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Expansion (Chapters 1-8)

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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 Imperial Credits if you like the story anyway -

 

starfleet don't have a monetary system, so why work for them).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEDERATION WORLD FED99

 

The planetary governor of Fed99 was only mildly surprised when called

 

to the communications room. Apparently a ship of unknown origins had

 

entered the system. Normally he would not have to attend to such

 

matters, but seeing that it was a possible first contact, and that the

 

newcomers had requested an audience with someone in authority, the call

 

had eventually passed up from the space traffic controller, to the port

 

captain, to the mayor of Fed City One, and finally to himself.

 

The ship on the view-screen of the comms room was not unusually shaped,

 

it was a typical shuttle-type design, the only unusual features being

 

three large fins, no doubt for stable atmospheric flight. There was no

 

sign of warp nacelles, so it was unlikely to be an interstellar craft,

 

which meant that it could have been launched from another ship in-

 

system.

 

"The ship was first detected about two-light hours out," an

 

aide informed him, "and it took us a while to establish communication

 

procedures. Their language structures are totally foreign, but the

 

translators have finally figured it out. We don't know why we didn't

 

detect them from further out, and we haven't detected any other ships

 

in the system yet."

 

"Very well, on-screen."

 

The screen cleared, and shifted to a view of a lounge-type

 

area. There were two men waiting calmly in easy chairs, and they were

 

wearing an obviously military styled uniform.

 

"I am governor Joss Hewitt, what can I do for you?"

 

"Our apologies if this unscheduled visit is inconvenient

 

Governor. We merely wish to obtain permission to open trade relations

 

with your world. We have detected inter-stellar communications from

 

this planet, otherwise it might have escaped our notice. Seeing that

 

you do have inter-stellar capability, we are sure that there might be

 

areas in which we can do business."

 

"Trade is always welcome, we are a young colony, and have many

 

needs. What can you offer us?"

 

"That depends entirely on your needs, Governor. We are seeking

 

to trade for nutrient base, steel alloys, and grade four minerals with

 

semi-conductor properties. We can offer you industrial or agricultural

 

equipment. We have only recently expanded into nearby sectors, and

 

while we do have extensive manufacturing facilities, we have a shortage

 

of refined materials for our manufacturing plants."

 

The three men worked out agreements for swapping of

 

commodities. Fed99 had a relatively small population, and easily

 

produced more than they needed. However, given the fact that there were

 

no other federation worlds within easy trading distance, and starships

 

only occasionally traversed this sector, there appeared to be no harm

 

in trading their excess production with these newcomers. The governor

 

was mildly surprised by the fact the men were human, but given the

 

plethora of near-human races in this quadrant, it was not always easy

 

to tell at first glance whether they were genuinely human, or merely

 

superficially human. Not that it mattered to him anyway.

 

Over the next few weeks, the trade agreements appeared to be

 

most beneficial. Fed99 did not have much in the way of industrial

 

replicators, except for a few food replicators for emergency use, and

 

what had been originally cannibalised from the colony ship. The needs

 

of the colony had long ago outstripped the capability of these units,

 

which were merely for backup in times of need anyway. Fed99 did not

 

have the technology or manufacturing capability to produce the full

 

variety of equipment that a growing colony needed. They happily traded

 

nutrient base in exchange for manufactured farming equipment. The alien

 

equipment was well manufactured, sturdy, and designed for humanoids.

 

The aliens soon also established an office of sorts at the

 

spaceport, with their own communications equipment, and a servicing

 

workshop where they had a number of androids which assembled the

 

equipment delivered by their shuttles, or serviced equipment as needed.

 

The aliens also quite happily carried off as much nutrient base or

 

minerals as the colony could produce. The arrangement seemed to be

 

working out well for both sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admiral Jenneke was pleased with developments. The wormhole whose co-

 

ordinates they had found in the Emperor's old records had opened in

 

inter-galactic space, a mere 200,000 light years from the Rim of this

 

galaxy. The jump from the wormhole to the galaxy was only slightly more

 

than two months, compared to the decades that normal inter-galactic

 

travel would require. They had also found a number of primitive inter-

 

stellar societies, occupying a few sectors in one quadrant of the

 

galaxy, and had set up a base of operations half a quadrant away,

 

easily out of range of their slow stardrives. It had been very cost-

 

effective to initiate trade relations with these primitive humans. The

 

journey home was a full four months despite the wormhole - since the

 

wormhole's far end was a month away from Imperial space in the home

 

galaxy.

 

Now that the Empire was at peace with the New Republic, they

 

were at liberty to divert ships and resources to this project, the

 

expansion of the empire into a second galaxy. Each end of the wormhole

 

was defended by an ISD2 task force, and three ISD2 task forces were

 

operating in the new galaxy. They had set up a manufacturing facility

 

here, and were in the process of building a huge shipyard, free of the

 

observation of New Republic spies and scouts. The only problem was that

 

they couldn't bring resources in fast enough from the home galaxy, and

 

despite the exceptionally generous trade agreements with the local

 

humans, the project was proceeding very slowly. The steel alloys

 

supplied by the local humans were re-assembled by the construction

 

droids at the sub-atomic level, and slowly but surely, the shipyard was

 

taking shape.

 

Jenneke's team of diplomats had even engineered a few of the

 

worlds to declare allegiance to the Empire, which ensured them total

 

control of resources from those worlds. The Empire was not however in a

 

position to go to war, even against these primitive humans, since the

 

waste of resources would be noticeable back home, and New Republic

 

agents would come sniffing around to find out what was going on. The

 

information they had gleaned from their newly purchased allies

 

indicated that they had a very liberal style of government. This was

 

right up Jenneke's alley, he had followed the rise of Palpatine

 

carefully, and knew how easy it was to manipulate people into

 

voluntarily leaving such liberal governments. Such governments would

 

also find it difficult to declare war on an enemy that did not openly

 

engage in any hostility, until it was too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEDERATION STARSHIP ENTERPRISE

 

"Captains Log. We have been diverted from routine missions to

 

investigate a change in the economic status of several systems on the

 

edge of Federation space. Apparently eighteen systems have formed trade

 

agreements with a previously unknown race on the edge of the quadrant.

 

Three of the worlds have since revoked their membership of the

 

Federation, in favor of affiliating themselves with these humans of

 

unknown origin. While membership to the Federation is voluntary, and

 

there are no laws which restrict trade, starfleet command has expressed

 

interest in finding out more about these developments."

 

 

 

Picard made his way to the bridge. It was not time yet for his

 

watch, and Riker still had the conn, but he would feel happier doing

 

his research on the bridge. Besides, Riker always helped clarify his

 

thoughts. They played a nice game of devil's advocate, and over the

 

years a good understanding had developed between them.

 

The first officer smiled warmly when he entered the bridge.

 

"Number one, what do you make of these colonies leaving the

 

Federation."

 

"It is not unsurprising. All the colonies that have deserted

 

the Federation are well off the more lucrative trading routes, none of

 

them are particularly rich, and they are in quiet sectors which do not

 

receive or require much attention from starfleet. The enemy has

 

obviously done some scouting, and chosen their targets well." Riker

 

said.

 

"The enemy?" Picard enquired.

 

"For lack of a better term, yet!" Riker rejoined.

 

"But surely," Picard continued, "these colonies needs are being

 

met by the Federation. None of them are particularly lacking in any

 

resource, medical supplies or other needs, and they have the protection

 

of Starfleet."

 

"Yes, but none of them are particularly well-off, and perhaps

 

they even feel neglected. The lure of lucrative trade agreements and a

 

benefactor who pays attention to even minor needs must be very enticing

 

to them."

 

"We cannot dictate politics to these worlds, it is for them to

 

decide, but I just don't feel right about this. I don't recall the

 

Federation ever facing a similar problem before, with worlds just

 

defecting to other alliances." Picard said.

 

"If I may, sir?" Data enquired from the helm. Picard nodded,

 

allowing him to continue. "The situation has many analogies in history.

 

On ancient Earth, property developers would entice land-owners to sell

 

their properties by offering them generous sums of money. This was less

 

directly costly than forcing them out, and the property developer was

 

protected under law, since people could make up their own minds."

 

"So you're saying there is a new property developer in the

 

galaxy?" Riker smiled.

 

Data looked enquiringly at him for a second, before

 

comprehension dawned. "Ah yes," he continued, "invariably though, if

 

someone refused to sell, the developer would resort to less savoury

 

means of making the person sell his property."

 

"Our problem," Picard continued, "is that while the Federation

 

can't openly refuse permission for a world to declare independence, our

 

position could be seriously undermined if these defections continue."

 

"Does the Prime Directive come into play at all?" Riker asked.

 

"That's interesting. If the world in question has not left the

 

Federation, then we can openly negotiate with them, but if they are no

 

longer a part of the Federation, we cannot interfere with their

 

political relationships anymore. We might demonstrate to them that we

 

are a better option than the other alliance through conventional means,

 

but any underhanded dealings would be disallowed by the Prime

 

Directive." Picard stated.

 

"And if we didn't get caught, who would know?" Riker asked.

 

"Wil!" Picard accused.

 

"Seriously then, what we need to do is find out how the planets

 

which declared for this other alliance are now faring. If they are

 

faring well, we wish them the best of luck, if not, we spread the news

 

through the remaining worlds, so that they can make a more informed

 

decision."

 

"Exactly!" Picard stated. "Obviously there are those in

 

Starfleet who would feel obliged to force the worlds back into the

 

Federation, but such tactics may result in just encouraging other

 

worlds to leave, or even rebel. There are also those who think that we

 

should eliminate any alliances which may set themselves up to rival the

 

Federation."

 

"Surely not. That would mean becoming a dictatorial state, or

 

totalitarian regime. We would invite rebellion on every quarter, and I

 

would join the rebels."

 

"Quite. Obviously the situation is very sensitive. We don't

 

want to lose any more worlds, but neither can we force them back."

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise's first port of call was one of the three worlds

 

that had already defected, but they were not even allowed to enter the

 

system. The governor of the world had initiated contact with them

 

before they entered the system, and more-or-less nicely told them they

 

were not welcome. It was unclear as to whether he was being forced to

 

say this, nor was it clear how they had been detected. Possibly the

 

'new proprietors' had very good sensory equipment, or had seeded the

 

outer limits of the system with faster-than-light detection equipment,

 

like tachyon receivers or sub-space transceivers.

 

The Enterprise made for a planet that had not yet declared

 

itself either way. Technically it was still a member of the Federation,

 

but over the last three months it had cancelled one trade agreement

 

after another, until virtually it's entire trading base was outside of

 

Federation control. The new governor of Fed99 was a genial enough

 

person, but struck Picard as not being particularly intelligent,

 

neither had he shown much interest in what happened outside his

 

residence. The previous governor had had a sudden and unexpected heart

 

attack. He had not had any history of heart defects, and while such

 

things were uncommon, they were not beyond the bounds of possibility.

 

Planetary governorship could be quite stressful at the best of times.

 

Despite his heart having been replaced with a new bio-mechanical unit

 

by an Imperial medical droid (whatever that was), and the impassioned

 

pleas of the Imperials that he stay in his job, he had decided that it

 

was time to retire.

 

The Imperials had not been happy to lose the person who had

 

negotiated all the original trade agreements, but seemed more than

 

happy with the new governor.

 

"Do you mind introducing us to your new friends?" Picard asked

 

of the young man.

 

"Not at all. They have an office or something at the spaceport.

 

Come I'll take you."

 

The young governor led Picard and Data outside, where a vehicle

 

was humming softly, hovering about a half-meter above the ground.

 

Picard got in beside the young governor, and Data climbed into the back

 

of the vehicle. The vehicle was of an unusual design, but Picard had

 

seen plenty of air-cars in his time.

 

"Hold on." The governor called.

 

The vehicle pulled away with a noticeable acceleration, but an

 

otherwise smooth ride.

 

"These have proved fantastic aids in exploration and farming,"

 

the governor was saying. "We can go anywhere with them, over any

 

terrain, and haul huge loads. It is powered by a cell which lasts for

 

years, and can be recharged using a simple portable reactor."

 

The landspeeder - as the governor called it - sped effortlessly

 

across the lansdscape, automatically maintaining it's height above

 

ground, it's guidance system obviously taking pains to avoid obstacles

 

which the governor appeared not to notice. Picard gripped the seat

 

tightly, hoping nobody noticed. Travelling at several thousand times

 

the speed of light in deep-space hardly acclimatised one to doing

 

several hundred kilometers per hour only half a meter above solid

 

ground, with trees and rocks flashing past only meters away. Minutes

 

later, they approached the spaceport. The governor steered the vehicle

 

towards a large warehouse type building, which dominated the skyline.

 

Near the building were several shuttles of unfamiliar design, being

 

loaded by robotic type creatures.

 

"Droids." The governor explained. "They work hard, require

 

minimal maintenance, and no wages."

 

Picard managed not to look back at Data, but it was an effort.

 

Nearby, a shuttle was descending over a ready made pallet of

 

goods on a floating bed. The huge wings of the shuttle folded up,

 

reminding Picard of a dragonfly. It descended onto the floating pallet,

 

doors opening beneath it, and swallowed the large container. The doors

 

underneath closed up, and the shuttle sped off, it's wings descending

 

into position for atmospheric flight before it had cleared the loading

 

area.

 

Picard glanced at Data, and was satisfied to see the droid

 

muttering into his communicator. No doubt the Enterprise would track

 

the shuttle anyway, but there was no point in taking anything for

 

granted.

 

The governor led Picard into the air-conditioned offices. They

 

were greeted pleasantly by two of the droids, but the governor walked

 

right by them, paying no attention to the two machines.

 

The robots went on with their business, apparently un-offended

 

by the rudeness. Another droid glanced curiously at Data, and emitted a

 

burst of electronic noise that sounded like an enquiry. When Data made

 

no response, it ambled off with a mild shrug.

 

"How rude." it commented as it passed the two reception droids.

 

Picard glanced at Data, who merely tilted his head. Picard smiled

 

reassuringly, and followed the governor into the next room. A young man

 

was neatly perched behind the desk, the desk itself was littered with

 

images of orders, various blueprints, and diagrams, and the odd invoice

 

or two.

 

"Excuse the mess." The young man said (translated).

 

He waved his hand irritably at the desk, which instantly

 

cleared itself.

 

"Have a seat, please. Bring us some refreshments," he ordered another

 

droid.

 

 

 

"Captain Picard, Enterprise." Picard introduced himself.

 

"Sergeant Ilklon." The man saluted, smiled, then held out his

 

hand. "Habit." He apologised.

 

Picard smiled, "You are a military man?"

 

"Yes, of course." The man stated.

 

"Surely, business is for civilians." Picard prompted.

 

"Eventually yes." The sergeant explained, unfazed, "our

 

relations with planets in this sector are still in their early stages.

 

Once those relations are more stable, then my superiors may risk

 

civilians getting involved, but for now only the grunts are at risk."

 

He smiled.

 

"Your superiors?"

 

"Well, the admiralty, of the Galactic Empire."

 

"Ah," Picard said, as if that explained all, "and your emperor

 

is ... ?"

 

"Recently deceased," the sergeant said, "Not that he was a

 

great loss, and many were glad to see him go. There is no emperor at

 

the moment, and a committee of Admirals, who are taking their time to

 

elect a new emperor, runs the government. Maybe they are waiting for

 

the new emperor to elect himself, like the last one." He laughed as if

 

such things were of no consequence to a mere soldier.

 

"I am afraid that I don't know much about your empire," Picard

 

said, "would you mind telling me more?"

 

"I am kind of busy at the moment ... but what would you like to

 

know?"

 

"Why haven't we heard of this Empire of yours before now?"

 

"I don't know, maybe they were busy with the war. The last

 

emperor really screwed things up, caused a rebellion and all that. But

 

that's behind us now."

 

"Why are you courting planets in this sector to join your

 

empire?"

 

"Are we treading on anyone's toes? I thought the planets here

 

were relatively autonomous, and made up their own minds about regional

 

allegiances?" The sergeant asked.

 

"No. You are not stepping on anyone's toes. The planets in this

 

sector of course may make up their own minds. We are just curious."

 

Picard explained.

 

"About what? And who is we?"

 

"I am taking up much of your time." Picard apologised. "I am

 

sorry to have disturbed you, I can see you are busy." Picard extricated

 

himself from the conversation. He stood up. The supply sergeant did not

 

stop them from leaving, save for humorously berating them for not

 

enjoying the refreshments on offer.

 

"No such thing as a free lunch you know? You shouldn't pass up

 

such opportunities."

 

 

 

 

 

"The shuttle?" Picard wasted no time on pleasantries once he

 

was back on the Enterprise.

 

"It climbed out of the atmosphere without any trace of drive-

 

emissions, but we picked up some minor gravitational anomalies in the

 

immediate vicinity of the shuttle. No doubt an anti-gravity drive of

 

some sort. The shuttle climbed at an average acceleration of well over

 

forty gees until it reached the upper atmosphere. Our sensors couldn't

 

get a clear reading of the shuttle, indicating a very dense hull

 

material, but we didn't want to be too obvious about the sensor focus,

 

so didn't try too hard. We could get no power readings, but the

 

acceleration indicates a superbly efficient gravitic technology base.

 

Once it cleared the upper atmosphere, the shuttle engaged a new

 

drive mechanism. Drive-emissions indicate a charged particle expulsion

 

drive, similar to our own impulse drives, but with marked differences.

 

The density of the ion-emissions is immensely greater than our own

 

impulse drives, and the proportional acceleration per mass expelled is

 

much less than what we would achieve, which indicate two things.

 

Firstly, very little or none of the ship's mass is submerged in sub-

 

space, and sub-space sensor readings confirm this. Secondly, the ion-

 

density from their exhaust could not have been obtained without

 

significant field-energy enhancements to their ion engines.

 

The most remarkable thing however, is that the ship disappeared

 

from our screens thirty seconds later."

 

"Disappeared? A cloaking device?"

 

"If it was a cloaking device, then it somehow cloaked the ships

 

drive-emissions as well. When it disappeared, the drive-emissions just

 

cut off, like they had switched off their engines. We did an extensive

 

sensor focus on the area, but picked up nothing. The only anomolous

 

readings picked up were in the micro-seconds before the ship vanished

 

off our screens. There was a power surge, and between one sensor pulse

 

and the next the ship had surged forward about a million kilometers.

 

The next sensor pulse picked up nothing."

 

Sub-space sensor pulses occurred several thousand times per

 

second, providing near continuous readings, which implied the ship had

 

accelerated from a few hundred kilometers per second to several

 

thousand times the speed of light in microseconds, and continued

 

accelerating fast enough to out-race the third sensor pulse.

 

Picard glanced skeptically at the sensor technician. The

 

science officer nodded her confirmation of the readings.

 

"The ship accelerated to the equivalent of warp 9.91 in 20

 

microseconds, and continued accelerating fast enough that 20

 

microseconds later it must have been going faster than a sub-space

 

sensor pulse, and thus effectively disappeared of our screens. In fact,

 

that is not quite true," she said, "if you examine the logs, you will

 

notice that the shuttle in fact caught up with the previous sub-space

 

pulse, and passed through it at a range of 4.7 million km, which shows

 

it was still accelerating and catching up with earlier sub-space

 

pulses. At that point it was travelling at an estimated speed of

 

800,000c and still accelerating."

 

"That is four times faster than a sub-space sensor-pulse, and

 

hundreds of times faster than this ship's maximum velocity!"

 

"I can only confirm the readings." Riker stated. "The computer

 

reports all stations and all sensor-diagnostics at peak operating

 

efficiency. Our instruments are in perfect working order."

 

"Warp signatures?"

 

"The shuttle showed no trace of any warp drive technology that

 

we are aware of, and in fact none of the characteristic sub-space

 

emissions of any known warp-drive technology. Whatever the stardrive

 

technology it is using, it leaves no traces that we can detect."

 

"The readings have also been confirmed by this." Riker

 

indicated the view-screen. "This is a visual recording at high

 

magnification of the shuttle."

 

On the view-screen recording, the shuttle could be seen leaving

 

the planet, the velocities were quite large, but not unusually so. On

 

the screen, the shuttle suddenly seemed to stand still, and surge

 

forward at the same time, almost like a vessel going to warp, except

 

that in the next instant it was gone, not even visible at the

 

incredibly high magnifications the view-screen was capable of, and not

 

registering on any of the multitude of remote-sensing devices available

 

to the Enterprise.

 

"And this sensor reading here." Riker waved to the technician.

 

"This is the sensor recordings of a shuttle entering the system. The

 

sensors first picked it up here, then 20 microseconds later over here,

 

and another 20 microseconds later there it was, in a neat orbit, just

 

as if it had always been there.

 

"That gave us about 40 microseconds warning of it's arrival,

 

and in that time it was observed decelerating from a speed of in excess

 

of 700,000c to just a few kilometers per second. Prior to that, there

 

was absolutely no warning of it's imminent arrival, although, if it had

 

been approaching at a steady speed of 700,000c we should have picked it

 

up seventeen minutes ago if it was connected to real or sub-space. The

 

only conclusion is that their drive mechanism is dimensional or non-

 

spatial."

 

"40 microseconds with no idea where it will come to a stop is

 

hardly advance warning, number one. Combine all of this into a

 

preliminary report and transmit it to the nearest Starfleet

 

intelligence centre."

 

"What's the point," Riker commented, as he turned to do

 

Picard's bidding, "these shuttles are capable of speeds faster than our

 

transmissions, they could arrive at starfleet HQ weeks before the

 

report gets there."

 

The Enterprise remained in orbit for several hours, ostensibly

 

purchasing supplies from the colony below and updating the population

 

registers. In that time they were able to observe the departure and

 

arrival of several shuttles, and two freighters. The freighters were

 

nothing remarkable, merely 200 to 300 meters in length, but with the

 

same drive mechanism as the shuttles. On average, the Enterprise would

 

detect the ships when they were already disengaging their stardrive,

 

which gave them less than a thousandth of a second warning. They were

 

unable to calculate the top speed of the ships, and it appeared that

 

the alien ships 'disappeared' within microseconds of engaging their

 

stardrive. A runabout was sent to the outskirts of the star system, but

 

it's sensors was unable to detect the ships entering or leaving the

 

system. They ostensibly just 'appeared' within a few million kilometers

 

of the colony planet, and decelerated in microseconds to orbital

 

velocities within an average of one planetary diameter of the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

THREE WEEKS LATER

 

The huge bulk of the starship Enterprise was insignificant alongside

 

the bulbous expanse of Starbase Twelve. The starbase was more than five

 

kilometers tall, and three kilometers wide. Most of it's interior space

 

was just that, empty space, since the starbase was actually a fully

 

functional dry-dock facility for the entire sector. It had received the

 

Enterprise's report on the 'human' aliens weeks ago, and had relayed

 

the report to Starfleet Headquarters on Earth. New orders had arrived

 

in the meanwhile, and the Starbase had recalled all ships in the sector

 

for a briefing on the new orders. The orders themselves had not been

 

transmitted, but would only be handed over to the captains directly.

 

Three more starships in the sector were on their way in, and

 

were all due to arrive in the next few days. The Enterprise, which had

 

already been on it's way back, was the first to arrive. Picard in the

 

meanwhile was de-briefed by Admiral Sergei, the sector commander.

 

"Four more worlds have indicated their intention to leave the

 

Federation, and pledge allegiance to this so-called Galactic Empire,

 

captain. Frankly, starfleet is at a loss as to what to do. The only

 

suggestions worth consideration all involve us literally engaging in a

 

price-war with this Empire, and outbidding them by offering even more

 

lucrative trade agreements with worlds in the sector. You also would

 

not have heard, but several worlds in the Ferengi sector have also

 

virtually ceased trading with the Federation. It seems that any and all

 

excess resources, especially heavy metallic ores, are being snapped up

 

by this Empire. Their buying power must be immense. We are not even

 

sure that the Federation CAN outbid them."

 

"But that's impossible," Picard said, "Any civilisation with an

 

economy capable of this volume of trade would have been noticed before.

 

Why haven't we heard from them. The excuse of internal conflicts just

 

doesn't wash. Not at this scale of economic intervention."

 

"Exactly. Starfleet Intelligence have proposed several

 

scenarios. We must accept that it is possible that they have just been

 

absorbed with internal conflicts. Other possibilities is that they may

 

be from a remote quadrant of the galaxy, certainly their stardrive

 

capabilities doesn't exclude this. The third scenario is that they may

 

be extra-galactic."

 

Picard was thoughtful for a second. "We don't know the maximum

 

speed of their stardrives, but inter-galactic distances would require

 

immense velocities. I can't even imagine the power requirements such

 

velocities would necessitate."

 

"A wormhole, perhaps?"

 

"A wormhole of that size would have created disturbances we

 

would have detected. Unless it was outside the galaxy." Picard

 

speculated.

 

"Well, all of this is pure speculation, and doesn't answer our

 

basic question. How do we prevent the total erosion of the Federation?"

 

"Have we been able to get a closer look at their technology?"

 

asked Picard.

 

"One of the intel teams appropriated a land-speeder, and a few

 

droids. Their initial attempt met with failure. The devices were taken

 

aboard a starship by transporter beam, but just didn't work after

 

transportation. That led us to believe that the devices have components

 

which are manufactured at the sub-atomic level. When we eventually did

 

get hold of some working devices, we were unable to replicate them of

 

course, since as you know, replicators are only accurate to the

 

molecular level, and beyond that you need a fully fledged manufacturing

 

facility. At the moment, we have several science teams working on the

 

anti-gravity technology and the power cells. Up to now they have not

 

had much success."

 

"You said that the only options worth consideration are

 

impractical. What did you mean by that?" Picard asked.

 

"One or two of the hawks in starfleet suggested sabotaging

 

their facilities. But that could initiate a war we may not be ready

 

for. They appear to know a lot about us, no doubt through their

 

dealings with the Ferengi, and we know nothing about them, not even

 

where their bases or any of their planets are."

 

"Of course, but perhaps we can attempt to have intel infiltrate

 

the worlds which have already pledged allegiance to them. Perhaps there

 

is a reason for them denying us entry into those systems."

 

"Already been ordered." Sergei answered, "I am not sure I

 

approve wholeheartedly. We have no idea whether we will be able to land

 

any teams on those planets in the first place, nor how these Imperials

 

will respond if they discover any of our intel people. The Defiant is

 

on it's way here for just this purpose, although the use of it has not

 

yet been approved by the Romulans. They have only approved the use of

 

the cloaking device against the Dominion."

 

"We could of course just buy the info we need from the

 

Ferengi." Picard suggested.

 

"Why? Jean-Luc! What a brilliant idea. I would never have

 

thought of you having such a dirty mind!"

 

"The idea of bribery and all the underhandedness associated

 

with dealing with Ferengi does not appeal to me," Picard sighed, "but

 

it may just be necessary, this once."

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

 

 

"Ha Ha, why should I tell you anything?"

 

Quark shook with laughter. Before him stood an exasperated

 

Starfleet officer.

 

"We would just like to know more about the Imperials you have

 

been dealing with. What is so funny about that?"

 

"Starfleet, coming to me for help? Bwa Ha."

 

"We will of course pay."

 

The Starfleet officer handed Quark a slip of plastic. Quark

 

wiped a tear out of his eye, and glanced at the figure on the card. The

 

tears vanished, the laughter silenced, and Quark waved the officer into

 

his private office at the back of the bar.

 

"You could have just said so!" He said, somewhat peeved. "This

 

fee of course is just a deposit, you will cover all my expenses, and

 

pay an equal amount once I have provided you with the information you

 

seek."

 

The Starfleet officer nodded.

 

"Here, what will you have, Romulan Ale?"

 

The Starfleet officer politely refused, but agreed to something

 

lighter and non-alcoholic.

 

"Now tell me what exactly you would like to know." Quark

 

ordered, data padd at the ready to take notes. He was all business.

 

As soon as the Starfleet officer had left and paid for the non-

 

alcoholic drink - nobody got free drinks at Quarks - the Ferengi called

 

in one of his associates.

 

"Take the next shuttle to Ferenginar, give this padd to the

 

Grand Trade Mogul. Wait for his response, and then come back here."

 

"I don't have enough money to pay for a trip to Ferenginar,

 

Quark."

 

"Then take the next Federation shuttle, tell them it's a family

 

tragedy or you have to be on Ferenginar for religious reasons or

 

something. Don't under any circumstances pay for the trip. And get a

 

receipt."

 

The associate scuttled out of the office, wondering how he

 

would get a receipt for something that he hadn't paid for, but knowing

 

that he would be in trouble if he didn't get one.

 

Quark contemplated what he would do about the information. The

 

whole business with the Grand Trade Mogul was pure nonsense of course,

 

just a diversion to keep Starfleet happy that he was doing something.

 

In the meanwhile he would figure out what to tell them. He couldn't

 

tell them about the mass executions on the planets the Imperials

 

controlled, Starfleet would just feel obligated to try and save those

 

planets. He would have to tell them something though, but nothing too

 

terrible, the Imperials were the best thing that had happened to him in

 

decades. Just then he realised that Starfleet's pet Klingon had not

 

been seen for quite a few days now. An idea began to take shape in his

 

head, and a slow smile spread across his wiley face. Quark couldn't

 

help but scratch his ear in excitement as the idea took on ever more

 

clever proportions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CORUSCANT - NEW REPUBLIC FLEET HEADQUARTERS

 

 

 

"Admiral, we have the updated report on Imperial ship

 

movements."

 

"Yes?"

 

The New Republic had several contacts amongst traders and

 

merchants in Imperial space, who regularly reported ship sightings,

 

allowing the New Republic to keep abreast of military developments in

 

the Empire. They may be at peace with the Imperials, but the war was

 

not that long ago that the Peace was relaxed.

 

"The three ISD2 task forces we indicated as missing last month

 

are still unaccounted for, and another two ISD2 task forces have made

 

the two month list. If they don't show up in the next month, that will

 

make five ISD2 task forces we have lost track of."

 

"How would they lose five ISD2 task forces? Is there any

 

indication that these ships may just be in the process of being

 

overhauled at one of the military shipyards? Or possibly on exploratory

 

trips in the unknown regions beyond Imperial space? There has certainly

 

been no indication of a change in their alert status."

 

"That is what's strange sir. Their military is spread thin as

 

it is, for Imperial standards anyway, unless they have just decided to

 

downsize their military."

 

"No, they would have made a big show of it. Tried to coerce us

 

into the same. They are up to something. I'm no Jedi but I can feel

 

they're up to something. Call a security council meeting, we will

 

inform the Senate of this, but make sure that you let them know it's

 

nothing urgent, not yet anyway."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMPERIAL BASE - MILKY WAY GALAXY - LOCATION UNKNOWN

 

 

 

In orbit over the planet were no less than three ISD2 task forces. The

 

Three task forces had just arrived, and would not have been missed by

 

the republic spies yet. The three task forces which had defended the

 

installation up to now were well on their way home. The Republic would

 

be frantic by now, wondering what had happened to these ships, and if

 

they didn't show up soon, would begin to suspect something. The only

 

problem was that even with hyperspace speeds and the wormhole to

 

shorten the trip, home was three months away.

 

Well, as soon as the ships returned, the Republic would settle

 

down again, but would inevitably notice that something was up, if

 

Imperial ships kept disappearing for four to six months at a time. No

 

matter now though. The shipyards were nearly complete, and were already

 

in the process of laying in a hull for the first of the new star

 

destroyer's, which once completed would reduce the reliance on bringing

 

ships from home. It was only hoped though that the Republic didn't also

 

keep tabs on freighters, since the dozens of freighters brought to this

 

galaxy would not be going home. Already the merchant fleet was

 

stretched thin, with too many planets to service, and unable to bring

 

back enough resources to satisfy the hungry manufacturing facilities

 

here.

 

 

 

The five worlds under full Imperial control were being stripped

 

as fast as they could be of everything. Literally hundreds of robot-

 

miners were strip-mining the planets, and much of the population had

 

been replaced with Imperial citizenry. Not that they hadn't been

 

helpful, but they just didn't have the know-how for working with

 

Imperial equipment, and Jenneke didn't have the time to train them.

 

Dozens of other barren star systems nearby were being strip-mined for

 

minerals, but droids could only accomplish so much without sentient

 

intervention. Several million citizens had been brought over as

 

workers, which would hardly be noticeable back home, out of a

 

population of trillions.

 

The base planet below, recently named Phoenix, was already home

 

to most of those Imperial citizenry. Large tracts of the planet had

 

been industrialised, and the planet's surface was pockmarked with

 

mining installations, factories, manufacturing facilities, farms and

 

engineering processing plants. In orbit, three huge frameworks

 

ponderously swung around the planet, one of them clutching the freshly

 

laid keel of a Victory Star Destroyer. The Victory's could be mass

 

produced, even from a relatively low resource base, and the crew

 

requirements were negligible, so they would be the first to be

 

manufactured here. In time, the shipyards would also produce ISD's and

 

ISD mark II's. Kuat Drive yards were only too pleased for the business,

 

and had proved very co-operative in the venture, for a small take of

 

the trade in the new galaxy of course.

 

Jenneke was lost in day-dreams of even building a Super Star

 

Destroyer, but sighed patiently. Everything in it's time. Another six

 

months maybe, and if things were still proceeding well, he would make

 

the proposal to the Grand Admiral. His day-dreams were interrupted by a

 

soft shuffling behind him. He turned to see his aide standing at

 

attention beyond the desk.

 

"Admiral, we have received a transmission from our trade

 

representative on Ferenginar."

 

Jenneke sighed. "Don't tell me. They are complaining that we

 

charge too much, and are angling for another price reduction."

 

"Actually sir, it looks like a slight problem. A most

 

unpleasant merchant by the name of Quark sold our agent this piece of

 

information." He handed Jenneke a padd.

 

Jenneke glanced at the padd. "According to this Quark, the

 

Federation are planning to smuggle some infiltrators onto one of our

 

planets, using a cloaked starship. Well. Things are finally starting to

 

get interesting. Put me through to Captain Polaris of the Sceptre."

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris sat in his ward room, surrounded by officers and

 

engineers.

 

"We don't know anything about their cloaking technology, and

 

very little about the distortion drives. Yet we are presented with the

 

problem of finding a cloaked warship, which could be heading to any of

 

these five star systems, to drop off a number of infiltrators. Any

 

suggestions?"

 

The discussion started off slowly. Imperial officers were not

 

in the habit of discussing tactics or revealing ignorance in the

 

presence of superior officers, and this was a novel experience.

 

However, they were beginning to get used to the leadership style of

 

Polaris, and things had relaxed considerably since the end of the war,

 

and the passing of Vader and Palpatine. The ambitious Thrawn had done a

 

lot to revamp the Imperial navy, and it was evident that the navy was

 

continuing with his policies.

 

The engineers were the first to 'loosen up'. Used to

 

brainstorming sessions, they started a heated argument over the

 

technical data that the Ferengi Quark had provided, at a price of

 

course. They had no way of knowing how valid the data was, or if the

 

Ferengi actually knew anything about Starfleet engineering principles,

 

but it was a starting point.

 

"Their ships drive mechanism is a distortion field. Very

 

dangerous technology, with lots of pitfalls, but they seem to have

 

overcome most of it."

 

"How would you cloak a distortion field?"

 

"You could project an inverse graviton deflector shield, which

 

would contain all graviton emissions, effectively blanking out any

 

trace of space-time distortion."

 

"Yes, but we know their ships operate with reduced mass because

 

of the sub-space mass immersion field. A graviton deflector shield

 

wouldn't disguise the sub-space mass of the ship."

 

"Of course not, but you can broadcast a low-powered sub-space

 

signal at a reciprocating frequency to the mass of the ship, thus

 

effectively phasing out it's signature."

 

"Wouldn't the signal be detectable though?"

 

"Possibly, but if it's a very low power setting, you would have

 

to be very close. And they would see you coming before you get within

 

detection range of the signal, which gives them enough time to slow

 

down, or change course to avoid you."

 

"What about the pion and tachyon emissions from their power

 

core."

 

"That's easy to damp, and they can always cut power if they see

 

anyone close by, and then just drift past."

 

"If they cut power, their warp field cannot be maintained, and

 

the ship would slow down to real velocities."

 

"But their real-space velocities would hardly be very high, and

 

they wouldn't dare activate the impulse drive because of the drive-

 

emissions."

 

The discussion raged on, with the tactical officers joining in

 

with proposals of ship deployment to maximise detection. Polaris sat

 

quietly through all this, developing a picture of what they needed to

 

do.

 

"Enough, this is what we will do."

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris had identified two systems likely to be the destination

 

of the cloaked enemy ship. He had deployed as many sensor bouys and

 

probe droids in a sphere about the two planets as he could,

 

interspersed with TIE's to supplement their numbers. A VSD serviced

 

each system, relieving the TIE pilots every 24 hours. The main fleet

 

was split into two groups, each defending a separate system. The

 

remaining three systems were only lightly covered with sensor bouys,

 

and Polaris had discarded them as too far from the nearest Federation

 

bases to have been targeted with this mission.

 

Spending 24 hours in a TIE was no joke. You had to stay in your

 

suit all the time, and the ship had no real life-support system, which

 

meant the only thing that was effectively between the pilot and vacuum

 

was his stormtrooper like containment suit. The suit's thermal

 

controls were barely up to the task of maintaining temperature, and

 

many pilots swore that if they had been left another ten minutes, they

 

would have been frozen stiff.

 

The logic of the attempt was that the powered down TIEs, and

 

more so the sensor bouys, would be hard for the Federation ship to

 

detect without giving it's position away with an active scan. On the

 

other hand, if it passed within a few million kilometers of one of the

 

Imperial sensors, Polaris hoped they would detect it's sub-space

 

signature dampening, especially if it was at warp velocities.

 

 

 

On board the Defiant, Worf glanced over the sensor scope again.

 

They were barely a light year out from one of the Imperial systems, and

 

the ship was dead in space. Minutes ago they had detected the sudden

 

appearance of a large metallic object only a few hundred million

 

kilometers away. They had been at low warp, and had immediately cut

 

power.

 

Now the ship lay quiet. Waiting. The metallic object had since

 

disappeared. But a metallic object of such size could only mean one

 

thing. An enemy warship. The question was, what had it been doing out

 

here in the depths of space. Worf glanced at the sub-space scanner

 

console. It was dark. One pulse would tell them exactly what was out

 

there, but they did not dare use it, for fear of giving away their

 

position.

 

Worf briefly considered going to the alternate star system, but

 

that would delay the mission by several days. Already the pressure was

 

mounting to get some data on the Imperials. The Defiant had taken two

 

weeks to get here from Bajor, only briefly stopping at Starbase Twelve.

 

Changing to the alternate planet would add several days to the mission,

 

and they had no idea what they might find there. At least they had been

 

given some warning of something out here. That decided Worf, 'better

 

the enemy you know ...'

 

"Helm, backtrack 3 AU's, then change to this vector."

 

The Defiant slipped backwards for a few seconds at low warp,

 

then changed on to the new heading. They didn't dare use Impulse, the

 

drive emissions would give them away as sure as anything. The new

 

vector avoided the spot where the enemy ship had been observed by

 

several million km. Worf had no idea what they were avoiding, but he

 

hoped that the new vector would be enough.

 

 

 

The TIE pilot strained his eyes into the display in front of

 

him. There had been a ghost of something shortly after the VSD had

 

left, he was sure, but it had been moving away, and had disappeared

 

before he could track the vector. It had just been a flash, he was now

 

not even sure he had seen anything.

 

"Computer, replay sensor logs of last three minutes."

 

Yes. There had been something. He was unsure what to do. It was

 

gone, and he didn't dare use subspace unless he was absolutely sure. He

 

decided that taking no action was the best course. If he called it and

 

was wrong, he'd be a fool. If nothing happened and he stayed quiet, he

 

would be okay. If the shit hit the fan he would play dumb, just like

 

everyone else.

 

 

 

The Defiant crawled to the star system at low warp. Normally

 

they would proceed faster than this, but the sudden appearance of the

 

enemy warship had given everyone a bit of a scare. They by-passed the

 

point where the metallic object had appeared by several hundred million

 

km, twice the outer edge of the sub-space damping field as determined

 

by the most sensitive Federation equipment.

 

 

 

Imperial sensor bouys could detect starships as far as eight

 

light years away, depending on the energy emission levels of those

 

starships. However, being limited to passive mode only reduced it's

 

mean chance of detecting a frigate class warship to 50% at a range of

 

two light years. The mean chance of detecting a frigate or patrol ship

 

at one light year was well over 90% in passive mode. The bouy therefore

 

almost blew a circuit when it got a slight echo barely a millionth of a

 

light year away. Ten million km was well within it's envelope of

 

detection, and it had no hesitation in transmitting an alert.

 

 

 

"Full stop." Worf ordered.

 

Their had been a brief spike on the sub-space communicator, an

 

unusual frequency, but certainly not a natural noise. There was

 

something out there, and it wasn't far away.

 

"Run a triangulation on that transmission."

 

"Nine point eight million km, eighty two degrees to starboard."

 

"Change course five points port, continue at warp zero point

 

five."

 

"Aye, Aye. Five point port, warp zero point five."

 

The ship pressed on. Worf was sure they had been spotted, but

 

the lack of an active scan or any trace of sensor focus in their area

 

assured him that all was not lost.

 

 

 

 

 

The sensor bouy was quite capable of actively scanning the

 

region where it had observed the echo, but strict orders had been given

 

for no active scanning. However the orders had not been clear about

 

what to do once the target had been detected. It decided to maintain

 

it's position. It listened carefully to it's sensors, but to say it

 

listened harder would be incorrect. Droids were not programmed for

 

half-measures, but if it was capable of emotion or human

 

characteristic, one would have sworn that it concentrated harder.

 

A return communication came. "Sensors free, active scan

 

authorised." The droid activated it's main power cell, and poured power

 

into it's sub-space transmitters, filling the surrounding ether with

 

sub-space pulses. It employed a standard quartering pattern of sensor

 

focus, starting with the area where the echo had originated, and

 

working it's way outwards.

 

 

 

On the Defiant, the sub-space sensor board lit up. The sub-

 

space pulses were all wrong for conventional detection, but noise was

 

noise, and it analysed the echoes coming back to it, identifying

 

several metallic objects which had been too small and too far for the

 

passive scanners to detect before this wealth of sub-space noise

 

erupted.

 

"Multiple bogies."

 

"Minefield?" Worf enquired.

 

"No, we have stumbled into a passive sensor array of some kind,

 

and by the pattern of scanning, it's hunting for us, and getting

 

closer."

 

"Maximum warp, three seconds, then full stop."

 

The Defiant surged forward, attempting to put as much space

 

between itself and the area being scanned before it was located. Three

 

seconds later it stopped. Deathly quiet ensued.

 

"Did it track us?" Worf enquired.

 

"The pattern of scanning changed direction the instant we

 

accelerated, and it tracked us for one point two seconds, then lost us

 

we put distance between it and ourselves. It appears our cloaking

 

mechanism is effective to their sensors, but only at longer ranges. It

 

has lost us for now, but they are tracking in this direction, based on

 

our last vector no doubt."

 

Worf berated himself for not changing course as well. It was

 

not too late however.

 

"Warp 2, new vector."

 

The defiant changed course, and sprinted at low warp along the

 

new vector. That should throw their sensors off, but the enemy now also

 

knew they were here, and they were trapped inside the sensor net.

 

Obviously the ship they had detected earlier must have been servicing

 

the sensor net.

 

"Contact, metallic, range six million kilometers aft."

 

That was their exact position as of two seconds ago. The aliens

 

were trying to hunt them down. Well, if it was a game they wanted, Worf

 

would give them a game. He might not be able to deliver the

 

intelligence team to the planet, but he would get a look anyway, then

 

see what he could do to extricate himself from this mess.

 

On the scope, Worf watched as several metallic objects jumped

 

in to apparent random locations nearby. The enemy was definitely

 

quartering the area looking for them. Worf ordered a number of short

 

sprints, then long waits, working his way closer to the star system.

 

Behind them, the aliens were expanding their search. Twice they were

 

briefly tracked, but each time outdistanced the effective range of the

 

enemy sensors. Several hours later, they were approaching the edge of

 

the star system when the enemy changed the game.

 

"Commander, there is a multi-frequency signal being transmitted

 

in a continuous repetitive cycle. The signal is encoded according to

 

Federation civilian protocols."

 

"Audio."

 

The bridge was suddenly filled with a baritone voice.

 

"Federation starship. We know you are out here. Please respond

 

and state your intentions. What is the purpose of this disregard of our

 

territorial boundaries? If you continue this flagrant disregard of our

 

territorial authority then we will be forced to destroy you."

 

The transmission repeated the same message, and Worf cut the

 

audio. He was technically in the wrong, but had no intentions of

 

answering. Admitting to this mission would severely embarrass

 

Starfleet. He gazed at the nearby star system in desperation. At this

 

range even the passive scanners could detect the activity around the

 

third planet, Fed99, which had recently broken all ties with the

 

Federation, and declared allegiance to the empire.

 

"Warp four, swing by the third planet, prepare for dead stop of

 

zero point five seconds four planetary diameters from the planet, then

 

leave by this vector at warp five."

 

The Defiant swept past the outer planets of the system. Warp

 

four was excessively fast in planetary systems, but Worf had no

 

intentions of being slapped on the wrist by local traffic officers. The

 

alien starships were still quartering the empty space outside the star

 

system, but they would undoubtedly have another sensor net closer to

 

the planet.

 

"We are being scanned."

 

"Maintain course."

 

A ship suddenly appeared in orbit around the planet. Then

 

another, directly ahead of the Defiant, but Worf had no intentions of

 

getting that close to the planet.

 

"Half a point to starboard, warp one." Worf ordered as they

 

came close to the planet. The ship ahead of them opened fire, but the

 

reduction in speed and the change in course was sufficient to cause the

 

brief burst of fire to go wide of their intended course.

 

"On my mark, dead stop, half second active scan. Mark."

 

The Defiant stopped. Well short of the planet. The brief burst

 

of fire had stopped, whether as a result of orders or the fact that the

 

aliens sensors had lost them again Worf would never know. For a full

 

half second, the planet was bathed in intense sub-space energies, the

 

echoes of those energies being recorded on the Defiant for later

 

analysis.

 

"Warp eight for this gap here. We are leaving."

 

The Defiant sprinted for the gap in the enemy sensor net. It

 

would take them several hours to work their way clear again.

 

"The transmission has changed, Commander."

 

"Audio." Worf calmly ordered.

 

"Federation starship. Your flagrant disregard for our borders

 

and your failure to respond to our transmissions is considered an act

 

of war. State your intentions now, or be destroyed."

 

"Maintain course." Worf ordered.

 

"Contact, dead ahead, eight seconds to intercept."

 

"Warp one, new vector."

 

At warp one, their signature was low enough to avoid detection

 

unless the enemy was right on top of them. They maintained the new

 

course for several minutes, but warp one was crawling. When Worf judged

 

them far enough from the search area, he increased speed again, but was

 

forced to slow down as they approached the region of the sensor array,

 

one light year out from the Imperial controlled star system. There were

 

no enemy ships within several thousand million kilometers, and the

 

sensor array was silent as well, but Worf knew it was there.

 

"Head for this point, Warp six."

 

"Three seconds to clear enemy sensor array."

 

"Enemy sensors active, they are tracking us."

 

"Maintain course, warp seven."

 

The Defiant flashed past the sensors a second later,

 

accelerating to speeds in excess of six hundred times the speed of

 

light.

 

"Contact bearing seven degrees, four seconds ahead."

 

"Ten points port, warp eight."

 

"Contact, bearing minus twelve degrees, five seconds ahead."

 

"Reverse vector, starboard five, prepare for dead stop."

 

"Contact, bearing starboard five, eight seconds ahead."

 

"Dead stop."

 

"They've lost us."

 

Several of the alien vessels had jumped to points ahead of the

 

Defiant's high warp course, but the dead stop had thrown them off, and

 

at their ranges of several hundred million kilometers ahead of the

 

Defiant's projected course they couldn't detect the cloaked ship.

 

"New heading, port seventy points, galactic north nineteen

 

points, warp 2 until we are clear."

 

The Defiant had left the enemy's sensor array well behind in

 

the warp sprint, and with the enemy ship's hunting for them in the

 

wrong place, they could slip away quietly. Worf started reviewing the

 

encounter. A perfectionist by nature, he was convinced he should have

 

done better, and so he attempted to find where he had gone wrong, and

 

to see if he could have done anything differently. He hoped the half

 

second scan of the planet which used to be Fed99 would reveal something

 

that would make this exercise worthwhile. Undoubtedly, the tensions

 

between the Imperials and the Federation would soar, but since he

 

hadn't been caught, the Imperials technically didn't have a leg to

 

stand on. All they would have to show was a few ghost echoes on their

 

sensor logs, which the Federation would deny was anything to do with

 

them. After all, officially the Federation had no cloaking technology.

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

 

 

 

The Defiant slipped unobserved through the blackness of space.

 

They were almost home. A few hours at most and they would be in sub-

 

space range of Starbase Twelve. The crew were relaxed, and the odd

 

smile was being exchanged. The tall Starfleet officer's eyes were tired

 

from staring into the dimmed scope, and he turned away from the scope

 

briefly. He smiled at the pretty helmsman, and stretched luxuriously,

 

rubbing the exhaustion out of his eyes. Worf himself was exhausted, and

 

the temptation to stretch was great, but he refused this sign of

 

weakness. He turned to admonish the watchman, but even as he opened

 

his mouth to order the man to keep his eyes on the display, the

 

watchman jerked upright.

 

"Contact, dead ahead, two seconds to intercept."

 

"Evasive action." Worf ordered, but it was too late.

 

The helmsman, who had been relaxing herself, frantically

 

reached for the controls, as the ship shuddered. The gigantic wedge-

 

shaped enemy vessel had fired a full barrage from dead ahead, and the

 

cloaked and unshielded vessel ploughed straight into the fires of hell.

 

Worf yelled his death cry, even as he felt the air being sucked out of

 

his lungs, and light exploded in front of his eyes.

 

 

 

The Klingon sat up. He was soaked in sweat. He glanced around,

 

recognising the quarters he had been assigned at Starbase Twelve. The

 

dream vividly reminded him of the nightmarish chase out of the Imperial

 

controlled system. They had been limited to the crawling speed of warp

 

2 for days, and had been surprised several times by the sudden

 

appearance of one of the enemy battleships. They would lie quietly for

 

hours on end, at a dead stop, waiting for the enemy to move their

 

search, then they would sprint for safety, or crawl if circumstances

 

demanded. After five days, they appeared to have evaded all pursuit,

 

and had only covered a measly seven light years. They had increased

 

speed then, and eventually relaxed as they approached Starbase Twelve.

 

Worf had taken no chances though. He didn't put it past the

 

enemy to be watching the approaches to the Starbase, it being the

 

nearest Federation base, and so had approached at a cautious pace on a

 

circuitous route. There had been no sign of the enemy, but it was an

 

exhausted crew that finally docked at the Starbase. They had downloaded

 

all their sensor data, and gone directly to sleep, at the orders of the

 

local Sector Commander, Admiral Sergei. Worf showered, and calmed

 

himself. It would not do to show any signs of distress. Once he was

 

satisfied that he had settled himself, the proud Klingon marched to the

 

briefing room.

 

Picard and Sergei and a handful of other officers whom Worf did

 

not recognise were all going over the sensor logs of the Defiant. They

 

did not immediately notice the Klingon, but Worf steeled himself, he

 

may have failed his mission, but he would not go down with his tail

 

between his legs.

 

"Admiral," He stated, getting everyone's attention, "I know

 

that my mission was a ..."

 

"Commander Worf. You are up already!"

 

"Yes sir, I thought it best that I ..."

 

"Remarkable effort, young man, remarkable. I will forward your

 

name for a commission. Your performance on this mission was

 

outstanding!"

 

"But ... but my mission was a failure ... I was not able to get

 

within range to transport the intelligence team to the planet's

 

surface."

 

"That is of no consequence. That you penetrated their defenses

 

as far as you did was remarkable. The sensor data you did gain has a

 

wealth of information. I doubt we could have compiled so much

 

information any other way. You deserve a commendation for this effort."

 

"I am, course, flattered that you should think so Admiral, but

 

I cannot see how my mission can be construed as anything but a

 

failure."

 

"Nonsense, Worf," Picard enjoined, "I am proud to claim the

 

honour of having had you under my command, and no doubt your success

 

will be a reflection on my training." Picard smiled. "Come, let us see

 

what we have learnt about the enemy."

 

He drew Worf closer to the vid-screen that the group were

 

gathered around. The other captain's were also congratulatory, and Worf

 

was encouraged to review every aspect of the mission using the

 

recordings downloaded from the Defiant.

 

"I am convinced that they knew you were coming." Captain

 

Anderson of the USS Viking stated.

 

"How do you come to that conclusion." Captain Zulu of the USS

 

Natal asked.

 

"Look at this data here. We see the enemy has the capability to

 

do active sub-space sensor scans out to distances of seven point nine

 

light years. Of course an active scan will be detected dozens of

 

parsecs away, but the important thing is that there is no need for them

 

to have deployed a sensor array of any type so far out of the system if

 

they can presumably detect ships at ranges of eight light years. And

 

why did they not even conduct the occasional sensor scan, but only

 

employ passive scanners until they detected the Defiant."

 

"It may be standard practice for them to deploy sensor arrays?"

 

"Even so. I am convinced they knew a cloaked vessel was coming,

 

and they did their best to trap it. A peaceful society would have done

 

the occasional sensor scan and openly contacted any ships on the way

 

in. They knew any cloaked vessel would give active scanners a wide

 

berth. No, they did not want the Defiant to detect their sensor array

 

until it was too late, which is why they deliberately did not do any

 

active scanning until after they detected her incoming. Also, look at

 

this data here. When running their own active pulses through our

 

computers, we not only detect several sensor bouys spread over a wide

 

area, but look at the variation of the readings. Interspersed between

 

their sensor bouys were a number of other types of craft, even one-

 

manned starfighters, all lying with power-cores shut down, like spiders

 

ready to spring a trap."

 

There was silence amongst the group for a few seconds. The use

 

of fighters and the passive sensor tactics implied a hastily assembled

 

sensor array, where anything that was small and had a sensor device had

 

been deployed. Surely, manned fighters would not normally be deployed

 

so, since any peaceful vessel doing an active scan would have picked

 

them out light years away. The only reason they failed to show up to

 

the Defiant was that the Defiant itself had not been using active

 

scanners.

 

"But how would they have known a cloaked vessel was coming."

 

Picard asked.

 

"Quark! I will rip his ears off, and make him eat it." Worf

 

growled.

 

Picard paled. "It is probably my fault too. I may have tipped

 

off Quark with my suggestion that we buy information through him. But

 

why would he betray us so?"

 

"Money! That is all the little worm cares for." Worf answered.

 

"Quark will have to wait," Sergei stated, "we have other

 

problems."

 

The group continued analysing the data. For the first time,

 

they had sensor data on the enemy warships, which up to now had been

 

very scarce. Also, they had a detailed scan of at least one hemisphere

 

of Fed99. The scan revealed a population increase of more than 40%

 

since the last Federation census, conducted by Picard only weeks ago.

 

The hemisphere was also liberally covered with mechanised vehicles.

 

"They have begun to bring in their own people. And they're

 

strip-mining the whole planet!"

 

"Disgusting. What kind of people are they."

 

"Human normal according to this data. There are isolated

 

readings which indicate high-order reptilean or insectoid life forms on

 

the planet, but they are the exception. Most of the people brought in

 

are human normal."

 

"Is it possible? Surely two species of humans who are so

 

identical could not have developed independently of each other?"

 

"Who knows? Many of the races in the Alpha and Beta quadrants

 

are surprisingly similar humanoids, with many common genetic

 

characteristics. Some theorise that we all share the same ancestry, and

 

that it dates back some 40,000 years or more. Maybe these are our lost

 

cousins or something."

 

"I wonder who the poor relations are, us or them?"

 

"Would you look at those warships. They are at least of the

 

same scale as Borg ships."

 

"Mmmm, the Borg are humanoid as well, but the Borg propensity

 

is for cybernetic improvements, whereas this group goes for heavy

 

roboticisation."

 

"The resource requirements for building and maintaining such

 

vessels must be huge."

 

"Is that it, do you think, that they are rebuilding their

 

fleet. That supply sergeant we spoke to did indicate that they had just

 

fought some kind of civil war. That would explain the enormous demand

 

they have shown for industrial minerals."

 

"Look at that fleet! It consists of at least fifteen capital

 

vessels. Do they need fleet rebuilding? Why, there are at least seven

 

of those wedge shaped warships. Three big ones, and four small ones.

 

The small ones are bigger than a galaxy class cruiser! And then not to

 

mention several smaller frigates and cruisers, as well as literally

 

dozens of one man starfighters, and intermediate sized vessels,

 

shuttles, gunboats, freighters. For all we know they have similar

 

fleets defending the other planets they've stolen."

 

"One of those three big warships has significantly higher

 

energy readings. At least sixty percent above that of the other wedges

 

of the same size. And at that size, they must have a crew numbering in

 

the tens of thousands, although the short scan doesn't tell us much

 

about the life-sign readings on those ships. But the design philosophy

 

is similar to the twentieth and twenty first century carrier groups,

 

where an entire fleet of vessels defended the main carrier, and the

 

fleet itself was defended by dozens of fighter planes."

 

"That design philosophy surely doesn't work in space. With no

 

horizon, you don't need to carry dozens of aircraft to spot below the

 

horizon for you, and the resource drain must be tremendous, not to

 

mention the manpower requirements. It is much more efficient for a

 

space-based navy to employ one all-purpose vessel, with a good balance

 

of sensors, weaponry, and maneuverability. Besides, those old navies

 

could be severely crippled by the destruction of one specialised vessel

 

in the flotilla. If the carrier was lost, the group as a whole suffered

 

an enormous loss of strategic effectiveness. And if the support vessels

 

were lost, the carrier itself was vulnerable to either submerged

 

attacks or missile attacks. The same design philosophy can not be

 

employed in space."

 

"Come on, Susan. There have been times when you could have used

 

a second vehicle to provide spotting information from the far side of a

 

planet, or star, even as a decoy to lure the enemy into a trap."

 

"Yes, but the co-ordination required between the vessels would

 

be enormous, and difficult to maintain in the confusion of a battle

 

situation."

 

"Gentlemen. Enough. Move on."

 

"Well, their fleet disposition seems to be based on a simple

 

one, two, four, eight configuration."

 

"Explain."

 

"One flagship, which appears to be a very powerful battleship

 

or carrier by the look of those hangars in it's ventral hull, two

 

similarly powerful support vessels also of the battleship or carrier

 

variety - see the hangars again. Then we have four intermediately

 

powered vessels with similar design, but no significant hangars or

 

launch bays. Lastly we have eight support vessels which are much

 

smaller and significantly faster. Most likely they would have a

 

scouting or skirmishing role. The 1:2:4:8 combination could easily be

 

used for any number of configurations when it comes to formation

 

fighting or control of a star system, and no doubt they have many

 

formations and strategies worked out in advance."

 

"But that would still require tremendous co-ordination between

 

their ships, in the confusion of a battle environment."

 

"Not necessarily. We know they are a highly militaristic

 

culture. Most likely they devote intensive efforts towards training and

 

mock battles. Starfleet, not being a militaristic institution, don't

 

apply the same type of training. For centuries, right up to the early

 

twenty second century, Earth armies placed enormous importance on co-

 

ordinated battle-tactics. A well-trained army employed co-ordinated

 

tactics with the minimum of communication."

 

"I will see that your ship's computers are provided with the

 

latest dissertations on co-ordinated battle-tactics of the previous

 

centuries. The basics are that co-ordinated tactics require a

 

centralised command structure, a good communication system, a means of

 

implementing control, and of course any strategy or tactic relies

 

heavily on accurate information."

 

"So the counter strategy would be either to take out their

 

command structure, cut of the head of the snake so to speak, or to

 

interfere with their communications and control systems, not to mention

 

of course intelligence and counter-intelligence."

 

 

 

"Exactly."

 

"And our strengths and/or weaknesses obviously is centralised

 

around the autonomy of our starships."

 

"Okay. What kind of performance would such huge ship's be

 

capable of. How do they overcome their inertia without submerging their

 

mass into sub-space?"

 

"Look at these readings here, there are tremendous field-

 

effects surrounding their ion engines, channelling energy along

 

optimised vectors, nothing wasted. The half-second full active scan

 

done by Commander Worf is also sufficient for us to get an idea of

 

their military ships acceleration. The field-effects combined with the

 

ship's combat shielding means that the engine exhaust areas are the

 

most heavily defended part of the ship, which is no surprise, to

 

contain the energies that can launch several hundred million tonnes of

 

starship at accelerations greater than 30 kilometers per second squared

 

must be enormous."

 

"That is a ridiculous figure. Even the Enterprise can only

 

accelerate at 10 kilometers per second squared on Impulse, and most of

 

our mass is diverted into sub-space."

 

"Look at those engines Jean-Luc. Those starships are

 

essentially built around the engines. And these readings confirm it."

 

"And the mass? You said several hundred million tonnes?"

 

"The ship's hull metal according to this scan, is made of some

 

sort of depleted alloy. The scan detected traces of two elements,

 

Duranium, which we are familiar with, and another which our scientists

 

have theorised about, but never been able to manufacture, Neutronium,

 

but in comparatively small amounts. Also, there was no sign of any

 

welding or distinctions between hull plates. This implies that they are

 

able to weld plates or hull sections together at the molecular or

 

atomic level, or manufacture the entire hull as a single unit. The

 

structural integrity which results must be enormous."

 

"What you are saying is that these ships have tremendous

 

performance at sub-light velocities, and tremendous resistance to

 

damage?"

 

"Yes. Their stardrive also appears to have enormous strategic

 

advantages, it is inherently cloaked by virtue of exceeding the speed

 

of a sub-space sensor pulse, but they don't appear to be able to match

 

velocities with a warp vessel, which is a tactical disadvantage."

 

"For that reason, orders have been passed for the reconfiguring

 

of starship weapons to include the capability to go head to head with

 

the Imperials if it becomes necessary. Starfleet's science teams have

 

been developing new sub-routines for phaser targeting, to counter their

 

starfighters, although at the accelerations they have been seen to be

 

capable of, this will only be useful at very close ranges. Further sub-

 

routines have been developed to improve targeting of slow-moving

 

targets from warp velocities, although I am told best results will only

 

be achieved below warp 3, with minimal improvements at warp 4 or

 

better. This will also require some adjustments to quantum torpedo

 

sustainer fields to improve warp manoeuvrability, but there is not much

 

we can do without a major redesign and re-fit. The other changes are

 

slightly more controversial."

 

Picard raised his eyebrows, and Susan Zulu leaned closer,

 

watching the Admiral's face intently.

 

"Starfleet has identified that our best tactical advantage lies

 

at warp velocities. As a result they have ordered various modifications

 

to the warp cores. The changes will improve flexibility and control at

 

low warp velocities up to warp three point five, a slight improvement

 

of mid-range control through warp 8, but there will be slight decrease

 

in performance at maximum warp velocities. There may be a reduction in

 

top speed of the order of two tenths of a warp factor. It doesn't sound

 

like much, but the difference between warp 9.6 and warp 9.8 is a

 

difference of at least a thousand times the speed of light."

 

"The decision does have merits though. Top speed is not a

 

consideration in conflict situations, but acceleration and

 

manoeuvrability is. I take it that the Starfleet's order of battle will

 

call for warp speed engagements against the Imperials, should it come

 

to open conflict."

 

"Yes. If it comes to that. The major disadvantage though is

 

that fleet flexibility on the strategic scale will be reduced. Not that

 

this will make much difference anyway, their stardrive being so much

 

faster than warp."

 

"Manoeuvrability will help, but they will get to choose the

 

time and place of battle. Why, look at the condition of the Defiant's

 

crew when they got back. No offence to Commander Worf, but they were

 

exhausted."

 

"Yes," Worf agreed, "we did not dare to relax our vigil, for

 

fear of an attack, and we had no way of similarly surprising them.

 

Although we were easily able to prevent positive interception by

 

randomly changing our warp vectors."

 

"How much longer would you have been able to keep it up though?

 

A day? A week? What if they hadn't given up the chase, and were still

 

pursuing you?"

 

"We would have been hard pressed, but would not have yielded!"

 

Worf stated emphatically, refusing to be baited.

 

"Gentlemen." The Admiral once more called order.

 

"Anyway," the feisty Captain Susan Zulu continued, "Worf had

 

the advantage of a cloaked vessel, which could not have been easy to

 

track. Who is to say that an uncloaked vessel could have avoided

 

pursuit."

 

There was no answer to this one. Each captain remained silent,

 

contemplating what they would have done in Worf's situation, or might

 

still do, given a similar situation. It was obvious that some serious

 

brainstorming needed to be done, before the tensions in the area

 

mounted even more. As if reading their thoughts, Admiral Sergei spoke

 

up.

 

"A communique has also apparently been delivered to the

 

Federation. One of the Imperial shuttles appeared in Earth orbit

 

without any warning. They transmitted a formal complaint to the

 

Federation, claiming Starfleet violations of the Prime Directive, and

 

accused Starfleet of trying to incite a war."

 

"That is preposterous."

 

"Not necessarily from their perspective. After all, they have

 

not engaged in any overt aggression towards us."

 

"How would they know about the Prime Directive, and Federation

 

procedures?"

 

"The colonists who have pledged allegiance to them. The

 

Ferengi. Perhaps they even have human agents within the Federation.

 

After all, we would not have been looking for anyone before now, and it

 

is quite possible."

 

"So now we're looking like the bad guys. What is the Senate's

 

position towards Starfleet now?"

 

"In fact, the Senate naturally were contrite about being found

 

in the wrong. Publicly they have criticised Starfleet's actions, no

 

doubt to allay the Imperials, but privately they are in support.

 

Although they were disappointed that we were caught in the act, so to

 

speak. But it could have been worse."

 

"I heard that the senate has called for a de-commissioning of

 

several starships, how could it be worse."

 

"That is just a diversion." Sergei explained, "The recall of

 

the older ships for decommissioning is a red herring, in fact the ships

 

will be fully refitted with newer warp cores, quantum launchers,

 

upgraded sensors, and ablative armour. Only the oldest and most

 

outdated vessels will actually be decommissioned, and their crews will

 

be used to bolster more modern ships. Starfleet is fully aware now,

 

given Commander Worf's experience, of the necessity of having a full

 

crew complement so that proper watch rotation can be maintained."

 

"Romulan and Cardassian response."

 

"The Cardassians of course had a lot to say, accusing the

 

Federation of expansionist tactics and all that, the Romulans have been

 

rather quiet, but have also formally requested copies of the Defiant's

 

sensor logs."

 

"How would they know about that, and why would we give it to

 

them?"

 

"It is not general knowledge, but the cloaking device with

 

which the Defiant is fitted was only allowed by the Romulons after

 

extensive negotiations. It took a lot of high-level negotiations to

 

achieve this co-operation, and one of the conditions was that they

 

would have full access to the Defiant's scouting reports."

 

"One of the conditions?"

 

"The other is that the device only be used against the

 

Dominion, but so far they have not complained about it's use against

 

the Imperials. Presumably they perceive the Imperials as a threat as

 

well, and the Cardassians most likely have been subverted through

 

advantageous trade agreements, just like the Ferengi."

 

"What is Federation policy from here on out?"

 

"The Federation are granting the Ferengi and the Cardassians

 

more favourable trade agreements, not that we wish to compete with the

 

Imperials, but we aren't going to let them just take over. We'll see

 

what happens from here on out."

 

"Damn right." Susan Zulu finished the conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

IMPERIAL BASE - MILKY WAY GALAXY

 

Admiral Jenneke slammed his fist onto the desk. It almost

 

beeped an indignant response, but thought better of it. Back-chatting

 

an Imperial officer was a sure way to guarantee conversion into

 

alluvial dampeners or refuse processors.

 

"They want what?"

 

"The Ferengi have threatened to ..."

 

"Shut up."

 

Jenneke paced over to the window. He gazed out at the almost

 

endless lines of industrial facilities. In the distance, constructions

 

droids were ripping up the dirt and rock of the planet named Phoenix,

 

and reconstituting them into durasteel and permacrete structures.

 

Working with the construction droids were dozens of electro-mech

 

droids, converting the structures into refineries, processing plants,

 

factories, manufacturing plants and transmutation facilities. Huge

 

repulsor-trucks were lumbering all over the place, distributing

 

manufactured components, metals, minerals, power cells and removing

 

waste for reprocessing. An obvious sign of Jenneke's frustration was

 

that the queues of trucks waiting outside the manufacturing centres

 

were very short.

 

A further strain on production was the need to manufacture and

 

deploy sensor bouys. The raid by that cloaked vessel could have turned

 

nasty. The Ferengi were very unclear as to how many such vessels were

 

available to the Federation, but it was suspected that the technology

 

was similar to if not the same as that employed by the Romulan Empire.

 

Jenneke was aware of the preponderous of cloaked vessels amongst the

 

Romulan fleet, but they were on the far side of the Federation, the

 

Imperials had had very little dealings with them so far. Obviously a

 

few Sienar patrol boats were monitoring their fleet movements and

 

practicing cloak detection against them, and they were aware of this.

 

They had attempted to intercept the patrol boats several times, but

 

with active scanning two patrol boats working together could detect a

 

cloaked vessel two tenths of a light year away. Sufficient for avoiding

 

them, but hardly sufficient as a decent planetary defence response

 

time. Two tenths of a light year allowed for less than twenty minutes

 

to prepare planetary defences, and if your fleet was several hundred

 

light years away, there would be no chance to mount fleet defence.

 

Uncloaked vessels were another story, they could be detected

 

eight light years away with active scanning, but the active scanning

 

would give away your position as well, and at a greater range. Gencore

 

had been ordered to prioritise the manufacture and deployment of

 

shields for the newly acquired planets. If that Federation vessel had

 

opened fire, it would have set their operations back months, possibly

 

resulting in the cancelling of the whole project. The fact that they

 

had not opened fire on the planet was of course the only reason Polaris

 

was still alive.

 

Phoenix was the only planet with significant manufacturing

 

capability as yet, and it was struggling to keep up with the commodity

 

manufacturing needed to buy raw materials from the primitive cultures

 

in this galaxy, let alone the requirements of the three shipyards in

 

orbit. All three shipyards were operating at less than peak efficiency

 

because they were just not being supplied with sufficient components to

 

keep up with their needs. Up to now, Imperial efforts had been backed

 

up by tremendous co-operation from the four major corporations in the

 

defence industry - Kuat, Sienar, Rendili Stardrive and Gencore. The

 

super corporations were eager to expand their operations into this

 

galaxy.

 

The problem though was that with their home galaxy more than

 

three months away, they just couldn't bring enough experienced

 

engineers and technicians over fast enough to satisfy local demand.

 

Already much of the ex-Federation population had been replaced with

 

Imperial citizens, the Federation people obviously not having the

 

technical know-how to maintain and manufacture Imperial equipment. Not

 

yet anyway. Many were being trained and put to work, and those who

 

didn't match up to expectations or showed signs of dissidence were

 

naturally executed, secretly of course.

 

All over the planet, Imperial work crews worked in shifts

 

around the clock, but couldn't keep up with the demands of both trade

 

and shipbuilding. Now the damn Ferengi wanted to increase the prices

 

for their raw materials and mineral ores. Raw materials and mineral

 

ores required bulk transport, which was not a problem, but it was a

 

pity that local refinement and processing techniques did not suit the

 

requirements of Imperial manufacturing centres. At least the

 

Cardassians could be manipulated through their hate of this Federation,

 

the major regional political power. The Ferengi cared for nothing

 

except profit, and they were shrewd enough to deduce how much the

 

Imperials needed these materials.

 

"Very well, allow the Ferengi a three percent price increase,

 

if they try to go any higher, threaten to discontinue our trade

 

agreements."

 

The aide left, and Jenneke promised himself that as soon as

 

manufacturing rates and population levels allowed, he would flatten

 

these stupid local cultures and their petty politicians, starting with

 

the Ferengi. Jenneke glanced over the progress reports of the

 

shipyards. The first Victory Star Destroyer was close to completion,

 

having taken a ridiculous period of six months! A second VSD was only

 

half-complete, and an Imperial Star Destroyer in the third yard was a

 

full two months behind schedule! Back home it would have been completed

 

in a matter of a few weeks.

 

The pressure for results was also mounting from home. The

 

Republic spies were sniffing around all over Imperial space. The

 

rotation of task forces between this galaxy and the home galaxy was not

 

fast enough to hide the fact that the Imperial fleet was smaller than

 

it should be, and if he did not pick up the pace of manufacturing,

 

Republic suspicions might turn into a demand for an explanation. The

 

peace treaty between the Imperials and the Republic ensured strict

 

control over the number and location of shipyards, and if this

 

endeavour were exposed too soon, it would have serious consequences for

 

galactic peace.

 

Jenneke's pacing brought him over to the holographic

 

representation of the Milky Way galaxy as explored by his scouts, and

 

supplemented with information from the Ferengi, which of course was not

 

trustworthy. He glanced over the map, and a small thought came to him.

 

What if ...

 

"Lieutenant." He called, with his finger on the comm-panel of

 

the desk. "Get me Captain Polaris."

 

Polaris was the most competent of his three task force

 

commanders, and naturally pulled all the most difficult assignments.

 

Despite his failure to capture or destroy the cloaked vessel, Jenneke

 

privately conceded that Polaris had done very well. The sensor data

 

which had resulted from the chase was invaluable, despite the failure

 

of the mission.

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris stood at attention in front of the holographic

 

representation of the Admiral.

 

"You realise, Polaris, that if you fail this time, it will be

 

your last failure."

 

Polaris clenched his fist, and hoped the holographic camera

 

couldn't pick up the similar clenching of his jaw muscles.

 

"I understand Admiral. I will not fail."

 

The Admiral's visage disappeared without warning. Polaris cut

 

the communication from his side as well.

 

"Arrogant bastard." He commented, and suffered a moment of fear

 

at the thought that the room might be bugged. He shrugged it off.

 

Paranoia only led to paralysis.

 

He made his way to the wardroom, where his officers had

 

gathered in the meanwhile. Along the way, he contemplated his

 

humiliation. His task force had been withdrawn from planetary defence

 

operations, and Captain Masala's force was now in charge of that duty.

 

Masala's first act had been to request a full copy of all their sensor

 

logs, which of course would help them in the distribution and

 

reconfiguration of sensor bouys to watch for cloaked vessels. The

 

sensor bouys were distributed on random orbital trajectories in

 

multilayered concentric spheres around each controlled system. Of

 

course they couldn't hope to cover the full space, but with a

 

combination of active and passive detectors in random patterns their

 

chances were quite good. Masala had also taken the unusual step of

 

splitting up his task force, and never keeping his main force for too

 

long in any one system.

 

Polaris stepped into the Ward room. Again he suffered a

 

momentary paranoic fear that his officers had witnessed the dressing

 

down he had received, but shoved that aside. The ward room's

 

holographic equipment was not connected to the main communications

 

room.

 

"Gentlemen," he spoke calmly, "we have been given another task.

 

It has become necessary to neutralise some of the enemy's industrial

 

and military capacity."

 

"We are going to war?" one of the Junior officers asked

 

excitedly.

 

"No. Merely a small raid. Apparently this Federation, which

 

controls this quadrant of the galaxy, is attempting to hinder our

 

efforts by monopolising the trade in the quadrant. We have been ordered

 

to teach them a small lesson. We have identified a Federation world in

 

the system they call Alpha Mensa which has reasonable production

 

facilities. It is an important supplier of many of the mineral ores on

 

which their technology is based, but not by any means their most

 

important source. Destruction of the planet will not seriously affect

 

their economy, but should inhibit their efforts to monopolise trade in

 

the quadrant. The system was chosen because there are no G type stars

 

within twelve light years, and our scouts have detected only two

 

Federation colonies within fifteen light years of the planet.

 

"We know that their un-boosted sub-space communications range

 

is about six light years, which means that the only communication this

 

planet has with the rest of the Federation is through a network of sub-

 

space communications booster relays. We have already started monitoring

 

sub-space communications into and out of the planet and have determined

 

that there are thirty sub-space communications relays, gemoetrically

 

spaced around the star. Six relays form a sphere at five light years

 

out, and a further twenty four relays form a sphere ten light years

 

out. The nearest starbase is in a system called Zet Reticulum, twelve

 

point two light years away. That is thirty two minutes via their sub-

 

space comms, and about two hours for their fastest starships at maximum

 

warp.

 

"For our mission to be a total success, we must destroy every

 

single sub-space communications booster station, and every starship

 

going in or out of the system. We will execute a Base Delta Zero on the

 

planet. Gentlemen. Let me repeat, it is essential to the success of

 

this mission that the enemy have no proof as to our involvement.

 

"From the moment we destroy the communications relays, we will

 

have thirty two minutes to two hours to sterilise everything in that

 

system, and close to that system. Do I make myself clear?"

 

"Yes, sir. But what if the enemy has emergency backup relay

 

stations?"

 

"We will be assigned six Sienar Patrol boats. Their job will be

 

to monitor every ship, communication, asteroid, planetoid and meteroid

 

going in or out of that system. If any signal is transmitted to a

 

previously undetected transmitter or relay, the Sienar's are fast

 

enough to out-race the signals to the relay station and destroy the

 

station before the message can be re-transmitted."

 

"Sir. Planetary defences?"

 

"None. Their only defence is their fleet of starships, which is

 

spread very thin, and concentrated on their borders. There are a few

 

interplanetary craft in the system, and a few short-range patrol boats,

 

but no major starships. They have never had to contend with an enemy

 

that can strike anywhere, anytime, and we will take maximum advantage

 

of that in this strike. We can be sure that after this strike, their

 

major worlds will be protected by larger starships. That is also one of

 

the goals of this mission, to force them to stretch their fleet

 

thinly."

 

"Sir. Operational Deployment?"

 

"The task force can muster eighteen missile gunboats, each of

 

which will be assigned a booster station to destroy. The four Carracks

 

and four Lancers will each be assigned one station as well. The four

 

VSD's will be assigned the last four stations. The ISD's will intercept

 

and destroy any ships within a seven light year radius from the target.

 

The attacks will all be timed so that the outer stations are destroyed

 

first, then the inner stations. This way we can ensure that the system

 

is isolated by the time all ships assemble at these jump-co-ordinates

 

just outside the system. A maximum of thirteen minutes is assigned for

 

this phase of the mission. Thirteen minutes is the time-lag from one

 

booster station to another for their comms. We will then destroy every

 

spaceship in the system, and do a full BDZ using every ship in the

 

force, to minimise the time in the system."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federation booster relay station BRS-AR-12 was only three

 

meters across. It consisted of little more than a cluster of sub-space

 

receivers and transmitters, with a tiny cabin containing the

 

electronics and photonics which were serviced every six months. Traffic

 

on this day was no more or less than usual, and as was standard

 

practice, it encoded a polling signal onto random transmissions passing

 

through the node. The polling signal was masked by the other traffic,

 

and would eventually find it's way to starfleet HQ, which would be

 

happy as long as a polling signal arrived every ten minutes or so. It

 

didn't matter that Starfleet HQ was several hours away by sub-space, as

 

long as there was a continuous stream of polls. If the stream of polls

 

stopped, a maintenance alert signal would be activated, and a starship

 

would be despatched to ascertain the problem, and repair the station if

 

necessary.

 

The station naturally also served as an early warning system,

 

and had extensive passive sensory equipment installed. A metallic

 

signal consistent with starship grade hull-metal was picked up

 

immediately, logged and filed, and earmarked for despatch as an

 

attachment on the next polling signal. If the Federation had been on a

 

war footing, the signal would have been despatched immediately, but no

 

war alert had been transmitted. Thus, several microseconds later when

 

the nearby vessel started radiating broadband sub-space static, the

 

signal had not yet been transmitted. Identifying the static as a

 

jamming attempt, the station immediately started broadcasting a

 

distress signal. There were five booster stations it knew of within a

 

five light year radius, but the computer determined that the static

 

would effectively reduce it's range to less than two light years.

 

Undeterred, it ejected a tiny canister with a delayed fuse. The

 

canister was small and innocuous, and the computer hoped it would

 

escape the attention of the attacker. The canister was programmed to

 

broadcast a low power distress signal the moment the threat

 

disappeared. The canister also contained the last thirty seconds worth

 

of sensor recordings. A full half a second had passed since first

 

contact.

 

The computer's sensors told it that it was being actively

 

scanned, and at least one scanner signal was consistent with the

 

requirements of a target lock, and several particle beam weapons were

 

being fired at it. It's last computation was one of dismay, though not

 

over it's imminent destruction. It had identified another locking

 

signal as being consistent with the requirements for a tractor beam.

 

Not enough time had passed for the canister to have cleared the area of

 

effect of the tractor beam.

 

 

 

 

 

"Report." Polaris ordered.

 

"All thirty booster stations have been destroyed, and two small

 

freighters were destroyed on their way into the system. Mission time is

 

seven minutes, all ships have arrived."

 

"Excellent. Distress signals?"

 

"All the booster stations attempted to broadcast distress

 

signals, confirming that the booster stations have sensory equipment

 

on-board. However, all distress signals were successfully jammed."

 

"You're positive?"

 

"Yes, sir. The freighters didn't attempt to broadcast distress

 

signals, surprise was total."

 

"Very well. Proceed with Phase two."

 

 

 

 

 

The freighter Anthea Owen was a huge ship, but it was all cargo

 

holds, with a crew of nine. Only one person was on the bridge, and they

 

were cruising at a steady warp two. The rest of the crew were either

 

sleeping, or in the mess room. The crewman on the bridge was

 

responsible for manning the communications desk. If anything else

 

occurred, he was to call the captain. He saw a light flash on the

 

sensor desk, and turned to check on it. Just then he was distracted by

 

a loud broad-band static coming in over his head-phones. He ripped off

 

the head-phones, and reached for the volume adjustment. Before he

 

could adjust the volume, the deck shuddered violently, and he was

 

thrown to the floor. He glanced up at the view-screen to see that the

 

computer had automatically magnified into a huge city-sized

 

monstrosity, judging by the scale indicator.

 

He reached wildly for emergency transmissions button, screaming

 

"Borg!". It was the closest ship-design he could think of, even though

 

he had never seen a Borg 'wedge' before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alpha Mensa was hardly what would be labelled a busy system,

 

but it was by no means a backwards system. One of the earlier Earth

 

colonies, less than forty light-years from Earth, Alpha Mensa II had a

 

population of over ten million humans, and the advantage of a rich

 

natural resource base both on the planet and on a small moon on the

 

fringes of the system, as well as extensive ore processing facilities.

 

Three freighters operated a bulk-freight service between Alpha Mensa II

 

and the mining operations on the out-system moon. The system was also

 

visited by an average of four freighters a week, which hauled the

 

refined ores to manufacturing facilities on Del Pavo, eighteen light

 

years away, which itself was eighteen light years from Earth. Earth

 

itself was twenty nine light years away, and Del Pavo was only slightly

 

off a direct line from Alpha Mensa to Earth.

 

The first sign of attack was noticed by a traffic controller on

 

Alpha Mensa II. On his scope, he picked up a number of metallic objects

 

just outside the system. He broadcast a sub-space pulse to the area,

 

and it confirmed that the metals were hull-metal quality and density,

 

but there was no reciprocal sub-space mass for the metals. The operator

 

ran a diagnostics check on his system, which confirmed that there was

 

nothing wrong with his console. He was about to turn to the

 

communications controller nearby, when the metallic echoes disappeared.

 

Perturbed, he reached for a tuning control. Suddenly the

 

metallic echoes were back, this time they were all over the star

 

system.

 

"What the ..." he started to say, but was interrupted by the

 

communications operator, who ripped off his head-phones, and swore

 

loudly. The comms-operator touched a control on his screen, activating

 

the ambient speakers, and the kiosk was filled with static.

 

The two men looked at each other.

 

"Jamming?"

 

The static was briefly broken by a frantic distress call from

 

one of the bulk freighters, which was cut off in mid-sentence. Only one

 

word made it through the static.

 

The comms-operator on Alpha Mensa II paled, and immediately

 

tried to hail the other two freighters to enquire if they had heard the

 

distress call. Next to him, the traffic controller was screaming

 

frantically into his microphone for their superior.

 

Sub-space speeds allowed for near-instantaneous communications

 

over distances measured in mere astronomical units, so the lack of an

 

immediate response from the other freighters only increased their

 

alarm.

 

The traffic controller was calling one person after another in

 

the chain of command, and behind them the door burst open as their

 

immediate superior came charging into the office. The comms-operator

 

didn't bother asking for permission, he was already keying the code for

 

a planetary emergency. All over the planet, sirens were sounding, and

 

an immediate distress signal was broadcast on the inter-stellar sub-

 

space transmitter.

 

He tuned out the noise around him, as more people came charging

 

into the small room and each wanted to confirm the sensor logs. By-

 

passing all procedure, he copied the sensor logs to his console,

 

ordered the computer to encode them for transmission, then activated a

 

full continuous broadcast of live sensor data.

 

Behind him, the senior controller was ordering him to do

 

precisely this, but he waved impatiently at his screen, indicating that

 

it was already happening. The signal would take thirteen minutes to

 

reach the nearest booster station, and would hardly help them, but it

 

was their only hope. They had nothing with which to counter a Borg

 

attack in this system. He had no way of knowing the booster stations

 

had been destroyed several minutes ago already, even if the signal

 

could penetrate the static jamming.

 

"That's not a Borg ship!" he heard someone say behind him, and

 

for the first time he glanced at his neighbour's console.

 

 

 

 

 

On the outskirts of the system, the Sienar patrol boats

 

triangulated the transmissions from the besieged planet. One of them

 

flickered into hyperspace, making a one light year jump to a point

 

ahead of the sub-space signal. Twenty eight seconds later it flickered

 

back into real space, a full two minutes ahead of the sub-space pulse.

 

A ten second active sensor scan revealed nothing. It jumped a further

 

one light year, now four minutes ahead of the sub-space transmission.

 

Three seconds into it's active scan it detected the booster station, a

 

much smaller station than the main ones, half a light year further

 

ahead. The captain cautioned himself to be patient, and completed the

 

full ten second scan. There was only the one station within range. He

 

ordered a short jump, and destroyed the booster station with a single

 

broadside.

 

Ever cautious, and knowing he still had at least three minutes

 

before the sub-space transmission from Alpha Mensa II arrived, he

 

painstakingly had all the wreckage tractored aboard, quartered the area

 

to make sure, then made another one light year jump on the same vector

 

as the signal, and continued to search for other backup boosters. He

 

destroyed two more on the same vector, and having searched all the way

 

out to ten light years on the vector of the signal, knew that there was

 

no way for the signal to reach it's intended goal. The backup boosters

 

were programmed not to reveal their location or purpose unnecessarily,

 

and none of them attempted to broadcast a distress signal. Each time,

 

he was sure to tractor all wreckage on board.

 

 

 

 

 

The fifteen Imperial capital ships, their fighters, and the

 

supporting Sienar patrol boats, spent a painstaking two hours minutely

 

scanning every single object in the Alpha Mensa star system. The moon

 

with the mining installations had been bombarded into a molten ball by

 

no less than four Victory Star Destroyers. Scans had revealed that

 

there were three mines on the moon, and the deepest one penetrated five

 

kilometers. The BDZ was ordered down to ten kilometers.

 

The three ISD's carefully scanned the Federation planet for

 

every sign of life, mechanisation, or human encroachment. Knowing that

 

the planet was totally cut off from the rest of the Federation they

 

took their time before commencing bombardment. They ignored the

 

attempts of the inhabitants to open communications with them.

 

Polaris was taking absolutely no chances that anything would

 

survive the bombardment, not even an insect, and by the time the

 

operation finished, the entire task force was in orbit over the planet,

 

systematically turning the entire surface into slag. The atmosphere had

 

long since boiled away.

 

 

 

 

 

The first maintenance alert for a dead booster station sounded

 

thirty minutes later at Starfleet HQ. The technician that logged the

 

event was not too perturbed. One in-operative booster relay was hardly

 

cause for concern. Then another maintenance alert was sounded. In the

 

same sector. And another. By the time the fifth alert sounded,

 

Starfleet HQ was a hive of activity. To have so many booster stations

 

go down simultaneously in one sector was unheard of.

 

Three hours later the first starships arrived in the Alpha

 

Mensa system. A Federation wide alert had already been sounded. When

 

the first reports got back from Alpha Mensa, the alert was upgraded to

 

a Federation-wide war footing. But no enemy could be positively

 

identified. No trace of any of the booster stations could be found, not

 

even wreckage. Five freighters were also missing, at least three of

 

them were known to have been operating in the Alpha Mensa system, and

 

the other two had also been in that vicinity.

 

It was as if a huge hand had reached into the sector, and

 

erased all traces of human existence for several light-years. All that

 

remained, were the silent stars, and two balls of molten slag.

 

 

 

 

 

"Jean-Luc, have you heard?"

 

"Yes, Admiral. There can be no doubt that it is these

 

Imperials. No-one else could have so thoroughly penetrated that deep

 

into Federation space."

 

"They deny all involvement."

 

"Of course they would, damn them."

 

"You would not have heard this, it is still under wraps, but

 

Starfleet has formally requested the Federation Senate to declare war

 

on the Imperials."

 

"Merde, But that is unprecedented. Even in the face of extreme

 

provocation, we have never gone to war if there was any other option

 

available."

 

"We have never had provocation like this before. Nearly fifteen

 

million dead, Jean-Luc."

 

"But the lack of positive proof?"

 

"What proof do we need besides the dead? Nobody except the

 

Imperials could have done this."

 

 

 

 

 

Quark read the notice again. And again. It just couldn't be. He

 

was not above theft or bribery, and had even arranged the odd accident,

 

nothing that could be proven of course, for various rivals.

 

"Fifteen million dead." He whispered.

 

It was unbelievable. Surely not even a Cardassian would sink to

 

such depths.

 

"Quark," It was his brother, Rom, "there are two messages."

 

He nodded, and made his way to his office. On his padd, two

 

messages were marked as unread. One from the Imperials, one from

 

Starfleet. He keyed the Starfleet message first, with some trepidation,

 

since he would hardly be on Starfleet's list of best friends at the

 

moment. He dismissed the thought, if it was trouble, it would have come

 

in the form of Odo.

 

It was merely a message from a supply officer, cancelling the

 

last delivery of goods. The goods were required by Starfleet, and all

 

trade had been suspended till further notice. He keyed the next

 

message. The supercilious face of the Imperial agent smiled out at him,

 

and calmly told him that the Imperials were unprepared to have any

 

further dealing with any Ferengi merchants, unless the Ferengii were

 

prepared to bring the price of their mineral ores down.

 

Quark considered the two messages, and for this first time in

 

his life was faced with a choice in which profit was not the prime

 

motivational factor. If the Imperials had destroyed one planet, he had

 

no doubts they would do the same again, and who was to say it wouldn't

 

be a Ferengi planet. Committing himself to the Imperials suddenly

 

looked like a shaky future, but committing himself to the Federation

 

would be tantamount to inviting an Imperial strike on Ferengar. For all

 

his dislike and disdain of the stupid humans of Starfleet, they had

 

never threatened the Ferengi with total destruction. He keyed for a new

 

message to be recorded and transmitted, to Starfleet.

 

"Rom, I will be going to see Commander Cisko."

 

Quark walked out onto the promenade, and made his way towards

 

the command centre. As he arrived at the entrance to the Starfleet

 

security zone, he bumped into a grim looking Gul Dukat. For once, the

 

Cardassian didn't take the time to threaten him or the Ferengi, but

 

just nodded.

 

"Quark. It appears we are here on the same business."

 

"Yes, Gul Dukat. We are."

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

 

 

It appeared that the raid on the Federation had been a serious

 

mistake, and had served to galvanise support for the Federation, even

 

from amongst their supposed enemies. Jenneke knew he had made a serious

 

error of judgement. One or two worlds more or less didn't make much

 

difference on a galactic scale, but for such a primitive and limited

 

conglomerate as the Federation it was a serious matter. The

 

representatives from Kuat and Sienar had not been happy at the loss of

 

business, but had agreed to continue their support. After all, once the

 

Imperial presence in this galaxy was consolidated, business could be

 

resumed. The falling away of the trade agreements with the Cardassians

 

and Ferengi and the Federation worlds not yet subverted to the Imperial

 

cause had meant that all manufacturing could now be directed towards

 

purely military purposes, even though the shipbuilding was proceeding

 

slowly.

 

The rate of manufacture from the other five worlds would soon

 

reach desirable levels, and with the expanded mining operations in the

 

nearby systems, the shipbuilding program would be back on track soon

 

enough. Maybe things were not that bad after all. The first ISD was

 

nearly finished, and a third VSD was half done. The last of the orbital

 

shipyard structures was working on a Sienar patrol boat and a few

 

additional freighters. Given a few months, he would complete the

 

equivalent of another task force.

 

Now this. Jenneke glared at the message on the padd in front of

 

him. Republic pressure on the Imperials to disclose their fleet

 

movements was mounting. One of his three task forces was being ordered

 

home with immediate effect, with a second one to follow a month later,

 

and the last in two months time. In that time he would have to become

 

self-sufficient or the entire project would have to be shelved.

 

The two task forces retained for the time being were Masala's

 

and Polaris's. They were tasked with defending the five captured

 

Federation worlds, which were under threat now of reciprocal raids by

 

the Federation. Only the two recently completed VSD's and a few Sienar

 

Patrol boats were available for sector defense. At least the Imperial

 

bases were in an unpopulated region of the galaxy, well away from the

 

Federation sphere of influence.

 

His patrols had revealed a huge amount of ship movement in

 

Federation space. They were going to great pains to re-distribute their

 

fleet through the systems under their control. Never having had to deal

 

with an enemy that could strike anywhere at will, their fleet

 

deployment had been geared to defending borders and frontlines. The new

 

fleet deployment was obviously designed around defending worlds that

 

were politically or industrially important. The deployment revealed the

 

Federation's lack of knowledge about hyperdrive navigation, since quite

 

a few worlds that were strategically important navigationally for quick

 

strikes or as medium-size strike bases for a hyperdrive fleet were

 

overlooked in their re-deployment.

 

The only thing that concerned him was an unusual concentration

 

of ships at the Federation space-station designated Starbase Twelve on

 

the starmaps supplied by the Ferengi before they had betrayed him. It

 

appeared that any and all ships not designated for defensive deployment

 

were being sent to Starbase Twelve. Already, eight Federation starships

 

had arrived there, and several more were still on their way. His patrol

 

boats had also tracked several Klingon, Ferengi and Cardassian ships

 

heading towards this location, although they were more than a month

 

away. Most disconcerting of all, was a small force of Romulan cloaked

 

vessels, which was now only three weeks away from the Federation base.

 

The Romulan vessels were particularly tricky to track, and

 

required two or more Patrol Boats working in conjunction to get a fix

 

on them, at ranges of significantly less than a light year. A raid by

 

these cloaked ships would give him very little advance warning, barely

 

enough to distribute his two task forces through the five planets

 

within range of the Federation forces.

 

 

 

 

 

FEDERATION STARBASE TWELVE

 

 

 

Admiral Sergei stood in front of the crowded room. His audience

 

consisted of several Starfleet captains, with their senior officers.

 

"The Ferengi information on the Imperials is as follows. For

 

reasons which are unknown, they have a major shortage of materials and

 

supplies. Their apparent main reason for taking over the Federation

 

worlds was to initially provide themselves with an easy and abundant

 

source of refined minerals, and secondly for a labour pool.

 

Unfortunately, our technology is totally alien to them, and our

 

citizens have therefore proven to be a poor source of cheap labour. As

 

a result, they are engaging in major population replacement programs.

 

To put it bluntly, they are murdering our citizens, and bringing in

 

their own people."

 

"Technically," Picard interrupted, "Those citizens are no

 

longer our citizens. They did declare allegiance to the Imperials, and

 

revoke their membership of the Federation."

 

A chorus of hisses and boos met this statement.

 

"Jean-Luc, I know what you are implying. You are questioning

 

whether the Prime Directive comes to play in this situation. The

 

contention is that the Imperials won this allegiance unfairly, and

 

under false pretences."

 

"That is of no consequence. Whether rightly or wrongly, these

 

people revoked membership of the Federation. According to the Prime

 

Directive, we are not allowed to interfere. Also, we have no proof that

 

Alpha Mensa was in fact attacked by the Imperials. The fact that we

 

don't know who else could have done it does not automatically mean that

 

they are the ones responsible. And then of course, the raid by the

 

Defiant was also in clear violation of the Prime Directive."

 

"With defenders like you, Starfleet doesn't need enemies."

 

Somebody called from the back of the room.

 

Picard stepped forward, and turned to face the room.

 

"I just wish to ensure that we must be absolutely clear as to

 

what we are about. My loyalty is to what Starfleet claims to stand for,

 

not for the organisation itself, but to the principals it upholds. That

 

loyalty has never been questioned."

 

"Those worlds were ours to protect to begin with. It was our

 

fault for not supplying them with the facts before they revoked

 

citizenship. The Defiant's mission was part of our responsibility to

 

gather information, so that our citizens could make an informed

 

decision. The destruction of Alpha Mensa is a fact, somebody did it,

 

and the only group capable of it are these Imperials. That is enough

 

for me."

 

There was a chorus of agreement.

 

"I am afraid that mere speculation does not constitute proof."

 

"No it doesn't," Admiral Sergei agreed, "and Jean-Luc is right.

 

If we do take action, we must all understand the reasons for those

 

actions. Starfleet's decision to go to war, if we go to war, will not

 

be based on the Prime Directive."

 

There was silence in the room.

 

"The decision will be based on a higher law than the Prime

 

Directive. Starfleet's reason for existence is NOT the Prime Directives

 

or to protect the sovereignty of the United Federation of Planets. Our

 

ultimate reason for existence is to ensure the survival of our species.

 

The Galactic Empire has been identified as a clear and present danger

 

to this ultimate objective of Starfleet. If we go to war, it will be

 

for that reason, and not the Prime Directive or some political

 

posturing."

 

This statement was met with silence, and a general undertone of

 

agreement. Even Picard had nothing to say about this.

 

"Why haven't we declared war yet?" Somebody asked.

 

"The Imperials have not declared war, and the Federation has

 

never been the one to declare war before. If we do take action, it may

 

be that no such formal declaration will be made. This is unlikely to be

 

a ruled and regulated fight, with Marquis of Queensbury rules, or

 

Geneva conventions. I doubt that these Imperialists have ever heard of

 

such rules. No, if this comes to war, it will be a down and dirty fight

 

for survival, no holds barred.

 

"Of course, a formal declaration of war will be an invitation

 

to the Imperials to attack, and we are not ready yet. Our fleet is

 

still being re-deployed, and our reinforcements have yet to arrive."

 

"Reinforcements?"

 

"At this moment, there are another seventeen Federation

 

starships heading to this base, as well as thirty Klingon Birds of

 

Prey, and twenty Romulon Warbirds. The Cardassian's and the Ferengi are

 

also sending whatever ships they can spare. We hope to be assemble a

 

force of over a hundred ships altogether over the next three to five

 

weeks, all that can be spared from planetary defence. Once assembled,

 

we will launch simultaneous strikes at each of the five Federation

 

worlds held by the Imperials. Unfortunately, we don't know where their

 

primary worlds are, and even if they are in range, or we would attempt

 

to strike them there as well."

 

"Isn't that a bit of overkill?"

 

"Starfleet's intention is to show them we mean business. We

 

know that they operate on the fleet basis, where a single fleet

 

consists of fifteen capital ships, plus innumerable smaller ships

 

ranging from gunboats through to one man starfighters. We don't know

 

how many such fleet's they have available, but presumably they will be

 

reluctant to break up their fleets. In other words, we are hoping that

 

they will not be able to defend all five planets at the same time,

 

although we expect to have to face up to at least an entire fleet at

 

whichever planet or planets they do decide to defend.

 

"This whole business may even be for the best" Admiral Sergei

 

continued, "Already Starfleet has signed mutual defence agreements with

 

all the groups involved if we were to encounter any future threats to

 

our survival. The Borg of course come to mind."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOENIX IMPERIAL BASE - LOCATION UNKNOWN

 

 

 

His two task forces effectively out of comms range due to the

 

absence of a holo-network, Admiral Jenneke had made a recording, and

 

had it delivered to his two senior captains, Polaris and Jenneke.

 

"As you can see by the data collected so far, it is quite clear

 

that the Federation are assembling a major strike team at Starbase

 

Twelve. This base is safe from attack for now, but the five worlds we

 

control in Federation space are in dire jeopardy of being attacked.

 

"The resources on the planets of course are quite safe, since

 

the installation of the planetary shields, but if the enemy were to

 

manage to blockade any of those planets, our already stifled production

 

will grind to a halt, and this entire mission will be a failure. Your

 

two task forces are all that may ensure the success of this mission.

 

There has been no formal declaration of war, and the Federation have

 

taken no aggressive action yet, but we are faced with two choices. We

 

try and maintain the status quo as long as possible while production

 

continues, or we take the initiative and keep them on the defensive.

 

"Gentlemen, I have never been one for waiting for the enemy to

 

dictate terms, and we have no idea of the full capability of their

 

forces. Therefore my decision is to pre-empt any action by this

 

Federation, and at the same time ascertain the full extent of their

 

military capability. You have a free hand to do whatever you deem

 

necessary, provided you prevent the enemy from blockading any of my

 

planets, and do nothing to hold back our already delayed schedule."

 

Jenneke knew that his two captains were quite competent, but if

 

they didn't succeed, he could lay full blame on them. Putting all

 

thought of the Federation out of his mind, he turned back to his desk.

 

Arrayed over his desk was the production figures for the three

 

shipyards. Two months of full production, that was all he needed, then

 

he would have a third task force, and be halfway from being fully

 

independent of Republic interference. The crews had long since arrived,

 

and were waiting impatiently for their ships to be completed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRIDGE - KDY IMPERATOR MARK II STAR DESTROYER SCEPTRE

 

 

 

"Open a private holo-channel to the Dominator, Captain Masala."

 

Seconds later, Masala appeared on the holo-board, likewise

 

seated in his command seat on the bridge.

 

"Polaris. We are faced with an interesting challenge."

 

"Yes. What do our defences look like?"

 

"All five planets are now shielded, and we have been steadily

 

increasing the density of the multi-layered sensor arrays around all

 

planets. This will help us detect cloaked attacks. The sensor arrays

 

are also interspersed with the occasional sensor stealthed mine. We

 

don't have enough of them to set up decent minefields yet, but it may

 

surprise a cloaked ship attempting to sneak into the system on passive

 

sensors only.

 

"If we can keep the Federation forces away for another month,

 

we can cover more approaches with minefields, there are certainly

 

enough manufacturing plants running at half-capacity to meet that need.

 

I'd say that according to intelligence, the earliest possible

 

Federation sortie can be mounted within three weeks, and we will have

 

adequate warning of their approach. The only danger is from one or two

 

cloaked vessels we may have lost track of."

 

"Is there any chance that a cloaked ship can penetrate to

 

within orbital distances of any of our worlds?"

 

"No. The might penetrate one or two layers of sensor bouys, and

 

avoid the minefields, but the in-system sensor bouys are all active,

 

and any one of them should be able to detect even a cloaked ship

 

several tenths of a light year out, giving at least fifteen minutes

 

warning to raise the planetary shields. Working in conjunction as they

 

are, it would be impossible even for a sensor-cloaked womprat to sneak

 

in."

 

"Then both task forces are free to move around at will."

 

"Yes. For now. Once there is a danger of the Federation forces

 

blockading one of our worlds then we will have to change our strategy.

 

That gives us a three week window to disrupt their forces."

 

"I suggest that we work together on the strategic scale, but

 

operate independently on the tactical level." Polaris suggested.

 

"Agreed."

 

The two captains agreed on a general timetable of attacks, and

 

worked out a general strategy for the next two weeks. After that, they

 

would confine their operations to sectors within a few hours of the

 

planets they were tasked to defend. Once the Federation forces started

 

closing on their worlds, they would then split the defensive duties

 

between the two task forces.

 

"Good luck, old friend, and good hunting!" Masala closed the

 

meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

The five worlds under Imperial control were all in the general

 

area of control of Starbase Twelve. The closest world was forty two

 

light years out from sector twelve - three days by warp, while the

 

furthest was one hundred and twenty light years out - eight days by

 

warp, but less than an hour for the Imperial ships. On average the

 

planets were seventy light years apart from each other, giving the

 

Imperials an average of forty minutes to get their fleet into position

 

if an attack was detected.

 

The first two weeks would be used for random attacks against

 

distant worlds to sow uncertainty and fear throughout Federation and

 

allied territory. The last week would be used for attacks against

 

specific Federation targets located by Imperial scouts.

 

The capabilities of the local military forces were still a

 

mystery to the Imperials, and they hoped to learn as much as possible

 

about local weapons systems and battle tactics in the few weeks while

 

the Imperial Forces had the advantage of mobility.

 

The biggest drawback of the Imperial forces was the fact that

 

they were seriously outnumbered in this galaxy, and they dared not take

 

too much damage for fear of being unable to defend their planets when

 

the big Federation push came. Their main advantage lay in their

 

superior foreknowledge of the enemy's movements. The Imperials still

 

had a dozen Sienar patrol boats scouting out fleet movements, but most

 

of them would have to be withdrawn soon to watch for ships approaching

 

their planets.

 

Little was known about the weaker powers in the quadrant, so

 

Masala randomly chose a few Ferengi and Cardassian worlds, while

 

Polaris would take his forces into the Klingon and Romulan territories.

 

This was hoped to have the dual effect of getting these nations to

 

recall their fleets, and to experiment with tactics against them. The

 

Federation was obviously the dominant power in the region, which

 

implied that their starships were also the most powerful in the region,

 

and therefore the most likely to be a threat to the Imperial task

 

forces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KLINGON EMPIRE - DEEP SPACE

 

 

 

Polaris task force lay a mere one tenth of a light year outside

 

the star system. Sienar scout ships had long ago identified this world

 

by the volume of sub-space communications emanating in the system. Now

 

it lay silent, a sub-space silence no doubt enforced by the current war

 

status of the Klingon Empire. No formal declarations of war had been

 

made yet by any party, but Polaris knew this raid would open the

 

floodgates. At sub-space speeds it would take ages for the news to

 

spread, but spread it would. Two more Klingon worlds and three Romulon

 

worlds were earmarked for similar raids over the next two days, then

 

there would be a long jump to the rendezvous point with Masala where

 

the two fleets would compare notes before embarking on the second phase

 

of the operation.

 

From this range, the Klingon system could be read like a book,

 

and of course the Klingons were returning the favour. A brief signal

 

was transmitted by the Klingons, obviously a warning to other worlds or

 

a call for reinforcements. That was of no consequence. At sub-space

 

speeds, they had no hope of reinforcements, nor did Polaris have the

 

time to wait for the reinforcements to arrive. There were seven

 

starships in the system, all small ones, none more than 250 meters

 

long. Their size and power level readings indicated they were all of

 

the light cruiser or cruiser designations according to the Ferengi's

 

records. They were no longer in production, but still formed the

 

backbone of the Klingon fleet, with more than 700 of various

 

designations in service. The Ferengi records indicated they were

 

relatively weak by modern standards, with poor targeting, but remained

 

highly maneuvrable even by modern standards.

 

"Begin." Polaris ordered.

 

The fleet jumped as a unit, from this distance out they could

 

co-ordinate their jump precisely, each ship jumping to a specific

 

target point, many of them in formation. Their first goal was to engage

 

and destroy the Klingon ships, then to bombard the planet. The Sceptre

 

flickered into the system, a few million kilometers away from one of

 

the Klingon ships. The Klingons wasted no time, and opened fire

 

immediately. They came directly for the huge ship, undaunted by the

 

size, firing roughly one torpedo every two or three seconds.

 

"Point defenses." Polaris ordered.

 

From this range, the Sceptre had more than enough time to track

 

and destroy the torpedoes, forcing the Klingons to hold their fire, and

 

press closer.

 

At two hundred thousand kilometers, Polaris ordered weapons

 

free. The Klingon veered to one side and easily evaded the incoming

 

fire. The Imperial fire tracked ever closer, but the Klingon ship

 

showed commendable resolve in pressing ever closer, successfully

 

evading fire as it closed the distance, occasionally firing a torpedo

 

to test the Imperial point-defences. One or two officers glanced at

 

Polaris, expecting an order for evasive maneuvring, but Polaris ignored

 

them. The Klingon vessel dodged yet another volley of turbolaser fire,

 

now only 0.3 light seconds away. An indicator on the threat indicator

 

display lit up, indicating an active sensor signature consistent with a

 

target lock, and a little more than a heartbeat later a beam struck

 

their shields. The shields initially buckled slightly, then held the

 

beam, and as the shield recharge took effect, shield strength climbed

 

in face of the beam.

 

Polaris was mildly surprised at the use of continuous beam

 

weapons, since it was widely known that pulsed weapons were more

 

effective against shields. Also, the weapon of choice appeared to be a

 

disruptor. Sharper and more refined than disruptors used by some

 

species back home, it was nevertheless a weapon with a limit to it's

 

destructive power and easy to counter with the right combinations of

 

shields and hull materials. Unfortunately, few warships these days were

 

designed to counter disruptor type weapons because of the prevalence of

 

turbolaser type weaponry in the galaxy. Should their shields fail,

 

Polaris knew their hull would be ripped apart like soft butter.

 

The Klingon ship was now dodging and weaving like a shadow

 

boxer, the helmsman obviously evading more by instinct rather than

 

design, and the turbolaser bolts began impacting on it's shields. The

 

target status indicator had a blue curve representing the enemy ship's

 

shields, and the indicator fluctuated wildly as the bolts struck home,

 

scorching the hull. Shields were notoriously difficult to maintain

 

against pulsed or other short-lived weapons, and the rapid succession

 

of plasma bolts successively reduced the shields until they smashed

 

into the hull, causing several breaches, but not seriously affecting

 

the ship. It was obviously a double-hulled design.

 

For a second, the Klingon helmsman evaded their fire again, and

 

their shields noticeably improved, then a second volley of fire found

 

the ship. This time the shield buckled under the first few bolts, and

 

several more smashed into the hull. Atmosphere now boiled out in

 

several places, and the ship careened out of control, spoiling the

 

Imperial gunnery for a second.

 

Before the gunners could track back onto the ship, it detonated

 

with unexpected fury, catching the Imperial gunners by surprise, since

 

many were still firing half a second after the ship had detonated. On

 

the fleet tactical display Polaris could see that all seven Klingon

 

ships had been destroyed. All his ships appeared to be in satisfactory

 

condition.

 

"Planetary bombardment, tactical level two, five minutes." He

 

ordered.

 

They did not have time for a full Base Delta Zero, but tactical

 

bombardment would destroy any recognisable industrial or high

 

technology structures, especially spaceport facilities. Level two meant

 

civilians would not be specifically targeted, but civilian casualties

 

were of no consequence. The fleet moved into position over the

 

planet, scanning and quartering the surface for signs of high

 

technology. Any structure which looked remotely industrial or

 

technological was immediately destroyed, regardless of proximity to

 

identifiable civilian structures.

 

"End bombardment, jump to rendezvous point."

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris had his team of officers and engineers assembled in the

 

ward room for a brief analysis of the encounter before moving on to the

 

next target.

 

"Analysis?"

 

"Backwater planet, defended by small and obviously out-of-date

 

craft. They showed high maneuvrability, but had mediocre shields and

 

poor hull armour. None of the craft engaged their primary stardrives

 

during the attack, indicating either gross overestimation of their own

 

capabilities, or lack of weaponry or targeting systems which can be

 

used under those conditions. Given that the ships appeared to be of

 

older designs, this might not mean anything."

 

"Weapons power?"

 

"They initially made a mistake firing their torpedoes from long

 

ranges, giving our point-defenses sufficient time to track and destroy

 

their torpedoes. At close ranges, they were forced to employ extreme

 

evasive maneuvring, and fired few torpedoes, again an indictment of

 

their targeting systems. A pity, since we now don't know it's warhead

 

capability. Their beam weapons are what used to be colloquially known

 

as a disruptor beam, a weapon which interferes with the nuclear forces

 

which bind matter at the atomic and subatomic level.

 

"It was discarded due to having unpredictable and progressively

 

weaker effects on high order hull alloys. Disruptors fell into two

 

broad classes, the class used by these ships has the lower ratio of

 

damage to power requirements, works best at continuous beam settings,

 

and has a relatively low rate of repetitive fire. This is it's main

 

weakness, since continuous beam weapons are easily countered by shields

 

after the initial energy burst is overcome. It has long been known that

 

short rapid bursts of energy are the most efficient means of knocking

 

down shields."

 

"You said two classes of disruptor weapon?"

 

"Yes. The other class is much more flexible. It has a better

 

damage versus power ratio, allows for faster recharging of the

 

emitters, and can be fired in short bursts very rapidly. The emitters

 

tend to heat up significantly in a short space of time, but this can be

 

overcome by rotating fire through several emitters, allowing them to

 

cool down and recharge. This type of disruptor produces tremendous

 

phase disruption at the nuclear level, but again has only limited

 

effectiveness against heavier elements and more advanced alloys, and is

 

almost unable to penetrate neutronium. The shortcoming of this type of

 

phase disruptor is that it uses a very rapidly deteriorating particle

 

effect, which limits weapons range to one light second. But that is not

 

a major issue.

 

"While we do have neutronium reinforcements in our hulls, the

 

proportions are very low. If we should come across such weapons in

 

great number, we will take significant hull damage under sustained

 

fire, but not as much as with high-powered concussion weapons. The

 

disruptor was discarded as a mainstream weapon when subatomic

 

manufacturing processes started being widely used. In theory we can

 

build armour which is totally resistant to it's effects, but at a huge

 

cost in the mass of the ship, and a resulting decrease in

 

maneuvrability. Already, there is some tendency amongst our military

 

engineers to discard hard super-dense metals in favour of light-weight

 

concussion resistant armour. It appears they have forgotten about this

 

type of weapon. The Sun Crusher of course was an exception to this

 

tendency, it's designers sacrificed everything in order to provide a

 

super-hard ultra-dense hull."

 

"Can our shields be calibrated against this type of weapon?"

 

"Yes, if only continuous beam disruptors are the norm. Not

 

really if we were to come across disruptors which can be rapid fired.

 

Most rapid fire or pulsed weapons will bring down shields faster than

 

the weapon power itself would suggest."

 

"Their missiles?"

 

"All destroyed before impact, so we have no idea of warhead

 

size or nature, obviously guided, but with limited maneuvrability. Like

 

most high-velocity guided missiles, the best evasion technique is to

 

close angles with the weapon, and then evade at an acute closing angle,

 

the torpedo would be hard pressed to turn fast enough to make the

 

intercept, and if it misses, will have to turn around and reacquire us

 

in a tail chase, which will give our point defence even more time to

 

destroy them."

 

"Well, we still have to determine warhead size. Task one of the

 

ISD's to allow a torpedo hit in the next raid."

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, the fleet was jumping into combat, this time to a

 

system slightly higher on the scale than the previous system, if sub-

 

space communication patterns were anything to go by. The Klingons had

 

six ships of the same type as the last system in defense here, and one

 

ship that was significantly larger, at a sleek 457 meters. It was

 

obviously a newer design, and according to the Ferengi records it was a

 

Vor'cha Attack Cruiser. The Klingons were thought to have about two

 

hundred of these ships in service. Polaris had tasked his two ISDs to

 

jump-intercept this vessel. They had been ordered to allow at least one

 

torpedo hit to gauge torpedo warhead power.

 

The smaller light cruisers were destroyed in short order, they

 

did not use their distortion drives, and attacked the much larger

 

Imperial ships without hesitation, virtually racing to their own

 

destruction. The large ship proved to be problematic for the two ISD's.

 

It immediately engaged it's stardrive, with which it was easily able to

 

keep the two ships at arm's length, evade their turbolaser fire, and

 

launch torpedoes at them. The torpedoes suffered from poor accuracy

 

though, and only a small percentage actually hit the ISD's, and

 

detonated in multi-megaton explosions against the shields of the two

 

huge ships. The explosions were within the capability of the shields to

 

withstand, but would cause significant hull damage if it penetrated the

 

shields. Polaris could see that if the torpedoes could have hit with

 

any regularity, his ships would be in trouble, but for now their

 

shields held.

 

"Fleet order, containment formation."

 

Several of the Imperial ship's micro-jumped in a typical

 

implementation of the Thrawn pincer to the location of the uneven

 

battle, spread out over an area of several light-seconds, with the

 

Klingon ship trapped in the middle of the formation. The Imperial ships

 

bombarded the area, the sheer number of weapons working to their

 

advantage. Initially the Klingon ship played along, but realising that

 

there were just too many ships firing at it, and that the random

 

turbolaser hits were beginning to tell on it's shields, the Klingon

 

suddenly streaked for a gap in the formation, pouring power into it's

 

stardrive motivator.

 

"Intercept jumps, by the numbers, commence."

 

Polaris started the sequence, by jumping the Sceptre to a point

 

three seconds ahead of the Klingon's vector, and immediately opening

 

fire. The Klingon let loose a torpedo, obviously a blind fire, and

 

veered away. The torpedo's launch velocity was such that it flashed

 

past the Sceptre's position before it could acquire the ship. One ship

 

after another attempted jump intercepts on the fleeing vessel, only

 

occassionally landing a hit, but the hits were mounting against the

 

Klingon ship, it's shields obviously not quite as effective in the

 

distortion field created by it's superluminal drive. By the time it was

 

the Sceptre's turn to jump again, the Klingon ship had slowed

 

significantly, and was leaving a trail of incandescent plasma in it's

 

wake from a flaming engine pod.

 

The Sceptre jumped to a point two seconds ahead of the ship,

 

directly in it's path, and opened fire. Several missiles were launched

 

as well, pre-programmed to detonate. The Sceptre did not wait for the

 

detonations, but jumped clear of the area almost immediately. The

 

missiles detonated in a thermonuclear fury, directly in the path of the

 

Klingon vessel, which was turning hard to port. The Klingon vessel

 

slammed into the edge of the thermonuclear wall, and disappeared as

 

it's power planet added to the fury of the thermonuclear explosions it

 

had slammed into.

 

The Imperial fleet jumped back into the Klingon system, and

 

punished the Klingon installations in the system with a full ten minute

 

bombardment. They had not expected to have to work so hard to destroy

 

one ship.

 

"End bombardment, Jump to rendesvous point." Polaris ordered.

 

 

 

 

 

Again, Polaris had his engineers and officers assembled.

 

"Well?"

 

"This was obviously a much more modern design, quite capable of

 

targeting from superluminal speeds, upto about 5 times light-speed, but

 

with only average accuracy. Above five times light-speed it's targeting

 

was significantly weaker. Also it's rate of torpedo fire was still

 

rather poor, firing torpedoes in salvoes of four, with one salvo

 

roughly every four seconds."

 

"Counter strategy?"

 

There was general silence around the ward room.

 

"They took some hits, but not much, in the first phase of the

 

battle against the two ISD's. We can try having the ships working in

 

three's, one ISD and two VSD's against a single Attack Cruiser. The

 

Attack Cruiser will not be able to target any one ship with significant

 

effectiveness, and three ships working together will score a higher

 

rate of hits."

 

"The next Klingon world we're attacking has a much higher

 

population, we can expect to have to go up against at least four of

 

these Vor'chas. Let's do it."

 

 

 

 

 

The Imperial fleet flickered into real space again one-tenth of

 

a light-year outside the last Klingon World they would attack. It was

 

one of the major Klingon worlds, and they expected serious resistance

 

to the attack.

 

"Active tactical scan." Polaris ordered, there would be no

 

attempt at subtlety here.

 

On the holo-display the system quickly took shape. The star at

 

the centre, planets, asteroids, moons all with orbital vectors

 

indicated, and super-scaled representations of the Klingon defensive

 

fleet deployments.

 

"Eight light cruisers of the K'vort and K'T'Inga variety, four

 

Attack cruisers of the Vor'cha variety, and one big ship, 680m long, a

 

Negh'var no doubt. The main planet is also defended by orbital weapons

 

platforms."

 

On the holo-display, Polaris could see the negh'var in orbit

 

around the Klingon world. The Ferengi had indicated that this ship-

 

class was about the second or third most powerful known designation

 

amongst the Federation allies, it's firepower was almost equivalent to

 

that of the Federation's Sovereign class, but Klingon torpedoes were

 

significantly weaker than the newer Quantums in use on Federation

 

ships, and the newer Federation ships were all faster and more

 

maneuvrable than the Klingon ships. The Ferengi believed the Klingons

 

had only manufactured three of these battleships.

 

"Jump disposition as follows, take out the installations in the

 

outer system first and try and draw the Klingons out. They will

 

undoubtedly retain their heavier ships for planetary defense."

 

The tactical officers quickly worked out Jump co-ordinates on

 

their navigational computers, and seconds later indicated jump-

 

readiness.

 

"Engage."

 

The Imperial ships flickered into the system, immediately

 

attacking installations on the outer fringes of the system. The

 

Klingons had no choice but to retain their main ships for planetary

 

defense, but dispatched two Vor'chas and four light cruisers to

 

intercept the Imperials. The six ships streaked across the system,

 

using their primary stardrive, and reached the outer planets in a mere

 

thirty seconds. The smaller cruisers immediately disengaged their

 

stardrive, and started launching torpedoes. Their firing rate was

 

rather low, only about one torpedo every three seconds. Their strategy

 

appeared to be to fire as many torpedoes as possible in a few seconds,

 

then break away at superluminal speeds to a new firing position. The

 

bigger Vor'chas were able to fire their torpedoes in volleys of four at

 

low superluminal velocities, and showed no intention of engaging the

 

Imperials at anything less.

 

The battle appeared to be a stalemate for a few minutes, the

 

Imperials unable to engage the Klingons in a toe-to-toe battle, and the

 

Klingons unable to score significant hits from the ranges and

 

velocities they were firing at. The light cruisers' torpedoes were easy

 

to shoot down, but the Vor'chas torpedoes were coming in at faster than

 

light-speed, and even though many missed, only a few were knocked out

 

by lucky flak-bursts, the rest dropped out of warp at point-blank range

 

and were scoring telling hits.

 

Polaris split his fleet into three battle groups, the Sceptre

 

and his own Carracks and Lancers resumed bombarding the Klingon

 

installations, while the two ISDs, each supported by Victory Star

 

Destroyers, ran cover. The Klingons were forced to run through a

 

gauntlet of the flanking ships to be able to fire on the Sceptre and

 

it's support vessels, or allow the bombardment to proceed unhindered.

 

Each time the ships came streaking through, the Klingon light-cruisers

 

were forced to stop for several seconds while launching their

 

torpedoes, and after three attack runs, all four light cruisers showed

 

significant signs of damage. The Vor'chas launched their torpedoes from

 

warp and were still unscathed.

 

The four damaged Klingon cruisers attempted to withdraw, and

 

Polaris seized the chance. His own eight light cruisers immediately

 

started running intercept-jumps on the damaged vessels, which damaged

 

as they were, were unable to do much to avoid being destroyed. The two

 

Vor'chas were now unsupported, but maintained their distance, planning

 

their attack runs carefully as the Imperial fleet worked they way

 

deeper into the system. The Vor'chas would come streaking in on an

 

attack vector in excess of fifty times the speed of light, then cut

 

their velocity to as low as one or two times lightspeed as they broke

 

and attacked whichever ship they had targeted. The Vor'chas could each

 

launch a volley of four torpedoes every four seconds, so each run gave

 

them just enough time to launch four torpedoes each.

 

The Imperials would watch for the Klingons to cut their

 

velocity, and knowing the attack was imminent, immediately change

 

vector, jinking sharply in an attempt to spoil the Klingon targeting

 

solutions. The targeted ship would employ the tactic of turning towards

 

the firing Klingon ships, closing angles with the torpedoes and firing

 

furiously into the approach vector of the torpedoes in the hope of

 

knocking them out. The torpedoes, which invariably were at superluminal

 

velocities, would either overshoot the target, or discharge it's

 

distortion field to shed velocity in exchange for maneuvrability, but

 

at the slower intercept velocity was easier to shoot down.

 

Each attack run allowed the two Vor'chas to score one or two

 

hits, not enough to significantly reduce any ship's shields, but they

 

were slowly wearing the generators down. The Imperial's difficulty was

 

in not knowing which ship the Klingons would target until the last

 

moment, so Polaris ordered his fleet to disperse over a wider area, and

 

to 'pincer' the Vor'chas. With the wider fleet dispersion, the Klingons

 

were unable to mask which ship was being targeted, giving the ship more

 

time for evasive maneuvres. The rest of the fleet would furiously

 

calculate jump-vectors, then jump to containment positions, forcing the

 

Klingons to run a gauntlet of fire on their way out of the attack.

 

The first attack run, the Vor'chas targeted one of the VSD's,

 

and as they cut velocity to launch their torpedoes, the rest of the

 

Imperial fleet jumped, forming a containment sphere ten light-seconds

 

out. The Klingon ship's torpedoes streaked towards the VSD, which was

 

firing furiously towards the direction of the Klingons, and turning in

 

towards the torpedoes. The Klingon ships split up, and streaked for

 

gaps in the sphere, accelerating from barely light-speed to several

 

dozen times the speed of light by the time the smashed through the

 

containment barrier. The Imperials barely had two seconds warning of

 

the Klingon escape vector, and launched several missiles and turbolaser

 

bolts into their projected paths. At the centre of the sphere the VSD

 

had managed to shoot down one torpedo, and five flashed past within

 

kilometers of the ship, detonating harmlessly in it's wake. Two

 

torpedoes impacted on its shields, one of them smashed into pieces

 

before it could detonate, the other detonating harmlessly against the

 

shields. One of the Vor'chas slowed significantly, trailing sparks and

 

plasma from an engine, and fell significantly behind the other attack

 

cruiser, which showed signs of breaches on it's outer-hull, but no

 

significant damage.

 

The Imperial's seized the opportunity, and another containment

 

jump isolated the damaged Klingon ship, which had now disengaged it's

 

distortion drive. An ISD swept past the damaged ship barely ninety

 

thousand kilometers off it's starboard beam, and fired a full broadside

 

at the Klingon ship. The Klingon didn't go down without a fight

 

however, and it fired a powerful beam weapon across the nose of the

 

ISD, before the broadside slammed into the stricken ship, blowing it

 

apart. The beam was more powerful than the Imperials had anticipated,

 

and it's initial burst penetrated almost to the hull, before the

 

shields caught and held the beam.

 

The second Vor'cha broke off the attack and retreated to the

 

safety of orbit, where the Negh'var and the remaining ships waited for

 

the Imperials to attempt an attack on the unshielded planet below.

 

"Tactical display, planet and defenses only."

 

The holo-display zoomed in on the planet, highlighting the

 

orbital weapons platforms and the Negh'var battleship. The lightly

 

damaged Vor'cha took up position alongside another two of the attack

 

cruisers, and four of the smaller light cruisers.

 

"Launch missile gunboats and TIE bombers, attack formation

 

seven, hard attack, orbital platforms to get priority targeting."

 

The Imperial fleet formed up into a wall with the Sceptre in

 

the centre, the cruisers and other Star destroyers in line abreast

 

above and below it. The Imperial battle-group could muster twelve

 

missile gunboats between them, and each of the three larger Destroyers

 

carried one squadron of TIE Bombers. The twelve missile gunboats and

 

the three TIE bomber squadrons formed additional lines above and below.

 

The wall formation sped towards the planet, launching thermonuclear

 

missiles and concussion missiles primarily at the orbital weapons-

 

platforms. The fifteen capital ships, twelve gunboats and thirty six

 

TIE bombers could launch a total of two hundred missiles per volley,

 

and they launched several volleys as they swooped down towards the

 

planet.

 

The Klingons, faced with more incoming missiles than they could

 

hope to track and shoot down, were forced to break out of orbit,

 

several of them taking hits, and a few of the smaller ships were

 

destroyed outright. The weapons platforms, unable to avoid the incoming

 

missiles, each took several dozen hits in the space of a few seconds.

 

Several hundred missiles in the last volleys, finding no orbital

 

targets to track, swept on and detonated in a rage of thermonuclear

 

fire in the upper atmosphere of the planet below. The Imperials had

 

managed to reverse positions with the Klingons, now they were in orbit

 

over the Klingon planet, and the Negh'var and one Vor'cha was all that

 

remained to attack them. The other Vor'cha cruisers appeared to be too

 

seriously damaged to attempt superluminal attack runs on the formation

 

below.

 

"Sceptre to bombard the planet below, all other ships to

 

defensive positions in high orbit, gunboats and bombers to provide

 

missile fire in projected attack vectors."

 

The Klingon battleship's stardrive brought it round in a high

 

speed curve at about ten times light-speed. The Negh'var's course

 

brought it within 0.6 light seconds of one of the ISD's, just as the

 

Imperials opened fire, targeting the Negh'var's projected path. The

 

missiles themselves were unable to lock onto the superluminal vessel,

 

and had to be remote-controlled into the vessel's path. The battleship

 

changed the game though, by disengaging it's stardrive, and opening

 

fire with it's beam weapons on the nearest ISD. The tactic caused the

 

Imperial's initial fire to go wide, as the sudden drop in velocity had

 

not been anticipated. Neither was the sheer power of the phase

 

disruption weapon unleashed by the Klingon battleship. Where the other

 

Klingon vessels beam weapons had been more-or-less continuous beam, the

 

battleship's weapon was at least an order of magnitude more powerful,

 

and it was pulsed.

 

The Negh'var's disruption weapon stuttered across the shields

 

of the ISD, the pulsed weapon smashing the shields down in short order,

 

and digging into the lower starboard hull of the surprised Star

 

Destroyer. Two things saved the ISD. As it turned to engage the

 

Negh'var with it's main weapons the weapon was caught by a fresh shield

 

on the dorsal flank of the ISD, and the Imperial turbolaser fire and

 

missile fire tracked back towards the battleship. The dorsal shield was

 

knocked down by the pulsed phaser before it ceased firing, it's charge

 

exhausted for the time being. The Klingon battleship fired a volley of

 

eight torpedoes at the ISD just as it was struck by several turbolaser

 

bolts, which rocked the Klingon ship as it's shields were momentarily

 

smashed down by several detonations of superheated plasma.

 

The Klingon ship streaked away at warp, leaving the Imperials

 

firing at empty space, as the eight torpedoes streaked across the two

 

hundred thousand kilometers to the ISD. Three of the torpedoes were

 

tracked and destroyed by point defense weapons, two detonated short of

 

the ISD, and the remaining three smacked into the dorsal hull of the

 

huge ship. The shields were recharging fast, but were smashed down by

 

the first of the torpedoes, allowing the next two to detonate against

 

the hull. The huge ship shuddered, but continued in it's orbit, large

 

areas of it's dorsal hull glowing red and running molten.

 

The Klingon battleship meanwhile was curving around to attack

 

the same ISD from another vector, but was thwarted by two VSD's and

 

three light cruisers, which surged forward to provide cover for the

 

vulnerable Star Destroyer.

 

"Split fire," Polaris ordered, "seventy thirty ratio on

 

projected and actual positions."

 

The Imperial ships complied, firing most of their weapons into

 

the path of the powerful Klingon battleship, but also firing some

 

directly at the ship. This fire passed hopelessly far behind the ship

 

initially, and it easily dodged the fire projected into it's path. The

 

tactic did pay off however, when the Klingon battleship disengaged it's

 

space distortion drive mechanism, it was immediately struck by several

 

superheated bolts. Taking the fire on it's shields, the Klingons fired

 

a volley of torpedoes at one of the VSD's, while it's pulsed beam

 

weapon ripped away at the shields of the other VSD.

 

Not waiting for the results of it's fire to be seen, the

 

Klingon once again streaked away at warp. The VSD's, assisted by the

 

three light cruisers, shot down four of the torpedoes. Three of the

 

torpedoes streaked past behind the VSD as it closed the angles, and the

 

fourth detonated just ahead of it, but the VSD shrugged off the

 

proximity detonation. The three torpedoes attempted to curve back, but

 

were easily picked off by the VSD point defenses.

 

The Vor'cha attack cruiser meanwhile made a run on the Sceptre

 

from a different angle, but was forced to break away as two squadrons

 

of TIE bombers cut across it's path, firing missiles. The Vor'cha

 

instead briefly cut it's distortion drive, fired a volley of four

 

torpedoes at one of the cruisers, and then sped away on a new angle,

 

futilely followed by a dozen turbolaser bolts. Unfortunately for the

 

Vor'cha, it's escape path had been closed off by the second ISD, which

 

fired a full dorsal broadside directly into it's escape path from

 

point-blank range. The attack cruiser was slammed head over heels as it

 

ploughed into the turbolaser barrage at about six times light-speed.

 

It's distortion field collapsed, and the Vor'cha rolled slowly end over

 

end without power, as the ISD turned after it and fired a second

 

broadside into it. The Klingon vessel was smashed apart.

 

Vastly outnumbered now by fifteen capital ships, various

 

missile boats and TIE bombers, the Negh'var made two more attack runs,

 

firing torpedoes only, and made no attempt to cut it's distortion drive

 

or use it's devastating beam weapon again. The torpedoes were very

 

powerful individually, but fired from speeds approaching 3 or 4 times

 

light-speed, they were little more than unguided missiles. The accuracy

 

level was not high enough to seriously worry the Imperials, and the

 

Klingon ship appeared to be only capable of firing them in volleys of

 

eight, with a three second gap between successive volleys, which meant

 

that on any given pass it could only fire one volley on one ship, and

 

hope for one or two of the torpedoes to hit.

 

Meanwhile, the Sceptre's orbit was bringing it over the far

 

side of the planet, which had escaped bombardment so far. The Sceptre's

 

escort ships jockeyed into new covering positions, protecting it from

 

the attack runs of the Negh'var battleship. The Klingons had had enough

 

of the hit-and-run tactics though, or had fully recharged their beam

 

weapons, and on the next run forced their way straight through the

 

ranks of the Imperial escorts, angling directly for the Sceptre. The

 

Sceptre itself was inverted with the planet 'above' the ship, so that

 

most of it's guns could bear on the planet. The ventral gunners though

 

were watching for attacks, and opened fire on the fast approaching

 

Negh'var. The battleship dodged slightly to one side, disengaged it's

 

distortion drive barely half a light-second away, and opened fire on

 

the Sceptre with it's pulsed phase-disruption cannons. As it cut it's

 

distortion drive, the Klingon's ion engines were powering it along a

 

different vector, attempting to evade the heavy Imperial fire.

 

On Polaris' ship status display, he saw the shield indicators

 

fluctuate wildly as the disruptor beams hit. The shields were

 

recharging almost as fast as the disruptor cannons were bringing them

 

down, but not quite fast enough, and within seconds the pulses were

 

bearing down as far as the hull. There was a distant hammering as the

 

disruptor pulsed along the hull, gouging tracks into the dense armour.

 

By this time, the Sceptre's ventral gunners had also walked their fire

 

onto the Klingon battleship, and the Klingon was being hammered by fire

 

from the Sceptres' escort ships. Under the combined fire of almost all

 

fifteen of the Imperial capital ships, the large Klingon ship for a

 

second was pinned by hundreds of green needles, drawn to it like it was

 

a magnet. Then it was all over, the Klingon ship's engines died, and it

 

bucked and twisted under the impact of several plasma blasts impacting

 

at high relativistic velocities. The battle was over.

 

"Planetary bombardment, all ships, tactical level two." Polaris

 

calmly ordered on the battle-group channel. He cut the channel, and

 

glanced at the ship's status display.

 

There was no significant damage, but the pulsed weapon of the

 

Klingon battleship had smashed down their shields with frightening

 

rapidity. If they had had an opportunity to fire torpedoes as well the

 

ship might have taken some significant damage.

 

 

 

 

 

"Analysis?" Polaris asked, as they once again reviewed the

 

battle.

 

"The Negh'var, according to the Ferengi information, is about

 

the second or third most powerful warship in the sector. While it was

 

using it's stardrive, it was almost immune to our turbolaser fire,

 

evading it at will, but it suffered from poor targeting at super-

 

luminal speeds, and also appeared unable or unwilling to use its

 

disruptor weapons while it was at higher than light-speed velocities,

 

which is of course logical, as the light-speed barrier should be

 

insurmountable."

 

"However, the Ferengi claim that the Federation's best

 

starship, the Sovereign class, is at least thirty percent more powerful

 

than the Klingon Negh'var class, and can fire it's phase disruption

 

weapons even from velocities well in excess of light-speed, and has a

 

much better targeting capability, which allows them to engage slower

 

than light targets even at speeds approaching two hundred times light-

 

speed. Newer Federation torpedoes, named quantums, are also supposed to

 

be significantly more powerful than anyone else's. They can be fired at

 

high inter-stellar velocities, even several thousand times light-speed.

 

It is unknown how successful their targeting of slower-than-light

 

vessels would be."

 

"How many of these Sovereign-class vessels do the Federation

 

have?"

 

"According to the Ferengi records, three are in service,

 

including the Enterprise, which is mentioned often in their reports,

 

and six more are under construction. The older Federation ships are

 

mostly in the same class as the Klingon Vor'cha class, albeit with

 

better targeting systems, and of course they might have been retro-

 

fitted with the quantum torpedo variant. The Federation ships also in

 

general use what we think is the superior form of the phase disruption

 

weapon."

 

"This ship, Enterprise, it's last known position was Starbase

 

Twelve, which means that it will most likely have a part in any

 

Federation attacks on our worlds. The other two Sovereign class ships

 

most likely form part of their Earth defence fleet."

 

"Forget the Federation weaponry for now," Polaris ordered, "our

 

next targeted world is in the Romulan territories. What can we expect

 

there?"

 

"Romulan warships come in three main classes. The most

 

significant is the D'deridex class battleships, which is at least as

 

large as a Victory Star Destroyer, at about 1km long, and is slightly

 

more powerful than the Klingon Vor'cha class, but not nearly as

 

powerful as the Klingon Negh'var or Federation Sovereign class."

 

There were murmurs of relief around the ward room.

 

"However," the briefing continued, "the Romulans have been

 

manufacturing them in quantity, and are suspected to have several

 

hundred, so these vessels are the backbone of their fleet."

 

"If they are only slightly more powerful than the Klingon

 

Vor'cha class, why are they three times the size?"

 

"The D'deridex is a versatile design, and is also used as a

 

planetary assault ship. It can carry up to 30,000 soldiers if required.

 

As a result it is not nearly as maneuvrable as the Klingon equivalent,

 

but it does have superior targeting equipment, and apparently a more

 

powerful torpedo delivery system than the Klingons, although their beam

 

weapons are marginally less powerful than the Klingon phase disruptor

 

cannon."

 

"Strategies and counter-strategies?"

 

"If they engage us in equal numbers, they will do so at

 

matching velocities, where they can use their beam weapons in

 

conjunction with torpedoes. If outnumbered, they will resort to the

 

strafing tactic used by the Klingons to such great effect, but their

 

ships are not as maneuvrable as Klingon ships so this tactic will not

 

be as attractive to them."

 

"Other Romulan ship-classes?"

 

"They have about seven hundred small scoutships, very lightly

 

armed, with no serious combat role, and two hundred cruisers of Klingon

 

design. These are also very lightly armed, but are dreaded in combat

 

because of their stealth capability. They are known as Birds of Prey."

 

"Very pretentious name. How good is their cloaking?"

 

"All Romulan ships generally have cloaking devices, but they

 

cannot fire their weapons without deactivating the cloaking field. The

 

larger D'deridex ships are too big for cloaking devices really, and at

 

short ranges are easily tracked by our Sienar patrol boats. The smaller

 

Birds of Prey are better suited to cloaking, but can also be detected

 

at short ranges with active sensors. Another side-effect of the

 

cloaking device is that their shields don't operate while the ship is

 

cloaked, so are easily destroyed if hit while cloaked. Generally, their

 

cloaking devices appear to be a strategic weapon, but tactically is

 

easy to track if you know what to look for."

 

"And what do you look for?"

 

"Drive-emissions. Their distortion drive is easy to detect at

 

short ranges with sub-space sensors, and their impulse drive can be

 

tracked by the charged particle emissions. However, when all drives are

 

disengaged, the Birds of Prey especially can lie silent with almost no

 

chance of being detected, which make the Romulan territories

 

particularly difficult to invade.

 

"They were engaged in centuries long conflict with the

 

Klingons, and although the Klingon navy is larger, and Klingon ships

 

generally of similar firepower and better maneuvrability, the Romulan's

 

have perfected the cloaked ambush as a tactic."

 

The mood in the ward room was sombre. The prospect of taking on

 

hordes of powerful ships with cloaking devices was a sobering thought.

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

 

The Imperial fleet lay in deep space. There were no other ships

 

close by that they could detect. Given the volume of sub-space noise

 

they were radiating in actively scanning their surroundings there was

 

little doubt that their position was being broadcast out for several

 

dozen light years. Dead ahead of the fleet was a known Romulan world.

 

There was no sign of Romulan ships anywhere in the system, which meant

 

nothing, since the cloaked Romulan ships were virtually undetectable as

 

long as they refrained from actively scanning their surroundings, or

 

powering up their engines.

 

Polaris sighed. They did not have the time to outwait the

 

Romulans. He would have to flush them out. To this end he had

 

despatched several gunboats and a few of his cruisers to points outside

 

the Romulan star system. They were under orders not to engage the

 

enemy, but their deployment would create a sensor network to scan the

 

system. As soon as they were in position, the remainder of the fleet

 

jumped.

 

 

 

Gunnery Sergeant Vin Karno loved his job. Nothing gave him as

 

much pleasure as the violent destruction of inanimate objects,

 

especially starships. It was a trait that suited his job well.

 

Currently he was strapped into the controls of battery VP-AA-09, a

 

medium powered turbolaser battery. There were 10 batteries on the AA

 

section of the ventral port hull, and they operated as a unit, with

 

only one priority, the destruction of any and all targets as designated

 

by lieutenant Xanthis, the officer in charge of gunnery on this

 

quarter.

 

Karno could easily imagine that he was suspended in space,

 

rather than in the control pod with several metres of hull separating

 

him from the actual turbolaser battery and the vacuum of space. He wore

 

a helmet, with stereoscopic projectors over his eyes, providing him

 

with a full view of the space within his cone of fire, plus a few

 

degrees extra for early warning of objects about to enter his cone of

 

responsibility.

 

"Okay," he heard Xanthis voice over his speakers, "we have a

 

pretty good accuracy record so far, but I want you to forget about the

 

accuracy charts here. If there is even a hint of something out there,

 

shoot it. The enemy is using cloaked vessels, and the cloaked ambush is

 

their favourite tactic. Double credits will be scored for hits on a

 

cloaked vessel, and no credits will be deducted for poor accuracy in

 

this engagement.

 

"The sensor data from the extra-system gunboats are being

 

patched directly into your targeting computers. Don't disappoint me."

 

In his left hand, Karno gripped the targeting control, and a

 

yellow crosshairs appeared. He focussed from one star to another, and

 

the crosshair darted over the screen, following his eye movements.

 

"09. Targeting activated. Targeting okay." He announced

 

In his right he held another lever and with his finger lightly

 

against the trigger. He triggered the fire button, and a light green

 

line flickered across the view projected into his eyes, indicating the

 

track of the energy bolt.

 

"09. Weapons test, okay." He announced.

 

The weapon charge indicator dropped briefly then climbed to

 

peak level, sounding a tone as it hit peak charge level. A timer

 

reported 1.95 seconds recharge.

 

"09. Weapons charge rate satisfactory."

 

The starry background shifted once or twice, indicating course

 

changes by the Star Destroyer. This didn't affect his targeting, since

 

the turbolaser turret was stabilised independently of the ship's

 

motion, and the targeting computer compensated for the ship's motion.

 

On his earphones, he heard the computer simulated stutter of

 

distant weapons firing. They were in action, but nothing was happening

 

within his cone of fire yet.

 

On the edge of his view, a red cube flashed. The yellow

 

crosshairs tracked over onto the cube, following his eye movements. The

 

cube stopped flashing. Karno fired. A birdlike starship appeared,

 

replacing the cube as the ship came into his fire-cone, a computer

 

representation, since the starship was too far away to see with the

 

naked eye. Two computer generated planes with colour coded vectors

 

bracketed the target, showing its direction of motion and velocity. A

 

cone appeared ahead of the ship snaking across the display in a graphic

 

representation of the vessel's projected path. The computer generated

 

sound-effects added to his overall picture. The centre of the cone

 

representing it's most likely projected position, with the edge of the

 

tube representing the most drastic course changes the vessel was known

 

to be capable of. Karno fired into the centre of this tube several

 

times.

 

In theory the computer could do all this on it's own, but in a

 

high jamming environment with multiple targets, a human operator needed

 

to override the computer. The computer tended always to fire at the

 

centre of the cone as well, whereas a human operator would take into

 

account the likelihood of the ship accelerating, decelerating, or

 

changing course, and so fire into the positions more likely to be

 

occupied by the enemy ship.

 

The target moved out of his field of fire.

 

"Thirty one shots fired, eight hits. No discernible damage."

 

Xanthis reported to his gunners, over the sound of other weapons firing

 

elsewhere on the Star Destroyer.

 

"Here's another one coming."

 

A red cube flashed at the top of Karno's screen, indicating the

 

position where the enemy ship would enter his firing cone. As it

 

steadied, indicating the imminent arrival of the target, he fired. As

 

the ship appeared, he focussed into the projected path as indicated by

 

the targeting tube, and fired several times at a point just ahead of

 

the incoming warship, estimating an intercept point visually.

 

"Forty three shots fired, eleven hits. Karno gets three double

 

credits on top of his pay."

 

Karno grinned. His visual estimations had beaten the

 

computerised fire control of the other gunners. He had great faith in

 

human intuition over computer calculations.

 

"One enemy ship has engaged it's stardrive, prepare for

 

superluminal strafing runs. One, Two and Three, I have set your

 

targeting to actual position intercept. Four through Ten are set for

 

projected position intercept."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

Karno's grin widened even more.

 

"Computer - double image size, enhance vector overlays."

 

Seconds later a starship appeared, double the size of previous

 

images, but much further away according to the range indicator. Karno

 

watched the attitude of the ship carefully, alive to any indication of

 

a course change. The range indicator was dropping rapidly. The

 

targeting square changed colour as the computer calculated that the

 

ship would soon enter weapons range, and he started firing. Karno could

 

almost imagine himself back behind the controls of a point-defense

 

battery, shooting at highly evasive fighters, accept that everything

 

was contracted in the wrong direction. The slow rate of fire of his

 

weapon was counteracted by the short time the target was in range. He

 

noticed that Xanthis had set up a ripple-fire effect for this battery,

 

which was no-doubt co-ordinated with other batteries.

 

It meant that charge-capacitor timings were adjusted so that

 

the gunners were forced to fire one after the other in quick

 

succession, thus creating a continuous stream of fire rather than a

 

concentrated volley, Xanthis had also over-ridden their field-

 

modulation controls to force a flak-burst at optimum range. The flak-

 

burst was caused by a sudden inversion of the containment field

 

polarity, resulting in a momentary ball of superheated plasma bursting

 

in the target's projected path.

 

Another warbird, or the same one, came streaking in again. It

 

smashed through several balls of plasma fire coming in from another

 

vector, most likely from one of the escort ships. It slowed down

 

drastically, and Karno eagerly focussed in on it, firing several rounds

 

directly into it's path. He grunted with satisfaction as he saw the

 

result of his own fire, although several other gunners were also

 

hitting the distraught ship. The size of a Victory Star Destroyer, it

 

didn't go down easily, taking dozens of hits before being rocked by

 

several internal explosions. Karno's computer added the sound-effects

 

of the explosions to his sense of the event, heightening his

 

exultation.

 

"Jump warning." Xanthis shouted, just as Karno's view flickered

 

into static for an instant, then cleared. He frantically quartered his

 

view, looking for a target, but there was none in his field of view,

 

then there was a burst of fire at another position. Somebody else's

 

turn this time. Missing a firing opportunity, especially after a jump,

 

when an early hit was critical, could result in serious penalties, even

 

a disciplinary hearing or court-martial for dereliction of duties and

 

endangerment of the ship. Guilt was punishable by death, of course.

 

"Jump warning." Xanthis shouted again.

 

Karno's view was once again blank. Then a huge alien ship,

 

trailing plasma from several hits, twisting frantically like a moth in

 

flames, suddenly swept into view from another quarter. He shouted in

 

fright and fury and exultation, frantically triggering the fire

 

control. Karno saw his bolt slam home, along with several other bolts

 

from his unit's battery. He barely had time for a second shot, then the

 

alien ship was out of his firing zone. The starry background was

 

shifting crazily as the Star Destroyer itself turned and rotated after

 

the alien ship.

 

"Computer - filter background." He ordered, as a momentary

 

sensation of vertigo overtook him. Without the background, there was no

 

sense of motion, and no way to tell how the Star Destroyer was

 

maneuvring, but Karno watched his display carefully for any signs of

 

incursion into his firing zone.

 

A blue cube appeared suddenly in the distance.

 

"Possible cloaked ship, bearing zero one five, three two zero."

 

Xanthis was calling out.

 

Karno saw several missiles streak towards the cube, which was

 

well out of turbolaser range. The missiles detonated in spectacular

 

thermonuclear display. The cube disappeared, but there was no trace of

 

wreckage at the spot. Karno watched the space carefully anyway.

 

The cube reappeared some distance away, and several missiles

 

streaked towards the new position. Suddenly a warbird took shape in the

 

centre of the cube, firing several glowing missiles towards them. It

 

was also coming directly towards them at an incredible speed.

 

Karno ignored the missiles, centred his crosshairs on the alien

 

ship and fired as fast as his weapon could recharge. Several turbolaser

 

bolts hit the alien ship dead on, but it kept on coming, seemingly

 

intent on ramming the Star Destroyer. The alien ship twisted slightly

 

as one engine failed, and it veered to one side, turbolaser fire

 

following it frantically. For a second Karno thought it was going to

 

hit him personally, then it slewed off out of his fire zone. There was

 

a crash nearby. A real crash, not a simulated computer sound. Karno

 

even felt it. The deck had actually shuddered, transmitting the impact

 

through his control seat's shock absorbers. In all his career aboard a

 

Star Destroyer he had never felt the deck shudder.

 

"We took a hit there as you no doubt heard," Xanthis was

 

saying, "but if it was serious we wouldn't be here anymore, so don't

 

worry about it."

 

"There appear to be no more alien vessels in this star system,"

 

he continued, "Odd crews stand down, even crews remain at station."

 

Karno released the targeting controls, and pulled the headset

 

off. He was soaked in sweat. That had been some ride. He swung out of

 

the control seat, and dropped down to the deck. He glanced down the

 

corridor, and saw some of his fellow gunners also dropping to the deck.

 

There was a vague acrid smell in the air, and further down the corridor

 

he could see smoke. He started off in that direction, but was called

 

back by Xanthis.

 

"Men! This way. We are not damage control. Leave it to the

 

droids. Alright, we have confirmation, the system is clean, we are

 

moving towards the Romulan planet now, five minute level two

 

bombardment, then a one hour break before we hit the next system.

 

Resume stations in two minutes."

 

The gunners stood around, cooling off and trading stories until

 

the two minute warning sounded. Karnos clambered up the short access

 

ladder, ignoring the momentary sense of vertigo as the gravity field

 

suddenly changed direction. He swung himself back into his control

 

seat. He placed the helmet on, and was instantly met with a visage of a

 

brown-blue planet hanging in space.

 

A section of the planet was marked off by Xanthis, and the

 

computer zoomed into that. Cities and towns were revealed as the

 

magnification increased, with colour coded squares marking signs of

 

technology. The blue squares were his, other colours for other gunners.

 

Dark blue was high priority targets, light blue for low priority. Karno

 

wasted no time, and instantly focussed on one of the squares. He fired.

 

Instants later the computer enhanced image showed the explosion, a huge

 

orange ball which obscured several city blocks, and mushroomed up in

 

typical fireball fashion. The image was moving, as the Star Destroyer

 

moved in it's orbit, bring other sectors of the planet into view. Karno

 

fired as fast as he could, hitting the darker squares first, then

 

working his way down through lower priority targets if there was time

 

before they revolved out of view.

 

There were dozens of other fireballs representing the fire of

 

other gunners or possibly other ships. Minutes later, as one powered

 

orbit was completed, the same section of the planet came into view

 

again. There were only scattered markings of technology, and very

 

little else to see because of the dust churned up into the atmosphere.

 

Below the dust, large tracts of the planet were glowing orange as fires

 

raged.

 

"That's it." Xanthis ordered. "Stand down. One hour break to

 

next alert. Karno, I hope you brought along that Sabacc deck, maybe we

 

can win back some of those credits you cheated us out of last week."

 

 

 

 

 

"Damage Report." Polaris ordered.

 

"Superficial." His first officer replied. "The warbird

 

detonated shortly before it hit us, but a lot of wreckage impacted

 

directly on to the port beam, and took out a few quad laser batteries.

 

The concussion caused minor damage to ship systems on the outer decks

 

in the area. No crew members were lost, but a number of the quad-laser

 

gunners are receiving treatment for cuts and bruises in the medical

 

wings. The droids are repairing the damage, and the quads should be

 

operational in four hours. The Port close-in defence system will be

 

down to 80% efficiency for the next attack, but will be fully

 

operational before we hit the last system."

 

"They had better be, we're on a tight schedule."

 

"Yes sir."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDGE OF FEDERATION SPACE - LOCATION UNKNOWN

 

 

 

The two Imperial task forces lay in deep space. They were

 

exchanging notes and tactics after their respective raids into the

 

territories of the nations allied to the Federation.

 

"So Masala, you are ready for the next phase?"

 

"Yes. The Federation allies proved to be relatively easy

 

pickings. Their ships were spread few and far between, and individually

 

cannot stand up to ours. How did you fare against the cloaked Romulan

 

ships?"

 

"With gunboats or patrol boats sweeping the battle area from a

 

stand-off position, and the entire fleet sharing sensor data, no

 

cloaked vessel can move without triggering some sort of alarm. The

 

moment they fire up their engines, we have them, and even if you don't

 

see them, they cannot fire while cloaked. Their ships are also not

 

shielded while cloaked, so if you detect them, don't do a sensor focus,

 

since that will alert them that they have been found, just send a few

 

nuclear missiles in, and no problem." Polaris answered.

 

"How did you fare against the Ferengi and the Cardassians?"

 

"I still have my fleet," Masala smiled, "the Ferengi were no

 

problem, their Marauders weren't designed for heavy fleet combat, and

 

they showed little sign of co-operation with each other. The

 

Cardassians proved ... interesting, their Galors are not that powerful,

 

but they have them in quantity and they are obviously used to operating

 

in packs of three or four. However, their fleet tactics on the larger

 

scale left something to be desired.

 

"The Federation worlds will not be as easy. They will have

 

received information from their allies about our attack patterns, and

 

we know their missiles, targeting systems, and phase disruption weapons

 

are superior to what we have come across so far." Masala warned.

 

"Yes. And their fleet will be ready for us. Remember though,

 

the goal of these attacks is not to inflict damage on their worlds, but

 

to learn how to counter their battle-strategies before the real fight

 

begins, the defence of our planets against their blockades. For now we

 

can choose the time and place of battle, but that will not always be

 

so."

 

"Correct. The Sienar's report that the fleet at Starbase Twelve

 

now numbers some fifty vessels, including the Federation warship

 

Enterprise, one of their feared Sovereign class warships. Their allies

 

will also be arriving there soon, which means they are amassing a fleet

 

in excess of a hundred vessels. Even our combined forces will find that

 

difficult to counter."

 

"We'll worry about that when the time comes. For now, we have

 

about ten days to create as much havoc in Federation space as we can,

 

before that fleet is fully assembled. The Sienar's will warn us if they

 

move sooner than we expect, and in any case, our planets can hold out

 

against them, it's the blockades that will hurt us."

 

"Until then." Masala cut the transmission. Seconds later his

 

task force vanished into hyperspace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I am bored of this hit and run tactic," Polaris announced to

 

his bridge crew, "Let's go after Earth, see how serious they are about

 

this war. If we are outnumbered we can always retreat or pull back

 

through Hyperspace."

 

Seconds later, the Jump calculated, the Imperial fleet

 

flickered into Hyperspace. They arrived several hours later at a point

 

in deep-space about ten light years short of their destination. Polaris

 

had used the time in Hyperspace to study all that he knew about the

 

Federation system. He was not particularly interested in bombarding the

 

planet - it could be a useful source of labour in future - but he

 

wanted to cripple their industrial / shipbuilding capability, and

 

hopefully destroy enough ships to draw off defences from elsewhere to

 

rush to the defence of Earth. The most recent information he had

 

mentioned twenty possible defending warships including one, possibly

 

two, Sovereign class vessels, as well as several of the Akira cruisers,

 

which were apparently not that heavily armed, but were in current mass

 

production in the Federation. The Akira were roughly equivalent in

 

basic configuration to the Klingon Vor'cha which they had despatched

 

with some difficulty and the Romulan D'deridex, but was more

 

maneuvrable than either, and supposedly had a much better targeting

 

system, as well as the Federations vaunted quantum torpedoes. Like all

 

Federation vessels, it was also equipped with the supposedly better

 

form of the phase disruption weapons so prevalent in this Galaxy.

 

Going by reports, the quantum torpedo was roughly equivalent to

 

a half dozen small to medium turbolaser bolts. It would take more than

 

a handful to seriously impact their shields, but a sustained

 

bombardment of several torpedoes per second would be dangerous.

 

"Launch gunboats and Defenders, fleet to skirmishing

 

positions."

 

The fleet quickly assumed the new formation, with the Star

 

Destroyers taking up positions covering each other's launch bay's with

 

their heavy weapons. The entire task force had only three squadrons of

 

TIE Defenders between them, the only fighters equipped with hyperdrive

 

motivators. The three squadrons of bombers, and sixteen squadrons of

 

TIEs would have to wait for later.

 

"Outer edge of the Sol system. Engage when ready."

 

Twenty seconds later, all ships had acknowledged readiness, and

 

the fleet jumped as a unit.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Ivan Serchenko was enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee.

 

It was not necessary for him to be on the bridge, but there was a war

 

on, and he didn't feel comfortable anywhere else except on the bridge

 

of his ship. His ship was the flagship of the Federation defensive

 

fleet, the USS Sovereign itself. He had never expected to take his ship

 

into combat, it being the prototype vessel of the ultimate class of

 

starship the Federation had produced, and not really a ship of the line

 

per-se. Also, on station here at Earth, nobody really expected an

 

attack to come. After all, with over forty vessels of various classes,

 

including the venerable old Excelsiors, a few of the recently outdated

 

but still respectable Galaxy class, and the Sovereign itself, supported

 

by a full dozen modern Akira class cruisers, only a madman would attack

 

Earth.

 

The Akiras were not nearly as powerful as the Galaxy's of

 

course, but they were smaller, faster, and decidedly more reliable.

 

They were fitted with newer warp cores, grade X phasers, and Mark II

 

torpedo launchers capable of simultaneously launching four torpedoes

 

every three seconds from each of their two forward tubes. Serchenko had

 

a soft spot for the fast cruisers, having graduated from one himself,

 

to this. The Sovereign. The most powerful known starship in the

 

Quadrant, with type XII phaser banks, Mark IV torpedo launchers capable

 

of simultaneously launching eight torpedoes every two seconds, superb

 

shielding, and 10cm of ablative armour that could possibly withstand

 

more damage than the shields alone could. He was proud of his command.

 

"Multiple contacts, sector three, range 90 AU."

 

Serchencko spilt his coffee in his lap.

 

"What!" he sputtered.

 

"Sir, at least two dozen enemy ship's have just appeared in

 

sector two, about 90 AU's out from Earth."

 

"On-screen."

 

The view-screen swooped in dramatically, the computer enhanced

 

sub-space image magnifying onto the enemy fleet. There were at least

 

fifteen capital ships, in a loose spherical formation spread over

 

millions of kilometers, and dozens of smaller ships weaving in and out

 

of the formation. The computer-enhancement of course belied the

 

distance and size of the ships.

 

"Energy build-up detected." His sensor operator called out.

 

Just then the entire fleet appeared to surge forward, then vanish.

 

"Multiple enemy contacts, all over the system."

 

"Akira's to protect the shipyards, Excelsiors to engage the

 

enemy, Galaxies and Sovereigns to remain in Earth orbit."

 

On his view-screen, a tactical display appeared, showing four

 

huge wedge-shapes engaging the orbital defences of Mars. They were at

 

least as long as a Romulan D'deridex, but much more massively built.

 

The orbital platforms were the primary defence network for the Utopia

 

Planitia shipyards, which contained the incomplete hulls of several

 

Akira's, a few Defiant heavy fighters, and two super-expensive

 

Sovereigns. The enemy battleships were firing dozens of plasma bolts

 

into the shields every seconds, overcoming the rate of recharge of the

 

platform's massive shield generators. The turbolaser barrage was

 

followed by several nuclear missiles, obliterating the weapons

 

platforms in seconds. They had been caught completely by surprise,

 

barely having launched a handful of torpedoes in response.

 

Seven Akira class ships were powering towards the four wedge

 

shapes, the ships exchanging missile fire at long range. The four wedge

 

shapes, easily triple the size of the Akira's facing them, and much

 

more massive, were pumping out a prodigious number of missiles, easily

 

matching the Akira's in rate of missile fire, except for the fact that

 

their point-defence systems were fantastic. Literally hundreds of tiny

 

gun emplacements were firing at the incoming photon torpedoes, knocking

 

them down almost as fast as they were launched. The point-defences were

 

some sort of laser weapon, but with an equal particle component, and

 

they were highly effective against the unshielded photon and quantum

 

torpedoes. Conversely, the Akira's were only shooting down a small

 

portion of the enemy's incoming missiles, frantically waving their

 

phaser's about, firing nearly continuously.

 

The space between the two groups of ships was one massive

 

nuclear fury of detonations, and the ships were still closing with each

 

other.

 

"Where are the other five Akira's," Serchenko demanded.

 

"Defending the shipyards themselves." The operator answered,

 

angling the view-screen away from the massive capital ship-battle, onto

 

the shipyards themselves. In the shipyard, were dozens of tiny

 

starfighters, less than half the size of a runabout, flitting in-

 

between the very scaffolding of the shipyard itself, and wreaking havoc

 

on the unfinished hulls suspended in the scaffolding. Pursuing the

 

starfighters, were the five remaining Akira's, too big to enter the

 

shipyards themselves, and also reluctant to fire on the shipyards.

 

"Order them to destroy those starfighters regardless of damage

 

to the shipyards. We can repair the damage, we can't rebuild the entire

 

shipyard."

 

The Akira's obeyed, firing phasers with abandon into the

 

shipyards. Three starfighters were destroyed in short order, and the

 

rest scuttled off between the incomplete hulls, shooting as they went.

 

The Akira's pursued them, skirting the edge of the huge shipyards,

 

hoping to cut off the fleeing fighters on the far side of the shipyard.

 

The Akira's rounded the far corner, and flew directly into a

 

devastating barrage of the high-powered plasma bolts. Three huge wedge

 

shaped ships had jumped into the far side of the shipyards and laid a

 

trap for the Akiras, two of which were destroyed immediately. The other

 

three did the only thing they could, engaged their warp drives and put

 

distance between themselves and the three huge Star Destroyers.

 

Nine Excelsiors had finally joined the seven Akira's in their

 

punch-up with the four smaller wedge-shapes, warping across the space

 

between Earth and Mars. On his screen, Serchenko clearly saw about two

 

dozen small starfighters round the planet punching through the thin

 

upper atmosphere of Mars and come screaming in at an angle from the

 

rear of the Excelsiors, who were now fully engaged with the Star

 

Destroyers. One Akira had retreated, with extensive damage, and the

 

others were showing signs of imminent shield loss. Mixed in with the

 

immense plasma blasts were some sort of ionized discharge weapon which

 

seemed to blow shields apart with ease. The four wedge-shapes they

 

faced showed intermittent signs of shield-wear as well, but no damage.

 

"Warn those ships of those incoming starfighters." He ordered

 

his communications specialist.

 

The woman turned to her station, but turned back seconds later.

 

"There is intense sub-space static, sub-space communications is

 

not possible."

 

Serchecnko turned back to his view-screen, and watched the

 

incredible spectacle unfold. The two dozen starfighters launched three

 

volleys of missiles, totalling seventy-two missiles, at the nine

 

Excelsior ships, which were fully engaged with the four hard pressed

 

Star Destroyers. The nine Excelsiors vanished in an incredible thermo-

 

nuclear fire, caught totally by surprise. Whether the nuclear

 

detonations were as a result of the rupture of their own deuterium fuel

 

tanks or enemy missiles was impossible to tell.

 

As the nuclear fire dissipated, Serchenko could only make out

 

four of the Excelsiors, all of them with severely depleted shields. The

 

three larger Star Destroyers flickered into position, directly behind

 

the Excelsior formation and opened fire at point-blank range. The

 

bigger blasts were individually several times more powerful than a

 

quantum torpedo, and the four Excelsiors were gone.

 

Looking to the far side of the battle, Serchencko noticed that

 

the four wedge-shaped destroyers had disappeared as well. For a second

 

he thought they too had been destroyed.

 

"Four capital ships, sector two." His sensor operator warned.

 

"I can't tell through this jamming, but it looks like the same ships.

 

Their shields are recharging fast. Unable to determine damage levels

 

because of the sub-space interference."

 

The Akira's which had been battling them, were cruising through

 

empty space, and now turned to face the three fresh Star Destroyers

 

which had just taken out the Excelsiors. The Akira's were joined by the

 

other three which had been defending the shipyard, and proceeded to

 

engage the three Star Destroyers at impulse.

 

"Tell them to belay that, and use Picard's technique."

 

Serchencko ordered. To this day he had thought Picard a fool and

 

possibly a coward, now he was hearing himself order the self-same

 

maneuvre he had so castigated.

 

"Our communications are still jammed." The communications

 

operator reminded him.

 

"Shall we help them, sir?" His first officer asked.

 

"No, our responsibility is to defend Earth. Can you raise one

 

of the Galaxies, try EM, they are close enough for nearly real-time EM

 

transmissions."

 

"Yes. Got one."

 

"Order them to set an example for the Akira's."

 

"Yes sir."

 

One of the Galaxy's suddenly streaked out of Earth orbit,

 

accelerating to warp 4 in seconds. As it swung by Mars bare seconds

 

later, they cut their warp drive a scant few hundred thousand

 

kilometers from the huge Imperial warships, fired a full double-brace

 

of quantums, and immediately re-engaged their warp drives, putting

 

distance between themselves and the huge ships. Several blasts were

 

fired towards the Galaxy, but none impacted. Most of the Galaxy's eight

 

torpedoes struck the Destroyer full on the starboard beam and on the

 

bridge, only two being knocked down by the point-defences. Serchencko

 

blanched, the Destroyer was unscathed.

 

"Thy have independent shields on different parts of the ship.

 

The bridge shields were momentarily reduced to less than thirty

 

percent, and the starboard shields to forty percent. They are re-

 

aligning other independent shields to protect these areas now, and are

 

recharging the damaged shields fast now."

 

"They took six direct hits in close succession! And nothing!"

 

Somebody exclaimed.

 

"Belay that! Any luck on communications yet?"

 

"No sir, their jamming is too intense. There is very little

 

interference close by on the EM band, but Mars is currently more than

 

twenty light-minutes away."

 

Serchencko was somewhat gratified to see the Akira's following

 

the Galaxy's example though. They danced out of reach of the immense

 

field enhanced laser-particle weapons, and proceeded to make low warp

 

passes on the three huge ships. Another five Excelsior class ships had

 

joined the battle, and were also making low-warp passes on the three

 

ships. The sight galled Serchencko. The three alien warships flailed

 

around like bears being attacked by a swarm of bees. The bees stung the

 

bears on a regular basis, but their stings were of little use against

 

the thick pelt of the bears, who got lucky every once in a while and

 

managed to swat a bee.

 

"The alien starfighters?" he asked.

 

"Most of them have been picked up by their parent ships

 

somewhere along the way, except for one squadron which is

 

systematically shooting up the shipyards."

 

Serchencko glanced around his own Earth defences. His Sovereign

 

class ship was supported by three more galaxy class ships, and eight

 

Excelsior class cruisers. He reviewed their losses to date. Three

 

Akira's and nine Excelsior class ships had been destroyed. Four more of

 

the Akira's were significantly damaged and were limping towards Earth

 

orbit.

 

"The other enemy ships?"

 

"The four smaller wedge shaped battleships are still in the

 

outer system, charging their shields, along with about eight cruiser

 

sized ships."

 

"Shield status of the three big ships?"

 

"One of them is down to about 20% on most of it's shields, the

 

others are both above 60% shield strength on average."

 

On the view-screen, Serchencko saw another Akira swoop past the

 

three ships, firing three volleys of four torpedoes as it went. The

 

first four tracked into one of the Destroyers, scoring three hits,

 

bringing it's shields down to less than 10% now, the second volley

 

targeted another ship, and scored two hits, two torpedoes going wide.

 

The third volley went hopelessly wide, fired at warp and too close to

 

the three alien ships to have any time to maneuvre onto an intercept

 

vector. He glanced at the readings on the side of the view-screen, the

 

ship with the weakest shields were recharging through fifteen percent

 

even as he watched.

 

"The smaller destroyers are attacking the shipyard again." An

 

operator called. The view-screen showed the four smaller battleships

 

firing several missiles into the shipyards. Serchencko closed his eyes.

 

"I am picking up several dozen fission-fusion detonations from

 

the location of the shipyards. The shipyards are no longer on my

 

scope."

 

"Missile warning!"

 

Even as the warning sounded, several hard vibrations ran

 

through the deck as something impacted on their shields. The view-

 

screen frantically shifted focus and magnification, revealing half a

 

dozen starfighters weaving through the defensive formation in Earth

 

orbit. The fighters were launching small missiles and firing their

 

laser-plasma weapons at everything in sight.

 

"Where did they come from? Phasers free."

 

The starfighters were using the other frigates in orbit to good

 

effect, flying close to their hulls, and keeping the hulls between them

 

and the ships they had already attacked. The ships further down the

 

line were alive to the attack now, but couldn't fire for fear of

 

hitting their comrades. Several hard vibrations ran through the deck

 

again, and Serchencko was alarmed to see that the fighters weapons were

 

having a significant effect on his shields. The rapid fire laser-plasma

 

bursts were quite powerful, though hardly worryingly so, but the rapid-

 

fire burst simulated the shield draining effect of pulsed phasers quite

 

accurately.

 

"Tell them to open fire," Serchencko ordered, "ignore friendly

 

hits, those fighters probably can't take the damage, we can."

 

"Missile warning!" the operator called again.

 

"Extreme Electro-magnetic and sub-space interference." Somebody

 

else warned. That would play hell with their targeting, Serchencko

 

knew.

 

On the view-screen, the image had shifted back to the beginning

 

of the defensive line, where the four smaller wedge shaped ships had

 

appeared. They were launching missiles at the line of frigates, and

 

firing turbolasers into the huge Starbase-One alongside which they had

 

appeared. The Starbase was not without defences though, and opened up

 

with a barrage of Type XII Pulse-Phasers, even as the enemy's plasma

 

bolts smashed into the Base's shields.

 

The two Galaxy class ships on the far end of the defensive

 

formation opened fire with phasers on the fighters weaving through the

 

line, but the fighters were weaving and darting like wasps, and with

 

incredible maneuvrability accelerated past the two galaxies. One

 

fighter burst into a ball of flame, the others cleared the line, and

 

streaked for open space, still weaving in crazy evasive patterns,

 

phaser fire splattering all around them. Another one burst into flames,

 

and the last four vanished, ostensibly engaging their stardrive.

 

Serchencko was gratified to see the enemy shields on the four

 

attacking wedges drop sharply as they were hit by the type XII pulse-

 

phasers. A second pulse-phaser barrage from the Starbase missed

 

completely, but a third smashed through the shields of one ship, and

 

dug into the hull of the huge ship, with almost no effect. It appeared

 

that a lot of the phasers energy was reflected away by something on or

 

in the hull, which glowed red in long tracks where the phasers hit

 

them.

 

"Torpedoes, full spread, fire." Serchencko ordered.

 

The torpedoes streaked towards the enemy position, curving

 

around the Galaxy class frigates nearby, which were also firing

 

torpedoes now. The wedge shaped ships put up a wall of flak between

 

them and the frigates, firing their plasma bolts towards the incoming

 

torpedoes, and somehow detonating the plasma bolt short of the

 

torpedoes, in miniature sun-bursts. Several torpedoes smacked into the

 

superhot plasma balls before they dissipated, but many made it through.

 

"Power surge, all enemy ships." His sensor operated reported.

 

Serchencko braced himself, ready to respond to whatever weapon

 

was being brought to bear. Three of the small destroyers vanished in a

 

flicker of motion. The last destroyer took four direct hits on it's

 

hull from the quantum torpedoes, then it too vanished. It left behind

 

several globules of molten hull-metal.

 

Out at Mars, there were now only two of the larger destroyers.

 

Serchencko didn't bother hoping it had been destroyed, it had obviously

 

put some distance between itself and it's wasp-like attackers. A glance

 

at the sector-display on his helmsman's console confirmed this. It was

 

lying just outside the solar system, recharging it's shields. Seconds

 

later, the last two wedge-shaped battleships flickered away. The alien

 

ships lingered on the outer-edge of the Solar System for a few seconds,

 

no doubt loading their remaining starfighters, then they were gone.

 

"System report?" He asked.

 

"The Utopia Planitia shipyards no longer exist, several

 

installations in the outer system were destroyed. Estimated death toll

 

twelve thousand. Mars orbital weapons platforms barely got a shot off

 

before being destroyed, the enemy opened their attack by jumping to

 

point blank range and firing several nuclear missiles into the

 

platforms. Starbase One reports extensive superficial damage, their

 

outer hull having been breached in dozens of places, no casualties. We

 

lost five Akira's, twelve Excelsiors and two Nebulas. Crews on lost

 

ships total seven thousand men and women. Our own ship suffered no

 

physical damage, although the shields took quite a pounding."

 

"Enemy losses?"

 

"Five confirmed kills on starfighters, two possibles. Their

 

primary battleship suffered no damage except for minor shield

 

accretion, their two secondary battleships suffered severe shield

 

accretion, no hull damage. Their four smaller destroyers suffered

 

extensive shield accretion, and three of them suffered hull damage to

 

varying extent, one of them suffered major hull damage in the last

 

exchange. We don't know to what extent this affects their combat

 

capability."

 

"What have we learnt about the enemy?" Serchencko asked.

 

"Ranged weapons include various categories of shaped-charge

 

fusion missiles, ranging from small multi-kiloton warheads on their

 

fighters, to large missiles with several hundred megaton warheads fired

 

from their destroyers.

 

"Medium range weapons are superheated plasma bolts, ranging in

 

power from a few megatons to several hundred megatons each. Their ships

 

had from two or three dozen medium powered cannons on the smaller

 

ships, to ten dozen of the heavier cannons on the flagship.

 

Individually, their heavier weapons are several times more powerful

 

than a quantum torpedo, and they have shielding to match.

 

"All the destroyers had superb point-defence systems, in the

 

form of anything from a few dozen to several hundred small rapid firing

 

laser-plasma weapons of a few kilotons each. The laser component

 

constitutes almost fifty percent of the weapon power, but this doesn't

 

help us since torpedoes are unshielded. The starfighters were fitted

 

with a similar weapon, calibrated to fire several rounds per second,

 

simulating the shield draining effect of a pulsed phaser."

 

"What is their overall rate of fire?"

 

"The number of weapons, combined with weapon power, equates to

 

an energy delivery in excess of 500 megatons per second for the medium

 

ships, and close to two thousand megatons per second for the larger

 

battleship. We estimate the flagship can deliver 14000 megatons in a

 

single broadside, and sustain a delivery of 3000 megatons per second,

 

excluding missiles and smaller cannons."

 

"Their defences?"

 

"The smaller ships had multiple independent shields with the

 

capability to dissipate about two hundred megatons per second. The

 

larger battleships had shields that could easily absorb five hundred

 

megatons per second or better. which appears consistent with their

 

weapon power ratings. This is sufficient to withstand a sustained

 

bombardment of several quantum torpedoes per second. The shields did

 

appear vulnerable to pulsed weapons though.

 

"Their ships have several secondary power sources, which would

 

theoretically allow the ship to operate different sections in total

 

disregard of damage to other areas of the ship. Their primary power

 

source is located just ahead of the engines, and appears to be a fusion

 

reactor of some sort, but the readings are unlike anything we have come

 

across. No fusion reactor, even one based on matter/anti-matter is

 

supposed to generate such power, which implies a new and intriguing

 

fuel. Our readings also indicate the size of the reactor to be about

 

four hundred meters in diameter, you can see the bulge in the ship's

 

ventral superstructure here. Their reactor alone is nearly the size of

 

our entire ship, and certainly more bulky.

 

"If their independent shields are knocked down, and the sub-

 

space and EM interference can be overcome, we can attempt to beam

 

through their hull, but the number of weapons emplacements and the

 

distributed power capacitors for each emplacement will cause some

 

difficulty. The weapons are individually shielded, albeit lightly, and

 

also have inertial dampening fields to combat the immense recoil they

 

must generate. All of this means it will be extremely difficult to

 

successfully beam anything or anyone aboard one of their ships.

 

The science officer was momentarily distracted by a call on his

 

communicator.

 

"It appears we are having problems transporting the hull

 

samples on-board. The technicians have requested permission to tractor

 

some on-board."

 

Serchencko nodded.

 

"We can join them in the docking bay." He said.

 

The science officer followed Serchencko into the turbo-lift.

 

They arrived at the docking bay just as the tractor beam deposited some

 

scorched and blackened blobs of metal onto the deck of the docking bay.

 

The blackened material was instantly surrounded by a team of

 

technicians, waving their tri-corders over it, and attempting to take

 

micro-samples for lab analysis. One of them turned to Serchencko and

 

the science officer.

 

"This hull was manufactured at the sub-atomic level. We can

 

break it apart, but we'll need an atomic torch to do so. There also

 

appear to be microscopic nodules of neutronium, duranium and three

 

other unidentified trans-uranium alloys embedded in the molecular

 

structure. This was why we couldn't beam it onboard, the safety

 

mechanism in the transporter wouldn't allow us to beam aboard materials

 

it couldn't hope to reproduce on this side.

 

"Also, samples of the plasma gas are consistent with readings

 

of the plasma found in the chromospheres of high luminosity stars. That

 

is why it managed to withstand the temperatures and pressures imparted

 

to it. Any other gas would have been sub-atomically shredded."

 

"Compile all this into a report," Serchencko ordered his

 

science officer, "and transmit it to Starbase Twelve, ASAP."

 

"Yes, sir."

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

 

Polaris' fleet rendezvoused in deep-space several hundred

 

light-years away. He keyed for a fleet status display, and was

 

presented with a pyramidical holo-display of his fleet, with his

 

flagship at the top, the two Imperial Star Destroyers, then the four

 

Victories. The cruisers were below that. One Imperial and three

 

Victories had damage indicators alongside their images, and he keyed

 

for a full status display on each of them. The Imperial Destroyer had

 

lost some of it's starboard turbolaser turrets, the three victories had

 

all lost several turbolaser and quad-laser batteries. Worst of all

 

though, was the loss of five of his precious Defenders, and six more

 

reported damaged. Most of the damage was irrelevant though, and could

 

be repaired, except for one of the Victories, which had several chunks

 

missing in it's outer hull. That would require a shipyard to fix, but

 

the remaining turbolaser mountings could be repaired. Already the

 

damaged portions of the ships were engulfed by maintenance and

 

astromech droids.

 

"Manifest status?" Polaris asked the computer.

 

The holo-display cleared to show him the status of the ship's

 

supply holds. They had used up nearly 20% of their missile stocks so

 

far, and 5% of their Tibanna gas supply. Nothing serious, but they were

 

going to be facing some serious action soon. Food and fuel they had

 

enough for months to come, years if used frugally, and they still

 

carried lots of spare quad-laser turrets and turbolaser turrets.

 

"Despatch shuttles to the industrial centres on ImInWo-Two.

 

They should be operational by now. Order a full resupply of concussion

 

missiles. Send two shuttles to Phoenix for Tibanna gas. Request Phoenix

 

to send additional shuttles with spare turbolaser and quad-laser

 

turrets, plus 400 additional gunners. Find out if there are additional

 

Defenders we can use."

 

Phoenix was a full four days away by hyperspace, which meant

 

eight days before the supplies arrived. The fleet would lie to for two

 

days while repairs were conducted, then they would choose another

 

target to raid, before rendezvousing with the supply shuttles. In the

 

meanwhile, Polaris took in a flood of reports from his Sienar patrol

 

boats. There was a tremendous amount of sub-space traffic between Earth

 

and Starbase Twelve, as well as a lot of traffic between Earth and her

 

allies. There were too many sub-space relay stations and boosters to

 

destroy, but Polaris decided not to make it easy for the Earth forces.

 

He sent out a general order encouraging the destruction of any sub-

 

space or relay station that his patrols came across. Sub-space traffic

 

levels also indicated that Masala had been busy, and raided several

 

smaller colonies close to the large starbase in the Bajoran system. No

 

doubt Masala was stretching resources in this area in preparation of a

 

raid on the Bajoran Starbase, one of the largest in Federation space.

 

Polaris wondered at the stupidity of the Federation humans,

 

placing such heavy reliance in these starbases for sector defense

 

rather than a mobile sector fleet, and then not defending them with

 

significant weapons platforms. Two or three ships jumping in to point-

 

blank range could devastate the station with solar-fusion nuclear

 

missiles and turbolaser barrages before taking significant damage.

 

Polaris recalled the battle of Coruscant, when he had been a lieutenant

 

serving on the Schimaera. The now-deceased Admiral Thrawn had used such

 

tactics to devastating effect on the Republic's Golan II battle-

 

stations, having Star Destroyers jumping directly into attack positions

 

on the powerful stations. At least the Republic had had the sense to

 

defend the stations with a large number of Corellian Gunboats, which

 

had prevented their destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

Serchencko reviewed his fleet defences. Several Akira and

 

Nebula class vessels had been recalled to Earth from surrounding

 

systems, and the painstaking rebuilding of the shipyards had already

 

commenced. He had submitted his resignation to Starfleet, but had been

 

turned down. Starfleet could not afford to lose any officers in time of

 

war. The Earth defence fleet now included Serchencko's own ship, the

 

USS Sovereign, and it's newest sister ship, the USS Missouri, a proud

 

name in Earth naval military history. The two sovereign class frigates

 

were supported by eight Galaxy class frigates, the line it had

 

replaced, and twelve Akira light-cruisers, fifteen old Excelsiors, and

 

a handful of Nebula cruisers. The Excelsiors and Nebulae were hardly

 

warships, rather explorers and science vessels with some military

 

capability. The Galaxy was also really an explorer but nobody could

 

doubt their battle capability, and of course the Sovereign class was

 

the most powerful warship in the Federation arsenal.

 

Serchencko had placed the Akira's in charge of Earth defence,

 

supported by the Excelsiors and Nebula class, which didn't have the

 

mobility or targeting capability of the larger ships. The Sovereigns

 

and the Galaxy's would engage the enemy if they returned, making full

 

use of the Picard maneuvre, with modifications. The Akira's just didn't

 

have the punch to damage the alien warships, and the older ships didn't

 

have the targeting capability. Although they had had extensive software

 

upgrades over the years, the calibration of their torpedo launch tubes

 

and warp cores were not just up to the same standard as on the Akira's,

 

the Galaxies and the Sovereigns. Serchencko had also been assigned four

 

of the tiny new Intrepid class scout ships, which were very fast and

 

highly maneuvrable, but their firepower was significantly less than

 

that of the Akiras.

 

A single Defiant class heavy starfighter had also been made

 

available, although it of course was not fitted with the Romulan

 

cloaking device. The heavy starfighter also packed a small punch, but

 

was easily the most maneuvrable ship-class in the fleet, making it a

 

formidable opponent. Starfleet HQ had also given orders for the

 

deployment of self-replicating minefields, although Serchencko didn't

 

know what use they would be, since the enemy's scanners would surely

 

locate the mines, and then they could just be bypassed with their

 

stardrive. Several additional probes and relays had also been

 

distributed through the system, to attempt to overcome enemy

 

communications jamming.

 

The fleet that had raided Earth two days ago had disappeared,

 

hopefully an indication that they had taken some damage and were forced

 

to attend to this.

 

"I dare you to come back." Serchencko muttered.

 

"Sir?" His helmsman asked.

 

"Nothing." Serchencko answered. "Carry on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"All repairs have been completed, sir." His first officer

 

reported.

 

"The damaged Victory?"

 

"It has 77% turbolaser efficiency on the starboard flank, but

 

fully operational otherwise."

 

"Make for these co-ordinates, launch Defenders and gunboats,

 

then execute attack pattern Sierra Nine."

 

"Yes, sir." The first officer took the data card, and plugged

 

it into his console. He was about to key for a fleet transmit, then

 

hesitated, and glanced at Polaris.

 

"You have permission to speak, lieutenant."

 

"We are attacking their capital world, again, sir?"

 

"Yes. Your concern?"

 

"I have no concern sir. It is just, surely, they will have

 

consolidated their defences, and adjusted their tactics?"

 

"Yes. I fully expect so. We will thus find out what sort of

 

tactics to expect from them in future engagements, when we have to

 

defend our worlds from them. You will notice lieutenant, that Sierra

 

Nine allows for hyperspace withdrawal, and all ships are to maintain

 

updated calculations for a quick system exit, followed by a Jump to the

 

rendezvous point, indicated on the card."

 

"Ah, yes sir. I hadn't read the entire card yet."

 

"Carry on."

 

The officer transmitted the fleet-wide order, and after a few

 

seconds, the short jump, only four hundred light years, was calculated.

 

The fleet jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris was taking no chances, and the first jump-off point was

 

1.5 light years out from the Federation capital. His eight carrack and

 

lancer cruisers, and a handful of gunboats, were deployed to points a

 

few hundred AU out from the system, from where they would provide

 

detailed sensory information to the main fleet. The seven Star

 

Destroyers and two and a half squadrons of TIE Defenders would

 

constitute the raiding force. As soon as his ad-hoc sensor net was in

 

place, Polaris ordered a second Jump, to a point one hundredth of a

 

light year out from the system. This would be their attack jump-off

 

point, a mere fraction of a second by hyperspace, but several minutes

 

by the aliens distortion drive.

 

By the time they arrived, his cruisers had developed a detailed

 

picture of the system.

 

On his tactical display, a holographic map of the system

 

revealed all major planetary bodies with motion vectors, ship

 

movements, grey areas indicated mine-fields, and blue markers indicated

 

signs of technology. The third planet and it's moon was saturated with

 

blue technology markers, as was the fourth planet, the larger

 

asteroids, and several moons in the outer system. Many of them had red

 

underscores indicating damage from the previous raid. Judging by the

 

frenzy of ship movement in the system, his approach had not gone

 

unnoticed.

 

"Execute Sierra Nine." he calmly ordered.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sovereign and four supporting galaxy frigates swept out

 

past Mars orbit, where a group of Akiras and Excelsiors were in orbit,

 

supported by two Galaxy class frigates. A larger group of ships,

 

Excelsiors, Nebulas, Akiras, two more Galaxies and the Missouri,

 

another Sovereign class, remained in Earth orbit. The enemy was

 

attacking installations all over the outer edge of the Solar System.

 

The first one to go had been Charon, followed by Nereid, Triton,

 

Proteus and Larissa. Serchencko had set as his first target the damaged

 

Victory Destroyer from the earlier attack. The Victory was bombarding

 

the mining installations on Galatea, a moon of Neptune.

 

As they came close and the Galaxies initiated their attack run,

 

the Victory vanished. It reappeared in orbit of Sycorax, a moon of

 

Uranus, halfway around the Solar System. Serchencko swore, and diverted

 

his attack force to Saturn. It would take him more than twenty seconds

 

to get to Uranus, and the Imperials were already bombarding all the

 

moons, which fortunately had been evacuated after the last attack. In

 

seconds, the Imperials had removed all traces of human expansion from

 

the Outer Solar System.

 

Serchencko arrived in the vicinity of Saturn just as the first

 

Imperial ships started flickering in. An Imperator Destroyer was

 

bombarding the recently abandoned research facilities on Phoebe, and he

 

sent his four Galaxies in after it. They sprinted right up to within

 

less than one light-second, disengaged warp, and opened fire

 

immediately. The first volley of phaser fire went wide, the Imperator

 

accelerating at an angle towards it's attackers, and broadcasting

 

broad-spectrum static across a wide variety of microwave and radio

 

frequencies, as well as sub-space, effectively jamming the targeting

 

sensors of the Galaxies. The phaser tracked in closer however, as the

 

tactical officer compensated for the jamming, and the space between the

 

four galaxies and the Imperator was cris-crossed by innumerable

 

flickers of red, green and blue beams. The red phaser-fire from the

 

four galaxies pinned the Imperator, which looked like a fireworks

 

display all on it's own, spitting green and blue fire in all

 

directions.

 

Serchencko couldn't help but be impressed by the sheer volume

 

of fire the huge ship was laying down. Large green energy bolts were

 

streaking past all the galaxies, which were accelerating hard in a

 

split-s formation, many of them smacking into the shields of the four

 

frigates. Closer to the Imperator, dozens of blue energy-bolts tracked

 

incoming photon torpedoes, which were hard pressed to lock on and

 

intercept the hard accelerating destroyer in the high-jamming

 

environment. The four galaxies swept past the destroyer, two on each

 

side, with the destroyer powering through the middle of the formation.

 

The destroyer suddenly cut it's engines, and rotated on it's axis of

 

motion. As it's nose rotated through a point directly in line with one

 

of the galaxies the entire destroyer seemed to be engulfed in green as

 

it fired a full dorsal broadside.

 

The broadside smashed into the galaxy, blowing it's shields

 

away in one furious assault. The four ships streaked away from the

 

destroyer at warp, three of them curved around for another attack run,

 

and the fourth galaxy, visibly damaged, sprinted for the safety of

 

Earth orbit, while another galaxy left earth orbit and raced outwards

 

to join in the attack. The destroyer in the meanwhile had completed

 

it's axial rotation, and was now powering further away from Saturn,

 

into open space. Behind it, the other Imperials were apparently

 

ignoring the action, using the opportunity to sterilise the Saturnian

 

moons to the state they were in five hundred years earlier.

 

Serchencko mentally shrugged, that couldn't be helped.

 

Meanwhile the experiment continued. The three galaxies once again cut

 

their warp drives at extreme phaser range, and made another run on the

 

Imperator. Again space was bisected by hundreds of red, green and blue

 

bolts, and traversed by missiles and torpedoes from the four duelling

 

ships. The destroyer attempted another dorsal broadside, but even as

 

the destroyer fired it's broadside, they were sprinting away at low

 

warp, leaving the plasma energy bolts to track through empty space.

 

"Now." Serchencko ordered.

 

The Sovereign, which had been coursing along at low warp

 

observing the battle surged towards the Imperator. The huge ship rolled

 

away from them even as they fired their torpedoes from a range of only

 

eighty thousand kilometers. Fired from warp 2, three of the torpedoes

 

streaked past the target 15 milliseconds later, the other nine all hit

 

the target, four on the ventral shields, three on the port shield, and

 

two on the dorsal shield.

 

"Come around, and make another pass." Serchencko ordered.

 

The Sovereign turned hard over, but the galaxies were already

 

on their way back in. Unable to target accurately from warp, the

 

galaxies switched to impulse at one light-second and opened fire with

 

phasers and torpedoes. The phasers raked across the upper decks of the

 

destroyer leaving long traces of red-hot hull-metal. The torpedoes were

 

streaking towards the ship, fired from impulse they would take at least

 

two seconds to traverse the distance. They never got there. Even as the

 

leading torpedo was destroyed by the point-defences the ship vanished,

 

leaving the galaxies firing at empty space.

 

"Where'd she go?" Serchencko enquired.

 

"Off the scope, haven't picked her up yet. Wait, there she is.

 

Range point one light years. Travel time was two point eight seconds."

 

"More than twenty five minutes away at max-warp!" Serchencko

 

swore. "Okay, where are the others?"

 

The other Imperial ships had long since jumped to the Jovian

 

system. Serchencko didn't bother asking what was left of all the

 

various Saturnian projects. Jupiter was ten seconds away at warp, and

 

with the quantity and size of the Federation bases on the Jovian moon,

 

the Imperials would be busy there for a long time. Thebe, Io and Europa

 

had been reduced to bleak landscapes, and Ganymede and Callisto didn't

 

have much left either.

 

"Take us to Jupiter. We'll try and meet them at the outer

 

moons."

 

The Sovereign and the four supporting galaxies sped for the

 

moons Pasiphae and Sinope, the two outermost moons of Jupiter. There

 

wasn't much on these moons though, just observation posts,

 

communications centres, and a few small commercial operations. All

 

residents had been evacuated in the last few days.

 

"Try and isolate that damaged Victory destroyer."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Most of the moons were close enough together for the Imperials

 

to travel directly to them, and they tracked the likely destination of

 

the previously damaged Victory, trying to head it off. On the edge of

 

the view-screen, one of the other Victories was suddenly highlighted by

 

two detonations. It had stumbled into a cloaked minefield. The area

 

around the Victory was suddenly alive with movement, as the other mines

 

activated their thrusters and angled towards it. However, the moment

 

they activated their thrusters, the Victory's point defences opened up,

 

and started clearing a path for itself. Three mines made it through and

 

detonated against the shields of the large ship, but the rest were

 

destroyed before they could get close, their thrusters not powerful

 

enough to propel them into detonation range before being shot down.

 

"Designate that ship as our next target." Serchencko ordered.

 

The Victory's shields had been drastically reduced by the mines.

 

The galaxies once again led the attack, switching to impulse

 

just short of their target, and opening fire with everything. However,

 

even with all four of them, they could only launch a few torpedoes at a

 

time, which were easily shot down at their slow impulse speeds, but

 

their phasers danced all over the ship, quickly reducing it's shields.

 

"We'll have to try and program the torpedoes for evasive

 

manoeuvring." Serchencko muttered. On the view-screen he watched as the

 

Victory's shields dropped to almost nothing. One of the galaxies, which

 

already had taken a few earlier hits against the Imperator, broke away

 

from the action as it's own shields were caved in.

 

"Now." Serchencko ordered.

 

The Sovereign swept in, but never got a chance to fire it's

 

torpedoes. The Victory had long since had enough, and flickered into

 

nothingness before they could launch their torpedoes. It must have been

 

preparing to jump even before they started their attack run.

 

"Locate the other Victory." Serchencko ordered.

 

His small force, now reduced to three galaxies and his own

 

ship, vectored towards the location of the Victory he had been watching

 

for. Serchencko was surprised to see that it's damage had been

 

significantly reduced in the two days since the last battle. No matter,

 

he thought.

 

The three galaxies swept towards the Victory, which immediately

 

started powering for open space. It obviously had no intention of

 

facing the Federation ships in battle. The skirmish barely started

 

before it too flickered out of the system. Serchencko noted that it had

 

taken them nearly three seconds to plot the jump of one tenth of a

 

light year. Well, assuming time for verbal orders and confirmations, it

 

would probably be less than that, but three seconds was a benchmark for

 

now.

 

"Take the other Victory destroyer, here, the one orbiting

 

Carme."

 

The Victory ignored their approach, and kept up it's

 

bombardment of the sparse facilities on the Jovian moon. The galaxies

 

engaged the impulse drives, and opened fire on the ship. The Victory

 

returned their fire.

 

'Good, it isn't running.' Serchencko thought. The Victory's

 

shields were not as powerful as the Imperator of earlier, and soon it's

 

shields were beginning to show signs of wear. However, it had been

 

concentrating all it's fire on one of the attacking galaxies, ignoring

 

the other two, and the outgunned galaxy was forced to warp away before

 

it's shields caved in. The Victory turned on a second galaxy, firing

 

two broadsides in quick succession at it. The galaxy's shields wavered,

 

but held. The Victory's shields were almost gone.

 

"Now." Serchencko ordered.

 

They streaked down into the melee and the Victory, seeing them

 

coming with split second warning, rolled away from it's attackers,

 

accelerating like crazy towards the moon's surface rather than open

 

space. The tactic caught Serchencko slightly by surprise, and he

 

ordered a speed reduction, and a course change. The Sovereign fired

 

it's torpedoes after the fleeing Victory, doing less than warp 1, and

 

the torpedoes streaked down towards the Imperial ship. Going barely

 

faster than light, the torpedoes caught up with the Victory in a

 

second, but scored no hits! Two of the torpedoes had detonated after

 

hitting the nearly solid wall of ions being ejected from the Victory's

 

huge engines, and the rest flickered past within a few kilometers of

 

the Victory, which was turning at a tremendous rate of acceleration,

 

and many detonated wide of their target.

 

Then Serchencko realised their strategy. The Victory had passed

 

within bare kilometers of the moons's surface, and was being helped in

 

it's turn by the gravity of the large moon. Not only that, but it was

 

powering right through the thin ammonia and sulphur atmosphere of the

 

moon, and some of the torpedoes had detonated on colliding with the

 

upper levels of this atmosphere. The Victory swung around the moon bare

 

kilometers above it's surface, leaving a trail of ammonia and sulphur

 

flames several hundred kilometers long behind it. It appeared to be

 

totally unimpeded by the atmosphere it was tearing through. The

 

Federation ships warped around the moon themselves, keeping clear of

 

it's thin atmosphere, attempting to cut off the Victory. Serchencko

 

fired a second volley of torpedoes at the ship, which was now streaking

 

clear of the moon at a significant fraction of light-speed.

 

The twelve torpedoes from the sovereign streaked after the

 

ship, fired from low warp, they would easily catch up to the Destroyer.

 

Five of them impacted on the ventral shields, the rest passed through

 

empty space. The Victory had escaped. On the view-screen, several

 

pieces of metal could be seen glowing where the ship had been. They had

 

at least scored some damage. Four Imperial ships remained in the

 

system. They were now attacking the bases in the asteroid belt. The

 

asteroid belt was not particularly dense or violent, but Serchencko

 

hesitated to take his force directly through it.

 

"Head for Mars." He said.

 

At least they could support the ships in Martian orbit and

 

prevent the huge Martian population from coming under serious

 

bombardment. The Imperials had other ideas though. Serchencko was

 

barely halfway to Mars, having to go outside the orbital plane of the

 

Solar System to avoid the asteroid belt, when the Imperials changed

 

strategy.

 

All four of them suddenly appeared only two planetary diameters

 

above Earth (about thirty thousand kilometers), right in amongst the

 

forces orbiting Earth. All four of them fired a full broadside into the

 

USS Missouri, before any of the ships there could respond. The Missouri

 

somehow emerged from this barrage, huge sections of it's hull missing,

 

no sign of it's shields, and with only one warp nacelle. Bare seconds

 

later, it was struck by a second broadside from all the Imperial ships,

 

which were only now coming under fire from the other ships in Earth

 

orbit. They traded fire with the ships nearby for a few seconds, then

 

flickered into hyperspace. In orbit, there was no trace of the

 

Missouri, and several smaller ships had been damaged in that brief

 

exchange. The two Imperator class destroyers which had participated in

 

the attack had delivered massive broadsides, well over a gigaton

 

apiece, to whichever ships had been close by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The raid was shorter than Polaris had expected. The enemy

 

brought out their big guns immediately, and had used their infernal

 

distortion drive to good effect. Three or four enemy ships would warp

 

in then stop and engage them with phaser barrages, which were unlikely

 

to cause major hull-damage, but the rapid-fire weapons served to

 

deplete their shields faster than a heavy blunt attack would. Then a

 

fourth ship would come sweeping past at superluminal velocities,

 

launching torpedoes. The torpedo accuracy from this speed was hardly

 

anything to write home about, but with already severely depleted

 

shields the Imperial ships were powerless to prevent damage. The ships

 

which attacked with conventional drive mechanisms took some damage

 

themselves, but always fled at faster-than-light before the damage

 

added up to anything significant.

 

Polaris was forced to cut the attack short before taking

 

significant damage on any of his own ships. He needed to save them for

 

the crucial part of the campaign, which was approaching. The Imperial

 

fleet jumped out, leaving the enemy to celebrate their beating off of

 

his task force. Albeit at the cost of several damaged ships and one

 

lost warship.

 

"Send a cruiser to meet the supply shuttles, tell them to meet

 

us at Iminwo-four."

 

"Yes sir."

 

They would cut their raiding short, and spend some time at

 

ImInwo-four repairing the minor damage they had sustained. Polaris

 

retreated from the bridge. He needed to think, to work out some

 

strategy for coping with the enemy's distortion drive strafing runs.

 

Obviously he needed to set up some sort of defensive screen, preventing

 

them from coming in so fast, but how to deploy such a screen fast

 

enough to make a difference?

 

He spent the entire six hours of the trip back to the world

 

that used to be known as Fed99 in his quarters, reviewing military

 

strategies of ages gone by, and attempting to apply them to his current

 

situation. A few ideas glimmered, but he would wait for Masala. They

 

could hammer up something between them he was sure. The manufacturing

 

facilities on Imperial Industrial World Four was only now beginning to

 

produce results, which was fortunate, since he could task them to

 

produce whatever he needed.

 

 

 

 

 

"I too returned early for that reason," Masala was saying. "The

 

first few raids were successful, but the enemy phasers are devastating

 

to our shields. They fire in rapid pulses which are insignificant in

 

themselves, but the pulse effect reduces the shields faster than the

 

generators can keep up with. These attacks place their ships in range

 

of turbolaser fire, but we can't counter the stardrive attack runs

 

which follow.

 

"I did notice that their weapon accuracy is significantly

 

poorer while they are using their distortion drives. Their accuracy

 

deteriorates even further if we broadcast sub-space static. At sub-

 

light, they use EM sensors to enhance their targeting ability, but we

 

can change our jamming frequencies as fast as they switch targeting

 

frequencies."

 

[[Author's note: EM sensors for targeting in Federation is

 

canon, see Mike Wong's pages for episodes and TM details.]]

 

"I think I may have come up with one or two ideas." Polaris

 

said, "We can use some of our light and medium turbolasers to set up a

 

turbolaser flak-barrage at close range to us, but in the direction of

 

the incoming warp ship. Their torpedoes come in along a straight line,

 

and will collide with the sun-bursts. This should effectively screen us

 

from getting hit."

 

"A flak-burst disperses within point seven seconds." Masala

 

warned.

 

"Yes, but this can be enhanced by firing the turbolaser

 

batteries in thirds, separating each third by point seven seconds,

 

providing a nearly continuous wall of sun-burst coverage."

 

"Their ships can still fire their torpedoes at extreme ranges

 

and bank away before coming into our weapons range. This might serve to

 

screen us from their torpedoes, reducing the rate at which we take

 

damage, but their ships will suffer no damage whatsoever.

 

"We could try intercept-jumps, but if they operate in large

 

groups, an intercept jump would be tantamount to suicide. Our ships

 

couldn't hope to make a second jump before being swamped. What we need

 

is something that can neutralise their distortion drives or a weapon

 

fast enough to intercept their ships. We don't have an interdictor

 

cruiser handy, but I would have loved to try one of them."

 

"There is no indication that an interdictor would work on their

 

distortion drives." Polaris answered, "the only weapon we have which is

 

faster than their ships are hyperspace missiles."

 

"The Galaxy Gun made use of hyperdrive motivators on it's

 

missiles, but we don't have any of those missiles available." Masala

 

raised his eyebrows, wondering what Polaris was leading up to.

 

"We do have the motivators though," Polaris said, indicating a

 

hologram of a probe-droid. "A probe droid's hyperspace motivator is

 

small enough to fit into a heavy concussion missile, if the missiles

 

fuel tanks are removed. Removing the fuel tanks means they can't

 

maneuvre, so they will have to jump the instant they are launched, and

 

their fuses timed to detonate immediately afterwards. If the detonation

 

is close enough ahead of the target, it won't have time to avoid the

 

detonation."

 

Masala rubbed his chin. "It can work. How many such missiles

 

can we modify?"

 

"Most of our ships carry upwards of twenty probe droids. My

 

crews have already started stripping them, and modifying the missiles.

 

I have ordered one of the manufacturing centres here to manufacture

 

additional probe-droid hyperdrive motivators, and I am expecting a

 

shipment of additional concussion missiles from phoenix in two days. We

 

can have several hundred missiles modified in the space of a few days."

 

"Are their any disadvantages." Masala asked.

 

"Only the usual ones. The motivators cannot be used in too

 

close a proximity to powerful gravity wells, so they can be fired from

 

orbit, but not from the planetary surface. The minimum jump range is

 

about a hundred million kilometers, so they cannot be used too close to

 

the launch vehicle, but two or three ships working in tandem can cover

 

each other. It should serve to deplete their shields at least, or cause

 

some hull damage if the shields are down."

 

"I have managed to do some calculation on enemy maneuvrability

 

at faster than light-speed," Masala grinned. "They can change their

 

motion vector at the rate of thirty degrees of turn per one second of

 

flight time, and apparently can't rotate their hulls without changing

 

their motion vector. So the direction they're facing is always the

 

direction they're moving. They can apparently move forward or reverse,

 

but not laterally with respect to the alignment of their warp engines."

 

He fiddled with his padd for a few seconds, and turned the

 

screen for Polaris to see.

 

"I would suggest firing several missiles as a group, into a

 

sphere proportional to their absolute velocity relative to the local

 

space fabric. At a range of a hundred million kilometers, if the enemy

 

is doing ten times light speed, he can cover 900 kilometers before the

 

missile arrives.

 

"If we target a position more than 2000km ahead of the enemy,

 

we can launch ten or twelve concussion missiles into a small sphere say

 

ten kilometers in diameter, and the enemy will have only milliseconds

 

warning before detonation. This will give the concussion shock-waves

 

enough time to spread through the entire sphere."

 

"The enemy targeting deteriorates rapidly at anything over five

 

times light-speed, so they are unlikely to go faster than that. If they

 

do accelerate to significantly faster speeds, we can still have a

 

reasonable expectation of damage by increasing the size of the targeted

 

area proportionally. A missile detonating several thousand kilometers

 

directly ahead of their ship will still give them less than half a

 

seconds warning."

 

"This should discourage them from their high-speed attack

 

runs." Polaris nodded.

 

 

 

 

 

Four days later, the Sienars reported that the Federation had

 

by now assembled more than one hundred and ten vessels at Starbase

 

Twelve, and there was significant activity there. He had sent two of

 

the badly damaged Victory class ships back to Phoenix for shipyard

 

repairs, expecting them to be back in several days. Instead, to his

 

credit, Jenneke had merely returned two brand new Victory Star

 

Destroyers, with the crews of the damaged ships. It appeared that ship

 

production was proceeding smoothly. Masala had managed to replace a

 

badly damaged Imperator Star Destroyer with a newly completed

 

Destroyer. The three damaged ships were being overhauled in the

 

shipyards, and the news was that a second Imperator was nearing

 

completion, and two more Victory class Star destroyers.

 

Along with the fresh ships, had come extensive supplies.

 

Additional mines, concussion missiles, a tanker load of compressed

 

Tibanna gas, and several shuttle loads of spare parts, positronics,

 

turrets, nefridium and enough nutrient base to fill up their supply

 

tanks.

 

The only worrying note was that one of the two task forces,

 

either Masala's or Polaris', would have to return home in the next

 

fifteen days, with no replacement ships to come. The Empire was

 

preparing to abandon the colony to their own devices. It had its own

 

problems with the Republic inspectors demanding to know where all the

 

Imperial task forces were deployed. Thus far they had been stalled by

 

the return of the forces defending the wormhole - only a cruiser had

 

been left there - and hopefully the imminent return of more ships would

 

allay their fears of Imperial expansion elsewhere. They still had no

 

knowledge of the wormhole the Imperials had discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

Picard was eager to be doing something. The mood in the base

 

was grim, the reports of several raids all over Federation space and

 

also on allied worlds had stirred everyone up. At this remote outpost,

 

they were unable to do anything about the defence of their respective

 

home worlds, but were keen to take the fight to the enemy.

 

"Gentlemen," Admiral Sergei called the briefing to order, "Up

 

to now, the enemy has only faced us on his terms, and withdrawn when

 

battle conditions did not suit him."

 

"Cowards." A Klingon voice denounced.

 

"We know they have two task forces, it is not known whether

 

they have any more. They also seem reluctant to split up these task

 

forces into smaller attack groups, or even single ships. However, we

 

are working on the assumption that the enemy has enough ships to defend

 

all five planets they have stolen. However, given the speeds of the

 

enemy's stardrive, it is quite feasible for them to cycle their ships

 

through all the planets in short order.

 

"To counter this, we will be conducting simultaneous attacks on

 

each of the five worlds held by the enemy, so that his resources cannot

 

be brought to focus at any one or two planets. The fleet assembled here

 

will split into five equal groups, but initially all will proceed on

 

this route, ostensibly as if we are one large group. The attack groups

 

will split off from the main force at optimum points along this route,

 

timed so that all five attacks will commence at the same time.

 

"You have all received information packages regarding the

 

enemy's known weapons and strategies. Their armaments in brief, consist

 

of long-range nuclear missiles of varying sizes, all sub-warp. Medium

 

range weapons are turbolasers, a superheated stellar-plasma, the

 

temperature of the plasma is equivalent to that at the surface of a

 

star with luminosity 2.1, except that it is fired in a highly focused

 

bolt, at significant relativistic speeds. The plasma is contained in a

 

mobile field, which is fired with the weapon, and can discharge at a

 

pre-determined distance to generate a plasma flak-burst. Weapons

 

firepower ranges from several kilotons per blast for the small rapid-

 

fire point defence cannons, to several hundred megatons per blast for

 

the largest cannons, and an average of about thirty megatons for medium

 

sized cannons.

 

"The smaller ships can sustain firing rates equivalent to

 

between 100 and 300 megatons per second, with shielding to match, and

 

the three large ships have firing rates ranging from 600 megatons per

 

second, to more than 2000 megatons per second, with shielding to match.

 

"This appears impressive outwardly, but bear in mind that the

 

total firepower is an accumulation of several dozen small cannons, not

 

one big gun. However, any ship caught in a sustained fire volley, or

 

hit by several of these weapons in quick succession, will sustain

 

lethal damage. The enemy can also fire these weapons in a synchronised

 

broadside, ranging from an estimated 3000 megatons for a lateral

 

broadside, to a possible 14000 megatons for a ship caught in their

 

forward firing cone. The ship is designed so that nearly all it's

 

weapons can come to bear on a target dead ahead, and about half on

 

targets to the side.

 

"The weakest cone of fire is along a narrow cone to the rear of

 

the ship, but the engines output a nearly solid stream of densely

 

packed ions at very high velocities, and even a shielded vessel will

 

suffer severe damage if it passes directly through this exhaust stream

 

at close range to the enemy ship. Unshielded torpedoes cannot hope to

 

survive against this exhaust stream.

 

"Their shields are susceptible to pulsed phase-disruption

 

weapons, but are significantly tougher than our own shields in raw

 

power. The most successful tactic employed against them was devised by

 

Captain Serchencko of the USS Sovereign. He employed three or more

 

ships to engage the Imperials on Impulse using full pulsed-phaser

 

barrages until their shields were reduced. The ships would then

 

withdraw at warp velocities after sustaining minimal damage, and then

 

would make a warp-fly-by firing torpedoes into the unshielded hull.

 

Phasers only have nominal thermal effects on their hull, but torpedoes

 

make an impact.

 

"They do not have weapons which can pursue a warp-target, and

 

neither do their ships make use of warp drive. Our tactic will be to

 

employ ships in hunter packs of three or four, to engage the enemy at

 

impulse speeds and reduce their shields. The ships which are able to

 

target from warp velocities will do the torpedo attack runs. Because of

 

the enemy's weapon power, all ship commanders are implored to make use

 

of full evasive maneuvring tactics during the impulse attack run, and

 

if any damage is sustained, to immediately withdraw at warp until your

 

shields have fully recharged.

 

"Certain ships in each group will be tasked with troop-carrying

 

duties, and will attempt to remain out of the line of fire until an

 

opportunity can be found to land the troops on the enemy planets. That

 

is all, gentlemen, go out and good luck."

 

There was a chorus of grunts and acknowledgements as the group

 

dispersed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris was seated in his command chair on the bridge of the

 

Sceptre. Before him was a holo-display of the enemy fleet. The enemy

 

fleet was more than two light years away from him, and three light

 

years out of Starbase Twelve. It comprised of a full one hundred and

 

twenty two vessels led by the legendary Sovereign class frigate, USS

 

Enterprise, and supported by several Akiras, Vor'chas, Galors and

 

Marauders. It was also host to a number of smaller ships of the

 

Excelsior, Intrepid and Bird of Prey variety. Blue cubes denoted the

 

suspected positions of cloaked warships of the Defiant or D'Deridex

 

class. Every once in a while a blue square would flash briefly, to

 

indicate a confirmed triangulation of one of the cloaked vessels. The

 

enemy fleet was ostensibly heading to ImInWo-Two forty light years

 

away, at a speed of 656 times light-speed. This speed would mean a

 

journey of more than 22 days. Polaris knew that before then either he

 

or Masala would be ordered back home.

 

The huge enemy fleet was spread out in a cylindrical formation

 

spanning two light-days, about 340AU. This put four minutes of flight

 

time between the leading ships and the tail of the formation. The fleet

 

formation was typical of age-old water-borne fleets, with the warships

 

most likely to be troop carriers in the centre, surrounded in three

 

dimensions by cruisers of various designations.

 

The cloaked ships and smaller fast scouts formed a skirmishing

 

line in the outermost ring, and actively scanned ahead of and all

 

around the fleet for possible Imperial traps. The few dedicated

 

battleships in the fleet, the Enterprise, three Galaxy class starships

 

and a Klingon Negh'var battleship were all formed up in the centre of

 

the formation, mixed in with some of the Romulan D'deridex battleships,

 

which were the most likely troop carrying ships.

 

The Federation ships watched the Imperial fleet and their

 

patrol boats carefully, but two light years was more than 3 hours

 

journey even for their fastest ships. The Imperials could easily track

 

the fleet at it's snail's pace for several hours, even a full day,

 

before having to leapfrog ahead to their next observation point.

 

Polaris had allowed them to make one sortie against his scouts with a

 

group of cloaked warships. Once the warships were an hour out from the

 

fleet, he had attacked the group viciously, with missiles, mines, and

 

aggressive intercept-jumps. At the cloaked ships speeds of 3000c, he

 

would jump to a point maximum 3AU almost directly ahead of them, and

 

saturate their projected path with flak-bursts, turbolaser fire, and

 

nuclear missile detonations. At this speed, the cloaked ships would

 

sweep by in half a second, giving them almost no time to take evasive

 

action.

 

Firing flak-bursts into their projected path, he could set up a

 

wall of superheated plasma or nuclear detonations, and more often than

 

not the speeding ship would smash into the wall, eating away at their

 

shields each time. Working in pairs or threes his ships were able to

 

positively track a cloaked vessel under power at ranges of several

 

tenths of a light year. Cloaked ships in general could be tracked at

 

ranges of up to 2 light years with 60% likelihood of a return signal

 

every ten seconds. The cloaked ships which proved most difficult to

 

track were those which shut their engines down, and lay quiet, or

 

coasted along without power. Such vessels would only be detected at

 

ranges of a few million kilometers with an active scan, making them

 

extremely hard to find.

 

Polaris was disappointed with the poor results of his jump-

 

intercepts. A jump-intercept was an easy task for a Star Destroyer. It

 

was merely a variation of an age-old jump-ambush tactic used commonly

 

in battle situations. A Star Destroyer would designate a target, micro-

 

jump into attack position from a few hundred million km or more away,

 

and a devastating computer synchronised broadside would be delivered to

 

the unsuspecting target. The initial broadside was always computer

 

synchronised, since the computer could align the turrets even before

 

the jump, knowing exactly where it was jumping to. Any micro-alignment

 

on the far side would be done in the first microseconds of arrival, and

 

the broadside delivered microseconds later. No human intervention was

 

required beyond target designation. Doing the same thing to a warp

 

target was hardly any different except that the 'target' was a conical

 

space a few kilometers in diameter directly ahead of the speeding ship.

 

The problem was the attacks seemed to have little or no impact

 

on the Federation ships. The energies released at the velocity of

 

collision should have been immense, but the Federation ships rarely

 

showed any sign of damage, even after smashing straight through several

 

detonations. The Imperial ships would then be stranded there for

 

anything up to ten seconds preparing for the jump to safety, in which

 

time the warp ship would often turn back and make a strafing run, or

 

even two strafing runs. The counter to this was for more than one ship

 

to make the jump-intercept, maximising the chances of damage to the

 

target, and then to protect each other during the strafing runs.

 

It took several minutes of systematic attacks to destroy only

 

two of the cloaked scouts, the others made it back to the fleet. The

 

Federation ships didn't try another foray after that.

 

A buzz warned him that Masala's first raid was about to start.

 

At a word, the holo-display cleared, and was replaced by a picture of

 

Starbase Twelve. Four enemy cruisers were on patrol in the system, and

 

the Starbase itself was in orbit of a gas giant. On the display,

 

Polaris saw each of the four Federation cruisers suddenly flanked with

 

two Star Destroyers with Imperial cruisers in support. Seconds later,

 

only Imperial ships remained. The attack had been sudden, brutal, and

 

totally overwhelming. Masala's ships briefly assembled at the outskirts

 

of the system, and ten seconds later all seven Destroyers jumped into

 

point-blank attack range of the Starbase. The Starbase opened fire with

 

pulsed-phasers, and started launching torpedoes, but faced with the

 

combined firepower of seven Destroyers surrounding it, it's shields

 

crumpled in seconds, opening the way for a barrage of nuclear missiles.

 

The Starbase disappeared in the combined detonations of more

 

than two dozen enhanced thermo-nuclear explosions. For a second Polaris

 

wondered why the Destroyers were still firing their turbolasers, then

 

spotted the signatures of two Romulan warships, which had been lying

 

quietly in close proximity to the Starbase. The moment they powered up

 

their engines though, they had been spotted. One of the Victories took

 

several photon torpedo hits, even as the two Romulan vessels were

 

shattered by the impact of dozens of turbolaser bolts. The holo-display

 

highlighted a Victory with a damage indicator. Masala's fleet

 

disappeared, the Victory taking a few seconds longer to jump, obviously

 

calculating a longer jump to a point where it could lick it's wounds.

 

The Federation supply line had been cut.

 

Imperial sub-space communications had a range of close to 100

 

light years in ideal conditions, and was almost instantaneous at ranges

 

of up to three or four light years. So it was almost immediately that

 

Masala confirmed the results of the raid. The Victory had been ordered

 

back to one of the Industrial worlds until the droids could repair the

 

damage. The Federation signals had a time lag of about three minutes

 

per light-year, and it would still be a few minutes before the dying

 

gasps of the Starbase reached the Federation fleet.

 

"Alert primary gun-crews to take up their stations. Secondary

 

gun-crews to stand down for the next three hours." The Star Destroyers

 

maintained three sets of gun-crews, with a watch-rotation of eight

 

hours each. The primary crew of any watch would be on thirty second

 

stand-by, the secondary crew would be on three-minute stand-by, and the

 

third crew would usually be sleeping.

 

On Polaris' ship-status display, he saw that the gun-crews had

 

all reached their stations. He selected three cruisers in the tail end

 

of the Federation formation.

 

"Execute."

 

His fleet jumped to intercept positions only slightly more than

 

one second ahead of the three cruisers. It was a dangerous tactic to

 

execute on a large fleet, where so many ships were in close support of

 

each other.

 

His ships dropped into normal space, five ships to each cruiser

 

he was targeting. Nuclear missiles were launched to bracketing

 

positions, and turbolasers fired down the path of the oncoming cruiser.

 

The cruiser took a full second to respond, banking sharply to the left,

 

directly into the path of the already detonating nuclear missiles. The

 

starship swept past Polaris' position, it's shields knocked down, and

 

losing velocity, but still under way. Ahead of them, the convoy was

 

breaking ranks, with ships turning back to engage the Star Destroyers

 

before they could jump away. The navigator had already entered target

 

co-ordinates, and the computers would have the Jump solution in

 

seconds, the targeting computers were also tracking the incoming warp

 

ships, which were curving around onto attack vectors.

 

"Hyper-missiles loaded." An operator called.

 

"Fire at will." Polaris ordered.

 

The missiles were launched out of the tubes as normal, primed

 

to detonate in one tenth of a second. The missiles immediately hyper-

 

jumped, covering the distance to the incoming warp ships in three ten

 

thousandths of a second. Fractions of a second after their arrival,

 

they detonated. The missiles had been spread out, only one or two

 

missiles per incoming target. The aim of the exercise being to test the

 

weapon, Polaris was not seriously expecting to destroy any ships,

 

merely to deter their attacks.

 

 

 

"Main hyperdrive motivator is fully recycled and jump-solution

 

has been downloaded."

 

Polaris waited to see the effects of his fire before

 

authorising the jump. The incoming vessels were obviously surprised by

 

the nuclear detonations directly in their path, and many broke off

 

their attacks, those that kept coming were targeted with additional

 

missiles, forcing them to take evasive action.

 

"Alright, Jump." Polaris authorised.

 

 

 

 

 

On his view-screen, Picard watched as the fleet reformed. The

 

rear end of the formation was in disarray, and the ships were warping

 

back into position.

 

"Did we lose any ships?" He asked.

 

"No, sir." The sensor operator informed him, "Sensors indicate

 

a few ships with minimal or no shielding, nothing more than

 

superficial damage. A Marauder reports minor damage to it's warp core,

 

but it can keep up for now."

 

"The weapon used?"

 

"Enhanced solar fusion detonations. Sensor logs show metal in

 

the area microseconds before the detonations. Presumably the weapon was

 

either cloaked and remotely activated, or it was trans-located to those

 

points in space immediately prior to detonation, perhaps by a variation

 

of their stardrive."

 

"Rapidly deployed mines? Presumably they cannot launch an

 

attack directly while their stardrive is engaged, which implies that

 

real-space is as cloaked to them as they are to it, or that the speed

 

differentials are just too great. However, they obviously can deploy

 

weapons such as mines or probes with the same mechanism, and fast

 

enough to target ships at warp." Riker stated.

 

"Not necessarily," Picard answered, "It took them a few seconds

 

to deploy that weapon, presumably they needed to track the warp vector,

 

calculate an intercept, then launch the weapon. Given that we have

 

noticed significant hesitations of several seconds before their

 

stardrive is engaged, perhaps the weapon has a limited targeting

 

capability. Pass the word for the fleet to employ random evasive

 

maneuvres when under attack. No more than a few seconds on any vector,

 

and see if we can time their targeting delay."

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris watched the development with interest. The Federation

 

fleet had pinpointed the weakness in his attack pattern after only

 

minimal use of the missiles which had been converted into hyperspace

 

deployed mines. From here on out it was a guessing game. He still had

 

the advantage of being able to dictate the terms of battle though.

 

"Place a few missiles in the general path of the fleet. Program

 

them for proximity detonation, with allowance for positive intercepts."

 

A number of the Imperial ships complied. Several dozen missiles

 

were parked in space, some with hyperdrive motivators, some with

 

conventional drives, and left for dead in the general path of the

 

federation fleet as an ad hoc minefield. The ships remained in contact

 

with their missiles via sub-space, and could still remote-control them.

 

With most systems powered down, the missiles, which were barely two

 

meters long, should be very difficult to detect.

 

Several minutes later: "The enemy scouts have detected the

 

first mines, a number of mines have reported a sensor focus. Detection

 

range point three light-years."

 

"Impressive."

 

On the holo-display, Polaris watched to see what action would

 

be taken. It appeared the enemy was disinclined to circumvent the

 

minefield. After all it could just be recovered, and the mines were

 

spread over a large area, which would take time to circumvent, or

 

another minefield deployed whichever way they turned. A number of scout

 

vessels raced ahead of the fleet, actively scanning the space ahead of

 

them. Their scanners worked just as efficiently even though they had

 

accelerated to several thousand times light-speed. Polaris watched as

 

they slowed down close to the minefield. The missiles he had used was

 

spread out over more than a hundred million kilometers, so no one

 

detonation would impact on the remaining missiles. The scouts opened

 

fire on the first mines with their beam weapons, at a range of several

 

light-seconds. Unable to maneuvre evasively, and lying dead in space,

 

the missiles were easy targets.

 

"Execute pincer." Polaris ordered.

 

Immediately a number of missiles ignited their engines, and

 

launched themselves towards the scouts, which were still several

 

seconds away. On the holo-display, the ships hesitated for a second,

 

then retreated with conventional drive means, destroying the missiles

 

as they came within range. The missiles were coming in slow enough

 

relatively that they could be destroyed easily, then the second phase

 

of the attack was launched. Having tracked the vector of withdrawal, a

 

number of missiles with hyperdrive motivators were remote-launched in a

 

closing dispersal pattern on the retreating scouts. Two of them were

 

destroyed outright, the other two immediately engaged their warp

 

drives, but didn't escape without damage.

 

"Victories." Polaris ordered.

 

The four Victory Star Destroyers jumped into intercept

 

positions, firing heavy turbolaser barrages across the path of the

 

retreating ships. The already damaged ships banked away, taking minor

 

hits only.

 

"Cruisers." Polaris ordered.

 

The retreating scouts were bracketed by the cruisers. One of

 

them, probably due to the damage taken, disengaged it's distortion

 

drive, and was immediately pounced on by an Imperial Star Destroyer,

 

and destroyed. The other scout made it back to the safety of the

 

advancing Federation frontline, and the Imperial ships retreated to

 

hyperspatial distances again.

 

Masala's task force used the distraction of the activity at the

 

front lines of the fleet to rapid-deploy several mines into the ranks

 

of the ships at the rear. Three ships appeared to suffer minor damage,

 

and a number took shield-hits, their evasive pattern of flying proving

 

effective at avoiding direct hits, and also making targeting difficult.

 

The frontline of the federation fleet approached the minefield

 

with caution, increasing the extremity of their evasive flying, and

 

destroyed most of the missiles with beam weapons. Several missiles were

 

remote launched into the front-ranks, with minimal effect. The ships

 

that were targeted suffered minor shield damage, but nothing more.

 

Polaris noted that their shields recharged with no apparent after-

 

effect. Overall, the minefield had had little effect, save for the

 

destruction of the three scout vessels.

 

 

 

 

 

On the view-screen, the senior captains were holding a split-

 

screen conference. Picard glanced around the bridge. In the last two

 

days, not one hour had gone by without one or two or even more small

 

skirmishes. He had been forced to order several people off the bridge,

 

to take a rest. Only Data had remained. He had tried to set an example,

 

by deliberately rotating watches with Riker and going to his quarters,

 

but found that he could not sleep knowing that his ship could go into

 

action at any time. The hit and fade tactics of the Imperials were

 

slowly wearing down the crew. He could see it in the red eyes of his

 

watchmen. And they still had nineteen days to go before arriving at the

 

colonies taken over by the Imperials. So far, they had already lost two

 

Romulan scouts, and three Federation scouts, including one Intrepid,

 

and they had only come five light years out of forty.

 

The consensus amongst the senior captains was to increase the

 

overall cruising speed of the fleet from warp seven to warp eight. The

 

larger ships could easily cruise at warp eight, but this would be

 

significantly faster than the cruising speed of many smaller ships.

 

There were also six damaged ships that might not be able to maintain

 

warp eight. The Imperials had shown themselves to be ruthless at

 

slaughtering ships that could be isolated from the fleet, and there was

 

a great reluctance to abandon these ships. Picard weighed that against

 

nineteen more days of continual harassment. Warp eight would shorten

 

their trip from nineteen days to twelve days.

 

They could always sprint the last few light years, but many of

 

the ships in the fleet could barely make warp nine, which was only a

 

thirty percent increase in speed, and would barely be able to maintain

 

even this speed for more than two or three light years.

 

"I agree. Fleet cruising speed to be warp eight. Ships which

 

can't maintain this factor are to make for the nearest operational

 

Starbase at best speed." They all knew what the chances were of those

 

already damaged ships making it.

 

In the next few hours, the fleet would be splitting up into two

 

groups, in expectation of further splitting up into five attack forces.

 

"I suggest the change in speed to be done at way-point one."

 

Picard said.

 

"Agreed. Maybe the slower ships can slip away in the

 

confusion." Nobody was convinced of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris stepped onto the bridge. He had taken a short nap, and

 

was fresh after a hot and cold shower. The bridge crew had also just

 

executed a watch-change, the fresh crew having had a full eight hour

 

sleep. Masala had been conducting raids on his own for the last eight

 

hours, now he and his crew would get some rest, while Polaris took over

 

the harassment of the Federation fleet.

 

"Report."

 

"The enemy fleet is still proceeding at slightly more than 650

 

times light-speed, on the same course. The primary gun-crews have just

 

come on duty, and the junior supporting gun-crew has stood down to

 

three-minute readiness. The secondary gun-crew have returned to

 

quarters."

 

"Any reductions in their fleet?"

 

"Captain Masala reported two additional ships suffering

 

noticeable damage. We count six ships with noticeable damage now.

 

Captain Masala suspects other ships may also have suffered damage of

 

some sort, but nothing that can be positively identified on long-range

 

scans. At their speed, a detailed sensor focus on any one ship is

 

impossible."

 

"Time since Captain Masala's last raid?"

 

"Seven minutes. Sir."

 

Polaris settled into his command chair. On his holo-display,

 

the enemy fleet was arrayed in a columnar formation about two light

 

years away. They would be in sensor range for several hours, even so,

 

he had a number of gunboats stationed closer to the enemy fleet, and

 

leapfrogging each other as the fleet advanced. It was a strange

 

situation. The enemy stardrive was achingly slow compared to

 

hyperdrive, but too fast for tactical engagements.

 

"Allow the primary gun-crews to stand-down to a sixty-second

 

readiness. The secondary gun-crews can stand down to five-minute

 

readiness. We will conduct the next raid in thirty minutes."

 

 

 

 

 

"Hey, this meat is good. What is it?" Karno asked.

 

"Womp-rat." somebody answered.

 

"Yeah right, I've heard that one before. Tastes like nerf

 

sirloin."

 

Karno swallowed the meat sandwich, chased it down with some

 

non-alcoholic beer, and burped appreciatively. Every now and then, they

 

were treated with real food instead of replicated food. Many couldn't

 

tell the difference, but Karno enjoyed his food and considered himself

 

an expert. After his watch he would be allowed to have a limited amount

 

of alcohol, but alcohol was strictly rationed in times of war. The gun-

 

crews were relaxing in a ready room down the hall from their stations.

 

The ready room was within the thirty-second radius from their stations,

 

but having just come on duty, everybody was fresh and relaxed, and

 

nobody was inclined to head further away from their stations.

 

"Are we gonna see some action this time round, or is the old

 

man just going to stand off and fire more missiles?"

 

"Who knows? Who cares? Hey, droid, get me another sandwich."

 

"I reckon we'll get some action this time," Karno said, "I can

 

feel it. The old-man was just setting them up, thinking we aint coming

 

in, then, WHAMMO! That's his style."

 

"Yeah. Why don't we just go in and take em out in a blaze of

 

glory. Nothing stands up to heavy metal, and this ship is serious h-e-

 

a-v-y m-e-t-a-l."

 

"Your brain is serious heavy metal. I for one want to get home

 

in one piece."

 

"Home. Man. Why did you have to say that. It took us three

 

months in frigging hyperspace to get here, we've been lolling around

 

for weeks. Okay, with a bit of action here and there, but if it takes

 

us three months to get back to some serious R and R, it just won't be

 

too soon."

 

"You got that right."

 

"Anyone for sabacc."

 

The group quickly split up into several tables, taking the

 

opportunity to get in a few games of Sabacc. Karno himself had already

 

lost a significant portion of his danger pay, and was keen to try and

 

win it back.

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir. Something's happening."

 

Polaris turned back to the bridge, and marched over to the

 

holo-display. The enemy fleet was re-organising itself. For a second

 

the changes made no sense, then he realised.

 

"Fleet-wide battle-alert. Now!"

 

There was no sound to be heard on the bridge, but throughout

 

the fleet, warning tones were sounding in ready-rooms. A Star Destroyer

 

was never far from battle-readiness, due to historically operating in

 

an environment where there was little warning of incoming attacks. In

 

seconds, battle-ready lights were lighting up on the ship-status

 

display. Within fifteen seconds, the entire ship was at battle-

 

readiness, and scant seconds after that, the fleet ready indicator was

 

also lit.

 

"Cruiser three's crew is docked one day's pay. They were last

 

to report ready. Charlie Hotel Alpha pattern three. Execute on my

 

mark."

 

The combined hard attack pattern was transmitted to the fleet,

 

and the fleet indicator flashed once, indicating all ships had

 

acknowledged.

 

"Mark."

 

On the holo-display, the Federation fleet was now clearly seen

 

to be splitting into two. Polaris had immediately grasped the

 

significance of this, the move on ImInWo-Two had been a ruse. The enemy

 

was planning a multi-world attack, at least two worlds, but if his

 

guess was correct, all five. Even as he contemplated the shifting fleet

 

indicators on the display, the ship jumped to hyperspace. Four seconds

 

later they arrived, the Imperial ships in roughly line astern, right

 

down the middle of the diverging formation, each ship targeting one

 

Federation ship.

 

The Sceptre's computers had already fired a co-ordinated

 

broadside directly into an Akira's path. The Akira ploughed directly

 

into hundreds of megatons worth of turbolaser fire, having had no time

 

to take evasive action. Before a second broadside could be fired

 

however, it had flashed past, and accelerated to more than 1000 times

 

light-speed. It's shields were flickering wildly, but had somehow held.

 

Polaris wondered to what extent the distortion field created by their

 

stardrive helped. On his tactical display, Polaris noticed that none of

 

the ships were making an attempt to attack his fleet, and were all

 

racing away at high speed.

 

"Withdraw to nav-point six."

 

The Imperial fleet, left behind in empty space by the

 

accelerating Federation fleet, jumped to their next nav-point. The Jump

 

was almost a full sixty seconds, taking them to a point nearly two

 

light years ahead of the last reported Federation position. It should

 

put them 8 hours ahead of the Federation fleet, even at their new speed

 

of 1024 times light-speed.

 

The new speed was somewhat of a relief for Polaris. It meant

 

that the planetary defence would occur in twelve days or less if the

 

Feds accelerated again. That was just before either he or Masala would

 

have to leave for home, reducing their numbers by half. Twelve days was

 

still sufficient time for harassment though, so he didn't bother

 

interrupting Masala's rest.

 

"Sir, we have six ships going significantly slower than the

 

fleet, on a vector back towards one of their bases. We suspect it is

 

the six damaged ships we identified earlier."

 

"Give them a few hours to get clear of the main fleets. We will

 

destroy them then."

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next six days, the two Imperial task forces kept the

 

pressure on the Feds. They would take turns launching attacks,

 

sometimes missiles, sometimes mines, occassionally a jump directly into

 

one of the two enemy fleets. Masala's task force had lost one cruiser,

 

two missile gunboats, and some damage to two of the Victories. Polaris

 

himself had lost two Carrack cruisers over the last few days, one

 

destroyed outright, the other damaged so badly he had had no option but

 

to allow it to return to the main base at Phoenix.

 

The new speed must also have been a strain for the Federation

 

ships. They seemed more susceptible to damage at these high speeds, and

 

a further eight ships were destroyed after dropping off the pace of the

 

fleet. It appeared that any damage they took while the distortion drive

 

was in effect significantly affected their ability to maintain high

 

distortion velocities. The larger battleships seemed comfortable at

 

this speed though, and often darted to the front or rear of the

 

formation in defense of the slower cruisers. It was to these ships that

 

Polaris and Masala owed their losses. The Enterprise had destroyed the

 

cruiser Polaris had lost, as well as Masala's two gunboats, proving

 

that she was indeed a formidable ship. A small cloaked scouting vessel

 

or heavy starfighter, possibly the ship known as the Defiant, was

 

responsible for most of the other damage.

 

On the seventh day, the Federation forces chose to reveal their

 

hand, as Polaris knew they eventually would. The larger force split

 

into three attack groups, splitting off to each of three Imperial

 

worlds. The smaller fleet split into two attack groups, taking the

 

other two Imperial held worlds. They also marginally increased speed

 

again, which meant they would attack all five worlds in three days

 

time, and with roughly twenty ships to each world. Masala took

 

responsibility for two of the worlds, Polaris for another two. Whoever

 

fared best would attempt to defend the fifth world as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picard looked around his bridge crew. The strain was clearly

 

visible on most faces. Riker and half his crew were currently sleeping,

 

ordered to bed by Picard, with sleep medication he had ordered the

 

doctor to prescribe. When they woke up, it would be his turn. He needed

 

to get himself and his crew freshened up before they reached their

 

destination. For nearly two weeks now they had been subjected to

 

continuous raids. Not an hour went by without a raid of some sort, and

 

travelling as they were at warp eight, close to maximum warp for many

 

of the smaller ships in the armada, defensive duties in this group were

 

left almost entirely to the Enterprise.

 

Picard found it nearly impossible to go to sleep knowing that

 

his ships would be in action any moment soon. He knew many of his crew

 

felt the same. Geordi had initially flatly refused to leave

 

engineering, but after the first two days, Picard had ordered him to

 

his room, and stood by while the doctor administered a sleep

 

medication. Picard had then administered a similar dose to the doctor,

 

forcing her to go sleep as well.

 

Wherever the Imperials attacked, or whatever the form of the

 

attack, they would race to that position of the fleet, chasing away the

 

Imperial ships. The Imperials employed a very efficient ambush attack

 

using their trans-location drives, with six or more enemy ships

 

suddenly appearing in position directly ahead of a randomly chosen

 

ship, and peppering it's projected warp path with plasma flak-bursts

 

and nuclear detonations. Other times, they would just pepper the path

 

of a vessel with rapidly deployed nuclear warheads, and not use their

 

ships.

 

More often than not, the ship would have no time for evasive

 

action, and would have to fly straight through the targeted area. If

 

this happened, the ship would often collide with either a nuclear

 

detonation or a ball of superheated plasma, before sweeping past the

 

enemy position. On average the warp ship would collide with at least

 

one plasma flak-burst. The kinetic energy of collision at the

 

velocities involved would have been immense, except for the different

 

dynamics involved due to the warp bubble surrounding the ship. It would

 

disperse most of the energy of collision, and the shields the

 

remainder.

 

Very occasionally, a ship smashed into three or four plasma- or

 

nuclear bursts, which was more than enough to cause either hull damage

 

or warp core instabilities, forcing them to slow down, or embark on

 

fewer evasive maneuvres. This would usually attract further attacks,

 

until the ship dropped off the pace of the main fleet, and could be

 

picked off in a concerted attack by the Imperials.

 

In the first stage of the journey, they had lost five ships out

 

of one hundred and twenty in the continuous raids. A further fourteen

 

ships he knew of had been forced to fall off the high pace the armada

 

maintained. Some of those ships had managed to get distress signals

 

off, attacked by the Imperials once they were clear of the fleet.

 

Others had not. He could only assume they all been destroyed. Most of

 

them belonged to the Federation's allies, or were smaller Federation

 

ships. None of them had the shielding or speed to have seriously

 

embarked on this mission in the first place. The approximately one

 

hundred ships which remained were all larger or more modern vessels,

 

but were now split into five assault groups.

 

The two weeks had given them ample opportunity to positively

 

identify individual ships in the two enemy groups raiding them. The two

 

enemy raiding groups had also been named unofficially by Picard. One of

 

them employed hard, brutal, overwhelming attacks on individual ships,

 

and this one he had labelled the Bulls. The other group was more

 

cunning, more unpredictable, and these he had labelled the Snakes.

 

Sometimes one of the groups would disappear for several hours, no doubt

 

taking a break from the almost continuous harassment. Now was such a

 

time, the Bulls having apparently disappeared for a while, and the

 

Snakes had taken over the harassment.

 

The Imperials would often jump to observation points close to

 

the edges of the Federation fleet, sometimes to within a few hundred

 

million kilometers, about thirty seconds at maximum warp for the faster

 

ships. They would sit there for a few minutes, watching the high-speed

 

train go by, then jump to another observation point. If the Federation

 

ships attempted an intercept, the observer would just jump away, never

 

allowing any ship to get closer than ten seconds at maximum warp. At

 

other times, they would observe from longer ranges, up to a light year

 

or more, where they could sit still for an hour or more watching the

 

fleet go by, and be totally impervious to any attempts to attack them.

 

Then, at random intervals ranging from one minute to anything up to an

 

hour, they would launch an attack with brutal suddenness.

 

He had given a general order that anyone found at their posts

 

outside of their assigned watch order be disciplined, possibly even

 

charged with reckless endangerment. He neither needed nor wanted

 

exhausted crew members at critical stations.

 

Picard knew there were many ship commanders in his fleet who

 

were extremely frustrated, but they were totally hamstrung. All they

 

could do was barrel on. Ten point five light years to go. Three days.

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris walked onto his bridge. He had just woken up from a

 

good six hour sleep. He felt fresh and ready for action. His bridge

 

crew looked just as fresh, they had just come on duty, replacing the

 

secondary crew who had managed the ship while they stood down for a

 

rest, and took on supplies. The supplies had not really been necessary,

 

except maybe for the missiles. An ISD could operate for four years

 

without resupply under normal conditions, but the continuous action of

 

the last few weeks had depleted their missile stocks to nearly half.

 

Blaster gas, nefridium, hypermatter and other supplies had never

 

dropped below 90%, but Imperial policy required that the ship be kept

 

fully stocked at all times.

 

"Status?" he asked.

 

"The enemy fleets are maintaining an average speed of 1300

 

times light-speed. They are on average 10 light-years from our worlds,

 

ETA three days."

 

"Any ship losses."

 

"Captain Masala reports three enemy ships possibly damaged,

 

none destroyed. He himself lost another missile gunboat to a cloaked

 

heavy fighter, the same ship that conducted the intelligence raid on

 

Fed99 a month or so ago."

 

"Ah, the Defiant." Along with the Enterprise, it was one of the

 

few ships the traitorous Ferengi had specifically named in their

 

reports, before they had double-crossed the Empire.

 

The arrangement now was for his task force to be on for the

 

next thirty six hours, raiding all five Federation attack groups. They

 

were spread over a distance of about a hundred light-years, which meant

 

a lot of time in hyperspace, but a hundred years was still less than an

 

hour's jump to any group he chose to raid.

 

"Computer. Two week sensor log analysis. List enemy ships by

 

torpedo expenditure and ship size."

 

The list was meaningless to him. He had no idea how many

 

missiles they could carry, or how many additional torpedoes they had

 

brought along. With their abominal matter transporters it was also

 

difficult to work out what an individual ship's supply status was,

 

since they could no doubt redistribute supplies at will.

 

"Computer. List the enemy groups, sort by number of damaged

 

ships."

 

The group with the Enterprise was second on the list, having

 

three ships suspected of significant damage. It was also the group he

 

was most reluctant to attack, or have to defend against. He would give

 

them a bit of a wake up, then move on to the others.

 

"Set course for these co-ordinates, jump at will."

 

 

 

 

 

"Contact, bearing zero zero fifteen by zero four five, range

 

two hundredths of a light year. It's the sneaky group, Captain."

 

"Helm?"

 

"Maintaining evasive flying." Data replied, as cool and fresh

 

as if he had just come on watch. The android was unflappable. Picard

 

did notice though that his fingers were on the control interface, and

 

it was on manual. Data was flying the ship himself, not relying on the

 

fly-by-wire interface.

 

"Nuclear explosions, head of column two. On-screen now."

 

On the view-screen, Picard could see the two lead ships of the

 

second column dodging through several computer enhanced fireballs. The

 

fireballs flashed by at incredible speed, the ships were travelling at

 

several million km per second, and a nuclear detonation only a few

 

thousand kilometers ahead of a ship was nearly impossible to avoid. The

 

continuous weaving and zig-zagging was all that saved them on several

 

occasions, making it difficult for the Imperials to target them, but

 

every once in a while, a ship was seen to smash straight through a

 

nuclear shockwave.

 

In the vacuum of space, a nuclear detonation even a few

 

kilometers away was hardly dangerous, especially given modern

 

shielding, but the cumulative effect of several explosions only a few

 

kilometers away in quick succession at warp eight or better was not to

 

be sneezed at. The more dangerous attack was when the Imperials jumped

 

in and saturated the space directly ahead of a ship, creating a wall of

 

fire which you had only fractions of a second to avoid, with frantic

 

maneuvring. The Federation counter-strategy was to turn back and fire

 

torpedoes at the Imperial ships before they could jump away, but with

 

only seconds to set up the attack run, and the heavy sub-space and EM

 

jamming, results were marginal. With the rapid-deployment nuclear

 

warhead attacks their was no chance to hit back, evasive action was the

 

only course of action available.

 

The attack lasted for three minutes, all the detonations

 

targeting the two lead ships. The trailing ships were more than five

 

seconds behind, and easily avoided the targeted area. Picard watched

 

the two ships frantically changing direction, twisting and

 

corkscrewing, while the Imperial ships launched their missiles from a

 

range of two hundredths of a light year. They were untouchable, more

 

than two minutes away at maximum warp.

 

"Sensors?"

 

"The missiles were launched conventionally. Forty milliseconds

 

later they disappeared, then reappeared ahead of the target five

 

hundred and seventy milliseconds later, and detonated within 30

 

milliseconds of re-appearance. The ships had thirty milliseconds

 

warning before detonation. The missiles were fired in groups of ten, in

 

a random dispersal pattern ahead of the target. Seven ships are

 

participating in the attack, and they each launch an attack every eight

 

seconds, timed roughly one second after each other."

 

The Imperial ships vanished. The attack was over. The two

 

targeted ships were both reporting severe shield depletion, but no hull

 

damage. However, the shockwaves had had a negative effect on their warp

 

cores. Both ships were indicating a need to slow down to effect

 

repairs.

 

Picard considered. The speeds they were maintaining was close

 

to maximum speed for most of the smaller ships in the group, and at

 

least five of them could do with a break for repairs. Maintaining this

 

breakneck speed might cause one or more of those ships to fall behind,

 

and the Imperials had shown extreme ruthlessness in dealing with ships

 

which fell behind. He considered this against the need to attack on

 

schedule. A glance at the sensor console showed three Imperial missile

 

boats sitting about half a light year away, all other ships had

 

vanished.

 

"Fleet order. Warp four. One hour only. Damaged ships to centre

 

position, other ships to defensive flanking positions."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Fleet complying."

 

"Sir, one of the gunboats have jumped out."

 

The hyenas calling their masters, Picard thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fleet maintained a steady course, allowing the engineering

 

staff to do whatever maintenance they could while the ships were at the

 

snail pace of warp four. Around Picard, the bridge had gone quiet. All

 

eyes were on the view-screen, watching for the first signs of attack,

 

except for the lookouts behind Picard, who had their eyes and ears

 

tuned to their stations, waiting for signs of the Imperial attack that

 

was sure to come.

 

The only break in the silence was the rarely heard sounds of an

 

operational starship. The faint hum of power vibrating through the

 

decks from the warp cores. The distant snick and hiss of turbolifts. An

 

occasional beep or tone from one station or another, which demanded a

 

light touch or adjustment from the attendant crewmember. These were the

 

sounds and sensations they lived with, and had long since been tuned

 

out by the starship crew.

 

The centre of the view-screen showed a computerised tactical

 

representation of the fleet, with the Imperial missile boats in the

 

distance, several minutes away at warp. They were untouchable despite

 

being only half a light-year away. At the speed the fleet was doing,

 

the Imperials could sit there for days tracking them without having to

 

change position.

 

Picard suppressed an urge to check the time. He knew only a few

 

minutes had gone by.

 

"Ensign Carter." He said into the silence. Somebody to his left

 

jumped in fright at the sudden noise. Picard pretended not to have

 

noticed. "Bring some refreshments up to the bridge. I will have some

 

tea." Picard kept his voice calm and controlled, just as if this was an

 

ordinary milk run. No need to add to the tensions.

 

The refreshments kept the bridge crew busy for a few minutes,

 

but their attention never strayed far from their stations. A beep from

 

the comms desk startled everyone, but it turned out to be just an

 

update on the repair status of one of the Ferengi ships. Picard

 

wondered how his counterparts in the convoys of World War II had dealt

 

with the tension.

 

The refreshments were soon polished off, and silence returned

 

to the bridge. Half an hour had passed, and the Imperials had made no

 

move to attack them as yet.

 

"What are they waiting for?" somebody muttered.

 

"I'm sure they will make their intentions known sooner or

 

later." Picard said dryly.

 

He couldn't help feeling a slight touch of conscience. The drop

 

in pace would almost certainly put them behind schedule. Most of the

 

ships in the fleet were uncomfortable close to their top speed at warp

 

8, which didn't allow them to go any faster so they could never hope to

 

catch up with their schedule. He had a sneaky suspicion the Imperials

 

were quite happy for him to cruise along at such a slow speed. Another

 

ship reported repairs complete. They were now just waiting for the last

 

three ships, which were still working furiously on damage repair.

 

A different sound from the comms desk alerted them to a long-

 

range message coming in. It was from one of the other four attack

 

forces, reporting another ship lost. So the Imperials were busy

 

elsewhere. Picard started doing the mental arithmetic, but was

 

interrupted by Data.

 

"That message was time-stamped fifteen minutes ago. At the

 

enemy's inter-stellar speeds, they could easily have beaten the message

 

here if they wanted to."

 

"Yes, Mr Data. It appears that we are not on their priority

 

list as yet."

 

"Yes, that is strange. It is unlike the enemy not to have

 

attacked us when it is obvious that there were damaged ships in our

 

fleet. Their pattern thus far has been to ruthlessly destroy any

 

damaged ships."

 

"It is rather strange. They are allowing us to repair ships

 

which they could have easily destroyed. It can only mean they are up to

 

something. Well, we can face whatever they throw at us, and better to

 

face it with a fully functional fleet rather than several damaged

 

ships."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

The fleet pressed on. Picard, more than ever, felt small as he

 

considered the scale of the universe. Their tiny fleet was

 

insignificant to the great darkness of inter-stellar space, the nearest

 

stars several light years away, and no friendly planets for more than a

 

dozen light years in any direction. They were forced to crawl across

 

this blackness, while the enemy used the great vastness of inter-

 

stellar space like the submarine fleets of old, moving at will to any

 

co-ordinates they chose, and attacking when they felt like it.

 

As the hour drew to a close, the last ships reported in. Not

 

all of them were satisfied with their damage-repairs, but at least

 

their was no danger of them dropping off the pace if the fleet resumed

 

their journey at warp 8.

 

"Fleet-wide order, resume warp eight."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

"We will do the watch change now. Sleep medication is freely

 

available from sick-bay. I recommend you use it. I want everybody to be

 

fresh for the next phase of our mission."

 

 

 

 

 

The two Imperial task forces were both laid up at ImInWo-3,

 

giving their crews a break. The Federation allied fleets were due to

 

arrive at their targets in the next twenty four hours. Already the

 

outer perimeters sensor bouys could detect the distinctive sub-space

 

signature associated with their drive mechanism.

 

"What do you suggest, Mika?" Masala asked. "We can't defend all

 

five worlds at once, unless we split up our respective forces."

 

"I know. But on the other hand, these worlds are well

 

protected. All the planetary shields are in place. What can they do

 

except blockade us? I would think it is not necessary for us to defend

 

the worlds at all."

 

"A blockade is what the Admiral has asked us to prevent."

 

Masala reminded him.

 

"There is more than one way to prevent a blockade. We can draw

 

their ships off."

 

"How?"

 

"Perhaps a few more raids on their home worlds? They do not

 

have significant planetary shielding. We can jump from planet to planet

 

inflicting damage. That would force them to allocate resources to

 

defence."

 

"As I recall, we burnt our fingers the last time we raided

 

their worlds." Masala reminded him.

 

"A minor burn. And, our forces were split. If however, we

 

combined our task forces, and instead of engaging their ships,

 

concentrated solely on bombarding their planets in a few hit and fade

 

attacks, we should get away with very light casualties."

 

 

 

"Admiral Jenneke will not appreciate a blockade of even a few

 

days. This is no time for clever tactics and other niceties, Mika. I

 

suggest we combine our forces, wait for the Federation fleets to set up

 

their blockades, then attack them one world at a time. Together, we can

 

bring thirty ships to bear, while they have but twenty ships per

 

blockaded planet. We can wipe them out fleet by fleet."

 

"A direct battle, brute force. Yes, perhaps the time has come

 

for such tactics."

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EXPANSION

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

 

Polaris looked out of the view-port at the distant stars, white pin-

 

pricks in the deep black of infinity. There were too many stars to

 

discern formations and patterns, although here and there a cluster was

 

visibly brighter than the rest, or a spot of colour indicated a

 

particularly bright star. There was no sign of the ships he knew

 

surrounded him. In deep space, there was just not enough light to

 

reveal them to human eyes. He reached down, and activated the vid-

 

matrix overlay of the view-port.

 

Space looked remarkably different through the eyes of the

 

multitude of sensors which fed their data into the vid-matrix. The

 

stellar background was suddenly in glorious colour, revealing spectra

 

types, range and doppler shifts. In the foreground, a number of super-

 

scaled images of ships indicated the Imperial fleet arrayed around him.

 

The two task forces, his own and Masala's, had been supplemented by

 

eight additional missile gunboats, bringing their total number of

 

gunboats to thirty one. The two task forces had also been supplemented

 

by the recently repaired Victories and Imperators from Phoenix, and a

 

few additional Victories and Imperators recently completed. Not a full

 

task force by any means, but fully operational ships nonetheless.

 

In total, they mustered two ISD Mark II's, five ISD Mark I's,

 

eleven Victories, and twenty two frigates. Between them, they had

 

thirty six gunboats (2 per destroyer), fifty three squadrons of

 

fighters, consisting of five squadrons of TIE Defenders, five squadrons

 

of TIE Interceptors, seven squadrons of TIE bombers, and thirty six

 

squadrons of standard TIEs.

 

The fleet had been lying here for two hours, waiting for the

 

Federation fleets to commence their blockade operation. The Federation

 

ships were taking their time though, carefully scanning the star

 

systems, and systematically clearing out the sensor nets, minefields,

 

and other surprises that had been prepared for them. A few mines had

 

also been cloaked, and otherwise sensor stealthed. The progress of the

 

Federation fleets were carefully monitored by the Sienar patrol boats

 

which had been recalled for the upcoming battles. They would station

 

themselves outside the star systems and provide sensory data for the

 

Imperial ships when the battle commenced.

 

The planets had also been prepared. All crucial areas of the

 

planets were shielded, and all approaches to these areas were heavily

 

defended by Imperial army regiments, a handful of stormtrooper units,

 

and a few commando units. These defenses were extensively camouflaged,

 

and heavy use had been made of 'smuggler nets'. The nets had jamming

 

nodes, which would conceal the installations from even a broadband

 

scan. The concealed installations included ground-based turbolasers and

 

ion cannons, planet-based hangars, various recently dug underground

 

installations, and several thousand ground troops, including the

 

Imperial commando teams. The commandos were issued with camouflage

 

armour, which operated on a similar basis to camouflage netting, being

 

embedded with jamming nodes, camouflage emitters, and chameleon fibre.

 

Should the Federation attempt troop landings, they would pay a

 

heavy price in blood for the planets. Polaris didn't think it would

 

come to that. They would launch their attack as soon as the enemy fleet

 

attained orbit. Individually, each enemy fleet only numbered some

 

twenty ships, and so were outnumbered by the Imperials, however, the

 

Imperials would have five star systems to clear.

 

 

 

Susan Zulu looked at the sensor board with dismay. They had

 

just entered high-orbit of the Imperial held planet, and their earlier

 

suspicions were confirmed. Just above the atmosphere of the planet, was

 

an immensely powerful projected shield, extending for hundreds of

 

kilometers. Other areas of the planet were similarly shielded.

 

"How accurate are these readings?"

 

"The shield type is unfamiliar to us, but computer projections

 

predict it would take months of continuous bombardment to penetrate,

 

even if we had that many torpedoes."

 

"Can we get under it?"

 

"The shield is significantly weaker where it dips into the

 

atmosphere, and we can detect some gaseous interchange across the

 

shield. A small slow moving vehicle might be able to penetrate, a

 

starship or runabout? Unlikely."

 

"Troops?"

 

"Probably. Readings indicate the shield coverage extends to the

 

ground, but is even weaker through this ravine complex here, and these

 

mountains here. A ground force should easily be able to penetrate at

 

either point."

 

"Can you read anything in those areas?"

 

"Nothing. Just rock, as far as the scanners are concerned."

 

"I wouldn't be so sure," Zulu conjectured, "they must know that

 

the shields are penetrable in those areas. The Ferengii also indicated

 

that they have extensive ground troops, and those troops must serve a

 

purpose."

 

"Sir," another operator called, "enemy patrol boats, range

 

point zero five light years. They are forming a sensor net around the

 

system."

 

"Okay people, look alive, they're going to try and shake us

 

loose, but we're not going anywhere. All ships, break orbit, prepare

 

for low warp combat."

 

The Federation ships streaked out of orbit, at low fractions of

 

warp, splitting up into five groups of four ships. They had run endless

 

holo-deck simulations on this technique. Three ships would engage a

 

target for a few seconds at impulse, weakening the target's shields,

 

then a fourth ship would come in and launch a volley or two of

 

torpedoes. Unfortunately, very few ships had the capability to

 

successfully target a stationary point (or nearly so) from warp. That

 

technique required extremely precise calculations of firing vectors,

 

and the rate of closure between the warp vessel and target meant that

 

even if the target shifted position by it's own length, the torpedoes

 

would overshoot before they could adjust.

 

It didn't mean you couldn't hit the target, just that accuracy

 

was so poor that the one or two hits you'd get would be meaningless. It

 

was much better to launch from impulse velocities at intermediate to

 

short ranges. Targeting accuracy would be close to perfect, except that

 

you'd be taking damage yourself, and against Imperial ships, some of

 

the torpedoes might be shot down. With jamming and other interference

 

put out by these ships, firing would have to be at extremely close

 

range, which meant an even higher rate of hits, but that went both

 

ways.

 

On the view-screen, forty capital ships suddenly appeared,

 

supported by at least thirty peregrine sized gunboats, and a few

 

squadrons of tiny shielded snub-fighters, barely six meters across.

 

"Holy shit. We're outnumbered better than three to one, and

 

that's not counting the fighters."

 

"Belay that. Pick your targets and take your time people. They

 

can't touch us while we're at warp."

 

The Imperials were also ordered in groups. Each group consisted

 

of three large capital ships, supported by six frigates. The frigates

 

were not too heavily shielded, but fairly bristled with point-defence

 

weaponry. It was obvious what their role was, defence against

 

starfighters and missiles. The ships were quickly joined by additional

 

starfighters, which formed defensive screens around the capital ships.

 

"I can't track the fighters at all, their is just too much

 

static and interference, and they're too small."

 

"Set torpedoes for proximity detonation, we'll concentrate on

 

the frigates first."

 

Zulu designated a frigate and her three wingmen darted towards

 

it, disengaging warp at extreme phaser range. All three opened fire on

 

the frigate, as did the frigate and it's supporting ships, but at this

 

range, all the ships had a second or more to evade incoming fire. Space

 

between the two groups was a roiling mass of green and red energies,

 

but no hits scored to either side. That was not unexpected, generally

 

beam weapons required ranges of much less than a third of a light-

 

second so that there was no time for deliberate evasion. The Federation

 

ships withdrew at warp.

 

"We'll have to engage them at closer range."

 

"Their weapons radiate immense energies and even a near miss

 

leaves an impression on the shields., but it dissipates rapidly at

 

longer ranges."

 

"Aye, they have knocked out several torpedoes like that in the

 

past. Two or three of those huge bolts passing close to an unshielded

 

torpedo melts it like ice on the surface of the sun."

 

"Let's do another run."

 

The three smaller ships darted in again, from different angles,

 

but targeting the same frigate. They came to a stop barely sixty

 

thousand kilometers from the frigate. The two groups of ships opened

 

fire, all ten Imperial ships targeting a single vessel, but bracketing

 

their broadsides in an attempt to hit the federation ships, which were

 

evading along pre-programmed flight-paths. After three seconds of

 

furious exchanges, they withdrew, and Zulu sent her ship, an Akira,

 

darting in. She came to a stop, fired eight torpedoes in quick

 

succession at the frigate, darted to a new position, and fired another

 

eight torpedoes, then withdrew at warp three.

 

The frigate fairly bristled with laser cannons, it's primary

 

role being anti-starfighter support, and it shot down the straight-

 

flying torpedoes one after another. The first eight torpedoes were all

 

shot down, but by the time it's guns came to bear on the second eight,

 

they were only fractions of a second away. The lightly-shielded frigate

 

stood no chance. The first torpedo blew away it's shields, a second

 

sent it spinning out of control, atmosphere boiling out of a huge hole

 

in it's hull. The next two torpedoes missed, unable to turn fast enough

 

to intercept the cartwheeling frigate. The last four torpedoes all

 

smacked into the frigate, breaking it in two. The forward third of the

 

targeted Imperial frigate went spinning away, of the rest there was no

 

trace.

 

"Damage?"

 

"No damage. The shields took a few hits, felt like we were

 

being hit by a rain of photon torpedoes. Those bolts pack quite a

 

punch. We'll have to give the shields time to recharge before we

 

attempt another run. A few peripheral circuits were reset by an ionic

 

discharge weapon, but nothing crucial. The circuits are being re-

 

initialised."

 

"The Zambesi is reporting minor damage, they lost their shields

 

and took a hull hit in the engagement."

 

"Group is to maintain warp three, flight pattern omega, while

 

the shields are recharged. How are the other groups doing?"

 

The view-screen cleared, and a system-wide tactical display

 

appeared. The five groups of Federation ships were maintaining low

 

warp, circling the Imperial formations. Two of the groups had damage

 

indicators, implying one or more lightly damaged ships. Imperial losses

 

for the engagement were one frigate, and three gunboats. It was unknown

 

whether any fighters had been caught in the explosions. Large areas of

 

static marked the Imperial capital ship locations, and it was

 

impossible to track anything smaller than a frigate at sub-space

 

ranges.

 

"We're ready for another run."

 

"Okay, we'll take a frigate in that group."

 

Again, the three smaller ships darted in, while the Akira held

 

back. Seconds later, the smaller ships broke away and the Akira darted

 

in, firing pulsed phasers at the targeted ship, and launching

 

torpedoes. The Akira rocked as turbolaser bolts slammed home, then

 

settled again as the warp drive was engaged. On the view-screen, the

 

frigate remained intact.

 

"Sensors?"

 

"They lost their shields, and took some minor hull damage, but

 

most of the torpedoes were knocked down by point-defences and flak-

 

bursts."

 

"Flak-bursts?"

 

"Yes, sir. The frigate was supported in it's point-defences by

 

the other frigates, and one of the capital ships fired a number of

 

turbolaser bolts into the area between us and the frigate, where they

 

detonated in superheated plasma bursts. Only some of the torpedoes made

 

it through, and most of those were shot down."

 

"Our damage?"

 

"Our shields were momentarily taken down, and we lost some

 

armour. No breaches. Some computer circuits appeared to have been

 

scrambled again either by the concussions or ionic discharges, but are

 

being re-initialised."

 

"The group?"

 

"Wisconsin lost their dorsal phaser array and torpedo tubes to

 

a proximity detonation, but no internal damage."

 

"Resume flight pattern omega, warp three. Tactical display."

 

All the Federation groups now had damage indicators, but no

 

ships had been lost yet. The Imperials were adjusting fast to the

 

Federation tactics, but had lost another gunboat, and a damaged frigate

 

had jumped out of the system. As Zulu watched the display, another

 

Federation group suddenly changed course, cutting across the star

 

system in seconds, and dropping into attack position on an Imperial

 

group.

 

"Magnification, level three."

 

The view-screen adjusted, zooming onto the battle, the

 

computer's enhancement algorithms filling in what the sub-space sensors

 

couldn't resolve. The image showed several super-scaled warships firing

 

at each other, and gyrating crazily as they fought to evade incoming

 

fire. One of the Federation ships was suddenly engulfed in a mass of

 

tiny explosions, for no apparent reason.

 

"Close in on that Klingon ship."

 

The view-screen zoomed in, the enhancement algorithms

 

automatically adding detail to the Klingon ship. There was no

 

turbolaser fire targeting it, but it's hull was pockmarked with several

 

tiny explosions, in staccato tracks.

 

"Configure sub-space sensors to track starfighters, full sensor

 

focus in the region surrounding the warbird."

 

The range was too great to get an electromagnetic scan of the

 

area, and besides, at warp three, an electromagnetic scan was

 

impossible. Sub-space sensors would not normally be sensitive enough to

 

pick up the tiny starfighters, but a full focus in the area (to the

 

exclusion of all else) soon picked out a number of specks darting

 

around the obviously trapped Klingon ship. It must have suffered warp-

 

core damage, or for some reason failed to escape at warp, and was being

 

slowly gnawed to death by the fighters. The tiny specks representing

 

the fighters suddenly darted out of picture, and the Klingon ship was

 

smashed to one side by a turbolaser barrage, spinning, large portions

 

of it flash-vaporised. The view-screen tracked the Klingon ship, then

 

whited out as something detonated, spoiling the sensor focus. When the

 

screen re-aligned itself, there was no trace of the ship. The attack

 

group retreated, their tactical display representation indicated one

 

lost ship, another damaged.

 

"Are we ready for another run yet?" Zulu asked her crew.

 

"Ten seconds, Sir. The Zambesi's shields are recharging very

 

slowly."

 

"Very well."

 

Two attack runs later, the Zambesi was destroyed. Her

 

maneuvrability also impaired, she collected a full broadside, and was

 

instantly destroyed. All the Federation groups had lost at least one

 

ship now, and of the original twenty ships in the blockading group,

 

thirteen remained, and two of those were damaged. The Imperials had

 

lost a number of fighters, though it was difficult to tell how many,

 

and two more frigates had been destroyed, and another damaged. A number

 

of gunboats had also been damaged, but were too fast for accurate

 

targeting, unless point-blank ranges were employed.

 

The greatest danger to the Federation ships apparently were the

 

ionised weapons. They momentarily blanked out all sensors, and randomly

 

scrambled computer circuits. All over the ship, hatchways, interior

 

lighting, door-seals, turbolifts and other equipment were

 

malfunctioning. Most of the core computer circuitry were totally

 

optical, and nearly immune to ionic interference. These 'hardened'

 

circuits included the targeting and navigational computers, weapons

 

systems, as well as the safety controls of the anti-matter containment

 

fields and warp core controlling algorithms. The likelihood of a

 

failure in these circuits were minimal. The crucial circuits which were

 

at risk were the shield generators and the structural integrity fields,

 

which relied on electrical energy for power, even though they were

 

managed by optical circuits.

 

 

 

 

 

The Federation forces re-formed into three powerful attack

 

groups. All the ships that were left were of the faster, more powerful

 

varieties, the ones that had been able to withstand the earlier attack

 

runs. In response, the Imperials re-aligned their forces into six

 

defensive groups within a few light-seconds of the planet they were

 

defending. Each group consisted of three major capital ships, with

 

three frigates, and five gunboats, as well as a number of squadrons of

 

fighters. The unshielded TIE's had taken significant losses from

 

proximity detonations, but were proving their worth. Several times,

 

they had managed to score multiple hits on the enemy ships, drawn fire

 

away from the capital ships, shot down missiles, or been destroyed by a

 

missile meant for another ship. The shielded Defenders and fast

 

Interceptors were doing much better than their slower, unshielded

 

forebears.

 

One of the Federation groups came charging in across the star

 

system towards Polaris' group, giving them barely a second's warning.

 

The gunners were already firing, the targeting computers splitting

 

their fire evenly onto the projected and actual positions, despite the

 

Federation ships range and speed. The group split up at the last

 

instant, coming to a stop at vastly divergent positions, but all

 

opening fire on the same frigate. The smallest ship in the enemy group

 

immediately drew all the fire, all the Imperial ships opening up on it.

 

They knew that in scant seconds the Federation ships would be gone. The

 

targeted frigate could do nothing about the phaser fire it was drawing,

 

but it was pulling closer to the capital ships as fast as it could,

 

while the other frigates and gunboats moved to cover it from the

 

torpedo runs sure to follow. The Federation ships darted around like

 

starfighters, their straight line acceleration not as great as a Star

 

Destroyer could manage if pushed, but they turned and twisted with

 

impressive agility for their size.

 

Despite their relatively low velocity, comparable to the Star

 

Destroyers, they managed to avoid most of the turbolaser fire, but each

 

hit rocked them severely, quickly smashing shields aside, and tearing

 

into the hulls.

 

"Delta two!" A flight co-ordinator called.

 

Polaris glanced back at his status display. One of the other

 

Federation ships, designated delta two, had dropped out of warp within

 

a few thousand kilometers of a TIE squadron and a missile boat. Even as

 

he focused on the battle, a double-brace of missiles from the gunboat

 

slammed into it's shields. The first two detonated against the shields,

 

momentarily opening a breach for the second two to penetrate. The

 

missiles smashed into one of the over-exposed engine pods on the

 

delicate looking vessel. The enemy ship twisted away from the impact,

 

and several red fingers lanced out, punishing the gunboat for it's

 

presumption. A gunboat had impressive agility compared to any capital

 

ship, but at such a point-blank range not even high-powered jamming

 

could help it, and it was ripped apart by the disruption beams, leaving

 

almost no wreckage.

 

"All guns, remain on delta-four," Polaris ordered, "delta-two

 

is compromised by friendlies."

 

The nearby squadron of TIEs were swarming towards the damaged

 

ship, launching dozens of tiny proton torpedoes. Individually, they

 

were not very powerful, but at such close range, and in such numbers,

 

they couldn't all be stopped. The Federation ship was totally obscured

 

by the blue glowing of it's shield-sphere as it's shield fought to

 

dissipate the energies unleashed on them. A handful of tiny detonations

 

on it's hull marked points where some of the missiles had made it

 

through. The first wave of TIE's were firing the laser-cannons in rapid

 

fire bursts, strafing the ship. The already reduced shields of the ship

 

were unable to completely block the laser-cannons, which normally were

 

not powerful enough to overcome heavy shielding. The pulsed effect of

 

the rapid fire burst were sufficient to overcome the shielding that was

 

left, though.

 

The first few pulses stretched the already diminished shield to

 

maximum, allowing the fifth or sixth pulse to smash through the tiny

 

breach created. The one or two pulses in the tail end of the burst

 

which hit the hull did not do much damage, the hull of the ship being

 

protected by some form of reactive armour, as opposed to the highly

 

conductive/reflective armour preferred by the Imperials. However, the

 

combined effect of a dozen TIE's chipping away at the hull, aiming for

 

anything recognisable, was bound to have an effect. The TIE's were

 

targeting shield generators, sensor pods, phaser arrays, torpedo tubes,

 

engine pods and anything detectable mounted on the superstructure.

 

A simulated crash brought Polaris' attention back to the first

 

display, where his frigate was rolling helplessly, orange flames

 

jetting out of multiple hull-breaches. The other Federation ships had

 

vanished, and the cruiser which had delivered the killing blows fired a

 

final volley of torpedoes, and streaked away. The coup-de-grace slammed

 

into the stricken frigate, ripping it apart in a nuclear fury, the

 

flames quickly dissipating leaving nothing but empty space where the

 

frigate had been.

 

That was the fourth frigate destroyed, which along with the two

 

severely damaged frigates which had jumped back to phoenix meant his

 

screening force was being systematically destroyed. A number of

 

gunboats had also been lost since the start of the battle, seven, if he

 

hadn't lost track.

 

"Fighters to clear delta-two. Broadside, target delta-two, on

 

my mark."

 

Polaris glanced at the display, checking if the fighters had

 

cleared the area around the damaged Federation ship.

 

"Mark."

 

The Federation ship vanished in a green hell-fury, huge chunks

 

of it hurled at high velocity in all directions. A distant detonation

 

registered by the computers was soon listed as another Federation ship

 

destroyed elsewhere in the system.

 

 

 

"We should retreat. This is suicide." Captain McCleod was

 

saying.

 

"No!" Zulu stated flatly. "Every ship we destroy means a better

 

chance for one of the other blockading groups."

 

"Our ships are needed back home, we have done our bit. Most of

 

us are damaged, and further runs will result in their needless

 

destruction for negligible damage to the enemy force."

 

Zulu considered for a second, "very well. Damaged ships may

 

retreat at best warp factor, undamaged ships to form up in one group.

 

We will try and take out one of the big ships, then call it a day. All

 

battle data is to be transmitted to the damaged ships, and re-

 

transmitted to the other groups as soon as they have cleared the

 

enemy's jamming signals."

 

 

 

"Sir. I have five enemy ships leaving the system, destination

 

unknown. Six more have formed up into a single attack group."

 

"Have all defensive groups prepare for blind micro-jump. I want

 

them all in position within one second of the enemy commencing their

 

attack, regardless of where they attack."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

The navi-comp operator was furiously giving instructions to his

 

computer. The ships were all tied into a wide area battle network, and

 

the navi-comps were agreeing on likely jump positions in advance. It

 

wouldn't do to have ships crashing into each other after a blind jump.

 

The navi-comp on Polaris' computer was tasked with being the master

 

circuit, and quickly slaved all the other navi-comps in the fleet.

 

"Here they come." The long-range operator called out. As sub-

 

space sensor operator, his was one of the few stations capable of

 

tracking the ships at super-luminal velocity. The other station capable

 

of identifying the enemy was mid-range communications, which also

 

relied on sub-space. The tracking data was automatically fed to all

 

relevant stations, displays and consoles.

 

"They're going after Victory-three, in Captain Masala's group."

 

"Feed co-ordinates. Jump." Polaris ordered.

 

Even as Masala's group and the Federation ships started

 

exchanging fire, the rest of the Imperial fleet micro-jumped, and bare

 

micro-seconds later were in attack positions on the ships they had

 

designated. With so many ships within a light-second of each other, not

 

all of them could fire on the same target, and so three separate

 

Federation ships came under immediate and intense attack by multiple

 

Destroyers. Polaris felt the deck shudder as a full dorsal broadside

 

was unleashed. Two seconds later, another broadside rocked the huge

 

ship, giga-tonnes of recoil multiplied by dozens of weapons

 

emplacements putting a strain on the recoil dampeners. Then it was all

 

over.

 

"Report."

 

"Two Federation ships destroyed, three damaged. Victory-three

 

is damaged, but still operational. The enemy is retreating from the

 

star system."

 

"A successful tactic, have the navi-comps run a few simulations

 

based on the last engagement, and have them feed the co-ordination data

 

to the targeting computers. Detail two Sienar's to track the enemy

 

ships out of the system, and make sure they aren't coming back. All

 

ships stand down for thirty minutes. We will conduct field repairs,

 

then head to the next planet."

 

The Imperial fleet jockeyed into orbit over the planet below,

 

and as soon as the shields were powered down, a swarm of shuttles

 

descended to the planet below. The ships were quickly re-stocked with

 

missiles, additional repair droids, raw materials and spare parts. A

 

shuttle was despatched to phoenix informing Admiral Jenneke that the

 

transports could resume their trips to this planet, and that the next

 

planet would be cleared shortly.

 

Over the next several minutes, reports started coming in from

 

the Sienar patrol boats that the damaged ships were heading towards

 

Federation controlled worlds, and the few remaining ships were heading

 

towards ImInWo-Two (Imperial Industrial World Two). The thirty light-

 

year trip would take them three or four days at least, but was less

 

than a half hour away by hyperspace.

 

"Have a Sienar check on them intermittently, make sure they

 

don't double back, or do something unexpected. Send the other Sienar's

 

to ImInWo-Two, and ImInWo-Three, and have them start scanning the

 

systems. I don't want to find myself jumping into a minefield when I

 

get there. Give the fleet a five minute jump warning. We will do a

 

Filvian approach, the Sienar's can start setting up the approach

 

jumps."

 

A Filvian approach was reckless, and very dangerous, but if the

 

target selection was spot on, would devastate the enemy defensive

 

fleet.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Kronfeld of the USS Alabama had no idea what was

 

happening in the other blockades, the planets being an hour and a half

 

away at sub-space comm speeds, but he was not happy with his own

 

situation. The damn Imperials had planetary shields impervious to

 

anything that could be thrown at them, and he was sitting cooling his

 

heels with absolutely nothing to do. Furthermore, every few minutes

 

they got a fright when a ship suddenly appeared a few tenths of a light

 

year away, scanned them, then left again. They had long-since cleared

 

out the enemy minefields, with only one ship taking minor damage, and a

 

few other ships shield hits, but nothing spectacular.

 

For the last hour, they had been doing nothing. Nothing, except

 

stare at the damn planet below. There were one or two unshielded areas

 

over deserted parts of the planet, but he had no illusions about

 

sending an away team down. The enemy's ground forces were well hidden,

 

but he had no doubt they were down there. Furthermore, if they started

 

broadcasting jamming signals like the fleet ships, then he would be

 

unable to extract his team.

 

He had transmitted his report to the other fleets, and to

 

Starfleet, but his transmissions would take hours to reach the nearest

 

fleet, let alone get a reply.

 

"Sir, we have eight Imperial patrol boats, all roughly a tenth

 

of a light-year out. They're just sitting there."

 

A tenth of a light year was ten minutes even at max-warp, the

 

patrol boats would be long gone by the time anything got close to them.

 

"We can't keep ships at warp indefinitely. Have all ships shift

 

to new positions every few minutes. If an attack seems imminent, then

 

all ships are to go to warp, and stay at warp."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Kronfeld had no faith in Picard's strategy, or Serchencko's

 

strategy for that matter. Bunch of pansies, he swore mentally.

 

Starfleet should have built more warships long ago. He remembered an

 

old maxim from previous centuries, 'In times of peace, prepare for

 

war.' Damn right. You carry a big stick, and nobody's gonna mess you

 

around. Amongst the nineteen ships assigned to this group were three

 

Akira's and a Galaxy, a Vor'cha, and a motley collection of explorers,

 

scientific vessels, diplomatic couriers, and lightly armed frigates.

 

The enemy ships were bigger, better shielded and better armed, all out

 

and out warships. He had no illusions about what their chances were

 

should they face the Imperials in an out-and-out battle, but he was

 

supported by the Klingons in his choice of strategy. He would for damn

 

sure show people how to take down these Imperials, even if it was sure

 

to kill him.

 

Several minutes later, most of the fleet was still

 

intermittently engaging warp, then hovering around for a minute or two,

 

before sprinting to a new location. The enemy patrol boats were just

 

sitting there in a system enclosure formation which meant the enemy had

 

a detailed scan of the entire star system. Every few minutes one or

 

other ship would be subjected to a detailed sensor scan. There was

 

nothing they could do to prevent it, except stay at warp and burn up

 

their fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

"All stations stand by." Polaris ordered.

 

In seconds they would hit their jump off point. They had

 

signalled the Sienar's in advance to warn them of the fleet's approach.

 

The instant they hit the jump off point, the Sienar's would slave their

 

navi-comps and microjump the fleet into attack positions on the enemy,

 

then after three seconds micro-jump them again into defensive positions

 

on the planet. This was a surefire way of devastating a systems outer-

 

defenses, but was rarely used against starships, let alone warp-speed

 

starships. The jump-off point was one-tenth of a light year out from

 

the system, or twelve seconds away at the enemy's sub-space sensor

 

pulse propogation speeds. That meant they had about six seconds to

 

execute the attack jump before registering on the enemy's sub-space

 

sensors.

 

The static surrounding them suddenly whirled and rotated,

 

coalesced into long white streaks, which shortened into brilliant white

 

points, stars. A brief flash of high-speed sub-space comms was

 

exchanged between the navi-comps, then the stars shifted into short

 

lines, and coalesced into points almost immediately as the micro-jump

 

brought them into position. The deck shuddered with a broadside even as

 

Polaris opened his mouth to give the order. The speakers screeched as

 

something ripped along the hull, the screech consistent with that used

 

to indicate a disruptor beam, a second broadside shook the deck again,

 

punctuated by a series of dull thuds indicative of missiles impacting

 

on their shields. The stars whirled and shifted, and they were in high

 

orbit over the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

Kronfeld had been caught by surprise as much as anyone else.

 

They had suspected an attack was coming, but had been waiting for it

 

for more than twenty minutes. The attack itself came with extreme

 

suddenness. Within the space of one heartbeat and another, all his

 

impulse-driven ships were surrounded by three or four capital ships

 

each. Many of them were destroyed before a single order could be given,

 

only a few survived long enough to return fire before being destroyed,

 

and only two captains (or helmsmen) had the insight to immediately

 

engage their warp drives. The surprise had been total. Of the nineteen

 

ships in the system, eight had been in orbit or on impulse drive, and

 

six of them were destroyed in the first seconds of the battle. The

 

thirteen remaining ships warped around the star system at warp four,

 

quickly assuming the attack formations they had discussed.

 

The Imperials were scattered in a loose defensive formation

 

around the planet, none more than half a light-second from the planet,

 

well within range of each other's point-defenses. That was ideal for

 

the strategy he had earmarked.

 

"Execute." He ordered.

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris had ordered his ships to co-ordinate their fire, so

 

that multiple ships engaged a single enemy ship. The enemy's strategy

 

of darting in, firing their weapons, then darting out again, meant that

 

they were only in firing range for a few seconds at a time. Enough to

 

damage a ship, but not enough to destroy it. He had no intention of

 

allowing them to run continuous attacks of this nature, gradually

 

stripping away his screening frigates and gunboats. He had ordered his

 

captains to employ slaved micro-jumps if necessary, to bring maximum

 

firepower to bear on the enemy ships, before they warped out of range.

 

The enemy appeared not to be playing along though, instead of

 

forming up into several small attack groups, they had formed into a

 

single large attack group, and were coming in at several hundred times

 

light-speed, covering half the diameter of the star system in a matter

 

of several seconds. Without preamble, the whole group of thirteen ships

 

came to a stop in close proximity to one of his Imperators, and opened

 

fire as a unit, with phasers, disruptors, photon torpedoes and quantum

 

torpedoes.

 

 

 

Kronfeld was thrown about in his command seat like a rag doll

 

despite the restraints. The ship was twisting and turning and weaving

 

at the limits of it's drive capability, putting a strain on the

 

inertial dampeners. They were also taking hits, which was unavoidable,

 

since between them the enemy ships must have thousands of weapon

 

emplacements. Each hit rocked the ship like a blow from the fist of a

 

giant. Their first salvo of quantums was swept aside by a wave of

 

incoming green energy, instantly vaporising the unshielded missiles

 

with it's intense heat, and sweeping past his Galaxy-class ship.

 

However, they weren't the only ship targeting the large wedge shaped

 

battleship, and the battleship disappeared in a mass of nuclear

 

explosions as a number of photon torpedoes from other ships made it

 

past it's defences.

 

Phaser fire and disruptor cannons flickered along it's length,

 

ripping away it's shields and digging into the hull. The huge ship

 

didn't go down easily though, rolling away from the impacts, it's hull

 

twisted and glowing and gouged where it had taken damage. An Excelsior-

 

class ship swept around the far side of the Destroyer, and was batted

 

aside by a broadside from another ship. Red and blue and orange

 

missiles streaked past each other, red and green and blue streaks of

 

energy fought for supremacy, and the stars disappeared, paled into

 

insignificance by nearby detonations which rivalled the stars

 

themselves in sheer energy, though they were short-lived.

 

The Imperator was glowing from a myriad of internal explosions

 

and fires, with only a handful of weapons on it's hull still firing. A

 

number of quantums slipped through the hellfire between Kronfeld's ship

 

and the Imperator, and tore huge chunks at least a hundred meters

 

across each out of it's near-side hull, sending what was left of the

 

ship tumbling and falling to the planet below, where it would

 

eventually crash into the shields protecting the planet.

 

Another Federation ship was destroyed as the group, instead of

 

warping away, dived deeper into the Imperial formation. Two Imperial

 

frigates were smashed aside, a gunboat sent rolling away, it's systems

 

knocked off line, and a number of tiny starfighters shattered as the

 

Federation ships tore through their formations. The group of Federation

 

ships, reduced now to eight ships, opened fire on a Victory-class ship.

 

The Victory turned directly into the enemy formation, powering towards

 

it's centre, firing weapons from all quarters. Yet another Federation

 

ship died a fiery death, as several Imperial Star Destroyers and

 

frigates closed in on the formation, surrounding it. The nose of the

 

Victory vanished in a nuclear fury, and it's bridge section was ripped

 

off the main hull as three quantums slammed into it's base in quick

 

succession.

 

"Phaser banks are overheating." The tactical officer calmly

 

reported.

 

"Keep firing." Kronfeld ordered. There was no point in

 

attempting to save them.

 

The space around the last remaining Federation ships was

 

crowded with hundreds of incoming missiles from dozens of starfighters

 

too small and fast to track positively, especially with all the signal

 

interference and jamming, but he had given orders to ignore the

 

missiles.

 

"That ship is finished, take the next one, ten points on the

 

starboard beam."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

The view-screen washed out in static, several explosions

 

sounded from elsewhere on the ship, and the Vulcan tactical officer

 

calmly reported, "our shields are down."

 

Kronfeld never got a chance to respond. His world went white,

 

and his last sensation was a gentle warmth washing over him. His last

 

thought was a touch of embarrasment as he lost control of his bowels.

 

Nobody would ever know though, as the Galaxy-class starship ceased to

 

exist, pinned by hundreds of superheated turbolaser bolts, which served

 

to instantly flash-vaporise nearly the entire ship.

 

 

 

 

 

Polaris looked out on the stars. They were as cold and distant

 

and unmoved as always. The hundreds of thousands of deaths and the

 

energies unleashed in the last battle were insignificant to them in the

 

scheme of the universe. He remained still for several seconds, drawing

 

calm and resolve from the emotionless stars. He finally turned back to

 

the bridge.

 

"Report."

 

"One Imperator destroyed. One Victory destroyed. Three frigates

 

and four gunboats destroyed. A second Victory is badly damaged. We have

 

retrieved all the fighters. Only fifteen were lost."

 

"Did any of the enemy ships get away."

 

"No, Sir. The last ship, a Galaxy-class, attempted to ram the

 

damaged Victory, but was hit by at least eight broadsides in quick

 

succession, including one from our own ship."

 

"Very well. How long will we need for field repairs."

 

"Several ships have blown shield generators, and other

 

superficial damage, sir. We will need at least two days to get all

 

ships fully operational."

 

In two days most of the ships would have to leave for home

 

anyway, if there were enough ships left to make up a full task force.

 

"Six hours. Then we take the next planet."

 

The communications officer gulped, but acknowledged the order.

 

Steeling himself, he prepared to relay the command to the other ships

 

in the fleet.

 

 

 

 

 

"Incoming transmission, Sir. It's several hours old."

 

"On-screen." Picard ordered.

 

A grainy picture of Susan Zulu appeared, static washing out her

 

features every few seconds, her words punctuated by bursts of static.

 

She told a grim story of two Imperial task forces combining to attack

 

her blockading force. Most of the ships had been destroyed, with

 

minimal losses to the enemy. The survivors were heading out here to

 

reinforce Picard's fleet, they would arrive in two days time.

 

"No word on where the Imperials have struck next?"

 

"No sir. Although .."

 

"Yes?"

 

"Captain Kronfeld's group haven't reported in for at least

 

twenty minutes, and they are supposed to report every ten minutes. They

 

are one point two hours away by unboosted sub-space, but failure to

 

report in is inconsistent with the behavioural patterns of the

 

captain."

 

"Thank you, Mr Data."

 

"Kronfeld is a war-horse, if ever starfleet employed one."

 

Riker interjected. "He would have fought to the last man, and taken

 

some Imperials with him."

 

"I would have preferred if he had managed to get word to us."

 

Picard said.

 

"He may yet do so. Perhaps their communications are down. We

 

could dispatch a runabout to investigate?"

 

"No. The runabout would take days to get there. If we haven't

 

heard from him by then, we can assume the worst. For now, we can assume

 

that the Imperials have broken the blockade there as well. Compile a

 

report, and transmit it to Starfleet Headquarters. Kronfeld may have

 

bought us sufficient time, or perhaps a half-chance."

 

 

 

 

 

The six hours sped by like minutes. Ships with little or no

 

damage had distributed their repair droids amongst the less fortunate

 

members of the fleet. Additional droids from the surface of the planet

 

had also been put to work. As the time allocated drew to a close, ships

 

hastily recalled their droids, and began preparing for the next attack.

 

The fleet, which had started out as two full task forces plus a number

 

of additional ships, had been depleted to rather less than two full

 

task forces. In terms of major capital ships they still had their full

 

complement, despite the loss of an Imperator and a couple of Victories.

 

The major depletion in forces though was amongst the screening forces,

 

especially gunboats and frigates. Fighters they still had plenty of,

 

but without the fast frigates to fend off missile attacks, the larger

 

ships were more vulnerable to torpedo runs.

 

"Wake up the gun crews, distribute stim-tea, and have them take

 

up their stations."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Polaris had been reviewing the patrol ships data on the three

 

remaining blockading fleets. One of them was the fleet including the

 

Enterprise, which had done a superb job of herding it's escort ships.

 

That fleet numbered twenty two vessels. Another fleet included the

 

cloaked gunboat Defiant, which was a decidedly heavilyy armed and

 

maneuvrable vessel, an obviously anomalous design amongst the enemy

 

fleet. That fleet numbered twenty one vessels. The third fleet was a

 

motley collection of eighteen cardassian and Klingon ships, supported

 

by three Akira class cruisers. Amongst the Klingon ships was a Vor'cha.

 

Despite this being possibly the smallest fleet of the three, it was

 

decidedly 'top-heavy', including these four heavy hitters.

 

Polaris knew that the Enterprise's fleet would be the toughest,

 

and normally he would have avoided it until circumstances were more

 

favourable. However, with Masala's entire task force having to leave

 

within a day or two, probably taking most of his frigates to complete

 

the task force, he would be left with vastly depleted resources. It was

 

now or never, as far as the Enterprise was concerned.

 

"Plot a jump to IminWo-Four. Have the Sienar's prepare for

 

another Filvian approach."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

 

 

 

 

Riker and Picard were bent over the long-range sub-space

 

scanners. The number of enemy patrol boats outside the system had

 

increased dramatically in the last half hour.

 

"It could just be that they have more patrol boats to go around

 

having cleared two of the bloakdes." Riker speculated.

 

"No. I have a feeling we're next. At best, we should have

 

picked up an extra two or three patrol boats, an extra eight does not

 

compute, unless we're the next target."

 

"Makes sense." Riker agreed.

 

"Have all ships in the fleet maintain warp circuits of the

 

system, warp two minimum, until further notice."

 

Warp two was four times light-speed, which would still require

 

several hours to complete a full circuit of the outer planets in the

 

star system. It would be an easy to manage speed in this star system,

 

especially given that all significant bodies in the system had been

 

thoroughly plotted, their orbits known to a fine degree.

 

"Also make sure that they constantly change course, and be

 

prepared to accelerate to as much as warp five at a moment's notice."

 

 

 

 

 

A timer alerted the bridge crew to their imminent arrival.

 

Polaris heard his gunnery officers and flight co-ordinators prepare

 

their commands for the double jump and imminent battle. A chime

 

sounded, and the whorls of hyperspace coalesced into stars.

 

Immediately, a sub-space message came through.

 

"Filvian, negative! Negative on Filvian approach."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

Polaris glanced at the fast updating holographic display. At

 

this range, he had a maximum of twelve seconds before the sub-space

 

echo of their arrival reached the Federation receivers, possibly as

 

little as six seconds. The only alternate was the standard approach.

 

"Execute Ukian three. Mark."

 

A heartbeat later they were in orbit over ImInWo-Four. A few

 

ships opened fire at a Federation ship which happened to be nearby, but

 

it was a futile gesture, the ship had long gone by the time the

 

broadside swept past. The Federation ships quickly assembled in the

 

outer fringes of the star system, maintaining their superluminal

 

velocity. They showed no inclination to attack immediately, giving

 

Polaris a chance to contemplate their strange drive mechanism. Whereas

 

Imperial technology relied on modifying the ship's sub-atomic nature

 

and structure to allow tachyonic movement, thus entering the realm of

 

'hyperspace', which was just really a hypervelocity mirror image of

 

real-space, these aliens relied on modifying the space around them,

 

rather than their own ships. It was a dangerous technology, not

 

altogether unknown to Polaris.

 

The dangers derived from the fact that the drive required a

 

substantial interaction with sub-space, which was used by many species

 

as a communications medium, but which was also prone to various types

 

of disturbances, which could result in high energy feed-back into the

 

drive mechanism, rendering it unstable. In the early days of space

 

travel, according to old engineering texts, such devices had attracted

 

much interest, but had been replaced by hyperdrive technologies before

 

it took root, and never really investigated again. Polaris didn't think

 

it would attract much interest back home anyway, being of such poor

 

strategic use.

 

Tactically it might attract some interest, but he doubted it.

 

After all, while the enemy fleet was darting around like fire-flies in

 

the outer system, his fleet was in control of the planet.

 

"Why aren't they attacking." His first officer asked.

 

"They're just playing our own game with us, letting us stew

 

while they get ready to attack. It will come. We get to choose the

 

place of the engagement, they get to choose the time."

 

"Can we not induce them into an attack?"

 

"If it was their world below, we could bombard it, forcing them

 

to defend it. But in this situation, there is nothing we can do."

 

"If they don't attack soon, our gun crews will start getting

 

jittery at their stations."

 

"They will be fine for another few hours, then we can bring the

 

secondary crews up."

 

"Hours!"

 

Polaris glanced at his first officer, a slight tightening

 

around his eyes betraying a slight irritation.

 

"If they are wise. Hours. We cannot afford to lose a transport,

 

and so can't allow resources in or out of this system. They may not

 

know that, but as long as the impasse is maintained, the planet is

 

still effectively blockaded, as are the other two worlds. And in a day

 

or two, Captain Masala's task force has to leave for home. They have

 

the time. We don't."

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir?"

 

"Yes, Mr Data?"

 

"Why aren't we attacking?"

 

"We will attack when the blockade appears to be broken."

 

The android considered this for an immense amount of time. Half

 

a second later, he decided to ask another question.

 

"Sir?"

 

"Yes, Mr Data?" slightly irritated.

 

'Of course', the android thought to himself, 'almost no time

 

has gone by as humans measure it.' He continued as if there had been no

 

interruption, which of course there hadn't been, not as far as humans

 

were concerned.

 

"It appears to me, as if the blockade has been broken. The

 

enemy is in control of the planet, and all orbits of the planet."

 

"Perhaps, but they are not bringing any transports into the

 

system. As long as they don't, the blockade is still in effect, and we

 

give Captain Zulu and the other ships time to get to their

 

destinations, strengthening their respective fleets. At least two more

 

ships from Captain Zulu's team is heading to this world, and they will

 

be here by late tomorrow."

 

"I see sir." Data considered all the ramifications of Picard's

 

explanation for several microseconds, then continued speaking as if

 

there had been no break. Well, none perceived by humans anyway. "Will

 

we remain at warp for all that time?"

 

"You are concerned about the fuel situation, Mr Data."

 

"Yes. Well, not yet, sir. We can maintain these velocities for

 

several weeks, possibly months, but we may not have enough fuel to

 

return to Federation space in a reasonable amount of time, especially

 

if we have to fight a battle."

 

"I am sure that a solution will present itself, Mr Data. We

 

could call for a fueller, but I doubt this blockade business will go on

 

so long. Something will break before the fuel situation becomes

 

critical."

 

 

 

The minutes turned into an hour, then another. The impasse was

 

maintained. The Imperials couldn't engage the warp-driven ships, and

 

the warp-driven ships had no need to engage the Imperials. The

 

Federation fleet maintained their warp velocities, with random course

 

variations, while the imperials remained at battle-stations, knowing

 

the Federation forces could strike within a second's notice.

 

At one point, shortly after the impasse began, a number of

 

Federation shuttles had sprinted out of the system, giving the Sienar's

 

outside the system a fright, but they had returned after a few minutes.

 

Polaris guessed that they had used the shuttles as relays to get a sub-

 

space signal out of the system, informing the other fleets of the

 

impasse.

 

"Damn them." Masala was saying on the holo-board. "The Admiral

 

is not going to like this. Can you not think of a way to induce them to

 

leave the system or fight, Polaris?"

 

"Nothing that will make a difference in the short term."

 

Polaris answered.

 

"Our fleets are serving no purpose here. We might as well be

 

sitting on our backsides in a cantina for all the good we are doing

 

here."

 

"The only thing I can think of," Polaris said, "is to commence

 

a new round of raids on their home worlds. They might be forced to draw

 

off ships to defend their worlds."

 

"I don't have the time for that," Masala answered, "In a few

 

hours I will have to leave. I suggest we re-assemble at Phoenix. You

 

will have to transfer a number of frigates to me, so that my task force

 

is at full complement, then I will head home. You and Jenneke can sort

 

out this mess here."

 

Polaris nodded and cut the transmission.

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir!"

 

Picard spun around to the sensor console, ready to contend with

 

whatever the Imperial forces were up to next.

 

"What is it?"

 

"They've gone, Sir. All of them. The entire fleet suddenly

 

accelerated at blinding speed, and before I could get a trace on their

 

vector, they had vanished. They have jumped to hyperspace, and not a

 

single Imperial ship is registering on any of our sensors."

 

"Repeat all transmissions to nearby fleets and to Starfleet

 

headquarters. Make sure they understand what has happened."

 

"It appears we have won this round without firing a single

 

shot!" Riker stated.

 

"If only this strategy had been embarked on sooner. We must

 

have lost thirty or more starships in the last two days, and the

 

Imperials have broken the blockade on two of their worlds." Picard

 

stated. His voice was filled with frustration. "The logical step for

 

the Imperials now would be to attempt to draw us off by raiding worlds

 

back home. Hopefully, the two weeks it took to set up the blockades

 

have given us sufficient time to redistribute the fleet. The Imperials

 

can attack anywhere, anytime, and back home, ships won't have the

 

luxury of standing off and waiting while worlds are being bombarded."

 

"Do you think Starfleet will find ships to spare to re-instate

 

the blockades on the other two worlds?"

 

"Unlikely. Word is that the Utopia Planitia shipyards were

 

destroyed a couple of weeks ago in the initial raids. There is already

 

a shortage of ships, and that combined with the fact that war with the

 

Dominion seems almost certain means there won't be enough ships to go

 

around. Already, plans have been made to assemble fleets to counter a

 

Dominion insurgency, but those plans have obviously been shelved."

 

"You think war with the Dominion is unavoidable?"

 

"Yes. They are highly expansionist, and consider all life-forms

 

not under their direct control a threat. Certainly, the intelligence

 

briefs I have received indicate that war is inevitable. Starfleet

 

intelligence also believes that elements of the Cardassian command

 

structure have already been subverted. Despite their support against

 

the Imperials, it is possible that the Cardassians may fall under

 

Dominion control eventually."

 

"The future does not look promising."

 

"No, Commander. Indeed. It doesn't."

 

 

 

 

 

Phoenix was an incredibly busy system. Huge tracts of two

 

planets in the system had been covered by Imperial manufacturing

 

centres. The two planets were slowly being transformed into giant

 

factories. The second planet, little larger than a moon, contained all

 

the heavy industry. The planet had not had an atmosphere for millenia,

 

but one was fast being created by the pollution from all the factories.

 

Lighter industries, having less pollution, were set up on the third

 

planet in the system, along with major farming operations, which

 

provided the primary source of nutrient base for forces in this galaxy.

 

A steady stream of transports plied the space-ways between the

 

two planets, with additional freighters constantly coming and going

 

from mining operations in the outer regions of the system, and from

 

neighbouring star systems. A minerals processing centre had been

 

established on a moon of the third planet, and the planet closest to

 

the star was riddled with robot miners, extracting nefridium, zesium,

 

and a host of other super-hard minerals from the mantle of the planet.

 

In orbit over the world of Phoenix were four immense shipyard

 

facilities. Two of them were co-operating in the construction of an

 

Imperator, and the other two had laid several hulls for lancer

 

frigates, but a shortage of minerals meant the frigates couldn't be

 

completed as yet.

 

There was just not enough spare parts for computerised systems,

 

all these parts being needed for more and more droids, to speed up the

 

mining and manufacturing processes. Polaris's task force was in orbit,

 

albeit very short of frigates and gunboats. Masala had taken whatever

 

he needed, and set off on the long journey home.

 

"We cannot afford the resources needed to fight a war here."

 

Jenneke was saying. "The Imperial senate's patience is running short.

 

This project was initiated a year ago, and we have not delivered any

 

substantial results yet. Not one ship manufactured at this facility has

 

made it home yet, and we have placed an enormous drain on fleet

 

resources back home. I have obtained permission for you to stay. We

 

have been cut out of the Imperial supply chain, and our orders are to

 

deliver one ISD2 task force every three months, or shut down this

 

facility."

 

"With all due respect sir, that is near impossible."

 

"On the contrary, Captain. It is quite possible, if I don't

 

have to continually replace the ships you lose."

 

Polaris snapped to attention, but said nothing.

 

"Now, you will find a way to break the blockade on those three

 

planets, and ensure an uninterrupted flow of supplies. Dismissed."

 

 

 

 

 

Jenneke watched the retreating back of his best captain. He

 

hoped his faith in the man was not misplaced, or both of their careers

 

would be destroyed. He had an idea how to placate the Admiralty though.

 

In two months he would have completed most but not all of a third task

 

force. He would supplement that with a few more ships of Polaris's

 

already undersized task force, and send them home. That would bring the

 

home fleet back up to the level the Republic expected, and the pressure

 

on this facility would be reduced. He doubted that they could churn out

 

a full task force in three months after that, but he would have bought

 

sufficient time to do most of one.

 

 

 

"Schematic. Federation and allied space, political boundaries,

 

significant worlds, political alliances." Polaris ordered.

 

The hologram was familiar to him. He had taken every

 

opportunity to study it in the last few days. Now he studied it with

 

utmost care. He needed to find a lever that would force the Federation

 

to withdraw their blockading fleets. His intelligence indicated that

 

the weak links were Cardassia and the treacherous Ferengii. He tagged a

 

particularly nasty triple star system only two hundred light years

 

outside of Ferengi space.

 

"Set course for this system."

 

"Navigation ready."

 

"Execute."

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