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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).












A fanfic by Michael January


















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-




"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




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.










"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




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




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






"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




"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




"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-




"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.








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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January












"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




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,




"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




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.












"Admiral, we have the updated report on Imperial ship






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."












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






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




"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




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




"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-




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




"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




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




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




"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




"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




"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."




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




"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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January












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




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


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




"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




"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




"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




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




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




"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




"Gentlemen. Enough. Move on."


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


one, two, four, eight configuration."




"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."






"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




"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




"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




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




"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




"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




"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.








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




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




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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




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




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




"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.




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




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




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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January












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




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.










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




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."




"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."














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.












"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




"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.




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








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














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




"Planetary bombardment, tactical level two, five minutes." He




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.




"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.




"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




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-






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




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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January










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






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




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




"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




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."




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




"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




"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."














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




"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




"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




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




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."




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




"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




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




"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




"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




"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




"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




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




"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




"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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January










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




"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




"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




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




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




"Take the other Victory destroyer, here, the one orbiting




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




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




[[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




"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




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




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










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




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.




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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A fanfic by Michael January














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."




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.




"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




"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




"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




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




The combined hard attack pattern was transmitted to the fleet,


and the fleet indicator flashed once, indicating all ships had






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




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




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




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."




"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.




"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




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




"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




"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."




"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."




"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




"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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A fanfic by Michael January










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."




"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




"Sir," another operator called, "enemy patrol boats, range


point zero five light years. They are forming a sensor net around the




"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




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






"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-




"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




"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.




"They lost their shields, and took some minor hull damage, but


most of the torpedoes were knocked down by point-defences and flak-






"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




"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




"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




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.




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




"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






"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




A Filvian approach was reckless, and very dangerous, but if the


target selection was spot on, would devastate the enemy defensive








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




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






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




"Phaser banks are overheating." The tactical officer calmly




"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




"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.




"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 .."




"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




"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."




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."




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."








"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.




"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






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




"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




"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.








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




"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."



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