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The Empire scouts out the Federation

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By: xris@iafrica.com (Michael January)


[FANFIC] The Empire scouts out the Federation LONG




PROCLAIMER: The Star Trek galaxy is the property of Paramount, while


The Star Wars galaxy is the property of Lucasfilm Ltd. (They have


enough bucks to buy galaxies? Sheesh!) I am merely borrowing the


Characters and tech to use in this Fanfic, this is in no way intended


as a challenge of the afore-mentioned parties copyright (only of their


creativity) and I receive no financial gain from this Fanfic (more is


the pity - send me 10 buck if you like the story anyway).
















The Imperial fleet was orbiting a small nondescript little


planet on the outer edge of a star system close to the core of the


galaxy. They were not of this galaxy, but had only recently arrived


after a 15 month journey through Hyperspace. They had been sent to


scout for possible rebel manufacturing facilities in neighbouring


galaxies, but their mission had been fruitless thus far. Eight sensor-


stealthed Lancer frigates had been scouting this galaxy for three


months, while the main fleet had overseen the construction of a


floating manufacturing platform in the lower levels of a gaseous giant


planet in the local star system. The four huge freighters, which had


carried the dis-assembled facility were now languishing in orbit


awaiting further orders, their function fulfilled. The multi-purpose


mining and manufacturing facility had been in operation for six weeks


now, and the fleet was fully stocked, with a growing supply of raw


materials being collected in orbit around the gas giant. The Star


Destroyers were just waiting for the return of the last of the






Captain Janus glanced through the reports again. No trace of


rebel activity had been found, which didn't surprise him, not that the


rebels would have been advertising their presence, but a manufacturing


facility fifteen months away from any communications channels didn't


make sense, not even for the rebels. Janus also didn't believe that


the rebels needed to use another galaxy as a base of operations. Force


knows how many governments were quite prepared to pay lip service to


the Empire and slip a few credits to the rebels behind the Emperor's


back. What did intrigue him were traces of star-faring civilizations


in this galaxy.




The scout reports showed that there were various star-faring


civilizations, although none controlled any significant portion of


this galaxy. Also, these civilizations were all concentrated in small


pockets, indicating that didn't have trans-galactic or inter-galactic


capable drive systems, except possibly for 1 civilization. Janus was


loathe to submit an incomplete report to the Emperor, and knew he had


better get more information on this civilization.




The particular civilization he was interested in had been


detected by three separate scouts in totally different parts of the


galaxy. There was one report detailing a colonized sphere about 150


light years across close to the rim of the galaxy, and a second report


about intermittent activity in a distant quadrant, with signals


matching the signature of this civilization. A third scout had


detected drive and communications traces of a single vessel in yet


another quadrant of the galaxy, which matched the same signature.




Janus considered his options. Direct observation was dangerous


with the limited knowledge he had of this civilization. The


intermittent activity in the second quadrant indicated signs of an


interstellar war being waged, a bit dangerous to get close to that


punch-up without more data. The third option however, a single vessel,


possibly of the same civilization. Now that looked intriguing.




A message flashed across his status screen. The last of the


Frigates had arrived. Three supply shuttles were quickly dispatched to


restock the Frigate while Janus dispatched his orders. One of the two


VSD's would stay behind to guard the manufacturing depot - their only


supply point in this galaxy - despite there not being a star-faring


civilization within 2000 light years.




Two of the six dreadnaughts in his fleet would also stay


behind. His own Imperial Star Destroyer, the second Victory Star


Destroyer, four dreadnaughts and all the Lancers would stick together.


They would observe the single vessel for a few days to gather


information, then proceed to the second quadrant where the


intermittent battles were taking place to observe this civilizations


battle tactics. That would be sufficient for their report. It was


unlikely that they would enter the space controlled by this


civilization, that would be way too risky.




A signal came in denoting that the fleet was ready to jump.


Janus acknowledged the signal, and the fleet jumped. A five-day


journey brought them to within 30 light years of the last reported


position of the alien vessel, and ahead of its flight path.




Janus didn't bother ordering a sensor scan. His staff knew


what they were doing.




"Mobile spatial distortion detected. On tactical display


now!" A tech reported.




Janus stepped forward, and glanced at the hologram. The scale


was set to a 10ly cube. The ship was 4 light years ahead of its


expected position, but within the envelope of error expected.




"Jump to this position!" Janus ordered, indicating a point in


the sphere.


Seconds later: "Fleet acknowledges."








The second jump brought them to a point 6 light years ahead of


the mobile spatial distortion. It was outside sensor range, and at


least half a day's journey for the vessel causing the distortion.




"Designate enemy vessel Alpha-1. Orders for Lancer Frigates


/Sword/ and /Dagger/; /Sword/ to use sensor-stealth mode and to place


itself in a stationery position on the enemy's forward starboard


quarter. /Dagger/ will not use sensor-stealthing and it will assume


position in the forward port quarter of the enemy. Execute!" Nobody


questioned the designation of the alien vessel as an enemy. It was not


an Imperial vessel, so therefore it was the enemy. That was the way of






The two Lancers flickered into hyperspace, and seconds later


reported that they were in position. Now Janus settled back to wait.


Which frigate would the vessel detect first, and at what range, and


how would it react? These would all be answered shortly. The


interrogation had begun.




"/Dagger/ reporting! Spatial distortion field detected at


312Au. Alpha-1 disengaged spatial distortion field at a range of


235Au. We have him on our sensors at a range of 235Au, Alpha-1


maintaining position. No detectable communications signals." [Author's


Note :The Empire uses au to measure planetary orbits, with 1au the


ideal distance for galactic standard planets to be from a galactic


standard yellow star.]




"/Sword/ reporting! Spatial distortion field detected at range


of 371Au. The field disappeared from our sensors at a range of 290Au.


Alpha-1 outside current sensor range."




Janus: "/Sword/, relay all communications between the


/Annihilator/ and /Dagger/. At no time must /Dagger/ communicate


directly with any vessel in the main fleet!"








"To /Dagger/, relay all sensor data via /Sword/."








Janus nodded in satisfaction. Even if the alien vessel


detected the communications from /Dagger/, it would probably trace it


in the direction of /Sword/, not his fleet.




"/Dagger/ reporting! Alpha-1 closing at 5Au per second! ETA 47






"Hold position." Janus ordered. He noticed the tension amongst


his bridge crew. This did not concern him, except as far as their


duties were concerned, and a certain amount of tension was good.




"/Dagger/ reporting! Alpha-1 disengaged distortion field at


range of 5Au! Now approaching at 0.25c. ETA 1 hour and 43 minutes."




"Prepare a jump to /Sword/'s position, but do NOT execute.


Hold position." Janus ordered.

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About an hour went by. Janus had no doubt that the alien


vessel was examining /Dagger/ as closely as /Dagger/ itself was


examining it. Janus settled back in his command chair, and closing his


eyes, listened to the incoming reports as called out by his bridge




Alpha-1 stopped its approach at a range of half an au, only


about 450 million kilometers from the Lancer frigate. Janus had little


doubt that the Lancer crew were feeling the tension more than anyone


else, but hardly a trace of this could be deduced from their reports.


He felt a slight touch of pride in the professionalism of his men, no


doubt that it originated in the strict Imperial discipline imposed.




The aliens were trying to establish communication. So they


were either cautious or peaceful. A communications droid onboard the


Lancer soon interpreted the strange signal encryption being used, no


doubt finding the previous recordings from the other scouts useful.




Janus ordered the frigate to ignore the communication


attempts. Alpha-1 closed the gap to the /Dagger/ to a mere 10 000


kilometers. Janus ordered them to hold position despite the protests


of the frigates commanding officer, not that he had dared protest


loudly, but even a mild protest was still a protest. Janus considered


bringing him up on charges of insubordination, but decided to let it






"They have identified themselves as the Federation Starship


/Voyager/, and are asking if the /Dagger/ needs assistance!" exclaimed


a bemused tech on listening to the translation of Alpha-1's broadcast.




"They're opening fire!" shouted another tech.




"NO!" shouted another. "They've discharged a plasma cloud, and


are projecting a hologram on it." He explained.




"Holograms?" An officer asked.




Janus barely restrained his mirth at the aliens tactics, his


officer turned red as he realized that the aliens were projecting


basic images onto the plasma cloud in an ongoing attempt to establish


communication with the frigate.




"They're obviously peaceful." stated the officer, "overtures


of help, and such persistence in trying to talk to us!"




"/Dagger/ reporting!" with a marked sense of urgency this


time, "they are attempting to lock some sort of targeting device onto


us, but our shields seem to be frustrating them!"




"Lower shields!" Janus ordered.
















"NOW!" Janus barked again. Tense seconds passed by.




"Sensors indicate alien has target lock INSIDE our bridge,


repeat INSIDE our bridge. Routing bridge-cam into communication






The tactical display in front of Janus dissolved and a scene


appeared. It was the bridge of the Lancer, as seen through the


frigates internal holo-cams. Three glowing spheres of energy briefly


appeared, then coalesced into humanoid shape. Seconds later the energy


dissipated, leaving three humans standing there. 'Matter


transporters', Janus thought, 'and able to transport animated flesh,


not just atomic structures. Impressive.'




The old Republic researchers had given up on ever being able


to transport a live human or animal, although they were quite capable


of transmitting inanimate matter. 'Well', Janus amended, 'they had


transported live humans and animals, but the results had never been


pretty!' It was reassuring to know that shields could block the matter


transmissions. What a weapon if he could take this back to the Empire!




The human female stepped forward. Apparently she was the


commander of the group. Before she could say anything, Janus ordered


"/Dagger/, raise shields, take them prisoner, jump immediately to


/Sword/'s position."




To the credit of the /Dagger/'s commander, he followed these


orders with alacrity. This was much closer in line with his training,


and he understood implicitly. The Jump took only a fraction of a


second, the distance to the /Sword/ being only a few hundred Au.




"/Sword/ reporting. /Dagger/ has arrived with the prisoners.


The /Voyager/ is conducting a sensor scan of the area."




"Prepare a jump to the following co-ordinates," Janus ordered,


indicating a position to the navigational officer for transmission to


the /Sword/, "but hold position for now!"




"Yes sir!" came the answer very quickly. The /Dagger/ episode


had raised his crews faith in him markedly, Janus noted. He didn't


care much for faith, as long as they followed orders.




"/Sword/ reporting. /Voyager/ must have detected us. Our


sensors indicate they are doing a sensor focus on our co-ordinates.


They are still holding position. Wait. /Voyager/ has engaged their


spatial distortion drive. The spatial distortion effect is twice as


powerful as before, and they are traveling 8 times faster than their


previous track. ETA in 3 hours and 4 minutes."




Janus considered this. If this was their maximum speed, it was


a mere 0.8 light years per hour, compared to hyperdrives potential of


127ly per hour. At this speed they would take about 10 years to reach


the so-called Federation's sphere of influence. At their previous


speed, it would have taken them 80 years. Janus doubted that they were


that patient or that long-lived that 80 years was inconsequential to


them. Therefore they must be traveling slowly due to fuel


consideration or because their ship couldn't sustain the higher speed


for long. He noted that as a possible bargaining chip.




"/Sword/," Janus transmitted, "are you still sensor-






"Yes sir!"




"Very well, hold your position, and order /Dagger/ back to the


main fleet!"




"Yes sir!"




Seconds later, "/Sword/ reporting! /Dagger/ has jumped, ETA


your position in fifteen seconds. The enemy vessel has disengaged


their distortion field drive. They appear not to be aware of this


vessel as yet."




"Very well. Maintain surveillance of the /Voyager/ at maximum


sensor range. Do not give away your presence."




"Yes sir!"




If Janus noticed any relief in the last acknowledgement he


gave no indication.

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To his first officer, Janus ordered, "Have /Dagger/


send the prisoners here as soon as they arrive. Bring the woman to me,


and place the others in the brig."




"Yes sir!"




It wasn't long before a squad of four stormtroopers escorted


the woman and a communications droid onto the bridge of the


/Annihilator/. The droid approached Janus.




"Admiral Janus! The compliments of lieutenant Needa, This is


the Captain Janeway of the /Voyager/." The droid held out an appendage


with three little devices on it. "The prisoners were wearing these


earpieces, which they referred to as Universal Translators, lieutenant


Needa thought you might be interested in examining them. They appear


not to be a weapon of any sort, and apparently operate by analyzing


voice patterns in conjunction with brainwaves and physical movements,


which can then be projected directly to the communication centers of


another persons brain. They were also carrying hand weapons which were






Janus took two of the devices, "Shut up." He said to the


droid, which it did. Janus didn't care much for verbose machines. He


turned the devices over in his hand. He inspected the woman closer.


She had a blaster burn on her side. It looked like she had been hit by


a stun weapon. Mere minutes had passed since the /Dagger/ incident, so


she must have been revived by a medical droid for this meeting. There


was a defiant expression on her face, and she showed no other signs of


wear. 'Good officer material', Janus noted.




He handed one of the devices to the woman, and watched her


place it behind her left ear. He placed the second unit behind his


right ear. The woman started speaking almost immediately, and to Janus


surprise, even though she was talking absolute gibberish, he


understood what she was saying immediately, as if she was speaking


clear galactic.




"Explain your actions! What right have you to take me and my


crew prisoner?" She demanded.




"You were not invited onboard our vessel, you transported over


without permission, trespassing, we call it." Janus calmly explained.




"Bantha dung!" Janus heard, although he doubted that's what


she said, "your vessel lowered it's shields the moment our


transporters locked onto it."




"Transporters? Lock? I don't know what you mean. They merely


lowered their shields as a sign of peace. My lieutenant reports to me


that you just appeared on his bridge, carrying weapons. His men did


the only thing they could under the circumstance. A misunderstanding,


I'm sure." Janus smiled.




"Let me introduce myself. My name is Janus, and I am the


Admiral of this fleet, as well as the commander of this vessel."




"Captain Janeway, of the Federation Starship /Voyager/." She


said icily.




"So I understood." Janus smiled.




"So you received our communications, and understood what we






"Yes, but unfortunately couldn't duplicate your strange


signal, and therefore didn't know how to reply." Janus responded






"My officers?" she enquired.




"Receiving medical attention, I'm afraid to say. My men were a


bit overzealous." Janus apologized.




"Now, down to business," Janus said, sitting in his command


chair, "Why have you entered Imperial space, what is your business






"Imperial space?" Janeway frowned. "I am afraid that I am at a


disadvantage. We did not realize that this part of the galaxy had been


settled by anyone. We are merely passing through."




"Unlikely, because at the speed your vessel was traveling, you


would have taken many years to cross the Galactic Empire. So passing


through does not explain your actions. You are here to spy on our






"Spy? How could we spy on what we didn't know existed?"




"So you say? Where are you coming from? What is this


Federation you speak of?" Janus asked.




"I refuse to answer any further questions under these


conditions. Am I being kept prisoner or am I free to return to my


vessel?" Janeway glared at Janus.




"It is not as easy as that, the Emperor would not look kindly


on me if I did not deal with this situation decisively. He does not


brook invasion by anybody, and he is not a, how shall I put it? A


forgiving man? You have exactly two options. Surrender your vessel and


be tried under our laws, or retreat beyond our borders. Your vessel is


62 light years inside our outermost border, we have determined that


your vessel can cover that in 3 days."




"In 3 days!" Janeway exclaimed, "That would require maximum


warp. Three days at maximum warp will exhaust our limited fuel supply.


We did not invade your space, we are not spying on you. Our intentions


are peaceful. We were hoping to trade for minerals and fuel, and


continue our journey. I insist you return to me to my vessel NOW."




Janus appeared to consider this. He indicated to one of his


bridge officers who handed him a Padd which he pretended to study. He


typed something, considered the results and turned back to Janeway. "I


can offer you a third option. Surrender your vessel to one of my


technical crews to make the necessary modifications, and we will tow


you to a point outside our borders. My orders are not specific about


which border, so it is within my power to transport you to our borders


on the far side of the Empire, about 30,000 light years in the


direction you were traveling. Our records indicate that the Federation


you speak of may be consistent with a civilization we have detected


62,000 light years away along the projected course of your vessel. If


it is your desire, and my orders aren't changed, I could arrange for


you and your vessel to be transported directly there. Do you accept my






Janeway's eyes widened noticeably. She opened her mouth to say


something, hesitated, then "I ... that is ... we, my officers and I,


will have to discuss that. Return us to our ship so that we may


consider your proposal."




"Very well. I don't have too much time though, so I will need


an answer quickly. Also, be warned that should you try and penetrate


further into our Empire, we will be forced to destroy your vessel."


Janus removed his earpiece, and held out his hand for hers. Janeway


hesitated, then removed the earpiece and handed it to him.




"See that she and the other two are returned to the /Dagger/.


We will return them to their vessel, unharmed. Do not return any of


the equipment you confiscated, have a team of technicians study






"Sir, I have noticed something."




Chakotay turned to the signals officer. "Yes?"




"I have been replaying the recording of the abduction incident


at varying speeds and analyzing the sensor data under various


conditions. I have detected what appears to be intermittent high speed


data communications between the alien battleship and a point along the


vector in which it appeared to translocate. Also, when the recording


is played at slow speed, it becomes evident that the translocation of


the battleship was not instantaneous as we first believed. There


appeared to be some sort of disturbance in the space-time continuum as


the ship disappeared, which is analogous to a ship entering sub-space,


but without the catastrophic effects as observed at the Bajor space-


station DS9 a few years ago."




"Are you saying the ship entered sub-space, then re-emerged


nearly half a light year away in a fraction of a second."




"Something like that. Although I don't believe they entered


sub-space. They seemed to go in the ... opposite? ... direction.


Super-space? Or Hyper-space?"




"That can't be possible. Locations in sub-space do have a


tenuous relationship to locations in real-space, but hyper-space has


no measurable relationship to real-space. That we know of anyway. If


that is the case, then this alien battleship has some sort of trans-


dimensional drive capability that is very, very fast indeed." Chakotay


thought for a second. "What is also interesting is that he was


communicating with somebody in that area. Do another sensor scan of


that area."




"Yes sir. And sir, one more thing, those field-enhanced ion


drive engines were observed to power up significantly just before he


disappeared, but this only resulted in an illusion of real-space


acceleration. The power from the engines was apparently diverted


elsewhere, possibly into their trans-dimensional drives."




Chakotay looked around the bridge. Everyone was tense. They


had gone over the recordings many times, and this was the first


breakthrough they had made. He didn't have the fuel to search for


Janeway and the others, but surely he couldn't just desert them


either. If only they could figure out where those ships jumped to.




"Sir!" The same technician called out. Chakotay was instantly


behind him, looking over his shoulder. "I have detected drive


emissions from an ion-type drive in the area he translocated to. There


is still another ship in that area, but it has a much lower sensor


profile than the ship we encountered earlier. Perhaps if we moved


closer, we could have a better look."




"No. That would alert them. Presumably they can detect us at


this range as well. That ship is also at least an hour away at maximum


warp, and if they can track us at warp, they will have adequate


advance warning of our coming."




"Sir, there is something happening, another anomaly. There it


is. The ship that took the Captain, it's returned."




Before Chakotay could give any orders, the ensign called out


again, "It's disappeared. Wait, space-time anomaly on our port bow,


range 15,000km. Alien vessel has appeared at the anomaly. Space-time


anomaly dissipated."




Chakotay raised his eyebrows. That ship had covered a distance


in seconds that would have taken /Voyager/ 3 hours.




"Incoming transmission. Alien vessel hailing us."








The main view screen changed to show Janeway, in the company


of a middle-aged man in a militaristic uniform, with a droid. The man


said something in an undertone to the droid.




"We have lowered our shields," the droid said, "Lieutenant


Needa apologizes for his earlier mistake," he continued, indicating


the uniformed man next to him, "but we were surprised by the sudden


appearance of your crewmembers on our bridge. You may return them to


your vessel, or we could send them over on a shuttle."




"That won't be necessary. Transporter room, lock onto the away


team, beam them straight to the bridge."




"Energizing ... now." Came the response. Seconds later, the


away team appeared on the bridge.




"Captain Janeway," the droid said, "Admiral Janus will expect


an answer in one hour. We will return at that time." With that the


main screen went blank, and was replaced by a starfield centered on


the alien vessel. Then the vessel disappeared. Janeway blinked. She


hadn't seen hyperdrive from this perspective.




"Ensign?" Chakotay ordered.




"Sir! The same sequence of events was observed. The vessel


powered up its engines, but diverted the power to its hyper-space


drive, then it disappeared into a momentary space-time anomaly. After


that we lost track of the vessel for 1.2 seconds, until it appeared in


a momentary space-time anomaly at the new location."




"We weren't able to track him between the two points?" Janeway






"No, sir."




"Meeting! Everybody! Now!" Janeway ordered.




Within 10 minutes everyone had gathered in the boardroom.


Janeway had made a quick change, getting rid of the burnt uniform.




"What happened?" Chakotay asked as soon as everyone had taken


their places.




"Later. We don't have much time. I was taken before an


Admiral. Janus he called himself. He claims this entire quadrant as


'Imperial' space, and demands we get out or be destroyed."




"We don't run from anybody!" Chakotay bristled. "That ship may


be a warship, and we suspect there's a second one out there, but we


can take them."




"If only that were all. The ship I was captured on was no


doubt a warship, I estimate with a crew of between 1000 and 1500


personnel, no civilians in sight. But I was also transferred to


another ship about 20 seconds away by hyperdrive. It was HUGE. A city


in space, at least 3 times the size of a Galaxy-class starship, and


many times more massive. The crew would number in the 10s of


thousands. It appeared to be the flagship of a fleet, with at least


one other similar sized vessel, four smaller ships, maybe slightly


smaller than a Galaxy-class, and then six more like the one that


dropped me off."




"20 seconds away by hyperdrive ..." Chakotay mused.




"About one and a half light years." One of the navigators






"That's half a day at warp 3, maybe two hours at maximum






"We've got no idea of their weapons capability, but that's


quite a fleet, anyway."




"There's more." Janeway said, "If we surrender the /Voyager/,


they will drop us off on the other side of their empire, about 30,000


light years they claimed, maybe even closer to home."




"So that's why you called the meeting." Chakotay.








"We could be home in months!" someone said.




"If we surrender /Voyager/," Janeway reminded, "and if they


don't dump us on a nearby planet and take the ship, or just execute






"They would do that?" somebody asked.




"I got the impression that they weren't exactly a charity


organization," Janeway continued, "and we don't even know if they're


telling us the truth about their Empire. How come nobody we've


encountered up to now knows about them? Something isn't right here."




"Maybe nobody explored this far."




"And maybe those that did never returned."




"Home in months."




"Surrender is NOT an option!" Janeway called the meeting to


order. "Suggestions, anyone?"




"I suppose they weren't keen on the idea of trading, or


helping us out with some supplies?" another voice asked hopefully.




"No. I didn't see any civilians. Also, the whole atmosphere


was just so ... cold. I would almost have said evil. Everybody was


just so arrogant. Superior. Cold. I don't know, it's just difficult to


describe. They were so supercilious."




"Evidence of Borg?" another voice asked.




"No, I don't think so. There were almost more robots and


androids than humans, but no cyborgs, None that I saw anyway. Except


possibly for their soldiers." Chakotay raised an eyebrow, and Janeway


continued, "There were these armoured troopers everywhere, clad head


to toe in what looked like body-hugging spacesuits. At first I thought


they were robots, but they moved too smoothly, and handled themselves


like marines, or special forces. There could have been thousands just


on the flagship."




"Then our only option is to retreat. Even if we could take


them on, we just don't have enough torpedoes to destroy so many ships


of that size."




"The problem is, if we retreat, we have to clear their borders


within three days, about 62 light years they claim. That means maximum


warp, and that would just about exhaust our fuel. If we were given two


weeks, we could travel at a more economical speed. But, I have this


feeling they won't let us go anyway. One way or another, they are


going to push us into a fight. And against so many ships, it's a fight


we might not win."




"Can we hide from them?" somebody asked, "There must be


thousands of stars between here and their borders?"




"It's not that easy." Chakotay said. "We have been picking up


intermittent echoes of a vessel at extreme sensor range. They are


obviously tracking us with a vessel which is running silent."




"Then there is only one course of action," Janeway said. "We


retreat, but at warp 3, and if they want a fight, we give it to them.


Until further notice, this ship is at battle stations." BRIDGE OF






"/Sword/ reporting! Alien vessel has engaged their space


distortion drive. Current vector is back the way they came. The speed


of the distortion indicates a speed of about 3 light years a day."




'So,' Janus thought. 'I have my answer.' Voyager was not


inviting a fight, but was prepared for one. "Lieutenant, set up a


holo-conference with the commanders of the Dreadnaughts /Shark/ and


/Manta/, and the Lancer frigates /Sword/ and /Dagger/."




"Yes sir."




Moments later, Janus began his briefing. "Gentlemen, the enemy


has accepted our challenge. We know something about their drive


technology, and we know that the ship does not appear to be heavily


armed. It appears to have some sort of beam weapon projector, and


missile launching tubes. We don't know the capabilities of these


weapons, so here is what we will do." He outlined the tactics he


wanted the ships to follow. DEEP SPACE, SIX DAYS LATER




Nerves onboard /Voyager/ had become frayed. The ship had been


at battle stations for six days continuously. Red eyes, headaches and


arguments had become common place. They had not managed to lose the


elusive tail. Every few hours, they detected their stealthy follower


jumping to a new location. They still were not able to track the


position of the ship in hyperspace, but had three seconds warning each


time before the ship re-appeared at a new location.




The ship always stayed at the outer edge of their sensory


range, despite some major course changes. They had tried changing


course and speed the moment the Imperial ship jumped to hyperspace, in


the hopes they could lose it before it returned to normal space, but


the Imperials never jumped for more than 30 seconds at a time, and


seemed to be alive to this possibility.




At one point there appeared to be at least two vessels


tracking them, but even though they watched for it, they never spotted


the second vessel again. Chakotay theorized that perhaps there were


other vessels keeping station outside their sensor range, in case of a


major change in speed or course. Janeway wasn't sure how much longer


she could keep the ship at battle stations, but with only 3 seconds


warning of incoming warships, she didn't think she had a choice. When


the attack did come, it was almost a surprise. Almost.




"Jump warning! Port bow range 20AU." An ensign screamed. 20 AU


was only 3 seconds away at their current warp factor.




"Weapons, stand by!" Janeway called. "Lock a torpedo onto that


position. Feed solution, and wait for my command."




She barely finished her sentence, when the /Dagger/ appeared


at that location.




"Hold Fire. Don't shoot unless they shoot first."




"Multiple encroachments! Collision warning!"




"Enemy vessel Jumping."




"Mines! Helm, evasive action, now! All available power to


shields." Janeway ordered.




Half the bridge crew were thrown to the deck as the violent


maneuvering at warp speed overcame the inertial damping. There was a


vague shudder as the shields deflected the energy of a nearby


explosion. Suddenly the ship was rocked violently for what felt like


many seconds. Debris flew around the bridge, but nobody was seriously






"Shields momentarily dropped to 72%, climbing through 90% now.


No damage to the hull. It appears all the mines were pre-programmed to


explode as we entered the field. If we hadn't had that three second


window, we would have been in the center of that mess."




"How powerful an explosion? Would we have survived?" Janeway






The weapons officer shrugged. "We hit the edge of the


minefield, the energy would have been probably three or four times


greater had we been any closer, enough to knock down the shields, but


not much more than that. We would have sustained significant hull


damage, though maybe not a breach."








"Reporting in now, sir. Nothing serious yet."




"They're playing cat and mouse with us!" Chakotay exclaimed.


"And there's nothing we can do!"




The tactic was repeated three times that day. Each time


/Voyager/ barely managed to avoid the minefield. The three-second


window was just enough warning. Once the shields dropped to as low as


53%, and six crew members suffered broken limbs in the buffeting.


Another time, the helmsman disengaged the warp drive, cleared the


minefield with phasers at extreme range, then re-engaged the warp


drive along a different course. Voyager employed the tactic of random


course changes at intervals of 4 minutes to 10 minutes, and also


varying the speed occasionally. Then the Imperials changed tactics.




Eight tense hours went by without further attacks. Then: "Two


ships incoming! Forward starboard quarter and port flank."




"Helm to manual control!" Janeway ordered, "Prepare for


evasive action!"

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The locations were automatically fed to the torpedoes'


targeting computers and a firing solution prepared before the Imperial


entered real-space. No torpedoes had been fired yet, as the Imperials


always jumped away within seconds, and the torpedo would not have had


the time to cover the distance to the target.




"Multiple Encroachments. Possible missiles. Not Mines! Four


seconds away ... Two ... One ... brace for impact!"




The helmsman was already working furiously. "Missed! They all


missed!" he exclaimed.




"Missiles, unguided," Chakotay reported from the weapons


console, "or torpedoes if you will. They barely registered on the


sensors, but seem to be constructed of protons bonded on the subatomic


level. The structure is resistant to scanning, and appears to be able


to penetrate most shielding types I know of. One passed within a


hundred meters of our hull, and wasn't deflected by our shields. They


don't appear to have a warhead, but might have caused significant


damage to the hull if they had impacted."




"Can you reprogram our shields?" Janeway asked.




"I will try, but don't have enough information on that torpedo


to be sure if it will work."




"I'm sure they will provide you with more information." She


remarked sarcastically. She smiled to soften the remark. "Helm, course


change, take us to the nearest star with a significant number of


orbiting bodies, and take up orbit around the planet closest to the


star. Make it so."




"Yes, sir."




"We might not be able engage warp under those conditions,"


Chakotay suggested, "are you hypothesizing that this will negate their


hyperdrive advantage?"




"We can only hope so. There may not be room to maneuver at


warp speeds in such a system, but so far there is no indication that


they won't have the same problem." Janeway responded.




"And no indication that they will, but it's worth a try."


Chakotay agreed.




"Let's see if they will come out and play," Janeway finished.


There was steel in her voice. BRIDGE OF THE /ANNIHILATOR/ - HOLO-






"Report." Janus ordered his ship commanders.




/Sword/s commander started off the proceedings. "We were able


to lay minefields in their path as ordered. However, their so-called


warp drive proved to be exceptionally maneuverable. Their sensors


obviously can operate efficiently even with the warp field engaged.


They seem to have a continuously variable rate of acceleration along


any vector they desire. The nature of their star-drive is such that we


can't really engage them due to the drastic differences in speed."


/Dagger/ responded, "That is not completely accurate. We


observed them doing 20g and 30g maneuvers, which effects of which


presumably the occupants of the warp field is somehow protected from,


unless their gravity generators maintain a stable g-field inside the






"You can't use gravity generators inside a distortion field


like that surely," /Sword/ responded, "gravity fields are in a sense


space-time distortion fields as well, and the operation of gravity


generators might interfere with the operation of the warp field."




/Shark/ entered the discussion, "We don't know that for sure,


but it's obvious that they must have some method of overcoming


inertia. What intrigues me is that the maintenance of such a


continuous distortion field as their warp field must require a huge


amount of energy to be applied continually. Also the energy


requirements to redirect the warp field at those accelerations must be


tremendous. That ship must have an incredibly stable power-plant to


handle such energy loads."




"Enough," Janus interrupted, "so it is obvious that engaging


them in deep space is not feasible. We can't keep station on them, and


they don't seem able to match our hyper-drive. Now, they are waiting


for us inside a star system with a complex of gravity wells that will


make Jump tactics tricky. Presumably the presence of the gravity wells


will place exponentially increasing energy loads on their warp drive


as well, and they are hypothesizing that it will have a similar effect


on our hyper-drive. It is time for the next part of the experiment.


All the Lancers will keep station half a light year outside the system


in a containment sphere in case they try to slip out of the system.


The Dreadnaughts /Shark/ and /Manta/ will engage the enemy with


turbolaser and ion cannons. No fighters are to be used until we better


understand their weapons capability, we don't have the production


capacity to replace any that may be lost." He paused, "Also, we have


no reason to believe they cannot use their warp drive in-system. I


want you to implement tactics that may force them to use their warp


drive. I want to see if they use warp-drive close to gravity wells,


and if we can detect any possible energy overload on their systems if


they do. Give them an opportunity to fire their weapons, and allow


their weapons to impact on your shields so we can measure their weapon


energy output. Questions?"




"No sir." The officers all responded.








"Our status, Mr Chakotay." Janeway asked.




"We have enough fuel for 16 days travelling at Warp 3 or less,


all systems are fully operational except for engineering. They report


that the warp-core took quite a pounding during the warp-speed evasive


maneuvering, and they cannot guarantee the operation of the


containment fields if we exceed Warp 5, until they have made repairs.


Time estimated for repairs is eight hours, after which they can give


us warp 7, further repairs will take careful calibration which would


require the shutting down of the warp core for at least 2 days."


Chakotay studied the technical report. "Captain, if we had maneuvered


like that at anything over Warp 4, the core wouldn't have lasted 2






"The safety overrides would have taken care of that . We won't


be exceeding warp 2 until we leave this system anyway."




"You intend using warp in a system like this?" Chakotay asked


incredulously. "Even at warp 1, the energy load on the system if we


pass too close to a planet or moon could damage the core even further,


especially under the circumstances."




"Have navigation revise the algorithms for in-system use of


warp drive under combat conditions. Tell them to program in a safety


margin that won't bring us closer than five light-seconds to any major


gravity well. That should still leave us with enough room to maneuver.


We might not have any other choice."




Chakotay didn't answer. He knew the odds. Warp combat was


exceptionally dangerous. While the chances of taking a hit -


especially from a sub-light source - was almost negligible, any


imposition on the warp field had a direct effect on the warp core,


which had taken a beating already. BRIDGE OF THE /Annihilator/




Janus settled back in his command chair and surveyed the


holographic tactical display before him. The star system was displayed


in its entirety, with the orbits and positions of all major


gravitational bodies clearly indicated. Each body was surrounded by a


red halo indicating the limits of hyperdrive safety margins. The


planet closest to the star had a representation of /Voyager/ in orbit.


The red halo around the star itself extended to at least the second


planetary orbit, which meant that as long as /Voyager/ maintained it's


current position, no ship could jump directly into effective weapons


range. Light blue spheres represented the sensor ranges of the Lancers


arranged just outside the system, about 10 seconds away from their


prey should it engage it's warp-drive, but close enough that their


combined sensory data covered nearly the entire system.




Two small representations of the Dreadnaughts suddenly


appeared just outside the mass-shadow of the star itself. They had


jumped to a point which kept the star between themselves and


/Voyager/. There was no way of knowing whether this prevented them


from being detected or not, but /Voyager/ showed no sign of having


detected this jump.




The two Dreadnaughts powered up their engines and accelerated


almost directly towards the Star. Their indicated trajectory would


take them well inside the innermost planetary orbit, but clear of the


Star itself..




Their timing was impeccable, as they rounded the opposite side


of the star. They cleared it seconds after /Voyager/s orbit took it


around the far side of the planet. By this time they were travelling


at 40% light-speed. They would be well within weapons range by the


time /Voyager/s orbit brought the ship back into line-of-sight.


Perfect. The excitement on the bridge was palpable, virtually


everybody's attention was riveted on the tactical display.




The two Dreadnaughts were converging on the planet at nearly


45% light-speed. They would have line-of-sight within thirty seconds.


Scant seconds before the Dreadnaughts cleared the horizon of the


planet, /Voyager/ broke orbit, accelerating furiously, using a drive


mechanism not previously observed, but obviously not an interstellar


capable drive, like their warp-drive. The acceleration was comparable


to that of the small freighters with the oversized engines so favored


by smugglers, but it was too late. They would have no hope of matching


velocities with the two Dreadnaughts which were already up to 47%






The Dreadnaughts opened fire at a range of two million


kilometers. At these speeds, the near light-speed turbolaser blasts


crawled agonizingly slowly across the fast closing gap, with the


speeding Dreadnaughts almost appearing to chase down their own


turbolaser blasts. Voyager had obviously detected the incoming fire,


and started making slight course changes, enough for the streams of


superheated plasma to miss by scant kilometers, but essentially


maintaining their course directly away from the planet.




Volley after volley of turbolaser fire tracked the elusive


ship through its course changes, as the range closed to within 150,000


kilometers. With only a half second for evasive maneuvers the


turbolaser blasts were tracking closer and closer to the gyrating


vessel. There was a flare of energy as a shot finally intercepted the






"A HIT!" somebody screamed excitedly on the bridge behind


Janus. He didn't even flinch, so totally absorbed he was in the






Then the apparently unscathed vessel leapt away, leaving the


turbolaser blasts languishing behind. They were using the nearly


impossible warp drive again, and it had allowed them to jump from near


stationary to twice the speed of light in an instant. /Manta/ fired a


barrage of turbolaser and ion cannon blasts after the speeding vessel,


prompting a muttered "idiots" from Janus. At twice the speed of light,


Voyager had rendered their primary weapons useless.




Twice light-speed was much slower than the speeds at which the


vessel had been observed at before (about 190 times light-speed), and


allowed them ample room to maneuver even in this star system.


/Voyager/ executed what had to be a 15g turn, bringing them around in


a large curve back towards the two Dreadnaughts languishing at a


quarter the speed it was maintaining. The pair laid down a barrage of


turbolaser fire along /Voyager/s incoming path. It appeared to be


charging straight down on the incoming turbolaser barrage, then veered


away about 1 second before flying into the barrage.




"Missile warning!" somebody called.




Voyager had launched a spread of five missiles at the /Manta/,


which was executing a 10g turn to avoid the missiles. The missiles


followed his track, closing distance rapidly at nearly three times the


speed of light. Apparently Voyager had missile weapons, which it could


launch even at speeds in excess of light-speed. All the missiles would


have struck /Manta/ except for one thing. The apparently stupid


commander was still laying down a barrage of turbolaser fire in the


direction of the speeding /Voyager/, and by luck or determination the


missiles flew straight into the barrage. Three of the missiles were


destroyed in spectacular explosions. The remaining two missiles


smacked into /Manta/'s port side.




Meanwhile the alien vessel had executed a near impossible 30g


dive, and was firing a continuous beam weapon - a beam weapon at


superluminary speeds! - at the /Shark/. The dreadnaught itself was


trying desperately to match the vector of the /Voyager/, and the beam


weapon played like a light-saber all round the space in which /Shark/


was desperately trying to turn.




Twice in half a second the beam raked the Dreadnaught,


resulting in a spectacular fireworks display as energy was dissipated


by the shields, whether from the beam weapon itself or the jet-stream


of sub-atomic particles it gouged out of the hull was unclear.




All pretense of experimentation gone, Janus jabbed a control


on his armrest and ordered, "Take your vessels closer into the larger


planets as fast as you can and stay there, they are avoiding the


gravitational wells. Lay down covering fire with turbolasers to


destroy incoming missiles. Reduce speed to 30% light-speed and you


will have more maneuverability. Use your anti-starfighter grenade


blisters to launch grenades into their projected flight-path when they


make an attack run. Damage Report."




"/Manta/ reporting! Port shields were reduced to less than 20%


by those missiles. They are matter anti-matter devices. Port shield


generators are down to 68% efficiency. It will take a while to


regenerate them to full strength. Two crewers were killed when one of


the generators overloaded and exploded."




"/Shark/ reporting! Our dorsal shields were reduced to 80% by


that beam weapon, no damage to shield generators. A lot of the beam


energy penetrated the shields, and caused some hull damage, but no






"Watch out, here she comes again!" Somebody warned. The


Federation vessel was coming about for another pass, as the two ships


streaked for the protection of the gravity well of the third planet, a


gas-giant, with six planetary sized moons. It was obvious they


wouldn't make it before /Voyager/ had another attack run. The


Federation vessel suddenly accelerated to nearly twenty times light


speed, launched another spread of torpedoes at /Shark/ this time,


decelerated to two times light speed and attempted to play their beam


weapon over /Manta/'s hull this time. /Shark/ was ready for the


torpedoes, but they were coming in at a shade over twenty times light


speed this time.




With barely a half-second warning, /Shark/ executed a 25g


climb, which would have severely tested the limits of their gravity


generators ability to compensate. Two of the torpedoes exploded short


of the hull, with the energy of the explosions washing over the


vessel, the other three missed, apparently unable to match the sudden


maneouver, and self-destructed well past the Dreadnaught.




/Manta/ had launched a spread of mines in the projected path


of /Voyager/, but it's sudden deceleration caused it to catch only the


edge of the exploding projectiles. Apparently this was sufficient to


cause the operator of the beam weapon to miss by a considerable


margin. Then /Voyager/ was past, and speeding away. The Dreadnaughts


continued their race to the gas-giants promise of safety.




"/Shark/ reporting! Starboard shields down to 60%. Our


turbolasers detonated the missiles before they struck, but the shock


wave of the superluminary explosion still hit us." BRIDGE OF






"Captain, we have to give the shields more time to recharge


before doing another attack run. That last explosion penetrated


through to our hull. Sickbay reports at least six crew-members with


broken limbs." The minefield explosions had rocked the ship badly,


throwing people to the floor, and Janeway herself could have sworn she


saw the deck buckle.




"We can't afford to be hit by those plasma discharges though.


The one that caught us just before we made it to warp reduced our


shields to less than 10%, and they are now only at 34% and still






"Did we do any damage to those ships?" Janeway queried.




"We phased off a bit of the hull of one of the ships, but our


phaser's efficiency is drastically reduced when fired in a containment


field, and apparently didn't damage them significantly. The torpedoes


also appeared to have minimal effect, merely impacting on their






"Did this impair their shield efficiency at all?"




"Impossible to say, we don't know anything about their


shielding technology."




"Okay," she ordered, "we'll take up orbit around the second


planet this time, but make it a large orbit. The time it took us to


clear the gravity well nearly cost us."




The engineers had screamed blue murder over the strain placed


on the warp core. They had been forced to activate warp-drive a little


bit close to the gravity well of the star, and the energy requirements


to maintain a warp field in a gravity well rose exponentially as you


got closer to it's source. BRIDGE OF /ANNIHILATOR/




"/Sword/ reporting! The enemy appears to be reluctant to enter


the gravity well of the gas-giant. It has entered a high orbit over


the second planet."




"Open a channel to the Dreadnaughts /Hawk/ and /Eagle/."


Janus ordered.




The commanders of the two vessels appeared on the holo-display


next to a reduced version of the star system.




"As you can see, /Shark/ and /Manta/ have taken up position in


the gravity well of the gas-giant. The enemy however is not attempting


to attack, but has taken up position here," he indicated the position


of /Voyager/ at the second planet, well clear of the effective range


of the star's gravity well, and just outside the effective range of


the planet's gravity well. "I want you to flush him out."








"Sir," Chakotay called, "shields are now at 75% and climbing,


we have reprogrammed the phaser bank's targeting system for the type


of maneuvering observed by the enemy, and the remaining torpedoes have


been reprogrammed to fly an evasive pattern to the designated target.


This should increase the likelihood of penetrating their plasma based


point-defense systems."




"Very well, how long before the shields are..."




"Incoming!" shouted an ensign, "anomaly in starboard front


quarter, range 10,000 kilometers."




"Prepare for evasive action, stand by warp drive."




A huge cruiser like the two they had been battling appeared


where the anomaly had been detected. Virtually right in their escape


path from the planetary gravity well.





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The Federation ship flashed forward at twice light-speed just


as the cruiser started pumping out mines. Janeway caught sight of a


sensor display board lighting up like a Christmas tree as energy


readings from the cruiser soared. Voyager flashed past the cruiser at


a range of barely 2,000 kilometers, the ship rocking gently from


multiple explosions as the mines automatically detonated in their


wake. The starfield on the viewscreen wheeled crazily as Voyager took


evasive action. A second cruiser had jumped in a million kilometers


away, and at twice light-speed they had barely a second to turn away


before being caught in another minefield. The new course was curving


around behind the planet to put the planet between them and the two


cruisers which had just appeared.




As they rounded the planet they came to face to face with the


a huge wedge-shaped city, bristling with weapons emplacements. It was


brute ugly, no elegance in it's lines, just pure functionality. It


must have jumped in on the far side of the planet, and was just


outside the gravity well of the planet. The helmsman had barely half a


second to make a decision. Squeeze between the floating city and the


gravity well, or swing away from the planet around the floating city.


He swung away from the planet.




"MINES!" Somebody screamed.




The helmsman chose the only option left to him. He disengaged


warp drive, furiously ordered a totally new vector, and engaged warp


drive. He barely noticed the rocking of the deck beneath, relying on


his seat restraints to keep him in place, as he jammed the throttle


control slider to the maximum allowed by the safeties they had decided


on earlier. The warp light flashed on, telling him that warp had been


engaged, and he felt the more familiar shuddering of the deck mixed in


with those from nearby explosions, as the warp core powered up by


slamming kilograms of matter into an equal amount of anti-matter in a


barely controlled explosion to rival the detonations of multiple


photon torpedoes. He lost all awareness of everything around him,


concentrating totally on his displays of warp-core status and


surrounding encroachments, trying to steer the warp-accelerating ship


to safety.




"Shields down," Chakotay was saying, "Hull breach in four


places, multiple casualties, sealing all hatchways to minimize


decompression effects, Engine room reporting damage now. Warp power is


falling rapidly, containment fields are collapsing, emergency shut


down of warp drive imminent. Warp drive being shut down. Computer is


preparing the core for automatic dumping of anti-matter."




"Override anti-matter dump!" Janeway ordered.




"The core could blow any second." Chakotay remarked, but his


fingers were working furiously on his console, as he overrode the










"Engaging impulse drive." The helmsman called, as the ship


rocked once more. Without warp capability it was nearly impossible to


avoid the incoming plasma streams. "Impulse engines not responding."




"We're losing way!" Chakotay stated unnecessarily. The ship


was uncharacteristically quiet. After a while you became so accustomed


to the constant feel of a live ship, the vibration of the deck, the


hum of the power plants, that you didn't notice anymore, until it was


no longer there. But the ship was too silent. There were no


explosions. The Imperials had apparently ceased fire.




"Open a channel to the Imperial flagship." Janeway ordered






"Communications is down." Came the reply, the viewscreen was


also ominously blank.




"Keep trying, all channels." When there was no response


Janeway turned to the communications station. The ensign was standing


helplessly in front of the smoking console, where optical circuitry


flickered intermittently through a mess of cables and fibers dangling


from the console.




"Mr. Chakotay?"




"The computer was knocked off-line by the last hit, some kind


of charged particle weapon, it will be back on line in a few seconds."




Janeway waited. There was no sound on the bridge, except for


an occasional sob.




"Computer on line!" Chakotay called.




"Sensors?" Janeway enquired.




"Yes sir, on-screen now." The viewscreen flickered, then


showed a blank starfield. Then changed to a tactical display, showing


the huge star cruiser moving away from /Voyager/ at an angle, and one


of the smaller cruisers coming around the planet.




"Ships incoming!" sensors reported.




Seconds later the tactical display showed one ship after


another jumping into view. The large ship which had surprised them and


ended the battle was joined by a slightly smaller version of itself,


then a total of four of the cruisers which they had battled at warp


speed. There were also six small ships of the type that had originally


abducted Janeway.




"Sensors, can you open a communications channel to the enemy






"Yes sir. Hailing them now. They are responding, on-screen






The viewscreen changed to show a sharp-featured man in


military uniform sitting on what must have been a huge bridge. No


emotion showed on his face.




"Captain Janeway," he said, the view-screen translating,


"Please surrender your vessel, a boarding party is on the way over."




Sensors nodded, indicating a secondary display showing two


small shuttle-type craft being launched from the smaller of the two


wedge shaped vessels, and heading in their direction.




"Very well." Janeway said, "you leave me no option," and she


cut the communication.




"Mr. Chakotay, we cannot allow the ship to be taken, if they


learn how to implement warp technology ." she left the rest unsaid. He


nodded, his expression grim. BRIDGE OF THE /Annihilator/




Janus watched as the two assault shuttles approached the


crippled starship. It had given them a lot more trouble than he had


anticipated. The warp-drive of the vehicle had proved a most


troublesome technology. In the end, one could almost say the vessel's


defeat had been a stroke of luck. But you made your own luck. One way


or another, they would have won in the end. He was sure. Now if they


could determine how the warp-drive worked then he could develop a


better strategy to use against such vessels.




"Sir, energy levels on the enemy vessel are climbing


sharply!" A technician called.




"Move us away, prepare a short jump out of the system, warn


the fleet, recall the shuttles." He ordered calmly.




"Explosion detected at the enemy vessel's location. A big one,


shockwave ETA in 6 seconds."




"Engage hyper-drive." Janus ordered.




The fleet assembled on the outskirts of the solar system. The


Lancers had determined that the destruction of the vessel had been


total. The two shuttles had been destroyed in the explosion, but the


rest of the fleet had escaped to hyperspace. "Tactical display,


galaxy overview." Janus ordered. "Highlight systems with known


Federation activity."




In one corner of the galaxy, a scattering of stars were dimly


indicated, showing intermittent reports of Federation vehicles. It was


24 days away via hyper-drive. He pointed to a star on the display, and


nodded to his navigation officer. Seconds later, the fleet jumped.






The two stars were separated by barely two light-months. They


danced around each other in a manner like two Jedi. Their prize, a


single jewel too misshapen to still be labelled a planet. It alone of


all the other planets of this system had survived the cataclysm that


occurred when the second star had drifted too close to the domain of


it's master. Strewn for half a light year in all directions were the


remains of those planets, leaving a hollow sphere around the two stars


where nothing survived, except the lone orbiter. The magnetic fields


of the binary system masked all attempts at a sensor scan, which would


have been further disrupted by the flux of energy constantly playing


between the two dueling stars.




The lone orbiting planet inscribed a distorted ellipse on the


tactical display of the /Annihilator/. The fleet hung in space, spread


out like a string of pearls over a million kilometers. Another Pearl


joined the string, a returning Lancer, It uploaded all sensory


information gathered by the patrolling frigates to the /Annihilator/,


and settled down like an obedient dog waiting for it's masters orders.




The tactical display changed to a cubic representation of the


surrounding stars, 15 light years on a side. Eight stars in the cube


were highlighted, a further twenty stars were indicated as having


planets or moons which fell within the galactic standard range for


humanoid sentient beings to be supported with minimal modification,


the rest of the stars had been blanked out. The eight selected systems


had planets where signals had been detected indicating un-natural


energy sources, or intermittent communications. There had been no sign


of interstellar activity for the four days in which the sector had


been under observation.




This was not surprising to Janus. The borders of the dominant


star-faring race of this quadrant were forty light years away,


although undoubtedly their patrols would swing by this far, especially


now as this sector was being invaded by Federation forces using the


hyperspatial tunnel which linked their borders to this quadrant. A


Lancer had briefly surveyed the tunnels entrance, but couldn't risk


staying there for too long, for fear of detection by Federation


vessels which might exit the tunnel at infrequent and random






Such tunnels had existed in the legends of the ancient ones


who had first taught the Jedi in the ways of the Force, but those


ancient ones had long since passed on as far as Janus knew. Although


much research was being conducted in how to create such tunnels, all


attempts had failed abysmally. The ancient ones had taken their


secrets with them to their graves. If any species in this galaxy had


such technology, it would be a prize to take home, indeed. A prize


that could see him attain the rank of Grand Admiral.




The energy sources they had detected were all quite small, so


there were no major settlements here. It was unclear what type of


settlement the energies supported. The only way they could determine


that was to survey the systems more closely, and the risks of


detection would be greater. Their only option were probe probes.


Imperial probe droids had seen much service over the years since the


rebellion had started, and many upgrades. The one thing the Empire had


down to a fine art was the ability to smuggle these probes into


systems undetected.




There were few uses for cloaking devices, because of the


inherent disadvantages of not being able to see your enemy, and


whatever you did, your enemy would find a way to track you, the


easiest of course being to scan for drive emissions. The current


philosophy was to cloak the droid, disguise it with an asteroid, then


allow it to make a pre-programmed hyperspace jump to within 1


planetary orbit of the target planet, and let gravity take care of the


rest. If the enemy sensors detected anything at all, it would merely


be a small meteorite impact, the hyperspace motivator and the cloaking


device were allowed to burn up during atmospheric entry, leaving the


droid to get on with it's business in absolute secrecy. A carefully


chosen asteroid would burn up entirely in the atmosphere, and there


wouldn't even be a meteorite impact to alert any watchful eyes. The


droid itself didn't need a lot of power and was virtually undetectable


by anything except a direct sensor focus.




Janus assigned two Lancers the task of patrolling outside the


system, with a third used to relay communications through the binary


stars' magnetosphere. The remaining five were dispatched to deploy the






Computer analysis of the little known nearby star-faring race


had determined that they were possibly a militaristic culture. Despite


the size of their sphere of influence, there appeared to be very


little inter-stellar traffic, and what traffic and communications had


been detected were all relayed through a single star system. This


profile matched that of a militaristic civilization with probably


draconian control from the capital world. There was little doubt that


they would perceive any nearby inter-stellar capable civilization a


threat. Considering this, Janus knew he would not have to wait too


long to observe their reaction to the threat of intrusion into their






"Doctor Bashir," O'Brien stated in exasperation, "You can't


start new experiments today. We are expecting a Jem'Hadar patrol in


this sector any day now. We have to leave in the next hour, or the


commander will have to send the /Defiant/ out to look for us, and he


will *NOT* be pleased."




"It's not a new experiment, and I can't stop it now, Chief. If


the results are what I expect, it will mean a major medical


breakthrough. This planet has the most remarkable flora."




"Very well, but I can only give you four days. No More!"


O'Brien said, raising his finger to emphasize his point, a


characteristic that was beginning to irritate the good doctor.




O'Brien left the laboratory and made his way through to the


operations room. A number of technicians were monitoring various


displays scattered through the room. O'Brien walked over to one of the


security officers in the room.




"Johnson, how many days since the last Jem'Hadar patrol?"




"Twelve days, Chief. Another one should be coming through any


day now."




O'Brien nodded. "Very well. We will be staying until the good


doctor finishes his research. We will need to shut down all non-


essential systems and power down the reactor, from now on we will use


emission-shielded batteries only, and they won't be able to supply


enough power for the whole base."




"What about hooking up the warp core from the shuttle to the


base?" Johnson asked.




"You know better than that, the energy emissions from the warp


core will be detected by anything that comes into orbit. And besides,


all non-essential scientific staff are leaving on the shuttle, within


the hour. I will stay with the good doctor, as will the security


detail, and any staff essential to the doctor's experiments."




For the next hour, the base was a hive of activity, as all


non-essential equipment was dis-assembled and packed aboard the


shuttle. O'Brien was the busiest of all. He was not the kind of man


who could stand to see a piece of equipment being abused, or to let


another man do a job he could do better. The last system to be powered


down was the long-range surveillance equipment. This would stay, in


case of emergencies.




"Any activity yet, lieutenant?" O'Brien asked the security


officer stationed at the display.




"Nothing, sir. A small meteorite impacted about three hundred


kilometers away early this morning, but since then, nothing."




"Active scanning?"




"We heard nothing that might be worth a scan? Using them would


be a sure give-away."




"Very well, shut it down."

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By nightfall the base appeared to be deserted. The shuttle had


long since departed. The surface facilities were dark, all entrances


sealed. The entire facility was constructed of materials inherent to


the planet's surface, so even a metals scan would turn up nothing.


Below ground, the doctor was still working feverishly in his


laboratory, assisted by his staff. O'Brien sat down to a cold meal.




The replicators had also been shut down hours ago, deemed to


place too much of a load on the batteries. A few of the security


officers were also still working, monitoring the low-power sensors.


These were mostly short-range motion detectors, a network of


electromagnetic imaging cameras which monitored the area surrounding


the base surface, and a sub-space receiver. At the low-power setting,


the receiver would detect any warp-drive or impulse-drive at orbital


distances, unless it was cloaked.




O'Brien deemed these measures to be sufficient. Either the


Jem'Hadar would have to have prior knowledge of this facility, or do a


full sensor scan of this planet from orbital distances. And even that


might not turn up anything, unless they focused it specifically on the


location of the base. Bashir had indicated that he would need four


days, and the shuttle would return after that time to collect Bashir,


O'Brien, the four medical assistants, and the twenty man security


detachment under lieutenant Johnson.




Six kilometers away, hidden in a rocky outcrop in the


mountains overlooking the base, the probe extended an appendage with


an Imperial espionage quality macro-binoculars attached to the end.


The macro-binoculars was the only part peeping over the top of the


surrounding rocks. The probe had been recording the activity in the


base for three hours now, in all frequencies which the macro-


binoculars was capable of. The probe retracted the binoculars and made


it's way back through the mountains. Fifteen minutes later it


broadcast it's report in an Imperial code. The entire transmission


took less than a tenth of a second.




"Chief!" Johnson called out, "the sub-space receiver picked up






"Show me." O'Brien was fully attentive.




The lieutenant showed him the display. There had been a very


weak flicker of something which had lasted only a fraction of a


second. It was too weak to be indicative of a warp drive, and the


frequency was all wrong for it to be a communications signal.




"Run it through the computer."




"Already tried, the signal is too weak. I can turn the


sensitivity of the receiver up, but that will require more power." He


looked questioningly at O'Brien.




"Lets not be too hasty. If it happens again, we will adjust


the receiver."




O'Brien was not happy. He doubted the signal was Jem'Hadar,


but all known sub-space events and noise was automatically filtered by


the computers, so whatever caused the signal could not have a natural


origin. The receiver was also too weak to have accidentally picked up


signals from any neighboring star systems.




Two hours later, they picked up another signal, much shorter


and weaker this time, but same frequency. O'Brien ordered the


receiver's sensitivity tuned up, and broke out a second battery. By


the early hours of the morning they had determined that the signal was


definitely a communications signal, and that it was originating on


this planet, within 40 kilometers of the base. They would have to send


out a detail to investigate. O'Brien swore. Even if this thing wasn't


Jem'Hadar, it risked giving them all away.




O'Brien only managed three hours sleep before daylight. He


left Johnson in charge of the base, and set out on foot with a


detachment of four security personnel. They carried weak short-range


radios in favor of the sub-space communicators they normally used.


Traversing the mountains was no problem, jet-boots allowed them to


ascend or descend at controlled speeds, although they only used these


for the more difficult parts of the journey, due to the limited amount


of fuel they could carry. They reached the area where the signal had


originated in less than 4 hours, but found nothing. Whatever had made


the transmission was mobile, and left no footprints.




They returned to base empty-handed, to discover that whatever


was out there had shifted it's transmission frequency nearly off the


scale. If they hadn't been looking for it, they probably wouldn't have


spotted the signal. Whatever was out there, had seen them coming, and


now knew that it had been detected.








O'Brien swore. It felt like he had just fallen asleep.




"Energy emissions detected on the edge of the star system.


They are compliant with Jem'Hadar warp-drives."




"Shut everything down! Now! Set all phasers to Jem'Hadar stun


levels. Prepare to repel boarders." And pray like hell we don't have


to, he added silently.




Bashir came out of the laboratory, still looking as fresh as


yesterday. "Chief, the computers shut down in the middle of a


simulation, what is going on?"




"Jem'Hadar." O'Brien tossed over his shoulder, his attention


remaining on the scopes in front of him. The readings on the scope


showed the Jem'Hadar ship was a small one, scout class. That would


give it a probable crew of fifty, from the little they knew about the






"Warp drive disengaged." The security officer reported. "They


are now on impulse."




For three tense hours, O'Brien watched as the scout ship


slowly made it's way through the system, most likely scanning for


Federation activity. Then it was their turn. The Jem'Hadar ship was on


a course that would bring it to within 3 planetary diameters of this


planet. O'Brien watched the track of the ship carefully, looking for


any sign that it intended taking up an orbit around the planet. The


sub-space receiver beeped. Seconds later the Jem'Hadar ship changed


course. That bastard thing out there had given them away.




If a droid could display emotion, the probe droid's demeanor


would indicate worry. For some reason the few energy emissions it


could detect from the base had dropped significantly. The droid had


reported this on the new frequency it had chosen when the first


frequency had been compromised. Now it had been watching the base for


three hours, and nothing appeared to be happening. It was convinced


that the occupants were laying a trap, but there was not enough data


to decide upon a course of action. It was time to report anyway. The


droid made it's report.




Two minutes later, the droid had opportunity to display a


second emotion, surprise. It's sensors determined three target-locks


nearby. Before it can could scan for possible targets that was being


locked on, the target-locks disappeared, and three life-sign readings


that hadn't been there before appeared. They were of an unknown


humanoid species. The droid was alarmed, and began transmitting


everything continuously. The three humanoids approached the droid, and


it opened fire. One of the humanoids staggered and was knocked down,


but still registered life-signs. All three humanoids disappeared. The


droid frantically began scanning all available frequencies, activating


it's active scanners as well, while continuing to fire at the last


reported position of the humanoids. It took two tenths of a second to


find one passive and three active frequencies on which the humanoids


were still visible. One of them was pointing a device at the droid.


The droid calculated their reflexes to be thirty percent above human


standard. It registered damage on it's outer casing, and activated the






O'Brien watched as the Jem'Hadar ship entered a station-


keeping orbit nearly directly above them. The console registered


readings consistent with an active scan of the area. The scan was


focused on an area in the mountains nearby. They might yet escape


detection. Suddenly everything shook, loose equipment rattled,


something clattered to the floor.




"There was an explosion in the mountains," somebody said


unnecessarily. The sensors reported a new scan. The Jem'Hadar were


obviously also trying to determine what happened.




As the scan widened, O'Brien knew they wouldn't escape


detection. "Assume defensive positions. Stun anything that moves."


O'Brien shouted, taking up a firing position with a view to the plain


ahead of them.




Some of Johnson's men were facing inwards, in case the


Jem'Hadar tried to beam directly into the base. They would have a two


second window before the Jem'Hadar could activate their genetic


cloaking. A flash of energy marked the position of one soldier beaming


in. Johnson stunned him before he could take a step. The body of the


stunned soldier was beamed out.




"Alright," O'Brien called out, "they know we're here and they


know we're going to fight. They will beam into the mountains nearby


and attack on foot. We will hold out as long as we can. Power up the


reactor and try and raise some help. Activate all sensors, and scan


for incoming soldiers. They will be cloaked, so we probably won't see


them, but the cameras and motion detectors will tell us roughly where


they are."




"Surely they can just drop a bomb on us or something?" Bashir






"Then we'd be dead already." O'Brien stated flatly.




"Forty Five life-sign readings detected," Johnson called, with


range and bearings, then, "life-signs disappeared. They've cloaked


alright. I'll get them on the motion detectors as they come closer


though. EMI [Electromagnetic Imaging] scanning all frequencies from


ultra-violet through microwave as well."




O'Brien and the other officers watched intently from their


observation points. They could see nothing, but knew the enemy was


coming. IN ORBIT




The Jem'Hadar ship was nearly deserted. Only a few crewers


remained, watching the essential sensors. There was no sign of warp


activity within half a light year, and no impulse emissions within 30


light-seconds. They were not expecting an attack. The entire troop had


beamed down after the first three had been killed in the explosion of


the machine they had been sent to investigate. There orders were to


capture the Federation base intact, and to question the occupants as


to the nature of the machine. None doubted that the machine had some


relationship to the Federation base.




When the impulse emission sensors lit up, the crewer


monitoring that station was not too perturbed. Ships were known to


hide from detection, and this one was a full ninety light-seconds


away. The only disconcerting factor was that it was in open space,


with no hiding places within millions of kilometers. The ship could


not possibly have remained undetected in open space. It was as if the


ship had just appeared out of nowhere, or deactivated a cloaking


device, but at this range the ship was obviously out of weapons range.




The crewer turned to his commanding officer to report this


occurrence, when more symbols appeared on his console. He opened his


mouth to shout a warning, but was thrown to the deck as the ship


rocked violently. A huge wedge shaped vessel had appeared, from


nowhere, less than fifteen thousand kilometers away, at least the size


of a battle-cruiser, if not bigger.




Everybody was shouting at once, in battle language. He called


out range and bearing, the commanding officer was ordering them to


come about, the weapons officer launched a spread of torpedoes. The


ship rocked, even more violently this time, the shields had been


reduced to less than half strength already, and the engagement had


barely started. The weapons officer was frantically trying to lock


their beam weapons on the enemy, the torpedoes having been mostly


detonated by the enemy's incoming fire, but the computer was reporting


some kind of interference, and the sensors had been jammed with


overwhelming energies. A third broadside slammed into the vessel,


finally smashing down the shields altogether, and breaching the hull


in several places. A red symbol flashed on the engineering console,


indicating imminent collapse of the containment fields in the engine


room. The fields collapsed.




"Damage report." Janus ordered.




"Three missiles impacted on starboard shields, shield


generators still operating at peak efficiency. No casualties."




Janus had ordered the surprise attack with overwhelming force


on the alien vessel, hoping to disable it before they escaped to warp.


The tactic had worked too well. The droids destruction had been


inevitable from the moment they had detected the signature of the warp


drive entering the system.




A Lancer had jumped closer to the planet to determine the


position of the alien vessel. The /Annihilator/ had then automatically


jumped to the co-ordinates provided by the Lancer's computer. The


range had been short enough for the laser cannons to join in the


successive broadsides of turbolaser and ion cannons.




From the timing of the explosion, it was the ion cannons which


had resulted in the vessel's destruction. Janus made a note to avoid


using them in the next engagement. They had twice failed now to


capture a warp-drive vessel.




On the ground, O'Brien and the fourteen remaining security men


had retreated to the underground facility. The surface buildings had


been reduced to a smoking ruin. They had set up a barricade in the


tunnel which gave access to the facility. All external EMI scanners


and motion detectors had been destroyed. As far as he knew, they


hadn't inflicted any casualties on their attackers. Things were


uncharacteristically quiet though. Without their surface mounted


receivers and sensors they were blind.




"Anything on subspace." He called out.




"Uh," the answer came back, "there appears to be some kind of


jamming of all sub-space frequencies, we have enough power to burn


through the jamming, but the signal won't survive out of the solar






They had not been able to raise anybody on sub-space. That


hadn't surprise him, but sub-space jamming did. It was not a known


Jem'Hadar tactic, as it would interfere with their own sub-space






"Jamming ceased. Incoming transmission."




O'Brien rushed over to the operations room, "on-screen," he


said. If O'Brien had been hoping or expecting a friendly face, he was


surprised. The face on the screen was severe, middle-aged, scarred.


O'Brien recognized a career military commander when he saw one. "Chief


Engineer O'Brien, United Federation of Planets." He introduced






"Admiral Janus, Imperial Navy." the man introduced himself,


"we detected your distress signals, but deemed it unwise to reply


until the enemy had been destroyed. Our sensors indicate forty-five


humanoid life-forms on the planets surface at your location, a further


sixteen below ground, are you still under attack? Do you require


further assistance?"




O'Brien hesitated. "Yes. Are you able to provide us with


assistance?" he finally asked, wondering what it would cost them. This


Janus didn't look the type to be offering assistance out of the


kindness of his heart.




"Of course. You are the group underground?" O'Brien nodded in


response to Janus' question.




"Then," Janus continued, "hold your position, my troopers will


clear the surface." /ANNIHILATOR/ LAUNCHING BAY




Lieutenant Stam Islaw marched across the hangar towards the


dropship his unit had been assigned. The dropship was capable of


transporting 500 stormtroopers plus all their supporting equipment. An


Imperial Star Destroyer was capable of carrying six such units, the


equivalent of three 1000 men regiments. A fourth regiment on the ISD


was responsible for ship security, and were not attached to any


dropships. Each dropships' total complement included two AT-ATs and


four AT-STs. Alternate equipment could include air-speeders for


atmospheric combat, tanks, groundspeeders, or other specialized


equipment. The equipment chosen usually depended on planetary


conditions of the predisposition of the regimental commander.




Lieutenant Islaw paid no attention to the droids scampering


out of his way, and had no problem negotiating the morass of pipes,


tubes, and astromech droids doing last minute adjustments. A seasoned


veteran, he had gone through this many times. He had a cybernetic left


leg and right eye, and if it hadn't been for the exceptional medical


care provided to stormtroopers, would also have been able to display


many scars and burns on the rest of his body. The empire looked after


its soldiers. Many believed that the Star Destroyers were the bricks


which built the empire, but this was misleading. The ultimate


statement of Imperial authority lay in it's legions of stormtroopers.


And they knew it. At the end of the day systems paid allegiance to the


Empire for fear of having a regiment of stormtroopers delivered to


their home planet, not because of the ship the stormtroopers arrived






He marched up the ramp of the dropship, one of many soldiers,


and made his way to the section assigned to his unit. Islaw had four


corporals in his command, and each commanded a ten man squad. Ten such


units made up a total of 450 men, the difference being their


commanding staff and the crews of the AT-ATs and AT-STs. His four


corporals were waiting for him.




"You have been briefed?" he asked, "You saw the probe's last






"Yes sir," answered Jax, "we know we are up against wraiths,


forty five if fleet ops are to be believed."




"Yes. Five units will be sent down to the surface, no armoured


support, no aerial support, and we have orders to capture at least 1


wraith alive."




"If the fleet boys want one alive, let them get him


themselves. I suppose the colonel has organized himself a comfy ride?"




"Four units will participate in the engagement, the fifth will


provide cover for the single AT-AT, which will be Colonel Bedwin's


command center." Islaw confirmed, with a smile. Jax was permitted some


cockiness. He had been a seasoned veteran when Islaw was a green


cadet. Jax also knew exactly how far he could take the system.




"Suit up, and check your men. I want no reds on this drop."


Islaw waved the droids over. In seconds, his personal suit had been


fitted by the droids. Status check confirmed all systems green. He


hadn't expected anything less, the armoured suits were kept in peak


condition by the units' droids, and they would have been double-


checked in the last few days, as the Admiral had been planning a


surface engagement. Any red-line components would have been swapped


out by the droids. The droids scuttled out of the ship.




Islaw had five green humanoid icons in the top left corner of


his display. The top one represented his own medical condition, the


four remaining symbols represented his corporals. They had similar


displays denoting their squad members. The armoured suit was a second


skin to Islaw, he had long ago become accustomed to the negligible


weight of the suit. The difference in vision was immediate obvious.


Previously dark corners of the dropship, were now starkly visible. Not


only did the suit provide augmented vision under dim-light conditions,


he could also see the heat signatures of everything and everyone in


the section. Even the heat from power conduits concealed in the ships


hull was visible in the augmented display of his helmet.




He detached a blaster rifle from the weapons rack. The weapon


was designed to be used with gauntlets, and it activated immediately


the gauntlets made contact with the grip. On his display was now also


a charge indicator, range and bearing indicators, and crosshairs


indicating the aiming point of the rifle. A wink of his good eye


activated the tactical overlay, showing a diagrammatic representation


of the target area, with the starting point of his unit shown, as well


as likely routes for his four squads to follow through the terrain. He


blinked his cybernetic eye, and a small vid-screen appeared in the


corner, with Colonel Bedwin in the command seat of the single AT-AT.


"Unit 1 reporting. Sir."




"Ready for launch in 4 minutes."




Islaw joined his men, and secured himself in the restraints


provided. Dropping was not always a comfortable ride. At least nobody


would be shooting at them on the way down on this ride. The drop was


an easy one, by the standards at which such things were measured. With


no enemy fire to evade, the pilot took them straight in. The units


were dropped one at a time, five kilometers from the smoking


Federation base, one at each end of a rectangle around the base. The


fifth unit would be dropped two kilometers further away, on a ridge


overlooking the plain where the base nestled. This was close enough


for the AT-AT to provide covering fire if necessary, and far enough


away that the colonel would feel safe, Islaw was sure.




Islaw's unit, being number one, was dropped first. His


corporals immediately deployed their squads, ordering them to spread


out over a two kilometer front. Islaw remained behind the front-line,


his job ro co-ordinate the squad level movements. Surveillance from


the ISD had all forty five wraiths close to the Federation base, some


of them concealed behind rocks surrounding the base. Further


surveillance was provided by the four probe droids which were


monitoring the action, and providing real-time data to the suits


battle computers. The suit's computer filtered the data as necessary,


using it to augment the heads-up display.




Attached to his unit, were two medical droids, with augmented


armour and a large supply of bacta available to each. There was also a


probe droid, which would assist with surveillance and assess his units


performance or lack of it. The information would be used in future


battle simulations of the ISD's training facilities.




Islaw blinked his left eye twice rapidly, activating a small


display in the bottom center of his viewscreen. It showed a 10x


magnification of the area his blaster rifle was pointing at. The


stormtroopers advanced, their speed synchronized with the three units


approaching from the other directions.




Two wraiths attempted to charge across an open space about a


kilometer ahead of Islaw's troops. They were smashed down by a turbo-


laser blast from the AT-AT, the ground in that area reduced to a


smoking ruin by the twin blasts. Islaw's suit immediately cut down on


the infra-red from the blast area, adjusting the apparent temperature


so as not to distort his view.




"The enemies have activated their cloaking fields." A


lieutenant advised from one of the other units. Islaws' suit


automatically allowed communications it deemed necessary to him,


filtering out communications which weren't. It was a system, which had


been refined over decades of conflict since the inception of the






A blotch of red moved from one rock to another about eight


hundred meters ahead of Islaw, the only visible sign of the wraith. A


turbolaser blast smashed into the area, but most likely couldn't


target the wraith properly. A message flashed at the bottom of his


viewscreen, confirming his deduction. The AT-AT had switched to manual






"Don't rely on your suit's targeting crosshairs," Islaw warned


his men, "if you think it's a wraith, shoot!"




"Bloody right!" Jax replied.




The range to target quickly decreased to less than two hundred


meters. The suit computers were having trouble accurately pinning down


the positions of the wraiths, unless they gave away their positions by


moving. Two of Islaws men were surprised in an ambush, three wraiths


opening fire on them from less than one hundred meters away. The


wraiths were cut down by the remaining eight squad members before they


change position.




"One dead, one injured." The corporal of that squad reported.




A medical droid rushed forward the moment that position had


been secured, anxious to assist the injured soldier, a bacta tab


ready. Islaw also made his way to that position. He passed the two


downed Stormtroopers without a glance, anxious for a look at the


uncloaked wraiths. There were only two bodies when he got there. The


third wraith had disappeared, despite having taken multiple blaster


shots. One of the bodies stirred at his feet. Islaw calmly fired his


rifle into the wraiths head at point-blank range.




"There's one gone to ground around here somewhere." He


informed his corporal. Two men were immediately assigned to quarter


the area. This squad had been reduced to six men advancing now. Islaw


ordered one man sent over from each of the neighboring squads. "If you


come across any wraith bodies, make sure they're dead before moving


on." He ordered. "These bastards are tough."




He blew the head off the second body before moving on, just in


case. The suits' augmented hearing filtered out a lot of unnecessary


sound, but allowed the muffled sounds of almost continuous blaster


fire now. There was also a faint buzz-whine from the enemies' hand-




The two stormtroopers detached to find the missing wraith


reported they had tracked down and destroyed the wounded wraith, but


one of them had taken a hit in the arm, which was bleeding


excessively. The second medical droid rushed over to assist him. From


the sounds of it, the wraiths were giving as good as they got, despite


not having battle-suits or a detectable means of communication.




Islaw moved on, staying close to his front-line units, but


never getting ahead of them. Jax reported one of his men dead, two


more injured. The wraiths were putting up quite a fight. Islaw noticed


that his men weren't taking any chances, any wounded or dying wraiths


were dispatched with a close-range shot to the head. On his display


counter, Islaw observed that thirty nine wraiths had been accounted


for, with the loss of eighteen dead troopers, and twenty three


wounded. His own unit had come off relatively lightly, with only three


dead, and five wounded. The last six wraiths had assumed a defensive


position inside what was left of the Federation base.




"Islaw, provide forward spotting, the AT-AT will clear the


fortifications." Bedwins order came through.

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Islaw aimed his blaster at the projected positions of the


wraiths inside the base. He designated five points by lightly


triggering his blaster rifle with the safety on. A second later five


turbolaser blasts smashed into the points he had designated. His


display barely cleared in time from the blasts to see Jax lead his


squad into the fortified position. By the time he got there, he found


one dead stormtrooper, and a number of wraith bodies. Two of them


apparently still alive but wounded, with blaster rifles leveled at


their heads.




"Keep them alive." He ordered. His suit indicated all wraiths


accounted for. He swore at the sight of the dead trooper. Four dead in


his unit. Ten percent casualty rate was not a good reflection on his


command ability. He advanced to the back of the building, where stairs


descended to a lower chamber. The walls and stairs showed indications


of a lot of blaster activity, whole sections having been blasted away.


Before he hit the last stair he hesitated. His suit had been


programmed with the language filters of the Federation humans.




"My name is Stam Islaw, lieutenant, Imperial stormtrooper


regiment BC1902 assigned to fleet, special operations. Hold your fire.


I am coming down."




"Slowly." Came the reply.




Islaw advanced, stopping on the last step. FEDERATION BASE,






O'Brien and his men had been listening to the sounds of combat


for nearly forty five minutes. They had kept a careful watch on the


entrance to the underground facility, but the Jem'Hadar had not


attacked since Johnson had been killed shortly after he had spoken to


the Imperial Admiral, Janus. They must have been fully occupied with


the surface battle.




The battle ended with a sudden roar of nearby explosions, and


a multiple blast wave of heat that threatened to singe O'Briens


eyebrows swept through th corridor. In his momentary deafness, he


almost missed the sounds of small arms fire in the base above.




The silence which followed was broken by a tinny, artificial


voice requesting permission to come down the stairs. O'Brien watched


as a pair of dirty brown legs descended the stairs. As the figure


stopped, O'Brien could see what looked like a white carapace, stained


brown by the dirt from the surface. The almost insectoid figure


detached it's head, and advanced cautiously down the passageway


towards the barricade where O'Brien and the last survivors of the


security detail had made a stand.




To his relief, O'Brien made out a human face in it's mid


twenties. The man held a helmet under his armoured arm, an ugly


looking rifle-type weapon dangled in his right hand. O'Brien noticed a


splash of green on one leg. Jem'Hadar blood?




"The enemy has been destroyed." The man said, or at least that


was what O'Brien heard on his translator.




"I suppose I owe you my thanks." He offered cautiously. At


this range he could see the man's eyes, they were colder than O'Brien


had seen in a long time. Such a man would never have made it through


the psychological filters of Starfleet academy. The man blinked, as if


he had not understood. A vague hint of a smile played around his lips.


He indicated the helmet, and replaced it over his head.




"Thank You." O'Brien repeated.




The soldier nodded, and waved towards the surface. O'Brien


pushed past the debris of the barricade and followed the soldier


towards the surface. The security guards and Bashir trailed.




"Chief," Bashir called, "tell him I am a doctor. If any of his


men need assistance."




The soldier turned, "My men have been taken care of."




At the top of the stairs, O'Brien looked around in dismay. The


buildings which had constituted the surface of the base had been


reduced to blackened ruins, none more than a meter in height. A large


number of white-armoured troopers were milling about. One of them


approached Islaw. He indicated the Jem'Hadar on the floor, and was


obviously communicating with Islaw via a private channel. Islaw


stiffened, and turned to face the soldier. The soldier snapped almost


to attention, then stalked away.




O'Brien noticed a robot attending to one of the Jem'Hadar, and


working furiously. They must have tried to capture one or two alive.


O'Brien could have told them better.




"We have not managed to capture any of them alive either." He


stated, addressing Islaw.




The soldier glanced at him, "This mission will be considered a


failure by my commanders, their orders were to capture one of the


wraiths alive."




Bashir advanced, intending to have a look at the downed


Jem'Hadar as well. A soldier half-turned, with his rifle at the ready,


but relaxed at a signal from Islaw. He waved his tri-corder over the


Jem'Hadar body.




"Your robot has done everything that can be done for this man,


I could have done no more. He has injected himself with an overdose of


Ketrecel White, the drug they are addicted to. It is their standard


method of evading capture."




"The medical droid claims that the wraiths are in fact clones.


Perhaps my commander will be satisfied with some tissue samples. We


can grow one when we get back home."




O'Brien noticed that he used the word clones with a distinct


distaste. He could sympathize with that feeling. Replicating a


machine, or even a human organ was one thing, replicating an entire


man was something else. The translator had almost balked at the word,


the nuance used by the soldier had almost implied soul-stealer.




As they advanced outside, O'Brien noticed that some of the


white-armoured soldiers were lining up bodies. There were at least


twice as many Jem'Hadar bodies as armoured bodies. Most of the


Jem'Hadar bodies had taken multiple hits, with signs of heat-


cauterisation and almost all of them had severe damage to their heads.


The soldiers had ruthlessly killed even wounded Jem'Hadar. O'Brien


didn't blame them too much, the Jem'Hadar didn't go down easily, and


they were pretty ruthless fighters themselves.




A huge shuttle craft had landed nearby, and a number of


stretchers on null-grav fields were being loaded onto the shuttle. The


Imperial soldiers had taken a fair number of wounded as well, but all


things considered had come off pretty lightly against the Jem'Hadar. A


stormtrooper walked by with a bloodied arm, towards the shuttle-






"His arm," Bashir exclaimed, "it's not bleeding!"




"Of course not," Islaw replied, "the medical droids would have


taken care of it with a bacta tab, he will receive further treatment


when we are back on board the destroyer. The Emperor looks after his


stormtroopers. Come, the Admiral will be keen to speak to you. My men


will retrieve your equipment, I have word that the wraiths may have


another ship on it's way here. Even if the one we destroyed didn't get


out word, the wraiths might get suspicious when it doesn't report in."




O'Brien detailed two of the security men and one of Bashir's


medical staff to help with the retrieving of the equipment. Islaw


didn't object. O'Brien was impressed by the transport. It had one huge


cavernous hold, with multiple levels lined with restraining seats. The


rear half was not split into levels, and contained a huge machine,


reminiscent of the ancient dinosaurs, with place for at least one more


beside it. It's head ended in two large and two small protrusions


which were obviously not there for decoration. O'Brien assumed it was


some kind of all terrain armoured vehicle. Whatever this Empire was


these soldiers belonged to, it was obvious that they had a very


impressive and well-equipped military.




Several minutes later, with only a mild lurch, the ship came


to rest, and the ramp they had entered descended. Islaw escorted


O'Brien to the ramp. They were in a huge hangar, with five more


transports like the one he was aboard. Behind them, the stars beckoned


through a huge opening. A force field obviously prevented the


atmosphere from blowing out into space. Beyond the entrance to the


hangar, O'Brien could see the hull of the vessel they were on


stretching away. Going by his orientation, the hangar was at the


'bottom' of the spaceship, partially concealed within the


superstructure. A number of obvious gun-turrets on the hull obviously


covered all approaches to this hangar entrance, not that many ships


could make the awkward maneuver to get a shot at the hangar unless


they were very small and highly maneuverable.




O'Brien and his companions were escorted to what was obviously


a turbo-lift. Islaw must have given the lift an order via his private


comm-channel in his helmet, for the lift accelerated away. O'Brien had


the vague impression the lift went through a few turns or rotations at


incredible speeds, the effects possibly reduced by a local inertial


dampening field. Seconds later the lift stopped. O'Brien stepped out


onto a huge bridge.




There were at least a hundred military type personnel


attending to different tasks, monitoring consoles, furiously typing at


away keyboards with symbols which were arcane to him. Near the back of


this organized chaos, on a raised platform, sat a severe-looking man.


Janus. In front of him was a huge holographic display. O'Brien


recognized the star system they were in. Janus spoke to a droid, who


translated for him.




"Chief Engineer O'Brien." Janus stated, "Welcome aboard the


Imperial Star Destroyer, /Annihilator/."




"Glad to be aboard." O'Brien stated, "You have made a great


sacrifice on our behalf. A number of your soldiers died to rescue us.


I am not sure that we can repay you for the lives lost."




"Life given in the service of others is not life lost." Janus


stated. "You and your men have been through a lot. You will be


assigned quarters and we will talk later. For now, we will leave this


system as soon as the last of your equipment is loaded. The enemy may


send another ship to enquire after the one we destroyed."




"I see you have sub-space communications equipment. Maybe you


will be prepared to send a message to our headquarters?"




"Certainly, but we were unaware of a Federation headquarters


in this quadrant. I fear that your headquarters at the other end of


the hyperspace tunnel may not be able to receive our signal. We will


discuss it later." He waved a hand in dismissal.




O'Brien left in tow of the escorting stormtroopers.




The Federation personnel gathered for their meal in a recce


room close to the quarters they had been assigned. They would


apparently be 'jumping' to the location of the wormhole within the


next hour. O'Brien had convinced Janus to return the Federation


personnel to DS9. His only concern was that Janus had accepted his


invitation all too easily. Somehow he felt like the proverbial fly who


had invited the spider into his parlor. The Imperials were gathering


their fleet in a nice hidey hole they had found for themselves in a


binary star system, and no doubt discussing their strategies. A large


freighter had arrived in the system shortly after O'Briens discussion


with Janus, and it was apparent that Janus had been expecting the


freighter. O'Briens last glimpse of the freighter as he had left the


bridge was of it being swamped by at least 20 shuttles, from ships


throughout the fleet.




By O'Briens count the fleet included a battleship similar to


the one they were on, if maybe a bit smaller, four cruiser type ships


with a distinct overbite design, and six smaller frigates, which


seemed to be responsible for all surveillance and scouting. According


to Islaw, the ship they were on was an Imperial Star Destroyer, and it


was accompanied by a Victory Star Destroyer, Dreadnaughts, and


Lancers. Islaw had mentioned that they also had several hundred one-


man star-fighters, but these had been used rarely on their patrols due


to their short range and high fuel requirements.




O'Brien wondered what Sisko would make of this 'invasion


fleet' approaching his space station. The thought led him to wonder


what the prophets might make of the fleet. He dismissed the thought,


these were friends, they had saved his and Bashir's lives. They had


been extended every courtesy apparently, despite this being a military


vessel through and through.




O'Brien had had to nudge Bashir along several times as the


young man stopped to stare at everything that came their way. He was


fascinated by the quantity and diversity of androids, especially the


medical droids, but O'Brien noticed that they hadn't been allowed to


wander too far. There were armoured soldiers guarding all major


hatchways, and the turbolifts didn't respond to their voices, with or


without translators, although many of the droids obviously understood


their language perfectly.




One droid had been assigned to them, and it was beginning to


annoy O'Brien with its continual prattle. Bashir was fascinated with


the machine, and he was involved in an animated discussion with it.


O'Brien had seen many worlds in his time, most notably on the


/Enterprise/, and few things surprised him anymore.




"May I join you?" the voice startled him. It was Islaw.




"Certainly, I almost didn't recognize you without your suit of


armour, lieutenant Islaw."




"My battle-suit. It is only required when I am on duty."




"Please, sit." O'Brien motioned towards an empty seat. "What


can I do for you?"




"Well, I thought you may appreciate some company of the non-


mechanical kind." Islaw indicated the droid. A vague smile played


around his lips.




O'Brien had no doubts the young man had been sent to spy on


him. He also didn't miss the brand new universal translator stuck


discreetly behind Islaw's ear. The design didn't look like


Starfleet's, and it was apparently brand new, but O'Brien knew a


translator when he saw one.




"New?" he asked, indicating Islaw's ear.




"The translator? Yes, as a matter of fact. Our old translators


weren't programmed for your language, these have just arrived."




O'Brien remembered the freighter. Either their manufacturing


base very close by, or that freighter was very fast, or they had had


prior knowledge of the Federation. He decided to fish a little.




"That was fast, how did you get them manufactured so quickly."




Islaw shrugged, "we've been listening in to your


communications for quite a while. I suppose it's pointless keeping


that a secret any longer." The vague smile again.




"The sub-space transmitter that gave away our position?"




"I am afraid so. We have been distributing probe droids in


this system since your invasion began."




"Invasion!" O'Brien recoiled. "We have invaded nothing. This


quadrant was unoccupied."




"These sectors maybe," Islaw corrected, "but you have


positioned yourself in a strategic spot, surrounded by those who are


not necessarily friendly."




"Yourselves included?" O'Brien asked, but he was thinking,


'Typical, a whole galaxy and we get dumped here.'




"No, our borders are far away. Very far away." Islaw almost


smiled openly this time.




"You have come across the Borg?" O'Brien asked.




Islaw hadn't, which gave O'Brien ample opportunity to wade


into a discussion on the race of cyborgs who's apparent sole intention


was to consume the entire galaxy. The Federation had managed to


withstand the advances the Borg were making into their home quadrant,


but each successive wave of Borg had been more difficult to defeat.




It was projected that with the next decade or two Borg space


would approach the borders of the Romulan Empire, and that would be a


battle royale, O'Brien mused. Under those conditions, the Federation


and the Romulans would probably set aside their differences, the


Federation would be happy to keep the Romulans as a buffer between


themselves and the Borg. Better the enemy you can deal with than the


enemy you can't.




Islaw listened to all this. He now knew and understood much of


the sensory data retrieved from that quadrant. The analysis had been


incomplete, as the Lancers assigned to that quadrant had never been


able to gather any intelligence for long without attracting undue


attention. The race that occupied that quadrant had superb sensors,


and now he also understood how they appeared to have an almost


instantaneous communications system with very little sub-space


communications. The only sub-space communications in that quadrant had


apparently been between computer systems, in a form of encryption they


had not been able to decipher. A collective mind could be a major


tactical and strategic weapon. Everything that O'Brien had told him


ran counter to his beliefs. The Borg were a subversion to the Force.


A five minutes jump warning eventually interrupted their


discussion. Islaw quickly escorted them to their quarters.




"Stay in your quarters until I come for you. The jump will


barely be noticeable. This is standard procedure, you never quite know


what you're jumping into, and the ship is usually on standby whenever


we make a jump. In this sector, because we are not familiar with what


to expect, the ship is always at general quarters, and we never jump


directly into a system, but usually to within half a light year, and


then approach cautiously. Chief, I'm sure the admiral will want you on


the bridge. The hyperspace tunnel is only a six minute jump away, so


if you will come with me?"




O'brien followed Islaw. 'Six minutes!' he thought, 'why, they


would be able to cross the galaxy in a matter of several weeks, and


the entire Federation space in an hour or two.' That led him to wonder


what Islaw meant by their borders being far away. Far away for warp


vessels? Far enough way that they hadn't encountered the Borg? It was


known that Borg occasionally launched a few cubes with a transwarp


device into remote corners of the galaxy. It was one-way trip, but


that wouldn't bother the Borg. O'Brien wondered how many small pockets


of Borg were out there. Not many, since the transwarp had apparently


only recently been used by the Borg, and not always with success. He


also wondered just how many Borg cubes had been destroyed by the


launcher they were thought to have.

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O'brien reached the bridge just as the ship made the jump. One


instant the viewscreen was filled with the almost familiar by now


formations of the gamma quadrant, then it was suddenly replaced by an


almost formless static.




"Except for the ability to detect ." Islaw started, but


stopped at a glare from Janus. 'Detect what?' O'Brien wondered, 'and


was he going to say the ship was blind.' Interesting thought O'Brien,


so there are disadvantages to their drive mechanism.




"You say you don't know who constructed the hyperspace


tunnel?" Janus asked, obviously to distract him from whatever he was


about to ask. O'Brien wasn't too put out by their reticence, after all


he wasn't about to explain everything regarding warp drives and


antimatter technologies to them either.




"It was there when we first explored the system, the


inhabitants of the system had developed their religion around it, and


worship the beings who live inside the tunnel. 'Prophets' they are


called. Apparently time has little or no meaning to them."




"How do you know this hyperspace tunnel is not a naturally


occurring phenomenon?"




"Well, mathematically such a phenomenon is possible, although


no wormholes have been found. This particular wormhole seems to have a


construct that is not natural, but mathematically precise in some


fashion that escapes our scientists. It does not conform to many of


the properties wormholes are theorized to exhibit. Yet it exists and


is fairly stable."




"Preparing to disengage hyperdrive motivator." A technician






"Three, two, one, now!" Another called. The static in the


view-screen instantly cleared. The constellations had barely shifted.


Eighteen light-years was not far on the galactic scale.




"Range to hyperspace tunnel entrance, two hundred million


kilometers. No encroachments to.. maximum sensor range."




O'Brien noticed the hesitation. The technician had been about


to give away their maximum sensory range when he thought better of it.


Judging by the anxious look he had thrown Janus' way, such a


discrepancy would have cost him severely.




Janus watched the 'wormhole' approaching with a reverence he


hoped nobody noticed. That the Federation officer would use such a


disgusting term for a construct of the ancient ones was a sacrilege.


He wondered if the 'prophets' were the last of the ancient ones, those


who had first taught his ancestors about the undetectable energy field


which bound the universe together, that which they called the Force.


He would find out soon enough, if the 'prophets' made an appearance.




He casually inspected the bridge. His bridge crew was


recording everything, and all information was being transmitted


directly to the freighter, which would not enter the tunnel, but


record from it's remote vantage point. Once they entered the tunnel,


the freighter would jump back to their supply depot, carrying the


vital information with it. The moment the ships exited the tunnel at


the far end, they would transmit everything directly to the ships at


the supply depot. His engineers had told Janus that without boosters,


the signal had an 80% chance of reaching the ships close to the core.




The rescue and return of the research team under O'Brien had


given him a good excuse for entering Federation space, and even


possibly to get some of his men aboard a Federation space station.


O'Brien had indicated the space station was the first line of defence


for any invasion through the hyperspace tunnel, so it might be their


best chance to get a good look at what a Federation battle-station was


all about.




They were now approaching the entrance with the aid of their


ion drives, impulse engines, O'Brien had called them. Apparently the


Federation used similar engines for sub-light travel, although their


engines required modification to traverse the tunnel. He had indicated


that the ion drives were capable of traversing the tunnel unmodified,


provided they didn't exceed 10% of what Janus had quoted as their


maximum impulse (about three quarters the actual figure, but O'Brien


needn't know that). Federation ships, according to O'Brien, relied


only on their impulse drives for orbital and docking maneuvers, and


limited interplanetary travel, and on warp drive for most other


purposes. He had not mentioned battle tactics.




The ship entered the tunnel. Behind them, there the tunnel


seemed to seal off immediately. O'brien had indicated this was normal.


The entire bridge crew, O'Brien included, had their attention riveted


on the display outside the view-screen. There was a bleep on his


command chair's control padd.




"Admiral, Sir?" It was the engine room.




"Report using the correct procedures. What is it?"




"Sir! There are people down here. They are standing around the


hyperdrive motivator, they seem to be inspecting it."




"Are they interfering with the operation of the ship?"




"No sir? They're just standing here. They seemed to just...






"The prophets." O'Brien stated, his curiosity obvious. Janus


was reluctant to leave the bridge, and there was no way he would allow


O'Brien a look at their engines. O'Brien seemed to be considering this


as well. Their eyes met, each trying to penetrate the other's






"Admiral!" It was Islaw. He had assumed a battle-ready


posture. A woman had appeared on the bridge. She moved without


appearing to walk, directly towards Janus. Islaw made as If to block


her approach, but then for no reason relaxed and wandered away. Janus


watched the woman's approach. If it wasn't for the complete emptiness


of emotion in her face he could have sworn the was his dead wife. She


stopped just short of him. Her eyes black orbs, her face a plastic


mask. For a long time she stared into his mind, then raised an arm as


if to touch him. She disappeared. Janus slumped back into his seat, a


suddenly re-animated Islaw rushing over to his Admiral.




Janus waved him away. He couldn't place it, but something felt


different to Janus. He looked around. Many anxious faces were staring


at him. He doubted that they had real concern for his welfare. He had


been a good commander, and he tended to keep his men alive, unlike


other admirals he knew, but he was not the kind of commander who


inspired anything but respect in his men. Janus glared at them, and


they jumped back to work, or found something to do.




"You knew her, didn't you?" O'Brien asked.




"My dead wife." Janus answered, surprising himself.




The brilliance outside the view-screen abruptly gave way to


the impenetrable blackness of space. They had traversed the wormhole.




"Sensors! Fleet status! All ships report in!" Janus ordered.


Islaw gestured to O'Brien, who stepped away from the Admiral, and


joined Islaw behind the command seat. One by one, the fleet ships


reported in. All had made it through. No discernible damage was


detected on any of the ships, all systems checked out. The holographic


display quickly took a shape O'Brien was familiar with, the planets


and moons of the Bajor system, with the inevitable host of starships


of all descriptions. Bajor had not been a quiet system since the


discovery of the wormhole. The holographic display was almost


dominated by blips representing spaceships.




The holographic display showed the chaos and order in the


system to beautiful effect, colour coding ships according to size and


power readings, with vectors indicating direction and velocity.


O'Brien could almost imagine the frantic activity on-board those


ships, not to mention the space station, at the sudden arrival of this


fleet of ships. Seeing this, O'Brien wondered that Starfleet didn't


invest in holographic displays. It would be a fantastic advantage in


the melee of a space-battle. That thought reminded him that these men


were no stranger to war. Judging by Islaw's stories, their society had


known peace for thousands of years, but had been torn apart in the


last fifty years by one war after another, and was only now beginning


to experiencing an uneasy peace under it's self-appointed Emperor.






"Bridge to Sisko!"




"What now?" Sisko asked. It had been one of those weeks. Sisko


was spending some rare time with Jake. He didn't appreciate that Jake


spent such a lot of time with the Ferengi boys, and wished again that


things were different.




"We need you here now. It's important." Dax said.




"On my way."




Sisko didn't doubt that when Dax said something was important,


then it was. Thank goodness, it wasn't Kira on the bridge, then he


would not have had a seconds peace. Everything was an emergency to


Kira, and whenever Sisko left her in charge, she would find one. He


had huge doubts about the fact that one day the station would be in


her command. Sometimes she showed signs of brilliance, but invariably


found a way to stuff it up again. He put all thoughts of that out of


his mind when he entered the bridge.




"Alright. What have we got?"




"On-screen." Dax said. "A fleet of unknown ships has just


arrived in the Bajor system. They came via the wormhole." She added


ominously. Nothing but trouble ever came through the wormhole. Sisko


turned towards the screen. Whatever Dax had said was an






The fleet that was visible on the screen consisted of at least


twelve vessels, the smallest only slightly smaller than a galaxy class


starship, and their were six of them. The largest ship in the fleet


was easily three times the size of a galaxy cruiser. It was only about


three times the length, but whereas a starship's lines were elegant,


and flattened into a disc shape except for the command module and warp


nacelles, this ship was a brutish massive wedge. There was no


mistaking that it was a ship designed for one purpose only.


There were no signs of warp nacelles though, and it's impulse


engines were huge. The energy readings he could see from Dax's display


were enormous. The ship fairly bristled with weapons emplacements, and


prelimary scans showed that the weapons were independently powered.


Judging from the look of the ship, Sisko had no doubt that those


weapons emplacements could operate independently, to disable a ship


like that you would have to destroy it in it's entirety.




"Open a channel." He calmly told Dax.




Dax didn't respond, but seconds later the view-screen changed.


A severe looking man in a crisp military styled uniform was seated in


a chair overlooking what had to be huge bridge.




"Sisko, commander deep space nine." He introduced himself,


"Please identify yourselves and state your purpose here."




The man did not reply, but made a small movement with his arm.


Chief Engineer O'Brien stepped into view. The engineers face was


impassive, but Sisko could see a glint in his eye. The engineer no


doubt knew exactly the response the fleet would have inspired at DS9.




"Chief O'Brien!" Sisko stated, with a hint of a question in


his eyes.




"Commander. This is admiral Janus, he is the commander of the


fleet. The doctor and a number of security ensigns are also on-board.


We were rescued by the admiral during a Jem'Hadar attack on the


research outpost. We owe our lives to him."




"Commander Sisko." The admiral said, "With your permission, I


would like to send a shuttle over with your men?"




"Will any of your men, or yourself perhaps, also be coming


over on the shuttle?" Sisko enquired.




"Some of my men will be accompanying Engineer O'Brien."








"The shuttle won't have a problem docking in the trojan bay,


and I don't think the greek clamps will be needed, at this time."




"Very well. Permission granted. Your shuttle may follow the


beacons to the trojan docking bay, admiral. Your men will be required


to observe the rules of this station, and the bearing of arms will not


be permitted if they wish to make use of the facilities aboard this


station. Perhaps you will join me for dinner later? The station may


not have the best facilities in the Federation, but what we have we


will place at your disposal."




"I accept your invitation." The admiral nodded.




"Done." Sisko cut the channel.




"What was that all about?" Dax enquired. "Trojans, greeks?"




"O'Brien was implying that we must exercise caution with these


people, although he doesn't think they will try anything yet."




"How did you get all that?" Dax asked.




"You should read up a bit more on your earth history, old


man." Sisko replied. "Have Odo meet the shuttle with a full security


detail. Nothing too obvious, but we don't want any surprises."




Islaw and his squad were assigned to accompany O'Brien and his


men to the enemy space station. This was no surprise to Islaw, as he


had been instructed to cultivate the engineer's friendship. The task


had proven easier than he imagined. The engineer was a likeable man.


The stormtrooper was not the kind of man who usually made friends


easily, but this particular tour of duty had been one of the easiest


of his career, and he often found himself doing things that he might


have considered beneath his dignity back home.




Something had changed in the eighteen months and more since


they had left home, like a weight gradually lifting off his shoulders.


He had seen the same thing in many other men in the fleet. The last


change had been in the hyperspace tunnel. Something had happened in


there, and whatever it was had swept through the fleet like a


sandstorm through a Tatooine village. The Federation were still


classed as an enemy though, but whatever the change, Islaw couldn't


quite put his finger on it.




The hangar in which the shuttle landed was no different to any


of hundreds he had seen in his short career. The only difference was


the strangeness of doing this without the security of his battle-suit,


and the strange lack of droids. The hangar was equipped well enough


with docking equipment like tractor beams, holding clamps, robotic


arms, there were the pipes and tubing associated with high pressure


hydraulic equipment, but no droids. Islaw wasn't sure what to expect


when he stepped onto the ramp and walked out into the hangar. He knew


O'Brien had passed some coded message to his commander, and no doubt


that was why he and his men had been sent, they were expendable, and


it was their job.




They were met by a gruff security officer, who somehow didn't


look quite complete. So the Federation military included non-humans he


thought. He had no prejudice against non-humans, although it was quite


obvious that somebody high up in the Imperial command structure did.


The officer was backed up by a number of men, and Islaw and his men


had to submit to having some sort of device waved around them.




"Medical scan, for quarantine reasons, and of course to ensure


that you are complying with the no weapons policy." The gruff security


chief said, squeezing his voice out in one even breath, with no hint


of emotion. "Once through that door you will be on the concourse. Obey


the laws, don't get into trouble, and you won't see me again." Islaw


noticed that the security chief had no hesitation in scanning O'Brien


and his men either. He had no doubt that the law was applied very even


handedly by this man.




Islaw stepped through the security doors, and onto a huge


concourse. He immediately felt like he was home. Visible on the


concourse was a variety of aliens and humanoids almost approaching


that usually encountered in the busiest spaceports back home. None of


the aliens were of species' recognizable to him, except of course for


the humans of the Federation. One of his primary goals was in fact to


discover what he could about human history. Janus found it most


coincidental that humans were to be found in this galaxy. One theory


advanced was that they might be descendants of refugees who had fled


the home galaxy during the reign of Xim the despot, more than 10,000


years ago.




Amongst their group were a few espionage droids. Islaw had


told O'Brien they were protocol droids, and his men never went


anywhere without them. The young doctor in O'Brien's group had


developed an almost emotional attachment to one of them already, which


the espionage droid no doubt exploited to the maximum. The group


attracted little attention. The inhabitants of the huge space station


apparently had enough business of their own to attend to.




Islaw indicated that his men should spread out in the


concourse. He followed O'Brien to be introduced to the station's






"Commander Sisko, Lieutenant Islaw. The lieutenant was the one


who led the attack on the Jem'Hadar."




Islaw recognized the rank of Commander, and saluted, but using


the salute reserved for officers of dubious rank. "I merely commanded


one of four company's in the attack." He corrected O'Brien. He was not


sure if the Federation officer had fully understood the significance


of the salute.




"You have my thanks." Sisko held out his hand, "I understand a


number of your men died in the attack." Islaw wasn't sure what to do


with the outstretched hand, and after a short hesitation, mirrored the


gesture. Sisko gripped his hand and shook it.




"The casualty rates were higher than expected. The wraiths


fought well, my men would not have been shamed to be defeated by such


worthy opponents." Islaw said guardedly.




A huge humanoid with a ridged scalp and dark skin joined the


group. "The answer of a warrior." He intoned in a deep voice. "Indeed,


the Jem'Hadar are a worthy opponent. How did the battle go? Commander


Worf," he introduced himself, "sector security."




If Sisko or O'Brien were taken aback by the apparent lack of


concern shown for dead comrades by Islaw they hid it well. The Klingon


and the stormtrooper engaged in an animated discussion of the action,


the Klingon wanting to know all the details, deployment of units and


tactics used by the respective sides.




Sisko quietly withdrew, pulling O'Brien with him. There was


much he wanted to know, and he and O'Brien were going to have a long






Janus reviewed the information the espionage droids had


submitted in their report. The amount of information they had come up


with in three days was staggering. Not that this was any reflection on


the ability of the droids, it was just that the information was so


freely available. Bashir had proved to be a mountain of information,


as had an alien by the name of Elim Garak. In the end, one of the


droids had stumbled onto a place called a library. According to the


droid, the librarian had even assisted it by setting up a direct data


link so that it could download any data it required. The data included


an extensive history of the Earth humans, their expansion into space,


the development of warp and sub-space technologies, overviews of their


encounters with the Romulans, Klingons, Vulcans, Ferengi, Cardassians


and many more.




Naturally the information didn't include classified


information, like locations of military bases, military manufacturing


facilities, military dispositions, number and type of starships and


schematics of warp engines. It did include lists of colonies, their


estimated populations, products produced or mined at these facilities,


and enough information for Janus' intelligence agents to deduce their






Janus also discovered that the Earth Humans early history was


largely a mystery even to themselves. The history included two-


dimensional photographs of ancient structures called Pyramids, Maian


temples and Stonehenge, which were surrounded by mystery and legend,


and remaining unexplained even to their modern scientists. Janus


couldn't believe it. The answer to everything, the mysteries of the


Force and how the Universe was bound together, all lay there within


their grasp, and they couldn't see it. The ancient monuments were


quite familiar to him. Their designs were reminiscent of the Force


focusing temples of the Sith Lords, Jedi artifacts and much knowledge


which had been lost or destroyed millennia ago, even before the rise


of the Old Republic.




It was obvious to him now that these humans were descended


from refugees who had fled the galaxy between 10,000 and 15,000 years


ago. For some reason, they had sunk to barbarism, and eventually


recovered to regain their destiny amongst the stars. Now, they were on


the brink of destruction yet again. Janus was torn between his duty to


the empire and his instinct to nurture and protect the human species.


He could see that they faced many grave external challenges in this


galaxy, but if they were to overcome those challenges, they could


conceivably be a threat to the galactic empire. Janus also spotted


evidence that they faced huge internal challenges as well, just as he


did now.




Janus had called a meeting of all his captains, but it was a


meeting that they could not afford to have onboard any Imperial ship,


nor could they afford to have it on DS9 for fear of eavesdropping. For


this reason, they had arranged to meet on the planet's surface. Even


now, the captains were arriving in their shuttles. Janus ordered the


shuttles back to the fleet, with instructions to return in two hours.


He could not afford to have even a shuttle near the meeting they were


about to have. The Bajoran woman who stood with him was surrounded by


a serenity he had witnessed only once before, when he had seen a Jedi


on his home planet. He instinctively trusted her. Even though the Jedi


had long since been disbanded, the respect for them was ingrained.




"You are certain that the temple cannot be bugged, Okapa?" He


asked her.




"Come, see for yourself."




Janus followed the woman into the temple, his captains


following him. One of his captains gasped in amazement at some of the


symbols seen on the walls. Janus inclined his head respectfully


towards a Jedi force focusing crystal mounted in a delicate sculpture.


He noticed similar sculptures at strategic places throughout the


temple. He did not know if the priestess with them understood the


capabilities of such crystals, but the Emperor would have gladly


turned over the entire galaxy to get his hands on such power.




"Yes, this will suffice." He told her.




She looked at him strangely, she understood much of what the


crystals were capable of, but these men obviously knew something or


believed something that was just beyond her grasp. She nodded, and


left the Imperial officers to their own devices. She was not a


military person, but found it strange that they would consider


something so important that they would gather their entire command


staff in one place, even though their fleet was well within what they


obviously believed to be enemy territory.




"Okapa." It was a familiar voice, one she had been expecting.




"Yes, Major Kira. What can I do for you?" The Okapa had the


feeling that she already knew the answer, but pretended innocence






"What are those men doing in the temple?"




"They have been touched by the prophets, and wish to pay


respects." The Okapa answered and made as if to walk on.




"Bullsh ... I mean, that is not quite true Okapa. We know


nothing of these men, and they have an entire fleet up there, the


capabilities of which we have no idea."




"Surely you don't think they will attack while all their


commanding officers are down here?"




"I don't know about that, but they could be planning something


in there." She said. Her hands were itching to get at her tricorder,


but it would be sacrilege to attempt a scan of the temple.




"Go ahead." The Okapa invited, "but maybe you would be better


off assisting the Emissary?" The Okapa pointed up.




Kira frowned; she had an overwhelming desire to stamp her


foot, but slapped her comm-badge instead and asked to be beamed up to


the station.




Inside the temple, Janus was opening the meeting. He was in


somewhat unfamiliar territory here, not giving commands, but chairing


a meeting instead. The fact that the subject he was about to broach


was dangerous didn't help things either.




"What I am about to invite discussion on," he started, "will


be enough to invite summary execution back home. It is also something


that we daren't speak of aboard any Imperial vessel."




"Aye," the captain of the VSD /Dominator/ agreed, "who knows


what hidden programming the Emperor has aboard his vessels. Or how


many loyal spies."




Janus nodded. "I have identified the change that has come over


the crew, ourselves included, in the eighteen months since we left the


galaxy. The change that was eventually brought to fruition in the


hyperspace tunnel by the ancient ones. Although we have only now


realized it, we have been on a leash of the Emperor's making, a leash


that has been stretched to breaking point, and now finally broken." HE


looked around the faces of the assembled men. "I can now also see that


despite the good Palpatine has done, his defeat of the clone masters,


his dissolving of the corrupt government of the Old Republic and his


necessary disbanding of the Jedi council, which had been subverted


first by the clone masters then by the corrupt republic, he has


outlived his time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the


rebels are probably correct. The Emperor needs to be stopped, and a


new government appointed."




"If even a hint of what you just said makes it back to one of


those ships," the captain of the /Dominator/ said, "they will probably


self-destruct. I don't doubt for a second that Palpatine's hand in the


design of those ships went deeper than anyone knows."




"I doubt that the ship can self-destruct," Janus said, "More


likely the Emperor has agents aboard our vessels who could disable the


entire ship by punching in a predetermined code."




"I think it's a risk we will have to live with. Perhaps the


Emperor's agents have also broken free of his mental shackles."




"From now on we must be extra-careful," Janus warned, "and


sometime between now and our return home we must flush these agents


out. This might be the only time we have an opportunity to discuss the


future of our mission, the loyalties of our crew, and what we do when


we get home."




"I suspect that most of my crew will defect to the rebels at


the first opportunity," one captain said, "but will remain loyal until


then. You have kept us alive until now Admiral, and you have my faith


and that of my men. Many of us have served with you for years, and we


will trust your judgment in this matter."




There was a chorus of agreement. Janus nodded as if he had


expected no less. "Very well, the Federation must never know we


destroyed /Voyager/, we will continue our mission to the best of our


abilities. We have discovered much in this galaxy, but we have failed


to capture a warp-drive vessel, and our observations of the hyperspace


tunnel will be useful. The Federation may yet prove to be a formidable


foe in the future, but they will not survive for long if they do not


take the required steps to destroy their enemies. They walk a


dangerous line between respect for all life and allowing their enemies


to plot their destruction."




"They are human, and their ancestors are our ancestors.


Shouldn't we help them?"




Janus appeared to consider, then "No! They have dug their own


grave, if they are defeated here, then humans will live on elsewhere.


No doubt there are other pockets of humans surviving in the universe.


There is only one thing left for us to do in this galaxy, and that is


to test the capabilities of the species known as Borg."

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"Can they be defeated?"




"Everybody can be defeated. Their technology may be superior


to that of the Federation, and it appears that they use Force enhanced


drive and repair mechanisms, but nothing and nobody is impregnable."




"If they use Force enhanced mechanisms, how can we defeat


them. The Force is the ultimate power in the Universe. Nobody has ever


defeated a Jedi unless it was another Jedi."




"The Borg are not Jedi, their collective mind may give them


great willpower through the Force, but it appears that individual


drones are not capable of Force enhanced powers. Also, the powers


described are limited, repairing of vessels, re-animation of damaged


drones, and this greatly dependant on the number of minds they can


bring to bear, but apparently not telepathy and mind-control. Their


extensive reliance on cybernetic limb replacements also would cause


tremendous weakness in their ability to control the Force, as these


things are not part of the Force."




"That still hasn't given us a strategy to combat them."




"We will discuss this further on board our ships, perhaps


further thought will suggest a solution." Janus finished.




"Are our guests behaving themselves?" Sisko asked of his


security chief, Odo.




"There have been a few incidents, nothing major."




Sisko raised his eyebrows.




"The alien humans seem to have acquired a liking for Quark's


establishment. They do not drink heavily, but they are dangerous, for






"I don't understand." Sisko said. "Please, continue." "Three


of them got in a fight with three Cardassians from a passing


freighter. The Imperial soldiers won the fight easily."




Cardassians were notoriously dirty fighters, and they were


slightly above human baseline strength and resilience. Three ordinary


humans would have been badly beaten, possibly killed. Even human


starfleet security officers would have had a hard time in a hand to


hand fight with cardassians, before subduing them. Humans were not the


biggest, fastest or strongest species by a long shot in the galaxy.




"These humans fought just as dirty as the cardassians," Odo


said, measuring Sisko's reaction, "they would probably have killed


them if the fight had not been broken up. I suspect that they are used


to fighting to the death, and violence is not as alien to them as some


humans I could mention. I doubt that humans with their psychological


profiles would ever be allowed to leave school, let alone join






"Your point." Sisko asked coolly.




The shape-changer's eyes narrowed, an almost calculating look.


"Earth humans are largely pacifist. I understand that your education


suppresses the ... how shall I put it ... animal in you ... the baser


instincts. Starfleet personnel might have subdued the cardassians, but


would have taken pains not to inflict extensive injuries, and would


certainly not have gone for the kill. Up to now I thought that was


just how humans are, and even admired that trait. Now I realize I was


mistaken. Humans are not naturally that way, your education MAKES you


that way."




"You imply we are brainwashed into becoming good citizens, not


to take lives, not to break the law, to respect life, no matter the


nature of that life. These are all positive things."




"Positive for a government who wants a submissive citizenry.


Not positive for a species fighting for their survival."




"No, Odo, you are mistaken," Sisko said, "Brainwashing is a


strong word, but the truth is so much deeper than that. We believe


these are the things that will ENSURE our survival. We believe that


you grow not through brute strength, but through adaptability, through


submission, through striving to preserve life."




"Perhaps that is so. And yet, these are the very things that


may destroy you. The Borg is not life to be preserved. The saddest


thing is that I fear your ... education system ... has done it's job


too well, that humans have come to believe in conformity and passivism


for its own sake, and not as a conscious choice by the individual. For


the last two hundred and fifty years your society has been declining.


You have improved on existing ideas, developed neater and cleaner


solutions to the same problems, improved your warp drives and your


phasers and your torpedoes, but you have not come up with one original


idea. There are no more radicals in human society. If Zephrim Cochrane


were to step into your office today, you would have him sent for re-


education, or commit him to a lunatic asylum."




Sisko was quiet for a long while. "Are you saying we have


given up freedom of choice?"




"Yes, in a way," Odo answered thoughtfully, "your Christian


religion argues that God created man with a freedom to choose between


right and wrong. Your education systems and your Starfleet have taken


that decision away from your people. They are CHANNELED into the right


decisions, not given an opportunity to choose. Come with me."




Odo led Sisko to a position overlooking the promenade. "Look


down there," he said. "On that promenade you can see every facet of


the so-called human psyche. People arguing, laughing, crying,


fighting, smiling, stealing. People engaging in illicit dealing, in


gambling, in prostitution, people littering, people eyeing each other


with greed, avarice, lust, hatred, love, joy. Not one of them are


Earth-human. The humans are all plastic, look at them, with their


empty smiles. No passion, no drive, no aggression, no envy. No


radicals. The only true humans I see out there are those Imperial


soldiers." He indicated a group of obvious Imperials drinking and


laughing just outside the entrance to Quark's saloon.




Whereas the earth-humans stood out like sore thumbs in the


crowd, these humans were noticeable due to the fact that they were


indistinguishable from any of the other alien species on the






"People fear them, but they also respect them. People fear


them not because they are obviously vicious soldiers, but because of


what they represent in terms of the human species potential as an


unforgiving and vicious enemy. Those same aliens who respectfully give


the Imperials breathing space on the promenade, sneer and laugh behind


starfleets' collective backs, and plot your destruction."




Odo turned back to Sisko, "Your people are becoming plastic,


commander. One day soon, they will have lost their soul completely.


And that will be the end of your species."




It was a thoughtful Sisko that returned to his office.




The Imperial fleet was finally departing from the Bajor


system. Their shuttles were ferrying the last of their men back to


their ships. They still steadfastly refused to make use of the


transporters, whether because of religious fears or the fact that they


had not reduced their shields once was unknown. Their security had


been too tight for Odo to smuggle himself on board one of the ships,


their ubiquitous droids were able to sense life-forms in whatever form


it took, and had caused Odo much embarrassment. Sisko for one was glad


to see them go.




They had left the station none the worse for wear, and there


had been no serious conflict this time, but he had no doubt that the


Imperials had come on a fishing expedition. He had a feeling that he


might one day face them again, and it was a chilling thought. Despite


this, it was also somehow comforting to know that there were humans


elsewhere in the galaxy, or wherever these men had come from.




Janus looked out the viewscreen at the huge space station.


They had learnt a lot from the Federation, and not all of it positive.


The Emperor was said to be able to look into men's hearts, and kill


them with a thought. He knew that he would never survive a meeting


with the Emperor. Their mission had taken on a greater significance,


though. More than just scouting for hidden rebel bases, it was their


duty to discover what they could from this galaxy, and to take that


information back home.




One or another, his galaxy would have to sort out it's


problems soon, whether under the new Republic the rebels were fighting


to establish, or the Empire his fellow admirals were striving for. The


challenges from this galaxy would not wait for ever, and they would


have to be ready to face it, or it would be the end of the human race.




Now, they would reassemble the fleet in the galactic core, and


devise a strategy to face the Borg. That information might prove to be


the most valuable of all that they would take home.




"Fleet report all secure for jump, sir."




So all the men had returned no deserters. Janus had never


doubted it, his men were made of stern stuff, and they would return to


their homes to fight for a new future.




Janus acknowledged the signal, and with a flash of pseudo-


motion, the fleet vanished into hyperspace.




Sisko's mouth dropped. Next to him O'Brien said, "I told you,


but I've only ever experienced it from the inside."




"Sensors?" Sisko asked.




"There was a momentary space-time distortion, less than half a


second,then they were just ... gone." Dax reported.




The Imperial fleet was a hive of activity. Since the


reconnaissance fleet had returned to the supply depot, the


manufacturing facility had been worked day and night without stop. In


the weeks of Hyperspace travel back from Federation space Janus had


studied everything known about the Borg. Some of the most valuable


information had been derived from the recordings of Islaw's


discussions with O'Brien. The Starfleet engineer had spoken volumes


about the capabilities of the Borg, and how they the Federation had


been just barely survived their raids.




The Federation had now survived more than one raid by the


Borg, and each had been that much more difficult to repel. Each attack


had cost them dearly in ships, lives and resources. Everyone feared


that the next attack would be the last. The most feared ability of the


Borg was their adaptability. Their technology was advanced enough over


that of Federation vessels that they could quickly analyze an attack


and develop counter strategies or counter weapons. Janus didn't


believe though that the Borg knew everything. Their had to be a limit


to their technology, and a limit to their ability to adapt. Only the


Force was infinite. Some men worshipped a God, whom they claimed to be


infinite and perfect. 'Well, Janus thought, 'the Borg may be


technologically advanced, but they are not God, and they are not the


Force, therefore they can be beaten.'




Janus had even stooped to discuss tactics with the young


stormtrooper, Islaw, to see if his first hand memory of his


discussions with O'Brien might yield anything the recordings had not


revealed. They had come up with many ideas and possibilities, and


Janus had also made a few of his own deductions. As a result of this,


they had drawn up a list of tactics and battle-plans for their planned


encounter with the Borg. The first of these had involved the


manufacture of huge amounts of very basic weapons, slight


modifications to the battle-suits of the stormtroopers, and the


manufacturing of a very old weapon, which had long since been


forgotten by everyone in the galaxy, except for students of military


history like Janus.




One of his ship captains had expressed incredulity at the


idea, but all of them conceded it just might work. Seven ships would


go on the raid, the Imperial Star Destroyer, both Victory Star


Destroyers, and four of the Lancers. The security of the supply depot


would be left in the hands of the Dreadnaughts and the remaining






One of the changes Janus had ordered was a major reshuffling


of all personnel in the fleet. All troopers and much of the crews were


stripped from the ships that would remain behind. Janus expected high


loss of life, and he couldn't afford for anyone irreplaceable to be


lost this far from home. The ISD's complement of stormtroopers had


been raised from 5000 troops to in excess of 9000. As many of them as


possible were to be fitted with the modified battle-suits. The crew


were bolstered with crewers who had duplicated skills, so that anyone


who was killed could be easily replaced. The main computers' programs


that dealt with repelling of boarders were reviewed, and modified


where necessary.




The manufacturing center had been producing probe droids for


the last few days, and even the AT-AT's and AT-ST's were removed from


the star destroyers, along with the dropships which were used to


deliver them planetside, to make space for the additional crew and the


huge amounts of probe droids ordered. These droids had a slight


modification though. Most of their internal components were removed,


and the self-destruct charge was replaced with solar-fusion bombs.


Solar-fusion reactors were a popular power source in the galaxy, and


the ion drives on star ships were still powered by multiple solar-


fusion reactors. However, solar-fusion bombs had long since given way


to turbo-lasers, laser-cannons, ion-cannons and their ilk, as these


weapons were capable of much greater destruction. But turbolasers were


useless for what Janus had in mind.




Finally, Janus was satisfied that they could do no more, and


the fleet set out. Four Lancers were sent to scout Borg space for


information about stellar density and variation, and likely locations


of Borg worlds. They were to jump into systems for no more than a few


seconds before jumping out, and they were not allowed to approach to


within 10 minutes warp travel of any suspected Borg worlds. If they


detected even a hint of a warp-drive vessel approaching them they were


to jump away from that system.




The ISD and the two VSD's were going to test their new


variation of an old weapon on the Jem'Hadar in Dominion space about a


two week jump away. The fleet would re-assemble in the core in a


month's time, during which the manufacturing center was to complete as


many more of the newly ordered weapons as possible.




The battle fleet approached Dominion space with caution. A


test of their weapons ability against a typical warp-drive vessel did


not require a major fleet engagement, and they had no wish to risk any


losses before their encounter with the Borg. Their second jump brought


them to within 1 light year of a Dominion world identified during the


initial scouting of this area by the Lancers.




They had no fear of discovery, as Jem'Hadar (and Federation)


sensors were designed to detect warp-drives only this far out, and it


was not possible to detect a low power ion-drive emission more than a


few light-months away even with the most sensitive equipment. At this


range they could listen in to sub-space communications and get a more


detailed analyses of the structure of the solar system in terms of






"Sensors detect two galactic standard planets for humanoid


development and three gas-giants. Sub-space communications indicate


high probability of habitation." A tech reported needlessly. Janus


could see that for himself on his holo-display. At this range they


couldn't detect whether there were ships in orbit, unless those ships


were discharging their weapons.




"Jump to the outermost gas giant. Keep it between us and the


inhabited planets." Janus ordered.




Thirty seconds later, they arrived.




"Sub-space communications emanating from both planets. No


variance in communication intensity. It is unlikely we have been


detected yet. The gas-giant prohibits us from detecting any charged


particle emissions from impulse or ion drives. It is also not possible


to detect orbital ships through the planet without doing a full sensor


focus with active sub-space transmitters."




"We'll wait." Janus ordered.




About an hour later, they were still waiting. The three ships


lay quietly, all non-essential systems shut down, a hyperspace jump


ready programmed, in a stationary orbit on the far side of the gas-






"Space-time distortion detected. It's mobile." The technician


called out range and bearings as he fed the information into the


tactical display. The warp vessel was traveling on a path towards one


of the planets.




"Wait until he disengages his warp drive, then do a full


sensor focus. Keep the jump calcs up to date."




"Warp disengaged. Full sensor focus now. Readings indicate a


cruiser sized ship, multiple weapons emplacements. She is definitely a


warship." One of the sensor systems operators called out.




"Outbound sub-space communications have increased


significantly." Another called.




"/Conqueror/, execute, Now!" Janus ordered.




The VSD /Conqueror/ jumped to within 10,000 kilometers of the


position of the enemy vessel. The jump covered a distance of seven


light-hours in one tenth of a second. The VSD class of ships had


regular turbolasers only, not ion cannons, and the VSD fired two


'rippled broadside' of about 25 turbolaser blasts at point blank range


before the enemy ship responded, with their phased beam weapons. The


light shields of the VSD took one full blast of the phased beam


weapon, as it's third broadside smashed through the enemy shields,


searing it's hull. A fourth broadside smashed through the enemy ships


hull, causing a major detonation before it could fire another weapon.




A 'rippled broadside' called for all batteries to fire in a


timed sequence lasting two seconds, so that by the time the last


battery fired, the first had recycled, and could restart the cycle.


This would allow for a near continuous barrage of fire against the


enemy's shields with no opportunity to recharge.




Things had gone as planned so far. Now they would wait to see


how the Dominion would respond. The first attack had been a surprise,


but the planet side colony would transmit a call for help, along with


a description of the tactics used by the Imperial ship. They would


have no idea where it had come from, how it had arrived, or that it


was not alone. For all Janus knew, they would suspect a cloaking


device had been used.




No transmissions were passed between the ships, the VSD


/Conqueror/ knew it's orders. Had there been other ships in orbit, it


would have jumped away immediately after destroying the vessel. Since


it had not come under immediate attack, it initiated full sensor


jamming, and waited for thirty seconds, before initiating


indiscriminate orbital bombardment.




Sub-space communications from the planet became more frantic,


then sub-space jamming was also initiated. The damage inflicted by a


turbolaser blast on a planet's surface was tremendous. Large areas of


the surface would instantly have it's temperature raised by thousands


of degrees centigrade, the actual point of impact of the blast would


be subjected to energies that would result in instant deatomization. A


single turbolaser blast delivered energies an order of magnitude above


that of the fusion-bombs of a long gone age.




The most significant effect though was in the atmosphere of


the planet. The sudden explosive temperature increase would send


shockwaves reverberating through ground and air for thousands of


kilometers, the atmosphere itself igniting briefly along the path of


the blast. In minutes, hundred of turbolaser blasts had impacted on


the planet's surface, devastating several cities and outposts. The


dust-clouds already raised into the atmosphere would initiate the


equivalent of a nuclear winter, most likely devastating the planets


ecological structure if it had any. The atmosphere itself might


already be rendered un-breathable for hundreds of years due to dust


molecules and metallic oxides.




A Jem'Hadar vessel which must have been on the surface on the


far side of the planet came powering around the horizon in a low


orbit, it's impulse engines on full power. The VSD had barely spotted


the attacker, before it launched a brace of seven torpedoes. At this


range the Star Destroyer had no time to attempt to evade or target the


torpedoes. All seven torpedoes impacted on the starboard shields,


which had already been weakened by the earlier hit of the beam weapon.




The VSD's turbolaser batteries fought to re-align themselves


to the fast-moving Jem'Hadar ship. Just as the turbolaser batteries


began bracketing the ship, it launched another seven torpedoes at


point-blank range, and escaped to warp. The VSD took the torpedoes


head on, while the Jem'Hadar vessel veered away at several times the


speed of light, streaking clear of the planet's gravitational field.


The VSD was still under way, and this was apparently the moment it was


waiting for.




Anyone capable of watching this duel would have seen a long


ribbon streak of light extending several million kilometers away from


the planet. A wedge shaped spacecraft left trailing at it's tail end,


with several fires visible at it's front end, precious atmosphere


boiling away into the vacuum. Yet, the wedge shape was still intact.


At the head of the ribbon of movement, a large orange ball appeared,


and another, and yet another, as several solar-fusion bombs detonated,


none further than 1 kilometer from the head of the streaking-ribbon,


several much closer than one hundred meters. The ribbon-streak


disappeared, and a once sleek warship crept clear of the devastation


left by the orange balls of fire, it's warp nacelles scorched and


blackened, leaving twin trails of bright blue sparking flame, it's


hull now also marred by the sight of boiling gases. Another orange


ball of flame appeared, and this time one would have sworn it's center


was the location of the sleek warship. When the flame cleared, only


wreckage remained.




"VSD /Conqueror/ reporting. Enemy destroyed. The experiment


was successful."




A livid Janus slammed his fist into the armrest. "Jump to the


/Conqueror/'s position; /Vanquisher/ to proceed with orbital


bombardment, watch for more incoming warships."




The two Star Destroyers jumped to the /Conqueror/'s position.


The /Vanquisher/ immediately resumed the orbital bombardment of the


planet, while Janus ordered his helmsman to take him on a course


around the /Conqueror/ so that he could survey the damage.




"/Conqueror/. Why did you not jump away when surprised? There


was no need to engage the enemy under these conditions."




"Admiral. We didn't have the time, their attack caught us by


surprise. Their weapons were also much more powerful than we






Under any other circumstances, Janus would have had the man


executed on the spot. But that brutal Janus was no longer around.




"Comprehensive damage report." He ordered resignedly. The


captain was visibly relieved. No doubt, he had expected worse from


Janus. He was still alive, but didn't doubt that Janus would find


another way to punish him.




Janus listened to the incoming report of the damage to the


Victory-class destroyer, while looking at the magnified view of the


ship as filmed by his external cameras. All starboard shield


generators had overloaded under the first salvo, and the external hull


had been breached in three places. The torpedoes had smashed through


four meters of neutronium re-enforced hull, and stripped off all


external sensors on the starboard hull of the destroyer. The second


salvo of torpedoes had smashed down the forward shields, one of the


torpedoes had impacted on the exposed starboard hull, and two had


impacted on the dorsal hull. The ship reported 40% weapons capability


on the starboard hull, and 0% sensor capability. The dorsal hull had


one breach and one deep gouge, and had been reduced to 70% weapons


capability, and 65% sensor capability. The rest of the ship was still


close to 100% efficiency. The forward shield generators were down to


60% efficiency, and there no working shield generators on the


starboard side.




The ship's interior bulkheads and hatchways had sealed off the


damaged compartments, the damage having penetrated through to the


second ring of decks in many places on the starboard side. Fortunately


the hangar areas beneath the ship had escaped damage, and this was


where the bulk of the stormtrooper complement had been bunked in. Even


so, more than eight hundred lives had been lost on the star destroyer,


which constituted virtually the entire starboard weapons crews. From


outside, it looked like a space slug had been gnawing at the starboard


hull. Janus could picture the destruction inside those starboard






Even though the VSD was still spaceworthy, due to it's battle-


hardened design, it would not survive another battle.




"Distortion field detected," a technician called.




"ETA?" Janus enquired.




"Twenty three minutes, Admiral."




That was quick, Janus thought. He would have expected five or


six warships to be within a day's warp, but that ship must have been


less than two light-years away.








"There are no more detectable settlements on the surface of


this planet. Average atmospheric temperature has been raised to two


hundred and twenty degrees by bombardment."




"We have done enough, let the clones try and figure out what


happened here. Prepare a jump back to the supply depot."




Seconds later, the three ships vanished, leaving a burning


planet behind them, and the wreckage of two Jem'Hadar warships. Their


experiment had been successful, but at a cost.




When the three Destroyers arrived at the supply depot, the


Lancers had already returned. The information they had was just what


Janus was looking for. Close to the edge of Borg space was a cluster


of about a thousand stars where the stellar density reduced the


average distance between stars to about one and half light years. The


Borg were expanding ever more slowly, their empire was more than ten


thousand light years across now, and they were consuming world after


world as they expanded. The sheer quantity of worlds to consume was


slowing their expansion down, as they descended upon planet after


planet, converting them entirely into production houses for yet more


drones, mining them for the minerals their expansion drive required,


devouring the resources of system after system, paying scant regard to


prior habitability of worlds, interested only in mineral and energy






In the cluster which interested Janus, there were at least two


hundred worlds identified through their sub-space transmissions. The


transmissions were all almost certainly generated by computer systems


communicating with computers on remote planets. Borg drones had no


need for such communication devices themselves. Littered throughout


these worlds were also sensor equipment. These were not the passive


kind used by most ships. The sensors were actively and almost


mindlessly broadcasting their positions into space, but also totally


negating the chance of any ships slipping stealthily through their


sphere of influence.




Janus ordered the /Conqueror/ to stand down and repair


whatever damage they could without shipyard facilities. The


/Annihilator/ and the /Vanquisher/ would proceed alone on the next


mission, taking four Lancers as scouts. They jumped to a point about


one hundred light years outside the cluster, where the new security


measures were implemented.




The Star Destroyer's defenses against boarders were designed


around incursions via the hull or hangars, but with an enemy that made


liberal use of matter transporters, boarders could appear anywhere. As


a result, the stormtroopers were distributed through-out the ship, in


teams of three or four. All major passageways and hallways were


assigned two-man portable laser-cannon crews, who set up overlapping


fields of fire. The newly promoted lieutenant Jax was given a double


company of ninety men with which to defend the engine room. Captain


Islaw also had a hundred men on the bridge, and a further four hundred


in all the approaches to the bridge, and guarding the vital systems


associated with continuous bridge operation.




Having deployed his men, Islaw stepped up to Janus to report


his readiness. The only visible changes to his battle-suit were


thicker fore-arm guards and shin-guards. He carried his blaster rifle


still, but strapped over his shoulders was a double bandolier of


thermal detonators with spare power cartridges for the rifle, on his


side was a huge jagged-edged dagger with a durasteel blade and a grip


designed to be held in gauntleted hands. On his back was a weapon that


had never been associated with a stormtrooper before, a solid steel


double-headed battle-axe.




Janus and all of the bridge crew were themselves clad in


armour, and many had blasters and knives strapped to their sides.


Islaw experimentally made a fist with his left hand, and a nine inch


blade extended from the fore-arm guard. There were similar blades in


the shin guards which extended when the knee was raised, and of course


one in the right fore-arm guard.




Janus nodded approval. His theory was that the Borg would


adapt to any ranged weapon, especially high-powered weapons, very


quickly. However, the fact that humanoids and androids with sufficient


strength could tackle them directly, and that the Borg themselves had


to interact with their environment, implied that low order weapons


requiring physical contact would be the key factor. He suspected that


if they used kinetic energy shields or deflector shields, these would


have an inverse squared relationship to the kinetic energy of the


weapon being used, so low order weapons at relatively low speeds would


penetrate the shields, but high energy weapons, or particles traveling


at relatively high velocities would be repelled.




This was assuming the Borg would be able to transport through


their shields, their jamming, and several meters of neutronium hulls


and bulkheads.




The probe droids were his second gamble. Janus had noticed


that races which had not developed hyperspace drives, despite having


an obvious defense to it, had no concept of hyperspace weaponry. The


solar-fusion explosions which had destroyed the Jem'Hadar vessel had


in fact been self-destructing probe droids, which had been programmed


to jump directly to the location of the warping enemy vessel, in a


dispersal pattern designed to negate any margin of error in the


predicted position of the target.




Many probes had jumped to positions which would have given the


enemy vessel less than one hundredth of a second to react, even if


they detected the cloaked droid in time, and detonated nearly on top


of the vessel. The combined effect of the multitude of exploding


solar-fusion bombs in very close proximity to the space-time


distortion field would be enough to destroy it's warp engines, if not


the ship entirely. Of course, the ultimate goal, which was more likely


to occur with a vessel NOT at warp, was for the vessels own gravity


generators to yank the probe out of hyperspace inside the vessel, as


the hyperspace probe passed through it's hull into the area of effect


of the gravity shields. No starship would be able to withstand a


several hundred megaton explosion inside it's hull.




The reason this tactic had long ago been abandoned in their


home galaxy was simple. Everybody knew about hyperspace, and the


dangers of hyperspace weapons. So all ships used gravity generators


which could sustain a sufficient gravity field well beyond their own


defensive shields, and so yank hyperspace weapons into real-space in a


place where the effects would not be as disastrous. Any starship's


shields could withstand a solar-fusion detonation OUTSIDE it's


shields. And of course, in hyperspace you were safe from even such






Janus had heard that the Emperor was even designing ships


which could project gravity fields far enough away from themselves


that they could be used to trap entire fleets in real space. It was


the first offensive use of gravity fields of which he was aware. Such


a weapon would be devastating indeed.




Janus glanced around him for the last time, at the troopers


with their space-engineered medieval weapons, at the armour clad






"Remember, if any crew are injected or assimilated, shoot them


first. Prepare for jump."




The Imperial fleet had by now perfected their approach into


unfamiliar systems. The fleet would jump to within one light year or


even closer to the system, only seconds away via hyperspace. Two


Lancers would immediately do a jump into the system, staying clear of


planets and other potential hazards. At this range they would even


detect ships lying nearly dead, with minimum engine emissions. The


Lancers would transmit their sensor data back to the destroyers, and


immediately jump to a predetermined assembly point one hundred to two


hundred light years away. The star destroyers would then jump directly


to attack points indicated by Janus. The entire procedure from the


first arrival outside the system to the destroyers opening fire on


their targets would take anywhere from thirty seconds to ninety






Passive scanning would stand a 62% chance of detecting the low


energy emissions from the Lancers at that range, but the Borg's active


scanners would detect them immediately. The Lancers would only be in-


system for five or ten seconds, and were under strict orders not to


engage any targets. If the sensor scan was unsuccessful the mission


was aborted, and all ships would jump to the safe point. With these


tactics, the enemy would have about a minute's warning of an attack,


but no idea where exactly it would come, and what the nature of the


attack would be.

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Janus repeated this tactic several times by two of the


Lancers, in a region about four thousand light-years from the cluster


he had selected earlier. Each time, they waited to see what the Borg


response would be, then left to target another system without engaging


the enemy. At first, the Borg showed no interest whatsoever. Then,


apparently intrigued by the cloaking mechanism or by the speed and


nature of the drive mechanism employed, the Borg started reacting.


Whenever a Lancer jumped into a system, immediately a Borg cube would


head towards the system. The Lancers always jumped away without


engaging the enemy. Now, as Borg curiosity increased, they gathered


more and more cubes in the area being scouted.




The Borg were now trying to predict which systems would be


scouted next, and cubes were converging on these systems in ever


greater numbers. The fastest cubes tracked were doing in excess of ten


thousand times the speed of light, faster than any warp vessel


previously observed. The Lancers were not allowing the cubes to get


too close to them, so no direct scans were available yet of a cube's


sensory profile.




"Decoy team to next diversion point." Janus ordered, via






Four thousand light-years away the Lancers ceased their


scouting, and initiated a three thousand light-year jump. The jump


would take them about 24 hours. The destroyer's remained on alert,


they were barely two hundred light years from Borg space, although


presumably the Borg were otherwise occupied. The stormtroopers changed


shifts, four hours on guard against unexpected boarders, and eight


hours rest.




The second diversion began. The Borg showed interest


immediately, with cubes converging on all systems in that area. Twice


the Lancers were nearly caught when entering systems where multiple


Borg cubes were already on Patrol. Janus prayed that the Borg would


only concentrate on the areas where the scouting was taking place,


draining cubes from remote sectors of Borg space to increase their


patrol densities in the areas being scouted.




The diversions were continued for another two days, all at


points many thousands of light years away from the two Star


Destroyers. Each time, the scouting would begin with near impunity,


then as time went by, more cubes would descend on the area, increasing


the risk of the Lancers jumping into a trap they could not extract


themselves from.




"Initiate diversionary phase two." Janus ordered.




The Lancers now jumped back to the sector they had originally


scouted. Janus wanted to see what measures had been taken in those


sectors, and if the cubes were still on patrol there now that several


days had passed. The first system the Lancers jumped into must have


had in excess of 30 cubes patrolling it, with more coming in at high


warp factors. The Lancers jumped out immediately, having given the


Borg only seconds to react. The second system, about 20 light years


away, was the same. Janus ordered the two Lancers to stand down and


return to base.




They had discovered enough, the Borg were now expecting


something to happen in those sectors, or were hoping to trap the


elusive scouts. Hopefully, they had drained enough cubes from other


sectors to increase the chances of Janus' raid succeeding.




"All hands, alert status one." Janus ordered he hesitated


slightly, then uttered the words rarely used the in their galaxy these


days, "May the Force be with you." The fleet jumped.




The fleet exited hyperspace on the fringes of their targeted


system, the two remaining Lancers ahead and slightly inside the


system. A quick scan, and the destroyers made a short jump directly to


within four planetary diameters of the Borg world in that system.


Without preamble, the destroyers initiated full sensor jamming and


full sub-space jamming, and opened fire on the world below.




The two Destroyers were both using 'ripple broadsides', and


they synchronized their fire so that they targeted the same point on


the planet below. On any undefended planet, the devastation would have


been enormous, with the crust at the impact point being completely


blown away, and shockwaves and earthquakes reverberating around the




Several minutes of sustained fire of this nature would destroy


the entire planet, with only the recently completed Death Star capable


of destroying a planet in significantly less time, in a single blast


if Janus last intelligence brief two years ago had been correct.




However, the Borg were not defenseless. The atmosphere around


the target point exploded away from the energies released, and the


first few buildings exploded with devastating effect, but as the


target area shifted from one point to another on the planet, it took


more blasts to destroy the targeted buildings. The damage to the


planet inflicted during the initial barrage was the telling factor


though, and the earthquakes and resultant holes in the planetary


defenses were taking their toll on the Borg buildings.




The two Star Destroyers vectored along diverging paths around


the planet, blowing away the last traces of Borg infestation, and


continuing their bombardment for several minutes afterwards, until


more than half the atmosphere had boiled away into space, and vast


tracts of the planet's surface had been turned to molten slag.








"No incoming ships detected yet, Admiral."




"We'll wait." Janus ordered.




Several minutes went by, before the alert came. "Single warp


field detected, range, 0.7 light years, ETA, 16 minutes."




"/Vanquisher/, take up station on the far side of the star.


We'll call you in via sub-space."




The VSD vanished into hyperspace, and reappeared almost


instantaneously on Janus tactical display on the far side of the star.




"Initiate sub-space jamming the moment they enter the system,


recalculate the jump to the assembly point and prepare to execute on


my order."




On Janus display, the cube looked like an arrow streaking


directly towards them. Janus kept his finger close to the jump


indicator on his armrest, ready to give the signal should anything


unexpected happen. When the warp ship was only two seconds away, the


warp drive disengaged, but the cube kept on coming straight at them at


sub-light speeds, with no indication of any drive mechanism.




"They're attempting to burn through our sensor jamming." A


tech called.




"Enemy vessel closing range."




"Open fire, all batteries," Janus ordered.




The Borg cube made no attempt at evasion, heading straight for


the Destroyer. The turbolaser blasts smashed into it's shields, and


still the cube came straight towards them.




"Enemy burning through sensor-jamming." Somebody called out.




"Their shields are failing." Somebody else called.




On the tactical display, Janus saw the representation of the


cube rupture in several places. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a


flash of red energy on the bridge.




"Keep firing until it is destroyed." He ordered.




He glanced to the left, where a large humanoid shape had


appeared, with many obvious cybernetic replacements. The drone stepped


towards a control panel and bent over to inspect it, the drone didn't


even look his way, as Islaw put his blaster rifle's muzzle virtually


right against it's head and opened fire. Bits of flesh splattered


away, and the drone staggered. It's one good eye was totally blown


away, and behind it was what looked like a durasteel plate protecting


it's brain. Islaw fired several more times directly into the fleshy


parts of it's skull and abdomen.




"Cube destroyed. Two more detected coming in, ETA eight






The drone finally toppled over, the damage taking it's toll.


Many cybernetic components lay exposed and sparking, the flesh


surrounding them burnt away, bits of skin boiling on the deck beside


it. A construction droid stationed on the deck for this purpose rushed


over and went to work on the drone with industrial strength cutting


lasers and vibro-blades.








"Eight drones boarded the ship. One on the bridge, seven in


engineering. All have been destroyed. The drones were susceptible to


blaster fire at point-blank range, and made no attempt to defend






"ETA on the other two cubes?"




"Five minutes, sir."




"Recalc the jump to the assembly point every two minutes, keep


the results ready in the computers. Tractor launch eight probes, and


get ready to initiate hyperspace attack ,on my command only. Designate


cubes C1 and C2."




The crew watched the displays intently. To his left Janus was


aware of the construction droid loading the chunks of the drone onto a


repulsor sled.




"Keep some of those limbs for analyses, have the rest


tractored into space and destroyed by the laser cannons."




The droid beeped an acknowledgement, and handed the sled over


to a maintenance droid for disposal as the bridge crew readied for


their next battle.






The turbolaser batteries opened fire. This time the fire was


split between the two cubes.




"Their shields are holding under the turbolaser fire. Cubes


are closing range, imminent sensor jam override."




"Ripple broadsides, C1, /Vanquisher/ to engage C2, concentrate






All turbolaser batteries switched their fire to one cube, the


/Vanquisher/ jumped in and opened fire on the second cube from it's






To Janus' surprise, the tactic worked, the cubes' shield


energy apparently having been focused forward, and several turbolaser


blasts smashed through the hull of the cube. The cube changed course


slightly, heading now towards the /Vanquisher/. It's damaged hull was


actually slowly closing where the turbolasers had penetrated, and it's


shields had now been refocused along the vector of the VSD's attack.


The damage must have taken it's toll however, and the shields soon


buckled, allowing the turbolaser blasts to smash into the cube,


atomizing huge chunks of the hull material, and no doubt destroying


several drones inside.




The cube designated C2 was still holding against the ISD's


fire, but Janus could see that an entire section of the cube behind


the shields was glowing red, an indicator that some energy was seeping


through. Before much could be made of this though, the cube rotated,


presenting a different face to the ISD, and still coming closer.




"They've burnt through our jamming. They're trying to lock a


tractor beam on the ship."




"Full forward thrust, vector 30 degrees ventral relative to






The ISD's engines and weapons batteries were on separate power


circuits, so this did not affect the energies being unleashed by the


turbolaser batteries, now being supplemented by the ion cannons and


even a few of the larger laser cannons. The wedge-shaped destroyer was


heading for a potion 'below' the cube, with all guns on the upper deck


able to bear. Janus was surprised to see several of the point-defense


laser cannons scoring hits on the cube's hull. The turbolasers fired


superheated plasma in a pulse which imparted tremendous kinetic energy


as well, and this was delivered in high-powered laser beams, though


the lasers themselves were the least significant component of the


weapon, merely a delivery mechanism. Apparently the combination of


weapons were having a draining effect on the shield.




Janus was aware of pyrotechnics and movement on the bridge


around him, but that was Islaw's problem. He concentrated on the


tactical display.




"We have broken tractor lock, but they are now using the same


weapon to rake our shields, and shield energy is dropping sharply."




"Rotate the ship through 180 degrees, warn all ventral


gunners, we will take the energy loss on the ventral shields."




The Destroyers shields were on several separate circuits, and


a loss of energy to one side's shields could be off-set by presenting


a different face to the enemy. By this time, the /Vanquisher/ was


joining in on the attack, firing at the cube along a separate angle.




The cube attempted to remodulate it's shields to accommodate


the laser-cannons as well as the plasma and ion-cannons, to slow down


the rate at which it was taking damage from the laser cannons. Whether


as a result of this, or the sheer energy being unleashed on the cube


from two separate angles, one or two ion-cannon blasts smashed through


the shields. The kinetic energy of the ion-cannons at this range was


sufficient to structurally damage the hull, but whatever other effect


it had was unknown.




"Ventral shields down to 15%. Shield generators beginning to






"Rotate ship through 90 degrees. Bring us around 15 points to


starboard." Janus ordered.




The load on the shields was now taken by the starboard


shields, and the cube was now on their right hand side. At this angle,


fewer weapons could bear, since the entire port side of the ship was


out of line of sight of the cube.




The entire engagement so far had lasted a total of forty two


seconds. The damage to the cube was finally beginning to overcome it's


ability to repair itself, many sections of it's hull were glowing red,


and there were two hull breaches that Janus could see, although both


were visibly closing.




"They have shut off their tractor weapon."




For a second their shields still held, then even as Janus was


ordering the ship onto a new vector to bring more turrets into the


fight the shields of the cube buckled, and the cube was shattered by


hundreds of near simultaneous turbolaser blasts from the two


destroyers. The cube's shields had absorbed 40% more punishment than


an ISD's shields could, but once the shields were down, it's ability


to absorb punishment was hardly comparable.




"Five contacts incoming, ETA six minutes to the first one,


nine minutes to the last."




"Take us out of here." Janus ordered. The ship jumped.




The newly promoted lieutenant Jax was not comfortable with his


new promotion. A soldier of his renowned capability could have


advanced up the ranks years ago, but as you moved up the ranks, you


got more exposure to the kind of people Jax preferred avoiding. He had


made a mental note to find a way to be busted down to corporal again.


Jax was an uncommonly good soldier, and his comrades knew it. Even


that cold bastard Islaw trusted his judgment. Ever since it had been


known that they were going up against the Borg Jax had been working


nights. He had graduated from the stormtrooper military academy in the


days when swords had still been used as ceremonial weapons. No light-


sabers for ordinary soldiers, but enough hand to hand combat and


training in primitive weapons to accommodate virtually any situation.




Jax had been one of the sought after veterans, as for months


they had been teaching techniques and control of the new weapons to


the younger soldiers, who knew a lot about dirty fighting with knives


and all sorts of weapons, but had never been properly trained with


them as Jax had. So he had thrown himself into his new role with


gusto, as the proficiency of his men was what would keep him alive. He


had organized the set-up of a number of mounted repeating-fire laser-


cannons with overlapping fields of fire in the extensive engine rooms


and engineering bays of the ship. All sensitive equipment had been


paneled over with an additional thirty centimeters of durasteel for






Nobody had ever envisaged having a firefight in engineering,


and his men had been lectured about the careless use of their weapons.


He had ensured that all troops had their thermal detonators set to low


yield, so that they would release enough energy to incinerate one man


and all his equipment, but not blow up the entire engineering section.


The thermal detonators were only to be used as a last resort.




In the first attack, seven drones had beamed into his section.


One had had his head blown off by a nearby trooper. The others had


immediately activated a personal body shield which prevented the


blaster bolts from hitting their bodies directly, but didn't stop them


from being staggered by the impact. A blaster rifle at close range was


a devastating weapon, but couldn't penetrate the shields. The six


drones had had to be destroyed by more direct means.


Jax had killed one with an axe. Where the blaster bolts


impacted on it's shields, the axe had gone clean through on the first


swing and embedded itself in the drone's abdomen. The axe was no


ordinary axe either. It had a reinforced steel shaft, with a grip


designed for a gauntleted hand at the bottom, and a double-headed


durasteel head. The cutting edges of the blades were sharpened down to


the atomic level, and the edge reinforced with a few proton's


thickness worth of neutronium. The stormtroopers were big men all, and


chosen as much for their strength as anything else. Yet, it took a


double-handed effort by Jax to wield the weapon. A second swing to


the neck had toppled the droid, whereupon a construction droid went to


work dismembering it.




The other five drones had all been dropped by axe blows to


various parts of their exposed anatomy. It helped that the drones


seemed totally oblivious to their attackers, and concentrated solely


on trying to get at the engines and computer displays spread around


the room. One drone had taken several blows to its back and head, with


long strips of scalp hanging loose, yet it kept going. The trooper had


dropped his axe, casually stepped up behind the drone and slapped a


thermal detonator against it's back. Everybody in the vicinity had


dived for cover, and the drone had been blown half way across the


room. What was left was mostly red-hot cybernetic exoskeleton, with


bits and pieces of charred flesh sticking to it.




The construction droids had barely had enough time to clear


the large room, when Jax's suit warned him of multiple target locks in


the room. Nine drones had appeared this time. Five of them went for


the engine room controls, four turned to engage the stormtroopers. The


four drones took multiple hits from the defensively mounted laser-


cannons, three of them being knocked to the floor by the impact, but


apparently unharmed otherwise.




A horde of stormtroopers had descended on them with knives,


axes, sharpened lances, vibroblades and industrial cutters. The fourth


had stabbed a fist-mounted needle into one trooper, who was jerking


spasmodically on the end of the needle. Jax shot the troopers head


off, and before the drone could disengage the trooper from it's


needle, he stepped up and shot the drone at point-blank range in it's


one good eye. At that range, he had apparently bypassed the shields,


and the drone's skull split apart. It's brain was blown half-way


across the room, still encased in it's protective metal cage.




Jax quickly gave orders, and a number of troopers charged


forward to place thermal detonators on the backs of the remaining five


drones. The three who had been knocked to the floor had been hacked to


pieces, cybernetic limbs still twitching. Besides the stormtrooper Jax


had killed, there two others lying on the floor, both nearly blown in


half by their comrades after being injected in the melee.




Seconds later, the ship jumped to hyperspace.




The fleet lay quietly at the assembly point, as the Imperials


considered their next move. They did not have much time, as no doubt


thousands of cubes were heading towards the cluster where the attack


had taken place. Janus was taking reports from techs assigned to


analyze various aspects of their engagement.




"Eighty four dead stormtroopers, over two hundred drones


destroyed. All shield generators have been repaired, shields recharged


and at maximum strength. No hull damage to either ship. Apparently the


Borg have no offensive weapons, except for tractoring the ship and


dismembering it with their industrial lasers. Their tactics are not


designed around attack, but merely defending themselves while they


assimilate you. One danger recognized was the possibility that we


might not be able to escape to hyperspace if the ship is under full


tractor lock. This will only occur if the tractor beams power exceeds


that of a significantly sized planet's mass. No proton torpedoes were


used, and no hyperspace launched fusion bombs, so those tactics remain


open to use. The ship is ready for the next assignment."




Janus glanced around the bridge. Several stations had to be


repaired after being hit by stray fire, or melted due to thermal


detonations. The maintenance droids were busily wiping up bits and


pieces that Janus refused to identify, and their were stormtroopers


everywhere, many of them with battle-suits stained with blood and






"The medical droids report that the Borg make use of an


extensive array of neural implants to suppress undesired brain


activity and assist in plugging the drone into the collective mind.


The implants communicate in a language akin to computer transmissions


at sub-space frequencies. We have re-tuned some of our jamming


equipment to jam these frequencies. The jamming range is very short,


and it is unlikely to affect incoming cubes. The hoped for result is


that any drones who are beamed aboard will be cut off from the


collective. We have also determined that their cybernetic limb


technology is not so vastly different from some of the technology


employed in modern droids like assassins and security guards. As a


result we have modified a number of restraining bolts, and removed


their safeties. These should disable or at least interfere with their


cybernetic components."




Another tech reported. "The stormtroopers have received


updates on the autopsies done on the drones, and we have identified


one or two weaknesses common to a number of the drones." He finished.




Restraining bolts worked by generating a small stasis field


which shut down electrical and optical circuits in a range of about


30cm. This effectively shut down any electrical and optical circuits


and disabled the droid. Attempts to overpower the stasis field could


result in severe damage to the affected circuits, which droids were


programmed to interpreted as 'pain'. The safeties were designed to


keep circuit damage to a minimum so that expensive droids weren't


destroyed in the process. The safeties could also be used to allow


activity in some circuits, and not others, at the risk of 'pain' to


the droid. Without safeties, any attempt to overpower the stasis field


would result in severe damage.




The last tech delivered his report. "The adaptability of the


Borg so far has been impressive, but within reason. They were able to


counter much of our tactics without visible modification to their


ships or drones. This is bound to change, as new ships are refitted or


drones modified. Their planetary defenses will also be improved


significantly. They also modified their drone tactics significantly


once they realized their vulnerability to physical attack. Most likely


their personal defenses will be upgraded, whether by aggressive


tactics like assigning drones to engage the troopers directly, or


better personal shielding is unclear. Their main motive is


assimilation, not conquest, so it is likely they will just upgrade


their personal shielding."




Janus had picked a system with a particularly unstable star as


their next target. "Reports noted. Jump." He ordered.




"Sir, if I may ask a question?" Janus nodded to the officer,


"Why another raid on the Borg?"




"Three reasons, we want to find out the limit of Borg


defensive technologies, we want to find the limits of their


adaptability, and we want to experiment with weapon designs and


tactics should we ever go up against a similar enemy. There is one


more reason, but it is not an official one. Any damage we do, the loss


of a planet here or there, will be insignificant to the Borg, but it


may cause them to exercise greater caution, or at least put a greater


strain on their resource base in terms of defensive measures. It may


even be that we are able to determine an inherent weakness. I have yet


to decide on whether to inform the Federation humans of any


discoveries we make."




"Why would we bother to inform them?" The officer blinked.




"They are human, and I do feel some species loyalty to them,


even if it may be that one day they could be our enemy."




"What if they ever discover that we destroyed one of their






"I don't see how they could, the /Voyager/ was totally


destroyed, in a deserted region of space, and we're the only one's who


know about it. Also, what is strange is that the Voyager was reported


missing in action many years ago according to the library files our


droids downloaded. Perhaps they had no idea it was in that region of


the galaxy."




"Approaching jump co-ordinates - preparing to disengage






The crew was already at battle-stations, even though they were


not jumping directly into the system. The Lancers immediately jumped


out again, with no further prompting required. The Destroyers sensors


could detect three cubes already heading to this system, their ETA and


incoming vectors displayed on the edge of the representation of the


solar system on the holographic display. Less than a second later the


tactical display started flickering as data came pouring in from the


Lancers via sub-space. There were two Borg planets in the system, and


1 cube, which was already approaching the Lancers. The Lancers jumped






"Designate cubes C1 through C4, by ETA. Pincer jump C1.






Both Destroyers jumped directly towards the projected position


of the cube, using co-ordinates that would hopefully bring them to


within half a million km of the cube. The jump barely registered, it


was just a flicker of motion. The cube was within a hundred thousand


kilometers of it's projected position, which did not surprise anyone.


Barely two seconds had gone by since the Lancers jumped. The


destroyers immediately opened fire, pinning the cube between them. The


cube didn't even hesitate, it just changed course directly towards the


Imperial Star Destroyer, the larger and more powerful of the two






The Destroyers were jamming all frequencies, sensors and


communications, including sub-space. This was standard procedure, even


though they had no idea whether it had any effect on the Borg. The


cube totally ignored the incoming turbolaser and ion cannons,


approaching to within range of even the laser-cannons.




"Dorsal shields experiencing power loss, they are using


continuous beam laser weapons as well, this time."




Janus ordered course changes, rolling the big Destroyer like a


starfighter to give his non-facing shields time to recharge. The


laser's energy approached that of a turbolaser cannon, and each time


the laser raked the fast accelerating and rolling ship it caused a


significant drop to the shields it intersected. The cube was using a


second laser on the VSD, but it's tractor beams were totally focused


on trying to get a lock on the ISD, which was more than 50% longer


than the cube, and hardly less massive. Janus was also having his tie


fighters and scimitar bombers tractor launched, and they were


assembling at a point 3 million kilometers from the center of the


battle. The cube was showing no signs of damage yet, absorbing


everything that both ships were pouring at it.




The first sign that it's energy limit had been reached was


when it ceased using the tractor beams. The tractor beams had made


little impression against the huge ion engines of the slightly larger


ship, but had made a significant impact on it's shields. The ISD's


shields were averaging at around 30%, with the ventral shield still at


92%, as Janus had kept this side of the destroyer orientated away from


the cube while he launched his fighters. The firing cycle of the


lasers indicated that the cube had eight lasers, one mounted at each


corner of the cube, but apparently it never fired more than 2 lasers


simultaneously, and never for longer than a two second burn, before


switching to another laser mount.




The ETA for C2 was now at five minutes, and the other cubes


were shortly behind it. C1 was making no attempt at evasive


maneuvering, just staying close to the ISD. Janus was trying to hold


off the cube at a range of 300,000km and the cube was attempting to


stay within a range that allowed it to burn through sensor jamming and


beam drones aboard. So far, the stormtroopers were holding the drones


at bay. The very high-powered short range sub-space jamming was


apparently sufficient to disconnect the transported drones from their


neural-net link to the collective mind, and was no doubt helping the


troopers, as the drones fought without any co-ordination or co-


operation at all.




The drones also had a tendency to ignore attackers, and


concentrate solely on whatever assimilation task they had been


assigned to. The thunderclaps of thermal detonations punctuated events


on the bridge, as soldiers attached the devices to the backs of


drones, and blew them apart. The sound of neutronium strengthened


blades solidly connecting with flesh and bone, and the occasional


reinforced steel exoskeleton was a continuous drumbeat.




The ETA for the cube designated C2 was now down to four


minutes, and still the three huge starships exchanged energies,


attempting to batter down the shields of their opponents. A squadron


of tie-bombers made a 0.6c pass to within 6,000km of the 1km sized


cube, launching a spread of laser-cannon fire and proton torpedoes at


point blank range. The laser-cannon fire made no impact on the cube's


impressive shields, but the proton torpedoes caught them by surprise.


Designed to slip through most shields, the proton torpedoes connected


solidly with the cube, traveling at more than 0.9c. More than twenty


missiles smashed straight through the cube, exiting the via the face


at the opposite end, several detonated, but at the relative velocities


they were traveling, most of the solar-fusion detonations occurred


well beyond the cube.




The cube crumbled nearly instantly after that, as the


combination of the internal damage and outside forces of the


turbolaser barrage finally combined to overcome the energies defending


the cube.




"All ships, full barrage, P1." Janus ordered.




The fleet raced towards the first of the two planets, already


firing all their weapons at maximum range. They had less than two


minutes before the next cube arrived.




Only sixty drones had been beamed aboard the ISD, whether due


to their continuous high-speed maneuvering, their sensor jamming or


short range interference with the neural net transmitters they would


never know. Unit commanders were ordering new troop dispositions, and


reinforcements rushed through the ship to supplement units that had


taken losses.




"Report." Janus ordered, as the barrage of the planet


continued, the destroyers being careful to stay outside the calculated


range of the Borg transporters under sub-space jamming.




"C2 ETA in 1 minute, ship fully functional, all shields


recharging, shield generators reduced to average of 85% efficiency,


shield strength now climbing through average of 62%. Sub-space jamming


of neural net transmitters was effective, computers have been


programmed to watch for frequency changes in neural net transmissions.


Restraining bolts had only limited effect on drones, further


modifications already under way to vary stasis field strength. Drones


impervious to nearby thermal detonations and small-arms fire due to


body shields, but directly applied detonators and bladed weapons still


effective. Maintenance droids report that various deck plating and


construction droids were somewhat damaged by what at first appeared to


be acidic fluids, but later identified as nanoprobes. The droids


destroyed the nanoprobes by heating the affected areas with


construction and welding lasers. The deck plates may need to be


replaced at some point, and the more severely damage droids are


already down at maintenance. C2 ETA now twenty five seconds."




"Deploy the modified probes, execute hyperspace torpedo attack


as planned."




The planet below was proving to be a difficult target. The


atmosphere was boiling into space at the target point, but the entire


planet's surface was covered with Borg buildings, and this time every


single building they had targeted so far had proved to be shielded,


although the shields did not extend into the atmosphere itself. The


gunners were shifting from target to target without effect, and had


not found a break in the shields yet.




"Ten second sensor focuses on P1. Find a break in those


shields or anything else we can use."




The ten seconds crept by without a sound. There was no trace


of any chink in the Borg armour on that planet. The bridge crews


refocused their instruments on the incoming cube, C2, now only seconds






"Warp drive disengaged." A technician called.




"Execute attack plan, use zero point five percent error






The position of the cube was relayed to the first eight


probes, with a small variation in the co-ordinates to accommodate any


possible error. The eight probes jumped simultaneously as programmed.


Three of the probes had been targeted to jump directly to the cube's


position, with five targeted to bracket the cube to within a few


hundred meters.




The last five were not necessary. The three probes jumped


directly to the cube, one apparently detonated right against the hull,


the other two inside the cube's hull. Two five hundred megaton


explosions inside the cube must have been devastating. Huge chunks of


the cube were thrown in all directions, and quickly targeted by the


smaller hull mounted laser-cannons, the turbolasers maintained their


planetary barrage without interruption.

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"C3?" Janus asked.




"Forty seconds."




"Continue barrage, ready next group of probes."




"Sir, there are multiple points on the planet with


significantly higher energy readings." A technician called.




"Power Plants?" Janus asked.




"It's possible, but unconfirmed." The technician replied.




"Concentrate turbolaser on one point, both ships, continuous


ripple broadcasts. Order scimitar bombers to make orbital attack runs


with proton torpedoes at the suspected power plants at these points.


We will wait for atmospheric turbulence on the far hemisphere to


subside. Launch all five Assault gunboats, loaded with delayed descent


fusion bombs, they can attack the power plants on the far


hemisphere." Janus ordered.




"C3 ten seconds away."




"Same attack plan."




The moment the cube disengaged, it's warp drive, the probes


jumped. Sensors barely had time to get a reading on the cube, before


the probes detonated. The Borg had modified their shields so that


their shields were now extending to hundreds of meters beyond their


hull. A tactic that would work against cloaked torpedoes, but not


hyperspace torpedoes. The actual result was more devastating to the


cube, as the full energies of all eight probes were unleashed inside


their shields. Not a bad try, Janus thought, we'll see what they come


up with next.




"C4, thirty seconds. C5 forty seconds."




A glance at his tactical display showed the fourth cube only a


fraction of a light-year away, the fifth cube, at extreme sensor


range, was coming in much faster than anything they had seen thus far.




"Keep me posted on that cube." The Borg were apparently


calling in their heavy artillery. "How is the planetary attack






"Their shields have been proven impervious to proton torpedo


attacks as well now. The bombers have been making runs on the planet


at point six cee, and launching the torpedoes from high-orbital


distances, to no effect."




"The assault gunboats?"




"Just launched the last one, they will be making their first


pass in two minutes."




It was taking too long. They were going to have the fourth


cube in-system in seconds, with something unknown a mere ten seconds


later. Janus prayed that they hadn't figured out the means of delivery


of the nuclear explosions yet. The fourth cube disengaged it's warp






The probes were launched before the officer could even give


the command, the computers passing the targeting data to the probes,


which jumped the instant the warp-drive was disengaged. The Borg only


attacked one way, thank the Force, their entire strategy demanded


assimilation, not destruction.




The Borg attempt to defend against the torpedoes nearly worked


this time. They had tightened their shields against the hull, and


vectored the cube away from the target area immediately on disengaging


warp. If it wasn't for the programmed margin of error the tactic might


have worked. As it was, the cube had barely moved when the torpedoes


detonated, only one inside the hull, but it was enough to disable the


cube. A second spread of probes destroyed the cube before it could


repair itself, assuming a significant number of drones had survived


the internal nuclear explosion. The Imperials were taking no chances .


"Divert scimitars to vector three five, seven nine. Divert


gunboats to one nine three, minus five." Janus ordered. "Turbolasers


to cease planetary bombardment, continue firing along vector of


incoming vessel."




Mere seconds later, the super-fast cube had covered a distance


of one light year, nearly fifty times faster than any previously


observed cube. The reason became apparent as it disengaged warp. The


cube was four times the size of anything previously seen, at two


kilometers per side. The spread of hyperspace probes detonated at the


target position, totally engulfing the huge cube. It emerged


unscathed. The probes had detonated outside it's shields. The Borg had


learnt to extend their gravity fields beyond the hull of the vessel.


The turbolaser barrage tracked the huge vessel, as Janus started


calling out orders. Their shields were nearly up to one hundred


percent now, but Janus doubted they would survive long against this


behemoth of a cube ahead.




The two Destroyers were accelerating at tens of gees, on


diverging vectors passing the cube, keeping their dorsal hulls towards


the cube, to allow the most number of weapons to bear. Janus had


ordered everything launched, even the missile gunboats and assault






"Destroyers maintain full barrage, all other ships execute


attack plan Gamma."




The two Destroyers rolled as they kept moving, the huge cube


firing a number of lasers simultaneously at both ships. The rolling


movement spread the load on the shields, but it was obvious that the


shields wouldn't last very long under this level of attack. Their


return fire wasn't even scratching the shields of the huge cube. For


some reason no drones were being beamed over. A small mercy.


"Gamma position in nine seconds." Came a report from the


tactical fighter commander.




"Prepare sixteen probes." Janus ordered his first


officer."Gamma three ... two ... one ... Now."




The Gamma attack required all ships to fire simultaneously,


all coming on pre-determined vectors. The two destroyers had suspended


their 'ripple broadcasts' for a few seconds, to allow all batteries to


be synchronized. Five squadrons of Ties, 1 squadron of Tie-Bombers,


and a squadron of assault gunboats and assault shuttles from the


/Annihilator/, and three squadrons of ties, 1 squadron of bombers and


a handful of gunboats and assault shuttles from the /Vanquisher/ all


fired full proton missile spreads, followed by anything else that


could bear, just as the two destroyers both fired full dorsal


broadsides at the huge cube.




A spread of sixteen probes armed with 500-megaton solar fusion


warheads were also launched at the cube via hyperspace. The cube was


totally obscured in a sphere of destruction that would have


obliterated even one of the new Mark II Imperial Star Destroyers, and


probably severely damaged one of the rumored Super Star Destroyers.




The cube emerged from the sphere of destruction, it's shields


intact, and no visible damage.




The Imperial ships were now all diverging on separate vectors,


the huge cube still staying on station behind the Imperial Star


Destroyer. Their shields were now down to less than 20%, and the Borg


Lasers would be through to their hull in seconds.




"Sixteen seconds to another Gamma level attack." The tactical


commander called out, in between sending new orders to his squadrons.




"Execute." Janus ordered.




The ISD rocked as the Laser connected again. Janus ordered the


ship rolled to present one of the remaining shielded sides to the






"Forward ventral turbolaser batteries lost power, no


casualties. Power conduits are being rerouted. Full power will be


restored in eight seconds."




The ISD rocked again. "Hull breaches in the vicinity of launch


bay 2. The droids are taking care of it."




"Gamma, four seconds ... three ... two ... one ... now."




The ship rocked twice more as the Borg Laser tore into it's


exposed hull. The Destroyer was tearing around the solar system like a


starfighter, now doing nearly fifty percent light-speed, and coming


around in a huge curve, the Borg cube trailing along steadily behind


it, without wavering, the VSD matching vectors with the Borg cube, and


also taking damage from it's Lasers. The gigantic cube disappeared in


another sphere of destruction as the gamma attack was executed. Janus


prayed to the Force. If this didn't work, they would not have time for


another gamma attack.




The cube emerged from the sphere of destruction of sixteen


solar-fusion bombs plus all the fire-power of hundreds of fusion-


warheaded proton torpedoes, not to mention a full double broadside of


turbolaser and ion-cannon fire.




Janus clenched his fist in frustration, and reached for the


jump override, to order the fleet to safety. They wouldn't have time


to recover the fighters, and any ships without hyperdrive would have


to stay behind. His finger stopped just short of the jump controls.




The Borg cube was apparently breaking up. He could now see


that the gigantic cube had in fact been four cubes working in unison,


the combined mental power of more than 120,000 drones powering the


ship. But two of the cubes were damaged, and could no longer hold


their position. The remaining two were breaking away to continue the


assimilation of the huge star destroyer. Even as Janus watched, the


two damaged cubes were seeming to recover slightly, although for the


moment the drones on those ships were concentrating on damage repair.




"Target both damaged cubes, eight probes each, launch." He






A second later the two damaged cubes were destroyed, rocked by


multiple internal nuclear fusion explosions.




"Designate remaining cubes C1 and C2, gamma attack, C1."




"Twelve seconds to gamma."




The Destroyer rocked as another Laser raked the ship. With no


shields, it had only the hull for protection, but the Borg Laser


apparently still retained enough power to cut through several metres


of neutronium reinforced durasteel, despite the ship rolling and


bucking under the vector changes Janus was ordering.




"Deck 3, compartments 1 and 6 breached. Bulkheads sealed off.


Droids dispatched."




The Laser may be sufficient to penetrate the outer hull, but


it wasn't cutting through to the inner decks, Not Yet. As long as they


could maintain their maneuverability, they would be able to prevent


continuous laser burns, which would no doubt cut right through the






"C2 is concentrating fire on /Vanquisher/, they are taking


damage. /Vanquisher/ reports firepower down to 82%."




"C1, Gamma ... three ... two ... one ... now." The tactical


commander called.




The full firepower of the two destroyers plus all their


fighters smashed into the single cube attacking the Imperial Star


Destroyer. The cube emerged from the sphere of destruction with orange


flames over most of it's surface indicating hull breaches. One by one


they winked out though, as the cube repaired itself.




"Hotel Tango, eight probes, now." Janus ordered.




Eight of the Hyperspace Torpedoes jumped into the cube,


blowing it apart.




"Hotel Tango, C2, eight probes, repeat every three seconds


until gamma C2." Janus ordered.




The undamaged C2 survived three Hotel Tango launches, as the


two destroyers closed with it. As the ISD approached it the cube


switched it's attack to the larger of the two vessels, apparently with


no sign of giving up on it's assimilation goals. The VSD was now


visibly damaged, many deep lines crossing it's hull where the lasers


had raked it. It was also quite apparent that a number of it's weapons


emplacements had been silenced.




"Gamma C2 ... three ... two ... one ... now."




Miraculously, the cube survived the gamma attack. Where the


others had been severely damaged or destroyed, this one had learnt


it's lessons and made appropriate adjustments to accommodate the


energies that would be unleashed upon it.




"Sir, the cube is slowing down."




Janus checked the figures on his tactical display. Despite the


apparent lack of damage, and the shields holding off their fire. The


cube had definitely slowed down.




"Laser burns showing reduced frequency."




Whatever power source the cube was using, had either been


exhausted or damaged, or the mental strain on the Borg to maintain the


cube's integrity was taking it's toll. They had driven the cube at


tremendous warp speeds to get here, and been subjected to energies


that would have blown most of a galactic standard planet away.




The Destroyer rocked again, as a laser tore through the hull


yet again. The firing was less frequent, but it still posed a risk to


the destroyer. The /Vanquisher/ had stopped firing altogether, as it


fell behind the running battle. It was still launching probes though,


getting it's targeting information from the /Annihilator/.

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The cube was still surviving one Hotel Tango after another,


and would probably survive as long as it could maintain it's


gravitational fields to beyond it's shields. Janus was no longer


bothering with error margins, targeting all probes at the center of


the cube, and allowing them to dive into the gravitational field. The


cube would have to extend it's gravitational fields for hundreds of


meters beyond it's hull to ensure that no probes got through, unless


it significantly increased it's field strength. But the combination of


the gravity fields, the nuclear fusion explosions (roughly eight every


three seconds) as well as the turbolaser and ion-cannon barrage being


maintained by the destroyer, and the waves of proton torpedoes were


all combining to wear down the mental faculties of the drones powering


the vessel. Undoubtedly they were exercising their mental will on


their power generators and shield generators, not to mention the


control and power in focusing their lasers. The two destroyers shields


had long since drained away, and their tractor beams could not hold


the huge ships with their powerful engines.




"Gamma ... three ... two ... one ... now."




The cube stopped dead, multiple hull breaches in evidence.


Then it was hit by another Hotel Tango. It was obvious that it's


gravitational fields had also given in, for the Hotel Tango detonated


dead center in the cube.




"Status." Janus ordered.




"No inbounds detected yet, /Vanquisher/ has taken up station


within 350,000km of the planet P1, and has resumed orbital






"Very good," at least the mission wasn't a total failure yet.


"proceed with primary mission."




"Atmospheric turbulence is within the capacity of the gunboats


and assault shuttles, bombing of all major power sources commencing."




On the planet's surface, the atmospheric turbulence and


shockwaves reverberating through the atmosphere continued, had forced


the Borg planetside to maintain their shields. On the holographic


tactical display the power plants were represented as bright points on


the planet's surface. Most had been assigned an attacking squadron.


Janus plan was to force them to make maximum use of all power


generators on the planet for as long as possible, forcing their plants


to operate at peak power levels. The Imperials couldn't hope to smash


through shielding on such a scale, and the Borg had proven that a


single cube could take anything dished out by two Star Destroyers for


quite a while, so the planet would survive. Or would it?




By Janus calculations, the Borg shields would hold, and their


power output would be sufficient, but the planet itself would not be


able to take such a pounding. The shockwaves may not be of consequence


to the Borg shields, but they were taking their toll on the geology of


the planet.




"Fault line seven oh two, northern hemisphere, showing signs


of instability."




"Concentrate attacks in that area." Janus ordered.




"Quake detected, shockwaves triggering secondary quakes in


nearby fault lines."




"Recover fighters. Target other fault lines in northern






"Quakes spreading throughout northern hemisphere. Shields down


in seven regions now."




Where the orbital bombardment had failed, the induced


planetary quakes were taking it's toll on the Borg structures.




"Power plant designated N23 showing fluctuating readings,


imminent containment failure likely."




"Send jump co-ordinates to all shuttles and gunboats."




"All fighters recovered. Jump co-ordinates distributed to all


gunboats and shuttles."




350,000km away, on the planet below, there was a bright light,


bright enough to eclipse any flashes from explosions as a direct


result from the orbital bombardment. On the bridge of the Star


Destroyer, several sensor panels exploded as circuits overloaded.




"Sub-space shockwave, severe sensor instrumentation damage."


Another flash was visible on the surface of the planet, and


was accompanied by a second round of exploding panels on the


Destroyer's bridge.








The two Destroyers, and the gunboats and shuttles it had not


had time to recover, all jumped to the pre-arranged point.




The Jump lasted two hours, during which the scope of the


damage to the star destroyer became clear. It's weapons efficiency was


down to 78%, and only a quarter of the shield generators were


functional. Over time, they would generate decent shielding, but would


not be able to withstand much of a barrage until the ship could visit


a shipyard. Hundreds of dead were reported, amongst the stormtroopers


as well as naval crew. Due to the overpopulation of the ship, ship


functionality was not impaired significantly.




When the ships finally exited hyperspace, they were met by the


two Lancers, which had arrived only thirty minutes earlier. It was


hard to believe that the entire mission in that system had only lasted


thirty minutes. All sub-space channels were nearly unusable due to


tremendous amounts of static. They were nearly three hundred light-


years from the point of attack, and it was out of instrument range, so


they had no way of knowing what was happening there, but the sheer


amount of subspace activity indicated that whatever it was, was huge.


The sub-space receivers were picking up wave after wave of static, all


emanating from the target cluster.




"The only natural explanation available for these disturbance


would be if half that cluster had gone supernova." A scientific


adviser commented, "The star of that system was unstable, and it is


quite possible that the sub-space shockwaves which damaged the


instruments on the destroyers also triggered something in the star


itself, possibly a supernova. Such a supernova in a star system of


such stellar density would cause havoc throughout the cluster."




"How can we tell for sure?" Janus asked.




"We can send a ship back, closer to the cluster, and it can


report on what happened."




That was dangerous, the ship wouldn't know what it was jumping


into, and the only two vessels who's sensors had survived the initial


shockwaves were the two Lancers, which had still been in hyperspace at


the time.




Janus ordered the /Vanquisher/ back to base, and ordered one


of the Lancers to jump one hundred light years closer to the cluster,


then twenty light years at a time, until it had determined what had


happened. The blind /Vanquisher/ wasted no time in jumping away. The


/Annihilator/ and the Lancer waited for word. Sub space communications


were out of the question with the static levels being broadcast, and


they would have to await it's return. Four hours later it returned.




"At least fifty stars in the cluster have gone supernova, the


level of sub-space noise was incredible as we got closer." They






"Most of those explosions must have occurred just after we


jumped," one of the scientific advisers said, "we would have missed


all the sub-space shockwaves as all the ships were in hyperspace, but


when that star went, it must have broadcast one helluva sub-space


shockwave, which triggered yet more supernovas in the stars


surrounding it. We can be glad we were in hyperspace. The sub-space


effects must have been horrific, and rebounded throughout this galaxy.


The physical shockwaves will of course take decades to spread through


the surrounding stars. Those explosions will be visible on many worlds


in this galaxy for the next few thousand years, as the light travels


through this galaxy."




"We will return to the supply depot. Our mission here is over.


/Sword/, execute mission Delta Sierra Nine."




On deep Space Nine, nearly six weeks had gone by since the


strange fleet which had rescued O'Brien had departed. The strange


fleet of the unknown humans would have been long forgotten if not for


the ranting of Gul Dukat about the shoddy security on the station that


allowed three of his people to be severely injured by members of the


Federation's secret service. He was still not convinced that these


humans had nothing to do with the Federation. There were no unknown


human colonies out there that anyone knew of. That particular part was


still a mystery to Sisko.




To make matters worse, the station had been rocked by a series


of sub-space shockwaves two weeks ago that had blown every single sub-


space receiver installed on the station, and severely hampered their


ability to detect incoming vessels. Poor O'Brien had worked day and


night to get everything repaired. The shock-waves had been felt


throughout the Federation, and had affected everyone in the sector.


No-one had determined the reason for these shockwaves yet, but it was


theorized that something major had occurred somewhere in the galaxy,


albeit many thousands of light years away, of the order of 10 to 50


supernovas, nearly simultaneously. If that was the case, O'Brien


doubted that there was a sub-space transmitter/receiver in the galaxy


that had not been affected.




"Holy cow ..." Dax exclaimed. "It's one of those Imperial


ships, scout class if I'm not mistaken, it just appeared out of


nowhere, less than two million km away. They're hailing us. On-






A young military officer appeared on the screen.




"Sisko, Commander, Deep Space Nine. What can I do for you?"




"I have an information package for you, from Admiral Janus,


please prepare to download files."




Sisko turned to Dax, who nodded.




"Proceed." He said.




The young officer hit a button on the console in front of him.




"Receiving data." Dax confirmed. Seconds later, "Done. That


was one huge file, I think I've got it all."




The officer nodded and cut the transmission without another






"They've gone." Dax announced.




"Any traces?" Sisko asked.




"Nope, momentary spatial anomaly, then they just vanished. No


indication of where or how."




"The file?"




"It seems to be ..." Dax voice trailed off, then stopped.




"You have got to read this!" she said to Sisko.








Pain. Fury. A lust for Revenge. The collective surprised


itself with these feelings. It was not used to feelings. The loss of a


planet had intrigued it more than hurt the collective. The loss of the


cubes in the subsequent battles had been insignificant, but the


inability to establish how the alien ships worked was frustrating. It


had not come upon such technologies before. What it had initially


thought to be a cloaking mechanism had turned out to be a drive


mechanism. A drive mechanism that could even be applied to weapons,


but which it had eventually discovered to be susceptible to


gravitational fields, but too late to prevent the pain.




When the second planet had been destroyed by the destruction


of it's power facilities, the shockwaves had killed nearly all the


units on the planet, then instigated an explosion of the star in that


system. The resultant series of shockwaves had swept through the


collective in seconds. It had known fear, as within seconds entire


worlds and sectors of units had been disconnected from the collective






It's power was reduced to the point where it feared imminent


destruction. But it had managed to order it's surviving units to shut


down their neural enhancers for several seconds, allowing the sub-


space shockwaves to dissipate. When they reconnected, the connections


had been tenuous because of all the sub-space noise, but the


collective mind had survived. Only a quarter of it's units had come


back on-line initially. Over the next few days, as the damage in it's


worlds was repaired, and the sub-space noise subsided, more and more


units had come back on-line. It had initially feared those worlds


destroyed, the units dead, but they had been merely disconnected.


Of course many worlds had not come back on-line, and many more


had been cut off from the parent mind, but reconnected and formed


their own collective minds in those pockets of the galaxy. The


collective as a whole had survived, despite all the damage, but it's


units were now grouped into several factions, each with their own


mind, and not all of them were inclined to rejoin the parent mind. The


parent considered. It had become arrogant in it's presumption of


superiority, but there was a force out there that had attacked it and






The Borg did not mind defeat, for even in defeat one could


learn, and grow. For now, it would consolidate, then resume it's


growth. It would remember this attack, and proceed with caution. One


day it would find the enemy, and assimilate these technologies, then


it would utterly destroy this enemy.














Michael January






Hand me my lightsabre ... It's the one that says "Bad Mother Fucker"

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