined by virtually every other of the 29 Achilles in the Task Force’s screen. The ISS Angra Mainya along with her squadron mates and their crews performed their duty to the end, flaying the enemy drones with close in weapons fire and burning them from the sky.

Their sacrifice was both the cause of their own demise as well as the reason why as much of TF 2000.3 escaped the trap that did. Sensor systems in the GU force detected the spikes of their fire control and targeting priorities were reorganized on the fly to take out the threat to the fragile remote sensor platforms. Stealthed weapons platforms, seeded throughout local Nepthys space and held in reserve for their eventual need, were activated. Registering as nothing more than golf ball sized micro meteorites while they stayed under the cloaking blanket of their EW, the GU weapons platforms spat PPDs directly into the faces of the onrushing Achilles'. The Imperial Destroyers were no match for firepower that could crumple a Superdreadnought’s shields. They disappeared in star bright boils as superluminal packets of plasma seared them from the face of the galaxy leaving nothing but a smattering of atomized debris and expanding clouds of energetic subatomic particles behind.

Whump CRUNCH! The ship trembled down to her metallic bones as another hammer blow slammed into the shields as they tried desperately to regenerate themselves. A second Whump CRUNCH slammed into the rapidly dwindling shields split seconds later as another enemy combatant found her quarry with the PPD carrier beam.

“… CEED TO POINT EMBER ASAP!” Ulysses shouted. Point Ember was the preplanned rendezvous point should something go terribly wrong with the assault. Even as Ulysses’ voice finished the order, the Nebuchadnezzar's Combat Information Center was feeding fresh data on the firming up enemy contacts onto his holodisplay. Tentatively, the new ships looked like two squadrons of SDs plus a heavy escort of BBs and BCs with their attached screening elements. But this was very preliminary, and relied almost exclusively on degraded sensor hits from long range. Considering the volume of questing PPDs sleeting through his formation, Ulysses was inclined to agree with CIC’s estimate.

Whump CRUNCH! Whump CRUNCH! Whump CRUNCH! A third PPD had a bearing on the Nebuchadnezzar now. Captain Erika Benteen was desperately trying to stave off what was coming with the inevitability of the incoming tide. The enveloping effect was draining 5 shields rather than just one with each successful hit. Although emergency reinforcement blunted the primary axis of attack, it simultaneously drew available energy away from the other shield arcs. With an enveloping weapon like the PPD, that was very bad news in a firefight, as though your primary shield might hold, the warp around would inevitably seep through the weaker side shields to hit the hull. Ulysses engineering readout showed that the slipstream cores were spooling up to initiate the jump to slipstream, but the scant seconds that took were ticking by like hours as the Neb continued to be hit again and again. Some of the enemy were now close enough to engage the TF’s dispersing ships with their secondary weapons, and the deadly cones of phaser beams began to sweep through warships already fending off heavy PPD assault.

All enemy vessels were cycling their PPDs as fast as they could, slamming his ships with heavy enough fire to have a telling effect in spite of Uly’s ships maneuvers and EW efforts. His order to shatter formation was obeyed nearly immediately. The warships of TF flew apart in a chaotic, seemingly random starburst that was actually precisely coordinated to prevent collisions between ships and open up avenues of escape for the entire formation as rapidly as possible. Shoals of EW drones set to mimic their motherships spewed from their launchers to confuse the enemy as much as possible, but with the edge the GU had in electronics warfare, their true effectiveness, especially with the recon drones now probing his remaining units, was bound to be severely blunted.

The units of his command began to die under the assault. First to go were the fleeter but lighter ships. They were harder to hit to begin with, but once an enemy locked them up they were dead to the concentrated fire of even secondary weapons. Then the Neb's squadron mate, the Arawn staggered out of her evasion routine, a large section of her engineering section molten wreckage bleeding fire and shattered debris. Slowly tumbling on his holodisplay, her STL drive dead and power failing, the Arawn continued to coast along her last trajectory at close to half the speed of light. A handful of escape pods erupted from her stricken form, only to be backlit as one or possibly more than one of her QSS cores unleashed their barely constrained energies and consumed the once proud Imperial Ship of the Line.

At virtually the same time the SDs Pylkie and Ekibiogami had scythes of highly energetic plasma slam into their hulls as the last vestiges of their shields failed. Like blood in an ocean filled with hungry sharks, the damage brought a fullisade of standard phasers and plasma torpedoes. Pylkie died the most spectacularly, her back breaking and the ship literally splitting into two rough halves just as she jumped to slipstream. The resulting debris field stretched for nearly 30 light minutes along her planed flight path. The Ekibiogami merely stalled and went dark as her QSS cores went into emergency shutdown. Great glowing debris and explosion spewing rents carved deep into her sleek form with most of her portside primary hull and nacelles cleaved away by a glancing PPD hit that punched through her exhausted shields like so much tissue paper.

Whump CRUNCH! WhumWhump CRUNCRUNCH! Ulysses felt the ship lurch sideways and saw his holodisplay flicker briefly even as the familiar wave of subtle nausea swept over him. The star flecked battlefield of his holodisplay elongated for a brief instant and then was replaced by the swirling aqua void of slipstream space. Long ranged sensors detected seven other Imperial signatures vectoring in on Point Ember. As the seconds ticked by, they were joined by another two. No others appeared. Not one more ship out of the nearly 100 that had entered the battle at his side. Ulysses face was a mask of un-emotion, but his hands were balled into white knuckled fists on the arm rests of his chair.

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Post by HappyTarget » 2004-12-22 11:37pm

Chapter 47 – Hail the Conquering Hero

ISS Nebuchadnezzar

The ragged, bloody elements of what had once been an Imperial Task Force coalesced around the lone ship of the line to escape the Lethe star system as Point Ember drew ever closer. The Nebuchadnezzar had developed a distinct shudder that was growing steadily worse. Which was only to be expected considering close to ¼ of her forward primary hull was a crumpled, molten mass of white hot alloy and ceramic with rivulets of seared and melted hull trailing aft where the plasma had washed over her naked armor. Her port dorsal nacelle pylon had sheared off to a drive plasma bleeding melted stump, with the port ventral nacelle pylon severely compromised and being held in place by little more than the combined will and prayers of the Neb’s crew.

The creaks, pops and groans of stressed alloy could be heard and felt throughout the warship as her structural integrity field fought a loosing battle against the ships substantial battle damage. Flying on little more than a wing and a prayer, the port ventral nacelle kept trying to break itself free from the Neb. Ulysses considered ordering the fleet to drop to sublight and continue on under emergency warp power, but that would increase the trip’s length from just over twenty minutes to three days at high warp. With Damage Control teams barely holding their heads above water as it was, the increase in transit time was an unacceptable risk. Especially with over a fifth of her crew dead or MIA and a further 1/3 wounded. Ulysses winced mentally as his mind coldly went over the casualty list for the hundredth time, twisting the dagger in his heart. TEN ships out of 100. ONLY ten bloody ships! 90 of HIS ships lost because of his mistake, taking Gods knows how many of their crew with them to the void.

Prescott’s Star had already been informed of what had transpired. Rear Admiral Cadence Ulinova (senior officer in command of the post in Ulysses absence) had begun to command an escort to link up with the shattered remnants of the Imperial Task Force, but Ulysses had countermanded her at once. He didn’t want to risk further weakening the Prescott’s Star’s Fleet element on the off chance that the Galactic Unity would choose this moment to engage in an assault. Depleted as his units currently were, it would be when HE would choose to strike at the enemy.

Long ranged enemy recon flights had been sniffing around Prescott’s Star virtually since the end of the last battle. While Ulysses was certain they couldn’t pierce the distortion his EW teams were putting up at the range the enemy was forced to stay at, he was also not willing to risk the chance that the enemy COULD see through the jamming.

So Ulysses stewed on the Flag Bridge of the Nebuchadnezzar while the ship threatened to shake herself apart around him. On the holodisplay, the damaged units of his detached command flew along side the battered flagship. A Soulwolf had speared a more heavily damaged sister ship with a tractor beam, pulling it along to their destination in spite of her own QSS engines failing condition.

A com window blossomed on the holodisplay and the faintly frowning face of Erika Benteen stared back at him.

“Admiral, my chief engineer tells me that the ship could fly apart at any moment.” The young officer inhaled, using the brief respite the action generated to gather her courage. “Sir, I respectfully suggest that you transfer your flag to one of the less heavily damaged vessels.”

“Understood Captain, but I will not transfer my flag.” The Imperial officer in the com window started to protest but stopped when she saw his upraised hand. “The Nebuchadnezzar served with distinction during the battle and has held together so far. I’m not about to leave when we’re so close to home. I thank you for your concern over my safety, but I will not leave until we are safely back at Prescott’s Star.”

“Very well Admiral, the decision is yours and I thank you for the vote of confidence in my ship and her crew.” Where some would have held him accountable for the grievous losses the Task Force, Captain Benteen had been in enough combat to know that even the best tacticians and strategists sometimes got bit on the ass. She could see on Ulysses face that he was haunted every bit as much as she by the losses incurred in the scant seconds the enemy ambush had held them in its fiery grasp.

Psych evaluations and tests could only prepare one so much for the dragging weight combat losses placed on a commander’s soul. Her first large scale command had been Squadron CO for a Destroyer screen during the latter half of the Imperial/Borg War, and after loosing nearly all of them during a single battle, she knew full well what was presently running through Ulysses’ mind. The second guessing, the searching for missed clues, the self doubt, he seemed to be handling it as well as can be expected. But she could see it in his eyes, hiding behind the mask of non-emotion that shrouded his face, the pain the loss was causing him.

In that moment she understood why so many were willing to follow him through the valley in the shadow of death, why Ulysses was known with fondness as The Skipper. He wasn’t just a leader, he LEAD. He was one of the good ones, those all too few commanders who saw those they ordered as more than mere numbers. Erika had been around the block enough to know the difference, for many flag officers saw those under them as assets to be exploited in the bloody arithmetic of combat in order to cause the greatest amounts of enemy casualties in the achievement of your objectives. But not this one.

Ulysses nodded in reply to her acquiescence. “Carry on Captain.” He said as he cut the channel.

The intervening minutes stretched on for a seeming eternity, but the Neb held together, seeming to almost sigh in thanks as she reverted to normal space just at the edge of Prescott’s Star’s defensive perimeter. A Superdreadnought Battlegroup’s worth of escorts with a swarm of tugs and fleet train mobile repair slips awaited them. The shattered bulk of the ISS Nebuchadnezzar shuddered slightly as the powerful tractors of the tugs latched on and slipped her into the comforting nest of a waiting mobile repair slip. Repairs began at once, even as the massive cage like vessel came about and began lumbering back in-system at full impulse. No one would ever call the gangly, fragile MRS vessels beautiful, but they were certainly a sight for sore eyes for any crew of a warship that had taken combat damage in the field. Having gotten his people home, Uly sank back in his chair and closed his eyes. The faces of those who had so recently died under his orders swam before him. To many faces…far to many…

- - -

Commissar Stevens looked over her charge from her vantage point along the far wall of the Flag Bridge. With the holodisplay off, she had an unobstructed view of Admiral Vanguard. She gave herself a mental kick for forgetting, just for a moment, that in spite of the young officer’s tactical brilliance, he had been only a mere third officer of a fleet support vessel scant months before. While she could find no fault in his performance as leader of the Imperial forces for Sector 2000, he lacked the weight of experience that one acquired by moving up the chain of command more conventionally.

One gained the tools to deal with the loss of comrades in arms that were under your command gradually. Ulysses was getting the advanced course after only taking a few entry level classes, and it was certain to be weighing heavily on him. Jessica made a mental note to keep a closer eye on him, for as much as she had come to grudgingly admire him and his abilities, he was T’var’s protégé and thus deserved more in depth scrutiny than your average Imperial Officer.

While she may respect him, he could well prove an enemy of the Empire. And there is no doubt as to my duty where that ever to happen she thought, fingering the comforting shape of the back of her type II phaser’s pistol grip. No, there was no doubt at all.

ISS Valley Forge, 20 minutes later

Ulysses sat behind his desk deep in the bowels of his ship. She was still undergoing repairs, but they yard dogs said she’d be back in fighting trim within two days. Technically she was combat ready now, but there were still some harmonic vibrations in her new QSS nacelles that could prove a problem down the road. Not wanting to take any chances, he, P’tel and the repair slip foreman had all agreed it needed to be fixed before the Forge returned to active duty.

Suddenly, deep space fireworks began going off near the Forge’s repair slip. The fake window built into the bulkhead of his working office showed the beautiful, silent burst of sparkling primary colors far better than any standard window could. Uly’s silent revere was broken by the strobe of light that was soon accompanied by a multitude of others, exploding in complex patterns with rainbow colors rippling across the explosions in carefully timed sequence to be considered pleasing to the human eye. Scowling at the celebratory light show, Ulysses tried to figure out who could possibly think of celebrating at a time like this as he left his high backed chair and paced over to the fake window. The cacophony of vibrant colored explosions rose to a crescendo, with hundreds of silver and red hued fireworks going off as one resulting in an impressively done flag of the Terran Empire.

Striding back over to his desk to activate the communication system, his scowl deepening to shadow the darkening of his already stormy mood, Ulysses was surprised anew when it chirped for attention before he got there. Depressing the call admittance button on the smooth control panel, the young Admiral forced his voice to civility in spite of the feelings boiling within him.

“Vanguard here.”

“Admiral, we have a priority com from Lilith. It’s Prime Minister Allonzo.”

Ulysses ground his teeth together. Of all the people to be pestering him now it would have to be him. A bigger boot licker and ass kisser he had never met, but Carl Allonzo’s political capabilities outshone both of them. Which wasn’t a good thing. While politics might be a worthy job choice for those virtuous and seeking public service, those that embraced the role of “Politician” as easily as Carl had made could also make very good livings selling used aircars. In the recent elections on Lilith, Carl had woven a masterful display of propaganda and mud slinging that would have done a Bu Truth lackey proud.

How the people of Lilith had been convinced by this snake oil salesman to elect him as their direct spokesman to the Terran Empire’s ruling body for the sector was beyond Uly. Course it was the first large-scale democratic election held within the Empire for such a position in centuries, so one might expect the voting public to be a bit rusty on weeding out the bad eggs. Not that it made dealing with such an unsavory character any less distasteful. To Ulysses, Carl Allonzo was everything a public servant shouldn’t be, seeking only to gain power over others with no thoughts as to how to best wield that power in service OF them.

Taking a deep breath to try and calm himself while his non-synthetic hand raised itself to knead the bridge of his nose, Uly spoke.

“Put it through Lt. Cmdr. Wendell. I’ll take it here.”

“Aye sir.”

The large multipurpose display that was mounted on the wall behind his desk switched over from a master systems display repeater to show the silver sword and Terra emblem of the Empire with a crimson stand by flashing beneath it. Seconds later, the smiling, cherubic features of PM Allonzo popped up on the viewer. The smile was as fake as any Ulysses had seen, and it certainly never reached the man’s eyes.

“Admiral Vanguard, on behalf of the entire sector I extend our warmest congratulations upon the liberation of many systems, the destruction of the enemy menacing them and successful return of your ships.”

Ulysses could only cock an eyebrow in very Vulcan fashion at that. The stupid bootlicker is so eager to butter me up, he doesn’t realize just how precarious our position in this sector is right now. I just barely survived walking right into a well laid ambush that bought my formation 90% casualties (Uly winced as he thought anew about the toll in sentient beings that meant) in units I NEED to defend this sector and he’s hailing me like some damned conquering hero, Uly thought. The PM continued, not noticing the surprise and growing anger Ulysses was careful to mask.

“I’ve already declared today to be a sector wide day of celebration on behalf of your great victories over the enemies of the Empire! I wish to come aboard your flagship to discuss further plans we can implement to glorify your triumph today.”

“Very well Prime Minister, you may come aboard. I am free now as a matter of fact if that is convenient for you.” Much as Ulysses might loath the man personally, he was determined to set precedent where the position was concerned. Like him or not, he was the duly appointed peoples representative. And since Uly was the acting Sector Governor, that meant that if Uly wanted the position to actually mean something when he was inevitably replaced, he had to at least try and work with the PM.

“It certainly is Admiral, I shall transport up directly.”

“Very good, Vanguard out.”
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